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Copyright 2/99

DISCLAIMER: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle and all of their friends and enemies are the property of MCA/Universal Renaissance Pictures and no copyright infringement is intended. All other characters and the story depicted here are from my deranged mind.

TIMELINE: The events in this story take place sometime between "A Necessary Evil" and "Sacrifice 1 & 2" with one less body falling in the lava. (And definitely before TPTB killed our favorite sidekicks.)

VIOLENCE: Not too much since this is my first effort at a story. It is a Xena story with Callisto, eventually, so who knows.

DEDICATION: This story is dedicated to all the bards whose stories I read after moving to a different state and being jobless for a month and a half. Thanks for the memories. I wish to express thanks specifically to Maggie for depicting humor, to Cat for depicting tenderness and compassion, to Onora for all her help in starting J, and to Susan for her support and friendship. Most importantly, thanks to my husband for those "unsolicited" logic and plausibility reviews and for still waking up next to me after those long nights of creating and typing.

Comments and suggestions are welcomed and greatly appreciated.

Reference to the story "Berries" by Cat is used with permission.

Chapter   1-2   3-6   7-9   10-14

Unfinished Business
by Doc


Xena could feel the penetrating warmth of the morning sun as it crested the mountain peaks to the east. She loved this time in the mornings although she would never admit it to anyone. Often after a workout, and before the ritual of waking the bard, Xena would watch in amazement at the display of color that accompanied the sunrise. Each one was fresh and new. How she wished her life could be the same way sometimes.

Hercules eased Argo down to a slow walk as they approached the clearing and the camp. Xena slipped off Argo’s back and scanned the area for any immediate danger. Sensing no unusual disturbances she allowed herself to release the breath she had been unconsciously holding. The relief was short lived as she realized there was only one bedroll by the fire. Hercules stopped dead in his tracks as he saw the look of fear on Xena’s face. Not wanting to underestimate Callisto and her zeal for emotional warfare, Xena and Hercules approached the blanket with extreme caution. Xena drew her sword and took a defensive stance while Hercules knelt beside the bedroll.

"Oh, Iolaus," came the soft whispered words.

Xena recognized the voice immediately but her eyes grew wide as the many implications of the words played through her mind. Glancing to Hercules, she met his surprised expression and gave a crooked grin in reply. Hercules slowly pulled the blanket down exposing Gabrielle’s head resting against Iolaus’ shoulder. Though Xena wanted to be furious with the two for their lack of alertness the picture was so priceless that she had to submit to the moment. Pulling the blanket back further revealed even more astonishing facts. First, Gabrielle’s body was snuggled tightly against Iolaus’ left side. Secondly, Iolaus was bare chested. Thirdly, Gabrielle was NOT wearing her usual clothes.

Where are YOUR clothes, Gabrielle, and just what has been going on here?’ Xena thought to herself.

Iolaus, my friend, I hope you know what you’re doing,’ Hercules said to himself.

"Gabrielle, wake-up. Gabri-elle..." Xena said in her usual morning voice.

"Xena, just a few more minutes, pleeeaaase. I’m having such a good dream."

"Yeah...I bet you are," Xena said pursing her lips. ‘No telling what is going on in that bard dreamland of yours.

The bard slowly opened her eyes to look at Xena but instead found herself looking up at a smiling Iolaus. Gabrielle’s cheeks flushed a deep pink as she surveyed the surroundings and tried to recall any events that might or...might not have...occurred.

"Gabrielle, is there something you would like to tell me?" Xena asked with the familiar raised eyebrow.

"Uh...can we talk about this later?" Gabrielle pleaded as she started to rise and disguise her embarrassment. ‘Nothing happened. Right!...Right?!?

"No, I think we should discuss this now," Xena pressed.

"Later would work for me," Gabrielle said in an attempt to lighten the mood.

"Now, Gabrielle," Xena said in a tone that left no room for challenge.

Gabrielle knew this tone from past experiences and remembered all too well the ramifications of not submitting. She could usually talk her way out of most anything but when it came to Xena it was often like beating her head against a stone wall. ‘She is so stubborn sometimes. I feel like I’m being led to the woodshed and I haven’t done anything wrong. Have I?...No, nothing happened!...And what if it did? I’m an adult now. I can make my own choices. She’s my friend, not my mother! That’s it...stand up for yours rights.


Hercules waited patiently while the two women made their way out of camp and earshot before turning his attention to his companion. Uncertain of what to say or how to begin he just simply decided to jump in.

Hercules looked straight at his friend and said, "Iolaus, are you out of your mind?"

"What? What did I do?" Iolaus asked innocently.

"I don’t know, you tell me," Hercules said pacing back and forth between Iolaus and the campfire. "No, on second thought...I don’t think I want to know."

Stepping into Hercules’ path Iolaus grabbed the demi-god’s forearm. "Tell you what? Hercules what is going on?"

"You and Gabrielle...and..." Hercules began but was cut off by Iolaus as the meaning behind the questions became clear.

"Whoa...wait a minute. You think Gabrielle and I...that, absolutely not! I mean I like her, she’s smart, funny, pretty in that girl next door sort of way, but we’re just good friends, you know?" ‘Beautiful, smart, funny, sexy...there’s that word again.

"Yeah, you’re such good friends that she’s wearing your clothes," Hercules said pointing to Iolaus’ bare chest.

Raising his hand and touching his chest where the vest would normally be Iolaus replied, "Hey, I can explain that!"

"Oh, really. This I’ve got to hear." Crossing his arms in front of his chest Hercules gestured for his friend to begin. "Please, whenever you’re ready."

"Okay, it all started when I swallowed a bug and...."


Gabrielle stared at the river and watched the current as it carved a path through the nooks and crevices of rocks and boulders on its way eventually to the sea. She reached down and picked up a few pebbles as she heard Xena give a sigh and step around her to take a seat on the riverbank. The silence was always the hardest part to endure. Each waiting for the other to begin, neither wanting to talk, but both knowing it had to be done or they would not get past the problem. They had been together for almost two summers and had learned to adjust and compromise in many areas but when it came to personal feelings and desires the two often faced their most difficult hurdles. Gabrielle was usually the first to break.

The pebble made a slight arc and landed in the river with a "plink", just to the right of Xena’s leg. The next pebble took a similar path but fell short of the mark and bounced lightly off the top of Xena’s head. The bard covered her mouth as her eyebrows traveled upwards beneath her bangs. ‘Oops!’


"Sorry." Feeling that it would be to her advantage to relate what had happened rather than being interrogated the bard rose and joined her companion by the riverbank. Taking a seat beside the warrior Gabrielle stretched her legs out and fumbled with the pebbles in her hand. It had been two summers and Xena still thought of her as the little girl from Poteidaia who needed protection. How could she convince Xena that her "little" friend had grown up? Maybe this was her chance.

"Xena, contrary to what you may think, nothing happened."

"How do you know what I’m thinking?" The muscles along Xena’s jaw tensed as she studied the river.

"Trust me, I know. You had that same look when we were fighting the Titans and you walked in and saw Phyleus and I in the same bed. You thought I had done something without thinking." Xena turned to look at the bard, her jaws still tight. She studied the young face for a long moment. So much had happened over the last few years. They had been through so much pain. Could they possibly bear any more? The little tag-along had somehow grown into a lovely young woman. Xena had sworn never to let anyone get close to her again and yet this little blonde-haired, green-eyed, pesky, running at the mouth girl had slowly chipped away at the wall until she was standing in the threshold of Xena’s heart. Xena took a long breath and relaxed her jaw.

"Xena, nothing happened then...and nothing happened now."

"Gabrielle, you were calling out Iolaus’ name in a very...uh...sensuous voice, you were almost on top of him and you are wearing HIS clothes, what was I suppose to think?"

"Okay, I agree, it looked bad. But it was innocent I assure you. Xena you know me. I’ve learned a lot since our first year and I don’t fall into the arms of every man I meet." Gabrielle pulled her knees up while continuing to study the pebbles in her hand.

"No, you’re no longer the innocent girl who followed after me," Xena said as she picked up a small stone of her own and skipped it across the surface of the river.

"I also know a little bit more about..." Gabrielle’s face flushed slightly, "you know...but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t relive those last moments with Perdicas. Xena, I can hear his screams ringing in my ears as if it were yesterday. How much longer before it ends?" A single tear broke the barrier the bard was fighting to maintain.

"You’ve got to give yourself time Gabrielle. The pain will ease after awhile, I promise." Xena reached over and gently wiped the tear from its path down the bard’s cheek. She hated to see Gabrielle cry. Not because it was a weakness but because it meant Gabrielle was dealing with deep emotional issues and Xena felt helpless to solve them.

"That’s what my brain says but my heart and dreams won’t let go." Gabrielle wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "My friend, Arianne, says that tears are the safety valve of the heart. Now I understand what she means."

Silence enveloped them once again and both women used the time to reclaim their composure. "Plink" went another pebble into the river as Gabrielle gave a sigh indicating she was ready to continue.

"Iolaus and I have a chemistry together I’ll admit, but I’m not sure where it’s heading. I feel things when I’m around him but I’m not sure I’m ready to do anything about them. I have to get over Perdicas first before I can seriously consider someone else. There is someone else out there for me, of that I’m certain, it may even be Iolaus, but I know I’m not truly ready yet."

Xena listened patiently as Gabrielle dealt with her feelings. The bard didn’t want answers so much as she just wanted someone to REALLY listen. After a long pause Xena took her que. "Gabrielle, I’m sure you’re right and I’m sorry for jumping to the wrong conclusion. I should have had more faith in you...and Iolaus. Where you’re concerned I guess I will always be protective."

Reaching over and placing her hand on the warrior’s forearm Gabrielle smiled and tilted her head to look into the eyes of her best friend. "Xena, don’t get me wrong. I love that you worry about me and want to protect me. I understand that because I worry about you too." Gabrielle squeezed Xena’s forearm. "Just don’t overdo it, okay? I’m an adult and have the right to live my own life the way I see fit. We won’t always agree on things and that’s fine but we should allow differences in opinions and ideas. That’s how we compliment each other. If we were alike we probably wouldn’t get along. Can you imagine living with another warrior or me living with another bard? We would be at each others throats constantly." Gabrielle slapped at Xena’s stomach with the back of her hand.

"I don’t think there could be another you, Gabrielle," Xena said as she turned a serious upraised eyebrow to her blonde haired friend.

"I’ll take that as a compliment...I think."

Pausing a moment for effect Xena replied, "Maybe I said it wrong."

Emerald green eyes looked playfully at azure pools as a crooked grin formed on the warrior’s lips. It was always so easy to tease the bard. She was so trusting. It was her greatest strength and her biggest weakness. Sometimes Xena wished she could be more like Gabrielle. To see the good in people instead of expecting the worst would be wonderful. Ten years of cynicism was a difficult habit to break even if she was sharing her life with the prime example of good.

" So, exactly where are you clothes?"

"It’s a long story and a day I’d rather forget."

"Gabrielle, you said nothing happened so how bad could it have been?"

"How bad...let me tell you. It all began when I woke up and...."



"Where is Gabrielle?" Hercules asked trying to suppress his laughter as Xena entered the camp and took a seat beside the demi-god.

"She went to change back into her own clothes. What about Iolaus?"

"I asked him to go hunt for breakfast. He shouldn’t be gone too long. Iolaus told me all about their wonderful day. I’m sorry we missed all the fun."

"She was on a roll there, wasn’t she? I tried my best not to laugh but I kept picturing everything she said in my mind and just couldn’t help myself. She really was having a bad day." Uncertain of what to say next the warrior leaned forward resting her elbows on her thighs and gave a heavy sigh.

"Did you tell Gabrielle about the dagger?" Hercules asked, breaking the silence.

"No. Did you tell Iolaus?"

"No. It didn’t seem like the right time," Hercules said as he pushed himself to a standing position. "We’ve got to tell them Xena. It’s only right."

"I know, but you don’t know the pain that woman has caused. She killed Perdicas right in front of Gabrielle. Gabrielle still wakes up in cold sweats with nightmares of that day. She was married for one night and then it was all taken away from her. How do you get past that? How do I help her heal from such a consuming wound?" Xena’s eyes closed as she recalled the bard’s words... "Teach me how to kill her Xena. My ideals were a lie. I thought love was the strongest power on earth. What a fool I was. Love is helpless in the face of cruelty." The love and joy of the bard’s heart had been taken that day and Xena had been powerless to bring it back.

Hercules could see the pain of guilt Xena still carried for her part in Perdicas’ death. ‘Will you ever let your guilt go? Can you ever forgive yourself like so many have forgiven you?’ These were questions Xena had to answer for herself. "You do what you’ve always done since the first day you started on the road together. You’re there for her and she knows that. Give her time and patience, she’ll come around."

"Patience, I don’t think that’s a warrior’s skill." Xena shook her head slightly and gave Hercules a half-hearted smile.

"Sure it is. You just need a bit more practice," Hercules said with a twinkle in his eyes.


The visitor had been watching the women as they carried on their conversation by the river. His orders were to capture the irritating blonde without injury or interference from the warrior. "Do not hurt the girl...she’s mine," Callisto had instructed him. He had seen the penalty for disobedience and was determined to fulfill his mission as ordered. Watching closely he prepared himself for the strike as he observed the two women parting company. Keeping a safe distance from the bard he stealthily maneuvered himself behind her as she gathered some garments and stepped behind a cluster of bushes.

He was on the bard before she had any time to react. Clasping a hand over her mouth and clutching her trim frame against his body he was able to subdue her with minimal difficulty. Gabrielle had little time to fight as the hilt of a sword came crashing down against her temple. ‘XENA!!’ her mind cried out as blackness filled her vision. The visitor paused momentarily and listened for any sign of interference from the girl’s companions. Satisfied, he threw the limp form over his shoulder and silently left.


Iolaus entered the camp with three rabbits, dressed and ready to cook. "Here you are. My job is done and now someone else can start."

Hercules and Xena looked at each other with a conspiring grin as Xena said, "We’ll let Gabrielle do it."

"Hey, fine by me. I like her cooking. Remind me to get her recipe for the bass she cooked yesterday. She smoked them with some kind of herbs in large leaves and they just melted in my mouth."

"Iolaus, I don’t think there is anything you don’t like to eat," Hercules said reaching to take the rabbits from his friend. Hercules was astonished sometimes at the quantity of food his friend could eat. In fact it was a good thing that most towns offered them food for their help because they could certainly never afford to pay for the amount of food Iolaus consumed.

"So where is Gabrielle? My stomach is growling already," Iolaus asked while scanning the camp.

"Umm...she thought it best to change back into her clothes," Xena said as she ran her finger lightly above her lip.

"Uh...right...yeah, that’s a good idea. Then I can get my vest back," Iolaus said trying to control his embarrassment.

Xena began to scan the area for signs of the bard’s return but was met only by the normal sounds of the forest. "I’ll go and see if she is having any trouble." Xena stood and headed in the direction she had last seen the bard.


" long does it take to put on a skirt and top?! Gabrielle...?!" ‘That’s strange, I know she went this way. "This isn’t funny Gabrielle. Gabrielle...come on out...I’ve had enough of this game. Gabri-elle!" Xena stopped abruptly as she stumbled upon the bard’s clothes lying in a crumpled heap on the ground. At that same moment her skin began to crawl and she drew her sword in a defensive stance.

"You’re very good at that. Not many of my followers have that ability," Ares said as he circled the warrior. "Looking for the irritating blonde, are we?"

"Ares, give her back! I’m not playing this game with you!" Xena said through clinched teeth, trying to maintain control of her anger.

"Xena, I don’t do games. I manipulate when it suits my purpose but it’s real or nothing with me. You of all people should know that. Besides I don’t have your pesky, little friend. I wouldn’t waste my time with her when I could go straight to you. My bets would be on Callisto. You do remember her don’t you?" Ares asked in a condescending tone. "Too bad you failed miserably at your job at the lava pit. The Xena I know wouldn’t have failed," Ares said hoping his cutting words had hit their mark. She was in his fold once and he was determined to claim her again. If he could quell the influence of that irritating blonde, then Xena would easily come back of her own accord.

"I remember but I’m not the one who should be frightened." Xena met the glaring brown eyes of the God of War with her own steely blue. "She’s got the Hind’s Blood Dagger and knowing your history together I would think you would be at the top of her list to eliminate. If she has taken Gabrielle, then she’s just using her as bait. We both know Callisto’s mind games and taking Gabrielle right from under my nose is just the kind of sick, demented thing she would do."

"She doesn’t hold a candle to the Xena of old. Come, join me and we can rule the world just like I always planned. Hearts will tremble once again at the mention of your name." Ares took Xena’s hand in his own and prepared to gently kiss the back. "You need only say my name and it can all be yours."

"I’m not interested Ares," Xena said with contempt, jerking her hand from his grasp.

"Not interested, huh? Not even for the life of a certain...irritating blonde?" Ares goaded as he turned to leave. Studying his fingernails closely Ares waited for the warrior to respond. Ares’ expression changed slowly into a gloat as he listened to the word’s from Xena’s mouth.

"Wait...what do you mean? What can you do?" It went against everything she now believed in to ask anything of Ares but she couldn’t stop herself, not if it could help Gabrielle.

"It’s not as much what I can do as what I know."

"Stop the cryptic messages Ares and spit it out," Xena said as she quickly reached the brink of her patience.

"This information is not free Xena. I want something in return."

"I already told you I wasn’t interested in being your Goddess of War. I’m not going to change my mind."

"What about the Hind’s Blood Dagger? Would you trade it for Gabrielle’s life?"

Xena’s expression remained tense and firm yet her mind was reeling from the choice put before her. ‘Whatever it takes Gabrielle...that’s what I’ll do.



"Ares! I should have known he couldn’t keep his hands out of this," Hercules said, pacing in front of Xena and Iolaus.

"Whoever grabbed her was watching because Gabrielle didn’t even have a chance to change." Xena held the bard’s clothes in her hands as she made eye contact with her companions.

"Xena, you know he can’t be trusted. This is Gabrielle’s life we’re talking about," Iolaus said with deep concern.

"DON’T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT!!" Xena railed at Iolaus. "I don’t know where Callisto is holding Gabrielle and Ares does. It’s that simple!" Xena’s eyes blazed with fire as Hercules grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her away from Iolaus.

"We’re all on the same side here...anger won’t get her back." Hercules watched as Xena fought an internal battle to regain control of her emotions. He knew it was difficult for the Warrior Princess and where Gabrielle was concerned it would always be so. He knew that for whatever reasons the two women had bonded from their very first encounter. Whether it was their differences or their similarities, no one knew. The women themselves probably didn’t know. Who’s to say what intangible entity sparks a kinship like theirs? The truth didn’t matter. As long as there was breath they would always be there for each other. Hercules knew this like he knew his own name.


Gabrielle could hear the vague mumbles of people as she slowly came to consciousness. Her senses registered the musty smell of old blankets and straw. ‘I must be in a barn or stall of some type.’ There was little or no light to speak of so she couldn’t quite decipher the size of the room. Finding what felt like a door and a handle the bard began banging her fists against it. "Hey, somebody let me out!!" ‘Well, the room isn’t very big because my voice doesn’t echo.

"Quiet in there!" a voice from the other side rang out.

"Look, you don’t know who your dealing with here. My best friend is Xena...the Warrior Princess...and she’s coming to get me out. Let me go now and she’ll be easy on you," Gabrielle yelled through the door.

The sudden impact on the door from the other side caught Gabrielle off guard and she jumped backwards, lost her balance and landed painfully on her behind.

"I said, QUIET in there!" came the response once more.

Moments went by slowly as Gabrielle sat, knees to her chest, head bowed, praying that somehow Xena would find her. She heard footsteps outside the door once more and stood anxiously in the darkness. The bolt was released and the door slowly opened. Nothing could have prepared the bard for what she saw. ‘This can’t be real. I’m dreaming...yeah, that’s it...a dream. Wake up Gabrielle. Just wake up and this will be all over. This is only a dream.

"Surprised to see me?" Callisto asked as she walked up and took a stance only a few feet away from Gabrielle. "Oh, and for the record, I don’t feel sorry for the things I’ve done and I don’t need your forgiveness. If you’re going to talk behind peoples backs Gabrielle, you really should make certain they can’t hear you."

"’re supposed to be dead," was all Gabrielle could voice. Fear and anger waged their own war in her mind and she could not find the strength to harness either. ‘How could this be? Xena would have told me.

"Well, you and Xena certainly tried hard enough, too bad you failed." Callisto circled around the bard, taking in every detail of her quarry. She shook her head and rested it on her upraised hand. "Tisk, tisk, tisk...Gabrielle, you really should get a new tailor. That outfit just isn’t you."

Gabrielle could only stand in silence. Fear was quickly winning the battle.

"I’d be happy to help you make some adjustments but then my idea of ‘snip, snip here...snip, snip there’, is a little bit more permanent...if you know what I mean." Callisto gripped Gabrielle’s chin roughly and held the bard’s gaze. "You do know what I mean, don’t you?"

Gabrielle nodded her head. ‘Snap out of this Gabrielle. You’re an AMAZON for Gaia’s sake. What did Xena always...? Xena, how could you not tell me? Callisto’s...ALIVE!!

"She didn’t tell you I’m alive, did she? Well, as you’s quite true," Callisto said in a mock pouting voice. "And this time, I have the advantage!" Callisto grabbed Gabrielle by the hair and drew the dagger to her throat. Callisto had longed for this day. The Warrior Princess would pay for the destruction she and her army had wrought against the village of Cirra. "You are Xena’s weakness and I learned from the best how to use that edge." Releasing her grip slowly Callisto started to leave the room. "Oh, I spared no cost for your accommodations so please make yourself at home. You’ll be here for awhile." With that said she turned back to the door and left.

The sound of the door shutting brought Gabrielle out of shock and she slumped to the floor in utter despair. Her emotions began to release themselves as her body trembled from the impact of the confrontation. Her worst enemy was alive. The woman who destroyed her life in one devastating swipe of the sword was back to torment again. ‘How can this be happening? I saw her fall.’ Gabrielle rolled onto her side and held her knees close to her chest. "Xena, please help me!" Gabrielle whispered through her tears.

Continues here....

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