Disclaimers: Don't own 'em. Like to play with 'em. No dinars are being made. No
copyright infringement intended. Just good clean fun.
Subtext: You bet. Would I write anything else? Don't think so.
I'll just go ahead and beg for forgiveness now. A lot of you are absolutely gonna hate this one, but hey I had to stretch my legs a little (private joke to some of you who know me too well). This is the kind of story that happens when the writer in question is in an immense amount of pain.
Note from 11/05/98. This was the original version of the story. The other one was the revision, done to keep my wife from strangling me as I slept.
By T. Novan
Gabrielle treaded softly across the village square. Several of her young warriors followed her in silence. Only once a season did their Queen take it upon herself to teach them, to tell them a story and today was that day.
As the group walked across the square towards the edge of the village and the meadow where this lesson always took place. The tall, strong warrior who would soon become the queen's consort walked up silently to her. She interlaced her fingers into the queen's and they walked hand and hand together. Talking quietly.
"Gabrielle, please don't do this. You know how much it upsets you."
"I have to. I made a blood oath and I can't No I won't break it."
"Please reconsider. It's been so long now, almost ten seasons. It's time to move on."
Gabrielle stopped and cupped the warrior's face in her hands. "I have moved on Kellas. I fell in love with you and I moved on, but I owe her this."
Kellas leaned over and gave the queen a soft, loving kiss, which was returned in kind. "Don't forget Gabrielle, how much I do love you." There were tears in her eyes as she turned and walked away. She knew what lay ahead of her this evening. It would be another night of trying to calm her love of the nightmares that she was about to unleash upon herself. The demon would return. 'Damn her and damn her memory!' thought Kellas, as she made her way to the practice field. She hated the woman she had never met, but who still had such a profound grasp on her lover's heart.
Gabrielle stopped just at the edge of the meadow near a large rock. She took a seat on the stone as her warrior's all dropped onto the ground and stretched out. She looked around and felt the breeze blow through her hair, listened to the trees and grass rustle with the soft wind. Then she closed her eyes, partly to remember and partly to hold back the tears that were already starting to form in her eyes.
"It was eight seasons ago almost to this day and this was the last place I ever saw her " She began to tell the tale.
Xena held her hand down to Gabrielle and pulled her up onto the rock. Her blue eyes bored deeply into the bard's soul. "I love you Gabrielle. Everything is going to be fine. I'll be back before you know it."
The warrior leaned over from her horse and kissed the amazon queen passionately. Their souls mixed together as their tongues sought each other. Gabrielle didn't want it to end. For the first time she was afraid. Her dreams had told her that something was terribly wrong and she was afraid of losing her warrior in this battle. When they parted Xena gently stroked the bard's face. Gabrielle captured the warrior's hand and held it close to her heart.
"Xena please stay here with me. We're going to need healers when the wounded return. Please?" She begged tears pouring down her cheeks.
"Gabrielle I can't. I'll be far more useful against Bracken and his men. I've fought him before. I know how he thinks."
"Please?" She said reaching out and grabbing both sides of Xena's head. "Gods Xena listen to me! My dreams ! Please don't go!"
"Gabrielle I couldn't live with myself if I sent your warrior's out there by themselves. Besides, I have a wedding to come back for." She smiled and took Gabrielle's hands from her head. She held them together and kissed her left wrist that had the golden bracelet around it. Xena had given Gabrielle the bracelet two moons ago when she proposed. It was solid gold and had a stylized X and G enwrapped together. "We will always be together my love." Xena leaned over and kissed Gabrielle again and then leaned back and wiped the tears from the bard's face. "No tears my love. No tears." With one last gentle caress and a light kiss on the cheek, Xena nudged Argo and set off across the meadow. Gabrielle's tormented screams ringing in her ears.
The young warrior's were mesmerized by her story. They all sat up right now, head in hands hanging on her every word. "Several days later our war party returned. They brought me Argo's saddle and Xena's sword. Then they told me that the love of my life had fallen. She had thrown herself between a dagger and Regent Ephiny. The throw was true and it pierced her heart. I lost half of my soul that day. Gabrielle paused and looked out across the meadow, hoping to see her warrior again, but she never came.
"She died a hero then?" Asked one of the youngest girls.
"Oh yes my child. She died the valiant death she so richly deserved. Not only did she fall in battle, but also she fell defending the life of an amazon and a friend."
"Why didn't they bring her home for a proper amazon burial?" Asked another girl.
"The battle was so fierce and so long that Hades himself arrived from the underworld to collect the dead almost as quickly as they fell. Since Xena and I hadn't been joined yet, he claimed her before the amazons could get to her body. The only thing they found was her sword, which they did bring back to me. Argo fell that day too. The mare remained steadfast over her mistress' body and was cut down by the warlord's men just for fun and spite. She also died a glorious death. Protecting the one who loved her so much."
"Who defeated Bracken then?" Another voice piped up.
"Xena had sent Bracken to his place in Tartarus earlier that day, but his men had not realized their leader had fallen and continued their assault. Our amazon warriors made short work of the remaining soldiers before returning to the village." Gabrielle stood and stretched. "Come now let's get back to the village."
Kellas sat in the dining hut trying to eat, but finding little success. She hated this day, the anniversary of Xena's defeat. Not only was it hard on Gabrielle, but Kellas had to wrestle with the ghost of the queen's former lover. It hadn't been easy on Kellas since her arrival at this village seven seasons ago. She found herself immediately smitten with the queen and took every opportunity to show her how she felt. Ephiny had told Kellas the story of the queen and the warrior who would have been her consort, urging her to give the queen the appropriate amount of time to mourn her dead lover.
So she stepped back and she waited and she watched. She watched the beautiful queen begin to waste away, slowly dying right along with the warrior. She decided to take matters into her own hands. She wouldn't allow this beautiful woman to go like that. Regent Ephiny had all but forbid it, saying that if the queen were meant to follow the warrior then no one should try to change that. Kellas however didn't listen to a word.
She remembered the evening so clearly. She had followed the queen out into the meadow and watched as the woman knelt by the stone and wept. Kellas allowed her pain and gave her time to grieve. Then slowly she approached and knelt down next to her. She sat against the stone and pulled the queen into her arms. The woman lay in her arms and sobbed until the sun started to rise, then she fell into a restless slumber. Kellas picked her up and started to carry her back to the village. As she shifted the queen, a dagger fell from her bodice. Kellas stared at the knife and looked to the queen. "I won't allow you to do that my Queen. You mean too much to the nation, to me. I love you."
Kellas took the queen to her hut and placed her gently on the bed. She sat by her side until she woke up the next evening. "Xena?" The queen asked as she slowly regained consciousness.
"No my Queen it is Kellas."
"Yes my Queen." She said softly as she knelt down next to the bed and took her hand.
"I brought you back here this morning."
"No that's not what I wanted. I wanted "
"Gabrielle listen to me." Kellas was bolder now moving up and setting on the bed next to her. "You can't do this to yourself. You deserve to live, to be happy. I didn't know Xena, but from the stories I have been told she would want you to go on. She would want you to be happy."
"I can't. You don't understand." The queen sat up on the bed and started to get up.
Kellas grabbed her by the wrist. "I do understand. I understand that you loved her. I understand that she died, but that doesn't mean you have to die with her."
"I can't live without her."
"Yes you can."
"If I can prove to you that you can live without her, that you can feel again. Will you at least give yourself time to try?"
Gabrielle didn't say anything. She just stared at the warrior. Kellas pulled Gabrielle into her arms and kissed her, a long passionate kiss. Gabrielle started to fight it, but then feelings long buried began to resurface. She returned the kiss. Their tongues explored each other's mouths. Kellas' hands began exploring the queen's body. Gabrielle moaned under the warrior's gentle touch. Kellas began kissing her neck, gently licking and sucking the exposed flesh. Gabrielle's head went back and another moan escaped her lips. Suddenly she froze as if the sound had frightened her. She looked at Kellas and suddenly became very angry. She lashed out, slapping the warrior hard across the face and bolted from the hut. Kellas sat there rubbing her face, a slight smile on her lips. Slowly, they got past that morning and they found themselves spending all their free time together. The queen began smiling and laughing, living again.
It was another three seasons before they became lovers. Even then Xena's specter remained. Many nights were spent pulling Gabrielle out of a sweat soaked nightmare and rocking her gently back to sleep as she cried for the lover she had lost. Then of course there was the guilt on Gabrielle's part that she would wake up screaming Xena's name when Kellas slept so soundly next to her and was always there to comfort her. The same way Xena had been there for her when Perdicus had died.
Finally, the time had come and Kellas had made the boldest move yet, asking Gabrielle to join with her. She had to admit surprise when Gabrielle said yes immediately. So now it seemed she had everything she wanted why was she not happy. The answer came quick enough. Because she was still competing with Xena on some level for the queen's affections.
She continued to poke at her food. Gabrielle sat down next to her and wrapped her arms around her waist. "Why so glum chum?"
"Listen, I have an idea I'd like to run by you, just to see how you feel about it."
"Okay what is it you desire my love?"
"Well I was just thinking " The queen leaned over and whispered something in the warrior's ear. Something that made the warrior blush.
"Gabrielle. I didn't know you knew words like that."
"I used to be a bard remember. I know lots of words. So what do you think?" She grinned and wiggled her eyebrows.
"I must admit it is very tempting offer."
"Well good, I'm glad you're pleased. Have to keep my warrior's happy you know."
Kellas turned and straddled the bench, facing the queen. "I had better be the only warrior you keep happy in that manner."
"Oh is that so?" She said teasing. "I am the queen. I have many responsibilities to the nation you know."
"You're just trying to get me started aren't you?"
"Un-huh." She said as she leaned over and kissed Kellas.
Ephiny sat across the room and watched the pair. She was so glad Kellas has gone against her wishes so many seasons ago. They were suited for each other. It was true that no one would ever truly replace Xena in the queen's heart, but Kellas proved to be a close second. She was so proud that she would be presiding over their joining ceremony with the next new moon. As she continued to watch the couple, she didn't notice the sentry who came in. The sentry walked quickly over to the Regent and whispered in her ear. Ephiny looked up; there was no exchange of words. The sentry simply nodded and handed Ephiny the scroll. Ephiny unrolled it and read the message. Drawing a deep breath she stood and slowly walked over to where Gabrielle sat torturing her warrior.
"Gabrielle a word with you please."
Gabrielle rested her head on Kellas' shoulder and looked at the Regent. "Can't you see I'm busy. I'm trying to seduce this warrior."
"Matters of state my Queen." Ephiny said with determination.
Kellas stroked Gabrielle's back and gently kissed the back of her neck. "Go on. The sooner you get it over with the sooner you get back."
Resigned to her fate Gabrielle stood and walked out of the hut with Ephiny. "So what's so import "
She didn't even get to finish, Ephiny held up the scroll, "Xena."
Gabrielle felt as if all the air had just been kicked from her lungs. She reached for the scroll and slowly unrolled it. In the dim light the word were hard to make out but the handwriting was definitely Xena's.
"I'm going to take this back to my hut." She turned and began walking before Ephiny could even respond.
In her hut she sat down at her desk and lit a candle. She didn't realize how hard she was trembling until she tried to read the scroll. She had to lay it on the desk and place a couple of items on it to hold it open as she read.
I thought this might be easier if I wrote to you first. There's a lot to explain and that can't all be done in a letter so with your permission I would like to come see you.
I have spoken with various people over the seasons who have told me that there is now another in your life. Believe me when I say that I am truly happy for you and I don't want to cause any trouble for you with your champion. If you would prefer not to see me I would understand.
So many seasons have passed and there have been many changes, for the both of us. I just felt that you deserved an explanation.
I'll be in Amphipolis for a few more days.
Just so you know, I kept that promise.
Just as she finished reading the scroll Kellas came in and threw herself down on the bed. "What crisis must you settle now my love?" She asked as she stretched and yawned.
"Xena's back. She's in Amphipolis and she wants to come see me." Gabrielle stated, still a little in shock.
Kellas sat up on the bed and looked to Gabrielle. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know."
"Do you want to see her?"
"Would you think me a horrible person if I said yes?"
Kellas knelt by Gabrielle's side and looked up to her. "Of course not. I'm a little concerned of course, but I think I could manage."
"Her letter said she didn't want to cause any problems for us. Do you think it would be ?"
"Send a messenger first thing in the morning. Invite her here. Maybe then you will be able to put the past behind you."
Gabrielle leaned over and kissed the warrior. "Gods I love you."
"I'm counting on it." Kellas said with a smile.
Later that evening as Gabrielle slipped into bed next to Kellas she curled up next to her and whispered in her ear, "Make love to me."
It was a request Kellas was all too happy to grant.
Gabrielle paced. Xena was due soon. She had sent another letter back with the messenger stating that she was not traveling alone and it would take her a couple of days to arrive. Today was the day. Kellas was a little nervous as well. The ghost had risen from the dead. It was early in the day when the runner approached the couple and dropped to one knee.
"My Queen. Xena will be here in less than a candle mark."
"Thank you." The Queen said, her voice cracking slightly.
Kellas gave her hand a gentle squeeze to reassure her. "It's going to be all right Gabrielle."
"I know. As long as you're here with me."
"I'm right here." She said giving another squeeze.
Two riders approached the village. Both sat a top jet-black steeds. Gabrielle recognized Xena right away. Gone were her leathers, traded for black boots, black trousers, a black shirt and a long black cape. Her hair was tied back and a golden band around her forehead. Next to her rode another woman, she wore brightly colored clothing, a sharp contrast to the dark clothes Xena wore. Xena reigned her horse and dismounted. She walked over to the other rider and helped her down. They spoke for a moment and then Xena turned on her heels and took two steps forward.
Kellas gave Gabrielle a little nudge. "Go on. You know you want to."
Gabrielle started towards Xena. After what felt like forever, they met. Gabrielle reached out for a tentative touch.
"Will your champion take my head off if I give you a hug?" Xena asked with a smile.
"I don't know." She said with a smile as silent tears slid down her cheek and her voice cracked
"I'll risk it." Xena said and she scooped Gabrielle up into a hug, which was returned in kind.
Xena realized the y must have held it just a little too long, as Kellas began walking towards them. She put Gabrielle down and grinned. "Now I've done it." She said as she nodded at the to approaching Kellas.
Gabrielle turned and went to Kellas and took her hand taking her back to Xena. ""Xena this is Kellas, my champion and my intended consort."
Xena smiled and extended her arm. "It's good to meet you."
Kellas took the warrior's arm and just nodded. Xena leaned over to Gabrielle, "And you always said I was too quiet."
Xena turned and motioned for the woman to join them. Gabrielle noticed for the first time that the woman now held a bundle in her arms. "Gabrielle, Kellas this is my wife, Galea and this," She said as she pulled the blanket back from the baby's face. "Is Gabrielle."
Gabrielle looked to Xena and smiled then she looked at the baby sleeping in her mother's arms. Shocks of black hair peeked out from under the blanket that remained tucked around her head. She wasn't very old, not more than a month at best. "May I?" Gabrielle asked of Galea.
"Of course Your Majesty." She handed the baby to Gabrielle and then wrapped her arm around Xena's waist. Galea looked at the warrior, who placed a soft kiss on her forehead.
Gabrielle stared at the baby for a moment and then looked back to Xena. "You named her after me?"
"I'm honored. Thank you."
"It was very appropriate when I realized that she's always hungry." Xena teased.
"Oh you!" Gabrielle really wanted to give her a playful slap. It was the precious bundle in her arms that kept her from doing it. "I owe you warrior."
Galea gave Xena a strange look. Xena shuffled uncomfortably and looked at her wife. "I'll explain later." She said to the woman softly.
Galea just nodded her understanding and remained quiet.
"Well let's go somewhere and talk. I fell like eyes of the entire village are on us." Gabrielle said.
"They are." Xena replied taking a quick look around. "Gabrielle we really need to get the baby settled. Is there someplace "
"Yes of course I'm sorry. We've prepared a hut for you. This way." She said as she began walking across the square.
The trio followed Gabrielle as the made their way to the guest hut. Once inside Gabrielle handed the baby back to Galea who took her and unwrapped her from her blankets and laid her in the center of the bed. The baby began to get a little fussy at all of the motion. Gabrielle watched as Galea lay down next to the child and rubbed her little back, humming softly.
"Gabrielle I have a wagon at the edge of the land. It has our belongings in it and some things that I brought for the village. Could you send someone to get it?"
"Of course. Why didn't you drive it in?"
"My men needed to unload their things first."
"Your men?" Kellas asked, with an edge in her voice.
"They're my guards. There are only four of them."
"Xena what's going on?" Gabrielle asked getting more and more confused by the moment.
Xena walked over to the bed and kissed her wife and daughter. "I'll be back in a little bit. Gabrielle and I need to talk. If you need me we'll be in the," She looked to Gabrielle.
"Food hut." Gabrielle said with a smile.
"Of course where else." Xena said with a grin as she kissed Galea again. "Well be in the food hut. It's the big building directly across the square."
"Okay." Galea returned her attention to the baby as Xena, Gabrielle and Kellas made their way outside. Xena closed the door behind her and took a deep breath.
"Something wrong?" Gabrielle asked.
"Do you want to do this later?"
"Now's fine. So about that wagon, would you rather I go get it?"
"No I can send a sentry party to pick it up."
"Gabrielle you don't need to send warrior's. Those men are my guards. They're royal guards. They won't hurt anyone. Unless of course someone hurts me and then the entire Egyptian army will be here."
"You two need to talk. I'll take a scout and go for the wagon." Kellas offered.
"Thank you love." Gabrielle gave her a soft kiss before she left.
Xena turned her torso and cocked her head as she watched Kellas walk away. She turned back to Gabrielle with a grin on her face. "I like her."
"Well I'm glad you approve war-" Gabrielle stopped. She remembered the reaction that word got before.
"Actually it's Ambassador now."
"Boy do we need to talk."
"Shall we?" Xena offered her arm to Gabrielle and they made their way to the food hut.
It was quiet. The cooks were preparing the mid day meal, but other than that there were very few people around. Xena and Gabrielle got something to drink and sat down at a bench together.
"Xena why did you name your daughter Gabrielle?"
"Because I love her." Came the simple reply, with out so much as even a look Gabrielle's direction. "I can still hear you smiling." She said as she sipped her tea.
Gabrielle gave Xena a playful slap on the arm. "Tell me."
"It's a long story so I'll condense it for you. Taken prisoner. Sold into slavery. Rescued by Cleopatra. I now serve in her court as the Ambassador to Greece. I met and married Galea three seasons ago and Gabrielle was born last full moon."
"Oh gee thanks. Eight seasons in five sentences."
"You always did say that I was never one for talking."
"And now you're an ambassador. A diplomatic post, c'mon Xena. It's not you."
"It's not the person I was. It is the person I am now."
"So many changes." Gabrielle sighed.
"Changes that you made possible."
"You don't give yourself enough credit. Never did."
"What can I say? I'm a modest soul."
Xena and Gabrielle spent most of the day sitting and talking. They laughed and they even cried from time to time. By the time they had talked themselves out only one thing was for sure. Their friendship was just as strong as it had ever been, even if their love for one and another had faded over the seasons.
When Kellas returned with the wagon a few of the younger girls help them unload. Xena reached in and pulled out an ornate cradle and carried it directly to her hut. She stopped in the doorway as she found her wife and daughter both asleep on the bed. Quietly Xena moved into the room and sat the cradle down next to the bed. She very gently picked her daughter up and placed her in the cradle and then covered Galea with a light blanket. She sat on the edge of the bed and looked at them both. Her heart filled with pride in the family that she managed to have.
She turned when she heard the footsteps. Gabrielle stood in the doorway. "I wanted to thank you for the provisions you brought, it was very kind of you."
Xena stood and walked to the door, she motioned for Gabrielle to go outside and she closed to door. "Gabrielle I have a favor to ask of you." Her tone was serious, it frightened the queen. "Let's go to your hut and talk."
Xena sat at the table and sipped the tea that Gabrielle had given her. The queen sat next to her and watched her. "Like I said I have a favor to ask."
"Gabrielle, I'm sick. I don't have much time left "
"Xena no "
Xena waved her hand at the queen. "Let me finish. The reason we came the reason I wanted to see you Galea was a slave, she has no family. Will you let her stay here? She's an excellent healer and she knows how to "
Gabrielle put two fingers to Xena's lips to quiet her. "Of course she can stay here."
Xena lowered her head as tears slipped down her cheeks. "She doesn't know Gabrielle, I haven't told her. I came back here to die. I came back to you, to my home."
Tears flooded Gabrielle's eyes as she searched for words to comfort her friend, her former lover, her own home. "Surely there must be something that can be done."
"I've been examined by the finest healer's in Greece and Egypt. There's nothing that can be done."
"Not much longer, a month maybe."
"Are you in pain?"
"The headaches are the worse of it really. They come and go, but sometimes the pain is blinding. That's why I had to find another way to make a living. It's hard to swing a sword when you can't see two feet in front of your face." Xena looked over at Gabrielle, who was trying to smile. "Gabrielle promise me that my daughter will know me. The bad with the good. You're the only one who can teach her."
"I promise." Gabrielle took a deep breath, "You have to tell Galea you know."
"I know. I wanted to wait until I talked with you. I had to make sure she had a home."
"Thank you Gabrielle."
Xena and Galea remained with the amazons for the remainder of Xena's time. She was well enough to attend the joining ceremony of Gabrielle to Kellas and even managed a dance with the woman who had been such an important part of her life for so many years. As they danced, Xena leaned in and whispered "I still love you Gabrielle. I always have and I always will. It is my last wish that you be happy. I made you a promise many, many years ago. Now I want you to promise me."
With tear streaming down her cheeks Gabrielle promised.
It wasn't long after that Xena's strength began to leave her. She tried to remain strong for Galea and their daughter, but she knew at to well it wouldn't be much longer. Confined to bed she still managed to receive visitors and tried to keep her spirits up.
Gabrielle and Kellas paid her many visits. One evening they arrived, Kellas carried in her hands Xena's old sword. Galea moved into another room to allow the friends their time together. Xena smiled weakly as they approached the bed. "Tired of..me." She managed with a smile.
Gabrielle sat on the edge of the bed and took her hand. "Never. We just wanted to ask you if you wanted to take this with you."
She turned to Kellas and smiled. "No. You keep it. Protect Gabrielle."
Her meaning wasn't lost to the queen's consort and she could feel tears forming in her own eyes. She nodded and turned away.
"It's because of you Gabrielle " Her voice began to fail her.
"I'm going to the Fields " Her breathing became labored.
"Kellas get Galea!" Gabrielle moved from the bed as Xena's wife came to her and sat with her, holding her hand, and stroking her hair. Gabrielle placed her arm around Kellas more for support than anything else. As she was witness to her friends last moments.
Xena reached up and gentle caressed Galea's face. "Be happy." Galea nodded mutely as tears fell from her eyes.
Xena turned her head and locked eyes with Gabrielle, with her last breath "I was."