"A Long Kiss in the Warm Summer Rain"
by Alan Plessinger
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and backstories used in "A Long Kiss in the Warm Summer Rain" are the sole property of MCA/Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.
Thanks to Sharona for giving me the idea, and other much needed help.
Note: The song sung by Gabrielle is one I remember from my childhood, but as to where I heard it originally, I haven't a clue.
Gabrielle held her husband's hand and made little designs on it with one finger, in a flirtatious way. She smiled at him.
"So," she said, "Perdicus, I guess this world is sort of a come-down compared to the Elysian fields, isn't it?"
"Absolutely not. The main entertainment in the fields was watching the portal and seeing what the living were up to."
"Sure. In the fields there's nothing to struggle for, nothing to fight for. It's peaceful, it's tranquil, but it's not life. The Elysian fields are for resting, and reminiscing. That's why it's so hard to die young. You can't reminisce if you know no one there. And it's hard to rest when you've done so little."
Gabrielle looked down. There was pain in her eyes.
"So, did you see me in the portal?" she asked.
"Not much. I did at first, but after a time it became too painful to watch. I never stopped loving you, Gabrielle. I guess you know that."
Gabrielle looked at her husband. She didn't know what to say. Then she saw Xena returning.
"I need to talk to Xena," she said. "I'll be right back."
"I'm not going anywhere," he said, and smiled.
Gabrielle walked up the hill to meet Xena. By the expression on her face, the news was not good.
"What does Hades say?" asked Gabrielle.
"He's definitely the real Perdicus. He was a soldier once, so his life belongs to Ares to do with as he will."
"And Ares says I have to stay with him, or he goes back to the Elysian fields?"
Xena nodded. She looked terribly frightened and full of pain.
"I can't stand this," said Xena. "You're going to stay with him, aren't you?"
"He's my husband."
"He's your husband? That's it? Nothing else matters because he's your husband? Gabrielle, you're doing just what Ares wants you to do. This is divide and conquer, just like Caesar."
"Xena, I owe him this. I have to do this."
"How many times did you tell me what a terrible mistake it was to marry him?"
"I also said I could never make it up to him. Now I can."
"You don't love him!"
"I could learn to love him. And Xena, I I want children. I can't wait forever."
"Gabrielle, I couldn't say this before but I will say it now. If you do this to me you are going to tear my heart right out of my chest."
"No, Gabrielle, I don't even want to hear it. If you're going to go to him, just go, because I can't keep doing this. I wish you'd never followed me to Amphipolis. Damn you! Why do you have to be so perfect and adorable and wonderful if you're just going to keep leaving me all the time?"
Xena turned and left, striding angrily down the hill. Gabrielle watched her go, expecting some sort of a goodbye look, but Xena got on Argo and rode away without a backward glance.
Gabrielle walked back down the hill to Perdicus.
Maybe it was a mistake. But Gabrielle was starting to feel like Helen of Troy. She just couldn't stand to have another man die because of her.
Perdicus was working in the front yard of their farm when he heard the tap, tap, tap of a blind man's cane. The blind man made his way into the yard, and Perdicus made an effort to work loudly so the man would know he was there.
Perdicus put down his tools and said, "Yes?"
"I'm looking for Gabrielle. I've been told she lives here."
"She's working in the fields. I'll get her. There's a seat right over here," he said, leading the man.
"Who should I say wants her?"
"My name is Homer."
"Won't be a minute," said Perdicus. He headed toward the fields, but then came back and said, "Excuse me, but, you aren't THE Homer, are you?"
"If she is THE Gabrielle then I guess I'm THE Homer."
Perdicus went to get his wife. When he returned with her, she excitedly grabbed the outstretched hands of the blind bard."
The two bards hugged, and Perdicus left to give them some privacy.
"So what are you doing here?"
"I though I'd see how you were doing in your new life."
"Homer, I'm so sorry to hear about you losing your sight. They used to call you the blind bard "
"Because I kept my eyes closed while storytelling, I know. The irony is not lost on me. Be very careful what you pretend to be, Gabrielle, because you might become what you pretend to be."
"I can't believe I'm sitting here with the famous Homer, the man who told stories to sold-out crowds at the Roman Coliseum."
"I might never have been a bard if not for you, Gabrielle."
"No. Destiny would've placed you where you belonged, eventually, with me or without me."
"Are you still storytelling?"
"Every Friday night at the tavern in town, but I'll have to give it up one day soon."
"Running out of stories?"
"I'm afraid so. A bard has to be a travelling bard, unless she has forty years worth of stories in her head. I don't have to tell you that."
"That reminds me. I tell a story of you and Xena sometimes. It's a story that you never tell. It's one of those tales that doesn't make Xena look very good. I was wondering if I could tell it for you now? Perhaps you could help me with some of the details."
"A private audience with Homer! Wait, let me get Perdicus."
Gabrielle went and got her husband, and the blind bard began his tale, a tale of Xena against the Horde. The story was mesmerizing, wonderful. Gabrielle couldn't believe that this was the same scared kid she had to talk out of quitting auditions for the Athens Academy. When it was over Homer sat down and Gabrielle and Perdicus applauded.
"Do you have any corrections, suggestions?"
"I would never presume," said Gabrielle. "Except, there is one thing."
"Why does everyone insist on calling me a blonde? I'm a red-head. Red-head!"
"I believe I called you a strawberry-blonde."
"Homer, I don't come in different flavors."
Homer laughed. "OK. Anything else?"
"It's a little inaccurate in some places, but fixing it might make it less entertaining. Sometimes to be true to the facts just screws up a really good story."
"I understand. I envy you so much, Gabrielle. You got to live the stories you tell. You were there, to drink in every detail."
There was an awkward pause. Perdicus said, "I don't know if you've been told, sir, but my wife and I are expecting a baby."
"Are you? Would you mind if I "
"No, no, go right ahead, but there's not much to feel. I'm still less than a month along."
She guided his hand to her midsection.
"I see you no longer show off that particular part of your body."
Gabrielle laughed. "No one is going to want to see a pregnant woman in that outfit, believe me. It was a little impractical to dress that way on the farm."
The three of them chatted for about an hour, Perdicus mostly afraid to say anything in front of the famous man, and Homer finally got up to say goodbye.
"Have you heard anything about Xena?" asked Gabrielle.
"Oh, she's fine. She's amassing quite an army."
"An army?" she said.
"Yes. I don't know what it's for, exactly. They're billeted in Thessaly, I've heard."
When Homer left, Gabrielle looked at Perdicus.
"This is not good news," she said.
"It's only four hours away," he said. "I'll hitch up the wagon. I hope you don't mind if I come with you."
"Thank you, Perdicus."
Gabrielle and Perdicus arrived at Xena's campsite to find tents, campfires, horses, weaponry, and an army of at least twenty men.
"Perdicus," she said, "talk to some of the soldiers. Find out what this is about, one soldier to another."
"Sure," he said.
She heard Xena's voice coming from one of the tents, and headed toward it. A few soldiers were leaving the tent as Gabrielle entered.
"Gabrielle!" said Xena. She greeted Gabrielle warmly but a little too casually, as though she was going out of her way to make sure Gabrielle knew things were just fine without her.
"What is this about, Xena? What is this army for?"
"Don't jump to conclusions, Gabrielle. Having an army doesn't make me a warlord."
"Why do you need an army?"
"To protect villagers. Take on warlords. Perform rescues."
"You never needed an army for that, before."
"And there were warlords I could never have dreamt of taking on. I can accomplish so much with these men, Gabrielle. This army will be a powerful force for good."
Gabrielle said nothing, just looked at Xena, trying to read her.
"What do you want me to say, Gabrielle? If you've come here asking me to disband my army, the answer is no. You're just going to have to trust me. You have no choice."
"How am I supposed to believe you, with everything I know about your past?"
"Well, I guess that's kind of your problem, isn't it?"
"Xena, if you never listen to me about anything else, listen to me now. This is a huge mistake. You said once I was doing exactly what Ares wanted. Now you're doing it."
Xena stepped forward and stood close to Gabrielle.
"You don't trust me? All the times you trusted me with your life, and you don't trust me now?"
"No. I don't."
"I'm going to make you eat your words, Gabrielle. Bards all over the world are going to tell the story of my strength, my honor, my courage, and my decency. My past deeds will be so completely overshadowed they'll be hardly worth mentioning. Brave, good men all over the world will want to join my army. I had the desire to do good before you came along, and you didn't take it with you when you left. I'm sorry you don't trust me, and I'm sorry you don't believe in me. But you are wrong. I can do this. Without you."
Gabrielle left the tent, only stopping at the entrance to say, "I really hope so, Xena."
She waited for Perdicus by the wagon. He came running up, and helped her on board.
"Find out anything?" she asked.
"They seem to be the kind of men that are tired of battling for conquest, and want to have a righteous cause to fight for. They just want to be able to accomplish some good in the world."
"Like Xena. That's good to hear. But these men don't seem to be the type willing to stand up to her if need be."
"I'm scared, Perdicus. I'm worried."
"So am I. But what can we do?"
Gabrielle sat on their bed and put one hand on the cradle Perdicus had made, and rocked it back and forth. It rocked smoothly and evenly, a thing easily taken for granted until you saw how hard it was to build a cradle that rocked smoothly and evenly.
I'm gonna be a great healer
And heal every nasty disease
You wait and see
I'm gonna help other children like me
When I am grown up
When we are grown up
We will do great things
When we are grown up
And not so small
We will do great things
We'll show 'em all "
Perdicus came and sat next to her.
"Where did that song come from?" he asked.
"My mother used to sing it to me."
"I can't believe we grew up almost next to each other, and I never heard that song."
"I had hoped to be able to sing it to this child," she said. She touched her abdomen and began weeping softly. She wiped away her tears.
Perdicus took her hand in both of his.
"It was a miscarriage, Gabrielle. We'll try again."
He was very careful not to say it was "just" a miscarriage.
"I know. It's just that I've seen so much death in my lifetime. I was looking forward to bringing some life into the world."
"It will happen, Gabrielle. And he or she is gonna be the luckiest little kid in the world, having you for a mother. I envy him already."
"Or her. I love you, Gabrielle."
"I love you, too," she lied.
"Are there any other verses to the song?"
"Oh, sure. I wish I'd listened to the song more closely when I was a kid. It's about doing great things, but nothing to do with adventures or epic battles. It's about being great at your job, finding something you love doing, and doing it as well as you can."
She rocked the cradle again, and began singing.
I'm gonna be a great teacher
And teach everybody to read
That's what we need
People who read aren't so easy to fool
So I will teach them
When we are grown up
We will do great things
When we are grown up
And not so small
We will do great things
We'll show 'em all "
She said, "This verse is for you, Perdicus. For us."
I'm gonna be a great farmer
And grow lots of good things to eat
Won't that be neat?
People will never be hungry again
Not when I'm grown up
When we are grown up
We will do great things
When we are grown up
And not so small
We will do great things
We'll show 'em all
We'll show 'em all
We'll show 'em all "
She wept again, for her own lost childhood, and for the child she would never see, a child she thought would give her an opportunity to relive her youth and avoid all the mistakes her mother had made.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of approaching hoofbeats. Their farm was so isolated, any horse they could hear could only be headed for them.
Gabrielle wiped away her tears and they both went out to meet the rider, a woman. She quickly dismounted.
"Are you Gabrielle?" she asked.
"My name is Marissa. You've got to come with me. My village is in terrible trouble."
Gabrielle arrived with Marissa, both of them riding the horse Marissa rode to the farm, to see all the men of the small village strung up tightly by the arms, the backs of their shirts ripped open. Gabrielle leaped off the horse, staff in hand.
"AGAIN!" yelled Xena, and her men flogged the villagers, leaving deep welts.
"Xena, what are you doing!"
"Stay out of this, Gabrielle! No one is being killed here. This is just a little debt collecting. AGAIN!"
The snap of the whips sounded again, and the men writhed in pain.
"Xena, cut these men down right now, or I'll do it!"
"I don't take orders from you, Gabrielle. It takes dinars to run an army. No one made this village hire me for protection. I told them EXACTLY what it would cost them. I protected them, and I lost men doing it. And now they've decided they won't pay what they owe me? No one treats me like that! No one! AGAIN!"
Again the whips sounded, and Gabrielle yelled, "Don't you think these people would pay you if they had the dinars?"
"People like this always have money hidden somewhere. Other villages could always come up with the money eventually."
"What other villages? How many have you done this to?"
"I said, how many?"
"And I said, never mind! This isn't your concern. Go pick your crops, farm girl."
Gabrielle's Amazon staff came up and smacked Xena across the face. Xena was stunned. Amazed, actually. She had been facing Gabrielle and watching for it, and still didn't see it coming.
Before Xena could react or say anything, Gabrielle threw down her staff and picked up a nearby axe. Farmwork gave her plenty of reasons to swing an axe, and her muscles were strong. She chopped at the ropes of the first villager. She saw that if she could connect with the axe where the rope met the wooden beam, she could free him in one stroke. She freed the next villager.
"Put down the axe, Gabrielle."
"Or what? I'm not afraid of you, Xena."
"You should be."
"Damn you, Xena! Damn you to Tartarus!"
She freed another villager, but the freed men were afraid to move from the spot, afraid of Xena. The soldiers didn't stop her. They didn't really much want to be carrying out these orders, and they wouldn't stop her without a direct order from Xena.
She freed the next man, and yelled at the soldiers, "Is this what you joined Xena's army to do? Are you proud of yourselves? Does this make you warriors, flogging unarmed villagers?"
When she had about half the villagers freed, Xena tried to grab the axe away from her. She held it towards Xena threateningly.
"You wouldn't use that on me," Xena said.
"Why don't you just die, Xena! Die and stay dead!"
Xena grabbed the axe away and threw it down. With a wild cry she lunged at Gabrielle and grabbed her by the throat. She shook Gabrielle by the neck and pushed her backwards. Gabrielle kept trying to pull at the powerful fingers around her throat. She tried to cry out, but couldn't get a breath. She was being forced backwards towards the watering trough.
Before she fully knew what was happening to her she felt herself forced into the trough. She was underwater, and Xena was holding her under. Gabrielle grabbed at one of the fingers around her neck and tried to pull it away. She was being strangled.
Then the fingers left her neck.
Gabrielle grabbed at her own throat. She didn't have the presence of mind to get out of the water.
One powerful hand reached in and pulled her out.
Gabrielle stared at Xena, a look of pure hatred in her eyes, as Xena walked away. Xena said something to her soldiers, and they followed. Gabrielle tried to say something, but her voice wasn't working too well.
"That's it, Xena," she thought. "That's the last time. I won't do this again."
Finally, with Xena gone, the men were willing to move from where they had been tied. One of them grabbed the axe and freed the others.
Marissa ran over and helped Gabrielle out of the trough.
"Thank you. I'm sorry I had to come and get you. She didn't really hurt the men that badly. A warlord would've done much worse. Please, just tell her that we will pay what we owe her, we just need a little more time."
Gabrielle whispered, "Don't defend her."
What she really wanted to say was, "Don't you dare defend her! She had you all scared to death! None of us has any idea what she's capable of! One day it's flogging, the next it's broken bones, then murdering and pillaging. And all because you were late paying a debt!"
Gabrielle held her throat. She was having trouble swallowing, and knew that it would be at least a couple days before she could speak properly.
"Take me home," she whispered.
Gabrielle was on her knees weeding the garden and wiping the sweat from her brow. Her back ached from the work, and her throat was still sore from her encounter with Xena.
The skies were gray and overcast, though it was still hot and humid. She wanted to get done before the rain began.
Ares had appeared behind her as she worked. She stood up, with some effort, and faced him.
"Hello, Ares," she said wearily. "What do you want?"
"I'm warning you, Gabrielle, stop interfering in my work. Stay away from Xena. I can still take Perdicus back to the fields."
"Don't worry. Xena is yours. I wash my hands of the whole mess."
Ares smiled a victorious smile.
"Good. Finally you've come to your senses. Xena is waiting in the clearing down by the stream. She wants to speak with you. But I'm warning you again, this is IT. This is the last time. If you go to her again, for any reason, Perdicus dies. Understand?"
"Ares, what sort of language works with you? I'm telling you, you've won. Xena is yours. I want no more to do with her."
"I suppose you'll be eavesdropping on us?"
"No. I promised Xena I wouldn't."
"Since when has a promise meant anything to you?"
"You know full well that Xena can sense if I'm there. I must say, little bard, you were quite a challenge. I'm almost going to miss tangling with you. I still remember you whacking Xena from behind, that time I impersonated her father. I'm still amazed she didn't kill you. You really have guts, sometimes."
"Yeah," said Gabrielle, heading in the direction of Xena. "I wish I could say the same for you. 'Oh, I lost my godhood, I lost my sword, what am I gonna do, I'm mortal! Boo hoo hoo.'"
"Irritating blonde," muttered Ares, and was gone.
Gabrielle passed Perdicus on her way, and told him where she was going
"I promise this is the last time either one of us will see Xena," she said.
"Will you be OK?"
"I'll be fine," she said.
Xena was waiting for Gabrielle in the clearing, pacing back and forth anxiously. When Gabrielle showed up, Xena gave her a worried, frightened look.
"Hello," said Xena.
"Back to try and kill me again?"
"I've come to tell you I've disbanded my army."
"Good. So the world is safe again. Anything else?"
"Gabrielle, I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I lost my way again."
"You always say you're sorry, Xena, but you don't behave any differently."
"Gabrielle, what do you want me to do?"
"I want you to stop asking a farm girl from Poteidaia to run your life for you. I want you to stop relying on me to risk my life to pull you back from the edge of madness every time you lose control, and I want you to get it together and stop treating the people who care about you this way, or pretty soon you are going to have nothing and no one. And I want to be left out of your life, because I have had it with you, Xena! I have had it!"
"I'm sorry. I know you hate me."
"I don't hate you, Xena. I don't care about you, any more. I don't care what happens to you."
"You know you don't mean that."
"Don't you tell me how I feel, Xena! I know exactly how I feel!"
"Do you still love me?"
Gabrielle looked at the hurt in those beautiful blue eyes, eyes which only a few days before had held nothing but inhuman rage, and thought to herself, "This has got to stop. I've got a husband who loves me, who would slit his own throat before he would ever hurt me, and I have a woman who tries to kill me one day and asks if I love her the next. This has got to end, right here."
"No," said Gabrielle. "I don't. Not any more."
Gabrielle did her best to be unaffected by the pain in those blue eyes.
"Gabrielle, I need you. I can't do this alone. No one else has the courage to stand up to me."
"Maybe they just prefer to keep living."
"Gabrielle, you must know that I would never really kill you."
"I don't believe you. I didn't believe you at the edge of a cliff or at the bottom of a watering trough, and I don't believe you now. If I don't get away from you, one day you WILL kill me."
"You used to be able to forgive me."
"Well, maybe the fact that I didn't have that many options back then had something to do with it. Now I have a husband that loves me."
"And do you love him?"
"Maybe. I'm fond of him."
"You said you would learn to love him. I want to know. Do you love him?"
"What if I don't? He's a good man. He loves me. He doesn't lose control and hurt me."
"Gabrielle, I try. I really do. Do you think it's easy for me when you rip my heart right out of my chest?"
"I'll tell you what's easy, Xena. Blaming all your problems on me, on my absence. That's what's easy. Xena, I used to think you had something in you that ached to be a good person. I used to think that you burned to be good and to be proud of your life. Well I was wrong. Whatever good there was in you is gone. At heart you're just a bully. That's all you are and that's all you ever will be. And I won't be responsible for you or the things you do, any more."
Gabrielle looked at Xena, waiting for her to say something, waiting to see if this encounter was over. If it was, she was quite prepared to turn around and go back to Perdicus.
A few drops of rain fell on Gabrielle's forehead, and on Xena's. Then a few more drops, and it wasn't long before they were in the midst of a downpour. Xena nearly had to yell her words to be heard.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle. Please forgive me. I love you. I love you, and I need you. I'm sorry."
"That's just not enough any more, Xena. It's just not enough."
Gabrielle turned away to go back to Perdicus. She went only a few yards, then looked behind her to be sure Xena was going, too.
She saw that Xena had done the same thing, turned to go, then looked back. They were looking at each other.
What of it? They could look at each other a last time. It meant nothing. So Gabrielle turned around to look at Xena, and Xena turned to look at Gabrielle.
"I've got to get away from her," thought Gabrielle. "She really will kill me, one day. I've got to go, now."
Xena was the first to take a few steps towards Gabrielle. And Gabrielle found herself taking a few steps toward Xena.
"No," she thought. "I can't let her do this to me. I'm a married woman. This is wrong. I've got to stop."
And then Xena was running towards Gabrielle, and Gabrielle ran towards Xena.
"No. Please, no," she thought.
Gabrielle put her arms around Xena's neck, and Xena put her hands on that adorable face, and pulled Gabrielle to her, and kissed those sweet lips. And Gabrielle was out of control and barely conscious. She closed her eyes, and her head was swimming with the old familiar feelings of love and desire and longing, things she had never felt with Perdicus. Gabrielle shivered, and could feel her soul deriving sustenance from the kiss, their spirits becoming stronger, filling themselves up with the best qualities of each other, both of them feeling that if they wanted to they could float right off the ground and into the clouds, because this love, this impossible, infuriating love could do anything, transcend any limits, overcome any odds and be more powerful than any god, any thing, any being, more powerful even than death itself. This timeless love beyond all understanding, this love that could bring meaning to life, could call a woman back from beyond the grave, could give strength to tenderness and tenderness to strength, this love so inexplicable but so necessary to complete two souls together into one eternal and defiant union.
The rain was falling in rivulets over these two women, but no rain fell between them because they both fit together so well, like they were made for each other.
The kiss ended, they pulled apart and looked at each other so deeply that there could be no pretence between them, only honesty.
"Do you love me?" asked Xena.
"YES, DAMN YOU!" said Gabrielle. "And I don't know why! If I could cut out that part of me that loves you and throw it away, I would! But I can't!"
"Then come back to me. Be with me tonight."
"No. I'm going back to Perdicus."
"There's other people in the world besides you, Xena. This life is not just about two people and what they want, and no thought to anyone else. How many times have I said I wished I could make it up to him for the terrible way I've treated him?"
"This isn't the way."
"I don't care. If I leave him, he dies. There's no other decision I can make."
"You don't love him."
"But I have to do this. This is right. We both know it."
Gabrielle pulled herself away from Xena and turned to go, while she still had enough strength and self-control to do it.
She walked away from Xena, and turned to find her still standing there, the Warrior Princess helpless before the Bard of Poteidaia.
"Take care of yourself, Xena," she said. "Be good."
Gabrielle walked back to the farm, proud of herself that she was able to do the right thing. She still wasn't absolutely sure it WAS the right thing, but in her experience the right thing to do was most often the hardest thing to do. This qualified.
The rain had drenched Gabrielle. She was wet through and through, but mostly she was wet down below in her loins, from Xena's kiss. She needed someone inside her. She really needed Xena inside her, but her husband would do.
She went into the farmhouse and called her husband's name, but he was not to be found. She searched around and finally found him out back, mending the shed in the rain. She made him put down his tools and kiss her.
He was a good man. A tender man. And he did love her, but not passionately. His kisses were very gentle, warm, and loving.
"Come on," she said. "Let's make a child."
It was a two-day ride to the nearest Temple of War, but Gabrielle made it without sleeping. All the way, angry thoughts boiled inside her.
"How can he do this to me?" she thought. "Who does he think he is? He didn't even discuss it with me! How will I get the crops in without him?"
She dismounted and burst into the temple, yelling for Ares.
"Where are you?" she yelled. "I want to talk to you, right now! Show your ugly face!"
Ares appeared, and laughed his malicious laugh.
"Come now, Gabrielle, you've been insulting before, but not usually inaccurate. What is it this time?"
She held up the scroll with Perdicus's message written on it.
"Perdicus has gone to war!"
"So? What should I do about it? He volunteered."
"Was this your doing?"
"Now, what would I have to gain by it?"
"Then why did he go?"
"How should I know? Maybe you weren't a very good wife to him."
"Listen to me, Ares, if he's going into battle I want him protected. I want him to live! I don't care if he takes a spear in the chest and one in the head and arrows in both lungs, you keep him alive!"
"Why should I do that for you, Gabrielle? The first rule of war is, young men die."
"Ares, do you have any intelligence at all? Do you have any common sense? You resurrected him to keep me and Xena apart. What happens to your plan if he dies?"
Ares crossed his arms and sighed deeply.
"Very well," he said. "You have what you want. He's pro "
Ares cocked his head to one side in a listening attitude.
"Sorry, kid," said Ares. "Too late."
Gabrielle rode into camp and reported to the watch commander. She was taken immediately to the general's tent.
"I'm sorry for your loss," he said. "You should know that your husband was a very brave man. He was hardly here any time at all before volunteering for a very hazardous rescue mission."
Gabrielle wiped away tears.
"A suicide mission?" she asked.
"Most of the soldiers with him did not survive. They all put aside messages for their loved ones. I'm having your husband's scroll brought here now."
"Thank you. Was the mission successful?"
"It was, praise Ares."
Praising Ares was not a high priority for Gabrielle at that time, so she sat and waited and said nothing.
A soldier entered and saluted, bringing the scroll.
"Where is my husband's body? I'd like to take him back to Poteidaia to be buried. We grew up there, together."
"I'll have it loaded onto a wagon. You can hitch your horse to it whenever you're ready."
Gabrielle went out into the warm summer night, and read the scroll.
To my dearest Gabrielle,
I'm so sorry I lied to you. I did watch you through the portal. I knew that you and Xena belonged together. When Ares came to me and offered me life, I should've been noble and refused. I know that's what you would've done. But I wanted to live. And I wanted you.
I really thought that you would love me, eventually. There were times I could almost believe it was happening. But when I spied on you and Xena and saw you together in the rain, kissing, I knew that we couldn't go on like this, living a lie. I had to go.
I knew Ares would take me back to the Elysian fields. I was determined to make my last days mean something, and show the nobility I should've had in the first place. Nobility I learned from you.
Stop blaming yourself for my death, Gabrielle. Go live your live, and take good care of Xena. She needs you. I wouldn't trade our few months together for anything, but it's clear where you belong, and it's not with me.
I wish you nothing but happiness, Gabrielle. I wish you something to do, someone to love, and always, always, something to fight for.
28 YEARS OF AGE
HE DESESERVED A LOT BETTER
FROM BOTH OF US
Gabrielle placed the flowers on the gravesite and brushed away some of the dust from the headstone. Her tears were flowing freely.
"More regrets, in a life full of them," she said.
Xena arrived behind her, and stood quietly.
"Hello, Xena. I was beginning to wonder when I'd see you again."
"My streak is unbroken. The Gabrielle curse has claimed another victim."
"It was his choice, Gabrielle."
"I wish I could've had his child. He deserved at least that much. He was a good man. His only real crime was loving me."
"That's no crime. Gabrielle."
"Then why must so many die for it?"
Gabrielle sighed heavily. Xena, just to be saying something, said, "I attended his funeral. From a distance. I didn't think I would be too welcome. But I saw the whole service."
"I knew you were there. You're not as stealthy as you think."
"You buried him in his favorite shirt, they said."
"Yeah," said Gabrielle, "his favorite red shirt. He looked so good in that shirt."
Gabrielle turned to Xena, her beautiful sea-green eyes filling with fresh tears. She stretched a hand out to the gravesite, palm up, like a teacher giving a lesson.
"You see, Xena? This is how you be noble! This is how you think of someone besides yourself!"
"That's not fair, Gabrielle."
"Yeah, well, life isn't fair, is it?"
She turned back to the gravesite. Her body was now shaking with sobs. Xena put an arm around her waist and nuzzled her head with her nose.
"Gabrielle, I will never hurt you again. I promise."
Gabrielle laughed at the same time as she wiped away tears.
"I'll be curious to see how long it takes you to break that promise."
"Does that mean we're back together?"
"Sure. Who else could survive me?"
Xena bent down and kissed Gabrielle on the neck. She pressed herself into Gabrielle's back, and Gabrielle reached up one soft hand and stroked Xena's hair.
"We are doomed to be together," thought Gabrielle. "There's no escape."
"Do you forgive me?" asked Xena.
"I'm trying. It's not as easy as it used to be."
"Things will be different, I promise."
"There's just one thing. You and I will be harvesting the crop from our farm. I'm not going to let anyone else do it. It would've been our first harvest. It's not much of a tribute, but such as it is, we're doing it."
"You want me to be a farmhand?" asked Xena.
"If it wouldn't be too much of a loss of dignity to do some honest work, yes."
"What if someone really needs our help?"
"You can have a few days off to go save the day, but I want you back to work the next morning."
"What if I lose control? Who's going to help me?"
"Well, here's an idea. Don't lose control! Hera's tits, Xena, you can't be a human being for a couple lousy days? What is the matter with you? These stupid berserk rages of yours are all phony, anyway. Just something you dreamed up to guilt me into staying with you."
Gabrielle turned and left the gravesite, walking to where Argo was. Xena followed.
"I liked the old days a lot better," said Xena, "when I gave the orders."
"What's the difference? I never followed them anyway."
"So why should I follow your orders?"
"You better! I can be a farmer for as long as I need to be."
"You hate farmwork."
"Oh, you know all about what I hate. Who's going to ask for your help, anyway? 'Oh, look, a cat is stuck up a tree. Let's ask Xena to rescue it. No, wait, what day is it today? Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays she goes into a berserk rage and kills everything in sight. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays we should be OK. Sunday she switches off. Every other hour.'"
Xena laughed for the first time in months. Argo greeted the two of them with a whicker.
Gabrielle continued, "'Whereas, if we get Gabby to do it the cat will probably kidnap her, and then we're really screwed.'"
"I love you, Gabrielle," said Xena.
"Yeah? Well you better love me, because I love you, and we're stuck with each other. Who else would have us? Man, what a pair we are. Real coupla heroes."
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