Copyright Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle, Aphrodite and other characters mentioned in this story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction and no profit is sought from this. It's just for fun!
Violence Disclaimer: There is violence and a mention of an assault of a sexual nature but it is not explicit.
Subtext disclaimer: I have aimed to write the subtext as the show showed it. You dear reader can decide if they were lovers or not.
If any of this offends you please do not read on.
Author's note (1) This is my first attempt at Fan Fiction, comments, tips, hints, constructive criticisms will be most welcome. Please send to email@example.com. I will endeavour to reply.
Author's note (2) This fan fiction is set immediately after Xena disappears from Gabrielle's sight on Mount Fuji during FIN 2. Xena is made aware of the consequences of her decision in Jappa has.
The dead can hear your thoughts...
I heard the primal scream tear from her lips as I disappeared from her view. I could make out the over riding pain through the jumble of her thoughts that suddenly invaded my consciousness. I was struggling to cope with all her thoughts, her pain, her anguish.
Suddenly there was silence. More than that a stillness as if time itself was frozen. Gabrielle and Mount Fuji had gone. I looked around and saw barrenness. It wasn't only that there was nothing to see, whiteness going on for eternity, but there was nothingness. No rocks, pebbles, streams, trees, no sounds, no wind nor warmth. I could not tell where the sky ended and ground started. I felt an insidious feeling of emptiness. I circled looking for something-anything-against the backdrop of the whiteness. In the distance a faint outline caught my eye. Was that a person? I walked slowly towards the outline; there was no sound as I walked no change in scenery. As I neared I saw it was a small oriental woman. Dressed in a blue silk kimono she bowed at me. I stood straight backed and stared at her.
"Xena," she said. It was not a question more a statement of fact.
"Yes," I replied. "Where am I?" I felt slightly foolish as she gave a subtle smile and a bow of the head.
"You are between times, between worlds." The look on my face caused her to laugh and she spread her hands out. "Is this not what you expected?"
"Well I have died a couple of times before," I said nonchalantly. "It's a little too sparse for me. Not one of the best after-lives". Being dead had not cured me of my arrogance.
"I have heard about your exploits. You are of interest to many, not just the Greek deities. Forgive me, I have not introduced myself. I am Ko-no-hana. I am goddess of Mount Fuji. "
"What do you want with me?" I felt a prickle of tension within my body. Gods were rarely to be trusted; I had more than my fair share of difficulties with them. I had lived my life on my instincts and they told me to remain vigilant. For the first time I saw a speck of anger in her serene face. "This is my domain, do I need a reason?" I was silent while I ingested all the information. My thoughts suddenly turned to Gabrielle. Forgive me for what I put you through.
"It is of Gabrielle I wish to speak," said Ko-no-hana. I assumed she could read my thoughts. This again concerned me.
"What is she to do with it?" I asked irately. "She has done nothing, it was me."
"Warrior calm down," her voice was laced with anger and for several moments we merely stared at one another. "It is of Gabrielle I wish to speak," she repeated. "She is your soulmate." Again it was a statement.
"Yes," I whispered. Tears had formed in my eyes.
"And you left her. You chose death."
"I HAD NO CHOICE" I shouted it so hard Ko-no-hana momentarily flinched. "I had to; it wasn't just about me, or her, or Akemi, but 40,000 souls. It was my fault so it became my problem; I had to for the greater good." The frustration I had felt since Akemi had told me what my stark choice was bubbled to the surface.
"Maybe," Ko-no-hana said quietly. "You chose death."
"Yes," I said and closed my eyes. I still felt angry and took several deep breaths in to calm myself. Even though I doubted I needed the air, it was just habit. "My life for 40,000 souls, there was no contest. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
"And you gave your soulmate no option. No option to join you in battle or to return you to your living state."
I nodded and looked away with tears in my eyes. Her words were the truth. I knew that Gabrielle was angry at my unilateral decision. She had thought we past that stage of me not trusting her. I could only hope that she would forgive me this as she had so many other things.
"Your soulmate's heart is pure and kind and full of love for you. Do you think that you are deserving of such a gift?"
The change of subject surprised me for a moment and I felt off balance. "No," I said truthfully. I had never felt I deserved Gabrielle. She truly was a gift, something that a black hearted warlord should never have received. But I was nothing if not an opportunist. I made the most of my good fortune and counted my blessings for the years I spent with her. "I often wondered why I was so lucky that Gabrielle came into my life that she chose to stay with me, be a part of my life. I deserved many things, all of them bad, yet I received the greatest gift of all, unconditional love."
The deity nodded at my words and gave a small smile. "Perhaps Gabrielle is wiser than I thought. Xena, you died on my mountain so that gives me some, ahem, privileges. You have shown remorse and forgiveness for all the wicked deeds you have done. You have repented and have sought redemption." She cupped my face with her hand and it was surprisingly warm. "You did terrible things Xena. Many people suffered at your hands. Do you feel you have properly been redeemed?"
That was the question. Had I done enough to wash away the rivers of blood that I had caused? Had I helped more than I had harmed? Did that matter? I spent over ten years harming people yet only six helping them, was that enough?
Her voice cut into my introspection. "The very fact you are taking so long to answer tells me all I need to know." She paused took a step backwards and looked me up and down. "For the duration of Gabrielle's life you will remain with her. She will not see you hear you or sense you, but you will be able to be with her. You will hear her thoughts and move with her. When she dies I will return." I stood staring at her, unsure if I had heard her correctly.
Ko-no-hana caught my eye and I saw the sympathy radiating in her beautiful orbs. "You may not think so now, but it is a mixed curse, warrior. You will understand in time." There was a pause and she closed her eyes. "Good-bye," she whispered and in an instant I was back on Mount Fuji standing next to Gabrielle. She was curled up in a ball wrapped around the urn containing my ashes. Her sobs echoed throughout the mountain. Her pain was so raw, and I felt guilt that I had caused my beautiful soulmate so much hurt.
I knelt next to her and gently tried to stroke her hair, but watched as my hand passed through her head. Gabrielle was oblivious to it. I sat with her until nightfall, when cold and weary she realised she had to descend the mountain. I watched as she gave a rueful glance at the fountain and made her way slowly down.
Gabrielle spent the next few days saying goodbye to this land where everything had changed for us both. During the day she listened politely to everyone thanking her and wishing her well. I could hear the agony of her thoughts, the anger at me that was building up. Anger for choosing my destiny without a thought of her. I wanted to explain, for her to understand, I couldn't bear for her to hold that anger in her heart, to darken it. I began to understand why Ko-no-hana had looked so pained. And this was only the beginning.
I watched every night as Gabrielle awoke screaming from her nightmare. I saw what she had seen collecting my body. I'm so sorry Gabrielle; I didn't mean to hurt you. I shouldn't have put you through that. I watched as she made the decision to go to Egypt, she started to talk as if I was there and I realised with a pang she couldn't sense me, it was the grief talking. She ate little, slept even less and when she arrived in Egypt she was a shadow of the woman who had arrived in Jappa. And I had to watch, and even worse for a woman who prided herself of being a person of action, I could do absolutely nothing to help.
In Egypt she brokered a peace between two warring tribes that had threatened to boil over into a civil war. She was hailed a hero, offered jobs, presents and wealth beyond her wildest dreams. She quietly refused, only taking some to give to the hospice and left to head back to Greece. She gave away her scrolls and quills to a local school; she said she had no more stories to tell. My heart was heavier than hers, I watched my soulmate become a shell of the woman I loved, and I realised it was me that had caused it. I had done terrible, unspeakable things in my past but there was no act in my life that I felt more remorse for.
In Greece she was immediately reunited with two old friends; Argo and Aphrodite. My heart leapt when I saw my faithful steed and I wept as Gabrielle hugged the horse's neck tight and sobbed in to her mane. Gabrielle had been back for several days when Aphrodite appeared. If she could see me she never let on, but she went straight to Gabrielle.
"Sweetie, I am so sorry."
"Thank you Aphrodite," Gabrielle avoided looking at her and carried on polishing her Sais.
"You need to talk," said the goddess. She moved next to Gabrielle and wrapped both her arms around her. I sat the other side, my arms wrapping around her too, although she could not feel my touch, nor I her.
"What's there to talk about?" said Gabrielle bitterly. "She's dead, gone, vamooshed, left me. Talking's not going to bring her back." My heart broke at the thin veneer of bitterness she displayed. Don't let it overtake you Gabrielle. Don't become tainted by darkness like I was. I want so much more for you. Aphrodite obviously thought the same thing. "It won't bring her back, but it will help you, sweetie." She gently put her hand on Gabrielle's cheek and pushed her head onto her shoulder. She stroked my soulmate's hair and gently rocked her. After some time the tears started. Gabrielle sobbed and sobbed like the first night on Mount Fuji. We both sat with her holding her and letting her release the grief she had felt. Finally she sobbed herself to sleep. To her credit Aphrodite sat with her all night, comforting her when it appeared she would wake. It was the best sleep Gabrielle had in months.
When she awoke Aphrodite had prepared breakfast. Gabrielle sat quietly, eyes still swollen, nibbling some fruit. She finally looked the beautiful goddess in the eye and smiled. "Thank you."
"It's not over yet, sweet cheeks. Dr Dite is not finished with you yet."
"I know," replied Gabrielle quietly. She looked so fragile that I thought she would break. I didn't see the Amazon Queen, or respected warrior any more but the frightened little runaway that had followed me all those years ago. "How do you manage, losing people all the time?"
There was a flash of pain on Aphroite's face. I looked away and I felt a touch of guilt. I had killed most of her family, including her beloved Hephaestus.
"I would love to say you get used to it, sweetie, but you don't." Her face became serious, so unlike the Aphrodite I knew so well. But she always showed Gabrielle a different side. As did I. "But I remember my loved ones, and then someone else will come along, like you, who I will grow to care about."
"But I'll die," said Gabrielle without emotion.
"Yes," said Aphrodite sadly, "but I'll have my memories of you, and someone will come along who will remind me of you. They won't replace you, but it makes things easier."
There was silence. "I've lost so many; my parents, Perdicus, Talus, Cyrene, Ephiny, Solari, Epinon, Joxer, Hope." The last name was whispered and I felt Gabrielle's anguish as she thought about her dead child that had caused both of us so much heartache. Through her thoughts I finally understood what she felt for her child; I had never seen Hope as hers, yet to Gabrielle she was her child; she had carried, borne and fed her. And I had wanted to kill her. I closed my eyes. Forgive me again Gabrielle, yet again I failed you. Maybe if we had raised her, maybe...
"And now I'm stuck alone without so many friends and loved ones. When I had Xena it was fine, but without her-"Gabrielle stifled a sob. "I feel so alone." Aphrodite wrapped her arms around her and again let her cry for hours.
They spent another day together Aphrodite encouraging Gabrielle to eat and rest and fussing over her like a mother hen. It really was a different side of her and I was grateful. The most helpful thing she did was encourage Gabrielle to talk. "I feel so guilty," she said quietly with a sniff. Aphrodite looked as surprised as I felt.
"What do you feel guilty about Hon? Xena's the one who let herself be manipulated, twice, by that girl. She didn't include you in her plan apart from the horrendous task of retrieving your corpse," all three of us shuddered at that word, "and she gave you little choice in accepting what she had decided. Some how I can't see tall and deadly doing the same for you." She was right. I would have dumped the ashes in the fountain and figured something else out. I told her once she went beyond everything to me, and she did.
"But she was right, as usual." Gabrielle gave a weak smile. "I couldn't ask Xena to betray her way for me. Yet I wanted to. I feel guilty at that. And for hating her for going off on her own. I know she was trying to protect me. I'd have done the same." Aphrodite moved closer to hug her and so did I. I wrapped my arms around them both, even though I knew they were oblivious to my touch.
"Xena, I'm sorry for hating you. I know you did the right thing but I miss you so much." Gabrielle's face screwed up and it took her a few moments to compose herself. "I'll always love you Xena."
Gabrielle understood and fully forgave me that was what I wanted, yet I still felt a burden. My heart felt so heavy at the pain she had to carry forever. I wondered if the real Gabrielle, the Gabrielle I had the privilege of sharing my life with for so long would ever re-emerge, or did she too die on that Mountain top. But for the first time since I died I could sense a little bit of peace from her and it warmed my soul.
"Are you going to be OK?" The Goddess looked concerned as she watched Gabrielle load up Argo.
"Don't worry about me, "began the Bard.
"Gabrielle," both me and Aphrodite said in unison.
"Please don't worry. I'll- I'll keep busy. There are people to visit, things to do." She leant against Argo resting her forehead on her palomino's neck. I could feel her uncertainty at forging a new path alone.
"Don't be a stranger OK," Aphrodite placed an arm around her shoulder and kissed the top of her head.
"Thanks Aphrodite, I really mean it. You've been a true friend."
"Nothing less than you've been to me." The goddess watched as Gabrielle mounted Argo. They gave each other a warm smile, before Argo galloped off. I knew that I would be travelling with Gabrielle within moments but before I went I heard Aphrodite's voice. "Xena, I know you can hear me," Aphrodite spoke quietly and with feeling. She didn't look at me directly but I sensed she knew I was there. "Is this what you wanted? Was it all worth it?" That was the crux of the matter, was Gabrielle's pain worth 40,000 souls finding peace? I had thought it was, but I realised it wasn't only my decision to make. That was where I had failed, like so many times before I made the choice and it was Gabrielle who had to pick up the pieces.
Over the next few weeks Gabrielle helped out villagers against marauders, solved a mystery for one of her old friend's from the Academy and visited Lila and Sarah. It was while she was there she received a scroll from Eve. My daughter was back in the country leading the Elijians to safety from increasingly vicious Roman persecution. Eve had asked her if she would help escort a caravan of Elijians to their secure town. Gabrielle bade her sister and niece farewell and headed to the rendezvous. There were about a hundred Elijians including women and children and there were ten with arms, who would guard them. Eve was waiting within the secure town.
Gabrielle was still very quiet, although she joined in a little more with the banter and chat. She reluctantly took charge of the guard and once they saw how skilled she was with her weapons were completely in awe of her. Especially a man mountain called Gar who was totally smitten with Gabrielle. The size of his heart matched his body size, and the two of them spent a lot of time together. He was the only one she told stories to. And he listened patiently and attentively and in return she gave him staff lessons. I had mixed feelings about it, part of me was thrilled she was gaining a close friend, the old Gabrielle was peeping out at times, but of course my jealously was never far away. Even dead I had trouble reconciling my soulmate sharing her life with anyone else. The pain was still with her, not as raw as it had been, but occasionally it came back with a vengeance. She had nightmares about my death, and she never stopped thinking of me, and I so wished I could thank her for that.
The journey passed without incident until the caravan was less than a day from their town. Gabrielle had sensed they were being followed and had doubled back to check. What she saw horrified her; there were a century of Roman soldiers following. She hurried back to the caravan and shared the news.
There was general dismay. "We're only a couple of hours from the town," the leader wailed.
"That's enough time," said Gabrielle quietly. I knew what she was thinking without having to read her thoughts. Please, no, Gabrielle, no.
"Bolus, you and Hippias stay with the caravan. Marius, I want you and Josiah to cover the caravan's tracks."
"What will you do?" asked Marius respectfully. Gabrielle had earned their trust and respect throughout the journey.
"I'm going to delay them," her thoughts wondered to that day outside Tripolis. She smiled weakly. "I'm going to bloody their noses."
"Not by yourself you are not," boomed Gar. "I'm staying with you."
"So am I," said two other voices before Gabrielle could speak.
"I can't ask that of you," she began.
"You haven't," said Gar, "we offered. This is what we are being paid for. Not that has anything to do with it." He almost whispered the last sentence, "I would do anything for you, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle was too choked to speak. I sensed the pride she felt in her new friend. She took a deep breath in and looked at him, "Gar there is something I want you to do, take some horses and a wagon, and head up the North trail, until the river. Then swim down it until you reach the village." Gar looked horrified and tried to speak but Gabrielle beat him to it. "You are best horseman I've ever seen bar one. No one else could control that many horses and a wagon. If it puts them off the scent..." She flashed him her most persuasive smile and crinkled her nose. Now I could never say no to her when she did that, and I doubted that Gar could. He looked crestfallen but nodded. Within minutes the Elijians had scrambled in as few carts and wagons as they could and headed off. Gabrielle said goodbye first to Argo. She shed some tears into her mane and then straightened up. Then it was Gar. He wrapped his thick arms around her. "Take care," was all he could muster.
"You too," she said, and I felt her relief. She had grown fond of him, and wished to spare him the fate she knew would befall her. Yet she was remarkably calm. She helped prepare several traps, suggested where to position the archer and waited. Xena I hope you'll be proud of me. I love you.
The tears were coursing down my cheeks. I stood by her and tried to stroke her cheek. I've always been proud of you, my Bard. My thoughts were interrupted as the Romans came in sight. Gabrielle nodded and the first arrows were fired. The battle was on.
The five that fought may have been outnumbered 20 to 1 but they gave a good account of themselves. They took many soldiers down before they fell one by one. There were only two left, Gabrielle and Prodicus. Both were injured and tiring but smiled despite it. Dusk had come. They knew that the caravan would have reached their destination and the Romans would not be able to track them tonight. And if Marius and Josiah had done their job well, the whereabouts would still remain a secret. The Roman leader knew it too and fought even harder, his frustration fuelling his fighting. Prodicus fell, run through by the leader and Gabrielle was left surrounded by thirty soldiers. They had killed or injured over half the troop. She gave a rueful smile as they approached her and dropped her sais. She threw the chakram over the Roman heads into the fading light and away from us forever. As she was held she sent a prayer for Eli to protect Eve. She apologised to Lila that she wouldn't make her birthday as promised, and to me for hurling the chakram.
I could do nothing but watch as several soldiers violated her. Oh yes, I screamed and shouted and tried to hit and attack the men who hurt her but of course it was no good, I had no effect. I became even more hysterical and attacked with all my might as they tortured her. Then as they hoisted her up on the makeshift cross and broke her legs all I could is stand and cry. She was still remarkably calm. She hadn't given them the satisfaction of begging or screaming, but had maintained her dignity throughout.
She thought of me as she was dying; of our travels, our adventures, our previous deaths. She knew that this was it, there would be no coming back and it comforted her that we would be together again.
Oh Gabrielle that's what I wanted but not yet. You had so much to give, so much still to do with your life. It shouldn't end here, with no one to grieve you.
I knew her time was nearly up, she wearily thought of her parents and of me and then nothing-I couldn't sense her thoughts anymore. She was gone. I cried out angrily as I watched a soldier hit her with a stick and throw a stone at her to check she was dead. They brought her down and dumped her for the animals and left.
I sat down next to my soulmates' battered body and cried. I wished I could have been with her physically, to offer support and comfort. To hold her as she passed over, to comfort her after she was violated, sing to sooth her. It had been Tartarus to see how my death had affected Gabrielle, to see how she changed. But this was unbearable. To watch her die in a hideous manner and not able to help her was a harsh sentence, even for me. I raised my head up and saw I was in the time-less plane. Ko-no-hana was there looking pensive.
"Your penance is served," she said quietly.
"She didn't deserve that," I replied angrily. "She was just getting her life together. She was forging her own way." I dropped my head. "I didn't deserve that" I whispered quietly. "To watch her die like that, not being able to do anything..."
"No," she nodded her head in agreement.
"Why? Why?" I voiced my fury, my pent up anger at the Japanese deity. She looked unruffled as I carried on shouting at her, questioning her heritage among other things. When I had finished venting my spleen, she motioned for me to sit down on two chairs that had appeared. I sunk into one, still keeping my eyes on her.
"It wasn't her time," I said quietly. "It shouldn't have been like that."
"We can agree on that," she said. "It wasn't her time." I went cold.
"If you had something to do with it-"I stopped. I had no idea what I could do to this all powerful woman but I could think of something. The thought that Gabrielle suffered, again, because of me was horrifying.
"She did but not of what you think."
Damn, I hated that mind reading trick. "What do you mean?"
"It wasn't her time, you are right. But when you took your decision it altered a lot of fates, including Gabrielle's."
I sat open mouthed, letting her words sink in. It was my fault, I caused it. I caused Gabrielle's death.
"You have redeemed yourself Xena, by your words, your actions, and your responsibility you have taken on yourself. But you needed to realise what you did last year had consequences. And you understanding Gabrielle's sorrow and seeing her fate first hand was the best course of action."
I sat in silence staring out in to nothingness. Even when I thought I did the right thing it seemed wrong. Voices appeared in my head; I heard Aphrodite "Was it all worth it?" ; Then it was my voice "It's the greater good-- remember that" Then Gabrielle saying "You're my whole life, Xena. I won't lose you." I put my hands over my ears. "I didn't have a choice," I cried. "I had to do it, I had to."
My dear sweet brother Lyceus in the alternative timeline; "Don't fight destiny"; and M'Lila when I was in Tartarus "You have a destiny, Xena. But you have to choose it." Then me, "There are always choices."
I sobbed even harder, moving my hands to my eyes. "No there isn't. I didn't have a choice," I said. I looked up at Ko-no-hana.
She smiled enigmatically. "No warrior you didn't," she said.
I heard my voice again, "You're it. You're it!"
"But you did." She said, almost whispering.
I stared at her seemingly contradicting herself when it came to me. The other half of my soul. I did have a choice. Gabrielle. And I blew it.
"Enjoy your gift, Xena. The world needs you." Ko-no-hana's voice faded away and I found myself looking up into Gabrielle's frightened eyes unable to breathe. It was pre-battle, I still had time.
"Stop this. Stop it," she said in a frightened tone. It was like music to my ears. I took the pinch off and hugged her so tightly, she had trouble breathing. I enjoyed the feel and smell of her for the first time in months.
"Xena what is it?" She asked gently, slightly confused by my overly demonstrative behaviour. I pulled away from her slightly revelling in the sight of her being able to see me.
And though it went against every fibre in my body to put my soulmate in danger, I knew that this was the right decision for us both. For the first time in years my heart felt a lightness that only sharing yourself fully with another person can bring.
I took a deep breath in. "Gabrielle, I'm going to need your help. Please."
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