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Disclaimer: Okay... if you havenít figured it out by now. I DONíT OWN ĎEM!!!! Wish I did. Donít mean to step on any toes. ĎNuff said.

Disclaimer: Part Two: Lyrics to the song, "Because You Loved Me" arenít mine either. They belong to that wonderful songbird, Celine Dion. And of course, whoever has a stake in her. You lucky devils.

Warning: Kleenex alert here folks! No smut..... sorry. Just a sob story.

Because You Loved Me
by: Katelin B.

Gabrielle dismissed the royal guards who had been escorting her, and entered the empty hut. The aged Amazon Queen didnít notice the silence of her quarters as she had in the past few days of constant pain. Until now, it had seemed like a bad dream, a haunting nightmare that she couldnít wake up from. But the ceremony had driven the reality of everything home. Xena, her life partner, and soulmate of the last thirty winters, was gone.

Running a withered hand through gray streaked hair, Gabrielle wondered, yet again, why. Xenaís death had been senseless. A stupid accident that wouldnít have happened on any other day. If only it hadnít been storming. If only Xena hadnít gone to check on the horses. If only the lightening hadnít flashed when it did.

But all those things had happened. And the lightening, coupled with Xenaís sudden appearance, had frightened the corral full of horses into stampeding. Right toward the warrior princess. Everyone guessed she had been too surprised or too old to move quickly enough, but whatever the reason, the outcome was the same. Xena was trampled.

Twenty sets of hooves had left the, once powerful, woman a battered and bloody mess, hanging onto life by the merest of threads. The village had roared with activity as every woman, warrior and child alike, were called to assist the Queenís consort.

Gabrielle had rushed out in the rain, wearing nothing but one of Xenaís shifts, and was immediately guided into the healerís hut by Ephiny, right behind her injured mate. And there she stayed. For three days, while the storm howled outside the rickety walls, Xena hung on, and Gabrielle stayed by her side.

For a while, Xena seemed to improve, and even Mira, the healer, was hopeful. But then the fever started, and Xenaís body was just too weak to fight it. Gabrielle had known then that it was the end, but stubbornly refused to accept it, faithfully applying cool compresses even long after the warriorís heated flesh turned cold. And not once did a single tear fall.

Now, alone in the hut she had shared for so many winters with her mate, the aging Queen wondered why she couldnít cry for her loss. She looked around the room, noticing nothing changed from the night she had left, so long ago, it seemed. Then her eyes caught sight of something new. A scroll, weathered and dry with age, sitting on the table that hadnít been there before.

Something deep inside prodded Gabrielle forward, and she reached out, lightly running her fingers over the wax seal, deeply imprinted with a stylized X. A practiced flick of her wrist and the wax popped off, letting the parchment unroll.

Gabrielleís knees turned to water as she laid eyes on Xenaís uneven scrawl. She tenderly lifted the parchment with trembling hands and walked over to the bed they had shared, seating herself carefully before daring to look at the words. As she read, her eyes began to mist. And finally, alone in the silence of her empty hut, Gabrielle started to cry.

Youíre sleeping in our bed as I write these words. I pray to the Gods that you wonít read them for many winters. There was a time when I longed for death, believing in my heart that an eternity in Tartarus was my destiny.

But that was before I met you. Before your pure light forced away the darkness within me. Before I realized there was still a chance for my soul because half of it belonged to you. Before I loved you.

Iím glad we decided to live with the Amazons. It fills me with joy to see you so happy. Every time I see your smile, Iím reminded that I made the best choice. Giving up the road after ten long winters of redemption, to come home and make you my wife.

You know words arenít easy for me. That talent you possess is not one of my many skills. So Iím giving this parchment to Ephiny, on the condition that it waiting in our hut after my funeral, so that in a way, you wonít be so alone. And youíll know, finally, what Iíve wanted to tell you for so long, but never had the gift that would let me tell you with words.

For so long, everyone around us, even the Amazons praised my ability to keep going. To overcome impossible odds. To fight for the greater good, no matter what the personal cost. The keep striving to make the world a better place for the next generation, even when I was sure Tartarus was waiting for me. Everyone was stunned by my fighting and power to do the most astonishing things. When they asked, "How do you do that?" I always answered the same way.

"I have many skills."

But that wasnít true. Every time I said those words, I was thinking of something else. Something that I wanted to scream from the heights of Mount Olympus, but just didnít have the courage to say, even after we were married by Ephiny. I did all those things for you, my beloved Gabrielle. And you alone.

All those things I can do. All those powers and abilities. All of the many skills were nothing without you. I know I told you so many times that you were a gift to me, but did you really understand what I meant? Do you really understand what you are to me?

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldnít speak
You were my eyes when I couldnít see,
You saw the best there was in me.
Lifted me up when I couldnít reach
You gave me faith, cause you believed
Iím everything I am...

...Because You Loved Me.

Fin.

---*sniff!!* Comments? send Ďem to katelin_b@hotmail.com. thanks.