Binding the Soul
by hobbes
Originally posted at the XNF
April 22, 1997

Disclaimers and Warnings: The story belongs to me, the characters to MCA/Universal and no copyright infringements are intended.

There are TWO endings to this story since I couldn't make up my mind. The second one may be disturbing to anyone who may have lost a child to miscarriage, so please, if this would disturb you--only read the first version of the ending.

Xena sat in silence, once again, blaming herself for Perdicus' death. Gabrielle had told her that she didn't blame her for it, and not to take on the burden of blame. Easier said than done. She pictured the scene over and over within her mind. The warrior had convinced herself that she had been too slow to react, and that her hesitation had caused his death. Callisto had threatened and attempted to kill Gabrielle only because the bard was her friend. Punishing Xena had been her goal.

Xena had been so determined to protect her, that Callisto had taken the opportunity to punish Gabrielle, and in doing so, hurting Xena. Callisto's cold hatred had held no boundaries-- So Perdicus paid the price for Xena's violent past.

Xena looked down at the strained face of her friend. Each viewing only made her feel worse. Gabrielle's face was haggard, hhand er eyes were soul-weary, darkened by the bags under them. She had lost weight and was listless. The bard spent her time staring into nothing, her mind in retreat. She didn't show pain, grief, or even anger. She was only a shell of the girl she once was.

Ever since the death Perdicus last moon, she had been going downhill. No longer did she tell her stories, or smile . The joy had left her, and Xena wished desperately that she could break through Gabrielle's pain and help her find release. Her attempts to get her to talk had failed miserably, and trapped inside of her own whirling emotions, she was of little use to Gabrielle. Her friend needed time and privacy to grieve. Traveling had been too much of a strain on her physical strength, and they lacked the money to stay in a town for very long. The only option she could see was to take Gabrielle home to her family.

"Gabrielle, I've been thinking. We need a break from traveling, and I thought maybe you'd like to spend some time with your family. You haven't seen them for a long time, and I'm sure you've missed them." Xena watched as Gabrielle shook her head, refusing the notion.

"Xena, I don't feel like being fussed over. They wouldn't give me any peace, and would look at me with sympathy. They would baby me," she said with the first sign of emotion in over a month. She was aggravated. The young woman stood and began pacing back and forth, listing all her reasons for not going to Poteidaia.

Xena allowed her to vent before giving her own views.

"Gabrielle, you need some time away from the constant travel. You need time to work though your grief. You haven't been taking care of yourself--and I'm worried. Your family can be there for you, to listen when you're ready."

"Are you saying you're leaving me?" she asked with disbelief.

"No! I'm just...I'm just unable to help you. I'm lost and floundering here. I think we need time apart for just a little while."

"No! I can't lose you, too, Xena. Don't leave me, please !" she begged.

Xena felt torn. Her small companion was so fragile right now. How could she deny her closest friend without hurting her further? She sighed, and gave up. She would stay with her.

"Alright, I'll stay with you. We'll head for Poteidaia tomorrow morning," she told her.

Gabrielle relaxed, and gave her a weak smile.


Xena took her time on their journey to Poteidaia, afraid of pushing the smaller woman too hard. Gabrielle's physical resources were already pushed to their limits. The smallest exertion could leave her bed-ridden. She rode behind Xena limply, barely holding on, forcing Xena to stop often to allow her to rest. At the rate they were going, it would take three more days to reach the bard's home village.

The warrior stopped near a strand of trees, wanting to get Gabrielle into the shade. Her companion had felt overly warm and needed to cool off. Xena jumped off Argo and held up her arms to aid her friend in dismounting. Gabrielle felt like she weighed next to nothing, she had lost so much weight. Xena decided she had better get her to eat again, whether or not she could hold it down.

All too often in the last few weeks, Gabrielle had vomited after eating, and Xena feared she could be pregnant. How could the child survive if Gabrielle wasted away to nothing? She dared not bring up the subject, fearing for her friend's sanity.

Xena told Gabrielle to sit under a shady tree while she fixed a light meal. She watched her friend sit wearily before she looked over their remaining choices. Xena chose to stick with bland foods. There wasn't much left--she needed to do some hunting later that day as well as look for medicinal herbs to settle the bard's stomach.

"Gabrielle, I want you to eat a little, and sip some water. Chew slowly and let your stomach adjust." She handed her some bread and dried slices of apple. It was the best she could do at the moment. The girl looked like she would argue, but changed her mind. The strawberry blond was just too tired to fight. She took a bite from the bread and chewed automatically.

The warrior looked at her, her own appetite waning. The Gabrielle of old was replaced by this shallow image, her spirit in shatters, the will to live almost gone. It broke Xena's heart. She reconsidered telling Gabrielle her suspicions. Maybe a child by Perdicus would bring her spirits up---either that or send her further into her abyss. The warrior kept the words to herself, deciding to speak with her family first.

Gabrielle had finished about six bites when she turned pale then green. She stood quickly and ran behind a bush. The sounds of vomiting reached Xena's ears. She waited a moment before she went to check on her. Xena found her on her knees, sweat pouring down her waxy face. Xena couldn't take it any more. She helped Gabrielle clean up and supported her back to the trees. Xena pulled off the bedrolls from the saddle and set up camp. They would stop for the rest of the day.

She laid out the bedroll for her and helped Gabrielle take off her boots, tucking her in and telling her to rest. Gabrielle was asleep within seconds. Xena sat there, watching her friend sleep, while tears were threatening to spill down her tanned cheeks.

Xena told Argo to stay close by and went to search for their evening meal. If she as lucky, she would find the plants she need. She wanted yarrow and milk thistle . They would help Gabrielle regain her appetite and settle her stomach. The young woman needed to eat before she wasted away into nothing.


Xena woke her up near dusk, the medicine ready. Gabrielle could barely sit up, and Xena helped her with a strong arm, and then made her drink. Gabrielle made a face at the taste, but drank it. The warrior set her down, and returned to the fire to rotate the meat on the spit. She checked the cakes she had made from cattail pollen. They were almost done. She removed them from the pan and dribbled honey on top. The dark-haired woman had found a honey tree, and had helped herself. Maybe Gabrielle's sweet tooth could be reawakened as well. She shook the bard's shoulder, rousing her again.

"Come on, Gabrielle, you need to eat."

"Xena, just let me sleep. I'm not hungry," she mumbled.

"I don't care. I'm not letting you waste away. Now get up!" she ordered.

Gabrielle let off a string of colorful curses under her breath, but she complied. Xena smiled for the first time in weeks, amused by her friend's impressive vocabulary. She hadn't realized that the bard had learned such language. She might have to have a little talk with her someday on listening to sailors' conversations.

Gabrielle saw the small smile on her face, and wondered what Xena had to smile about.

"What's so funny?" she snarled.

"You. You like to surprise me. Where did you pick up that language--the docks?" she teased.

The bard didn't care for the dig at her, and felt anger well up inside. She didn't know where it came from, but it felt good. A fist formed on her small hand, and she swung it. It didn't connect of course--Xena's reflexes were too good--but the act alone made her feel better. Xena held the bard's clenched fist in her long fingers, and stared down at Gabrielle, puzzled.

"I don't understand what's going on with you, but if you want to throw a punch at me, wait until you're stronger. You couldn't squash a fly right now," she said while releasing her hand. Xenagot up and returned to the fire. Gabrielle fumed with anger, and sat down defiantly across from her. The young woman curled her lip in anger, her eyes flashing fire. Xena made her so damned mad sometimes.

Gabrielle took one of the spitted quails from the fire and sniffed. Xena had used some herbs to season it, and her appetite flared. She gingerly picked at it and took a bite. The flavor spread on her tongue, and she began to eat in earnest. She spotted the pollen cakes, and felt the anger leave her. The pollen was difficult to collect, and Xena had gone out of her way to get it. Gabrielle suddenly felt ashamed of her actions.

"Xena, I'm sorry. I don't know what's happening to me, but I shouldn't take it out on you," she said sincerely.

"It's OK, Gabrielle. You've been through a lot, and it'll take time to come to grips with it. Forget it." Xena picked up a fried cake and handed it to her friend. Gabrielle took it and nodded her thanks.


After a long night's sleep, and a meal that had managed to stayed down, Gabrielle looked slightly better. Color had returned to her face and she had even offered Xena a smile that morning. The idea of going home must have been a catalyst for her.

Xena felt her burden lighten slightly with her friend's smile. For too long it had been gone, and until this moment, she didn't know how much she missed it. She had offered her a shy smile in return before breaking up camp and loading their things onto Argo. She got up and offered her arm to Gabrielle.

The morning was cool and the mist hadn't cleared completely, but it promised to be a pleasant day. Xena took a deep breath and enjoyed the smell of the fresh air. She tapped Argo with her heels, and clicked her tongue. In a few days, they would reach Poteidaia.


They came over the hill crest and saw the walled village where Gabrielle grew up. It hadn't changed much since the first time they had met here. Xena headed the horse towards the village, glad that they were almost there. She felt so inadequate and overwhelmed by her friend's problems. Now her family could help Gabrielle handle her grief.

They came to her father's home and got off the horse. Xena noticed her friend's nervousness and hesitation. The girl was afraid for some reason that baffled Xena. This was her family--not the end of the world. Xena walked up to the door and knocked. Gabrielle's mother opened the door, and smiled in happiness at the sight of her daughter's return. She hugged her to her breast and kissed her cheek, then held her at arm's length to study her appearance, a worried frown on her face.

"Gabrielle, what has happened to you, child?" her tone filled concern. Gabrielle's answer was to throw herself back into to her arms and weep. Her mother held on tightly and shot a questioning look towards Xena. The warrior shook her head to indicate 'Not now--later' , and once again looked at the bard feeling helpless. Gabrielle quickly exhausted herself, and they tucked her into her old bed next to Lila's.

Xena joined the older woman in the family area at the front of the house. Her mother came straight to the point.

"Tell me everything, and don't you dare keep anything from me," she insisted.

Xena told her the long story of Callisto and how her hatred had spilled over to include Gabrielle. She told the story of Perdicus and his death, and how Gabrielle had hated Callisto enough to want to take a life. The ex-warlord told her everything, knowing that the older woman needed it to help her daughter.

"So my child has changed that much. I never imagined that she would kill. To tell the truth, I couldn't understand this fascination with joining you to see the world. She marches to the sound of a different drummer, my Gabrielle. I don't understand her at all. I once told her father that she must be a changeling." Xena smiled at the image.

"But she couldn't kill. In spite of the violence she has seen with me, and learning how to fight, Gabrielle still won't take a life. She's still the sweet girl you've always known."

"No, not completely. She has allowed the darkness to touch her life, and can never go back. Callisto took away that innocence---and you," she said accusingly. Xena's eyes snapped up to meet hers. She knew the words were true, and felt the guilt of them. Gabrielle's mother hadn't said anything she hadn't already thought herself.

"I know that all too well. On more that one occasion, I've thought of sending her back home, but each time she convinced me not to. When it comes to Gabrielle, I can't seem to fight her stubbornness. My common sense is knocked out from under me, and now she's in there a torn and broken girl. I blame myself for everything that's happened. I brought her here because I don't know what else to do. Gabrielle is keeping everything locked up inside of her, letting it fester and grow. It will destroy her if she doesn't get help," Xena told the woman.

"That's unusual by itself. She talks constantly. Her silence means something is beyond her ability to express herself. In a way, she's lost her voice," said her mother.

"Hmmm. The only emotions I've seen from her lately were anger and a little self-pity," Xena told her.

"What happened to make her angry?"

"She caught me laughing at her. I really need to work on that. I used to be so good at hiding it, but now she's always catching me," she said with a sigh.

"That's because your walls are much lower. Even I can read some of your feelings now. The first time we met, you were a total mystery to me. Your face was cold and still. Nothing seemed to move you."

"Except Gabrielle. She has a way of burrowing in and staying. She had snuck in before I knew what had hit me," Xena leaned forward, her face suddenly serious, "I want you to know something about Gabrielle. She's still the same girl you knew. Her feelings run deeper now, but her ideals will never fail her. She has a strength I'll never be able match. She knows what she wants in life, and won't hesitate to go after it--but it doesn't make her a oddity. I know Gabrielle will be fine once she comes to term with Perdicus' death. I know with her family's help, she'll be okay," Xena said in her longest speech in a long time.

"I hope so. I have a wild idea though, but we can't use it until we fatten her up a little. She needs her strength built up," she said mysteriously.

"What? I want to know," Xena demanded.

"You're going to pick a fight with her," she said with a wicked smile.


"Are you out of your mind !?" asked Xena.

"No. I just know my daughter. She just needs to let it all out, and Gabrielle never could stop herself when it came to arguing. If you start a fight with her, she'll dump everything. But know this...She'll probably say things she never meant for you to hear. You have to decide if *you* are strong enough to hear them. Even if she says nasty things about you or someone else. Once it's out of her craw, then she should snap back to her old self."

" Gabrielle is like my family. I just can't sit back and watch her suffer. If you think this will work, then I'll do it."

"Good. In the meanwhile, let's see to her health. I don't like how skinny she's gotten," she said almost accusingly.

"Uh...I think I had better tell you something that even Gabrielle doesn't realize yet. She may be pregnant. She loses most of her meals, and I don't think her lunar time has come since she married Perdicus. It could be stress and grief, but I don't know," Xena said to the older woman.

"And why haven't you told her?" she asked.

"Because I didn't know if it would be a good idea. She seems so close to the edge of sanity that I..."

"Didn't know if she could take it," she finished for her. Xena nodded wearily.

"Hmm..I agree. Let's keep it our little secret for now."


Lila came through the door and saw Xena. She immediately looked around for her sister. Not seeing her, she gave her mother a quizzical look, who waved her to the table and had her sit down. They explained to Lila briefly, and asked her to keep an eye on Gabrielle. She agreed, and went to her bedroom to see her sister.

Lila approached the bed, and saw that she was still asleep. She stared at her older sister in disbelief. Gabrielle had always been the strong one, the one that protected her and cared for her. But this person was only a cruel reflection of the young woman she had last seen. Never had she seen Gabrielle look so sickly. Lila felt tears well up in her eyes as she bent over her sister to brush aside some wayward curls from her pale cheeks. A salty tear fell from her eyes and landed on Gabrielle's jaw. She awoke with a start.

Lila knelt by the bed and placed a hand on her thin shoulder to calm her. Gabrielle focused on her face and smiled.

"Lila!" she exclaimed as she threw her coverings off. Gabrielle reached for Lila to give her a hug.

"I'm sorry I woke you, Gabrielle. I only meant to check on you," she said with worry.

"Hey! Why would I want to sleep when I could talk to you instead? I'm glad you woke me. Now, tell me about everyone. I want all the latest gossip on everything !" she said with false enthusiasm. Lila caught it, but ignored it. She took a deep breath and began.


Gabrielle sleepily made her way to front of the house after another nap. Her movements halting and slow, eyes barely open. Xena saw her and jumped to her feet to help her to the table.

"I'm alright! Stop babying me !" she snapped. Xena withdrew her hands and placed her hurt feelings behind an emotionless mask. She swept her arm in a 'By all means' gesture towards the table in a mocking manner. Gabrielle sent her a angry look and sat down.

Lila watched the whole incident in confusion. *I thought they were best friends!*, she said to herself. If Gabrielle kept this up, she'd drive Xena away. She had to admit to herself that she had been jealous of the statuesque woman in the beginning, but Xena's obvious devotion to her sister's welfare had changed her mind. They may not lead the safest lives, but Gabrielle had the best protector there was--if she didn't destroy their relationship with her foul temper. How many personal attacks could the warrior take before writing her off?

Gabrielle's mother sat a cup of Xena's brew in front of Gabrielle, and told her to drink. She wasn't about to have her getting sick and wasting the meal she labored over. The older woman had fixed all of Gabrielle's favorites in attempt to get her to eat. Gabrielle sniffed the contents, and recognized the foul stench. Her nose wrinkled in disgust. Her mother caught the look, and told her in a no-nonsense tone to drink it. The young woman complied without defiance, and shuddered with revulsion as she finished drinking.

"Xena, why does everything that you fix have a nasty taste? For once I'd like my medicine to taste good," she complained.

"Well, one of my concoctions is rather tasty, but I don't think impotency is your problem," she said with a wicked grin.

Lila choked while swallowing her water, and spat it out onto the table. Everyone laughed and her mother brought out a towel to clean it up.

"I see Xena has an earthy sense of humor," said their father.

"Yes, she does," said Gabrielle. She looked as though she'd say more, but didn't. An irritated expression on her face said it all.

Xena ignored it, and sat down at the table. The mother leaned down and whispered in her ear.

"Don't start picking on her yet, you fool !" she whispered angrily. Xena gave the slightest of shrugs and took a sip of wine. Lila and her mother placed platters and bowls on the table, and sat down to eat.

At first, Gabrielle only picked at her food, but as the medicine took effect, her picking became bites until her shrunken stomach was full. Lila tried to get her to eat more, but she just couldn't take another bite. The bard sighed with contentment for everything. She suddenly felt a lot better than she had in a long time.

Lila placed an arm around her sister's shoulders and gave her a hug. Gabrielle put her head on her shoulder and patted Lila's cheek affectionately, then sat up straight. A huge yawn escaped her, thinking it would be a good time to go back to bed. She said her good nights and left the room.

The girls' mother waited until she was out of ear shot before she swatted Xena on her arm. Xena stood up quickly, angry and outraged. Before she could say a word, she was told to shut up and sit down. She sat slowly, giving the older woman the 'look'.

"Do you always goad her like that? If you do, then I'm amazed she hasn't taken that fancy staff of hers and broken it over your head! Of all the lame-brained stunts I've ever seen..."

"You're right. Ever since I allowed myself to relax my guard around her, I've let my sense of humor loose. I can't seem to stop, now that I started. But it's not like it's one-sided you know, she's done her share, too," she sighed and looked out the window, "It seems like either we're crying or laughing. There's no happy medium anymore."

The older woman's features softened. She placed a hand on Xena's hair and stroked the dark tresses. Xena chuckled.

"I know who Gabrielle takes after in temperament now. She goes from mad to sentimental in a flash, too."

Lila and her father grinned in agreement. The woman tweaked Xena's nose in a familiar gesture.

"She got that from you, too. I had better guard my nose around here," she said with a smile, "Now, where should I sleep?"

"After that last remark, I should send you to the barn. If you don't mind, you can throw your bedroll on the floor in the girls' room. I'm afraid we don't have any spare beds."

"That's fine. I've slept in worse places. Good night."


Gabrielle was sound asleep when she padded softly into the room. She unrolled her bedroll and attempted to remove her armor alone without causing any noise. Lila walked into the room, seeing Xena struggling with the tangs and came forward to help. Lila looked at her and asked in a whisper how to do it. Xena pointed to the individual hooks and led her through the steps. Lila didn't have the practiced hands of Gabrielle, but she managed.

Xena smiled her thanks and sat on the bedroll to remove her boots while Lila changed into her nightclothes. The warrior stood again to remove her leathers, but stayed in her shift and got into her makeshift bed. Lila wished her a good night and blew out the candles.


Xena snapped awake. She listened to the night sounds, and heard a whimper coming from above her head. *Gabrielle.* She rose to her feet and looked down to the sleeping bard. Gabrielle was thrashing in her sleep, a nightmare holding her in its grip. Xena sat down beside her and placed a hand on her arm.

"Gabrielle?" she whispered. The young woman made a pitiful sound in the back of her throat. Xena rubbed her shoulders and back, willing her to relax in her sleep. After several minutes, she quieted down and drifted into a more restful slumber. Xena pulled the covers back over her and tucked her in. The older woman whispered a short prayer to Morpheus, wishing for peaceful dreams for Gabrielle. She returned to her place on the floor and tried to go back to sleep.

In the other bed, Lila had watched the scene in wonder at the tenderness of this powerful woman. Who would have thought she could be so motherly in her treatment of her friend? Lila remembered the letter she had received not long ago, telling her of Solon. Perhaps Xena considered Gabrielle a kind of substitute for her distant son. Maybe not. It gave her food for thought. She pondered the mysterious woman as she fell back asleep.


Lila was sent out to chop wood for the house. She hated the job, but it had to be done. If she didn't, her mother would try, and she was getting more fragile with her years. Lila struggled under the weight of the large axe, and barely managed to hit her targeted block of wood. She lifted it again to strike at it. Her axe stopped while in mid air above her head.

"Here, let me," said Xena.

The warrior lifted the axe with ease and chopped the wood neatly in two. Lila watched in wonder at the apparent strength Xena wielded. Her muscled arms and shoulders rippled with each swing, and didn't seem to tire with the effort. Lila piled the wood and fetched more as Xena chopped. Within a short time, the work was done.

"Thanks, Xena. I think maybe I'll have to recruit you for this job again before you leave," she told her in a half-joking manner.

"It be the least I can do. Want any company with the rest of your chores?" she volunteered. Lila was a little dumbfounded by the offer, but quickly took her up on it.

"Sure. But I thought you'd rather spend your time with Gabrielle," she said with a question in her statement.

"She doesn't want me around right now. I thought she had made that perfectly clear last night. If I hadn't promised not to leave her, I'd have left this morning. She needs time with her family," she said with a hint of self-pity.

Any nervousness Lila had felt around this woman was gone instantly. Now she understood her sister's need to be with her. Xena had a vulnerable streak that was akin to that of a lost child. The fierce warrior was strong, brave, and confident in actions, but needed a guiding and caring hand to keep her on even keel. And Lila knew that Gabrielle needed to care for others. She had always been one to be protective and nurturing--and with Xena, she had her hands full. They each filled a need for the other.

"Xena, she *does* need you. Gabrielle is just lashing out." Xena looked away and remained silent.

"Xena. Look at me," she said with a command in her voice. Xena turned and looked down into her face., " I saw you with her last night--when she had that bad dream. Gabrielle may tell you in words that she's angry with you, but her actions say she needs you. She settled down when you comforted her. That shows that Gabrielle trusts you even in her sleep. Don't let her words drive you away," Lila pleaded.

Xena looked a little embarrassed at her words, knowing she had been seen, but gave Lila's words consideration. She had much to think about.


For several days, Gabrielle did nothing but eat and sleep. She was rapidly regaining her weight and no longer looked like a starving waif. Her mother told Xena the time was near. Xena braced herself, not relishing the idea.

Xena pushed it to the back of her mind, trying to pay attention to Lila's conversation.

" Gabrielle pops this boy right in the nose. He couldn't believe it! This little bit of a girl standing up to him like that. The look on his face was priceless! He never did pick on me again after that."

Xena smiled and let out a chuckle. She could very well see that scene in her mind.

"I'm glad the two of you are having a good time at my expense," Gabrielle said peevishly. Lila and Xena turned to see the annoyed young woman behind them. They had the good grace to look ashamed, but didn't offer any apologies. Lila made her excuses for leaving, abandoning Xena to her sister's wrath.

"Let's go for a walk," the warrior suggested while grabbing her friend's elbow to pull her along. Gabrielle shook off her hand, but followed her. The made their way to an empty field, where Xena came to a stop. She sat down on a stump.

"Is the mighty warrior princess tired?" Gabrielle asked sarcastically.

Xena started her verbal assault.

"Why should I be tired? I've been only helping around here. I thought one of us should earn our keep. At least I haven't been spending my days being a lazy slug-a-bed like someone I could mention," she said with deadly accuracy.

Gabrielle exploded. She threw herself at Xena, sending them both to the damp earth. Xena restrained herself, not wanting to harm her. She prevented the smaller woman from landing any serious blows, while allowing her the opportunity to exert herself.

Finally out of steam, Gabrielle slumped in her arms and began to cry. Xena pulled her closer and comforted her, stroking her hair and back. The bard shook with huge gulping sobs that tore at the warrior's heart. Xena whispered soothing words, and let her friend release all her pain. The crying seemed to go on forever, while Xena held her. She not only felt helpless at herfriend's tears, but felt like the scum of the earth for doing this to her.

Finally, the tears tapered off, and Gabrielle searched her pocket for a rag. She tried to wipe her eyes, but she was too shaken to do it well. Xena took it from her and dabbed her face softly.

"I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I guess your mother was wrong about trying to pick a fight with you," she said sadly.

"My mother! She told you to insult me?" she asked in shock.

"Not exactly, she said to pick a fight with you, then maybe you'd open up," Gabrielle looked defiant, " Come on! *You* poke and poke at *me* until I have no choice but to answer. I think it's my turn. I didn't realize until know how frustrating it must have been for you when I gave you the silent treatment," Xena said apologetically.

Xena lifted her friend's chin and looked into her green eyes with a tenderness Gabrielle had never seen before. She felt herself quaver in doubt, and then yield in defeat against those pleading blue eyes. She shook her head in confusion.

"Xena, I don't know what's wrong with me. I grieve for Perdicus, I grieve for myself, and I grieve for you, and I should be over it by now, but I'm not. I can't seem to get a grip on my emotions or anything. All I want to do is crawl into a dark hole and hide."

"How about we take it one step at a time. I'll just ask a bunch of annoying questions, and just maybe, somewhere along the line, it will make sense to you," Xena suggested. Gabrielle nodded wearily, just wanting to get it over with. Xena repositioned herself and pulled the smaller woman closer. Gabrielle leaned on her and giggled.

"What's so funny?" Xena asked indulgently.

"It feels odd not to get poked by all that armor of yours, is all," Gabrielle commented. Xena grinned crookedly above her head, but didn't make any remarks. She began her questions.


"OK, let's begin with Perdicus. You have every right to mourn over him. You were only married less than a day when Callisto murdered him. You were so angry you were ready to kill her yourself.. I could see the power of your hatred in your eyes. I'm glad you didn't though. It frightened me to death, seeing it, you know," Xena said.

"It did? And all this time I thought it was anger. You were so cold when you gave me those sword lessons, but at the time I didn't really care. I was just so determined to kill her that everything else was inconsequential," she confessed.

"It wasn't coldness towards you, it was anger at myself. If I had killed her the first time we met, you'd be a happily married woman right now. I let my guilt over Cirra cloud my judgement. I still do. It was all my fault--for everything," she said with poignancy.

"No, it isn't. You may have destroyed her village, but *she* chose a life of murder and revenge. Just like I chose not to become a monster. I couldn't do it, Xena. I had the sword pointed at her throat, and I couldn't do it. Everything you and Perdicus had told me came rushing in at that moment. I realized then, it wasn't in me to kill."

"I'm glad, but it was still my fault for his death. I was concentrating so hard on protecting you, that I left him wide open for her. I failed you, and now you're a widow."

"Xena, you didn't fail me. I failed him. I shouldn't have married him in the first place."

"Gabrielle, what are you saying?"

"I didn't really love him the way a woman should. We were friends more than anything, and I should have left it that way. If I had said no, he'd still be alive."

"Did you marry him out of pity?" Xena asked.

"Looking back on it, I guess I did. He seemed to need me so badly, that I couldn't bring myself to say no. So I convinced myself to do it. I told myself that I loved him enough to marry him and we'd be happy. But I know now that I would have been miserable within a short time. That's why I grieve for Perdicus so much. I feel guilty for his death."

"Gabrielle, don't. He died a happy man, and that's more than many can say. If you were able to speak to him right now, what would he tell you?"

Gabrielle closed her eyes and thought about him for long moments.

"That he wasn't angry at me. And that he loved me. To move on," she said quietly.

"Uh huh. And what do you think?"

"That I'm an idiot. Xena, I'm sorry," she said simply.

"I know. I think you had enough soul searching for one day. Let's get you back home, so you can get some rest."


Gabrielle layed there, unable to sleep. Her mind was busy chewing over the fact that Xena blamed herself for Perdicus' death. She thought Xena had understood that it wasn't her fault before, but looking back on Xena's past history, she should realized that her friend would still take the full weight of the events on her broad shoulders anyway

The young woman mulled over the events that led to her husband's death once more, but with a different view this time. She tried to see it through her friend's eyes for once, and came to some insightful opinions. The first was that Xena thought of herself a failure in Gabrielle's eyes, and didn't measure up to her expectations. The second was that Xena loved her. She had heard the words, and had rejoiced when said to her, but deep down had never really believed it. Now she did.

Xena had stuck by her through all the pain and suffering, the shrewish behavior, the tears and temper tantrums, and most of all, the fact that she stuck around in this boring little village with no complaints-- when it was obvious to her that Xena could have left and allowed her family to deal with her. Xena didn't abandon her when the chips were down. Gabrielle felt a humbling gratitude for her friend that could never be repaid. She closed her eyes, and felt the tears fall down her face.

"Gabrielle? What's wrong?" Xena said . She had come in quietly to check up on her, only to find her crying. Gabrielle opened her eyes and allowed her friend to read all that was there. Xena knelt by the bed and asked if she wanted to talk. Gabrielle sat up and held out her hand to Xena, who took it without hesitation. The bard pulled her downwards, and had Xena sit next to her.

"I've been thinking about you."

"What about me?" Xena asked.

"How , until this moment, I didn't believe that you loved me," Xena opened her mouth to speak, but Gabrielle shushed her, " I know that you had told me on the island, but I didn't feel it at gut level. I thought maybe it was just something you said to comfort me or something. But now I truly believe it deep inside," Gabrielle laughed mockingly at herself, and continued.

"Me, the bard who uses words to communicate, found that actions are sometimes better. You may have troubles with the words, but if I had paid attention to your actions, I would have seen the light much sooner. Xena, I won't push you much anymore for the words. I've learned to settle for the acts--where you speak much more eloquently."

Xena stared in mute shock at her friend. Where had this all come from? She had braced herself for more discussions about Perdicus, and got this instead. The warrior was flabbergasted.

"Gabrielle, I don't know what to say..."

"Didn't I just tell you that you didn't have to, you idiot", she said playfully and tweaked her nose. Xena could only laugh in embarrassment.

"You like to throw me for a loop, don't you? I thought Perdicus would be what's bothering you, not me !" attempting to sound cheerful.

"Perdicus is gone, and I've accepted that. It's time for me to move on. I think we should leave tomorrow. What do you say?"

Once again, Xena felt as though she had been kicked in the stomach. She hadn't brought up the fact that Gabrielle could be pregnant yet.

"Gabrielle, to about something," she fumbled.

"About what? What's wrong? I've never seen you like this before."

"It's about...Oh Gods!...Gabrielle, I think you may be pregnant !" she spat out.


Ending, Version One

Gabrielle looked at her friend in amazement for several minutes, neither saying a word. Then to Xena's surprise, Gabrielle laughed.

"Xena! Where did this idea come from? I'm not with child! " she said with conviction.

"Gabrielle, you keeping losing your meals, and I haven't been aware of your lunar time since he died! I can't be sure without having a healer or experienced midwife examine you, but all the signs are there!"

"Xena, my lunar time started this morning, that's HOW I know! Why do you think I've been so cranky? Normally, I'm not bothered by it, because I get plenty of exercise, but being house-bound for this week has made me antsy," she exclaimed.

Xena suddenly felt the weight of the world lift off her shoulders. She had been worried at what would happen if Gabrielle was carrying Perdicus' child, but now the relief was tainted by a feeling of sorrow. In a way, she had actually looked forward to seeing Gabrielle settled down and out of danger. Xena even had to admit to herself that she liked the idea of becoming an 'aunt' of sorts to the child. But all that changed. There was no child, and she and Gabrielle had no more excuses for staying here.

"Xena, what would have you done if I had been pregnant?" Gabrielle asked.

"You want an honest answer? I think I'd have been happy for you. You could have settled down and raised your child here where it would have been safer and happier."

"That's not what I asked. What would have YOU done?" she insisted.

She remained silent for quite a while. Mulling over the idea.

"I think I'd have probably settled down right along side of you, though I would have tried to get you to go to Jolese's village to live. The area is isolated and peaceful. There's little chance of raiders passing through."

"But, what about helping people? Of your quest for redemption?" she asked.

"Without you by my side, I would probably cause more harm than good. We're a team, now, and I can't imagine ever finding someone to replace you in my life. So, wherever you go, I'll go," she said softly.

Gabrielle smiled with a mixture of sadness and joy at her words, overwhelmed at the depth of feelings the warrior had. She silently thanked the Gods for bringing them together, and hugged the person she held dearest in her heart close to her.



Version Two

WARNING: This second version involves Gabrielle being pregnant and losing the baby. If this would upset you to read it, please stop here.


Gabrielle looked at her friend in horrified enlightenment. The implications of her words dawning on her.

"Pregnant? But Perdicus and I only were together that one night..." she said weakly.

"That's all it takes, Gabrielle," Xena said dryly. She realized her words sounded harsh, so she quickly changed her tone.

"Gabrielle, listen to me. I'm not sure about it, so we should have you checked by a healer or midwife first. We may be panicking over nothing," she said reasonably.

"But what if you're right--and I am carrying his child. What then?" she asked with a shaken voice.

"Then we'll deal with it then," her stiff voice telling her the discussion was over for now.


The two of them walked out of the midwife's home, pale and shaken. She was going to have a baby. Both of them had their own concerns about the consequences about it.

Gabrielle was convinced Xena would now move on, leaving her alone except for occasional visits. The road was nowhere for a woman to be in her condition, and she couldn't very well travel with the baby. The bard knew she could never leave her baby for another to raise like Xena did, her heart told her. She would have to settle in one place and raise her child alone.

Xena's thoughts raced wildly, what would she do? The very idea of leaving Gabrielle was painful. It wasn't like last time, when she had married Perdicus. This time she would be alone, with elderly parents and a younger sister to help her. Gabrielle had no man to protect her or help her in the support of the child. The only skill Gabrielle had was storytelling, and that wouldn't support her in this small village. What would happen to her? Secondly, how would she feel about leaving her friend behind? The idea of traveling without her was too painful to bear. Gabrielle had become an important part of her life.

They walked silently back to her parents' home, lost in thought. Once there, Gabrielle sat down and told her parents the news. They took it well, and offered to help her out. Gabrielle thanked them and turned to Xena, and found that she had disappeared.


Gabrielle found her in the barn with Argo, softly whispering to the attentive horse. She stopped speaking when she became aware of her friend's entrance.

"I wondered where you had gone," she said without accusation.

"I had to think--to be alone for awhile," she told her friend.

"Have you come to any conclusions?" Gabrielle asked, afraid of her answer.

"Yes. But I don't know how to tell you that I'm..."

"Leaving?" Gabrielle finished for her.

"NO! Where did you get such a lame-brained idea? I wanted to ask if I could stay with you!" she said in a rush.

"Stay. With me? Why, Xena. You have so much to do with your life. People to rescue and warlords to defeat. Why would you want to stay with me?" she held up her hands to stop her. "Wait. This isn't because you feel guilty is it? If it is, then don't. I'll be alright without you. There's no reason for you to stay. Go and follow your path, Xena. You have my blessing."

"And what if I want to stay for my own sake, Gabrielle?"

"Huh? What do you mean by that?" she said in confusion.

"What if I want to stay because *I* need to be with *you*? I don't want to travel alone, Gabrielle. I've had enough loneliness to last me a lifetime. I'm willing to settle down with you, and give up the travel and violence. But I want two things."

"What are they?"

"One--I want to live in Jolese's village. It's a lot more peaceful and isolated from raiders. Two--Please, if the baby is a girl, don't name her after me !" she said with a crooked grin.


The days passed quickly and Gabrielle finally began relaxing as she realized that Xena truly meant it when she said she would settle down with no regrets. They planned on staying with her family for a few weeks before moving on to Aronea. Gabrielle wouldn't be in any shape to travel once she began to show, and Xena didn't want to go visiting while the child was a small infant. It might be years before they could see her family again.

Xena was helping re-board a weak section of the barn's wall when she heard Lila screaming her name in panic. She dropped her tools and rushed outside. The young woman ran up to her, pale and frightened.

"Xena! It's Gabrielle! She's in trouble. We were taking a stroll and she grabbed her stomach and passed out!" she said in a rush. The girls' father came running up to them.

"Lila, you take me to her, and you," she said the father, "go fetch the healer. I'll bring her back as soon as I can."

They rushed to Gabrielle, who was still unconscious on the ground. Xena examined her as carefully as she could, and felt her heart hit the ground with a jolt. Blood stained Gabrielle's dress near the top of her thighs. She would loose the baby if she hadn't already. Xena fought back the tears, and gently lifted her, then took slow and careful strides back to the house.

The healer was waiting for them, and the woman followed them into the bedroom. She then shoved everyone out.

"Xena, did she loose the baby?" Lila asked. Xena could only nod, not trusting her voice. Lila began weeping, and her mother tried to comfort her. All they could do was wait, and hoped Gabrielle would be alright.


The healer had left, and Xena and the family had been ordered to make Gabrielle stay in bed for at least a week. The healer had confirmed that the baby had miscarried. She had reassured them that wasn't the mild walk that had brought it on, but it was the will of the gods.

After the family had seen that she was fine, they left Xena and Gabrielle alone.

"Gabrielle, I'm so sorry."

"So am I. I had gotten used to the idea..."

"So had I. Gabrielle, I don't know what to say, but I'm here for you if you want to talk."

"I know that, Xena. You know, I had an odd thought."

"About what?" Xena said gently.

"That Perdicus could be holding our child in his arms right now, and he's not alone anymore," she managed to say before the tears escaped.

"I'm sure that's true, Gabrielle. I'm sure that's true."


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