Could’a, would’a, SHOULD’A
Picture - #12
Disclaimer: Characters not mine. Story (mostly) mine.
“No Gabrielle.” Xena’s hand reached forward to grasp Gabrielle’s holding the urn.
“The souls are free,” Gabrielle replied, puzzled.
“Free from Yodoshi's grasp,” Xena said sadly, “but for those souls to be released into a state of grace, they must be avenged. I must stay dead.”
“Xena, that is not right. I don't care. You are all that matters to me.” Gabrielle blurted out in desperation.
“Don't you know how much I want to let you do this,” Xena replied, her voice heavy.
Gabrielle hesitated a long moment, her eyes searching the warrior’s face. “I’m not sure that I do know anymore, Xena. How much do you want it?”
“Gabrielle, you are everything to me… but if there is a reason for our travels together it was because I had to learn from you enough to know the final, the good, the right thing to do. I can't come back.”
“Can’t or won’t, Xena?” Gabrielle’s eyes, brimming with unshed tears, burned fiercely into Xena’s.
“What is that supposed to mean, Gabrielle? You know that I love you.”
“I am not questioning that. Why can’t you let me resurrect you?”
“I told you… the forty thousand. It is the greater good.”
“Says who, Xena? You already freed those souls and, from what you told me, it wasn’t your fault they perished. They were the ones that attacked you. You didn’t mean for the torch you held to set light to the village. So who says you have to stay dead?”
Xena hesitated a moment or two before saying very quietly, “Akemi”
“AKEMI! Not the same Akemi who befriended you, manipulated you, betrayed you and then broke your heart, by giving you no choice but to kill her by your own sword? Xena, are you telling me that the only reason… the ONLY reason you want to stay dead and leave me forever is based on what SHE said?”
“Why would she lie to me, Gabrielle?”
“I don’t know. Who knows what goes through the brain of someone like that. But it’s a bit thin to give up everything for.” Gabrielle’s voice tailed off with a plea. “Isn’t it?”
“I can’t take the chance… forty thousand souls, Gabrielle… the good doesn’t get much greater than that.”
Gabrielle’s shoulders slumped and her head dropped forward as she spoke in a resigned voice. “You were my greater good, Xena. I thought…” her voice caught. “I hoped that I was yours.”
“Gabrielle, I will always love you. I will never leave you.” Xena’s voice cracked.
Gabrielle snorted. “What are you going to do, Xena, haunt me? Why don’t you just go and let me get on with the rest of my life. It’s obviously what you’ve decided you’re going to do.” She turned away from Xena and the Fountain of Strength, the urn still held tightly in her grasp.
Xena watched Gabrielle walk slowly away, her heart breaking with every step that her friend took, bringing back, afresh, memories of times when she had thought she had lost Gabrielle; the time that Gabrielle almost died in the temple at Thessaly, the fall into the lava pit with Hope and the moment when Gabrielle had almost turned to stone in Aiden’s paradise. She relived the feelings of loss and emptiness that they evoked and suddenly transposed those feelings onto Gabrielle. The sound of the penny dropping was deafening as she realised what she was condemning her soulmate to with her decision. This wasn’t only about her any more.
“Gabrielle, stop. I won’t do this to you. You ARE my greater good. Please!”
Gabrielle’s heart leapt in her chest. ‘Thank the gods!’ she thought with relief as she glanced up at the Western horizon, seeing barely a sliver of sun still visible over its darkened edge. She turned, drew back her arm and threw the urn with every ounce of strength at the wall behind the Fountain. It shattered, scattering Xena’s ashes into the pool below. Xena disappeared!
“Xena? XENA?” Gabrielle hesitantly took a step back towards the Fountain, her eyes wide in a mixture of panic and expectation. She looked back over her shoulder to the horizon where nothing of the setting sun remained visible, only the fading glow in the sky betraying its passage. “Oh no!” she whispered.
The sound of splashing and spluttering snapped her head back around to face the Fountain once again. “XENA!” She ran back to help her tall, wet and naked soulmate step out of the pool. She crashed into her and wrapped her arms tightly around her feeling the embrace firmly returned. “Oh, Gods!” she mumbled into the damp skin.
After a few moments Gabrielle pushed herself away from the embrace and thumped the side of her fist, hard into the centre of Xena’s chest. “DON’T… you… ever… do…that…again.” She took a shuddering breath, her anger momentarily appeased, before she continued quietly. “Please!” Her voice cracked as tears trailed over her cheeks.
Xena drew her back into the embrace and was heartened to feel the bard’s arms wrap warmly around her again. “I am so sorry, Gabrielle. You are everything to me. I love you.” She whispered.
Xena felt Gabrielle stiffen in her arms and the bard pushed herself away from the warrior once again. “I hope you don’t think that sorry fixes this, Xena.” She said, freeing herself from the embrace and turning away. “Come on, let’s get off this damn mountain.” She began walking briskly towards her horse.
“Gabrielle?” Xena started and stopped, struggling for what to say. “Um, it’s cold out here, in the dark.” She winced at how pathetic that sounded.
Gabrielle stopped and without turning said. “You know what, Xena? Welcome to my world.” She resumed her walk.
Xena shook her head and hobbled across the rocks after her soulmate wondering how many backrubs would be needed to clean up the mess, but thankful nonetheless that she would at least have the chance.
Story by: IAN HAYES
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