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My happiness

Slowly creeping back

Now I'm all alone

Cause you're not with me

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

[Season 6 episode 23]

by Richard B.Kloosterboer

[rewritten 28-06-2001 – bigger and better]

DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle, Ares, Eve, Virgil, Michael, Lucifer and a few others are borrowed characters from the Television Series Xena: Warrior Princess, to enhance the story.

These characters belong to Renaissance Pictures and Universal Studios.

They are the invention of Rob Tapert and J.R.Stewart

Conflict of Interest has been written for the fans to help heal the wounds after viewing FIN2

WARNING: A very tasteful love scene is described [no nudity], many battles [medium violence], a bit of swearing [descriptive], a few jokes, my own Theosophical thoughts and a happy ending.

* * *

[Author's Log: 19 June 2001: Idea for short story is born after first reviews of FIN2]

[28 June 2001: as per request I have revised the story a bit, tying up a few loose ends.. It is now a true Post-FIN story.]

Ares paced around on Mount Olympus furiously. He looked worriedly to his beloved sister Aphrodite. There was nothing she could do to console the dark brooding mood he was in. He felt it in his heart - a loss so overpowering with sudden grief that it angered him to certain violence. Aphrodite felt it too. Instinctively they knew, as Gods, that someone very important in their immortal lives had passed over.

'This is insane.' Shouted the God of War, trembling the foundation with arcane power. 'I am not supposed to feel remorse.'

'You were in love with a mortal for a long time,' consoled Aphrodite. 'And now your heart is broken. I loved her too, little brother.'

The pain on his face was too clear to hide. ' I must see her. Why isn't she here? Where has her spirit gone?' He asked heavenward. He collapsed grief-stricken on his bed of skulls.

'Maybe the competition knows.' Tried Aphrodite, positioning herself close beside him, soothing his sorrow holding him close. Tears did not come easily for the Gods, but for this once only the Goddess of Love let tears stream down her beautiful face in grief and prayed silently for the freedom of the trapped soul of Xena: Warrior Princess.

* * *

The Archangel Michael was peeved at the knowledge acquired by his boss. Xena was dead, but had not gone to Heaven or Hell. Lucifer didn't know where Xena's spirit had gone either. Even in death Xena was ever popular with the underworld and etherworlds.

'Lucifer!' he shouted.

A raging inferno appeared in Heaven. But was extinguished with the spiritual flame of goodwill. A sorry sight of a demon cowered in the afterlife's powerful light.

'What do you want? Why do you summon me, you son-of-a-bitch.'

'Isn't it obvious, Lucy? What the hell have you done with Xena's soul?' accused Michael.

Lucifer cringed. 'What makes you think I'll tell you? I want her just as bad as you do - probably more. She made me who I am.'

'You are what you are because you want to be.'

'Ouch, that smarts, brother. Anyway, you are not the only one who is bothered by her disappearance. Why don't you ask Gabrielle or Eve?'

'You know we are at odds.' Then leaned to one of the guards, 'get rid of him.' He instructed.

'Hey, you summoned me remember? You just can't…' A chasm appeared and engulfed the hideous Fallen Angel back to Hell.

'Who do we know besides Gabrielle and Eve that knows Xena intimately?' Then it dawned on him. The pagan deities. 'Time to fly, brothers - to find the God of War.'

* * *

The God of War had to look his best. He had to appear cool and confident. He must betray nothing of his shattered emotions. He switched them off. He knew why they, the Archangels, had come. And he must find leverage. It took only a single moment to flash the dreaded Eve in his possession, it was enough just to hold Xena's only daughter here for whatever purpose he desired. He liked Eve - a strong will and determination. She didn't want anything to do with Ares anymore. Thats how he liked it too, freewill and independence. Perfect for a second-in-command, the new Warrior Princess. Only one flaw - she was a pacifist.

Eve was furious with her abduction by the God of War, and frustrated even further when the Archangel Michael appeared. Ares came in and said to Michael, 'I took the liberty to bring Eve up. She might tell us what happened to her mother.'

'Not likely.' Eve retorted. 'You can't keep me here against my will.' And started for the door.

Michael barred her escape. 'Please Eve, can you tell us what happened to Xena's soul.'

'Look inside yourself, deep into your heart.' She confronted Michael, then with a slight gesture of putting her palm over her heart she continued, 'Xena is with me, always, in my heart. She gave me life. She gave me love, taught me compassion and forgiveness of self as well as forgiveness for others. Let her rest where-ever she is. She deserves it.'

Michael bowed his head in respect for Eve's stature and let her pass. Ares did not want to let go, but Michael stopped him. 'I came here to seek your assistance. I now know that Xena will live on in our hearts. Her soul has reached a higher plane beyond ours.' He looked sternly at Ares, 'Let her go!'

Michael left for heaven strangely content and satisfied. He would cherish Xena's memory for eternity, what ever form she had assumed for herself.

Just when things were about to settle down with a self-pitying War-God, Lucifer flaps in.

'I have a deal for you that will satisfy both our needs.' Lucifer started.

'I'm listening but won't guarantee anything.' Ares chided.

'Go to the place where Xena died and bring back her spirit… for me.'

'Evil consorting with evil. No deal.'

'Don't play with me Ares. I can be a formidable ally or a dangerous enemy.'

'I was about to say the same thing. We do think alike,' Ares leaned dangerously close to Lucifer's fanged features, 'but you can't have her..'

Lucifer engulfed Ares in flames, singeing his whiskers. Ares extinguished the inferno around him and engulfed Lucifer with shocking lightning strikes. Both lords of the underworld remained unharmed during each volatile attack on each other, but their surroundings suffered immensely. Aphrodite appeared in the melee. 'Stop it, both of you.' She said.

Lucifer latched one claw on the pretty God-of-Love. 'Come with me, love goddess. I'll show you the time of your life.' He dribbled.

Slapping his face thunderously aside, Aphrodite proclaimed, 'Get a life, creep.' Then snapped her fingers. 'Take a bath!' And Lucifer found himself up to his eyeballs in a bubblebath.

'That's my girl.' Chuckled Ares. Then winced with a little discomfort as his sister secured his earlobe. 'Who do you think is gonna clean up this mess? Not me brother.'

'Aaw, Dite. I need to find Xena.'

'You can find Xena when you've done your chores and send you're stinky little friend home.'

Ares reluctantly agreed and kicked Lucifer back to Hell.

Not giving away any of his plans, Ares decided to seek out Gabrielle. Gabrielle was nearing the coast of Greece. He would wait nearby.

* * *

Gabrielle returns only once to Greece wanting to tell Eve and Virgil of Xena's passing. Along the way Ares bothers her. 'I've traveled the land of the Pharaohs and the first person of my former life I meet is the despicable God of War.' She drew Xena's sword and turned to face Ares, battle ready.

'I must say you've improved considerably since the last time we met.' He guffawed at the sword aimed so close to his Adam's Apple.

Through clenched teeth Gabrielle demanded. 'What-do-you-want!?' More a statement than a question.

'Quite simply put, I want Xena.'

'You can't have her. She's dead.' Her gaze was cool and calculating. Nothing betrayed her location of Xena's ashes.

'I can bring her back to life. You would like that, wouldn't you?' He chided.

Her stance relaxed barely, 'It has been too long, Ares. Let her spirit rest. She deserves it.'

Gabrielle holsters the long sword. The chakram appears briefly from under her black leather coat and is just as quickly hidden from sight. Ares would not let the matter drop, 'At least tell me where she died.'

Gabrielle glanced to something unseen by the God of War and with tortured eyes stinging with tears she said. 'She died in battle. Fighting against twenty-thousand Samurai by herself in Japan. You would've been proud of her.'

Shock of this information overwhelmed him. 'I would've helped her win. I didn't know.'

'It is not for the reason that you think, Ares.' Gabrielle's intuition spoke out loud. 'She had to die in order to defeat a very evil entity who ate the souls of the dead. Yodoshi was more evil than Dahag.' Gabrielle shivered as she explained and turned her back on Ares as she remembered fears from the past.

'You could've revived her.' He whirled on Gabrielle grabbing her upper arms from behind her. Gabrielle flipped and kicked herself loose from Ares' iron grip, surprising him of her agility.

'Xena wanted it this way.' She smiled to something unseen on her left, fighting against the tears which welled up in her eyes. 'Xena is always with me.' She looked at Ares with deep compassion. 'Xena is my life - my soul.'

Frustrated, Ares made a snap decision. 'Then I will go to Japan.' He flashed out of existence into another dimensional plane traveling instantaneously to his purported destination.

'He didn't see you here with me, Xena.' Said Gabrielle.

Xena's ghost replied. 'Part of my soul will always be with you. In time we will be together again.'

Gabrielle looked at the spectral image. 'Am I holding you back? You should be with Solan.'

'This is why I travel with you now. Solan is reborn and soon I shall be reborn as well, my love. We shall be together again.'

'I will always be with you - Forever!' whispered a voiceless wind.

[Authors thoughts: In the bigger scheme of things, can we look beyond our material world and view our immortality as the true journey of our soul without the physical need of touch to hamper our way of life in these multiple planes and levels of existence?]

* * *

Eve did not cry. She knew where her mother had gone and where her spirit was going. Virgil's anguish was beyond comprehension and held Eve close to him for solace. There was so much of Joxer in him - thought Gabrielle. Eve and Virgil held their child close to them as Gabrielle told of her trip to Japan and her journey through the land of the Pharaohs. It had been several months of traveling. Eve and Virgil noticed the spectral figure shadowing Gabrielle. They were surprised to see Xena in such splendor still watching over Gabrielle. Their child saw Xena too and smiled happily to her. Gabrielle looked the boy in the eyes and recognized a familiar soul, one she hadn't seen for several years. She was overjoyed and looked at Xena's spectral frame. Xena mouthed the words to her. It was Solan reborn as the son of Eve and Virgil.

The Xena Scrolls would be safely hidden and sealed in a specially concealed cave with a mechanism Gabrielle learned about in the land of the Pharaohs. Safely hidden until the world would be ready to learn of the legend of Xena: Warrior Princess.

* * *

No mortal had dared bother the Amazon Queen on her travels. Only Ares had bothered her once, then left for Japan himself. An air of respect and obedience flowed from her being that shattered evil doers to dust. The dragon tattoo no longer itched on her back and no one asked her about it anymore. Old Draco asked once and the fire in Gabrielles eyes consumed him with fear like he never felt before. Her sorrow ran deep for the loss of her friend, her sister, her Xena. Yet Gabrielle was strangely content aswell, knowing her friend was free from the material prison we all live in.

For months she chronicled their adventures except their final journey to Japan. A few thoughts were written, but not the full story - not yet - not ever. She could not bring herself to write down the Japanese events. It was too personal.

 

* * *

'I am sorry,' the Japanese deity bowed respectfully to Ares. 'Xena's soul is no longer with us. Only the shell of her existence remains on the Eartly planes.'

Ares looked confused. Xena was here and yet she was not. 'Where has she gone?' he asked perplexed.

'To another plane of existence - as have the other souls under her care.' The deity continued dutifully. 'I must confess that I did not see this coming in the grander scheme of things. Xena has attained more life experience in her karmic cycle of mortality than any other entity in any existence.

'Only a small part of her soul remains Earthbound in memory. If she so chooses she may reincarnate anytime anywhere or follow the karmic cycle again cleansing her soul further.'

'You make it sound like humans are better than Gods.' Spat out Ares disgustingly.

'In a small way they are. Humans are mortal in the material world of senses and immortal in the ethereal world of the spirit. You wanted her to be a Goddess by your side. Xena is already a Goddess - a very powerful one. One that can live in both worlds and remain eternal forever. Can you claim the same privilige?'

'I was mortal…twice!' confided Ares.

'But you were born a God.' The deity argued. 'When you die, you will cease to exist…for you have no soul.'

This truth enraged Ares and lightning flashes flew around the tranquil area. 'Then I will take this shell.' Ares threatened. 'Where on this world is Xena's shell?'

'You will find her with the carrier of her ashes.' Answered the deity dutifully.

Then it dawned on him: 'Gabrielle!'

'I shall have Xena as my wife.' Ares challenged.

'As you wish. It changes nothing and you will have nothing.' The deity leaned very close to Ares and a barely audible whisper made Ares gasp in shock. 'You are…nothing!'

* * *

Gabrielle finds no solace in Greece and travels to India to reunite with her lost spirit and karmic cycle. Ares returned from Japan, followed her trail to within reach of India and bothered her for a second time along the way. She refused to tell him where Xena's spirit was.

'C'mon, you can tell an old friend.' He chided.

'Go - away - Ares.' Said Gabrielle with clenched teeth, a dark mood enveloping her matured features.

Ares moved smoothly behind Gabrielle tracing the lines of the Dragon on her back, caressing her shoulders. The Dragon glowed faintly with an unknown magical power of its own. Ares looked at the intricate design with curiosity - it seemed to be alive. She whirled on him and he loved seeing the fire in her eyes - she was so close to becoming the new warrior princess - no, Warrior Queen. Yet some force held her back and she whispered hoarsely to Ares, 'Leave - me - alone.'

Xena came into Gabrielle's peripheral vision and whispered to her. 'Its allright. I would like to go with Ares for a little while.'

Tears welled up in Gabrielle's eyes as she defied even Xena's silent wish. 'I don't want to let you go - not again. First in life - now in death. Stay,' she pleaded. 'Don't go with Ares.'

'He needs me, Gabrielle. Just for a little while. Go to India. Find yourself and you will find your other soulmate there. I will join you in India in time. Do not despair - I love you and will never leave you.'

'I love you Xena.' Gabrielle embraced her spectral friend and held her tight for a little while longer.

To Ares' delight he could suddenly see Xena's shell shimmer into existence. An empty shell of the physical proportions of the famed Warrior Princess. He took her by the hand tenderly and they left the Earthly realm together to Mount Olympus.

'Farewell Xena - until we meet again.' Sobbed Gabrielle.

'I will never leave you.' Whispered a voiceless wind.

* * *

Ares was moody. Xena's shell did nothing for him. It was as if she wasn't there. Where was the fire? Where was the spirit? The ghost of Xena was just that…an empty shell. Just like that Japanese deity had warned. He could not fathom the bond that Xena and Gabrielle had together. The solidity of her spiritual soul made real to touch by sheer thought. The undying love between the two women was real beyond his comprehension. His sister would know, but love was not his field of expertise. His love for Xena was born of bloodlust and passion through warfare skills. Skills he nurtured on her for a long time. This was the Xena he loved. Not the peaceful spectrum that lay close to him now. He stood up and started pacing again. Where are you, my love? He thought in despair.

He would have to leave Earth somehow. Something was holding him back. Doubt coursed through his mind. Where would he go to look for her?

Maybe the God of War should ask for help of the higher force pulling the strings.

What? The God of War asking for help? That's absurd. He dismissed the thought.

'Now that is the Ares I know.'

He whirled around and saw the spectral shell of Xena positively radiant with auric gold and silver light. He fell to his knees - overwhelmed with Xena's ethereal beauty, something he would savor the rest of his immortal existence. Xena helped him to his feet. 'Aah, my friend, why do you look so sad?' She asked concerned.

'We…we could have been together.' He sighed. 'Should have been together.'

'I am here now, at least for a little while. I am here in part for you.' Xena paused. 'My choice.'

Ares smiled wanly, hope returning to his eyes and looked lovingly into Xena's ethereal eyes. Eyes that reflected infinite universes. They looked longingly at each other full of want. Both were now Gods and could make the world rock beneath them. They kissed passionately like only humans can and arcane lightning coursed through Heaven and Hell with an intensity unknown to mankind. Xena the Goddess was a more powerful being than Ares ever anticipated and her power was pure and good. She paused in the middle of their lovemaking and said, 'I can grant you something that you have always wanted to have. Both choices will give you a form of immortality. Choose wisely, my love.'

Ares paused. He was already immortal, what does she mean? He sat up and she came close to him and whispered, 'I can give you a child or… a soul.'

* * *

Something that Ares always wanted than anything in the whole wide world. But the choice was limited to two. If there was one thing he learned from Xena was that she had always a back-up plan. She was beyond being a mere ghost and yet her gift for him seemed sincere. Both offered a form of immortality. In human terms one was essential for human existence. Procreation was a favorite past-time in all known worlds.

The other was the existence of humanity. Possessing a soul would bring the God of War in closer understanding the human psyche, by becoming fully human and letting his soul travel the infinite planes dimensions. He could evolve into a higher being by discarding his godly attributes for real this time. He could do that. He was mortal…twice. Could make it a hat-trick.

Remembering how the Japanese deity bullied his own very existence made Ares doubt his own existence. The Goddess Xena, an entity come full circle according to the Karmic laws, offered him either a child or a soul.

Having a child was the obvious choice. He always wanted a child with Xena. The sole purpose of his entire existence was to have a consort and a child brought forth from this union. An invincible child that could be the scourge of the world. Bring order through chaos. A true Warlord. A hybrid of the War-God Ares and his human consort Xena: Warrior Princess.

One can but dream. A child with the Goddess Xena opens up infinite possibilities. The child would be the best of both parents and immortal. Or could be a wimp who wants peace instead of war. A very powerful peace-loving God - that's unheard of.

Doubt consumed him. Indecision confused him. All he ever wanted was to have Xena for himself, to bear his child. The spectral silhouette of the once human Warrior Princess lay there embraced within his mighty arms. He had to make the right decision. The only choice that he always wanted.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew his decision would have a finality for him that would last an eternity.

 

* * *

Embraced with godly love, Xena and Ares were united at last. Xena had left the existence of the Earth realm and assumed a temporary position as Ares' consort. Sometimes Xena wandered at Gabrielles side, never quite letting go. Guiding her to an undisclosed destination - a goal that only gods could perpetrate on humankind.

Ares was still thinking about Xena's gift for him. A decision that could change his view of life - his own, as well as for others. He held Xena close to him, caressing her, kissing her, holding on tight. She loved him unconditionally, didn't fight him, wanting to stay close to him, to comfort him, accepting and returning caresses as their spectral skins touched like no human could ever experience.

'Xena.' He nuzzled the nape of her neck. 'I want to have a child with you.'

Xena nodded slowly and smiled a reassuring smile at him. She asked, 'Don't you want to have a soul?'

Ares looked at Xena with sudden insight. 'I've realized that the Japanese deity purposely misled me.' He explained. 'I do not need a soul - for I am a soul!' Ares concluded resolutely.

'Took you a while to figure that out.' She chided him, poking him in spectral ribs. 'A child it is.' Xena decided. 'A child with compassion, who knows the difference between wrong and right. Good and evil.' She thought a bit. 'Almost human.' She chuckled. Ares was happy.

A sudden commotion brought them to full alertness. Lucifer decided to be a party pooper and invaded Mount Olympus with his demon army. Ares beamed with anticipation for the oncoming onslaught. To his delight Xena brought forth her leather armor - battle ready at Ares' side.

'Lets kick the crap out of him. ALALALALALA!' she yodeled her famous battlecry, somersaulted over the melee into Lucifers path and slammed a backfist in his countenance. Sparks flew as the battle raged on. Ares called forth his minions – corpses of long dead soldiers with a lust for battle that took the demons by surprise forcing some to retreat hastily. Ares and Xena fought back to back parrying and kicking at batlike creatures.

In frustration Lucifer called out to Xena, ‘You are coming with me.’ Lucifer headbutted Ares aside and whilst gliding grabbed Xena midwaist. Xena struggled at her kidnapper’s inhuman strength.

‘A chakram would be handy right now.’ She thought. The thought became a spectral reality as the circular weapon was conjured up out of thin air. Still within the grasp of Lucifer, Xena laughed a maniacal cackle, gave him a well placed headbutt on his nose and sliced through his arms with the spectral chakram, forcing him to drop Xena in the middle of the melee. As she landed she aimed and threw her circular weapon amongst the demons, who scattered for safety.

‘Now this is what I call fun.’ Chuckled Ares as he clipped the wings of a demon not wise enough to give up.

‘I could keep this up forever – got plenty of time.’ Xena joked.

‘Time to throw out the garbage.’ Ares picked Lucifer up by the scruff and threw him off Mount Olympus. Any stragglers followed suit. Xena walked sensually towards Ares, one hand sliding past his cheek to the back of his neck and in one swift move pulled him close for a passionate after-battle kiss. Embraced in renewed love they sank together on his bed of skulls contemplating full intercourse – creating a Godly child. A child that Ares, God of War always wanted with Xena: Warrior Princess.

* * *

Childbearing is non-existent among the Gods. A birth of an ethereal child of ethereal parents is like a fusion of energies. That the child has gender is purely co-incidental. To Aphrodite's delight her niece was born. The new entity had the wisdom of both parents, not that her little brother was particularly smart. It was refreshing to see Ares as a happy father - he seemed to have mellowed from his warring days devoting all of his spare time with his daughter.

Xena's spirit had fullfilled Ares' wish. On the one hand she was happy for Ares. Happy to have a new child. But the bond of her child was with her father.

Xena's spectral frame was restless. She longed for the companionship of her twin-soul. She missed Gabrielle.

Xena made up her mind. 'Ares.' She began. The God of War looked at his mate. 'we have to talk.'

'I don't like the sound of that.' He said worriedly.

'I miss Gabrielle.' She fought hard against the tears building up. 'she's still hurting, I can feel it.'

'Would you like me to put her out of her misery?'

Xena scowled angrily at him. They had been steadily growing apart. Ares was an insensitive clout and they had only one thing in common - their daughter.

Ares noticed the look but paid no heed. He had a child and that is all he ever wanted.

Aphrodite came to the rescue. She had noticed the tension building between Xena and Ares after their daughter was born. 'You don't deserve Xena, little brother. Come along girlfriend.' Aphrodite pulled Xena along.

'Look Xena, I saw this day coming. You gave Ares a child so now you're even with him. She can see it too that you don't love Ares. You still are in love with Gabrielle - that's where you belong. With your twin-soul - your soulmate.' Xena was taken by surprise - speechless. 'Go to Gabrielle, Xena. She's waiting for you.'

'Thank you for everything.' Xena hugged Aphrodite, then turned around and said. 'Seeya Ares.'

Ares grinned, arms folded, 'Whatever.' Their daughter remained platonic.

'Farewell Aphrodite, dear friend.'

'Good luck, Xena.'

Xena's spectral entity was away in a godly flash to reunite with Gabrielle - forever.


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