by Joseph Anderson

Xena, Callisto and all characters from the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. Kimberly belongs to me. No copyright infringement is intended with this fanfic which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must contain all notices of copyright.

Sequel to The Quality of Mercy and there are references to History Lesson.
This story contains a little rough language.

The cocktail lounge was dark and seedy. Usually Kimberly would never come to a place like this but she was depressed and found something congenial about it. Her parents had been giving her a hard time over the phone. They didn't like her major, didn't like her boyfriend (though they hadn't even met him), didn't think she was applying herself, and her mother felt she should tell her her hairstyle made her face look fat. She'd been thinking about that since seeing her at Christmas and just couldn't hold it back any more.

They really hated her having a double major in Archaeology and History. She didn't understand why. And when she'd told her dad she was taking a seminar in Ancient History with Prof. Sallwethy, he sounded like he'd have a stroke or something. It had only gotten worse since then.

The tall brunette found a stool at the bar and smiled at the bored looking young bartender. "Daquiri."

"Coming up," he said. "It's from a mix; that okay?"


She took a sip, when someone sat next to her. She saw a surprised look on the bartender's face which he quickly recovered.

"You two sisters? What can I get you?" he said.

Kimberly looked over at the person next to her and was surprised herself. Sure looked like her sister, or an aunt more likely if she had one, which she didn't.

"A shot of Wild Turkey with some water on the side." The woman threw the shot down and pointed to the glass, which the young bartender refilled. She sipped her water and looked at Kimberly.

"How can you drink that?" she said.

Kimberly said, "What's wrong with it?"

"You have to go for quality in everything. That's how I feel. In liquor, in men, in guns...whatever."

"Guns? Now when am I going to be needing a gun?" Kimberly said with a laugh.

The woman threw the shot down and pointed at it again to be refilled. "You never know. What's the matter? School trouble? Boyfriend?"

Kimberly looked at her. The woman looked amazingly like her but seemed something like 20 years older. She was expensively dressed in an understated elegant kind of way. Her hair was in a simple classic cut that she knew didn't come cheap. What seemed out of place in her successful businesswoman look was the bracelet of blonde hair. She also wore a wedding band and a tasteful engagement ring.

Kimberly smiled. She hoped she was never like this: getting bombed in a bar talking to strangers. The young woman thought she must be lonely. Showed that money wasn't everything. Kimberly knew that anyway, of course, coming from the family she did.

"My parents don't approve of anything I do. I know it's not up there with world hunger or anything."

"Yeah, parents can really screw up." The woman seemed to be talking to herself. "I thought mine were bad, then I did something a million times worse to my kid. My dad and mom were always there for me, always." Her eyes were red.

Kimberly could tell something was really bothering this woman. Something a lot worse than her piddly problems.

"I told 'em I was leaving and I was out of there. I had stuff to do and that was that. They didn't know what happened...then I did the same thing to Sam. That's me, I guess."

"Who's Sam?" Kimberly asked.

"My son. All of a sudden his mother was gone. I had stuff to do and that was that." She threw the shot down and pointed to the glass.

"Is he all right?" Kimberly felt terrible. She thought she was hearing snatches of some family tragedy that was eating this person alive.

The woman drank the shot, turned on her barstool and looked at Kimberly. She was showing the whiskey now though she still seemed okay. Kimberly was impressed. She could hold liquor but not like this.

"Yeah, Sam's all right. He's more than all right: he's a great success. No thanks to me. Listen, you're bugged at your parents now cuz they're on your back. But they're there, right? And they're interested."

"They're more than interested," Kimberly said with an ironic smile.

The woman stood up and took out a roll of hundred dollar bills and peeled one off. "Keep the change," she said to the staring bartender. He had gotten a little nervous; he'd spotted a gun on her. She looked at Kimberly with dull eyes. "I dunno why I came here. It's stupid. People are who they are. You don't need to hear a bunch of cliches. The Bitch had to be stopped and everything else just followed."

Kimberly had no idea what to say to that. The woman began walking away but turned around and said, "Life really sucks." She disappeared out the door. The bartender and Kimberly looked at each other.

"Here," the bartender said. He poured Kimberly another drink, this time Wild Turkey with water over ice. "It's on me. That was good advice anyway. The rest of it was over my head."

"Thanks," Kimberly said. She sipped the drink and closed her eyes appreciating it.


As she stepped out of the bar after talking to her younger self, Kimberly looked around the street. Boston in the nineties. It seemed so foreign to her. She'd left it behind for ancient Greece and never looked back. She felt human though she didn't see how she could be. She was just a spirit out on a pass from Tartarus, but she could drink and feel it, eat, go to the bathroom, feel heat and cold. Kimberly had closely examined her hand to see if it was transparent at all, but it seemed solid. She wondered why Hades had let her manifest this way. She wasn't this human when she'd talked to Angela a few days before. He was a strange god. He was the Lord of the Underworld but was the most responsible and benevolent god she'd met. However, he was also the god who had tried to have her daughter killed because he wanted her spirit with him.

Hades and some other gods were planning on transferring her to the Elysian Fields even though she'd told 'em not to bother. She also wasn't interested unless they also moved Weldon and Cal. That was kind of a sticky situation, her lover and husband both being there. Anyway, Kimberly thought she should be in Tartarus for abandoning Sam like she had. Hades said her being out of her mind at the time was an extenuating circumstance but she didn't want to hear it. That wasn't why she was there in any case. When she had led her army plundering through the East she'd killed huge numbers of people whose only crime was being in her way. That's why she was in Tartarus.

She sensed his presence and looked at the beautiful figure suddenly beside her in a charcoal grey three-piece suit.

"Yeah?" she said.

"Getting done what you came for?" he asked condescendingly.

"No, not here. Maybe I accomplished something with Angela but there's nothing for me here unless I want to change everything. And you won't let me do that, I suppose." She hated Ares.

The god smiled at her. "What would you change if you could?"

She stared at him. "Don't jerk me around, Ares. You didn't have to leave me with Callisto for five years. You coulda just let me save Gabrielle like her spirit thought I was going to. Or sent me alone after a month or so. But you wanted me as your favorite so I got the full treatment."

"What makes you think your life would've been any better if you'd lived it here? he said smirking. "I gave you a chance to reach your potential, to be one of the greatest warriors in history."

"Yeah, I was really something, all right," Kimberly answered bitterly.

Ares said, "Everyone you killed would be dead by now anyway. What difference does it make?"

"It makes a difference. That's what you are all about."

He continued smiling. "I shouldn't try to argue with you. It's not my strong suit. I'm in your heart not your head. You're a warrior, Kimberly, and belonged with me. If you'd remained here you never would've known what you were capable of."

She said sarcastically, "You mean that I was capable of crucifying people and burying them alive without a second thought?"

Ares answered. "Sure. That's part of it. It's part of command and you're a great commander."

"Ares," she started to say but he wasn't there anymore. She needed to chew on what he'd said. She remembered something he'd told her long ago when he'd asked her to return to Greece as his favorite. Ares said that when you were a god everybody laid everything on you. That he had never told Xena to sack villages but she blamed him for her own inclinations in those days. Sounded plausible but of course she knew she couldn't trust him.

Now Kimberly sensed something else and she turned to see her younger self emerge from the bar. She saw a shadowy figure following. Kimberly began following too. She didn't remember ever being jumped, though now that she thought of it she did vaguely remember talking with some bitter drunk woman. She had worked close to the shadow trailing her younger self. It was her boyfriend. She was stunned. She had been being stalked and didn't even know it. He wasn't going to attack her. He was just following her around. She'd known he was jealous but not like that. She continued tailing them back to her apartment, to make sure nothing happened. He just waited a while then left.

She didn't think he'd felt that strongly about her. When she'd broken up with him later, he seemed to take it okay. She followed him back to the bar and saw him go in and talk to the bartender. Checking up on her. Then he came out and she followed him back to his apartment.

"You'd have married him if not for me," a voice said. "I just talked to the Fates about you."

Kimberly looked at Ares who had reappeared. He handed her a flask which she accepted and sniffed suspiciously. He indicated for her to keep it after she took a swig.

She said, "After I got back from Greece, I broke up with him. I wasn't the same person anymore. I could tell he was condescending to me. But he didn't have anything to back up an attitude like that and he practically slunk off when I called him on it." Kimberly was speaking more to herself than Ares. He smiled.

Ares stretched and looked up at the sky; Kimberly noticed his hands were leaving a slight glowing trail behind them. He said, "Eventually you realize how pathetic he is, but only after several years. You feel like a fool and that you wasted your life. That's what you do instead of fighting the Bitch of Tartarus and it has something of the same effect on you, making you hard. You divorce him."

"How about kids?" Kimberly asked.

"Three of 'em: two boys and a girl. All three have problems. You and your ex-husband fight viciously over custody. Ultimately one of your sons ends up in jail for hit-and-run drunk driving, though he's a high achiever like you. The other becomes a burglar to support his drug habit after you and your family finally cut him off. Your daughter is a mediocre journalist and frustrated novelist. Her real vocation is a string of affairs with wealthy married men whom you and her father both despise. Later she marries a man who is obsessively jealous--just like her father."

"What about me?" Kimberly said.

"You throw yourself into your work. Although you had started out wanting to be a scholar you realize you don't have what it takes to be like Sallwethy or your grandmother. So you abandon it, go back to school and become a lawyer working for your father. You excel, being especially good at orchestrating hostile takeovers. Periodically you leave for stays in expensive rehab programs since you develop a serious cocaine habit in conjunction with your alcoholism. It begins to affect your job and your father finally fires you after you make a serious blunder costing the company millions of dollars. You accuse him of never loving you and the next day he has a stroke. Your mother blames you. Out of guilt you drink and use even more drugs, flirting with heroin before returning to cocaine and your old favorite, Wild Turkey."

"I can see it," Kimberly said. "I tried coke a few times and liked it. Always wondered about smack, too." She was fascinated by this. Kimberly still knew better than to trust Ares, but she couldn't just dismiss it.

Ares continued. "Eventually you do get clean and sober and marry an ex-professional football player you meet in rehab. He turns out to have married you for your money, which he arrogantly--and stupidly--admits when you confront him. You take an ashtray to him and he requires 30 stitches in his scalp. Defending himself he knocks out two of your teeth and breaks your nose. You make sure you are seen in an emergency room and have pictures taken. He sees a private doctor under an assumed name since he is embarrassed and doesn't realize what kind of person he is screwing with. You tell him you want a divorce. He wants alimony. You warn him not to piss you off but the ashtray incident didn't teach him his lesson there. You get him drunk and push him out a window, then punch yourself in the face, call the police and claim self defense. The state charges you with second degree murder although the investigators really think you planned it."

Kimberly chuckled. This was amusing as hell whether it was true or not.

"Your high profile lawyers manage to empanel a sympathetic jury and present you like a battered wife. At your trial your emergency room pictures horrify everyone and your lawyers bring in x-rays showing old fractures that really stem from sports injuries. You're found not guilty though plenty of people, especially those who know you, think you did exactly what you did. Your first husband is fond of saying 'There but for the grace of God go I.'"

Kimberly said with a smile, "Money talks and shit walks."

Ares continued. "When asked about it, usually you piously say the system works. Occasionally you tell people you were found not guilty and if they don't like it they can lump it."

"Sounds like something I would say," Kimberly said with a laugh.

"You go back to work, this time as a top executive in the company because of your father's stroke, but don't become President or CEO because of your notoriety. In reality you're calling the shots, though. You pressure your eldest son into the business just like your father did with you. You get married again, this time to an idealistic architect with his own money. This marriage is relatively happy from your perspective, though you know that he would have nothing to do with you if he knew the real you. Realizing that sends you back into alcohol and drugs. You're smart enough to remove yourself from business decisions this time. Eventually you are killed skiing in Aspen. There is speculation it may have been a suicide because it is discovered that you have advanced cirrhosis of the liver. Your younger son also died of a drug overdose not long before."

"What about my other kids?" Kimberly asked.

"Your son becomes President and CEO of the business. Because of his ruthless business tactics people joke, but not to his face, that he killed you. By this time your daughter is on her fourth marriage and is writing a novel based on your crime. Want to hear my take on your life?"

"Sure, Ares." Kimberly took a swig of her flask and smiled cynically.

"By your own standards you are a better person because of me. Without me you didn't do much of anything except kill somebody no one would miss, indulge just as deeply in substance abuse, and be a rotten parent to your children. Oh, and make a lot of money, of course."

Kimberly was frowning at him. There was a beeping sound and Ares took a pager from his pocket, glancing at it before continuing.

"Your time with Callisto fighting the Bitch of Tartarus gave you a sense of morality and duty that you would never develop otherwise. No, no..don't bother to thank me, Kimberly. It's just a god thing," Ares said with a smirk.

"It's a wonderful life," Kimberly snorted.

The End