Bonding of souls pt.V
Disclaimers in Part One
To New Heights (set after 'Many Happy Returns')
"Happy Birthday Gabrielle!"
The warrior kept a firm grasp on the bard’s hand as they flew through the air.
"Don’t drop me Xena!" Gabrielle laughed.
Xena smiled and tightened her grip for a moment. "I won’t drop you. I promise," she grinned. She pointed out over the horizon. "Right there. What do you think?"
The bard didn’t answer. She simply grinned and excitedly nodded her approval. Xena pulled the bard close to her so she could gather the smaller woman in her arms as they came to their landing. With one foot cocked and one foot flat, they touch downed softly. The warrior gently brought the bard to her feet.
"What do you think?" Xena asked.
"I don’t know what to say," Gabrielle said looking around her, taking it all in. "It’s absolutely beautiful. And this…did you do this?"
"Told you it wasn’t over yet," Xena grinned as she took off the helmet.
The warrior looked quite proud of herself as Gabrielle pointed to the blanket and wicker basket that contained their evening meal. Never to be someone who got the meaning of ‘romance’ she did try her best this year. A little wine, a little Sappho…She thought the bard would enjoy both but still it wasn’t enough. That’s when she decided to scout out a location for some festivities later in the evening. So far everything had gone according to plan and it was obvious that the bard admired her efforts by the grin that played on her face.
Gabrielle chuckled. "I know one warrior princess who’s gonna get lucky tonight."
Xena smiled and pulled Gabrielle’s hands up to her lips. She kissed the back of each one gently before meeting Gabrielle’s eyes.
"I had no expectations," she answered. "Nothing aside from making you happy. You’ve brought me so much joy Gabrielle. It’s only right I celebrate the day you came into this world."
"And the jokes? What’s the purpose of that?" Gabrielle quipped with a raised eyebrow.
Damn. She’s started to do that better than me.
"Well the jokes…What’s life if you can’t laugh now and then?"
"Uh huh," Gabrielle retorted. "Well just remember that what goes around comes around warrior princess. So this winter you better be on your toes." She started to kick off her boots. Next came her top and finally her skirt. Xena lost her voice for a moment as she watched her bard, mesmerized by Gabrielle’s naked form. She managed to get her senses back for a moment and cleared her throat.
"Is that a threat Gabrielle?"
The bard reached up and pulled the warrior’s head down so her lips could meet Xena’s ear.
"No…it’s a promise."
Gabrielle planted the most delicate of kisses on Xena’s earlobe before darting away and jumping into the crystal water pool behind them. Xena walked to the edge and watched as Gabrielle resurfaced, her short blonde locks, darkened by the water and slicked back.
"Coming in?" the bard called to her on the shore.
"Thought you’d never ask," Xena replied, stripping herself as well before jumping in headfirst.
Gabrielle looked around but Xena still hadn’t surfaced yet. She did however feel a pair of hands grab her ankles. Instinctively she held her breath because she knew what was coming next. Not more than a second later her body was tugged under the water with such force the splash reached their clothes on the shore. She twisted around under the water’s surface until she felt Xena’s shoulders. With her arms getting tangled around Xena’s neck and her legs around the warrior’s waist they both broke the surface together.
Gabrielle smiled at her warrior. "You’re wicked," she answered. "But very predictable."
Without a notice Xena tipped Gabrielle back so quickly the bard got a mouthful of water for her trouble. Knowing she startled the bard, Xena pulled her up quickly. Gabrielle began to cough and gasp for air.
"Predictable huh? Didn’t see that coming did ya?"
Gabrielle couldn’t speak yet but she splashed the warrior as hard as she could, which only made Xena all the more amused.
"You’re not funny," Gabrielle croaked with a scowl planted firmly on her face.
"I’m sorry," Xena answered her bottom lip sticking out more than necessary, hoping it would lighten Gabrielle’s mood.
"Don’t give me the pout because it’s not gonna work," Gabrielle answered as she pulled away.
"Hey Gabrielle," Xena said, taking a single stroke to catch up to her. "Look I promise, no more jokes, okay?"
Gabrielle’s leg slid under the water to hook the back of Xena’s legs. The bard tugged with all her might and the warrior fell. Gabrielle closed her eyes against the splash and began to laugh but she realized quickly she better move like Hermes. She got about half way to shore when she felt Xena closing in on her from under the water. She tried her best to tread through it. And she almost made it but suddenly the warrior popped up in front of her.
Gabrielle tried to hide her laugh behind her fingers but she wasn’t succeeding. Xena looked far from amused.
"I have to admit," Xena replied with a stone face before cracking a grin. "I didn’t see THAT coming."
"Threw you for a loop huh?" Gabrielle replied, relieved that Xena wasn’t upset.
"Everyday my bard. Everyday since we met it seems there’s always something you do or say that throws me off balance," Xena grinned as she picked the bard up into her arms. She gave her light kiss on the lips as she carried her to the waiting picnic blanket. "Thank you for keeping me on my toes."
"And off them from time to time it seems," Gabrielle jabbed.
"Well I can think of much better ways to keep me off my feet than dunking me under water," Xena retorted as she laid the bard down, proceeding to blanket her with her body. "Hmm, like this. This is nice. Wouldn’t you agree?" she added.
The water from Xena’s hair dripped down tickling the bard’s neck as she rested on her forearms above her.
"Who am I to argue," Gabrielle replied, rising just slightly to capture the warriors lips.
Xena took the opportunity to cup the back of the bard’s head, pulling her closer as she deepened the kiss. She felt rather than heard herself groan as the bard’s hands slid down her wet back to cup her bottom. The feel of the bard’s nails across her backside fueled her kisses even more and soon she felt her hips beginning to keep pace with Gabrielle’s prodding fingertips.
Gabrielle pulled back and rested her head on the blanket, just soaking in the rhythmic motions Xena engaged in above her.
Gods above she’s beautiful the bard considered but not vocalizing the thought. She knew, as Xena looked into her eyes, she didn’t have to say it. Xena could read her thoughts especially when they made love. She rarely had to make a request of faster or slower, harder or softer. Xena just knew. They just fit together perfectly.
Gabrielle gave a small whimper as Xena started to pull away.
"I’m too close," the warrior confessed. "I want you reach the pinnacle first….After all, it’s your birthday."
Gabrielle smiled. She was going to offer some kind of smart aleck retort since that’s pretty much how they had spent their whole weekend so far. But any thought she had fell silent when Xena’s lips immediately claimed her center. She felt her lower body leave the blanket in an instant straining to get closer to the warrior’s mouth. She loved it and she wanted it so much but even her delight at the moment wasn’t enough. She wanted more. She wanted Xena. She wanted to feel her and smell her and taste her.
"Come this way," Gabrielle called down to her, gesturing that the warrior swing her body the other way.
Xena smiled. "Whatever birthday girl wants, birthday girl gets."
Xena didn’t waste any time lingering or drawing it out. She promptly straddled the bard allowing her any access she wanted to her body at all. If Xena was willing to give it, Gabrielle was more than happy to take it. With the echo in the small valley Gabrielle was sure their noises were probably heard for miles in every directions. The thought drove her desire even higher and when she heard Xena approaching closer – a series of grunts and whimpers – it was all she could stand. She let go and she felt every nerve ending explode against her skin. She cried out the warrior’s name as she shook beneath her. The sight of Gabrielle in utmost release soon freed Xena and she too joined in calling out the name of her lover. Her best friend. Her soul mate.
Spent, the two lay side by side but on opposite ends of each other until Xena had the strength to rise up to snuggle into the bard’s shoulder. Gabrielle gave a light chuckle.
"What?" Xena asked softly.
"You big, bad, cuddly warrior," she chuckled as she stroked Xena’s hair. "Were you always a cuddler?"
"No. Sex was a weapon or just a release. I’d never felt secure enough to let myself be held like this. Not until you."
Xena let out a sigh and moved up to give the bard a tender kiss. "Never."
"Well thank you for letting me in."
"Thank YOU," Xena replied. She got a distracted look on her face and rolled over to the basket.
"What are you doing?" Gabrielle chuckled watching the warrior take the basket toward some nearby bushes.
"You’ll see," Xena called out over her shoulder.
When she reappeared she had a small loaf of nutbread and a small burning candle as she began to sing ‘For she’s another year older’. As she finished she knelt down to the bard.
"Make a wish Gabrielle," Xena said, holding out the treat.
Gabrielle grinned and felt her eyes tear up. The warrior always did have a way of surprising her. She inhaled deeply and blew out the candle with ease.
"I have no more unfulfilled wishes. You’ve made them all come true," Gabrielle answered honestly.
(set after 'Soul Possession')
(set after 'Soul Possession')
think that’s the last of it.”
walked back up to the stoop of Harry’s front door. Carefully he took
her hands in his. “It was fun while it lasted,” he grinned sadly.
moved to the top step and stood on her tip toes giving him a light
kiss on the cheek. “I admit it feels rather odd for me. I can only
imagine what you’re feeling.”
I’m not sure what to tell my mother. We fit perfect she said,” he
began. “I have all these memories. Memories of me, of Annie, of
Xena, of Joxer – it’s a big jumbled mess at times. I’ve got all
these people inside me. All these emotions and memories. It feels like
I’m losing my wife but I know…She’s never been my wife. And
someplace in my heart, I know she never will be…Sure it’s all on
paper. And sure we have to see a lawyer now but…it’s-.”
Mattie nodded in agreement.
gave a despondent nod as well. “Yeah…But know this Mattie – if
you need a friend I’m here for you. You and Xe-Annie both. I mean
rubbed Harry’s arm before pulling him into a tight embrace. “You
too my friend. You too.” Slowly she pulled back. “I better get
going. She’s waiting for me,” Mattie said pitching a finger toward
the Escort that was now pack to the gills with her belongings.
any more conversation Mattie made her journey to the car. As she
climbed inside she watched Harry slip inside the house that they had
called home for the past 2 years. It
is an odd sensation, she agreed silently. But she realized that
her true spouse, the one she’d fallen in love with time and time
again was waiting for her. So without further delay she shut the door
and made her way across town.
as she expected Annie was sitting on the steps of her apartment
building waiting for her return. Her face seemed to light up when the
blue car came into view and she rose to her feet quickly, walking over
to meet Mattie even before she could get the car into park. She opened
the door for Mattie.
this the last of it?” Annie asked.
came home early.”
tightened her grip on the box of books she was holding. “Oh yeah.
How’s he holding up?”
when I told you about Joxer – when he said he was in love with me.
He and I talked about how we don’t choose to love the people we
love. Or more to the point, how we choose to love certain people in
nodded. “Yeah, I think I remember…You couldn’t love him the way
he wanted – as a lover.”
was the same conversation all over again. But this time he gets it…I
really feel torn here I have to admit,” Mattie replied.
put the box down on the hood of the car. “Mattie, I would never make
you choose. If you want to continue your life with Harry-.”
I married Harry because of the soul inside him. I married you. Not the
package. I mean, look at us. You’ve never involved with a woman in
this lifetime. It’s been years since I’ve even considered my life
with a woman . . . However we do have an advantage since our last
lives were as women also. We were intimate then remember?”
closed her eyes and concentrated. “That’s right. The digger and
the southern belle,” she said opening her eyes. “Mel kept Janice
very happy and I’m sure I’ll do the same.”
have no doubt of that,” Mattie nodded. “And although I’m a bit
‘out of practice’ in this arena I promised you forever – no
matter what. That’s why I married you in this life. And I did marry
you Annie. Or course, according to the state of California I married
Harry and that’s another matter to resolve but…you get the
do,” Annie answered. “And I can understand what Harry is going
through right now. Living two lifetimes at once and being joined to
hundreds of others it’s…it’s a bit mind boggling but like I said
– Ares is not going to break us up – and neither is anyone else
for that matter. I promised forever too and I meant it.”
ran her hand down the length of Annie’s arm and briefly locked
fingers with her. “Come on, let’s get the rest of this stuff
a few minutes they sat the last box down. They looked around Annie’s
living room, which was completely filled with boxes and bags of
various sizes and shapes.
think we need to find a bigger place,” Annie said as she surveyed
the room. “I’m not sure how you managed to keep all this stuff.”
know Xena used to tell Gabrielle the same thing and could never figure
out how she stored all that stuff in Argo’s saddlebags,” Mattie
much has changed it seemed,” Annie quipped.
playfully bumped into Annie for teasing her. “I’m not THAT much of
reached into a box and pulled out a comic book. “Oh yeah? When did
you get this? The third grade?”
happen to be collectibles. They are worth quite a bit.”
Let’s sell ‘em and buy a house,” Annie replied.
just teasin’,” the brunette smiled.
started to look through another box and found a report card from her
freshman year in high school. Annie said nothing. She just studied
Mattie. “Okay,” Mattie gave in. “I’ll agree to go through this
and get rid of the things I really don’t need any longer.”
leaned down to one of the boxes and held up a badge. “Scouts
took the Girl Scout badge from Annie with a laugh. “Hey! I agreed
with you. What more do you want?”
turned and pulled Mattie into her arms. “Kiss me,” she said
first Mattie looked hesitant but Annie held her ground. If this was
going to work they would both have to put aside anything they might
have believed about this lifetime behind them. Annie never felt drawn
to another woman before. But when she looked at Mattie she had a
connection that she’d known for centuries. She had to know if Mattie
felt the same way; if she could get past the fact her soulmate now had
a new exterior.
Mattie stood on her tiptoes and planted a very delicate, cautious kiss
on Annie’s lips. Annie knew she would have to press the advantage
here so she went back and returned it with much more confidence and
conviction. That confidence allowed Mattie to relax and soon she found
herself not only receiving Annie’s kisses but initiating them as
a few moments Mattie felt Annie working her backward until she felt
the wall behind her. The kisses didn’t stop. In fact they became
more feverish than before and both women were beginning to breathe
hard. As Annie pulled back to look at Mattie she found a smile on the
that answers that question huh?”
I ask a question?” Annie replied.
you want to know if we can still burn after all these years. I think
the answer’s yes.”
realize that this might take a lot more experimentation just to be
sure. It might take days and days of research to be sure,” Annie
grinned as she took Mattie by the hand leading her toward the bedroom.
two navigated their way around the boxes cluttering the living room,
heading toward a back hallway.
tells me you’re gonna love that,” Mattie chuckled.
moment of it,” Annie purred.
paused a moment. “Damn, does that sound familiar? When did you say
that before because-.”
didn’t finish. Annie silenced her with a passionate kiss before
breaking away and picking her up to take her to the bedroom.
now. Analyze later.”
Disclaimers: USA Studios owns these characters. Thank you to Rob Tapert, Lucy Lawless, Renee O’Connor and a cast and crew of favorites for entertaining us for 6 wonderful years. I wouldn’t have ended things THAT way. I would have done it this way as, hopefully, you’ll read. ‘We never really die because we were never really born’ – I think Gabby put it best. This is the final story in the Bonding of Souls Series set after Friend In Need. Let me know your thoughts if you would.
Bonding of Souls: Friend Indeed
By CN Winters
"You have to eat Gabrielle. You need your strength."
Xena had been urging the bard repeatedly to take nourishment but it continued to fall on deaf ears. She always loved Gabrielle’s independent nature but at times like this when they would butt heads it was also what she liked the least.
"I’m not hungry," the bard answered. She rolled away from Xena on the small bed she’d been laying on in the cabin, the urn tight in her grasp.
"Gabrielle, it’s been three days."
"Stop telling me how to live!" The bard darted from the bed coming nose to nose with the warrior. "You are the LAST person to offer advice on survival!"
Xena sat in a chair in the ship’s cabin, unmoving. Besides, what could she do? What could she say? As always, Gabrielle had a point. Who am I to offer tips on living? She made the choice not to return in her solid form to the bard. Once more she chose the ‘greater good’ of others over herself; over Gabrielle.
"I guess I deserve that," Xena muttered.
Gabrielle didn’t reply. She simple clutched the urn tighter and made her way above deck. As Gabrielle walked to the rail Xena appeared in front of her, startling the bard.
"Listen to me Gabrielle. Please."
"Stop doing that! Quit popping up in front of me!"
A few of the shipmates looked on as Gabrielle talked to the wind. They noticed on the first night of their journey to Chin that the young woman sat up all night talking to herself – laughing and crying, her voice rising occasionally but becoming even again. But just her voice – no one else. The small warrior woman didn’t seem to be a threat at first but on this last leg of the journey, the more yelling they heard, the more they feared for their safety. It was obvious that the young woman had lost her senses.
One of the deck hands pointed this out to the captain who now took an interest in what his sailors had told him. He watched Gabrielle carefully as she paced his deck, having a heated conversation with no one but herself.
"I’m worried about you," Xena told her.
"What’s the worst that will happen if I don’t eat Xena? Death? Obviously death can’t be too awful. You seem to be handling it just fine!"
Gabrielle turned to see the captain walking toward her. Her mood calmed a bit. "Yes, captain. Can I help you?"
"Well that depends…my men have noticed that you often…talk to yourself. They fear for their safety. Since the first night-."
Gabrielle stopped him by holding up a finger. She knew where he was going with the chat but she turned to Xena first. "You see this? They all think I’m nuts. Are you happy now?" The captain looked to see to whom the bard was speaking but saw no one. Gabrielle quickly turned to the captain. "My bondmate was killed on Japa," she told him.
"I’m sorry," he answered quickly.
"Well don’t be," Gabrielle answered. "She’s dead but she’s not gone. I had the chance to restore her but because of some misplaced guilt for an ACCIDENT years ago," Gabrielle said, making sure to flash Xena her ‘look’ of displeasure, "she decided death was the best route for her. Of course when ‘I’ accidentally killed someone in Africa it was perfectly FINE to see that I stayed alive. But SHE, however, has to be the MARTYR, choosing the ‘greater good’ over US yet again. She told me years ago she was DONE paying for her past. She said I was all that MATTERED. But OBVIOUSLY she still has debts ALL OVER the world she feels the need to repay!" Gabrielle calmed down a moment after her rant, closing her eyes. When she opened them she turned back to the captain, "I know you might not believe it but please tell your men not to worry. I’m no threat to them. I’m only a threat to myself at this moment."
"Well thank you young lady. I hope you work through your grief."
The captain didn’t add more - he just walked away. Gabrielle turned toward the railing to watch the waves sailing by. "You see that? You’ve got everyone thinking I’m a nutcase."
"It wasn’t my intention, Gabrielle," Xena answered.
"No, but leaving me a widow was," Gabrielle retorted.
Again, Xena couldn’t argue so when Gabrielle’s stomach began to grumble the warrior changed the subject. "Now I know you’re hungry. Will you please eat?…For me?"
"Oh for love of Eli….Fine!" Gabrielle yelled up to the captain. "Got any food around here for the slightly insane? My ghost friend thinks I should eat," she added pitching a thumb to Xena, totally aware of the fact that no one could see her. No reason I can’t have a little bit of fun with my descent into madness.
The ship docked not more than a few hours later. Gabrielle walked through the port. Any other time she would have stopped and haggled here and there, rounding up supplies along with some things they didn't ‘really’ need, much to Xena’s frustration. They’d laugh, they’d banter. But this time Gabrielle made her way through the marketplace in silence until she came to a merchant stand.
"Excuse me," she began.
"Yes, ma’am. Care to trade today?"
"No. Actually I’m wondering if you’ve heard of someone. Her name is Eve, she’s the messenger of Eli."
"Gabrielle," Xena warned. "Don’t do it."
"Well, perhaps, if we make a trade I could tell you," he answered.
Gabrielle ignored Xena’s comment and concentrated on the vendor. "I’ll make a trade if you tell me what I want to know," Gabrielle retorted.
"No. First you buy. Then we talk."
Gabrielle turned heel. "Thanks anyway."
"Hold on! Hold on!" he said starting after the bard, who had turned toward the next stall.
"What do you know?" Gabrielle asked.
"Tall woman? Long dark hair? Very pretty eyes? Your nose."
"You’ve seen her?!" Gabrielle answered.
"Came through town two days ago. Headed North she said."
"Do you have the name of a town?"
"Look, we make a trade and I’ll give you town’s name. Deal?"
Gabrielle considered it a moment. "Deal."
When all was said and done she had the name of a town and a beautiful red silk scarf around her neck. Of course she was sure it cost her more than what it was worth but if his information was correct on finding Eve then it was worth it.
"I’m not sure this is a good idea," Xena interjected as they walked along.
"Oh I think it’s a very good idea. I think Eve should know how her mother senselessly martyred herself."
"You know, I promised that even in death I wouldn’t leave but I’m starting to wonder if I stayed too long," Xena quipped.
"Then go," Gabrielle answered. "Go fly off with all the other souls you freed. Go find your ‘first poet love’ Akemi. Not like you’re doing much good here besides making everyone think I’m crazy."
"Do you really mean that?" Xena asked sincerely, not taking a step further.
Gabrielle stopped and faced Xena as she considered the question. "I’m not sure. I love you Xena but this hurts so much. Having you here but NOT here…Besides, how do I know you’re not just a figment of my imagination? How do I know that I’m not really crazy with grief here? It’s obvious that I’m the only one who can see you. What if you’re just an illusion?"
"I’m not an illusion Gabrielle. I’m still very real."
"Oh yeah. Then take your Chakram back," Gabrielle said pulling it from her hip.
Xena looked at it sadly and then the bard. "You know I can’t touch anything in the physical world except you."
"Then you can’t be as real as you claim."
A small silence passed between them. "I’m hurting here too, Gabrielle. I did plan on growing old and gray with you, as idealistic as that sounds."
"Yeah I remember. But I also remember people in our line of work don’t live to be that age...I guess I’m just not ready to travel alone. And don’t tell me I’m not alone Xena because that’s how it feels sometimes."
Xena heard the pitch in her bard’s voice and she knew better not to argue. Gabrielle was close to her breaking point.
"Fair enough," Xena nodded. "Should we continue then?"
Gabrielle gave a small grin and put the Chakram on her hip. "Come on warrior princess. Let’s go find the messenger."
The bard started to walk, heading north. At nightfall she made it to a little tavern where the town seemed to be gathering for a meeting. Quietly she crept inside and heard a man asking a question.
"So you’re saying you should just walk away?" he asked.
As Gabrielle moved deeper into the candle lit room she watched her daughter on a small stage.
"Yes," Eve answered. "It’s far too easy to let your rage make your decisions. But sometimes the best form of action is to turn the other cheek." As Gabrielle took a seat, Eve noticed her. "I would love to continue this but I have an unexpected visitor. But please feel free to see me tomorrow. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have then."
As Eve moved from the stage over to her smiling mom, the townsfolk went back to their conversations and their meals. She rushed over and wrapped herself in Gabrielle’s embrace.
"I can’t believe it," Eve began. "You came all the way to Chin to visit me?"
"Well, not exactly, but since I was in the area I thought I should stop by."
Xena watched the two embrace and for the first time since her death she realized just how truly distant she was from the real world. Eve couldn’t see her. That was obvious. Xena couldn’t talk to her. She couldn’t hug her or kiss her. She was an outsider, looking in and for the first time she ached for her mortality.
Gabrielle knew the question would come up. "She’s here," Gabrielle told her beginning to tear up. "…In spirit," she added. Without saying more she pulled the jar from her travel bag, setting it on the table.
"I don’t understand," Eve said starting to whimper.
Gabrielle knew that Eve understood but couldn’t bring herself to say it. "I don’t think I understand it all yet myself, Eve," the bard offered. "But she’s gone. This jar is what’s left."
Eve’s fingers covered her mouth in shock. At first she didn’t cry. She was too floored by the news. Her mother was the best of the best. How could she be dead? But soon the fact Xena was dead took hold of her and she began to sob. Gabrielle pulled Eve into her arms and kissed her on top of the head.
"It’s okay sweetheart," Gabrielle told her. "You have me. You’ll always have me. And a part of your mother will always be with us."
Xena couldn’t touch Eve no matter how much she tried. Her hand just slipped transparently through girl’s head so Xena did the only thing she could. She put her arms around Gabrielle and wept softly into her back.
Later that night, as Gabrielle dressed for bed, she heard Eve call out behind her.
"Did you get that in Japa?" she asked.
At first Gabrielle wasn’t sure what Eve meant but then she remembered. Ahh, the tattoo. Yes, my artistic scar for life to remind me of losing Xena.
"Yes, it was a gift to help me in my task…Do you like it?"
"It’s very interesting. Beautiful in fact," Eve said stepping closer to examine it.
"Thank you," Gabrielle answered.
After a small silence, Eve spoke. "So you can still see her?"
"Yes, I see her. I can hear her. I can touch her."
"Tell her I’m here Gabrielle," Xena coached from one of the beds.
"She’s here now actually," Gabrielle replied. "She’s sitting on the bed."
Eve looked over. "I can’t see her…Hello mother."
"Hello Eve. You’ll look beautiful sweetheart – you glow like you’ve found your calling."
"She says you’ve found your calling. You look beautiful," Gabrielle answered.
"That’s amazing," Eve replied excitedly as she smiled. "Think of all the people that lose those they love. Those that never see each other again. It’s a gift Gabrielle. It’s a gift that you can see her in your times of trouble."
"Glad you have such an optimistic appraisal of the situation," Gabrielle sighed making her way to the bed.
"What? You don’t?"
Gabrielle considered the question. "I suppose there’s a benefit to having her with me but…I still miss her…It’s not easy to describe. And the looks I get when I speak to her," Gabrielle chuckled. "I wonder if everyone else is right and I’m wrong. I wonder if I’m losing my mind."
"I believe," Eve answered.
"What?" Gabrielle chuckled. "That I’ve finally flipped?"
"No," Eve responded in like with a small laugh. "I believe you can see her…The love that mother has for you is undying Gabrielle. It will always be that way."
Gabrielle sighed. "I suppose so."
"You don’t seem convinced," Eve remarked.
"At some point I’ll be without her. I guess I’m just waiting for that time to come and not being sure when that will be so it…makes it difficult."
"But that’s true with everyone Gabrielle. We never know when we’re going to lose the ones we love."
"Well for most people death is the answer. But for me – I’m in limbo…Xena’s dead. But she’s not gone and I have the feeling that one day I’ll wake up and she’ll be gone. She’ll never return again and I’ll spend my time wishing and hoping for something I’ll never have again. Like I said before, it’s difficult. It’s like there’s no finality to it and there should be."
"So you’re not glad she’s here?"
The question stung Xena because it took her back to the conversation in the marketplace. Maybe I should go. Gabrielle could live her life in peace; perhaps move on with her life.
"No," Gabrielle answered. "I do want her here. I just want to know when I’m going to lose her for good."
"Well, like I said Gabrielle, no one knows that for sure."
"I suppose you’re right Evie…Look it’s late. We’ll talk more in the morning before I head out."
"You’re leaving so soon?" Eve replied.
"Yes, I was going to head to Egypt but…I think I’m just gonna go home instead. Maybe visit Lila and Sarah…Goodnight sweetie."
Eve could see that Gabrielle was exhausted so she didn’t press. "’Night Gabrielle."
Eve and Gabrielle bid a tearful farewell to each other but promised that somehow, someway they would get together again in the next year. Before she left, Gabrielle wrapped her new scarf around Eve’s shoulders and kissed the girl goodbye twice; once for her and once for Xena.
The warrior and bard walked all day long arguing, laughing, teasing…just like old times. But still, something was missing. Gabrielle couldn’t put her finger on it. She didn’t understand but she couldn’t shake the feeling that Xena SHOULD be alive. Night was beginning to fall and they decided to search for a place to make camp.
"You were right," Xena admitted.
"Telling Eve. I’m glad you told her. She deserved to know."
A small silence passed between them. "You know Xena," Gabrielle answered. "She’s a lot stronger than you give her credit for."
"So are you," Xena replied. "I have to say Gabrielle you’ve been taking all this better than expected. I honestly mean that."
"Yeah well, life goes on, right?" she replied bumping her shoulder into the warrior.
Suddenly a glittering shower appeared in front of them and Gabrielle grinned as she saw the shape form within.
"Aphrodite!" she called as she ran up the path to greet her. The bard and Goddess embraced.
"Oh sweet pea, I’ve been looking for you. I knew you headed east but I wasn’t sure where. I got the god thing going on but it doesn’t click quite as well in parts where I’m not widely known. But I’m glad I found you…Hey there warrior princess, what’s shakin?"
Xena and Gabrielle’s happy expressions dropped and they looked at each other.
"You can see her?" Gabrielle asked.
"Well duh! I’m not blind you know."
Xena smiled. "See?! You’re not crazy Gabrielle! It’s just other mortals who can’t see me."
"Why? You a ghost or something?" As soon as Dite said the words a torch lit behind her eyes. "That’s it! The tremors I felt! I knew something really bad had happened to you but I couldn’t pin point what it was. That’s why I started looking for you Gabby. But I had no idea that…"
Dite stopped as Gabrielle pulled out the urn. "Xena’s in here. But her spirit’s stayed at my side."
Dite got a little misty eyed. "Awww that is soooooooo sweet. You promised her huh? That even in death you won’t let her go? That’s just so romantic."
"Well, her demise was far from pretty," Gabrielle answered. "And the reason she CHOSE to stay dead is another story altogether."
"You know the love goddess IS on the clock so you can tell me all about it. So grab an elbow toots we’re outta here."
Gabrielle and Xena both hooked Dite’s arms and moments later they were in a temple in Greece.
"Ah, home sweet home. So," Dite began. She snapped her fingers and suddenly a huge bed appeared. She transported herself onto the bed getting comfortable. "Tell me alllllllll about it."
"Well, one night we talked about leaving Greece when a monk showed up….."
Having to tell the tale of Xena’s death, yet again, drained Gabrielle – emotionally and physically. The bard slept with a light snore that brought a grin to Xena’s face. Dite noticed as the warrior, ever watchful, kept a close eye on the bard.
"You never struck me as an idiot Xena. But after that story tonight," Dite began, "I have to wonder just WHERE you see your guilt in all this."
"It’s for the best," Xena answered.
"For whom? For you? For her? For those 40,000 souls?"
"You wouldn’t understand," Xena answered.
"Well make me understand. My best mortal bud is in tears here. She might not show them on the outside Xena but I can feel her pain – far worse than you are imagining at the moment. But she loves you, so she supports you. She puts on a brave front…So tell me how you could feel responsible here? Those townsfolk that attacked you got what they deserved. That man was a monster that your friend Akemi killed. I’m surprised they didn’t have a banquet in her honor instead of stopping you from your task. And how are all those souls on your shoulders when you were just defending yourself against them? Now call me the dumb blond if you like, but it doesn’t add up. It doesn’t make sense. You freed the souls so I still can’t see why you couldn’t return."
"Let’s just say I died for Gabrielle and leave it at that, okay?"
"No, it’s not okay. You know why? Because Gabrielle is dying inside, Xena. Every day. Every hour. She’s dwindling away. She needs you in her life, not just in your death. Do you understand?"
"Do you understand that if I could come back I would?!" Xena hissed. "I couldn’t let her revive me on that mountain Aphrodite! She would’ve….It wouldn’t have worked."
Dite knew the warrior well. She knew she was hiding something and her eyes scrunched in examination. "Out with it," she ordered.
"Out with what?" the warrior replied evasively.
"There’s more to this story than what you’re telling me. And more than you’ve told her. So what is it?"
"I can’t tell you," Xena answered. "I don’t want her to know."
"I won’t say anything," Dite answered. Xena didn’t look convinced. "Goddess’ honor," she said holding up her hand.
"The honor of a god means little to me," Xena replied.
"Oh come on Xena. What’s the catch? You can tell me. Perhaps I can find a way to help."
Of all the gods they dealt with Xena had to admit that Dite was the most honest. Sure she made a few mistakes here and there but never anything that was malicious. Xena sighed, What the hell.
"When I died, the ghost killer asked if Gabrielle would give her life to save me, like I had done for her by battling the army alone," she began. "Her answer of course was yes but he failed to give her all of the information. I found out later from Akemi, after Gabrielle and I parted ways, that if Gabrielle revived me, her soul would perish. She would live the rest of her life with me but after that her soul would…disappear…And I couldn’t let that happen."
"So, in truth, you died twice for her. Once when you faced the army and the second time by not letting her bring you back," Dite remarked. "You decided to stay dead because it wasn’t about 40,000 souls. It was about Gabrielle."
Xena nodded sadly. "If she knew it was just about her she might have done it. She would have dumped those ashes. But if I made her believe it was about someone else, about helping the innocents, she’d honor my choice. So I -."
"Lied to her?" Dite interrupted.
Xena hung her head. "Yes, I lied to protect her…To save the one spirit that means everything to me. I love her so deeply and one lifetime is not enough to show her how much. I’ll need thousands more."
"I’m touched Xena," Dite answered honestly. "Truly…You really died for her."
"No greater gift a teacher can give a student I’ve been told…. Well anyway, I need her spirit to go on. Her spirit deserves more than just this life and her past lives. THAT’S the greater good in all of this – insuring that Gabrielle’s spirit keeps going and going, brightening the world."
Dite paused taking it all in. "So let me make sure I understand this. Those souls are free-no strings attached?"
"Gabrielle couldn’t bring you back because it would mean her end - literally?"
Xena nodded again.
"But there’s nothing to say you can’t come back by other means….correct?"
"I’m not sure. I suppose so but without a set of lips it’s not real easy to eat ambrosia," Xena grinned.
"Hmm," Dite considered. "You gals stay put. I’ll be back in a flash." She prepped herself to snap her fingers but Xena stopped her.
"Wait! Where are you going?"
"Well I can’t bring you back. I don’t have THAT kind of power. Besides, if I tried you might come back missing a leg or an arm or an eye. I think I might have someone that could lend a hand, though. There’re lots of deities around Xena. And you came to the right goddess because I’ve got connections. Let me do some diggin. See what I can find, okay? I owe you guys that much. Agreed?"
Xena smiled. "Thank you, Aphrodite."
"No trouble. But no promises either Xena. I’m a goddess but I can’t do ALL miracles. Athena could…but we both know what happened to her, don’t we?"
Xena looked guilty as she played with her fingernails.
"It was a joke, relax. I’ve gotten over it. They went after my gal after I asked them not to. They got what they had coming to them. But like I said, I know lots of gods so give me a few. I’ll be back by morning. Toodles!"
Without waiting for a reply Dite snapped her fingers and vanished leaving the warrior to sit with the sleeping bard.
Aphrodite transported herself to a grand banquet hall. Casually, she strolled up to the large table.
"Oh no! Not you!"
"Ohhhh come on," Dite began. "I need a favor, goatee god. It won’t take long. It’s about Xena."
"No," the god rumbled, rising from his throne.
"Just a few moments of your time Odin. That’s all I ask," Dite said following him down the length of the table in front of his dinner guests.
Grinhilda overheard the conversation and walked over to Odin’s side. "Perhaps you should hear her out," she suggested. "After all, Xena did help both of us, you know."
Odin gave a reluctant sigh. With the two of them ganging up on him he knew his options were limited. "What is it?"
"Xena’s dead and I need to bring her back to life. Got any of those ‘room’ things that might do the trick?"
"Runes. They’re called Runes," he corrected her. "I might. Where’s her body?"
"In a little jar," Dite replied with an unsure grin.
"You mean she’s been cremated?" Odin asked.
Dite gave a quick nod.
"Sorry. Can’t help," he answered, starting to walk away.
"Hey look pal!" Dite said angrily. Odin stopped and turned around as the room grew quiet. "I owe her and I owe Gabrielle. If I’m not mistaken she lent you and winged hat gal over there a hand, too."
"She’s got a point," Grinhilda told Odin.
"You’re darn right I got a point! If you can’t do some RUINES then perhaps you can lead me to some other gods who might have more ‘expertise’ with reviving the dead from ashes." Dite was actually breathing hard as a result of her anger. Damn this is turning into much more work than I expected. "Are you gonna help or not?"
"There might be someone who can help," Odin finally answered. Dite watched as Odin and Grinhilda conversed quietly between themselves. Grinhilda nodded and turned back to the love goddess. "Grinhilda will accompany you but first you’ll need Xena’s ashes."
"Where are they?" Grinhilda asked.
"Back in Greece with Gabrielle. She’s crashed at my pad. Huge temple on the highest hill in Athens. Can’t miss it. Big statue of yours truly out front."
"Okay," Grinhilda nodded. "Let me round up my steed and I’ll meet you there in the morning. Okay? It’s not more than a few hours travel by air."
"Well I can just zap you there," Dite offered.
"We might need my steed for this mission but I’ll make sure I’m there before the sun is high."
Dite gave a sigh of relief. "Thanks so much. Really. I mean that."
"They mean a lot to you. I can see that," Grinhilda smiled. "Let’s try our best, okay?"
Dite gave a giggle and in a matter of seconds disappeared into a glittering shower.
Gabrielle sat up with a yawn as she rubbed her eyes. "Where’s Aphrodite?" she asked Xena.
Xena walked to the bed to sit beside Gabrielle. "She had some goddess things to take care of," Xena replied with a grin. "She should be back shortly…How did you sleep?"
"Cold," Gabrielle answered. "You always kept me warm. I miss that."
Xena could have sworn she heard her heart break at the confession. They learned the first night that spirits don’t generate much body heat and they don’t require sleep either.
"I’m sorry," Xena whispered sincerely.
Gabrielle looked at the warrior and mustered a grin. "I know you are Xena. I know."
A brilliant flash filled the room. "Okay, I got things in motion," Aphrodite announced walking over to the bed. "Glad Sleeping Beauty is up…Now, an old friend of yours will be stopping by today and we’re going to see if we can get this whole ghost warrior thing taken care of for ya."
Gabrielle was obviously confused. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I’ve been sworn to secrecy," Dite told the bard. "I promised Xena I wouldn’t say anything so I won’t. However, there’s nothing that says SHE can’t explain things to you. You got a few minutes to kill tall, dark and …dead…So you better give her the low down," she added motioning to Gabrielle.
"Aphrodite!" Xena hissed. "You said you’d keep your mouth shut."
"I did," Dite answered. "And I will…because you’re gonna tell her – not me."
Gabrielle rose from the bed. "Tell me what?"
Aphrodite made a zipping motion over her lips and folded her arms across her chest, not saying a word.
"Son of a baccaee," Xena swore. Gods, I KNEW I shouldn’t have trusted her.
"Ah, but trust me you did Xena," Dite replied reading her thoughts. "And believe me, it won’t be a mistake." The goddess walked over and put her hand on Xena’s shoulder. "She deserves the truth – the whole truth," she added sincerely.
"What is going on?!" Gabrielle was past the point of playing games.
"Well I gotta bolt. Catch ya later!" Dite vanished without a trace.
Gabrielle spun Xena around to face her. "What is she talking about?"
"Calm down Gabrielle. I’ll tell you…I didn’t want to tell you but she hasn’t left me much choice."
"Tell me what Xena?"
"Those souls are free Gabrielle. I chose to stay dead."
"Please hear me out Gabrielle," the warrior answered.
The bard began to pace back and forth shaking her head. "Why?" she asked. "Why didn’t you choose to come back to me?"
"Because if you dumped the ashes then your soul would have been condemned. You would have lived out your natural life with me but then…you’d never exist again because you revived me. I couldn’t let you do that so…I tried to protect you the best way I could."
"By lying to me? By making me think your soul was trapped?"
"Be honest Gabrielle. If you knew it was about you and you alone would you have dumped the ashes anyway. Be honest."
"Why should I be honest? You weren’t," Gabrielle retorted.
"Don’t be evasive. Please answer the question. Would you have dumped them anyway?"
Gabrielle was still mad but she considered the question a moment. "Honestly, I don’t know Xena."
"Well I don’t know if you would have done it or not. But what I do know is that I want more than just this life with you. I want as many as I can get. But if you brought me back…I would lose you forever. I couldn’t take that chance."
"So you died for me?" Gabrielle answered.
"I died for you. And I’d do it in every life from here to eternity if need be."
Gabrielle didn’t know whether to kiss her or slap her. She sat down on the bed. "Why didn’t you say anything?" she asked.
"I didn’t want you to live with any guilt over it. I didn’t want you to think that you had the power to bring me back but didn’t use it."
Gabrielle wrung her hands together in frustration. "I’m not sure if I should feel honored that you’d sacrifice your life for me Xena or if I should be devastated by your not trusting me to make the right choice."
"I do trust you Gabrielle," Xena answered. "Please don’t doubt that."
"Then you should have told me the truth Xena. You should have ‘trusted’ that I would have made the right choice and live out this life alone until we could meet in the next one."
"Well…hindsight is perfect vision," Xena answered. "I see that now…At the time I was just too worried that you’d…"
"Do something stupid?" Gabrielle offered.
"Do something out of love," Xena replied. "I don’t think you’ve ever done anything out of stupidity."
Gabrielle gave a small grin of thanks and was about to say as much but the doors of the temple opened. They both looked over to see Grinhilda enter.
"Looks like I finally made it," she told Gabrielle as she walked inside.
"Grinhilda! What are you doing here?" Gabrielle said, giving the woman a hug.
"Aphrodite came to see Odin. She said you had some problems with Xena." She looked over at the urn on the nightstand and pointed. "I’m assuming that’s her," she grinned.
Gabrielle gave a nod and watched as Grinhilda picked up the urn carefully. The bard wasn’t sure why the Valkerie had a smirk on her face.
"Don’t worry," she told Gabrielle. "We’ll find a way to fix this. Where’s Aphrodite?"
"I’m not sure," Gabrielle answered. "She was here but-."
Before she could finish Dite reappeared behind them, making them turn.
"Nice timin’ toots," the goddess told Grinhilda. "Are we ready to roll yet?"
"Just say the word," Grinhilda said, handing Gabrielle the urn.
"Awesome," Dite winked. "Just tell me what you need."
Grimhilda nodded. "We need someone to stake things out. Kristna’s palace is heavily guarded. Very few make it passed Mara’s soldiers that he has in place out front. We’ll have to find a back way inside. That’s where my steed will come in handy. I’ll get Gabrielle to the top and we can work our way in from there."
"What should I do?" Dite asked.
"Check it out and wait for us a mile due south. We’ll see you there and you can tell us what to expect – how many men, where they are located, everything."
"Check!" Dite answered. "You take blondie and I’ll bring the warrior with me. Got it?"
Grinhilda looked at the urn.
"She’s still here," Gabrielle answered pointing to Xena who was standing beside the goddess. "Her spirit hasn’t left me but she can’t – look it’s a long story. Just trust us. She’s still around."
"Okay then," Grinhilda answered. "Give us about two days to travel. We’ll meet you by sunset tomorrow night," she told the goddess.
"Good luck," Dite nodded.
Grinhilda started to make her way out but stopped when Gabrielle didn’t follow. She turned and watched as Gabrielle wrapped her arms in a wide circle, resting her head to one side.
"Take care," Xena told her, kissing her on the forehead.
"I will," Gabrielle told her. "And don’t worry. We will succeed. I promise."
"I know you will. You were trained by the best," she said with a wink as she pulled back.
Gabrielle broke away and began to follow Grinhilda. "Let’s go. We’ve got a warrior to revive."
That night Grinhilda and Gabrielle made camp in a secluded area. Gabrielle released a long sigh as she poked the fire with a stick.
"What’s on your mind, warrior bard?" Grinhilda asked.
"Warrior bard, huh? How did you know I write?"
"Oh, there’re plenty of stories around about you, you know. They call you the battling bard in some parts," Grinhilda smiled.
Gabrielle returned it with one of her own. "Yeah and it always surprises me when I hear that. I'm not sure why. I wanted to be a warrior and I loved being a bard – guess I got everything I always wanted."
Gabrielle looked far from happy and Grinhilda knew what was weighing on her mind.
"Well not everything," Grinhilda replied. "But we’re working on getting your warrior princess back," she added.
"Do you think it will work?" Gabrielle asked with sincerity. "Do you think Kristna will help?"
"I’m not sure," Grinhilda answered. "But based on what you’ve told me…it sounds like if anyone CAN help it would be him. I don’t think it’s Xena’s time and if Kristna thinks that’s the case then I’d say yes. He should restore her…But getting there will be the problem."
"What do you know about Mara?"
"Mara means ‘death’ in that region. He’s an evil demon with an equally evil following. I’ve heard that some of his soldiers are hideously grotesque with thousands of eyes. Their mere appearance has been known to scare men to death. He tried to battle Budda but failed…So now he’s after Kristna."
"Well I’ve seen some scary stuff in my time. I don’t frighten easily," Gabrielle grinned.
"You don’t think you’ll get scared, huh?"
"No," Gabrielle answered firmly. "I know what I fear most - losing Xena. And I’m living with it now."
"I’m glad you’re confident. Make sure you keep that mind set when we go in there tomorrow."
"Good…Because you’re gonna need it."
The concern in Grin’s voice made Gabrielle falter for a moment but she’d never let it show. Grin rose and walked over to the woodpile, throwing another log onto the fire.
"Let’s get some rest. It will be a long day tomorrow," Grin offered.
As they both climbed into their bedrolls, Gabrielle cleared her throat. "Thank you," she said softly. "Thank you for helping us."
"It’s my pleasure," Grin answered. "I just hope it won’t be our deaths."
Gabrielle didn’t answer and Grin didn’t add more. The bard stared at the flames dancing in the fire until sleep finally over took her.
Gabrielle and Grin sat under cover in the trees watching Kristna’s temple. Mara’s demons surrounded the place like locus drinking, eating, and laughing.
"It looks like they’re having a good time," Grin gave a light chuckle. "Think we should crash the party? I haven’t seen Aphrodite around yet."
"Let’s give them a little more time."
As soon as Gabrielle spoke the words Dite appeared beside her.
"What’s shaken, toots?" she grinned at the bard.
"Just planning a route."
"Your warrior babe is on the roof top now. She’s found a way in but that pesky problem of not being able to touch the physical world has left her unable to get a solid grip on things," she answered. "She thinks the south is the best option – least guarded."
"Now explain why you can’t just zap me in," Gabrielle said.
"Told you. My god thing doesn’t work that well in other lands. I’d never get past Kristna’s mystical block. I can only walk in like you guys. And since that’s the case, Xena thinks it’s best I wait out here until you ladies come out. So who am I to argue?"
Gabrielle smiled. "Well thanks for everything you’ve done so far Aphrodite."
"Hey, I’m always here for ya. You’re one of my favorites you know," the goddess smiled.
"Are we ready?" Grin asked the bard.
"Yeah," she answered. "Let’s get that steed and do some traveling"
They climbed out of the tree and walked a short distance to where Grin’s flying horse was waiting. After they both mounted, Grin motioned the horse onward. They took off through the air as quickly as possible. As they made their descent toward the top of the building Gabrielle spotted Xena. But the demons had also spotted them. They tried to move into position up the walls to stop them from entering. Gabrielle directed Grin on where to land. Once on the roof top and dismounted, Grin sent the steed away to safety. She pulled her sword as Gabrielle pulled her sais.
"Where’s the entrance?" she asked Xena.
Xena motioned her over as Gabrielle called to Grin.
"Down here," she answered as she pointed. It looked like a trap door but it was securely fastened with a lock. "It must have a magical power or these ghouls would have busted in."
"Stand back," Grin told the bard. With a mighty swing her mystical sword she severed the lock in two. But before either of them could open it five of Mara’s demons managed to make it up to the wall and charge them.
Gabrielle sucked in a breath at their appearance. Grin wasn’t kidding. They were uglier than Gabrielle imagined and she heard Xena call out behind her to ‘focus’. With that she tightened her grasp on her sais and charged to meet them. They had thousands of eyes with warts and moles all over their faces. Their hands were made of fur with the sharpest claws she’d ever seen. And they were tall, too. The smallest one of the group had to be as tall as Xena, if not taller.
Three of them surrounded Gabrielle while the two others went to take on Grin. She took them down with ease and went to aid Gabrielle. The bard took on the first one head on – charging into him until she landed on top of him. Her sai plunged deeply into his chest and a green goo erupted from the wound.
"Eghhh," the bard exclaimed jumping off of him. The smell was disgusting. And she thought she might actually vomit for a moment but Xena’s word came back to her – focus. As she began to focus she realized….these monsters could be killed. They weren’t just evil spirits but actual beings.
Seeing that Gabrielle had things in hand, Grin went to the ladders where more were trying to make their way up. She used all her strength to tip the ladders back, making the climbers tumble to the ground.
As the second demon charged Gabrielle she dropped on her backside. As he tried to grab her she rolled back and kicked him over the ledge to his comrades below. Only one remained. He wasn’t about to fall for the same trick as his fellow demon and he used his reach to his advantage. He swung out, slashing open a gash in Gabrielle’s arm.
The bard cried out in pain and dropped one of her sais to clutch the flesh wound. He reared his hand back and backhanded her across the face. That move sent Gabrielle flying into Grin’s path, knocking the two of them down. Grin scrambled to her feet first and charged him.
More were coming up. They could both hear them and Gabrielle struggled to her feet. As Grin went blow for blow with the demon Gabrielle used all her strength to pull open the door.
"Grin!" Gabrielle called out. "Now!"
Grin tried to work around the demon but he clotheslined her with his arm, sending her flat on her back. Gabrielle knew she had to go back out as he raised his hand for the deathblow. Without thought to her own safety Gabrielle jumped onto the demon’s back. But before she could get the sai around to slice his neck, he tossed her over his shoulder. Grin and Gabrielle now lay next to each other, each trying to catch her breath and move. And all Xena could do was watch.
As the demon closed in he seemed to taunt them, flicking his razor nails and giving off what could be considered a laugh. Gabrielle managed to rise to her elbows and reach one of her sais but she still couldn’t get a grip on it.
You’re too damn close to give up now, she told herself.
Xena had enough of watching. She closed her eyes and summoned up all the energy she could. As the monster reared back to strike the deathblow she grabbed his arm and swung him around with such force that he lost his balance. He teetered close to the edge but didn’t fall. Xena fell instantly to her knees. Her spirit was totally spent. Gabrielle couldn’t believe that Xena could actually ‘touch’ something but she soon pushed her surprise aside to finish the job. Scrambling to her feet she jumped up in the air delivering a solid kick that sent the demon over the edge. She landed hard on her hip and Xena winced as she watched her fall.
"You okay?" Xena asked short of breath.
"Let’s get inside," Gabrielle said hauling herself to her feet. Grin managed to get her footing at this point and pulled Gabrielle along until they were inside the temple.
"We’ve got to block it," Gabrielle answered. "Otherwise they’ll get it."
"I considered that," Grin answered. She reached into her boot and pulled out a lock and chain. Odin’s lock. No way would they be able to break it. They tied the inside latch to the frame with the chain and she secured the lock. Seconds later they could hear the banging on the door but it wouldn’t budge. "That’ll hold them," she said hopping down from the table.
Grin took in her surroundings. "It’s beautiful in here," she commented.
Silk of many brilliant hues lined the walls as candles burned throughout the temple. A small statue of the god Kristna sat in the middle of a table. They walked deeper into the room taking it all in when suddenly they heard a voice behind them.
"And to what do I owe this visit," they heard.
They turned to see a man, blue as the sky and the sea, watching them. There was merriment on his face as he held a wood wind instrument.
"Lord Kristna?" Gabrielle bowed.
He didn’t reply at first. He gave a simple bow and a grin. "You are under much distress. I can see."
"I’ve lost my soulmate Kristna and I’ve come to ask you to restore her. Her name is Xena and you helped her many years ago. I ask-."
"Are you the one who killed her? Did you bring about the death of your soulmate and came here in remorse to change it?"
"No!" Gabrielle answered. "I would never harm Xena. She was killed by a Samurai and -."
"Told she could not return to the land of the living. She trusted a woman who did nothing but betray her in times past. I sense this woman has betrayed your soulmate again."
"What?!" the three women said in harmony.
"Yes. She’s a selfish woman. She wanted your soulmate to stay with her. She was the first bard you loved, was she not Xena?"
"But she is not the bard you love best?" he said with a teasing grin.
Xena gave a broad smile in response. "No Lord she is not…She told me Gabrielle would be lost if she restored me."
"Did you ever think that this girl had lied to you yet again? Just as she had done during your first journey with her?"
"I did," Xena answered. "But I wasn’t going to take that chance with Gabrielle’s soul."
Kristna studied them a moment. He strolled around the three of them. "It is not your time," he told Xena. "Where are your remains?"
"Here," Gabrielle said opening the pouch she had on her hip.
"Lightweight. Compact. Easy to carry," Kristna teased as he took the bag. "I’ll restore your soul to your body Xena."
"Thank you," she sighed.
"But know this…when it’s your time to go you must accept it. You must both accept it," he told Xena, as well as Gabrielle. "If not your Karmic cycle won’t continue and you could be lost to each other forever. Do you understand?"
"But how will we know when that time comes?" Gabrielle asked.
"Trust me," he grinned. "You will know."
With that he took the ashes and spread them over the altar. A brilliant light filled the room, making Gabrielle and Grin turn their heads. Xena felt herself begin to swirl around in the air along with the ashes that were beginning to rise. An instant later it was over and she felt herself lying against the table. She opened her eyes and quickly felt her body. She was back. She was together. But she also realized…she was naked. Kristna grinned at the warrior who suddenly seemed bashful and snapped his fingers. Suddenly she was dressed in her warrior leathers again. But something was wrong. There was dirt all over them. Xena wasn’t sure what was going on at first. She didn’t much care when she felt Gabrielle wrap her arms around her in a tight hug.
"Next time," Kristna told Xena. "Don’t bury them."
Xena had to chuckle. Not often that a god makes me laugh.
"Oh I’d let you ladies use the front door but I’ve got a small demon problem I’m sure you’re aware of," Kristna told them.
"Well as a way of saying thanks why don’t we do a little house cleaning?" Xena grinned as she pulled away from Gabrielle.
"I’m not sure if I can go through anymore roof top battles just yet," Grin spoke up.
"Oh we’re got gonna go through the roof. We’re gonna open the front door and let them in."
"You’re gonna do what?"
Gabrielle had a look of confusion that mimic Grin’s question but soon she started to smile. "The Persians," she muttered.
"Exactly," Xena answered.
"The demons are Persians?" Grin asked. "I get the feeling I’m missing something here."
"Xena battled the Persian Army in an armory," Gabrielle began. "She couldn’t battle that many men in an open field but in an enclosed space-."
"She had the advantage. Only so many could enter at once," Grin answered with a grin and a nod. "I get it. So what do we do?"
"Well with Kristna’s blessing we have him lift any mystical blocks he has on the place and let them through the front door. Only so many can enter at a time and when they do-."
"We take them out," Grin finished.
Xena nodded and grinned. "That’s exactly what we do…if that’s alright with Kristna," Xena added looking to the god.
Kristna smiled. "You’re a noble warrior Xena. You’ve found your way and that’s the best any mortal can achieve. You have my blessing."
"Well then," Xena said giving her companions a feral grin and pulling her sword. "Let’s get to it, shall we?"
Grin and Gabrielle went to the double doors and each grabbed a handle. When Xena nodded they both flung the doors open. Immediately two entered, just squeezing through given their size. Grin and Gabrielle took advantage of it and stabbed the trespassers quickly, making them tumble to the ground lifeless. Quickly the two women darted behind Xena, waiting for the next wave to come.
Again two more followed suit. Then two more entered. And two more. Pair by pair the three women worked until demon upon demon lay at their feet. When no more entered, Xena motioned Gabrielle and Grin to stand back while she went outside to inspect. Carefully Xena looked around. Nothing was in the area and she listened carefully. She didn’t see anything but someone was on the roof. Perhaps a few demons in fact but she couldn’t pinpoint an exact number.
Only one way to draw them out I guess. She walked outside backward, leaving the safety of the building, making sure to face the structure. Grin and Gabrielle waited inside the doorframe. An instant later, Xena watched a group of archer’s stand up and take aim on her.
"Oh no! Not again!" she muttered.
Arrow after arrow narrowly missed her as she zigzagged her way back toward the temple. Enough of this, she considered. Instead of bolting back inside, she gave a powerful warcry and leapt up to the wall. From there she dove on top of the archers, creating a domino effect before she scrambled to her feet.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes and let out a sigh before grabbing Grin’s hand. "Come on!" she said, leading her inside and up to the door they had used to get in. Grin unlocked it and the two hoisted themselves up on the roof. Xena was already in the heat of a battle, having taken on the archers that managed to right themselves. Grin and Gabrielle jumped into the action.
"The roof was not part of the plan," Gabrielle shouted to Xena.
"Gotta be flexible," she answered before striking down another demon.
" Yeah, yeah. Comes with the job," Gabrielle mimicked her, taking out the last demon herself.
Grin looked around at the litter of demons at their feet. "Well, I think Mara might think twice before going after Kristna again," she grinned. She gave a whistle and her steed came to her, stopping on the roof. She walked over and hugged Gabrielle.
"I’m glad you succeeded," she told her.
"I wouldn’t have without your help," the bard replied. "And if you need anything-."
"I won’t hesitate to ask," she grinned.
Grin offered Xena her hand and the warrior took it, pulling her into an embrace. "Thank you," Xena told the valkyrie.
"You’re very welcome. One good turn deserves another. You two be good to each other."
"We will, I promise," Xena replied.
Grin mounted her horse and smiled down to the women. "I’d offer to take you home but I can only fit one at a time. And I’m sure you two don’t want to be separated."
"Not by a long shot," Gabrielle replied. "Take care."
"You too," she nodded. With a twitch of the reins and a click to her cheek the horse was off and flying.
"Why don’t we go find that goddess friend of yours?" Xena offered before she did a sommersault from the rooftop to land on the ground.
"Don’t you mean friend of ours?" Gabrielle answered, following suit.
Xena nodded her approval of the bard’s jump. "Nice form. Landing was a little wobbly, though. But don’t worry - we can work on that," she grinned as she took the bard’s hand and went into the forest in search of Dite.
50 years later
A woman on horseback raced through the forest as if the Grim Reapper was on her heals and gaining fast. When a group of amazons stepped into her path from the trees she brought the horse to a halt. She leapt from the mare and gave the symbol of peace, placing her arms high above her head with her hands locked.
Quickly the masks went up.
"Am I too late?" the young woman asked.
"No. Not yet," the amazon guard answered. "Varia waits for you," she answered. "Hiloto, please lead the princess to the quarters at once."
Hiloto nodded and whistled for her mare. As the horse emerged, the stranger to the village jumped back onto her steed to follow. Moments later they were in front of the queen’s hut where Varia waited.
"Nana," the young woman called as she dismounted.
Varia was 70 summers old now but her mind was still has sharp as ever, even if her reflexes were not. She took the young woman into a warm embrace. "She’s inside. She’s been waiting for you," Varia told her.
The woman nodded and pulled away. She walked inside the hut, making her presence known as soon as she entered. "Grandmother," she called out.
The old woman that lay on the bed gave a brilliant smile and summoned the girl closer with a wave of her hand. "That’s great grandmother to you," she teased. "I didn’t think you would come Little Xe," she smiled.
"I came as soon as I got word," she answered.
"How’s your mother?" the old woman asked.
"Good," she answered. "She’s still running the tavern in Amphipolis after Grandma Eve couldn’t handle it alone. In fact she’s on her way here now."
"What about you? How are your studies coming along?"
"Good. Not as interesting as your stories but…I’m doing okay at the bard academy."
The old woman smiled but a coughing spell took over. She pointed behind the young woman to a vial on the window ledge. "Be a dear and get that, would you?" she asked.
The young woman did as she was told and handed it to her great-grandmother. The gray haired woman settled back and motioned the girl closer.
"I want to tell you a story," she began. "The story of how your Grandma Xe died. It’s a story I’ve never told anyone before."
"But I’ve heard the story," the woman answered. "Grandma Eve said she got an infection after a fight with raiders and she didn’t get better."
"Well, that’s the story that’s out there," the old woman said. "But that’s not the real story. Do you want to hear the real story?"
The young woman gave a curious nod. Slowly the old woman cleared her throat and began to speak.
25 years before
It was a harsh winter and it wasn’t getting any better. The food supply in Amphipolis was getting smaller and smaller every week it seemed. When they expected the weather to break more snow arrived, making it difficult to hunt any game that was still in the area. Gabrielle, however, wasn’t as concerned about their next meal as she was with getting the drugs she needed from the chemist.
She made her way into the tiny house behind the tavern that Eve now ran with her eldest child, Mary, as manager. She hurriedly took off her winter coat and boots to the sound of Xena’s moans through the bedroom. The trade routes were slower than normal given the weather and the opium that Xena had come to depend upon was scarce.
Quickly Gabrielle made her way to the bedroom with bottle in hand. She paused in the doorway looking at the bottle and at Xena’s turned back. The warrior was curled into a tight ball, crying from the pain that flooded inside her. The healer said that it seemed something was eating Xena from the inside out but he didn’t know what it was and he didn’t know how to cure it. The odd part was that Xena looked healthy for much of her illness but she was actually weighing less and less. Gabrielle could almost pick her up on her own without any help.
"Gabrielle," the warrior cried out.
The sound of her name startled her and the bard moved out of her thoughts and over to their bed. She pushed her long honey and white hair over her shoulder as she made her way down to Xena.
"Here Xena," Gabrielle told the warrior. "Here. Drink this."
Xena hesitated at first, giving a slight sniff. She looked to Gabrielle and gave a tiny grin before downing the bottle.
"Will you lay with me?" Xena asked softly.
"Of course," Gabrielle replied. She walked around to the other side and settled herself against the headboard, pulling Xena into her arms.
Gabrielle looked lost in her thoughts but said nothing. Xena knew she’d have to start any conversation between them.
"Snow still out there?" Xena asked.
"Yes, and it feels like it’s going to start snowing again," the bard replied.
"Sore joints?" Xena asked.
"You know it," Gabrielle grinned.
"Not your fault."
"If I got you off the road sooner you might be in better shape," Xena replied guiltily.
"I was the one who wanted to keep traveling," Gabrielle retorted. "How soon we forget warrior," she teased.
Xena paused and she licked her lips. The taste and the smell were very familiar to her. She wondered if she should say something. After a few moments she knew she had to get it out in the open. "Remember what I told you years ago in Japa? That if I only had 30 seconds to live I’d want to spend them looking into your eyes. Do you remember that?"
"How could I forget is the better question," Gabrielle answered.
"I’ve only got a few more minutes, don’t I Gabrielle?" Xena mentioned off-handedly. The tone surprised the bard. She didn’t think Xena could tell there was a difference in the medicine she’d just given in relation to all the others.
Gabrielle’s bottom lip started to quiver. But Xena hushed her with soft tones of sympathy. "It’s okay," she told the bard. "I know this last mix has nightspain. I know it’s time to go. I’m not going to get any better and being here just hurts you more each day."
"Having you in my life has never brought me pain Xena . . . But seeing you like this . . . it’s hurting you," Gabrielle explained.
Xena gave a brief nod and snuggled in closer to her lover. "Thank you."
"For what?" Gabrielle answered.
"For spending every day showing me what’s good in life. For raising a family with me. For everything . . . Even for this: For taking me out of this world and having the courage to do it since I don’t have the courage myself."
Gabrielle began to cry and she tightened her hold on Xena. The warrior, for her part, tried to hold the bard with all the strength she had left inside her.
"Congratulations," Xena teased. "Of all the kings, all the warlords, all the warriors throughout the known world – you were the one that did it. You ‘offed’ the warrior princess," she chuckled.
Gabrielle shook her head fiercely. "Don’t even joke about that Xena," she warned as she continued to sniffle. "It’s not funny."
"Oh come on," Xena grinned. "You know I’m not going to leave you. I’ll be back. In every lifetime I’ll come back to you and I promise I’ll always be with you. Always. This body, this identity of the warrior princess – it’s just one of many that I’ll use to find you. There have been other times we’ve come together. There will be many more ahead of us."
"Promise?" Gabrielle asked, stroking Xena’s face.
"I promise," Xena replied. "It’s time I moved on – completed the circle as Kristna said years ago . . . He knew it would come to this someday. That’s why he asked if you killed me. Remember? And that’s why he brought me back . . . He said we’d know when the time really came – and we both know that this is it Gabrielle."
Gabrielle teared up but she wasn’t going to cry. Instead she smiled down at Xena, planting a soft kiss on her forehead. "You are the best thing that ever happened in my life," she whispered.
"I love you Gabrielle."
Xena’s eyes were open but Gabrielle felt the body go limp beside her. The warrior princess was dead and on her journey to her next Karmic leap.
"But that was 25 years ago," old Gabrielle told Xena’s namesake – the daughter of the son of Eve. Upon hearing all his mother’s tales about his grandmother, Xena, he knew he had to make sure that this name lived on in his family. "And no one has heard that tale until now," Gabrielle added.
Little Xe couldn’t believe it. She couldn’t even imagine loving someone so much that you’d be willing to take her life. But then she often thought of the animals on the farm. The pets she’d had throughout her life where it was best to ‘put them out of their misery’ instead of watching them suffer. The longer she thought about it, the more she considered that perhaps her great-grandparents had done the most humane thing of all for each other.
"But there is a reason I tell you this . . . I, the battling bard of Poteidaia, took out the Warrior Princess. And now you, the scholarly bard of Amphipolis, have to help take out the woman who killed Xena."
Little Xe was confused at first but then she looked at the vial that she had just given Gabrielle. Oh no, Little Xena considered. I’ve got to get Varia! I’ve got to-.
Gabrielle reached out, sensing the young woman’s distress. "It’s okay," she told her. "It’s my time. Just like it was Xena’s . . . After Xena died – about 10 years later – I came back to the Amazons. Varia had just lost a bondmate a few summers prior. We connected and I loved her tremendously. She’d grown into a fine woman and a great leader . . . But she was never ‘Xena’ . . . And she understood that. She could never be my true soulmate, nor I, hers. So it worked out . . . We had fun . . . We had fights . . . We loved and laughed . . . We enjoyed the grandkids and the great-grandkids," Gabrielle said winking. "I’ve led a good life Little Xe, but now it’s my turn. Now I have to jump and I know that Xena will keep her word. She’ll find me in the next life. Just like she did in this one. Just like she will in many. So please don’t be sad. We can never die because in a way – we are never born."
Little Xe let out a deep sigh. "Well . . . Is there anything I can do?"
Gabrielle nodded her head, "Two things – first help me sit so I can drink." Little Xe hesitated a moment but she realized that this was what her great-grandmother needed. When that task was finished and the vile drained, Gabrielle made her second request. "Tell me one of the story ideas you’re working on."
"Now?" Little Xena asked. "I mean, all things considered Grandma Gab-."
"Life doesn’t stop for anyone," the bard warned pointing a stern finger. "So come on, tell me. What’s going on in your life? What’s your new story?"
Little Xe licked her lips before clearing her throat. "Well, it’s about a young virgin who frees the Titans on accident," she smiles mischievously.
"I like it already," the old bard nodded. "Go on…"
As little Xe started to recite her latest work she rose and began to pace the room. Gabrielle smiled as she watched. She often paced, too, when she told a story and she could see so much of herself in the young girl. But little by little, second by second, her eyes grew heavy and she found them closing, unable to stop.
Little Xe was working up to the climax of the piece when she turned back to get Gabrielle’s reaction. That’s when she saw the old woman’s eyes were closed and slowly she crept over. She pulled the blankets away and watched the bard’s chest. No movement. None at all. The young woman tried to hold back her tears but failed. She wept hard and long, wrapping her arms around the old woman, stroking the long gray hair. She knew what she had to do now. She had a long journey home to Amphipolis. She knew it was Gabrielle’s wish to ‘go home’ and home is where she’d take her. She said it herself. She belonged with Xena and that’s where she would stay . . . for eternity.
30 years later
"I’m not going over this again!" The loud male voice boomed through the palace.
"I’m sorry but I just don’t understand it Shantese," the small Indian adviser told his ruler. "You could have any woman in this kingdom-."
"Exactly," Shantese replied pointing his finger. "I choose this one!"
"But the mother of peace is twice your age. There are many beautiful women who would be happy to do your bidding. They would make obedient wives for years to come. This woman is -."
"The finest in mind and spirit I’ve ever known. I’ve searched my entire lifetime for her, Raul. You have to trust my judgement. I choose to wed her today not because of power or status. I asked for her hand because she’s a part of me. Haven’t you met someone that you’ve known forever? That’s what I feel when I look at her . . . She’s the one."
Raul just shook his head and scratched his beard. "I hear what you’re saying Shantese. I do. But-."
"But nothing," Shantese interrupted. "I love her. And as my friend that should be enough to gain your support. There’s much more to love than appearance. For a young virile man like myself I know it seems odd. But trust me when I say that she is the one for me. She’s my destiny."
Raul looked into Shantese’s eyes. He was dead serious. He knew he couldn’t persuade Shantese’s decision and for the first time since the wedding announcement he realized he shouldn’t. Shatese truly did love Arminestra. He wanted to join his life with hers and who was he to say differently.
With a warm grin and a nod Raul agreed. "All right my friend," he said confidently. "Your bride is waiting."
600 AD - England
"I love my God. I love my Country. I love my King."
"I love them too. But I’d trade them all to have you," the soft feminine voice whispered.
Sir Lancelot turned from Guinevere’s light embrace, making his way to the window. He gave a deep sigh and ran his fingers through his short, curly blond locks. He looked out over Camelot where the torches were still burning bright in the evening sky, desperately hoping for some sign to show him what he should do.
"You are my queen," he told her in a half-hearted argument.
Guin stepped closer behind him, running her hands seductively down his back before wrapping them around his hips. She was a tall woman, nearly his height. Their bodies seem made for each other. "You are my champion," she whispered.
"Only because you are the King’s wife and I his first knight," Lancelot retorted in another weak attempt to dissuade the woman he had grown to love.
Many knights loved the ladies whose colors they wore into battle but never did they bed them. The honor that they fought for was often the honor of other men’s wives and not their own. The code of Chivalry was highest in all knights. And Lancelot knew he was the highest knight of them all. He had never been bested. Not even by Arthur himself with the help of Excalibur. But as he turned and looked into the crystal blue eyes of his queen he knew his resistance was weakening day-by-day, hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute. He did love his God. He did love his Country. And he did love his King.
But he also knew his passion for this dark haired beauty was great. He admired her from the moment he agreed to escort her from the neighboring village to become Arthur’s bride. Arthur – his king, his leader and even his best friend. He couldn’t love Arthur any more than if he were blood. But this woman, this queen, this wife . . . was more tempting with every moment he spent with her.
There was already talk in the circle. Other knights and court members could see the shy smiles and longing looks that Lancelot and Guin often gave each other when they thought no one was watching. They learned that some folks had been watching and talk was spreading throughout the kingdom. They had committed no evil toward anyone other than themselves - just two souls who had no right being apart.
Lancelot had asked the queen to his chamber high above the city so they could discuss their attraction. He had to lay it to rest. He had to tell the queen his feelings but make sure they understood the consequences of the actions if they were to go any further in their attraction. The longer Lancelot stood and stared into those aqua globes the more he realized what a mistake bringing her there, to his bed chamber, had been. His reasoning was it was private, secluded from listening ears. He failed to realize that yes it was very private and very far from listening ears. No one would hear their cries of passion.
Lancelot tenderly ran the back of his fingertips down Guin’s cheek. The woman soaked up the gesture by closing her eyes and letting her head fall back as if begging him to work his hand farther south. Lancelot, against his better judgement, fulfilled the request by letting his fingers linger down Guin’s neckline and travel down to her breast. Instinctively, Guin’s body surged forward begging for more contact.
The sight was too much for Lancelot. He had to have this woman and the consequences be damned. One hand hooked into Guin’s long black lock’s pulling her head back, further exposing her throat. The other hand took possession of her hip pulling her closer. Guin moaned upon feeling Lancelot’s excitement. And as Lancelot’s lips captured the flesh of his queen’s neck, Guin expelled a primal noise that only fueled Lancelot more.
After only a few kisses, the queen was begging Lancelot to take her. She told him she was his – that it would always be that way, no matter what. She would love him for all eternity, come what may. That was all Lancelot needed to hear. He told her he would protect her. He would champion her for all her days. He would die for her if that was what she wanted. Besides, a life without her would be useless he told her.
That night they made love for hours and fell asleep exhausted. A pounding noise woke them up from a sound sleep. They knew the voice. It was Arthur. He yelled about someone stealing the queen. Yes someone had stolen the queen. And it would not have a happy ending.
1100 – Paris
Under the pretext of study we spent our hours
in the happiness of love, and learning held out to us the secret
opportunities that our passion craved. Our speech was more of love
than of the books, which lay open before us; our kisses far
outnumbered our reasoned words – Peter Abelard
"Marry me Heloise."
Peter was a tall, dark scholar - a handsome man of mind and body. His insight was known over Europe and few had an intelligence that could rival his own. However in his student Heloise, he found a soulmate and a rival. She was bright and young and beautiful and everything that Peter could want as a man. She could make the perfect companion had he not dedicated himself to his studies – the studies of which he was willing to give up for this woman.
"I will not marry you Peter," Heloise sobbed.
"We belong together. Your uncle be damned. The city be damned. The church be damned! I care not what they say or they do. You carry my child because of the love and passion we found. I refuse to walk away for anyone’s sake."
"Even your own?" Heloise questioned. "You know as I do Peter that if you were to marry your standing as a scholar would fall. You have so much to gain by not taking me as your wife. I can’t have that burden on my shoulders. I can’t go on knowing that I held you back."
"You make me strong – of mind and body and spirit. Can’t you see that Heloise?"
"And if you lose your position at the University? Then what Peter?…Besides, your life is your studies. You are a thinking man – a warrior of wisdom. I urge you to think about what you’re asking."
"Sometimes logic shouldn’t prevail," he told the small woman. "Sometimes you have to follow your heart. I didn’t go looking for a mate Heloise. I went looking for experience – the need for physical love I’d never felt before. But what I have now is so much greater. I’m begging you please…marry me, raise our child together…and let logic float to the winds."
"I can’t," Heloise cried. "Because I love you far too much Peter. With time you’ll see it’s for the best."
Heloise quickly turned heel and began to walk away through the outskirts of the Parisian neighborhood. Peter called out to her once but didn’t follow. She’d made her choice. She’d sacrifice all for him, even the idea of having him all to herself because it would hinder his success.
But I’ll never be much without you, he thought silently as he watched her walk away. I’ll never be complete with you gone. And someday, I will win your favor Heloise. I promise.
1500’s – England
"William?" the young woman’s voice called. "William?" She watched as the man sat quill in hand writing feverishly. "WILLIAM!"
That got his attention and he nearly knocked over his ink blotter before turning around. "Yes my dearest Anne," he said putting down the quill and turning to face his wife of two years.
"What, dear husband, do you work on that has you so engrossed…this time?"
He gave a bashful smile. Many nights he found himself engrossed but Anne had come to expect it. It was the price she had to pay for living with the ‘First Bard’ and she accepted with a bit of amusement – even today.
"Just some notes at this moment. A play about a Prince…From Denmark. He returns to find his father, the King, has been murdered by his uncle."
"Death BEFORE the first act? Moving up a few acts aren’t we?" she teased.
"I think everyone will be gone by the end…except for the student and the solider. They will live on."
"It seems fitting for some reason – the scholar and the warrior," he shrugged. "What did you need dearest?"
"Two things actually," she began. "First, I’ve heard rumors about you and the Queen."
"You heard me. She’s a patron of the arts and some folks say much more. You remain faithful to me, don’t you William?"
"Certainly, my dear," he said reaching out to stroke his wife’s stomach, which was nine months round with their first child. "I can assure that Queen Elizabeth’s interest in me is strictly professional."
"Just wondering," she said casually.
"What was the other issue my sweet?"
"You must pause your writing for this evening."
"Why ever for?" he said looking concerned.
"You need to fetch the mid-wife."
William’s face went from shock to a large smile in a matter of moments. "Right away my dear," he said shooting up from his desk. He started to look around the room sporadically. "You should lay. Come off your feet. I’ll get some sheets. We need some fresh water. And a larger fire. I’ll get wood. And-."
Anne gently put her hand on his shoulder. "First you need to relax and get the mid-wife dearest husband." She reached up and placed a delicate kiss on his cheek.
"Of course," he nodded. He started to make his departure but stopped and walked back to his wife. He pulled her closer and gave a light kiss to her lips. "I love you Anne Hathaway."
"I love you William Shakespeare."
1783 – Monticello Plantation, Virginia, United States
"Why Mr. Jefferson? Why me?"
The young black slave was at a loss as to why her company was being requested to accompany him to Paris. He was one of the most powerful men in the newborn country and to travel at his side as an ambassador confused the young woman. That’s not to say she didn’t want the opportunity. It would be a thrilling adventure – no doubt. And as for Mr. Jefferson himself he was a tall, proud man; widowed and not looking for remarriage. He had a confident edge to him and many skills. Aside from that she found their conversations engaging – many of his true thoughts and views he kept hidden from most of Virginia, especially those of slavery.
"Please…Call me Thomas," he told her. "I need someone I can trust to look after my affairs for me while abroad. I trust you Sally Hemings."
"But sir-." The American statesman gave a disapproving look and Sally quickly corrected herself. "Thomas," she began again. "There are many people far more qualified than myself."
"But not whose company I enjoy as much . . . I can’t define it. I can’t explain it. But there’s something here I don’t want to leave behind in Monticello. Please say you’ll accompany me. I could make you come but I would never want to force you into anything."
"I’m a slave Mr….Thomas. You could face sharp criticism from the party if-."
"To hell with the party."
"Surely you don’t mean that."
"Truly I do," he countered with a nod. He rose from his desk and walked over to where the young woman stood, nervously flexing and releasing her fingers at her side. Without a word his fingers traced the line of her jaw until coming to her chin. With two fingertips he raised her head so he could meet her deep brown eyes.
"There’s never been a more lovely woman in mind, body or spirit. I have met many in all my travels but none quite like you," he told her softly. "Please do me this honor. I cannot court you – we both know that. But if you let me, I’ll devote my life here at Monticello serving you as I try to serve the people of this new nation. So I’m asking Sally, please say you’ll travel with me to Paris…away from prying eyes and party games."
Sally felt lightheaded and gave a small grin. "I don’t know what to say Thomas." Her smile widened in pride for remembering to use his first name.
"It’s simple. Say yes," he grinned.
She knew if anyone were to discover his offer it could mean the end of everything for him – perhaps even is life in some parts. But she also understood what he meant about a ‘connection’. She could feel it too. "Yes," she answered firm yet softly. It was her destiny.
February 7th, 1966 – Mercy Hospital, South Carolina
Melinda Pappas opened her eyes to find Janice Covington sleeping in the chair beside her hospital bed. She gave a light smile. I told her to go home but she doesn’t listen. She never listens. The smile soon faded as a coughing spell took over waking Janice from her slumber.
The blonde quickly opened her eyes and shot to her feet, coming over to the woman. As it subsided Janice pushed the bangs away from Mel’s forehead. In doing so she could feel how warm the woman was. She quickly went to the bathroom for a washrag and rinsed it with cold water. Without hesitation she returned and began to wipe Mel’s brow.
"Still takin’ care of me?"
"Absolutely," the archeologist grinned. "Always will."
Mel reached out and pulled Janice’s hand down to her lips. She placed a delicate kiss on the back before releasing her embrace. "Thank you for staying but I did send ya home if I remember correctly. Ya need your rest Janice."
"You need me more," the blonde countered.
"Ya can’t stop it Janice. We both know how sick I am."
"Which is why I’m staying. I’m going to spend as much time as possible with you."
"I told ya. We’ll find each other again. We always find each other." Mel smiled, resolved in her fate but knowing that this end would be just another beginning. Janice tried to match her smile and have the same confidence but couldn’t muster it. Mel reached out again and squeezed the small woman’s hand. "You’ll be okay Janice. You were a strong woman when I met ya. You’re stronger now than ever."
"Because of you. You make me strong Mel. When I do things I think I’m not capable of it’s you that gives me that strength."
"Then keep being strong for me Janice. Keep the faith that we’ll be back together again someday. Promise me?"
The plea was too much for Janice to take and she felt herself starting to tear up. I’d give you the world if I could sweetheart. "I promise," she whispered.
A moment passed and Mel felt a chill pass over her. "I’m cold," she told the archeologist. "Will ya come keep me warm?"
Janice had spent 25 plus years keeping Mel warm. But never in a public place. Their love was always kept behind closed doors or closed tents, depending on where they were. To the scholar society they were the best of partners. To a few close trusted friends they were also the best of lovers. But at this point Janice didn’t care about appearances. She took off her bomber jacket and climbed into the small bed pulling Mel into her arms. Slowly she began a rocking motion as she stroked Mel’s hair.
"I made all the right choices," Mel said softly. "If I had it all to do over again…I wouldn’t change it."
"Me neither sweetheart…Me neither."
Janice continued to hold Mel in silence when she felt the body on top of her go limp.
She didn’t get a response. She knew she wouldn’t. Her partner. Her best friend. Her soulmate was gone. And she felt the familiar ache her ancestor felt millenniums before. Mel Pappas was dead. But one day…she’d be back. And somehow Janice knew that she’d find her again.
December 16th, 2000 – First Methodist Church, Los Angeles, California, United States
The Reverend held out the bible before them. "The rings?"
They each turned to the best man and maid of honor, getting the rings for the exchange and placing them on the bible before turning back to each other.
"Harry," the reverend began. "Please repeat after me: I Harry."
"I Xena- Harry." Harry gave a brief shake of the head to clear his thoughts as the room gave a small chuckle. Only a few of their close friends were in attendance but that didn’t matter. They had what they need – each other. "Sorry," he whispered in an apology along with a bashful grin to the reverend and his bride.
The reverend simply smiled, knowing how nervous some grooms can be, before continuing. "Take you Mattie to be my lawfully wedded wife."
"Take you Mattie to be my lawfully wedded wife," Harry echoed.
"For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health for as long as we both shall live."
"For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health for as long as we both shall live," Harry said as he slipped the ring onto Mattie’s finger.
The reverend then turned to Mattie. "Mattie repeat after me-."
Before he could finish Mattie began. "I Gabrielle-Mattie. Take you Xena-Harry to be my lawfully wedded husband – for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health for as long as we both shall live."
The reverend tried to hide his surprise and Mattie felt the overwhelming need to explain. "We’ve done this quite a few times," she said casually. "With each other," she clarified quickly when she realized how terrible that sounded out loud. "I mean this is the first time in THIS lifetime though…I’m gonna shut up now."
Harry chuckled silently. When he saw the blush on Mattie’s face, he leaned over and kissed her softly out of pure instinct.
"Ah hem," the reverend said getting their attention. "I didn’t say you could kiss her yet."
Harry quickly dropped his hands, which were cradling Mattie’s face, and stood upright again. "I’m sorry."
"Jumping the gun like always," Mattie teased with a wink and an air kiss. Harry gave her a smile and a shrug.
The reverend knew he should just wrap this up as soon as possible.
"By the power vested in me and the State of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife…Now you may kiss the bride," he teased Harry before gesturing to the bride with his hand.
As the kiss ended Harry pulled back. "I promise I’ll make you happy Mattie."
Mattie took his hand in hers and faced the small gathering as the reverend announced ‘Mr. and Mrs. Harry Cavender’.
"I know you will," Mattie told him with the playful grin he’d loved through the ages. "You haven’t let me down in 2000 years – you won’t start now."
Authors Note: Want to read a little more about the uber Xena and Gabby’s listed here? You might find these links interesting.http://historymedren.about.com/library/weekly/aa020500a.htm
Peter Abelard and Heloisehttp://www.geocities.com/Area51/1567/guinever.html
Lancelot and Guineverehttp://www.monticello.org/plantation/hemings-jefferson_contro.html
Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemingshttp://www.scr.org/season/00-01season/snl00-01/snlms6.html
William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway