Disclaimers 1: All characters (too many to list) are property of Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal. No infringement is intended and no profit will be made.
Disclaimers 2: The whole story (except the opening sequences of each character) belongs to me - a Gabrielle fan who was distraught after watching 'Sacrifice II'. I talked about this idea and then finally put pen to paper and wrote the bloody story.
Historians Note: This story picks up at the end of Season Three, ‘Sacrifice II’
Warning: This story is sub-text friendly (nothing graphic, just friendly) but there is something for everyone.

This story is for my Avator, wherever she is.

XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
WITHOUT YOU – PROLOGUE
By Masque

Severing The Threads

“You know the stakes Gabrielle, Xena’s fate is in your hands.” Ares’s warning echoed through the chaos of Dahak’s destruction.

Paralysed, Gabrielle watched as her best friend inched closer to her daughter; Xena, with the Hind’s blood dagger raised in her hands forced Hope backwards towards the chasm’s ledge. Gabrielle imagined that she could feel the Fates preparing to cut short Xena’s existence - she had to do something.

Hope’s powers were trying to hold Xena back, even trying to turn the dagger on Xena herself but the warrior struggled onwards moving ever closer. She pulled back the dagger, a guttural snarl building in her throat as she prepared to stab Hope straight through the heart. Gabrielle could feel the Crone closing the blade over Xena’s life-thread - she had to do something.

“No!” Everyone in the temple could hear Gabrielle's scream. She charged towards the altar and using her staff she vaulted to land near the two women. With her arms outstretched she ran towards them, “Hope,” Gabrielle threw her arms around her demon daughter and with all of her strength wrenched both of them from the ledge. As they fell Gabrielle spun their bodies, her last glance was for Xena, and Xena alone.

Xena realised too late what was happening and could only watch helplessly as Gabrielle fell to her death. Their eyes had locked in that moment, everything conveyed in a single glance. Xena lunged to the edge of the chasm knowing it was useless, “Gabrielle....” she screamed into the fire.

“Xena....” Gabrielle cried as she plunged into the inferno.

A wave of fire swept up from the depths and in that moment it was all over.

*           *            *

LIFE WITHOUT YOU IS LIKE A STRANGER
FULL OF SHADOWS, FULL OF DANGER
(Mystical Experience – Boyzone)

*           *            *

Callisto’s Thread

Watching from a distance Callisto looked on with confused amusement; they had wanted Hope dead, they had succeeded, so Gabrielle had died too and Callisto acknowledged a strange feeling inside. She did not know quite how to react; her lips broke into a smile and she began to laugh hysterically, so much so that her body began to tremble.

“I never thought I’d feel so good again,” she made her way through the dead and dying bodies to stand behind Xena, “but seeing poor, dear Gabrielle sacrifice herself makes it all worth while.” The hysterical fit subsided and Callisto was struck with a calm realisation about the feeling she was experiencing, “It finally gives me a reason, for living, and I have you to thank for it Xena.”

The blade flashed in Xena’s hand as the warrior spun around and plunged the dagger into her stomach. So shocked by what had happened Callisto hardly felt the excruciating pain that coursed through her goddess body. She gasped as she looked down at the gaping wound that had been inflicted upon her. She stumbled forward and reached out to lay a hand upon Xena’s cheek; even as she gazed into the ice blue eyes of her murderer, even as she fell to her knees her mind cried out “Thank you.”

The floor, the ground, the very foundations of the world began to tremble as the unnatural death of a goddess was realised. She felt her body sprawl out over the solid ground and waited for death to embrace her, to fall into the nothingness, but the nothing never came, just darkness.

She lay motionless for some time, hoping that it was a transitional stage in her journey to oblivion, but everything was still so real. She could still feel her body, could still recall all her memories.

Eventually she pushed herself up and tried to orientate herself. This was not Tartarus, this place was far worse. Blackness surrounded her, enveloped her, was everywhere that she looked, unnerving and unending.

“Where am I?” She screamed into the void futility, not expecting to be answered.

“Here.” Came the simple reply from somewhere behind her.

Callisto jerked her head around just in time to see a face appear in the blackness.

“Welcome to oblivion Callisto.” Strife taunted, his lips curling into a malicious snarl.

The fist connected with her face moments later and she fell into darkness again, not before she saw three more figures, clad in red rags step up behind Strife. The Furies?

*           *            *

Joxer’s Thread

Frantically releasing himself from the last of the bonds that held him Joxer raced to the altar and threw himself on his knees, “Gabrielle,” he yelled just as the wave of fire burst forth. He continued to stare disbelievingly downwards, he was vaguely aware of the words that Callisto was saying and the laughter that seemed to mock Gabrielle’s bravery. He turned in time to see Xena drive the dagger through Callisto’s body, then there was a silent exchange between the two women and then Callisto dropped to the ground - dead.

On the far side of the temple Ares made his godly exit. Joxer watched Xena for a moment and then too wrapped in his own grief he turned back to the pit.

A clatter nearby alerted him, he looked up to where Xena stood, she was stepping backwards, “Xena....” was all he managed to say before she was gone.

He was on his feet, ready to go after her, before he realised it would probably be a bad idea, besides he tripped on something lying on the floor. When he looked down he discovered it was Gabrielle’s staff tangled between his legs, gingerly he reached for the weapon and drew it close to him, before long he was crying.

“Here, hold this,” Gabrielle tossed him the staff.

“Ouch, ouch, ouch...” He kept repeating as the boiling wood singed his fingertips.

He watched as Gabrielle scrawled away on her scroll and then suddenly he was hitting himself repeatedly in the head with her staff and then swung it round to take his legs out from underneath him. Landing on his back on the ground he looked up at Gabrielle who wore an amused expression. “Why did I do that?”

“Because I wrote that you did.” She explained matter-of-factly.

When he managed to stop the tears his eyes fell upon Callisto’s body and rage overtook him. He moved towards her lifeless corpse but even she deserved a little respect for her part in the battle. Her laughter still fresh in his memory he gripped the front of her armor and shook her, “You laughed at us, you laughed at Gabrielle,” he screamed at her, his eyes welling up with tears again.

He could have walked away just then, but a sense of honour, instilled in him by Gabrielle would not allow him. He hauled Callisto’s body onto his shoulder and with Gabrielle’s staff in his other hand he left the temple.

The sun was clear of the horizon and midway to its peak as Joxer scaled a nearby hillside. At the pinnacle he laid Callisto’s body on the ground and then placed two fingers to his lips and whistled. In no time at all Argo, Xena’s war horse, trotted towards him; he was one of the few that Argo trusted as he had protected her once. Carefully he tied Gabrielle’s staff to the saddle and slapped the mare on the behind, “Go on, go find Xena.” The horse whinnied and then galloped off in search of her mistress.

Joxer watched as the horse disappeared into the woodland and then set about digging a grave for Callisto. After she was buried he felt he should say a few words, “Callisto.... I hope you find your peace.” With that he set off in the general direction of Amphipolis, Xena was bound to end up in her home village. He knew that Xena might not want him around but he would be there if she needed him.

*           *            *

Ares’s Thread

Ares stared on in disbelief. He had goaded Gabrielle into doing something, but he had not anticipated her actions. He never suspected that Gabrielle would take her own life and the life of her daughter in order to save Xena’s. He just could not understand the girl.

That moment, he had seen the look of anger that had blazed in Xena’s blue orbs as she had killed Callisto. That had been the Xena he remembered, the Xena he missed, but it had been all too brief; the despair now clouded her eyes.

He felt within him a sense of guilt, a sense of anger and before any of them could get over their shock he disappeared.

He re-appeared in the Halls of War. Walking through the deserted temple he stepped over swords, daggers, axes, weapons of all descriptions and noticed the ones that had been embedded in the walls by Hope’s telekinetic powers. At his throne he found the remnants of Hope’s cocoon, picking up a piece he examined it and then it burst into flames in his hand. His thoughts did not linger on his dead lover Hope, nor the wrath that he would incur from the other gods for his hand in the whole incident, all he could think about was the irritating blonde.

They had been walking through a field following wagon tracks when they had begun talking. They had found common ground; that is to say they spoke about their mutual appreciation for the Warrior Princesses skills.

“We were starting to warm up to each other there, weren’t we?” He said as he gazed off into the distance.

“Yeah.” The slight blonde replied.

“I didn’t like it.” He said shaking away the thought that he could ever see eye to eye with the sidekick.

“Straight back at you.” She stated defiantly.

“But you did like it, didn’t you?” He told himself and finally his anger boiled over and reaching out a hand he sent a crackling bolt of energy into the nearest pillar which exploded.

Regaining his razor-sharp focus a sly smile spread across his lips; it was time to pay a visit to Hades and he disappeared once more.

*           *            *

HOW DO I GET THROUGH A NIGHT WITHOUT YOU
IF I HAD TO LIVE WITHOUT YOU
WHAT KIND OF LIFE WOULD THAT BE
(How Do I – Leann Rimes)

Xena’s Thread

Even as the fire swept passed her, it’s roaring heat in her face Xena continued to stare into the chasm below. Her mind was in such turmoil that she only vaguely registered that someone was laughing; Callisto’s jeering tormented Xena enough but her words were more than Xena could stand. With the dagger, stained with Hind’s blood she turned and pierced the dagger through Callisto’s stomach.

She watched as the goddess fixed the warrior with an expression of shock and confusion, “No more living for you,” Xena told her.

Callisto pitched forward and fell against Xena her hand reaching out to touch the warrior's face and she was sure she saw an attempt at a smile. Her hand trailed down Xena’s breastplate and across the leather bodice as Callisto slid downwards and finally sprawled out across the floor, dead.

Xena turned back to the pit just then, it became her soul focus. She barely acknowledged Ares’s departure, she was oblivious to Serafin’s whimpering, distant to Joxer’s trembling and numb to the fact that she had finally killed Callisto; her life had halted in the heartbeat when Gabrielle had sacrificed herself.

Forcing herself to take a step and then another she drew closer to the ledge once more. As she neared it, as the fiery heat reached her body she closed her eyes and was greeted by the image that would haunt her for the rest of her life: Gabrielle with Hope enveloped in her arms falling into the flames. Xena had seen the look in Gabrielle’s eyes in that last moment, her silent good-bye; with that one look Xena knew that Gabrielle was not saving humanity, the gods or the world, she was saving the life of one - the one she called best friend.

The dagger slipped from her limp fingertips and clattered on the stone floor. She began to step backwards and then she did something she had not done in a long time: she ran away.

Breaking out of the temple she continued to run not caring where she was going, she just knew that she had to get away from that place. But Gabrielle stayed with her; the screaming, the image; the pain still tore at her soul. Xena pushed her body onwards, forcing herself to keep running. She barely noticed when the hard packed dirt crunching beneath her boots became lush green grass and then woodland. She needed to outrun the pain of losing Gabrielle, but even Xena could not run forever and that was how long it would take. Her legs protested their exhaustion, her lungs burned with agony of exertion and finally she stopped, her legs giving way and she crashed to the ground coughing hard; a wave of nausea overcame her and she vomited.

When she had finished she looked up and surveyed her surroundings; as luck would have it she had stopped herself just short of a brook and on hands and knees she crawled to the waters edge. After scooping water into her mouth to wash it out she stared at her reflection in the rippling surface and for no particular reason, other than to cool off, she plunged her head into the water.

As the water swirled about her hair and face a memory stirred....

.... Both Xena and Gabrielle were immersed in the cool water up to their shoulders, they faced once another and Xena whispered words of encouragement, “Come on Gabrielle, you’ve been wanting to try this for ages. Just reach under this rock, give it your best shot.”

“Okay,” Gabrielle psyched herself up and took a deep breath and then disappeared beneath the surface of the water.

Xena could not conceal the smile that spread across her lips as Gabrielle accidentally grabbed her thigh under the water, just as quickly the hand was gone and Gabrielle burst through the water gasping for air and holding a struggling fish aloft, “I did it.”

Xena’s heart swelled with pride at her best friend's success....

Xena wrenched her head from the water; wet strands of hair flew carelessly in all directions. Her lips were only just clear of the water when her voice screamed out her loss, “Gabrielle.”

The force with which she pulled herself from the water carried her over until she collapsed onto her back where she remained - unmoving, uncaring and unfeeling. She was empty of any emotion, the way she needed to be.

*           *            *

Gabrielle’s Thread

Engulfed in the flames of Dahak and falling to her death Gabrielle released her hold on Hope. She had done enough; Hope could not save herself now and no one could save Gabrielle.

As she fell tendrils of fire reached out and coiled around her body as they had done at Hope’s conception. This time there was no probing, instead the fire caught at her clothes and seared her flesh. She cried out in agony as she felt her body dying.

A strong grip clutched her flailing arms and she was pulled into the embrace of her daughter; Hope’s body shielded Gabrielle from the fire. Gabrielle drew back to look into her daughter's eyes; the blue-green was a mirror image of her own, as surely as their faces were, but beyond that it seemed that they were the very fires that they were falling into.

At the act Gabrielle was filled with so many questions, none of which she could have asked. Hope pulled her closer and Gabrielle could feel the heat of her burning flesh against her own. Warm lips pressed against her cheek and Gabrielle strained to hear the husky, whispered words.

“I was always your daughter.” Hope’s only words, and only redemption.

Wrapped in those arms Gabrielle realised that no matter what had happened she was still a mother and she clung to her daughter for what little remained of her life. But her final thoughts belonged with Xena, knowing that she could not bare to be without her, and then the void claimed her.

*           *            *

Continued in Part 1