A Case of Do Or Die
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle,
Argo, Yodishi, and the Lord of the Darkland belong to MCA, USA, Universal and
Renaissance Pictures. No infringement was intended when I wrote this bit of
Hurt/Comfort Alert: Yes, this is based on events that happened in the
final episode of this television series and contains huge spoilers. If you haven't
had a chance to see the final episode, A Friend in Need, then please give this
a miss until you do.
Subtext Alert: There is only maintext in this story, so be prepared for
some scenes dealing with a loving relationship between two consenting females.
Comments and other burnt offerings can be directed to me at ArdentTly@home.com
You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss
A sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by
And when two lovers woo
They still say I love you
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by
It's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by
The forests from Tokyo along the coast to Osaka and the Kii Peninsula were
still ablaze, the light breeze fanning the black clouds to a higher elevation
before sending them out to sea. The battle was now over between Xena and Yodishi,
Lord of the Dark Land, but the after effects would be felt for a long time to
come. Gabrielle wandered in a daze, hardly seeing the damage around her. Images
of Xena's broken body lying at her feet roused her from her stupor. As she refocused
Gabrielle knew she only had minutes to get the warrior's ashes into the Fountain
of Strength in order to restore Xena to life.
Her heart still pounded with adrenalin from watching the energizing display of
power during the battle. Images of decapitation flashed through her brain and
although Gabrielle knew Xena would be the ultimate winner in her battle against
evil, there was a part of her that feared for their future together. They had
both cheated death on more than one occasion, but something about this one seemed
final. Her heart was clutched between fists of ice, very much like the
small urn between her two hands. Time was running out.
Xena? She scanned the area and at first failed to see where the warrior
had gone. Her vision was partially obscured by smoke and ash but Gabrielle knew
the tears she'd been holding back since discovering Xena body were the real culprit.
Placing the urn near the fountain, the bard used the sleeves of her now ruined
kimono to wipe her face.
Xena settled behind the bard in a blaze of glory, her body transformed into a
tower of fire. The blaze continued until suddenly the warrior's form appeared
looking none the worse for wear. She watched the bard moving towards the fountain,
the grief plainly seen on her face. It had been a trial of strength and endurance
for her friend and Xena felt such pride at the woman's accomplishments. It seemed
all the years of teaching the young bard the art of self-defence and the ways
of the warrior had paid off. Part of her was torn, however, because she remembered
how young and innocent Gabrielle had been, long ago when their travels together
had just begun. It pained her to think of the journey the bard had made, all because
she wanted to follow in her footsteps, making the world a better place. The strength
of the young woman had always surprised her. While her own motivations to change
the world had been purely selfish and based on nothing other than domination,
greed and the lust for power, the bard truly believed that love could triumph
over any adversary. Although there had been a number of in-depth discussions on
exactly how love could break the cycle of hate, the bard had been proven right;
her quest had become Xena's, too. But it was a hard road to travel and each had
paid a heavy price. Xena regretted the bard's loss of innocence. She wanted more
for the woman than the pain that had been a daily occurrence during their life
together. And now here she was, at the end of her personal journey, and she had
to give the bard one last ultimate gift of pain.
Seconds ticked by like hours for both women, each locked in a quest that paralleled
the other one looking to restore life, the other looking to preserve it.
Xena knew the next few moments of her existence would be the deciding factor:
she couldn't let Gabrielle be selfish any more than she could bend to it herself.
Her heart felt shattered as the bard wiped her face free of tears. Although she
knew what she had to do it would be so hard. How could she possibly explain her
decision to Gabrielle?
It was plain to see the pride Gabrielle felt as she held the urn reverently. She'd
beaten impossible odds in order to get to Mount Fuji and had successfully battled
the man who had taken Xena's head in rousing combat. The muscles in her jaw tightened
as she thought of the dead man lying at the foot of the mountain. He may have
thought himself an honourable warrior but there was no way she would ever consider
his defilement of Xena's body to be honourable. Her heart felt clenched in a very
large cold fist as she thought of discovering Xena's grisly remains. 'Oh, Xena.
I wish you'd told me, not that I'd have let you sacrifice yourself like that.
I always thought we'd both go down fighting together. But to die alone, without
' A teardrop fell from her eye and she tried to concentrate on how
it was slowly soaking into the fabric anything to take her mind off the
utter contempt the samurai had held for her friend. A brief question entered her
mind as to the origin of her sudden prowess in using the chakram and then it was
gone. There were more pressing things on her mind: Xena.
Slowly uncapping the urn, Gabrielle released a breath and then prepared to complete
the ceremony that would restore Xena by dumping the ashes into the fountain. Mere
inches were all that remained before the deed would be done when the strong hand
of the warrior stilled her motions.
The warrior sat beside the waters of strength looking into Gabrielle's eyes.
No, Gabrielle, stop.
But Xena, I have to drop your ashes into the water before sunset.
She glanced quickly at the sky and felt her heart still. There was only a little
No, Gabrielle. I have to stay dead, I have to.
Gabrielle pulled back in shock. What? Why do you have to stay dead? The
40,000 souls are free, you told me so yourself.
They are saved from Yodishi, yes. But if I don't pay for their deaths with
my own then they are condemned to be tormented forever. I can't let that happen.
Don't you see?
Gabrielle stood up and put her hand to her mouth, understanding that Xena had
already made her decision. There would be no discussion between them on this.
It always came down to the greater good.
Frustration rose in the bard and she turned away. She wanted to scream, seeing
just how calm and settled Xena was about making a decision as drastic as this
was. She could feel the warrior move close behind her and tried to control her
It's not right, Xena. The pain of her decision was evident and Gabrielle's
heart was seared by their combined torment. I don't care about those 40,000
souls. I care about you. You're my whole life Xena, and I won't lose you again!
Can't you see? We've been through so much. We've both paid a heavy price
every day of our lives. Can't we be happy, don't we deserve to have peace, and
can't we just be selfish for once?
Xena stood up, pulling the bard to her feet.
It's because of you that I can do the right thing, Gabrielle. If
there is a reason for our travels together, it's because I had to learn from you
...to learn the good, the right thing to do. She paused, a tear slowly
making its way down her cheek. This is the right thing to do.
She paused, her lower lip trembling, and then delivered the truth. It's
my choice - I can't come back."
But I love you, Xena. Gabrielle's face was a mask of sorrow as her
true feelings for the warrior came out. She thought of all the nights they'd sat
together in front of a fire, or walked side-by-side sharing their lives, and never
once had she spoken the words she needed to say. Why had she waited so long?
Xena stroked the young woman's cheek softly. I know. Tears welled
up in the bard's eyes and the warrior's heart was breaking. Everyone she had ever
loved had been taken from her; everyone she had in her life was destined to suffer
pain and anguish, either by proxy or by her own hand. Well, no more. Now it would
I have been selfish, Gabrielle. My whole life with you has been something
I've always wanted but never dreamed could come true. I don't deserve to be happy
and have love in my life, not for all the terrible things I've done. I deserve
nothing less than death eternal death, Gabrielle.
The bard held the urn tightly against her chest, the tears falling freely from
her closed eyes.
No, it's not fair, Xena!
The warrior felt so torn. She would give almost anything to just put the needs
of the one before the needs of the many, but she knew in her heart that it would
be something that would stand between them forever. After all, hadn't they sacrificed
everything in their lives together for the grand notion that the greater good
was all that mattered? She couldn't let Gabrielle forget that, not for one moment,
even though it would be so easy to just let her drop the ashes into the pond.
Her eyes flashed open at the change in the young woman's voice. The rancour dripped
from each word and Xena felt her heart twist. 'Don't you become the
monster, Gabrielle. I couldn't stand that.'
Love is helpless in the face of cruelty.
Xena looked at the bard in shock. What do you mean? Gabrielle's mouth
had twisted into a cruel thin line. I always thought it was the strongest
power on earth, that it could change us, could redeem you, and show the world
just how much a difference each of us can make with love. She spat
the last word out as if it were a bitter thing caught in her throat.
Xena placed her hand on the blonde's shoulder. No. No, Gabrielle. It can,
Gabrielle snorted softly. If anything, love has shown me that the price
we pay for finding it and keeping it isn't worth the bother, not if it means nothing
when it should count for everything.
She winced as the warrior's fist clenched around the muscles of her arm. No!
Don't you see? Your love showed me the way, Gabrielle, and allowed me to find
the road to redemption. Without it,
Gabrielle pulled away from the warrior, put her face in her hands and cried. Xena's
shoulders relaxed as the bitterness seeped out between the bard's fingers.
You don't understand, Xena. Gabrielle paused momentarily. 'I love
you with all of my heart.' She wiped her face and then continued. How
can I go on without you?
Xena looked into the sky, her heart heavy as the sun began to set. She pulled
the smaller woman into her arms and the two walked over to sit on a nearby log.
She gazed at the Water of Strength, hoping that perhaps it would give them both
what they needed to do the right thing.
'Oh, I know how you feel, Gabrielle. Believe me.' You won't be without
me, Gabrielle. She kissed the sweet smelling tresses, her hands revelling
in the warmth of her friend against her, sealing their memory within her heart.
I'll always be with you. Always.
The bard clutched the urn and placed her head against the warrior's shoulder.
Breathing was almost too much to bear and she wondered if the tightness around
her heart would ever ease.
Oh, Xena, she said in anguish.
They sat quietly and watched as the last fingers of sun drew back from the approaching
darkness, and as the light winked out of existence so did the warrior.
A tear slid down the bard's face as her heart was broken into a million pieces.
Hours dragged by and as day became night and the sky was filled with a million
stars the bard knew where her heart had gone; she had loved completely and would
never give her heart to another Xena would hold it for all time, until
they could be together once again.
It was a hard task finding a path down to the foot of Mount Fuji, and Gabrielle
was surprised she'd made it in one piece. She stood, her fists clenched by her
side and screamed to the heavens.
Why? After everything we've done, all that we've gone through, why can't
we just be together? Her hands cupped the black urn tucked safely in the
front of her kimono and she felt such sorrow. The night held no answers, silent
and impartial, and even the crickets were in mourning as they held off their serenade.
It was almost daybreak when Gabrielle found the remains of the fallen horse. Feeling
along until she had removed everything worth keeping from the saddlebags, the
bard clutched her meagre possessions to her and then headed back to Haguchi. Although
heartbroken, a steely resolve was building where a soft heart used to be. With
one hand on the hilt of the sacred katana and the other resting lightly on Xena's
chakram, the lonely bard made her way through silent onlookers and then over to
Before she had even opened her mouth, a throng had gathered. She flinched at their
scrutiny and then remembered the state her clothing was in. An old man stepped
forward, bowing deeply, and offered up a bundle of heavy navy blue cloth.
It would please this old man if the warrior would accept his offering. Although
it is a poor gift, one who was a tailor to royalty gives it with great humility.
I would be most grateful if you would allow me to fashion such unworthy cloth
into robes that might, if nothing else, protect you from the harshness of the
long journey that awaits you.
Gabrielle blinked as she concentrated on understanding what the old man was saying.
Then, his meaning finally clear, she bowed in return and followed as he led her
away from the dark oily waters of the Sea of Japan.
As the red clouds of dawn streaked across the sky, Gabrielle kept looking over
her shoulder, expecting to see the warrior going through her customary drills.
A painful sigh was released as the truth of Xena's death was born anew. She had
no idea how she'd managed to survive the long cold night, knowing it was only
the first of many to come.
I miss you so much, Xena. The ship rocked back and forth in silence.
A sudden slapping of a sail made her jump and she turned back to the railing feeling
quite foolish. How many days would go by before she could actually let her guard
down and accept that she was alone now and forever? Sneaking a quick glance
toward the tiller assured the bard that although the Captain was indeed attentive
to his tasks he hadn't noticed anything untoward in her strange behaviour. The
man had been waiting at the dock when she'd returned wearing her new kimono, the
tailor following close behind with a bundle of other goods prepared for her journey.
Although her offers of money had been politely refused, Gabrielle had secured
more supplies than any boat's crew would ever need, even on the return voyage.
If nothing else, the Captain and crew would be well fed while in her service.
Both gratitude and respect had been reflected in his eyes as everything had been
loaded aboard the ship.
The people of Higuchi had treated her with honour and something akin to reverence
but she could also detect a decided relief when it was learned she was headed
back to the land from whence she came. Gabrielle lifted her hand once in farewell
as the boat eased away from the dock. Her chest tightened with the knowledge that
while the trip home was something she'd yearned for it was not going to be the
The ship wallowed for a moment and Gabrielle waited for the tell tale sign of
a sour belly. However, it wasn't forthcoming, a side effect the warrior would
have been pleased with, having taught her a mental focusing game during their
sea voyage to Japa.
Gabrielle's lip quivered as she remembered how Xena had kidded her, saying she
was such a poor student at the game. Just to prove her wrong, she had practiced
deep into the succeeding nights and had finally perfected the gentle state of
mind needed to find the balance within. She never did tell Xena how she'd been
able to master her seasickness. And now she never could. How many times had she
wanted to just jostle the woman awake to share her newfound freedom from constantly
bruising the inside of her wrist? But watching Xena sleep was a pleasure not to
be interrupted or denied. A smile curled at the corner of her mouth, the images
of a softly snoring warrior tickling her memory.
Xena was never one to pay any real attention to the affects her beauty had on
those around her, but for some reason the idea of snoring bothered her.
'I do not snore, Gabrielle!' she'd grouse indignantly. The bard felt the
tell tale burning of more tears and rubbed them away fiercely. Hadn't Xena known
that every idiosyncrasy, every small thing that might have seemed annoying were
the very things that endeared the woman to her? No, of course not. Xena's strive
for personal perfection was totally unrealistic and yet that very imperfection
was what made her
She snorted loudly and then was momentarily struck with poetic inspiration.
For as long as there are stars
And the moon continues to shine
Shall my love remain a constant
My heart ever shall be thine.
She tensed suddenly as she felt a hand touch her shoulder.
Her once cold heart began to beat in earnest as the warrior's hand moved up into
the prickling hairs at the nape of her neck. She blinked fiercely as her vision
doubled and then tripled and then the weight of her sorrow pulled her eyes tightly
Would she be tormented by the image of a ghost forever?
Cat got your tongue?
She jumped and then whirled around in surprise.
Xena? Are you
or am I
have I lost my mind?
The warrior's grin drew up on one side of her mouth and Gabrielle felt the intense
need to touch the woman's lips with her fingers. 'Only in my dreams.'
And then her chin was lifted and she felt such warmth pressed against her mouth
as she was gently kissed. Her hands moved up and she gasped as she could feel
the familiar leather and brass.
You're here? But how can you be? Xena? 'I thought I'd never see
you again. Oh, Xena.'
The warrior pressed her cheek against the top of her friend's head. I told
you I'd never leave you, even in death. I mean to keep that promise.
A million questions entered the bard's mind and although they fought to bubble
forth, she held them tightly behind her lips. There was no way she was going to
ruin whatever psychotic episode she was having by injecting reality into things.
? Xena's smile seemed to freeze in response to the question.
I only have until sunset, Gabrielle. As for how long I'll be able to come
back to you
that I don't know. She frowned. It doesn't feel temporary.
it feels like it did in the Underworld when I was fighting Yodishi
at the tea house. She plucked at the skin on her arm.
Can you feel this? She placed her hand against the bard's cheek. Does
it feel real to you?
Gabrielle leaned into the woman's touch and nodded. Very real.
Then let's enjoy it while we can. Xena smiled and then wrapped an
arm around the bard's shoulders. How about that new manoeuvre I was showing
you last month?
Gabrielle nodded quickly and wiped her eyes. All right. 'I'd rather
have you hold me, Xena, hold me like you'll never let me go.'
Xena smiled awkwardly but said nothing.
As the day wore on, Gabrielle found a familiar ease to how she was interacting
with the ghost of her friend and before the sun had risen to its highest zenith
had even forgotten she was virtually alone on the ship. Most of the small crew
paid her no attention and since the bard was content to stay at the bow of the
ship and out of the way, her fears of being labelled as a lunatic and chucked
overboard slowly disappeared.
Both women had relaxed into their usual routine and as the afternoon progressed
their easy banter was fluid and without a false note. Although the warrior was
more affectionate and demonstrative with her feelings, the bard chose to revel
in it rather than pick it apart and examine things too closely. It was enough
that she could actually feel Xena's warmth as she was cradled in the larger woman's
embrace as they lay comfortably in her cabin a little while later. She wiggled
her toes against the coarse blanket and breathed in a lusty mouthful of salt air.
You know, I never thought I'd say this, but I like lying here on this boat
with you. Xena chortled and her leathers squeaked as she resettled her tall
form against the bulkhead.
So, after all those years of showing you that trick you finally got it right.
Gabrielle turned her head and looked up at the brunette's strong jaw and features.
No, that never seemed to last for me. I used that focusing technique you
taught me only.... 'Only a few nights ago, before...'
Xena's brow furrowed, oblivious to the bard's distress. I'm crushed.
A dark eyebrow rose. Here I've spent all that time with positioning and
technique and you got it through a game I taught you to pass the time? She
shook her head melodramatically.
Gabrielle was too busy trying to hold back the tears to really pay attention to
what the warrior was saying. 'Damn tears,' she thought and closed her eyes
even tighter. Xena could withstand any source of pain you could conjure up, endure
any wound without complaint, but when it came to intense displays of emotion she
was totally out of her element. It was tears that made her the most uncomfortable.
'But I can't help it, Xena. I can't go on without you, I can't.'
Popping one eye open, the bard was surprised to look up into the worried eyes
of her friend.
The bard sniffled and rolled over onto her side. 'You left me, Xena.'
The bard's thoughts stabbed at her and yet Xena waited patiently, knowing the
blonde would tell her what she need to say when she was ready to.
She looked across the cabin and out the portal, watching the gulls dip and turn
as the men got rid of the day's refuse. There were only a few hours left before
dusk fell. Her belly lurched. If she wanted to help the bard deal with things
before she had to go
'Maybe I won't be able to come back?'
A total feeling of sadness griped her and her hands tightened around the blonde's
Gabrielle. The young woman's body stiffened and the warrior ran her
fingertips up into straw-coloured tresses, down and over the tip of the dragon's
head tattoo. Her nostrils fluttered as she remembered holding the young bard while
Akemi applied the sharp needles to the woman's skin. While she had never been
interested in having a tattoo grace her body, she couldn't deny the somewhat crestfallen
feeling that overwhelmed her whenever that image of Gabrielle lying on the floor
nude rose up in her mind. 'I would do that for you, Gabrielle. It would be
something of you. Sword, chakram and scroll, I think.'
Her thoughts were dashed as the blonde rolled over and fixed her with an angry
look. I should hate you, Xena. I've tried to. A tear rolled down Gabrielle's
cheeks, causing the warrior's heart to slow its beat. 'If she only knew the
power she holds over me.' Xena forced a smile onto her face.
Pushing herself into a sitting position, Gabrielle glared at the warrior momentarily
before covering her face with both hands.
Xena thought about all the ways that question could be answered.
I've spent so many years hating myself that it's become second nature. When
we first began our journey together I never knew you could be so strong. I thought
you'd fold early and be on your way. She touched the woman's nose. And
there were days when I wished you would.
A pained expression raced across Gabrielle's face. But I thought you liked
having me there. I never knew
Her words trailed off and she squeezed
her eyes shut again. 'She never wanted me around, not really. How can I tell
her my feelings now?'
That changed somewhere along the way, the warrior said in a voice
filled with surprise and delight. I can't say when exactly, but the excuses
for leaving you in one town or another became harder to come up with. I guess
you blossomed from an irritation into a beautiful, her voice cracked and
then she went on, into something I couldn't live without. But it was your
lessons, Gabrielle, which helped make an intolerable situation a little easier
to bear. My life was nothing but pain and suffering until you entered it. And
for that I'll be eternally grateful.
Gabrielle captured the warrior's strong calloused hand and held it against her
chest. It took a moment but then both eyes settled onto each other and any recriminations
the bard had fell away.
Xena pushed her lips out expelling a breath and then settled her lower back against
the bunk. Although it was the same question, this one was infinitely harder to
answer. Why hadn't she told the woman about her growing feelings? The urge to
touch the bard became almost unbearable. How many nights had been spent staring
off into space, willing away the passionate thoughts that all but consumed her?
She remembered the soft lips pressed against her own as the healing waters were
transferred from the bard's mouth into her own. She wished she'd been able to
show Gabrielle just how much she loved her. But telling her now would only be
There was never enough time, Gabrielle. We went from one dangerous situation
to another. The words seemed hollow even to her.
Gabrielle pushed some hair out of her eyes and then moved to sit beside the warrior.
Xena's hands sat forlornly in her lap.
Did you think I'd laugh or run away, or
The smile painted on the warrior's lips wavered.
Gabrielle blinked as the truth hit her.
You were afraid to tell me. The stricken look on the warrior's face
slapped at her. Oh, Xena
I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that.
'Not out loud, anyway.' Xena sighed and then her fingers found a bit of
leather to play with as she faced the truth and tried to formulate exactly what
she needed to say.
Gabrielle watched the woman's mouth open and close a few times and mentally kicked
herself for causing her such agony.
The shadows began filling the cabin, chasing the fading pink glow of the sunset
Gabrielle took Xena's strong hands into her own. Tell me, please?
The warrior's eyes closed momentarily and then she spoke in a quiet voice.
I'd never been in love before, not really. And telling you would have served
no purpose. Can't you see?
Gabrielle's mouth dropped open. You say telling me that you loved me in
that way would have served no purpose like it should make perfect sense.
She pulled at the woman's hands. How does that make perfect sense?
Xena pushed off from her position on the bed and began pacing. I knew you
wanted a family and I can't give you that. All I could give you was a life filled
with violence and torment. What kind of life would we have traipsing all over
Greece, facing down past enemies and making new ones? She turned to face
the blonde. I wanted so much more for you.
Gabrielle set her jaw as the woman resumed her pacing. You were all the
family I ever needed, Xena. By your side is where I've always belonged.
'There were things we both should have said. Gods, why didn't I ever show you?
And now it's too late.'
Xena stopped dead in her tracks. It was implied, all right? And it's
never too late - I knew how you were feeling. It was obvious every time you looked
at me that hero worship had changed into something more. She put her hands
on the portal and her head against her arms. Look, I should have told you.
I know that now, but then well, my own shortcomings in that area were hard
enough to deal with.
The bard's mouth hung open as she stood behind the warrior. You can hear
my thoughts. I never thought
And of course it made perfect sense.
Why hadn't she figured that out earlier? And then she blushed thinking of all
the things she'd had on her mind earlier. Then unbidden, other thoughts that hadn't
quite been on her mind this day fluttered across the backs of her eyes and she
The thoughts hardly registered with the warrior who was far too focused on her
own torment at that particular moment. Why hadn't she told Gabrielle how she really
felt and then acted on it? Now it was far too late
for both of them. But
what kind of life could she offer her? Sooner or later every bad thing she'd ever
done would revisit them. How long would it be before one or both of them paid
the price? Could she have lived with herself if Gabrielle had become badly injured
or killed in a fight? She knew without a doubt that killing those who had harmed
the bard would only be the beginning. Once her brutal nature was unleashed there
would be no stopping her. And what of the promise she'd made the young woman years
ago by the waning light of a campfire? Silence had seemed the only option available.
She squeezed her eyes tightly and wondered if Ares at least was having a good
time with her plight. There she was this big bad warrior, conqueror of hearts
from Greece to the Bay of Bengal, and she couldn't even tell a young villager
from Poteideia that she loved her in every sense of the word. 'Pitiful.'
The light was almost gone from the room when Xena finally raised her head
and turned to look at the bard. I wasn't sure how you'd react to a romantic
relationship with a broken down ex-warlord. And then when I could have said something
you were wrapped up in guilt over Hope and Solon and, she took a breath,
I was looking for the right moment. I just always thought we'd have time,
Oh, Xena. Gabrielle reached out a hand to touch the woman's face.
Her heart broke as Xena began to shimmer and then she was gone.
With both hands covering her face, the bard stumbled back to the bunk and curled
up, her heart breaking as the reality of what they could have had pierced her.
It was a long time before she slept.
The torment the warrior felt was complete before she winked out. It was quite
one thing to have told someone you loved them but hadn't been able to consummate
such feelings and quite another to have never spoken those feelings and therefore
had no chance whatsoever to have had them validated and then acted on. The horror
of it all was just too terrible.
Images of the many times they'd told each other how they felt raced through her
mind. The depth of the feelings they had for each other was obvious to anyone
and yet it had never been discussed. The many missed opportunities flitted around
her like angry bees, the truth the very honey that drew them to her.
The pain of love unrealized settled on her shoulders along with the other sins
of her past. She wondered what happened to people when they died, now that there
was no Underworld and therefore no Elysium Fields? Never having taken the oath
before the Amazon tribe, would she be forever separated from the bard? Perhaps
she'd find judgment Oriental style?
The fine hairs on the nape of her neck bristled and she adopted a defensive stance.
Her fingers went immediately to her side but there was no chakram. A look of confusion
crossed her face as her hand closed around air instead of the familiar hilt of
her sword. She relaxed somewhat upon noticing that her armour was still firmly
in place. At least she could defend herself. After all, when had a lack of weaponry
ever make a difference?
A shrouded figure beckoned and Xena walked slowly towards it. As they moved along
the hallway, the warrior took in her surroundings and then studied the figure
ahead of her. A brief image of Ming Tien entered her mind and then she wondered
if Ares had a hand in things. Finally, with a shrug of her shoulders, Xena began
to relax. She had many enemies, why bother worrying which one would spend eternity
tormenting her? Either way she'd find out soon enough.
A large oak door stood closed before them and Xena started to ask what lay beyond
when the figure raised a hand and the door opened.
A cold feeling of unease settled across her shoulders and although her instincts
were hair trigger, Xena pushed them down firmly, waiting to see how things would
play out before making her move.
The doors led into a large room filled with rows of empty benches. There on the
dais, however, was a bench of judgment. An eyebrow rose. So, the final Day of
Judgment was upon her? Was she ready?
Xena's eyes squeezed tightly with uncertainty. Would she ever be ready? How could
she ever atone? There were so many things in her past she would regret, and almost
all of it that she would have changed, if given half the chance. However, going
down that road might lead to a path that didn't include the many people that helped
shape the woman she was. 'Gabrielle.'
Ghostly images of Gabrielle suddenly surrounded her, making the warrior more than
a little uneasy. She could pick out individual scenes of their lives together,
interlaced with scenes of horror and betrayal, death and destruction.
Suddenly, at least a dozen torches blossomed with fire and people began to appear
in the seats facing the bench. Xena swallowed hard as they turned to look at her.
While there seemed to be far more enemies than not, Xena recognized a few friendly
faces as well.
The hooded figure moved up to the dais and was seated. Then two figures popped
out of nowhere beside her. One's face was twisted cruelly, pointing at her with
acrimony. The other smiled coldly and led her to the docket. Xena felt a shudder
run through her as their faces slowly became more distinct. It was her face they
At first, no words were spoken as the case began. Scenes from Haguchi filled the
room and the many lost souls howled and wailed their torment and screamed for
justice. Fire and destruction raced from scene to scene and then suddenly M'lila's
sweet face appeared and then twisted in agony. The room fell silent as everyone
viewed her death. Then the last hours of Cyane's life were viewed and the jury
gasped in horror as each act of betrayal and wanton brutality was offered up as
evidence. Xena's shoulders drooped as her culpability was pointed out again. Everyone
in your life was destined to live and die a painful death, isn't it true?
demanded the prosecutor. The woman from Gaul reached out her hand and smiled.
I died for you because in my death was your rebirth. Xena's fists
pound against the railing. Yes, I was reborn
as a monster. Look at
the pain and suffering that brought! You died for nothing, M'lila. I wish Cortez
had never come to our village, that I'd ever taken up the sword, and that I'd
ever been born at all.
As the young woman shimmered and then faded away, Ming Tien and his father Ming
Tsu appeared in her place. You profess to feel remorse for the lives you've
taken and destroyed. I find it difficult to believe, Xena, since you took such
pleasure in tormenting and destroying the life of my young son. It wasn't enough
that you bricked the boy up behind a wall, leaving him to feel as if he'd been
left to die. No, you had to return years later under the direction of that evil
whore Lao Ma, and finish the job! Ming Tien gazed about the crowded room
and a hush fell over them. His face seemed to change, finally displaying the ruined
flesh that Xena had wrought in their last encounter. See what she has done
to me? My evil mother sent this woman to hunt me down and kill me! Lao Ma, the
sorceress who kept her own beloved husband hanging between worlds just so that
she could reap the benefits of his position and respect, she who would show her
son nothing but cruelty and the weak ways of a woman! A roar filled the
air and Xena's eyes locked on the Green Dragon, her ex-lover's hairpin protruding
horribly from his right temple. He grinned wickedly. You know you meant
nothing to her, Xena. You think she had any more love for you than she would for
her own child, a boy she would later condemn to a painful death at your hands?
The warrior's hands gripped the railing and she tried to ignore the man's barbs.
A soft breeze ruffled Xena's hair and the scent of Jasmine filled the courtroom.
Lao Ma appeared wearing the soft pink robe Xena would forever see her in. She
bowed once to the judge and the prosecutor and then faced the jury. Why
am I here? My death was of my own choosing although the manner was taken from
me. She gazed at the Warrior Princess and smiled. You could not have
prevented my death, Xena. It was my destiny. As the last word left her mouth,
she looked lovingly at her son. His soul was twisted by his father, a man
who knew nothing of love and therefore nothing of forgiveness. He is destined
to an existence filled with endless torment. Is it your desire Xena, to join my
son and his father in such a joyful enterprise?
Xena frowned. If I hadn't tried to kill you in a jealous rage then you probably
would have dealt only with Borias and our paths would never have crossed. I never
would have betrayed the love you offered because of my hatred for Ming Tsu. And
chances are, you would have lived a long and prosperous life filling that book
with thoughtful insights and good deeds. As it was, you not only lost your life
in the most painful of ways but had to pass final judgment on your own son.
Lao Ma smiled an inscrutable smile. I did not pass judgment on my son. For
that you are truly guilty. Xena reeled back as if struck. She had expected
to have the woman confirm her culpability in his death and would accept penance
for the destruction of her son but all this time she had assumed she was fulfilling
the woman's last wishes.
But, she stammered. The Oriental reached out to stroke Xena's face.
I only wished to have my son deposed, Xena, not physically destroyed. But
yours is the way of the Warrior and although I should have realized you would
react in such a fashion, I had hoped the years would have lent you the wisdom
I failed to. The judge brought the gavel down with a crash and the room
Raising a crimson sleeve, the judge directed the prosecutor to continue.
Fires rose up before her docket and Xena looked at the anguished face of her mother
as she writhed against her bounds. An accusing finger was raised her way and Xena
lost her composure and broke down weeping. Oh, mother! I didn't know. I
would have done anything to protect you, you know that. Cyrene shook her
head slowly as the flames rose higher and then she was gone. A tall warrior pushed
through the crowd and Xena's heart sang as she recognized her brother Lyceus.
Mother's been silenced by her own guilt, Xena. She feels she's done you
a terrible wrong, denying you a haven in which to grow up and a loving parent
who would love you unconditionally. He hugged her quickly and then frowned
as the prosecutor pushed him before the judge. The figure on the dais leaned forward
and Lyceus felt such sorrow and remorse that he shrank back uneasily before turning
to look at the crowd. It's true, although a case could be made to show that
Xena was responsible for my death, the Fates gave her another chance, showing
her that it was my own nature that got me killed. We all have choices and although
we have to pay for them I believe my sister has done so, at least three times
over. The crowd jostled and hissed their displeasure.
A blonde warrior shoved roughly through the crowd and all eyes burned with intensity
as Callisto was recognized.
Oh yes, she said purring, of course Xena's tried to pay
for her crimes. Callisto smoothed the leathers across her bosom. Why,
she became a veritable vision of goodness and light a few years before she died,
now didn't she. The singsong tone of her voice belied the poison seething
just below the surface. Many in the crowd gasped with shock as she whirled, her
face contorted into a hideous mask of malevolence. They leaned forward in anticipation
as Callisto stretched out a finger at the prisoner in the docket.
And this should balance out the pain and suffering dealt out to the innocent
around her? No! Is it fair that she destroyed my family, burned my village to
the ground, and ruined my life and then gets a shot at redemption at the end of
it? She walked slowly over to the bench, her face once more that of an innocent
No again. Tilting her head this way and that, it was very easy to
see the young girl she once was. Then she clapped her hands with glee. In
fact, I'm very surprised that she's subjected herself to trial by jury at all.
And all without counsel? My, my
now, where is that irritating little friend
of yours, Xena? Not that I blame her for hiding. After all, you pretty much destroyed
her life, too, didn't you? She wiggled her fingers at the crowd. I
might have helped a little in that regard with that weenie of a husband she was
married to, but that's neither here nor there, is it? I'm not the one on trial,
she is. She rolled her eyes at the brunette who stood stoic and silent.
Oh, tsk, tsk, Xena. You must have lost those winning ways you were always
so eager to flaunt. If you'd been your usual seductive self, why you would have
had the little blonde wrapped around your baby finger and she never would have
thought about marrying some idiot warrior wannabe. She tapped her front
teeth. But perhaps she wasn't your type. Not that it would have made any
difference. M'lila wasn't your type, was she? Pushing the long blonde tendrils
behind her ear, Callisto slowly meandered back to the docket and smiled sweetly
up at the accused. Yet you were perfectly willing to use her to your heart's
content, convincing her that she'd be more than just a roll in the hay. Tell me
Xena, did she throw herself in front of that arrow or did you push her?
Xena's jaw resembled a block of granite as she fought to remain silent. It didn't
matter what Callisto said, whether it was true or not, because the endless suffering
that comprised her life was only a small part of the horror she'd inflicted on
everyone around her.
'Everyone, every single person that has meant anything to me has been marked
and destroyed in one way or another.'
Callisto strode over to the bench. Someone so intuitive such as yourself,
she said, arching this way and that as she tried to peer under the hood, should
be able to see that she's beyond redemption, your honour. She turned and
faced the crowd. How about a verdict now?
A slightly more beautiful and infinitely calmer mirror image of the Goddess of
Chaos appeared before them, suspended in mid air, radiating a perfect white gentle
light, causing many in the audience to seek shelter in whatever dark corner they
could find to hide in.
Were you beyond redemption, Callisto? The blonde shrank back in horror.
You! I don't know which is worse, convincing this crowd full of losers just
how totally, rapturously, she sighed passionately, and completely
this bitch was immersed in evil or, the venom dripped from each word, having
to face the fact that the sweet innocent disgustingly boring other side to me
is here to lecture us on how love conquers all, she drawled, spitting in
the angel's direction and pacing in front of the judge.
You can't trust her, judge. She'll say things, many things, any things,
just to show you how virtuous and how very worthy of redemption Xena truly is.
She ran her fingers through the disordered mass of tangles covering her head.
It's not fair!
She whirled on the Warrior Princess. How dare you be the one to save me?
After all I've done to destroy you, after all the terrible things you made me
how could you? Covering her face in her hands, Callisto wailed painfully
for the final battle she'd lost before it had ever been fought. How could she
argue against the truth as it floated there before her? With just one touch the
Warrior Princess had taken all of her pain away and had given her everything she'd
ever wanted true peace and a reunion with her loving family. But that in
itself was a hell befitting her own dark deeds, wasn't it?
The angel calmly floated closer and then her visage changed into that of Callisto's
mother. With a sobbing wail the Goddess of Chaos murmured, 'Mother?' before running
into her arms. The angel that wore Callisto's smile nodded towards the judge and
Xena knew she had at least one point in her favour.
As the brilliant light faded, the room erupted into a hellish racket and the members
of the jury and audience let their displeasure be known.
Verdict, verdict, VERDICT! they shouted, stomping their feet in unison.
The gavel came crashing down again and the prosecutor got to her feet and went
to stand beside someone in the crowd.
Borias stood up, his eyes flashing in anger. She is guilty of more than
pure violence for its own sake. Xena twisted my heart, finally convincing me that
I was in love with her. I left my wife and child for her and what did I get in
return? She betrayed me and abandoned our child! Her evil thoughts of conquest
and tyranny erased any maternal thoughts a normal woman should have. And it was
because of my own blindness to her true self that I risked everything to save
her. He glared at the Warrior Princess, his lips curled into a snarl. I
died trying to protect both her and our son. The crowd's angry response
left little doubt as to how totally devoid of any compassion they thought Xena
During his further rant that held her responsible for the destruction of the centaurs
it seemed as if the whole weight of the world was settled squarely on Xena's back.
Her head dipped lower and lower with each accusation, knowing she had no defence
for the black days of her past. Self-damning tears rode silently down her cheeks
as she tried to recapture her mask of stoicism. The battle she fought in this
regard was almost won when Solon appeared silently beside his father and waited
until Xena raised her head. 'I'm sorry, Solon. I should have told you the truth.'
His smile reached out to the darkest areas of her soul, filling it with light.
Rubbing her nose with the back of her shaking hand, the former Destroyer of Nations
looked away, humbled by the purity of his love.
His voice rang out with clarity as he stood before the court and Xena couldn't
help but find her eyes settling on his face with open pride and adoration. My
mother didn't hesitate to make sure I'd be safe and brought up by those who would
care for me the moment she realized that life at her side would destroy me. Her
actions saved me and I grew up knowing my father as a hero. He looked pointedly
over at Borias and the man dropped his gaze. She taught me how to fight
but she also taught me patience and love. Even though she did so as a friend and
not as a loving parent. He walked over to the dock and placed his hand on
Xena's. Even when I had made my own choice to keep my memories and not go
on to the Elysium fields, she put her own life at risk to spare me from an eternity
I couldn't leave you there, Solon. Even though your small collection of
memories only had snippets of my involvement in your life you were still willing
to have them rather than live without thoughts of me at all. Her lower lip
trembled as her son looked up into her eyes, the love shining fiercely. 'I
Ephiny elbowed her way up to the front and banged her staff three times on the
floor. Solon and his father faded back into the crowd as Julius Caesar opened
his mouth and tried to gain the attention of the judge. Two rather burly women
growled his way and he fell silent, sneering in their direction but sitting back
down with a huff.
The cloaked figure on the dais gestured for the leader of the Amazon Nation to
continue to plead her case.
Xena has had many dealings with the Amazon Nation. She is guilty of mass
murder, attempted murder, brutally attacking our Queen and being responsible for
the decimation of our nation to the point where we can never return to our former
glory. The judge leaned forward and for a moment Xena thought she could
see who it was behind the dark crimson cowl but the shadows prevented it.
The Amazon stalked over to where Xena stood and crossed her arms over her chest.
Can you deny these atrocities? Xena remained silent, knowing she'd
been guilty of far worse than she'd ever be accused of.
Suddenly the double doors at the back of the room were pushed open and the crowd
growled as Gabrielle made her way to the bench.
Xena won't defend herself against such accusations. But I will, said
the bard above the din.
The warrior closed her eyes and tried to will the young woman away. What was she
doing there anyway? She should have been asleep on the ship that was slowly making
its way toward the China Seas, bound for home.
Gabrielle pulled in a slow breath and tried not to stare at the warrior. She could
feel the anguish rolling off her and knew that Xena was more than a little uncomfortable
about having anyone plead her case.
She looked at the judge and waited.
Xena clenched her fists and stared belligerently at the prosecutor, silently urged
the woman to do something, say something anything at all anything
to make Gabrielle just
'I won't go, Xena. Can't you see that? You're my whole world and I won't let
you go, not without a fight.'
Xena's focus shifted from the smug look on the attorneys face onto the bright
and eager face of her friend.
'You don't belong here, Gabrielle. There's more at stake than you know.'
If they lost then the burden would rest on the bard's shoulders as well
was it something they could both live with?
A silent battle of wills continued between them as both women fought for what
they knew was in the best interest of the other.
'You can't save me, no one can.'
Gabrielle leaned forward, one hand covering the larger one as she sought to connect
with her friend.
'Don't you understand, Gabrielle, that I've got to pay for the sins of my past?
That's what my whole life was about the search for redemption.'
The bard gripped the woman's hand and then moved closer to the docket.
Xena looked down into the green sorrowful eyes of her best friend and knew her
heart would break if things were allowed to continue.
'You have to go back now, back to the ship, back to sleep, back to finding
a life without me.'
'You said you'd never leave me!'
'And I won't. I'll always been with you
in your heart.'
But I don't want you just in my heart, Xena! she yelled. I
want you in my life, in my arms! Don't you see? I can't live
came crashing down, startling both women. The crowd was in an uproar as the room
was filled with loud recriminations, the most vociferous designed to point out
that the accused had no right to expect anything but the most severe of verdicts
Silence! A booming voice grated through the room and even Caesar ceased
his rant and meekly sank back into his seat.
By what right do you defend such a wretched soul?
Gabrielle released Xena's hand and then walked to the bench. Bowing with respect,
she clasped both hands in front of her and then cleared her throat. She winced
as negative thoughts bombarded her from the woman behind her. 'I can't listen
to you now, Xena. I've made my choice.'
The bard felt a slight easing of tension and with a shock realized it was because
Xena could hear her thoughts.
Your honour, I claim the right by virtue of being her soul mate.
The judge was silent for a moment and then conferred with both prosecutor and
defence counsel. Finally, the figure turned in Gabrielle's direction and gestured
for the woman to go on.
The bard swallowed and approached the jury box.
She was once known as the scourge of Greece. Some called her the Destroyer
of Nations, and I'm sure far worse. She's killed thousands, probably hundreds
of thousands, and has been responsible for creating at least one monster who in
turn carried on in the same vein but with a much colder heart.
Swallowing nervously and yet somewhat warming to her subject, Gabrielle studiously
avoided looking anywhere near her friend and instead chose to pick out a few familiar
faces in the crowd.
She's helped both Kings and commoners, priests and parishioners, even a
god or two, along the road to righting the wrongs of her past. She looked
up at the judge. She's paid for her past, your honour, thrice fold. And
she's done such good in her life. I would never have known the joys of friendship,
duty and honour if our paths had never crossed. She finally raised her eyes
to look across at her soul mate. 'And I would never have known true love.'
Her life has been the cause of much sorrow, your honour, but she's
been responsible for much happiness as well. Cyrene might have lived her life
alone, believing her daughter was nothing but a monster. Xena stepped back into
her life and let her experience the joys of being both a mother and a grandmother.
My sister's daughter would never have been reacquainted with the touch of a loving
mother either if it hadn't been for Xena.
A large indistinct face appeared before them all, and although Gabrielle couldn't
make out any features, there was no denying the voice: it belonged to Hope.
And what about the loving touch of my own mother? Guilt tugged at
the bard's heart. I loved you, Hope, you know that.
Hope laughed coldly. Yet it didn't stop you from trying to destroy me, did
it Mother? You have a strange way of showing your maternal instincts. She
glared hotly at both women. You both hunted me as if I was some sort of
animal! The only affection I have ever known is this. A pit of fire erupted
beneath her and the image of Hope was consumed in a wave of heat and ash. A disembodied
voice rose from the black abyss created. Because you abandoned me when I
was a child, the only emotion I've ever known is the pure hatred from my father!
How dare you consider yourself worthy to defend such a heartless criminal when
you're no better yourself!
Gabrielle turned away from her daughter and clutched the railing. One of the most
difficult truths she had had to face over the years was her relationship with
Hope and her failure as a parent.
I should have listened to Xena. She knew what you were when you were born.
But I couldn't, I didn't want to believe her. And because I put my needs before
others her son had to die!
Xena reached down and covered the woman's hand. I've forgiven you for all
of that, Gabrielle. It was wrong of me to force you to make a choice. Would I
have acted any differently if it had been Eve and I'd known of the evils she would
cause? Now you have to forgive yourself.
But how can I? the bard pulled at her hair in torment. Perhaps Hope
was right? She'd failed as a mother and ultimately failed as a friend. I
failed her just as I failed you! The image of Xena's bloody chakram appeared
before her eyes and she shrank back in horror.
'I should have stopped you, Xena. How could I have been so blind? Of course
you'd be the one to face Yodishi in the Underworld! Kenji told me only a ghost
could kill the Dark Lord.'
Xena closed her eyes in pain, realizing that the woman now believed herself responsible
for her decision to die in battle. Breaking off the telepathic bond they shared,
Xena stood tall and looked into the crowd. Although a few still continued to hurl
insults toward the bard, most of them became quiet, all but shaking in their boots.
Pleased at the response, the warrior resettled her gaze on her friend.
Gabrielle, please. You don't understand. Even if you did know and you tried
to stop me I couldn't let you. Harokata, the Ghost Killer, told me that he had
the strength to kill Yodishi but that he couldn't because he was only mortal.
She reached down and touched the blonde's cheek. Even in the Underworld
he didn't have the strength, Gabrielle. There was no one but me that was capable
of doing this job. You can't blame yourself for any of this. Not even the Dark
Lord could read my mind.
Murderer! shouted two members from Akemi's household. It was
because of you that Akemi was able to murder her own father in cold blood! She
committed the worst crime a child can! She, a worthless good for nothing who had
no respect for her station in life! You compounded your crime in the taking of
her head! Yours was therefore forfeit!
Gabrielle placed both hands over her ears as the crowd roared for blood.
Verdict, give us a verdict! they shouted.
The gavel was raised and lowered once again, the resounding crash enough to have
everyone in the room shaking in fear. All but Xena, who stood tall, facing the
judge, her expression set in stone. 'Gabrielle doesn't know what she's doing.
You can't hold her responsible for coming to my defence. If I'm to be judged,
then let the sentence be mine alone.'
The judge ignored her silent plea and gathered some papers on the desk.
Have you anything to say in your defence? boomed the judge.
Xena glanced quickly at Gabrielle, who stood silently, the tears running freely
down her face. 'I've always loved you, Gabrielle.' The bard tried to be
brave and smile with encouragement, but she failed miserably. Oh, how the warrior
wanted to hold the young woman close and never let her go. If they'd only had
But they didn't and now it was time to pay the price.
What could I possibly say? It's all true. She wiped the moisture from
her cheeks. I'm ready to hear my verdict, your honour.
Gabrielle screamed out Xena's name and then fell off the bunk onto the deck of
her cabin. Her legs and feet were tangled in the blanket and in her fluster took
a moment to remember where she was.
Where am I? Then the smell of the ocean and the creak of the ship
brought it all back to her. The time she and the warrior had spent enjoying each
other's company settled over her warmly. Oh, now I remember. Wonder where
There came a tapping on her door and the bard briefly wondered why Xena would
knock before getting hold of her imagination. She was a ghost after all.
Jumping to her feet and kicking off the blanket, the bard half-heartedly smoothed
the haystack on her head and then opened the door.
The cook stood quietly, hat in hand. You will eat today, yes? Gabrielle's
mouth hung open as he ushered two men in with a large tray of food. You
did not eat yesterday, warrior. Doing drills all day long is not healthy without
nourishment. You will become sick. He gave her a look of admonishment, much
like a father would give his wayward daughter.
Gabrielle's mouth snapped shut. She'd been having so much
fun with Xena that neither one had thought to stop for food. And then there was
the court thing with the magistrate. 'But I've been at sea for days. How could
I have been anywhere with Xena? If all they've seen is me doing drills, then maybe
it's all been just my imagination.' A numbing fear crept up her spine and
it was all she could do to push all the men from her cabin with a brief promise
that she would eat before collapsing on the bunk.
Placing her head in her hands, the bard slowly rocked back and forth. She's
dead, Gabrielle, dead! She was never here. The sooner you get this through your
And then her eye picked up a glint from the corner. It was Xena's chakram and
images of her time with the warrior awaiting judgment flooded back in. It was
so real that Gabrielle had to either accept that it had indeed happened
That's it. It's the grief, that's what it is. And who could blame me? Gods,
first I have to locate her dismembered body, not to mention fight for her head.
Gods, Xena. A tear trickled down to her chin and then fell with an audible
plop onto her shaking hands. Squeezing her eyes shut, she tried to push the rising
feelings of hysteria away. Then I had to climb Mount Fuji-san, fight a samurai
in single combat gods, I hated that smug bastard! Gabrielle got to
her feet and went to the chakram. I don't know how I did it, but he deserved
it. Catching her reflection in the sheen of the warrior's personal weapon
made Gabrielle's head dart back in surprise. 'Is that snarling warrior really
But he took her head, she wailed to the heavens. Oh, Xena
not fair! Her hand closed around the chakram and then her eyes spotted the
small black urn over by her weapons. The sacred katana waited silently.
Running a fingertip over the outside of the urn, the bard fell to her knees and
then began to sob uncontrollably. She didn't realize that she'd fallen asleep
on the floor until her eyes fluttered open as her battle senses picked up a stranger's
presence in the room. Years of travelling with the Warrior Princess had honed
these warrior instincts to a fine point.
Getting to her feet, Gabrielle crouched low, the chakram tight in her fist. A
slight movement in the dark corner had her ears pricked. Who's there?
There was no answer. And then the figure moved again and Gabrielle released the
chakram with a whoosh! It dinged about the cabin several times before heading
back toward the bard, who simply held her hand up and caught the thing as if she'd
been born to it.
She was still staring with wide eyes when Xena stepped out from the shadows.
Very good, but you missed me. You're getting better at that all the time.
But we'll have to practice every day, just to keep you in shape.
The chakram dropped from stiff fingers and the bard backed away from her friend.
Her dead friend. Her friend that was a ghost and couldn't possibly be there in
front of her
she was just a figment of the bard's fevered imagination, and
You can't be here. You're not real.
Placing both hands up in supplication, the warrior stopped her advancement and
just stood still.
It's all right, Gabrielle. It's just me. Remember we spent the day together
The bard shook her head slowly. No
no, the cook said I'd spent the
day alone doing drills. He was worried because
You hadn't eaten anything. Yes, I forgot about that part of life.
She inched a little closer to the bard. See, I don't have to worry about
eating now. 'Or sleeping either. Or feeling the heat of your body against
me in your bedroll. Gods, I miss you, Gabrielle.'
You never eat? Then Gabrielle slapped herself, hard, hoping the
shock would bring her to her senses. You're not real! She whirled
around and walked quickly to her bed. That's it. I've snapped, I've gone
crazy, I'm having some sort of delusional moment caused by stress, grief and
Yes! I'm seasick. I never learned how to fix that, not really. I was just fooling
myself. She grabbed her belly and began to rock as she sat on the bunk.
You know, you really can make yourself sick that way. I've seen it before.
Usually on the battlefield, of course, but hey, you've sustained a shock to the
system. The mind is a very delicate thing, and certainly not something to fool
Gabrielle glanced up. Oh, good. I'm getting mental health directions from
a woman who lost her head. Hearing the words come out of her mouth only
caused the bard more grief and she lay back with a thump, wailing her sorrow against
arms crossed firmly over her face.
Oh, Xena! I need you so much! Why can't you be real? She cried harder
as she was pulled into the warrior's embrace and then settled against the front
of Xena's leathers. Her eyes fluttered open and then she wiped her tears away
with a shaking hand.
You took your armour off. I usually do that for you. She sniffled.
Yes, I know. I miss that. She pulled the tray of food closer but the
other woman ignored her offerings.
Gabrielle's lower lip trembled and she brought her hand up to touch the warrior's
It isn't so bad being crazy, is it? I mean, if I have to be crazy to see
you then that's all right. Because I can't, no I won't live without you,
Xena. Relief flooded through her system and she sank back into the warrior's
Xena caressed the bard's hair gently, soothing her with soft words of comfort
and encouragement. The bard closed her eyes momentarily and then a sea of green
captured Xena's gaze.
It's all true, isn't' it? You're waiting for your verdict.
Xena held the woman closer, her eyes fixed on a point not seen in the physical
Gabrielle noticed it was early afternoon as the ship's bell sounded. Her belly
growled ominously and she began to pick at the food on the tray. A few bits of
fruit and some smoked meat on skewers later and the bard was pushing the tray
away. She burped carefully and patted her stomach. That feels a bit better.
Sure you don't need any of this? Xena smirked and shook her head. Nah,
you go ahead and eat the rest.
Gabrielle nodded. Thanks, but I'll save it for later. Then her forehead
furrowed. I thought you were able to be with me from dawn until dusk, Xena?
Or did I imagine that?
The warrior sighed heavily. I didn't want to come.
Her eyes squeezed shut as the bard shuddered with each sob. 'Gods, I love you
Xena, but how can you continue to hurt me this way?'
Xena released her breath again. This will be the last time, Gabrielle.
I can't come back to see you any more.
The bard clutched at the woman and turned to face her, the food in her belly already
starting to turn. Why? Is it something I've done? I can do better, Xena,
I can. Just tell me how
And then Xena kissed her. The kiss was filled with such heat and promise. Gabrielle's
eyes closed and her hands moved up to feel the long soft hair she'd longed to
touch for such a very long time. Both women were somewhat breathless as they broke
away from their embrace.
Wow, said the bard in wonder. Xena's mouth twitched as she thought
of something to say. There really wasn't much she could say, except, I've
wanted to do that for a long time.
Gabrielle raised her fingertips to touch the warrior's chin. Why didn't
Xena was uncharacteristically silent.
Gabrielle leaned up for another kiss. And then another as her actions became bolder.
I want to be with you, Xena.
I know. I want that too, but I don't think it would be a good idea.
Gabrielle's mouth slowly slid across the warrior's lips and the larger woman couldn't
help but moan in response.
Do you always have to ask that question? she said between kisses.
Yes, breathed the blonde, her hands finding purchase at the nape of
the warrior's neck. Pulling her down quickly, Gabrielle began moving her hands
over Xena's neck and across each shoulder. She could tell by the woman's rapid
breathing that regardless of what she had said about leaving, about this being
their last time together, that she was on the right track to making her change
Gabrielle, said the warrior slowly. We have to stop. The
blonde moved in for another heart-stopping kiss and then nestled the back of her
head into the warrior's lap.
We can stop for awhile if you like, Xena. But I won't stop loving you. And
I'll get what I want. Remember, 'what ever Gabrielle wants, Gabrielle gets'?
Xena rubbed her jaw. I did say that, didn't I? The smile faded away
quickly and she squared her shoulders.
We have to be serious, Gabrielle. Really. The blonde had begun to
wrap the warrior's long dark strands around her fingers.
Are you listening?
The bard smiled. 'I want more kisses, Warrior Princess. I want to feel your
lips against mine, your breath against my skin, and the beat of your heart against
Xena closed her eyes and moaned deeply. Don't do that, please.
'But I want you and I know you want me, too. Deny it, Xena. I dare you.'
A strange look entered the blue of the warrior's eyes and Gabrielle was suddenly
afraid. She'd seen that look a few times before. She tried to remember when and
where and then the answer came to her. 'So, this is battle lust?'
Xena's jaw stuck out a bit and her fingers moved in to the base of the woman's
head. Taking hold of the blonde tresses, she gathered a bunch in her fist and
then pulled. Gabrielle's eyes fluttered but she refused to break their locked
'Yes, this is battle lust, bard. Just be thankful you've never seen it full
Gabrielle smiled and shook her head slightly. You don't scare me, Warrior
Princess. I want all of you; good, bad and dangerous.
It took the warrior a moment to compose herself and then she looked away. How
easy it would be to just give into the needs so long denied. But she couldn't,
not now, not with oblivion at hand. She briefly wondered if she'd end up in the
same place Callisto had. Was there really such a place as Hell? She wiped her
mouth with the back of her hand.
Now look, Gabrielle, this is important.
The bard smiled sweetly up into the warrior's face. Everything about you
is important, Xena. I wish we'd done this before. Her eyes clouded over.
Before you let yourself be killed. She sat up and glared at the woman.
How could you let yourself be killed like that again? And you never even
told me what your plan was you just made the decision and expected me to
live with the consequences! That's not fair, Xena. We're partners! She settled
her breathing for a moment before going on. You lied to me again, Xena.
Do you know how much I hate that?
Xena pouched her lips out in thought. Yeah, I know. But you have to understand,
her mouth snapped shut as the bard held up her hand.
I know. You did what you had to, water under the bridge,
move on. She huffed. I'm trying to. Then pushing her hair away
from her face, Gabrielle sat a little straighter and kept her hands in her lap.
All right, I'm listening. The warrior cocked an eyebrow her way. Really.
I'm really listening now. Silence was the warrior's response.
You said you can't come back. Go on, she prompted.
Xena cleared her throat. Yes, that's what I said. I see that you were actually
listening to me but I doubt you understand. Xena sighed deeply. You
weren't supposed to be able to follow me into the spirit realm, Gabrielle. I still
don't know how you did it, but it doesn't matter. Well, it does, but
mind. She pushed her bracers up and then began to fiddle with her gauntlets.
Look, you should never have come to me there.
The bard frowned. Why?
There you go again with that question! she growled in frustration.
Can't you do anything I tell you? Ever?
A tiny smirk played on the bard's lips and Xena relaxed her shoulders a bit. No,
I guess you can't. Never could, why should you start now?
She took one of the bard's hands. Do you understand that by defending me
you've put your own soul at risk? If we lose
Gabrielle released the breath she'd been holding. Somewhat relieved, she smiled
at the warrior and silently urged her to continue. 'Huh, and here I thought
it was something really horrible.'
Xena dropped the woman's hands roughly. It is really horrible,
Gabrielle! Don't you see? Because we're soul mates and you've voluntarily offered
to act in my defence you've put your own soul on the line. What happens to me
will be your fate, too!
Gabrielle nodded slowly. No, I understood it the first time. You die and
end up in Purgatory and that'll be my fate as well. Got it.
Xena's mouth dropped open. How could the bard be taking things so lightly?
You don't understand, you can't. Not and act this way. Then it was
Gabrielle's turn to take the woman's large hands into her own.
This is how I see it, Xena. I can't live without you where you go,
I'll be at your side. So if it means we're both given the same sentence, then
at least we'll be together. Forever.
Xena shook her head slowly. Oh, if it were only that simple, Gabrielle.
No see, it isn't that cut and dried. She moved the bard off her lap and
then got to her feet.
Your problem is you think we'll be together in oblivion. She turned
and looked at the bard. That's it, isn't it?
Gabrielle got to her feet. Yes. You mean it isn't? The undigested
bits of food began wending their way back up and the bard swallowed convulsively.
I think I'm going to be sick.
Xena held the woman close, rubbing small circles over the tattoo on her back.
It's okay, Gabrielle. You'll be fine. Just take a few deep breaths.
The bard complied and then rested her full body weight against the warrior. Explain?
Xena hugged the woman closer. If I've been damned to oblivion for crimes
I've committed then it follows that you wouldn't go to the same place because
that would defeat the whole purpose. So,
What have I done? wailed the smaller woman as thoughts of oblivion
without Xena hit her.
The warrior kissed the top of the woman's head. What you always do
what you think is the right thing. I can't tell you how much I love that.
Gabrielle pushed a few tears away from her eyes. Yeah?
Xena pushed the bard's chin a little. Yeah. You've been a damned good teacher,
Gabrielle frowned. Too good a teacher. I wish I hadn't
Xena pressed her fingers against the bard's mouth. No. No, Gabrielle. Because
of you, I've tried to be worthy of the redemption I've always sought. Think of
this as the penalty phase, that's all.
Gabrielle placed her hands on the woman's waist and eased back from their embrace.
Xena, what are we going to do? Hey, wait a minute. What do you mean, 'penalty
Xena moved them back toward the bed. Well, she said scratching her
neck. As I understand things, my death allowed me to be in a state of grace.
Akemi told me that I'd been redeemed along with the other trapped souls.
She began to pace as the bard sat down and picked at the tray of food.
So if I was in a state of grace, then it must mean that I'm somehow capable
of being redeemed. Maybe being 'capable' isn't good enough right now, so I have
stay dead as until it is.
But, broke in the bard between mouthfuls. But wait a minute,
I thought Akemi said redemption was already yours?
Ah, said the warrior emphasising her point with a large finger. That's
where it gets confusing. How much good do you have to do before it outweighs the
bad? She ran her fingers through her hair in frustration. I don't
know how 'redemption' feels, but I don't feel anything. She huffed and placed
a hand over her eyes. When I gave up my life with you, my soul mate, for
a bunch of strangers, it counted as a big point in my favour because I'd learned
that selfless sacrifice is more important than just an ordinary sacrifice.
She shrugged. But I don't know why.
The bard had a funny look on her face, kernels of ideas taking root as the warrior
talked. I guess we just have to find out what it means. She placed
both hands against her temples and just let the ideas sort themselves out. Or
maybe it doesn't mean anything at all. Okay, what about this. Maybe you always
had redemption offered to you but you didn't realize it because you felt unworthy?
Then a look crossed her face. Hey, what if you are the only one who
can redeem yourself? She put the food down quickly. Whoa, that was
a bit too deep even for me.
Xena scratched her chin and then made a face. So, you think I was always
worthy of redemption but never knew it? Well, that's just crazy! And if it's true,
how come no one ever told me? She thought back to Najima and gritted her
teeth. I'll bet that Darsham could have told us. Gods, and all this time
Gabrielle put her hand up. Hey, wait a minute. I'm not saying that's how
things are, I'm just guessing here. I'm probably wrong anyway.
Xena nodded but her eyes were dark in thought. Yeah, maybe
but I think
you're onto something here.
Gabrielle sat quietly and then wondered if the warrior knew she was going through
her usual ritual of drills while she was simultaneously conversing with her about
the serious task at hand. She was just on the verge of making a smart remark but
then Xena glanced her way and she thought better of it.
So you know you're doing drills. Fine. I was just wondering, oh woman of
Xena smirked as she dipped and parried and then did a two and a half gainer, landing
in front of the portal.
It helps me concentrate. Say, it's getting to be late afternoon. You wanna
take a stroll up on deck? You must be getting a bit bored staying here in your
cabin all day, huh?
Gabrielle stretched and lay back down on the bunk. No, I'm fine, she
sighed contentedly, amazed at just how much she'd missed this part of their life
together. Stifling a yawn, the bard thought about how nice things were. All
we need is Argo and everything would be just perfect.
Xena turned to face her. Just perfect, huh? Well, I hate to burst your bubble,
but I think things are a bit far from being perfect. She waved her hand
at the bard. Verdict, oblivion, apart forever
Gabrielle smiled and nodded. I know, but seeing you like this, Xena, and
knowing you feel the same way I do
about us, I mean. It feels so good. I've
wanted to reach out and touch you so many times. She shook her head and
What's so funny?
Heh, well I really thought you'd have gotten my hints earlier but you never
did. And so I just thought you weren't interested.
Placing both hands on her hips, Xena walked closer to the bed. What hints?
Well, all those baths we took.
Xena's eyebrows shot up. Huh. And here I thought you were just a clean freak.
They both laughed.
Okay, where were we? Oh yeah
you mentioned a penalty phase, she
said trying to stifle a yawn. Well, Xena, maybe you're right about that.
This is my take on things. If you have to suffer all the levels of Tartarus in
order to see Elysium, which is my personal view, then perhaps the 'hell' that
awaits you is this in-between state you find yourself in - able to see me and
interact with me but really unable to fully partake of the joys of a life we could
have spent together?
Xena took a seat on the bed. She wasn't too sure about the things Gabrielle was
saying but there really wasn't any alternative. Okay, go on.
So, this is the judgment you've set up as punishment. You promised
that you'd never leave me so you can't go on to the next level in the cycle of
atonement. Because of the promise to never leave me, you've sentenced yourself
to a life of oblivion. You're neither dead nor alive. Does that make sense?
Xena blinked a few times, the whole idea of being ultimately responsible for her
own redemption something she'd never contemplated and she wasn't too sure she
could even accept it as truth. Would anything or anyone have made her pay for
her redemption in this way? It was too horrible a fate to even consider.
Gabrielle yawned again. I don't think I've been getting enough sleep, Xena.
Maybe it's all the fresh sea air? She shrugged and settled herself in the
bunk. Blinking deeply at her companion, the bard watched as the warrior began
to pace. What are you thinking about?
Sensing the blonde's growing discomfort, the warrior smiled and resettled herself
against the bulkhead. Oh, just what you said earlier.
Gabrielle yawned deeply, her attention wandering. Oh. Well, I don't know,
Xena. Although I thought it made sense a few hours ago I'm not so sure now. Maybe
we should turn the boat around and find a Japa priest? I'll bet he'd know.
She cringed as Kenji's face resurfaced in her mind. Xena had told how both the
Ghost Killer and the monk had met their fate at the hands of the Dark Lord. 'At
least their souls are at rest.' She blinked deeply, suddenly unable to keep her
eyes open. I wish your soul was at rest, Xena. Xena patted her arm
but was lost to her own thoughts. With one last gentle sigh, the bard drifted
off to sleep leaving a very pensive warrior.
Bits and pieces of their conversation sat jumbled in her mind and Xena began to
methodically pick each piece apart. What if Gabrielle was right? If you'd spent
all your life looking for peace through redemption and had never found it then
it must follow that you don't really want it...or feel you don't deserve it.
Hence the belief that she could only find that redemption through death. She tried
so many times to just give it up, save the day, and just atone through death,
but it just never worked. Xena rubbed her head in thought. She had given
it up totally to Callisto in Hell and surrendered her mortal soul. But was
it enough? She didn't know why but it never felt as if the total debt was
paid. It isn't one religion that will absolve you. It isn't
one power that will judge you. Suddenly it seemed perfectly
obvious that peace and redemption would only be found within the depths of her
heart. She had to believe she was worth it. Xena steepled her fingers
under her chin, deep in thought. But was she? Gabrielle had been the key all along
because she offered up selfless love. There was nothing in it for her to gain,
quite the opposite. Loving someone who is in direct opposition to what you
believe in would be horribly difficult. The words of Lao Ma swam before
her eyes. It's easy to serve someone you love but very difficult to serve
or love someone or something you hate. And didn't she represent everything
that Gabrielle had spent her life despising? Love couldn't be helpless in the
face of cruelty, it just didn't make sense - wrong could never be right.
And then it all made sense. Although Gabrielle had tried to save her through selfless
love, the truth was she couldn't because the only person who could save Xena was
She tucked the blanket a little tighter around the bard's form. Gabrielle moved
slightly in her sleep but didn't awaken. Xena blinked in the darkness, never once
believing that she could ever experience the pleasure of sharing a night with
the bard again. She wasn't too sure why she hadn't disappeared when dusk had fallen
but was pleased anyway. Why look a gift horse in the mouth? And I'm no Trojan.
Where do ghosts go when they dream? Xena had no idea that ghosts could even dream
but it seemed they did. One moment she was sitting near the bard, watching the
bard murmur in her sleep, and the next she was back in the courtroom. This time
there was no jury, no audience, and no counsellors. The only person in the room
was the judge. Xena's curiosity was piqued again as she examined the cloaked figure.
Are you ready for sentencing? boomed the voice. This time, however,
Xena didn't feel any fear nor did she hesitate in any way.
Yes, I am.
And do you feel worthy of receiving this sentence?
Xena frowned. Yes.
Her mouth hung open as the figure pushed back the cloak revealing someone wearing
her face. In fact, it was her, or rather the person she'd been before Cortese.
She didn't know how she knew
she just did.
You have been found guilty of being worthy. Your sentence is up to you.
And with that, the courtroom disappeared and she was back aboard the ship.
She was still sitting against the bulkhead when rays of sunshine began to fill
the cabin. Taking only a few moments to resettle her bracers, gauntlets and boots,
Xena stood up, shook the night's inactivity from her body, and then kissed the
Rise and shine, sleepy head.
Gabrielle groaned. Is it dawn already?
Xena smiled. Yeah, has been for hours. I'm going topside to do my drills.
You coming? The bard yawned and then rolled over.
Gabrielle? Silence. C'mon, sleepy head. I said,
All right, all right
I'm up. I heard you, I did.
A deep chortle echoed in the cabin as the door closed, and Gabrielle fell back
on the pallet with a groan. It's too early, Xena.
The Captain nodded to his shipmate and sipped a new cup of hot tea. He motioned
to another man who promptly went to adjust the sail. His tea finished, the cup
was taken away and the Captain was left alone again. Early morning was his favourite
time of the day. His morning prayers over, he was left to enjoy the birth of a
new day and take pure pleasure in all that life at sea had to offer.
He bowed deeply as the young foreigner came up on deck. He made a mental note
to make sure someone looked in on her a little later. Although the cook reported
that the tray of food had been all but consumed, he was worried. She spent far
too much time alone and some of the ship's crew had mentioned hearing voices coming
from her cabin. Had the grief of losing the other foreigner been so great that
she had been driven mad? He shuddered. For the sake of he and his crew, he hoped
not. Many demons could make their presence felt aboard ship, cursing the inhabitants
to a life of misery and doom. He wondered if it was time to say something to the
Xena finished off another set of intricate drills and was in the act of replacing
some of her armour when the bard strolled up, the katana neatly tucked into the
belt at her waist. Hi, I'm ready for more drills if you are, said
Gabrielle as she felt her knees go weak. She always enjoyed watching the warrior
move through her drills but took great pleasure in any sparring matches with the
woman. 'She's just perfect.'
If Xena was the type who blushed, she certainly would have.
No I'm not.
Gabrielle's head popped up. What?
You said I was perfect. I'm anything but that, Gabrielle. However,
She replaced her sword in her scabbard. I am worthy of the love you feel
for me. Gabrielle looked at her quizzically.
I've figured it out, Gabrielle. In order to be redeemed I have to believe
I'm worthy of it and then just believe it.
Gabrielle's mouth dropped open. That's all? Why couldn't I have thought
of it for you?
Xena smiled, remembering just how many fanciful stories the bard thought up
man originating in the oceans, stars really being planets. She covered a smirk.
And I'm sure you would have, Gabrielle. But you fell asleep so the job was
left to me. She smiled widely as the bard held a hand up. Yeah, yeah
woman of many skills. Then Gabrielle leaned in and kissed the warrior right
on the mouth. Xena peeked over the woman's head, checking to see who might be
watching and then rolled her eyes. No one could see her.
Gabrielle smiled expectantly. Yeah, so?
Xena sorted through her equipment and pulled out the black urn. Well, like
I think I've figured it out. If I believe I'm worthy of atonement
and am therefore redeemed then it should simply be a case of believing that I
am my own judge.
Gabrielle watched the warrior move to the railing with unease. What are
Xena shrugged. Well, I think in order to come back my ashes have to be
don't know, maybe a combination of the two. She shrugged her shoulders and
made a face. I know this isn't the Fountain of Strength but maybe that comes
Gabrielle shook her head slowly. Oh, I don't know about this, Xena.
I want you to do it, Gabrielle.
No Xena, please don't ask me. What if I'm wrong?
I trust you with my life. You have to do it, Gabrielle. Pour the ashes.
what if we've got it all wrong? I'll not only have lost you
but your remains, too.
The warrior smiled and hugged the bard close. It'll be okay. Besides, think
of it this way: I'll be fishing for eternity. The bard nudged her with an
elbow. That's not funny, she sniffled, but laughed a little anyway.
I have to believe we've figured it out, Gabrielle. I have to. She
stood a little taller. I am worthy of redemption, my atonement is
complete, and I'm worthy of not only giving love but accepting it, too.
She smiled as the bard tickled her neck with her lips. Yes, you are. I've
always loved you, Xena, and if nothing else I'm glad that I've finally been able
to tell you.
Xena squeezed her once and then pushed her toward the railing. Go on.
She kissed the woman's head and then stepped back. Closing her eyes and praying
silently, Gabrielle gritted her teeth and then tipped the urn over. A light wind
picked up some of the ashes and they seemed to dance across the water until finally
settling on a wave. The image taking shape almost resembled a circle and Gabrielle
leaned over to take a closer look.
Hey, Xena? Look
does that look like a
hey, it looks like that
mendhi you had on your foot. She turned. Do you see it, Xena?
But the deck was empty but for the Captain who bowed deeply and then settled his
eyes back on the horizon.
Oh, Xena. You'd better be here in the morning or I'll, she wiped a
tear away, I'll find you and never let you go.
The Captain came over a few hours later and placed a heavy shawl around her shoulders.
You must believe. He bowed again, placing the palms of his hands together.
Who are you? she asked in a strained voice. He smiled a secret smile.
I am a Shinto priest, warrior. My bloodline is tied to Akemi's and it is
with her instructions that I offered my boat and my services as your Captain.
She thought you might need guidance but I see that you do not. He hesitated,
his eyes all but caressing the weapon at the woman's side. I would be most
honoured if you would allow me to return the sacred katana to the place of my
ancestors at the end of the voyage.
She smiled. I think Akemi would like that, yes. Then Gabrielle turned
away and looked out across the darkening sky. 'Come back to me, Xena.'
Gabrielle's mind was filled with questions and dark thoughts, jealousy and
vengeance pulling her this way and that. What part did Akemi play now that her
soul was set free? A feeling of panic hit her as she thought of Akemi and Xena
together on the spirit plane. She had seduced the warrior once, would Xena be
susceptible to it again? Pushing those thoughts away, Gabrielle began the task
of emptying her mind of all negativity and centring herself completely. She had
to believe their bond was unbreakable. If the past few days had shown her anything,
it was that Xena's devotion was just as strong as her own. Finally, with much
urging from the Captain, Gabrielle slowly made her way back down to her cabin.
Her muscles were very tight and sore from the damp cold air so she snuggled deeply
beneath the blankets. Beside her on the bed lay the empty urn and Xena's chakram.
Shivering slightly, Gabrielle awoke in the middle of the night and moved a little
in an attempt to find warmth. Sighing contentedly, she murmured sweetly as two
strong arms cuddled her close.
Mmmm, is it dawn already? She opened one eye but saw the room was
still very dark.
No, not for a few hours yet.
Gabrielle grunted noncommittally, and then jerked fully awake, moving a little
until she was facing the warrior. Then how?
The Warrior Princess smiled in the darkness. I guess the verdict was in
The bard sat up and screamed. Really? Oh thank you, thank you, thank you
ever gods were listening, thank you!
Xena smiled in the moonlight. Hey, you're freezing. Let me warm you up.
And then she was pulled down into a kiss and the need for warming a bard vanished.
A few murmurs later, Gabrielle pulled away. You don't have your leathers
on. How accommodating.
Xena smirked at the rising blush heating the hand she had against the bard's cheek.
Well, chortled the warrior, I thought we might start making
up for lost time.
Her mouth was covered with another deep kiss. You thought right, warrior
Xena groaned as her fingers danced lightly across the bard's rapidly exposed skin.
I knew it would be like this. Gabrielle captured the warrior's fingers
and placed hot kisses on each one before nibbling her way up to the wrists. So
Two almond eyes twinkled in the moonlight.
"In a fury of passion, two breaths of wind unite and become as one, and then
disappear into each other. Be well, warrior and bard. Akemi smiled and then
deeply bowed. I will see you again on the next plane, Arminestra."
Final Disclaimer: Although the warrior's body was harmed during the making
of this story, but her spirit rose to the occasion..
'As Time Goes By', by Herman Hupfeld.
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