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With apologies to no one, this is how we think the first episode of the fifth season should have been.
Xena and Gabrielle are dead. Really dead. Since this is the last season, our heroines might as well enjoy it.
Clothed in white diaphanous robes, they are floating slowly upward.
"Are we dead for real this time, Xena?"
"Looks like it."
"So what do you think happens now?" the blonde sprite asked.
"I don't know, but at least we're not bleeding anymore and my back isn't broken. Look!' Xena wiggles her toes provocatively at Gabrielle.
Her flying companion pretends to be shocked. "Don't do that or you'll never get into the Elysian Fields, and we won't be together for eternity."
Xena gives her patented crooked smile. She knows Gabrielle is putting on a front. They continue floating up. At least they assume it is up. Since they are spirits and gravity no longer has any influence on them, they could be floating in any direction.
Soon, or maybe not so soon as time is skewed in the afterlife too, they came to a man who appeared to be waiting for them. He had on some kind of shiny armor that dazzled their eyes, and he was leaning on his sword.
"Welcome to the gates of paradise," he said with a smile.
Xena, ever wary, asked, "Is this Elysia?"
"Not quite, but it's all there is so you'll have to make do." He used to try to explain to everyone from all the hundreds of different cultures and beliefs that there was only one heaven for all, but most people couldn't give up the ideas they were used to. So he just said - here it is; accept it.
"What do you mean, 'not quite,'" Gabrielle demanded. They have been jerked around so much over the years by the gods and the powers that be that she is in no mood to take any guff off of anybody.
The man replied, still smiling, "I mean that you can call it the Elysian Fields if you want to, but we call it paradise. The name doesn't matter."
"What does matter," Xena said in her quiet but deadly voice, "is that we spend eternity together. Understand?"
The man's smile slipped a little. "Of course you'll spend eternity together. You wouldn't both be here if you weren't."
Gabrielle was beaming. "Does that mean Xena will be in the Elysian Fields with me?" She turned to her friend, "See, I knew you could do it if you just controlled your dark side!"
Xena started to give her a Look, then thought better of it. 'Don't want to screw it up now,' she thought.
"However," the man continued, "neither of you is completely ready for paradise, Elysian Fields, whatever. My name is Michael, by the way. Xena," he started to smile but thought better of it. "You did many evil things during your life, but you turned away from all that and repented and tried to make up for all the bad you had done. And that's what counts. However, you still had more to make up for. But since your life was cut short, we have decided to give you a chance to continue doing good and eventually enter paradise."
Gabrielle hugged Xena. "Don't worry; I know you will do just fine. I'll be here waiting for you."
Michael cleared his throat. "Uh, Gabrielle, you're jumping the gun a little."
"What do you mean?" she turned on him. "I've been the good half of this partnership. Xena and I have always known I would end up in the Elysian Fields or whatever this place is. The whole point of my life has been to drag her along with me."
Michael was beginning to wonder if he should have let someone else handle this pair. "Well that is the problem. You did drag Xena along with you. She always gave in to you, no matter how many false teachers you followed. She was the one who had to get you out of trouble. And the assumption that you would go to paradise no matter what you did? A little too much pride there, I think."
Xena was trying to keep a straight face, and only doing a so-so job, during this speech. Gabrielle's holier-than-thou attitude got on her nerves sometimes, too. Gabrielle was too flabbergasted to say anything, so Xena picked up the slack. "So neither of us gets into the Elysian Fields now. Does Gabrielle get a chance to make up for things too?"
Michael nodded. "Yes, you are both on probation. Here are the rules. You can return to earth as spirits. People will only see you if you want them to see you. You are to help people in trouble; you are to prevent people from committing bad acts. How you do it is up to you. BUT you have to try to talk them out of their evil before resorting to more physical means."
"And just how are we supposed to do that?" Gabrielle was still put out that everybody didn't see her life as perfect. "We're spirits, for Zeus' sake!"
The man winced slightly at the mention of the Greek god. "You use thoughts. You think where you want to be, and you are there. If you want to appear to someone, you think yourself visible. If you need to move something, you think it. Do you understand?"
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other and nodded. "I think so," they said in unison and laughed until tears came.
When they finally stopped laughing, Xena asked, "How long is this probation going to last?"
"That's not for me to decide," Michael said. He was glad this interview was just about over. "Others will tell you when you are ready for paradise. Good luck." He smiled and disappeared.
"So that's how this thinking and you're there thing works," Xena mused. Being a warrior and former warlord, she was quick at picking up new moves. She looked at her spiritual companion and smiled. "Are you ready for our first good deed?"
"Sure. Where do you 'think' we want to be?" She giggled.
Xena frowned for a minute. "How about that town we were in before we got sidetracked into chasing after Caesar and then getting crucified? There was a good tavern there. Probably lots of bad guys to stop."
"Good idea. We can pick up where we left off." Gabrielle beamed. She had remembered that the town had a good market she hadn't had time to check out.
They closed their eyes (they didn't have to do this and eventually they figured that out) and thought themselves in that town. Xena materialized inside the tavern. She was wearing her leathers and armor again, but without her weapons. At first she was surprised; then she remembered that she had thought how nice it would be to have her clothes back and get out of that silly white robe. 'Hey, this thinking and it happens thing is pretty cool,' she said to herself. 'Now where's Gabrielle?' She looked around the tavern but didn't see her friend. She closed her eyes and thought - I want to be where Gabrielle is.
When she opened her eyes, she was in the middle of the market. She saw Gabrielle examining some colored material. 'Shopping. Of course. Some things never change.'
She went up to her and tapped her on the shoulder. The blonde spirit looked up. 'You got your leathers back! When did that happen?'
'I just thought how nice it would be to have them again, and there they were. Maybe you should get some new clothes, too,' Xena replied.
'Yeah.' Gabrielle closed her eyes and began to think.
With a look of panic on her face, Xena said, 'Please, no Indian saris; the only good thing about them was that they weren't the BGSB.'
Gabrielle opened her eyes and stared at Xena. 'Didn't you like the BGSB?'
'No, I hated it.'
'Why didn't you say something earlier? I only wore it because I thought you liked it; I hated it too.' Gabrielle was smiling as she said, 'Okay, I'll try to think of something we both will like.'
Just then a muffled yell came from the alley beside the shop. They ran, actually floated - they were still getting used to their spiritual side, down the alley. A thug was standing over a man lying on the ground and demanding his money. They came up to the thug, one on either side of him. Of course, neither he nor his victim could see them.
'Remember, we have to try to talk him out of doing bad first,' Gabrielle reminded Xena.
'Yeah, yeah, let's get on with it.' Xena whispered in the thug's right ear, 'You don't really want to do this. It's not nice. And you won't get to the Elysian Fields or on probation, like us.' The thug swatted at his ear. Xena had forgotten to think her voice audible so he thought a mosquito was buzzing around.
Gabrielle just looked at Xena. 'That's not how to persuade him to do good. Let me try.' She leaned into his left ear. 'You would be a much happier person if you didn't go around beating people up and robbing them. A big, strong man like you should be able to find honest work without any problem. Then you could help others less fortunate than you.' While Gabrielle was talking, Xena had been making gagging signs behind her back.
The thug started swatting at his left ear, sending his hand through the blonde bard's spiritual head. She jumped back several feet. "Damn mosquitos! I can't even rob people in peace," the thug exclaimed. He turned back to his victim. "Give me your money now, and I'll kill you painlessly."
Having recovered from having a hand go through her head, Gabrielle said, 'Okay, we tried talking. Now the more physical means Michael mentioned.'
'It's about time.' Xena gave her battle cry. 'Gods, that feels good.' She got between the thug and the prostrate victim. She smiled, although only Gabrielle could see it. Then she thought how good it would feel to hit the thug in the stomach. The startled thug suddenly doubled over in pain. 'I knew I shouldn't have eaten those clams for lunch,' he thought. His head snapped back as Xena thought about hitting him on the jaw. Gabrielle thought about knocking his legs out from under him. The next thing he knew, he was lying on the ground, dazed. Meanwhile, the potential robbery victim, seeing that the robber was possessed, got up quickly and hightailed it out of the alley.
Gabrielle and Xena were laughing so hard, they had to lean on each other to keep from falling down. Xena recovered first. 'That was fun. You know, this probation isn't such a bad thing. Maybe we can do this for eternity. I wonder if I could get a sword like Michael's. It looked like it was made of fire. That would be so cool.'
Gabrielle was trying to catch her breath. 'Did you see the look on the victim's face when the thug started flopping all over the place? Maybe next time we should appear to people; they might be able to hear us then. I guess we have to work on our powers some more.'
'Sort of a spiritual quest?' Xena asked, innocently.
Gabrielle slapped her playfully on the hand. 'But this time we're on the same quest together. Where do you want to go now?'
'Let's go find a warlord to thwart,' Xena said enthusiastically.
Michael and a Presence were watching the heavenly equivalent of a big-screen television. "Everything seems to have worked out just as we planned," Michael said. He didn't look completely happy.
"Something is bothering you," the Presence said.
Michael shrugged. "Just the usual. I don't like deceiving people, even if it is necessary."
A sound like a sigh wafted through the chamber. "Everyone has to make their own paradise. Even I can't do it for them."
"So how long are we going to keep them on 'probation' before we tell them that they are already in their own paradise?" Michael asked.
A feeling like a smile came over Michael. "There's no hurry," the Presence said. "They have eternity to enjoy themselves."
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