Bonding of souls pt.i
Disclaimers: The following story contains spoilers from the episode ĎComing Homeí. It the first in a new series that takes place after my Changes of Heart series. You donít have to read it but you might enjoy it. Itís an alt story, which means women in love with women, so beware. These characters belong to Ren Pics. I think that about covers it.
HOMEWARD BOUND (set after 'Coming Home')
Gabrielle sat below in the valley with Eve as she waited for Xenaís return.
"I should go back."
Gabrielle turned to Eve who was staring out into the forest. The girl looked as if she was under some kind of spell - hypnotized.
"And what good would it do?" Gabrielle countered. "Youíre worth more to this world alive than dead Eve. And those amazons will kill you if you go back."
Eve gave a deep sigh. "So Iím above the law then? Just because Iím the daughter of the warrior princess and an amazon queen? That doesnít sound right to me."
How can I explain this? the bard considered. "Your mother was put on trial once for her past crimes. She even went to prison. But she realized, after the whole experience, that she could serve her Ďdebtí for all the misery she cause by helping people who needed it. It was a waste for her to be locked in a cell when she could help thousands upon thousands of people. It donít see your crimes being anything different . . . Hell, if we were still in Rome youíd be the conquering hero."
"You donít have to remind me," Eve muttered.
"Iím sorry sweetie," Gabrielle answered. "What I mean is . . ." For crying out loud what do you mean? Youíre a bard. Think. Eve and Xena have lived parallel lives. Remember what you told Xena all those years ago.
"Iím a murderer," Eve answered.
"You killed people who stood in the way of Rome," Gabrielle answered. "At a certain point you took pleasure in it. The pleasure you felt was wrong. And now, looking back, your heart is so heavy you canít find the goodness within yourself."
"Iím not sure if there is any real goodness."
"Iím certain," Gabrielle grinned.
"Because . . . your our daughter. You just lost your way. And your mother and I will do everything we can to help you find it. Youíve decided not to harm anyone unless itís in defense. Thatís very noble. For a time I walked a path where I didnít want to harm anyone, no matter what the price . . . At least until I watched a Roman almost kill your mother. I took down half those men at that outpost with your motherís sword. And I havenít looked back since."
"Doesnít it bother you? The violence?"
"Itís for the greater good," Gabrielle answered. "When youíre pushed sometime you have to push back. Thatís what I did by challenging Margot. If your mother and I couldnít reason with her then I would take control. I admire your mother for not stepping in today. She let me handle it and make my challenge without a word," Gabrielle grinned with pride. "Point is, I didnít want to fight her but I would have Ė for the greater good of that tribe . . . So Iím sorry Eve. I canít support you going back into that village because your death wouldnít serve the greater good."
A silence passed between them for a moment. Until Gabrielle spoke up, "Are you sincere about wanting to help people? Getting Eliís message out?"
"Absolutely," Eve answered firmly.
"Well you canít do that from a coffin," Gabrielle answered as she rose. "And thatís where those amazons would put you."
"But what about you? And mother?"
"What about us?" Gabrielle asked.
"You can never go Ďhomeí to them again. Youíve broken their law by helping me escape. I never wanted to split you two from the amazons . . . but thatís what youíve done."
"No. WE made that choice - not you. Besides," Gabrielle smiled. "Do you think they are the only amazons?"
"Margot said it herself . . . itís the last tribe."
Gabrielle added a chuckle to her smile. "Oh Iím sure thereís a tribe someplace where Margotís never been. Far, far north and away from the Greek amazons in fact. If I ever need an amazon Iím sure I wonít be on the Ďoutsí with them."
"How can you be so sure?" Eve questioned.
"In truth Iím not but Iím certain there has to be more than one tribe out there. . . And if Margotís correct and they are all gone all that really matters to me is my family - the ones I live with day in and day out." Gabrielle leaned down and took Eveís face in her hands before placing an affectionate kiss on her forehead. "Iíd give up any throne for you because I believe in you Eve."
With that, Gabrielle moved away and began her trip up the grassy hill as she watched Xena approaching. Eveís bottom lip began to quiver slightly and one by one the tears streamed down her face. They really do love me . . . I really have a family.
Gabrielle had a grin for Xena as she came down the hill shaking her head.
"Hey," the warrior grinned.
"Hey there yourself," Gabrielle answered.
Xena didnít add anything she just stood looking at the bard smiling. Gabrielle scrunched her eyebrows as she examined the warrior. "You kissed him," she said matter of factly. Xenaís smile fell a brief moment before returning. She looked away and found her fingers scratching the back of her neck. "Youíre not even going to try to deny it are you?" Gabrielle asked. She couldnít help it. At this point she had to giggle watching the warrior fidget.
"Yeah I kissed him," Xena admitted in a defeated sigh.
"He still a good kisser?" the bard jabbed.
"Gabrielle," Xena replied, stressing out each syllable of the bardís name. "If you must know I told him his chances are 1 in a billion."
"Ahh I see, so Ares took it as a sign of hope?" Gabrielle continued to prod.
Xena opened her mouth to respond to stop. Not being able to find exactly what she what to say she asked, "How do you do that?"
"Do what?" Gabrielle asked coyly, taking the warrior by the hand and leading her back down the hill.
"Know everything!" Xena chuckled. "You know I kissed him. You know heís STILL wishing. How do you know that?"
It was the bardís turn to laugh. "Because I know you have a soft spot for Ares. I accept that. And I know youíve felt sorry for him. The kiss would be a nice Ďpeace offeringí to the God of War. And as for Ares well Ė he might not be a god anymore but heís still . . . Ares."
"So youíre not jealous?" Xena asked softly, testing the waters.
"Of what? The fact youíll be sleeping in my bedroll tonight instead of his," Gabrielle grinned victoriously. "No, Iím not jealous. Ares has nothing I could want. But I, on the other hand, have something he wants very much but canít have . . . So you can give him the Ďkiss offí. Thatís fine by me."
Xena gave Gabrielleís hand an extra squeeze as they walked along, getting closer to Eve. "I knew there was a reason I loved you so much," Xena grinned down at the bard, giving her a quick peck on top of the head.
"Mom," Eve called out.
"Yeah," the warrior and bard answered together. "Okay enough of this," Gabrielle said waving her hands to the group. "Eve . . . sweetie . . . I love you dearly but perhaps you should just call me Gabrielle again. I wonít think any less of you and Iím certain that I hold a special place in your heart. For confusion sake, letís just call me Gabrielle alright?"
Eve looked to Xena for approval.
"If Gabrielle is okay with it then Iím okay with it," Xena said.
"AlrightÖGabrielle," Eve agreed
"Good," the bard grinned. "Now what do you say Evie? Are you going back or coming with us? Itís your choice," Gabrielle answered.
Xena looked back and forth between them. Going back? What is she? Crazy? she wondered, yet said nothing.
"I choose the greater good," Eve smiled to Gabrielle.
"Good choice," Gabrielle answered, giving her a light chuck on the shoulder.
"Did something happen here I didnít know about?" Xena asked, a bit baffled by the conversation.
"Yes dear but you were too busy kissing Ares at the time," Gabrielle teased.
"You what?!" Eve exclaimed, rising to her feet in surprise.
"Relax," Xena answered. "Itís not what you might think," she added to Eve. "I see now that you are never gonna let me live this down are you?" Xena asked the bard.
Gabrielle gave a brilliant smile, walking away with Eve, "Ohhh not on your life warrior mine. This oneís gonna last a pretty long time Iíll have you know."
"Oh jeez," the warrior grumbled as she picked up their saddlebag. "I hope mother doesnít give me a hard time. Iím not sure I can handle two of you ganging up on me at once."
"So weíre going to Amphipolis?" Eve asked the bard.
"Yes dear. Weíre going home."
GRIEF (set after 'Haunting of Amphipolis')
Gabrielle had tried for the umpteenth time to light a fire in the old fireplace of Cyreneís with no success. She dropped the flint and ran her fingers through her hair in frustration omitting a deep sigh.
"No fire eh?" Xena teased as she walked in with Eve carrying their saddlebags.
"Itís too damp in here I think," Gabrielle answered.
"Here," Xena instructed as she put down their belongings before taking a spot next to Gabrielle. With a few clicks the twigs were smoking and moments later when the wood was added the room began to warm up considerable.
Gabrielle grinned and shook her head. "Iíve tried at least half a candlemark trying to light that fire. Whatís the secret?"
"Guess I gotta knack for fire," Xena answered. "Being Queen of Hell might have its advantages after all," the warrior chuckled.
Neither Gabrielle nor Eve found much humor in the statement yet they remained quiet.
"Look," Xena sighed. "Everything will be fine. Iím not taking any thrones despite what some wind bag demon from the underworld says, okay? Heís not the first evil god Iíve vanquished so donít worry. Everything will be okay. . . youíll see," Xena added as she smoothed the bards arms up and down for reassurance.
"But what if you donít have a choice mother? What if Hell comes for you instead of you going to it?"
Xena tried not laugh but failed. "Evie," the warrior smiled. "Gabrielle and I have been through Ďhellí before so I canít say Iím all that concerned."
Gabrielle grinned. Itís true. We have been through Hell before. In this life and the afterworld. But still . . . "Eve does raise a point Xena. What do we do if you get Ė I donít know Ė sucked down there?"
"Mmm," Xena gave a playful growl as she picked the bard up and sat her on the table behind them. She started to nuzzle Gabrielleís neck playful. "Will my sexy blonde girlfriend come with me?" she added.
Gabrielle took Xena by the shoulders and pushed her back to arm length. "Iím serious," the bard told her.
"Like I said Iíll cross that bridge when I come to it," Xena answered as she walked away to put another log on the fire. "I think you two should just relax. Hell isnít going to get me without a fight. I realize my place. I know what I consider Ďhomeí. Everything will be fine. I promise you," Xena replied as she walked back to the bard. She picked up each one of Gabrielleís hands, giving a light kiss to her knuckles. "I promise."
The answer satisfied Gabrielle and Eve. Xena went to work emptying the saddlebags as Gabrielle began to straighten out an area for their bedrolls. Eve noticed a small drawing on parchment hanging on the wall. It was a picture of a small girl. She cocked her head as she examined it. Carefully she took it down, bringing it over to Gabrielle. "Is this mother?" Eve asked.
Gabrielle smiled upon seeing it. "Yeah it is," she answered. "Hey Xena," the bard called out to the warrior who had gone into the kitchen. "Check this out."
"What is it?" Xena asked, carrying out a tray of food Ė bread, cheese, fruit and wine.
"Your mother still had this drawing," Gabrielle answered handing it to her.
Xena grinned. "Donít let this drawing deceive you Eve," the warrior gave a sly grin. "I was much cuter than this picture."
Gabrielle gave the warrior an elbow for acting so conceited before grinning.
"Itís a bit unnerving," Eve answered.
"Whyís that?" Gabrielle asked before Xena could.
"We looked a lot alike. I was always smaller Ė thinner framed. But this picture looks a lot like me as a child."
So many years lost. What I wouldnít give to see a picture to compare Xena thought. Perhaps Hecuba and Herodetus will have a picture of Gabrielle we can see. Eve just might look like her other momma too. "Did your parents ever have a picture of you commissioned?" Xena asked the bard.
"Oh jeez," Gabrielle answered. "Not that I know of. But it might be a possibility. Did you have any baby pictures Eve?" the bard asked. "Iím sure Augustus had enough riches to hire an artist or two."
"I believe so," Eve answered. "Iím sure theyíre all burned at this point . . . Not that I blame him," she answered before quietly moving away. The young womanís head and shoulders seemed to slump in response.
"Did you really love him Eve?" Gabrielle asked, considering perhaps regret she was witnessing.
"In my way . . . yes. I mean it was nothing like what you and mother have," she chuckled before a sober look returned to her face. "But few people in this world have what you and mother have. I think itís very rare and very beautiful. So yes I did love him . . . But I also know I used his power more than I cared about his love."
"Youíll find the right person someday Eve," Xena replied. "Iím sure of it."
"Iím not sure if thereís a single soul out there that could see the things Iíve done and still love me."
"You might be pleasantly surprised someday," Gabrielle grinned warmly. "Just donít be so quick to brush her off and try to send her home packing," the bard teased the warrior with a nudge which earned her a playful swat on the backside. Eve grinned at her parents, which made everyone feel a bit better. Neither woman enjoyed seeing Eve enter a dark mood nor did they want her to dwell on it too long when those moods did arrive. "Come you two - letís eat," the bard said taking them over to bench.
Later that night Eve slept as Xena stared into the fire. She darted to her feet as quietly as possible when she watched the bard walking in juggling some wood in her arms.
"I could have done that," Xena chastised.
"I was outside anyway," Gabrielle answered as they set the wood into the fireplace. "That should be enough for the rest of the night donít you think?"
"Yeah," Xena answered. "We should be quite cozy," she grinned.
The warrior and bard cuddled up on the bedrolls, both of them watching the fire wordless in each otherís arms. After a few moments Gabrielle could feel some tremors pass through her lover.
"Xena? You okay?" she asked.
Xena didnít answer immediately. The bard heard her sniff and watched her wipe her eyes. The warrior had begun to cry silently. "I miss mother," she finally said softly.
Gabrielle tightened her hold. "Iíll miss her too . . . but now sheís finally at rest," the bard added optimistically. "You might not have been able to save her life Xena but you saved her soul. I think that means more in the end. Sheís at peace now."
I donít care that sheís at peace. I want her here. I want to hold her. I want to be held. I want her to spend time with her granddaughter like she wanted. "I guess Iím just selfish," Xena replied to the bard. "Peace doesnít mean much when I think of all the time thatís been lost."
"Yes . . . Missed opportunities. Things you wish you could have changed. Done differently," the bard commented. "I think I understand," she added.
Xena grinned despite her pain. Her bard did understand. "Well things can only get better right? I mean chances are Lila is still alive. Eve will get to spend time with her aunt . . . But still . . ."
"I know," the bard answered. "Itís not the same. But someday weíll all be together again." I wonder if Lila is alive? And what about my parents? Did they meet the same fate? Did the King of Hell go after them too? No sense in worrying now. Like Xena says, weíll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Xena tightened her grip on the bard. "Iím so lucky to have you in my life," she whispered.
Gabrielle gave a light chuckle. "Not that Iím complaining but where did that come from?"
"My heart. My soul," Xena grinned as she moved up, giving the bard a tender kiss on the cheek. "No matter what Gabrielle. I will never, ever stop loving you Ė ever."
"Iíll never stop loving you Xena," Gabrielle answered in kind. "Even when I went away . . . I was angry but I never stopped love you. I never hated you. I never could."
"Iím not sure what Iíd do if you went away again," Xena answered honestly.
"Well letís BOTH promise to do our best to see that doesnít happen," Gabrielle grinned as she held out her pinky.
Xena gave a light chuckle and grabbed hold with her own pinky finger. "You gotta deal."
They both settled down to relax to get some sleep. But before Xena drifted off she heard Gabrielleís voice. "I would follow you to hell . . . Iíd follow you anywhere."
Xena closed her eyes with a new resolve as she snuggled closer. That wouldnít happen. She wouldnít be going to hell. She already had heaven here on earth. And her name is Gabrielle.
INTO THE HEART (set after 'Heart of Darkness')
"Donít go getting all emotional on me."
Xena could hear the merriment in her bardís voice although Gabrielle walked behind her, the blondeís face hidden from view.
"We wouldnít want that to happen now would we?" Xena teased as they walked outside, heading back to the inn. She slowed down a bit until the bard was at her side and tenderly took her hand in hers. They walked along in silence for a moment, just taking in the night air. "The kids will probably be busy for awhile," Xena commented casually.
Gabrielle smiled. Although the words were spoken off-handedly the bard understood the message behind it but she was willing to play along. "Probably. Why? Did you have something in mind?"
"Well Iíve got a room all ready and unused," Xena grinned, finally making eye contact with the bard.
"You donít say," Gabrielle answered just as carefree.
"Yes," Xena answered. "And if you would do me the honor I would love to share it with you."
Gabrielle melted. Xenaís sultry, husky tone did her in. She might have Ďburnedí with Virgil earlier in the evening but the heat that Xena could radiate in the bard turned Gabrielle to molten liquid. The bard could feel her legs turn a bit rubbery but managed to keep her pace.
"On two conditions," Gabrielle answered.
Xena put on her best Ďoffendedí face. "Conditions? I get conditions now?" she teased.
"Oh yeah," Gabrielle chuckled.
"Okay then," Xena grinned. "Out with Ďem."
"First you have to dance for me. Just like you did for Lucifer."
"Only if youíll lick my stomach like you did Virgilís," Xena countered.
I had that coming. Gabrielle chuckled. "Deal," she answered giving Xenaís hand an extra squeeze.
"And the second one?" Xena nudged.
"And the second request, you have to wear that coat again."
Xena considered it a moment. "I think I can arrange that," she grinned deviously.
"Just the coat," Gabby added. A fire burned within her eyes and silently Xena thanked the fates for bringing such a seductive creature into her life. "Nothing else," Gabrielle added in a whisper.
Now Xenaís grin turned into a bright smile. Oh my little lecherous bard, Xena considered. "Anything you wish," Xena finally voiced.
The ache between Xenaís legs threatened to take the bard then and there. She considered finding the nearest tree to prop the bard against while she fell to her knees to pay tribute to the woman. But she decided against it. Besides, building up was almost half the fun some nights. Xena knew this night would be no exception. When Gabrielle didnít add more Xena continued on in the Ďgameí that had begun.
"So what exactly did you have in mind for me?" the warrior asked.
Gabrielle grinned. "Mmmmm," she hummed as she considered. "Should I tell you every little detail or should I surprise you?"
"How about a little of both?" Xena countered. Xena felt the bard pick up the pace of her steps, feeling the bardís anticipation of getting back home soon.
"Okay then," Gabrielle grinned. "How about if I tell you what that little black coat does to me?" she offered.
"Oh do tell."
Gabrielleís chuckle was wicked. Almost as wicked as Xenaís response to the question. "Where to begin," the bard said with a song in her voice. "The pleasures of human flesh that await me under that garment are intense. Knowing but no quite seeing all that could be in store for me sets me ablaze. The need to feel your skin beneath it was overwhelming. I would have taken you on that dance floor you know? If Virgil hadnít appeared to lead me away and back to the darkness I was feeling . . . Lucifer would have gotten the show of his life."
Xena halted her steps. "Right there? In the middle of the room?" she asked unsure of what she was hearing.
"Right there," Gabrielle answered firmly. "In the middle of the room. You and I Ė center stage with all eyes upon us; where everyone could see where love and lust blur together to make an inferno."
Speaking of infernos, Xena considered as she adjusted her breastplate to get some air under her leathers. "Gabrielle are you sure you really feeling better? I mean . . . The darkness IS gone right?" Xena chuckled at her own assessment.
"Oh itís me alright," she grinned. "Itís just something I havenít let myself feel since we got back together."
"And what is that exactly?" Xena asked.
"Uncontrollable passion. Undeniable desire."
Gabrielle could tell Xena was beginning to understand but some areas were still a bit shadowy. "I gave myself to you again in that little inn in Athens Xena. I gave you my mind, my body and my soul. But something thatís been missing, for quite sometime, has returned tonight."
Xena didnít interrupt. She simply felt herself falling into Gabrielleís words, hanging on what the bard had to say next.
"That spark," Gabrielle answered as she closed her eyes, her breathing becoming almost labored as she spoke. "That mix of passion and desire that causes men and women to throw caution to the winds; to not care about tomorrow if the needs of today are met. And the overwhelming need to feel you, to be felt . . . Iíve missed that passion. Iíve been holding it back that . . . carnal lust. And I know why. Iíve been afraid of losing my heart again if I give into such temptations. But I realized something tonight."
"Whatís that?" Xena answered her voice uncharacteristically cracking in arousal at the thought of hearing more. Gabrielleís eyes opened but stayed hooded in her growing desire.
"Life without passion . . . desire . . . lust . . . isnít worth living. And if you find someone who shares these feelings with you and FOR YOU, then youíve managed to achieve something few ever will - a perfect balance if you will . . . Like I said, Iíve given you my body and my mind and my soul. Tonight let me give you back my passion."
Xenaís hands captured the bardís face. "If youíre offering . . . Iíll wholeheartedly accept."
Gabrielle grinned. The desire and the promise were written on Gabrielleís face like all the parchments that contained her words of devotion to Xena.
"Iím offering," the bard whispered sincerely.
"Then Iím accepting."
All pretense of making it back to the inn died at that point as the warriorís lips claimed the bards. With three easy snaps the breastplate Xena wore fell to the ground along with her scabbard. The kisses were numbing as the warrior backed the bard against a nearby tree. The warriorís hand worked their way under the bardís skirt to relieve her of her britches. Xena was pleasantly surprised when she found none. She looked down, momentarily stopping her movements to see the bardís smile on her face.
"I didnít bother," Gabrielle commented. "I knew no matter where we were tonight, by dawn youíd be in MY bed."
Xena growled. I love it when she gets Ďpossessiveí. Her fingers wasted no time, finding the bardís center soaked and ready. The whimper of desire Gabrielle gave her fueled Xenaís need even more. No matter how much you have itís never enough, Xenaís mind screamed as she recalled her earlier conversation with Lucifer. Xena knew first hand. She could never get enough of this little blonde no matter what.
Gabrielle pulled Xenaís battle dress down with a hard thrust exposing the warriorís breast. Her lips and teeth latched onto her lover, refusing to release itís hold. At that point Xena entered Gabrielle with three fingers.
"Oh yes," Gabrielle cried out as she threw her head back.
The bard wanted to continue what she had started but she couldnít do it. Instead of her mouth she found her arms reaching out as her hands and fingers worked the warriorís nipples to erect points. Not that Gabrielle had noticed. She was too caught up in what Xenaís fingers were doing to her.
Gabrielle thrashed against the bark as her hips began to grind against the warriorís hand. The sounds the bard produced made the warrior so wet she could feel a trail of arousal going down her inner thigh. She grabbed one of Gabrielleís hands and roughly placed it against her leg.
"See how hot you make me?" Xena whispered in the bardís ear as the woman in her arms continued to grind and grunt against her. "See the power you have over me?"
"Power," Gabrielle echoed in a shallow voice. Her mind ran wild but one word was all her lips could form. She was so close now. She ached for release and her vocalizations of her desire grew louder. "Ohhhh Xena," she sighed as she struggled toward climax. She knew that when it did come she would explode. And that moment grew nearer and nearer with each thrust of the warriorís hand.
Xena found herself grunting along with the bard. Her own soul soaring as she watched the bard taking her hand, loving every moment of it. As she looked at Gabrielle, Xena understood exactly what the bard meant earlier about letting go. That look on Gabrielleís face - sheer passion - was something that had been gone for a long time she realized. How she had loved that look so many years ago. She wondered how they had managed to get so far off course.
But she had her now. Right where she wanted her, feeling just what she wanted her to feel. And Xena vowed in that instant that she would try everything in her power to see that Gabrielle had her passion, her desire, her everything.
"I love you so much," the warrior said burying her head into the crook of Gabrielleís neck.
The tone of Xenaís words, not so much the words themselves, put Gabrielle over the edge. There was a need and a want in her loverís declaration. But more than that there was a genuine affection. Love and lust were colliding quite well. It was that image that put Gabrielle over the top as her body began to quake and she erupted with a mighty cry of satisfaction. She felt her legs beginning to go out from under her.
"Falling," she tried to tell Xena. The warrior quickly left Gabrielleís sex and caught the young woman in her arms.
"I gotcha," Xena answered, tightening her hold around the bard. "I wonít let you fall."
Gabrielle relaxed in the embrace and let the sheer joy of the waves pass over and over through her body. When the last wave left and no more returned, Gabrielle began to chuckle in her delight.
"So much for going home," she said as she opened her eyes.
Xena gave her a lecherous smile as she readjusted her battledress. "Oh my dear bard," the warrior said. "The night is far from over."
"Iím not sure I can walk the rest of the way," Gabrielle answered, as she stood unsteady by herself.
Xena picked up the bard in her arms and started to walk which made Gabrielle erupt into a fit of giggles. Something else the warrior hadnít seen or heard in a very long time.
"If we wait a few moments," Gabrielle told the warrior as she played with the ends of Xenaís hair that tickled her cleavage. "Iím sure I could walk on my own."
"Iím not sure I can wait that long," Xena answered as she carried her lover. "Besides . . . remember all those times weíd find a beautiful river bank someplace - quiet, secluded. And then Iíd carry you back to the bedrolls to do Ďas you wishedí. "
Gabrielle grinned bittersweetly. "I swore Iíd never forget. . . but I had until you just mentioned it. I really loved those times."
"Well then," Xena asked as she continued to walk to the inn, which was now in sight. "Should I put you down?"
Gabrielle smiled and cuddled into the warriorís strong arms. "No Xena. Carry me away."
"As you wish my bard," the warrior grinned. "As you wish."
Eve watched Virgil rounding up the glasses and goblets that lay around the temple, carefully placing them in a large bucket they had found. Her heart went out to the young man. And the regret she felt over taking Joxerís life shadowed over her once more. She knew she could never say sorry enough for all the lives she had taken or shattered or both.
She took the two glasses she had in her hands and walked over. "Hereís some more," she said giving them to him.
"Thanks," he answered as he placed them with the others. He didnít add more and Eve didnít know quite where to begin. Finally she found a starting place.
"I know Iíve told you how sorry I am about your father Virgil but I think-."
He held his hands up and stopped her from going on. "I said forgiving you was a mistake earlier today. That was wrong. I did a lot of things today that I wouldnít do . . . I mean great Eli above! Iím not sure how Iím ever going to look Gabrielle in the eye again after today. Or even Xena for that matter. I grew up hearing tales about them. My dad even referred to them as my Ďauntsí . . . I almost got it on with Aunt Gabby!"
Eve knew he was being serious but with the way it came out she couldnít help but chuckle. When Virgil looked up Eve thought that perhaps she took a major misstep but soon Virgil started to grin which in turn made Eve laugh a little harder. In moments both of their chuckles echoed through the vacant temple.
"Iím sorry," Eve apologized, trying to get some sense of control back. "I shouldnít laugh."
"No go ahead," Virgil grinned. "Itís pretty damn funny in a way if you think about it."
"Well you got farther than your dad ever did," Eve teased. She paused a moment to see what kind of reaction that would bring.
She was relieved when Virgil seemed to loosen up and hold his grin in place. "Yeah well . . . Gabbyís not really my type," he added before giving a sigh. "Iím just glad it all worked out in the end."
"Me too," Eve agreed.
Virgil sat down on the sofa and found two empty glasses. He poured some wine and handed one to Eve, motioning her to take a spot next to him. She accepted the offer quietly.
After taking a sip her cleared his throat. "After my dad died, I felt empty. Like I didnít have a purpose. When I came back here I knew youíd still be with them. But I needed something. Some kind of connection to my father I think. But I knew I had to start over too. My darkness I felt convinced me it was a start with Gabrielle I needed. With the blackness gone I see now that what I need is a second chance . . . Time, experience Ė I need to find my course in life again. I hope Xena and Gabrielle will let me travel with them so I can examine that further."
"Iím sure they will," Eve answered. "They both love you dearly. You know I could insert a jab about Gabrielle here but I think Iíll let it pass," Eve added playfully.
Virgil smiled. "Thanks for trying to let me live that down," he replied.
"No problem," Eve answered with a friendly grin. "So now what do we do?" she asked. "Seems weíre both looking for another way."
Virgil thought a moment and then raised his glass in a toast. "To second chances," he replied.
"And a new beginning?" Eve asked trying not to sound too hopeful or assuming in the request.
He clanked his cup against hers with a warm smile and said, "And to a new beginning."
Eve took a drink and wiped her mouth on the back of her hand nervously. "Thank you," she whispered sincerely.
Virgil turned to Eve as he stood up and gave her shoulder a light pat. "Youíre welcome," he answered sincerely. "Now what do you say we finish cleaning up this pig sty?"
"You gotta deal."
A GOOD DAY'S VENGEANCE (set after 'Who's Gurkhan')Xena watched her family with a proud smile on her face. They beat the bad guy. They saved the maidens. Just like old times. But something was different. . . That Ďfamilyí element - something they didnít have before.
Eve and Gabrielle looked so similar as they stared out across the water. Eve had Xenaís height and color but the way her eyes looked out on the horizon, the way she held her jaw was totally the bard.
Xena watched as Sarah walked up and took a spot next to the bard. She watched them converse for a bit before the bard turned to her giving a soft grin. Xenaís smile grew wider as a result. She had to go over.
As she approached, Xena ran her hand up Sarahís back, stopping at her shouldering giving a light pat. "How you doing hon?" she asked the blonde girl.
Sarah gave the question serious thought. "I think Iím okay . . . Just a little worried about going home I guess. Itís been so long."
"Well donít worry," Xena grinned. "Your mom was always a great gal. Very understanding. In fact she was the only one in Gabrielleís family that supported Gabrielleís decision to travel with me. Iím sure youíll be just fine."
Sarah smiled a genuine smile. "I remember when my father tried to betroth me but mother wouldnít hear of it. Needless to say I never had a Ďhusband to beí," she said with a light chuckle. "Dad used to think he was king of the castle but mom always had the final say in the end."
"Not unlike your grandparents," Gabrielle interjected.
Sarah turned her smile toward her aunt as she nodded. "Yes . . . Very much like them . . . But theyíre all gone now," she added, the sadness returning to her voice, as she played with her polished fingernails.
Gabrielle turned away. Gone. Theyíre all gone. In all of this I havenít taken the time to realize that . . . And I never got to say goodbye. "Iím gonna get some herbs for my stomach," Gabrielle muttered as she headed below deck.
Xena could feel the heaviness that hung in Gabrielleís heart but she said nothing and simply let her walk away to have some Ďprivate timeí. Xena turned to Sarah. "You still have your mother," she told the young woman. "And sheíll love seeing you again. I know it."
"Even in light of everything?" Sarah answered, her voice cracking a bit.
"Yes," Xena answered honestly.
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because Iím a mother and I know."
Xena smiled over at Eve and gave Sarahís arm a light pat before going in search of her bard. Eve took the opening that was given to her and began to speak. Xena didnít listen to their conversation. Instead her keen sense of hearing picked up on something else. Sobs. Sobs coming from inside the cabin.
"Did you find those herbs?" Xena asked, as she entered the doorway.
Gabrielle seemed a bit startled and kept her back turned to Xena as she spoke, "Yeah but I know not to use too much this time," she teased.
Gabrielle didnít add more and Xena approached on careful footsteps. "Are you okay Gabrielle? Did you want to talk?"
Gabrielle cleared her throat. "Iím fine Xena," she answered finally turning around.Her eyes were swollen. Xena could tell sheíd been crying and quite hard from the looks of it.
"Now donít go being the stoic warrior Gabrielle," Xena grinned warmly. "Youíll put me out of a job."
Gabrielle grinned and opened her arms. Xena took the invitation and curled the bard into an embrace. They rocked for a few moments with the movement of the ship until Gabrielle broke down in tears. Xena just held her and smoothed her hair over repeatedly as she cried. She knew what the bard was feeling.
Her mother was burned at the stake. Gabrielleís parents were beheaded. Both of them were now officially Ďorphansí.
"Iím not sure how I feel," Gabrielle answered, trying to cry and talk at the same time.
"Thatís okay," Xena told her. "You donít have to be sure of anything right now. Itís okay to feel sad and unsure Gabrielle."
Gabrielle composed herself a few moments later and pulled away wiping her eyes. "I keep thinking of all the towns weíve saved. All the people. I mean . . . How many warlords have we defeated over the years? Tons right? . . . But when the time came for me to help my family I wasnít there. MY OWN FAMILY . . . And I couldnít do anything. They all died because I wasnít there."
"Please donít blame yourself Gabrielle," Xena answered, hoping to pull the bard back to her. Gabrielle however sidestepped the warrior.
"Then who can I blame? The Gods? Ares? Joxer for not finding us sooner?"
"It was beyond our control," Xena told her. "It was the only way to keep Eve safe from the gods."
Gabrielle flinched a bit and Xena scrunched her eyebrows in examination of what the shutter meant. She didnít have the chance to respond to it though.
"Look Xena," the bard began. "Point is we travel the countryside, doing the greater good, helping those that canít help themselves. When the time arrived and my family became those in need I was nowhere to be found . . . Thatís a hard fact to live with."
"Yes - it is, " Xena replied. "Knowing you could have helped but werenít able to. Knowing that they cried out for you even in the end. Yeah itís tough."
Gabrielle stepped closer to the warrior. "Iím sorry Xena. I know you understand how this feels and I wasnít trying to berate your feelings of losing Cyrene. Itís just -."
"It hurts," Xena answered for the bard.
Gabrielle gave a bittersweet smile. The facts were cold and harsh but Xenaís understanding had a warmth she needed now. "Yes - it hurts."
"But weíll get through it together. And we do still have family we can love and who loves us. We have Eve, Sarah and even Virgil. Who knows maybe Minya is still around somewhere? Salmoneus? Heck Herc even said that Autolycus is still around - last time they saw him heíd gone straight . . . Of course that could have changed by now," Xena chuckled. "What Iím saying is we still have family out there. People we value and cherish and as long as youíre with me, Iíll always have a home. Youíre more important to me than anything else Gabrielle . . . And you always will be."
"Always?" Gabrielle asked unsure.
Xena grinned but the tone of the bardís question had her curious. Why does she doubt that? "Yeah," she answered firmly. "Of course . . . Look, are you sure youíre okay? Because I get the feeling that something is going on that-"
"Iím okay Xena," the bard grinned. "Maybe I could just use a little bit of a break in the action is all."
"Well Eve and Virgil did make a suggestion."
Gabrielle laughed heartily. "A vacation? Iím not sure I follow you."
"Well they said they would see Sarah home once we get to the next port. Eve thinks it would be nice for you and I to do some traveling on our own. Check out Northern Africa. I mean, except for Egypt, we really havenít done any exploring here. It could be fun."
"Sun, sand and surf huh?" Gabrielle grinned. "Itís starting to have its appeal."
"Well that settles it," Xena grinned. "The Ďcousinsí can head back home and you and I could just Ďget awayí for a little bit. What do you say?"
Hmmm . .. .sun, sand, surf . . . and if weíre lucky maybe a little uninterrupted sex. This has potential.
"Okay warrior princess. Youíre on."
Continue to Part II