Disclaimers:The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess and all others associated with the television series of the same name are owned by Studios USA. This is a work of fan fiction and no copyright infringement is intended.
Subtext: Iguess with my writing so far we'll just quit calling it subtext and call it maintext. Yes, they are in love with each other.
Sex:Not in this one.
Violence:Gabrielle may be forced to kick a little ass here.
Language:There is foul language in this one.
Other:6.18.01. Having just viewed FIN2 this just NEEDED to be written. THIS DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE SERIES FINALE!! And also minor spoilers for other episodes.
Friend In Need: Part III
"Gabrielle, you just cant ignore me like this." Xena rumbled as she stepped forward.
The warrior-bard turned and quirked a brow at her friend. "Oh, yeah? What exactly are you going to do about it?" She sniffed and let her hand come to rest on the chakram at her hip. "Seems to me I hold all the cards here, Xena."
"What about going south, to the land of the pharaohs?" The warrior paced back and forth in front of the ship the bard was about to board.
"Changed my mind. Its a womans prerogative to change her mind." Gabrielle crossed her arms and tapped her foot, waiting for the next rant to explode from her partner.
"Gabrielle " The warrior growled, reaching out for her partner, who just shook her head.
"For get it, Xena. I can make this happen and they owe us." The blonde turned on her heel and headed up the plank. She felt the tingle down her spine, which forced her to look up to find Xena standing in front of her, trying to block her path. She shouldered her small bag and took a deep breath. "Have I mentioned how much I hate it when you do that?"
"I have many skills." The warrior tried to joke as the bard brushed past her. "Come on, Gabrielle, be reasonable."
The bard turned and looked to her friend. "Reasonable? Reasonable? Like your asking me to accept your decision to stay dead was reasonable?"
"I explained all that to you," Xena grumbled as she followed Gabrielle to her cabin.
Gabrielle pushed open the door of the cabin and entered, giving it the once over she decided it was comfortable enough. She removed the bag from her shoulder and took the urn from it. Carefully, she placed it on a table in the corner of the cabin. Xena grimaced, scratching her cheek out of habit as she looked at it.
"That thing gives me the creeps." The brunette offered staring at the ceramic jar.
"Well it should. Damn it, Xena. Thats all I have left of you. I thought I could handle it. I thought I could continue like this, but I have to admit Im a selfish bitch and I cant. I cant take not having you with me."
"But, Gabrielle, I am with you."
"Not in the way that it matters!" Gabrielle turned angry eyes on her partner. " Those deaths, those souls. That was not your fault. It was an accident! A horrible accident and Im not going to let you pay for it."
"But nothing. You said that you learned from me, Xena. Well, that goes both ways, and I learned from you too. And I learned when you should regret and I learned when you should pay for something and you shouldnt be paying for this."
"Those people "
"Those people," the bard closed in on her companion and stood toe to toe with her. "Those people died in a horrible accident, Xena. An accident that in reality wasnt your fault at all. If Akemi hadnt use you" The bard could see the protest on her partners lips, but silenced her with a single glance. "Yes, Xena, used you. She used you to get revenge and she is the one ultimately responsible for this. Let her bear the responsibility. Im so tired of us having to fight for everyone but ourselves. Damn it, Xena, when will it be our turn to be happy?"
The warrior lowered her eyes with her partners rant. She wanted to argue, but she knew deep in her heart that Gabrielle was right. As she looked back up at the bard she wondered if her decision to remain in the spirit world had been for the forty thousand or just one
"Im going to do this, Xena, and you are," she paused and smirked as she tossed the chakram to the bed on the other side of the room. "Are going to have to live with it."
"Oh, very funny." The warrior grumbled before disappearing.
"Have I mentioned how much I hate it when you do that too!" Gabrielle yelled into thin air.
Gabrielle took a deep breath as she entered the temple. Slowly she walked to the altar and placed the urn on it. "Aphrodite! Please, I need your help."
She waited for a few minutes, taking the time to pick up a few things that had been scattered about the temple. The building wasnt in very good shape; it had been raided and pillaged. The bard picked up a small statue of the goddess and placed it on a pedestal. Releasing a frustrated breath she called again, "Come on Aphrodite! I need your help. Xena and I need your help. You owe us! Im calling in my markers."
"Chill, babe." The Goddess popped in beside her. "Wheres the fire?"
The bard pointed at the urn. "There."
The goddess tilted her head and looked at the jar. "Its nice but its not me. Try something "
"No!" Gabrielle growled taking a step closer and taking Aphrodite by the arm. "You look. Look at it again and tell me what you see."
"Its a dusty old jar."
"Aphrodite, that Xena!"
"Whoa!" The Goddess of love took a step closer. "Who knew old tall, dark and deadly would be so compact. What happened?"
"We went to Japa. Its a long story and not one I really care to go into. I need your help to restore her."
Aphrodite circled the pedestal, looking carefully at the jar. "Thats a tall order, little one. Im not sure I can help." She gave her friend a frustrated look, biting her bottom lip with the admission.
"You mean to tell me after everything Xena and I have done for you, including but not limited to, getting your Godhood back for you, that you cant help me." Gabrielle marched forward, laying her hand on the jar and glaring at the Goddess. "You more than anyone should know what we mean to each other. I cant live without her! I wont live without her!"
"Gabrielle " For the first time in her immortal life the Goddess was speechless, she just shook her head. "I just dont know how I could "
"I dont know where else to go Aphrodite. When we were in Japa, Xena stopped me from resurrecting her at Mount Fuji. But I realized, after a few nights of sleeping alone, and not waking up next to her, I just couldnt go on like this. I need her. I need her with me. I need to be with her."
Aphrodite sighed, taking a good look at the blonde. She could see frustration and exhaustion written clearly on her friends face. She snapped her fingers; a large soft bed appeared in the corner. "Tell you what, you stay here tonight and rest and Ill see what I can do. Maybe I can find something to help you."
Gabrielle nodded, looking at the bed and suddenly feeling very tired. She glanced up to see Xena standing in a corner with her arms crossed against her chest. "Not a word out of you!" she grumbled as she started for the bed.
The Goddess looked around the temple trying to figure out what her friend was grousing about. "Gabrielle, are you all right?"
The bard nodded. "Yes, Im okay. Im just tired." She made her way to the bed, taking a seat on the edge. She let her head drop and her shoulders sag.
Aphrodite joined her friend, sitting close and wanting to offer her comfort, but not quite knowing how. "Tell me about it, Gabrielle. Ill try to help."
Tears fell unabated as the anger and frustration finally began to take its toll. She sniffed angrily wiping her cheeks. "We found were summoned to Japa "
Xena watched as Aphrodite pulled the blanket over the bard, when she had fallen into an exhausted sleep after an extremely emotional retelling of the events in Japa.
"You should be ashamed of yourself." The Goddess said quietly as she brushed her fingers through the sleeping bards hair. Standing up, she turned to face the warrior. "How selfish can you be?"
"You can see me?"
"Well, duh! I am a Goddess after all. I saw you the moment you popped in, I just didnt want to make her anymore upset than she already was." She glanced back to the bed, then turned to glare at Xena. "How could you! After everything I went through to get you two together."
"Aphrodite, its not that simple."
"Nothing with you ever is, Xena. Why are you making her suffer?" She lifted her chin to the bard, who rolled over and curled under the blanket. Even in her sleep it was apparent she was searching for someone to be next to her. They watched for a moment as Gabrielles hand explored the bed before finally finding a pillow and holding onto it.
Xena swallowed hard, shifting back and forth from one foot to the other. "She told me she understood."
"She lied, Xena. Cant you feel it? Cant you feel whats in her heart? Shes dying inside without you."
Xena looked out the window at the setting sun. "I have to go," she said softly before disappearing.
"Oooo, warriors!" the Goddess fumed before disappearing as well.
"Youre not getting away that easily, Xena!" Aphrodite crossed her arms as she stared at Xena. She looked around at the realm she had entered by following the warrior. She shivered, taking in the misty surroundings, but noticing that Xena had a perfect view of Gabrielle from this place. "You watch her when you cant be with her?"
"Of course I do. I promised I would never leave her."
"Then why did you allow this?"
"Someone has to atone for the souls in Japa."
"Why does it have to be you Xena? Why are you making Gabrielle pay for this?"
"I caused it "
"No, you didnt, Xena. Gabrielle told me the story. The only thing you are guilty of is trusting someone who used you."
"Aphrodite, you dont understand." The warrior tired to argue, but the look on the Goddess face suggested she wasnt interested.
"I do understand, Xena. Akemi used you. You opened your heart to her and she betrayed you and now youre making Gabrielle pay for that betrayal."
"I started the fire."
"You were granting that traitorous womans last wish. You were in mourning. They were taunting you, Xena."
"I was drunk." Xenas head dropped and she turned her back on the Goddess to watch her soul mate slumber. "I started that fire." Her voice dropped to a whisper that even the Goddess nearly had a hard time detecting. "I killed them."
"People died in an accident that was brought on by the irresponsible actions of a woman who set you up," she growled, moving in front of Xena, and blocking her view. She waved her hand at the image of Gabrielle. "And she is suffering for it." She gestured around at their surroundings. "Is this your paradise, Xena?"
"No! My paradise is there." She tilted her head at the bard. "This is hell. This is worse than anything weve been through before. Dont you think it breaks my heart to see her unhappy?"
"No, I dont. Because if it did, youd be trying to help her find a way to fix this rather than resigning yourself to it as some kind of fate. Youve never given up before, Xena, why now?"
"I needed to take responsibility for my actions, Aphrodite. Those souls can live in grace as long as I remain in this state."
"Yes, including the one who betrayed you. You let her live in grace while your soul mate suffers." The Goddess poked the warrior in the chest. "If you dont help Gabrielle make this right, you dont deserve her or her love and you never did."
Xena felt as if she had been hit square in the chest. She could feel her heart hammering as she took in Aphrodites words. "I love her " she whispered, kneeling down to watch Gabrielle some more.
The bard woke, stretching sore muscles aching from the nearly non-stop travel that had brought them home to Greece. She turned her head to find the morning sun pouring into the temple. "Aphrodite? Xena?"
She sat up in the bed, once again stretching her arms high above her head. Rubbing her eyes, she felt the tingle creep down her spine. She smiled. "Good morning, Xena." She looked up to find her partner standing in the doorway, back lit by the rising sun.
"Good morning, Gabrielle. Did you sleep well?"
"I havent slept well since I started sleeping alone. I had an interesting dream last night."
The warrior moved slowly into the temple, crossing the room to her companion and kneeling before her. She placed her hands on the bards knees. Gabrielle covered Xenas hands with her own, still not quite used to the chill she felt there. "Tell me about it, my bard."
"I was dreaming about my last birthday." Tears formed in her eyes as she looked to the warrior. "You and your rotten practical jokes."
Xena bit her lip and smiled. She wanted to cry, but swore to herself there would be no more tears. Today would be the start of their journey to find a way to restore her. Aphrodite had spent the better part of the night making her see reason and understand how much this really was hurting Gabrielle, no matter what kind of a front the blonde tried to put on for her. "I made up for them. I gave you the poem."
"Yes, you did." She reached out and cupped Xenas cheek. "Thank you."
"Maybe someday youll explain to me why it didnt rhyme." The brunette laughed, sniffing and holding back the tears in her eyes.
"Not all poetry rhymes, Xena."
"Good poetry does," she joked.
"Your idea of good poetry is, There once was a man from Rome "
Xena laughed, nodding. "Youre right." She took a deep breath and gripped the bards hands. "Were going back to Japa, Gabrielle."
The bards eyes widened when she realized what Xena had said and exactly what it meant. "Were going to try and "
"And find a way to bring me back. Aphrodite says that neither she or Ares have the power to help us and she thinks were going to have to go back there to make it possible."
"Xena," she just shook her head, too overcome to properly respond to her partner. Her smiled grew wider when she looked into the blue eyes that had captivated her. "Thank you."
"Hey, just so you know. When I get back I want my chakram back."
"Ill think about it." She squeezed Xenas hands. "I kinda like it."
"Un-huh." Xena quirked a brow, eyeing her signature weapon, which was laying on a small table next to the bed. "You get in one lucky shot "
"That wasnt luck warrior." She gave a big grin, feeling much better than she had in days. "I now have many skills."
"Oh, brother." Xena rolled her eyes.
"Ready?" Aphrodite wrapped her arm around the bards waist.
"Absolutely." Gabrielle nodded, looking to Xena and giving a wink.
"Aphrodite, watch where youre putting your hands." She pointed at the pair, gesturing back and forth between them.
"I see being dead has done nothing to improve your jealous disposition." Aphrodite teased tightening her hold on the bard. "See you there." And with that the pair was gone.
Xena closed her eyes and disappeared in a flash of light.
When she reappeared she stumbled. She had found it tricky, getting the hang of being able to pop in and out at will. Xena glanced around looking for the Goddess and the bard. The warrior took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. She glanced over when she saw the light flash next to her.
Gabrielle laughed, holding onto Aphrodite as they took form. "Whoa, now thats unique." She cleared her throat, taking a step away from her friend. "Thanks for the lift."
"My pleasure. I wish I could do more."
"Youve done more than you can ever know." Gabrielle moved forward, giving her a hug. "Thank you for making her understand."
"It was my pleasure, little one. Now go figure this out. There is a monastery just over that rise." The Goddess gestured. "Im sure the monks there will be able to help you."
The bard nodded, stepping back. "Thank you again."
"See you both soon. Whole and intact." She lifted her brows at the warrior. "Right?"
"Thats the current plan., the warrior agreed.
The Goddess turned to the bard. "Youve got everything you need?"
Gabrielle gave her bag a small pat. "Right here." She ran her hand over the bulge in the bag that was Xenas urn. "Were all set. Are you sure you wont stay?"
"Theres not much I can do here. Youll be better off if you do it on your own."
"Well be home soon." The blonde squeezed her friends shoulder.
Gabrielle bowed her head in respect as she entered the temple. Two monks stood before her. She waited for one of them to say something. If there was the one thing about the people of Japa that annoyed her, it was their tendency to ponder for a long time before speaking.
"You are seeking?" The elder of the two spoke first.
"I am." Gabrielle nodded without looking up.
"What is it you seek warrior?"
Gabrielle opened her bag and removed the urn, reverently presenting it to the monk. "My friend. I want to restore my friend."
The older monk motioned and the younger of the two took the jar from Gabrielle. "What will you do to bring your friend back?"
Now Gabrielle looked up, standing tall and looking him directly in the eye. "Anything."
"That is quite a declaration. Are you sure of your determination in this?"
"Yes. She is the most important thing in my life. Ill do whatever I need to."
"Your heart is pure. Your love is profound. Your friend is nearby?"
The bard looked to the door, motioning for Xena to join her. "Shes here with me."
The monk nodded. "I can sense her presence." He tilted his head. "Your friend is a warrior too?"
"She is the only warrior," Gabrielle offered.
"She died and honorable death?"
"She died as a warrior should. She fought Lord Yodoshi and defeated him."
"Your friend is a very brave warrior and very honorable to remain in the realm of the spirits so that others may reside in grace."
The bard swallowed hard but nodded her agreement. "Yes, but there is someone else who should be "
The monk raised a hand silencing the bard. "Yes. There is one who is not doing the honorable thing. She holds your friend there."
"Yes! Akemi should be the one atoning for the souls of Higuchi. It was her deception that caused the chain of events that now hold my friend."
Xena sighed and shuffled, crossing her arms. She smiled when Gabrielle gave her a reassuring nod. "Its going to be okay, Xena."
"I know," she admitted softly.
"You are worthy of our help." The monk beckoned Gabrielle to follow him as he turned to move further into the temple. "You must be prepared to fight for your friends return."
"Anything," Gabrielle intoned again.
She slipped into the robe, tying it off at the waist. Gabrielle smoothed the fabric, contemplating that if everything worked out all right shed have to make sure that she and Xena would take a couple of them home to Greece. They were actually quite comfortable. "Would be great for lounging in front of a nice romantic fire," she mumbled as she placed her clothes in a chest at the foot of the bed. The bard looked at the small room, decorated with many symbols that simply fascinated her.
"What about that fire, Gabrielle?" Xena moved through the door, with a little grin edging her lips as she entered the room.
"Eavesdropping on me?"
"You bet. Now tell me about this fire you want to lounge in front of."
Gabrielle smiled at her partner. "Okay. When I get you back. Im going to take you home and were going to find someplace with a nice big fireplace and were going to get a flask of wine and practice that passing the liquid thing, until we get it right."
"Oh, we are, are we?"
"Oh, yeah!" The bard nodded, licking her lips. "Absolutely."
A knock on the door quelled what could have become a painful exchange for both of them, causing them to think about things that werent possible at the moment. Gabrielle rolled her shoulders moving to the door and pulling it open.
A young monk stood in the door holding a small tray. "Soup and saki. You should eat, drink and then get a good rest before your journey of faith starts at the sunset."
"Sunset? But if I must do this at sunset Xena wont be able to "
"You must enter Xenas realm at the setting of the sun. But you must be refreshed." The monk lifted the tray toward Gabrielle. "Please."
She took the tray, smiling at the young man. "Thank you.
Xena knelt by the bed, watching her friend sleep. She glanced out the small window, to find the sun beginning to set. "Gabrielle, wake up. Its time."
"Xena?" The bard yawned, rolling over. "What was in that soup and saki? I havent slept that heavily in days."
"I would imagine it contained something to make your journey easier."
"Probably. Something to open your mind and help you cross over. Did you dream?"
Gabrielle blinked even as she sat up. "No. No I didnt."
"Are you ready?" Xena took Gabrielles hand. "Theyre coming for you."
"Im ready." Gabrielle bit her lip in hesitation. "Xena, I dont know how this is going to end. You know Im going to do everything I can to bring you back, but if I fail "
Xena shook her head. "Dont say that Gabrielle. You wont fail. I know you. You are the most determined person I know. How many times have you fought against odds that would have overpowered any other person?"
"But those times I knew in my heart I could change things. Now Im not so sure. I feel, I feel like part of me is missing." She smiled, caressing the warriors cheek. "The best part of me."
"No. You were always the stronger of us. You always believed. You always had faith and hope even when we faced the worst. I told you before that you were the best thing in my life. You never stopped caring, you never stopped loving." Xena dropped her eyes. Then she gave a defeated little laugh. "Even when I did. Even when I didnt deserve the things you gave me, you always stood by me." She looked up into the watery green eyes. "When we get home I promise things will be different. Ill never let you regret staying by my side."
Tears slipped down Gabrielles cheeks. "Or I you. You have given me just as much. We are two parts of the whole Xena. And we will be whole again." She took a deep breath. "One way or the other."
Before the warrior could comment, there was a knock on the door. Gabrielle stood, straightening her robes again and pulled the heavy door open to find the older monk that had met her when she arrived.
"You are ready, warrior?"
"I am." She glanced back over her shoulder watching Xena fade away as the sun sat through the window. "Be strong, my love. Ill be there soon."
As they began walking down the hallway, Gabrielle closed her eyes for a moment seeing Xena in her minds eye. The bard couldnt help but smile.
"You love her very much." The monk said quietly.
"I do. She is my life."
"Only someone who truly loves another would be willing to go to such great lengths to help them. One does not often find such a profound love. Your friend is very lucky you have a heart of such great capabilities." He looked to Gabrielle, who just looked to the floor as they walked. "It is very hard for a warrior to offer these things. Hearts and souls made hard with years of battle and death are not often so open to such feelings."
"Im not a warrior. Im a bard." She wiped her eyes rubbing the tears into the tips of her fingers.
Gabrielle knelt in front of the altar, her hands poised, seemingly in prayer near her face. With her eyes closed she listened to the words of the monk.
"You must listen. Only by listening can you speak with those who have left this plane for the next. They will speak to you. They will call to you. Once they do, you may enter their place."
"Gabrielle " The voice was faint, but it was that of her soul mate.
"Im here Gabrielle. Im with you."
She began to feel a shift. Her spirit felt as if it were leaving her body. It was strangely the same, yet very different from her death on the cross at the hand of Caesar. "Xena? Where are you?"
"Im here. Come to me."
She opened her eyes to find herself surrounded by the mist. Xena stood before her, smiling and offering her hand. She stepped forward, taking it and being pulled into an embrace by her partner. "Oh, Xena. Now what?"
"Its your quest Gabrielle. Your journey. You must either convince Akemi to do the honorable thing and make the atonement or you must find someone willing to take my place here."
"I dont know where to begin."
"Concentrate and begin where your heart takes you."
"Come with me."
Xena shook her head. "I cant. I have to stay here. Im not allowed to influence those you may have contact with."
Gabrielle nodded, confirming her determination to begin her quest. "All right. Ill do what I need to do." She grinned at her partner. "You stay put. When we get back Ill arm wrestle you for the chakram."
"You could probably take me now," the warrior teased. "Well have to come up with something else."
"Ill even be gracious and let you choose."
"How kind of you." She waved her hand. A katana formed there, she offered it to her partner. "We have no way of knowing what you will find. You may need this. There may be forces at work to stop you. Take this so you can protect yourself."
As the bard took hold of the katana, Xena pulled her close, so there bodies met and their lips were only a whisper apart. "I love you Gabrielle, be careful."
"Always." The blonde tilted her head up, placing a gentle kiss to her partners lips. "Back soon and youre going to owe me so big."
"I already do. No surprise there."
Gabrielle felt the shift again. When her vision cleared she was standing in the middle of a road. Looking around it looked one of a thousand roads she and Xena had traveled before. She took a moment to get her bearings then she made a choice and began walking.
She stopped after traveling for quite awhile and cocked her head, listening to the sounds around her. "Show yourself!" She commanded, drawing the katana.
From the tree line at her left, Ephiny stepped forward. "Gabrielle?"
The bard lowered the sword, taking small steps toward her friend. "Ephiny, what are you doing here?"
"Ive come to help. There are a lot of us on the way, but it will take time. We know what happened, Gabrielle. We can all feel it in your heart and were going to help you get Xena back."
She rushed forward throwing her arms around Ephiny. "Thank you. I dont know how were going to do it but we have to find a way."
"What are friends for? Well find a way Gabrielle and well do it the way you and Xena always do things. Strictly by the seat of our pants."
"We do have that tendency, dont we?"
"You two are masters of the by the skin of or teeth method."
"You said others were coming. What others?"
"People who care about you and Xena and who know that you need each other for balance. I have to tell you, Gabrielle, that the pain youve been holding in has really affected us more that you can know. We feel your pain too."
Ephiny shook her head. "Dont be. Its how we knew you needed our help. Were going to stand by you."
"Thank you, my friend." Gabrielle offered her arm, which Ephiny took.
Sitting near a campfire, both women stared into the flames with their arms crossed over their knees. Ephiny looked to Gabrielle. "A dinar for your thoughts."
"I was thinking of Xena."
The amazon smiled. "Of course you were."
"I know, Im pitiful."
"I never said that. So what were you thinking about?" The amazon poked the fire. They didnt need it, but it just seemed like the right thing to do when they decided to make a camp. Ephiny had been quick to joke that old habits died hard.
"I was thinking I shoulda just dumped the damn urn in the river and then fought it out with her."
"Yeah, but you always had this tendency to do what was best for everyone else. And you must have thought it would be best for her."
"I did." The bard nodded, then looked up to her friend. "But now Ive changed my mind. I want whats best for me. For us. Is that wrong?"
"Would I be here if I thought it was? You and Xena have fought for the greater good and given more than any two people I know." Ephiny moved closer to Gabrielle, giving her a little bump with her shoulder. "Its about time to start putting yourself first. I just hope we can pull this off so you can give Xena grief for a long time to come."
A rustling in the bushes brought Gabrielle and Eph to their feet, preparing for a fight. The bard left her hand lying on the handle of the katana as she stepped forward to investigate. "Come on out. We know youre there." Gabrielles eyes widened when she watched him step out of the woods. "Solan?" She rushed forward, placing her hands on his shoulders. "What are you doing here?"
The boy looked at her with a gentle smile. "Ive come to help you."
"Oh, Solan, this is no place for you."
"My place is to help those I love. I love my mother. I want to help."
The bard looked to Ephiny who just shrugged. "Its his right, Gabrielle. He must have felt the calling too or he wouldnt be here.
Gabrielle looked back to Solan. She shook her head, not quite believing he was with her. "All right. If you want to be here I wont try to stop you."
"Gabrielle, wake up."
The bard opened her eyes. Regardless of where she currently resided, she still got tired and felt the need for sleep. She had curled up next to the fire the night before and drifted off listening to Solan and Ephiny reminiscing about the amazons and the centaurs. She blinked a couple of times before her jaw dropped. "Cyrene?"
Xenas mother nodded, handing the bard a warm cup of tea. "You dont need it here in this realm, but itll be soothing."
The bard ignored the mug of tea as she bolted upright and pulled the older woman into a hug. "Im so sorry!"
"Sorry? For what?" Cyrene wiped Gabrielles cheeks.
"For you," she stammered a bit. "For not being there to help you!"
"Gabrielle, you had no way of knowing. And its not like you and Xena didnt have problems of your own. Im at peace now. You put it right, just like were going to put this right and get you two back together." She offered her the mug again. "Now drink this. The others will be here soon."
She smiled and took the cup drinking the warm liquid, finding it very soothing just as Cyrene had promised. Gabrielle watched as Solan and his grandmother talked quietly near the fire. She noticed almost immediately that Ephiny seemed to be missing. Just as she was about to comment, the amazon came out of the woods with a thick branch that she was stripping the bark off of.
"What are you doing?" The bard asked rising to her knees.
"Whats an amazon warrior without a staff?"
"A woman without splinters?" The bard tilted her head, smiling at her friend. She was actually feeling better and starting to believe that everything would be all right.
"Har, har!" Eph rolled her eyes even as she pulled the last strip of bark from the branch then gave it a quick twirl, checking its balance. "Not bad, not bad at all."
"Well, hello, ladies," the thief winked and stroked his mustache as he walked into the camp. "Hey, Gabrielle, I hear youre in need of a few friends." He extended his arms, preparing for he hug he was about to receive.
The bard did hug him then stepped back. "Autolycus if youre here, then "
"Yup, fraid so. But dont sweat it. I died a rich, happy old man." He grinned and gave her a little chuck on the chin. "With a very young wife."
"Always the ladies man."
"Nah, she just wanted my money, but she was pretty and everyone in town thought I was a right old lech."
The bard was amazed as she watched person after person meet up at the campsite. Cyrene was reunited with Toris and Lyceus. Amarice, Epinon and Solari arrived together, with Tyldus right behind them. Gabrielle didnt know exactly what to think when Lao Ma and MLila arrived together.
Autolycus could only chuckle when her heard her grumble something to the effect of, "Great, more of Xenas ex girlfriends. Just what I need."
She gave him a rather dirty look before stepping forward to meet the new arrivals.
He crossed his arms, leaning against a tree watching her make nice.
Before she could return to him she found her mind reeling when Perdicus arrived with her parents. "What are you all doing here?" The bard asked, still not believing that they had come.
Hecuba cupped her daughters chin. "She is important to you, Gabrielle, and you are important to us."
"I feel like I failed you," she admitted to her parents.
"You never failed us, Gabrielle." Her father took her hand. "You went where your heart called you. We" He looked to his wife who nodded her encouragement. "We didnt really understand, but you never failed us."
"When we felt the pain in your heart," her mother continued when her husband couldnt, "the aching of your soul, we knew we had to come."
She hugged her parents, then turned to Perdicus. They looked at each other with eyes that reflected love and respect, but Gabrielle suddenly felt nervous in his presence. "I dont know what to say." She offered quietly, not quite able to look at him in the eye any longer.
"Most people start with, hello, old friend." He opened his arms for a hug, which she gave him without hesitation.
"Hello, old friend."
Her embrace of Peridcus was interrupted by the arrival of two others. She swallowed hard as she watched Eli and Joxer enter the camp. She wiped happy tears from her eyes as she looked at all of the people who had been so important in her and Xenas life. She was amazed by the power that seemed to surround the group and she definitely knew in her heart that failure was not an option.
The groups moved out, simply following Gabrielle as she walked down the road. None of them knew exactly what was about to happen, only that it would be the most important thing they had ever done.
Gabrielle glanced over as Joxer fell into place next to her. He looked to her, waiting for her to say something.
"Thank you." She said finally.
"It was nothing." He glanced at his feet.
"It was something. You died protecting me."
"I never stopped loving you. I did what I had to do. Just like youre doing what you need to do now."
She nodded, looking to him again. "It can never be enough for me to just say thank you. I can never repay you."
"Yes you can. Lets get through this and you and Xena just spend the rest of your lives together." He chuckled, kicking a stone out of his way. "That will be make it all worth it."
Gabrielle felt a tingle chase down her spine. Looking up she found the older monk standing in front of her. "Were ready."
"Look at them, Gabrielle. Look at those who have come to aid you and tell me what you see."
She turned, looking at every face then turned back to face the monk. "Love. They love us, unconditionally and without reservation."
"Yes." He looked to the sky, taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly in contemplation. "You must find Akemi and make her understand that it is her place to atone for the souls of Higuchi. If she truly loves Xena, she will do the honorable thing."
"Where is she?"
The monk pointed to a mountain some distance away. "There is a temple. You will be able to find Akemi there. But there will be obstacles in your way."
Gabrielle quirked a brow. "Isnt there always? Just once Id like something to be easy."
"Death, like life, is not necessarily easy, Gabrielle." He opened his hand, offering her a small medallion with a dragon etched on it. "This, along with the totem you already posses will help you in your quest."
She ducked her head, allowing him to place the medallion around her neck. "The warrior is waiting for you," he whispered.
The bard tucked the medallion under her tunic. "Ill bet shes being all impatient isnt she?"
A smile curled the monks lips. "Very."
"Nothing new there."
All of them were unconsciously leaning forward in their seats listening to the professors lecture. She loved it when they got like this and she knew she had them in the palm of her hand. She moved from the podium to the corner of her desk were she unbuttoned her blazer before taking a seat.
"So after that meeting with the monk "
Before the professor could continue, the door to the classroom opened and a blonde woman slid into the room, remaining by the door as she pulled it quietly closed.
The brunette instructor looked to the woman by the door. "Well, class, heres a real treat." She gestured towards the woman. "May I introduce Dr. Carol Covington? It was her grandmother, Dr. Janice Covington that discovered the lost Xena scrolls."
The blonde moved forward towards the brunette with a smile that definitely said, Ill get you later, "Dr. Pappas, you are too kind. You know as well as I do, it was actually your grandmother that discovered the scrolls."
"And this argument has been going on for the last sixty years." Dr. Pappas offered to her students with a grin "We took it up from our mothers and Im sure our daughters will carry it on from us. Its a great family tradition."
A student in the back of the room hesitantly raised his hand.
"Yes, Mr. Cline?"
"Dr. Pappas, I dont mean to be rude, but the monk? Gabrielle? Japan?" he reminded, trying to get her back to the story.
"Ah." Carol crossed her arms, giving an approving nod. "The story of Xenas redemption."
Dr. Pappas stood and joined her colleague. "This is where Dr. Covington and I disagree. I say Xena really found her redemption in Gabrielle and her decision to remain in the spirit world "
"Just tell the story." The visiting professor nudged her friend, giving her a bright smile and a wink.
"Perhaps you would like to take over? You tell it so much better than I do."
"Fine." Dr. Covington answered, not shying away from the challenge. "Have a seat." She gestured to an empty chair in the front row. "And take good notes, Dr. Pappas." She paused. "There will be a quiz later."
Dr. Miranda Pappas was glad that most of her students couldnt see the blush that crept up her neck, causing a furious burning in her cheeks.
"So where did my esteemed colleague leave off?"
A student in the middle of the room piped up. "Gabrielle had met up with everyone and they had met the monk who gave Gabrielle the medallion. He was telling her about the temple."
"Okay." Carol sat on the desk, leaning forward. "So they all started for the temple "
Gabrielle raised her hand, halting everyone. Ephiny understood the body language and motioned for everyone to be quite.
The bard listened, slowly drawing her katana. She looked to the amazon contingent gesturing with two short strokes to the trees. She lifted three fingers to signal how many adversaries they would be dealing with.
She moved forward, slowly twirling the sword in her hand. She actually took a moment to look at it, realizing she was doing it exactly like Xena had. Before she could further consider the action a warrior leapt from a tree. The bard sidestepped and whirled around, raising the sword as she had been taught.
They circled slowly each looking for the others weakness. Gabrielle could hear the skirmish between the amazons and the other two warriors. She knew she couldnt be distracted right now and that Eph had plenty of help if they needed it.
She was very careful watching every movement he made. She forced herself to listen only to the sounds that came from him, the creaking of his armor, the noise of his sandals moving in the sand and the dirt of the road, his heavy, but controlled breathing and the pounding of his heart.
Gabrielle licked her lips, even as they continued. Their eyes never left each other and while this warrior gave off a confident aura, the excessive pounding of his heart gave him away. She pulled back, then lunged forward with a roar, engaging him. Their swords met with a loud clang, sparks flying at the contact of metal against metal.
The bard whirled left, bringing her leg up and soundly kicking her opponent in the back, sending him forward. She regained her balance quickly and prepared to deliver another blow with the sword. She shifted carefully when he made an unexpected backward lunge, the shift allowed her to jump up and away. She twisted in the air landing on her feet facing her enemy.
The warrior hadnt expected her to escape his maneuver and he stumbled forward giving her the perfect opportunity to deliver the deathblow. Which she did without thinking twice. She watched him fall to the ground, then simply disappear. Gabrielle slowly turned to find that everyone was watching her. They had made short work of the two she had left them and they didnt interfere in her fight with the lone warrior.
She sheathed her katana, glancing to the mountain. "Lets go." Her voice was firm and determined and offered absolutely no regret for what she had just done.
At the base of the mountain, Gabrielle found a footpath she felt would take them to the temple. As she looked more carefully she noticed hoof prints in the area. She knelt down, running her fingers over the prints. "This cant be."
"What is it Gabrielle?" Joxer asked, stepping up next to his friend.
"If Im not mistaken these are shoe prints of Roman horses."
"Roman? As in Caesar, Roman?"
"Thats the one."
"How could there be "
The thundering of hooves ended the question. The ground actually began to shake as the noise grew louder.
"Get ready!" The bard yelled. She raced up the footpath to a small rise in the rocks to get a view of what was headed in their direction. When she got a good look she dropped her head. "I dont believe it. I just dont believe it." She took a deep breath and headed back down the path.
"What is it?" Eli looked toward the thundering sound as he joined Gabrielle and Joxer at the base.
"Caesar. Do you believe it?" The bard felt almost hysterical. "Why wont that man stay dead?"
"Umm Gabby. He is dead. We all are." Joxer reminded her.
"Right." She acknowledged him with a quick wave of her finger.
"So," Carol, stood and began pacing back and forth. "Gabrielle then found herself face to face with Caesar once again."
One impatient student blurted out. "So what happened?"
Dr. Pappas stood up, joining her friend. "Gabrielle kicked his ass and sent him back to his Gods. Everyone that had joined her took care of the Roman soldiers that were there as well. The bard had her own army, one that would do anything because they all had one thing in common."
"The fact they loved Xena and Gabrielle?" A redhead in the front row asked, shifting her books to the floor so she could lean forward on her desk.
"Right. Love is a very powerful weapon when it has to be."
Dr. Covington took a seat behind Mirandas desk, leaning forward on her arms. "Apparently Gabrielle and her group had to face some of the enemies of the past before they could continue up the mountain to the temple."
"So they were playing spiritual mind games with her?" A young man in the back row asked.
"Exactly." Miranda nodded, retaking her seat on the corner of her desk. "It seems that Akemi was pulling the pain of the past from Gabrielles subconscious and forcing her to face the things she feared over again."
"So Akemi was really a bad spirit?" Another student questioned.
"Absolutely." Carol nodded. "She used Xena to kill her father and as a direct result of that the people of Higuchi died. She knew she should be the one atoning for those deaths, but for some unknown reason, Xena decided to take up the burden and when she did Akemi allowed it to happen. She used Xena a second time."
"Until Gabrielle got good and pissed." Dr. Covington chuckled. "She was very determined to set things right no matter what the cost."
"She just didnt expect the price to be so high." Miranda added.
It had been a long day of one battle after another. Gabrielle had never fought so hard in her entire life. She was tired and frustrated by the time they made it to the temple. When she was a few hundred feet away she looked to the door to find the one thing she never expected. "Hope." She sighed and drew her sword once again, wondering why she had even put it away. "I should have known youd be here."
The bard sighed, shaking her head. "Hope, nothing is going to stop me from going in that temple so you may as well just go away."
"Fighting for Xena again?"
"Not just Xena this time. Both of us."
"You have no place here. You dont belong here. Now get out of my way. You cant win against me."
"I never could. I always came second to you."
Gabrielle closed her eyes for a moment, taking a calming breath. "Thats an old argument I dont intend to rehash." She twirled her katana. "Now move, before I move you!" she growled. The bard looked hard at the image of her daughter, then she began to concentrate, willing her to be gone.
Hope shivered, leveling her best glare at her mother. "You cant get rid of me that easily Mother."
"Yes I can." Gabrielle put all her energy into her thoughts. She felt the medallion around her neck growing warm against her skin. A moment later there was a bright flash of light. When it cleared, Hope was gone.
Gabrielle staggered back. Slowly regaining her footing she stood up straight, then she turned to face the group. "I have to go on alone from here. But I love you all. Thank you for standing with me."
"Good luck dear friend." Ephiny said before she and the others slowly faded from sight.
"So she went to the temple and kicked Akemis ass and forced her to take Xenas place?" A student jumped up from his seat.
Dr. Pappas laughed, motioning for him to sit back down. "Not quite."
Carol stood and moved back to the front of the desk where she took a seat next to her friend. "Gabrielle realized that fighting Akemi wasnt going to work. She was going to have to try something different."
"Nah she shoulda kicked her butt just for the hell of it." This comment from yet another student sent the entire room into a fit of laughter.
The taller woman began pacing as she continued with the lecture. "Well, I can see why you might think that, but you have to remember that Gabrielle was a very smart woman. She knew how to fight each of her enemies. She knew who needed to be battled physically and that Hope needed to be battled mentally. She needed to finally rid her mind of Hopes spirit. She had battled with Hope physically time and time again and had never really gotten rid of her. So using the power of her mind she was finally rid of her daughter. So on this quest, she had used her body to fight physically and her mind to fight mentally, but whats the one weapon Gabrielle had she hadnt used yet?"
Both professors waited patiently for an answer. Covington raised a brow at Pappas when no answer was forthcoming. "How long have you been teaching this class?" She teased.
"Apparently not long enough." Pappas turned toward her students. "Come on people. Think about it. What was the one thing Gabrielle could always rely on?" She waited a moment longer. "First person to get it, gets a ten percent bump on the next test."
"Words." A girl in the last row answered. "Her ability to talk, or write."
"Give that girl a cigar!" Carol pointed to the young woman. "Right. Gabrielle knew she was going to have to convince Akemi with words that she was the one who should be atoning."
The bard slid the door open. Stepping inside she saw the young woman, supplicated before her. She closed the door, slowly walking toward Akemi. She stopped, then knelt down on her knees and lifted Akemis head with the tips of her fingers. When their eyes met, Gabrielle simply asked, "Why?"
Akemi raised up, resting her hands in her lap. "Xena chose. I did not ask her to stay."
"No, but, you left and she felt like she had too. Her sense of honor held her there. She knew someone had to atone for the souls of Higuchi."
"I have moved on."
"You can come back. You can take your rightful place."
Akemi shook her head. "No. I have no desire to do that."
It was all Gabrielle could do to keep from striking out. "Is it fair to condemn Xena for something that was not her fault? Xena has done so much good, trying to atone for the things in her past, but this is just too much. To leave her trapped like this," the bard shook her head. "Surely you must see that it is wrong."
Gabrielles eyes hardened. "You dont love her. You never did. You used her and now she is paying for your mistakes. I hope your honorable ancestors mock you everyday for your dishonorable act." The bard rose. "May you have the most torturous eternity possible."
The bard turned, then walked to the door. Before leaving she turned and addressed Akemi one last time. "Ill do whatever I need to do to free Xena and if I have my way, you will always regret what you have done."
Stepping out side she met the older monk. He tipped his head. "Akemi?"
"Refuses to help Xena. But I know what I need to do. Where is she?"
"My student is waiting with her at the spring on Mount Fuji."
Xena stood, leaning against a rock when the duo appeared over the rise. She smiled and approached the bard, pulling her immediately into a hug. "How did it go?"
Gabrielle lowered her head. "I failed. Akemi refused to help you."
The warrior nodded, disappointment clearly written on her face. "Im sure you did your best Gabrielle."
"I wont accept this Xena. You will be restored." She turned to the young monk who held the urn. "Place her ashes in the water."
"No!" Xena yelled raising her hands to stop him. "Gabrielle, I cant leave unless there is someone here to take my place."
The blonde nodded, removing the medallion from around her neck and placing it over Xenas head. She held the tears in her eyes when she said, "There is someone to take your place."
"Oh no. No Gabrielle, I wont allow it. You have less reason to do this than I did."
"I have more of a reason, Xena." The tears fell freely now. "I do it because I love you. Because I know what was done was an injustice." She caressed Xenas cheek. "Please let me do this for you. I love you Xena. You deserve better and its my duty as your partner to see to it that you get it."
"Gabrielle " the warrior allowed tears to fall down her cheeks. "How is this better? Were still not together."
"Its better because the sacrifice is being made for the right reason. Im doing this because I love you."
"Please Gabrielle "
"Wait a minute!" Several students yelled at the same time.
One dark haired young man took up the gauntlet. "You mean to tell us that they just switched places? That sucks!"
"Relax." Miranda chuckled. "If you have learned anything from my lectures about these two you should know that eventually everything seems to work out for them."
"But yes," Carol added quickly, " it was Gabrielles intention to switch places with Xena."
"Gabrielle had nothing to do with what happened, why would she make that kind of sacrifice?" A girl on the right side of the room asked shaking her head. "Seems to me if Xena wanted to be stubborn about it then Gabrielle should have let her remain."
Dr. Covington scratched above her brow before answering. "What is the most significant thing between Xena and Gabrielle?"
"The fact that Xena taught Gabrielle everything she knows." Someone offered from the back.
"That was part of it, but not what Im looking for. What drove Gabrielle to pull Hope into the pit?"
"She was trying to save Xenas life, because if she had killed Hope the Fates would cut her life line."
"Right, but why did Gabrielle do it?"
"Because she loved Xena." Another voice intoned.
Carol smiled, knowing that Miranda loved it when she got this much reaction and discussion out of her students. She watched quietly as her friend continued to address the class.
"Bingo. Gabrielle loved Xena. Xena was the love of Gabrielles life. The most important thing the bard had. She would do anything for that love."
"No kidding." Someone chuckled from the middle of the room. "I mean holy smoke, look at all the crap they went through."
"Do it!" The bard commanded, looking hard at the young monk.
Xena turned, just in time to see him remove the lid from the urn. She started toward him, but the second the first ashes hit the water she was frozen in place. She felt the surge through her body and she was pulled from one plane to the next and she began to become whole again. "Gabrielle!" The yell was torn from her throat as she left the spirit realm.
The bard watched as Xena faded then slowly began to reappear. She wiped the tears from her cheeks, thinking how odd it was that she could cry. "I love you, Xena." She whispered. She noticed the sun starting to set and felt a change in her surroundings, she knew she was being pulled away from her soul mate and wouldnt be able to be with her again until the sun came up.
"Gabrielle!" The warrior yelled again as she took form in the mortal realm. She shook her head to clear it then looked to her partner, who stood some distance away. "No Gabrielle! I wont allow this!" She charged to her partner, glancing at the setting sun, Xena brought her hands to her neck and pinched.
"Xena!" Gabrielle rushed forward, kneeling with Xena as she collapsed to the ground. "Take it off! Damn it, Xena, take it off!"
The warrior smiled as blood began to trickle from her nose. " I was right."
"Right about what? Take it off Xena! Please take it off."
"If Ive only got thirty seconds to live, I want to live them looking into your eyes." She gasped, crumpling further to the ground.
"Please!" The bard begged, knowing time was running out. "Dont do this!"
"Okay!" A voice shouted into the classroom. "Either tell us theyre okay or start passing out the valium."
Both professors found this outburst to be very funny as they dissolved into a fit of laughter. Miranda wiped her cheeks then gestured to the class. "Okay, okay. But do you see the devotion of these two people? Both of them, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the other. And notice how, at first, Gabrielle tried to go on without Xena, but Xena wasnt willing to even try and go on without Gabrielle. I think that speaks a great deal of the bards importance to the warrior."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know they were important to each other but how in the hell did they get out of this one?" This question was accented with the thumping of a fist on a desk.
Carol laughed loudly, sitting back in her chair, watching her partner. She loved it when students got impatient for a story. It showed they were paying attention. They always got this type of reaction when they offered this class. It was just such an incredible story, you couldnt help but get pulled into it. No wonder it had become a family tradition to continue the study of these two ancient heros.
Dr. Covington wasnt sure of her grandmothers tales that they were actually descended from the two women, but Miranda believed it with all her heart and that was what really mattered to Carol in the end. The blonde also had to admit that there was a strange and mysterious pull between them, just as there had been for past generations. She and Miranda had grown up together knowing the were fated to be together.
Miranda continued the lecture, asking questions and delaying getting back to the story, partially to make the student work and partially just to make them nuts. She glanced at her partner and winked, even as the students groaned when she made yet another query of them.
"Dr. Pappas, I do believe youre being evil just because you can be." Covington stood, facing the students. "So now both of them are "
"Stop this Xena!" The bard stroked Xenas neck, wishing she had the power to remove the pinch.
The wind swirled around them, stopping almost as suddenly has it had begun. Gabrielle looked up to find Akemi standing before them.
"Go Gabrielle. Go to your soulmate. Stop this. I will do the honorable thing." She faded into a small white light and was gone.
In an instant Gabrielle felt the shift and she was next to Xena. Under her hands she felt a faint pulse. Without hesitation she jabbed Xenas neck releasing the pinch. The warrior gasped and opened her eyes.
"Dont you ever to that again!" The bard yelled even as she pulled her partner into her arms, cradling her.
"Yes maam." The warrior croaked, closing her eyes and accepting the warmth and comfort of her partners arms. She realized this was where she wanted to be for the rest of her life. She cleared her throat, gently and opened her eyes again. "I want my chakram back."
"Well discuss it." The bard teased, placing a tender kiss to the warriors forehead.
"Thank you God!" Someone yelled when this part of the story came to an end. "Its about damn time!"
Carol just shook her head at Miranda. "Theyre a vocal bunch arent they?"
"Very." The professor agreed, looking to her students. "Too bad they dont ask this many questions before a test. It would improve their grades tremendously Im sure."
A hesitant hand raised in the back.
"Yes Miss Parker?"
"But what happened after that?"
"Good question." Miranda concurred. "The truth is were not entirely sure. We know they went back to Greece and continued their journeys."
"At least on a part time basis. We have uncovered certain documents that lead us to believe that they may have actually built a house just outside of Poteidaia and gone into, shall we say, semi retirement."
"But there are also documents that lead us to believe," Miranda playfully challenged her partner. They concurred on most issues but occasionally they had disputes, this was one of them. "That they continued for a few more years until Gabrielle received a wound to her leg that made it difficult for her to walk and nearly impossible for her to fight. Then," Her eyes shifted to the blonde. "They built the house."
"Six of one, half dozen of the other." Carol shrugged. "But what we do know is this "
Gabrielle crossed her arms over her chest watching Xena and Ares. She sighed softly, knowing that the God would never give up trying to turn Xena, but that it wasnt going to be possible.
"Think of it, Xena. We could raise an army and go over to that worthless little island and take revenge." He practically bounced along side Xena as she continued to unload a wagon, ignoring him. "Come on Xena, just one good war."
She sighed and looked to him while leaning on the wagon. "Ares, there is no such thing as a good war and I dont want revenge on anyone."
The God scowled and looked to Gabrielle. "This is all your fault!"
The bard raised her hand to acknowledge him. "I take full responsibility." She rolled her eyes and picked up a crate carrying it into the house.
Gabrielle began stocking the shelves in the cooking area when Xena came through the door with another heavy crate in her arms and Ares on her heels. "I mean come on Xena," he whined. "She took your damn chakram away from you!"
"I gave it to her." The warrior answered dryly, placing the crate on the table, giving Gabrielle a wink. "Shes better with it than I am." She turned to the God and grinned. "Would you like a demonstration?"
The blonde pulled the weapon from her hip, holding it up. "Id be happy too. You look like you could use a haircut."
He just gave her a dirty look before returning his attention to Xena. "Youre not going to be any better at this farmer thing than I was."
"Im not going to farm, Ares. The village needs a healer and Gabrielle is going to teach and write her scrolls."
"How nice for her." He spat. "Xena please see reason. You are so not a healer or a farmer or anything else. You are a warrior. An ass kicking, name taking warrior."
"Times are changing Ares. I suggest you change with them or be left like yesterdays trash."
His shoulders slumped. He could tell arguing with her was not going to do any good. "Okay! All right, fine. When you get done playing house give me a yell. Ill be waiting."
"Dont hold your breath." The bard growled. Then she rethought and smiled at him. "No, actually, go ahead and do that."
"Har har." The God mocked before he posed to pop out. Then he paused and snapped his fingers. "Here Xena, its just not right that you had to give up your toys." He tossed her a chakram, exactly like the one that had been broken by Callisto.
She caught it, giving it an appreciative look then offering him a genuine smile. "Thanks." She lifted the weapon toward him. "I always liked this one better anyhow."
"Use it in good health." He snapped his fingers and disappeared.
Xena twirled the chakram and then fastened it to her hip. "Oh yeah, thats nice." She smiled at the bard. "Now were double trouble."
The bard moved forward, wrapping her arms around Xenas waist. "Weve always been double trouble."
"True." The comment was made with a soft kiss to the top of the bards head. "So what room should we work on next?"
"How about the bedroom?"
"And thats it." Miranda glanced at her watch. "For today anyway. Its time for you to move on to your next class. Go find some other instructor to annoy." She teased, motioning for them to head for the door. "Go ahead, get out of here. Ill see you Thursday."
Both women stood quietly, watching the students file out of the room. Once the room was empty Carol moved to Miranda and wrapped her arms around her. "Hiya beautiful."
"You think after coming in here and disrupting my class you can win me over with little compliments?" The tall woman chided playfully.
"Hmmm okay maybe not. How about I take you home and fix you a great dinner then give you a rub down with warm rose oil, in front of the fireplace?"
"Oh, sweetheart, you can come disrupt my lecture any time you like if thats how youre going to make it up to me."
"Ill keep that in mind." She tugged on her partner and they headed for the door. "By the way, I managed to decipher scroll two thirty-five today. Or at least most of it."
"Fantastic. Did you learn anything new?" Miranda pulled away just long enough to grab her briefcase.
"Yeah, you know that fight Gabrielle got hurt during?"
"I figured out who it was with. Seems that our dynamic duo was called to a small village, where they discovered a left over relic from the Gods.
Miranda paused in their walk and looked down at her companion. "You dont mean you finally found the scroll that explains "
Carol nodded, allowing a bright smile to cross her lips. "Yup, I sure did."
Xena gripped a torch in one hand and her sword in the other. Alternately she burned and cut her way through cobwebs as she and the bard made their way into the cave.
"Well yuck!" Gabrielle groaned as her foot landed in something slimy. "Im burning these boots when we get home."
The warrior chuckled moving further into the cave. "How bad can it be?"
"My foot is sticking to the ground. I say again, in case you missed it the first time, yuck!"
Xena just shook her head as they pressed on.
"What do you think it is?" Gabrielle ducked a protruding rock, moving up beside her partner.
"I have no idea, but whatever it is, its got these villagers scared half to death." Stepping into another passage Xena thrust the torch forward, lighting up the doorway ahead of them. "And whatever it is its in there."
"Oh goody." The blonde offered dryly.
"Youre getting cynical in your old age Gabrielle. This could be something serious."
"Un-huh." The tone of boredom in her voice caused her partner to laugh.
"Okay, youve got a point. After everything weve been through its hard to surprise us."
"You can say that again."
Entering a large cavern, they immediately noticed the source of the problem. A large orb suspended from the ceiling. I was glowing and pulsing, filling the room with an ominous energy.
"This is not good." Xena groaned, shaking her head. When she placed her torch in a holder to her right other torches flared to life lighting the entire cavern.
The bard looked around the room seeing it for exactly what it was, a tomb. The question was, a tomb for who? She chewed on the inside of her mouth as she investigated further.
Xena moved immediately to a large sarcophagus in the center of the room. "Oh great, just great."
"Come and see for yourself." She gestured to the sarcophagus.
She crossed the room, stopping suddenly when she got a look at the face etched in the stone. "Ares?"
"So it would seem." The warrior began an earnest investigation of the tomb now.
Gabrielle rapped on the casket. "You dont suppose hes in there do you? Its been a while since weve seen him."
Xena turned around to look at her friend. "Do you want to open it and see?"
"Umm no." She ran her hand over the stone. "If hes in there its for a good reason." She joined Xena and they both looked around for any clues that might help them explain all of this. "So what do you think?"
"To be honest Im not sure. Seems like everything has been here for awhile. Notice how dusty everything is."
The bard crossed her arms and leaned on the wall, when she did a panel slid away, causing her to almost fall over.
The warrior was there in a flash, steadying her partner and looking into the room that had opened up. "Well lookie here." She picked up a scroll tied with golden threads. Carefully she untied it and unrolled the parchment. She looked like she half expected it to explode in her hands. "Oh this is rich." She snickered as she read the scroll. "Seems that the Olympian Gods were planning on trapping old Ares in here at one time."
"You dont want to know. Its ancient history now." She lifted a thumb over her shoulder at the orb. "Seems thats The Eye of Hephestus. Once Ares is placed in the tomb, its power is supposed to hold him here and protect the cavern."
The bard swallowed hard and sighed. "They were going to entomb him when he was in allegiance with Dahok and Hope werent they?"
Xena nodded. "Yes."
"To bad they didnt succeed."
"Now is that nice?" He growled from behind them. "So what do you think?" He opened his arms gesturing to the cavern. "Nice huh? Yeah, they were very considerate when they designed the thing."
"Ares," Xena growled, stepping forward. "Whats going on here?"
"Well, I found this lovely little hideout not to long ago, after finding some clues about it in the rubble of Olympus. You remember Olympus dont you, Xena? The place I lived until you destroyed it."
"So when you decided to take up residence here it caused the Eye of Hephetus to come to life."
"Yeah," the God offered with a smirk. "But Ive discovered it actually make for a very nice power source. Giving me a little charge when I need it."
"Un-huh. Ares, the power of the eye is causing problem for the surrounding villagers."
"Like I care." The tall God shrugged then materialized a goblet of wine. "Care for a drink?"
Gabrielle sighed and rolled her eyes.
"I wasnt asking you!" He sneered at her.
"Good!" The blonde fired back.
"Okay you two, knock it off." Xena moved to Ares, laying a hand on his shoulder and casually waving her sword as she spoke. "Now why dont you be a good little God and find another lair to hang out in so the eye will go dormant."
"Xena, what fun would there be in that?" He sipped his wine. "I kinda like watching them squirm."
"Youre sick." The bard snapped. "To bad they didnt entomb you when they had the chance."
"Watch it blondie or Ill put you in the box." Ares lifted his chin to the casket.
"Try it!" Gabrielle stepped forward, her hand falling to the chakram.
"Stop it!" Xena shot Gabrielle a look then turned on Ares. "Look you dont want to fight with us in this thing. Its easy, just go someplace else."
"Nope. You want me out youre gonna have to move me."
Xena released a frustrated breath and took a step back. "Have it your way." She poised her sword waiting for him to respond.
"Oh were gonna play." The God chuckled, drawing his sword. "Lets make the stakes more interesting shall we. You win, I leave. I win and I get to put your girlfriend in the box." He didnt give her time to respond before he lunged forward.
As they continued in their swordplay, Gabrielle moved about the room trying to find the best spot to assist her partner from. She pulled the chakram free from her belt as she took her place on a ledge above them.
Ares drove forward; delivering blows that eventually snapped Xenas sword. She dodged him, then made a run for the other side of the room, putting the sarcophagus between them. The God twirled his sword in one hand and waved his empty hand, causing the lid to slide over on the casket. "What do you think, Xena? Is there a call for Bard in a Box." He laughed as he sent a bolt of energy crashing into the landing that Gabrielle stood on, causing it to turn to rubble and collapse from underneath her.
Xena watched as her partner fell several feet to the ground below, the lower half of her body trapped under a pile of stones. Gabrielle was still conscious but obviously in a great deal of pain as she struggled to free herself from the stones.
The warrior looked up; realizing the best way to get Ares to leave was to destroy the eye. She pulled her chakram from her hip and threw it toward the chain holding the orb. The God anticipated the move and jump straight up, deflecting the chakram with his sword.
The flight path had been changed and Gabrielle watched as it headed directly for her partner, who was unprepared to catch it. The bard wrenched herself up throwing her weapon, it made contact with Xenas. Sparks flew as Xenas chakram burst into two pieces, each one imbedding itself in an opposite wall.
The warrior ducked then extended her hand to catch the chakram still in flight. Once it was in her hand she threw it again. After bouncing off three walls, it made contact with Ares head, knocking the God into the casket. Xena caught the chakram on its return. She quickly fastened it to her side then dashed to the casket, pushing the heavy lid into place. "Sleep well Ares. And for a long time to come hopefully."
She listened, as the eye became more vibrant. She rushed to Gabrielles side and began clearing the rocks from her partners legs. Gabrielle twisted, offering as much help as she could. She glanced back when she heard stone grinding against stone. "Xena, go on the door is closing! Get out before youre sealed in!"
"Im not leaving you." The warrior took one of the larger rocks and rolled it toward the door. It caught the bottom of the door and kept it from closing completely. "There, that bought us a little time." She lifted a couple more rocks then pulled Gabrielle free.
The bard tried not to cry out as Xena lifted her into her arms, but the pain in her leg made her feel sick and like she wanted to pass at both at the same time. Xena stumbled a bit, but made it to the door. She shoved Gabrielle through the small opening then crawled under herself. Once outside she used her foot to push the stone away, allowing the door to close.
"Damn!" Miranda drew a deep breath as she read the scroll. She sipped from a glass of wine as she continued to read. "So thats how it happened?"
"So it would seem," Carol also sipped her wine as she made more notes. "Gabrielles leg was crushed by the rocks. Thats when they decided to give up the road. Since it never healed right and she had trouble walking "
Miranda nodded. "That makes sense. They went home and thats when Gabrielle had her baby, Myria."
Carol smiled. "So it would seem. They raised Gabrielles daughter together, living a very content and peaceful life. Then when Myria was grown, she took her mothers right of caste and went to the amazons."
Gabrielle stood staring at the flames. "Go in peace, my love." She whispered reverently, watching the smoke disappear into the night air. Feeling a hand on her shoulder, she turned to find Eve. She laid a trembling hand over the younger womans. "She lived a good life."
The younger woman looked at the woman who had always been such an important part of her life and that of her mother. "She did, mostly because of you."
The bard chuckled, caressing Eves hand with her own, noticing the difference in them. Eves hand was still smooth, while her hand showed the seasons that had passed. She never expected to see them looking like this, trembling with age and sorrow. "I think I made her crazy from time to time."
Xenas daughter smiled. "Im sure it was very mutual." She looked to her mothers funeral pyre. "But she lived the way she wanted right up to the end. She was with you."
"Will you stay here?"
Gabrielle shook her head. "No, I dont think so. This place requires a lot of upkeep and I just cant handle it alone. Myria has asked me to join her with the amazons, but I think Ill go back to Poteidaia and be with Lila and her family. Lila and her husband have already sent word that they would like for me to come home." She gazed once again at Xenas pyre. "It seems like it might be a good place to go, since everything I had here is gone." Tears fell from her eyes, even though she had promised herself she wouldnt cry. Xena had passed peacefully, fully prepared to move on. She had told Gabrielle, as her partner had sat at her bedside, that she was finally ready and that they wouldnt be apart long. The warrior had promised to find Gabrielle in their next life together.
"Then when Gabrielle passed, Eve and Myria placed the scrolls and the strands of hair in the tomb with Ares, believing that was the safest place for them." Carol offered her notebook to her partner so she could look at the notes for herself.
"And the tomb remained untouched until our grandmothers found it."
"Right. Eve and Myria destroyed any reference to it that they could find. Leaving very little trail. It was only with luck and a lot of determination that Grandma Covington found it."
"Wow." Miranda blew out a breath, sitting back in her chair. "What a story." She shook her head. "Sometimes I dont believe it myself."
Carol stood, moving behind her partner and rubbing her shoulders. "Well, one thing is for sure, its going to keep us working for a very long time to come."
Miranda took her companions hand and gave it a kiss. "This is true." The professor leaned forward and picked up a stack of mail. She shuffled the envelopes slowly and gave out a low groan. "Oh wonderful."
She held up an envelope. "C.H.A.K.R.A.M. is at it again."
Carol rolled her eyes. "I wonder what they think theyve found this time."
Miranda tore open the envelope and read the letter. "They dont say, only that its a major revelation in the life of the Warrior Princess."
"We could go if you want."
"Sure, Im in the mood for a good laugh."
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