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Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and back story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.

Violence: The usual Xena: Warrior Princess fight scenes – no more, no less.

Love/Sex: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story

Preface: This story takes place some time after the events that occurred in the episode Return of Callisto.

Truth or Dare

By Arlene Lugo

Xena and Gabrielle are taking a leisurely walk through a forest path with Argo close behind. The birds seem content to sing and chirp, the breeze is mild and cooling, the sun is warm overhead. Gabrielle does not seem happy. She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, "Yuck! Xena I can’t believe you made me kiss a toad!"

"Hey you’re the one who choose to do a dare and anyway you invented this game!" Xena replies with a laugh.

"Yeah ... well ... " Gabrielle is not able to think of something smart to say, "fine! It’s your turn." She demands.

"Okay ..." Xena pauses, "... I guess I should be careful, if I pick ‘dare’ you might try to make me kiss a fish or something."

Gabrielle teases, "Chicken, huh?"

"Ha! Never! Fine I pick dare!"

Xena bites as Gabrielle smiles suspiciously. After giving it some thought she says, "Okay, I’ve got it."

Xena smiles, anticipating something awful, "well let me have it."

With excitement in her voice Gabrielle begins, "Well, here’s what you have to do..." she begins to pace in front of Xena and waves her hands with enthusiasm as she speaks, "...the next person we meet, or group of people..." Xena nods " have to tell them that I’m the warrior princess and you’re the sidekick." She smiles proudly.

Xena laughs, "That’s it? I was expecting something worse!" She starts up the path again with a shake of her head. Gabrielle catches up to her, "Hey, I think it’s pretty good!"

Just then Xena looks up to see a man running in their direction. She raises her arm to stop Gabrielle and she nods to the man with a smirk. Gabrielle looks up and grins at her chance. But they begin to realize that this person is not on his daily jog – they see four men dressed in armor chasing after him. Xena stops the man, "What’s going on?" He is out of breathe and pants heavily as he points at the four men. The four men stop running, all of them laughing.

"Look boys," one man yells out, "now we’re really going to have some fun."

"Yeah!" "All right!" The others agree.

"Oh really?" Xena asks with confidence and an alluring grin, one eyebrow cocked up. She looks to Gabrielle, then her demeanor changes into that of a meek, docile person. "Well you’ll have to check with her." She points a thumb to Gabrielle.

"What?!" Gabrielle lets out, already forgetting the dare.

The men look back and forth between the two women with smiles on their faces. Xena continues, "See she’s in charge here." Gabrielle is stunned, but Xena doesn’t stop, "She’s the warrior. Me? I’m just the sidekick."

Gabrielle finally realizes what Xena is up to and shoots her a look. Now? Xena catches the look and responds with an innocent one of her own, I’m not losing this game! The men turn their attention to Gabrielle who unconsciously brings her staff in front of her, holding it with both hands. She smiles, "ha, uh ... hi." The men surround her, she yells out questioningly, "Uh, Xena?!" She wonders if her friend actually plans to let her do all the fighting – hopefully not!

Just as the men begin to close in on Gabrielle, Xena jumps high into the air letting out her battle cry. "Aiyayayayaya" Several flips later she lands in the center of the circle. Xena hoists Gabrielle up by her hands and spins rapidly so that Gabrielle is perpendicular to the ground. She kicks the men in their faces as she spins by them. Xena continues to spin until each man is flat on his back. She then slowly stops and puts Gabrielle down who now has a big, confidant, smile on her face. Gabrielle wipes the dust off of her hands as if she did all the work. "Good work, sidekick." Xena gives a wry smile and lifts an eyebrow to her friend, accepting the sarcasm ... for now. She turns and walks over to the man that seemed to be the leader, Gabrielle follows, "oh yeah, right."

Xena continues to play along and innocently asks, "So what should we do now?" Returning the wry expression, Gabrielle orders authoritatively, "Give him the pinch!" She holds in her smirk as Xena follows her commands. Gabrielle goes down on one knee to face the man, "You now have 30 seconds to live, my sidekick here has just cut off the flow of blood to your brain."

The man thrust his hands to his throat as he struggles to breathe, "What do ... you ... want?"

"Well," Gabrielle begins, "first of all, you can tell us who you are and where are you all heading, oh and why are you bothering this man?" Xena shakes her head, I’ve created a monster.

"We’re ... (cough)... leaving town, we’re... trying to get away from Per ... (cough) ... our army." Gabrielle considers his response, but Xena "unpinches" the man.

"Hey!" Gabrielle protests.

"By the time you ask him your next question, he’ll be dead." Xena explains. She keeps her hands on the man, while he catches his breathe, not wanting to let him up just yet. The other men have gotten to their feet, but are only watching on from a distance. "Tell us what’s going on, why are you deserting you’re army and why are you bothering this man?" Xena asks.

"We were just having fun, that’s all – we’ll stop." He assures them. "As for our army," he pauses and looks to the other men, who avoid his eyes, "well, we all agreed that that life just wasn’t for us. I mean our leader, well, he’s crazy. He doesn’t want riches and wealth, like normal warlords, no, he wants revenge and that’s all. So we decided we wanted out ..."

"And so you ran out." Xena finishes his sentence for him. He nods his head in embarrassment.

Xena lets the man up seeing that he is really no danger to her or Gabrielle, "Look we’re going to let you and your men get out of here, right Gabrielle?" She looks to her companion, who nods. "But I don’t want to find you messing with innocent people anymore."

"Fine, but you better get out of here too – Perdicas’ army will be coming through here soon and they leave no one behind."

Gabrielle and Xena look to each other quickly and stare in shock. Gabrielle speaks first, "Did you say ‘Perdicas’?" The man nods his head. "No ... it can’t be ..." Gabrielle looks to Xena and walks a few steps away. Xena gives her a doubtful expression, it can’t be. The men start to walk off, but Xena grabs one of them by the shoulder and turns him around.

"Explain yourself, who is this ‘Perdicas’ and why are you really bailing on his army?" Xena demands.

The men look at each other and then one of them speaks up. "He is evil and ruthless beyond any warlord we’ve known. He barely feeds us enough to get by and as he said," he points to the leader, "he’s only out for revenge."

"Describe him." Gabrielle asks.

Xena whispers to her, "I know what you’re thinking, but it’s impossible!" Gabrielle ignores the comment and stares intently on the man.

"Well he is young, dark hair, from a small town named Potedeia and he has a large scar on his chest which he shows off. Claims Callisto stabbed him through the heart but Hades sent him back for revenge." Gabrielle could feel the blood rush from her head and her knees go weak. Xena moved in on her in time to catch her. Xena guides her friend to the ground then looks at the man.

"So he wants revenge on Callisto then?" Xena asks.

"And you, if you are Xena, Warrior Princess." The man answers. Xena looks down to Gabrielle. The men leave, seeing that Xena is no longer paying them any attention. Xena gently pats Gabrielle’s face until she comes to.

The fire was almost out, but Gabrielle watched the remaining flames dance and sway with the breeze that grew stronger with the night. They had settled down to sleep a few hours earlier. Xena lay with her back turned to Gabrielle, who just could not sleep. She gingerly got up and stepped over Xena and walked to the edge of the hillside. Absently she played with the leaves from a nearby tree – running her fingers across its smooth surface. She looked down to the town below.

Xena stirred and sensed that her friend was no longer near her – she sat up and listened for a moment, then went in search of Gabrielle. She found her staring skyward and approached with a gentle hand to Gabrielle’s shoulder. "Couldn’t sleep?" Gabrielle shook her head and looked down again. "I know," Xena tried to comfort her, "want to talk about it?" Gabrielle shook her head again. Xena slowly removed her hand and turned to go feeling a bit of distance between her and her dear friend. Gabrielle reached out and grabbed Xena’s hand. Xena tried to give an expression of understanding, hoping that she might be able to mask her true fear of losing Gabrielle again.

"It’s just that ..." Gabrielle spoke softly, "...I’m so confused!" Xena nodded her head. "I mean, you think someone is dead and gone and then they suddenly reappear – like a ghost. How am I supposed to deal with that? What am I supposed to do?" She looked at Xena, without stopping. "And Perdicas ... ruthless?" I can’t believe it – my Perdicas didn’t even want to hurt another living being. But what that man said – that this Perdicas would stop at nothing, slaughtering all in his way. Can it really be the same Perdicas?" She looked to Xena with questioning eyes.

Xena took a deep breath in order to maintain her composure. "I really don’t know what’s going on Gabrielle, but we will find out tomorrow." There was so much more she wanted to say. She wanted to tell Gabrielle how much she feared that Gabrielle would leave her. She wanted to tell her that she loved her and hoped she knew that she wasn’t obligated to go back to him – if she didn’t want to. Ha! Who are you kidding Xena? Gabrielle had loved him then and she probably still does. Of course she’ll want to go back to him. But not if it’s true – that he has become a merciless murderer out for revenge. Xena sighed deeply. And she doesn’t even know he’s after me...

"Xena?" Gabrielle interrupted her thoughts.


"How are we going to find out? What if it’s true that Perdicas has become this vicious warlord out for blood. Not only Callisto’s – " Xena was surprised by that last comment, she thought Gabrielle had past out before that man mentioned ... "but anyone who might get in his way. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see Callisto pay for what she did, I even almost took that route."

"Yes, you almost did." Xena replied. "But then you realized, again, that love is the way to defeat hate." She gave Gabrielle a small smile and put her arm around her shoulders.

"I know, and Perdicas must know that too."

"If anyone can show him, Gabrielle, it’s you." Gabrielle almost smiled and did feel a bit better after talking to Xena. She always seemed to feel better when Xena was around. She was sure this must be hurting Xena, as well, but up to this point she was too busy thinking about herself and Perdicas. She suddenly realized – standing there under the stars with Xena, made her know more clearly than ever before -- that she was where she wanted to be.

"Hey," now Xena interrupted her thoughts, "why don’t we head back to the fire and try to get some sleep." Gabrielle agreed and let Xena led her back.

As they prepared to sleep, once again, Gabrielle decided she couldn’t wait until morning, "Can I ask you something Xena?" Xena looked over to her, propped herself on one elbow and stretched her long body out. Gabrielle took the same position, facing Xena. "If Marcus were to come back from the dead, what ..." she paused not knowing exactly how to phrase her thoughts, "what would you do?"

Xena understood the question immediately, "Are you asking me if I would leave you, to be with him?" Gabrielle nodded with her eyes down, she felt a slight hint of embarrassment that made Xena smile. "No, Gabrielle, I wouldn’t leave you ... ever." She emphasized that last word and put her free hand on Gabrielle’s. Gabrielle looked up and their eyes held each other’s for a long moment. "I did love Marcus, very much. But I was at a different place in my life. I realize now that how I loved, then, and what I could give then were so limited. It was so different from the way I can love ... now. I think I clung to Marcus looking for something I never found in all my life, up to that point. But things are so different for me now, I am so different." Gabrielle understood and gave Xena’s hand a squeeze. Of course that was the answer she had hoped to get. "Can I ask you something?" Xena now asked her. She felt relieved to get that off of her chest and she hoped that Gabrielle truly understood what she meant. "You don’t have to answer if it’s too difficult, okay?"

"Okay," then trying to lighten the mood, Gabrielle teased, "well, it is my turn in the game right? I guess I’ll pick ‘truth’ this time." She tried to smile as did the eyes that held her.

"Well, you did marry Perdicas because you loved him, right? And I would understand it if you still ... cared for him." She found it difficult to form her words, now. "I guess what I’m asking is – have you thought about what you are going to do?" She felt saddened by the possible answer but she knew she had to ask. That’s probably why she asked me about Marcus.

Gabrielle took a deep breath and sat up wrapping her arms around her knees. "Xena, I don’t know how to tell you this. I don’t want you to get upset with me, but ..." Xena sat up, this didn’t sound good to her. "I do care about Perdicas. If he has, somehow, found his way back into this world, well yes I still care about him." Xena tried to control her breathing. "But I don’t love him the way you might think. When I married Perdicas I think I really did it out of fear." This took Xena by surprise.


"Yes. I had traveled with you for some time and seen a lot of new exciting but very scary things. Perdicas gave me an excuse to give that type of life up. I could always say that I had followed my hearts desire for adventure, but then found ‘love.’ Marrying him was safe and I knew I’d be safe. More importantly – I know I wouldn’t be there to see you get hurt or gods forbid ... killed." Xena was speechless. She stared at Gabrielle in disbelief. "The truth is Xena being with you isn’t only about adventures, battles and near death experiences." This got a small chuckle from the very quiet warrior. "I’ve learned more in our few years together than many would ever learn in a lifetime ... I’ve learned how to fight, yes, and defend myself and stand up to people."

"You were pretty good at that before you met me." Xena piped in. Gabrielle smiled and continued.

"Okay, but you’ve also taught me how to forgive and how to fight for what I believe in and to fight for the greater good. And ..." Gabrielle brought her hand up and touched Xena’s cheek hesitantly, "...most importantly, you’ve taught me how to ... love." She paused, but didn’t want to lose her nerve. "I guess what I’m trying to say, Xena, is that I am where I’m supposed to be. And I did find love – only not with Perdicas." Xena could not believe what she was hearing. Just when she thought she knew her partner inside and out – she realized she didn’t!

Gabrielle feared she might have gone to far – said too much. She dropped her hand and her eyes and felt an overwhelming amount of emotion – she thought she might cry, but held it in. She hoped Xena would understand and not be put off by her confession.

Xena was completely stunned and utterly relieved by Gabrielle’s honesty. She wanted to throw her arms around the smaller woman but didn’t want to startle her. She decided slow was better. "Gabrielle – I love you too." She couldn’t help but smile and gave in easily when she found Gabrielle’s arms around her. They held each other and a warmth filled them both.

They released each other slowly but still gazed into each others eyes. Gabrielle again gave Xena a shy smile and diverted her eyes first. Xena could not believe she hadn’t seen this side of Gabrielle or her own feelings for her. It took the fear of losing her, again, to bring these feelings to the forefront.

"Xena, I want you to know that I still want to help Perdicas, though. I mean if it’s true what that man said."

"I understand and we will, tomorrow."

"Thank you."

Xena touched a finger just under Gabrielle’s chin, holding her head up a bit, and smiled. "Let’s get some sleep."

Xena awoke early to try to track Perdicas’ army, which she was able to do. She returned to their campsite to be greeted by the delicious smells of breakfast. Gabrielle looked up from her frying pan, "Just in time." She smiled. Her worried expressions from the night before seemed to be gone.

"You must’ve slept well." Xena commented as she took a seat next to Gabrielle and helped dish out some of the fried codfish into their bowls.

"Actually, I feel good, Xena." Gabrielle handed her some water to wash the salty fish down. "I am still worried about Perdicas, but I really think we can help him." Xena took a long sip and handed the flask back. "And I think I can make him understand my decision to stay with you."

Xena hesitated, she knew she had to let her partner know the whole story. "Gabrielle," she spoke slowly, "I want you to tell you something."

"Hmm?" Gabrielle chewed on her fried fish. "This is really good." She pointed to her plate.

"Yes, it is." Xena took another bite, stalling.

"So what were you going to tell me?" Gabrielle inquired.

"Well, I know that you want to help Perdicas, and I have no doubt that you can do it. But ... but I just want you to know that it may not be as easy as you think."

"Why not? Did you have trouble tracking his army?"

"Oh no – I found them – their heading eastward, to their fort. I overheard them talking about it. I figure we can meet them there by high sun." Gabrielle nodded as she swallowed another bite. "But there is something you don’t know."

"What?’ She gave Xena a puzzled look.

"You past out yesterday, remember?" Gabrielle nodded. "It was right after that man told us that Perdicas is after Callisto’s blood."

"Yeah, so did I miss something?" Gabrielle’s curiosity was peaked and by the way Xena was beating around the issue, she was sure this wasn’t going to be good.

"Yes." She paused. "He’s after me, too."

"What?!" Gabrielle jumped to her feet. Xena also rose.

"Now don’t get too excited. I guess he feels it’s because of me that Callisto was there in the first place, so – "

"No! No! That’s just not going to happen Xena! I’ll go, alone ..." Gabrielle paced and spoke quickly as she tried to absorb this new information. "... you can wait for me just outside the fort and I’ll go talk to him. Okay?" She pleaded.

"No Gabrielle, don’t worry about it." Xena walked over and put her hands on Gabrielle’s shoulders, forcing her to stand still and face her. "I have a plan." Sort of. Their eyes met, Gabrielle tried to protest but Xena put her finger to Gabrielle’s lips. "Don’t worry." She tried to reassure her. Xena could see that Gabrielle wanted to believe her – she let her go. "Now let’s finish breakfast, it’s delicious and I don’t want it to go to waist!" Xena sat back down and picked up her bowl. She let her eyes move up to see if Gabrielle would follow. Gabrielle took in a deep breath, she knew there was no arguing with the warrior princess – but she didn’t like it.

The fort was surrounded by a lightly forested area with many bushes. One path lead to the front entrance and a second lead around to the side. The second path was barely noticeable – but not to the eyes of the savvy warrior. "It must be their ‘secret’ entrance." She whispered sarcastically. The walls were high but seemed unmanned. They had followed the army from a distance and watched them enter through the large wooden doors. They seemed like the usual cocky, arrogant, insolent group. Perdicas had not been among them – Xena was sure he was waiting for them inside.

"Xena, don’t you think now would be a good time to tell me your plan?" Gabrielle asked.

"Uh – okay," Xena whispered back. "See that door?"

"Oh you mean the large wooden thing that opens up and lets you in?"

"Yeah, that one. Well we go up to it and knock and ask to speak to Perdicas." Gabrielle’s face dropped in disbelief and her eyes widened.

"Are you crazy?" She let out in a horse whisper, as close to a yell as she could get. "No way! What if the men have orders to kill you on sight?"

"No, I’m sure Perdicas will want to do the honors himself and besides I’m counting on the fact that he’ll want to see you first – before he tries to kill me." Xena gave Gabrielle a confident smile.

"I don’t like it!"

"Do you have a better plan?"

"Yes!" Demanded the now disconcerted blond. "I go in and YOU stay her!"

"No – I don’t want us to be separated." Xena could see the distress creep into Gabrielle’s eyes, but she tried to remain focused on what she had to do. "Come on." Before Gabrielle could protest any further, Xena walked out from behind the bush that hid them and approached the front entrance. A very frustrated Gabrielle caught up to Xena just as she knocked on the door.

"At least let me do the talking!" Gabrielle demanded and Xena conceded with a nod as the doors opened.

Two guards with swords drawn faced the two women. One of the men recognized Xena immediately and an arrogant grin curved his lips. "Ah, Perdicas will reward me well when he sees that I have brought him Xena, the Warrior Princess." Gabrielle eyed him nervously.

"We’re here to see Perdicas – please let him know his ... his wife is here." She had trouble saying it, but she did. The two men laughed.

"As if he cares, but please, do come in." The guard waved them in and put his sword to Xena’s neck.

"Hey!" Gabrielle quickly jumped to Xena’s defense. "That’s not necessary – we came to you, didn’t we?" The sword lowered. "Bring us to Perdicas!" Gabrielle hoped her loud demands would be met before any thing worse happened.

"Oh I will." The guard pointed his sword in the direction they were to walk. Xena scanned the area and allowed Gabrielle to take the lead.

Xena noticed that many of the men sat nonchalantly talking, drinking ale and some even napping. The high walls were barely manned and those guards on ‘look-out’ didn’t seem to be too interested in doing so. There was an overall sense of ease and non-urgency. Almost as if they had no fear of being attacked. That’s their first big mistake.

Their weapons were adequate. Xena made note of the spears, bows, one catapult and of course, swords. The fort seemed to fulfill its purpose of protecting those inside but Xena was certain it wasn’t impenetrable. If she needed to, she could get in – or out.

The guards guided the two women to a door where two more guards stood and ordered them to stop. With one look at Xena, the shorter of the two men standing guard entered the room and then reappeared moments later. He opened the door to let one very anxious blond and her very protective, fearless confidante in.

Perdicas rose from his chair to greet his wife and her friend. Gabrielle felt the familiar feeling of blood rushing from her head, but she remained calm and breathed deep. Xena gave her hand a quick squeeze – just to remind her that she was by her side.

"I can’t believe it’s true." Gabrielle spoke softly.

"Ah, my dear Gabrielle, you’re looking well." He took her hand and gave it a soft kiss. He then turned his eyes to Xena and his smile widened. "I didn’t think it would be this easy. Hades will be proud." He laughed. He waved to the shorter guard who lead them in. He spoke to the first guard who expected some sort of a compensation, "Good job Milias. Remind me later to reward you with a grand feast this evening. Now let us be." The two guards backed away from the women but did not exit – they knew better than to leave their leader alone with Xena.

"But how?" Gabrielle questioned.

"Yes – I’m sure you’d like to spend time talking, Gabrielle. Catching up." He walked to his chair and place his scabbard on his waist. He then walked to the wall and removed his sword, looking on it with admiration. "I’m sorry, I just don’t have time for chit-chat." He placed the sword in his scabbard.

"Perdicas, we’ve got to talk." Gabrielle tried to insist, but Perdicas ignored her and turned his attention to Xena.

"Xena, it’s quite good of you to forfeit yourself to me. You must have heard my fearsome reputation and decided to give yourself up, huh?"

"All I heard was that some crazy warlord has decided to kill anyone in his path to get to me and Callisto. I decided to save them, not you, the trouble." Perdicas smiled at Xena but she did not change her intimidating expression. "So now that I’m here, why don’t you tell me why you are after me?"

"That’s easy – to kill you!"

Gabrielle could not keep quiet, "But why Perdicas? What has happened to you?"

"Gabrielle, isn’t it obvious I have changed? I’m not that timid boy that fell for your promises of love, okay! I’m here for only two reasons – Xena and Callisto’s blood."

"And what does that get you, Perdicas? Another chance at life?" Xena tried to guess at how and why Perdicas returned to the land of the living.

"I don’t have time for these silly distractions, although Xena, I am grateful that you have saved me the trouble of finding you." He waved to the two guards again. They approached Xena from behind. "Take her to the dungeon, I’ll kill her after our feast." The guards grabbed Xena’s arms from behind, Xena did not struggle.

Gabrielle tried to stop them and yelled out, "No! Perdicas you can’t do this!"

"If she becomes a nuisance," He pointed to Gabrielle, "lock her up too." Perdicas demanded and walked out.

The two guards tried to pull Xena towards the door, but she did not budge. "Don’t make this hard on yourself!" The smaller one advised.

"I could say the same to you – now unhand me." Xena eyed the small one into submission. Milias yelled to him, "What are you doing?!" But it was too late. Xena jumped into action, using her free hand to punch the taller guard in the face and knock him into the wall several feet away. Gabrielle grabbed her staff and faced the door expecting other guards to enter. Xena grabbed the small guard with both hands, "I warned you." She growled. Then smacked her forehead against his knocking him unconscious – she easily threw him onto the fallen guard. Xena grabbed Gabrielle’s hand, "Come on."


Xena led Gabrielle to the back wall – she was sure this was the way to that secret path around the side of the fort, she only had to find a way to open it. Xena felt the wall with both hands hoping she would locate the release.

Gabrielle continued to watch the front door, "Hurry! I hear them coming."

Just then the front door opened and more guards entered. Xena found the release and pulled it – the secret door opened.

"Hey! Stop!" One of the guards yelled out, but it was too late. Xena took her chakram from her waist and aimed it at the wall. She let it fly and it ricocheted off of the wall, then the ceiling and sliced through the chain that held a large wheel with candles on it. The wheel fell to the ground and began to roll towards the guards, knocking them over like bowling pins. Xena then pulled Gabrielle out of the opened passageway and they ran out into the forest as quickly as possible.

Xena brushed Argo’s fur rigorously as her mind raced. She had to come up with a plan. She knew if she didn’t, not only would Perdicas continue to look for her, but she knew Gabrielle would not rest. Gabrielle would always feel tied to Perdicas, responsible for him and she would persist in trying to help him. Xena wanted this to end. Now that she knew how Gabrielle felt and she could admit her own feelings about Gabrielle – she wanted some time to be with her without any stress or pressure. She wanted to take time to explore these feelings and see where they might lead.

Argo whined at Xena, "Okay, I’m sorry. You’re probably tired of me brushing you for so long." Xena collected her things and fed Argo an apple. Argo appreciatively swallowed it and nudged Xena’s arm until she got a second.

Xena turned to watch Gabrielle, who had been walking around the open grassy field. She was working on a new scroll. Xena had learned, long ago, to give Gabrielle some space when she was writing. At that moment Gabrielle put her feather pen and her scroll down and picked a few flowers. She brought them close to her to breathe in their sweet scent. A breeze softly blew her blond hair off of her forehead and shoulders. Xena smiled at Gabrielle’s grace and beauty. Again she felt an irresistible urge to approach her and hold her close. Xena shook her head and tried to focus on the problem at hand. But the problem seemed to be that she was so easily distracted by the beauty in front of her.

Gabrielle turned to see Xena watching her. A bit of red blushed her cheeks as she realized she was being admired so intently. She smiled back at Xena and waved her over.

Xena, too, was a bit embarrassed at being caught looking. She looked around for something to pick up and put away, to look busy. But there was nothing – she felt silly and had to laugh. She walked over to Gabrielle, a little blushed herself. "I didn’t want to disturb your writing," Xena mentioned quickly.

"No, that’s okay. I’m done."

A silence fell and Gabrielle pushed the flowers to Xena, "Don’t these smell wonderful?"

"Mm-hum." Xena agreed, she couldn’t think of anything to say, though she felt so much for this young, beautiful woman standing before her.

Their eyes met and Gabrielle dropped the flowers. She too felt an intense rush of emotion and didn’t quite know what to do. Their eyes seemed to say all that their hearts felt and their voices couldn’t express. Gabrielle suddenly surprised herself when she whispered Xena’s name and took one of Xena’s hands in hers. Xena had to remember to breath. Xena wasn’t sure what to expect or how far she should push this. "I ... I ..." Gabrielle couldn’t form the words, but Xena got her courage up. With her free hand she moved a piece of loose hair behind Gabrielle’s ear. She then let her hand slide around to the back of Gabrielle’s neck. The touch sent chills down Gabrielle’s spine and made her catch her breath. She tried to stay calm although she felt her breathing quicken. She looked into Xena’s questioning eyes and silently answered her – she wanted this as much as Xena.

Xena moved in closer and could feel Gabrielle’s breath on her – her own heart began to race. She slowly leaned over and Gabrielle tilted her head up, giving herself over to Xena. They both closed their eyes and their lips seemed to find each other’s instinctively.

Gabrielle felt Xena’s soft knowing lips on hers. Her legs felt weak, but this time in a good way. She brought her hands up to embrace Xena. Xena’s confidence grew as she felt Gabrielle respond to her kiss. It was gentle and sweet and Xena felt herself melt into it.

But something tugged at Xena, she sensed something – were they being watched? She felt a presence nearby and she pulled away from Gabrielle – quicker than she had meant.

Gabrielle’s eyes opened in surprise – had Xena changed her mind? Maybe she thinks this is a mistake. She felt a wave of insecurity and felt her defensive walls come up. She was completely vulnerable.

Xena saw the fear in Gabrielle’s eyes and felt awful. She put her hands on Gabrielle’s shoulders, "No – it’s not what you think." She tried to reassure her.

"What’s wrong then?" Gabrielle followed Xena’s eyes around the empty field. She didn’t see anything or anyone except Argo grazing on the high grass.

"I think we’re being watched ..." Gabrielle held on to Xena, feeling the embarrassment heat her face. "I’ll be right back." Xena leaned down and placed a soft kiss on Gabrielle’s’ forehead. Gabrielle nodded.

Xena walked to where she felt this ‘presence’. "Ares – show yourself!" She demanded and he did.

"I see you’ve finally figured it out, huh?" He motioned to Gabrielle, who watched from a distance.

Xena tried not to blush, but had been taken by surprise. She tried to change the subject without answering him. "What are you doing here, Ares, what do you want?"

"Hey – no need to get defensive – I wont tell anyone." He laughed. "Although, I am jealous and I still don’t see what you see in her." He shook his head with a sarcastic grin. Xena gave him a very serious look. "Okay, okay – I’ve got some information you might find useful. It’s about Perdicas."

This was more like it. "Really?"

"I thought you might want to know how he got himself back here." Ares said nonchalantly.

"Of course I want to know," Xena glanced to her friend, then back at Ares, "but what do I have to do to get it?"

"Come on Xena, can’t I help an old friend out?" Ares asked as innocently as possible.

"I don’t know Ares, can you?" She questioned.

Gabrielle watched her tall, beautiful friend in a new way. Suddenly the simple move of her hands when she spoke, her confidant stance, her deep blue eyes all completely captivated her. She tried not to stare, but found it nearly impossible not to. She walked through the grass and sat near the flowers she had dropped and her scroll. They didn’t seem to be arguing or disagreeing – what could they be talking about? Gabrielle thought about her newly discovered feelings. She relived the feeling of holding Xena close, the feeling of safety in Xena’s strong yet gentle arms. She felt a tingle run up and down her body when she thought of their kiss. How she wanted to kiss her again. She felt flushed and gave herself a private smile. She gathered her pen and scroll and walked over to Argo.

"Don’t worry, Ares," Xena reassured, "I don’t intend to let you lose. Hades should’ve known better than to bet against me."

"That’s what I told him, my friend."

"Humph!" With this new information, Xena saw the beginnings of a plan forming in her head. She was ready to get to work. "Well Ares, I guess I owe you a big thanks – but that’s all I owe you. Right!?"

"Yeah, yeah – just don’t lose!" With a wink and a wave of his hand, he was gone. Xena took a deep breath and met the beautiful vibrant eyes that beheld her. She brushed her hair off of her face and smiled as she walked over to Gabrielle.

"Uh – sorry we were interrupted." She truly meant that, and Gabrielle gave a shy laugh, "but Ares has told me everything and I think I have a plan."

"What did he tell you?"

"I know how Perdicas got back here and why he’s become so ruthless. He made a deal with Hades."

Gabrielle was stunned, "Hades? What type of deal?" Xena collected her satchel and hooked it onto Argo’s saddle. She also grabbed her sword and chakram which she had left near Argo. She grabbed the horse’s reigns and they began to walk. Gabrielle grabbed her staff and questioned, "Are you saying that Perdicas went straight to Tartarus?"

"No actually, his soul entered the Elysian Fields, but he wasn’t happy there." Xena paused to see how Gabrielle would react, but she seemed calm. "Well, he wanted to talk to Hades and he was granted his wish. Hades welcomed him to Tartarus, because what’s another unhappy soul to him, right?"

"Then what?"

"Perdicas got Hades to agree to see him and he tried to convince him of his plan. Hades eventually agreed and sent Perdicas back – but on a mission."

"So what was Perdicas’ plan – what’s the mission?"

"It seems that Perdicas convinced Hades to return him here where he would hunt me down and Callisto and send our souls to Hades."

"Two souls for one." Gabrielle interjected as she shook her head in disbelief.

"Right!" Xena agreed. "Not only that, but he has assembled this army that is slaughtering people by the hundreds. Hades is getting all of those souls as well, innocent or not, that’s just part of the deal."

"By the gods!" Gabrielle exclaimed, "we’ve truly got to stop him, Xena."

"I know." Xena paused. "Now, if he’s successful he gets his revenge and he gets to stay and live out a long full life."

"And if he fails?"

Xena hesitated, afraid of Gabrielle’s reaction. "He ... he ends up in Tartarus for all time." Gabrielle looked to the sky in exasperation. "I know this is not easy, Gabrielle, but there is a catch that I think we can use to our advantage." Gabrielle looked to her with hopeful eyes. "Ares told me that Perdicas has a time limit and if he is not successful in that time he returns to Tartarus. And if Hades feels that Perdicas is not taking his mission seriously, or gets distracted by ale, gambling, women or ... his wife, then Hades takes him back."

"So you’re saying that if we can distract him from his revenge, then Hades will get upset and take him to ... Tartarus?"

"That’s what Ares said."

Gabrielle felt sad. She didn’t want to send Perdicas to Tartarus, but she knew what he was doing was wrong. He had to be stopped. Why didn’t he just stay in the Elysian Fields when he had the chance? "Xena?"


"Why did Ares come to tell you all of this? What does he want from you?"

Xena smiled, "Purely selfish! He made a bet with Hades that Perdicas would not be able to send me to Tartarus. Ares just wanted to be certain that I knew what to expect." Gabrielle smiled at her. "He doesn’t like to lose." Xena reminded her.

They walked silently for awhile until they arrived at a small river bank. They would settle there for the night.

The following morning Xena awoke with a feeling of contentment. She hadn’t felt this way in a long time, if ever. She knew the reason was the beautiful blond woman walking ahead of her. She couldn’t keep herself from smiling. She picked a berry from a tree that they passed and threw it at Gabrielle. Gabrielle looked up – Xena held in a laugh. She did it again. This time Gabrielle turned and stared her down. Xena couldn’t hold her laughter any longer and Gabrielle picked a few berries, herself, and tossed the handful at Xena. "Playful mood, aye?" Gabrielle questioned in a teasing voice. Oh yeah! Xena gave her an innocent smile. How she couldn’t wait to have Gabrielle all to herself without any crisis’ hanging over their heads. "I think I’ll walk right here, next to you," Gabrielle waited for Xena to catch up, "since I’ve got to keep my eyes on you."

"Then it worked!" Xena laughed. She reached down and took Gabrielle’s hand in hers. They continued to walk hand in hand until they reached a mountainside. "This is it." Xena walked ahead. "We wait for Perdicas’ men to come through this pass and we let one of them send our message back to Perdicas for us."

"Xena how do you know that they’ll cross through here?" Gabrielle asked.

"Because, no one wants to cross over this mountain, when you can walk around it." Xena explained wisely.

"Duh! I mean, what makes you think they’ll be traveling towards the town in that valley?"

"Oh that? Well Perdicas’ army has been taking out village after village traveling westward for several days. Then they seem to return to their fort. I’m pretty sure this town is next in line." They looked down into the valley where a small village market bustled with traders and villagers. "Okay, let’s get ready."

Perdicas’ had sent out a small party of men to check the surrounding area. He knew Xena and Gabrielle had to be nearby. They had lost track of Xena the night before and Perdicas was not happy about that at all. He was coming down harder on everyone this morning and Milias was happy when Perdicas choose him to lead the party. Milias was one of the first to join up with Perdicas and Perdicas treated him pretty well, except when he was this angry. Now Milias had six other men with him trying to track down the clever warrior princess and the pesky wife. "Milias, over here!" One of his men called out. The others gathered around to see what was found. Milias could see the careless footprints left in the soft dirt and the broken branches leading away from the main path. "I don’t think Xena would be this stupid – this could be a trap, so be careful." He followed the broken branches first. The path they were on led around the mountain, but this untrodden path lead away from the mountain and the pass. Milias scanned the area and saw a few more foot prints. It looked as if someone was hurt and dragging one of their legs. He let out a laugh. "If this is Xena, we’ve got her for good. And if it’s not her, then I feel sorry for the fool we do find." The other men laughed along with him. "Wait!" Milias stopped them and quieted everyone down. "Listen," he whispered.

"... argh ... I ... can’t. Gabrielle ... ugh ... I have to stop here."

Milias smiled widely, he knew he had her and Perdicas would be extremely pleased. "Slowly men, we don’t want to blow this." He quietly ordered. "Just because she’s hurt doesn’t mean she can’t still fight." The men nodded their heads in understanding. Milias pointed to three of the men and motioned for them to go around to the right.

"... Xena, come on, you have to try ..."

Milias led the other men, following the broken branches and the marks in the dirt. He stopped when he could see the two women up ahead. Xena was struggling to walk and she seemed to have blood dripping down one of her legs. She grimaced in pain and leaned on the smaller woman. The three other guards approached them from the front. Gabrielle let Xena go and picked up her staff to face the three guards. Milias instructed his men to move in from behind. Xena turned to see that she and Gabrielle were surrounded.

"Well, Xena, looks like you had a little trouble. This ought to make things easy for us." Milias said with a broad smile.

Gabrielle spoke up in Xena’s defense, "Look, we have plenty of dinars, we could pay you well."

"Little lady, I don’t think you have enough to pay us all off. And besides, just think of the reputation we’ll have when the world hears that we helped Perdicas send Xena’s soul to Tartarus." He boasted triumphantly.

Xena slowly took her chakram off of her waist – the guards brought their swords up to defend themselves. Xena held the chakram up in a manner that would not threaten them. Gabrielle looked surprised, "Xena no! You can’t surrender now, they’ll kill you!"

Xena shook her head, "I can’t fight, Gabrielle, I can barely walk." She looked down to her injured leg.

"Be smart Gabrielle, once all of this is over, I’m sure Perdicas will want to continue his life with you." Gabrielle shot Milias a look of disgust. Just as Xena bent to put the chakram down, she fell to the ground. The men laughed. Xena turned onto her back and as she sat up she shot the chakram at the men’s legs bringing them all down with her. Milias jumped in time to avoid getting his legs amputated. The other men yelled out in pain and shock and tried to crawl away. Gabrielle defended Xena as Milias tried to bring his sword down on her while she was on the ground. Xena rolled several feet away, and slowly got to her feet. Gabrielle used her staff to block the blow, then swung the staff around in a semi-circle that made Milias lose his sword. The sword went high into the air and with perfect accuracy Xena rolled forward and caught it. Meanwhile, Gabrielle executed a series of blows to Milias stomach, head and legs that landed him on his back. She brought the end of her staff to his neck but stopped before she could do any damage. She waited for Xena to crawl over to him. "Xena ... come on ... you know you can’t go on like that. You’re like a horse with an injured leg – it’s got to be put out of its misery ..." Gabrielle exerted a bit of pressure onto her staff which made Milias gasp for breath. " ...okay ... okay." Xena reached over and quickly put the pinch on Milias. He began to cough and gasp harder "Xena ... what do you want?"

"Look Milias, I really don’t want to kill you, but I don’t know if I can trust you. You are Perdicas’ right hand man." Xena held herself up on her hands and knees and look down on Milias.

"No ... no – you can trust me Xena. I’ll leave you alone ... I promise." Milias pleaded for his life.

"Xena, don’t kill him." Gabrielle said softly. Xena looked up to her then back at Milias.

"Okay, but promise me you wont go back to Perdicas and tell him I’m injured and you wont tell him where we are!"

Milias nodded his head as he continued to gasp for air. Xena undid the pinch and he coughed and took in a deep breath. Gabrielle still held her staff at him. "You know we’ll get you if you cross us." Gabrielle reminded him.

"No, I wont go back on my word. You can trust me." Gabrielle let him get to his feet. Still rubbing his neck he began to walk off. Gabrielle helped Xena to her feet and helped her walk off. Xena turned her head once to see if Milias was looking at them. He was. He had taken a few steps and then stopped to watch them walk off. "Do you think this will work Xena?" Gabrielle whispered softly.

Xena smiled, "Gabrielle, he’s on his way to Perdicas as we speak, trust me."

Milias rushed into Perdicas’ room, panting heavily. Perdicas turned from the map he was reading. "What is it? Where are your men?"

"They were all taken down, by ... Xena." Milias informed. Anger rushed into Perdicas’ expression, but before he could speak Milias explained. "Sir, she had to use her chakram after she’d fallen to the ground." He smiled at Perdicas’ expression. "She’s injured ... badly. She can barely walk and certainly can’t fight."

"Well if she took down all of your men – seems like she can fight."

"No. She’s desperate and weak."

"Interesting," Perdicas placed the map down and handed Milias a cup of ale, "and how is it that you managed to get away?"

"Actually, she let me go." Milias admitted proudly.


"Yes." Milias finished off the bitter ale and placed the cup down. "She made me promise not to tell you that she’s hurt or where she is. I think they are holed up in a nearby cave tending to her wound." He laughed and Perdicas smiled. "Your wife, by the way, was very protective – but we didn’t hurt her."

"Yes, she’s always been very ... fond ... of her friend. But like I said before, if she gets in the way, kill her!" Perdicas took his sword and a dagger from the arm of his chair. "Come – lets gather some men, it’s time to send Hades a present." He smiled sinisterly as Milias followed him out.

The mountain pass was empty and Gabrielle was tired of looking down on it. She rolled onto her back to watch the clouds. Xena was lying next to her, on her stomach. She watched the pass intently, looking for any sign of movement. They had climbed up to a ledge half way up the mountain and were waiting for Perdicas and his men. It had been a long wait and Gabrielle was hungry. Her stomach rumbled loudly. Xena looked over at her, "Hey, you want to keep it down?" She whispered with a smile.

"I can’t help it, Xena, I’m so hungry."

Xena reached down and pulled a plant, by its roots, out from the ground. "Want some veggies?" she asked as she handed it to Gabrielle, who sneered at the plant.

"Uh, no, I’ll wait. Thanks."

Just then they heard horses in the distance. Gabrielle turned back onto her stomach and looked down. Xena quietly pointed to the group of men approaching the pass. Gabrielle nodded.

Milias and Perdicas were on horseback, a group of soldiers marched behind them. Milias pointed out the direction where he had lost his men earlier that day. Perdicas dismounted his horse and knelt down to see the drag marks. He touched a spot that seemed to be blood. "Where’s the cave?" Milias pointed. Perdicas instructed two of the men to stay with him and Milias. "The rest of you keep your eyes open. Xena may be hurt, but she’s no sitting duck. Keep a look out!" He got back on his horse and followed Milias.

"Perfect." Xena whispered. She slowly stood up and walked on the ledge parallel to Perdicas, several feet below. She looked to Gabrielle who was still looking down. Xena held onto a rope against the mountainside. Below, Perdicas, Milias and the two guards had separated from the other soldiers. When there was enough space between them, Gabrielle pointed to Xena. Xena pulled the rope which led to a large rock slide. Perdicas and Milias turned to see that the pass was now blocked behind them. They would be separated from their men now. "We’ll have to cross over the mountain to return to the fort." Milias stated.

"Forget about that!" Perdicas ordered. "I want Xena!"

The soldiers on the other side of the rocks didn’t know what to do. There was no way to get through the pass, to their leader – except over the mountain. It would take days for them to reach the cave that way.

Xena and Gabrielle carefully ran on the high narrow ledge that led to the cave opening. Xena positioned herself on a grass mat to appear injured. Gabrielle pickup up a bowl of fresh animal blood, from a rabbit they had captured and killed earlier. She poured the blood on Xena’s leg and hid the bowl behind some rocks. She sat near Xena, pretending to mend her fake wound.

Perdicas and Milias had dismounted their horses to climb up the mountainside – they arrived at the mouth of the cave. "Oh Xena – come out, come out, wherever you are ..." Perdicas called. Gabrielle and Xena looked to each other. Xena gave Gabrielle’s hand a squeeze.

When Perdicas and his three men came into view, Xena took her chakram in her hand, but held it low so no one would see it. Gabrielle stood up, she held her staff out, ready to defend the injured warrior princess. "Perdicas, no! You can’t do this!"

"Oh Gabrielle, defending Xena to the end I see? I’m jealous." He approached her them whispered, "you know the dead can hear the thoughts of the living." Gabrielle brought her eyes down and away from his. She had thought of Perdicas often, just after he was killed. But she knew she also had thoughts and feelings of relief that she was able to continue her life with Xena. She wondered if he knew how she truly felt about Xena. "Don’t worry Gabrielle, I’m not interested in our life together," He began to walk around her and looked at Xena, "it’s you I want."

Xena looked up at him, then to the three men who had followed him in. They had only taken a few steps in ... just enough steps for ...

"Aiyayayaya!" Xena let out her war cry and jumped to her feet. She threw her chakram off of the wall, which changed the course of the chakram, sending it towards the ceiling of the cave. It sliced through the ropes that held a net, letting it fall onto Milias and the two guards. Perdicas turned and pulled out his sword, but Xena flipped into the air and landed in front of the struggling men. She pulled a rope around them and headed outside with it. She whistled and Argo appeared down below. Xena dropped the rope around the horse’s neck and yelled, "hiya!" Argo took off, dragging the men behind. Xena ran back inside.

Perdicas had turned on Gabrielle – his sword pointing at her. Gabrielle backed up slowly. "Come on, Gabrielle. Do you think I’m a fool? I see that net above you. You’re just trying to get me into position."

"What? What net?" She innocently looked up. "Oh that, ha, see I can explain ..." Perdicas closed in on her, then ... all was black.

"Whew! What took you so long, Xena? I thought he was going to get me." Gabrielle complained.

"Hey I was right on time." Xena looked down at the unconscious Perdicas. She had come up from behind and given him a shot to the head with the end of her sword. "Come on, let’s tie him up. Then you can try your magic on him. Hopefully he’ll listen to you!"

When Perdicas came to, he realized he was bound and his weapons were lying on the dirt floor several feet away. He looked around the cave. In a far corner he saw Gabrielle and Xena finishing up what smelled like a delicious rabbit stew.

Gabrielle licked her fingers, "Um, Xena, your cooking is really improving!"

"Hey," Xena tried to look hurt, "I didn’t know it needed any improvement." Gabrielle smiled at her and touched Xena’s arm gently. Their discussion was interrupted by Perdicas, who cleared his throat loudly.

They both walked over to him. "How’s your head?" Xena asked.

"Never mind that, let me out of her Xena, and we can have a fair fight."

"No, Perdicas, I’m not going to fight you." She looked to Gabrielle to see if she was okay. Gabrielle touched her arm, again, Xena knew that meant she was okay to be alone with him. "I’ll be right outside." She said reassuringly to Gabrielle, then turned to Perdicas, "Don’t try anything stupid!" Xena left

Gabrielle had a speech prepared, but now that she was face to face with her ‘husband’, she was actually unsure of what to say. "I ... Perdicas ... why are you doing this? Why couldn’t you be happy in the Elysian Fields? Why –"

Perdicas cut in, "I don’t have time for these distractions Gabrielle, just untie me!"

"No!" Gabrielle couldn’t believe he actually expected her to follow his orders. "Look Perdicas, I want to help you. But I’m not going to help you kill my friend!"

He laughed at her, "Friend." He’d said it in a doubtful tone and made Gabrielle pause before she responded.

"Perdicas, can’t you at least tell me why you gave up the Elysian Fields? It must have been beautiful."

He nodded with a hint of regret in his eyes, but as quickly as it appeared it vanished. "No, Gabrielle, I wasn’t supposed to die. I had so much to do still. Don’t you even care that Callisto took me from you? Or was I so easy to get over?" He looked to where Xena had walked out, obviously referring to the warrior princess.

"Oh Perdicas, you know I cared! If you really heard my thoughts, then you know that I nearly killed Callisto myself." She took a deep breath. "At least I had it set in my mind to do so. To avenge your death, but ... but it would have been wrong."

"No your wrong, Gabrielle. Maybe I could’ve rested if you had done it. But I couldn’t be happy – even in the Elysian Fields – knowing that Callisto lived on and I was torn from this world." Gabrielle shook her head in disagreement.

"Perdicas, you’re so filled with hatred. You didn’t used to be this way –"

"Well you can just blame your friend out there – if it hadn’t been for her, Callisto and I would have never crossed paths that day and –"

Now Gabrielle cut in, "and if it wasn’t for Xena, you and I would have never been married, either. We would have never crossed paths again!"

"Ha!" Perdicas laughed, "And you see where that got me. Look Gabrielle, there is nothing you can say or do to get me to change my mind."

"Well then," Gabrielle was obviously hurt by that last response, but she kept her cool. "I guess you’ll just have to sit tight until you either change your mind, or Hades comes to get you."

"What?!" Perdicas was shocked. "You’re going to leave me, your husband, to die again? Your going to let me go to Tartarus with Hades?" Gabrielle had tears in her eyes. "You won’t even help me?" He whispered.

"NO! Perdicas, YOU made that choice not me! You could’ve stayed in the Elysian Fields, buy you gave it up!" She yelled back assertively trying not to fall for his guilt trip. "I am not going to help you slaughter innocent people! I am not going to help you hunt down Callisto! And I am certainly not going to let you take Xena’s soul with you to Tartarus."

Xena heard the shouts coming from inside the cave. She knew this was difficult and painful for her friend. As if losing her husband the first time wasn’t hard enough. She walked into the cave, but stayed out of view.

Perdicas continued to try to convince Gabrielle to help him as she tried to convince him to give in. "Gabrielle, what you do with Xena isn’t any better. You can’t tell me people – even innocent people – haven’t died because of you two."

"Yes, Perdicas, they have. But what we do, we do it to try to help people. We do it for the greater good – not for revenge and hatred."

Perdicas had enough of this argument. He struggled with the ropes and yelled out to Hades. "If you can hear me, god of the underworld, come now to my aid!" He demanded.

Xena moved in close to Gabrielle, who now looked to her, with defeat in her eyes. They both knew that Perdicas would not give up, because if he did he would still end up in Tartarus. If he fought, he at least had a chance of living and repaying Hades his debt, by sending Callisto and Xena’s soul to him. Gabrielle was saddened by this truth. She knew that this would end badly, no matter what.

Perdicas continued to yell, "Hades! Hear me Hades! My mission is being disrupted by these foolish people. Show yourself!"

There was a strange glow in the far corner of the cave. All eyes looked to it and they all saw Hades appear from the golden light. Xena looked elsewhere, she knew Ares would come too. Hades approached Perdicas, and gave Xena a nod of recognition. Xena acknowledged Hades as well. "Ah, Perdicas, seems like things are not going your way. I’m truly disappointed in you."

Before Perdicas could respond another golden light appeared and Ares made his presence known. With a laugh he looked to Perdicas, "Seems like you’re in a bit of a bind." Xena held in a grin.

Hades and Ares looked to each other. Perdicas tried to defend himself, "Hades, you can’t be disappointed in me. I’ve sent you souls by the hundreds."

"Yes, that’s true, but not the ones you’ve promised me. And now it looks like you’re allowing yourself to get distracted here."

"No, that’s not true," he struggled some more. Gabrielle turned her face away from him as tears escaped her eyes. Xena put her arm around Gabrielle’s head, bringing her close and letting Gabrielle’s head rest on her chest.

"Well," Ares spoke to Hades, "Looks like I’m going to win this one."

"Now wait a minute." Hades looked to Xena. "So you plan to keep him tied until his time is up, is that it?" Xena nodded. "Now that’s not very sporty of you, Xena. How about a fair fight?" He tried to prod her.

"No!" Gabrielle protested.

"You know Ares, the bet was that Xena would send Perdicas back to Tartarus, but I do believe you said she would kill him." Hades mentioned.

"Minor technicality." Ares waved him off.

"Hades, take him now! He’s not going to escape from those binds and I am not going to kill him. This is hard enough, can’t you see." See motioned to Gabrielle. Perdicas brought himself up to his knees. "Xena, I challenge you to a fight to the death. Do you refuse?"

"Don’t do it Xena." Gabrielle insisted and Xena agreed with her.

"No, Perdicas, I will not fight you."

Ares was quickly becoming bored by these events. He shot a bolt of fire to Perdicas’ ropes that unleashed him. Xena looked to him wide eyed. "Hey," he shrugged his shoulders, "a bet’s a bet. I can only win if you kill him." In disbelief, Xena drew her sword, as Perdicas ran to find his on the ground and picked it up.

"Perdicas no!" Gabrielle tried to get in the way, but Xena put her hand up.

"Gabrielle – don’t ... I don’t want you to get hurt." She looked at Gabrielle with pleading eyes.

Perdicas approached Xena with confidence, now that he was untied. Xena squared off and they circled each other with their swords ready. Perdicas attacked first, but Xena easily defended his blows. Ares and Hades backed up to watch them duel. Gabrielle felt ill with anxiety.

Perdicas swung at Xena’s head, then at her legs. She blocked them both and sent him several feet back with a kick to the ribs. "Come on Xena, you can take care of him." Ares insisted.

"I won’t do it. Hades take him now." Hades shook his head.

Perdicas persisted and their swords rang out as they sparred. Xena continuously blocked his attempts and used her kicks to get him off balance, but refused to attack Perdicas with her sword. How would Gabrielle feel if I was the one that sent him to Tartarus. Perdicas pressed one advantage that allowed his sword to come down and cut Xena on the arm.

"Xena?" Gabrielle cried out.

Xena looked to the blood that came out of the wound, then starred Perdicas down as he smiled at her.

"More than you expected, huh, Xena?" He asked.

"No, just irritating!" She flipped over him and landed behind him and with a back kick sent him to the ground. Perdicas used his hands to soften the blow, but his sword landed a few feet away. He scurried to his feet to retrieve it. Xena closed the gap between them quickly and her fighting became more fierce. Now she was on the attack, with every swing she pushed him back. "Come on Hades, he can’t beat me!" But Hades refused to act, he wanted this to go to the death – even though he knew, more than likely, that Xena would win.

Xena whirled around and landed a kick to Perdicas’ jaw, shaking him a bit. She then kicked him in the stomach and when he bent over she brought her knee up to his head. He reeled back several steps, but Xena continued the attack. She used her sword to send his sword flying toward the gods. They both ducked as it sailed by them. Xena dropped her sword and grabbed Perdicas by the collar. She head-butted him, and shook her head as the blow was harder and more painful then she expected. Then she threw him back against the wall. He seemed dazed and Xena looked to Gabrielle for guidance. Gabrielle met Xena’s eyes with confusion and fear. How can I tell her to kill him? She may not want that on her conscious. I should be the one.

Gabrielle was just about to speak out when Perdicas regain his wits, he reached for his dagger which was very nearby. He grabbed it and lunged towards Xena.

"XENA LOOK OUT!" Gabrielle shouted.

Xena turned in time to catch the dagger’s blade between her two palms and in one fluid motion she rotated her body so that the dagger would be turned against its possessor.

Perdicas yelled out in pain as the dagger’s blade pierced his stomach. Gabrielle brought her hands to her mouth to hold in a gasp. Xena and Perdicas both held onto the dagger and Xena felt Perdicas’ weight fall onto her. She slowly helped him to the ground.

Ares and Hades looked to each other. Hades shrugged his shoulders and Ares nodded as if he knew all along this is how it would end. Ares disappeared into a golden haze.

Xena, on her knees with Perdicas’ head in her hands, looked to Gabrielle. Gabrielle walked over and knelt down next to Perdicas. Xena stood up and took several steps back, she looked at the blood on her hands.

"I ... I’m ..." Perdicas tried to speak. His breathing was heavy.

"No, don’t speak." Gabrielle insisted. She looked to Hades, then to Xena. Xena feared the eye contact. She was unsure about how Gabrielle would feel or react to this to her, now.

"I’m ... sorry – " Perdicas, with his last breath tried to pronounce the words, but it was too late. Gabrielle let her tears roll freely down her cheeks. She knew Perdicas was doomed to spend eternity in Tartarus because of his hate and revenge. How could she not feel terrible for him?

Hades walked over to Gabrielle and Perdicas’ body. She stood up and looked at him with repulsion in her eyes.

"He made his choice – I didn’t force him to do anything he didn’t want to do. And don’t worry, all those innocent souls ..." he mentioned in a questioning tone, "... "I’ll let them go." He nodded and with a wave of his hand over Perdicas’ body and his own he was gone.

Gabrielle wiped at the tears on her face and turned to look at Xena. Xena too had tears in her eyes, but she tried to fight them back. Gabrielle walked over to her and picked up a rag from the floor. She took each of Xena’s hands, in her own, and wiped Perdicas’ blood off. Neither of them spoke until Gabrielle was done. By then, they had both regained their composure.

"I’m –" Xena began to speak.

"No don’t." Gabrielle looked up into Xena’s troubled eyes. "You don’t have to apologize, Xena. I don’t blame you for what you did. You had to do it or ..." she paused as she thought about the alternative, "... or he would’ve killed you."

Xena nodded.

"Anyway, it should have been me."

"What?" Xena was surprised.

"You shouldn’t have to carry this burden, I should’ve done it."

"No, Gabrielle! I wouldn’t have let you do it. Don’t you know I would carry any burden for you. As long as I knew that you wouldn’t hate me for it."

"Hate you?" Gabrielle questioned her. "I could never hate you Xena. I ... I love you."

Gabrielle rushed her head onto Xena’s chest and wrapped her arms around her warrior princess. Xena embraced her back. Gabrielle let the tears flow freely again. She felt sorrowful that Perdicas had to go through a second death, and worse that he had sentenced himself to life in the underworld. But she was so relieved to have Xena safe and in her arms. She held onto her tightly.

"I love you too, Gabrielle." Xena reassured as she held on and kissed the top of Gabrielle’s head.

Xena let the cool water surround and soothe her. She stayed under holding her breath as long as she could. The waves rocked her and she kept her eyes closed –all sound blocked out. When she ran out of air she came up, the water ran down her face and felt so cleansing to her. It was the third time that she had followed this routine and she began to feel better. Getting the blood off of her hands was one thing but accepting what she had done, what she had had to do, was another. But if Gabrielle could forgive her – then she could forgive herself.

Xena looked to Gabrielle who had finished rinsing the dirt and blood and perhaps those bad memories from herself. Xena smiled feeling that now familiar feeling of wanting to hold her partner, touch her ... kiss her again. She walked over slowly, and felt the water caress her unclad body.

Gabrielle felt good being out in such a quiet and peaceful place. She was especially happy that Xena was with her. They hadn’t said much to each other since they had left the cave, but she knew things between them were okay. As she bathed herself, she had a hard time keeping her eyes off of Xena – she watched her submerse herself in the water and then reemerge moments later. Once again she found herself completely enraptured by her companion. It’s not like they haven’t swam or bathed together before. It’s not like they haven’t seen each other without any clothes on – but now it seemed different. And when she looked at Xena she felt herself go warm and red with embarrassment. She looked at Xena now, approaching her slowly. There was a spark in Xena’s eyes that made Gabrielle shiver. She met Xena half way. "Are you okay?" Gabrielle asked softly.

"Yeah." Xena smiled shyly – an unusual occurrence for her. She too felt a little different about being so close to this woman that she felt so much for. Everything seemed so much more meaningful and intense. When their eyes met, when their hands touched, even the words that went unsaid seemed to be understood. "You?"

Gabrielle nodded. "Uh-huh."

Xena knew she never wanted to lose this woman again and that she would do everything in her power, not only to protect Gabrielle, but to make her happy. She only hoped that Gabrielle felt the same way.

Gabrielle took Xena’s hands in hers and looked into her sparkling eyes, "Can I ask you something?"

"Uh-oh, is this that ‘truth or dare’ game again?" Xena teased.

"Well – I guess it can be. I mean, I hope you’ll tell me the truth."

"Okay, it I think it’s my turn so ... I’ll pick ‘truth.’ "

Gabrielle looked to the sky as she tried to word her question properly. "Remember the other day, when we, um ..."

"... kissed?" Xena finished for her. Gabrielle nodded. "Of course I remember."

"Well I was just wondering ... " Gabrielle played with Xena’s fingers, stroking them with her own. "... was that a one time thing or have we ... I don’t know – moved beyond being ‘just friends’?"

Xena raised her eyebrows. "That’s a good question. I hope it wasn’t a one time thing!" She enjoyed Gabrielle’s caresses which had now moved from her hands to her arms and shoulders. "I don’t know what you’d call it, Gabrielle, but all I know is that it took this – this danger of losing you – to make me see how much I really need you. I don’t want to lose you again. And I was hoping that you felt the same way."

Gabrielle smiled and felt secure with Xena. She knew that Xena would always be there for her and she knew that no matter what – this was right.

"I do, Xena, I do."

Xena hesitantly returned Gabrielle’s caresses. She slowly touched Gabrielle’s wet cool skin -- holding her waist she brought Gabrielle’s body close to her. Gabrielle welcomed Xena’s soft lips on her own. With more passion than before Gabrielle returned Xena’s advances. Without fear or reservation, she let herself taste and relish in these new sensations.

Xena slowly moved down Gabrielle’s neck, finding new places to kiss and bite at. She wanted to go further but didn’t want to rush things. Xena put a check on her desires and after several pleasing moments, Xena slowly released Gabrielle.

"Why don’t we get out of this water and dry off?" She suggested.

Gabrielle agreed. As she turned to walk towards the rocky shore, Gabrielle suddenly felt something touch her thigh and was startled, "oh." She jumped

"What’s wrong?" Xena asked with a suspicious smirk.

"I think a fish just swam through my legs."

"A fish?" Xena asked innocently. She walked out ahead of Gabrielle.

Gabrielle’s eyes widened in surprise then she let a curious grin curve her lips. She followed her beloved companion out of the lake. "Well if it wasn’t a fish – what was it?"

Xena looked at Gabrielle with one eyebrow raised and pursed her lips, "I dare you to find out."

The End.


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