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You may have noticed that Gabrielle and Xena are not my property.

Alt. Sort of.

Comedy. Drama. Sort of.

This is a prequel to Looking Death In The Eye. It seemed to be the first show that our heroes worked as a team in a while, albeit with a kind of desperation. I am indebted to MK, Sam Ruskin, Susan Rice, the Ex-Guards, and the Tavern Wall.

This story was begun before I helped with three other excellent pieces involving the same subject. After they took all the brilliant ideas, this was all that was left over. <g>

Walls and Hurdles

by Kamouraskan

Everything was going just fine in Christos’ Tavern.

Right up until she came in.

The boys were trying to relax after the successful attack on the warlord’s castle, and there was a pretty good buzz going on. It was just like old times. Ale was flowing, dinars were being spent, and the owner, me, was happy. But then the door flew open and I could tell by those hardened eyes, that she was there to make trouble.

I sidled over to Xena. She had been sprawled out in the corner in her usual manner, enjoying her third ale of the night. But now I could see all her senses were on the alert. I started to speak, but she just grunted, "I know," and I watched her running a mental check over her options.

The newcomer wasn’t dressed like the warrior she was, but I knew it was a disguise. She had already spotted Xena, and the sight of the warrior princess seemed to generate a hostility that provoked waves of menace I could feel from here. Even Xena wasn’t immune. I could see she was beginning to get worried.

I looked away from the simply dressed woman in the doorway. "You told her you’d be home right after you finished with Desthus didn’t you?"

Xena jaw was set. "Uh huh."

"Came here instead, leaving her alone with the kid?"

"Uh huh." Damn, I thought. I had just repaired half the tables in this place from the last rumble.

I looked back to the woman in the doorway. "What do you think she’s gonna do?" I asked in a hushed voice.

The disguised Amazon was now moving towards the bar, pointedly ignoring both of us,

Xena was tapping her forefinger on her chin. "She can’t be sure that this isn’t part of the mission. She won’t do anything until she’s sure. Maybe you should stop her from talking to your barmaid..."

"Xena, I don’t know, if I get involved... she might take it out on me too..."

Those blue eyes seared me and it was like I was a junior officer under her command again. I remembered why so many would rather charge to their deaths than disobey that low, silky voice. "You’re already involved, Christos. Don’t get both of us angry. You wouldn’t like that."

I unsuccessfully tried to hold back a shudder. "Well, what’s the plan?"

The forefinger stopped its percussion. "If we keep her off balance, we can wait her out. Gabrielle’ll never trust Joxer to look after Eve for too long..."

"Off balance?" Great. Just what I wanted in my place. An Amazon with lethal killing skills, off balance.

"Go over and tell her that Desthus’ men are in the tavern. That‘ll slow her down for a while."

So, trying not to show my nervousness, I made my way over to Gabrielle. She gave me a grim smile that did nothing for my blood pressure. She had been such a gentle soul once. I sighed.

She got to the point right away. "What’s going on, Christos? I thought the big bad warrior show would be over by now."

I knew Xena was depending on me, that the continued operation of my livelihood depended on me carrying this off. So I tried to sound casual. "A few of Desthus’ men followed her...."

That was as far as I got before those green eyes stopped me cold. "Friends don’t lie to friends, Chris."

"Friends shouldn’t scare friends..." I replied defensively.

"I’ll deal with Xena."

"I don’t mean Xena. Since the baby, well, she’s sort of mellowed, you know. It’s you that’s..."


Embarrassed, I nodded .

I admit I jumped a little when her hand slammed onto the bar. "I’ve about had it with this!...I know I’ve changed, but it’s not like..."

At this point one of the strangers approached with a sloppy smile and I groaned inwardly. "Hey pretty lady, how’s about you and me share some time..."

Gabrielle saw the look of fear on my face, and flushed.

She turned and gave the big guy a glare. "Sorry, but I’m not interested, and I’m talking with a friend."

I don’t know where he came from, but one of the soldiers who had been with us at Desthus’ castle was suddenly draped around Gabrielle, his foul mouth inches from hers. "I wouldn’t mind being your friend too."

I also don’t know what he whispered into her ear, but her expression became very set. Worried, I looked over to Xena, but she was already out of her seat.

And I don’t know exactly what Gabrielle did then. I think it was sort of like that dumb gag my brother-in-law pulls every Solstice. You know, he says "The hand is quicker than the eye," but he doesn’t move, right? And then he says, "wanna see it again?"

Well, that’s sort of what happened. I didn’t see the heel of her foot hit him in the crotch.

If it weren’t for his Adams apple bulging out all sudden, like that’s where his balls ended up, I would of sworn a Gorgon had just turned him to stone. He went all white too, then Gabrielle sort of disentangled herself from him, and he remained in the same position, except I heard a really high squeaking noise that might have meant anything.

I stared at Gabrielle. "Is he going to be okay?"

She looked at my new statuary. "Relatively..."

I noticed a small bead of sweat forming on the ridge of his nose. "Like, will he ever have any MORE relatives?"

Gabrielle didn’t seem to like the look on my face. "Hey! That was reasonable force."

"Absolutely." I stopped. This was friend. Even if it was another friend that scared me. So taking my life in my hands, I pulled her over to a chair. She resisted a little. " Gabrielle? I can’t fault you just now, but I didn’t sweat like this when you walked into the place a year ago. A year ago, I was glad to see you, a year or two ago you told me there was always an alternative to violence."

I saw that weight again on her shoulders. "That was before I came through too many situations where there wasn’t."

What do you say? This is a woman who’d been through stuff I couldn’t begin to imagine. I knew about the soldiers in the Roman prison, the God’s only know to what else she was referring. "Isn’t it possible that those are still the exceptions?"

"You’re just saying that because you don’t want me to start throwing chairs."

I stared her down. Not something that’s easy to do. But we had known each other for a while. She knew I cared.

"Okay." She admitted. "But you tried to lie to me. You aren’t getting off free."

I laughed. "Long’s you don’t bust anything, you can’t hurt me."

She laughed along with me. It took a few heartbeats before I realized her laugh wasn’t the same as mine.


She smiled. I wasn’t relieved by it at all.

"You want that innocent bard back? How about if I go up and tell the boys a story?" I didn’t know what that meant, but with that smile, I know I started shaking my head.

"Did I ever tell you about the time we were on a ship that was submerged and overturned? You what kind of ship it was? It was a slave ship. And d’you know what ...facilities they don’t have on a slave ship?

"There we were, in neck deep water, with ...stuff... floating all around us, no fresh air, pressure from the water outside, and the ship kept tossing from side to side, up and down...."

I looked around worriedly at the tavern of drunks. Guzzling my cheap rot gut. On my newly rebuilt and polished furniture. With all those small grooves that could take days to clean. "Gabrielle...?"

"...And have I mentioned what we had to eat?"

"Gabrielle?" I interrupted hurriedly. "Would you like me to close the bar for a minute, so you guys can be alone?"

She smiled with satisfaction. "You were right. There is an alternative sometimes."

I gave her a sickly laugh before getting up onto a table and bellowing out "Hey! Can I have everybody’s attention!"

Not even a chair moved.

"Xena needs some time alone..." There were some raucous cheers.

"Because Gabrielle wants to talk with her."

That did it. The place started to clear in record time.

In the midst of all the rushing for the exits, Gabrielle glared at me, and I stepped back a bit. "You think this is funny."

I shook my head. "No darlin’, not at all." She held my eyes for a moment, then wearily closed them. I saw that her partner was attempting to glide out unobtrusively with the rest of the crew.

Not you!" I pointed to the warrior. She stopped and slumped back into an unoccupied chair. Gabrielle remained at the bar so I went and stood over the warrior.

"I thought we had an understanding." She groused to me.

"We do. And it’s that Gabrielle is scary."

"What did she say?"

I tried my best oriental accent. "She say, the Warrior Princess must be made small."

There was a slight growl. I looked up to see Gabrielle bearing down on us both, and her face was as cold as I had ever seen it.

"So." She began. "Were you planning to tip this babysitter extra, so that you could stay out like this?"

Xena didn’t flinch. "I needed some time away."

"You’re always ‘away’ now. Even when you’re with us."

I suddenly realized that I was standing between the two of them, and while trying to extricate myself, I said, "Look, maybe you two lovers need some time alone..."

Gabrielle was facing me when she spat it out "Lovers? We’re not lovers anymore. She doesn’t even care if I get jealous. We’re two people condemned to be together for eternity, and it feels like it’s been that long already."

Holy Hades.

I think time stopped right there. I know my heart did.

I know Gabrielle regretted the words before they left her mouth, but she snapped it shut too late. Xena barely stiffened, but we both saw the shutters in her eyes close down tight. The regret in Gabrielle’s eyes changed to defiance.

Oh, Boy.

I jumped back between them. "Umm, that’s a...good point, Gabrielle. Ah, Xena, you know, I noticed that you’ve been sort of cool ever since India, you think it could be this whole eternity thing has you a bit spooked?"

Gabrielle wasn’t finished, damn it. "What, Miss ‘I shape my own destiny’?"

Xena muttered, "That was before I couldn’t stop us from being..."

The pain in Xena’s eyes was enough to mollify Gabrielle. "Which we would have avoided it if I hadn’t..."

"STOP IT, RIGHT NOW!" I couldn’t believe it was me yelling. They both stared in shock, but I recovered quickly and tried to keep things moving. "We all know you two could keep swapping blame until the end of the day. But let’s cut to the chase? Huh?

"Xena, I heard some of the rumours about what went on in Egypt. It didn’t sound like you. Could it be that you’re freaked out by this forever stuff? Possible? I know I would be. I feel chained, and I’m only married in this lifetime. Maybe you could admit that? And Gabrielle? You know you’re not leaving. Tell her. Tell her it’d rip your heart out."

Silence. I pleaded with her. "Tell her, Gabrielle. You still love her?"

"Of course."

I groaned. "Not ‘of course’. This whole thing is because you guys are taking that for granted. Do you love her?"

Looking at the floor, she whispered. "Yes. I love her."

"Xena?" I asked.

She was looking at my fascinating floor as well. "You still..." she couldn’t finish it, so I nudged Gabrielle. Thank Aphrodite, but she came through with no hesitation. "I love you. I don’t care about forever, I need you now. Right here, the person I am. This lifetime."

The warrior swallowed before speaking. Then she let it out. "Okay. Yes. It feels... sometimes, " She stopped, both of us waiting. "....it’s like being trapped."

I know it hurt Gabrielle to hear that. It hurt Xena to say it. But Gabrielle slipped into the chair beside her and said. "Can we...do you want to work it out?"

Xena raised her eyes to face Gabrielle. "Yes. Hurting you...feels worse."

But Gab’s exasperation broke through again, though. "When? We never have time..."

For the first time, they touched as Xena took her partner’s hand "Gabrielle, this thing with the Gods, it won’t be like this much longer, it can’t."

There were tears squeezed out when Gabrielle closed her eyes. "Yes, it will. It never lets up anymore. We keep expecting a break, and something...something worse comes along."

"Shhhhhh." Xena comforted. "No. Not if we’re together. One way or another we’re going to settle this. Then we’re going to take a nice long rest. Just the two of us. I promise."

Gabrielle looked into her eyes. Her voice broke slightly. "Just one more thing, right?"

Xena smoothed the short blond hair, but she heard the defeated note in that statement.

Gabrielle must have gotten some strength from the loving contact though, because her expression firmed suddenly. "Then I want to go right to the source. I want us to go see the Fates. I want to demand to know what’s really going on."

Xena was silent for a moment, and then she nodded. "Together? We find out what is really happening...?"

"And we figure out a plan." Gabrielle prodded.

"The two of us."

"Put it all on the table."

"We make it together, or not at all." Xena affirmed.

"You want that? Do you really? Because that’s what I need to have again."

"Then that’s all that’s important to me."

Now, as you can imagine, I was already to congratulate myself. I had done it. Single-handedly, I had kept these two legends together. That was worth every chill I’d had today. They were just about to hug, I know it. I was moving to the bar to pour myself a drink and celebrate when Goddamit! Joxer had to show up. Carrying a familiar blue bundle.

Both Xena and Gabrielle stared at his grinning face in horror and nearly collided in their hurry to get to him. As we all anticipated, he tripped over a board and both women managed to catch a piece of the child, before Gabrielle passed her to Xena.

Xena then turned her anger on the hapless one. "Joxer, what have I told you about trying to do two things at the same time, when one of them is carrying EVE?"

"I was trying..."

"Yes. You are." Xena barked out.

Gabrielle raised her hand to calm Xena and laid the other on his shoulder. "Joxer, thank you for looking after her, but Xena and I need to be alone. Could you just go back to the camp and we’ll be along later?"

Joxer looked to both their expressions, shrugged and with his back slumped, left. Gab and I sighed with relief and turned our attention to the just a moment before, furious, Destroyer of Nations. Who was talking to her child. Waving a finger in front of her eyes.

"Now, are you the sweeeee-test baby in the world, huh? Are you, are you?"

Both Gabrielle and I had smothered our smirks before Xena looked up at us, but she stared at our faces suspiciously. Gabrielle raised her hand and caressed the baby’s cheek with one delicate finger. The warrior raised the bundle and said "Would you...?"

"No. It’s okay...cause if you’d rather..."

I was rolling my eyes at this Centaur crap, when Xena muttered awkwardly "No... I smell of ale, and my breastplate... and....you’re softer to hold...."

Gabrielle’s smile had always been a wonderful thing. I think Xena had almost forgotten that, because she looked at it like it was sunrise on the Parthenon, only more precious. I saw that force, that love again as Gabrielle cradled their child, and once more everything was right back on track. Until we heard that word.

One word. Clear as a bell.


If our eyes were wide on hearing it, they got even larger when we realized who had said it.


Who gurgled happily at the attention.

"Guess where she picked up that from?" Gabrielle said pointedly.

Xena eyes were a bit furtive. "Why are you looking at me?"

Overjoyed at having discovered this very successful new attention grabber, Eve added. "Bachae!"

"Well..." Xena waffled.

"Basthturd." Eve offered.

Xena folded under our stares. "Sometimes when I fight, and she’s with me...."

But Eve wasn’t finished.

"Cum!" Both Xena and I backed up a step. Xena looked at me quizzically. "Hey? That’s not one of mine."

"Nnnnnnipppple." That, even I recognized, and we turned to the Bard, but she was already trying to slink away with the evidence.

"Hold it." Gabrielle froze. Xena sauntered over to Gabrielle who was back examining my floor.

"You’ve been reading THOSE scrolls to EVE?" she demanded.

That mutinous tone returned to Gabrielle’s voice "I’ve been writing when we’re alone. You know I work out the stories aloud. I thought she was sleeping!" We were so close, I thought.

Xena was upset. "I didn’t even know you were writing again...especially not THOSE stories."

"It’s what I do ever since we stopped..." She stopped. Looked up at the warrior. "I only write THOSE scrolls because, we aren’t, because I want to, I need..."

Xena’s voice was softer than I had heard it in a while. "Not much of a substitute, is it?"

"No. But it’s what I have."

Then the Warrior Princess showed that she too, had a pretty special smile. "I can think of a solution for that."

I figured that it was time to wash down the bar, and whistle very loudly. They both ignored me, but I could still hear them.

"First we’re going to pay a visit to the Fates, okay?"

"We’ll do whatever it takes."

"And then a long break? Just the two of us?"

"Just the two of us."

So arms around each other, without another word to me, they left. There was no tip, but I didn’t mind. I figured, I’d done pretty damned good business that day.

A long break, that’s all they needed, I thought.

But I never saw them again.

Now, I’m just a tavern keeper, and ex-soldier. But I’ve got to believe, they’re still together. That they worked it out.

Because if they didn’t, after all they’d been through for each other, and Love didn’t survive....?

Love like that is worth believing in, right?


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