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Long Time Passing

by Simahoyo

Disclaimer: All characters mine unless copyrighted by Universal and Rennaissance Pictures.

Part I

When Gabrielle looked up from the scroll she was writing, there was Xena, riding her big mare, saddlebags bulging and hair flying. Almost like the old days. She could almost convince herself, until Xena dismounted.

A chiton had replaced the leather armor, her hair was heavily streaked with grey, and she struggled with her saddlebags until the stableboy helped her. Poor Xena, arthritis hampered her every move, and she was blind in one eye from a battle fought long ago. And this...this had all the familiar signs.

Gabrielle put her scroll aside and went to meet Xena.

"Xena!", she called.

They rushed to each other and hugged, heedless of the curious glances of the servants.

"So, you left him...right?", said Gabrielle.

Xena looked embarrassed. She nodded.

"This is the fifth husband you walked out on. And Iolus! I thought it was a bad idea when you married him."

"It seemed like a good idea at the time. Zeus, I feel like a failure. Can I stay here for a while?"

Gabrielle put an arm around her.

"Sure. The kids love their Aunt Xena. And you know I do. Besides, I've been lonely since Taurus left me."

"Like father, like son, I guess. I'm sorry he turned out to be such a jerk." and Xena took Gabrielle's hand, partly in affection, partly for help in seeing her way to the house. Fifty! The years had really flown by. Here was Gabrielle with three kids, a huge estate she had earned herself, and three servants. Xena's right shoulder has throbbing and her knees were creaking. How embarrassing.

Gabrielle was still pretty. Her body showed that she had three children, but only with a little padding around her middle. She still moved gracefully, and any wrinkles just added character to her face. Xena kissed the top of her head and Gabrielle smiled up at her.

"The kids are going to be wild to see you."

"Let's not tell them right away. I hurt like Hades, and I'd like to talk to you. Can you help me with my shoulder?"

"No problem. It's been a real boon having Hippocrates move next door. He's taught me plenty. I guess he wants to stay close to you. He still loves you."

"I know. I just couldn't live with him. But, about my shoulder?"

"Do you still like ecalyptus oil?"

"It stings your eyes, as I recall. Use birch oil instead."

"You don't have plans, do you?", asked Gabrielle in mock horror.

"For you? A respectable matron? A distinguished playwrite?" Xena grinned wickedly. "I sure do."

"Oh Hades, why don't you just move in? The men of Greece aren't safe with you single again anyway. Here, sit down and let me fix your shoulder." Gabrielle sat Xena in a chair, unpinned the chiton at the shoulder and got the bottle of Birch oil. With three active children, it was kept close at hand. She uncorked it, rubbing the stuff into her palms, then in Xena's shoulder. the strong scent filled the air.

"Oh Gods that feels good. I only got married because you wern't availible. That was some speech you father gave you about duty to family. You caved right in." Xena felt Gabrielle's fingers dig in a bit harder than necessary.

"I did not. I was waiting for you to say something. You knew I loved you--so why did you run off with...what was his name?"

"Polonius. I don't know. Taurus was pressuring me, Mother was pressuring me. Polonius was on my case and you wouldn't talk about it. It's too late now. The water is under the bridge."

"Too late? I think it's a great time to get together. The kids love you, I need you. Don't squirm like that, you know I do. And Taurus isn't coming back. Did you know he's trying to get me to support him and that, that cheap little..."

"Easy. I agree with you Gabrielle.."

"Sometimes I agree with my cousin Medea."

Xena started to laugh then. Her sense of humor had developed considerably over the years.

"Ha! I remember the look on Taurus' face when you named your daughter after her. It was priceless. I wish a portrait painter had been there. It was rich. And to think he wanted to name her after me."

"As if there aren't hundreds of little girls all over Greece named Xena. Are you hungry? I have all your favorites."

"Souvlaki? Flat Bread? Stuffed Grape leaves?, asked Xena.

"All of the above, and olives too."

Gabrielle washed the strong oil off her hands, dried them on her skirt and led Xena to the pantry. She opened crocks in the cool room, spooning food onto a large piece of flat bread. She sat Xena on a bench and poured her some wine, then sat next to her as she ate.

"Poor Iolus. I'm a mediocre cook and he's just plain bad. Both of us were too proud to hire anyone to cook for us, so we ate bread and cheese. I'll never be about to look at another piece of feta again. Besides, things were always tense. I don't think he ever quite forgave me for making love to you before he did."

Xena sat back, drinking her wine.. Gabrielle picked up an olive and popped it in Xena's mouth. Her lips were soft against her fingers. Xena smiled as she chewed, then took the pit out of her mouth and set it on the table. Gabrielle fed her another, and their eyes met. a jolt passed between them. It had been so long. Xena stroked Gabrielle's cheek. She spit out the olive pit, put it on the table, and swallowed the olive. Her mouth empty, she shifted on the bench, leaning toward Gabrielle, and kissed her. It still felt wonderful.

"Mmmm...salty. We haven't kissed in...eight years. Too long. I missed you, Xena."

"Polonius used to catch me crying. Oh, don't look like that. If I have known you were unhappy too, I would have come over and knocked some sense into my dear, darling brother. I'm surprized you didn't. You used to be damned good with that staff."

"I didn't want the kids to have a bad impression of their father, or I might have let him have it. Listen, the kids usually come in here demanding food in about an hour. Do you want to...?"

"It's been way too long. Lead the way. You know I keep bumping into things."

Gabrielle gently led Xena to the marriage bed which she had occupied alone since the birth of her daughter, Medea. She had used the name to was Taurus that she was well aware of his philandering, and the look on his face had shown her that he had gotten the message. Three days later, he was gone.

Now she was coming here with the one she should have done this with in the ifrst place. the only good things to come from the wasted years were her children; Alexander and Atrius, the twin boys, and honey-haired Medea. Xena had been her all-consuming passion, and she honestly wondered if she had it in her to love as much as she deserved to be loved.

They undressed. Gabrielle helped Xena get the chiton off her sore shoulder. She got into bed, and pulled Xena gently after her. Well aware of life's little surprizes, she pulled the curtains closed.

When they kissed, something like the old fire jumped through them. The taste of olives mingled with wine still lingered on Xena's lips. Gabrielle tasted them again. This felt so right. Here was the only one her soul longed for. She ran her fingers through Xena's hair. Every strand was an individual.

"I love you, my Warrior Princess.", she whispered.

"I never stopped loving you. Never.", and Xena's lips were on her's again. Then she heard little voices. She pulled the sheet up over their nude bodies as the curtian was pulled back by a grimy little hand. Atrius' face appeared next, his blue eyes dancing with excitement.

"Aunt Xena!" He turned to his brother and sister, "See, I told you that was her horse."

Then they all jumped on the bed. Xena's face registered pain, then joy, for she loved these three intruders, even when they landed on her sore shoulder.

"How long are you gonna visit? Can we ride your horse? Are you and Mommy taking a nap? They cried out at once. Medea kissed Xena, leaving smears of something sticky and orange on her face. They were all filthy.

"I'm staying.", said Xena.

"Forever and ever?"

"Yes. Forever and ever."

"Yea! When are you taking us hunting? You said you would.", pleaded Alexander. Hunting was very important to the seven-year old.

Xena hesitated. Gabrielle knew they would exhaust her and wondered how Xena could hit any game with the sight of one eye gone.

"I thought I would have your Uncle Iolus with me."

"Pooh, I don't like him. He talks too much. I saw rabbits down by the river. Take us. Please!"

They put on their best pleading faces and Xena finally nodded.

"Okay. How's tommorrow?"

They shouted hurrah, and the twins sommersaulted off the bed.

"Enough. Go wash up. You are filthy."

"Yes, Mother." And they ran off in the general direction of the baths, punching each other playfully.

Medea remained, with her sticky face plastered against Xena's.

"I love you, Aunt Xena.", she purred.

Xena hugged the five-year old, the stroked her hair.

"I want to go hunting too."

"Gods, she's you all over again.", said Xena. "How can I say, 'no'?"

"I'm going hunting.", she sang " Can I take a nap with you and Mommy?"

"No, darling. Aunt Xena and I have special grown-up things we like to do in our bed."

The child nodded gravely, giving her mother a sticky kiss. Gabrielle caught the smell of candied orange peels on her breath. Medea climbed down and ran away.

"Gods I'm sticky. What was that?"

"Candied Orange peel, which is strictly forbidden before dinner. I need to have a little chat with their nanny."

They rolled out of bed,used a jug of clean water to wash the sticy stuff off, and got dressed. Gabrielle's heart was singing. All the lost years... making up for them from now on. She kissed Xena fiercely, then took her hand to lead her to the kitchen.

Part ll

The lovemaking that night was glorious. It was so right to be together again, even if they were exhausted afterward. Gabrielle held the sleeping Xena in her arms, wishing she had gotten together with her five years before, when Taurus first left her.

But Xena had finally married Hercules then, and their lives had been filled with trying to have a child. They had gone from healer to healer trying special baths, ointments, herbs--even chants and spells. Finally, Xena's old impatience had flared up, she had packed her bags and left him too, only this time with regrets.

Gabrielle, at the time, had been trying to find a way to support her children. She couldn't be a wandering bard with two small boys and a babe in arms, so friends from the Athenian Academy had encouraged her to write plays. Who knew she had such a flair for comedy. The plays drew huge crowds, and soon the dinars had flowed in. She'd had the house added on to, hired servants and enjoyed her new-found prosperity--needing only one thing to make her life complete. Now here she was. Gabrielle kissed her sleeping lover. In the old days she would have been awake immediately. Now she slept on, needing her rest.

At dawn, the bed curtains were flung open again. The twins were dressed in high, lace-up boots, chitons and peaked caps. Atrius carried a game bag over one shoulder and Alexander, Grining, held up a sheathed hunting knife.

Medea's hair was uncombed and it was obvious that her brothers had tried to dress her. Her chiton was hastily tied over one shoulder, hanging limply down one side, her sash was tied in a big bow and her sandals were unfastened. Gabrielle suppressed a laugh. She mentally inventoried her body for tell-tale marks, realized there were none, and got out of bed. She slipped a gown over her head and redressed Medea. She looked for a comb while the twins whispered and poked one another. As she combed out Medea's hair, Xena stirred in her sleep. The sheet and blanket slipped down, revealing her breast. Gabrielle decided it was time to wake her.

"Xena.", said Gabrielle. "Aren't you going hunting?"

Xena opened her eyes. Even though the blind eye saw nothing, it was still as lovely as the other. So blue, so...Gabrielle reined in her mind. Her kids were watching them. There was plenty of time for them to learn about sex without her pushing that sort of education on them. Xena sat up and the sheet and blanket slid off her. She plucked the chiton off the floor and Gabrielle helped her put it on. Then she grinned at her assembled hunters.

"Let's eat first, then we'll hunt those rabitts.", she said.

It was after breakfast that Xena organized her hunting party. She ordered then to bring a spear and a water jug, because, "Hunters never know what wild beast they might encounter."

Gabrielle kissed her children and Xena goodbye, and watched as Atrius and Alexander pulled their Aunt along toward the river. Gabrielle knew Xena had chosen the long spear because she had a better chance of seeing what she was doing. The game bag dangled from Xena's good shoulder and Medea carried the water jug. Gabrielle expected them to be back before noon.

But somehow, as time went on, she grew restless. The sun was high in the sky, then the shadows grew longer. A crow began to circle her head and caw. Crows had always been her messengers. Her mother's sixth sense was really bothering her. She called to a servant and they walked toward the river. Xena was lying on the ground with her hands pressed against her side Blood pooled beneath her and covered her hands. The children were nowhere to be seen. Gabrielle ran to Xena with a cry that rent the very air.

"Where are my childen?"

"Callisto.", said Xena, and even the one word took all her effort.

"Callisto took them? Doesn't she know about the peace pact? Oh Xena, how bad is the wound?" Gabrielle kneeled over her beloved.

"I'm dying. You get children."

Gabrielle stood, defiently. "Don't you dare die. That's an order. Mileiceus, run for Hippocrates. I'm going after my kids." Her eyes caught sight of the bloodied spear in the grass. She took it in her hands. Xena's blood was all over it. Callisto was a dead woman.

Part III

As she walked along the trail (Callisto was getting careless with age) she remembered her time with the Blind Mystic. Such a family line as hers made her blood run cold in her veins. She wondered again what she might have turned out like if her real father had lived. "But he was trying to change", she reminded herself. She knew she was far weaker than her father. She had already violated one of the restrictions by having her children. They seemed to be fine, loving people. Maybe killing Callisto *wouldn't * awaken that twisted, evil thing asleep in her soul. Perhaps Xena was right to scoff at Gods and Mystics.

It was then that the thoughts came to her. Thoughts that couldn't be her own. The satisfying heft of the spear in her hand. The rightness of joining her enemy's blood with her lover's. The anticipated look on Callisto's face. Here long grass gave way to gravel. It was hard to track on gravel, especially if you didn't see as well as you did twenty years ago. Then Gabrielle saw the water jug Medea had been carrying. She hurried on. A huge, flat rock started a series of boulders. Impossible to track over. But a small, brown spot caught her eye. It was one of Medea's sandals.

"That's my girl. Keep leading Momma to you.", she thought.

A clump of willows grew thick in the area and Callisto was having a hard time keeping three children from breaking twigs, leaving footprints and otherwise marking the trail. Gabrielle followed it easily.

The tall trees reared up their heads from the willow bushes. Suddenly all signs disappeared. That meant that Callisto was up one of those trees with her babies. Her stomach flopped as she remembered hanging in the air for Xena to rescue so many years ago. She knew how frightened her children were. She suddenly envisioned cutting open the warlord's chest and taking her heart as a trophy, carrying it home on the end of the spear.

Then one of the crows sounded again--the quick, wooden clacking split the air as the crow circled a distant tree.

"He's showing me where they are. Thank the Gods."

She reached out with her senses to find Callisto.

"Got her."

Then Gabrielle slipped around the trees to the wrong side. She knew she only had one shot. But Callisto was slipping. The tree had huge forks and would be easy to send a spear through. And Gabrielle had practiced daily with her weapons after Taurus had left, imagining him to be her target. The only problem was that she couldn't see her children. Suddenly a pair of blue eyes looked into hers. The mop of dark brown hair fell into Alexander's eyes. Gabrielle placed her finger to her lips and signaled to him. He smiled, then up popped his brother and sister's heads. She signaled them to lie flat. This was almost too easy.

"Callisto!", she called.

Callisto looked down at her, her haggard face showing every year of her life.

"AH, Gabrielle. I have something you want, don't I? Come up and get them, if you can. Oh, but you're hardly dressed to climb trees. Too bad. Maybe I can help. I know, I'll throw them down to you. you can catch them with the spear I killed Xena with."

Gabrielle could hear her children crying.

"I'm perfectly capable of killing you right now."

"You can't kill. The blood on that spear is Xena's. I made her pay at last. And I'm making you pay for standing by her all those years. She's not going to rescue you again. She's dead, dead, dead! You are the last of my enemies alive. It is your turn to die. AHYEEEE!"

In love with the sound of her own voice, Callisto stepped into full view. Gabrielle hefted the spear and threw it. She felt its weight leave her arm and her muscles contract as she automatically followed through. There was very little sound until the spear smacked into Callisto, knocking her from the tree. The rustling of leaves and snapping of twigs signaled her landing place. Gabrielle ran to the sound.

Callisto was lying on the ground with the spear sticking through her neck. Blood spurted, pulsing, from her artery. Gabrielle hear little footsteps behind her.

"Is she dead?", asked Atrius.


Then came Medea's tearful voice. "Momma, is Aunt Xena dead"

Gabrielle thought she would never breathe again. The pain passed through her body like the jolt from an electric eel.

"I don't know."

Gabrielle pulled the spear from the wound. The blood continued to spurt. She could see herself take the spear, drive it into Callisto's chest, and cut it open. She felt energized. She saw the beating heart, watched herself cut it out and put it on the end of her spear, a thriumphant cry issuing from her lips. A tug on her skirt brought her back to reality.

"Why are you looking at her so funny. Momma?" Gabrielle looked at Alexander and feel to her knees. The words of the blind mystic came back to her. Her children would become as wicked as her ancestors. She would awaken the evil sleeping within.

"If I cut her heart out, they will see their mother reenact our family's evil. I would start the cycle all over again. I cannot do this.", she said to herself.

She took great gulps of air, released from the visions, then turned to Alexander.

"Because she tried to hurt you.", said Gabrielle.

"Is she gonna die?"

"Yes. Let's go home now." She stood and started for home, with the children clinging to her.

Now that her mind was free to get back to Xena, she worried that the great love of her life was dead too. Gods, how unfair--to have her back for one day and to lose her again. It seemed like it took forever to get home. Gabrielle's knees were weak. Callisto was dead. Was Xena dead too? Years ago she had thoguht her Warrior Princess was pretty industructable, but now...Gabrielle's heart was pounding in her chest so hard she could hear it.

When they got to the house, it was evening. Oil lamps burned in every room, and the smell of burning olive oil permeated the air. The servants took the children to the kitchen for dinner. Gabrielle was having trouble breathing. She realized she still held the bllody spear. She leaned it against a sturdy wall and scrubbed her hands in a basin. When the last trace of blood was off her hands, she died them on her skirt. The she went into the bedroom.

Xena was lying on the bed, bandaged. It was dark enough that Gabrielle couldn't see if her chest was rising and fallinf, or still. Hippocrates was leaning over his ex-wife, holding her hand. His face was drawn and pale. He looked up as Gabrielle entered.

"Is she...?"

"She's alive. She said you ordered her not to die. It will take more than a spear wound to kill her.", he said with a half smile. Gabrielle stood at Xena's side, stroking her forehead with her fingers.

"You're alive. Thank the Gods. I don't know if you can hear me. The kids are fine. I killed Callisto, but I didn't defile her body. The Gods know I wanted to, but I can't become *that* in front of my children. So, no more wars to stop. No more despots to overthrow. I love you so much. I want to grow old--okay, older, with you."

And Xena opened her eyes. She looked from Hippocrates to Gabrielle, then smiled at Gabrielle.

"Love you.", she said, with great effort.

Hippocrates released Xena's hand and he melted back into the shadows. Gabrielle put her hand over Xena's. She was rewarded with a weak smile. The Xena spoke again.

"Together...forever.", she said.

And Gabrielle's heart soared. She gathered Xena's fingers to her lips and kissed them.

"Yeah, forever.", she said.

The End.

Anya Dot Tethl(respect for kindred)

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