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Warning: There are some references to a relationship of a sexual nature between two women so if this offends you or is illegal for you to read, please try some of the terrific stories out there that do not carry this warning. This story also depicts violent acts, if you are sensitive to this, you may not want to read further.
I have thought about this day for a long time. First just as an eternity removed, later a full turn of the seasons, several moons, perhaps a few days. I have thought about this day as tomorrow for almost a spring now. I feel a grin tugging my mouth, the old warrior discipline is not what it used to be, much like the body it has kept alive for so long. It is time, on this day.
By nightfall I will have laid my weapons to rest. I had intended them for Alexandra, it was in fact the sole reason for my innocent suggestion that we visit Gabrielle's youngest, but the girl had refused. She had argued that the chakrum and sword were me and that she had to claim her own. I had wondered about Gabrielle's tears until then, but those words made me understand. I was not the only one who considered laying down those weapons as something akin to loosing several limbs.
So we are returning home, the sword and chakrum strapped just where they belong but it is to be their last journey on my body. Tonight she and I will give them a place in our home and that will be the end of it.
She sleeps now with her face pressed into my left shoulder, arms around my waist, still trying, even after so many years, to get inside me though there no longer is anything she does not know. She is the one who took the whole of me, without hesitation and offered all her love in return. Then she taught me to accept that love until I finally understood it's protection was stronger than any shielding I had ever constructed on my own. I loved her courage within seconds of our first meeting, shortly after I began loving the colour of her eyes, the joy in her smile, later still the moods of her waking, the line of her neck and the relentless claim she had staked to my heart. Why is love so easy to feel but so hard to acknowledge?
I know she was disappointed I had not included her in my decision, but eventually she realised that it was my decision alone to take. Just as it had been hers to leave Iolaus. And she has known, for a long time now, how I hate the four royal guards that accompany their Queen whenever she leaves Amazon territory. There are still many looking to best the legend of the Warrior Princess and while I am more than a match for each and every one of them, I can no longer defeat ten working together. And they do come at us at ten. It makes for a sweet irony, a warrior outclassed by her illustrious self, the one born off and blown to disproportionate glory by the tales of a certain precious bard. The very same bard she can now protect only by shedding all that distinguishes her as the deadly fighter she once was. Today is to be the day and I grieve the loss.
But the memories of that other day, when I first thought this day had come, push their way into my thoughts leaving a trail of sunshine wherever they pass. That day I buried my armour and weapons outside a little town I later learned was called Poteidaia. That day brought me such fortune: Gabrielle and an implacable desire to redeem my past. With time those two became so much alike that it took me too long to confess to the former, being so focused on the latter. It took longer than Perdicus, longer still than Iolaus. Gabrielle would not be all she is without either one of those men, so finally, after many years, I am grateful to each for what they have given her. Perdicus made her first night gentle and tender. And our life would have been but a shadow of what it is without Iolaus' gift: Iason and Alexandra, their two beautiful blond children. Or should I say our children? Yes, our children for they are ours more than Solon ever was mine.
Solon. Did you ever think that the woman who left you behind because the lure of her darkness was more powerful than the new life of her son, could become a doting grandmother? Well perhaps not doting exactly, but attentive at least. Of all my mistakes, you are the one blessing. As you grew up, you showed me that which Gabrielle told me every day. There was good in me and I had given it to you. I have never been so proud as the day you accepted me as your mother, though I am happy to remain just Xena to you. That is who we are, Xena and Solon and Gabrielle and Iason and Alexandra. My family.
Her nose twitches against my back. Another couple of heartbeats and she will be awake. For a few delicious seconds her mind is still drowsy with dreams while her body has already recognised mine. A hand wanders to my breast. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a soft longing cross the face of Tirza riding next to me. I send her a quick wink, reassuringly, she is still so young, she will find it as well, some day. Then Gabrielle becomes aware of the horse moving steadily underneath, that strong son of Argo she nicknamed Nutbread, and with an apologetic squeeze her hand drops to my stomach. I turn so I can kiss the last traces of sleep from my bard and her eyes twinkle, clear of tears now. I am content, more than a Warrior Princess ever had any right to be. It will be a fine day, this day.
And as she starts mapping our tomorrows, her light voice murmuring in my ear, I finally accept my choice. I will teach the young Amazons to fight and she will teach them to negotiate. I will show them how to heal their bodies and she will tell them to stay true to their hearts. She will make me smile with her stories and I will sing for her in the dead of night. Even though I can no longer be the fearless warrior that excited her so, I can still be the woman she loves. She and I will argue and laugh as passionately and as often as we always did. Then we will make love until we fall asleep. Our dreams will be just the same as yesterday. Our life will be just as good. When this day is done.
I am still the first to hear the scout return and would have grinned if not for the peculiar urgency in her horse's trot. I reign in Nutbread, and try to remember the name we gave him at birth but it does not matter now. Nutbread it is. Tirza and the others follow suit but before they can turn to me with questions in their young eyes, they hear Mara as well. As she comes into full view, I recognise the exuberance in her body and the fire in her voice. "Slavers ahead, twelve of them." Slavers. I chuckle, surprising the guards. This day would not be complete without them. I feel the adrenaline surging, familiar and yet every time as fresh and intoxicating as a first stolen kiss. "They have about twenty girls." A nod from Gabrielle is all it takes.
Our plan is as simple as it is effective. Gabrielle and Mara are to free the girls, Tirza, the two other Amazons and I will keep the slavers busy. I let Tirza position us, lead us, she makes no mistakes. She nods to me and I let my battlecry fly high.
We race each other into the clearing, knocking over men too surprised to react. A short stocky one gets up quickly after a kick from Nalla and positions himself to knife me in the side while I swing my sword at his brother in crime. He does not expect me to be able to turn that sharply, or to kick him in the face that hard. His nose breaks and he is down for the count, his sword wielding friend just one blow behind him.
A second later I stand in the middle of the clearing, smiling that smile of mine that unnerves them so. The hilt warm in my hands, the blade shiny and balanced, the symphony of grunts, screams, and metal screeching metal assaulting my ears. A blade strikes at me from my left but I parry, unbalance his footing with a blow or two, followed by a swift swipe to send his sword flying into the underbrush. A kick to the knee of the burly one trying to get around Emiri, a fist to the face of the now swordless one trying to do... whatever. I turn to see Gabrielle and Mara lead the girls away as one of the slavers runs after them, sword poised to strike Mara in the neck. It is too crowded for my chakrum, my sword will have to do and it does. It hits him in the head and he is goes face down in the mud.
I pick up one of the discarded swords as a slaver swings for Tirza's back. She has heard him, I can see it, but she cannot turn with her sword high keeping two others away and she will not reach him with a backward kick. I raise the sword to deflect the blow but it is lighter than I had expected and while I manage to steer the deadly blade away from Tirza, he takes advantage of the little time I need to adjust to the unfamiliar weapon. He extends his swing towards me, towards my navel where the dark leather alone is not strong enough to protect me from such force. A sudden heat slams into my belly and my knees buckle. I land a hard blow on his sword, the next gashes his arm and suddenly his blood is everywhere. Or is that mine? No, it is his. He tumbles forward and Tirza comes into full view. As she pulls her blade from his back, her eyes go wide in warning but I already feel the knife slipping into my shoulder, grinding painfully on the bone before sliding deeper. I turn and manage to catch a glimpse of him, the burly one, before Nalla practically severs his head.
Suddenly I'm on my knees and I cannot breath. I strain to keep my eyes focused. All men are down. All Amazons are standing. Gabrielle, my sweet Gabrielle, pushes past Tirza towards me, unhurt. Then, as blackness slams my body to the ground, my soul screams. I will die on this day.
The blood. The torn skin and ragged flesh I hold and press shut. But the blood continues to seep through my fingers. The blood is incessant and cruel. It refuses to comply with my wishes, my cries, my tears or my prayers. And yet I dread the moment her blood stops flowing.
I have thought about this day for a long time. When I first met her, I thought this day could never be. Later, when I fell in love, I thought of this day as every tomorrow and it was more than I could bear. This day drove me to Perdicus and made me want to be with Iolaus, but neither one could quell my fear. I was wrong to expect them to. Only the slightest touch of her hand was ever enough. For a long time I have not feared this day.
They have put her on a blanket and have given me her sword and a skin filled with water. I lay the sword by her side, the hilt underneath her right hand and I wet her face, hoping the cool will bring her back to me for just a little while longer. I stroke the long dark hair that has yet to show it's first streak of grey. In one way or another Xena has always defied the laws of nature the rest of us mere mortals are stuck with. I take her other hand, her beautiful hand that showed ecstasy and pain were but one thought removed, and I start talking.
I talk of Xena and Gabrielle. Not of her deeds, because she knows them and I have spoken of them so often. Not of our love, because we have found ways of sharing that which go beyond words. I talk of the wondrous journey that our life together has been. I talk of our fears. We have laughed at them, at night in each others arms where we learned that yielding to them made our love even stronger. She was afraid of putting her soul into the hands of another when she had gone through so much to regain it. And she feared I would reject it once I fully understood all it was. But how can a lifetime be long enough to understand one soul? I know I have never been able to explain to her fully that in some way, her past actually attracted me. Finally she just accepted that it was so and allowed me to touch her heart.
I rub her right shoulder and follow the line of the muscle she tore three years ago, the one that never stopped aching since, no matter how much I cared for it or how much she tried to ignore it. It will ache no more and I am grateful for that.
I feared I would never be enough for her. She went from murdering warlord to defender of the weak. If she was capable of making that transition, what would she need me for? So I insisted she had always been good, but had just lost her way for a while. That seemed to make it smaller somehow. It was the only way I could understand her and believe that I had a place in her life. Maybe it was even true. But every now and then, I would lose faith and run. Poteidaia, Perdicus, Iolaus, it never mattered where I was running to. I was only running away from her.
My fingers trace her lips as they have done so many times while making love, or just because they had to. So smooth. They find their way across the beauty of her face, the lines by her eyes revealing our laughter, the ones above her brows recalling our worries. I stroke the left brow and wish for the blue of her eyes.
After Alexandra my running ended. My beautiful, headstrong, aloof and independent daughter intent on becoming a wandering warrior. She was all that within three days of her birth and she made certain the world knew. It was astonishing to everyone to see how a child born of my body could be so much like Xena in spirit, but I was not surprised. Come to think of it, neither was Iolaus. Perhaps he already knew. Perhaps he had known all along. He was so gracious about letting me go, letting Iason and Alexandra be with me, us. And I am so proud to see him in our children.
I follow the line of her neck down to the collarbone and feel her pulse fainting ever so. I kiss her heartbeat, letting my tongue play tiny wet figures on her skin. The smell of her skin and her leathers. My body pressed to hers. No other waking ever compared. No falling asleep either. I beg her to wake.
I returned to Xena, and took my place among the Amazons. I came home. We began sharing our beds again and soon after our bodies. It was the most surprising thing that ever happened and yet the most expected. I had cherished making love to Iolaus, but with Xena it was something else altogether. I fed her desire as she flamed mine. She inspired my passion as I excited hers. I kissed her love as she did me. Making love to her was bliss.
Her legs are getting cold now, so I rub them and find the first wound she let me stitch. The scar still shows my inexperience, but she had just smiled that crooked smile of hers and never said a word. I stroke her thighs, so strong and so soft when she would wrap them around my waist and draw me into her.
Somewhere among the pounding and the pain, the soothing melody of her voice is searching for me. I reach for it, latch on to it, and try to follow it back. Her voice has always been with me. All those early mornings I spent alone at a campfire. So many mornings turning into so many days filled with waiting for her. No matter how far apart we were, I could always count on her voice to distract my loneliness, to muffle my nightmares and lead me out of the dark.
Something raw and painful wedges itself in my throat, as I watch her struggle hard to open her eyes. But my warrior is determined. She grunts as the bright sunlight hits her dilated pupils, so I quickly shield her eyes with my hand and wait for her to adjust. When she finally focuses on me, the sorrow I see in that beautiful blue invades every part of my body. And I pray, quickly, to Cyrene to take her hand when I must let it go.
I try to smile, the lopsided one she has never been able to resist. And even now I'm rewarded with a slight curling of her lips. But fear, despair, anger and pain continue to war over possession of her lovely features. I reach out to take it away. There is no time for that, on this day.
Her hand takes my hand, her thumb softly caressing the inside of mine. The familiar touch calms me as she knew it would. We know each other well. I know she is delighted at dying weapons in hand, armour strapped tight. That she is joyous it was a valiant fight and a good cause. I know she is angry I had to witness her killing and know she is assured by my presence. I know she is saddened beyond all tears that she will not be able to protect my parting when my parting day comes, and that she takes comfort in knowing she will guide my coming. Her eyes sparkle and I know mine answer, she would do anything to make certain eternity is safe for her bard, even if it meant entering first.
She smiles and once more, her strength astonishes me. She is so much stronger than I. She can face danger and stand her ground. She can let evil live and never lose courage nor hope that it can be turned around. I see danger and I have to destroy it, annihilate it, know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it can never come back at me again, or her. Especially her. Yet I know that she was right and I was wrong for she let me live, truly live.
I want to say goodbye but her eyes tell me she knows the words before I have even gathered my breath. I say them anyway, words are important to her.
"Thank you, my love. For my life."
Her lips answer mine with tender passion, her tongue tracing it's own farewell, until I feel her tears wet my skin and run down to my ears and neck. She furiously wipes the moisture from her eyes, not wanting our last moments to be blurred, then gently dries my face and digs her fingers in my hair. I nudge her with my hand, but she hesitates with a look of wonder. I assure her with another touch and she carefully positions herself on top of me so I can hold her small body in my arms, comforted by the whole of her being. This day will not last me long.
Feeling her heartbeat weaken so inexorably beneath me, I let myself sink into the blue of my warrior's eyes seeing no fear, no regret. My spirit rejoices, in this final moment she has weighed good against evil and found some pride in the balance. I put my hands on her cheeks, loosing myself in the clear loving blue, living every last breath of our life as one. Time to be strong now, time to help her. This day is ending.
Her eyes. Blue-green smiles I so adore. Blue-green trust I longed to be worthy of. Blue-green passion I came alive to. Blue-green dreams I yearned to give her. Blue-green stubbornness I fought. Blue-green banter I returned. Blue-green stories I will never stop trying to protect.
Her blue-green eyes. They hold me tenderly. They anchor my passing. They ease my breathing. They still my heart, with so much love. With so much love.
Her eyes closed two heartbeats before her breathing stopped, and then the familiar rhythm of her life left me alone as well. I always thought that on this moment I would feel cold, instead I am comfortably warm. I suspect my body will ache for her presence, an ache strong enough to sear my every conscious thought. I will spend the rest of my days crying and reaching, waking and dying, longing and lonely. But she will hold my soul lightly, gently enveloped in her own and I will be safe.
I have thought about this day for a long time. And now that we have lived it, she will live no more. I know now the ending to her story, though no mere words will ever relate the ending of our life. She will be in my heart and I will be in hers. For she and I are eternal.
© Flynn, 1997 email@example.com