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by Dee

Warning:This IS a Xena story, so there is violence in it. I don't think it's graphic, but there are some real gross implications of that stuff. So If you get queasy because of violent stuff, you may not want to read it. It's mainly her first dreams! So there isn't much. I promise!!!

Disclaimer: No gods were harmed during the production of this story. However, Gabrielle and Argo underwent severve pains upon their return to the living world. (Hey, you go to peaceful Elysian Fields and return to this world and tell me you don't get the worst headaches you've ever dreamt! <BiG gRiN>)

Last words: Cyclone is my character and everyone else I think is copyrighted to Renesance (Who-ever-you-spell-it!), MCA and Universal. And this story is mine! MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE!!!! So you can copy it if you want to but all warnings and discalimers and last words hafta be there!!!

Okay, Real

Last Words!: Hurry up and read this already! <GiGgLe>

Gabrielle lay in front of the Warrior Princess, paler than usual from lack of blood. "She dead, Xena." The words repeated themselves over and over in the raven haired warrior's mind.

The scene shifted. Argo, Xena's palomino warhorse mare, was whinnying in fear and pain. Xena couldn't move. Helplessly, she watched as Argo was torn limb from limb. The warrior could do nothing to stop it. Xena screamed from an agony so deep and raw no one would understand. No one except her Gabrielle. Tears streaked down the Warrior Princess' dirty face. "NOOOOO! ARGO!" She sobbed, unable to move or do anything except cry and scream. Again the scene shifted. The three stood together; Gabrielle, Argo and Xena. The three stood at the Warrior Princess' mother's funeral.

Suddenly she was being told Barious was dead, then, so many years later, Dagnon told her that he was the one that had murdered the father of her child, her love. Marcus was in her arms - dead. She shoved her dagger through Marcus' heart as the cause of the second death of her another true love.**

Murders, blood, screams, tears, revenge, rage, hate, emptiness, pain. Images floated through the warrior's head. She moaned, tossing and turning restlessly. She abruptly rose to a sitting postion, calling for her new companion as she did. "ARES!"

It seemed from no where the God of War had appeared from, but he was there. "Yes, my Warrior Queen, my love." He questioned. He glanced closer at his co-ruler. No tears dampened the warrior's face although she was obviously swallowing pain. "Nightmares again, my sweet?" Xena simply nodded. The look on her face changed. After Gabrielle's death Ares had taunted Xena with the idea of being a goddess. She had accepted. For a while she'd had the powers without being the goddess OF anything. Now, she was the Goddess of Pain, Guilt and Disappointment In One's Self. She was also Ares' warrior queen, lover, co-ruler and practically his wife. She had changed so much since her mother's death. Her best friend, her Gabrielle, had gotten her through that. Just the thought of Gabrielle had kept Xena from insanity and perhaps even death after Argo had passed on. It had been a single thought; the thought of Gabrielle's imploring eyes staring, horrified and sympathetic, her warm arms around the warrior in a comforting embrace. In other words, it was Gabrielle's love that Xena had clung on to. That thought had been enough to keep the warrior going.

In the few days she'd been a goddess she had only ever kissed Ares. Now she turned to her king. "Make me your true warrior queen. Make love to me." She demanded huskily, kneeling seductively on the bed. She wore a blood red silk nightgown which she let slip off her shoulders. Ares, shocked, gaped at his warrior. Her lips brushed against his, lightly and gently at first then fiercer and more passionate. He pulled away. "Xena, my beloved, rest." It was taking all his self control to deny her but he knew it was for the best. After Argo's death Xena had sobbed and screamed, wracked with guilt, pain, disappointment in herself, anger and hate. Each emotion ran through her so thick and so completely that she was numb to any other emotion. That was probably why Zeus had chosen those emotions for his warrior to control. But her reaction to Gabrielle's death had been horribly different. Her silent, withdrawn reaction to her best friend's death wasn't the proper, healthy reaction like her inititive to Argo's death. She hadn't shed a single tear since she'd found out about perhaps her greatest loss of all. In fact, she still hardly showed any reaction at all unless she was in a fight with Zeus (any time they were in the same room). She'd argue that it hadn't been Gabrielle's time and that someone had altered destiny. Zeus agreed with these arguments but under no circumstances would he let Xena take Gabrielle from Hades nor could Xena visit her treasured friend. Ares gazed at Xena with an odd expression on his face. "C'mon, Ares, my love. I know you want me. Here, now, in the flesh... take me, Ares..." She whispered between each tantalizing kiss she placed delicately on his bronzed throat. "Don't deny yourself what you want so badly." She purred, brushing herself against him lightly.

Ares wanted her. He couldn't deny it but he wouldn't - COULDN'T - act on it. Not right now. Her pain was too raw, ran too deep just as did her guilt. She hated herself right now. In her eyes, she had allowed he who knew destiny to change it. Therefore... she had condemned Gabrielle to death. She'd NEVER forgive herself. Ares knew it and Xena didn't even realize she blamed herself for everyone's death from Lyceous and her Father to Gabrielle. Guilt flooded her for so many deaths. Deaths she could have prevented... so SHE thought. "Xena..." Ares called softly. "Xena. My love, get some sleep. I'll come back in a little while. I need to talk to Zeus back at Mount Olympus." He kissed her on the forehead, brushing her ebony coloured hair from her pained, sparkling blue eyes.

She gazed up into his dark eyes looking very much like a tortured child. "Fine!" She pratically accused. "Tell Morpheous to keep the dream-world and I FAR apart!" Her voice sounded angry, the expression on her face showed complete fury but Ares knew otherwise. She hurt. To put it mildly. Her heart ached and yet she was numb. She wanted to greet Death but only by battleway. She'd never resort to taking her own life but against who, in her mind, she deemed a `worthy' opponant, she wouldn't likely fight her best. "Rest, Warrior Queen. I'll keep Morpheous and his Dream world away from you, Xena. I l- I'll protect you." Ares muttered, his tone odd. He left the room, closing the door softly behind him. He put a gentle hand on the door and frowned. "By my sister Athena! I-I-I'm in love with Xena!" He murmered under his breath. He realized now that he would do anything to protect her. Even die.

Continuing to frown, he walked down the hall and disappeared.

"MORPHEOUS!" He bellowed, angrily.

"Yes, Ares?" Morpheous yawned, exasperated.

"Make sure Xena doesn't have nightmares. At least for a little while."

Morpheous smiled and shook his head. "I'll do what I can." He vowed.

The God of War gazed suspiciously at the God of Sleep and Dreams. "Thanks. She's of NO use to me unrested." Ares mumbled gruffly, turning on his heel and beginning to walk away.

Morpheous smiled, shook his head again and began to work his magic on the beautiful Goddess of Pain, Guilt and Disappointment. Ares stalked restlessly into the main hall of Zeus' Castle. He scanned the large room briefly with obvious disgust. "ZEUS!!!" He called, beginning to wonder if his goddess slept well, what she dreamt and if she had yet realized she blamed herself for far too much.

"What do you want, Ares?" Zeus asked.

Ares sighed. *Xena's heart.* He thought. An odd expression came over his face, he shook his head to clear his thoughts of Xena. Successful, Ares smiled and began what would be a long conversation with many subject changes.

**Gabrielle smiled wistfully. "You know... I could climb up there behind you..." She not so subtly suggested.

"What are you talking about?" Xena quite apparently thought this blondish red-head was NUTS! Who could have suspected that the crazy, young, unofficial bard would become the Warrior Princess's best friend? The scenery became dark. It was another time. Xena held an infant in her arms. A beautiful baby boy. HER beautiful baby boy. He would be strong, handsome, intelligent. He was the son of two powerful, passionate, strong warriors. "Don't you worry, Solon, my love. Leave that to me. I'll do whatever it takes to make sure you have a choice. I hope to the goddess that choice isn't to become a warrior. I don't want you to grow up seeing blood, hate, death and battle. But you will see it... unless... What am I going to do, my son? With your father dead, I can't give up my warrior ways, I don't have the strength without him. And his death keeps pushing me to revenge. I CANNOT give up being a warlord. I know you understand. We-no-I have a decision to make, now..." For hours the normally violent warlord gently held her child, whom she loved with everything in her, trying to make the hardest decision of her life. If she kept him, the anger she would have bottled inside her might drive her to hurt him, she wouldn't be able to provide anything stable...

With a heavy heart, Xena knew the best choice for Solon was the hardest for her. She would give him to the centaurs. In return for raising him the best they could, Xena would vow never to return. Mainly for her, so she'd never have to walk away from Solon again. There would be an arranged meeting between herself and Kalypus, the head centaur. Not even 48 hours later, Xena walked away from Solon, never expecting to see him again.

Suddenly it was day again and Xena was on her new mare, a pure black,

spirited young horse named Cyclone. Cyclone, with Xena on her back, galloped

at a furious pace. Peace. The only peace either either of the raven haired

beauties knew. For now...**

Xena's eyes fluttered open. She moaned softly and rose from the bed. She'd been asleep for quite sometime. She couldn't remember many dreams, just one about Solon, one about one of her first experiences with Gabrielle and one where she and Cyclone were racing through the wind. They were the most peaceful dreams she'd had in a long time. Even the pain she distinctly felt from her dream of Solon was better than the images of everyone she'd ever loved dying. For one reason or another, Xena's thoughts drifted to her childhood. She remembered a lamb she'd fallen in love with when she was just a little girl. She smiled at the irony of the name she'd given it: Warrior Princess. She remembered the taunting her older brothers had given her about it. Lyceous had defended her though. "She can't decide wheather to name it `Warrior' or `Princess'!" One of her older brothers had laughed. "That's only 'cause she can't decide what SHE wants to be... a warrior or a princess!" She'd cried for weeks when the lamb had died. Xena had refused to eat or even play. Now THAT was unusual! No one knew it, but she hadn't eaten nearly as much as she should've since her mother's death. She hadn't eaten anything at all since she had found out about Gabrielle's death. She'd been sick when she'd finally been alone.

Usually when Ares asked her to dinner she claimed she'd already eaten. She had no appitite for food or even blood. It hurt too much. She slipped out of the nightgown and pulled a dark forest green dress with golden trim. She combed her dark hair and put in matching green and gold barrette like combs to hold her hair in place. She darker green, almost black, cloak over her shoulders, put on dark forest green slippers also with golden trim and left the confides of her rooms.

She reluctantly went to Zeus' castle and harshly intarrogated one of the guards as to where Zeus was and who he was with. "M'lord is with your lord, m'lady. From the sounds of it earlier, they were in an argument." The guard told her.

A smile teased her lips. "Apparently Zeus is getting into fights with a lot of people lately."

The guard returned her smile. "Yeah, mainly with YOU!" He accused teasingly. A smile from `the new goddess' was like a gift to be treasured. She rarely smiled.

Her smile broadened and she shrugged. "Yes, well, he deserves it!" She said, equally teasingly. Her beautiful smile faded. "Well, I'm going to interrupt your Lord and mine." With that she disappeared.

Ares and Zeus had discussed various things. First the topic had been Zeus' front hall, then the maintenance of the castles, Gabrielle, more maintenance, then a castle for Xena, then wheather or not Xena should remain in Ares' castle. Currently the discussion was back to Gabrielle and Xena. "It wasn't her time, Zeus! Besides, my warrior can't-no-WON'T fight and she won't grieve! She's going to SNAP, Zeus! She can't take it!" Ares growled angrily.

"And WHY do YOU care, oh Mighty God of War?!" Zeus snapped, his voice dripping sarcasm.

Xena chose this moment to step out of the shadows, silencing both gods. "Yes, Ares, MY LORD." She greeted with feigned sweetness. "Why DO you care?"

"You haven't altered destiny, someone else did! Why should YOU be punished for it?!" He answered and questioned, anger putting a growl to his deep voice.

Xena's eyes widened and there was a hint of a smile on her lips. "Why shouldn't I?" Her eyes narrowed again and her partial smile faded. She looked away. "Especially with MY past?" She murmered, her voice barely louder than a whisper. Sadness teased the air.

Ares winced as though someone had struck him with a sword... and he were mortal. "Why are you dressed so... formally?" He asked, coming up behind her and putting his arms around her waist. "And beautifully." He added, whispering in her ear.

"I was coming to see you." She whispered back. It was only the partial truth but she knew he liked that reason. She felt Ares take in a shakey breath and exhale softly on her neck. Xena swallowed allowing the warm tickle of his breath on her throat kindle a faint fire of passion deep inside her.

"Why are you so protective of Xena, Ares? She's strong. She can take care of herself." Zeus seemed annoyed with the prospect of Ares defending Xena.

Ares glowered at Zeus. "I have my reasons."

"Tell me." The older god demanded.

Ares' features darkened with anger. "Fine! I'm protective of her because she's in pain! Everyone she's ever loved was killed. Each time she'd get a little more needy, love a little stronger. Not MORE just STRONGER." His hands, on her waist, tightened, pulling her slightly closer. "And every time, the pain, never fully healed, would rip viciously open again and get even more painful. Another love, another loss. She blames herself when it's the Fates or powerful mortal's or god's fault!"

Xena pressed herself fully against him. He was hitting home. Zeus noted the slight action and smirked. "No wonder you're beginning to fall for him, Xena. He understands you better than anyone. Except your precious Gabrielle, of course!" Zeus taunted.

Xena's eyes grew wide, her lips tightened into a thin line. *In the name of the goddess, are these damned gods out to kill me tonight?* Xena thought, pain tearing through her destroying any passion that had earlier been ignited. *I miss Gabrielle so badly. She got me through so much! Sticking to being good, not starving, fighting Ares, Marcus, Solon...* She closed her eyes and swallowed. So many were gone. She turned in Ares arms, leaning against him for support. A single tear slid down her pale face. "Stop it, Zeus!" Ares demanded.

"Stop what?" Zeus asked cockily.

"You're going to drive her insane!"

Suddenly Hades entered the room. "I agree, Zeus! Leave the girl alone!" He turned to Xena. "Come here, you poor child." Xena wiped the tear from her face and gave him a questioning look.

She shrugged and walked over. "What is it, Hades?"

He pulled her out of Zeus' hearing range, although Ares could still hear, and began to tell her waht he was up to. "You can have her back, you know. No price. I'll give you Gabrielle as a gift. I know you'll appreciate it."

Xena's entire body glowed with hope. "You mean it?" She sounded like a child, hopeful and trusting.

Ares smiled. She'd finally stop screaming out at night. His smile suddenly faded. Something wasn't right. Hades had been acting wierd and now Ares knew why. "Hera." He growled, anger coursing through his veins so thick one would've thought Xena had called upon it.

`Hades' put his arm around Xena's shoulder. "You miss your little friend, you need her. More than you needed Marcus or Lyceous or anyone else. You can have her... cost free. It's my gift to y-" The god was cut off as Ares dove on him, sending him flying.

Ares fists repeatedly met `Hades' jaw. "HERA!!! You stop this pathetic charade NOW! You cruel, honourless, worthless slag!" `Hades' abruptly morphed to her usual form: Hera.

Hera was laughing in a psychotic, cruel manner. "It's not MY fault your little girl is a gullible, clingy IDIOT!!" She laughed. Ares punched her one last time, hissing a warning. "NEVER do anything of that sort AGAIN. EVER! I'll kill you if you do." He stood and turned to his raven haired warrior.

"She's right, you know. I have become gullible, clingy and stupid." Xena murmered, causing Hera to laugh harder. "I can fight my own battles, Ares. Let me."

Ares sighed, moving in front of his companion, his hands in a tight grip around her upper arms. "You aren't any of those things. If you were, you wouldn't be MY warrior!"

"You don't exactly have the greatest taste." Ares raised questioning eyebrows. Xena continued with a smirk. "I mean, CALLISTO? How low can you go, Ares?"

Zeus and Hera were both laughing now. Ares rolled his eyes. "Jealous Xena, my love?" He mocked, trying to cover his own embarrassment. "Actually," Xena began slowly. "I can honestly say no. Afterall.

It WAS in the past." She glanced at him apologetically. Ares, smirking, shook his head, Hera continued to laugh, Zeus was just calming down and Xena half smiled sadly. Gabrielle creeped into the Warrior Queen's thoughts. Gabrielle's wispy reddish hair, imploring green eyes and sweet, talkative nature, that's what teased Xena's mind. A watery film came over Xena's striking blue eyes. "It wasn't her time." She whispered, softly. She roughly brushed the coming tears from her eyes. Ares gently laid a hand on her velvety cloaked shoulder. She jerked away. "I'm fine!" She muttered gruffly.

Hera's laughter finally calmed. "You pathetic child! You respond to your emotions far too much!"

"She does not!" Zeus had been the one to whom had jumped to Xena's defense. "She hardly ever lets her emotions get the better of her! She hasn't even properly mourned for Gabrielle's death. She hasn't even shed more than two tears!"

All were surprised at Zeus' protectiveness of Xena. "So, she hasn't broken yet. Keep in mind she's unstable. She could break any minute. She feels the pain more stronger than even most mortals, although she hardly ever really shows it! Her emotions are so powerful that if she doesn't snap she's become a volcano! Cold unfeeling and forever unstable." Hera chuckled. Zeus rolled his eyes. "Hera? SHUT UP!" He commanded darkly.

In a flash of green and gold, Xena was gone.

Xena paced around her room like a caged wild animal. Her rooms were one of the largest in the palace and yet she felt trapped. Hera was partly right. She knew her emotions were frighteningly strong. Revenge and anger coming from the pain of love lost. Pain errupted. She couldn't accept pain so she got mad. Gabrielle helped her too much to be dead. Without Gabrielle Xena wouldn't likely have had the strength to stay good, deny Ares or many other deeds that seemed easy when Gabrielle was around. *Gabrielle isn't really dead. She'll be back.* The raven haired, blue eyed goddess thought, truly believing it. *She's disappeared before and she's always come back.* Somehow Xena honestly believed that Gabrielle would come back. She had to come back. After all, how could Xena survive without Gabrielle? Xena's frantic pacing continuously sped up. "Gabrielle's going to return." She mumbled. "She's visiting Lilla." Satisfied with this explantion, Xena slowed and walked to the large window. She leaned against the sill, staring without seeing, past the fields and forests beyond the palace walls.

"When it hits her, suicide is NOT an unlikely possibilty. Don't get TOO attached to Xena, Ares." Zeus exclaimed darkly. Ares simply yawned. "She wouldn't take her own life." "She's going to blame herself and if she adds more blame to the load she already carries... she'll become blind with self hatred. If she thinks SHE was the cause of Gabrielle's death, she won't think twice about running herself through with a sword." Zeus argued.

"Zeus is right, brother." An armored goddess sighed heavily from behind.

"Athena! I'm surprised at you. I'd've thought you'd have more faith in your favourite warrior." Ares teased his sister.

"She's lost too much, loved too strongly. She's to be considered unstable." Athena whispered sadly.

Although they made, perhaps, an unusual pair, Athena and Xena were close friends. *Close.* Athena thought with a soft chuckle. *She keeps herself at a distance. From me, from Aphrodite, especially from Ares.* Aphrodite and Xena were `close' friends as well, although the were an even more unlikely pair than Athena and Xena. Ares seemed to know what his sister was thinking. He pursed his lips. Athena blinked, frowning. Zeus glanced between them. "Siblings." He muttered, receiving a faint smile from both Athena and Ares although their gaze never wavered from each other's face. "Don't fall in love, brother." It seemed jealousy tinged her voice although if it did, it was subtle. *But what on earth is Athena jealous about?* Ares thought, curiousity lining his dark features. Athena's cheeks tinged a pale pink and she looked away, briefly, from Ares' intruding eyes. "Xena's in trouble, Ares. Deep trouble." She told him, returning her locked stare to her brother. "I don't want to lose one of my best friends." She added in a hoarse whisper.

Ares smiled sadly. He knew what she meant, how she felt. He didn't want to lose Xena either. In the few days she'd been here, she'd become very popular among most of the gods and goddesses. Of course some of didn't like or didn't get along with her.

Athena glanced at the door. "Sshhhh. She's coming." Xena entered the room and instantly felt the uneasiness between the three gods. "Talking about me AGAIN?" She teased, trying to ease the tension of the room. "It's alright. I'll forgive you." She said with a genuine smile. She walked quickly to Athena's side and embraced the Goddess of War and Wisdom. She pulled away, her arm remaining around her friend's waist. She glanced at Ares and Zeus respectively. "When's Gabrielle coming home?"

She asked lightly. "I miss her."

Aphrodite had walked in the room just after Xena had greeted the others. Now, biting her lip, she came up behind Xena and hugged her tightly. "What's this for?" The dark haired one, still dressed in green and gold, chuckled, returning the embrace.

Aphrodite choked back a sob. "I don't know. I really don't." She replied in a mumble. *She can't lose Gabby! Gabrielle's her WORLD! She CAN'T!!! But she DID!!!* The pale goddess with curly golden hair thought numbly.

Ares tossed Aphrodite an indignant - if not downright angered - look.

"Shut up, Oh Holy Goddess of LOVE!" He growled.

Zeus nodded his agreement. "Stay quiet, Aphrodite!!"

Aphrodite glowered, covered Xena's ears with her smooth, slender hands and spoke harshly. "You'll destroy her if you let her keep up her games. Then she'll hate you! All of you!"

Athena glanced worriedly from Xena to Aphrodite to Ares to Zeus.

"Guys, Aphrodite's right. We have to tell her."

"This covering my ears thing is completely pointless, Aphrodite."

Xena groaned, jerking out of the primped princess' grip.

Aphrodite dropped her hands to her sides. Nervousness filled the air.

"Sorry." Aphrodite had lost her usual perk.

"What do you mean I can't keep up my little games? What little games? Why will I hate them? What do you have to tell me?" Xena questioned as if imitating Gabrielle.

"You just can't. You just will. Gabrielle's not-" Three hands clamped over Aphrodite's mouth.

"Gabrielle's not what? Not visiting Lilla? She probably went to see Iolaus and Hercules then."

Athena nodded. "You know Gabrielle very well!" She smiled. "Well, Aphrodite and I need to have a little talk and Zeus said something about Hera and I think you and Ares should go have a fancy dinner!" She teased gently. "Maybe. I am sort of hungry." It was odd. Immortals didn't get hungry but Xena still needed nutrition from food. Zeus must've decided to keep that in tact.

Ares led her out of the room. Xena turned and waved at her friends.

"What would you like, my dear?"

"Lamb, rice and flatbread!" Xena licked her lips. "Gabrielle must've been gone a while. I only eat like that when she's around or if I haven't seen her in a while."

Ares patted her hand. "Actually, she's only been gone a few days.

A little under a fortnight."

Xena nodded. "I miss her still."

"I know. Let's eat. And talk about something else."

Nearly a full turning of the moon had come to pass since Gabrielle's untimely demise. Xena continued to fool herself, believing that she was off visiting one person or another. She sunk so low as to claim that Gabrielle was visting Tabious and later, Joxer. Somehow she was convinced her best friend would return. She still hadn't shed more than five tears for her best friend. Her nightmares continued to plague her but she thought nothing of them really. She continued to eat scarcely although she did eat and she hardly slept. Ares watched her sadly. They spent nights together sometimes.

Sometimes in passion, sometimes in platonic love. Athena and Aphrodite watched Xena as though she were some fragile piece of mystical art. Aphrodite continued to argue that they should tell Xena the truth but she couldn't do it by herself. It was a common sound to hear Xena's screams on the nights she did sleep and just as common to hear nothing at all. It was one night's screams that terrofied all the gods and tore their hearts out with sympathy. Xena had been screaming worse then usual. Screams that could deafen someone, screams that would frighten anyone and anything. Ares, Aphrodite, Athena, Morpheous and Zeus teleported to Xena's room. The stood in a line, all facing Xena's thrashing form, all watching her every move. Aphrodite clung to Athena, nearly in tears for her friend. "She hurts so much! It's just too harsh!" She whispered.

Athena patted Aphrodite's hand. "I know." A few more gods teleported to Xena's room.

"What's going on? I could hear her in Tartarous!" Hades scoffed, glancing in scorn at the fitful sleeper.

**Gabrielle suddenly stopped. "Oh, for the love of Artemis!" She cursed softly.

Xena twisted in the saddle. "What's the matter?" She asked, concerned.

"I left my staff. Strange. I distinctly remember taking it with us."

Gabrielle replied.

Xena frowned. She also remembered Gabrielle having her staff. "Huh. Well, if you want you can go back to the village. The raids aren't due for several days and I'll only be gone two." *Cutting it pretty close though.* The raven haired beautiful woman thought sadly. Xena looked back down the way they had come. This didn't feel right.

"I do feel strange without it. I guess like you and your sword or chakram... or whip when I traded it..." She teased, tenderly. Xena smirked, still utterly aware that something felt wrong. "I guess so. As for the whip trade incident, I've forgiven you, Gab." She smiled lovingly at Gabrielle, using the nick name she used when they were alone. She couldn't stay mad at that rascal for long. "Well, I guess you should go back, then." She added sourly after a moment.

"I feel it, too, Xena. Something's not right." Gabrielle's words pleased Xena. Xena wasn't imagining anything and Gabrielle's senses were becoming sharper than before.

"I'll see you the day after tomorrow." Xena promised.

"I'll be waiting." Gabrielle smiled.

Xena swung her leg over the saddle and hopped off Argo's back. "Good. Stay out of trouble, okay?" Xena's voice quivered with worry for her friend. Gabrielle hugged Xena tightly. "I'll do my best."

"Just do! I don't want to be worrying the entire next two days!"

Xena ordered.

"You'll worry? Why that's the first emotion I've heard you speak in nearly a complete cycle of the moon! You should talk about you feelings more. I mean it!" Gabrielle teased, pulling slightly out of the embrace.

"Here's an emotion for you. I love you, Gabrielle." Xena whispered. Gabrielle fought back tears. That was the first time she had ever heard Xena say that. "I love you, too, Xena. I'll be careful." Xena nodded, swallowing that deep ocean of concern she seemed to be drowning in. "So will I."

Then they went their seperate ways; Xena to deliver a message and Gabrielle to her death.

Then Xena saw Gabrielle's corpse. "She died protecting a child. You would have been proud, Xena."

"I am proud." Xena forced a smile. Gabrielle was dead. Argo was dead. Mother was dead. Death...

Then Xena was alone in the dark room that held Gabrielle's body. "I never should have let you go! I sent you to your death!! I never should have said I loved you! You'd still be alive! Everyone I tell that to dies!" Xena mumbled, leaning against the cold hard coffin.**

Suddenly Xena sat up. She looked directly at Morpeheous. "Tell me it was a dream, Morpheous. She's not really dead, it was just a dream! That's all it was: A DREAM!!!!!" Xena's voice had risen from a growl to a shrill shriek.

"Gabrielle is dead, Xena. I'm sorry." Morpheous said quietly.

"NO! I don't care if it's a lie, just tell me it was a dream!" She screamed. The tears began to fall. "I never left her! I never told her to go back! I DIDN'T KILL HER!!!!" Her screams now were worse than the screams she had made during her sleep. "TELL ME I DIDN'T SENTENCE HER TO DEATH!!!!!"

She sobbed, the tears racing down her cheeks, immediately being replaced. "No, Xena. You didn't sentence her to death. You loved her. You gave her everything she needed. It's with your help she goes to the Elysian Fields."

"NO!! She'd've made it without me! I jaded her if ANYTHING!" Xena protested. "I DID sentence her do death! I told her I loved her!" None of the gods had ever seen a mortal or god cry like Xena was at that very moment. Tears coursed down her face, refusing to stop, she convulsed and screamed and hated herself.

"No, Xena. She was so happy when you told her you loved her." Ares soothed. "It's not your fault."

"YES IT IS!!!" She turned to Aphrodite and Athena. "Tell me. Was my sweet Gabrielle in a lot of pain before she died?" Her voice had fallen from the horrible shriek to a pained whisper.

Aphrodite swallowed. It was obvious she didn't want to answer.

"Answer me!" Xena demanded, her voice dangerously low. Aphrodite nodded. Athena spoke. "I afraid she was. She wanted you to be proud of her. She kept-" Aphrodite stopped her. "She doesn't have to know that part." She countered softly. "I want to know everything that happened." Xena retorted, her voice beginning to become shrill again.

Athena continued. "She repeatedly called out for you."

Xena winced. She turned to Morpheous and Ares. "I SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE!!!!!!!!! I LET HER DOWN!!!!!!" She hated herself. She hated herself for something she couldn't have stopped or helped. "She wasn't supposed to feel any pain!! She wasn't supposed to die!" Xena's voice cracked with pain, her sobs made her words on the verge of incoherency. "WHY DID YOU MAKE HER FEEL PAIN?????!!!!!! WHY DIDN'T SOME BEAUTIFUL VISION COME AND SWEEP HER AWAY TO THE ELYSIAN FEILDS BEFORE SHE HAD THE CHANCE TO FEEL ANY PAIN???!!!!" Xena sobbed, beating her fists against the mattress.

Aphrodite couldn't stop herself, she rushed to Xena's side and held the warrior in her arms and rocked soothingly with her. "Hush Little Warlord, don't say a word, Dite's gonna be here till the end of time." Aphrodite did not care about rhyming or words, all she wanted to do was soothe Xena's earth shattering screams. Ares went over, sat on the bed and stroked Xena's hair. Aphrodite sung lullabyes until Xena's shrill screams became choking sobs without words.

Aphrodite and Ares stayed with Xena while Zeus, Morpheous, Hades and Athena went to talk.

The moon set and the sun rose and still Aphrodite and Ares still sat where they had been all night. Xena's tears still trickled down her face in her dreamless slumber. Athena knocked gently on the door. "Hey, guys?

Can I come in? I have some really good news."

"Come on. Xena's sleeping." Aphrodite yawned.

Athena entered the room. "Hey. Guess what?! Come on, I can't tell you here."

Aphrodite kissed Xena's forehead, stroked her hair then rose, shocked her cramped legs worked at all. Ares leaned forward, brushed his lips against Xena's. "I love you, my sweet."

Xena's eyes fluttered but remained closed, she still slept. The three gods left the room.

The sun was high when Xena rose. She quickly remembered the previous night's events and was happy she couldn't cry anymore. She stretched, pain tore through her muscles. She winced. Ares knocked on the door. "Xena, my darling? May I come in?"

"Yes, my king." She watched her door open and the God of War enter her room. "By the way, Ares. I lo-" She froze then rolled onto her side, away from Ares. "Stay out of trouble. I'm not up to worrying." Ares smiled. "Oh, Xena, you should know that's not my style." He walked over to her bed and sat on the edge. "Come on. Get up, Lazybones. There's something I want you to see."

Xena stretched again then squirmed out of the covers. She planted her feet on the floor and stood up. She was wearing a light blue nightgown. She yawned. "What is it you want to show me?" She asked. "Get dressed. But hurry. We only have about five minutes before they come by."

"Who?" Xena intarrogated, pulling a beautiful baby blue dress from her large variety. She hurriedly got dressed. "Help me lace the bodice, Ares." She ordered, moving her hair and turning her back to him. He quickly, expertly laced the dress and moved her to the window. He smiled. "Just watch, okay." He sounded like a giddy child. She yawned again and watched the grounds beneath her window. After a few moments, the sound of horse hooves could easily be heard. A extrememly familar hoof pattern. Xena shrugged it off. No fooling herself now, Argo and Gabrielle were dead. She waited patiently for the unknown rider to come in veiw. The sun reflected of coppery blonde hair and a golden mount. "No more illusions." Xena pleaded softly.

"No more illusions. This is REAL, Xena!!!" Ares vowed. Now horse and rider were in plain sight. Gabrielle upon Argo. The flushed bard waved. "XENA!!!!!!" She shrieked, pulling Argo to a stop and dismounting. Xena teleported to the ground. Gabrielle laughed. "Not the sight you were expecting, eh? Well, Argo and I are quite close now. We got to know each other extremely well in the Elysian Fields, didn't we, girl?" Gabrielle gushed, stroking the war horse's nose. "Oh gods I've missed you!"

The red head dropped the reins and threw her arms around Xena. Xena returned the embrace, drinking in her best friend's scent. "I-I-You're not dead?"

Gabrielle viciously shook her head. "Oh no, Xena. Not anymore. It was a decision made by Hades, Zeus, Athena and Morpheous. Ares and Aphrodite already fought for us. They have been since it happened." Gabrielle felt hot tears fall to her throat and shoulders. "Oh, Xena! I'm here now. We're together! And you know what?" She asked, grabbing Xena by the shoulders and pulling away so she could look into Xena's eyes.

"What?" The tall warrior asked, terrified that she would let go of Gabrielle and the bard would disappear.

Gabrielle seemed to read these fears. "I'm NOT going to disappear. What happened was NOT your fault, Xena!! I chose to protect that child, I chose to fight, I chose to go back. And you know what? It wasn't my fault, either! It was that awful, lousy, filthy peice of a centaur dung who changed what was supposed to be! It was his fault and his alone! And if I hear so much as a single word of protest from you I'll knock you one upside the head!" Gabrielle threatened.

Xena smiled. "Oh, Gabrielle!! It's so good to have you back!!!!"

"You want to hear about what happened in the Elysian Fields, Xena? I think you'll like this story!"

"Sure! But in a few minutes. I've got to go say a couple goodbyes and a couple thank yous!" Xena smiled then disappeared before Gabrielle's eyes.

About ten minutes later Xena returned in the fashion she had left, only now, she wore her armor. "Tell me all about it!" Xena smiled, taking Argo's reins and stroking the horse for several minutes before they started walking. She put her arm around Gabrielle's shoulders. "Well, I saw so many people, Xena! I saw grandmother and Uncle Morose again. I saw Perdicus! Perdicus and I were walking and I saw this golden blur that could only be one thing... Argo! I was so happy and...."


Sorry! You'll never hear the end of our favourite bard's tale!!!!

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