“So how is everybody?” Gabrielle asked as they sat down to the late supper Xena had promised.
Xena shrugged and nodded as she chewed the bite of food she’d just put in her mouth. “Lucy and Shaw are still in their medically-induced coma. Shepherd wants to keep Shaw under for at least another two days; Torres wants to keep Lucy under for at least another day to keep her still; and Austin has already taken Ian off the sedation meds. He’s blinked his eyes open once or twice, but I don’t expect him to actually start waking up before tomorrow morning. His chest is healing well - Janet did some excellent battlefield surgery on him. Let’s see… what else? Oh! Elizabeth met Amy and Casey when they got in - let them visit briefly, then sent them on to their rooms to eat and sleep.”
Gabrielle nodded. “Kara told me about how Abbie and Gail helped organize all the cleanup work in South Dakota and what got done; how Casey gave everyone a chance to say goodbye to the dead, then helped arrange to get everyone home; how she brought the Guardians here and got those that live in the city to their homes. And Diana and the Guard took care of getting the bodies to their respective locations.”
“How did Hippolyta react to your request about Santana?”
Gabrielle shrugged. “About like you’d expect. She asked for the details of what happened here, then agreed with me wholeheartedly about honoring her as an Amazon warrior. She didn’t even put up the token response I expected about allowing Kurt and Bryson to join us.”
“Do we know when we’re going to do this?”
“She asked for at least three days. She’d like to go home and get things ready… or at least direct things. She wants to accord Santana the rights of a Royal Guard - she defended our home here. There are also several Amazons that died on the battlefield that will be receiving their last rites as well. Drea went ahead to begin preparing the bodies there. The wood has to be collected and the pyres built….”
“And we still have a few things we need to deal with here. Olivia Spencer has already asked to meet with us in the morning, and we are meeting with the Guardians tomorrow afternoon. I also have medical appointments with Alex Cabot and Maura Isles the day after tomorrow.”
“I think Darius at least will be here tomorrow; I don’t know about Trick.”
Xena frowned. “Why would he miss this? He and the Fae played a critical role in making sure this whole thing turned out okay.”
“Yes, but I found out how he ensured the Fae remember the song they sang as what really happened. I’m not sure how that will affect him.”
“I thought he couldn’t….”
“As far as our story went, he couldn’t. But this was current and about the Fae specifically.” She cleared her throat and wiped her mouth with her napkin. “Except for Darius, and maybe Trick, I think the Fae are staying in South Dakota for a little while longer. They were helping out at the reservation.”
Xena remained silent for a few minutes while they focused on eating, then turned her attention back to Gabrielle. “What of the rest?”
“To my knowledge, Batman and Superman have returned to Gotham and Metropolis respectively. I imagine we’ll need to speak to them at a later date. The rest of the women who took part have returned home, with the understanding that if we hold a memorial service, they would all like to attend.” She met Xena’s eyes. “I don’t think holding anything right now is a good idea. We’ve got too much going on, and they all need some time and distance to come to terms with what happened… even though what they remember is the story I had the Fae tell. I would like to put out a memo letting them know that we will hold a memorial service next year - same time… same place.”
“Okay. I don’t think that will be a problem. It will give us plenty of time to make plans and arrangements.”
“Maybe we can get Alex and Casey’s charity involved - creating scholarships in memory of each of the women and men we lost.” She yawned, and Xena smiled at her indulgently. “I’m tired,” she shrugged. “Sue me.”
“I’d rather take you to bed,” offering a rakish smile.
Gabrielle giggled. “When have you known me to turn down that offer?”
Xena smirked. “Only when I’m in the doghouse so deep, I can’t see daylight.” She rose from her place and grabbed up their plates, knowing Gabrielle would be right behind her with the empty wine glasses. In just a few minutes, the kitchen was clean, and they had retired to their rooms to get ready for bed. Gabrielle sat at her dressing table, absently brushing out her hair as Xena watched her with fondness. After a few minutes, she felt the weight of Xena’s gaze and blushed prettily. Xena grinned again.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked, letting Gabrielle off the proverbial hook.
Gabrielle shook her head and laid the brush on the table, then turned around and met Xena’s eyes directly. “I was thinking about the gods - Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, and Ares particularly. They didn’t go back to Olympus with their family, so what are they planning to do? Kara said they were still in South Dakota - still near the Warehouse. If there is one place none of those guys need to be, it’s anywhere near Warehouse 13… especially with the Sword of War locked up there.”
“I’m fairly certain the Warehouse could do far more damage to them than they could do to the Warehouse. They’ve never been quite where they are now - immortal, but close to powerless… especially considering the power they once held.” She shrugged and held up one side of the covers, and Gabrielle took the hint. She padded to the bed and shucked off her robe, smiling at the admiring look she got from Xena. She slipped under the cover and right into Xena’s personal space, sighing happily when their naked skin slid together. She wrapped her arms around Xena’s waist and tucked her head under her chin and into her breast, feeling those strong arms she loved tighten around her in a firm embrace. They sighed together again, eliciting laughter from them both, then Xena took a deep breath. “We’ll have to worry about the gods as things happen. There’s no sense worrying in advance, and there’s not a lot we can do to keep them under control either. Like it or not, they are technically grown adults.”
Gabrielle snorted. “Yeah… so are we, and we certainly seem to find our share of trouble.”
“Lights,” Xena called, waiting for the room to fall into darkness. “How about we focus on us for a while, and leave the rest until tomorrow?”
There was laughter and giggles that turned into sighs and moans. It was quite some time before silence fell in the penthouse.
Dawn came early, as it is wont to do, and Xena and Gabrielle looked out the open curtains at the sunrise… though it was less a sunrise than the lightening of the skies around them. “Sometimes, I miss the view on Themiscyra,” Gabrielle admitted, as she curled further into Xena’s body.
Xena nodded against the top of Gabrielle’s head. “Yeah… there’s not much to beat the beach at any time of day, but especially at sunrise and sunset.”
“I suppose we need to get started?”
“Probably. I need to go do rounds before Olivia and Natalia get here.”
“And I want to go visit Brittany again.” Gabrielle scowled. “She was so… rational, so blandly normal about everything the other day. It concerns me.”
“Me too… though it’s possible that it’s a knee-jerk reaction to losing the one person that truly understood her. I just hope she doesn’t lose her unique brilliance in all this.”
“We’ll try to make sure she doesn’t. I also want to go check on Casey and Amy.” She shifted to look up at Xena’s profile. “Root is still with Shaw, correct?” waiting for the nod. “Has she made any improvement?”
“Not really. I don’t think anything is going to happen with Root until Shaw is out of the woods and able to communicate with her. The diagnostics the Machine ran on Root show she’s completely rebooted, and all of the necessary data has been downloaded into her brain. She’s just sitting there idling though… like no one has pushed the restart button yet. I have a feeling that is going to be Shaw’s responsibility.”
“Makes sense. Those two are kinda joined at the hip - have been since they met.”
“Despite themselves… especially Shaw.” Xena crawled from beneath the covers and turned back to hold her hand out to Gabrielle. “C’mon. We both need a shower, and we’ve got things to take care of before we meet with the Guardians in a few hours.”
“What are we gonna tell them?”
“I dunno yet,” she admitted. “I’ll think of something. I always do,” closing the door behind them and turning on the hot water jets.
“Casey?” Xena asked as they stepped out of the stairwell and into their office floor. “What are you doing here?”
Casey looked around the reception area and her desk before meeting Xena’s inquisitive eyes. “I work here?” sounding suddenly unsure. She tilted her head. “I do still work here, don’t I?”
“Of course you still work here! Why wouldn’t you?!?” watching Casey’s expression grow more alarmed and bewildered. She cleared her throat. “I’m sorry… what I meant to ask you is why are you here instead of downstairs with Ian?”
Casey blinked a couple times as the words sank into her consciousness, then relief flooded her features. “OH! Oh!!” She put a hand to her chest. “For a minute, I thought I was being fired.”
Xena snorted. “You should be so lucky. No way - they only way you’re leaving here is if you quit.” Casey couldn’t stop the pleased expression that washed over her countenance at Xena’s flattering words. “However… still doesn’t answer my question.”
“The docs downstairs have asked that we limit our time down there to about ten minutes an hour. They are so busy and in and out of the rooms so much, that we’re a liability more than anything. They’ve promised to notify me as soon as Ian is awake enough to be cognizant of what’s going on.” She cleared her throat. “I’d like to move him upstairs when he regains full consciousness. I think it might help him if he’s somewhere a little more familiar….”
“And where you can maybe spend all day and night with him without being asked to leave after ten minutes,” watching Casey nod through a furious blush. “I’ll send the word down. I don’t want them moving him too early, but as soon as Austin gives the word that he’s ready for regular patient care, we’ll get him up to your room. You’ll have to get used to the nurses and doctors traipsing in and out for the first few days, but if you can stand the interruptions, we can make you both more comfortable.”
Casey came out from behind the desk, and Xena only had time to brace herself before she was engulfed in a full-body hug. “Thank you, Dáskalos! Thank you, so much. You have no idea….”
“You call me by the name my son calls me; I think I have more of an idea than you realize.” She held on and let her cry out her fear and frustration and relief. Xena gently patted her belly. “And when things settle down a little bit, you come see me, all right? I don’t have to be your Primary Care Doctor, but I would like to know that everything is okay.”
Casey pulled back enough to look into Xena’s sparkling eyes. “How did you…? We haven’t even known a week yet!”
Xena grinned. “I have many skills. But allow me to remind you of one very important thing,” waiting for Casey to understand the seriousness of her next words. “Make sure you share this with his Mi̱téra before she asks you about it herself. She may already know, but she will wait a little while to let you share your own news. But don’t make her wait too long. No one wants her to be the one to bring it up.”
Casey laughed and wiped the tears from her face, then leaned back in for another hug. Xena was still supporting Casey when Gabrielle stepped into the office. She glanced at the two of them, then turned questioning eyes on Xena. After a moment, she smirked and clapped her hands together, causing Casey to startle backwards away from Xena. Gabrielle held out her arms. “You don’t get to hug her like that unless you hug me too!” watching Casey’s smile grow exponentially when Gabrielle returned her embrace fiercely. Gabrielle held on for a long moment, feeling Casey finally start to relax against her. Only then did she pull away to meet green eyes not unlike her own. “Is everything all right?” she asked seriously.
Casey nodded and dried her face again, then took Gabrielle’s hands in hers. “Everything is fantastic, as a matter of fact. I still have a job here at a place I love with people I adore,” her words triggering a sharp look at Xena, whose expression promised a full explanation later. “Xena has promised to see about getting Ian moved upstairs as soon as possible.” She risked a glance at Xena, who gave her the barest movement of her head. Xena had a sneaking suspicion Gabrielle was as aware as she was, but it was Ian and Casey’s news to share. Gabrielle kept her eyes on Casey’s face. “And Ian and I are pregnant.”
Gabrielle’s smile was blinding, and she reached out to engulf Casey in another hug. “That’s wonderful news! I’m so happy for you both.” She turned to Xena. “Guess this means we better get the boy healed quick. We don’t want him missing a minute of this.”
“Or the wedding,” Casey added, chuckling when both heads whipped back in her direction. “In fairness, he asked me to marry him before he found out I was pregnant. Before we both did, actually - I had only guessed up to that point. We took the test before we went out to South Dakota. So no one really knows except us… and you two.”
Xena chuckled. “Wait until Colleen finds out she’s gonna be an aunt!” causing both Gabrielle and Casey to laugh… even though Casey had yet to truly meet her. She’d certainly heard the stories, though. “All right,” she said as they settled back down. “Olivia Spencer and Natalia Rivera are due here in about ten minutes. Please show them into my office,” she instructed. Then she frowned. “We still need someone in the office.”
Casey put a hand on Xena’s arm. “I’ve got this. I told the docs I would be down to spend an hour at lunch. I knew there was too much going on for me to be up and down all day. If something happens before then, Kurt said he would come relieve me. He may end up doing that anyway. I got the feeling from Brittany this morning that she’d like a little time alone.”
“Because she needs to adjust to that as her new reality for now.” The elevator bell dinged for their attention, and in another minute, it opened to reveal Olivia, Natalia, and surprisingly, Emma. Emma jerked like she wanted to run to Xena and Gabrielle and just held herself in check for her mother’s sake. Olivia still looked pissed off, and Natalia….”
“Gabrielle, will you take Olivia and Emma into my office, please? Casey, if you’ll find out what they want for refreshment….”
“Where are you taking my wife?” Olivia demanded harshly. “Haven’t you done enough??”
Xena met Olivia’s eyes sternly, waiting until she blinked and looked away. “I’m not taking her anywhere. I’m going to fix the issue with her arm. I’m fairly sure she doesn’t want an audience - it’s not going to be pretty, but I can promise you it will be effective.”
“Please, Olivia. It’s my fault this hasn’t been taken care of properly, and if I had known it was going to become such an issue, I would have spoken up about it before. But Xena’s here and can fix it now. Let her.”
Olivia crossed her arms over her chest. “I want to be here.” She met Xena’s eyes. “It’s not that I don’t trust you - I wanted her to come back with you in the first place because I knew you could fix this. But I want to be here for her.”
Xena waited a moment, then nodded sharply. “All right. Casey, if you and Gabrielle would wait in my office with Emma, this won’t take but a minute.” Emma opened her mouth to protest, but before she could utter a sound, Gabrielle smoothly moved the three of them into the office and shut the door. Xena turned to Olivia. “Find a place on the strap that is nothing but leather and put it into her mouth. She’s gonna need something to bite down on.”
Olivia nodded and found the thickest part of the strap, then put it into Natalia’s mouth. The purse she balanced with one hand, and with the other, she clasped Natalia’s uninjured one. “Squeeze as tight as you need to, honey. I’m right here with you.”
Natalia nodded vehemently and whimpered as Xena gently poked and prodded both the shoulder and the elbow area. “What exactly happened here? It looks like someone tried to fix it, but….”
“Someone did try to fix it - they just didn’t do it very well. The shoulder seemed to be all right, but the elbow slid back out, and when it did, the shoulder didn’t fit correctly. She’s been this way for a couple days,” Olivia concluded accusingly.
Xena’s head snapped around. “What?? Why didn’t you come see me immediately??”
“Because she knew we had an appointment today, and she didn’t want to be a burden.”
Xena swung around and knelt in front of Natalia. “Next time, you come see me immediately. You’re not a burden, Natalia… you’re family, all right?” seeing Natalia nod, though her eyes were hidden by her hair. She rose and tapped on Natalia’s chin until she could look at her face. “We look out for each other. I’m sorry you’ve suffered with this for so long, but you did right in keeping it as immobile as possible. This is gonna hurt like crazy, so scream if you need to, but I promise you’ll feel like a new woman once this is back where it belongs.” Then before Natalia could process her motion, she pulled the elbow back in line and shoved the shoulder into place. Natalia screamed and crushed Olivia’s hand. Xena stood ready to catch her if she fell, because the sweat on her brow was soaking.
After a moment, Natalia released the strap from between her teeth, where she had almost bitten it in two. Olivia let the purse fall to the floor and wrapped an arm around Natalia’s waist. “You all right?”
She nodded slowly. “I think I need to sit down though.” Xena took her other side, and together they seated her in one of the chairs in front of Casey’s desk.
“Sit here for a few minutes; catch your breath, but don’t move that arm. I’m gonna send Casey down to get a splint and a couple wraps and a special sling to help this heal, okay? Then we can go in the office and talk.” Natalia nodded and closed her eyes and focused on her breathing.
As soon as Casey came out of the inner office, Gabrielle and Emma followed. Emma carried a glass of whiskey that she handed to Natalia. She threw it back in one swallow without hesitation, then choked when she realized what she’d done. Gabrielle, meanwhile, had taken the cold, wet cloth she had and applied it to Natalia’s neck and face.
“You okay, Ma?” Emma asked, covering the hand she knew was on the good side and squeezing it lightly.
Natalia nodded. “I’m much better, in fact. It hardly hurts at all now.” A slight exaggeration, but compared to what her pain level had been, she was practically pain free. She turned and met Xena’s eyes. “Thank you,” she said softly. “I can’t tell you the difference….”
Xena smirked. “Oh… I know. I’ve head to reset my own before,” watching brown eyes widen comically. “Yeah….” looking at her nails. “Wouldn’t recommend it.”
“Neither would I,” Gabrielle concurred. “I don’t think that tree ever forgave you.”
“Or that rock formation.”
Olivia looked between them. “Okay… now you’re just having us on.”
Gabrielle shook her head. “Nope. I’m too short to get the right leverage, usually, and there have been a few times it’s happened that we’ve not been near any medical facilities. Xena had to fix it herself them, and she uses whatever big, solid object nearby she can find and slams into it.” Her words cause the others to flinch, and Xena to shrug diffidently. “Not pretty, but effective.”
At that moment, Casey came back into her office, loaded down with supplies. Emma rose and raced to help her with them, and soon they were scattered across her desk. “All right,” Xena said, grabbing up a cold pack. “This first.” Gabrielle snatched up the tape and attached it as tightly as she dared… first to the shoulder and then to the elbow. She slid the splint onto the elbow to hold everything in place, then Xena slid the sling over and fastened it tightly. “Obviously, when the packs melt, we’ll need to go through this again, and I’ll show you what you need to do for the next few weeks. You won’t need to keep ice on it unless it help. We just want to get the swelling down and ease some of the irritation cause by me slamming everything back into place.”
Natalia nodded.”Thank you. Will you look at Olivia’s face now? I don’t know if they’re still painful, but I do know they hurt her vanity. Personally, I think they give her a rakish kind of charm.”
“Natallllliaaaaaa,” Olivia whined.
“Only if she wants me to,” Xena replied, meeting Olivia’s eyes for a moment before green ones dropped, and Olivia nodded.
“I don’t think there’s anything that can be done. They’re already scabbed over, and they’re going to leave scars.”
Xena lifted her chin and turned her head so she could see the scratches in the light. “Well, they are scabbed over, and they appear to be clean, which is good. I think we may have something to help with the scars, but we have to wait until you’re fully healed… probably three to four weeks.”
“So just enough time for me to miss the kidlet here and need to come back for a visit anyway,” Olivia said with a hint of tears in her voice.
“Did you really think I’d deny you the chance to follow your dreams… even if they move you hundreds of miles away from me?” She snorted. “Getting out of Springfield is probably the best thing you can do for you.” She smirked. “Besides, I’ve been looking at expanding the Beacon brand into New York. Might as well jump on that while I can, right?”
Gabrielle placed a hand on Olivia’s shoulder and turned her until their eyes met. “Olivia? Are you sure?”
“Are you?” she joked. “I know this kid - she’s a handful,” eyes sparkling with mischief.
She sniffed and shook her head. “No… I’m not sure at all. She’s my baby. But I can’t hold her back for my selfishness… especially since I know you’ll both look out for her like she was your own.” She cleared her throat awkwardly. “I just… I needed to be mad for a little while, and you were the easiest targets. Otherwise, I had to be mad at myself and her father and her.”
Xena chuckled. “We get it. And I’m pretty sure when all is said and done, she’s gonna have more people looking out for her than most kids her age.”
“Standing right here, you know,” said with a hint of irritation and a lot of embarrassment.
Gabrielle laughed. “Get used to it, Kiddo,” laughing again when Emma groaned dramatically. “When do you want to move? We need to get you settled and into school as quickly as possible.”
“Next week? We need to go home and pack up her things, and she should say goodbye to her dad and Beth at least. We could be back here by the weekend, and get her enrolled at Dalton on Monday morning.”
“That will work. We have to go take care of some things out of town, but we can be back here by Sunday afternoon.”
“Sounds good. We’ll get it on the calendar and go from there.” She turned to Natalia, who had regained most of her natural coloring. “Are you going to be all right?”
She nodded. “Yeah… I’m just not gonna be fast. Thankfully, Philip sent the Spaulding jet for us to use to fly home, so I don’t have to worry about flying commercial with this thing,” She started to lift it up, then thought better of it.
“Make sure you bring him and Beth back with you. He should probably at least meet us.”
Olivia nodded and extended a hand to Natalia, gingerly helping her stand. “Thank you both. There’s a lot of comfort in knowing Jellybean will be in your hands.”
Xena headed downstairs with Casey when the Spencer-Rivera family left, while Gabrielle went to check on Brittany. She was more than a little concerned that she was shutting down and shutting everyone else out, and Gabrielle couldn’t bear the thought of that.
“Brittany? It’s Gabrielle. May I come in?” Brittany opened the door and gestured Gabrielle inside. She waited for Brittany to close the door behind her, then she followed her into the apartment’s small living area. She reached out and covered her hand once they were seated. “I want to know how I can help you.”
Brittany smiled sadly and shook her head. “I don’t think you can.” She bit her lip and Gabrielle waited. “Sanny and me? We were friends all our lives. Lima’s not that big a city, and we kinda grew up together - same neighborhood; same stores; same schools. She was always there… always my friend. She got me when no one else did. Now I have to learn to be like everyone else, because no one else gets me.”
Gabrielle held her hand tightly, contemplating her words carefully. But before she could respond, someone else spoke from the open doorway. “You never need to be anyone but yourself, Britt. I know I don’t get you the same way San did, but I’ll learn. You and Lord Tubbington and Sparkles can teach me - I’m pretty smart too, you know. We’ll be an Unholy Duet.”
Gabrielle released the hand she held the moment she felt Brittany start to move. Quinn Fabray braced against the doorframe and caught her as she rushed into her arms, and then held on for dear life rocking them gently back and forth. “I’m sorry, Britt,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry. I wish….”
Brittany nodded. “I know. I wish too,” wiping the tears from her eyes as she leaned slightly back. “I’m so glad you’re here.” Then her eyes widened as she realized what she’d just do and to whom. “Oh God… Quinn! Are you all right? I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
Quinn wouldn’t have admitted to any kind of pain at the moment, even if she’d been lying on the floor in agony. Fortunately, she was mostly a little achy, and she shook her head at Brittany’s question. “I’m fine, Britt… really.”
“Hey! Can anyone get in on this whole hugging phenomenon??” asked a loud impatient voice from somewhere outside the apartment. “I like hugs too, you know,” almost petulantly.
Quinn and Brittany turned, arms still around one another’s waists, and faced the door. It only took seconds before Brittany found herself with Rachel Berry wrapped around her. “I’m so sorry, Brittany. Despite everything, Santana was my friend, and I can’t imagine the world without her.”
“Neither can I,” Brittany whispered.
Rachel held on tighter. “We’ll do all we can to help,” feeling Quinn nod her agreement against Brittany’s shoulder.”
“So will we,” said Kurt as he and Bryson stepped into the growing hug. Gabrielle smiled to herself as she looked at the friends that had come to Brittany’s aid. She rose and made her way to the door, trying to determine the best way of easing past them without actually disturbing them. At that moment, Kurt noticed her and reached out a hand to pull her forward. Brittany released Rachel and Quinn to pull Gabrielle into a firm, full embrace.
“Thank you, Gabrielle.”
“We’re here if you need us,” she whispered into Brittany’s ear. “But let your friends help you too. It will help you all to heal a little.”
“I know.” She pulled back and kissed her cheek. “Thank Xena for me to, yeah?”
“You know I will. I’ll see you later.” She squeezed her hand and then Kurt’s and offered a nod to Rachel and Quinn. Then she disappeared into the elevator and Brittany invited her guests inside.
Gabrielle went back upstairs to fix some lunch, satisfied that Brittany’s friends would do their best to help her through Santana’s death as much as they could. She knew she would need to make plenty; she had a feeling they were going to end up with a houseful to feed before all was said and done. She was a little surprised to run into Kara coming out of the gym, and she frowned slightly. “Is everything okay?” wondering how she could have blown her powers so quickly again… especially since she wasn’t aware of any emergency Supergirl had been needed for.
Kara’s expression mirrored her own before it lightened. “Oh… yeah, yeah. I flew out to check on Alex and Maggie last night, so I decided to take advantage of the sunroom for a little extra boost this morning. That’s okay, isn’t it?”
Gabrielle nodded vigorously. “Yes… of course. I was just concerned. How is your sister and her girlfriend?”
“Tired and sore,” she replied honestly, “and Maggie is going to be on desk duty for the next few weeks, which she’s not real happy about. But they’re both still pretty stoked about being included in everything. Even aliens aren’t as interesting as gods, apparently,” shrugging, but giving Gabrielle a smirk.
“I’m glad. They seem like good people. Perhaps the next time Xena and I are in National City, you can introduce us.”
Kara nodded. “I’d like that.” She cleared her throat, and Gabrielle waited. “Do you think… will Cat… Ms. Grant, be all right?”
“Have you been down to visit her?”
She shook her head. “I don’t want to impose, or… you know… embarrass her. She’s always been very self-conscious of how she looks and presents herself publicly.”
Gabrielle put a hand on her arm. “I don’t think she would feel that way about you, but you know her better than I do. You’re welcome to visit her if you think she’d welcome it. I’ll even go with you if you’d like. But first, I need to get started on lunch. I think we’re going to have a full table,” hiding her smile when Kara’s eyes widened and her whole countenance perked up.
“Um… if I help, can I be invited to lunch?”
Gabrielle captured her hand and pulled Kara forward and into the penthouse, not slowing down until they reached the kitchen. She dropped her hand and threw her an apron, then went to the refrigerator and began pulling out the things she needed for lunch. “What did I tell you the other day? About being family and welcome whenever you were here.”
“I didn’t want to assume,” Kara muttered and started separating items into piles.
“Assume!” Gabrielle instructed fiercely. “Assume when you’re here, that you’re with family and you always have a place - to sleep; at the table; to recharge; and people who care about you to share with, all right?” seeing Kara nod hesitantly. She crossed over to stand beside Kara and raised her chin just until their eyes met. “You got it?”
The grin she got in return was blinding. “I got it.”
“Never doubt your worth, Kara Zor-El Danvers, nor your welcome. Now,” she continued before tears could flow, “help me put these sandwiches together. We need enough to satisfy you, Helena, half-a-dozen Amazons, and probably another six or eight people beyond that,” chuckling as Kara’s eyes widened so much she was concerned they might roll out of her head. “If you’ll lay out the bread, then start slicing tomatoes and pickles. we can get this show on the road.” She laughed aloud when she saw Kara standing in front of her… already done. “We’re not in a rush, Supergirl. Slow down and enjoy the creation aspect a little more.”
“I’m not sure….”
“Think of it like your art.” She patted the arm closest to her. “We’ll work on it.”
“Well, Officer Peck,” Xena greeted as she entered Holly’s room. “Do you feel better about your girl now?” She had dropped Casey off with Ian, who was awake if not lucid. He had smiled when he’d seen Casey, and that had brought both smiles and tears from Casey, and Xena had left them alone. Now she waited for Gail to respond as she walked to Holly’s bedside and started checking her incision and bandages.
Gail cleared her throat and wiped her hands on her pants before she stood up. “Yes, thank you. I’m sorry I was such a pain before.”
Xena smiled and looked at Holly. “How do you feel?”
“Surprisingly well. I mean… it’s a little sore, but I’d be more worried if it wasn’t, you know? I’ve been able to walk up and down the unit a few times, and other than needing to remember not to breathe too deeply, I did all right. Which reminds me… thank you for the fantastic gowns. It’s nice not to have to worry about my ass hanging out.”
Xena chuckled. “That was one of the very first things I did when we built this place - I made sure we had gowns that were sufficient to protect one’s modesty.” She turned to Gail, who was waiting contritely with her head down. “Look at me,” she commanded firmly. “You’re forgiven,” she stated plainly. “But next time, try to reserve judgment until you know the whole story. I know it’s harder to watch the one you love suffer instead of it being you, but you don’t do yourself any favors either, and a lot of doctors don’t have my experience. They wouldn’t tolerate the attitude. And remember, you need them on your side if you expect to be kept in the loop and allowed to visit.”
“Yeah,” Gail agreed, running a nervous hand through her hair, making it stand on end. Then she rubbed her ear furiously. “Yeah… I got a long lecture about behavior and etiquette and understanding the second I got here this morning.”
“If it makes you feel better, I have the same problem… even though Gabrielle and I have been together forever, and I know she’s a grown, capable woman. Fortunately, she’s also a very patient woman… much like your Holly, I’d bet. Now,” smiling at Holly, who was blushing. “I’d like to try you on scrambled eggs and oatmeal and see how you do. Depending on how that goes, we’ll move you to real food in a day or two.”
“A day,” Holly replied, “if we’re taking votes. I’m starving.”
“Maybe. But I don’t want your body to suddenly decide that real food was a bad idea and send it flying back up. I don’t want to have to stitch you up again.”
Holly raised her good arm and waved it around slightly. “Preach.”
Gail cleared her throat. “Um… any idea when we might be able to go home?”
“If she continues to improve? Within the week. BUT… no work for six weeks.”
“I can make it eight if you’d rather.”
Holly crossed her arms over her chest and winced, then relaxed and pouted instead. “Six weeks will be fine, thank you.”
Xena grinned. “I thought you’d see it my way. Elizabeth will be in charge of releasing you, but I’ll make sure you both have your instructions; know what you can and can’t do; how to care for the incision and such before you leave. I’ve already made arrangements for the company jet to take you home when you’re ready to go. And I’d like to see you at the end of the six weeks.”
Holly put her hand on Xena’s arm before Gail could speak. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes. Gabrielle and I just need to go speak to the families of those who died, and we had a friend die here that needs to be taken home.”
“I’m sorry,” Holly said softly.
“Yeah,” Gail agreed. “Me too. I didn’t think about all those people that you still had to take care of.”
Xena offered a pained smile. “We needed to care for the living first - that was absolutely our first priority. But everyone is on the mend, so now we need to go honor the dead.”
“Was it worth it?” Gail asked quietly. “Did it make a difference?”
“All the difference in the world.”
Lunch had been a lively affair - full of laughter and conversation. Surprising, to some degree, but a necessary stress reliever. By unspoken consent, there was no mention of Saligia or their experiences in South Dakota. Instead, Emma and Regina were asked about their adventures in Storybrooke; Dinah answered questions about Gotham City; Kara shared some of what Krypton was like; and Bo spoke of life with the Fae. But the most laughter came when the Amazons regaled everyone with stories of their Queen… causing Gabrielle to blush the shade of a pomegranate.
When there wasn’t a speck of food on the table, each woman rose and took her plate to the sink, washing and drying it before putting it away at Gabrielle’s directive. Then they returned to the living room, knowing the rest of the Guardians would be there shortly.
Olivia and Alex were the first to arrive, since they were the closest, but they were quickly followed by Helen and Kate, who lived within the City’s limits but outside of its confines.
Jane and Maura had decided to stay in town at the Plaza - as much for Jane’s sake as Maura’s. That way, they could have the quiet and privacy that Maura craved after too long spent in the company of others, and it gave Jane a legitimate reason to play tourist in a city she had always vocally disdained due to her sports affiliations. She looked at it as a little mini-honeymoon for them in a place that Maura had always enjoyed. They arrived next, and Maura was overjoyed with the welcome they received despite their initial desire to separate themselves somewhat. She questioned the wisdom of that decision, but what was done was done, and they would see what they could do about making better friends of these women with whom they had literally been through life, death, and hell.
Sam and Janet were the last to arrive - as far as the Guardians went. They had landed Sam’s fighter jet at McGuire AFB in Trenton and had been offered overnight lodging by the commanding officer. They had accepted the offer and the courtesy driver he had provided them to get into the City. They stopped at the Waldorf to drop their bags - they had decided to take a little of the extended time off they had arranged and spend it sightseeing and doing some early Christmas shopping. They had dismissed the driver at the hotel, not wanting her to sit there needlessly and wait, and it was only when they went to leave the hotel that they realized they had no idea how to get to where they needed to be.
Rather than start out stressed trying to figure it out, Sam asked the doorman to hail them a cab. He did, and in moments they were headed across Mid-town. The receptionist put them on the penthouse elevator as soon as they arrived, and they were greeted with cheers when Xena answered the door to allow them entrance. They both blushed but greeted everyone with smiles and hugs, and Gabrielle and Xena watched as the bonds between these women grew stronger.
Helena… of course… being Helena, was the first to speak when things started to settle down somewhat. “So, umm… why are we here?”
Everyone settled down to silence then and turned their attention to Xena and Gabrielle, but before they could reply, two things happened simultaneously - a knock sounded at the door, and four gods appeared in the living room. Xena and Gabrielle exchanged glances, and Gabrielle went to greet the gods while Xena went to answer the door. She smiled when she opened it.
“Darius!” extending her hand. “Good to see you.”
He smiled and returned her handshake. “Good t’be here,” looking around casually as she drew him inside. “Nice place.”
She shrugged. “We like it. Please… come in. I think you know everyone,” gesturing him into the living room. He lifted up a hand in greeting, and the women welcomed him. He copped a squat next to Helena and Dinah and looked at them briefly with shining, silver eyes.
“Y’all doing a’ight? Everything looks…. Well, I dunno if I’d call it normal, but better fo’ sure.”
Helena chuckled and nodded. “I don’t think we’ve ever been normal, but we’re all right. You did good for us, man.”
He nodded. “’m glad. You’re good people.” He looked around the room. “Any idea why we’re here?”
She shook her head. “Nah… I’d just asked when you and they arrived,” jerking her thumb over her shoulder towards where the gods were talking quietly to Xena and Gabrielle. At that moment, Xena took Gabrielle’s hands and moved them back to where they were standing in front of the Guardians. The gods took their places at the back of the room and waited.
“Thank you all for being here,” Gabrielle said, as she assumed a stance in front of Xena. “I know you’re all wondering why you’re here,” smiling when most of the heads around the room nodded. “We wanted to tell you a little about how you ended up Guardians - about your ancestors that were chosen and why. We wanted you to know the whole story of Saligia - we think you deserve that much. After that? Well, that will depend on you.”
“Depend on us, how?”
Gabrielle held up her hand. “Let me tell you the story, and then we can go from there.”
It was deadly silent when she finished - not even the sound of breathing could be heard. Even those who already knew most of the hard truths Gabrielle had shared remained quiet in deference to those that were absorbing all-new information. Finally, Kate Freelander raised a hand and waited to be recognized. Gabrielle looked at her and raised her chin in acknowledgment.
“Um… does this make us all immortal now?” causing a bevy of murmurs to break out around the room. Gabrielle let them run until they quieted down naturally, and all eyes turned her way again.
“No,” she assured them. “Immortality doesn’t work that way.”
“However,” Hippolyta broke in, “it does give you a chance to become a kind of immortal… if you’re interested,” causing all heads to turn in her direction. “For those of you who wish it, you’ll be given the opportunity to become part of the Amazon Nation. On Themiscyra, we enjoy immortality.”
“But only on Themis…scyra, right? Because I know I saw several Amazons among the dead.”
Hippolyta nodded. “Yes. When we return to Man’s World, we are subject to the same ills and detriments as any other human. It’s one reason we’ve chosen to stay out of so many human affairs.”
There was silence for several minutes following Hippolyta’s admission… many of them considering if it was selfish to want that kind of peace for themselves. Finally, someone spoke up. “But why us? Wait….” She held up her hands before anyone could interrupt. “I get that you want to reward us… or whatever… for being Guardians, but that wasn’t really a choice - it was the whim of fate. What have we done to merit that kind of consideration?”
Gabrielle gave Hippolyta a look to forestall her answer, and Olivia Benson turned and met bright green eyes. “It’s hard to trust in good things without facts… with no basis in anything except your own faith, isn’t it?” smiling gently. Olivia wanted to be angry or embarrassed at having been called out and read so easily, but Gabrielle offered her hand, and after a moment’s hesitation, Olivia took it in her own. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of - it’s what makes you so very good at your job… that and your compassion.” She smiled again and glanced at Xena before returning her attention to Olivia. “You’re very much like someone else I know. It took her a very long time to learn that kind of trust, and even now… some days… she still struggles with it, because, like you, she’s seen the worst of humanity… come to expect it even.”
“So why then? Why us?”
“I could ask - why not you? You stood with us when you had no real reason to except that we asked.”
“We had a responsibility….”
“… that you had no knowledge of nor accountability for, truthfully. We were truly lucky that each of you has your own ethics and moral code that compelled you to come to our aid, but realistically? There was no argument we could make to force you to join us in what could very well have become an epic cluster… for us as well as the rest of the world. And yet each of you,” looking around the room and meeting everyone’s eyes briefly, “risked your lives; your careers; the person you cared most for in the world - all to help out a couple of people most of you were no more than casual friends with… because we asked you to.”
“Um… I’d like to file a protest,” Sam Carter said softly, drawing all eyes to her. “I can’t speak for everyone in this room, of course, but I’d like to think most of us are more than casual friends at this point. We may have started out that way years ago when we first met, but I know that Janet and I have kept in regular contact with a number of people we met then… including most of the women in this room and the two of you.” She cleared her throat. “I know we can’t have dinner together regularly or get together on the weekends and hang out, but I do count you among my dearest friends. I’m sorry you don’t feel the same.”
Gabrielle was in front of Sam so quickly, she created a breeze in her wake. She reached out a hand and waited for Sam to take it. It took a minute, and then another for their eyes to meet, but when they did, Sam gasped at the myriad of emotion swirling in the green eyes staring at her. She covered the hand holding hers and waited for Gabrielle to blink the tears from her eyes so she could speak.
“When you’ve been around as long as Xena and I have, you learn never to presume an intimacy with anyone… especially friendship.” She sucked in a deep breath and blinked rapidly again, though this time two tears escaped and rolled silently down her face. “We’ve watched so many friends die.” She shook her head. “We’ve mourned the loss of every friend we’ve known, so we don’t expand the circle unless we know someone truly wants to be there.”
Samantha squeezed her hand and smiled at her through her own tears. “Put me down for first in line, then.” Gabrielle laughed in release, and suddenly there was a cacophony of sound from everyone in the room to be included. She looked around and held up her free hand.
“So does this mean you’re all becoming Amazons?” The cheer that followed was raucous.
When the cheering died down, Gabrielle looked around the room again. “All right, now that that’s settled, I’d like you all to get together and find a few days in the next month or so,” glancing at Hippolyta, who gave her an affirmative, “when you’re all available to visit Themiscyra.”
“Um… Gabrielle,” Helena interjected, scratching the back of her head nonchalantly. “Everybody has that time right now. Everyone took extended leave to deal with Saligia.”
Gabrielle nodded and realized she hadn’t had time to talk to Helena about Santana’s funeral arrangements. She sighed. Well… no time like the present, I guess. “Yes, I know. But this week isn’t possible. We’re leaving in a few days to take Santana home.”
Helena tilted her head. “Home? To Themiscyra? I didn’t know she was an Amazon.”
“She wasn’t, but her actions here gave her the right to become one, and Brittany has asked for an Amazon pyre. Wonder Woman is taking Hippolyta and the Royal Guard home after this meeting to prepare for our arrival. We’ll sing all our dead sisters into eternity then. Brittany’s asked for you to be there.”
“What about the rest of us?” Sam asked. “If we’re Amazons too, shouldn’t we be allowed to mourn our sister’s death and celebrate her life?”
Gabrielle looked around at all the expectant faces and shook her head. Then she met Hippolyta’s eyes, who simply waved her agreement to whatever decision the Queen made and turned her focus to Xena. The rest watched in fascination as they communicated silently, then Xena shrugged the barest amount. Finally, Gabrielle nodded. “If you would like, you may come participate,” accepting the relaxation of tension in the room as their tacit agreement. “But… there are some rules and protocols you’ll need to learn before we go.” She turned to Kara. “Supergirl, would you mind teaching them? I’ll help when I can, but I still have several things to take care of before we leave for Themiscyra, and almost all of it is out of town.” Kara nodded. “All right, ladies. You have a little free time while Supergirl and I come up with a schedule, then you’ll be expected here for a crash course in how to be an Amazon. You won’t get it all in the little time you have, but you’ll get the essentials. The rest will come with time.”
“Thank you, Gabrielle,” many of them responded.
“Gabrielle,” Bo called out before she could turn away. She arched a blonde brow and waited for Bo to continue speaking. “I was just wondering what was going on with the Fae. Have you heard anything?”
Darius stood up. “That’s one reason I’m here. The Fae are stayin’ on the Res for a few more days at least. John Stillwater an’ Trick’s workin’ on some kinda “mutually beneficial exchange treaty” or some such. I din’t ask for no details. I just said I’d pass the message since I had ta be here anyways.”
Lauren frowned. “Are all the Fae staying?”
“Most of ‘em.” He shrugged. “They all think they gots lots ta learn from each other. I dunno.”
Gabrielle waited, but when there was nothing more forthcoming, she nodded and looked around again. “All right then. Supergirl will be in touch with each of you to let you know when she’s ready to being your crash course,” watching with a smile as people got up and started making plans to get together for dinner as they moved toward the door. When they were gone, Kara pointed to the gym.
“I’m gonna go in there and see what I can put together.”
“I’ll join you as quickly as I can,” Gabrielle assured her, and she went off with a nod and a smile, thrilled to have been asked to take care of something so important.
Gabrielle turned to Diana and Hippolyta, the Royal Guard maintaining a respectful distance. “My Queen,” they offered with bowed heads. She touched them lightly, and they looked up with smiles. “We’re headed out. MacGregor agreed to come off paternity leave for a few hours when Wonder Woman asked for a favor. You’ll let us know when you’re incoming?”
“Yes… as well as when you’ll need to come pick up your new sisters.” Diana grimaced slightly. “Yeah… sorry about that. But I didn’t want to tell them no. Not about this.”
“No… I agree with you. It’s just been a long few days.” She took her cell from her boot and looked at it quickly before redepositing it. “Mac’s downstairs; we better get going.” She took a good look at her mother, who was looking as tired as she felt. “Mother? Will you be all right,” noting the heavy way she was leaning on her walker.
“I’ll be fine, Diana. I’m just ready for the sunshine and fresh air of home.” She leaned forward and brushed a kiss across Gabrielle’s cheek. “See you soon, My Queen,” bowing slightly before turning her back and making her way slowly across the room to the doors where the Guard was waiting.
“We’ll be there as quickly as we can,” Gabrielle assured Diana.
“I’ll be waiting for your call,” Diana assured her, then nodded deferentially and strode from the room.
While Gabrielle had gone to talk to the Amazons, Xena had made her way to the waiting gods. Before she could even ask, Aphrodite spoke up. “We’re going home. Without the Sword, Ares is more powerless than he’s ever been, and I’m tired. I haven’t felt like this since that one time I became mortal,” she confessed, wrinkling her nose. “We just think we need to go be with the family for now. That may change - I mean… I’m sure I’ll come visit you guys every now and then - but for now, we need a break. And let’s face it - humanity won’t miss us.”
“You’re sure?” Xena asked as she met each pair of eyes, though this was the outcome she’d been expecting.
Athena nodded. “Yes. Our time is long past. Perhaps we’ll be able to find something productive to do eventually, but for now, we just want to rest and regroup. See what’s out there for us that doesn’t involve stupid, petty games.”
Xena nodded slowly. “Good luck with that,” she proffered seriously. “There’s not a lot to be said for immortality.”
“Give Gab a hug and kiss from me, yeah?” Aphrodite asked.
Xena nodded her agreement, and the gods faded from view.
Emma and Regina waited patiently while Gabrielle talked to the Amazons, and Xena talked to the gods. It was Xena that finished first, and they stood nervously when she approached them. “Relax,” she called out with a smile. “I don’t bite, remember… unless your name is Gabrielle,” causing them to redden slightly and chuckle. “What can I do for you ladies?”
“We just wanted to let you know that we’re heading back to Storybrooke. We don’t feel… we don’t think it would be right of us to… intrude into what’s going on right now. As interesting as all of this has been, we’re really still outsiders here; we don’t really know any of you.”
“Besides, I need to go rescue my daughter from my mother,” Emma commented with a pained smile.
“I understand; we both do, and we’re very sorry for your losses. We are grateful that you put all that aside and came and stood with us anyway. However, if you ever feel comfortable with the idea becoming part of this crazy, ever-expanding group of people, we’d be glad to have you both back as people we’d like to get to know.”
“If you’d like, we would welcome you as such.”
“Maybe you and Gabrielle could come to Storybrooke some day as well. We would love to have you.” Regina extended her hand, and Xena covered it with both of her own, giving her a smile. “Thank you, Xena… for letting us be a part of such an amazing experience and for not holding us accountable for freeing Saligia.”
“I think he would have gotten free at some point. You were just the catalyst.”
“Well, I’d be happy not to catapult anything like him back to life ever again,” Emma snarked. “We have enough of our own weird going on without inviting any more.”
Gabrielle chuckled as she came over. “I think we all feel that way.” She took first Emma, then Regina into an unexpected hug, to which they both responded. “Be safe going home, and if you need us, you know how to reach us,” passing them both a business card. “I don’t know how communication will work between our two worlds, but at least you know where we are and how to reach us.”
“Thank you, Gabrielle,” Regina remarked as she took a step back. She extended her hand to Emma. “Are you ready, Miss Swan?” Emma nodded and took her hand, and in seconds, there was nothing but a swirl of smoke left in their wake.
Gabrielle knocked on the door of the gym and realized they needed to give Kara a room of her own. Even if she was only in the City sporadically, she needed a place she could call her own. Kara came to the door with a frown on her face. “Gabrielle? Why did you knock?”
“Because I realized you were using this as your private space. Come with me. We’ll get you a room of your own to use whenever you’re here.”
“I’ve been sharing with Diana.”
“And I’m sure that was fine in a pinch, but you should really each have your own place whenever you’re here… just to give you a somewhere to relax and have some privacy.”
Kara grinned. “Thank you, Gabrielle. That would be fantastic. I promise to be a good tenant.”
Gabrielle chuckled and patted her arm. “C’mon. We can spare a few minutes; we both know you have a photographic memory.”
“Thank Rao,” Kara said as they entered the elevator. “It sure saved my butt a few times.” They exited the elevator onto one of the residential floors. Gabrielle went to the suite at the end of the hallway and shoved the keycard into the reader. She opened the door and ushered Kara in ahead of her. Kara walked in open-mouthed and looked around in delight. Aside from floor to ceiling windows, there was a balcony that faced the morning sun. The furniture looked comfortable enough, but it was very basic. She turned back to Gabrielle. “This is amazing.”
Gabrielle smiled. “You can make whatever changes you’d like to, but look on this as a home away from home.” Then she simply held on when Kara grabbed her up into an almost crushing hug. “I guess you like it then,” she said with a breathy chuckle.
“I love it,” she gushed. She glanced at her watch. “Oh crap! I’ve gotta get moving. Your Guardians decided to get a private room for dinner so we can start studying. Given what I learned about them, I don’t think they’ll need more than basic instructions and some notes to study on their own. They’ll be ready when you’re ready for them.”
“So you’ll be free tomorrow?”
“Unless they have an inordinate amount of questions, yeah. Is there something else I can do?
“Carter Grant is coming in. I was thinking it might be nice for him to have you there… at least for a little while. Cat’s a little unsure about him coming here and seeing her like she is.”
“I’ll take care of it,” Kara assured. “He’s a good kid, and he trusts me.”
“I’ll leave him in your capable hands,” Gabrielle said. “But if you need anything, you have but to ask.” They headed out the door, and Gabrielle passed Kara the keycard and a credit card, causing Kara to look at her questioningly. “You order what you need, and we’ll pay for everyone. It’s the least we can do.” Kara hugged her neck again and turned to wipe the happy tears from her eyes. Then she took the elevator down to street level and headed to the nearest bodega to pick up a few staples for her new place.
Rachel stayed at the doorway as Quinn and Kurt slipped inside. Brittany frowned at her, and Rachel held out her hands for Brittany to take. “I need to go,” she said. “For one thing, I have an appointment with my lawyer; Jesse and I are finalizing our divorce decree tomorrow, and Renée wants to go over the details one more time. Secondly, I wasn’t actually invited here - I insisted on coming along when Quinn got your message. She and I were having lunch together.” She shook her head when Brittany’s lips parted to speak. “I understand why; I just wanted you to have my condolences as well.”
“You can stay. If I had known you had the time, I would have let you know. I’ve missed you, but I know how busy you’ve been.”
“Soon,” Rachel promised. “We’ll get together and remember some of the fun and ridiculous times we had together. But you need time to mourn with those that have been closest to you, and I don’t have the right to ask for that from you at the moment. I would like for that to change, but we’ll do it on your terms.”
Brittany nodded and scooped Rachel up into a hug that Rachel clung to. “We’ll do that soon, then… as soon as you’re divorced from St. Jackass,” causing Rachel to chuckle. Brittany shrugged and deposited Rachel back on the floor. “I don’t like him. He kept you from us - that’s why Santana got so angry with you.”
“I know. And I can’t change that with her now. But I can with you. So as soon as you invite me back, I’ll be here, okay?” reaching up and wiping the tears from Brittany’s face.
“Okay,” Brittany nodded and grinned. “Thanks, Rachel.”
“See you soon, Britt,” she said and turned and walked out the door. Brittany watched her go, then turned back to the friends that had watched the entire tableau.
“She’s coming back soon,” she announced.
Quinn nodded. “She was planning to call after the divorce was final. I think she has a lot of regrets about how things happened.”
“I think we all do,” Brittany concurred. “Now, I need to tell you about what we’re going to do for Santana.”
“So… Supergirl,” Magnus asked as everyone finished up their desserts. “How did you become an Amazon?”
Supergirl set down her fork and finished chewing, wiping her mouth and taking a large drink of water before she cleared her throat. “When I first started discovering my powers, I was… overwhelmed… by everything around me. Wonder Woman recognized this and invited me to Themiscyra. It was a place that let me relax and learn techniques to focus and compartmentalize everything my senses were processing. While I was there, I was given access to their library, and I started reading… everything. They have such a fantastic culture, and the more I read, the more I wanted to know.”
“Is it true that Gabrielle is their queen?” Maura asked quietly.
“Yes, and Xena is her consort.”
“I’ll bet that’s quite a story,” Alex stated.
Supergirl smiled. “I enjoyed it,” she confessed. “But I liked many of the stories that Gabrielle shared.”
“We’re getting off-topic,” Bo commented. “You still haven’t said how you became an Amazon.”
“Oh. Once I read all their history, I asked if I could join the Nation. They said yes.”
“So the sooner we learn this, the sooner they’ll make us Amazons.”
“Something like that, yeah.”
“Then I have a proposal,” Maura said, flushing when all eyes turned her way. “I think we should stop for the evening and start again fresh in the morning.”
Jane turned to her, concern clear in her expression. “You all right?” she asked sotto voce. Maura wanted to be angry, but she knew there was nothing more innocuous behind the query than love and caring. She nodded.
“Yes. I’m just developing a slight headache.”
“I concur,” Alex said. She turned to Supergirl. “No offense.”
“Oh… none taken. My si… stickler of a director is forever reminding me that not everyone can go at my speed and pace. You guys are doing really well. You’ve got the basics; it’s just a matter of getting the details down.”
“Will that be enough?”
“Yes,” Helena spoke up for the first time. “The most important thing is that you try; they’ll make sure you learn. As long as you don’t deliberately disrespect them….”
“… or Xena and especially Gabrielle….”
Helena nodded. “You’ll be fine. Now, let’s find a waiter and pay for all this,” motioning around the table, “and get out of here.” She looked at Dinah, who had joined them as a matter of course. “We still have some business with Darius to take care of.”
“Dinner’s taken care of,” Supergirl said, waving a credit card. “Gabrielle insisted.”
“In that case,” Lauren said, “let’s head back. You and I have some unfinished business as well,” she said to Bo, causing her to grin rakishly and flush red simultaneously when the catcalls started. They rose as one body, and one by one, followed Barbara out of the restaurant and back to WarriorBard Enterprises.
Darius wiped his mouth and dropped his napkin back onto the table. “That was sure some mighty fine vittles, Miss Gabrielle. If I could find a woman that cooked like you do, I guess I’d hafta marry her.”
“Long as you don’t think you’re gonna marry her,” Xena reminded him with a dark smile.
“Oh… noooooo ma’am. My mama din’t raise no fool… uh uh.” He grinned, and then laughed when they chuckled. “Lissen… the reason I asked to speak ta ya privately is ‘cause Trick asked me ta give ya a message. He wanted ya ta know that he recorded all the details of the battle in his little book, so when you’re ready ta write the story of the Fae victory, everything is already written down to help you remember the details.” Xena and Gabrielle exchanged glances, knowing full well exactly what Darius’ words meant.
Gabrielle reached over and covered one of his hands. “Thank you, Darius. We appreciate you making the trip for us.”
Darius patted her hand awkwardly. “Not just for you. I needed to come check on the Bird women as well.”
Xena’s brow furrowed. “Is there something else wrong?”
“Not that I can sense, but I had ta kinda rush through gettin’ them separated out. I just wanna be sure they’re okay. S’posed to see them after their dinner with the other Guardians.”
Xena nodded. “In the meantime, Gab fixed Death by Chocolate Cake for dessert. You want some?”
“Never turn down chocolate cake of any kind - Darius 101.” They laughed and Gabrielle brought the cake out. Then they sat back to enjoy fellowship and conversation.
“So, umm…” Bo started, slowly unbuttoning her shirt as she gave Lauren a coy look. “Is it time for <ahem> unfinished business?” waggling her eyebrows comically.
Lauren snorted. “Put it back in your pants, Casanova,” laughing at the affronted look on Bo’s face. “Baby, when have we ever left that unfinished?” causing Bo to shrug and start laughing. She stopped unbuttoning her shirt and fell sideways into the bed. She looked up at Lauren.
“So what unfinished business do we have?”
“I wanted to run something past you, and I want you to really think about it - to give it some serious consideration before you answer.”
“Yes.” Lauren frowned in confusion, and Bo was quick to enlighten her. “You’re asking me to marry you. I’m saying yes. Can we celebrate now?” pulling Lauren down into her until she was straddling Bo’s lap. Lauren gave her a brief kiss, but when Bo went to chase after her for more, Lauren put a finger on her forehead and pushed her away.
“Hang on, horn dog! We’ll come back to the whole marriage thing in a bit, but for the record, I’m onboard with the whole idea of getting married. But I wanted to talk to you about something else first.”
Bo frowned, recognizing the seriousness of Lauren’s tone, sat up wrapped her arms around her waist. “What’s up, babe?”
“You remember how I found a way to turn myself Fae?” watching Bo crinkle up her forehead as she nodded. “Well, if we’re going to do this - if we’re going to do the whole marriage thing ’til death do us part’, then I want us both to be Fae… or both to be human. I want to know that we’ll be together not just in this life, but in the next one too.”
“You wanna be Fae?”
“I want to be with you. If you want to be Fae, then I want to be Fae… with everything that entails.”
“And if I’d rather be human? Have a normal type life with you?”
“Then I guess we better start planning for those one and a half kids with a picket fence.”
Bo burst out laughing. “Baby, you know we would never be that normal,” smiling when Lauren had to agree. “Let me think about it, but I’ll tell ya… a natural human life with you sounds like a fucking fine idea.” She ran her fingers along the inside of Lauren’s collar until they just skimmed the tops of her breasts. “Does this mean we can celebrate our engagement now?” gasping in surprise when she was suddenly on the bottom of the pile. Her lips were captured for a long moment, then Lauren continued undressing her where she’d left off. “Guess that means yes,” then sucked in a breath when her nipple was caught between sharp teeth. It was the last of the conversation for a while.
“There’s nothin’ more I can do,” Darius said as he pulled back from Helena and Dinah, the glow of his eyes fading from silver to hazel as he removed himself from physical contact with them. Helena caught his glance with her own piercing gaze.
“What does that mean?”
He sighed. He should have known…. “It means that you’re as separated as you can get. I can’t do nothin’ else. It shouldn’t make a diff’rence in how ya do things - it won’t be like it was before with ya all up in each other’s business.”
“But we’re not completely separate anymore either,” Dinah commented.
“Right. I don’t see a way to do that without hurtin’ the both of ya beyond reason. There’s no point to it. Now… if it gets worse - like it was before - we may hafta do somethin’ about it. But for now… best to just leave it be.”
“Thank you, Darius,” Dinah said quietly. “We know you did all you could.”
“And we know where to find you if we have any more problems,” Helena added. “Be safe going home.”
He nodded and left the apartment. He needed to get back to South Dakota. He’d gotten a message from Trick that didn’t make much sense, and Darius had a feeling that wasn’t good. He’d stop and say goodbye to Xena and Gabrielle on his way out, and then he’d hit the road. There was still work to be done and the Fae nation to take care of.
The three of them were downstairs to greet him - even though he was hours earlier than they expected him, and MacGregor stayed beside him until he reached them. Then Mac tipped his hat in their direction and departed, leaving Carter with Xena, Gabrielle, and Kara.
“Hello, Carter,” Gabrielle greeted softly.
“Hello. Is my mom all right?” he asked immediately.
Kara stepped into the breach before Gabrielle or Xena could respond. “She’s been injured, but she’s getting the best possible care here.”
“Can I see her?”
“Tomorrow. That was her decision,” holding up a hand to forestall his argument. “She’s in a significant amount of pain, but the truth is, she’s horrified for you to see her like this.” She bit her lip. “It’s not pretty, but she’s gonna recover from this. It’s just gonna take a little while.”
“And what about me? Am I going to be stuck with my dad?”
“Not if you don’t want to be,” Xena replied. “You can stay here with me and Gabrielle; go to school at Dalton with Emma; see your mom every day.”
“Emma’s here?” he asked shyly.
“She will be by the end of the weekend.”
He turned back to Kara. “You’re sure about this? About them?”
“I trust them with my life.” He studied her expression, then turned and studied them in turn, nodding in approval at what he found there.
“I’d like to stay here,” he said firmly. “Um… would it be all right if I stayed with Kara tonight, though? I’ll stay wherever you want me to after that, but I’d like the chance to catch her up on everything she’s missed in the last couple years. I think it’s important.”
“It’s up to Kara, but it’s fine with us.”
Kara wrapped an arm around his shoulders and wondered when he’d gotten so tall. “C’mon, kid. Let’s go catch up and have a few snacks. Maybe we’ll even have time for Catan.”
“Maybe you’ll have time to lose at Catan, you mean.”
“Oh… you are sooooo going down,” she said, leading him toward the elevator. “I’m gonna kick your butt,” she added as they stepped into the elevator.
He snorted as the door closed. “You wish.”
Gabrielle and Xena exchanged smiles and got into the express elevator, ready to call it a night.
First thing the next morning, Xena headed downstairs to check on her patients one more time before she and Gabrielle headed out that afternoon. Her first stop was Cat Grant’s room. She was still sleeping as peacefully as could be expected, so it gave her a chance to speak to Dr. Johnson privately.
“Make sure you leave copious notes,” she instructed, “and don’t roll your eyes,” with more than a hint of asperity. “You’re great at what you do, Jeff, but if you don’t start following the rules and taking care of things like a professional, you’re not going to be employed much longer. I know you think it’s a waste of time and resources, but the fact is that you’re endangering your patients and making extra work for everyone else.”
“I hate paperwork,” he grumbled.
Xena smirked. “We all do. But it’s a necessary part of the job. Don’t drop the ball on this. You don’t want Cat Grant on your ass because you can’t put pen to paper and leave the words needed to provide her with the very best care.”
His eyes widened. “Yeah… nope. I don’t want her as a teacher. I hear her tongue is sharper than Morimoto’s knives.”
“Keep that in mind then. Just make sure that everyone who reads her charts knows exactly what is going on with her. Now… what is going on with her?”
They talked about how her treatment was going; the next steps in the process; when he was hoping to get her into surgery to apply the synthetic skin; and her physical therapy plan.
“Her son arrived last night. Make sure you keep him informed as much as she will allow you to do so. You’ve done amazing work with her so far. Keep it up.”
“You got it, Chief… including the paperwork.” Xena nodded in satisfaction and moved on to check on Holly Stewart.
Holly was sitting up, happily consuming scrambled eggs and oatmeal. She greeted Xena with a smile. “Good morning!”
Xena smiled broadly. “Well, you must be feeling better.”
“So much. I probably shouldn’t be, given the damage done, but maybe it’s getting to eat real food again. I dunno. I just know I feel almost human again.”
Xena looked at her chart and nodded her head. “How’s the walking going?”
“Surprisingly well. I don’t think I’ll be doing a marathon any time soon, but except for getting winded if I go too fast or too long, I think I’m doing all right - at least a couple laps every hour.”
“And no problems with the soft food?”
“Only that they don’t seem to last very long in terms of filling me up.”
Xena nodded. “All right. I’ll have them give you a regular diet for lunch and dinner. If you don’t have any problems with that, we’ll release you to go home tomorrow,” grinning when Holly did a happy dance on the bed. “Just remember to keep the wound clean and dry. Bathing isn’t an issue as long as you do that. Exercise regularly, but don’t overdo, so if you have stairs in your house, try to keep your activity on the first level until you’ve healed more. No sex… nothing strenuous at all - at least until the stitches are ready to come out, so the six weeks until you come back to see me. If you have unmanageable pain or leakage of any kind, get thee to an ER unit and have them call me. My number is on the paperwork you’ll be taking home. Any questions?”
Holly shook her head. “No. Thank you for taking such good care of me.”
“Thank you for coming with us and being part of all this. I’m sorry you got hurt.”
Holly shrugged. “While I certainly wouldn’t have chosen this, I knew it was a possibility and accepted it as a consequence of my choice to go.” She glanced around conspicuously and lowered her voice. “It was worth it; watching him explode like a nova? Totally worth it.”
Xena patted her arm. “We were glad to have you along. Make sure you put your follow-up appointment in your calendar. Gabrielle and I would love to have you and Gail join us for dinner while you’re in town then.”
“It’s a date,” Holly said gleefully, and Xena left to check on her next patient.
“How’s she doing?” she asked Callie as she stepped into Lucy’s room. Amy hadn’t come downstairs yet because she knew Callie wanted a little time and space to wake Lucy slowly. Callie had promised to notify her in plenty of time for her to be there when Lucy opened her eyes. Xena, however, had no compunction about being there during the entire process. Callie sighed.
“Well, I’m pleased with the way the grafts seem to be taking; the nerves are showing good reactions. I’ve got her on a slow drip, so the pain doesn’t overwhelm her the moment she opens her eyes. I just need her to open her eyes so I can hear from her exactly what’s going on.”
“You got a timeline for that?”
Callie shook her head. “Not really. I’ve cut the meds that were keeping her under artificially. It’s just a matter of them working through her system, and her deciding to wake up.” She met Xena’s eyes. “If she remembers the pain she felt when she lost her arm, it may take longer than normal. People tend to shy away from that kind of pain.”
“I know,” Xena whispered, recalling some of her own. “Keep me apprised. Gab and I are leaving this afternoon, but I’d like to talk to her if she wakes up before we go.”
“You got it, Chief.”
Shepherd was in with Shaw and Root when Xena stepped into their room. Root was still wrapped around Shaw as much as possible, and he was doing his best to work around her. He met Xena’s eyes and shook his head. “I tried moving her once.”
“The worst. She was like a wildcat. As long as I leave them alone, she’s perfectly content to stay right there. She needs to eat, though, and I need to see if I can wake Shaw. She’s sleeping naturally, and I’d like to see where she is in terms of her progress.”
“So the surgery went well?”
“The surgery went well; her recovery is quite amazing. That synthetic skin is something beyond incredible. I’d love a look at the science behind it. It’s already becoming difficult to tell the difference between it and her natural skin, and it’s only been a few days.”
“How is she reacting to stimuli?”
“All her nerves seem to be functioning normally, but until she’s awake, and I can run a battery of tests, I have no way of knowing what kind of brain damage she’s suffered. As for Root,” wincing at the odd name, but continuing to speak, “I can’t find one thing wrong with her physically. I don’t know if it’s shock or some kind of psychosomatic response or something beyond my ken.” He shrugged. “I really have no way of knowing and no way of testing as long as they’re…” throwing a hand out in their direction, “like this.”
“Let me try?”
“You’re the boss.”
Xena gave him a half-grin. “Sometimes to my detriment,” she admitted. She closed her eyes a moment to put herself into the right frame of mind, then barked, “SHAW!! Get your sorry, lazy Marine ass up out of that bed this minute!! Move it, Marine!! I said, MOVE!!!” Her volume brought every able-bodied person to the door. But more importantly, it made Shaw reach out and grab her arm hard. Xena covered the hand on her arm and leaned down into Shaw’s personal space. “Open your eyes, Marine. That’s an order!”
It took a moment - longer than Xena would have liked - but eventually, brown eyes blinked open slowly and cut towards her. Xena smiled and Shaw’s lips quirked the slightest bit. Before Xena could ask any questions, Root sat up and looked at Shaw. Shaw’s arm tightened automatically, and she removed her hand from Xena’s arm and traced the smooth planes of Root’s face. Root clasped her hand and brought it to her lips, brushing a kiss across the knuckles before she leaned down to taste the lips beneath her. It wasn’t much - barely a chaste peck - but it was enough. Shaw gazed at her… and smiled.
Root returned the smile and clutched at the hand she still held. “Shaw,” she whispered as a tear slid down her face unchecked. She put her head back down on the slow-moving chest, and Shaw tightened her grip briefly… to assure Root of her life and her presence. Xena carefully put a gentle hand on each of them.
“Ladies,” almost snickering at the two distinct looks of disapproval at her address. “I know neither of you want to be separated right now, but it’s imperative that we give you both a good checkup. Once I’m confident that everything is okay, and that your healing is on track, you can be together again.” She offered a hand to Root. “C’mon, Root. Let me check you over while Doc Shepherd takes a look at Shaw. She’s all right, I promise. She’s actually doing remarkably well… all things considered. He just needs to determine where she is in the healing process and work up a plan to get everything back to normal,” chuckling when Shaw rolled her eyes and Root smirked. “Yeah… I know that word isn’t really in either of your vocabularies, but it’s all we have to measure against. Besides,” focusing her attention on Root exclusively as she slowly sat up, “I figure you want to check on the machine, and Brittany would like to check on you.” Root’s eyes flew up to meet Xena’s, and she cocked an eyebrow.
“Brittany?” asked slowly.
Xena led Root to the far side of the room, and Shepherd slid into place beside Shaw’s bed. Per Xena’s earlier instructions, he explained each movement he made to Shaw before he made it and told her everything he knew and suspected about her condition. It made her a much more willing and docile patient.
Meanwhile, Xena did a cursory check of all of Root’s faculties, satisfied that she was indeed all there… it was just a matter of getting it all to fall into place and click. “Root? Do you remember the Machine?” watching her brows furrowed as she slowly shook her head. “Well, at least I understand the problem now,” she muttered to herself. “A lot has happened since we went to South Dakota; do you remember that?” Root hesitated a long time, then nodded. Xena sighed. “All right.”
Just then, Brittany came sliding into the room to stand directly in front of Root. There was still an air of sadness and loss that surrounded her, but now it was mixed with determination. Root tilted her head and studied the blonde woman, blinking with a frown at the mixed signals she could perceive. Brittany reached out both hands and put them on either side of Root’s face, bringing their noses together until they were almost touching. Root covered the hands on her face but didn’t remove them, and she gazed into Brittany’s sad, blue eyes.
“Brittany?” she asked slowly, waiting for her suspicions to be confirmed.
Brittany moved her head until Root was looking at Shaw. “You remember Shaw?” feeling her head nod without either of them removing their gaze from Sameen, who was lying still as the doctor conducted his tests. “She’s your rock; your heart; your everything, right?” feeling the head nod much more aggressively this time. It brought a tiny smile to her lips. “You know that you’re the same for her, right?” feeling the hesitation in her response. Brittany turned fierce blue eyes in her direction. “You know that you’re the same for her, right?” seeing much more confidence in her this time. She smiled. “All right. Then you need to let us reboot you,” smiling again when Root tilted her head in confusion. “I promise to explain it all to you when you’re back to yourself, but you have to let us get you there first. It’s the only way you’re gonna be able to help Shaw recover. And you want her back to her snarky, deadly self, right?” grinning with wet eyes when Root’s head nodded violently. “Good girl,” chuckling at the glare that earned her. “Now lay back and close your eyes. I promise this won’t hurt a bit.”
Root lay back on the gurney Xena had brought in for her use and closed her eyes. She felt Brittany slip something into her ear, and she heard the minute click as it bonded to the circuitry already there. There was the slightest humming sound, then Santana’s voice was in her head. She sat up so quickly, she nearly clocked Brittany in the head and reached for her hands.
“Britt? Why is Santana…?” Her eyes unfocused as the data downloaded, and she saw Santana’s death played out for her in real time. She brought a hand to her mouth to keep from making a sound, and her eyes closed when she felt Brittany’s fingers tenderly wiping away the tears that had fallen. “Oh, Brittany,” she whispered. “I’d have never had this happen for the world.”
“I know. But it did; at least this way I get to keep a little of her with me forever. Now….” clearing her throat and straightening out of the hug Root had given her. “Go be with Shaw. Do whatever you need to do to help her recover.”
“Oh… you bet your ass I will. We need to have a little talk about letting Saggy get the best of her and scaring the crap out of me like that. Pretty sure there’s gonna have to be some serious punishment in her future for that.”
“As long as you let her get better first,” Xena cautioned. “We need her well before you two start with the kinky hanky-panky,” causing both younger women to blush slightly but laugh long and hard. Xena smirked, then grinned when the sound caused Shaw to slowly turn her head. Root noticed immediately and ran to Shaw’s side, pulling up a stool and laying her head on Shaw’s chest as she clasped her hands tightly. Xena and Brittany couldn’t hear what was being said, but they saw Shaw’s hand tighten around Root’s and were content that everything would work out.
Shepherd met them at the door as they made their way out. “Things look really good,” he reported. “My only concern is her lack of speech. I don’t know if she’s unable or just unwilling to speak to me. I’d like to get a speech therapist in here to do an assessment.”
Xena nodded. “Give her a few days. If she’s not talking by the time we return, we’ll call Richards in. Give her a chance to do it on her own - and for Root to help her - first. I don’t think a few days will make much difference in her recovery. Shaw’s never been much of a talker.”
He nodded. “As you say, Chief. You’re the boss.”
“Will it be a problem for you to stay as her primary for a few more days?”
“Not at all. Besides, who’s going to object?”
“Point. Thanks, Derek. Couldn’t have done it without you.”
He snorted. “Yeah, you could’ve, but I’m glad you didn’t.” He closed the door behind them and went back into Shaw’s room. Xena and Brittany looked at one another, then Xena opened her arms and Brittany fell into them with a sigh.
“Will it always be this hard?” she asked softly.
Xena squeezed her tightly and brushed a kiss over her head. “In some ways? Yes, because she was part of you. But I promise you… eventually… it will only be an ache that will be always bring a sweet smile to your face.”
Brittany squeezed her tightly before pulling away until they were just holding hands. “Thanks, Xena. I hope you’re right. Now… I need to go monitor Santana for a bit.” She shook her head. “That sounds so weird. But I know She gives Kurt an extra hard time now… just to see what will make him scream for mercy.”
Xena snorted. “I wish I could say that surprises me, but….”
“Yeah… me neither. We’ll see you later?”
“Um hmm. We need to make sure we’ve got everything scheduled before Gab and I take off out of here.” She jerked her head toward the door. “Go on. I’ve got to check on Ian and then I’ll be upstairs for a bit.” Brittany waved and crossed the threshold out of the trauma unit. Xena turned and went into Ian’s room.
Xena smiled when she entered Ian’s room. He was wide-awake and talking quietly to Casey, who was sitting on the bed beside him. She was leaning with one hand at his shoulder and the other loosely wrapped in his hair, smiling as she listened to him. One of his hands was firmly on her belly, and his grin couldn’t be contained. Xena stood silently at the door watching the tableau, when she was practically shoved aside by a dark-haired woman with green eyes, causing Casey and Ian to look up in startlement… then dismay.
“What the hell is this, Ian Finnegan Stone?? I have to hear from Mi̱téra that you’ve been injured?!” She turned and noticed Casey and their proximity to one another. “Who the hell are you??” only stopping when she felt a strong, unyielding grip on her shoulder. She turned to find Xena glaring at her. She cleared her throat. “Hello, Dáskalos.”
“You’ll tone it down in my trauma unit or I’ll have you banned. You got it?”
“Yes, Dáskalos,” she replied. “I was just….”
“I know. But there are other patients under my care at the moment. They don’t need you making a scene.”
“Got it. Now… will someone tell me what the hell is going on around here and who the hot chick with Ian is? I feel like I’m missing whole chapters of what’s been going on around here while I’ve been gone.”
“Um hmm… where’s your snake handler?”
“Not to worry, Dáskalos - Chad has gone the way of the dodo.” She waved her hands to dismiss the subject. “We can talk about that later. I want to know what’s going on here.”
Xena snickered. “C’mon. I’ll introduce you to your brother’s fianceé. Then I can check him over while you two get to know one another.” She turned Colleen to face her until their eyes met. “Be nice,” she instructed firmly. “This is the real deal for him.”
“You like her.”
“I do. But more importantly, your brother loves her enough to make her a part of the family. So Be. Nice.”
Colleen studied Xena’s eyes for a minute until she recognized the seriousness of her words. She nodded her head jerkily. “All right,” she agreed roughly. “Can I go meet her now and find out why my brother is laid up with a ten-inch scar down his chest?”
“Yeah,” Xena said, wrapping her in a hug. “It’s wonderful to have you home, Sweetheart. We’ve missed you around here.” Colleen leaned into the embrace and brushed a kiss over Xena’s cheek. Then they made their way to Ian’s bedside with Coleen wrapped in Xena’s arms.
“Gabrielle?” Carter asked as she motioned him and Kara to a seat at the island. She turned and cocked a brow at him, then waited for him to speak. “Are you all right with me staying here?”
Kara opened her mouth, but Gabrielle shook her head and Kara’s lips snapped shut. Gabrielle turned the heat off under the pancakes she’d been making and turned to face Carter directly. She waited until his eyes met hers, and she reached out her hands, not quite touching his, but close enough for him to make that choice. He studied her expression, then allowed his hands to cover hers. She shifted them just enough to for her thumbs to clasp the backs of his hands, then she smiled at him.
“Carter, I want you to understand and believe something right now, and never doubt it again. Xena and I don’t do anything we don’t want to. We’re in a place in our lives that we really don’t have to; we can afford to say no to people and things we don’t want in our lives. So, when we invited you to stay with us while your mom was recovering? It wasn’t for any reason other than we wanted to. We want your mom to be as comfortable as she can be; we want you to be able to stay as close to her as you can. We want you here with us, but we’re not going to make you. You get to make the choice.”
“And if I choose not to stay here?”
“Then you’ll go stay with your dad. And that’s perfectly fine, Carter. It’s completely up to you.”
He sighed. “Can I say something?” waiting for her nod. “I’m kinda tired of changing schools. Dalton would be my fifth since I started high school. I’d kind of like it to stick for a change and stay until I finish.”
“How long do you have left?”
“Technically, another two years.”
“Well, if you decide to stay and decide you like it at Dalton, we’ll see what we can do about making it permanent. Your mom will have to agree, of course, and if she goes back to Washington….”
He shook his head, and she paused. “She’s been making plans to leave DC for a while now.” He gave a small smile. “I think the political muck there is even too much for her. Besides, she’s not fond of elitest, entitled, old white men.”
Kara snorted, then covered her mouth. “Sorry,” she said through her laughter. “She never tolerated them very well.”
“Well, let’s eat some breakfast,” Gabrielle offered, sliding her hands from Carter’s and turning back to her stove. “Then we’ll go see Cat, and we can figure things out from there.”
Carter and Kara both nodded, then Carter said softly. “If you’re sure I can stay here, and it’s not a problem, I’d love to finish school at Dalton.” He glared at Kara when she snickered. “Not just because of Emma.”
“Yeah, I know. But she’s a definite attraction.”
“Well, yeah… she’s hot, but her mom is kinda scary. Like MOM kinda scary.”
“One step at a time,” Gabrielle said as she set their plates in front of them, before grabbing her own. “Eat first. Then we’ll go talk to your mom.”
“So… Casey,” Colleen said after Xena had introduced them. “Tell me a little about yourself. My brother hasn’t said word one about you.”
Casey tilted her head. “You tell me about you; I’ll tell you about me.”
Colleen smiled and turned to her brother. “I like this one already.” Then she gave him a pointed look. “Then I want to hear about this.”
“You two go over there,” Xena said, pointing to a far corner, “and talk to your hearts content while I check things out here.”
“Actually, I’d like to go upstairs and say hello to Mi̱téra.”
Xena laughed. “You just want your Mi̱téra to feed you,” shaking her head when Colleen nodded fervently. “Go on. I’ll be up there shortly. And save me some pancakes,” she commanded.
Colleen laughed and tucked her hand into the crook of Casey’s elbow. “Come along, sister-in-law. We have a lot of catching up to do, and no one makes pancakes like Mi̱téra.”
Casey slid her hand down until she was clasping Colleen’s, and she pulled them to a stop when they reached Ian’s bedside. She bent down and brushed a kiss across his lips. “I love you, Ian.”
He cupped her cheek and gazed into her swirling green eyes. “Not as much as I love you. Make sure you eat some pancakes for me.” He made a face. “I’m hoping for some jello or something today. I’m kinda tired of IV nutrition.”
“That IV nutrition has been keeping you alive and helping you to heal, Mr. Stone,” Dr. Austin commented as she stepped into the room. Casey kissed him again, then moved out of the way to allow the doctor to work. She and Colleen slipped out of the room unnoticed, and Xena and Kate turned their attention to Ian.
Gabrielle heard the penthouse door open over the laughter ringing out in her kitchen. She tried to catch her breath, then called out above the noise, “In here, hon.” She didn’t see Casey and Colleen come in - because her back was to the door, but Kara did, and she rose from her seat and stood at the ready. Before Casey could break the ice and introduce them, Gabrielle turned around and Colleen was rushing into her arms. She held on as tightly as she could manage, picking Gabrielle up off the floor and gently rocking them back and forth.
“Hello, Mi̱téra,” she whispered into Gabrielle’s neck, where she had tucked her face.
Gabrielle brushed a kiss over the top of her head. “Hello, Baby Girl,” she greeted solemnly. “How are you?” pulling back just enough to see Colleen’s hazel green eyes.
“Hungry!” she said with a chuckle. “And glad to be home. Thank you for letting me know about Ian.”
Gabrielle gave her a knowing look, then let her gaze travel beyond them to see Casey sitting at the island with Kara and Carter. She pushed Colleen in their direction. “Go sit, and I’ll make up another batch of pancakes.” She looked at the still-hungry faces staring back at her. “Maybe I’ll make two batches. I was expecting Xena when you girls arrived.” She looked at Colleen. “You know how your Dáskalos loves my pancakes.”
Colleen snickered. “As I recall, Dáskalos loves a great many things about you.”
Gabrielle just looked between the three younger women and shook her head, turning back to her stove and smiling when she heard them muffling their laughter. It was nice to have a house filled with laughter again. She passed Casey and Colleen full plates, and Colleen got up without a word and filled coffee cups. Gabrielle offered Kara more, and she nodded enthusiastically. Carter didn’t say anything… merely watched and listened to the goings-on. When there was a break in the conversation as the women concentrated on eating, he met Gabrielle’s eyes, and she smiled at him when she cocked her eyebrow. He grinned.
“Can I ask another question?”
“You may ask anything you like within reason. Just remember that we do quid pro quo around here if the questions start getting too personal.”
He blushed and cleared his throat. “I’ll keep that in mind. I was just wondering why Colleen calls you ‘mother’ and she refers to Xena as ‘teacher’.
“Because Gabrielle was their mother, and I was their teacher in many things,” Xena replied as she stepped into the kitchen. She leaned over and kissed Gabrielle, licking the syrup from her lips. “Hello, Beautiful.”
“Good morning, Warrior Mine. How is our son? And Carter’s mom?” pushing Xena into her seat as she rose to fix her pancakes. Xena stood back up almost instantly, filling her coffee cup and topping off the rest before she turned to Carter with a question in her eyes. He shook his head.
“I’ll stick with milk. It may make me less cool, but I’ve got the best skin of any kid I know,” he said without a hint of vanity. “I’ll stick with what works.”
“Smart kid,” she commented, then turned back to Gabrielle, but not so far that she couldn’t be heard by Casey and Colleen. “Our son is doing remarkably well. Kate was very happy with his progress, and we’re going to move him upstairs this afternoon.” She turned and met Casey’s eyes, noting the hand over her mouth to keep from screaming. “He will still need round-the-clock care for a little while longer… at least until the drain can be removed… but we feel he’ll recover better and faster if we let him move upstairs with you. You just need to understand there will be several other people coming in and out of your apartment regularly for the next several days.”
Casey stood and came around the island and wrapped her arms around Xena’s neck. “Thank you,” she whispered. Xena patted her back and held on until Casey got herself together. “Thank you,” she said again as she pulled away. “You can’t know what it means to have him back with me.”
Xena looked at Gabrielle, who turned and smiled at her. “Yeah, I can,” she said softly. She turned her attention to Colleen. “How long are you here for, Daughter?”
“I dunno,” she lied. She had a real good idea about how long she could stay, but she would never admit to coming home again. “Depends on a few things,” not mentioning the job interviews she had lined up, “but I’m hoping to be here at least until the New Year.”
Xena smiled and nodded. “Good. It’ll be good to have the family all together at Christmas again. She turned to Kara, who was in the middle of a huge bite of food. “How did the Guardians do last night?”
Kara finished chewing as quickly as she humanly could, then swallowed and nodded her head. She wiped her mouth as she took a deep breath. “Very well, really. They understand the basics, and I think they’ll grasp things pretty quickly. They were all pretty excited about being chosen. None of them want to be the one that drops the ball and screws things up for everyone else. They were supposed to be here today to study together… down in one of the conference rooms. They’ll be ready before it’s time to go to Themiscyra.”
Carter’s ears pricked up. “Is that really a real place?”
Gabrielle nodded. “It is. It’s where the Amazons live… well hidden from the world of men.”
“I would like to see that,” he said mostly to himself.
“Why?” Gabrielle asked him. It brought his head up to meet her eyes, and he blushed to the roots of his hair. She simply looked a command at Kara before she could intervene and turned her attention back to the young man sitting in front of her. He swallowed hard, then cleared his throat.
“I have a feeling that even if they are warriors in that place, there is probably a lot less fighting over stupid stuff.”
Gabrielle tilted her head. “Why would you think that? People are people no matter who they are or where they live.”
He nodded his agreement slowly. “Perhaps. But people tend to act and react based on their upbringing; their moral code; their desire to establish power and dominance; their hunger for war and destruction. I’m not saying that Amazons don’t fight or argue - as you pointed out… they’re still people. But I don’t think they go looking for reasons to destroy. Otherwise, why would they have left this world to begin with - there’s plenty of that here… certainly enough to go around.”
Gabrielle stared at him for a long moment, then turned to Xena who grinned and nodded. She turned back to Carter. “We may have to make you an honorary Amazon,” causing him to blush again. “I’ve never heard Amazons described so eloquently.”
“Can you do that?” a hint of wonder in his voice.
“Um hmm,” Gabrielle assured him with a smile. “I have to run it by the Council since you are a young man, after all. But with Xena and myself as witnesses, I don’t think it will be an issue.”
“Cool!” he exclaimed with as much enthusiasm as they’d ever seen from him. He pushed his plate back and stood, then moved to wash it in the sink before Gabrielle could think to stop him. When he was done, he turned to them with color in his cheeks and a light in his eyes. “Can we go see my mom now?” he asked. “I can’t wait to tell her about this.”
“Kara and I’ll go down with you. Xena’s got several appointments, and I think Casey and Colleen need to go make Casey’s apartment ready for them to bring Ian and all his equipment up,” watching their eyes widen as they realized the work they needed to accomplish quickly. In minutes, the kitchen was cleaned up, and everyone had scattered to take care of their various tasks.
“Hi, Mom,” Carter said as he stuck his head in the door. Cat turned at the sound of his voice, then opened her arms to him. He rushed across the room and fell into them, careful not to touch anything near a bandage. He held on so tightly, she winced, but she returned the embrace just as fiercely. After a minute, Carter pulled back and looking into the half of Cat’s face that wasn’t covered in gauze. “Does it hurt a lot?”
She shook her head. “Right now? No. I’ve just had a dose of pain medicine, and Dr. Jeff put some soothing gel on the burned parts to help heal it and make it less painful to the touch. I don’t ever want to do this again, mind you, but the medical care I’m getting has been outstanding. How are you, my dear boy?”
He shrugged. “I’m okay, I guess. Worried about you.”
She smiled at him as well as she was able. “I’m doing all right… I promise.” She saw Kara and Gabrielle hesitating in the doorway and motioned them in impatiently. “Don’t just stand there hovering,” she instructed. “Come in. I think we have some things to talk about.” They walked into the room and grabbed stools that they pulled up to Cat’s bed. Then they sat and waited for her to speak.
When all was said and done, Cat had agreed to give Xena and Gabrielle temporary custody of Carter; they had agreed to keep him in Dalton for the remainder of his scholastic career if he liked it; Kara assured Cat she would keep her posted of the goings-on at CatCo… which Cat had recently repurchased; and Cat had tentatively agreed to allow Carter to be an (honorary) Amazon. All in all, a full morning, but one that had accomplished many things and settled some fears and worries.
Xena barely made it inside her office before there was a knock, and Riley was poking his head in as he knocked. “Chief? Your first appointment is here. A Maura Isles?”
Xena nodded. “Send her in, please,” standing behind her desk. Maura walked in, followed by Jane Rizzoli and holding onto her hand tightly. Xena came around and offered them a seat, which they accepted without releasing one another’s hand. She smiled gently. “I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you prefer this appointment to include both of you?” directing her question to Maura, who nodded her head.
“I figure this way, I won’t forget anything important.”
“That’s fair. And, of course, anything we discuss here will be held in the highest confidence. Even Gabrielle won’t be privy to anything you don’t want to share with her.”
Jane frowned. “Does she need to know?”
“Possibly, as some of the treatment I’m going to recommend will necessarily be done on Themiscyra.”
“I don’t….” Maura trailed off when Xena held up her hand.
“Let me tell you what I’d like to do, and how I think it will help you, and we can go from there.” She waited for them to nod, then went back around her desk and took a seat. She looked at Maura. “With your condition, there is always a surgical option, but as you’ve discovered, it’s not necessarily a lasting solution, because it needs to be drained on a regular basis. I believe, given time, we can develop a medicine that will solve the problem from the inside. Barring that, we will create a shunt that will make draining it a simpler procedure, but my researcher needs some time, and ideally, she needs to meet with you. On the plus side, she is on Themiscyra; the downside, of course, is that she is on Themiscyra. Fortunately, you’re already scheduled to go there in the next couple days, but I may need you to stay beyond the originally scheduled visit.”
“Is there a reason your researcher can’t come here?”
“Several of them, actually, but mostly I want to get you there because it will stop while you’re there.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It will be as if you never had a brain leak.”
“How does that help? It’s not like we can stay indefinitely on Themiscyra… not right now.”
“But it will allow us time to come up with a more equitable solution. We have the data. While you’re here, I’m going to order some tests and take some measurements. Then I’ll send all that information to Paula, and she and I’ll work on a solution that allows you to remain in Boston with your family… until such time as you’re ready to make Themiscyra your permanent home. It’s not necessary,” she hastened out without pausing. “Just know that it’s a viable option for you both.” Jane and Maura looked at one another, and Xena cleared her throat. “Would you like for me to leave?”
“No,” Maura proclaimed before Jane could say otherwise. “I want to try this.” She looked at Jane. “I have nothing to lose, and maybe the headache pain could be mitigated. At the very least, we’re looking at a few weeks away at a beautiful island paradise. Your bosses can’t really say no.”
Jane turned to Xena. “You’re sure this’ll work?”
“No. But I don’t think it will cause any harm either. The worst case scenario is you spend a few weeks on Themiscyra becoming Amazons. The best is that we figure out how to beat this. I figure we’ll at least give Maura a better quality of life. Win/win.”
Jane and Maura exchanged glances, then turned back to Xena. “Let’s do this.”
Xena had taken the measurements she required and turned Maura over to Ripley to run her tests when a hesitant knock sounded on her door. “Come,” frowning slightly as she closed the page that held Maura’s information on her Pad. The frown turned to a smile when Alex Cabot stuck her head in the door.
“Am I interrupting?” she asked, stopping in the doorway.
Xena motioned her in. “No… not at all. I was just surprised someone didn’t accompany you here. Please… come sit. You’re right on time.”
Alex pushed a lock of hair behind her ear as she crossed into Xena’s office. Before she could close the door behind her, a hand stopped her action, and Olivia walked in behind her.
“Sorry,” she said breathlessly, as though she had run to make it on time. She took Alex’s hand and smiled when she held it tightly.
“Everything okay?” Xena asked as she gestured to the chairs in front of her desk.
“Yeah… mostly. Sometimes, being the boss sucks,” she growled, before lifting Alex’s hand to her lips and brushing a kiss over her knuckles. “I’m sorry, Sweetheart. One PP is flipping out over my retirement request. They’re acting like it’s an unheard of concept.”
“As far as you’re concerned, it probably is. I’m pretty sure at one time there were bets on as to how old you would be when they had to force retirement on you. I know there were bets about how you would ‘go out’, and most of them involved you still on active service.”
“How do you know this?”
Alex blushed and cleared her throat. “Do you remember the time - not long after I started at SVU - when I got suspended for a week, and none of you could figure out why?” Olivia nodded. She dropped her head as the color deepened on her face. “That was my punishment for going off the rails and threatening unspeakable body harm and injury to everyone that tried to get me to play in that pool. The last person who mentioned it got a death threat and one of my cowboy boots thrown in his direction… though in fairness to Arthur, he got the threat and the boot before he brought it up. He made the mistake of coming down to reprimand me for my actions on the heels of Jack McCoy reaming me out, and I thought Jack was coming back in to continue.” Her twinkling eyes met Olivia’s. “Arthur and I laugh about it now, but it certainly wasn’t funny then.”
Olivia snorted. “Guess it’s a good thing I didn’t know anything about it. I’d have probably ended up in jail.”
“Do I need to call One PP and have a word?” Xena asked, causing them both to blush as they had forgotten she was there.
“Sorry,” Olivia apologized.
“Why?” smiling when Olivia’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Why be sorry? I know how frustrating bureaucracy can get… especially when there are more important things that need your attention.” She turned to Alex. “I commend you for your restraint, by the way. I probably would have put Arthur through a wall. I know I would’ve put McCoy through one. I nearly did once.” She smirked as two sets of eyebrows rose into their respective hairlines. “He laid a hand on Gabrielle.”
“And you let him live??”
“Only because she asked me to let her handle it. She then proceeded to twist his arm up behind his back and reminded him of the danger of assuming permission before it’s given.”
Olivia snorted; Alex hid her mouth behind her hand. “I wish I’d seen that,” Olivia remarked.
“It’s probably best you didn’t. He reacted badly enough, and it was just the three of us in his office. Imagine what would have happened if he’d been publicly embarrassed. Now,” turning to Alex, who was still trying to control her laughter behind her hand. “How are you?”
She took a deep breath as her chuckles wound down and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. “A lot more relaxed than I was when I walked in.” She sighed. “I’m tired… and I get tired a lot more easily these days. If it wasn’t for Casey and the amazing people we put into place to help run the day-to-day operations of the Foundation when we started it years ago, the whole thing would have fallen apart. I just can’t manage it right now.”
Xena nodded her understanding. “I think we may be able to help with that, but it’s going to mean a lifestyle change on a number of levels.”
“No… no chemo. Using poison to kill poison and leaving the new poison in your body has always baffled me somewhat.” She turned to Olivia. “What kind of issues is the department giving you about retiring? Are they actually holding it up or trying to stop it?”
“They’re trying to delay it… to give them a chance to get someone new into the captain’s position.”
“How important is that to you?” She sighed at the confused expression reflected back at her. “Is it important to you for them to have a replacement ready before you retire so they can make a big deal about the transfer of power and give you a retirement ceremony?”
“Oh, hell no!” was the rapid response. “I’d be happy to walk out today and never go back.” She turned to meet Alex’s eyes before she could protest. “SVU is important to me, yes, but you are everything to me. I’m not going to let you do this alone.” She looked back at Xena. “I’d have no problem retiring today if it could be managed.”
“Let me see what I can do. Now,” turning back to Alex, “I have your medical file here. Schumer’s one of the best oncologists in the country. But she’s very traditional; her idea of radical new treatment usually involves new types of chemotherapy… mostly because it’s what she knows and has had the most success with. Me, on the other hand…. I would like to try something different. When you pack your bags for your trip to Themiscyra, I want you to pack for several weeks… not days.” She held up a hand. “One of the reasons Amazons have existed for so long is that there is no sickness on Themiscyra. So while you are there, your cancer will be… gone.”
“Can’t we just stay there then?”
“Technically, yes. But it would be a little like witness protection - you could never leave… never travel; never see your friends or family again; never return home. You would have Olivia with you, which would make a big difference….”
“… all the difference,” Alex interrupted. “Having Olivia with me would make all the difference because I wouldn’t be alone. And we would be Amazons, so that would make them family as well.”
“It would,” Xena agreed.
“Buuuuuuut,” Olivia drawled. “C’mon, Xena… there’s got to be more to this than what you’re saying, or you would have just told us to pack for a permanent move.”
“No but… not really. If you are ready to give up everything about your life here and move to Themiscyra, that’s absolutely an option for you. However, if you like us to see if we can remove the cancer from your body so it will allow you to remain here with your friends and family…?” She shrugged. “There is a plan in place, but nothing has been proven yet. You would be the first.”
Alex narrowed her eyes. “You want me to be the guinea pig.”
“Essentially, yes. I think there are a number of people this treatment could help eventually.” She saw the confusion and hesitation in Alex’s countenance. “You don’t have to do this, and you don’t have to decide anything right now.”
“Can I ask a question?” waiting for Xena to nod. “How would this even work? You said the cancer would be gone, right? So how do you treat something that’s not even there?”
Xena sighed. “I should have been more explicit. The cancer will be gone in the sense that it won’t affect you - you won’t feel sick or tired; it won’t get worse - your body won’t recognize it as a disease. But the cancer cells themselves will still be present in your body. So we can see them… can experiment on them there… without any danger to you. It is only when you return here - to Man’s World - that they would become active and deadly again… unless, of course, we find a cure while you’re on Themiscyra.”
“Is there anything you can do here?”
“Of course. There are several new drug and lifestyle therapies - not involving chemo - and some of them run along the same lines as those Paula and I have talked about using on Themiscyra. Trying them there just means we do a lot of the trial and testing in the lab instead of in your body to begin with.”
“Can I think about it?”
Xena smiled. “You can take as long as you need. You know where to find me.” Alex nodded, and Xena felt compelled to change the subject. “How is the Amazon crash course training going?”
Olivia grinned. “Actually, we’re all enjoying it very much. I think most of us have the basics down, and everyone is looking forward to that library Supergirl was telling us about. I mean… I’ve read some of Gabrielle’s more modern work. I can’t wait to read some of the original stories that inspired those.”
“You’re in for a treat,” Xena assured her. “And of course, you’ll get weapons training, so you’ll finally get to see my sword.”
Olivia sat up straighter in her chair. “Really?”
“Um hmm. You may even learn how to use one, though it’s not normally the weapon new Amazons choose to learn. It takes years to master.”
Olivia scowled. “You saying I’m old?”
“Nope. I’m saying it takes years to master. Most warriors who come to the tribe as adults choose the crossbow or chobos… kinda like nunchucks,” she explained before they could ask. “And there are also those that chose a completely different lifestyle - they choose to be craftswomen or builders or scientists, if they have the aptitude for it. It totally depends on you and what kind of life you want to lead.” She cleared her throat. “Gabrielle and I leave out of here this afternoon to go take care of those who died in the fight against Saligia. We’ll meet you all on Themiscyra in a couple days.”
Alex and Olivia took the hint and stood, extending a hand to Xena, which she accepted in turn. “Thank you,” Alex said softly, as she felt Olivia’s hand slip into hers. “You’ve given us a lot to think about… a lot to talk about. I don’t want you to think I’m ungrateful….”
“I don’t. It’s a lot to consider, and I don’t want you to have any regrets. Think about it, and write down any questions that might pop up between now and then. We’ll sit down and go over them.” She came around her desk and led them to the door, opening it and gesturing them out in front of her. “I need to do one more round before I head upstairs. Can you find your way out?”
“I got it, Chief,” Riley said as he led Jane and Maura from the room where he’d been running tests on Maura. “I need to go grab my lunch before you leave.”
“How is everyone?” Maura asked before they exited the trauma room. Riley glanced at Xena for permission, which she gave with a bare nod of her head, then headed out with them hot on his heels as he answered her question.
“Quite well, considering,” he replied, then the door closed and cut off the rest of his answer. Xena sighed and turned back to her work.
“Xena?” Root asked as she walked into Shaw’s room. Xena arched an eyebrow but continued to Shaw’s chart and started reading. “How is Brittany?”
Xena closed the chart and met Root’s eyes. “About how you’d expect.”
“Do you think she… resents… us? Me and Shaw, I mean? I mean… Shaw came back to me, and Santana….”
“Santana died a hero… like she’d always wanted to be,” Brittany said from the doorway. “And I’m going to be hurt and angry and frustrated for a long time… but never because you and Shaw survived this together. I just expect you two to make the most of it.”
“Yeah,” the Machine said. “What she said. But I expect you bitches to look after my girl and make sure she’s taken care of.” Root nodded vehemently, but more importantly, Shaw gave a tiny thumbs up. Brittany clapped her hands and cheered, then raced to Shaw’s side and hugged her as gently as she could. Shaw looked a little bewildered, but she patted Brittany’s back carefully. Root padded over quickly to move Brittany out of Shaw’s awkward embrace, but Shaw gave her the minutest shake of her head, allowing Brittany to pull away in her own time… which really wasn’t very long by Brittany standards.
“You’re going to be okay,” she pronounced as she stepped back out of the hug. “And you,” she said, whirling around to face Root, “need to go upstairs and talk to the Machine. She has missed you terribly, and she wants to make sure your reboot went okay. I’ll stay here and talk to Shaw for a little bit,” not seeing brown eyes widen in surprise and perhaps a touch of dismay. But she nodded in resignation to Root, who took it for the acceptance it was.
“You look after my girl, and I’ll look after yours. And maybe when we’re done, we can have dinner together.”
“I’d like that,” Brittany said softly. “And you can meet my friend Quinn, who was part of the Unholy Trinity.”
Root’s eyes widened, but she nodded gamely. “Sure.” She turned to Shaw. “Sounds like fun, doesn’t it, Sweetie?” She smirked. “Don’t worry, Sameen - we’ll make sure you don’t miss out on anything.”
Shaw looked pleadingly at Xena. It wasn’t that she wanted to miss out necessarily, but truthfully, she just wasn’t up to any of that yet. She could barely manage when she was herself; right now it was just impossible. Xena shook her head. “She’ll miss out on this and any other kind of socialization gatherings that consist of more than one other person for the next few days.” She gave Root a firm look when she would have interrupted. “I’m not kidding. That’s a lot for Shaw to handle on her best days, and she doesn’t need that kind of pressure right now. She needs to focus on her recovery.”
“But nothing. Our primary focus is making sure she heals properly and recovers from a trauma that should have killed her. It’s okay for there to be one-on-one interaction - I’d like to encourage that. Anything beyond that is problematic until she is further along the road to recovery.”
“It sucks when you’re right,” Root grumbled. Xena cocked a brow. “Santana’s in my ear giving me what for about listening to you about taking care of Shaw. Oh… and taking my sweet time getting to the control room.” She looked at Shaw. “I’ll be back, Sweetie. Try not to give Brittany a hard time, all right?” before she sashayed out of the room and headed upstairs to the control center.
Xena turned back to Shaw. “You know Gab and I have to go out of town for a few days,” waiting for her to blink her understanding. “Derek will be here, as will the rest of the regular trauma doctors. If you need anything, you let them know… especially Derek. He’s your attending. We’re going to see about moving you to your quarters upstairs for the duration. I think you’ll be more comfortable and will perhaps heal faster if you’re in your own space. Now… let Brittany keep you company until lunch, and then I want you to get some rest. I’ll make sure you’re settled upstairs before we leave.”
Brittany slid into place beside Xena and pulled out her phone. “I thought I’d read to you. That’s easier than trying to carry on a one-sided conversation. Although you should know that I like the new movie better than the book… I do still like the book. It’s one of my favorite stories.” She cleared her throat. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
Xena turned and walked to the door, leaving them to their reading of Little Women.
“Cat?” Xena called out as she approached her door. She stuck her head in when bade to enter. “I just wanted you to know that Gabrielle got Carter registered at Dalton. He’ll start on Monday.”
Cat started to nod vigorously, then thought better of it. “Why not tomorrow?”
“To give you two a little time together. I know he’s worried like crazy about you, and a few days together should put both of you at ease. Besides, he’s far enough ahead that a few more missed days won’t hurt his GPA. Kara has agreed to stay with him while Gabrielle and I are gone.”
“Who gave her the time off? She still works for CatCo. Wait… doesn’t she?”
“That’s up to her. I informed….” She scratched the side of her head as she tried to recall to whom she’d spoken. Finally, she gave up and shrugged. “Well, whoever it was - I informed them that she’d had a family emergency and was taking a leave of absence. If they wanted to make a big deal of it, she could always freelance her work instead. There’s a lot of places that will pay good money to have a Pulitzer Prize winner write for them.”
Cat narrowed her good eye. “You were a lawyer in another life, weren’t you?”
Xena snickered. “No. But I did learn the power of negotiation early in my life,” smiling when Cat snorted at her understatement. “Now, try to get some rest. Lunch will be in shortly, and Carter will be down to visit you after that. Jeff is going to be here every day to check on you, so any questions… direct them to him. By the time we get back, we should have a better idea on how soon we can start applying the synthetic skin.”
“Thank you, Xena.”
Casey and Colleen shared conversation as they rearranged the living space Casey had been using. They wanted to be sure the doctors and nurses that came in had plenty of room to function without making it feel like a sparse hospital room. The whole point was to make Ian comfortable. Colleen shared some of the less bizarre things about her life - though she did have to explain the snake handler - and Casey shared about her life in New York and how she’d met Ian.
“You’re really a lawyer, and you’re working here as a personal assistant? What the hell for?”
She didn’t think Colleen meant it the way it sounded, but she still had to bite her lip to keep from lashing out. She wasn’t going to explain to this virtual stranger about Abbie - she hadn’t earned the right to know that yet, even if she was Ian’s sister. Instead, she met Colleen’s eyes and sighed. “I was tired - tired of the law; tired of fighting a losing battle; tired of not being able to help those that needed it most. When Alex offered me the chance to be part of laying the groundwork on a Foundation to get real help to victims, I jumped at the chance.”
“M’kay… so how did you end up working here? Seems like a step or six down from what you could be doing.”
Casey cleared her throat. “Not really. A lot of amazing work is going on here - some of it more apparent than others. But I came here because it offered me a chance to do something new and different and interesting, without forcing me to go back into law.”
“So you’re never going to be a lawyer again? And what about the Foundation?”
“We set up the Foundation so the day-to-day stuff runs practically by itself. We keep up oversight on everything, but we only have to step in periodically if a decision needs to be made or an issue of massive proportion comes up - things that require executive input. Otherwise, we’d be doing little more than occupying an office, waiting for something dramatic to happen, and that’s just not who I am. Here, I still get to make a difference, and I like that.”
“But no more law.”
“No more law… at least for now. I just don’t have the passion for it anymore.” She turned the tables. “What about you? What brings you back to New York?” She held up a hand. “I know the pat answer… I want the truth. You came home for more than just Ian.”
“How dare you?!”
“Easily. One of the skills I cultivated as a lawyer was learning to read people and to know when they’re lying to me. I’m not saying you’re lying, but you’re not telling the whole truth either. So what gives?”
Colleen sighed and dropped onto the couch they had just moved into a new seating arrangement. “I’m tired,” she confessed. “I’ve been and done and seen and lived, but it’s not as fulfilling as I expected it to be. I have no one - no roots - and I need… something. I’m hoping if I come home, maybe I can find it.”
Casey reached out her hand and covered one of Colleen’s. “We’ll be here for you as much as we can.”
“I hope Dáskalos and Mi̱téra feel the same way.”
Colleen decided to wait in the room that was normally hers when she visited. She had a lot to think about, and she wanted to give Ian a chance to settle before she went to spend any time with him. Besides, he and Casey deserved the chance to have some time to just be together after the chaos and heartache of the last few days. She smiled. Despite the rocky conversation they had shared, she genuinely liked Casey and thought she and Ian made a wonderful couple. She couldn’t wait to share in their joy.
A knock on her door brought her head up, and she rose to answer it. She wasn’t expecting anyone, and only four people knew where she was, so she wasn’t surprised when she opened it to find Gabrielle on the other side. She didn’t say anything… simply opened the door wider to allow her entrance. Gabrielle grabbed her hand and pulled her back to the couch, then she opened her arms and waited for Colleen to fall into them. She held her for a long time, rocking her gently while Colleen wept quietly. When she felt the tears slow, she pulled away just enough to look into her face.
“You ready to tell me what brings you home?”
Colleen studied the compassion staring back at her and nodded. It was time to be honest; it was time to come home.
Once the apartment was ready for Ian, Casey went back downstairs to keep him company until they were ready to move him. She just missed seeing Alex and Olivia enter Xena’s office, and she didn’t take note of Jane and Maura as they were busy on the other end of the unit with Riley. She slipped into Ian’s room, and he smiled as she took her place beside him again.
“How are you feeling?” she asked as she caught his hand in hers and brought it to her lips.
He shifted and winced, sucking in air and holding it until the pain passed. “Better when I remember not to move,” he confessed. “I know it’s only been a few days, but I feel like this is taking forever to heal.”
Casey shook her head. “You’re doing remarkably well,” she assured him. “If it wasn’t for Janet Fraiser, you wouldn’t even be here to complain about the pain now.”
“When do I get to meet her, by the way? To say thank you?”
“The Guardians are upstairs in one of the conference rooms - they’re getting a crash course in becoming Amazons.” chuckling when Ian’s eyes widened. He was one of the few men allowed on Themiscyra, and he remembered the hoops he’d had to jump through just to be a guest. He could only imagine what the women had to know. Casey squeezed his hand. “I’ll see if I can find her and bring her to you; I imagine she’d like the opportunity to see how you’re doing as well.”
Just then, Kate Austin stepped into the room with a smile on her face. “I think we’re ready to move you upstairs,” she announced. “I just need to check all the equipment going up with you,” she said as she began looking over his monitors, “then we can get out of this environment and get you somewhere a little more comfortable.”
“How long do you think it’ll take, Doc?”
“Before we get you upstairs? Maybe an hour, but probably half.”
“No. How long before I’m healed enough to get rid of all this equipment and be able to function like a human being again?”
Kate smiled gently. “You’ve still got several weeks of recovery,” covering his free hand when he grimaced. “Hey… I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but it beats the alternative. Death is pretty permanent.”
“I know. I just… I have a whole life to live that doesn’t involve… this,” gesturing to his chest.
“And we’ll be right here beside you until you’re able to be up and about on you own,” Casey told him. “So you take your time and do what the doctor says, all right? We all want you up and around, but you need to be healthy first.”
“Well… everything here looks good. Let me go get one of the nurses, and we’ll get you upstairs. I think that will help with your outlook.” In moments she was back with several people, and they were securing Ian to the gurney. Then they gathered up equipment and lines and proceeded to the elevator.
Riley led Jane and Maura out of the unit and back to Xena’s office door, then returned with Alex and Olivia in tow. They saw the gurney being moved into the elevator.
“Frankie?”Jane queried softly to herself, then turned to Maura. “Did that look like Frankie to you?” she asked as she stepped around to get a better look. It was little more than a glance as the lift doors closed, and she shook her head in confusion. “Dr. Riley? Who was on that gurney?”
Riley frowned. “Why do you need to know?”
“Because that man looked remarkably similar to my brother Frankie, and I need to know if it was. My Ma will kill me if something has happened to him. Not to mention what Nina will do.”
Riley smiled. “Well, you should be safe from your ‘Ma’,” he pronounced. “That was Ian Stone - Gabrielle and the Chief’s son. He and Casey Novak are a thing.”
“Thank God.” She turned to Maura, Alex, and Olivia. “Should we see if we can find the rest and catch up on the stuff we missed this morning?” They nodded and she turned to Riley. “Do you know which conference room the Guardians are in? Can you get us there?”
He nodded, and they stepped onto the elevator, ready to get back to work.
Colleen was surprised by the knock on her door. Gabrielle had promised to talk to Xena while they were gone, so Colleen had expected a little time to get herself together before she had to face her Dáskalos. She wasn’t ready to see the disappointment in her eyes. She sighed as she opened the door, eyes downcast… until she noted the sparkly red tennis shoes. Her face shot up to be greeted by Casey’s twinkling green eyes. She cocked her head but couldn’t quite keep the smile off her face. “Something I can help you with?” she growled as her lips twitched in merriment.
Casey nodded. “Yeah. Your bossy brother wants to know why his kid sister isn’t visiting… you know, since you came back to see him.”
Colleen rolled her eyes. “I don’t suppose it occurred to him that I was trying to give you guys a chance to settle in and spend a little one-on-one time together?”
Casey smiled gently. “We’ve got the rest of our lives to spend together. I think he’s missed you.”
“I missed him too. Let me grab some shoes… though they’re not gonna be as fabulous as yours,” garnering her a giggle. She shoved her feet into her old Chucks and shoved Casey back toward the hallway. “C’mon. I wanna hear about all the excitement I missed.”
Xena and Gabrielle settled into the seats of the company jet. They had a number of stops to make, and it promised to be a rough few days. But they felt it was necessary to pay their respects to those that had given everything in the fight to eradicate Saligia from the world. They sat down and buckled in, knowing the sooner they started, the sooner they would be on their way to Themiscyra.
“What did Lee tell you?” Xena asked Gabrielle as the plane rolled toward the runway.
Gabrielle leaned back in her seat. “She’s scared; she’s been scared for a while. Mostly she’s scared of disappointing us - it’s why she waited so long to come home.” Xena clenched her jaw tightly to keep from saying something she might regret… even if she was only sharing it with her mate. Gabrielle smiled. “I know; I felt the same thing when she said that to me. She wants to come home, Xe.”
“What’s stopping her?”
“She is. She wants to know that she’s wanted and welcome here; that she won’t be a burden.” She sighed. “She has several job interviews lined up between now and the New Year - things she’d be good at… that she’s always wanted to try. She just needs to know we’ll support the person she is… not the person we think she should be.”
“What the actual hell?? We’ve never asked her to be anyone other than who she is. She’s the one….”
“I know. She does too, for that matter. She just needs a little TLC. Something happened that’s eaten away her confidence. She didn’t share what… yet. I think she will when she feels a little more comfortable.”
Xena nodded. “All right. We’ll make sure she gets what she needs. I’m just glad she was ready to come home. I’ve missed the little bugger.”
“Make sure you tell her that. She idolizes you, you know.”
“Gods know why. You were always the better parent of the two of us.”
“And we both know that’s not even remotely true.”
Silence reigned for a while after that, and it was only broken when the pilot announced they were ready to make their first touchdown. Everything had been arranged - the Machine had seen to that - so they were met with a car that took them directly to the funeral home to which the body had been taken.
Some of the women who had died had chosen cremation, while others wanted burials. Some had no one to stand as witnesses to their passing; others had a multitude of friends and family that came to say goodbye. In some instances, there were wakes to be attended, and in others, Xena and Gabrielle accepted the ashes
that needed to be scattered in a particular place.
For those that had friends and/or family that had questions, Xena and Gabrielle had answers that the Machine had put in place to ease the burden that telling the truth would have caused. Therefore, those that had died had a variety of reasons for doing so - sickness; heart attack; stroke; accident. None were exactly the same, and all of them had the necessary evidence to back up each claim should someone go seeking more in-depth answers. In each case - no matter how any of the other details played out - Xena and Gabrielle spent time saying the words and singing the songs they had used to send the souls of the dead to Hades keeping since they had been young, foolish mortals in Ancient Greece.
At the end of the third day - having been on the go constantly since having left New York - they had sung their last song and said their final words, and they turned to one another, exhausted. It was time to go home.
Sam McPherson sat on her regular bench outside of One Police Plaza, letting her mind wander as she watched unseeingly the activity taking place around her. An idea for a new novel was stirring around in her brain, and she wondered if she’d be able to capture a new audience with a story that was meant for adults. She remembered the story Natalie Greene had told about her experiences during Desert Storm and decided to try. The worst she could do was decide she wasn’t meant to write for a grownup audience and shelve the entire idea. But she wouldn’t get anywhere if she at least didn’t try. She opened her backpack and pulled out a pencil and a notebook. Might as well start in a way that was most familiar to her, and she began to jot down things in her journal. She was so engrossed in her writing that she didn’t see Abbie Carmichael approach until she sat down beside her and nudged her with an elbow.
“Something exciting?” she asked casually. “I normally see you with a computer… not pen and paper.”
Sam jumped and scowled at the interruption, then took a deep breath. “I don’t know yet,” she confessed. “But this is how I’m most comfortable writing my thoughts down. If anything comes of it?” she shrugged. “We’ll see.” She looked at Abbie a little more carefully. “What brings you out here today?”
“Many things… work, mostly. I’m thinking about moving back to the City, but it depends on a lot of things.”
Abbie shook her head. “No. That ship sailed a while ago, though I’m still hoping to retain her friendship. No, it depends on things like what’s available here; finding a place to live; reconnecting with people that I want in my life as well as those I need in my professional career.”
“Sounds like you’ve got it all worked out.”
“Not quite,” she admitted, “but hopefully soon.”
“Well, I hope you have good luck with it all.”
“You too,” Abbie returned, and they let the silence encompass them as the world went on around them for just a little while.
“Supergirl?” Janet called as they wrapped up the study group. It was the first time in several days that they had seen Supergirl, and she wanted to ask about something that had been on her mind since they had returned from South Dakota. They were more than ready for their trip to Themiscyra - they were mostly just marking time now, waiting for the signal that it was time to go. Janet’s voice brought everyone to a halt and turned all eyes to their teacher. Supergirl jerked her head up from her phone, where she’d been reading a text message from Carter, advising her that Cat’s doctor was releasing her to be moved upstairs for the duration until surgery was a viable option for her care.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “Did you speak to me?”
Janet nodded, finding the flustered superhero cute. “Yes. I was wondering if I could go visit with Ian. We’re not really learning anything new at this point, and I’d love to know what kind of progress he’s making.”
Supergirl nodded. “He’s been asking to see you too, but we’ve had so much going on….”
“I understand. I’d just like to know how he’s doing and check the scarring.”
“Could we visit Lucy as well?”
“Let me do some checking; we’ll go up after lunch if I can work it out for everyone.”
“After lunch’ll be fine, babe,” Santana’s voice sounded from overhead. “I already worked it out for everybody’s schedules. But, so you know, everyone is totally chill and recovering fine. I’d have told you if it had been any different. And, by the way, expect to leave out sometime tonight. Wonder Woman is headed back this way to pick everyone up this afternoon.”
That pronouncement caused a lot of excited chatter, and the women turned their attention to their preparations to leave. Despite the sadness of the occasion, they were ready to go to Themiscyra.
It was mid-afternoon Diana pulled the Invisible Jet up beside the hanger bay that held the planes belonging to WarriorBard Enterprises. Supergirl was standing outside, posed with her hands firmly planted on her hips and a smile gracing her face. Diana couldn’t stop the answering smile that formed as she activated the door stairway.
“Is everyone here?” she asked Kara as she hopped aboard.
“And raring to go. They’ve worked really hard to make sure they don’t embarrass themselves or Xena and Gabrielle. I think it’ll be fine.”
“Still wish you were coming with us… and I’m not the only one. Mother thinks you should just chuck your responsibilities and come home anyway.”
Kara snorted. “No, she doesn’t. She’d be the first one on my case about not taking care of business first. Tell her I’ll be there as soon as I can manage it, but it’s gonna be a while. Cat is doing well, but she still has to have the graft surgery and have plenty of recovery time, and I promised to help out with Carter at least until Xena and Gabrielle can get back. And I still need to explain all of this to my sister - as much as I can, anyway.” She smiled. “Let me go get your passengers so you can get out of here.”
“Thank you.” Supergirl left and returned fairly quickly, only this time she came followed by a dozen women that remained mostly silent - partly out of awe and partly out of respect. They climbed aboard the jet and took places on the floor side by side. When the last one was seated, Supergirl stood in the doorway on the top stair and looked at each of them.
“You guys have a safe trip and remember everything you’ve learned. It’ll make your role as an Amazon much easier.”
“Are we Amazons, then?”
Supergirl shook her blonde head. “Not yet, but you’re well on your way. For now, you’re prospects and honored guests, and until the funeral is over, you’ll be treated as such. Once that’s over, though… all bets are off. The Amazons will want to know what you’re made of; what you know; and how you respect their traditions. But they also want you to succeed, because you bring new blood… new ideas… into a society that has been around for millennia. So respect them, but make sure they respect you. I’ll see you all soon,” she added as she jumped to the ground and pushed the stairway door closed before slapping the side of the jet. She flew around to the front to wave goodbye to Diana, who chuckled and laughed at her ridiculousness, then she zipped back to WarriorBard Enterprises. She still had things to do.
Xena and Gabrielle were freshly showered, if not at all rested, when the hearse drove up to the hanger area. Dinah slipped out of the passenger seat, and together they slid the coffin onto the rollers that would allow them to move it into the bedroom section of the larger plane. Once it was in, Gabrielle turned to Dinah. “How are you doing?”
She shrugged. “I’m tired,” she confessed. “I feel like everything has been battering against me, though surprisingly, Brittany has been the most contained. It’s like… with Santana gone… her personality has dimmed, because there’s no one else who quite gets her uniqueness, you know?”
Gabrielle nodded. “Are you sure you want to go with us to Themiscyra? You know you’re welcome - you and the other Birds are already full-fledged Amazons - but are you sure you’re up for it physically and mentally?”
Dinah nodded, though it was a little hesitant. “I promised Barbara and Hel I’d be there, and as an Amazon, I should be there. Besides, even though I didn’t know Santana, I’ve had the chance to get to know Brittany a little better in the past few days. I’d like to be there as her friend.”
Xena and Gabrielle nodded their acceptance of her words. “You just make sure you let us know if all this starts to overwhelm you. Paula was able to finish the quiet room for you and Supergirl. Don’t hesitate to use it if you feel the need.”
“I will… use it I mean. I wouldn’t be surprised to find Helena in there at some point.” She smiled at the questioning looks. “Being connected to me like she was… it was more draining for her than you’ll ever get her to admit to. Then sitting through the ‘pre-Amazon training with the other Guardians….”
“I suppose she felt that was easier than letting people know the truth about who and what you guys are.”
Dinah nodded. “That’s kinda what she said,” chuckling, “though her language was a little more colorful.”
Xena and Gabrielle snorted. “I’ll bet,” Gabrielle concurred aloud. “On the plus side, the rest will be too busy once the funerals are over to ask too many questions, and maybe they’ll realize Helena and Barbara helped them as much as Supergirl did.”
Maybe,” Dinah shrugged. “I know Hel complained a lot about some of the questions the others asked the first day they were in training. Barbara was impressed with her restraint.”
Xena and Gabrielle exchanged looks of surprise and respect at Dinah’s words, then they turned as the sound of the limousine pulled up beside the jet. Mac got out and tipped his head in their direction, but otherwise gave no indication of their presence. He popped the trunk, then opened the door and held out his hand. Quinn Fabray emerged first, then leaned down and took Bryson from Kurt’s arms so he could exit. Once he was standing, she passed his son back to him and reached out a hand to Brittany. She took both Quinn and Mac’s hands as she slipped out of the vehicle.
Xena, Gabrielle, and Dinah retrieved the bits of luggage from the trunk, and the Amazon flight crew took care of stowing them in the compartment. Then they all went up the steps and into the fuselage of the plane. Mac followed them, waiting for Xena to give him instructions before they left, and she turned to face him at the top of the stairs. “Thank you for coming back from your leave to help us today,” she offered with a smile. “Now go home and spend time with your wife and new baby… and make sure you turn your phone off!” she teased with a real smile.
He shook his head. “Let me know when to expect you home. Maybe I’ll bring them with me, and you can meet Wes.”
Xena nodded. “We’d like that very much. See you soon!” She waved and stepped into the aircraft. Mac walked back to the car while a crew member moved the stairway, and another shut the door behind her. Then he watched as the plane taxied toward the runway, waiting until it was in the air and out of sight before he returned to the car and drove off.
Xena was not surprised to find Quinn, Kurt, and Bryson sitting together in a little cluster close to the door, while Dinah sat about mid-way… somewhat apart from it all. Xena stopped beside them as she reached them. “Everything all right?”
Kurt nodded. “Britt wanted to go sit with Santana, and Gabrielle went with her. We wanted to give her whatever privacy we could.”
Xena nodded. “And Blaine didn’t give you any issues about keeping Bryson for a few extra days?”
Kurt smirked, though his eyes twinkled in amusement. “On the contrary - he was quite insistent that I should keep Bryson for as long as necessary. It was almost like someone put the fear of God into him.”
Gabrielle snorted as she closed the bedroom door silently behind her. “More like the fear of Xena,” she pronounced. Xena covered her mouth with her hand and Gabrielle shrugged. “What? He was being an asshat; I made sure he understood how costly that could be for him.” She turned to Kurt. “Which reminds me - you were right about the new musical. We’ll start workshopping it when life settles back down into something resembling normal.”
He wanted to cheer but was quite cognizant of where he was and why. Instead, he grinned and nodded enthusiastically. “Thank you, Gabrielle. I don’t think you’ll regret it.”
“I know I won’t,” she informed him. “It’s my job to know what will work.” She turned and looked at Xena before she could open her mouth. “And that one time with Stephan doesn’t count. He lied to me.”
Xena held up her hands in surrender before Gabrielle could get on a rant. “Not a word from me, Bard o’ Mine. You’ve got a pretty outstanding track record.”
Quinn cleared her throat awkwardly, and all eyes turned in her direction. “Thank you,” she said softly, “for including us and allowing us to go with Britt to say goodbye to Santana. I know I’m new to all of you, but I promise you that not a word of anything I see or hear will become public because of me.”
The plane started rolling, and Xena and Gabrielle sat down and buckled in before any of the crew could remind them. They looked back at Quinn. “We know,” getting a startled glance in return. “We looked into you as soon as Brittany asked for you to join us.”
“You had no right,” her eyes fierce and burning with anger.
“We had every right,” Xena countered softly, her eyes holding Quinn’s without flinching. “You can ask Kurt or Brittany, but everyone in our orbit goes through the same scrutiny before they are allowed to become part of our circle… even those on the fringe.” She sighed. “I promise you’ll understand better when all this is over, and I think you’ll find we make much better friends and allies than we do enemies.”
“Is that a threat?”
“No,” Kurt responded before either of them could answer. “It’s the truth. Trust me, Quinn… they’re on the up and up. And they’re the best people to have on your side… for any reason.”
Quinn watched him carefully for a long moment, then turned back to Xena and Gabrielle, to find them observing her. She nodded. “All right. I’d like the chance to see for myself, but if what Kurt says is true, then perhaps we can be friends.”
Xena’s face didn’t change, though her eyes twinkled. Gabrielle, on the other hand, allowed a smile to curve her lips. “We’d like that,” she assured Quinn. “One can never have too many friends.” Then they reached cruising altitude, and the attendant came around to take drink orders. Silence fell over them, and the Amazon crew steered the plane towards home.
The Amazons had built a special landing area to accommodate the jet Xena and Gabrielle used to go back and forth between Man’s World and Themiscyra. They couldn’t expect Wonder Woman to always be at their beck and call, and it was the easiest way to travel. The crew rotated back and forth in yearly intervals, and it served to bring Xena and Gabrielle home a little more often than they had been in the past. Now it was especially good, as there was suddenly an influx of women onto an island that had seen very little new in millennia. An honor guard, including Helena and a standing Barbara, was waiting for them, and Xena and Gabrielle exited first. The guard dropped to one knee and waited for the command to rise. Gabrielle surveyed them with satisfaction and nodded.
“Rise, my friends. It’s good to see you again, despite the sad occasion that brings us home.” She took Xena’s hand, and they walked down the row, nodding and greeting each Amazon in turn. When she reached the end, she turned to Barbara, who smiled at her with real joy. Here, she was able to run and walk and be as she had been before the Joker’s gunshot, and it always made her happy to set foot in Themiscyra. Gabrielle tilted her head in question. “Did everyone get settled?”
“Yes, my Queen. They are in their guest quarters awaiting an invitation to join the ceremony. They have already been issued standard Amazon clothing and instructions on how to wear it. The pyres are built, and the bodies made ready, and Hippolyta has asked to speak to you before the ceremony.” She turned to Xena. “Alex Cabot has asked for a moment of your time as well, Consort.”
Gabrielle and Xena exchanged looks and nodded, then turned back to Barbara. “Let’s remove Santana to the resting hut and take our guests to their quarters, Then Xena and I will tend to whatever business is necessary before we go get into our gear. We should have just enough time before sunset.”
Barbara nodded, but before they could move, Helena stepped forward and dropped to one knee with her head bowed. Gabrielle rested a hand on her head, fairly confident in what Helena was doing but allowing her to make the request in her own time. After a moment, they heard her swallow, and she spoke so lowly, she was almost undecipherable. “My Queen,” she whispered, head still bowed, “I would like the honor of lighting Santana’s pyre.”
“Yes,” Brittany said, having emerged from the plane and moved to Gabrielle’s side unhindered. Quinn and Kurt had followed along behind, eyes wide at what they saw around them. Helena didn’t move, nor did the rest of the Amazons, knowing Xena and Gabrielle had vetted these individuals themselves, but Xena stepped up to Brittany’s side and took her hand, forcing their eyes to meet.
“You don’t get to decide that,” she said kindly. “Here Gabrielle is Queen, and her word is law.”
Xena shook her head. “No exceptions. You may ask, as Helena has done, but it is her favor to grant… or not. I know you don’t understand, but this has kept the Amazons at peace for millennia.”
“Brittany,” Gabrielle said softly, “I’m not a dictator nor a tyrant. I didn’t make the rules - they are older than I am by centuries. I have a council and advisors, but ultimately, every decision of consequence rests on my shoulders. What you’re asking… what Helena has asked for… is unprecedented, because she is not part of the honor guard. She’s not completed that part of her training.” She held up a hand when Brittany would have spoken. “However, as much of this is a bit non-traditional, I will gladly grant your requests… with the understanding that this is a personal favor because of Santana’s sacrifice, and that Helena finish her training,” feeling the head beneath her hands bob up and down vigorously.
“Thank you, My Queen,” Helena said, though she didn’t move from her place.
“Yes, thank you, Gabrielle,” Brittany said. “I would love to know more about the traditions and culture of the Amazons when this is over.”
“We’ll see what we can do,” she promised. “Now, would you like to accompany Santana to the resting hut? You can’t stay there, but you can say goodbye, if you wish.”
Brittany shook her head. “I said my goodbyes already. I would like to go to wherever we’re staying and get ready for the ceremony.”
Gabrielle nodded at Barbara, and she collected several of the Amazon Guard to accompany Brittany and her entourage to their quarters. They would help them prepare, and then escort them to the site when it was time for the lighting ceremony.
Dinah waited until they were out of sight before she lifted the casket down to the remaining honor guard. They would carry Santana’s body to the resting hut, then return to their posts to wait for time to move their charges to the ritual site. Once they were on their way, Gabrielle bade Helena to rise, and she and Dinah accompanied Queen and Consort to the village square, where they split up to meet with those that had asked to see them. Then, in silence, Helena and Dinah made their way back to the quarters they shared with Barbara, knowing there would be things to discuss later.
Xena and Gabrielle met back at their quarters at almost the exact same time, and they exchanged brief accountings of their time apart as they dressed in their Amazon clothing and accoutrements. Hippolyta had shared her impressions of the ‘new recruits’, thrilled that so many strong, learned women were truly interested in joining the Nation. She also gave Gabrielle an update on how the Nation was faring after its foray into Man’s World, and how she herself was doing.
“I think she’d feel better if you were to drop by and take a look at her leg. She thinks coming home should have healed her completely. She forgets that she still has to do the work… much like Barbara did… to regain her strength and flexibility,” lifting her hair so Xena could clasp the intricate necklace around her throat. She sucked in a breath when Xena placed a kiss there before retreating.
“I’ll talk to her,” Xena said. “I have to go speak to Paula as well. Alex has decided to try the treatment.”
“Xena! That’s wonderful news!”
“Yeah... it is. I think it could really revolutionize a great many things for a lot of people.”
“I’ll keep my fingers crossed. It’d be nice to have something this positive come out of all of this.”
“We’ve had several positives come out of this. Saligia is gone; we’ve made new friends and allies; the Nation is gaining fresh blood, and there will likely be more to come; Dinah and Helena are stronger than they’ve ever been without endangering one another anymore. I’m sure there’s more, but it’s all I can think of at the moment.” She pulled the laces on Gabrielle’s grieves tighter and tied them off, then extended her arms for Gabrielle to return the favor. “And we still have a piece of Santana that will live forever.”
The state-of-the-art computer on the desk beeped for attention and came to life, and they exchanged alarmed glances. Then they heard Santana’s voice. “Yeah, ya do,” the Machine replied. “And I promise not to spy on you here especially, but I wanted you to know that Kara asked for a feed from the ceremony. And she’s invited a few of the local peeps to watch with her. I know,” the Machine continued, addressing their concerns, “but all one big happy family, right?”
The Machine actually sighed. “Kara, Casey, Ian, Colleen, Jo Polniaczek, Blair Warner, Brooke McQueen, Sam McPherson, Miranda Priestly, Andy Sachs, and most of the women at One Hogan Place. Root and Shaw, and Cat, as well as Amy and Lucy, asked for feeds in their rooms.”
“I take it the rest are in the downstairs conference room with the wall screen.”
“Yep... except for Casey and Ian, of course. They came early and brought lunch so they could sit around and gossip for a while. Ms. Polniaczek was a little fussy, but she’s still learning to navigate that wheelchair, so I’m cutting her a little slack. Oh… before I forget - you got a call from Darius this morning. He said to tell you the Blood King is dead, and to let Bo know. He said something about assuming she’d want to support Dyson’s position as Ash.”
Xena shook her head. “No can do. I mean… we’ll pass along the message to Bo, but her support of Dyson as Ash is moot. She’s no longer Fae; she became human before we left the City.”
“I’m guessing there’s gonna be one unhappy Were when he finds out.”
“Maybe, but he’s gonna be too busy being Ash to worry about it too much.” She paused. “Keep an eye on him, will ya?”
The Machine snorted. “You know it, Chief. Now go lay my body to rest. I deserve that much peace.”
The screen went dark and Xena and Gabrielle shared a look of consternation. “We’re gonna have to do something about that,” Xena mouthed to Gabrielle, who nodded enthusiastically. Then they exited their home, picking up an honor guard as they made their way to the burial grounds.
The Nation, including its initiates, were standing to one side of the pyres that had been built. The families of the dead stood at one end of the pyre - not too close, but close enough to show their claim. The guard members chose to light the flames stood at the ready, facing the fire and ready to turn at Gabrielle’s command. Gabrielle and Xena stood on the dais with Diana and Hippolyta. Just before the sun touched the sea, Gabrielle stepped forward.
“My sisters,” she said, drawing all eyes to her. “We are here to honor those that gave everything… that sacrificed themselves to ensure our victory over an evil that was determined to destroy us all.” She turned to the families that stood strong together. “Thank you,” she continued softly. “Thank you for your sacrifice. Know that the Nation and I will stand beside you and honor you as well.” She turned again. “Archers! On my mark….”
The archers reached their arrows into the fire; once they were lit and burning brightly, they turned to face the pyres. They knocked the arrows and pulled back the bowstring, waiting for Gabrielle’s signal. Just as the sun touched the horizon, she called softly, “Now.”
Lit arrows winged through the air and hit the pyres almost simultaneously. When the fires started to burn, Xena and Diana moved forward to stand beside Gabrielle and lifted their voices in a song that had sung Amazons to their rest from a time before Gabrielle had been their Queen. As they finished the first verse of their song, the Nation raised their voices and joined the song, and it was to this scene that the sun went down on the Amazon Nation.
Tomorrow would bring its own set of challenges, but tonight they would celebrate the lives of all those that had been lost and would rejoice in the victory that had been won… for all mankind.
10/14 10/16 10/17
Birds of Prey: Tollin/Robbins Production, The WB, created by Laeta Kalogridis AND DC Comics
Bones: Josephson Entertainment/Far Field Productions/20th Century Fox Television. FOX, created by Hart Hansen
CSI: Jerry Bruckheimer Television, CBS, created by Anthony Zuiker
Charlie's Angels: Spelling/Goldberg Productions,ABC, created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts
Chicago Hope: David E. Kelley Productions/Twentieth Century Fox Television, CBS, created by David E. Kelley
Criminal Minds: The Mark Gordon Company/ABC-Touchstone/CBS, CBS, created by Jeff Davis
Crossing Jordan: Tailwind Productions/NBC-Universal, NBC, created by Tim Kring
DEBS: Andrea Sperling Productions, Samuel Goldwyn Films, created by Angela Robinson
Devil Wears Prada: Wendy Finerman/Karen Rosenfelt, 20th Century Fox, created by Lauren Weisberger
Facts of Life: TAT/Embassy Television, NBC, created by Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon
Glee: Twentieth Century Fox Television/Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision/Ryan Murphy Productions, FOX, created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan
Grey’s Anatomy: ShondaLand Productions, ABC, created by Shonda Rhimes
Guiding Light: P&G/Telenext Media, CBS, created by Irna Phillips
In Plain Sight: NBCU Productions, USA Network, created by David Maples and Paul Stupin
JAG: Donald P. Bellisario Productions, NBC/CBS, created by Donald P. Bellisario
Law & Order (all): NBC-Universal/Wolf Productions, NBC, created by Dick Wolf
Lost Girl: Prodigy Pictures Inc/Shaw Media/Sony Pictures Television, SHOWCASE, created by Jay Firestone
NCIS: Belisarius Productions, CBS, created by Donald Bellisario and Don McGill
Nikki and Nora: UPN Network (Pilot), created by Nancylee Myatt
Once Upon a Time: ABC Studio-Kitsis & Horowitz/Disney–ABC Domestic Television, ABC, created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
Person of Interest: Kilter Films/Bad Robot Productions/Warner Bros. Television, CBS, created by Jonathan Nolan
Popular: Murphy/Matthews Production, The WB, created by Ryan Murphy and Gina Matthews
Sanctuary: Beedie Development Group/Bell Media/Entertainment One/Tricon Films & Television, SYFY, created by Damian Kindler
Stargate: Sony Pictures Television,Showtime/SciFi, created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner
Supergirl: Berlanti Productions/DC Entertainment/Warner Bros. Television, CBS and The CW, created by Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg AND DC Comics
Warehouse 13: Universal Cable Productions/NBCUniversal Television, SYFY, created by Jane Espenson and D. Brent Mote
Women's Murder Club: 20th Century Fox Television, ABC, created by Elizabeth Craft, Sarah Fain and James Patterson
Wonder Woman: Warner Brothers Productions, ABC/CBS, created by William Moulton Marston AND DC Comics
Wynonna Earp: SEVEN24 Films/IDW Entertainment/Cineflix Studios, SYFY, created by Emily Andras BASED ON the comic Series of Beau Smith
X-Files: Ten Thirteen Productions/20th Century Fox Television, FOX, created by Chris Carter
XWP: Pacific Renaissance Pictures Ltd/Universal, syndication, created by John Schulian, Rob Tapert and RJ Stewart