When it Hurts the Most
By R.G. Heller
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle ect ect belong to Ren pics and MCA Universal Studios. No infringement is intended.
Timeline: This story occurs some years after season six.
Spoiler: For those of you who havent seen Whos Gurkhan there is a spoiler. Read at your own risk.
Content: Its supposed to be a sensitive story so if youre over sensitive this is a warning and if youre under sensitive maybe this would be good for you. However if you fail to find it sensitive dont blame me I said its supposed to be
Personal Note: I didnt intend for this story to happen. I was working on my other one and all of a sudden I had this strange dialogue in my head. So I wrote it because I thought it work and I cant just pass up unexpected intruding dialogue. I hope you like it. Love to know what you think. (That was not an invitation for flames) I always respond to email. http://firstname.lastname@example.org If you like it, check out my original work at http://www.angelfire.com/super/fiction
Now some Thanks: Thanks ForevaXena for your tips and for beta reading. You helped me a lot. Thanks Gina (a.k.a. Gabby Bard) for responding to my fan mail and continuing to talk with me for all this time. I always smile when I get mail from you. Your story "Forever" also had a lot to do with the unexpected dialogue that formed in my crazy head. Thanks! Thanks also to Terry, for reading through the crap I sent you almost six months ago. Thank God it got better. Probably wouldnt have happened without your help.
Ok, I know theres a story in here somewhere
I remember the day they arrived. My mother was utterly shocked, but beaming nonetheless. I wasnt too concerned. I barely knew either one of them. To be polite, Gabrielle asked if they could stay. I returned to my chores and my mother started swarming around the house rearranging furniture and such to accommodate our new guests. I heard Gabrielle begin to argue with her and finally my mother settled down.
We had an excellent meal that night and Xena told a few stories. I thought it odd that it was the warrior doing the storytelling instead of the bard. My mother bragged of Gabrielle on a daily basis.
For the first few nights, Xena and Gabrielle slept on the floor in the living area. In those days I didnt sleep much. The first night they were with us I dont think I slept at all. I left my room once that night, after hearing some commotion. I was hoping that maybe Gabrielle was up, so I rolled myself out of bed and went to see. I had wanted to talk with her, but I had wanted to do it privately.
I remember sighing when I saw it was Xena who was awake. She was going through a leather bag, and had it turned sideways towards the fire. Disgusted. Thats the best way to describe the look on her face. She began mumbling something under her breath and shook the bag a few times. It was a gentle shake, but I could see the anger in her hands. They were trembling. When she finally did notice me she jumped. Her cheeks turned bright red. I assumed shed rarely ever been caught off guard.
"No." Thats all I could conjure up in response. At the time I couldnt even bring myself to look her in the eyes.
"Me neither." She stared at Gabrielle for a long moment before finally returning her eyes to me. I was nervous, but somehow I managed to summon enough composure to continue the conversation. Although, all I could think to say was, "What brings you to Poteidaia?" She frowned when I said it, and then looked at Gabrielle again.
"She hasnt been feeling well. She wont go to a healer. She insists she just needs to rest for a few days. We were in the area, so she asked if we could come here until she felt better. I couldnt say no to her, so here we are."
I told her they were welcome to stay as long as they liked. She nimbly smiled in my direction. After that I turned and walked back to my room. What else was there to say? Besides, it was evident she didnt want to talk. I dont know if she found whatever it was she was looking for in that bag. I heard her rummaging through something for a while after I left.
By the fifth day of their stay with us, we had moved Gabrielle into my mothers room. Xena also began to sleep there. She stayed on the floor at the end of the bed. My mother slept with me in my room. No one talked much, except to Gabrielle. Im not sure where she found the energy to do it, but she never sent anyone away. Sometimes shed fall asleep mid-sentence or suddenly get sick. I know it upset her. She knew how it affected Xena. My mother began to distance herself more and more from Gabrielle. I suppose losing her once was hard enough.
Xena rarely left the room. I often heard them arguing. Occasionally Gabrielle won, and Xena would go for a walk in town. Shed always return with a gift and some herbs from the market. I remember her once coming back with a rather large frying pan and a real smile on her face. Gabrielle began laughing the instant Xena stepped through her door. She started coughing next. A gut wrenching wet cough.
"Gabrielle calm down. What is so funny?"
"Gods! God. Whatever! Damn you Xena."
"What? I thought youd like it. It was the best frying pan in town and I only paid "
"No, Xena I love it. Ill cook you a whole school of fish in it when Im better."
The next night Gabrielle vomited some blood. She was adamant that no one needed to stay up with her through the night. She fell trying to clean up the mess. In the morning Xena moved a chair in by the bed. From there on out, she watched Gabrielle every night. She would take a brief nap in the morning, but only when she was assured that either my mother or I would stay in the room.
I checked on them once a night. Xena asked me to, but I would have done it anyway. One evening I looked in to find them both sleeping. It was so peaceful. For a while I just stood there in the doorway. I tried to be quiet when I entered the room. Actually I was a little scared. Even then as she slept, Xena intimidated me. When I was about halfway in Gabrielle opened her eyes. I sort of flinched but I didnt make any noise.
"Hi. Just checking in."
"Should I?" I looked at Xena and so did she.
"No. Let her sleep. She needs it."
She was so sincere. Her eyes said so much. She kept them on Xena, only glancing back at me to say thanks.
That morning Xena was irate. It was the only day she went for a walk without first being prodded by Gabrielle, and it was also the only day she came back empty handed.
Gabrielle got worse. She came down with a horrible fever. It would break, and then be right back again the next day. Sometimes she would shiver violently at night. No one slept much during that time.
Their banter stopped. Xena became almost vicious towards Gabrielle. She wanted to take her to the Amazons. It certainly would have been easier on my mother had they left. But that night when I talked with Xena well thats the only brave thing Ive ever done. Her words were so forceful, and the look on her face - it was unforgettable.
"Were leaving tomorrow. Youre not in a position to make any more choices." She was storming out of the room when she said it. Heading for the barn to make Gabrielle a bed that a horse could pull.
When I looked in on her I remember thinking about how deathly tired she appeared. Gabrielle didnt say anything to me. She asked with her eyes.
To my amazement I felt almost serene as I walked out to the barn. I entered slowly. Xena knew I was there but paid me no attention. I stood quietly and watched her. She was on a rampage. I knew I couldnt afford to beg or plead with her. I wanted her to speak first.
Quite a great length of time passed before she finally did. She charged right up to me. I cant believe I didnt shy away or even blink. I looked her straight in the eyes, and they were cold, cold eyes.
"No!" She began to cry and her finger trembled as she held it out at me. "She always told me that she believed destiny is what you make it, and if she doesnt want to make it, then Im going to make it for her."
"Xena, shes made her choice."
"The choice isnt hers to make."
"Yes it is. You need to let her go."
"Who are you to tell me what I need and dont need?" I dont need to do anything." I really thought she might kill me, the way she looked me up and down.
"Xena, if it were up to us, to choose our passing, the world would either be a very overcrowded place or barren. The one thing we can do is chose where we want to pass, and shes done that. For whatever reason, she chose to come here."
"She is not going to die! Not like that, and for what?" She faltered a bit. I thought she might faint. I guess my instincts took over. I grabbed her by her upper arms and held her. "Its not fair." She backed away from me as she regained some composure, but I kept my hands on her arms.
"No its not. Death rarely is."
"She has beaten it before, and she can beat it again."
"No!" I almost fell when she pushed me away. "Damn you and damn her!"
I stayed with Gabrielle that night. Every time she woke shed look around the room and then at me before finally drifting back to sleep.
Xena returned in the morning. When she walked into Gabrieles room I was almost sick. Whatever courage Id had the prior night was gone. I knew I couldnt stop her from taking Gabrielle. I stood up from the chair and retreated to a corner of the room.
She moved slowly, giving me a quick look before fixing her eyes on Gabrielle. I couldnt do anything but watch. She sat down in the chair. For a long moment nothing happened. It was almost as if just in that room, time had stopped. Finally she leaned forward and brushed away the hair on Gabrielles forehead. I heard her begin to cry, but I didnt move. I was frozen. She took Gabrielles hand into her own and gently rubbed her finger up and down her palm. Gabrielle woke up.
"Shh. Were staying." After she said it, she gently kissed Gabrielles hand and then rested it against her cheek.
I just stared at the ground and scurried out. In the hall I leaned back against the wall and wiped the tears from my face. My mother watched me. I nodded once to her. Its all she needed. We left them undisturbed for the rest of the day.
When I went in to check on them the next morning I saw a light in Gabrielles eyes that I hadnt seen for some time. When they both asked for breakfast I was overcome with hope. They were bantering when I came back for their dishes. I loved it when they bantered.
"Xena, help me sit up so I can see out the window better."
"Uh. I dont know Gabrielle. The birds might drop straight out of the sky if they get a glimpse of you mid flight."
"Oh yeah and youre something to look at."
"Xena. Im Im sorry."
"I know youve well youve always been jealous of my stunning good looks, and height, but dont think youre not almost as beautiful as me."
"Nice Gabrielle. You scared the
"Xena dont make me laugh. It hurts."
"What? I didnt do anything "
"Oh stop. Go take a walk."
"Yeah. Go get some fresh air. Im fine."
"Yes. I promise Oh and no more cooking utensils."
I backed up a bit when I heard Xena coming towards the door. She smiled at me. I was smiling too.
Gabrielle passed that morning, shortly after Xena left. When she returned she had the same smile on her face that shed left with. I dont remember what she was carrying, but she dropped it the instant she saw me.
"Sarah? No No. She promised She promised me Sarah."
She stared at me for a few more moments and then marched into Gabrielles room. I tried to talk to her, to say something, but the words wouldnt come. I followed her to the doorway and stopped. She sat down in the chair. For a while she was motionless. My mother and I had left Gabrielle just as shed gone.
I dont how much time had passed. Xena leaned forward and ever so gently placed one finger on Gabrielles lip. She closed her eyes and let her finger slide down to the end of Gabrielles chin.
"Oh sweetie. Come here." Xena pulled her out of bed into her lap and held her, and rocked her.
"Youre fine. Youre fine. Youre fine."
Her sobs hurt me so much, but I couldnt help her. It was almost surreal. And then suddenly it was quiet again. I dont remember when I finally moved or how, but I ended up back in the living area with my mother.
When I did go back in the room Xena was still holding Gabrielle.
"You know she wants to be buried in Amphipolis." Her chin quivered as she spoke, and I didnt know if I could stay in the room. My lips moved, and thankfully the words came.
"Yes, she spoke with my mother about it."
"Ill be leaving tomorrow."
She kissed Gabrielle on the head and set her back into the bed, covering her whole body with the blankets.
"Xena, she asked me to tell you something when shed gone. She said youd understand."
She hung her head, and kept her back to me. How could she face me?
"She told me to tell you that you were forgiven the day you met. She loves you and shell be waiting."
The next evening she left. I didnt think Id ever see her again. Then one day that spring, she came back. She said she was checking in to see how we were doing. She told us shed probably only stay a few days. I didnt expect her to stay even one. That was ten years ago.
My mother passed a few years after Gabrielle. Its been silent here since. I dont talk to Xena and she doesnt talk to me. Every night I go to bed I fear Ill wake up to an empty house, but shes always there in the morning.
She made herself a small bed in the living area. Every now and then Ill catch her in Gabrielles room, looking out the window. The first few years she was here, she did travel once a year to see Gabrielle and her family. The trips became shorter and shorter, and then she just stopped.
A few days ago she started sleeping in Gabrielles room. I know shes going to leave me soon for good, and I dont know what to do. Its not a friendship to be envied, but shes the only friend I ever had. She cant leave me. Ive havent been forgiven, and I dont know that shell wait for me.
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