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.
“I'm sorry, I thought…” Xena's voice trailed off awkwardly.
The woman who had once been the ancient Queen of the Amazons was still unused to having her emotions so beyond her control. She tried to take the sting out of the rejection with a light touch to Xena's shoulder. “It's just… it's too much all at once. I'm barely able to handle being alive, but you, seeing you, being with you… I can do this if I just focus on the fact I was brought here to do a job. Please don't ask for more, Xena. Not now, not yet, at least. Please.”
Xena swallowed, and nodded. But they had only walked a few more steps before she stopped and turned to Gabrielle. “No. I have to say something. We don't know how much time we have. Too many times something came up or I've dodged it, and then you never knew... I've done it too many times. I won't do that again. That's something you taught me.” Appreciating what the effort was costing her once taciturn friend, Gabrielle waited.
Xena closed her eyes. Tried to focus on what she needed to say. “It's funny. I had this conversation with you a thousand times, and hundreds of years to prepare. It should be easier.”
Gabrielle took her hand. “Xena, maybe this wasn't a good idea.”
“Doesn't matter. I have to.” She stopped and tried to begin again. “Gabrielle. I was an idiot, a fool, you name it. I…”
Gabrielle tightened her grip on the hand until Xena was ready to start again. “I don't know how it happened, how I lost my appreciation for what you were, who you were.” The warrior laughed derisively. “Everybody said that we were a balance for the other. Somehow in the end that became me being the taker while you were the giver. I made a mockery of the love I said I had for you. I need you to know…” She looked directly into Gabrielle's eyes with all the passion she could draw from within, “…that I'm not that person anymore. That can't happen again, I swear. Can't. Won't. I lived these years learning, knowing everyday, what I missed and needed, and all of it was you. If all you want from me is friendship… that'll be more than I deserve. But I swear to you, I will take every moment that I am lucky enough to be with you… to show you, to appreciate you, for all that you are.”
Gabrielle was silent, tears forming again, but she slowly and deliberately released her grip to wipe them away before saying, “Oh Gods. I can't handle this, Xena. Ares was partly right. I can't… As much as I might have needed to hear what you just said, needed it more than air some times…”
“It's a few centuries too late. I won't ask you to forgive me. I don't want you to. Not again.”
“No. Not late. Just…too much. ”Gabrielle shrugged her shaking shoulders. “Maybe this is not real, or it's… it's too much...” She began to turn her face away when Xena stopped her and took her hand again.
“Three words. Then I'll do whatever you want. I don't know if I ever said, ever really said this properly, I love you.”
Gabrielle lowered her head into her hands. “Gods. I knew this would be hard, but not as hard as this.” Raising her face to reveal tear-filled eyes, she added, “Part of the problem is that I lost something when I died. All the feelings, memories, everything I felt, about you… they were gone and… and I gave up on you, and I don't know why. And now it's all come back so strong and if I let go, feel all of it, then I'll be no use to you or to me. We have to focus on why we're here. Please?” The last word was almost a whisper, and Xena took her own roiling emotions and placed them aside as she'd done too many times before.
“Where do you want to start?”
Gabrielle took a breath, and some of the shadows lifted from her face. “Thank you. We could use a few ground rules.”
“You name them,” Xena said seriously.
The girl paused to think. “Okay. No making plans, no decisions…”
“Without consulting you first?”
A fragile smile broke across her face. “That would be good. Really good.”
Xena returned her lopsided grin. “Like I told you, I had a few years to learn stuff.”
Gabrielle closed her eyes and tried to draw herself together. When she opened them, she wiped her face peremptorily with the sleeve of her holy vestment and tugged her partner towards the main exit. “So let's get out of here and figure what's going on, okay?”
Xena as easily slipped into a business-like manner. “When we are, is the problem. We bet we'd play hide and seek until noon, but thanks to Ares time warping, we don't even know what day it is.”
“And let's not forget the whole ‘up against an all-powerful, etcetera, God with a grudge'. Been there, done that.” She stopped, puzzled by a thought which suddenly struck her. “Speaking of whom, has He really changed that much?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, changing time just to make a point. And if he did, how come we're here together? If the Coliseum was closed…”
Xena's lips set. “Then we wouldn't have met here. This moment in time couldn't have happened. So this isn't real.” She looked about for some conformation, becoming agitated in a way that Gabrielle had rarely seen. “He's just playing with us. Again.”
As if in response, the now familiar waterfall advanced towards them, engulfing them, and again Gabrielle experienced the nausea and twisting of her guts.
When it was over, they were standing on the edge of one of the lower circles in a once again packed, thunderously noisy Coliseum, where they had apparently dropped from the rope that dangled above them. The smell of the muddy water and bodies struck them along with the sounds of the mob. They dropped to the ground, and crouching, hid behind a concrete barrier. “Bloody Tartarus. I should have realised that the pause wasn't real. Where are my brains?”
Gabrielle observed half a dozen soldiers scanning the amphitheatre not far from where they were squatting. “Please, get those brains going fast, because we need to get out of here before someone figures out we have to be somewhere underneath that rope.”
Xena raised her head and scanned about before ducking back into their temporary shelter. “We can't make it up to the balcony window dressed like this,” indicating their Vestal and gladiator apparel, “and there are too many guards by the gates. We need a diversion. Then I could probably kick out a door. A break out by the rest of the slaves could give us the cover to run for the Temple . If only I had my chakram.”
Gabrielle withdrew an unforgettable object from her Vestal draperies. “What do you mean, YOUR chakram?”
Xena blinked. “Where…” she began.
Adopting a reasonable tone, Gabrielle interrupted, speaking very quickly. “If we had the time, we could argue all day whose it is, I mean, just because *I* have it now, after you gave it to ME , and the GODDESS Aphrodite kept it for ME for hundreds of years and since I died at over eighty years of age, even if you include the time we were on ice, I've had it far longer than you did, and since we're about to be captured by a hundred soldiers, don't we have more important things to worry about?” Gabrielle finished in a speedy rush and smiled guilelessly.
“But…?” Xena began again.
“Later we'll talk. Maybe I'll let you borrow it sometimes.”
Xena hesitated, then nodded. “Okay.”
“You're right. It's yours now.”
Despite the danger they were in, Xena seemed completely nonchalant. “The chakram is rightly yours and no one else's.”
Sceptically, Gabrielle asked, “you're not going to grab it on the return, first time I throw it?”
Xena was the face of virtue. “Never occurred to me.”
“Hmmmmm.” They suddenly both grinned for no reason until the moment was broken by the sound of orders being called from beyond their shelter. “Assuming I accept that, back to business? What's the plan?” Gabrielle asked hurriedly.
“Well, MY plan was that I would take the chakram and cut down the canopy supports along the roof, drag them to a torch, and scare the heck out of the audience.”
“And kill everybody in a stampede out the gates?” Gabrielle objected.
Xena stood up again and quickly looked down the passage. “Not a big fire. And I promise to be polite about it, okay? But first…” Whatever she saw through the exit elicited another slumping of her shoulders. Gabrielle braced herself for more bad news as Xena returned to crouch beside her. “FIRST, we immediately get someone a hell of a lot smarter than both of us. You were right, He doesn't do things just to make a point.”
“What is it now?”
“Remember how the Temple of Venus didn't have any guards around it before the pause?”
Gabrielle nodded, then smacked her head. “There's a bunch of guards around the Temple of Venus now?” AT Xena's concurrence, she covered her eyes in disgust. “He put us all alone, to get us to talk, and like an idiot, I spilled where we could head for shelter. Why didn't you feel him nearby listening?”
“You must have noticed, now he's the one with...”
“Many skills.” Gabrielle finished. “Great. So not only are we trying to defeat a vengeful etcetera, God, but we can't talk about our plans because He could be overhearing us!”
“Not to depress you, but it's worse. If He doesn't hear us the first time, and we actually get away with whatever we do to get out of here, He can always go back in time and listen in when we made the plan.”
“I actually understood that.”
Xena stood up. “Good, because it just gives me a headache, and one headache at a time is enough.” She scanned the audience once more and spotted the guards moving even closer to their location. “We can't talk about what we're going to do, maybe we can take different parts. If I can figure out a place to go and how to get us out of here, can you figure out how to keep Him from following us?”
Gabrielle got up beside her. “Funny. I was about to ask you that if I knew a way to keep Him busy, could you find a place to hide.”
“Suddenly I'm remembering why I've felt like half a person for so long.”
Gabrielle pursed her lips in frustration. “You keep saying the sweetest things. Stop it. ‘Cause it's pissing me off.”
“Is that permanent?”
“We'll see. Can you get the slaves out of here as well as stampede the crowd in a kind and gentle way?”
“I can do half of it.”
Gabrielle smiled. It was a liberating smile and she thought about why that was for a second. Then it hit her. “You know, I'm having fun. I forgot, that we really did have fun. And old, revered Queens of the Amazon don't have much fun.”
Seeing soldiers moving directly to their position, Xena bit off her first response for another. “Good, because here comes more fun.”
To be continued...
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