The Choice

by Sara

Disclaimer : Obviously, this is set before Athena and the other gods go mental. This really isn't a plot driven story. It is mostly just me venting over the change that has come over Gabrielle in the last few seasons. A partial monolog if you will. While I love the show and the characters, Gabby's desent into self-complacency, and scorn over Xena has really irritated me. I don't believe that she is only "goodness and purity". She is a flawed character, like us all. It is just in the last season and a half she has become truly snarky. If she is going to forever walk with Xena she is going to have to grow up a bit, and realize that partners don't find their friends weak spots and repeatedly twist the knife. Please, don't flame me, I bruise easily. But if you have something nice or constructive to say,, go for it!

Other Disclaimers : Obviously, I don't own these characters (but wouldn't THAT be great!) So please don't sue me, I only borrowed them from Renaissance Pictures (or whoever) and I have no money, only an incredibly large Xena video collection that you will have to pry out of my cold dead fingers!

The Choice

A sharp ‘crack' thundered through the previously quiet night. It was followed by a flash of light. Gabrielle rose to her feet from her bedroll in a by now smooth and practiced motion, grasping her sais. Standing in the center of the camp leaning over a sleeping Xena stood a glowing woman dressed in white deerskin and carrying a golden bow.

"Artemis? What are you doing here? What have you done to Xena?" Anxiety filled the girl's voice. "Why can't you gods leave her, us, alone!" Gabrielle started to move towards her friend, to wake her from this unnatural stillness in the presence of an Olympian.

" Peace, Gabrielle, Xena is just sleeping, probably the first deep sleep she has enjoyed in some time. Anyway, I am not here about her, but about you. There is no need for Xena to awake, and more need for her to rest." The goddess laid a gentle hand on the swollen belly of the warrior princess and chuckled softly to herself. "You know, the only real knock-down, drag out
fight Athena and I ever had was over this one. So strong, so sure. We both wanted her for our champion. We had to settle on simply blessing her..."

At this Gabrielle shrieked "BLESSING HER?!? Where was your blessing when she gave in Ares and agreed to be HIS, where was your blessing when her darkness filled her with hate and rage and she took it out on all of Greece? Where were you when she was lost in the darkness of her own making, where were you-"

Artemis made a slashing motion with her hand and silenced the outraged bard. "Don't test me Gabrielle, you may be the Queen of my Amazons, but don't push me. You will not care for the results. I am not here about Xena's past. I AM here to settle her future. Although she herself does not know it, and in fact would never believe it, she has more than atoned for her past. We gods may quarrel with her methods, but she has saved us all too many times for there to be any question of that. No, my Queen" the goddess said mockingly "I am here about you, and only you. Tonight you will be judged. For your past, your present, and to determine your future."

The silenced bard again tried to speak, but nothing came forth. She fought the invisible gag, wildly thinking that this couldn't be happening, not to her, what was she being judged for. Xena had forgiven her over Solon's death, and even of her betrayal her to Ming Tien. What could Artemis mean? She had done nothing: Nothing to deserve the obvious wrath of the goddess.

Artemis sighed. With a word she forced Gabrielle to sit and spoke again "Even in your own thoughts you refuse to take blame for the path you and Xena have been on. If you can not be truthful to yourself, you will have to be taught." With that the Huntress set her shoulders and began. " I brought you together with Xena with the thought you would be good for each other. Now, I just don't know. Of all the people in her life, no one, not even Caesar has hurt her as much as you."

Gabrielle's eyes went round at this bald statement, this couldn't be true. She was the one that kept Xena on her path toward redemption. She was Xena's light, her source. She had been told this many times by her friend. If not for her Xena would have long ago reverted into her darkness.

"So sure of yourself, aren't you? You know, pride is a sin, Gabrielle. One that you regularly revel in. Xena doesn't need another light, she carries one inside herself, but through your constant harping on her past she doesn't dare trust it. If the one person that supposedly cares the most for her can not believe in her, how can she believe in herself? Time and time again she has had to prove herself to you, and still you believe that she could never really save herself. She puts herself last in all things, risking all for
you, and you treat like a barely tamed animal. She allows you to abandon her over and over again, lets you go off with every two bit shyster to ‘find yourself', allows you to treat her as your personal whipping boy."

Gabrielle squirmed in her seat, and thought at the goddess, " I had to find my own way, learn about myself-" and with this Artemis whirled on her"It is always about you, isn't it? Xena had a debt to another, and you decided, without knowing anything but your own jealousy, that she had to be stopped. You even were willing to make a deal with Ares to get to Chin first. She warned you about Krafstar, about Najara, Adain, and of course Tataka. You consistently follow false prophets only to stroke you ego, expecting Xena to trail behind. You railed over the loss of your blood innocence in Britannia, when you had already lost that years ago!"

Gabrielle was shocked. Before Meridian she had never killed. What did Artemis mean?

"Remember the temple of Dreams? You may not have plunged the sword into the men's chests yourself, but you may as well have. You knew what would happen in the maze. You planned their deaths and caused them. And what of all the times you refused to listen to Xena, blindly plowing your way into dangerous situations, and expecting Xena to kill for you? If you had ever truly believed in the way of peace, you would have said goodbye to Xena, allowed her to continue on the path of the warrior, to search for a sense of peace in her own way. You would have left to truly learn from Eli but even then you already "knew" the Way, you didn't need much of him or his teaching, so instead you dragged her with you on your self indulgent quests. It's so easy to keep your hands clean when you have someone else to do your killing for you. And when Xena finally understood her way? The way of the warrior? You acted as though it was a second-rate life --that only you, the pure Gabrielle, knew the best way. It was a purity that would cost Xena time and time again. You had her crucified, when she had told you of the vision time and time again. But in your arrogance you led her to her death."

Gabrielle was sobbing now, it wasn't true, it wasn't. She had only done what seemed right at the time, she'd had no way of knowing the consequences. She just wanted it to stop, wanted Artemis to go away, to stop saying these horrible things to her. But the goddess was incessant,

"Even in death you betrayed her! She was willing to go to hell, to give up everything she had fought for for so long; peace, redemption, heaven itself, to save you. She would have walked through hell with you. She was willing to face Callisto, again, over you. And when you were saved, when you had been ‘purified' were you willing to save her? To even try? Did you even
think of questioning Michael? To find another way? No, you were ready to have her ‘spend eternity in pieces'. Ah, the mark of love."

She stopped speaking for a moment. Sighing deeply, she looked Gabrielle square in the eyes. " The choice is yours, will you swear, here and now, before us all" and Gabrielle saw that they were no longer alone, that the woods were filled with flickering shadows that she knew upon closer examination would reveal themselves as Aphrodite, Athena, Cupid, Hades, Hephaestus, Apollo, even Ares, the whole pantheon of gods " to admit your wrong-doings, to protect this woman and her child, to accept a fitting punishment for your actions, or will you leave, now, and vow to never return to her side. She will be hurt if you leave, but life will continue for her. She will find joy in time. What is your choice? Decide, Gabrielle."

The stricken bard sat on her log and shook, wracked with sobs. Memories of all the events Artemis spoke of ran through her mind. Every hurtful word she had spoken, every pained look that Xena had quickly hidden behind her warrior mask, the lies, the betrayals took on a clarity that she had never allowed herself to see. She realized that the goddess was right. Oh gods of
mount Olympus, what had she done? This was the person she loved most in the world, and she had treated Callisto better. She looked at the goddess and touched her throat. Understanding her unasked question, Artimis released the spell that had silenced the bard, and waited.

"Forgive me goddess. I have wronged her so deeply, I don't know how I will face her, I know that I should go, leave here, leave" she took a breath " leave her, but I can't. I love her with all my being. What can I do to make amends. Name it. Anything, any punishment, and I will do it. Just please tell me that there is hope to fix this. Please say I still have a chance to make this right."

For the first time Artimis smiled at her champion. "The amends you will have to make are your choice. Xena will never tell you of the pain she has felt. Her love for you is too deep for that. Asking her for forgiveness is futile, she would not see the need. There is only one fitting punishment that I can think of. Bad times are coming, a war like the world has never seen before, and Xena is caught in the middle of it. Hard choices and harder consequences will have to be dealt with. You will guard her and her baby. Make her strong again my Queen. Give her hope again. You will have to rely on yourself in this, I, I cannot help you," The huntress looked, for a moment pensive "even now, lines are being drawn that I cannot cross. You will be on your own, but I have faith in you. Guard her well. Love her." With this said the goddess of the hunt touched Gabrielle's cheek and disappeared. " I will trust you, my champion."

Gabrielle was alone now. Alone with her thoughts, and a slumbering warrior princess. She crossed over to where Xena still slept, safe in the arms of Morpheus, unaware of the transformation that had just occured in "her bard". "Forgive me Xena." And with that, placing a gentle kiss on her friend's forehead, Gabrielle turned to the fire and took up her place as Guardian to the Warrior Princess. For the first time in a long time, things felt right.

Well, that's it folks. Did you love it or hate it? Drop me a line and let me know,, please?


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