Endings or Beginnings ?
Azurenon & Savanna Mac
Xena Warrior Princess and all the characters contained herein are the sole property of MCA/Universal Studios/Renaissance Pictures. No infringement upon these rites is intended. We’ve merely borrowed these characters, as well as, some scenes and lines, for the sole purpose of entertainment and storyline continuity.
Warning: If you are a fan of the 5th season, this story is not for you. (If you didn’t like season 5… read on.) If you haven’t seen the entire 5th season… there be spoilers within, my friend.
This story contains rather graphic details of two consenting, adult females involved in sexually explicit situations with one another. If this is not something you’d like to read about, please do not read our story. I’m sure there are even better ones, more to your liking.
Be it known, that this story, although it strays from the "Between the Episodes" series, it does make slight references to the other 10 stories by Azurenon and Savanna Mac. If you haven’t read some of these you could possibly be a bit lost, as we often make references to things that have happened before.
If you haven't seen the 4th and 5th seasons, I would suggest you do so before reading this.
Thanks go to all our friends, who help us out in their own individual and unique ways. No need to mention each of you by name, you know who you are.
This is for all the subtext fans out there, who like myself, hung on through the 5th season, but DID NOT like what they saw happening in the relationship between X & G. I repeat again: If you are a fan of the 5th season, this story is NOT for you. If, however, you would prefer that the slate be wiped clean and the 5th season tossed out the proverbial window, as if it had never been, then read on, my friend. I can only hope I have spun an enjoyable tale. If not, then please accept my most humble apology. I sincerely wish I could have found a way to separate this particular baby -who seemed to have so very much potential in bringing X & G closer as a family unit- from "the proverbial bathwater", but... sadly, I do not possess that kind of talent.
This story contains around 46 pages, give or take.
"Well... you have your daughter back," Gabrielle said, as she and Xena stood upon a dune overlooking the beach. Below, walking across the sand and playing with a spider crawling across her hand, was the aforementioned daughter, Eve, whom Xena had given birth to some 25 years ago. Mother and daughter, however, looked more like sisters, since they were only 10 or more years apart in actual age. Put into an ice cave by Ares some 25 years before, because he thought them to be dead, both bard and warrior were only a few months older than they had been when Eve was born.
Xena smiled and reached up, putting her hand upon the bard’s shoulder. "No, we have our daughter back," she corrected. The bard smiled with her.
The two friends, lovers and lifelong companions remained this way, merely watching Eve, as the sun began slowly sinking below the western horizon. All was right with the world again.
Or was it?
"Xena, look! What’s... what’s happening?" Gabrielle asked.
The warrior glanced up, noticing a line of dark ominous clouds boiling up rapidly on the northern horizon. She quickly looked around them. The clouds were billowing up from every direction. And they were moving towards them. "I... d-don’t... know," Xena stammered. "The gods are... dead, except for Ares and... Aphrodi..."
"By the gods!" the bard gasped. "What... is... that?" she breathed, her gaze transfixed by an awesome sight. A white, swirling, undulating vortex dropped down from the darkening western sky to just above the ocean’s surface. It, too, was on a direct path towards them.
"Eve! Eve!!" Xena called out. Her daughter did not appear to hear her. "Run, Gabrielle!" She shoved the bard towards safety. "Seek cover! I’ll get Eve!" The warrior turned just in time to see the whirlwind racing straight for her daughter. "No-o-o-o!!!" she screamed to the top of her lungs, as Eve threw her arms open wide, as if to embrace the swirling vortex directly in front of her.
"Xena... Xena!!!" Gabrielle was by the warrior’s side now, trying to pull her in the opposite direction from Eve and the whirlwind that had now seemingly swallowed their daughter.
Xena dropped down to her knees. "No-o-o! No-o-o!! No-oh-oh-huh!!!" she wailed.
"Xena, please!" Gabrielle pleaded near her ear. But her voice sounded far away, as everything began moving in radically slow motion.
The whirlwind was upon them. Xena knew it without looking. She reached out for Gabrielle, who was snatched away, right in front of her very eyes. "Xe-e-e-na-a-a!!!" the bard cried out, while swirling round and round ever so slowly, being drawn further up into the thick white vortex.
"Gab-bri-elle!!!" Xena screamed, her feet being swept out from under her now, as well.
Suddenly, everything began moving rapidly. So swiftly in fact, that Xena’s whole world went blacker than the darkest moonless night. She could hear voices, sounding far away, but could not discern a word they were saying. Memories flashed and swirled through her mind’s eye. Her recent life was spinning by in reverse order. Faces leapt out at her at intervals, as the scenes passed by. When the memory of the time she’d spent in Hell sailed by, the flashbacks began slowing down. She was in heaven now; being carried back down to the rock ledge she had occupied with Gabrielle. The two were waiting there together. Then Gabrielle simply vanished into thin air, as if she’d never been.
"Xena... Come on, Xena..." She heard the bard’s voice, but could not see her.
"Come back to me, Xena. Please come back." Gabrielle sounded so close, it was almost as if she were whispering in her ear. But, she couldn’t be. Xena was alone on the rock ledge. Or was she?
The bright orange and pink tinted clouds overhead parted and an extremely large, disembodied hand descended towards the warrior, palm up. "Come with me," a familiar feminine voice said, as the hand stopped in front of the ledge. "I can’t make you leave this place, Xena. It has to be your choice."
Although familiar, Xena could not place this voice and so she hesitated.
"Come on, Xena, Please. You can do it." Gabrielle’s voice was louder now and yet she sounded farther away. Her voice seemed to be coming from somewhere amongst the clouds. Or is that what the owner of this hand wants me to think? Xena wondered.
"Your friends and family are waiting," the disembodied voice said.
"Doesn’t seem to be working, Gabrielle," said Cyrene’s voice, cracking with emotion.
"It has to work," Gabrielle responded, defiantly. "It just has to!"
"They’re here waiting for you, Xena," the voice announced. "All you have to do is come with me." The large slender feminine fingers wiggled slightly in invitation. "Just step into my hand."
"Xena, please, come back to me." Gabrielle was whispering in her ear again. "You said you’d never leave me. Please... please come back. I miss you... I need you... I love you."
The warrior was moving to the edge now, urged on by her lover’s voice.
"Maybe she doesn’t want to come back." It was Ares voice. Xena took a step back. Was Ares part of this? If he was, she wasn’t sure she wanted to be. He had saved Eve and Gabrielle, but... maybe he’d had second thoughts!
"Quick, Gabrielle, tell her something that only you would know!" the feminine voice said, as the hand wavered, seemingly threatening to disappear like the bard had.
"What?! I don’t...!!! I don’t know what to...!" Gabrielle’s voice sounded far away again and frantic. Xena’s eyes searched across the orange and pink tinted clouds searching for some sign of her lover.
"Hurry, Gabrielle!" the disembodied voice prodded. "I’m losing her!"
"Xena, remember... uh... okay, remember you said you wished you’d read my scrolls... just once," Gabrielle whispered. "And I said... you..."
"Would have liked them," Xena finished along with her.
The hand solidified. "Xena, you have to come back to read them," the bard added.
The warrior stepped into the disembodied hand. It began to move slowly upward.
"Yes, Xena, come on, you can do it!" Gabrielle’s voice urged, cracking near the end of the sentence.
Xena eased down to one knee to maintain her balance. The sky was moving closer and closer, until the warrior emerged beyond the clouds into a deep blue darkness. "Oh-h," she gasped, seeing a thin golden cord attached near her chest and extending out into the vast blue horizon.
"Follow your heart now, Xena," said the disembodied voice. "It will lead you home."
Xena reached out and touched the thin cord. Her heart skipped a beat; bright light flashed before her eyes and she was soon traveling faster than she’d ever dreamed possible. She felt light as a feather, flying through the darkness, seemingly being pulled by the golden cord.
"Uh-oomph!" the warrior grunted, as a great heaviness descended upon her so fast, it nearly took her breath away.
"Xena... Oh, Xena... keep fighting!" Gabrielle urged. Xena could feel a hand gripping hers. "Yes, that’s it, keep fighting. Ooo-hoo-hoo!" the bard cried out, as the warrior squeezed her fingers. "Yes, Xena... oh yes!" A hand lightly touched the warrior’s face. "Open your eyes, Xena. Look at me."
"Ga-Gab-bri-elle," the warrior mumbled, in a voice that sounded weak even to her.
"Ooo-hoo-hoo, I’m right here. Open those big beautiful blue eyes and look at me!!!" the bard cried excitedly.
Xena’s eyelids fluttered open. The first thing she saw was Gabrielle’s hand covering her lips, tears dripping from those watery sea green orbs.
"Oh Xena!" the bard murmured around her fingers and grimaced, obviously trying to fight back her tears, but doing a very poor job, as usual.
Xena squeezed the fingers in her hand and offered a smile for her one and only true love. "To-gether... always... together," she murmured, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Uh-u-u-uh!" A deep male voice cleared his throat.
"Oh, little one, you had us all so worried!" Cyrene said, leaning in from Xena’s right side. There were tears in her eyes, as well.
"Mom?" Xena breathed.
"Yes, dear," her mother answered, squeezing her right forearm gently, her voice quivering with emotion. "It’s so good... to have you back."
"Back?" Xena queried.
"Back with us, where you... belong," the bard answered, her hand reaching up to stroke Xena’s face again. It was then that the warrior noticed the white bandage on Gabrielle’s right hand.
"Gab-brielle... what happened to...? Uh-ung!" Xena groaned, as a sharp pain rippled up her spine, when she tried to raise up.
"No, Xena, no!" the bard whimpered.
"Hold on there," a familiar masculine voice from behind her head spoke up, as a large hand landed on her right shoulder. Xena glanced up. The hand belonged to none other than Hercules.
Another smaller hand landed on her left shoulder. "Yes, you should just lie back and take it easy for a while," said that disembodied voice. "You mortals heal slowly, even with help from the gods."
Xena cut her eyes over towards this voice and could not believe what she saw. "Athena!" she hissed. "But, you’re... dead!"
"Hmph," the blonde goddess grunted, bright green eyes taking on a look of surprise. "Well, I’m used to hearing I can’t believe you’re real, but... that’s a new one even for me." The goddess offered a lopsided smile.
The warrior heard several chuckles from various voices around her. "Gab-brielle, what is going..." She paused, her gaze taking in the faces she hadn’t noticed before.
Standing behind Gabrielle was a life size and very realistic version of a painting in the Amazon’s hidden temple; the one where Xena and Gabrielle had committed themselves to one another. The same place where Gabrielle had asked for Artemis’ blessing on their union. Long, dark, reddish brown hair, a deerskin halter and a quiver of arrows peeking from behind her back, the real life patron goddess of the Amazons was far more striking than depicted in the painting; it did not do her justice. Artemis squeezed the bard’s right shoulder; green eyes beaming; a smile quivering across full red lips. With tears still trickling down her cheeks, Gabrielle reached up to her own shoulder with her bandaged hand and lightly patted the goddess’ fingers, as if they were old friends.
Close to Artemis was Aphrodite, dressed in her usual diaphanous pink ensemble, arms crossed beneath a burgeoning bosom. The goddess of love’s blue eyes twinkled with unshed tears, as Xena’s gaze came to rest upon them. Aphrodite smiled, her nose crinkling up in that cute, adoring way. She raised one hand, offering a small wave, and said, "It’s good to have you back."
"Ditto!" Ares chimed in from beside his half sister. His muscular arms were crossed almost identical to Aphrodite’s. Only difference being, his arms were larger and muscular his chest hairy and not nearly as voluptuous.
"Make that... double ditto!" Joxer stated, putting his hand on Ares’ shoulder. The god of war cocked one jet-black eyebrow. "Oh sorry," the bumbling warrior apologized, quickly withdrawing his hand. "Hi, Xena. Boy, did you ever have a long nap." Joxer chuckled to hide his embarrassment.
"Long... nap?" Xena repeated softly.
"Yeah, like too long for a nap," Amarice said, elbowing Joxer out of her way. "Oh Xena, I have something for you, I’ll go get it."
"Need any help?" Arman, who had been standing beside Joxer asked.
"Uh, no..." the red headed Amazon replied sweetly. "I think... I can handle this on my own. But... thanks for asking."
"Sure, anytime." Arman watched after her, then quickly turned his attention back to Xena, as if he’d suddenly remembered she was there. He grinned from ear to ear. "Good to see your eyes open and... actually focused on us for a change," he commented.
"Open and focused... long nap..." Xena murmured, repeating things she’d been told, trying to put the pieces together. "...heal slowly... Mom... Gabrielle..." The warrior glanced from one woman to the other. "Will someone please tell me what’s going on?!" She tried to rise again, but Hercules and Athena held her down.
"Xena, lie still," Gabrielle responded. "Your spine... it..." She looked up at Athena, sea green eyes seemingly imploring the goddess for the answers. "... it may need more time to heal. But, it will heal.... Right?"
"A few more marks (hours)... a few more suns (days)...." Athena shrugged. "It varies with each individual. But, yes, it will heal... with time and care."
"My spine?" Xena murmured.
"Yes, don’t you remember? Callisto... she... she hit you in the back with your ch-chakram and..." The bard’s lips quivered. The warrior merely stared at her. "The Roman prison...?" Gabrielle tried again, hoping to jog Xena’s memory. "The crosses...?"
"Uh-huh," the warrior finally answered. "But Gabrielle... that was... a long time ago."
The bard stared down at Xena, then glanced back up at Athena. The blonde goddess merely shrugged. "Xena, it’s only been a little over a fortnight (two weeks)," Gabrielle said, her attention back on her friend.
"But.... that can’t be!" Xena’s eyes darted back and forth searching her lover’s. Then she quickly scanned the group of faces around her again, her eyes coming to rest upon Joxer. "What is this... a dream? You’re... dead."
Joxer looked stunned. "I am?" He raised both hands to his chest, as if feeling for some wound. "Uh, no, wait a minute..." He paused, quickly surveying the group around him. "You’re the one who’s been dreamin’, Xena."
The warrior abruptly turned back to Gabrielle, eyes wide and staring now. "Where’s Eve?" she asked. "What happened to her?"
"Eve?" Gabrielle questioned, a frown contorting her features. "Who’s Eve?"
"Our daughter!" Xena blurted out.
"Whoa!" Ares scoffed.
"Boy, oh-boy-oh-boy-oh-boy was she ever dreamin’ huh?" Joxer mumbled, elbowing Ares in the ribs. The god of war grunted and turned his dark eyes on him. "Oops, sorry, but... our daughter. I mean, gimme a break. Hoo-hoo-hee-hee," he chuckled.
Xena cut her eyes over at Joxer briefly then glanced up at the ceiling. "Where is she?" she asked aloud, seemingly of no one in particular.
Gabrielle squeezed Xena’s fingers lightly. "I don’t know any Eve, Xena. I have no idea..."
"That young woman... over there..."Cyrene interrupted, gesturing beyond Gabrielle. "...didn’t she name her baby Eve?"
"Hmph. You know... I believe you’re right. I think she did," the bard murmured. "Is that who you mean, Xena?"
The warrior merely stared at her lover. How could Gabrielle not know Eve? she wondered. She closed her eyes, her confused and fuzzy brain trying to figure out what was a dream and what was reality.
"Xena.... Xe-na!" the bard said, her voice rising an octave with obvious concern. "Don’t go back there, Xena, please!"
The warrior opened her eyes. "I’m still here, Gabrielle. I just... I don’t understand... any of this, I..."
"You probably had some pretty... strange dreams," Hercules interjected. "You were out for a long time, ya know."
Xena rolled her eyes up in his direction. "Your father... you... you didn’t kill him?" she murmured.
"Uh, no... I... uh... I don’t believe I did," he answered softly.
"Whoa," Joxer murmured. "I’d say she was pretty deep in Morpheus’ arms."
"And you, Athena..." Xena glanced over at the goddess. "...I didn’t... kill you?" Athena arched one light brown eyebrow. "No... twilight of the gods?" Athena looked up at Artemis, as she slowly shook her head.
She must’ve heard us talking to one another, Artemis thought.
Ares’eyes opened wide in surprise. Wonder how much she could actually hear of what was going on around her? the god of war mused. Wonder if she heard all those things I said to her? And more importantly, will she remember it? Umph, if I had been sure she could hear me, then I’da come here more often to talk with her. I can’t believe I’ve missed yet another perfect opportunity.
"You mean... Athena, Artemis and Ares, they... weren’t trying to kill Eve?" Xena questioned Gabrielle.
The bard shook her head slowly.
"And the hits just keep coming," Joxer muttered out of the corner of his mouth to Arman. "I’d like to know what that healer was giving her." He whistled quietly. "Some trip, huh? Straight to Mt. Olympus and beyond."
"I heard that young man, and I’ll have you know, I gave her nothing that would cause her any harm," a voice very familiar and distinctive to Xena, spoke up from behind Joxer. The latter stepped aside, as a man with long, wavy white hair, beard and moustache pushed between the bumbling warrior and Arman.
"Zeus!" Xena breathed.
"Me?" the healer quickly glanced around himself. "Oh my, no," he corrected, "but close... Usefolus is the name; Usef for short. And I assure you, Xena, as these two ladies will attest to, I provided you with the best of care." He leaned over Cyrene’s shoulder. "When did she wake up?" he asked, quietly.
"Just a little while ago," Cyrene responded and stepped aside, knowing he’d want to have a look at his patient; for, he was a very conscientious healer. Which was the reason they’d chosen to do this healing while he was taking a short break to grab a bite to eat.
Xena flinched as Usef touched her right arm. "I’m sorry. Are my hands cold?" he asked, as he gently gripped her arm.
The warrior glanced over at Gabrielle. The bard smiled and arched one eyebrow. "Usef’s been taking very good care of you, since we were brought here," she explained, as the healer lifted Xena’s arm, then suddenly let it go. The warrior kept it from falling back on the bed.
"Very good reflexes up top," Usef said. "Has she tried to move her legs yet?"
"She tried to raise up, but..." Gabrielle paused. "I think that caused some pain." She glanced over at Xena.
"Would you mind trying to move your legs, Xena?" he suggested.
The warrior was still captivated by his resemblance to Zeus, king of the gods, in her dreams.
"The right one," he added, pulling back the cover on that side only.
The warrior thought about kicking him, but she found her leg unresponsive to her requests. Her toes wiggled and her leg twitched, but did not rise.
"Is that as much as you can move it?" he asked.
Xena concentrated harder. Her left leg twitched and her right jerked, lifting only slightly at the knee. The warrior was shocked. Her body was not responding in the usual manner. She stared at Gabrielle. The bard had a concerned look on her own face, though she offered a brief smile; one which left her face quickly, however, as she looked up at Athena.
"Be patient," the goddess remarked. "She will regain the use of her legs. It will just take time, as I said before." The blonde goddess paused, lifting one light brown eyebrow. "Despite how the bards like to tell the stories, even a healing by the gods, is not always instantaneous."
"At least there is some movement," Usef commented. "That’s always a good sign. Whether she’ll regain the normal use of her legs is... up to the gods, I suppose," he added, as if Athena had not spoken. Xena realized that for him, she hadn’t. It appeared obvious that he could neither hear nor see any of the gods. And neither could anyone else, but their immediate group.
"She will, trust me," Athena assured Gabrielle, who still bore a concerned look.
Usef pulled the cover back over her legs. "Time is the great healer," he said. "As for your dreams... I wouldn’t concern myself over much with those," he continued, looking into Xena’s eyes. "Patients sometimes report very strange tales in situations like this. Although, I must say, young woman... I’ve rarely encountered a patient who remained unconscious for so long without some type of serious head injury. But, I examined you thoroughly and found no sign of any major trauma to that region. Do you remember hitting your head at some point?"
"I... uh, my memory is... a little fuzzy," Xena answered, sensing that her memories, especially those of Eve were indeed diminishing in clarity, as if they truly had been a dream. "Eve," she mumbled and closed her eyes, not wanting to let go of her daughter just yet. She’d fought too long and hard to keep Eve alive. She could not give up on her so easily!
Usef looked over at Gabrielle. "She has a friend named Eve?" he asked.
"No, I think she’s talking about... that young woman’s daughter over there," the bard replied, gesturing behind her.
He arched one dark eyebrow. "Livia’s child?" he asked, with a smile.
Xena’s eyes flew open. "Livia?" she questioned, repeating Eve’s Roman name. "Where’s Livia?" she asked, reaching out and grabbing his arm.
"Livia?" he called out, then winced slightly, amazed at the strength of the woman’s hand.. "Would you mind coming... over here a moment?" he asked, as he tried to pry Xena’s hand from his arm, while looking at Gabrielle. "Sometimes... patients in this state... they often report hearing what has happened around them," he explained. "Ah, there she is." He breathed a sigh of relief, as Xena finally let go. "And the little miracle child." He smiled broadly, rubbing his left arm slightly. Xena followed his gaze.
Aphrodite and Ares had moved aside and a young woman now stood at the end of Xena’s bed. "Eve!" she cried, recognizing her grown daughter. "Oh Eve...!" Tears welled up in her eyes.
The young woman stared down at her with a questioning look. "I’m Livia," she offered. "This is Eve." She gestured towards a child dressed in a green outfit with a small sleeping bonnet to match. This was the identical outfit Xena had dressed her own Eve in, as a baby.
The infant was being held in a young man’s arms, the owner of these arms being none other than Virgil, Joxer’s son by Meg. At least, that’s who he was to her. Xena swallowed audibly. Had it all truly been just a dream? she wondered.
"Yes, a definite miracle child that one," Usef beamed. "She has indeed been touched by the gods. And so has this woman," he added, placing his hand gently on Cyrene’s arm. "If not for her, I fear we may have lost them both."
Xena stared at her mother, who was blushing slightly. "Breach births are never easy," Cyrene commented, softly.
"Yes, but... I’ve never seen that done before," Usef went on, complimenting Cyrene. "Such precision with a knife... such skill. I fear you missed your calling, my dear woman."
"No, no," Cyrene objected, though she smiled shyly. "I’m no healer, just... a simple innkeeper. But, of course, one does run across a lot of different situations catering to the public."
"Yes, I imagine you do. And we must sit down and have a nice long chat one of these days. I’d like to partake of... your vast knowledge," Usef said, in such a way that Xena wondered if knowledge was what he really wanted to partake. And by the way Cyrene was blushing, she had sensed this as well.
"I will still be around until my daughter recovers," she commented. "And... of course you could always drop by the inn. It’s just... down the road a piece."
"Ah yes, and I just might take you up on that offer." Usef took Cyrene’s hand and raised it to his lips, placing a gentle kiss on the back of it. "For now, however, duty calls. I must see to my other patients. How is the miracle child today?" he asked and started moving towards Eve, Virgil and Livia.
"Eating well," Livia responded. "A very hungry little girl, she is."
"Good, good. That’s always good to hear. And your mother, Virgil, have you any word on her condition?"
"No, no I haven’t," Virgil glanced over at Livia. "We were discussing that just yesterday. I need to go see her and help with the funeral arrangements for my father, but... I don’t want to leave Livia and... she’s not well enough to travel, is she?"
"How far is this village?" Usef asked. Virgil mumbled a reply. "Perhaps in a day or so she might...." His voice trailed off as the three walked back over to the bed Livia had occupied for nearly a week now.
Xena watched the trio, noting that not one of them seemed to see the gods they had been standing right beside. She closed her eyes. Dreams always make sense when you are in them, she thought, and you usually don’t even question what is going on, you just go with the flow. Just like with everything she thought had happened: Eli bringing them back from the dead, becoming pregnant, having a baby, the twilight of the gods... She had never questioned those things. But, she was questioning everything now.
"Xena? Xena?" Gabrielle called.
The warrior squeezed the bard’s fingers. "I’m still here, Gabrielle."
"I don’t believe she’ll be going back there," Athena spoke up. "Will you, Xena?"
The warrior wanted to ask back where? But, she knew what Athena was referring to... the land of dreams; Morpheus’ realm. "No," she answered, with a bit of sadness in her voice. "I... um, I’m not going anywhere." She squeezed Gabrielle’s hand reassuringly and opened her eyes. She glanced around at the assembled group. "I’m home now," she added.
Amarice came rushing in just then, with a rather large bag in her hand. "Xena, I finally found it," the Amazon said, breathlessly, then elbowed her way past Joxer. "Someone had moved it," she added, glaring at him. She produced the sack and held it out towards the warrior.
"Take it out for her, Amarice," the bard suggested, since she was holding one hand and Cyrene the other.
"Oh yeah, sure." The redheaded Amazon opened the bag. "I haven’t been able to find anyone who could fix it, but..." She then produced the chakram, broken into two neat halves.
Xena’s eyes seemed to glaze over. The sight of the chakram threw the warrior for a loop. Her mind flip-flopped as Amarice held it up and connected the two halves. "They fit together smoothly. It was a clean break, but... no one seems to know what it’s made of, so... they don’t know how to fix it."
Ares was centered within the circle of the chakram from Xena’s vantage point, sending her mind zooming back to her dreams. "You know though, don’t you?" she accused.
The god of war looked shocked and confused. He glanced around as if she had to be speaking to someone else. "Me?" he finally questioned.
Xena let go of her mother’s hand and reached up, grabbed the two pieces at the lower juncture. The chakram wavered in her hand, the pieces separated on the top side. "Chakram of light?" she asked. "Where is it, Ares?"
"Chakram of... light, did you say? What’s that? I have no idea what you’re talking about."
"You stole this one and gave it to me, didn’t you? Kal was pretty pissed about that wasn’t he?" she accused. The other gods stared at him.
"Whoa, hey... You really have had some strange dreams. Who’s this Kal? And... where’d you ever get the idea I gave you that chakram? Oh, don’t get me wrong, I wish I could take credit for it, but... it was none of my doing."
"Can I see that?" Hercules asked, as he reached out for it.
Xena quickly jerked it away, then seemed to realize Hercules was no friend of Ares. "Just... don’t let him get his hands on it," she warned, referring to Ares.
The god of war crossed his arms and rolled his eyes. Here we go again, he thought. Obviously she does not remember anything I said to her, because she still hates me. Women... you admit you love them and promise them the whole world and then what do you get in return? Heartache, that’s what; nothing but heartache.
"Where did you get this, Xena?" Hercules asked, admiring the craftsmanship. It was the first time he’d ever been this close to the chakram, other than when she threw it at him, years ago.
"It was in a small Arms shop in Athens," she answered. "Why?"
"Little mom and pop operation?" he asked, referring to the shop.
Xena shrugged. "More like father and daughter, I believe," she answered.
Hercules nodded. "I think I know who made this. She does fine work like this; almost as good as Ephestus.
Xena remembered killing the metal working god, which sent her mind reeling again.
"She?" Gabrielle queried.
"Uh-huh," Hercules answered. "Altalanta. She often comes up with some very unique... ideas, especially concerning weapons. And I would bet my last dinar that she made this." He handed the separate pieces, now laid one over top of the other, back to Xena. "It doesn’t have the feel of the gods about it," he continued. "At least not Ares or... I would surely sense it. I’m sure Atalanta would be happy to fix it for you. I’ve often heard her say how much she admires the Warrior Princess and would like to meet her."
Gabrielle arched one light brown eyebrow and grunted. She’d heard of Atalanta, too. And there was no way she was going to let Xena get anywhere near that buxom, muscular beauty in the near future. The first thing Xena would want to do is challenge her to a sparring match. She didn’t even care to consider what else the warrior might want after that. "Maybe one day. Right now, Xena needs to concentrate on getting back on her feet," she interjected.
"Speaking of which," Cyrene commented, "perhaps we should let her get some rest. I wanna thank all of you for your help and support. So, you are all invited to join me at the inn. Drinks and food are on the house." She then glanced around at the gods. "Gods do eat and drink, don’t they?"
The various gods glanced around at one another. "Not normally," Artemis finally answered. "But, we do appreciate the offer. And I agree we should leave... and let her rest." Everyone else mumbled his or her agreement.
"Thank you all," Gabrielle spoke up, glancing from Athena to Artemis and onto Aphrodite. "And yes... even you, Ares," she went on, her gaze remaining on him a moment longer than the rest. "You came to visit her often," she added, although she did not trust that his motives were pure.
"I’ll be back later, little one," Cyrene said, patting Xena’s hand.
"So will I," Hercules added. "And I better hear that you’ve been lying still or else... I’ll tie you to this bed myself."
"Not to worry, Hercules," Cyrene commented. "She’s in good hands. I know Gabrielle will keep her down, even if she has to sit on her." She smiled slyly.
Almost everyone either smiled or chuckled at this remark, even Xena herself. Ares was the only hold out. "Later, Xena," he said, rather softly, then blinked out in a small flash of silver light.
"Good to have you back," Aphrodite hurriedly offered with a quick wink. "Catch ya later." Then she disappeared, as well.
"That must be nice," Joxer muttered and snapped his fingers. "Ditto on the catch ya later," he added and winked at Xena, then smiled warmly at Gabrielle.
"We’ll all be back," Amarice added.
"Sure will," Arman chimed in.
Cyrene, Hercules, Amarice, Arman and Joxer all left, headed for Cyrene’s inn and the free drinks and food.
Athena walked over to Gabrielle and gently touched her face. "You made a fine warrior in my army," she remarked.
"Athena..." Artemis said in a warning tone of voice. "Gabrielle is a bard and... still Amazon royalty."
"Yes, well..." Athena withdrew her hand. "You fought bravely, Gabrielle. I will never forget that."
"And I’ll never forget what you’ve done here," the bard responded.
"You were willing to sacrifice your life for this, you owe me no gratitude. Just remember, there will always be a place for you in my army, should you ever decide to join us. You are very good with those weapons of yours. But, if you were in my army, I would insist that you learn a more long-range weapon. Hand-to-hand combat is too much of a risk for one such as yourself. In my army you would be well protected." Athena paused and glanced down at the bard’s bandaged right hand. "Are you sure you don’t want me to heal that for you?"
Gabrielle shook her head. "No, it’s been healed once already. And healing Xena.... I can’t ask anymore than that."
"It wouldn’t be any trouble. Take only a few moments..." Athena arched one eyebrow.
"She declined, Athena," Artemis spoke up, placing her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder.
The goddess of wisdom straightened up. "You’re quite special you know," she said to the bard. "And you..." She turned to Xena. "...are very lucky to have her."
Xena felt as if she should say, "Thank you", but the words were hard in coming, after all that had happened in those dreams. "She is... special," she finally said, smiling at Gabrielle.
"Take good care of one another," Athena added, then disappeared in a flash of golden tinged white light.
Gabrielle glanced up at Artemis. "Thank you so very much for all you’ve done."
"I didn’t do anything. You did it all, little one. I’m only sorry I could not talk Athena into healing Xena without you having to risk your life. But, as you know, she still held a bit of a grudge, concerning the battle of Corinth." Artemis glanced over at the warrior princess as she said this.
"It... was her army that came in near the end of the battle?" Xena asked, though she felt she knew the answer and had known for years. Artemis merely nodded. "And what did Gabrielle do to win her favor, hmm?"
The goddess of the hunt glanced down at the bard. "I think I should let her explain that." Artemis paused, then added. "I’m always here if you need me... either of you. All you have to do is call."
"Thank you again, "Gabrielle responded, her voice barely above a whisper. "I hope we won’t need to." She stared at Xena. "But, I will certainly keep it in mind."
"And the other thing we discussed..." Artemis added, moving around in front of Gabrielle now. "...I’ll await your decision. But, please try to be quick about it. My Amazons are quite restless these days. And I can hardly afford to lose anymore of them." She reached out and touched the bard’s face. "And watch out for Ares," she whispered. "You and I both know he will be back." With that she placed a kiss on the bard’s forehead, then vanished in a brilliant flash of golden light.
"What was that all about?" Xena asked, suspiciously.
"Not... now, hmm? You need to rest and..."
"I need to understand what’s going on around here," the warrior countered.
"In time, Xena." Gabrielle squeezed her fingers.
"No, now!" Xena stated emphatically. "Gabrielle. I’ve... I’ve lived... what felt to me like... a whole year of... nightmares, I suppose. You... you just don’t know how much I need to... understand... all this." Her voice cracked on the last few words; her blue eyes misty with moisture.
"Are you sure you’re feeling up to it?" the bard queried.
Xena cleared her throat, willing back the tears before they overflowed from her eyes. "Like Joxer said, I’ve had a very long nap. Too long."
"Well, okay... where should I start?"
"The beginning is usually a good place." One dark eyebrow arched skyward and quivered slightly.
"I think you’re feeling stronger... aren’t’ you?"
"Strong enough to listen to your tale. Now... do the bard thing." The warrior waved her right hand in a circular motion.
Gabrielle couldn’t help but smile. "By the gods, it’s so good to have you back." She nibbled her upper lip to keep from crying.
"It’s good to be back," Xena said, squeezing her true love’s hand. And I sure hope I am, she thought. For, although Xena missed the daughter she thought she’d had, the world she had returned to seemed a far safer and better place than the one she’d left.
Why did I never question what was going on in that world? she mused, while gazing into the bard’s beautiful sea green eyes. I wasn’t doing much of this, either, she suddenly realized. Gabrielle and I were together, but not the way we used to be. There was something missing, but... I just never questioned it until now. Until right this moment, I never even questioned the fact that we haven’t been...
"Don’t look at me like that," Gabrielle said softly, glancing away.
"Why?" the warrior asked, a bit confused as to just how she had been looking at her.
"Because... I can’t do what I want to he-ere," the bard whispered.
"And what is it you wanna do?" Xena inquired, one eyebrow quivering.
Gabrielle huffed. "I wanna kiss you, that’s what!" she hissed.
Now this is more like it, the warrior thought. "Then why don’t you?" she queried. I could sure use one, she wanted to add.
"Too many people." The bard glanced around at the other patients, their visitors and Usef’s helpers.
Xena poked out her lips as if she were pouting. "Well... if you’re not gonna kiss me, then... get on with the story."
Gabrielle smirked. "Okay... lemme see... you remember the... crosses?"
Xena nodded. "And Eli brought us back, right?"
"Well, yeah... with a little help from Joxer and Amarice."
"Where is he by the way? I haven’t seen him."
"He already left with his followers."
"Hmph, well, I’ll just have to thank him when I see him then. So... after he brought us back from the dead, then what happened?"
"Huh?" Gabrielle stared at Xena, as if she’d lost her mind. "We... didn’t die, Xena. Although, I admit I was a bit worried about you when you wouldn’t wake up."
"Wait a minute. Back up," the warrior requested. "You said we didn’t die?"
"No, we didn’t. They all thought we had. Ya see, Amarice came back for us. She saw what they were going to do. Then she went back and told Eli and those people you freed from prison. She talked them into coming back with her and..."
"Gabrielle, wait... those people... against Roman soldiers? They didn’t stand a chance!"
"Well, no..." The bard paused and leaned closer. "They had a lot of help from... somewhere. But... no one seems to know where the warriors came from, they just... showed up."
Xena glanced away. She had an idea why they had just shown up. Ares had many warriors at his disposal and Mt. Amaro was very close to one of his strongholds.
"You think it was Ares?" the bard asked, as if she’d read her mind. "I can see it in your eyes," she qualified.
"If it was, I’m sure we’ll find out sooner rather than later." Xena sighed heavily. "Go on with your story."
"Well, Joxer said that we were very cold and... he just knew we were dead. So, they cut us down and... he, uh... he said he lost his grip on you and... I think you hit your head. Anyway... they carried us to some cave or something. Eli realized that I wasn’t dead. So then he checked you and... you weren’t, either. Eli said he thinks the cold temperature helped to keep us alive longer." The bard shrugged.
"But, you don’t think it was the cold, do you? You think a god intervened?" Xena questioned. "Ares or Artemis?"
"I... don’t know. I feel like... it was Artemis, though... ‘cuz when I woke up... this was lying on my stomach." The bard fingered the necklace at her throat. "Well, at least... what was left of the braided cord. That’s why I shortened it. I saved what I cut off, though." She paused and cleared her throat. "The amber stones... and... the bone bead were gone," she added sadly. "But, uh-um... your mother gave me these beads." She gazed down at the three silver beads, her sad expression slowly changing. "She said they were from a pair of earrings and matching necklace she gave you and you never wore." She looked over at Xena now and smiled. "I think... it was her way of... saying she accepts our relationship."
Xena smiled too, but felt guilty all at the same time. She had been so caught up in everything else, she hadn’t even noticed that the necklace Gabrielle wore was actually the braided belt she had given her lover for her birthday several weeks prior. Nor had she realized until now, that Gabrielle’s new clothes, a reddish-brown braided leather halter-top and short Amazon style loincloth/skirt was actually the same outfit she had given the bard that same day. (Refers to A & SM tale: "Love Slave")
That very outfit was also the one Gabrielle had accidentally left behind at Cyrene’s, in a brand new bag she had purchased before leaving, in order to carry her clothes separate from her scrolls. The latter of which, she had so many of at the time -taking the ones from their India journey, as well as, several others she’d left with Cyrene long ago to the Amazon village for safe keeping. Gabrielle claimed she’d accidentally left the new bag behind because she wasn’t used to carrying it. Xena had wondered if this had been one of those "accidentally on purpose" situations, because she knew the loincloth was far more revealing than the bard preferred. And it seemed now, that this assumption of Xena’s might have been correct. Because the loincloth had been altered, with more material added underneath, turning it into a skirt; the front and back leather flaps had also been cut into strips and decorated with needlework designs. This made it a far more serviceable and presentable everyday outfit.
"Must’ve been ripped or torn off somehow...." Gabrielle was saying, continuing with her explanation about the necklace, when Xena rejoined the conversation. "...during the time they... stripped us of our clothes, I guess. I don’t... really know. I wasn’t thinking much about it... at the time." The bard paused again and nibbled her upper lip. The implication being she was busy thinking about Xena’s spinal injury and their forthcoming executions, not a belt that could be replaced. "All I can say is... none of the others could account for it. Nor how it ended up on my stomach that morning when I woke up in the back of that wagon. And how in this world it stayed up there with all that jostling around... I just don’t know."
Xena sighed heavily, pushing the guilt and bad memories aside to be dealt with later. "And what’s this about... the other thing you discussed with Artemis? She’s awaiting your decision about what?" One dark eyebrow arched skyward.
Gabrielle cleared her throat. "I’ll get to that, just... don’t get me sidetracked. Now, lemme see... well, as I said I woke up in the back of a wagon. They had decided to take us to your mother’s inn, because that’s the only place Joxer could think of where he thought we would be safe from the Romans. No one would turn us in for the reward."
"Umph. So, I still have a price on my head?" the warrior grumbled.
"No, actually, not any longer. Um, because Caesar is... he’s dead."
The warrior’s eyes grew wide. "Who?" she breathed. "Brutus?"
Gabrielle nodded. "Him and several more senators, so I’m told. Caesar died the same day we were... supposed to be executed." (Ides Of March episode)
Xena could hardly believe her ears. Caesar killed by his own people; his own senators no less. What irony, she thought. Which brought another disturbing thought to mind. "And Callisto?" she questioned.
The bard shook her head sadly. "I have no idea. She hasn’t shown up here that I know of. The gods help us if she does, because this time I will see that she pays for what...."
"She’s already dead," Xena interjected, cutting off the bard’s tirade before it had a chance to build momentum. "You can’t kill what isn’t alive."
Both women fell silent and remained so, for several moments. Then Xena said, "Continue with your story."
The bard complied, trying to be brief and yet thorough as she relayed the rest of the story.
Once in Amphipolis Cyrene had insisted Xena and Gabrielle be taken to the hospice they were now sitting in. Xena’s mother had heard great things about the healer, Usefolus and knew they would get much better care here than she could give them, while trying to maintain the inn at the same time. Gabrielle, who was conscious, agreed because she could do very little for herself. Both hands were bandaged, finger bones broken and nerves severed in each one, making her middle fingers pretty much useless. Both of her ankles were swollen, one nail scar which became infected during their journey home, preventing her from being able to walk. All she could do was lie on the cot beside Xena and reminisce. She could not even write her thoughts down, even if she’d had scrolls and ink to write with. And so, she reverted to praying. That’s when Artemis showed up.
The patron goddess of the Amazons was more than willing to help, but she had to get Athena’s blessing first before she could heal either one. The goddess of wisdom gave her consent for Gabrielle’s healing, but would not agree to Xena’s. Athena still held a grudge about Corinth; about how Xena’s army had destroyed hers. "Xena’s on her own," she had said and no amount of talking, reasoning, or even begging from the bard or Artemis would change her mind.
A healed Gabrielle was up and about in a few days, dividing her time between caring for her beloved warrior in the hospice and helping out at Cyrene’s inn, as well as, making a few extra dinars telling stories about "the greatest female warrior the world has ever known".
Artemis and Gabrielle both had given up hope of Athena ever changing her mind, and then the goddess of war and wisdom appeared to the bard with a proposition. It seemed a few Roman legions were being called back to Greece by their new leader, Caesar’s nephew, Octavian, who wanted them to track down his fallen uncle’s murderers. Upon hearing this, Athena was eager to take back land that had once belonged to Greece. Knowing Xena and Gabrielle had fought the Romans before and won -not once, but twice- Athena wanted Gabrielle to help lead her army to victory. The reward for victory being: Athena would not only give her blessing for Xena’s healing, she would handle it personally.
"She said you chose weapons for close hand-to-hand combat," Xena interrupted. "What did you choose?"
The bard hesitated. "You won’t like them."
Xena arched one dark eyebrow. "What did you choose, Gabrielle?"
The bard rose to her feet slowly and then withdrew both sais from her boots. The sight of these weapons did not surprise Xena; for, she’d seen them before, in her dreams. How did this happen? she wondered. How had her dreams paralleled so much of what had to have been going on around her? Overhearing conversations, now that was plausible, but putting the faces to these voices... seeing Gabrielle in the goddess outfit... the belt made into a necklace... the weapons she had chosen... how had she accomplished this?
"I told you, you wouldn’t like them," the bard said, shoving them back into the sheaths in her boots. The same exact place the dream world Gabrielle kept hers.
"No, that’s not... it," Xena countered, knowing she was frowning. "I’ve seen these before, Gabrielle. I... I saw you before... dressed just as you are now, even with the necklace and... no, wait... you had on silver gauntlets...." The bard was now looking at Xena as if she’d surely lost her mind. "I saw it in my dreams," the warrior explained.
Gabrielle’s eyes were wide with astonishment and perhaps a bit of fear. "Xena, I have silver gauntlets. I... I wore them while fighting with... Athena’s army." She eased back down to her knees, as if they had grown too weak to hold her up. She then reached over and took the warrior’s hand in hers. Xena squeezed her fingers lightly. Gabrielle flashed a slight smile. "Maybe you should... tell me more about your dreams. They... they sound... absolutely fascinating."
"Later," Xena responded. "Right now..." She reached out for Gabrielle’s other hand, which was bandaged. "...I wanna know about this. And why you don’t want Athena to heal it. How bad is it?"
"No worse than any others we’ve taken care of ourselves. We can’t go running to the gods with every minor injury, now can we? Besides, I think they’ve done enough for the time being. I’ve got you back, Xena and... that’s all that matters to me." Unshed tears gleamed in her eyes.
"Cum’mere," Xena whispered. "You can at least... kiss me on the cheek, can’t you?"
Gabrielle scooted over closer, her eyes riveted to Xena’s. She then glanced around rather quickly to see if anyone was watching them. No one was. Everyone had his or her own troubles to worry about.
The bard leaned over. Xena expected a peck on the cheek. What she got, however, was a tantalizingly quick, but searing kiss, square upon the lips. "Umm... getting bold in your old age, aren’t you?" the warrior quipped.
"Maybe." Green eyes twinkled. "Or maybe I just... realize how short life really is. And that you have to... seize these moments while you can. Otherwise, they could be... gone for good."
Xena smiled, then pursed her lips. "You’re very good at distraction, but... not good enough. Now, how’d you get your hand hurt and how bad?"
Gabrielle sighed and sat back on her haunches. "Athena is right, these are for very close contact. My hand was cut when a soldier whipped out a hidden knife. It’s not bad at all, I was able to deflect most of the strike with my sais. It still works, see..." She wiggled her fingers. "Didn’t even need stitches." She glanced around them and in a quieter tone added, "Usef insists I keep it wrapped, is all."
Xena grunted. "So, I assume you were victorious then?"
"Yes, um..." She paused and cleared her throat "W-we were. We took back Greek land, we... freed a lot of people from Roman occupation and... Hmph, I guess you could say it... was a good day’s fighting," the bard added, repeating something Xena had said to her a while back when they had fought against the Romans.
Xena pursed her lips and nodded. "So what happened to non-violence and... Eli’s teachings? The way of love that you were following?"
"It... um..." Gabrielle glanced down briefly. "I found out it... it really wasn’t the way for me." She looked up again.
"Are you sure, Gabrielle?" Xena questioned, staring into her eyes. "I know you did this for me... matter-of-fact that’s twice you’ve fought for me or... because of me. And although I’m very grateful for what you did, both times, I...." Xena let go of the bard’s hand and reached out towards her face. She caressed her lover’s cheek gently. "I wouldn’t want you to continue doing something that’s against your nature."
"That’s just it, Xena. It is in my nature to fight against... evil and injustice." She reached up placing her hand on top of Xena’s. "I could no more stand still and watch someone I love be harmed than... you could." She paused and frowned. "Well, no... maybe I’m not so quick to fight, but..." She nibbled her lower lip, her gaze riveted to Xena’s. "...some things are worth fighting for. Someone has to stand up for those... who can’t stand up for themselves."
"Are you sure about this, Gabrielle?" Xena inquired once again. The sea green eyes staring back at her, held a conviction she had never seen before.
"Yes, Xena, I’m sure," the bard said without hesitation. "I believe in love and... I believe in non-violence whenever possible. But... I’ve also learned that... there are times when you have to fight for what’s right... You have to take a stand. If no one stood up against evil, then... it would take over... there’d be no place for good in this world. And people like us... we can’t let that happen. We have to fight... for the greater good."
Xena stared into her lover’s misty eyes. In her dreams, she’d never questioned Gabrielle’s change of heart about fighting. Never even thought to ask. She’d merely accepted it, like she had so many other things. First there was her pregnancy; the baby’s immaculate conception; Alti’s attempt to steal the baby’s soul; the twilight of the gods brought about by her child’s birth. Then there was how she, Gabrielle and Eve had survived the wrath of those gods, any one of whom could have zapped them from the face of this earth in the blink of an eye. She had also left this same child with her mother to go off to Egypt when the gods were hunting Eve to kill her. Ares had then entombed both her and Gabrielle in an ice cave, where they woke up 25 years later. And last, but certainly not least, after Eve was anointed by one of Eli’s followers, Xena was given the power to kill the gods and subsequently defeated all of them, except Ares and Aphrodite.
Looking back now, Xena could see that she’d accepted far too many things at face value. She’d merely been along for the ride; a wild ride at that. And with this realization, the dreams or rather nightmares, she felt she had actually lived out, began to fade like early morning fog burning off a warm summer’s day. The only bright patch not so easily dissipated, was her love for the child, Eve.
The warrior lifted her head, searching for the young woman who called herself Livia.
"What is it?" Gabrielle asked. "Wait, don’t..."
"Help me up, Gabrielle. I need to see Eve and... Livia. I need to see that... this was all just a dream."
"Wait, hang on, let me get..." The bard was on her feet, her bandaged hand slipping beneath Xena’s upraised head.
"Get behind me," the warrior suggested. "So you can hold me up."
The bard complied with her lover’s request; for, it seemed Xena was bound and determined to sit up. The warrior groaned only once, as the bard lifted her torso. "Xena, I..."
"Go on, Gabrielle. It doesn’t hurt as much now. Not as long as you do the lifting and hold me up."
In a few moments, Xena was sitting up, propped against the front of Gabrielle’s body, the bard’s arms around her waist. The warrior found Livia and Eve and could now hear the young mother softly singing, as she breast-fed her child.
"Lay your head down on my shoulder and sigh... Sun’s gone away and Mama will pray..."
"You dreamed about her?" Gabrielle asked, to which the warrior nodded. "But, how’d you know about her and the...?"
"How did I know any of the things I did?" Xena mused. "I knew Athena. I knew the healer’s face, although he was Zeus in my dreams. I even sang that... song to Eve... as a child," she added, her voice cracking near the end. "The Eve of my dreams, she was... both of those people... mother and child. The faces... they are exactly the same... the baby’s clothes... and Livia’s husband... he was Joxer’s son... by Meg."
"Hmph," Gabrielle grunted. "Yeah, well, maybe I can see the resemblance. Although he had to take back after his mother." The warrior hummed agreement. "But, Xena, wait... if Eve was your child then who... was the father? Hmph, no, lemme guess... Ares, right?"
"No? Hmm... Hercules then?"
"Of course not!" Xena turned her head and glanced back at Gabrielle, then smiled. "It’s not anyone you’d think of in a million years."
"Not me?" the bard queried, although sounding excited by the prospect.
"How I wished," Xena commented. "No, Gabrielle, believe it or not... it was Callisto."
"Callisto!" Gabrielle cried. "Xena!!!" She paused and lowered her voice to a hiss. "How in Tartarus did... wait a minute, were we even... together in these dreams?"
"Of course, we were... together, it was... Oh, it’s too complicated to go into right now, love. But, I promise... I’ll explain it all later."
Gabrielle grunted. "Better wait until I can write again, because this sounds like a real doozy. One I just might wanna write down."
"Oh it was," Xena assured. "It most certainly was."
The two sat in silence for a few moments listening to Livia sing to her child. Xena hummed along with her. "Hush now my little one, please don’t you cry... lay your head down, on my shoulder and sigh. Sun’s gone away and Mama will pray... (silence we’ll keep) all the while you’re asleep."
"You’d like to have a child, wouldn’t you?" Gabrielle queried.
"I... I suppose so," Xena admitted. "Though, I... I wasn’t able to do much better by Eve than Solan. I was bound and determined to keep her with me, even though the gods wanted to kill her, but..."
"The gods wanted to kill your child?"
Xena grunted. "They were afraid she’d bring about the Twilight of the Gods." The warrior shook her head. Now that she thought about it, she’d never heard anything about the "twilight of the gods" before.
Gabrielle had heard the phrase though. Artemis and Athena had been discussing some ancient prophecy Athena had happened upon through talking with the Fates. It concerned a child born in a distant land, who would bring about "The twilight". Zeus and Athena were worried this child would be of Roman descent and that they needed to wipe out all the Roman villages along their borders. Artemis, however, had later calmed Athena down, by sighting how vague the Fates’ prophecies usually were. For, the Fates had told Artemis that she would lose what she held dear, when she bestowed immortality upon Iphegenia. Ares had then tried to kill the golden hind, not long afterwards, but Hercules had saved her. And although the hind was now lost to Artemis -not trusting any of the gods or humans- the goddess of the hunt could not see how the two had been related. They were two separate incidents that happened to come about around the same time.
Gabrielle wondered if Xena had heard these conversations, as well as, the healer discussing the fate of Eve. The breach birth had been tough on Livia and Usef had suggested that the child’s life might have to be sacrificed in order to save the mother’s. Of course, that was before Cyrene heard about it and insisted that she be given a chance to save both child and mother, by doing exactly what Xena did to Ephiny. Gabrielle now thought she knew where Xena learned or, at the every least, inherited her gift for healing. And the bard had to agree with Usef, Cyrene had missed her calling; for, Xena’s grandmother had been a healer, or so Cyrene had admitted. But the latter had chosen not to follow that calling, saying she was "too tenderhearted" to watch those she could not help, suffer and die.
Feeling Xena should know about these conversations and goings on, Gabrielle imparted this knowledge.
"Gabrielle?" Xena said after a short silence.
"Were...?" The warrior paused and started again. "Arman said something about my eyes being open and... focused finally... what did he mean? Were my eyes ever open, while I was... unconscious?"
"Um-hm, sometimes," the bard answered, moving her head from its comfortable position against the side of Xena’s neck. "But you just... stared. You didn’t seem to recognize movement or... any of us. I often closed them for you, because... I couldn’t stand... not seeing you... in there." The bard’s voice cracked and she placed a soft kiss on the warrior’s shoulder.
"Well, maybe I did see some things then. I mean... that would explain all the familiar faces around here, right?"
"Yeah... I suppose it could," the bard agreed.
"Take those young girls over there for instance." Xena gestured towards two young women taking care of patients. One was very attentive and the other merely stood back as if she were either shy or didn’t want to be there.
"The twins?" Gabrielle queried.
"Uh-huh. They look like they may be from the land of Chin or thereabouts and... in my dreams, they were... Lao Ma’s twin daughters. One was good, the other bad. They were searching for Lao Ma’s book of knowledge."
Gabrielle was flabbergasted for a moment. Then finally she said, "Xena, I think you picked up on a lotta things going on around you and... put them in your dreams... only in a different context. ‘Cuz those two were looking for a book at one time. K’ao Hsin, the talkative one, she had misplaced this book about their ancestors or something. It was apparently found with them on the temple steps, where they were abandoned at birth. Anyway, Pao Su was pretty upset about the loss."
"Did they find it?"
"Oh yeah, turns out Pao Su was the one that misplaced it. So... the hawk and the dove are one again."
"What did you say?"
"What they said when they made up: the hawk and the dove are one again. Sounds like they have a very close relationship. It’s like that with twins though, isn’t it?"
"I wouldn’t know much about that." Hawk and the dove, Xena thought. So that’s where I got that from. "Um, I think I’d like to... lay back down now," she added, "I do feel a bit tired."
Gabrielle complied with this request, though she regretted the loss of contact with her beloved warrior. "Well, I guess I should leave you to rest," she said, once her lover was settled back.
"No!" Xena grabbed her hand. "Don’t... don’t leave just yet." Blue eyes stared into green. "There’s... one more thing you haven’t told me."
"And what’s that?" Gabrielle asked with a smile, thinking she had yet to say she loved Xena.
"What’s this... thing you discussed with Artemis?" the warrior queried. "What decision do you need to make?"
Gabrielle’s smile quickly faded. She cleared her throat. "Well, it’s not such a bad thing. I mean, it’s not anything we... wouldn’t want to do. Um, actually, I do want to do it, but... the final decision has to be yours and... that can wait until you’re back to normal."
"Gab-brielle... what is it? Tell me," Xena prodded. The bard hesitated, scratching her face. "I won’t be able to rest good unless you do," the warrior added, knowing this should get the desired results.
"She... uh, well, she wants to get her Amazons out of Greece and... she needs someone to sail the ship."
"Ship? To where?"
"I’m not really sure. It’s an island she’s picked out for them."
"And why can’t she just... zap them there?"
"I’m not really clear on that, either. She said there was a rule even the gods must adhere to... Ananke, or something like that. It has something to do with... whether interference is necessary or not. I don’t understand it all. I only know she helped me and... I’d like to help her. And the Amazons, of course." She paused as she noticed Xena had closed her eyes. "I could find and hire a captain and crew myself, but... Artemis isn’t too thrilled with dealing with males. At least, not when it comes to entrusting the fate of her Amazons to one. And as you know, there aren’t that many women who can sail a ship."
"Least of all Amazons," Xena commented. One blue eye opened. "When I’m back to normal..." She paused and the other blue orb appeared. "... then I suppose we’re going sailing, hmm?"
"Xena, are you sure you’d want to...?"
"Tell Artemis to come see me later. We’ll discuss it then. And by the way, speaking of gods, how in the world did you get all of them here? They rarely make personal appearances, unless they want something."
"I didn’t ask them, they... well, Ares and Aphrodite... just showed up."
"And Hercules and Arman? Did they just show up, too?"
"Arman was passing through. He’s been around for a while. I think he’s fallen for Amarice, by the way. And Hercules... he heard what had happened and came to see if he could help out in any way." The bard smiled. "Xena, you will not believe the offerings in Athena’s temple for you. I told the story of what happened and how Athena would not give her blessing and well... you just have to see how this town supported you with their prayers and their offerings.
"And some of the villages you’ve helped, they... they sent money and food, desiring to help you." Gabrielle nibbled her lower lip, tears threatening. "You do... a lot of good, Xena. And all of this... has only served to deepen my conviction that... I have been on the right path since the day I met you. I just... I couldn’t see it clearly, is all. Like these people in your hometown, when you first came back after you’d changed, I... I was letting your past overshadow the present. I didn’t realize that without your past, you could not do all the things you’re capable of now.
"I know we can’t change your past, but... we can and have accomplished a lot of good together. And there’s... there’s so much more that needs to be done." She paused once again, very briefly. "My path... my way... my destiny... all of it is intertwined with yours, Xena. Together... always." Tears streamed over Gabrielle’s cheeks now.
"Cum’mere," Xena urged, tears stinging her own eyes, as she wrapped her arms around her lover. "Not even in death, Gabrielle," she whispered. Then unexpectedly she added, "I love you, Gabrielle," and planted a long, lingering kiss upon her lover’s lips; complete with gentle probings of her tongue.
"Oh Xena," Gabrielle breathed, breaking away momentarily. "I love you, too. So... very much. So very, very much!" She then covered Xena’s lips with her own, not caring or even thinking about whether anyone might see or what they might say.
Neither woman noticed the male warrior who came bounding into the hospice, only to stop short so quickly he nearly lost his footing. Joxer was stumbling backwards rapidly, though he felt as though everything was moving in slow motion, his whole world collapsing around him. He reached out for some purchase and found it in the large muscular arm of Hercules. He glanced up at the renowned hero. "What are you...?"
"Cyrene sent me." Hercules put his arm around the younger man. "She... thought you might... run up on something like this. Hmph, come on, let’s you and me... go for a nice long walk, shall we?" He turned Joxer around.
"You... knew?" the bumbling warrior queried and tried to glance back over his shoulder.
"Um-hm." Hercules pulled him closer to keep him from looking back. "And so do you... you just haven’t accepted it yet. Think maybe it’s time... that changed?"
"But... I love her..." Joxer whispered, his bottom lip trembling.
"I know," Hercules soothed. "But sometimes the ones we love... they don’t always love us back. At least... not in the same way." He paused for a moment. "Did I ever tell you that I was once in love with Xena?"
"Xena? You? No, I never... What happened?"
"Well, I’ll tell you..." Hercules’ voice trailed off as they exited the hospice.
* * * *
"Umph, you are definitely feeling stronger, aren’t you?" the bard queried, as she finally raised up.
"I feel like I’ll be doing flips by morning," Xena quipped.
"Oh no you won’t," Gabrielle countered. "Maybe sitting up, but... you’re gonna take it easy. I didn’t go through all that so you could jump up and get hurt all over again. No, you’re gonna take it nice and slow and then... we’re going on a long voyage. Nothin’ but sun, sky, wind and sea to battle."
"Doesn’t sound like much of a battle to me, unless we run into a Tsunami."
Gabrielle groaned at the memory. "Well, listen if it’s a fight you need then..." She leaned over near her lover’s ear. "...then you’ll have your hands full fending me off," she whispered.
"Yeah, really. A ship full of Amazons we don’t have to hide anything from.... Oh yeah, you better believe it. Might even be better than the first ship board mating, hmm?"
Once again, the warrior could not help but wonder why she had not questioned the lack of eye contact, touching, teasing and sexual activity between them in her dreams. Was it possible she’d had little feeling in that area before the healing and that this had caused her dreams to be so bland? For, she most certainly had feeling there now.
"Okay, I’ll let you rest," Gabrielle suggested.
"No, stay... until I fall asleep, okay? I’d... rather not miss a moment with you."
It suddenly hit Xena that all the feelings she had for Eve and Gabrielle in her dreams were now coming together into one central emotion directed solely towards her lover. Had she possibly divided her feelings in her dreams because of her physical condition? The lower part of her anatomy not working, the upper still able to function if she’d been awake, had this caused her to separate her feelings of love and protection, transferring them to an imaginary child, in order to avoid intimacy with a lover?
"Dinar for your thoughts," Gabrielle offered.
Xena closed her eyes. "You’d be wasting your money. Better save it to pay for feed and board on Argo and that horse of yours."
"Xena! How’d...?" Gabrielle paused, as the warrior opened her eyes and looked over at her. "Oh... heard me talking, huh?"
Xena shrugged. "Have you named him yet?"
"Uh-uh." The bard shook her head and glanced away.
"Has his leg healed?" Xena closed her eyes.
"Seems to be, but... I haven’t ridden him yet."
Xena smiled remembering her dream and how after Gabrielle mounted her horse she’d said, "Race you to Greece."
"What are you smiling about?" the bard queried softly, wanting to share in whatever her love was thinking.
"When we get back from our trip, we just might have a baby after all."
"Xena! What are you...?"
"Argo and... what’s-his-name..." One blue eye popped open, a smile forming at the corners of the warrior’s mouth, as the other eye came open. "...they’d make a pretty baby, don’chu think?" Gabrielle smiled now as well. "My mother’s a wonderful matchmaker, I’m surprised she hasn’t suggested this already."
"She has," Gabrielle admitted. "I just didn’t know how you’d feel about Argo being..."
"Knocked up?" Xena supplied.
The warrior grinned. "Well, Argo’ll have the final say on the matter, so... we’ll just have to wait and see what happens."
"Umph," the bard grunted. "Yeah, just have to wait and see," she mumbled, thinking of Xena and her condition and not their horses. She could only hope and wait patiently to see if the warrior would indeed fully recover as Athena promised. Xena closed her eyes again. "Get some rest now." She stroked the index finger of her bandaged hand across her lover’s forehead. "I’ll bring you something to eat when I come back later."
"And bring me some clothes, too," the warrior suggested. "This gown is... drafty."
"Gotcha covered," Gabrielle quipped, thinking of the new outfit she’d had made for Xena’s birthday, but had been unable to give her, because the warrior was still unconscious two days ago.
The Amazon seamstress had passed this outfit along to Menya, who had brought it with her when she came to visit Xena several days prior. The gift was now hanging in the room Gabrielle currently occupied at the inn, waiting for Xena to awaken. The bard couldn’t wait to see the warrior’s eyes light up at the new brown leather outfit and brand-spanking-new breastplate she’d recently had made to replace the old one the Romans had taken off her. The only thing she couldn’t give her lover just yet, was the other surprise she’d had made. That one, however, she’d have to get personally from the Amazons. They could then take this on their voyage.
Gabrielle sighed with relief. Finally, things would soon be getting back to normal. Well, at least semi-normal, she thought, thinking of the next high seas adventure. She hoped it would be a smooth, uneventful trip, but she knew better than to put much faith in that. Life with Xena was anything but uneventful; the warrior seemed to prefer it that way. The proof of that was in the dreams she’d reported so far. Dying, being brought back to life, having a baby by Callisto and killing gods, she mused, shaking her head. Gabrielle was sure glad none of that had been real. And yet, it sure sounded like a fantastic tale that should be recorded.
When Gabrielle thought the warrior was asleep, she got to her feet slowly.
"I like your new outfit by the way," Xena muttered. "Good thing you happened to leave it behind last time we were here." One blue eye sprang open once again. "One of your premonitions or... an honest mistake?"
"Honest mistake, I assure you," Gabrielle replied. "Believe me, if I had known what truly lay ahead for us, I...." She paused and frowned. "We... couldn’t have avoided it... could we?"
Both blue orbs were visible now as Xena shrugged. "Could be a reason for it all, I suppose. We’ll just... have to wait and see."
Gabrielle grunted. She noticed her lover’s gaze on her loincloth/skirt. "Um, your mother, altered this for me. Whaddaya think?"
The bard did a slow turn. "Well?"
"For everyday use... you needed a skirt, I suppose." The warrior smirked.
"Oh, it’s more than a skirt, look..." Gabrielle lifted up the leather strips exposing the crotch of the garment underneath. "They’re like a pair of short pants. Very comfortable."
"Hmph," Xena grunted, wishing she could admire more than the material or the undergarment itself. "I bet they are at that." She smiled slyly. "When I’m back on feet, I guess I’ll just have to see about getting something else made for the... sexy little goddess, hmm?"
Gabrielle beamed. "And I’ll sure be glad when you are... back up on these." She reached over and grabbed Xena’s toes through the coverlet. The warrior’s left leg jerked, then raised up, bending at the knee. "Xe-na, you..."
"Can’t keep a good woman down... for very long." The warrior’s smirk grew larger, as she arched her eyebrows suggestively. "Unless she wants to be."
"Um, I like the sound of that," Gabrielle admitted, moving back towards Xena’s head. "Just take it easy. There’s no big rush." She then leaned over, placing a hand on each side of the warrior’s face. "’Cuz I want you back to one hundred percent."
Xena’s eyes fell from the bard’s lip to her cleavage, the halter-top exposing this to her view. "Oh, I’m getting there," the warrior assured, her gaze now rising to meet her lover’s "Definitely getting there." She reached up and put her arms around the bard, just as Gabrielle was about to peck her on the cheek. Xena turned this peck into a full-blown kiss.
"You’re incorrigible," the bard said, breaking away, though not raising up.
"But, you love it."
Gabrielle glanced around them, before her gaze returned to Xena’s. "You better believe it," she said and placed another quick kiss on the warrior’s lips. "Now get some rest. I’m sure I’ll be back before you wake up." She straightened up.
"You better be," Xena said with a smirk. "Or... I’ll get up from here and hunt you down."
"You better not. There’ll be plenty of time for that hunting stuff later. Now, I’m getting outta here or else you’ll never get any rest. Go to sleep. I’ll see you soon." And with that, Gabrielle finally strode away.
Xena watched the swaying hips. The fabric her mother had added tightly covered this part of the bard’s anatomy, accentuating it. The warrior inhaled deeply, the clean, sweet aroma of her true love lingering in the air around her. I can smell you, she thought, her mind briefly flashing back to her dream about being in a place called Hell. She couldn’t help but wonder if she had indeed caught a whiff of Gabrielle’s unique scent during the time when she was dreaming this. She realized she may never know the answer to that. Nor why her dreams had taken on such vivid proportions or what exactly she heard or saw going on around her. Yet, it was obvious from the familiar faces, that her dreams had been populated with a cast of characters from this very hospice.
* * * *
All who said they would return -mortals, no gods- did indeed come back later that afternoon. And they came bearing food, drink, a cake and gifts, in order to celebrate Xena’s birthday, which had come and gone two days before. It was a small celebration and had to be kept low-key, but to Xena, it was about the best birthday party ever. For, she was also celebrating her return to the real world she thought was changed forever. And Gabrielle was the one who had provided that gift in the form of the healing, as well as, the new leathers and breastplate which were so very much like her old ones it was uncanny. So grateful was she that, even though Gabrielle was behind her most of the time, propping her up, Xena could hardly keep her eyes off her true love throughout the whole proceeding. And she never even noticed Joxer doing the same, although he was not near as jovial as usual, despite the fact that Hercules kept trying to cheer him up.
Before nightfall everyone, with the exception of Gabrielle, had dispersed back to the inn. Hercules would be heading out in the morning, his gift to Xena being to take the chakram to Atalanta and drop it off for repairs. Xena or someone else would then pick it up when Atalanta sent word it was ready.
"Do you want to change into these?" Gabrielle inquired, referring to Xena’s leather outfit. "Or would you prefer this for now?" From beneath the bed, where she had hidden it during the initial commotion, the bard produced Xena’s dark blue India ensemble.
The warrior’s eyes grew wide. She’d forgotten all about this outfit. "Gabrielle, where in the world...?"
"It was in the new bag with this," the bard responded, referring to her brown leather outfit. "I forgot I put it in there. But, I kinda thought with the long tunic and pants..."
"It’s perfect," Xena beamed. "Now help me get this off." The warrior was pushing back the cover, raising up and reaching for the end of the gown.
"Xena, you... you sat up and... you never even grunted!" Gabrielle stammered.
"Hmph, so I did." The warrior smiled broadly, then snatched the gown over her head. "Gimme that tunic," she requested, holding the gown over her chest. "And let’s get these pants on. I plan to be outta her by tomorrow afternoon at the latest."
"But Xena that could be too soo..." Gabrielle paused, as the warrior’s two beautiful blue eyes narrowed. "Okay, okay... if you’re able to walk by then we’ll..."
"Outta here tomorrow," Xena said emphatically. "I want privacy, Gabrielle. Now hand me that tunic," she added, "It’s chilly in here."
The bard complied with the request and watched as her lover removed the gown from her chest. "Yep, pretty chilly, I’d say."
Xena glanced up to see Gabrielle wet her lips. "Keep that up and I’m gonna be outta here before morning," the warrior quipped.
* * * *
When Gabrielle walked into the hospice the next morning, Xena was sitting up on her own, talking with Livia, who was holding a sleeping Eve in her arms. The two were discussing Virgil’s parents and the accident that had taken his father’s life. Mother and father had been rushing to Amphipolis to help with the birth of their grandchild and Livia felt responsible for her father-in-law’s death. After talking with the young woman and finding out Livia was nothing like the daughter she had dreamed about, Xena let that dream world go once and for all. There was no longer anything to hold onto back there. Her life was here. And she was glad of it. For the world she had returned to was a far better place than the one she felt she had lived out in Morpheus’ arms.
Continue to Part 2
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