by Redhawk

¡Olé! Award Winner


Copyright: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess are owned by MCA/Universal and used here without permission. References to a certain theory of immortality belong to Davis/Panzer Productions. Everything else is mine.

Warnings: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story. This story depicts scenes of sexual violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story. There are several expletives as well, though I've done my best to not let them get too out of hand. This story contains a hurt/comfort scenario. There are standard scenes of violence wherever Xena is concerned. This story has references to drugs/alcohol to include usage, sales, and distribution of same. If you are under the age of consent, leave. If it's illegal where you are currently residing, move. If any of these things get your knickers in a twist, I know of a good fabric softener.

Comments to Redhawk


Part One: Tuesday

The woman sat at the back of the Greek restaurant, ever vigilant. Her table afforded her the best view of the entire establishment and it's entries. She pushed aside her plate, deposited her knapkin on it, and took a sip of her wine. With a sigh, she leaned her long form back and stretched her legs under the table.

The meal had been good. The wine was better. Idly, she swirled the contents of her glass, ice blue eyes wandering about the room.

"Can I get you anything else?"

The woman looked up at the waitress. "No, thanks, just the check."

"Sure. I'll be right back." The waitress removed the woman's plate and wandered to the kitchen.

The woman watched the waitress move away with some interest. Snorting, she shook her head and finished her glass of wine. Now was not the time for that. Maybe later this week, she'd be able to afford the leisure time, but she had a job to finish first. Once that subpeona was delivered she'd be free and clear until the next hire.

Without warning, her stomach and heart clenched. All her senses became crystal clear. Adrenaline pumped into her system as she sat upright and carefully scanned the room. Someone's coming. Her eyes narrowed as they darted to the door. She watched as a man walked in, his eyes searching as well. Their search ended as their gazes locked, hazel eyes to pale blue.

As the man smirked and threaded his way through the restaurant to her table, the woman slouched back in her chair and smiled ferally, studying him. He was of average height and weight, yet he walked with an air of self-assurance. She noticed he led with his right, and filed it away for future reference. Nobody I've met before. A youngling?

"Xena of Amphipolous, I presume?" the man asked, his eyes studying her. He knew it had to be her. The description alone was extremely accurate - ice blue eyes, dark hair, tall. She was wearing a white shirt and vest, a small Celtic medallion hanging from her neck. He could also see the slight bulge of a weapon in a shoulder holster under her left arm.

"Who wants to know?"

"My name is Ernst Ginsberg. Perhaps you've heard of me...?"

Xena pursed her lips and stared off into space for a second. "Nope, I haven't," she lied. "Am I supposed to be impressed?" Ginsberg. Something about Napolean. She took another sip of her wine.

Ginsberg shrugged lightly, conceding the point to her. He looked pointedly at the chair across from her.

The woman idly waved him into the chair. As he settled down, the waitress returned with the check, surprised to find a new customer.

"I'd like a glass of wine, myself," Ginsberg told her. "And another for my friend....?" He raised his eybrows at Xena, who shrugged and nodded.

After the waitress had delivered their order and left, Xena spoke up, "So, what exactly is your definition of ëfriend'?"

"Oh, you know, I think." Ginsberg took a sip of his wine and nodded in approval. "An acquaintance, so to speak. Not someone that I plan to spend a lot of time with."

Xena grinned and leaned forward, a manic glint reaching her eyes. "Then ëfriend' it is, because I don't plan on spending a lot of time on you."

Ginsberg chuckled. "Well, that remains to be seen. Tell me, Xena of Amphipolous, how long has it been? Hmmmm?" He contemplated his wine. "You're not an easy woman to find, you know. I've been hunting you for well over five years."

The woman shrugged, appearing bored. Leaning back, she said, "Simple incompetence, I'm sure. I haven't been hiding." She smirked at the glare from across the table.

"I'd heard you were overly confident. Apparently my sources were correct."

Xena shrugged again and drank her wine with a smile. While she appeared to be a lazy lion, her mind was racing. He wasn't someone she'd dealt with before, but he was a threat if he had been hunting her. Apparently, he had decided that he was good enough to take her on. But that was nothing new. She had developed quite the reputation over the years. She needed to find a way to extricate herself from this situation - there were too many potential witnesses here - and she was sure that Ginsberg would agree.

"So..... Ever been to our fair city?" she asked.

He raised an eyebrow. "As a matter of fact, no. What I've seen is quite nice, however. Perhaps I'll settle down here." He smiled. "You've been here for awhile, have you?"

Xena nodded. "Yeah, awhile," she agreed with a negligent wave. "I can direct you to all the great tourist attractions, if you'd like." She grinned wolfishly at him.

"I think I'd like that very much." Ginsberg returned the smile.

Xena stepped out of the Alexis restaurant into the bright sunlight. Still too early to go hunting. Ginsberg had left the restaurant several minutes earlier and was nowhere to be seen. Xena nodded to herself and strolled down Burnside to her car.

It was beginning to get warm again. Portland, Oregon was going to be celebrating the annual Rose Festival next weekend, and Waterfront Park was already beginning to show the effects. Xena stopped at the bridge, looking out over the activity. There were already a couple of tents going up further down the way. Closer to the bridge was the skeletal frame of a stage thrusting it's way to the sky. Workmen clambered over it, calling to each other.

Xena leaned her elbows against the railing, blue eyes far away. Other festivals, other times came to mind. A green-eyed woman with red-gold hair smiled and waved before excitedly turning to watch a juggler. A staff twirled and danced in the woman's capable hands during practice bouts on the field. The woman danced in Xena's arms to a folk tune, body held close. Skin against skin, heat rising from both to feed the ascending inferno. She could hear the moans, the sighs, her name being called out breathlessly.

Xena shook herself and stood upright. She took a deep breath, looking down and again seeing the stage, the tents, the workmen. Various people rollerblading, walking, biking along the path. She blew out the breath out and moved to the stairs, taking the steps down to the parking area under the bridge. She had a couple of hours before dark. Time to finish that job and go hunting.

She parked her Mustang convertable on the shoulder of the road. It had gotten dark and cooled off considerably. She removed her .45 automatic and locked it in the glove compartment. Reaching next to her, she picked up her sword and exited the car, locking it and setting the alarm. She scanned the forest around her with narrowed eyes, senses taut and ready. Quietly, she trotted across the street and moved down the trail.

It had been a long time since she'd been on a hunt, but Xena hadn't let herself slack. There was always going to be somebody to challenge her; she knew this. And despite all the pain and darkness she dealt with on a daily basis, she was just too damned stubborn to give up life. Besides, it wasn't like she'd end up in the Elysian Fields or anything. The woman snorted softly and moved off the trail.

The Arboretum was a large forest actually located within city limits. There were miles of trails that people used during the daylight hours for nature walks and the like. But, at night, the forest was fairly well deserted - a perfect place for her needs. She hadn't been here since..... Well, wasn't it that woman from the Czech Republic? That had to have been at least three years ago.

Xena shrugged to herself and kept moving silently through the forest. She had given up the trail, preferring the unpredictablity of the woods themselves. Not that it made any difference - she'd be able to feel Ginsberg, and he her, before she got to him - but it was good to feel the wildness beneath her boots. Even if it was a cultivated wildness.

The chill air was rich with the smells of pine and loam. A field mouse skittered away from her path. The slight breeze rustled the trees as they whispered to each other. Yes. It had been a long time since she was here last. She vowed to return in the daylight at the first opportunity.

She stopped. Her heart and stomach clenched. She could feel the tingling in her body that heralded the closeness of another. Adrenaline pumped through her system as she cautiously looked around for her prey.

She heard a twig snap and moved towards it. Ginsberg was leaning against a tree, looking nonchalant, cleaning his fingernails with a dagger in his left hand. A saber hung from his left hip in a well-worn sheath. He yawned idly before scanning the surrounding area. "Are we to play hide and seek, then?" he asked the air.

Xena strode forward, revealing herself with a smile. "Not my game," she responded in a low voice. "Got anything better?"

Ginsberg shrugged. Pushing himself away from the tree, he circled around the small clearing. "Oh, I think we can devise a little something to keep you entertained."

She moved opposite of him, watching the dagger in his hand. She drew her sword from its sheath and cut the air with it, feeling the balance and heft. Eagerness and a grim joy flowed through her. Gods, I love this dance.

The man before her drew his saber, and crouched down a bit, brown eyes sparkling. Slowly, they manuevered, feinting, searching for weakness. Suddenly, they both surged forward, swords clashing together. Sparks flew in the night. With swords locked, Xena felt more than saw the dagger moving towards her right side. She pushed off with her sword and brought her fist down to smash into Ginsberg's forearm, spoiling the aim.

The man backed away, grinning at her. "Not bad for an old hag," he quipped. "How old are you, anyway?" He moved around her, searching her defenses.

"What's the saying? Old enough to know better, too young to care?" Xena responded. She moved forward in a quick slash across his belly, but Ginsberg jumped back. Before he could go any further, she attacked again, their swords deflecting each other. Again, she pushed the attack, locking swords with him. "And how old are you, youngster?" she growled before shoving him away from their deadlock.

Ginsberg laughed. "I like your answer."

Xena moved forward, ducking under his right arm as the man took a swing with his saber. She felt the fire along her right side, near the kidney. Cursing, she pulled away and blocked the follow up stroke of his saber. Her left hand felt for the damage and came away with blood.

She looked up as she heard chuckling. The man held a bloody dagger. "First blood goes to me, it seems." He leered at her as he licked her blood off the weapon. "Sweet," he murmured, something dark flashing across his eyes. "Wonder how sweet the rest of you tastes."

Smiling ferally, her wound already forgotten, she sprang forward, delivering a roundhouse kick where his head used to be. Ginsberg had ducked out of the way. However, as she came down, she slashed with her sword, catching him on the left thigh. She felt the gratifying thrill of her blade grating against bone. As he faltered, she whirled around, bringing her left fist around to backhand and break his nose.

Ginsberg was no longer smiling. He was on his left knee, leaning on his left hand, saber held out in front of him to forestall another immediate attack. Blood poured from his nose.

The woman backed off, the smile never leaving her face. "Doubt you'll find out," she mocked.

"That remains to be seen," he said with a smile of his own. His face looked like a rictus of death, and the blood had slowed from his nose. He leapt forward, favoring his left leg. Xena blocked the saber and pulled just out of reach of his dagger.

"Is that the best you can do?" she asked, blue eyes icy. She watched the smile drain from Ginsberg's face, his eyes narrowed.

"Oh, no," he said softly. "I can do better." With a sudden flurry of movement, he was upon her, blades shining in the moonlight.

Unable to get her arm up in time, she felt the dagger bite into her belly. She pushed him back, but not before his saber came down and gracefully sliced open her belly again.

Frantically, Xena tucked and rolled away, clutching her stomach with her left hand. Ginsberg grinned at her, limping from side to side, just out of reach. She slowly stood up, accessing the damage and keeping an eye on her opponent.

"You know, I'm surprised you've lived as long as you have," Ginsberg said conversationally. "Getting a little rusty, aren't we?" He chuckled at her glare. "Oh, please, the Evil Eye doesn't work with me. Maybe in your time it was successful, but this is my time." He studied her with a smile. "Ready to die, warrior?"

"Not yet," Xena grated. She rallied forward in a blur of motion, sword and body whirling.

He brought up his saber to block, but failed. Her sword cut deeply into his right arm, causing him to drop his blade. He weakly deflected her next swing with his dagger. The third time her blade approached, Ginsberg couldn't move fast enough. He felt the fire of steel as she ran him through.

Xena used her boot to dislodge her sword from Ginsberg's belly. She watched as he fell to his knees before her. She moved forward, a look of hatred and lust on her beautiful face. "Are you ready to die?" she purred seductively. Taking him by the right shoulder, she braced him as she drove her hilt hard against the wound in his body. The man doubled over, wheezing in agony. Disgusted, she tossed him to the forest floor where he appeared to pass out.

The woman backed off a step to catch her breath. The wound to her belly was already feeling less painful. She watched Ginsberg lay weakly in the dirt, feelings of excitement and joy dueling with the remorse that this was the only option there was. Well, time to finish it. She moved forward and crouched next to the man's head.

"Time to say bye-bye," she crooned, slapping his face. "C'mon, youngster. You got me all excited. I don't like it when my men fall asleep before they deliver."

Ginsberg came to slowly, painfully, moaning. He felt strong fingers grab his hair and help him to a kneeling position. Looking up through bleary eyes, he saw the woman towering over him, sword raised above her head. He fancied she was an angry angel, blue eyes flashing, come to avenge herself against him. He heard her whisper something before feeling the blade slice through the air, decapitating him.

"There can be only one."

Xena watched distractedly as Ginsberg's corpse fell over, twitching and pumping out the last of its arterial blood. The head kept its momentum and rolled to rest under a nearby tree. In the dark moonlight, the corpse began to take on an ethereal glow. It expanded and writhed, becoming a maelstrom that enveloped her.

Convulsions shook her body as the otherworldly storm pierced her to her soul. Lightning crashed out of a clear sky to explode several treetops. Her hair stood on end as the electricity filled the air. She opened her mouth and silently screamed at the desired invasion.

Slowly, the frenzied tempest dissipated, the breeze no longer frantic. As if her strings had been cut, she dropped to her knees, head bowed, gulping in air to her tortured lungs. The night quieted.

The woman leaned on her sword and staggered to her feet. She shuffled over to the corpse. Squatting down, she used the man's clothing to clean off her blade. "Hey," she said conversationally. "Do me a favor. Tell Hades he still owes me." She collected his dagger and saber, cleaning them off as well. Best not to leave too much evidence for Portland's finest, she surmised. Sheathing her own blade, she began to move away from the clearing, senses alert.

Now that she was no longer occupied with Ginsberg, she realized that there was something wrong. Scanning the dark closely, she could faintly detect motion and the sound of ragged breathing. Xena frowned. Damn! Another freaking complication! She began to trot away from the witness and the clearing, keeping an ear tuned. Whoever it was wasn't following her. As she got out of sight, she turned and doubled back, swinging around to come up on the person from behind.

She inched her way forward silently. The witness was crouched behind a large maple tree, peering into the open area. Looked like a kid. She growled to herself. Kids should be home in fucking bed, right now. What the Hades is the world coming to? She eased closer until she was inches away.

"Looking for something?" she growled softly.

The kid gasped and whirled around, eyes wide. Xena's eyes also widened as she recognized the figure. Green eyes, red gold hair in the moonlight. "G.... Gabrielle....?" she whispered in shock, reaching out her hand.

The young woman slashed out viciously with a knife, drawing blood. As the warrior staggered back a step in shock and pain, the kid took off running away from the clearing. Xena could only stare at the retreating form.

"Gabrielle....?" She whispered to herself. But, how?She had watched Gabrielle die over two millenia ago.

Xena didn't know for sure why she had become Immortal and a player of the Game. She had her suspicions, however, and it all revolved around her consumption of ambrosia. After being brought back to life the first time, things had gone on as usual - she and her bard traveled about, righting wrongs, standing up for peace, justice, and the Grecian way. But, eventually, she ran into a brick wall. She died.

There was a major difference with this second death. She saw no one. Nothing. No Tartarus. No Elysium. Neither friends nor enemies nor gods came to her. And then she was alive again, gasping painfully and watching her frantic lover's amazed face. The mortal wound she had taken looked to be a week old, rather than a day.

The two women had talked of it many times over the years, and Xena had fallen one other time to the death that was not death. The same results occurred. One of the beneficial side effects, however, was that the gods seemed to have lost their interest in Xena. She never heard from Ares, Aphrodite, or any of them again. It was as if she was now off limits.

Which was fine by her. She'd about had her fill of their incessant interference and games. It was quite a delight to go day by day and not worry about what god was doing which thing to who. Not having Callisto underfoot was one of the better rewards. It wasn't until years had passed that the couple realized the extent of the changes within Xena.

Gabrielle became old. Xena didn't.

As the years flew by, Gabrielle eventually decided to settle down with her Amazons. Xena, still chafing at establishing a permanent residence, took many ëvacations' from the tribe. But she always returned to her heart. Her bard's red-gold hair faded to white, the green eyes became murkier as time went on. As Gabrielle's time neared its end, Xena stayed in the village more and more. Ultimately, the day arrived that would be the bard's last.

In the Queen's hut, there was only the sound of raspy breathing. Queen Gabrielle lay in her deathbed, a coma having taken her two days before. Sitting on the edge of the bed, holding her hand, was the Warrior Princess. Surrounding her were her honor guard and a few close friends.

Xena idly stroked the paper thin skin of Gabrielle's hand. It had been a good many years and she only hoped that the gods would see fit to ease her lover from the pain that this world held for her. She had long since given up talking to the gods herself, as they ignored her, as usual. She could only hope.

She felt the hand under hers twitch and weakly grab ahold. Her icy blue eyes darted to Gabrielle's face, aged green eyes smiling back at her.

The Queen opened her mouth to speak, but only a cough came out.

Xena grabbed a cup of water and helped her lover drink, easing her back down onto the pillows. "Don't talk, Gabrielle. Save your strength."

Gabrielle shook her head. "No," she whispered. "I don't need my strength any more, Xena. We both know that."

The dark haired warrior lowered her head, hiding the pained expression. "Sure, you do," she choked. "We'll have you up and doing staff routines in no time."

The elderly woman chuckled and reached out her hand. She turned Xena's face towards her, caressing a cheek and brushing away an errant tear. "I want you to know that I love you. I always will. And I will wait for you in the Elysian Fields."

"From the looks of it, I won't be arriving anywhere - Elysium or Tartarus," Xena growled. "You could be waiting a very long time, my bard."

Gabrielle shrugged minutely, a soft smile on her face. "I have many skills, my warrior." Her smile widened. "Besides, if you make me wait long enough, I'll just have to come back and find you."

Despite herself, Xena snorted and grinned.

"Ah, that's better. I wanted to see you smile again. Remember me in your thoughts, Xena."

"I will," Xena whispered. She leaned forward and softly brushed her bard's lips with a kiss. She heard Gabrielle sigh for the last time. She pulled away, struggling with the knot in her throat, and gently closed her lover's eyes. "I love you, Gabrielle. Never forget that."

Xena had suffered through the long, drawn out funeral of state for three days before Gabrielle's body was put to the flame. Afterwards, she took the ashes to the coastline and let them fly from a cliff. She made good her promise and continued doing good for others, rather than allowing the darkness to take hold again. It was an extremely difficult time, but she had been given Gabrielle's staff and would hold it at night, or carry it with her during her travels as a reminder.

Several years later, she felt the Quickening for the first time and discovered what it meant to be Immortal. She cursed the day that she ever decided to fight and come back from death. She was positive that the ambrosia was the reason this had happened. All she could hope for now was that someone somewhere had the skills to take her head. Because if there was one thing Xena knew, her will to live was far too strong for her to stand idly by and commit passive suicide.

"No! It can't be."

Xena started and looked for the speaker, only to realize it was herself. She extended her senses, trying to locate the girl. Nothing. Damn! She got away!

The woman's grip tightened on Ginsberg's weapons. She had to get out of here. If that kid tips the police, there's going to be a lot of unwanted company in these here hills. Xena fought with the urge to follow the kid's trail. Wouldn't do any good once she got out of the forest. No way to leave a trail on pavement.

Cursing softly to herself, Xena vowed to find the girl and find out what the blazes was going on. She slowly began trotting away from the physical and emotional carnage, silent and frowning.

Part II

Return to the Academy

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