Disclaimer: Characters from the television show Xena: Warrior Princess are not owned by me, to my regret. This is written purely for enjoyment with no thought to monetary gain. There are women in love (eventually, as Gabrielle is a bit miffed) and if that is illegal for you or where you live, move on or simply move.
Post FIN, I guess, though I have kept specific references to a minimum.
Mail is always answered and appreciated at Kamouraskan@yahoo.com
My website is at http://dreamcatching.netfirms.com/kam/index.htm
Thanks for corrections and encouragement to the members of the Bardic Circle and Tavern Wall, especially Extra, Jaden, Dawn, JLynn, Jordon Falconer, and Sue. More thanks to Claudia, Morgane, and for rereading this countless times, Abardreader. And my thanks as always, to the great Mary Morgan.
She heard a groan of pain, and this time it was not Ares mourning his losses. She looked across and saw that Gabrielle was stirring below, struggling to right herself. There were more anguished sounds that tore at Xena's soul, until she could see that somehow the bard was once again moving downhill in a more or less controlled slide. But in her struggle, she must have torn away some of the cauterized tissue, and was leaving a glistening trail of blood on the underbrush. Xena pushed herself to increase her speed, knowing that only sheer determination could be keeping the bard alive now.
She felt the hairs on her neck prickle, and looked up to see that Ares had managed to crawl to the edge of the hill and was once more about to launch a fireball, his eyes red with pain and twisted passions.
But this time he succeeded.
The flaming ball flew straight for her and despite the distance below, she knew she had nowhere to go but down. She pulled out both arrowheads and let herself plummet.
The fall was swift and nearly deadly. Despite attempting to prepare herself, she slammed into the ground, hard, splintering her heels. She did not try to hold back the scream of pain. She staggered forward, and collapsed. Smashing at the arrows in her chest. Burying them deeper. Further puncturing her lungs and other organs she didn't have the time to think about. She managed to roll onto her side, one bloody arrow still in her hand, her eyes desperately trying to find her partner. But instead, falling on one last barrier.
The stream that had created the chasm.
It flowed between them, and she couldn't walk, much less stand. And though Ares had been slowed down, he would be there soon enough. Their time, like their life's blood, was running out.
She lifted her eyes and on the other side, Gabrielle was still sliding downhill, till she hit a small outcropping. The force lifted her upwards, and she landed, hard, on her side. Her body continuing to skid along the ground, until she finally stopped, resting alongside the water.
As painful and terrifying as the sight had been, what caused Xena's heart to freeze, was that throughout the fall and slide, there had been not a sound from her bard. Throughout, Gabrielle had not uttered a gasp or cry, and now her body lay, boneless.
Her only movement was the motion of one extended hand, as it drifted in the water, as the waves rocked it back and forth.
“Gabrielle!” she cried out, the shrillness of her voice revealing her panic. Refusing to believe she was too late, Xena used the last arrow to drag herself along the ground in a slow crawl until she reached the edge of the stream. Once there, she let go of the arrow and gripped a few of the larger rocks and pulled her body into the icy water, leaving her own trail of blood behind her on the shore. The sting of the cold did not refresh her at all, but she was beyond noticing such minor disappointments now. She forced herself to snap off some of the arrows that still protruded, to allow her to roll with the current. Meanwhile, her senses told her that Ares was slowly recovering. The last fireball had drained him, but he would be coming soon, and looking for vengeance. She used one arm to dig into the small stones and pull her body against the current, downstream from Gabrielle's body. Resting only when it became necessary and when a swirl in the current helped her draw closer to her goal.
She reached the centre of the stream where the water ran slower but it was deeper and an eddy washed over her face. She spat out the intrusion and called out, “GABRIELLE! HOLD ON!”
Gabrielle was not unconscious, but her mind was wandering in and out of oblivion. It was hard for her to know what was real and what was her own imagination. She thought she heard a voice calling her name but it seemed so very far away. She knew she had to stay awake, and she pulled one arm free to scrabble in the dirt until she managed to find and then grasp a flint in her hand. Blood seeped around it as she pressed it into her palm to remain conscious.
Xena had almost reached the far side of the brook, a few feet downstream from Gabrielle. She hoped that she could use the force of the current to give her enough lift to heave herself out of the stream. Alongside the bard. If she didn't pass out first. Or if Gabrielle was still alive. ‘ No, she had to be alive. She HAD to be alive.'
“Gabrielle? I'm almost there. Talk to me!” she gasped, even as she continued to struggle across. “I need a story now, Gabrielle. I need to hear one of your stories. Remember… remember the first time… the first time we lay out…out...”
It was almost only a sigh, but she still heard the words, “…under the stars?”
A foolish grin broke out on her face and her eyes were again filled with tears. “Yes! Yes, Gabrielle. Under the stars.” Her boot caught a boulder underwater and she steadied herself, holding against the current. “And our first kiss…”
Again, almost unheard, came the reply, “In the dreamscape.”
“That's right, love. I wouldn't trade anything for those memories.” One boot was firmly hooked around the rock, and the other was pressed against it, ready to push out. She primed herself for the pain that was sure to follow. “And there'll be more. More memories. I know that now. And if I can believe that, then you can hold on, Gabrielle. Please!”
She kicked away and surged into the stream, and waiting for just the right moment, thrust her arms into the river bed, pushing hard, and rolled in the air for what might be the last time. Landing with a muffled cry, but finally, alongside her life's love.
Panting, exhausted and frightened, she lifted her head to look upon the supine form. The stream of blood seemed far too much for any living person to have left behind them. She felt a slight hysteria seize her and she found herself begging, pleading, “Gabrielle? Gabrielle! Please, please have waited…”
The whisper from close at hand was quiet, yet firm. “Waited for you. And this time… you came.”
The words re-energized the warrior and hardly noticing her own wounds, she pulled herself nearer, and slowly slid one arm about the prostate bard. Gabrielle lifted her head just enough to look into Xena's face, into her eyes and from somewhere found an exhausted smile.
“So what kept you this time?” Gabrielle managed.
Xena tried to chuckle, but instead her lungs forced out a bloody cough. “Sorry, stairs… were a bit… steep.” She raised a trembling hand to caress Gabrielle's face, trying not to smear it with any of the blood that dripped from her fingers. “Thought you might… might have changed… your mind.”
Gabrielle shook her head. “No. Just a diversion… different paths, same destination,” she whispered, weakly.
Xena gazed at the burned and bloody body and said, “Always. From now on. Always. But…”
There was still a bit of sassiness still left in the bard and she waved a shaking finger in front of Xena's face. “If you say you're sorry, I swear I'm going to find the strength from somewhere and hit you, you got that?”
The warrior reached up and carefully held the finger. Kissed it gently and nodded.
Gabrielle pulled the hand free to rest it on Xena cheek, still with fire in her eyes. “You kept your promise this time, you fought for… us.” The effort to speak so firmly had drained her, and she laid her head back onto Xena's arm. “That's all… all that matters.”
“It was worth it…” It was becoming difficult for Xena to speak as well, but she needed to tell Gabrielle what she'd learned. “Even if there's almost no chance… if this is the time… to die, than this… is what I want to die for.”
Gabrielle swallowed and pulled her warrior closer, and shifted so that for one last time her head lay across that familiar shoulder and she painstakingly lifted and draped one foot over Xena's legs. So that they could be in the right position once more.
“How… does it feel?” she asked.
“This? I'd prefer…” Xena drew a awkward breath, “…we weren't so overdressed.”
Gabrielle could still chuckle and did. “No. Choosing love… instead of sacrifice.”
“Aside from hurting… in more places… than I thought I had?”
Gabrielle grinned, but waited for the answer anxiously.
The warrior pursed her lips and thought. Despite the pain, the knowledge that her life was ending in moments, none of it mattered. Because the only thing that mattered was to be with Gabrielle. To be with the woman she loved.
The answer was easy. “Feels pretty good. Better than… It feels like…”
“Redemption?” Gabrielle completed hopefully.
Xena nodded, wonderingly. “I always thought… redemption… meant a hero's death.”
“Redemption… of your soul… would come from sacrificing it? Why?” she asked softly.
“Because I'm a fool.…”
Gabrielle tapped her finger softly against Xena's forehead, as though it were a reprimand. “Never insult this… this woman I love.” Gabrielle shivered and closed her eyes. She could hardly feel any pain, any sensation other than the coldness seeping into her bones and she knew their time was almost done. She shivered again, and a tear swelled in her eye and began to slip down her cheek, though she could not have said why. She thought again about that snowy hillside so long ago and murmured, “Cold. It was cold… last time too.”
“This time… can I warm you?” Xena whispered and she reached over to wipe the tear from her partner's cheek, and pulled that dear face closer.
Gabrielle lifted her chin to explore the gentle kiss on the lips before whispering, “I want you to know, even when I was angry…”
“Always you. Soulmate. Always. Love… of my life.”
Now, unashamedly crying, Xena whispered back, “Always… always you,”
“Hard to talk…” and she opened her eyes so that they might say all the things she couldn't.
Xena was shaken by a spasm of coughing and when it passed, found her head too heavy to keep raised. So she lowered it slowly, bringing Gabrielle along with her, carefully, gently, until they were face to face, in each other's arms.
Gabrielle whispered her last words. “Together. No matter...”
Xena wiped the last tear from Gabrielle's cheek and in a quiet growl said, “Always. Together. You just…save your tears… for anyone… who tries… to get between… us.”
There was only calm as their lips caressed each others once more, until Xena cautiously gathered the injured bard just a little tighter in her arms. And the bard settled comfortably inside the embrace. Both women closed their eyes and all of the pain faded. There was nothing in their minds, their memories, except the person holding onto them.
They could actually feel their hearts' movements ebbing.
Above them, an angry and powerful God was struggling to get to them, driven by jealousy and anger that he would not even acknowledge, to stop this from happening.
But he was too late. He was not even a concern of theirs anymore. All they wanted, was just one more moment.
And there was one more moment.
One more moment, when their hearts paused.
One more moment, when their breathing ceased.
One last moment, and still, they held on to one other.
And then the moments stopped.
To be continued...
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