Disclaimer: Only one of the characters in this story is mine, and she is an Amazon. The rest belong to Rob Tapert and Co., RenPics, Studios USA, MCA/Universal, and anyone else who has an investment in Xena: Warrior Princess. I am just borrowing them for use in this story.
Parts of this story are lifted directly from the show’s scripts. It was the best way to make this premise work. FiN has been reworked using the 48 Hour Fix story written for the Academy’s Valentine’s special. That and the rest of the work is mine, and I do accept that responsibility.
Special Thanks: To Carol and Phil who had to read this three pages at a time to do voice checks for me. If Xena and Gabrielle don’t sound right, it is due to my poor hearing and not their input. And to Missy, who graciously allowed me to reference her two unpublished scripts.
It’s All Greek to Me: Memoirs of a Talking Warhorse OR the Life and Times of Xena and Gabrielle as told by Argo II
“I hate grown-ups!” The young Amazon stomped into the barn and closed the door firmly behind her. She flopped down on the hay bale, laying back and throwing an arm up over her eyes. “They are so unfair! And totally unreasonable! ARGH!”
The girl sat up swiftly, twisting her head back and forth in an effort to see who had spoken to her. “Who said that?”
The Amazon stood up from the bale, and cautiously made a circuitous route around the barn’s inner perimeter. Seeing nothing, she dropped back onto the hay bale. “Great, now I’m not only in trouble, I’m delusional too. Wonder if they lock up almost-twelve-year-olds who hear things.”
“I don’t see why they would,” the voice spoke again, “if what you’re hearing is really there.”
At the first syllable from that voice, the girl sprang from her seat and started prowling again. If someone was playing a joke on her, it wasn’t very funny. This day was going badly enough without her being made a fool of.
There was nothing in the lower part of the stable, save the horses, and the loft was curiously empty when she checked it carefully. “Gods be damned... when I find out who is doing this....” She sat down gently this time, cradling her head in her hands.
“What’s your name?”
The girl was almost expecting it, and she didn’t even flinch when she heard it this time. “Why do you ask? You already know it.”
“No, actually, I don’t, and it is customary, not to mention courteous to address someone by their given name. ‘Hey you’ is just a little bit rude.”
The Amazon sighed. “What’s yours?”
“Me? Well, they call me Argo II. I was named for my mom.”
The girl’s head popped up, and she stared hard. “Excuse me?”
“My name is Argo II,” the equine stated again, and the youngster could now clearly see the horse’s mouth and lips moving as she spoke. “Most everyone calls me Argo though, just like Mother.”
“I am not seeing this. I am not HEARING this.” But she stood and slowly approached the stall where the horse calmly stood looking back at her with big liquid-brown eyes. “Horses don’t talk.”
“Sure we do,” the mare answered honestly. “Just not very often to people. They don’t seem to hear or understand well at all.”
“So why me?” She stepped closer, and gave the horse a tentative scratch on her nose.
“Oh yeah, that’s great. Maybe under the chin... ah. Oh yeah, you are really good at that. Thanks.” The girl grabbed a currycomb, and stepped into the stall, slowly pulling it through the silky mane. “As for why you... well, you were obviously receptive to it. Like I said, we speak to humans all the time. You just rarely take the time to listen.” The mare paused, and let the youngster comb in silence for a minute. “So, you want to share your name now?”
“Hmm? Oh, yeah, it’s Thelana.”
“I like that. It’s pretty.”
“I s’pose. Hard to appreciate it when you hear it a hundred times a day.”
“Yeah, I guess so, especially if you’re in trouble when it gets called. I remember when Xena and Gabrielle first stared traveling together. Gods....”
Thelana waited for the mare to continue. When she didn’t, the girl stopped combing and moved to look the horse in the eyes. “You wanna share there, Argo?”
The palomino looked hard at the Amazon. “I’ll trade stories with you. How’s that?”
Thelana nodded. “That seems fair enough. Will you go first?” The last was asked almost shyly.
Argo nodded. “You keep combing, and it’s a deal.”
The girl moved back to the horse’s side, and resumed her work. “I’m listening.”
“Well, I have to go back a few years, and you have to remember that my mother was Xena’s horse in those days....”
Chapter I: That’s What Friends Do
Argo was tired, but she faithfully plodded along at the warrior’s behest. It had been a rough few days since they’d struck out on their own.
“I’m sorry, girl,” Xena whispered, defeated. “Not much further. I see a clearing up ahead.”
The warrior led the horse off the beaten track, pulling off her saddle and tack, and setting the palomino free to roam. Argo stayed close by, wondering what was up with Xena... knowing the depth of her despair in ever finding atonement at this point.
Her weapons and leathers were buried, and Argo knew that could only mean one thing. Then it happened. The mare saw fierce pleasure flame in the deep blue eyes, and turned to see what had caused such joy, just as Xena was sideswiped on the back of the head.
“Mother told me that the minute their eyes met, something passed between them. Something that she could see as almost tangible. ‘Course, it would be a while before they would acknowledge its existence, much less its importance, but it was there from the beginning.”
“They fell in love at first sight?” Thelana asked as she continued to comb.
“Well, I don’t know about that,” Argo replied slowly. “Mother never actually described it that way. She always said they made a soul connection, and that everything else grew from that.”
“Wow, that’s amazing. Go on, please.” The Amazon spared a brief thought for the razzing she would take if anyone were to catch her talking to a horse like that. But she decided it was worth it. What Xena and Gabrielle shared was so deep. It was fascinating to hear the tale from the beginning. She focused her attention when the mare started speaking again.
“Apparently, though, they weren’t terribly aware. Or maybe Xena was, and was just afraid. I dunno.” If a horse could have shrugged its shoulders, Thelana was certain Argo would have done just that right then. “Mother was never very clear about that, and maybe she didn’t know. A lot of her information came from Xena directly. She’d share a lot in the evenings when she was brushing Mother down after a long day. A lot of it was her own information as well. She watched what went on between the two of them, much as I have in the time I have been with them.”
“Will you tell me about that as well?”
“All in due time, Thelana. Now where was I? Oh yes....”
trip to Amphipolis was interminable, and yet it was very short. Xena knew in her heart it was the right thing
to do, her mind just wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do. It was hard to say who was more surprised by
Gabrielle’s appearance and fierce defense of a woman she knew nothing of except
by notorious reputation... the townspeople,
Xena’s conflict was clear when she went into the crypt, and yet it seemed Gabrielle had made a difference by going in behind her. The warrior was a little more relaxed, and much better focused on what she needed to do.
When the fight with Draco was over and she had her mother’s forgiveness, Xena and Argo left Amphipolis alone, anxious to see if Gabrielle had meant what she’d promised in the crypt. The warrior heard the younger woman long before she emerged from the bushes and Xena had plenty of time to wipe the smile from her face. But there was a little kernel of happiness inside when she acknowledged that this was the beginning of something special.
Argo whickered, and Thelana looked at the mare curiously. “What’s so funny?”
“Well, I was just remembering Mother telling about their early travels together. Gabrielle was an innocent, and so naïve. Xena was torn between amused exasperation and something akin to affection, though she would never admit to it. And Mother wasn’t sure what to do with either of them at times.”
“How so?” She set the comb down and began to weave the mane into braids.
was quite an adjustment at first. Xena
had gone from being a warlord commanding armies to lone traveler seeking
atonement. Now, suddenly, she found she
had a traveling companion who knew nothing of the world outside the little town
At first, she spoke gruffly to Gabrielle, with more than a touch of annoyance in her voice. But when Morpheus’ priests apprehended her young friend with the idea of making her the god’s bride, Xena risked everything to rescue her without a second thought. She faced down the demons of her own making and made sure Gabrielle was safe and unharmed. It was then that the bard began to sense a distinct difference in Xena’s attitude toward her. A small, very subtle difference, but markedly there, nonetheless.
“You stood up for me, even when I refused to stand up for myself,” Xena remarked to Gabrielle as they walked out of the village.
“That’s what friends do for each other, Xena. You did it for me with Morpheus.”
The warrior smiled depreciatively. “Yeah, I guess I did, but you didn’t try to knock me into the next moon phase either.”
Gabrielle laid her hand on Xena’s forearm, pleased when she didn’t flinch or pull away. “Xena, we both know that wasn’t you. Now leave the blame on Ares where it belongs, please. We have places to see and people to meet.”
Soon afterwards, they found the titans, and Xena recognized her first twinge of jealousy. It was unexpected and not at all welcome. She didn’t want to care... she didn’t want to need. But the warrior understood all too well the niche Gabrielle was carving for herself in her own sheltered heart. She suddenly realized she feared the day when it would all be taken away from her.
Hercules and Iolaus provided a brief distraction when the quartet reluctantly joined forces to recover Prometheus. Then their travels took the two women in a new direction.
“Why did you decide to stay with me?” They were camped just outside Amazon territory. “You’re an Amazon Princess now.”
“Did you want me to stay with the Amazons?” Hurt was apparent in Gabrielle’s voice.
“No! I mean... I want you to do what makes you happy. I just thought you might like the opportunity to do something different. Not everyone is an Amazon Princess.”
“Well, I’m happy right where I am right now, thanks. Maybe someday I will come back here, but I am already doing something different... every day.”
Xena smiled to herself in relief, though she simply nodded her acceptance of Gabrielle’s words. It was to be a very short reprieve.
“Mother had never seen Xena looking as lost as she did when Gabrielle left to compete in the Bard’s Academy Competition. She tried to be supportive, and Gabrielle, not yet having learned to read what was not spoken, took Xena at her word.”
“Well, Gabrielle went and won the competition, and then realized that
it wasn’t where her heart needed to be.
It was her first real inkling of the depth of their ever-growing
friendship. As far as I know, to this
day she is not aware that Xena was hanging around
“You’re kidding! Xena....”
“No, I’m not, and yes, she most certainly did, and then she nearly screwed everything up trying to prove to herself just how much she didn’t need the bard by her side.”
Thelana continued to plait the golden mane. “Oh, tell on, please.”
When Marcus asked for Xena’s help in retrieving Hades’ lost Helmet of Invisibility, the warrior saw it as a perfect opportunity to put a barrier between herself and the bard. In truth, she did care for him and even love him to some extent, but it did not compare to the feelings that grew daily for the young woman who walked at her side. But he offered her an escape from a reality she wasn’t ready to acknowledge, and physical comfort that she craved but wouldn’t allow.
It let her say goodbye to him in a way that made them both feel good, and he understood when she left him in the Fields that it was a goodbye. He smiled as he watched Xena rejoin her companion, knowing that the warrior was beyond escaping her feelings for Gabrielle.
After that, Xena shouldn’t have been too surprised when Gabrielle decided to leave her again, but it hurt, and she couldn’t contain the crestfallen look that passed across her face.
“Waitaminute... Gabrielle left Xena AGAIN?? What in Tartarus is going on with those two? Don’t they get it?” Thelana was more than a little outraged, and it showed in her jerky motions.
“Hey, careful back there, huh?” Argo complained. “It takes me lot longer to grow it out than it does for you to pull it out, ya know.”
The Amazon dropped the mane as though it burned, and stepped back a pace. “Oh, gods, I’m sorry Argo. I didn’t mean....” Her words faltered as she teared up just slightly.
“No worries, Thelana. It was an accident. Besides, I’ll tell you a little secret.” The mare waited til the girl’s eyes met hers. “They nearly made Mother pull her mane out more than once.”
“Oh yeah. See, by this point Mother knew that what was between them was REAL. It was more a matter of getting them to go with it. She just found it frustrating to see things so clearly and watch them fumble all the way around it, especially when there were setbacks.”
“Setbacks? You mean like Gabrielle leaving again?”
“Well, more like her leaving without being completely honest with Xena in the first place. I mean, she wasn’t afraid of freezing for herself. She was afraid of what might happen to Xena if it was to happen again... at the wrong time. And the fact that Xena once again let her go without a word.” The mare whickered again in memory. “Poor Mother. She used to get so worked up about that whole time every time she’d talk about it.”
“I can only imagine.”
“The funny thing is, they both talked to her. So not only did she watch them, she got to listen to them too.”
Thelana smiled. “Well, Gabrielle obviously came back. So what happened next?”
“Actually, several things happened in rapid succession that started changing the acknowledged dynamic between them.” The Amazon didn’t say a word, but picked up the brushed and began long smooth strokes across the horse’s back, waiting patiently for Argo to begin the next part of her tale.
Gabrielle came back from Poteidia, secure in the knowledge that her place was at Xena’s side. And though the warrior never admitted it aloud, the bard could see Xena was glad to have her back. Everyday things took on a different sheen, and became more fun, just because they were doing them together.
Fishing lessons were a new facet of their growing relationship, and the first time Gabrielle managed catch one barehanded was enlightening in more ways than one. The bard allowed herself to see Xena as a beautiful woman, and not just a warrior. And Xena accepted the fact that Gabrielle was no longer a child to be protected, but a young woman to be appreciated.
And it wasn’t only physical beauty that was becoming more apparent to each other. Xena couldn’t help but admire Gabrielle’s strength in standing up to her when Ares tried once again to coerce her back to into joining him.
“You stood up to me again,” Xena said quietly as they sat around the campfire.
“No, I stood up for you. Do you remember what you told me this afternoon? About making our own families?” Gabrielle waited until Xena nodded, though the warrior’s eyes never left the fire. “We are a family. And families take care of each other.”
It took Xena’s death, though, for Gabrielle to understand that her feelings for the warrior were deep and abiding. The tree that suffered her wrath bore deep scars from the beating she unleashed on it trying to release the hurt and anger over the senselessness of it.
“On a positive note, it allowed Mother and Gabrielle to bond, and it made a big difference in their relationship.”
“How? I thought they got along great,” Thelana said.
“Not at the beginning, no. Gabrielle was afraid of Mother, and Mother didn’t try to force the issue for any number of reasons. But this, this made them to work together as a team, and helped them to become friends.”
“You and Argo seem to be getting along better these days,” Xena commented one morning as they made to pack up camp. The bard had just returned from giving the warhorse an apple, and Xena noticed that their comfort level together had improved dramatically since her near-brush with death.
“Yeah, we came to an understanding. We do better working together as friends rather than at cross purposes.”
“Oh yeah,” Xena smirked. “I coulda told ya that.”
“I know, but some lessons you just gotta learn the hard way.”
Truer words were never spoken, and they would come back and haunt the duo several times in the years that followed.
“Xena, do you think giving Callisto a second chance will make a difference for her?” They were both thinking of the campfire conversation that told so much about their ever-changing, deepening friendship. Xena had revealed more than she’d intended, though she was unsure if Gabrielle realized just exactly what she had given away.
dunno, Gabrielle,” Xena responded hesitantly.
They were on the northern route to
It wasn’t long after that that they found Ephiny and began an adventure that brought a lot of things into focus.
“Watching Xena care for Gabrielle after
“Did they become lovers then?”
Argo turned her head at Thelana’s forthright question, and studied the Amazon for a long moment. “Quite nosey there, aren’t you?”
The girl dropped her head in embarrassment. “I’m sorry. I know it is really none of my business, but even now there are pools around here for betting on when it actually happened. I think Grandmother Ephiny may have been the only one to actually know the truth. Grandmother Eponin might, but she’s sure not telling.”
“Well, I’ll tell you, child... when they fell in love, when they admitted that love to themselves and when they acted on the love between them are three entirely separate events. And the road they took to get to where they are now was twisted and full of ruts and potholes.” The mare snorted. “They hurt one another a lot, and made some really bad decisions before they understood that they were right together.”
“Why do you suppose that is?” Thelana moved around to Argo’s other side and continued her brushing. The story was getting so interesting, and she was hearing things she never would otherwise. This made all the trouble she was in just about worth it.
“I think it has something to do with being human. Mother said it was a combination of being human and in love that made them stupid.” Argo shook her head. “I think they frustrated her a lot.”
Thelana chuckled softly. “Can I tell you a secret?”
“They frustrated a lot of people around here too.” Thelana set the brush down and picked up the comb once more, gently working the tangles out of the long, golden tail. “So then what happened?”
Chapter II: Twisted Route to the Truth
out that Xena had a son was nothing less than a shock, and though Gabrielle did
not agree with the warrior’s decision to keep it a secret from Solan, she tried to respect Xena’s decision. The emotional toll that secret and Lyceus’
death took on the warrior was apparent when she entered the
For a long time, Gabrielle never understood the impulsive hug of which she became a recipient. Years later, she would cry at the choice Xena made for her, but at the time, she simply relished the warmth of the warrior’s arm wrapped around her shoulders.
Callisto returned, and with her came Perdicas. Gabrielle waited for Xena to stop her from leaving, but the warrior refused to speak her heart. The bard, certain that what she had thought was between them was her own wishful thinking, agreed to marry her old beau.
They stood together at the entrance to the temple, and Gabrielle tried to convince herself and Xena that she’d done the right thing for the right reasons. But the look in Xena’s eyes shattered something in the bard’s soul, and she knew they were saying goodbye.
The fury over his death was as much from her own guilt as it was Callisto’s actions, and as she stood watching the sunset, Gabrielle apologized to Perdicas for loving him not as a husband, but as a brother and a friend. She didn’t explain that to Xena though. It would be a bit longer before she realized it was something the warrior needed to know.
Having to see Xena in Callisto’s body was difficult in the extreme, and it made for a rough couple of weeks. Gabrielle did her best to ignore the fact that her best friend now inhabited the body of their worst enemy, but when the truth stared her plainly in the face every single time she looked in Xena’s direction, it made it difficult. Still she handled it as gracefully as possible, and Xena was very understanding about her involuntary flinching. It was hard to say who was more thankful for a debt paid when Ares returned Xena to her rightful body.
Taken by surprise, Gabrielle unwrapped the present, then tears welled up in her green eyes as she saw it was a little wooden lamb. Overwhelmed, she looked at Xena. “But I don’t have a gift for you.”
“Gabrielle, you are a gift to me.” Xena wrapped an arm around the bard’s shoulders and brushed a light kiss across the blonde locks.
Gabrielle returned the squeeze and tucked the memory away, hoping beyond hope that her heart was being honest with her.
“What do you think about heading back to the Amazons for a bit of a visit? After that, ahem, beauty contest, I need a bit of a break.”
“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea,” Gabrielle agreed. “Those attitudes... can you imagine if we let the Amazon loose on some of those guys?” She chuckled at the mental image, and Xena smiled in sympathy.
“It wouldn’t be pretty.”
“Um, no... but it would be funny.”
“Things were going very well for them, and they were slowly inching their way towards confessing the truth of their hearts to one another. Poor Mother. What happened then nearly killed her... and Gabrielle.”
Their trip took them past what had been Cirra, and Xena rode down into the deserted valley reliving old memories. Mere minutes, but it set in motion a series of events the changed... everything.
Gabrielle felt the rending of her soul, even as she cried for deliverance from the awful reality of Xena’s death. Hours she sat trying to adjust to the fact that Xena was gone from her, and finally gave in to the need to talk to the warrior.
“Xena... I know you can hear me... wherever you are. I know you always told
me to be strong. I can’t be... not now. You can’t leave me. I know it’s not
your time. I can feel it in my heart. I feel this emptiness that I’ve never
known before, and it scares me. Xena, above all... just remember your destiny.
Remember it and fight. Just fight to come back. This world needs you.
I need you.”
“Mother said Xena heard the words. And it gave her a reason to fight to come back. She had seen some of what was in Gabrielle’s heart, and couldn’t give it up again without trying.” The mare heard an enormous sigh fall from the Amazon’s lips.
“No, Argo. It’s just that... this has to be one of the most romantic stories I have ever heard. I mean we’ve all heard the tale of how Xena came back from the dead for our Queen, but it is nothing like this.”
“Really? How does your story go?” Argo was intrigued. She’d heard the story from her mother and from Gabrielle on the rare occasion when the bard would bring it out for a private performance for Xena. The one she told publicly left out a lot of the personal details.
“Xena came back to life for the Queen, and saved the
Amazons from Velasca.
Gabrielle made Ephiny her Regent, and returned to traveling the roads of
“Gee kid, no wonder you are curious.” The palomino turned her head to see that her tail was about a third of the way plaited. “Let me tell you what happened after that.”
“I don’t know, Argo,” Gabrielle whispered as she hooked the sarcophagus back up to the faithful warhorse. She wasn’t sleeping, and the nightmares that plagued her when she tried were draining. “I don’t know how long I can do this alone.”
Xena realized the moment she kissed Gabrielle that the bard did indeed have feelings for her. But it wasn’t until she inhabited Gabrielle’s body to fight Velasca that she understood the depth and breadth of those emotions.
“Xena?” They had settled down for the evening after saying goodbye to Autolycus. Gabrielle still had her head resting on the warrior’s shoulder where she could still hear the strong heartbeat beneath her ear.
“Hmm?” Xena was truly happy for the first time in she couldn’t remember when, and still drained from her ordeal. So she was glad to sit peacefully with Gabrielle and contemplate the possibilities that suddenly seemed within her reach.
“Why Autolycus? Why not me?”
“I tried Gabrielle, but you couldn’t hear me. Your grief was too strong.”
Gabrielle nodded her acceptance of the explanation, remembering full well the depth of agony her soul had been in. “One day, I would like to know why you gave up so easily.” The words were a bare whisper, but Xena felt the despair rip through her soul. She opened her mouth to speak, but was stopped by Gabrielle. “Not tonight, though. Tonight I just want to listen to your heartbeat, and be glad you came back to me... for whatever reasons.”
Life got in the way of talking for a while, and blindness was an eye-opening experience for Xena. It spooked her, and Ulysses offered her an excuse to run from her feelings. But even as the words flowed out of her mouth, she knew they were being said to the wrong person. And when she felt Gabrielle’s soul withdraw from her, her own soul cried in anguish. She began trying to make amends, but running into the Horde immediately upon reaching land complicated matters.
“I’m sorry Gabrielle. I let my fear and hatred blind me to... everything.” Gabrielle heard the words on the many levels they were spoken on, and she smiled as the healing warmth started to wend its way through her soul.
“You do what you have to do, Xena, then we’ll walk down that road together.”
The warrior smiled back then, understanding the clemency she was being offered. “I’d like that,” she returned softly. “Let me go take care of this first.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“You’re Cecrops. I wasn’t gonna let you take off with my best friend.” Xena leaned down and whispered the next words into Gabrielle’s ear, making sure the bard knew they were for her and her alone. “Especially when we are this close to so much more.”
Gabrielle completely forgot about seasickness while the sweetness and promise of those words soaked into her heart and mind.
The two were making their way towards Amphipolis. They were taking the long route, and had plans to stop by the Amazons on the way.
“You know when Bliss hit you with that arrow?” They were holding hands, as had become their custom in the days since they’d escaped from Cecrop’s ship. Xena felt Gabrielle’s clasp tighten convulsively and turned to see a blush travel up her neck. The warrior led them off the beaten path and into the privacy of the trees.
“Um hmm.” The answer was quiet, but Xena heard it.
“I’m glad you called for me.”
“I’m sorry Joxer got between us.”
Gabrielle’s head swiveled toward Xena at that statement, and her eyes widened. “But....?”
Long fingers over her lips sent tingles across her skin, and caused her to stop speaking. Xena dropped her hand from Gabrielle’s lips, and rested both hands lightly on the bard’s waist. “I’m glad he did, because I knew something weird was going on. I don’t want you to love me because of a spell or an arrow or any other reason than your own free will. And I don’t want there to be a doubt in your mind about the fact that I love you... for you, and for myself. No outside influence, no godly motivation... just us.”
The bard was stunned in silence for a long time, though Xena could see the love she’d hoped for staring back at her through jade green eyes. Finally, Gabrielle released the breath she’d been holding, and inhaled deeply. “Wow, um....” She swallowed, and closed her eyes. “Do... uh, do you, um... remember... oh, gods, I know there is a bard in here somewhere just waiting to get out.”
Xena couldn’t help it. She laughed. When she heard the joyful sound, Gabrielle laughed too, and felt herself relax. She ran her hands lightly up the warrior’s torso, and wound them into the silky dark locks. She noted the pungent bouquet of earth and trees, the smell of approaching rain, and the scent of Xena herself. Gabrielle found herself mesmerized by the darkening blue eyes that slowly drew closer to her and the tongue that moistened the warrior’s lips just before they met her own.
The kiss started slow and sweet and Xena made the first move to deepen it. Gabrielle accepted the exploration willingly, and returned the attention with equal fervor. Only when they were both quite breathless did they pull away from one another. Xena rested her forehead on the bard’s, content to simply drink in her essence for a moment.
you remember,” the bard’s words just above a whisper, “the story we talked
about when we were in
Xena pulled Gabrielle into her. A kiss was her only answer, but for the time being, it was enough.
“THELANA!!!!” The bellow that carried itself through the stout barn walls made the Amazon girl cringe in reaction.
“Damn!” she muttered in response. “Figures. You’re getting to the good part, and I have to miss it.” She tied up the braided tail, and moved to stand in front of Argo. “Thanks for sharing with me, Argo.”
“Well, you come on back when you get finished with <ahem> whatever it is you are being summoned so loudly for. I’m not going anywhere for a while, and neither is my story. Besides, you still owe me a story, and I am only half groomed!”
Thelana looked, and realized the mare was telling the truth about the grooming job she’d been doing. She laughed. “Oops! Sorry Argo. I’ll definitely be back to finish that.” The Amazon threw her arms around the palomino’s neck, and in the right light, it almost looked like Argo was blushing from the affection. “Thanks, Argo! You’re the best!”
“Yeah, well remember that when you come back, will ya? I’m am fond of carrots and apples.”
The girl smiled. “I can do that.”
“I gotta go, but I’ll be back as quick as I can. See ya, Argo.”
Chapter III: Hurting Beyond Words
“But I was just....” Xena and Gabrielle watched as the young Amazon passed them trying to explain something to her mentor. It was clear the older Amazon just wasn’t buying it.
“No excuses, Thelana. How many times....?”
Warrior and bard looked at one another and snickered. Then Xena dropped an arm around Gabrielle’s shoulders and steered them towards the barn. “They’re your subjects, your Majesty.”
The Amazon Queen wrapped her arm around Xena’s waist and pinched her. “Thank you for reminding me.” Xena jumped but didn’t make a sound. She turned an outraged blue eye toward Gabrielle, but the bard just smiled up at her innocently. “Besides, they are making all the fuss for us, not just for me.”
“Yes, but they wouldn’t be making a fuss at all, as you call it, if you weren’t their queen.” The warrior opened the barn door, and stopped. Something was... she got a look at Argo, and walked quickly to the mare’s side. Gabrielle followed at a slightly slower pace, then almost chuckled, until both horse and warrior pinned her with a baleful glare. “Not one word, bard.”
“Actually, Xena, it looks really nice,” fingering the smooth plaits of Argo’s mane. “It also looks like whoever was grooming her got stopped in the middle,” motioning to the partially braided tail and the one side still not brushed.
“Is that what happened, girl?” Xena smiled when Argo nodded her golden head affirmatively. “Well here,” holding out an apple for the warhorse to lip up. “We can’t go riding with you in a half-groomed state.” She picked up a brush and then hesitated. “Do you suppose....?”
Gabrielle nodded, and took the brush from her. “Yeah, let’s walk. I think whoever started this might want to finish it.” The bard smiled when Argo nodded her head in agreement again. “Well, I guess we have a majority. You wanna grab a blanket, and I’ll carry lunch?”
“Hmm, remind me to ask Ep when grooming my horse became a form of discipline.”
Gabrielle chuckled and extended her free hand, gratified when Xena took it without hesitation. “Well, Xe, at least they’re doing a good job. C’mon, I hear some quiet time with you just calling my name.”
“Even after all these years together?”
“*Especially* after all our years together.”
“Hi, Argo.” Eponin made her way into the barn, and over to the palomino. Time had slowed her down a bit, but she was still quite spry and healthy for an elder. She snorted to herself and shook her head, never having anticipated attaining that particular status. “Thelana’s been in here with you, hasn’t she?” She looked at the carefully tended mane. “I recognize her work.”
The mare nodded her head, butting the older woman in the chest. Eponin laughed and scratched the horse behind the ears.
“I take it you like that idea.” She looked at the neat braids again. “Well, she does have a natural talent for it. Much better than weapons making or smithing. Hmm... maybe I’ll talk to Gabrielle.” A light chuckle escaped from her lips. “Ya know Argo, if anyone had told me when I first met them that things would be like they are today, I’d have had them locked away for madness. Funny how life is never what we expect it to be.”
The Amazon Elder turned away from the mare and headed for the door. “Let me see if I can get Thelana back in here to finish what she started. Because if Xena sees you half-groomed like that, I will be eyeball deep in Warrior Princess trouble.” Argo whickered. “Don’t you laugh at me, young lady,” Ep said with a slightly raised brow. “She could kick my butt when we were the same age.” The older woman shook her head. “Now I am justifying myself to her horse. I need to get out more.”
She left the barn and went in search of Thelana.
The Amazon came running into the barn, skidding to a breathless halt in front of Argo. She threw her arms around the mare’s neck, careful of the plaiting. “What did you say to Grandmother Eponin?”
“Not a thing. She doesn’t hear me. Why?”
“Because she marched into the smithy and rescued me from the forge.”
Argo’s eyes widened. “They had you in the forge?”
“No, silly. Not in the forge... AT the forge. I am supposed to be learning weapons crafting.”
“But it’s just not what I want to do. I’m not interested and it shows. That is why I stay in trouble all the time. ‘Ahem’, “ affecting a high, pinched-nose voice, “A well-rounded Amazon is accomplished in a variety of skills, including but not limited to weapons making, smithing, hunting and sewing.”
“Yeah... don’t ask.”
“Ooookay. Should I get back to the story I was telling you?”
“Yes, please. It was just getting good.” Thelana loosened the tie on Argo’s tail, and resumed her braiding. “They were kissing in the woods.” She reached into her pouch. “Oh here... before I forget.” Argo took the carrot and crunched it between strong, white teeth. “So go ahead.”
“Maybe a little water to wash it down first,” the mare stated, staring pointedly at her empty trough.
“Oh, yeah, right.”
The trough was full, Argo had her fill, and Thelana restarted her plaiting, and the mare began to speak.
“Mother told me that here they had a bit of a break. Not they didn’t have adventures... they did. But they were young and in love. And for just a little while, that was all that mattered. Then came the Furies, and that was the beginning of a nightmare from Tartarus.”
Xena would never get used to the silence. Dahok had changed... everything. She felt them slipping away from each other, and was powerless to stop it. The anger, the distrust, the sadness... the withdrawal of Gabrielle’s soul from her own made her feel so cold. She welcomed Lao Ma’s messenger as an escape from the hellish reality her life had become.
“You owe someone so much that you would just throw away these last few years... the last few months we’ve had together.”
Xena hesitated, knowing that the rift she was putting between them was unbreachable. “Yes,” she said finally.
“I’m sorry, Xena, but I can’t help you commit murder.”
“I know, Gabrielle. I’m sorry.” The warrior boarded a ship, never having said goodbye, but knowing it for what it was.
I’m sorry Xena... I couldn’t let you do it. I know I did it for the wrong reasons, but I couldn’t let you do it. Even though, gods, even though you don’t love me any more, I couldn’t let you give up redemption for revenge.
If only I could tell you the truth about Hope.
My son is dead and your daughter killed him. Xena put her hand on her chakram ready to keep Gabrielle from killing herself. There was a part of her soul that wouldn’t allow the bard to die, and she walked away from the pyres to suffer her grief alone.
“You wouldn’t let me take my own life, but you killed me in Illusia. Why?” The duo had moved from the waters they’d been washed up on and set up camp in a small cave just outside Amazon territory.
“Wait just a chicken plucking minute,” Thelana forestalled any further speech by her equine friend. She tied off the now fully braided tail and moved to face Argo. “You wanna back up and tell that story for me?”
For the first time, the mare looked profoundly sad, and shook her head. “That was a very dark time for them. Mother said she refused Xena when the warrior tried to ride her into the Amazon encampment to retrieve Gabrielle.” She paused and sighed. “Gabrielle had given up, and was waiting for Xena... waiting to die.”
“That was when she hurt Grandmother Ephiny.”
“Yes. That fit of madness nearly cost them both
everything. Mother found them hours
later sitting in a damp cave simply talking about everything they could
remember that had happened... everything they had let come between them. Trying to figure out what Dahok
ultimately wanted from the two of them.
Xena forgave Gabrielle for Chin and Solan and
lying about Hope. Gabrielle forgave Xena
for Caesar and dragging her across
They were making very slow, very tentative steps back to one another, recognizing their innate need for the other half of their soul. The love was still there, but it needed nurturing, and actually made the pain worse at times. Hating would have been easier, but ultimately, it would have destroyed them. An uneasy truce was forged between them, and every day saw them inching back toward the love that bonded them so completely. Then came an event that forced them to new awareness.
on the march brought truth to the fore, and made them understand how precious
and fragile what they shared genuinely was.
But a trip to
“You knew.” A statement. “You knew why I went, how I got there, and yet you still forgave me.” Joxer had left them earlier, seeing they needed to be alone. It didn’t hurt that Meg was just down the road and over the hill. So now they were alone, and clearing the air a little more after Gabrielle’s visit with Mnemosyne.
“Yeah, I knew, and I didn’t blame you for being jealous. It was a human reaction. In a perverse way, it made forgiving you even easier. I just hope the Amazons are as forgiving of me.”
A warm touch on her arm made Xena look down, and then up into deep green eyes. “They will be. I sent a note to Ephiny, telling her a bit of what was going on. She said your fate would rest with her as the Regent, and as one of the injured. She is coming to meet us to talk.”
Aphrodite’s spell brought home the fact that though they had admitted their love for one another, there was no formal tie between them, and when Ephiny and her contingent arrived, a thought tickled at the back of Xena’s mind.
“Xena, do you realize the crimes you could be charged with?” A nod. “Are you prepared to suffer the consequences?” Another nod. The Amazons, though not overtly hostile, made very clear their unhappiness with the Warrior Princess and her actions in their village. Before Ephiny could speak further or pass judgment, Gabrielle spoke up.
“Ephiny, whatever sentence you pass on her, you must pass on me as well.” The regent’s eyes grew wide. “I am as guilty for what happened as Xena is, and if she suffers for it, then so will I.”
“You mean that.” A statement, not a question.
“Yes, I do,” overriding Xena’s shocked, “Gabrielle!”
Ephiny was thoughtfully silent for a long while, then conferred with her council. “It has been decided that neither Queen Gabrielle nor her Champion, Xena were in their right minds at the time of the incident in question. Mitigating circumstances make it impossible to judge in this matter. As far as the Amazon Nation is concerned, the episode is forgiven and the subject closed. HOWEVER, if anything like this ever happens again, no matter the circumstances, the penalty will be death.” She looked Xena directly in the eyes. “Is that clearly understood?”
“Yes, it is. Thank you Ephiny,” Gabrielle responded.
“I’m sorry, Eph,” came Xena’s low rejoinder.
“It’s nothing a bit of time can’t heal, Xena. I am just happy to see the two of you on the mend, because she was dying inside without you. I didn’t want to see her hurt.”
“Mother told me that Xena wanted to ask Gabrielle to join with her, but didn’t feel comfortable approaching the Amazons about it right then. And then suddenly, without warning, they ran out of time, and it was too late.”
“It’s strange—the one I love most in all the world and the one I hate look exactly the same.” Xena brushed a gentle hand along the bard’s cheekbone, smiling when Gabrielle leaned into her touch.
“Well, I had to do something, Xena.” She clasped the warrior’s hand in her own and held it tightly. “I had to think quickly. I... I just couldn’t stand the thought of losing you. Not when we’ve finally found one another again.”
Xena placed her free hand on the bard’s hip, pulling them together until there was no light between them. She breathed in their scent, and smiled at the happy memories it evoked. Then she cleared her throat and began to speak. “Gabrielle, a lot’s happened to us over the past year, and there were times when we were both very confused, and we hurt one another. But I want you to know that I still think you are the best thing that ever happened to me. You gave my life meaning and joy—and you will be a part of me forever.”
Gabrielle placed Xena’s other hand at her waist, and wrapped both of her arms around the warrior’s neck. “No matter what Xena, I want you to always remember that you hold my heart.”
“And you mine, Gabrielle. When we get out of this mess....”
“I know, Xena. I love you too.” She pulled Xena in for a kiss, and for a timeless moment all was right with the world.