Characters from Xena: Warrior Princess are property of MCA/Universal/Renaissance. All lyrics are belong to their respective artists. No copyright infringement is intended.
This is an original (I hope) work of alternative fan fiction. No profit will be gained from its production. This piece of fiction is copyright of the author.
There are depictions of love/sex between consenting adult persons of the same gender. If this is illegal where you live, you are underage, or this isn't your preference, then stop reading here and find something more appropriate to your tastes and/or laws.
I hope that this piece addresses some issues of closure that TPTB have not dealt with in regards to our heroines post-Illusia. I for one believe that a serious heart-felt discussion was needed so that the viewers could reconcile the changes. This is also the first of the Way of Life Series.
Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
by TZ Copyright April 24, 1998
I'm young, I know, but even so
I know a thing or two
And I learned from you
I really learned a lot, really learned a lot
Love is like a flame
It burns you when it's hot
(Love Hurts - Nazareth)
She was dying. She was sure of it, as much as she was sure her legs could no longer carry her as she collapsed onto a log near the growing campfire. She had decided to live with the pain...the guilt. And she was dying from it...from the loss, from the absence of love from the warrior who haunted her dreams.
Gabrielle wiped an errant tear off her cheek and reconsidered her tormented thoughts. As usual, she was being just a bit melodramatic. It was a tendency of hers, as she was a bard. One that tended to save her hide on more than one occasion, but right now, all her overactive imagination was doing was causing her grief. Reliving the past few months in her mind, she realized that no embellishments were necessary. It had been Tartarus. Plain...simple...Tartarus.
It was if one day, she was a happy-go-lucky bard, trailing after the Warrior Princess (well, okay, so she didn't quite trail anymore), righteous in her efforts to help the warrior seek atonement for her dark past. And then the next, she was a shadow of her former self. She just didn't feel so alive anymore. She had met her darker self, but she had not been scared. She had embraced the dark stranger within, allowed her emotions to run rampant from blind jealousy to corruptive hatred. She wasn't sure when she had been brought out of the void into which she had had fallen, but when she once again saw the light, she did not like the reflection of her own soul.
She had lost Xena's love. She had lost her love of herself. In an insightful gesture, Xena had given her the opportunity to purge herself at the temple of Mnemosyne, and she had taken advantage of it. But she had decided to keep her memories, the pain, the happiness (which was often the only thing to keep her going these days...the happy memories). And she still wasn't sure whether she had Xena's love or not. It was a subject that the bard refused to broach with the stoic warrior. She was afraid of the answers she might get to questions her heart could not ask.
All in all, it didn't matter, the ins and outs. What mattered was that she was different. She knew it, Xena knew it. And it still hurt. Everything hurt. And she was no longer sure of the warrior's love to see her through the rough times. She was no longer sure of her own decisions, her own reasoning, and heart. Her confidence had taken quite a beating. Resigned to a fate worse than death, she prepared their camp with efficient movements and then collapsed onto their bedroll.
Honey help me out of this mess I'm a stranger to myself
(The Child is Gone - Fiona Apple)
Gabrielle caught the sigh before it made itself known past her lips. She forced herself to relax as she followed a beam of sun filtering through the canopy of leaves above her. With simple fascination, she watched the little bits of dust that danced sensually within the light. Waiting was not one of her known traits, and it seemed like Xena was taking forever to return from her hunt with their dinner. Thinking of the warrior caused the bard to lose her battle against the feelings that threatened to choke her, to overwhelm her at every turn lately. Her sigh was like that of a strangled, helpless creature.
For the millionth time, she swore to herself that the past several moons had been a trick of Ares. Or perhaps, she ventured desperately, she and the warrior had been killed in battle, and they were suffering in Tartarus together. Her eyes closed and she prayed to the gods that the vision would stop haunting her.
She reflected on the changes that had been brought about in her during the past few moons. She was no longer the optimistic young woman from Potedaia. That person had been left behind in a temple in Britannia. In herself, she barely recognized the shadow of that innocent and exuberant child. Gone was her blood innocence, sacrificed to the evil of Dahok. She had been violated and had brought life into the world, saved it from one death, and introduced it to another.
She believed herself responsible for the loss of Xena's son...their son. That day...it made her heart ache. For just a brief moment, she had lost herself in the giddy footrace to the Centaur village, she had forgotten her own personal, private tortures, her guilt for lying to Xena about Hope. Solon had gifted her so briefly with his laughter as he caught up to her, his legs well on their way to being as long and strong as his mother's.
That day had been so devastating to their relationship, which had already been suffering enough. Gabrielle threw an arm over her eyes and allowed herself to relive the events that she believed to be her own fault. If only she had been honest with Xena, perhaps fought her for the life of a child. The petite bard snorted in derision. When pigs fly, she thought, acknowledging that she would need a lifetime's more practice before she could ever hope to defeat the Warrior Princess.
Or if only she had the courage to leave the warrior who wanted to see the death of Hope, the courage to raise her daughter on her own, to influence the good in her, then everything would not have happened the way it had. But that would have left Xena without the light.
Gabrielle snorted once again, though in self-disgust. She was no longer a light to Xena's tortured soul. She believed her darkness to be on par with the ex-warlord's. However, salvation or not, she could not bring herself to leave the woman she loved with all her being. So, she had left her daughter to the Fates, and had abandoned her to the current of the waters.
She had been speechless when she had realized that the little girl in the Centaur village had been Hope. Her heart had lifted, she had been overjoyed, even with the crisis in which Callisto had placed them. She had felt, probably for the last time, that all people were capable of good. She had trusted her daughter, she had defended and protected her. She had led the girl to Xena's son, and she had nearly killed everything in the world that the bard held dear. Solon, Xena, her own ideals. In a last ditch effort to make things right, Gabrielle had taken her daughter's life, but she had been too cowardly to take her own, and too strong to allow her life to be taken out of her own control.
The funeral was when all things had fallen into place, or rather, out of place. The cruel realities of life were spit out on a few words from Xena's mouth. She had lied to and betrayed the warrior one too many times. Xena no longer wanted her. Desperately, she had reminded the warrior that she loved her. The cold, silent rage with which her words were met, numbed her heart as she walked away. When she had moved from the circle of light that the funeral pyres had provided, she had collapsed to the ground, desolate and empty but for the self-hatred ravaging her. In blindness, she found her way to the Amazons, stumbling into the village and mumbling about forgiveness and cleansing the evil that she had become.
And then Xena had returned for her. She had stormed into the same village three days later, but not to reclaim their love, their life together, their purpose of righting wrongs. She had returned as an elemental fury, much like Velaska had, for Gabrielle's life. In a single timeless moment, when she had freed herself from the warrior's murderous intent, every dark emotion she had been feeling coursed through her weakened body. She had succumbed to her own darkness, she had been reborn into the pain of knowledge, into the arms of hatred.
Then she had died in the waters below the cliff. And she had been reborn once again, from the waters of Illusia she had been taken. In the fantasy land, she had rediscovered why she had left to follow Xena in the first place. She had been revisited upon the terrors that had been her life the past few moons. But this time, Xena was with her when she had found herself in Dahok's temple once again. The warrior was there to offer support when they were each bound by their own unforgiving hearts.
Illusia had been a beginning, a window to the lessons that they had to learn. They had to begin to appreciate and accept the differences in one another. They had to learn that each other's ideals were not what was important. The greater good was above all, the chief priority in their lives. It had to be, or else Xena's quest for redemption was doomed as a farce, as well as Gabrielle's ultimate goal of being the guide for the warrior's soul. She now knew the warlord. She had met the vicious woman herself, had understood it with every flash of blinding pain as her body had been dragged across Amazon territory to the sea. She knew that Xena regretted with great sorrow that dark ten years of time of her life, and the bard was determined that the woman would not know that pain anymore.
Once their objectives and goals were in plain sight once more, the civility was much easier. They knew, from the most fleeting of thoughts to the deepest of meditations, that they needed each other. There was no sense in it any other way. But, Gabrielle reflected as she opened her eyes once more to gauge the setting of the sun, kind words that stumbled haltingly off their lips did not mend hearts that had been ripped asunder.
Things had not returned to as they were before their nightmares began. She still carried feelings of guilt for betraying Xena in Chin. And the fact that she had practically sent her daughter to kill an innocent boy...it was too much for her. After her experience at Mnemosyne's temple, she thought that things would have been settled, but it wasn't be that easy. Too much had happened. She was irrevocably changed. She was not the idealistic and innocent young woman with whom the warrior had fallen in love. And for that loss of love, she mourned as she had never done in the past.
She knew that Xena forgave her, forgave her of everything, of that the warrior had shown over and over with soothing words and gentle touches. She had forgiven Xena for forgetting her in Britannia when the warrior was obsessed with defeating Caesar and for lying to her about Ming Tien. But she herself had only just begun to forgive herself for her own selfish reasons for going to Chin in the first place.
With another sigh, Gabrielle gave recognition to another of their problems - trust. It was no wonder they were struggling to maintain any semblance of what they had been previously. Trust was an elemental beginning to love, and their trust of each other had been decimated, destroyed. Even Illusia could not restore that. They would have to earn each other's once again. It was like starting fresh as strangers. Closing her eyes, Gabrielle could almost remember the fateful day that she first saw the vision that was Xena. To the beginning they would have to return, but now, they were both changed, different due to the influence of the other.
Once my lover, now my friend What a cruel thing to pretend
(Shadowboxer - Fiona Apple)
And then there was their physical relationship. Things there had certainly changed. She couldn't imagine anything but time helping them to find anything close to where they used to be in their relationship. After Britannia their feelings for each other had been reduced to the occasional groping that eased their needs. Gone were the murmurs of love and devotion. And after Chin, even the most perfunctory of affections had slowly faded, reduced to the shadow of words that meant nothing without heartfelt emotions behind them.
She had tried to allow the warrior the room that she needed. Xena was a passionate woman, of that Gabrielle knew most intimately. And when they had met Rafe, Gabrielle had seen the attraction for the roguish con man. She had even tried to encourage Xena to seek her sexual relief elsewhere. But the warrior had not obliged. Gabrielle had no trouble analyzing the warrior's thought processes.
She figured that it probably all amounted to the fact that Xena, before the chasm between them had erupted, had given her a promise of her heart for the rest of their lives. And Xena usually kept her promises. Problems or not, the warrior refused to violate the vows they had taken. With a will that drove her life in all matters, the warrior was committed to resolving their problems, to continue traveling the road upon which her son had set them. And because of that, Gabrielle prayed that they would find their love again. She hoped that the warrior would still love her despite her faults, her newly recognized darkness.
Oh, your gaze is dangerous And you fill your space so sweet If I let you get too close You'll set your spell on me
(Shadowboxer - Fiona Apple)
Gabrielle turned over to her stomach and buried her nose into the bedroll that she and the warrior shared. She inhaled deeply the smell that was as intimate to her as her own. She closed her eyes and a picture of Xena that first day they met came easily to her mind. She remembered the things that had drawn her to the warrior in the first place - her strength, her beauty, her willingness to help those who were unable to defend themselves. Gabrielle had seen her as a noble spirit, had romanticized the stories of the woman's dark past.
But as they had traveled together, each new experience had brought the bard closer to understanding the woman, the warrior, the darkness that was her companion. She chuckled harshly into the silence of the camp. She had taken it upon herself to single-handedly change the warrior into a person she believed Xena should be. She had set herself up for a big disappointment. Xena had proven herself time and again merely human. She had faults and made errors in judgement. She often let her own intensity and single-mindedness rule her. These were things that Gabrielle had sought to change, but they had been so ingrained into the woman's person that destroying them would erase the spirit that Gabrielle had grown to love.
Without intensity, Xena would not have been the primal force to which the bard had found herself hopelessly drawn to. A shiver ran through Gabrielle when she thought of the feral passion with which Xena celebrated life, death, and love. After the two of them had entrapped Callisto and Velaska in the lava, they had consummated their love, finally admitting to one another their innermost needs and love. That time seemed so long ago, now. So much had happened. It was if they had been walking along and had been undisturbed by the pebbles that fell one by one. Only when the full avalanche had buried them, did they finally realize the seemingly irreversible damage to their relationship.
And the worst part was...they couldn't just walk away from each other. With or without vows, the warrior and bard were consummately joined. They could either die slowly without each other, or live with the pain of being together. Part of her knew that the pain would ease with time. She and the warrior found themselves talking more than they ever had in the past. It was the only way to reconcile their problems. Words. The warrior carried the bard's gifts better than she did lately. It was if they were learning how to be friends again. She could only pray to the gods that they could become comfortable in that way.
Gabrielle didn't even want to think about their romantic relationship. She knew that they still felt the same desire. It was an instinct, a drive that could not be extinguished like a torch. Instead, she assumed that the warrior was simply ignoring the urge as well as she had before she had realized that the bard had matured into a strong, young woman. Gabrielle, on the other hand, was tempted every moment that she stood with the warrior, saw the warrior, heard the warrior.
Gabrielle groaned aloud. She could almost taste Xena on her lips. She was too passionate and demonstrative with her feelings to put up a stoic front like her former lover. Former. The word cut into her heart like a thousand daggers. The pain she felt inside after killing Meridian was nothing compared to that which she felt when she remembered the feelings they would no longer share. The pain she faced every day when she saw only frosty blue eyes void of any passion, was a torture she knew was her Tartarus on the mortal plane. It had been two moons since that fateful day. She wondered if things would ever be the same.
Well it's too late Tonight To drag the past out Into the light We're one But we're not the same We get to carry each other Carry each other One
(One - U2)
Xena watched from the deepening shadows of the trees that surrounded the campsite. She knew from Gabrielle's body language that the bard was working through some problem with herself. No doubt that it was about them, the warrior thought with sorrow. The bard was taking things so hard. She herself had learned long ago how to bury feelings, and more recently, how to let them go. But Gabrielle, who had never had to deal with regrettable actions, did not know how to deal with the negative consequences.
She had tried everything she knew to help Gabrielle, to help them find their true path once again. She had been tentative at first when they had found themselves back in their own reality after Illusia, but the Persian arrow that the bard had taken brought things back into focus. Gabrielle was still her source, her love, and she could not live without her.
It had been a great struggle within herself to reconcile the dual personalities that battled for dominance within her soul. The warlord, the one that used to rule the ruthless warrior, still wanted Gabrielle's blood. But part of her, the woman that had found new meaning in life, the woman that had been reborn from the gentle influence of one relentless Potedaian, cried out in nightmares, begging for the light to return. She admitted to herself easily what Solon had immediately understood - Gabrielle was her fate, her destiny.
Unwilling to give Ares the satisfaction of any victory, and wanting, needing, Gabrielle by her side, the woman in her won out over the warlord. Things were still tense between them, but things were getting more comfortable. They were once again able to sleep in each other's arms. That was a beginning. Xena wondered vaguely if it would take another two years for them to be truly in synch once again.
She knew without a doubt that their troubles would pass. It would be a great victory over the most stubborn enemy either of them had ever faced - themselves. They both wanted it to work. That was the most important ingredient to any relationship. And for that, Xena was prepared to battle for the rest of her life. To fight for her Gabrielle, her love, her light. She had already said more, discussed more with Gabrielle in the past two moons than she had in the previous two and a half cycles they had traveled together. If that wasn't an indication of her dedication to their relationship, she didn't know what was.
The warrior's eyes softened as she watched the bard bury her nose into their bedroll, her back rising with the deep breath that the young woman took. She noted with a rising need the way that Gabrielle restlessly fidgeted, as if her thoughts were turbulent, or perhaps sensual. The soft groan that barely echoed through the trees nearly brought the warrior to her knees. It had been so long since she had felt her soulmate's arms around her in more than uneasy friendship. And her code of loyalty, as well as her own heart's refusal to accept anything less, had dissuaded her from finding pleasure elsewhere. There had been temptations, but no one compared to the woman who held her soul.
The plaintive whisper brought the warrior back to the present, to the young woman who was now crying into the crook of her arm. Dropping the skinned carcasses she had been holding, the warrior strode silently into camp, her heart responding to the sorrow that pouring out of its mate, its partner in life.
Gabrielle didn't hear Xena's approach, nor did she feel the first tentative touch on her shoulder. But the moment that Xena reached a finger to push a lock of hair away from her face, the bard jumped to a sitting position, scrubbing at the tears that had left wet traces across her face. "Xena, I hate it when you do that," she chastised, her voice rough with emotions she would rather keep hidden from her friend.
"Gabrielle," the warrior began, pulling the bard's hands away from her face, "what's wrong, honey?"
Bursting into more tears because of the endearment not heard for so long, Gabrielle hung her head so that her hair hid the scalding drops of moisture that fell into her lap.
Xena lifted her face with a finger under her chin and pushed the golden hair back from her face. With a patience born of understanding, the warrior wiped the tears away gently, one by one, until no more fell. "You want to talk about it," she asked, allowing herself a moment to chide herself for the usually rhetorical question.
Gabrielle could not help the quirk that lifted one side of her mouth slightly. "Isn't that my job, Xena," she asked with a hint of humor, her internal agonies dissipating under the soft blue gaze that was penetrating her soul, soothing, pacifying.
"Hey, you've been holding your breath for that one."
The bard's cautious smile faded as her brow furrowed in serious thought. "Yes."
Xena cocked a brow in question. "Yes, what, Gabrielle?"
Tilting her head to study the tall woman who was now leaning on one arm, leaning so close that she could feel the heat emanating from her leather-clad body, Gabrielle considered her words. "I want to talk about what I was thinking about before you came back," she explained, waving her hand in a small circle.
Xena nodded her head sedately. She would sit and talk until the stars fell from the sky if that was what it took. "What were you thinking, Gabrielle?"
Taking a deep breath to steady the nervousness that was threatening to steal her voice, the bard began. "I was thinking about everything that has happened lately," she revealed, ducking her head out of sheer cowardice, afraid to see Xena's reaction, which had only been a slight wince. "I realized that I need you more than anything. More than air, water, food, life...."
"More than food, Gabrielle?" Xena was trying to make the discourse easier on the bard by injecting some subtle humor.
She couldn't help the smile that curled her lips for a moment and then disappeared. "More than anything, Xena." Gathering her courage, Gabrielle reached for the warrior's free hand and traced the strong line of tendons that always fascinated, hypnotized her. "I can't live without you," she stated simply. "All of you."
Xena lost the function of her lungs when Gabrielle raised her head, her fiery green gaze bored into the warrior's own blue. She had not seen the unbridled lust of her bard for a long time. The young woman broke the trance when she abruptly stood and began to pace the perimeter of the camp. When she nearly stumbled over the two small rabbits that Xena had caught, she picked them up and began to prepare them for the fire.
I'll stand by you Oh, why you look so sad? Tears are in your eyes Come on and come to me now Don't be ashamed to cry Let me see you through 'Cause I've seen the dark side too When the night falls on you You don't know what to do Nothing you confess Could make me love you less I'll stand by you
(I'll Stand by You - The Pretenders)
"Xena...," Gabrielle sighed as she spit the two rabbits and hung them over the fire to cook.
"Gabrielle," the warrior interrupted.
"Please, let me talk," the bard asked, keeping her back to her companion. When she sensed Xena settling down, she continued. "I know that I've told you how sorry I am about...everything. I don't think I can find the words that would let you understand just how much," she said as she wiped away a tear. "But the pain won't go away, Xena, and I'm not sure how much longer I can survive with it." A shuddering breath released a torrent of grief. "I need you, Xena. I don't think that I can find my way back without you."
The warrior crossed over to her lover and enveloped her in comforting arms. "Shh, I'm here with you, Gabrielle. I'm not going anywhere. Never again, not without you." Cradling the blond head against her shoulder, Xena ran a soothing hand over Gabrielle's drawn brow. "I told you a long time ago that I would stand with you, through the high and the low, and I don't think things could get any lower, Gabrielle, and I'm still here."
Xena frowned when her words only produced more wracking sobs. "Please, love, stop crying."
Trying to calm the heaving emotions that stole her voice, Gabrielle took several deep, steadying breaths. "How can you be so forgiving, Xena? I've done horrible things to you."
"Gabrielle...," Xena tried to find the words that help the bard understand. "When we were in Illusia, and I saw Ming Tien again, I remembered what Loa Ma taught me. I had to let go of my anger. If I hadn't, I would still be on that cross...the one in mind. I remembered what you have been trying to teach me all these years...about breaking the cycle. I remembered my love for you. Love to which Ares' words blinded me for a short time. And you forgave me so easily, as is your way. Honey, why can't you forgive yourself?"
Gabrielle shook her head in denial. "I don't know who I am anymore, Xena."
The warrior smiled wryly. She could almost remember another exact conversation. "You are who you are, Gabrielle. Bard, Amazon Queen, the love of my soul. You are who you were when I fell in love with you."
"No, I'm not Xena. Something inside of me has changed. There is a darkness...."
Xena broke off the young woman's self-berating words with a squeeze. "Don't even try to explain the darkness to me, Gabrielle. I've wallowed in it, made love to it. You merely became acquainted with it. You know it now, you've seen it and understand it for what it is. Now that knowledge is the greatest weapon you will have to battle it." She continued when Gabrielle lifted her head to find hope within the bright blue eyes that burned fiercely. "You are light, Gabrielle. My light. In time, you will shine bright once again and dispel the shadows of your soul so deeply that you will only have the wisdom of experience to remind you of the past."
Gabrielle's eyes widened in disbelief. "By the gods, Xena...are you trying for my job?"
Chuckling at the bard's priceless remark. "Oh, Gabrielle. I love you so much. Please find your way back to me. I can't go on without you, either."
The heartfelt words softened the bard's heart and she began to cry anew. "I promise, Xena, I won't give in to this. It would make too many gods happy."
Xena wrapped her lover in a tight embrace. "There's the spirit I remember," she commented. "My stubborn little bard."
"My big dumb warrior," the small woman sighed as she allowed herself to fall into the familiar warmth of love. The smell of food brought the bard out of her hazy comfort as her stomach began to rumble.
"Think you can eat, now," Xena asked as she raised Gabrielle's face to wipe away the wetness that remained. The warrior had begun to worry for the bard who had left her voracious appetite somewhere in their recent travels.
"I'm starving," Gabrielle announce when her appetite made itself known even louder than before.
"Are we back now?"
The bard closed her eyes and focused within. Her heart felt lighter than it had for so long. She could almost feel the guilt receding in the wake of the renewed love that was coursing through her veins like a pleasant ache. "We're getting there, love. We're getting there."
THE BEGINNING (again)
Here is my heart Waiting for you Here is my soul... Love will find a way If you want it to... I believe that there's a way If you want it to Love will find a way
(Love Will Find a Way - Yes)
After they had eaten their evening meal, the bard and warrior forgot their normal routine of quill and sword, choosing instead to lie quietly in each other's arms, studying the shapes in the stars above their campsite.
"Forget it, Gabrielle. I will never see that bear."
"Aww...come on, Xena. It's as plain as the gorgeous blue of your eyes."
The warrior quirked a dark brow. "Gorgeous, huh?"
The bard took a deep breath and sighed. "I sing a song of Xena...aack! Hey! Xena! No fair, you're not allowed to tickle when I'm working," she squealed as the warrior's long fingers found sensitive spots.
When they had rolled over each other in attempts to gain the upper hand until they were out of breath, they fell against each other once more.
"I really missed this, Xena."
"Me, too, sweetheart. Me too."
"There's a chance, then?"
"Oh...," the warrior began as she ducked her head for a gentle kiss. "I do believe."
"In us," the bard whispered, praying that this was reality.
Xena grasped her lover's hand in a gesture of confirmation. "Love will always find a way if you want it to," she explained before their lips met once again.
"I love you, Xena."
The warrior touched her forehead to her lover's and smiled, her heart swelling with the sincere words that she had not heard, had not shared for so long. "And I love you, my bard."
The Way of the Wolf
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