Disclaimers: The characters all belong to Universal or StudioUSA or Renaissance Pictures. I don't own any of them. I detested the ending of the Series Finale so I'm making up my own. This way I can get beyond the depression.
A Friend In Need III
"XENA! Why didn't you tell me what you were planning?" questioned Akemi. "I told you we had all been redeemed...you have been redeemed. To have stayed dead was unnecessary."
"But Akemi, I thought.."
"No Xena, you did NOT think. I killed Yodoshi and inflicted his demon soul on the world. The villagers attacked you for trying to fulfill my dying wish. I'm to blame, not you. Don't shoulder a burden, unnecessarily. By killing my father you avenged us. How could you not see that? How could you think we wouldn't you and Gabrielle to fulfill your destinies together?" Akemi questioned. "We MUST make this right. The honor of 40,000 souls is now at stake. We will not find peace until you and your soulmate are reunited."
"Akemi, NO!. This was my mistake. There is no loss of honor amongst your people. Find grace, PLEASE!" begged Xena. "I made my choice. I accept it and will live with it. Gabrielle knows this and has accepted it also. She knows I'll always be at her side until we are re-joined in the spirit world or the next life."
"You're wrong, Xena. Gabrielle hasn't accepted this at all. Look beyond her words into her heart. Her soul is in torment. She hides this from you because of her great love for you. She blames herself for your death because you didn't share your thoughts with her. Xena, she feels you couldn't trust her to do the right thing. You are her soulmate, yet you kept your intentions to yourself even though you knew it would devastate her."
"I did what I thought was right, Akemi. Gabrielle would have died needlessly. I couldn't bear that thought!"
"And so you took her choices, her right to make that decision away from her...your soul-mate...your friend. Was that really fair to her, Xena. Was MAKING her live, knowing how tormented she would be, a decision of selfless love or selfish love? Would you have wanted Gabrielle to do the same to you had the situation been reversed?"
"Of course not! I would have died with her, for her...I"
"Yes, Xena, you would have...and she would have done the same, if only you had given her what was rightfully hers...the chance to chose."
"OH GOD, Akemi. What have I done! I thought this was for the greater good, keeping Gabrielle safe, saving those souls. Now I just don't know anymore. How can I make this right? I HAVE to make it right, Akemi. I just have to!"
Akemi could feel Xena's agony. It saddened her to realize that so noble a warrior had needlessly sacrificed herself ..yet she knew it was Xena' s way. Knowing Xena, she felt her own responsibility in not making it clear the debt was cancelled. A solution would have to be found or these two soulmates would spend years in torment, not to mention the 40,000 souls that would grieve over so great a sacrifice.
"Xena, I need to think about this... and consult with my ancestors. Perhaps they know of a way to bring you back. Have faith, my friend...but for now, go to Gabrielle. Talk with her. She needs you now , more than ever before. I'll return when I have more information."
With those words, Akemi's spirit vanished leaving Xena to her own despair.
"Oh Gabrielle, my love, why didn't I think instead of re-act? Isn't that what I have taught you all these years. Was I so blinded by my love for you and my fear of losing you? Did I condemn us needlessly to this hell out of warrior pride? How can I make this right? Please, whatever god or spirit is listening to me..I ask that you reunite my soulmate and I. I fear what she may do and I...I don't want to be alone in this place." she sobbed before disappearing.
Gabrielle gazed forlornly at the dolphins riding the bow waves in front of the ship. Xena's ghost had appeared several candlemarks earlier to assure her they would be together always. Although, Gabrielle believed her and found some solace in having her ethereal presence, it wasn't the same as being able to hold her or touch her. She also knew there would be times when Xena would have to return to that "other" place (where ever that was) leaving Gabrielle to deal with her own misery. She had sensed Xena's presence when she first appeared as a ghost. Perhaps that was why she did not pick up on her death after running into her in the woods. Her image was so clear and vivid, she would never have guessed Xena to be a spirit It was only her imagination, though, that allowed her to feel something physical between them. At least she felt it was her imagination. If, in fact, there was some "solidity" to her, then that would alleviate a small degree of pain. Gabrielle knew her survival depended on not just seeing Xena but being able to touch her and be touched in return.
"Xena" Gabrielle whispered as tears rolled slowly down her cheeks falling softly into the dark waters only to disappear into the seas vastness. . "What am I to do? I'm trying to be strong for the both of us, but I can't. Why didn't you have faith in me? Why didn't you give me a choice? I deserved at least that. I know you loved me and still do. I know you were only trying to protect me...but to have died in battle by your side would have been better than this bleak future I see before me. We would be together now. That's all I ever wanted or needed."
Suddenly, feeling Xena's presence, Gabrielle quickly wiped away all signs of tears and turned to face her beloved. Only red, moist eyes gave away her misery.
"Xena!" she exclaimed pasting a small smile to her lips. "Where do you go when you disappear?
What's it like?"
Xena knew Gabrielle was attempting to make small talk to cover up crying. She had been observing her for several moments listening to the quiet whispers carried away in the wind and her heart, like those of her lover, was breaking.
"Gabrielle, forgive me" she softly pleaded.
"For what, Xena?" questioned Gabrielle looking down at the urn clasped tightly in her hands. "You did what you thought was best...what was right for the greater good. There's nothing to forgive."
"If only that were true, Gabrielle. I wanted to protect you so much. I knew if we talked, you would have chosen to fight by me. I couldn't stand the thought of you dying. We should have talked. We're in this mess because of my own selfish pride. I didn't give you the courtesy of deciding your own fate. I made the decision for you. It wasn't mine to make. In trying to save you I condemned us both to this miserable existence."
Pressing ghostly fingers gently against Gabrielle's lips she silenced any further objections .
"No, wait, Gabrielle. There's more I have to tell you. Akemi and I just talked for the first time since her soul was released"
"You saw, Akemi? How is she, Xena? Are the souls at peace, now?"
"No, Gabrielle, they aren't."
"But, how can that be, Xena? You freed them and have remained dead so they can find grace. You told me this was all they needed. What more could they want from you? From us?" cried Gabrielle.
Gathering Gabrielle into her arms, Xena gently rocked her back and forth making shushing noises. Gabrielle was stunned by the shear physical presence of Xena's ghostly image but before she could question Xena further, Xena began to speak.
"They only want our happiness, my love. Again I'm at fault. I assumed they wanted my death to avenge their souls. Akemi told me that by freeing them, I had redeemed myself but I didn't believe or understand what she meant. The souls never blamed me, Gabrielle. I wronged them and I wronged you. Now it seems they won't seek grace until we're united. I have made such a mess out of all of this. Can you ever forgive me?"
"Oh, Xena, all of this was for nothing?. It seems once again, we 've fallen victim to the whims of fate." Sniffling, Gabrielle raised green eyes looking deeply into the solemn blue ones of her love. Then glancing over Xena's shoulder she stared into the rounded eyes of a young sailor. Quickly he averted his gaze, suddenly taking great interest in the sails billowing high above the lower masts. Xena turned to see what had attracted Gabrielle's attention only to have her own caught by the feel of her lover's body trembling and shaking.
"Love, please don't cry...I can't...Gabrielle? Gabrielle, you're laughing!" she exclaimed.
"Well, you know, Xena, you must admit it's got to be quite a sight for these sailors to see me talking to myself, embracing empty air, first crying and now laughing. I'm probably going to be locked up in my cabin shortly and then hauled off to some asylum when we hit land. Won't be much of a future for either of us then." she smirked in an attempt to lighten Xena's mood..
"Leave it to you to come up with that." smiled Xena. "Gab.."
"Xena, stop. I do forgive you. How could I not! I love you. We'll just have to keep searching until we find a way to be together in this world.. or yours. I have to believe we will. That's the only thing that will keep me going."
"We'll find it, my love...we'll find it."
Xena felt Akemi's presence seconds before she appeared.
Akemi responded with the traditional bow to Xena before turning and smiling shyly at Gabrielle.
Returning the smile, Gabrielle greeted her softly "Hello, Akemi. How are you?"
"It is a great honor to see you again, Gabrielle. I am well, as are my people. Thank you for helping save us. We are grateful and indebted to you"
"You owe me nothi..."
"We owe you EVERYTHING!" responded Akemi vehemently. "Please do not dishonor us by denying this"
"Hey, I meant no respect, Akemi. Your ways are so different from ours. We believe in doing what's right. That's all I meant. To believe I'm owed a debt..well, it's just not my way. I respect your beliefs..please respect mine."
"Oh, Gabrielle, forgive me. What you say is true. Let's not waste time or words over our differences. Our goals would be better served by correcting the wrong that's transpired. We must return Xena to you alive and whole. I've consulted with my ancestors and we believe there's a way."
"What must we do, Akemi?" exclaimed Gabrielle. You know I'll try anything to bring Xena back to me. I'd die if necessary."
"It may very well come to that, Gabrielle."
"NO!" interrupted Xena "I will not allow Gabrielle to sacrifice..."
Turning on her, Gabrielle yelled .."XENA! Don't make the same mistake twice. This will be discussed by both of us once we hear Akemi out...BUT know this. I will make the final choice..
it's mine to make..promise me you'll honor that choice no matter what."
Getting no immediate response from Xena, she grabbed both her arms and began to shake the tall ghost. Several crew members drew sharp breaths as the saw the petite blond reach out and shake her hands viciously forward and backwards. Crossing themselves, they uttered prayers to several gods to protect them from whatever demon had possessed the strange passenger.
Catching the startled expressions of the crew, Gabrielle dropped her hands and whispered
"Xena, you promise."
Looking down, Xena slowly nodded her head..
"All right, I promise." Xena sighed. "You get the final decision." and turned towards Akemi.
"What do we have to do, Akemi?"
"Xena, Gabrielle, in the Land of the Pharoahs, lies the temple of Ramses the Great. The temple is well hidden and guarded. I believe we can guide you to it, though. I have left a map in Gabrielle's chest that should get you there with little trouble. You must get past the guards..quietly, Xena...and enter the final resting chamber of Ramses. Now, within the chamber is a sacred book called the Book of the Dead. These are scriptures to guide the dead to their final destination. You must find this book, for one of the scriptures tells how to return a soul to its body."
"But Akemi, that's grave robbing... and even if we find the book, Xena doesn't have a body, now.. Only these ashes."
"Gabrielle, Ramses was an honorable ruler. He appreciated what you did for Cleopatra and the peoples of Egypt. He won't mind this one transgression. The living, however, will so you must take care. Don't worry about her body. Those ashes in the sacred urn are of the body of Xena. They embody all that was her. That's all you'll need. My ancestors say Xena's ashes will be reborn into her true self if you can find this book and perform the necessary ritual. Now before entering the tomb, gather tanin leaves, two scarib beetles and the venom of a cobra. All these things are needed for the ritual. It will also require a sacrifice of blood" Looking first at Gabrielle, then at Xena, Akemi continued "your blood, Gabrielle, because you are her other half.. It'll be painful and dangerous. " Startled, Xena began to object.
"Quiet, Xena!" growled Gabrielle and nodded for Akemi to continue.
"If all goes well, Xena will return to you in life."
"And if it doesn't?" queried Gabrielle.
Smiling sadly, Akemi responded "That I don't know, Gabrielle. You'll be in a land we know little about. Their gods are quite different from ours..as is their afterlife. You may very well die and join Xena or you may go to a different afterlife. Unfortunately, we do not have all the answers."
"That's all right, Akemi. I'll chance anything to be together again... Just as Xena did to keep me safe. Thank you, thank your ancestors...find peace, now. We'll meet again one day."
Looking at Xena "I know you have a few things left to say to Akemi. I'm going to put your ashes in a safe place. I'll be back in awhile. Take your time."
Nodding to Akemi, she headed down the hatch towards her cabin.
"Akemi, how dangerous is this for Gabrielle?"
"No more so than her last six years with you, Xena...but you taught her well. She has the strength and determination of mind and spirit to accomplish her goal...but she won't succeed without your unwavering support. Don't distract her with needless doubts and fears Xena. You will only lead her to her destruction. I must go now, old friend. I pray you two are successful on your journey. Remember, you hold not only your futures but ours too in your hands. We have chosen to forsake grace until you two are once again united. We didn't wish Gabrielle to know this but you told her before we could intervene. She now carries a great burden. The Khomi will guide you and protect you until you have left the boundaries of our domain. Good fortune to you on your quest."
Before Xena could respond, Akemi was gone..
"And to you, my friend.. thanks"
Turning towards the hatch, she headed towards Gabrielle's cabin. Passing through the door, Xena walked up behind Gabrielle just as she was lowering the lid to the chest where Xena's ashes and a map were safely stored.
"Well, Gabrielle, it looks like we're at it again.. Another trip to the opposite end of the world." she jested half-heartedly in an attempt to lighten the mood. "I promise you this..if ..no, WHEN were united again in this life, we're retiring from this stage. We're going to find some quiet valley, raise horses and cattle and chickens. I'm going to listen to your stories every night and tell you "I love you" over and over again until you're sick of hearing it. We're going to make love late into the night and early in the morning and every candlemark in between. You'll never get rid of me..never..."
"Xena, if there's one thing I know in my heart...it's that we'll succeed. There's nothing between the heavens and earth that will keep us apart...and when do finally get back together, I'm going to keep you to those promises and I promise YOU I'll never get tired of hearing those words or stop loving you. You are my friend, my soulmate, my lover for eternity. We can't fail. I love you, Xena."
ONE YEAR LATER...
By mid-day the sun beat mercilessly down upon the small inn tucked between the palms by the oasis. As Xena entered the room, she noticed Gabrielle lying on her stomach asleep on the bed. A sheet concealed the lower part of her body leaving exposed the tattoo of the dragon which covered almost her entire back, the reds and greens reflecting the sunlight peeking between the slats of the shuttered window. Sitting on the edge of the bed, her hand unconsciously reached out to gently caress the image which was magnificent in its detail.
Sensing her presence, Gabrielle groaned and rolled onto her side.
"Hi" she whispered , smiling at Xena, her voice slightly husky from her nap.
"Hi to you. I didn't mean to wake you."
"I wasn't really asleep, Xena...just thinking and daydreaming. I thought I'd try to rest while you were gone."
"Are you tired, my love?"
"Yeah, a little, I guess."
"Well then go back to sleep. I'll wake you in a few candlemarks."
Xena started to stand, when she felt Gabrielle's hand grasped her wrist and tugged her back onto the bed..
"Don't go. Lie down next to me for awhile. I need you by me, Xena...holding me, loving me."
Xena smiled and stretched her long frame next to Gabrielle's.
"You know, Gabrielle, you can't keep going on like this. You have to sleep."
"I will, Xena, I just need this for now...please?"
"Oh all right." Xena sighed. "But you know you're wearing me out, don't you."
Reaching up to caress the face just inches from hers, Gabrielle, leaned forward to let her lips gently touch Xena's. "You were dead for a whole year. How can I possibly wear you out?"
"Give me a break, Gab. I just got this body back five days ago. I'm still breaking it in."
"Well, break it in some more on me, Warrior Princess...you're still a little rusty, you know..and you did promise to make love to me day and night until I was sick and tired of it. I don't feel sick and I'm definitely not that tired so fulfill those promises."
"Geez. Gabrielle, I thought retirement was suppose to be easy. You're going to work me to death."
"Yeah, Xena, but what a glorious death it will be, won't it. Much more satisfying than the others. Besides who said retirement was going to be easy. I intend on keeping you very, very busy. Now, let's put that tongue to better use than talking..hummm?"
Never one to not keep her promises, Xena did indeed fulfill her each and every one to Gabrielle.
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