Convert this page to Pilot DOC FormatThings We Do For Love
by Joe Murphy
Disclaimer stuff. Xena: Warrior Princess, and a bunch of characters belong to MCA/Universal. This story is not for profit, and belongs to me.
This story has some violence and one bad word, so beware!
He made his way around the last turn in the long underground stairway to find Anna waiting there as he had ordered. Without his asking, the young servant girl held up the key for the god of war to take. Opening the door, he felt his heart begin to race. He liked this. He liked the fear. He liked the plotting and the sneaking around. He liked having his private little stash of contraband to play with. Pulling the door open, he gave the key back to Anna, the only other person in existence who knew of this vault and how to get in. She took the key and closed and locked the door behind the god, and left to return to her secret place until the god called out for her again.
The strong smell of horse struck Ares as he entered the cell. Waiting, the god stood silently as one, two, and then a multitude of torches lit themselves along the walls. He heard his horse snicker at the sudden change, even over the sound of the woman shrieking at it. Taking no notice of the screaming and rattling of chains, Ares walked over to the wooden cage that held his prize possession.
The horse turned her head slightly and nuzzled her nose against the god's outstretched hand. Ares gently stroked the soft brown muzzle and looked lovingly along the horse's body to its white, feathered wings.
"It appears Anna has kept you well. We'll ride soon, I promise." The horse grunted her disbelief. "I know, but I have to be careful with you. I can't let the other gods find out about another winged horse, can I?" The horse looked into the god's face with understanding, or so Ares thought. Reaching behind his back, he pulled out an apple for the brown mare, who took the present greedily.
"Later my sweet. I have to go check on my other little lady," the god cooed as he made his way toward the sound of pure hatred rising from the back of the cave. Above the various stacks of scrolls and artifacts, he could see the goddess' chains swinging and thrashing against the ring fastened high on the wall. The screaming stopped suddenly as he came into view of his captive.
Ares looked down on a tattered, filthy Velasca. Her ghostly silver eyes stared up at the god of war. At the sight of him, she strained against her chains, her panting the only sound she made now. The god of war chuckled at her vain attempts to free herself.
"Come, come, Velasca. You really should let Anna bathe you. You smell."
The self proclaimed god of chaos screamed and pulled violently against her chains to no avail. Ares watched as she struggled. "Don't waste your energy, Velasca. You won't break them, and you can't pull them out of the wall," the god assured her as he eyed the chains. "Remarkable, aren't they? The cyclopses make them. They don't actually take your godhood away, but they make you as helpless as any mortal. I could keep you bound her for all eternity if I like, but I won't."
The goddess stopped struggling, "What are you going to do with me then?" she spat.
"You are going to be a gift," the god said as a small object, the object he had come for, drew his attention away momentarily.
Ares looked back to his prisoner. "You didn't really think you could destroy Artemis' temple and get away with it, did you?" the god chuckled as he turned to leave. Walking over to a shelf, he could feel his previous fear coming back to life, drowning out the sounds of the shrieking goddess. His eyes came to rest on two identical blue crystals. They were to small, perfect pyramids, each housed in its own clay base. He lifted one carefully, wiping the dust away as he contemplated, maybe even reconsidered, what he was about to do.
Time travel was forbidden. He knew that, but that just meant that he had to be even more careful than usual. Of course Ares broke the rules when he had to. Every god did. But this was different. If he failed, he would most certainly lose his godhood, and may even be killed on the spot. Even if he was successful, he would have a lot of lying to do to cover his tracks. He would just have to make sure he didn't fail, he decided.
Taking a deep breath, the god covered the crystal with both hands, and raised his arm to shield his eyes against the blinding flash of light that enveloped him.
Ares spun. His eyes quickly scanned the open field until they came to rest on Hercules just as the half-breed began to run. Ares looked down the field to see himself, five years younger, bring his eyes up from the dying Serena, readying himself for the attack that wouldn't occur.
"It's not supposed to happen this way!" the enraged hero cried, gaining speed.
Pulling a thunderbolt from the surrounding air, Ares waited. He remembered this fight as if it had happened yesterday. He'll drop kick me in the chest the god told himself. He brought his hand back patiently, the sound of the static electricity crackling in his ear, drowning out the sound of a cackling Strife. Just as Hercules' feet began to leave the ground, Ares let the bolt fly, striking the hero in midair. The god watched as the younger version of himself and his nephew looked at the unconscious form, stunned, then turned to look who delivered the blow.
Ares smiled at the other gods' dumbfounded expressions and began walking over to them. His younger doppelganger eyed him up and down, unconsciously taking a fighting stance. Strife looked at one, then the other, and began to laugh.
"This is so bitchin! I swear, Uncle, being around you is like a box of chocolates, you never know..."
"Strife, shut up!" the younger Ares warned. The little god tried to stifle his laughter, only partially succeeding. The older Ares looked over to him with amusement.
"What are you doing here?" the younger Ares asked.
Ares turned his head from Strife to the younger version of himself. The sight impressed him. Except for the apparel and slightly different hair style, they looked exactly alike. Ares realized this must be so, but being so used to watching mortals age as time passed, it actually struck him as odd that he did not. Taking his eyes off his handsome double's face, he looked down to his double's hands.
"I need that knife, it's important."
The younger god of war shook his head as he lifted the blade. "I don't think so. I kill Hercules, and it will drive Xena over the edge. What can be more important than that?"
Ares rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on and think! If your plan worked, do you think I really would be here to stop you?" He waited. The younger god looked down at the fallen hero, and back up to himself. "She doesn't come back to me?"
"You never get the chance to find out. He won the fight, and then threw the knife into the dirt. I need that knife in order to save Xena's life, Ares. Give it to me."
The younger Ares thought a moment. "But he's unconscious. I could kill him now."
"No!" Ares warned. "If we make that many waves in time, the gods will know, and we can't afford that. Ares, of all the people in the whole world, who do you trust?"
"I think that would be me," Strife offered happily. Both Ares's looked to him and began to laugh, wickedly. "Oh, please," they said in unison.
With obvious reluctance, the younger Ares handed the knife over to his older counterpart. "I trust no one but myself."
The older god took the knife and slid it into his belt. Kneeling down next to Hercules, the god took his wrist and held out his other hand for the younger god of war to take. As their hands touched, the younger gods mind raced with images of fighting Hercules, having the knife to his throat, and healing Serena. Then the grip on his hand broke, reality came back to him, and he looked over to the fallen woman. With a gesture, he felt power course through his blood and spray from his fingertips. Slowly, Serena woke up and began to look around.
"Ok, Strife and I will take care of everything on this end," the young god of war told his elder as he watched him rise from the ground. "You just make sure I didn't do all of this for nothing."
"Don't worry," Ares grinned. "This knife will serve the greater purpose quite nicely."
Xena had better hearing in her sleep than most people have awake, but the silent footfalls that entered her camp went unnoticed by the sleeping warrior or her traveling companion. Sitting herself on a nearby log, Callisto surveyed the campsite and smiled. The fire separated the two. That was good. Not that it really mattered now. She really didn't need strategy or planning anymore, she realized. Picking up a pebble, she tossed it. It hit Xena's shoulder before rolling out of the light of the fire.
Instinctively, the warrior reached for her sword before her eyes even opened. Springing to a sitting position, she scanned the camp, her hazy eyes focusing on the leering image from across the campfire.
"Oh, not again," Xena muttered. Annoyed, she placed her sword back on the ground beside her and lay back down, closing her eyes. She heard an astonished gasp and urgent footsteps coming in her direction. Before the reality of the situation hit her fully, she felt a hand pull her up by the hair. Getting herself into a kneel, Xena saw the image of Callisto again, this time rolling into her line of vision from behind her, one hand firmly tangled in her hair.
"I can't believe you! I come back all this way and you think I'm a dream?" Xena's vision blurred with tears as the goddess brought her knee up to meet the warrior's nose, sending her onto her back. Rising slowly, Xena was brought back down to the ground by a blow to the jaw that shattered several of her bones.
As she groped blindly for her sword, nearly fainting, Xena heard Gabrielle spring awake.
"Gabrielle, run!" Xena cried out as she felt her hair ripping out of her scalp. Obediently, she rose again and turned her head toward the bard as Callisto pulled her around. Through her clouded vision, she saw Gabrielle grab her staff and start to run towards the two of them.
Without saying a word, Callisto pulled her hand back, and threw a lightning bolt at the bard with a flourish. Xena watched her take the blast full force and fly back into a tree with a crack. Xena could make out the reflection of the firelight in the blood where Gabrielle's head made contact with the wood.
Before she could think about what she was doing, Xena sent her elbow into the ribs of the goddess. Surprised, Callisto loosened her grip on her captive just enough for Xena to pull forward out of her grip. Callisto lunged forward, her chest meeting Xena's boot, which sent her tumbling backwards into waiting arms. Xena watched the hands spin Callisto around.
The unmistakable voice of the god of war filled the air. "Use me, bitch?"
Callisto's body suddenly flew backwards, hitting the ground at Xena's feet. Xena looked up from the fallen goddess into the hateful eyes of the war god. He lowered his fist, and looked at the two of them, grimacing. She watched him pull out a knife and gesture with it at the two of them.
"What a waste."
Callisto rose to face Ares, and Xena looked over to Gabrielle. The bard was still moving, barely. She had rolled over and was watching, and swaying. She turned eyes back to the gods, but the form of Ares was blocked by the image of Callisto's back. Xena heard her laughing.
"A knife? Oh, please! Come on, Ares, take your best shot."
Xena watched as a blue light flashed like an aura around Callisto's body, and lightning cracked again, and again, and again. She saw Ares' arms wrap around Callisto's body as she caught the falling god. She watched the arms slide down the sides of Callisto's body as the goddess slowly lowered his body to the ground. Then Xena heard another laugh, a cackle.
"Not bad shootin', wouldn't you say?" Strife beamed.
Callisto rose. "Who in Tartarus are you?"
"Callisto, stab him!" Strife yelled.
A bright light flashed from deep in the trees. A man began to run to the camp.
"Stab him!" Strife begged.
Confused, Callisto picked up the knife and began to kneel. Xena jumped back, startled, as a man emerged from the night, tackling the goddess. Rising to her weak knees, Xena edged her way towards her sword, then crawled around the camp, putting herself between the fight and Gabrielle.
Xena watched the man and the goddess struggle. Long grey and auburn hair covered his head, and a beard his face, but the yellow shirt and leather pants were wonderfully familiar. On top of Callisto, Hercules had the tip of the knife over her heart, trying to push it down with brute force as the goddess pushed back with even strength.
"Hercules, behind you," Xena warned a second too late, the pain in her jaw threatening once again to take consciousness away. She watched helplessly as Strife grabbed the aged hero by the shirt back and sent him up and over his head, fly back into the trees. Xena rose to her feet slowly, praying that she wouldn't pass out. The firelight caught the knife as it flew out of Hercules' hand and safely away.
Xena flew in a somersault over the fire. Her elbow met Strife's nose, and the tip of her sword swooped down and caught Callisto across the midsection, causing the goddess some short term pain. She dropped to her knees, turning to watch Strife rise, apparently having stumbled over the still unconscious body of his uncle. The young god laughed hysterically, took one step towards the warrior princess, and fell flat on his face.
Hercules stood up straight, his hands still firmly gripping Strife's leather clad ankles. He began to turn and turn in small circles, spinning the imp into the air. Turning her attention back to Callisto, Xena ducked just in time to avoid a jab that would have most likely knocked her senseless. Rising to her feet, she jabbed the hilt of her sword into Callisto's stomach, then chin. Behind her, she heard Strife's scream get farther and farther away, and then the sound of crashing leaves and breaking branches. Callisto caught Xena's blade in her fist as the warrior tried to bring her sword down on the goddess' head. With the other hand, the goddess took Xena by the neck and lifted her up from the ground.
"No, no, no." Callisto taunted as she threw the warrior princess into the son of Zeus, knocking them both to the ground. Xena's fingers ached as the sword ripped out of her hand. She looked up to see Callisto take the sword in her free hand by the hilt and pull the blade out of the other hand with a jerk. The psychotic goddess looked down on her prey.
"Well, well, what do we have here? My Maker and my Jailer, both here together." She looked at one, then the other. "Which do I kill first?" Her eyes rested on Hercules. "As if there's really a choice. I have to save the best for last, don't I?" Callisto took a step forward.
Xena scanned the campsite for Gabrielle's staff. She noticed the bard wasn't where Xena had left her. Looking off to the left, she saw Gabrielle on all fours, her hand reaching for the knife. She looked back at Callisto, hoping the goddess didn't follow her gaze, but the only thing that existed right then to Callisto was her vengeance, and her eyes never left the demigod.
Xena looked back at the bard, who was now sitting, lifting the knife to throw it.
Callisto took another step.
Xena watched Gabrielle throw the knife in a high arc, and fall face first into the ground.
Callisto took one last step. Towering over Hercules, she raised the upside down sword with both hands on the hilt, pointing the tip at the man's heart. Then she stopped. Xena watched confusion spread over the goddess' face, then watched as the face grew ashen. Xena saw an arm come from over Callisto's shoulder, taking the goddess' neck in the crook of its elbow. Another hand came around her stomach, holding the knife. Xena could see the fresh blood on the blade just before it was thrust up under Callisto's ribs.
The goddess sank, revealing the god of war standing behind her. Blood smeared his leathers from where he had stabbed Callisto in the back. His smile was huge, his chuckle light as he looked down at the fallen goddess.
"But, I'm invincible..." Xena heard Callisto protest. Xena looked into her creation's eyes as they drew wide and blank with death, hopefully for the last time.
Hearing a moan, Xena rose to her feet and made her way across the campsite to Gabrielle. The bard's hair was saturated with blood. Xena could hear slight, raspy breathing. Pulling Gabrielle's head into her lap and into better light, Xena looked into the bard's glassy eyes. The image of Gabrielle's face blurred as tears welled up in the warrior. Then she felt what could only be snowfall. She looked up to see a shower of red sparkles floating down, covering the two of them. The agonizing pain in her jaw faded. Her head cleared. Looking across the campsite, she saw Ares pulling his hand back to his side, grinning.
A deep breath came from Gabrielle, and then another. Xena looked down into the bard's clearing eyes. The young blonde was gasping for air, coughing. Xena pulled Gabrielle up into her arms and rocked her gently, sobbing half from relief, half from adrenaline.
"What happened to you?" Xena asked. Gabrielle lay on the other side of the campfire asleep. Ares had left to find his traitorous nephew, and taken the body of the goddess with her, hoping to appease the other gods with it. Xena and Hercules sat, talking quietly, mending each other's cuts.
"Well, nothing, really. I've just grown old."
"Was it some sort of spell, or..."
The hero laughed a little and reached into his shirt. "No, nothing like that." As his hand came back out, Xena saw a small blue pyramid in his hand.
"This crystal lets you travel through time. I found it in an underground cave that I think belonged to Ares."
"You came back in time to save Ares?" Xena asked, dumbfounded.
Hercules paused. "As bad as Ares is, Callisto and Strife are worse. Xena, after she killed Ares, she killed you and Gabrielle. Then she really went over the edge. She began murdering everyone we have ever known and loved: your mother, my mother, my brother, all dead. I went into hiding, and she destroyed so many people trying to find me. The other gods did nothing to stop her, and Strife helped her do anything she wanted. I had to do something."
Xena softened at the explanation. "Thank you for saving our lives, then."
The strongest man in the world winced as the wine burned a particularly nasty cut. "You're welcome."
Xena smiled. It still amazed her that someone so powerful could be hurt like any other mortal.
"How did Ares kill Callisto with that knife?" Xena blurted out, the incongruity of the fact finally registering.
"That knife was covered with the blood of a hind. It's poison to the gods."
"But I thought Zeus killed all the hinds years ago."
Hercules grinned slightly. "That is a really long story."
Near a small farmhouse, a bright light flashed, and the son of Zeus returned home. He squinted his eyes against the harsh sun that was not there moments ago. He felt uneasy as his eyes took in the valley. Everything looked the same.
Hercules turned just in time to scoop up a delighted little girl, who proceeded to give her father a bear hug. The hero walked towards the house, returning his daughter's embrace. As he rounded the house to the front, the form of his powerful, dark haired wife filled the open door. Hercules smiled at his love.
"It's about time you showed your face around her," the woman scowled, her smile betraying the joke.
"Forgive me, Nemesis, I have had a busy day."
"So, what's new? By the way, we have a guest tonight for dinner."
The hero became still as a familiar form stepped up behind his wife. The yellow hair had thinned, the purple shirt had faded, but there was no mistaking who it was. Hercules grew quiet and lowered his little girl to the ground.
"Herc, are you all right?" Iolaus asked. Stepping around Nemesis, he walked over to his best friend. He suddenly felt as if he would suffocate in the hug he was caught up in. Using all his strength, he pulled himself free, and looked up into Hercules' tear streaked face.
"Hercules, what is it?"
Hercules opened his mouth, unsure of what to say. Finally, he managed, "I'm just really glad to see you."
"I'm glad to see you, too. You hungry?"
"Starving," the hero lied.
"Good, me too. Lets get something to eat."
This story © 8-25-97 by Joe Murphy
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