Here is another story. I hope you all enjoy it! The standard disclaimer. The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to Universal. No copyright infringement is intended, and this all came from my brain, and is not taken from any literary source or any other source whatsoever. No one gets the blame for my stories except me.

After Death in Chains

Heart to Heart

by Marie E. Costa

Settling her aching bones on the soft grass beneath an old oak tree, Gabrielle gazed down the path. She was weary of it all. Why did Death have to claim Talas? He was so good...warm, sensitive, cute, and he had such a gift for helping others. How could I have not known he was so sick.

Xena returned to the campsite and her eyes softened as they rested on Gabrielle sitting despondently under the tree. She tightened her jaw. She's hurting and I don't know how to help her. I need to find a way. Maybe if I pretend everything is normal Gabrielle will snap out of it. "Hungry?" She forced a grin and dangled her catch in front of Gabrielle. "I caught two and found some wild onions and olives." She dropped them on the grass next to Gabrielle. "Now unless you want your meat burnt I suggest you start cooking, I already cleaned them."

Gabrielle tried to smile, but it didn't work. She knew Xena was trying to help in the only way the warrior knew how, but it hurt too much. Tears fell from her eyes, "Why? Why did he have to die?" Her eyes were a mass of confusion as they lifted to look at Xena. "He was good and kind. He didn't deserve to die!" She cried in pain.

Xena fell to her knees and gathered the young woman into her arms. "Hush, hush now." She whispered, rocking the bard like a baby. "It's okay...okay now." She murmured and cooed the words in an attempt to soothe her friend. Her own thoughts turning to the past. Her little brother, another man-child who hadn't deserved to die. Another good, kind soul dead before he'd begun to live. Why did the good die young? What was it that made the gods take the best among us? Her heart skipped a beat at the thought...the best among us...Gabrielle is the best of the best. Gaia please don't take her. The world needs people like her. I need her.

"Xena?" Gabrielle sniffed. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" The warrior puzzled, and pulled back so she could look at the strawberry blonde woman cradled in her arms.

"This." Gabrielle waved her arm.

Xena sighed. "Don't be." She closed her eyes. Was she so cold that the younger woman felt a need to apologize for being such a caring person? "You have a right to express your need to keep it bottled up where it can sour and turn on you." She wiped a tear off Gabrielle's cheek and smiled gently at her. "Isn't this one of the things friends do for friends?"

Gabrielle smiled tremulously, enjoying the way the warrior threw her own words back at her. "Yes, it is." She agreed. Sniff. She wiped her eyes with her sleeve. "Thanks."

Xena smiled and Gabrielle sat wide eyed, amazed as always by the transformation that simple act always caused. Instead of the icy warrior she was looking at a soft, loving young woman with the most vivid blue eyes she'd ever seen. She wanted to get lost in those eyes. Somehow she knew she'd be safe in those eyes. Closing her eyes, she sighed and snuggled closer to her friend.

Xena gasped slightly startled. "Hey, what brought that on?"

"Feel safe." Came the muffled reply.

Xena chuckled. "How about hungry? Do you feel hungry?" Her own stomach had started to growl. She lifted Gabrielle's chin and looked into her eyes. Wincing when she saw the pain and confusion still present in the shining green orbs. Soberly she spoke. "Gabrielle, he wasn't sorry to die." She forced the younger woman to look into her eyes as she spoke. "He may have only lived a short life, but he lived it well. His illness was eaten him up from the inside and it was very painful." She spoke in soft tones. "Eventually the pain would either have driven him crazy or turned him into a bitter, sour man." She paused to wipe the tears that now flowed freely from Gabrielle's eyes. "Better he went as he did...with dignity and love. We will remember him, and someday..." I pray it's a long time from now. "You will get to rejoin him in the Elysian Fields."

Gabrielle sniffed. "I know." She smiled her thanks, knowing Xena would prefer no words. A quick hug and she stood up. "Now let me get cooking, before my stomach decides to rebel."

Xena grinned up at her friend and pulling her sword out reached happily for her whetstone. She couldn't help but feel happy. Gabrielle was quite a woman. She shook her head as she leaned into her work letting her mind wonder. The young bard had argued with death herself for the life of a boy she'd barely known. And when She lost the battle she turned to me for comfort...she lifted her lips in a wry smile. And I was able to comfort her...I think that's a first for me...I like how it feels...I like how she smiles at me. She watched the younger woman with a lightness in her heart that hadn't been there before.

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