Xena squeezed her eyes tightly closed and massaged her temples in an attempt to ease the pounding headache she'd developed in the last five minutes. They were back in the waiting area and Gabrielle was at her wits end, frantically pacing back and forth, and causing Xena to grind her teeth as she grew increasingly stressed. They were drawing attention from a good few of the recently departed souls seated close by, who were becoming rather unsettled at this emotional display playing out before them.
"Did you know it was going to come down to this? Did you? Because fuck me Xena, not once in the last six months did you give me any indication that this was temporary!"
Xena wearily rose to her feet, and grasped the blonde's shoulders to try and keep her still. "Gabrielle, I didn't..." She stopped short as tears began to spill helplessly out of her lover's eyes. "If it doesn't work out, we'll find a way - we always do."
"Not again." Gabrielle sniffed, her voice breaking. "I can't go through this again - I just can't."
Xena took her hand and marched towards one of the interview rooms. She flung the door open and peered inside to check it was empty before entering. As Gabrielle followed her, she spun around and kicked the door closed behind them. The slam temporarily disrupted Gabrielle's panic-stricken train of thought and without warning, steady hands locked behind her thighs and lifted her up. She found herself sandwiched between the door and six feet of desperate warrior - who proceeded to kiss her senseless.
She wrapped her legs around Xena's waist and before she had time to think, a determined hand found its way between her thighs, pulled her underwear aside and began to pump steadily inside her. Her brain collapsed in on itself and she rode the sensations for all she was worth, her muscles burning from the effort as she slammed herself repeatedly against the wood at her back. Xena's mouth smothered her cries as she lost all control of her movements, the fingers within her eventually slowing their pace. As her heartbeat settled down and her body stopped convulsing, Gabrielle luxuriated in the languid kisses Xena offered until she was once again able to stand on her own two feet. The warrior pulled away, gazing at Gabrielle with a look of complete love and brushing the damp hair out of the bard's eyes. "Xena..." Gabrielle began, but was silenced by a finger pressing to her lips and a quiet "Ssssh" as the dark haired woman knelt, ducked her head underneath Gabrielle's skirt and resumed her task of keeping her partner's mind off the matter at hand.
"I guess that's it then." Mr Truman concluded, shuffling his papers into a neat pile and rising from his desk. He left the room in search of his clients, leaving his colleague scowling at the desk behind him. A quick sweep of the waiting area yielded no sign of Xena and Gabrielle, so Truman carefully approached another patiently waiting customer. "Excuse me, I'm terribly sorry to bother you but I'm looking for two women who were in here earlier on. You may have seen them - one is strikingly tall with long dark hair, and her companion is quite a bit shorter with blonde..."
His speech ground to a halt as he noticed a curious expression on the man's face. In fact, the man looked to be in shock. His eyes were wide, his mouth hanging agape and his stare fixed on a door across the room. Slowly raising his arm, he pointed towards the door, which was rattling furiously from something thumping rhythmically against it on the other side. "They went in there." he managed.
Mr Truman contemplated the door for a moment before deciding "I think the tannoy might be more appropriate..."
Mr Sparks drummed his fingers impatiently on the desk. After the third tannoy announcement the door squeaked open. The two women reappeared, Xena supporting her flushed and rather bedraggled looking companion until she slumped bonelessly in her seat. "Glad you could join us." Sparks greeted them sarcastically.
"Figured we'd get a head start." Xena shot back, and then with a lascivious smirk added "No pun intended..." Sparks silently shifted in his seat.
"Well ladies," Truman began, "I'm afraid," - the colour drained instantly from Gabrielle's face while Xena's fingernails dug into the arm of her chair - "that we were unable to reach a decision. Mr Sparks rightly pointed out that there is no case whatsoever to prove that Xena is an essential component in Gabrielle's life." He read from their hastily scribbled report without meeting their eyes. "Gabrielle has sufficient intelligence, intuition, imagination, strength, courage and wisdom - not to mention an extraordinarily gifted right hand - to be more than capable of continuing with her current feats unassisted. And for my part? Well, I've always been a sucker for a good romance. Therefore, we failed to reach an agreement. However...some new evidence has come to light. Our Managing Director seems to have got wind of your case and appears to be a particularly big fan of yours. We received this fax earlier today."
Truman lifted a hefty stack of paper in demonstration, before handing the cover sheet to a puzzled looking Xena. Quickly scanning the logo, her eyebrows lifted in amusement. "Eli's World of Textiles?"
"What?! Gimme that!" Gabrielle insisted.
"You two have friends in high places. As God's emissary, Eli is in charge of our operation here. But he also gets out and about - mingling with his people. He has to conduct himself undercover though, otherwise things have a habit of turning nasty for him. Crucifixions, hangings...I'm sure you get the idea. The upshot of all this is that we've been put under considerable pressure to sway the decision in your favour. I mean, you don't turn someone like Eli down..."
Gabrielle sank into her chair exhaling a loud sigh of relief at the last minute reprieve.
"What does he say?" Xena insisted.
"You understand I can't go into details right? With his connections to the powers that be, Eli has been able to illustrate the path Gabrielle's life will take with you, and the path it will take without you. If you remain together Gabrielle will spend the rest of her life helping and entertaining a lot of people."
"And without?" Gabrielle asked, not overly concerned now that they had their decision.
"It's not pretty." Mr Sparks answered rather too enthusiastically, flaring his nostrils and adding "There are some really graphic photos..." much to Xena's annoyance.
"So Gabrielle," Truman said cheerfully, "seeing as you have to put up with this grumbling pile of discontentment for the rest of your life, do you have any requests? Anything we can arrange to make things easier on you?"
The blonde's eyes gleamed instantly until she was advised that no, there was absolutely no way that the laws of nature could be flouted to restore Xena to life - that kind of thing only happened on television. "The rest of my life, huh? How long is that exactly?" she wondered.
"Unfortunately we cannot disclose information of that kind. It's classified. We could tell you, but then we'd have to kill you. If we kill you, you'll be rendered dead thus negating the original answer. Please don't put us in the position of having to explain that one to Eli...so. Anything you'd like to ask for?"
After a moments consideration, Gabrielle answered "Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do. Can we skip the next life? Shakti and Armenestra? For all intents and purposes we've already been there and done that. When we're done here couldn't we just...skip it and move on to the life after?"
As Truman and Sparks bowed their heads in quiet debate over her request, Gabrielle leaned over to Xena and whispered, "Don't get me wrong, but the idea of being a strapping young lad in his prime and knowing that my lover is a ninety year old woman isn't very appealing..."
"That's rather shallow of you don't you think?" Xena replied with mock outrage. Frankly, she could quite happily go without having to hobble around with that stick while Gabrielle was off fighting armies and doing cartwheels.
"I love you Xena, but you smelled of cabbage. You know how I feel about cabbage..."
"Done!" Mr Truman announced. If you'd both like to sign at the bottom of this document, I'll explain how things work from here. The only condition of you staying together for eternity is that in this life Gabrielle must die in the way that has been decreed - which is most definitely not suicide - in case you get any ideas." he added turning to the blonde.
"So - you know how I'm going to die?" she prodded, intrigued.
Mr Truman nodded solemnly in an effort to maintain his professional air, while quietly stifled sniggers from Mr Sparks erupted into raucous laughter. A quick thump in the stomach from his colleague shut him up. Truman averted his gaze from the startled women and clumsily glossed over the matter. "In the future, you will either live out your entire lifespans together, or you will inhabit specific bodies for a significant period in their lives. It could go either way. There's an interesting if brief interlude as siamese twins, and you're pretty much booked up for the entire twentieth and twenty first centuries and...Oooo a detective agency!"
"We get the idea!" Xena interrupted, cutting him off sharply. "I think we'll just take things as they come, thanks. So long as we're off the hook with that India thing - I can't handle any more yoga. I'll miss the food though."
Mr Sparks rubbed his ample belly and assured her, "Don't worry, curries go global."
Truman rose to shake their hands. "It's been a pleasure. And Xena? Congratulations on your promotion."
"Promotion?" the warrior queried with a dumb look on her face.
"Following the success of your case, you've been upgraded to poltergeist. I believe the term is German, meaning "noisy spirit". We've all heard the warcry...but you'll also be able to move objects."
"Does this mean I can have my chakram back?" Xena asked Gabrielle with a hopeful smile.
"Absolutely not. You can clean my dishes though..."
As they stood to leave the room, they caught Mr Sparks voice complaining "I can't believe you bought all that sappy lovesick crap..."
Gabrielle reclined on her bedroll, wiping the sweat from her brow and slowly bringing her breathing back under control. Materialising was not something she wanted to do very often if this is how bad it made her feel. "My mother warned me about women like you."
"She did?" Xena asked, somewhat surprised.
Upon reflection, the blonde answered, "No. I think it's pretty safe to say you're one of a kind!"
The warrior beamed, then pulled a fur up over her partner as she began to shiver slightly in the cooler night air. "Promise me you'll invest in some warmer clothes. You'll catch your death." Sensing the blonde's twinkling smile, she added, "Don't even think about it."
"Pneumonia is natural causes..."
"I don't think scaling the Himalayas in your bikini top is going to pull the wool over anyone's eyes - do you?"
"Good point. I do need to offload some stuff though. I can't carry all of this gear around on my own - no matter how many three humped camels I have to help me. I think a visit to Lila is in order."
Xena agreed, taking in the masses of weapons, the tent, the various scrolls they'd confiscated from the temple Gabrielle had practically destroyed, along with her day to day necessities. "Since we're headed north anyways, we could throw in a little sightseeing? I could take you to see...what's that thing called?" She furrowed her brow. "Sphinx!"
"Bless you." Gabrielle crinkled her nose up and jabbed her lover playfully in the ribs. "I'm just kidding! Let's go home. I've a promise to keep," she looked pointedly at Xena, "to an old friend..."
Author's note - All pop culture references are entirely intentional. This story was something I had to write so that I could laugh at "A Friend In Need" once I was done sobbing like a small child experiencing her first pet death. I saw no need to bring Xena back from the dead - she can get up to plenty of mischief this way. Thanks for reading.