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Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, title, and backstories used in "Bring Back Gabrielle" are the sole property of Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.
This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.
This story takes place after "Sacrifice 2."
No writers for the television show Xena: Warrior Princess were harmed in the making of this story. But the author feels that some of them should've been.
by Alan Plessinger
She felt the familiar sensation, felt her flesh crawl and her stomach churn, and knew without looking that he was behind her and to the right. Xena turned her gaze away from the steps of the temple of the goddess Athena, and yelled at Ares.
"By the gods, why can't you leave me alone? You've killed Gabrielle! What more do you want?"
"That's a unique interpretation of events," he said. "And I think you know what I want. I want you."
"You take Gabrielle away from me, and you want me to join you?"
"I've told you I'll bring Gabrielle back. She can have her life with the Amazons, and you can embrace your destiny. You were great, Xena. You can be great again. As great as Caesar."
"Gabrielle wouldn't care to be brought back that way," she said, and without another word walked away from Ares and ascended the steps of the temple.
"You are dreamin' if you think Athena will help you," said Ares, and vanished.
"There must be one god somewhere that isn't venal, vain, and power-mad," she said aloud to no one in particular.
But to herself she carried on a running conversation with Gabrielle, sure that Gabby could hear her thoughts.
"Gabrielle, if Athena won't help me, I know there are others that will. I just have to find them. I won't give up, Gabrielle. You never gave up on me. I owe you that, and more. So much more. Before I met you, it was so hard sticking to the path of righteousness. Then you became my friend, and I couldn't imagine any other kind of life."
When Xena entered the temple, there was no need for any sort of an offering or a prayer, there was no need to even call out the name of Athena. The goddess was already there, and waiting.
"Athena," she said, "I've come to plead on behalf of my friend Gabrielle."
"I know why you're here, and it has nothing to do with pleading on behalf of anyone other than yourself. You want Gabrielle back because you can't live without her."
"Tell me, Xena, haven't you ever considered that Gabrielle might be better off where she is, in the Elysian fields, away from you?"
Xena averted her eyes from the goddess, and searched the entire temple of Athena, as though inspiration could be found somewhere among the marble columns and altars. Finally, she looked back to the goddess.
"Tell me she hasn't been asking to come back."
"Of course she has. Gabrielle is a woman with a very strong sense of responsibilty. She feels responsible for the way you turned out. She feels she could've done a much better job with you, and maybe she's right. But what we want, even what we think we should do, isn't always what's best for us. Gabrielle is a woman with a wonderful soul, like a beautiful, flawless gem. She loved you so much, she gave you her whole heart, and you proved so very unworthy of that love."
"How can you say that? I was her protector!"
"What exactly were you trying to protect her from on horseback, at the end of a whip?"
"Gabrielle forgave me for that."
"Yes, she did. Gabrielle is very forgiving woman. She forgave you in Illusia, and if she hadn't you two would still be there. That seems a very coerced form of forgiveness. In the real world you couldn't even be bothered to tell her you were sorry. Xena, there are some offences a victim simply has no right to forgive, and this is one of them. Tell me, Xena, how do you suppose you came back from Tartarus in the first place?"
"Hades owed me a favor."
"If everyone Hades owed a favor to got to come back, Tartarus would be empty. I was the final arbiter of the decision, and I was only too ready to say no. Until I met Gabrielle. Xena, I'm sure you think you know what a wonderful woman Gabrielle is, but I tell you, you've seen only glimmers of her greatness. I have lost faith in the mortal race time and again, and I have come back to Gabrielle to remind myself that if the mortals can produce a beautiful, sweet, gantle woman like Gabrielle, there may be hope for them after all. If Gabrielle was willing to plead for you, I was willing to give you a second chance. Well, if this is what you've done with your second chance, you don't deserve another one. You don't deserve Gabrielle, and Gabrielle deserves to be rid of you forever."
Xena was at a loss for words. In a battle she couldn't win with a sword and a chakram, she was clearly in over her head.
"The past three years I've spent trying to do good mean nothing?"
"Xena, you did exactly what you wanted to do. You were a warrior because it was what you wanted to be and because you excelled at it. You reformed, more or less, but you were still a warrior. But what about what Gabrielle wanted?"
"She wanted to be a bard."
"Xena, there are many ways to be a bard other than the path she chose. What Gabrielle wanted was that you should find some measure of peace and happiness before you die. That you should somehow be able to find your way to the Elysian fields. She thought you deserved that chance. She loved you, and even though she knew it might mean her death, she stayed with you to try to give you that chance. Everything she did, she did for you. She had no desire to be a warrior, but she learned to defend herself so she wouldn't be a burden to you, even though hurting others was like hurting herself. That night before the campfire, when you promised her not to become a monster, she took the responsibility of your soul on herself, and she knew the enormity of the task. She knew that she was the only one with even a chance to succeed. And she deluded herself into believing that you were worth the fight."
"WHY?" yelled Xena. "What did she see in me that you don't!"
"Xena, allow me to show you something."
As quick as thought, and considerably quicker than a thought Joxer might have, they were transported to a time and place not too far distant. It was a stream, and Xena was knee deep in it, catching dinner for them both. Gabrielle was on the banks talking to a man named Hower.
"By the gods!" said Xena. "I remember this day."
"Really? Why? Did something significant happen?"
Xena ignored the goddess and watched Gabrielle. Gabrielle reacted as a fish landed in her lap, and Xena smiled, and then laughed for the first time in days.
"I never saw that. I just threw the fish behind me," said Xena, and then laughed again. "She could be so funny sometimes, without even trying to be. She had the gift of being able to visit someone in pain, and with a joke, a laugh, a touch, somehow lighten their burden. I wish I could do it. It can't be learned and it can't be taught."
"It comes from the soul," said Athena.
Xena looked at the goddess, and said, in some surprise, "This was the happiest day of my life."
"You're just realizing this?"
"Yes. The happiest day of my life had nothing to do with my mother, or my son, or Marcus. It was with Gabrielle. If my mind can only hold one memory forever I want it to be this one. And what did we do that made it so special? I remember we were fighting about something. Oh, and she used my chakram to cut a fish." Xena laughed. "I can believe I can laugh about it now. I was so angry at her."
Xena then saw herself sitting beside Gabrielle. Smiling, laughing, playfully shoving her friend. Unrecognizable. A happy woman, playing, just like a little girl.
"You wish to know what made this day special?" asked the goddess. "This was the day Gabrielle made the most progress with you she has ever made."
Xena got as close to Gabrielle as the goddess would let her, close enough to stroke her face. That beautiful, lovely face, blooming like a perfect rose.
"How did you do it, Gabrielle?" she asked. "By the gods, how did you do it? Show me your magic."
With no transition at all, suddenly there was Gabrielle at the end of a whip, the horse and rider dragging her as fast as the horse could gallop, the terrain tearing into her flesh. She was writhing in pain, but the rider showed no mercy.
And neither did the goddess, as Xena tried to look away. Xena kept tearing her gaze away from the terrible sight, but wherever she looked the view was the same. Gabrielle, her beloved Gabrielle, was being tortured, and Xena was forced to watch.
"STOP!" she yelled, as she viewed herself holding Gabrielle above her head, ready to kill her. Xena shut her eyes and held her hand above her face, and finally the goddess returned them both to the temple.
"What is the point of showing me all this? I know what I did!"
"Do you? Did you ever look back to see the damage you caused?"
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry."
"The time and place for those words is long past, Xena, and I am not the one who should hear them."
"What do you want me to do? I'll do anything. I will earn forgiveness, I don't care what it takes."
"Xena. I honestly don't know how you can, and I'm the goddess of wisdom. But there is one more thing I would like to show you. Not a tale of what was, but what might've been."
The next scene was Gabrielle sitting by the bed of an old woman, stroking her hair and reading her stories from a scroll. The old woman looked somewhat discontented with her surroundings, and she fidgeted and complained a bit as old people do, but on the whole she seemed happy.
"Who is that old crone?" asked Xena.
"Don't you know? Look closedly."
Xena peered at the old woman, and said with some surprise, "Hope? It couldn't be."
"She grew older much faster than mortals. You remember that."
"It's impossible. Hope was evil."
"Yes, Hope was evil, but it was an other-worldly evil, and other-worldly problems can sometimes have other-worldly cures, or at least treatments. In this future, you listened to Gabrielle, and helped her with Hope. The two of you went to Hercules for help, and he was able to obtain assistance from Aphrodite, who flooded the child's soul with so much love for her mother that she had a fighting chance against the evil in her heart. Hope was able to turn against Dahak."
"And that was all it took?"
"No, of course not. It was a life-long struggle which Gabrielle never turned away from. To you, Xena, a battle is something over in days, weeks, or months. Gabrielle's battles never cease. You used to dream of dying nobly for a great cause. Gabrielle wanted to live humbly for one."
"And Hope never killed again?"
"Hope has killed, just as you have, but never capriciously, and never for revenge. And she never tried to kill an infant on a hunch."
"So I was wrong."
"Yes, you were. You could easily have been right, but you hardly bothered to investigate the situation one way or the other."
Athena brought them back to the temple. Xena looked at the goddess with hatred in her eyes.
"I will take Ares up on his offer. I'll become a warlord again. The landscape will run crimson with the blood of innocent villagers, including women and children. Is that what you want?"
Athena finally lost her temper with Xena for the first time.
"How DARE you try to blame that on me! Or on the loss of Gabrielle! How DARE you! You've always had excuses for everything you've done. There was always Cortese you could blame for one thing, the death of Solan you could blame for something else. Well, no longer! You've had terrible breaks in life, but you've also had the best break anyone has ever had, and you threw it away! Get out! Get out of my temple! Go and take responsibility for your own life! NOW!"
There were only five robbers, and they formed a threatening circle around her. The leader indicated with his sword what he wanted her to do.
"Your dinars," he said. "Now."
Xena closed her eyes and reached deep into her wellsprings of anger. Where were they? All she felt now was a tremendous weariness, as though she hadn't strength enough to even hold a sword, let alone use it. But there was something else. A terrible sickness of the soul. She had never felt anything like it.
"Now!" he repeated.
She took the pouch off her belt and threw it at his feet.
"Pick that up," he said.
She bent down to pick it up. She knew what was coming, and she didn't even care. The knee went right into her face, the impact threw her back, and she was hit from behind. Several of the robbers laughed.
Laughing at the Warrior Princess. Laughing at Xena, the destroyer of nations. Laughing.
Where is it, Xena? Where's the anger? Where's the power? Do what you were created for! NOW!
But the intellect alone won't answer when the spirit is crushed. More blows rained down upon her, and she started to feel pain, real pain, for the first time in a long while. And it felt good.
"...looks familiar...that chakram..." she dimly heard.
"...I tell you...I swear that's..."
And then, "No. Couldn't be."
More blows, until unconsciousness came.
Sparks flew as Xena cleaved her chakram with her sword. Once, twice, and her chakram was in two pieces. She stood at the mouth of the lava pit, and threw in both pieces, one to the right, one to the left. With barely a second of hesitation, she threw in the sword as well.
"You weak, pathetic little girl," said Ares. "How could you allow five men to do that to you? FIVE MEN! You're useless. What if that had been Cortese?"
"If you're waiting for me to argue with you, you'll be waiting for a very long time."
"Xena, what do you think you're accomplishing by this?"
"Nothing. I'm accomplishing nothing."
"Don't do this, Xena. You've never given up before. If you want Gabrielle back, I'll bring her back. You know the terms."
"I don't deserve Gabrielle. And what sort of a warlord could I be? Then, I had the anger that could destroy nations. Now, there's only pain, regret, and despair. I had the devotion of the most kind, loving, wonderful woman in the world, and I treated her worse than any enemy. I'm going to Tartarus, away from Gabrielle forever, and it's no less than I deserve."
Xena looked all around her, at the walls of the cave, and down in the pit where Gabrielle had made the ultimate sacrifice for her friend. And, in her mind's eye, she saw it again. That last look between them. Her goodby look. Xena didn't want to see it, but it wouldn't go away. The look which said, "I'm sorry. There was no other way. I love you. Be good, Xena. Make me proud of you. And, by the gods, you HONOR my memory."
No actress in a drama could ever possibly provide such a look. No actress could ever be that talented.
But Xena had had enough of words, and she had had enough of Ares. She leaped into the pit. Down, down, down, she could feel the heat getting closer.
And then the heat was gone. She fell only a few feet, and into the arms of Ares.
"What are you doing? Put me down! Get your hands off me!"
"I won't allow you to do this."
"What right do you have to stop me?"
"Xena, if you can reform yourself, any warlord can. Where is the god of war, then?"
"You can't stop me. Somehow I will find a way to take my own life."
"I can stop you."
Ares stood to one side. And there was Gabrielle.
The bard was confused for no more than a few seconds. Seeing Xena again was all she needed. Any other answers could wait.
"Xena!" she said.
The two women barely heard Ares say, "I'm not through with you, Xena," before he vanished.
The look in Xena's eyes was not something the bard was prepared for. Nor was the fact that Xena was more bloody and bruised than ever before.
"What's happened to you?" asked Gabrielle. Xena looked away from her.
"Gabrielle, please, just get away from me."
"Xena, what are you talking about?"
"Gabrielle, we can't be together any more."
"Because I don't deserve you."
And before the bard's astonished eyes, there was Xena at her feet, weeping like a little girl.
"I'm so, so sorry, Gabrielle. I tried to kill you! Gabrielle, I'm so sorry."
"Xena, get up! You know I forgave you for that."
"NO! I don't want you to forgive me! I have no right to ask you to forgive me."
"Xena, get up! Stop it! No one wants to see you like this!" She lowered herself to her knees, and took Xena's face in her hands.
"You're no good to anyone like this," said Gabrielle.
"What ever happened to the Gabrielle that wouldn't let me get away with stuff like that?"
"I don't know. Solan, I guess. Guilt over Solan."
"Gabrielle, I blamed you for that, and I had no right to."
The two stood up. Xena hugged Gabrielle, and the bard said, "It's OK, Xena. We'll find a way back to where we were before. I swear we will."
They broke their embrace, and Gabrielle said, "I really need a stepladder for these little hugs."
"Gabby, when I tried to kill you, why didn't you leave me?"
"It was that night before the fire. Talking about Callisto, and the promise you made to me. I realized then, that you're my responsibility now, and I'm yours. I should walk away from my job because things got a little dangerous? Could you do that?"
"Gabby, promise me, promise me that if I ever try to hurt you again, you'll leave me. Promise me that, or we can't be together."
"Wait, wait." There was a pause of only three or four heartbeats, and Gabrielle said, "I promise."
"I PROMISE that if you ever again intentionally cause me physical harm, I will..."
The bard knew that she had to say this, and she had to mean it, and she had to make Xena believe it. But it was so hard. She looked Xena in her beautiful blue eyes, as her own sea-green eyes started to fill with tears, and she said,
"I will leave you."
They hugged. Xena's tears on the bard's shoulders. They broke their embrace, and Gabby said, "It doesn't have to be a really big stepladder."
Xena laughed, and fell to her knees so that she was now shorter than Gabrielle. They hugged again.
"I want to be like you so much," said Xena.
"I want to be like you!" said the bard.
"Then try to kill me. Torture me, throw me off a cliff, blame me for something that's none of my fault."
"C'mon, get up. This is embarrassing. Let's go. Where's Argo? What's our next job?"
The two women left the cave with their arms around each other. No staff, no sword, no chakram, but that's OK. They usually manage to find them again, somehow.
"Don't you want to hear about some of the things I saw in the Elysian fields?"
"Of course I do."
"You don't sound too sincere. Are you sure you want to hear about this?"
"Gabrielle! Of course I want to hear."
"You do need to work on faking your sincerity a bit better. That reminds me, do you know what Hades said to me when I asked if I could come back to you?"
"What did he say?"
"Oh, by the way, I learned some new staff moves in the Elysian fields. I can't wait to show them to you."
"Gabrielle, will you stick to one subject at a time?"
"Well, which do you want to hear? Do you want to hear about Hades, or..."
"Whichever you want."
"You see, this is the sort of thing that makes me doubt your sincerity."
"Well, pardon me, but it just seems that if you were sincere..."
"...you would have some kind of preference..."
"Gabrielle! OK, tell me about Hades."
"Are you sure you don't want to hear about the Elysian fields? I have some great stories."
The bard looked up at the warrior princess, and saw that she smiling. The tears were still there, but Xena was smiling.
Smiling through tears. The bard's favorite emotion.
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