Disclaimers- The characters of Xena and Gabrielle
belong to Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.
Violence - Yes, some. Nothing worse than what you'd see in the show.
Subtext / sex - Yes, this story depicts sexual acts between women. If that is illegal where you are, you should go read something else.
Hurt / Comfort - Yes
Other - This story is loosely based on the Hercules episode "Armageddon Now"
Thanks - My deepest gratitude to Fizz, Ellen, and Jill for all their assistance. You guys are the best! Also thanks to the ex-Guards for their feedback and help.
Let me know what you think, good or bad! My email address is: Gunhilda@ionet.net
Xena woke me with a lullaby, and the sweetness of her voice made me forget for a moment our awful circumstances, reminding me instead of the happier days of my childhood.
When she finished, I smiled. "There's still so much I don't know about you, Xena," I said. "I didn't know you could sing so beautifully."
She chuckled. "I'm sure I can't compare to you."
I grinned. "Oh no, there's a reason I'm a poet and not a singer."
"But you have such a lovely voice. "
"Ah, but even the dead in Tartarus groan when I attempt to sing. And you'll please note that I said, 'attempt.' I don't consider my discordant warbling to actually be singing."
Xena laughed. "Well, your poetry is music to my ears. Tell me another, please?"
"Something short, or something long?"
Her lullaby reminded me of a poem I'd written many years ago for my sister Lila to help her go to sleep at night. "Here's one I wrote before I left home," I said.
I was half way through the poem when a faint flicker of light from the top of the stairway caused me to stop.
Xena pulled away from me and sat up warily. "It isn't time for a meal," she whispered. "Something's up." She moved to the far side of the cell as the footsteps started down the stairs. I counted two sets of feet.
I covered my eyes when the torchlight blinded me. I heard the crank turning and blinked furiously, squinting to see who was there, hoping it was Paeonius.
Instead, I saw the Captain Braxis turning the crank. Beside him was Thelassa.
"I've come to get you out of there, Gabrielle," the warden said, walking boldly forward, keys in hand.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally the woman had come to her senses.
The warden unlocked the door and pulled it open with screaming hinges. She pulled out her whip. "I'm not going in there, Gabrielle. Grab a hold of my whip, and I'll pull you out." She flipped the end, and it landed neatly on my chest. I shuddered, remembering my nightmare, but grabbed it with both hands. As promised, she started to pull me from the cage.
Being dragged off the blanket and across the granite floor was not fun, but I was glad to get out of the cell. When I was free, Thelassa clanged the door closed behind me and locked it back again. Braxis released the crank, and Xena rubbed her wrists painfully, scowling.
"Here, let me help you sit up," Braxis said smiling, coming forward. He held out his hands to me.
Gratefully, I reached for them, but he grabbed my wrists, instead, and shoved me roughly back to the ground. "I've got her," he said, pinning my arms above my head with his knees.
"What are you doing?!" I demanded, suddenly afraid, trying futilely to free my arms.
Thelassa snarled, dropping on top of me, straddling my stomach. "What do you think, Gabrielle? I'm not going to let you tell Alexander what I did. Oh no, I'll just tell him that you got too close to Xena, and she killed you."
Fear shot through my body at the coldness in her voice. "Thelassa, the guards know the truth! They won't go along with your lies!"
"Yes, they will," Braxis said confidently. "They won't want to face the emperor's wrath should he discover the truth."
Thelassa reached out and grabbed my throat with her hand. I tried to resist but the Captain held my arms tight, and the warden had my body pinned. I wanted to knee her with my broken leg, but it was still numb from Xena's pinch and immobile from the splints
"Are you scared, Gabrielle?" Thelassa asked, leaning forward.
"Yes," I whispered, ashamed at how my voice quavered.
"Is this better than loving me?" she breathed, inches from my face.
Oh gods, this was worse than any nightmare. Her hand tightened on my throat. "Please, don't do this!" I gasped before she started squeezing.
"Hey, Thelassa," Xena said casually from the cell behind us, "Why don't you take her outside and tie her up for the crabs?" she suggested. "A slower, more painful death is always better punishment."
My mind screamed in panic as the warden's head flew up, and her hand crushed my throat.
Xena laughed. "Better yet, why don't you chain her up and whip her first. The crabs will be attracted to the blood. It's not like she'd fight you, helpless as she is!"
If possible, Thelassa's grip tightened even more. My lungs were burning, and darkness started pushing in my field of vision.
Thelassa looked over her shoulder at Xena, her face a twisted mask of hatred. "Shut up!" she screamed.
"Don't listen to her," the Captain urged. "Just finish it!"
"It feels good, doesn't it, Thelassa?" Xena grinned. "Holding the power of life and death in your hands? The ability to punish at will? Now you understand why I enjoyed it so much!"
I felt the warden's hand trembling even as her fingers gouged the side of my neck. I closed my eyes before the darkness swallowed me entirely.
Abruptly the pressure on my throat relaxed, and I gasped for air. Thelassa screamed in primal rage and grabbed a handful of my hair, ramming my skull into the floor with all her might. My head exploded in stars and pain, and when my vision finally cleared, I saw Thelassa standing over me, hand on the side of her face, staring down at me in horror and confusion.
For a brief second I dared to hope that I might yet escape this island with my life, but Braxis grabbed my hair and smashed my head into the floor again, dashing all coherent thought. He stood and drew his sword as I lay there too dazed to move, struggling against a red haze of pain that threatened to knock me out.
"I'll do it," Braxis growled, pushing Thelassa aside.
He shifted his grip on the pommel so he was holding the sword blade down and raised it to plunge it into my chest sacrificial style.
"No!" Xena and Thelassa both screamed as his muscles tensed.
Fueled by blind panic, I somehow twisted out of the way as he drove the blade toward my body. It stabbed between my upper arm and chest and struck the granite with an audible thunk.
"Damn it!" Braxis cursed, and I howled in pain as the sword sliced deeper into my arm as he pulled it back for another try.
Blood spurted as the blade came free, showering my white chiton with red.
Thelassa slammed into Braxis before he could strike again, knocking them both into the bars of Xena's cage.
Quick as lightning, Xena jabbed her fingers into either side of his neck, and he slowly collapsed to his knees at her feet.
I clamped my hand down hard on my upper arm, desperately trying to stop the spray of blood from the artery.
Thelassa stared at Xena in terror, unmoving.
Xena grabbed her shoulders and shook her. "Thelassa, snap out of it. You've got to help Gabrielle!"
I could feel my consciousness fading away with the trickle of blood still escaping between my fingers, but I saw Thelassa look at me, then at Braxis, and finally to Xena's hands upon her shoulders. She took a step back out of Xena's grasp, and then the darkness took me.
I heard Xena talking to me.
"Hang in there, Gabrielle, don't leave me now. Hold on, I know you can do it."
I forced my eyes open and saw her leaning over me, both hands clamped on my upper arm, her long fingers slick with blood. My blood.
She smiled, and I thought I saw tears on her face. "Yes, I'm here, Gabrielle. You're going to be all right! Thelassa went to get the healer."
Then I realized we were both outside her cell. "You should escape," I whispered, shivering with cold. I felt numb all over.
Xena smiled wryly. "I'm right where I belong," she said, and kissed my forehead.
I tried to touch her face, but the movement caused a flash of pain in my head, and I passed out again.
The sound of weeping brought me back to myself, and I realized with some surprise that I must still be alive. "Xena?" I groaned.
"Gabrielle? Thank the gods!"
It was not Xena's voice, and I forced my eyes open.
I was in my room on my own bed, and I did a quick mental inventory of my condition. My head ached, my arm was bandaged, my broken leg was firmly splinted with wooden boards, and I was very hungry. Thelassa was sitting beside me, eyes red, cheeks damp.
When she saw me looking at her, she knelt beside my bed, eyes pleading. "Gabrielle, please... forgive me. I.... I don't know what came over me..."
"What happened?" I asked, vaguely amused at finding yet another woman beside me begging for my forgiveness. What a very, very odd experience this trip was turning out to be.
"I...I tried to kill you," Thelassa breathed.
"I know," I said. "But you didn't."
"Gabrielle, I'm truly so sorry. I'm really not a murderer. I know... you may not believe me, but that's not who I am... I...I just lost myself somehow..."
I smiled. "Xena made you see that," I said quietly.
The warden looked at me, questioning.
"Don't you see? That's why she suggested you stake me out for the crabs. She wanted you to realize that you were doing to me what she'd done to you."
"It worked," she finally said.
I grinned at her. "I'm glad you found yourself again."
"You... you're an amazing person, Gabrielle," she said, briefly squeezing my hand.
My mind flashed back to the cell, where Xena squeezed my hand so often in similar fashion. My breath caught at the memory. "Please tell me what happened to Xena and Captain Braxis."
Thelassa looked away. "Xena's in her cell. She never even tried to escape. The Captain is under guard in his quarters."
"I'm glad he's not..." I started to say 'dead,' but an agonized look from Thelassa stopped me.
"I don't know why he wanted to hurt you," the warden said in a tortured whisper. "I don't know why he went along with me."
Much to her surprise, I smiled. "Thelassa, he would do anything for you. Besides that, he was probably jealous."
"Jealous?" the warden repeated, bemused. "Of you?"
I nodded. "He loves you," I told her. "You didn't know?"
She shook her head dazedly, and I wondered sadly if things might have turned out differently if she had realized sooner. Could she have loved him in return?
Two tears ran down her cheeks, perhaps giving me an answer.
"I'm sorry," I said, and I meant it. Maybe I was too exhausted to be resentful of the harm they'd done me, or maybe it was because I'd already learned a powerful lesson in the futility of hatred, but I felt no anger towards Thelassa or the Captain.
She smiled wryly, then swallowed. "I sent a message to the Emperor yesterday, explaining everything that happened."
I didn't tell her that he was probably already on his way. "He's a merciful man, Thelassa. You don't need to be afraid of him."
She nodded. "Thank you, Gabrielle."
Excited shouts coming from the courtyard a few days later announced Alexander's arrival.
He didn't waste any time finding my quarters.
"Alexander!" I cried in delight, throwing my arms wide when his tall figure appeared in my doorway, and he hastily swooped forward to give me a hug.
"Gabrielle!" He squeezed the breath out of me, then looked me over critically, making note of every injury, every bruise. "By the gods, I am glad to see you alive. I came as quickly as I could. I see the message I received was garbled, not that I'm surprised at that. It said you'd been locked in Xena's cell by the warden!" He laughed at what he thought was the obvious ridiculousness of it before turning serious. "I half expected to arrive to claim your body for a funeral."
I shook my head. "I'm glad that wasn't the case. But the message you received was correct. The warden and I had a... disagreement. In her anger, she pushed me down a staircase and had me locked in Xena's cell."
Alexander kneeled beside my bed, holding my hand in both of his. "Athena's mercy, my friend...how did you survive?"
"It was very strange," I said slowly. "Xena...tended me. Helped me. She even set my leg."
"You mean, she wasn't the one who broke it?!"
"No, that happened in the fall."
"And this?" He touched the bandage on my arm.
"That was Captain Braxis." Briefly I outlined what had happened after Thelassa dragged me from the cell. "Xena saved my life, Alexander."
He snorted. "Very interesting. I wonder what she's scheming?"
"No, it's not like that at all! She could have escaped if she'd wanted to!" How could I explain to him that she'd changed? "She's different, Alexander."
"Escaped? From this island? Not likely. Different? I doubt it. She must have been using you to get at me." He smiled. "But thankfully your ordeal is over now. Tomorrow we sail back to Corinth."
"Back to Corinth?" I repeated, shocked by the abruptness of it.
"Of course! You don't want to stay here, do you? They can't take proper care of you."
He was right. I should want to go. I had what I came for, Xena's history, the reason she became a warlord, and much, much more. At the palace, I could write in comfort despite my broken leg, tended by servants who were well paid to look after my needs rather than relying on the kindness of the prison guards and the grouchy old healer. It would be good to be pampered for a while, to live in luxury again after the cold darkness of Xena's cell. But I found myself strangely reluctant to leave
"Gabrielle, what is it?" Alexander asked, concerned by my obvious hesitation. "You're not afraid of the travel, are you? I heard you were seasick on the way here, but with my ship and the prevailing winds, it won't take nearly so long going back."
"No, no, it's not that," I said. So what was it? I searched my heart and was surprised by what I found. I couldn't believe I was going to say this, but I had to admit the truth. "I... I don't want to leave Xena."
He laughed. "I know you're determined to get your story, but it will wait until you're healed. As soon as you're leg is mended, I'll put you on the first supply ship back."
Gods how I loved this man. But how could I make him understand? "Alexander, I already have my story. I don't want to leave Xena because, well, because...." I swallowed, unable to go on.
He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. Suddenly his face filled with concern. "You're wounded. And you've cracked your skull." He touched my face gently. "It's natural to be disoriented after an injury to the head, Gabrielle. Let me take you to my healers, I beg you."
I groaned inwardly. This was going to be very, very difficult. It had been terribly hard for me to get over my hatred for Xena, and I knew that Alexander's feelings were just as strong as my own. I almost felt like I was betraying him by confessing... confessing... Oh gods, help me! I felt my eyes filling with tears even as I shook my head to deny it.
"Gabrielle, what is it?" Alexander asked gently.
I covered my face with my hands, unable to watch the expression on his face. "Oh gods, I... I think I love her."
He was silent for a moment as if trying to decide if he'd heard me correctly. Finally, he pulled my hands away from my face. "You what?!"
"I love Xena," I sobbed.
He shook his head angrily. "No! No you don't. You can't! You're hurt!"
"You don't understand! She saved my life! Oh Alexander, she's changed!"
"I don't believe you!!"
"It's true! She regrets what she's done!"
"She's deceiving you, Gabrielle!" he shouted at me. "Gods be damned, I should have killed her on the plain of Mt. Cithaeron!"
"No! No! Alexander, it's not like that! Don't you see, she's...it's... redemption..." I laughed through my tears. "She's been redeemed. Against all our expectations. You have to see her. Just talk to her! You'll see for yourself!"
"Will she admit she's conquered?"
"Yes! Maybe! I don't know! But Alexander, she knows she's done wrong, and she regrets it. Would the Xena we hated ever ask someone for forgiveness?"
"Of course not."
"She did. She asked me to forgive her for crucifying me. She even told me she was sorry."
That brought him up short. I knew Alexander couldn't picture Xena crying to manipulate me, someone who might tell the world about it later.
I nodded. "She did, Alexander."
He looked thoughtful for a moment, if no less angry. "How long were you in her cell?"
"Twelve days?! She let you live for twelve days?"
I nodded again.
He ran his hand through his hair. "Gabrielle, I'm sorry. I just can't believe this."
"Please, Alexander, you have to trust me. Have I ever mislead you? I admit I'm injured, but I'm not crazy!"
He started pacing my room. After four passes he stopped. "Very well. I will go speak to her."
"Thank you." I prayed that Xena wouldn't throw one of her fits. The first time she tried to spit at him, I knew he would leave. Maybe, just maybe, she would be apologetic enough to convince him I wasn't completely deluded.
Alexander returned a short time later, and my heart sank at the sight of his impassive face. He sat quietly in the chair at my table.
"She didn't admit you conquered her, did she?" I asked, fighting a sudden bitterness.
"No, she didn't." He pursed his lips briefly before schooling his features into the same unreadable expression. "However, she very pointedly reminded me that she saved your life."
"She did? And what did you say?"
"I thanked her."
"And then what?"
"She asked me to repay her."
"An honorable execution."
I gasped in horror. "Oh no... oh no!"
"I agreed to it."
I felt faint. "No!!! Oh no! You can't! You didn't! Oh, Alexander, how could you?!"
"It's the reward she asked for, Gabrielle. I owe her that, at least."
This was cruel, cruel irony. For so many years I'd wished the woman dead, and now that it could be accomplished with a clear and free conscience, I couldn't bear the thought of it. "Take me to her!"
"No, Gabrielle. It's better this way."
"If you don't take me to her, I will crawl there!"
He knew me well enough to know I wasn't kidding. Without a word he bent over and picked me up.
Two guards preceded us down the stairs to Xena's cell.
"Don't," Alexander told them when they started to wind the crank. He carried me past their startled looks and started to put me down on the bench.
"No," I said. "Put me over there, next to the bars." Xena was sitting in the far corner, but I didn't want Alexander to have to carry me all the way around to her.
"Gabrielle..." he began to protest.
Xena snickered when he complied. "I'd say you were pussy whipped, Alexander, except Gabrielle tells me you're more into boys."
"I'm going to enjoy killing you tomorrow, Xena," he answered, straightening up with a scowl.
With the help of the bars I pulled myself into a sitting position. "Please stop," I begged them. "Just stop!"
They both looked at me.
"Alexander, would you please take the guards and leave us alone?" I asked when I was sure I had their attention.
"I'm not leaving," he said, although he dismissed the guards with a wave.
"Don't," Xena said at the same time.
I couldn't decide if I wanted to cry or scream. "Xena, I have to talk to you," I whispered, doing neither.
"You can say your good-byes with pretty-boy watching." Her voice was cold, distant, and she didn't look at me when she said it.
I leaned against a bar for support. "Is that why you think I'm here? To say good-bye?"
Her eyes glanced at me briefly before looking away again. "Isn't it? You got what you came for, didn't you? I've told you about my past. It's time for you to go home, little girl."
She was deliberately trying to make me angry, but she failed miserably. Instead, my heart was breaking. "Xena, please don't do this," I breathed, unable to stop the tears this time.
I could see the muscles in her jaw clench and unclench as she refused to look at me. "I want to die."
I couldn't bear it. I grabbed the bars of the cage, willing them apart. "No!" I begged her. "Please, no! I'll come visit you every day! I'll tell you every story I know... every poem I write... I swear it!"
She looked at me, then, and the pain I saw in her red rimmed eyes stole my breath away. "Gabrielle," she said quietly. "You don't belong here. You can't spend your life in this pit. You deserve so, so much better."
"Xena, I love you."
Her face screwed in pain as if I'd physically struck her. She fell on her side, curled in a fetal position, her face buried in her hands, hiding her tears.
I started to pull my way towards her, aware only of an overwhelming need to hold her.
"For the love of Zeus," Alexander swore, grabbing me by the shoulders and half carrying, half dragging me around the cell to Xena's side.
I reached into the cell and pulled her to me. Lying down on my side, I wrapped my arms around her back, hating the cold metal bars that separated us.
"Don't do this, Gabrielle," Xena begged.
"I can't deny it, Xena," I whispered. "I love you. Please don't die."
She rolled over to face me and touched my cheek with damp fingers. "It's so wrong for you. I've caused you nothing but pain...!"
"Your death would cause me more."
"You...we... can't... live like this!"
"Xena, do you love me?" I had to know, had to hear her answer, even if it would destroy me.
I could see the pain in her eyes, the resolution. "No," she finally whispered and rolled away from me. "Leave me be."
She was doing this to protect me, I realized. She thought I would leave with Alexander and eventually forget her, living a long and happy life elsewhere. But she couldn't have been more wrong. "Xe..." I choked on her name, unable to go on.
Alexander tried to pull me away from the bars, but I slapped his hands away. "Go away!" I yelled at him, finding my voice again. "Xena, please tell me the truth," I pleaded.
"I want to die," she repeated hoarsely.
I reached through the bars and stroked the back of her head. "Why, Xena? Why?"
She started shivering, but refused to answer.
"Xena, you think you're helping me, but you're not. You don't know what's good for me. You don't. Your death will be mine, too, because I don't know how I'll live without you."
She rolled back over again and opened her eyes slowly. I met her anguished gaze with open honesty, willing her to know I spoke the truth. "Gabrielle," she whispered. "No...!"
I touched her cheek. "Xena, do you love me? Please tell me the truth."
I watched as her resolve slowly crumbled, and she started crying again. "Yes," she finally gasped. "Gods, yes."
My heart soared. "Xena, do you trust me?"
"Xena, has Alexander conquered you?" Please lie, please lie, please lie.
She froze, and her eyes flashed icy blue when they met mine.
"We both know the truth," I said, trying to smile through my own tears. "Trust me, please. Has Alexander conquered you?"
"For you," she said finally, her eyes never leaving my own, "I will admit that Alexander has conquered me." She smiled crookedly. "And you have conquered my heart."
I looked up at Alexander in triumph.
He was staring at Xena in disbelief.
"Reconsider her judgement!" I begged him, pushing myself up into a sitting position. "You said you would if she ever admitted it."
He started pacing. "I can't let her go, Gabrielle."
"I know, but she doesn't have to be confined to this cell. Let her confinement be to the island, instead."
"She's a danger to the guards."
"I don't deserve your mercy, Alexander," Xena said quietly, also sitting up. "But I swear I won't hurt the guards"
Alexander whirled to face her. "How can I trust you?!"
"I trust her," I interjected firmly.
He grimaced. "I can't do it, Gabrielle. You're going to get yourself killed...and a lot of other people, too."
"Will you trust my word of honor as a warrior?" Xena asked before I could reply.
He considered it for a moment. "No. I don't believe this charade of yours, Xena. I don't understand it, and I certainly don't trust it."
"Alexander..." I began.
"She's using you, Gabrielle!" he yelled at me, and I cowered before his fury. "Can't you see that!? If I let her out of that cell, she'll kill you, she'll kill the guards, and before you know it, she'll be leading an army against me!"
"That's not true!" I protested weakly. "She could have escaped before!"
"Lies and manipulation!" he stormed. "She dies tomorrow, Gabrielle. And if you won't leave with me now, I'll send the guards down to take you by force." He tried to grab my shoulders to pull me away from the bars, but I slapped his face as hard as I could.
"Don't touch me!" I hissed. "Don't ever touch me!"
He stepped back in surprise, then frowned and turned on his heel, heading towards the stairs.
I started sobbing. Xena was going to die now whether she wanted to or not, and my whole life was in ruins.
"Alexander, wait," Xena said, climbing stiffly to her feet. "Please!"
He hesitated for a minute without turning around.
"You don't have any reason to trust me," she said. "I understand that. You have every reason to suspect my motives. I understand that, too. There was a time when you'd be absolutely right. I would have done anything, manipulated anyone, to get out of this miserable hole and regain my freedom. Believe me, in the first few months I was here I tried. But not anymore. I don't know how to convince you of this, but I would never do anything to hurt Gabrielle."
"You crucified her!"
"It was horribly wrong of me. I wish I could undo it, but I can't."
"Fair words, Xena. If I thought you were born with a heart, I might even believe them." With that, he left.
Xena sighed heavily and sat down beside me, taking me in her arms as best she could with the bars and her chains in the way. "I'm sorry, my love," she said softly. "Please don't cry!"
I couldn't stop. "He thinks I'm irrational!" I buried my face in her shoulder. "He thinks I hit my head and can't think straight! He doesn't want to believe you've changed!"
Xena kissed my head. "Gabrielle, you are irrational to fall in love with me. He's only trying to protect you."
"I don't want his protection any more!"
"Well, I think I can say with a fair degree of certainty that 'Rulers of the World' don't generally appreciate being slapped," she teased. "But I think it will take more than that to convince Alexander to abandon you."
I snorted through my tears. "Then next time I'll have to kick him!"
Xena chuckled. "That I'd like to see." She kissed me again soberly. "Promise me something, Gabrielle?"
"Promise you'll go on without me."
I pulled away from her so I could see her face, disbelieving she would be so cruel as to ask that of me. "No!"
Her face screwed up in pain. "I'm so sorry this is happening, Gabrielle. I'm so sorry for it all. Everything. Nothing good could ever come from anything having to do with me. It's best that I die tomorrow. It's best that you be rid of me so I can't hurt you anymore."
"Don't say that!" I said, putting two fingers to her lips, remembering our lovemaking. "You're the worst thing and the best thing that ever happened to me! I mean it, Xena. I don't know how I can live with a broken heart."
"You'll have to find a way, Gabrielle. For me...please?"
"I love you, Xena."
"I love you, too, Gabrielle."
Our tender embrace was interrupted by a loud scuffling on the stairs followed by muttered swearing.
I looked at Xena, confused. It didn't sound like guards.
She caught my glance and shrugged.
A moment later Alexander appeared again at the base of the steps. "For the love of Zeus," he swore. "I've never heard such ridiculous, sappy, sweet, disgustingly heart wrenching confessions of love in all my life!"
I stared at him in astonishment. "You were eavesdropping?!" Surely that was beneath him!
"Not deliberately," he said defensively. "I couldn't leave you alone down here, Gabrielle. I stopped halfway up the stairs. And then I heard you talking... Um, the acoustics are rather good for that, apparently... I just decided not to interrupt you, that's all."
It was obvious that he was now more embarrassed than angry, and I could sense he might be willing to renegotiate. The question was, how far would he go? "Alexander," I said, trying to dry my eyes on my chiton. "Please reconsider your judgement."
He crossed his arms, frowning. "Stand up, Xena."
Slowly, she complied, matching his stance.
He smiled. "Have I conquered you, Xena?"
Xena, too, smiled. "I let you, of course, but yes, you have conquered me."
"You let me?"
"Oh really? And how do you explain that?"
The smile faded from her face. "After Athens...well, let's just say my heart wasn't in it anymore."
Alexander blanched, and I knew he was thinking back to the war and how things changed then against all odds.
"Alexander..." I began, but he stopped me by raising a hand.
"Swear upon that which you hold most dear that you will not try to escape this island, Xena. Swear that you will not try to harm the guards or any of the staff here."
"Done," Xena said without hesitation. "I swear it upon my love for Gabrielle."
Their eyes locked, and something seemed to pass between them, some unspoken understanding that they alone shared. After several moments, Alexander nodded. "So be it. You're confined to this island for life, Xena. Don't break your word, or you know my punishment will be harsh and swift."
"I'll remember that," she said.
He looked at me. "You'd better not be wrong about this, my friend."
I smiled. "I'm not. I know it in my heart."
He nodded. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go deal with the warden and ex-captain. Unless, of course, you want to leave with me?" he asked, looking at me.
I shook my head. "Be merciful, Alexander," I implored him. "Thelassa, especially, regrets what she did. She, too, saved my life at the end."
He nodded, then left again, and I turned back to Xena. "Please tell me, my love, that a life shared with me on this island is better than death?"
"Gabrielle..." she began, then swallowed, her beautiful blue eyes filling with tears. "It's far better than I deserve," she whispered. "I don't deserve to be so happy."
I smiled gladly. "Shhh. Please don't cry," I said, and I felt my heart fill with absolute joy, knowing I could now share my life with the woman I loved. I leaned forward and kissed her...with my lips, my heart, and my soul.
The end... maybe? Anyone for a sequel?
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