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LEGAL - The characters Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, Hope, Alti, Meg and Dahak and the opening story situation have appeared in the syndicated TV series, Xena: Warrior Princess. All belong to MCA Universal and to Renaissance Pictures. I have used them in this very short story with no plan to profit from them and no copyright infringement is intended. The story itself is the responsibility and the property of the author.
LOVE/SEX and SEXUAL VIOLENCE WARNINGS - The story contains no overt sexuality and no sexual violence. It is, however, a Xena story, so love of many sorts abounds. The story portrays a love relationship between two consenting adult women, so persons under the age of eighteen are asked not to read it.
VIOLENCE WARNING - There is a battle scene and a crucifixion scene. In both the violence is extreme.
HURT/COMFORT DISCLAIMER - This story might be classified as a Hurt/Comfort story involving the characters Xena and Gabrielle. Avoid this one if you are sensitive to this issue.
Your comments are welcomed.
The Greatest Gift
By J. Woodward
Sounds of tumultuous fighting tear the air as one lone warrior, a woman, fends off several soldiers in a running battle. She is Xena, Warrior Princess, and she is brilliant, beating back twelve fully armored men with an assortment of leaps, kicks, and swordplay. At the same time she is yelling instructions to Gabrielle, telling her to run and to escape to the river. Xena has those soldiers in full retreat when she hurries around a bend in the road. She stops short and a look of utter horror comes over her face.
She is looking at the very mountain in Alti's prophecy and the vision of her own death! All the rest of the haunting vision -- Xena and Gabrielle, dying together, nailed to crosses unfolds before her eyes. While she is stunned and distracted an entire new platoon of soldiers rushes her from behind and they quickly beat her to the ground.
"Don't kill her." commands the Captain. "We have other plans for the Warrior Princess. Find her companion and bring her to the place."
Late in the day two crucifixion crosses go up on a dark, snowy landscape. Xena is nailed to a wooden cross and Gabrielle is on a cross to her left. Soldiers rush about hoping to get out of the weather and away from the gruesome sight. Most of them refuse to look at the women on the crosses; it brings them no joy. At length one of the soldiers does look at the crosses and sneers, "Well, Xena, this is your final scene. Where is your power now?"
Alti's ghastly vision foretelling their deaths is now coming painfully true for Xena and Gabrielle. Both women are now on the crosses dying slowly and in agony.
Xena turns to see Gabrielle, and she speaks, "I promise you Gabrielle, I'll meet you on the other side."
"It is all right, Xena, we are together. We will be together." There are no more farewells. Gabrielle is weeping now, but Xena still refuses to cry.
Darkness falls and the two are nearing death. The weather is ominous with dark, heavy clouds, lightening and continuous deafening thunder. The captain of the soldiers barks a command, "Break their legs. They will die quicker." The soldiers move to obey the command, and the pain is horrifying for the women. Xena tries again to look around at Gabrielle.
"Gabrielle, you are the best thing in my life."
Gabrielle replies simply and yet completely, "I love you, Xena."
Gabrielle is totally still, perhaps already dead when a strange glow appears on the horizon behind the crosses. It grows closer and brighter and Hope slowly appears. Hope, Gabrielle's evil daughter who was conceived with a ruthless prince of darkness called Dahak. Hope is accompanied by Dahak's voice of supreme disapproval -- clamorous ranting, shrieking, and bellowing. He is causing a firestorm to rage over the whole scene.
Nevertheless, Hope cannot turn away from her mother and finally she stretches out both arms and magically frees Gabrielle, floating her off the cross and into her arms. As she places her down Gabrielle's wounds heal, and her body returns to normal.
Xena awakes enough to see this and yells, screams at her, "Gabrielle, Gabrielle, run. Leave here now, RUN! Go now!"
Gabrielle and Hope start running, trying to escape the soldiers and to get beyond the firestorm Dahak is spewing after them. But after a few yards, Gabrielle looks tortured and cannot continue. She cannot, will not, leave Xena. Hope pleads in vain with her to save herself and escape, but Gabrielle returns to Xena on the cross. She embraces, then kisses her battered legs. Xena still tries to protest, but she realizes that it is hopeless and she is powerless to change Gabrielle's actions. Now Xena begins to weep.
Meanwhile Hope is growing visibly younger as Dahak withdraws himself and his power from the daughter who has become a traitor and enemy. With the last bits of her dark powers dwindling, Hope decides to save them all. She tries, fails, fails again, and then frees Xena from the cross. Her body is restored as Gabrielle's was. Gabrielle helps Xena run to Hope and then all of them race for safety. Hope flings one final lightening strike at the pursuing soldiers, and Dahak's firestorm finishes them.
Now all of life and existence is changed for the escapees. Their realities have flip-flopped suddenly and inexplicably. Xena and Gabrielle watch as Hope grows ever smaller and younger. Gabrielle understands and becomes more and more depressed and anxious that Hope is fading forever. Both Xena and Gabrielle thank Hope and pledge her their love and support. Gabrielle pleads with Xena to do something to save Hope, but it seems that nothing she does can stop Hope's march back into nothingness.
As evening falls, Gabrielle cradles the now infant in her arms, agonizing and still begging her not to go away. Finally, there simply is no longer a child in Gabrielle's arms -- only nothingness. Gabrielle is devastated and Xena holds and comforts her as best she can throughout the night. Just before dawn they build a small funeral pyre and have a memorial service for Hope.
As Xena sings a dirge, the mighty figure of a god, a woman, is seen as a specter in the background. The shadowy figure slowly approaches the women and touches each of them with one of her hands. Xena feels an involuntary quiver run through her whole body. She looks quickly at Gabrielle who stands trembling with her eyes closed.
The phantasmal being speaks softly, " I am your god, Hera. Despair no more, your love will honored. Your loss and your sorrow will pass." Then she slowly vanishes.
The next day our women start off on the road making their way back to Greece. Gabrielle is still uncommonly muted and sad, but the usually silent Xena gently talks with her and still tries to offer solace for Hope's death. They walk on with Xena's arm wrapped loosely around Gabrielle's waist.
"What could she have meant? She is the Queen of the Gods, isn't she?" Gabrielle asks Xena.
Xena answers her softly with more than a little touch of sadness, " Well, yes she is. But she is the god of marriage and childbirth too, Gabrielle. I think she means that you will marry, be happy, and have children again. I believe that is Hera's gift to you."
Gabrielle tells Xena that she only feels cursed; she has traded her child for her own life. "No Xena, I will never marry again; you are my family."
Xena can only be silent, but after a while, she proffers the idea that the gods must have some significant plan for Gabrielle.
That plan begins abruptly. Gabrielle suddenly begins to heave and hurl at the side of the road. Xena comes back to her and as she helps to steady her, Xena's mind is racing. That is the third time Gabrielle has been sick, and there is no apparent cause. They have eaten the same food and Xena has not been sick. She wonders aloud if Gabrielle has gotten scratched or wounded by some malevolent plant or invisible life form. She searches her memory, frantic to find a way to cure her friend.
Finally Xena tries to reassure Gabrielle that they are nearing home. She says they will soon find Argo, and the faithful horse will help Gabrielle get home. They both manage a genuine smile as they look forward to seeing their old friend.
That evening Xena and Gabrielle eat their evening meal and Gabrielle expresses a desire for "something cool and delicious". This decidedly annoys Xena, and she points out that they are on the road in the middle of the hottest season of the year. Xena is in fact bothered because she knows that she cannot give her friend what she wants and it hurts her deeply. She apologizes for being cross and tells Gabrielle why. Gabrielle moves to place her head on Xena's shoulder, gazes at her and smiles.
Still later that night as Xena and Gabrielle are starting to go to sleep around their campfire, Xena makes a peculiar request, "Can I touch you?"
Now it is Gabrielle who is annoyed as she says, "Of course, when did you ever have to ask that?" Xena moves to her and gently places her hands on Gabrielle's belly. She gets an astonished look on her face. Xena is frankly dumbfounded and doesn't speak. Gabrielle asks, then demands to know what Xena has found.
Xena ends that conversation with a simple statement, "Gabrielle, you are pregnant." Both are dumbfounded.
Time passes quickly in the next few traveling scenes --
That beautiful, star filled night around their campfire they at last, reluctantly, have the dreaded talk. They puzzle over the origins and fate of the expected child. At length Xena declares that Gabrielle's child is most certainly a gift from Hera, and that it will be a beautiful and precious baby.
She says that she will take both of them back to safety in Potaedaia and Gabrielle's family. But Gabrielle gets an odd, determined look and says quietly that Xena alone is her family now. She has never sounded so resolute. Xena sadly reminds Gabrielle that her own dangerous life and her reputation make it nearly impossible to keep a child safe.
Gabrielle simply says that they will find a way, perhaps build a hospice or a refuge for travelers. "I will be where you are."
Gabrielle then reminds Xena that she is the greatest healer in Greece. "Think of the good you can do for people when they know where to find you. You can still go on important missions to help people and to do good. I will too. Meg will be really happy to help us with the baby, and I will give her the schooling she wants so much. Or we can go to your Mom for help; you know we can."
Xena struggles to make it clear that she can't plan to stay with the two in the future, but two things become ever more certain. Gabrielle definitely will not be denied, and each minute it becomes more torturous for Xena to even think about leaving them.
Finally Gabrielle takes Xena's face in both of her hands and searches her eyes. She says, "You cannot leave me behind just because we have a child." And then again with exquisite faith and conviction, "We can do it together, Xena. We will find a way."
At last Gabrielle starts into labor. Xena goes to seek shelter and help, but finds none. They have to settle for some pine boughs in a small cave near water. The labor is long but proceeds normally; Gabrielle begs Xena to just hold her when the pains are worst. She suffers through a normal labor until Xena finally delivers the baby. Xena quickly cleans and wraps the child, says that it is a girl and hands her to Gabrielle to hold. Then she smiles, delighted to note the mass of golden hair on the child's head.
Gabrielle cuddles her baby and at last looks into her tiny face. There is a long pause, a gasp, a surprised laugh and then Gabrielle screams with delight and grabs Xena.
She keeps telling Xena to "look at her eyes, look at her eyes!"
At first Xena cannot bear to face the horrible possibilities that might appear in those eyes. But Gabrielle still acts utterly delirious with joy, so after steeling herself, Xena finally does look.
The baby's eyes are the deepest blue-violet eyes in the world, small pools of wonder, framed by perfect dark lashes and brows, exactly like Xena's. For just a small eternity Xena and the child exchange a prolonged gaze of mutual admiration. After that Xena closes her own eyes and holds Gabrielle and the baby very, very close to her.
At length she shakes her head and sends a broad, thoroughly radiant grin to her partner. "Gabrielle, it looks like she is Hera's gift to both of us."
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