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Xena Warrior Princess and all characters related to the show are property of Renaissance and MCA/Universal Pictures. No copyright infringement intended. Just a bunch of creative juices that were left to flow out of control. This story contains very, very mild violence. Almost not even worth mentioning, but just to be on the safe side, I did.

Author's Note:
This story was based on a random thought floating through my head one day at work. It was one of those "what would have happened if..." thoughts. Not that I had a problem with the way the writer's handled the story line, I just wanted to see what I could do with it. This story takes place a few hours after Gabrielle fell into the fire pit with her daughter. (You know, the episode that had us all going, "They can't get rid of Gabrielle/Renee!!!!") For me, it was a whole summer of endless fretting and nail biting, just waiting for the preview for the season opener. If I got a few details wrong, just get over it. And one last note, I really am a big fan of Ares so don't think I have it out for him. If you are a fan of Ares, approach with caution. This might upset you, but I hope not.

A Warrior's Tragedy

by LilTigg49

A dark woman stands alone on the brink of hell. Her raven locks are matted with sweat from a battle of salvation. Her body is bruised but quite sound. Her emotions, on the other hand, are in turmoil. There is no up or down to her, just a spiral of anguish she cannot pull herself out of. A silent tear makes its way slowly down her cheek from the sky blue eyes. The warrior is oblivious to a man who walks up from behind, his armor clanking with every step.

"Come on, Xena. Staying here is not going to bring her back," the man says sadly, as he places a hand on her shoulder. He looks into the pit, squinting from the burning gases escaping. He continues his voice barely above a whisper.

"No matter how much we want her to."

"I just don't understand, Joxer," Xena chokes on her words. "Why did the Fates have to choose her?"

"I don't understand it either, but it's done. There is nothing we can do about it now." Joxer closes his eyes, tightly, as Gabrielle's screams still echo in his memory. Xena wipes her cheek dry with her dirty hands and turns to the sullen man. Xena pulls Joxer into her arms and they embrace for a few minutes.

"Isn't this touching," says a sultry man's voice.

Xena and Joxer pull away to see the God of War standing in the middle of the temple.

"What do you want, Ares?" Joxer chokes trying to compose himself.

"I came to give my condolences," Ares replies, without a hint of sympathy in his voice.

"We don't want your condolences," Xena replies. "You got what you wanted. Now leave us alone."

Ares starts to walk towards the pair. As he passes Callisto's dead body, he shakes his head at the fallen goddess.

"What a waste," he says to himself.

"That's where you are wrong, Xena." Ares stops at the steps below where the two warriors are standing. Xena raises an eyebrow.

"I didn't get everything I wanted. At least not yet."

"Well I'm sorry your plans to take over Olympus went up in smoke," Xena retorts, her voice filled with hatred for her former mentor.

Ares smiles, provoking Xena's anger even more.

"Oh, Xena. When will you ever learn? Sure I am a little disappointed that the take over didn't fall through. But when I realized it wouldn't, I saw another opportunity and I took it."

"When will you ever learn to get to the point?"

Xena crosses her arms in front of her chest. Ares raises a hand up to his goatee and strokes it as a gentle, yet devious laugh escapes his lips.

"All right. We will do it your way, straight to the point. I did it for you, Xena. I still want you back under my wing."

The events of the past day come flooding back into Xena's mind. She reaches behind her back, unnoticed by the god and absentmindedly strokes the Hind's blood dagger in her belt. The same one she had used to kill Callisto just hours earlier. Joxer, who was standing quietly next to Xena during the verbal exchange, looks at Ares with composed fury.

"You mean to tell me that YOU killed Gabrielle?" Xena says with controlled rage.

"Well not directly. As I do recall, she was the one who dove head first into the fire." Ares pauses for a brief moment. "With a little persuasion. You see, I told her that if you killed Hope, the Fates would cut your life cord. And as we all know now, she couldn't let that happen, much to my delight."

"You bastard!" Joxer snapped. The clumsy, yet brave man bolts towards the arrogant god. Ares didn't move as Joxer closed the small gap separating them. When he was within an arm's reach, Ares lifted his index finger and threw Joxer across the temple, with his invisible powers. Joxer hit the wall and fell unconscious to the dusty floor.

"I am not a bastard. I know who my father is," Ares says defensively. Her turns his attentions back to the emotionally drained warrior.

"So what will it be, Xena?"

Xena averts her icy blue eyes to the cocky god.

"You killed my best friend, the greatest thing in my life and then expect me to come running into your awaiting arms. You are delusional," Xena retorts. "I would rather die myself than to ever give you that kind of satisfaction."

Ares walks up the steps and stands behind Xena and strokes her raven hair. Xena shivers at his touch as she brings the dagger around in front of her, keeping it from his sight.

"Just let the rage take over your soul again. You can feel it trying to take over. Become that wonderful warlord you once were, again." His voice is like a siren's song, but Xena's broken heart resists all his charm.

"No, Ares. I once made a promise to Gabrielle, a long time ago, that no matter what happened to her, I would never go back to being that monster. I intend to keep that promise no matter how hard life is without her. Now go away and leave me alone," Xena pleads.

Ares sighs heavily.

"All right. I'll let you have your time to mourn, but I'll be back. I can guarantee."

Xena's mind wanders back to hours earlier. Was it just hours? It seems like a lifetime. Callisto's laughing echoing in her mind. I now have a reason to live. Then Xena lost control and stabbed the mocking goddess in the chest, to end at least one of their suffering. Xena felt the same loss of control coming back to take over her limbs.

"I won't let you be the cause of my suffering any more," Xena growls as she turns and embeds the Hind's blood dagger deep in the god of war's chest. Ares, stunned, looks deep into Xena's eyes. He sees no emotion, except a slight hint of relief hidden in their depths. As the Hind's blood started to work it's morbid magic on him he speaks his last words.

"We could have been remarkable, again. You know I've always envied you. And even now I still and always will love you, Xena," he says, his voice, raspy with death. He leans forward and kisses her lightly on the forehead. Death takes her final hold, as his body crumples to the floor.

"You have a funny way of showing your love." Xena drops the dagger on top of his chest.

"Send my regards to Callisto."

Xena walks over to Joxer, who was slowly coming to. Xena kneels down in front of him.

"Are you all right?" she says as she takes a close look at the swelling lump on his head. Joxer winces.

"Yeah, I'll be fine. Where is Ares?" Joxer asks as he leans his head on his hands.

"He won't be bothering mortals ever again."

Joxer looks up at Xena.

"You used the Hind's blood on him?"

Xena slowly nods her head. She holds out her hand, which Joxer grasps firmly.

"Come on. Let's get out of here, and go take care of that lump."

Joxer rises to his feet. Xena wraps her arm around his waist and helps him walk out of the temple. Joxer stops just outside the door and turns to the opening.

"Good bye, Gabby. I know I never got to tell you, and now it's too late, but I love you."

Joxer's eyes start to water. Xena gives him a gentle squeeze.

"Gabrielle is not with us anymore, but she can still hear our thoughts of her." Xena pauses as some memories of her life with Gabrielle flicker through her mind.

"Thank you, Gabrielle, for everything you've given to me. And I swear to you, I will never break my promise. I love you."

The two companions take a moment of silence.

Xena is the first to speak.

"Come on, Joxer."

"Where are we going?"

"Down a new path we've never traveled before." Xena looks a Joxer and smiles.

"And we'll do it together."

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