Disclaimer: The characters in this story: Xena, Gabrielle and Eve, are the property of Renaissance Pictures and Universal MCA. This story is not meant to infringe upon their rights or the rights of the actors who portray them. Also, any part of the Stand By You series is not to be copied, whole or in part, without the author's permission, and is not to be copied for public use or for profit.
Stand By You-Part 4
Written By: Caina Q. Fuller
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"Let's do this thing."
This brought laughter from Apollo, instead of fear. He shook his head at this mere mortal that would dare challenge him this way.
"I swear," Apollo said through his laughter. "You are one hell of a woman Gabrielle."
"Oh, you'll see Hell alright. Sooner than you think."
Gabrielle charged and the fight was on, but it only took her seconds to put a nasty cut on Apollo's sword arm. He yelped in both surprise and pain and backpedaled away from her, nearly tripping over his own feet. Apollo wiped a finger through the immortal blood pouring from the first wound he'd ever had and stared at it in horror, then shifted his gaze to the razor sharp edge of Gabrielle's weapon. His godly vision allowed him to see that inlaid into the well-crafted metal was the unmistakable glint of bone. He didn't need anyone to tell him the bone in question was from his own grandfather, Cronus. Gabrielle's men cheered when they saw their beloved leader wound a god. Damn, but they were proud of her!
"What is this?" One could almost pity the child-like fear in Apollo's voice. That is, if they didn't know the horrible crime he'd committed that brought him to this moment.
"It's called justice Apollo," Gabrielle answered. For the first time in months she was enjoying herself. Pity that her idea of fun nowadays was killing someone, but when a woman has been raped and forced to give life to an unwanted child, well, opinions and views changed.
"A new concept for you I'm sure. Shame you won't live long enough to learn that even Hell has no fury like a woman scorned." Oh, that was good, Gabrielle thought. "Huron, remind me to write that one down before I forget."
Huron bowed his head and laughed with the other men. "Sure thing Gabrielle."
The only one not enjoying this little game seemed to be Apollo, because even Xena and Eve had mild smiles on their faces that they tried desperately to hide.
"I'm sure we can work something out Gabrielle," Apollo said in fear. For the first time he was facing a warrior in battle on even footing. In this battle, the price of losing wasn't just his pride, but his very life.
Gabrielle's smile turned to disgust. "Don't beg Apollo. You don't want to go out looking like the coward you really are, I'm sure."
Gabrielle was on him in seconds. They fought bitterly but for different reasons. Gabrielle fought for vengeance and her honor. Apollo fought just to stay alive.
Trying to recover from his display of momentary weakness, Apollo resorted, or tried to resort, to intimidation. "I'm still a god Gabrielle. You'll get tired way before I will, and then I'll kill you."
Now it was Xena's turn to step in. "Over my dead body. We both know that's not gonna happen."
Apollo charged Gabrielle again, a scream of rage tearing loose from his massive chest. How dare this mortal humiliate him! How dare she make him feel helpless and vulnerable. Gabrielle saw the move coming and she kicked his sword from his hand, spun and put a nasty gash across his right leg. Apollo fell hard and almost before he could so much as cry out on pain Gabrielle had her blade to his throat. Eve stepped forward, about to take up for Apollo, but Gabrielle would hear none of it.
"Can it Eve."
Gabrielle looked down at Apollo like a cat with a helpless mouse caught between her paws and grinned wickedly at him, relishing her moment of revenge.
"I've been waiting for this moment for three months."
Apollo had one last resort to save his life, and that was to play upon Gabrielle's abundant sense of pity. "Have mercy. Please, I beg you"
Unfortunately for him the warrior Bard was all out. "Sure, sure. I'm going to have all the mercy on you that you had on me."
If Apollo was pale before, he was white as a sheet now. This was it. Gabrielle drew her sword back. "When you get to Hell, tell Athena we say hello."
Gabrielle plunged the sword into Apollo's gut and he stared into her eyes with the purest form of hatred she'd ever seen. The mighty Apollo hadn't been taken down by the great Xena as the rest of his family had, but by her little blond sidekick, his most prized victim. He'd begged for mercy and she'd heartlessly struck him down. Now he would face the same uncertainty of death all mortals faced at the end of their lives.
He slumped back, hitting the ground like a sack of grain and breathed his last breath. As seemed to be the formula when a god died, the heaven's became dark and the Earth herself trembled at his loss. Gabrielle's army cheered her name when the clouds passed by, but Xena only stared at her with sadness and disappointment.
Gabrielle had played this moment in her mind every day and night since that fateful day the two met on the deserted road. In each scenario she saw Apollo die, and with the passing of his soul from this world to the next, so would her pain and anger pass with it. Now she saw that was not the case. Instead of the peace and happiness she'd known before this nightmare had begun, Gabrielle felt oddly empty, as if she were nothing more than a jar, waiting to be filled.
Gabrielle looked up at Xena. Slowly, the empty jar of her soul began to fill with rage instead of peace. All of this was happening because of the woman that stood before her now. How she hated Xena.
"You! This is all your fault!"
Instinctively taking up for her mother, Eve stepped forward. "Gabrielle, this is no one's fault but Apollo's. Now he's dead and-"
"Shut up! I'm sick and tired of you always preaching!"
Gabrielle held the business end of her sword up to Xena, the anger inside seeming to grow more and more with each passing moment. How much could she stand before she exploded? She had to do something to work out this rage. She had to purge herself of it somehow.
Xena tried to wrap Gabrielle in an embrace but she only pushed Xena away angrily. "Gabrielle, let mehelp you."
"Why should I? You weren't there to help me when I needed you most! What did you come here for Xena?"
"To tell you that no matter what happens I'll be your friend. I'll stand by you. Always."
"Yeah, well, I don't need you to stand by me Xena. I can get through this just fine on my own. We have different missions in life now, and I'm afraid they conflict."
"What missions are those?" Eve asked.
"I'm going to become the Destroyer of Nations, and Xena is going to become the only warrior who can stop me. If she dares. Don't follow me Xena. If you do, someone innocent will pay for it."
"I'm afraid I can't just let you leave like this."
"Oh really? We'll just see about that. Huron, cut the boys throat."
Huron took his dagger and placed it back at the young guards throat. The fear in the boys eyes was so intense that for a moment Gabrielle felt a sliver of her old conscience. Apparently ones sense of right and wrong didn't die easily, but she forced it to the background. She had to get away from Xena if her plans were going to work.
Xena's conscience was alive and kicking however. She held her hands up in surrender. "Alright Gabrielle. You win. I won't follow, you have my word."
Please, Gabrielle thought, rolling her eyes. How many times had she heard that lie told to other's before? "Xena, do you think I just met you yesterday? I know you. When you decide to go after someone your word means nothing."
"No Gabrielle. I won't follow. Just let the boy go."
"In time. Move out boys! We have work to do."
As the rest of her men galloped away, Gabrielle mounted her own horse, never taking her eyes off Xena, who'd tragically become her former friend. "In case you're wondering Xena...I have a mission in mind."
"And what's that?"
Gabrielle's beautiful green eyes sparkled icy cold. "I'm going to be the Destroyer of Nations."
Gabrielle rode away, leaving Xena behind with a heavy heart. It seemed to Xena that no matter what she tried to do to help Gabrielle since all this began, she only succeeded in alienating her even more.
"She doesn't just hate Apollo or herself Eve, she hates me. She's going to do something to try and hurt me. Only innocent people are going to die in the process."
"Mother, you two got through to me, we can get through to Gabrielle. It's not too late to save her."
Xena wasn't so sure. Even when Perdicus died Gabrielle hadn't had this kind of hate filling her heart and soul. She'd been able to find it within herself to spare Callisto's life then, but now, Gabrielle had no mercy left to give. Not to anyone. She was a killer of innocent life now, and Xena had seen in Gabrielle's eyes she had every intention of further staining herself with even more innocent blood until no part of her was left clean. What hurt Xena the most was the knowledge that Gabrielle was right to blame her. it was all her fault.
The stars dotted the night sky like diamonds on a velvet pillow. How Gabrielle used to love a clear night sky, when she lay beside Xena, listening to the slow even sound of her friends breathing as she slept. She would sometimes wrap Xena's hand in hers until she got it just right, and Gabrielle could feel the rhythm of her companion's heart. No matter what was going on in her life at the time, that clear night sky, Xena's even breathing and slow pulse all combined to sing a lullaby that carried her away into the sweetest of dreams...
Now she had the sky, but the warm body and soul of her dear friend was long gone from her, and she was alone. Would she ever lie in the night, holding Xena's hand again? Would she ever spend the last few moment's of consciousness studying the unearthly beauty of her soul-mates face? Would she ever know the comfort one couldn't help but feel knowing the Warrior Princess was by your side...forever?
"No," she said softly, sadly.
A cool breeze caressed the bare skin of Gabrielle's swollen belly and arms. Her tent was so hot she'd decided to come to her special place on the ridge overlooking her camp. With the exception of the look outs, the men that had somehow become her children, slept peacefully, trusting her to take care of them. It was an awesome responsibility, but she didn't mind.
That was the problem wasn't it? She didn't mind anything at all. She wanted-no-she needed to FEEL something. Anything good would be welcome to her now, but there was nothing. Unlike she had with Hope, Gabrielle felt no bond with the child that grew within her. Even the bond she had been forming with her army before she avenged the heinous crime Apollo committed against her was just...gone. Every feeling she called good had vanished and nothing was left but hurt, anger, rage and oddly enough, lust.
Before she'd met Huron she honestly believed she would never fall in love with a man again. She had been right, she would never love again, not after what Apollo had done, but whenever he was near the smell of him, the sound of his voice, the feel of his heavy yet gentle hand upon her shoulder kindled within her a fire of pure desire that rivaled her rage.
Perhaps she felt this way for him because he was everything Apollo had never been, and everything she remembered Perdicus as being. Everything Xena was. He was a ruthless killer, true, and when they took Mende, their first village, tomorrow, Gabrielle knew he would kill
without remorse, but when he was with her, Huron transformed into the man of her dreams. He had everything she could want in a companion; looks, spirit and intelligence. Yet the one thing Gabrielle was drawn to was the fact that she knew he loved her. In his soul where it counted. She just hoped he had enough love for both of them, because she no longer seemed able to feel anything that mattered any more.
"Gabrielle. I hope I didn't startle you."
"I heard your footsteps Huron."
Huron pulled back a strand of loose hair before it could get into Gabrielle's eye. Oh, those hands of his. As usual his masculine scent filled her being with it's sweet perfume. Gabrielle didn't want to do this. She shouldn't...
"Huron, we um... We'd better-"
"-make the best of our time together. Why waste the days, and the nights, the Fates have given us?"
The inmost reaches of Gabrielle's body flooded with hot desire. How she needed this. If Huron pulled her to him, she wouldn't resist him again. It was rare she felt anything but pain anymore, so why deny herself the pleasures this life she'd made with him had to offer?
Huron pulled Gabrielle to him in a desperate embrace. His passion matched her own but could never exceed it. When he lay her gently on the thick carpet of soft grass, Gabrielle looked up at the glistening stars and knew she once again had a warm body and soul to share with the clear night skies of her future...
Gabrielle had always known the village of Mende as Potidea's next door neighbor. Growing up, she had looked forward to the monthly trips with her father to sell and trade their wares, and to buy the occasional surprise gift for her mother and sister. Somehow her father had always managed to sneak in something for her as well, though she watched him like a hawk to see if she could catch him at it. Even on their last trip together, only a week before Xena had came into her life and changed it forever, she had tried her best to see him sneak something off the shelf for her, but to her delight she'd failed and he'd surprised her with a brand new scroll.
Those happy days were long gone. Now all she had were memories that were mysteriously void of the happiness they should have held for her. What she wouldn't give to be able to remember what joy felt like, or the way her heart would race beneath her breast at that first glance of Xena's face after even the shortest separation. Now there was never a time, even in it's smallest measurement, when she could catch sight of a spark of happiness or love.
I'm becoming the wretched creature I'd always hoped I would never be, Gabrielle thought to herself as she listened to the excited breathing of her army behind her. They were ready to ride against the village that sat so peacefully below her, and she was ready to lead them. By this days end the village that held so many fond memories for her would lie in burning ruins, and it would all be from her commands.
Gabrielle's General, and now lover, Huron rode up next to her with fire in his soulful brown eyes. Even with the taste of his kiss still upon her lips she found herself strangely apathetic to the memories of their night of passion before. She could tell by his somber expression he knew she was feeling nothing warm for him, and he was visibly hurt. How could a man feel so much and yet do the brutal things he did to so many innocent souls? She wondered. She shook herself from her thoughts, and turned her horse to face the two hundred men behind her. It was time to think of battle and the beginning of her empire, not useless feelings. The air was still and quiet, and she knew her voice would carry to every ear.
"Men! Today we begin our campaign to conquer the world!"
The men cheered her, but Gabrielle quickly silenced them. She was anxious to get the attack underway before Xena discovered their real trail and did something to interfere with her plans. They could have a pep rally at the next raid.
"Silence! Mende has grown since I was here last, to twice her former size. We have, however, the element of surprise in our favor. We will sell the women and children to Hagar of Crete."
"And the men? What do we do with the men?" One of her soldiers asked, all but salivating at the hope she would give orders to kill. She wouldn't disappoint him.
"Show them no mercy."
Her army didn't cheer quite as loudly, sensing she was not in the mood for it, but they did laugh and all but danced in their saddles, ready to move. Gabrielle took up position next to Huron and nodded, then drew her sword for every one of her men to see. It was time to swoop down on the village like black death and leave nothing behind.
"Take the village!"
Rain poured down from the heavens in torrents, as if determined to drown Xena and Eve in it's anger at the loss of another of her gods. The Warrior Princess shivered but kept moving until finally, mercifully, she spotted a temple in the distance. She and Eve rode quickly to it and brought Argo in for shelter.
Once inside they were able to identify this as a temple to Athena. Because there was no need to pay tribute to a dead god, the place had been abandoned. A light film of dust had settled over every surface and spider webs began to emerge from the corners, but the shrine itself was perfectly intact. Eve examined it as Xena removed Argo's saddle. And wiped her faithful horse down.
"This is welcome relief to the heat we've been having isn't it?" Xena asked her daughter, trying to start a conversation. The silence between them since they last saw Gabrielle had grown so loud it was beginning to drive Xena insane. Finally the she went over to Eve, to find her drawing a fish symbol into the dust on the altar.
"Funny we should find shelter in the former home of a goddess who once tried to hard to kill us."
Xena could sense something was wrong with her child. A certain heaviness to her voice. "What's the matter?"
"A few things."
"Wanna tell Mother what they are?"
Eve looked up at Xena with a frown on her beautiful face, and for a moment Xena could see so much of Callisto in her it was frightening. That had been happening a lot lately, and Xena doubted she would ever get used to it. Eve's "father" showed through at the most unexpected moments. Sometimes Eve would lean her head a certain way, say something in a certain tone or even walk with a certain gait and those simple actions would almost literally transform her into Callisto. On more than one occasion Gabrielle herself had made mention of it.
"I just don't understand you. I would have thought that after everything you've been through with Gabrielle you would have gone after Apollo yourself. Instead you do everything you can to hold Gabrielle back. Why?"
Xena had been waiting for this question, though she'd asked it to herself on more than one occasion.
"I've been wrestling with that myself. You think I didn't want to choke the life out of that bastard when I learned what he'd done to Gabrielle? I did. But I wasn't nearly as concerned about Apollo I was about Gabrielle. I know what can happen to someone that becomes bent on revenge. Take us for... After what Apollo Gabrielle through I didn't want her to try and deal with vengeance on top of it all."
Xena paced before her daughter, collecting her thoughts. How could she tell Eve that sometimes the right thing to do was not to kill in revenge but forgive, when she herself was guilty of the same sin on more than one occasion? Xena had spent most of her youth as a blood thirsty savage, trying to look for ways to make the entire world pay for her brother's death and her lost blood innocence. If only she'd had someone to take her in then and stop her from trying to find vengeance and redemption through the sword.
"I thought you of all people would understand that killing the one that wronged you doesn't make the hurt go away, but adds to it instead."
Eve sighed and her shoulders slumped. Xena's baby suddenly looked tired and aged beyond her years. "I do Mom. It's just this is all such a mess. Gabrielle is out there somewhere killing innocent people and we're here, hiding in a temple doing nothing. I just feel so helpless and weak!"
"I know you do, but we're not "doing nothing" Evie. I've arranged for a meeting with King Gabriel."
Eve frowned. "Yeah? How did you manage that without my knowing?"
"I have many skills," Xena said, leaning into Eve. What she wouldn't give to put a smile on her little girls face.
"I've heard that."
"Right. Let's get some sleep huh? We have a big day tomorrow."
Eve let her mother prepare the bedrolls for them to sleep, but she knew it would be a long time before she got any rest this night. There was just too much to think about.
Careful not to wake her mother, Eve tiptoed over to the main doors of the temple, then stepped out into the cool night air. Xena had built a raging fire in the hearth of the main room but Eve found it uncomfortably hot. She had always preferred the cool over the warm, and winter had always been her favorite season of the year.
Finding shelter under the overhang of the roof, Eve removed crumbling pottery from a niche in the wall beside the main doors. She curled up, finding she fit comfortably inside, and the curvature of the wall protected her back and sides from the blowing wind and rain. Not that she minded the occasional sprinkle of rain, cool and clean on her face. As she had so often as a child, Eve leaned forward into the rain, mouth open, and caught the crisp refreshing water on her thirsty tongue.
She closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of nature around her. Sometimes she was amazed at how something as violent and potentially deadly as a thunderstorm could relax and inspire such a feeling of peace within. Eve could think of nothing better to help her drift off to sleep than a good down pour, such as this.
As Eve began to relax into the calmest corners of her soul, her mind began to fill with images she wasn't able to understand, but had followed her since that magical moment in Eli's temple when she'd not only seen, but relived, the happiest moments of her life with Xena before their abrupt separation. How she longed to experience that again, and how she cherished every day she had with her mother now. The memories of her mother and grandmother holding her brought a smile to her face and she was filled with warmth at the sound of Gabrielle's loving voice recounting the amazing adventures of her and Xena's life together before her birth...
...before her birth...
A new memory came into focus. Eve was sure she was seeing a memory because it all felt so familiar, in a dark way, instead of being something she saw only with her minds eye. In this new memory, Gabrielle stood before her in a cave full of sleeping men, a sword held high, ready to strike her down. Her "Aunt", as she sometimes called Gabrielle, was much different in this image than anything she'd ever seen since Gabrielle had come back into her life. She was younger with long, reddish hair and cheeks still puffed out with baby fat. She wore an expression of the purest hurt. At the last moment, Gabrielle put the sword down, sparing her life.
Eve sat up, fully awake. All of the tranquility of before now gone. What had happened? Where, or from whom, did this memory come from? What did it mean? Should she tell Xena?
The answer seemed to come from a source outside of herself, and if there was one thing Eve had learned from her mother since they'd been reunited it was to trust what her instincts told her. Now they were urging her to hold on to this. Perhaps, if she were patient, this could lead to the solution to Gabrielle's current situation.
Or perhaps not.
"Only time will tell," she whispered to herself.
Now the wind blew with a bite too sharp for even Eve's love of cold to bear, and she opened the door to go inside. She cast one last glance at the raging night sky, and before her eyes, almost as if by plan, the clouds parted and the moon peaked out at her from behind. A good omen as far as Eve was concerned. She allowed herself a smile at the feeling of peace she felt come over her, and stepped back into the warmth of the temple. A small glimmer of hope took root that she just might find a way to put Gabrielle back on the path of the good, with the light of her and Xena's love to illuminate her way.
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