February 1998


Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Callisto, Ephiny, Solari, and all the other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

This story takes place during the beginning and end of the episode The Bitter Suite.

"Look at them!" the dark god stormed. "This is pathetic," he rumbled. "I always wanted them apart yes, but not---not like this." Ares continued his pacing. "What can I do with Xena in this state?" he roared with frustration. "She can't lead an army. Where is all her rage, her power?"

"It's all gone," the silent figure shrouded in shadows spoke up. "All of her feelings are gone. She has no rage, no hate, no love, no grief," she calmly asserted. "Just emptiness."

Ares glared over at Callisto knowing she was right and hating it. "Well, I don't like it," he growled.

"No. I don't either," she whispered.

Ares glanced at her, surprised. When she had approached him a week ago he almost didn't recognize the blonde goddess. Gone was her madness--her manic, gleeful obsession with Xena. She had barely spoken as they stood watching over Xena for the past seven days. Something profound had affected Callisto--he wasn't sure what and right now he didn't much care. So consuming was his concern for the state Xena was in.

"He's coming, you know," she announced suddenly.

"Who?" Ares was dragged away from the sight of Xena standing on a cold, mountainous

precipice. 'Who could she possibly be thinking of at a time like this?' he thought to himself.

"Dahak, of course. The god who started this... this rift between Xena and Gabrielle." Her voice held no inflection, no tone. Ares finally realized that Callisto was in the same emotional state as Xena; empty--a hollow shell.

"As Xena goes, so goes the world," she muttered.

Ares was concerned. This one god was dangerous, powerful. He had tried to warn Xena back in Britannia and had failed to make her realize the importance of his counsel. A strange emotion coursed though the dark god. It was ... guilt? Yes, guilt. In a way, he felt responsible for some of the events that had occurred. Part of him was thrilled with the prospect of Dahak's coming---the wars and bloodshed would be glorious! However, a larger part of him was deeply disturbed, almost panicked. With the coming of this one god the gods would be no more. Ares wasn't ready for oblivion just yet.

"Dahak means to destroy us all, you know," Callisto addressed him matter-of-factly. She could have been talking about the weather or some other mundane topic of conversation.

"Yes, I know." He took a good look at Callisto. He noticed that he was wrong; she wasn't

completely devoid of feeling. There seemed to be a part of her that was... sad? Perhaps she mourned the loss of her taunting game with Xena. Or maybe now that vengeance had been hers she had forgiven Xena. Perhaps she was melancholy about Xena's emotional state, so similar to her own experiences.

"We can't let that happen," he announced, a decision forming in his mind. She rolled her head in his direction, her interest peaked. When her sweet revenge had finally transpired she had been ecstatic. While most of her had been reveling in Xena's anguish another, smaller, part of her had called out in the voice of a small child 'is it finally over?' She had waited for the release, the blessed release, of the walls holding back her emotions, but it never came. She had explored within herself almost frantically and found no walls. She had not been holding her emotions back with her obsession for justice, her lust for vengeance. She had been killing herself; killing her emotions, her soul. All that was left truly was an empty shell. Despondent beyond belief she had finally realized Xena had won. She would never feel better. Vengeance was not sweet, it was bitter. Oh so bitter. Ares proposition brought a glimmer of optimism to her heart.

"What do you mean?"

"I can not stand by and allow my own destruction!" he thundered.

Rolling her eyes at his outburst, Callisto realized that a part of her was loathe to become oblivious as well. She examined this part of her. It was peaceful, quiet. She felt... she felt? Her heart sped up a bit. This small part of her had feelings! She could swear this part of her was not there earlier.

What do you propose we do?" she half listened to Ares while the rest of her explored this new territory within herself.

"You said it was Xena's destruction Dahak seeks. When she is destroyed his power will be released?" Ares mind was working frantically as he tried to devise a plan.

"Yes, what of it?" She was impatient with this man. Couldn't he see she was on the verge of a great discovery about herself!

"And look at how he has destroyed Xena--by killing that which is most precious to her, her bond with Gabrielle," he snarled the woman's name with disgust. He hated the hold that annoying bard had over his warrior princess. But it was obvious, without her, Xena was useless.

The two gods turned their attention to the Amazon Queen. She lay naked in a hut alternately subjected to scalding water or whipped with reeds. Her psyche was just as shattered as Xena's; except instead of emptiness she was consumed with guilt.

"Misplaced guilt," the blonde goddess mused aloud "Even in her grief, Gabrielle still protects Xena and shoulders all the blame." Callisto and Ares looked at the bard and really saw her for the first time. She was amazing. Such a fountain of strength. It was obvious why she was Artemis' chosen. And it was finally crystal clear what Xena saw in her. She was so strong in her convictions, so vigilant in her stance for goodness that Xena could rely on her, could allow her weight to rest upon Gabrielle's shoulders when Xena could not carry the weight alone. 'It isn't the innocence of Gabrielle that Xena was in love with. It is her goodness. A distinction Xena has never made,' Callisto thought to herself.

"What do you propose we do?" she questioned Ares again.

"Well, I have a plan..."

"Thatís it? Thatís the plan?" Callisto stared at Ares amazed.

"Yeah," he looked offended at her scorn. "You think you can come up with something better?" he challenged.

"I just donít see how inciting hatred for each other is the answer. Isnít that just falling into Dahakís plan?" Realization dawned over Callisto. She was being tested, and she had failed. This was Dahak and she had betrayed him. She took a deep breath and faced the evil god.

Ares saw the change cross her features and followed her thought process. He reached out to her. "No," he answered the unspoken question in her eyes. There was a hesitation, then she nodded her head satisfied he was who he said he was. "Listen," he continued, "we need to foster the hate within them. Itís the only way to get them back together."

"Ares, I know Iím crazy, but Iím not stupid. Hatred is the problem, not the answer."

"I know that and you know that, but they donít!" he swept his arm toward the women in question. "They need to work through their feelings in order to heal."

"So, let them work through it," Callisto was beginning to bore of this conversation.

"We donít have time!" Frustration filled Ares to the core. ëWhy wonít this cursed woman understand,í he fumed to himself. He decided to change tactics. Smiling he ran his hand seductively down Callistoís arm. "Trust me, Callisto," he purred sensuously.

"Ares," she spat, "you have forgotten who youíre dealing with. Your little games wonít work on me." She smirked at the god.

Sighing, he took a deep breath and started over. "Dahak wants a complete destruction of Xena. He realizes that Gabrielle is the key to his success. Their love is Xenaís strength, her foundation. Killing Gabrielle would rock that foundation, but in the end it would have the opposite effect; she would become a martyr and Xena would be all the stronger. So, he kills the love between them. He figured Xena would turn to hate and become a monster. If it didnít kill her he would use her as his tool of destruction to wreak havoc on the world." He took a breath and checked to see if she was still listening.

Callisto allowed Ares his moment. She waved him on. "Get to the point."

"Xena is at a cross-roads. Instead of becoming a monster she has become...nothing. She has retreated within herself. Weíve been offered a reprieve and the time to act is now." He smiled charasmatically.

"Yes, thatís a lovely little story, but you still havenít explained how playing his hand allows us to win."

"I was getting there. We donít have time to allow them to work this out. We must force the issue. We need them to hate each other and then kill each other." He smiled triumphantly.

Callisto looked disgusted at Ares. She knew this wasnít Dahak. A god that evil, that manipulative couldnít possibly have come up with a plan this... inept, this ridiculously ludicrous. "Yes. I see how Xenaís death will defeat Dahak." Sarcasm dripped from her voice, "Great idea."

Ares anger was slowly building. Precious time was being wasted while he had to spell out every minute detail. This only strengthened his resolve to get this over with. "Only death can bring about a rebirth. And only rebirth can heal this rift."

Callisto looked speculatively at Ares. She was beginning to see where he was headed. "I think I understand," she smiled. "Wait, why canít we just kill them ourselves?"

"I thought of that. We canít. If we did that there would be no chance of rebirth. We need to carefully construct a scenario that Holyph will agree to. This is a highly unstable situation. Even if we get the two of them to Illusia, itís up to them to work it out. If they donít... The world as we know it is over-"

"And so are we," she finished for him.

"Yeah. That too."

"Okay, weíre all set, right? You visit Gabrielle and work her into a fever pitch over Xena. Sheís exhausted mentally and physically. Anymore of this self-hatred and it will just destroy her. Turn that loathing towards Xena. Maybe she can get a few licks in before Xena kills her." He smiled smugly.

"And youíre so sure sheíll kill her precious little Gabrielle? What makes you think it wonít be the bard who kills Xena?" For some reason Callisto felt protective of the little Amazon.

"Please," he said patronizingly. "This is Xena weíre talking about."

Callistoís competitive nature flared. "I bet I can get Gabrielle to kill Xena before you can get Xena to kill Gabrielle."

Mimicking the warrior princessí favorite expression, Ares raised his eyebrow. "Iíll take that bet."

"Fine." She grinned at Ares. "May the best god win." With a blaze of flame she disappeared from view.

Ares shook his head. "Show off."

Cold. Her soul was empty and cold. Life had no meaning now. Nothing mattered. Xena was so shut down her senses did not perceive any stimulus. She stared without seeing, withstood a blizzard without feeling. She would have jumped from the mountain, but she couldnít even find the will for that.

Ares was worried. He was good, no, very good at manipulation; but there was nothing here to manipulate. He needed something to work with. Carefully he reached inside her and planted a seed. Then he stood back to see if it would take.

"Youíre cheating!" Callisto shouted shrilly, her fists pounding futilely on his chest.

He smirked. "Just a little tweak. I didnít add anything that wasnít already there. I just... removed some barriers."

"But gods arenít allowed to physically play with humans minds. It would be unfair." The incongruity of Callisto calling for fairness was not lost on the two of them. ëShe has changed,í he thought. ëPity. I kind of liked the crazy bitch.í

"Desperate times call for desperate measures."

Pain. Grief. Heartache. She reeled, overwhelmed from the depths of her emotional overload. The pain was so great she could not feel the cold surrounding her. In the only way she could think of, she tried to release her pain. The mournful keening reverberated inside her skull and finally out her mouth. Time seemed to stand still as Xenaís primal mourning sounded throughout the mountain ranges.

Ares waited a bit, allowing his seed to completely sink its hooks in. ëWe canít have her dismissing it and starting us back to where we were.í When he was satisfied that the grief he had instilled had triggered her own emotions to kick in, he paid a visit to his favorite human.

He needed Xena to place blame for Solanís death on Gabrielle. She blamed Hope right now, which was close to blaming the bardÖ but not close enough. He decided to try a new tactic. Xena rarely listened to his words. Maybe his thoughts would be better received. While they played the familiar verbal warfare he thought at her furiously, with all his will.

Her fault

Xena shook her head, and drew her eyebrows down in confusion. ëDirect hit!í He almost giggled with glee. She might as well have held the blade This was almost too easy. He could see Xenaís thoughts leading toward his intended destination. He decided to add words to the mix. "Trusting someone who betrayed you," he slipped this in at the end of his last sentence.

Her breath caught. "Gabrielle." She had been betrayed. Gabrielle had lied to her. She betrayed you to that monster Ming Tíien. The suffering you went through... it was her fault Xenaís heart sped up. Her rage was rising, threatening to crash through and take over.

Ares was aware what a fine line he walked. He was so close, but if he made a mistake he knew she would end it all by jumping off the cliff. Or she could go on a massive killing spree desecrating all in her path. This would be quite a sight to see, and part of him was extremely aroused at the image. However, he knew that would immediately draw Dahak into this world. That image nauseated him completely. He backed off a bit.

"This whole atonement kick youíve been on lately. Itís not you." He watched her closely. She was still following him. "Youíre full of fire, bending the world to your will. Full of rage and revenge. Accept it Xena." He saw the bloodlust just beyond her eyes. "Embrace it." Slowly the rage trickled out behind the carefully constructed walls. "You know what to do." The trickle became a fountain. "Who to kill." The fountain a flood.

Xena: Warrior Princess, Destroyer of Nations had risen again. ëLike taking candy from a baby,í Ares thought as he disappeared.

Fire. Her soul was on fire. Her entire being was consumed by the flames of guilt and shame. The fire within her burned so hot she could not feel the torture her body was undergoing. Her attempts to purge herself of this guilt were unsuccessful. It was time to give up and let go. This world had no meaning for her now. Not without Xena. At the thought of her lost love a single tear ran down Gabrielleís face. She closed her eyes and began the process of giving up.

She felt a familiar presence in the room. Her first thought was that Xena had returned to her. She opened her eyes but could see nothing. Taking a breath she tried to will back the haze that had begun to wash over her.

ëThat was too close,í Callisto thought to herself. She gazed down at the bard. Had anyone seen the pair they would have described Callistoís expression as loving. ëInnocence lost, yet again,í she mused silently. She reached out to stroke Gabrielleís face. ëWhat would my life have been like if you had met her sooner,í she wondered.

Gabrielle stopped straining when she felt the touch caress her face. This was not Xena. She closed her eyes and once again let go of everything.

Callisto could feel the Amazon slipping away. Panic began to set in. If she lost her now it would all be over. She reacted the only way she knew how. She slapped Gabrielle.

Snapped back to awareness, Gabrielle finally opened her eyes and saw who was before her. The demon Callisto here to drag her to Tartarus. "Youíre not real. Youíre in my mind." She tried to convince herself. Her cheek still stung from the slap, but this wasnít the first hallucination she had suffered through.

"What difference does it make? You came here for the truth. And the truth is that Xena made us both." Callisto saw Gabrielleís breath catch. ëGood little bard. Follow Callisto, thatís the way.í Callisto almost giggled. This would be too easy. Gabrielleís strength was gone. She would be putty in the goddessí hands. "She shaped our lives, changed our fates. Killed our families." As soon as she said it she knew that was a mistake.

The bard sat up. For a second it had felt like Callisto was making sense. "No. I killed hers. Solan died because of my daughter." Guilt renewed itself in Gabrielle. ëHow could I ever atone for my sins? Xena will never forgive me,í the bard thought despondently to herself.

Callisto was going to be sick. Where was this girlís head? She continued to talk while she

examined the inner workings of the bard. "Because of Xena you had a daughter. Her hatred for Caesar took you to Britannia."

Gabrielle faltered. "Yes, but..."

Callisto pressed her advantage. "Straight to Dahak where she deserted you." At his name

Gabrielleís body stiffened and her mind reeled. Callisto stumbled across an interesting seed of self-hatred and self-doubt. It was a time bomb waiting to destroy the bard; and it was a foreign entity. ëI see we arenít the only ones cheating.í Dahak must have implanted it when he implanted Hope within Gabrielle. Callisto was surprised and proud at the strength of Gabrielle. A weaker person would have folded already, but the bard continued to fight. She attempted to extract the seed while she continued to taunt the bard. " Isnít that right? Isnít that right?" Her hand grasped the seed.


Callisto began to yank on the seed but it was stuck tight. "And you hate her for it, donít you? For betraying you, for failing you. You hate her, donít you?" Perdicasí death is on her hands. She created Callisto "Donít you?" She made you kill your daughter with your own hands. A daughter she is responsible for! "Donít you?" Exhausted, she was about to give in. The Amazon bard was just too strong willed, too good to be turned to hatred. Just then the seed Dahak had implanted shifted and finally released itself tearing with it a part of Gabrielle. Filling its place were anger, hatred, rage, righteous indignation.

"YES!!!" the bard screamed with all her might.

ëOh how the mighty have fallen,í Callisto murmured as she fled the scene of the crime.

The cry reverberated across the Amazon village. It was the sound of someoneís soul dying. Amazons came pouring out of huts, away from the practice grounds and chores to gather in the village center. Ephinyís body shivered. Fear for the life of her Queen forced the Regent to end the indecision that had been plaguing her.

Gabrielle had not spoken the entire journey back from the Centaur lands. Ephiny had been worried, but she understood that the woman needed time and space for healing to begin. When they finally arrived in the village three days ago the Queen raised her head and spoke for the first time. "I need to atone." She walked over to the hut used for the purification rituals and had been there ever since. For three days the only change was which Amazon Priestess administered the ritual. Ephiny knew that Gabrielle would not be able to survive much longer, but she also knew that she would never survive unless she worked through the pain. Gabrielle had not only lost her daughter and her best friend-- she had also lost her faith in a just world.

Shaking her head to clear the reverie she had slipped into, Ephiny finally came to a decision. "Solari, go get her out of there." "Right away, Eph." The warrior disappeared into the small hut. ëIf the Queen is upset with me for interrupting her ritual she can file a complaint,í Ephiny resolved.

Just then an ominous silence filled the air. The hairs on the back of Ephinyís neck stood up. Looking around at her sisters she could see they felt it too. It was as if the world was holding its breath---waiting for something.

Hoof beats could be heard. A rider was approaching. Fast. As the women turned in that direction, Ephiny saw an image she had hoped to never see again. It was the Warrior Princess. She refused to think of the woman she saw as Xena. Xena was an ally, a confidant, a friend. This woman was a nightmare come to life. Rage poured from her in waves that Ephiny could feel hit her skin.

The Amazons stood in shock as Xena whipped Argo forcing the lathered horse even faster. "Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi." The battlecry ripped through the village breaking the spell the Amazons had been under. A cluster of warriors surrounded the Ephiny. "Stop her," the Regent quietly commanded her warriors.

Xena pulled Argo to a stop not far from the warriors. For a moment everyone held their breath. Ephiny looked into the eyes of her Queenís Champion. For a moment she thought she saw confusion replace the hate filled madness. ëThe Amazon village?í Xena asked herself. ëWhat am I doing here?í Find Gabrielle She shook her head to clear it. ëThatís right. I am looking for that traitorous bitch.í She almost laughed at the pitiful defense these Amazons provided their Regent. If she wanted to, she could kill all of them. She smiled wildly at the thought. FIND GABRIELLE

Ares was having a difficult time controlling Xena. She was a force almost unstoppable. The irony--Ares God of War was trying to stop Xena from decimating the Amazons. For a moment he wavered. An opportunity like this would never present itself again. He sighed. If he allowed that to happen it would be anyoneís guess who destroyed him first---Artemis or Dahak. Xena flipped off her horse and over the spear wielding Amazons guarding Ephiny. The blonde approached the warrior cautiously like one would a wild animal caught in a trap. She reached her arm out to calm the beast. Xena looked down at the woman who dared to touch her. ëEphiny is upset about something.í Her anger started slipping. Find Gabrielle now ëBut... Ephiny...í she tried to argue with the cool rational voice that promised to take away all the pain. This bitch is on Gabrielleís side. She helped her kill Solan Rage rose again in Xenaís chest. Without further hesitation she snapped Ephinyís arm at the elbow. The crunch that followed was like music to her

ears. "Whereís Gabrielle?" she demanded menacingly.

As the fates would have it, Solari chose that moment to emerge from the purification hut with Gabrielle in her arms. The Queen was unconscious, having passed out from the enormous amount of energy she had poured into her hatred. Energy the little woman did not have to spare. KILL HER NOW! Xena grabbed her chakram but hesitated a moment. ëKill Gabrielle? Are you sure?í The moment of hesitation cost Ares and his plan. Ephiny saw what Xena meant to do and knocked her arm just as she let fly with the chakram. The disc hit the hut door just above Solariís head and bounced back to Xena who caught it effortlessly.

ëDamn! Now what can I do?í Ares fumed. He had planned to have Xena ride into the village, kill Gabrielle and then be killed immediately by the Amazons. In order for the women to get to Illusia they had to die as close to instantaneously as possible. And they had to die by human means. At least he would win his bet with Callisto. The bard was definitely down for the count.

"Run Solari!" Ephiny ordered the Amazon warrior. She offered a brief prayer to Artemis that Solari could evade the vengeful warlord, but she had no real hope of it being answered. Enraged Xena smacked Ephiny again. Something snapped inside of Ephiny. "Amazons attack!" She had been hoping to reason with the Warrior Princess. ëHow is Gabrielle going to feel when I have to tell her we killed Xena? Of course, if we donít kill her she will surely kill Gabrielle and I will not let that happen. This woman is not Xena. Xena is dead.í

Xenaís blood raced faster as the Amazons moved into attack positions. Ignore them. Go after Gabrielle Avoiding the poorly executed attacks by the Amazons, Xena tracked Solari. Leaping into the air she flipped directly into the warriorís path. Solari knew the only way out was to fight. Gabrielle was too much of a hindrance to escape the enraged warlord. She felt the queen stir against her shoulder. "Xena?" Gabrielle slid out of Solariís arms and stood facing Xena, confusion filling her.

When Gabrielle saw Xena some of her hurt and anger dissipated, lessening Callistoís control over the Amazon. Callisto knew she was walking a fine line with the bard. She had underestimated Gabrielleís strength. Getting her to admit to her hatred of Xena was one step--but having her do something about it was another. It was not a normal thing for Gabrielle to harm people, except in self-defense. Telling the bard to kill Xena wouldnít work. She wracked her brain for a way out of this situation. She refused to lose this bet. A plan began to form in her mind. She almost giggled out loud. ëIf Ares can cheat, so can I,í she decided.

Xena smiled menacingly at Solari. Get the whip from the horse A new voice commanded her now. Xena was growing tired of these voices in her head. She was still confused. How could she kill Gabrielle? She loved Gabrielle. But you also loved Solan. Donít you want to avenge his death? Gabrielle had destroyed her sonís life. She had betrayed her to Ming Tíien. She wasnít a true friend Xena had been foolish to think she could ever have a true friend. She gave in to the voices and got the whip.

Solari watched Xena grab the whip and immediately guessed her intentions. "Run, Gabrielle!" she ordered her Queen as she squared off to face Xena. ëArtemis please donít let me die in vain. Keep Queen Gabrielle safe.í

Gabrielle was unsure what was happening. ëThis must be another hallucination,í she tried to convince herself. She heard Solari tell her to run but she stood looking at Xena. Her beautiful warrior was gone. In her place stood a monster. An enraged, hate filled monster. The light had gone out of Xenaís eyes. Gabrielle had seen the Warrior Princess mask before. She was frightened of that woman, but she had always seen her Xena in there somewhere. Her Xena was not in this beast. Though she knew it would do no good, she ran.

Solari leapt at Xena hoping to distract her long enough for Gabrielle to get back to the other Amazons. Xena knocked her down with almost no effort. Donít let Gabrielle escape Xena whipped Gabrielleís feet and Xena hesitated, unsure what to do next. Leave. Get on a horse. Go north Xena obeyed with no argument.

ëWhat is she doing?í Ares thought frantically. ëShe canít leave! Who will kill her after she kills Gabrielle?í He searched Xenaís mind to see if his hold over the warrior had slipped. It hadnít, but he sensed another presence in Xenaís mind. He realized who it must be. "How dare you accuse me of cheating! What are you doing?" he bellowed at Callisto. "Trying to win, of course," she winked at the god and turned back to the game.

As Xena galloped off, Ares realized all was not lost. Ride through that weapons stand Xena turned the horse in that direction. Gabrielleís body went crashing through a large wooden weapons rack. ëShe canít have lived through that,í the god snickered to himself. He checked on the her status. ëDamn!í Ares could not believe how hard it was to kill one insignificant little bard. Xena had destroyed entire armies, but this single bard was proving almost impossible to kill. Go through the campfire He could feel Gabrielleís life-force easing away after that. ëFinally!í he sighed, assured of his victory.

Callisto had been providing a constant stream of encouragement to the bard. Live. Hang on. Donít let go. You must stay alive As Xena pulled Gabrielle through the fire, Callisto knew it was over. She had lost. No human could live through that. Not without divine... Ares had said that they couldnít kill Xena and Gabrielle. But he didnít say anything about helping them stay alive. She poured energy into the Amazonís fading life spirit.

Just as Ares was about to gloat of his win he felt the bardís life suddenly flare back. ëWhat? That canít be! No one could survive that.í He realized Callisto had cheated again. ëWonít this bitch just give up?í Urging Xena on faster, he saw the perfect opportunity--an immense rock lay directly in Gabrielleís path.

"Boom!" The rock exploded into several pieces when the annoying blonde hit it. Ares knew Callisto could only keep Gabrielle alive for a short period of time. There were limits to a godís power. As long as he kept Xena riding through obstacles there would be nothing left of the bard to keep alive. He urged Xena on faster still. Suddenly the horse reared to a stop and Xena hopped off. Ares looked around. They stood at the top of a very large cliff. ëPerfect!í he enthused. Throw her over the cliff All he had to do was make sure she jumped after Gabrielle.

Xena strutted toward Gabrielle. She removed the whip from her feet. Gabrielle was unconscious, but alive. Barely. All of Callistoís energy was being poured into keeping the bard alive. She had not given up yet. In fact, her plan all along had been to come to this cliff for the final confrontation. She bided her time as Xena lifted Gabrielle up and over her head. Like a zombie the warrior stumbled back to the cliff--Gabrielle raised high. "Vengeance!" she shouted for all the world to hear. Just as she was about to toss the bard, Callisto acted.

KICK NOW! The last little bit of her energy poured into Gabrielle who kicked even before she had completely regained consciousness. Both women tumbled to the ground. Xena and Ares were both stunned. ëShe kicked me! She knocked me down!í the warrior was dumbstruck. ëSheís still alive?í the god wondered amazed. He knew Callisto was not that powerful. The little brat must have a strength, a will to live that was unimaginable to the dark god. He had underestimated her yet again and he knew it had cost him. The only way Xena could kill her now would be in a fight and he doubted he could will the Warrior Princess to do it. His hold over her was tenuous at best and his strength was failing. The only comfort he sought was that the bard could not kill Xena either, of that he was sure. ëI might not win, but I least I wonít lose.í

Gabrielle rose to her feet. She stood with a regal beauty. ëEven battered and bloodied she is beautiful,í Xena thought. Gabrielle stood staring at Xena. She wasnít sure where she was or how she had gotten there. All she knew was that she ached outside and in. Callisto had just enough energy for one more try. Sheís why you hurt. Turn your pain on her Gabrielle felt a dark energy course through her. "I hate you!!!" she screamed as she hurtled herself against Xena trying to tackle her. Too late she realized they had been standing on a cliff.

A small group of Amazons rode up just in time to hear Gabrielle scream. They watched in horror as the women sailed over the cliff and crashed into the water, dead on impact. Eponin could have sworn she heard a woman whispering above the sound of the waterfall, "I win."


Xena felt everything shift around her. She opened her eyes and found herself holding Gabrielle in her arms. They were standing on a beach---a Grecian beach. Gabrielle raised her head to meet Xenaís eyes. For a breathless moment they just stood there staring at each other. Hesitantly, Gabrielle smiled at Xena. "Weíre home." Xena smiled back, just as apprehensive. "At last." Their smiles grew wider and Xena pulled Gabrielle into an even tighter embrace. "I love you, Gabrielle," she whispered into her hair. Gabrielleís joy erupted into spontaneous laughter. She was happy to be alive, to be with Xena. She didnít want to think about where they had been or what had happened to them. She just wanted to appreciate being here on this beach with Xena. Together they splashed in the surf while the sun set behind them.


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