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This story contains a small amount of explicit (but not graphic) heterosexual sex as well as a small amount of mildly explicit violence in keeping with the level of violence on the TV show. It also contains a very small amount of what some may consider coarse language.
Some of the characters and background situations in this story are the legal property of Universal/MCA. Any characters or situations not borrowed from the television show belong to me.
This story was completed in July of 1998.
A TIME FOR US
by Theodore Williams (billted)
Xena, Gabrielle called softly, touching the warriors arm. Xena ...
The sleeping warrior stirred slightly. The dawn had barely begun to push aside the thick quilt of night.
Xena, are you awake?
Well, Gabrielle, Xena grunted as she stretched. I wasnt when you started to ask, she yawned, but thats all changed now.
Im sorry, Xena, groaned the bard. I just cant sleep.
Scott and David gone fishing as usual? Xena asked.
Yeah, Gabrielle answered. I think they do that just so they can have time to think. Time to discuss what theyre going to do.
Well, said Xena, its been, what, a week since Aphrodites little stunt, and nobody has been able to come up with a way around this.
What do you think of David, Xena? the bard asked.
The warrior seemed a little startled by the question. To tell you the truth, I havent had much time to get to know him, she replied. After a pause, she said, He seems to make you happy.
You noticed, huh? Gabrielle said.
Yeah, I noticed, Xena sighed.
You dont think their chances of getting home are too good, do you? asked the bard.
Realistically, Gabrielle, no, I dont. In three days, their machine will be gone and theyll have to start making serious plans about their lives here. I dont envy them, being stranded so far from home, having to start over.
The two sat in the semi-darkness listening as the first of the morning sparrows began their song.
Xena, David asked me to marry him, said Gabrielle.
What? Xena said, now fully awake.
He doesnt believe hes going to get home either, said Gabrielle. Hes starting to think of this as his home.
After a long pause, Xena spoke, only now her voice was cold. Thats nice Gabrielle. So where are you two going to settle down?
Xena, I havent decided what Im going to say, Gabrielle said, visibly upset. What is it with you whenever the subject of David comes up?
Gabrielle, youre thinking of marrying a man who hasnt been born yet. Dont you think that makes him a little young for you?
Very funny, Xena, replied the bard angrily. I told you this because I thought you could help me -- give me some emotional support like you always do. I guess I was wrong.
Im not sure what you want me to say, said Xena, still clearly guarded.
I know hes not supposed to be here, Gabrielle said. But he is here. And hell probably be here for the rest of his life. And ... The bard looked directly at her companion, who refused to meet her gaze. And I love him, Xena.
Xenas face began to soften, and now she looked into the bards eyes. And he loves you, too, doesnt he? she sighed.
Yes, he does, answered Gabrielle. Very much. Xena, why are you having such a problem with this?
Xena looked away again, as though she were hiding something. Then Gabrielle noticed a tear rolling slowly down the warriors cheek.
Xena, the bard said, touching her friends shoulder, Xena, what is it? Whats wrong?
Gabrielle, the warrior began, clearly having a difficult time finding the words. You know Im happy if you are. Thats how I felt when you married Perdicus, too. But ... saying good-bye to you was the hardest thing Ive ever done in my life. She wiped the tear from her face. I just dont like to think about having to do it again.
Oh, Xena, Gabrielle said in a soothing voice, putting her arms around the warrior. I dont even know that thats what would happen. Its different with David. He has no home here. If we got married, maybe he and Scott could just travel with us.
Xena, accustomed to being Gabrielles comforter, her strength, was surprised at how easily she allowed herself to be held and comforted by the bard. It felt good.
Im not sure that would work out, the warrior said, looking concerned.
Why not? asked the bard, stroking Xenas raven hair, as the warrior had so often done when comforting her.
Gabrielle, theres another reason its been bothering me seeing you and David together, Xena replied.
What is it, Xena? Gabrielle asked, her face now looking puzzled.
Xena hesitated for a long time. How long have we been together?
About three years, Gabrielle answered.
Yeah, three years, Xena mused. Sometimes, it seems like weve known each other for a lifetime.
I feel the same way, the bard said in a gentle voice. What are you getting at?
Xena sighed and hesitated again, smiling slightly, almost seeming embarrassed. I guess its just that during the past year or so, Ive begun to ... She was cut short by the sound of twigs breaking under a mans weight.
Are you two up already? Scott said as he emerged into the clearing.
We were talking, Gabrielle said to him, looking annoyed.
Im sorry, Scott said, sensing that he was interrupting something important. Listen, maybe we can get lost for a while longer.
No, no, its alright, Xena quickly said, then whispered, Gabrielle, it can wait.
Gabrielles face wore an expression of concern and disappointment. It relaxed a little as David appeared.
Good morning, Gabrielle, he said softly, and kissed her. Is everything OK?
Yeah, yeah, its fine, she said tentatively, looking in Xenas direction. Then she turned back toward David. How was fishing?
Oh, we didnt really feel like fishing, David said. Weve had a lot to talk about. The day is getting closer.
Scott jumped in. Are you absolutely certain theres no other god, more powerful than Aphrodite, whod be able to help us?
Weve been through this, Xena reminded him. Even if one of the other gods could help us, I dont think theyd be interested enough to actually do anything. The gods all have their own agendas. They dont care about much else.
The four were startled when a bright flash illuminated the early morning haze. When it was over, an unknown figure stood in the centre of the clearing. He was slightly taller than David but shorter than Scott, with hair a little longer than Davids.
I guess thats a fair judgment, the figure remarked in reply to Xenas statement. Im glad to see were all being open and honest with each other.
Am I supposed to know you? asked Xena cynically.
Does it matter? Im here to help, he declared. It just so happens that today, your little agenda fits in with mine.
We dont even know who you are? said Xena, folding her arms.
Note how the Warrior Princess uses her body language to let me know shes not gonna back down, he observed. Ooooh, Im shaaakin!
Xena, maybe this is one of the gods, whispered Scott. You saw how he appeared. He says hes here to help. Maybe we should hear him out.
I dont know, replied Xena. Im familiar with pretty much all the gods.
I like to stay kind of incognito, interjected the stranger. But if youre going to insist on introductions ...
We are, Xena said flatly, taking a step toward him. The others said nothing.
OK, OK. Extending a hand to the warrior, he said, Im Methodicus -- god of Science.
David uttered a cynical cough. Theres no god of Science, he said.
The god moved his hand before Xena could take it and pointed at David. Good! he said, walking past Xena in Davids direction. I like that. If you havent heard of something before, you doubt it. Nice goin, Future Boy.
Suppose you tell us what youre talking about, said Scott. Are you saying you can help us get home?
Ah, first theres Future Boy, and here we have the more serious Future Man, Methodicus said in an affected deep voice, followed by an annoying, high-pitched laugh. What Im saying is, there might be a way for you to get home.
Whats in it for you? Xena asked with a raised eyebrow.
You never let up, do you? he said to her. Whats in it for me is whats in it for all the gods. We dont want these jokers here any longer than they have to be. The only reason I had to come to the rescue is that Im the only one who understands how this can be done.
I dont get it, said Gabrielle. If none of the gods want them to stay, why did Aphrodite break their machine?
Yeah, Aphrodite, mused Methodicus. Lets just say she isnt one of the brightest Olympians. Then, looking toward Scott, he said in a low voice, But really, who needs brains when you look like her?
Scott gave him a disdainful look.
The god turned back to Gabrielle. As Wonder Woman over there might put it, he said, pointing a thumb at Xena, Aphrodites very into her own agenda. Shes not too good at seeing the big picture.
What is the big picture? David asked. Why dont the gods want us here?
Knowledge, travelin man, knowledge, Methodicus answered, tapping Davids forehead. The gods have a pretty good thing goin here. They dont need you guys around with your heads all crammed full of info nobodys supposed to know yet screwin things up.
David spoke softly now to the god of Science. Then its true, isnt it? The gods are just an advanced civilisation from another planet. Olympus is just some space station or something.
Cmere, cmere, Methodicus said, beckoning David closer. He spoke in almost a whisper as David listened intently. Ill neither confirm nor deny that.
David took on an expression of disgusted disappointment and began to move away, but then stopped when Methodicus spoke again.
But I will tell you something, whispered the god. Just between you and me, I dont think this is gonna last more than another millennium or so.
What do you mean? asked David. Whats not going to last?
The reign of the other gods, Methodicus replied. They dont understand the human race. They get their power from fear and intimidation. What they cant get through their heads is, humans hate that, and their not gonna take it forever. One of these days, everybodys just gonna say Enough is enough and thatll be it.
I think youre right, said David.
Yeah, well thats where I come in, Methodicus continued, still whispering. The way I see it, Ill get people to follow me by just putting my ideas into a few choice heads, then letting them spread from there. People will do anything if they think theyre doing it of their own free will. He laughed cynically. If my plan goes right, the human race will eventually be so devoted to me and my way of doing things that anyone who even suggests another way of thinking will be ridiculed and exiled. And Ill barely have to lift a finger.
But since youre just laying low right now, why are you concerned with getting us out of here? asked David.
My plans could get knocked up too, if you hang around here too long, answered the god. Knowledge before its time is always a bad thing. Why do you think Ares wanted to have you killed? He was afraid of you.
The god of war was afraid of me? said David, both incredulous and strangely proud.
Sure, you knew too much and he knew it, Methodicus said. You see, the gods of Olympus can see into the hearts of men.
You mean members of your species have some kind of telepathic abilities.
Methodicus shrugged. You say potato ...
Scott cleared his throat loudly. Are you two going to have your private little chat all day, or are we going to talk about a plan to get us home?
Your buddys a tad on the impatient side, eh? the god said to David. Then, he spoke more loudly. Alright, alright, you wanna get home. Its a little complicated -- and its not a guarantee, mind you. There are a lot of ... variable factors. As he finished his sentence, he looked toward Xena, whose face took on a questioning look.
I have a question for you, continued Methodicus. Whats a thunderstorm? After some silence, he took on an air of mock sternness. Class, I know you dont know where this is going, but I still expect you to participate in the discussion. What is a thunderstorm? Would the young lady with the round, sharp weapon on her belt care to tell us?
Hard rain, thunder, lightning ... began Xena, rolling her eyes.
David picked up the ball. Clouds saturated with water, heavy ionisation of the air ...
ShhhhhHHHH! Methodicus frenetically warned David. Id like to hear this from a contemporary perspective please. Sheesh! Thats why we want you out of here. You blab too much. Quill Girl! Fill em in on the legend about thunderstorms.
Gabrielle reluctantly assumed he was addressing her. Some say that when a thunderstorm comes, its because Zeus is angry. His temper is the storm.
Bingo! Methodicus exclaimed. He began to slowly pace back and forth. Now, I wont say every storm is related to Zeus having a hissy fit, but the fact is, a few of the severe ones are caused by him on a bad day. That happens once in a blue moon.
The four mortals simultaneously glanced at the moon, which was its usual white.
So what does this have to do with us? Scott asked.
Just this, Mr. Lets Get Down To Business. When Zeus lets loose, pretty much everything is up for grabs. Weather, life, death, tethers ...
David and Scott both instantly perked up. Are you telling us that Zeus has the ability to release natural temporal tethers? David demanded.
Oh sure! Methodicus answered. No biggie for Mr. Big.
Then why cant someone just ask him to release them for a minute? Gabrielle wondered. You say all the gods want Scott and David to go home. As she said those words, her heart sank at the realisation that Davids proposal of marriage may very well become moot.
Thats true, replied Methodicus, but Zeus is another matter. For one thing, hes at the top. Usually, he doesnt give a rats whiskers about what the rest of us want. And for another thing, hes really not into screwing with natural things. Unless, of course, he goes ballistic about something or other.
Wait a minute, objected David. When that happens, why doesnt everything just go flying around to other times?
Because theres no other tether to grab it, Methodicus answered. The wave of disturbance follows the storm. The tethers are only off for about a minute, when the storm is closest. After that, they take hold again and everythings back to normal. But during that sixty seconds, you guys can get grabbed by your time machine, if we time the whole thing right.
So what we need to do is really tick him off somehow, posited Scott.
Maybe if we loudly curse his name or something, Gabrielle said.
Yes, Im sure that would just hurt his wittew feewings so much, Methodicus mocked. Dont be such a blonde! Hes king of the gods! What does he care what anybody says about him? No, hes concerned about ... and he slowly turned toward Xena, bigger issues.
Xena cocked a curious eyebrow. What do you mean? she asked suspiciously.
Methodicus slowly walked toward her. Xena: Warrior Princess, he said. After walking a few paces in silence, he continued. Youve had quite a past, havent you?
Whats it to you? said Xena with quiet defiance.
Did you know that Zeus has quite an interest in you?
What are you talking about? demanded the warrior.
Yeah, its hard for me to understand, too. But its this whole turnaround thing you did.
Go on, she said.
He considers you his greatest example to humanity of how a person can change from evil to good. I mean, you changed from a ruthless warlord to a defender of the weak. So thats a really big deal to him. I swear, sometimes he acts like the God of Israel.
Xena didnt know what to think. She felt strangely honoured, yet guardedly so. She was still waiting for the other boot to drop.
Methodicus went on. The thing I can think of right now that would really break him up, really cheese him off, is if you dissed your whole goody thing -- went back to your old ways, joined up with Ares again, the whole bit.
Plop, thought Xena. There it goes. She said nothing. Gabrielle looked at her, trying to find some hint in her eyes of how she felt, but there was none.
Kind of a sticky problem, eh, Xena? the science god said. Are you good enough to do good by becoming bad?
As much as she hated to admit it (and as confusing as it was), Xena knew he was right. Her conscience would drive her to help, but was she willing to help by abandoning her conscience? Or did her self respect and reputation mean more to her than the lives of these men? And then there was the way she felt when Ares touched her -- when he spoke to her of their past conquests together. The Warrior Princess was getting a headache.
Scott broke the silence. Listen, Methane, or whatever your name is. Youre a god and this is the best you could come up with? You mean to tell me there isnt any other way?
Not one that can be planned and executed in the time we have, answered Methodicus. He pointed a thumb toward the pod. That machine of yours has no mercy. In three days, its gone and you guys will be spending the rest of your lives eating gyros and baclava.
Well, began Gabrielle, its not going to happen. I guess were stuck, because thats too much to ask. Tell him Xena.
Ill do it, Xena said, no emotion in her voice.
You ... you mean youll tell him, right? stammered the bard. Youll tell him theres no way.
I mean Ill do it. Ill go back to the way I was. The warrior was glad to be relieved of the tension of indecision. She began to feel a vaguely familiar rush of excitement run through her body. Ill even join Ares.
Gabrielle was aghast for a moment. Then her face changed. Obviously, shes joking. Xena, can I talk to you?
Xena gave her a sorrowful, but hard look. Gabrielle walked over to where Xena stood.
Xena, whats going on? demanded the bard. What do you mean youre going to join Ares?
What are you doing?
What I should have done a while ago -- as soon as I started to ... The warrior broke off in mid- sentence, as though having second thoughts about what she had begun to say. She started again, more softly. Look, Gabrielle, theres something Ive finally learned. Its that I cant count on you to always be there. Youve got your own life and one of these days, your path might take you away from me. I dont think I could stand that.
So youd rather leave first, Gabrielle said angrily. Is that it?
Its not just that, continued Xena. Lately, what were doing has just seemed kind of .
pointless. We cant save the world, Gabrielle, so why try? Why not get as much of it as we can for ourselves? Maybe you should join Ares too.
Thats not funny, Xena. None of this is. Gabrielle thought for a moment. Then her face changed as she tried a new tack. How do you expect anyone to take you seriously, Xena? Here you are, claiming to revert back to being a self-serving warlord, but the reason youre doing it is to help someone else. Thats ridiculous! The bard kept hoping that Xena would burst into laughter at any moment and stop this insane, frightening joke.
For one thing, Xena explained, I told you I had other reasons for doing this. Now just happened to be a good time for it. And besides, why not make my last good deed one for the history books?
History books, chimed in Methodicus. Thats funny!
No! cried the bard. You cant do this! I wont let you do this!
Please dont try to stop me, Gabrielle, Xena said flatly. She looked around in no particular direction. Ares! she called. Ares, I know youre listening, so you may as well show yourself!
A flash of light and the god of war complied. Xena. Well, well. So this is what it takes to push you over the edge. Why didnt I think of it?
Xena turned to face him and, catching sight of his muscular build, smiled a little. Why should you have to think when the god of science is around? she said in an effort to cover what she was thinking.
Ares diverted his attention from Xena. Methodicus, he said slowly. You decided to come out of hiding, did you?
Just for a little while, O Master of Mayhem, answered Methodicus.
This is getting very weird, Scott muttered to himself.
I suppose I have you to thank for getting Xena to finally join me, Ares said to the science god.
Just a lucky coincidence for you, Buffy, answered Methodicus. We both know all Im trying to do is get these Sultans of Someday back where they belong.
Whatever, said Ares. He turned to Xena and looked deeply into her steely blue eyes as if scrutinizing. This is the closest Ive been to happy in a long time. You wouldnt kid me now, would you, Xena?
Cant you tell? Xena seductively breathed.
Suddenly, her warriors awareness was piqued. She reached up with both hands just in time to intercept Gabrielles staff before it crashed upon her head. She pulled herself up on the staff and with a characteristic war cry, flipped through the air and landed on the other side of the bard.
I told you not to try and stop me, Xena warned as Gabrielle whirled to meet her gaze. Gabrielle swung the staff at Xenas head, who deftly ducked to avoid contact. If I can just knock some sense into you, Gabrielle said, swinging again with all her might, -- give you time to think about what youre doing. Another avoided swing at the warriors head. After all, it worked once before! she fiercely grunted. Several times, she fanned the air with her staff as Xena easily escaped the intended blows.
Finally, Xena had had enough. As the staff whizzed by her head again, she grabbed it and wrenched it from the bards hand with little effort. A quick swing of the staff caught Gabrielle in the knees and sent her to the ground -- a move that the bard herself was quite familiar with. Unswerved from her mission, Gabrielle began to rise, only to be struck again by her own staff, this time in the back, sending her face first into the dirt. Now Xena waited for her to stand all the way. Then, with one swift, powerful jab, she connected directly with the bards stomach.
Gabrielles body had taken far more on several occasions. But knowing that Xena meant to hurt her -- hurt her and then leave her -- was a knowledge that threatened to drown her very soul. The reality of what was happening hit home and she doubled over with pain, humiliation, and despair. She ran to the edge of the clearing and lost what remained of the previous nights dinner.
David ran to Gabrielle. Scott just stared at Xena in disbelief.
After watching Gabrielle for a moment, Ares walked over to Xena. You really mean business, dont you? he said.
Xena had been watching the bard as well. In Xenas eyes was a touch of almost sorrow, but it soon disappeared and gave way to a blue that now seemed icy cold. Id better not stay here any longer, she said somberly. Ill gather my things. Ive got a lot to do.
Ive taken care of some little details for you, said Ares. Namely, Ive already gathered an army of some of the finest warriors. They all have a lot of respect for you, Xena.
Theyd better, remarked Xena as she put some bundles onto Argos back.
When you arrive, theyll be chanting your name just like in the old days, he assured her. Yours and the name of your co-commander.
Xena stopped in her tracks. What?
The man wholl be commanding the army with you, Ares continued.
Forget it, Ares, Xena declared. You know I work alone.
Gabrielle, who was still on her knees with her back to the group, took notice upon hearing Ares announcement.
Take it easy, Xena, said the war god. Its just for the first couple of raids. Neither of you has done this for quite some time. I want you to learn from each other.
Ares ... said Xena in a warning tone.
The god waved his hand and another figure appeared -- a fairly tall man of medium but muscular build, with blond hair reaching to about the middle of his back. He was wearing clothes similar to those that Ares typically wore, only with a bit more metal here and there.
Xena, baby! he said, Its been a long time. Youre lookin almost as good as me!
I think you two know each other, said Ares.
Xena stared in amazement. Agathon. It cant be! You were ...
Killed? said the man. Come on, Xena. Dont diss me like that. It takes a lot more than an exploding castle to kill Agathon.
Ares, is this some kind of joke? demanded Xena. I have to command an army with this prettyboy? That wasnt part of the deal.
Funny, I dont remember there being any deal at all, remarked Ares. Now are you on the team or not?
Xena slowly turned her gaze from Ares and looked over Agathon as though he were a piece of merchandise. Can he fight? she asked.
What kind of question is that? Agathon said indignantly. I gave you a good run for your money last time, didnt I? And the god of war has been my personal trainer since then. Check out how buff Ive gotten. And do you like the hair? Ive let it grow even longer. He stroked his own hair for a moment, then looking up, he did a double-take on Xenas raven locks. But its nothing compared to yours. Xena backed away a little as he reached out to touch the ends of her hair. Whats your secret?
Washing it once in a while, she said with a slightly disgusted expression.
Agathon pointed at her. Good one, Xena, he said grudgingly.
She reached out slowly to touch his sword. Is that ...
Nah, its just regular metal, Agathon said in answer to her unfinished question. He drew the sword and inspected it absent-mindedly. I can fight like a god with this, that, or the other thing.
Xena squinted at him, then spoke to Ares again. I dont want to waste any time. Is there some kind of plan here?
Your army is ready to take Theopolis tomorrow, he answered. Is that quick enough for you?
Then we better go, she said. She turned to the others. David, his arm around Gabrielle, was looking at Xena, his face showing confusion mixed with rising contempt. Scott seemed not to know what to think, though his face betrayed a twinge of suspicion. Xena seemed to connect with his gaze for a brief moment, then looked away. Gabrielle was still on her knees with her back toward the warrior.
Goodbye, Gabrielle, Xena said.
Just go, the bard answered coldly, unwilling to turn around and look Xena in the eye.
Gabrielle, I ...
JUST GO, XENA! Gabrielle cried bitterly. She closed her eyes and bit her lip in a desperate but futile attempt to hold back tears.
Xena silently mounted Argo, carefully guarding her own thoughts. Ares waved his hand and the three plus horse vanished, having been transported to where the army waited for their command duo.
There was a silence during which only the rustling of the trees and Gabrielles quiet sobs could be heard. Then Scott spoke softly to Methodicus. Why do you suppose it isnt beginning to storm yet?
Its my guess that Zeus isnt going to get really ticked until he knows she really means business, Methodicus theorised. When they start the raid on Theopolis, thats when I think hell hit the roof. After a pause, he added, Then again, I may be wrong about the whole thing. Scott looked at him with greater disdain than before.
Im kind of surprised that Xena went for it, the god continued. Who knew?
Yeah, that was a shock alright, Scott said. He was staring at nothing and raising an eyebrow as he had seen Xena do so many times.
Methodicus walked over to where David was trying to comfort Gabrielle. At this point, simply staying near her was the best David could do. Shell be OK, said the god. Shes a trouper. David shot him a sideways scowl.
Gabrielle suddenly stood up, staff in hand, eyes red, and faced Methodicus. Ive lost the two people I love more than Ive ever loved anyone, she said angrily. One of them left me in order to help the other one leave me! Does that make sense, Science God? Does that somehow fit in with your orderly, logical view of the world?
Shit happens, he answered flatly. After thinking for a moment, he added, You know, if I were you, Id write that down. While he was speaking, Gabrielle began to heft her staff. She pulled it back over her right shoulder. When Methodicus saw what she was doing, he quickly decided to make his exit. Ill be back when the weather changes, kids, he said, and vanished just before the bards mighty swing would have connected with him.
She connected instead with a tree near which he had been standing, and which was considerably more solid than Methodicus. The jolt shook her a bit. She threw down her staff in frustration and sat down on the ground, her face bathed in a thousand different emotions, none of them pleasant.
Hed better come back, Scott said to David. Other than authorised personnel back home, apparently only the gods can activate the tether generator.
Hell be back, David assured him hopefully. He slowly walked over and sat next to Gabrielle, not saying a word, again simply letting her know that he was there. He knew she was in shock just now, but he also knew that underneath, she was strong, and would be able to make a life without him or Xena. He gently squeezed her hand. He was surprised to suddenly notice that Scott had come and sat down on the other side of her.
Scott spoke softly to the bard. Gabrielle, I cant pretend to know what youre going through, but I want you to do something for me. The bard silently acknowledged his words. Dont give up on Xena just yet, he continued.
What do you mean? Gabrielle asked, her brow furrowed.
I cant explain any more, said Scott. Just please, keep on believing in her for just a little while longer. He looked into her questioning eyes. For me? he pleaded.
I ... Ill try, she replied. She cocked her head a bit.
He touched her shoulder. Thanks, he said, and got up, leaving her alone for the moment. She ran a hand from front to back through her long hair.
David walked over to Scott and spoke to him quietly. I hope youre not just telling her that to keep her spirits up for now. Well probably be gone in a couple of days. One thing she doesnt need is false hope.
Dave, I agree with you, replied Scott. Like I told her, I cant explain more. I just have a ...
He was cut off by the sound of Gabrielles voice from across the clearing. She was standing now and brushing herself off as she spoke loudly enough for the men to hear. Im hungry. Does anyone else want some breakfast?
The sun was its usual evening shade of orange as Gabrielle and the time travelers finished a dinner of fish and bread that the bard had insisted on preparing, despite the mens offer to do so. She had barely spoken all day, and was attempting to stave off despair by keeping busy. She was trying hard to honour Scotts request of that morning to continue believing in Xena, but it was not an easy task. She felt angry and hurt and couldnt help picturing herself three days from now, completely alone. She wondered what life would be like if she went back to Poteidaia.
In contrast to the mood, the skies had been sunny and clear all day -- a fact which clearly disturbed Scott and David.
What if Methodicus was wrong? David said to Scott, making sure that Gabrielle couldnt hear him. Or lying? Maybe he was just working with Ares to get Xena to join him.
Maybe, but I dont think so, Scott said. We should try not to think about it too much right now. Listen, why dont you two go for a walk. Ill clean up from dinner.
Thanks, Scott, said David. I think youre right. It probably would do Gabrielle some good to get away from here for a while.
David wondered how Gabrielle would feel about going for their usual walk tonight. Even after Aphrodite cut the tether, they had continued to take a walk along the beach every evening. She would read from one of her scrolls, or they would just talk, or sometimes they would just hold each other. It was on one such evening, in fact, that, believing he would never get home, he had asked her to be his bride. It all seemed like a distant memory now.
It took a bit of convincing, but she finally consented to go tonight as well. David was glad. She had held him up so wonderfully through those days when he wasnt sure of who he was or where he belonged. Now she was feeling that way and it was his turn to carry her.
The sky was still quite clear and the moon and stars shone brightly as they emerged from the woods onto the beach. They stood on the sand and faced the sea, which in the darkness, seemed to stretch beyond the infinite.
Presently, Gabrielle reached into her satchel and pulled out a stone. She showed it to David. Remember this? she said.
The dove-shaped stone, he answered. The one you found the night we first ... His voice trailed off as she hefted the stone in her hand.
Doesnt seem too much point to it now, does it? she said cynically. Fighting for peace. Please! She rolled her eyes. You cant believe in anything anymore.
Scott said we should keep believing in Xena, David said.
Yeah, well, I said Id try, but Im not doing a very good job.
David gently took her hand in his. He noticed how soft it was, as though he were holding it for the first time.
Xena said it herself, she sighed. Maybe its smarter to just live life trying to get the most we can get for ourselves. She let go of Davids hand and pulled back with her other one -- the one with the stone in it. So much for peace, she said, preparing to throw it as far as she could into the rolling waters.
Just as her arm was at the top of the arc, about to let the stone fly, David caught her fist in his.
Gabrielle, he said, with a stern tone in his voice. If you dont fight for peace, just who do you suppose will?
She stared at him, expressionless. Then her eyes shifted to the ground as her face slowly became enveloped in such sadness as David had never seen. She looked up at him again, all traces of cold cynicism gone from her. I need you, David, she whispered.
With his free hand, he reached out and brushed her hair from her eyes. Gabrielle opened her fist, letting the stone drop to the sand, and put her arms around him as they surrendered to each other.
They made sweet, tender love deep into the night. He cared for her and gave to her as never before. As they made love, they barely spoke -- a silence born not of distance, but of understanding.
Later, with her head resting on his lap, she fell into much needed slumber. David couldnt sleep. He just watched Gabrielle and lovingly stroked her hair as she slept.
As the time for sunrise approached, he woke her gently. We never did get to watch it together, he said. She kissed him sleepily and smiled -- the first time she had smiled since the previous morning. She sat up and cuddled next to him as they watched the sun slowly change from a sliver of light reflecting in beautiful patterns over the sea to a blazing, red-tinged yellow.
Shifting her eyes to the sand momentarily, she noticed the dove stone lying there. She gingerly picked it up and returned it to her satchel.
As they quietly watched the skies, the two began to notice the beginnings of clouds gathering in the north. They could feel a heaviness in the air. It was the kind of morning that makes old folks joints ache ... and lets them know a storm is coming.
Agathon crouched behind a rock formation in the pre-dawn shadows just outside Theopolis. The light of dawn was coming more slowly than usual today. The sunlight was hindered by rain clouds that seemed to be gathering.
Could this be more perfect, Xena? he said to the warrior next to him. If its raining when we attack, itll really throw em off guard.
Not that we needed an advantage, Xena replied with a slight smile. There shouldnt be much effort involved here.
Youre right, said Agathon. After this, well tell Ares we need more of challenge. The sooner we show him what were made of, the sooner we can both be off doin our own thing. This co- commander stuff is bogus.
Xena agreed. She definitely wished she were commanding on her own today. Agathon seemed to know what he was doing, and that made it difficult. If he were a complete imbecile, she could simply dismiss him, but since he wasnt, she would actually have to work with him.
She was aware of a distant, barely perceptible flash of lightning. She counted silently. Then came the soft, but unmistakable roll of thunder. Ten seconds, she thought to herself.
Agathon ran his hand along the edge of his sword. I havent done this for so long. Im telling you, Xena, I can almost taste the blood.
Stick to the plan we agreed on, Agathon, Xena warned. Were not going to go in there and start slaughtering everybody.
Im not that crazy about our plan, he said, still fingering his sword.
Ive done this more often than you have, Xena replied. Mass killing might be fun, but its a big waste of time. You cant sell dead people as slaves, now can you?
I guess not, he answered, looking at the city with steely eyes. Not unless you talk fast and prop em up real nice.
Xena gave Agathon a disgusted look, but he just continued gazing at Theopolis. There was another flash of lightning, followed by thunder. Xena observed that this time, they were only nine seconds apart. This is it, she thought. Sorry, Zeus, muttered the Warrior Princess under her breath, but my life is my own.
Its about time you showed up. Were getting close to zero hour.
Take it easy, Methodicus, David said. It only started raining a little while ago.
I just dont want to cut it too close, Methodicus replied. Weve only got one shot at this, you know.
David seemed a bit troubled -- lost in thought. Yes, I know.
The rains getting harder already, Scott observed.
Yeah, it doesnt take long for Zeus temper to build once hes really POd, said the god. And Xena disappointed him big time.
Gabrielle sighed and shook her head. With every moment that passed, it was getting more difficult for her to believe in Xena. After all, she thought, wasnt the coming storm further proof that Xena truly had betrayed everything she stood for?
So whats the deal here? Methodicus continued. Do you guys have to be pretty close to this thing for it to grab you?
Wed better stay within about ten feet of the pod, said Scott. And you and Gabrielle should stand plenty clear.
Then lets get into position, Methodicus ordered. He had to speak more loudly now to be heard over the increasing volume of the rain and thunder. I dont think we have much time.
Remember, we only have about a sixty second window when the storm is directly over us. Thats the only time that thisll work.
OK, lets do it, Scott said. I assume you can turn on the tether generator, he queried Methodicus.
Believe me, if Aphrodite could turn it off ... the god began, peering inside the pod.
Dave, shouted Scott. Come on over. Gabrielle, you should stay where you are.
David turned to Gabrielle and, taking her gently by the shoulders, kissed her softly.
Youre not leaving right now, Gabrielle said with a little smile.
Then why does it feel like I am? he said as he held her. Then, looking her in the eye again, he added, You wait here, OK?
The bard nodded. Even with rain dripping from her face and making her hair stick to her, David still thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. In fact, just now she seemed more beautiful than ever. He reluctantly turned away and walked over to where Methodicus and Scott stood.
Alright, here we go! yelled Methodicus. He activated the generator, then moved away from the pod. Now all we do is wait for that magic moment.
Its just about time, Agathon, Xena said. Lets ready the men.
Bithcin, Agathon replied. He followed her back to where their small but bloodthirsty army waited for orders.
Neither Xena, nor Agathon, nor any of the soldiers seemed to find the rain, which was now beginning to come down in sheets, the least bit daunting. On the contrary, they saw it as an advantage. The lightning had gotten brighter and more menacing and the thunder was louder. Xena continued to count the difference between the two. She noted that it was down to five seconds now.
Are you sure we can trust these men? Xena asked Agathon.
You keep saying that, Agathon complained. Youre getting on my nerves. Theyve got blood in their eyes, but theyre sworn to absolute obedience to us. They swore that to Ares himself!
OK, OK, she acquiesced. She brushed a lock of rain-soaked hair out of her face. Lets go. There was more lightning and thunder. Four seconds, she thought.
You heard the babe, dudes! Agathon shouted. Lets do it!
Wicked shouts of joy erupted from the ranks of warriors. With Xena and Agathon leading the pack, they thundered across the muddy ground toward Theopolis.
By the time the guards at the gates realised the city was under attack, there was no time to make preparations to greet the advancing legion. The heavy rain and the sounds of the storm had perfectly masked the armys approach until they were almost upon the city. It seemed as though the gods themselves were working to ensure their success in taking this place -- a place that, by its name, purported to be the very city of the gods.
In accordance with Xenas plan, twenty of the men were carrying a large battering ram. As a show of strength, they were to break down the city gates without warning, then once inside, they would disarm and hold anyone with a weapon while Xena and Agathon attempted to extract a surrender. It was quite a test of the soldiers loyalty, expecting them to restrain themselves from shedding the blood of hundreds of defenseless civilians -- like putting candy in front of a child and expecting him to ignore it. War was not always a pleasant business.
Somewhat to Xenas surprise, the army complied with orders quite well. They apparently didnt take lightly an oath to the god of war. They easily broke through the gates and stood ready, awaiting further orders, though even in the pouring rain, Xena could tell they were drooling at the hope of a massacre.
She timed the difference between another lightning bolt and its accompanying thunder clap at two seconds. Its getting closer, she thought.
Xena began to shout in a voice strong enough to be clearly heard over the storm. In the name of Ares, god of war, we claim this city! Surrender to us and your lives will be spared! She could hear the frustrated grunts of her soldiers. Who is your governor? she demanded.
She could see a handsome, stocky figure approaching through the rain. He, too, seemed undaunted by the downpour.
When he was close enough to Xena and Agathon to see the whites of their eyes, he began speaking. I am Tiberus, governor of Theopolis. By what right do you make these demands of us?
Weve already told you, the warrior princess answered. This city belongs to us now -- and to Ares. She paused, staring at him. We can take it the easy way, or the hard way.
Tiberus leaned closer to her, squinting his eyes. Youre Xena, arent you? he said. Xena did not seem startled at being recognised. Weve heard stories that you had turned from the ways of conquest, Tiberus continued. Some even said you were here recently -- making peace -- turning away Ares.
Yeah, well, you know how rumours are, Xena retorted with no smile at all. Now, Tiberus ...whats it going to be?
Tiberus folded his arms. His face turned from curious to steadfast. We will not surrender, he declared. His determined words were underscored by piercing lightning and thunder that were virtually simultaneous, signaling Xena that the storm was now directly over them.
Not smart! declared Agathon, drawing his sword and raising it high.
Back off, Agathon! ordered Xena. Still speaking to Agathon, she looked at Tiberus, an evil grin enveloping her face. Hes mine!
Cool, Xena, replied Agathon. You know what to do. From his pack, he produced a sheepskin bag. Im ready, he said.
Xena recognised the bag. So did Tiberus. It was what warriors often referred to as a trophy bag. In certain circles, it was traditional to bring back a head from among ones conquests as a memento -- usually the head of the commander of the opposing army, or in this case, the governor of the city.
She looked at the bag for a moment, then back at the governor. Hes right, she said, with no trace of compassion in her voice. Youd do a lot better for yourself and your people to change your call.
And what kind of life would we have as conquered people? he asked rhetorically. Weve all talked of this before. Wed rather die than surrender.
So be it, Xena said. She raised her sword high above Tiberus head. The skies were dark from the storm. A flash of lightning illuminated the scene for an instant. One second later, by Xenas count, a crash of thunder added a further dash of suspense to the macabre still life. Tiberus shut his eyes and calmly prepared for a swift but painful passage into the Elyssian fields.
Xenas arms relaxed for a moment as they continued to hold up her sword. Fool! she said, making sure to sound as fierce as possible. Are you sure about this?
Oh, for Zeus sake, Xena! cried Agathon. Have you forgotten how to do this, or what? He rushed her, and, taking her by surprise, managed to push her out of the way. His sword glinted in a burst of lightning as he hefted it into the air and aimed it sharply at Tiberus neck. This is how you deal with an uppity governor! he announced triumphantly.
The torrential rain pounded the trees above the clearing, sending generous amounts of water down through the tangled foliage overhead. David, Scott, Methodicus, and Gabrielle simply waited. The storm was almost directly over them, and if Methodicus was right, there would shortly be about sixty seconds during which the travelers machine could grab them and connect them once again to the time from whence they came. Now that they were all in position and the machine was on, one minute seemed like quite a comfortable window.
Both Scott and Methodicus were keeping their fingers crossed that the plan would work. David, however, seemed distant and increasingly agitated. Because of the darkness of the storm, he could barely see Gabrielle across the clearing.
You alright, Dave? Scott asked.
Uh ... yeah, yeah, Im ... fine, said David, his eyes still fixed on the shadowy figure of the bard. A sheet of lightning illuminated the clearing and for an instant, even from a distance, David could swear that he could see into Gabrielles eyes. His own eyes widened. No! he suddenly shouted, and began bounding across the clearing toward her.
Dave! Scott called after him. Dave, what are you doing?
David continued to run toward the bard, splashing mud as he went.
As he neared Gabrielle, she stared at him with incredulous eyes. David, arent you supposed to stay over there? she asked him worriedly when he was close enough to hear.
Gabrielle, I cant, he answered, slightly out of breath. This is crazy. I dont want to go back. This is my home now. This is where I belong -- here, with you.
Suddenly, Scott felt a jolt, then after a moment, the familiar tug of the artificial tether in his abdomen. He smiled broadly and looked toward Methodicus, giving him a thumbs up. Methodicus returned the gesture, then pointed toward David with a concerned expression.
Dave! Scott shouted. Its working! Youve got less than a minute! Get back over here!
David seemed not to hear him at all. You dont have to be alone, Gabrielle, he said. He reached for her and she put her hand against his. Their fingers intertwined. Say youll marry me. Tell me I can live the rest of my days here with you by my side.
More than anything she had ever wanted, Gabrielle wanted to throw her arms around him and welcome him home -- to tell him that she would, of course, marry him. She couldnt keep from imagining herself living without this pain, this lonliness. And so she knew that what she was about say would perhaps be the most difficult words she ever uttered.
No, David, she said, clutching his hand tightly and slowly shaking her head. She just looked at him for a moment, trying to disguise how hard it was for her to push the words out. We both know the way things have to be. You belong with your people, and I belong here -- with or without Xena.
David hung his head. Gabrielle let her staff fall and slipped her arms around his waist. They held each other close as the rain masked their tears.
Look inside yourself, she said. You know Im right.
He sadly nodded as he ran his hand through her rain-soaked hair. Yes, I know, he answered.
I know, too, came a voice from behind him. He turned his head to see Methodicus pointing toward Scott and the pod. Now get your butt over there!
David turned back to Gabrielle. Youd better go, she said. He nodded and began walking away, touching her for as long as he could until only their fingertips were in contact. She sadly watched as he walked over to where Scott, and his future, waited.
Methodicus smirked and shook his head as he, too, watched David follow his lamentable destiny.
His expression changed as he turned to Gabrielle. Listen, he said, putting a hand to her shoulder, Im ... sorry about the way things have worked out for you.
The bard looked at him curiously.
Well, Hercules isnt the only god who gives a damn about mortals once in a while, you know, he said defensively. Hes just more ... incessant about it.
Thanks, Methodicus, she said, giving him a grateful smile. I guess Ill be OK. She looked back toward David.
As David neared Scott, he experienced a jolt that made his hair stand on end, then he, too, felt the future in his belly.
You made it just in time, Scott told him with relief. I think the storms beginning to move away. One close look at David told Scott that he was not in a mood to rejoice and, giving Davids shoulder an understanding pat, Scott said nothing more.
David could again see only Gabrielles silhouette. She was standing holding her staff, her hair tossed by the winds. She looked so strong. Shell need that strength in the days ahead of her, thought David. By tomorrow night, hed be gone and she would be alone. He knew that the personal storms ahead for Gabrielle would easily dwarf anything born of Zeus fury.
The scores of people gathered at the gates of Theopolis paid little mind to the driving wind and rain. The army watched with anticipation as Agathon prepared to relieve Tiberus shoulders of the burden of a head. The guards and citizens who had been rendered ineffective watched with a mixture of pride and horror as their beloved governor stood firm in their shared conviction that death was preferable to slavery. Xena continued to anxiously count the seconds between lightning and thunder.
Two. She counted two! The last time it had been one. At last, the storm was moving away. It was time. The Warrior Princess sprang into action.
Agathons sword slashed the air en route to its target, but before it reached home, it had an abrupt encounter with something far more solid than Tiberus neck. With the loud clang of metal against metal, Xenas sword stopped Agathons blade cold and pushed it clear of the governor.
Look, forget it, Xena, Agathon snarled. You were taking way too long to handle this. Im takin over. He again pulled back his sword and readied it to behead Tiberus.
Thats where youre wrong ... dude, sneered Xena mockingly. With a shrill cry, she kicked him sharply in the side, knocking him well away from striking distance of his would-be trophy.
Tiberus was getting a bit confused, having prepared himself for death twice in the last two minutes, only to have his life saved by the woman who first threatened it.
I dont know what kind of power trip youre on, but its over, declared Agathon. Its time to trash this place. He turned toward their waiting soldiers. Kill em all! he ordered. Lets do it!
The warriors were only too glad to oblige. They had dreamed of such an order since they began their march toward the city. They drew their swords and eyed the townspeople hungrily.
No! Xena barked before a single blade could pierce Theopolean flesh. Stand your ground! With a collective groan, the soldiers reluctantly complied.
Hey! Agathon yelled to the men as he stood up. Are you gonna listen to a chick? He motioned to them and mocked the sound of a whip cracking. Come on! You know what you wanna do. So do it!
As they began to again draw their swords, Xenas voice boomed over the rain. You gonna follow Beach Boy? Most of you know me. Youve either fought with me or against me. You know better than to turn on me. Now, sheath your weapons!
Agathon glared at her. They both knew what would happen next. The army, bound tightly by their oath, were split virtually in half over which of the now disagreeing duo they should follow.
The residents of Theopolis were safe and ignored as the soldiers began to turn the ferocity of their bottled-in bloodlust against each other.
Xena turned her attention to Agathon just as he lunged toward her, leading with his sword. She leaped into the air, leaving only empty space for his blade to pierce. He found himself sprawled in the mud and looked back to see Xena land on her feet, facing him.
He tackled her and as their soldiers continued to eliminate each other, the two rolled over and over in the mud, each trying to gain the upper hand.
Wow, Xena, he exclaimed. In another situation, this could be kinda ... you know ... exciting!
In your dreams, Dragathon! retorted the Warrior Princess as she grabbed hold of his arms and flipped him backward over her head.
As she rose to her feet, he managed to land on his and rushed at her while her back was to him. She ducked in time to avoid lethal contact and used his own momentum to again hurl him through the air. He again landed well and the two faced each other.
Give it up, Muscle Man, Xena said, her eyes narrow and a sinister grin on her lips.
No way! Agathon replied. This is way too much fun.
He came at her screaming fiercely, his long, gleaming sword extended toward her. How typically male, she thought.
In the nick of time, she crouched down and, with a yell of her own, intercepted his knees, sending him once again face first into the deepening mud. This time, she was close at hand by the time he regained his sight and each time he attempted to rise, her foot found some part of his face or other to be a convenient target.
Finally, she stood over him, her weapon pointing straight down at him, and his up at her. By this time, the brawling soldiers (those that remained standing), had quieted down somewhat, realising that the question of who to obey would soon be decided.
What gives, Xena? Agathon said, panting. I thought we were a team.
Agathon, she replied with an exasperated tone, looking straight into his eyes, dont be such a blonde. With that, she quickly pulled back her sword and, with a mighty swing and a loud triumphant clang, knocked his from his grip. He watched, dumbfounded, as it flew well out of his reach, landing in the wet grass. He looked back at Xena to see the point of her blade less than an inch from his nose.
His expression changed to one of anger. What are you waiting for, Xena? he sneered. End it! He waited, then loudly demanded, Come on! Or is that too much to ask of a WOMAN?
The Warrior Princess raised her weapon high. Lets do it! she breathed, and brought the sword swiftly down upon Agathons head.
Gabrielle absent-mindedly observed herself in a motionless pond as she slowly brushed her hair. It was morning, or perhaps afternoon -- which, she couldnt tell. She wasnt even quite certain where she was -- only that she was alone.
What are you thinking about? she heard a voice ask. She dropped her hairbrush and reached for her staff as she quickly looked around to find the origin of the sound.
Down here, goofball, mocked the same voice. It sounded very close, though the bard could see no-one nearby. As she visually swept the area, something caught her eye in the pond. When she looked, there seemed to be nothing there -- not even a ripple. But as she continued gazing at the water, she began to notice that she seemed strangely out of sync with her own reflection. It didnt move when she moved.
Then it did move, but on its own. Yeah, its me, it said. I asked you a question. What are you thinking about? I know how you contemplate heavy junk while you brush your hair.
You cant be talking to me, the bard reasoned. You are me.
Well, duh! retorted the image in the water. Look, its time we had a serious talk. Im tired of us having to lose out on happiness all the time because you keep screwing it up.
What are you talking about? Gabrielle asked.
What am I talking about? repeated the reflection. Lets see. Lets go over the events of the past month, shall we? First, you fall in love with a guy that you know has to leave. Theres a smart move. Strike one. But Love comes to the rescue. Aphrodite tries to help you out by trapping him here.
I dont need that kind of help, countered the bard.
Yeah, sure you dont. Anyway, the reflection continued, things are looking up. He asks you to marry him. But then you go and blab to Xena about it -- strike two.
Shes my best friend! Gabrielle said defensively. I had to tell someone.
Come on! the pond bard challenged. You knew she wasnt too happy about the idea of you and David together. I know you knew. Remember, Im you.
OK, so what? the real bard asked.
So its no big surprise that she felt betrayed and found it easy to cut out, given the chance. And that chance just happened to be the way to get Davy out of here too. So you lose both at once. Nice shot.
Look, Ive been over that with Methodicus already, Gabrielle said. You heard his answer to that one.
Oh, yeah, I remember, said the reflection, rolling her eyes. That was a nice easy out answer for you. Just blame it all on the Fates.
Are you saying all this is my fault? asked the bard indignantly.
Check out the final chapter. After everything thats happened, Davy says, Gabrielle, I dont want to go home. I want to stay with you for the rest of my life. Hes ready to give up everything and start over in a totally foreign culture just to be with you. And you turn him down. Strike three, youre out.
Gabrielle was silent for a moment. I was only trying to do what was right, she replied sadly, looking into the distance.
Thats one way to look at it, I guess, said the girl in the water. But you did just willingly trade in a life with the man you love for a life alone.
It wasnt meant to be! the bard forced herself to say.
Oh, yeah, the reflection said. I remember your speech. You belong there, I belong here.
Look inside yourself. Look inside yourself? Where did you get that? Even you wouldnt write something that bad!
Gabrielle picked up the biggest rock she could find -- one that she needed both hands to lift. Write this! she snarled as she threw it into the pond, dissolving the surly version of herself into a million tiny ripples. When the water quieted, her reflection was once again a mere compliant image, mimicking her every move without additional comment.
She looked into the sky, her gaze searching back and forth. Morpheus! she called angrily. She waited a moment, as if expecting an answer. Listen, thanks for the little chat with my own self- doubt and everything, but I think its about time for this dream to end, dont you?
After a few seconds, there came a sound from everywhere and nowhere. Alright, Gabrielle. Have it your way.
The bards eyelids began to flutter as she stirred restlessly. She was aware of a voice.
Have it your way, Gabrielle.
She opened her eyes to see Davids affectionate, playful smile.
Just sleep through our last day together, he was saying. See if I care.
She groaned sleepily, wrapping her arms around his neck and giving him a warm squeeze. How long has the sun been up? she yawned.
Oh, just a little while, he answered. You didnt miss much.
As she stretched, she became aware of a familiar aroma wafting toward her. Pan bread, she declared. You made pan bread?
Scott did, David replied. Come and have some. He took her by the hand and brought her near the fire. She stumbled a little as her feet sank into the dirt, still quite soft from yesterdays rainstorm. As she sat down and caught more of the smell, she began to realise how hungry she was, probably from having slept so late.
Good morning, beamed Scott as he handed her a warm piece of bread.
Gabrielle smiled and took a bite. This is wonderful, she said. What did you do to it?
I made it just like you do, Scott answered, except I prepared a little of the sap from this tree and added it to the dough. It gives it a kind of sweet taste.
The bard hungrily took another bite. You never told us you could cook, she said.
Its no big deal, he shrugged with a smile. I just figured you might appreciate sleeping in this morning.
In some ways that was true, she thought. Yesterday had been tiring. The storm had finally ended sometime in mid-afternoon. Then, she and David had had to deal all over again with the reality of Davids departure and Gabrielles ensuing loneliness. With a little moral support from Scott, they had finally reached the conclusion that the only thing to do was to make the best of the time remaining rather than ruin even that by mourning over the future. Gabrielle had all but decided not to go back to Poteidaia. She had begun to visualise herself as a lone, traveling bard, and was actually beginning to feel a twinge of excitement at such a prospect.
So Scott, she said as she finished off the last piece of the sweet bread, has your little trip to ancient Greece turned out anything like you thought it would?
How many languages can you say no way in? he replied. After taking another bite himself, he continued, But from a historical research point of view, weve gotten a lot of very valuable stuff. For instance, the business about the gods actually existing -- well probably write a whole dissertation on that alone.
And Theopolis, David added. We never knew Theopolis existed. The ruins must be buried very deep for some reason. Now that we know where it is, well probably be able to dig it up.
Well, Xena and Agathon have probably already created some nice ruins for you, Gabrielle said with some disgust in her voice. Xena the warlord doesnt tend to leave much standing.
The time travelers grew silent. David touched Gabrielles hand lightly. She took his hand and continued to eat, looking at the sky, the ground, brushing back her hair. It was clear to David that she was attempting to appear nonchalant, as if thoughts of Xena had no effect on her. He knew that she had a long road ahead of her in dealing with her feelings toward the warrior. He was filled not with pity for her, but with gentle admiration.
In the silence, Gabrielle became still and cocked her head. Do you hear that? she said.
What? David asked, noticing no unusual sounds. What do you hear?
The bard listened for another moment. Hoof beats, she answered. And theyre getting closer.
David looked at Scott. They both were beginning to hear it as well. Gabrielle put down her breakfast and stood, her staff firmly in hand. The sound of a horse was unmistakable now, and it was becoming clear that their camp was its destination. The three readied themselves for whatever defense might become necessary.
They stiffened as the foliage rustled in front of them. An off-white muzzle emerged followed by the rest of the familiar mare on top of which the raven-haired warrior sat.
Xena, said Scott with a confused look mixed with the hint of a smile in his eyes.
Gabrielle relaxed a bit, then her expression turned to one of angry suspicion. What are you doing here, Xena? she asked coolly. Have you come to pillage us or something?
Nah! answered Xena, hopping down from Argo. I just brought you a little ... trophy of war, she hissed, grinning and brandishing a sheepskin sack.
The bard recoiled. She had seen trophy bags before. She shuddered at the thought of what was inside. It must be the governor, she thought. She wondered what had possessed Xena to bring it here to show her. What was she hoping to accomplish by rubbing it in?
Xena reached inside the bag and Gabrielle began to hope that Scott would not take offense if she lost the breakfast he had prepared. The warriors hand slowly emerged, clutching a handful of thick, dingy blonde hair.
Thats not Tiberus, thought Gabrielle. He had short, dark hair. Then the bard remembered where she had seen those locks before. Agathon? she asked Xena, pointing sheepishly.
Thats right, Xena said.
But I thought you two were working together, said the bard.
Thats what he thought, too, replied the warrior, maintaining a look of evil joy on her face.
With her other hand, she pulled the bag away to reveal its full contents. No, Xena! Gabrielle screamed, and turned away in time to hear the empty bag hit the ground.
Whatsamatter, Gabby, said Xena with a laugh, havent you ever seen hair before?
Gabrielle, wondering what the warrior meant, began to slowly, cautiously turn back toward her. Xenas hand could barely grip the massive, flowing strands she held, now being freely tossed by the breeze.
Hair? said the bard. But, but dont you usually ... wheres his head?
His head? Yechh! Bad enough to bring this, Xena said, holding the hair up to her nose and sniffing it with a disgusted expression.
I dont get it, admitted the bard. You mean you didnt kill Agathon? You just cut off all his hair?
Hey! Only from his head, Xena corrected her.
There was suddenly a familiar voice from elsewhere in the clearing. Bravo, Xena, bravo, droned Methodicus, smiling and clapping slowly. Quite a little trick you pulled off. Nobody does it better.
Did it work? Xena asked him eagerly.
It worked great, he replied. Thanks to you, tonight, these guys will be history. Or I should say, well be history to them. He uttered his characteristic high-pitched laugh. I cant believe you had me fooled! I shouldve known thered be glaciers in Tartarus before youd join back up with Ares. Especially after he hit you with that Agathon business. That shouldve been a dead giveaway. He shook his head with a smile. By the way, how is the young upstart?
Naked and bald, replied the warrior.
You took his clothes, too? exclaimed the god of science, dissolving into a fit of laughter.
Xena, whats going on? Gabrielle demanded. Do you mean to tell me that this was all an act?
Xena turned to the bard, her evil expression finally giving way to one that was more familiar to Gabrielle -- strong and kind. Yes, Gabrielle, she said. Im sorry I had to keep you in the dark, but I couldnt risk Zeus finding out. It was important for him to think I was for real.
Gabrielle was aghast as everything sank in. She didnt know whether to be overjoyed or angry. On the one hand, she had been duped and hurt and put through an emotional wringer. But on the other, this meant that all of her anxiety about the coming days and years alone, all of her hopelessness at the thought of the Warrior Princess returning to a life of violent conquest, all of that was no longer an issue. She and Xena could be together now as they always had been.
But there was still a question in the bards mind. How far had Xena gone to pull off the charade? She didnt want to ask, but knew she must. How about Theopolis? What happened to them?
No innocent people were killed, Xena answered compassionately, understanding Gabrielles anxiety. She turned to Methodicus. You said the tethers would only be unhooked for about a minute, while the storm was right overhead. So I stalled the action until I could tell the storm was moving away. I knew then that either the plan had worked or it was too late. Either way, I knew I was free to show all my cards and take care of Agathon.
Hearing of the lack of carnage, Gabrielle felt a great wave of relief flood over her.
You know, said Methodicus, finally regaining his composure, Ares isnt gonna like what you did to Agathon. Hell want to make you pay.
Ah, tell him to make like a maimed duck and send me his bill, Xena remarked offhandedly. There was a moment of silence as the group stared at her with confused expressions. Hey, I just scammed the king of the gods, she finally said. I cant help it if Im in a giddy mood.
A wave of barely repressed laughter spread through the gathering. Gabrielle no longer felt torn between anger and joy. She threw her arms around Xena and held on as though her life depended on it. Oh, Xena, she cried, I cant ... I thought ...
I know, said the warrior softly, happily returning the embrace. You thought you had lost me.
Worse, Gabrielle choked, I thought you had lost yourself.
Xena squeezed the bard even tighter and shut her eyes against the tears. Im so sorry I had to hurt you, Gabrielle, she said. With Ares staring at me, I had to be convincing. I never would have gone any further than I did, I swear.
You were very convincing, said David, breaking his silence. You had everyone fooled.
Xena slowly let go of Gabrielle. Not everyone, she said, turning toward Scott. He smiled at her warmly.
Thats right, Gabrielle said to Scott. You were never really convinced that Xena had joined Ares. How did you know?
I just knew Xena wasnt stupid, Scott explained. She had to know that her joining Ares would have a far greater impact on history than David and I being stuck here. Shed never have made a trade like that.
I could see on your face that you werent buying it, Xena said.
But why couldnt you just tell us that? asked Gabrielle.
I didnt want to say anything or even think about it, answered Scott. I didnt want to take a chance that any gods would get wind of it and it would get back to Ares or Zeus.
Hey, wait a minute! Methodicus objected. Im the god of science. Why didnt that neat little piece of logic occur to me?
Well, it wasnt just that, Scott admitted. He looked in Xenas direction. You havent seen the pain in her eyes when she talks about her past. I have. I knew shed never go back to that. The words made Xenas face deeply soften.
Hmph, grunted the god with a smirk. Leave it to a mortal.
Leave it to a friend, added Xena, never taking her eyes off Scott.
But why didnt I think of it? Gabrielle wondered aloud. Ive known Xena longer than anyone. I should have realised.
Deep inside, you probably did, Scott answered. But you were too hurt to think clearly -- too involved. He began to walk toward the bard. Me, Im just a nobody wholl be gone forever before midnight.
Youre not a nobody, Scott, said Gabrielle, laying a hand on his shoulder. Thanks for the ray of hope -- even if it only seemed like a pinhole at the time.
Well, I dont want to disturb this little love in, Methodicus interjected, but I think its time I slunk back into the shadows.
Scott turned toward the god. Thanks for everything, Methodicus. We wouldnt be going home without your help.
Damn right, he replied. Now theres something I want you to do for me. Something I want from the four of you.
What is it? asked Xena with a raised eyebrow, suspiciously dreading the sound of a god calling in a favour.
Simple, said Methodicus. Then he almost whispered, Forget I was ever here. He looked at David. You know me. I like to stay behind the scenes.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, David said.
Well said, Future Boy, Methodicus replied. So, do I have your word? The mortals mumbled general consent. The god narrowed his eyes at Gabrielle. Especially you, Quill Girl.
Alright, alright, she grumbled. I guess Ill have to figure out some way to tell this epic story and leave you out of it.
Uh, Gabrielle, David said sheepishly, maybe you should think again about telling the story at all. Youre supposed to forget we were here too, remember?
Fine, the bard said tersely as she folded her arms in disgust. I cant believe I cant write about this! It could have been the greatest story ever told.
Therell be others, Scott said with a wink in Davids direction.
Well, so long, everybody, said Methodicus. See you in the ... well, Ill see you around. He looked at Gabrielle and his face softened a bit. Heres looking at you ... kid, he said, and in an unobtrusive flash of light, he was gone.
Now that, I think Ill write down, Gabrielle said.
After a moment, Xena spoke. Weve all had an intense couple of days, she suggested. I think we deserve a big farewell dinner tonight.
And I think Scott should fix it, David suggested. You should have tasted his breakfast.
Hey, wait a minute! Scott protested, scowling at his partner. I didnt say ...
So you cook, do you? Xena said as she walked slowly toward the traveler. She gently grabbed the collar of his tunic. Nobody holds out on the Warrior Princess. Im in the mood for wild boar. Ill help you hunt one down, but youve got to butcher it and cook it.
Scott was about to object further, but thought better of it. You know me, he said with a grin. Im always open to new experiences.
Hey, Xena, Gabrielle called, as she idly inspected the contents of the trophy bag, how come some of this hair is tinged red?
Oh, he didnt cooperate very well with his haircut, shrugged the warrior, adding with one final return of her evil grin, I mightve nicked him a little.
The bard shook her head and smiled as she scrutinised the stained locks.
Lets get going, Scott, said Xena. Our dinners not gonna just jump onto my sword.
Whatever you say, laughed Scott, as he followed her through the trees. David and Gabrielle listened as the sounds of Xena and Scott talking and laughing faded into the thick woods.
Im glad youre not going to be alone, Gabrielle, David said.
Me too, replied the bard, as she easily slipped into his embrace.
He gazed into the crystal green pools of warmth that were her eyes. Ill miss you so much, he said sadly.
Gabrielle gently put her finger to his lips. Shhh, she whispered, and as they began to exchange soft, lingering kisses, they both found themselves hoping that the boar would prove a formidable prey for Xena, prolonging the hunt for as great a time as possible.
So the world is round, you say, remarked Xena lazily, staring into the dying fire, intoxicated both by the wine and by the sensation of completely sated hunger. Scott was, indeed, a quite competent cook. The boar had been tender and flavoured with various herbs and the four had all eagerly eaten beyond their fill. OK, its round.
David appeared bewildered. I guess I thought that would surprise you more, he said.
Xena pulled the chakram off her belt. Well, no-ones ever gotten close enough to the edge to map it, she said. She held up the circular weapon and scrutinised it from various angles.Round makes about as much sense as any shape.
Oh, said David, I dont mean round like that. I mean round like ... He searched the ground, finally finding and picking up a nearly spherical stone. ... like this. Like a ball.
Thats crazy, chimed in Gabrielle. Look at all the wasted space!
David turned toward the bard. What do you mean? he asked.
Well, look, pretty much everyone has to live right around here, she explained, running her finger around the top part of the rock, because if you live too far from the top, youre going to slide right off. So the whole thing except this little area up here is a waste.
Oh, I see, chuckled David. Thats not true. See, everything is pulled ...
Dave, Scott interrupted in an admonishing tone, youre doing it again.
Doing it? David said with feigned innocence.
Ix-nay on the uture-fay owledge-knay, said Scott with clenched teeth.
Yeah, look whos talking, David laughed. Youre the one who got us into all this trouble by explaining the time pod to Xena.
How was I to know Aphrodite was snooping around? Scott protested.
David turned apologetically to Gabrielle. This is more of that stuff youre supposed to pretend you never heard, OK?
No problem, replied the bard with a crooked smile.
Great dinner, Scott, said Xena, changing the subject. Maybe I should have let you stay trapped here after all.
I can think of worse fates, Scott replied. Then, with a wink, But if I can roast a boar, so can you. You should try it sometime.
Gabrielle snickered at the suggestion. Xena narrowed her eyes at Scott and took another sip of wine as the four fell into a contented silence. Calm twilight had settled over the clearing like a comforting blanket -- an appropriate setting for this night of sweet sorrow. David noticed an occasional breeze disturb Gabrielles hair. He smiled wearily.
Presently, a sound similar to, yet not at all like, a birds song was heard. It seemed to be coming from the time pod.
Thats a warning, Scott said in answer to Xenas questioning eyes. The pod is leaving in fifteen minutes.
They all slowly stood, aware of the urgency of the moment, yet wanting desperately to preserve the relaxed atmosphere.
I guess this is it, said Gabrielle. She approached Scott, knowing it would take a few moments for her to be able to bear bidding David farewell.
Scott was straightening his tunic and seemed a bit startled by her presence near him, though pleasantly so. He stopped what he was doing and gladly turned his full attention toward the bard. Gabrielle, I ... I never got to know you very well ... but I know Dave, and I know how he feels about you, and ... well, you must be somebody pretty special.
I guess you are too, Scott, she replied. Xena doesnt call just anyone a friend.
That made Scott feel especially good, and he could not conceal a broad smile. The two embraced warmly. Goodbye, Gabrielle, he whispered. Thank you.
As they ended the hug, the bard turned to see Xena standing nearby, waiting. She backed away to allow the warrior a chance to say goodbye to Scott. Still, she dared not look at David for fear she might lose her composure.
Xena, Scott began, feigning a scolding tone, youve ruined me for life, you know. Now that Ive known you, anyone else I meet is gonna seem boring.
The barest hint of a smile crossed her lips. Ill miss you too ... Scotty.
He laughed a little at the mention of Aphrodites nickname for him. He took a step forward and reached out for Xenas hand. She clasped his forearm smartly as she would have a fellow warriors and held on.
You know, Scott said, looking her directly in the eye, you wouldnt make a bad goddess of love yourself.
Get in your machine, she replied, without changing her expression. They slowly released each other from the mutually understood substitute for an embrace and with a salute, Scott walked off toward the pod.
With a sad look in Gabrielles direction, David now approached Xena. The warrior seemed a bit uncomfortable. She had little idea how to react to the man whom she felt had very nearly stolen her best friend away, yet whom she also knew that her best friend cared very deeply for.
Xena, said David nervously, sensing her mixed emotions, I want to thank you for everything. Especially for saving my life back in Theopolis.
You needed help, she answered. I guess I would have done it for anyone.
David nodded. We have something very important in common, Xena.
For a moment, the warriors steely blue eyes drilled into Davids. Then at once, they softened and she reached out, taking him by the shoulders. I know, she said. We both care for Gabrielle very much.
Xena, said David, I know shes a big girl and can take care of herself, but ... well ... take good care of her, OK?
Count on it, she answered, a smile characteristically hidden behind her eyes.
Thank you, he said, gently pulling her close. Goodbye, Xena.
Gabrielle was biting her lip and looking nervously at the ground as she felt Davids eyes upon her. As he slowly approached her, Xena and Scott each politely found other things to do.
We have to say it sometime, said David softly.
As the bard looked up at him, a tear escaped her eye. She wiped it away with the back of her hand.
Look up at the sky, Gabrielle, he said. She looked up to see a half-moon and the stars beginning to shine as darkness fell. Remember how I told you the sky wont change much in three thousand years, continued David. When Im home and I look up, the stars and the moon will look almost exactly like this. So when I look at the sky, and you look at it here, well both be looking at the same sky. Itll almost be like were together.
She silently smiled, and with eyes that were almost apologetic, she began to slowly shake her head.
His expression fell. Youre right, he finally said. Youre right. Its not enough. Its not nearly enough. He could barely choke out the words as the dam burst. With tears streaming uncontrollably down both of their faces, the two held each other so tightly that it hurt. For the last time, David ran his fingers through her hair, letting them drown in the cascading strawberry falls.
He wished he could take with him something, a lock of her hair, anything -- but he knew he could not, even if he tried. It all belonged to this time. Just like Gabrielle herself, he thought with an unbearably heavy heart.
Ill never forget you, he vowed, never.
You better not, replied the bard as she tried to regain control, her arms still wrapped around David.
The birdsong from the pod seemed to grow louder now.
Dave, Scott called reluctantly. When he had gotten Davids attention, he held up a fisted left hand and, with his right index finger, tapped his own wrist.
David seemed to understand the gesture to mean that the departure of the pod was imminent. I have to go, he told the bard.
I know, she sadly replied.
Gabrielle, he said, taking her gently by the shoulders, dont ever stop doing what you do.
She smiled knowingly. Goodbye, David, she said, almost in a whisper.
He lovingly kissed her hand and, finally letting go, turned and walked toward the waiting pod. He slowly climbed in and settled himself next to Scott. As Scott sealed the opening, David gazed intently at Gabrielle, wanting to burn her image into his mind for as long as he possibly could.
The bards eyes never wavered from the pod as it began to take on the same eerie glow she remembered seeing a month ago, before she had ever heard of David Gold. The birdsong gave way to a loud buzzing which grew steadily more intense along with the glow, until slowly, it all faded from view. Except for a patch of ground that seemed slightly disturbed by the pods weight, it was as though the mysterious travelers had never existed.
Gabrielle stared for a long time at the place where the pod had been, almost wondering herself if the events she remembered from the past month had actually happened. When Xena approached her and put a compassionate arm around her, she turned to the warrior and began to cry -- even harder than she had cried with David.
I ... Im sorry, Xena, she sobbed, I cant help it.
Gabrielle, you have nothing to be sorry for, Xena cooed softly as she held the bard. It needs to come out. Its alright.
The twilight faded into darkness as Gabrielles tears reached their inevitable end. Xena rekindled from embers the fire that had seared the flesh of the boar. She sat and stared into it as the exhausted bard lay down and rested her head on the warriors lap.
Xena, Gabrielle began, I have to know something. How did you manage to hide your true intentions from the gods when they can see our thoughts? Especially when Ares was staring right at you.
Well, answered the warrior, there always was, and I guess always will be, a part of me that enjoyed my old ways -- a part that finds Ares offers tempting. I just temporarily made those desires rise to the surface and cover over my true thoughts. It wasnt easy to do. And it wasnt easy to stay in control.
Amazing, exclaimed the bard. You fooled the gods, Xena. You even fooled the king of the gods!
Gabrielle, I would just as soon not be too loud about that. Maybe we can keep it to ourselves, huh?
Everybody around here wants to keep things secret, sighed Gabrielle. Why, Xena?
The gods are pretty proud, Xena explained. I have enough problems with them. I dont want them to blame me for their embarrassment. Id really prefer not to be on their bad side.
Gabrielle thought for a moment. David says theyre not really gods at all -- just superior beings from another world who use their power to control us and take advantage of us.
Whats the difference? Xena asked blankly.
Gabrielles response was a wry grin and a change of subject. Xena, I dont fall in love all that often, do I?
If you say so, answered the warrior with an affectionate smirk.
So how come every time I do, its somebody who ends up getting killed, or having to leave ...
Uh huh, Xena chimed in, or hes already engaged ...
Yeah, mused the bard.
Or he turns out to be a demon ...
Thats enough examples, Xena.
Sorry. Xena stroked the bards hair. Gabrielle, this is a hard kind of life youve chosen. It doesnt make it easy to latch on to a lasting relationship. She was silent for a time. Our friendship is about the most solid thing Ive ever had.
Gabrielle looked up at the gentle warrior. Me too, Xena, she said. I love you, you know?
Yeah, I know.
The fire sputtered. Some sparks flew off and disappeared into the darkness.
When we were talking about David and me getting married, you were going to tell me something. You never got to tell me. What was it?
The warrior felt her face flush and she shifted uncomfortably. Its ... not important right now.
You need to get some rest.
Normally, Gabrielle would have pressed harder for an answer, but her body was indeed quite weary and so she quietly decided to follow Xenas prescription. She shifted a little to nestle her head more snugly into the warriors lap.
Xenas eyes softened as she watched the bard and felt her relax. Her lips barely moved as she silently whispered. I love you too, Gabrielle.
With little else but the quiet crackle of the fire filling her ears and the fingers of her closest friend in the world running slowly through her hair, the bard of Poteidaia drifted off to sleep and dreamed of a round earth amidst eternal stars.
|Special thanks to Renee OConnor, an actress of exceptional calibre, for bringing to life the character of Gabrielle, for us all to know, love, dream about, and write about.|
EPILOGUE - 2086
A knock at the door of the habitrailer startled Professor Gold from his reverie. He had been busy packing for the trip back to Chicago and having sat down to take a break, he had become temporarily lost in thought. He touched the panel next to the door and it slid open with a hum.
Hi, Scott, he said as the visitor was revealed.
Hows it going, Dave? said Scott as he entered without an invitation. You mean to tell me you arent packed yet? I thought youd be anxious to get back to your own office.
Believe me, I am, replied David. Its just that being here in Greece brings back a lot of memories. He laughed a bit. I know that might seem silly.
Silly? Why? The XX was only six months ago, Scott said, using the nickname the University had adopted for the Xena expedition. The expedition retained the honour of being the longest ever, though there were rumours of plans to send travelers to prehistoric times, involving Paleontology, a department which had been anxiously waiting for a crack at the Lorien pod. By the way, have you submitted your paper on the ancient gods yet?
Not finished yet, said David. Frankly, Im really stuck on how to approach it.
Boy, mused Scott, when you publish that, its going to set off some chain reaction -- all the way up to the SETI people. The idea that aliens actually resided on earth long term thousands of years ago.
Thats just it, Scott, David said. We never really did get confirmation that they were actually aliens -- I mean, the way were thinking of it.
What do you mean, Dave? What else could they be? We saw enough evidence of their powers to know they werent just charlatans.
I mean they claimed to be gods, David explained, and they never confirmed that they were just alien visitors with superior technology.
So what are you saying? Scott prodded. That they were actually some kind of supernatural deities?
All Im saying is that we dont know for sure what they were.
Because if you say that, Scott continued, as though he hadnt heard David, youll get laughed right out of the University -- maybe even the whole scientific community.
David looked blankly past Scott, as though he were focused on something just beyond him. Touché, Methodicus, he muttered.
Anyway, Scott said, Its been a little strange for both of us, being over here in Greece. We both have a lot of emotional investment in this place.
Thats for sure, said David. You know Dr. Shanty wasnt too crazy about how ... personally involved we got on the XX.
Denise was OK with it, I think, replied Scott. She trusts our judgment. Her bosses were a little freaked out, though.
Yeah, well, it makes me wonder why they brought us here to oversee the dig at all.
Because were the undisputed experts on Theopolis, Scott answered proudly. Its only because of the data we brought back that they knew where to look for it.
Yeah, I guess youre right, conceded David. Weve never found so many well-preserved artifacts from that era before. And we owe it all to the fact that Theopolis was buried under so much rock.
Actually, Scott said, thats what I came to talk to you about. Theres something the team found in the ruins that I wanted to show you. He held up an almost intact scroll, still rolled up.
David looked at it, somewhat incredulous. Are you sure that was found here? he asked. Everything here is well-preserved, but not this well.
This seems to have been deliberate, said Scott. Whoever buried it took a lot of trouble to make sure this parchment remained intact. It was sealed inside a ceramic jar -- nothing unusual there -- but then someone took the time to hollow out part of a boulder and seal the jar itself inside.
Very interesting, David said, but why didnt you just put it with the rest of the things? What else is so special about it?
Well, I opened it and read it, explained Scott, And I decided that you should take a look at it. He held it out toward David. Go ahead, read it.
David began to slowly open the scroll which, amazingly, was still supple enough to offer only the slightest resistance. As he caught sight of the quill strokes, he was struck with a vague sense of familiarity.
Are you reading, or just staring? Scott asked impatiently.
Davids eyes began to scan the ancient characters. It seemed to be a poem. He had not lost his fluency in ancient Greek, and the words drew him in as he mentally translated.
|O Golden Love|
Impossible to pursue!
Were our love forbidden by the decree of kings,
Then would I risk all to hold you in my arms.
If twere the gods which put us asunder,
Then would I entreat them ceaselessly
Till they should tire of my groanings and give you to me.
But tis naught but time itself which hath proclaimed we should never meet.
Yet have we indeed met --
Yet have we comforted one another --
Yet have we tasted of pleasures beyond our thoughts.
Together, we have climbed to the top of the highest mountain
And leaped off into a sea of the sweetest honey.
O my Golden One,
Thou art not, though I have known thee!
In truth have you not yet cast even a shadow upon this earth --
Yet my being burns for you each time the sun rises.
Countless kingdoms will rise and fall ere you draw your first breath --
Yet with every breath within me, I call your name day and night.
How may I remember him who has not been?
And how can I look back upon he who is to come?
My Golden David,
I am held to thee by our love,
And it is a tether that no power in heaven or earth can break.
David scratched his head nervously. It ... um ... seems to be some sort of romantic lament, he said, trying to sound collected and professional.
You know very well what it is, Scott said softly. Dont deny it. Thats why I brought it to you. Its your personal mail. Three thousand years in the dead letter office.
Youre getting pretty good at jumping to conclusions, David retorted.
You know as well as I do, Golden David, that Gabrielle wrote that for you. Thats why she sealed it up so well. She knew wed dig it up someday.
I dont know, David said absently, wanting to believe it, but afraid to.
Scott sighed, then reached into his pocket. Look, I wasnt sure if this was important, he said, but it was sealed up inside the jar along with that scroll. Maybe itll mean something to you. I dont know. He held out a loosely closed fist to David.
David reached out and allowed Scott to drop the object into his hand. He held it in his palm and at first was unable to move. Then he slowly brought it closer to his face to see it more clearly. The dove stone, he barely whispered. He rubbed the stone gently between his fingers, wondering if the ravages of time had rendered it fragile. Satisfied that it was as solid as ever, he squeezed it so hard that the edges dug into his palm. The lump in his throat threatened to cut off his air supply, and the salty moisture in his eyes was beginning to sting.
Scott, I ... I need ...
Its alright, Dave, Scott said softly as he reached for the door panel. Take all the time you need. Our plane leaves in the morning. Ill see you then, OK?
David nodded appreciatively as Scott disappeared and the door slid closed behind him. For a while, he simply sat, alone with the dove stone and the scroll, which he was now certain had been penned by Gabrielle. He began to remember her more vividly than ever. He wished it werent so.
A part of him wished he could believe that it had all been just some elaborate dream. He couldnt move for some time, frozen solid by the painful memory of a love lost forever.
All at once, as by a sheer act of will, he briskly rose and left the trailer, taking the scroll and the stone with him. It was a short drive to the eastern shore. On the way, he thought about the things he had told her when they said goodbye -- how he had pointed to the sky and said that if they both looked at the same stars, it would be as if they were together -- how they had both agreed what a futile, desperate attempt that was to stave off despair. It was definitely not good enough. But tonight, it would have to do.
When he arrived, he parked his hovercar a good distance from the waters edge. He wanted to get far from it, to feel isolated from technology, anything to help him recapture the feelings of the most wonderful month of his life.
He walked in the direction of the breaking waves, and when his car was finally out of sight, he sat down on the damp, white sand. He was grateful that it was the off season. At this time of night, he was all alone in the silvery moonlight. The empty beach, the infinite sea, the all-encompassing sound of the sea -- it all reminded him of the countless, though far too few, late evenings he had spent out here with Gabrielle, listening to her read her scrolls.
He looked at the scroll he held in his hand while he fingered the dove stone with the other. A stone, this well-preserved parchment, and probably most of the writings about Xena, fragmented and tattered as they were -- these things were all that were left of the bard he loved. It made him ache terribly to think that even her bones had long since turned to dust.
He exercised his will again and quickly drove the morbid thoughts from his mind, as he knew she would want him to do. As he brought himself again into tune with the woman that she was, it was no longer painful and paralyzing to think of her.
He imagined her face full of contemplation as she wrote the poem. He surmised that she had written it not longer after he left, while she and Xena were still near Theopolis. He wondered what the rest of her life had been like. One thing he hoped with all his might, that she had found one that could love her as deeply as he did. One with whom she could share her most intimate thoughts and feelings, pleasures and heartaches. And one who could stay longer than a month. Much longer. She deserved that.
He smiled as he thought of her sparkling eyes, her laugh, her kiss, the smell of her hair. He looked up at the Big Dipper and chuckled at the name. Holding inside him something that felt like more than memories, David Gold lay down on the sand and gazed at the night sky with his beloved.
Please let me know what you thought of the story. If time permits, please elaborate on what you liked or didnt like. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For my convenience, please include the word fanfic in the subject line. Thank you very much for reading.
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