Standard disclaimers: As always I do not own the characters. This story is a continuation of where A Friend In Need left off. This particular piece of fan fiction truthfully was as much for myself as all of you. I felt the need after watching this ending to repair what damage I feel had been done. There are major spoilers here for all of the six seasons of Xena in on form or another but primarily for FIN parts I&II
Friend In Need, The Way It Should have been
Marion D Tuttle
Darkness had started to settle, not just in the night sky but in the bards heart as well. It seemed she was only able to interact with Xena's spirit during daylight hours. The darkness she was feeling was not on of an evil nature though. Not the type of darkness that had claimed Xena in her early years. But a darkness that took root in loneliness and despair over feeling all hope and joy had fled her life.
She couldn't help but play over and over again in her mind the last conversation she had with Xena. Or more to the point Xena's spirit that she would always be by her side. That wherever Gabrielle went she would be there. It was a small comfort, but it wasn't enough. holding the urn of ashes close to her heart she raised tear stained eyes to the heavens "Damn it Xena why? Why did those people matter more than us?" She went below on the ship seeking the refuge in sleep she knew she wouldn't find.
Morning found Gabrielle back by the rail of the ship. It occurred to her that she wasn't feeling her customary sea sickness at being on the open sea. But than again she wasn't feeling much of anything at this point. A numbness had started to settle over her, she wasn't sure she would ever feel anything again. Than it happened, she felt the touch on her shoulder. It still felt like Xena's touch, but it lacked the warmth that had always been there in the past. 'I guess it's hard to convey warmth with out a body.' she told herself. She turned to see Xena standing and smiling at her. "Xena, I thought"
"I told you I would always be with you."
Gabrielle shook here head sadly "It's not the same"
"No Xena you listen to me. This is wrong I know you think you are doing the noble thing. But what are you doing really?"
"I'm trying to make up for all those people dying. Gabrielle if it hadn't been for me.." Xena had to find a way to make Gabrielle understand that she was doing the right thing. The problem was her words even sounded hollow to her.
Gabrielle didn't want to feel anger at Xena, but at least it proved she could still feel "If it hadn't been for you what Xena? From what you told me the fire was an accident. You didn't raid that village, you didn't kill those people what purpose does your death serve? Explain that to me!" The bard couldn't help the frustration that was mounting in her heart. "Tell me Xena just when did you find out that you had to stay dead for the sake of these spirits? Did you know from the start?"
Xena lowered her gaze "No I told you Akemi didn't tell me at first she was afraid that if she did I wouldn't help." Not knowing quite how to answer without stirring Gabrielle pain and anger more. "She told me right after you left to find my body. I wanted to stop you... I was afraid that something might happen to you but then Yodoshi showed up..."
A light of understanding was starting to dawn in Gabrielle's eyes. Akemi had let Gabrielle go off in search of Xena's body. She knew that the bard was going to have to deal with the same men that had killed Xena in the first place. Yet she had stood there even giving Gabrielle a speech about wanting to give her this damned dragon tattoo to protect her, and the whole time she was planning on telling Xena that she had to stay dead. This knowledge just served to fuel the anger already started in Gabrielle's heart for the small oriental woman. "Xena has it ever occurred to you that you are being used, again?"
"What do you mean?"
"Unless there is something you didn't tell me Xena there are a few things here that are starting to make a sick sort of sense to me."
"I've told you everything Gabrielle."
"Well than I have a theory. Will you promise to hear me out?"
Xena regarded the woman that was her soulmate. She didn't know what Gabrielle could possibly say at this point that could make a difference but she owed Gabrielle at least this much. "Tell me"
"One question before I start. If I can prove to you that I am right and that you should not be dead will you agree that we have to do everything we can to restore you?" Refusing to give in to the hopelessness she saw in Xena's eyes she continued on. "I don't know how we can do it to be honest, but will you promise to try?" She waited for the warrior's answer, wondering the whole time if she really wanted to hear it. Part of her was afraid that Xena had choosen this fate for other reasons. She did not want to accuse the woman she loved of betraying her but it was something that had to be brought out into the open if the had any chance of setting things right.
The warrior knew her last chance for restoration had died with the setting sun of the night before, but still she couldn't allow to crush the hope Gabrielle had in her eyes "I promise, now tell me what is on your mind."
"It's simple really I think Akemi set you up. And you didn't even bother to question her motives. I wonder why that is Xena, normally you aren't that accepting." A sadness claimed her voice "Maybe you didn't want to come back to me, maybe your right where you want to be...with Akemi"
It was more the notion that Gabrielle would think she didn't want to be with her than the idea that she though Akemi might have used her that shocked her. She tried to reach out for Gabrielle and felt the pain of rejection when the bard pulled away. "How could you even think that Gabrielle? I love you, not Akemi. I would do anything to be with you again if it wasn't for those souls....Besides Akemi's sense of honor would never allow for that."
Gabrielle couldn't help but laugh at that last comment "Akemi's sense of honor? That's a joke! Xena how can you stand there knowing that woman manipulated you into helping her kill her Father, created this whole mess. Then she calls you to help clean it up but fails to mention the insignificant little fact that it will cost you your life? and still call her an honorable person? You say you'd do anything to come back to me if this is true, even if it meant letting the person that is really responsible for all of this pay for it? Can you do that, can you let Akemi pay the price if you find out I'm right" The emotions that had been churning inside of Gabrielle ever since Xena's death "Don't answer me now Xena, but think about what I said. You are not responsible for these people. You didn't do anything to cause this. It was Akemi, she should be the one atoning for their pain not you."
"I don't know what you want me to say Gabrielle."
"I told you, I don't want you to say anything right now. I want you to think about what I said though. think about it long and hard Xena because I can't go on like this."
Xena felt a lump in her throat "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying you can't have it both ways Xena, it just hurts me too much. I love you, you are my life. I will always hold you in my heart, but if you can't come back to me, than I have to find a way to let you go. I have to find a way to survive this Xena and I don't think I can do that if you are here in spirit but your not really here."
Hearing these words tore Xena's heart out. Tears streamed down her face, she couldn't help but think it odd that a ghost could cry. "Gabrielle...."
"I mean it Xena, you need to make a choice. Please, leave now. I need to be alone and you need to think about what your going to do."
Xena had retreated back to the spiritual realm, feeling the pain in her heart at her bard's words. Could Gabrielle really dismiss her. 'Be fair Xena' She told herself 'She's right, you know this isn't good for her. She deserves so much more.'
Xena looked up to see Akemi enter her darkened chamber "Akemi, what are you doing here? Why haven't you gone on with the rest?"
"I couldn't leave you behind Xena, my place is with you." She bowed her head and came to sit in front of Xena "It has been since we met."
A sick feeling began to settle in Xena's stomach. Could Gabrielle have been right. "Akemi, Gabrielle is my soulmate. I love her...."
"But she is not here with you Xena, I am. She turned you away when you tried to offer her comfort over your loss this morning."
The thought that her private moments with Gabrielle had been intruded upon brought the feeling of anger to the fore front. "You were spying on us?"
"I merely wanted to see if you would need me....I was afraid Gabrielle would forget her honor and try to talk you into going back..."
The truth was that was exactly what Gabrielle wanted, but Xena didn't see that as a breech of honor. She wondered how much of their conversation Akemi had overheard. This broke lose the last vestiges of control Xena had on her temper "Need you? I think you might have that a little backwards don't you? And don't you dare question Gabrielle's honor, she has sacrificed more for others than anyone I have ever known!"
Akemi had never seen the full wrath of Xena's temper but she was about to see it now. "Tell me something Akemi why is it you never tried to kill Yodoshi yourself? You were a ghost after all, you had the sacred Katana. I'm sure the ghost killer would have been more than happy to help you if you had summoned him. Why me?"
"Because Xena you are the greatest warrior that ever lived. I knew that it would take a great warrior to defeat Yodoshi...."
"And the fact that I had to die and stay dead why not tell me that?"
Akemi could see that Xena's anger was growing by leaps and bounds. "I already told you, I was afraid if you knew that you wouldn't come....I couldn't take the risk that you would think Gabrielle was more important."
A light came on in the warriors eyes, The sick feeling that had started in her stomach moved up to grasp her heart. "Gabrielle was right" she whispered to herself. In a louder voice "How could you possibly have known about Gabrielle? You only met her at the tea house right?"
Her silence said more than words ever could. "You've been watching Gabrielle and me?" She didn't think it was possible but her voice hardened even more "How long?"
Gabrielle watched as the sun set over the horizon, again. Funny she thought to herself she always used to love the beauty of the setting sun. Now it only left her feeling hollow and bitter at all she had lost. She thought again of Xena and the argument they had gotten into that morning, her heart ached at the thought of never seeing her warrior again. Even if Xena was a spirit, at least she could see her and touch her. Even if no one else could, she had to shake herself to rid herself of the self pity she was falling into. She had done the right thing, she knew she had. Now there was nothing she could do but wait.
Not able to watch the sun sink below the line of the ocean any longer Gabrielle turned to go to her cabin. She had to trust that the love she and Xena shared would be enough to beat death one more time.
Xena was pacing now she swore if Akemi weren't already dead she would strangle the life out of her. But then she had proven that ghost could be killed again hadn't she. "Ok Akemi, it's time to come clean and this time I want the WHOLE truth!"
"I did this for us Xena." Was her small reply.
"There is no us! Where do you come off?"
"I have watched you for years Xena. I knew that we should be together but our destiny was cut short. Gabrielle could never be...."
Xena raised her hand to stem the flow of Akemi's words. "I wouldn't even speak Gabrielle's name to me if I were you! She is the best thing that ever happened to me, without her I never would have been to become the kind of person I am...was"
"But I have loved you since I first saw you, and you loved me, I know you did. Otherwise why would you have come when I called?"
Xena couldn't help her mind wandering back to another time and another place. Najara came to her mind, the blonde maniac that was so convinced that she would be better for Gabrielle than Xena and that Gabrielle, if she didn't already would come to love her. Akemi was not quite the same, she was not dispatching people to their deaths in the name of some imagined good. But that made her no less delirious in her beliefs. Knowing that anger at this point would get her nowhere Xena decided for another tactic. "Akemi, I won't say that I didn't care for you, because that would be a lie. You were a nice young kid that showed me I wasn't the complete beast that everyone else thought I was. But that isn't enough for me to call it love. And I think if you are honest with yourself you will see you didn't truly love me either. I was a means to and end, if you loved me you wouldn't have put me in the position you did. You used me, you felt you needed to kill your Father and you used me to teach you how to do that."
"Gabrielle has been telling you this, I would never do that Xena I would never try to make you take my place....."
Xena was suddenly struck with a full awareness of just what Akemi had done. "The village...All those people that died that was a set up too wasn't it!" It was more and accusation than a question.
Looking away, unable to meet the clear blue of the warrior's eyes that were now boring into her own "I don't know what your talking about. I only asked you to honor my last request and bring my ashes to my family shrine."
"Yes, that's true. You only asked me to bring your ashes to your family shrine. But you knew that the villagers would never allow that didn't you? You killed your Father, no matter how evil he may have been you dishonored him with that act. In doing so you dishonored yourself. He was not killed as a warrior should be in battle, but assassinated in his own home. For the Japanese what you did is an unpardonable sin. You knew they would try to stop me. You were hoping they would kill me weren't you? In your mind you thought that was the only way we could be together."
Hearing her thoughts vocalized brought home the enormity of what she had done. She had no argument to offer she knew at this point anything she might say would go against her. "I still think we belong together Xena, if you would just give me the chance...."
"Give you the chance? To do what lie to me some more? You have already cost me my life and the woman I love. Regardless of what I may think of you now I still can't leave and condemn these souls....They still died because of me" Xena's speech was cut short by the appearance of the ghost killer.
"Tell her the truth Akemi."
"What?" was all Xena could say. She wasn't sure she could take any more truth today.
"It is true Xena that the souls of Higuci must me avenged in order to go on to a state of grace. But it is not your death that is required to avenge them. You asked yourself when you first saw Akemi here. Ask yourself again why she would be here when the rest have all moved on."
"You lied about that too!" Xena's rage was about to boil over "You cost me my life and you did it because of some selfish desire you have." Turning to the ghost killer she asked. "If not me than who?"
"You need to ask? You have put the peices of the puzzle together yourself. It was Akemi's actions that set everything in motion and it is Akemi that must pay for it."
Xena felt a sense of despair wash over here. She had stopped Gabrielle from bringing her back on Mt Fuji, now all hope was lost. She was stuck in this world unable to move on and find true peace and unable to go back to Gabrielle and resume their lives.
The ghost killer sensed her pain. "You do have a choice Xena, there is a way. Your love for Gabrielle is strong, her love for you must be equally as strong for her to have done everything she did. The power of that love will be your way back to each other."
Gabrielle felt the darkness of night settle around her again. Would the morning bring Xena back to her or had she forever lost even the tenuous connection she had with her warrior from her anger at Xena's refusal to see what was so clear to her? She closed her eyes, hoping to ease the dull ache that had started behind them. She thought she had fallen asleep when she heard her name being whispered. "Gabrielle.... Gabrielle are you awake?"
Her eyes opened, adjusting to the darkness. She saw Xena sitting at the edge of her bed. 'Great' She thought to herself 'I'm starting to hallucinate now.'
As if sensing her bard's thoughts Xena reached out to touch her. "You're not seeing things Gabrielle, I'm here, all of me."
Reaching out and taking larger hands in her own she could feel the difference immediately. She could touch Xena when she was in spirit form but there had been a coldness to it. What she was feeling now was warm vibrant flesh and blood. "Xena it's really you!" She exclaimed throwing her arms around the warrior "But how?"
Pulling Gabrielle into the circle of her arms she let the senses of holding her soulmate flood her again. "You were right about Akemi, she used me. Back than and now. Even in death she used me to take the guilt of what happened off her shoulders. She claimed to love me, she said she did everything so we could be together. What she didn't count on was that I wouldn't want her. I'm so sorry I didn't listen to you...."
There was no desire in Gabrielle to say 'I told you so' All she cared about was she had Xena back. She hated asking this particular question but she knew she would never have any peace of mind if she didn't "What about all those souls Xena? Saving them was so important to you."
"Like I said you were right. I didn't condemn those souls, what happened to them was horrible but it wasn't my fault. I was being manipulated even after her death by Akemi. When she told me the truth I was released from any bonds that held me there. but you were what brought me back."
She could see the question in Gabrielle's eyes "It was your love and faith in me that made it possible for me to come back Gabrielle. Even though you told me you wanted me to leave you this morning your heart still called to me, as mine called to you. Had it not been for the love we share I could never have made it back."
"I thought that...Your ashes had to be put into the water on MT Fuji before the second sunset. We missed that." Looking around Gabrielle noticed that the urn was not where she had left it when she laid down.
"I know, I thought all hope was lost myself. Even after Akemi confessed I thought it was too late. I don't know much these Japanese Gods so I can't give you a lot of details."
Her speech was interrupted by a soft light coming from Xena's shoulder. "Ghostkiller?"
"That's right Gabrielle, Xena is here as she said because of the love the two of you share. When Akemi confessed her crimes the Gods decided that Xena should not be punished for some one else's deeds."
"But her ashes..."
"Are gone." He finished for her. "I came for them while you slept, after talking to the powers that be I convinced them that Xena deserved to be brought back and they allowed her an extension." He turned to Xena "I owed you as well, I blamed you for years for what happened at Higuci. I know now I was wrong."
Gabrielle asked "So you came and got her ashes and put them in the waters on Mt Fuji?"
"Yes, as I said I felt I had wronged Xena as well. She has proven she is far more honorable than I had thought and is worthy of forgiveness and happiness in her life. I must leave now, my time in this world is limited. I have only been granted enough time to return Xena to you."
"I'll never be able to thank you." Xena said to the fading form of the ghost killer. "Allow yourself the love and forgiveness you deserve and I will be well repaid." With those last words he was gone.
Tears streamed down the bard's face as she looked into the clear blue eyes that held her heart and would always be the mirror into her own soul. "Still on to Egypt then?"
"Yeah now that you know how to throw that chakram too we should really be in demand.
The way it should have ended.......
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