TEARS AND DIAMONDS: GOODBYE TO LOVE

By Cath Bard

OWNERSHIP DISCLAIMER

The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and others belong in their entirety to Universal/MCA , Renaissance Pictures, and all the other powers that be. No copyright infringement is intended. I wrote this story at the urging of my muse; it should never be used for profit. Please do not copy or cite elsewhere without express permission of the author.

VIOLENCE

None this time.

LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER:

This story implies a loving friendship between two consenting adult women. However, nothing really happens "that way" here.

SPOILER ALERT

Contains some potential spoilers derived from events in Season 5 of the series. The birth of Xenaís daughter, Eve, heralds the Twilight of the Greek Gods. Recall that Gabrielle, Bard of Potidaea, has something of a friendship with one of the Olympians.

Many thanks to my compatriots on LaLa and Netgyrlís Tavern Wall where I posted the original version. Your comments and encouragement are always appreciated. Special thanks to Kamouraskan for showing me a better way.


Gabrielle avoided the cracks and jagged edges as she gracefully bounded up the temple steps. It had taken her all morning on a rugged trail to reach this isolated shrine. The Bard was anxious to complete her mission, but she stopped to catch her breath and study the sight before her.

Once shining and golden, the edifice now looked battered Ė a mass of crumbling stonework and decaying wood. The air smelled old, musty. Vines and greenery embraced the columns Ė snakelike, slowly crushing the life out of the building. Soon, they would overrun the temple, dragging it forever into obscurity.

The small Bard used her considerable strength to push open the heavy, gilded door, with its erotic imagery. Creaking hinges were all that greeted her Ė and more essence of decomposition.

Gabrielle stepped inside. She paused to accustom her eyes to the darkness. Here and there, she thought she saw some small animal scurry or slither from shadow to shadow -- not even a candle lit their path.

The Bard held her breath and just listened. From somewhere in the depths of the temple, she heard the trickle of water.

Beads of sweat clung to her arms and chest. Humidity and exertion plastered her short, blonde hair to her forehead.

Faint shafts of light pierced the darkness. Cracks in the ceiling permitted sunshine to pool intermittently on the bare floors -- once adorned with rich carpets or fresh rose petals Ė now cluttered with whatever the wind had blown in.

Quietly, almost reverently, Gabrielle walked toward the center of the hall, occasionally turning full circle to check behind her, and to absorb the end of something that had been part of her life for so many years. She sensed another presence, watching.

When she reached the middle of the room, the Bard closed her eyes, tilted her head back and extended her arms, palms up. It was a gesture of supplication and peace. This position exposed her neck and breast to any foe concealed in the hallís dim recesses, and showed that she intended no harm.

Gabrielle whispered a single word to the darkness.

"Aphrodite?"

She waited.

"I know youíre here. Hey, itís just me, Gabrielle." She attempted a small laugh, but it rang hollow. "The irritating blonde? Remember?"

More silence.

The Bard dropped her arms and lowered her head. Her shoulders slouched forward in defeat. Slowly, she shuffled toward the door.

"Hello, girlfriend," came a sad voice from just behind her. The usual twinkle was missing, but the voice sounded familiar.

The Goddess of Love emerged with a gold-dusted "poof" right before Gabrielleís delighted eyes. Gabrielle smiled. Aphrodite smiled back. A smile was about all the Goddess wore. Gabrielle gulped, and blushed.

They counted off an awkward pause. Finally, the Bard broke the silence.

"I had to see you again, just once more, beforebefore"

"the Twilight," Aphrodite finished Gabrielleís sentence, then continued.

"You took a big risk coming to my temple, kiddo. Whatís to keep me from holding you hostage until Xena gives up her little Eve and lets us gods live?"

"Nothing," Gabrielle answered wearily, brushing her damp bangs back from her forehead. "But I know in my heart the Goddess of Love wouldnít do that to her friend."

Aphrodite shrugged. "Well, I guess not, but the other gods arenít crazy about Xena or her companion right now. If they knew you were here"

"Whatís going to happen to you?" the Bard interrupted, her voice tinged with concern.

"Got me there, babe. Iíve never been through this Twilight of the Gods thing. Itís a new scene for me, know what I mean?" The nubile deity stared thoughtfully at the ceiling. "Maybe itíll be like a really, really bad hair dayor getting those little laugh lines around the eyes like the ones you have. Oops, I didnít mean.Iím sorry."

The rambling Goddess hiccuped. Gabrielle resisted a strong urge to hug her.


"Thatís okay. No offense taken," the Bard responded. "Do you feel all right? Is there anything I can get you?"

Aphrodite giggled, and the room seemed lighter for an instant.

"Youíre a good compadre, Gabrielle. I like you. Nope. I doní t feel anything twilighty yet. Maybe just a little tired." The Goddess emitted a wistful sigh. "Guess this means no more late night raves at the Gemini Club."

She gently punched the Bard on the shoulder.

"Have a seat!"

With a commanding snap of her fingers, Aphrodite zapped two overstuffed armchairs to the middle of the room, and the pals sat down for a girl talk. Twin goblets of delicious, sweet wine appeared. Aphrodite handed one to Gabrielle and took a deep sip from the other.

Over wine and nutbread, the friends shared memories of old times: enchanted scrolls, chocolate aphrodisiacs, hot tubs, broken pottery, Cupidís latest conquest... Aphrodite appeared downright depressed when she recounted that Cupid had gone off to groove the banzai tube seven days ago, and hadnít returned yet.

"He stays away for weeks at a time, now, poor boy"

The Bard reached over and patted the Goddessí arm reassuringly.

On and on they chatted, until the pools of light shrank to murky puddles. Gabrielle knew she must leave or face the prospect of negotiating that rough trail in the darkness.

"I have to be going"

"So soon?" Aphrodite sounded surprised, then almost plaintive. "You wanna spend the night and maybe take a bath? I could whip us up some twin hot tubs like the old days."

Gabrielle shook her head.

"Xena doesnít know Iíve come here. Sheíll worry if I donít get back soon."

"Sheís lucky to have you, you know." The Goddess held Gabrielleís gaze. "With all my talent, I couldnít have invented an odder pair or made them fall deeper in love."

The Bard grinned sheepishly.

"Oh yeah, Gabrielle. I read those private scrolls hot stuff! You go, girl!

A sizzling sound filled the air. Aphrodite winked. Gabrielle exchanged her shy grin for an all-out laugh.

"And that Sappho chick? She has nothing on you, and I mean nada."

Gabrielle laughed so hard that tears sprang to her eyes. She choked on the wine and it almost spurted through her nose. Then, she paused and looked directly at Aphrodite Ė the woman was a good sport, and a lot of fun. Gabrielle knew the moment had arrived.

Wihout breaking eye contact, the Bard finished the last drops of wine and wiped a crumb of nutbread from her chin. She cleared her throat, then spoke.

"This is gonna sound sappy, so just let me get it out, okay?"

"Okay." The Goddess indicated that Gabrielle should continue.

"I respected Athena and loved Artemis, but, Aphrodite, you are the only god or goddess I ever really liked. Thanks for the good times, and for making me laugh, especially today. I really needed to just laugh again."

"Aw, sweetbuns, that is the nicest thing Iíve heard in a thousand years." Aphroditeís eyes sparkled from wine and tears, but she sounded absolutely sincere.

Gabrielle stood, signaling an end to their afternoon.

"I probably wonít see you again at least not as an immortal."

Aphrodite rose gracefully from her chair and moved closer to the Bard.

"Then let me give you a parting gift as a Goddess."

With that, she kissed Gabrielle on the cheek, sending a thrill through the Bard that curled her toes.

"Next time youíre with Xena, share that kiss, and I guarantee her toes will curl too."

"Thanks," the Bard whispered passionately, backing away, memorizing Aphroditeís features.

Gabrielle waved as she headed for the door.

Aphrodite called after her.

"And donít forget, if you ever need a tag team partner for oil wrestling, Iím your girl!"

"Iíll remember that, Goddess." Gabrielle shot back a final grin, then disappeared into the dusk.

Aphrodite stood alone at the center of her crumbling temple. In the waning light, her tears turned to diamonds, and fell softly upon the cold, stone floor.

The End.

Comments? Questions? Constructive feedback gladly accepted at: MsCL@ix.netcom.com

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