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Will You Remember Me?
By: Albuquerque Annie
DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, and all other characters appearing in the series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles, and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea, and the story itself are the sole property of the author. Copies of this story may be reprinted for private use only with all disclaimers attatched.
Hurt/Comfort Warning: Some of the scenes in the following story may be construed as a hurt/comfort story. If those issues make you uncomfortable, you'd better get out of Dodge and mosey along to another story.
They broke free of the dark, dense woodlands behind them and came upon the edge of the canyon where they could see the distant horizon. It was like a sudden breath of fresh, cool air. The height of the vantage point overlooking the deep canyons below evoked a dizzying, exhilarating feeling to any traveler who happened by.
The tall raven-haired warrior pulled up on her palomino's reins. The horse turned sideways, whinnied softly, and pranced a little as the warrior surveyed the maze of canyons below, gazed up at the early evening sky, and gave her companion her opinion, "The sun will be gone by the time we get halfway down to the canyon floor. We'd better not try it tonight. There aren't any good camping places there nor here, but I saw a decent one two miles back."
She turned to face her companion. The golden-haired girl leaned on her staff and looked blankly at the early sunset with its dark blues streaked with red, orange, and yellow luminous cirrus clouds, sort of like a tropical sunset. The warrior called softly but firmly, "Gabrielle."
"Huh? Yeah, right, Xena...," Gabrielle's voice trailed off.
"Mmmm...," Xena muttered appraisingly as they turned to retrace their steps.
The warrior let Gabrielle walk ahead of her and her horse in order to watch the girl a while. She walked slowly, head bowed, shoulders slumped, swinging her staff absentmindedly. She didn't say a word. "That's quite a feat for her," thought Xena to herself. A small smile turning the corners of her lips upwards, then worry quickly overcame humor. Gabrielle had been like that ever since yesterday afternoon. "What drained her spirit so quickly?" Xena asked herself. Gabrielle was the liveliest person she had ever known. She never had a dark moody side that the warrior ever saw before, she cheerfully did whatever she was doing, and she talked and talked as if her lungs never ran out of air.
They reached camp without anyone saying anything. Xena swung down off of Argo, hitched her to a tree, and led the still-dazed Gabrielle to a log. As the girl passed Argo, the horse nudged her gently in the shoulder. Argo and Gabrielle had never been good friends, but even the horse sensed when something wasn't right and now wasn't the time to continue the feud.
"I'll be right back," Xena said as she left to find something to eat and some firewood. Xena's best friend just sat there staring at someplace on the other side of the camp. She hadn't heard a word.
The warrior got the firewood and something to eat for dinner, though dinner didn't do much good for either of them. Gabrielle just half-heartedly picked at her food, and Xena forced herself to eat. It's hard to eat when you're worried about someone.
Xena put the bowls aside and sat next to the girl. "Gabrielle," the warrior said in her soft, smooth, deep voice. She gently turned the girl's head so they looked at each other. Gabrielle's eyes focused on the warrior's face, but instead of looking at her, Gabrielle looked as if she saw right through Xena. In a tender moment that went against Xena's everyday nature no matter how much she loved her best friend, she asked, "What's wrong? Are you ill?"
Gabrielle snapped back to reality a little and shook her head slowly. Her best friend's concerned deep blue eyes gave off a light of their own.
"What is it, then?"
Gabrielle grabbed her knapsack from beside her feet, dug around in it for a minute, pulled out a scroll, and let out a long sigh. "I've been thinking about Perdicus again. I found this yesterday." She offered the scroll to Xena.
Xena accepted it, set it aside, and asked, "A story?"
Again, Gabrielle shook her head and spoke softly, "Remember when I almost died? Remember how I told you about seeing my relatives? I saw them and decided to write a poem for my loved ones if anything happens to me. I never thought Perdicus could've used it...," Gabrielle took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, trying to release the grip of the invisible hand squeezing her around her chest and continued, "...before I did." Xena saw the girl's lips start to tremble, easily fought her personal nature, pulled Gabrielle close, and held her for a while. Obviously, the girl did everything she could to pull herself together, but Xena felt the girl's body shake, saw a few tears fall into the dirt below them and mix with it to make mud, and heard a partially-stifled cry issue from her throat. Gabrielle struggled for a long time with self control, lost the battle, and cried for a few minutes. Xena didn't say anything. She knew there was nothing she could say, and she knew what it was like to sit in the dark and deeply miss someone special. Different things drew out the loneliness; dark nights spent alone, something seen or heard that reminded someone of a loved one, being overly tired, or just anything at all, and only a good hard cry cleansed people's spirits, though she didn't indulge in it very often herself.
When the girl shook less, Xena stated quietly, "We all feel down sometimes."
Gabrielle shyly turned away, shook her head, and mumbled, "Maybe."
Xena got up, helped Gabrielle to her blankets, gently laid her down, and covered her. She was exhausted and needed a good sleep. Then, Xena went back and picked up the scroll. "Let's see what this is all about," she murmured to herself. She read:
"Will You Remember Me?"
When I am gone, maybe it will be too soon, But do not mourn the years when We yet could've lived and loved. Let's carry the good times in our hearts. But... I want to know, when it's all over, Will you remember me?
When you pass a wheat field in late summer And see the tall, ripe stalks swaying in the wind, Will it remind you of my golden mane? When you pass a deep blue lagoon And the sun sparkles on the water's surface, Will it remind you of my eyes When I gazed lovingly at you on moonlit nights? When a hot breeze brushes across your face, Will it remind you of my warm breath Right before I kissed you gently on your cheek? Will you remember me?
If the spirits of the dead can tarry next to the living, It will be my warm, comforting presence You'll feel watching over you and protecting you. Though unseen, I will be with you always As long as you remember me.
An unfamiliar twinge of emotion welled up in Xena. Her throat tightened. Those wistful words touched something within her and she could hear Gabrielle whisper each and every one of them to her. "No wonder she's been acting strange lately." Xena thought about her own emotions seemingly getting the best of her that night and mumbled to herself, "Aren't we all?". She set the scroll aside again, tended the fire one last time, checked on the sleeping bard, and curled up a few feet away from her.
The morning came quickly. Xena, restless, got up and built the fire again to take the chill out of the early morning air. She watched as the stars in the sky above faded, and the black sky turned gray, dark purple, and slowly into blue. Then, she shook Gabrielle gently. "Gabrielle. Get up, Gabrielle." The bard hadn't stirred all night.
Gabrielle blinked, rubbed her eyes, sat up, stretched, and yawned mightily. Xena smoothed back Gabrielle's hair and asked, "Feeling better?"
Ashamed at last night's breakdown, Gabrielle blushed and replied, "A little. Thanks." Risking further personal embarrassment, she grabbed Xena and gave her best friend a quick little kiss on the cheek. There was nothing like being around Xena, her most comforting friend, when things weren't right.
Xena watched the bard as she prepared their breakfast and saw signs that she still wasn't herself. Gabrielle's shoulders slumped forward as if she withdrew into herself, her eyes were still puffy and red from last night, her tangled hair cascaded wildly around her, and she looked older somehow. The warrior shook her head sadly and thought, "That's not my Gabrielle."
An hour later, after breakfast and mostly silence, the pair reached the canyon wall again and cautiously started down. The trail started out wide and narrowed quickly before they went very far. It took a lot of time, effort, and concentration to keep their footing. Every once in a while, one of their feet slipped and sent an avalanche of little rocks tumbling over the edge. Gabrielle heard them bounce and roll all the way down. That sound and a quick peek over the edge motivated her to pay close attention to what she was doing. She kept as close to the canyon wall as she could, crept like a cat, and inched her way down.
Meanwhile, Xena had her own troubles. She minded herself, careful to not twist her ankle as she slid down the trail and she gently coaxed Argo along. "Whoa! Easy, girl!" Xena patted the horse after an especially rough patch when she heard Gabrielle scream. She spun around and didn't see the girl on the trail. "Gabrielle!"
A weak, scared voice came from a few feet below the edge, "Down here!"
Xena looked over the edge, quickly surveyed the situation, and got a rope. The bard had grabbed an outcropping of scrub brush which broke her fall some. She landed on a ledge a few yards down. Xena called, "Hang on! And for the gods' sake, DON'T LOOK DOWN!"
"Okay, Gabrielle. Take it slow and easy now!" Xena tied one end of the rope to Argo's saddlehorn and lowered the other end to the girl. Gabrielle snatched it, tied it to herself, and climbed steadily as Argo pulled her up. When she was close enough to the top, she clung to Xena as her friend helped her onto the trail. "It's okay. I got you," the warrior reassured her. Still bewildered, Gabrielle stared at Xena with big green eyes, breathed deeply, and tried to calm her heart which pounded deafeningly in her ears. They were on their way again in a few minutes.
When they reached the canyon floor, the going was smoother. Xena hated to see the cheery little bard so sad and quiet, so, braving the prospect of having her ears talked off, she encouraged the bard to tell a tale, "Start talking, Gabrielle!" When she didn't reply soon, Xena tried something else, "A bard who has nothing to say isn't a bard at all!" When that didn't work, she used her last resort, "If you don't start talking, I'm going to have to sing." Silence. Xena intentionally sang off-key, "The rogue rode to an inn where he got drunk./ Without baths for days, he smelled like a skunk./ He cornered a woman, oh, man! Was she stuck!/ There was nowhere to escape and-"
"All right! I get your point!" Gabrielle interrupted, holding her ears and well aware what came next in the song.
She took a deep breath and began in a half-hearted bardic voice, "I sing a song of Adanos, friend of Perdicus, lionhearted, and true...." She listed a few more of the young man's attributes as if she recited a long list of honors he won in wars and ended with, "...and the pride of Poteidaia." She paused, unable to decide where she wanted to begin the tale, and soon took it up again, "His yellow curls shone like polished brass, his teeth as white as the moon, his smile as bright as the noonday sun. His eyes were bluer than the deepest blue skies. With the rosy bloom of youth in their cheeks and Hades' fire in their souls, young Adanos and young Perdicus grew healthy and strong. They ran through the meadows, their feet barely skimming the ground. They could wrestle mountains and win...."
Gabrielle talked for a few minutes more, growing stronger in her description, really getting into the story. As she talked, she saw snatches of her childhood right in front of her eyes, and for a short time, nothing in her immediate environment existed. She saw them running through those same meadows she described. She saw them wrestle each other, their bodies twisting and turning, the sun glinting off Adanos's curls as his head bobbed in and out of her sight. She saw them laughing, fishing, climbing trees, and asking her to picnic with them on the hilltop overlooking the fields. She especially remembered the sorrowful looks on their faces when she said her goodbyes and left Poteidaia again. That last memory stung.
Xena enjoyed hearing Gabrielle talk...for a little while. She knew that just like the body, the soul got sick sometimes.
Two weeks later, they strolled along a path that led to yet another small village. Gabrielle happily chattered away behind Xena who had a pained look on her face. She was sorry she got Gabrielle started again. "At least she's better," Xena thought. As they neared the village, a dark-haired teenage girl ran up to them. "Are you Xena?" she asked as she caught her breath. "My father, the innkeeper, sent me. He said you're good at healing. Come quickly, please!"
Xena and Argo broke toward the village. The warrior called over her shoulder, "I'll meet you there!" Gabrielle and the girl lagged behind.
Xena charged into the inn and demanded to see the innkeeper. A plump ruddy man with iron-gray hair around the fringe of his head and an apron around his middle came in. He seemed concerned.
"What's the problem?"
The innkeeper wiped the sweat from his forehead with a red rag and said as matter-of-factly as he could manage, "The fella in the back is awfully sick."
"What's wrong with him?" Xena asked calmly.
The innkeeper shrugged his shoulders at the last question. "I hoped you could tell me. He just staggered in here a week ago looking like death warmed over and has been getting worse ever since."
Xena arched an eyebrow. "Let's have a look. And when my friend gets here, bring her in," she instructed. The innkeeper nodded and retreated from the room.
The youth's pale sweat-soaked body lay on the bed. His dull blue eyes, sunken with dark circles around them, pleaded with Xena to help him.
She introduced herself, "I'm Xena."
The youth, too weak to reply right then, reached for her hand and fell short of it. Xena took it, shook it, and started a thorough examination.
She couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. The case absolutely baffled her! The only certainty was that the youth was dying.
She had started another thorough examination to make sure she hadn't missed anything when Gabrielle came in.
In a cheery, low voice so she wouldn't disturb the patient, the girl asked, "Hey, Xena, what's up? What's wrong-" Hearing the bard catch her breath short, Xena turned around. Gabrielle suddenly paled and her jaw dropped making her mouth into a large O shape.
"Come on!" The warrior, seeing her friend's reaction, got up, took the bard lightly by the elbow, and escorted her into the hallway. Once there, she turned Gabrielle around and held the girl's shoulders so they faced each other squarely. "You know him," Xena stated.
"Y-yeah.... Adanos. What's wrong with him?"
"I don't know...," Xena said honestly with a worried look.
Gabrielle finished quietly, "...But he's dying. Right?"
Xena hesitated to answer.
"The truth now," Gabrielle spoke lowly and firmly.
Surprisingly, though tears brightened her eyes and her red lips quivered slightly, Gabrielle didn't completely break down. Instead, she slowly nodded, knowing what would happen and already partially resigned to it. Or maybe she was still in shock.
Xena smiled encouragingly and squeezed Gabrielle's shoulders, then she left to attend to Adanos. She stopped in the doorway to look back at Gabrielle for a minute. The bard sighed, and she leaned against the wall with her face pointed skyward, her eyes closed, alone with her thoughts. The distressed solitary figure in the long hallway, poised as she was, created a heartwrenching scene.
After twenty minutes, Xena came out. "Come on, Gabrielle. Let's go."
They had enough money for a good meal, but not to stay at the inn.
The girl, who hadn't moved in all that time, opened her eyes and followed. As they passed through the door, Xena paused and told the innkeeper, "Let him get some rest. We'll be back later."
At the campfire that night, Xena read the girl's thoughts, "Why don't we stay a while. Argo could use the rest, and...."
"Yeah. Thanks." Gabrielle poked at the fire with a stick. "I want to go with you to see Adanos tomorrow. Maybe seeing an old friend will be of some small comfort."
Afraid of seeing her friend hurt more, Xena had second thoughts, "Maybe that's not such a good idea."
Gabrielle shot Xena a dark look and spoke in a hard voice, "You're not going to treat me like a child, remember?"
"Fine," Xena replied evenly. That was the end of the matter and of most conversation.
The bard sat by the youth's bed. She couldn't decide whether or not to wake him. She didn't have to debate long because he soon woke. Gabrielle picked up the cool wet cloth from the bowl of icy water, wrung some of the water out, swabbed Adanos's forehead, and smoothed back his golden curls. One curl stuck to the middle of his forehead and gave him an even more youthful appearance. "Adanos," she whispered, not wanting to get him too excited, though he looked pretty good today.
He blinked a few times, unable to believe it could be his old friend.
"Gabrielle? Is that you?"
"Yes." The girl smiled at him. Adanos managed a partial smile. "A smile as bright as the noonday sun" now hid behind overcast skies.
She leaned over and hugged him. "It's good to see you again."
"Same here." He silently studied her face for a little while, then he requested, "Read to me."
Somewhat taken aback by the request, Gabrielle absentmindedly scrounged around in the medicine bag she and Xena brought with them just in case there was something that could help Adanos. "I don't think I have anything with me right now.... Ah.... Here's something!" She took out the scroll, read the title to herself, and hesitated. She thought she had lost the scroll two weeks ago, yet somehow it got mixed in with the medicine bag supplies. Xena was the only one who ever saw or heard it and it was one of those rare works that Gabrielle felt shy about sharing with anyone else.
"Go on," Adanos quietly prompted.
"Um.... It's rather sad," Gabrielle warned.
"Read. Please," Adanos signaled his willingness to hear it.
"Well.... Okay. 'Will You Remember Me?'," she read, paused, gauged his reaction, and continued reading the poem.
When she finished, she saw that Adanos's eyes brightened. "I'm sorry. I knew it would be too much."
He quickly replied, "No! It's not that."
"What is it, then?" the girl asked anxiously.
Adanos avoided Gabrielle's eyes and thought to himself, "I'm dead anyway, so I might as well. Here goes!" He took a deep breath and said, "I've loved you for a long time."
Feeling as if someone had thrown her into an icy lake without any warning, Gabrielle gasped, "I...I had no idea! Why didn't you tell me sooner? Was it because of Perdicus?"
Adanos turned his head to face the wall and hid himself as much as he could. The girl guessed why and spoke gently, "It's because you were too shy." She ran her hand through his curls.
"Please go now," he begged.
Uncertain what to do, she agreed, "Okay, but I'll be back tomorrow." She leaned over his half-dead body, closed her eyes and put her head on his for a minute, and kissed him gently. He feigned sleep.
While Gabrielle spent time alone with Adanos, Xena had a drink at the bar. Business was slow so the bartender chatted with her, interested in the warrior, the girl, and the formerly-unknown traveler who lay dying in his inn.
"You say she's a bard?!" he asked incredulously. His eyebrows lifted in surprise.
Xena nodded slightly. "That's what I said."
The innkeeper got the red rag out of one of his apron pockets and wiped the sweat off his pink head. "Why, she's hardly said two words since she got here!" He drew a beer for a regular customer and quickly returned.
"Yeah, she hasn't been herself," Xena nodded toward the room where the bard and the youth were, "but what is there to say?"
"True...," the innkeeper conceded.
Gabrielle came out and walked past them without saying anything. The innkeeper shook his head sadly. Xena watched the bard walk out the door and continued mostly to herself, "I never knew her serious side ran this deeply."
For the next week and a half, Gabrielle didn't say much. Xena often found her at the inn caring for the young man who got progressively worse until he didn't make much sense when he talked. More often, she found her alone. The girl strolled along the beach in a reflective trance, sat down and threw pebbles into the sea, or sometimes found a tree and battled it with her staff, quickly losing control of her mixed emotions, and things weren't much better around the campsite. Xena noticed how the girl tossed and turned in her sleep, how she neither said nor ate much, and how she shook under the pressure and anxiety of losing a friend. She got worse every day. Plus, the way she carried herself (with slumped shoulders and sad and weary face) showed how she felt. Xena tried telling stories to liven camp up a little. Even though the warrior knew the girl already knew the stories, the bard didn't interrupt her.
One night, as the campfire died down, Gabrielle stretched out on her blankets and watched the stars in the inky black sky above. Xena got up, walked over to where she was, looked down on Gabrielle, and spoke lowly, "Hello." It was a lame opening line for people who weren't meeting again for the first time in a long time, yet there was something special about it, something friendly, caring,warm.
As she settled herself down next to Gabrielle to watch the stars, Xena tried a little levity, "You know, this is getting ridiculous. You're acting like me and I'm acting like you. I think we've been around each other too long."
The bard didn't reply. Instead, she waited a few minutes, and then felt more chatty than shehad in a while. In a faraway voice, she told the warrior one of her memories, "On nice summer nights like these, Adanos, Perdicus, and I laid on the hill for hours. We talked not-so-seriously and very seriously sometimes, and traced the movement of the stars across the sky. I even told them stories about the constellations. We generally stayed out so late and the air felt so good that I wish I could've fallen asleep right there, but I dragged myself home. I was very sorry when we had to go home. We always had such a great time...."
Xena laid there quietly and listened to her story. She felt that Gabrielle didn't want to be alone tonight, and after hearing that story, neither did she.
They watched the stars for a long time when Gabrielle spoke again, "It never gets easier, does it?"
"What?" the warrior inquired, wanting to know what her friend was talking about.
"Losing people you love, especially when they're young." She choked up during the last part of the sentence.
Sympathetically, Xena remarked, "It's a hard way to find out that life isn't fair." The warrior thought what else to say and soon added, "No matter how much you know what's coming, the pain never lessens. Each one hurts and the next one hurts the same."
"Thanks!" the bard replied sarcastically and then she barely audibly spoke, "He told me he loves me."
"Why didn't he tell you sooner?"
"He was shy."
After a minute, Xena softly asked, "Do you love him?"
The girl replied, her voice thick with emotion, "Does it matter now?"
The warrior didn't reply to the poignant question. Xena wanted to grab Gabrielle's shoulders, give her a good shake and yell at her, "It matters to me! I want to see you happy! Loving him or not is the difference between hurting or being okay for the rest of your life!" Instead, she restrained herself. The girl rolled over on her side and tried to sleep.
"Wake up! Wake up! Come now!" The innkeeper's daughter stumbled into camp yelling.
Xena woke quickly and jumped up. Gabrielle got up dazed. "Wh..What?" the bard stammered.
"Adanos is asking for you."
Xena stirred the fire until there was enough flame to light some torches. "Okay. Let's go."
When they got to the inn, Xena sat at the bar. She knew what was going to happen, and when the innkeeper's daughter tried to go with Gabrielle, Xena held her back. The innkeeper joined them at the bar while Gabrielle went to see Adanos.
Gabrielle entered the well-lit room. Candlelight flickered all around Adanos, cast a red-orange glow on him, and shadows danced on the wall opposite her.
"I'm here." She barely breathed the words. She leaned over, kissed him on his forehead, laid her head on his, and quietly prayed to the gods. Then, she sat down, took his hand in one of her own, and stroked his golden curls tenderly with her other hand.
He gazed at her through glassy blue eyes. For once since the ordeal began, he looked young and free of pain. His eyes started closing slowly, and his voice came through scarcely audibly, "...carry the good times...."
The girl heard it as more of a question. She leaned closer to him and murmured, "I will. There were lots of them." Tears of relief of his impending release from all pain and her freedom from pressure, and tears of sorrow overwhelmed her. Her blue-green eyes became aquamarine seas.
She wiped her eyes quickly and strained to hear his words.
"Gabrielle.... Will you remember me?"
She slid her hand from his curls, around his face, under his chin, and drew his face more squarely to hers. Her tears fell on his cheeks. She whispered, "How could I ever forget you?"
The corners of his mouth twitched. The hand in hers relaxed. He died smiling.
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