Choosing the Bait
“Glad you’re both back.” Xena was
astonished and curious that both Dan and Cara had come back to the room nearly
simultaneously. But now was not the time to pursue it. Gabrielle had found an
actual black tank top. It covered her midriff and the bandage. She looked good.
“I think that we need to change our strategy.” Cara turned to her accusingly.
‘She feels challenged.’ Now Xena recognized the reaction. “Yah, I think that we
should give Alti what she came for… me.”
This set Gabrielle on fire. “No
Xena, I won’t have you running off and getting yourself killed… not again!” Her
face was anger personified.
“That’s not what this is about
Gabrielle. I’m just bait remember. We
want Alti to come out and play so we
can defeat her… right?” She didn't wait for an answer. “We need to give her
something that will draw her out of whatever rock she has hidden under. I’ll
lay odds that she’s seen you. She knows that I have to be close. But instead of
hiding from her… or Ares I think that I should be seen.” Xena was clearly
passionate about her decision but she didn't want to override or simply
dismiss Gabrielle’s feelings or Cara’s for that matter.
Gabrielle was truly torn. She
knows, as does Cara that the best way to flush out their prey is to do exactly
what Xena is suggesting. But she doesn’t want to lose Xena again… not like
that. “I know that you’re right. But I don’t have to like it.” She finally
The pain on Gabrielle’s face was
breaking Xena’s heart. “Gabrielle, listen to me…” She began while taking
Gabrielle’s hands in her own. “This isn’t our
life. This is their life. You will never lose me again. You can’t, you’re
stuck with me.” She smiled but it didn’t break through the pain on her
partner’s face. “Look I know that what I did in Japan… it wasn’t right. It was
the wrong choice and had I stopped to talk to you about it I might have seen
that. But I didn’t. I was too proud. I thought that I knew the answer to
everything. I thought that I was protecting you. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”
At the sound of the word Japan
Gabrielle tensed and she stood listening to Xena while grinding her teeth and
holding back the rage that had grown into a monster in her soul.
Xena could feel the impending
explosion but she pressed on anyway. Gabrielle needed to let it out or it would
just get worse. Xena had to do this to save her… to save them both. “I know
that you’re mad at me still, maybe you even hate me a bit. I know how it must
hurt. I know that…” She never got to finish the intended button pushing comment
because Vesuvius was finally erupting.
Gabrielle listened for as long as
she was able. She could feel the emotional bile rising in her. Finally she just
couldn’t hold it back any longer. She reared her head back like a viper ready
to strike and she pushed off of Xena’s touch. Her face turned red and her veins
popped and she yelled in Xena’s offending face. “NO, YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA
WHAT IT’S LIKE! YOU BETRAYED ME AND THEN LEFT ME TO LIVE FOR DECADES ALONE!”
She screamed in frustration.
When the scream was spent she
lowered her head to reload. Xena blessedly remained silent. Gabrielle reined
her emotions back under control, now was not the time. But there was one thing
that she had to address. “I don’t hate you Xena; I could never hate you… I know that you think
otherwise. What I really HATE is what you did to me! How could you possibly
think that leaving me alone with your death was in any way protecting me? How
could you think that? Did you think, really think, or were you just acting on another
one of your selfish impulses?” She turned away from Xena and strode angrily
over to the window. She stood with her hands behind her back at Ease looking
out the window. Now was not the time for this discussion. She decided to
address only one small point that had been eating at her particularly hard
“Do you have any idea how it
feels to live with only half a soul Xena?” She turned her head to glance at her
soul mate and then away again. “I don’t think it really hurts if you only have
half… if you’ve never met the other half. But damn it, once you have both
pieces in your hand… to have one ripped away…” Xena could hear the tears and
see Gabrielle’s shoulders shake with emotion.
“I was half a person. I always
felt so… empty and so unable to be filled again.” She was overcome with the
“No, that’s where you’re wrong
Gabrielle.” Xena stepped up behind Gabrielle and gently turned her around so
she can see her face. “I left my soul with you. You have always been its
guardian.” She sounded hopeful.
“No, Xena… I had your half but
you took mine with you. We can’t… I can’t live without you and be whole.”
Gabrielle’s cheeks were riverbeds for her tears. She could barely focus on the
face before her.
“Oh, Gabrielle… I’m so sorry. I
just couldn’t see any other way. I wanted you to be proud of me.” Tears started
to course down Xena’s face.
“I am always proud of you my
love. You don’t need to sacrifice your life, for me to see your heart.” She cupped
Xena’s face and wiped away the tears with her thumbs.
Xena felt the unconditional love
coming from Gabrielle’s hands and could see it clearly in her eyes and she couldn’t
keep her legs from buckling. She fell to her knees in front of Gabrielle and
pressed her head against Gabrielle’s leg. “I’m so sorry Gabrielle. I was so
stupid, so selfish, and so self-righteous. Forgive me please… forgive me.” She
blubbered into Gabrielle’s pant leg.
Gabrielle pulled Xena’s clutching
hands free of her pants and knelt in front of her. Once again she took her
beloved’s head in her hands but this time she gently placed a kiss on each of
her closed eyes. “I’m sorry for being so angry. I was so caught up in my own
pain and loss. I was being selfish too. I wanted you Xena, not your ghost, not
your pride but all of you, every stubborn, self-righteous, selfish, loving and
tender part of you. Forgive me?”
Xena found Gabrielle’s lips and
they kiss tenderly and held each other and cried for several minutes. Before
they moved to stand again they whispered their forgiveness of each other’s
trespasses in each other’s ears. One small boil had been lanced but all is
definitely not forgiven. But now is not the time.
They finally recovered themselves
and notice that Dan had reentered the room. Neither one of them could remember
him leaving but there it was.
Gabrielle was once again standing
and facing Xena. “So after all of that you’re still going to Japan aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am but I’m not going
there to offer myself up as a sacrifice. I need to find out if there was
another way and that’s the only place that I can find that.” She pled. “Besides
it also gets my face out there. You know with all the tension between Earth and
Mars that the shuttles between them will be watched? It can look innocent.”
Gabrielle looked deeply into the
steel blue eyes. “Cara can’t protect you on Earth. You’ll be alone and exposed.
Tactically it’s suicidal.”
Xena thought on what Gabrielle
said. Then Margo put in her two cents worth. ‘I’m not too keen on stepping into
a lava flow myself Xena. It’s not that I’m afraid but maybe you don’t have to
‘I can’t ask Gabrielle to go with
me. Cara can’t leave her command that way.’ She sounded like she wanted to
squeeze blood from a stone and couldn’t quite figure out how to do it.
‘Who said anything about Cara?
I’m an Amazon. Take some of my sisters.’ Margo didn't even try to hide the
sarcasm. ‘I swear how did you manage without me?’
‘Good question Margo, good
question.’ Xena ended her internal conversation to find Gabrielle patiently
staring at her. “Did you say something?”
“Oh, nothing important
apparently.” Gabrielle retorted with her arms crossed.
“Can I take some Amazons?” Xena asked
without preamble. Gabrielle looked shocked and thoughtful. Before she could
answer Xena continued. “Margo is an Amazon just like Cara. Either one could
vouch for me if you’re reluctant.”
Gabrielle actually looked a
little hurt. “I’m not reluctant Xena. I was just trying to figure out how I can
book the entire shuttle and fill it with Amazons.” Her eyes softened as she spoke.
“I’m not going to lose my woman to Ares.” She wrapped her arms around Xena’s
waist. “Must you go to Japan?” The old cancer was gathering more infection.
Xena rested her arms on
Gabrielle’s shoulders. “No, I don’t really have to go, but I would like to. If
you ask me to stay then I will stay and we will figure out another way. This is
just killing two birds with one stone.” It was the wrong choice of words and
she knew it the second that they were out of her mouth.
“Just as long as you’re not one
of those birds.” Gabrielle let out a heavy breath. She reached up and gave Xena
a light lingering kiss on the lips and stepped away to return to her desk. She
pushed a button and began to speak. “Denton, book as many seats as you can on
the first or second shuttle flight out tomorrow. The final destination will be
Japan, on Earth. Pick the flight that gives you the highest number of seats and
get back to me as soon as you have some information.”
“Yes Ma’am.” The intercom said in
Gabrielle looked around the room
and noticed that Dan has gone missing again. ‘He really hates all that mushy
stuff.’ Cara clarified. ‘What do you have in mind?’
‘I’m thinking of sending Dan and
some pilots out for… training exercises.’ Gabrielle said judiciously.
‘Hmm, not a bad idea. Would you mind
if I took over for a while. I got a queasy feeling brewing in the pit of my
stomach. That usually portends something bad happening. I should set some
measures in place so that we aren’t caught with our pants down around our
‘Sure, I’ve got nothing to do
right now.’ Gabrielle winked at Xena. “I’m gonna sit back for a while. Cara has
some things that she needs to do. Why don’t you go work out or something? We
have no-where to be for a while.”
“Okay, a good workout sounds
nice.” She sauntered up to Gabrielle and gave her a sound kiss. “I’ll see you
later love.” She wandered out the door.
Cara quietly settled down to her
desk. She pulled a diet Pepsi from her refrigerated desk drawer and took a long
drink, then grimaced as the bubbles burned her throat. She pulled out a note
pad and started writing on the gel surface with a stylus. She would spend the next
several hours preparing the city and her troops for attack. She never raised an
alarm but she initiated a series of pre-prepared initiatives that would help
her to protect the city and the rest of the planet. Gabrielle watched with
great interest and occasionally asked questions.
The sun slowly fell towards the