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Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and backstories used in "A Long Kiss in the Warm Summer Rain" are the sole property of MCA/Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.

Thanks to Sharona for giving me the idea, and other much needed help.

Note: The song sung by Gabrielle is one I remember from my childhood, but as to where I heard it originally, I havenít a clue.

"A Long Kiss in the Warm Summer Rain" by Alan Plessinger

Alan_Plessinger@dialog.com

Chapter 1

Gabrielle held her husbandís hand and made little designs on it with one finger, in a flirtatious way. She smiled at him.

"So," she said, "Perdicus, I guess this world is sort of a come-down compared to the Elysian fields, isnít it?"

"Absolutely not. The main entertainment in the fields was watching the portal and seeing what the living were up to."

"Really?"

"Sure. In the fields thereís nothing to struggle for, nothing to fight for. Itís peaceful, itís tranquil, but itís not life. The Elysian fields are for resting, and reminiscing. Thatís why itís so hard to die young. You canít reminisce if you know no one there. And itís hard to rest when youíve done so little."

Gabrielle looked down. There was pain in her eyes.

"So, did you see me in the portal?" she asked.

"Not much. I did at first, but after a time it became too painful to watch. I never stopped loving you, Gabrielle. I guess you know that."

Gabrielle looked at her husband. She didnít know what to say. Then she saw Xena returning.

"I need to talk to Xena," she said. "Iíll be right back."

"Iím not going anywhere," he said, and smiled.

Gabrielle walked up the hill to meet Xena. By the expression on her face, the news was not good.

"What does Hades say?" asked Gabrielle.

"Heís definitely the real Perdicus. He was a soldier once, so his life belongs to Ares to do with as he will."

"And Ares says I have to stay with him, or he goes back to the Elysian fields?"

Xena nodded. She looked terribly frightened and full of pain.

"I canít stand this," said Xena. "Youíre going to stay with him, arenít you?"

"Heís my husband."

"Heís your husband? Thatís it? Nothing else matters because heís your husband? Gabrielle, youíre doing just what Ares wants you to do. This is divide and conquer, just like Caesar."

"Xena, I owe him this. I have to do this."

"How many times did you tell me what a terrible mistake it was to marry him?"

"I also said I could never make it up to him. Now I can."

"You donít love him!"

"I could learn to love him. And Xena, I...I want children. I canít wait forever."

"Gabrielle, I couldnít say this before but I will say it now. If you do this to me you are going to tear my heart right out of my chest."

"Xena..."

"No, Gabrielle, I donít even want to hear it. If youíre going to go to him, just go, because I canít keep doing this. I wish youíd never followed me to Amphipolis. Damn you! Why do you have to be so perfect and adorable and wonderful if youíre just going to keep leaving me all the time?"

Xena turned and left, striding angrily down the hill. Gabrielle watched her go, expecting some sort of a goodbye look, but Xena got on Argo and rode away without a backward glance.

Gabrielle walked back down the hill to Perdicus.

Maybe it was a mistake. But Gabrielle was starting to feel like Helen of Troy. She just couldnít stand to have another man die because of her.

Chapter 2

Perdicus was working in the front yard of their farm when he heard the tap, tap, tap of a blind manís cane. The blind man made his way into the yard, and Perdicus made an effort to work loudly so the man would know he was there.

"Excuse me."

Perdicus put down his tools and said, "Yes?"

"Iím looking for Gabrielle. Iíve been told she lives here."

"Sheís working in the fields. Iíll get her. Thereís a seat right over here," he said, leading the man.

"Thank you."

"Who should I say wants her?"

"My name is Homer."

"Wonít be a minute," said Perdicus. He headed toward the fields, but then came back and said, "Excuse me, but, you arenít THE Homer, are you?"

"If she is THE Gabrielle then I guess Iím THE Homer."

Perdicus went to get his wife. When he returned with her, she excitedly grabbed the outstretched hands of the blind bard."

"Homer!"

"Gabrielle!"

The two bards hugged, and Perdicus left to give them some privacy.

"So what are you doing here?"

"I though Iíd see how you were doing in your new life."

"Homer, Iím so sorry to hear about you losing your sight. They used to call you the blind bard..."

"Because I kept my eyes closed while storytelling, I know. The irony is not lost on me. Be very careful what you pretend to be, Gabrielle, because you might become what you pretend to be."

"I canít believe Iím sitting here with the famous Homer, the man who told stories to sold-out crowds at the Roman Coliseum."

"I might never have been a bard if not for you, Gabrielle."

"No. Destiny wouldíve placed you where you belonged, eventually, with me or without me."

"Are you still storytelling?"

"Every Friday night at the tavern in town, but Iíll have to give it up one day soon."

"Running out of stories?"

"Iím afraid so. A bard has to be a travelling bard, unless she has forty years worth of stories in her head. I donít have to tell you that."

"That reminds me. I tell a story of you and Xena sometimes. Itís a story that you never tell. Itís one of those tales that doesnít make Xena look very good. I was wondering if I could tell it for you now? Perhaps you could help me with some of the details."

"A private audience with Homer! Wait, let me get Perdicus."

Gabrielle went and got her husband, and the blind bard began his tale, a tale of Xena against the Horde. The story was mesmerizing, wonderful. Gabrielle couldnít believe that this was the same scared kid she had to talk out of quitting auditions for the Athens Academy. When it was over Homer sat down and Gabrielle and Perdicus applauded.

"Do you have any corrections, suggestions?"

"I would never presume," said Gabrielle. "Except, there is one thing."

"What?"

"Why does everyone insist on calling me a blonde? Iím a red-head. Red-head!"

"I believe I called you a strawberry-blonde."

"Homer, I donít come in different flavors."

Homer laughed. "OK. Anything else?"

"Itís a little inaccurate in some places, but fixing it might make it less entertaining. Sometimes to be true to the facts just screws up a really good story."

"I understand. I envy you so much, Gabrielle. You got to live the stories you tell. You were there, to drink in every detail."

There was an awkward pause. Perdicus said, "I donít know if youíve been told, sir, but my wife and I are expecting a baby."

"Are you? Would you mind if I..."

"No, no, go right ahead, but thereís not much to feel. Iím still less than a month along."

She guided his hand to her midsection.

"I see you no longer show off that particular part of your body."

Gabrielle laughed. "No one is going to want to see a pregnant woman in that outfit, believe me. It was a little impractical to dress that way on the farm."

The three of them chatted for about an hour, Perdicus mostly afraid to say anything in front of the famous man, and Homer finally got up to say goodbye.

"Have you heard anything about Xena?" asked Gabrielle.

"Oh, sheís fine. Sheís amassing quite an army."

Gabrielle blinked.

"An army?" she said.

"Yes. I donít know what itís for, exactly. Theyíre billeted in Thessaly, Iíve heard."

When Homer left, Gabrielle looked at Perdicus.

"This is not good news," she said.

"Itís only four hours away," he said. "Iíll hitch up the wagon. I hope you donít mind if I come with you."

"Thank you, Perdicus."

Chapter 3

Gabrielle and Perdicus arrived at Xenaís campsite to find tents, campfires, horses, weaponry, and an army of at least twenty men.

"Perdicus," she said, "talk to some of the soldiers. Find out what this is about, one soldier to another."

"Sure," he said.

She heard Xenaís voice coming from one of the tents, and headed toward it. A few soldiers were leaving the tent as Gabrielle entered.

"Gabrielle!" said Xena. She greeted Gabrielle warmly but a little too casually, as though she was going out of her way to make sure Gabrielle knew things were just fine without her.

"What is this about, Xena? What is this army for?"

"Donít jump to conclusions, Gabrielle. Having an army doesnít make me a warlord."

"Why do you need an army?"

"To protect villagers. Take on warlords. Perform rescues."

"You never needed an army for that, before."

"And there were warlords I could never have dreamt of taking on. I can accomplish so much with these men, Gabrielle. This army will be a powerful force for good."

Gabrielle said nothing, just looked at Xena, trying to read her.

Xena laughed.

"What do you want me to say, Gabrielle? If youíve come here asking me to disband my army, the answer is no. Youíre just going to have to trust me. You have no choice."

"How am I supposed to believe you, with everything I know about your past?"

"Well, I guess thatís kind of your problem, isnít it?"

"Xena, if you never listen to me about anything else, listen to me now. This is a huge mistake. You said once I was doing exactly what Ares wanted. Now youíre doing it."

Xena stepped forward and stood close to Gabrielle.

"You donít trust me? All the times you trusted me with your life, and you donít trust me now?"

"No. I donít."

"Iím going to make you eat your words, Gabrielle. Bards all over the world are going to tell the story of my strength, my honor, my courage, and my decency. My past deeds will be so completely overshadowed theyíll be hardly worth mentioning. Brave, good men all over the world will want to join my army. I had the desire to do good before you came along, and you didnít take it with you when you left. Iím sorry you donít trust me, and Iím sorry you donít believe in me. But you are wrong. I can do this. Without you."

Gabrielle left the tent, only stopping at the entrance to say, "I really hope so, Xena."

She waited for Perdicus by the wagon. He came running up, and helped her on board.

"Find out anything?" she asked.

"They seem to be the kind of men that are tired of battling for conquest, and want to have a righteous cause to fight for. They just want to be able to accomplish some good in the world."

"Like Xena. Thatís good to hear. But these men donít seem to be the type willing to stand up to her if need be."

"Probably not."

"Iím scared, Perdicus. Iím worried."

"So am I. But what can we do?"

Chapter 4

Gabrielle sat on their bed and put one hand on the cradle Perdicus had made, and rocked it back and forth. It rocked smoothly and evenly, a thing easily taken for granted until you saw how hard it was to build a cradle that rocked smoothly and evenly.

She sang.

"One day...

Iím gonna be a great healer...

And heal every nasty disease...

You wait and see...

Iím gonna help other children like me...

When I am grown up...

Youíll see...

One day...

When we are grown up...

We will do great things...

Youíll see...

When we are grown up...

And not so small...

We will do great things...

Weíll show Ďem all..."

Perdicus came and sat next to her.

"Where did that song come from?" he asked.

"My mother used to sing it to me."

"I canít believe we grew up almost next to each other, and I never heard that song."

"I had hoped to be able to sing it to this child," she said. She touched her abdomen and began weeping softly. She wiped away her tears.

Perdicus took her hand in both of his.

"It was a miscarriage, Gabrielle. Weíll try again."

He was very careful not to say it was "just" a miscarriage.

"I know. Itís just that Iíve seen so much death in my lifetime. I was looking forward to bringing some life into the world."

"It will happen, Gabrielle. And he or she is gonna be the luckiest little kid in the world, having you for a mother. I envy him already."

"Or her."

"Or her. I love you, Gabrielle."

"I love you, too," she lied.

"Are there any other verses to the song?"

"Oh, sure. I wish Iíd listened to the song more closely when I was a kid. Itís about doing great things, but nothing to do with adventures or epic battles. Itís about being great at your job, finding something you love doing, and doing it as well as you can."

She rocked the cradle again, and began singing.

"One day...

Iím gonna be a great teacher...

And teach everybody to read...

Thatís what we need...

People who read arenít so easy to fool...

So I will teach them...

In school...

One day...

When we are grown up...

We will do great things...

Youíll see...

When we are grown up...

And not so small...

We will do great things...

Weíll show Ďem all..."

She said, "This verse is for you, Perdicus. For us."

"One day...

Iím gonna be a great farmer...

And grow lots of good things to eat...

Wonít that be neat?

People will never be hungry again...

Not when Iím grown up...

Not then...

One day...

When we are grown up...

We will do great things...

Youíll see...

When we are grown up...

And not so small...

We will do great things...

Weíll show Ďem all...

Weíll show Ďem all...

Weíll show Ďem all..."

She wept again, for her own lost childhood, and for the child she would never see, a child she thought would give her an opportunity to relive her youth and avoid all the mistakes her mother had made.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of approaching hoofbeats. Their farm was so isolated, any horse they could hear could only be headed for them.

Gabrielle wiped away her tears and they both went out to meet the rider, a woman. She quickly dismounted.

"Are you Gabrielle?" she asked.

"Yes."

"My name is Marissa. Youíve got to come with me. My village is in terrible trouble."

"Whatís wrong?"

"Xena."

Chapter 5

Gabrielle arrived with Marissa, both of them riding the horse Marissa rode to the farm, to see all the men of the small village strung up tightly by the arms, the backs of their shirts ripped open. Gabrielle leaped off the horse, staff in hand.

"AGAIN!" yelled Xena, and her men flogged the villagers, leaving deep welts.

"Xena, what are you doing!"

"Stay out of this, Gabrielle! No one is being killed here. This is just a little debt collecting. AGAIN!"

The snap of the whips sounded again, and the men writhed in pain.

"Xena, cut these men down right now, or Iíll do it!"

"I donít take orders from you, Gabrielle. It takes dinars to run an army. No one made this village hire me for protection. I told them EXACTLY what it would cost them. I protected them, and I lost men doing it. And now theyíve decided they wonít pay what they owe me? No one treats me like that! No one! AGAIN!"

Again the whips sounded, and Gabrielle yelled, "Donít you think these people would pay you if they had the dinars?"

"People like this always have money hidden somewhere. Other villages could always come up with the money eventually."

"What other villages? How many have you done this to?"

"Never mind."

"I said, how many?"

"And I said, never mind! This isnít your concern. Go pick your crops, farm girl."

Gabrielleís Amazon staff came up and smacked Xena across the face. Xena was stunned. Amazed, actually. She had been facing Gabrielle and watching for it, and still didnít see it coming.

Before Xena could react or say anything, Gabrielle threw down her staff and picked up a nearby axe. Farmwork gave her plenty of reasons to swing an axe, and her muscles were strong. She chopped at the ropes of the first villager. She saw that if she could connect with the axe where the rope met the wooden beam, she could free him in one stroke. She freed the next villager.

"Put down the axe, Gabrielle."

"Or what? Iím not afraid of you, Xena."

"You should be."

"Damn you, Xena! Damn you to Tartarus!"

She freed another villager, but the freed men were afraid to move from the spot, afraid of Xena. The soldiers didnít stop her. They didnít really much want to be carrying out these orders, and they wouldnít stop her without a direct order from Xena.

She freed the next man, and yelled at the soldiers, "Is this what you joined Xenaís army to do? Are you proud of yourselves? Does this make you warriors, flogging unarmed villagers?"

When she had about half the villagers freed, Xena tried to grab the axe away from her. She held it towards Xena threateningly.

"You wouldnít use that on me," Xena said.

"Why donít you just die, Xena! Die and stay dead!"

Xena grabbed the axe away and threw it down. With a wild cry she lunged at Gabrielle and grabbed her by the throat. She shook Gabrielle by the neck and pushed her backwards. Gabrielle kept trying to pull at the powerful fingers around her throat. She tried to cry out, but couldnít get a breath. She was being forced backwards towards the watering trough.

Before she fully knew what was happening to her she felt herself forced into the trough. She was underwater, and Xena was holding her under. Gabrielle grabbed at one of the fingers around her neck and tried to pull it away. She was being strangled.

Then the fingers left her neck.

Gabrielle grabbed at her own throat. She didnít have the presence of mind to get out of the water.

One powerful hand reached in and pulled her out.

Gabrielle stared at Xena, a look of pure hatred in her eyes, as Xena walked away. Xena said something to her soldiers, and they followed. Gabrielle tried to say something, but her voice wasnít working too well.

"Thatís it, Xena," she thought. "Thatís the last time. I wonít do this again."

Finally, with Xena gone, the men were willing to move from where they had been tied. One of them grabbed the axe and freed the others.

Marissa ran over and helped Gabrielle out of the trough.

"Thank you. Iím sorry I had to come and get you. She didnít really hurt the men that badly. A warlord would've done much worse. Please, just tell her that we will pay what we owe her, we just need a little more time."

Gabrielle whispered, "Donít...defend her."

What she really wanted to say was, "Donít you dare defend her! She had you all scared to death! None of us has any idea what sheís capable of! One day itís flogging, the next itís broken bones, then murdering and pillaging. And all because you were late paying a debt!"

Gabrielle held her throat. She was having trouble swallowing, and knew that it would be at least a couple days before she could speak properly.

"Take...me...home," she whispered.

Chapter 6

Gabrielle was on her knees weeding the garden and wiping the sweat from her brow. Her back ached from the work, and her throat was still sore from her encounter with Xena.

The skies were gray and overcast, though it was still hot and humid. She wanted to get done before the rain began.

"Hello, Gabrielle."

Ares had appeared behind her as she worked. She stood up, with some effort, and faced him.

"Hello, Ares," she said wearily. "What do you want?"

"Iím warning you, Gabrielle, stop interfering in my work. Stay away from Xena. I can still take Perdicus back to the fields."

"Donít worry. Xena is yours. I wash my hands of the whole mess."

Ares smiled a victorious smile.

"Good. Finally youíve come to your senses. Xena is waiting in the clearing down by the stream. She wants to speak with you. But Iím warning you again, this is IT. This is the last time. If you go to her again, for any reason, Perdicus dies. Understand?"

"Ares, what sort of language works with you? Iím telling you, youíve won. Xena is yours. I want no more to do with her."

"Good."

"I suppose youíll be eavesdropping on us?"

"No. I promised Xena I wouldnít."

"Since when has a promise meant anything to you?"

"You know full well that Xena can sense if Iím there. I must say, little bard, you were quite a challenge. Iím almost going to miss tangling with you. I still remember you whacking Xena from behind, that time I impersonated her father. Iím still amazed she didnít kill you. You really have guts, sometimes."

"Yeah," said Gabrielle, heading in the direction of Xena. "I wish I could say the same for you. ĎOh, I lost my godhood, I lost my sword, what am I gonna do, Iím mortal! Boo hoo hoo.í"

"Irritating blonde," muttered Ares, and was gone.

Gabrielle passed Perdicus on her way, and told him where she was going

"I promise this is the last time either one of us will see Xena," she said.

"Will you be OK?"

"Iíll be fine," she said.

Xena was waiting for Gabrielle in the clearing, pacing back and forth anxiously. When Gabrielle showed up, Xena gave her a worried, frightened look.

"Hello," said Xena.

"Back to try and kill me again?"

"Iíve come to tell you Iíve disbanded my army."

"Good. So the world is safe again. Anything else?"

"Gabrielle, Iím sorry. Iím so, so sorry. I lost my way again."

"You always say youíre sorry, Xena, but you donít behave any differently."

"Gabrielle, what do you want me to do?"

"I want you to stop asking a farm girl from Poteidaia to run your life for you. I want you to stop relying on me to risk my life to pull you back from the edge of madness every time you lose control, and I want you to get it together and stop treating the people who care about you this way, or pretty soon you are going to have nothing and no one. And I want to be left out of your life, because I have had it with you, Xena! I have had it!"

"Iím sorry. I know you hate me."

"I donít hate you, Xena. I donít care about you, any more. I donít care what happens to you."

"You know you donít mean that."

"Donít you tell me how I feel, Xena! I know exactly how I feel!"

"Do you still love me?"

Gabrielle looked at the hurt in those beautiful blue eyes, eyes which only a few days before had held nothing but inhuman rage, and thought to herself, "This has got to stop. Iíve got a husband who loves me, who would slit his own throat before he would ever hurt me, and I have a woman who tries to kill me one day and asks if I love her the next. This has got to end, right here."

"No," said Gabrielle. "I donít. Not any more."

Gabrielle did her best to be unaffected by the pain in those blue eyes.

"Gabrielle, I need you. I canít do this alone. No one else has the courage to stand up to me."

"Maybe they just prefer to keep living."

"Gabrielle, you must know that I would never really kill you."

"I donít believe you. I didnít believe you at the edge of a cliff or at the bottom of a watering trough, and I donít believe you now. If I donít get away from you, one day you WILL kill me."

"You used to be able to forgive me."

"Well, maybe the fact that I didnít have that many options back then had something to do with it. Now I have a husband that loves me."

"And do you love him?"

"Maybe. Iím fond of him."

"You said you would learn to love him. I want to know. Do you love him?"

"What if I donít? Heís a good man. He loves me. He doesnít lose control and hurt me."

"Gabrielle, I try. I really do. Do you think itís easy for me when you rip my heart right out of my chest?"

"Iíll tell you whatís easy, Xena. Blaming all your problems on me, on my absence. Thatís whatís easy. Xena, I used to think you had something in you that ached to be a good person. I used to think that you burned to be good and to be proud of your life. Well I was wrong. Whatever good there was in you is gone. At heart youíre just a bully. Thatís all you are and thatís all you ever will be. And I wonít be responsible for you or the things you do, any more."

Gabrielle looked at Xena, waiting for her to say something, waiting to see if this encounter was over. If it was, she was quite prepared to turn around and go back to Perdicus.

A few drops of rain fell on Gabrielleís forehead, and on Xenaís. Then a few more drops, and it wasnít long before they were in the midst of a downpour. Xena nearly had to yell her words to be heard.

"Iím sorry, Gabrielle. Please forgive me. I love you. I love you, and I need you. Iím sorry."

"Thatís just not enough any more, Xena. Itís just not enough."

Gabrielle turned away to go back to Perdicus. She went only a few yards, then looked behind her to be sure Xena was going, too.

She saw that Xena had done the same thing, turned to go, then looked back. They were looking at each other.

What of it? They could look at each other a last time. It meant nothing. So Gabrielle turned around to look at Xena, and Xena turned to look at Gabrielle.

"Iíve got to get away from her," thought Gabrielle. "She really will kill me, one day. Iíve got to go, now."

Xena was the first to take a few steps towards Gabrielle. And Gabrielle found herself taking a few steps toward Xena.

"No," she thought. "I canít let her do this to me. Iím a married woman. This is wrong. Iíve got to stop."

And then Xena was running towards Gabrielle, and Gabrielle ran towards Xena.

"No. Please, no," she thought.

Gabrielle put her arms around Xenaís neck, and Xena put her hands on that adorable face, and pulled Gabrielle to her, and kissed those sweet lips. And Gabrielle was out of control and barely conscious. She closed her eyes, and her head was swimming with the old familiar feelings of love and desire and longing, things she had never felt with Perdicus. Gabrielle shivered, and could feel her soul deriving sustenance from the kiss, their spirits becoming stronger, filling themselves up with the best qualities of each other, both of them feeling that if they wanted to they could float right off the ground and into the clouds, because this love, this impossible, infuriating love could do anything, transcend any limits, overcome any odds and be more powerful than any god, any thing, any being, more powerful even than death itself. This timeless love beyond all understanding, this love that could bring meaning to life, could call a woman back from beyond the grave, could give strength to tenderness and tenderness to strength, this love so inexplicable but so necessary to complete two souls together into one eternal and defiant union.

The rain was falling in rivulets over these two women, but no rain fell between them because they both fit together so well, like they were made for each other.

The kiss ended, they pulled apart and looked at each other so deeply that there could be no pretence between them, only honesty.

"Do you love me?" asked Xena.

"YES, DAMN YOU!" said Gabrielle. "And I donít know why! If I could cut out that part of me that loves you and throw it away, I would! But I canít!"

"Then come back to me. Be with me tonight."

"No. Iím going back to Perdicus."

"You canít."

"Thereís other people in the world besides you, Xena. This life is not just about two people and what they want, and no thought to anyone else. How many times have I said I wished I could make it up to him for the terrible way Iíve treated him?"

"This isnít the way."

"I donít care. If I leave him, he dies. Thereís no other decision I can make."

"You donít love him."

"But I have to do this. This is right. We both know it."

Gabrielle pulled herself away from Xena and turned to go, while she still had enough strength and self-control to do it.

She walked away from Xena, and turned to find her still standing there, the Warrior Princess helpless before the Bard of Poteidaia.

"Take care of yourself, Xena," she said. "Be good."

Gabrielle walked back to the farm, proud of herself that she was able to do the right thing. She still wasnít absolutely sure it WAS the right thing, but in her experience the right thing to do was most often the hardest thing to do. This qualified.

The rain had drenched Gabrielle. She was wet through and through, but mostly she was wet down below in her loins, from Xenaís kiss. She needed someone inside her. She really needed Xena inside her, but her husband would do.

She went into the farmhouse and called her husbandís name, but he was not to be found. She searched around and finally found him out back, mending the shed in the rain. She made him put down his tools and kiss her.

He was a good man. A tender man. And he did love her, but not passionately. His kisses were very gentle, warm, and loving.

"Come on," she said. "Letís make a child."

Chapter 7

It was a two-day ride to the nearest Temple of War, but Gabrielle made it without sleeping. All the way, angry thoughts boiled inside her.

"How can he do this to me?" she thought. "Who does he think he is? He didnít even discuss it with me! How will I get the crops in without him?"

She dismounted and burst into the temple, yelling for Ares.

"Where are you?" she yelled. "I want to talk to you, right now! Show your ugly face!"

Ares appeared, and laughed his malicious laugh.

"Come now, Gabrielle, youíve been insulting before, but not usually inaccurate. What is it this time?"

She held up the scroll with Perdicusís message written on it.

"Perdicus has gone to war!"

"So? What should I do about it? He volunteered."

"Was this your doing?"

"Now, what would I have to gain by it?"

"Then why did he go?"

"How should I know? Maybe you werenít a very good wife to him."

"Listen to me, Ares, if heís going into battle I want him protected. I want him to live! I donít care if he takes a spear in the chest and one in the head and arrows in both lungs, you keep him alive!"

"Why should I do that for you, Gabrielle? The first rule of war is, young men die."

"Ares, do you have any intelligence at all? Do you have any common sense? You resurrected him to keep me and Xena apart. What happens to your plan if he dies?"

Ares crossed his arms and sighed deeply.

"Very well," he said. "You have what you want. Heís pro..."

Ares cocked his head to one side in a listening attitude.

"Damn."

"What? What?"

"Sorry, kid," said Ares. "Too late."

Chapter 8

Gabrielle rode into camp and reported to the watch commander. She was taken immediately to the generalís tent.

"Iím sorry for your loss," he said. "You should know that your husband was a very brave man. He was hardly here any time at all before volunteering for a very hazardous rescue mission."

Gabrielle wiped away tears.

"A suicide mission?" she asked.

"Most of the soldiers with him did not survive. They all put aside messages for their loved ones. Iím having your husbandís scroll brought here now."

"Thank you. Was the mission successful?"

"It was, praise Ares."

Praising Ares was not a high priority for Gabrielle at that time, so she sat and waited and said nothing.

A soldier entered and saluted, bringing the scroll.

"Where is my husbandís body? Iíd like to take him back to Poteidaia to be buried. We grew up there, together."

"Iíll have it loaded onto a wagon. You can hitch your horse to it whenever youíre ready."

"Thank you."

Gabrielle went out into the warm summer night, and read the scroll.

 

 

To my dearest Gabrielle,

Iím so sorry I lied to you. I did watch you through the portal. I knew that you and Xena belonged together. When Ares came to me and offered me life, I shouldíve been noble and refused. I know thatís what you wouldíve done. But I wanted to live. And I wanted you.

I really thought that you would love me, eventually. There were times I could almost believe it was happening. But when I spied on you and Xena and saw you together in the rain, kissing, I knew that we couldnít go on like this, living a lie. I had to go.

I knew Ares would take me back to the Elysian fields. I was determined to make my last days mean something, and show the nobility I shouldíve had in the first place. Nobility I learned from you.

Stop blaming yourself for my death, Gabrielle. Go live your live, and take good care of Xena. She needs you. I wouldnít trade our few months together for anything, but itís clear where you belong, and itís not with me.

I wish you nothing but happiness, Gabrielle. I wish you something to do, someone to love, and always, always, something to fight for.

 

 

Perdicus

Chapter 9

PERDICUS

    1. YEARS OF AGE

DEVOTED HUSBAND

BRAVE SOLDIER

DECENT MAN

HE DESESERVED A LOT BETTER

FROM BOTH OF US

 

Gabrielle placed the flowers on the gravesite and brushed away some of the dust from the headstone. Her tears were flowing freely.

"More regrets, in a life full of them," she said.

Xena arrived behind her, and stood quietly.

"Hello, Xena. I was beginning to wonder when Iíd see you again."

"Hello, Gabrielle."

"My streak is unbroken. The Gabrielle curse has claimed another victim."

"It was his choice, Gabrielle."

"I wish I couldíve had his child. He deserved at least that much. He was a good man. His only real crime was loving me."

"Thatís no crime. Gabrielle."

"Then why must so many die for it?"

Gabrielle sighed heavily. Xena, just to be saying something, said, "I attended his funeral. From a distance. I didnít think I would be too welcome. But I saw the whole service."

"I knew you were there. Youíre not as stealthy as you think."

"You buried him in his favorite shirt, they said."

"Yeah," said Gabrielle, "his favorite red shirt. He looked so good in that shirt."

Gabrielle turned to Xena, her beautiful sea-green eyes filling with fresh tears. She stretched a hand out to the gravesite, palm up, like a teacher giving a lesson.

"You see, Xena? This is how you be noble! This is how you think of someone besides yourself!"

"Thatís not fair, Gabrielle."

"Yeah, well, life isnít fair, is it?"

She turned back to the gravesite. Her body was now shaking with sobs. Xena put an arm around her waist and nuzzled her head with her nose.

"Gabrielle, I will never hurt you again. I promise."

Gabrielle laughed at the same time as she wiped away tears.

"Iíll be curious to see how long it takes you to break that promise."

"Does that mean weíre back together?"

"Sure. Who else could survive me?"

Xena bent down and kissed Gabrielle on the neck. She pressed herself into Gabrielleís back, and Gabrielle reached up one soft hand and stroked Xenaís hair.

"We are doomed to be together," thought Gabrielle. "Thereís no escape."

"Do you forgive me?" asked Xena.

"Iím trying. Itís not as easy as it used to be."

"Things will be different, I promise."

"Thereís just one thing. You and I will be harvesting the crop from our farm. Iím not going to let anyone else do it. It wouldíve been our first harvest. Itís not much of a tribute, but such as it is, weíre doing it."

"You want me to be a farmhand?" asked Xena.

"If it wouldnít be too much of a loss of dignity to do some honest work, yes."

"What if someone really needs our help?"

"You can have a few days off to go save the day, but I want you back to work the next morning."

"What if I lose control? Whoís going to help me?"

"Well, hereís an idea. Donít lose control! Heraís tits, Xena, you canít be a human being for a couple lousy days? What is the matter with you? These stupid berserk rages of yours are all phony, anyway. Just something you dreamed up to guilt me into staying with you."

Gabrielle turned and left the gravesite, walking to where Argo was. Xena followed.

"I liked the old days a lot better," said Xena, "when I gave the orders."

"Whatís the difference? I never followed them anyway."

"So why should I follow your orders?"

"You better! I can be a farmer for as long as I need to be."

"You hate farmwork."

"Oh, you know all about what I hate. Whoís going to ask for your help, anyway? ĎOh, look, a cat is stuck up a tree. Letís ask Xena to rescue it. No, wait, what day is it today? Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays she goes into a berserk rage and kills everything in sight. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays we should be OK. Sunday she switches off. Every other hour.í"

Xena laughed for the first time in months. Argo greeted the two of them with a whicker.

Gabrielle continued, "íWhereas, if we get Gabby to do it the cat will probably kidnap her, and then weíre really screwed.í"

"I love you, Gabrielle," said Xena.

"Yeah? Well you better love me, because I love you, and weíre stuck with each other. Who else would have us? Man, what a pair we are. Real coupla heroes."

THE END