2 Missing Scenes from "The Quest" XWP episode by Rielle
Gabrielle leaned against Iolaus as they hugged in greeting. Exhaustion and grief were etched on her face when she pulled back. He could tell she hadn't slept in days even without the help of the rising moon.
She's trying to go through this alone. the hunter thought, sure that she would refuse his help. "Gabrielle, you don't have to keep pressing on tonight. You're too weary to make anymore progress and so is Argo."
"We're going to make it there, Iolaus. We have to. I promised . . .Xena"
Gabrielle and her face crumpled like a child's. "Are you saying I don't know enough when to stop and when not to?" the bard challenged him. "Because if you are, I'll just have to show you I'm as good at this as any old hunters."
"Well, if that's the case, I assume you're going to make camp here, take care of that beautiful horse and get some rest?" Saying that, he managed to get her to sit beside him on a fallen log.
The bard looked at him as if he'd suggested she jump off the edge of the world. She shook her head:
"No, I have to take Xena back to Amphipolis." Gabrielle told him. "I swore I'd see her buried next to her brother. Buried! Gods! Iolaus, even when I hear myself say it I can't believe it. It all happened so fast. It was all such a blur. I don't want to believe it happened, and then I look. . . "
Gabrielle bit her lip and looked over her shoulder at the long casket. It was draped in leather worked and embossed with fantastic patterns and shapes, possibly intended for war banners or dress armor. Iolaus said nothing, not wishing to push his friend for answers.
"The villagers made that for her. They said the covering was part of a cache of weapons left by a warlord so long ago they don't know his name. Its' really beautiful, don't you think?" the young bard lifted her gaze back to Iolaus' face, her green eyes shining with tears unshed.
"Xena would appreciate all that intricate leather work, I know. She had an eye for beauty, all kinds of beauty." Iolaus said softly, touched to the core by the young woman's sorrow and bravery.
Now Gabrielle's color rose and a question that had been in the back of the hunter's mind had its answer. He was of a curious nature, and well aware that Xena could attract anyone who saw her, when and if she so chose. Now he understood as well that when the warrior opened her heart, she found love in every heart she touched. And so did the young woman he sat with.
"Yes, I loved her. I love her." Gabrielle corrected herself deliberately. "I haven't stopped loving Xena simply because she's . . .oh gods, Iolaus! I can't even say the word!" Gabrielle sobbed. She clung to Iolaus and cried as inconsolably as the child she would never be again. The hunter held her firmly, encouraging the release, stroking her hair back from her face, whispering soothing sounds that had no meaning aside from comfort.
The rest of the night was needed for his young friend to get through the worst of her grieving. Gabrielle managed to tell him, she'd had no other time or place to stop and let her emotions flow. When the night began to pale into dawn, she'd done her first grieving and her first telling of how Xena was injured, their ordeal and their journey to the healer's hut.
She talked more calmly about what Xena revealed in her fever dreams of the past, about the slave woman M'lia who proved herself so free a heart and the Roman named Caesar, who proved himself so cruel. Of her own journey towards Amphipolis the bard had little to say. Encouraged, Iolaus got her to drink some heavily watered wine and chew on some trail rations.
"You really think," Gabrielle asked Iolaus at one point, "do you really think I didn't fail her? But if I'd found some help getting her up into the mountains, if I were stronger, if I'd found more horses to pull the litter, if . . ."
"Gabrielle, I think when you're grieving you can "if" yourself into madness that way. Don't do that, please?" Iolaus insisted, holding both her hands to make sure he held her attention.
"I've been feeling pretty crazy." Gabrielle admitted, with fear in her voice. "When I wasn't feeling so horribly. . . numb. I don't know which is worse."
"You've been feeling what anyone would at such a time. But I know you can get through this." Iolaus insisted heartily. "Xena knew it too, or she wouldn't have asked your help. Xena knew you could make this journey because of all the journeys you made with her. You proved yourself, Gabrielle, to someone who wasn't easily impressed."
"Xena would say over and over: Don't apologize, just improve. So I had to . . . improve." The bard shrugged.
"Not everyone would feel that way." Iolaus told her. "Not everyone would dare follow Xena as you have. Not everyone would fight beside her as I saw you do. And no one was as important to her, Gabrielle. I have that on the best authority."
" On what authority?" Gabrielle demanded, for the first time showing some of her own native curiosity again.
"Hercules' word. When he and Xena were still . . . discussing which one of them would break Prometheus' chains, Xena told him something and made him give her his word on it."
"Give Xena his word, on what, Iolaus?"
"That you would get to some school in Athens. A school for bards, I think? Xena got Herc to promise you'd get there. That was probably about the same time you were telling me that story." Iolaus mused.
"Which story, Iolaus? I told you two or three. But you swore later you didn't even hear them, in your weakened condition! You were wounded and dying because Prometheus was still chained!" Gabrielle looked at him suspiciously, her eyes narrowed, her head tilted to one side.
"Well, I was unconscious to be sure, part of the time. Or maybe I was asleep and only dreamed it. Let me see, was there was a story about nine legged, three headed goats from Tartarus? No? Hmmm, was there a story about five headed, six toed women from Crete? No? Ah well, it must have been the story about the four headed, eight legged monsters from a little town in Thrace. Oh yes, I remember very clearly now. They live on the isthmus which is very hard to do because the isthmus is often under about three feet of water depending on whether the river on one side or the lake on the other side flood their banks! And the town they sometimes live in is called something very strange like Propagaea, or Pillaroia, or something. . . When I told Herc he said it must have been the same time Xena knocked him out and started climbing the inside of the volcano herself."
Gabrielle giggled, and Iolaus felt better than he had for hours. "She could be so . . . tricky sometimes. I kept trying to trick her, or sneak up on her, but I never could. It was like she had ears in the back of her head!"
"Hercules is just the same, and the gods know I've been trying most of our lives to get the better of him!" Iolaus laughed. "So, when you've made your way to Amphipolis, and kept your promise to Xena, will you be going to that bardery, er. . . bardic, .uh . . barding school in Athens?"
"Its an academy for bards and I got in once before." Gabrielle corrected him with a spark of pride. "But, I don't know. I don't know if I still want to go there, Iolaus. I would never want to cause Hercules to break his word, but ."
"Herc would never ask anyone to do something they don't want to. That's something he is always saying: People belong to themselves, not to anyone else and not to anyone's notions of who they are. You've already proved that about yourself, you know."
"Yes, I suppose I have. And I know you have to go to Corinth, to meet Hercules and tell him. The gods know I wouldn't want to be the one who lets him know Xena's . . . died. " the bard's eyes clouded as she spoke.
"I wouldn't want Hercules to hear such news from anyone else." Iolaus told her. "That's what friends do for each other, Gabby, they help each other over the rough patches. But I don't have to tell you that, either. You're very understanding for one who's not so very young."
The bard shook her head and hugged her friend fiercely. "You've been a very good friend, this morning and last night, Iolaus. I feel so much stronger. And I know why."
"Why is that?" he smiled at her, heartened by her confident expression.
"You helped me understand I'm not going through this alone. That's what I thought I had to do. That's what I knew I couldn't do. You gave me exactly what I needed, Iolaus. You're very wise for someone who's not so very old."
The hunter shook his head as he helped the bard gather her few belongings to resume her sad journey. "Its not the years, its the mileage." He winked.