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The story opens with Xena standing in a cage that is in the middle of a meadow, surrounded by solders...
Xena watches in horror as Gabrielle's hands are tied to the post on the far side of the clearing, her arms stretched above her head. Then Xena's heart almost stops when one of the solders rip the back of Gabrielle's shirt open, exposing her back.
"DON'T DO THIS!" screams Xena in desperation. "SHE HAS DONE NOTHING TO DESERVE THIS!"
"But you are wrong my dear," answers Aries as he appears beside the cage. "This has everything to do with what she has done."
"What are you talking about Aries?" asks Xena in a low hard voice, her eyes cold as steel.
Aries smirks as he looks at Xena. "It has to do with, a choice. You see, Gabrielle and I had a talk a couple of days ago and I told her that I wouldn't KILL YOU the next time I captured you if...someone accepted to die in your place. You know me Xena, I keep my word. So, your little friend agreed to die on your behalf."
Xena, seeing the setup, looks over at Gabrielle and their eyes meet. The look Xena sees turns her blood to ice. It speaks of friendship, regret, and love. But most of all it says good-bye.
Xena is riding Argo as Gabrielle walks along practicing her staff while trying to work out the details of their latest adventure. Just before dusk they stop for the night, setup camp, and talk over a simple meal of apples, cheese, and bread. Hot from the days journey, Gabrielle wanders down to a nearby stream to cool off. She doesn't stay long but her mood has definitely changed when she returns to camp, and Xena notices it. Gabrielle is distant, seemingly trying to avoid Xena. Xena asks her what is wrong but Gabrielle's reply is that she is tired. Xena nods her head in acceptance of the answer when Gabrielle suddenly throws her arms around Xena's neck and hugs her. Xena, caught totally off guard, senses a desperation in Gabrielle's actions but no words are spoken by her young friend. Xena is then released as suddenly as she was grabbed, leaving her to wonder what was going on. Gabrielle remains silent the following day, only speaking when spoken to, not her normal lively self Xena notices, and the sparkle in Gabrielle's eyes is gone. Xena is beginning to get really concerned when the ambush comes. She fights hard and fast until she notices that Gabrielle is no where in sight. The distraction costs Xena dearly. She is soon over powered by the number of solders that appear out of now where and is thrown into a cage in the middle of a small meadow. She paces inside the cage, worried not about herself, but about Gabrielle when she sees her walking into the clearing followed by one of the solders. Her hands are bound in front of her and Xena notices there is no resistance in her friend. An internal warning shoots through every fiber of her body. SOMETHING IS WRONG!
(BACK TO PRESENT)
Xena grabs the bars of the cage and screams Gabrielle's name. Gabrielle's response is to silently turn her back to her best friend, as Aries gloats over the conflict of emotions showing on Xena's face.
"Now, Now Xena. The two of you will be together again someday," whispers Aries, "but until that day," Aries voice turns deathly cold, "you will continually be reminded of what it is like to want that special someone by your side, only to have her just out of reach."
Aries' words pierce Xena's heart as past memories flash before her eyes. Memories that make up her life to the point she is now...not memories of long lost friends, of family, or of Marcus. But memories of Gabrielle and all they have shared. Tears start to roll down her face as she reaches through the bars toward Gabrielle, wanting only to touch her. "Please...Please Gabrielle...Don't do this...You don't have to do this...DON'T LEAVE ME AGAIN!" Xena's voice is full of emotion.
Gabrielle lowers her head. Those same words had brought her back from the other side, as did the love and pleading in Xena's voice. But they wouldn't work this time and Gabrielle whispers a soft, "I love you Xena and now you are free," as the first strip of the whip is placed across her back. Closing her eyes she once again embraces the Elesion Fields, recognizing friends and family. It is the same as before, only this time she will never leave.
Xena slumps to the ground, sobs shaking her body, as the crack of the whip echoes through her mind. She tries to look away but can't, each new mark on Gabrielle's back producing a gash in her own heart. Aries watches, suddenly becoming enraged with the whole scene. "STOP!" He yells as the whip is raised again. Kneeling down he gazes at Xena, who is now laying on the ground crying uncontrollably and without shame. All fight is gone from her. Aries realizes his plan is having the opposite affect then what he had expected. He had expected Xena to turn back into the raging warrior she had been, just as she had done when he had pretended to be her father. But what he saw now...only made him MAD!
"WHY WON'T YOU FIGHT!?" screams Aries as he hits the front of the cage with his fist.
Xena doesn't look up but remains laying on the ground, feeling suddenly that life isn't worth living without Gabrielle by her side.
Aries, now beyond furious, stands and walks over to where Gabrielle is slumped against the pole. Glancing back at Xena, who is now watching him, he cuts the ropes holding the unconscious girl and picks her up in his arms. Eyes smoldering, teeth grinding he slowly walks over to Xena's cage and lays Gabrielle beside the door.
Xena reaches out of the cage and gently strokes Gabrielle's hair. "Gabrielle," whispers Xena as she returns her gaze to Aries. Aries breaks the contact, the emptiness in Xena's eyes only increasing his anger at his latest failure.
"She's not dead," growls Aries as he unlocks the cage door, looking once again into Xena's eyes for the flame that once burned there for battle...and for him. But it's gone, replaced by the flame of love for the young girl at his feet. Turning, he walks away from the cage as Xena walks out and kneels beside Gabrielle, pulling her into her arms.
Pausing one last time, Aries looks back at Xena, who returns his gaze, "I guess love does conquer all," he replies as he disappears.