Title: A Dark Day
Characters: Gabrielle & Iolaus
Summary: A rewrite of Iolaus' cameo in The Quest, in which he doesn't bugger off after three minutes.
Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo, Hercules, Iolaus, Jason and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series' Xena: Warrior Princess, and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
NOTE: All works remain the © copyright (2001) of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
Author's Note: I felt that Iolaus' cameo in The Quest was not good enough. It was very degrading to both characters that he arrived, stuck around for three minutes when Gabrielle was obviously in a terrible state, feeling alone... and buggered off. So I fixed it. And now I feel better. So this is how I think things should have gone.
Spoilers for 'The Quest' & 'Destiny.'
Violence: Descriptive violence. Be warned. It's
not really more violent than the show, we just describe it move by move.
Sex: Non graphic sexual scenes.
Language: Squeaky Kleen. Well, no swear words anyways. But some not nice things are said!
Subtext: If you see subtext here, you're... desperate? No. It's all Gab/Iolaus MAINTEXT. :)
You can also find Jrpanther's stories at Amphipolis Cafe
Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
A Dark Day
"You've made an enemy," the thug snarled, springing back from Gabrielle's viciously defensive strikes.
"What a coincidence. So have you." The golden-haired hunter had appeared as if from nowhere to dole out a good lot of punishment. He was awfully fond of Gabrielle, and while he knew she could take care of herself in many a fight, his overpowering urge to keep her from harm put him in the driver's seat of the conflict.
The brute spun around at the unexpected voice, only to receive a powerful punch in the jaw from the man of a somewhat indominant stature. As the taller of the two stumbled around in a dizzy circle to face his attacker, Iolaus tapped him on the shoulder from behind. "No no, here," he quipped. The bandit turned around with an almost drunken movement and raised his club to swing at Iolaus, but Iolaus quickly delivered a series of kicks, and finally a rough elbow to the chin sent him pitching backwards, only to stumble off in the manner of his friends whom the young bard had already dispatched.
"Iolaus!" Gabrielle cried out in surprise, a tired smile spreading across her face. It somewhat startled Iolaus when she immediately dropped her weapon, an Amazon staff, and rushed over to him with open arms.
"Fancy meeting you here," he said with a mischievous glint in his eye. With her arms wrapped warmly around his neck, and her cheek buried in his shoulder, he said "Hey I should get this greeting every time I turn up." His brow creased when she didn't answer. Her only response was the short breaths of warm air that brushed against the base of his neck. If it wasn't for her obvious distress, he would have really enjoyed the moment. "Gabrielle? What is it?" Her small form pressed up against him with perfect fit, but he found himself pulling away to look into red-rimmed eyes. The realization that something was wrong had already struck him, but his further realization was like a hook to the gut. "Hey where's Xena?"
The pained green eyes that searched his broke their connection in a silent gesture. Iolaus followed her gaze, landing like a slap in the face on the dark wood coffin fixed with bronze designs.
They stared at the offending object in silence for a full minute, Iolaus struggling to absorb this most upsetting occurrence. He closed his eyes and pulled her again into what he hoped was a comforting embrace, his eyes burning as he strained to keep himself strong for her sake. He breathed in the scent of her sun-kissed strawberry blonde hair, filling his nostrils with an elegant and subtle breath of lavender. The pain she must be feeling He was feeling pain as well, to be sure. But to Gabrielle, Xena was a mentor, a friend, with a bond closer than sisters. Their relationship was much like his with Hercules. And if anything happened to Herc
Iolaus parted Gabrielle's embrace, moving slowly up to the coffin. He placed his hands on it, tracing the bronze moldings with his fingertips. "I can't believe it," he said with a resigned sigh, the sadness clearly evident in his voice.
Fresh tears sparkling in her eyes, Gabrielle stood behind Iolaus and placed her hand gently against his back, looking over his shoulder at the sarcophagus. "She's gone. She just left me." Then, "How could she do that?" The bard turned again to face Iolaus. "She just left. I really wanna hate her for it." Xena was her life, her path. All of a sudden, the most central person she knew was gone, and her future now uncertain. Her frustration didn't come show through in anger, but in the tone of quiet resignation.
"No, no you don't."
"But I miss her."
Iolaus again pulled his beautiful bard towards him, holding her so that her every inch was spoken for. They were snug together as their expressions spoke of unspeakable sadness, finding a glimmer of hope and happiness in each other.
Again, Gabrielle pulled away to look up at him. "There's so many things I wish I could tell her," she continued in muted tones, her voice taking on an almost tuneful quality in its sorrow. "Why didn't I when I had the chance?" She gazed up at Iolaus with her watery green orbs, looking to him for comfort and reassurance.
Iolaus brushed his thumb in subtle movements against the small of Gabrielle's back, looking for nothing more than extend his sympathy and great affection for the bard. He shook his golden curls and sighed, not knowing how to answer the question. "We always think we have plenty of time," he began, with another small sigh and a quick shrug of his shoulders, "we know people are gonna leave us, but-" he paused, his face again taking on a cloudy pallor, "we never face up to it. What would you have told her?"
Gabrielle leaned her forehead against his, briefly. "I would have told her how empty my life was before she came." Gabrielle's eyes searched his again, seeming unable to break the connection. Suddenly, it felt that the whole world would go away if he left her too. "And all the lessons I learned; and that I love her." A slight smile played across her lips as she remembered her best friend, her Warrior Princess.
"Gabrielle, you just told her." Iolaus' gentle hand cupped her jaw, his thumb straying gently in a loving motion, just feeling the softness of her skin. And at that moment, there was nothing more that Gabrielle wanted but to feel his warm, strong arms around her. She pulled him close and buried her face in his shoulder.
In his embrace, she said, "I'm gonna be okay." With a sigh, "I have to take Xena to Amphipolis. She wants to be buried next to her brother."
"Why don't I come with you," Iolaus responded, his breath blowing at her hay coloured strands of hair.
"What about Hercules. Someone should get him word, before he hears it from the wrong person."
"Gabrielle," he said, holding her by the sides of the head, his fingers spreading through her hair. "The word would get to him before I did, even if I left now. The death of Xena well, that one's going to spread fast."
"No buts," Iolaus interrupted. "I want to be here for you, Gabrielle. Anyways, it's only a days walk before we reach Amazon country. When we get close to there, I'll go back to Hercules."
Gabrielle's bottom lip began to quiver as she screwed her eyes up tight and held herself closely against the golden hunter. "I want you to be here for me too, Iolaus," she admitted. "And I want to be here for you."
The balls of Iolaus fingers pressed assuringly into the skin of Gabrielle's back. "Let's head out then. We can get in a good distance before nightfall."
Gabrielle had insisted on a rest. Argo needed some water. She didn't leave much for herself but it was Argo who was doing all the hard work. Wiping her hand on her skirt, Gabrielle peered up at the horizon.
"That's one tough horse. You guys have come quite a ways, haven't you?"
Gabrielle nodded her affirmation and sighed, her eyes falling heavily on the casket once again. "Xena "
Iolaus stopped behind her and placed his hand on her shoulder, giving it a slight squeeze. "We should keep going, the sun's already beginning to set."
"Yeah," she said, not really listening. She was clearly lost in thought. Iolaus put his arm around her, gently urging her forward.
It was at that moment that a trio of money hungry bandits emerged from the surrounding trees. Oh gods, Xena where are your instincts when I need them? She half joked to herself, chuckling bitterly. "You want her body, don't you. So you can gorge yourselves stupid on meat and bread and wine for the rest of your lives, while slave girls wait on you hand and foot and-" she spat angrily, before the tallest of the three interrupted her.
"You're a very smart girl," he said. "I wouldn't mind having you to wait on me. Would you like to be one of my slaves? I've been told I'm good with my hands. This could be the best opportunity of your life." The two men who stood behind him with their weapons wielded, one knife and one sword, erupted into raucous laughter.
"Who told you you were good with your hands," Gabrielle retorted. "I figure you must've had to tell yourself."
"Gabrielle, don't talk. Fight!" Iolaus cried, as the swordsman launched towards him. The hunter pulled his sword from his scabbard and raised it up defensively just in time to thwart a swing that would have cost him an arm. The blades connected with a loud clang, snapping Gabrielle out of her reverie.
She wielded her staff confidently as the leader of the group, wielding a spear, raised it up over his head for a downward thrust. She swatted the weapon away in one vicious smack, sending it skittering down the path. The man paled in surprise and fear at this young woman's abilities. He'd been too confident.
Gabrielle followed up with a downward sweeping arc to the back of the knees, landing him on his back, winding him. For a moment, Gabrielle almost understood why Xena so enjoyed fighting. She was so unbelievably angry and it felt good to hurt these body-snatchers. Gabrielle stood over the man's gasping body. He grabbed her ankle, causing her to jump and cry out in surprise. She held her staff vertically and brought it down in a swift set of pointed strikes to the sternum, rendering him unconscious.
Iolaus, in the meantime, was fairly well matched with the other swordsman. He brought his weapon down in a powerful side strike, only to have the brute raise his weapon quickly for the block. Iolaus took his opportunity while the goon's legs were open for attack. He raised his foot and slammed it painfully into the enemy's kneecaps, sending him stumbling backwards with a roar of pain. His weapon was dropped to clutch his throbbing, broken kneecap, and Iolaus brought the hilt of his weapon down on the back of his neck, landing him in a quiet heap on the ground, sleeping like a baby.
"One sword and a polearm against your tiny knife," said Iolaus confidently, striding to Gabrielle's side. She had already landed the man on his back and was giving him a feral growl, her teeth bared in raw fury, daring him to stand up and continue the fight. "Doesn't look like good odds to me."
The man began to shimmy away on his back, doing an almost crab-like walk, before flipping over and scrambling to his feet. He ran.
"Iolaus, I think we ought to make camp for the night. It's only getting darker and then it will be even more dangerous. I don't want to take any chances with Xena's body."
"I was just about to say the same thing."
"Great minds think alike." Gabrielle allowed a shy smile to show through for just a few seconds, before her no-nonsense expression returned. "Dragging her sarcophagus through the woods is going to be a lot more difficult."
"Argo can do it, Gabrielle," Iolaus responded, taking her hand in his for a moment. "And I won't stop at anything to help you. What ever you need, Gabrielle. I mean that."
Gabrielle closed her eyes and exhaled, taking his other hand. She leaned into him, their foreheads touching in an amazingly subtle but sweet gesture, their lips just barely brushing. At that moment, Iolaus would have given anything to pull him into her and claim her lips with his, but his sense of decency rose above his desires. He lifted his head to kiss her forehead before before patting Argo on the rump. "Let's go."
The pull through the woods had been extremely rough and slow. Argo would have to be rewarded with a few lumps of sugar and an apple. Gabrielle and Iolaus were very grateful to find a small clearing surrounded by trees. "Think this'll do?"
"This is perfect," the Amazon agreed with a slight smile.
Though the area was surrounded thickly with trees, the twinkling stars that were just beginning to peek through the night sky were mainly unobscured by the branches and green leaves. The underfoot was soft with moss around the edges, but the center of the area was just dirt that allowed for Gabrielle to build a fire safely.
"You hungry?" asked the blonde man to the young woman who had sat herself up against a large rock that protruded from the ground, hugging her knees.
"Well, you really ought to eat something, don't you think? When's the last time you ate?"
Gabrielle sighed with resignation. "I really don't want to tell you that."
Iolaus frowned and crouched before her. His fingertips, rough from his years handling a sword, managed to gingerly brush her golden strands of hair from her watery eyes. He looked deeply into them and said, "You need to eat. I know you don't feel like it but you need to keep your strength up." His fingers traced a line down her jaw as she peered up towards him. "Xena wouldn't want this."
Gabrielle looked at the ground and sighed. "I know you're right Iolaus. I just haven't been able to bring myself to-"
"Shh," he interrupted, placing his index finger on her lips. He hugged her to him, as close as he could in their current position even if it was a little awkward. With a wink, "Some say I'm a great hunter. You stay here, I'll bring you something back. You're eating tonight. What do you want?"
"Oh, rabbit I suppose, or quail."
"Quail it is." With a comforting squeeze to her fingers, the hunter stood up and dusted himself off. He waved quickly and disappeared into the foliage, promising to return as quick as he could.
Gabrielle buried her face in her knees. The moment he left, she felt alone, completely alone. She became acutely aware of the sounds that surrounded her; the wind rustling the leaves in the trees, small animals scampering back and forth, cicadas clicking their heels. The moon loomed ominously over her, painting the clearing in an eerie blue light. Gods, she felt so alone. Come back, Iolaus. I'd rather have you here with me now than a quail.
The full impact of what it would be like when Iolaus returned to be at Hercules' side suddenly hit her. She glanced over at Argo, who was taking a much deserved nap, standing beneath a tree. This is what every night will be like.
The word repeated itself over and over in Gabrielle's mind. She didn't want to be alone. The idea terrified her. Her eyes filled with salty tears that ran down her cheeks in steady streams. Xena, gods I miss you. I can't describe it. And now Iolaus is going to leave I guess I always knew he would I mean he has to, right? Hercules needs him, and he needs Hercules, just like I need you. But I need him too. Especially now that you're gone. Oh gods, Xena I love you, I miss you A sob broke free from the bard, her shoulders began to heave sporadically as she cried. I think I love him too.
She remained there, unmoving but for heaving sobs, until Iolaus returned. When he broke through the trees, the state she was in broke his heart. He dropped the quail, still warm, to the ground. He ran up to her and wrapped his strong arms around her. "Oh Gabrielle, I'm sorry I left you " he said, his eyes again burning not only for Xena but for the girl who's world had been left so shaken, so empty. He began to kiss along her forehead and cheeks, trying desperately to kiss away her tears that he knew wouldn't go away for a very long time.
She stared into his eyes, and her pain was clearly reflected in the warm blue pools. Gods, I do love him. She took him by the back of the head pulled his lips towards hers, their kiss tender at first, then grew hungrier as they explored the depths of each other. Iolaus held his hand firmly at the small of Gabrielle's back, pulling her down so they lay on their sides, facing each other, refusing to break their connection. He pulled her close so that not one inch of her wasn't touching him. His fingers spread through and clutched her soft hair, as Gabrielle's gripped his sides, unwilling to let go.
Her fingertips traced a gentle line up along his arm to his shoulder, feeling like a breath of rain on his skin, raising the hairs on the back of his neck. He was excited, that was clear, and she knew what she wanted. Her fingers snaked beneath the fabric of his vest and began to pull it down over his arm.
In an abrupt motion, Iolaus pulled away. "Gabrielle " he said breathlessly. Gabrielle shook her head and with an audible groan, closed in to take his lips with hers again, her tongue gently pushing through. "No," he said, pulling back, disappointment clearly showing on both their faces at the word. His hand gently pressed on her shoulder, pushing her away. "We can't "
"Why not, Iolaus? I want to be with you, I need to be with you " I love you
"You're vulnerable right now. You're hurting. I won't take advantage of it." His brow was creased with sadness and worry. He wanted it just as bad as she did.
"I'm sorry Gabrielle," he said with a heavy sigh, pulling her close to him for a tight hug that didn't seem to end, that Gabrielle hoped would never end. "But I'll hold you like this all night."
Gabrielle, slightly embarrassed, nodded. Her tears had left a damp patch on his vest, and she found it somewhat comforting. He was here, he was her shoulder to cry on. He respected her in his refusal, she could see that. After all, he could have just left earlier in the day, but he didn't.
He was there for her when she needed him.
Trying to take her mind off the situation, "I didn't make a fire "
"That's okay. I'll make it."
Soon enough, the fire was roaring and the quail was cooking. When it came off the make-shift spit, it was surprisingly tender and juicy. "Wow, Iolaus, I didn't know you were such a good cook."
"I'm not. This is a fluke."
"I don't believe you."
"Stick around, I'll prove it," he said with a laugh, ruffling her hair.
"Knock it off!" she cried, laughing along with him. She gave his shoulder a friendly, playful shove.
The rest of the evening went by in a flash. Iolaus had made her laugh again. He was there when she needed to cry. All in all, she felt a little better when they settled into sleep in a spooning position, his arm draped over her waist, clasping her hand tightly and lovingly in his. He leaned over and kissed her cheek before burying his face in her hair, breathing in its exquisite scent.
That morning, after their camp had been cleared, Iolaus and Gabrielle found themselves back on the road.
"I guess this is goodbye," said Gabrielle sadly.
"For now, Gabrielle. I'll drop by often. Very often. We need each other now, more than ever."
"I know," she replied, throwing her arms around his neck and bringing her lips gently to his. He kissed her back chastely, reveling in the sweet taste of the bard's tender lips. When they parted, she hugged him closely and tightly to her. "Thank you for last night."
"Thank you for last night, Gabrielle, I need you just as badly."
She pulled back and looked into his eyes, her palm gently stroking his back. "Iolaus, I-"
"No " he said sadly, silencing her with a short kiss, "don't say it. I feel it too, Gabrielle, you know I do. But if you say it, things will be a lot harder for us."
"I know you're right. I'll be okay," Gabrielle said with a sigh, leaning her forehead against his. "I'd better get on to Amphipolis."
"And I'd better get back to Hercules. He's going to need me too. He loved her, you know." Iolaus sighed. Hercules was really going to be hurting about this.
Gabrielle watched Iolaus walk until he'd disappeared from view. "C'mon, Argo."
And they continued their journey.