Xena was met on the tiny flat topped spire by Michael and several Angels. This was the first time that Michael had met her personally, she had to wonder why. She hadn’t exactly been on speaking terms with the Archangel since she had tried to kill him back when he had attacked Gabrielle and Aphrodite during the whole Caligula mess. The Angels took her into the air and Michael stayed near but did not touch her.
“Is there something going on that I should rate the escort of an Archangel, Michael?” Xena asked as innocuously as she could manage considering what she had just endured and how much she longed to see Gabrielle well and whole.
Michael could hear the irritation in her voice. But he also considered what she had just been through and ignored the tone. “It seems that in defeat you rate a stronger protection detail. Lucifer is not happy that his special Demon is now buried beneath several metric tons of rock and metal. He is so displeased that he is going to let her dig herself out. But that means that he is more focused upon you.”
“Well…” She was going to say something snippy but decided against it. The clouds were thinning which meant that Gabrielle was not far away. Xena wanted no verbal battles to slow her reunion with her soul mate. “I’m thankful for your presence.” She said with what actually sounded like real gratitude.
Michael couldn’t tell if she was sincere or not and had no time to consider it. They all lifted their faces to the sound of Gabrielle calling out Xena’s name in excitement and relief. “How do you rate such a soul mate, Xena?”
It took her a moment to realize that he had spoken to her again. “You mean Gabrielle?”
He nodded. “How does a woman like that love someone like you?”
Xena broke into a warm smile. Michael had never seen it before, not directed at him. “You got me chief. I’ve been trying to figure that out for a couple of thousand years. I’m just really thankful that she does.”
The Angels landed Xena safely on the cloudy ground and Gabrielle nearly knocked her over when she ran into her arms. “I knew that you would come for me! But what took you so long? What happened?” Gabrielle couldn’t decide if she wanted to ask questions or just let Xena hold her.
Xena saved her from having to make a decision. “I’m sure that the boss will give us time to talk about what happened honey. Right now I just want to hold you.”
Gabrielle didn’t have to be told twice… not today. She buried her face into Xena’s neck and found suddenly that she didn’t want to move. She felt tears coming to her eyes and a lump was forming in her throat. She bit them back. Now was not the time. But she sent up a silent prayer for Him to please hurry and send them somewhere so they could be alone.
Angels once again surrounded them and swiftly carried them away. Gabrielle tried to think of the flight and what was around her and just anything that would keep what she was feeling at bay for just a little while longer.
The Angels descended quickly and deposited Xena and Gabrielle at the front gate of their home. Gabrielle pulled away from Xena only enough so that they could walk. They entered their home and for a moment Gabrielle felt relieved but slowly she realized that something just wasn’t right. She thought about it while Xena tried to make her feel comfortable. Normally everything that Xena was doing made her feel at home and loved. But right now it only felt like she was applying a bandage over a festering wound. Then it hit her… the place was not wrong… nothing that Xena was doing was wrong. What was wrong was her… she was wrong.
“Xena can we go fishing?” Gabrielle asked in such a sincere and controlled way that Xena did not argue. She had been putting Gabrielle’s slippers on her feet, but now she took them back off and put her sandals back on.
Without a word she grabbed the tackle box, the fishing pole and a blanket. She took Gabrielle by the hand and together they walked down the stairs on the back hill, across the field and through a small band of trees to the large stream that wandered lazily through this area of the land.
Xena had a favorite spot. It was just above a large swimming hole that was just deep enough to be over Xena’s head. Without stopping Gabrielle walked right into the water and found a rock just above the swimming hole and sat down in the water that was flowing past the rock. She carefully lay back in the water and immersed her entire body. She stayed that way for several minutes feeling the warm water of this little slice of heaven wash over her body. Slowly she raised her nose and mouth from the water so she could breathe but that was all.
Xena watched her beloved without saying a word. She cast her line in and fish bit and were hauled onto shore and Gabrielle didn’t move except to half float in the water. Her body occasionally drifted up like a water soaked log that had become dislodged by the current. But she would let it sink again. At first Xena was concerned but as she watched she realized what Gabrielle was doing. She was using the water to symbolize the washing away of the horrible events that she had just endured. She was cleansing herself in the waters of heaven. It didn’t matter that this body had not endured anything, Gabrielle’s mind had endured it and it needed to be cleansed of the memories.
Gabrielle lay in the water for several hours. She had no idea of the time and didn’t care. She felt filthy and disconnected. She had not realized how much she had not felt while her mind was detached from what her body while it was suffering. But when she sat down in her house and tried to just get on with life as if nothing had happened she began to feel again… and she felt everything. She felt the pain, the humiliation, the anger, the fear, the despondence, the frustration and the rage and she felt their bodies and smelled their stink and heard their sickening grunting while they used her. She knew that she had to cleanse herself or she would not be able to return to any sense of normalcy. Xena didn’t deserve a broken girlfriend.
So here she was letting the water wash their filthy sweat and their grubby handprints from her body and their ejection from between her thighs. She was letting the water soothe her broken, abused, damaged and bloody body. She lay there picturing and then feeling every wrong that had been done and she would let it take hold of her so she could fully feel every nuance of the experience and she gave it all to the water so it could be swept away and she could be cleansed. It took a long time but she knew that she could take the time because she was safe. Her God was holding her in his palm and her beloved was watching over her. Nothing could hurt her now.
Gabrielle was done with her cleansing shortly after dusk. The night was cool but not uncomfortably. She let go of the rock and drifted into the pool. Xena immediately dropped her pole and went to retrieve her partner. Gabrielle looked up at Xena from the pool and swam over to her. “Come to me Xena.”
Xena stepped into the water and waded over to Gabrielle. “Are you alright?” Xena asked as delicately as she could.
“Almost” Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena’s neck and kissed her lips gently. Xena could feel it start… it was like an earthquake in the body. Gabrielle was trembling so violently that even though she was standing still the water was still vibrating and making ripples around her.
Xena whisked her from the water and carried her to shore where she stood her on her feet. She grabbed the blanket that she had brought and quickly wrapped it around Gabrielle who was still trembling then she picked her up and turned and ran back to their house. It was quite a distance but Xena of course didn’t care. It could have been the length of Jupiter’s circumference and she would have run the entire way to help Gabrielle… or died trying.
As she disappeared into the house Ephiny appeared in the meadow standing next to Michael. “You asked Xena earlier how she rated such a soul mate. Now you can see the answer for yourself. What better person to protect the life and heart of one of God’s most precious souls than a person who devotes every second of every day to making her happy and keeping her safe in every way?” She said to him with a bit of pride in her voice. They were her friends after all.
“But she does not bow her knee. She is defiant at every turn and often directly disobeys Him. She has earned heaven with her deeds but her insolence… I do not understand.” Michael was struggling with his own dislike or distrust of Xena.
“But she has faith in Gabrielle and Gabrielle has faith in her. Where one goes the other follows and as long as Gabrielle follows God then so will Xena and there are uses for one such as her in His kingdom.” Ephiny explained.
“Yes but she can’t be trusted she has defied Him so much that she almost killed me.” He had told the story to anyone and everyone that would listen… sometimes even when they didn’t want to listen.
“She followed willingly until you tried to kill Gabrielle.” Ephiny was one of those that had been a captive audience.
“I did not try to kill Gabrielle, I was after Aphrodite.” He sounded hurt that she would accuse him of such an act.
“It didn’t look that way to me… or to a lot of others.” Before he could respond she disappeared and left him to wonder at her words.
“Sure drop a bomb and run.” He said with disgust and then disappeared.
Neither Xena nor Gabrielle saw or heard any of the events between the two immortals and they wouldn’t have cared if they had. Xena had gotten Gabrielle to the bedroom and had quickly removed her wet clothing and put a mid-length night shirt on her and stuffed her into bed.
“Babe, come hold me…please.” Gabrielle begged in a tired and weak voice while her teeth chattered and her body shook.
Xena had thrown off her wet clothing right after tucking Gabrielle in and had redressed, now she was taking her trousers back off. She had a nice loose shirt on and it would be fine as a night shirt. She crawled under the covers carefully so as not to let any warmth out and just as carefully she snuggled up to Gabrielle. She wasn’t sure yet just how much actual holding Gabrielle was prepared for.
Gabrielle seemed to sense why Xena was hesitant so she rolled over to face her beloved and pulled Xena’s lower arm out so that it went under her neck then she put Xena’s other hand on her shoulder and snuggled into Xena’s chest. Xena got the hint. She wrapped her arms around her love and pulled the blankets up over Gabrielle’s head. She kissed Gabrielle on the top of her head and wrapped a leg over both of hers. Gabrielle almost purred and her tremors quickly subsided.
In the morning Xena would find the fish that she had left on the bank of the stream all cleaned and neatly wrapped and in the refrigerator. Her pole and her tackle had been neatly and correctly stowed and left by the back door. Apparently there were quite a few fishermen in heaven and at least one of them had taken a shine to the couple.
Xena looked up at the ceiling and audibly thanked whoever had done the deed and while she was at it she sent up thanks to the big man for helping Gabrielle through a rough spot. She wouldn’t have been able to come through it without Him.
Even with so many fish in the refrigerator she thought that she had better let Gabrielle cook them when she was feeling better. She prepped a meat and cheese tray with fresh fruit and set it aside for Gabrielle’s breakfast. Gabrielle was still sleeping and Xena wasn’t going to traumatize her with the smell of burning breakfast…best to save that for another day. ‘Maybe I should ask for a cook.’ Xena thought as she bit into an apple.