Gabrielle had left the room to have her small wound tended to by medical staff. Dan turned his attention on Xena.
“What happened earlier… can’t happen again.” He said in a flat not quite menacing tone.
Xena was still reclining on the couch. Her muscles tensed in anticipation but nothing happened. “What do you mean?” She growled almost under her breath.
Dan shifted in his seat and threw a leg over the arm of the chair. He only looked like he’s relaxing. “Cara would never lose to Margo in any physical contest. She can’t be seen losing. She needs to lead this army and she can’t if they doubt her. You know that.”
Xena swallowed hard and chewed her lip. Dan was right she had come close to humiliating Cara in front of her troops this morning. Had it not been for his comical intervention she may have damaged Cara’s reputation and by doing so her ability to lead as well. “It’s hard to not see only Gabrielle in her face and it’s still harder to remember that I’m not in charge… she is. Still, Gabrielle was distracted… they both were, Cara and Gabrielle. They could both have put up a better fight this morning. I don’t know what’s wrong with them.”
Dan could sense that Xena was not as in control as she would like others to think. He sat up in the chair and rested his elbows on his knees. “I’ve known Cara for a long time and I know what’s eating at her. I’ve known Gabrielle for a day and it’s obvious what’s on her mind too. What I don’t get is why you can’t see it.”
Her head snapped around in anger. She was insulted at his insinuation. She knows Gabrielle better than any person that has ever lived. But for the life of her she can’t pin down what’s on her mind. “Your right.” She looked at the floor. “I have no idea what’s bothering her.” Xena let out a defeated breath.
“Then let me tell you. Cara’s feeling guilty because she wants to do the right thing. She hasn’t exactly studied for this. However, she wants to give Gabrielle full control to do whatever she needs to do; but giving anyone that measure of control is not in Cara’s character. To add to the problem she also is concerned for her wife and how she’s going to react to the entire thing. That’s problem number one.” He got up and stretched his back and headed for the bar to get a bottle of cold water.
“Problem number two is Gabrielle. She’s madder than hell at you. Don’t get me wrong she loves you with every beat of her heart but at the same time she hates your guts.” Xena looked at him with pleading eyes. She knew what he was saying was the truth.
“A lot happened to her after Japan. In Japan you made a decision that affected more than you can ever realize and you made it without her. For that and for everything that she had to endure alone she hates you. But you are her soul mate and you saved her from everything and she loves you so much that it hurts.” He took a long drink from the bottle and watched Xena’s face. She was in turmoil trying to understand.
“As for problem number three… that’s you darlin’.” Xena’s head snapped up from her study of the carpet. “You’re feeling guilty. You’ve killed a lot of people and that can weigh on your mind and soul. I know. But it’s not all of those thousands that’s bugging you. It’s those other two people that’s making you feel guilty.”
“What two people?” She was almost afraid to hear the answer, but deep in her heart she already knew the answer.
“Gabrielle’s scroll says that you would not have died in Japan had you not wanted it to happen.” He waited for her to nod in agreement. “So that’s one of the two people that you murdered.” She reacted only by letting out a heavy breath. “And then there’s the murder of Gabrielle.” At this statement she shot to her feet and placed a hand on the Chakram that was hiding under her blouse. Dan didn’t flinch.
“I didn’t murder Gabrielle!” She snarled with vehemence.
“Didn’t you?” She didn’t move or react at all. Her face was one of angry stone. “Maybe you didn’t spill her blood but you believe that you murdered her all the same.” He finished his bottle of water while he watched the guilt wash over Xena’s face.
“That brings us to problem number four, Margo. You have suppressed her completely like somehow you are so much better than she is. I got news for ya darlin’ Margo is a lot stronger than you think.” Xena gave him a disbelieving look and sat back down. Dan chuckled. “Yah I know what people think of her but I see something different.”
“Enlighten me then.” Xena said sarcastically.
“Tell me Xena, have you met her husband and her son? Tell me that you could tolerate that crap day after day and still raise a little cherub like her daughter Ren. Tell me that you are patient enough and have a strong enough will to not explode and make a mess of everything. Tell me that you could hold a job here where everyone treats you like crap and go home to a husband and son that also treat you like crap and still remain sweet, forgiving, loving and charitable. Tell me how you are better than that.”
He had grabbed another bottle of water and was drinking it. “I imagine that Margo welcomed you with open arms. She probably thought of you as some sort of savior. Maybe she thought that you could, at least for a little while save her from the doldrums that have become her life. I know that she’s not a warrior in the sense that you and Gabrielle and Cara and I are, but she is a warrior in her own way. And frankly I think that you could learn from her if you just let her help you.” He finished his second bottle of water and dropped the bottle into the recycler. He scratched his bald head and smiled.
“She has a great sense of humor, and she is totally devoted to your mission. She just needs someone to believe in her. Maybe that someone is you.” He watched Xena for a moment or two more. “I gotta hit the head. I’ll be back.”
The second that he was out of the room Xena grabbed her head and sighed. Dan was right on all counts. ‘How did you murder Gabrielle?’ The timid voice of Margo asked.
It took a moment for Xena to answer. She didn’t want to admit what she believed to anyone. ‘When I met her… she was so sweet… so innocent. I tried to protect her. I tried to preserve that innocence. But… my own anger, my own thirst for vengeance… it brought her to a place where others could hurt her and I wasn’t there when she needed me.’
‘But the scrolls say that you and Gabrielle worked through that whole episode with Dahak. She forgave you and took you back into her heart. No, Xena that incident was finished. There is something more that you are not telling me.’ Margo had put on her mommy nose and she could smell a diversion a mile away.
Inwardly Xena grinned at Margo’s fearlessness. Dan really was right. ‘Even before I died in Japan Gabrielle had begun to change. She was becoming less and less like the bard that I had met. She was becoming more like me. She was angry so much of the time and she could kill without having to think about it and without remorse. Being with me… it killed Gabrielle the Bard and gave birth to Gabrielle the Warrior.’
‘Do you love the Warrior less than the Bard?’ Margo said patiently.
‘Don’t be ridiculous of course not!’ Xena snapped at her.
‘Then I don’t understand. Gabrielle the Bard remained inside of her. You heard her last night. After she did her duty as a Warrior in Egypt she stopped and she wrote everything down. She told the stories, your stories. You should read them; they’re beautiful and work like that can’t come from a poisoned heart. That’s what you’re talking about isn’t it? You think that somehow being around you poisoned her and made her into a clone of you. But that’s not what happened at all. She managed to blend the two together. Sure she made some hard choices, but we all do. That’s life.’ She sounded like a mom consoling her child.
‘But she’s still mad at me… she still hates me.’ Xena sounded like the child.
‘I don’t think that she hates you as deeply as you are imagining. I think there’s just a lot of pent up anger. She needs to forgive you just like you need to forgive yourself. Did you two not discuss this when you were reincarnated and had nothing to do?’
‘We usually avoided the conversation when it came up.’
‘Well that was stupid. Now it’s festered into a right good infection that’s eating away at your bond. You two need to lance the bastard and talk it out!’ Margo said decisively.
There was a long silence between them. They were both caught in their own thoughts.
‘Margo, tell me what you think about what we’re doing.’ Xena asked.
‘What part?’ She seemed distracted
‘The part about making Gabrielle a target.’
‘I’m sorry Xena I disagree with you all on that point.’ She sounded a bit hesitant to speak her mind but she was sure of her opinion.
‘I know the scrolls probably better than anyone alive, probably better than the Bard herself. That means that I know Alti just as well as you.’ She paused to allow Xena to speak but she remained silent. ‘You know as well as I that Alti wants you. That means that she’s much more likely to react to my face than she is to Cara’s. Besides if she lives on any human occupied planet she has already seen Cara’s face. It’s my face that she hasn’t seen. So I strongly disagree with the whole idea of hiding from sight.’
‘What do you propose?’
‘I think that we should paint a target on our chest and run around on the shooting range.’ She wasn’t joking and that was good because neither of them laughed.
‘Don’t worry Xena; my sister will take care of my children if something happens to me. Ren will be raised as an Amazon and as a proper descendant of yours.’
‘Margo I didn’t… I didn’t think to ask. You’re an Amazon?’ She was embarrassed not surprised.
‘Of course I am. Not all Amazons are warriors you know. Someone has to tend to other things.’ Margo said defensively.
‘That’s not what I meant. I meant… well last night when we were surrounded by members of the tribe… you didn’t say anything.’
‘What did you want me to say?’
‘I don’t know really. But it sure explains some of the really confused looks that we were getting.’
‘Yah tonight’s meeting is going to be interesting, you were banned from the tribes a long time ago and I’m a standing member, hence the confusion. But all they really need is some guidance from their Queen. I think that Gabrielle is going to have an easier time of convincing them of your standing than she anticipates.’
‘Why didn’t Cara say something?’
‘I’m not certain but… there are some things about Cara that you two might want to know about.’
She was reluctant to talk about Cara, but eventually she knew that it’s for the best. ‘Well, for instance she would probably rather have had Gabrielle go to her sister. She’s never been into the Amazon thing or the family thing for that matter. She’s probably only going along with it because of the power that the presence of Gabrielle represents. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a great warrior and a great leader but outside of herself and her wife, she really could take or leave just about everyone else. She has only one person that she calls her friend and she seldom speaks to her own family. If there’s a battle then Cara is the person to call. If it involves conversation or anything warm or friendly then you might as well leave her at home. Her wife is her warm spot. She’s a lovely person and frankly I don’t know how she puts up with Cara.’
‘So, what you’re saying is that, Cara’s a warlord and Anise is her Gabrielle.’ Xena finally understood the conflict that was brewing inside of Gabrielle and Cara.
‘Yes, I really wish that Anise could work the same magic that Gabrielle worked with you. But I don’t think that Cara is letting her. Their marriage is on more rocky ground than Cara would like anyone to believe.’
‘How bad is it?’
‘My marriage is better off than hers.’ Margo responded flatly.
‘Now that’s saying something.’ Xena nearly regretted saying it but it had popped out.
‘Yes it is.’ Margo knew how bad her marriage was and was not offended.
Several more minutes of silence passed between them. Dan was still in the bathroom and Cara was still at the medics.
‘I’m sorry’ Genuine sorrow filtered from Xena’s consciousness.
‘For what?’ Margo sounded surprised and confused.
‘I’m sorry for not listening to you, for shutting you out and for being an asshole in general.’
‘It’s alright, you’re forgiven.’ She seemed relieved that it had been such a small matter.
‘It’s not alright but I’ll accept your forgiveness. Maybe you can help me forgive myself.’ Xena had found her humility again.
‘We’ll work on it. Maybe you can help me grow a straighter backbone.’ Margo had found some self-pride.
‘We’ll work on it. Can I ask you a question?’
‘Are you in love with Cara, ‘cuz it really doesn’t sound like you are but everyone thinks that you are?’ It seemed like a stupid question born from jealousy but Xena wanted to put a peg on the emotions that she was feeling from Margo when she was around Cara.
‘Ya I love Cara but not like you think. I read the scrolls and I see the love between you and Gabrielle and I want that kind of love so much… I guess I just project it onto Cara because of who she is. But she’s nothing like Gabrielle and I’m nothing like you.’
‘I’ll have to take your word for that assessment at the moment but don’t hold it against me if I come to a different conclusion concerning whether or not we’re anything alike.’
Margo laughed nervously but said nothing.