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Editor's Choice Award

The Last Day

by Judy (Wishes)

Disclaimer: This story contains scenes of violence. If this will offend you please don't read it.

WHEN I REMEMBER my last day with Xena, I see a different day each time. Sometimes it's hot and dry, and the road is dusty. Sometimes it has recently rained, putting mud beneath our feet, and the fresh scent of wet foliage in the air. The birds are singing of spring, or there is an eerie silence all around. Each time I recall a different day from our years together. The truth is I can't remember anything about that day--except its end.

The sun is setting, and the road we're on leads west. Xena rides Argo, as I walk beside, telling some tale I've composed. Xena pulls up and shades her eyes against the lowering sun I know she is also listening hard. Still, I try to talk. Xena hushes me.

Two men come running out of the setting sun, as two more race from hiding among the trees. Four are not so many. I raise my staff and, next thing I know, I'm looking up from the ground. Xena leaps from the saddle. The other three are quickly upon her, but she looks only at the one who raises his sword above my head. As his sword begins to fall, she runs her own sword through his heart. Her chakram flies and cuts another attacker down. She parries the thrust of the third, as the fourth seems to pierce her defenses. She kicks him, and, as he falls, thrusts her sword upward to finish the third. I try to rise to help, but my left leg won't hold me. Before the fourth man gains his feet, Xena hits him with the flat of her sword, and he stays down.

Xena kneels beside me. "Where are you hurt?"

"He cut me," I say. "My left leg. Xena, I think it's bad."

Xena finds the deep cut, high up on the outside of my thigh. Argo has come to stand nearby, and Xena gets bandages from her pack. She staunches the bleeding and cares tenderly for my wound. I know that I am even weaker than I thought for, when Xena tries to help me to her saddle, we both stumble, and I almost fall. One more try, and I am in the saddle.

"Aren't you going to ride?" I ask, expecting that she will climb up behind me.

"Gabrielle. . . ." I realize then that Xena is very pale, and I wonder if there is something she has not told me about my wound. With what seems to be a mighty effort, Xena pulls herself up on the tall horse's back. I lean against her and feel again her strength and warmth.

Shocked by the pain and loss of blood, I am in and out of consciousness. When I'm awake, Xena comforts me with murmurs and says we'll reach a village soon.

I wake at dawn and realize Argo is standing in a village street. The villagers are rising and beginning their day of labor. Two men cautiously approach. I say, "I'm injured. Can you help my friend get me down?"

The men are kind and reach strong workers' hands to help me. As I slide from the saddle, I feel Xena slump and wonder if she could be asleep. "Xena," I say, "Wake up. Xena?"

One of the men touches her and says, "Cold."

That last day I don't remember. I only recall the end.

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