Most of Gabrielle's duties were done now. She had sent word to Eve of her mother's death and now she stood in front of Xena's urn in the mausoleum in Amphipolis.
"Well Xena. Everything you would've wanted has been done. There's one more thing I want to do. I know you'd probably be mad, but I have to tell him. He loved you so much, and he deserves to know. I'll come back and visit as often as I can. I promise. I love you."
Gabrielle left in search of the last person left to be told of the death of the Warrior Princess.
Ares walked out of the small farmhouse into the crisp morning air. He'd gotten his powers back weeks ago, but he loved this place. It was so peaceful he just couldn't bring himself to get rid of it.
He closed his eyes, breathed in a deep breath of fresh air and was about to flash out when a familiar scent caught his attention. He began to smile but the smile faded when he opened his eyes and realized she was alone.
Gabrielle tried to smile as she jumped down off her horse and turned to face the God of War.
"I was hoping you'd be here," she said. "I need to speak to you."
"Xena's dead," he said plainly. "That's why you're alone isn't it?"
"Yes," she said honestly.
Ares looked down at the ground. "I should have known this."
"Ares, you couldn't have…"
"I should have known this, Gabrielle. I should have paid closer attention. I could've done something!"
"There's nothing you could've done, Ares," she said putting her hand on his arm to calm him. "She wouldn't have let you. You know that."
Ares nodded. "I know."
"I didn't know if you knew or not. But I felt I owed it to you to come to you."
"Thank you," he said quietly. "Would you…uh…would you like to come in?" he asked, trying to recompose himself a little.
Once inside, they sat in a thoughtful silence. Gabrielle wanted to say something to comfort him, but could think of nothing. After what seemed like forever, Ares finally broke the silence.
"So what are you going to do now?"
"I'm not sure. I thought I'd travel. Maybe to Egypt."
"Egypt? So far?"
"Yeah. Everything here has memories. And I can't deal with them right now."
"Oh. I guess I didn't make some of them very happy either, did I?"
"Not really," she said smiling. "But I'm past the things you did. I've forgiven you."
"You have? I thought you said you'd never forgive me."
Gabrielle smiled. "Girl has a right to change her mind doesn't she? Besides, most of the happy memories I have are when you're around."
"Really? Thank you."
"So will you be leaving soon?"
"Trying to get rid of me already?" Gabrielle said smiling.
"Of course not!" he said innocently.
"Uh huh. I'm not sure. I was actually wondering if I could use the farmhouse for a little while. Until I'm sure of where I want to go."
"Sure. For as long as you want."
"Well I guess I'm gonna go get my stuff off my horse and get him bedded," she said after a pause."
"Okay," Ares said as they stood up. "I have some things to do so I'm gonna go. I'll come back later on today to see if you need anything, this place isn't exactly stocked to be lived in."
Gabrielle smiled. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. I'll see ya later."
Ares flashed out and left her alone. After glancing around the house and sighing, she went outside to get her few belongings and to get the horse settled in the barn.
A few hours later, Ares appeared in front of the house. After standing for a few moments, he finally stepped up and knocked on the door. Come on Ares. It's just Gabrielle. Right!
Gabrielle opened the door. "Ares? Why did you knock?" she asked. He was fidgeting. He looks…nervous?
"I…uh…I thought you'd be upset if I just popped in and you were cleaning up or something."
"Yeah, I guess I would have been," she said. "Well, come on in," she said stepping to the side.
He entered slowly. "Are you hungry? There's really nothing to eat here," he said turning to her.
"Sure," she said closing the door.
With a wave of his hand, bread, cold meat, cheese and two goblets of wine appeared on the now clean table in the center of the room. They sat down and began eating in comfortable silence.
Once the food was gone, Ares refilled the goblets and sat back in his chair. "So," he said finally. "Can you tell me what happened?"
Gabrielle took a drink of her wine, then sat back and sighed. She knew this question was coming. "Well, not exactly, because I wasn't there when it happened. She basically talked us into going one way, then she went to where the army really was. She faced them alone, Ares. It looked she put up a good fight, but they…there were just to many of them," she finished with a tear in her eye. "They said that if I poured her ashes into a fountain, I could save her. But she wouldn't let me."
Ares almost choked on his wine. "What?"
"She wouldn't let me. Even after she was gone, her spirit was always with me, helping me. She said that she had been told that if I saved her, then all the souls she was fighting for would be condemned. I didn't care, but she did. Does it make me a bad person because I wanted my best friend back?"
"No," Ares said softly. "No, it doesn't."
"I couldn't just sit by when I could save her. But she made me and now she's gone. "I'm all alone." She laid her head down on her folded arms on the table. Ares walked over and stood behind her and put his hands on her shoulders.
"No you're not, Gabrielle. You're not alone." She looked up at him and he knelt down beside her. "You will always have Xena in your heart. And you'll always have me to turn to."
Gabrielle smiled through her tears that threatened to fall. "Thank you, Ares."
Ares smiled back. "There's that smile," he said, wiping away a tear that was sneaking down her cheek.
Without warning, Gabrielle grabbed him in a fierce hug. After the initial shock of her hugging him wore off, he put his arms around her and hugged back. "It's all right," he said as she began crying into his shoulder. He materialized a chair behind him and held her until she stopped crying. Once she finally did, he materialized a cloth to wipe her eyes with.
"No problem. You okay now?"
"I think so."
"Good. Because I think if my vest got any wetter, it'll shrink," he said, trying to make her smile. It worked. She finally smiled up at him.
"I'm sorry your vest got wet."
He shrugged. "No big deal. It was for a good cause." They both chuckled. "Look, Gabrielle. I know you said that there's nothing for you in Greece. But would you think about staying. I can't keep an eye on you and keep you safe if you leave the country. And I'd miss you." He looked down at the floor.
"Yeah. I mean, I know I've said and done some pretty bad things to you and Xena over the years. But I wouldn't have continued to come around if I hated you."
"Why did you then?"
Ares thought for a few long moments over how to phrase his answer. "I wanted to get your attention," he said finally. All or nothing right?
"Well you did that. Xena kept an eye out for you everywhere we went," she said smiling.
"No, you don't understand. I wanted to get your attention."
Gabrielle stared speechless for what seemed like forever to Ares. He suspected she was holding her breath too. He just couldn't figure out if it was a good thing or not."
"You did that too," she said quietly.
Ares couldn't believe his ears. Was she really interested? She wouldn't be playing him would she? No, of course not. What reason would she have?
"So why were you after Xena?"
"Huh?" he said realizing she was speaking to him.
"Why were you chasing Xena?
"What do you mean?"
"You say you were trying to get my attention. Then why were you trying to seduce Xena?"
Great, now she's mad. Way to go, Ar. "If I had tried to seduce you, what do you think Xena would have done?"
"She'd probably have killed you."
"Exactly. I tried to get you once and you remember how that turned out. You brought out her protective side. And I didn't want her against me. I really did want her back in my army."
There was a long pause. "She told me you were evil. I believed her at first."
"Yes. After that first time you were mortal, I knew there was more to you. And every time you'd do something bad, you'd do two things to make up for it. Like when you gave up your godhood to save Eve and me. That made up for just about everything you did to us. After a while, I didn't think you were evil anymore. More mischievous than anything else but a truly gentle and loving man underneath."
"Why do you think that?"
"Oh come on, Ares. You're a god. If you were really evil, I wouldn't be sitting here having this conversation with you. You would have destroyed us years ago or you would have destroyed Xena the moment she turned from you."
Ares smiled. "You're right. You're a smart one. You figured out the God of War."
"It wasn't that hard once I got to know you. Maybe more people should."
There was a long silence, each in their own thoughts. After a few very long minutes, Ares looked up.
"Don't leave the country. Stay here, at the farmhouse."
"I don't want you to leave," he said, cutting her off. "Please stay. Or at least think about it."
"Okay. I'll think about it."
Ares nodded. "Okay."
Things pretty much moved along without any excitement for Gabrielle. Ares came by every other day or so to make sure she had everything she needed, but pretty much left her alone to think. While she liked the time alone so she could get her thoughts together, she found looking forward to his visits and feeling sadness when he would leave. She knew what she wanted to do. So why was she so chicken about it? Well not anymore! He was due for a visit today. She'd tell him then.
When she heard the knock at the door, her heart leapt to her throat. Well, she thought. Here goes nothin'!
She opened the door. "Ares," she said, standing aside to let him in. "Come in."
"Thanks," he said, walking in. "Do you need anything? Food or anything like that?"
"No, I think I'm okay for now, thanks. But…uh…would you like to stay for dinner? It'll be done soon."
"Um…sure. I'd love to."
They ate in comfortable silence. Gabrielle could decide how to tell him. Come on she said to herself. Tell him!
"Well," Ares said, standing up. "I…uh…I guess I'll go."
"I…uh…I have something to tell you."
"Okay," he said, sitting back down. Here it comes. She's gonna tell me she's leaving.
Gabrielle took a deep breath. "Um…I…uh…I'm gonna stay. Here. In Greece."
Ares sat in shock. He'd hoped this would be her decision but wasn't holding his breath. "That's great," he finally said, smiling. "I'm glad."
"Well, you're welcome to stay here for as long as you need to and you're always welcome here whenever you need it." You're rambling, Ares.
They stayed up and talked well into the night. It was very late when Ares left with the promise that he would return the next day.
The next day, Ares arrived just before lunch. He appeared, as usual, outside the house and knocked on the door.
"Morning Ares," Gabrielle said, letting him inside. "Lunch is ready. Hungry?"
"Sure. Did you sleep well?"
"Yes I did, thanks, for the first time in a long time. Did you?" Do Gods sleep?
"Yes, I did. For the first time in years myself."
Gabrielle put lunch on the table and they sat to eat. They did so, as usual, in a comfortable silence. After finishing, they sat around most of the day talking and telling stories.
"Would you like to go for a walk?" Ares asked as the sun started to set.
"Come on," he said putting out his hand. "I know a great place to watch the sun set."
Gabrielle took his hand and they left. Still hand in hand, they walked to a small lake not far from the cabin. Ares produced a blanket and they sat down.
"It's beautiful," she said, smiling.
"Yes it is. I'm glad you like it."
"I love it," she said.
"You're cold," he said, seeing her shiver.
"Just a little."
Ares then produced a leather jacket and wrapped it around her. "There ya go."
"You're welcome," he said, putting his arm around her shoulders.
Once the sun was completely gone, Ares laid back to look at the stars. Gabrielle just stared out over the water, holding back tears threatening to fall.
"What's wrong?" Ares asked.
"I miss her, Ares," she said, letting the tears fall.
"I know," he said, sitting up and wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close so she could cry against his shoulder. "I miss her too."
Once Gabrielle had stopped crying, she pulled back and stood up. "She'd be upset that I am here with you."
"Yeah, she probably would be," he said, standing up. "But you can't live your life wondering what she'd be upset about." He stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her. "You have to live your life or you'll lose yourself. And she wouldn't want that," he finished, resting his head on the top of hers.
"I know," she whispered, turning in his arms and hugging him. "It's just so hard to do that. I don't want to forget."
"You don't have to forget," he said, tilting her head up. "You remember what I told you that first night? You will always have Xena in your heart and you will always have your memories. That doesn't mean you can't move on."
"You're right," she said. "I think I'm ready to move on. It'll be hard at first, but it'll get easier. Right?"
"Right," he said, looking down into her sad eyes. "I'll help you if you want me to. Or I'll leave you alone if you want. It's totally up to you."
Gabrielle just looked into his eyes. She could see he wasn't lying. He was laying all his cards out on the table and now it was her turn.
"I don't want you to go."
"Then I won't," he said quietly. "Are you ready to go back? It's getting late."
"No," she said, looking out over the water. "I don't want to go yet. If you need to leave, I'll be okay."
"No, I don't need to go."
They stood for long moments, staring into each other's eyes. Ares stroked her cheek and leaned in and gently brushed his lips against hers. She looked into his eyes, silently asking him to do it again. Which he did.
"Shall we sit down?" he asked breathlessly.
Gabrielle could only nod. Ares sat down and laid back to look up at the stars again. Gabrielle soon did the same, lying her head on his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her and felt her go to sleep. He debated flashing them back to the house, but since she loved it there, they stayed. He soon fell asleep himself.
Gabrielle woke up from her wonderful dream with the sun and wind on her face. She was startled to find out that, not only was she outside, she was also in someone's arms. Not that that was a bad thing.
"Good morning," a voice said from above her.
Gabrielle smiled and looked up to see Ares staring down at her. "Morning," she said. "You stayed all night?"
Ares nodded. "I didn't want to leave," he confessed. "Besides, I couldn't get out from under you without waking you up." Okay, so technically that was a lie. He could have just flashed out. "Are you hungry?"
In one flash, the blanked was covered with cheeses, fruits and various things. They ate in silence, each in their own thoughts. Once they were finished, Ares took her hand.
"Would you like to see Olympus?"
Gabrielle smiled. "I've seen it before. Remember?"
"Yeah, but it was never on good terms. And you've never seen my temple. Not since I redid it."
Gabrielle smiled again at his energy. He was as excited as a child showing off a new toy. "Okay, Ares. I'll go with you."
His smile could have lit up the seventh level of Tartarus. "Good. Let's go."
"Sure." He stood up and flashed away what was left of the food. Once Gabrielle was also up, the blanket went as well. "Hold my hand."
Gabrielle took his hand and felt the world go out beneath her. When she finally found it again, they were standing on a third level balcony overlooking a garden with a stream running through it.
"Oh Ares, it's beautiful!"
"Thank you," Ares said, sliding his arm around her. He sighed when he felt her lean into him. "You wanna see the rest?"
He gave her a tour of the temple, then took her out to the garden. They looked at all of the flowers and plants and he told her what each of them were and what they stood for. After a complete circling of the garden with a stop by the stream, they finally sat down on a bench beautifully shaded by a large tree.
"It's so beautiful here."
"I'm glad you like it." He put his arm around her and they sat in silence as Ares decided how to say what he wanted to say next. "Stay," he finally blurted out.
"I want you to stay," he said, looking down into her eyes.
"But I am staying," she said, looking confused.
"No. I mean…Damn. I…I want you to stay here. With me."
"Here? With you? On Olympus?"
"Yes. Here, on Olympus. You don't have to answer now if you don't want to. I…"
"Yes," she said, cutting him off.
"Yes. I'll stay here with you."
Ares beamed. He looked like he didn't expect her to say yes. "I love you," he blurted out. What is up with my mouth? It just says whatever the hell it wants these days.
"I love you too, Ares. Thank you."
"Loving me and giving me a permanent place to call home."
"You're welcome," he said smiling. Then he leaned down and kissed her.