A Solstice to Remember
Disclaimer: Story mine. Characters not.
Written November 14, 2008
Gabrielle felt her heart pounding in her chest as she ran through the forest. Her breath coming in short ragged gasps. She was going to be too late, she knew it. There, what was that? Xena’s Chakram on the ground covered in blood. There was so much blood.
“No!” she screamed as she shot up in bed.
Movement beside her and then she felt Xena’s hand slowly rub circles on her back. “Shhh, love, it’s ok. I’m here, I’m real.”
“Gods,” Gabrielle breathed. “You’d think after five years they’d start to go away.”
“They always hit you pretty hard this time of year,” Xena said, pulling the smaller woman into a hug.
“Solstice. I still remember that one like it was yesterday. It was going to be my first Solstice without you,” the petite blonde sighed.
“Tell me about it,” begged Xena. It was the one story Gabrielle never told. She never talked about their time in Jappa or the few months between Xena’s death and Gabrielle finally finding a way to bring her back.
Gabrielle took a deep breath. “Ok,” she said quietly. “It was the day before Solstice when Akemi appeared to me. She told me how sorry she was and that she’d lied to you. Akemi finally realized how wrong she was to try to keep you with her and how miserable you were. I guess in the end she really did love you because she told me that there was still a chance that I could save you.”
“Yeah,” prodded the warrior princess.
“Yeah,” breathed Gabrielle. “But there was a catch. I had to place your ashes in the Fountain of Strength before sunrise on Solstice Morning. It had to be then because that is when the souls of the dead are closest to earth… or so Akemi said.” Gabrielle shook her head, once again feeling the despair. Akemi had held out hope for her only to dash it away again by giving her an impossible task.
“‘It is not impossible,’ Akemi said, ‘You will find a way.’ Then she vanished. I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat there and cried.”
Xena lay down and pulled the smaller woman with her cradling the blonde head against her shoulder.
“I don’t know what happened, but the next thing I knew Ares was standing there.”
Xena hissed a sharp intake of breath. She had not expected him to play into the story.
“He asked me if I really wanted you back and I told him ‘Damn right’. So he told me that he could take me to Jappa… for a price, but he wouldn’t tell me what it was until you were back.”
“Bastard,” Xena swore.
“No, no, it was ok. I knew that no matter what he asked it would be ok, we’d be together,” Gabrielle smiled. “I got my stuff together and he took us to the crypt so we could get your ashes. Then with a snap of his fingers we were in Jappa… at the base of the mountain. I just stared at him but he said, ‘I could only bring you here, you have to do the work yourself.’ Hoping this was his price I set out to climb the mountain. It was just as hard as I remembered from before, but at least this time around I didn’t have a crazy Samurai trying to stop me.”
“I climbed and climbed, only stopping for brief rests when my arms and legs couldn’t handle it any more. That last bit was a killer. I don’t know if it was your fight with Yodoshi that did it or what, but the path I used before was gone and I had to scale that last vertical cliff… again. But I did it. I stumbled over to the fountain but my way was blocked… by Ares.”
Gabrielle paused at the warrior’s growl. She chuckled. “It’s ok… you’re here, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Xena admitted grudgingly, “but I’m just worried about when he’s going to call in this favor.”
“He already did, Xena.”
“What?” cried the raven-haired woman.
“Right there at the Fountain of Strength he told me I had to do three things,” the warrior-bard smiled. “First, I had to admit that I was as much of a warrior as you.”
Xena snorted and Gabrielle slapped her in the belly to quiet her. “Coulda told you that myself,” Xena muttered.
“Second I had to make an honest woman out of you and marry you.”
The warrior princess squeezed her tight, “I’m not complaining about that one. I don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner.”
“Me neither, but I’m glad we did.”
“What was the third thing?”
“He told me that we had to give him grandchildren.” She grinned as their bedroom door burst open.
“Maia, Mama! Happy Solstice!” cried two children as they ran across the floor. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl helped her younger, dark-haired, green-eyed brother onto the bed.
“Happy Solstice kids!” the mothers chorused in unison.
Story by: Akiela Xal
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