DISCLAIMER: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Perdicus, and other characters from the show Xena Warrior Princess belong to Renaissance Pictures and those who now hold the rights to the show.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story begins the morning after Gabrielle leaves Poteidaia in the episode, "Sins of the Past." It is very much Perdicus' story; so if you really despise Perdicus, don't even bother reading this. Though Perdicus' story, it is his perceptions of Xena and Gabrielle, their relationship, and his feelings about it. And everything happens prior to Seasons 3.
The sex. There are a couple of paragraphs of boy/girl action, but I make up for it with many pages of explicit scenes of physical intimacy between two women.
There is reference/dialogue from actual episodes from the show.
DEDICATION: To my Xenite friend, Carol Johnston whom I miss terribly. It's been a year and I hope you can hear my daily thoughts to you. To my other buddy, Jay who is always an inspiration and brings such meaning to my life.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
What Perdicus Knew
By Portia Richardson
Perdicus tossed and turned on the ground. He was sleeping at a campsite for ten. His nine companions snored loudly while he struggled to get comfortable on the hard ground. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw a parade of dead menall men he had killed in battle. For Hades's sake, I'm not a soldier. What am I doing? Why? I should be honoring Demeter, not stopping in Ares' temples with other soldiers leaving an offering. I should be tending to my flocks. This is stupid.
He quietly stood, rolled his blankets and picked up his sack. He took his sword with him, but hoped that the next time he used it, it would be to nail it onto the wall above his hearth at home. He was done with fighting.
Was he being a fool to trail after Gabrielle and Xena? No, the Fates had deemed it so. The Fates never would have placed him in Troy at the same time Gabrielle and Xena were passing through if it hadn't been meant to be. The Fates wanted Perdicus and Gabrielle together. He was sure of it. Greece was large, Gabrielle could have been fighting for good almost anywhere, but she was in Troy and he was in Troy. It was meant to be. It was.
Perdicus hadn't lost his tracking skill when it came to Gabrielle and Xena. It didn't take as long as he thought to locate them. He chose to make his presence known instead of watching them from afar. Now was the time to be decisive. He was a man, a former soldier and he was ready to live the life he wanted with the woman who should have been his wife already.
When he walked into the campsite, he was almost struck dumb by the beautiful vision of Gabrielle. He felt like he had aged several winters in just one season, yet Gabrielle looked as fresh and as innocent as the last day he had seen her in Poteidaia.
By the gods, she is beautiful, he thought. He had wasted what felt like a lifetime, so he told her what was on his mind. Dropping to his knee, he looked up and asked, "Be my wife?"
Gabrielle was flattered by Perdicus' desire to still want her after she had betrayed him. Their last time together in Troy had been sweet and she had nothing but warm feelings for him. Her heart belonged to Xena, though. The question was did Xena's heart belong to Gabrielle yet? Apparently, not. Gabrielle waited and waited for Xena to ask her not to marry him.
"I'm going to tell him no." Gabrielle had hoped Xena would at least say 'good,' but all she said was if marrying him would make Gabrielle happy that she would be happy for her. Doesn't Xena have any feelings of love for me? Doesn't she care that I could go off with him? Perdicus is sweet. He's tender and he loves me. I want to feel that from someone. I want to experience that kind of love. Please Xena, tell me to stay.
It was decided in her mind. She loved Xena and even if the warrior couldn't or wouldn't express that same love, Gabrielle was willing to hold out, to wait for her to come around. She knew in time that Xena would. She was so close already.
But the Fates had another plan. Xena's greatest enemy had escaped from prison and was determined to destroy Xena and all that she protected. First, Callisto and her army attacked a small village, killing everyone in sight, no matter man, woman, or child. She killed in Xena's name to strike the first flame in her war against the warrior woman she hated with a depth beyond reason, beyond sanity; the woman who had taken all that she had loved. Xena, along with Gabrielle and Perdicus who had started traveling with them, fought Callisto and her army fiercely. Gabrielle struck with her staff again and again, downing each soldier who came forward. Xena used her chakram a number of times to disarm the lowlifes who had attacked the village. As the two women fought, Perdicus did what he had been doing for moonskilling those who stood in the way of everyday people's happiness. He plunged his sword into a soldier, then stood stock still, and suddenly began to weep. The battle raged on around him, but he was paralyzed. Killing, killing, and more killing. No matter what others thought of him, he couldn't continue this life. Even if Gabrielle found him weak and not manly, he couldn't take another man's life again. He had convinced himself that he was a soldier and it was right for him, but he wasn't and it wasn't. He hated it. He hated fighting for good not because he didn't want to see good throughout the land, but because he simply didn't have it in him to kill. How had he lost himself and could he ever recover? In the midst of this fight, he gave up. Let them kill me, but I won't lift this sword again, he thought as he let it fall to the earth. This is me. I am not a killer. I am not a soldier. I'm a man in love, but this price is too high--just too high for me. He dropped feebly to a log in the town square and cried. When Gabrielle saw him in such a state, she fell to her knees beside him and he told her his truth and she understood that this was the man Perdicus had always been. She also knew that the man whose life he had been impersonating lately was something that he had done for her, because he thought she'd want him that way. What a sacrifice he had made for her? What a strong love he possessed to want to change for her? How could she walk away from that, from him? When Xena arrived, looking dazed from the battle, Gabrielle looked up at her and said, "The answer is yes."
As far as Xena was concerned she had royally screwed up her life. Gabrielle was leaving her all because she couldn't share her feelings. Perdicus wasn't weak. He could stand before the world and announce his love. She couldn't do it. Despite the depth of her love for Gabrielle, she couldn't make her mouth work to say it. This was exactly what she had meant when she told Gabrielle she deserved better than what she had to give. Perdicus would love her and let her know on a daily basis. That was the kind of person she wasn't.
She listened to the priest of Aphrodite bless their union and wish them joy and happiness, while her heart broke. As each moment passed, she told herself it wasn't too late, that she could make this stop. Even as the priest presented them as husband and wife, Xena shouted in her head, Say something. Tell Perdicus that the two of you love each other. Carry Gabrielle out of the temple. Kiss her and tell her you love her. Just kiss her. She did nothing, but smile dimly, attempting to hide her plentiful sadness. Xena congratulated the newlyweds and spoke with Gabrielle privately. She promised to visit and knew she never would. Visiting Gabrielle in the home she would make with Perdicus was like being sentenced to Tartarus in this realm. Simply knowing that they would go off together that evening and he would make love to her was worse than enduring an eternity of fights with warlords in Hades.
Xena rode Argo far away from the inn where Perdicus and Gabrielle were staying. She couldn't bear to hear or see them. Her self-hatred had grown exponentially that night. If she had just been able to tell Gabrielle she loved her, then maybe they'd be together, maybe they'd have a tomorrow on the road together, but she hadn't told her. The warrior had wished the companion who had become such a vital part of her life the best of luck in her new life and walked away. At least Gabrielle would never know how hurt and saddened Xena was.
But Gabrielle did know. She stood at the window of their room in the inn staring out into the darkness. She was worried about Xena and hoped that she'd continue on her path of good and not let the inner darkness engulf her the way the black sky had covered this night. Their wedding night could not be delayed any longer. She turned from the window and asked if their first daughter could be named after Xena; it would be her way of honoring her friend. Perdicus readily agreed.
Slowly they became comfortable with each other. Perdicus had waited all of his life for this moment and he wasn't going to hurry through it. Every ounce of feeling he had for Gabrielle he planned on demonstrating. He would not rise to his passion without her accompanying him. Kissing her slowly, he smiled to himself as she kissed him back.
Perdicus made love with Gabrielle with an abundance of tenderness. She was quiet and obviously anxious about their first time, so he was careful to soothe and relax her. The young man whispered words of love, reminding Gabrielle that there was never a time in his life that he hadn't wanted her, that he had dedicated himself to her long ago, and promised that he'd always take care of her. Perdicus touched her body lightly through her gown. With her hands, she let it be known that she wanted her clothing to remain on. Perdicus' fingertips danced across her breasts and belly and when he snuck under her gown, he used his fingers on Gabrielle for a long time, making her ready for him. As he pushed his body against hers, he entered her with a slowness built on love. As they consummated their marriage, he noted that the passionate Gabrielle that he had dreamed of was absent. This Gabrielle was shy and timid. He was reminded of the olive tree in his parents' yard. The tree stood squat, strong, and still, but then a flock of birds would come along and disrupt the quiet as they hopped from limb to limb. Suddenly, the birds as a group would take off, leaving that olive tree swaying and quivering in the wind, but soon, the branches would settle down and return to their stillness. That was Gabrielle. She moved with him, but he knew that it was her simply bending to accept him and not her own unleashed passion.
Although he tried, Perdicus was raw emotion and the very idea of being inside his wife sent him over the edge quickly. She held onto to him as he strained, then collapsed on top of her. Gabrielle's hands caressed his warm, damp back and she whispered to him, "You love me so much. Thank you for that, Perdicus. Thank you for showing me how much you care."
Perdicus kissed her shyly on the cheek. "I do, Gabrielle. I love you with all my heart and all my soul and all that I have to give in this world."
"I know. I know."
He blinked down at her a few times, then gently lifted and pulled himself out of Gabrielle with a sigh. He rolled onto his back and breathed deeply. "I've wanted you for so long." He turned his head to face her and she reached out for his hand, but said nothing.
He sighed again, a deep long exhale, then he yawned. Gabrielle patted his hand and dragged it across her hip and up to her belly as she turned on her side. Perdicus spooned against her back and whispered into her ear, "I know I haven't given you pleasure yet. I meant for us to reach our peak together." He laughed. "I guess I was too excited."
"That's okay," she said while facing the door to their room.
They were quiet, each lost in their own thoughts. Perdicus' thoughts were filled with their futurethe house he and his older brother would build for them now that they were married. He and Gabrielle would raise sheep, not for slaughter, but for wool. They would start a family right away. He couldn't wait to have a child that looked like the two of them, even if the baby would be named Xena. Naming the baby after Gabrielle's companion was the least he could do. Xena had taken good care of Gabrielle on the road and had kept her safe. He owed her and he knew Gabrielle loved her. Just how much she loved the warrior, he didn't know.
"Gabrielle?" he said softly, "Are you asleep?"
"No, no I'm awake, Perdicus. What is it?"
"Gabrielle, could I ask you something?"
"Of course. You're my husband. You can ask anything of me."
"Well, I don't want it to be like that. You have a right to keep your own counsel, but you should know, I'm here for you if you ever want to talk things out with me about us or anything."
"Thank you, Perdicus," Gabrielle whispered.
"You don't have to thank me for loving you," he said softly as he nuzzled her neck.
"You were going to ask me something?"
"Uh yeah." He cleared his throat before he began, "Gabrielle, I wanted to talk about Xena. About you and Xena."
Immediately Gabrielle turned in his arms to face him. Worry lined her face. "What is it?"
"Gabrielle, I know you love her and that she means the world to you "
"You don't want to name our daughter after her?"
"No, it's not I mean, yes, of course we'll name our daughter, Xena. No, what I wanted to ask is how you really feel about her. I sense that you love her deeply."
"I do. She's my best friend, Perdicus. She's saved my life more times than I can count and I know she'd do anything in her power to keep me from being hurt or having to make a decision that would be against my nature. She's actually quite thoughtful once you get to know her. She thinks of me before she thinks of herself."
"And I bet you're the same way. I'll bet that you tried to protect her in everyway you could--protecting her from her past, protecting her from people out for her head."
Gabrielle wondered how Perdicus could know so much about them. "Yes, I did. I see so much in Xena if she'd just give herself a chance. She doesn't think she can redeem herself, but she already has. In just these few moons, I've seen her save so many lives and she acts like it's just a regular day. And she's rightthat is her day, saving people, saving lives, setting things right. I love helping her to do that."
This was the most excited Gabrielle had been in their bed, Perdicus noted. He looked deep into her eyes and asked what he knew he didn't want to know, "Are you in love with her? Have you been with her like we were together tonight?"
Gabrielle sat up. Dumbfounded she stared at him, shocked that he would ask such a thing in their wedding bed. She didn't answer. The young woman was trying desperately to come up with a diplomatic way of expressing her feelings. Her mouth opened and closed as she considered, then changed her mind about what she could say. Finally, Perdicus came to her rescue. "It's okay, Gabrielle. I understand. She's very beautiful and she's been so good to you. Knowing the kind of woman you are, your warm heart, your loving ways, it doesn't surprise me." That is what he told her, but he really couldn't understand this Xena thing. It was a mystery. Gabrielle had known the woman for just a few seasons. She had known him for eighteen Springs. Dysis had taken him to Herodotus and Hecuba's home to see the new baby when he was a small child. Gabrielle had been alive all of a day when he'd first laid eyes on her. Surely their time together meant something more than friendship. It did to him.
"We Xena and I tried once. It didn't work out. It wasn't what she wanted."
"But you did."
"Yes." She paused before adding, "But Perdicus, I'm here with you and that's what counts."
Perdicus wanted Gabrielle so much that he didn't have the heart to say that what really counted were her reasons for choosing to be with him. He wanted to believe that it was love, but his heart told him that it was her guilt. He refused to listen to his heart about this. "Of course it does, sweetheart."
"Even if I have these feelings for Xena, I will try to be a good wife to you. I promise that."
"That sounds like a promise I can live with," he commented lightly. I want you to be a wife who desperately loves her husband. Will I ever have that? Perdicus pulled his wife to him and embraced her tightly hoping to give her a little of the love and passion he felt. She twisted in his arms and her lips parted to accept his tongue. Gabrielle pressed in to him, wanting to assure Perdicus that she was going to make this relationship work.
He pushed back and smiled at his lovely wife. "We have tomorrow, Gabrielle. Let's get some sleep."
The next morning, Perdicus awoke to find Gabrielle staring out the window again. No longer in her gown, she was wearing her brown skirt and green top. Already, Perdicus missed seeing her in the virginal white dress or the pretty white gown she had worn to bed. Gabrielle was so lost in her thoughts, that she didn't hear him move toward her. She jumped in surprise when he wrapped his arms around her, but when she turned to hug him, her eyes lit up and she grinned widely.
"Are you happy?"
"Yes. You were so gentle with me. Everyone should have a first time like that. You took away all my fears, Perdicus."
"Then, come back to bed with me," he suggested as he walked backward, holding onto her hands and leading her back to their bed.
"Oh, let's start the day. I've just been waiting for you to wake up. There's a beautiful meadow covered in flowers right over there," she said as she turned back to the window. She slipped her hand from his and pointed outside. "Let's take a walk there and pick some flowers."
"For your hair?"
Perdicus stood behind Gabrielle again and kissed the top of her head and sniffed her hair. "The flowers will be envious, Gabrielle. Your hair smells sweeter than any flower."
"Come on, Perdicus. Hurry, get ready. Let's have some fun."
The newlyweds stood in the flower meadow and enjoyed each other's company. Gabrielle had had romantic dreams of being in a meadow of flowers with her love. Not too long ago, she had hoped that it would be Xena she would share this tender walk with. She understood that it would never be Xena and Xena had been rightshe did deserve love. Perdicus hadn't been her choice as a partner, but now she saw that she was being idealistic. What he presented was the longing of most womena man who worshipped her, who treated her well, and respected her. How could she complain?
As they walked through the flowers, she philosophized on the meaning of life and all that it offered. She knew love with Xena, though it wasn't all that she wished for, but it was there and with Perdicus there was love, too. She nodded, finally understanding love in all its incarnations. She turned to her husband and put her arms around his neck. "I know what love is, now. It's life. Everything is united by love alone."
As Perdicus was about to respond, Callisto responded for him. The crazed warrior attacked them without provocation. The newlyweds were unarmed and Perdicus stepped in front of Gabrielle to protect her from harm. In the process, Perdicus was downed by Callisto and left struggling for breath. As if on cue, Xena rode onto the scene and fought Callisto off as best she could. The troubled woman wanted to see heartache, though and if she couldn't get to Xena's heart by killing Gabrielle, she would do the next best thing. She ran Perdicus through, killing him almost instantly, then she rode off with a maniacal smile. Gabrielle knew true anguish as she poured her body over her husband's. Just moments ago, they had been walking hand in hand, alternating between talking and saying nothing, enjoying the company of his wife and her husband. Now, a blade had ended it all for hertheir dreams of the future, their plans for tomorrow, children with the only man she had ever loved. She howled above him, but it was too late for Perdicus he was gone.
Perdicus was wearing his black leather vest, a white shirt with puffy sleeves and brown leather pants. His pants were tucked into his boots. How could he have been in a meadow and suddenly be elsewherestanding alone in a great stone hall. He looked around bewilderedly, wondering what had happened to Gabrielle and where he was. Maybe I didn't marry Gabrielle. Maybe I'm in the middle of a dream. Gods, but it seemed so real. Maybe this part is the dream. Maybe I'm still sleeping and when I wake up, Gabrielle will be beside me. He shook his head violently hoping to clear the cobwebs and make sense of his current situation. He glanced around again. A large stone throne embedded with gems sat at the far end of the great hall. There were a series of platforms leading to the throne, but not a soul was in this room and there were no other adornments. It must be a castle, but where are the swords on the wall, the art, the animal heads?
Hades, in a flash of light appeared on the throne. "Welcome Perdicus?"
Perdicus turned and was surprised to see a formidable man standing behind him. He wondered how the man had appeared without him hearing a door open or his boots move across the floor. Perdicus smiled, knowing that he should be polite and charming until he found out where he was and why. "King ?"
"Yes, aren't you a king? Is this your castle? Where am I?"
"I'm Hades. Welcome to your new home." His outstretched arm waved across the room.
"Hades?" Perdicus' brow furrowed and he shook his head. "I'm not dead."
"I'm afraid your wound was a mortal one. You died almost instantly. Charon just dropped you off."
"But I just marriedjust last night. I can't be dead."
"I realize it's a difficult concept to grasp, but it's true and in time, you'll learn to like it here. I was just reviewing your case."
Perdicus' eyes never stopped moving around the room. There had to be a way out of this cruel joke. He wondered if Xena had punctured him with a dart that rendered him unconscious and brought him to this place. She couldn't stop the wedding, but she could stop our lives together. "Are you working with Xena?"
"No. Well not directly. Xena has brought many a mortal to me, but you're not one of them. Your injury came from
"Callisto," Perdicus said flatly.
"Right. You remember?"
"Yes, she knocked me down, then came after me. She plunged her sword into me." When he said this, realization hit. He really was dead. "Isn't there anything you can do to help me? I'm not ready. I just got married."
"It's your time."
"But what about Gabrielle. Shouldn't I be able to hear her thoughts?"
"Yes, when she speaks directly to you, that is, after I've set up that connection. First, I need to prepare you for your resting place. You've been a good man, Perdicus. Even when you were fighting as a soldier, you showed compassion and loyalty. There is only one place for you and that's the Elysian Fields. Congratulations."
Perdicus could not have cared less about Elysia. He wanted to be with Gabrielle in the earthly realm. "Please, if you'd just let me go back to her for a little bit. I promise I'll come back. Let me say good-bye."
"No, sorry. That can't happen."
Perdicus sobbed. "Let me see her then. Let me hear her hear her thoughts. Please. Something, anything. I can't crossover without something."
"You've crossed over, young man. Anytime Gabrielle calls to you in her mind, I will make sure that you're here to hear it. That is something I give to all of you."
"But, I'll be living in the Elysian Fields. Won't I be relieving the same moment in time? How will I know her thoughts?"
"It's sort of complicated, but let me try to simplify it. You'll be in the Fields and living your happiest moment. However, if Gabrielle or any of your loved ones call for you in their thoughts, I will bring you here so that you can hear what they have to say. When that person is no longer addressing you, I'll send you back to the Fields."
"This is so unfair," Perdicus fell back, leaning heavily against a pillar. "When Gabrielle and I first told our parents, I was so happy. I looked forward to what we were about to begin and now that we have it, you and the goddess Celesta take me from her. It's not fair."
"Celesta never takes anyone before their time, Perdicus. I know you don't like it, but it was your time."
"Can I hear Gabrielle?"
Hades nodded and the hollow echo of the large room took on an eerie, ethereal sound as a lyre played softly and Hades and Perdicus heard Gabrielle's wailing, "No. No, Perdicus. Oh, no. Xena! Oh, no. Oh, no. No. Oh, no, no Perdicus."
Perdicus' eyes glistened with tears as he listened to his wife's pleas. "Why do this to her?" He heard her crying. "I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I love you."
When Hades spoke, the empty sounding echo of the room was back and the lyre had ceased. "Perdicus, what I want you to do is think about the happiest moment in your life. Close your eyes and put yourself right back there." Hades' voice was relaxing, almost hypnotizing. "That's it, relax."
Perdicus' eyes were closed and the tension on his face disappeared as he was lulled into this quiet place by Hades.
"Do you see it, Perdicus? You've never been happier. You've never felt this good. Everything is right with the world."
Perdicus' head fell forward as a smile crossed his face.
Gabrielle couldn't get over it. Callisto had killed her last innocent as far as she was concerned. She was going to go after her and make her pay for killing Perdicus. Her revenge was palpable. It had encompassed her head and heart and now this entity called vengeance coursed in her soul. Callisto was going to die!
After dinner, Gabrielle and Perdicus had gone for a walk. As they walked they discussed how great it was that their parents were getting along and that the dinner his mother had cooked had been a great success. A candlemark or so had passed and Perdicus turned to Gabrielle and asked, "Are you ready?"
"Yes. Yes, let's go back and tell them."
The young couple laughed as they ran through the village back to his parents' home. At the door, the young man bent and kissed the woman lightly on her cheek. "I love you. Ready?"
"Ready," Gabrielle answered as he swung the door open.
"Mom, Dad. Herodotus and Hecuba. Gabrielle and I would like to make an announcement. We love each other and have decided to marry as soon as possible. We couldn't be happier and we're ready to start a new life together, forever."
This is for you, Perdicus. Gabrielle moved forward with her sword, prepared to strike. She was close to Callisto, ready to use the sword. It was the right thing to do. She knew this. Perdicus' death had been a tragedy and killing his murderer seemed just and honorable, but Perdicus suddenly appeared in her thoughts.
Hades sat at his throne and looked down at Perdicus who listened to Gabrielle's thoughts. This is for you, Perdicus. I'm avenging your death. I'm going to kill her. I'm going to kill that evil bitch for you.
Perdicus stood in the center of the hall and listened. He shook his head in despair.
Gabrielle stood a breath away from Callisto who slept in her contraption of a chair. She recalled how she had begged Xena not to become a monster if anything happened to her, then she recalled Perdicus' words from just a couple of days earlier. He had said, "But you never kill. I know that. I love you."
"That's right, Gabrielle. Stay good. Don't wear murder as a chain around your neck. It'll pull you down."
Gabrielle let the sword fall to her side as she sighed. Perdicus. I couldn't even kill for you. Forgive me.
Back in the Elysian Fields, Perdicus' joy was a moment away from exploding his heart. After dinner, Gabrielle and Perdicus walked together. As they walked they discussed how great it was that their parents were getting along and that the dinner his mother had cooked had been a great success. A candlemark or so had passed and Perdicus turned to Gabrielle and asked, "Are you ready?"
"Yes. Yes, let's go back and tell them."
The young couple laughed as they ran through the village back to his parents' home. At the door, the young man bent and kissed the woman lightly on her cheek. "I love you. Ready?"
"Ready," Gabrielle answered as he swung the door open.
"Mom, Dad. Herodotus and Hecuba. Gabrielle and I would like to make an announcement. We love each other and have decided to marry as soon as possible. We couldn't be happier and we're ready to start a new life together, forever."
Adrian, Perdicus' father came around the table and slapped his son on the back. "Congratulations, son. Welcome to the family, Gabrielle."
"Herodotus, we're going to be fathers-in-law. What do you think of it?"
Herodotus grinned an unkind, teeth baring grin. "Then we'll be splitting property?"
Gabrielle stared at her father in disbelief, but before she could speak, Hecuba stood and ran to her daughter. "Isn't this the best news, Lila? Look at your sister. Oh, Gabrielle," she said hugging her eldest daughter, "I'm so happy for you. Perdicus is a fine young man. The two of you will be so happy."
The Elysian Fields was working out nicely for Perdicus. The young man merrily relived this day over and over, smiling broadly each time he received well wishes, grinning toothily every time he bent to kiss his betrothed.
For the first moon, Perdicus would be right in the middle of shaking his father's hand or hugging Hecuba when he would be pulled from his looped life in the Elysian Fields to instantly appear in Hades great hall. Each time Perdicus would listen attentively as Gabrielle would voice her sorrow and regret. Perdicus. Dear, Perdicus, if I hadn't been for me, none of this would have happened. I feel so terrible. I can't dream any more. All I do is sleep. I knew the danger. Xena had warned me that people might try to harm me because of her and I knew it and got you involved anyway. Please, please forgive me, Perdicus.
The eternally young man lowered his head and sighed. "Hades, how long will she suffer like this?"
"It's hard to say. Some carry around their pain season after season. Others don't."
Finally, things were back to how they had been. The past few moons had been very trying for Gabrielle. Callisto had somehow switched bodies with Xena. When Xena's soul was in Callisto's body, Gabrielle had to tell herself several times a day that she was dealing with Xena, not Callisto. It had been a difficult time. Each morning she'd awaken to see Callisto's face, the face of the man who had killed her husband and she wanted to scratch those brown eyes out, then that face would smile and speak to her and the voice and intonations would be so obviously Xena's. It was Gabrielle's worst nightmare come truethe woman she desired most trapped in the body of the only person on earth she truly hated. The one good thing was that the passion that had been growing prior to the body switch had died. Gabrielle had been uncomfortable with her feelings of desire prior to that change. How could she still crave Xena when her husband had just died? Something was very wrong with her mind. So, during their travels, when Xena existed in Callisto's body, Gabrielle was relieved. Maybe she was shallow, but the thought of touching Callisto and having to look into Callisto's eyes while making love was something Gabrielle found repugnant.
But things were back as they should be and Gabrielle's feelings had returned with a power of their own.
On this night, Gabrielle wore a white shift that was very similar to her wedding nightgown. It was a simple shift that she used at night after she washed her clothing. Gabrielle cherished this time of their long day. Their evening meal was finished. Both women had prepared for the next day and now they could really relax, talk about the day and rest the sore muscles that had been put to the test during fights and battles in villages and fields.
Today had been an easy and good day. Xena and Gabrielle simply had to trick a heartbroken king and help an old toy maker. Both women had had fun.
Gabrielle lay on her stomach on her bedroll staring at the small wooden lamb that she had placed in front of her. "Xena, I still can't believe you got this lamb for me. It really was my favorite toy when I was a little girl. I absolutely love it."
"Again, you're welcome, Gabrielle. I knew it meant a lot to you."
"Funny, I remember Perdicus always hiding it from me when we were really little. He knew it was my favorite." She paused to reflect on that time of her life. Perdicus was always doing something to get her attention. Perdicus, do you remember that time
In Elysia, Adrian had just said, Congratulations son. Welcome to the family, Gabrielle when Perdicus suddenly stood before Hades.
"Gabrielle has a message for you, Perdicus," Hades said.
Perdicus nodded and listened.
you buried my toy lamb in the flock my parents were raising. I asked you what you had done with it and you said the lamb is with its family. You were so silly especially when you couldn't remember where you buried it. Remember how my father tore into both of us for digging holes in the yard 'cause all the sheep were tripping? Gabrielle nodded her head at the memory, then returned to the moment. Looking over her shoulder, she smiled at Xena and said, "Lookit. I pull the tail and watch the mouth."
"You've shown me a dozen times."
"But it's so funny."
Xena was dressed in her beige shift. She had checked the perimeter as soon as they had arrived at this site and felt perfectly secure. Immediately, the breastplates and body armor had been removed and she stood next to the fire with only her shift on. Her underthings had been removed, washed and were hanging on a tree branch drying. She flung the tea residue from her mug onto the ground and walked over to Gabrielle's bedroll. The warrior dropped down beside the bedroll and crossed her legs. She picked up the lamb. "What's the big deal?"
Gabrielle's hand surrounded the warrior's as they both held onto the little, wooden lamb. "See, watch this." Gabrielle pulled the lamb's tail and the little wooden face brightened as the mouth opened. "It's adorable," she said.
Gabrielle imitated the lamb's mouth and said, "You don't think that's cute?"
Xena noticed that Gabrielle was surreptitiously trying to sneak a peak up Xena's shift, but she chose not to comment on it. Instead, she said, "Cute? Cute, Gabrielle? I don't think I've thought anything was cute since I was six summers."
Gabrielle laughed and continued her imitation, opening and closing her mouth. Even though her mouth was putting on a silly show, Gabrielle's eyes were burning into Xena's skin. She couldn't stop glancing at the bit of thigh exposed under Xena's shift. Xena let the lamb drop and grasped Gabrielle's chin with her hand, holding the woman's mouth open. She bent and kissed her soundly. It was unexpected, but Gabrielle quickly caught up with Xena's interest. She scooted to her knees and continued the kiss, while pressing her hand against the warrior's back to move her closer.
Xena's eyes closed and she could feel her eyeballs roll back in her head as Gabrielle not only claimed her mouth, but also left her feeling weak and breathless.
When Gabrielle pulled away, she stared at Xena waiting for the warrior to comment. Xena simply smiled and reached for the younger woman again. This time it was Xena who put her all into the kiss.
"Gabrielle, two can play that game," she muttered.
Gabrielle pulled back and gazed into the warrior's eyes. "If we're playing a game, you'd better tell me the rules cause I really, really, really want to win."
"There are no rules, Gabrielle. And we both win. It's whatever the players want. Is this what you want?"
"Yes, and much more." Gabrielle didn't give Xena an opportunity to respond to that. Her lips were melting into the warrior's again. Her tongue sought and gained entrance and she sucked on Xena's tongue, then swirled her tongue against Xena's teeth, cheeks, and the roof of her mouth. She moaned into Xena's mouth as she pulled her forward, forcing the warrior on top of her as she ground her body against her.
"By the gods, Gabrielle."
There was only one thing Hades could do with Perdicus who was silently weeping and that was get him back to the Elysian Fields in a hurry. Perdicus was devastated by what he had heard and witnessed. The good thing about being dead was that one forgets the unpleasant events they've witnessed when the living speak to them. Once the dead are back in the Fields or Tartarus, the lives of the living have no relevance. A moment after weeping pathetically, he was laughing with Gabrielle, holding hands as they entered his parents' home.
Gabrielle's mouth explored Xena's neck, sucking hard on the flesh, using her tongue to lick up and down the protruding vein, leaving teeth marks on the bronze skin. Xena's head was thrown back giving the young bard all the access she was requesting. Her body shivered at the contact, but she couldn't help but smile when she heard Gabrielle growl seductively.
The exuberance of her youth was barely contained. Gabrielle's hands palmed Xena's ass through the shift. She squeezed the round, firm flesh while her mouth continued the assault on her neck and collarbone.
Without really understanding or knowing why she was doing it, Gabrielle shifted her body so that her leg was bent and pressed against Xena's center. The warrior grunted as she began sliding against Gabrielle. Xena kissed her with abandon. She had held back for so long and each day saw her feelings for Gabrielle grow beyond measure. Just when she thought she couldn't feel more, Gabrielle would do something or say something that would add to Xena's mental checklist of why she loved her. And as her emotional love grew, her physical desire for her followed in its wake. Those kisses and stolen caresses from moons earlier played over and over in her mind and now after so long they were finally moving forward.
Gabrielle slid one hand up Xena's back, gently moving Xena's night shift up, too. Her green eyes closed when she felt Xena's wetness against her leg. "Oh, gods, Xena. You you feel so good to me," she said when she pulled away from Xena's soft lips.
"Gabrielle " Xena whispered. Xena's blue eyes were glazed over and she was no longer able to focus. She licked her lips as she bent again to claim Gabrielle's. The bard's kisses set her on fire, but when Gabrielle fondled her breast, Xena thought she could feel the blaze in her belly. "Gabrielle I had given up hope that we'd have this I thought when you married Perdicus that Oh, gods my chance "
Even in the throes of passion, Xena felt the change in Gabrielle. The smaller woman's hands froze and her body was no longer moving in rhythm with Xena's. The warrior couldn't help it, she sighed heavily. "Gabrielle," she said as she slipped off of her and plopped down beside her on the bedroll. "I wasn't thinking."
Gabrielle rolled over, her back to Xena. She wrapped her arms around herself in comfort, hugging her stomach. "I'm sorry, Xena. I want this. I really do."
"It's still too soon. The man you loved was snatched from you and you're grief-stricken "
"It's not that." Gabrielle sniffed.
"What is it? It doesn't seem like you've changed your mind about us?" Xena's breath was labored. It wasn't until now that she realized how close she had been to her climax. She lightly touched Gabrielle's shoulder in an effort to turn her around, but Gabrielle shrank from the caress.
"No. Don't. Please, don't."
Xena was leaning on her elbow while looking down at the bard. She shook her head in confusion. "What's going on, Gabrielle?"
"Xena, Perdicus died for nothing."
The warrior's eyes narrowed as she tried to comprehend what Gabrielle was saying. "What do you mean? He died trying to protect you."
"Right. Protecting me. His wife. The woman he loved " She sobbed and cried out, "who didn't love him back." Gabrielle sat up. "Xena, I'm not grief-stricken. It's guilt that's tearing me up. He's dead. He was a good man and one of my oldest friends and if I hadn't pretended to feel more for him, then he'd still be alive."
Xena reached out again, but was rebuffed. She didn't care. She pulled Gabrielle to her, repositioning both of them so that she was sitting and Gabrielle's head rested in her lap. "His death was not your fault. Do you hear me? Not your fault," Xena said plainly. "Callisto killed Perdicus to get back at me through the two of you. I wish it hadn't happened. Neither one of you should have gone through that because of my past. I guess if blame is being doled out, I am the one at fault. Me and my wild, uncontrolled army."
"No, Xena. I can't let you take responsibility for this, too. It was Callisto. I do know that. It's just that "
"You'll learn to live with the guilt because when all is said and done, Gabrielle, you can't change anything. If I could correct all of my mistakes, set things right for the people I've hurt, I'd do it in a heartbeat, but I can't. When I think of those villages I torched and destroyed, sometimes killing entire towns " Xena shivered. "Well, it puts me into the darkest place I can go. Trying to rise above that, to see some light and hope is hard. Because of you, I see light and I feel hopeful. I never have before, but I do now and with you, all I can do is try to do good and right now. You've got to find ways of bringing joy back into your life."
Gabrielle wept softly. "This guilt. This guilt. Xena, it's not just that he's dead, it's also that I don't even really miss him. When I think of him, I think why haven't I been spending more time thinking of him. And when I try to recall the texture of his hair or his smile, the image fades before I can get a grasp on it." She hiccupped as she tried to breathe between her tears. "I've known him all my life, Xena. Calling up his voice or his smile or what he looked like shouldn't be hard. It should be easy, but I can't. And that makes me wonder what kind of person I am. I believe love is the answer, but I never loved him the way he loved me."
"Our feelings for others can't always be mutual. Just think what a quiet and boring world we'd have if everyone felt the same at the same time. This guilt about Perdicus will eat you up."
"I know, Xena. I know that. I'm trying." She wiped away the last of her tears and laughed. Gabrielle looked up into the blue eyes that warmed her heart. "I think I was on the right track before."
"I'll say. I've never been so " Xena shook her head unable to come up with the right word.
"Not even with Marcus."
"Not even." Xena looked down at her. "How did you feel about it? Us?"
"Everything seemed to fit, seemed so right. I'm sorry I killed the mood. I want to keep going in this direction. I'm sure of that--if you do. I just don't think I'm ready yet."
"I doubt that you're okay."
"Hmm? What do you mean?"
"I'm kind of surprised either of us were able to stop. Physically, I'm so ready for this. It hurts."
Xena nodded. "Oh, yeah. I'm feelin' that pain, too."
Gabrielle sat up and pulled Xena to her lips. "Thank you for being so understanding. I promise I'll get over this. It's just too soon," she said before planting a deep kiss on her lips, her tongue wrapping around Xena's as the kiss intensified.
"Gabrielle," Xena said breathlessly. She cleared her throat. "I'm I'm going to go "
"Don't go anywhere."
"Gabrielle." Xena's voice quivered. It was a necessity, an itch that had to be scratched, and a need that had to be satisfied. She had to leave the campsite.
"No, Xena, please stay."
"Gabrielle, I need some relief. I've gotta take care of this. I won't be able to function."
"I feel the same. Stay here with me. You don't have to leave."
Xena smiled. "Gabrielle. Really? That's what you want?"
"I'm not quite ready for us to be completely together, but I can't bear being away from you."
"Are you sure? I don't know about this."
Xena stood and walked the few paces to where she had unfurled her bedroll. She looked over at Gabrielle again, a question on her face.
"Please," Gabrielle pleaded as she reclined completely on her bedroll.
Xena cleared her throat again. No one had ever watched or heard her give herself pleasure. It had always been an act just for herto relieve battlelust, to feel loved, to help her fall asleep, to climax after being with a lover who hadn't taken her where she needed to go. "And what about you?"
"I'm right with you. We can together."
Xena lay down on her bedroll. "Should I stay over here?"
"Yeah, I think. If that's okay."
Both women lay quietly on their respective bedrolls, waiting for the other to start. Moment after moment passed and it seemed like they'd fall asleep unsatisfied.
"Yes." Xena's voice was terse. She was so wound up.
"Nothing. You're so quiet."
Xena didn't answer.
Gabrielle touched the spot under her shift where Xena had pressed her body. It was still sticky with Xena's essence and Gabrielle couldn't help but move her fingers through it, capturing any remaining moisture. She brought that finger to her face and sniffed it, her eyes closing in pleasure at the musky fragrance. Before she realized what she was doing, she had slipped that finger into her mouth and was sucking on it gently. The taste triggered her desire and she could feel the flow oozing from between her own legs. She groaned and squeezed her legs together.
"Tastes so good," she said softlyalmost secretly, but Xena's keen ears heard her.
Xena could make out Gabrielle in the darkness sitting up, pulling her shift over her head, stretching out on her bedroll completely naked. She also removed her shift, hurling it behind her almost into the low fire that still burned.
Xena's hands moved to her breasts and she gave them a powerful squeeze
There was no need for words. Both women heard the other moaning and groaning as they pleasured themselves together.
One of Xena's hands had moved down her torso, across her belly and was now rubbing the mound of thick hair between her legs. She spread her lips with one hand and placed a finger on either side of her clitoris. She slowly began to move her fingers up and down against her clit. Softly, she responded to her own caresses. "Ah. Oh, gods. Oh, Yes."
Gabrielle's fingers lightly tickled her clitoris, too. Her method was different, but the results were about to be the same. Gabrielle moved one hand back to her breast and squeezed it. She was getting close and it would only be a few more moments before she dropped over the edge. Slowing her pace, she tried to time herself to Xena. Gabrielle focused on her hearing trying to discern Xena's quiet moans from the evening's forest sounds.
Xena closed her eyes and went with the strong feelings that were centered between her legs, but spreading out to her toes. She began to rub all of the wetness over her labia and against her entrance. Knowing her body and recognizing that she'd never been this aroused, she had to push a couple of fingers inside.
As Xena pumped inside, she bit down on her lip to keep from screaming. Two fingers weren't enough. When she pressed a third finger inside. She grunted just loud enough for Gabrielle to pick up. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she turned to watch Xena in the darkness.
Gabrielle could just barely make out Xena's pleasuring sounds, but it was enough. She grabbed her breast and dug her fingers into her full flesh as her finger worked furiously on her clitoris. She was so close and she knew that Xena was, too.
Xena's body lifted from the bedroll and she held her body taut as the muscles in her arm clenched from the work they were doing. Xena was with Gabrielle, following her lead and the climax tore through her leaving her feeling like she was being ripped open. Her fingers were tightly gripped by her womanhood as the flow that had been non-stop continued and covered her fingers, and hand.
Gabrielle's body bounced on her bedroll, then she flung her body onto its side and squeezed her legs together while her body quivered and twitched. She breathed deeply through her nose as her chest heaved from the exertion of her orgasm.
The warrior couldn't move. She fell back and landed loudly on the thin bedroll.
The young bard was unusually quiet and unmoving.
"Gabrielle? Are you all right?"
Gabrielle groaned, but didn't really answer. She, too was spent. It had been a long time since either woman had taken their time pleasuring herself. Usually, Gabrielle rushed through it because her feelings were at surface level, her desire for Xena always on her mind, and just imagining the warrior walking toward her in the nude with passion in her eyes would cause Gabrielle to orgasm in mere moments. Xena didn't like the idea of leaving Gabrielle alone for too long. She was a woman who knew how to give herself the release she needed in a fast and efficient way. Tonight, she had been leisurely and enjoyed the climb, the peak, and finally the slow descent.
"Gabrielle," Xena started breathlessly. "If doing this with you near can give me this kind of pleasure, I can't imagine what will happen when we actually " Xena shook her head. "Hearing your voice and those sounds."
"Yeah. I know I want this. I just feel like I have no right to the pleasure of another person, the pleasure of you after what I did to Perdicus. I need to get over it. I need to figure out a way."
Gabrielle yawned. "I think you're going to have a hard time waking me in the morning."
Xena smiled. "Close your eyes, Gabrielle. We'll sleep in."
The soft snores were heard almost instantly. Gabrielle was asleep and Xena still tingled. She wanted to crawl over to her companion's bedroll and hold her in her arms and as the night turned to morning, to fill her with the love she felt. As she lay there, listening to the woman sleep, Xena acknowledged that she had yet to tell her that she loved her. She prided herself on being afraid of very littleshe could fight off anyone and any entity, but she couldn't string those eight letters together to say 'I love you.' She felt it. She just couldn't say it. It suddenly occurred to Xena that Gabrielle had not said those words, either.
Their days and nights melded from one into the next and Gabrielle was having the adventures she had always dreamed of. She and Xena had taken on a mission that involved a beauty contest and Gabrielle could scarcely control her emotions whenever Xena appeared. Xena was Miss Amphipolis, the most gorgeous of the contestants and Gabrielle pretended to be her sponsor. At one point, Gabrielle was discussing part of their plan to find the perpetrator of the crimes, but Xena was in a teasing mood. She had crossed her long legs, her dress was open to her thigh and she reclined on a chaise offering herself up as bait to Gabrielle. As she spoke, trying desperately to focus on what needed to be done, Gabrielle wondered what Xena would do or say if she simply dropped to her knees and crawled over to her, spread her legs, and feasted on the warrior. See, it was hard to remain focused on the mission.
The other sponsors were all men and they treated the women they represented as objects. Gabrielle hoped she wasn't as superficial, but Xena was stunning. That was Xena's fault, not hers.
It was at the end of the contest that Miss Artiface beckoned Xena to the stage. Xena, as Miss Amphipolis had bonded with this beauty contestant, but Gabrielle hadn't expected the lanky winner of the contest to bend over the warrior and give her a full mouth kiss that lingered for far too long. Gabrielle was dumbstruck and filled with jealousy. She pined to kiss Xena like that, even more passionately. She wanted to turn Xena's world upside down. Gabrielle wanted to kiss her in a way that would make her forget every Hercules, Marcus, Draco who had crossed her path. When she finally got over her fears, regrets, and guilt, she was going to love Xena in a way that the worldly warrior had no words or concept for. That was her plan. But now she wondered if Xena was moving on, giving up on her and the slow progress they had been making. Perdicus
Perdicus stood in his black vest and brown trousers listening as his loved one spoke to him.
Perdicus, I have to get over this. People die. I'm sorry you did. I will always keep you in my thoughts. That is one thing I can promise and I know I can and want to do. You will always be my closest friend, after Xena. I want more with her, but I keep seeing your pained face, seeing you doubled over, clutching your side, trying to straighten up to save me. I keep seeing that and I think how can I go on and be happy, how can I give myself to someone when he died for me. I owe you that. Don't I?
"What does she want me to do? Send her some sort of sign? I don't know if I want to. Hades, every time I come here, I hear her say the same thing. Not once has she said, I love you and wish you were back in my arms, my husband."
"I know, son."
"And I am and always will be her husband. She is a widow because of me, but all she's talked about is loving Xena and liking me. Why do you bring me here to hear this?"
"The living need to know that you can hear their thoughts. It helps them to process their lives."
Perdicus pounded his fist into the nearby pillar. "I don't want to help Gabrielle process her love for someone else. I don't care. Why don't you just let me stay in the Fields and be happy there? Why do you call me here all the time to hear this stuff?"
Hades' mouth twisted into an odd shape as if he were both contemplating what he wanted to say and trying to decide just how much he should speak. Perdicus glared at the God.
"Oh. I said 'all the time,' didn't I? Let me guess, hardly ever? I have no sense of time, but tell me the truth, Hades. When I'm in the Fields, everything is wonderful. I see my beautiful betrothed and I couldn't be happier, then you bring me here. I only remember my visits when I return to your palace and you let me hear her. I don't know when I was last here, though. In mortal time, when was the last time she thought of me, talked to me in her thoughts?"
"Perdicus, that is irrelevant. Gabrielle and Xena are very busy people. One can't spend their time thinking of dead loved ones and saving lives."
"When was the last time? I have a right to know."
"No, you don't. And don't you dare speak to me again with such a tone." Hades smoothed out the leather cape that rested on back of his throne, then he picked it up and swung it around to land on his shoulders.
"Then please let me stay in the Elysian Fields. I can't bear to hear from Gabrielle. It hurts."
"Set my mind at ease. How often does she think of me?"
Hades glared at him.
"Has it been a few hours, a day, several days, a half moon, an entire moon?" With each period of time mentioned, Perdicus' voice became louder as Hades stood his ground and chose not to respond. All of Perdicus' worst fears were coming to fruition. She's only pretending to give a gods' damn because it looks good. She never cared.
"I'm ready to go back to the Elysian Fields." Perdicus waved a hand in the air. "Sounds like she's done with me, anyway."
As they walked down the beach to catch a boat off the isle, Gabrielle didn't hesitate to ask, "Xena, what was with you and Miss Artiface? Did something happen between the two of you?"
"She kissed you like she was the love of your life."
"Believe me, Gabrielle, that was just for show."
"I mean, you did seem surprised, but maybe that's because she did it publicly. I know how you are about your privacy."
"No, that's not it."
"But you were surprised?"
"And you and Miss Artiface had never done that before, alone, privately?"
"Did you like it?"
"No, not at all."
"Why? Bad breath?"
"No, very sweet."
"Rough skin?" Gabrielle was determined to get to the bottom of this and if she had to play 'Twenty Questions' with Xena, she would.
"Surprisingly smooth," Xena said with a big grin.
"Just not your type, huh?"
"No, not really my type."
"Umm. A variety of reasons, Gabrielle. Why are you so interested?"
Just as Gabrielle was about to answer, she fell into the deep tracks of another war wagon. "I'll be glad when this beach is back to normal," she said as she leaned on her staff to stand.
"Uh well, you know. I've just never seen you kiss anyone like that."
"I didn't kiss Miss Artiface. Miss Artiface kissed me. Different."
"I mean, I know about Hercules and Marcus and it's just that well "
"Yes?" Xena was barely able to control her amusement as she tried to get Gabrielle to say what was on her mind.
"Well, I've never seen you kiss another woman. Other than me."
"And you still haven't." Xena laughed heartily.
"Yeah, I have. Miss Artiface is a woman, Xena."
"That's where you're wrong, Gabrielle. That beauty contestant was no woman."
"Xena, she was a tad forward, but "
"No." Xena laughed. "No, Gabrielle. Miss Artiface was no Miss. Miss Artiface is a man and I've known for days."
"Miss Artiface with the long legs, sexy little swish when she walks, nice rear end."
Xena turned to look at her and smirked, "My you certainly gave her the once over."
Indignantly, Gabrielle said, "Xena, Miss Artiface was your competition, just like all of the other contestants. It was important as your sponsor to be aware of what they were bringing to the table. My interest was all part of the mission."
Xena nodded as they continued walking toward a hill to look out for their ship.
"So she was a he?"
"Yep. A nice man."
"Good," Gabrielle said terminating her end of the conversation.
"Yes." Gabrielle kept climbing the hill, refusing to add to her embarrassment for thinking that Miss Artiface was after Xena or that Xena had wanted her.
"What's good about it?"
"Nothing." Gabrielle said curtly.
Xena sighed and said, "Are you going to write about this?"
"Oh, yes. I was thinking about calling it Queen for a "
Before she could finish the title, Xena stopped her, "Gabrielle!"
The next two moons were spent on small disagreements between neighbors, helping to draw up treaties between sworn enemies, and aiding a village in creating a dam to hold back the river that was ruining the crops.
There had been one other time that they repeated the intimacy they had shared moons ago at the campsite. Xena chose to stop, though she knew it was something Gabrielle wanted. The warrior believed that Gabrielle could start moving toward her and away from her grief if that element weren't part of their evenings. For Xena, pleasuring herself with Gabrielle watching and listening made her feel lonely. Even though the climaxes were powerful, she felt this emptiness brought on by not truly making love with her companion. This was not as good as it got.
Each woman thought that even though their friendship was growing, the desire for physical intimacy seemed to have disappeared. Both women were wrong. Gabrielle spent her nights writing scenarios for seducing Xena. Xena spent her evenings lost in thought about the ways she would take her inexperienced partner.
Those days, Gabrielle had decided not to think of Perdicus. Whenever she did, her resolve to make changes faltered and she'd have to start again, telling herself that it would be okay to seek pleasure with Xena.
They had traveled far southwest, nearly out of Greece and there seemed to be people who needed help every step of the way. They were heading back toward the east, when Xena saw a sign post for Cirra. Cirra., the village where Xena's army had destroyed many lives including Callisto's. Her army marched in, burning at will, raping, pillaging, and making demands on the town. It was the first time she felt that she had lost control of her men, but then she figured they needed to let off some steam. In the process, women and children were killed and Xena felt bad about it, but what was done was done. She had no way of knowing that her army's actions that day would come back to haunt her again and again. She, Gabrielle, and Argo traveled to Cirra just to see what had become of the village. They stood on a hilltop looking down at what seemed to be a prosperous town with no sign of what had gone on there seasons earlier. Xena needed to get closer, she needed to understand her actions that day and how she had let things get so out of control. She rode Argo down the hill and looked around. It was as innocuous as any other town. Nothing about it said a crazy girl would be raised here who would lose her mind and her compassion. This was where Callisto's dreams fell apart. Xena had never been sadder, but realizing that she had left Gabrielle at the top of the hill, she guided Argo's reins out of the village and back up the hill.
But when she arrived Gabrielle was gone. When Xena took off to find her, she had no way of knowing that her life would forever change and the young girl she traveled with would have to reach down inside herself to find the strongest of courage, intense bravery, and the deepest of love.
Xena rescued the girls and women including Gabrielle who were being held by vicious and barbaric warriors. During the rescue, the native warriors who were determined to end the Warrior Princess' life had set a trap. One of warrior's arm reached high and came down swinging, slicing into a thick rope and propelling a gigantic log forward in the direction of Xena. The log was moving too fast for Xena to evade. It rammed into her body and she dropped to the ground. Gabrielle, who had been trying to save the village girls and women, ran back to find Xena sprawled out, barely conscious next to a tree.
The next days were a blur. In an early lucid moment, Xena told Gabrielle to take her north, to Mt. Nestus, a mountain range that was unfamiliar, to a healer Gabrielle had never heard of. The gods tested Gabrielle as she moved them North with frigid temperatures, snow drifts taller than any she'd ever encountered, hunger, sleep deprivation, fear of abandonment, regret, and worry over the woman who should have been her lover long ago.
At Mt. Nestus, Gabrielle met Nicklio, the healer and pleaded with him to save Xena, but it was too late. Nicklio, shook his head announcing that Xena was gone.
Xena was somewhere between the earthly realm and Hades. She wasn't sure where she was, but she knew she wanted to just close her eyes and complete her journey. She had outwitted death many times, she had been saved from it so often that there were times she felt immortal, but now, she was ready.
Nicklio looked at Gabrielle and shook his head. "She's gone.
"She can't be gone," cried Gabrielle.
Gabrielle grasped Xena's arm and cried, "No. No."
Many, many moons earlier Gabrielle had been seriously injured and everyone had said she had crossed over, but Xena wouldn't let her go. Xena had begged Gabrielle to wake up and through the fog of near-death, Gabrielle heard that plea and pulled herself back into the realm to join Xena. Now, it was Gabrielle who did the commanding and surely, she thought, her love was strong enough to bring her back.
"Let her pass over," Nicklio gently suggested.
Gabrielle sobbed over the still body, "Please wake up. Wake up. Wake up," she begged.
Pressing her body against Xena's, hovering over her, shoving her to awaken her, Gabrielle tried and tried to revive her. She was only unconscious, not dead. She could and would awaken. "Oh," she wailed. "Oh, please wake up. Please."
Nicklio was supposed to be this great healer, the only one Xena trusted to help her. Why wasn't he helping? Gabrielle looked up at him and pleaded with him, too. "Oh, do something. Do something!"
Nicklio had done quite a bit as he worked with Xena's damaged body. He had rubbed her body with special oils infused with herbal compounds that could keep Xena in a comatose state for an extended period of time. He wasn't sure how long it would work, but perhaps Xena would act quickly. If the warrior wanted to come back as much as her companion needed her back, he could halt death. It was temporary and he chose not to tell Gabrielle. He didn't want to give the young woman false hope. It was best if she said her goodbye and mourn in case Xena wasn't the fearless, unbeatable, brilliant woman he remembered.
Xena slipped from the earthly realm and she sensed that she was beginning her descent to Hades. She knew that's what should have been happening, but suddenly her old friend M'Lila appeared and told her she had a destiny and even though it felt to Xena like now was her time to die, it was not. M'Lila urged her to open her heart.
When the living think of the dead, the dead can hear their thoughts. Listen, M'Lila said.
And then she heard the sweet voice of her beloved Gabrielle. Gabrielle sobbing and pleading with her, Xena, I know you can hear me-- wherever you are. I know you always told me to be strong. I can't be-- not now. You can't leave me. I know it's not your time. I can feel it in my heart. I should feel this emptiness that I've never known before, and it scares me. Xena-- above all-- just remember your destiny. Remember it and fight. Just, fight to come back. This world needs you. I need you.
Xena's eyes darted around looking for Hades or Celesta, but they were nowhere to be found. She was in this weird kind of plane with images falling backward and disappearing before her. She felt boxed in and unable to free herself. She could still hear Gabrielle sobbing. Her companion was nearly hysterical with grief and disbelief. Xena hoped that Gabrielle's wish would be enough to return her to her. "I've got to go back."
But getting back wouldn't come easily. Xena remained in such deep state of sleep that she was for all intents and purposes, quite dead.
Gabrielle stayed with Nicklio long enough to rest Argo and to get some much needed sleep as well. She insisted that she sleep next to the hearth, next to Xena's body. The first night she awoke shortly after falling asleep. She shook her head as she thought about the dream that Xena, the Warrior Princess had died from an injury caused by a log. It was absurd. But then she turned her head and everything was as it had been in the dream. Xena lay stretched out on a slab, her body still. There was no rise and fall of her chest, her eyeballs didn't move left and right as they did when Xena slept. Her weapons were hanging on a couple of wall hooks, not by her side as always. "No, no. Gods, please no."
Nicklio was at her side instantly, kneeling to draw her to him. "Sssh, little one. Xena has crossed over. She's at peace." He pushed a mug of tea against Gabrielle's lips, "Drink this. You need rest. You'll die, too, if you don't sleep."
"Let me die. Let me be with her."
"Oh, I didn't know Xena long, but I knew her well. She wouldn't want that, friend. She'd want you to carry on. Drink this for Xena."
Gabrielle would do anything for Xena, so she drank the liquid and almost immediately, calmed, feeling warm and relaxed. She slid from Nicklio's arms and slipped back into sleep on her bedroll.
Perdicus. It's me, Gabrielle. Perdicus, I know I haven't talked with you much. Perdicus, do you see Hades? Can you give him a message for me? Tell him that I need Xena. Tell him to bring her back to me. I can't go on without her. I don't want to. Please, Perdicus help me if you can. Tell Hades, we need her, that her work isn't finished here. I'm not strong enough to go on without her. Please, Perdicus. Help me
Perdicus turned to Hades. "Catch that?"
"So Xena is really dead?"
Hades shrugged. "She hasn't come here. She might have some affiliation I know nothing of. She could be in another land of death."
"Will I be able to meet with her if she comes here?"
"I don't know if that's a good idea."
"Oh, of course, she'll be in Tartarus to live out her eternity." Perdicus nodded. "I wouldn't see her, would I?" he added almost pleasantly.
"What makes you think that? Xena has done nothing but good for many seasons now. Yes, her time prior to meeting Hercules and Gabrielle was her most deadly time, but when I look at my books, Xena has redeemed herself."
"How could she possibly have made up for killing entire villages? You have a strange way of reconciling your books."
"If Gabrielle calls for you again, I'll let you know."
"Before I go, when was the last time I was here."
Hades glared at him and said, "It's been a long while, Perdicus. A good long while."
Perdicus' eyes went cold. It's been a while and even when she does finally think of me, talk to me, it's to ask for help with Xena. Gods, why did the Fates put that woman so close to Poteidaia the day Draco's slave traders invaded? My life had been going just fine before that.
While Gabrielle slept for two days, Nicklio finished off the sarcophagus that he had started over ten winters earlier. He knew some day Xena would be brought to him and he also knew that he would only be able to assist her to a degree. He hoped that what he had done would be enough. If Nicklio failed as a healer, he would be the consummate carpenter, creating a final resting place that was specifically for the warrior, a sarcophagus with the same scrolled swirls as those M'Lila had worn on her tunic and that Xena had honored by placing on her warrior's breastplate.
Each day, Nicklio would listen to Gabrielle howl at the discovery of finding that she wasn't dreaming. Throughout the day, she would sit beside Xena's lifeless body, hold her hand, and weep. It broke his heart to see her in such a state, but he knew that it was part of the process. Either Xena would return to her or Gabrielle would eventually go on, begin making decisions about her future, and learn to live without Xena beside her.
When Gabrielle felt strong enough, she stood before Nicklio and thanked him for his kindness. He had helped her to place Xena's sarcophagus on the litter that Argo would pull off the mountain and toward Amphipolis. It would take almost a season to make the journey, but Gabrielle was determined. She knew from the first day they met that Xena wanted to be laid to rest next to her brother, Lyceus and Gabrielle was going to make certain she was.
Gabrielle, in many ways hoped to never make it to Amphipolis. Although the burden was physically great, traveling with a litter that held this heavy sarcophagus, Gabrielle didn't mind. Somehow, she seemed calmed by it. Xena was close by. But it was in the mornings that she had to face the loss. The loss was eating away at her. Each morning she woke as she had every morning since her first night at Nicklio's and said, "Every night I see it happen. Every morning I wish it were a dream. Xena."
Several days into her journey toward Xena's home village she came upon some thugs hoping to make their fortune with Xena's dead body. A lot of men and kings were willing to pay big dinars for proof of her death. Gabrielle knew she'd fight them to the death to hold on to Xena, but she didn't have to. Iolaus showed up and he made fast work of the bandits. When he asked why Gabrielle was alone, she began to sob. "She's gone," she was able to get out. She paced as she told Iolaus what she was thinking. "She just left me. How could she do that? She just left me. I want to hate her for that."
"No, no you don't," Iolaus said with gentleness in his voice.
"But I miss her. There's so many things I wish I could have told her. Why didn't I when I had the chance?" Gabrielle couldn't tell Iolaus all of the things she was feeling, those emotions were too raw and too personal.
She heard him ask, "What would you have told her?"
She sniffled, the tears falling softly over her cheeks. " I would have told her-- how empty my life was before she came; and all the lessons I learned; and that I love her." Iolaus had no idea. No one did. She hadn't told Xena, but she should have. Xena, I love you with a depth I had never known existed; I love you with a passion that the gods would envy; every bit of my heart, every part of my soul exists to love you. I should have told you, but didn't. Now, I can't.
"Gabrielle, you just did." How could Gabrielle have forgotten the dead could hear her thoughts? Perhaps it was because she couldn't think of Xena as dead.
No matter how many times Gabrielle stood at Xena's sarcophagus, talking to the dead woman, she couldn't convince herself Xena was truly gone. It felt different than it had when Perdicus had died. She felt the void of his death instantly. Where there had been life, there was none. With Xena, it wasn't the same.
Perdicus stood in Hades' great hall and listened to Gabrielle yammer on about the difference between her feelings for Xena and those she held for him. His arms were crossed over his chest and occasionally, he cut his eyes over to glare at Hades.
Perdicus, have you seen Xena? Do you know if she hears my thoughts?
Xena had been leaning against a pillar on the outer section of the great hall. Her fingers were steepled and she jabbed her forefingers repeatedly into her forehead as she was lost in thought. She looked up when she heard her name and paid attention.
Perdicus, can you send me a sign or have Xena send me one that she hears me, that she's been hearing all that I have to say?
Xena pushed off the pillar she had been leaning on and walked into the room.
"Xena!" Hades was surprised to see her. "How did you get here? Celesta didn't tell me "
"I don't think I'm dead, Hades--at least not completely and I have no intention of staying. Sorry to disappoint."
"You're the only mortal who just drops in whenever the mood strikes her. No other mortal could survive the trip. Yet you keep coming back." Hades was ready to question her about this latest visit, but Perdicus stepped in.
"Xena?" Perdicus' salutation dripped with anger. "Welcome to your new home."
"Think again, Perdicus. I'm not staying. "Celesta didn't bring me. Charon didn't give me a lift across. Not dead."
"You're as dead as I," he said with a smile.
"Well, I might be sort of dead, but I sure as Tartarus don't plan on staying that way."
"Try all you want, Xena, but once you're in Hades grasp, you're his."
"Hades and I have an understanding, don't we God of the Underworld."
"You've always been good to me, Xena, but I've been good to you. The relationship has always been fair. I am surprised to see you, though."
"I'm weak, but not dead. I've gotta get back, back to Gabrielle."
"Gabrielle," Perdicus said tearfully. "Your Gabrielle. She sure isn't mine. Have you been listening to her sobbing and crying non-stop? She's angry because you left her. She loves you and did everything you asked of her and you still left her."
"I'm going back," Xena said definitively. "This is temporary. I'm getting back to her."
"Do you hear her?"
Xena, I need you. Please, let this be a bad dream. I've waited all of my life for you and now you're gone. Let this be a dream. I've never hurt like this. When Perdicus died, it was a horror, a terrible injustice, but I knew that I'd go on. Perdicus knows that. I've talked to him about it .
"I know it, but I don't like it."
"She married you, Perdicus. She married you," Xena said with so much hurt and anguish that Perdicus was momentarily taken aback.
"So what? She loved you." He turned from her, staring at the far wall, sinking into his own despair.
"I'm not going to fight with you about it."
Perdicus suddenly turned and rushed the warrior, giving her a hard shove at the shoulders. "Why not? Why not fight me? I'm no coward, Xena."
As Xena regained her balance she asked, "No one's calling you one, Perdicus. Is that how you want to spend eternity? Fighting me? Hades could arrange it, problem is I won't be here much longer."
Xena didn't wait for a response from Perdicus. Her mind was back on a plan to get her back into the earthly realm. "I've got what? A day, Hades? Can I make this right in a day?"
Hades sighed deeply. "This is all highly irregular. As far as I can tell, you're not supposed to be here, so every restriction we have is moot. If you can find a way home before I sort this out, you're free to leave."
Perdicus was standing beside them, his face a mask of incomprehension, confusion, anger, and rejection. Xena stared at him and did feel sorry for him. She understood how he felt. If Gabrielle rejected her, she would be just as devastated, just as willing to lash out at the one Gabrielle did love. She looked to Hades again. "I think Gabrielle's finished. She hasn't said a word in a while. He should go back to Elysia."
"Of course." Hades wasn't thinking about Perdicus, either. He was trying to come up with a solution for Xena. He waved his hand and Perdicus disappeared, most likely walking toward Gabrielle, grabbing her in a fierce hug, and swinging her around in a circle while shouting, "Thank you for agreeing to be my wife
Xena and Hades looked at each other and blurted out in unison, "Ambrosia."
"Yes, yes. I think that's your answer, Xena. It will turn a mortal into an immortal. It's food for the Gods. I think it could bring back the almost dead. The thing is, you'll have to get to it and that means finding a mortal who can get you to it since your body is obviously out of commission."
"I know just the person."
"It has to be someone . How should I say, wily, sneaky, clever?--someone who, of course, cares for you and will do what he or she can to help you. The person has to be athletic, a quick thinker, and a fast talker wouldn't hurt. You see, to get to the ambrosia, you need the Dagger of Helios and the map. Both are kept under lock and key and guarded. You need someone who "
"I need Autolycus," Xena said. Her body swayed nervously as she concocted a plan in her mind. "Hades, I need to find a mortal. Can you locate this guy for me? We call him, well he calls himself, 'The King of Thieves.' His name is Autolycus and last I heard, he was wandering around "
"I know the King of Thieves. He accidentally just sent me two warlords who fought each other to the death while he escaped with a priceless gem. I know exactly where he is in fact. Xena, you don't have a lot of time. I'll get you into his body, but the rest is up to you. You have to get him to the location of the dagger, get him to steal it, then get him to find a way to reunite you with your physical body. Some how, he has to get you and your body to the ambrosia. There are about a hundred ways this can go wrong."
"But it won't," Xena pierced Hades eyes as she spoke. She was the only mortal who could look a god in his eyes and not blink, not feel intimidated, not feel inadequate. The fact that she could do this, made Hades blink. "I'm ready. Do your thing."
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