"I did it." he repeated, "I killed Gabrielle." and Iolaus watched
Xena lifted her weapon, rearing back slightly. He didn't hear her
words, as she cursed his name, but he knew she was going to kill
him. He didn't mind. It didn't frighten him. Really, he deserved
it, didn't he? Maybe, before he descended into Tartarus, Hades
would be kind and grant a last request -- allowing him a brief
moment with Gabrielle, just before she walked into The Elysian
Field for eternity. He could see it all in his minds eye. She
would be her usual charitable self .... He smiled at the thought.
An earth shaking roar. An insistent popping. A hollow and
threatening moan, far more tumultuous than what they had heard in
the past, came from the palace. It echoed about the small
chamber, reminding Hercules of Zeus throwing thunderbolts. Or
more likely, histrionics from Hera. Hercules looked up,
momentarily distracted from the unfolding drama before him. They
had to get out. *Now*.
With a deftness almost too quick for a man his size, the demigod
reached forward from behind Xena and plucked the menacing chakram
from her raised hand. In her mindless grief, she had planned on
using it on his best friend, something Hercules would never
allow, no matter the circumstance. "Xena, get control of
yourself." he urged, almost dispassionately, "We have all got to
get out of here or we're going to die. Do you understand?" His
tone was commanding and direct, the only thing the Warrior
Princess could take in at a time like this.
Silently, she continued to stare straight ahead at the blond man
sitting before her, the self confessed killer of her beloved
friend, Xena's expression twisted with a grief too deep for
words. Then, after a few seconds, her eyes focused and the hand
which had held the chakram lowered. Gently, she stroked the fair
head of the dead woman in her arms. Xena's eyes averted slightly,
looking down at Gabrielle and listening to his words.
"She wouldn't want you to die, Xena." Hercules urged, "You know
that. She would want you to keep living, fighting for the good of
"Yes, I know." she whispered. Then, as she felt Hercules move to
stand behind her, "But we can't leave her here ...."
"We won't." Hercules reached for Gabrielle's body, hearing timber
creak and boards explode from floors above, pulling the young
woman into his arms.
Iolaus, grasping onto a reality all his own, mechanically reached
forward to help him.
"No!" Xena stood and slapped Iolaus hands away, "Don't you *dare*
touch her!" she barked in a voice so deep and ominous that he
could do nothing but step back and capitulate.
'She's right,' Iolaus' mind supplied, 'you *aren't* fit to touch
her. You're not good for much at all. Except killing the things
They quickly ran, Hercules with Gabrielle across his arms, to the
next floor, where they would be able to reach the front gate and
drawbridge. The palace rumbled, dust fell from beams and not so
delicately wrought stone, and the heroes could feel the earth
move beneath their feet. Yet, before the structure collapsed in
an explosion of rock and careless framework, they were able to
Only as an after thought, did they recall the four barbarians
who, if not dead, were trapped inside. It was too late for them.
Too late when they decided to go to work for Prince Haleus.
The palace fell and in its wake there was quiet. An eerie silence
from all who stood and stared at the rubble.
One hero was recalling a boyhood pact made with his brother, then
sorrow. Sorrow for what he and Iphicles never had together and
also sorrow for the small lifeless body in his arms. Hercules
suddenly felt an infinite gloom over her passing.
The other two figures didn't have thoughts as common.
Xena's brain screamed with chaos. She wanted death. Her own and
the man who did this to her beloved Gabrielle. But no, she didn't
truly. For as much as her destructive side wished his end she
knew he - Iolaus - was not honestly at fault. It was an accident
or of the gods. *Had to be* for he was a good man. She knew it
even as she fought against her own righteousness.
And Iolaus. There were no words for what he felt -- or wasn't
Hercules lay the bard's body in the soft grass and closed her
eyes with careful fingers, "I'm so sorry, Gabrielle." he told
her, "So deeply sorry."
"Sir," One of the three soldiers approached Hercules, the other
two standing beside their patient horses, awaiting orders. "Is
there something we can do?" he asked.
"Yes." Hercules took in a breath, restraining his own anguish.,
"I want you to carefully wrap her, put the body on a horse and
take it to Corinth. Tell King Iphicles that she will be buried
after his wedding but there will *not* be a burning until then.
We need to contact her parents ... " He glanced at Xena, who
stood immobile, staring but not seeing a thing. "... but I'll do
The soldiers approached and respectfully picked up Gabrielle's
Hercules was a little surprised to see Xena not making a fuss as
she suddenly sat in the grass, facing away from them, staring at
the crumbled castle. Then, deeply in thought, she looked east,
beyond the Olympian Hills.
Iolaus stood, staring at the ground, his expression blank. He
looked neither thoughtful or grief stricken. Merely a shell. A
husk that did not speak or move unless it was told.
'He's in shock." Hercules thought with worry but knew his friend
had a strong character. He would get through this once he saw
there was nothing he could have done to prevent it. 'An
accident.' Hercules mind insisted even though he didn't really
know the whole story. Hera killed her, not Iolaus, he was
certain. Hercules wanted to reach out and somehow place that
thought directly into Iolaus head, 'It was HERA, not you, HERA.'
Hercules couldn't think further about his evil step mother right
now or he would start cursing The Queen of the Gods name right
out in the open ... and neither Xena or Iolaus needed to hear
that now. He had to be the strong one for both of them.
"You can save her, Hercules." Xena unexpectedly murmured, as if
the thought came to her from out of the blue.
"What?" he question, unsure he heard her right.
"The Olympian River isn't far from here ..." She turned, staring
at him - suddenly inspired. The woman jumped to her feet, a new
vigor in her manner. "Of course ...." a gleam of hope infused her
stunning eyes, "Hercules, you can go see Hades! You can bargain
with him, make him turn Gabrielle over to us - *alive*. You can
do this Hercules!" Xena practically flung herself at him and
pounded his upper arms with her palms, "You *have* to do it!"
The soldiers looked up briefly from their preparation of the body
then went back to work, knowing hopeless heartache when they saw
"Xena," Hercules spoke gently, lifting his own hands and gently
touching her shoulders, "I would if I could, you know that, but I
can't do it. I have nothing to bargain with -- and that's *if*
Hades would let me enter into the Other Side. It's not something
"If Gabrielle were Iolaus you would do it!" She unexpectedly
snarled and pushed away from him. Then quieter, "*I'll* do it
"I've done it before!" she exclaimed, "When Marcus needed me
...." Her eyes took on a new focus and she suddenly appeared
excited at the prospect, "Yes ..." she breathed, "I can ..."
"Xena!" Hercules took the Warrior Princess roughly by the
shoulders, forcing her to look at him and see the logic of what
he was saying. He shook her a little, "You *cannot* do it. None
of us can. Gabrielle is dead ..." he took a small gulp, watching
the glow, that spirit he'd fallen in love with once, leave her
eyes, " ... and we have to accept it." *as I had to accept not
ever bring Diennera and the children home ....*
A little away from Xena and Hercules, Iolaus kicked gently at a
small pile of soil beside his left booted foot. He stared at the
ground, watching a lady bug fly from one blade of grass to the
other. 'Accept it?' he thought, "No, we don't. I don't have to
accept anything ...'
He could see her face float before him, suspended in midair ....
In life she was lovely, inside and out, and in death she was a
And he could hear her voice calling to him through the breeze. He
lifted his head and closed his eyes, feeling her move around him,
touch him, pressing her ethereal body close to his ... her lips
close to his ear ...
'Iolaus ...' she whispered, 'Come to me .... I need you ....'
And he wanted to go to her more than anything in the world.
Shortly after the soldiers left them, riding at full speed and
taking Gabrielle's body with them to King Iphicles, the three
heroes also rode in the direction of Corinth.
But they were slower, a bit more deliberate. They needed to get
through their grief before riding into Corinth, seeing all the
happy people who were awaiting a much anticipated wedding.
By nightfall the three camped near a glade.
Hercules caught fish for their dinner and Xena, functioning on
reflex, gathered some nuts and berries.
Iolaus sat ... and listened, staring into the fire. Then, as if
suddenly inspired, he stood and began to walk off into the woods.
"Where are you going?" Hercules called to him, concerned.
"I have to ... do something personal." he said, attempting a
"Oh." Hercules nodded and let him go.
"You came. I knew you would." She smiled and lifted her hands to
Iolaus felt a rush of joy at seeing her, dressed entirely in
white, looking pure and beautiful and oh so alive ..... "I heard
you calling to me." he said, quickly walking to her as she stood
in the small clearing, taking her hands and staring into eyes,
absorbing the image of her face and hair. She was luminous, and
not quite mortal. "Gabrielle, you've got to know I didn't mean to
"Of course you didn't." She raised a hand and touched his cheek.
He leaned into it and closed his eyes. Thank the gods, she was
here and touching him. He didn't care how this was possible. It
didn't matter. She was here. So sweet, so beautiful and forgiving
.... and he loved her. She had to know it. She had to feel his
Iolaus didn't see the moment when her expression grew hard and
calculating. When Iolaus opened his eyes Gabrielle was smiling
innocently at him.
But then she looked away, a sad thought seeming to penetrate her
mind, her expression growing dispirited. "But you know ..."
Gabrielle hesitated, "... I *am* dead, Iolaus my love." The hand
dropped away with an odd finality, "... and it was by *your*
"Gabrielle," Iolaus choked slightly, verging on panic. Dear gods,
she couldn't turn him away now. He couldn't stand the torment. He
needed her understanding, forgiveness and warmth. He was cold,
so very cold!
" ... and I'm going to be *lonely* on the other side ..." she
whispered. "I had my entire life before me and it was cut away."
She lifted soft fingers to cover his mouth when he nearly spoke,
"Dearest Iolaus, I know you didn't mean to end my life. You're
too honorable a man for that. But it happened and I know you'll
forget me in time ..."
"No." he spoke quickly, fearing what she might be thinking. "I
can't ever forget you."
Her fingers trailed passed his lips, over his chin to fall to his
chest, where it paused, tracing the lines of his amulet. "And
there will be *other* women, of course." she continued, the
fingers gently trailed past his hard stomach to stop inches above
his belt, to veer and rest on the hilt of his dagger. "And you
have Hercules ...."
* The dagger ....* Iolaus abruptly thought. *I killed a monster
with this. Gabrielle and I slew it together.* He could still
recall the sparkle in her eye, the excitement of her joy, and the
way she kissed him and held him in her arms as they lay together
in the grass, celebrating their defeat of the creature .... their
" .... or do you?" she unexpectedly asked, "Has Hercules said he
believes you when you told him it was an accident?"
"I never really told him." Iolaus whispered, "But yes, he knows.
He told Xena ..."
"Of course." her voice grew indulgent, "You two have been through
so much together ... He always stands up for you, whether he
believes in you or not."
Iolaus wanted to cry out. 'Yes, Hercules *believes* in me ....'
But did he really? Did he truly understand that it was an
accident or is he just being obliging because of their many years
of friendship? Perhaps it was a misplaced devotion he was
practicing and not a true belief in Iolaus innocence ... and was
he really innocent? In his minds eye Iolaus could see himself
swinging around again, his sword slashing out and watching as she
"If only we could be together ..." Gabrielle spoke in a near
murmur, "If only we could ..." Gabrielle leaned in close, her
lips only inches from his. She pulled on his hands and placed
both on the hilt of his dagger, her own hands resting on his --
"If there was a way ...." she breathed, mesmerizing him, filling
his mind with thoughts he had only imagined in his wildest
fantasies .... " ... for us to do all of the things we never had
the chance to do while I was alive, Iolaus ..."
"But we did sorta ..." he whispered, now breathing heavily, so
close to her yet so far.
"Was that enough to last a lifetime, My Love?" She pulled slowly
back, watching Iolaus. Smiling as he lifted the dagger and stared
at it. "Come to me, Iolaus ..... Join me in paradise. End the
pain and guilt. Rest and be well -- with me."
Iolaus, without thinking or perhaps thinking too deeply, lifted
the dagger and stared at it.
"What are you doing?" came a voice from behind.
Iolaus swung around and looked at Hercules. His friend stood a
little behind him, staring incredulously. He then turned to look
where Gabrielle had been standing. She was gone.
"Iolaus ..." Hercules stepped forward, frightened by the dagger
his friend had raised in front of his unprotected belly.
Iolaus shook his head and slipped the dagger back into his belt,
"I'm all right, Hercules." he said, honestly. "I needed to get
past some personal demons but they're gone now."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," Iolaus was more focused than he had ever been in his life.
He now had a mission. Hercules couldn't help with this one. It
was something he needed to do all on his own and, because it was
dangerous, neither Xena or Hercules could participate. They would
have to understand. "Let's go back to camp. We shouldn't leave
Xena alone." he said, walking past his friend.
Hercules stared after Iolaus before following him.
"I just needed to hear her play the harp and I knew who the real
Megra was." Iphicles said, leaning forward and kissing the hand
of his beautiful new wife.
Minister Glothus looked on and smiled.
Hercules, Iolaus and Xena arrived back in Corinth during the
morning of the king's wedding. They were told that Prince Haleus
had been sent home to his father who would be dispensing a long
lasting punishment for his errant son.
"If you want to know the truth," Iphicles had spoke
confidentially to Hercules and Iolaus during the reception, "I
think Haleus will be exiled."
'The least he deserves.' Iolaus thought uncharitably, recalling
how the prince had Gabrielle strung up before he found her ...
and rescued her ... and eventually ....
And who would become the King of Thesilla after the current
king's passing? No one knew for sure but all suspected that King
Iphicles and Queen Megra would inherit Thesilla to add to their
own. It made good sense. The Union of Kingdoms would be stronger
"What happened to the second Megra?" Xena asked, not herself but
curious never the less. "Is she going to trial?"
She had disappeared as if she never existed, Iphicles told them.
More of Hera's handiwork, no doubt.
Iolaus listen silently. He knew where she'd gone. It was she, in
the disguise of Gabrielle, who had come to torment him. To drive
him to do something he was either too weak or too strong to carry
The reception lasted well into the evening, nobles in the palace
reveling with decorum as the King and Queen retired to their
sleeping quarters, to enjoy their first wedding night together.
The peasants outside played and danced and sang ....
Happiness everywhere -- except in the hearts of the three people
who probably deserved it most.
Iolaus retired to his room early, not able to keep up with the
joy surrounding him, needing the solace of a good night sleep. He
wanted to be alone.
Xena and Hercules felt the direct opposite, at least for one more
night. She begged him to come to her, to share her bed. A small
thing in the scheme of things and Hercules allowed it, reveling
in it. They both needed an emotional closure, sealing their
devotion to one another -- even if they could not be together for
all time, traveling down different paths to a common destiny.
Xena, for at least one long evening, needed to cling to a soul
she believed in. A vulnerability Hercules appreciated and
The following morning Hercules and Xena awoke to find Iolaus
gone. His room was clean and his bed looked as if it had never
been slept in.
Minister Glothus approached the two heroes as the stood
dumbfounded in the foyer. "He told me to tell you that he loves
and respects you Hercules but this is something he has to do on
his own." Glothus then lifted an object and placed it in Hercules
hand. It was Iolaus' amulet. "He said to give it back to him when
next you see him ..."
Xena's bottom lip quivered ever so gently, "He's gone to the
Olympian River." she said, "He's going to try and get Gabrielle
Without hesitation, Hercules and Xena shot out the front doors of
the palace and mounted horses as soon as they could get them.
Glothus watched them and nodded slowly to himself. The world
needed more heroes like these, he thought.