by: BladeMstrs

DISCLAIMERS: Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer, Argo, etc are owned by MCA/Universal and whichever other PTB that wants 'em. I'm just borrowing them without thought to profit or personal gain of any type.

SUBTEXT: Nothing graphic. Course, if there was, it wouldn't exactly be SUBtext, now would it? All my stories work off the premise that our two gorgeous hero-types love one another far more deeply than dreamed of in our mere mortal philosophy, Plato.

VIOLENCE: Nope. The aftermath though.

SPOILER ALERT: This story continues directly after the events portrayed in Sacrifice 2. There's also a spoiler of sorts for another episode, but if I tell you which one, it'll ruin the {gasp} suspense.

GENRE: Ok, guys . . .this story is sort of a joke, based on some speculation among Xenites. It's an attempt to answer the question "Which resolution of Gabrielle's 'death' would make you want to shoot the TV?"

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel free to Email me at BladeMstrs@aol.com.



Pain. Red fire was its color, sharp and searing as a jagged knife sliding across tautly stretched gut. Cresting, building like a strong ocean wave made of shattered dreams and an empty soul, never relenting, never releasing.

Inky black tendrils slowly snaked across the red field, promising oblivion, promising the end to the pain. Melt into me, they said. I will give you peace, they said. I will end your pain, I will end your memories.

A mental hand reaching out to one tendril of blackness, just to see if the promise could be kept. The mind's eye closed as blackness enveloped a broken heart, applying the soothing balm of forgetfulness. Sinking deeper and deeper, feeling blackness totally engulfing, blotting out past and present. Never future. There was no future.

A body stiffened as blackness broke to admit a reddened thread of pain and imagery. "Gabrieeeellllleeee! . . .Gab . . .?" No! "Xeeeeeeeeeeennnnaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!" NO!

Twisting quickly, an iron will reasserted itself, cleaving through inky blackness, tearing gaping holes in the falsely promised oblivion, allowing pain's red fire to stream through once again. Blessed pain. Wondrous pain.


Xena swam up slowly through the layers of semi-consciousness, clinging to the pain in her head as an anchor, as a shield against the memories. Focus, she told herself, never faltering from her intended goal. You just need to focus. You can do this.

Coming to semi-awareness, she remained there, swaddled in gossamer threads, content for the moment. Pushing past the all encompassing pain, she took stock of her immediate surroundings, eyes still tightly closed. Grass. She appeared to be laying in grass, the sun warmed dew soothing the naked skin of her arms and legs. How did I get here? she wondered. I was in the Halls of War. What happened? Answers were slow in coming. She remembered nothing after killing Callisto, the hinds blood dagger dropping from grief benumbed fingers. Turning back to the pit. And then? Oblivion. The gift she had denied the mad goddess seemed to be hers for the taking. And take it she did, apparently, until now. She would have to tell Callisto one day just how temporary a respite oblivion really was. The warrior was sure she would be seeing her "friend" in Tartarus. If the pain radiating through her weeping skull was any indication, that meeting was destined to take place sooner rather than later.

A soft sound above her sharpened her senses. Who? she wondered. Muscles which should have tensed, readying for a fight, instead remained flaccid, accepting whatever would come to her. The soft sound repeated, but no blade pierced the chest where her heart used to be. Instead, a cool cloth was tenderly placed over her aching head. Joxer, her still fuzzy mind free associated. Of course. That's who it is. Somehow he had seen what had happened to her and managed to drag her from the Temple. The thought of that almost got her to laughing, the image of clumsy Joxer carrying, or dragging, her unconscious body. How many times had she been dropped, she wondered. Be nice, that part of her which was still human scolded. He did just what you asked him to. You'll have to let him know that, somehow. He loved her too.

Taking a deep, steadying breath, the warrior willed her lids to part, then closed them swiftly, tightly, as sunlight speared through her dilated pupils, increasing the pain screaming through her a million-fold. She bit back a groan as the world grayed out around her momentarily.

When she came back to a more full state of realization, Xena could feel the softness of a gentle hand tenderly cupped around her forearm, just above her right bracer. A drop of warm water landed just above that comforting hand. After a long moment, the warrior realized that it was a tear. Now that she knew what to listen for, she could hear a soft sniffling just above her. Time to stop wallowing in this pit of self-pity, she told herself harshly. He's a friend, and he's suffering. Just like you are.

But, gods be damned, didn't she deserve some self pity? If she remained just like this, she could imagine that it was Gabrielle, not Joxer, who hovered so closely, treating her with such tenderness. Her mind took hold of the fantasy so strongly that when the more noble part of herself forced her eyelids back open, by incremental millimeters, that is exactly what she saw.

Gasping, she shut her eyes quickly again, willing away the vision even as some deeper part of her clung to it, measuring its subtle nuances like a connoisseur of fine wine.

"Xena?" came the soft voice of her beloved Gabrielle.

Nooooooooooooo! her tortured mind wailed. It's Joxer, just Joxer. You're only seeing what you want to see, hearing what you need to hear. Get over it, warrior. Time to come back to reality. Gabrielle is dead.

"Xena?" That voice. Again.

"No," she muttered softly. Then stronger. "No." Eyes still closed, unwilling to plumb the depths of this grief inspired insanity any further, she slipped back into the red haze of pain willingly.

But the hand, Gabrielle's hand, her mind slyly informed her, wouldn't let her rest. It clamped down on her muscled forearm hard, jarring, granting her no peace. "Xena," the voice came yet again, firmer this time, brooking no hiding, no evasions. "C'mon, Xena. You've got to wake up. I know you're in there. Open your eyes, Xena."

"No," she asserted stubbornly. "I won't. You're dead." And I'm insane. Again.

The laughter sounded then, clear, musical and unfettered, and it was the most joyous sound she had ever heard, better even then the sounds of death in battle.

"Xena, I think that knock to your head scrambled your brains some. I'm right here, with you. How could I be dead?"

Eyes still shut against the further proof of her inexorable slide into grief induced insanity, the warrior stubbornly maintained her stoic disbelief. "I saw you jump into the pit. With Hope. I saw you." You screamed my name and, gods forgive me my sweet Gabrielle, I couldn't do a thing about it!

"Hope? Who's Hope?"

Blue eyes flew open at that, gaze settling on the image of Gabrielle's perplexed face. "Who's Hope?" the warrior repeated, disbelieving, her face contorted into a mask of pain.

Green eyes caught her gaze and held it expectantly, no deceit seen within their unending depths. The gentle laughter sounded again, warm and loving. "I asked you first."

Xena sighed. "Hope is . . .was . . .your . . . ." The warrior looked, really looked at the cherished face looming above her, realization hitting with a hard crash. The tension, seen as newly formed lines etched in young flesh, was completely gone. The jade eyes held no hint of long buried agony. "Gabrielle?" she breathed, a smile threatening to peer forth from the clouds of grief.

Something of that smile must have broken free, for the bard's answering one was full of joy and sunshine. "Yes, Xena," she replied, reaching a warm hand down to caress one angled cheek. "I'm here. I'm alive. See?" The other hand reached down and placed Xena's above her breast, where her heart beat strongly.

Xena let her hand linger there, the soft, smooth skin warming her calloused palm, the steadily beating heart sending sharp tendrils of pure joy through the warrior with each strong contraction. Forgetting the abysmal pounding of her head, Xena flew up and clasped Gabrielle to her in a crushing embrace, dipping her head to inhale the exquisite fragrance of sun warmed honey hair, raining tender kisses on hair, forehead and cheeks, her mind chanting Gabrielle, Gabrielle, Gabrielle. Kissing and hugging and silently chanting as the warrior worked through what must have happened in her mind. Some way, somehow, Gabrielle had been brought back to her, alive and whole except for the memories of her lost innocence. Which god would grant such a favor to them both? Not knowing, not caring, she thanked them all. Those memories, the memories of the dark times, the times of blood, death and rebirth, the warrior would keep to herself, pushed down into that tightly locked vault which also held the memories of the innocent lives ended by her blade. Those memories, she was sure, would continue to visit her nightly in dreams, but she would find out a way to explain her night time writhings to Gabrielle. Later.

Now was the time for remembering and rejoicing, for committing to memory the features of this most beloved of all, this woman who had been taken from her, thrown into the flames, to re-emerge reborn as the innocent she was always meant to remain.

Gabrielle giggled softly at the not unwelcome but most definitely unexpected display of physical affection from the normally stoic warrior. "Um, Xena," she began, effectively halting the warrior's mental perambulations. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but what's gotten into you?" She smiled internally, wondering if Cupid could have heard her consternation when Joxer walked between the two of them right after Gabrielle had been shot. Maybe the little god was granting her that fervent wish.

"Where's Joxer?" Xena asked, as if reading her mind.

The bard's brow creased. "In the village, still, I guess. Personally, as far as I'm concerned, the farther away he is from me, the better." Lightly tanned cheeks flushed slightly. "I still can't believe I actually fell in love with that incompetent egomaniac."

Xena's eyes betrayed her confusion and, deep inside, hurt. "Fell in love? Joxer?"

Meeting her friend's bewildered gaze, Gabrielle smiled uncertainly. "Don't you remember?" she asked. "Bliss shot me with that damned arrow and Joxer walked in between us?"

"But, Gabrielle, that was a year ago!" Inwardly, Xena sighed in happiness. A year's worth of unhappy memories, entirely gone. Oh thank you. Thank you.

Gabrielle laughed into the warm chest to which she was clasped. "I know that head injuries do some funny things, Xena, but believe me, you've only been out of it for a candlemark at the most. I can guarantee that I haven't been sitting here with you for an entire year."

"What happened?" Xena asked into the bard's hair, curious as to what false memory had been planted into her companion's brain to explain Xena's injuries. Injuries she herself didn't remember receiving.

"Hmmmm. Let's see. Draco was walking up to me. He looked real menacing, by the way, not at all the reformed warlord type. You went to step in between us at the same time as Joxer. Of course, Joxer trips over your boot and as you're bending down to catch him, the idiot manages to trip Draco, who in turn falls on you. Near as I can tell, you hit your head on the tip of Joxer's helmet. You started threatening to turn him into fish bait and as I was trying to drag you away, you collapsed. I brought you out here, tended your wound, which really is looking much better if I do say so myself, and waited for you to wake up. You had me scared there for awhile. Towards the end, just before you woke up, you had the most incredible look of terror and pain on your face. You screamed out loud. Well, howled is more like it." The bard wound down her tale and smiled into Xena's warm chest. "I'm just glad you're awake."

"So am I," the warrior replied fervently, pulling away from the embrace to gaze down upon the clear, unlined features of her beloved companion.

Gabrielle's eyes narrowed slightly. "You look like you don't believe me. About how you hurt your head, I mean."

"I believe you, Gabrielle. It's just . . . I remember so vividly being in the Halls of War."

"Halls of War? Xena, that's about halfway across Greece from here! Look!" Gently, the bard urged the warrior's head slowly to the right. "That's the village we were just in. See?"

Xena felt a wave of dizziness wash over her as the familiarity of the village pointed to the truth in Gabrielle's words. Gone was the War Temple. Gone was Ares' giant army. Gone were the frightened villagers just seconds from bathing the ground in their innocent blood. Oh dear gods above, can it be? Can it possibly be? Has this entire past year just been a terrifying by-product of an injured brain? Looking up at Gabrielle, the faintest spark of hope showing through the blue depths of her eyes, she stammered, "S-Solan?"

The bard's brow furrowed again as she gently fingered the healing injury. "Xena, maybe you'd better lie down, ok? I don't like how you're acting."

Refusing the gentle shove, the warrior persisted. "Solan? I have to know, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle shrugged. "As far as I know, he's still in the Centaur village."

Wave after wave of unrelenting joy crashed through the warrior's tattered soul. Pulling the stunned bard against her once again, Xena began to laugh and cry all at once.

"Are you sure you're ok?" Gabrielle asked, more than a little concerned.

"More ok than I've ever been."

"Then why are you crying?"

"Oh, Gabrielle, dear, sweet Gabrielle, have I got some stories to tell you!"




Disclaimer: No plot lines were injured during the writing of this piece of fan fiction. "Dallas", however, rolled once in the television graveyard, groaning at this blatant rip-off attempt.



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