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Obligatory Disclaimer: Nope, characters are not mine...wish they were <<<heavy sigh>>>...but they belong to MCA/Universal/Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended by the author. Please...this story may not be sold/posted/archived or printed without the permission of the author (ya want it, ya got it...just ask first, okay?)
Secondary Disclaimer: Did ya ever get a song stuck in your head? Don't ya hate when that happens? Blame it on the MTV influence...I see everything as a music video. <<<grin>>>
This is it (the song is: A Place In The World)...combined with my reaction to the episodes Sacrifice1 and 2. Song lyrics by M. Chapin-Carpenter, quotes are from the many excellent writers at X:WP.
Yet another Disclaimer: This is a sequel to my other short story endeavor...In My Life. I didn't intend to write a sequel but my slavedriving editor insisted... soooooo, blame her! <<<smirk>>> Warrior Deb, this is for you.
A PLACE IN THE WORLD
A sequel to IN MY LIFE
Xena continued walking, for a few paces, past the stunned Joxer and then she suddenly stopped. She stood up on her toes and extended her tall body, even taller. Xena turned gracefully in a tight circle, her eyes scanning the horizon. Finally, she just raised her fingers to her mouth and whistled. A slight noise from the trees, well off to her right caught her attention. She turned and faced in that direction and saw the golden mare running toward her. Behind Argo trailed the chestnut horse that Callisto had been riding.
The horse strode up to the Warrior and stopped. Xena reached, tentatively, out to touch the mare's silky mane.
"Hey, girl," Xena spoke softly as her long fingers gently stroked the palomino's nose.
"I didn't think... I would see you...again."
Xena's voice trailed off into a croaked whisper, as the memory of Gabrielle's sacrifice again flashed through her mind. But her heart quickly lightened and although she knew she was headed into unchartered waters, she had...hope. She snorted a chuckle at that particular choice of a word. How ironic, she thought.
Joxer continued to gaze at the Warrior, dumbstruck at the apparent change in the Xena's demeanor. His brow wrinkled and he cocked his head to one side. He continued to stare at the Warrior, as he tried to figure out what her plan could possibly entail.
"Xena, let me get this straight...we are going to...errrrr....Hades?" Joxer said as he walked up to his horse.
"as in Tartarus...as in underworld?"
"As in Cerberus the...umm..." Joxer gulped loudly, "three headed dog?"
"Yup, " Xena mumbled. Xena checked the saddle and bags, then picked up Argo's reigns. She quickly mounted in one graceful movement.
"But, now Xena, don't ya have to be...well...dead, to go there?" Joxer inquired, seriously.
"Uh huh, but...," Xena paused for a second and chose her words carefully, "we are going uninvited." And I am going alone, she added in an unspoken thought.
Xena knew it would be a hard two day's journey to the portal/gateway at the lake. She had preparations to make and she needed complete concentration. Xena didn't need the distraction of the well intentioned but bumbling Joxer.
Xena watched as the wannabe warrior mounted up and prepared to ride. He settled into his seat easily but she could tell by his slumped shoulders that he was exhausted both physically and mentally. Xena quickly debated his usefulness for this mission. She liked Joxer and thought of him as family but this mission was the most important of her life...and Gabrielle's.
She knew she needed to offer some kind of explanation to Joxer but didn't want to give away too much. She learned all too well, that surprise was an effective element of an important mission and could be the difference between success and failure. Finally her thoughts settled and as they began to ride away from the ruined temple, she turned to look at the man.
"Joxer, I have a mission for you, " Xena spoke as they got underway.
"You came through with the dagger."
"I need you to find Hercules."
"This is very important, Joxer."
"He is our ticket into the underworld, with Hades being his Uncle and all."
"I last heard he was about 1 1/2 day's ride to the south...can you go get him and bring him to the lake?"
"I'll do it, Xena," Joxer said bravely.
"Have I ever let you down?" he asked, seriously.
"On second thought, don't answer that," he added quietly after he reigned his horse off to the south.
Xena rode quietly and quickly through the countryside. Mentally, she was finalizing her plans. It would take everything she had to pull this off.
It was full darkness before Xena stopped. Argo was exhausted and needed water and a rest. Argo had pushed herself to the limit today. It was almost as though she realized the importance of the mission. Xena quickly set up a simple camp, reflexively, without a thought to her motions or actions. She finally settled down to sharpen her sword. Once that task was done, her mind began to wander. Xena put her sword aside and pulled her knees up to her chest. She wrapped her arms around her legs and rested her chin on her knee. Xena tried desperately, unsuccessfully to will herself not to cry. Knowing she was all alone...she finally gave in to her emotions.
All Gabrielle could think about while she fell was the face of her companion as recognition of her act registered in the Warrior's mind. As she continued to descend, time seemed to be standing almost still....the rocky walls seemed to float by ever so slowly. She had lost sight of Hope after she let her out of the embrace, an instant after going over the edge. In her mind she saw only the crystal blue eyes of her companion. The saddest blue eyes...
"Oh, Xena, I didn't want to leave you..."
"but it is for the best."
"I couldn't let Ares win."
"I had to do it...don't you see...the world needs you...for the greater good."
"Besides, 'Hope' was my 'Callisto', my mess to clean up."
"Please, Xena, please don't hate me...I did it for love..."
"I know I have hurt you...so, so much lately...I couldn't let you do this..."
Her pleading thoughts trailed off as she twisted around and saw the lava below...it would be an instant death, she would be consumed in the fire of Dahok. A lifetime of memories surfaced and flashed before her closed eyes as she prepared herself for the impact into the lava, she knew was at the bottom of the pit.
What I'm looking for, after all this time
Keeps me moving forward, trying to find it
Since I learned to walk, all I've done is run
Ready on my mark, doesn't everyone
Need a place in this world
Potedaia...never fitting in...dreams...then Draco...slavers...and Xena...
"Ya... gotta take me with you...,"
"Teach me...everything you know..."
"You can't leave me here... in Poteidaia...I want to go with you."
"I've studied the stars... spoken with philosophers...
"I can be very valuable to you...take me with you..."
Could be right before your very eyes
Just beyond a door that's open wide
Could be far away or in your own backyard
There are those who say, you can look too hard
For your place in the world
Following her dreams to the Academy...only to find that her life was better than her dreams.
"I can be out living them (adventures)! This is going to make a great story"!
"Stop focusing on the destination. It's the journey that's fun."
"Life is an adventure to be explored and without it, what's the point?
The second time she left...when she was sure that her leaving was protecting the Warrior. Her fear was overwhelming, that she would freeze again during a life-or-death situation. After helping to save her village, she realized the important lessons she had learned.
"She (Xena) taught me when to fight and when to talk. She taught me how to know the difference between a friend and an enemy. And she taught me what it means to have a best friend."
Each time she returned to Xena's side...much happier and a little wiser for the experiences.
Takes some of us a little longer
A few false starts, gonna make you stronger
When I'm sure I've finally found it
Gonna wrap these arms all around it
Terreis and the Amazon right-of-caste...Amazon Princess...Ephiny...Thessaly...Perdicus...Callisto...Xena's death...Amazon Queen...Velasca...the Horde...Cecrops...
Could be one more mile, or just one step back
In a lover's smile, down a darkened path
Friends will take our side, enemies will curse us
But to be alive is to know your purpose
Britannia...Kraftstar...Meridian...loss of blood innocence...Dahok...Hope...lies...Lao Ma...Chin...Ming Tien...betrayal...Solan...Illusia...forgiveness...Xena...
It's your place in the world
"Am I really who I am or am I what you made me?"
Xena's reply: "You're Gabrielle, bard, Amazon Princess, best friend. Nobody made you who you are, it was already there. Question is, what would I be without you?"
Your place in the world
Your place in the world
"I'm here because I want to be here. I love you, Xena."
Gabrielle never felt the impact...it never happened. After several long moments, she carefully opened her verdant eyes and looked skyward...or what she thought was skyward. Gabrielle was lying on a small grassy knoll surrounded by forest. She looked around and saw that Hope was no where to be found. Surely if they fell together, she would be here too. Gabrielle carefully stood and checked herself for injury. Finding nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises, she chuckled.
"Okay, where am I?" she asked herself, aloud.
She slowly turned in a circle trying to get all the clues she could from her surroundings...her hearing tuned into normal forest noises of scurringing animals and squalking birds.
Okay bard, what to do. First, lets find a staff...kinda feel naked without one. She walked to the edge of the treeline and looked around for a suitable branch. After a few candlemarks of looking she found one that would work. She took the branch and broke off some smaller offshoots and then pulled off it's dead bark. She then tried it out. Flipping it up in the air a few times, she sought out it's center of balance. Gabrielle then launched into a few drills to get the feel of the new weapon. Once comfortable with it, she tried a few more complicated spins and feigns finishing up with a flourish. She leaned on her staff, catching her breath and she broke out in gentle laughter, thoroughly pleased with her workout.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a flash of blue light. Instantly, she returned to an attack position. She spun quickly, swinging her staff and watched as it passed right through the leatherclad body of the God of War. He chuckled and began to applaud.
"Oooh, nice, very nice...I'm impressed, " Ares said as he continued his mocking laughter and clapping.
"Ares," the bard spit out derisively.
"Hello to you too, Gabrielle," Ares said, sarcastically and he crossed his arms over his chest.
"I see the Warrior Princess managed to teach you something..."
"Yeah, well ya never know when a... snake will appear out of nowhere," Gabrielle retorted.
"Yes...ahem...well...," he managed to stutter out and he was attempting a witty reply when Gabrielle cut him off.
"What do you want, Ares?...Haven't you done enough?"
"You, Gabrielle...I want you," he answered with a wink.
"What?" Gabrielle said with absolute surprise.
"Oh, giving yourself up to save Xena, well, I didn't really count on that."
"I expected you to stop Xena but not actually sacrifice yourself or kill Hope..."
"I seriously underestimated you..."
Ares reached out and gently twirled a piece of Gabrielle's red-gold hair.
"and your worth...But not anymore."
Gabrielle reached up and removed his fingers from her hair. She looked up into his dark eyes and laughed.
"I'm dead or haven't you noticed?" she asked, with a smirk and raised eyebrow.
"Ah, but you see ...that isn't exactly true," Ares answered flatly.
"Did you learn that..."
Ares waved his finger, in a gesturing motion, at the bard's face.
"eyebrow thing from her?"
He pursed his lips and cocked his head to one side and grinned.
"What? Where am I?" Gabrielle said and she looked around again.
"You are in a little used part of Elysia... but you aren't dead," Ares offered.
"You didn't stand before my Uncle in judgement, now did you?"
"How?" Gabrielle countered.
"I removed your... body..." he said and raked his eyes over her body laciviously, he sighed and shook his head.
"before it hit the lava."
"I sent you here."
"No, Hope is gone...I realized that they were planning on killing me as soon as my...ah... usefulness was gone."
"Once the new race was established, they would have done away with me."
"But...I have a new plan now..."
"One that you will be so, so happy to hear that you are a part of..."
Xena awakened from her restless sleep earlier than normal. She quickly packed up camp and got underway. By midmorning, she was standing on the shore of the calm blue lake. Her thoughts flashed quickly to the last time she was at this lake...with Marcus. She shook her head to clear her thoughts and refocused on her plan. She stripped all of the gear off of Argo and stashed it in some nearby brush.
"C'mere girl," Xena softly commanded.
Argo stood by and whickered gently and began to lip Xena's hair. The Warrior rubbed the horse's whithers.
"I'm gonna go get Gabrielle, Argo...I'm gonna bring her back."
"You miss her too, don't ya?" Xena asked, as she stroked the palomino's silky mane.
Then she hugged the horse, tearily said goodbye and set Argo out to roam free. Xena checked her own weapons, then tucked and secured the hind's blood dagger into her belt scabbard and dove into the water. She swam to the middle of the lake. Treading water, she turned and quickly took one final look around. Xena took a deep breath and began her descent to the bottom and the portal.
Xena next found herself barging through heavy wooden doors into the chamber of the God of the Underworld.
"Hades, show yourself!" Xena commanded loudly.
"Oh, not you again...,"the God replied, exasperately, as he removed his helm and materialized from his invisibility.
"What is it this time and how did you get here?"
He looked at the puddle of water beneath her feet.
"Nevermind, I know how you got here."
"What do you want Xena?"
"You obviously aren't dead..."
"I know I won't be dealing with you for...well...a while yet." he said with a slight, knowing smile.
"Hades, I have a deal for you,." Xena said in her best warlord tone.
"Xena...what kind of deal could possibly interest me?" he asked and he made a sweeping gesture with his arms.
"I want to trade you something...for someone," she replied.
"Impossible...NO...out of the question," he countered quickly as he turned and walked a few steps away.
"I can't go around making deals and releasing souls."
"Once you are here and fairly judged you are here for eternity..."
"You know the rules, Xena...Marcus is out of the question...he is in Elysia, as you requested..."
"Not Marcus, Hades..." Xena answered flatly.
"Who then?" the God inquired.
"Gabrielle," Xena said softly.
"Xena, have you lost it?" Hades asked, seriously.
"Gabrielle isn't here."
"Believe me, I would know..."
"She would be talking my head off right now..."
"How do you stand the little irri...."
Hades found himself staring into crystal blue eyes full of unshed tears.
"...irreplaceable bard?" he added, quickly correcting himself. Then offered an apologetic half-smile.
"Hades... please, I know she is here...," Xena's voice began to show the emotional strain.
"I saw her dddd...die myself."
"She threw herself over into a lava pit, to save my life."
Xena lowered her eyes to the floor as she struggled to maintain her composure.
"Xena?" Hades called her name and he waited for her to look back up at him.
"Xena...I am telling you, Gabrielle isn't here..."
"I don't know what you saw but she isn't here!"
Xena turned away from the God and stared off, unfocused for a moment as she tried to make sense of everything. She was brought out of her innattentiveness by the unusally soft voice of the God.
"Xena, tell me everything that has happened?" he inquired sincerely.
Xena explained everything from the start in Britannia to the what happened in the Halls of War. Hades knew much of the story, the Gods were aware of Dahok and Hope, but he was extremely interested in Ares's plot.
"Hades, please understand...you know that I do not revere the Gods as others do..."
"but I know, from our past dealings that you are honorable and fair."
"I will give you the hind's blood dagger and it's power over the other Gods..."
"All I want is Gabrielle back...please..."
By now Xena's voice was emotional and pleading. Her tears flowed freely. Hades looked into the face of the Warrior and although he was normally stoic and unemotional, he couldn't help but smile. In the face of the Warrior he recognized the same loyalty, devotion and love that he himself felt for his Persephone.
"Xena, Gabrielle is *not* dead...that means that she had to have been removed from the temple..."
Hades and Xena looked at each other, a realization crossed their minds at the same time and simultaneously they said...
In a flash of blue smoke the smirking God of War appeared. Held tightly in his arms was a frightened but fiesty bard. Her movements only stilled by the fact that she had a knife at her throat.
"You called?" he asked.
"Gabrielle!" Xena cried out and she stepped toward her friend.
"Ah, ah ,ah...stay where you are Princess!" Ares commanded and he moved the knife closer to Gabrielle's neck.
Xena stopped her movement. She looked deeply into the scared green eyes, wordlessly looking for confirmation of her condition. Gabrielle smiled and Xena's heart lightened.
"Another day, another hostage situation...," she croaked out with self-deprecating humor.
"Ares, you have no powers here...you know they are suspended in my realm," Hades offered the information, hoping Xena would understand the implication.
"I am aware of that, Uncle...why do you think I have the knife?" Ares replied sardonically.
"What do you want Ares?" Xena asked, her voice deadly and dark.
"I want the dagger, Xena."
"With the dagger, I can rule Olympus!" the God of War bellowed.
Xena stood silent for a second and regarded her opponent. She pulled the dagger from the scabbard and looked at it. Then she looked at Hades and then back to Ares.
"Okay, Ares...I'll give you the dagger..."
"I want Gabrielle."
"No, Xena!...don't do it!" Gabrielle screamed and she began to struggle to break her confinement.
Ares pressed the blade closer to her neck, the point nicked the skin and a small line of blood appeared.
"Gabrielle, look at me... it's *okay*," Xena said in a calm tone, trying to assure her friend.
Gabrielle looked up at the Warrior, the head tilt and the slight eyebrow arch did not go unnoticed by the bard and her movements halted again.
"Ares...turn Gabrielle over to me and I will give you the dagger, " Xena suggested.
"Xena, now really...did you think I would fall for that?" Ares inquired sarcastically.
"Give *me* the dagger and I will give you, your little...friend."
"I still don't know what you see in her...," he added in a mumble under his breath.
"Okay, Ares...Look...I will put the dagger down here and back away..." Xena countered.
"Let Gabrielle go and then get your dagger."
"No tricks...you have my word, Ares."
Xena placed the dagger on Hades' table and slowly backed a few paces away. She mentally calculated the distance...it had to be far enough for Ares to feel comfortable but close enough for her to reach it first if necessary. Her eyes never left his as she slowly took another pace backward. The tension was thick, all the parties found themselves unconsciously holding their respective breaths. Finally, the glint in Ares eyes told Xena she had backed far enough away.
Ares took a quick look at the dagger and pushed Gabrielle to Xena, using her as a combination shield and diversion. Gabrielle unexpected shove caused her to lurch forward.
Xena gathered Gabrielle in her arms, effectively stopping her stumble. The bard found herself fighting for air as Xena squeezed the breath out of her in a fierce hug. She forcefully kissed the top of the bard's head. Xena pulled back and raised her hands to the sides of Gabrielle's face, effectively holding it steady and forcing her to look straight into the Warrior's eyes.
"Gabrielle, don't you ever do that again!" Xena admonished, her giant smile betraying her scolding words.
"How could you even think to..." the Warrior continued only to be cut off by her younger companion.
"Xena!" the bard pleaded.
"Yell at me later...we are kinda in a situation here."
They both grinned at the words...they echoed a similar predicament a long time ago, only the parties were reversed.
By now Ares had reached the dagger. He lovingly caressed the hilt, as his mind played out all the possibilities of power that this particular weapon could generate. His eyes scanned the spotless blade...spotless blade?
"Xena!" Ares screamed.
"This is not the hind's blood dagger!"
"You lied to me...you broke your word!"
"Ares, I did not break my word...look at the hilt...it is the same dagger," Xena said flatly.
She turned her body toward Ares, although she kept her arm around Gabrielle. She looked down at the bard and winked. Then she turned her face back to the God of War.
"I came here through the lake..." Xena said with a light hearted tone.
"I guess, the blood...well...it must have washed off."
"Oops, sorry..." she added with a shrug and a dazzling smile.
Gabrielle began to laugh and even Hades had to smile. Ares was seething however.
"This isn't over, Princess...not by any stretch of the imagination," Ares growled with contempt.
Just then a loud thunderclap was heard...it's reverberations shook the room.
"ARES!...GET UP HERE NOW!"
"Zeus?" Ares rhetorically inquired and then cringed.
"Oh, I think it is all over...now," Xena said with a grin as she pulled the bard affectionately to her for another hug and playfully ruffled her fair hair.
"Oh Ares, I think Daddy is calling."
"Zeus, I can explain...," Ares offered before he faded into a puff of blue smoke.
Gabrielle and Xena looked at each other and both started to speak at the same time.
"I'm sorry...," they said.
Then they paused and again found themselves echoing each others words.
"We need to talk...."
"Xena, you are right...and far be it for me to pass up a chance to talk but..." Gabrielle said and then her growling stomach spoke up.
"can we get out of here, first?"
"I'm kinda hungry...and I don't want to be tempted to eat anything down *here*."
She turned to Hades and lightly blushed. She held her hands out in front of her, palms down.
"Not that it is a bad place...but since I'm not dead, I just don't want to stay here right now..."
Gabrielle looked up into the shining blue eyes and smiled.
"I have lots to tell you...I think I found my place in the world."
"Do tell..." Xena jokingly stated.
Hades looked at the friends and offered to return them to the lake shore the easy way. They immediately accepted. With that done, he ascended to Mount Olympus to see exactly how Ares was going to explain it all away. This should be entertaining, he thought.
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