Disclaimers: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA/Universal/Renaissance Pictures and are used without permission or intent to infringe copyright. This work is not for profit. All other characters and the story itself are my own. This story depicts a loving and erotic relationship between persons of the same sex. This story alludes to violent acts and their consequences. If these concepts offend you, you should be warned. This story is unsuitable for readers under 18.
"Gabrielle, wake up! Wake up!"
Gabrielle came awake with a start and cried out "Noooo..." as she sat up in bed. Xena was sitting there next to her -- what a relief! She felt Xenas arms around her.
"You were crying out in your sleep, darling. I could hear you in the front of the house."
"I had a nightmare. It was awful."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"No...yes. Oh, Xena, you were dead!"
"Ive been dead before." Xena stroked Gabrielles hair gently.
"But..this time you were...oh, bloody gods, I saw your body, and it didnt have a head. It was raining. I was fighting men -- they looked like the men from Chin, but they had long curved swords. I had one too. I was naked, and I had something painted on my back -- some hideous animal. I remember that I had to climb a mountain, and --something about ashes -- your ashes! Oh, Xena, your body was burned...you told me it was for the best...so frightening."
"it was just a dream. Itll pass. Come and eat while its hot."
"Im afraid. Im not ready for breakfast yet." Gabrielle put her arms around her partner and pulled her closer, kissed her. She tried to pull her lover down into the bed, but Xena resisted.
"When I get scared I want you."
"I made breakfast, you ungrateful minx! Now come and eat it! I cooked and it actually tastes good."
"Id rather taste something else."
"You are bad."
"And you love it. Xena, Im traumatized. I need you to heal me." She pouted mockingly.
"How do you do this to me every time?" The dark-haired woman touched her lover, kissed her, and gave her all her attention.
After a breakfast of cold oat porridge and biscuits, they worked in the gardens. Gabrielle tended the fruit trees while Xena did some hoeing, then while they were still sweaty, they sparred with staffs in the yard. Gabrielle had begun to notice that she could get inside Xenas guard more often these days -- once in every twenty tries or so, rather than almost never -- and that worried her. Was Xena slowing down?
They paused to rest and drink. Xena looked admiringly at Gabrielle. What an amazing woman, she thought. She doesnt look older than twenty, but I know shes almost twice that age -- in her body. More than than on the calendar, of course. And whatever her age, she was beautiful. And such an enthusiastic lover! Im a lucky gal, Xena concluded with a pull at the coarse homemade wine she was drinking. She stared at Gabrielle, knowing that Gabrielle didnt mind. The love of my life. Whod have thought it?
Gabrielle could hear the phrase in her own mind. The love of my life. My own true love.
They sat together on the open porch of their little house, not talking, each in her separate whorl of thoughts. Xena sighed. One of the wonderful things about living with her for so long was that we could sit like this in silence and just -- be.
But the silence reminded Xena of a question she wanted to ask. She said , "You dont talk so much any more, love. Why is that?"
Gabrielle cocked her head to one side, considering. "I dont know, but I know youre right. Contentment, maybe. Its not for lack of stories -- I have hundreds spinning round in my head. I just dont need to chatter as much. I know someone cares that Im here. I dont need to demand your attention."
"No, thats true." Xena leaned over and kissed Gabrielle tenderly. "You have it."
They embraced and kissed for a time, then Xena said "Im filthy. Lets swim."
They walked to the pond behind the house, above the dam they had built even before they built the house. It was warm; this island, farther south than either of them had ever been, never knew winter. And here in the center, in a little valley between two mountains, was a perfect choice for a love nest; cut off from the rest of the world, and out of sight of the sea. The sea had too many bad memories. Their valley was fertile and green, and it rained when it needed to and was warm all the time, they grew all they needed and made the rest or did without. What they did without mostly was weapons. Xena and Gabrielle still had their old swords, hung on the wall of the main room of their house, along with Gabrielles sais and the chakram. the only time they got the dust shaken off them was when either felt an urge to practice. Only to keep in shape; there was no one to fight.
They took off their light tunics and stepped into the pond. Gabrielle stepped up to her lover and gently touched her on her stomach, still flat and strong; but her fingers traced the hard line of the long scar running across the entire width of her body. It was the worst wound she had ever seen, and she remembered of all the times Xena had died or nearly so, this had been the final time, when she had taken Xenas destiny into her own hands and given it a rough shake. "No more!", she had said to herself and the semi-conscious form of her beloved, "no more will I let you endanger yourself for anyone! We deserve a time of peace!" And she had taken Xena to the healers of Aesculapius. Hippocrates had still been there, now an old man, but still bright of eye and keen of mind. They had struggled to save Xenas life, and again Gabrielle had held vigil beside a barely-breathing companion. It had taken almost a year for Xena to be whole enough to walk across a room, longer for her to be able to ride or fight. During that time they had many conversations, and she had finally convinced Xena to see her way. There were other heroes; let the younger ones do their share of saving the world from evil. Xena had atoned enough. How much penance must she pay? In that last great fight she had secured the throne of a wise king, Charles, who had come to be called the Magnificent. He had united the barbarians under one empire, brought peace to the world, and was a patron of bards, artists, musicians, a giver of law, a builder of justice. How much more could Xena give the world, how much more could be asked of her? Yes, her early life had rested on thousands of corpses; but in her later life she had saved so many more lives, and taught many more to do the same. Her place was secure. All Gabrielle wanted was whatever life was left to them, together, unmolested by vengeance or its ghosts.
So they had come to this place.
They swam together, talking, teasing, laughing. They walked back to the house in the late afternoon, to tidy up and make supper. Then Gabrielle would write, and Xena would sometimes sing, and Gabrielle would read what she had written aloud. Sometimes they would read aloud from the few scrolls they had; Xenas favorite was old Homers poems. Xena always got teary when she read about the homecoming of Odysseus. "It really wasnt that way, you know. But the blind man tells a good story." Gabrielle had collected a scroll of a poet named Sappho, and it had become her favorite. It seemed as if the poems had been written just for her and her beloved.
Hearing Sapphos poems always got Xena ready for bed.
They would go to bed as the light waned, and there was long, slow, tender lovemaking, sweet and vigorous, bright with laughter and warm with the musk of two loving bodies and souls. Eleven years of this, and neither of them were tired of it. They could spend an eternity at it, for all either of them cared.
Days would go by. Occasionally the nightmare would return, and Xena was always there to love it away. They worked and played and were happy. Happiness was being with you, and it didnt matter which one had the thought. In that they were perfectly in tune.
In the hours before dawn, Gabrielle seemed to wake. She felt an uneasiness. She sat up in bed. The nightmare? No..something else. She looked to her left. Xena lay on her stomach, her muscular back silver in the moonlight. Sleeping. All was peaceful...sleep again...
She turned. In front of her was Xena. But Xena was...she looked again at the sleeping form. Still there. But...the Xena before her was clad in the armor she had not worn in ten years, sword on her back, chakram at her waist. The Warrior Princess. She shimmered. This is a dream, thought Gabrielle, keeping her terror at bay as if she were holding her staff again.
The Xena figure spoke, called her name. "Gabrielle...listen."
"Im listening. How could that be you? Youre right here."
"Gabrielle, this isnt right."
"What? Whats not right?" Fear was beginning to fill her like water in a clock.
"This. You, me, this house, this valley...all of it. Its not right."
"Why? Xena, are you unhappy? Oh, gods, Xena, I was afraid of this, afraid youd get restless and want to start roaming again! I cant...I cant take any more! Not after all this time! I love you...please...stay with me..." Her tears flowed freely and she made no effort to dry them.
"No, Gabrielle, no, if I could Id stay with you forever. But...I dont know why. We are not as we are supposed to be."
"What does that mean?"
"I dont know. Watch the rain."
"Watch the rain. Goodbye, my love."
Warrior Xena was gone. Now there was only the lover Xena, the domestic princess, the friend of her happiest moments, safe and sound beside her in this warm bed they shared. Gabrielle put her arms around her love, kissed her back, needing to feel the firm, warm flesh against her own, needing to feel the vitality, the life coursing through her lovers veins. She felt as if she had had converse with...the essence of evil?
Her lover would make her feel clean again.
Xena rolled over, cradled Gabrielles head between her breasts. Without words she sensed Gabrielles fear and upset, and touched her tenderly to bring her to an awareness of love. Gabrielle kissed her savagely. Her desire was frantic, urgent. Xena knew that something had frightened her darling, and her only purpose at this moment was to comfort her again. Soft kisses became firmer, more intense, and body came to body in growing heat; Gabrielles body tightened, arched; she leapt from the heights of excitement into the free-fall of orgasm. A moment later Xena joined her. Their cries startled the creatures in the woods, shook the night.
Rain fell. The sound soothed them, and as the earliest light began in the east they slept again, Gabrielle cradled against her beloveds shoulder.
"I love you. I always did and I always will. I love you."
"And I love you. Always, forever. I love you. Know that."
The rain. Watch the rain.
In the grey morning light Gabrielle arose and, not knowing why, took the sword from the wall and went out to the porch. The rain came down in sheets; she could barely see the barn.
She could hear sounds behind the rain.
Someone was out there.
This is insane.
Someone is out there.
Gabrielle raised the sword as fear twisted her stomach.
The rain shivered, swelled, contracted. Etched on the silver curtain, streaked with the path of myriad drops, was a face. A mans face. Almond eyes, a drooping mustache. Nut brown like old wood; lined with age. Eyes of a piercing blue, blue as Xenas eyes, blue as the morning sky. The face regarded her, tenderly, pityingly.
She whispered, "Who are you?"
The aged face answered. the voice was like the rain itself, a soft hiss, like the wind in the dry leaves. "You dont remember me, do you?"
"Ive never seen you before."
"Oh, yes you have. I told you you might forget."
"Ive never seen you! Who are you!" She tensed to strike a blow.
"I am Tengri. I am the eternal sky. I am the dome of the world, the blanket of the earth. Now do you know me?"
Something began to stir in her brain...something, something...
"You are starting to remember, arent you?"
"You came to me after you left Jappa. You were shipwrecked and you rode across the heart of the world. There came a time and a place so empty and alone that you were ready to take your life. You had the knife at your throat. And you prayed to whatever god might be listening to give you back your love. You prayed, and I heard you."
"You? Why you?"
"Im supreme in that place. The Great Steppe is mine. I came to you in your despair, and, because you saved the boy, I offered you a gift."
"Boy? What boy?"
"The red-haired boy, the one called Temujin. He will be the savior of my people, their lawgiver, builder of a great nation."
"By conquest. By many deaths. He will take half the world and impose order on it. Something your Xena could have done."
"And I saved him? Memory stirred, deep in her mind. "I saved him..."
"Now do you remember?"
"Some of it. Yes." She lowered the sword and stepped off the porch, into the rain. She bowed her head in shame as the rain streamed off of her hair. "You said I could have anything. Anything."
"And I gave you what you asked for."
"I asked for..."
"...the woman you loved."
Her tears mingled with the rain. "I remember. Dearest gods, I remember." She trembled with weeping.
"I couldnt give her back forever. Ten years, only. Ten years. Not eleven. No more."
"And I asked for ten years of peace with her. I thought it would be enough."
"And was it?"
"You let yourself forget. Like a lotus-eater you sank into the bliss of love. You failed to remember that it was supposed to end, and that you would have to pay for any overtime. The first ten years were a gift. The last year was a loan."
"I will take you back. You must return to your life. But you must return to the time a year before the gift was granted. You must live that portion of your life over."
She tried frantically to remember the events of that time. "Will Xena be..."
"She will not be alive when you return."
"I cant go back."
"I wont! We have had the only happiness we have ever truly known and I wont give it up without a fight! Weve fought gods before and won!" She raised the sword and advanced on the face in the rain.
Xenas voice. Gabrielle hesitated, turned, still holding the sword high. Xena stood on the porch, in a crimson robe, so delicate, so beautiful...
"Hes right. It must end."
"I do now. I should be angry at you, dear one. But Im not. Thank you for these years. Now let it go."
Gabrielle turned to face the god. He smiled slightly. "She knows. Listen to her. Trust her, if you dont trust me."
"You cant hold fate back forever, my love." Xena stepped into the rain, lowered the sword from Gabrielles limp hands. "I should have been in the underworld long ago. I came back...for the same reasons you called all this into being." She nodded to the sky god. "He understood that our chapter wasnt finished. And I forgot, too. Forgot that it wasnt real."
Gabrielle embraced her beloved, weeping, and Xena wept with her. "You have to give me to the other world, my darling. Youve been unselfish all your life. Be that way now. Know I will always love you."
Xena looked into Gabrielles eyes. "Are you ready?" Gabrielle nodded. Xena looked at the face in the rain; it nodded. "Close your eyes, love of mine."
Gabrielle closed her eyes, felt Xenas soft kiss on her mouth, then on her forehead. Then it was gone.
The rain poured down.
She opened her eyes.
The body hung by firelight. Samurai stood about in the courtyard. She looked at the mutilated remains of her dearest love with utter horror, and the horror grew to blinding rage. Her hands grew white on the grip of the sword.
"Give me her head!!"
The rain poured down.
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