Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, Solan, Kaliepus, Borias, Marcus, and Lyceus belong to their creators at Ren Pic. No copyright infringement is intended.
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As Xena's steps became harder and harder to take, her mind screamed out for her to turn around. Turn around and embrace the boy she had given birth to, the boy she had loved as he grew inside of her. The logical part of her brain knew it wasn't the right thing to do but every other fiber of her being rebelled.
"I just have to make it to the trees," she thought as she struggled to pick up each foot. It was like a bad dream where something is chasing you but you can barely move. Only, the thing chasing her was her own guilt, pain, and shame at having given him up. She remembered what it felt like when Solan was in her body. Every little kick and move was imprinted on her brain. She vividly remembered his birth and the time she spent with him afterwards. He was such a good baby, hardly ever crying out.
She finally, after what seemed an eternity, made it to the trees out of his sight. As her legs gave way, she collapsed against a tree, its rough bark scratching her skin. She could hear him out there throwing stones in the water. Each plink was a dagger to her heart. She should have been the one to teach him that.
After a few minutes, she heard him walk away, her acute hearing picking up the scrunch of sand under his boots. Once she could no longer hear him, she slumped to the ground, tears streaming down her face. A sob tore through her defenses, crumbling them. Her cries echoed amongst the trees sounding more like a wounded animal than a human.
She had no coherent thought. She knew only pain, the pain of a loss she could never get over. Her chest felt ripped open and her heart skewered on a pike. Her soul, shattered. She lay there sobbing and crying until she no longer had a voice, until her throat was raw and her eyes were swollen shut.
She had lost all sense of where she was until a touch on her shoulder brought her sharply back. She twitched and rolled away from the hand only to find Gabrielle's face across from her. She started to stand, not wanting Gabrielle to see her this way, but her strength had seeped away with every tear. She was unable to speak, but she didn't have to. Her eyes reflected all her pain and loss. Gabrielle sat down and gathered her in her arms, holding her tightly against her body. As Xena shook with silent sobs, Gabrielle leaned over and kissed her head.
"Oh Xena," she whispered as her tears were swallowed by Xena's hair.
Gabrielle opened her eyes a while later and realized she had drifted off. The sun was beginning to touch the horizon. Xena lay still in her arms, no longer sobbing. Her breathing was slow and even. Gabrielle was grateful Xena had fallen asleep.
"Xena, I wish I could take back what I said to you," she thought. "I had no right judging you. You did what you thought was right and best for Solan. I hadn't realized that until I spoke those words to him. You always do what's right no matter how much it hurts you. I should have known that from the start."
Xena's breathing changed and she shifted her body until she was lying face up with her head in Gabrielle's lap. Her eyes were red and inflamed, their lids swollen. She lay there for a few minutes staring up into the quickly darkening sky then she sat up.
"Let me get you a washcloth," Gabrielle said as she stood up. Her joints cracked and popped having been in the same position for so long. She returned a few minutes later and began gently wiping the salt tracks from Xena's face. Xena just sat there staring off into the distance allowing Gabrielle to tend to her.
"It wasn't that I didn't want him," she said softly still not looking at Gabrielle who sat back giving her some space. "I desperately wanted to keep him. From the first time I felt him move, I was in love. A part of me really thought that Borias and I could become parents, raise this little person we brought into the world. Love him and each other. But Borias and I grew further apart because I allowed Al…my lust for power to come between us. Borias could see where I was headed but I wouldn't listen to him. By the time I realized how I felt about him, it was too late. During the time I spent with Solan before I gave him up, I came to believe I was not worthy of him. I knew what an awful person I was, what horrible things I had done. I was not worthy of Borias' love and I was not worthy of Solan's love either."
Gabrielle reached out with the washcloth to catch the tears streaming down Xena's face. Xena turned her head away and Gabrielle understood she needed to do this on her own now.
"Giving Solan to Kaliepus was all I could think of. I knew I could never keep him. If he stayed with me, I knew he would either be killed or become a killer. I ruined everything I touched back then. I walked away from him believing in my head I had done the right thing but feeling in my heart that I was betraying us both. I see him now and I know I made the right decision. He's a happy kid who knows he's loved. He's smart too. He got that from Borias."
Xena wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and abruptly stood up. She seemed a little shaky at first and Gabrielle moved to help her.
"No, I'm fine. I'm going down to the water. I'll be back in a bit." She didn't meet Gabrielle's eyes as she turned and walked off.
Gabrielle sat with her back against the tree thinking about Xena and all the things she had given up in her life, all the places she had been and things she had seen…and done. How awful to have given up your child. She still couldn't fathom it. She didn't judge Xena anymore but that didn't mean she understood.
Xena walked to the water's edge, her legs still a little sore from laying on them so long. She bent down and filled her cupped hands with the cool water and splashed it on her face. The coldness of it was a balm to her fevered skin. She hurt all over. Her face was raw just like her soul. She couldn't remember the last time she'd let go like that. She felt completely drained, unable to feel anything else right now. She couldn't believe she had lost it like that in front of Gabrielle. "I haven't shown that side of myself to anyone since….well since I was a kid I guess," she thought to herself. The huge wave of release she felt warred with her feelings of embarrassment. No one saw her like that. As she thought about it, though, she began to realize she didn't really mind that much. Her feelings for Gabrielle had become confusing lately. Ever since she almost died in Thessaly, Xena found herself looking at her in a new light. She was not the young girl she had picked up in Potidaea. Gabrielle had matured. Somewhere along the way she had become a full grown woman and Xena realized how much she trusted her. She nodded her head unconsciously. "Yeah, I do trust her. Huh. What do ya know." She hadn't really trusted anyone since Lyceus except maybe Hercules and Marcus. Still, she doubted she would have been okay with letting them see her as Gabrielle just had.
She splashed one more palm full of water on her face and then stood up. She actually felt better now. Her heart was still shattered but she realized she didn't have to go through it alone anymore. She had been going through everything alone for so long. The thought that she could finally share some of this with Gabrielle lifted a weight off her shoulders she didn't even know she had been carrying. As she headed back to the tree, back to her friend, her step grew just a little bit lighter. Gabrielle's light had begun to illuminate the dark.
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