Soulmates

DISCLAIMER: The characters to not belong to me. They belong to Universal, Studios USA or whoever owns the Rights to Xena: Warrior Princess. This is just for fun. No money is being made off it.

Title: Soulmates

Author: Smenzer

Teaser: Ares tries to rescue Gabrielle from the circle of fire

Rating: PG

Genre: Ares/Gabrielle. Romance/action

Notes: Joxer and Xena are also in the story, but not as a couple. This is my first story, so it may not be very good. I'm really a nonfiction author, not fiction, but I decided to give it a try anyway. Oh, this story takes place after the Twilight of the Gods, so Ares is a mortal.

Ares stared at the flickering wall of fire. The flames leaped at least fifteen feet into the air and bathed the entire area in a soft orange glow. Although the wall was just a few feet away from him, Ares felt no heat. This was no ordinary fire, but the Eternal Flame created by an Immortal. One of Oden's Valkyries, to be exact. It would destroy anyone foolish enough to try to pass through it. And many valiant but stupid men had tried. Ares kicked at the blackened remains of a skull. The skull tumbled end over end until it hit a large rock and shattered into a hundred pieces. The flickering firelight revealed even more charred human bones.

Shivering, Ares turned to his companion. "Would you tell me again what I'm doing in the middle of a swamp staring at a wall of fire? Because I'd really like to know."

Joxer blinked at Ares. "I told you already. We have to rescue Gabrielle. She's trapped in there. She's been in there for six months already. And six months is way too long." Joxer turned away from Ares and continued wrapping a long rope around a tree branch.

"Look." Ares said as he pointed at the flames. "That is not ordinary fire. It's magical. I used to be a God, so I know these things. You can't just put it out with water. So how do you plan on getting to her without killing yourself? Or me. And besides, aren't you supposed to be dead?"

"Dead? Well, ummm…." Joxer finished with the rope and stood up. He opened his mouth as if to say something and then closed it. He took a deep breath and let it out. "Sorta. I mean, I was. But now I'm not. So I'm alive again. It's really hard to explain. Anyway, while I was dead I saw Gabby was trapped in this fire and no one was helping her, so I just had to do something!"

What was it with these people? How in the heck did they keep doing that? They keep dying and coming back to life! Xena did it. Gabrielle did it. And now Joxer was doing it!

Even his goody-goody half-brother Hercules had did it once. Oh, and don't forget about that sidekick of his, Iolous. Yeah, they ALL did it. It almost seemed as if they knew some big secret that even the Gods didn't know. Well, now that he was mortal, he wanted to know that secret, too! And Joxer was the right one to tell him.

Ares stepped closer and grabbed Joxer by his ill-fitting armor. He stared into Joxer's eyes and scowled at him. "And how exactly did you come to be alive again?"

"Well, see, there was this place with all these fluffy clouds and angels and everything was white and clean." Joxer squirmed in Ares grasp, or tried to squirm. Even as a mortal, Ares was very strong. "Will you let go of me now? I'll tell you, OK?"

"All right." Ares released Joxer. He was interested in hearing about this other God's place. That Michael guy he had fought had come from there. Well, Hercules had helped.

"I was up there. It was like living on a cloud. It was boring, though. I missed Meg, my children and Gabby. So I watched them. I could do that, you know. I could even fly!" A big grin spread across Joxer's face. "Flying was great! And it didn't hurt when I crashed into clouds. But then Gabby got stuck in this ring of fire and Xena lost her memory. No one was rescuing her, so I knew I had to do something!"

"So what did you do?" Ares asked.

"Well,….." Joxer shifted from foot to foot as his face grew red. "Do I really have to tell you? I mean, it's not really important."

"It is to me!" Ares said. "I want to know how you people keep doing that!"

"Oh. Well, OK." Joxer kicked at a pebble and mumbled something.

"What?" Ares asked.

"I made them some radish soup, OK? They all got sick. They were throwing up and having the runs all over those white clouds. Boy, it really stunk! And the ones who weren't sick had gas. So they got mad and kicked me out."

Ares just stared at Joxer. That was the last thing he had expected. Only Joxer could give angels food poisoning! He laughed at the idea of those supreme beings messing up their perfectly white clouds! Well, served them right for living on clouds! Any being with half a brain would live inside a strong-walled building! And besides, stone was easier to clean, too. The stuff would probably soak into the clouds, causing a lingering odor. Shaking his head, Ares became serious. "And how do we rescue Gabrielle?"

"Well, I thought we could go above the fire." Joxer explained as he grinned at the gizmo he had built. "See, we sit on this and cut the rope and we fly over the fire!"

"Are you crazy?" Ares said. "I'm mortal now. I could be killed!"

"Yeah." Joxer said quietly. "But you'd do it for Gabrielle, wouldn't you?"

Ares thought about the little annoying blonde. Ever since that thing with the scroll, something had happened to him. No. She had done something to him. He found himself thinking of her in the middle of the night, watching her on his God TV. Of course, he had told himself he was really watching Xena. But deep inside he knew that just wasn't true. He just hadn't been ready to admit the truth to himself. Then he had gone and given up his powers to save her. Ok, he had to admit he liked the little bard. In fact, he liked her a lot. He ended up doing crazy stuff whenever she was around, stuff he normally would never do.

He thought of her sleeping in the ring of fire all by herself. Where was Xena? The answer was obvious. Xena had gone off on some new mission and had abandoned Gabrielle. Just like Xena had abandoned him to fend for himself as a mortal. Heck, he hadn't known anything about surviving as a mortal. He didn't even have any money! Good thing he had had some temples he could live in.

"So, did you make up your mind?" asked Joxer.

"Yeah. Let's go save Gabrielle." Ares stepped up to Joxer's idea of a catapult. It didn't look very promising. In fact, Ares was afraid if he touched the thing it would topple into a pile of debris. But he didn't have any choice. He had to trust Joxer's contraption. As the God of War, he had always depended on either his powers or for mortals to do stuff for him. Sure, he knew how to fight and he knew strategy. In fact, he was THE expert of those two. But he had no idea how to build stuff. Well, he did know how to make swords. And some simple booby-traps. But a catapult was beyond him in this mortal state. "Are you sure this thing is going to work?"

"Ummm, I think so." Joxer said nervously as he wrung his hands together. "I mean, I saw Xena make them. I think this is how she did it."

"You mean you never made one before?" Ares asked as his stomach began to do some odd thing. No doubt another 'mortal' thing.

"No, not really," Joxer admitted. "But I'll go first if you want."

"No, that's all right. I'll go first. You need to be here to reset the thing." Ares took a deep breath and climbed onto Joxer's crazy gizmo. It creaked and groaned under his weight, but it held. He knew there was something they were forgetting, but he couldn't think of what it was. He could only think of Gabrielle's beauty and how his blood ran hot when he watched her in battle. The little bard could really fight! Sometimes he just wanted to wrap his arms around her and pop off somewhere romantic. But he knew she probably wouldn't go for that. And Xena would kill him if he did that! And the other reason he couldn't think straight was that his stomach was ready to jump out his mouth. Just glancing at that wall of flames was bad. Being mortal really sucked!

"Are you ready?" Joxer asked?

I don't believe I'm doing this.

"Yeah, I'm…."

Branches snapped loudly as a monster came out. It was tall, covered in scales and very ugly. It roared as it raced towards them.

"The Grendal!" Joxer cried as he cut the rope with his dagger.

"What? Wait!" cried Ares as he twisted around to look at the beast. But it was too late. He was already flying through the air towards the flickering wall of fire. The fire came closer and closer until it danced before him, its yellow-orange tendrils reaching out towards him. Its quite crackling became a loud roar, a roar loud enough to drown out the screaming Grendal behind him. That's when he realized he didn't have enough altitude. He wasn't going to fly above the wall, he was going to hit the wall. And he was going to miss it by so little! Just a foot or two!

He hoped it wouldn't hurt too much. Ares closed his eyes tightly and whispered.

"I love you, Gabrielle."

A moment later, Ares crashed onto the hard ground. He opened his eyes and groaned. This felt a LOT worse as a mortal! He was used to crashing to the ground. And against stone walls. Him and Herc did it all the time. But he had been a full God then. Yes. He had been right. Being mortal most definitely sucked.

Ares slowly climbed to his feet and swayed slightly like a drunker. He shook his head to clear it. He glanced down at his leather clothes. Not a scorch anywhere. "I thought for sure I was going to hit it. Hmmm, guess I missed it after all."

Turning around, Ares stared at the wall of fire. He had left Joxer alone with that beast! He had not gotten a good look at the thing, but what he had seen had reminded him of Hope's evil spawn, the Destroyer. Both had looked lizard-like with scales. Of course, the Destroyer had been his spawn, too. He had gone with Hope because she had looked like Gabrielle. But Hope had been nothing like her mother at all. She had only used him and Dahok had been planning on killing him all along. The entire Dahok thing left a bad taste in his mouth. He wished it never had happened! And it wouldn't have if Xena had listened to him! But poor Gabrielle was the one who ended up paying the price.

"Joxer!" Ares cried. He raced up to the fire and stopped. That's what he had forgotten! Once you got in here there was no way to get out! Now he was trapped with Gabrielle!

"Aaaaahhhhhooooooo!"

Ares jerked his head up and saw Joxer fly over the fire. Yes, he was most definitely above the fire. Of course, Joxer weighed a lot less than he did, so the gizmo could fling him up higher. The former God winced as Joxer hit the ground.

"Ow!" Joxer cried as he rolled over and rubbed his head.

"Are you all right? What happened to that thing?" Ares asked.

"Yeah, I'll be all right." Joxer said as he put his hat back on his head. It had another new dent in it, too. Not that anyone would notice it. No one ever did. A wide grin spread over Joxer's face. "I took care of the Grendal."

"What? You? How?" Ares asked.

Joxer's grin got wider. "Yeah. Me. I was ready for it! When it came running at me, I shoved a big pot of radish soup in its mouth! You should have seen how it's eyes bugged out! Then it pulled the empty pot from its mouth and went moaning off into the bushes!"

"Let's go wake up Gabrielle." Ares pulled Joxer to his feet and they walked up to the large oval stone in the center of the circle of fire. Vines covered the stone and Ares tore them away with his bare hands. And there was Gabrielle. She lay on the oval stone on her back, one arm up by her head. A sparkling gold ring sat in the palm of her hand. Ares noticed her hair had grown long once more. And that she was wearing her favorite Amazon outfit, the one with the green top.

Joxer reached out and shook Gabrielle. "Gabby, wake up! We're here to rescue you!"

Gabrielle slept on.

"Why isn't she waking up?" Joxer asked, a hurt and confused look on his face.

"It's an enchanted sleep. Only her soulmate can wake her up." Ares explained. He looked down at Gabrielle and smiled. How beautiful she was! How lucky Xena was to have such a wonderful soulmate. Too bad Xena didn't appreciate it. Ares felt jealousy bite him. If Gabrielle was HIS soulmate he would take better care of her! He wouldn't drag her into the middle of wars. He wouldn't have her sleeping outside. Or force her to eat raw fish. Or drag her off to some foreign country and then leave her. No, she would sleep on the finest silk sheets, have a roaring fireplace to keep her warm. She would have a roof over her head, a place to call home. She would have a …

"So who is her soulmate?" Joxer interrupted.

"What?" Ares blinked as he snapped out of his thoughts.

"I asked you who Gabrielle's soulmate is." Joxer explained as he watched Ares.

"Probably Xena." Ares said as he gazed down at Gabrielle. "I mean, the two are always together. And they seem to have this connection, like they know when the other is in trouble."

"But…but Xena is a girl like Gabby!" Joxer sputtered, a look of surprise on his face. "I thought her soulmate had to be a guy!"

Ares sighed. He straightened up. "So, did you have any plans on how to get us out of here?"

"Why don't you try it?" Joxer asked.

"Try what?" Ares asked.

"Waking Gabby up!" Joxer grinned at the former God. "Come on, admit it. You like her!"

Why was this always so hard? He wasn't used to saying stuff like that. That's why.

"All right. So maybe I do like her a lot. I'm just not very good at this relationship stuff. I just never know what to say or say the wrong thing."

"Yeah. I know what you mean." Joxer agreed. "It can be tuff. But it might be a lot easier if you go after the right girl!"

Ares bent over Gabrielle and kissed her on her lips. Her green eyes sprung open and she wrapped her arms around his neck. "I knew you'd come." She whispered in his ear.

He stared wide-eyed in shock at her, then happily buried his face in her soft hair. This was the happiest day of his life! Just think, Gabrielle was HIS soulmate! "Are you happy?" he asked her, unsure of what she would say.

"Of course I am, Ares. We both know how we felt about each other when Aphrodite enchanted my scroll and you lost your powers. We both choose to ignore it, to pretend the feelings weren't there. I think it scared both of us. But now Fate has given us a second chance. I'm not going to ignore it this time!" Gabrielle threw her arms around Ares and gave him a big kiss. It left both of them breathless.

"And I'm going to keep my promise to take care of you. And I'm going to start by getting us out of this circle of fire!" Ares picked up the enchanted ring made from the Rhinegold and placed it on his finger.

"Ares, no!" Gabrielle cried. "That's the thing that started this whole mess! Only those that forsake love can use it safely! Xena used it and she lost her memory!"

"Shhhh. Don't worry. Xena wasn't born to handle the power that the ring contains. I was born a God. I know how to use its powers wisely." Ares created a bowl of Ambrosia in front of them. Then he took the ring off and handed it back to Gabrielle. Ares ate the Ambrosia and streaks of light shot over his body. His hair and clothes instantly looked neater and cleaner. Grabbing Gabrielle and Joxer, Ares popped all three of them far away from the circle of fire.

Xena stepped up to the circle of fire and scowled. It had been a year since she had seen Gabrielle. She couldn't believe she had actually married that idiot King of Denmark. Well, thanks to a bump on her head she had gotten her memory back before they had consummated their wedding. She had shown him what happens to guys who take advantage of Warrior Princesses with amnesia. No doubt he was still in pain.

How was she going to explain all this stuff to Gabrielle?

Xena stuck her hand into the fire and didn't feel any pain. She pulled her hand out and looked at it. Just as good as new. So it was true then. Only Gabrielle's soulmate could pass through the fire. That meant Gabrielle must still be safe.

Eager to see the bard, Xena rushed through the fire up to the oval stone.

The stone was empty.

Except for a scroll.

Xena picked the scroll up and unrolled it. She began to read.

Dear Xena, If you are reading this you must have gotten your memory back and came looking for me. Don't worry. I'm safe. The love of my life came and rescued me and now we are staying at his place. We are engaged. We are so happy!

"What? This can't be right!" Xena mumbled. "Who the heck is this guy?"

Oh, and don't worry about Argo. We have him in our stables and he's well taken care of. He feels right at home.

"And the guy took my horse, too? The nerve of him!"

Please come and see us when you have the time. We're at the Halls of War. You know where it is, Xena. Oh, one more thing. Ares has his powers again. He's so sweet. We really love each other. Love, Gabrielle

P.S. We returned the ring to the Rhine Maidens, so don't worry about it.

Xena flung the scroll onto the ground. "I don't believe this! This can't be real!"

"This must be someone's idea of a sick joke. Those two can't stand each other. But that's Gabrielle's handwriting. I know it is!" Xena stalked out of the ring of fire, taking the scandalous scroll with her. She would get to the bottom of this even if it meant she had to walk all the way back to Greece! Someone had a lot of explaining to do. Her boot landed in a puddle of white goop and her foot slid out from underneath her. Before she could do anything, she landed on her backside in the foul smelling liquid.

"Uggh!" Xena moaned with disgust as she shook her arms, spraying the nearby trees with the stuff. "What the heck IS this stuff?"

Loud groaning came from a nearby bush.

Carefully climbing to her feet, Xena saw the Grendal. It looked terrible. It was leaning against a tree and holding onto its stomach with one hand and its throat with the other. White slop dripped from its mouth.

"Great. That's just great. I hope whatever it has isn't catching." Xena snuck away and

almost tripped over a cooking pot. This swamp was more dangerous than she remembered! She picked the pot up and sniffed at it. She threw it down in disgust.

Radish soup!

Gabrielle stretched out on the soft blanket and once again took in the beautiful surroundings. She was on a beach of white sand. The blue-green ocean was just a few feet away. A tropical breeze wafted through the palm trees. Gabrielle closed her eyes and breathed in the sweet scent of exotic flowers. Strong arms wrapped around her waist and she smiled. "Oh, Ares! This is the most beautiful place I ever been!"

"So you like my little tropical island?" Ares handed her a glass of cool pineapple juice and sipped from his own. "We can go lots of places with my powers. But just wait until you see the sunset here. It's amazing! But it'll be even better watching it with you."

Gabrielle leaned back against Ares strong chest, drank her pineapple juice and was content. She was glad that she found her TRUE soulmate.