Part 1

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Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, and any other characters you recognize are property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance, and are used without permission. This story is property of the author, namely me, and may not be reproduced, retransmitted, or posted anywhere without my expressed permission.
Warnings: Rated NC-17. If you're underage, or if you're in any way opposed to the idea of two women (or two men) in love and/or in bed, stop reading now. This story contains explicit sexual content, as well as probably some four-letter words.
Timeline: After "Dirty Half Dozen" but before "Deliverer"
Major Spoilers: Furies, DHD, The Price
Minor Spoilers: Orphan of War, ADITL, all episodes featuring Ares
Please read the
Author's Notes at the end of this chapter.
Xenite Disclaimer: No offspring were permanently harmed during the creation of this fanfic. However, the author highly recommends the use of Salmoneous' Trojan Shield condoms -- regular, lubricated, or Ribbed For Her Pleasure.

   Was ever woman in this humour woo'd?
   Was ever woman in this humour won?
   I'll have her; but I will not keep her long.
   What! I, that kill'd her husband and his father,
   To take her in her heart's extremest hate,
   With curses in her mouth, tears in her eyes,
   And I nothing to back my suit at all,
   But the plain devil and dissembling looks,
   And yet to win her, all the world to nothing!
             --Shakespeare: King Richard III, act I scene 2

"Gabrielle, all I'm saying is that's not how it happened."

"But it is, I mean that's how it'll be remembered," Gabrielle insisted, hurrying after her friend. "Xena, a good bard knows that what really happened isn't important. It's how you portray it in order to move the soul of the listener."

"So turning five men into a dozen is more moving?" Xena chided, but her eyes twinkled. Gabrielle gave her a shove.

"You know what I mean. Anyway, there were a dozen once the reinforcements arrived."

"Yeah, by which time the first five were all unconscious."


The two women laughed lightly, moving down the road.

"Xena, do you-" Gabrielle stopped abruptly as Xena raised a hand for silence. Both could clearly hear the sounds of a battle.

Stepping to the edge of the road, they looked out over a meadow, the ground curving down and back up. At the bottom of the far hill, several figures were engaged in fighting. The lone woman seemed to be holding her own against a number of assailants; long dark hair whipped in the afternoon breeze as she whirled in the savage dance of battle. She wore short leather leggings and a loose tunic, and wielded her sword with skill. In fact, her fighting style was eerily similar to Xena's; Gabrielle had to look to the woman beside her to be sure.

"Xena, she's all by herself," the bard whispered. Xena nodded grimly.

"And those are no ordinary mercenaries," Xena said. "They're the minions of Ares. She doesn't stand a chance."

But even as the words left Xena's lips, the last attacker fell under a blow of the woman's foot. As the men struggled, groaning, to get to their feet, Ares materialized and scoffed with disgust.

"Pathetic," his voice carried clearly even to where Xena and Gabrielle stood. He waved his hand, and his minions evaporated. Ares turned and strode toward the top of the hill.

"Ares!" The woman's shout came faintly to the two observers, as she threw down her sword and ran after the God of War. He paused at the highest point of the hill, glanced down at her, laughed cruelly, and disappeared.

The woman collapsed in an untidy heap halfway up the hill.

"Come on." Dropping Argo's reins, Xena pushed through the bushes lining the road and sprinted across the meadow. Gabrielle followed closely behind.

They reached the woman at the same time, but it was Gabrielle who went to her knees and put her hands on the trembling shoulders. When the woman's head came up, they saw that her face was streaked with tears.

"Hey, it's all right," Gabrielle soothed. "Here...." Smoothing the woman's dark hair back from her face, she brushed away the tears. "Take a deep breath, okay?"

Xena glanced around the recent battlefield, her brow furrowing. Finally she turned to face the other warrior, her eyes narrowed with suspicion. "You fought the minions of Ares like a demon," she said. "Yet you ran toward him, not away. Why?"

The woman lifted her chin, meeting Xena's eyes without hesitation. "He has my baby," she said simply.

"My name is Anaira," the woman explained some time later, gratefully accepting the cup of tea Gabrielle put in her hands. The three women sat around a hastily constructed fire, some distance from the ill-fated spot where Aneira had battled the minions. "I come from Camidia, across the mountains."

"I know it," Xena said. "Go on."

"A few years ago, my best friend and her betrothed were killed by marauders," Anaira explained. "In my grief, I became obsessed with killing. I studied the fighting techniques of Hercules and Xena." Her glance across the fire told that she knew to whom she was speaking. "I was determined to become a brilliant warrior, to rid the world of the scum who killed innocents in my town. It was then that Ares came to me." She looked uneasily at Xena, who did not react.

"He told me he would make me the best warrior that ever lived. He would train me to fight, and then he would give me a mighty army and guide me to victory against my enemies. Well, I'm sure you know the smooth words," she said self-deprecatingly.

Xena's expression remained stony, but Gabrielle could read the tension in her jaw. The story was hitting a little too close to home.

"Anyway, I was blinded by rage. I agreed. Ares took me under his wing and trained me. His attention was ... seductive." Her lips twisted wryly. She and Xena exchanged a look of understanding.

"But by the time my training was complete, and I was prepared to take control of the army as promised .... my rage had cooled. My grief over my friend's death had faded, and I realized that more killing wasn't going to do any good. So I told Ares I had changed my mind."

"Ooh," Gabrielle said in surprise. "That took guts. I'll bet he was furious."

"Yes," Anaira agreed, shifting uncomfortably at the memory. "Only the intervention of Artemis kept him, I think, from striking me dead on the spot."

"Artemis came to your rescue?" Gabrielle was enthralled. "What happened?"

"She made Ares promise he wouldn't injure me. I gathered she was calling in a favor he owed her, although I didn't really understand what they said to each other. Anyway, he cast me out. I went back to my town with nothing but the clothes on my back." She took another deep breath.

"And then I found out I was pregnant."

Gabrielle sucked in her breath. Across the firepit, Xena looked stricken. She got to her feet and moved to the edge of the firelight, turning her back on the others. Gabrielle watched her anxiously for a moment before turning back to their guest.

"So what did you do?" she asked gently.

Anaira sighed. "I was terrified of what might happen. But then Artemis came to me again. She told me not to worry -- that she would protect me and my child, and keep Ares from learning of our whereabouts. She said that as soon as the baby was born, she would put a glamour on it so that Ares would never know it was his child and he would leave us alone."

"And it worked?" Gabrielle prompted.

"Yes, it worked well enough. My daughter and I were safe for the time being." Another sigh. "Until the day when Ares found out. I still don't know how. He appeared out of nowhere, grabbed her and was gone." She gave Gabrielle a look of anguish. "That was two weeks ago, and I've been trying to find my way into Olympus ever since, to get her back."

"Your daughter," Xena said, turning back to the fire. "She has the blood of Ares in her veins." Her expression was intense, making the other warrior recoil slightly. Gabrielle bit her lip.


"Does she have ... special abilities? Powers beyond those of a mortal?" Xena's tone was strained, almost desperate. In a flash of insight Gabrielle realized some of the thoughts that must have been tormenting her friend in the days since her encounter with the Furies. Gabrielle's own words came back to her: am I who I am, or who you made me? Had Xena been silently asking the same of Ares for weeks now?

"I ... she's only a child," Anaira protested weakly, her eyes wary as she watched Xena. "I don't know the full extent of her powers yet. She's certainly very ... strong ... for her age...."

"Xena," Gabrielle said swiftly, standing up, drawing the attention of both warriors to her. "Anaira is tired. She needs to rest. After she gets some sleep, we can discuss how we're going to get her daughter back." She narrowed her eyes at Xena, silently telling her to drop it ... for the moment.

Xena relented. "Gabrielle's right," she told Anaira, her voice roughened by tightly suppressed emotions. "You should rest for a while. We'll keep watch."

"Thank you," the other woman said earnestly. She appeared to struggle for more words, but at last she merely turned, stretched out on the ground and laid her head upon her arm.

Gabrielle and Xena moved a short distance away, out of earshot. "We should find a better campsite," Xena said uneasily, turning her head as she tried to look in every direction at once. "This one isn't very well shielded and if Ares tries to send more of his minions...."

"Xena," Gabrielle interrupted. "Are you sure you can handle this? Maybe we should send for Hercules. He could-"

"I can handle it," Xena said, interrupting in turn. "Leave it alone, Gabrielle."

"No, I won't," Gabrielle said with unaccustomed sharpness. Grabbing Xena's elbow, she forced her friend to look her in the eye. "You haven't once talked about Ares since we left Amphipolis. Even when we went against him and Agathon, you didn't want to talk about it. I think it's time we talked about it."

"What do you want me to say?" Xena shot back, yanking her arm out of Gabrielle's grasp. "That Ares is my father, and I hate it? Everything I've worked for, every decision I've made, every time I've tried to change who I am ... it's all been a lie, because war and destruction are in my blood. I can't avoid it. I shouldn't even be pretending to be on the side of goodness. It's all a lie!"

"It's not a lie!" Grabbing Xena's arms again, Gabrielle stood her ground. "Xena, all that is a crock and you know it. You *are* a good person. Even if Ares is your father, which we still haven't proved, that doesn't change who you are. It doesn't change all the goodness that you've created in the past two years. It can't!"

"It does!"

"No!" Gabrielle's grip on Xena's upper arms had tightened, but neither woman noticed. "Xena, nothing Ares can say or do will change who you are. You're the daughter of Cyrene. She raised you to be a decent person, and that's what you are. It was Ares who instigated the fight that killed your father -- your real father -- and made you become a warlord, but he couldn't change your basic nature, and that's why you eventually turned back to the good way!"

Xena relented suddenly, dropping her eyes, her arms going limp in Gabrielle's hands. Her sigh was weary. "I know what you're going to say, Gabrielle. That this is why we need to help rescue Anaira's daughter -- save her from the corrupting influence of Ares, before it's too late. But maybe it's not such a good idea. Maybe she belongs with her father."

"How can you say that? She belongs with her mother!"

"Maybe she's better off," Xena insisted, her voice nearly a whisper. Gabrielle saw the glint of tears on her friend's cheeks. Her brow furrowed.

"This isn't just about you and Ares, is it?"

Xena twisted her arms away again, turning her face again toward the darkened forest. "I don't know what you mean. It's all about him."

"No. This is about Solon," Gabrielle realized aloud. "Oh, Xena. This whole thing is hard for you on two different levels."

"Gabrielle, this discussion is pointless," Xena said, making an attempt at her usual steely tone. It failed miserably. She gave a shaky sigh.

"Xena, after everything we've seen and done together, can't you be honest with me about your feelings?" Gabrielle said softly, without rancor. "We've been through too much in the past few weeks, and you still haven't properly dealt with all of it. That's why this is hitting you so hard."

"No." Xena turned, reluctantly, and faced Gabrielle directly. "It's hitting me hard because I've been there. I've been where Anaira is, and I've been where her daughter is. Okay? Are you satisfied?" They stared into each other's eyes for a long moment. As usual, Xena masked her pain with belligerence. As usual, Gabrielle refused to be fooled. At last Xena sighed and added, "I'm sorry."

"No, it's all right."

"No, I shouldn't have snapped at you. You're right about everything, Gabrielle. This whole situation punches all of my sore spots and it makes me uncomfortable." She glanced over at the sleeping form of their new acquaintance. "Which is exactly why I -- we -- have to see this through. I need to help her, Gabrielle. I need to."

Gabrielle nodded silently in understanding, her own eyes following Xena's gaze. "She looks so much like you. It's obvious why Ares was attracted to her." Xena's head came up.


"I'm sorry," the bard said quickly. "But you know it's true."

"Let's not talk about that right now, okay?" Xena's tone was gruff, but her eyes held a pleading look that made Gabrielle's heart twinge in sympathy. It was clear that their brief conversation had left Xena more emotionally raw than Gabrielle had realized or anticipated. The young bard merely nodded again, and then moved in to put her arms around the tall warrior.

Xena's body remained stiff, trembling with the effort of control, but her arms came up and wrapped tightly around her friend, squeezing hard. Gabrielle closed her eyes and tried to hold back tears.

After a few moments, they disengaged and Xena moved silently into the woods to compose herself and check on Argo. Gabrielle added a few more sticks to the fire, poking it back to life, before going to gently shake Anaira's shoulder.

"We're going to help you," the young bard promised. "But we can't do any more travelling till morning. We'll eat and then the three of us can alternate watches."

Anaira looked ready to protest, but she shook it off and said instead, "I appreciate your kindness..."


"...Gabrielle. But I really can't bring you and Xena into this. This is my problem."

Gabrielle laid a hand on the other woman's arm. "No, you don't understand. Ares and Xena have ... a history. Xena wants to help. She needs to help. And where she goes, I go."

Anaira's brow creased slightly, but she nodded. "Then I thank you. And I welcome any ideas the two of you have."

"Well ... I'm an Amazon princess," Gabrielle confided. "Maybe I could talk to Artemis."

"Oh? Have you ever met her?"

"Well, no," Gabrielle confessed. "But she is the patron goddess of the Amazons, so it's worth a try ... don't you think?"

"Yes, of course. But I must admit, Gabrielle, I-"

"-don't want to wait till morning," Xena finished, reentering the clearing. "There's no reason we can't contact Artemis tonight. I gathered some herbs for the purpose." She threw down a handful of herbs and another of dead quail.

"Um ... okay," Gabrielle said uncertainly, picking through the herbs. "Well, let's see." She stood up. "Great Artemis -"

"Gabrielle, I never commune with a god on an empty stomach," Xena began, but it was too late. The air in the clearing shimmered as the goddess took form, dressed as usual in full battle armor.

"Um - wow," Gabrielle squeaked, taken aback. Xena straightened up and lifted her chin. Unconsciously, Anaira did the same.

"You rang, my little princess?" the goddess said, seeming amused. She glanced across the fire at Anaira and sobered. "Oh."

"My lady," Gabrielle began. She was uncertain how to address the goddess, but once she got started, it was easier. "We beg your help with this matter. The god of war has-"

"Taken the child, yes, I know," Artemis said grimly. "I'm very sorry." She looked at Anaira. "I regret there is no more I can do for you."

"What?" Xena exclaimed. Anaira looked resigned, although her shoulders drooped.

"Listen," Xena said angrily, moving forward, but Gabrielle put up a hand and Xena, unexpectedly, subsided.

"Artemis, there must be something you can do. You helped her once. She needs your help again."

"I'm sorry," the goddess repeated. "There are events beyond my control -- things are happening on Olympus that I may not speak of. I cannot intervene with Ares again. I've already angered him with my previous actions."

"We don't need you to intervene directly," Gabrielle said, putting all the force of persuasion she could muster into her voice. "Ares already knows the baby is his, we can't change that. We just need to get to him so we can save the child."

Artemis pressed her lips together, looking pained. "I - I suppose there might be something," she said reluctantly. "But this, and no more."

"Okay...." All three women looked in confusion around the clearing, which was suddenly empty save the three of them.

"Where did she go?" Anaira asked.

"I don't know. So tired...." Gabrielle murmured.

"Me too." Xena's eyelids drooped. Anaira watched in astonishment as the other two women slumped to the ground.

Gabrielle found herself at the foot of a mountain, which she knew at a glance to be Mount Olympus. Pushing forward, she crashed through some bushes and discovered a cave, all but hidden by vegetation on the mountain's face. Her body seemed to move of its own accord, ducking into the cave and walking swiftly through the passageway inside.

In short order, she had found her way to a flight of stairs, which took her to a luxuriously appointed hallway. Moving slowly, as if all her limbs were too heavy to move, she proceeded down the hall until she came to a single huge oaken door. Engraved in gold on its face was a stylized sword symbol.

Gabrielle watched, fascinated, as her hand rose from her side and closed around the doorknob. She felt it give way and turn under her palm.

Gabrielle opened her eyes and saw stars. She was back in the clearing, staring up at the night sky. She sat up, and saw that Xena was doing the same. They looked at each other, blinking.

"I can get us in," Gabrielle and Xena said in unison. Anaira turned in startlement from her watchpost at the edge of the clearing.

"What? What is it?" she asked, confused, looking from one to the other.

"It must have been Artemis," Gabrielle said slowly, getting to her feet. "She sent us a vision to tell us how to get into Mount Olympus."

"So we can get in?" Anaira said, a glimmer of hope shining in her eyes.

"We can get in," Xena confirmed. "But first we need to get there. It's a full day's walk to Olympus. We should go to sleep so we can get started first thing."

"But first we should eat," Gabrielle added, bending to pick up the forgotten quail. "Hey, these herbs you gathered will make a great seasoning."

Author's Notes

Author's Note 1: This story assumes that the revelations of "The Furies" are true... or at least that all characters involved believe them to be true. I personally am not convinced either way, but it certainly makes for a more riveting story.
Author's Note 2: In light of the above, some readers may find the Ares/Xena interactions a little ... disturbing. Well, that's the ancient Greeks for ya.
Author's Note 3: In first-season episode "The Reckoning," when Ares visits Xena it is strongly implied that this is the first time they've come face-to-face. I choose not to believe that. In my Xenaverse, they met at least once, probably more, during Xena's evil warlord days.

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Last updated 14 December 1999