Standard disclaimers: No I do not own Xena, Gabrielle, the Gods and Goddesses or the Amazons. They are owned by Ren Pics and Studios USA. No copy right infringement is intended.
Sexual disclaimers: Yes this is a story where the two leading ladies are very much in love with each other although at the moment there might be a few things getting in the way of that, don't worry their going to make up (Wink Wink) if that sort of thing bothers you this may not be the reading material for you.
Questions and comments are always welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Death's Shadow V
Marion D Tuttle
Ares watched from a distance the scene that was unfolding, this was going far better than he had dared hope. He had planned to try and set Gabrielle up before Xena got there in some kind of position with one of the other Amazons that would look at first glance like an infidelity. His original plan had been to find that little fool Falia and play on her feelings for her Queen. He was going to tell her that Gabrielle needed to be comforted and needed a friend right now. He had hoped that he had Xena angry enough that just seeing another woman trying to comfort the bard would be enough. But to arrive ahead of Xena and see his Sister and Gabrielle in conversation had foiled that plan. It was pure luck on his part that the bard had choosen to express her thanks in such a tangible way just before Xena walked through the door. Now all he had to do was sit back and let the warrior's anger take over and lead her back to him.
"Xena." Gabrielle ran to her but was stopped cold by the look of disdain in the blue eyes that looked back at her.
Stepping back Xena put distance between Gabrielle and herself "Don't touch me!"
Artimiss saw where this was going, she knew she had to do something to bring the warrior to her senses before this got to far out of hand."Xena calm down."
"Calm down? Oh I have to admit Artimiss, your good. You see I have never trusted the Gods about anything. Your a bunch of manipulative lying....Then you come along and make the grand gesture of saving my life, bringing me back from the dead and all. Did you and Ares have this all planned out from the start? Was this a way for you to worm your way into Gabrielle's heart?"
It was clear that Xena was in no mood to be reasoned with. With a wave of her hand Artimiss sent a bolt of energy that knocked the warrior senseless. Gabrielle ran to the still form of her lover laying in the dust. "For the love of Zeus Artimiss, what have you done?"
"It's alright Gabrielle, she isn't hurt. She's just subdued, we need to get her to listen but we need to take more serious measures that I had thought. Ares has her ready to kill, if we can't get through to her...."
"No! I am not going to let anything happen to Xena! I already told you that. I'll make Ares understand that he is never going to win these little games of his, or die trying."
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that." Artimiss looked around, Xena wouldn't be out for long, she was too strong to stay under for any length of time. "We don't have much time. We need to get her somewhere where we can reason with her without her going on the attack."
"There's only one place I can think of. She's really going to be pissed when she wakes up but I don't see any other way. Help me get her over to the council hall."
Xena woke up with a splitting headache, she wasn't quite sure that opening her eyes would be a good idea. Her mind was a bit fuzzy but she did remember seeing Gabrielle in Artimiss' arms. She tried to bring her hands to the sides of her head to massage her aching temples but found she couldn't move. She was on her back her hands secured above her head by chains. She still hadn't opened her eyes, but she tested her bonds. Her fingers told her that these were links she herself had forged. No way was she getting out of these without a key.
She slowly opened her eyes, one at a time. At first her vision was blurred but it slowly started to clear. She was in the cell she had directed the building off. After what they had thought were the attempts on Gabrielle's life she had formed a detail of Amazons to build an extension to the council hall that was basically an inescapable cell. The walls were hewn from rock and the chains that held her wrists were secured into the rock wall. The one concession to comfort that had been made was the bed she was lying on now. At Gabrielle's insistence this had been included so prisoners would not be forced to stand. She found it ironic that even in her anger she could be thankful for the bard's soft heart. She closed her eyes again and tried to find a comfortable position. It was no use to waste her strength, for the moment she had no choice to lay back and wait for what was going to happen next.
"Ares show yourself right now!" Artimiss left no doubt by the tone of her voice that she excepted her Brother to comply with an immediate appearance. When his presence was not forth coming she called out again. "You can see me here and settle this or we can take it to Olympus and let Zeus decide who is right, what's it going to be?"
A flash of light filled the hut. "Take it easy Sis, no need to drag the old man into this."
Gabrielle was ready to choke the very life out of the God Of War. "This is it Ares! Xena and I are going to be together do you get that?I swear if you don't leave her alone..."
"What? You'll do what? Remember who your talking to Gabrielle. I am the God Of War and you are just a mortal...an irritating one at that."
Artimiss stepped between her Brother and a very irate Queen. "She may be a mortal Ares but I'm not! And I swear to you if you don't back off I will go to Zeus with your interference and you will regret it."
He rocked back on his heels, a smug expression on his face. "That's the beauty of all of this. I didn't have to interfere not really anyway. Oh I may have whispered a few things in Xena's ear but that was hardly Godly influence, nothing any mortal couldn't have done. Nope you can't blame this on me. Xena got mad at her little Queen over there because she couldn't let Xena be herself. She had to play the peace maker. Xena coming back here and finding the two of you, well that was just a bonus." He saw no reason at this point to let them know what he had planned a set up or that he had pushed Xena to believe things that were not true. What they didn't know wouldn't hurt him. "Nope little Gabrielle has no one to blame but herself for Xena's reaction."
As angry as she was Gabrielle was taken aback by what Ares said. A small whisper escaped her lips. "He's right."
This brought a surprised reaction from both Artimiss and Ares. Throwing his hands up in the air Ares howled. "Finally she admits I'm right and that Xena belongs with me."
Before Artimiss could speak Gabrielle went on. "No Ares, I meant you were right about me not letting Xena be herself. I see part of the problem for so long has been that I tried to change her. But I never said Xena should be with you. Xena and I are soul mates and we belong together. I have been blaming you for all of Xena's anger and her dark side, but I have to accept, like it or not that is a part of her. The darkness she went through helped to make her into the woman she is today. The woman that I love, I have to accept her for who she is."
Ares knew when he had been beaten. The only thing that he had going for him all this time was the chance that the bard would turn away from Xena because she couldn't deal with the darkness that still lurked beneath the surface. He had to make one last try though, it just wasn't in his nature to give up so easily. "Fine than accept her for who she really is. Xena was destined to rule at my side, she lives for that. You are the reason she changed, if it wasn't for you...."
This gave Gabrielle the opening she needed. "That's where your wrong. What you don't understand Ares is I didn't make Xena change. She turned away from you and the ways of war before she ever met me. That was her choice, she was tired of it all. She wanted to be a better person. It's true that there have been times when she may have doubted herself, but she never wanted that life again. Where I made my mistake was trying too hard to make her into what I thought she should be. I didn't even realize I was doing it. But Xena has taught me that sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in, even if all you want is peace."
Artimiss moved closer to her Queen. "Gabrielle you have grown into a very wise young woman. Xena is lucky to have you."
She smiled, "We're lucky to have each other. Now I just have to go remind Xena of that."
The warrior's keen sense of hearing picked up muffled noises on the other side of the door. Someone was getting ready to come into the cell, part of her hoped it would be Gabrielle. Another part hoped that it wasn't. She had time to have a myriad of emotions run through her mind in the time she had been chained up. Without Ares there to fuel her anger it had started to fade, turning to hurt. She was hurt not only by the thought that Gabrielle would have betrayed her in the worst possible way, with a God none the less. But her heart was broken over the fact that she had lost the person she loved more than anything else in this world, even her own life. With her pain the anger and frustration had started to return. At this point Xena was in such a state she couldn't say for sure what she was feeling. The only thing she did know was that she wanted to be as far away from the Amazon Nation and anything that reminded her of Gabrielle as she could get.
The door finally opened to reveal the shadowed form of her bard. 'My bard, not anymore, I'll have to stop thinking of her that way' Xena told herself. Gabrielle stepped into the dimly lit room, lighting candles to cast the room in a soft glow. Xena's eyes met hers for the briefest of moments before looking away.
Gabrielle's memory flashed to the time she had begged to see Xena in Ming Tien's dungeon, Xena had refused to look at her at first then too. "Xena" No response from the warrior who had focused her sight and thoughts on the wall. "Xena, answer me...Please."
That one word brought a response, Xena never could refuse Gabrielle anything when she said please. She turned her eyes back to her lover. "And say what Gabrielle? That I'm happy for you? That I hope you'll be happy as Artimiss' new plaything? I can't do that."
Moving closer until she stood looking down at the prone warrior. "That Gods be damned pride of yours! For such a brilliant warrior sometimes you can be pretty dense. Xena what ever gave you the idea that Artimiss and I had something going on?"
"I know what I saw!" Xena could feel her anger rising again. Did Gabrielle really think she could stand there and deny what she had seen with her own eyes.
"What you saw was me thanking Artimiss for bestowing her blessing on us if and when you ever got around to asking me to marry you!"
Xena was stunned by this response, had Ephiny told her what she had been planning. It hurt all the more to know that her dream of Gabrielle being her wife wasn't going to happen now. "What...."
"Xena, listen to me. This whole thing started because you somehow got it into your head that I thought you less than worthy of protecting me." She stopped and reconsidered her words. "No that's not completely fair. I have come to realize that I have to take at least part of the blame here."
Now Xena was more confused than ever. She had thought that Gabrielle did not consider her a worthy champion because of her actions in stepping between her and Falia when the young upstart had challenged her. With Ares feeding her insecurities she had come to believe Gabrielle had turned to someone she thought could protect her and the Nation. The truth was Xena had secretly had her own doubts. "Gabrielle I..."
Gabrielle was close enough to place her fingers against Xena's lips. "Let me finish, I blamed Ares for trying to come between us. But the truth is that every time you had to fight, even if I knew it had to happen I cringed because I thought that would bring you a little bit closer to him. I was afraid Xena, afraid that you would remember how much you used to like it...the control, the power..." A tear slipped down her cheek. "I was so busy trying to keep you from falling into the darkness that I forgot what a strong woman you are. That it was you that made the choice to change your life. You'll always fight Xena, it's a part of who you are. But now when you fight it isn't for the power or glory you can get for yourself, it's to protect others. I'm afraid I forgot that."
It was Xena's turn to feel the sting of tears. "I'm sorry to Gabrielle, I guess I've lived in Death's shadow so long sometimes I forget that it can scare people that have never felt that. I don't want to ever be the person I was again."
"There's more." Gabrielle continued on. "I have given you a hard time about Ares always trying to come between us and up until his last stunt where you almost died I thought I handled it pretty well. But Xena when I almost lost you and then we found out it was because of Ares and his little games. I don't know something just clicked inside me. I think that's why I stepped in, I was afraid that he had finally gotten to the point where he thought if he couldn't have you no one else would...."
Understanding was starting to dawn on the warrior. "You thought he might give Falia the power to kill me?"
Gabrielle simply nodded her head, she hadn't even realized that this had been part of what she was feeling until she had seen Xena here. She saw Xena flex her fingers, trying to keep the blood moving in extremities that had been chained in one position for so long. That simple movement brought her back to the here and now. "Oh Gods, I'm sorry." She moved to unlock the chains Pulling Xena to her on the bed she rubbed her arms until she could tell the circulation was returning. "Better?"
Xena answered by putting her arms around her bard. "Yeah a lot of things are better now." She lowered her lips for a soft kiss.
Gabrielle returned the kiss feeling a sense of relief flood her that she and Xena had finally gotten to the bottom of what their problems had been. "I guess this means I'm forgiven for being a horse's ass?" she asked.
"If anyone should be asking for forgiveness Gabrielle it's me. I came close out there to giving in to Ares' lies."
Their tender moment was interrupted by light filling the cell. "But you didn't."
"Artimiss, your timing sucks you know that?"
Having been waiting for any sign of trouble from the warrior Artimiss knew that it was past time for her to make her entrance and offer her one last gift to the couple before she went back to Olympus. "Let's see if you say that after I'm done Xena."
They found them selves transported back to a glade in the forest. Waterfall, flowers and thick tress all came together to weave an almost magical feel to the clearing. A small campsite had already been set up complete with fire and provisions. Bed rolls were laid out side by side and lined with thick furs. "What's all this?" Gabrielle asked.
"This my dear Queen is my wedding gift to you both, that is of course assuming that tall dark and gorgeous over there still plans to pop the question."
Both woman were in awe by what they saw before them. Gabrielle turned to Xena, who she found down on one knee. "This isn't exactly the way I had this planned out." She started. "Gabrielle, Queen Of The Amazons, Would you do me the honor of joining with me in front of the entire Amazon nation and becoming my wife?"
A flush stole up the bards cheeks. "Yes Xena, anytime, anywhere as long as we're together."
"Good now that we have that settled, enjoy. I'll be back in a week by then the Amazons will have had time to make the arrangements for your wedding. If you don't mind I would like to officiate at this one myself.."
Gabrielle started to answer but than waited for Xena to make the call on this one. "Artimiss, It would truly be an honor for us....and I'm sorry for the accusation."
"It's over." Was the simple statement that the Goddess made "Besides you had more than a little help in leaping to conclusions." She turned to leave the clearing, calling back over her shoulder. "Oh and Xena You'll be happy to know that Ares actions won't go unpunished."
"That's good, but all I really want from Ares is for him to leave us alone."
One more flash of light and they were alone. Taking Gabrielle in her arms Xena looked deeply into the eyes of the woman that had captured her very heart. "I love you."
"I love you too my warrior, now kiss me."
Happy to comply Xena bent her head, claming willing lips. She picked Gabrielle up carrying her to the bedrolls that have been laid out for them. her hands roamed familiar territory the texture and feel of Gabrielle's skin never failed to set her senses on fire.
For the first time since Xena had 'died' Gabrielle felt completely at ease. Like the cloak of fear that had been over her heart had been lifted. Breathlessly she asked "Is this real Xena? It feels to good almost like a dream...If I am dreaming promise you won't wake me up."
"Your not dreaming my bard this is all very real. And in a weeks time you are really going to be my wife."
Those were the last coherent words they said for the night as they let their passion for each other take over. Secure in the knowledge that their love had seen them through the shadows and into the light.
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