Subtext Reports
Those crazy posts about the episodes originally posted to the nutforum and saved here for posterity in their error riddled entirety (since they were written 'on the fly'). 
Homecoming Series
A series of five (not so short) stories about Xena and Gabrielle building their life together as a couple. 
Magic Series
Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas find love as they uncover more writings of Gabrielle about her warrior princess. 
Conversations by Campfire Series
Set during Season Four, parts of the episodes are worked into chats between Xena and Gab, particularly the subject of Najara and the bard. 
Changes of Heart Series
My take on what happened after Gabby got Chakram'ed upside the head by Xena in the Season Five ender. 
Bonding of Souls Series
This series picks up where 'Changes of Heart' ends with Xena and Gabby back together. Each 'episode' is an expansion of the episodes of Season Six.
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
How DID Ares get stuck in that tomb from the Xena Scrolls? This story answers that question. 
The Play
Xena and Gabrielle have to play the leads in a performance for a ruthless king to save Salmoneus' neck. Unexpected consequences and confessions are the result. 
The Queen, the Regent, the Warrior
Xena leaves Gabrielle in the care of the amazons, only to have Ephiny and Gabby fall in love. Xena does return and chaos and secret confessions follow.
The Contest
Ares and Aphrodite battle over Xena's spirit. 
Loss of Virginity
Romantic musings from one of our gals. 
Moment of Truth
Gabrielle does anything it takes to keep Xena out of a battle that's foretold to take the warrior princess' life. 
Thank the Gods For Henbane
At an Amazon festival Gabrielle has one too many henbane brownies, which results in a funny and sexy night for Xena. 
As It Should Be
The Queen gets taken by the Warrior Princess at the Amazon Village.
Family Ties
Xena takes Gabrielle back to home to spend a little time with the 'in-laws'. 
Dueling Cousins
Xena's look-alike cousin, Sappho, has always been competitive but now the Tenth Muse wants the ultimate prize - Gabrielle. 
The End
Alternate 'demise' of Xena and Gabrielle based on the Season Four crucifixion. 
Truth or Dare
Sexy romp between Callisto and Gabrielle set during 'A Necessary Evil' 
November 29th, 1942
A little romance fic between Janice and Mel. 
Inside Outside
Set after the events of 'A Family Affair', it's a scene told through the eyes of four people - Gabrielle's Father, Mother, Gabrielle herself and Xena.
Something To Talk About
Xena and Gabrielle's friends are all surprised that the pair aren't lovers so they consider why not.
Henbane, Horsenappings and Other Obstacles
A 'murphy's law' comedy where everything that can go wrong for Xena and Gabby but, of course, they still end up saving the day.
All That Matters
During Gabrielle's birthday party in' Takes One To Know One', Xena reflects on her love for the bard.  
Warlord
What if Gabrielle was actually the one behind all the folks who influenced Xena's journey toward good? 
Have Yourself a Merry Little Solstice
A little Winter Solstice tale that's available in general (not lovers) and alternative (lovers). .
Little Moments: A Day in the Desert
A tale told through the eyes of Janice and then Mel while on a dig.  
Candy or Chaos
'Classic Xena' general Halloween story with Xena and Gabby return for the Potiedaia Harvest Festival.
Conquering Heroine
Gabrielle is the Conqueror in this piece. How exactly? Give it a read and find out. 
Watching and Waiting
Set after FIN II, Xena watches from afar as Gabrielle moves on with her life. 
1971
Police Office Carol and Protestor Erin clash but find they're fighting for the same things. A short story based on my novel, 'One Belief Away'. 

Title: Changes of Heart Pt. 3

Author: CN Winters

Fandom: Xena Fanfiction, Xena fanfic, Xena fan fiction, Xena and Gabrielle fanfiction, Xena fiction

Rating: PG to NC-17

Disclaimers: These characters arenít mine. They belong to Mr. Tapert and Co. Iím just borrowing them to vent. Itís not a happy tale and it involves two women who once loved each other deeply. If either of these facts disturb you donít read this tale. Also it contains spoilers for the last few eps of season five.

Author Note: Like most Xena Gab shippers season five was a joke and the ender, with Xena hitting Gabby in the head with her chakram was the straw that broke the camel's back. I wrote this series in response to my anger and the total character assignation of season five. Enjoy!

Synopsis: Xena with Herc's help tries to make Ares immortal while Gabrielle travels with her new 'sidekicks' Eponin and August on the road to Athens. 

Feedback: Drop me a line at cnwinters71@yahoo.com.

Changes of Heart Part III

KNOWLEDGE

"Up and over. Up and over. Again. Up and over."

August released a deep sigh and let the staff fall to the ground. "I told you. I donít want to be a warrior."

Gabrielle released a sigh of her own and picked up the fallen weapon. 

"Thatís good," she said as she tossed it back to her student. "But this training isnít about war. Itís about self-reliance and protection. If youíre gonna be living in a big city like Athens, you better damn well know how to protect yourself."

"Arenít you the one who said to run away if trouble comes?" August questioned.

"Yes," the bard answered. "But there might be a time when you have to stand and fight. If that time comes, itís better to be prepared."

"Okaaay," August groaned and rolled her eyes.

Impulsive, stupid kid. Come on breath Gabrielle. Take it easy.

"August," Gabrielle said in the most even voice she could muster, "why donít we take a break from this huh? Go see if you can work on your fishing skills and get us some lunch, okay?"

August grumbled as she went to the fishing poles. 

"Yet another skill I donít need Ė fishing. There are tons of inns and taverns in Athens."

Gabrielle heard the comment, but let it go. Sure, there are lots of place to eat, but lots of places want money and if money is short you have to make due. 

"Oh boy," Gabrielle sighed as she made her way over to Eponin who was trying to hold back a chuckle. She plopped down next to Eponin with a soft thud. She was already exhausted from todayís lessons - not a physical tired, but an emotional and intellectual tired. For every reason Gabrielle gave in their discussions, August had a counter point.

"Sheís a head strong kid," Eponin remarked. "Not unlike a certain amazon princess once upon a time."

"You must be thinking of some OTHER amazon princess because it certainly couldnít be me that youíre making the comparison to." Gabrielle grinned.

"Ohhh noooo," Eponin teased.

Gabrielle considered for a moment. "Was I really like THIS?" she asked, waving a hand toward August who was now at the riverbank, casting off.

"Like her? No. You were a different kind of head strong," Eponin answered.

"Meaning?"

"Meaning you had ideals, but you didnít narrow yourself into a corner. August is very used to village life. I think sheís going to have difficulty adjusting, but who knows. A few more weeks with us, a small scuffle to see how dangerous life really is... it might be enough to turn her around."

Gabby watched the young woman as Eponin spoke.

"You do realize sheís in love with you, donít you?" Eponin remarked.

"Yeah, I realize."

Now or never. "You do realize that Iím in love with you, donít you?"

Eponin could feel herself swallow hard. There - I said it. Gabrielle gave a crooked grin, but continued to watch the young woman in front of her.

"Yeah, I realize."

Eponin played with one of the sais that Gabby gave her to hold onto during the staff sparing session with August. The longer the silence lasted, the heavier it felt in her grasp.

"So tell me the truth," Eponin asked when Gabrielle didnít add more. "After all these weeks on the road so far... do you think itís possible for a lovely, young lady like yourself to fall for an aging ex-amazon with graying hair?"

Gabrielle turned to face her companion, hoping to choose the right words. 

"Itís me."

"Here it comes," Eponin sighed. 

"Really, that's not some throw-away line. Iím not ready to move on... but if I were, then, yes, Iíd say itís quite possible."

"Well, Iíll tell you what?" Eponin said cheery, rising to her knees to face Gabrielle.

"What?" Gabrielle smiled warmly.

Eponin closed the distance between them to where they were mere inches apart and her voice took on a deeper, more serious tone. "Iíll stick it out my queen and when youíre ready... Iím all yours."

Eponin closed the distance and proceeded to leave a slow burning kiss on Gabrielleís lips. Gabrielle for her part felt herself sinking into the kiss. Oh my! How longís it been since Iíve been kissed like this? Donít worry. Just enjoy. Her eyes closed and she could feel her temperature go up a notch. When she felt Eponin pull away, she opened her eyes to see her friend smiling at her.

"Eponin-."

"Shh," the ex-amazon said placing a soft finger against her lips. "Whatever argument youíre going to give, please donít." Gabrielle complied and with that Eponin rose to her feet and dusted herself off. "Iím gonna help the young one with lunch. Why donít you get a fire started?"

Gabrielle could only nod and soon she watched Eponin walk over to August to give her a few pointers before she mindlessly began picking up sticks.

Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy. Come on Gabrielle. Donít start feeling guilty here. It was just a kiss. A wonderful intense mind to the sex to the toes to the sex again kinda kiss. But still itís just a kiss. And besides youíre free. You washed your hands of the warrior princess. You donít owe her anything. Youíre not being unfaithful. Of course you were almost unfaithful that night you learned Xena was pregnant and you were SURE she cheated on you... but that was different. You were drunk and angry and if not for Amarise stumbling into the back of that tavern you might have very well did more than share one kiss with that barmaid... That was foolish and stupid... but this is nothing to feel foolish or stupid about. Eponin is a wonderful friend and judging by that kiss sheís probably a wonderful lover. But no more kisses. Youíve got to figure out what you want for your life before you bring anyone else into it... Okay... What was I doing?... Oh yeah, firewood.

"Look at this!"

The excited voice of August waving a huge salmon in Gabrielle's face caught her attention to say the least.

"And she did it all on her own," Eponin commended, patting the girl on the back.

Gabrielle smiled. "And I bet it will taste better than any fish you could buy in Athens." Gabby winked.

"Can you show me how to cut it, Eponin?" the young woman asked wiggling it in front of her.

"You mean gut; not cut, and, yes, Iíll show you," Eponin said waving the girl over to a nearby rock. "Come on over."

Gabrielle watched her Ďsidekicksí begin the procedure as Eponin took a moment to look up and admire the bard for a moment before getting to her task. She gave a small wink and Gabrielle could feel herself blush.

"This trip is turning out a lot longer than I plan," Gabrielle mumbled to no one but herself. "...and quite educational."

COMPLICATIONS

"Mother! Hold on!"

Son of a Bachee! Damn it, this hurts!

Xena teetered on the edge of the cliff after losing her footing on a loose rock.

"No!" Hercules shouted to Eve who was going to try to scale back down to get a grasp on Xena. "Iím immortal. You two stay here," he ordered.

Xenaís good arm that she used to hold onto the over hanging brush was getting tired. She knew she couldnít use the other one in spite of the pain. Herc had to hurry or she was certainly going to lose her grasp and fall to the valley below.

"Did you break it?" Herc asked when he got close enough.

Xena knew just what he was talking about. She could feel the arm limp at her side. "Yeah, I think so... Gods be damned!"

"Just calm down," Herc said sensing her distress. "Weíll get you up the hill."

"Thatís great, but how am I supposed to get back down again like this?" Xena jabbed.

"Letís concentrate on one problem at a time, shall we?" Herc teased. "First, we have to get you back on the hill." He grinned warmly. He got his footing and reached out grabbing Xena by the back of her battle dress. With a strong heave he picked her up, tossed her to the hillside.

"Arrgghhhhh!" Xena exclaimed as she landed, sending an even larger shooting pain up her arm. "For crying out loud! Did you have to THROW me?!"

Eve and Ares came over at that point to inspect her as Herc climbed back up to join the others.

"Looks broken," Ares said assessing Xenaís limb.

"No kidding, Plato," Xena snapped back.

"Weíll have to reset it," the ex-god told her. "Itís gonna hurt like Hades, Xena," he warned her.

"How would you know, Ares? At no point in your mortal life have YOU gone through this," Xena taunted.

"Hey," Ares said getting short. "Itís not my fault youíre so distracted thinking about that irritating blonde that you take a header down the mountain."

"You son of a - arggh." Xena was going stand up to charge Ares, but when she put weight on her arm to hoist herself up she realized that wasnít going to happen. Besides, heís right, Xena considered. I think about her more and more each day. One way or another Iíve gotta find her and get things settled once and for all.

"Are you ready?" Herc asked as he walked over to get a look at Xenaís injury.

Xena turned her head, biting into the shoulder strap of her breastplate. She gave a brief nod.

"Ares, find two of the straightest pieces of wood you can find. Weíll have to make a splint... Come here, Eve," Herc instructed. "Feel the arm... feel how itís out of place? Good. Keep touching it until you feel it together again, okay?"

Eve nodded nervously to Herc as she held her mother's arm.

"Ready?" Herc asked Xena. Xena closed her eyes. She bit down and nodded.

Without wasting another moment, Herc gave a light twist, given his strength. He didnít want to make it worse than it already was or snap her arm off entirely.

"Itís in!" Eve told him.

"Good, hold it there in place. Ares, the splints?"

Without comment, Ares handed over the pieces of wood he managed to locate on the hill.

"Very good," Herc commended as he examined the wood. Ares only nodded his thanks as he watched Herc and Eve wrap up Xenaís arm with bandages.

"Can I do something else?" Ares asked Herc.

"Yeah. Go get my pack," he answered. As Ares left, Herc turned back to Xena. "Iolaus made me take some of his special Ďbrewí for pain relief."

"Whatís in it?" Xena asked, her breathing labored in trying to fight the agony of her arm.

"I donít know," Herc chuckled. "He wonít tell me his Ďsecretí. He made me take it on the trip... just in case," Herc added.

"Heís a good man," Xena said managing a grin through her pain.

"Yeah, he certainly is," Herc agreed.

Ares returned with bag in hand and Herc weeding through it until he found the blue bottle. "Lift her up, Ares," he told the ex-god.

Ares knelt behind Xena and brought her to a sitting position as gently as possible, letting the warrior princess use him as a cushion.

"Here Xena, drink this," Herc told her lifting the vile to her lips.

Xena took a few sips and made the most hideous of faces.

"Yeah, it tastes pretty terrible, huh? But trust me, it works." He grinned. "Eve get the water skin. Donít drink the water," Herc instructed Xena as Eve retrieved the water pouch. "Just swish it around your mouth to get rid of the taste. If you drink you might dilute the potion."

When Eve handed Xena the water skin she did as he advised.

"Thanks," she said as she wiped her lips. "Thanks to all of you," she sighed.

Ares fingers absently found their way to Xenaís hair stroking it as he held her. For the first time since their adventure began Herc noticed... Ares really did love Xena. But judging by the look of discomfort that was rising to Xenaís face at the affection gesture, he would never have her devotion.

Herc felt sorry for Ares in some regard. Yes, they had their share of quarrels to say the least, but still... unrequited love was one of the worst feelings in the world. He knew the feeling. He knew that feeling with the warrior princess herself. He wanted her to be a part of his life forever, but Xena had matters to attend to and would never be able to love him the way he needed. He accepted that and wondered if Xena would ever find that love everyone needs. The first time he saw the way Xena looked at Gabrielle he realized... Xena had found her true match... It was a pity that Ares never saw it. He would always pine for something Xena could never give him Ė her heart. The warrior princessí heart was Gabrielleís and Gabrielleís alone.

"Well, there it is," Herc said looking over the troop to the top of the hill, "The Tree of Fieteus," he pointed.

TRUTHS

"Iíve finished a new poem," August said in a shy tone. "Would you like to hear it?"

"Certainly." The bard grinned, looking up from sharpening her sais. The only sounds to be heard were the chirping of a few crickets and the crackle of the campfire. Nervously, August cleared her throat.

"Toned and tan she glistens in the sun. Her body moves like lightening and in battle she never runs. Her hair is golden silk and blows lightly in the breeze and I pray to the gods that someday that sheíll look upon me. And in doing so I hope she sees the truth thatís really there. Of all the friends and faces Iím the one that really cares."

August fiddled with the bottom of the parchment and chewed lightly on her upper lip.

Oh boy. Gabrielleís fingers ran briefly through her growing locks, stopping at her temple to nurse her headache, which suddenly appeared. "August-."

"I love you, Gabrielle."

August looked as surprised as Gabrielle did by the omission.

"August, youíre a wonderful girl-."

Gabrielle didnít have the chance to continue. Suddenly, she was bombarded with the weight of the young lady upon her. Her lips latched tightly to hers. But as quick as the Ďattackí came, Gabrielle had the girl by the upper arms, keeping her at bay.

"Listen to me, August... please?"

Utter defeat washed over the young girlís face when she realized she wasnít quite as Ďwonderfulí as she assumed. Soon her cheeks became red with embarrassment.

"I got some huge rabbits!!" they heard Eponin say from behind them. The amazon looked at the scenario in front of her - Gabrielle with a firm grasp on August and August sitting in Gabrielleís lap. "Should I come back later?" Eponin asked sarcastically at the display before her. I donít believe it. She refuses ME, but sheíll take up with that... that... girl?

"Itís not what it looks like," Gabrielle explained.

"And it never will be either," August pouted rising to her feet. "Iím going for a walk," she announced and turned heel. "Iím sorry for being so foolish."

"August," Gabrielle called out. "Please stay. I want to speak with you."

"I think you said all you needed to say."

With that, Gabrielle and Eponin watched August go into the woods. Gabrielle let out a deep sigh and Eponin smiled.

"Whatís so funny?" Gabrielle asked thoroughly frustrated.

"You... you sexy thing you," Eponin chuckled. "All the women just go mad over you - myself included," she laughed.

"Well, you I can handle." Gabby smiled as she stood up. "August, however, is a little different."

"Youíre right you can handle me," Eponin said pulling the bard closer by the waist. "Anyway you want by the way," she added in a smoky tone.

Gabrielle chuckled in spite of a rising uneasiness about being so close to Eponin. She cared deeply for Eponin, but she knew she didnít love her. At least not the way one should with a lover - the way she loved Xena.

"I havenít been Ďhandledí in so long I think Iíve forgot how it goes," Gabrielle joked to lighten the mood Eponin was trying to set.

"Itís like riding a horse... once you learn you never forget. And Iíd be more than happy to reintroduce you to... Ďhandlingí." Eponinís fingers stroked Gabrielleís cheek and traced a tiny pattern down to her lips.

Gabrielle closed her eyes and against her better judgment she planted a light kiss on Eponin's finger, which halted itís movement. Gabrielle opened her eyes and took Eponinís free hand in hers.

"Itís a wonderful offer, but as Iíve said-."

"Youíre not ready," Eponin finished. "I understand. These things take time and Iím not gonna push... Look, why donít you find the kiddo and do the heart-to-heart chat, okay? Iíll get dinner going." Gabrielle smiled and pulled Eponin down, giving her a light kiss on the cheek. "Whatís that for?" the ex-amazon asked.

"Youíve really been wonderful to me these past few months when Iíve needed it most. Thank you."

Eponin released her hold and took Gabrielle gently by the hand, kissing her knuckles. "No, thank you. Iím honored to be your traveling companion. Now go find your admirer and set her straight."

Gabrielle nodded and started into the woods. She didnít have to go far. She found the young woman sitting on a fallen tree limb, soaked in the moonlight.

"August," Gabrielle called gently. "Will you talk to me now... please?"

"I have nothing to say Gabrielle. Iíve already said too much."

"Hey now," Gabrielle said taking a seat next to the young lady, "Thatís a beautiful poem, but youíve got the wrong woman. Iím not the one for you, honest. You might not believe that now, but itís true."

"Like I said, I was foolish."

"No, donít say that," Gabrielle said firmly. "Youíve got a lot of courage to put your feelings out like that. Iíve seen Ďbraverí people carry a torch for years and say absolutely nothing about how they really feel out of fear." Like Xena. "And Iíve cared for people too and couldnít give voice to it." Like me and Xena. "So donít ever think for a moment that youíre being a fool for telling someone how you feel, especially when those feelings are full of warmth and light. The true fool is one who never says anything and letís opportunities pass them by, never knowing what could have been. You may win. You may lose. But at least you were in the Ďgameí."

That brought a small grin to Augustís face. "So what youíre saying is that... itís better to love and lose than to never love at all."

Gabrielle considered it a moment. "Yes, thatís exactly what I mean."

"I should write that down," August thought out loud. "Thatís pretty good. Remind me to put that on my parchment when I get back."

Itís better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all? Yeah that is pretty good. In fact... thatís where Iím at now isnít it? I wished things had turned out differently. But in light of it all Iím still grateful for the time we had together. And I realize we both gave all we could to each other... this past year just hasnít been enough. And I canít go on being angry with Xena for not giving me something that she couldn't give. I loved. And I lost. But the game was wonderful while it lasted.

"Whatís that smile for?" August asked the bard as she watched the growing smile on Gabrielleís face.

Gabrielle tousled the hair on top of the young womanís head. "I donít think Iím angry anymore, Sweetie. That has nothing to do with you and I know you have no idea what Iím talking about," Gabrielle chuckled. "But trust me. Itís a good thing." Because if Iím not mad... then I can move on . . .wherever that may be...

DECISIONS

Xena, Eve, Hercules and Ares all meandered slowly up to the tree. It was a beautiful sight - Golden bark and leaves that bared silver fruit shaped like ovals. Ares lead the way and wrapped his fingers around the immortal food that was his for the taking. A few moments passed, but he still hadnít pulled the fruit from the tree.

"Is there a problem?" Xena asked getting a bit perturbed as she waited impatiently for the former god to collect the prize they had sought.

Ares let go of the fruit and turned around. "As a God you wouldnít give me the time of day, but as a mortal... Youíve helped me far greater than my expectations Xena... I love you... but I know if I eat this and become immortal Iíll never have the chance to win your love. As a mortal man I think I have that chance... I donít think I can do this. Iíd rather risk death and have a chance at winning your favor than to walk alone forever."

The circle stood in stunned silence for a moment.

"Excuse me?!" Xena exclaimed. "We traveled all the way up here. I broke my arm trying to get here. And NOW you decide you donít want to be immortal?! Please tell me he didnít just say that?" Xena added rhetorically to Herc, as she began to pace.

"I donít think I can do it," Ares mumbled sincerely.

"Ohhh," Xena growled in frustration.

"Look," Eve offered going over to the tree and plucking an oval. "Here," she said tossing it to the former god. "Donít eat it now. Take it with you and if you decide to change your mind and become immortal you can eat it whenever you please. Okay?"

Sheíd only known her mother for the course of a few months, but in that time Eve knew when Xena began to reach her Ďbreaking pointí. By the speed of Xenaís pacing, Eve knew that Ďpointí was close at hand. Perhaps offering a solution to both of them was the key to keeping the peace.

"Iím gonna kill him," Xena mumbled repeatedly as she walked back and forth.

Herc stopped her on one of her passes by him, "No youíre not," he told her as diplomatically as possible. "I think Eve has a wonderful idea. Take the fruit," Herc told Ares, "and if the time comes that you change your mind itís all yours, okay?"

Ares walked over and faced Xena. "Iím sorry," he told her sincerely. "I appreciate what youíve done for me here... what all of you have done... but if I thought there was no way at all that I could win your hand Iíd eat this in a minute... But I know that somewhere deep down inside, you love me too, Xena."

Oh for crying out loud... why me? Xena wondered silently as she pinched the bridge of her nose, hoping to release the dull throb that was beginning from her frustration. Patience, Xena. Focus. Have patience.

"Ares," Xena began, "Thanks... but no thanks. Iím not going to love you the way you want me too. That is never going to happen because I found my true love... Granted, what I had with you was special. There will always be this Ďbondí I have with you. But thatís not the course I want to take on my lifeís journey. Gabrielle is the one I want to travel with in this life and the next and the next and the next. I swear by any god or goddessí you name, I will search until I find her, in this life and all others. So, yes, I love you too, Ares because youíve helped me when no one else would, but youíll never be my soulmate... never. And thatís what you need to find to really understand love... Iím sorry I canít be the one. I would, but... Iím already taken." Xena grinned bittersweetly and kissed Ares on his cheek. She took the fruit from his hand and placed it in his saddlebag. "Now letís find a way off of this rock."

"Maybe you can call on your One God to help you," Ares playfully jabbed.

"I think the One God helps those that help themselves," Xena countered with a grin as she considered a way down the mountain. Hey! I got it! "But we might still have some help from Olympus." Xena turned and faced the valley below taking a deep breath. "Aphrooooditeeeeee!" she yelled as loud as she could.

A glittering shower appeared as the Goddess of Love materialized.

"You rang?" she replied with a teasing grin.

"Yes, I did. Do you think thereís anyway you could... you know... do your goddess thing and get us outta here?" Xena asked, unsure of how Dite would respond.

Dite looked to Herc first who gave a guilty shrug. 

"So you got up here, but now you canít get down, huh? Bummer babe," she responded as she started to fade away.

"Hold on!" Herc called, making her come back to her solid form again. "Look, I know that Ares and Xena arenít your favorite folks in the world," Herc began. "But Iíd really appreciate it if youíd lend us a hand... so please... will you help us?"

Dite crossed her arms in defiance and looked at the group around her. 

"She killed my husband," Dite said pointing to Xena. "Hephaestus is gone and all because of that little brat, whom Ares swore to take care of," she added pitching a thumb to Eve and Ares. "... Iíll get you off the mountain Herc, but the rest of them-."

"No. All of us," Herc insisted. "I canít leave them here."

Dite let out a deep sigh. "If I do this you owe me big time, got it?"

"Always," Herc answered, extending his hand in a deal. As soon as they locked palms, both of them they disappeared. Seconds later Dite was back.

"Whoís next?"

"Her," Xena and Ares said in harmony as they both pointed to Eve. The warrior and former god shared a grin for thinking the same thing as Dite and Eve disappeared.

A few seconds later, Dite returned. "Next!" she said impatiently.

"Ladies first," Ares replied to the two women.

"How gallant," Dite snickered. With that Dite and Xena were gone and Ares stood alone on the hill.

Seconds later, Dite appeared. "Looks like itís just you and me Bro," she replied as she returned.

"Yeah, it looks that way," Ares answered. When he didnít give a sarcastic reply, Dite looked deeper and could see his heartbreak.

"Ares," she began, "Itís all for the best. Xenaís right about this... Sheís not the one for you."

Ares gave a light chuckle in spite of his dark mood. "So tell me ever powerful goddess of love, will the ex-god of war ever find love?"

"Most definitely." She grinned. "But itís gonna take time so hang onto that fruit. Ya might need it," she answered giving him a chuck on the shoulder. "Come on, letís get you somewhere safe, okay?"

Ares nodded and with that they vanished from the hill.

Herc, Eve and Xena all looked around at their surroundings, trying to place the town they were standing in when Dite returned alone.

"Whereís Ares?" Eve asked.

"I sent him on another path," Dite answered. "Your path is here," she told Xena and Eve.

"And just where is Ďhereí?" Xena asked.

"About three towns from Athens, in a tiny town called Aterrus," Dite answered.

"Athens?" Xena asked. "I have to get to Potiedaia," she stressed.

"Look," Dite replied. "Thereís a big bad warlord on the way here and these folks need your help. It would be WISE, hint hint, to stick AROUND," she added.

"No," Xena answered, with the bard being the only thing on her mind. "Everything else came first before Gabrielle and this time Iím putting her front and center. I canít stay here."

Dite sighed. "Are all warriors this thickheaded?" she asked Herc. Herc just chuckled. "Listen, babe," Dite began. "Iíve heard your thoughts. Iíve listened to your conversations and I can see your ready and rariní to get your bard back, so trust me... hang out here, take in the sights, go easy on the mead... Poteidaia is not the place you want to be right now. Get it?" Realization washed over Xenaís face and she started to look around the town. "Relax... sheís not here. Not yet anyway, so just chill."

"Thank you," Xena said sincerely.

"Donít thank me," Dite said. "Iím just setting up locale. The events to follow will all be your doing so you better make damn sure you make the right choices. Gabrielle isnít mad anymore so that means one of two things - sheíll move on with someone new or sheíll consider trying to build a life with you again... This is your moment of truth warrior princess so donít blow it."

Xena nodded self-assured in the fact she could Ďdo the right thingí and she couldnít hold back her grin at the prospect of seeing Gabrielle again. Iím going to see her again! she thought excited. She missed her so much and the ache returned stronger than ever. A moment later, however, a butterfly feeling grabbed her stomach and a nervous nature took over despite her joy. Oh Lord Iím going to see her again. What am I going to do? What am I going to say-?

"Well, little bro what do you think?" Dite said to Herc halting Xenaís worried mind long enough to hear their conversation. "Time to get you back to that hunky blonde in the cottage?"

Herc chuckled. "Sure, as long as you think Xena can handle things here in the village."

"Who? The warrior princess?" Dite teased. "Oh yeah... this little pissant wonít be a problem. Sheís a big gal - she can handle it. Now weíll get to see if itís true if she can fight with one hand tied behind her back," Dite remarked, pointing to Xenaís arm.

"Very funny." Xena grinned.

Dite winked and put her arm around Herc. "Kudos, chicky babies. Weíre outta here," she said snapping her fingers.

"Good luck, Xena," Herc told her as they began to vanish. Xena knew that Herc wished her well in the upcoming battle, but these well wishes meant something deeper - her relationship with Gabrielle.

"Thanks for everything, Hercules," she told him sincerely before he was out of sight.

Once alone, Eve and Xena looked around them. "So now what?" Eve asked.

"Well," Xena said putting her arm around her daughterís shoulder, walking deeper into town. "We hang out here, take in the sights, go easy on the mead." Xena grinned.

"And we wait for her," Eve added.

"Yes," Xena agreed. "We wait for her."

Continue to Part IV

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