by Alan Plessinger
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, title, and backstories used in "Gabrielle Overdose" are the sole property of MCA/Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.
Aphrodite shimmered into view as the two women were getting dressed, startling Gabrielle, who was not yet fully covered.
"Hey, you two. How's it going?"
"Aphrodite! You could've waited!" complained the bard.
"Oh, c'mon, we're all chicks here. Be glad I'm not Ares. That little perv has spied on the two of you more times than you want to know."
"What do you want?" Xena snarled.
"Take it easy. I'm here to offer birthday wishes and all I get is hostility. Happy birthday, Xena!"
She held up one hand and displayed her gift, a small piece of crystal on a leather thong.
"Your birthday? Today's your birthday?" asked Gabrielle.
"Thanks for blowin' that little secret for me. I can't accept your gift. You know I don't adorn myself."
"Well, then let's adorn the adornable neck of the adornable Gabrielle," said Aphrodite, putting it over the bard's head and moving her beautiful hair out of the way. The goddess was rewarded by a nice smile from Gabrielle, but nowhere near as lovely as the smiles Gabrielle saved for Xena.
"It's beautiful!" said Gabrielle, holding it and examining it. "Xena, look how beautiful!" And she smiled at Xena, a real smile this time. A sweet, lovely smile, so full of warmth and love that Xena had to return it.
"Beautiful," said Aphrodite, looking at Gabrielle in a way that reminded Xena that she didn't trust the goddess.
"Let me see that," Xena said, and grabbed the crystal as Gabrielle was holding it.
The crystal glowed.
Xena closed her eyes and shuddered. A wave of happiness was passing through her that she hadn't experienced since she was a little girl, before she knew there were such things as warlords and barbarians. She smiled, and then laughed out loud. The laugh startled her. She hadn't laughed like that in years. Even Gabrielle had never been able to get her to laugh quite like that.
She opened her eyes and looked at Gabrielle. Gabrielle was in pain. She was open mouthed in shock and horror, and having difficulty breathing. Xena took her hand away from the crystal.
The after-effects of the crystal lasted for as long as the crystal had been in contact with both of them. It took that long for Xena to come to her senses and ask Gabrielle if she was OK.
"I'm fine! Everything's fine! I'm just not used to it, is all."
"Oh, the usual things. Anger. Hatred. Darkness. Business as usual, for you."
Xena turned on Aphrodite and yelled, "Why are you always messing with us? What did we ever do to you?"
"Xena, this is a birthday gift. Every gift has its price."
"And what price did you have to pay?"
"Hephaestus made this for me, and the things I had to do to him would make a blind man talk about seein' again. What's the big deal? Why can't you just enjoy your gift?"
"I will never enjoy anything that brings Gabrielle pain."
Gabrielle took the crystal in one hand and pulled it off over her head. She spun around and tossed the gift deep into the woods.
But she also took careful notice of where it landed.
"Sorry, 'dite," she said, "but you haven't built up much credibility with us. Your gifts are more trouble than they're worth."
"Great! Practically the first unselfish thing I've ever done, and this is the thanks I get! Fine! How many mortals would be thrilled to receive a gift from the gods, and you toss it away like an old sandal! Suit yourself. I've learned my lesson. We could've been friends, the three of us, but there's just no pleasing you, is there?"
Aphrodite shimmered out of view, and Gabrielle threw up her hands in frustration.
"Great! We've pissed off yet another god!"
"She was born pissed off," said Xena. "Don't worry about it. What can she do to us?"
"She could try to drive us apart."
"Never. After everything the Fates have thrown at us? After everything we've been through together? We are fated to be together, Gabrielle, and no little piece of godly mischief can ever change that. Even the gods cannot argue with the Fates."
Gabrielle smiled, and walked into Xena's arms for an embrace. She looked up at Xena, her beautiful green eyes full of love.
"Happy birthday, Xena."
After dinner, Xena headed through the woods toward an open field to practice sword drills. Gabrielle cleaned up the campsite, then took her staff and a hunting knife into the woods to look for the crystal. She found it hanging from a tree branch, reached up with her staff and snagged it by the thong, and cut the thong with the knife. She slipped the crystal into the waistband of her skirt.
That night Xena slept on her side, away from Gabrielle. Gabrielle put one arm around Xena's waist and rested her head on the side of Xena's neck, her lustrous hair spilling all over Xena's arm and shoulder. She waited until she was sure Xena was asleep, then took the crystal out of her waistband and held it between two of her fingers. Carefully, she moved her hand close to Xena's arm until the crystal made contact. She held it there as it glowed.
She kept expecting Xena to say, "Nice try, Gabrielle," but Xena was well and truly asleep.
Gabrielle felt it at once. She looked about her at her surroundings and the night sky, and everything about the landscape seemed more threatening. She could almost believe that the trees wanted to attack her. She closed her eyes.
"If she can stand it, I can," she thought, and tried to get to sleep.
"Happy birthday, Xena," she whispered. "I love you so much."
It seemed to her that her voice was a little deeper than usual, but that was probably just her imagination.
"Good morning, girlie," said the first of the two robbers, poking Xena awake with his sword. Xena smiled at the two of them and was on her feet in a second.
"Good morning! Beautiful day, isn't it?"
She looked all around her at the trees, the sky, the nearby lake. She held both arms above her head, the backs of her wrists touching each other, and stretched, and closed her eyes in pleasure. The man with the sword leered at the sight.
"What can I do for you gentlemen?"
"We are but humble travelers, living off of the generosity and contributions of others. We humbly request that you hand over your dinars, all of them."
Xena shrugged. "Why not? Who needs to argue on a day like this?"
She stepped over Gabrielle to get her pouch from the saddlebag. There was some nagging suspicion that this was not the way this interaction was supposed to go, but she was feeling too good to bother about it.
"HEY!" said Gabrielle. She was up immediately, with her staff if hand.
"Stay out of this, sweet thing. This transaction is going just fine without you."
"I'll give you sweet thing!"
She poked the sword-carrying thug in the midsection, then spun around and whacked him in the side of the head. He dropped his sword and stooped to pick it up, which earned him a whack in the forehead. If he had ever used his sword for anything other than threatening innocent people, it wasn't evident.
She pointed her staff at the other robber, who stood looking helpless.
"What exactly do you do?"
He shrugged. "I'm still learning."
"Practice on someone else," she said, and slid the sword over to them with the end of her staff. She looked at them angrily as they backed away from her slowly, and continued to seethe as they turned and ran. The exhilaration of victory, the satisfaction of a job well done were not there, only anger.
"Gabrielle! Take it easy!"
"You were going to give them all our dinars, weren't you?"
"Oh, what do we need dinars for? Look around! The woods are our inn, the streams and fields give us all we need to eat!"
"Well, that's just great! I'm happy for you, I'm glad that you can be so generous with the dinars that I WORKED FOR, telling stories in every seedy little tavern from here to Athens and back!"
"Gabrielle!" She smiled at the little bard, cocked her head to one side and looked at her coyly. "What's gotten into you?"
"THIS!" she said, picked up the crystal and waved it in Xena's face. "Happy damn birthday!"
"Oh, Gabrielle, you didn't," she said. She wrapped her arms around herself, and smiled. She felt warm and happy.
"You did!" said Xena. "Oh, Gabrielle, I am going to be so mad at you later, but for now, thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Oh, Gabrielle, this is wonderful! Is the day really this beautiful, or am I just seeing it with your eyes? Oh, look at the sun glinting on the water! Look at those beautiful clouds! By the gods, Gabrielle, I swear the very colors are brighter!"
"Take it easy. I was never so happy I went around giving away all our money."
"I'm just not used to this! I've only had homeopathic doses of Gabrielle before, now I've got Gabrielle running through my veins! Gabrielle is soaking into the very marrow of my bones, I swear it!"
"Please tell me this doesn't mean you're useless in a fight."
"Who's useless? I'll show you useless! Where's my sword?"
"Right by where you sleep, as usual. Where else would it be?"
"Right!" Xena picked it up, and said, "OK, morning sword drills, as usual."
Xena grabbed her sword, turned away from Gabrielle, and oh, no.
Gabrielle couldn't look. She put her hand over her eyes and turned away.
Xena was skipping.
Gabrielle felt sick.
Xena skipped away from Gabrielle a few yards and began her drills, but she only got through the first two before she laughed and dropped her sword.
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing. I'm just having a hard time taking this seriously. I keep thinking of you at the Amazon harvest festival."
"What's so funny about me at the damn festival?"
"Not funny, exactly, I just remember what a great time I had watching you dancing. I so wanted to dance with you."
"Then why didn't you? You sat there on your lazy ass, watching me! I tried to pull you up, five or six times!"
"I wanted to dance so much, Gabrielle, but I just couldn't. Oh, but I could dance now! I could dance forever!"
She put her hands in the air and spun around, then waved them ecstatically as her body writhed in time to unheard music.
"Xena, knock it off! There's no music, you look ridiculous! What if someone sees you? What are they going to think?"
"They'll think I'm dancing in celebration of life! I dance to the four winds, to the sun, to the clouds, I give my dance of thanks to the gods who have provided the rich bounty of goodness that comes forth from the soil every year!"
"Xena, you've never thanked the gods for anything."
"Well, maybe it's time I started. I thank the gods for every good thing they have ever given me, and for every bad thing, too, because it just made me appreciate the good so much more. But most of all, I thank the gods for you, Gabrielle! And I thank Aphrodite for giving us that crystal."
"Aphrodite is probably in Mount Olympus laughing her head off right now."
"Big deal! Let her laugh! Why can't you be happy for me? I never yelled at you this much!"
"I'm just starting to realize how annoying I am. How do you put up with me?"
"It's an acquired art. Oh, Gabrielle, this is too good to waste around here. I'm going to go into town."
"NO! Xena, you don't want to do that!"
"Yes, I do. How long do you supposed this will last, anyway?"
Xena went to the saddlebags and got out a yellow gauze gown she had received as a gift from Priestess Leah. She took off her leathers and armor, and slipped the gown over her head.
"Well," said Gabrielle, "It should last about as long as we originally had the crystal between us. So I'd say we're looking at about eight hours."
"Of course. I should've been able to figure that out. I wonder do you suppose being happy makes you a little "
"That was really uncalled for, Xena! Why do you have to say something like that to me?"
"OK, I'm sorry! I didn't mean anything by it! I was just speculating. Give me the dinars. We need supplies."
Xena took off her boots and greaves and slipped into some sandals. Gabrielle tossed her the pouch of dinars from the saddlebag, and also an empty knapsack.
"Xena, this is a really bad idea. You don't want people to see you like this. This could hurt your reputation."
"Well, then I won't be Xena! I'll use your name for a day. Are you coming with me?"
"No, and I'm sorry I ever got us into this mess. Aren't you taking any weapons?"
"Who needs weapons? This is just a sleepy little Podunk village. There won't be any problems."
Xena hugged Gabrielle goodbye.
"Thank you so much for this, Gabrielle. This is going to be a wonderful day."
"I hope so. I really, really hope so, for both our sakes."
Xena turned to go. Gabrielle picked up Xena's sword and pointed it at her.
"I warn you. If I see you skipping I'm going to have to kill you for your own good."
It was evening before Xena got back to the campsite. She walked very much like a woman who desperately wanted to skip. She held her long arms in front of her, palms cupped, catching the fading sunlight. On her back was the knapsack, carrying a few supplies.
Gabrielle sat brooding by the campfire. She looked up when Xena returned.
"Oh, Gabrielle, what a day! I just walked right into town, and it happened!"
"Children, Gabrielle! They were drawn to me! We talked, we laughed, we played games. I became friends with their parents instantly. They invited me into their homes. There was no suspicion, no whispering behind my back. We talked, they told me stories about their kids, I asked them so many questions that no one had a chance to ask me hardly anything. Everybody liked me! Is that what happens when you go into a town without me?"
"Sometimes. Depends on the town. For all you know, they'd treat anyone like that."
"I doubt it. When I told them my name, a woman asked me if I was that Gabrielle that traveled around with Xena. I said no, she was shorter, with reddish-gold hair. She said she heard that Xena was supposed to be reformed, but she didn't believe it, in fact she heard that Xena almost wiped out a town that was supposed to have killed her father. I said I heard that Ares had goaded her into it, and she said she didn't think that would be much of a consolation to the townspeople as they lay dying. She heard that the town would've been lost if Gabrielle hadn't whacked some sense into Xena with a wooden pitchfork. She said she couldn't imagine anything so brave, and I said that I heard that Gabrielle was pretty incredible, and I was proud to share her name. And she said how much she'd like to meet that Gabrielle, but only if she came into town without Xena."
"Xena, you can't take that sort of thing personally."
"Oh, who cares, Gabrielle! That's nothing! What I'm saying is, you should go into town and meet some of your fans."
"Not without you, Xena."
"That could be problematic. Two Gabrielles. Though I've always said, there can never be enough. What did you do without me?"
"A few chores. I spent some time sitting and thinking about all the people I've lost in my life. Perdicas. My daughter. One day my parents will be gone, and I'll be all alone in the world, except for you. And you're older than me, which means I can look forward to nearly a decade alone before I die. Then I took your advice and wrote some fiction."
"What did you write?"
"Well, I only have the dialogue so far, but this is a story about a prince whose uncle kills his father and inherits the throne, and the prince finds out about it and knows he has to kill his uncle, but he can't make up his mind to do it because he's so demoralized by the fact that his mother married his uncle so quickly after the king's death. He begins to think himself cowardly, and wonders if he wouldn't be better off dead, and really, what the point of any of us being alive at all?"
"What does he do?"
"He finally kills his uncle, but not before he's been poisoned himself, as well as his mother. And two of his friends die, as well."
"So, a bloodbath, then. What are you calling it?"
"I don't know. I'm naming it after the prince, but I don't have a name for him, yet. What supplies did you get?"
"A little ham. Try it, it's good."
By next morning the effects of the crystal were over. Gabrielle awoke to see Xena, still clad in the yellow gown, sitting by the fire reading the scroll. Gabrielle also noticed that the crystal was at Xena's feet, smashed into dust.
"Gabrielle, I've got bad news for you," she said. "This is the most incredible thing you've ever written. I've never heard your descriptive powers so perfectly attuned before. The imagery is just absolutely phenomenal. 'I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, foregone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems a sterile promontory, this excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.' Simply incredible."
"Could I have that, please?" asked Gabrielle. Xena handed it over, and the parchment made the flame blaze into new life as Gabrielle threw the scroll into the fire.
"Why did you do that?" asked Xena.
"Same reason you did that," she said, pointing to the remains of the crystal. "It just wasn't me."
Xena shrugged. "It was a wonderful day, Gabrielle. A wonderful day. But someone's gotta be me. I'm more qualified."
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