Disclaimer: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, and Ephiny belong to MCA/Universal. No infringement on their rights is intended. The story is mine.
*My love, I see the joy in your eyes even as the light fades within. Let me hold you for a moment, just one more moment.... Go to her now, as I promised. Go with my love, Gabrielle... go with my blessing...*
I never met Xena, but I knew her well. She lived within my love's heart, as much a part of her as her smile, as real as her faith, as strong as her passion. Gabrielle was who she was because of Xena's love, and I never questioned the bond they shared...
"Come, little one... that's it, I won't hurt you..." I spoke as softly as I could, gently pulling the fawn against my chest. I could feel the quivering fear even as hungry lips fastened on the opening of the milk-filled waterbag. The fawn was weak from hunger and cold, but I could find no obvious injuries. She had stumbled into my camp and lain where she'd fallen, need overcoming fear as she searched for help. Finally satisfied, the little fawn slumped against me. I sat back, pulling her into my lap. She raised her head and met my eyes, the liquid depths of brown reflecting new-found trust. Her body relaxed and she curled her long legs awkwardly beneath her as she eased into the deep sleep of the very young. I stroked her head and sat still for a moment, allowing her sleep to deepen before trying to move.
"That... is amazing..." The whisper startled me. I'd been so absorbed with the fawn, I hadn't heard her approach. Carefully, so as not to wake the sleeping fawn, I turned to see who'd spoken. She stood at the edge of the wood, a vision in Amazon leather. I untangled myself and rose to my feet. She walked closer slowly, the staff she carried held low but ready. I could feel her spirit; damaged, but strong within her. As she met my eyes, I saw the tears and knew why she was here. I held out my hand to lead her away from the sleeping fawn, that we might speak without worry. "Come, walk with me."
It felt so good to be away from the Amazons. They were my family now, but sometimes... sometimes the sun and the wind called to me. Sometimes I just had to walk the roads we'd walked, sleep under the stars and feel the forest wild around me. I felt closer to Xena here, on the trail where we'd lived most of our lives together. Here, I knew she waited for me. At night beside the fire, I could almost hear her low laughter, could almost imagine she'd walk out of the trees and sit beside me. But of course, she never did, and the knowing that she never would twisted my heart inside my chest so that I could never imagine being happy again. I was hers, I am hers, I will be hers. I know she waits for me on the other side. Despite Ephiny's urgings, and the many attempts to gain my favor, my heart burned on that funeral pyre with her. I have been left with memories, and endless days to fill before I join her. This was one of those days. I'd awakened with the sun, my dreams no longer allowing the long, untroubled sleep Xena had so envied. Drinking my morning tea and talking to her as I always did, I made a few changes in the scroll I'd been writing. Hunger soon had me up and on the trail, backtracking to a patch of early berries I'd found the night before. My mind roamed as I walked and I found myself at the edge of a clearing.
A small lean-to was directly in front of me. Two large urns sat beside the entrance and a fire burned in the firepit at the center of the clearing. A movement caught my eye, and I eased back into the trees as a woman of my own height emerged from the leanto and walked across the clearing to a small bundle of furs. She spoke in a low, soothing voice and the bundle moved as she went to her knees beside it then reached to take it in her arms and draw it against her. The movement seemed so natural, the hands calming with their touch, the soothing voice never wavering. The fawn raised it's head and I felt the sting of tears. I could feel those hands cool against my cheek and found myself longing to be held. Gods, how long had it been since I'd let anyone touch me? How long since I'd felt strong arms warm around me? *Oh, Xena.... Why won''t you let me come to you now? There is no joy in life without you... no peace but knowing that you'll be there when I come. Why must it be so long?" I watched the fawn nurse and knew in my heart that it must be this way. What the fates held for me was yet to be revealed. The woman hummed softly, stroking the smooth down on the fawn's face, easing it into sleep with her voice and her touch. I could no longer resist the pull I felt toward her, and I stepped from the trees and spoke, unaware of my words. She stood and walked toward me. Again I felt tears as her eyes met mine and I felt myself drawn into her. I saw myself reflected in her eyes for a moment, then felt her touch, gentle in my mind. I felt my despair being measured as she held out her hand and I watched her long fingers close warm and strong around mine. I never understood the how of it, but in that instant, she'd found her way into my heart and laid her hands on my wounded soul.
She stayed with me through the spring and into the summer. She was a study in contrasts, bubbling light one moment, withdrawn and solemn the next. Amazons appeared from time to time, but she sent them all away. She loved to tell stories, and I listened, amazed as she told me about Xena. I knew the tales I heard were not all of the story, but I questioned her little, allowing her to tell me what she would. She told me of their meeting, how she, little more than a child, had followed the warrior. In her stories, I saw her grow from child to woman, watched the pain on her face as she remembered the dark times they'd gone through. Felt the tearing of her soul when Xena had been lost just as they'd found their way back to each other. Knew the certainty that Xena was waiting for her. I took as much as she would give me. She didn't part easily with her pain. It was part of her, for so long the only thing she'd felt. She'd wrestled it down, fought it and closed it within herself. She couldn't let it go, lest there be nothing else. Then one warm midsummer's eve, she moved to lean against me. I wrapped her with my arms and my mind and drew her to me, holding her for a long moment as I held the frightened animals who came to me. I felt her trembling as she raised her head and looked into my eyes, then reached to cup my face with her hand and gently kiss me. She laid her head on my shoulder and her body shook as she cried. I held her tight as she clung to me, then released her when she turned to run. I awakened to a wounded rabbit and an otherwise empty camp. There was little I could do but wait for her return. Time was something I had plenty of, and I knew in my heart she'd be back.
The Fates had led me to a healer, not just of bodies, but of souls. I felt an easiness with her I hadn't felt with anyone in a long time. There was a... feeling... about her, a warmth that told me I could say anything, do anything. I was safe for the first time in years. It was exhilirating. It was terrifying. I was fascinated at the endless array of wounded and hungry animals and people who found their way to her fire. All were treated with equal care; fed and cleaned and uplifted. She had unlimited patience, and twinkling blue eyes that saw right through me. I found myself telling her about Xena, though I hadn't told any stories since that awful night. I began to sleep, my nightmares fewer. I began to dream of the stories I'd told each night, and Xena was with me often. More and more I saw her as the beautiful, passionate woman I'd fallen in love with. Thankfully, the memory of her last hours, while always with me, was now often overlaid with memories of happier times.
There were days when the pain returned with renewed fury, when the emptiness in my heart brought me to my knees. Those were the days when I could do nothing. My body and mind would be numb, and I'd curl into a ball and sit in front of the fire. Save an occasional warm hand on my shoulder, or a blanket if it was cool, I was left alone with my thoughts. Then one warm night she began to speak. Her soft voice told the story of the gods splitting souls into two, of the never-ending search we must all make to find the other half of our souls. I sat staring into the flames, my heart screaming for her to stop as I listened to the tale I'd told Xena as she died. The words burned through me and as she came to the end of the tale, I gave myself to the memories and gave in to the tears.
I was freed. I was captured. I found myself in her arms and when I touched her face and pressed my lips to hers, I saw the love in her eyes and knew I had to leave. I wept anew for what could never be, then ran to the safety of the trees. She did not follow, and that night I returned to the Amazons.
She came back, and I loved her as I'd loved all of them. Wholly, openly, honestly. I knew they'd loved others, as she loved Xena. My soul celebrated when she returned, but I knew that one day she, too, would leave. We had a long and happy life together. Her heart was safe with me, for I knew that I only held it for her time here, and I was glad for the holding. We traveled, each new place bringing new memories for her and stories of her time with Xena. We settled finally back where it had begun, in the forest close to the Amazons. Gabrielle was much loved by them, and as the years passed and her body grew frail, she often sought their company.
I went back, of course. Life with the Amazons offered only bittersweet memories and constant reminders. Old wounds reopened every day until I could no longer face the morning sun. Ephiny hugged me and cried, but I could see in her eyes that she knew I had to go. The peace I sought was out there, and I had decided to accept it.
I walked back into her camp to find her waiting, my blanket and a mug of hot tea beside the fire. She never asked where I'd been, just smiled and reached to squeeze my hand as I sat beside her. I slept in her arms that night; a deep, dreamless sleep; and woke with Xena's name on my lips and a smile on my face.
It has been a good life with her. Her healing energies continue to draw those who need her. We make a good team, and her gentle humor and quiet passion have given me back my life. She asks little of me, and over the years I have come to love her, though I've never told her. Each day that passes brings me closer to Xena, and I can feel my body growing weaker. I am an old woman now, my hair is silver and my skin is brown and weathered. She has not changed, and in my heart I know that she has lived many lifetimes. I know she will keep her promise to me. She will hold me as I pass to the other side. She will keep me safe, as she has all these years, as I go where she cannot. She will pass my heart gently from her care to the one who waits, and we will remember her always.
I found her beside the water, a small figure lying so still I thought the life-force had left her already. The water whispered as I pulled her into my lap and stroked her face. In my mind I saw her as she had once been, not the sad, angry woman who'd come to me, but the young, vibrant, and happy woman she'd once been. She was golden in the light, and she pulled me to her and whispered her love in my ear. She looked into my eyes, touched my cheek and turned away. I spoke to her then, for the last time, and as I watched, an arm appeared around her shoulder. She turned to look back at me, then smiled up at the warrior beside her. Blue eyes met mine as the vision faded, and I knew that she had completed her journey.
I buried her there, beside the water she loved. Her journey has ended, but mine never will. Already I have felt the call. Another wounded spirit seeks a healer....
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