by Marion D Tuttle
Standard disclaimers: I do not own any of the characters in the story, I do however own the story itself. No copyright infringement is intended.
Sex and love disclaimer: Yes this story has two woman that share a deep love and commitment that moves far past friendship. If that is a problem for you you may want to read something else
As always comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
It had been months since the events that had changed not only their lives, but the fate and course of the world had taken place. They had traveled together, doing the best to help Eve bring Eli's message to the people. As well as defending her from some of the few supporters that were left of the old Gods. these people of course blamed them for the fall of the Gods and every bad thing that had happened since then. Sighting what they felt was a selfish interest in getting through the message that the people didn't need the ancient Gods that had ruled their lives for as long as history could remember.
Fortunately these people were in the minority, most of the villages the visited welcomed them. Glad for the chance to not only meet living legends. But also to let them know that they truly were appreciative of having the chance to rule their own lives. Eve had still been adjusting to her new role as messenger of the word. Watching her daughter Xena had been filled with many mixed emotions. She felt pride that her daughter had managed to overcome the darkness that had consumed her soul. But she couldn't help but feel a sense of loss for the years they were apart.
Gabrielle did her best to comfort the warrior when she felt this way. She knew that the thing that bothered Xena the most was for all their efforts they still had not managed to protect Eve from seeing the side of life neither of them really ever wanted her to see. Much less be such a large part of. It also was a sore spot for both woman that they had missed so much of the young woman's life. There were many regrets, but all in all there was more to be thankful for than there was to be sorry about.
They had also used the last few months to talk about issues that had been between them. One of the things they had both agreed upon once Eve was safe and the threat of the Gods was gone was to communicate more. There had been a distance between them, they had both felt it. But they both had felt, at the time powerless to do anything about it. There had always been the more immediate need of making sure they survived. It hadn't left a whole lot of time for talking, that was a luxury they had taken in the last few months. That evening as they reached the village they had planned on staying in for a few days Eve turned to her Mother and the woman she had come to think of as her "Mom". "I'd like to talk to the two of you once we get settled for the night."
Xena could sense the subject matter her daughter wanted to discuss. she had felt it coming for the last couple of weeks. Part of her wanted Eve to go out on her own and make her life all that it was destined to be. But part of her was selfish, wanting to keep the young woman with them for as long as possible. "How about you get the horses settled and Gabrielle and I will go make arrangements for us. Then we can talk over dinner?"
Eve nodded her head, she knew this wasn't going to be an easy conversation. But none the less, it was time. She watched as both woman walked into the Inn across from the boarding stables. Turning she saw the little stable master staring at her in awe. "Your the...."
A smile smile touched her lips, she still hadn't gotten quite used to this reaction. "That's right. I'm Eve, The messenger of Eli's teachings. And those two women that just went inside are Xena, my Mother. And Gabrielle, The Bard Of Potidia, yes they are still alive and everything you heard is true." There I think I answered all the standard questions, she thought to herself. "How much to stable the horses for a few nights?" She asked, snapping him out of the haze he was in
"Huh??? Oh the horses....Three horses, three nights? four dinars."
She handed him the money, knowing it was a price far less then he would have charged anyone else. But she had gotten tired of telling people that she didn't want any special treatment from them. Heading back into the common room of the Inn she saw Xena and Gabrielle already sitting at a table close to the back of the room. A feast was set out before them. In her short acquaintance with the bard she had learned early that the woman had an incredible gift for charming anyone that crossed her path. That was clear by watching the devotion her Mother showed towards this small woman. Eve thought back to her warrior days. a woman like Gabrielle would have probably met her fate quickly on the end of her sword. But then when her Mother had been a warlord the same thing could have been said. There was something about this small woman that had been able to touch and help heal two very jaded souls.
Seating herself at the table she proceeded to fix her plate from the delicacies that had been placed before them. Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other, waiting for Eve to start the conversation. Chewing thought fully on a bit of tasty meat Eve searched for just the right words. 'It's times like this I wish I had Gabrielle's gift for words.' She thought to herself. "Mother, Gabrielle, I have been thinking..."
"Eve..." Xena started, but Gabrielle reached under the table, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. She was sure of what Eve was going to say and equally as sure that her warrior wasn't going to like it. But she knew that the time had come and Eve needed to get this out without interruption. "I'm sorry go on.."
"I have really valued this time we have spent together. It's given me the chance to get to know you both. I understand now I grew up with some very wrong ideas. I wouldn't trade this past months for the world. I know now that you both loved me...love me very much and I love you too. As much as I would like to stay with you, I can't do that....I have to go out into the world and help people understand Eli's teachings." She bowed her head after her speech, waiting for the reaction she knew was coming.
Xena closed her eye, hanging on to Gabrielle's hand for support. Her heart was torn between screaming in pain at the loss of another child and telling her she understood. She though back to when she made nearly the same identical speech to Hercules when he had wanted her to stay with him. Of course the circumstances were different but the need to go out into the world and atone for past sins was the same. As if she could read the warrior's very thought Gabrielle leaned over and whispered in her ear. "Xena, we are not losing her. This is right, it's what she has to do, what she was born to do."
The warrior nodded her head, she knew her bard was right. But that didn't make hearing what was going to come next any easier. "Well." Xena started, "I can't say this is a surprise. Still I wish you didn't feel like you had to go this soon..."
"Mother I ...."
Xena held up her hand. "Let me finish Eve. I do wish you could stay with us longer, but your right, it's time."
Gabrielle knew that it took everything Xena had to hold it together this long. So she decided to try and make it easier for her warrior by asking the next question herself, rather than leaving it open. "When will you leave?"
"I thought after a few days here." She saw that Xena was fighting to control the emotions that were so close to the surface. "Are you alright Mother?"
Waving a hand in front of her as if to try and dispel the turmoil she was feeling she said. "I'm fine really, it's just that I feel like I'm losing my little girl and I never really got the chance to be with you when you were a little girl....But make no mistake Eve, I am very proud of you."
"We both are." Gabrielle added
Eve's smile turned to a scowl as she looked over Gabrielle's shoulder and saw the tall figure of a dark man enter the common room. "I don't believe it."
Xena's eyes had gone to where her daughter was looking and narrowed in apprehension. Gabrielle turned to see what they were both looking at. The sight that greeted them was one that drew strong emotions from all three. "Ares." Xena hissed under her breath.
"What do you think he is doing here?" Gabrielle asked
"I don't know, but I intend to find out." Rising she left Gabrielle and Eve at the table. A confrontation with the former God Of War was the last thing she needed right now. But she wasn't about to let him go skulking around without knowing what he had planned. Stepping in front of him she noticed his momentary surprise at seeing her. He recovered quickly though.
"Xena, it's good to see you."
"I wish I could say the same Ares." Was the cold reply.
"Hey is that any way to talk to the guy that gave up everything for you?"
"I told you, I will always be grateful to you for what you did." Xena told him "But forgive me if I'm a little wary of why your here. After all I have never known you to do anything without a reason. Why start know just because your mortal?"
His reaction was somewhat comical as he placed a hand over his heart in an exaggerated fashion. "Xena, I'm hurt that you would think that."
"Cut the coy act Ares. It doesn't work for you."
"Ok Your right Xena I do want to talk to you, but not here. Maybe somewhere with a little more privacy?" He added with a leer.
"Dream on, meet me in the barn in an hour."
He smiled, knowing that he was lucky she was willing to speak to him at all. He really had expected more of a problem in getting her to help him. He had to stop to remind himself, she hadn't agreed to anything more than talking to him yet.
She found two pair of very curious eyes looking at her when she returned to the table. What does he want?" Eve asked, not doing a very good job of keeping the contempt out of her voice.
Shrugging her shoulders, Xena simply stated "He wants to talk."
"Your not going to..." Gabrielle had spoken before she had a chance to think better of it. Xena knew that Ares was still a bit of a sore spot between them. No matter where their lives had taken them Ares had always managed to worm his way in. Gabrielle was unsettled by the former God, it wasn't that she doubted Xena's love or devotion. It was just there were times when Gabrielle thought that even Xena could only take so much before she reached her limit. And then she was afraid that Xena would either give in to Ares or outright kill him. She wasn't really sure which one would be worse.
"I have to Gabrielle. If Ares is up to something we need to know what that is. At least by talking to him I might get an idea of what he has planned."
Xena looked between her soulmate and her daughter, she knew that neither one of them was wild about this. But the one that she was most concerned with right now was Gabrielle. Eve didn't like it, but since her baptism she had been serene and accepting of things that had come their way. This was no different. The bard on the other hand was doing a slow burn and Xena would have had to been blind not to see it. 'Better get her up to the room and talk this out before it blows into something bigger.' She thought to herself. Leaning down she whispered in Gabrielle's ear "Can we go upstairs and talk about this?"
Gabrielle gave a tight nod, her instincts were to get as far away from Ares as she could. But her head told her Xena was right. If Ares were intent on causing trouble they needed to know. Even though he was no longer a God, he was still a very dangerous man. "Alright Xena, let's go."
Eve clasped her Mother's hand as she turned to leave. "Listen to her Mother, don't dismiss her feelings in this."
Xena knew exactly what Eve was getting at. There had been more than one time that her single minded determination in a mission had nearly cost her Gabrielle. She had learned from her mistakes though and had promised herself and the bard that she would never let that happen again. She needed to get to the bottom of what Ares wanted, but before she did that she had to make sure that she and Gabrielle wee in agreement of the methods that would be used. She could see the tension in her bard's muscles as she walked up the stairs in front of her. This wasn't going to be pleasant at all, she knew that there was going to be a strain. She wished nothing more than to just ignore this, but knew that would never work. No Ares had to be dealt with.
She expected Gabrielle to turn around as soon as they had entered their room and was more than a little surprised to see her just stand there, with her back to her, almost as if she was afraid to turn around and look her in the eye. She placed a gentle hand on Gabrielle's arm, trying to get her to turn around. It was then that she whispered the words. "It never ends, does it Xena?"
The warrior was a little taken aback by this reaction. She had expected anger at Ares arrival from the bard, but this? This almost sounded like a defeated attitude. "What Gabrielle? What never ends?"
"Ares...your connection with him. Even as a mortal he finds a way to worm into our lives. I don't know how much more of him I can take."
Xena didn't like what she was hearing, it almost sounded like the bard was thinking of leaving her because of Ares. "Hey you know Ares...He has a thick skull, but I think he finally got the message on Mt Olympus when he saved you and Eve. He is up to something alright, but I don't think it has anything to do with his obsession for me."
"Do you really believe that Xena? Because I have to tell you, I don't. He wants you and he won't rest until he has you. Mortal or God that isn't about to change. And I could live with that if it wasn't for ....." She let her words trail off.
"If it wasn't for what?"
The next words came out with more anger and hurt than she had intended. "If it wasn't for the fact that I think in some way you get a kick out of it! I think it does something for your ego to have the God Of War panting after you like a love sick puppy! I'm tired of it Xena, every time we think we're past it, every time we think we can build our life together with no more interference here comes Ares and his one man show. All orchestrated for the benefit of wooing the Warrior Princess back to his side."
The warrior stood there, stunned into silence. She had known that Gabrielle had in the past felt insecurities about what left over feelings she might have for Ares. But she thought they had worked through them. She pulled Gabrielle into her arms and looked down into sea green eyes that glistened with unshed tears. "Gabrielle I am only going to say this one time so I want you to listen to me very carefully. I do not have any desire to be a part of Ares life or have him in mine. I won't lie to you, there was a time when I devoted my life to him and his ways, you know t hat. But that has changed, I've changed. I love you not Ares. The only thing I feel for Ares is contempt for what he was and as much as I hate to admit it I do feel grateful to him too. If it wasn't for him you and Eve would have died, that does not mean I am going to give into his little games. I am worried about these people here though, if Ares is here than he has something up his sleeve and it can't be good." She felt Gabrielle relax into her arms a little bit. She kissed the top of her head. "We need to find out what he wants Gabrielle, but make no mistake I am not going to be dragged into being Ares love toy."
The bard felt the tears flow unchecked down her cheeks. "I'm sorry Xena, I don't know what came over me."
"Never be sorry for telling me what you feel Gabrielle. We promised each other we would do that from now on. No more secrets, remember?"
She smiled up at the woman that was her best friend, her lover and her life and nodded. "I remember."
"Ok, now let's put a plan together."
Ares paced the length of the stables. looking out towards the moon for the hundredth time since he had gotten there. These past months had taught him more about being a mortal than he had ever wanted to know. They had also taught him something else. He had, as best he could followed Xena and Gabrielle, keeping a distance so they would not know he was there. Watching the pair it came to him that there was nothing he would ever be able to do to break these two apart. It wasn't like he hadn't tried. He had used everything he could think of to come between them and instead it seemed to have the opposite effect. It had only served to make there bond stronger, grudgingly he had accepted that. that was why he had given up everything to save Gabrielle and Eve. He had known their deaths would crush the one woman he had every felt anything for. He had thought he could accept being a mortal, but he had been wrong.
Walking into the stables, her conversation with Gabrielle fresh on her mind Xena looked at her former mentor. "You said you wanted to talk Ares, I'm here, talk."
"Always straight to the point huh, Xena?"
She closed her eyes reminding herself again why she was here. she hated to admit it but she did feel a slight tug of attraction. It wasn't something she would ever act on, but it was there none the less. Much like the dark side of her personality, it was something she had learned to control, but it would always be a part of her. "I didn't come here to make small talk Ares. If you have something to say to me say it. Why are you here?"
He toyed briefly with the idea of playing on the tension that was always between them. He discarded the idea just as quickly, what he needed to talk to the warrior about was far to important to play games. "I need you help Xena."
"The direct approach? That's a new concept for you isn't it?"
Coming to stand directly in front of her he looked directly in her eyes. "I'm asking for your help in getting my Godhood back Xena. I have tried life as a mortal and frankly I suck at it.I can't even raise a decent army as a mortal. People have lost all respect for me....They see me as a weakling, they think I sold out the rest of the Gods...."
A sharp retort sprang to her lips but she swallowed it back. In a way he had betrayed his family but not in the ways that he had before. There was no personal gain for him in what he had done. Some thought he had done it to save his own hide, talk was it was just a way to keep Xena from killing him. The truth was she had to admit that if it had come down to it she would have had a very hard time killing Ares. There was no doubt in her mind that had he posed a direct threat as the other Gods had she could have done it. But not without a deep measure of regret. "You must be kidding?" Was all she could think to say.
"I couldn't be more serious! Mortality isn't for me Xena, I want to be a God again."
"No way Ares. Even if I wanted to, what makes you think I could help restore your Godhood. Your just a man now, you better get used to it." She turned to leave.
"You owe me that much Xena! " She turned and raised an eyebrow at his declaration, in a quieter tone he went on. "You owe me at least the effort. I have an idea, if it works it will return my full powers."
"And if it doesn't?"
Ares could see where she was going "If it doesn't than that's it, I have no other choice that to live out my life as a mortal. I promise you this Xena, if you help me this one time that's it. God or man I promise no further interference in your life."
"As much as I would love to believe that Ares. I can't say your track record for being honest is great." She still hadn't moved from her position near the door. "Besides, why would I want to help you regain your Godhood? So you can wreak havoc again? Let's face it, the world is better off without you."
"That's where your wrong Xena. All of Eli's teachings about love and peace are great, but you and I both know that there are some times when you have to fight. What is going to happen to humanity if they lose that knowledge? You where always at the front of the pack saying people should make their own choices. Has that changed?"
She wasn't sure where he was going with the statements he had made. For some reason that she couldn't explain she found herself thinking that he had a point though. "No that hasn't changed, but what does that have to do with fighting and returning you to power?"
"Face it, the people that followed Eli are sheep. They are so sure that the way to happiness is love. But what happens Xena when someone moves to take advantage of that? What will these people do if they know nothing about what it takes to fight for what they believe in? Someone could come along, twist their beliefs around and end up leading them right straight to their own destruction. Do you want to be responsible for taking away people's right to defend themselves or the knowledge of how to do that?" That was it, he could tell before she even spoke that he had her. Appealing to her compassion for mankind in general was the way to go. The fact was thought, there was some truth in his words. In order for love to have any meaning war did have to exist in some measure.
"Alright Ares, I'll help you. But let's get a couple of ground rules set before we start this. There will be no tricks, the first time I even suspect that you are up to something I'm out of this. And I am holding you to your word, when this is over we part company, we're even I owe you nothing and you owe me nothing got that?" Before she left to go back into the Inn. "Oh and before I forget, no games with Gabrielle or Eve either."
He nodded his agreement. "Thank you." For one of the few times in her life he said it with sincerity.
Gabrielle was doing her own share of pacing back and forth in the room she and Xena had planned to share. Eve had stopped by and tried to calm the bard but she failed and realized that the best thing for Gabrielle right now was to leave her alone. She knew it had only been about half a candle mark since she had seen Xena enter the stable to talk with Ares but it seemed like an eternity past that. Every few minutes she looked out her window that overlooked the courtyard hoping to see the warrior emerge. She was fighting the urge to go down herself and burst through the stable door when she finally did see Xena step out into the now pale moonlight. The warrior looked up towards the window, knowing she would see the bard there. She motioned that she would be right up.
Breathing easier now that Xena was away from Ares she moved to pour the water that had been warming into the waiting tub. It was true that she and Xena had talked finally about the feelings she had held deep inside about Ares, that didn't mean she trusted Ares for one minute. He always had an angle, that had become clear to the bard over the last couple of seasons. The warrior came through the door and was greeted with an armful of bard that wanted noting more than to make her lover know how important she was to her. Seeing the steam rising off the water she asked. "Is that for us?"
"I thought you might want to unwind."
"Sounds great." she whispered into Gabrielle's ears as her hands became involved with untying the strings that held the bard's top on. Her lips tracing a path of fire down Gabrielle's throat.
"What did Ares want?" She managed to ask, past the rising tide of desire that was rapidly claiming her. Xena would have liked nothing better than to put this conversation off, but she knew it was not a good idea. Giving the bard another embrace she set the woman back at arms length.
"He wants me...us to help him get his Godhood back."
"And you agreed to this?" Gabrielle asked, a quizzical brow raised.
Xena could see the image of a romantic night with her bard slipping away. As much as she wished she didn't have to have this conversation she knew it wasn't something that could be avoided. "Gabrielle, listen I know what your thinking because I was thinking it to but hear me out ok?" The bard nodded, she was sure that there had to be some type of reason that Xena was willing to go along with this. She was just at a lose for what it would be. "I know that the last thing that you might think would be a good idea would be finding a way to give Ares back his powers, but let me ask you something. Do you think Eli would want the people to follow him because they had no choice at all in the matter? Do you think he would want his followers to be completely defenseless against whatever whims that this One God might have? Think about it this way Gabrielle, we knew Eli. We knew what he wanted and what his intentions were but what if someone else tries to take his teachings and twist hem into something they were never meant to be?"
Gabrielle had sat and listened to all of this. "I understand what you are saying Xena. But what does that have to do with getting Ares Godhood back for him?"
"Because whether we like it or not Ares represents something besides useless war. He represents people's ability to fight when they need to and believe it or not, he also represents control. Do you remember what everyone was like when Ares lost his sword? No one could control their rage. You have learned the hard way Gabrielle that sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in or to protect yourself or others, but knowing how to control that is just as important. Without that the people that believe in Eli's teachings could be led blindly by someone that did not have the true spirit of his teachings at heart. Or worse could be whipped up into a frenzy of violence against the people that don't agree with them. All in the name of doing the right thing."
Xena was surprised by Gabrielle's answer. "Your right, that was the one thing that was wrong with Eli's travels he wouldn't protect himself. For him it was great courage and a choice he made. But it was his choice to make, without Ares people really don't have much of a choice do they?"
Folding her soulmate into her arms Xena headed towards the tub with her, maybe this night could be salvaged after all. "You know just when I think I couldn't possibly love you any more you surprise me and prove that I love you more than I could have thought possible."
Lowering her head Xena captured Gabrielle's lips in a kiss that started a fire in both woman. This day had been a trial for both of them, first finding out about Eve's plans to move on, and then Ares reentrance into their lives. All the pent up tension started to ease as hands explored eagar bodies. Clothes seemed to magically disappear, lips and hands combined to cause the flames of desire between the two woman Cupping the smaller woman's breast in her hands Xena breathed into her ear "Gabrielle I need to feel you now." Both woman climbed into the tub of still steaming water. Xena moved so that Gabrielle was straddling across her lap. "You feel so good... oh kiss me right there." She directed as Gabrielle found the sensitive spot on her neck just below her right ear.
Xena felt gabrielle move against her, she had positioned herself so that she was pressed hard against the warriors thigh. The slow movement was driving both woman to the edge and they both knew the wetness they were feeling had nothing at all to do with the bath water. Reaching under the water Xena supported Gabrielle's backside with her hands while driving her thigh harder between the bards legs. Her real surprise came when Gabrielle reached down too, taking the warrior in one swift motion. They rocked against each other, feeling their impending release. Both woman were caught between the desire to make this feeling last and to completely let go. Finally they reached the point where they could no longer hold off. "Yesss Xenaaaa ...Please hold onto me."
"I've got you Baby...Let go for me...yeeesss .....That's it right there......"
They collapsed against each other, each holding on to the other. Gabrielle's head was cradled in the crook of Xena's shoulder Letting the final after shocks of pleasure wash over them. Pushing the hair from her lover's eyes Xena told her "You know this isn't going to be easy don't you?"
She smiled "When has that ever stopped us?"
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