Part Thirteen

You close your thoughts from me now.

"What good does it do to voice them, Artemis... You asked me if the greater good would be my choice in this time, this damned limbo between living and being dead... I have made my decision."

Let me help you.

Xena lets a bitter laugh pass her lips. Help... such a simple word and you give it no real thought. My help takes life away from one I love.

It is what my Chosen would want.

And there it is, the years of another life rushing back to Xena's mind. Of so many times when the good of the all came before the joy of one or two humans. How many times did Gabrielle preach of the sanctity of doing what is right... even if it means turning the other cheek, letting down your guard... Losing your life...

Xena feels a bitterness swallow up her body, covering her in a haze of darkness. She is reminded of how the anger at her brothers death was similar.
A darkness that is so cold that your soul becomes frozen.

Your soul will find peace, Xena. I promised that to you and you shall have it. You shall meet the Chosen one there again.

"I've long since given up on believing what immortals promise."

And so Xena runs, over the battered landscape and pausing only to hear Artemis guiding voice, directions to the Amazons in hiding.
To the end of this twisted fate.


"I see the faithful are returning quite happily."

Ares glances at his sister and then back to their lofty view of Greece. All morning and all night, the people who held fast to the many gods and rejected the one god raise their temples.
Fighting breaking out and blood shed... It was almost enough to make Ares envious.

"They didn't get that worked up over me." He huffed lightly. Aphrodite patted his shoulder.

"Hey, don't sweat it. I get a poem every now and then, that's it. You'd think love would be a little more important!"

Ares loves his sister. She is a balance to the war that he creates. And while there have been times when he wished for nothing more than an end to love... Ares admits that without it, well, passion just wouldn't be the same. Love can make people fight. It's a give and take.

"What's Xena up to?"
"Think I am keeping tabs, do you?"

Aphrodite grins at this.

"I know you are."
"Seems as though she is running around the countryside."
"And Zeus?"
"I sense our father smiling."

Aphrodite lets her shoulders sag a little at that. It sucks that her favorite among the humans seems to always come into conflict with her family. And never for the good.

"Is there a way to get to Gabrielle? To release her?"

Ares raises an eyebrow and snorts. Aphrodite rolls her eyes.

"Look, what do you want me to say? That it isn't a little fun to watch little Miss peace-lover run around killing people?"
"I don't want her hurt, Ares."
"Too late for that, I think."
"Meaning that she'll die, is that it? That when Zeus is done with her, that's it?"

Aphrodite knows her brother, probably better than either one of them would like to admit. She knows that, when push comes to shove, he'll jump into the fray if it means one more chance to get Xena. And the goddess of love knows that she will do the same for Gabrielle.

"I think it's high time we take up a scroll or two, bro. See if we can find a way out of this mess."

And Ares lets himself be dragged away, reluctant to voice the same wishes as Aphrodite.


Zeus stops listening to her inane chatter. Mortals never see greatness, just their own blind thoughts. So, he shuts her out.
And watches the world burn for him.

Gabrielle wants to scream. But hours of doing so in the blackness of her own mind becomes tiring. And futile... He is not hearing me.
She feels trapped and alone. Not much better when I was out there, grief-stricken and numb.

She wants to analyze her motives, to find the spark inside that will break this hold Zeus has over her... but every time her thoughts try to move forward, a wall comes up.
The wall taunts her with truths and lies, turns her inside-out and leaves her there - still broken, still helpless and full of shame.

Xena is gone. I've let them all down. I am weak.

"I am truly alone now." She whispers to the silence.

"What's this? Still talking to yourself?" A voice questions and it makes Gabrielle jump. She looks around. Nothing. There is nothing there.

"You do not answer me. How pathetic." The voice is cold and sharp.

It reminds me of... Oh god, of Hope. Do not tell me this torture will come as well?
A full-on peel of laughter greets Gabrielle then and she can hear footsteps come toward her.
Kinda wish I had my sais in here...

"And what would you do with them, hmm? Finish yourself off?" The voice says, a body coming into view and revealing...

"Who...are you?" Gabrielle gasps out, her throat suddenly dry as sand.

"You. Not your daughter, not a player in Zeus and his game."

Gabrielle wants to deny it. I am me... right? I mean, how far can madness go when you are already taken hostage by a dead god?

"Hostage? Let's not tell lies. You let him take you. You gave up."
"I...didn't know..."
"Yes, yes, yes. I know all you would say to me, to sway me from the truth. It won't work."

And like that, the clothing this double wears - all matching Gabrielle's current outfit - slowly shifts, turning into a long forgotten peasant skirt and blue blouse. The double spins around and grins.

"Those Amazons trust you and here you are, just sitting by! A hero is supposed to fight!"
Gabrielle feels her anger rise and, yet, sees it mirrored to her.
"All my fight has gone! I lost it in Japa!"
"How long are you going to let that control you? Don't you know it is just a disease in you, eating you up?"

And the clothing changes again, to one of a sari, bright orange. Bare feet and a jewel upon the double's forehead. Third eye shining bright...

"Don't start with me! Just... don't. How do I find peace when I feel like a part of me is hollowed out? How do I just go on without her?" Gabrielle shouts.

"You've come back from such pain before." The double stares at her, tattered white robe and bloodied face, a sad reminder of times long ago...
"I had her to return to after all that. She was there." Gabrielle sobs, the ever-familiar tears returning to her eyes.

"And so quickly, you think all is lost. That death will keep you apart, after all the time you were granted with her... You must fight! Do you hear me?"
There, standing opposite, Gabrielle sees herself from many years past - in Xena's armor and sword in hand. Ready to fight, to do what must be done, to carry on a legacy of a friend...

"I do not know that person anymore." Gabrielle says before dropping to her knees. And arms cradle her, rock her to and fro. If it was not such a soul-shattering moment, Gabrielle would find it hysterical. I am consoling myself. How bizarre.

"The time for grief is over. If you want to save others and yourself, you must find the way out. You must break free."

Gabrielle reaches out and comes back with air. But she stands up and looks around, seeing the shadows. And she hears the distant thunder of whatever Zeus is doing in the living world.
She feels a hand at her back and knows that it is herself, from farm girl to bard to warrior...

"Time to break free."


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