Deus Ex Gabrielle

Chris M.

Ordinary Disclaimer : Gabrielle, Xena, Hercules, Iolaus, and any other characters whose names or natures you recognize are owned by MCA / Universal / Renaissance Pictures and are used without permission. This is not to be reproduced for profit, but may be freely archived wherever as long as you drop me a note and keep all disclaimers and warnings intact. This is used solely to tell a story within the bounds of the Xenaverse / Hercaverse.

Xex Warning : Nope, sorry. If you want explicit xex, wait for the 2nd Ephiny flashback. I'm working on it. However, since I tried to keep this one a little lighthearted, there is innuendo, double entendres, humor, and at least one fragment that alludes to kinky sex. So, while nothing happens, there is plenty of subtext - make that gobs o' subtext.

Timeline Note : This takes place sometime after the Sacrifice storyline is resolved, and assumes that X & G love each other, but haven't consummated or admitted anything yet. Although by the end, they will be much closer together.

Language warning : There are a few salty terms in here, but nothing major, and is used in character and in context. Heck, I don't think I even used the word 'throbbing.'

English Warning : I write convoluted sentences. I've tried to simplify it a little, but... they are long, and often complicated. Mostly, they are actually in correct grammar and sentence structure, just a little confusing. I can't help it! It's just the way I write. Bear with me. Maybe by the time I get my Ephiny story arc done I'll be better at it. Oh, yeah...I also use lots of ellipses (...) to indicate where a natural pause would be when reading the sentence or speaking aloud. Boy, do I overuse ellipses!

Miscellaneous Disclaimers : Joxer is mentioned in passing, but doesn't show up, a few drinks of alcohol are consumed in both a tavern and social setting, no drugs are used (other than ambrosia) and no henbane eaten, and subtext - well, a lot in here is subtext. Nothing explicit, though.

Xenite Disclaimer : Although it suffered a great deal of abuse, changes, & modifications - especially at Ares' hands (foreshadowing! foreshadowing!) - Gabrielle's BGSB will be back to normal by the end of the story.

Author's Note : I started to write this because I needed a break from the second Ephiny story. That's mostly done, except I threw out the sex scene since I thought it sucked, and needed to be majorly reworked, and I just haven't been in the mood to work on it. You just have to be in the right frame of mind to write about that sort of stuff. Also, parts of it are kinda angsty, and I needed to lighten up a bit. Unfortunately as this work progressed from an idea to a scene to a story, the angst worked its way in a little, but the overall tone did remain fairly light.

Where did this story come from? Well, there's all this ambrosia lying around the Xenaverse, and well... Gabrielle's notorious for her appetite, so... The title is derived from deus ex machina, the theatrical term for god appearing and solving everything (read the end of the Odyssey for a great example). The translation means "god from the machine," for the apparatus involved in causing the effect during the play, only in this case, it refers to "god from Gabrielle." This probably violates all sorts of rules for Latin Grammar, but oh well. Incidentally, the quotes are usually a line from an episode, followed by what my immediate reaction was...they don't advance the plot, they're just there for amusement.

Spoiler Warning : Events of the third season & the resolution of the Sacrifice story arc of X:WP are mentioned in passing, but without much detail given. More spoilers apply to the Hercaverse, since the big guy deals with the gods on a more regular basis. People and events from many episodes are alluded to, or show up, but not in such a way that the episodes will be ruined. Still, if you're worried, watch the episodes on USA, then come back to read this later. I won't mind. Really.

Flame Warning : Comments and feedback are welcome, but don't bother flaming, since all flames will immediately be fed to Ammit the Devourer, and will be weighed with your heart against the feather of truth upon your eventual demise. Hades wanted to feed them to Cerberus, but Ammit beat the 3-headed pooch 2 falls out of 3. <VBEG> Feel free to write me, though. I like commentary and suggestions.

Part 1 - Ascension

"So Gabrielle..." Joxer asked. "Where did those bacchae bite you - you know, when you were dancing with them in that bar? I didn't see a mark on your neck."

"None of your business," she retorts, smoothing the front of her skirt.

- An exchange between Joxer & Gabrielle in "Girls Just
Want To Have Fun" that was left on the cutting room

Chapter 1 - Apollo's Guide to Picking Up Girls for Less than Five Dinars a Day


Gabrielle kicked a rock idly across the road, bored. It was already well past noon, and Xena was late. She had been expected candlemarks before, and the deserted stretch of road was not the most inspiring place to wait for her return.

They were literally in the middle of nowhere - no towns, no shelter, not even any decent places to camp - and so had travelled throughout the night. Naturally, at the point when they were most exhausted and finally ready to stop early the next morning, a wounded man had staggered into their camp and collapsed. He had barely managed to croak out a warning of a warlord's attack on a town before dying.

Upon hearing of the attack, the warrior had immediately rushed off, pushing the already tired Argo to her limit. Gabrielle understood the mare's limits and had agreed to wait; reluctantly to be sure, but she had finally agreed. She had buried the poor unfortunate in a cairn, then proceeded to their rendezvous with all due speed. Now, she was tired, hot, cranky, bored, and she was beginning to grow nervous at her companion's continued absence...and she was hungry, too!

High overhead, a figure standing on a narrow golden platform zoomed by, the wind from his passage through the air ruffling his perfect locks and bringing a smile to his tanned face. He rarely went this far into the hinterlands; he preferred to spend his time among the mortals in the cities where the temples were - and where the women weren't stooped and gnarled from working in the fields all day. But today, riding an awesome but aberrant jet stream, he had wandered far from his usual haunts. He would have continued on without stopping, had not a woman's voice caught his attention.

"Oooh! Where are you!" Gabrielle cried out irritably, stamping one foot in distress while futilely looking about for Xena. "I hate it when you're late!"

Apollo, for that was who the golden figure was, heard her cry. With a wicked grin, he curved his way out of the stream of air flowing through the heavens and made a mental note to thank Boreäs for sending the air currents for a loop today. Shifting his weight gracefully on the board, he headed towards the waiting woman, mentally turning himself invisible as he went.

She was gorgeous, he mused coming to a stop nearby, with her golden red hair shining in the sunlight. He mentally gauged her soul, and noted happily she had a touch of prophecy in her, so he could claim her for his own - not that it was really needed, mind you, but lately Zeus had been in one of his moods. Zeus usually eagerly seduced anything with two legs (or more), but sometimes he had a crisis of conscience...and then all the gods had to put up with his moralistic decrees until he got over it (usually after he'd found a young virgin sunning on a beach somewhere). Shaking his head at Zeus' inconsistency, Apollo mulled his options over momentarily; if she was good enough, maybe he could set her up as an oracle somewhere more convenient for him to visit...

Smirking, he set aside future plans as he took a closer look. She was a bit more muscular than he preferred, without that soft, sleek roundness of form that the idle daughters of wealthy citydwellers sported oh so well. He licked his lips, and looked again. Seeing the way her abdomen rippled as she paced, he was easily willing to overlook such a minor thing.

Her skirt gave a delightfully flirtatious flip as she turned in her pacing, and he breathed out slowly in delighted anticipation. Who cared about riding the air? He could do that anytime. Right now he wanted to ride something else...

A small shiver passed through Gabrielle's frame as a sudden gust of cool air ran over her. Feeling an odd sensation, and shivering as goosebumps crawled across her skin, she looked around, but saw nothing. "Funny," she said under her breath, taking a tighter grip on her staff, "it feels like I'm being watched."

She looked around again - still nothing. "If that's you," she called, thinking of Xena, "it's not funny. Come out where I can see you, and stop playing these games." Nothing.

Apollo hopped off his board, and mentally banished it back to his demesne on Olympus. Walking carefully, he approached her from her blind side, being sure not to give any hint of his presence to the now visibly worried young woman.

The staff that abruptly whirred through him - passing through his substance without effect - came as a complete surprise. Not that a mortal could harm him, really, but had he been human it would have damaged a rather delicate portion of his anatomy. "Feisty," he mused, a lascivious grin growing on his face.

Waiting until her back was turned, he faded into view, the flash of smoky pyrotechnics causing her to whirl back around, staff at the ready. "Who are you?" she demanded, readying herself for an attack. She hadn't even seen him approach. Mentally she kicked herself. She'd have to remember to get Xena to teach her how to sense people sneaking up on her - if she ever got back from fighting that warlord, she cursed, abruptly missing her even more.

"A humble admirer," he lied smugly, pausing and turning his head in a studied movement, silhouetting his face against the light and showing off his muscular chest to the best advantage inside his unfastened and open vest.

Despite herself, Gabrielle was affected. Most bandits they encountered were unwashed, clad in mismatched odds and ends of leather, metal, and fur, and without exception were all distinctly unappealing - this man was none of these. She lowered her staff slightly and watched the golden stranger - golden tan, golden hair, and even shimmering golden clothes - as he posed dashingly in the sunlight. "Do you know Iolaus?" she finally asked, shaking off the effect of his incredible looks with an effort, "You look a little like him, and you even seem to dress a bit alike - though he does prefer purple..."

"No, beauteous one," he smiled, showing off his perfect teeth, "though he must be a paragon indeed to be brought to mind when confronted with the sight of my perfection."

The spell of his beauty abruptly began to fade in her mind. Another one. She had been flattered and even tempted the first time a guy like this had approached her in a tavern - the best looking guy in the town, and well aware of the fact. After a little more experience she was relieved she hadn't accepted that man's...offer. Admittedly, his type usually went after Xena in the bars and taverns they passed through (it was the leather, Xena claimed), but a few saw her as more approachable - especially after she started wearing the Amazon skirt. This one was almost as good looking as he obviously thought himself to be, but his line was just as stale as the last one she had heard (though at least he hadn't offered her money yet); he was plainly overly full of himself. Frowning slightly, she raised her staff again. "No thanks, I'm not interested."

Apollo's smile evaporated slowly. First Daphne, and now even a mortal? Women just didn't appreciate a good thing when they saw it. (Apollo had no problem with self-confidence, in case you couldn't tell.)

"Look, don't take it the wrong way," she explained, her boredom and disinterest practically dripping off her words. Her eyes narrowing while her hands gripped her staff tighter, "but you're just not my type."

Not her type? He? The (self-proclaimed) most handsome God on Olympus? The paragon of manly beauty? Who did this annoying chit think she was? Angered, he reconsidered his plans. He had only been planning to have a bit of sport with this one, just carrying her into the nearby woods and having some fun before heading back to Olympus, but he had a more... personal interest. "You don't desire me?" he asked with obvious disbelief, managing to hide his irritation at her rejection. He'd have to show this one exactly what he could do. He could already feel himself lifting in anticipation.

"You're handsome enough," Gabrielle admitted, not lowering her staff in the slightest, and still sounding bored, "but frankly, I'm just not interested. I'm tired, hungry, and more than a little cranky. Besides, my friend will be here any minute now, and she would be a little...irritated to find you here."

"She?" he demanded, still irritated at her casual dismissal of his charms. "Is she so very dangerous?" he added mockingly, stung by her obvious lack of interest.

"Oooh, yeah," she murmured. This one was full of it, for sure. She held back Xena's identity as a final trump card, then stretched the truth only slightly as she explained, "Let's just say that all the men I was attracted to, well, they all seemed to wind up dead. After a while, I stopped bothering."

"You won't have that problem with me," Apollo reassured her, his smile returning slightly as his irritation faded and his eyes roamed freely and openly over her body. Maybe she had been burned before - or was just playing hard to get...he'd forgive her for her insolence if she gave in - immediately.

Rolling her eyes at his wandering eyes, she demanded, "Look, what is with you? I'm not interested, so take off. I don't want to hurt you, but...," enunciating clearly, she bit out, "I want you to leave me alone." She spun her staff in an intricate pattern, then glared in what she thought was a menacing manner.

Bored with the interplay with this irritatingly disinterested mortal, Apollo gestured and caused her staff to fly out of her grasp. "I grow tired of this," he said commandingly while his eyes began to glow. "You will come with me - now!" With another gesture, he and Gabrielle faded from sight, the smoky white fire of their transport flashing briefly before dissolving in a cloud of smoky light.

When Xena arrived just over a candlemark later, all she would find were Gabrielle's staff thrown beneath a shrub, and her pack and scrolls lying by the side of the road. Gabrielle herself had vanished, with not a single clue as to her fate.


Chapter 2 - A Place Where Nobody Cares About Her Name


Apollo and Gabrielle reappeared in what looked to be a bar - a bar with strangely uniform, sourceless light, odd metal and stone fixtures, and a crowd of beautiful but sycophantic weirdos (yeah rich weirdos!) with strange hairstyles who called out in greeting at the appearance of their divine benefactor. "Hail!" they cried out, raising their mugs to him in toast.

Smiling, Apollo glowed under the open admiration of his covey of followers. Casting a sly glance at his newest soon-to-be conquest, he pulled a couple of the beautiful people into his embrace. (He didn't remember their names, but then again, he didn't care.) Dropping a kiss on the male's lips before nuzzling the giggling female behind the ears, he made a spectacle of it for Gabrielle's edification. When he'd finished, he released them, then pushed them roughly back into the crowd of their fellows. He turned to look expectantly at his latest acquisition, eager to see her grovelling and begging his forgiveness for her impertinence now that she realized who she had been refusing... by Hera, he loved this part!

"Why didn't you just say you were a god?" she demanded instead, eyes flashing as she put her hands on her hips. "But have to try to pick me up with some of the lamest lines I've heard in years." She took a deep breath to calm herself, then added, "Look, just take me back, and everything will be fine. I'm not upset, really." Despite her protests, she looked and sounded intensely irritated.

Taken aback, Apollo just stared at her. What was her problem? Confronted with a god, zapped to Mount Olympus, and shown what he expected from her - and instead of eagerly complying with his every whim she was demanding to be returned? And calling his pick up lines lame? What kind of a mortal was this? "You know I'm a god, yet you continue to talk to me like that? You are impudent, mortal, and in need of chastisement." A few ideas for doing just that - involving leather ties, chains, and his sky- board - made him smile slightly.

"No offense, but I have met a few gods before, so I'm sorry if I'm not more..." she trailed off, searching for the right word. Humble? Awed? Subservient? Unable to find a polite way of phrasing, she wisely chose to remain silent.

He had to smile at her defense. "Have you met so many divinities then?" he asked, amused despite himself at her insolence. She was interesting - even with her impertinence, he had to admit - and if there was one thing that the gods hated, it was boredom. Eternal life and enormous power tends to generate ennui, after all. He found himself looking forward to her inevitable conquest with a great deal of anticipation.

"Let's see...Callisto, Velaska..."

"Posers," Apollo sneered, "idiot mortals with delusions of grandeur." He looked smugly self-assured as he dismissed her first offerings with a languid wave of one hand. "They weren't really gods at all - and now they are even less than that."

"Okay," Gabrielle trailed off, stung, "how about Cupid, Bliss, Aphrodite, Bacchus, Hades, Celesta, Charon, Poseidon, a couple titans - including Hyperion," she paused to think, then added, "Cecrops was an immortal, and I suppose you can count Hercules, since he's half-god," under her breath, she added, then raising her voice, she finished off with, "oh, and I've really seen entirely too much of Ares. And I've kind of been dead once or twice, then there was..."

"Apollo! How good to see you again," a man cried out, walking up and hugging the god from behind, interrupting her before she could continue or he could say anything in response. "Will you be staying for," he trailed off seeing the god was with someone he didn't recognize, then altered his next words slightly, unsure of what his god had told her, "revelries?"

"Oh yes," he smiled toothily in return, looking towards the divans arranged around the room. They could serve as beds - and often had - and he was looking forward to initiating this mortal into his little flock. From her lengthy litany of past exposures to divine influence, he was beginning to think she could survive one of his more...exotic performances. "I'm looking forward to it..." his eyes oozed over Gabrielle's body in an oily caress she could almost feel.

The man sniffed as he appraised her, taking in her dusty appearance, billious green top and rust brown skirt. "Couldn't you clean her up a bit? Maybe find her something more suitable to wear?"

Laughing, Apollo gestured, and the man obligingly raised the covered bowl he carried clutched in one hand. Lifting the lid, he offered it to the god. The god reached in and pulled out a small reddish-orange sphere, then swallowed it, shivering as he felt the burst of energy it provided run through him.

The man smiled, then lifted an eyebrow, pointing to the new girl with a motion of his head in a silent question.

Gabrielle listened to their brief conversation, but failed to understand what they were talking about. "Are you going to introduce us?" she finally asked, after the man pointed his head towards her. She was trying to be polite, since after all, despite being kidnapped (again), this was a god she was dealing with.

"Certainly," Apollo said, smiling hugely as he grew amused at the prosaic role she asked him to play, "this is Petrus, one of my..." he trailed off, and seemed to be searching for the right word, before finally finishing with a possessive, "one of mine. And this is..." he stopped again, suddenly realizing he didn't know her name. He hadn't needed to know it for what he had planned to do to her, after all. He snapped his fingers irritably, waving at her to introduce herself. He could have just pulled it from her mind, but without strong familiarity with the subject, trying to pull useful information from a mortal's head was too complicated - and too much like work.

"I'm Gabrielle," she introduced herself finally, realizing what the god meant with the odd gesture, and smiling at the man. In an odd way, he looked a little like Vidalis, but with less facial hair - though he seemed even less impressed with her than that worthy had been. As always, thoughts of him inevitably drew her mind back to the time when Xena's eyes had opened after the medicine had been applied...and gazed deeply into her own. That memory always brought a smile to her face, and despite her present predicament, her face lit up momentarily with the glow of her remembered joy and love.

Apollo watched the transformation of her face as she smiled, and gloated about his coming possession of the woman. This would be fun! Maybe he'd find her an oracle after all. A sudden thought about the coming, revelry, brought a smug gleam to his eye.

Petrus, following his god's earlier directive, smiled in turn at the woman and silently offered the bowl to the bard. Maybe she'd work out after all, he mused.

She hesitated, staring at the orange-red spheres within, and wondered if it was ambrosia. It didn't look like the gellid stuff they had found while restoring Xena to life, and seen in the Sumerian treasure vault, but this was apparently Olympus...even if it was a sordid side of the divine realm.

The god misinterpreted her hesitation. "Oh please, like I'd need to poison you. If I wanted to kill you, there are lots more fun ways to do it." With a gesture a lightning bolt disintegrated a nearby table, causing the people gathered around it to leap out of their seats in moves that tasked their inebriated bodies' coordination. "Like that, for instance."

Petrus tsked in turn, and ate one for himself. "Really," he said, chastising her, "just take one, and thank him." Turning his head to face Apollo, he added, "Mortals," while rolling his eyes.

Summoning up her courage, she took one of the spheres and swallowed it, feeling a rush of strength, and a slight easing of her hunger pangs. "Thank you," she finally said. She turned back to Apollo, and now knowing who he was, pitched her request slightly differently. "Now, maybe you remember me? I'm one of the people who brought your sacred urn back to your temple after it was stolen? Remember? So how about taking me back to where you got me, huh? Just as a favor to an old benefactor..."

"Later, later," Apollo muttered, irritated by her continued chattering. He wanted to deal with her, but he had abruptly realized that he didn't see one of his favorites in the crowd and her absence was vexing. Not that he really cared about her, but losing a favorite toy can be distracting. "I need to talk to Petrus for a minute. Go get a drink or something, and be ready when I want you." He turned back to Petrus, dismissing her entirely from his mind, while the two began conversing softly, their words too quiet to be overheard by the bard.

Throwing up her hands in frustration, she stalked over to the bar, muttering as she went.

"Would you like some nectar?" the bartender asked as she approached, smiling at her in the professionally interested way such people often do. "It's quite fresh."

"Um, no," the bard replied. She knew what ambrosia did to mortals, but had no clue about nectar - and didn't want to find out. "Could I maybe have some water?"

"Certainly," he responded, grin fading slightly. He lowered his hands from sight behind the bar for an instant, then raised them again - to reveal that an intricately carved silver chalice had appeared between them.

Gabrielle took the chilled metal chalice and sipped delicately. It was water, but it tasted...odd. "This tastes kind of, I don't know, strange."

Staring blankly at her in horror at her presumption, the bartender retorted, "That water comes from the solstice runoff from the top of the highest mountain peak in the mortal world! Many brave men died to bring it here. You should feel honored to have been granted even the slightest sip." Looking quite offended, he sniffed haughtily, and concluded, "It does NOT taste strange."

She considered returning it, but after hearing the explanation of where the gods got even the water, she didn't want to risk something more exotic. A grumble from her stomach returned her hunger to her attention. "You got anything to eat? about something simple fruit, an apple, maybe?"

The bartender silently set a golden apple of the Hesperides in front of her. As a bard, she instantly recognized it.

Staring at the golden fruit, Gabrielle somewhat breathlessly declined, "Sorry, I've changed my mind. I think I'll just wait until I'm back down below. Thanks, anyway."

Just as silently, the bartender made the apple vanish. Muttering something about, "Damn mortals," he headed for the other end of the bar, leaving her alone.

Glancing around, she saw Apollo deep in conversation with Petrus, obviously irritated and clearly not in the mood to be asked to return her. The other people - humans, gods, or whatever they were - were eating, drinking, and carrying on, dancing, playing games she didn't recognize, and not a few were making out on the couches.

Another growl from her stomach made her briefly consider seeing if the bartender had any normal food despite the potential risk of eating food from a divine source, but a nearby bowl of the orange-red spheres caught her eye. Since she had already had one without any ill effects - or unusual side effects like becoming a goddess - she offhandedly grabbed a handful and started eating them. You'd have thought the gods would have nuts or something normal to eat at a bar instead of these...whatevers, she mused.

The sensation of the rush of strength vanished after she had eaten four, and the capsules failed to adequately quell her hunger. She idly leaned against the bar, watching the couples, triads, and other groupings entertaining themselves, and disporting among the tables and continued munching on the spheres, wishing she had some normal food. "Nutbread..." she said dreamily, squishing a gellid sphere between her teeth.

Wishing Apollo would hurry up and finish, she grabbed a third handful of the spheres. Too bad the god hadn't brought her bag, she mused while chewing ruminatively on a pair of the spheres; she had almost a full cheese in there. The thought of real food brought another growl of discontent from her midsection, and sent her diving back into the bowl of snacks.

"But how could she get back to the mortal realm?" Apollo demanded, staring angrily into Petrus' eyes. "I certainly didn't take her."

"She begged Athena to help her, and she agreed. Apparently she then tried to join the Hestians, but after, failed the entrance test," his sly grin to his god went unreturned, so he hurriedly continued, "she decided to become one of Athena's temple maidens instead."

"Damn!" the god cursed. "Just because I tell her I don't really love her, and was just using her for sex, she runs away. What's wrong with these mortals?" he demanded. "She should feel honored I deigned to even touch her. Zeus' balls, I even healed her after I was done! What more could she possibly want?"

"I'm sure I don't know," Petrus demurred, "if I were..." he trailed off as a bright white flash centered on the new girl Apollo had brought illuminated the room. The energy filling the room pulsed, sending waves of light into the small woman standing by the bar and briefly caused her to glow with a blindingly bright light.

Apollo's hand shot out and gripped Petrus by the throat. "How many of those did you give her?" he demanded harshly.

"J-J-Just the one," Petrus forced out, closing his eyes and trying desperately to breathe through the constriction of his windpipe. "Y...Y...You said it was..." he was forced to stop because he was running out of air.

Staggering slightly, Gabrielle turned to look at Apollo out of glowing green eyes. "Oh, this is just great. Now look what happened! What am I going to tell Xena?" she demanded rhetorically of the room at large. She looked down at herself, seeing that the grime that coated her had been washed away in the energy pulses, and her clothing had changed to be pure white. "Oh no, look what happened to my top! I liked that color!"

"Apollo..." Gabrielle growled irritably, "this is all your fault!"


Chapter 3 - Yet Another Barroom Brawl for Gabrielle


Dropping the nearly unconscious form of his sycophant, Apollo strolled up to the newly empowered goddess. "Well, well... Gabrielle, was it? I must say, this is a surprise."

"You're telling me," she agreed crossly. "What was in those things anyway?"

"Ambrosia," he responded simply, hopping up to sit on the bar next to her. "I would think that would be obvious right about now."

"No - it can't be. I've seen it jiggles. This stuff was...sort of crunchy."

"In pure form yes, ambrosia is somewhat mobile, but this is special...dilute. It keeps my little toys young and pretty," he added while waving at his followers, "but it is not supposed to turn them into gods." He looked her up and down, seeing her without the light covering of dirt and road grime for the first time, and liking what he was seeing. "One should have just refreshed you, not..." He trailed off, then started again. "I don't know how this," he waved one hand in her direction, "could have happened. Unless...was your mother or father a god? Demigods can be affected by just one."

Looking into the empty, once full bowl of the spheres she had eaten, Gabrielle said nothing. "Just great," she finally uttered.

Apollo had meanwhile continued his silent appraisal of her form, liking it more and more. "Don't worry, you look great. Godhood agrees with you." He jumped down off the bar, then pulled her into a sudden embrace, "You'll love what we can do... I can't wait to show you everything," he leered. After a brief pause to admire her figure, he tried to bury his face in her breasts. She stopped him with what would have been a ladylike slap if it hadn't been powerful enough to shatter marble.

The god flew across the room and smashed into a stone pillar, bringing it down in a thunderous avalanche of debris to bury him in the shattered fragments of marble. The new goddess looked down at her hand - which didn't even sting from the force of the blow - and said simply, "Oops."

Pulling himself out from under the rubble, and shaking his head to clear it, Apollo looked utterly pissed. "Dumb bitch, you need to show some gratitude." He stalked up to her, looking like he was ready to murder someone - or at least her.

In an indefinable way, she reached out...and her staff was in her hands. Down on Earth, the frantically searching Xena happened to glance aside while examining the muddled footprints in the dirt road and saw her friend's staff fade out of sight in a burst of greenish white light, letting her know a god was involved. Somewhat understandably - given her history - she picked the wrong one. "Ares," she murmured, a snarl of rage growing on her face. "ARES!" she screamed.

Back in the heavenly bar, Gabrielle was surprised but pleased to find herself abruptly armed. She spun the staff, then caught Apollo in a swift reverse that struck him in the ribs. Apollo flew back, demolishing another pillar.

Snarling, he threw a bolt of shimmering blue fire. Gabrielle ducked, thinking to herself, "so that's how Ares does that," as her newly divine senses 'felt' how he had summoned and shaped the burning energy into a missile. Her evasion caused the fireball to fly past her shoulder and impact behind the bar, sending flame and shards of glass everywhere. Without pausing to think of how she did it, she erected a shimmering wall of green force between the cowering bartender and the rush of flame as the fireball blew up the bottles of potent spirits. The man fainted, but was unhurt.

Turning to face Apollo with eyes glowing green with righteous anger at his wanton destruction and casual risk to innocents, she barked, "Don't hurt them; they're your people! If you have to fight, fight me, not them!" Her eyes stopped glowing as she stopped to think for a moment, and actually considered about what she'd just said; inviting a god to attack her was not the smartest thing she'd done recently. "Besides," she added in a much milder tone, "it's your own fault for bringing me here."

Sneering at her concern for what were, after all, mere toys for his amusement, Apollo nevertheless closed with her, not bothering to throw another energy attack. The two divinities duelled for several minutes, neither landing a telling blow as they fought. The crowd of Apollo's sycophants, ignoring the common sense notion that mortals should run when gods fight, cheered each blow and attack as the two slugged it out. Wagers were called out and met, and the mood was soon festive for the spectators.

Gabrielle's staff soon slipped past his defenses once again and crashed into the same location on his ribs she had struck before, drawing a pained grunt from the golden god. Pausing to get his breath, he rubbed the spot for a moment with one hand before saying, "Not bad." He leaped back into the fray.

Trained by Xena and the finest of the Amazon weapons masters, and using skills honed across the length and breadth of the known world, the bard-Goddess fended off his attacks with growing ease. Freed from limitations of strength, speed, and stamina by her new divinity, she was able to use everything she had ever learned about fighting with a great deal more effectiveness. Despite being only newly divine, she more than held her own against the more experienced god, her staff - glowing with might - lending her attacks the advantages of reach and flexibility.

As the combat went on, Gabrielle slowly began to notice subtle weaknesses in his fighting style. He relied too much on strength, and not enough on skill; using brute force whenever possible and trying to crush her, rather than simply worrying about hitting her. He continued to rain hammer blows that would have shattered granite in her direction, only to have the massive attacks be swept aside with negligent seeming moves of her staff.

With growing confidence, she diverted his blows with the staff, her fingers knowing intimately every inch of the aged wood, and understanding completely its handling and strengths. She instinctively imbued it with some of her power, and it gleamed and caused small tendrils of lightning to snake across Apollo's body when it struck.

At length, drawing him into making a rash wild punch, she spun, clipped him in the ribs again, then spun back into a reversal, taking his legs out from under him in one of her favorite moves. She finished the move with a flourish, spinning the staff and ending with the butt end pointed at his throat. Had she chosen to, she could have crushed his throat in an instant, and they both knew it.

Before she could say anything, he vanished in a burst of white light. "Coward!" she screamed, shaking her fist in the air. "Get back here! You need to fix this!" Her only consolation was that she learned how to teleport by watching him vanish.

Looking around, she saw the wreckage left in the wake of their brawl, but thankfully, no injuries to the bystanders. Walking slowly back to the bar through the silent ranks of the spectators, she sat down heavily on a padded stool, propping her staff against the glowing metal edge of the bar and sighing in frustration.

"You'll need this," the bartender said, offering her another glass of water and a small, wiggling piece of actual ambrosia. Knowing it couldn't hurt her - now, since she was already apparently a goddess, and still being hungry - not to mention tired from her exertions - she ate it, washing it down silently with the water. "Thank you, great lady," he finally said as she remained silent, staring at the spot where Apollo had vanished, "for saving me."

"You're welcome," she responded absently, sipping delicately at the water. "Sorry about the mess." The ambrosia recharged her, and with a shiver, she abruptly felt much better.

"It's quite alright," he reassured her. "This is nothing. You should have seen it the last time Hercules showed up. Now THAT was a mess."

She leaped to her feet instantly. "Hercules! Of course! Thank you," she told the bartender gratefully, "I don't know when I would have thought of him."

"Think nothing of it," he bowed, accepting her thanks graciously, even though he didn't understand what her thanks were for. A servant of the gods had to know when to simply say nothing and accept what they did or said - no matter how strange it seemed.

Gabrielle grabbed her staff, then concentrated on what she had seen Apollo do. "I hope this works," she murmured, then disappeared in a burst of greenish light.

The bartender watched as her afterimage faded into nothingness, then called out to the surrounding people, "Alright people, lets get this place cleaned up." With many a moan and complaint, they slowly complied with his instructions.


End Of Part 1

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September 1, 1998
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