by Marion D Tuttle
Standard disclaimers: As always I do not own the characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Ares, Aphrodite, or any of they other folks written and produced by Tapert and company. The belong to whomever may be holding the rights at the moment. No copyright infringement is intended.
Subtext disclaimers: I've really stopped calling it that. Any one that has read any of my fan fic at all knows I write from the stand point that our two leading ladies are very much in love with each other. If this is something that you find offensive there is a lot of great general stories you can read out there, but this may not be your cup of tea.
Authors note: In this part we see Gabrielle is poised to do exactly what Ares said she would have to do, put up the fight of her life. We also get to see Xena make the decision that will effect not only herself but every life she has ever touched.
As always comments are always welcome email@example.com
The silence was thick, it hung in the air until it almost seemed like it was a physical presence. Akimie stood looking at Gabrielle as if she couldn't believe the words she had just said. "You want me to just say that all this was my fault that Xena has no accountability for any of it? And why would I do that?"
"Because it is the truth and you know it. You have already admitted as much. It's true, all those souls are crying out for justice. But it isn't Xena that should be the one to pay the price now is it?"
A smug look settled over the small woman's features. "What makes you so sure Gabrielle? Maybe this is the fates way of setting things right. I did lie to Xena, but I did not force her to carry out my wishes..."
Gabrielle felt her grip tightening on the handle of her katana. "Don't try and play that kind of mind game with me Akimie. You knew what kind of woman Xena was. you knew damn well that if you made her promise you something before your death that she would be compelled to do it. The only thing that went wrong with your plan was Xena had more fight in her than you thought. And what happened was an accident, it was tragic but it was still an accident. Xena didn't plan to hurt those villigers, she was only defending herself. You on the other hand planned for her to die. Tell me Akimie which one had the the pure motive there?"
Xena had been watching this exchange. She had wanted to tear Akimie apart when she heard of all the lies, all the betrayals from someone she had believed cared about her. But to her surprise Eli had held her back, urging her to let Gabrielle handle things. "She knows what she is doing Xena, you can't help her with this."
Feeling the overwhelming desire to protect her soul mate she tried to make her point. "I can't just stand her and watch her take Akimie on for me."
"Thats' where your wrong Xena, that's exactly what your going to do."
Gabrielle slowly circled the small dark haired woman. "I'm only going to say this one time Akimie. "You claim to love Xena You've already gone so far as to admit that you lied about just about everything since you met her. But yet you can still stand here and refuse to release her? How is that? Do you really still think that you can make Xena love you if you force her to stay here? Think about what you are doing, is that the way you want her? because she has no choice? If you love her the way you claim you should want what is best for her."
"And what's best for her Gabrielle, you? You have betrayed Xena as well haven't you?"
There it was, out in the open. Gabrielle had felt the same emotions well up in her many times before. Most recently when Ares had tried to stir a response from her. She felt herself starting to slid into the old emotions that had clamied her before. Her mind flashed to the times that she and Xena had walked seperate paths. The time in Chin when she had betrayed Xena to Ming Tien, under the guise of trying to save Xena from her own dark side. When in truth she had been motivated by jelousey over the love that Xena had shared with Lao Ma. When she had lied about her own evil child being alive. A lie that had cost Xena's son Solan his life and had almost torn them apart. And to the smaller times, when Gabrielle had left Xena because she was unsure of the path she herself was destined to walk. True she had always come back to Xena, but the fact was those moments of doubt had been there. Sensing that there was a weakness in Gabrielle's resolve to draw the truth out of her, Akimie went on the attack.
"What's tha matter Gabrielle? You talk of truth and all the pain I caused Xena. What about you? it seems you have caused her a great deal of pain as well."
Seeing the play of emotions move across her soulmate's face Xena moved forward. "Stop it! Akimie you don't have the first idea of what Gabrielle and I have been through over the years."
"I have seen..."
"You may have seen events that have taken place. But there is no way you could understand what has gone on in here." She touched the area over her heart.
Looking at the warrior Gabrielle felt the lump in her throat.She could fell the doubts surfacing again. Maybe Akimie did have a point. What right did she have to stand here hurling accusations at the younger woman when she had ben guilty of the same crimes and worse. "Xena, she's right, I have caused you a lot of pain too..."
"As I have you." Xena looked into Gabrielle's eyes, all the love she held for her bard shown in her eyes. "This is supposed to be about truth, then let's have all of the truth. We have both hurt each other, terribly."
Gabrielle turned away, fearing the worst. She was afraid that Xena was going to tell her that there had been too much pain all the way around and it would be best for everyone if the warrior just stayed in the afterlife and let everyone that had been left behind get on with their own lives. Xena wasn't going to let her retreat from her that easily though. She turned her face back to look into the eyes that held her own heart and soul in their depths. "Even though we have caused each other deep pain, Gabrielle we have brought each other the greatest joy....If it hadn't been for you I never would have understood the true meaning of what it is to love. You took my heart Gabrielle and then you gave it back to me. You have no idea what that means..." A lone tear rolled down the warroir's cheek with her decleration. "Nothing can compare to that."
It finally occured to the bard that when Eli had spoken about truth he had meant more than just Xena hearing the truth from Akimie, although he hadn't said anything about it. Xena and Gabrielle had needed to face the truth too. They both carried a burden of guilt to some degree in thier own hearts for all the pain and suffering they had brought to one another over the years. But Xena had just stated it it's simpelest form. When you put all the events that had taken place against their love there really was nothing that could compare to that.
"Are you saying what I think you are saying?" Gabrielle found herself looking with hopeful eyes at the warrior
For the first time since all this began Xena felt a the weight of guilt lift from her shoulders. "Yes I am, Gabrielle you were right on Mt Fuji. I was just to blinded by guilt over what I thought were my past crimes to see it. I have to tell you the truth, even if I had known everything I have just found out back than I may have made the same desicion though."
Gabrielle started to protest but Xena held up her hand. "Please let me explain. On some level I think part of me suspected that Akimie had been using me all along but I turned a blind eye to it because of you."
"Because of me?"
She saw the confusion that was in the bard's eyes now. "This is going to be hard to explain but bare with me ok?"
Gabrielle gave a nod to the affirmitave. Taking her soulmate's hand and drawing her closer Xena went on. "Do you remember when we first met, I kept trying to get you to go home? I told you that you deserved a home, deserved to be safe?"
"Part of that was true, I did, and still do believe you deserved those things. But I didn't think I could ever give them to you. I also knew that as long as you stayed with me you would never be safe. You would always be a target."
"We've been over this Xena, it was my choice."
"I know, but then something happened. You started to change, I started to change...I fell in love with you. You weren't the little girl that followed me out of Potidia any more. You had grown into a self assured woman, more beautiful than anything I could have ever imagined. I didn't have the courage to leave you althought I thought I should just because I still felt like having you with me was putting you in danger, but I was selfish." Tears fell freely now "I wanted, needed to have you with me but then everything happened. Britannia, Hope, Kracus in Rome I seemed to keep hurting you, over and over again. As much as I didn't want to...."
Gabrielle felt her own eyes filling with tears again. "Xena...."
"I don't think I was even aware of it anymore, but it was always there. When the ghost killer told me about all the people that had died it seemed like one final thing that just proved I wasn't worthy of your love. But I think I finally understand It doesn't matter what has happened our love for each other is the impotant thing. We have to learn to let go of the past mistakes we have made and just be thankful for the love we have been blessed with."
Akimie's reaction to this was desprete. "Xena no! You and I belong together everything I did was for us."
Xena turned to face the younger woman, Gabrielle's hand firmly in hers. "No Akimie Everything you did was for you. You created a whole relationship where there was none. I did care about you, as much as I could care for anyone back then. But it wasn't the love you have created in your mind. Even if things had been diffrent Akimie we would not have been together, at least not for very long. Oh, I may have taken you to my bed I may have even stayed with you for a while but it never would have lasted because the person I was destined to be with is Gabrielle. I know I have always said we make our own destinies but I have come to understand that some things are meant to be."
For the first time Akime looked thourghly defeated. She could see that Xena had come to understand the one thing that she had hoped she wouldn't. Death has a way of opening people's eye's and Akimie had used the time since she had crossed over to learn and understand the guilt of past deeds that had motivated Xena, now it was time for the final truth.
Before she could speak Xena asked her a question. "There is one more thing I have to know Akimie. Why is it you never tried to stop Yodshi yourself? You were a spirit, you had the sacred Katana, why?"
Not wanting to let the last piece of the puzzle be reveled Akimie stared at the people infront of her, spirit and mortal alike. Maybe if she could just keep from saying anything at all...
Gabrielle stepped closer to the younger woman again. Her voice was soft but there was no mistaking the intent. "Tell her all of it Akimie. I may not be able to kill you but I swear by the Gods that I will make your eternity more unberable than you can imagine if you don't start talking soon."
"Because I wanted you to be the one Xena." For the first time tears ran down Akimie's face "I wanted it to be you. I know if I got you here you would do whatever you had to to stop him, and I knew you would have to die to do that. It's true I have watched you and I knew of the guilt you carried in your heart for the evil you did in your past. I knew it wouldn't take much to convince you...." She disolved into tears.
The whole truth was finally out, Xena had not caused the death of all those people in Higici and there was no reason for her to carry the guilt with her that she had carried for so many years about her past. What she had been and done would not disappear, but she had truly changed. The hate and anger that had driven her in the past no longer lived in her heart. She had truly been redeemed in accepting Gabrielle's love. Turning to her soulmate she told her. "What now? I know the truth but what can we do?"
In answer to her question a bright light filled the space where before it had been dim, now all could clearly see the Goddess Of Love. "Took you long enough." She said.
Gabrielle turned to the Goddess that had become her and Xena's friend "Aprodite, it's good to see you."
"Ok, sweet cheeks we're getting a little presssed for time here. I didn't think that it was going to take this long but I should learn never to try and second guess what is going to happen with you two." Extending her hand she added. "Gabrielle, come with me. We need to get you back into your body. Than we need to see about bringing tall, dark and gourgus over there back where she belongs."
"I don't want to leave you again."
Xena could sense Gabrielle needed to reconnect with her own body. "Go, I'll be fine. I promise. I'll be back with you soon."
At the warrior's words her face brigthened. "Your going to come back!"
"I'm going to come home Gabrielle. I'll be there as soon as I can I promise."
Aprodite gave the warrior one last look and she was gone. Seeing the two women dissapper Akimie played one last card. "You know if you go back Xena not only will it condem me. But you will be back in the position you have wanted to be out of for years. you will be in a position to hurt Gabrielle again."
A cold anger settled over the warrior she couldn't believe she had been so wrong about this young woman, and so many times. "Well you right about one thing Akimie, you will be condemed. You have know one to blame for that but yourself. You see I'm done carrying that particular burden of guilt. As far as Gabrielle is concerned I see that most of the reason that she was hurt in the past was my stubborn refusal to see her for who she truly was. As much as I loved her I still had this image in my mind of needing to protect her. Don't get me wrong I would still willinglly lay down my life to keep her safe. but now I know I have to stop being so pig headed and let her make her own choices. That was part of the truth I had to learn."
Contempt rose in Akimie's voice. "So that's it then? And just how do you think this miricle of you going back to your beloved soulmate is going to work? You had the choice on Mt Fuji and you chose at that time to stay dead. It wasn't an open ended thing Xena there was a dead line and you are long past it."
"I have some very powerful friends." ******************************************************
Seeing his sister back at his side Ares knew that something had happened. "Well?" he asked "Did it work?"
"First things first Bro. Gabrielle, come on wake up." She waved her hand over the bard's still closed eyes.
Voices began to filter into her mind she began to feel her surrondings again. Slowly she opened her eyes to see Aprodite and Ares looking down at her. "Aprodite..what happened? Did I dream?"
"No Sweetpea what you remeber was all very, very real. You got got Akimie to tell Xena the truth and your warrior is waiting for you to bring her back now."
Gabrielle sat up trying to clear her head. She remebered the events Aprodite had described clearly at had seemed real but it had the quality of a dream to it as well. "I remember...Eli was there...Where is he?"
"His part in this was finished he said to tell you that he has never been prouder of you. The same goes for me buy the way but right now we have a job to finish. Where are Xena's ashes?"
She got up from her position and looked around her belonging had been transported there by Ares. "I brought everything from your room that belonged to you." He said pointing at the neatly arranged articles. "The urn should be in there."
Lovingly picking up the urn she had been carring with her she returned and placed it before the two Gods. Aphrodite gave her Brother a nod. "You know what you need to do Ares."
Without a word he removed the cover from the urn. The bard could sense the tensnes in what he was about to do. He took a flask from his pocket. "In this flask is water from the fountian of strength on Mt Fuji. Mixed with water from the spring of life on Mt Olympus, alone this will do nothing to restore Xena at this point, but when mixed with the blood of a God." Before Gabrielle had a chance to react he sliced open his palm and let the blood flow freely into the life giving waters.
He handed the flask to Aprodite who poured the mixture into the urn while Ares steadied it with is uncut hand. The room itself seemed to be filled with a presence a wind that was not one of nature filled the samll area the were in. Gabrielle watched in horror as the urn spilled the contents of ash and liquid out onto the table. "Xena! No!" She felt her heart plumet as the wind that had ruined everything quited as suddenly as they had appeared. Her eyes feel on the puddle that was nothing more than a mess now and she felt dispair beyond the depths of anything she would have ever known. Kneeling before the eartly remains of the warrior she let her emotions go. "It didn't work."
"Don't be so sure." A voice from behind them got their attention. Ther in all her fleash and blood glory stood Xena.
"Gabrielle bonded off her knees and ran to embrace her. "But how?...When the ashes spilled I thought..."
"That I couldn't make it back...Well it was touch and go there for a second. Up until the last minute Akimie was trying everything she could. But the kicker was when Ares mixed his blood in with everything. It gave me the added boast I needed."
"I don't understand.."
Ares stepped forward. "Allow me, You see Gabrielle Aphrodite and I are a bit unusual in the sense that we actuly interact with mortals from time to time, some more than others. But other Gods, well let's just say the take a dim view of dealing with mortals on any level. Xena never got a chance to plead her case. The only reason Akimie had such an in with the Gods of her world was they had a fear of Yodoshi themselves and she used that. If they had ever heard Xena and knew that she was the one that killed Yodoshi they would have given her anything she wanted, including her life back. Akimie knew that so she did everything she could to keep Xena from trying. But once my blood entered into it there was another Godly presence that demanded to be heard. They had no choice, once they heard the truth their only option was to reunite Xena's spirit with her body."
Stepping forward Xena faced Gabrielle, Aprodite and Ares. "It seems I'm in your debt again Ares, you too Aphrodite....without your help."
Gabrielle finished for her "We never would have been able to bring Xena back."
"No Xena we're even, You saved me from my insanity with Caligullia and you restored our Godhood to both of us. We owed you and Gabrielle this. I'm just sorry we couldn't have helped before...."
For years Xena had felt nothing but disdain for the Gods. But here stood two of them, one had been a constant thorn in her side for most of her adult life but when the chips where down he had come to her aide on more than one occasion. The other appeared on the surface to be not much more than a bubble headed blonde. Aphrodite had proven herself to be so much more though she had proven that she was a friend. "If I learned one thing in all of this it's that it doesn't do any good to hang onto the past. You did help and that's what counts."
Looking at each other Aphrodite and Ares knew it was time for them to leave. "I just want to say one thing before I go Xena." Ares looked deeply into her eyes "I do love you."
He wasn't going to let her stop him. "Like I said, I do love you. But I think I finally got it you belong with Gabrielle." A smile touched his features "And just so you know I think I finally figured out what it is you see in her." A flash and he was gone.
Aphrodite moved to embrace her friend "You two be happy, and don't forget what you learned." Looking at Xena she said "Take care of her warrior babe. You don't know how lucky you are to have her."
"That's were your wrong Aphrodite. I do know, and thank you..."
Another flash and the two of them were left alone "I can't believe it your really here."
Pulling Gabrielle into her arms the warrior told her. "Believe it love. I'm back where I belong and I promise I'll never leave you like that again."
Kissing her warrior fiercly Gabrielle felt like everything had finally been put right. Her heart felt the joy that came with knowing what ever the future held for them they would face it together. "So what now?" Gabrielle asked "I think the first order of buisness should be finding Eve."
"You won't have too far to look." The voice of their daughter startteled them. "Don't look so surprised you two. Did you think Aphrodite wouldn't bring me here and let me know everything was ok?"
Both woman smiled at the kindness the Goddess of love had shown them both. "Remind me never to complain about Aphrodite agian."
"I'm going to to hold you to that warrior babe." The Goddess appeared before them. "Just promise me, no more of the noble sacrifice for things that aren't your fault and I'll be happy."
Xena felt the peace settle around her heart that she had searched for all these years. For the first time since she was very young she truly didn't feel like she had something driving her. "I think I can handle that Aphrodite. Something tells me I've fianlly reached the goal I've been chasing all these years."
Gabrielle felt the hope blossom in her heart, she too had waited years to hear the words she was praying Xena was going to say next. "Are you saying that you have gotten past it?"
They warrior knew what her soul mate was asking. She wasn't just talking about the guilt of all the souls in Higuche. She was talk about everything. The pain and anger that had driven her after Ceaser's betrayal. All the horrible things Xena had done as a warlord. The death and destruction that had been wrought at her hand. Everything that she had tried so hard to make up for in her quest for atonement. She finally felt that she had come to a point where she didn't have to keep paying for her past crimes. "Yes Gabrielle, I've gottem past it all. I know I can't chage the past. I guess part of me always thought if I did enough good it could some how cancel out the evil I did. That's not ever going to happen, and I except that. I can't erase the bad things in my life any more than I could the good, but I'm not that person anymore. I'll never change what happened all I can do is be the best person I can be right now. I still want to help people where we can, but because it's the right thing to do not because I have anything to make up for."
The light that was coming from the setting sun reflected on the unshed tears in the bard's eyes. Drawing the warrior into her embrace she held the woman that had become her entire life. "You've finally found peace in your heart Xena."
"With the help of my family." See looked at Eve and Arhpodite "And some very important friends." She winked at the Goddess. Aphrodite took her cue and moving closer to Eve she said. "Why don't we make ourselves scarce for a little while. I think these two could use some time alone for a reunion." Smiling with a wave of her hand she and Eve dissappered.
Xena looked into the eyes of the woman that was her soul mate, her life, her salvation. "I don't know what I did to deserve you."
The bard covered the warrior's lips with two fingers. "What we did to deserve each other. I love you Xena, now more than ever."
"I love you too Gabrielle." Kissing her tenderly "Forever."
The final rays of the sun hearlded the end of the day, but at the same time a new beginning. A beginning of the lives the would share built around their love and faith in each other. Leaving all the old hurts and wounds of the past behind.
Well I hope you all enjoyed this story I look forward to any questions or comments firstname.lastname@example.org
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