Timeline: This story takes place on the boat to Egypt after the events of Friend In Need II. For the sake of my story, I have altered certain facts of the final episode. I hope after reading, you will forgive me.
Violence: This is a Hurt/Comfort story.
Spoilers: There are references to the following episodes: Friend in Need (I &II), A Day in the Life, The Dirty Half Dozen, If the Shoe Fits, The Lost Mariner, Sins of the Past, Death Mask, Altered States, The Ring, One Against an Army, The Deliverer, The Ides of March, When Fates Collide, To Helicon and Back and A Good Day.
Dedication: There are many wonderful and gifted writers in the Xenaverse. Some have shared their talents and moved on to other endeavors while others continue to take us on journeys of the heart and spirit. One such writer is Brigid Doyle. Whenever I read a story by Brigid, I think of the beauty of music. Each instrument (character) brings its own unique sound to the orchestra (plot). The sections of the orchestra (plots) blend together to weave the harmony of the song (story). Thank you for all the 'songs' you've given us and I long to listen to more. (Thank you especially for 'Stolen Moments'; it inspired me to write this story.)
Comments and suggestions are welcomed and greatly appreciated.
"I sing a song of Gabrielle?" The bard stopped, cleared her throat, and then resumed. "Okay, let's do this again. I sing a song of Gabrielle, a bard from Pota? Aaauugh!" The blonde head fell back in frustration against the aged netting of the hammock. With her arms crossed over her forehead she exhaled heavily. "This is totally ridiculous. How in the world did I let you talk me into this?" Gabrielle crumbled the parchment and threw it against the darkened corner of the small cabin. "Who ever heard of writing a story about yourself? How egotistical can a person get?"
Gabrielle quickly sat up and crawled awkwardly out of the swaying hammock. A wave of dizziness hit her suddenly and she began to feel the nausea build in her stomach. "Stupid, stupid." She pushed the pressure point on her wrist that Xena had taught her and felt the queasiness subside. It worked well, she had to admit, but she had learned to use it sparingly because of the side effects. To this day she couldn't look at a squid without her stomach rebelling.
She stepped over to the corner and picked up the crumpled parchment, pulling and pressing on it in an effort to straighten the wrinkles and folds as best she could. She read the words a final time, tossing the parchment aside on the hammock in disappointment before grabbing her wrap and making her way out of the door and up to the deck for fresh air.
Most of the crew had already gone below deck to the galley for the evening meal. If they followed pattern, the meal would soon be followed by a few rousing candle marks of gambling and drinking. The last place Gabrielle wanted to be right now was in confined quarters with a crew of drunken sex-starved sailors. She had to admit, the crew had been extremely respectful of her and kept their distance, though. The two men who had tried to make an advance on her during the first few days, one a toothless, scraggly-faced man and the other a young cocky boy, had been taken below and she had not seen nor heard from them since. When she questioned the captain about the men he simply stated that their duties had been reassigned and they were confined to the lower deck for the remainder of the journey. And now, with the day coming to a close, there would be little chance she would run into anyone other than the crew taking first watch. As she walked the short distance across the sea-weathered deck to the starboard railing, the helmsman gave her a silent nod of acknowledgement. She leaned against the railing, taking deep breaths of the ocean air and watched the sun gently lower itself into the shimmering waters on the distant horizon. "I should have just stayed on the farm, had a dozen babies and written children's stories. Life would have been so much simpler."
"Interesting shade of green." Xena smirked, stepping leisurely away from the shadows of the cabin. "Glad it was paper she was throwing; that could've hurt." She took a step toward the hammock and bent down to read what had made her friend so frustrated and angry. "Let's just see what you've written. It can't be that bad."
"The Reluctant Warrior"
Xena's lips twitched into a lopsided grin. "Appropriate title." Only finding four lines on the page, she flipped the parchment over but found the back void of any writing. "Haven't gotten very far, have we?"
"I sing a song of Gabrielle
The bard from Poteidaia
The world to see
A destiny to be"
Xena took a moment and read the words again, trying to feel the rhythm. Each time she had that same feeling of being off balance like a footfall that never comes or a knocking on the door that stops short of its normal sequence. "I'm no expert Gabrielle, but it kind of leaves the reader hanging." She studied the words, speaking each phrase slowly. "Couldn't you have picked something other than Poteidaia? What word rhymes with that?" Xena pinched the bridge of her nose. "?the home you had to leav-a?" A shiver ran through her entire body. "Ooo?better not quit my day job."
Xena took a moment to glance around the small cabin. "Maybe it's the atmosphere. My creative juices would probably be stifled here too." Admittedly it was cramped, but what would you expect on a ship this size? The room was furnished with the basics: a hammock, a medium sized trunk, a small table that held a small washbasin and an oil lamp. It served its purpose and Gabrielle had a room to herself instead of a hammock with a crew of sweaty, foul-smelling men. It also provided a place of refuge when those moments of grief overwhelmed her friend. No one but Xena and Aphrodite would bear witness to the tears that traced a path down the bard's cheeks each night as Gabrielle whispered her goodnights into the emptiness beside her. Xena was even more thankful she had made previous arrangements with the captain for their passage to Egypt.
Of course, after the events at Mt. Fujisha, the captain knew Gabrielle would be traveling alone. Gabrielle, being Gabrielle, had staunchly argued her case that she shouldn't take the room, didn't need the room, but the captain had stood firm in his commitment to fulfill his part of the agreement. He had also strongly suggested that all crewmembers were to keep their distance from the young woman or answer to him.
"Not exactly home is it Gabrielle?" Xena stretched out in the hammock, closing her eyes for a moment. "This spirit world isn't what I thought it would be either. Spirits don't sleep; did you know that Gabrielle? I don't get hungry either. You'd never make here: you like eating too much," Xena chuckled softly to herself and turned her head to the right to look out the tarnished porthole. "At least we can still see some stars at night." Xena closed her eyes again and remembered the many nights they spent gazing at the stars. It always amazed her how they could look at the same cluster of stars and see totally different things.
"That bunch up there looks like a big dipper."
"Yeah, you know?like one of those cups that you draw water out of a bucket."
"It looks?it looks like a bear to me."
"How do you get a bear?"
"Look it?look?there's the body; look?see the little ears, and?tail."
A comforting smile graced the warrior's lips as she recalled the memory. "You were always a handful but I wouldn't have traded a day with you for the treasures of all the kings on the earth." Xena glanced back at the words on the parchment then closed her eyes again, her mind beginning its own tale?
We met quite by fate
one of the darkest days of my life
I, ready to give up
She, just beginning to fight...
The warm glow of the setting sun had long since left and Gabrielle felt the cool breeze of the ocean air as it gently caressed her skin. Her gaze had shifted to the heavens as the stars' intensity grew against the deepening midnight sky.
"Just like these stars, Xena, so close yet so far, that's how we are now." Gabrielle spotted a familiar cluster of stars and a small chuckle escaped. "I called it a bear and you called it a dipper. Always the pragmatist." Securing the wrap more tightly around her body and pulling a layer over her head, she warded off the night's chill. "You know I idolized you during those days. You were a hero; you were MY hero." She could feel the stirring of tears and fought, without success, to keep them at bay. "I always thought you would be there to save me. Even though the sensible part of me knew that was unrealistic, I still believed that no matter what, you would triumph over anything. I never believed I would really lose you." Gabrielle raised her fisted hands against her forehead in moment of sheer agony. "You DIED with your choice; but I have to LIVE with it." She shook her head and wiped at the tears that were flowing freely now. "I should have dropped the entire urn into the fountain and dealt with the consequences. You'd be mad but at least you'd be ALIVE." Gabrielle swallowed past the lump in her throat. "And I wouldn't be alone."
Gabrielle turned to walk back to her cabin and ran literally into The Goddess of Love.
"Whoa, take it easy." The goddess grasped Gabrielle by the forearms and steadied her.
"Aphrodite!" Gabrielle quickly ducked her head to hide the tears falling silently down her cheeks.
Aphrodite brushed her hand across the bard's fair hair as she gently lifted Gabrielle's chin and looked into red-rimmed eyes. "Oh Sweet Pea, you're not alone." She quickly took the bard into her arms. "I'm here." Gabrielle lost herself in the comfort of The Goddess of Love's arms. Like a mother's embrace, the warmth penetrated to the deepest bitter cold. She fought the inner battle of 'strong versus weak', but it had seemed so long since the bard had felt the cherished touch of friend. She didn't want to feel this weak; didn't want anyone to know the enormous loss and anger she felt as she had allowed her life?Xena's life, to slip through her grasp, forever. How could anyone ever understand?
"You're never alone," the goddess whispered tenderly into the blonde hair. As they stood quietly on the moonlit deck in an affectionate hug, memories carried the goddess back to an earlier encounter with a younger, feistier bard.
"Aphrodite?! I know you can hear me!" Gabrielle stumbles into a statue. "Whoop! Sorry!" Gabrielle turns and knocks a vase off its pedestal. "Whoop! Clumsy me!"
"Ok! Chill the 'tude, Miss Thing?I'm here."
"I want you to leave Alesia alone."
"She came to me. You heard what she said. She hates her family."
"All I see is this confused, little girl. She doesn't realize how much she misses her family?all these people who love her. If you don't stop meddling, you're going to break them up."
"I just wanted a happy ending for her."
"No, you just want your happy ending...regardless of her. Tell me, Miss Expert?is that what you call love? It's just a thought."
Aphrodite, being The Goddess of Love, had always thought that whatever she did, as long as it was in the 'name of love', was acceptable. Gabrielle, in her own creative yet forthright way, had shown the goddess her error. That had been the pivotal moment that changed Aphrodite's opinion and feelings toward the young bard. And now she cared about the young woman. She really and truly cared; a revelation that totally surprised The Goddess of Love. Their relationship felt more, dare she say it, like a friendship. She had never been friends with a mortal; always use to them praying to her and offering sacrifices for their petty problems. Gabrielle never did such things. She came to the goddess on equal terms, speaking openly, freely?but never, NEVER, for herself. For as much as the goddess cared about this woman, she knew that Gabrielle's love for others was far greater. Creating and spreading 'love' was sometimes simply a job for the goddess; but for Gabrielle, it was a way life.
"Why don't we go back to the cabin, it's getting chilly." Gabrielle nodded and allowed herself to be escorted back to the cabin. She finally understood the loneliness and emptiness that surrounded Xena during those early days. Building walls was the only way to cope. As they walked, arm in arm, back through the passageway, Gabrielle made her decision. She would wear the mask, just as Xena had done; it was the only way to survive. Alone.
Hearing the familiar footsteps as they made their way down the narrow hallway, Xena sat upright in the hammock. She knew that Gabrielle's problem was beyond her ability to solve. After all, Xena's death WAS the problem. She just hoped The Goddess of Love could find a way to bring the young woman out her malaise. Unfortunately, somewhere between the deck and the cabin door something had changed; Gabrielle had slipped back into 'the warrior mode'. Xena sensed it and so did Aphrodite. The two women entered the room. Gabrielle proceeded over to the basin to rinse her face as Aphrodite nudged Xena over a bit more and took a seat on the swaying hammock. An eternity seemed to pass before anyone spoke.
"I'm really tired. Can we do this in the morning?" Gabrielle asked as she dipped her hands into the basin and splashed water onto her face.
Xena studied her friend closely. After six years of doing virtually everything together, Xena could recognize even the subtlest of changes in her friend's expressions and body language. She could tell by the set of Gabrielle's jaw, the visible pulsing of the vein at her temple and the tension in her shoulders that they were fighting a losing battle. Gabrielle was putting the walls up quickly.
"It's been awhile since we did the 'chat' thing. You know, the girl stuff. I just thought we could spend some time together."
Gabrielle reached for the cloth to dry her face. "I know. It's been a kind of rough day." She tried to give an apologetic look to the goddess. "I'm really?uh?I'm just so ?"
"Tired?" Aphrodite completed with a smile. Xena nudged her, a silent acknowledgement that they probably wouldn't get any further with Gabrielle tonight.
"I've got to do this. Warriors are strong." Gabrielle gave the goddess a half-hearted smile. "Yeah."
Aphrodite stepped beside the bard, placing her hand gently on her shoulder and giving it a squeeze. "You get some rest and we'll talk tomorrow."
"Aphrodite?" Gabrielle called out in a voice that quivered, slightly betraying her inner turmoil.
The goddess heard and somehow felt the uncertainty in the bard's voice. She turned to give the young woman her full attention, hoping against hope that Gabrielle would open up. "Yes?" She watched the young woman's face, numerous emotions playing over it, before the emerald eyes closed. When they opened again, the goddess was looking into cold walls. The sparkles of life she had always seen, even when the bard's anger flared, were gone.
"See you tomorrow," Gabrielle said as the Goddess of Love shimmered out of Gabrielle's sight.
Xena had watched with a broken heart as she saw her friend close herself off from any source of help. "What have I done to you? Why won't you let anyone help you?" Aphrodite shimmered back into the cabin in a shadow state to stand beside Xena. Completely invisible in their current state they could observe the bard without her awareness.
"She's really getting good at that 'warrior' thing." Xena made no effort to respond. "I blame you for that." It was a simple statement of truth.
"Me too," Xena agreed softly. She knew there was no spite in the goddess's words. The facts spoke for themselves. Gabrielle had indeed learned much from the warrior and not all of it good. Since their travels began, Gabrielle had changed from a na´ve, adventure-seeking girl, to a blood stained warrior. Xena's memories took her back to moments past.
"Xena, am I really who I am? Or am I what you made me?"
Gabrielle finished drying her face and hands before stepping over to the trunk. The captain had been kind enough to clear some space in the bottom for her to use for clothing and personal items. As she opened the lid, the familiar scent of their soap filled her senses and she slowly, almost reverently, reached for the sleeping shift. She quickly removed her boots followed by her skirt and top and slipped into the soft shift.
Gabrielle had always been healthy and trim and her normal Amazon-style clothing did nothing to hide this fact but this was the first time Aphrodite had noticed how pronounced the bones on the young woman's rib cage were. "She's lost weight. Look at the way that thing hangs off her shoulders. Is she eating?"
"She hasn't been able to keep much on her stomach. Boats aren't her favorite mode of transportation."
"Seasickness? I thought you taught her a pressure point for that?
"I did, but it has a nasty side effect."
Aphrodite made an awful face. "Yuck! That squid thing, right?" Xena nodded her head. "Poor thing. It's hard enough that she loses you but to be sick at the same time must really be a bummer."
"That's my shift she's wearing."
"Ohhh," Aphrodite said with a sympathetic sigh, realizing yet again, with that small gesture, how much the young woman missed her friend. The two continued to watch from the shadows as Gabrielle swung up and into the hammock, pulling her quill and parchment into her lap.
"Oh thank goodness. She's gone back to her writing."
Xena wasn't quite sure how to respond. "Well, kind of."
"What do you mean kind of?"
"Before we left to go to Japa I made her promise that the next story she wrote would be about her."
"Ooo, tough gig."
"Yeah, Gabrielle has never been good at giving herself credit." Both women continued to watch as the bard made a cycle of writing, scratching out, writing and scratching out.
"She doesn't like to blow her own trumpet does she?"
Aphrodite's eyes twinkled with a conspiring thought. "So someone else will just have to blow it for her."
Xena looked at the goddess and then did a double take with immediate understanding. "No, NO, NO!"
The goddess clasped her hand around the warrior's wrist, stopping her from walking away. "Xena, I heard your thoughts earlier."
"Those were PRIVATE; isn't anything SACRED anymore?" Xena asked with indignation.
"Big talk from someone who was reading HER scroll."
Xena tried her best to feign innocence. "She threw it at me. What was I suppose to do?"
"Duck," Aphrodite quipped. Xena promptly poked her tongue out and crossed her arms over her chest. "Seriously Xena, they were beautiful. Don't you think Gabrielle should hear them? Don't you think there's a reason the Muses came to you?"
"Gabrielle knows how I feel about her."
"Yes, she understands that you loved her but she needs to know more." Aphrodite took on a more serious, clinical demeanor and motioned toward Gabrielle. "Clearly she's manifesting symptoms of clinical depression secondary to repressed grief and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Masking her true feelings to escape reality by creating a warrior fašade and repressing her own identity."
Xena stared dumbfounded; her eyebrow arched and mouth open.
"Don't look at me that way. There's more to me than just blonde hair."
"Obviously." Xena deadpanned.
Aphrodite did her best to ignore the comment. "She needs to know WHY you loved her; what she meant to you. You, warrior babe, are the problem AND the solution."
"You think so?" Xena asked honestly. "But how?"
"Trust me. Have I ever steered you wrong?" The goddess saw the look as Xena opened her mouth to respond but cut her short with a raised palm. "Don't answer that. I'm right on this and you know it."
"Maybe." Xena reluctantly conceded.
The goddess stood, hands on hips, her thin frame leaning slightly back and to the side. "Your total support overwhelms me."
"Force of habit."
"Jeez, didn't six years with Sweet Pea teach you anything?"
"Yeah. Be careful when blondes get ideas."
Aphrodite immediately crossed her arms as her back stiffened to an erect position, a motion that didn't escape the warrior's eye.
"Oops, you heard that didn't you?"
Aphrodite cocked one eyebrow. "Yes, yes I did."
A light snoring noise interrupted the conversation and both women glanced at the bard. Gabrielle was sound asleep with her quill still perched above the parchment. Aphrodite looked back at the warrior and watched as the features softened into a tender smile.
"She used to do that when we started our travels together. I would come back from securing the perimeter and there she would be, sound asleep with her quill still in her hand," Xena offered in explanation.
"Well, she did say she was tired." Aphrodite reached over and removed the objects from the bard's hands and laid them on the small table beside the basin.
"She always looked so young and innocent in sleep." Xena reached to brush her fingers through the feathery blonde bangs and a sharp pain struck her heart as they passed through without any effect. "She won't have to pay for my past anymore."
Aphrodite immediately felt the same pain and pressed her hand against her breast. "Think about what I said, Xena; and remember?Gabrielle chose that path out of love."
The warrior slowly nodded her head in understanding, never taking her eyes off the sleeping form. "I will; for Gabrielle."
And with that the goddess shimmered out of view leaving the warrior to watch over her bard.
It took her all night but the Muses finally stopped filling her mind with images and thoughts. Memory after memory had played through her mind as she recalled their travels together. Some of the changes in the bard had been so subtle, yet others had rocked them both to the core. The Muses orchestrated her memories like melodies; each one independent yet somehow building on the previous until they culminated into a symphony of the life she cherished above all others. From her early encounters with a youthful, feisty, bard?
"Xena, I'm not cut out for this village life. I was born to do so much more."
"Huh?oh no. No, no?that's your way of saying, 'It's too dangerous to be around me right now, Gabrielle.' Well, have you ever considered that there ISN"T a safe time to be around you? That village doesn't need my help, but you might?and I'm going with you. Now, if that's all, I'll just be practicing with my staff?end of discussion."
"By the gods!"
"What is it?"
"You are BEAUTIFUL!"
"Uh-huh. And you are drugged?"
"I thought I told you not to come in here!"
" I never listen!"
"You can't leave me here. I want so much to be like you."
?to an Amazon Queen?
"I killed her. I killed her, Xena."
"No, Gabrielle, you couldn't?"
"I took you from your path."
"I chose the way of friendship."
"She was desperate to save her tribe. I know that."
It made her do something she never thought she'd do, just like you're going to have to rally your troops to fight again, maybe die, Gabrielle."
"If that's what I have to do. Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Just doesn't seem like the Gabrielle I know."
"It's not me, Xena, but it is the queen of the Amazons. That's who I am, whether I like it or not."
?to a seasoned warrior?
"I've seen so many changes in you, things I could never have expected, but as hard as the changes have been, you've got to know that it's for a reason. All this is for a reason. Otherwise, what's the point?"
"I don't think I did. With each battle, I lose more of myself."
"Some things are worth dying for. Isn't that what your play was about? Being prepared to sacrifice all for love?"
"?if there is a reason for our travels together, it's because I had to learn from you, enough to know the final, the good, the right thing to do."
"?the right thing to do."
Soft sobs racked the warrior's body as she knelt beside the hammock. Aphrodite shimmered into the cabin again in a shadow state and placed her hand on Xena's shoulder. "The Muses didn't do this to hurt you."
"I know," Xena answered in a heart-sickened voice. "But it was my fault. All those lives?"
"You've paid your debt to Higuchi. The rest is for Akemi to atone." Aphrodite gave Xena's shoulder a loving squeeze. "It's your choice Xena." The goddess paused, her soulful gaze falling to the young woman who stirred only slightly in her slumber. "But remember, you don't pay the price alone."
"Sleep well?" Aphrodite asked as she shimmered into view.
Gabrielle, already dressed in her Amazon garb, paused in washing her arms and chest as she acknowledged the presence of the goddess. "Don't you ever knock?"
Aphrodite shrugged her shoulders. "No. Do you want me to come in again?" Aphrodite hadn't planned on antagonizing the bard but to simply bring her into an easy conversation so she would open up and talk.
"No." Gabrielle shook her head and rolled her eyes. It's a moot point now," Gabrielle replied without turning around as she reached for the small cloth to dry her chest and arms. "Why are you really here?"
Aphrodite glanced to her left and read the plea in Xena's eyes. "To help."
"I wanted to give you a chance to come to terms with Xena's death on your own."
"And by your being here now, I guess that means that I haven't."
"What I've seen and heard tells me that you haven't."
"You just caught me in a vulnerable moment."
"That moment's lasted what, a month now? Xena and I were talking?"
Stunned by the admittance, Gabrielle reeled around to look at the goddess, pain evident on her face.
"Xena?she talks to you? You can hear her, touch her?" Tears welled at the mere thought of being able to hear or even touch her best friend one more time. Aphrodite quickly found her arms being squeezed in two vise-like grips as Gabrielle became excited at the thought of seeing Xena again. "Where is she? Show me!"
"Whoa! Hold it. It's not that easy."
"You're a god Aphrodite. How hard can it be? Ares did it; Zeus did it."
"Yes, but those souls wanted to come back; I don't have much control when a soul chooses to stay in the spirit realm."
Gabrielle shook the goddess in fury. "How could you do that? Get my hopes up so high and then just drop them. We are NOT pawns to be played with at your whim!" Gabrielle collapsed to the floor, her face buried in her hands, angry tears streaming. "Go. Just go! Leave me alone."
Aphrodite's eyes sent their own plea to the warrior. "Was your guilt worth this?"
"It's better this way, in the long run."
"Better for whom?"
"She needs to move on with her life."
"You ARE her life. Don't you see that?" The goddess was quickly losing her patience. "AUGGHH! Warriors!"
Aphrodite turned her attention back to Gabrielle. "Before I leave, there's something you need to hear."
The ache in Gabrielle's heart was unbearable. "Whatever it is, say it quickly and leave. We have nothing more to talk about."
Aphrodite cleared her throat and began to recite the words Xena had shared in the early hours of the morning.
"THE MELODY OF A YOUTH
We met quite by fate
one of the darkest days of my life
I, ready to give up
she, just beginning to fight.
Young and innocent,
a slip of a kid
courageous beyond good reasoning
the invincible mindset of youth.
A trouble magnet at times it seemed
a constant weaver of tales
so many times I wanted to take her back
pleading eyes melted my defenses.
THE MELODY OF A QUEEN
From Princess to Amazon Queen
maturing with grace and dignity
innocence forever lost
a merciful heart prevails.
Sharpened with truth and wisdom
between the hammer and anvil of life
friends and loved ones lost
love still remains.
seeker of a higher call
hope endures forever.
THE MELODY OF A WARRIOR
Hesitant, unsure at first
Words her choice of weapons
the worthiness of life
a sacred personal code.
Decisions in the heat of battle
life and death in the balance
the guilt, the pain, the loss
a tender heart's burden.
The reluctant warrior continues
Invisible scars untold
love alone will heal
the broken noble heart.
The silence in the room was deafening. Even Xena was touched as she listened to the goddess' recitation of her own words. Gabrielle could almost imagine the words coming from her warrior's lips. Almost. "That was beautiful." She shook her head with a pitiful sigh. "You had me going there until the end. Another one of your cruel jokes?" Gabrielle asked as she slowly wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand.
Aphrodite dropped her head at the accusation. "No. I wouldn't do that to you."
"Go. Leave me alone."
Xena couldn't bear it any longer. She walked over to Gabrielle and knelt at her back. Momentarily lost, she reached to run her fingers through the blonde hair. "I won't leave you alone?not again," came the soft alto voice, deep with it's own emotions. Xena stopped abruptly as her senses registered the fine texture of the blonde hair on her fingertips. The realization caused her heart to skip a beat as she felt a wave of adrenaline shoot through her body.
The hairs on Gabrielle's neck stood on end as every nerve in her body reacted to the familiar timbre of the voice and the fingers running through her hair. Then the voice came again; this time calling her name.
Strong arms pulled her up and Gabrielle found herself looking up into a pair of azure eyes. She closed her eyes quickly. "This can't be. Someone pinch me and wake me up."
Sniffling, but with a grin, Aphrodite did as requested. "My pleasure."
Gabrielle jumped at the pinch and swiped her hand at the goddess. "Hey, who are you pinching?"
"Don't give me that look; you asked for it."
"You did ask for it; I heard you," came the warm voice, mere inches in front of her.
Gabrielle's body stiffened. "That voice." Tears began to roll down her cheeks. She squeezed her eyes tightly and shook her head. "Oh gods, the FURIES are back and their tormenting me."
"Kind of hard to do without heads." Xena gently lifted Gabrielle's chin. "Open your eyes."
"Please, oh please, let it be, let it be." Gabrielle finally opened her eyes, this time with more clarity. "Is it really you?"
Xena smiled. "What does your heart say?"
They leaned against the railing, the warm ocean breeze flowing through their hair. Xena's arm was resting on Gabrielle's shoulder. Gabrielle reached across and pinched the leather suit along Xena's rib cage.
"Ooww! What was that for?"
"Just checking," Gabrielle answered mischievously.
"Yeah? Well, find a less painful way to check next time."
The two shared a playful grin and short laugh before turning their eyes back toward the glistening horizon.
"Xena, why did she do that? She didn't owe us anything."
"Love, Gabrielle. You can do amazing things for love."
A voice whispered softly across the waves:
"I sing a song of Gabrielle
a struggling bard to be
eyes so full of wonder
with all the world to see.
Hey, that's not bad. I could get into this poetry gig, Sweet Pea.
Traveling with her?"
(Not as long as there's fan fiction.)
Author's note: I didn't think I could write a Post Fin story but, lo and behold, here it is. Like a lightening bolt, the story hit my brain and never stopped until it was finished. Good thing I was on vacation for the last week. <g> I'm not angry with TPTB. It is their show and their money. I just didn't think Xena should stay dead. I think most of us felt the same way. I hope you enjoyed the story. Let me hear from you, pro and con, constructive criticism is always welcome.