Bonding of souls pt.iI
Disclaimers: See Part One
AFTER THE STORM (set after 'Legacy')
Xena nearly sprang to her feet from a deep slumber upon hearing the bard cry out. She looked over to see the bard now sitting up, shaking and breathing hard. Third time this week Xena thought. Her heart arched for the bard. Every night she hoped the gentle distraction of her affections before bedtime would lead the bard to happy dreams but no such luck. Gabrielle continued to dream of the desert boy whose life she took accidentally.
"Hey," Xena said softly stroking her back. "It’s okay Gabrielle. Settle down sweetheart." Xena gathered the sleeping furs around them, pulling them tighter.
Gabrielle ran her hands over her face, trying to calm her nerves. "I keep seeing him Xena," the bard whispered. "Every night he keeps coming back. Every night I kill him all over again . . . I don’t think this will ever end."
Xena held back her frustrated sigh. "It will Gabrielle. Give it time. You’ve been through a lot lately."
"I’ve been through a lot lately? What about Korra’s father? I took his only son from him," Gabrielle spat.
Xena chewed her bottom lip to keep herself from going off on the bard. Silence was safer.
"I’m sorry," Gabrielle apologized with regret. "I know you’re trying to make me feel better. I do . . . It’s just so difficult living with what I’ve done – how I’ve hurt that tribe; Korra’s father. It feels like I have a huge boulder on my shoulders, crushing me, with no means of escape . . . Is that what it felt like – I mean when you came to Potiedaia? When you had given up?"
Xena gave a small nod but said nothing.
"When did it end? When did you feel ‘normal’?" Gabrielle asked.
"I’m not sure I’ve ever felt ‘normal’," Xena answered truthfully. "All I know is I saw you stand up to Draco’s army. I watched you willing to sacrifice yourself for everyone else. A fire I thought had gone out rekindled. Not the inferno that sent me on a destructive path but a new one. One I hadn’t felt since I was a young woman defending my town. I started out with the best of intentions but got lost along the way. That day when I saw you I found a new beginning. Perhaps that’s why I was so adamant against you following me. I didn’t want to go on and I didn’t want to take you down with me."
"What changed it?" Gabrielle asked, cocking her head in curiosity.
"You wouldn’t take no for an answer," Xena grinned. "Just like I’m not gonna take no. I’m gonna stand by you. I’m gonna defend you. And I’m gonna help you find your true purpose again . . .Just like you helped me."
Gabrielle grinned at Xena’s words. She’s not the most poetic of warriors but she knows what to say and when to say it, Gabrielle considered. I’m lucky to have her. If I didn’t . . . Gabrielle couldn’t finish the thought.
Xena saw Gabrielle’s expression of happiness slip away again. "What’s wrong?" she asked.
Gabrielle ran her hands through her hair. "Just thinking . . . I couldn’t go on without," Gabrielle began to sob.
"C’mere," Xena said pulling Gabrielle to her and lying back on the ground.
She stroked the bard’s hair as she cried on her shoulder. Gabrielle settled down a bit whipping her eye before hugging Xena around the waist.
"I’m not going anywhere," Xena told her.
"Even if I’m a terrible person?" Gabrielle answered. "A warrior who lacks judgement?"
"You’re not a terrible person. You’re one of the greatest to walk this earth. And I’ll always sing your praises to anyone I met. You’re a brave warrior, a wonderful bard, a fantastic lover and a best friend. I’ve been truly blessed Gabrielle. And I’ll fight for you until the end. Lord knows I’ve fought bravely for much less."
"Even fanatics who talk to beings called the Jinn?" Gabrielle teased.
Xena was relieved to hear the bard’s little attempt at humor. "Ooh especially . . . I might even give up a good chewing tooth now and then."
Gabrielle grinned and sat up on her elbow. "She could have never loved me like you . . . never," she whispered as she stroked the warrior’s face. "You and I," Gabrielle added as her fingers traced Xena’s lips. "We’re endless."
Xena closed her eyes and kissed the finger that lingered. The grin that was beginning to grow on Xena’s face came to an abrupt stop when she felt the bard’s lips covering hers in a tender kiss. Xena’s eyes remained close and her hand moved up to cup the back of the bard’s head.
"Endless," Xena sighed as her lover pulled away and she opened her eyes. "Don’t ever forget that," Xena pleaded. "You’ll always mean the world to me."
Gabrielle settled back into Xena’s shoulder and stroked the side of the warrior’s face. "I love you Xena."
"I love you too Gabrielle."
At dawn, Xena and Gabrielle went down to the parcel building in the local village to see if they had any messages from the family. They weren’t all that surprised when they saw a scroll from Virgil. Not waiting to get back to camp they opened it and read it.
"What do you know? Virgil got a boy toy," Xena chuckled.
That earned her a playful swat from the bard. "I think it sounds very sweet and romantic," Gabrielle countered. "He sounds quite smitten in fact."
"Really? Did we read the same parchment? I saw he met a guy and they’re going camping. No deep everlasting love going on in this letter," Xena answered gruffly.
"No dear it’s subtext. Reading between the lines like star gazing and phrases like ‘and so on’. Get it?" Gabrielle asked with raised eyebrows.
Xena paused a moment. "Nope. Looks like he got a boy toy to me."
"You’re such a cynic," Gabrielle chuckled rolling up the parchment. "It’s a wonder that we ever got together," Gabrielle grinned.
"That was easy. I just picked you up, put you on my shoulder and said ‘Me warrior. You bard. Make zug zug’."
Gabrielle slapped the parchment against Xena’s breastplate for her to hold, making the warrior yelp. "Yeah Xena - you really know how to sweep a gal off her feet you big softy you."
Xena chuckled and wrapped a tender arm around the bard. "Come on bard ‘o mine. Let’s say I buy you breakfast."
"The fastest way to a woman’s heart, through her stomach," Gabrielle grinned. "I guess you do know how to treat a lady Xena."
Xena grinned. "I never had a doubt my dear."
FILLING VOIDS (set after 'The Abyss')
Xena grinned as she watched the skinny man - Romeo, Rommaro, Ro- whatever . . . eating everything he could get his hands on. Well maybe not EVERYTHING Xena considered with a silent chuckle when thinking back to the cannibal experience. He hadn’t stopped. He’d already gone through their rations and was now eating berries he had found. His face and hands were covered in juice and he looked up to find Xena watching him in amusement.
"Sorry," he apologized with an embarrassed grin.
"On no, eat up," Xena grinned as she rose to go sit closer to Virgil and Gabrielle. "You could use it," she added pointing to his small frame.
He did just that, diving back into his bowl.
"Are you sure you don’t want us to go back with you?" Xena heard Gabrielle ask Virgil as she took a spot behind the bard. Xena spread her legs around Gabrielle and the bard naturally leaned back into the warrior.
"I’ll be okay," Virgil grinned warmly. "I didn’t know him that long - a moon at the most. Still . . . I can’t help but wonder what could have been. Fate is a fickle one," he added as he stared off. After a deep sigh, he looked up and grinned after seeing the concern on Gabrielle’s face. "I’ll be okay," he reassured her. "But how about you? Is that fever still gone."
Xena put her hand over Gabrielle’s forehead, testing her temperature. "As hot as ever," Xena said in compliment to her sexy companion while giving a light kiss to her cheek. "But not too hot."
Gabby gave the warrior’s thigh a playful swat as she grinned. "I feel fine," she told Virgil.
"Too bad we couldn’t get that medicine or find out how they made it," Virgil commented. "Your recovery is quite impressive from when they first brought you to the hut."
"Would you like to go back and get some?" Xena teased.
"I think I’ll pass," Virgil grinned.
"That makes two of us," Gabrielle grinned. "Besides I think the warrior princess kicked enough asses in one day," Gabrielle chuckled.
"Yeah I’m over my limit," Xena sighed. "But today is another day. We could try then?"
"No!" Virgil and Gabrielle answered in harmony.
Xena chuckled and stood up, bringing Gabrielle with her. "Get some rest Virgil. We’ll head back to the main village at dawn. We should be there before the sun is high and set sail back home before nightfall," she told the young poet.
"Thanks again Xena. You saved my life," Virgil said sincerely. "I now see first hand why my father thought so highly of you. I’m indebted to you."
"Virgil," Xena began as she wrapped an arm around Gabrielle’s waist. "You took care of what I prize most at a time when she need someone to look after her and comfort her. You’re a good man like your father Virgil. I’d say we’re even."
They all shared a warm round of grins.
"Good night ladies," Virgil said before climbing into his bedroll.
"’Night," Xena and Gabrielle said in harmony.
They walked a short distance from the campsite until they reached a cliff over looking a valley.
"It really is quite beautiful here," Gabrielle replied look out toward the moonlit horizon.
"Yes it is," Xena agreed.
They took a spot on a fallen tree limb side by side. "C’mere," Xena said putting her arm around the bard. Gabrielle gently rested her head on Xena’s shoulder and sighed.
"Are you sure you’re feeling okay?" the warrior asked upon hearing the heavy sound come from the bard.
"Yeah," she answered without pause, "I had the chance to do some thinking and I realize that I do walk the path of the warrior. My judgement will improve with time. But first and foremost I have to take care of you . . . and myself. That’s what comes first above all else."
"Above the greater good?" Xena asked with a grin.
"Keeping you safe is for the greater good," Gabrielle answered honestly. "The fact that it’s the most important thing to me too is just an added bonus," she answered.
A small silence passed between them until Xena spoke. "I just don’t want you to have any regrets Gabrielle."
"Xena," the bard began, "We all have regrets about something. You haven’t led much of a life if you don’t have some regrets."
"What makes you say that?"
"Well I’d rather feel bad about the choices I might have made in my life than the ones I didn’t. I mean . . . to feel sorry for the things you SHOULD have done is far worse than feeling bad about the things you have done. At least you took action. At least you tried to make an outcome favorable. Some things work out. Some things don’t. But in the end if you took your fate in your own hands instead of letting it play out I think it’s easier to live with yourself . . . I’ll be just fine."
"Well you’ve been pretty upset lately . . . I just wish there was something I could do for you."
"Just love me Xena," Gabrielle grinned. "Warts and all."
Xena raised Gabrielle’s head with a stroke under the chin. She planted the most delicate of kisses on her lips. "I do my soulmate. I always will. No matter what fate have in store for us, we’ll make our own destiny."
Another silence passed between them and they went back to watching the horizon and listening to the night animals. "I feel so sad for Virgil. I know he said he didn’t know him long but still to lose someone you felt a connection with, someone that could have been his soulmate . . . I think it hurts him more than he’s saying," Gabrielle commented.
"Perhaps," Xena agreed. "But perhaps he wasn’t the right one. You and I both made lots of choices over the years. You married Perticus." As soon as the word left Xena’s lips she wished she could take them back.
"I know I shouldn’t have married him. If I sent him home without me he might still be alive today."
"I’m sorry Gabrielle. I didn’t mean anything derogatory by that. All I mean is we’ve both had our moments when we thought that perhaps we had found the ‘one’ but when it came down to it we really didn’t. I mourned over letting Hercules go. He wanted me to stay and a part of me wanted to stay. But I knew he’d pay for my past sins and that wasn’t fair so I let him go. And when I did it lead me to the ‘real one’," Xena grinned.
"You knew back then?" Gabrielle asked.
"I knew I was terribly attracted to you," Xena grinned. "But I also knew you were a young farmgirl. And I didn’t want you messin' with the likes of me," Xena chuckled.
"What changed?" Gabrielle asked.
"After the quest for the ambrosia I saw for the first time a confident, dedicated woman before me. Not a girl but a woman. A woman who loved me very much. A woman willing to take on a crazed amazon to bring me back here. I realized . . . I’d never find a love like that again in my life. You are rare Gabrielle and I know if not for you I wouldn’t have stayed on the right path the way I did. My life. My sword. My heart – they’re all for you. . . Someday Virgil WILL find that too - I have faith."
"So we’re stuck with each other huh?" Gabrielle teased as she slid over to straddle the warrior’s lap.
Xena licked her lips and looked her bard up and down, considering the ‘pinned’ fate she was in. "Looks that way," Xena replied with a raised eyebrow.
"Well then," Gabrielle said, nuzzling next to the warrior’s ear. "We better make the most of it."
And make the most of it that night they did.
MOVING FORWARD (set before 'The Rheingold')
It took two weeks of travel but finally the trio was on Greek soil again. Gabrielle, looking green, had never felt so happy to be on solid ground. They said their goodbye to Virgil who was heading to Athens to visit Meg.
As Xena and Gabrielle walked down the path headed North, Xena uncharacteristically took the bard’s hand. Not that Gabrielle minded the gesture. It was just an odd sensation for Xena to be so ‘openly affectionate’ with her.
"Where we heading?" Gabrielle asked, giving the hand a light squeeze.
"I’m not sure yet," Xena answered.
"Well wherever it is, I hope we find an inn. I’m getting hungry - no comment warrior," she warned before Xena could through out a smart aleck comment about her appetite.
Xena simply chuckled. Oh yes, the bard knows me well, she considered. Sad thing is perhaps I really don’t know her quite as well. I mean at the cave….
"Can we talk?" Xena asked soberly.
Gabrielle looked to Xena unsure. One moment she was laughing along with her but the next she seemed almost . . .morose.
"Yeah, what’s the matter?" Gabrielle asked genuinely concerned about the change.
"I wanna talk about Hope," Xena began. "Your daughter," she specified.
Gabrielle stopped walking, bringing Xena to a sudden halt, nearly ripping her arm from its socket. "Why? I thought we settled all that," Gabrielle asked.
"I thought so too but lately something’s been bothering you when the subject of family comes up and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it. Then when you were feverish in the cave . . . you thought ‘I’ was Hope."
Gabrielle let go of Xena’s hand and the warrior watched as the bard’s arms crossed her chest, almost as if she were guarding herself subconsciously. "What did I say?" Gabrielle asked.
Don’t do it warrior. Don’t cry on her. You’ll make her feel worse and it’s obvious that you’ve hurt her enough over this. Be strong for her sake. Just the facts. "You said you’d never hurt Hope. You said you loved her and that you two had to get away from me - that I would take her away from you."
"Oh Xena," the bard sighed, with regret. They had been over this subject many times in the last few years. She thought they were passed it but apparently not. I’m still hanging on deep in my mind. At some point I have to let it go.
"You know," Xena began, ". . . when I found out about being pregnant with Eve, my first thought was you – how you were going to handle it, how we were going to survive . . . A god gave me a child. Just like the way a god gave you a child . . . I just don’t see how you managed to ‘overlook’ that."
Gabrielle chewed her bottom lip. The words Xena spoke of Hope bothered her but what really struck her was Xena’s interpretation of her ‘acceptance’ of the pregnancy.
Gabrielle’s first reaction when she heard the news was that this baby Xena carried was a mortal child, not that of a god. She ran down the list of ‘who’s who’ and when she ran out of names she assumed that either A) Xena was lying to her or B) it was a man Gabrielle had never met. Neither option was promising nor did it ease her soul. That was the night she found solace in the arms of a barmaid at the back of a tavern.
"I didn’t overlook it," Gabrielle said guiltily unable to meet Xena’s eyes.
Xena cocked her head, trying to read the expression on Gabrielle’s face, which the bard was purposely hiding. "What do you mean Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle sighed. Should you tell her? Should you confess what you did? Would letting her know the truth bring her closer to you or just free you from your guilt? . . . She deserves to know. And if she leaves then . . . then that’s her choice. I won’t stop her. If the pain is too much I’ll let her go - - for her.
Gabrielle swallowed hard before she began to speak, "I have a confession Xena but I need you to let me finish." Gabrielle looked up for a brief moment to see Xena nod before looking back at her feet in shame. "That night, after you said you were pregnant, we were all at the tavern - you, me, Armond, Joxer and Amerrice. All evening long I noticed a barmaid watching me while I was stewing over what I thought you had done. I mean I thought you betrayed me. I didn’t think a god was responsible for what happened to you. Honestly, what were the chances that both of us would have offspring as a result of some ‘higher power’? I thought you lied to me and I was angry - very very angry."
Gabrielle looked up briefly to see if Xena was still listening at that point. Obviously she was because Xena’s bottom lip had begun to quiver. Gabrielle had to look away again. She silently hoped that Xena wouldn’t keep her word and would say something - ANYTHING - to stop her from continuing but Xena didn’t. She remained quiet as promised. And Gabrielle knew she’d have to go on with her confession.
"At one point in the evening the barmaid nodded me back toward the kitchen and - - and I followed her," Gabrielle said beginning to stumble over her words. "I didn’t sleep with her Xena . . . but . . . We . . ."
"I know," Xena whimpered.
Gabrielle’s eyes shot up. "You know? I don’t understand," the bard said thoroughly confused.
"I have a confession too," Xena sighed. "I saw the way she looked at you all evening. I also watched you knocking down the ales pretty good that night. As the night wore on I saw the way you looked at her and when you got up to go the kitchen for some food, I knew."
"You knew?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena nodded. "Yes and I followed you." Xena paused as if to get a hold of her composure before continuing. "I saw you two kissing. Gods, I wanted to tear that woman in half. As I debated about what to do, something happened. You stopped. You told her that you were angry with me but this wasn’t the answer. And if I remember correctly, she was pretty upset with you," Xena grinned bittersweetly. "She said something about spilling the beans to your lover, at least that’s what she said when she thought Amerrice was your lover. When she found out it was me she thought twice and realized her health could be in serious trouble for messin’ with my bondmate."
"You knew this whole time? And you never said a single word?"
"Never," Xena answered.
"Because I knew you would tell me when I needed to know. It wouldn’t be something you would say in anger. It wouldn’t be something you would say to make ‘yourself’ feel better - you would carry that guilt. . . But now, since you think I need to know that you weren’t as accepting of my pregnancy, you felt you owed me the truth . . . I admire that Gabrielle."
"You admire that I almost had an affair?" Gabrielle asked.
"No," Xena corrected. "I admire that you DIDN’T have an affair and that you didn’t feel the need to worry me about it. Because you learned where your heart, and your body, lies. I’m not saying that it didn’t hurt. I’m not saying that a part of it doesn’t hurt even today. But I’m comforted in the fact that it made us stronger - it helped guide you back to me. It helped you realize it’s a life with me that you wanted - that you wanted to be a ‘family’ and you wanted to love this ‘unknown’ child as much as you cared for me, as much as you loved Hope."
"I’m so sorry for cheating on you," Gabrielle answered.
"You didn’t cheat," Xena grinned. "You explored other options for a matter of a few moments. Obviously I was still what you wanted."
"I felt numb," Gabrielle told her. "That night in the kitchen. I just felt numb and I knew that this wasn’t it; this barmaid wasn’t going to solve my problem. I had to make a choice - stand or fall so to speak," Gabrielle grinned. "I knew I had to stand by you. I had to support your efforts with this child who was going to be ‘ours’. Maybe in someway I saw it at my ‘second’ chance at motherhood, which made it easier to deal with in the end.
Hope was a part of my past and as much as I would have loved to build a life with her . . .I know that never would have worked. She had her father’s agenda - that agenda meant more than my blood in her veins. But somewhere deep inside me Xena, I’ll always wonder what could have been if SHE were different. I’ll always wonder if there’s something that WE could have done to MAKE her different. But I also know that she never gave us that option. I realized this when we prepared to go into Dayhok’s temple and she came to me. She said she wanted me in her life. She said if she asked father he would say yes and I could join her. ‘I’ could join ‘her’. She would never have any intention of joining me . . .We turned Eve from her darkness because she wasn’t satisfied with her life. She took the chance that love might be the best path to take. And that’s a path I know Hope would have never taken."
Xena reached out and pulled the bard into her arms, "I’m sorry I had to be the one to battle Hope," she told her. "I never wanted you to have to choose between my love and Hope’s love. I just-."
"Had to be the warrior princess," Gabrielle grinned. "I know. And like you said earlier. I understand. It’s made us stronger. But yeah . . . even today it still hurts someplace inside."
With that the bard’s empty stomach gave a large grumble. Both women chuckled at the noise, both a little grateful for the sound that helped lighten the mood.
"We better get you to an inn fast," Xena said, putting her arm around Gabrielle’s shoulder as they started down the path again. Gabrielle’s arm slipped naturally around Xena’s waist.
"There seems to be a great deal of smoke and torchlights from over there," Gabrielle pointed, toward the east.
Xena’s stomach now seemed to join Gabrielle’s in its protest of going too long without being fed. "Looks like I’m not the only one who could use a hot meal," Gabrielle prodded.
Moments later they were walking through a small town with a tiny inn. As they sat down a burly man came over to take their orders - ales and whatever was ready sounded good to the duo. As he briskly brought out their plates, Xena looked at hers for a short moment before digging in. She was nearly finished, nibbling on some bread, when she noticed that Gabrielle had only half of hers gone.
"You gonna finish that?" Xena asked, nodding at the bard’s plate.
Gabrielle grinned at her warrior. Trying to take my food huh warrior? No dice. "All of it," she answered soundly with a nod.
Xena grumbled something about the portion sizes and continued to prod Gabrielle for ‘playing’ with her food.
"I’m savoring it," the bard told her.
Xena tried to stop from rolling her eyes. Savoring it, Xena sighed. What a bardly response? she chuckled silently. She would have retorted but she noticed the man by the door who had been watching them. Who’s this clown? Xena considered.
Xena made some off-hand comment that brought him to the table. When the lock fell on the table her heart stopped. She had to talk to this man and away from Gabrielle. Xena could feel her entire future disappearing before her eyes as she got up to take this Beowulf fellow to the corner of the tavern.
She looked over now and then to see Gabrielle ‘playing’ with the lock. And she realized that this would be the last night she would probably spend with Gabrielle. She prayed that the beds, like most inns, would be tiny with room for only one person. She’d be less likely to wake Gabrielle if she could leave without moving the bed.
When Xena returned to the table Gabrielle could sense Xena’s distress. She offered the rest of her meal to her warrior. Xena said she’d lost her appetite and the fact that Gabrielle was willing to give up her food, which she so adamantly denied moments before, made Xena’s heart hurt all the more. She couldn’t take someone this wonderful and giving on a suicide mission . . . not again.
As they readied themselves for bed Xena could feel Gabrielle’s growing concern and frustrations. She wasn’t shocked when Gabrielle made a remark about keeping secrets. Xena just didn’t feel prepared to tell her but she knew she had to. She’d take down that wall if she had to so the bard would know she had her trust. As she began to consider telling Gabrielle, at least part of the tale, the bard stopped her. She wouldn’t ‘bully’ Xena into hearing the story. Much like Gabrielle’s ‘barmaid adventure’ sometimes it’s okay to keep secrets. When Xena was ready to discuss it she’d be ready to listen. Xena gave her thanks and with that they said goodnight.
An hour had passed and Xena still lay in bed looking at the ceiling. The bard was in a light slumber and Xena knew - this was the last night she would have Gabrielle. The longer she lay there considering her fate the more she wanted to feel her lover one last time. To hold her. To kiss her. To taste her.
Xena walked over to Gabrielle’s bed, watching her sleep. She considered acting on her arousal but she knew that any experience would be tarnished in her eyes. They had made love a few nights prior on the ship and that image replayed in Xena’s mind. That was the memory she wanted to keep of their ‘last time’ - a time when they had the rest of their lives ahead of them, not the end of hers which is what she would be doing at this moment.
So instead of taking her bard, Xena took quill to parchment. She told her as short and sweet as possible that she needs to do this on her own - she needs to face her past without endangering Gabrielle. The bard would go on without her. Gabrielle would have the chance to see their daughter, Eve, and have the relationship she always wanted to have - her ‘second chance at motherhood’. Gabrielle deserved that fate instead of dying in a lost cause. And has Xena closed her letter she made sure to put a kiss imprint on the parchment as well as something she told the bard the last time they made love.
"Remember, my love for you is endless."
With that Xena gathered up her belongs, placed the parchment on her tiny bed, and blew the bard a final kiss goodbye. She walked out . . . and she didn’t look back.
SLEEP TO DREAM (set during the 'Norse Arc')
The warrior smiled as she walked back to Gabrielle to see what caught the bard’s attention.
"Can we stay here tonight?" Gabrielle asked as she pointed down into the valley. It was filled with beautiful, fragrant flowers and a crystal clear stream – perfect for a nice relaxing evening.
Xena’s fingers instantly locked with the bards.
"I have to admit – it does look quite inviting down there," Xena replied. "You go first. I’ll follow right behind."
Gabrielle smiled and led her horse down the bit of rocky terrain until they came to a landing. She turned around to call Xena but when she looked back up the warrior was gone. "Xena?" No answer. "Xena? Where are you?" Still no answer. The bard became frantic. "Xena this isn’t funny. Where are you?"
"She’s not coming."
The bard’s head snapped around to come face to face with Joxer.
"Jox-. How can that be? You’re dead. And where’s Xena?" the bard replied looking back toward the top of the hill. "Xena!!!"
"There’s no sense in shouting. She can’t hear you. She’ll never hear you. She’s going to move on, start a new life. A life without you. She’ll find a husband. She’ll make a family."
"She’s got a family Joxer and she doesn’t need a husband. She has me. She’ll always have me."
"But what if Brimhilda was right. What if she’s forgotten her life with you? What then?"
"Then I wait."
"If it takes a lifetime?"
"Yes, and beyond."
With a pull of the horse’s reigns she began to walk down toward the valley and away from Joxer but he continued to follow.
"You can’t depend on her Gabby," he insisted. "You need someone stable, supportive. Some with dare I say the heart of a lion."
Gabrielle stopped and turned around. "Joxer the answer is no. The answer will always be no. Realize that and move on. You’re not my type."
"That’s right. She likes warriors," a foreign voice added from behind Gabrielle. "Female warriors. Isn’t that right Gabrielle?"
Slowly Gabrielle turned around. "You were a mistake Najara. A very bad error in judgment."
Najara smiled a stepped a bit closer closing the distance between them. "It’s funny you know. Xena said you were always so scared of horses and it was like pulling teeth to get you to ride Argo with her. Odd. You practically jumped into my saddle to go do some bird watching. Why is that?"
Gabrielle didn’t say anything. She couldn’t. She didn’t want to give voice to the explanation.
"I know why," Najara began. "Because I was the ‘stop and smell the flowers’ type of warrior. I was fierce in battle but gentle to the touch. And you thought about touching me quite often didn’t you Gabrielle? I would have given you my world. It was all there for the taking."
"I didn’t want YOUR WORLD," Gabrielle answered.
"But think if you had taken it Gabrielle. You wouldn’t have lost 25 years of your life. Your family would still be alive. Your niece would have grown up with her mother instead of in a harem. We could have raised a child together like you planned to do with Xena but we would have insured that she didn’t become the ‘bitch of Rome’. You would be helping people in our hospice – not taking the innocent life of some desert boys."
"Why? Does the truth hurt Gabrielle? Joxer is right about one thing. Xena’s not coming back. You’ve served her purpose. She’s used you and now she doesn’t need you. How many more years are you willing to waste on that poor excuse for a hero huh? How many more lives are you willing to take and watch her take in the name of the warrior princess?"
"You don’t know what you’re talking about," Gabrielle replied, moving past her to walk away.
"But I do. Xena won’t return for you . . . ever."
"Yes she will," Gabrielle answered.
"What makes you so sure?" Najara taunted.
"Because . . . Her love for me is endless."
"Which is why she left you in that little filthy inn right?" Najara laughed.
"No she did that to protect me," Gabrielle argued. "Because she does love me. Same reason she was going to leave me with you until she found out the kind of monster you really were. And she’ll come back again, just like she did then."
"You keep telling yourself that," Najara taunted. "Eventually you’ll believe it."
Gabrielle was relieved when Najara stopped following. She took the horse down to the steam for a drink of water. She walked around to her saddlebag when she was met by another familiar face dressed in a white gown.
"Don’t listen to them. She will find you," the figure smiled.
Gabrielle gave a light chuckle of disbelief. "I still find it hard to see you as our advocate sometimes Callisto."
"But I am. And trust me when I say I know Xena. Her greatest weakness is you Gabrielle."
"Gee, thanks," the bard replied sarcastically.
"But you are also her greatest strength. The woman would move mountains for you and one day she will find you. She will pass through the Ring of Fire and she will remember all that you are to her. She will find herself again and in doing so, will find you as well."
Gabrielle gave a grin and ran her hand up the angel’s arm. "Thank you. I really need support now."
"I’m glad I could help," the angel smiled. Suddenly the smile fell and Gabrielle watched Callisto clutching her stomach in pain.
"What’s wrong?!" Gabrielle said softening Callisto’s descent toward the ground.
"Run," she whispered, nodding to something over Gabrielle’s shoulder.
"Well look at what we have here. The bard without her ‘muse’."
Gabrielle didn’t have to turn around. She knew the voice. It was Alti. And she started to run just like Callisto implored.
"Where you going little girl? You can’t out run me. I’m everywhere you turn," the raspy voice echoed through the valley.
Gabrielle tried to keep up her pace but suddenly her mind flashed to being struck in the face by the prison guard on Shark Island and she fell to the ground bleeding. She tried her damnedest to rise again but this time the image of being stabbed by a cannibal crumpled her to her feet. She heard footsteps and rolled over.
Gabrielle clutched her side and tried to scoot away on her backside as Alti took casually, light steps toward her.
"Still waiting for the mighty Xena? Still think she’s gonna save you from this pathetic rock you’re on huh? Well I got news for you ‘little girl’ Xena isn’t in her ‘right frame of mind’ and all the wishing and praying won’t help you now."
Gabrielle watched someone creeping behind Alti. It was Callisto, dressed in black leather and chainmail. Casually she tapped Alti on the shoulder. The shamaness turned around quite unpleased for being interrupted in her taunting.
"You?" she laughed at the blonde.
"Rule one: You don’t kill me and walk away."
With that, Callisto delivered a right hook with such force it knocked Alti off her feet and straight on her back.
"Rule two: You don’t wanna make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry."
She kicked Alti soundly in the gut.
"And rule three," she added as she magically transformed into the angelic figure Gabrielle had last known. "is for Gabrielle. This is your dreamscape. You can make it whatever you wish. You have the power."
Gabrielle started to break down at that point and began to cry. I’m still asleep? Eli above! Please let me wake up. I just wanna wake up. I’m tried of dreaming. I want to be living.
Gabrielle watched as Callisto melted into the figure of Eli. "Until your warrior princess arrives Gabrielle, make your dreams they best they can be. Avoid the demons. She will return."
Alti rose to her feet behind the smiling Eli, ready to take her vengeance against him. Gabrielle closed her eyes tight against the image. When she opened them she was sitting in Cyrene’s tavern in the living quarters next to a roaring fireplace. She heard the door behind her open. She watched Xena walk in carrying a bottle of wine and two glasses with a seductive smile as wide as the Nile. Ahhh, this is better. Much better.
Xena sat the glasses down and looked in the mirror, hoping that something more than a fleeting, scattered memory would come to her. She looked down at her wrist to see the bracelet that Hrothgar had given her. She flashed to a young blonde woman putting on a large grouping of silver rings. "Oh these are beautiful!! Thank you so much! You shouldn’t have." And just as quickly as the image came it left. Nothing more, nothing less. Xena looked around the room hoping something else might spur on a memory. Something might help her piece together her life before coming to Denmark. But the more she tried the more difficult it was to capture any recollections.
"Wealthea," she heard her future bride-groom bellow. "Do you need help my sweet?"
"No thank you my lord," Xena called picking up the goblets. "I’m coming."
Xena looked into the mirror once more. Being the Queen of Denmark would give her the opportunity to help people. She’d like to say she loved her husband-to-be but she was just so unsure of herself. She liked that idea of helping others however, and being queen would give her that chance. She wondered silently if she had always had the desire to help people. It might not have been her calling then but it was her calling now and she would live out her life this way. And maybe, just maybe, someday the puzzle would all fit together.
Continue to Part III