by JS Stephens
Copyright © 2000, revised 2013. All Rights Reserved.
Comments to: email@example.com
Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, and their families belong to Renaissance Pictures.I am merely borrowing the characters for the tale that I tell, which should be told.
Additional disclaimer: This is mostly an alternative fiction web, so of course there are women in love. If you don't subscribe to Xena and Gabrielle being happily married, you might want to leave now.
"Xena, you promised last year that we would go see my parents. You've gone to Solon and Julia's several times to see Telesilla, now it's time for you to make good on your promise to go with me to see my parents," Gabrielle reminded her wife for the umpteenth time.
Xena snapped, "Gabrielle, I've been busy lately, inns don't keep themselves repaired without assistance. Besides, each time I went to see Telesilla, it coincided with a buying trip-"
"-and you just happened to be in the neighborhood. Come on, tell me a better one, Xena, I'm tired of your excuses. My parents said that they wanted me to come back to see them and we can leave the inn for a few weeks. I don't suppose you've noticed the dearth of customers lately, it's not really traveling season. My parents aren't getting any younger and I don't want to go too long without seeing them again," the blonde said sharply.
Xena and Gabrielle locked glares for several minutes, each silently daring the other to break down first. Finally, Xena relented and asked, "when are we leaving and how long will we be gone?" Gabrielle smiled sweetly as she started outlining the trip.
Xena said, "I'll bet they still won't like me."
Gabrielle just smirked as she raised her hand and knocked on the door of her parents' house. The door opened, with her mother smiling and calling, "Come in, come in, dear Gabrielle. Hello, Xena, how are you? Horace will be back shortly, he's showing Theseus something."
"Theseus? You mean the young man I caught trying to steal Dad's donkey?" Gabrielle asked, eyebrows going up in surprise.
Hecuba beamed. "Yes, he's actually a very good worker," she bragged, "we're quite pleased with the way the situation worked out."
Xena noticed a very quiet Horace coming in through the kitchen, surveying the scene before he committed to coming in the rest of the way. He locked eyes with Xena for a moment and his face visibly darkened, but he pulled a more neutral face with some effort. "Xena, Gabrielle," he mumbled in way of greeting. "I'd better get back to the barn, Theseus is waiting. I'll be back in time for lunch."
He turned around and left as quietly as he had come. Gabrielle looked at her mother, then headed out toward the barn, hoping to talk her father alone.
As she walked into the barn, she could hear her father saying, "Now, tie the twine off there, Theseus and you have repaired the rake. Why don't you go check the henhouse for eggs?" He watched Theseus take off, then turned around to find Gabrielle watching him. "What brings you out here? Why aren't you in chattering with the your mother?"
Gabrielle didn't answer immediately, instead, she slowly walked into the barn, turning around in a circle, looking at the familiar structure. Finally, she turned to face her father, eyes blazing in anger. "Dad, what game are you playing? A few months ago, you and Mom invited Lila and Marcus to bring their grandchildren over. Okay, they brought Benjamin and Sarah for a visit and Lila wrote and said that you and Mom loved her children. She also said that you said that I could bring Xena to visit. So why are you acting like such an arrogant asshole by leaving the minute you saw us?"
Horace puffed up, spluttering, "Young lady, don't you dare use such language-"
"Caught your attention," Gabrielle said, allowing her anger to dissolve.
Horace paused in mid-tirade, then did something unexpected: he smiled. "True, you did catch my attention."
"Now that I have your attention, my dear father, would you please tell me what is going on? Why turn around and leave? I remember farm work, you are in a fallow time right now and it looks to me like Theseus is working out as a helper." Gabrielle folded her arms, waiting for an explanation.
Horace leaned against the donkey stall, studying his daughter's face. He tried to start speaking several times, but the words kept failing him. Finally, he muttered, "I guess I'm still angry with you, Gabrielle. I know that we talked for a long time when you and Lila came, but I'm still angry after all these years, angry that you deserted your mother and me to chase after that warrior."
Gabrielle started to interrupt, but her father continued quickly, "Now, hold your tongue a moment and let me speak. Perdicas was a good man, but when you ran away, it liked to have broke his heart. I guess I was counting on his help on the farm, counting on you settling down and giving me grandchildren, but instead, you went chasing after her. Why?"
"Why?" Gabrielle slowly walked closer to her father. "Why? I'll tell you why, I needed adventure, excitement. I needed to feed my creative spirit, to experience life so I could write about it with authority. I know that it seemed pretty foolish of me to chase after Xena, especially with her reputation, but I was drawn to her, felt like, well, like I was supposed to be with her."
"Be with her? You had an, ah, crush on her that early?" he asked, trying to wrap his brain around the idea.
Gabrielle leaned against the stall railings, looking earnestly into her father's eyes. "Dad, I really wasn't thinking of romance when I ran away with Xena. I just knew that my spirit craved adventure and she looked like she needed a friend, someone to talk to, to depend on. Dad, she saved my life, she saved all of our lives when Draco and his crew came thundering into town. Xena didn't have to save us all, she was compelled to save us, to save her own soul. Why can't you see the good that she has done?"
Horace passed his hand over his face, resting it lightly over his eyes. "I guess old habits are hard to break, Gabrielle. Let me ask you this, how would you feel if you had a daughter and she ran off with the most evil warlord who had slashed, killed and burned her way across Greece? I was scared for you, then your sister left a few years later. We didn't even know that we had grandchildren until last year. You girls could have tried harder."
Gabrielle pointed out, "Dad, I tried after Perdicas died-"
"You led him to his death!" Horace shouted, fists clenching in anger. "That boy would have never gone to be a soldier if you had married him in the first place!" Suddenly he sagged, face turning white. "Gabrielle, my chest. Oh, gods, it hurts," he whimpered, sliding to the floor in a dead faint.
"Dad?" Gabrielle knelt down by her father, taking his pulse. Nothing. "Dad?" What would Xena do? What did Xena do when she died in from the arrow wound? A sharp memory of Xena's tear-stained face rose in her memory, along with a painful bruise on her chest.
Gabrielle straightened out her father's body and slammed her fists into his chest, then checked his pulse. Nothing. She slammed them again, then checked his pulse. Wait, a faint pulse, what was the next step? Pump for the heart! She laid her hands on his chest, carefully compressing his chest in shallow pulses, pausing every few times to blow breath into his lungs. After an eternity, he started coughing and Gabrielle turned him on his side to help him clear his airways. "Daddy?" she whispered as she gathered him in her arms, "can you hear me?"
Horace opened his eyes, still taking quick, shallow breaths. "Yes," he croaked, "I can hear you."
"We need to get you to the house so we can get you some help," Gabrielle said, trying to think clearly.
"Gab?" Horace croaked.
"Where did you learn that? I should have died," Horace marveled.
Gabrielle smiled. "From Xena."
"Figures," Horace said as his eyes closed again, "that just figures."
Gabrielle and Horace both turned toward the speaker; Theseus bowed low and swept his arms out in a grand gesture. "My queen, what has happened?" he asked as he saw Horace's pale face.
"First, Theseus, I am not your queen, second, go to the house and get Xena. Tell her that we have a medical emergency. Got that?"
"Yes, my, um, sister?" He dashed off toward the house as Gabrielle turned back to her father. "Sister?" she queried.
He smiled faintly. "Hecuba and I are talking about adopting Theseus. He still has several years before he can look for a wife, he's turning out to be a very good farmer."
"So, why didn't you tell us about this development? Communication should flow two ways, you know," she pointed out.
Horace smiled weakly. "Caught me, didn't you?" Before he could elaborate, Xena arrived to take stock of the situation. "Xena, I can honestly say I'm glad to see you," Horace told her. Xena quirked an eyebrow, then started asking questions about the incident.
Hours later, the healer came out from working with Horace to face the family. "He might pull through, he might not. I'm leaving a preparation of foxglove, which might strengthen his heart, but it could kill him too. We just won't know for a few days. He's resting right now." He wearily rubbed his face, then promised to check back in the morning. "Try to keep him calm if you can," he added before he left.
Hecuba aimlessly stirred her fork in her plate, then got up started clearing the dishes. "Theseus, let's clear the table and let Hecuba and Gabrielle talk," Xena suggested. The young man jumped up and started helping without protest. Xena kissed Gabrielle's cheek, whispering, "Go keep your mother company, your dad doesn't need any visitors for a little longer." Gabrielle nodded, ushering her mother into the living room.
Mother and daughter sat uneasily, neither sure what to say. Finally, Hecuba said, "Gabrielle, I'm so grateful that you and Xena are here. Your father was looking forward to your visit so much, he enjoyed it when Lila and her family came up to see us."
Gabrielle blurted out, "You mean he didn't make fun of Marcus and his limp?"
"What?" her mother said, startled.
"Never mind," Gabrielle said hastily, "guess I'm just stressed. Nearly seeing your father die is not very fun."
"No, I suppose not," Hecuba agreed, "I suppose that the excitement caught up with him. I hadn't told anyone else, Gabrielle, but your father had been having problems with his heart the past few months. That's one of the reasons that he wanted to adopt Theseus, to have a son to pass his farm down to."
Gabrielle looked all around the room, uneasy, unsure if she should tell her mother what happened in the barn. Finally, she said, "Well, I guess I didn't help matters much, running off like I did."
Hecuba looked at her daughter for a long moment, but before she could say anything, Xena stepped into the room. "Sorry to interrupt, but I've sent Theseus for the healer and a lawyer. Horace just had another spell with his heart, you'd both better come quickly." Daughter and mother rose as one, reaching to each other for support as they followed Xena into the bedroom.
A short time later, Horace signed papers to legally adopt Theseus, then signed his revised will, leaving everything to Hecuba and Theseus. After the lawyer left, he motioned to Gabrielle. "I'm sorry," he said, "but you and Lila seem to be pretty well off and I have to provide for your mother, you understand, don't you?"
Gabrielle said dully, "I understand, Dad."
Horace looked up at Xena. "Sorry we didn't get along better, Xena. You'll take care of Gabrielle, won't you?"
"Yes, sir, I will," she promised.
"Good. Hecuba, dear wife, I love you." Horace tried to take a deep breath, but started wheezing instead, clutching his chest. Xena moved forward, but he was gone. Hecuba flung herself on her husband's body, holding on until Xena and Gabrielle pulled her off. Theseus took her out of the room, talking to her in low tones.
Gabrielle pulled the sheet over her father's face, then turned and buried her face in Xena's chest. Xena folder her arms around her beloved, kissing the top of her head, holding her, waiting for the storm. Gabrielle did not cry, however, she just hung on to Xena for a long time, then disentangled herself and said that they should start working on funeral arrangements. Xena nodded, wondering why Gabrielle was so composed. It was not like her.
The funeral was delayed by a few days so that Lila and Marcus could attend, leaving Benjamin and Sarah to stay with friends in Corinth. Marcus told Hecuba that he and Lila had talked during the trip down, that they were willing for Hecuba and Theseus to come live in Corinth with them. She said that she'd think about it.
Lila caught up with Xena after the funeral and asked if they could speak in private. Xena agreed, and followed Lila down to the river, where Lila and Gabrielle and shared many long talks in their childhood. "Xena, is it just me, or is Gabrielle acting funny? She's too quiet and seems to be doing anything to avoid talking about Dad."
"She does seem too quiet, Lila," Xena agreed, "I'm not sure what's going on either. She won't talk to me about it." Xena scratched her cheek, reflecting. "But it does seem that after we got here, she went to talk to Horace about something. He had his heart attack, then everything went crazy for a while. I wonder if they had an argument and she feels guilty about it?"
"Could be," Lila mused, "Gabrielle had been anxious to bring you home to see our parents, after we'd finally made up with them. When Marcus and I brought the children down for a visit, Dad seemed to be okay with everything, telling them stories about us as girls, but he always did have a temper. I guess something could have set him off and he and Gabrielle argued."
Xena nodded. "That's entirely possible and I must admit that I'd been dragging my feet about coming to visit." She smiled crookedly at Lila. "Being called no good for Gabrielle did make me a tad upset."
Lila admitted, "I don't have much room to talk, Xena, I did help drive you both away. I guess I was so jealous of Gabrielle leaving home and getting to marry, even if she did lose Perdicas after a day. By the way, how could you stand for her to marry him? He was always so dull, so not right for her."
Xena shifted on the rock uncomfortably, trying to decide what to tell Lila. Finally, she said, "I don't know, Lila, I was afraid to lose her, but I thought maybe it was the best for her, that following me around was a bad thing. Okay, to be honest, I didn't want her to go, but what could I say? Marry me instead? I wouldn't admit to myself at the time how much I loved her, but I knew that her friendship was what kept me going. I couldn't fall back into the darkness, I was afraid of what it would do to her if I did."
Lila thought for a moment before asking what had bugged her for years. "Okay, I'm curious, Xena, when did you two decide that you were really in love? I thought you were when you came home after Perdicas died."
Xena shook her head. "No, Lila, we hadn't done anything at that point. After the family fracas, I took her to an old cave that I used as a hide out so she could heal. We spend a lot of time there, just recuperating, me teaching her some defensive moves. It happened then, I finally realized that I was in love with her. Fortunately for me, she decided the same thing. Enough about us, though," she added.
Lila slowly smiled, commenting, "The Warrior Princess, slain by a Bard. Very romantic. Actually, you make a good sister-in-law, Xena, I just wish that we could all see each other more often. The children need to know their aunts better, both of their aunts."
Xena bent her head, staring at her toes, then jumped off the rock. "Yeah, I guess we can come up, I do fairly well with children now. You coming?" she asked.
"No, I think I'll stay here a few minutes. Hey Xena?" Lila asked.
"What?" Xena turned to face Lila.
Lila smiled. "Thanks for talking to me and thanks for being so good for Gabrielle."
"Sure. See you later." Xena walked off, leaving Lila to ponder her childhood.
Meanwhile, Theseus was peppering Gabrielle with questions about being a bard until she finally snapped, "Just shut up and leave me alone!" Theseus stared as Gabrielle stormed out of the house, slamming the back door so hard that a few pots crashed down from the walls.
Hecuba witnessed the slamming door and took off after Gabrielle, yelling, "Wait! What in Tartarus is going on with you, Gabrielle?" She caught up with her daughter, grabbing her arm. "I asked what is going on with you?" Gabrielle roughly shook her mother's hand off, and turned to stalk off, but Hecuba grabbed her again, shaking her. "I asked you a question and I demand an answer," she yelled.
Gabrielle's shoulders slumped, she stopped in her path. "You don't need to know," she mumbled.
"Know what?" Hecuba asked. "What do you think that your mother does not need to know?"
Gabrielle's head snapped up, eyes blazing. "I guess I killed my father, making him so angry. We had an argument, the same old argument about me following Xena. He never understood, he never will now."
"No, but I will," Hecuba said as she lead Gabrielle over to the porch. "Have a seat." Gabrielle reluctantly lowered herself into one of the chairs, waiting for her mother to continue speaking. After Hecuba sat down, she said, "I'm going to tell you something that I never told anyone before."
"What?" Gabrielle asked miserably.
Hecuba waited until her daughter looked up at her before she started her tale. "Gabrielle, before you were born, I was visited by Aphrodite. She prophesied that you would grow up to be the companion of a famous warrior, that you would change the world. She said that you would also follow the path of your love, that you would be a great bard and a great warrior. I thought it meant that we would have a son who would do all of this, but when I had a girl, I thought that certainly Aphrodite was confused."
Gabrielle rolled her eyes at the thought of Aphrodite. "Figures it was her," she muttered darkly."
Hecuba continued as if Gabrielle had not interrupted. "But, when you came back after Perdicas died and I saw the way that you looked at Xena, I knew that it was true. When you followed Xena the first time, Horace wanted to go after you, to force you to come home, but I told him that he couldn't. I didn't tell him about the prophesy, but he decided that you would come home on your own that that we would have a great homecoming."
Gabrielle sat, thinking this over. It started to make sense, her feeling of her destiny lying with Xena, her feeling that she was meant to be bard and warrior. It also made sense that she felt that Aphrodite kept a very close eye on her, appearing at the oddest times. In an incident that she'd never told anyone, Aphrodite had kept her company one night when Xena was away on a mission. Gabrielle had come down with a fever, too sick to do anything for herself and the goddess had appeared, whipped up broth, then spoon fed it to Gabrielle. After Gabrielle's fever broke, Aphrodite had told her, "I couldn't let my favorite lovers part too soon," then had disappeared. "So, why didn't you tell Dad?" Gabrielle asked.
Hecuba looked at Gabrielle in amazement. "Because Aphrodite warned me not to, and she is a goddess. Besides, Gabrielle, who would have believed me anyway? Girls in our village are supposed to be wives and mothers, not bards and certainly not warriors."
"I see your point," Gabrielle said slowly, "but you're sure Dad didn't know?"
"Yes." Before she could ask any other questions, Xena came up from her walk with Lila. Hecuba watched as Xena sat on the arm of the chair, reaching out to touch Gabrielle's face, the softening of her face as she talked to Gabrielle. Hecuba understood for the first time that the two women were meant for each other, a balance of strengths and weaknesses. Maybe Gabrielle would still change the world some day, but for now, she was content to have changed Xena's world.
Gabrielle felt funny entering the temple. She hadn't walked into the village temple since she was a girl, many years ago, but she remembered the old rituals, lighting the candles, murmuring the old prayers. As she knelt at the altar, a light flashed and Aphrodite appeared before her. "Hey, babe," the goddess greeted her, "what are you here for?"
The bard got right to the point of her visit. "The prophesy."
"Oh, that old thing," the goddess said offhandedly, "what do you want to know about it? By the way, your father is settled down in the Elysian Fields and is happy. He sends his love."
"Thanks." Gabrielle stood up, looking at the goddess of love. She took a deep breath, then repeated, "The prophesy, tell me about it."
Aphrodite carefully arranged her gauzy dress as she sat down on the steps leading to the altar, patting the floor beside her. Gabrielle sat down warily, waiting for the goddess to speak. "Okay, here goes. You see, Ares, my dear brother god o' war, had already marked Xena as his handpicked badass warrior doll, intent on having her spread fear and destruction all over, making him top dog. He'd picked her out before she was born, so I decided to start looking for someone to balance her."
"And?" Gabrielle prompted.
Aphrodite put her arm around Gabrielle's shoulders, squeezing the woman affectionately. "Your parents were having trouble conceiving and had been praying to me. It hit me that a child born of perfect love, infused with love, could counter the most terrible warrior ever known. Your dad may have seemed gruff, but Gabrielle, he wanted children so badly, not just to work the farm, but to love and cherish, which is why it hurt him so much that both of his beloved daughters ran away from home. Getting back to my story, I helped your parents conceive you. I blessed you with love and creativity and foresaw that you would be the perfect mate for Xena. You know the rest, light to dark and all that."
"You made me to be-"
The goddess laughed, placing a finger on Gabrielle's lips to shush her. "Gabby, don't get your feathers in a ruffle, I made it possible for you to be born. No godly powers in your little head, I promise. But I knew that you would be the one, the only one who could counter Xena, and that Xena could be the only one to help you bring your dual nature of bard and defender to fruition. You guys are soul mates, you'll always belong together, no matter what happens."
Aphrodite suddenly jumped up, pulling Gabrielle up with her. "Enough mushy stuff, I'm late for a party." The goddess smiled, then leaned forward and kissed Gabrielle lightly on the lips. "If you hadn't been meant for Xena...well, I won't pursue that. Enjoy life." With that, she disappeared in a fall of sparkles.
Gabrielle touched her lips with her fingertips, dazed. Finally, she whispered, "Thanks for everything, Aphrodite," then left the temple to find Xena.
"See, Ares, they really are meant for each other," the goddess of love said proudly.
Ares snorted, mildly amused. "Yeah, dear Aphrodite, but I'll get Xena some day, just you wait."
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