Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle et all belong to whoever they belong to this week...Universal Studios/Studios USA by my reckoning. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm merely borrowing them to purge my torment over the ending of the show.

Story: This is set directly after "Friend In Need" part 2, so if you haven't seen it and don't want the walls of your perceived reality to come collapsing down around your ears - don't read it.

Subtext: Not any more it isn't. Lucy Lawless said so. The thought had never entered my mind prior to that! Yes, Xena and Gab are involved and have a liking for doing the wild thing together - if that perturbs you, get thee hence.

Written by Jay 20 June 2001 -13th March 2002.
Dedicated to anyone who has ever experienced the purgatory of a social security office - from either side of the counter.


"The pain is borne of fear and doubt, and it eats inside. Emotions that come teeming out, are all the ones you tried to hide. And late at night the seizure starts, and stays till morning - It's a universal theme - but you've got company." -
"Church of the Broken Hearted" - Silver Ginger 5

Several pairs of hands hoisted her up, and she was vaguely aware of being propelled forward until the cool night air hit her like a slap to the face. Her senses were quickly failing, and the last thing she heard as the moist ground kissed her cheek was a the echo of a distant memory.

"Sleep now. It'll hurt less in the morning."

The first signs of dawn began to stretch over the horizon, turning the cold dark sky into more soothing shades of orange and gold. Birds darted between trees while chattering happily to each other, and a beautiful blonde woman began to stir.
She tried in vain to swallow several times, but her mouth had the texture of sawdust. Somewhere close by, a sweet voice sang snatches of a lilting melody, before lapsing into a bout of whistling.

"Sittin' on the dock of the bay...wastin' time..."

Gabrielle pried her eyes open, pleased that the suns rays were not yet too bright. She surveyed her surroundings, noting with shame that she seemed to be lying underneath a hedge. Ignoring her pulsating head and the churning in her stomach, she slowly sat upright to see where the sounds were coming from.
Much to her astonishment, the image that greeted her was that of her recently departed love. The dark-haired apparition was sprawled lazily on a grassy verge just to Gabrielle's right, a tiny stream trickling through the ground beside her. Every now and then she would try to pick up a pebble to throw it into the harbour water close by, but her hand would pass right through it.

"Looks like nothing's gonna change..."

Rubbing her eyes, Gabrielle crawled out of the hedge and moved towards where her friend was sitting.

"Xena?" she whispered incredulously.

"Ah, my little Warrior Princess awakens!"

"Is it really you?"

"Keep your voice down, nobody but you can see or hear me. Yes, it's really me."

A wave of nausea suddenly washed over the young woman and she turned and threw up. Taking a second to compose herself, she scooped up and handful of water from the stream and drank it, and then began to splash her face. The renewed moisture in her mouth was exquisite.

"How's the head?" asked the warrior, knowing full well she wouldn't get an answer. "I had a look around earlier, there's some herbs over there you can use to make a remedy. I'd have prepared it for you but, ah...I can't."

Gabrielle scooted over and flinched with surprise when Xena put an arm around her, before finally sinking into the embrace.

"Where did you go?", the bard asked, tears welling in her eyes.

"Had a little business to take care of. I'll tell you all about it later. You on the other hand, had the good sense to arrange passage back to Greece and take all your things on board before I found you brawling in a tavern late last night. Now, I don't want to rush you, but we've got to catch that ship in a couple of hours."

"Can't we just stay here a while?" Gabrielle implored, before closing her eyes and drifting back to sleep. Xena merely smiled lop-sidedly and left her to it. She'd rouse her in time to collect some herbs and board the boat.


"So where to now?" Xena asked approaching her friend who was clutching the urn and waxing lyrical as bards are prone to do.

"I think we should go south to the Land of The Pharoes. I hear they need a girl with a chakram. We can catch a ship back to Greece from there."

"Where you go - I'm at your side."

"I knew you'd say that..." Gabrielle smiled as Xena placed a soft kiss on her head, feeling much better about the whole situation than she had done last night. Several too many ales on an empty stomach had done little to help her grief until she'd mercifully passed out.

"Ah, so now I'm the predictable one?" Xena bantered. There was clearly some role reversal at play since her demise.

Gabrielle snorted. "Not exactly, that was one hell of a stunt you pulled. " She reflected briefly on how she'd fought like something crazed to bring Xena back to life - only to have the warrior herself deliver the biggest suckerpunch. "People are going to think I'm crazy if they see me wandering around talking to myself, and as if I don't already have enough things to carry around with me now I've got this...fucking urn! I hate you."

"You're forgetting something."

"What?" the blonde asked, somewhat agitated.

"I'm dead. I can hear your thoughts. You don't have to speak to talk to me. But I guess you're going to be pretty sore at me for a while, huh?"

Gabrielle gazed out over the water in silence for a few moments before whispering, "You broke my heart Xena. Don't do it again."

"I hate you too." murmured the warrior before wrapping her arms tightly around Gabrielle's stomach and kissing her again. Something about the familiar terrain felt decidedly different. "Hey, are you putting weight on?"

The blonde swatted Xena's hands away from her and glanced down at her expanded midriff. Apparently ale had an unfortunate bloating effect and she resolved to stick to wine in future. "Hmm. You wanna help me burn some of it off?" she grinned conspiratorially.

"So, what's the plan?" Xena beamed, suddenly realising that trying to "out-Gabrielle" Gabrielle was going to provide her with a lot of amusement.

"It would probably be a good idea for us to go inside for a start. It's going to look pretty bizarre if anyone catches us...I mean, me...you know what I mean." mused the bard, wrinkling her nose and noticeably blushing. "We're going to have to sort out to some rules...rule number one - lock the door, rule number two..."

"Gabrielle - shut up." Xena interrupted, taking her partner's hand and leading her away. Evidently the warrior was never going to be able to talk the hind legs off a donkey quite as well as this, but she could certainly try.

Xena poked her head through the wall of one of the ship's small cabins, and the blonde winced, the colour swiftly draining from her cheeks upon seeing the headless shoulders now standing in front of her.
"All clear!" the warrior confirmed looking back, then noting the distressed look on her companion's face muttered in embarrassment, "Ah, sorry about that. I guess this is going to take some getting used to."

Once inside the cabin, Gabrielle wedged a chair against the door and lay on the small bed, urgently pulling the warrior down on top of her for a searing kiss. "Xena, I need you inside me..." she rasped insistently, and was somewhat surprised when Xena drew away slightly.

"I already am."


"My soul. It's in here." she motioned by brushing her lips against Gabrielle's chest. "Seems I'm causing the afterlife authorities no end of bother. I spent all last night arguing with them about this. I'm supposed to be re-born into another body. It's like a production line. You die, they process you, you're re-born. Only I refused to go anywhere without you. That didn't go down too well, and since I can't exactly bust heads over there they had to deal with me being impossibly obstinate..."

Xena considered the curious frown on Gabrielle's face for a moment before she continued.

"Seems we created a bit of a stumbling block. Apparently, if you speak vows they're obliged to hold you to them. Only we altered the "Till death do us part" bit rather radically. So I had to play that loophole up until they gave in. Since they can't have stray souls cluttering the place up, they had to send me somewhere. Back to you was their only option." Xena smiled, waiting for a reaction.

"So...I have two souls?"

"No, just the one. Until now our souls were incomplete. Think of it like the chakram. There were two to begin with, the light and the dark - you and me. Then when I joined them together, they balanced and became a much better weapon. We're now the perfect warrior. I told you I'd never leave you."

Gabrielle mulled this over for a moment before replying, "So how's your poetry?" with a smirk. "You know it's funny, but when I said I needed you inside me? For once I wasn't talking metaphorically. Whatever happened to "I'll explain later" anyway?!"

"Gotcha." the warrior grinned sheepishly before gliding her hands along Gabrielle's sides and blazing a trail of kisses down her trembling flesh. The bard had believed she'd never experience this again, and her mind reeled from the sensations. Xena caught every last word the blonde didn't utter, until they finally descended into primal sounds and gibberish. Racing towards climax, Gabrielle was suddenly aware of the cool air dancing over her body. Unclenching her fists and releasing the bed sheets, she afforded herself a downwards glance. Xena was nowhere to be seen.

"Oh great, let me guess - sunset?!", she slammed her head back down and growled in frustration.


The Dept of Elsewhere.

The out-of-breath warrior found herself sitting in a brightly lit waiting room with a maudlin collection of other recently deceased souls. The air was stale and practically everybody was fidgeting. Quickly composing herself, she turned to the man sitting next to her and asked what he was in for.

"No idea. One minute I was arguing with my boss until he got my hand stuck between a pair of concast rollers, the next I'm sitting here. You?"

*Concast rollers?*, thought Xena, then non-the-wiser answered with a low snarl, "I'm not sure, but I'm going to find out..." Lurching out of her chair, she marched up to a sullen looking gentleman who was seated in a booth behind a pane of glass at the front of the room.

"Now listen here bud, I've got better things to do with my time that sit around in here all day so you'd better start explaining what the hell..."

"I'm sorry madam, but you'll just have to be patient and wait your turn like everybody else."

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that..." she grumbled menacingly, slamming her hand against the screen.

"Madam, please. Either you return to your seat immediately or we'll have you thrown out and forcibly reincarnated."
The man resumed tapping on some strange manner of flat abacus while staring at the big shiny box it was attached to. Xena glowered at him for a moment before realising this wasn't going to get her anywhere, and reluctantly returned to her seat.
The man beckoned a colleague from behind him and whispered, "When they're done with that woman's case file? I recommend you mark it "Potentially Violent."

What felt like aeons later, a voice finally startled her out of a daydream - "Xena of Amphipolis to room B!!", and she headed towards a small interview office.

Upon opening the door she was confronted by another man, a weasely looking fellow with a squint who sported some manner of eyeglasses.
"Miss "of Amphipolis", I take it? Please, have a seat."

"I thought this was all settled when you had me in here yesterday?" she asked.

"No, yesterday was your initial reception interview. It took a little longer than we had anticipated since you were rather - shall we say "unco-operative"...? Otherwise you'd have been out of here in minutes. Today we have to process your details, discuss your intentions in more depth."

"Is this going to take long? I've got a widow to support!" Xena retorted, growing angrier by the second.

"That's entirely up to you. Now, I need you to fill in these forms first and then we can have a little chat..." The man dropped a stack of papers on the table in front of Xena with a resounding "thump", and them excused himself to go and have a cigarette.

He returned some time later just as Xena was finishing the last form (having finally worked out how to operate a biro - she was a woman of many skills.)
Taking a glance through it he began, "Oh no. No. This wont do at all.", motioning towards her signature.
"I'm afraid merely your initial wont do. You have to sign your full name."

"But that is my signature! "X"! Don't you see?! I've had just about enough of you, you snivelling little..." she cut herself short upon seeing his withering glare. Best to just let him say his piece and get the hell out of here.

"Miss "of Amphipolis", you're the one in a hurry here, not me. The quicker you help me get through this, the quicker you can leave and get back to...whatever it was that you were doing." he snorted, with a slight look of distaste. He skimmed through everything she had written for a few minutes, while making the occasional note in her file.
"I see they've assigned your soul to an existing body? Some manner of loophole you've managed to exploit. I see no reason why we can't stick to this arrangement...for the time being. We will have to call you back in from time to time to monitor your usefulness in this host body. If it's not found to be satisfactory then you will be extracted and transferred for reincarnation. At the very least your benefits will be suspended indefinitely."

"My benefits?" the warrior frowned.

"The tactile connection you've been granted with your host. From what it says in your file I gather that's something you'd rather not be without."

"Whatever you say." Xena concurred, forcing a smile to her face. The bright lights and lingering stench of cigarette smoke were giving her a headache.

"Thank you for your time." the man said insincerely. "See you soon."

Xena watched as her surroundings seemed to deconstruct around her and reassemble into that of a ship cabin. She instantly caught sight of her soul mate, naked but for a thin cotton sheet and fast asleep on the bed. She quietly crossed the cabin, and clambered onto the mattress. Settling down next to the bard, she closed her eyes and wondered if it were possible for her to sleep now that she was dead.


Gabrielle blearily opened her eyes when she felt a warmth against her back and a strong arm drape itself around her middle. Lifting the hand so she could see it, she questioned - "Xena?"

"Morning honey..." came the response from behind her.

The bard breathed a sigh of relief at the familiar voice, and the pair of lips softly kissing her shoulder. Last time she'd had this exchange it hadn't turned out quite so friendly. She turned over to lay on her back, and gazed up at her partner.

"You know Gabrielle, you really have to do something about that snoring problem of yours. It's enough to wake the dead."

"Very funny. Now stop avoiding the issue...I believe you were in the middle of something?" Gabrielle smouldered. Interlacing their fingers and parting her legs slightly, she guided Xena's hand between them whilst gladly accepting the warrior's warm tongue into her mouth.

For days they did nothing but talk, sleep and make love. As they sailed towards the Mediterranean Sea, there was simply nothing else for them to do. Occasionally Gabrielle would toss some clothes on and venture out on deck to see if she could grab any food. As they had watched that final sunset together in Japan, they had both been convinced that they would never see each other again, and had been unable to stop the flow of tears. But as Xena had once prophesised in another time - another life, "Everything happens precisely as it should." and they had been reunited, in spite of death.

"So, given my new status, and considering our last..."episode", how would you rate that?"

"Hmm. Unbearably sweet beginning, meandered around a lot in the middle, very satisfying end. I approve."

"And I thought I couldn't please everyone."

"You can't. Just me." Gabrielle grinned, content in the knowledge that whatever awaited her in Egypt, she wasn't going to have to face it alone.


Part 2

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