I SING OF DAVID
Session Two at Sapphos Couples Counseling Service
As characters, Xena and Gabrielle, and any others borrowed from the show, Xena: Warrior Princess, belong to MCA Universal and Renaissance Pictures. As fantasies, they belong to us all. In this series of therapeutic vignettes, Ive borrowed them for my own perverse purposes as a hopeless subtext romantic. This session contains specific references to several, episodes, among them: "Giant Killer," "Return of Callisto," "A Fistful of Dinars," "Ulysses," and especially "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
"Gabrielle, were going to have to do something about all these scrolls," said Xena, cinching the saddlebag closed as best she could. "Argo says shes beginning to feel like a pack mule."
Gabrielle shook out her wet hair, pointedly shaking the water in Xenas direction. "Yeah, yeah," she said, drying her neck with the towel. "And I suppose the crossbow you bought in Corinth doesnt weigh the ole girl down."
"The crossbows not permanent," said Xena. "I told you, its a gift Im taking to Toris." She smacked the bulging saddlebag. "These scrolls multiply faster than Harpies."
Gabrielle gawked at her. "I cant believe you said that," she said. "I guess thats what you really think about my writing, isnt it?" She turned on her heel and walked back to the riverbank, tossing a final remark over her shoulder. "Sorry to be such a burden to your nag."
Argo looked up at the bard and whinnied.
"Gabrielle!" Xena said in exasperation. "I didnt mean to hurt your feelings. Its just that, you know I like to travel light."
"Then maybe you should travel by yourself, Xena."
Zeuss nuts!, Xena said to herself, striking her thigh. Whyd I have to go and open my big mouth? Now she was going to have to explain herself, beg forgiveness, wait for Gabrielle to decide she wasnt mad anymore, and they probably wouldnt get on the road till the sun passed its zenith, which would get them to Amphiboles well past moonrise. No hope of sharing a birthday meal with her brother now.
"Gabri-elle!" Xena said again. "Come on! You know thats not what I meant." As she expected, no answer came from the offended bard.
She sighed and went to apologize. "This is your fault, Argo," she told the horse, who only snickered and went back to munching on the grass. She picked a small daisy growing wild by the riverbank and approached Gabrielle softly. The bard was sitting with her ankles in the river, her shoulders shaking, and her face buried in her hands.
The bane of loving a bard is all the drama, Xena almost mumbled out loud, then remembered she had to act contrite. She knelt down behind Gabrielle and with one hand started combing out the wet blonde hair. With the other, she tickled at Gabrielles neck with the flower.
Gabrielle yanked her head away. "Leave me alone," she snapped.
"Come on, Gabrielle! Im sorry. That was a stupid thing to say."
Xena tried the tickling trick again, moving the daisy closer to the hollow spot on Gabrielles throat.
"Leave me alone, Xena." Gabrielle said again. "Im not interested in your half-assed apologies."
Xena grimaced. More and more, Gabrielle was resorting to foul language when they fought. She never wouldve talked to her like that before. Before what? she asked herself, already knowing the answer to her own question. Before that incident on the beach. She still cringed at the image of herself in complete abdication in Gabrielles mouth. No way she was going to let that happen again.
She shook off the memory and sprawled herself on the grass. "Alright, then, Ill just lie here and wait for you to forgive me. No use wasting my energy telling you how sorry I am, how much I love your stories, and how disappointed Im going to be if I dont get to see Toris today."
But Gabrielle wasnt buying. She was off on her own tangent. "If it werent for my scrolls, none of your adventures would be recorded, Xena. No one, but us, would know all the good deeds youve done these four years to make up for your past. Youd think youd show some appreciation."
She was about to respond, but decided it was best to check her tongue and let Gabrielle get it out of her system. At least she wasnt crying anymore. She plucked the petals off the daisy one by one, alternating between mutters of "she loves me, she loves me not" with each petal she removed.
"Of course, you never read the stories, so its not like you even know what Ive written."
Again, Xena almost blurted out that she preferred hearing Gabrielle tell the stories than reading them for herself. Arent you the one whos always saying a storys got to be told? she thought, but again, she kept her comments to herself.
"I dont even know why I bother," Gabrielle continued, sniffling. "If only you knew how much work it is to write a story. Just keeping the quills from breaking, scrunched in between the frying pan and all the other junk I have to carry in that pack, and making sure not to tear the parchment when I write on rocks and bark, since its clear were never going to settle down long enough for me to have a real table."
Mighty Aphrodite, thought Xena, so thats what this is about.
"Those scrolls are my life. You insult my scrolls, Xena, you insult me. Dont you get it?"
Xena rolled over on her stomach and crept up Gabrielles side slowly, gingerly laying her head in her bards soft lap. "Im sorry," she mumbled into Gabrielles skirt.
"Get off me, Xena, I mean it!" The bard pushed Xena so hard she almost fell into the river. "Just give me some space, alright?" Gabrielle added, getting to her feet. "Dyou think you can do that, for once?"
Xena stood up, too, quickly losing patience with her partner. "We gotta go, Gabrielle. Its getting late."
"Well, go. Whos stopping you? Just throw my scrolls off your precious Argo and get goin, for Heras sake."
Hera? If Gabrielle, the Amazon Queen, was invoking Hera rather than Artemis, it could only mean one thing: she was close to her moons, and it was going to be a rough ride. Xena crushed the daisy stem under her boot. Dont get angry, she told herself. Just give her her gods-be-damned space.
She went to lift the saddle and bags off of Argo. Didnt look like they were going anywhere, at least not anytime soon, just as shed predicted. With nothing better to do, she unlatched Gabrielles side of the saddlebag and started sorting through the scrolls. Eighteen of them, and one--Gabrielles diary-- as thick as all the rest put together. She plopped herself down in the shade of an old sycamore and unfurled one of the scrolls to read the opening.
I sing of Xena, Warrior Princess, who brought peace between the Amazons and the Centaurs.
She unfurled another one.
This is the story of Xena, once Destroyer of Nations, now the Warrior Princess and guardian of the feeble and the good.
Xena rolled her eyes and selected another.
In a time of ancient gods, warlords, and kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a mighty princess, forged in the heat of battle.
So far, she liked that one best. She set the scroll down on her lap then grabbed another.
I sing the song of Perdicus, the boy I knew, the man I loved.
She winced at the knowledge that Gabrielle had written down the story of Perdicus. His bravery as a Trojan soldier. His nobility on their wedding night. His death at Callistos hands. She couldnt hold that story against Gabrielle; she and Perdicus had gotten married, for Hestias sake. Not that the marriage hadnt hurt her, but Gabrielle had belonged to Perdicus before she belonged to Xena.
Xena chewed on a twig for a moment, allowing herself to remember Callisto. Poor mad Callisto, who reminded Xena so much of herself. The same raw rage and cruel lust for power. To think I used to be just like her, she thought, till Gabrielle came into my life. She shook her head to dispel the image of Callisto sinking into the quicksand and Xena kneeling right next to her making no effort at all to give her a hand. She chose her own path, thats what Gabrielle would say. Her own evil consumed her. Yeah, and I turned her into an immortal. Real smart.
She picked up another scroll, this one written in tiny letters, and held it up to the light to see the writing better.
I sing of David, the warrior poet of Israel. His courage shown on the battlefield. His gentle nature in his home. His passion in his psalms.
"David?" she asked Argo. "The kid with the sling who killed Goliath?" Argo nodded slowly. "Why is Gabrielle singing about him?"
This story she read all the way to the end, frowning the whole time. On and on it went about the boys beautiful voice. His dreamy eyes. The lilting words of his poetry. His odd faith and fierce devotion to his people. And then the part that really stung.
I wouldve given myself to him if he hadnt already been betrothed. I wouldve let him be my Shepherd.
Since when had Gabrielle taken to David? I guess I was too preoccupied with the thought of killing Goliath, to notice. Warrior poet, indeed! She remembered, now, that Gabrielle had seemed very withdrawn after theyd left the Israelites. It was about a year before the wedding to Perdicus and just a few months after the passion had started up between her and Xena, even though they were still not sleeping side by side, yet, or opening up each others secrets. Still, it wouldve never occurred to her that she couldve lost Gabrielle to some shepherd boy.
She leaned her head back against the tree trunk, stunned by the revelation. She knew that Gabrielle had a tendency to get smitten on the spot, especially at the beginning of their travels. Witness how shed fallen for the terminally-ill, Sophocles-loving Talus, and that kid shed spent the night with when they fought the Titans, and her total swoon at seeing Perdicus again in Troy. Couldnt leave out Petracles. He had sure spun Gabrielles head around. That time Xena couldnt hide her jealousy, not because Petracles had been her own betrothed back in the old days, but because she saw how clearly his charms were working on the innocent Gabrielle. So shed kept him at bay with the point of her sword and a warning. But the shepherd boy with the slingshot? And right under my nose, while Im torturing myself over having to kill a good friend to protect that boys people? Talk about gall. She folded her arms over her breastplate and let herself seethe.
A thought itched around the edge of her brain. She paid no attention to it at first, filled as she was with the awareness of her own jealousy. Like everything else she felt, this emotion was overwhelming, exaggerated, impossible to contain. She had half a mind to tear up that scroll and take the pieces to Miss Give-Me- Some-Space. Sure, take all the space you need and let me kill myself while youre off flirting with some useless son of a sheep farmer. The thought itched again, and this time, she paid attention.
Read the scrolls, Xena. Everything you need to know is in the scrolls.
She craned her neck around the side of the tree to see where Gabrielle was, but the bard had skulked off somewhere and Xena probably wouldnt see her again till she got hungry, or till trouble found her. Xena turned to the scrolls and got to work. First, she separated all the "I sing of Xena" stories, and stacked them to one side. Seven of them were about men. Other than the stories of David, Perdicus, and Talus, there was one about a bard named Orion whose real name was Homer that Gabrielle had met at the Athens Academy for Bards, another about how Xena had fallen in love with the king of Ithaca, rivaling the Sirens for his heart. Xena squirmed at her own near-unfaithfulness. Truth is, shed only flirted with Ulysses to get back at Gabrielle for Perdicus; shed had no intention of going any further than that kiss. There was the story of Marcus, another of Xenas ex-flames, which was really more about how the power of Xenas loyalty had rescued him from Tartarus. And, as she feared, the story of Khrafstar and Dahok, which, no doubt, culminated in Hope. She couldnt read further than the first few lines in that story. Despite the heat that was already making the sweat gather between her breasts, Xena felt a chill. The thought of Hope always brought back the memory of Gabrielles betrayal and the loss of Solan. Brought back too many ugly thoughts, too much pain and a vision of herself gone berserk that no amount of forgiveness could allow her to forget.
The only scroll left was the thick one of Gabrielles diary, the one scroll Gabrielle had asked her never to read. That had never been a difficult promise to honor until now. Now, Jealousy had the reins, as well as the whip, and Xena was nothing but the obedient beast following Jealousys lead, allowing Jealousy to torment her with the evidence of Gabrielles disloyalty. Pick up the scroll, Jealousy ordered, see for yourself how youve been manipulated by that little blonde. Xena obeyed.
"What do you think youre you doing, Xena?"
Continued in Part 2
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