Disclaimer: MCA/Universal/RenPics own all copyrights to everything related to Xena: Warrior Princess and I have no rights to them.
Violence : No
Subtext : Yes
Sex : No
Thanks to Mslez for possibly the quickest turnaround beta read ever.
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Gabrielle stared down at the woman lying on the makeshift stone table in front of her. Her emotions were so raw, she wasn't sure what she was feeling, or even if she was feeling anything at all. Everything was washing over her at once, making her numb and confused and so lost, she wasn't sure what to do.
Shock, I must be in shock. This is what it feels like.....nothing and yet... everything … all at once.
Her eyes followed the familiar contours of the face she was leaned over. So beautiful her friend was, so perfectly formed, that she couldn't resist. She reached out a finger and did something she had always longed to do. She gently traced the strong lines of the jaw, the high cheekbones, the expressive brows and smooth forehead. She lingered over the once soft lips she had dreamed of kissing for so many nights but now would never have the chance to taste. The pang of loss that sliced through her at that realization caused her to halt her exploration for a moment before she leaned down hesitantly and took the opportunity to press her own lips to the cold stiff ones of her secret love for a few brief seconds. As she pulled away, one thought emerged loudly amidst the others that were bouncing around inside her.
So cold. Gods, she's so cold . Should I cover her? I should cover her.
The stricken bard went to the saddlebags that had been unceremoniously dumped in a corner days ago, when her partner had still been alive but grievously injured.
A blanket, just a blanket, that's all she needs. Don't look at anything else, don't touch anything. Don't think at all. You can't do that yet. Xena needs a blanket. She's cold.
She rummaged around, mindlessly searching in the pack that her brain knew the blanket wasn't in. In her fractured mind, every memory ever associated with the woman lying behind her was flashing endlessly by as she grasped and released the items in the bag confusedly. She tried to block them out, and was almost successful, until she happened upon the solstice lamb. The small beginnings of a chasm full of the unknown opened somewhere inside, and her soul moaned with the heartbreak that spilled forth in its creation.
Quickly, she drew back from the precipice her sanity teetered over with the memory of the first holiday spent together and the affectionate words that had come from Xena after Gabrielle had said she had no gift to give in return.
No. Stop. You must stop if you're going to survive this.
She gathered the blanket lying beside her and abandoned the memory of another lost chance before it destroyed her.
My best friend, my heart, my love, my whole world...
She covered her friend with the warm blanket, all the while knowing it wasn't going to do any good, but feeling like she should. She took up what had became her normal position, kneeling beside and leaning slightly over Xena's body, positioned to soak up the vision of the beautiful woman laying prone. Absentmindedly, she tucked in the edges of the blanket so no draft would infiltrate the warm cocoon and chill the permanently cold skin. She smiled to herself as she realized what she was doing.
In the past, when she was worried about Xena, she had always mothered her. It had been second nature to the nurturing blonde, and it never failed to surprise the battle hardened woman she called friend. Gabrielle had known that however obvious the annoyance Xena showed the outside world was, she secretly delighted in the attention no matter how gruff she was with her. Those beautiful blue eyes would warm with every small gesture of concern, and the smile that creased her face would be so soft, so personal...
Her self preservation instinct kicked in just in time again, and the memories she was trying to fall into were shut down.
I can't do that.. not now... later, much later.. when this is all over... then I can sink. Just hold on bard. Be patient...
Again her fingers traced the cold face, and she willed herself to accept this as a part of life, as something that had been going to happen one day, no matter how much she wished it wouldn't. She tried to say it was all meant to be, that it was for the greater good...anything she could think of to rationalize it and keep the powerful sentiments she could feel building at bay. She was only partially successful, and her inner voice started pleading as the hopelessness of the situation insinuated itself comfortably inside.
Come back to me. I can't face this world without you in it. I can't, I won't. No.. this can't be happening. I don't know how to do this. It can't be real, Please? Help me.. Xena come back. I love you. This is not how it was meant to be, please. I need you, don't you need me? Please...wake up, come back. you've done it before...please...
Before she could fall farther into her despondency, a surprising and abrupt twist took place inside and a black rage boiled up. The brokenhearted woman gladly gave in to the blinding anger as it made its way though the forefront of her conscience. In a few brief heartbeats she went from aching despair to all encompassing fury. So far gone was she, that she didn't even realize she was speaking aloud, or that she had gripped the corpses shoulders and moved her face to within bare inches of the sculpted features of her best friend.
“Why, Xena? Why did you leave me now? Why would you do that? Don't you know I need you? Don't you know how much I love you? Why !? Tell me why ! How could you do this to me? How dare you!” Gabrielle screamed to the deaf ears.
A resentment she had never felt before, combined with a hurt she couldn't even begin to fathom, took over. The last words were spoken like an impassioned curse and punctuated with sharp jerks of the body she held so tightly. When that elicited no response, she struck out violently against the source of her misery. At the sharp crack of her hand connecting with cold, unyielding flesh and the pure shock of the action, the dam holding the tide of sorrow in check finally broke, and with it so did she.
An inhuman scream was ripped from the very depths of her soul as she poured all the agony into inarticulate howls that tore at the very fiber of her being. Minute after excruciating minute, her anguish poured out in the form of physical expression. She wept, and thrashed, and screamed, and cursed, all the while gripping and kneading the flesh in her hands.
The fit lasted for what felt like hours, and still her body wouldn't allow her to stop. Even when she couldn't force another sound from her mouth because her throat was raw with the strain and her lungs ached from the exertion, it went on.
When finally she was able to halt the now silent screams and try to draw a new breath, her chest froze, and she was unable to complete the most basic act. The muscles that controlled breathing were paralyzed from her pain, and all she could do was exhale every last bit of life sustaining breath that filled her lungs.
As she began to hear the sounds of her own exhaled wheeze, her body crumpled in on itself. Her muscles tensed past the stage of rigor and she could feel her tendons stretching themselves to the limit. Her heart was pounding so fast and hard that it felt like one huge contraction in her chest. She lost feeling in her fingers, then her hands, and finally her face, and she wondered in passing if you could die from emotional pain before deciding it didn't matter. Random thoughts passed through her mind; images of the times she and the warrior had shared came to life as large spots of blackness blanked out her sight. All the intimate moments, the fun times, the painful ones, every thing that had shaped their unique friendship flew by. It seemed she was reliving each and every second of them, but in reality it was hardly a minute that passed.
So many things Xena, so much you didn't know. So much I wanted to share with you. And now I never will.
At long last, when it seemed as if she would truly die of this affliction of spirit, she was able to inhale and she greedily drew in huge gulps of air. The spots marring her vision of the dark perfection in front of her faded away and were replaced with a buzzing in her head so loud she couldn't hear her own thoughts.
She closed her eyes tightly; the combination of the visage in front of her and the torrent of raging emotions flowing inside becoming too much. She loosened the death grip she had on the rigid flesh of her friend and tried to calm down and think rationally.
She counted to three, praying to every deity she knew that when she opened them again this would be nothing but a terrible nightmare and she would have her friend back with her.
Slowly her eyes opened. She consciously kept them locked on her loosely balled fists until they were fully open. Almost casually she let them wander upwards, her brain knowing the truth, but her heart still trying desperately to deny it.
As her eyes locked with what should have been a loving blue gaze, but instead were the eyelids of someone who would never need them again, all the strength left her body. Sobs, deep soul jarring sobs the likes of which she never thought she would have any reason to express, broke from her. Incoherent words tumbled off lips that were twisted into unrecognizable strips of flesh and peeled back over even white teeth. Her muscles again contracted and she began to shake fiercely. No longer in control of anything, and not having the ability or the desire to fight what was happening, she allowed the horrendous grief to take her to a place so deep in the darkness that a part of her feared she would never return. Her trembling was so intense, the loss of control so complete, she fell gracelessly across the lifeless chest below her.
Remorse overwhelmed her. The only thought she could allow herself was that there had never been a single good reason to hide her true feelings from the woman she loved. The realization hit her like a brick; she would never have the opportunity to do what she had put off for so long.
After an immeasurable amount of time, her wailing subsided to steady crying, then to an occasional fresh bout of hiccuping sobs. In the end, her self preservation took over for the last time, and her body relaxed into an exhausted, dreamless, healing sleep.
She was hurt, she was shattered, and she was grieving. But she was a survivor. She would find a way to get through this, even if it took forever. She would go on.
Xena, from the cross she had been placed on for eternity ias punishment for her crimes, witnessed the entire episode. She could feel the pain radiating from the soul of the younger woman. Her own heart was shredded from the sheer torment Gabrielle was feeling. Angry, silent tears rolled unchecked down her cheeks, and her shoulders shook with the effort to control her sobbing.
She whispered aloud, not knowing if she was talking to Gabrielle, or herself. She spoke of promise. She spoke of hope. She spoke of the future and what may come, and of what had already been. She spoke of love and even of pain; of loyalty for eternity. All these truths were combined into one simple sentence that came so much easier and was so much more honest than any of the more conventional words of expression.
As the bard finally fell into her deaf slumber, the statement echoed all around the small space surrounding her, bringing comfort to the woman without her even realizing it.
“Even in death Gabrielle...I will never leave you.”
And so began the adventures of a soul being reborn into her own damaged body and the incredibly true adventures of two women in love.
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