General Copyright Disclaimers
Characters and backstory of Xena: Warrior Princess are the property of Renaissance/MCA/Studios USA. This story is not meant to infringe upon their rights. This story was not written for monetary gain. Anything not copyrighted to the above mentioned parties is copyrighted to me. If you wish to archive or link this story, please contact me.
This story is rated PG-13 for implied sexual situations and bad language.
This story contains themes and descriptions of a loving, sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. This story is intended for a mature audience with an open mind. If it is illegal for you to read this story for any reason at all, please close this web page and find something that is legal for you to read.
This is part of the Sacrifice for Love Series.
Sacrifice I and II
Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gods' Hope
Copyright May 15, 1998
She was falling. And it was so hot. She had closed her eyes when she realized that she would never see Xena again. Her last thoughts were of the warrior and the fact that she never told her friend just how much she loved her. She had tried to tell her with one last look before she had pulled Hope into the fiery chasm. She prayed that her actions spoke louder than any words that would have stumbled from her lips. She would not let Xena die, even if she had to sacrifice herself as part of the bargain.
Cautiously, she opened her eyes when she no longer felt the inferno ready to consume her. She was lying on her back in some sort of throne room. She raised to her elbows hesitantly, expecting any number of aches and pains that should have been there from fighting Dahok's priests and landing in the underground molten river of lava. Three years of traveling with Xena gave her the experience to school her features when she felt...nothing.
Spinning around to her knees, she did a visual check of her body. Her fair skin was unmarked by even the slightest bruise. "Okay," she said aloud, more to comfort herself than anything, since she could see no one else in the chamber. "The bard is in one piece," she muttered.
With a sudden realization, she turned in circles, her eyes looking for the child she had finally put to death. When she began to duck her head to look under and around the few pieces of furniture in the room, she was stilled by a deep chuckle. "Who's there," she demanded, wishing that she had her staff with her.
"Relax, Gabrielle. You are safe here."
The bard found the location of the disembodied voice. "Am I dead," she asked of the empty throne. She gasped when a god finally materialized. "Hades," she whispered.
With a grim smile, the God of the Underworld nodded his head curtly. "Death is a relative matter, don't you think?" The god waved an arm and the wall to his left came alive with familiar images. "She believes that she is dead, and yet, she is alive...thanks to you."
Gabrielle began to cry silently as she raised a hand to the image of the Warrior Princess. Xena was sitting at a campfire, staring pensively into the flames. Gabrielle could see that both Joxer and Seraphin were already asleep. But Xena...she probably blamed herself for what had happened. The bard began to cry harder as tears made wet tracks down the warrior's face. When Xena finally gave in to her grief and collapsed under wracking sobs, Gabrielle fell to her knees and said a silent prayer to the gods to watch over the warrior...to help her through her loss.
"You love her very much, don't you?"
Gabrielle nodded in answer to the dark god's question, all the while, keeping her eyes on the warrior. "More than anyone or anything."
"Ares was right, then."
At the mention of the other god's name, Gabrielle spun to face Hades and even took a few menacing steps forward. "How dare...don't ever...."
Hades chuckled at the mortal's righteous fury. "Gabrielle, sit. I'd like to share a story with you. You do like stories, right?"
The bard narrowed her eyes, but complied. She made a small growl of displeasure when the god erased the images of Xena's campsite.
"Please, I need your complete attention," the god reasoned.
Gabrielle was momentarily shocked that Hades would humble himself enough to say please. "All right," she acquiesced, seating herself in the chair the god had graciously pulled out for her. When the bard unconsciously reached out to take a piece of fruit from a bowl, the god's hand on her arm stopped her.
"I wouldn't do that," he warned, knowing that once she ate of anything in the Underworld, she was doomed to stay there for an eternity.
"Why," the bard asked, her suspicions beginning to rise again.
"You've been spending too much time with that warrior," he chastised with a chuckle. "But let me start at the beginning, and then you'll understand. All right?"
Gabrielle nodded briefly before allowing her gaze to settle on Hades' face. "From the beginning, then."
In The Beginning...
Hades took a deep breath and tried to remember the grand and eloquent opening that he had practiced before the bard had finally made it to his realm. The words, however, escaped him, so he started with something simple.
"A long time ago, before Zeus banished the Titans from their rule, a great oracle prophesized the coming of the One Great Evil, of Dahok, as you know him. The oracle told us of his entering the world through a child, and of that child's birth to a mortal innocent. The oracle warned of a great upheaval, of the beginning of the end for all Olympians. When Zeus asked the woman if the Evil could be defeated, she told him that there was hope, that one would come whose heart and love were so pure that she would vanquish the evil.
"After a while, we forgot about the prophesy as Zeus had overthrown the Titans and we Olympians were more concerned with our new realms. And then time and the daily responsibilities of being a god pushed it further into the past. But Ares learned of the oracle and her warnings. He tried to remind us, to urge us to action when he saw that it was coming true, but we were foolish. All gods are arrogant," he admitted with a rueful sigh.
"Yet, Ares feared his loss of godhood. It is his greatest fear," Hades reflected. "Without his powers, he is merely another warlord." The God of the Underworld studied the bard quietly. She was engrossed in the tale he was weaving, sitting on the edge of her chair.
"Anyway," he continued, "he put some Roman to the task of destroying the cult of this Evil before the child could be born, the child that would open the way for the Evil to enter into this world."
"Hope," Gabrielle muttered, looking around the throne room once again.
"She is not here, Gabrielle. Hephaestus saw to that."
"How," the bard asked, wanting to be sure.
"I would be foolish to tell you a god's secrets," he admonished. "Just trust me, all right?"
Gabrielle weighed her experiences with the gods and the sincere look on Hades' face. "Whatever you say," she muttered, disquieted by the lack of proof.
"Can I continue?"
"By all means, do."
"Well, like I was saying, Ares put the Roman to the task of destroying that temple, but the man became obsessed with his petty war, and allowed the cult to survive. Dahok then sent his high priest to find one whose innocence would usher in the time of Evil." At the bard's stricken look, the god nodded. "Yes, Gabrielle. He was looking for you. You had tamed the mighty Warrior Princess. Your soul had the purity that appealed to her, and to Dahok...it called to them both." The god looked at his audience. "What?"
Gabrielle was having great difficulty stilling the gentle shaking of her shoulders. "I don't think I would ever call Xena tame," she chortled, imagining the warrior's reaction to the misnomer.
Hades raised a brow and waited until the mortal's laughing fit tapered off. When Gabrielle was once more in control of her humor, he continued his tale. "As I was saying, he saw into your soul, and he knew that your innocence would serve his purposes. He used the loss of both your blood-innocence and your soul-innocence to implant his seed within you.
"When Xena saw what your daughter was, the Evil trusted that you would protect what you assumed to be a helpless infant." The god paused when he saw the flicker of pain that made the bard wince. "Gabrielle, you were only being true to yourself. You were protecting her."
"I could have done better," she swore, remembering Seraphin's accusatory words. "I should have left Xena and raised her, to influence her good. I should have...."
"You can keep saying 'I should have,' but it won't change what you DID do," the god consoled. "You were torn, and you didn't have the experience to make an informed decision," he explained. "You only did what you thought best at the time."
"I should have done what Xena told me to do," finally admitted with a dejected slump to her shoulders.
"Gabrielle, the past is past, and in your world, unchangeable. You learned from your mistakes. That is what is important."
Gabrielle nodded. Xena had tried to tell her the same thing. "I'm sorry, Hades, please...finish."
The god smiled warmly and patted her hands that she had folded atop the table. "Where was I? Oh, yes...anyway, Ares saw all this happening and was angered by the Evil's manipulation of you and the warrior. For some reason, my nephew believes that the two of you are his, and his only, to toy with. He tried to stop the Evil...." Hades sighed. "Ares lacks faith and trust. He couldn't believe that two mortal women were enough to stop such a powerful god."
"But you did?"
Hades searched the bard's curious face for any sign of mistrust. "We all did...the Olympians. We knew that you and Xena would do whatever needed to be done for the greater good."
Gabrielle ran a finger across the smooth, dark surface of the table. She had only done what she had because if she hadn't, Xena would have died. "Hades, may I ask you a question?"
"The Fates said that Xena would have died if she had killed Hope. Why is that?"
The dark god cleared his throat. "Hope's essence was pure evil. If Xena had killed her, that essence would have overwhelmed her. She would have killed herself before becoming like she was before...before she could hurt you in another blind rage. And the world needs the both of you...together. Do you know what I am talking about?"
"I know, trust me, I do," the bard whispered, her mind tumbling over the god's words. "But...I forgave her for that...I loved her."
Hades held up a hand to forestall the young woman's words. "Gabrielle, you still do love her. Xena was your life. You would have forgiven her anything. You have a great capacity for forgiveness."
"I would have...I can forgive anyone anything, but hurting Xena."
Nodding, the god took a pomegranate from the bowl and buffed it on his cloak. "You couldn't forgive your daughter for it. You couldn't even forgive yourself for hurting the warrior," he noted, taking a bite of the fruit, and then setting it down when he saw the bard's hungry eyes following his movements. "Sorry," he mumbled sheepishly around the sweet taste in his mouth.
"You know, I'll never finish this story," he pointed out to his visitor. When she turned her full attention to him again, he found his place once more in the tale. "Ares was his usual deceitful self when he joined Dahok...but he was deceiving the Evil, not the Olympians. He joined with the Evil so that he could keep an eye on what was going on. He stopped Hope from killing your warrior when she discovered her true identity and he refused to intervene on the Evil's behalf against the two of you as you battled the priests."
Gabrielle held up an apologetic hand. "Are you trying to tell me that Ares was the good god here? He fucked my daughter," the bard yelled, angered by the manipulative God of War.
Hades turned red and then cleared his throat. For one so sweet, the mortal woman sure had a temper. "Gabrielle, please. He had to play along. He cut a deal with the Evil, and siring the Evil One's race of monsters was part of that deal. We were counting on you and Xena destroying Hope before any birth occurred."
When the bard's rigid posture softened, he continued with his story. "What we had not counted on all along was Callisto's role. We knew that she would eventually escape the vortex. She surprised us, though...wanting to die. It was a good thing for us, too. Since the Evil wanted her as a soldier like Ares, he refused to have her wish fulfilled. And if we've learned anything about Callisto, it's that she does not like ANYONE telling her what to do. So, she turned to someone she was sure who would honor her request...Xena.
"We had to scramble a bit there, with her involvement, but if anything, she is predicable in her own insane way, so it didn't involve too much alteration of our plan. Those last few moments, though, we were all holding our breaths on Olympus. It's a good thing that Ares reminded you of the consequences should Xena kill Hope. We counted on you to sacrifice yourself, Gabrielle. We knew that in your heart, you would not allow your love to die."
"I would rather die for her," Gabrielle interrupted with a whisper.
"I know," the god nodded. "It was a good thing, too. Her soul is not ready for the Elysian Fields yet. She still has much to do to balance good deeds against the darkness of her past."
"And now that I'm gone...who will guide her," the bard asked fearfully as she began to chew her bottom lip. "I must go back to her. Please, Hades...I'll do anything to go back to her. She needs me...and I...I need her," she admitted, heartbroken. "I'll do anything."
"You already have, little mortal one." Hades gazed warmly at the fierce love that glowed upon the small woman's face. He spared a thought for his own wife, impatient for the time when she would return.
Gabrielle's face was as blank as her thoughts for a moment. "I...I don't understand," she stuttered.
The dark god took the bard's hand and gifted her with one of his rare smiles. "When you threw yourself into that chasm, Gabrielle, you entrusted your soul into the gods' hands. You have done us a great favor by ridding the world of the Evil One and his child. And we, the Olympians, have decided that we will return to you what we can in return for this sacrifice you so selflessly performed."
"Return? You mean, I get to go back...to Xena," she asked excitedly as she stood with impatience.
Suddenly, the Underworld was filled with the blinding light of several gods appearing. Hades stood and joined them.
Zeus stepped forward and laid a gentle hand upon Gabrielle's shoulder. "You have proven to us, Gabrielle of Potedaia, that not all mortals are selfish and weak. You will go back to your world...you are its hope...and the warrior is your sword. It needs you...the both of you."
"Together," the bard mumbled, repeating Hades' earlier words. Gabrielle looked up into the face of the King of the Gods, before sparing a glance to the others, some of whom she recognized from past encounters. "I wish to speak with Ares," she spoke without thought. The War God stepped forward without any encouragement. Gabrielle wanted to hit him, wanted to rail against his manipulations and deceit. But her better nature won out. "Thank you...for helping us...."
"No problem," Ares drawled seductively. "But this doesn't mean that I'm through with you two just yet."
"We'll be expecting you," Gabrielle warned.
"A good warrior always does," he said with some pride in the bard. He did understand now, what Xena saw in her. With a condescending cock of his head and an arrogant grin, he dissolved in a flash of smoke.
Zeus cleared his throat and adopted an official tone. "Gabrielle, we have traded our debts to the Fates and have worked out a compromise. You will be returned to your world, to your warrior, but your memories, your pain, will stay with you."
Gabrielle glanced across the assembly as tears began to fall down her face. She wanted the pain and the memories, for what lessons are learned without one or the other...or both. "Thank you...all of you."
"No, little one," Zeus commanded. "Thank you," he said as he waved his hand.
Gabrielle didn't flinch as he let loose the thunderbolt that had appeared. She felt nothing, only the slight discomfort as her body was contorted in its trip back through time. She was brought to consciousness as she fell to soft forest earth. She squinted her eyes against the sudden brightness.
"Are you all right in there?"
Her heart swelled at the warrior's voice. She had missed it so much, had not counted on ever hearing it again. "Uh, yeah, just a second." She stopped to find her bearings and exited from the dense underbrush, running a nervous hand down her skirt.
"I told you not to eat those dates, but NO...wouldn't listen would you?"
Gabrielle lifted a curious brow. "Sorry, I should have listened," she replied almost automatically.
"Good, then," Xena said as she gathered Argo's reins. "Now, you were starting to tell me about this theory of matter you figured out...before the dates took their revenge," the warrior reminded her with a wry smile.
Glancing around subtly, the bard realized where they were. They had first met Krafstar here, on this road, as a prisoner of the Romans. She spared a look up the road and saw no one. "Xena, do you hear anything?"
The warrior, alarmed by the oddity of Gabrielle's behavior, cocked her head and filtered out the normal sounds of nature that assaulted her senses. "Nope," she answered with a quirked brow. "We're alone out here. Why?"
Gabrielle flashed a bright smile that melted the warrior's heart. "Oh, no reason. I guess it was an animal or something."
Taking her staff from the warrior's grasp, she looped her arm through Xena's and practically began skipping down the road. "Well, as I was saying...what are mountains, but a bunch of boulders...."
Later that evening, as she laid their bedrolls next to each other, Gabrielle said a silent prayer of gratitude to the gods. In this reality, there would be no Britannia. And if Loa Ma called in her debt to Xena, then she would not stand in the warrior's way, but rather, she would agree to help the warrior vanquish the Green Dragon. Hindsight was a great teacher, after all, and she had learned to trust the warrior. The warrior who held her heart...the warrior who returned to their campsite with two of the biggest, juiciest rabbits she had ever seen. Gabrielle ran to her and trapped her in a strong embrace.
"Hey," the warrior yelped, surprised by the bard's strength. "What was that for," she asked when Gabrielle loosened her hold.
"For being here with me. I love you, you know. I would die without you. I would die for you."
Xena was sure that her gulp had been audible. "Uh...Gabrielle, you can be so dramatic sometimes," she joked.
The bard smiled at her love's nervousness, but gave her no quarter, for a moment at least. Standing on her toes, she brushed the warrior's lips with her own. "You inspire me," she sighed with the fiery touch.
Xena put a hesitant hand to Gabrielle's shoulder and pushed her away. "Uh, supper's waiting to be cooked...and your stomach has been growling ever since you got rid of those bad dates."
Gabrielle smiled impishly and took the carcasses from the warrior's hand. "Well, it has been a LONG time since I ate last."
"This afternoon ring any bells," Xena asked with a snort.
"But Xena," the bard explained as she sprinkled herbs over the uncooked meat, "that was so long ago...you have no idea how...long ago that was."
The warrior cast a suspicious look to the bard. "Have you been sniffing my leather oil again?"
Chuckling as she gored the rabbits on spits and suspended them over the fire, Gabrielle sat and watched as Xena began to sharpen her sword. "You're real funny, you know that?"
The warrior's face was transformed by a lopsided grin. "It's about time you noticed."
Gabrielle rested her chin in her hand and drank in the sight of the warrior. "So, warrior of my heart, where are we off to next?"
Xena's shock was too much to ignore, but the bard held her laughter. She had never been so forward before, but if she had her way, she would be sharing more than just a campsite with her friend in the near future.
"Uh...I heard that the Centaurs are planning on calling a meeting to discuss terms of a treaty that should unite their nation," the warrior tossed out for consumption.
"Missing Solon, are we?"
The warrior shrugged and then nodded. "Yeah, well...."
"It's been almost six months, huh?" At Xena's confirmation, the bard smiled. "Where you lead, O Great Warrior, I will follow."
Dropping her sword, Xena fell to her knees and gathered the bard into her arms. "After everything with the Furies, I wasn't sure you'd still feel that way."
Gabrielle allowed her hands to tangle themselves into the warrior's raven hair. It's softness was an addiction she never wanted to stop feeding. "Through thick and thin, I will never leave you, Xena."
Xena found the truth of Gabrielle's words, as well as love, in the bard's warm eyes. The warrior's heart stopped for a few heartbeats when she felt the bard pulling her head down...closer. "I do love you, Gabrielle. More than you'll ever know," she whispered as their lips drew closer.
"Oh, I think I know," Gabrielle assured her, as their mouths met in a gentle exploration.
After a few moments of allowing herself to sink into the unbelievable kiss, Xena broke free. "I thought you were hungry," she reminded the bard.
"Oh, I am," Gabrielle replied. "But I wanted to tell you what you mean to me before I lost the chance."
Xena kneeled back out of their embrace, but continued to hold her lover's hand. "I don't plan on leaving you, Gabrielle. I got a second chance at life, thanks to you, and I'm not about to take it for granted."
"Believe me when I tell you, love, I now exactly what you mean."
"Okay, so we'll continue this...conversation...after dinner?" Xena didn't understand the bard's amorous behavior, but she wasn't one to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth. She had wanted this for so long now, that she could taste her desire as it pooled at her center. She could feel her heart swell with expectation.
"Sounds like a plan," the bard chimed. "Dinner and a bath, and maybe...who knows," she suggested with a grin and playful wiggle of her brow.
Xena returned the smile as she waited for the rabbits to cook. She was reluctant to thank any gods, but she said a silent prayer grudgingly, grateful to the one who had brought the bard into her life, the one who had given her new hope.
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