by Marion D Tuttle
Standard disclamers: I don't own Xena, Gabrielle, Ares, Aphrodite or any of the characters created by Rob Tapert and Company. This story is written for fun not for profit and no property right infringements are inteneded.
Subtext warning: Past subtext really, I write from the perspective that our two heros are in love with each other. They do express that love in a pyhsical way. If that is something that you might find offensive than there are plenty of other great stories out there that you can read, this may not be the one for you.
This story takes place after the episode A Friend In Need and has our favorite bard working with people and Gods she never thought she would to bring about Xena's return.
Questions and comments are always more than welcomed and I do my best to answer everyone email@example.com
Three weeks, it had been three weeks since she had left the Isle of Japa. When she sailed away from the land that would be forever cursed in her mind she had almost an odd sense of peace. She still felt the crushing loss of her lover, but Xena appearing to her and promising that they would always be together had served to lessen her pain.
At least at first, but what Gabrielle didn't know and what Xena herself hadn't known at the time is that the warrior wouldn't be able to keep her promise. The further Gabrielle had gotten from Japan the less she saw of her warrior. Until one night, she got the final visit, the one that would leave her heart broken and her spirit raw with pain.
The voice behind her was barely a whispher. At first she wasnt even sure she had heard it. She didn't turn towards the voice until she felt a slight touch on her shoulder. Xena stood before her, but not as the last time she had seen her. The last time she had seen Xena's spirit she could have almost convinced herself that the warrior was still with her in body as well as spirit. But now there was no mistaking that she was looking at a ghost. The apperition before her was transparent, barely visable.
"Xena? What's happening?"
The sadness that was reflected in Xena's eyes was enough to raise a lump of fear to Gabrielle's throat. "Gabrielle......" The voice was weak, nothing at all like Xena. "Gabrielle, you have to go on with out me...I can't go where you are going...."
Gabrielle felt wetness forming on her cheeks, the tears were pouring unchecked. "Xena you promised! You can't leave me...I can't lose you again!"
"I love you Gabrielle....." Those were the last words The bard heard from her warrior as she faded from sight for the last time.
That had been a little over a week ago and Gabrielle had gone through the motions of life. She ate, she drank, she walked the deck of the ship but there was no emotion to anything she did. It seemed like everything that had ever given her life any meaning was gone. For all practical purposes she felt like she died on Mount Fuji. She had died her body just hadn't gotten the message yet.
Her intial plan had been to go south to Egypt, that was what she had said to Xena that first day on the ship but now she saw no point. She didn't think there was anything she could do there that would be of any use. There was one thing that she still thought might give her some purpose though. She had to go find Eve, she had to tell the young woman that was like a daughter to her what had happened to her Mother.
Another wave of saddness overcame her when she thought of telling Eve about her Mother's death. She would, of course spare her the more grusome details. But she didn't want Eve to hear about Xena's death from some cold impersonal stranger. What she hadn't counted on was someone finding Eve and telling her before she could find her, and it was hardly a stranger.
Eve paced the length of the room she was in, the impact of the news she had just heard sinking in. This couldn't be true, after everything that had happened she couldn't believe her Mother would sacrifice herself in this way.
"I don't believe you! You're lying!"
"What would I hope to gain from lying Eve? Your Mother was my friend, if it wasn't for her..."
As much as she wanted to believe that what she was hearing was a lie the ring of sincerity was there. "Whey are you coming to tell me this Aphrodite? I would think you would be helping Gabrielle through her greif over Mother's death."
The Goddess regaurded the young woman before her, so like her Mother in so many ways. And than in other ways nothing like her. Eve had the tactical mind in battle her Mother had always posessed. But for someone that had seen and caused so much bloodshed Eve was at times painfully naive. "I am helping Gabrielle by being here Eve, she is on her way to find you, to break the news to you. But by the time she finds you she is going to need your support more than you can imagine."
"I don't understand."
"Gabrielle has suffered a loss..."
This brought a bitter laugh from Eve. "No kidding! She loved my Mother and now she's dead. I loved her too you know. Do you think I don't feel the pain of her loss?"
This wasn't going the way Aphrodite had hoped. Moving close to Eve she drew her to sit next to her on the overstuffed chair that had dominated one side of the room. Brusing aside a tear that had formed and started to slip down her cheek. "Of course you do, but Gabrielle believed Xena and she would be together forever. Not only in this life but beyond.....Now she isn't so sure. Something has happened that has shaken Gabrielle to her core. She is going to need your help...She is going to need Eli's help."
The very idea that one of the Olympian Gods would even make a suggestion that someone look beyond them for help to Eli shocked her. "I wouldn't think you would want anything to do with Eli."
Aphrodite just shrugged her shoulders. "I never had anything against him personally. Unlike many of my family members." A shadow passed across her features at the mention of her lost family. "I don't think Eli brought about the downfall of the Gods. Any more than I blame your Mother. What happened to them was their own doing, if they hadn't been so focused..."
"On trying to kill me." She finished for her.
"Right" The Goddess felt the pain tug at her heart. She was telling the truth she didn't blame anyone for her family's fate. They had choosen there own path. She knew in her heart Xena never would have gone to the extremes she had if they had just ben willing to let Eve live out her life. She had hoped that they would come to their senses when they discovered that Xena had the power to kill Gods, but they hadn't. She tried to pull her mind back to the present, she couldn't help her family but maybe she could help the people she cared about from suffering anymore. "That true, but what's done is done, at least in this case." Aphrodite took a breath for what she had to say next "Ask Eli for guidance Eve, for yourself and Gabrielle because if you are going to get through what is coming you are both going to need it." With that she was gone.
Back on Olympus Aphrodite looked at the two men that stood before her. "Well I told her, as much as you told me to Eli."
"And did she believe you?" Questioned the other man
Turning her attention to the one that had spoke. "I don't know Ares, I still don't know if I believe it."
The boat docked after what seemed like an endless amount of time at sea. Gabrielle had never been a big fan of ocean travel but over the years she had learned little tricks to control her bouts with sea sickness. This trip she had suffered no such malides, but than again she thought with a bitter laugh she wasn't feeling much of anything. She had expected to be overcome with pain. Instead a numbness had settled over her.
She left the boat, looking around at the village that should have made her feel happy to be back home in Greece. The people, the sights, the sounds they were all familair to her but they did nothing to stir any feelings in her. Her hope of finding Eve soon dwindled as the first person she asked about Eve told her that the young woman had not been seen in the area for months. Eve had gone East to spread the word of Eli, but Gabrielle knew she had come back to Greece long before she had left with Xena for Japan. She had been working with many of the villagers here trying to ease the suffering of the sick while still trying to get people to understand that Eli's teachings of love were the thing that would give them strength to face the obsticals life often put in their way.
The thought of checking into a tavern and getting a bath and a hot meal suddenly became very appealing to her. After being on a ship for so long it seemed like maybe this would be a way to rest and gather strength for her search for Eve. Even as she tried to tell herself this Gabrielle knew that her inability to rest was not tied to the fact that she had been at sea. It was because Xena was no longer there. The irony of the situation was not lost on her. She had gone in so many directions, looking for her path in life, searching for her way. She finally discovered that she had been on the right path all along. That her destiny lied with Xena, only to have it cut short by the sense of right she had taught the warrior.
"Your right you know, the reason Xena stayed dead was because of all your preachy little speeches about doing the right thing. Putting other people's needs ahead of your own, yadda, yadda, yadda..."
She turned to the last voice she wanted to hear at the moment, ever again in fact. "Ares, you'll forgive me if I don't say it's good to see you."
For some reason she didn't quite understand the feeling of numbness started to lift from her heart. Only to be replace by frustration and anger. "Why are you here Ares? Xena is gone, what could you possibly want with me?"
The God Of War couldn't help but admire the woman that he had at one time thought of as a mere annoyance. She had grown into so much more than that. He had to admit he held a grudging respect for her, although it would never do to let her know that. "Believe it or not, I'm here to help."
This brought a strong reaction from the bard. "Help? Oh thats rich help what Ares? Help me on my way to the other side? Because I have to tell you I honestly don't think I would put up much of a fight." She continued on in a softer tone. "I don't think I have it in me any more."
Ares did something he very rarely did, decided to be completly open and honest about his motives. "Listen to me Gabrielle, I know this may come as a shock to you but I am not a complete Bastard. I loved her too you know." He held up his hand to stop any comments she might make to this decleration. "Save your breath, I know nothing would ever happen between us but that didn't mean I was going to stop trying.
The honesty in his statement took her by surprise. She had come to expect many diffrent things from Ares. But straight forward answers? This was something new for him. "Ok Ares, I'll admit that you have done some very unselfish things for Xena. I'll even go so far as to say that I think you loved her, in your own way. But I don't know what you think you can do...." Her words trailed off
"What's this? An admission of defeat from the hopless optimist? Where is the Gabrielle that always thinks everything is going to work out?"
He was taunting her that much was clear, but why? She couldn't understand what he hoped to gain by getting her angry "Don't push it Ares...."
He stood before her "Or what?"
She looked at his defiaint stance and just decided it wasn't worth it. "I can't do this." She felt the numbness settleing around her heart again. "Just leave me alone...."
"I never thought I would say this. But your a coward Gabrielle."
"Think what you want Ares, I don't really care." She walked away from him. He stood and watched until she walked out of sight, Aphrodite appeared beside him.
"I couldn't get a rise out of her." He answered. "It's kind of weird if you think about it. I have had more than one conflict with the dear little bard. I thought I knew the right buttons to push." Looking at his sister he couldn't help but ask. "Ya know? I gotta ask this. Why do you want me to work so hard to piss your little friend off. Normally you wouldn't want her upset. What's the deal?"
Many people mistook Aphrodite for an empty headed blonde who's thoughts didn't extend beyond how she could look her sexiest and what she could do to make herself happy. Most of the time the image people and even other Gods of her didn't bother her, but Ares should have been able to put two and two together. "Use your head would you? She is shutting down, the pain of losing Xena is getting to be too much. She is starting to slowly but surely block herself off emotionally. If we don't get to her some way soon it may be to late."
He threw his hands up in the air. "And I should help with this because? I thought this was supposed to be about Xena...About bringing her back. How is getting Gabrielle stirred up going to accomplish that?"
"Ares, you really can be thick at times. Gabrielle is the key to getting Xena back. But we have to reach her, make her want to fight. That will make Xena want to fight we need them both to be at their sharpest for this to work and right now Gabrielle has reached a point where she just doesn't care anymore. I went and talked to Eve, I told her Gabrielle was going to need her support, but the truth is love and compassion aren't what is going to turn this around, her passions need to be stirred. At this point it is going to take anger to make that happen. Gabrielle has to get angry for what is coming and frankly your the best one for that job."
He couldn't help the smug grin that krept across his features. "Your still not going to let me in on all of it are you?"
"No, I'm not. Just trust me please?" She touched his arm. "I know trust is a tough concept for you but you going to have to try here. Eli has a plan...."
It stuck in his throat that Eli was the one that seemed to be directing this whole thing and he had only been let in on slivers of the plan. But if it meant that it would bring Xena back from the dead he would go along. He had not been lying to Gabrielle when he said that he loved Xena but he knew the warriors heart was with the bard. Still she was the only woman, mortal or God that had ever truly touched his heart. If it wasn't her true time to die.....
"Ok, you know I don't take orders well. But if this is what it is going to take to bring Xena back then I'll go along."
"You really do love her don't you?" Aphrodite asked.
"Don't worry Sis, I got it under control."
Knowing that Gabrielle was looking for her, Eve decided to set of for the nearest port. From what Aphrodite had told her she pretty much knew where the bard would be landing. Now it would just be a question of finding where she was staying. She had prayed to Eli for help, expecting him to offer the same advice as always. That love and peace would be the way for her to reach Gabrielle. The answers she had recevied to her questions had left her confused, still she had every confidance that what she was about to do was the right thing.
The village buzzed with activity. How long had it been since she had been here? She had kept to the less populated areas not wanting to lead the people that had followed her in Eli's teachings into situations that would get them hurt. Even though the teachings of Eli were growing and gaining acceptance there were still thoses that saw it as an affront to their way of life and belifs.
Stopping to stable her horse she asked the stable master. "Have you seen a young woman come through here? She would be a little shorter than me, blonde hair, green eyes..."
"And carrying around a small arsenal of weapons? Yes I've seen her, that's her horse over there. She's taken a room at the tavern my Brother owns across the street." He pointed out the little building tucked in amoungst the shops and other buildings.
Eve knew it was an odd question to ask, but she had to know before going in what she would be facing. "What kind of mood did she seem like she was in to you?"
He sat back and thought about the question for a moment. "I don't know that I would say she was in any kind of mood at all. I mean she was just interested in getting a room. Not really big on conversation just sort of acted like...."
"Like she didn't care about anything?"
"Yeah now that you mention it, she did seem kind of distant. I know when I told her the price for the room I expected her to try and bargin with me. My Brother, he charges a bit much for his rooms I always thought and when I 'm taking care of the place people always try to get a better deal." He laughed a little at some of the bargins he had made in the past. "But she didn't seem to care, just handed me the money and went up."
In the short time Eve had spent with her Mother and Gabrielle, she had learned one thing about the bard. She loved a ggod bargin, and she was better than anyone Eve had ever met at charming people into giving her a better deal. For Gabrielle to just accept a price, espeically an inflated one with out so much as a word said a lot about her state of mind. She turned to the stble master. "Thank you, I have one last question...."
He good see in her eyes what she was going to ask and decided to spare her the pain of having to ask it. "Yes, I know who she is, and I know who you are too Eve. Don't worry, neither of you will have any trouble while you are here." He nodded towards the tavern indicating his comments towards Gabrielle. "She didn't remember me, I'm not surprised really given everything that has happened. But several seasons ago she and Xena came through here. A band of cut throats had taken over the town and were holding our woman and children hostage to get us to do what they wanted. They were going to sell us all of into slavery...The healthy ones anyway...Xena and Gabrielle saved us all. They saved my wife and son. If it hadn't been for them..." His words trailed off. "Let's just say I owe them more than I can ever repay. Making sure that you don't have problems while you are here is the least I can do for them."
It never failed to amaze Eve how much her Mother and Gabrielle's actions touched and effected the life of so many people. "Thank you again..."
He extended a hand to her, grasping her fore arm firmly "Thaddeus." He looked into the eyes of the young woman that stood before him. "You know, Your not quite what I expected."
She was a little caught of gaurd by his statement. "What do you mean?"
"Well we had heard stories of Xena's death in Japan. Many of us had hoped it wasn't true. But when I saw Gabrielle today I knew it had to be. We had heard stories about you too. How you had been the Bitch Of Rome, how you had turned from that life and become a messenger of peace but...I guess I just didn't expect to see as much of your Mother in you as I do."
Eve blushed at his words. "It seems I am constatnly thanking you for your kind words."
Looking towards the tavern he told the young woman. "Go to her Eve, she may not think so but she needs you right now."
Nodding her head she turned to leave the stable, she wasn't sure how she should handle her first meeting with the woman she considered to be a second Mother to her. Should she act like she knew nothing of Xena's death and let let Gabrielle break the news to her? Should she tell the bard the truth? Surely she must know that news of Xena's death would be major news and would have traveled to her by now. She decided to just go with the moment, there was no way to plan for something like this.
A light knock on the door brought Gabrielle out of the trance like state she had fallen into. This was not uncommon for her these days. She had tried every medetation techniqe she had ever learned to try and connect with Xena's spirit. She had no luck though, she was beginning to fear that the last time she had Xena would in fact be the last time. She reached for her sais and held them loosly at her side, in case she needed them. More out of habit than any real desire to protect herself. "Come in."
The door opened to reveal a tall figure stnading there. For the breifest of moments, with the dim light from the back Gabrielle could have sworn her warrior was standing before her. It took only seconds for her to realize who was in fact there "Eve?" She asked at the same time moving forward to pull the young woman into an embrace.
Eve folded the smaller woman into her arms, expecting a torrent of emotion. What she was greeted with left her feeling a bit unsetteled. There were no tears, no outward show of pain at the loss she knew Gabrielle was feeling. Just a quite acceptance, too quite. "I came to find you..."
"I'm not suprised. I got the idea into my head that I was going to be the one to break the news to you about your Mother. But You already know don't you?"
The tone of her voice held no emotion she seemed to be just existing but any signs of life were gone. The body functioned but it almost seemed like Gabrielle's heart had stopped beating. "I know that my Mother died in Japan." Eve started "But I don't know why or how, I've heard stories of course but I don't know what is real and what is the embellishment of talented bards. Please tell me what happened..."
For the first time in weeks Gabrielle felt somthing, she felt the pain twist her gut. She felt the despair and anger she had felt when she had found the woman she loved so completely defiled. More than anything else she felt the aching loss. "I can't" She simply said
This simple response seemed to stir somthing in Eve. She heard a voice telling her not to let this go That they both needed for this to be out in the open. She needed the truth and Gabrielle needed to be the one to tell her. She needed to get everything out or it would destroy her. "You can't? What do you mean you can't? Of course you can Gabrielle you have to..."
She shook her head "Trust me Eve, you don't want to know."
"I've never known you to be a coward before Gabrielle."
That was the second time that day some one had called her a coward. For some reason coming from Ares it had no effect but coming from Eve it struck a cord. "Eve you have no right to say that to me..."
"Don't I?" Eve could feel her own anger growing. "I have every right Gabrielle. I have the right to tell you what I think because you and my Mother gave me that right. You treated me with love and respect when the entire world would have left me to die for my sins. I have the right to know why you are acting like my Mother's death means no more to you than the changing of the seasons and most of all I have the right to know why this all happened and why my Mother died. I have a right to know the truth."
These words seemed to push nerve endings in the bard that she thought were gone along with her soul mate. "You have a right to the truth? Do you really want to know the truth?"
Eve could see the intense look burning green fire in Gabrielle's eyes and she braced herself for the barage she knew was coming. "Yes, I do."
"I had hoped to spare you this, but you want it here it is. Your Mother went up against impossible odds, even for her. She walked right into her own death all to right some wrong she believed herself guilty of from years ago. She let them kill her Eve! Not only that after they killed her they mutilated her and still she put them first. She could have come back to me but she choose to stay dead. She just left me, like we didn't matter at all. She cared more about a country full of people that thought carving her up like some side of beef would serve as a trophy than she did about us!" The flood gates had opened, that was what the bard had needed. She had expressed greif and loss but by holding her anger in she had started to slowly die inside.
Eve moved to comfort her, Gabrielle could feel the arms around her but she srugged them off. "Don't please, don't try to make me feel better about this. I know Xena was being the hero she always was. I know her motives were unselfish. I know that in my head. But in my heart I am so angry at her for what she did....."
A slow appluse filled the room, both Xena and Gabrielle looked up to see Ares standing there. His hands clapping in a slow rythem for the scene had had just seen unfold before him. "Haven't lost your flair for the dramitic I see."
The bard's anger was seething at this point and Eve thought the best thing would be to difuse the situation. She tried to step between the two and was surprised to feel Gabrielle pull her back. "No Eve, this is between me and Ares."
"I need to do this Eve, try to understand..."
Ares waited for the two women to get over their conversation. He had been waiting in the wings for a sign of what his part in all this was going to be. Now he thought he had a clear picture. Nothing was going to happen as far as trying to return Xena to this world while the bard wallowed in apathy. Now that she was feeling again he had to keep that going. If anger was the only thing that was going to motivate her than he needed to keep her on that edge. "You have to do what Gabrielle? Try and make me understand that I should stay out of your life? I gave you credit for being smarter than that. But than I gave you credit for caring enough about Xena to not let this happen to her."
Gabrielle felt her anger kick up another notch. "You think I could have stopped this? Beileve me if there had been any way....Xena didn't tell me what she planned to do until it was too late. She was already dead before I knew what her plan was."
"Yet you had the chance to bring her back and you didn't. I wonder why that is? You always claimed you love Xena, maybe this was your way of getting out of the life you felt was tearing up your soul without leaving her outright. You said yourself after the battle with Belleraphone that after every battle you felt like you lost a part of your soul."
The angry bard launced at the God Of War. Eve stood by and watched in horror, half expecting Ares to srike Gabrielle dead where she stood. "You Bastard! How dare you even think I would put Xena in that position! I'm not the one that has betrayed her at nearly every turn..." The words stung as she said them and all of a sudden the reality of her past struck her. "But I have betrayed her before haven't I? And what I have done is far worse than anything you could have done Ares because she trusted me..."
She slipped to the floor past events rushing in on her. It was true She and Xena had brought each other great joy, they had also brought each other pain that could not be compared to anything else in their lives. "What have I done?" She asked to no one in particulair
Suprisingly Ares sat down next to her and moved to take her into a comforting embrace. "What you have done, my dear bard is what Xena would have expected you to do. She asked you not to bring her back because she thought she was the one resposible for all this." He wavied his hand towards the heavans trying to indicate that he was talking about the souls from Huguci. "What she didn't know, and what you didn't know is that is not true.." He couldn't help but feel a small twinge for the pain he was inflicting on the bard. This was something he was not used to. The God OF War could not say he had many freinds but this little spitfire was one of the few people that had actuly shown him that she did care about him. Even if she herself never admited it there was a bond between them. He shook the feelings off. Getting lost in sentemantallity was not going to serve either of them right now. "Xena was played for a fool and we both know it."
Gabrielle let Ares words sink in, she had to admit she had simular thoughts. None of what had happened made any sense, it didn't make sense then and it made even less sense now. "What do you want from me Ares? If there was any way I could change things I would...."
"There is something you can do Gabrielle, it's going to be dangerous and there are no garentees but if you love Xena."
She regarded the dark man before her. "This is almost too good, you the God OF War talking about love. If this were Aphrodite I might by it, but you Ares? Have you switched sides all of a sudden? Are you spreading the message of love, peace and joy? Maybe Eli had more of an effect on you than I thought."
He scoffed at her observations. "Not hardly! I'm not going to sit here and tell you that love is the only way and that war has no place. What I am going to tell you is that there is more than one side to love. There is more than the limp wristed, flower pushing, verse writing ways of expressing love. Sometimes love is something you have to fight for, that's where I come into this. Do you love Xena enough to fight for her?"
"What kind of question is that? Of course I do, if I thought...."
"If you thought what? That it would do any good? Gabrielle how many times has Xena beat the odds? You should know better than anybody that if Xena wants to come back she will find a way."
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