After stories had been told and explanations made to Joxer and Amarice, or as many as could be, given that Xena and Gabrielle still didn't fully understand what had happened and why they'd been brought back, the two of them finally got a chance to be alone together. Xena stood and stared at the wintry landscape, her weapons lying at her feet, and Gabrielle came and stood beside her. She placed her forehead on Xena's arm.
"I'm sorry," said Gabrielle.
"For what? Where do I begin? For not being willing to go to hell with you. For being willing to see you destroyed just to protect heaven. For being cowardly and selfish."
"Gabrielle, I was demonic. You were right not to want anything to do with me."
"You were a demon because you did something selfless. You gave Callisto your light. You changed her completely. Xena, I asked Michael if I could give you my light the way you did Callisto. Do you know what he said?"
"I can guess."
"He said I was almost all light. If I gave you my light, I would cease to exist. I should've been willing to do it, but I wasn't. And I should've been willing to go with you to hell, but I couldn't. When I had just a taste of what it was like to be a demon, it scared me so much that I couldn't face it again. I couldn't go back to hell, not even for you, and I hate myself for being so weak."
"Gabrielle, has it ever occurred to you that you're not the only one that's learned something about herself she doesn't like?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, you became a demon and you hated it. I became a demon, and it felt very right to me. It felt so right that I became their leader. I stormed the gates of heaven and tried to take it over for the demons spawned of hell, and remake it in their image, all in the name of evil. Do you think I'm proud of that? Is that something you would've done?"
"You weren't yourself."
"I was more myself than I ever want to be again. Gabrielle, when we first met I had no light, nothing . I had barely a spark. You were the one who helped me find what I gave to Callisto. You believe you were afraid to give me your light? You've been giving me your light for four years, now. Bit by precious bit."
Gabrielle shook her head.
"No matter how you look at it, I failed you. You went to hell to rescue me, and what did I do for you? I was willing to see you destroyed."
"Gabrielle, I always wondered what you would do in a situation like that. I always wondered if you would have the courage to do what needed to be done. And now I know. And I'm glad you had the chance to meet Xena the Demon, so you'll know her if you ever see her again."
"What are you talking about, now?"
"It might happen someday that I become so out of control, so irredeemable that the only answer is to destroy me. For the good of everyone. And now I know that I can trust you to do it."
"That's crazy. I could never want to kill you."
"I know you could never want to. But someday you might have to. Gabrielle, please stop hating yourself for what happened. I've got enough self-loathing for the both of us. If I'm not angry, why should you be? After all, I've always known who loves who more in this relationship."
"Don't even think that, Xena."
"Why not? It's true. You've left me many times. There will always be someone else around the next corner who can offer you something I can't, and I just have to accept that. But for me there's no one else I could ever be with. I can't imagine anyone that could ever take your place. Your love is a precious jewel, Gabrielle, and I would fight all the armies of this world and the next just to keep it. But someday, if I find that the jewel is with someone else, someone who deserves it more, then I'm just going to have to live with it."
Gabrielle looked down, ashamed.
"Xena, I guess I have no right to make this promise, but I will anyway. I promise that it's you and me, forever. No husbands or spiritual leaders or even the gates of heaven themselves can ever tempt me away from you. I swear. That's my promise. Now let's see how long it takes me to break it."
Xena smiled and put one around Gabrielle's shoulder.
"Fine. Now can we stop talking about what a terrible person you are?"
"Do you forgive me?"
"Forgive you? There's nothing to?oh, all right, I forgive you? OK?"
"Sure. Because I'm so proud of you, Xena. Giving your light to Callisto was such a wonderful thing. You make me proud to be your friend."
"Oh, that was pure selfishness on my part. It felt so good to finally undo one of the most terrible things I've ever done. I might've changed her, Gabrielle, but you were the one who forgave her."
"You would've done it too, if you'd seen her. What must it be like to have done so many terrible things and have no memory of them at all, and no understanding of why others hate you? Like being an innocent victim of your own life. How could I not forgive her?"
Xena impulsively gave her a hug.
"What's that for?" asked Gabrielle.
"For rescuing me. Four years ago."
"You have that backwards."
"The hell I do."
They broke apart, and Gabrielle said, "What I don't understand is, where was the one true God in all of this? Isn't he supposed to be, you know, all-powerful?"
"Who knows? Maybe he was everywhere. Didn't David once compare him to a shepherd?"
"Well, sometimes a shepherd has to fight off a wolf while the sheep are blissfully unaware of any danger. But that doesn't mean he's not there, just because the sheep don't see him working. Maybe he was there, helping us along."
"Do you really believe that?"
"I'd like to. After all, if not for Joxer we never would've been cut down from those crosses, and Eli would never have been able to get to us. And Joxer said he came because of his dreams. Who do you suppose gave him those dreams?"
"I'm amazed at all this faith and optimism you have all of a sudden, Xena."
"Well, for someone like me to begin to believe in the one true God, and to believe that he really has our best interests at heart and that he loves us, that's probably the real miracle. Why shouldn't I be optimistic? After all, I found out something very important in all of this."
"I always thought heaven would be boring."
Xena flipped her sword into the air with her foot and caught it in one hand.
"But I'm glad to see that they need a chick with a really good sword arm."