"Xena in the Garden of Good and Evil"
by Alan Plessinger
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and backstories used in "Xena in the Garden of Good and Evil" are the sole property of Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.
Note: There is a small amount of violence, and a small amount of sex between two women.
The morning temple bells woke Gabrielle out of a sound sleep. She looked to the other side of the room to see Xena thrashing about and crying out in her sleep, having another one of those dreams again. Gabrielle climbed out of bed, still half-asleep. Her feet found the cold stone floor, and she stumbled across the room to Xena's bed.
"Xena? It's OK. Wake up, it's just a dream."
Avoiding Xena's powerful arms, which had become somewhat less powerful during her time here at the temple, Gabrielle slipped under the covers with Xena. She began kissing and suckling Xena's breasts, then moved her kisses farther down Xena's body until her artful tongue was in a position to do some good. Xena's cries soon became moans of pleasure. A nice way to wake up.
When Xena finally did open her eyes, it was to the pleasant sight of the sun coming in through yellow curtains, hitting the multicolored beads hanging in the windows, displaying all the colors of the rainbow around the room. Gabrielle had fallen asleep again, in Xena's arms, but she rose at the sound of the second temple bell.
Flute music and the sounds of wind chimes began to sound from outside the window. The smell of freshly baked bread came from down the hall. Many of the rooms had already started burning incense.
"This is such a peaceful place," said Xena. "It's so wonderful to wake up to these lovely sights and sounds and smells every morning. I just wish I knew where these terrible dreams were coming from."
"What was this one about?" asked Gabrielle.
"About a place called Corinth. I don't understand it. I was riding around on horseback, commanding an army, killing soldiers. And I seemed to be enjoying it. Why would I be having these dreams?"
"At least you're dreaming about something," said Gabrielle. "You can't just go on dreaming about nothing but the day before, or the day before that. You said you wanted to recover your memories, didn't you?"
"But these couldn't possibly be memories."
Gabrielle was about to answer, then realized it was not a question. Xena put on her white gauze robe, slipped on her sandals, and left the room without another word.
The priestesses of the temple of Aphrodite were in the great hall having breakfast, chatting exuberantly about paintings, sculptures, poetry. Xena joined the discussion immediately, going on about some embroidery she had been working on.
Oh, if only these priestesses knew who they were talking to.
Gabrielle joined Xena for a bowl of oatmeal and brown sugar. It was amazing how good home-grown food could be. And it was amazing how different Xena was becoming, and Gabrielle was not sure that that was a good thing.
"But look how happy she is," thought Gabrielle.
Xena kept silencing Gabrielle whenever the bard tried to spin any tales of her past, even the most innocuous ones. She said she wanted to remember her past, not learn it. But the more time she spent here, the more she got to love this place of peace, and the less interest she had in her own memories.
Well, hard to blame her. This was a good life. Other than tending the garden, the only work was artistic pursuits like music, painting, literature. Although the temple was high in the mountains, Aphrodite kept the climate warm and comfortable, in exchange for which she showed up once a month to receive her tributes and hear her songs of praise. The songs usually sounded something like this:
"We sing of the beautiful goddess Aphrodite
We sing of her wonderful, lustrous hair
Her flawless, creamy white complexion
Her beautiful eyes, her adorable lips
We are rendered truly breathless in the radiance of her beauty
Oh, Aphrodite, truly it is no accident that you are a goddess "
And on and on, for twenty minutes or so.
No mirrors or reflecting pools were allowed within the temple, that no priestess might ever suspect herself to be as gorgeous as Aphrodite.
Sometimes Aphrodite thought that the songs of tribute were a little lacking in sincerity or originality, and she would allow the climate to chill a little bit, not enough to damage the crops, but just as a warning to do better next time. It wasn't easy coming up with completely original compliments for Aphrodite every month, but since Xena had arrived it provided a lot of fresh inspiration for the psalmists.
Gabrielle and Xena always joined in the songs of praise, and that pleased the goddess no end. It even made Gabrielle wonder if Aphrodite wasn't perhaps extending Xena's amnesia a bit. She thought of asking the goddess, but maybe it was better not to give her any ideas.
After all, Aphrodite was being kind enough to allow Xena and Gabrielle to stay there, and to hide their location from Ares.
After breakfast they separated, Xena to her embroidery and Gabrielle to teach a class of bards. Then there was a delicious lunch of mung beans, brown rice and lentils, flavored with green onions and shallots. Then they worked in the garden for a few hours, Xena hoeing and Gabrielle weeding. The wind carried the sound of harp and flute music from the next building.
Xena looked radiantly happy as she worked. Gabrielle still couldn't believe that the Xena she knew could be so happy in this life.
"Isn't Aphrodite wonderful!" squealed Xena.
"Why! How can you say that? She gives us this wonderful place to live in, and she's so beautiful!"
"Oh, Xena, you're twice as beautiful as Aphrodite the best day she ever had."
"Am I?" she asked, touching her face. "Oh, no, I couldn't be."
"XENA!" she said. "We need to talk. I am really sick of this! I don't like you like this. I did for awhile, it was a nice change of pace, and I'm glad it made you happy, but this is not how you were meant to be."
"But this is the only way I know how to be."
"Don't you want your old life back, Xena?"
"Not if it means I have to leave a place like this. Tell me something, though."
"In my old life in our old life did we enjoy I mean, did we have this "
"Did we have a sexual relationship?"
"No, we didn't. I'm sorry if I took advantage of the fact that things were kind of starting over for us. It's just the sort of thing I thought you always wanted. And, by the gods, I know I wanted it."
"So why didn't we?"
"I don't know. Maybe you thought you might be taking advantage of the difference in our ages. You always thought of me as a little kid."
"I can't believe I ever though that. How did you learn to be so good in bed?"
"Trial and error. I've been imagining these nights for three years, now."
"But you don't ever allow me to reciprocate."
"You never asked."
"I'd like to be able to give you pleasure. You've given me so much, and I've been paying attention to what you do. I doubt I can be as good as you, though. I don't have many skills."
There was a commotion at the front of the temple. A man was forcing his way into the temple, and he probably wasn't there to pay tribute to Aphrodite. He was chasing after one of the priestesses that had gone outside for water, and when he caught her he started to paw her until she screamed for help.
"Oh, no," said Gabrielle. "Not here, too. Is there no escape?"
She grabbed the hoe from Xena and ran as fast as she could in her long gauze robe, poked him in the chest with the hoe, then whacked him once in the head. He grabbed the hoe with both hands and tried to take it away from her. Wondering if the move would still work, she twisted the hoe around so that she was now in back of him, and when he pulled the hoe away from her she flipped up into the air and landed in front of him. She took advantage of her startled adversary by twisting the hoe out of his grasp, whacking him once again in the head, then sweeping his legs out from under him.
She pointed the business end of the hoe at him as he scrambled away from her.
"Get out of here. Now."
"Alright, take it easy, you bitch. It was only a bit of fun."
"When a priestess of the temple of Aphrodite screams for help, that means she is not having fun."
She poked the hoe at him to hurry him on his way.
She looked around at the priestesses, and smiled. All of the priestesses looked away in disgust. Well, she hadn't expected applause, but a little recognition would be nice. But this was not the sort of place to condone violence, no matter how justified.
Xena came running up to her.
"Gabrielle, that was wonderful! How did you know what to do? That flip was incredible!"
"Was it the sort of thing you think you'd like to do, Xena?"
"Well, I wouldn't say that, exactly, but it was still pretty incredible."
"It didn't spark any memories?"
"No, not really."
"Xena, let's sit down."
They walked to one corner of the garden, and sat down in a couple of very comfortable cushioned whicker chairs.
"We need to talk," said Gabrielle. "But first I need to show you something."
She got up and went to a corner of the garden, and started digging something out of the ground. Xena watched her with interest. She couldn't imagine what could be buried there.
Gabrielle came back with the object, wrapped in burlap. She unwrapped it. It was a sword.
Xena looked at it. She tried to look away, but couldn't. Finally she shut her eyes and put her hand before her face.
"Put it back where it was," she said calmly.
"That's the sword in my dreams."
"It's your sword, Xena."
"No, it isn't. It couldn't be. Why would anyone need a sword in a place like this? Give it to the cook, she can use it to chop vegetables."
"You saw what just happened. Even here, violence can erupt."
"I don't care. It's not my problem."
"Xena, just take the sword in your hand. It will bring back memories."
"Gabrielle, I've been so happy here! Why are you trying to make me angry?"
"Couldn't you at least clean it? Look at the dried blood."
"Xena, some of that blood is so deeply ingrained it will never come out."
"I don't want to touch it."
"Xena, please just take the sword."
"Xena, please trust me. You have to do this."
"Xena, please "
"NO!" she yelled, and hit Gabrielle across the face, hard enough to knock her down.
Xena looked at what she'd done. At the bruise on Gabrielle's face. She was open-mouthed in horror at what had happened. Her eyes were full of terror, and it was herself she was afraid of. Tears began to form, and her face began to twist into a hideous mask of grief. Her mouth began to quiver.
"Oh, gods," she said. "Not again."
She fell to her knees before Gabrielle.
"It's all coming back to me," she said. "And I don't want it to."
"I forgive you, Xena."
"No! I'm tired of you forgiving me! I don't want you to forgive me!"
"That's just too bad. Because I am willing to forgive you anything, as long as we can be together, fighting for the greater good."
"If I never hear those two words again it will be just fine with me."
"Xena, I am not afraid of pain. Not from a soldier, or a warlord, or from you. If you occasionally lose your temper and hit me, then I will forgive you, and I don't care what anyone in the world including you thinks of that. If I abandon you I know that Ares will eventually claim your soul, and I love you too much for that to happen."
"But I never forgave YOU, Gabrielle! All the terrible things I've done, all the mother's sons I've sent into the next world, and I was never able to forgive you for Solon. And I KNOW it wasn't your fault, but it doesn't help. I was never really able to feel bad about trying to kill you, until until I saw you with "
Xena nodded, and her breath caught in her throat. She tried to say something, but she was sobbing too much to speak.
Gabrielle said, "Do you remember Talmadeus cracking your skull? Just after I cam back from the Elysian fields?"
"Joxer and I had to bandage your head. You were delirious for quite some time, and when you came out of it you couldn't remember who you were. I took you to Mnemosyne, but she said some part of you was fighting her efforts to bring you back to yourself. So I brought you to this place of peace. I thought we both deserved some peace after all we've been through. I never expected you to like it quite this much."
Xena buried her face in her hands.
"Why is someone like me allowed to live?"
"Because the world needs you, Xena. There's still a lot of good that needs to be done, and you're the only one that can do it."
"Gabrielle, what have I done to you? I remember that adorable smile, those sparkling green eyes, full of life and love. I remember the joy in living I saw in you. Every move, every step was like a celebration. I haven't seen that in you for a long time."
"You haven't seen it in me around here, either. This is no place for us, Xena. You can't hide from life up here. Up here you hurt no one and you help no one. We'll put you in the garden and let moss grow on you, because that's all you're good for. This isn't your destiny."
"Screw my destiny! I'm through atoning for my past. I want to stay here. I was happy here. Why couldn't I stay?"
"Oh, you can stay. It's your life. You can even have Mnemosyne erase your memories forever. You can stay here the rest of your life, if you like. But it'll be without me."
"You don't need me here. And I intend to accomplish something with the rest of my life. You can embroider without me."
"You said you loved me. You promised you would never leave me."
"Oh, I do love you. But this, Xena, this is not you. I don't know who you are or what you've done with the real Xena, but this is not the woman I fell in love with and swore I would follow to the ends of the earth. You I wouldn't follow to the end of the street."
Aphrodite shimmered into being in front of them, wearing that tacky peach colored lingerie she always wore.
"Well, hello there, you two," said Aphrodite. "I see you've been rough-and-tumble as usual."
"All praise to the beautiful Aphrodite, Glory Hallelujah," said Gabrielle. "You're not due until next week. Is this a spot-check? Looking for Aphrodite-shaped dartboards?"
"As if. My priestesses love me, and they have requested I come here to deliver some bad news."
"Let me guess. They're throwing us out."
"They're throwing YOU out, Gabby dear. They like Xena, and they're afraid you might be a bad influence on her."
Gabrielle stood next to Argo, waiting for Xena to come out of the Mnemosyne temple. It had been over eight hours, and she was worried. This was much longer than Gabrielle had spent in there.
But she had something to read. She promised she would grade the term papers of her bard students.
Finally Xena came out of the temple, wearing her leathers and her armor. She walked down to Argo.
"Well?" asked Gabrielle. "Decided what you're going to do?"
"Well, I know what I'd like to do," said Xena. "And I know what I have to do, and it looks like I'm going to do the latter. But I am so glad I have you with me on this journey. I'm useless without you, Gabrielle."
"That's not true. You would've been a world-class embroiderer."
"Oh, I think I would've branched out into painting and sculpture, in time."
"Maybe. Xena, there was something you said you would do for me, back in the temple of Aphrodite."
"You said you would reciprocate."
"You'll have to be more specific. I asked Mnemosyne to remove that time from my memories. Better not to have temptations, you know. Useless memories, anyway. What did I promise I would do?"
"Oh, nothing. Never mind."
Xena got on Argo and headed down the path. Gabrielle picked up her staff and walked beside Argo.
"Got out of that one," thought Xena.
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