by Cecily Hawkins
Standard disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, and related characters are not my creations, I am merely
borrowing them. No real spoilers, but knowledge of third and fourth seasons (particularly the
episode Paradise Found) will help this make sense. Subtext is optional - similar to the show itself.
Thanks to TaoWarrior for reading... email comments to email@example.com
Step, step, step. Turn. Step, step, step.
Left foot first, the warrior executed a flip and landed a few paces away, not a hair out of place.
A flick of her wrist, and her chakram was in her hand. Another twitch, and it was flying through the
air. The metal rebounded from a series of rocks, trajectory altering until at last it was flying straight
towards her head. Her hand shot up and stopped i ts progress.
The rocks did not applaud.
Inner peace, she had said to Gabrielle. You know what it did to Lao Ma! You know what it
almost did to you! But she had already known that the battle was lost. I can't follow you there.
Step, step, step.
Behind Xena, carved into the face of the mountain, was a set of stone pillars. Plain and smooth, not
decorated with intricate carvings. Oversized prison bars. And beyond them, a cave, but not a dark
one. A temple that glittered with light. A peacef ul sanctuary. A retreat from the world.
Steps - someone else's steps? The dark-haired warrior looked down the path to see a young
woman approaching. The girl was shorter than Xena, but not short enough, her hair was a light
brown but not blond, and her eyes were only hazel. But she walked with a tall stick to sturdy her,
and Xena's heart tightened.
The girl approached her curiously. "Are you a guard?" she asked without preamble for politeness. "I
had heard there were no guardians."
"I'm not guarding the temple," Xena said gruffly.
The girl smiled brightly. "It's not really a temple, you know. It's a spiritual place. A place to help you
find the peace within yourself, not within any god."
No one asked you to start chattering to me. "Then go in, if that's what you want."
A look of sympathy crossed the girl's face. "You are welcome within. Don't be ashamed. We all
have our pasts. You can lay down your arms and become a woman of peace..."
"I didn't ask for your opinion," the older woman interrupted.
The girl blinked. "I'm sorry." She took another step closer, then turned, to see what Xena was
looking at. Does she realize her back is to me? I could kill her in an instant. "It's beautiful, isn't
it?" the girl asked softly, gazing out at the suns et.
"Yes, Gabrielle," the warrior whispered. "It's very beautiful."
The girl turned and gave her a puzzled look, then circled around her and entered the spiritual place.
Xena returned to her pacing.
- - - - - -
It was night, and the warrior was dozing lightly, her back against one of the stone columns, when a
noise brought her back to consciousness. Without betraying her wakefulness, her hand quietly found
the hilt of her sword.
Two men appeared on the path, creeping on tiptoes. Their attempt at being silent, however, was
marred by the jangling of their armor - and the whispering argument they were holding.
"I tell you, it's a temple! Full of treasures and jewels and things! We'll be rich!"
"If it's got so much loot, how come we never heard of it before?"
"It's a secret temple! Besides, you heard that girl was coming up here. Maybe it's a secret Hestian
Virgin temple! Think of the profits!"
"Shut up, you'll wake the guard."
"Look, that's not a guard, that's a woman..."
Unfortunately for him, he had gotten just close enough to recognize Xena's gender, but not her
occupation. Her sword cleared her scabbard in an instant, as a devilish grin set into her features.
"Hello, boys. Wanna party?"
- - - - - -
They had been stupid, but stubborn, and had refused to die without a great deal of prompting. Xena
rolled the bodies into the rocks and wished that the nearest stream weren't so far away. But what
does a little more blood on my hands matter?
She returned to her position by the pillar and leaned her head back.
"It's really noble of you to do this and all, but there's not much point."
With a cascade of sparkling lights, the goddess of love appeared. She took in her surroundings,
"Rocks. Ew," and waved her hands, transforming her gauzy garment into a more practical shirt and
breeches before crouching down beside Xena. "Look, I'm sorry, babe. I was really rooting for you
two. But you know she's not coming out of there."
And even if she did, I'm filthy, I stink, and I'm covered in blood. She is light and air and clean.
She doesn't belong in my world, and I certainly don't belong in hers. "I know."
"And I know you don't want to hear this right now and all, but there are other fish in the sea." She
tossed her blond curls. "You're very attractive - for a mortal - and you can easily find someone else.
I can even help, if you want."
"You want to help me?" Xena asked dully. "Promise to grant me a favor, then."
Aphrodite frowned. "Within reason, Xena. No magic scrolls or bringing Gabrielle back and making
her stay with you or anything."
I can't follow you there, Gabrielle. I can't give up my desires and my angers. I would lose
myself. But I can't lose you either. I can't leave you behind. "Then this is what I want..."
- - - - - -
It was something of a mystery when the archeologists found it. A temple of some sort carved into the
mountain, but not one of a style that matched any known god. The team had been unable to get
inside of it, however. A large black panther with piercing bl ue eyes had crouched just outside of it,
glaring at them with an air that suggested it was very willing to rip their throats out if they came any
And so, at least until they could obtain a hunting permit, the temple - and its contents - would remain
- Cecily Hawkins
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