DISCLAIMERS: Xena, Gabrielle, and Aphrodite are property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. Im borrowing them for fun with no intention or expectation of monetary profit.
SUBTEXT: Maintext, as far as Im concerned. In fact, thats the whole point. This story concerns two women in a romantic relationship. It isnt graphic, but they are definitely in love.
Thanks as usual to my beta readers Kel and Shalon. You know who you are and what you mean to me
One last note Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you like it, if you hate it, or if you just want to debate. Id love it. Thanks, Sandakat.
"Maybe Ill go to the land of the Pharaohs. I hear theyre looking for a girl with a Chakram."
She landed in the great port of Alexandria where she was soon hired as a personal bodyguard to the Roman Consul. He hired her because her light skin reminded him of home, because of her amazing ability with her strange weapons, because she spoke Latin and Greek, but not Egyptian, therefore making her less bribable, but mostly because of her sad eyes which cried to him even when she smiled.
She worked for him because he was a fair man even though he was a representative of Rome, which had conquered Egypt. He treated Romans, Egyptians and all foreigners in this grand port city equally. He paid her well and made no unfair demands.
Her free time she spent wandering along the wharves and in the markets, marveling at the diversity of people and goods. Even Athens and Rome seemed parochial compared to the great city of marble and stone.
When the crowds got to be too much she encamped in the Library, devouring the histories of other lands, stories by ancient bards, and learning Egyptian until the solitude drove her once more to the crowded streets.
Nights were the worst. No. Sunsets were the worst. Every sunset she would see the Fountain of Strength and feel time running out as she lowered the lacquered box with Xenas ashes toward the water. Her heart would pound as it did that night as she rushed to bring her lover back to life. And she felt again the horror of disbelief as Xena stopped her. Her regret warred with her own words about the Greater Good until she felt like she was being torn apart until all she could do was to try to run and escape from herself to run until she couldnt think or breathe. She would run until finally she had to stop. There shed stand, hands on knees, doubled over, crying and retching. But not thinking or remembering. Or sometimes shed go into the practice yard and hack at a target with her kitana. And hack, and hack, and hack, and
Mostly she was able to avoid sunsets. She was often required to guard the Consul during state dinners. For that she was grateful.
Nights were different. Most nights Xena would be there with her, in her room. She would talk and tell Xena about her day, about the strange people shed seen in the markets, about a fascinating scroll shes read in the Library, or about some new court intrigue. Xena would laugh and listen. Sometimes they would try out new Egyptian words together.
She could almost forget. Until she slipped and tried to reach out to hold the warriors hand to brush back her hair and there was nothing there to touch. This cold reminder of her loss would fill her with such emptiness and ache that she would burst into tears. Xena, helpless, could only watch and comfort her as she could.
So Gabrielle learned not to touch. She tried not to think of sleeping in the circle of the warriors warm arms. And she clung to the good times they could still have.
And time passed.
In Rome, Augustus Caesar died and Tiberius took his place. A much crueler man, one of his first acts was to replace any benevolent colonial governor with harder men who were "more loyal" to Rome.
When news came that Gabrielles employer was going to be recalled to Rome, he called her to his side and offered to take her with him. She respectfully declined, saying that she did not care to be in Rome. He gave her three bags of gold and his blessing that she might someday find happiness.
She took odd jobs guarding caravans through the desert. Her ability to speak Egyptian, as well as Latin and Greek made her valuable as a translator as well. She learned to walk in the sand and to wear, again, the white robes of the desert people, as she had once done with Xena. She even learned to ride a camel, although she hated every minute of it.
At night she would sit around the campfire and listen as the men would spin their yarns about far away lands. She heard about the land of Chin and its ceramic warriors that could be called to life. And about Japan and its magic swords. And about India and its serpents that could spit poison and had eyes on their backs. Sometimes they talked about the frozen North and its magical gold.
She would smile to herself and say nothing. Shed been there and seen the truth or falsity of their stories, and other wonders as well. She and Xena had been part of it.
Next to her, invisible to the others, Xena would make some wry comment. Unable to hold back, Gabrielle would glance at her, then stifle a giggle.
If the others saw this, they didnt comment. It was one of the few times when the sadness would depart from her eyes.
Only once did someone ask about her past. What, he wanted to know, about the dragon tattoo? It looked like it had been burned onto her back.
Her expression became like stone as she explained to them that once shed had other such decorations. They had encircled her neck and been on her hands and feet as well. Theyd been placed by the one she loved as together they had fought off an awful evil. She had liked those tattoos much more. But in time they had faded and gone. This one had been done by a stranger with stronger ink. It had protected her, but in the end, who knows if it had done the right thing?
She sat, afterwards, hugging her knees, her face like stone, staring into the fire. For a long time no one spoke. No one asked her anything about herself again.
She and Xena often walked along the dunes at night, talking together before she went to join the others in the communal tent.
"Look, Xena! A shooting star. And another." The bard pointed to the place where they had been.
"Yes, I saw them. The stars are different down here than they were in Greece. No more bear-dipper arguments." She smiled at her lover remembering the nights theyd lain together drawing pictures in the sky.
"Xena?" Gabrielles voice trembled slightly as she stopped and faced the warrior.
"Yes?" Xena asked with some trepidation.
"Where do you go when you arent with me?"
Gabrielle frowned. "That isnt very helpful."
"I know. Im not trying to be evasive. Its just that It isnt a place, or a time."
"Is it heaven, hell, Tartarus, Valhalla ?" Gabrielle asked, trying to find an answer.
"No its none of those. It isnt anywhere. Its not good or bad, hot or cold. There isnt anyone else. Its no time and no place." She shook her head. "I cant explain."
"What do you do there?" wondered the blonde, confused.
Xena pinned her with her crystalline gaze. "I think of you."
That night, as Xena sat in her No Place, watching her love sleep, for the first time she felt a presence. Springing to her feet, she turned and found herself face to face with the Archangel Michael.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded, reaching out of habit for her nonexistent sword. Despite herself, she felt awed. Here, in his own realm, he looked truly magnificent.
He held up his hands in a gesture of peace. "Xena, dont you think its time to come with me? Paradise awaits you. Youve earned it."
"Go with you?" she sneered. "Since when have you had my best interests at heart? You want me to leave Gabrielle? I dont think so. Go back to your Paradise."
He glanced at the image of the sleeping bard. "But its not MY Paradise you go to. Its your own. If its the Elysian Fields, or Valhalla, or even just something without me, thats fine. Its whatever makes you happy."
"She makes me happy," replied Xena, pointing to the sleeping woman.
"But youre not there anymore. Thats the other good reason to come with me. Can you see how unhappy she is? She cant move on. She cant be with you. She cant let you go. She has many more years left. Let her get on with her life."
"But we still have each other," Xena choked, knowing in her heart he was right. "She needs me." She paused, hanging her head, unable to look at him. "I need her."
He stood looking at her, his hand on the hilt of his sword. "Then why did you leave her?"
Tears ran unchecked down her cheeks. "It was for the greater good."
"When you are ready, call for me." He nodded and with one flap of his great, obsidian wings, vanished.
Xena sat again. Head in her hands, she sobbed. She sobbed in regret for all the mistakes shed ever made and again in thanks for the ones that had led her to Gabrielle. She cried for all of the times shed hurt Gabrielle and for the times theyd made it through the hurt. She cried for the betrayals and for the support theyd given each other. Lastly she cried for their love and for her final, irrevocable, greatest triumph, which was also her worst mistake.
In the tent, Gabrielle slept curled around the black lacquered box that was one of the only two possessions that she cared about. The other, the Chakram, lay at ready by her side.
Eventually Gabrielle made her way back to Alexandria. She had seen the Great Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings. The bard in her had wondered at the ingenuity of those ancient people. In the end, it had reminded her of the empty temples to the dead gods back home. It was just more death.
She realized that she needed a change and was glad to get back to the shining city. The caravans had paid well. There was no need to find immediate employment. She found a small apartment by the wharves and spent her days as she had before - in the streets talking and exploring, or in the library.
Alexandrias streets are ever-changing. As the winds of politics blow, as conquerors come and go, so does the marketplace, so do the Gods. Over time Alexandrians had prayed to the Pharaohs, Ra, the God of the Hebrews, and the Roman pantheon. In slow succession their temples had risen, fallen and changed or sometimes risen again.
Gabrielle was wandering through some older streets of the city. She wasnt paying attention. She was simply walking. Not thinking. Just walking. She knew she hadn't been here before, but she didn't really care. She just wanted to walk. Even the crowds couldnt touch her loneliness these days and she was at a loss for what to do. So she walked.
For some reason, a statue caught her eye. She stopped and looked. It was a woman wearing a robe. Nothing unusual. But on the pedestal was carved the word VENUS.
"Aphrodite" Gabrielle whispered to herself. "I need an offering." She looked around and spotted a small white flower blooming in an empty lot a few doors down. Quickly she ran over and picked it. Holding it close, she ran up the steps and into the otherwise empty temple.
Placing the flower on the alter, she stared around the room and yelled, "Aphrodite!"
The goddess materialized next to her in a puff of pink gauze. "Gabby, its been a long time!" exclaimed the goddess with a wonderfully dimpled smile. "And what are you doing here, of all places?" She gave the bard a swift hug, then stepped back. Holding Gabrielle loosely by the shoulders, Aphrodite looked her up and down and frowned. "Hon, I heard about Xena, and Im sorry. But its been a while now and youre still so unhappy." She put her hand on Gabrielles chest. "Youre so so empty here. My poor Gabby."
The smaller woman hung her head and burst into tears.
"You wanna talk about it?" asked the goddess. "Come and have a seat." With a flip of her wrist, a plush, pink couch materialized a few feet away. "Cmon," she said, pulling Gabrielle over and sitting her down.
As Aphrodite settled in next to her, Gabrielle answered, "I dont know. I know shes gone. But then shes with me and Im happy. But I cant touch her and Im unhappy, and even when shes with me Im so alone." She stared red eyed into space. "But I want her with me. But Oh Aphrodite, why did she go? Why didnt she let me bring her back? Why didnt I do it anyway? Why ?" Her voice trailed off into gasping sobs as she buried her head into the goddess shoulder.
"Oh Hon " Aphrodite gave a helpless shrug. "Why did she do it? What did she tell you?"
Gabrielle picked up her head and met the goddess eyes. "It was for the 40,000 souls. It was for the greater good. I should have brought her back anyway. I need her. I love her."
"Wait a minute." Aphrodite held the bards chin, forcing her to maintain eye contact as she tried to turn away. "If the situation were reversed, what would you have done?" she asked pointedly.
Gabrielle straightened herself up. The goddess watched as the younger woman put herself in her lovers place that night. She saw the bards shoulders slump.
"I would have done the same," she confessed.
"OK, then." Aphrodite clapped her hands. "Weve got that settled. Now its time to move on."
Gabrielle gaped at her open mouthed. "What?"
"Time to move on. Find your life. Find a new love. That kind of stuff."
"But Xena is my Love. Move on? Leave her? How can I do that? You make it sound so easy, so quick. We were meant to be together. Well always be together."
"Look, Gabby, its been a while. I cant believe Xena hasnt moved
on by now."
"Moved on?" the bard asked, confused.
The goddess gave an impatient sigh. "To Paradise. She earned it. Even before those 40,000 souls. But shes staying around for you "
"But " Gabrielle looked like shes been slapped. "But how can I let her go? I need her. She needs me."
Aphrodite stood up and put her hands on her hips. "And like thats making you so happy now." She sat again and took the womans hand. "Gabby, you have a lot of years coming to you. You deserve to be happy. Sometimes that means you have to let go."
"But I cant. How can I?"
"Look. No one will replace Xena in your heart. But that doesnt mean you cant love again. I know. Im the Goddess of Love, remember? I get to make the rules." She struck a pose.
Gabrielle managed a weak smile. "I know."
Aphrodite pulled the blonde to her feet. "Now get your booty out of here and think about it. And stop by whenever you want." She gave her a gentle push toward the door. "And thanks for the flower. I love flowers." Blowing the bard a kiss, the goddess vanished in a shower of pink petals.
Dazed, the bard walked sightlessly until somehow she arrived back home just after dark.
She lit a candle and sat on her bed. "Xena," she called. "Xena." She waited. "Xena, please come. Please." She picked up the box with Xenas ashes and, cradling it in her lap, she rocked back and forth. "Xena, please. Please come talk to me. Please, Xena "
Despite herself, exhausted, she fell asleep.
"Can I go to her now?" Xena anxiously implored Aphrodite as they watched the bards head start to nod onto her chest.
"Not yet." The goddess stayed the warriors impulsive leap forward. "When shes good and asleep both of you will come with me."
Xena looked at her wordlessly and didnt move. Shed never heard the usually flighty Goddess of Love speak with such authority.
"Stay here," Aphrodite commanded. "Ill get her."
Stepping into the room, she grabbed the sleeping womans hand and pulled her up out of herself.
"Aphrodite," mumbled Gabrielle, "What am I doing ?" She gave a small yelp as she realized that she was standing next to her own body. "Am I dead?" she asked in horror.
"Nope. Just asleep. I need you both to come with me." Without giving Gabrielle a chance to respond, she reached out and pulled Xena into the room with them.
"Xena, I called for you. You didnt come," accused the bard, her eyes filling with tears.
"Aphrodite wouldnt let me," answered the warrior soberly.
"Thats true, Gabby. Now youre both coming with me. I have something to show you."
The world vanished.
And reappeared in the form of a horribly decorated boudoir. A gigantic circular bed with a plush pink bedspread and matching heart shaped pillows occupied the center of the room. Billowy pink and red chiffon material draped the walls. Two equally plush couches done in pink and maroon crushed velvet sat off to one side, while in the other bubbled a heart shaped jacuzzi. Scattered around the room were various statues of nude men, women and couples of every combination.
"Uh," gaped Gabrielle, "Where are we?"
"My bedroom," answered the goddess, "But this isnt what I brought you to see."
Still holding their hands, she pulled them through a door into a room containing only two mirrors, which hung facing each other about eight feet apart.
"Here." Aphrodite stepped back, bringing the two women closer together. "Now hold hands."
"But we cant " Gabrielle started to sputter, and then realized that she was holding Xenas hand. And that she could feel it. She clung to it ferociously as Xena did the same. Their eyes met and they smiled at each other. It was such a look of tenderness and love that Aphrodite almost regretted what she was trying to do tonight.
"OK, look here girls."
Reluctantly, they broke away and looked at the goddess.
"What do you see here?" she asked them.
"Two mirrors," answered Xena.
"No, no. I mean in the mirrors."
"Lots of mirrors," replied the bard. "Mirrors reflecting mirrors. On and on."
"OK, now what do you see?" inquired the goddess as she stepped between the mirrors.
"Um. Lots of you?" Xena answered, unsure of where this was going.
"Right," confirmed the goddess, moving away, leaving reflecting mirrors again. "Now you two stand between."
Without letting go of each other, the two women stepped between the mirrors and stood looking. Away into infinity their reflections stretched. They could see the tops of their heads repeated on and on, but they could only see the details of their faces in the mirror closest to themselves.
"Lots of us?" ventured Gabrielle.
"Now come out and keep looking," instructed the goddess.
They backed out, still watching, expecting to see only mirrors again.
But their images stayed. The closest moved, revealing two more. Those moved. Two more. A pause. Then the next two, repeated until the image was too small to see.
"Wait," called Gabrielle. "Something is different. Can we do that again?"
"Theyre dressed differently," mused Xena. "Id like to see that again too."
"Go ahead." Aphrodite waved them on.
The reflections were definitely Xena and Gabrielle, but each time dressed in new and strange clothes, with different hair colors, some wore eyeglasses. Oddly there were even a few men.
"What is that?" Xena demanded.
Aphrodite looked at them both very seriously for a moment before answering. "Your future. You are two halves of one whole. You two are destined to find each other again and again. These " She waved at the mirrors. "Are your lives The warrior, the bard, the knight, the slave, the archeologist, the Southern Belle, the psychologist, the patient, the doctor, the firefighter more You will always find each other and when you do you will always know "
She paused, knowing the hard part was coming. "But," she continued, "This life is over. It is done. You have to let go.
"Xena, Gabrielle must finish her life. You love her. Why let her be miserable? She has such a capacity for joy. Youve seen her. Is this the Gabrielle you love?"
She turned to Gabrielle. "Gabby, are you happy now? You know youre not. If you let Xena go, I want you to know she will have a place in Paradise until you meet again. For you to love again does not betray her memory. Remember, you were meant for each other. But that doesnt mean that you have to throw away the time when you arent together."
Gabrielle took Xenas other hand. Holding tightly to her lover, she meekly asked Aphrodite, "I wont ever forget, will I?"
The goddess smiled. "No, Hon, you wont."
Xena met Gabrielles eyes and held them. "Will she be happy?" she asked quietly.
"It will be hard at first. But yes, she will be. I promise you."
Xenas cold stare speared the goddess. "She better be."
Aphrodite shuddered. "Cross my heart." She traced an X across her chest. "She will be."
Xena nodded. "Can we kiss one last time before I go?" Without waiting for permission she pulled the blonde to her. It was a kiss that would have to last the rest of this lifetime.
Afterward, Xena still gripping the bards hands, straightened up and quietly said, "Michael."
Instantly he appeared, in all his glory, hand held out to the warrior.
Xena quickly kissed Gabrielle on the forehead and whispered, "I love you. Now and forever." Then she turned and walked toward Michael. "Remember," she told him, "You promised not to be there."
The angel grimaced. She was enough to make you fall from grace. "No," he intoned, "I wont be there."
One beat of his wings and they were gone.
With tears in her eyes, the bard approached the goddess. "Im ready to go back. I have just one question. Will I remember this?"
"Ah, well," Aphrodite stammered slightly, "You will remember that Xena isnt coming back. But you wont remember the rest of the details."
"But Ill be happy?" she asked hopefully.
She didnt stay long in Alexandria after that. It seemed like a better idea to find her way back to the Amazons.
Her first stop, though, was Amphipolis. Xena had always wanted to be buried with her family. The lacquered box she lay at the head of Lyceus tomb. Next to it she placed a small scroll on which was written "Xena of Amphipolis. Daughter, sister, lover, fierce warrior. Finally redeemed, home to rest."
But in the box was only sand. There were, Gabrielle knew, still some warlords and malcontents who would gladly desecrate Xenas grave. Her ashes she buried, in an unmarked urn, outside of Potadeia, in the place where Xena had rescued her from the slavers so long ago.
She made her way to the land of the Amazons where she refused to be queen. But she did agree to be Teacher and tribal elder.
At first the days passed slowly. And the nights were miserable. But eventually, even though she never forgot, time took the sharp edges off of her memories. And they werent so painful.
Sometimes, after a particularly bad night, she would awaken remembering that shed had a dream. The details were indistinct, but she knew it gave her hope.
Time moved on. She learned to love again. And eventually she was happy.
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