Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Xena Warrior Princess
Challenge/Prompt: gameofcards: Character Stockings (If you join, be sure to tell them Kat Lee of Team Clubs sent YOU!)
Warning(s): Cannon Character Death, Future Fic
Word Count: 1,451
Date Written: 9 January 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
She stares into the orange embers as they dance up the wall and out of sight. She tries to blank her mind like the fire before her. She isn’t bothered by her lack of words tonight, she decides, because it’s easier not to think. It’s so much easier not to think, not to write, not to remember all she has lost, the one great love of her life who she has lost and whose journeys she has spent the last several years chronicling.
She’s out of scrolls, something she’d thought would never happen again after she bought so many when she was building this small cabin by her hands. She’d thought she’d be able to live out the rest of her days here with no one else with whom to become involved, no other lives infringing on her own, no other stories needing to be heard, told, or resolved. The scrolls had lasted her a long time, but she filled the last one two days ago. To get more means another trip back to town, another day spent among people, another day telling the adventures of Xena aloud and being unable to stop the tears in her heart from pouring down her face.
It’s easier this way, she tells herself, willing her eyes to close. Her hand relaxes around her staff as she rocks back. It’s easier this way with no one else to intrude upon her privacy, with no other lives for whom to need to care but her own. She promised Xena she would not follow her until her time was here, but it’s taking too blasted long to arrive. At least filling her scrolls had filled her days, but now . . .
Now she has nothing but time in which to think and remember and grieve. She’d thought the time for grieving had passed when she’d come here, but she’d been wrong. She could live another lifetime and never run out of her time to grieve for the amazing woman she loved and lost. If only she was here now, Gabby thinks, they wouldn’t be stuck in some cabin in the middle of nowhere with no scrolls and very few, and drindling, other supplies. They’d be off on some adventure somewhere together, saving a life or perhaps thousands of lives, perhaps even the whole world.
But those days are over. Her days with Xena are over. All she has now are her memories, and they are beautifully depicted on the thousands of scrolls filling every little nook and cranny of the cabin around her. She’d thought she could never run out of scrolls before she ran out of words, but she should have known better. Xena’s wonderful, amazing exploits could circle the moon and back, and the writer would still need more scrolls in order to capture everything.
But she has no more scrolls, and it doesn’t matter if she has no more words either. One day, some traveler will come across her cabin, and her bones will still be sitting here in this rocking chair, surrounded by thousands of decaying scrolls. The knowledge of Xena’s adventures will live on forever through them, but Gabrielle herself is tired of living.
She’s tired of breathing. She’s tired of thinking. She’s tired of being here when her love is gone. Fresh tears falling on her cheeks, Gabrielle wills herself to sleep. At least in her dreams, after all, she can still be with Xena.
She stops rocking suddenly as she hears a creek between herself and the fire. Her green eyes snap open, but even as she raises her staff to a fighting position, she sees that the cabin is just as empty as it had been when her eyes closed. An empty, lonely wind whistles up the chimney. Gabrielle notes her wet boots and stockings hanging before the fire and remembers, with irony twisting her lips into a smirk, that today is a day supposedly filled with joy. Ah, well, there is no joy left in this world for her, not without Xena . . .
But there was a time when she knew only happiness and love. Settling back down into her chair, Gabrielle allows herself to begin to remember those days again, and as she recalls how Xena made her feel, she drifts off into a peaceful sleep with tears dripping down her thinned cheeks.
She doesn’t know how long she’s been out when the songs of birds outside her cabin call her to wake. It doesn’t matter. It’s just another day in an endless sea of days where she doesn’t want to be. There is nothing in this world for her any more, nothing --
Gabrielle’s breath catches in her throat as she sees her stockings and boots before the dying fire and realizes there are items sticking out of them. She springs from her chair and runs to them, the speed of an Amazon still alive in her muscles though so rarely used. She grabs first one scroll and then another and another. They’re all empty, blank canvases awaiting her words except for one.
I hope this makes up for those I wasted that time. The words are written in a dark, flourished handwriting. They aren’t signed, but Gabrielle instantly knows there’s only one person, only one soul, who could have written them. She drops to her knees beside the fireplace and sobs aloud. Xena had been here!
Xena had been here, and she had missed her! She shakes her head, remembering the first few years after Xena’s death when they had still traveled together. She had been able to see her then, been able to feel her as vividly as though she had stood in her body beside her. She’d had to go away for something. She’d never told her what, but she’d had to leave her eventually.
Or had she ever really left her? She remembers all the times Xena promised her she would never leave her. Maybe she’s been here all alone, Gabby thinks, and she just hasn’t been able to see her. There’s an old legend that says the dying must leave the living for them to remain alive, and Xena had always done everything she could to make sure Gabrielle would outlive her. Maybe she’d pretended to leave, thinking that in so doing she was freeing her.
It wasn’t the first time she’d tried to deceive her to help her do something Xena felt she should do. There had been so many other times. There had been several times, as well, when Xena or even Gabby herself had been rendered invisible and had had to fight and scheme to make the other be able to see them again. Maybe this instance was one of those.
Regardless, Gabrielle realizes, blinking back tears, she holds the proof in her hands right now that Xena has not left her. “Even in death, Gabrielle, I will never leave you.” Her tears start a new flood as she remembers Xena whispering those words to her. They seem now to hang in the air in the cabin around Gabrielle. Xena hasn’t left her. She will never leave her! Just because she can no longer see her doesn’t mean she’s not still with her!
And clearly, there is still magic alive on the Solstice night, magic that Gabrielle missed because she was too depressed to try to do anything more than sleep. And oh, the things Xena used to do while she slept! There had even been that one time while, in the sweep of a single morning’s late slumber, Xena had saved an entire village and only awakened her with a kiss after the mission had already been completed.
Smiling at the memory, Gabrielle rushes to her desk, dips her quill into ink, and begins to write a new. Through her tears, her smile grows until it shines. Xena hasn’t left her -- she will never leave her --, and she’s not done writing about her stories. She spent a lifetime loving that amazing woman, and as long as there is breath left in her, Gabby realizes, she will always be able to recall another story to write.
She’ll have these scrolls filled in just a couple of days, she thinks, laughing, and when she has finished them all, she will have to go to town to get more. She will go to town, she resolves, and if there are more stories there that need help telling or being resolved, she will help. It’s what Xena would do if she was here, and she is here after all. “I LOVE YOU!” she shouts. Her words echo in the cabin, but Gabrielle knows Xena hears her -- and she knows she loves her too!