Disclaimer: Characters from the television show Xena: Warrior Princess are not owned by me, to my regret. This is written purely for enjoyment with no thought to monetary gain. There are women in love (eventually, as Gabrielle is a bit miffed) and if that is illegal for you or where you live, move on or simply move.

Post FIN, I guess, though I have kept specific references to a minimum.

Mail is always answered and appreciated at Kamouraskan@yahoo.com

My website is at http://dreamcatching.netfirms.com/kam/index.htm

Thanks for corrections and encouragement to the members of the Bardic Circle and Tavern Wall, especially Extra, Jaden, Dawn, JLynn, Jordon Falconer, and Sue. More thanks to Claudia, Morgane, and for rereading this countless times, Abardreader. And my thanks as always, to the great Mary Morgan.

When In Rome

By Kamouraskan


Gabrielle wrenched herself away from the swirling darkness that comprised the vision of Xena and family, to see a glowing light-filled passage appearing beside her. She was slightly surprised to find that her tears had already dried. Perhaps such things were only for mortals. So she turned towards the light, thrusting aside an inner conflict that for some reason she could no longer understand, seemed to be fighting the giddy anticipation of this new challenge and new life.

The luminous passage began to consolidate into an archway of the finest marble, of a towering height and gleaming in a manner that the finest Roman architects could only have wept to see. Beneath it, Ares waited, clad in armour that shone as brightly as the marble. There was a thrumming that was vibrating throughout her body and as she stared at him, so casually waiting for her, it seemed as though she was pulsing in tune with him. She was intimately aware of his allure and she found herself being drawn towards him.

She closed her eyes for a moment, forcing down a desire to run to him in eagerness. Ares seemed to recognise that she was resisting him but only smiled.

She raised her arm, somewhat surprised to discover she was still clad in the grubby German tribal attire, and pointed beyond the archway, asking, “ Olympus ?”

“Why not?” he replied with studied carelessness. “I was considering moving out from under the family, but what would you like?”

She drew on her memories of another poet. “Which never storms disturb, rains drench, or snow invades, but calm the expanse and cloudless shines with purest day.”

This drew a lazy smile from him. “Yeah, that's the place. Or we could build something just for two?”

She tilted her head, considering. “Two thrones?”

“Sounds right.”

“Something you were saving for Xena?”

A frown passed over his handsome face. “You really gotta get over the whole Xena thing, kid. You were never a second choice.”

She nodded, acknowledging what suddenly seemed so clear to her. “This was the plan all along.”

He stooped over, before dropping down into a squat in front of her, a devilish gleam in his eyes. “Hey, I tried to figure out a way to get both of you, but it wasn't gonna happen. At least with both your minds intact. And blind obedience can be fun, but gets boring after a few centuries. And it doesn't provide much balance.”

Her tone was light, almost careless, as she asked, “So why the centuries torturing Xena?”

He chuckled and lightly caressed her jaw with one finger. She strove not to show her pleasure, her expression only showing her desire for his answers.

“Torture? Nah, I was giving her a choice. What can I say? I'm an optimist. But Xena's just too much like me. She may exceed the teacher occasionally, but we do think alike.”

Now his hand grazed her cheek slightly and she swallowed as he continued with a lower voice. “You, on the other hand, are both the student and the teacher. But I couldn't figure out how to get you from the Amazon Land of the Dead. So I was forced to play poor Xena, waiting for Dite and Arti to get a clue.” He smiled at her with something that seemed like real affection. “Anyway, I knew you were the key. Either to breaking her or by joining me. So it all ends well.”

But it wasn't ending well, was it? Gabrielle knew something was wrong, but she felt completely disconnected from almost any serious worries. “She wouldn't want me to do this. She'd never want me to make this sacrifice for her,” Gabrielle mused aloud.

Ares shook his head and laughed. “Sacrifice? A chance to save the world…”

“From you…” she pointed out, smiling.

“From me, and return to your partner what was taken from her? And let's not forget, almost ultimate power, you wanna call that a sacrifice?”

She shook her head, as though attempting to clear it, but everything was already so clear, wasn't it? “This isn't what we promised…”

“Gabrielle, you know a good commander has to change the battle plan when new information comes along. Xena couldn't have known what this deal would be. So whatever agreement, whatever pact you made before this, hardly counts.”

He reached out to take her hand and she moved gracefully to take it and found herself walking alongside Him, feeling His attraction, feeling the joined rush of power, feeling invincible… but there was something very wrong, something missing and it was somehow familiar. It was just like when she'd died….

Ares was still inside her thoughts and he barked a laugh. “You won't have to worry about death any longer.”

“I wasn't worried about that specifically,” she tried to clarify. She shook her head again trying to seize onto her memories, but they seemed so flimsy and insubstantial. “More what happened last time. What Aphrodite took… whatever.” She frowned and tried to focus again. “The same things you took… that you took from me.”

He shrugged. “You mean your pain, fears, your insecurities? You had a limp, so I helped you walk straight. That's not what I'd call a problem.”

She closed her eyes and held still, waiting for him to turn back towards her. When he had, she kept her eyes to the ground, afraid to be drawn again into his strength. “You said you wanted a mortal, with a mortal's attachments. Without those things, I don't think, I'm not… myself.”

“No, you're better.”

His patronising tone was just what she needed to marshal her thoughts, and return some of her spirit. “If I bump into a table, and you take away the bruise, I‘m just as likely to bump into it again,” she argued. “For all the… fullness, inside of me now, there's something missing. Missing like when Aphrodite let me die without my emotions, and I ended up regretting what I'd lost. I'm not making that mistake again. Give me those things again, just so I know I'm making this choice clearly.”

Impatience showed in the God's stance. “We're wasting time.”

Gabrielle looked into his eyes. Gauging him. “What's wrong, Ares? Not so sure of the deal?”

“Fine, have all your bruises back, but remember, my deal is still far better than the one you made with Xena.”

And she almost fell to her knees as the weight of her own memories and emotion filled her again. There was still the strength and power of the Gods running through her and they fought in her heart for a moment, as she delved into what had bothered her about his statement. That sense of a wrongness coalesced about a single word and she knew what it was. Inside the smooth flow of his words, there was a jagged edge that cut her. It was the word deal . She shook her head and raised her face to look at him. There was a still a primal attraction but it was once again mixed with a deep revulsion for what he had done.

“That wasn't a deal between Xena and me, Ares. Or some sort of treaty, or a contract. It was a promise. We made a promise to each other.”

“In the end, what's the difference?” he said disparagingly.

And she could see he that he truly didn't know. But he had, once, at least that one time. She recalled for him, “When you saved Eve and me, when you gave up your Godhood, you didn't ask for anything. You just made the sacrifice without asking for anything back.”

“But you both felt obliged to get it back for me,” he retorted.

“At that moment, you didn't do it for that reason. Is there some part of you that remembers what that meant?”

But it was clear from his bored expression that he didn't and at that instant Gabrielle knew what she had almost given up and what Ares had already lost. And that she and Xena were not the only ones being tested.

“If I say no to this, you would… send me back, back to where Xena and I die, apart? Just for revenge? There's no part of you that wants another choice?”

“Wha'dya mean? You want me to let you go, let's all be friends again?” he mocked.

“Why not?”

“I'm a God! You don't get to reject me and not pay for it. No one… rejects… ME .”

She found herself feeling compassion for the God, as strange as that might have seemed to anyone else. Though she knew Xena would understand, Xena was the only one who could. There in that perfect splendour of physical perfection, there was now only ugliness. Whatever humanity, whatever love might have been inside him, the centuries of unlimited power had burned it away, leaving only shells of desires. If she was right, and there would be a punishment, then Ares would also have to face it.

“Sorry, Ares. And I am sorry.”

“Oh, not again,” he exploded. “COME ON!”

“No, Ares. All your tricks aside, this isn't me. Not who I want to be, or who I truly am. I can see the logic in this, and you had me going for a bit. You can't know how much, but no. I promised. As much as she promised. That no matter how small the chance, no matter how little the possibility, we would try with our last breath to be together. And because I know that amongst all the guilt and insecurities you think are keeping me back, that's my humanity. And my strength. I can't become this thing for you, just so she'd be happy, because she wouldn't want me to. And anyways, in the end… I need to be with her. Need it more than I need anything else.”

He was silent, his face blank, and she almost turned away, feeling she was intruding somehow.

“I wish you'd take the chance and just let us go. But I know you won't, and I'm sorry for that too. Send me back. Because in the end, you only offered me this because she kept her promise, and I won't cheat her of that sacrifice.”

“You're sorry,” Ares stated flatly.

“I am. More than you can imagine, and that's the pity of it.”

“Rather than be with me, both of you would rather go to your deaths. Alone.”

“No. To what ever fate we can still make.”

The War God's face tightened and his frown became an angry grimace. He threw back his head and laughed, but there was no humour in it. “Your fate?” His figure began to grow and expanded in height until he was towering over Gabrielle, his rage like thunder and his voice sharper than lightning. “Then DIE… you… Ungrateful BITCH !”

And instantly, she was there again, frozen on the hillside, the fireballs on all sides, swiftly traveling towards her. Knowing that she had little chance, she nevertheless leapt to the side, evading two of them. The third, struck her dead on, in the chest, searing her, burning away skin almost to the bone. It was a mortal wound, and somehow in her agony, she knew that as a fact, as clearly as if she'd seen her own pyre.

Ares watched from high above, stone faced, as the two women he had admired and loved so long ago, suffered, soon to die . He pushed away any residue of emotion from their shared pasts, pushed away the smallest remnant of sympathetic pain at their distress, and continued to observe in magisterial silence. At least that was how he appeared. In contrast to his thoughts.

‘Centuries of work. Centuries of plotting and twisting and planning and they both say no??? Damn them, damn every mortal and all of their progeny' , the God of War proclaimed in his mind. And he took pleasure that these last two rebels would never again touch, that the broad crevasse would keep them apart as they suffered through their last moments. Before he seized their souls for his own pleasures.

This knowledge calmed him and he found his composure once more. ‘ None of this matters . It's just an insignificant sideshow. The True history of the world begins now, and all that came before this, will not be remembered by anyone, least of all by me. '

He looked to the skies and to the sun that was now at its zenith; anticipating the supremacy he knew was coming, that he knew would be soon flowing through every particle of his body. He rose into the air, sent out tendrils from his mind to touch the altars that would be first to be dedicated, and closed his eyes in glorious expectation. Beneath him, two mortals, that he had once cared for and loved, were dying.

But how did that matter anymore?

To be continued...

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