Disclaimer: There's sex and violence in this story, and the only characters that belong to me are the ones NOT seen in the series.


Studies In Light

Chapter 4-Into The Abyss

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"I can't believe what I'm seeing." Gabrielle said. She was standing on the outer rim of the camp they'd made for the evening. Sitting around the fire as the sun began its decent behind the mountains was Xena (still dressed as Athena's Champion), Callisto and a younger version of herself. To see Callisto, one of the people she had hated most in the world for killing the only man she'd ever loved hanging on desperately to the girl who was the innocent child she used to be before she'd met XenaIt was strange to say the least. 


The younger Gabrielle was eyeing her older self as well. Gabrielle had spent the last hour telling them of the life she'd left behind in her own universe and none of them could believe it. The young Gabrielle stood and walked over to her. 


"So I'm supposed to become a warrior? A warrior who kills people? I can't imagine that." 


"Not necessarily," Xena answered. They had barely managed to escape Athena, and Xena had taken a small but nasty cut to her left arm to save this younger version of Gabrielle. For now however, they were safe. 


"You don't have to make the same choices I have," Gabrielle explained. She ran a hand over her younger self's strawberry blond hair. "You and I are two different people. To tell you the truth, sometimes I wish I had never" 


Her eyes met Xena's and she left the sentence hanging in the air. Unfortunately her alternate tried to pick up where she left off. "You wish you'd never met Xena?" 


"No," Gabrielle said, a little more sharply than she'd intended. She softened her tone at the look of hurt in her younger self's eyes. "No. I would be incomplete without her. I was going to say that sometimes I wish I had never touched a weapon. Gabrielle, hold on to your innocence. Once you lose it, you can never get it back. Tell me, how is Perdiccus?" 


Gabrielle gave her a frown of confusion. "I've never met him. Perdiccus Should I look for him?"


Gabrielle was saddened at the lack of recognition in her alternate's eyes but it may have been just as well. She wanted this girl to know the happiness she'd known with Xena, and that wouldn't be possible with Perdiccus in the picture. 


"No, never mind." 


Callisto still sat by the fire, hugging herself and looking between Xena and the two Gabrielle's. "I was an evil warrior who killed your husband and did all those horrible things? Then I became Xena's daughter?" 


In an unusual display of kindness Xena made an effort to comfort the girl. "Not you. Someone else." 


"But you two arelover's on her world. I guess that means you don't need me anymore Gabrielle."


Callisto stood from her place by the fire and ran into the trees. She didn't want anyone seeing her cry, especially Xena. It seemed from the story Gabrielle had told them the Warrior Princess was determined to make her miserable regardless of what world they were on.


"Callisto, wait!" Gabrielle took off into the forest after her friend, confused by the sudden display of what looked like jealousy on the surface. When they were alone again, Xena went to Gabrielle. 


"I don't think this thing with me and the other Gabrielle is going to work out. Look at her! She's practically a child and she's already got her own girlfriend." 


"No, I don't think it's like that with them." 


Xena had been willing to risk her life to save the three women but she wasn't about to stand there while Gabrielle denied the truth of what was before them. 


"Come on Gabrielle, admit it. Its not meant to be."


"So you're not even going to try?" 


"With her? No, I'm not. I have you. Like it or not Gabrielle, you're trapped here forever. I'm meant to be with you, not this other girl." 


Gabrielle turned away from Xena, the truth of her situation seeming to slap her in the face. She was indeed trapped on this world forever, and she was never going to see her Xena ever again. It was all so unfair yet she couldn't quite bring herself to regret what she'd done. Though the Lila of this world was not her sister, she couldn't have loved her any more if she was. She wouldn't have been able to live with herself knowing she'd allowed an innocent to die when there was something she could have done to save her. Especially when that someone wore the face of her sister. 


"So you just expect me to forget my Xena and live happily ever after here with you?" 


"I don't expect you to forget her." Xena pulled Gabrielle around to face her. "I just want you to give us a chance. I know you could come to love me every bit as much as you did her. Gabrielle, you're good for me. I need you." 


Gabrielle searched Xena's eyes and found nothing but truth within. Xena honestly believed she needed her and part of Gabrielle agreed. That had been the reason she'd stayed as long as she had right? To try and point this Xena on the right path. Now she was here for the rest of her life, it wouldn't hurt to try. 


"I only ask one thing of you." 




"Don't rush me. If it happens then it happens, but don't try to force it. Accept the possibility we may never be lovers." 


"If I have to be content with nothing more than your friendship to have you in my life, I'll gladly accept that. I love you Gabrielle." 


The words flowed from her lips so naturally that Xena wasn't even aware she'd said them until a few moments later. They sounded so natural to Gabrielle that it broke her heart to know she'd never hear the words come from her soul mate ever again.  


Gabrielle broke the silence that wasn't entirely uncomfortable as she noticed storm clouds moving in from the north. "A storm is moving in Xena. We'd better take shelter."


Xena examined the sky and agreed with Gabrielle's conclusion. "There aren't any caves nearby to speak of, but I have some Dinars. We'll take shelter in the next town." 


"Who's going to go and get them?" Gabrielle asked. Truth be told, she needed a few moments to gather her thoughts and feelings. 


"I will."  


Gabrielle watched Xena move into the steadily darkening forest then looked back up at the churning sky. Something about the sudden storm felt dangerous and unnatural, but she shook the thoughts away. This wasn't her sky, her world or her Xena and she would never allow herself to love this place. It would never feel like home.  




There was nothing that happened on this world the mighty Zeus wasn't aware of, especially when it concerned one of his children. As his eyes looked down upon the storm brewing over his beloved Greece, Zeus knew something was amiss. He'd been sensing discord in Athena, his favorite child, as well as something new he couldn't identify. He felt as if something had happened to the fabric of the universe itself, and it was only worsening. 


"Athena. Come to me my child." 


He'd spoken the words softly. He was the creator of the earth he called his playground and the gods that ruled over his beloved Greece always heard his voice, no matter how far from home they may be. Obediently Athena appeared before him, and bowed her head respectfully.

Zeus stood from his throne and came to stand beside her. Of all his children Athena was his favorite creation. She was wise as well as beautiful, and she was as loyal as she was obedient. They loved each other, and unlike his relationship with most other gods, he could say he genuinely enjoyed his relationship with her. 


He took her out to walk above the surface of the lands, just below the rolling clouds of the storm. The cool breeze always felt good to them both, and today they had it in abundance. As they walked, they took in the site of the lives of the mortals he'd created. For now there was no need for words as he simply shared the pain he could feel in her heart. However when Athena wasn't forthcoming with the truth of her recent actions that brought the storm about they were now walking beneath, he pressed the issue. 


"Something is troubling you my child. I feel your pain every bit as much as you do. Why don't you tell me? It might help you." 


"I don't think anything can ease my suffering father."  




"What?" Athena said, looking up at him in confusion. She loved her father dearly but sometimes he said things that even her wisdom could not discern.  


"Time heals all wounds. Even for the gods. It is one of my favorite creations." 


"Yes father." 


"This storm," he said, motioning to the sky, which was beginning to churn worse and worse. "It is unnatural. Demeter does not have her hand in it. You do. Tell me how it came to be." 


Sensing he was stating a demand with his gentle tone and not a request, Athena launched into the account of what had happened over the past three days. When she was finished he was nodding his head and stroking his beard.

"You have made a grave mistake my dear," he said. His voice reflected no anger, only disappointment, and that hurt Athena more than any punishment he could have dreamed up to mete out to her. She'd never disappointed him before, and she would never be able to take back the fact that she had this day. 


"What kind of mistake father?" 


Zeus began to explain the facts of inter-dimensional travel. "You know the universe is infinite, each one separated from the next by an unknown force." 


Athena nodded her head yes. "Only the gods are allowed to pierce that force, I know." 


"Yes, and there is a reason we do not." 


"What is that reason? You've never told me before." 


Zeus came to a stop and at the vast ocean that was his brother Poseidon's kingdom. It was one of his favorite sights when his mood was lighter. However after hearing of his beloved Athena's recent exploits he was anything but happy. 


"There is a delicate balance that is provided by keeping each universe separate Athena. Whenever an object passes from its home to a separate universe, even so much as a spec of dust, it upsets that balance. Gabrielle is like that speck of dust. She doesn't belong here." 


Athena agreed whole-heartedly. "I know father. She's done nothing but make my life miserable since she arrived." 


Zeus almost laughed at how childish Athena was being at this moment. "Not because she's stolen your toy Athena. She is not of our world. Her presence here is like a virus, making our universe ill. She must go back. If she does not, she will destroy our world." 


Athena nodded then straightened her back with determination. "I'll kill her and that will settle the problem." 


"I'm afraid not daughter. She must leave this world completely or this universe will collapse. What's worse is it will cause a chain reaction-"


"And the other universes will fall as well?"


Zeus nodded; relieved he'd gotten his point across to her. "Send her back my child." 


"But what about-" 


The time for being gentle was over and he reflected this in his voice. "Now Athena."


Athena bowed respectfully once more. The last thing she needed was for Zeus to become angry with her and do something to punish her recent actions of poisoning their world. "I will find her and send her back. But I will send her back dead." 


"Will that make Xena love you more or less?" 


"I don't care about Xena anymore father. She's become my enemy."


Zeus kissed her forehead gently. "Somehow I doubt that. It is because you love her so that you are in such anguish. A word of advice my child: kill Gabrielle and you will lose the one you love. Forever."


With that Zeus was gone. He had a way of simply vanishing that she found nothing short of amazing as well as frightening. She looked down upon the earth, knowing that somewhere in her beloved Greece the woman she loved was on the run with Gabrielle. She had to find her fast. Not just to save her world and put right her wrong, but to avenge her honor as well. 


By killing Gabrielle. 




Amaranda looked down at her latest lover, enjoying the site of her face in the light of the fading day. Sweat still coated her brow from their impassioned lovemaking and Amaranda took in the sound of her breathing as it slowly settled into a relaxed rhythm. The woman, like all of Amaranda's lovers, was a complete stranger. A whore in this small tavern in a town that she was only passing through.


As she watched the stranger sleep, Amaranda wondered just why it was she was so afraid to fall in love. She knew mentally that she wasn't bad for others. She knew people didn't die just because they loved her, yet she couldn't stop herself from believing that very same thing whenever she tried to form a lasting relationship. Every woman she met that got to close recalled the fear of loss that had haunted her since her mother had died at the hands of the army that raided her village as a child.


"She died to save me," Amaranda whispered. Because her mother had loved her so much she'd given her life to save her. Amaranda truly believed in her heart of hearts that if she had died with her father in the flood that had swept through her village the year before that, her mother would have been able to escape.

She wouldn't have had to worry about me, Amaranda mused. 


Her father was another story. He'd loved her too. He'd loved her every bit as much as her mother, which was why he'd died to rescue her from the waters that had destroyed her village. Both of her parents had lost their lives to save hers, and she hated herself because of it.


After she was orphaned she learned the painful truth about men: The good ones were few and far between. As far as she was concerned, her father had only been one good man in her life and he'd died because of her. How could she ever get past that? 


As her eyes took in the sight of the beautiful young woman again, her heart longed to stay to get to know her. No, Amaranda thought. I'm going to leave this village. I won't allow myself to stay and love her. I won't allow myself to fall in love and cause the death of another innocent person.


"My poor, tortured child." 


Amaranda started at the unexpected voice in her room, and she had to bite her tongue to hold back her angry remark. The voice did belong to her goddess after all. It would be unwise to be disrespectful to Athena. Besides that she loved the old gal. 


"My goddess. What brings you here?" 


Athena waved a hand over Amaranda's plaything and the petite beauty faded away. No doubt Athena had placed her in her own bed to sleep so she could have time alone with her third in command. 


"You are the third most powerful woman in my legions Amaranda," Athena said, taking a seat on the sheets that were still sweat drenched from her passion with the tavern whore. The goddess of wisdom took in a deep breath of the scent of her guard's body, and Amaranda couldn't help but to wonder just what Athena wanted here.


"Second only to Xena." 


"Until now." 


A fist of fear as cold as ice grabbed onto Amaranda's heart and it began to pound in its effort to break free. Athena's law stated that should something happen to her Champion the Second was to take his or her place. Now it seemed Athena was here to promote her, meaning Xena had either fallen in battle or fallen out of favor with their goddess. 


"What's happened to Xena? Is she alright?" 


Very few things in this world could genuinely scare Amaranda, and the site of her goddess as she began to cry was one of them. Amaranda hated to admit it but she'd allowed herself to love both Xena and her goddess. She began to wonder if her curse had done something to hurt the two people on this world she cared for most.  


"Athena please. Tell me what's wrong." 


"Xena is alive but she has lost my favor." 




Unbelievable, Amaranda thought. Xena and Athena had practically been married. What could possibly have come between them tothe image of the blond that had rescued them at Aphrodite's temple days before came into mind. Amaranda knew love when she saw it, and Xena had fallen head over heels for Gabrielle upon first sight.


Apparently her instincts that had told her the new woman would be trouble for Xena and Athena had been correct. There was something in this world that could drive Athena and Xena apart, and it had come in the form of a drop dead gorgeous blond named Gabrielle. 


"Goddess, I'm so sorry. II don't know what to say." 


"There's nothing to say really." Athena stood from the bed and walked over to the window. The sky was even darker than before, and lightning flashed bright and furious in the darkest reaches of the clouds. Athena told Amaranda everything that had happened over the past few days, including what she'd learned from Zeus. 


"So we have to get Gabrielle back to her world. From the looks of that storm we'd better do it fast." 


"More than that. I want her dead." 


Amaranda didn't know why but her heart immediately rejected the idea of killing Gabrielle. "My goddess, she may be something of a home wrecker but-" 


"But what?" Athena interrupted angrily. She wasn't about to tolerate even a hint of sympathy for Gabrielle. "What?" 


"Killing her isn't going to ease your pain over losing Xena. What's happened has happened." 


"I don't believe this!" Athena turned and came back towards the bed. "Your on her side too!"


Amaranda, still naked from her passion with the tavern whore, walked over and took Athena in her arms. "I'm your friend as well as your servant Athena. I'm loyal to you and that means I'm always on your side." 


Amaranda took Athena's face between her hands. "Because of the love I have for you I feel I don't have a choice but to be brutally honest with you. Do you know what attracted me to you in the first place?" 


Athena began to calm under Amaranda's gentle touch. "My legs?"


They shared a brief chuckle. "Your heart. Athena, you are a woman's best friend. You stand up for us like no other god on Olympus. What I'm trying to say is don't allow the need for vengeance to soothe your wounded pride make you go against every standard you have. You've taught me many things, and forgiveness was one of the first. Forgiveness is the key-" 


"-To my happiness," Athena said, finishing the sentence with her. Athena had become so obsessed with Xena over the past few years that she'd forgotten what a jewel Amaranda really was. She told her so now. 


"That's why you pay me the big Dinars right?"


"You're my new Champion Amaranda. You will rule my legions in Xena's place. As is my custom, you will take her place in every way." 


At one time the thought of becoming Athena's Champion and thereby her lover had been very appealing to Amaranda, and she'd even been jealous when Xena won the position over her. Now Athena had given her what she'd once sought for and she wasn't as thrilled as she should have been. 


Athena noticed this. "Does the thought of sharing my bed on Olympus not appeal to you anymore?" 


Amaranda turned away and went back to the window to examine the black clouds rolling across sky. Somehow the very heavens seemed about to fall on the earth. She debated how honest she should be with Athena, and then quickly came to the decision that she would be honest with her god or she would be nothing at all. 


"Not as much as it used to, no. I find it disturbing you can move to me so quickly after Xena." 


"I'm a god Amaranda. I've lived for more centuries than you can count. I could spend a thousand years with a woman and it would mean very little to me. Time is relative. I will bring your things to our quarters. Whenever you want to come home, just say the word, and you will be there." 


Amaranda knew Athena was lying about time being relative. She'd loved Xena, and now she was forcing herself to move on as if her former Champion had meant nothing to her. There was something wrong with that, and Amaranda was determined to find out why. All in due time of course. 


"I accept that I am your Champion my goddess." 


"You can drop the formalities," Athena claimed Amaranda's lips in their first kiss, then turned away. Amaranda had no doubt in her mind it had felt as wrong to Athena as it had to her. "Athena will do just fine." 


As Athena disappeared and Amaranda turned to find the new champions uniform laid out neatly on her bed, she wondered what she would do when the time came for her to go into battle against her friend Xena. Would she be able to stay faithful to one over the other? She resented the predicament Athena now had her under, but then there were a lot of things in her past she resented. This was just one more to add to the pile.  


She dressed in the Champion's uniform, and as she studied her reflection in the mirror she took no joy in her newly elevated status. Xena belonged in this uniform, not her. If the opportunity presented itself, Amaranda would do all she could to make certain she traded places with Xena as Athena's Champion and lover. That's what friends were for after all, and she was definitely Xena's friend.




"Can you believe the storm that's brewing outside?" Gabrielle asked Callisto as she entered the room Xena had rented for her and Callisto for the night. Gabrielle knew the story told by her alternate had greatly disturbed Callisto, but part of her felt more annoyance than the pity she knew she should be feeling. Callisto had barely spoken two words to her since they'd found out young Gabrielle was destined to be with Xena.


"Callisto? Are you going to talk to me or what?"


Callisto turned to Gabrielle with a wounded expression on her pretty face. "Don't you think we should be out looking for Lila instead of holing up in this Inn?"


Suddenly an object in the room next to theirs began to hit their wall rhythmically, quickly followed by grunts and moans of pleasure. Callisto threw her arms up in disgust as Gabrielle began giggling.


"For the gods' sakes!" Callisto exclaimed. "We're in a den of filth!"


"Since when did you become such a prude?"


Callisto stormed past Gabrielle and plopped down on the room's only bed. She stared out of the window as the sound of their neighbor's passion increased its intensity.


"You won't be happy to know they're a newly wed couple," Gabrielle informed her. I'll go across the hall when they're finished and ask them to move their bed away from the wall. Would that make you feel better?"


Callisto's voice had that pinched sound only heard when she was upset about something and Gabrielle knew her friend wanted her to prod and plead until she told what it was that was bothering her. It was a familiar routine so Gabrielle lay down next to her.

"This is so sick."


Gabrielle poked Callisto playfully on her side. "It'll be over soon."


"No, I mean this thing with you and Xena."


Now Gabrielle was just confused. "Sick? I think it's wonderful! I'm destined to be the soul mate of the legendary Xena! I feel like I've won some kind of prize. Or better yet, I feel as if I've been betrothed to a king."


"You never displayed an interest in women before. Why now?"


"Is that what's bothering you Callisto? That I'm meant to be with a woman?"


"Well, yes!" Callisto jumped as a bolt of lightning struck a tree outside their window. Both girls gave a scream of terror and rolled off the bed as pieces of bark flew through their window. A piece of wood struck Gabrielle before she could fall back, cutting the flesh above left eye. Seconds later Xena and Gabrielle came rushing into their room.


"Are you ok?" Xena went to the younger Gabrielle and pulled her up. She began to examine the younger girl with expert hands and despite her pain, Gabrielle found herself smiling under Xena's ministrations. Her crush on the Warrior Princess was abundantly clear to everyone, especially Callisto.


The banging noise was still going strong and Callisto kicked the wall. "Would you cool it in there!" With that she stormed from the room, slamming the door behind her.


"I'll go see to Callisto."


"Make sure she doesn't go outside. She likes to run outside whenever she's angry." The older Gabrielle nodded an acknowledgement to her younger double then left the room.


"You know Callisto pretty well it seems," Xena said, laying pressure on the wound to stop it from bleeding. The younger woman shrugged but only stared up with her one good eye into Xena's exquisitely shaped ones. Gods they were as blue as the waters that surrounded Potidea.


"You're so pretty Xena."


"Thanks. You're pretty too."


Xena said the words the same way Gabrielle had heard her mother speak to the younger children of the village whenever she was blowing them off in order to get back to work and it angered Gabrielle. That anger flashed through her remaining open eye bright enough for Xena to see it and the warrior stood back.


Xena was surprised by the experience. It was almost as if she could feel what Gabrielle had felt. She'd never had anything like that happen before. Not even with the older, wiser warrior Gabrielle she had fallen in love with. "What's the matter?"


"You're talking to me as if I'm a child, that's what's the matter."


"I am not."


"Yes you did. I'm not a child Xena. I'm a young woman. Don't tell me after what Gabrielle said about us you can't see that."


"Gabrielle was talking about her life, not ours. You need to understand that you two are completely different people and we're"


Gabrielle tried, unsuccessfully, to push Xena's hand from her wounded eye. She didn't want to hear the rejection she was about to receive from Xena, but the Warrior held steady, wrapping her other hand around Gabrielle's neck to hold her still. "Hey, calm down. What's the matter with you?"


"Nothing's the matter with me."


"I came in here to talk to you. Now are you going to listen like the woman you claim to be or storm out in a childish fit like your friend Callisto?"


"Listen to what? You tell me you don't like me?"


Xena sighed, trying to relieve the frustration building within her. Despite this annoying display of childish petulance on Gabrielle's part, Xena did have to admit the girl was as cute as she was stubborn.


"You had guts, charging in there with Callisto to save us like that."


"I did it for Callisto."


"Yeah, I know. Athena would have blasted her to oblivion had you not tackled Marcus and bowled him into her. Very brave."


"What's your point?"


"Ooh," Xena said, smiling despite herself. If she only knew the effect it was having on young Gabrielle's heart. The poor girl was beginning to feel a desire she'd never known before, and in the light of the rooms fire Xena was more beautiful than Gabrielle had ever dreamed another person could be.


"A real get-to-the-point' kind of girl. I like that."


"You just don't like me right? You like her." Gabrielle flung herself back onto the mattress and Xena leaned onto one elbow next to her.


"I do like you Gabrielle. You're a very sweet gir-young woman. You're very brave and very pretty. It's justI don't feel that connection with you the way I feel it with the other Gabrielle."


"What would you say if I told you I felt it for you? What would you say if I told you that I feltcomplete when I looked into your eyes for the first time? I still do."


Xena sat up from the bed. She didn't want to hurt Gabrielle's feelings but she didn't want risk leading the girl on either. She wondered if perhaps she should just walk away now.


"Xena, didn'tdon't you feel anything when you look at me?"


"I feel something when I look at Gabrielle. Not you."


"I'm the same woman."


"No, you're not. She's the one I am to be with. I'm sorry Gabrielle, but this thing with us being soul mates just doesn't click with me. I'm sorry. "


Xena took this opportunity to finish dressing the small wound over young Gabrielle's eye, all the while remaining coolly silent. When she was finished she made a beeline for the door, but stopped to study the girlish face that had looked at her with such disappointment.


"I'll uh, do something about your neighbors."


Gabrielle watched her turn her back and walk away. Though Xena had shut the door to the room softly, she couldn't help but feel the door to the relationship she'd begun to hope for had been slammed in her face.


There would be no Xena and Gabrielle in this universe.




A strong hand grabbed on to Callisto's arm just as she reached the door to exit the Inn. When she turned to face the woman who'd so forcefully halted her escape into the driving winds outside, she was more than bewildered to find the alternate Gabrielle.


"What do you want?" Callisto asked rudely.


"I want you to stop acting like a spoiled child. Boy, you're nothing like the Callisto I know."


"Yeah?" Callisto said, a bit of the mischievous devil Gabrielle had known in her world coming through for the first time. "Well you're nothing like the Gabrielle I know and lo-"


"Love?" Gabrielle said, trying to finish the thought for her.


"Yes I love her. Not in way you're thinking, but I do love her. Let go of my arm!"


Gabrielle allowed her to pull free, but not before she could insert her body between the feisty blond and the Inn's exit. "We need to talk."


"About what? Love. Losing my friends? What do you want to talk about that I don't already know. This is just sowrong! You came down here to tell me I'm wrong but I'm not. I hate Xena for what she's doing and I hate you for bringing her here."


"There is nothing wrong with love Callisto. Only hate is wrong. That's a lesson I suppose nothing short of a miracle with ever succeed in teaching you."


Confusion replaced the righteous bigotry on Callisto's face. "What do you mean by that?"


"I mean even in my world it took major sacrifice to turn you around. You just seem to be destined to hate. Don't you see what's happening here?"


Under Gabrielle's motherly stare Callisto could only squirm like a scolded child. "No, so why don't you fill me in?"


"Xena and Gabrielle." The words seemed simple enough to the woman speaking them, but Callisto was having a more difficult time wrapping her mind around the concept.




"Xena and Gabrielle. The words are more than names. They're an ideal. They represent what's right in the world. Untainted friendship and true love. Completeness. No matter which universe they're in, the souls of Xena and Gabrielle are meant to be together. One is incomplete without the other."


"So you're saying I should accept this?"


"Yes, you should." Gabrielle pulled Callisto over to a table away from the lightning flashing outside. The Innkeeper and his employees rushed to pull the shutters closed to keep out the leaves and bits of debris flying outside. The storm was worsening and Gabrielle wondered when the rain would start to pour.


They took a seat at a table and Gabrielle waved an approaching serving winch away. She wanted to speak to Callisto alone before Xena or her alternate had a chance to interrupt them.


"That girl upstairs is the soul mate to the Xena of this universe. They belong together Callisto. Gabrielle knows it but Xena is fighting it."


Callisto nodded, and Gabrielle could see that the girl wasn't completely closed-minded. Perhaps there was help for her yet. "She wants what this Gabrielle is meant to become. She wants you."


"I wouldn't say I'm what your Gabrielle is meant to become. There's nothing wrong with her choosing a different path, just as long as it's not separate from Xena's. My presence here is disrupting everything. She needs you right now Callisto."


"I don't see why. She has Xena."


"No, she doesn't. I have no doubt in my mind Xena has blown her off completely."

"Let's assume you're right about Xena and Gabby. How are we going to get them together with you around?"


Good question Gabrielle thought. She listened to the raging storm outside and wondered just what she was going to do about the situation. She couldn't imagine pplements
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Even if she were wrapped in the arms of this world's Xena there was no way she would ever forget that the woman holding her was only a pale copy of the woman she loved. Her Xena was all but dead to her; so the least she could do was see to it the people who belonged together stayed together.


But what about Callisto? Gabrielle asked herself. These two had a strong friendship and now Callisto believed she would be losing her best friend for the sake of and ideal she'd never heard of before. Gabrielle could understand her anger better than Callisto would imagine she could.


"Just because Xena and Gabrielle are together Callisto, doesn't mean you can't have a place in her heart."


"Of course it does. What would I do? Follow them around fighting bad guys? No."


"You wouldn't be bad at it," Gabrielle said, taking one of Callisto's hands in her own. "The way you charged into that temple and went up against Athena herself. I am duly impressed."


Callisto found herself blushing despite herself. Praise from a real warrior, even a friendship-wrecking warrior like Gabrielle, felt good. "Nah, I'd be a third wheel."9÷R[^Ϥ\3ƤI޽N&\[\d{5ص"n g vq|O|akljwV&7x@?ZQec騏 qzTrsW ו"[ϰ0Zݝ>tƻeupMvG#Tzk|_9kv635'HYA%b}qڜ]d@\`MlCIessvyJaF֚tLNEni5Hd@5/hW-$W'FjeQlT)Ijz kWyt"Z<*<*avOVlq0?uO=nEuȩX+:{YfCIK66Ѡo5pLn 9u!1FDlass=MsoNormal style='mso-margin-top-alt:auto;mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto'> 

"Oh gods!"


Callisto followed Gabrielle's eyes to find a group of warriors entering the Inn to take shelter from the storm. They wore rich blues and crisp whites of the temple of Poseidon. As far as Callisto could tell, Poseidon had nothing to do with their situation. Did he?


"Gabrielle what's wrong?"


Gabrielle's eyes were glued to the man who was obviously Poseidon's Champion. He was tall with black hair and experienced good looks. He seemed to have an easy laugh and a quick smile, and Callisto wondered if perhaps he were someone Gabrielle knew.


"You know him?"


"Yes I know him."


"Who is it?"


Gabrielle spoke but her voice was choked with emotion. "His name is Joxer."




Joxer entered the Inn with his men. They'd been returning to the temple headquarters in Corinth when this mysterious storm had picked up, and luckily his second knew of the only adequate shelter for miles around. He wasn't disappointed. The structure was solid and the prices reasonable. Not to mention the room was filled with beautiful women, one of who had her eyes glued to him.


This wasn't something that was new to Joxer. Women loved a man in uniform, especially if that man were the champion of his god. He was no stranger to female adoration, but there was something different about this woman. She felt familiar, as if he should know her. Besides that, the look on her face wasn't one of lust, but of intense recognition. As if she knew him as well.

His men encouraged him to go talk to her. She was incredibly beautiful after all, but the timing didn't feel right. If she wanted to talk to him then she would approach on her own terms. He just hoped she did approach. There was something about her he found special, and he hoped that during his time here he'd at least get to speak with her.






Xena came down the steps of the Inn and from the look on her face the time she'd spent alone with young Gabrielle had not gone well. Her beautiful blue eyes were clouded and the normally smooth skin of the ridge of her nose crinkled with her frown. Gabrielle could only imagine what had been said between them.


The snorts and rude comments from the men in the tavern did nothing to lift Xena's mood either, and Gabrielle could tell it was all Xena could do not to take out her aggressive urges on them, and she had to give the warrior a silent round of applause for her self-restraint.


"Xena. How did it go?"


Instead of answering, Xena's eyes went to Callisto. It was obvious that Xena feared anything she said in front of Callisto would get back to Gabrielle so she just folded her arms and lay her head back, exposing her long, graceful neck. A neck very similar to the one her lips had caressed many days and nights in passion.


Callisto could tell Xena wouldn't speak around her so she stood to return to her room. "I'll leave you two to talk about us behind our backs."


When she was gone, a throaty chuckle escaped Xena's full, rosy lips. "What's so funny Xena?"


"Her. If I hadn't met you I could see myself having one hell of a fling with Callisto. She's just my type for"






Gabrielle knew exactly what was on this woman's mind. "Sport?"


"Something like that."


Gabrielle pushed her half finished mug of mead over to Xena who pushed it back. "Thanks but I don't make it a habit of drinking after people."


Now Gabrielle found herself laughing. "Really? I noticed you didn't have a problem sticking your tongue down my throat last night. When did that change?"


"Touch, but I'm not thirsty."


"Xena, you're going to have to find something else to wear. That silver champion's uniform makes you stick out like a sore thumb."


"What am I going to wear?"


Gabrielle found a grin pulling her lips wide apart. "I think you'd look good in leather."







"Hey Micah. Come here."


Amphitryon motioned for his good friend Micah to drop his work of scaling the catches of the day and joining him for a walk. He'd spent the entire night tossing and turning, images of Xena's hands on Varia's body torturing him with both righteous indignation that they would bring such practices into the honorable village of Amphipolis and his own desires to see them again. He was ashamed to admit it but the site of two women together had excited him as much as it had enraged him.


However, after a night of tossing and turning Amphitryon realized that with these kinds of preferences he was never going to get close her. He didn't stand a chance against Xena, so he would make them pay for their perversions by telling the entire town exactly what they were. He'd give the women a week before the harassment became so bad they closed up Cyrene's place and left for Varia's home village where that kind of behavior was more than likely common place.


"What's up Amp? We've been getting a lot of business so I need to get those fish scaled and-."


"This is more important than business. This concerns the welfare of the village."


Now he had Micah's full attention. "Yeah?"


"You know those two women? Xena and Varia?"


A grin crossed Micah's somewhat plain face. "Boy do I. They're real lookers, those two."


Great, Amphitryon thought. Micah, and no doubt a lot of the village men, had noticed their beauty too, and Amphitryon didn't doubt he'd be able to use that against the two harlots.


"What about them?"


Amphitryon looked around as though he didn't want anyone else to hear which only added to the element of mystery he was trying to build to make his story more dramatic. It worked. "You can forget about getting next to them. Let me tell you what I saw last night."




Xena poured a mug of hot water over Varia's hair to rinse the Jasmine scented soap that lathered her hair in great poufs of white foam. As the water cascaded down her back Xena could feel the new warmth of desire flood her belly, but she held herself in check. She still had mixed feelings about the passion they'd shared the night before, and if she'd learned anything she'd learned that every time she tried to allow herself happiness life found a way to rip it away from her.


I'm making a huge mistake with Varia, Xena found herself thinking. I just can't allow myself to fall for her. I can't.




Varia turned in the water to face her new lover, a smile bright and beautiful on her young face. "Your turn. It's past noon and we haven't gotten a thing done."


"What am I doing with you?" Xena blurted out the words and regretted them immediately. Varia's smile dropped from her face like a heavy stone in the hands of a child and she recoiled from the hurt that grabbed her heart like a cold fist.


"I'm sorry?"


Now that the door had been opened, Xena found she was tapped between stepping through or remaining on the outside. She could easily rectify her words with a kiss or a smile and make up some excuse of why they were in the tub instead of in bed, or she could talk her feelings over with honesty.


She decided to be honest, as Gabrielle had always encouraged her to be. "I said what am I doing with you'?"


"I heard you the first time. I just don't understand what you meant by them."


"I mean I'm 58 years old and you're barely a day over twenty four. I'm robbing the cradle being with you. Let me up."


Varia moved aside at Xena's urging and watched as the Warrior Princess rose from the water and pulled on a robe. "Xena, age doesn't matter to me. Besides, you were frozen in a cave for 25 years. Its not like you're an old woman."


"Age matters to me. I justI think maybe I've made a mistake."


Something awfully close to panic flooded Varia's chest and her heart began to run away with her. "What are you saying?"


"I'm saying I don't feel right with you."


With that, Xena turned and left her there and entered the room where they had spent the night making love, resting and making love again. As far as Xena could remember they'd shared their passion four times.


Varia entered the room, her eyes also going to the sheets rumpled from their passion, only unlike Xena she hadn't bothered to put on a robe.


"What do you mean you don't feel right with me? You didn't seem to be having a problem with age last night."


"I mean just what I said. It's not just our age difference. It's still too soon in ourfriendship for this. We're moving ahead too fast."


The younger warriors mouth hung open with speechless shock. When she found her voice she was ashamed at the tremor of emotion that hinted at how close she was to tears. It took a lot to make her cry, but now the tears flowed from her eyes in rivers. Xena had become everything to her, and now she was just going to leave her, after all they'd shared together. It was just too much.


"Xena you-you're just-"


Xena watched Varia cry and wondered just how deep the Amazon's feelings ran for her. She also wondered why she didn't care more than she did. "Varia, I know how deeply you care for me. That's not lost on me."


"It's not lost on you alright. You just don't give a damn do you?"


"Yes, I do give a damn about your feelings. I shouldn't have made love with you Varia. It was wrong for me."


Varia gave a short, bitter sounding laugh as she tried to pull herself together and wipe the tears from her eyes. "You shared your soul with me last night Xena, and you took part of mine. Now you wake up satisfied and decide to just end it? You're just going to walk away from all we've accomplished with your heart and the Inn?"


"I didn't say that."


"Then what are you saying?" Before Xena could open her mouth to respond Varia spoke over her angrily. "Let me guess: You want to take off and lose yourself in your hatred, right? Well be my guest. I'm finished trying to save you."


Varia stormed out of the room but Xena didn't follow. She was too ashamed of what she'd done to face Varia, and she wondered if she ever would.




The last thing Varia expected to see when she exited the Inn was a mob of angry villagers carrying everything from swords to walking sticks. They were quiet, dangerously quiet, but Varia could see the hatred in their eyes. Her instincts told her that the man front and center of the group had something to do with it.


"Something tells me you're not here for breakfast."


"We know what-" Micah began, but Amphitryon cut him off with a nudge to his ribs. The news he'd shared with Micah had spread like wild fire, and within three hours the villagers had formed a mob. He'd started this game, and this was his moment of revenge. He wasn't about to let anyone but himself take the glory.


"Would you care to tell the fine people of Amphipolis what you and Xena have been doing since you arrived."


Varia couldn't figure out for the life of her what he could be talking about. She threw up her hands in frustration. Her heart was breaking over Xena and she didn't have the least bit of interest in dealing with these people. She wanted to get back to her tribe and back to a normal life.


"We've been fixing up the Inn. We were going to re-open but things have changed. I'm returning to my tribe-"


"No, no." Amphitryon eased closer to her, a grin that Varia found decidedly menacing covering his face. "Why don't you tell us what you and Xena have been doing with each other since you got here."


Varia didn't get anxious easily but Amphitryon's words, along with the hateful expressions of the villagers behind him made her wonder if he somehow knew she and Xena had made love the night before.


"You seem to think you know something. Why don't you tell me?"


The door to the Inn opened behind Varia and Xena stepped out taking in the sight of the angry lynch mob. "Sorry people, we're not opening the Inn after all. Though I doubt you're interested in biscuits right now."


"Why?" Micah asked from behind Amphitryon. "Are you and Varia going back to her Amazon camp to play house?"


An angry wave of mumbling started up in the crowd and Varia looked to Xena with something akin to panic on her face. Another villager that Xena had never seen before stepped forward, wielding a newly sharpened pitchfork.


"Let me guess Xena. You're the man and she's the woman, right?"


Varia looked back at Xena again. "They know."


Before Varia could stop her Xena grabbed her by the arm and shoved her into the Inn, then she took a handful of Amphitryon's hair and shoved him in after her. This earned her a few indignant objections from the villagers but she ignored them.


"Excuse us for a minute," Xena said, backing into the doorway. "I'll send him right back."


Once the door was shut and bolted behind her Xena motioned for Varia to lock the back door as well. Luckily for them none of the first floor shutters were open.


"Alright. What have you been telling them?"


Amphitryon stared Xena over in pure disgust. "I don't have to tell you anything."


"You've heard of me Amphitryon. You know what I can do."


"Oh, that pinch thing. You're not going to kill me Xena. You don't murder innocent people."


"I don't murder innocents, that's true, but I'm not averse to the idea of killing scum like you. Scum is never innocent Amphitryon."


She had then pinch on him in seconds, and he fell to the floor as his legs gave way beneath him. A pressure like nothing he'd ever felt before began to build in his head, and the only relief his body could give him came when blood exploded from his nose.


"Now, you've got less than thirty seconds, so I suggest you start talking."


Varia came back into the room and began pulling off her new dress and replacing it with her Amazon uniform. "Go on friend," she said, her voice dripping with disdain. "I'm dying to know."


"Itold themthe truth about you."


"And what truth is that?"


He struggled to answer Xena's question as dizziness began to take over. "I told them what I saw. I saw you two"


Seeing he was about to pass out, Xena removed the pinch and he fell back. His head was throbbing with excruciating pain but the pressure was draining fast and his nose was beginning to stop bleeding.


"You saw us making love?" Varia asked. She was dressed now and had her weapons strapped on.


"Yes I did, and I've told everyone about you."


"That's all I need to know. Varia, can you hold him here?"


"What for?" Xena could hear contempt directed at her in Varia's voice but she ignored it. She deserved it after playing with the girl's heart the way she had.


"I need to get my walking clothes on."


Xena ran upstairs and Varia sat on one of the tables before Amphitryon. "You'd better be glad my Amazon sisters aren't here."


"I am, believe me. The last thing we need around here is an hoard of you sick perverts."


"What makes me sick Amphitryon? Am I sick because I love a woman?"


"Yes!" The righteous hatred in his face amazed her. Men were, Varia saw now, so incredibly foolish.


"You love women, why can't I?"


"That's different for me to love-oh, I'm not going to argue the point with you."


Xena came down the steps a few moments later and Varia was impressed with how quickly the older warrior could get ready for battle. She came over and jerked Amphitryon to his feet just as the villagers began to bang on the main door. From the sound of it they had gotten something solid to ram the door with.






Varia drew her sword. "I think we're going to have to fight our way out of this one. Then we'll go our separate ways."


"Going our separate ways is something I want to talk to you about. I never said I wanted to separate, you did."


"I'm through talking about it Xena."


"You're letting your pride get in the way of us-"


"-My people need me, you don't. It's that simple."


Amphitryon snorted in disgust. "This is so disgusting-"


Xena had had enough. "Shut up!"


The door crashed open and the village men barged in, some of them carrying torches. They screamed her name in anger and began to demand Amphitryon's release. Xena shoved him toward the waiting arms of the villagers.


Micah stepped forward, carrying a cheaply crafted sword. "We're not going to allow your kind in this village."


Xena jumped up onto a table, pulling Varia with her. "This village," she began. Varia knew Xena well enough to hear the hurt in her voice from these people's betrayal. "This village is full of fools. You're always so quick to turn on your own aren't you? You murdered my mother, but did that stop me from saving your stinking hides from Mephistopheles?"


Amphitryon came to stand beside his friend. "We owe you nothing. You've been a thorn in Amphipolis' side since the day your family moved here the first time. Always causing trouble."


"And how would you know? You weren't even born when my mother moved us here."


"Stories. Like you said Xena, I know you. People! Listen to me! If we let them leave here they'll just move to some other village and corrupt them."


"What are you saying?" Micah said, beginning to look nervous. "What can we do?"


"Kill them. Stone them for bringing their unnatural lusts into our upstanding village."


The crowd began to cheer and Xena drew her sword. Almost in unison the villagers fell back, away from her in fear. They did indeed know her, and they knew that there wasn't one of them who could handle her. This was a warrior who'd once fought off an entire army alone after all. Their strength may not even lie in numbers.


"Don't be afraid," Amphitryon said, venturing close to Xena. "She won't hurt any of us, even as we stone her. Her weak moral code won't allow her to. Isn't that right Xena?"


A villager began to climb the steps and before Xena fully realized what he was doing he set one of her mothers hand made tapestries on fire. It told the story of Cyrene's romance with her husband and the birth of her children up to Xena. It was the last gift Cyrene had given Xena and it meant the world to her. Now it was on fire.


Varia had gone a long way to easing the pain of losing Gabrielle, but without the one she truly loved in the entire world to act as her moral compass, Xena found it incredibly easy to entertain the thought of slaughtering innocent villagers. Especially when she'd risked her life on more than one occasion to save them.


They were betraying her again. This coupled with the memories of seeing her mother being burned at the stake at their hands and now seeing them destroy the only happy memories she had left was more than Xena could bear.


"I'm sorry Gabrielle," she found herself whispering as her hand tightened on her sword. "I can't keep my promise."


The final barrier of goodness left within her gave way under the pressure of her anger, hurt and pure rage and Xena allowed herself to fall into the Abyss of hatred that only Gabrielle's love had the power to save her from. With a cry of pain and rage, Xena brought her sword around taking Amphitryon's head off in one fatal swoop. The villagers stared in shock as their eyes took Xena in. Each of them had seen the change take place as surely as Xena had felt it. Their hatred and betrayal had resurrected the monster that Gabrielle's love had slain many years before, and there was nothing and no one on earth with the power to stop her.


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