It's What I Do
Disclaimers: This story was not written for profit and the characters are owned by RenPics. It is rated PG and does contain an implied sexual relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. It contains spoilers for "Path of Vengeance," plus other parts of season five and six.
Note to Followers of the Series: This story has nothing to do with my regular Xena and Gabrielle series. It was inspired by the sixth season episode, "Path of Vengeance." A Xena episode has not directly inspired a story for me since "The Ides of March," which started this whole crazy writing path I'm on. Also, "The Bluest Eyes in Texas" is still in progress. This is just a brief detour.
This story is written as Gabrielle in the first person. Believe me, no one was more surprised than me when that happened. I think Hell just froze over and pigs are flying.
She sleeps now, her head pillowed in my lap. Her heart was broken today. Eve left for Chin and India. Another child lost to her that she only knew for a brief time. I don't know who is hurting more right now, her or me.
I watched Eve walk away, and I watched the love of my life standing in the middle of the Amazon village, her hand over her face, openly weeping. Xena doesn't cry easily or often, especially in public. Slowly, she turned to me, and I took her in my arms and held her. Then I led her away to this little glade where we are now. No more Amazon huts or village inns for us on this night. We both needed the healing that being alone together under the stars brings. We needed time to mourn, over many things.
There was a time when we called Eve 'our' daughter. So much has happened since then. We almost lost each other during Xena's pregnancy, and then afterward, when Eve was a baby. Oh, we still cared about each other then, but the closeness had faded. Staying alive and protecting Eve took up all our time and energy. There was no time for us then.
The ice cave changed everything. I don't think we've ever fully recovered from the shock of waking up and discovering that we had been asleep for twenty-five years. Everyone thought we were dead. Worse, almost everyone that mattered to us was dead, except Lila. And Eve. And Joxer, although he's gone too, now. Another death Eve will probably never fully forgive herself for.
Xena's heart was broken then, too. Eve had been her chance to finally, in her eyes, get one thing in her life right. She was going to raise her daughter to revere life and peace. Instead she was robbed of her daughter's childhood. And her daughter was traveling the same path of hatred and violence that Xena had traveled at her age. She had become a warrior of Ares, blindly following him on a trail of blood and lust.
Eve was transformed by the god of Eli. Funny, because Xena and I no longer follow Eli's teachings, or believe in the absolute goodness of his god. At least not directly, although we are both grateful for the change it has brought to Eve. We talked about that today, too.
"She's alone." My life-mate was inconsolable, thinking of her daughter traveling so far away.
"She's a strong woman, just like her mother. Xena, she has her faith." I tried to comfort her.
"She doesn't have you." Her voice was very low. "I always had you."
She said it so matter-of-factly, that it took a minute to register. Xena's like that. She will go along in complete silence, and then she will just blind-side me with these things. She still believes I saved her. It's so hard for me to believe that myself.
"Xena, I failed you." I couldn't bring myself to make eye contact. I tried to fight to save Eve and I lost. Once again she had to do things her way, without me.
Then I felt her fingers on my face and she was forcing me to look at her. "You have never failed me."
I looked into those vivid blue eyes. I love them so much. It was the first thing I ever noticed about her. "But I lost the fight." And you had to bring me back after Alti killed me in the spirit realm. And Hope killed Solan. Words I couldn't bring myself to say aloud. I didn't want to re-open wounds that were so painful to heal.
"Gabrielle, Varia had been training with Ares. She knew moves that only he teaches. Do you know how frightened I was, watching you fight her?" I watched her eyes flicker, and even hours later they still held residual fear. I know. She's always afraid when I fight.
"I had to do it, Xena." It was true. "When it comes to Eve, I will always do whatever I have to, to protect her. I have to."
"Because she's your daughter too?" I watched my partner frown. We both know the truth of that statement. Yes, when Eve was a baby, she was like my daughter. But the adult Eve and I have not been close. I think my relationship with the Amazons has not helped things. I do care about her, but I chose to be whatever she needed me to be. I am her mother's companion, but I can tell she doesn't think of me as her other mother. It warmed my heart today to hear her acknowledge my place in Xena's life.
I pondered Xena's question. No. Because she's your daughter. She still doesn't understand. "Xena." I reached out to her, playing with the hair that framed her face. "I love Eve, but you're her mother."
"Then why?" Xena tilted her head in confusion. "I can protect her, Gabrielle. I thought that fight was about you wanting to honor the Amazon ways. It was about something else, wasn't it?"
"It doesn't matter now. It's over." My own heart was so tight in my chest I could barely speak.
"It matters to me." Her voice washed over me and the warmth of it broke through my defenses. "Tell me, Gabrielle. Why?"
"Because you are never going to lose another child again. Not if I can help it." There. It was out. She reeled back for a moment, almost as if I had physically slapped her. Then I watched those beautiful blue eyes fill with tears again.
"Oh, Gabrielle." I felt her arms close around me and she pressed me close to her. I could smell her leathers against my face, along with a faint musky sweaty scent that remained after her battle with Varia. "Still carrying that with you, after all this time. I saw it in your eyes when I was cleaning the blood off your face this afternoon. I've known that. I think I've always known that. We just never talk about it, do we? Gabrielle . . ." She pulled back and her face was so sad, that twisted little painful half-smile she gets when she's trying not to cry, and failing miserably. "Understand this. I love you. I don't ever want to lose you again. I almost did today."
After that, the floodgates opened. We cried and talked about everything. The one good thing that came from the ice cave is that we are close again. Closer than we've ever been. And we are able to talk now. Even Xena is able to talk. I still have the letter she wrote to me before she left to get that ring back from Grinhilda. I hold her words so very close to my heart. "Whatever happens -- know that my love for you is endless."
I am the bard, yet in one sentence, she managed to say it all. Our relationship, our love, defies time or definition. I am part of her and that's how I always want it to be. I told her that, back when I thought I was going to die in that cave after the cannibals attacked us.
Tonight she told me some more about that time. I was so feverish at the time; I don't remember a lot of it. She told me I had a flashback and thought she was Hope. That I told her I had to protect her from Xena. That hurt my heart to the core, because I know how much it must have hurt Xena to hear me say that. She's carried it inside for a long time, over a year.
I didn't mean it. It was the fever. I recognize now who and what Hope was. Yes, she was my child. She was also evil. More than anything, she was part of a wedge that almost tore Xena and me apart.
We talked about Hope and Solan. I remember, right before Eve was born, when we found out Solan had chosen Tartarus over the Elysian Fields, so he wouldn't lose his memories of Xena. Another thing that broke Xena's heart, and yet another thing I blamed myself for. Not only had my choices hurt my best friend, they had hurt an innocent child.
It all seems like so very long ago now. It was literally a whole other lifetime. We've lost so much that at times it overwhelms me to think about it. We've been floundering for a long time, just trying to adjust to a world that left us behind. The one solid constant we've had in the ever-shifting ground that is our lives, is each other.
It has been a strange few years. We both learned our parents had met violent deaths. The pain of that knowledge is indescribable. We both blamed ourselves for not being around to make things different. Not that we had a choice. Xena got her closure with her mother. I never really got that same kind of closure.
I wanted vengeance against Gurkhan for killing my parents. That brought a new pain to my partner's eyes. I think she saw a little of herself in me, and it frightened her. I didn't understand how much she was hurting, until that one moment when I almost crossed a line with Gurkhan. I came to understand, truly understand, the place that violence has in my life.
I thought revenge would be so sweet. But in that one moment, when I held that dagger to his throat, I understood what Xena had been trying to tell me. I'm not a murderer. Have I killed? Yes. Many many times now. But always before it was to protect someone else. Even with Meridian. Even with Korah. I realize that now. I was misguided, but I'm not a murderer. With Gurkhan, I was about to make a conscious decision to kill someone, in cold blood, not to protect anyone else, but to extract revenge. I couldn't do it.
Xena stood back and let me work it out. She's been doing that a lot. I asked her about that tonight. She told me that she recognized that I'm not a young girl anymore. She said she would like to be able to protect me from the world, but the reality is that we are way beyond her being able to do that. It's a compromise for her. She will always protect my physical safety if she can, but she is now, reluctantly, willing to let me work through and own my own emotions and make some mistakes along the way.
She does that with a lot of other people too. Eve. Varia. Even Ares. Now that was strange. For a while we got to see a mortal, vulnerable Ares. I know it was very hard for Xena to give him back his godhood. He's back with a vengeance now, and I think she knew that would happen. She had to, though. The world needed Aphrodite. But love needs a balance and so she had to restore Ares to Olympus too.
Love needs a balance. Doesn't that just sum up my life with Xena? We have such an intense and complicated relationship. I love her more than life itself and I know she feels the same way about me. Maybe the intensity of the complications in our lives is in direct proportion to the intensity of our love for each other. It boggles my mind to follow that train of thought for too long.
It sure would help explain some of the things we've been through since emerging from that ice cave. We lost yet another year in the Norse lands. Xena lost her memory and I was under a spell inside a ring of fire. Our reunion after that re-affirmed our commitment to each other.
Xena was so sweet. The lovemaking afterward was sweet. It was almost like our first time. We were all shy with each other. We've been so close since then. What it boils down to is this . . . when all is said and done, all we have is each other. And it's enough. It has always been enough. It just took us this long to understand that everything we were looking for, we already had in each other.
We talked about that tonight, too. That was really sweet in and of itself. She is my family. I am hers. We aren't sure where we will go from here. We talked about settling down somewhere, leaving all of the turmoil behind. But just as quickly dismissed it, at least for now. Where would we go? And how long would Xena be content without the constant activity we have become so accustomed to?
She and Eve talked about self-forgiveness. Xena is still paying for her past. I understand now, that she always will be. How could I not understand? I have my own past to pay for. Xena will never reach a day when she will sit down, pull out a scroll and tally up her good deeds, and decide she's paid her debt. It just won't happen.
She told me the story of the swan and the scorpion. I had heard it before, but I liked hearing her voice as she talked. And she needed to make a point, which she finally did. She looked at me as she finished the last line, 'it's what I do.' "Gabrielle, it's who I am. I fight for those that can't fight for themselves. It's what I do. I don't think I can settle down. At least not yet."
"Xena. I am with you. It's where I want to be. Settled down, on the road, it doesn't matter, as long as I'm with you." I moved closer to her, laying my head on her shoulder as we stared at the fire. "I would have spent my life as a slave, if it weren't for who you are, and what you do."
She gasped slightly and then pulled me into a hug. Then I felt her kiss my head and I closed my eyes. Her kisses moved to my cheek and then my lips. It had been so long. She lowered me down to the furs and with very few words, said things to me with her actions that she can't bring herself to verbalize. Things that only our hearts can say to each other.
A long while later, she simply held me close, kissing the bare skin on my back and shoulders. She's a very attentive lover. She asked me if I was ready to sleep, and I told her that I actually wanted to write for a while. I rolled over and kissed her and then pulled my clothes back on and sat up.
She looked a bit forlorn. I think she actually wanted to snuggle. I patted my lap. Then she gave me one of those dazzling smiles and crawled over, ending up where she is now. I pulled the furs over her and played with her hair, just talking to her until she fell asleep, telling her that Eve is going to be okay. We are going to be okay. She loves it when I play with her hair. And it feels really nice sifting through my fingers. Then I pulled out a scroll and quill. It's been a while for writing, too.
The last thing she said tonight, before she fell asleep, I think her exact words were, "Gabrielle, being with you, it's the only true measure of peace I have ever known."
I know that. So now, I'm going to put my scroll away and crawl under the furs with her, and hold her all night. And tomorrow we will get up and see what the day brings. She is my way. I'll follow her for the rest of my days. Every time she feels lost, or alone, or can't find her own way, I'll take her hand and lead her back to solid ground. It's what I do.