Disclaimer 1: Don’t own ‘em, wish I did cause Xena wouldn’t have gone out like that, let me tell ya!
Disclaimer 2: This story is told on the premise that these two women are in love with each other. Nothing graphic, just declarations of love. If this offends, I feel very, very sorry for you. You are obviously very deprived. So go out and have some steak tacos or chocolate, that worked for me!
Author’s Note: This story is set during the episode Is There a Doctor in the House? during the time that Gabrielle was dead. I always wondered just why it was that Gabrielle came back and one day while pondering this, I came up with the following scenario. Of course when I sat down to write it, the characters decided to make it a great deal more complicated for our heroines further down the road and set the stage for future heartache. So please read, review and enjoy!!!
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Gabrielle struggled to breath, desperate to pull air into deprived and starving lungs. There was a moment when she thought she would be all right and then a strange calm descended on her as her breath rattled loudly and then simply stopped. Then she simply faded away and fell into the dark abyss of unconsciousness.
She awoke suddenly, lying on her back, staring at the sunny blue sky above her. She looked around for a moment, completely confused to find herself in a grassy field instead of the stone temple of Aesclepius. She stood slowly, unsure of where she was or even what to do.
“Xena!” Her shout was loud in the surprising silence of the pasture. She felt the first tingle of fear as she realized that she was completely and utterly alone. There were no sounds of birds in the air, no rustle of air in the trees. She couldn’t even hear Argo grazing nearby.
“I should have known you’d be trouble. Anyone who willingly travels with Xena would be a royal pain in my side.”
She whirled to face the previously unseen figure, the sound of his voice startling her. “Who are you?”
He held up his hands giving a slight shrug. “Come on Gabrielle, you’ve met some of the family. You’re a bard right?”
Confused, she nodded. “Yes.”
He stepped closer. “Then take a close look, I’m sure it’ll come to you.”
She looked at him, noting the dark leather, his deathly pale face and the golden helm on his forehead. In a flash she knew. “You’re Hades.” He nodded. “If you’re Hades then that means I’m…dead.” She looked around the pasture once more, a look of horror slowly coming over her face.
Behind her Hades chuckled. “And here I thought Xena kept you around for your looks.”
Hearing his chuckle, she turned to face the god of death once more, her fear suddenly gone. “I can’t help but feel insulted all of a sudden.”
Hades shrugged, pacing around her. “Don’t be; I’m merely stating an opinion. It bears no reflection on you whatsoever.”
Deeply annoyed and still somewhat confused by the manner of her death, Gabrielle’s defenses bristled and she crossed her arms over her chest. “If this is some kind of backwards insult against Xena, stuff it. I’ve heard about all the insults against her I can handle today.”
This stopped Hades cold. “You’ve a great deal of courage speaking to a god that way. Especially me.”
This time she chuckled as she threw her hands in the air. “I’m already dead. What can you possibly do to me?”
“I could stick you in Tartarus next to Sisyphus rolling rocks uphill and that’s just for starters. There are the harpies to tend to, the pits of despair to clean out and did I mention a three headed dog that makes a great deal of a mess all on his own? I’m sure you’d be singing a different tune after a hundred years or so.” His face darkened as he spoke, trying to intimidate her with threats.
She gave him a wry smile. She highly doubted he would carry out any of his threats. “You could but you won’t.”
He paused. “What makes you so sure of that?”
“Because I’m a bard and I’ve heard the stories. You’re honest Hades you’d never reneg on a deal or break the rules.” She gave him a self satisfied smile as she gave him a wry nod.
He snorted, true anger filling his eyes with fire. “You forget that I kidnapped Persephone and forced her to marry me.”
“Yes but then when her mother came pleading for her release, you let her go. Face it Hades, you’re an honorable god.”
Hades stood there for a moment in silence. Finally he spoke up. “So sure of that are you?”
He shook his head, ceding her the victory. “Damn. Now I can see why so many on Mount Olympus were down here badgering me about your death. Even the fates themselves stepped in.”
Again Gabrielle was confused. “Hades, what are you talking about?”
Hades saw a large rock nearby and went over to it, settling onto it with a heavy sigh before he began to explain. “The fates are adamant that now isn’t your time to die, so they’ve come to ask me to intervene.”
For a moment a flare of hope filled her heart at his words. “Intervene.”
He nodded. “Yes, I’m here to give you a choice.
“A choice?” She knew she sounded an idiot, repeating everything he said but she couldn’t seem to wrap her mind around exactly what he was saying. Of course he wasn’t exactly being straightforward about anything either.
“This would all go a lot faster if you stopped mimicking me. You’re starting to sound like a damn parrot.” Hades spoke harshly, rather annoyed by her behavior.
Gabrielle stepped closer, not willing to apologize but still needing him to start making some sense. “Sorry but it might help if I had the first clue what you’re talking about.”
Hades gazed at her for a long moment, seeming to read the confusion and uncertainty there because when he spoke again, his tone was soothing and straight to the point. “I’m sending you back.”
This took her back for a moment and she stood there looking as if someone had walked up and slapped her in the face with a fish. Finally, after several moments, she found her voice. “You’re sending me back?” He nodded. “Because the fates told you to?”
Again he nodded but held up his hands as she opened her mouth to speak again. “Yes. But before I do, there’s something you need to know, something you need to be aware of about the destiny you share with Xena.”
Confused, she could only ask. “What?”
“Before I answer, I want you to close your eyes and think of her.”
Her confusion deepened, as did her fear. “But why?”
“The dead can hear the thoughts of the living.” His tone suggesting that was all the answer she needed to here from him.
She felt another stab of fear at his request but tried to appear flippant. “Yeah so I’ve heard. What’s that got to do with me?” She really had no desire to hear the thoughts of her best friend moments after her death.
Annoyed, he grabbed her shoulders firmly, forcing her to meet his eyes. “I need you to understand what she’s feeling at this moment that she thinks you dead. I need you to hear what she’s thinking and feel what’s in her heart before you can make the choice I’m about to ask of you.” For a moment there was a flash of fear in his eyes as they implored her to do as he asked
Suddenly fearful of what could strike fear into the heart of a god, Gabrielle gave a simple nod. “What do I have to do?”
He visibly relaxed and released her shoulders. “Just close your eyes and think of Xena. Listen closely and you’ll hear Xena’s thoughts about you.”
Gabrielle shut her eyes and did as he said. At first nothing happened and then, it was as if someone opened a door inside of her head she didn’t know existed. Behind it, there was a strange sensation inside her head, a swirling vortex that called to her even as it frightened her with the intense emotions rolling from it. Gathering her courage, she pushed herself forward, concentrating as hard as she could and felt the sensation lapse as she focused on Xena’s suddenly chaotic thoughts.
Don’t you leave me! You can fight this! You’ve never been afraid of a single thing since the moment we met. Don’t you back out on me now! Don’t you leave me alone! I need you here; I can’t do this without you. I’m just not strong enough without you here. Please come back! Please wake up! Gabrielle could feel Xena’s fear the tears she was trying so hard not to shed and it nearly broke her heart. She had no idea that her death would affect her friend so profoundly.
Then, as she listened, the warrior’s thoughts faded as Xena focused her will on someone else. But, as the sound of her voice faded from Gabrielle’s mind, she heard one last statement very distinctly. I’ll come for her Hades! I’ll come for her and make you set her free! And there was enough force behind that last thought to make even Gabrielle wonder if she were really capable of the threat.
She opened her eyes to see Hades watching her closely. She felt the sting of tears fill her eyes as she realized the amount of pain her friend was in.
Hades’ face was grim as he answered the question in her eyes. “She’ll do it too, the fates have already told me she’s more than capable of doing just what she threatens. If no one was there to stop her, Xena would rip through my kingdom like a plague. I can’t show favoritism for the dead. Each is judged in their own time and to their own place. If I let Xena come down here and she forces me to send you back,” he shuddered a moment and then shook his head. “Well, lets just say it won’t be pretty.”
Hades previous floated back to Gabrielle and she looked at him confusion. “But you said it wasn’t my time to die. Her words aren’t a threat to you if you send me back.”
“But her actions in the future are. There are other ways she can throw my kingdom and the world itself into chaos. This time, this opportunity to just that, is because of your death. But she will have other moments, other opportunities and other catalysts to start her down the path of darkness once more.” His tone was desperate and Gabrielle wondered at it. What had he seen that had scared the god of the Underworld so badly?
She shook her head still needing to see the more positive aspect of this. “You don’t know that for sure.”
He sighed. “No, I don’t but the fates do. And they have seen something dark in their loom, a spot of…unrest they called it. They said it had to do with the two of you. They would tell me nothing more than that.”
Gabrielle pondered his words for several moments in silence wondering just what the fates had seen to make them come to Hades with their demands. She well knew the fates kept to themselves to avoid entanglements or conflicts while they went about the task of minding and weaving their loom. For them to come to the dark god and make demands of him was something she knew was prompted by things and events only they understood. And she was not sure she wanted to be any part of it.
Hades seemed to sense her hesitation and pressed further. “There is something more you need to be aware of.”
Gabrielle sighed loudly suddenly feeling overwhelmed by it all. “More?”
Hades nodded. “When they came to me and told me that it was not yet time for you to die, they demanded that I extract a promise from you before I sent you back.”
This surprised Gabrielle. “And what would that be?”
“Do not leave her again.” Hades met her gaze firmly as he spoke.
Shocked, Gabrielle could only gap at him. “What?”
“Do not leave Xena again.” This time there was no mistaking the firm and unbending tone in his voice.
A bit perturbed at the god’s arrogance, Gabrielle found herself suddenly defensive. “Why is it so important I stay with her?”
“Before I answer that, I must ask you a question and I need you to be honest with me.”
She shrugged. “If I can answer it, I will”
“Do you love her?”
Of all the things she had been expecting, this was not one of them. “What?” Again, she stood there shocked and feeling as if someone kept pulling the rug out from under her. She found herself wishing t would stop.
Hades repeated his question his tone demanding an answer. “Do you love her?”
She gave him an exasperating look. “I don’t know what you mean. Of course I love her, she’s my best friend.”
Her response seemed to enrage the god of death and for the first time, he stood before her and gave her a glimpse of the power he had at his command. His face darkened and he seemed to loom over her as he began speaking. “Don’t hedge with me little girl. I am the god of the underworld and you are under my domain for the moment. Your thoughts, your heart, your very soul are like an open book to me. Do you truly seek to play me for a fool knowing that?”
Shaken and a bit chastised she shook her head slowly. “No.”
Hades nodded curtly. “Then we understand one another.”
She looked at him. “Yes.”
He seemed to shrink back into himself as he asked one last time. “Then answer my question: do you love her?”
Gabrielle sighed knowing that the time had come to finally admit out loud what she had felt in her heart for a very long time. “Yes, I do.” She found herself surprised at just how easily and satisfying that admission was for her.
Hades couldn’t hide his exasperation at her admission. “If you love her, why then do you keep leaving her?”
Gabrielle snapped, angry at the god’s accusing tone and for a moment she forgot who she was speaking to. “Do you think I wanted to? It just seemed to happen. Or it seemed like something I needed to do. She never seemed to mind it either way so what should it matter now?”
Hades gave a harsh chuckle as he shook his head slowly. “You don’t realize just how powerful a hold you have over her do you? How could you have traveled with her for this long and not yet realized just how much you mean to her?”
A little perturbed, she stepped up to him, and jabbed him in the chest. “Hey its not like she’s real talkative. I can’t exactly read her mind ya know.” She turned away feeling hurt and annoyed by the entire conversation. “I swear some days I’d get more out of a deaf mute than I do her.”
Behind her, Hades gave another sigh. “Look, you once asked her to promise that she would never become a monster if something happened to you, that she would continue her fight for redemption without you. Of course that promise was asked for in the event of your death. Did you ever wonder what might happen if you were still alive?”
She turned to face him again. “Hades that makes no sense. How can she be hurt if I’m alive?”
“Because you’re not there with her, to guide her, help her, be her friend; give her the strength to stay on her path.”
Gabrielle gave a sharp laugh. “She doesn’t need me for that; she knows her path better than I do.”
“Again you fail to see your own worth. Xena herself has just admitted that she can’t continue on without you, that she doesn’t have the strength to do it. And we both know she’s not talking just about the fight for the greater good. Has she ever given you a reason to doubt her?”
Gabrielle shook her head, her voice very quiet. “No.”
“Gabrielle, if she can’t keep fighting without you because you’re dead, how can she go on if you’re alive but not with her?”
Gabrielle pondered that for a moment. Could it be true? Could Xena really care about her that much? If she left Xena, would the warrior simply give up her fight? She never thought it possible. But if what Hades was saying was true, then she was a source of strength for her friend. That was something she had never thought possible. “I never thought of it that way.”
Hades pressed her again. “The fates have told me enough about the future to grab my attention. You can’t leave her again.”
Frustrated she snapped at him. “Hades, I can’t make a promise like that. How can I ever keep it? I am eventually going to die after all.”
“Gabrielle, I know that. Perhaps better than you.”
She chuckled slightly. “Yeah you would.”
Hades tried once last time. “All I’m asking for is that you everything in your power to stay with her.”
Gabrielle pondered his words a moment more before giving her answer. “All I can promise is that I will never willingly leave her.”
This seemed to satisfy the god and he nodded. “Then that’s good enough for me. But keep in mind that if you break this oath to me, it may not be you that pays the price of it.” He held out his hand and she grasped it firmly.
She felt a huge wave of power flow down his arm and into hers, infusing her body with tingling warmth that bordered on being painful. She gasped loudly, her eyes closing against it as a strange lethargy overcame her. In the next instant, she felt herself sliding back into her body as something solid and strong struck her chest.
She gave a great coughing gasp, her eyes flying open as she suddenly found herself lying in Xena’s arms in the temple. The warrior looked down at her in shock and joy and she was surprised to see tears in Xena’s eyes. Then the pain of her injuries hit her once more and she found her self dazed and unsure of just what she had gone through. But the joy on Xena’s face was unmistakable and she let her friend’s smile anchor her as she gained her balance. There would be plenty of time later to ponder just what had happened to her and plenty of time to wonder at the implications of it.
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