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Disclaimer: Xena, Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and some of the characters are the sole property of Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal. This story, all other characters and action sequences are the sole property of the author. No copyright infringement is intended and the story is meant to enhance our love for the TV show. This story may not be sold. Or archived without the author’s permission.

Warning: Strong violence, strong language, strong subtext, and nudity.

Author’s note: I do NOT condone violence against women, (or children, men, or animals, for that matter) but I have put it in this story because it is consistent with the TV show and what Ares would do for revenge.





Thanks Fox..., Scully


"RERUNS! I hate reruns. Why is there never anything good on?"

In his dark, foreboding temple, the God of War sits slouched on a couch, his gut hanging over his belt, a plate of food resting on his stomach. Food that seems to miss his mouth and end up on his bare, brawny chest. With a bolt of lightening from his finger, Ares flips the channels on his people vision ‘box’.

"Xena saves a village" flip "Gabrielle takes my powers" flip "Hercules saves a village"

Frustrated, the War God bellows to Olympus, "agggggh, what happened to the gladiator games!"

flip "Xena defeats my warlord" flip -Gabrielle pulls Hope into the fire pit- flip -Gabrielle and Xena destroy the Destroyer-

By this time Ares is fuming, he points at the ‘box’, at Gabrielle, and swears, "Someday bitch, someday."

"What’s the matter, is the big baby bored?" the Goddess of Love sashays her way into the room. She walks toward Ares, but stops short, over come by a strong odor.

"Eww, Ares, you need a bath. Jeez, Hercules didn’t smell this bad when he was a pig!"

Pinching her nose, Aphrodite tries to wave away the smell with her other hand. But Ares just rolls his eyes at her and flipping the channel again, asks;

"Aphrodite, what do you want, can’t you see I’m very busy here?" "Really, just how much energy does it take to be a slob?"

Ares shoots her a dirty look, but continues to flip channels. Undaunted, the well endowed goddess perseveres, "Come on bro, get off your butt, get some action going."

Aphrodite emphasizes her point by swinging her hips and tossing her... ‘tassels’. The hard as nails God of War sneaks a peak at her, but finally, regaining his reserve he cuts to the quick, "You’re bored too, aren’t you?"

Deflated, so to speak, Aphrodite whines, "Yes", then snivels, "Everyone’s so happy and content, love is in the air, it’s sickening."

"Strange words, coming from the goddess of love, but I know how you feel, it’s hardly worth the effort anymore." Ares takes a handful of food and stuff’s it in his mouth, letting the crumbs fall where they may.

"What you need is some recreation time", Aphrodite concludes. But Ares quiets her, "Listen!" he demands. He’s interested in a conversation on the ‘box’, a conversation between Xena and Gabrielle.

"I wonder what would have happened if I’d met you before..., before, you know?" Gabrielle asks. "Gabrielle, I could never see you as being evil", Xena states. "But there is a difference between them and you", she adds. "What difference? Xena I have changed so much since I met you. Wonder how much of that is timing?" "Does it really matter?" Xena asks. Gabrielle nods her head. "Am I really who I am, or am I what you made me?"

"THAT’S IT!!" The temple rumbles with thunder at Ares declaration. The War God jumps up, knocking his food to the floor. "That’s what?" the startled goddess asks.

"That’s how I get my revenge! Gabrielle will pay for killing my son by becoming the very thing she fears most, EVIL!" The "slob" now stands tall, the fire returning to his eyes as he slaps his muscular chest with his large, strong hands.

Not one to be ignored, Aphrodite sarcastically asks, "And, just how are you going to convert her?"

Ares’ teeth positively sparkles as he smiles, "That’s just it, I won’t have to, Xena will do it for me. Oh, this is to good!"

"Hel~lo, reality check. Xena and Gabrielle have a bond tighter than Hercules pants, for Hera’s sake." "In the present maybe, but what if I send her back to a time before she knew the good Xena. A time when I had control. Ohhh, it’ll be glorious!"

"No way, Ares you’re dreaming. Even if you did send her back, she’d never come near Xena." "Not to worry my dear, Xena will find her."

"Ares..., there’ll be Tardes to pay with Zeus. You know his rules about messing with the past and you’re still in dutch over that whole Dahak business."

"To Tardes with Zeus. Besides, at this point, what have I got to loose. It’ll be worth it! I’ll kill two birds with one stone, literally!" And in a flash of light and a puff of smoke the son of Zeus disappears.

"Huh, bet ya a back rub you can’t pull it off", Aphrodite says to herself. "I’ll take that bet" Ares’ voice calls out.

Camped off the main road in a secluded alcove of trees, Xena and Gabrielle sit side by side on a log in front of a roaring fire.

"I don’t think I’m going to get the hang of this", the Warrior Princess swears through her frustration.

"Come on Xena, you know you love them. Just see it through. It can be very relaxing if you’d let go and enjoy it", the little Bard encourages. But Xena looks at her blond friend with a cynical grin, "Gabrielle, this is not a skill I’m particularly adapt at."

"HOLY ZEUS!" Gabrielle cries, looking around for something, "What are you looking for?" Xena questions. "A witness, that’s a first for you, hee, hee", the precocious young woman laughs as her tall friend shakes her head, "Gabrielle..."

"No really Xena, after all these years, I don’t believe that. Come on, it just takes a little practice." "Gabrielle, I could starve to death with all this practice." "We’ll have dinner in a minute, just finish what you’ve started", teasing her companion with her pouting face, Gabrielle oscillates, "humor me okay?"

With a look of surrender in those shimmering blue eyes, Xena turns to her and sternly stipulates, "All right, but no laughing..."

Gabrielle nods her head in agreement, and to emphasize, she clasps her hands over her mouth, but truth be told, it was to suppress the already unquenchable desire to giggle.

The fearless warrior rubs her hands together, stretching them out until the knuckles pop. Then she picks up a spoon, "Ready?" Gabrielle grins, "Ready!"

Xena dips the spoon into the boiling water and retrieves a..... dumpling.

Obviously proud of the sight of it, she holds it up and curiously examines it. Gleaming in the campfire, this beautiful achievement of fine cuisine, dripping in its own juices, causes something to stir in Xena. Her beautiful, radiant face melts into a pursed, stern expression.

Scrutinizing the dumpling closer, Xena slaps it against the pot, where it shatters into a million pieces. Gabrielle, who can’t contain herself any longer, emancipates her laughter. In fact, the petite one roars so hard, she has to hold on to her best friend to keep from falling off the log.

The Warrior side of Xena gives her partner one of those unfavorable looks, but the little troubadour is not intimidated and playfully nudges her buddy with her shoulder. Finally, Xena softens and nudges her back with a smile.

"All right Xena, I give up. You’re just not the domestic type. Now I know how you love these little dumplings so I’ll finish making dinner." Gabrielle continues chortling as she turns to prepare the flour.

"The things I have to do to get you to make dumplings", Xena remarks as she pulls out her sword to clean it, "and don’t forget the red stuff in the middle."

Suddenly the Warrior Princess stops, sensing something in the air. Standing, she pivots her sword, primed to fight. Gabrielle notices the stanch her friend has taken and, picking up her staff, she stands beside her, "Xena, what is it?"

Rubbing the back of her neck and scrunching her face, Xena states, "Something smells really bad. Like a dead rat, covered in maggots", and laughing, Xena turns around. "Ares" she hisses. The God of War materializes in front of them.

Stepping up to him, Xena demands, "What is it this time Ares?" "Xena, you are good, but it’ll be interesting to see how you handle this one." "Get on with it Ares, you’re holding up dinner."

Ares smiles at the challenge, "It’s like this, you ruined my chance at ruling Olympus so the way I see it, you owe me." With a condescending look, Xena retorts, "You’ve got to be kidding?"

Pointing at Gabrielle, Ares replies, "Not you, Xena, her", and in a flash, he disappears.

Almost instantly, he materializes behind Gabrielle, grabbing her across the shoulders. Xena whirls around in time to catch Gabrielle’s staff, as she and Ares disappear into a vapor of smoke.

"ARES!!!" the blood curdling scream emoted from Xena’s heart.

Mounting Argo, the incensed Warrior Princess rides at break neck pace towards Ares’ temple. With her sword drawn, Xena enters, expecting to find Ares and Gabrielle, but instead, finds the shapely physique of the Goddess of Love, stretched out in all her glory, on the couch that Ares had occupied earlier.

Oblivious to everything around her, except the picture of herself on Ares ‘box’, Cupid’s mother doesn’t hear when Xena demands, "What did Ares do with Gabrielle?" Frustrated, Xena steps in front of the ‘box’ which brings Aphrodite out of her euphoria "Oh, hi Xena, long time, no care." The intimidating warlord swishes her sword with impatience until finally Aphrodite gives in.

"Oh all right! If you’ll get out of my way, I’ll show you." Flipping the channel, the Love Goddess motions for Xena to watch as her best friend materializes in Poteidaia, wearing a long skirt and blue jacket.

"Huh, how’d I get out here?" Gabrielle asks herself as she looks around. "Gabrielle, time to go." The young red head turns to see her sister, Lila, walking toward her.

"Aphrodite, bring her back. NOW!", Xena demands. "Sorry babe, no can do. Ares took her and he’ll have to bring her back." "Where is she?" "About seven years in the past, I’d guess." "In the past?" "Cool, huh, and guess who’s coming to dinner?"

Aphrodite flips the channel to show the Destroyer of Nations, dressed for battle, leading the charge toward a village. "But, I never attacked Poteidaia?" Aphrodite sniggles, "Well, not yet, anyway."

"Aphrodite, send me back!"

"As if."

"Aphrodite, think! You’ll be a hero among the other gods when they learn that you outsmarted Ares, someone they don’t trust anymore. Think of your position when you tell them you did it all for love."

"Oh please, what’s love got to do with anything?"

Xena takes a step back, and thinking of her one true friend, she softens and asks,

"Did you ever have one person in this world, just one, who knows your naked soul, but loves you anyway? Is it inside of you to find the good in others, or to help them because it’s the right thing to do, not because it serves you."

The love goddess begins to sniffle and snort.

"Have you ever had someone offer their life for yours because they love you that much?"

"All right, all right, I’ll send you back for Hera’s sake" she sobs, blowing her nose on her sleeve, "But remember Xena, this is no dream, what you do back there can change your fate now. The outcome is your responsibility, not mine"

Distracted by the ‘box’, Aphrodite flips it back to a picture of her favorite show..., herself. "Hurry!" Xena impatiently demands.

"Hold on, there’s a hitch", Aphrodite cautions. "There always is", Xena hisses.

"Ares has put a spell on your little friend and the only way to break it is for her to forgive your evil self." Not waiting for a reply, Aphrodite does her thing and Xena disappears in a pouf of smoke.

"Oops, I forgot to tell her that the girl won’t remember her. Oh well, details, details", the Goddess of Love turns her attention back to the ‘box’, "Ewww, this is a good channel."

Materializing in Poteidaia, Xena immediately starts looking around for Gabrielle. She finds the two sisters walking out of a shop and she rushes over to them, grabbing Gabrielle’s arm.

"Gabrielle, come on, we have to get out of here." "Hey, wait a minute", Gabrielle jerks her arm free and protests, "Who are you and what do you want with me?"

Stunned that her companion in life doesn’t recognize her, Xena steps back.

"Gabrielle, this is no time for games." "I don’t know how you know my name, but I’m not going anywhere with you lady", the young girl declares. "Don’t you know me Gabrielle, it’s me, Xena?"

An alarmed look of panic comes across the two sister’s faces as they recognize the evil name of;

"XENA... By the Gods, I’m... I’m sorry, I don’t know you. Please, just leave us in peace", Gabrielle stutters as she and Lila back away.

Xena’s heart is horrified at the look of terror in Gabrielle’s eyes. Her own eyes mist up as she says to herself, "But... I’m your best friend."

On a beautiful, picturesque mountainside, where the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing, the quiet tranquillity of nature is being massacred by Xena’s evil doppel. Training her men in a lesson in humility, Xena takes on one man after another. Her russet color clothes blur red as she elbows and kicks her way through them. "Pathetic!", she chides as the last man falls.

The Doppel walks into her tent, to find a dark, muscular, virile man sitting in her chair.

"Xena, you’re magnificent!" Un-impressed by his magnitude, Xena wipes the sweat from her brow and says, "Ares, God of War, I wondered what you looked like. Not bad, for a god I guess." "And you’re my beautiful, fearless warlord. Together, you and I will rule Olympus!"

Xena’s I sense an opportunity alarm goes off. Sidling up next to the War God, she vexes, "Aressss, don’t make promises you can’t keep." "Don’t worry my dear, when I’m finished here, we both will have everything we’ve ever dreamed of. But, first I want you to do me a special favor."

Back in Poteidaia, Gabrielle and Lila arrive at home, barely closing the door behind them, when a knock sounds. "Yes?" Gabrielle looks up into the face of a tall, blond, blue eyed, peasant girl. "Please, have you a bit of food to spare?", the girl, with a soft, quiet voice, asks. "I’ve traveled for days and I’ve nothing to eat and no where to sleep."

Gabrielle, true to her heart, motions for the girl to enter, "You poor thing, of course, come in and share our food." "You’re very kind", Xena, in disguise, says as she enters. "My name is Gabrielle and this is my sister, Lila." "My name is... Madeline." "Please, make yourself comfortable", Gabrielle leads her to the table, as Lila leaves to prepare some food.

"Where are you going that you’ve traveled so far?"

"I’m searching for... someone", Xena replies, lovingly looking at the young girl she calls family.

"She was kidnapped and brought to this village." "Kidnapped, but why?"

"Revenge", came the angry reply. "How horrible, but surely you’ll find her." "If it takes my last breath."

The young hostess responds to the pain in Xena’s eyes by tenderly patting her on the arm and saying, "I wish I had a friend as devoted as you are to her." Xena’s eyes soften, and she replies, "You will." Gabrielle looks at her curiously, but Xena quickly covers by changing the subject, "I’m just lucky she chose me for a friend."

"Tell me about her", Gabrielle asks as Lila returns with the food.

"Well she’s just like you, kind and unselfish. She has a beautiful soul and a caring heart that won’t give up." "She sounds like a true friend. I’m sure you’ll find her soon." "I know I will, I have to, she’s all I have."

"Do you know who kidnapped her?" Lila asks.

"Ares", the disguised warrioress hisses. "Who’s Ares?" "The God of War?" "Why would he want your friend?"

"For Xena." was the satirical reply.

"Xena, by the Gods, we saw her just today! She scares me to my very soul", Gabrielle timidly states, shivering at the thought.

"I’m sorry, I didn’t..., I mean, you shouldn’t...." but Xena can’t get the words past her strangled throat for the tears welling up inside.

"That woman is evil, through and through", Lila seethes, "May she die alone with her evilness." Fearful of that very thought, the dauntless one lowers her head in defeat.

"Lila, everyone has some good in them, even Xena. Probably, no one has ever given her the chance to be good", the small one with the purest of hearts suggests, causing Xena to renew her faith and allow her tears to travel up to her eyes.

"Of course, when it comes to Xena, no one has time to look." Gabrielle jests as she reaches for a piece of bread. The internal mask of the warlord melts away as Xena turns her head in time to catch a tear before it could fall.

Suddenly, a loud racket comes from outside, followed by screams of terror. Gabrielle runs for the door as Xena jumps up and yells, "Gabrielle, NO!", but Gabrielle has already run into the street. On her way after her, Xena grabs Lila and tells her to stay inside. "I’ll get Gabrielle" she says and races for the door.

Xena reaches the street and abruptly stops, staring into the cold, dull eyes of her lieutenant, Darphus. The lieutenant has captured Gabrielle and put her on the back of his horse.

"Darphus, don’t do this, she’s just an innocent girl" Xena pleads. Darphus looks at this tall, blond peasant girl as if she were crazy, "Who in Tardus are you?"

"I’m someone who’s going to kill you in the very near future", the Warrior Princess smiles, going for her chakram, hidden under her costume. But before she can grab it, Darphus kicks Xena in the head with his foot, causing her to fly backwards. "Huh, you and what army?" he scuffs and rides off with Gabrielle.

Upon entering the Doppel’s camp, Gabrielle is roughly pulled off the horse and dragged into a tent.

"What do you want of me?" she pleads as she’s forced to sit down on a cot. "We’ve been told that you have the gift of prophecy", Darphus replies. "Obviously not", Gabrielle quips.

A dark figure walks out of the shadows, tall and foreboding, intimidating, "I want you to join us" the evil Xena declares.

Looking up, from Xena’s boots, to her elaborately laced breastplate, to her golden, spiked shoulder plates, Gabrielle, of course, is frightened, but she manages to whisper, "No, I could never do that. Like I told you earlier, just leave us in peace." The Doppel looks at Gabrielle as if she were deranged.

Darphus draws his sword; "That’s good enough for me", he says, raising his weapon over his head, preparing to kill. Gabrielle shrinks back and closes her eyes in anticipation. "Stop!" Xena demands. "I’ll say when it’s time to kill her. Take her to the cross, maybe the afternoon heat will change her mind."

Darphus painfully grabs her by the arm, but before Gabrielle can be taken out, a villager is dragged in and thrown to the floor. "Xena, we caught this bastard trying to steal a horse." "Kill him then, don’t waste my time" the evil warrioress commands.

"NO!" Gabrielle screams, "Is that all a man’s life is worth to you?" she pleads. The Doppel smiles at the young girl; draws her sword and kills the villager. "That’s all" she replies, coldly. Gabrielle’s mouth opens in horror, but no scream is forth coming. "Gabrielle, a horse is like a member of the family to a warrior, would you not avenge the death of your family member?" But the innocent Bard can only stare at her in disbelief. She turns her head away from the body as she is dragged from the tent.

Meanwhile, Madeline/Xena runs down a road toward the Doppel’s camp. Suddenly she stops cold and draws her sword as Ares materializes in front of her. Shaking his head, he says, "Xena, Xena, Xena. Blond huh, that’s an interesting look for you?" Walking around so he could admire all of her, he adds, "Huh, I should have known Aphrodite couldn’t keep her big mouth shut."

"Ares, you can stop this now, before it’s to late" "To late? For who? Not me, either way, I win", the God of War brags. "That’s not the first time you thought that", Xena chides.

But Ares ignores her comment and becomes philosophical, "Revenge is sweet, Xena, you of all people should know that." "Revenge is empty and short lived", she retorts, pursing her lips. "Ah, but half the fun is getting there and man, am I having FUN!", he growls as he dissolves from sight. Xena returns her weapon to its scabbard and continues her trek along the path.

Ares materializes beside Gabrielle, who is bound to a cross, in the Doppel’s camp. "Bea~utiful!" he shouts as he kisses his fingers in appreciation. The frail, petite girl looks down at Ares and asks him for some water, but he cruelly sneers and rebuffs her, "And ruin the adventure of being tortured, I don’t think so." Laughing, the heartless one enters the Doppel’s tent.

"Xena, there’s trouble coming," Ares bellows, as he approaches his protégé, "an enemy of mine is making her way toward your camp. Send out your men to slow her down while you bring that girl to my temple."

"Why slow her down? Why not just eliminate the bitch all together?", the evil Xena asks. "Because I need her for future conquests. So just delay her for awhile, I need time for you to sway this girl to my will," he answers, pointing toward Gabrielle, who struggles with consciousness.

With only one thing on her mind, the true protector of the small one, runs full out, along a path, through some woods, and across a field. Her focus renders her oblivious to the thorns that cut into her flesh, to the tree limbs that pull at her long hair, to the fatigue that undoubtedly engulfs her. Her only concern is saving her best friend, her minds center, her hearts soul.

But her focus also serves to alert her to the contingent of soldiers waiting up ahead. She retrieves her chakram from under her disguise, just as ten of evil Xena’s men attack. Knocking four out with the swift action of her chakram, she does hand to hand combat with the rest.

Gabrielle is fighting a different battle. Evening approaches as she is cut down from the cross and allowed to fall to the ground. The evil Xena walks over and roughly picks her head up by the hair. Swooning from the heat, the one time Queen of the Amazions is not conscious of what Xena is saying;

"It’s your lucky day, little girl. You and I are going to be best friends", the evil warrior sneers, releasing Gabrielle’s head to rest on its chest, "When Tardes freezes over. Put her on a horse", she commands, as she mounts one herself.

Rolling off the back of one soldier, the warrior in Xena slams her fist into another, "This is taking to long." she decides, and increases her efforts to finish the fight, which she does with a couple of swift strokes of her fists.

Upon reaching Ares’ temple, Gabrielle is again, cruelly pulled from the horse. "Gabrielle, wake up" Darphus slaps her awake. "Water, please" she whispers groggily. Ignoring her plea, Darphus walks over to the evil Xena, who commands, "Tie her up, and keep her awake, no food, no water. And don’t let her know I’m here. At least not yet."

In the mean time, Xena has reached her evil self’s camp. She strips down to her armor and walks toward a soldier.

The soldier greets her, "Xena, but you’re not suppose to be here. Has the plan changed?" Looking around for her friend, Xena replies, "No, nothing’s changed. Where is the girl Darphus brought in?" He looks at her, confused, "As you’ve commanded, she’s been taken to Ares temple."

"Son of a bacchue!" she swears, "what next?" As if on cue Ares appears. "That’s an impostor", he shouts, "Get her!" Again, Xena is fighting her own men for her life, but this time, it’s a fight she’s losing.

The Warrior Princess, once their feared leader, now struggles to get the upper hand on her soldiers. Exhaustion soon takes hold and she becomes buried beneath a pile of men. With her last ounce of strength, she throws them off. "Now!" Ares shouts as a net flies through the air and entangles her. Frustrated beyond comprehension, Xena struggles to break free as a soldier walks up to her and hits her with the butt of his sword. And as dusk falls into darkness, so does Xena.

"Hold on Gabrielle, hold on" Xena encourages. "Hurry Xena" Gabrielle mumbles.

Gabrielle, sitting in a chair, her arms tied behind her, her head resting on her chest, is dreaming of her protector, the loving, caring, best friend she calls family. But her vision is rudely interrupted by a guard shaking her, "No, no, no" he grins, "No sleep for you."

As the moon gives way to the morning sun, the Warrior Princess also gives way to consciousness. Coming out of the fog, she mumbles, "Hold on, Gabrielle."

"Xena, can you hear me?" the God of War asks. "Gabrielle?" she whispers. Poking her with his sword, Xena slowly lifts her eyelids, trying to focus.

Looking around, she realizes that she has been chained to a cross.

"I know how you must be feeling right now", Ares smirks. "Everything that you are, that you love, is about to be destroyed and you’re helpless to stop it. Well, been there, felt that!"

He rubs his masculine hand up the calf of Xena’s leg, losing himself in possibilities, "If you had only left things alone..., none of this would be happening. But no, your ‘have to save the world’ complex messed things up again!"

He stops short of Xena’s thigh to contemplate for a moment, "Now, it’s payback time. And the best part of all is that you’re the one causing it. Even as we speak, your evil self is converting Gabrielle to my will..."

As Ares tirade continues, Xena’s soulmate is untied and her frail, ragdoll body is dragged to a whipping post inside his temple.

"You see, it’s really very simple actually", he boast’s as he floats up to eye level with Xena,

"First, you break her spirit. Deny her the little necessities in life; like sleep, food and water..."

Tied to the post, Gabrielle’s blouse is coarsely ripped off, as a thrashing whip is unfurled.

"Then, at her lowest point, you drive her to hate with the crack of a whip..."

A soldier pulls back the whip, smiling at it with bizarre pride, then lashes it across Gabrielle’s back. Her body convulses as she screams out in pain.

And almost as if she feels the whip herself, Xena screams simultaneously; "NO!"

"Yessss, Xena.", Ares hisses, erotically wetting his lips as if he can taste the sweetness of revenge, "Take away all that and you take away her will to think for herself."

Another crack of the whip leaves Gabrielle sobbing in pain.

Ares trails his fingers up Xena’s arm, past her shoulder and toward his ultimate goal, "Then, when her anger peaks", he says as he traces her breastplate with his finger, pausing at her cleavage. "you eliminate her weaknesses."

Xena’s tears sting her eyes as she whispers, "Her sister." Ares smiles into her clouded blue eyes, clearly enjoying her pain. "Her sister, well that’s what she’ll think anyway", he sneers, "You have to admit, it’s brilliant!"

"Ares, stop this now and I’ll give you what you want." "And just what is it I want, Xena?" "What you’ve always wanted, me. Send Gabrielle back to her family, unharmed, and I’ll join you." "Nice try Xena, but I know what you’re doing and it won’t work."

"No tricks Ares. Send Gabrielle back and I’ll do whatever you say." "You’d give up everything for her, wouldn’t you?"

"I don’t want to see her hurt any more because of me."

"How touching. Well, too little, too late, Xena. I’ve tried for years to win you back, but now I’m through trying. Oh, I’ll have what I want, but on my terms and my way."

Ares disappears in a cloud of smoke, "When I’m through with her, that irritating little friend of yours will be my finest accomplishment." His words linger forebodingly on the wind as the whip, again, cracks across Gabrielle’s back and mercifully, she loses consciousness.

Xena looks around, planning her next move. She sees the guards sitting away from her, drinking, the horses tethered close to her and the woods only a short distance away. Then she looks over at her left hand. With a focus only the Warrior Princess can command, she cracks her bones against the chains, and pulls her hand out. She reaches over to her right hand and with broken bones that barely allow the hand to function, she unlocks it. Freeing her feet and holding her shattered hand, she jumps down. Biting her lip, she torturously twists her hand until the bones re-connect, then she devises a splint from materials found on the ground. Finally, untying a horse, she quietly walks out of camp and once out of eyesight, she jumps on the horse and gallops towards Ares temple.

Running into the War God’s temple, Xena stops cold at the sight of her one true friend’s unconscious body, dangling from the ropes of the wiping post. Rushing over to her, she can’t help but gasp at Gabrielle’s raw, bloody, back. "What have I done to you?"

But Xena fights the urge to cry as she shakily reaches out to Gabrielle, fearing the worst. But tears of relief washes over her as Gabrielle moans in agony. Ignoring her own pain, Xena grabs a blanket and gingerly drapes it around Gabrielle. Then, drawing her sword, she cuts the bindings with one stroke and the Bard’s limp, fragile body falls into her arms.

"Gabrielle, speak to me, please, wake up." Xena’s warrior facade melts away with the tears that stream down her face as she brushes Gabrielle’s hair back.

Struggling to open her eyes, Gabrielle groggily asks, "Zeus, I’m whipped, can’t we sleep in this morning?"

Breathing a heavy sigh of relief, Xena gives her some water. "Xena, how did we get here?" the petite one, lying safe in her protectors arms, asks through her gulps. "Gabrielle, do you know me?", Xena’s heart leaps with excitement.

"Of course I know you, what’s going on? Xena, why are you crying?"

"It’s a long story... I... Gabrielle what is it?"

Gabrielle’s face contorts in pain. Her tiny body begins to tremor as she looks into Xena’s concerned eyes, "Xena, I feel funny..., I’m, I’m so cold."

Gabrielle’s eyes roll back in her head, her eyelids flutter, "Xena..." her voice trails off to a whisper as she spirals down into unconsciousness.

"No, GABRIELLE, don’t leave me!" But, once again, Gabrielle lies limp in Xena’s arms.

Crying unabashed as she gently rocks her companion, Xena suddenly jerks back to reality. She turns around at the sound of voice’s coming from outside. Ares!

Berating a slouching warrior, Ares walks into his temple. Seeing Gabrielle, unconscious on a cot, her arms dangling over the side, her wounded back, bare, he licks his lips in anticipation and walks over, kneeling beside her.

"What magic did you cast little girl, what power to do you posses, that can bring my most dominant warlord in all of Greece to her knees?"

"Love", came the answer from the shadows.

Xena, dressed in her evil self’s combat armor, walks over to Ares and Gabrielle.

"Ares, what is it about this girl that has you so preoccupied?", she questions, trying to draw him away from her vulnerable friend.

"Hard to believe, I know, but this annoying child was the grandmother of my son and yet she killed him in cold blood. If he hadn’t been my son, I’d actually be proud", he begins to stroke Gabrielle’s tousled hair. The champion of the small one fumes at the God of War’s amorous touch.

But then her eyes open wide, as appalled reality sets in, "And so, by converting her, you hope to have another son, ...with her?" "The ultimate revenge, wouldn’t you say?" he quips and lifts Gabrielle’s tiny, limp hand into his enormous, dominating hands and boasts, "Xena, this is your future, take good care of her", and with that he evaporates in a pouf of smoke, leaving the unconscious bard’s hand swaying against the cot.

Xena kneels beside Gabrielle and tenderly places her friends hand in her own and says, "You finally said something intelligent Ares."

In a shallow cave not to far from Ares temple, Xena carefully lays Gabrielle on a makeshift pallet. Tenderly peeling back the blanket from the tortured ones back, Xena goes outside to gather the plants needed to make a paste.

When she returns, she hears Gabrielle’s anguished weeping. Xena allows her emotions to surface as she smoothes the paste on Gabrielle’s back. "Sssh, you’re safe now, I’m here" she softly whispers. Relieved when the paste begins to alleviate the pain, the annihilator of thousands tenderly wipes away Gabrielle’s tears, then wipes away her own.

Pulling the blanket up over the story-teller, Xena sits back and contemplates,

"Gabrielle, it’s because of me that this happened. I have to put a stop to it, once and for all."

But Gabrielle interrupts her thoughts as she begins to shiver; almost as if she heard Xena and this was the only way to keep her from doing something drastic. Her shivering becomes more profound and Xena feels her forehead, "You have a fever..., but if I start a fire, they’ll see the smoke."

Undressing, Xena lies down beside her best friend, pulling her trembling body on top of her. She arranges the blanket over both of them, positioning her arm to keep it from touching Gabrielle’s raw back.

"Please, don’t hurt me", the frail one weakly raises her head to protest.

"Sssh, sleep now Gabrielle, I’ll protect you", Xena encourages as she combs Gabrielle’s hair off her back. "Why, why is this happening?" the Bard asks through chattering teeth. "Sssssh, Gabrielle", Xena repeats.

The crust of the warrior facade falls to the side once again as the true essence of the woman called Xena takes over. She gently places Gabrielle’s head back on her chest and begins to massage her temple. The warmth of Xena’s body and the rhythm of her heartbeat, plus her soothing massage, induces Gabrielle to grow drowsy, her eyelids to droop heavy with slumber. She groggily whimpers, "I don’t understand..." as she gives into the sweet respite of sleep.

But there’ll be no such respite for Xena this night. Watching her friend, her source for life, sleeping in her arms, Xena silently cries, her heart breaking every time Gabrielle quivers from the pain. "How can you ever forgive me now?" she asks herself.

The next morning, Gabrielle wakes with a jolt. "Are you all right?" Xena asks as Gabrielle wrenches in pain. Once she is able to focus, Gabrielle becomes confused as to where she’s at and why she’s lying naked on this woman. Looking into the steel blue eyes of the one she knows as Xena, Destroyer of Nations, the young girl becomes terrified and grabs the blanket around her, sitting up.

"Please, don’t hurt me?" she pleads in fear.

Xena’s heart is laid bare once again, as her disappointment cuts deep.

"It’s all right, Gabrielle, I won’t hurt you. But, I want you to stay here where you’ll be safe. I’ll get your sister to take care of you." And with that Xena gathers her things and leaves.

Back at Ares’ temple, Darphus discovers Gabrielle is missing. "She’s gone!" he exclaims to the evil Xena. "How could she be gone, she was barely alive?" the doppel hisses. "Find her, bring her back to me", she commands, "And Darphus, she had better be alive."

Meanwhile, running back to Poteidaia, Xena reaches Gabrielle’s house. Not bothering to knock, she enters to find Lila pacing the floor.

"Come with me, Gabrielle needs you." Shrinking back at Xena’s war costume, Lila pleads, "Please don’t kill me." The frustration is evident on Xena’s face but she knows she must control her temper, "Look, I’m not going to hurt you, I need you to take care of Gabrielle. She’s been hurt."

"How do I know this isn’t a trick?" Lila doesn’t believe her. Xena takes a deep breath, and calming herself, she says, "Gabrielle told me once, that when you two were young, you got lost in the snow. She promised you her rag doll, if you would just keep walking until you found help." Lila thinks about it for a moment... "Take me to her."

But Gabrielle won’t be there. Unaware that Darphus and his men are canvassing the area, Gabrielle screams in pain as she puts on her blouse. Her screams echo from the cavern and Darphus hears her and they converge on the cave.

"Lila, I want your promise that you’ll get Gabrielle to safety", the good warrior in the evil warrior’s uniform implores. "Of course, I’ll take her home", Lila replies. "No, I mean away from Poteidaia. She’s not safe there anymore." Lila nods her head in agreement as they walk down the path toward the cave.

"Gabrielle, are you hungry?" the evil Xena asks as she hands her a plate of food. With no reserve left, Gabrielle chokes the food down as quickly as she can put it in her mouth. "Slow down, Gabrielle, you’re safe now. If I had been here, I would have stopped my men from doing this to you."

Gabrielle looks at her, totally confused. "But in the cave you said..." She’s cut off by the evil warrioress, "Gabrielle, I put you on that cross to convince you of how serious I was. I never meant for it to go this far", the Doppel lies.

A soldier, bringing in a man who is tied and gagged, interrupts the depraved one’s web of lies. He marches the prisoner in front of Gabrielle and makes him kneel. Then he whispers to Xena and hands her a sword. "Gabrielle, I’m told that this man broke ranks and took matters into his own hands", Xena pauses for effect, then sickly sweet, she says,

"Gabrielle, he murdered your sister." "Lila? No, no it can’t be. Not Lila." Gabrielle is stunned beyond words, her head swoons from the shock. "He chased her down in the street and drove this sword through her heart." The Doppel hands the large sword to the small convert. She looks at it, at the bloodstains still fresh on its nicked edges.

Repulsed, Gabrielle drops it to the floor, the anger rising in her. The once frail young girl, who lay so near to deaths door, rises up and attacks her sister’s murderer, "I’ll kill you!" She jumps on top of him, blindly pummeling him with her fists, screaming in rage driven hate. The evil Doppel stands back, her cold blue eyes drinking in the lust for blood from her protégé. Like a bacchue before it bites, she smiles that evil grin of anticipation.

"She’s not here!" Lila looks at Xena suspiciously. But Xena kneels down, examining the footprints; "Darphus has her. Lila, I need you to find your parents or a neighbor, someone you’ll be safe with. I’m going to find Gabrielle." Xena leaves towards Ares temple and Lila, totally confused, leaves towards Poteidaia.

The prisoner lies unconscious, with Gabrielle standing over him, her knuckles covered in his blood, her eyes on fire with rage.

"Gabrielle, join me and together we will rid the world of these murdering scum", the Doppel persuades. Gabrielle looks up at her, her face hard with animosity.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle’s true protector reaches the temple and tries to sneak in but the temple guards stop her. "I don’t have time for this!" she hisses.

While Xena fights with the temple guards, her evil self has changed Gabrielle into a warrior’s armor and is instructing her on the finer points of thrusting, deflecting, and jabbing. Practicing on a makeshift dummy filled with straw, Xena encourages her, "Do you see him, Gabrielle, the man who killed your sister? Stop him, before he kills again." She eggs her on until finally, screaming with fury, Gabrielle thrusts her sword repeatedly through the heart of the dummy. "Good, Gabrielle, you’re an excellent student," she praises. She stops Gabrielle’s assault and pulls the sword from the dummy.

Even with a broken hand, Xena has taken out half the guards and uses her unique maneuvers to finish off the rest.

"Bring him in", the Doppel commands. They bring in the prisoner, making him kneel before the evil Xena and Gabrielle. "Finish him, Gabrielle. Do this for your sister, who begged him for mercy", she sways, handing Gabrielle the sword that supposedly was used on her sister. Looking at the dried blood still on it, the rage returns and Gabrielle raises the sword over her head, preparing to strike, "Do it, don’t think, just do it" the evil warrioress urges.

Xena runs inside the temple in time to see the hesitation in her friend’s eyes.

Looking into the bloodied, terrified eyes of the prisoner, the goodness that is Gabrielle emerges. The fog of rage evaporating from her, she lowers the sword and says, "This doesn’t feel right."

"Lila’s death demands it Gabrielle. Do it NOW!" the evil Xena coerces. Raising the sword once again, Gabrielle prepares to carry out her revenge on the man that killed her sister.

"NO!" Xena rushes up to them, "You’re right, Gabrielle, it’s not right. That’s not who you are." "Have we met?" the Doppel asks. "Only in my nightmares", Xena hisses, keeping eye contact only with Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle, this isn’t you, it’s not who you are..."

Gabrielle’s head is reeling, as she looks from the good Xena to her evil counterpart.

"Gabrielle, you’re not a cold blooded killer."

Gabrielle turns back to Xena, her sword poised for defense, her mind clouded with confusion.

The evil Xena, sensing she’s loosing her student, persuades, "Gabrielle, trust me, I don’t know what trick she’s trying to pull, but remember, I’m the one who saved you"

"Don’t listen to her. She didn’t save you, she ordered your capture as part of a sick plan of Ares, to manipulate you into becoming evil."

But the dual conversation is too much for the bewildered avenger, who shrieks, "That bastard murdered my sister, he has to die!"

Xena, calming Lila’s sister with her compassionate demeanor, walks up to her, until her sword rests on Xena’s chest. Gabrielle’s reserve begins to wavier as she sees the kindness, perhaps it was love, in this warrior’s eyes.

"You’re wrong, Gabrielle, Lila is alive."

"Alive..." Gabrielle gasps at the hopefulness, "I don’t understand", she turns around to the evil Xena.

Not one for allowing someone else to take control, the evil Xena hisses, "I don’t know why you look like me but there’s only room in this world for one of us."

"There’s not even that much room." Xena finally acknowledges her evil self. Her compassion quickly dissipates as her whole attitude hardens into the fierce warrior she was born to be and the two Xena’s attack. Fighting each other viciously until finally, Xena gets the upper hand on her evil self and grabs Gabrielle’s sword.

"Hold on!", the God of War materializes in front of Xena. His words trigger something in the small one.

"Xena, what are you doing to yourself?" "Ares stay out of this!" "Xena, if you kill her, you kill yourself." "I should have done this a long time ago", the guilt ridden one retorts. "Then do it, end the torture, the pain, the guilt you’ve had for years."

"Hold on, Gabrielle!" through the fog of confusion, Xena’s voice awakens a treasured memory in Gabrielle, and she runs over to where they are. Positioning herself in front of the evil Xena, Gabrielle looks up into the self-deprecating face of the Warrior Princess, "Please, don’t hurt her. There’s good in her, she just hasn’t found it yet, spare her."

Like a cleansing shower of love, Xena’s ice cold rage melts away to reveal an appreciation so deep that it is indescribable. Xena’s eyes, now tearfully full of love for her soulmate, locks on to Gabrielle’s as the dimly lit temple dissolves into an explosion of colors.

Returning to the present day, Xena and Gabrielle materialize back at their camp, the fire still burning, the pot still boiling. As they orient themselves with their surroundings, Xena feels her hand to find that it has healed. Gabrielle bewilderedly looks up at her tall friend as Xena puts both hands on her shoulders.

"Are you all right?" she asks. "Yes, I think so." Xena turns her around and combs back her blond hair to look at her back, and with relief finds that the whip marks are gone.

"Do you remember anything?" "Bits and pieces, mostly", Gabrielle looks back at her and asks, "Xena, what was all that about?"

"It was about revenge. Ares had in mine to remake you in his own image and then make children with you." Gabrielle shakes her head, shuddering at the prospect.

"After all that my evilness inflicted on you, after all that I did to you, you still had enough love in your heart to forgive me. That’s what broke the spell."

Gabrielle says nothing, which causes Xena to ask, "Gabrielle, I have to know, does it change things between us?" Taking a deep breath the little Bard from Poteidaia replies, "Yes"

A cold chill runs down Xena’s spine as she braces herself at the sight of tears welling up in Gabrielle’s eyes.

"To see the way you coldly murdered and manipulated to serve your purpose, to experience from the inside out, the depth of the evil you were consumed in, changes everything."

Gabrielle turns away to wipe the tears from her eyes. Xena looks down at the delicate tremor of her friend’s shoulders and feels the weight of the world coming to an end.

Back at Ares temple, groans of ecstasy can be heard as the mighty God of War massages the supple back of the Goddess of Love. "A little lower to the left bro." "If you hadn’t cheated and sent Xena back there I could have had it all." "Oh please, whine, whine, whine. Ares, all’s fair in love and war." she teases. Ares vents his anger by popping her on the butt. "Owww" Suddenly, Zeus’ voice bellows through the rafters of the temple, "Ares, I want a word with you, NOW!" "Ewww, now you’re gonna get it", Aphrodite laughs.

"What are you saying, Gabrielle?" Gabrielle turns back to Xena.

"I’m saying that I realize now, just how much strength it took for you to crawl out of that evil hole, when those around you kept trying to pull you back down. But thank the gods, you did!"

"It’s because of you, Gabrielle, that I’m standing here at all." Xena interjects.

"No, Xena, that’s the second time you’ve come face to face with your evil self and again you proved that you’re stronger, that you won’t be taken down into that dark abyss."

Gabrielle takes her best friend by the arms and looks up into those loving, concerned eyes of hers.

"Xena, I know what a constant battle it has been for you to overcome your dark side, and I love you more now, because of who you were, not in spite of it."

Rarely seen, even by Gabrielle, Xena’s tears freely stream down her cheeks as she embraces her companion for life and affirms, "I love you Gabrielle." "I love you too... there’s just one thing I don’t understand." Wiping away the tears, Xena smiles down at her small friend and asks, "What’s that?"

"Well..." Gabrielle walks over to the boiling pot and stirs the dumplings, "again you’ve mastered the one thing that intimidates you the most, but yet..." she spoons out a dumpling and points it towards Xena, "you can’t seem to manage one little, innocent dumpling..."

Gabrielle’s mischievous green eyes glisten with laughter as the Warrior Princess receives that laughter with all the thankfulness she can possibly feel inside.

But to Gabrielle she says, "Gabrielle, some people are just gullible enough to believe that."

As she watches her protector walk off, the gullible bard scratches her head in confusion.

~The End~

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