The Widow Aphrodite
by Alan Plessinger
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and backstories used in "The Widow Aphrodite" are the sole property of MCA/Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.
This contains spoilers for Season 5.
Aphrodite shimmered into view next to Gabrielle as she had done so many times before. She was surprised to find Gabrielle hunched over her scrolls, crying.
"Gabrielle! Whatís wrong?"
Gabrielle lifted her tear-stained face to the goddess.
"Aphrodite, do you have to keep popping in unannounced and scaring people?"
"Iím sorry, little one."
"Stop calling me that."
"Iím sorry. Itís just that Iím lonely, is all."
Gabrielle put aside her scrolls and stood up.
"Itís OK, Aphrodite. Iím lonely, too. I shouldnít take it out on you. You lost your husband. You must miss him terribly."
"I do. And Iíve missed you, Gabrielle."
"I miss Joxer. And my parents. And Cyrene. I even miss Ares, can you believe that?"
"Yes, I can. But itís not really Joxer or Ares you miss, is it? Tell the truth. Eve has taken your place in Xenaís heart."
Gabrielle confirmed her words with a sob.
"Iím sorry, Gabrielle. Where are they, anyway?"
"Out hunting. But even when Xena is here, it seems sheís not here with me. Not anymore. I feel like such an outsider, now. I feel like Iím not wanted. The two of them talk about things, and they stop talking when I enter the room. I hate that."
"Do you hate Eve?"
Gabrielle shook her head no.
"I resent her, itís true. After all that I went through with my own daughter, and all that Eveís been guilty of, I canít stand that she gets the forgiveness of the Warrior Princess. But I love her mother too much to ever hate her. I just wish that things could be the way they were between Xena and me. I miss the little touches, the smiles, those special looks between us. That light in her eyes that was only for me."
"I wish there was something I could do for you, Gabrielle, but you know Xena doesnít like any meddling."
"The One True God has allowed me to live, but without worshippers I donít have anywhere near as much power as I used to."
"Iím sorry. I shouldnít be complaining about my own problems. You have your own life to deal with."
"At least I have a life. And what power I still have Iím using to help people. Thatís something I learned from you."
The goddess stepped closer to Gabrielle and cradled her face with one hand.
"Gabrielle, youíve changed me. You know that, donít you?"
"I know youíre much kinder than when I first met you."
"I love you, Gabrielle. I love you so much."
She put her arms around Gabrielle for a hug, and drew her in close.
"Itís OK. I know you donít return it. I just had to tell you, is all."
The two pulled back from each other, only to see a Chakram whizzing between their two faces, narrowly missing two noses and embedding in a tree nearby.
"Stay away from her!" shouted Xena. She was supporting Eve, who was limping into the campsite. Eveís leg was wounded and dripping blood. Gabrielle ran to Eve, and took charge of her.
"Boar attack," said Eve. "Iím all right."
But she wasnít. She had clearly lost a lot of blood, and she was weak. Gabrielle helped her onto the bedroll, and started to clean and dress the wound.
Gabrielle looked at Xena, who had Aphrodite pinned to the tree with one hand against her throat.
"Xena!" said Gabrielle. "Take it easy!" But Xena ignored her.
"Youíre hurting me!" said the goddess.
"Iíll do more than that. Stop meddling in our business, Aphrodite! Weíre not your playthings, any more."
"Whatís happened to you, Xena? How many more times are you gonna hurt Gabrielle with that thing? Iíll bet you never even apologized to her for the last time, did you?"
"Shut up! Shut up! The Furies are the ones to apologize! They made Gabrielle kill my daughter! What I did any mother would do!"
"Let me go! Isnít it enough you killed my husband?"
"Damn it, I didnít ask to be the one to carry out the Twilight, and if your fellow gods and goddesses weren't so damn homicidal I couldíve made peace with them! They got what they deserved, every last one of Ďem! If Hephaestus didnít want to die he shouldnít have been trying to kill my daughter!"
At last, Gabrielle was at their side.
"Let her go, Xena! Why are you being so cruel to her? She helped us both!"
"Stay out of this."
"No! Iíve stayed out of far too much. Aphrodite didnít come here to make trouble and she wasnít trying to steal me away. She just wanted to talk. The Twilight is over; the gods are not our enemies any more. Now let go of her!"
Xena let go, but there was still that frightening, bloodthirsty look in her eyes.
Aphrodite glared at Xena, and pushed her aside with a sarcastic, "Excuse me."
She went to Eve, who was still on the bedroll, and brought both hands near the wound. Xena almost lunged at her again, but Gabrielle stayed her with one hand on her arm. There was a short burst of bioluminescence, and the wound was healed.
Aphrodite stood up.
"Sheíll rest now. Sheíll be stronger."
"Thank you," said Gabrielle.
Like a three-year-old child that had to be reminded of her manners, Xena reluctantly said, "Yes, thank you."
"Youíre welcome. Before I met Gabrielle I had no idea how good it felt to help someone. Even someone like you, Xena."
"Iím sorry, Aphrodite. This has all been hard for me. Iíve lost 25 years of my life."
Xena took a quick look to make sure her daughter was asleep. She lowered her voice.
"My daughter grew up without me, and Ares turned her into a monster. And now that sheís seen the error of her ways she refuses to defend herself, and there are so many people who want her dead. Before, she only wanted to kill, now I think she just wants to die! Every minute we spend together could be our last. I canít lose another child, Aphrodite. I canít. I wonít. Damn Ares, anyway! Eve had every advantage! How did he do this to her?"
"Donít you know?" said the goddess, and then acted like sheíd said something she shouldnít have.
"Nothing. I donít know if I should tell you. My brother bragged about it."
"What did he do to her?" asked Xena.
Gabrielle said, "Aphrodite, we need to learn as much as we can about Eve if weíre to help her."
"I wonít be the one to send you on a quest for vengeance, Xena. Not against my brother or anyone else. Do you know how to forgive?"
Xenaís face went through several different shades of emotion, from anger to sadness to regret to heartache, before she said, very simply, "Yes."
"I expect you to hold her to it, Gabrielle."
"Whatever you say."
"Eve was raped. By four young boys. They were followers of Eli."
"Ares never admitted it, but Iím pretty sure it never wouldíve happened without his influence."
"I canít believe it," said Gabrielle. "Followers of Eli!"
"My brother appeared to her, then. He helped her find one of Ďem. And what she did to himÖit was so horrible, Gabrielle. It took him a week to die. Ares taught her things you canít imagine."
"Damn him! Damn him!"
"What happened to the other three?"
"Who knows? Ares couldíve helped her find them too, but he didnít. In her mind theyíre always out there somewhere, mocking her, laughing at what they did. And Eve is the one who put the idea into Octaviusís head about slaughtering the followers of Eli. You know the rest."
"Ares hasnít lost his touch," said Xena, and stalked off angrily.
Gabrielle shared a look with Aphrodite which indicated that they should be left alone. Aphrodite nodded and made to hug Gabrielle again, but Gabrielle thought it unwise. Aphrodite vanished.
Xena stood with one forearm resting on a tree, facing away from Gabrielle. Gabrielle came and placed one soft hand on the warriorís shoulder.
"Itís no excuse, Gabrielle," said Xena. "It doesnít excuse one single life sheís taken."
"I know. But it explains a lot."
"I knew there mustíve been something to set her down that path, but once on it she took to it like a wild animal with no one to tame her. She had Ares to keep her to that path, and no one to show her any other way."
"If Ares really worked at it he could turn anyone into a killer. We shouldíve been there for her. This wouldnít have happened."
"I think she was just very spoiled, Gabrielle. I hate to say, but itís true. She had every advantage, but she had no way to cope with adversity because it was unknown to her."
Gabrielle turned Xena toward her and looked her in the eyes.
"Now she has us," said Gabrielle. "And she always will have."
"Really? She wonít be losing one of her mothers?"
"Why would you think that?"
"I donít know. AphroditeÖ"
"Were you jealous?"
"Wasnít it obvious?"
"Itís been a long time since Iíve seen any jealousy from you, Xena."
Xena closed her eyes and leaned her head down until her forehead touched Gabrielleís.
"Iím sorry, Gabrielle. Iím sorry about the way Iíve been treating you, but this has been so hard. I keep feeling like Iím about to lose my daughter. The One True God is big on martyrs."
"Shhh, donít say that."
"Iím sorry I hurt you, Gabrielle. I keep trying to blame it on the Furies, but I acted out of anger and thereís no excuse for it. I owe you so much, and all I ever seem to do is hurt you."
"I forgive you. Iím no bargain myself, Xena. Iíve done a lot of things to hurt you. But you were right about what you said. What you did any mother would do."
Xena wrapped her arms around Gabrielle in an embrace, and Gabrielle hugged back, which she hadnít done with Aphrodite. Gabrielle let out a little sigh of contentment. It had been awhile.
"I love you," said Xena. "You thought I couldnít be the one to say it first, didnít you?"
"I love you, Xena."
Xena suddenly realized something.
"Youíve been crying."
"I missed you."
"We were hardly gone a candlemark."
"I know. But youíre back now. So everythingís OK."
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