Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Xena, Warrior Princess
Character/Pairing: Xena/Gabrielle, mentions of Ares/Xena and Ares/Aphrodite
Rating: Soft R/M
Challenge/Prompt: tv_universe: All Good Things (If you join, be sure to tell them Kat Lee of Team Bunny Ears sent YOU!)
Warning(s): [Spoiler (click to open)]Contains talk of rape and other abuse
Word Count: 1,994
Date Written: 28 November 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
He kneels by her side, rage flaring inside of him. This woman has always meant more to him than she should, than any meager human should, but her life should not have ended this way! Neither of theirs should have! Even if he could not have her for himself, their lives still should have been far more glorious, and longer, than they were, and she should never have died this way!
He has to look away as the warlords who killed her ravage her body. He can not be seen, can not be felt. He was supposed to be a God. He was supposed to have powers of which these bastards could never even dream. But he is powerless now, a mere ghost among the living. He can not even make the Earth shake as they do to her things he had always dreamed of but had never been able to force upon her. He could have, if he had used all his God powers at the time he had been the God of War, but he had never been able to force her in the end.
He’d always wanted her to join him of her own free will, but she never had. He can not help but to wonder now, if she had, if things would have been different. Would they have lived longer? Would his power have lasted longer? Would he have been stronger, strong enough to survive the Twilight of the Gods? Would he still be a God? Would she?
Things would have been better, Ares knows, if they had, but she had never joined and he had never forced her. He stands on the edge that separates the living from the dead, watching what is becoming of her body, waiting for what even he is not certain, and trying not to be sick, trying . . . not to cry.
He looks away, his lips pressed tightly together. Other ghosts have more power than this! They could at least scare the heartless thugs away from her body, but this is his first time back among them, his first time actually caring enough to want to make his presence felt. He reaches out and tries to feel the actual earth beneath his feet.
But then he does feel something, a slight change in the air. He wonders if it’s anything like the disturbances she used to feel when he had drawn nearer to her as he looks up and into her beautiful, blue eyes. She, too, is watching the warlord’s actions with her body in horror and disgust. Her lips tremble like she almost wants to smile when she spies him. “You never did that,” she whispers, nodding toward her body. “You could have -- you had more power than they ever will --, but you didn’t.”
He does smile, though it’s a thin disguise. “You never would have let me.”
“I had no intentions,” she growls, her eyes flashing dangerously, “of allowing them to -- to kill me, but you see what happened.”
“We all have one last battle, Xena.”
She looks away into the distance, genuine, deep sorrow filling her lovely face. He’s never known a woman as beautiful as she. Even Aphrodite’s divine beauty had always paled in the light of the Warrior Princess’ glory, at least to him. “That’s what this is, isn’t it?” she asks, her long, dark hair billowing about her. She’s never looked so small before, so fragile . . .
He steps closer, closing the distance between them in a single, mighty stride. He touches her shoulder. It’s the first time he’s touched her in such a very long time and one of the rare times that she does not instinctively try to pull away. “We all have to have our last battle sometime, Xena,” he says in a gentle whisper. He barely contains the sentiment that he wishes that this was not her last battle, that he would have given anything for her to have gone out in a better way, a fierier death, a more meaningful death, a death where her body was not destroyed as it is now being completely destroyed by these weak fools, their only strength being derived from this one battle where they outnumbered her to the point where even she, his strongest warrior ever, had not stood a chance against them.
“I just . . . I thought it would be different,” she whispers.
“So did I,” he admits. He reaches up and dares to stroke a strand of her long, silky hair. “I never wished to see you destroyed like this.”
She turns back to him, the first signs of a real smile gracing her upturned mouth. “I know,” she replies. “In the end, you stood with us,” she acknowledges gently, “not against us.”
“I loved you, you know,” he whispers, his heart aching. “If there was ever any being I loved -- “
“Besides myself,” she interjects, her lips twisting in a coy smirk.
“ -- besides myself,” he acknowledges to her surprise, “that being was you. You have been loved by many.”
“But there’s one still here,” she says, her head whipping away from his touch to look back toward the distance from whence she had come to fight this last, impossible battle. “She still needs me, Ares. I -- I still need her!”
He nods gravely. “When two beings love each other as much as you two do, they always need one another.”
She looks up at him in surprise. “You sound like Aphrodite now.”
His shoulders, muscular and strong even in death, rise in a shrug. “I’ve learned a lot from my sister, my lover, and from the two of you.”
“I can’t leave her, Ares!” His heart aches even more as he witnesses the tears filling her eyes. “There has to be a way!”
“Xena,” he says as gently as he can, “they’re making certain you can not return to your body.”
“But I have to return to her!”
“There is a way,” he says, “only one way.” He reaches out and pulls her hand into his. She doesn’t try to fight him. She’s tired of fighting. She’s ready to rest, but not to leave Gabrielle, never to leave the woman she loves. He blinks, and when he reopens his eyes, they’re standing in front of Gabrielle, Gabrielle who’s fuming because Xena left without her, Gabrielle who remains confident in her belief that Xena will return to her, Gabrielle who has no idea her love isn’t coming back alive this time, Gabrielle who has given Xena a plethora of reasons time and again to keep fighting, to keep surviving against impossible odds, to keep being the good warrior, the mighty Warrior Princess fighting for good people who can not fight for themselves, the Princess with whom she has shared so much over the years, including a love that not even death can quell.
Gabrielle looks right at them -- and through them. “She can not see us,” Ares explains, his voice low and soft despite the fact that they can not be overheard by the living.
“Because we’re dead,” Xena acknowledges, and he nods, his gold earring gleaming in the sunlight.
“But you can stay with her,” he says gently, “until she, too, is ready to leave this world.”
She looks up at him suspiciously. “Are you giving me that opportunity?” she asks, and he knows her next question will be to demand what he wants in return.
He shakes his head. “I was sent to collect your soul, but we have a choice when we die. We can choose to linger. I lingered for a while,” he admits, “to be close to you, both of you.”
For a moment, she considers the fact that he could have watched them at all times during the time he had been a ghost but hovering nearby them. He could have seen them cry, but then he sees her crying now, she remembers, as she wipes at her tears with cold fingertips. He could have seen them make love, but then, too, he could have always watched them making love and even she might not have known.
“I wasn’t ready to leave you,” he admits gently, and she lets those possibilities go. All the times they fought doesn’t matter. Everything he tried and failed to make her also does not matter. What matters was that he chose the right side in the end. He stood with them. He saved them more than once. But now, there is no one who can save her.
There is no one who can save her, but she doesn’t have to leave Gabrielle yet. She doesn’t have to abandon her beloved just yet. “How does this work?” she whispers.
“Some ghosts,” he says for that is what they are now, “do manage to show themselves to the living.” He casts a sly smile upon her. “It wouldn’t surprise me if you were one. You’ve always been pretty damn great at breaking all the rules.”
She wishes she could break this one, that she could somehow come back to life yet again, but he’s right. She saw what they did to her body. It’s uninhabitable at best now. Trying to return to it would just make her die all over again. But at least she can be with Gabrielle. And he’s right. Ghosts can make themselves visible. She doesn’t know how yet, but she will learn it.
“And you?” she asks, looking thoughtfully up at him. “What happens if you return without me?”
He flashes her a wide grin this time. “I didn’t know you cared,” he teases, but when her gaze does not change -- she only remains looking solemnly up at him --, he answers her question with truth, “It is a choice we all have to make for ourselves, Xena. This new God who’s in charge . . . He’s a lot more understanding than my Father ever was. You may not be able to return to the living, but He won’t force you from the land. It will be your choice to make when you’re ready to leave her.”
Xena gazes at Gabrielle, emotions swimming in her blue orbs. Ares already understands the truth that she does not voice: She will never be ready to leave her, not until Gabrielle is done in this land, too, and ready to move on. A bright light appears. Ares steps toward it. He’s standing inside of the bright, white light when Xena finally looks back up at him. “Ares?” she calls.
She smiles through her tears. “Thank you for coming.”
A part of him wants to rush from the light and hug her. He wants to hold her tight one last time, but he is being called. Her time on this Earth may not be over, but his is. “We’ll see each other again, Xena,” he promises, smiling pass his own tears, “my Princess.” He disappears before she can question him or deny his claim. She has always been his, and a part of her always will, but all that she is, he knows, belongs too to Gabrielle. He wishes them nothing but happiness as he goes home.
Left alone but not truly alone, Xena gazes upon Gabrielle. She can not yet see her. She does not yet know that she has lost her, but she hasn’t lost her, Xena reminds herself. She’s still here, and she will find a way to make Gabby see her, to tell her that she is not alone, to remind her that she will always, always love her. Their story isn’t over. Her own may be, but the latest chapter in Gabby’s life is just beginning and Xena’s going to be there for it every step of the way. She’ll never leave her, not until she’s ready to go with her to the next kingdom beyond this life, whatever it may hold. Then they’ll go together, just as they’ll continue traveling in this world together. This isn’t the ending; it’s just the next adventure.