I'm not planning on making a habit of tossing off stories on the day I watch an episode, but I thought, just one more. Okay?
Xena and Gabrielle and the incidents described belong to RenPic and there is no attempt at profit in this story.
Everything I've written contains a debt to the people who got me writing again, and who have been my muses. I would like to thank the only one I haven't mentioned before. For better or worse, my thanks to Fiona Meyer. And of course Holly Near.
Mail is always welcome at Kamouraskan@yahoo.com
After the Siege:
After all we had been through, it took an effort of my part to leave Eve, but with her doting Grandmother by her side, I decided to take a well needed break and drop by the tavern. I knew that Gabrielle was visiting the more seriously wounded, and would probably check in there afterwards to find me. I should have been more prepared for the reaction to her arrival.
To the surprise of both of us, when she entered my mother's tavern, it to triumph and the shouts of my fellow townspeople: "Gab-ri-ELLE! Gab-ri-ELLE!" After an initial flush, she recovered quickly and looked every inch the confident commander. But she didn't pass by them with just a hand clasp as I would have. There was a smile and a question, a quick moment of concern for each wound, even as she slowly made her way through her admirers to me. The sight of that consideration calmed me. But I must have still had a worried expression on my face, because by the time she got over to the back table where I was, she had already read me like a scroll.
She put her hands on her hips, and grinned. "You look like you're scared I'm about to start organizing a safety perimeter for Amphipolis! You're not really worried, are you?"
Well, once she put it like that, it did seem pretty foolish. I slid over to make room. "How do you do that?" I had to ask.
She took her place beside me and waved for some cider. Eustase came running.
"Read my mind, of course."
She thanked 'stace for the service and leaned back against me. "Part of the job."
I had to smirk. "So it's a job now, is it?"
"Yup," she sighed, stretching her bruised legs with a slight groan. She closed her eyes, and flinched and I knew she was seeing the worst of the battle again. But she shook it off and even managed a joke. "Hard work. Rolled up sleeves kind of work. Just another typical day for a second to the Warrior Princess."
I stiffened. She noticed and straightened up to look at me
I decided I better correct one point, now. "Gabrielle, what you did today, none of my commanders could have done. Not Borias, not anyone You held these people together in a cause that no other soldier I've fought with would have even thought worthwhile. And the plan was as much yours as mine, so don't call yourself my...second. Please."
She pursed her lips. "That's not what this is about. There's something else. What's really the problem?"
I kept silent.
"Xena, many things have changed, but I can still bug you until you talk. WHAT?"
I knew I might as well give in now, as later. I passed over the scroll I had been reading. I began an explanation, "I told you I would read them all, and this one happened to be at the bottom so I grabbed it..." I realized I was blathering.
I watched with concern as she scanned her words, written so long ago. She bit her lip, and looked up at me.
"We don't have to talk about this now..." I said.
She snorted. "You wish."
She continued to think. She turned and pinned me with her eyes. "Xena, do you ever regret, giving up the life that the Fates offered you with Lyceus? Especially after all the deaths I've been responsible for?"
"Because that...reality, your killing was just the final straw. But even so, it was... the pleasure I saw in your, her eyes at that death... I've never seen you even feel satisfaction, always regret. Your only pleasure is when the battle is over."
She nodded. "Do you know something else? You just spent time tempting one of the most seductive of the Gods," before I could object, she cut me off, grinning. "Yes, you felt something. He got your juices flowing. It's okay. Remember, I've felt his pull..." I frowned but she ignored me. "And me? I've just commanded a force in battle. Watched men die around me. And you know what? We're not upstairs doing the rabid weasel thing. I've looked inside myself for some sign of battle lust, but I'm just tired. Really tired. And you, you..."
I looked down, as I completed her thoughts. "...feel dirty. Like I prostituted myself..."
She took my face in her hands and said sternly. "We both did what we had to do. Nothing more. But nothing less."
I took back the scroll. "That doesn't fill the gap between the girl who wrote this, and the woman who just led an army out of the trenches."
"Would you believe me if I said that, even after today, I could still stand behind every word in that scroll?" Her face was unreadable.
I must have shown my doubt.
She took a long draw on her cider. "Do you know what Eli told me before he died? I was admitting to him that I was worried about the steps I had taken, and he told me that doubt was normal. That he doubted." She smiled sadly. "Eli! All that he was, and had known, and HE had doubts about his path. And he even laughed at my surprise. But he was right, we are human. And I have doubts. But every word in that scroll is still inside of me, Xena, and it's like a candle glowing, and sometimes it gives me the light I need to see."
It was at that moment she first noticed the hero worship on the faces of several of the kids who had snuck into the room. They had cut some branches, and were fashioning swords with them, all the while staring at my partner with undisguised worship.
"In fact," and I heard that iron enter her tone, as she picked up the scroll. "I think this might be the time for the bard, and not the warrior to make a statement."
Oh oh. I nearly reached out to restrain her, but grabbed the parchment instead. "Gabrielle, you can't get up in front of the men you've just commanded in battle and tell them that...that all killing is wrong."
She stared at me long and hard.
"Well," I backed down with a twitch of my lips, "at least, please, don't sing it..."
That got raised eyebrows, and a pretty fair imitation of my Look, but with a flourish she grabbed the scroll from my hands and strode to the centre of the room. Realizing she was about to speak, the room immediately erupted with whistles and applause. She held her arms out until it was quiet.
"Each of us, has a right to be proud..." and the shouting resumed. Again she stopped them. "But whether we had won or lost today, all of Greece would have remembered why we fought. Our families and friends did not die for some glorious battle, and we will not honour them by telling our children that." Her audience was muted.
"I am going to read something that was written by a very young girl many years ago, because I need a reminder of who we really are, before we all begin thinking that war is a cause in itself."
She unrolled the scroll, and waited, staring somewhere none of us could see. Then she began to read the thoughts of that young girl; one that I could remember so well.
Do we kill people
That killing people is wrong.?
What a foolish notion.
She took a breath, ignoring the uncertain looks about her, and continued.
Children are so innocent
They'll cross the earth
If they think they're helping a friend
They get caught up in Patriotic Lies
And they struggle to survive
Do we kill people
That killing people is wrong?
What a foolish notion
War is called devotion
When the greatest warriors
Are the ones who stand
There was only silence as she left the stage. The boys and girls were staring at her in bewilderment, but she just smiled at them, and came back to me. I admit I was close to being teary eyed, so I covered by saying. "Remind me to never invite you to a victory celebration again."
"Not the sort of speech the Destroyer would have given?"
"So are we okay?" She asked quietly.
I was still nodding when she suddenly reached out and grabbed my hand and began to haul me up, saying: "You know, I may not want to do the weasel thing with you...but I think I would like to show you something after all."
"Oh?" I tried to be casual. And standing so close to her, it wasn't easy. "We do have this great babysitter..." I noted.
"And I don't think what I'm feeling is what you'd call battle lust, I think it's more...more like..."
And she kissed me. Tenderly and lovingly and with only the softest touch of desire. And when I opened my eyes to the stares and grins of my hometown, I blushed. The Great Destroyer of Nations blushed.
"Gabrielle...." I used my eyes to indicate our audience.
"Are you ashamed of me?" She asked facetiously.
"NO..." I shifted uneasily.
"Then what? Xena, these people just fought a battle for us and with us. You don't think they know what's going on between us?"
I looked over to the young would-be warriors. "But there are kids...?"
Her eyes bulged and she spoke with exasperation. "Xena! Those kids have just been hearing about war and killing, beheadings and gore. They are surrounded by death and blood. What kind of idiot would get bent out of shape about them seeing affection between two people who love each other?"
What idiot indeed? So, to a large and very appreciative crowd, I picked her up and carried her. And she was the one blushing then.
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