Copyright notice: Xena, Gabrielle, and Callisto belong to Renaissance Pictures, StudiosUSA; no infringement is intended. The archangel Michael belongs to God.
Miscellaneous disclaimers: This story is an example of writing as therapy. This fifth season leaves much to be desired, so our manifestations of Xena and Gabrielle are ignoring it and staying dead - and having a wonderful time. Also reading the first Whacked by an Angel will help in understnding the rules of the game.
Warning: For the cognoscenti, this story answers the question: is there subtext in paradise?
Feedback, comments, suggestions may be sent to email@example.com
Xena and Gabrielle had gotten completely in touch with their spiritual sides. In other words they were still dead. Since they had been put on probation from paradise, they had discovered how much fun the afterlife can be.
They were resting beside a gently murmuring stream. It had been a busy few weeks, as measured in earth time. Since our heroines were spirits, time had no meaning for them any more. (Not that time has ever had much meaning in the Xenaverse!) They had convinced several warlords to change careers; they had returned stolen property to its rightful owners, much to the surprise of the thieves who thought they had made a haul; they had even stopped a child who was about to fall out of a tree.
Suddenly a man appeared in front of them. He wore a glowing robe and carried a sword of fire.
"Hey, Michael," Gabrielle smiled at him. "Have you come to check up on how we're doing? I think everything is fine. Right, Xena?"
Xena had been trying not to look at his sword with envy. She thought to herself, 'Maybe if I do real good now, I can get one of those someday.' Aloud she said, "Yeah, it's been fun."
Michael smiled at the two lounging sprites. They had been providing much innocent entertainment for the folks back in paradise. "No, we've been keeping track of your progress. And you have been doing a wonderful job. That's why we thought of you when this assignment came up. You're the best ones for the job."
Xena, ever wary, raised an eyebrow. It had taken her long enough to learn how to raise just one eyebrow and she didn't want to lose the skill. "I thought you were different. You aren't going to start jerking us around like our gods did, are you?"
Michael was remembering why it had been decided that paradise wasn't ready for this pair yet. "This is purely voluntary. If you don't want to do it, nobody will make you. Just hear me out."
"Don't worry, Xena, whatever it is, we can handle it," Gabrielle said. She was always such an optimist.
Xena merely leaned back on her elbows and gave Michael an inquiring look.
He decided to get on with it. "There is someone in paradise who is getting on everyone's nerves. Everybody there is good, but she is just too 'spiritual'. Whenever anybody sees her coming, they try to hide." He sighed. "The real tragedy is that she had lived a very evil life but had some good in her that never developed. We brought out that good but somehow destroyed any liveliness she had."
"We'll be glad to help," Gabrielle said quickly. "What do you want us to do?"
"We thought that maybe if she travelled with you two for a while, helping people and thwarting evildoers, she might become more tolerable. It's worth a try anyway. Something has to be done about her! She has to learn that good isn't just not doing bad but is a positive force."
Xena sat up. "Okay, we'll help you out. Who is this person?"
"Callisto!" both spirits exclaimed together.
"No way," Xena said.
If Gabrielle had still been alive she would have been breathing heavily. "Do you mean that all this time we've been on probation she's been enjoying herself in the Elysian Fields!?"
"Paradise," Xena whispered in her ear.
"I don't care what it's called, it's not fair!" Gabrielle might have been a spirit but she still had a lot of human nature in her.
Michael was looking uncomfortable. He knew this interview would not be easy. But something had to be done about Callisto before she drove everybody in paradise crazy. "Well, as to your probation, that was just a story we made up. It was felt that you two would be happier on earth helping people. Because everybody is different, each person has to make his own paradise. And you have gone a long way toward creating your personal paradise." He tried a smile at this point.
The blonde sprite was having some trouble adjusting her brain to this information. "You mean this is the Elysian Fields?"
Xena, meanwhile, was lying on her back, laughing. She reached over and patted her partner on her back. (That's harder than you think when both parties are spirits. But Xena and Gabrielle had worked out the technical problems involved.) "Hey, relax. We've been enjoying ourselves, haven't we; and isn't that what paradise or whatever is all about? Besides we have managed to do some good so you should be happy."
Gabrielle looked at her warrior and realized that she was right. This was Elysia.
Xena sat up and gave Michael a Look. "So what do you want us to do to Callisto?"
Michael sighed in relief. "Don't do anything to her." He wanted to make sure they were clear on that. "Let her travel with you for a while, seeing how you help people and can make a difference. Maybe she will see that she can be a positive force for good, too, and then she won't spend all her time standing around looking pale and holy."
Gabrielle said grudgingly, "Okay, we'll help you out. Is she just going to pop up or what? How do we get together?"
"I'll send her to you," Michael replied. "Thank you for doing this. I know it isn't easy for you but forgive what she did to you and remember that she has reformed too." As Michael disappeared he muttered, "I hope this works."
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other. They looked at each other some more. Okay, this went on for quite a while, but since we don't have eternity to wait, we'll cut it short. Finally the silent spiritual communing was broken.
"Are you okay with helping Callisto," Xena asked, concerned for her friend.
Gabrielle shrugged. Since they were invisible to mortal eyes, all a passer-by would have seen was a slight disturbance in the air. "Yes, I am, really. I guess she deserves another chance, too. And Michael is a good guy so if we can help him out we should. Even though it was a dirty trick to play on us not telling us we were already in the Elysian Fields!" She got a thoughtful expression on her face, and Xena braced for the worst. "So does this mean the afterlife is just like real life only better?"
The dark-haired woman of action sighed. She hated all this philosophy stuff. It always surprised her that she could make something up, and Gabrielle would swallow it. "Like Michael said, everybody has to make their own. I guess everybody has their own ideas on what it should be, and this is ours." She got a big grin on her face. "Having adventures together forever; that is Elysia!"
They had started to look at each other again when, fortunately for the pace of this story, there was a disturbance in the air next to them and a pale, ethereal figure sort of materialized. In a manner of speaking, Callisto was among those present.
Xena and Gabrielle both gave her a frown. In between whacking bad guys, they had been really, really enjoying those long, communing looks.
"Great timing, as usual, Callisto," Xena muttered.
The irritating blonde spirit put on her pitiful smile. "Gabrielle, Xena, I'm not here to harm you," she said in her sweet, barely audible voice. "Michael said you needed help in your spiritual quest. All I want to do now is make up for all the evil they say I did even though I can't remember any of it."
Except that it was not in her present nature, Gabrielle would have sneered as she said, "You couldn't hurt us even if you wanted to. We're all dead, for Zeus' sake." Being interrupted while looking at her partner always made her cranky.
Xena, however, was feeling a little hopeful. She had detected a note of regret in Callisto's voice when she said she couldn't remember any of the evil she had done in her past. Maybe they could liven her up some.
Wanting to get this little chore over as quickly as possible, Xena asked, "What exactly did Michael tell you about this assignment?"
Callisto switched her weak smile to her former nemesis. "He said I was to travel with you and help you to do good."
"Did he tell you the rules?"
That got a blank look from Callisto, although Xena couldn't tell it from her other facial expression.
Xena sighed. She was going to have a talk with Michael the next time she saw him. Gabrielle noted that Xena's patience was fraying so she decided to take over. "The rules are that we do things and go places by thinking the action or the place we want to be. And we have to try to talk people out of doing bad before we can use more 'physical means' -those are the words Michael used so it's okay." She paused and looked at the others. "So where shall we start," she asked brightly. The sooner we get going, the sooner it will be over, she figured.
Since they had eternity, Gabrielle and Callisto had entered into a long discussion about where they could do the most good, and whom they should help first. At least it seemed like an eternity to Xena. Finally she stood up and started walking along the stream; she knew she would come to a town eventually. One thing she had learned in her afterlife was that wherever they went, there was always somebody who needed help.
The tall warrior was enjoying the beauties of nature around her, something she had never bothered much with while alive. Suddenly two blonde spirits appeared on either side of her, shattering her peaceful mood. She kept walking as she said, "Have you decided where you want to start?"
Gabrielle recognized the danger signs and decided not to ask Xena why she had left. "Not really," she replied. "I want to find a warlord and convince him to disband his army. She," pointing at Callisto, "wants to find an orphanage and teach the kids songs or something."
Xena couldn't help laughing at the image of the evil Callisto as a choir director.
"What's so funny about that," Callisto demanded, irritated at Xena's attitude. First she gets up and walks off in the middle of our discussion, then she laughs at me, she thought to herself. It seemed that just being around Xena was acting like a tonic on her disposition.
Xena turned to look at her former enemy. Since she was a spirit, she kept moving forward without having to worry about tripping. "Why don't you get out of that silly white robe? It was the first thing we got rid of. All you have to do is think what kind of clothes you want to wear, and there they are. Gabrielle has been doing that at least once a day; we still haven't found the right clothes for her." She laughed and tapped her partner on the arm. "Remember the time you decided to change outfits in the middle of one of our lively talks with a warlord? It really threw my timing off."
They both laughed for several minutes at the memory. Callisto had a thoughtful expression on her face, which was an improvement over her usual blank, holy look. When the laughter had died down, she asked, "All I have to do is think it, and I will be wearing new clothes?"
Gabrielle nodded. "Great, isn't it? Maybe I should change clothes now, too."
Xena quickly said, "Not now! We have enough to worry about without that."
Gabrielle sighed. Trying to find the right combination of clothes was one of the small pleasures she indulged in. "Okay; later. So where are we going?"
Xena shrugged. "I don't know. I'm just following the stream; we'll find a town sooner or later."
Gabrielle gave Xena a look. It wasn't as effective as the warrior princess's Look, but she had been practising.
Meanwhile the other blonde spirit was beginning to realize that fun was allowed in paradise.
Some time later, as measured in earth time, they did come to a town. They had decided to walk (or float) all the way since they didn't have anything better to do. Also since they didn't know where they were going, it didn't matter when they got there.
As they got to the edge of the town, they saw that everyone seemed to be in a panic. This brought smiles to Xena's and Gabrielle's faces; and a look of confused piety to Callisto's.
"What's going on," she whispered. Then she gave a gasp, which of course only Xena and Gabrielle could hear, as a terrified villager ran right through her spiritual body.
Gabrielle grabbed her and pulled her out of the way. She and Xena had had their fill of people walking through them and had learned to avoid these close encounters as much as possible. "I don't know," she answered Callisto's question. "But something bad must be happening for everybody to be so scared."
"Yeah." Xena had a huge smile. "This is really living!" Then she started laughing hysterically when she realized what she had just said.
Several minutes later, Gabrielle was able to say, "We ought to find out what's wrong so we can do something to help. I guess we should appear to somebody, but we better not pop up right in front of them."
Xena nodded. "Let's find a deserted alley. C'mon this way." And she floated across the street, moving through any obstacles in her path. The two blondes followed.
Once they were safely out of the way, they held a council of war, so to speak. Xena, in her usual masterful way, wanted to walk up to somebody, ask them nicely what was going on, and then take care of it. Gabrielle, being the sensitive one, thought that the sight of a warrior in full battle dress, even without any weapons, would probably scare any wits right out of their potential informant. In their present state, they didn't need any weapons, although Xena had created a spritual replica of her chakram as a souvenir; she could be so sentimental at times.
Callisto was trying to adjust to the frenetic activity around her. Things were much calmer in the Elysian Fields, where she sometimes went days without seeing anybody.
Since Gabrielle could talk faster than Xena, she won her point. They decided that Gabrielle would materialize and find out what the problem was. And Xena and Callisto would stay invisible in the background. Gabrielle thought herself visible, and they all left the alley.
Gabrielle tried to stop several people, but they all shook her off and kept on running.
"Maybe if I appeared in front of one of them, they would stop for you," Xena said, with a smirk. No matter how spiritual you are, some parts of your nature never change.
Gabrielle heard her remark but ignored it; especially since she couldn't think of a good answer.
"Let's head for the town square; there should be an official of some kind there." She said this out loud, but the people who heard her were too busy to wonder who she was talking to.
Things weren't any better in the square. In fact they were worse since it was more crowded. But at least people were talking. Gabrielle went up to a kindly-looking woman at the edge of the crowd and asked her what was going on. The woman stared at her for a moment. "Where have you been that you don't know that we're going to be attacked by an army of barbarians?"
Xena said, "Why not tell her you're on probation from the Elysian Fields?"
Gabrielle frowned and waved her hand at Xena to be quiet. This confirmed the woman's opinion that she was dealing with someone who had left the wick out of her candle.
"What are the town leaders going to do? Are they going to defend the town? I see they have weapons they're handing out to people." She had noted the rather chaotic attempt at organizing a defense. Meanwhile the woman had been trying unsuccessfully to move away from her. She didn't know that the Warrior Princess was standing behind her and exercising the full force of her personality to keep the woman from getting away.
"Ask her if she knows where the army is," Xena prompted her partner. Then seeing Callisto's puzzled look, she explained, "We still have to know where things are before we can go there."
The woman didn't know why she seemed unable to get away from this apparently clueless person. That being the case, she might as well answer her questions. "They want to defend the town, but so many people are packing up and leaving they may not be able to. I want to leave, too, but my husband and sons are determined to fight. I don't want them hurt." She wiped the tears from her eyes.
Gabrielle patted her on the shoulder. "Don't worry. Nothing will happen to them; I promise." For some reason she didn't understand the woman felt comforted by this. "Can you tell me where this army is now?"
"Finally!" Xena never had much patience with conversation when there was a battle looming.
Gabrielle gave Xena a look, which unsettled the poor woman again. She quickly pointed, "Our scouts say they are camped to the north, about two days away. Now I have to go to my husband." She quickly pushed her way through the crowd.
Gabrielle looked around for some place where she could disappear back to her natural spiritual state. Once she was invisible to living eyes, they discussed the situation.
"That poor woman," Callisto bemoaned. "We must help her, and all the other poor, frightened people."
Gabrielle said brightly, "That's why we're here."
"And that's why you're here, Callisto," Xena added. She wanted to make sure her former enemy got the point quickly. "You need to learn that good is helping people, not just standing around looking holy. Besides it's a lot of fun, right, Gabrielle?"
The two soulmates (literally, finally) looked at each other for a long time.
"Well, time to take care of some bad guys," Xena said cheerfully.
Callisto gave a start. She had been in a trance the whole time, thinking about what she had seen and what the others had said to her. "How do we do that," she asked almost briskly.
Xena was happy to hear that Callisto was starting to sound a little like her old self.
Gabrielle answered, "We find their camp; then we try to talk the leaders into disbanding. If that doesn't work," (Xena muttered, "It never does.") "we try to encourage the soldiers to desert."
"Does that work?" Callisto was curious.
Gabrielle hesitated. "Sometimes."
"But only when we make them think the area is haunted," Xena said with her most innocent air - which wasn't very innocent, by the way. "So let's get on with it so the people in that town can get back to business as usual."
Following the woman's directions, they found the marauding army's camp without any trouble. All was activity. They were packing up and getting ready to move on the town, checking their weapons and equipment.
Xena, being an expert in such matters due to her previous extremely successful career, saw that it was a typical warlord's army - out for loot and general mayhem with no thought of permanent conquest.
Although she didn't know why, Callisto was feeling some twinges of nostalgia as she looked around the camp. She pointed to the biggest tent, "That must be the warlord's tent. Do we start there to get him to stop this attack?"
Gabrielle poked Xena in the ribs. "Hey," she whispered, "she's showing some interest and not looking so like she's been dead in the water for three days. We just might pull off this favor for Michael."
Xena nodded. Then she turned to Callisto. "We might as well try talking to him; it never works though. But Gabrielle likes talking to warlords. She thinks because she kept me reformed, she can reform anybody."
The feisty blonde stuck her tongue out at her friend, disappered, and re-appeared outside the warlord's tent. She called to the others, "What's taking you so long?" She walked into the tent. Xena smiled and disappeared. Callisto, still getting used to all these new ideas, followed them.
The warlord and half a dozen of his captains were discussing their impending attack when Xena and then Callisto showed up. Gabrielle was looking over the warlord's shoulder at a map on the table. She looked up. "I don't think that town stands a chance unless we do something." She sounded worried.
Xena folded her arms across her chest. "This is your part; talk to him. Make him think it's his conscience bothering him."
"If he has one." Both Xena and Gabrielle were surprised to hear this muttered comment coming from their no longer quite so ethereal companion.
"Okay, here goes." Gabrielle leaned over to whisper in the warlord's ear, making her voice audible only to him. "Why are you doing this?"
He looked up quickly to see which of his captains had started talking in falsetto, but they were all studying the map. He shook his head. "That's all. Make sure all your men are packed and ready to leave within an hour. I want that town surrounded by noon tomorrow. Now get out of here."
They all quickly saluted their leader and left. His reputation for sudden angry outbursts was well known.
After they left, Gabrielle continued. "A lot of people will get hurt, even killed. Some of your men, too, your friends. Is it worth it for the little bit of loot you'll get?"
"Who is that," he demanded, looking around angrily. No one, not even disembodied voices, questioned his orders!
"This is your conscience." Gabrielle had moved back now that there was no one else present to hear her. "So you loot this town. Then what? You'll have to find another town next week when all that money is gone. Wouldn't you like a better job where you wouldn't have to worry about feeding your army so they won't desert you and where you wouldn't have to hurt people?"
"My what?! Why would my conscience sound like a young woman? I thought that stew I had for lunch tasted funny. I wonder what the cook put in it. I'll have to have him flogged." He stormed out of his tent.
Callisto looked shocked at the result of their well-intentioned interference. "Aren't you going to stop him?"
Xena and Gabrielle both sighed. Xena consoled her friend, "That went better than usual. He's only going to flog one person."
"I guess we work on the army now." Gabrielle kept hoping that some day they would come across a warlord who would listen to her.
"There's not enough time if they are going to surround the town tomorrow," Callisto said.
The others stared at her for a minute. It seemed that some things from her former evil days were coming back to her. "That's right," Xena said. "We'll have to sabotage their equipment and weapons so they'll have to call off the attack."
"Good idea. Let's go." Callisto floated out of the tent.
Gabrielle and Xena grinned at each other before they hurried to catch up with her.
They split up to make the best use of the time they had. Before long, the soldiers found that all of the packs and supplies that had been carefully strapped up and stowed on the wagons were spread out on the ground. All of the harnesses for the horses had somehow been taken apart; some of the pieces were jumbled together in piles and other parts were scattered around the camp. Mysterioulsly all of the bows had been unstrung, and most of the arrowheads had been broken off. Swords which had been sharpened and polished appeared blunt and dull.
It wasn't only the bows that were coming unstrung. Many of the men were wondering if one of the gods was cursing them. Every time they tried to tie up a pack or pick up some equipment off of the ground, it would fly out of their hands and land several feet away, as often as not hitting one of their fellow soldiers in the process. This had led to several fist fights before they realized that something very strange was going on.
In the middle of this confusion the warlord came out of his tent and roared, "Why aren't you ready to move out? Why hasn't my tent been taken down?"
The bravest of his captains ran up to him. "We keep trying to pack things up, but they keep coming apart. And the weapons are breaking right in front of us. Nobody knows what's going on. Maybe we should call off the attack until we can sacrifice to Ares or whatever god is mad at us."
The warlord glowered at him. "I don't want to hear a lot of bleating by scared children! I want to see this army on the move! Get those wagons over here and take my tent down. NOW!"
"Yes, sir." The captain signaled to the wagon drivers. For some reason those horses had stayed harnessed to their wagons.
Not that that turned out to be a good thing. The wagons had only gone about twenty feet when their wheels started coming off. And as the wheels hit the ground, all of the spokes fell out. This seemed to be the final straw. When the soldiers, and the captains too, saw this, they had seen enough. They grabbed what they could carry and took off in all directions, leaving their former commander to stare in shock at the ruins of his plans for wealth.
Gabrielle came up to him. She didn't want to miss this opportunity to make her point. "See what happens when you don't listen to your conscience? Now you know what all the people in those towns you have looted felt like."
The warlord looked around. He still couldn't see anyone. "I'm going crazy," he muttered. "I'm hearing voices, women's voices, and I'm going crazy." He looked around at his devastated camp. "I need a drink. I need a lot of drinks." He stumbled back into his tent.
Xena looked at Callisto to see how she was taking this. She had a satisfied smile on her face. She said to her two new friends, "You're right. Doing good is fun. And nobody got hurt. That's the important thing. Where do you want to go next?" She was eager to continue making up for the past she couldn't remember.
"First of all we should return to that town and tell them they don't have to worry about any attack now. We can think about what to do next after that." Xena didn't mention that she had some plans of her own.
They thought themselves back in the now safe town. Gabrielle materialized again and found the town's leaders. She finally had to grab one to make him stop and listen to her story about finding a deserted army camp with all the equipment and weapons scattered around. When he understood what she was saying, he went to tell the others that their town was safe - for the time being anyway.
The three spirits hung around town for another couple of days making sure things got back to normal. Xena and Gabrielle spent some of this time teaching Callisto the ropes of being a spirit on earth.
At one point while Gabrielle was going into great detail about how to think yourself new clothes, Xena, whose attention always wandered when the subject of clothes came up, saw a two-year-old girl about to pull over a pot of boiling water. She got there just in time to grab the pot and keep it from spilling. The little girl looked up at her and smiled, and the reformed warrior realized that sometimes the very innocent can see what wiser people can't. She smiled back at the child and put her finger to her lips. Then she mouthed - it's our secret. The girl nodded and ran off to play.
Xena returned to the others, who had stopped talking when she had suddenly disappeared. "If you've finished your fashion discussion, it's time we left this town."
Callisto perked up. "Where do you want to go next?"
Xena put on a thoughtful look. "Why not Athens? It's a big city; we can find lots of good to do there. Let's meet in the main market. Gabrielle still likes wandering through markets."
Callisto nodded happily. "Right. I'll meet you there." She disappeared.
Gabrielle was about to follow, looking forward to shopping without buying, when her dark-haired partner grabbed her hand.
"Come with me. With any luck we can avoid her for years."
They smiled at each other and disappeared.
Postscript - We were a little hard on Callisto, but she was such a deliciously evil villain, that when they made her into such a simp, we had to try to get some of her old self back. Her angelic characterization is the kind of thing that gives 'good' and 'heaven' such a boring reputation.
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