Gabrielle keeps her slitted eyes on the fire, the picture of peace and unawareness. And those that are watching, they are fooled all too easily. She knows of her followers, three men at the most, tracking her as clumsily as children might.
Each snap of a twig and rustle of leaves, Gabrielle hears them.
And a part of her looks forward to this confrontation, that black-and-white place born many years ago - sometimes, you have to stand and fight.
One of them, thinking the woman asleep, slides along the edge of the small camp. He is nervous. His breathing is shallow. If Gabrielle took a deep enough intake of air, she could smell his sweat. And when he moves, trying to place a dagger into her back, she rolls quickly and into his feet. Tripping and falling to his knees, cursing and angry... Gabrielle knows it is just that easy. Easy to kick his arm, dislodge the weapon and thrust her elbow into his face. Easy to make him bleed, to drive him to the trees once more and slam one of her sais against his throat.
"Tell your friends to back off. Now."
He does, shouting in a voice barely past puberty. People will go to such great lengths for a few dinars. Well, perhaps it is more than a few these days...
The friends must think he is lying or something, because they rush in. Gabrielle brings her feet upwards, using this man's chest for a springboard. He goes flying to the ground and she lands in front of her would-be attackers. Her own weapons, sais and staff, work quite well. There are moments, though, when she gets a bit of pleasure in using the weapon someone left behind. And this is one of them.
Swords raised, they do not understand what is coming until it is too late. Gabrielle lets the chakram soar, with it years of memories and thoughts and death.
Against the rock...How many times did I watch you do this, Xena?
...and then the tree...Is this how it felt to be you?
...ricocheting between two skulls...If I wrote much anymore, I'd write prose about this weapon and you, Xena...
Then it is over. She drags their unconscious bodies a few hundred feet from her camp. The other one must have taken off, scared and eager to get away with his life.
Gabrielle takes a deep breath and begins to pack up. Others will come now, they always do.
Gabrielle traveled far and wide the first six months after Xena's death. She did a lot of good in the land of the Pharaohs, but her feet kept moving. On and on, until she reached mountains and harsh ground, fog and silence. She relished the solitude, the chance to... Forgive and forget and be alone, anything to help with the sense of loss.
She met people traveling in packs, looking much like those of the desert. And even though a difference in language prevented talking, it seemed as though communication was not truly needed.
They let her sleep in one of the tents, let her help with herding a strange and cantankerous animal that loved to spit at you, fed her and even got her on a brown as mud horse.
It was not great, but it was good. It was quiet. It was like being removed from all that had happened. Gabrielle felt some of her pain fade. She didn't have to avoid the sunsets. She didn't have to cradle an urn filled with ashes. She didn't have to merely wait for the apparition of a dead woman to appear.
Gabrielle could just exist.
But then a vision happened. She dreamed of a black beach, from another time and place, familiar eyes finding her own. A sister in Amazon dress, pulling back the mask of queen. Varia's crying eyes and hand outstretched.
"You must come back. You must lead us or we will be no more."
Gabrielle left the next day, her body wound tight and her heart aching. Back to Greece, to paths known, to a place where love was found.
Xena, I know you can't hear me anymore, but it is nice to pretend that you can... Everywhere I look, I see a time when we were together. Back in my homeland, I cannot ignore the fact that you are gone. But, as I go on in this life, I must let you go. Know that I love you, that I miss you...
And Gabrielle lets the thought slip away. Now is the time to stand and fight, to help her sisters once more, to finally put the agony to rest. Her steps become faster, until she is running and running, burning off the nighttime and greeting the dawn.
With the first light of day, Gabrielle stops and releases a cool stream of air from her lips, clasping her hands above her head.
The trees answer and it is still like moons ago, when she first met the Amazons.
I am home.
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