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.
The green eyes of the woman she loved, bore into Xena without any mercy. The crowd was becoming restless, even the stage crews had stopped their work, but Xena had no sense of them; nothing but the furious woman in front of her. “If you were Gabrielle…” she began.
“If?” the woman interrupted. “And what will I get when you admit who I am? Another APOLOGY?” she sneered. “Like, ‘I'm sorry I dragged you for miles and tried to throw your body over a cliff?' Or, ‘Sorry I cracked your skull with my chakram?'” The smaller woman radiated such anger and resentment that Xena moved back, teetering for a moment on the stairwell. “Or maybe another promise? Like the one, ‘I'll never leave you Gabrielle'? ‘Even in Death, Gabrielle'. ‘Where you go, go I, Gabrielle'????”
There were no words for Xena, no response to this onslaught. Despite her scepticism as to the identity of the person in front of her, this was too close to the always open nerve of guilt she carried, too much after all these years of nourishing a flame for the one person who had somehow always believed in her. She felt her strength evaporate, her head drooping under the barrage. Then, there was an oh-so-soft hand cupping her chin and she found herself looking upwards again into now calm, verdant eyes. The sweet and well-loved voice began, “You can never go back and make it better. But you could…”
The sentence was never completed, though Xena took no notice. All Xena knew was that from her left, she heard her own battle cry, so hideously garbled that it should have hurt her ears. But instead, she found herself standing, remembering exactly when she had last heard that horrible sound. She spun about to see a girl, no, a woman in her teens, swinging on a rope towards their place in the stands; swinging from a high upper balcony, making that irritating call.
It was awkward. It was a Blessed Vestal Virgin in the most unlikely pose of all and the crowd was not sure if they appreciated the showmanship or were offended by the enormous blasphemy, but Xena could not remember seeing or hearing anything more beautiful in all of her lives. For a moment she thought that it might be one last trick, but a glance at the aghast expression of the Gabrielle in front of her removed that worry. With a grin broader than any she had worn in centuries, she reached up to arrest the rope as it passed by and a compact Vestal clad body slid down the rope and into her arms.
Xena pulled the unfamiliar body into her arms, and felt all her hopes confirmed as a much dreamed about familiar peace enclosed her. For a brief moment, she clutched Gabrielle, fiercely, inhaling her first whole deep breath in centuries. They could have been entirely alone, there in the celebrity boxes of the packed amphitheatre.
Then the girl made an attempt to disentangle herself from Xena, who recognised the effort and withdrew her arms, while still gazing at her with incredulous but elated eyes.
Gabrielle, aware and almost angry that she was tearing up, gathered herself enough to finally ask, “I'm not late, am I?”
Somehow Xena managed to growl, “better late than never,” while stifling what for any other person would have been a sob.
Both women attempted to ignore the slow clap that began beside them for a moment longer, before Gabrielle spoke. She looked intently at the older Gabrielle and then smiled. “You know, you look sorta familiar. Have we met?”
Taking the cue, Xena carefully placed one arm about her former partner's waist, and ushered her forward as if formally introducing them. “Ares? THIS is Gabrielle. Gabrielle, you remember Ares?”
Gabrielle pursed her lips in a puzzled fashion and frowned at the God. “It's a nice look, but it's not really you.”
There was a dark current emanating from the God in disguise, which the smile did nothing to lighten. “Cute. Very cute. So everything's alright? Should I give you a moment to kiss and make up?”
Gabrielle's expression hardly changed. "No thanks to you. I know why you're dressed like that. And I can figure out what you were telling her."
Ares spread his/her hands, palms facing her. “You don't have to thank me, Gabs. Just tell me that I'm not doing your job for you. Tell me I didn't tell her the truth. Tell Xena you never searched for her and she wasn't there. Tell me that there weren't times when you hated her, that part of you doesn't still want her to suffer. Or are you just like all the battered wives that refuse to leave their bastard husbands because they looooove them?”
Gabrielle felt her partner shift her stance and say, “Gabrielle…”
Gabrielle cut her off. “Let me handle this.”
She faced the God. “You're right. She left me and she hurt me more than anyone has or ever could. But that's between us. Not you and your latest outfit. She might never make up for that, but I'm here to give her the time enough to try.”
The false Gabrielle laughed. “Time? You want time?” Ares raised an arm and the restless crowd of the Coliseum froze.
All movement and sound halted.
The God looked about cheerfully in the stillness. “You've got nothing. Nothing unless I choose to give it to you. Didn't anyone tell you, little girl? I have powers drawn from millions now. I could separate you in ways you couldn't even dream of.”
Somehow, despite being unnerved by the show of immense power, Gabrielle shrugged casually. “Well, if you're going to cheat….”
The green eyes bulged slightly. “CHEAT?”
The Vestal crossed her arms. “Yeah, cheat. What's the matter, Ares? Things must have gotten boring for you with all that power. Not up to using your brain to try to stop a couple of mortals?”
Recovering, Xena joined in. “Sure, you could even use the Loom, make it so we'd never even had this moment, but isn't it just possible that changing the past might risk your grand ascension tomorrow? All that cutting and blending threads hasn't always had the effect you wanted. You might just screw up one little detail and blow it all just when it was all in your grasp.”
A worried shadow passed over the false Gabrielle's face. “You heard about the big day, did you? So what are you suggesting, then?”
Gabrielle was thinking furiously. ‘A distraction, keep him busy...' “One last romp,” she declared. “Noon's when they read the Emperor's proclamation and you gain supreme power, right? You against us. We stay free until then, you let us go.”
Trusting that her partner had some plan in mind, Xena coaxed, “Unless you think you aren't up to the chase anymore?”
There was a hesitation, and Gabrielle decided to steal the initiative. “You start them up,” she said, pointing to the frozen masses, “and we'll take it from here, okay? And NO Cheating!”
As if in response, the silence was smashed by the return of life to the crowd. Ares made no move to stop them as, still holding the rope, they ran up the steps, knocking aside several dignitaries. Gabrielle took the rope first, allowing Xena to wrap herself around both the rope and the Vestal and then, together again, they pushed off.
Despite the danger, and possibly because of it, Gabrielle found the position familiarly comfortable. As they began their downward pendulum swing, there were cries and even a poorly thrown javelin following their descent, but it was only when she felt Xena tense that she opened her eyes. Ahead of them was a shimmering something that Gabrielle thought resembled a waterfall. Xena cursed and cried, ‘ Hold ON tight!!”
As they passed through, Gabrielle expected them to become wet, but instead it was as though a week's worth of seasickness was compressed into a moment. It was only their well-trained instincts that grabbed the concrete edge of the balcony they slammed into. As they hauled themselves over, it took a moment before either realised that the cavernous Coliseum was empty.
All of the crowd, the competitors, the water, gone; the full flooring now in place, covered by a light layer of sand. Only the brilliant sunshine remained the same.
Gabrielle leaned on the balustrade and puffed, “What… was THAT?”
“That, was a certain God telling us we're just a sideshow to his real plans. He probably went back in time and simply closed the place for today. Just to make the point.”
“Point taken. So we're up against an all-powerful, vengeful God who can change the past and present on a whim. We're not in trouble, are we?”
“No more than usual.” Xena flashed a relaxed grin before striding over to the outer balcony to look out over the city. “Depends on what the rest of your plan was.”
“I just sort of jumped.
“Uh huh,” was all the warrior said. Gabrielle joined her to see what outside was causing the concern on Xena's face. The warrior was indicating the ground below and across from them. “I hope you weren't thinking slipping back to the House of the Vestal's, because there seem to be a big bunch of armed priests from the Temple of Ares standing between us and it.”
Gabrielle grinned. “Then he missed a bet. I'm not staying there. We can slip out and head for the Temple of Venus .” She pointed to the temple only a few lengths in an opposing direction.
“So, no one around, no reason to attract attention and go out the window,” Xena pointed out. “We might as well walk out the front door.” Gabrielle had no objection and they began moving through the peculiarly empty corridors to the stairs.
As they approached the flight of steps, both were oddly silent. Gabrielle was startled when it was Xena who broke the uneasy quiet.
“I know.” As much as Gabrielle might have hated it, there was a taint of sarcasm in her voice that echoed Ares' taunts of a moment before. “You wanted to have a moment to talk? Say hi, whatcha been up to or anything…?”
Xena breath caught in her throat. “I've missed you doesn't cover it,” she managed.
“No, it doesn't,” Gabrielle said flatly.
There were only the sounds of their sandals on the cement steps, echoing through the empty building for a moment.
Gabrielle stopped and shook her head. “Xena. What Ares said to you… I don't want to talk right now, okay? There's a lot of stuff in my head and I just wanna get used to being together, okay?”
“Get used to it?” Xena stopped and turned to Gabrielle with a broad grin on her face. “Hundreds of years disappeared the moment I saw you on that rope.” Gabrielle didn't return the smile but Xena, oblivious to all but her own feelings, leaned towards her. Gabrielle held up a hand to push her away, and a startled look appeared in the warrior's eyes.To be continued...
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