"I don’t like this Gabrielle." Eve said worriedly.
"She can take care of herself." Gabrielle torn her eyes away from the top of the hill and returned her attention to Eve.
"I don’t trust him."
"He loves her; he isn’t going to hurt her." Gabrielle said in her most placate tone.
"He doesn’t love her. He’s going to hang this over our heads for the rest of our lives!" Eve said with a certain degree of venom.
"Stop worrying Eve, we won’t let that happen."
The two girls watched as Xena bent over and kissed Ares. Eve immediately turned back to Gabrielle, "you see! We’ve got to do something."
Gabrielle swallowed and once again re-directed her attention to Eve; "There’s nothing we can do. It’s her life. If your mother chooses to be with him, then we just have to learn to accept it."
"She doesn’t love him. She’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life out of gratitude."
"We don’t know that Eve. We don’t know how he really feels about her, nor do we know how she really feels about him." Gabrielle said softly. Unlike Eve, there was no anger in her tone, just acceptance.
"I can’t believe you of all people can say that." Eve was so frustrated that she actually stomped her foot like a child. "Mom told me that he even propositioned you. And now you are defending him?"
"I’m not defending him. I’m just…I can’t…just leave it alone Eve." Gabrielle closed her eyes briefly; the last thing she needed right now was to have this conversation with Eve. Seeing Ares again had opened up old wounds. All she really wanted to do was to just get out of there and get as far away from him as possible.
"Well, I can’t leave it alone. She’s my mother. I thought she was your friend." Eve said giving Gabrielle a reproachful look.
"He’s really not such a bad person, Eve."
"What? Are you out of your mind?"
"No, just listen to me. He was born into this world as the God of War. Yes, he was war, but he wasn’t what created war. He controlled it, but he didn’t start it. We, the mortals, started the wars. We are the ones responsible for them. Even if Ares never existed, the wars still would. War is a human creation; it’s what we use to get what we want. We can’t blame him for what we propagated. We are the ones who believed that the end justifies the means. And we are the ones who taught ourselves to use aggression while knowing the destruction that we can cause."
Eve looked at her with distaste, "What’s the matter with you today? I know all about wars. Livia did not become The Champion of Rome all by herself. He encouraged me Gabrielle. He even encouraged me to try to kill Mom."
"All I’m saying is that we were all born into this world to fulfill a purpose. He was simply fulfilling his. I've finally learned to accept that. He did give up his immortality to save us. Couldn’t you at least give him some credit for that?"
In all fairness, Eve had to agree, "I still don’t like this."
Gabrielle did not answer; once again her attention was drawn to the top of the hill.
Eve, however, was not about to just drop the subject, grabbing hold of Gabrielle, she said urgently, "Please Gabrielle, would you go talk to him?"
"Talk to your mom?" Gabrielle questioned in surprise.
"No, not Mom. Him, Ares." Eve said impatiently.
"Oh no, Eve, I can’t…"
"Please Gabrielle, do it for me, do it for Mom." Eve pleaded.
"I can’t interfere. He’ll just laugh in my face."
"He won’t. Look, we both know what Mom needs, and it isn’t him."
"Why can’t you talk to him yourself?"
"I can’t, not with our past relationship. But you are different; you can be objective about this. You can convince him to leave Mom alone."
Gabrielle looked at Eve and slowly shook her from side to side. "You don’t know what you are asking me. Your mother is a smart woman; she will know what to do. I love her, but I will not interfere in this matter."
Eve started to cry, "I’m going to lose her again, and I’ve only just found her."
Gabrielle pulled Eve into her arms and tried to comfort her, but Eve just kept crying. Finally Gabrielle put Eve away from her and after biting down hard on her lower lip, "Alright Eve, I’ll talk to him."
Eve gave her a watery smile and hugged her, "Thank you Gabrielle."
Gabrielle sighed. What had she gotten herself into?
Eve had stopped crying, "I’ll tell Mom that you went on ahead to Adalei, and we’ll just meet you there."
Ares watched as she walked up the hill slowly. His conversation with Xena has left him feeling mellow. He has finally let go of his tie with her. Their turbulent and often volatile relationship has finally come to an end. She no longer owes him nor does he her. That good-bye kiss was simply that, good bye. Surprisingly he wasn’t sad to see her go; once again he had to question himself just how much of that was due to the little blonde that’s currently dragging her feet up the hill. As he watched Gabrielle walking toward him with obvious reluctance, he wondered what’s going through her head.
As Gabrielle saw Ares watching her approach, she slowed down her steps even more if that was possible. Taking the last few steps almost inch by agonizing inch, she found herself standing before him.
Ares looked at the slight figure before him and as usual found himself hypnotized by her beauty. With the fading sunlight casting a luminous glow behind her, she was simply breathtaking. He had to remind himself that although he knows for a fact that part of her is drawn to him, the other part of her hates him, even more than Xena does. And he had given her plenty of reasons to hate him this last year.
Trying to control his wayward thoughts, he turned a sarcastic look on her, "So what are you doing here Gabrielle?"
"I umm…first, I guess I need to thank you for saving my life back on Olympus. I never did get a chance to do that." She pushed her hair back searching for the right words. "I know what you gave up for us, and I know just saying thank you would never be enough. I’m sorry that it cost you your godhood."
Ares hid his surprise well. He had thought about that incident many times afterwards, and as much as he has missed his godhood, he didn’t regret his action. He also knew that if he were to face with the same situation again, he would not have chosen any other way. But now is not the time to let her know how he really feels, so instead he mocked her. "I hope you are not expecting me to say ‘you are welcome’."
"No, of course not." For the tenth times in as many minutes Gabrielle wondered why she let Eve talked her into this; she felt totally out of her depth. She’s so apprehensive of what she has to say that she actually has trouble just holding herself standing up. "Look, can I sit down?"
Without a word Ares gestured for her to sit next to him. He watched as she gingerly took her seat keeping a safe distance between them. The silence continued as Gabrielle tried to find the right words.
Finally tired of waiting, "Just why are you here? You obviously have something you wanted to say, so just spill it."
"Actually its about Xena." The words came out slowly and carefully.
"What about her?"
"It’s about Xena and you."
Ares was amused. He watched as she kept wringing her hands in agitation. So the little bard was here to safeguard her friend. There was no need to tell her that it wasn’t necessary, at least, not yet. "I didn’t know that there was a us."
"There really isn’t, and Eve and I would like to see it kept that way."
"In other words, you are here to threaten me?" He sounded annoy.
Slowly she shook her head, "No, I just wanted you to understand and leave her alone. I know I’m being silly in asking you not to love her, but…Xena, well; she has a different life now. If you truly loves her, you will respect her for that."
"Unless you are here to offer me yourself as a substitute, why should I listen to you?"
"Don’t do this Ares. I can appreciate you loving her, but don’t mock me." How she wished she could get up and walk away. Watching him chasing after Xena this last year has been the toughest year of her life. She couldn’t understand why it bothered her so much until she was ready to face the truth that she, Gabrielle, the peace-loving warrior bard, was in love with him, Ares, the God of War. She had tried so hard to get him out of her thoughts, yet everywhere she went, it was his face that she saw and his voice that she heard.
"You are the one who came here and try to talk me out of the woman I love."
Hearing him say it out loud was like a slap in the face. All of a sudden, her anger surfaced, anger that was directed at herself, at him, even at Xena. "You don’t love her. You don’t know what love is. You only wanted her as your trophy queen. You can’t love a status symbol, you are only in love with yourself."
"And do you know what love is? You actually have the audacity to come here and question my motives when you are too much of a coward to face your own?"
"I do know what love is. I love Xena, I love Eve, I even love…" the words trailed off into a deadly silence.
Ares’ eyes glinted in the fading twilight. "Love whom Gabrielle?" When she refused to answer, he grabbed hold of her and turned her to face him, "Just exactly who else do you love?"
Too tired to lie, too exhausted to prevaricate, there was total defeat as she softly muttered the single word, "You."
Ares felt himself slowly letting out the breath, which he didn’t even know he was holding. He caught hold of her face when she would have turned away. "Why are you so afraid to tell me?" His tone was amazingly gentle.
"Don’t do this, don’t use my weakness against me." She said in a soft monotone.
"Weakness? I’m your weakness?" He asked in surprise, "I can also be your strength Gabrielle, just as you are mine." He kept his hold on her even as she struggled to be free.
The struggling ceased, "I’m not Xena, Ares. I can never be her. Maybe she can play your game, but I can’t. I’ve admitted it; I have feelings for you, but I will not let it control me. Whatever it is that I feel for you is simply an inconvenience. I’ll get over it."
Ares chuckled softly, "You can’t get over me because I won’t let you. Xena and I go back a long way Gabrielle, but I’ve let go of the past. She is part of my past. We were saying our good byes. I’ve learned not to dwell on the past; I’m looking forward to the future."
Gabrielle looked at him sadly, whether that was true or not no longer matters; she will not cling on to false hopes. "I will get over you because I cannot afford to let you stay in my life. My future is with Xena. You are simply someone that I’m trying to forget, and I will forget you."
"Why? Why are so determined to push me away?"
"Because you and I come from two different ends of the spectrum. If you mix the light with the dark, all you get is a shade of gray. That cannot be me. I need to hold on to what I believe in, and you, I do not believe."
"The God of War is dead, Gabrielle. I’m mortal now. I’m simply a man." Ares said sadly.
She took note of the sadness in his tone. "Being mortal doesn’t change anything. You can't wipe out your past as if it never existed; I know what you are capable of."
"Why is it that you can overlook Xena's past, but not mine?"
"Because she wasn't born into this world a killer. Circumstances made her who she was, but she is no longer that person." She stopped briefly, "And I don't hate you Ares, I don't hate you for something that wasn't within your control, but I'm smart enough to stay away from it."
"You are not being fair, Gabrielle."
"Let’s be honest Ares, if you were given the choice, you would choose your immortality over me, over Xena, over anybody."
"Have you forgotten that you were thanking me just a few moments ago for what I gave up?"
"I was thanking you for acting out during a moment of weakness, and I know you don’t indulge in weaknesses. It might have happened once, but it won’t happen again. Just stay out of our lives, Ares." She got up and started to walk away.
He caught hold of her hand, "I want a chance Gabrielle."
"No, I can’t afford it. There are too much damage done in the past, there is no future." She looked at him sadly.
"So where do we go from here?"
"Me, back to Xena, and you, find a new life Ares." She wrenched her hand out of his. With a lingering look, she turned and sprinted down the hill.
"This isn’t over Gabrielle." Ares whispered as he watched her jump on her horse and gallop away.