by Cath, Bard
The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and others belong in their entirety to Universal/MCA, Renaissance Pictures, and all the other powers that be. No copyright infringement is intended. I wrote this story at the urging of my muse; it should never be used for profit. Please do not copy or cite elsewhere without express permission of the author.
None in this tale, exactly.
This story depicts a loving friendship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.
To Kamouraskan and Fyrgrrl for your comments and encouragement.
Based on the aftermath of Season Six episode, “To Helicon and Back.” As such, there may be spoilers.
The weary Amazon stared down at her stained hands. She felt the blood – still tight and sticky on her face – a remembrance of the last enemy she impaled before Xena’s voice summoned her back from that place of fury.
Gabrielle had gone beyond her true self to save her Amazons, but she knew the faces of her dead sisters would haunt her dreams in the weeks ahead; never mind the grateful faces of the women who lived because she led them. Her victory had come at the cost of her spirit.
The words echoed in her ears:
“War is tough on the soul.”
“I don’t think so.”
“To a strong Amazon nation.”
With a deep sigh, the young woman knelt by the stream and began scrubbing. She worked at cleaning herself until her hands and face grew raw. In her mind’s eye, the bloodstains remained.
Gabrielle felt rising panic and desperation. She rubbed faster and harder, using sand from the streambed. Her breath caught in her throat.
“No,” she whispered.
The Amazon sensed a presence behind her, somehow more familiar now than ever.
“Hello, Gabrielle.” The voice was dark, smooth, fluid.
“Ares. Sooner or later I knew you’d crawl out from under your rock.”
She stood and turned to face the God of War, disdain evident in her voice and posture. He grinned.
“Hey, I just stopped by to see how you were doing. That was quite a battle you won there.”
“How should I be doing?” She paused. “On second thought, don’t answer that. Just go away.”
“Believe me. I know what you’re feeling. It’s like someone tore you open with a hot, dull sword and shredded your gut. Am I right?”
Her look of disgust told him he’d struck a tender nerve.
“It’s my heart and soul,” Gabrielle admitted. “I can’t seem to avoid the killing, but it hurts so much…I can’t accept it either.”
“I know.” He moved toward her, leaned in, and stroked her cheek. The warmth of his touch caught her off guard. She began to pull away, but he grasped her gently by the back of her neck, tilted her head up, and gazed into her eyes.
“It’s what I do, Gabrielle. Like it or not, warriors shape the future. Deep down, you understand this. You’re a natural leader.”
Heat and relaxation washed through her entire body. She closed her eyes and let him hold her.
Ares could barely control his glee. He knew she was near the end of her resistance, and pressed his advantage.
“I can take this pain away; make you the Warrior Queen of the Amazons. You remember my offer. Say yes.”
Gabrielle was almost swaying now, trapped in the web of his voice and the powerful hands that held her. She could not find her own voice to resist.
“Open your eyes, Gabrielle.”
She obeyed, and stared up into the blue-black depths of Ares’ soul. He saw hesitation and doubt in the green eyes that met his.
“You are destined for greatness. No one else combines your wisdom, your experience… your skill. You saved the Amazons. Imagine what you can do if you accept me as your god.”
Ares filled her mind with a convincing scene. Gabrielle saw herself leading a massive army – powerful women warriors, proud centaurs, even Roman legions. Then, he conjured another image – that of a bard and Amazon Queen speaking to throngs of attentive villagers. They cheered her every word.
“I could do that,” she said quietly. “But at what price?”
“Price? Quite simple, really. In all things to do with war, you heed my counsel, trust my judgement. Your courage and skill do the rest.”
“And what about Xena?”
“You know she’ll follow you wherever you go. In fact, she might welcome a return to her old ways.”
“…..Her old ways.”
Suddenly, another image flashed before Gabrielle, an image not controlled by Ares. She watched a proud Warrior Princess humbling herself in a village square, apologizing for the destruction she had wrought on so many small villages. Gabrielle remembered the endless nights she held Xena as they spoke of this dark past, and the innumerable days fighting for the greater good. So much to atone for…
She summoned a quiet resolution.
“If I join you Ares, I might pull Xena back into darkness. Or we become enemies because she is strong enough now to resist her old ways. No matter what, I lose her.”
“Trust me, Gabrielle. I know Xena. She’ll join you as a conqueror and enjoy every moment of it.”
The Amazon pulled away and shook her head sadly.
“I don’t care what happens to me, but I won’t let you have Xena. My darkness will not be her darkness.”
The God of War advanced on Gabrielle and seized her by the shoulders, almost lifting her from the ground. Ares spoke with quiet menace.
“You’re a fool if you reject me this time. I offer you the world, and a chance to share it with the woman you love. What more do you want?”
Gabrielle looked directly at him, daring him to proceed.
“Why me Ares? There have to be hundreds of others just waiting to be your chosen…”
He released her. She rubbed her shoulders, trying to restore the circulation.
“Because you and Xena are invincible together. Her abilities; your spark. Yin and yang; light and dark. Call it what you will, but your power together….”
She cut him off.
“Then together we’ll keep to our path.”
Gabrielle felt lighter. Her own words removed the burden she had carried since the fighting began.
“Give up, Ares.”
He looked her over. She noted both admiration and scorn in his expression.
“One day, Amazon, you’ll be mine. I have all the time in the world.”
“Don’t bet the farm on it.” Gabrielle smiled at the cleverness of her response. It felt right.
Her smug reply enraged him and he towered over her.
“You’ll never get those bloodstains out Gabrielle…and something to remember me by…”
In a single, powerful move, Ares grabbed the Amazon by her top, ripping the strap off her left shoulder. He captured her as she tried to pull away, and hauled her close to stop the knee thrust toward his groin. She struggled, but he was stronger. He pinned her hands behind her with a large fist.
Ares placed his other hand on her shoulder. Gabrielle felt the burning. She screamed in pain and anger.
When Ares released her, she collapsed at his feet, gasping, but refused to let the tears fall. She stared at her shoulder and saw his mark – the brand of the War God.
Gabrielle raised her head; her eyes blazing defiance; her mouth set in a grim line.
“This doesn’t make me yours. And it never will.”
“We’ll see. You’re a warrior now Gabrielle, like it or not. And one day you will be my warrior.”
With that, the God of War vanished, leaving her kneeling in the sand.
“Never, Ares. Never.”
The Amazon touched the mark at her shoulder and winced.
“It would be so easy to just give in,” she thought. “Why can’t I?”
Then, she remembered the stark terror in the eyes of her last vanquished foe. She had fully intended to kill him, even though he’d fallen, helpless, before her. Such was her desire to avenge her Amazon sisters. But Xena had called her back from the brink, as Gabrielle had saved Xena so many times before.
“No Ares. No way will you have my soul, or Xena’s. I’ll die first.”
When Gabrielle looked down at her hands, the bloodstains had disappeared.
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