The Longer Journey Continues

David E. Milligan


Part Two


As Ares and Gabrielle appeared on the side of Mt Fuji, Xena was waiting. As a sudden gust of winter wind hit Gabrielle, she fell forward, but Xena was there to catch her.

As she carried Gabrielle to the Fountain, Gabrielle looked up at her, not believing her eyes, "Xena?" she asked weakly. "Is it really you?"

"It’s me." Xena answered setting her down at the Fountain. And cupping her hand to scoop the water she told Gabrielle to drink.  Three more times she gave her water. As Gabrielle grew stronger, Xena placed her broken hand into the Fountain, and then tenderly washed the blood from Gabrielle’s head, letting the healing waters do their job healing the gashes there.

"Oh Xena! I can’t believe we're back together!"  Gabrielle cried as she held Xena in an embrace she never wanted to let go of.  Together the two women clung to each other, feeling the love and exhilaration of finding each other again. As they slowly released the other, each ran their hands over the hair and face and arms of the other, looking into each other’s eyes as if there was nothing else on earth.

Gabrielle stood on her toes as Xena leaned down, and their lips met, softly at first, then with more intensity.  Slowly their lips parted, briefly, and with one more tender kiss they backed away. Then Gabrielle was in Xena’s arms again, holding onto to her desperately, afraid of losing her again.

"I’m never leaving you again, you know that, don’t you, Xena?"

Xena smiled, but didn’t answer.

Another gust of frigid wind blasted the two, but only Gabrielle could feel the bitter cold. It was then that she realized she was wearing the coat Meg had given her. Further investigation revealed that not only did she have both sais, but also the Chakram, and the breast knife Abrias had given her, nestled snugly where it was supposed to be. The only thing missing was the broken vial, but with Xena with her it didn’t seem that important any more.

Gabrielle took out the breast knife and Xena looked at it with more than a little interest. "That’s nice." She said to Gabrielle. "Mind if I look at it?"

Gabrielle handed it to Xena, who hefted it, checking its weight and feeling its balance.

"Not bad. A little light for my tastes, but probably just about right for you. A gift from some special someone?"

Gabrielle smiled, "You might say that." And she slipped it back into its safe harbor.

For a while nothing much important was said, both were just content to be with the other. But eventually the talk turned to more serious things. "But I’m here now," Gabrielle was saying. "Why can’t you come back with me?"

"Gabrielle, the only reason you can see me, and touch me, is because I’m here, on this mountain. I’m tied here because this is where I destroyed Yodoshi. If I leave then I’m only a spirit. Don’t you remember when I came to you while you were on the river bank?"

"I thought it was just my conscience talking to me."

"No. It was me. That was the only way I could get through to you, using your own thoughts. And then while you were locked in the cell. When I spoke to Ares, only he could hear me."

"But If you can’t leave with me, then I’ll just stay here with you."

"For how long? Sooner or later the soldiers will come looking for you."

"Let them. If they kill me, then we’ll be together forever."

"No, Gabrielle, it can't work like that. You have too much to live for."

"Xena, without you I have NOTHING to live for. Besides, Archangel Michael said I would find a way to redeem your soul and get you back into your body."

"Yes, I know. I heard what he said, through you. But Gabrielle, I don't trust him. Too many times he’s tried to manipulate me for his own purposes."

"But he was only following the orders of Eli’s God."

"Maybe so, but I still don’t like his way of doing things.  And speaking of those who do things their own way, I wonder what happened to Ares."

"I don’t know. Was he here?"

"Only long enough to bring you. Then he disappeared."

"Maybe he went back to Greece." Gabrielle suggested.

"No, he’s still here, I can feel him. He’s here somewhere."

"You’re right. I can feel him too, when I try."

Xena looked curiously at Gabrielle.

"I know." Gabrielle said. "Ares was as surprised as you are, as I am. I told him I thought it was the Chakram, maybe I was right."

Just then Ares flashed in.  "Hey!  I LIKE this place! It’s even better than Mt. Olympus. I feel, I don’t know, ALIVE!"

"Maybe it’s the cold mountain air,’ Xena suggested.

"Oh, it’s more than that.  It’s like I’ve been half asleep all this time. Whatever it is, I want more of it!  So, is our Little Warrior back to her old self?"

"Yes, Ares, I am." Gabrielle answered. "And I guess I should thank you, so - Thank You."

"That’s it? All I get is a lousy thanks. I think the least I should get is maybe - a kiss, or a hug, or both? Something!"

"Fine," Gabrielle said with resignation, "How about a hug?"

"From you? I don’t think so." Ares said turning to Xena. "So how about it?"

"Sure, why not?" Xena said with the same resignation in her voice.

As they started to embrace, Xena jumped back as if hit by lightning.

"What?" Ares said, as startled as Xena.

"Ares! You’ve got to get away from here -- off this mountain! You’ve got to go back to Greece! Anywhere! Just GO!"

"What are you talking about? I just got here. Why would I want to leave?"

"Don’t you know? That feeling you said you’re getting - it’s Yodoshi! He’s infecting you! If you don’t leave now you’ll be just as evil he was. And with the powers you already have, you may be even worse. Can’t you understand? You’ve got to get away from here! And the sooner the better!"

"I don’t know, Xena, I kind of like it here. I told you, I feel good, better than good, I feel GREAT!"

"Ares, listen to me...."

"I’ve heard enough. I’m not going anywhere. Not for a while. You’ve got your little friend back, thanks to ME. Now just leave me alone. I’ve got things to do."

Before Xena could say anything more, Ares flashed out.

"Xena, how could this happen? I thought Lord Yodoshi was dead, destroyed."

"Gabrielle, evil like that is not always completely destroyed. Sometimes it stays hidden, waiting for the right opportunity.  You just don’t realize how evil Yodoshi was. Even I didn’t understand it until I became a spirit. The only thing I can compare it to is Dahak. Don’t you remember how it felt when you were in his power?"

"That’s something I’d rather forget if it’s all the same to you."

"Then you know what I’m talking about. Somehow Ares is becoming a vessel for Yodoshi.  If I can’t convince him to leave before it’s too late, then he’ll have to be stopped, one way or another."

"What are we going to do?" Gabrielle asked.

"I don’t know, Gabrielle. I just don’t know." Xena paused then said, "Gabrielle, I have to leave you for a while."

"No! No, Xena. You’re not leaving me."

"I have to. I need to know what Ares is up to. I won’t be gone long, I promise."

"So what am I supposed to do?"

"Just try to stay out of sight. I’m sure by now soldiers are coming this way. Just stay hidden. I’ll be back soon."

Xena gave Gabrielle a quick hug and then vanished. Gabrielle took another drink from the Fountain of Strength and then climbed a little higher up the mountain to a perch that allowed her to better see anyone who might be coming. Slowly the sun set and the temperature dropped drastically.  Gabrielle snuggled down behind a boulder out of the wind, thanking Meg again for the warm coat.

The next morning when Gabrielle awoke Xena still hadn’t returned. "Too bad Xena didn’t think to have Ares bring some food when he got my clothes."  Gabrielle was starting to get really hungry again. The Fountain of Strength could only supply so much for so long; eventually she would have to eat.

The sun was starting to show over the peak of the mountain, midday, when Xena finally returned.  "Well? You were gone long enough. What’s with Ares?"

"Nothing good, I’m afraid. Yodoshi’s spirit has already done the damage.  Ares is not himself anymore. I’ve never seen him like this. He is pitting allies against allies, brother against brother just to see them slaughter each other."

"He’s not devouring their souls, or anything, is he?"

"No. Not yet anyway. But who knows what he may end up doing. I’ve got to find some way to stop him, even if it means I have to... even if It means I have to kill him."

"The Kutana?"

"No, it won’t work this time, there is too much of the Olympians in him. I’m not even sure if the Chakram could do it."


"Xena. It’s good to see you again."

Xena and Gabrielle spun around at the voice behind them.

"Michael!" They said at the same time.

"Gabrielle," he said, "I see you found Xena. Somehow I knew you would."

"Whadda ya want?" Xena said with hostility in her voice.

"Just thought I’d drop by to see how everything was."

"No," Xena said. "I know you better than that. You’re up to something. What is it?"

"Well, now that you mention it, there is a small problem that seems to have come up. It’s this thing with Ares and Yodoshi."

"I knew it!" Xena said with the satisfaction of being right. "What about them?"

"Well, it seems that my -- Boss, is getting a little worried that Ares and his new-found evil spirit may be considering expanding his territory. He may want to try to take over the known world.  And then there’s the concern that he may try to form an alliance with Lucifer. Which would mean that in the battle of Good versus Evil  they  would have the upper hand, which would not be a good thing for either heaven or earth."

"So what am I supposed to do about it? Once I away from this mountain, I have very little power."

"We’re very aware of your limitations. Therefore we have prepared a contract that you might be interested in."

"Go on."

"In exchange for returning you to your body, AND for returning the power to kill gods, you must agree to eradicate Ares."

"But what about all those souls?" Gabrielle asked.

"The redemption of their souls is a simple task for the God of Eli. That is the very least of the problem. So, Xena. Do we have a deal?"

"Now, let me get this straight. You will bring me back from the dead into my body, I will have the power to kill gods again, and you want me to hunt down and dispose of Ares."

"That’s the deal. Not too different from when we sent you to kill Caligula."

"What about Gabrielle?"

"What about her? She’ll still be with you, if you want to risk her getting killed while you battle Ares."

"I’ll take the risk." Gabrielle said with no hesitation. "We’re going to stay together, whatever happens."

"It’s up to you, Xena."

Xena looked at Gabrielle, weighing the pros and cons. Did she really want to risk Gabrielle’s life?  "No matter what he says, I don’t think Ares would kill Gabrielle," Xena told him.

"Maybe not, but innocent bystanders are killed all the time. It’s one of the facts of war. And believe me, this will be war." Michael said.

"Gabrielle, are you sure?" Xena asked.

"Where you go, I go."

"All right, Michael, we have a deal." Xena put out her hand. Michael smiled the kind of smile that made Xena suspicious, but she shook his hand anyway to seal the bargain.

"Just one more thing," Michael said. "Once Ares realizes you are mortal again and are trying to kill him, he’ll be coming after you, you and Gabrielle. You might not want to let him know you have that power until the actual moment you do him in. It might make things a little easier."

Xena was silent for a short while, thinking, then she asked, "So when is all this supposed to happen -- freeing the souls and restoring me to my body?"

"It’s already been done. Those souls have already found their redemption, and you are just as mortal as Gabrielle is. Of course you also have the power to kill gods."

"And archangels as well?" Xena asked with an wicked smirk on her face.

Michael began rising skyward, "We have an agreement, Xena. Just be sure to keep your end of the bargain; we’ve already fulfilled ours."

As soon as Michael was out of sight, Gabrielle turned to Xena, holding out the Chakram to her. "I guess you’ll be wanting this back." She said.

"No, not really. Why don’t you hang on to it for a while? It looks good on you."

"Are you sure?" Gabrielle asked, not believing Xena was serious.

"Positive. If I need it, I know where it is."

"Well, okay." Gabrielle said, still a little unsure, and put it back on its hook. "So! Do you have a plan?"

Xena slowly withdrew her sword from the scabbard and ran her thumb along its edge.  "I’ll just call Ares out, and when he shows up, you distract him and I’ll take care of the rest."

"Sounds pretty simple."

"The best plans always are."

"When do you want to do this?"

"Now’s a good a time as any. ARES!  A R E S ! !"

In a bright flash of light, Ares appeared. "What is it? I do have things to do, you know."

Gabrielle took Ares by the elbow and turned him away from Xena. "I was wondering how this Fountain of Strength is going to figure in with your plans to take over the world."

"What?! What kind of stupid question...?"

Just then Xena struck Ares across the side of his head with the flat of her sword, knocking him to the ground. Before he could recover Xena was standing over him, straddling his chest, the point of her sword at the base of his neck. Ares put his hand to his head and brought down bloody fingers.

"What in Tartarus is going on?" He asked with uncertainty in his voice. "What are doing, Xena?"

"I told you to leave this mountain. I told you. But, no. You wouldn't listen to me. Why don’t people listen to me?  You’re too far gone, Ares. You can’t be allowed to begin your bloody reign of terror. You have to die."

Confused, Ares touched his head wound again, then it dawned on him. "You’re mortal again. And you have to power to kill gods again. But how?’

"The God of Eli." Gabrielle told him. "Remember? I told you about his power."

Ares looked back at Xena. "You’re not really going to do this, are you?"

"I have to. I have no choice. I made a deal with Michael. It has to be done, and I’m the one to do it."

Ares laid back flat on the ground, trying to get away from the point of the sword, but Xena kept it at his throat. She pushed on it, and a small trickle of blood ran down Ares’ neck onto the ground. As Xena and Ares locked eyes, Gabrielle waited for Xena to finish the job. But Xena only stood over him, not moving.

"What are you waiting for?" Gabrielle asked her. "Do it, Xena. Finish him!."

But Xena only stood and stared at Ares.

Gabrielle put her hand on Xena’s upper arm. "Xena?" Under her fingers Gabrielle could feel Xena’s rock-hard muscles quivering as if she were fighting herself, trying to force the tip of the sword into Ares’ neck, and at the same time trying desperately not to.

Then the quivering became more intense. Suddenly Xena's arms were visibly shaking. Her grip on the handle of the sword loosened and at that instant Ares slapped the sword from Xena’s hands, and in a fiery flash was gone.  Xena stared at her hands as if she didn’t know what had happened.

"I - I couldn’t do it." She whispered. "I couldn’t kill him."

"What happened?" Gabrielle asked. "Why couldn't you?"

Then as if a fog had lifted, Xena looked at Gabrielle. "I owe him."

"What? Owe him?" Gabrielle asked, confused.

"Yes! I owe him, for you, and for Eve. He sacrificed his godhood to save your lives. It’s a debt I can never repay. I’ll owe him for that forever."

Gabrielle wanted to answer, but didn’t know what to say.

Then from behind them a familiar voice rang out. "Xena! I thought we had a deal! So what happened?"

As they turned to face Michael, Gabrielle said with a touch of anger and annoyance, "Do you always have to sneak up behind people like that?"

Ignoring Gabrielle, Michael repeated himself, "So what happened, Xena? You said you’d kill him. But you didn’t."

"I don’t know. I guess I just froze."

"Well, now he’s back on Mt. Olympus. That’s where his power is, that’s where he’s the strongest. So what do we do now since it’s obvious we got the wrong person?"

"No. I can do it, I swear.  I just need another chance."

"No, Xena, I don’t think you can. I think your feelings for Ares are just too strong."

"Feelings? What are you talking about?"

"It’s no secret that you and Ares have this love / hate thing going. You say you hate him, but when it comes right down to it, to care too much for him to kill him.  I guess we’ll just have to put things back like they were and then find someone else. Maybe Hercules."

"You’re wrong." Xena said, with the strength of the old Xena in her voice. "I can kill Ares. Send Gabrielle and me to Mt. Olympus and I promise you, the next time we meet, Ares will DIE!"



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