by Marion D Tuttle
Standard Disclaimers: I, as you know don't own the characters of Xena, Gabrielle and company they belong to who ever is holding the rights this week. This story is not written for profit and no copyright infringement is intended.
Subtext: Really at this point in my writing it has gone so far past sub- anything. It's right out there. So if the thought of two people that both just happen to be women being in love is offensive to you than this is not a story you will want to read. Having been warned, enjoy, as always I welcome all comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
This story takes up where Part one left off, we see for the first time here the battle Xena is wagging with herself over the decisions she has made and what has happened as a result.
The grey mist swirled through the air, always the same never changing. Well almost never since the last time Xena had been able to leave this void that had become her existence to be at Gabrielle's side she had been granted all to brief glimpses of her bard. Even those were becoming les and less frequent. All that seemed to be left for the noble warrior that had sacrificed her life and her love now was and endless emptiness.
Slowly things had begun to change though and the mist began to part. a little each day. At first Xena had harbored the tiniest glimpse of hope in her heart that she was going to see Gabrielle again. Even if she couldn't go to her at least being able to see her might lessen the pain that seemed to be a constant companion. Then, she wasn't sure when or how it had happened but the pain had slowly begun to fade. Leaving her feeling numb, she even began to forget why she had clinged so fiercely to this place between life and death. It became harder and harder for her mind to grasp what she was fighting so hard to stay connected to the land of the living for. Wasn't she supposed to pass over and find peace at the end of her life? The confusion began to grow each day.
When she had reached the point where everything seemed a haze to her that was when the spirit decided to make her move. The grey mist parted and for the first time in recent memory Xena saw another person. Vague pictures at the back of her mind called out to her. A pair of gentle green eyes floated before her. A voice that calmed her and soothed her when nightmares plagued her hung on the fringes of her mind. A name, Gabrielle seemed to call to her mind to remember but these where all fragments. More and more it seemed the best thing to do would be to just let go of what was holding her here and move on, but move on to what was the question. "Xena, it's good to see you."
"Do I know you?"
The spirit before her lowered her eyes to hide the emotion that was there. She knew that what was happening to Xena had to happen in order for her to achieve her goals. She had to all but wipe the warriors memory clean. Oh she could remember her life to some degree, before she met Gabriele of course but after that it was going to be tricky. It was risky because even some of Xena's memory of her life before Gabrielle was falling prey to the fog but that could be repaired. Once her objective had been completed any memory that she wished to restore to the warrior she could. But for now she had to be very careful. Still it couldn't hurt to let Xena know who she was, after all she had known her long before the bard had come into her life. That would prove to be both a blessing and a curse but at this point the spirit decide to take a risk. "It's me Xena, Akimie"
"Akimie?" The warrior said the name and repeated it in her mind "Akimie...I think I remember....I saved you from the man that kidnapped you...I brought you back home...But that was so long ago wasn't it? What's happened?"
"I'm here to offer you what you have wanted for years Xena, peace."
For some reason, as much as the warrior wanted to accept this simple statement there was something pulling at her. Something keeping her from just blindly accepting what this girl was saying to her. There were very few things Xena knew for certain at this point. She know she had passed beyond the land of the living. She knew that she didn't belong where she was but that was about all she was sure of at this point. Her life before she had died was but fleeting pictures, still there was the nagging feeling that she had left something or someone very important behind. She struggled to remember. Akimie could see her trying to bring the scattered fragments of her memory together. She couldn't believe that it had taken this long. When she had found a way to block Xena from crossing back over to be with Gabrielle she had thought it would only be a matter of time.
Xena had proven to be as stubborn in death as she had in life though. Even though she could no longer be with the bard in the physical sense she had found a way for her spirit to break the boundaries placed on most and had gone to be with her love. Akimie had known though that the farther Gabrielle traveled from Japa the harder it would be for Xena to go to her and that had finally happened. Even then Xena had refused to let go completely of her life and had clung to the land in between, waiting and hoping for occasional glimpses through the portal into the world of the living. Akimie had found a way to stop that though. She had sent out friends in the spirit world to quite the call that had come from the bard's heart to her warrior. As Gabrielle had become more and more numb to the pain of losing her warrior the weaker their connection had become. Now that Akimie was so close to her goal of getting the warrior to surrender to the idea of peace at last the remaining shreds of her memory that got in the way became a growing source of frustration for her.
"Xena, it gives me pain to see you this way. There is no need for you to stay here anymore. Why do you torture yourself? If you just let go we can be together, they way we were meant to be. You can find the peace that has eluded you for so long."
"Peace" She said the word as if it were a prayer. A wish she somehow knew she wanted very much and yet there was something that seemed to hold her to this place. But she couldn't think to save her soul what it was at this moment.
Akimie reached out and took Xena's hand in her own. "All you have to do is let go of your past life Xena. There is nothing there for you anymore. Trust me and together we can start on our new life, our eternal life. It's what you want, you know that and it's what you deserve."
Xena looked down at the smaller hand she held in her own. Could it really be that simple? Could she end the feeling of emptiness and the longing that seemed to come from nowhere and go on forever that easily? Would it be so wrong to let this gentle girl show her to a land where she could finally feel at peace? She looked into the brown eyes that reflected so much. Was it love she saw there? She didn't know any more. She somehow felt connected to this young woman. Something told her they shared a history. Maybe what Akimie was saying was right. Maybe they were destined to be together and the reason Xena was feeling the yawnig emptines in her heart was because she was fighting so hard against what was meant to be. "I don't know Akimie...Maybe your right..."
"Well how about it Gabrielle? You say you love Xena enough to fight for her. But just how far will you go, Would you risk your own life to bring her back?"
Ares was taunting her and she knew it, what she couldn't understand was why. "You know I would do anything to bring Xena back."
"Just how far are you willing to go?"
Gabrielle could feel her anger mounting. It was the first time in over a month that she could honestly say she felt anything at all. For the breifest of momenst she could have almost sworn she felt Xena standing beside her again. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. Drawing her sais from her boots she pointed them at Ares "Damn it Ares I'm sick of talking in circles! If you have something to say to me come out and say it or leave me the Hell alone!"
"You can get Xena back but you have to be willing to put up the fight of your life. You have to start feeleing again Gabrielle. Don't bury your pain, embrace it, use it. Let it motivate you to do what you have to."
Gabrielle stood there she was stunned beyond words at what Ares was saying to her. He had come to her before but she had not really paid any heed to his words. She thought he had only been there to tormente her. She had to admit what he was saying was true though. She had shut her heart down. She hadn't allowed herself to feel because she was afraid the pain would consume her. Now she felt the emotions pour through her. She felt the pain, the anger, the confusion even a sense of betrayal for Xena not choosing to come back to her but more than anything she felt love. She felt the love for her warrior and an overwhlming sense that this was not yet over. The anguish was evident in her voice when she cried out one single word "Xena!" and collapsed into Ares arms.
Holding the limp form of the small woman Ares was at a loss "Great, just great I try to stir her up to fight for Xena and she collapses on me."
A golden shower of pink and golden light appeared before him. "This is a good thing Ares."
"Aprodite, you'll forgive me if once again I don't get where this is going. But how can Gabrielle being passed out cold when she is supposed to be fighting to get Xena back a good thing?"
The goddess moved to smooth an errent lock of hair from the bard's brow before taking the burden of her from her brother and settleing the small woman into a comfortable position on a lounge that just happened to appear with a wave of an elegant hand. "Gabrielle is exactly where she needs to be Ares. She has moved into another relm where she will be able to reach Xena and they will be able to reconnect. it is the only hope Xena has of being restored to life. We need to watch over Gabrielle's body while she fights the battle only she can fight."
Xena felt herself being pulled closer and closer to accepting what Akimie was saying to her. Why was she fighting so hard against this. She couldn't remeber anymore and she wasn't sure she wanted to. She stood, looking down from her greater height into gentle brown eyes. There was something there that bekoned her and at the same time pushed her to still fight to remember. Remember what she didn't know, she found herself wondering if it was the same for everyone that crossed over. Did they all have to suffer through this? "I do want peace Akime, I want to let go of the pain. I don't even understand why I'm hanging on anymore."
Akemie felt for the first time since this had all started that her goal was well within reach. "Then do it Xena, just let go of the pain and confusion that hold you here. Come with me and everything will become clear to you again" Pulling gently on the hand she still held in her own she felt no resistance coming from the warrior. 'This is it' she thought.
"Xena" a voice called to her from the mist "Xena, hold on I'm coming for you."
The warrior shook her head to clear her thoughts, confussion once again setteling over her feautres. Seeing the hesitation Akimie urged Xena to follow her. "Xena, come on the peace you want so despreatley is within your reach."
"Xena, it's me Gabrielle."
The name settled on Xena like a warm blanket "Gabrielle?" She wasn't even sure if she had repeated the name only in her mind or if she had said it out loud. It became clear by the reaction on the small woman's features in front of her that she had said something and it had definatly gotten Akimie's attention.
Fragments started coming together again in the warriors mind. Sea green eyes that looked at her with understanding and love. Soft blonde hair that felt like silk under her fingers. Fighting side by side. Sitting near a fire at night shareing in companable silences knowing that words were not always needed to convey emotions. Loylaty, love, hope, completness. Emotions began timbling over each other. Scences of a life she had left behind played out in her mind. Then it came again, the pain, the pain of knowing that even though what she had wanted to do was pure in motive her actions had been wrong. Leaving her life behind to right what she had felt was an unforgivable wrong had thrown her into this void. It was all slowly staring to come back. She screamed out the name that had been pushing at the fringes of her memory "Gabrielle!"
As if answering to the call from her warrior Gabrielle stepped from the mist, the katana she had carried with her since Xena's death drawn and at the ready. Noticing that Akimie still had a grip on Xena hand the bard moved forward slowly. "Get away from her Akimie." She drew the words out slowly so that there was no mistaking her intent.
Akimie let Xena's hand drop but made no move to distance herself from the warrior. "Your too late Gabrielle, Xena wants peace, I can offer her that. What do you offer her? More pain? Having to continue living with the past mistakes she has made? If you love her as you claim surely you will will admit she desrves better than that."
Xena stood looking at the two women. Seeing the compact blonde standing there sword in hand had stirred many things in the warrior's mind slowly the grey mists that had envolped her began to clear. It was her Gabrielle standing there, ready to fight for her. But what good would it do? With the return of her memory came the return of the knowledge of why she was there. Nothing had changed Xena could not condemm 40,000 souls to an eternity of torment. She did owe them peace didn't she?
Gabrielle could see from the expression on Xena's face that emotions were wagging a war in her mind and heart. "I do love Xena Akemie, with all my heart. That's something you couldn't possibly understand. We don't agree on much but there is one thing we do agree on. Xena deserves to have peace and she deserves the right to choose her own destiny." She lowered her sword "However you left one key element out before she makes a desicion that is going to detimine her eternal fate don't you think she should have all the facts? Doesn't she deserve the truth?"
A ghostly white pallor overtook Akimie's features. for the first time since she had appeared Xena spoke to her soulmate. "What do you mean the truth?"
"There are things you don't know Xena. You have been lied to and I think before you decide not only your fate but mine you need to know the whole truth." Keeping her eyes on Akimie she moved closer to Xena she reached out and brushed her fingers lightly against the warriors cheek. "You carry such a burden Xena, more than you should. It's true you have done somethings in your life time that were horrible. But Xena you are taking the weight of guilt for something that you shouldn't be. I tried to understand what you were saying to me on MT Fuji and if it truly been the right thing I think I could have accepted it. But it wasn't right then and it isn't right now."
The restoration of Xena's memory was nearly complete when she felt the touch of her souldmate. She knew that she hadn't started to slip into nothingness until she had ceased to feel Gabrielle's heart and soul call to her from the other side. It was then that the mist had begun to settle around her. She drew Gabrielle into her arms much to Akimies dismay. "I'm so sorry Gabrielle." Please believe me I never wanted you to be hurt by any of this...But I don't know what I can do now..." Her words trailed off. This was the first time Gabrielle could ever remeber seeing the woman she had come to love this way. She was unsure, something Xena had never been in life.
"I can see there is only one way I am going to convince you that this burden should not be yours to carry." Looking out into the mists that had retreated around them Gabrielle called out "Eli, help me."
The appearance of their old friend took Xena by suprise. "Eli, I'm glad to see you but how..?"
His eyes looked at the two women that had become very important to him. He had been a teacher in his life but the fact was they had taught him valuable lessons as well. He had spoken and taught of the power of love But Xena and Gabrielle had been in many ways the embodiment of what he had taught. "It's very simple Xena, you have a mission to complete and you needed help to see things clearly. That couldn't happen though before Gabrielle found herself again." Turning to the smaller blond woman he gave her a smile that belied the seriousnes of the situation they were all in. "You had me worried there for a minute. I never thought I would have to relay on Ares to stir a response from you."
The clarity Xena thought was returning to her seemed to slip a little at the mention of the God Of War. "What could Ares have to do with any of this? Not that I am about to protest his innocence in anything but this really doesn't involve him."
"Yes it does Xena, in a way. You see Akimie here had a plan to make you forget your entire life. She was so focused on having you to herself. She knew the only way she could do that was to wipe me from your heart and mind for all time. The only reason you clung to this place in limbo is in your heart you knew once you fully crossed over you would be forever seperateted from me. The fact that my emotions shut down and weakened the connection between us only served to help her in her goal. She wanted to take everything away from you Xena your memories of your life, even after she had robbed you of your life."
"What does all this have to do with Ares?"
Eli picked up the thread of the story "I asked him to help."
Xena couldn't believe what she was hearing. "You asked Ares for help? Help in what?"
"You needed to hear the truth Xena but Gabrielle, the one person that could reach out to you had shut down herself. She was so lost with out you the only way she could deal with the pain was to bury it deep inside. She buried it so deep that it got to the point where she couldn't even feel."
A bitter taste rose in Xena's mouth. "I know what that's like" The fact that her sweet and loving bard had been so scarred was like a knife in her own gut.
He continued on. "It seemed the only way Gabrielle could feel anything was to tap into the anger she felt over your death. Who better to inspire anger than Ares?" He stopped for a moment to let her digest everything he had said.
Xena lowered her eyes. "Maybe it would have been better if you hadn't interfered Eli. I appreciate the fact that you were only trying to help but what has it changed. I still can't come back and now Gabrielle is open to all the pain again."
"Your wrong Xena there is a choice but you have to hear the truth and there is only one person that can tell you that."
Her gaze turned to the bard. "Gabrielle?"
This was where Ares influnce in helping Gabrielle was going to be the most important. "No Xena it isn't me." Her hard gaze turned to the young woman who up until now had remained fairly quite. "Tell her the truth Akimie."
"I don't know what your talking about."
Gabrielle advanced on the younger woman. "Oh I think you do. They only way that Xena can be released at this point is if she hears the truth about what happened all those years ago and she has to hear it from you. Otherwise her guilt will hold her here in limbo for all eternity."
"There is another way, she can find peace with me she only has to."
Gabrielle finished the sentance for her "She only has to give up every thing and everyone she ever loved. Everyone that is except for you. You talk about what Xena deserves, she deserves to know the truth."
Tears were streming out of the young girls eyes now. "You don't understand! Xena and I were meant to be together, to spend eternity together If things had gone like I planned she never would have known you. She doesn't belong with you...her place is with me."
Xena watched the two women face off her memory had been fully restored to her and her heart was overflowing with the fact that Gabrielle was near her again. It hadn't escaped her notice that the bard kept her body tense and ready for action at any moment. Was she preparing for a fight? The answer to that question came in the next thing Gabrielle said. "You talk of destiny Akimie, let me tell you about destiny. Xena and I have both cheated death more than once to come back to each other. The love we have for each other trancends anything you could grasp. You never loved Xena, you may have been infatuatied with her but you never loved her. If you did you could never have done what you did to her. You used her and then set her up to die admit it damn it!"
Eli moved to calm the bard "The truth has to come from Akimie Gabrielle."
Seeing the scene that was playing out before her Xena took action. She stepped to Gabrielle's side taking her hand in her own she looked at Akimie and said to simple words. "Tell me." When she refused to raise her eyes to meet those of the warrior she asked again. "Tell me the truth Akimie"
For the breifest moment Akimie thought of fighting the bard that was standing so defintly before her, but something told her that would be a battle she would never win. This woman, although she had lost her way for a while in the grief that had clouded and hardened her heart loved Xena enough to cross the barriers of death. She truly was Xena soulmate for the first time in her existance Akimie saw that going for her own selfish aims would bring nothing but pain to everyone including herself. Even if her plan to rework Xena's memory had succeded she never would have had the warrior the way she wanted her, heart and soul. Those things were the sole possesion of the bard. "It's true Xena, I lied to you. I lied to you over and over again. I thought I was doing the right thing. I felt we belonged together...From the first moment I met you I knew that we shared a bond..."
Xena was caught between pity for the young woman before her and a growing anger for the betrayl that was being reveled to her. "I don't want to hear this!" She started to turn away but a gentle squeeze to her hand brought her attention back.
"Xena you have to, I know it's going to be hard for you to hear everything but you have to. It's the only way that we can make things right."
Even at this stage Xena still wasn't sure what good it would do at this point to hear everything but something in Gabrielle's eyes reached out to her. "You right, I've never run from the truth before. I'm not going to start now. Go on Akimie."
"I loved you Xena but I knew I didn't have the courage to do the things that needed to be done. I could have just left with you and left everything behind but I hid behind honor. At first I had hoped to get you to kill my Father for all the pain her had brought to my family. He had made my Mother's life one of pain and degridation and my Brothers and Sisters didn't fair much better. Yodoshi always felt everything centerd around him. People, even his own children were nothing more than a means to an end for him. The only reason I escaped his wrath is because a ran away. The pirate in Chin had not kidnapped me as you had believed. I had gone with him willingly, thinking he would take me away from my Father." Her eyes clouded over as she related her story "But he had no intenetion of keeping me with him he planned to ransom me back to my Fahter. What he didn't know was my Father would have simply killed him when he showed up to collect the ransom. When I saw you, I had heard stories of the Great Warrior Princess. I knew if I could make you feel love for me you would protect me and if you felt my Father was a threat to me you would kill him."
The warrior's features looked like the were set in stone as she listened to the story being related to her. Outwardly she appeared calm but underneth a torrnet of emotions were at play. "If you had heard stories of me then Akimie than you should have known I didn't love anyone or anything then I was interested in one thing and one thing only. The rage that burned in my heart was what drove me. I used people Akimie." A bitter laugh escaped her "But it's starting to sound like you know a thing or two about that your self."
Gabrielle could feel the emotions that were corsing through Xena. She hated to see her soulmate in this degre of pain but she knew there was no other way. She leaned into the warrior offering her strength and support for what was yet to come.
"I thought I could make you love me Xena or at least want to keep me around. I lost my heart to you the moment I saw you. You may not want to admit it Xena, even now but you felt something for me, I know you did."
She couldn't deny that the young woman had touched her heart back then. "Your right Akimie, I can't deny I felt something for you then and I can't say what would have happened if things had been diffrent. I didn't want to feel and I fought against it but you did touch something in me." Her featured hardened "But I can tell you that what ever feelings you may have stirred in me pale in comparrison to what I have with Gabrielle. She is the one that truly taught me what it means to love." Despite the gravity of the sitioation Gabrielle couldn't help feel her heart lighten at her lover's words.
Akimie went on with her story "I saw when we got closer to my Father's home you were not going to kill Yodishi. I knew I had to do it I couldn't allow him to do the things he had done before.." Her voice broke and for the first time since this all start Gabrielle felt the pity in her heart start to show through for this young woman. "Are you saying that your Father?"
"He was pure evil, he said it was my duty to do the thing for him my Mother would have had she lived..." Her voice trailed off pain and shame reflecting in each word
Both bard and warrior felt a lump in their throats. It was clear this young woman had sufferd great evil at Yodoshi's hands. Still Gabrielle refused to let them give in to the emotions that were threating to overtake them. She was here for one purpose and one purpose only at that was to restore Xena's life. She pushed down her natural response to comfort the woman before her still suffering from the things that had been done to her. "We understand that what happened to you, to your family was horibble. But your not completly innocent in all this Akimie."
To everyone's surprise Akimie bowed her head. "No I'm not. Xena I used what you taught me to kill Yodoshi, but that isn't the worst of it. I knew when I asked you to take my ashes to my family shrine to restore my honor that the townspeople would never allow it. I knew they would stop you..."
Xena felt yet another betrayal heaped on her by someone she had thought cared about her. "You mean you knew they would try, you never thought I would end up starting a fire that would kill so many people and leave me with so much blood on my hands. How could you....No you didn't plan for that fire to break out, but you did know I would fight didn't you? You just thought I would be over whelmed with grief that I wouldn't be able to fight them off. You thought they would kill me didn't you!"
Tears were flowing freely from Akimie's eyes now. "Xena...try to understand. I did it for you, for us, it was the only way we could be together. It was the only way we could full fill our destiny..."
The anger surged in Xena now "For us! There isn't any us there never was. My destiny was never with you Akimie if it had been you would never have done all you did. You wanted me to take care of you, to restore your honor. That's a joke you have no honor to restore! And as if that treachery all those years ago wasn't enough you call out to me to came to your aid years later and like a fool I come running. Now because of you I have lost everything. I can't find peace knowing what I did to all those people and I can't go back. You have condemmed me to a fate worse than death."
Gabrielle raised a reassuring hand to Xena's face. "You can come back love. Don't you understand you don't have to give your life for these souls because your were never resposible for what happened it was a tragedy but there was not any evil intenet in your actions. Akimie used your grief to make you carry out her own plans. She thought you would die at the hands of the villigers that wanted to stop you and that you would spend eternity with her."
"I do understand Gabrielle And believe me there is nothing I want more than to come back to you. But how can I? I lost the chance to make that choice after the second sunset after my death."
"There is a way." Gabrielle turned to Akimie "You have to release Xena, they only way that can happen is if you take on responsibility for what happened. It's you, not Xena that should be making atonement for these souls."
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