Gabrielle lay on her back on the bed and Xena was resting on an elbow looking down at her. Their bodies were touching and Xena’s leg was thrown over hers below the covers. Gabrielle fingered Xena’s hair where it fell upon her breast. “There’s something that you should know about Japan Xena.” Gabrielle was clearly uncomfortable bringing up this conversation again. Xena was both intrigued and apprehensive. “While Margo was spending her life studying my scrolls Cara was busy trying to find a way to vindicate your honor.” Gabrielle continued. “What the hell does that mean?” Xena wasn’t angry she was just confused. “That means that you didn’t need to go to Japan to learn if there had been another way. Cara had studied it for you.” She said apprehensively. “But you said nothing about this when I told you that I wanted to go to Japan. You had to have known.” Annoyance was growing in her. That whole big blow out could have been avoided. Is that what Gabrielle was going to tell her?
“No I didn’t say anything even though I did know. You would have gone anyway.” Gabrielle stated it as a fact and she was looking Xena dead in the eyes.
This type of gaze from Gabrielle was the only one that Xena can ever remember not being able to face. She dropped her eyes to look at Gabrielle’s chest and said, “So what’s the answer?” She probably would have gone anyway.
Gabrielle does not hesitate. “You were not a Samurai but you were a Warrior so you were expected to follow the Bushido Code, the Warrior Code. According to the records there never has been a single Code that all Warriors adhered to but… there are some basic similarities. When you caused the death of all those people you as a Warrior lost your honor and they required revenge against you. They required the Katakiuchi, the revenge killing. But when Morimoto cut off your head he unknowingly granted you the Hara-kiri instead. He gave you an honorable death, he would have given you more honor had he actually committed Hara-kiri or sliced your belly open, but he did the next best thing he deprived you of your head and he did it during battle. You entered into battle so that you could die so you could battle Lord Yodoshi for the souls of those people and more. This intention made your participation in battle an honorable one. So even though you kind of committed suicide you didn’t really. You offered Morimoto the opportunity to commit Katakiuchi. He erred and committed Hara-kiri instead. This gave you an honorable death and your death; however it was achieved satisfied the need for Katakiuchi.”
“Gabrielle, I know all of that…is there a different point that you’re trying to make?”
“Xena don’t you see? By cutting off your head he restored your honor. Then I cremated you thereby destroying your body, the body that killed all of those people. If I had poured your ashes into the water on Mount Fuji you would have been reborn, with a new clean, untainted body. Your honor would have been new, your body would have been new and all debts would have been paid in full.”
“I could have come back? I could have spent the rest of your life with you and still saved the souls of those people?” Xena leaned back in surprise and disbelief.
“Yes, that was your other way Xena and you didn’t have to go to Japan to learn it.” Gabrielle had moved her hand up to touch Xena’s cheek. Her touch brought Xena’s eyes back down to the woman that reclined beneath her.
“Oh Gabrielle, I’m so sorry. I thought that it was the only way… they said I had to stay dead. I believed them.” A tear dropped on Gabrielle’s cheek. It was followed by several more.
“Ssshhh dear it’s okay, you didn’t know then. You know now. I don’t know who told you that or why but it’s done now.” Gabrielle didn’t bother wiping away the tears on her face but she did gather Xena’s head down upon her breast and absently wiped the tears from the eye that she could reach. In her heart she knew exactly who had told Xena that she had to stay dead. But she had the woman in her arms now… not Akemi. In the end Gabrielle had won.
For many long moments the only sounds in the room came from Xena as she sobbed against her lover’s breast. Slowly the sobbing subsided and the sniffles began. Xena stayed in Gabrielle’s embrace as long as she could stand it but ultimately she had to move so she could grab a tissue off of the night stand and blow her nose. Gabrielle just watched her with great compassion and love glowing in her eyes.
Finally Xena returned to their original position and began wiping the tears and sweat and other fluids from Gabrielle’s chest with a clean tissue. “I messed up again. There’s no surprise there huh?” Her words burned Gabrielle although Xena didn’t see it. Xena was to intent upon wiping a spot on Gabrielle’s chest that would bleed soon if she kept up the intensity. Her thoughts were turned inward.
Gabrielle gently stopped Xena’s hand in mid wipe. This caused Xena to once again look into the Bards beautiful hazel eyes. She opened her mouth to speak but a slight shake of Gabrielle’s head stilled her tongue. “We always hurt the ones we love Xena. That’s because they’re the ones that we let inside. They’re the ones that get behind our shields and our walls and delve deep into our hearts. We have hurt each other deeply in the past and we’ll probably hurt each other again before it’s through. But what matters is not that we hurt each other but that we move past it.” The memories of past hurts cloud their eyes for a moment.
“But I don’t mean to hurt you Gabrielle and yet I seem to do it a lot.” The memory of their earlier argument burned in her mind just then.
“I hurt you too honey. We hurt each other and sometimes the memory of that hurt will lance through us and cause new pain. But we don’t have to hang on to that pain.” She was fighting an emotional demon. “You hurt me in Japan…” She began but Xena cut her off.
“Gabrielle I’m sorry. I don’t know how else or what else to say…” Gabrielle cut her off in kind.
“Xena you want answers… you’ve asked questions… let me answer them in my own way. Let me begin where I need to begin.” It was clear that Aella had shared with Gabrielle the questions that Xena had asked.
Xena swallowed a lump in her throat. She would have asked for a different beginning. But she did want some answers and finally Gabrielle was ready to give them to her. It had been over two thousand years… that’s a long time to carry that kind of pain. This was what probably had spurred so much of the anger earlier. Xena resigned herself to silence.
Gabrielle read the resignation in her lover’s eyes and began again. “You hurt me in Japan… and for a long time I thought that the pain was from the betrayal. I thought that it was because you hadn’t consulted me… again. I had thought that we were past that… after Solan and Hope.” She stopped to allow the flash of pain to pierce them both before she continued.
“But time has a funny way of making things become clearer. It wasn’t the betrayal; it wasn’t even your death that hurt me to the core. It was your loss. The very fact that you weren’t there to walk beside me through life… that’s what hurt me the most. I forgave you everything else… long ago. But I ached every single moment of that life without you.” Unbidden tears sprung to her eyes and she needed to pause to gain control of her emotions. If she didn’t she would never get through this today…and today was all that they had.
“I couldn’t sleep… what was the point you weren’t there to keep me warm. I didn’t want to be awake either because when I was awake the emptiness was magnified. I carried your legacy on my back like Atlas carries the world… and it weighed me down.” Her voice was growing in strength and emotion. The sympathy in Xena’s eyes was not helping so she looked away.
“I told you that I went to Egypt and helped them. Then I sat in the desert for a while and eventually I returned to the Amazons. But what I didn’t tell you was that I had a choice on where to take my sisters and north was not my first choice. But in the back of my mind I heard a voice. I don’t know if it was me or my subconscious or what but it told me to go north… so I did. I figured that one direction was as good as any other. When I found the Northern tribes in such a mess the voice came again and told me to go north once again and it told me to garner the support of Odin. I thought that I was finally losing my senses, but I did what the voice bid me to do.” She returned her gaze to Xena and for many long moments she just looked into the beautiful steel blue eyes of her mate. It was clear in those eyes that Xena was trying to understand why Gabrielle had completely skipped over the part about her finding the man that had fathered Aella. Gabrielle forged on.
“The negotiations with Odin were fierce. At first he didn’t want to see me but he told me later that a voice had told him to see me and to help me. He of course was not one to be told what to do but when the voice lit his beard on fire and told him that it wouldn’t take no for an answer… well he capitulated.” She grinned and they both shared a small giggle at the mental image.
“Odin didn’t tell me any of this until we were leaving but… he never regretted doing it. Aella was the light of his life. He treated her like she was his own seed, which of course she was not. But he really loved her; he loved both of us…” The last comment had brought a flash of anger to Xena’s eyes and Gabrielle had to add quickly to her story. “… like daughters, Xena he loved us like daughters.” Xena was tense and Gabrielle marveled at how quickly her beloved could go from zero to Xena Warrior Princess in less than a heartbeat. She didn’t think that they made anything that could clock that reaction time. “Jealous much dear?” Gabrielle shook her head but she was smiling and the smile alone was enough to tame even the most savage of beasts… even Xena.
When Xena had relaxed again, Gabrielle continued. “Odin didn’t want to make me a Valkyrie. That’s what I asked for. As a Valkyrie I could lose myself in the work. I could learn new ways and maybe even help some worthy warriors find peace.
Aella learned warfare from the Norse Gods. She learned how to use every weapon that they had in their arsenal and Thor forged for her a sword when she was only six. I saw it in the Society’s Museum, it is so small. I taught her how to read and write in Greek and Odin taught her the languages of the North. She helped me to write while we were there and we left the scrolls with Odin. As far as I know he still has them.” She stopped her tale to silently ask Xena to hand her the drink that she had left on the night stand. Xena handed her the cup and leaned back so Gabrielle could sit up on her elbow and drink.
“Thanks” She handed the cup back to Xena who took a couple of swallows and put it back on the table. Then they settled back onto the bed.
“Anyway, between learning new things and raising a daughter I managed to keep my mind busy enough that I didn’t go insane and I didn’t dwell upon your absence as I had been. But eventually it was time for me to leave. I asked Odin to let me stay but here fused. He told me that the time of the Norse Gods was coming to an end. He said that the One God was coming and that he and his family would have to step down. Strangely enough he didn’t seem sad or even concerned about it. It wasn't like the Olympians. He was willing to accept the One God as the supreme God.” She looked out once again past Xena’s shoulder, remembering.
Slowly she brought her eyes back to Xena who hadn’t moved. “So, we went to live with the Amazons. Our life there was peaceful and mundane in a lot of ways. We had no enemies and unlike our time with Odin we had no real job to perform. Oh I was the Queen but in time of peace and plenty there is little for a Queen to do except perform marriages and settle minor disputes and to talk to the neighbors. My daughter was a young woman and was both learning from and teaching the other young women of the tribe. She didn’t need her mother for much. So my mind once again went back to the hole in my life. I had your soul inside of me but you had taken mine. I was a water skin that was half empty… and there was no other way to look at it.” She forestalled any comment from Xena with a look.
“Eventually I became a solitary woman. That’s how I felt so that is what I became. I would sit by the lake tossing pebbles into the water just to watch the ripples. I sat there and remembered all of the lakes and rivers and ponds and streams that we had sat beside together. Occasionally I would laugh at the memory of you fishing… God show you loved to fish.” She smiled wistfully.
“One day I remembered that we were promised that we would come back again together. I remembered being in India with you in the bodies of two strangers, and that I had been much younger than you. That’s when I realized that you had had to die before me so that you could be reborn before me. But I also realized that for us to be reincarnated later we needed to have offspring. In my pain I had forgotten what I had been told before…” She stopped abruptly. Either she was unable or unwilling to tell a piece of the story.
“But while I had sat at the lake time had come and gone and Aella had grown into a woman and she had been running the tribe for years in my absence. I had sat in my own world of pebbles and ripples for years and the world had gone on without me. The tribe cared for me during that time although to this day I remember none of it. I had gone insane and they had cared for me as a beloved one that had lost her mind. But I only had lost my mind when I dwelt upon the loss of my soul and my heart.” She touched Xena’s face while a tear rolled down her cheek. Xena’s face was one of shock.
“Most of the tribe had that very look on their faces when I walked into the village.” She smiled at Xena and caressed her face with her fingers. “I guess I hadn’t done that in a long time. My body felt old Xena. I hadn’t worked out or done any real exercise in years. Every old scar ached, my joints ached, my head ached and my feet and legs were in full protest. But I walked into the village and they welcomed me home as if I had only been on a long journey. I guess in many ways that’s exactly where I had been only the journey had been in my mind.”
Xena finally broke her silence. “How long?”
“Seven years, for seven years they fed me like a baby, they bathed me like a baby and they wiped my ass like a baby and never once did they bring it up when I came back to them.” She snorted lightly. “Great Queen… I sat next to that lake tossing pebbles for seven years.” She could hardly believe it, it disgusted her.
Xena ignored the Queen comment. “Tossing pebbles for seven years. It’s a wonder that you didn’t build a damn or run out of pebbles.”
They both giggled. “I think that they sent the children into the water to retrieve piles of pebbles for me…because for months afterwards the children would bring me handfuls of pebbles every day.” They looked longingly into each other’s eyes for several moments before Xena leaned down and gently laid a kiss on Gabrielle’s lips. There were no words that were adequate.
“So… I worked hard to regain my strength and health. I had become as thin as a twig and as I said I was woefully out of shape. After each long day of self-imposed drills and conditioning I would lay in the cool shallows of the lake to ease my body’s pain. There were always two sisters that would watch out for me. The warriors of the tribe had been taking shifts for seven years so that I would never be without someone to watch over me. They saw no need to change things when I wandered back to them from my journeys. I was thankful for their presence. I think that even in my insanity I knew that they were there and that I was safe because of them.”
A light went on in Xena’s eyes. “So that’s why I kept seeing two women always near you? Even now there are two women sitting outside this house.”
“Mmmhhh, that’s why, I guess the tradition has been passed down although I don’t think that this tribe has any idea why they do it. They probably think that it’s just for my protection. I’m glad that they don’t know. It might tarnish my reputation.” She had to smile at the irony of it all. Cara deep inside her was laughing hysterically and threatening to expose her to the world. It was something that she would never do of course, but it was fun to joke about it, especially when the alternative was to actually think about the pain that had caused Gabrielle’s insanity.
“I realized next to that lake that I needed to return to Greece and retrieve Eve and her family, if she had one and return her to the New World. I knew then that our families must never be far from one another. You and I could spend a lot of uselessly wasted time trying to find each other when we are thrown back into this world to fight Alti. We may not have the time to look for each other. So I decided that I would bring our daughters together.” Gabrielle suddenly got a cramp and she stopped to stretch her leg and Xena reached down to massage the offending muscle.
When she was comfortable again she continued. “When I was ready, Argo and I flew to Greece. It took months for me to follow the thin trail that Eve had left but I found her. She was still teaching the ways of peace but she was in a small town in Galilee over in the lands of the Israelites.” She added the last in response to Xena’s unspoken question of where the heck is Galilee.
“She was both happy to see me and angry with me. You had died twenty-one years prior and in all of my wandering I had never thought to go to her or to comfort her in any way. I had been selfish in my love for you. I didn’t want to share my pain. We screamed at each other for what seemed like days. But eventually we worked through everything, with the God of Eli as our guide how could we not? But she would not come away with me. She said that her mission was in these lands and not in the New World. I told her that the One God had claimed the New World as His own and that the people there worshipped him. I told her that He had the old Gods, the ones that had come before the Olympians and before even the Titans, the Gods of earth,wind, water and fire working beneath Him to guide the people. But that is when she told me that this was the reason that she was not needed there but she was needed here. These people needed guidance and it was her calling to provide that guidance. She would not be moved. But she saw the reasoning behind my logic and she gave me her children.” Xena’s face took on such a look of shock and dismay that Gabrielle had to stop again to sooth her lover’s fears.
“Eve had lost her husband to an angry mob that screamed for the blood of Livia. I guess we all pay for our past sins one way or the other.” She said angrily.
“Yah, either we do or someone else pays for us.” She is clearly talking about Gabrielle.
Gabrielle smiled but did not pursue the line of thought. “After that, she had feared for the lives of her children and had sequestered them away with Virgil and his wife back in Greece. She told me to take them to this wondrous new land where they could live in peace and grow in love under the hand of her God. She was our daughter Xena and I could not deny her that request. It broke my heart but I left her there in that village and I went back to Greece.” Gabrielle was obviously under a lot of strain telling these events of her past.
“In Greece I found Virgil and our grandchildren. I gathered them all together with me and fashioned a small airboat as Odin had taught me and I took them all, Virgil his wife and children and our grandchildren I took them all back to the New World. Virgil was the first man to live among the Amazons. Our grandchildren, both girls were immediately given Eve’s right of cast and made Princesses. I stayed with them for a while but my mind and my heart kept going back to our eldest daughter. I had left her all alone in a violent world… I couldn’t leave her there… not alone… not again.” Once again Gabrielle’s eyes shone with pain.
“So it was in this way that I left the Amazons again. I left them with the mandates that eventually brought us all to this point here on Mars. But I left them and returned to the land of the Israelites. I sent Argo back to Aella to serve her and took out my Sais to serve as Eve’s protector. I fought in front of her to defend her and some times I fought at her side. That’s how we finally met our end… eight years later…fighting at each other’s side. I decapitated the man as he took her life but his partners ran me through with the next breath. I had gotten slow in my older years and I think that I had gotten tired as well. Eve and I travelled to heaven together, just like you and I did after we were crucified. But this time there were no demons to intercept us. The Angels had taken extra precautions, having learned from their previous lesson. I was almost immediately reincarnated into Shalti and you know the rest of the story.”
Finally finished with her tale…at least the parts that she was willing to share just now she fell silent and looked into her beloved’s eyes and gazed upon her beautiful face. “So does that answer enough of your questions?”
“Hmm, all but one… why did you wait until now to tell me. There was nothing in there that was earthshattering.” Xena’s stray hand had wandered from Gabrielle’s chin to her breast and her thumb was absently rubbing Gabrielle’s nipple. Xena didn’t seem to notice what she was doing but Gabrielle’s wasn’t having such luck.
Gabrielle reached down and gently took Xena’s hand in her own and kissed her fingertips and willed her body to calm. “Honey, if you want me to talk you need to stop doing things like that.” Gabrielle admonished.
“What… oh… sorry.” Xena said unrepentantly as she raised a lascivious eyebrow.
Gabrielle responded with an arched eyebrow of her own. “I guess I better answer quickly then.” She said while she watched Xena lower her head and start to nibble at the body part that had been deprived her hand. Gabrielle let out a heavy sigh.
“Guess you better talk quick. ”Xena said when she came up for air.
Gabrielle was losing control of her body’s responses. She thought furiously and spit out the first thing that popped into her head. Xena’s hand had gotten loose again and that never boded well for any kind of talking. “I didn’t want you to spend this…” ‘Breathe Gabrielle’ “…this time that we had here…” ‘Breathe’ “…feeling guilty over anything. Besides… ‘Oh by the Gods’ “I was embarrassed.” ‘There I got it out.’ She had had to coach herself through that. Xena as usual had found all the right pressure points and she was definitely putting the pinch on something because Gabrielle’s legs were going numb.
Xena stopped tracing her tongue down Gabrielle’s stomach and looked up at the face of her soul mate. “Next time you have something to tell me and you’re not sure on how I’ll react… I suggest you tell me whatever it is while we’re in bed like this. Odds are that the outcome will fall in your favor. Unless you tell me that you’ve been cheating on me… then the odds are pretty much stacked against you. But otherwise… your luscious little body is enough of a distraction for me to forgive a multitude of sins.” With that she returned her mouth to gently sucking and licking at Gabrielle’s stomach.
“Xena love … you drive me nuts.” She was referring both to her life after Japan and to what Xena was doing to her right at the moment.
“I know” While Gabrielle had spoken Xena had traveled further down Gabrielle’s body and her head had just disappeared beneath the covers. All further conversation or recitation of her past was driven from Gabrielle’s tongue and mind… for a very long time.