Copyright Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of MCA/ Universal. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this story. The ideas and such belong to me and I'd prefer them not used without my permission... okay? Oh, and this story is subtext friendly... meaning there's mention of a loving, intimate relationship between the two main characters.
Acknowledgements: A special thanks to those who provided feedback to me during the writing and re-writing phase of this vignette. Their honest opinions and suggestions were invaluable.
Spoiler Alert: This bit of fiction takes place immediately after the season three finale. The thought process speculates on events yet to happen. If you are sensitive to episode spoilage, don't read this.
Comments may be sent to me at Vryblueyz@aol.com.
© September 1998 by Blue
Everything looked the same... the trees... the grass... the sky... even the outside of Dahok's temple remained as she had found it. Her surroundings were unchanged, yet everything that mattered had changed in an instant. One moment, in time, frozen for all eternity in her eyes... the eyes of Gabrielle... the eyes of her love... her soul. Had their time together run out so soon? It was unthinkable, yet it must be true, for Gabrielle was gone. Xena could hardly think the word, much less speak its verification. She had stared into the open pit for a long while, wanting to join Gabrielle, desperately clutching the hind's blood dagger, but not doing so. She had been so willing to put her life in jeopardy when the bard was breathing. Why couldn't just step into oblivion to be with her now? Xena knew the answer and it tore at her wounded spirit.
Damn you, Gabrielle! Damn you for changing me.
Dying by her own hand would only insure their separation... the gulf was wide and uncrossable between Elysia and Tartarus. Yet, the idea of living without Gabrielle seemed impossible... impossible for a warrior who had, on many occasions, done just that... made the impossible a reality. The many times she had skirted disaster through cunning flashed in her mind... all those times with Gabrielle. It seemed the bard had, more times than not, been at the center of those decisions. In fact, Xena could hardly think of life before Gabrielle. Her past seemed so distant, but it had only been three years. How could such a short time balance the twenty odd years before? The warrior had spent the majority of her adult life alone, and she had been comfortable in her aloneness. It had insulated her. She had been in control of her emotions... picking and choosing what to feel and on what level. All that changed when Gabrielle came into her life.
Damn you, Gabrielle! Damn you for awakening my heart... for nurturing what Hercules started.
Xena remembered that day and the feisty woman-child who refused surrender to Draco's men. There had been something about her that she couldn't pin down. It nagged at her even after leaving Potadeia that evening. She had warned Gabrielle not to follow her, yet she knew the woman would anyway. Xena thought about how much of their precious time she had wasted trying to get Gabrielle to go back home. If she had only known... what difference would it have made in their destinies?
Damn you, Gabrielle! Damn you for following me.
She was so angry with Gabrielle. How could she have sacrificed herself when she knew Xena was more than willing to die? Was not this the way to final redemption? Couldn't Gabrielle see that? Oh yes, she knew... Xena read it in her face... right before it disappeared forever. Gabrielle knew exactly what she was doing. Ridding the world of Hope was her destiny. Xena would have to complete hers without Gabrielle. What would keep the warrior from falling into the dark abyss again... the one she went to for solace and purpose after M'Lila died... the one she danced with to avenge Lao Ma? Where would she go now? Who was left to blame, to rage against? Callisto lay dead... Dahok powerless... Ares, the bastard, in hiding. There was only one remnant left and Xena was too emptied to fight against herself. It was over.
Damn you, Gabrielle! Damn you for showing me alternatives to violence.
What would Gabrielle think if she succumbed to her pain after all they'd been through? So many times she had been at the precipice, and the only sane voice was that of her bard. Who would be that voice now? Gabrielle was indeed her source... the place she went for strength. She remembered telling her that while preparing for the Persians to attack the barn that day. It was only one time of many they had stared death in the eyes and won... Xena had always found a way to keep Celesta at bay. Deep in her heart, she had thought they would survive Hope and Ares plan. She had fought with a vengeance this day... confident she would prevail against that evil. She felt it even as she forced herself closer to Hope, clutching that dagger... bringing it nearer to its final resting place... buried deep in that heartless chest. Even though Hope was physically Gabrielle's clone, Xena saw nothing of the woman she loved in those cold, green eyes. Killing her would be a pleasure. And if it meant her own death... well, she had already accepted that possibility.
Damn you, Gabrielle! Damn you for knowing me so well today.
It was Gabrielle who would alter her plans, and it was just so typical of her. So many times the bard had intervened, attempting to dissuade Xena from the ever-present pull of her past, to find another way. So many times they had worked together toward a commonality of purpose, and even though their methods differed, it was Gabrielle's voice that kept Xena on the path. Even as the rift between them widened, Xena looked to her love for some way to believe... gods, she wanted to believe her. Even so, this was the same Gabrielle who had risked her life when Callisto's poison dart befell the warrior and Gabrielle challenged the warlord Talmadeus. The closeness of their words echoed in Xena's mind. It could have been yesterday... that day in the village as they prepared to leave. Xena spoke her heart that day... it was the prelude to all that happened after.
Damn you, Gabrielle! Damn you for placing yourself in mortal danger for me and revealing your love.
Xena knew she possibly would not survive the poison's effect, and as such, she had asked Gabrielle to make sure she was taken back to Amphipolis. After the danger had passed, she allowed Gabrielle to glimpse her heart. It would be an essential link for them...the verbal expression and trust. They couldn't have possibly known the fate awaiting them... or perhaps they wanted to avoid their destiny just a bit longer. Gabrielle quietly stroked Argo that day... a truce beginning to be formed.
Xena started the conversation quietly. "Glad to see you two are getting along." She absently rolled Callisto's dart between her fingers as she neared Gabrielle.
"Well, the best of friends are made in strange situations." Gabrielle stroked the mare tentatively and continued. "Argo's okay... at least I know she doesn't hate me." The bard made that little smirk as she made a final assessment and attempting to lighten the mood. "She's still too tall." Even then, she was tuned to the warrior and knew Xena couldn't sustain an emotional exchange... just yet. Gabrielle was very patient.
Xena quietly spoke. "Gabrielle... when you thought I was dead, you risked your life to take me back home."
The bard smiled warmly. "It was your last wish. For all that you've given me and all the times you've saved my life, I'd go to Tartarus and back just to carry it out."
Even though feelings of closeness were still uncomfortable to express, Xena let a bit of her deep gratitude leak through. "I used to wonder whether I'd ever make it back home, and, now, I know one way or another, I'm going home one day. Thank you."
Damn you, Gabrielle! Damn you for knowing you would not keep that promise to me.
That day was the beginning of the end. Callisto was watching as the warrior and bard made their way out of the village... her sick, evil plan yet to be revealed. She had taken advantage of Xena's near death to plant seeds of fear and loathing for the Warrior Princess once again. For you see, Xena's path to redemption was just beginning and very few knew of the warrior's change. All that became apparent at the next small town where Gabrielle and Xena stopped. Melas, grieving at the loss of his young son, and his village, had gone wild in the tavern, attacking Xena. She had explained he had the wrong person, that it was not she who had attacked his village so ruthlessly, killing women and children. She and Gabrielle had left the village to find this pretender. Xena knew Melas would follow, much as Gabrielle had those years ago, but with a different purpose. She was hardly surprised when he jumped them on the road. She had left him loosely tied to a tree for his own protection.
It wasn't much later that they encountered Callisto for the first time as she and her army ransacked another helpless village. And it was then that Xena saw a living, breathing reminder of her past... one that would never be silenced by a thousand good deeds or lives saved. Callisto was the embodiment of all she thought she'd conquered in her dreamwalk to save Gabrielle. She recognized the kinship and loathed Callisto's existence, for it was so closely linked to her own. Melas had freed himself and saw the demon that had taken his son's life. He vowed to kill Callisto at any cost. Xena vowed to keep him from doing that also at any cost. It was Gabrielle later that evening that outlined the very road they would follow... follow to this place today.
"Do you want to tell me about it?" The bard sat near the warrior, faint glow of the campfire softening the battle weary woman's features.
"About what?" Xena responded thinking Gabrielle would just let it go.
"About Cirra." Gabrielle had no intention of letting it go.
Xena relented. "It was just another village to conquer, nothing out of the ordinary." She paused, remembering the horrifying details. "A fire broke out and I don't know if it was an accident of if one of my men started it. It swept through the village with a vengeance. The people were huddled in their houses. They were afraid of my army and wouldn't come out. That's one time I was responsible for killing women and children. There were only a handful of survivors, and Callisto must have been one of them."
"And now she'll do anything for revenge." The bard's statement was an accusation.
"I don't blame her." Xena could understand Callisto's rage and pain.
Gabrielle's response seemed almost naive to Xena. "I do." She threw a look toward the distraught father and farmer who was now plotting revenge. "Look at Melas. When will this end? His hatred is turning him into a killer. Somebody has got to say 'no' to this lust for revenge."
Xena stared into the night. "That is so hard to do."
"You did it...when your village was destroyed. You were infected with blood lust, but you overcame it." Gabrielle's words were true, but she really didn't understand the enormous strength it took for Xena to start on that path... she would though, very soon.
"I was lucky. I saw what I had become and was able to turn it around... but if something happened to mother.... Hercules... you... I might just do the same."
"No! You promise me if something happens to me, you will not become a monster!" Gabrielle took a deep breath and spoke softly. "There's only one way to end the cycle of hatred... and that's through love and forgiveness."
Xena remembered reaching up and pulling Gabrielle toward her. "Don't change, Gabrielle. I like you just the way you are... get some sleep."
Xena thought the conversation was finished and she had sidestepped the bard's entreaty. She was wrong and Gabrielle pressed for a clear answer.
"No! You promise me!"
Damn you, Gabrielle. Damn you for pulling those words from my mouth.
And what of that promise now? Was it still binding? What did it matter in the face of this disaster? Xena slumped against the wall of the temple, numb inside with grief... a hollow spot in her heart where Gabrielle had lived. She knew what she had to do, even if it was futile. Gabrielle would have expected no less from the warrior.
Damn you, Gabrielle. Damn you for always believing in me.
In a short span of time, Xena had walked silently to the water's edge. The lake appeared so serene, its surface smooth as glass. She wrapped the dagger in a waterproof oilskin to protect the blood on the blade's edge. This would be her bargaining chip... and exchange. It had to work... it just had to.
Damn you, Gabrielle. Damn you for always thinking I was stronger than you.
She stepped into the serene water and disappeared below the surface. In a few scant seconds the surface ripples on the Alconian Lake had quieted and it was as if nothing had happened. Everything looked the same... the trees... the grass... the sky... yet, the entire composition of the lake... of Xena's life had changed. The multiple concentric circles that had rippled across the lake were generated by a single event... the warrior's entry into the water. Xena's own life had been changed by a single event... the entry of Gabrielle into her circle. The bard had sent widening ripples through the warrior's being. All was quiet now. Just as the lake had resumed its flawless essence, the circle had closed... the end touching the beginning... seamless... timeless... waiting for the ripple to begin again.
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