by Scully

Heart pounding, fingers aching, Gabrielle hung precariously from the mountainside mere inches from her goal. The small urn containing Xena’s ashes laid nestled in a large nest just below her reach. The bard’s strong compact body was near complete exhaustion but the thought of losing her soulmate forever gave her strength she never knew she possessed.

Hope whatever lives in that damn nest doesn’t decide to return home soon. Gabrielle thought between grunts of frustration tying to reach the urn. She managed to drop a few inches lower and find purchase with fingers and feet in small crevasses in the rock face. With one final lunge of her foot, Gabrielle was able to make a small drop kick trap that flicked the urn into the air and up to her outstretched arm. She quickly brought her arm in cradling the urn safely against her chest and finally took the breath she had been holding. "Now that was a move Mia Hamm would have been proud of", she voiced aloud to no one in particular. As Gabrielle clawed her way back up to the top of the mountain she idly wondered just who Mia Hamm was.

Finally scrambling to the top of the rock, Gabrielle gave a quick glance over her shoulder at the rapidly setting sun. Normally sunset was the bard’s favorite time of the day, the calm and beauty always inspired her to write. But not this day. The sun was setting on her life with Xena and she was the only one who had the power in her hands to keep her beloved from forever remaining in the spirit world.

Not this time Xena. You are either staying here with me or I am going with you. I will not have us separated again, not after what we have been through together, she thought with a look of pure determination on her beautiful face. Gabrielle rushed toward the small pool of water in the rock where she must deposit the ashes before sunset in order to return her warrior to the land of the living.

Out of breath, Gabrielle reached the pool and slowly removed the lid to the small black urn and was about to tip the ashes into the water when a strong, cold hand covered hers and stopped her. "Wha …?" she snapped her head up to find herself looking into two grief stricken blue eyes. "Xena! What are you doing?" She tried pulling her hand away to complete her task.

"Gabrielle, no…" Xena’s eyes misted over.

"Xena, what are you talking about! The sun is almost down! I have to…" Gabrielle began to panic.

"I can’t let you do that Gabrielle", the warrior took a ragged breath. "If I come back, those 40,000 souls will be lost forever. I may have freed them from Yodoshi but they haven’t been avenged and for that to happen I need to stay where I am." Xena lowered her eyes as a single tear slid down her cheek. Her soul ached.

The bard was stunned, confused, "What? No, that’s impossible Xena! You redeemed all those souls!" Gabrielle slowly turned her back and covered her face with her hands trying to sort out her raging emotions. Xena remained silent, not able to believe she was asking so much of her beloved bard …again. Gabrielle slowly turned back, tears flowing freely now. "Xena, that’s just not right. Why are you just telling me this now? Have you known this little fact the whole time? Even when you sent me off to retrieve your body?"

Xena slowly raised her eyes finally, blue meeting green. "No," she whispered, "I just found this out and I really don’t know what else I can do. I truly thought I would be able to come back to you, Gabrielle, but I can’t, not without sacrificing 40,000 souls. You would do the same thing if this decision were yours, it’s who we are. It’s who you taught me to be."

"No! I can’t accept this Xena." Gabrielle was becoming angry. "Who told you this and why now?"

"Akemi" Xena answered through the tears, "She thought I wouldn’t help if I knew the whole truth. She just told me when I released her spirit."

Just as Gabrielle was about to explode with a torrent of four letter words that would make a sailor blush, they were surrounded by a sound not unlike the tinkling of tiny bells and with a huge puff of pink smoke Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love herself popped in behind Xena. "Oh puleeezz! That little bitch has been using you forever Warrior Babe, get a giant clue will ya!"

Xena didn’t turn around but visibly stiffened. Gabrielle’s eyes softened with relief as she regarded Aphrodite over Xena’s shoulder. "Boy am I glad to see you, although I could of used your help on the cliff a moment ago," the bard chided in a shaky voice.

"Ah, you had it all in hand, little one. I was watching ya." She glided over in a swirl of pink fabric and heady perfume and wrapped Gabrielle in a soft hug. "Tough day huh?" she whispered close to the bard’s ear.

"You have no idea" Gabrielle choked back a sob.

She released her blonde friend and whirled around to face a very sad warrior. "Well now tall, dark and dead, whaddaya losing your head over now?" Xena and Gabrielle both shot her startled looks. "Oops, poor choice of words there I guess, sorry" she grinned then took on a serious expression. "Look, I know what’s going on. I know the whole story ok? I hate to lay this on you Xena babe but that little tramp, Akemi is trying to trick you into staying in the spirit world … ya know, to kinda keep her company if you know what I mean." She winked. "You have redeemed all those souls. They are finally free from spending eternity trapped inside that gastronomical nightmare." She paused a beat letting the facts sink in and she said mostly to herself, "He musta felt SO bloated with those 40,000 spirits floating around in there. They just passed like a bad case of gas when you lopped off his head." The goddess finished with a giggle.

"So," the truth was dawning in Gabrielle’s expression "Akemi wanted Xena to stay in the spirit world for only one reason …" Aphrodite nodded for her to go on. "She wanted Xena for herself for eternity and the only way to keep her there was the wild story about revenging the souls. Akemi knew Xena would be unselfish enough to stay dead."

"Bingo! You win the prize cutie. And they say blondes are dumb." Aphrodite shook her curls with disgust.

Emotions ran wild over Xena’s troubled features. She opened her mouth to speak, saw the look in her lover’s eyes and words failed her. She had almost been betrayed into leaving her soulmate for eternity. She lowered her eyes unable to meet Gabrielle’s gaze any longer.

"Um Gabby dear, the sun is setting and it will be a moot point in a minute if you don’t get those ashes in the water." Aphrodite wiggled her fingers in the direction of the small pool. "You don’t want that little tramp to end up with your warrior do you?"

"Oh gods!" Gabrielle was shocked back to reality and turned, went to the pool and carefully emptied Xena’s ashes slowly into the clear water. She took her time not wanting any of the ashes to be dust in the wind so to speak because it wouldn’t do having her warrior back missing a few essential parts, like those wonderfully strong hands with those incredibly long fingers …Geez Gabrielle, get a grip! She chided herself as she felt a blush creep up her neck.

When the last of the ashes were poured into the water, the air around them suddenly crackled with static and a blinding flash of light surrounded the warrior driving her to her knees. "Ahhh!" Xena’s head snapped back in agony.

"Xena!" Gabrielle was about to rush forward when Aphrodite put a hand on her shoulder. "It’s ok Gabrielle. Sometimes getting the body back can be as painful as losing it. But she’ll be ok. Give her a few minutes."

The blonde bard stood her ground never taking her eyes of her lover. The light began to diminish and Xena slowly slumped to the ground. Gabrielle turned to the goddess for confirmation to move and Aphrodite nodded slightly "Go to her little one."

Not needing any further prodding, Gabrielle dove forward down onto her knees and lifted Xena’s shoulders gently into her lap. Tears slid silently down the bard’s face and into the raven hair nestled under her chin. "Xena, come back to me, please. You are my life. You are my soul." She gently stroked the smooth warm skin on Xena’s cheek. Warm! Gabrielle’s mind screamed. Xena’s skin was warm!

Dark lashes fluttered open revealing those baby blues, a little glassy but trying to focus on the blonde head hovering above. Xena felt like she had been run over by a chariot. One thing to be said about the spirit world, at least there was no pain, not in the physical sense anyway.

"Hey." Gabrielle said gently through the tears. "You in there?"

"Oh yeah" Xena nodded slightly "I am definitely in this body" and she tried to sit up but didn’t get far "Maybe that’s not a good idea just yet." Plus she was very comfortable in the bard’s warm embrace.

Gabrielle tore her eyes away from her warrior long enough to regard a smiling Aphrodite. "I owe you one, big time."

"Nah. Remember you two restored my godhood. Can you imagine some mortal having to do my hair and nails? As if! Couldn’t have been here without ya." She sauntered over and placed a hand on the bard’s golden hair. "Besides I couldn’t let the dark stubborn one here wreck all the hard work I have put into you two for the past six years. You have certainly been my greatest challenge."

Xena glared up at the goddess and Aphrodite scoffed "That look doesn’t scare me, Warrior Babe" she waved with a flourish and then smiled down at them with affection. "You belong together more than any other mortals or beings in this world or the next. There is not a bond stronger or a love deeper. You are my prize pupils and I couldn’t let someone like Akemi, who has a very strange concept of what love is, separate you two." The goddess tipped her head slightly and grinned. "Besides I didn’t do anything all that much. I just let you in on a little information I knew and hoped it would sink into that thick warrior skull of hers."

Xena was too groggy and frankly too damn happy to fight a verbal war with the Goddess of Love. Plus she did manage to save the day, as it were. She found Aphrodite’s eyes with her own and gave her a slight nod and a ghost of a smile "thanks" was all she said.

Aphrodite snapped her fingers and giggled "Not a problem warrior chicks. I have a real soft spot for you two, especially the little bard here" and she winked at Gabrielle.

"I don’t blame you there" Xena replied absently stoking the bard’s arm.

"Ok, well since you are back in that buff bod of yours I am off like a prom dress at midnight" Aphrodite giggled. "You two stay out of trouble for awhile ok? I mean just chill and enjoy each other. The world can save itself." With that advice and another puff of pink smoke, she was gone.

Gabrielle’s light brows furrowed "What’s a prom dress?"

Xena merely shrugged. Then her expression clouded "Gabrielle … I am so sorry …"She was interrupted by warm fingers touching her lips.

"Xena, you and I, as much as we have loved each other, have always made decisions for the greater good. No matter how much those decisions hurt the other. In our hearts we knew it was the right thing for everyone but us. Akemi played on that trait. She used you. You trusted her Xena and she hurt you. For that I am sorry but I am not sorry we found out in time so I can keep you here with me." Gabrielle rested her chin on the dark head laying against her chest. "Akemi can bite my bardic butt." She stated flatly.

"No, that’s my job." Xena said delighting in the first smile she had seen on the bard’s face in days. Taking a deep breath and slowly releasing it she added with conviction "I guess the time has come for the greater good to be us for awhile, huh my bard?"

Gabrielle responded by holding the warrior in a tighter embrace and whispered softly "you just read my mind."


Gabrielle leaned her hands on the rail of the small ship and lifted her face into the cool sea breeze that gently caressed her skin. The sky was turning crimson with the promise of an incredible sunset. Never thought I would enjoy another sunset as long as I lived, the bard grinned to herself. The last sunset my world was ending. One day later this sunset is bringing a new beginning. The fates have smiled on us again and again and I wonder when our luck with finally run out. I guess I can’t worry about that. But I hope when the luck does run out, it runs out for both of us at the same time because I could never survive without the other half of my soul. I would just be a shell of a human being, no purpose, no heart. Just then she felt a warmth surrounding her that she instinctively knew was not brought on by the setting sun. A smile spread across her fair features even before the strong arms slid around her shoulders.

There were no words for a few moments as Gabrielle leaned back into her partner’s embrace idly thinking it was so much more comfortable when Xena was not wearing the breastplate. The unspoken emotions spread between them like a wild fire and made the blonde’s skin tingle.

"My warrior" she grinned.

"My bard" Xena purred her in ear making Gabrielle’s knees a little weak. "Or should I say ‘my little warrior’ now" she chuckled. "You are pretty damn good with that chakram, not to mention the sword."

"Hmmmm" Gabrielle nodded. "Not something I want to make a habit of. Just something I had to do. Besides..." she turned in the warriors arms and faced her, sliding her hands up the front of Xena’s dark blue tunic. She gave her an admiring once over and continued "I hope I never have to use the chakram again because that would mean you weren’t around to do so yourself. But it is nice to know I can peel a grape at thirty paces." She grinned wrinkling her nose in an expression that never failed to melt the warrior’s heart.

Xena smiled down into the green mist and brushed her fingers over a fair cheek "I love you, my bard, more than life itself. I’m afraid I haven’t been very good at proving that in the past, but no more. You are my greater good from this day forth and forever. That I promise."

Gabrielle looked up into those familiar blue eyes and knew Xena would never break a promise once given. "You have no idea how glad I am to finally hear you say that. You have lived the last six years trying to make up for every misdeed from your past. Over and over you have paid the price, we have paid the price. Literally been to hell and back. I can’t watch you do it any more, Xena. I cannot watch you tear yourself apart for the rest of your mortal life. You have redeemed yourself a thousand times over and it’s time to let go of the past."

Xena nodded in agreement. "I think I can finally do that because I must have done something right to deserve you in my life, and after all I have put you through, here you still are."

Gabrielle stepped back a little "So, there is no one else in your past who is gonna pop up and want your help right?" her eyes narrowed.

"No one else." Xena stated firmly.

"No more Lao Mas?"

"No more Lao Mas"

"No more Akemis?"

"No more Akemis."

"No more gasbag ghost full of 40,000 spirit farts?"

With that the warrior threw back her dark head in laughter. Gabrielle watched with an amused expression because it was so seldom her stoic partner really let loose.

"Oh Gabrielle" she wrapped her in a hug "There is no doubt why you are the bard. You do have a colorful way with words."

"You’re not the only one with many skills" the blonde wiggled her eyebrows suggestively and slid her arms up and around the broad shoulders then ran her hands up Xena’s neck into her raven mane of hair.

Xena peered over the bard’s glorious shoulder and grinned. "By the way, I love the tattoo. Not only did it save your life, but I find it incredibly sexy." Her breath tickled the bard’s ear.

"Well I am glad you do, because I for one, can’t see it, but you, on the other hand, have to see it for the rest of …well, eternity I guess." Gabrielle’s eyes twinkled.

"I think I can handle that." Xena replied running her fingers lightly up the bard’s back. They locked eyes for a few moments and Gabrielle pulled the dark head down into a kiss. It was slow and sensual. Pulses raced, hands explored, time stopped.

Gabrielle breathlessly pulled back but couldn’t look her lover in the eyes for fear Xena would see the tears. Too late.

"Hey" Xena tilted the bard’s chin back up and caught a tear with her finger. "What is it love?"

"Gods, Xena. I almost lost you, again. But I didn’t. You are here, and I am in your arms and the beauty and the pain of that is so overwhelming. It was like a really bad nightmare that will take awhile to recover from it I think. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lose it there." She snuggled back into the warmth of Xena’s arms.

"You have every right to finally let it all out Gabrielle. I put you through hell and you stood by my side with strength, courage and love. And those are the only reasons I am standing here with you right now. You’re love for me reaches even beyond death. My only goal in life now, is to be worthy of that love." Xena smiled gently. "So…" she took the bard’s hand and pulled her towards their cabin "now we begin to heal, together. We have the rest of our lives."

Gabrielle turned her back to the sun just dipping below the horizon and followed her tall companion.

"Did you know one of my many skills is being a great healer?" Xena cocked a dark brow with a leer at the blonde. "I’ve been told I have great hands"

Gabrielle snorted "Yeah thanks to me getting all the ashes in the water."

"Huh?" Xena stopped short.

"Never mind" Gabrielle giggled give the warrior a little push towards the little bit of heaven that waited beyond the cabin door.




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