Chapter Thirteen-Bonding

Desire' walked onto the baseball field with the Conqueror following right behind. The morning's game had not yet begun and there were plenty of volunteers to field two teams so the Conqueror could learn how to play.

Desire' walked over to the dugout and picked up a bat and walked back over to the Conqueror who was waiting near the batter's box. "Here's your bat Conqueror" Desire' said as she handed the bat to her. The Conqueror held the bat in her right hand like she was holding a sword and began swinging it in a circular motion, then parrying left and right. Desire' jumped out of the way. "Conqueror, let me demonstrate, please," yelled Desire' to get her attention. The Conqueror stopped to look at her. "Are you sure I don't get to hit someone with that?" she asked as she handed the bat to Desire'.

"No Conqueror, the ball, you hit the ball with the bat," Desire' replied. She could tell it was going to be a long morning. "Watch," she said as she stepped into the batter's box to demonstrate. "This is how you hold the bat with both hands so you can swing it. Pari, pitch the ball," Desire' stood ready in the batter's box as the ball came over the plate, high. She refrained from swinging as the catcher held the ball.

"Hold it!" yelled the Conqueror as she walked up to Desire'. "He just threw the ball. Why did you call it a pitch?"

"Because when he throws the ball it's called a pitch," Desire' stated as she pointed to Pari on the mound. "Abro throw the ball back."

"Wait," said the Conqueror. "How come you just told Abro to throw the ball? How come it's not a pitch?"

"Because he's the catcher. Pari is the pitcher. When the pitcher throws the ball it's called a pitch." Desire' looked over to the Conqueror who was deep in thought.

"Okay," said the Conqueror. "How come you didn't swing? I thought that was the reason you have the bat."

Desire' motioned for the Conqueror to come over to the plate. "My mistake. Pari has to throw the ball between the chest and the knees and the ball has to go over the plate. That's called a strike zone. If Pari misses the strike zone and the batter doesn't swing, it's called a ball."

"Well I know he's throwing a ball," replied the Conqueror.

"The pitch, Conqueror. The pitch is called a ball. If he throws four balls out of the strike zone and I don't swing then I'm a granted a walk and I run to first base," she said pointing down the baseline.

"If it's a walk, how come you run down to first base? Why don't you just walk?"

"That's not the point Conqueror. You just run. Now if he pitches three balls in the strike zone, I'm out. Or if he pitches the ball and I swing and miss it's a strike."

"Why don't you just call it a missed swing?"

Desire' just put her hand on her head and shook it. "Let's forget about those rules right now. Let's just pretend I'm gonna hit the ball. If I hit the ball in the air and one of the fielders catches it, I am automatically out. If the ball is hit on the ground and a fielder throws it to the first baseman before I reach the base, I am out."

"Out where?" asked the Conqueror.

"You go back to the dugout Conqueror. Just watch." The Conqueror stood back and watched as Desire' swung the bat, hitting the ball into right field and running to first base before the ball reached the first baseman. She walked down the line back to the Conqueror. "Now if we were playing a game, I would be called safe."

"Why? You're not safe out there. He could've hit you in the head with the ball."

"Conqueror, just hit the ball and run to first base." She watched as the Conqueror lined up in the batter's box on the right side of the plate. "This feels funny cowgirl" yelled the Conqueror as she swung the bat.

"You're right handed Conqueror. Try the other side of the plate."

The Conqueror did as she was instructed. "Now this feels much better," she said as she swung the bat with confidence.

"Now just remember Conqueror, when you hit the ball run to first base. If the ball beats you there and the first basemen holds onto the ball you are out."

She watched as the Conqueror motioned for Pari to deliver the pitch. The ball came right down the middle. The Conqueror swung, hitting a ground ball to the shortstop. She ran to first base with lightning speed. The ball reached first base before the Conqueror. Desire' cringed when she punched the first baseman in the face. He fell to the ground as the ball left his glove. "I'm safe right," yelled the Conqueror as she stood on top of the base looking at the downed man.

"Let's go Conqueror. Maybe we should try football," yelled a frustrated Desire'.

"What'd I do?" asked the Conqueror as she walked back toward Desire'. "You told me I was safe if he didn't hold onto the ball and he didn't hold onto the ball."

"My mistake, Conqueror. There is no hitting in baseball!"

"I hit the ball."

"People Conqueror. There is no hitting people in baseball. Sorry I didn't make myself clear," answered Desire' as she lead the Conqueror toward the football field.


"So why is it called football?"

"I have no idea."

"There has to be a reason. Does it have something to do with your feet?"

"Well there is the kickoff where you kick the ball to the other team."

"Why not call it kickball?"

"I have no I idea."

"Why even call it a ball? Balls are round. That is not round."

"Maybe because it's kind of shaped liked a foot."

"What's a punt?"

"Let's just skip that one."

"Why do you call the leader a quarterback?"

"Because I'm an idiot Conqueror."

"What is a pass?"

"It's when the quarterback throws the ball to the receiver."

"Why is it called a pass and not a pitch?"

"There are no pitchers in football."

And so the morning continued for Desire' in her quest to have the Conqueror bond with her soldiers. After a lengthy conversation regarding the rules of the game, Desire' was now watching the Conqueror play.

It was like watching a sprinter running up and down the field. Not a single soldier had the guts to tackle the Conqueror so Desire' just watched as she ran the length of the field untouched. After two possessions Desire' called a time out to talk to the quarterback of the Conqueror's team.

"Aleandro, can you not give the ball to the Conqueror for a couple of downs? Let her block or something. Besides she likes hitting people. It'll be fun for her." Aleandro nodded as Desire' left the field. True to his word, he opted for a couple of passes. The Conqueror took out two players leaving Desire' to fill in on third down.

It was a no brainer. The Conqueror lined up behind the quarterback. The play was simple. Hand the ball off to the Conqueror to run seventy yards for a touchdown. This game was another futile effort but Desire' was going to be damned before she was going to stand by and watch the Conqueror run past her men. If she had to be the one to show guts, then she would, even if the impact would probably kill her.

Desire' stood behind the scrimmage line in ready position to blitz. The ball was hiked and Aleandro backpedaled to hand the ball off to the Conqueror. Desire' timed her attack perfectly. She was across the line of scrimmage untouched as soon as the ball was snapped. The Conqueror ran to the right, the ball safely tucked into her arms. Within two strides she was met by the flying body of the small brunette running full speed and leaping into the air. Desire' was holding both hands around the Conqueror tightly as the impact took the Conqueror several feet backward, a small brunette still wrapped around her waist as she hit the ground on her back. "Oof," they yelled in unison.

Desire' looked up to the Conqueror, feral blue eyes looking back. "You die," she said.

"It's just a game Conqueror. Fourth down."

"What happens next."

"Well unless you think you can kick that football eighty-five yards and through the uprights your team punts the ball to us."

"What's a punt?"

"It's a kick Conqueror."

"Just call it a kick."

"Fine it's a kick."

"Doesn't matter, I'm gonna kick the ball through what did you call them, uprights?"

"Of course you are Conqueror," Desire' answered as she helped her to her feet.

Desire' watched unfazed as the Conqueror kicked the ball across the football field and through the uprights on the field. "What happens next?" yelled the Conqueror.

"You kick the ball to us," Desire' yelled back as she left the field.

"Why don't we just punt the ball to you?" she yelled laughing at the exasperated look on Desire's face.

"Whatever, Conqueror," Desire' yelled back. "What was I thinking," she muttered to herself.

"Hey," yelled the Conqueror, running over to Desire', "Where are you going?"

"I don't do kick off returns," replied Desire'.

"Oh no," said the Conqueror. "I'm going to kick the ball and you are going to catch it. I get my shot at you," she added with a devilish grin and a gleam in her eyes.

Desire' turned around to the Conqueror. "I'll go back on the field but I never hold the ball. I play defense only."

"That's not fair," replied a disappointed Conqueror. "When do I get to tackle you?" she pouted.

Desire' pointed her finger into the Conqueror's nose. "That's the point. You don't. I'm not dumb enough to let a bunch of really big soldiers jump on me."

"Okay, fine," she replied and stomped away.

Desire' lined up her return men on the five yard line just in case the Conqueror kicked the ball short. She was sure the ball would just sail through the uprights for a touchback and lined up on the twenty-yard line just in case she would need to block if the ball was run back.

Desire' was unnerved as she looked across the field into the eyes of the Conqueror staring straight at her as she ran toward the ball. She could see the feral grin on her face and gleam in her pale blue eyes as the ball left the ground and sailed short, barely reaching the twenty yard line where Desire' stood alone.

Desire' began motioning for her return men to come up and receive the ball but it was too late. Her only option was to duck like a coward and let the ball bounce behind her or catch the ball and run like hell. The green-eyed monster sprang forward propelling her to catch it. "Oh shit!" she yelled as she caught the ball, looked forward and froze at the sight of eleven soldiers, including the Conqueror running straight for her and there was no one to block for her. Panic and terror took over as her legs started moving and she ran like hell, weaving in and out of warriors trying not to get herself killed. She was nearing the ten yard line, adrenaline pumping and pushing her forward until she felt the strong hands of the Conqueror grab her from behind, throwing her forward with all of her force. They landed on the five-yard line, the force sending them sliding face forward to the two-yard line.

The ball was still safe in Desire's arms but the impact of the ball in her stomach left her gasping for air, the force of her face hitting the ground leaving her in a semi-unconscious state as the Conqueror laughed on top of her. The Conqueror rolled off of Desire' when she realized the small figure beneath her wasn't moving. "Desire'," she whispered as she turned the small woman onto her back. "Talk to me."

"Oww," gasped Desire' as she tried to open her eyes and focus.

"You're okay," replied the Conqueror as she placed her hand around the brunette's face plucking grass off of the golden skin.

"That's up to interpretation," answered Desire' as she spit out a clump of grass. "Let's try something else. Maybe you'd be good at flipping burgers."

The Conqueror looked at her with a quizzical expression. "What are burgers?"

"Ground meat patties," replied Desire' rubbing her now throbbing head.

"Why not just call them meat patties?" asked the Conqueror smiling at the look of frustration washing over the fallen woman's face.

"Don't start with me Conqueror. My head hurts already." The Conqueror laughed as she picked the small woman up and carried her off the field.


Chapter Fourteen-A Kinder Gentler Conqueror

"Desire' wake up," whispered the Conqueror as she shook the woman in her bed.

"What?" asked an irritated brunette. She looked up and focused on a tall dark woman with a gold and black Oriental robe and gold crown. "Ahhh," she yelled frightened by the sight and jumping away from the hand on her shoulder.

"Desire' it's just me," answered the Conqueror.

Desire' relaxed her breathing when she realized she was in the Conqueror's bedchambers and the dark menacing figure was not a threat. "Jeez, did ya have to wake me wearing that thing? Bad memories you know."

"I need your help," replied the Conqueror, throwing Desire's clothes at her. "I need to talk to you."

"I'm not talking to you wearing that," spat Desire'. "At least take that damn crown off."

"What's wrong with my outfit?" asked the Conqueror defensively.

"Last time I woke up with you wearing that you punched me in the face. That's what's wrong," yelled Desire'. "Jeez," she said scratching her head. "Didn't we just fall asleep? It's way too dark out there," she added pointing at the window.

"Will you talk to me now?" asked the Conqueror as she set the crown on the bed.

"Get that thing away from me. You know you really look like a bitch in that outfit," replied the small brunette.

"Hey nobody calls the Conqueror a bitch," she growled.

"Chill Conqueror and stop talking in the third person. Besides that's nothing compared to what I've been calling you the last several months," teased Desire'.

The Conqueror stared at the small woman, trying to contain the beast. She licked her front tooth and took a deep breath. "Well coming from the Queen of bitches, I will take that as a compliment," she teased back.

"You've spent months boinking the God of War and I'm the bitch. Explain yourself Conqueror."

"You're not gonna let me off the hook for that are you?" asked the Conqueror.

"Not in this universe. So why am I the bitch?"

"Well there was the little scene in the healer's room."

"Hey, I got hit in the head."

The Conqueror looked at the sassy woman and jumped on top of her, pinning her hands to her sides. "Making excuses for your actions little one?" she growled, trying to stifle a smile.

"I learned from the best, Conqueror," Desire' responded laughing. "Try again and I'll let the ‘little one' remark go this time."

"There were those lovely songs you sang for me. Something about ‘kiss this and I don't mean on my rosy red lips' and who could forget ‘I need a girl like you like I need a hole in my head."

Desire' was smiling at her captor. "I see you got my message," she said as she started laughing at the woman above trying to look stoic "Besides you were kissing it just fine last night.

"You're an evil woman Desire'," replied the Conqueror.

"Knew there had to be a reason you love me," teased Desire'.

"Who said anything about love?" asked the Conqueror.

"Oh that's right. I'm just a warm body for you to fu." Desire's lips were covered by the mouth of the Conqueror before she could finish her statement.

"I don't do well with that word," whispered the Conqueror.

"Then just let yourself feel. You don't have to say it," Desire' answered.

"You deserve to hear it Desire'."

"And one day I will. Just maybe not from your crusty old butt. Now get off me and tell me why the hell you woke me up so damn early," she replied struggling to free herself from the strong hands holding her.

The Conqueror rose from the bed to free the small woman. "I need help with judgements today. You spoke of justice in your world. I would like to hear your ideas."

"It's a little late for that today. It takes time to make changes like that."

"I don't have time. Judgement is at dawn."

"Post pone the judgements."

"I can't do that. People expect me to hand out sentences today."

"You're the Conqueror. You can do whatever the hell you want."

"What do you suggest I say to the people?"

"Tell them you're on holiday," Desire' teased. "Just tell them that you are looking into some law changes. Then send out word from the surrounding cities to choose a representative to meet with you later this week. Check out Rome. You know their system still works today. We have Senators who work with the leader so that a fair majority governs the country. Of course our President still has veto power but at least the leader gets a chance to hear what the people want."

"If I do this will you come work with me?"

"I'm not a politician and I'm not ruler material."

"But you have good ideas. I have conquered the lands I wanted. Now it is time to be a ruler. You can help me with that."

"Under one condition."

"Name your terms."

"You let me build some programs for the poor. You know, spend your money. I'm really good at that and it's fun," she finished, grinning at the Conqueror.

"Yes you are quite good at that. Aglao still hasn't gotten over those baseball uniforms."

"I can hardly wait until he hears the good news. Deal," Desire' answered as the two women shook hands.


A month had passed since the Conqueror had asked her to come work for her. One day while riding through the city, she watched as her guards stopped to take down a bunch of scrolls nailed to the trees and buildings. They talked about new ideas to reshape the city and it's laws. They were believed to be written by a rebel group known only as the dissenters. She smiled as she thought about who wrote the eloquent words.

Desire' walked her horse through the city, stopping to allow the guards time to gather the new scrolls that adorned the buildings and trees. She would pick one of the scrolls up and casually put it in her pocket. There was no need to tell the Conqueror where her ideas were coming from.


Chapter Fifteen-Wild Horses and Rodeos

The Conqueror met Desire' at the edge of town after finishing with her daily sword workout. They would take a ride into the countryside and enjoy the sunset together. They rode to their favorite spot outside the city, looking over a lush green valley and sat down to watch the colors of the sky change as the sun made it's way down in the afternoon sky.

"Desire', I fear the day you leave me."

"You shouldn't Conqueror. When I am gone you will be reunited with your soulmate."

"But I lo," started the Conqueror then stopped.

"Still having a problem with that word, Conqueror?" Desire' could feel her heart beat speed up. They had rarely talked about their feelings and Desire' had chosen not to speak about her reason for being there. "It's okay. I know you feel it."

"Then why do you think I would want another? You said you would not deny my love."

"I would never deny your love Conqueror. But we both have a greater love out there somewhere. We can still love each other until then."

"Why won't you call me Xena when we're alone?"

"Because I would feel as though I was cheating on her. I can't explain it but as long as you are the Conqueror I don't feel guilty for loving you." The Conqueror wrapped her arms around the smaller woman's waist and held her in front of her as they continued to talk.

"I take it you haven't found the Cronus stone."

"No but I will. Besides death is just a beginning. I've always said prepare for the worst and hope for the best. But you've changed my thinking."

"How so?"

"Now I can still prepare for the worst because that's just my way. But if I give my best the worst won't happen. I will succeed."

"Then why won't you let me use my resources to help you find it?"

"Because the Gods will know about an all out search. Ares will know and try to stop you. I can't let that happen."

"I can't let you die," whispered the Conqueror, pressing her face into the dark tresses of her ‘gift'.

"It's not exactly on my top ten list either. I still have a lot of fight left in me."

"You've been here close to a year now."

"And have I slowed down yet? I'm okay Conqueror."

"In that case I have a new project for you. I want to go ahead with the summer festival this year. It will be held in a few months."

"I don't remember a festival last year," interrupted Desire'.

"It was canceled because of the business in Britannia. This year I want it to be twice as grand. I thought you could have your baseball and football tournaments. There will be lots of vendors from around the world, entertainment and a gladiator tournament to end the event."

"Gladiator tournament. Like where people fight and kill each other?" asked Desire'.

"Yes it's a sport just like your football and baseball," answered the Conqueror.

"That's just gross. People killing people is not a sport. Leave it on the battlefield. I'm not interested," Desire' growled.

"You don't have to get hostile. It's what we do."

"Well it's not very civilized."

"Are you insulting the Conqueror?"

"Enough with the third person already. No, I'm insulting all of the Greeks and Romans and whatever other idiots who think that killing is entertainment. You want my help, no gladiator tournament."

"And exactly what am I supposed to replace it with?"

"Now that you mention it, I do have an idea."

"Explain yourself."

"A rodeo."

"What in Hades is a rodeo?"

"It's a very challenging sport where the participants usually don't get killed. But there is an element of danger."

"Go on."

"You have a thousand head of calves, steers and bulls and not one of them has been branded. I can teach the men about roping and wrestling steers and brand the cattle at the same time."

"What does that have to do with the festival?"

"It's rodeo. They're timed events to see how fast a person can rope and tie a calf or wrestle a steer or double team rope a calf. You have plenty of cavalry for barrel racing and bulls for the bull riding. Now if you just let me catch that herd of horses at the bottom of the meadow, we'll have plenty of horses for bronco riding. Plus I really want the black stallion."

"Wait a second. You're talking too fast. Why do people watch this stuff? There's no blood. Where's the element of danger?"

"You really got a thing for blood dontcha? Contestants can get stomped by a wild horse or bull and sometimes even gored by a bull and then there's really blood."

"You said you need wild horses. How are you going to catch that herd? I have tried."

"Get the stallion and the herd follows."

"But you won't get near him. He's been out there too long."

"Ye of little faith. I'm a cowgirl. I know my horses. I was born on one."

"With a whip in your hand," added the Conqueror as she laughed.

"Yep, with just a pair of chaps on."

"What are chaps?"

"Let me have my rodeo and you will see. If you're a good little girl I will wear them to bed one night with only my boots."

"I'm gonna like these chaps aren't I?"


"I will agree on one condition."

"State your terms."

"You will entertain at the banquet for my dignitaries and perform a concert for the people."

"Whoa, I can't do that. I sing for the boys and that's it."

"You can tame a wild leopard but you can't sing in front of the people?"

"It's not the same. It's a lot like the spider thing. I'm sure the Queen didn't leave out that story."

"Then it's time to get over your fear. I'll be there to help you. Come on you get your rodeo and I get my concert."

"If I say yes can we go get the horses now?"

"It's almost dark."

"I see better in the dark. I'm a cat you know."

"So it would seem. Let's go."


The two women rode down into the valley, dismounting long before they were within earshot of the wild horses. "You can stay here with the horses," said Desire'.

"How are you going to get near the stallion without a horse?"

"I'm gonna walk up to him and put the rope on him. How'd you think I was gonna do it?"

"That's the stupidest thing I ever heard," answered the Conqueror.

"Worked with the leopard. Hand me a couple of apples okay," answered a confident Desire' as she unpacked the rope she brought for just this occasion. The Conqueror just shook her head, content to watch. In the morning she would tame the wild horse.

"When we run this way, the herd will follow. I might need your help to slow them down."

"Desire' this is never gonna work. Let's just come back tomorrow with more men."

"See ya later," whispered Desire' as she walked into the valley.

Desire' made her way quietly down the green grass until she was ten feet from the beautiful black stallion. She stood there for awhile as the stallion stared back. She sat down to watch the animals. The curious horse walked toward the outside of the pack to protect his herd.

"What's wrong handsome? Are you looking at my apple?" The stallion stood his ground. After several minutes Desire' got up slowly, careful not to startle the animal and started walking toward him. She held her hand extended with the proffered apple, talking with a soothing voice to the animal. He didn't back away. She was a few feet from him when she took a small knife out and cut the apple in half, offering him a piece. He leaned forward and sniffed the fruit, then took it her from her hand.

"Good boy. We're gonna make a great team," she whispered to the tentative horse. She offered the second piece of apple, pulling it toward her slowly as he reached to take it. As he bit into the apple, she extended her hand, petting him under the chin. He allowed her to pet him as he chewed the sweet fruit. She reached over to pet him on the neck while offering another piece of apple to him. He chewed the fruit calmly allowing the contact.

He never saw the rope slip over his head with lightning speed as he chewed the last piece of fruit. She continued talking to him with a soothing voice as she gently pulled the slack of the rope. The stallion backed up when the loop tightened but Desire' held on, talking to him the whole time. After several tense minutes, the horse relaxed, only to struggle again as Desire' tried to lead him over to a nearby rock. Desire' held onto the rope until the horse followed her.

She climbed up on the rock and continued petting him and talking to him waiting for his ears to go forward telling her he was calm. She grabbed the rope and jumped on his back, holding onto the rope and mane as the horse responded, bucking underneath her. She held onto his neck talking to him and after a few bucks he burst forward into a gallop. "Yeeeeeeee Hawwwwwww!" shouted Desire' as horse and rider ran with the herd not far behind.

The Conqueror watched the scene unfold in complete silence, not believing what she was seeing. She jumped on her horse to head off the runaway rider and herd. Desire' was coming hard toward her and she positioned herself to intercept the horse and rider as they rode by. She followed along side a few strides then leaned over and grabbed the rope, pulling the horse to a stop. The horse danced sideways as the Conqueror let go of the rope. Finally calm, he stood still, his rider still on his back.

"Unbelievable!" shouted the Conqueror. "What in Hades were you doing? You could've been hurt."

"I told you what I was gonna do. Next time believe me. Now will you help me get these horses back to the palace? I had the boys build a separate corral for them inside the riding rink."

"How long have you been planning this?" asked the Conqueror.

"Since the first time you took me out here," answered Desire'. "At least I wasn't spending your money again."

The Conqueror shook her head and rode to the back of the herd. Together they brought the horses through the city and to the palace.


Chapter Sixteen-Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave

The small brown-eyed blonde stood calmly in front of the God of War. "I take it you have good news for me," he asked.

"We have another spy among the dissenters but he has not seen a small blonde named Gabrielle," she answered.

"I know she writes those scrolls," he growled. "And that little bitch in the palace is working with her! I need proof!"

"Relax Ares. We will find this Gabrielle. She seems to stay hidden most of the time. Every time we get close to finding her she disappears. How can you be so sure she is working with the Conqueror's little bitch?"

"Because every word she writes becomes a law. The Conqueror is working with Desire'. She is being influenced by that little brat! First it was her money now she is making her a weak ruler and I want it to stop!"

"You know where Desire' is. Why not just kill her?"

"Because if you can't find Gabrielle I know she will lead us to her! Then I can prove to the Conqueror that Desire' is a traitor."

"Tell me again how this is going to help me?" asked the blonde.

"I know your family was killed in Cirra. You want the Conqueror to hurt as much as you did. This betrayal will hurt her. She is falling in love and that is making her weak! This will make her bleed inside. Her pain will make her strong again. We both win, Callisto."

"Why is the little blonde so important?"

"Just trust me on this. When those two are dead Xena will never have love in her heart and you can relish her pain. I want Desire' followed every time she is not with the Conqueror and let me know when you find the blonde or her with the blonde!" With a brilliant flash of light Callisto was standing alone. Pale green eyes watched unnoticed.


Desire' swam back and forth in the pool. She mulled the conversation in her head over and over trying to make sense of it. She couldn't figure out why the God of War was so bent on her death. There had to be more to it. Why am I such a threat? The stone is long gone. I've at least excepted it and will make sure the Conqueror is with Gabrielle before I die. So if there is no stone I can't go back and the God of War still has a boner for me.

Desire' walked out of the pool and sat by the edge, her feet dangling in the water. The festival was a week away. She looked into the full moon that lit up the night. She would die soon and fail her mission. But at least she would find a way to reunite the soulmates. She had to for the Conqueror.

Desire' walked up to the table where she left her scroll and quill. "Maybe writing will help me figure things out," she said to the night air.

I have been here for over one year. The last few months have been like a dream for me. Every day is filled with excitement and adventure. Most importantly every day is filled with love.

The men have been wonderful students in the ring. All of the cattle have been branded and the men practice daily for the rodeo. Corrals have been built for the arena and Aphrodite has promised me a big surprise for the concert.

I still spend my mornings with the children. The Conqueror comes in often to watch and listen to my stories. I think the Lion King is her favorite. She seems to smile and laugh more than the children. The children are no longer afraid of her and take turns sitting on her lap. She has such love in her. I can feel my eyes misting as I think about her.

I spend most of my day with the Conqueror. When we're not discussing business of the realm she likes to listen to me talk about the future. I have told her about television, planes, cars, electricity, telephones and computers but I gave up trying to make her understand what the Internet was. I told her about how homosexuals are treated in our world. I told her that was one thing I definitely didn't miss. She couldn't understand how we can be so smart and so hateful towards each other because of who we love. Wish I could have answered her question.

At night I still entertain the troops for a couple of songs and on the weekends I attend the tournaments. Only now the Conqueror shows up to watch. I am the home plate umpire for the baseball games. She turned out to be wonderful at flipping burgers and helps with the barbecue. Moral is high within the palace and the city. She still asks a lot of questions like "What's an infield fly? And why are you worried about a fly in the field? Just kill it."

We spend our nights together, often times just talking and watching the night stars from the sky. She doesn't believe that men have walked on the moon. Or that the world is round. I tried to explain gravity to her but I sucked in science and the conversation was worse than me trying to explain football to her.

Every day she becomes more like Xena, the hero on television. It gets harder and harder to be with her. I hope that one day Gabrielle will forgive me. I feel as though I am a mistress until the Conqueror looks at me with those incredible blue eyes. She doesn't need to tell me she loves me. I can see it.

She has become my best friend. It's not about sex anymore. It's a love like I have never felt before. She shares her heart with me and I am comforted knowing that I have made as much of a difference in her life as she has in mine. If I never live to go home I will die happy knowing she is with her soulmate. Besides I have too many friends to stay alone in the Elysian Fields for very long.

The tumor has grown rather large. The only direction for it to grow is down. I can feel the stiffness in my shoulders and neck. Every day it gets harder for me to hide it from the Conqueror. She sees it and I see the pain in her face as she tries to stay strong for me. I wish I could convince her that she will be happy with or without me.

During the afternoons we work on the business of the realm. Every week I go into the city and find a new scroll posted. I know I will be meeting Gabrielle soon. Taxes have been restructured to put more money into the pockets of the poor. Rich people are a bit peeved but they are fewer in number and can see the differences in their cities. Besides we were able to convince them that their businesses would thrive by their show of charity.

With the new money the Conqueror has implemented a plan to provide better medical for the poor and provide shelter and food for the homeless. There is even a well-funded orphanage in each city to take care of the children. The people now call her a kinder, gentler Conqueror. I do believe if there was a Democracy in this country she would be voted President.

The beast lies still within her. The only talk of rebellion within the realm is the dissenters Ares is so worried about. But then maybe it's just Gabrielle he's worried about. If the stone is gone why is he so worried? Doesn't he know I will be gone soon anyway? Unless. Desire' stopped writing.

"Oh Gods I know what to do," Desire' mumbled to herself looking up into the soft blue eyes of the Conqueror.

"What do you have to do?" asked the Conqueror, her towel falling down as she reached over to pull Desire' into a hug.

"Hmm do what?" asked Desire'.

"I heard you say ‘I know what to do'. What do you have to?"

"Oh no, I said ‘Its so good to see you," answered Desire' hugging the Conqueror tighter and kissing her lightly on the lips. The Conqueror pulled Desire' into the pool and into her arms. Together they danced inside the cool blue water.

"You were deep in thought. What troubles you?" asked the Conqueror, blue eyes soft with compassion.

"I was thinking of you."

"Good thoughts I hope."

"Yes," whispered Desire' her voice choking back tears.

"Then why are you about to cry?" asked the Conqueror, her hand on Desire's face.

"I cry when I'm happy remember?" she said as tears slid down her cheeks. "Thank you."

"For what?" asked the Conqueror.

"For teaching me about love."

"I think you have it backwards. It is you who have taught me how to love."

"Did you just use the L word?"

"Yes I guess I did," answered the Conqueror. Desire' wrapped her arms and legs around the Conqueror holding onto her tightly.

"I stopped believing in love before I came here. Your love proved me wrong. I will be forever grateful to you," Desire' whispered. The Conqueror pulled her tighter toward her body as the two women held onto each other and kissed under the moonlight.


Chapter Seventeen-Let the Games Begin

The main entertainment hall was now home to Desire's band. A dance floor was built in front of the stage lined with various musical instruments. The Conqueror summoned her generals and the attending amazons, including Queen Melosa who came early for the festival to visit with her favorite new amazon.

Iolaus, Theodorus and Callisto waited for the Conqueror to walk in. Callisto was not happy about having to listen to the Conqueror's bitch and take orders from her but she had to lay low. She still hadn't caught Desire' talking to Gabrielle but at least she would be in the city to personally watch her for the next few days during the festival. So she would keep quiet, as hard as that may be.

Queen Melosa waited with her best warriors, Eponin, Ephiny and Solari to protect her. Princess Terreis walked in with her beau, Palemon. The Queen smiled at the young couple as the introductions were made. Shortly after the Conqueror and Desire' walked in followed by the band who set up while the guests got reacquainted.

"Queen Melosa," squealed Desire' as she wrapped her arms around the stunned woman in a big hug. She heard the gasps from the amazons and pulled away. "Oh Gods, I'm so sorry," she said. "I was never too good at that protocol stuff," she added trying to break free and bow to the Queen.

Queen Melosa held onto her hands and pulled her back into the hug. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

"Oh Conqueror," yelled Callisto. "Exactly why are we here again?"

"You're here to learn how to two-step," she replied.

"And waltz and shuffle and Tush Push and shadow dance," added Desire' smiling with glee. "And I get to teach you!"

"What exactly is a Tush Push?" asked a disgruntled Ephiny.

"It's a line dance. Amazons aren't the only ones who can shake it. Cowgirls can shake it too," she replied laughing and swaying her hips to the music in her head.

"Oh I can't wait to see the Queen and the Conqueror shake it," laughed Eponin, receiving dirty looks from both mentioned women.

"Let's just hope we survive it," teased Desire' as she led the Queen to the dance floor. "You first. Two-step first then we shake it," she added as they reached the dance floor.

A couple of hours later the amazons were dancing with the Generals and the Queen, Terreis was dancing with Palemon and the Conqueror held Desire' in her arms as she tried to teach her the shadow dance.

Desire' positioned herself in front of the Conqueror, her back pressed against six feet of warrior, her left hand in the air holding the Conqueror's and her right hand across her stomach with the Conqueror's hand covering it. "Now," she said to the Conqueror. "Step forward one, two three, rock backwards then forward and repeat."

"Nice," purred the Conqueror has her hand reached up to caress a breast. Desire' immediately brought the hand back into position. The Conqueror repeated the hand movement.

"Down girl," whispered Desire' as she moved the offending dance. "This is a dance."

"No this is bliss," purred the Conqueror trying one final time to caress a breast only to be denied again.

"Hands in place Conqueror."

The Conqueror changed tactics and slid her hand down toward Desire's crotch. "Stop it Conqueror," she said putting the hand back in place. After the actions were repeated a couple more times, they compromised and the Conqueror placed her hand high up on Desire's right thigh as they swayed to the sound of ‘Neon Moon'.

"I could get used to this," said the Conqueror as she reached for Desire's butt on the way off of the dance floor.

"Get back on the dance floor," Desire' ordered. "Time to shake it."

Desire's laughed as she watched the line of dancers trying to follow her steps. The Queen surprised her the most. She had the dance in two turns and was laughing and smiling the whole time. The Conqueror eased up when she figured out the turns and together with the Queen they laughed at the others struggling to catch on.

"Smart alecks!'" yelled Desire' "Wait until I teach you ‘Cadillac Ranch'."

"Where in Hades do you come up with these names?" yelled Ephiny.

"A Cadillac is a car. Never mind. Tush is another name for your butt which you are pushing forward. Boogie is another word for dance and you scoot your boots during that one. Very logical names."

"You call a butt a tush?" asked Ephiny laughing. "That's cute."

"We do where I come from and by the way Eph, you have a cute little butt. Now concentrate on the dance. Shuffle is one two three," she answered.

After a couple of hours Desire' decided her willing participants had had enough torture for one day. They had caught on to the dances quickly after learning the basic steps and now they stood around the dance floor trying to catch their breath.

"When did dancing become so much work?" asked Iolaus as he leaned against the stage trying to catch his breath. "This is more work than daily sword drills," he added.

"Obviously you're not working hard enough General," stated the Conqueror. "That will change," she added with a feral grin.

"Listen thank you everyone," puffed Desire' trying desperately to catch her breath. She could feel the pull on her lungs and hoped the Conqueror didn't notice. "You have been great sports. Stick around for rehearsal if you like," she added as she tried to climb onto the stage.

"Whoa where are you going?" asked the Conqueror as she grabbed Desire' around the waist to prevent her from going onto the stage.

"We've got a couple of songs to tweak out. Let me go," answered Desire' batting the offending hands off.

"Desire' you need to rest. You're barely breathing. The songs can wait."

"No they can't Conqueror. It'll only be a few minutes. Go talk to the Queen. I'll be fine." Reluctantly the Conqueror released her and went over to talk with Queen Melosa. Desire' picked up her fiddle and motioned to the musicians to begin. Arista began to sing as the band played.

The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal

He was in a bind 'cause he was way behind and he was willin' to make a deal.

When he came across this young man sawing on a fiddle and playing it hot

And the devil jumped up on a hickory stump and said, "Boy let me tell ya what.

"I guess you didn't know it, but I'm a fiddle player, too

"And if you'd care to take a dare, I'll make a bet with you.

"Now you play pretty good fiddle boy, but give the devil his due, I'll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul 'cause I think I'm better than you."

The boy said, "My names Johnny, and it might be a sin,

"But I'll take your bet - your gonna regret 'cause I'm the best that's ever been!"

Queen Melosa and the Conqueror watched as the band played furiously. Desire' was playing her heart out, a huge smile on her face to hide her pain.

"Desire' does not look well Conqueror. What is wrong?" asked the Queen.

"It's a personal matter Melosa."

"Then she is not ill. Lovers spat maybe," answered the Queen. She looked over at the Conqueror and could see the pain in her face. "She is a member of the nation. I should know if she is ill."

The Conqueror thought about her words and replied quietly, "She's dying."

"Is there nothing your healers can do for her?"

"No. She needs to go home to be healed."

"Is there a way to get her home?" asked the Queen.

"There is a way. We just haven't found it yet."

"Maybe she would feel better with bed rest."

"I've tried. You saw what happened. Besides she'll just cry if I tie her to the bed," she said trying to lighten up the conversation as the song played on.

Johnny rosin up your bow an' play your fiddle hard

Cause hell's broke loose in Georgia an' the devil deals the cards.

And if you win you'll get this shiney fiddle made of gold, but if you lose the devil gets your soul!

The devil opened up his case, and he said "I'll start this show,"

And fire flew from his fingertips as he rosined up his bow.

And he pulled the bow across the strings and it made an evil hiss,

Then a band of demons joined in and it sounded something like this:

"She's something else, Conqueror," stated the Queen. "Cherish your time left with her and please let me know if there is anything we can do."

"I will and thank you," answered the Conqueror.

Desire's fingers were flying on the fiddle as she continued her solo, trying to keep the instrument on her shoulder. Before the solo ended she lost her grip on the fiddle and the bow slid across the strings with an evil hiss. The room went silent. "Stop, stop. Son of bitch! Goddamn thing!" she yelled as she threw the instrument at the wall, watching as it shattered into a thousand pieces. She still had the bow and was swinging it wildly, rage in her eyes as she stomped around the stage cursing.

The Conqueror jumped on the stage in behind her. Desire' whirled around and stomped toward her yelling. "What the fuck do you want! Get off my stage now!" she screamed as she swung the bow at the Conqueror who caught it with one hand, fire in her eyes. The others in the room watched in silent terror at the confrontation.

"Apologize now!" yelled the Conqueror.

Desire' stared at the Conqueror, the rage in her eyes dissipating as she realized what she had done. She dropped to one knee, her head in her hand. "Gods, I'm so sorry Conqueror," she said and started to cry. "Just do it quick please. I don't do the pain thing well."

Queen Melosa was standing at the front of the stage watching the confrontation, ready to protect her amazon.

The Conqueror kneeled down to place her hand on Desire's shoulder. "Do what?" she asked.

"Kill me. I've earned it," she answered softly.

"You heard her Conqueror, kill the bitch," spat Callisto.

"Shut up Callisto!" yelled the Conqueror. "Desire'," she said as she placed her hand under the small brunette's chin and lifted her head to look at her. "I'm not gonna kill you. What's wrong?"

"Nothing. Just stress," answered Desire.

"Lean forward now," growled the Conqueror. Desire' did as she was told. She reached both hands around her shoulders and neck reaching up to her head. "By the Gods Desire' why didn't you say something?"

"Because this rodeo and the concerts are a dream for me. Please don't take them away from me."

"Under one condition cowgirl.'"

"Name your terms."

"You will get some bed rest now and no buts," answered the Conqueror.

"Will you come with me?" Desire' asked.

"I have guests to entertain Desire'. I will be with you shortly," she whispered looking over at the Queen.

"Conqueror if you don't take care of her I will and then you won't have any guests to entertain," interrupted the Queen.

"Thank you Melosa. We will see you at the banquet," answered a grateful Conqueror as she helped Desire' up and left the entertainment hall.


Desire' walked along the streets now filled with vendors from all over the world here to sell the wares at the festival. It reminded her of a giant swapmeet back at home. The Conqueror was busy at the palace greeting the arriving dignitaries. After the fiasco at the rehearsal it took her some crying but she finally convinced the Conqueror that she would be fine in the company of Palemon and Terreis. And right now they were quite distracted with each other providing her the opportunity to sneak off on her own. Aphrodite told her Gabrielle was outside the palace walls and she needed to find her.

She walked through the stalls, looking for long blonde hair on a petite body. This was her only chance to find her before the festival and set her plan in motion. After searching several vendors, she stopped to look in at a stall lined with many articles of clothing.

"Come on in, pretty lady," cried the shopkeeper, waving his arms wildly. "I have many lovely things for you to look at," he added, pulling her in by the arm. I hate shopping, thought Desire'. Anything to make a buck. I hate sales people. Hate em. Hate em. She hesitantly walked into the tent. She was dressed in an outfit from home, short blue jean shorts, a white sleeveless button down shirt open to her navel, revealing a black sports bra. The merchant looked her up and down with disdain. Yeah, yeah, she thought. "I'm a dyke you ass. But I still look good and I'm comfortable and you call me little lady I will kill you. Obsessed with the little thing lately aren't you", cried the little voice. "I'm sure we can find you a pretty dress, come right this way," he said.

"I don't want a pretty dress," answered Desire' her voice rising. "You gotta a problem with the way I look? Do I really look like a dress kinda gal? Maybe you should talk to the Conqueror and tell her she shouldn't let me run around looking like this because she picked this outfit out for me this morning!" The green-eyed monster was having fun as the merchant cowered to the back of his tent as soon as she used the word Conqueror. She turned around to leave the tent, stopping at the sight of bare alabaster skin and long blonde hair.

She watched as a short blonde woman looked at herself in the mirror, deciding if she liked the dress she was wearing. The dress was a simple pale green dress with a very low plunging back line exposing soft skin and beautiful well-defined back muscles. "The dress looks very lovely on you," she said her voice low, almost seductive. "Okay now is the time to turn the cool on," yelled the little voice. "You've been around the Conqueror long enough, you can do it girl."

The startled blonde turned around toward the voice to see a small brunette standing in front of her smiling, intense pale green eyes staring into startled emerald green eyes. "Please, I didn't mean to frighten you," came the low voice. "The dress suits you." Of course what she really thought was, "Homina, damn you look hot Gabrielle." "So much for cool, you idiot!" yelled the little voice. "Focus, focus remember cool don't drool you letch!"

"Thank you," replied Gabrielle. "But I'm really here to just shop."

"What good is shopping if you don't buy anything?" Desire' asked.

"Well it's fun. Besides I get to try on pretty things," Gabrielle answered. "This is too rich for my blood," she added, turning back around to look at the dress in the mirror.

"Seems to me to be a waste to have such a pretty dress not be seen on such a pretty lady," Desire' replied, motioning to the merchant to come over. "How much?" she asked, pointing to the dress. "Good girl, very cool," purred the little voice. "Ten dinars," replied the merchant. "That's way too much," Gabrielle yelled walking over to the merchant. "I wouldn't pay more than five dinars for this dress," she added, now standing between Desire' and the merchant staring him down. "Alright, for you seven dinars," he spat back. "Deal," she said. Desire' reached in her pocket for the money.

"Wait," cried Gabrielle, turning around to face Desire'. "I can't let you pay for this. I don't even know you and even if I did I still couldn't except it. It just wouldn't be right but thank you for the gesture." Desire' laughed at the little blonde. Maybe she had finally found someone who actually rambled on more than she did. She ignored Gabrielle and turned around to talk to her after paying the merchant.

"You can, please do, my name is Desire' and your welcome Gabrielle," Desire' answered very politely.

"You're the one who fell from the sky aren't you?" Gabrielle asked, her mouth hanging open in awe. "Something like that. Why don't you change so he can wrap this up," answered Desire' pointing to the dress. "I think it will look good on you at the concert. Will you attend as my guest?"

"But," she stammered.

"Yeah, I know it's free. You don't need me to get you in but I do know people in high places and I can get you in the front row without waiting," Desire' interrupted, winking her left eye at Gabrielle. "Go on," she continued gently pushing Gabrielle behind the curtain.

Gabrielle came out wearing a simple peasant skirt and light blue blouse. The merchant took the dress, wrapped it and handed it back to Gabrielle. "Will you walk with me, Gabrielle?" She nodded and the two of them walked out into the street lining the city.

"How do you know my name?" Gabrielle asked.

"I have come to know many things during my visit, Gabrielle. The Conqueror has spies, you know." Gabrielle stopped, looking at Desire' her eyes dark with fear. Desire' leaned over close to Gabrielle, "Relax, I'm on your side."

"How do I know you aren't here to have me arrested?" she asked defensively.

"You don't. But if I am lying to you, you will see it in my eyes. Gabrielle, look into my eyes and you will see the truth you seek." "Very smooth girl," purred the little voice. "Who are you and what have you done with that idiot Desire'?" Gabrielle looked into her eyes, soft pale green eyes looking back, a soothing smile on golden brown features. "Besides, I really suck at lying. Always have," she added laughing. "That's my girl Desire', welcome back!" yelled the little voice.

"Gabrielle haven't you noticed that the words you write have been coming true? That she is becoming a kinder, gentler Conqueror?"

"I have heard that it is you who has softened the Conqueror's heart," answered Gabrielle.

"Your words, you, are the inspiration, Gabrielle. Without your words to guide us this would be like one big party. The Conqueror has been very generous to me."

"You are the Conqueror's consort," she stated.

"For now, yes." Desire' answered trying to hold onto to the stoic look stolen from the Conqueror but the direction of the conversation was taking its toll on already fragile emotions.

"You talk like it's a temporary situation. I have heard talk of the love between you two. I see the love in your eyes."

"Gabrielle, I am but a visitor to the Realm. My place is not here. The Conqueror is not my soulmate."

"How can you love her so much if she isn't your soulmate?"

"I wish I could answer that," Desire' replied, eyes looking downward trying to blink the tears down. "I know she is not my soulmate. I love her deeply with all of my heart. It is hers until she finds her soulmate. Then I will be gone. Let's walk."

"How can you give her up so easily if you love her so much? What if she's really your soulmate?" she asked as they began walking.

"She's not. Insider information. Anyway, sometimes loving someone means letting him or her go. I would not be loving her if I prevented her from being happier with someone else. Haven't you been in love, Gabrielle?"

"I am betrothed to a man. His name is Perdicus," she answered.

"What kind of answer is that? Are you in love with him?"

"I guess I am. He is a very kind and gentle man and very handsome. He loves me very much."

"I'm gonna take that as a no. There is no guessing in love. It's just there and when you feel it, there is no doubt about it. Your heart sings, your feet walk on clouds, the sun rises and sets with the sight of your love."

"Not all of us can find their soulmates," replied Gabrielle.

Desire' turned to Gabrielle and stopped, grabbing her around both arms and holding her tightly, speaking passionately. "Don't you see! I feel all of this with a woman who isn't even my soulmate. Imagine what I will feel when I am reunited with the other half of my soul! Just because you haven't met your soulmate doesn't mean you still can't find love! You don't have to settle for hey he's really sweet and we'll have really cute kids! Love feeds our soul. It fuels our want to live, not just survive!" Desire' relaxed her grip on the startled little blonde and let go. "Sorry," she said. "I'm jumping off of my soapbox now," she added as she mock jumped off of her imaginary soapbox. "Gabrielle, your soulmate is out there. You're young. One day soon you are going to be looking into a pair of intense eyes looking back into your soul. In those eyes looking back you will see yourself, doing everything you ever dreamed of, being who you want to be, seeing all of the places you want to see and being loved for the lightness in your soul. Don't miss that."

"You speak with such passion about life and love."

"Well it's taken close to forty years to realize if you don't do things with passion, why even bother?" Desire' stopped to look at the quizzical look on Gabrielle's face. "And yes, I'm almost forty. Don't tell the Conqueror. She has a thing for really young chicks," she added chuckling. "So will you be at the rodeo in two days and attend my concert?"

"Yes, but what exactly is a rodeo? Everyone's been talking about it but no one knows what it is."

"It's sort of taking work and creating a competition." She looked at Gabrielle, knowing she was making no sense to the poor girl. "We are cattle ranchers where I come from. It takes a lot of skill to herd the cattle and rope and brand them with a seal of ownership," she said talking with her hands. She stopped to see what Gabrielle was looking at.

"You wear the seal of ownership of the Conqueror," Gabrielle stated pointing to the tattoo on her hand.

"Yeah well we got off to a bad start. I'm not a slave anymore and there are no more slaves in the palace. Anyway you don't want to miss the rodeo. The contestants will be roping calves, barrel racing, riding bucking horses and bucking bulls. It'll be a blast."

"What does riding a bucking bull have to do with cattle ranching?"

"I have no clue. I guess one day some drunk cowboy was bored and decided to jump on the back of a bull for sport. You know how stupid men can be." Desire' looked behind Gabrielle down the street where Palemon and Terreis were walking toward her. "Look Gabrielle, I have to go. I'm busted. My guard just found me. I'll leave your name and please, bring Perdicus," she finished as she walked away toward one very angry guard and amazon princess.

Callisto continued to follow the small blonde as she went back to the temporary home of her group of dissenters.

"Got you now my pretty," squealed Callisto. "Ares will be very happy when I tell him."


Desire' leaned her head back, enjoying the pure bliss of the warm scented water as she lathered her hair. She had been with the Conqueror for over a year and the time was finally here for her to reunite her with Gabrielle. The festival was coming to an end and with it, her time with the Conqueror.

She thought about her brief meeting with the small blonde. She was betrothed to Perdicus and said he was a handsome man, very gentle and he loved her. Gabrielle appeared to love him but it was evident there was no passion in her eyes, just a sense of duty that told her this was just the way things were supposed to be.

Desire' had a great deal of time to ponder over where the Cronus stone could have ended. There could only be one person who could have taken the stone and her time was running out so she would make a deal with the devil himself Ares.

"Ares," she whispered. "I know you've heard about me. Aren't you even a little bit curious about me? The Conqueror has gone soft because of me, I've beaten her Ares, don't you want to meet her successor?"

Desire' felt her skin crawl. Suddenly, there was a brilliant light in the room and Ares was standing before her, black leather vest and pants lined with silver. "Damn," she thought, "He really is hot, that chest, those arms, down girl this is business and you have the most beautiful woman in the world for at least one more night!" yelled the little voice.

"You like what you see," replied Ares, his voice low, seductive.

"Shouldn't I?" Desire' answered, drinking in the God of War, her eyes covering every inch of his body with a seductive look. She didn't bother to get out of the bath.

"I can see why Xena is so fond of you," he said, smiling appreciatively as he made his way toward Desire'. She watched as he crouched behind, two very large strong hands resting on her shoulders, caressing them then caressing her neck. She felt a jolt of electricity run through her body at his touch, letting out a small moan of pleasure before she could stop herself. "Damn," she thought, "that God thing really exists, whoa. Reel it in girl," cried the little voice. "Take control."

"That's it my little beauty. Relax and enjoy."

Desire' could feel the green-eyed monster spring to life. She turned around glaring into the dark brown eyes of the God of War. "Don't call me ‘little.' And I'm not yours." She paused looking seductively, teasingly into his eyes. "Yet," she added.

"Whoa, calm down," he answered. "You called me here remember. You do have fire don't you. I like a that." The look in her eyes excited him. She was mysterious, in control, ready to take life and mold it into her own image. It was the same look Xena had when they began their life together so long ago conquering the Known World. For a moment he thought maybe a change would be in order, but his love for Xena reminded him otherwise. This woman was dangerous. He had warned Xena but now here she was ready to betray her and this would be enough to prove to Xena that she didn't need love in her life and she would destroy Desire'. Until then, he would just listen to the woman and take his pleasure.

"So you think you can conquer Xena," he whispered in her ears, his hands roaming her body, caressing her shoulders, her neck and making their way around to the front, caressing her chest, blazing a trail of God like fire down to her breasts. He could feel the woman's heartbeat speed up with each caress of his hands.

"I already have," she answered breathlessly. "Or haven't you been watching? Even the people are warming up to her. Because of me," she purred. "Make me an offer."

"Why the sudden change of heart? What happened to reuniting her with her soulmate?"

"I'm dying Ares. I can give you everything you've ever wanted and you can give me my life back. You're a God, you can heal me right?"

"Of course I can, with Athena's blessing."

"And she will bless your new chosen one. Face it Ares, you and I both know the Cronus stone is gone for good."

"Yes, but why should I offer you Xena's place as my chosen? You don't have the killer extinct, otherwise you would have come to me sooner."

"You're right, I didn't have the killer extinct. But I want to live Ares and I will do everything in my power to stay alive. You know where I come from Ares. I am a threat to you yet here I am and you haven't killed me yet. Why is that?" she asked confidence in her voice.

"What makes you think I won't kill you right now?" he said sliding his hands up from her chest and around her neck.

"Because I excite you Ares," she replied. "And because you and I know that there are many more lands to conquer outside of the ‘Known World'. I've been to them. Xena is tired and very content now to just rule over her domain. We could rewrite history together Ares. America is just waiting to be found and the Olympians Gods could reign supreme for years to come instead of being forgotten in the 21st century, known only as myths told by the Greeks, who by the way, are just a little pissant country across the ocean."

"Intriguing, how do you expect to conquer those lands, with love?" he asked, his hands now back around her breasts stroking the nipples, watching them swell under his touch.

Desire' reached her hand around the God's face, stroking it gingerly as she spoke. "You know what my future is like, not very exciting it is?" The God shook his head careful to not lose contact with the soft skin caressing his face. She leaned over and kissed the God's ear, playfully licking the inside of it, keeping the God's attention then continued to speak. "Here I have something to fight for. Aren't you the one who says that life is to be taken and molded into the image you want?" Ares nodded. "I see that now and I'm ready. I don't want to go home, Ares, even if I could find the stone. You saw me with the amazons. You know I can fight with any weapon." She paused to pull Ares' head into hers, planting a searing kiss on his lips. "I've been thinking about this world, Ares, women in power. In my world, there has never been a female President and the populace condemns me because I love women. If I stay here, Ares, what would my future be in the 21st century. Show me. If I like what I see I am yours body and soul, God of War. You can show me can't you?"

"Of course I can," he stated. "I'm a God!" With a burst of light they were walking along the Las Vegas strip. Thankfully the God provided Desire' with jeans, shirt and boots.

"You bring me to the strip?" she asked. "If I'm a streetwalker it isn't gonna help your case any."

"Relax, no, far from it. Look up." They were walking in front of Mandalay Bay, one of the largest luxury resorts in the city. Ares pointed to the billboard in front of the hotel. Desire' read the words, ‘Desire' Love with special guest star. The Soul2Soul Tour'. "That's the name of the Tim McGraw/Faith Hill tour from last year," she stated looking up at the God.

"Not in this world. You and a certain tall, dark and gorgeous hat act are the darlings of country music not Tim and Faith. Are you feeling motivated?" asked the God of War.

Desire' nodded her head as she looked around herself, taking in the sights of various couples. She noticed that there were male/female couples holding hands and female/female couples embracing. Her eyes shot up in bold-faced amazement as she watched two men passionately kissing in public not a care in the world.

"Oh that, right," added the God. "Xena's reign started a long succession of female rulers. As a result homosexuality is a non-issue in the world. It has been excepted since ancient Greece. Of course, America was meant to be independent but they had to fight the Greeks, not those uptight Brits for their freedom. As a result, the Olympians still reign in your country and people have the freedom to love who they want. There are no laws against it. Of course, I kind of miss the parades but that's a small price to pay for your sexual freedom, don't you think?"

"Yes it is," replied Desire', drinking in the sight. She thought about what he was saying. Maybe this is the greater good. I can still reunite Xena and Gabrielle but maybe I should just drop all of this other stuff. The idea of being able to live freely, not worrying about someone shooting you down because you kissed your girlfriend on a street corner, is a very intoxicating idea. She wanted to hear more. "Who's President now" she asked. With a flash of light they were inside of a local casino bar. On the television she saw Elizabeth Dole giving a speech. "She's President?" she asked. Ares just nodded. "What about the Clintons? Did he end up in office?"

"No, but Hillary did with Jeanette," answered the God of War.

"Hillary's gay, there's a shock," she laughed sarcastically. She turned to the God of War, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him passionately. "All this because women ruled the world?" Ares nodded. "Let's go back, so we can have some privacy," she purred into his ear.

With a flash of light, they were back in Corrinth. Desire' was sitting in the tub, her hair lathered while the God of War kneeled down behind her massaging her breasts. She broke from his touches and walked into the water, submerging herself underneath to rinse the lather from her head. She reemerged through the surface of the water, walking up the step leading out of the tub toward Ares and jumped into his arms, wrapping her arms around his neck and muscled thighs around his waist pressing her wet sex against the growing bulge in his pants.

Ares responded by wrapping his hands around well-shaped buttocks, sliding one hand against her sex, caressing the wetness between the soft folds as he held her. Desire' gasped at the touch, trying to focus on the seduction at hand and gain control. She pulled his face down toward her own, brushing her lips against his mouth, her tongue pushing her way in to caress his eager tongue. She continued kissing him, grinding her sex into his hand, eyes open, glazed over with lust as she watched the dark God respond to her touch, one hand running fingers through his chest hairs, caressing hardened nipples. "Tell me more," she whispered, sliding her tongue over his ear as he moaned from the pleasure.

"What else do you want to know?" he asked breathlessly.

"What about peace, war, Hitler?"

Desire' continued running her hand through his chest, brushing her lips forcefully over the bronze neck, kissing and sucking every inch of flesh as she listened to the God's response. "Hitler, he was just a thug with a gang of thieves. There was no World War II. Nothing since the police action in Vietnam."

"You were there?" she asked softly, gentling licking and sucking his earlobe, her sex grinding deeper into his groin.

"Yes, there were a few incidents in Europe, but things were ended quickly," he replied between gasps of air. His body was on fire from the touches of the tiny brunette in his arms.

"When do we start, Ares."

"We can start now," he replied, burying his face on golden shoulders, kissing and caressing her feverishly.

"Not yet," she responded. "After the festival, tomorrow night."

"Why wait?" he asked in between kisses on her neck.

"Because tonight my name will be on the lips of every dignitary in the realm. Tomorrow night the people will cheer my name. Promise me, give me your word as a God Ares, not before the festival ends."

By this time Ares would have promised anything to the beautiful green-eyed beauty. "I give you my word as a God, nothing will happen until tomorrow night after the festival." "You will be gone tomorrow night," he thought, "And I will have my Xena back. Zeus you are making this so easy for me."

"What about the other little problem?" she asked looking at him. Ares looked up from her, his lips still on her neck, a question mark on his face. She broke the contact, sliding her body down the front of his chest. She ran both hands through the silky black hair on the God's chest, scratching the flesh with long fingernails as the God moaned in response. "The irritating little blonde. You do know about her don't you?" she answered him, running her tongue along his chest, stopping to lick and bite the hardening nipples, her hands caressing the strong abdominal muscles.

"Of course I do. I thought you were working with her."

"Oh no Ares. I just lead Callisto to her and that little group of hers. Call it a gift to you," Desire' purred.

"You're a smart one. I like that," he said between gasps.

"I want her dead," growled Desire'.

"Then she's dead," he answered breathlessly.

"Just like that," Desire asked, placing her mouth back over his nipple and biting hard.

"Just like that," he replied gasping for air.

"No Ares," she purred. "Where's the fun in that?"

"When did you develop such a thirst for blood?"

"You saw what I did to Velasca didn't you?"

"Yes I did. Then what do you suggest," he asked as Desire' slid her hands down both thighs feeling the leather pockets covering the muscles.

"You just make sure her and her little group are arrested after the festival as traitors. Let the Conqueror put her and her little friends on the cross. It will crush her when she finds out she killed her soulmate," Desire' purred.

"Okay," was all the God of War could manage as Desire' slid her mouth down the length of his stomach, stroking the flesh with her tongue until her lips rested at the top of his pants.

"Give me your word, Ares. That she will not be harmed until Xena puts her on the cross," she said, blowing warm breath across the bulge in his pants, unbuckling the belt holding the leather up.

"I give you my word," he gasped. "As a God," he added.

Desire' grabbed the zipper with her teeth and slowly started unzipping his pants, then stopped. "And you will have me heart, soul and body, when and only when the irritating little blonde is on that cross. If I can't have Xena, no one can." She zipped up the pants, patted his bulge and stood up to face a stunned God of War. "And not before," she added and walked way. Ares stood there watching after her, trying to catch his breath. Desire' waved her hand back toward Ares. "Better get out of here, Ares. I hear Xena coming." Ares growled and disappeared with a brilliant light when he heard the double doors of the Conqueror's bedchambers open.

Desire' greeted the Conqueror by jumping into her arms and wrapping her body around her, pulling her into a fiery kiss. She returned the kiss, then broke away asking her, "What have I done to deserve this?"

"I'm just happy is all," Desire' replied.

"I thought you would be a little closer to dressed for tonight," she teased. "What were you doing in the bath."

"I was thinking of you, touching myself," purred Desire' as she ran her fingers through the Conqueror's hair and pulled her head in for another kiss. "Care to touch me."

"The banquet is in little more than an hour," answered the Conqueror in between kisses.

"We have time. We'll just be fashionably late," Desire' whispered, rubbing her wet sex against the Conqueror's stomach. Feeling the wetness through her shirt she relented and carried her over to the bed for a short but very passionate session of lovemaking.


Chapter Eighteen-Country Hoedown

Desire' stepped out of her chambers into the Conqueror's looking stunning. She was dressed in tight white jeans with a western design embroidered in turquoise green down the sides of the legs, tucked into white cowboy boots with white fringe. She wore a short white western jacket tapered in the front with a matching design embroidered in turquoise green. The jacket was designed to hang open exposing a low cut matching green tank top made of silk. Silver earrings shaped like longhaired cats hung from her ears. She wore light pink lipstick matching nail polish on freshly manicured nails. Her eyes sparkled like peridots behind a freshly made face, accentuated by her now long flowing dark brown hair and short bangs.

The Conqueror chose to dress to compliment her consort wearing a white long sleeve silk shirt with ivory buttons, tucked into tight white slacks with black leather boots, a long black silk cape flowing down on her body and her sword on a sheath to her side. The two woman stood looking at each other for many moments drinking in the sight of the other.

"You look beautiful," Desire said breaking the silence, unable to move, in awe of the tall, dark beauty with the azure eyes standing before her. The Conqueror walked over to Desire' lifting her hand down to cup Desire's face, "So do you," she answered drinking in the pools of green and leaning in for a gentle kiss. Desire' watched her as their lips met, not wanting to miss any of the last moments she would spend with this incredible woman.

Desire' placed her hand on the Conqueror's face, "Remember I will always love you," she said trying to hide the pain in her heart. "Let's go." Xena reached her other hand around in front of Desire', her favorite cowboy hat in hand, "My lady, your hat," she said as she offered it to Desire'. Desire' took the proffered hat, "Thank you, I shall wear it for the performance." The two women walked out of the room hand in hand.


The main dining hall was lavishly decorated for the event. Servants were busy running around serving platters of food and drink while the guests waited for their host to arrive with ‘the gift from the Gods' at her side. Every dignitary within the realm was there including Queen Melosa and Princess Terreis of the amazons, Lao Ma from Chin, Vercinyx of Gual and Mark Antony and Brutus of Rome. The Conqueror's Generals were there, Iolaus, Callisto and Theodorus, who had proven himself during the altercation with Britannia. Even Queen Bodecia was there licking her wounds from the defeat, ready to pay tribute to the Conqueror. Palemon sat next to Princess Terreis, having been relieved of his duty in order to enjoy the evenings festivities with his new consort, the amazon princess.

The guests were talking quietly among themselves, waiting for their hostess, all quieting down when their arrival was announced. "Ladies and gentlemen, the Conqueror and her consort, Desire' Love." The room was quiet, all eyes on the beauty that was the Conqueror and her gift. The Conqueror took her place at her throne at the end of the marble dining table placing Desire' to her left, next to Lao Ma. One by one every person at the table was introduced to Desire' and one by one she gracefully bowed in respect to each person as she was introduced.

Lao Ma was the last to be introduced, extending her hand to Desire', their eyes meeting as their hands touched. Lao Ma could feel instantly the pain in the young women's heart as she held her hand. Her smile was a façade to hide the sorrow in the heart of a very ancient soul. She would talk with her later, when the time was appropriate.

Lao Ma watched as Xena placed her left hand over Desire's right, holding the hand for the duration of dinner. Xena was happy as she talked always looking over to Desire' with adoration in her eyes. Desire' joined in the conversation, answering questions asked about her clothes and other small talk, her eyes always smiling back at Xena as if the sun only rose and set because Xena could make it happen. It was apparent to everyone in the room these were two women who shared a deep love for each other. Lao Ma was deeply disturbed by the pain she felt in the woman's heart.


When dinner was over, the guests were escorted into the main entertainment hall decorated in a very strange motif which was explained by Desire' as country western, a style from back home. Large plush chairs were placed in a semi-circle on top of a lacquered wooden floor that would later double as a dance floor. In front of the chairs was a large wooden stage filled with various musical instruments many of which looked foreign to the crowd filling the many chairs. There were two large wooden boxes at either end of the stage covered with screens and in the center of the stage were long poles that stood by themselves, microphones. The Goddess of Love had been busy bringing electrical equipment and a battery powered generator in to make this a night that would be long remembered.

When everyone was seated, the Conqueror walked behind one of the microphones. Various musicians took their places behind their instruments as the Conqueror began her introduction to her guests. As she spoke, her voice was amplified as she spoke into the poles. Everyone was quiet, having never seen or heard anything like this before.

"Ladies and gentlemen it is an honor to have you all here as my guests. I hope that your accommodations have been to your expectations. Tonight we have a special treat, a concert I am sure you will all enjoy. Afterward please stay with us and join us in what Desire' calls a country hoedown. I don't know what that means but there will be dancing," she continued playfully, smiling at the audience. "Please welcome a very special woman, Desire' Love."

Desire' walked to the stage as the audience applauded, her cowboy hat now covering her long dark hair. She grabbed the Conqueror's hand and was rewarded with a quick kiss on the lips. "Good luck cowgirl," she whispered in her ear.

Desire' took the microphone off the stand and walked to the front of the stage. "Thank you. I hope I am worthy of such a distinguished audience," she said, watching as the Conqueror took her seat in the front of the audience. "I apologize if I offend anyone tonight. Gods only know it wouldn't be the first time." There was laughter from the audience. "Back home we call this music shit kickin' music. It's meant to inspire you to kick up your heals and dance. It will make you think. It will make you cry. It will tease you, but mostly it will make you feel. Please enjoy."

Desire' motioned for the band to begin and began tapping her feet to the rhythm, then walking along the stage.

Whose bed have your boots been under?

And whose head did you steal I wonder?

This time did it feel like thunder, baby?

Whose bed have your boots been under?

She walked the length of the stage, flirting with the men and the Conqueror, her hips rocking in perfect rhythm with the music.

Don't look so lonely.

Don't act so blue.

I know I'm not the only

Girl you run to.

I know about Lolita,

Your little Spanish flame.

I've seen you around with Rita,

The redhead down the lane.

The audience was smiling listening to the playful lyrics watching the woman walking seductively around the stage pointing to various members of the audience as if they were the offending party in the song. The Conqueror just smiled, laughing to herself as she listened to each lyric sung.

Whose bed have your boots been under?

And whose head did you steal I wonder?

This time did it feel like thunder, baby?

And who did you run to?

And whose lips have you been kissin'?

And whose ear did you make a wish in?

Is she the one that you've been missin', baby?

Well whose bed have your boots been under?

By this time the audience was tapping their feet to the infectious tune she was belting out with a strong clear voice.

I heard you've been sneakin'

Around with Jill.

And what about that weekend

With Beverly Hill?

And I've seen you walkin'

With long legs Louise.

And you weren't just talkin'

Last night with Denise.

Xena watched as the small beauty controlled the stage. She couldn't believe this was the same woman Aphrodite said was afraid to sing in front of an audience. Maybe, she thought, her time with me has done her some good. The audience clapped loudly in appreciation as the music stopped and the song was finished.

"Thank you," Desire' responded. "Now in good country fashion, we like to pick your spirits up with a fun song than slam you right back down with a good old fashioned sad song that will tug at your heart." She said it with a good OLE southern drawl. The audience laughed. "I'm not kidding." She picked up her guitar and sat down in front of the microphone stand, motioning for the band to begin again. The audience was quiet listening to the sad sound of the fiddle introducing the song.

Two young lovers with their bodies on fire,

Aching to swim that river of desire.

Leaving innocence there on the bank by their clothes,

A man holding on to a woman letting go.

Desire' looked around at the audience, silent as they listened to the soulful words, the Conqueror never taking her eyes off of her as she continued the song.

There's a man with a bottle on the other side of town.

Swimming with a memory that he can't drown.

Lord it ain't sunk in that she ain't coming home.

A man holding on to a woman letting go.

His heart is telling him to hang on for dear life.

Because deep down he knows she's letting go for good this time.

Desire's face was now serious as she sang the song, a low rich voice filled with emotion filling the entertainment hall.

There's a daddy walking his daughter down the aisle,

Fighting back tears and forcing a smile.

Oh for 22 years he's watched her grow.

A man holding onto to a woman letting go.

Desire' listened to the sad sound of the fiddle behind her as she waited for her cue to begin singing. Her face was solemn as she lowered her eyes to the floor, thinking of the sad lyrics to the song. Her voice began to crack with sorrow as she sung the next verse, her eyes filling with tears as she thought of her own parent's death.

In the hill valley home there's a feeble old man.

And he's holding on to a fragile old hand.

And the angels are coming to carry her home.

Now he's a man holding on to a woman letting go.

His heart is telling him to hang on for dear life.

Because deep down he knows she letting go for good this time.

Desire' looked at her audience, her voice visibly cracking with the soft cries in her throat, tears rolling down her face.

Two young lovers with their bodies on fire,

Aching to swim that river of desire.

Leaving innocence there on the bank by their clothes.

A man holding on to a woman letting go.

Desire' lowered her head as the last lyric was sung. For a moment the audience was silent, moved by the powerful lyrics of the song, sung with such intensity. The Conqueror stood up clapping wanting to hug the performer onstage to ease her pain. She had never met anyone with such deep intense emotions as the beautiful little brunette on the stage. Desire' waited for the applause to subside, wiping the tears from her cheek.
"See what I mean, we bring your mood up only to slap it right back down again," she said laughing, the audience laughing with her.

Xena watched as she broke into another upbeat song about going to Las Vegas and getting married. She would ask her later about the lyrics. Then Desire' invited Terreis to come on stage. She did so with a very embarrassed Palemon following behind. Desire' handed a second microphone over to princess Terreis while she sat Palemon on a chair at the front of the stage, both women surrounding him as Terreis began the first verse singing at Desire'.

Who do you think you are?

What do you think this is?

A game you can play trying to steal him away.

Well I don't need a heartache like this.

Desire' began singing, playfully running her hand through Palemon's hair as he blushed from the attention.

Well don't think I don't go to hell.

But heaven is what we both want.

He's easy to love but he's hard to give up,

And if you think I will well you're wrong.

Both women joined in singing the next verse playfully to each other, both teasing poor Palemon.

The best woman wins I will fight til the end.

I'll lay down and die if I must.

I'll beg and I'll plead I will suffer and bleed.

But he must make the choice between us.

They continued teasing the helpless man as they listened to the slide of the steel guitar as Terreis began again.

This soap opera play that we're in,

Is just like you watch on TV.

Desire' began to sing the next verse.

But I never thought I'd get caught.

And It's starring you, him and me.

The two women continued singing the last verses together, pretending to fight for the affections of Palemon, his blush now reaching down to his toes.

In love as in war all is fair.

So a fight to the finish begins.

When you fight from desire,

You fight fire with fire,

So may the best woman win.

The best woman wins I will fight til the end.

I'll lay down and die if I must.

I'll beg and I'll plead I will suffer and bleed.

But he must make the choice between us.

So may the best woman win.

At the end of the song, the two women kissed Palemon on the cheek, then took their bows. Terreis took Palemon off of the stage as the men in the crowd whistled and applauded him. Desire' than jumped off of the stage and grabbed the Conqueror. "You don't get off so easy," she said pulling her up to the stage holding her hand, the microphone in the other. The crowd watched stunned as the usually stoic Conqueror of the Known World was being manhandled by the small brunette singer and she was smiling through all of it. Queen Melosa just shook her head and laughed.

Desire' bowed to the Conqueror. "This is my song to you Conqueror, Conqueror of my heart," she said with a low, very husky, sexy voice. She motioned for the musicians to start then began swaying her hips into the Conqueror as she waited for her cue. She began clapping to the rhythm and soon the audience was clapping along with her as she looked into the Conqueror's eyes and began to sing, her voice now low and sultry filled with the energy of the beat.

Welll baby the girls wanna know about you.

They wanna know what you do to make me so crazy.

Because lately they see how turned around,

My feet never touch the ground when you get near me.

Desire' was almost purring at the Conqueror as she sang.

They ask me, Is the girl really that hot?

I tell them yes you are.

Can you tell us what the girl's got?

Well it's kind of hard, see it's not that easy,

I knew they wouldn't believe me.

Desire' was pointing to the amazons playfully then turned around, backing her body into the Conqueror who responded by putting her arms around Desire'. As the music sped up Desire' started rocking her hips seductively to the now upbeat tempo as she sang the chorus.

Because you love me like a hurricane, you move me like a driving rain,

You strike like lightning out of the blue.

You rock me like an earthquake, roll me like a tidal wave.

Nothing's ever been the same after loving you, after loving you.

She turned around in Xena's arms to face her, the tempo now slowing as she finished the next verse purring into the microphone.

Well baby, they didn't believe a word,

They said they never heard of a girl like that.

And maybe I was stretching out the truth,

Trying to take them for a fool,

With a story like that.

Again they asked me. Is the girl really that hot?

I tell them yes you are.

Can you tell us what the girl's got?

Well it's kind of hard, see it's not that easy,

I knew they wouldn't believe me.

Desire' broke away from the Conqueror, hips moving to the clapping hands, standing in front of her as the music sped up for the final chorus.

Because you love me like a hurricane, you move me like a driving rain,

You strike like lightning out of the blue.

You rock me like an earthquake, roll me like a tidal wave,

Nothing's ever been the same after loving you, after loving you.

As the music slowly quieted down, the Conqueror grabbed Desire' throwing her up into the air and swinging her around the stage in a grand hug as the audience stood on their feet, clapping loudly. She set Desire' down and presented her to the audience for a final bow. Desire' held up her microphone to speak. "Thank you, now it's time to kick up your heals and dance! The chairs will be moved to the side for your comfort to make room for the dance floor. I am pleased to welcome a wonderful singer who will be entertaining you for the duration of the evening. One day his family is gonna be big in the record industry. Please welcome Arista," she finished, clapping as he walked to the stage and took his place behind the microphone stand, taking the proffered microphone from Desire'.

She felt familiar large hands encircle her waist in a tight embrace and before she knew what was happening she was flying through the air as the Conqueror jumped into a somersault off of the stage with Desire' in tow. "Whoa!" exclaimed Desire' as she landed with the Conqueror, her legs collapsing under her as the familiar wave of dizziness washed over her. Desire' pulled her feet up under her before the Conqueror could feel the weakness in her legs.

Desire' stood up and turned to face the Conqueror, throwing her arms around her neck, hugging her. "What a head rush," she teased, trying to play the incident off so the audience forming around her would not be worried. The Conqueror hugged her tightly wrapping her arm around her head. "Come on Conqueror, we have a party to kick off, lets go," Desire' whispered into her ear.

It was now time to see if the two step lessons did any good. The generals and the amazons escorted other dignitaries to the dance floor showing them how to dance to the country music. The Conqueror reluctantly let Desire' go, watching as she showed Mark Antony how to lead her around the floor. She joined in leading Lao Ma to the dance floor.

"Your mood has changed dramatically Xena from very happy to worried. What has you so frightened," Lao Ma asked.

"She has tried to hide an injury Lao Ma, a tumor grows on her head. It gets worse every day," Xena answered.

"She needs to go home Xena," Lao Ma stated. "Or she will die."

"Yes, I am powerless to help her. She can't leave without the Cronus stone and we have not found it."

"I will speak with her Xena," Lao Ma replied. "Maybe I can help her."

"Thank you, Lao Ma."

As the song ended, Desire' walked up to the Conqueror and pulled her into the line now growing on the dance floor. Together they began doing the Tush Push as Arista sang a Garth Brooks tune, ‘Ain't Goin' Down Til the Sun Comes Up. As a second song started, Desire' asked the Conqueror to stay up and lead the Electric Slide while she sat down to take a breather and watched as the tall dark beauty who captured her heart danced and laughed with the others.

"Your inspiration is a source of great enjoyment for so many, yet your soul is held captive by sorrow." Desire' turned around to see where the soothing voice came from. Lao Ma stood before her, alabaster skin, large brown eyes looking into her soul

"That's right," replied Desire'. You have been blessed or cursed with the ability to see into the souls of others."

"Xena did not tell you this, yet you know. It is true, you come to us from another world."

"I will be gone soon."

"But there is more to your sorrow. You make Xena happy yet at what great cost to you?"

Desire' looked at Lao Ma trying unsuccessfully to hide her emotions. "Come let us speak in private." Desire' followed Lao Ma to the back of the entertainment hall and sat down with her at the table.


Lao Ma reached over to hold Desire's hand, feeling the woman's emotions and seeing the plan set in motion to recover the stone and reunite Xena with Gabrielle.

"You see it all, don't you Lao Ma?" asked Desire'

"You will betray Xena tomorrow. Such an act will cause her great hurt. You will die for such an act."

"Yes, but death isn't an ending it's a beginning," answered Desire'.

"You would die for Xena's happiness?" asked Lao Ma.

"It's not the dying part I'm worried about. Death doesn't have to be final."

"There is more," replied Lao Ma.

"Xena must not know. I have only one chance to make things right. My time is up."

"Your tumor. May I take a look?" asked Lao Ma. Desire' nodded and leaned over pointing to the spot on the back of her head. Lao Ma reached her hands through the dark hair, feeling for the soft spot and wrapping both hands around the growth. She concentrated on the healing powers from her hands, trying to shrink the growth. After several minutes she pulled her hands away. "It is not of this world. My powers are useless to help you," she said bowing her head in defeat. "I see your intentions. You should not go through this alone."

Desire' looked into the soft brown eyes of Lao Ma. "I must. Xena will see the truth in my eyes."

"You have great faith in Xena."

"I have to, otherwise the Elysian Fields will be a very lonely place."

Desire' bowed her head down, thinking of how Lao Ma would die if she should succeed.

Lao Ma noticed the change in the woman's demeanor and held her hand. "Do not mourn for me, Desire'. If it is to be then it must be. You have a very ancient soul. You must succeed. Your karmic cycle depends on it."

"What do you mean, Lao Ma?"

"Your soul has not been born. You must make it back to the other universe to be born."

"I will Lao Ma. Xena won't let me down."

"It is a very risky plan and you will suffer greatly. Are you ready?"

"Yes, I'm running out of time. I have been short of breath lately. I fear the tumor is near some internal organs. If I don't go back soon, I will die anyway. At least I have a chance this way."

"Why don't you tell Xena your plan?"

"Xena will suffer less from my betrayal than from my pain."

"You will protect Xena but who will protect you?"

"It has to happen, Lao Ma. My life depends on my death." The two women sat together in silence for a few moments after finishing their conversation. Finally, Desire' got up from the table, "Thank you for listening. The Conqueror might be looking for me."

Lao Ma extended her arms in a warm embrace. "I will pray for you tonight," she said as Desire' left. She sat back down, watching the woman walk away toward the dance floor where she was intercepted by Palemon and led to the dance floor.

Lao Ma sat there in silence, thinking of the words and thoughts of the dynamic little woman who had fallen from the sky to lead Xena back on her path. After several moments she watched as the Conqueror walked up and sat down.

"Can you help her Lao Ma?" she asked

"No. Only she can help herself now. She is a very ancient soul Xena. She must return home so her soul will be born. Desire' is aware that her fate is in her hands. She is a very wise woman."

"Lao Ma what do I do?"

"Remember Xena every act has a reason. You must find that reason." Lao Ma reached over to hold her hands and console her. "Go to her Xena. You will need each other tonight." Xena nodded and walked away to find her ‘gift from the Gods'.


Chapter Nineteen-Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

After leaving Lao Ma, she went back to the dance floor, gathered Desire' and excused them both from the festivities. The party was doing fine without them as everyone appeared to be having a wonderful time dancing and socializing. The Conqueror lead Desire' through the secret passageway to the large room in the back that held her loving memories. She needed to be with Desire' and share her love with her.

"Where are we going?" Desire' asked.

"You'll see," the Conqueror answered as she unlocked the door. Since visiting the room with Aphrodite all those months ago, she had secretly been visiting it weekly, keeping it clean, even adding a painting of a new loving memory. It was a painting of her cowgirl riding the black stallion wearing a white shirt, jeans, chaps, cowboy hat and cowboy boots and swinging a lasso.

Desire' walked into the room looking at the paintings around the walls. She recognized most of them. "Why is this room hidden?" she asked as her eyes continued scanning the room.

"I call it my room of loving memories," she answered, closing the door and locking it behind her. Desire' stopped in front of the last painting recognizing the woman in the cowboy hat. Her eyes immediately welled up with tears at the thought of her inclusion in this very special room. Xena walked up behind her, placing her strong arms around her and pulling her into a hug. "You sure are an emotional girl," she said, kissing on her now wet left cheek as Desire' leaned back into her embrace. Desire' chuckled, "Emotional yes, a girl, hardly."

"I know you are definitely a woman," the Conqueror responded.

"Conqueror how old are you?" Desire' asked.

"I'm thirty-two," she answered. "Why the sudden interest in my age?"

Desire' ignored the question. "How old do you think I am?"

The Conqueror thought about the question. "I don't know, I figured you're about twenty-five. Why? How old are you?" she asked, curious about the line of questioning.

"Good answer. You get major points for that," she teased.

"How old are you?" the Conqueror asked again.

"Well, according to my calculations, I have been here for 405 days. That means that the day after tomorrow, judgement day, I will turn forty." She could feel the shock crossing the Conqueror's face at the admission. "I never told you because you seemed to have a thing for younger chicks," she teased. "Of course, if I ever go home, I may be a year younger. I don't know how that works."

"Desire' you will go home, soon, I promise. We will find the stone."

The Conqueror led Desire' over to the bed where they both sat down facing each other, holding hands. "Conqueror, this time with you, here in your realm, has taught me to live again. It has given me life. Back home I can have my life back but here I have learned to live again. Whatever happens, I will be forever grateful to you for teaching me that life is to be molded and shaped in your own image. I'm already dead at home. Here I am alive. But I promise you I won't go down without a fight."

Xena sat listening to the words of the small woman. She felt pride at being such a strong influence in her life but those last words shook her to the core. Ares always said life was to be molded and shaped in your own image and earlier when they made love, she thought she could smell Ares scent on her, all over her. She pushed those thoughts away when Desire' placed her hands around her face and pulled her toward her.

"Make love to me like it's our last night together. Claim me as yours one last time. Be my Conqueror tonight."

The Conqueror leaned toward Desire', hands around her face brushing her lips gently across Desire's lips, placing angel kisses on her forehead, cheeks and nose. Desire' stood above her Conqueror, provocatively removing her jacket and silk blouse, letting her breasts fall into the eager mouth below. The Conqueror reached up to cup the dangling breasts within her hands, caressing the warm flesh, a fire burning slowly in her center. One by one she licked and sucked the sweet flesh around the breasts, suckling each nipple while gently caressing the skin with skilled hands. Desire' moaned above her, leaning her body into the gentle touch, wrapping her arms around the Conqueror's head, her hands running through the silky hair.

The taller brunette left a trail of kisses running up Desire's neck to her ear before claiming her mouth and tongue in a fiery kiss. Desire' threw the black cape off her back then began unbuttoning her blouse exposing two firm breasts which she gently caressed as they continued exchanging passionate kisses, her sex now burning from arousal. After breaking contact both women hungrily undressed each other, the tall brunette scooping the smaller brunette in strong arms and carrying her to the bed, placing her gently on the mattress, covering her small body with her longer length.

Skin was on fire as flesh met flesh, mouths touching and tongues dancing with erotic passion. The Conqueror reached one hand under the bed, pulling out the modern phallus and strap Aphrodite had brought as a gift from the other world. The Conqueror gently spread the small woman's legs open with her hips, her own wetness mixing with her lover's sex as she slowly ground her hips in between the waiting legs. She placed kisses along the dark triangle of curly hair as she positioned the very large phallus between her own legs.

She ran her tongue down inside the soft folds of flesh to feel the wetness in between the spread out legs. Desire' moaned with desire at the touch of the moist tongue, straining for closer contact. Raising herself over the small brunette, the Conqueror placed her hips in between the waiting legs and with one fluid motion pushed the entire length of the phallus into the wet cavity below. Desire' moaned as the phallus penetrated her slowly with one long smooth stroke, filling her entire being with sweet pleasure. The Conqueror wrapped her arms around Desire', claiming her mouth with passionate, desperate kisses as she slowly rocked her hips back and forth in a sensual motion as the phallus pushed in and out of the woman with perfect rhythm.

Desire' was on fire. She wrapped her legs around the Conqueror's hips, pulling her body and the phallus closer into her, the motion and penetration burning inside her to the core. The two women remained entwined, tongues dancing, bodies on fire as the Conqueror continued her slow, languid motion in and out of the small woman writhing in ecstasy beneath her. Desire' gasped for air in between kisses as the phallus penetrated a spot never touched before by any other lover. She could feel the power of a slow burning orgasm reaching inside the core of her body as she matched the sweet rhythms of the woman on top of her, their bodies melting into one. "Oh Conquerorrrr," she gasped into the hungry mouth as multiple orgasms, more powerful than she had ever experienced rocked from within her vaginal walls. She grabbed the Conqueror with both hands pulling her as tightly as her strength would allow, her body bucking wildly beneath the tall woman as the orgasms shook every fiber in her body, lingering for many moments with wave after wave of pleasure. The wild motion of the woman's orgasm released the pleasure of the Conqueror as she reached the heights of sweet ecstasy, rocking with the woman until she lay spent on top of the smaller woman, her head on her chest, too weak to move.

The two lovers would spend many hours into the morning making passionate, sometimes desperate love with each other. The Conqueror would claim her one last time, holding her and caressing her, loving her as she had promised she would. In her heart, the Conqueror knew that tonight would be their last night together.


Chapter Twenty-Rodeos, Clowns and Bulls Oh My

The next morning the arena was filled with the citizens of Corrinth, all eager to watch this spectacle called a rodeo. They waited for their ‘gift from the Gods' to enter into the arena and begin the festivities. It had been transformed into a rodeo arena, with cattle along the sides of the wall, away from the main area, filled with dirt and sawdust, three barrels placed strategically on the ground.

Gabrielle was among the spectators, wearing the beautiful pale green dress purchased for her by the mysterious brunette who held the favor of the crowd. She and Perdicus were sitting in the front of the arena, waiting with baited breath at the arrival of the woman who fell from the sky and the Conqueror to begin the day's activities.

Desire' sat atop the midnight black stallion. He had been an excellent mount once she tamed him. She was wearing a white button down shirt, tucked into white snug fitting jeans, black cowboy boots, black cowboy hat and black leather chaps. Not exactly practical clothes to demonstrate the days events, she thought, but at least I'll look good going into the arena. The Conqueror was next to her, atop her favorite white stallion, dressed in a black silk shirt, black silk pants tucked into knee high black riding boots, her sword attached to her hip.

At her cue, Desire' rode into the arena at full gallop, circling around the length of stadium as the crowd began to cheer. She swung her body around the side of her horse, holding on by the saddle horn as the horse continued galloping, the crowd cheering eagerly at the display of horsemanship. She then swung her body around the other side of the horse for a few moments then swung her body back up into the saddle as horse and rider rode back to where the Conqueror sat on her mount waiting for her cue to make her entrance. Desire' walked her horse around to the side of the Conqueror and lifting her arm to the crowd announced, "The Conqueror will now demonstrate the first event, barrel racing."

The Conqueror smiled as the crowd applauded, then grabbed an unsuspecting Desire' by the waist, pulled her onto her horse in front of her and galloped into the arena, racing the horse skillfully around each barrel and running at full gallop back to the outside of the arena. Desire' held onto her hat and the saddle horn for dear life. Horse and riders came back into the arena as the crowd continued to applaud their appreciation until the horse came to a stop in front of the Conqueror's throne sitting two stories above them. "Hold onto your hat," whispered the Conqueror as she grabbed Desire' with both arms and flew up into the air in a double somersault landing just in front of the throne, Desire' still in her arms gasping for air, trying to make her legs work beneath her. The Conqueror held onto her tight as the crowd roared with appreciation.

"Show off," Desire' gasped. "Now how the hell am I supposed to get back down there?" She could barely finish the question before she was flying through the air again in the arms of the Conqueror who was somersaulting back down into the arena. She held on tightly to Desire' as her legs buckled underneath her, laughing as the audience laughed and cheered with her. Desire' turned around grabbing the Conqueror's shoulders for support. "You're trying to kill me," she gasped, playfully hitting the Conqueror in the chest who answered simply by kissing her. "Not yet," she teased. If she only knew, thought Desire'. She took something out of her pocket and handed it to Desire'. "Thought this might come in handy today."

"My watch," exclaimed Desire'. "Thank you," she said giving the Conqueror a hug and kissing her. "Now leave me alone, I have a show to run," she added, playfully pushing the Conqueror away.

The crowd continued cheering wildly at the playful display of affection. The citizens of Corrinth had never seen the Conqueror smile in public before, let alone smile so many times in such a short span of time. They watched as the small beauty began her demonstration of events.

She was sitting on top of her horse waiting as a small steer ran into the arena. She spurred her horse into a gallop, jumping on the animal and throwing it down on the ground, her hands up as a gong rang out. The crowd cheered as the steer was led into a pen by the arena. Next she waited on her horse, a rope in her hand, as a small calf ran into the arena. She followed on horseback, roping the calf around the head, then jumping on the calf, flipping it on it's back, tying four legs and raising her hand as the gong went off.

She rode her horse back out of the arena to greet Palemon who was sitting on a chestnut stallion. The two ran toward the next calf in the ring as Palemon threw a rope around it's neck and Desire' followed by roping the calf's back legs. The crowd cheered at the display of skill, standing up as the Conqueror was now standing in front of her throne, showing her appreciation of the small beauty's skills. Her face turned to discomfort as she watched Desire' walk over to the pen and mount one of the broncos. Desire' purposely didn't mention this demonstration knowing the Conqueror would object and she was determined to live out her little dream. The Conqueror stood frozen, panic seizing her at the thought of Desire' being hurt.

The gates flew open and Desire' spurred the horse to buck, holding on with her left hand as the horse bucked his front legs up, than kicked his back legs out, trying to remove the offending person on top of him. After eight seconds, a gong was sounded and Desire' leaped off the horse into the nearby gate, pumping her hand in the air. "What a fucking rush," she yelled to herself as she walked back to the pen holding a very mean looking bull. She climbed onto the pen, sitting on the gate over the bull, catching her breath. Within seconds, a very angry Conqueror was sitting next to her.

"You are not getting on that thing," she yelled. "They've seen you on the horse. They can figure the rest out."

"Oh yes I am Conqueror. This is life and I'm living it. Don't even try to stop me."

"Desire' please don't," she said lowering her voice. "I don't want you to get hurt."

"Then I better not get bucked off," she answered teasingly. The Conqueror wasn't amused. "I have to do this, please," she asked. "You've given me the courage to live my dream." The Conqueror hugged her, kissing her on the forehead. "You die and I'll kill you," she teased. "Deal," Desire' answered and mounted the bull.

The gates were released and the bull charged forward bucking wildly. Desire' held on, her head flying against the beast's backside, moving with each buck. The bull jumped into the air, both feet off of the ground, his head moving savagely from side to side as he came down. Desire' was losing her grip as the animal bucked his hind legs into the air as the gong was sounded. Desire' was thrown over the head of the bull at least ten feet in the air, landing on her arms to soften the impact, her face barely touching the ground. "What a rush," she said as she picked herself up quickly looking behind her at an angry bull ready to charge. "Oh shit!" she yelled as she jumped up and ran toward the fence, the Conqueror pulling her up by her shirt just as the beast rammed the gate with two long sharp horns beneath Desire'.

"Whew, what a rush," she said as the Conqueror held her up by the shirt

"I'm gonna kill you," growled the Conqueror as she set her down on the fence.

Desire' just smiled and laughed. "Not if he kills me first," she laughed. Before the Conqueror could react she was back in the ring, facing the bull. She ran behind the barrel as the bull stomped his feet and rushed, throwing the barrel up into the air and charging behind Desire' who was now running toward the pen, jumping onto the fence to the right as the bull followed into the pen. She closed the door and laughed as the crowd cheered wildly. "Let the rodeo begin!" she yelled when the crowd quieted down.


The Conqueror walked over to Desire' as the arena was being prepared for the first event, barrel racing. "You are insane," she growled at Desire'.

Desire' laughed at the Conqueror. "Of course I am, I love you don't I," she teased.

"What was that last little stunt?" she asked.

"Someone's gotta get those crazy beasts back into the pen. Works better with make up," she answered. "Gotta go," she added jumping off of the fence and running across the arena, leaving a very bewildered Conqueror behind her.

Several moments later the Conqueror was back on her throne. She watched as the rodeo commenced, watching the barrel racing and presenting the winner personally with a gold buckle. She watched while the arena was set up for the next event, wondering where her crazy little brunette had vanished to.

Desire' jumped into the Conqueror's lap, wearing a baggy white shirt, baggy blue pants, funny shoes and wearing a bizarre red wig, white paint on her face with an exaggerated smile painted in red across and over her lips. "Kiss me you fool," Desire' said laughing, her arms around the Conqueror's neck.

"I am not kissing you looking like that," she replied.

"I know your ticklish spots, Conqueror," Desire' growled.

"You wouldn't," said the Conqueror.

"I would. I'm evil," she replied as she began poking the Conqueror in the sides. The Conqueror howled with laughter, trying to fight the onslaught of tickles caused by the small hands on her sides. The crowd seeing the playful exchange on the throne howled with laughter, breaking into applause.

"Stop!" she yelled, finally containing the small hands in her own. "I'm not looking very regal right now."

"But you're cute when you're mad," Desire' teased, laughing.

"I am not cute. Conquerors are not cute."

"Fine," pouted Desire'.

"What's with the get up?" asked the Conqueror.

"Someone's gotta get those beasts back into their pens. Gotta go now!" she replied and before the Conqueror could register a complaint Desire' was running down the steps and jumping into the arena, waving her hands wildly at the crowd and acting, thought the Conqueror, like an idiot. The crowd was loving the entertainment and she decided to watch along amused until her skin began to crawl.

"Ares, show yourself."

"Xena, how do you do it? You always know when I'm here."

"And you say the same thing every time you show up. You need a new line Ares. What do you want?"

"Xena, that's the woman you take into your bed every night?" he said with disgust.

"Relax, Ares, I'll make her take the make up off first. You have to admit she's pretty funny out there. The crowd loves her."

"And they're laughing at you Xena. She's making you look like a fool, giggling like a school girl," he spat.

"Ares, leave me. I do not wish to speak with you now. If you have something to say to me it can wait until after the festivities."

"She has conquered you Xena," he spat. "We will talk later." With a brilliant light he was gone.

Xena sat on her throne and watched the events as her men and some of the amazons competed in the day's events, trying to ignore Ares' words. She presented the winner of each event with a gold buckle and watched as Desire' ran around the arena, chasing the animals back into their pens. She was growing tired watching the woman playing with the children in the stands and bouncing around with an endless amount of energy. She must be running on pure adrenaline, she thought.

The last event was the bull riding. The audience was on their feet as they cheered each rider, groaning when a rider fell, and gasping as the crazy little brunette teased each bull. She would taunt each beast to chase her and not the fallen bull rider who was being helped to his feet. The Conqueror stood up sword ready to be thrown should any bull come too close to her. Within moments Desire' would have the bull running into the pen.

Desire' was untouched until the last bull. The last rider was thrown off and the bull was running toward him, head down, and horns ready to gore the downed man. Desire' ran after the bull, grabbing him by the tail and swinging him down to the ground with her. She was on her back; trying to scoot backward as the bull lowered his head. She jumped as the horns scooped her up and threw her over the bull's head. The bull turned around, stomping his feet on the ground, ready to charge the small woman when he was struck from behind by the long sword of the Conqueror. The crowd cheered as the fallen rider was helped to his feet then fell silent as they watched the Conqueror walk over to the small still figure in the middle of the arena.

Desire' was laying on her back, her head throbbing from the impact of the blow. Her hands ached from the initial impact as she had braced her head with them before she landed. She could feel a tall dark presence lean over her as she fought to open her eyes.

The Conqueror was leaning over Desire', holding her head gently off of the ground. "Desire'," she said quietly. "Wake up." Pale green eyes opened slowly to look into soft blue eyes. "Whoa, did someone get that license plate," she said her voice shaking.

"No more fighting bulls for you," growled the Conqueror.

"That sokay, he was the last rider anyway," she responded grinning.

"I should just put you out of my misery," the Conqueror teased.

"Are you saying I'm butt ugly?" Desire' teased back. The Conqueror just smiled and picked up the small brunette, holding her in her arms. The crowd was silent as they watched. "Let me down," Desire' said, poking the Conqueror in the ribs. "They need to know I'm okay."

"You're anything but okay," said the Conqueror looking down at her bundle.

"Yes I am. I've got a show to do," responded Desire'. The Conqueror looked down at her in disbelief. "You're crazy," she replied. "That's right and they need to know the show will go on." The Conqueror carefully placed Desire' on the ground, holding her as she found her walking legs. "The show will go on as scheduled," yelled the Conqueror. "And hopefully she is going to change first," she yelled, smiling at the crowd. Desire' turned around to wave at the crowd as they stood on their feet to cheer. The Conqueror escorted her out of the arena.


Chapter Twenty-One-The Show Must Go On

The arena was being set up for the elaborate concert while the people walked around, socializing. A large stage was being set up at one end of the arena. Chairs were being set up on the ground for the lucky invited guests and dignitaries who had been given special invitations to enjoy the festivities. Gabrielle and Perdicus were among the chosen led to the front of the stage. True to her word, they sat in the front row.

Desire' was in a small dressing room inside the stadium, dressed in a short white button down blouse that tied together just under her breast line, exposing her midriff. The long sleeves were made of sheer white see through material. The buttons were silver, matching the silver tips of the collar, white fringe hanging down in front of her chest. The white material down the front was also a bit sheer, exposing a lacy white bra. The shirt was unbuttoned, exposing her cleavage. She wore tight white Levi's and her favorite gray suede cowboy boots. The outfit had been recreated by the Conqueror's seamstress and matched the same outfit that hung in her closet at home, waiting to be worn on stage.

She brushed her long flowing dark hair, lying straight down her back and shoulders, short bangs accentuating her pale green eyes. She applied her make up wearing pale pink lipstick to match her painted nails. She wore matching silver earrings with white fringe hanging down from the silver baubles. She placed a sterling silver chain, given to her by the Conqueror, around her neck for luck and put her cowboy hat on.

The Conqueror walked into the room as Desire' was admiring herself in the mirror. She walked behind her, placing strong arms around her waist and embracing her. "You look beautiful," she whispered.

"Desire' reached her hand around the Conqueror's face, staring into the mirror, knowing this would be the last time they would share a passionate embrace. "I will always love you, Conqueror. Remember that."

She turned around to face the Conqueror, trying to mask the sorrow in her heart. She reached her hands up to the Conqueror's face one last time, bringing her head down for one last fiery kiss of passion. "Let's go," she said softly and the two walked out silently hand in hand.

The crowd took their seats after the Conqueror was announced. She walked in front of her throne at the back of the stadium. "Citizens of Corrinth," she said as she raised her hand to address the crowd. "I give you ‘our gift from the Gods, Desire' Love.'"

The crowd cheered wildly as Desire' ran onto the stage. "Yeeeeee Hawwwwwwwww" she yelled sliding along the heel of her boots as she grabbed the microphone to address the crowd. "Are you ready to kick up your heels?" she yelled then began singing

If you're coming with me you need nerves of steel.

The band began to play as she finished the first lyric of the song. Desire' was now swaying to the lively band, walking back and forth across the stage.

‘cause I take corners on two wheels.

It's a never-ending circus ride.

The faint of heart need not apply.

My vida loca over and over

Destiny turns on a dime.

I go where the wind blows.

You can't tame a wild rose.

Welcome to my crazy life.

She continued to dance as the instrumental played, then pointed to the Conqueror, singing the words to the song, flirting with her.

Sweetheart before this night is through

I could fall in love with you.

Come dancing on the edge with me.

Let my passion set you free.

The crowd was on their feet, clapping to the music and cheering the obvious flirtation with their Conqueror.

My vida loca over and over

Destiny turns on a dime.

I go where the wind blows.

You can't tame a wild rose.

Welcome to my crazy life.

Desire' walked along the stage like a cat, clapping her hands to the beat and pointing to the musicians as they performed their instrumentals. She then began singing the next lyrics with a low, seductive husky voice.

Here in the firelight I see your tattoo.

My vida loco, so you're crazy too.

My vida loca over and over

Destiny turns on a dime.

I go where the wind blows.

You can't tame a wild rose.

Welcome to my crazy life.

We'll go where the wind blows,

And I'll be a wild rose.

Welcome to my crazy life.

As the crowd quieted down Desire' yelled. "Welcome to my crazy life! Now that I have you in a great mood and everyone's happy, time to slam your asses back down. That's what country music is all about. Some of you in the front already know that dontcha," she added pointing to the honored quests from the night before. She looked up at the Conqueror who was smiling, then back at the band to motion for the next song. Desire's face was now solemn as she placed the microphone on the stand, listening to the sound of the sad guitars and began singing.

She follows the path of least resistance.

She doesn't care to see the mountaintop.

She twists and turns with no regard to distance.

She never comes to a stop.

And she rolls, she's a river.

Where she goes, time will tell.

Heaven knows he can't go with her.

And she rolls, all by herself.

All by herself.

Her voice was soft and soulful as she looked up at the Conqueror, hoping she would notice the words were for her to listen, that she was actually the he in the song.

He's headed for a single destination.

He doesn't care what's standing in his path.

He's a line between two points of separation.

He ends just where it says to on the map.

And he rolls, he's a highway.

Where he goes, time will tell.

Heaven knows she can't go with him.

And he rolls, all by himself.

All by himself.

Desire' looked down at the stage then up to the Conqueror her voice stronger to match the stronger sound of the band.

And every now and then, he offers her a shoulder.

And every now and then, she overflows.

And every now and then, a bridge crosses over.

It's a moment that every lover knows.

The Conqueror listened to the last words of the song, wondering if Desire' was saying goodbye to her through the song. She listened as the last chorus was sung, Desire's voice filled with sorrow again as she looked up at the Conqueror

And she rolls, all by herself.

And he rolls, all by himself.

Fare thee well.

Desire' wiped the tears away and picked up the microphone. "You're up one minute, down the next. Let's get into some more shit kickin' music."

The band began playing an upbeat tune. Desire' was dancing to the music and flirting with the Conqueror again as she began to sing.

I've been looking at you looking at me,

Bet you're thinking that what you get

Is what you see.

But underneath this cool exterior,

A raging river flows.

So before you get any nearer,

I'd better let you know,

I'm an emotional girl.

I can't help myself.

Sometimes I laugh.

Sometimes I cry.

Sometimes I do both

And I don't know why.

I got a passionate heart

And that's just the way things are.

You and me could give it a whirl

But I'm warning you now,

I'm an emotional girl.

Desire' was laughing and jumping around the stage as the musicians played.

I like music that's loud and lights down low.

I like riding my horse too fast

And dancing slow.

Some folks may say I'm too extreme because I can't stop once I start.

But I never could do anything with half my heart.

I'm an emotional girl.

I can't help myself.

Sometimes I laugh.

Sometimes I cry.

Sometimes I do both

And I don't know why.

I got a passionate heart.

And that's just the way things are.

You and me could give it a whirl

But I'm warning you now,

I'm an emotional girl.

The crowd was standing on its feet, quieting down when the small brunette once again changed the tempo of the concert. One sad guitar and the sad slide of a steel guitar accompanied her, the words drawn out with a sorrowful sound as she sang.

I can tell there's something you don't want to tell me.

It's killing you because words are hard to find.

I know you want to break it to me gently.

Well sweet baby say what's on your minddddddd, she drew the last word out. In the back you could hear; One-two three as the tempo sped up wildly as she began.

Let her rip. and Desire' was dancing.

Let it fly.

Come on baby say it do you think I'm gonna cry?

I ain't about to fall and I ain't gonna die.

So if your gonna say goodbye don't take your damn time.

Let it rip.

Let it fly.

The Conqueror was standing up along with the crowd, tapping her foot to the infectious music coming from the stage, watching as her little brunette beauty commanded the stage and audience. She continued to listen to the next few songs of the concert, singing "Fancy was her name" and describing herself as just plain white trash, but it was powerful. She then slowed it down with a tearful song about a broken home called "You Were Mine". She listened as the last lyrics were song, her beauty sitting on a chair in the microphone, tears in her eyes as she sang the last chorus.

I can give you two good reasons to show you love's not blind.

He's two and she's four and you know they adore you,

So how can I tell them you've changed your mind.

Sometimes I wake up crying at night and sometimes I scream out your name.

What right does she have to take your heart away?

When for so long you were mine.

I remember when you were mine.

Desire' lowered her head as the fiddle ended the last of it's sad melody and the crowd began to cheer. Once again the crowd was on it's feet singing along with Desire'. "I Like It, I Love It, I want some more of it," they sang along with her. The Conqueror sat back down, drinking in the sight until she could feel her skin crawl.


Chapter Twenty-Two-I Sing a Song of Betrayal

"Ares," she cried and before she knew what was happening she was in the Hall of Wars with the God of War.

"What do you want Ares?" she growled. "What is so important it can't wait until after the festival?"

"She's playing you like the fiddle in her band, Xena. And she's good, real good. She has you so wrapped up in this love thing you can't even see her game. Lucky for you Xena, I'm looking out for you."

"Ares," she growled, "Explain yourself."

"Xena, she came me to me yesterday. She wants you out, Xena and she wants to by my chosen. You've given her power and it's too intoxicating. She doesn't even want to go home now."

Ares, I don't believe you," she spat.

"Xena, I knew you would say that, here," he pointed to the projected image on the wall, making sure to omit certain parts. Xena watched in disbelief as Desire' flirted with the God of War, offering her services to him, asking him to be his chosen and crush Xena. The beast was awake and hungry as Ares shut the film off just as Desire' unzipped his pants.

"You don't want to see anymore. She's something else Xena. I gotta admit, you've got great taste," he said implying his intentions past what he had shown. "Don't fault me Xena, she's hot I'll give her that. She's out to get you. The proof is right in front of you," he whispered in her ear, his hands now around her as she felt the God like energy run through her body. She moaned at the touch. "Crush her now before she crushes you Xena." In the blink of an eye she was back in her body sitting on top of her throne, staring at Desire' with ice cold eyes dark with the anger from the beast within.


As Desire' went into her next song she looked up at the Conqueror, her animated expression now gone. Ares, she thought. You bastard you promised you would wait until after the festival. She looked up again as she finished the song. The Conqueror was now staring down at her, her ice blue eyes cold with anger. It was time to end the concert. "This will be my last song," she told the crowd. "For you," she said, pointing up to the Conqueror, praying her voice would disguise the fear she was feeling. The soft sound of the guitar and piano began. She began to sing, slow and sorrowful.

For all I've been blessed with in this life,

There was an emptiness in me.

I was imprisoned by the power of gold.

With one honest touch you set me free.

Let the world stop turning.

Let the sun stop burning.

Let them tell me loves not worth going through.

If it all falls apart

I will know deep in my heart

The only dream that mattered had come true.

In this life I was loved by you.

She continued to sing looking up into the icy cold eyes of the Conqueror, tears clouding her eyes as she continued, her voice quiet.

For every mountain I have climbed.

Every raging river crossed.

You were the treasure that I'd longed to find.

Without your love I'd be lost.

Let the world stop turning.

Let the sun stop burning.

Let them tell me loves not worth going through.

If it all falls apart

I will know deep in my heart

The only dream that mattered had come true.

In this life I was loved by you.

In this life I was loved by you.

As Desire' finished her song she stared up at the throne, tears streaming down her face as the crowd stood on their feet and applauded. "Thank you," she choked out. "And good night," she added as she walked off of the stage into the waiting hands of Callisto, to escort her to the dungeon.


Desire' was strapped into the torture throne, her hands, arms and neck strapped to the contraption. She watched as Gabrielle, Perdicus, and several other men and women were herded into the cell that was next to hers.

"You, you did this to us," accused Perdicus. Desire' stared forward, tears streaming down her eyes as she listened to him yell. How could she explain to him that things would work out.

"Perdicus," Gabrielle said calmly. "She's not any better off than us. Leave her alone."

"Gabrielle, you're too trusting. You heard that woman when she arrested us. She gave us up."

"Don't believe everything you hear, Perdicus," she said defending Desire'. Desire' strained her eyes to look at Gabrielle. Perdicus was now sitting at the opposite side of the cell, away from her. Gabrielle was standing against the bars separating the two cells, her hand on the bar.

"I know this isn't your fault," Gabrielle stated quietly.

"You're wrong," Desire' answered, choking the tears back, looking as Gabrielle stared at her in disbelief. "I can't explain," she added, her eyes staring forward. "You will not be harmed tomorrow Gabrielle."

"How can you say that? I, we have been arrested as traitors to the realm. Tomorrow is judgement day."

"Everything is precisely as it should be," she answered.

"What does that mean?" Gabrielle asked.

"Tomorrow I shall die and you shall begin to live," Desire' answered. "Remember my words in town and you will find your answers Gabrielle. Go be with Perdicus. He needs you tonight. And I'm very tired," she said closing her eyes praying exhaustion would take her into Morpheous' realm one last time.


Chapter Twenty-Three-Judgement Day

The Conqueror was carried into the arena on her throne. Her raven hair was pulled back. She was wearing a long flowing oriental robe of gold and black design, a headdress with the wings of an eagle surrounding the chiseled features of her face, eyes of stone looking intently toward the crowd. She walked down the steps into the arena toward her prisoner, until she was standing in front of Desire', her hands tied in front of her.

Desire' looked into the Conqueror's eyes, never breaking the contact. She stood proudly before her with defiance but the Conqueror could see the tears trying to escape from pale green eyes. "You have been found guilty of treason," she stated. "How do you plead?" she asked, praying she would speak up and explain her actions. She turned away from Desire'.

"Guilty," answered Desire', then stood quietly waiting for her sentence.

The Conqueror turned around, caught by surprise at the admission. "What? No words in your defense little girl," she spat.

Desire' looked back at her defiantly, trying not to break down. "Every act has a reason, find the reason. Guilty," she responded, as the Conqueror backhanded her across the face. Desire' stumbled backward from the blow, the impact leaving her face on fire.

"Then you shall die on the cross," she spat, walking away as she motioned for the guards, her own heart breaking at the betrayal.

"No!" yelled Desire' as the guards grabbed her to drag her away.

The Conqueror turned around, walking back toward Desire' and backhanding her across the other side of her face. She stood there looking at Desire'.

"Well," said Desire', shaking her head. "That evens things out." The Conqueror stood frozen in front of the woman trying hard to continue her stoic look. Unbelievable, thought the Conqueror, she is about to die and still she talks back.

"Your laws state I can choose my punishment, Conqueror," she added quickly before the Conqueror would smack her again for the sarcastic remark.

"A fight to the death is reserved for warriors and soldiers," answered the Conqueror. "You are neither."

"Forty lashes, Conqueror. Your law states I can choose forty lashes of the whip." Desire' replied.

The Conqueror stared at the woman before her, her eyes now open wide in shock at the request. "Do you know what you're asking?" she asked trying to mask the fear inside of her. The beast stood ready to watch her nailed to the cross and leave before her emotions could choke her. Now Desire' stood before her asking for forty lashes, a punishment considered even more cruel than the cross. She thought for a moment she would not watch this woman, whom she had loved, cry out in agony as she slowly died before her. "No, I will not honor your request," she replied and turned away.

"You must Conqueror. You must uphold the laws in front of your people."

"Do you want to put Palemon through that?" she whispered to Desire' "That is his job," she added hoping Desire' would back down.

"You are the Conqueror. I am sure Callisto would love the honor," she replied.

"Then so be it. Bring me Callisto and prepare the prisoner," she shouted, turning around to leave. Desire' grabbed her hand before she walked away, holding onto it tightly. "One more request, please Conqueror," she cried desperately. The Conqueror turned around to look at her, trying to ignore the wave of emotions generated from the woman's touch. She nodded at Desire'. "Please," she said, tears in her eyes, flowing down her face. "Stand in front of me Conqueror so your face will be the last vision I have of this earth. I beg you, please," she choked.

Xena was afraid to watch the woman she loved so much die such a painful death. But she was begging her and she couldn't bring herself to deny her this last request. It was the least she could do. She silently cursed herself for not finding the stone. Maybe then this woman whom she loved would not have betrayed her and she would not have to watch her withstand such a horrible death. She nodded her head to Desire' and walked away to gather herself while the prisoner was prepared and Callisto was summoned.

Ares stood in the corner of the arena, gloating. The arrogant little bitch trusted him. So stupid, he thought. She would now die and then the irritating little blonde would be next and the Conqueror would come back to him with renewed energy to conquer the lands spoken of by the little beauty. She was truly a gift to this God, he thought, tossing the Cronus stone up and down in one hand, laughing to himself.

Desire' watched as they brought in and placed the wooden object that looked like the letter X with leather straps in front of her. How appropriate, she thought, X for Xena. The Conqueror inspected the contraption, checking to make sure the straps were secure, then walked around it facing Desire'. The Conqueror motioned to the guards who removed her gold necklace and began taking her clothes off. "Now there's a surprise" she thought to herself. "Naked again." Desire' was shaking with fear as she was lead over to the structure. She was placed onto the contraption facing the Conqueror, her head placed on a support in the middle of the wooden beams, her arms and legs stretched along the wood spread eagle, while the straps were wrapped securely around her hands and feet.

She looked up at the Conqueror, waiting for her to motion to Callisto who was giggling behind her, cracking the whip in anticipation. She would die today and only her faith in love could save her now. She looked into the eyes of the Conqueror, who was trying to keep up the stoic look on her face. This was her last chance to prepare the Conqueror for the bard who waited in the dungeon for destiny to decide her fate.

"I love you, Conqueror," she said as the Conqueror motioned for Callisto to begin the sentence. The Conqueror looked back into Desire's eyes when she heard the words, her expression showing a glimpse of compassion and confusion as the whip brushed across Desire's back with wicked force. Desire' clenched her teeth refusing to yell out, a line of fire blazing across her back from the whip.

"I would never betray you," she choked as her head went forward from the impact of the second stroke. "She's here Conqueror, you will know her," she gasped, biting her lips, drawing blood from them as the third stroke lashed across her. She could feel the skin swell as trickles of blood bubbled up on her skin.

"You are about to die and you speak of a woman who doesn't exist little girl," she growled savagely.

The fourth lash burned a trail along the back of her exposed thighs. Desire's head flew back. The pain was becoming more intense but she held her tongue. "Yes, and don't call me little," she cried, a fifth lash landed across her buttocks. Tears were streaming down her eyes, "You promised me you would receive," she stopped, crying out in pain as the whip lashed across her head, slicing her scar open. "Ahhhhhh," she yelled.

"Stop!" yelled the Conqueror, walking over to Callisto. "Not her head," she hissed through clenched teeth. She walked back over to take her position in front of Desire', stopping to look at the blood slowly running down the back of the brunette's head. She was helpless to stop the sentence. The beast would not let her lose face with her people, not after she had worked so hard to make them except her as their Conqueror. Desire' had been right, it was much easier to rule over people who wanted you to be their ruler. But her heart was breaking as she watched Desire' suffer. She motioned for Callisto to continue.

The whip came down hard on her back, searing the flesh. Desire' bit down again, feeling the cool breeze along a piece of exposed bone. This is it, she thought and less than ten lashes. "Receive her love, she's here, promise, look, her eyes," she said weakly, the whip coming across her back one, two, three times in quick succession. Oh fuck the stoic behavior, she thought, and cried out like a baby, the pain too great, tears flowing freely down her cheeks.

The Conqueror looked down at her prisoner, tears forming in her eyes. Callisto was now in a rhythm, the lashes coming faster and with more force as Desire' screamed and cried. "I had to die," she screamed, the whip cutting into her biceps, across the top of her back.

"What do you mean," asked the Conqueror. "Why?" she asked desperately, knowing she couldn't hold on to consciousness for much longer.

"It was the only way to get you two, owwwwwwwwwwwww together," she screamed the sobs coming louder as her flesh tore from her back, exposing more bone, her life draining away. "Hold her hand, you'll know her, the connection is too, owwwwwwww", she screamed. "Strong, soulmate," she finished. Desire' looked down at the ground, her breathing fast trying to contain the pain of twenty lashes. "Ares, Aphrodite, put it together," she stopped and screamed as more lashes ripped at the calves of her legs. "I had to die, only way, forgive me, I love you," she gasped.

The Conqueror couldn't take anymore and motioned for Callisto to stop. Desire' looked up to see why the lashes stopped. "NO! please don't stop, only way," she whispered between sobs. The Conqueror looked down at her, disbelief in her eyes, tears on her face. "I don't understand," she began. "Make her continue, Ares can't know," Desire' interrupted. The Conqueror motioned for Callisto to continue.

Desire' screamed as another whiplash crossed her buttocks, tearing the soft flesh. "Don't let him win. Do you trust me?" she asked, screaming as the whip came across her arms, two lashes in quick succession. The Conqueror nodded. "Find her then find Aphrodite ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Put my body in with the prisoners."

"The ones you betrayed. I won't," answered the Conqueror, her voice trembling.

"She will protect me, Conqueror, her light shines brighter than the sun's light ever will," she screamed as the whip came across her neck, exposing another piece of bone.

Desire's head fell forward from the last impact. She braced herself for the whip and heard it as it tore through her body. "Only ten more to go," she thought, "what happened to the pain? I don't have anymore pain." She couldn't seem to lift her head. She heard the sound of the whip behind and still she felt no pain. She strained her hands and feet against the straps, realizing they were not moving. She was paralyzed and free from the agony for the rest of the torture.

She turned her eyes upward to the Conqueror. "It's over. I feel no pain."

The Conqueror stared down at her, tears in her eyes. She silently walked around Desire' to inspect the exposed flesh and bone near her spine. She walked back over to Desire' to watch as Callisto finished the punishment, trying not to cry at the loss before her.

"Death is only a beginning," whispered Desire', then began to recite the last words spoken at her Mother's funeral.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou annointest my head with oil: my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

She looked up to the Conqueror one last time, "Everything's precisely as it should be," she whispered as her eyes slowly closed, her head falling forward. Darkness had come.
The Conqueror motioned for Callisto to leave. "Awe don't I even get to admire my work," she purred, enjoying the ecstasy of watching Xena suffer.

"Leave now!" yelled the Conqueror. The audience had been silent through the entire sentence. They watched in disbelief as their beloved ‘gift from the Gods' accepted her fate. They couldn't believe that just the night before she had played with their children, making them laugh and entertaining them with the voice of an angel. She seemed to hold the Conqueror's heart in her hand and just as quickly she had admitted to betraying the Conqueror by leading a group of dissenters who would soon find themselves up on crosses. They waited and watched the Conqueror as she felt for a pulse on the tiny body, bloodied with torn flesh and exposed bone on her arms, legs and back.

She motioned for the guard. "Get a horse and wagon, bring her down and put her in with the rest of the prisoners, now!" she cried. She motioned for another guard. "Bring the healer to the dungeon, then find Palemon and let him know what's happened. Go quickly!" The Conqueror walked back toward her throne, turning around to address the audience before sitting down. She lifted her arm up to the crowd. "There will be no more executions today. The other prisoners will be dealt with on the next judgement day. Go home," she shouted, then turned around to sit on her throne, motioning for her to be taken away. She would deal with the prisoners later. Right now she had to think.


Xena paced back and forth across the floor of her bedchambers, trying to piece the words together and understand the message that Desire' was giving her as she withstood the pain of the forty lashes. Forty lashes, she stayed conscious for forty lashes, trying to tell her to keep her promise. What promise? She thought about all of the times they shared together, tears forming in her eyes at the memories. Then it hit her, "You have to promise me, swear to me that when that time comes you will receive her love and you will go to her and never let her go." She remembered the words Desire' had said after she fought death to come back. "She's here Conqueror," she had said as she was being whipped. That's it. There was a burst of light before she could finish the thought and Ares was standing in front of her.

"What do you want," she growled.

"Xena, you're getting soft. You have a dungeon full of prisoners and no more executions. What were you thinking?" asked the God of War.

"Leave me alone, Ares. I don't have time for you."

"Xena," he laughed. "I'm crushed." Ares became serious. "Xena, she betrayed you! She didn't want you! She wanted to be you! You saw it!"

"Doesn't matter Ares, I cared for her you bastard! I don't need you around gloating, now get out!" she yelled.

"You know I can't blame her, really. She had guts. She knew finding the Cronus stone was futile and tried another way to survive."

"How do you know the search was futile, Ares?" the Conqueror growled.

"Xena, don't blame me. It's been a year and nobody's found it. You know as well as I do it must have disintegrated when she came through," he said covering his mistake. "Xena, you're the Conqueror. You are always going to be a target. Be glad you stopped her before she stopped you."

"I am Ares," she replied too tired and confused to argue with the God of War. "Just get out, I need some time to think. Please."

"Alright Xena, since you asked so nicely. I'll be here if you need me, just call." With a flash of light he was gone.

Xena took off her headdress, brushing her hands through her long hair. She walked out of the bedchambers, giving the guard outside instructions to bring the rest of the prisoners into the arena. It was time to see if Desire' was telling the truth about finding her soulmate.


Gabrielle watched silently as the guards carried the bloodied and battered form of Desire'. She gasped as they brought the limp body into their cell and laid it gently across the floor on her side, placing a small pillow under her bloody neck. Even the guards looked sad as they performed their duties.

"That's her," cried Perdicus, walking toward the lifeless form. "She sold us out."

Gabrielle stepped between Perdicus and Desire'. "Leave her be, Perdicus. Let her die in peace," she said quietly. Perdicus looked at her in disbelief, then backed away. The traitor will die soon, he thought.

Gabrielle kneeled over the small form, placing her palm around Desire's face, choking back the tears. "What have they done to you?" Before she could ask for help, the cell door opened. In walked the Conqueror's healer and the handsome blonde guard that seemed so fond of the singer. Terreis walked in behind the men, carrying a basket of clean linen and a bucket of water.

The healer knelt down behind Desire' shaking his head as he surveyed the wounds. She would leave soon and be crossing the River Styx with Charon. Wordlessly he began dressing the wounds. Palemon knelt down in front of Desire', gently lifting her head up, tears streaming down his face. "Hey," he cried. "Hold on, don't get on that boat."

He watched as pale green eyes looked up at him. "Hey," came the weak voice. "Doesn't hurt. I can't feel any pain. I won't be alone for long Palemon, I have friends now, it's okay."

Terreis knelt down beside Palemon. "Terreis, take care of him, you two deserve the best." Terreis nodded, placing her arm around Palemon to comfort him. "You are a true amazon, Desire'. Queen Melosa and the amazon nation are proud of your bravery. Lao Ma told us. Be well, my friend," responded Terreis.

"Gabrielle," whispered Desire' wincing as the healer cleaned the blood from her head, the only spot she could still feel pain. "Please come." Gabrielle walked over to the dying woman. Kneeling down Gabrielle took her limp hand. "Look at her, the Conqueror. If it gets too tense, wink with your left eye. Always worked for me. She won't hurt you," she whispered as the life force drained from her body. "Other half of your soul," were the last words Desire' breathed as darkness took her to Charon's boat.

"No," cried Palemon, picking up the lifeless body and hugging his best friend as he cried for the loss of ‘their gift from the Gods'. Terreis wrapped her arm around Palemon to console him as he cried over his loss, her eyes filling with tears for her friend. The amazon nation would be in mourning today.

Footsteps could be heard as a guard walked up to the cell. "It's time to go. The Conqueror wants to see you," he said as he opened the door. Gabrielle walked to the front of the cell. "But I thought the Conqueror held off the judgements until next judgement day."

"She's the Conqueror," he stated. "She's changed her mind. Now lets go."


The Conqueror paced the arena floor as she waited for the prisoners to be brought in. She kept thinking of Desire's words. "She's here, look into her eyes, you will know her." The thoughts kept repeating over and over in her mind as the prisoners were brought in front of her, twenty men and women, all silent waiting for her to pass sentence.

They were standing before her in one single line as ordered. She began walking by them, looking them over, one by one. Each person held their head down, eyes peaking up at the Conqueror, then back to the ground praying today they would not be nailed to a cross. She stopped before a young woman with long blonde hair, emerald green eyes and alabaster skin staring forward, not at the ground. The Conqueror's heart skipped a beat then started pounding loudly in her chest. Desire' was telling the truth, she thought, walking in front of the woman, staring into her eyes, emerald green eyes staring back at her.

She turned away quickly, motioning to the guards. "Take them to the back dungeon, away from Desire'," she replied. "Except her," she added pointing at Gabrielle. "You, come with me." Gabrielle stared at her, panic in her eyes. Gods, she thought, why me? She walked toward the Conqueror and followed her to the palace. Strangely she felt warm and protected in the presence of the Conqueror.


Xena motioned for Gabrielle to sit down on the bed. Her heart was pounding, wondering why she had been summoned into the Conqueror's bedchambers. She wasn't afraid. When she looked at the Conqueror she felt a familiar wave of Déjà vu come over her. She knew she should feel frightened but instead she was calm, waiting for the Conqueror to speak. Xena walked over to the small woman, kneeled before her and stared deeply into emerald green eyes. After several tense moments, Gabrielle winked at the Conqueror with her left eye.

Xena jumped up from her kneeling position to look away from Gabrielle. "By the Gods Gabrielle, she was telling the truth. You're the one, my light."

Gabrielle looked back at Xena trying to understand the words she was hearing. "Conqueror, what do you mean?"

Xena turned around to face Gabrielle. "Call me Xena," she said, as she began taking her robe off. "Gabrielle, for the last year Desire' has been telling me about another reality where I am not the Conqueror and I travel around with a bard who is pure and good." She reached into her closet to pull out her battle leathers, sword, chakram and breastplate as she spoke. She continued speaking as she dressed. "She said that when I met her in this reality, the bond would be so strong I would feel it immediately and that my love for you would be many times greater than my love for her." Xena walked over and knelt in front of Gabrielle. "I felt it when I looked at you. That's why you're here. Did you feel it Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle thought about the question and looked back at Xena. "Strangely, I felt warm and protected. Desire' told me one day I would look into intense eyes and in those eyes looking back I would see myself, doing everything I ever dreamed of, being who I want to be and seeing all of the places I want to see. Those were my thoughts when you looked at me."

"That's gotta be it. She said we were soulmates and that she was here to make sure the bond wasn't broken."

"But she loved you Xena. I saw it in her eyes, everyone thought you were in love with her."

"She does love me Gabrielle," she replied. "I love her. She asked me to promise her that when I found you, I would go to you and not deny my feelings for you. That one day she too would find her true soulmate and feel the love I would feel for you."

Xena was talking about Desire' in the present tense. It was obvious she didn't know Desire' had passed on. Gabrielle could feel butterflies in her stomach looking at the tall beauty before her whom she had only known as the Conqueror, a ruthless warrior who had ruled the world with an iron fist. Now she kneeled before her looking only like any other beautiful woman, except that she was more beautiful than any other woman she had met and she looked back at her with such intensity, eyes filled with love.

"She would die for us so we could be together?" she asked.

She watched as Xena's expression changed from hope to horror, her eyes filling with tears at the thought of Desire' dead. "What?" she asked Gabrielle, her voice choking with tears.

"Xena," started Gabrielle, speaking softly. " She passed on just before the guards came for us. I'm sorry."

"No," she cried softly. "What have I done?" she asked as she stood up pacing. Gabrielle watched her helplessly, not knowing if she should go to her or stay way she was. It might not be a good idea to startle her, she thought, deciding to stay where she was . Xena was pacing back and forth, scratching her head, deep in thought. "No, something's not right. Everything is not precisely as it should be!" she yelled. "Think Xena, think." She turned around to Gabrielle and knelt back down.

"She told me to hold your hands. Maybe it will help us to remember, to find a clue to bring her back. May I hold your hands?" Gabrielle nodded holding her hands out for Xena. Xena grabbed both hands and closed her eyes. A wave of memories came crashing down from their life together as their hands touched.

Together they saw a young Gabrielle, "Xena, you have to take me with you, teach me everything you know." Gabrielle talking to Xena in front of a campfire, "No look you promise me if something happens to me you will not become a monster. There's only one way to end this cycle of hatred and it's through love and forgiveness." Gabrielle watching Xena praying, begging the Gods, "Please don't let that light that shines on her face go out, I couldn't stand the darkness that would follow." Xena strapped to a throne, Gabrielle tied to a post while Callisto is speaking, "Oh but it will be soon. You're about to watch the friendship of your life go up in smoke." Gabrielle is lying down, weak from fever, Xena leaning over her, telling her "Even in death Gabrielle, I will never leave you." Xena and Gabrielle sitting up on a stone pallet, wrapped in sheets, looking into each other's eyes as Gabrielle says "We're going to be together for eternity." Xena answers "Yeah."

Xena broke the contact, the images were so powerful. They looked at each absorbing the memories flooding through them. "Gabrielle, we were meant to be together. We have to make things right."

"Xena how do we get back?"

"The Cronus stone. Desire' traveled from her time back to our time to right a terrible mistake, something that separated us. Give me your hands Gabrielle. There has to be something that can help us remember."

As soon as their hands touched, another wave of memories came flooding through. Xena was on her knees, Athena standing over her ready to strike, Xena plunging her sword upward into the Goddess killing her. Xena looks over to see Ares with his hands over Eve and Gabrielle as their wounds heal and they come back to life. Next they see Xena sitting on the floor, choking from the pinch looking at Gabrielle holding both hands, "Gabrielle, if I only had thirty seconds to live, this is how I want to live them, looking into your eyes." Gabrielle is walking over a bridge toward Xena, who is wearing a red kimono, standing next to a beautiful young oriental woman. Xena tells the young woman "This is my soulmate. She is a poet like you Akemi." The last memory is of Gabrielle leaning her head against Xena's shoulders watching the sunset. The sun disappears and so does Xena.

Xena and Gabrielle jumped away from each other "Whoa," said Gabrielle, "That last memory was strange. I didn't like it."

"What do you think it meant?" asked Xena.

"Xena, Ares healed me. I was dying, maybe even dead in that first memory. Maybe Aphrodite can do the same for Desire'"

"That's it," Xena yelled jumping up. Every act has a reason. Find the reason. Death is only a beginning. She was trying to tell me. What about those last memories? They must mean something. Desire' said that a mistake was made causing us to be separated."

"Yeah," said Gabrielle. "You were playing tea with that little bitch Akemi. Maybe I killed you. Whoa, where did that come from?"

"That's it Gabrielle. I was a ghost. I didn't have to stay dead." "Come on, let's go," Xena said grabbing Gabrielle's hand. They began walking rapidly out of the room. Xena stopped and turned around to Gabrielle. "Remind me to not piss you off," she said. "Hold on, I forgot something." Xena ran inside the room, then came back out with a pair of Desire's jeans, a white blouse and her favorite gray suede cowboy boots. "Here," she said to Gabrielle, handing the clothes to her, than taking her hand and leading her down the hallway.

Callisto was standing in the hallway. She watched as the Conqueror walked toward her, leading a cute little blonde behind her. "I see it didn't take you long to find a new little friend did it Conqueror," she yelled mockingly down the hallway. The beast surfaced as she let go of Gabrielle's hand, walking protectively in front of her. Without missing a step, she grabbed one of the swords that lined the walls of the hallway, walked up to Callisto and plunged the sword through Callisto's heart and walked away. "Probably should have done that a long time ago," she stated as she made her way through the hallway.

"Xena," yelled Gabrielle.

"Relax," Xena interrupted. "Soon this reality won't exist and that didn't really happen," she said a feral grin on her face.


Desire' felt the cold stone floor, looking up at the pink haze in front of her. She recognized where she was and skipped across the stones to face Charon in his boat. She looked down at herself, naked again and just laughed. There was no time for modesty. She was confident that Xena wouldn't let her down. It would just be a matter of time before they came to get her. Besides Xena and Gabrielle would be reunited and she just felt like walking on a cloud. The worst of the nightmare was over. She stood in front of the boat waiting for Charon to notice her.

"Well what are ya just standing there for?" she heard the raspy voice say. Charon was waving his arms wildly and motioning her forward to the boat. "I don't have all day. Come on come on." "Charon, can't you come up with something original to say to second timers?" she teased. Charon looked up at her, then down her naked form as she stood in front of him, hands on her hips, smiling. "It's you again, what happened?" he asked.

"The Conqueror, she killed me again," she answered, smiling as she said the words. "So anyway," she continued, "I thought I would just hang out with you for awhile, that is if you don't mind."

"Lady," he began.

"Desire' that's my name Charon," she interrupted, giggling as the man tried to concentrate on his words, trying not to stare at her naked form. She wasn't making it easy for him. Her modesty was long gone and she continued to stand before him, smiling with her hands on her hips.

"Desire', you're gonna have to get on the boat sometime. Might as well get on now."

"No, Charon, I'm not getting on the boat. You're stuck with me a little while longer. They'll be coming for me soon." She said it with complete confidence.

"Lady, I'm busy here. I can't waste my time talking."

"Charon, it's a slow day. Nobody's here. Relax and enjoy the view," she replied with a twinkle in her eye.

Jeez he thought, this one was crazy as a loon, one very pretty naked crazy loon. "Alright you can stay, for now. So talk."

"You know, Charon, I'm happy. I did a good thing today," she said extending her hand out to Charon. "Now off the boat, come with me. I feel like dancing."

Charon took the proffered hand and stepped off of the boat. "We don't have any music."

"Charon I am going to sing." She began to hum. "Now you just clap your hands to the sound of the beat," she told him. "And follow my steps. I'm going to teach you the Electric Slide." Charon stared at the crazy beautiful creature before him and started clapping to the beat as she hummed, then began singing a very silly song,

Beer Stains on the counter,

Horses in a field.

Fireflies on the front porch.

A home cooked meal.

Riding down a dirt road

Listening to a George Strait song.

If it ain't pure and simple

It ain't gonna turn me on.

Charon followed each step, a grapevine to the right, kick left, grapevine to the left, kick right, grapevine back, kick left, left foot forward, rock back on left, left foot forward, kick right, pivot a quarter turn to the left and repeat. Charon was clapping and laughing as he followed the woman. He hadn't had this much fun in an eternity. Desire' continued singing and dancing.

Its gotta have a twang thang.

Its gotta bend a heart strang.

Like a scuffed up boot

Or a boy with two first names.

I gotta feel a deep pang

When I hear the songs you sing.

If it don't kick up a little dust

It ain't got much of a twa-ang thang.

If I tried to describe it

Well I don't think I could.

It's like swimming in a cold creek

‘cause it just feels good.

No matter where you find it

There's a down home quality.

It ain't sophisticated.

And that's just fine with me.

Its gotta have a twang thang.

Its gotta bend a heart strang.

Like a scuffed up boot

Or a boy with two first names.

I gotta feel a deep pang

When I hear the songs you sing.

If it don't kick up a little dust

It ain't got much of a twa-ang thang.

If it don't kick up a little dust

It ain't got much of a twa-ang thang.

Desire' finished the song and grabbed Charon to hug him, laughing along with him. "Charon, today was a good day to die." Before Charon could respond, a loud scream vibrated through the walls. "Youuuuu bitch!" yelled Callisto, running toward Desire'. Charon jumped between to the two. "I'm gonna kill you!" she yelled hysterically. "I know you did this!" Charon grabbed the wild blonde and held her from Desire'. "Whoa lady, obviously she didn't kill you, she's already dead or hadn't you noticed, you're dead too." Callisto tried frantically to break from Charon's grip. "I don't care, I'll get you my pretty, I'll get you," she yelled at Desire', who was standing, laughing hysterically, holding her stomach from the cramps. "And my little dog too," she replied, laughing at her own joke. "So I suppose the Conqueror killed you too. Too bad, so sad," she added sarcastically. "Youuuuuuu," Callisto screamed.

Charon decided it was time to defuse the situation by picking Callisto up and throwing her on the boat, jumping quickly in after her to hold her down and untie the boat.

"She probably should have done that a long time ago," yelled Desire' as Charon lifted her onto the boat. "Charon, if I'm not here when you get back, I've gone home." "Thank you for the entertainment, pretty lady," Charon yelled back as he waved to Desire', then turned around to Callisto, beginning his tour of the River Styx.


Gabrielle followed Xena as they walked into the dungeon, setting Desire's clothes onto the desk in the front of the room. Palemon was sitting on the dungeon floor, Desire's bloodied lifeless body nestled between his arms, Terreis kneeling beside him. Xena walked into the cell, kneeling down. "By the Gods, please forgive me," she said then began crying at the sight before her.

"She's alone in the Elysian Fields Xena," he cried. "She was so afraid to spend eternity alone and there she is alone, because of you."

"What you are talking about," Xena asked, her voice trembling as she spoke.

"When she died last time, Charon told her to fight to come back," he cried. "Her family is in another afterlife. That's what the cross means that she wears. It's a symbol of her God. She's alone, Xena, alone. She must be so scared right now." Palemon placed his head on top of Desire's head, hugging her.

"Palemon, she won't get on the boat. She's waiting for us, for me to help her."

"What are you talking about, Xena? She's dead. Even you can't raise someone from the dead."

"Please Palemon, let me try. Please leave us."

"No, Xena, leave her alone. You've done enough."

Xena looked up, searching for Gabrielle. Gabrielle walked over to the others. "Xena," she said quietly. "It's my turn to do the sensitive chat." Xena nodded and stood up out of the way.

Gabrielle looked into the blue eyes of the distraught man. "Palemon, I'm Gabrielle, Xena's soulmate."

He stared back at her unsure he heard her correctly. "You're the one?" he asked. Gabrielle nodded. "She brought us together, Palemon. Let us bring her back." Palemon looked into the sincere emerald green eyes of Gabrielle. "Promise you won't hurt her," he asked.

"I promise Palemon. Trust me," she answered. "Wait outside with Terreis, please," she added softly, her voice filled with compassion. Palemon lifted himself up, placing Desire's body gently on the floor, her head softly on the pillow. His shirt, pants and face were covered with Desire's blood. He walked out of the dungeon with Terreis.

"Gabrielle, call Aphrodite."

"Aphrodite, Aphrodite." It took only two calls and with a twinkle of light, the Goddess appeared before them. She looked past Xena and Gabrielle to the crumpled body on the floor. "OH ZEUS," she yelled, placing her hand over her mouth as she looked at Desire's body, "You killed her, you really killed her!" she yelled, horrified by the sight. She ran over to Desire's body. Kneeling down, she placed her hand on Desire's cheek, stroking the still warm flesh, "Oh little one, I'm so sorry." Aphrodite bowed her head in silence, then turned around to confront Xena. "How could you do this? She was my friend. She wanted to help you," she growled, a ball of fire appearing in her hand, her hand back ready to throw it at Xena.

Gabrielle jumped in front of Xena, her hands out in front of her. "Wait, Aphrodite. We're still friends right?"

"I can't believe I have spent this much time trying to keep you with her," she growled again, the fireball fading from her hand.

"Aphrodite," began Xena.

"Don't you talk to me warrior babe," interrupted Aphrodite.

Gabrielle turned to Xena, "I do the sensitive chats, remember?" Xena nodded as Gabrielle turned toward Aphrodite. "Aphrodite, Desire' planned this."

"She planned to be beaten into a bloody pulp and die," she replied.

"Let me explain. Desire' figured out Ares had the Cronus stone. He had the motive to keep Xena in this reality. She knew he would never give the stone up so even if she got Xena and I together we would still be stuck here. So she had to figure out how to get Ares here with the stone." Xena was very impressed as she listened to Gabrielle. "Ares once gave me my life back by giving up his God hood. She knew you could do the same for her, and once we leave this reality you will be a Goddess again. Only why does she think Ares will object to you giving up your God hood and just give us the stone?"

"I know why," answered Aphrodite. "Just like I can't survive as a Goddess without him, he can't survive as a God without me. We balance each other out. If I'm mortal, he will become unstable and eventually mortal. He would get his God hood back in the other reality. Desire' knew that from the show. Good plan, albeit rather intense. She really loves you guys, you know."

"I know Aphrodite. Will you help her, please?" begged Xena.

"Of course I will, for Gabrielle. You I'm still mad at. Call Ares, I want him to see this."

Xena turned around and walked outside of the cell. "Ares, show yourself," she yelled.

With a flash of light, Ares was standing against the open cell door on the other side of the room. "Xena, I told you I would be here when you needed me." Ares looked into the cell at Gabrielle. "I see you've found the irritating little blonde, Xena," he spat. "What can I do for you?" he asked Xena.

"Nothing bro," came Aphrodite's voice from behind Gabrielle. Ares jumped up when he saw Aphrodite, her hands over Desire'. "Aphrodite, what are you doing?" he yelled, walking toward the cell. In a flash Xena intercepted him, slamming him against the cell bars along the opposite wall. "You're not going anywhere, Ares," growled Xena, a feral grin on her face. "We just wanted you to watch. Go ahead Aphrodite."

"Aphrodite," yelled Ares as he tried unsuccessfully to escape Xena's grasp. "You don't want to do that. You know what will happen."

Xena was becoming very agitated by the God of War and deciding he was talking too much, hit him in the stomach with a rising knee, making sure not to lose her tight grip on him. "You Ares," she taunted, "will become powerless if you don't give us the stone."

Behind her, Aphrodite was in deep concentration, running her hands over the broken body. A soft light glowed above Desire' as her wounds began healing, then disappearing as the life force flowed back into her body.

Desire' could feel the life flow back into her veins under the touch of the Goddess. She could feel the pain slowly leaving her body as the power of the Goddess surged through her, healing her wounds, giving her strength back. She was very weak, feeling too weak to open her eyes and stand up. The thought of defeat in the eyes of the God of War propelled her to fight awakening the green-eyed monster. She opened her eyes, looking into the gentle eyes of the Goddess of Love looking back at her with a smile that lit the room, a tear running down her face.

"I didn't know Goddesses cried," she said with the weakness of a kitten.

"We don't," laughed the Goddess. "Must've sprung a leak," she continued as she helped Desire' to her feet. Desire' stumbled forward into the Goddess, her body still weak from the day's events. Aphrodite grabbed her pulling her into a tight hug. "You did good, little one," she whispered in Desire's ear.

She looked around the dungeon, Aphrodite holding her up on still unsteady legs. Xena was staring at Ares across the room, wearing her familiar battle leathers and breastplate. Gabrielle stood to the side watching intently at the scene unfolding before her. Ares was standing behind her, disgust in his face. "Ah jeez, sis, why did you have to go and do that!" he yelled.

"You lose Ares," stated Desire, a feral grin on her face as she enjoyed her victory.

"You haven't won anything!" he yelled, his voice low, booming through the dungeon. "I still have the Cronus stone little girl."

"Uh oh," muttered Xena at the words ‘little girl'. Ares was in trouble.

Out sprang the green-eyed monster as her strength returned. Desire' walked past Xena over to Ares standing face to face with him, her eyes never leaving his. Then using all of her strength, she pulled her left hand back, hand balled in a fist and punched the God of War in the stomach, smirking as he doubled over in pain from the blow. "Don't call me little!" she growled through clenched teeth, the sound of her voice vibrating through the stone walls.

She took advantage of Ares doubled over and followed the punch with a rising knee to his chin, snapping his head back and sending him stumbling backward onto the ground. "And that one, Ares, is for Velasca!"

She stepped back, looking around the room. Xena was watching, pride in her eyes. Gabrielle watched in stunned silence while the Goddess was busy laughing at her brother. Desire' turned back to watch the God as he jumped back to his feet. "The stone is of no use to you Ares. You will quickly grow weak, as you become unstable without the Goddess of Love. You know that and if you don't give me the stone, I will be there waiting to suck the God out of you. Now do you really want me to be a Goddess?" She looked at him, a wild crazed look in her eyes. "Or do you want to work with me," she growled as she reached over, pinching his nipple between her fingernails so hard the God let out a scream of pain.

"Now Desire'," he started, his voice low and sultry. "You have won, you have conquered Xena and now you have my full attention." He leaned toward Desire', spinning her around so her back rested against the God, his arms around her as surges of God like electricity enveloped her. He would not be denied twice.

Xena did not like the scene before her and began walking toward the God and Desire', her sword drawn, her face filled with anger. "Ares, leave her alone!" she yelled wanting to protect her friend.

Ares pulled his left hand back, a ball of fire appearing in his palm. "Back off Xena!" he growled. "This is between her and me!" He waited until Xena stepped back, placing her sword in its sheath, the ball of fire disappearing from his hand. She stood waiting to see what game Ares would play next.

Desire' watched, placing her left hand around the dark God's face, stroking his cheek, "Good God," she purred, low and sultry. "I believe you were going to say something before we were so rudely interrupted." Her eyes rolled back as she felt the waves of electricity shoot through her body from the God's touch. She rolled her head around looking at Xena, her eyes glazed over with lust. Looking into Xena's eyes, she winked her left eye knowing Xena would see the sign and back down.

The God pulled the small brunette tightly against his body, his hands caressing her breast with one hand while the other hand slowly moved down her stomach, over her thigh as he teased her with the power of his God hood. She moaned under his touch as he began to speak. "I was about to offer you what you want, Desire'," he whispered in her ear, licking and caressing the sensitive earlobe. "You've seen the future that could be Desire', a world with women in power, homosexuality is embraced and your love with another woman is celebrated by the world. If you go back, all of that will be gone," he growled, his hand cupping her breast, gently stroking and pinching the hardened nipple. "Now isn't that really the greater good? Together with me you can change your destiny and rewrite history," he added. Desire' moaned, wrapping her right arm behind her, grabbing the God's butt and pulling his bulging crotch closer to her own backside while pulling the God's head forward with her left arm, claiming his mouth in response. She kissed the God with all of the passion and lust of a Goddess, then released his mouth gazing into his eyes. Ares stared back, a goofy grin on his face, lust building in his loins.

She stared at him for a moment, her eyes still glazed over from the electrical charges of the God, her right hand stroking his butt. "I could have all of this and you?" she asked turning around to face the God, pressing her body against the length of his well-muscled form. She reached up to place her hands around the God's face, stroking the skin, looking up at him waiting for him to reply. "Yes," he said breathlessly. "I can give you the World beyond the Known World and yes, we will be together. You will be my new Warrior Queen. Xena and Gabrielle are together now. Isn't that what you really want?"

Desire' pulled the God's head toward her, kissing him furiously, her tongue demanding entrance. The God responded kissing her back wildly as he moaned at the woman's touch, her hands running through his chest, stroking his nipples fast and furiously. She broke the kiss, her head following the trail of fire created by her hands. "Yes," she said, her breathing now heavy, "Warrior Queen sounds so nice," she purred between gulps of air. She slid her hands down the dark muscled abdomen of the God, her head following the trail. She licked and sucked the lower muscles of his stomach as she ran her hands over the leather pants covering his legs, feeling for a different bulge in his pant pockets.

The dark God was staring down at her, his lower lip hanging down, mouth open, lust in his eyes, oblivious to everything except the pleasure she was giving him.

Aphrodite walked over to where Xena stood with Gabrielle. She was not gonna watch her brother doing the nasty. "Xena," she whispered. "You're not gonna just stand there and watch are you? Do something!"

Xena leaned over to the Goddess to whisper back into her ear, her eyes never leaving the show before her. "Ssh, it's part of her plan."

"What, fornicating?" she asked excitedly. "I'm out of here," she added snapping her fingers. Nothing happened. She looked around the room desperately and snapped her finger again. Again nothing happened. "Rats," she said exasperated.

Xena looked over at the frazzled Goddess and grabbed her by the arm. "Calm down Aphrodite. She's in control."

"Yea and my brother is loving every minute of it. How can you be so calm? They're consummating a deal to conquer you!" she whispered loudly.

"Desire' needs the stone. She's found it. Can't you see the bulge?"

"That's what I'm worried about warrior babe."

Xena laughed at the Goddess. "Not that bulge Aphrodite. It's in his pocket."

The Goddess looked over to where Xena was pointing, finally seeing what Desire' was really doing. "Oh." Xena laughed quietly not wanting to disturb the dark God and the small brunette. "Not the way I would've have done it, but you got to admit she has her own style," added Xena, chuckling.

Desire continued licking the God's stomach as she ran her hands over the pockets. She could feel the bulge of the stone in his left pant pocket. She lowered her mouth over the bulge in the center, blowing warm breath through the leather. Ares shuddered, his head back, eyes closed enjoying every sensation going through his body. Desire' reached up to unbuckle his belt, then slowly unzipped the pants, only halfway down to tease him. Then with one smooth motion she raised her body up the length of his, her hands rubbing his thighs as she reached her head up to kiss the dark God passionately. With her lips over his, she slid her hands down the sides of his stomach and down into the pockets of his pants slowly pushing the leather downward. With her right hand she grabbed hold of the stone, making sure it was firmly in her grasp. She slowly pulled her head back, looking lustfully into the God's eyes. "That God like energy feels so good," she moaned. "Too bad back home you'd be nothing but a big OLE walkin talkin vibrator," she mocked, swinging her head back with all of the strength and power she could muster, then swinging it forward slamming into the God of War's forehead with a enough force to send Ares backward and unconscious, the Cronus stone firmly in her hand.

The impact sent Desire' flying back. "Ouch, shit, shit ouch, ouch, ouch," she yelled wildly, holding her head in her hand. She was stumbling trying to gain her footing yelling wildly from the pain pounding through her skull. "Shit, that hurts, damn, it looks so easy when you do it, owwww!" she yelled pointing at Xena. Xena, Gabrielle and Aphrodite were standing a few feet in front of her laughing as she finally gave into her wobbly knees, collapsing onto them, still holding her head. She dropped the stone on the floor next to her, running her hands through her hair, holding onto the scalp trying to make the pain go away. "It's not funny," she whined, trying to blink the stars out of her eyes. "Argghhhh, that hurt!" she continued looking up at the laughing bard, warrior and Goddess. "Damn, Xena, how do you do that?" she asked. Xena just shrugged trying to contain her laughter. Desire' stood up, looking down at herself, realizing she was still naked yet again. "Would somebody bring me some fucking clothes," she yelled in frustration. "Enough of the naked Desire' already!" she added. Within seconds, Gabrielle was standing in front of her with a shirt, jeans and boots. "Thank you," she said taking the clothes and putting them on. As soon as she was dressed, she reached out to grab Gabrielle's hand. ‘I'm so sorry for scaring you like that. I didn't know how else to get you in to see Xena."

Gabrielle reached out to Desire' hugging her. "Don't apologize. Thank you for bringing us together."

"My pleasure, now maybe I can get us back to the right time," she answered.

Desire' looked down at the floor, picked up the stone and held it out to Aphrodite. "I think we need this." Aphrodite took the proffered gift. "Good job, little one, but you were enjoying yourself way too much." Aphrodite pulled Desire' into a bone crushing hug. "Got the stone, didn't I?" answered Desire'.

Xena was still standing across the room, afraid to move closer. "How come she can call you ‘little' and she gets a hug. You just yell at me," she whined.

"Maybe cause she doesn't beat me to death, princess," she answered sarcastically.

Xena bowed her head toward the floor. "I deserved that," she pouted. Desire' knew the experience had been very painful for her friend and seeing the expression on her face as she lowered her head, broke her heart. "Xena," Desire' started as she looked at her from across the room. Then, deciding to break the tension, she took off at full speed running toward the warrior princess. She jumped into her arms, wrapping arms and legs around her and hitting her with enough force to knock her backward onto her back. Desire' landed on top, sitting on her and laughing. "Didn't expect that did ya, princess," she exclaimed. "Don't call me princess," Xena yelled back laughing. "Don't talk back warrior, I know your ticklish spots," teased Desire'. "You wouldn't," Xena laughed. "I would, warrior," she answered back as she proceeded to tickle the sides of Xena's stomach, giggling as Xena howled from the tickles. Finally Xena rolled Desire' onto her back, sitting on top of her, pinning her arms so she couldn't move, the two laughing the entire time. "Does this mean you forgive me?" Xena asked.

Desire' looked up into soft blue eyes. "Hmm, under one condition."

"Name your terms," the warrior answered.

"Admit that you were wrong. Say I, Xena of Amphipolis, was wrong. Desire' Love was right, all along. My bard is truly wonderful and I am the luckiest woman on the planet to have her love and I will never, ever leave her again, even in death. Say it warrior and I will forgive you." Desire' looked over at Gabrielle and winked at her. She looked up at Xena who appeared deep in thought. "Say it warrior, I'm losing my patience and you don't want to make the little lady mad, do you," she smirked. "Emphasize the wrong part, warrior," she added laughing.

Xena looked down at Desire'. "I, Xena of Amphipolis, was wrong. Desire' Love was right, all along. My bard is truly wonderful and I am the luckiest woman on the planet to have her love and I will never, ever leave her again, even in death."

"Very good. I forgive you, Xena, now get the hell off of me, you aren't exactly light you know."

Xena lifted herself off of Desire'. Standing up she offered her hand and helped her onto her feet.

"Big OLE walkin, talkin vibrator," Xena repeated the words laughing.

"It was all I could think of on short notice," Desire' replied joining in on the laughter.

"He offered you a pretty nice future. What made you decide against it?" Xena asked.

"Xena he was lying. There is no way he wouldn't have sucked up to Hitler."

"Lao Ma was right. You are a very wise woman," Xena replied. The two brunettes looked at one another, pale green eyes looking into soft blue eyes. Xena reached down, placing her arms around the shorter woman, pulling her into a gentle hug. "Thank you cowgirl," she whispered. "I will never forget you."

Desire' could feel the tears coming. Oh, hell, she thought, why do I try to fight it. My face just leaks. She hugged Xena tightly. "I will never forget you, either." She pulled away from Xena. "Besides I have learned way too much since I've been here. I'm gonna miss everyone."

"What have you learned here," asked Xena.

"Like not to be so goddamned modest anymore, ancient Greece and their Gods have seen me naked," Desire' answered laughing.

"Desire'," interrupted Gabrielle. "Speaking of missing people, Palemon and Terreis are outside."

"I'll be back," Desire' replied and ran to the door. Slowly she opened it and peered out. Palemon was staring back at her, eyes wide open. She walked out and threw her arms around the handsome man. He hugged her tightly. "Is it really you, Desire'?" he whispered.

"Yes, it's me Palemon. I'm okay, it was all part of the plan, maybe not the smartest plan, but it got results," she whispered back. They broke their hug, as Terreis came over to hug Desire'.

"Welcome back," she said.

"I have to go. They're waiting for me. I probably will never see you two again." The idea saddened Desire', once again her eyes were filling with tears. "I love you both, goodbye." She turned around and walked quickly back into the dungeon. Aphrodite was waiting, watching the door as she walked in. Xena and Gabrielle were passing the time in their own way, very passionately. Damn, thought Desire', Gabrielle has one sexy back. She should go backless all of the time. Shut up you pervert, yelled the little voice.

"Alright guys," yelled Desire', clapping as she walked in. "We're not through yet. I believe we are on to Jappa," she added.

The four women stood together in a semicircle holding hands so they could all make the passage together safely.

"Okay guys, this stone has five ride for free trips left in it. Now its gonna take four just to get to Jappa, leaving one for me to go home, so lets not screw this up okay," Desire' stated. "Otherwise," she added, pointing to Xena and Gabrielle, "You guys are stuck with me for good and if that happens, I promise you princess I will make your life a living hell. So what do we do Aphrodite?"

"I need you to think of the finale, a good moment before Miss suicidal warrior over here goes and gets her head whacked off," answered Aphrodite.

Xena's eyes bulged out of her head at the sound of her head being whacked off. Aphrodite looked at Xena. "Oh yes you did, warrior babe, then you had Gabby pick up your headless body for nothing. This time we're shooting for a kinder, gentler death. Desire' will explain the rest when you get there. So Desire' how about think "If I had thirty seconds bla bla bla and at the count of three we will go."

"Gotcha, at three," answered Desire'.


Thirty seconds to live


Thirty seconds to live


Desire' looked over as Gabrielle turned around, facing Xena, her beautiful back facing Desire'.

In a burst of light all four women disappeared from the dungeon.


Chapter Twenty-Four-Jappa Friend in Need My Ass

Desire' could feel the cool grass as she landed into another time, another place. She looked around for Xena, Gabrielle and Aphrodite. She did not see Xena and Gabrielle until she stood up and turned around.

To her amazement, in front of her stood a beautiful Japanese teahouse. There was a narrow wood plank bridge extending from the end of the ground to the porch of the structure. The porch was raised above the pond surrounding the house. Four round posts in front of the building supported the roof, with an additional post on each side, a wooden beam standing eighteen inches from the floor wrapped around the building. In the middle of the house itself was a large redwood door. The front walls appeared to be paper, an orange glow coming from the light inside. To the sides of the building hung orange paper Japanese lanterns.

She stared frozen to the ground below her. In the middle of the bridge she could see Xena in a red Kimono walking away from the teahouse toward Gabrielle. "Uh oh, she's dead already." Following behind her was a young oriental woman. "Its that little bitch Akemi," she said to herself. "Damn she is kind of cute but she looks like she's twelve Xena. What were you thinking?" In front of Xena was Gabrielle. Behind her stood the ghost killer and behind him, Kenji. She watched as Xena began to introduce Akemi to Gabrielle.

Finally Desire' found her feet and began walking, then running at full speed to the bridge. After reaching the bridge she continued across, pushing her way through a confused monk and even more confused ghost killer.

"Time out, time out!" she yelled praying that Xena and Gabrielle would recognize her. By now Gabrielle had turned around staring at the little brunette running towards her and her soulmate. She grabbed Gabrielle by the shoulder. "So what's the plan? What have I missed besides Xena being dead and all? Is this where you tell her to go get your body, yadda yadda while you play in the teahouse until the Hoover demon comes and you all try to kill him?"

They stood in stunned silence for what seemed like an eternity until Xena walked up to Desire'. "You made it cowgirl," Xena said as she hugged Desire'.

Desire' stepped back and stared at everyone present. With her head held down she whispered to Gabrielle. "Wish I could have gotten back here before we got to this point."

Gabrielle put her hand on her shoulders and said "Hey you're here now. We can use all of the help we can get."

"You're right." Desire said. "Okay so I suppose you know Xena is dead and you can bring her back by the second sunset after death right?"

Gabrielle nodded as Akemi walked toward the trio. "I want to give Gabrielle a gift to keep her safe on her journey."

Desire' began to laugh. "Oh no you're not. We don't have time for that crap. Gabrielle you can get a tattoo at another time." She stared with icy green eyes at the young oriental woman. "And just when were you gonna spring that crap on Xena about staying dead to avenge those souls?" Xena and Gabrielle stared at her with their mouths wide open but before either one could say anything a very irate Desire' began laying into those around her.

"Yeah, I'm from the future remember or did you not tell her Xena? That's okay but I was sent here for a reason and we are going to do things my way. By the way Akemi, just how the hell can 40,000 people die in a fire during a snowstorm? Don't you guys know when to yell "Fire" so people can run? Hello, anyone heard of the tuck and roll. If ya got fire on your back don't be running into a straw hut when there is ice and snow on the ground! Doesn't that seem just a bit odd to you?" She looked over at Akemi staring back at her with big doe eyes. Desire' pointed her finger at Akemi. "You do hear me don't you Akemi? Or are you listening for snow falling on cedars? Heart beating faster Akemi? Oh that's right you're dead." She turned around and glared at Xena. "So miss guilt trip, you're saving 40,000 souls of very stupid people at the risk of destroying your soulmate? Okay forget that, I just had to get it off of my chest. Here's the deal."

She turned toward the ghost killer who just stood staring at the crazy woman. "You're plan ain't gonna work. Mr. Hoover demon has been drinking from the fountain of strength so it would be stupid to put this plan in motion right Mr. Ghost Killer? Are you just suicidal?" He nodded than shook his head in startled agreement. "Okay here's the plan. Gabrielle, you go to the fountain of strength. You'll need a sword of some sort to open the fountain. Get some water and bring it here. Oh and Gabrielle do me a favor. Get a waterskin to put the water in." Gabrielle looked at her with bemusement in her eyes.

Before she could object the small brunette turned around looking at Xena. She walked up to Xena with her right hand extended pointing at her chest. "And you" she said with fire in those pale green eyes, "You wait here until Gabrielle gets back. You are going to need all the help you can get. Let Gabrielle help you. You can beat the Hoover demon with the strength from the water. Don't let this thing go any farther."

Gabrielle stood there absorbing all of the information coming from the fiery brunette. It finally sunk in what the woman had said earlier, Xena has to stay dead. She began to tremble at the thought as tears threatened to cloud her stoic face. She grabbed Desire' and whipped her around until they were staring at each other, pale green eyes looking into emerald green eyes. "What do you mean Xena has to stay dead to avenge those souls?" Xena looked over at her soulmate, seeing the pain in those eyes. She felt as though she had been punched hard in the stomach. Xena began to talk but was interrupted by a hand in her face motioning for her to be quiet as Desire' began to speak. "You hush. You're already in the doghouse as far as I'm concerned." She turned around to Gabrielle. All of the anger and attitude had washed from the brunette's face. She could only think of the pain this wondrous young woman standing before her must be feeling. As tears welled up in her eyes she began to speak.

"Gods I am so sorry Gabrielle. I shouldn't have blurted it out like that without explaining." The brunette looked back at Akemi with icy dead eyes as she growled, "Akemi you had better back me up on this. I will give you the benefit of the doubt since you are kinda cute and figure maybe you didn't know this little bit of info but I will be damned if I am going to see this lifebond cut down in its prime!" She turned around to look at Gabrielle. "This is why I'm here, Gabrielle. Those souls have to be avenged to reach a state of grace, so the party responsible has to be dead and stay dead for that to happen even after Xena releases them from the Hoover demon's grasp."

Desire' turned to look at the ghost killer and Kenji, her anger mounting. "By the way, this vengeance in the after life is a bunch of crap. Whoever the head honcho is out here really needs to rethink that." She turned back to Xena who stood silent, watching with intensity, then turned to look at Gabrielle. "But miss guilt trip!" she yelled, "Your soulmate, isn't responsible. Yodoshi is."

Xena stepped in between the small blonde and the small brunette. "How do you know this?" Desire' looked up into those incredible blue eyes melting once again. "I'm working for Aphrodite, remember. This is my mission, why I'm here. She found out about it after it was way too late to help you guys. It was evil Mr. Suck and blow who kept the flames going. There was no storm that day just Mr. Evil dude blowing the fire around. There were lit torches everywhere and he was on a mission to destroy everyone in the village and make a name for himself as an evil bad dude. Plus I guess the guy was really hungry.

Those guys were attacking you and when you hit em with fire they tried desperately to jump on the ground but Yodoshi blew em into the houses and everything else that was made of flammable material. He blew the doors to the houses shut so that people couldn't even get out of their homes. It's his dead ass that's needed to avenge those souls. You just have to free em cause that's the kinda gal you are. So once you finish this guy off, Gabrielle can put your ashes in the fountain and ‘poof' you guys sail off into the sunset."

Desire' looked up into the unconvinced eyes of Xena. "Xena have I lied to you yet?" Xena looked down and shook her head.

Xena looked down at the little brunette, compassion filling her eyes as she whispered in her ear "You've always spoken the truth." Desire' tried to shake off the tremors that ran through her body at the sound of this beautiful woman's voice. Shake it off. She belongs with Gabrielle. This is destiny you idiot. This kind of love doesn't exist in your world.

"Good. You know Aphrodite has spent the better part of a couple millennium to correct this mistake so you guys can be together and I am not about to fail this mission."

After a moment of silence Gabrielle began to speak. "Wait. What about Xena's body? I need to get her body back first."

Desire' turned to face the blonde warrior. "You know it's nice to talk to someone without getting a crick in my neck. Gabrielle, I will get her body. It's not something you should see. Please don't ask me anymore."

Gabrielle just stared at the brunette. She could not figure out what could possess a woman to go to such extraordinary lengths to help her save her soulmate. Xena had looked at her with such affection yet she felt no jealousy toward the woman. "Wait, I can't let you go. Xena is my soulmate and it's my responsibility to bring her back. Besides you're just a singer. You can't go into a Samurai war camp without getting killed."

Desire' turned around to look at Gabrielle. "Gabrielle, I have numerous talents," Desire' purred. "Besides, I'm from the future. I know where they are and what you did to get Xena's body back. I'm a black belt in karate, a champion horse rider, the amazons taught me how to use a sword and as far as the whip, I think I taught Xena a few things about how to use that." She finished with a devilish and seductive grin winking at the Warrior Princess.

She looked back at Gabrielle her eyes softened, "Gabrielle, her body is in bad condition. Please let me do this so you will never have to wake up with nightmares of such a sight. I can handle myself." Gabrielle reluctantly agreed. "Akemi, a sword please and Kenji, get me a horse and some rope and meet me back here. You're coming with me. No need losing your head around here. Besides," she said with a wicked grin, "Tall, dark and deadly over there isn't exactly light and I may need help getting her dead white, naked ass up over the horse when we leave." She laughed as she ducked under a playful jab from Xena.

Xena grabbed the small brunette and pulled her into a hug whispering in her ear, "Can I talk to you for a moment?"

"Sure" replied Desire. The two walked across the bridge, out of earshot of their friends. Xena turned around to confront Desire'.

"Did I miss a part of the plan? Or is this just payback for the flogging thing? I just had my head chopped off! I thought the plan was a kinder, gentler death!"

Desire' stood her ground looking up at the very pissed off ghost. "Did he have a Kiwi accent?" she asked trying to suppress a belly laugh at the stupid question.

"What!" Xena yelled.

"Did he have a Kiwi accent? You know the guy that whacked your head off," she asked again still grinning at the exasperated ghost in front of her. Xena just stared back at her frozen.

"Never mind," replied Desire' laughing. "Did it hurt?"

"What do you think? It wasn't the most pleasant moment of my life! Why are you asking me now?!" Xena grabbed Desire' spinning her around so they were face to face.

"I just wanted to know if it was gonna hurt when you whack my head off after I tell you what I think went wrong," she said still laughing nervously.

"I'm not gonna kill you," replied Xena through clenched teeth as she playfully smacked Desire' on the forehead. "What do you think happened?"

"Aphrodite said at the count of three. I thought she meant: one, two, three and then go. I was thinking of you with the pinch. Instead she went on the count of three."

Xena's eyes grew wide with bewilderment, cocking her head to the side. "What's the difference?"

Desire' was now dead serious as she gave her explanation. "Well, on the count of three means one, two and go on three. At the count of three means one, two, three and go. Big difference. She said at the count of three and went on three not at the count of three."

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!" she yelled back.

"Oh and your plan to defeat 20,000 Samurai warriors was smart. Gabrielle, take the army and go over there where no one is and I'll just go up the middle alone, in a bikini and fight 20,000 Samurais alone!" Desire' yelled back.

"Okay, okay, point taken but you know there were only 1,000 Samurais," Xena replied defensively

"Excuse me, then the plan was genius!" yelled Desire' sarcastically, throwing her hands into the air. "What about the mushroom cloud?"

"What's a mushroom cloud?"

"Was there a big explosion, you know, caused by your chakram?"

"No, just lots of warriors and arrows and drums beating."

"Tapert just has a sick sense of humor," muttered Desire'.

"You're doing it again. How do you always do it?" Xena asked, throwing her hands up in exasperation.

"Do what?" asked Desire' giggling.

"You change the subject," Xena answered.

"What were we talking about?" asked Desire'.

"On the count of three. Why didn't you just think of that moment for the counts of one two and three and four?"

"Sure in hind sight that would've worked. You could have suggested it you know. This hero stuff is new to me. Besides I'm the one who has to clean up the mess."

Xena was calm now. How could she be mad at this woman who had already given so much and was still willing to sacrifice herself so she could be reunited with her soulmate in life. But curiosity had gotten the best of her and she just had to ask, "So just what were you thinking on the count of three?"

Desire' scratched her head, her eyes looking at the scenery around her as she avoided the blazing blue eyes staring at her waiting for a response. "On three, Gabrielle turned around. She was wearing the back less dress I bought her. It distracted me and I thought about how lovely her back looked without that big OLE dragon tattoo, the gift Akemi was about to offer her."

"What!" Xena yelled, teeth once again clenched as she tried to contain her anger. "You see some flesh and suddenly Gabrielle not getting a tattoo is more important than me not getting my head whacked off!"

Desire' began to tremble. Xena seemed to be really pissed off and she knew she had blown it. She still had to fight her way through a war camp and retrieve her body, a feat she really wasn't sure if she could accomplish. Xena was glaring directly into her eyes. Desire' stared back, motionless but afraid to break contact with the warriors glare. Then, taking her own advice, she winked with her left eye and raging blue eyes turned soft as Xena just smiled and laughed. "Sorry I guess I just lost my head for a second."

"Funny. Ghost humor. I feel better."

"Hey just don't you lose your head over this."

"Keep the jokes coming Warrior Pot." The comment was lost on Xena. "Ya know, I could go back again in time to earlier. It could be done again," muttered Desire'. She would do anything to make it up to Xena, anything to erase the guilt of her stupidity.

Xena shook her head. She did not just hear that did she? She whipped her head around looking at the top of her friend's head. "No you cannot do it again. Then you can't go home. You know that." She paused, looking at the woman trying to figure out the motivation for such words. "You have guilt issues don't you?"

"Yeah, shows huh?"

"Do I look like that?"

"Way worse."

"Point taken."

Xena reached toward her friend wrapping her arms around her in a reassuring hug.

Desire' hugged her back trying desperately not to feel a thing wrapped inside the strong hands of the warrior princess. "Hey I didn't travel 2,500 years back in time just to totally screw up. I won't let you down." Jeez, she thought. The woman is dead and she still feels warm. "Now go over there and give your soulmate some sugar. I know she needs it now." Desire' broke her grip from the beautiful tall warrior and they walked back over the bridge together.

Gabrielle stood in front of Akemi, her hands on her hips. "And just what was that all about?" She shot Xena an accusatory look.

Xena raised her right hand, pinching her middle finger and thumb. "Little communication problem."

Before Gabrielle could form another sentence, Desire' reached her hand in a hushing motion over Gabrielle's lips. She could tell the poor woman feared she was being omitted yet again, from an important part of the plan. "Gabrielle, I promise you, nothing is being kept from you. Xena just wanted to know how I could screw up and get the time wrong. I'm sorry."

Gabrielle relaxed and grabbed her hand. "You have nothing to be sorry about. Can I ask you a question before you leave?" Desire' just nodded. "Why are you doing this?"

Desire' could feel a wave of that familiar melancholy she felt every day of her life. Tears threatened to cloud her eyes as a flash of loves lost ran through her mind. She realized this is it. For the greater good. But I thought fighting for the greater good was supposed to feel good. This doesn't feel good. It hurts. Finally she looked directly into the blonde's eyes. "The kind of love you and Xena share doesn't exist in my world. People don't even want to spend a lifetime with one person, let alone eternity. If I could feel for another woman one tenth of the love you feel for Xena I would die a happy woman."

Gabrielle watched as Desire' fought to contain her tears. "You already feel that love for a woman. Why would you risk so much to lose that?"

Desire' tore her eyes away from Gabrielle. She could hear the sound of another small piece of her heart breaking as she thought about her time with the Conqueror. After a few moments that felt like an eternity, she slowly raised her eyes to face Gabrielle, one lone tear escaping from each eye. Gabrielle waited watching the anguish wash over her new friend's face. "I was lucky enough to love the Conqueror but Xena's heart belongs to you. Everything is precisely as it should be." Desire' paused and added "If I should die today, know that I am happy."

As she finished her statement, Gabrielle drew her closer, wrapping her arms around her in a friendly embrace. "Thank you. How can I ever repay you?"

"Just live long and happy with her and don't stop writing about your adventures," she replied as a tear escaped down her face. "We want a Xena movie," she added smiling. She broke away from the blonde. "Oh and give me your whip okay," Gabrielle unhooked the whip and handed it to her. "I know what you can do to repay me," she said with a devilish grin. "When this is over, you can tell me how you got to be so good with a whip." Gabrielle stood in stunned silence with a toothy grin and blush that seemed to reach down to her toes. "Never mind, I got my answer."

Desire' turned toward the teahouse looking at Akemi. "Okay Akemi, I need a sword. Let's go. Oh and you better have some decent clothes for me. Make me look like a Samurai," she said with her arms spread wide as she walked toward the young girl. As she began to walk through the door she looked back toward Xena and Gabrielle. Blonde and brunette were sharing an intimate embrace as green eyes melted into blue. Xena's hands were around the young woman's face as they shared a soul-melting kiss. Desire' turned around to enter the teahouse. "Now that's a kiss, none of this water exchanging crap," she whispered.

A short time later Desire' walked out of the teahouse, wearing a loose fitting turquoise shirt with a v-neck collar, chain mail covering her chest, arms and back. A long black skirt was wrapped around her waist. I can't believe I'm wearing a skirt to fight in, she thought. That's just taking this femme thing too far. Thank goodness no one can see my boots. They just don't match. A katana hung on her right side and the whip bound to the left side of her belt. She tossed a waterskin toward Gabrielle. "Didn't want you to forget." Desire' walked toward the bridge. Xena was standing before her on the front of the bridge. "Xena, I won't let you down. I will meet you and Gabrielle at the fountain of strength before the sun sets tomorrow. Be safe."

Bright blue sapphires stared into jade green eyes. Looking into those eyes, she saw something she had never seen before in her lifetime, pure love from a friend. Xena would surely die for her just as she was prepared to die for Xena. Of course she's dead already. Kind of takes the point away. Desire' realized it had always been about the love and this feeling she had of friendship was a far greater feeling than she had ever felt with a lover. It was about giving, not taking. A peaceful feeling took over her soul. She would never be alone again.

"Xena" added Desire'. "If I do fail, we still have one more chance to go back in time. Make sure you do it."

Xena watched the transformation on Desire's face. She looked so peaceful and confident her mission would be a success. "Preparing for the worst, cowgirl? Remember what you told me. Just make it your best. You will succeed. Be safe dear friend, I will see you soon." Xena reached around for one last hug, then stepped aside and watched as Desire' walked across the bridge. Kenji was waiting on a gray mare, holding the reins of a majestic white horse and a black steed. "Good thinking, Kenji," she said as she turned around toward the teahouse. "Gabrielle," she yelled. "Take the white horse." Gabrielle waved acknowledgement as Desire' mounted the black steed and rode off with Kenji.


Gabrielle walked across the bridge toward Xena. She gave her a passionate hug. "See you soon my love," she said and walked from the bridge, mounted the white stallion and rode off to Mt. Fuji. Xena turned around and walked toward the teahouse.


Gabrielle pushed her horse along the path to Mt. Fuji. Even at a gallop the journey was a long one. As she neared the mountains, she jumped off the horse, leading him by the reins to cool off. She climbed up and over rocks, searching for the opening of the fountain. A glimmer of gold caught her eyes in the moonlight. She carefully climbed down the rocks leaving her mount at the top.

A large round, golden piece of metal with an intricate design protruded from the side of the cliff. In the center was a slot large enough to fit the tip of a katana. "This must be the key," she said to herself. She unsheathed the katana, placing the tip inside the opening and turned the blade clockwise waiting for something to happen.

She heard a low rumbling sound as the earth began to shake below her. Instinctively she looked up, searching for and finding an opening from the rock walls. Water began to bubble upward creating a small pool. She waited for the water to fill the small pool, then turned the fountain off, placing the katana back on her belt. She climbed up to the pool of water, filling the skin to the top, then climbed back up the cliff to her waiting mount.

She mounted the stallion and urged him on to a full gallop. Dawn was approaching and she needed to get to Xena in time. She had one little stop on the way to the teahouse. Xena had given her exact instructions where to find her buried leathers and breastplate.


Back at the teahouse Xena paced up and down the floor. Harakuta sat on a bench to the right of the building, legs crossed meditating. Akemi sat in the middle of the floor on her knees, her head bowed, eyes looking up to watch Xena.

"Akemi," started Xena. "Did you know Yodoshi was responsible for the fire?"

"No," she whispered.

"Would you have told me if you knew?"

"Xena, I love you. I want to be with you."

"That doesn't answer my question."


"Well at least that's honest."

"Do you trust me, Xena?"

"I don't know what to think anymore."

"Do you trust Desire'?"


"You say that without hesitation. Yet she loves you as I do and you do not trust me. Why?"

"Because she is my friend."

"But she is more than a friend."

"Yes she is more. She is a dear friend, a best friend."

"I am a friend."

"Yes you are a friend, just a friend. Desire' is a friend but Gabrielle is my soulmate. Desire' understands this and accepts it. Do you?"

"You will be with her through eternity. Who will I have to walk through eternity with?"

Xena stopped her pacing to walk over to Akemi. She kneeled down in front of her, taking her hand and holding it. "I don't know what is ahead for you Akemi. I don't know about your afterlife but I do know that you will always hold a place in my heart and I pray that you will find someone to walk your journey with you. I am not that person."

Akemi bowed her head, her eyes filling with tears silently running down her cheeks. "I understand now Xena. I am sorry." Xena grasped the young girl's hands tighter. They sat there quietly as dawn approached.


Desire' and Kenji approached the war camp. Desire' could feel her heart in her throat, very grateful she had peed before she left the teahouse. She was shaking thinking of the task ahead of her. The little voice in her head was becoming very vocal. What were you thinking you idiot. What if these guys say screw the honor thing and just jump you. What if that stupid Samurai kills you? What if you miss with the whip? Stupid girl, what the hell were you staring at Gabrielle's back for! Well at least it ain't raining. Yea but how the hell are you going to hear the sounds if the ground is hard? Idiot girl!

Desire' shook her head trying to shut up the annoying little voice in her head and dismounted from her horse. "Kenji I need you to go gather wood and build a funeral pyre. We passed a spot about 30 minutes ago. Go back and begin preparation, please. We don't have time to lose."

"But what about needing help getting her dead white, naked…"

"I was venting," interrupted Desire'. "I know what I need to do here. If I don't return, find Gabrielle to help find my body. She'll know what to do."

"I don't understand," replied Kenji.

"No time to understand. Please leave me." Kenji nodded and rode away. Desire' looked around. She could see a small building in front of the main camp, a corral to the left filled with horses. She walked past them and spotted the main guards walking past her. She watched as they passed by, waiting until their backs were to her. As soon as they passed, she crept up grabbing the whip from her belt and with one fluid motion pulled the whip back and snapped it forward. The end of the whip hit its mark, wrapping around the head of the first guard. As soon as she felt the slack, she pulled the whip back with all of her strength. The guard's head snapped backwards, the momentum carrying him toward her. She finished him off with a side blade kick to the face and followed with a front blade kick to the face of the second guard approaching.

Damn that was just too easy, she thought. And what a rush. She walked past the fallen men and there to the right she saw it, Xena's headless bloody body. "Son of a bitch, you bastards," she yelled looking toward the trees were the naked headless body was strung, spread eagle. "Just breathe you idiot, just breathe." It was grizzly, even more blood than was shown on the finale. "Amazing they actually toned it down." She just stared up, her stomach trembling. "Oh lord, don't let me throw up. That's just too gross to watch on TV." Her knees buckled underneath her and she kneeled on the ground, head bowed in respect to the warrior princess and started crying. "I am not yelling for her head. That just sounds so cheesy." Desire' started thinking about the cowards in the camp, the little green-eyed monster rearing its ugly little head. She jumped up off the ground and pulled out her sword. "Where the hell are you you little bastards! Show yourselves!" That ought to wake their asses up, she thought.

She began cutting down the body. Once on the ground she began wrapping it in the cloth Kenji had provided her. A chill ran down her spine as she heard the warrior walk up behind her. This is it. She stood up and turned around to face him, her eyes burning with fire.

"I swear to God if you start talking with a Kiwi accent I'm gonna slap you where you stand!" she yelled. Enough with the Kiwi accent you idiot, yelled the little voice. "You were about to say," she added calmly. Good, she thought, looking at the expression on his face. He thinks I am nuts. Let's work this to my advantage.

"I've been expecting you," started the warrior wimp. Thank God no accent. Really bad casting I guess. Shut up idiot! yelled little voice. You need to concentrate. "I thought you were a blonde," he continued.

"Long story. As you were saying," answered Desire'.

"I was saying your friend was a fine opponent. She provided me with one of the greatest trophies an honorable Samurai could ever claim."

This is it, my turn to speak, and my turn to be a bitch. "Honorable, you piece of shit!" she yelled. "She was half dead, riddled with arrows lying on the ground after taking out half of your fucking army. You're just a little pissant who got lucky! You couldn't have killed Xena unless she wanted you to kill her ya dumbshit!" Wonder if they'll cut out my colorful commentary.

"I think you have a death wish," he yelled back at her.

"I accept your challenge."

Silently they walked over to an open clearing at the front of the camp. The men came out from their barracks, forming a circle around the two warriors. Desire' followed the Samurai's lead, crouching low to the ground, swords crossed as they slowly rose up, signaling the challenge had begun. Desire' stared back at him, a determined look on her face. She loved it when men underestimated her and he was no different. She watched as he drew his sword to his right, watching his face, listening to the sounds. She heard a horse whinny in the corral, a fire crackling, his right foot moved behind his left, pivoting with his left foot, his right foot pulled back. She knew the dance step moving to the right as he raised his hands slowly over his head, pulling back again, right toe behind him weight on the front foot in a downward assault as he attacked. Desire' pulled her sword back like a batter ready to swing and stepped back as the idiot flew past her on his face. Before he could react she was standing over him, the katana at his back.

She was shaking, the adrenaline pumping through her as the man pulled up to his knees.

"It was the single greatest honor to send Xena to an early grave," he said. As he spoke Desire' grabbed the handle of the katana with both hands raising the sword above her head "If I cannot do the same for you.." he continued, stopped short as Desire brought the sword down, driving the blade through his back. "Die with dishonor you bastard! Sorry Gabrielle," she yelled as if Gabrielle could hear her, "You just have more class then me."

Desire' pulled the blade out of the warrior's back using her knee as leverage and with a feral grin, she turned around looking at the soldiers, the bloody blade held in front of her in a ready position. She waited to see if anyone else would attack her. They bowed their heads in respect. Stupid men and their stupid respect, she thought. I just killed their leader and they could easily take me. Must have thought he was an asshole too.

The soldiers continued bowing their heads moving out of the way to reveal Xena's head sitting on a wooden plank, her eyes closed, face bruised. "This is just gross," she yelled. She walked over to the head, placing it in the sack, and walked toward her horse. She tied the sack to the saddle and walked the horse over to where Xena's body lay and picked it up, calling all of her strength to lift the body over the front of the horse. "Jeez, all this respect and no one's heard of helping a lady lift a heavy object," she shouted. She looked around at the men. They looked so sad. "You guys didn't want her dead either did you?" she asked. They just stared, not answering. She finished tying down the body and mounted her horse and rode off to find Kenji.

She was quite pleased to find that he had a good start on the funeral pyre. She dismounted her horse and pitched in. They stood watching as the flames engulfed the body. She knew that Xena would defeat Yodoshi and now that she had succeeded all would be well but she cried anyway for the warrior princess. Maybe they were just tears of relief but she cried until the fire burned out as dawn approached and she began the task of gathering the ashes and placing them in the urn.

The sun was up as they finished their task and rode away to the mountain. It was a long journey but Kenji assured them they had plenty of time and walked the horses to give them a rest. She thought about Xena and Gabrielle and wondered if Mr. Evil dude was dead yet.


Gabrielle returned to the teahouse by midmorning, in plenty of time to defeat Yodoshi and get to the mountain and bring Xena back. She handed the waterskin to Xena and watched as she drank it. Xena could feel a surge of electricity shoot up and down through her body as she drank and knew Yodoshi did not have a chance.

Gabrielle handed Xena her leathers and breastplate and watched as she dressed, Gabrielle helping with the straps. She pulled a white kimono around her to cover her battle leathers and pulled on her boots, then kneeled on the floor, making sure the kimono covered the leather. Gabrielle sat inside the hot tub. Harakuta recited the necessary incantations as Xena sat down. Akemi was still kneeling in the space she occupied for the evening. Akemi's friend, the quiet concubine was wearing the anklet. Gabrielle nodded she was ready, then Akemi nodded, followed by Xena and Harakuta.

The concubine rang the anklet. They could hear a loud noise outside like the hollow wind of a monsoon. The front wall burst open, followed by smoke and Yodoshi, his back to the hot tub looking at Akemi and the concubine. Before he could react Harakuta jumped out from the tub and speared Yodoshi through the back. As he screamed in pain, Xena leaped from her seated position, throwing the kimono from her back and jumping into a double somersault over the heads of the women to the stand holding the sacred katana. Yodoshi, still with the katana in his back, leaned over, throwing Harakuta to the wall. Xena jumped behind Yodoshi, swinging the katana with one fatal blow as his head came off. It was over in minutes, a perfectly executed plan. Harakuta, Gabrielle and Xena watched with wide-eyed amazement as the ethereal beings imprisoned within Yodoshi began flying out leaving the teahouse through the hole in the front of the building.

Akemi and the concubine began to lose their human form and as they did so Akemi cried out, floating toward Xena. "Xena, you've redeemed me, you've redeemed them, you've redeemed yourself," she exclaimed.

"Go in peace, Akemi" Xena answered, tears filling her eyes, a loving smile across her face. "We will meet again, one day." She watched as the final spirit left the teahouse and walked over to Gabrielle pulling her out of the hot tub and hugging her. "Let's go find your clothes and get out of here. We have a date with Destiny."


Desire' and Kenji arrived at the mountain about 3:00pm Desire' estimated. She thanked him, telling him he should go home and get some rest. She would be fine until Xena and Gabrielle showed. She walked over to the fountain and set down on the stone edge, Xena Warrior Pot in hand and waited.

Xena and Gabrielle showed up on horseback about a half an hour later. Everything was in it's place and they had plenty of time before the sun went down to bring Xena back to life. The two women rode up to the fountain and dismounted the horses, walked over to Desire' and hugged her. Xena could feel the tension in Desire's body. "Wanna talk about it?" she asked Desire'.

"What's to talk about? I killed the prick," she said. Realizing what she had just said and done, she started shaking.

"You killed who?" asked Xena, not letting go of her grasp on the woman.

"That little pissant who killed you. He challenged me to dual and he was down, asking me I don't know what. I just remember reading about this guy in the finale. Gabrielle didn't kill him after defeating him and he cost her time so I just killed him. Just rammed the sword through his back before he could ask me to cut off his head for honor. Stupid men and their honor. He didn't deserve honor. He just deserved to die." She looked up at Xena, her eyes blank. The loss of life in those eyes scared her, sending the horrible memory of Gabrielle's first kill screaming through her head. Desire' curled up like a small child inside the warrior's arms.

Gabrielle looked over at the woman staring blankly in Xena's arms and walked over to them. "Xena, what's wrong?"

"She killed the Samurai who killed me."

"He deserved it," whispered Desire' as she continued to stare blankly at the world around her. "I beat him and he asked me to kill him. I couldn't wait to ram that sword through his body. I cried for hours after I accidentally ran over the neighbor's cat. Why don't I feel anything? Why did it feel good? I've never hurt another human being in my life, let alone kill someone."

Xena gasped. "You've never killed before?"

"Not unless you count the cat and bugs. I've killed lots of bugs."

"You lost your blood innocence last night. That can be very traumatic," responded Xena.

Desire' pulled away from Xena, snapping out of her daze. "Fuck it. This is just a dream anyway. And soon I'll wake up."

"Desire" Xena began, "You know this is real. It happened. Don't you want to talk it about it? We're here to listen."

"I choose denial. First stage of grief you know. I was in denial when you had to stay dead to avenge those stupid souls and here I am so don't tell me I can't take it back. It's happened before. So just forget about it, I am. Little pissant got what he deserved anyway. So I enjoyed it big deal. What's done is done and can't be undone. Case closed. Let's have some fun."

Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other helplessly shrugging their shoulders. Everyone handles their first kill differently.

"So where's her ashes?" asked an anxious Gabrielle. Desire pointed to the urn resting on the stone. Gabrielle leaned over to pick it up. A hand on her shoulder restrained her from picking up the object.

"Hold on," said Desire'. "We have plenty of time before the sun sets."

"So," replied Gabrielle. "No reason to wait."

"Yes there is," answered Desire'. "Gabrielle I want you to do something before you put the ashes in the fountain."

Gabrielle just looked out her. "This is no time to mess around."

"Oh come on Gabrielle, please? Just do this one little thing first, please? You'll be glad you did."

"What?" she asked anxiously. Xena could see the distress on her soulmate's face and would have slapped the little brunette if she hadn't been so concerned about the woman's drastic change in emotions after admitting to losing her blood innocence. She was anxious to see if she could really cheat death again.

"I want you to throw the chakram and catch it," she stated calmly. "Come on you know you wanna. I promise it will come right back to ya."

"Hey," interrupted Xena, "Is this really the time to be fooling around with my weapon?"

"It's the perfect time princess. You gave it to her," answered Desire' her face remaining expressionless.

"I gave it to her to hold and don't call me princess!" she said sternly. "And why do you keep calling me princess? Nobody calls me princess."

"Don't get your panties in a wad. Just messing with you. Come on Gabrielle, one whirl with the chakram and we bring your girlfriend back to life."

Gabrielle didn't like the tone of Xena's voice and took it as a challenge. "You don't think I can do it Xena, do you?" she asked turning toward Xena to stare her down.

"I didn't say that, Gabrielle," she defended. "Just now I would like to get my life back not watch you play with my chakram."

Wrong move, thought Desire' as she watched Gabrielle's expression turn to anger. "After what you've put me through, Ms. I'm going to kill myself today and not let Gabrielle know about it. I think the least you can do is wait while I throw my chakram and test it out. Never know when something like this might come in handy. Sit down, warrior princess."

Desire' just smiled as the beaten warrior sat down next to her. Xena leaned over to Desire' and whispered, "You're dead."

Desire' howled as she heard that. "No, you're dead princess. I am very much alive. Deal with it."

Xena looked over at Gabrielle who had taken the chakram from her belt, scowling as she watched Gabrielle throw the weapon. The chakram bounced off the rocks to the right, then careened off the front of the fountain, bouncing against another large rock and returned into the waiting hand of the battling bard who caught it with ease, then held it up, staring at it, shock in her face.

Desire' clapped and starting yelling "Woo hoo! That was great. Told you you'd like it!" Xena couldn't help but smile as Gabrielle walked up to the two brunettes, her trophy in her hand. "I may have to keep this Xena."

"We'll discuss it later. Now can you bring me back?"

"What's your hurry?" stated Desire'. "We still have a couple of hours. Besides it makes for a much better story if you wait until the very last moment. Much more dramatic that way."

Xena was becoming very impatient and upset with Desire's casual attitude. "Gabrieeelllleeee, make her stop and bring me back please," she cried her eyes pleading with Gabrielle to fulfill her wish.

"Now look who's crying princess," muttered Desire' a smile on her face as Xena shot her a death stare.

"Alright my warrior princess, lets go," answered Gabrielle as she walked over to the fountain, urn in hand, opened the lid and dropped the ashes into the water. Xena stood up and the three women waited. Xena could feel a jolt of electricity shoot through her body as though she had been struck with a lightning bolt from Zeus. She slumped to the ground, unconscious. Gabrielle ran over to Xena who was lying on her back, her eyes closed. "Xena," yelled Gabrielle frantically as she began slapping her on the face in an effort to revive her. "Xena, wake up. Don't you leave me!"

Desire' froze where she sat, trying to stay calm. It had to work. Then a thought came to her. "Gabrielle, why don't you just kiss the girl?" she said very calmly, hoping Gabrielle didn't detect the shake in her voice. Gabrielle looked over at Desire' a question mark on her face.

"Just kiss the girl, really kiss the girl." Desire said again. "Works all the time on the show."

Desire' stood up to walk over to the bard and the fallen warrior. As she did Gabrielle leaned into Xena's face, gentling brushing her lips across Xena's, then parting her lips slightly as Xena's eyes opened and they shared a real kiss. Desire' was standing over the two, hands on her hips, "Told ya," she said smiling. Gabrielle was now hugging her warrior. "Are you alive?" she asked her.

"I don't know," came the reply from the warrior princess.

"The chakram," interjected Desire'. Warrior and bard looked up. "Now hand her the chakram. She could hold you, the katana and the fucking urn but she couldn't hold the chakram when she was a spirit. Come on you guys, you usually do a lot better than this on your own without some hardcore nutball fan telling you what to do."

Gabrielle unhooked the chakram from her belt and put it into Xena's outstretched hand. Xena grabbed it. This time her hand did not go through it. She was alive and now fighting Gabrielle for the chakram. "Oh no, warrior, I'll keep it for now," demanded Gabrielle. Xena let go in defeat, grumbling as she released the weapon. Gabrielle placed it back on her belt and lifted Xena to her feet. They stood facing Desire'.

"Everything is precisely as it should be," remarked Desire' as she hugged the warrior. "Welcome back."

"Thank you," whispered Xena. "For everything."

"My pleasure," she answered back. They broke their hug and Gabrielle hugged Xena as if her very life depended on that hug.

"All right guys, break up it," stated Desire'.

Xena and Gabrielle stood side by side, hands around each other's waist. "Now what do we do?" asked Gabrielle.

"I don't know," replied Desire'. "I guess we wait for Aphrodite to come and take me away. Otherwise you guys are stuck with me."

With a twinkle of light the Goddess of Love stood before them. "Did someone mention my name?" Aphrodite smiled looking over at the bard and warrior arm and arm. She ran over to them, poking Xena in the stomach, arms and chest. "You're not dead, you did it." Aphrodite pulled both women into a group hug. "Yes, this is so cool!" She turned around to Desire' "Well time to go, sweet cheeks."

Aphrodite, can I have a moment to talk to them before I go?"

"Sure hon, take all the time you need. Just call me when you're ready."

"Thanks," replied Desire'. She walked over to Gabrielle. "Take care of her. You're very lucky to have such love in your life and to have so much love in your heart to give. I know we didn't really get to know each other but I know the stories. You're an incredible woman."

"Thank you," replied Gabrielle. "I don't know what to say. You brought my Xena back. Have a safe journey."

Gabrielle looked at the small brunette, then opened her hands to hug her. The two small women embraced while Xena looked on with a solemn expression. "Fight her for the chakram," whispered Desire'. Both women laughed as they finished their embrace. "Gabrielle, I have one favor to ask of you." Gabrielle nodded for her to continue. "Can I speak to Xena alone for a moment?" "Sure," came the answer. Gabrielle walked away to give them their privacy.

Xena and Desire' looked at each other, pale blue eyes looking into pale green eyes for the last time. Desire' looked down not sure where to start. Xena placed her hands on her shoulders, then placed one hand under her chin, lifting Desire's face up to look at her. "Hey, this isn't goodbye. We'll see each other again."

"Yeah, I suppose you're gonna visit me in Las Vegas."

"You got it. Free booze, strippers and gambling. What's not to like?"

"Are you sure you don't have a twin sister? I would stay if you did."

"Desire' I promise you will find your soulmate."

Desire' began speaking, her voice trembling as she tried to hold back tears. "I'm gonna miss you, I mean really miss you." Xena started to open her mouth to speak. Desire' put her hand over her mouth. "Just bear with me, please." She looked up at Xena. "I just, the way you made me feel, it was special. Stop holding the world on your shoulders ya big dumb warrior. Except your redemption and hold onto Gabrielle with everything you have. You owe me that, damn it," she finished, her heart breaking, tears streaming down her face, sobs escaping her throat.

Xena felt helpless in the face of despair. It broke her heart to see this woman so sad. She placed her arms around her pulling her into her chest to hug her. She held, her stroking her hair as the sobs quieted to a whimper and she heard a fragile voice. "Please don't forget me," Desire' begged. Xena hugged her tighter. "I could never forget you, cowgirl. Never." "I love you," they said in unison.

Desire pulled away from Xena looking up at her wiping the tears from her face. She reached her hand to Xena's face to wipe a tear running down her cheek. "Well, I must look a wreck," she said to lighten the mood. Xena just looked down at her, "You look beautiful cowgirl, you always look beautiful."

"Shut up, I'm just gonna cry again," replied Desire'. Xena looked hurt. "I didn't mean to snap at you. This is just harder than I thought it would be. Kind of caught me off guard. Don't forget to look me up if you're ever in Las Vegas. Love, Desire'." Xena looked at her inquisitively. "My name Xena, Desire' Love. I'm in the phone book. If you get there you'll understand what I'm talking about. Let's go."

Xena stopped her. "Wait, I almost forgot. She reached down into her cleavage and pulled out a small pouch, extracting a gold necklace bearing the cross. "I thought you might like this back."

"My necklace. Thank you!"

"Turn around, Let me put this on," Xena said pointing to the necklace in her hand. Desire' turned around. She could feel Xena's warm breath on her neck as she reached around to place the necklace on her neck clasping it in the back.

Desire' turned to look at her one last time. "Thank you. This was a gift from my father. It has a lot of sentimental value and can't be replaced."

"You're welcome. It was the least I could do." Xena placed her hands on the smaller woman's face and leaned in to kiss her ever so lightly on the lips. Desire' reached her hands around the taller woman's neck and pulled her down for one last embrace. As they hugged, Desire' wrapped her fingers around a small clump of hair behind her ear. As she pulled away, she yanked the hair out quickly and backed up.

"Owwwww!" yelled the warrior princess. "What was that for?" she asked rubbing the spot where the hair was pulled out.

Desire' giggled holding the strands of hair triumphantly in her hand. "We can clone sheep and we're very close to cloning people. I'm going to clone you." Xena cocked her head and looked at her. "Huh"

"Cloning means we can duplicate people, make exact replicas. Since you don't have a twin, I'm gonna clone you. Aphrodite, now is a good time. Come on let's go back." Xena just laughed. She could hardly wait to see this 21st century. She put her arm around Desire' and together they walked back. Aphrodite was sitting with Gabrielle keeping her company.

She jumped up. "Ready sweet cheeks lets go."

Xena and Gabrielle waved at the blonde and brunette. "Safe journey you two," they called out in unison. Aphrodite had the Cronus stone in her hand and with a snap of her finger, a one, two, three count and a twinkle of light both women disappeared from the ancient land of Jappa.

"Hope they got that counting thing right," laughed Xena. "So where to now?"

"I think we should go south to the land of the Pharaohs. I hear they need a girl with a chakram," answered Gabrielle.

"Where you go, I'm at your side," stated the warrior.

"I knew you'd say that," replied the bard.

Warrior and bard looked at each other and laughed. Xena leaned over to kiss Gabrielle on the cheek. Together they walked away from the mountain, arm in arm.


Chapter Twenty-Five-The Day After (Conclusion)

Desire' woke up from her dream. She looked at the digital display on her clock. It read 8:01am. Her heart was racing from the most incredible dream she had ever experienced. It had seemed so real yet when she looked at the display on her watch, it read the same date, June 23, 2001. It was barely after midnight when she had looked at the clock before falling asleep yet she felt as though the events of her dream were real. At least, she thought, her internal time clock was back on schedule. She jumped out of bed, hugging a very sleepy large, black dog and ran to the restroom where she was greeted by two large tabby and white cats, looking for affection from their human. I can't even have privacy when I pee, she thought. She rubbed her eyes trying to shake the sleep out of them and walked into the master bathroom, jumping in the shower.

The warm water was intoxicating over her scalp as she leaned her head back, saturating her dark brown hair. She leaned over to pick up the shampoo, placing enough in the palm of her hand to thoroughly wash the short locks. God, she thought, maybe I should cut my hair before my date. She had decided to grow it out long, missing the long tresses she had before a series of six surgeries left her with permanently short hair. And she was determined to suffer through awkward hair for as long as it took to let the damaged hair grow back. As she lathered the top of her hair, she noticed an unfamiliar weight on the back of her shoulders. She lathered the back of her hair, searching for the ends when she realized her hair didn't stop at the back of her head. Her jaw dropped as she leaned over to rinse the shampoo out, long strands of dark brown hair reaching several inches over the top of her head.

Frantically she rinsed the shampoo out of her hair, throwing the glass door of the shower open and almost jumping on top of the sleepy dog in an effort to inspect herself in front of the mirror. "This is not real," she shouted to the mirror. Staring back at her was her own reflection, hair draped down both shoulders covering her chest to the tip of her nipples. "Hair does not grow out over night! What's going on with me? That was a dream for Chrissake!" Her eyes were wide as she looked around the room. Everything was in its it place, then slowly, panic building inside of her, she turned her right hand over exposing the back of the hand. Her mouth dropped at the sight before her, an intricate tattoo of a lion leaping toward her through a jeweled chakram.

She looked into the bathroom mirror, her head was spinning, she could see cars in the middle of an intersection, horns honking as her legs buckled underneath her, her body sliding to the floor, darkness enveloping her as the tip of her head bumped into the porcelain bathtub.


Desire' felt a soft, warm tongue, caressing her cheek and nose. She looked up focusing her eyes and looking into the gentle blue eyes of a very concerned canine licking her face in an effort to revive her. She was lying on the floor of her bathroom naked and wet, a slight throbbing in her head from the fall. A flash of pink caught her attention. Sitting on top of the bathtub step against the wall sat a beautiful blonde woman almost dressed in pink lingerie.

"He seemed to be doing a better job at reviving you," Aphrodite stated pointing at the dog. "It was real sweetie. Just call you short, dark and dangerous from now on."

Desire' looked down at the tiles on the floor, absorbing this new information. Did I really meet Xena, live with the Conqueror and help change the events in Japan that happened so long ago? Was this a dream? She pinched herself. Is the woman in her bathroom real or should she just commit herself now? How will she explain the long hair to her sister? Did I really get laid or am I still celibate?

"Yes, yes, yes, no, ow, yes, no, I don't know, yes, in a big, big way ya minx and that's up to interpretation but I say no way baby," replied the Goddess.

"Reading my thoughts again?"

"Yea, old habits die hard sweet cheeks. I thought I should be around when you woke up. Sorry about the tattoo. It is kind of nice though."

Aphrodite stood up walking over the tub to help the stunned woman to her feet. "You fall into a full arena half naked, live with the most dangerous woman in the world for over a year, challenge her in a death match, get your butt beaten almost to death then set yourself up to be whipped to death for the greater good, survive the Conqueror doing the Tush Push and you faint at the sight of a tattoo? Amazing."

Desire' took the proffered hand, lifting herself to her feet. Her legs were still a little shaky but at least she could stand. "Aphrodite how come I'm always naked when you show up?"

"Good timing. I am a Goddess. Or maybe there are some latent feelings you would like to discuss?"

Desire' didn't even bother covering herself, letting the desert air dry her still wet skin. "Does this mean you won't be dancing tonight?"

"Not quite, our plans have definitely changed," she answered.

"Explain yourself."

"Whoa, the Conqueror must have rubbed off on you. We're having dinner at five with some friends of mine, another couple. I know you'll like them. After, we are going over to Gilley's for some line dancing." Desire's eyes lit up. She hadn't been dancing in this world for years now and missed it. "Knew you would like that," continued the Goddess. "But here's the best part. There's a talent competition at nine and you are in it."

Desire's eyes bulged out of the sockets. "Aphrodite," she exclaimed, panic in her voice, "I can't sing in front of an audience!"

"You can beat up the Conqueror, kill a Samurai warrior and sing in front of thousands of ancient Greek citizens but you can't sing in front of a couple hundred people in a nightclub in Las Vegas?"

"That's different and you know it Aphrodite. I had to do those things just to survive."

"And you need to do this to survive!" yelled Aphrodite. "You've done so many things in your life and been successful, each time getting bored and moving on, finding another task to take its place yet all you've ever wanted to do was sing. It's in your heart. It owns your soul. You're dead inside because you fear it, not because you haven't found your soulmate but because you are afraid you might fail at the one thing that truly makes you happy, singing. Do this for me but more importantly, do it for yourself."

Desire' knew Aphrodite was speaking the truth. It seemed useless to argue. "Okay, I'll do it."

"Yesss!" Aphrodite's face lit up as she reached over to the still naked woman and wrapped her arms around her in a warm embrace. "We're meeting at the café inside of the Rio at 5:00pm and afterward I have a friend I want you to meet."

"I suppose that means you and me ain't gonna happen huh?"

"Sweetie I am a Goddess. You know we're flaky. Besides you are going to love Danny. She flew out from Nashville just to see you. She's looking for new talent and honey; you are her next big star. So rest up and no haircut okay? And wear that white outfit in your closet, its perfect. Gotta go."

"Wait, don't go. What about the series finale? It's at 5:00pm."

"Honey set your VCR, you lived it. Check out the buzz on the Internet. Fans are raving about it. They got their onscreen kiss and the gals sailed away into the sunset and Rob is even going to get his Xena movie after all. Oh, Gabrielle did change one thing in her scroll. Seems she thought that a time traveling fan was a little out there for even Xenites to handle so instead of meeting up with you, they meet up with Eve and together the three save the day and Xena comes back to life. Of course, Xena is still a bit peeved at getting her head whacked off. Gotta go." With a snap of her fingers and a twinkle of light, the Goddess was gone.


The rest of the day sped by for Desire'. She kept herself busy, trying not to think of the night ahead, afraid she would lose her nerve and not show up. She lurked around on the Internet for a short time reading fan reactions. It felt so good to listen to all of the kind words being said about the cast and crew of her favorite TV show instead of the mean things they were saying when they thought Xena had to stay dead. She had made a difference in someone's life and it felt good. Soulmates stayed connected and love and redemption defeated vengeance and evil.

She decided to tune up her guitar only to find out that her musical instruments had not made the journey back with her. Oh well, she thought, it was worth it. They were only material things. At least she had her favorite guitar for the evening. It was the one instrument she left behind, a graduation gift from the father who always believed in her. Maybe tonight she would finally make him proud.

She dressed in her short white button down blouse that tied together just under her breast line, exposing her midriff. The long sleeves were made of sheer white see through material. The buttons were silver, matching the silver tips of the collar, white fringe hanging down in front of her chest. The white material down the front was also a bit sheer, exposing a lacy white bra. She unbuttoned the shirt, exposing her cleavage. She wore tight white Levi's and her favorite gray suede cowboy boots.

She brushed her long dark hair, short bangs accentuating her pale green eyes. She applied her make up wearing pale pink lipstick to match the now painted nails from her afternoon manicure. She wore matching silver earrings with white fringe hanging down from the silver baubles. She placed a sterling silver chain, the only remaining heirloom given to her by her Mother, around her neck for luck. She put her silver dress watch around her wrist, picked up her guitar and walked through the garage toward her car. On the way out she grabbed her favorite white felt cowboy hat from it's resting place, nestled upside down in its hatbox.

On the drive to the restaurant she thought about her song selection. Only she would know the meaning behind the song. It was new by Trisha Yearwood, ‘I Would Have Loved You Anyway'. It was her song to the Conqueror. Although her heart ached, she had a renewed hope that she would be reunited with her soulmate. Lao Ma had told her she was an old soul so it was just a matter of finding her, or him, she thought.


Two women sat side by side in a booth, their eyes watching the entrance as they talked. They were the embodiment of opposites, light and dark, ancient souls traveling through the karmic cycle of life, always finding one another, never truly apart. One was a small woman, short blonde hair, emerald green eyes that changed colors depending upon the light illuminating them, golden skin. Her companion was a head taller at six feet, raven black hair, dark bronze skin, pale blue eyes sparkling beneath her black bangs. They were a striking couple; garnering attention by those who walked by them stunned by their beauty.

"Are you sure this isn't a little too much too soon for her?" asked the blonde looking up at her partner.

"Honey" started the tall dark woman, "We promised we would visit if we were out here."

"I know that. I was talking about the other," replied the blonde.

"She's family now. She can handle it." The taller woman placed her arm around the smaller woman's shoulder, hugging her, placing a soft kiss on her cheek. "Don't worry."

The blonde nodded her head in acknowledgement. "Okay" she whispered softly as the two continued searching the front of the café looking for their friends. "There they are."


Desire' was standing in front of the café talking with the blonde Goddess dressed in a pair of skin tight pale blue jeans tucked into white boots, a white button down shirt tucked into her pants. Even in real clothes she looked every bit the Goddess she was.

"Wow, you look good in clothes."

"I could say the same about you sweet cheeks," answered the Goddess as she gave the shorter woman a hug.

"That's right you haven't seen me in clothes have you?"

"I did see you at the rodeo, you just didn't see me. You look delicious. Country suits you. My friends are here but I have to tell you something before we meet them."

Desire's face broke into a sarcastic grin. "Wait don't tell me. Let me guess. Your friends are actually Mattie and Annie, reincarnated from Gabrielle and Xena. They were in Las Vegas and wanted to see me," she finished, laughing at the absurdity of the statement.

"Wow, now look who's reading minds," replied the Goddess.

Desire' froze, her mouth hanging open at the sound of the words. Suddenly she couldn't move, her feet frozen to the ground, her heartbeat racing, her hands trembling. "I, I didn't, I was kidding," she stammered in disbelief.

Aphrodite put her arms around the startled woman whispering in her ear gently, "I know you were, hon, but I'm not. You guys need to talk." She rubbed her back gently trying to calm her down. Desire' couldn't talk and just nodded, following the Goddess to the back of the restaurant, tears threatening to spill down her cheeks.

Just put one foot in front of the other, Desire' thought. Its simple you can do this. Don't faint now. It just wouldn't look good you idiot! she heard the little voice in her head shout. She saw them at the back of the restaurant, sitting side by side.

Gabrielle stood in front of Xena after standing up from the table. She could see the tears in her friend's eyes, a flood of emotions washing over her face. Gabrielle could feel the tears welling up in her own eyes, thinking of the possibility that this wasn't just a friend. She walked past Aphrodite throwing her arms around the small brunette, hugging her fiercely.

Desire' returned the hug, tears overflowing on her face, sobs in her voice as she tried to speak. "Hey" was all that came out as unexpected emotions filled her soul. Why, she thought all of a sudden do I feel such a powerful connection with this woman?. Xena I can understand but I barely talked to Gabrielle.

Gabrielle continued embracing her, one hand around Desire's head as she stroked her hair. She could feel the connection of ancient souls finding each other and knew Xena had been right again. There's a shock, she thought silently. "Desire it's okay. It's been a long time. It's okay to cry."

"For you maybe, but this just happened last night for me. Why do I feel like I've just been reunited with a long lost relative?" she sobbed.

Gabrielle pulled away from the hug, grabbing Desire's hand. "You have," she said quietly. "Our friends are our family. Come on, someone wants to see you and you don't want to keep the warrior waiting. She gets real pouty."

Desire' smiled at the comment, her head looking over at the tall, dark woman. Xena was standing a few feet behind her partner, silently waiting, taking in every detail of the reunion, blue eyes filled with an ocean of tears streaming slowly down her face. Desire' could feel her heart jump into her throat looking at the scene of the warrior watching her, eyes filled with pure love, the love of a very dear friend.

Desire' ran toward the tall woman, her arms wrapping around her hanging on for dear life. She put her head into the dark woman's chest, crying tears of joy, not sorrow as she had expected. Xena was returning the hug, her arms wrapped tightly around her friend, one hand around her head, massaging the damaged tissue under the silky dark hair. "Xena, I'm so," her words stopped. She continued to cry, her sobs lessening as the moments passed. "Shhhh," whispered the warrior. "I missed you cowgirl. We all need to talk, okay?" Desire' looked up at her nodding. Xena broke the hug, placing her palms around her friend's face, brushing her tears away gently with her thumbs. A sweet smile crossed her face, "You did bring your make up with you didn't you?" she asked hoping it might break the tension. "You always did cry a lot" she added.

"Uh oh." Desire' smiled and laughed as Aphrodite walked over to break up the little hug fest going on. "Hate to break this up you guys because it really is beautiful but people are staring and you're blocking a walk way. Don't worry about your make up sweetie, I'll take of it. I am the Goddess of Love you know. Sit down you three."

Warrior and bard sat down next to each other. Desire and Aphrodite sat down across from them. All four woman sat looking at each other, not saying a word. Aphrodite stood up. "Well you guys someone start talking. I'm gonna leave you three and run an errand. Talk!" she yelled, then turned around and walked out of the café.

"Well, guess she can't just pop out can she?" asked Desire' trying to break the silence. Xena and Gabrielle just nodded. "Do I call you Mattie and Annie or Xena and Gabrielle?"

"Xena and Gabrielle," answered Xena.

"Gabrielle and Xena," answered Gabrielle at the precise moment Xena answered the question.

"Any control issues you guys wanna talk about?" asked Desire' laughing.

Xena turned to look at Gabrielle as she did the same and both women joined Desire' laughing. A waiter walked over to take their order. Xena ordered prime rib for her and the chicken salad for Gabrielle in addition to some appetizers. Desire' ordered a glass of iced tea and waved the waiter away.

"You need to eat," both women said in perfect unison.

"I can barely breathe let alone eat guys. You sound like my Mother," she answered.

"You can share ours," they replied.

"Fine," answered Desire'. "But you guys gotta tell me what's bothering you. I can tell there's something you're not telling me."

"You're right," came the reply from both women, again in unison.

"So what is it you want to say to me? You're scaring me."

"It's nothing bad Desire," said Gabrielle. "Do you believe in karmic cycles and reincarnation?"

"Well, I kind of do now. Otherwise you are imposters and playing me for a fool. It's kind of hard to argue when the evidence is staring you in the eyes. I know you're not Lucy Lawless and you're not Renee' O'Connor. Xena you're just bigger and Gabrielle you just look softer, not as buff Renee'."

"So you believe us?" chimed in Xena.

"Yes, please talk to me."

"Okay," Xena started. "Do you have any memories of your past lives?"

"No," Desire' answered. "I mean there have been moments of Déjà vu but everybody goes through that. Nothing specific."

"Think Desire'," continued Xena. "Can you remember any of these instants?"

Desire' thought about it for a moment while the waiter came to the table with their drinks and appetizers. "Well, when I was a teenager my parents took me to Athens and Rome. I remember seeing the Coliseum and picturing it in my head without the damage. I felt as though I had been to Greece before, things had a familiarity about them. I have always been fascinated with mythology and the Greek Gods, especially the story about Pegasus. I used to dream that I tamed her, without the golden bridle."

Both women turned to look at each other, remembering the woman who broke the winged horse in ancient Greece, after the twilight when the winged creature had come back to earth after the death of Zeus.

"Go on," they both insisted. "Can you think of anything else?"

"Well I thought it was odd at the time, but umm, Destiny."

Xena interrupted her. "What do you remember about Destiny?"

"Well I thought it was odd, but during that episode….."

Xena cut her off again. "What do you mean episode?"

"Xena: Warrior Princess, the episode titled Destiny, if you would let me finish."

"Sorry," Xena answered a little disappointed. "Go on, please."

"Well, when Xena was nailed to the cross, it really affected me. I mean it was pretty graphic so it should have bothered me but I could really feel her pain, like I could feel the nails going through my hands and legs and when they broke her legs I could feel the pain go through my body. I mean I know I cried when Lassie didn't come home, but I had nightmares about it. It was me on the cross, hanging there for days, death refusing to come and escort me to the other side. I would wake up and swear I could feel the pain in my shoulders from hanging on a cross. They were so real. Dumb huh."

"No that's not dumb," they replied. Suddenly blue and green eyes filled with pain, making Desire' very nervous.

Xena took over the conversation, speaking for both of them. "Did Lao Ma tell you that you were an ancient soul but you hadn't been born yet?"

"Yes," she answered. "What are you getting at?"

"We think you are the reincarnated soul of Gabrielle's granddaughter."

"You had more children Gabrielle?"

"No," she answered. "Sadly Hope was my only child."

"But Hope was killed in ‘A Family Affair'. Wait, was your granddaughter's name Destiny?"

"Yes" Gabrielle answered

"Okay this is way too weird. So let me see if I can shed some light," she began sarcastically. "Bear with me. You can stop me anytime I say something that sounds wrong. I suppose," she continued, not letting either one reply and talking very fast, "When Hope died a 2nd or 3rd time, I don't remember, you built a funeral pyre. Of course Dahok being the God of fire swept her into his arms, restoring her back to her natural form, your clone Gabrielle. How am I doing?"

Both women nodded in stunned silence as they watched Desire' talk, her voice filled with sarcasm, her body very animated. "Hope gets smart, decides to take a more subtle approach to total world domination and gets herself pregnant by coupling with some evil powerful mortal dude, right?" Blonde and brunette heads nod in unison.

"I suppose this happened, oh I'd say days before Eve was conceived so Hope laid low with her baby, waiting for Eve to bring along the twilight of the Gods making her job easier. Then she hears about your deaths but knows Eve is still alive somewhere because her baby continues to grow at the rate of a mortal. She goes to the amazon village in the north knowing that was the last place you were seen and she could pass herself off as Queen Gabrielle. They were so far away from Greece, she would just tell them Xena and Eve died and take over as queen. Of course the current Cyane thought she should be queen even when both of you were there so Hope/Gabrielle challenges for the queen's mask. She wins, but keeping in character with Gabrielle so as not to raise suspicion, spares her life and sends her into exile with a few other members who are loyal to Cyane. Are you with me?"

They nodded, their mouths hanging open. "Okay so now, Hope/Gabrielle is queen and her daughter, Destiny is an amazon princess in training. What luck. She finds Gabrielle's scrolls and her journals detailing every adventure, lesson learned, strategy formed and every fighting technique the warrior princess taught the bard. So she grooms her daughter to be the next warrior princess and destroyer of nations. She's a strong, tall, athletic child and becomes the strongest warrior the amazon nation has ever seen, only the evil inbred in her never surfaces and her growth is stunted by the age of 11 and she barely reaches five and a half feet tall which really pisses her off because everyone calls her little. Basically she is every bit the warrior Xena is, skill wise, but she had Gabrielle's light and would only fight to protect others. Plus she had a hair trigger temper and lacked focus because she was too busy stopping to smell the roses which was a bad thing to Hope/Gabrielle. And Hope can't seem to trigger her evil side because she's so damned emotional. Shall I go on?"

There was silence as Xena and Gabrielle look forward then back to each other and forward again watching Desire' spin her tale with pinpoint accuracy. "Okay, where was I?"

"She didn't like to be called little," whispered Xena.

"Okay, meanwhile Destiny truly believes her mother is the great Queen Gabrielle. Hope/Gabrielle sends her away when she is oh, say twenty, maybe twenty-one, to learn more fighting skills in other countries sending her on a similar path evil Xena had taken in her travels as documented by her bard. Loyal Destiny leaves the tribe, which by now is thriving, having grown rather large because of a heavy recruiting policy. After all, amazons are the best warriors and Hope wanted to start her world domination with a strong and loyal army that she could command."

She paused to take a breath and drink her tea. The waiter had already served their meals, the food sitting on plates, untouched. "Destiny travels to Chin, Scandinavia and back to Rome, learning all she can from oh probably from the granddaughters of Lao Ma and a certain Valkrie named Brunhilda fascinated by the evil Xena. When she returns to Rome, she immediately goes into service for the army befriending a woman known as the champion of Rome named Livia." She looked at Xena who appeared to momentarily stop breathing at the name Livia.

Desire' continued. "Livia and Destiny became gal pals, the best of friends as they fight side by side defending Rome. The two were inseparable until Mr. War God, Ares, throws a monkey wrench into their friendship, turning Livia toward her dark side with dreams of her own world domination. Funny thing is, he must be quite smooth because she was quite content leading the roman army and Destiny was quite happy as her second in command. But Augustus was very jealous of Destiny because he was in love with Livia so it was easy for Ares to get his help in eliminating Destiny. Almost finished. Am I close?"

Xena and Gabrielle both nod. By now both of them look like Joxer and Gabrielle did toward the end of "Been There, Done That". "Okay" resumed Desire'. "Augustus and Ares plot to set up Destiny as a traitor to the Roman Empire, sentence her to die on the cross, convincing Livia of her betrayal and making her watch as soldiers nail her to the cross and break her legs. Of course if Destiny had been angry enough at the betrayal she could have called up her powers to move things with her mind, a gift inherited from dear old mom. She could have saved herself but she is so heartbroken over what she thinks is the betrayal of the woman she loves, she welcomes her death gladly and gives up. But because she has the blood of a very powerful god running through her veins, she hangs on the cross for oh, about eleven days until they finally take her off and finish the job. I won't even mention that part."

"She then passes over to the underworld only to find out her beloved Mother, Gabrielle, is really the evil daughter of Dahok named Hope and lets not even mention who her evil father is. This makes her the evil granddaughter of the evil Dahok and forget that her grandmother is the essence of light, Gabrielle, queen of the amazons. Hades judges her for who she is, not for her good deeds and tortures her for three days until her mortal body is set to the flames and Dahok restores her back to her natural form.

When she is resurrected, her Mother explains everything and tells her that her purpose in life is to kill the messenger of Eli to bring Dahok into the world. Of course by now, Xena and Gabrielle are alive again, so they quietly begin to form armies, helping various warlords etc. lying low and Destiny is now so angry at the world knowing her eternity will be hell anyway, she goes along with her mother's plan and begins using her impressive skills and strength to kill and pillage her way toward world domination, using the time you two spent in Scandinavia to really jump start her armies. Then you guys go off to Jappa and all plans go into motion with Destiny conquering town after town, city after city including Rome and almost Greece by the time you two come back from Jappa. Then the real fun begins and you guys should remember the rest."

"Here's the funny part. I started writing this script before the series ended because I never believed Hope could be killed from a spike through her shoulder and I wanted a Xena movie. I now suppose you're going to tell me that this is not the creation of a brilliant imagination but my memories of a past life in ancient Greece. Am I right?"

Desire' reached over the table to pick up her glass of tea. When she reached the glass her hands were trembling. Frustrated, she slammed the glass down and jumped out of her seat. Xena grabbed her before she could run away. She wanted to run away so bad. The character in her story had done some evil things and the idea that she could have done those things shook her to her core. She struggled unsuccessfully to break free from the iron grip holding her arm.

She turned around to Xena who was holding her by the bicep, sad blue eyes looking helplessly toward her. "Don't run," she said. Desire' stood there, her eyes looking toward the floor. She reached her free hand up sliding it through her dark hair in frustration, grabbing at the roots of her hair, hoping the tightness of her scalp could somehow hold the tears captive in her eyes. "So you're gonna tell me that all those story ideas aren't just the over active imagination of someone with way to much time on her hands but they are actually memories of an ancient incarnation of a past life."

"Yes, you should be proud of yourself. You were nothing but good until you were betrayed. Even then, the things you did were nothing compared to my misdeeds. If you can believe in me as a hero, than you have to believe in yourself. You did so many good deeds. Gabrielle and I have been so proud of you. Be proud of yourself."

"Destiny, of all of the things I accomplished with Xena, you are the one thing in my life, my granddaughter, that gave me my greatest source of pride. You were my flesh. Because of you my daughter can be remembered as something more than a monster. You found her heart," added Gabrielle.

"I killed people," was all Desire' could say.

"Honey," started Gabrielle, "Those were ancient times. We survived and we did good. You helped us to defeat Dahok. You did what you had to do. Because of you Hope was judged as a mortal and reborn," Gabrielle added.

She could feel her heart breaking watching Desire' fight the emotions running through her. She could see the anguish in her face and felt helpless to stop her tears. "I wish you could be as happy as we are. You're our family and we love you."

"Oh my God I boinked the God of War!" yelled Desire' covering her head in her hands as ancient memories flooded her mind.

"You didn't really do him in Corrinth did you?" asked Xena.

"In Corrinth, in Athens, in Rome, the Hall of Wars. We didn't have vibrators back them remember," answered Desire'.

"Too much information!" yelled Gabrielle. "That is just gross. You never told me that."

"Yeah well you thought I was in love with Mark Antony. I didn't need the grief," answered Desire'. "Besides my purpose in life was to take love out of the world. Ares was in love with Xena and doing me. I hated Xena even more for that but at least it kept me focused."

"What do you mean even more? Why did you hate me anyway?" asked a confused warrior.

"Because I never had an identity growing up. Everyone called me little Xena," Desire' answered.

"That explains your little fetish about being called little," interjected Gabrielle laughing. Both brunettes joined in the laughter as they thought about ancient times. Gabrielle moved toward Desire', pushing Xena out of the way and embracing her. Desire' returned the hug. She had stopped crying and held onto the ancient soul holding her with still strong arms. "I love you guys," whispered Desire'. "I was always so mean to Xena. I'm so sorry."

"Hey," exclaimed Xena as she wrapped two strong arms around the smaller women in a group hug. "I'm the one you were always ragging on. Why are you apologizing to her? Besides I'm the one who saved your life."

Desire' broke up the hug, turning to the tall warrior and throwing her hands around her neck and hugging her with all of the strength she could muster. "Yeah but you killed me twice in the palace," she whispered into her ear. She could feel the tall dark warrior tense in her arms with guilt. "Gotta keep you in your place princess," she giggled. "I love you Xena. Can we still be best friends in this life?"

Xena, who up until this time had kept her tears in check during this emotional exchange, let her tears flow upon hearing those words. "Of course, best friends. I love you but stop calling me princess," she whispered back.

Gabrielle watched the exchange between her soulmate and her granddaughter, at least to her she would always be Destiny just like Annie would always be her beloved Xena. She watched as Aphrodite walked up to their table.

"So did she believe you guys?" asked Aphrodite.

"Believe us? She's already writing a screenplay about it," answered Gabrielle as Xena and Destiny broke their hug, Xena keeping her right arm around Destiny's waist and reaching her left arm to embrace her soulmate.

"Whoa you remember Destiny?" the Goddess asked.

"And here I thought I was a creative genius," wisecracked Desire'. "Siddown guys, I have some more questions."

The four women took their places around the booth. Desire' began. "Do you guys remember other incarnations?"

"Gabrielle this is your specialty. Why don't you speak for both of us."

"Sure," answered Gabrielle. "Since we reunited in this life I have been studying reincarnation. Slowly we have started to remember our various lives together. That's why we honeymooned in Greece. We have remembered even more since that run in with Ares, but at least he switched Xena's soul back into the right body."

"So you really were in Joxer's body in this life? How many times have you looked like Xena and Gabrielle?" asked a very curious Desire'.

"This is the first time we have been in identical bodies to those of Xena and Gabrielle. Because we look the same as they did in the same lifetime, we believe that our souls were created during the same lifetime. Xena and Gabrielle seem to be our most dominant personalities so if our bodies were to duplicate again, it would be in the same lifetime again. It seems consistent with literature that I have read, that soulmates who are born on different timelines will never repeat the same bodies at the same time in any of their future lifetimes, including their dominant personalities. What we haven't figured out is how Xena's soul was put in the wrong body but then we do know Gods make mistakes, right Aphrodite."

"Hey is that an insult Gabby? Be nice," interrupted Aphrodite very defensively.

"Just a fact," replied Gabrielle.

"Are you just remembering your incarnations? And if so, why after thousands of years?" asked Desire'.

"Yes and we don't know why. We think that the show was such a strong stimulus to Joxer when he was in Xena's body that it brought everything to our attention. If Aphrodite hadn't sent you back in time you would have thought Destiny was just a product of your imagination. You look exactly like you did back then, except for the tattoos."

Xena reached across the table to grab Desire's right hand and pulled it toward her. She looked down at the lion jumping through the chakram, the mark of the Conqueror, her own hand tracing the intricate design. "I'm so sorry Desire'. Can you ever forgive me?"

Desire placed her left hand over Xena's. "I'm not. I will wear it with pride. It brought me back to you two and for that I will be forever grateful," she answered. "Besides it goes with the others."

"How many others do you have?" asked Gabrielle.

"I have a tattoo of Figaro on my stomach. On my right shoulder I have Chinese symbols representing the leopard and the tiger."

"Does that mean you play with tigers too?" asked Xena laughing. Gabrielle looked over at her warrior.

"It's a long story. She can tell you. The symbols represent my fighting style. The tiger is noted for its courage, tenacity and power. The leopard teaches us timing and speed as well as coordination and footwork. The kitten is just cute and I'm a Leo so the lion on my hand fits in well," answered Desire'. "Told you I was a cat, Xena."

"So it would seem," she answered back.

Desire' looked back over to Gabrielle, still holding the warrior's hand. "Gabrielle, tell me about some of your incarnations, please."

"Well, many times we have both been women. One time I was Xena's mom. A few times we have lived as husband and wife. Other times we became friends, whether as two women or a man and woman. Sometimes we were lovers but not in every life. One time we were nuns. That was interesting."

"Do you remember me in any of those incarnations?" asked Desire'.

"Once. When I was Xena's mom I was your mom also," she answered.

"We were sisters? Did we like each other?"

"You two were incorrigible. You fought like cats and dogs but you always loved each other, just like Xena and Destiny, even though you didn't like to admit it." Gabrielle laughed at the memory.

"Some things never change," muttered Xena, a grin escaping her lips, blue eyes twinkling at Desire'.

"Hey," defended Desire'. "It changes now."

Xena smiled and clasped her hand tighter. "Yes it does cowgirl."

Desire's smile changed to a frown, sorrow filling her eyes. "Hey" asked Xena. "What's wrong?"

"What about Eve? I always thought her and I were connected, you know, soulmates."

Gabrielle reached across the table to put her hand out to Desire'. "Hey, you two are. We've seen it. She was my son-in-law."

"Desire'," started Xena. "I promised you I would find your soulmate. I keep my promises."

Desire's eyes lit up. "You've found her?" she asked.

"Yes, I found her. She's my sister." Desire's mouth dropped as she looked at Xena with wide eyed amazement.

"Is she, does she, I mean what should I expect?"

"She's a wonderful woman and a great friend. And yes, she is gay and single. I promise you will meet her soon. She can't wait to see you," Xena answered.

"Does she remember?" asked Desire' tentatively.

"Yes, she knows she was Eve. But her soul is at least a life cycle ahead of yours so she doesn't look the same as Eve," answered Xena.

"Who cares what she looks like. She could be a guy for all I care."

"Desire' I have one question for you," Xena asked.


"Are you going to see the doctor on Monday?"


"The tumor, Desire'. You can't let it grow."

"Oh, that, there's no tumor."

"How can that be? Aphrodite said you had it in this life."

"I did but I don't have it now." She paused before finishing her explanation. "I didn't want to tell you what caused it. It seems every time I crack my skull open, twice in this life so far, fluid seeps out before the skull heals and the tumor grows."

"So I caused the tumor?" Xena interrupted.

"Xena you cracked her skull!" yelled Gabrielle.

"Relax Gabrielle. Things worked out. I didn't want to tell you Xena. Guilt issues and all," she teased.

"Hey guys, hate to interrupt this little family reunion but we have a show to go to," interrupted Aphrodite. She pointed at Desire'. " It's getting late and you my dear have to get ready. We have to fix that face up before you go onstage," interrupted Aphrodite. The three ancient souls nodded in unison. Xena called the waiter over to wrap the uneaten food.

"Xena," started Desire', "The song I chose for tonight. I was thinking of you, our time together in Corrinth. I, you, Gabrielle," she stammered. "Are you okay with what happened I mean really okay? The song is a love song."

"Desire' I didn't know Xena in that reality. You sacrificed so much for us. That was just one clue for us to find you. Not many people can be that brave so yes, I'm okay with it."

"One clue. There were other clues?" asked Desire'.

"Just a few Desire'," answered Xena laughing.

"What other clues, princess?" asked Desire'.

"Number one you're the only one who ever called me princess and lived to tell about it. How about your little problem with being called little? Or your little temper tantrums, not to mention the crying. Or the fear of spiders and taming the wild stallion and the leopard. Although I don't remember your fear of heights. That's a new one," answered Xena. "And you could be really evil you know," she added, her voice raising.

"Kiss this!" growled Desire' pointing to her backside. "I had to be evil to deal with you princess," Desire' shot back.

"Whoa hey you guys stop it. Now you're remembering way too much. Now shake hands and make up," interrupted Gabrielle.

Desire' and Xena looked at each other then at Gabrielle and both started laughing.

"Does anyone remember what we were talking about," asked Aphrodite, trying to change the subject.

"Ask Desire', she's real good at changing the subject," said Xena grinning at the small brunette.

"Yeah well at least I always had something interesting to say," countered Desire'.

"You know," Aphrodite said. "You two should be related," she said pointing to Xena and Desire'.

Desire ignored the snide comment because tonight for the first time all day, she knew she would succeed onstage. Her stage fright had vanished as she jumped up from the table with enthusiasm. "Let's go you guys." The four women walked out of the restaurant arm in arm. They had a date with destiny.


Xena and Gabrielle took their seats at a small table in the front row in front of the stage. Aphrodite sat at the back waiting for Danny to appear. She knew Desire' was nervous and seeing Aphrodite, knowing that the woman next to her was a talent scout from Nashville might make her nervous. When Danny showed up, she joined Aphrodite at her table as the talent competition began.

Xena and Gabrielle watched and listened as each act was announced. There were a total of seven entries, four singers, two bands and one duo. Desire' was the last contestant and they waited patiently for their friend's performance. Every act was surprisingly good. Xena found herself tapping her feet to the sound of the music and clapping when a male singer went into a rowdy version of Tim McGraw's song ‘I Like It, I Love It'. I can definitely relate to that song, she thought, stealing a glance at her soulmate.

After an hour six contestants had performed and left the stage. The announcer walked up to the microphone. "Our next contestant is a very lovely lady with a very impressive resume'. Of course none of it has to do with singing but I have it on good authority you are in for a treat. This is her first time on stage so please give a warm welcome for Desire' Love." The audience applauded as Desire' walked across the stage with her guitar and stood in front of the microphone. Gabrielle and Xena were clapping wildly in the front as Aphrodite let out cat calls from the back of the audience.

Desire' stood in front of the microphone confidence oozing from her. Xena watched her soulmate's expression, enjoying the radiant smile as Gabrielle watched her long lost granddaughter. "Desire' looks stunning in her white outfit. Aphrodite did a bang up job with her make up and the white cowboy hat just looks sexy," Xena thought. Xena had been standing as she clapped and realized as the band started playing she might look a little less silly if she sat down, so she did. Xena watched with pride as Desire' began to sing, her voice filling the club.

If I had a known the way that this would end. If I had read the last page first. If I had had the strength to walk away if I had known how this would hurt.

I would have loved you anyway. I‘d do it all the same. Not a second I would change. Not a touch I would trade. Had I known my heart would break I‘d a loved you anyway.

It's bittersweet to look back now but memories wither on a vine. Just to hold you close to me for a moment in time.

I would have loved you anyway. I‘d do it all the same. Not a second I would change. Not a touch I would trade. Had I known my heart would break I‘d a loved you anyway.

And Even if I had seen it coming you still would have seen me running straight into your arms.

I would have loved you anyway. I‘d do it all the same. Not a second I would change. Not a touch I would trade. Had I known my heart would break I would have loved you anyway.

I would have loved you anyway.

Xena and Gabrielle jumped from the chairs as the song ended. It was a flawless performance. They clapped wildly. The audience joined them on their feet, showing their appreciation. Aphrodite and Danny were on their feet clapping. Aphrodite was yelling "Woo who! You go girl!" as Desire' smiled and took a bow. She seemed to be the audience's choice. The winner of this little competition would win $500.00 and be offered a job, singing cover songs nightly but Danny had other plans. She was taking this lady back to Nashville.

Desire' took her winnings and guitar and jumped off the stage into the waiting arms of her new family. She hugged Gabrielle first who repeatedly told her how wonderful she was and congratulated her. Xena reached down to Desire' sweeping her feet off the floor and twirling her around like a rag doll before setting her down, facing toward the stage. The song had tugged at her heart but watching her soulmate's interaction with Desire' had tipped the iceberg. "Thank you," she whispered in Desire's ear. "The song was a wonderful gift."

"Princess," Desire' whispered back. "You're getting soft after all these lives."

"Don't call me princess, little girl!" she countered.

"Don't call me little girl," Desire' shot back. The ancient game continued to be played. The two women pulled back looking at each other and burst into laughter. "Some things never change!" they yelled in unison as Gabrielle just watched, joining in the laughter.

"Desire'," Xena began. "I have to tell you something about Eve."

Desire' stiffened as Xena said the words. Xena noticed the change right away. "No, nothing bad Desire', at least I don't think its bad. Remember I told you she doesn't look the same?"

Desire' nodded. "What's wrong, does she have three boobs or something? I don't care I just want to see her."

"No, nothing like that," answered Xena. "Three boobs, where do you come up with this stuff?" Desire' socked Xena on the shoulder. "Oww," she said, "that's the shoulder that always got stabbed. Okay be patient." She was teasing Desire' and remembering Destiny's temper tantrums decided she had better not make her wait any longer. "Did I tell you she's my twin?"

Desire's eyes lit up with disbelief. "You're not bullshitting me are you?"

"No, I'm not bullshitting you," answered Xena, mimicking Desire's voice. "She's my identical twin, by the way. Is that gonna be a problem for you?"

"You're not kidding, are you?"

"No I'm not so give me my hair back. No need to clone me now," Xena teased. "By the way, her name is Danny and she loves leather."

"Danny, that's the name of the talent scout."

"Just as sharp as ever, cowgirl. She is the talent scout. Turn around, someone's waiting to meet you." Desire' seemed to need a little help so Xena turned her around to face Danny, her long lost soulmate, a perfect replica of Xena.

Desire' just stared at Danny. She was six feet tall, long raven black hair being blown by the overhead fan, soul stealing pale blue eyes, bronze skin, radiant smile, and Xena's identical twin. She was wearing a crisp white button down blouse tucked into skin tight leather pants and long, sleek, black boots. Danny stared back, pale blue eyes drinking in pale green eyes. The world appeared in slow motion around them as the rest of the world seemed lost, the only two existing in that time was them.

"Homina," muttered Desire'.

"I see you still have a way with words," teased Danny. Danny put her hand out, grabbing her and pulling her into a bone crushing hug. The two reunited souls wrapped their arms around each other, Desire' crying softly into Danny's shoulder. Danny wrapped her hand around her head, fingers gliding through her hair. "I see you're still a crier," Danny whispered into Desire's ear. "Destiny, it's me," she said softly. "I told you I would never leave you. I promise you I never will. I love you Destiny."

"Eve, it's really you isn't it?" she whispered.

"Yes, it's really me," she whispered back.

An ancient memory flashed through Destiny's head. They were sitting around a campfire, Destiny's head resting on Eve's knee as she leaned over Destiny to wash freshly placed stitches from a battle wound inflicted earlier in the day by a warlord's sword. They had spent many moons reconciling their feelings about the incident in Rome. It had been a very long road over many years to mend their friendship, realizing they shared the same soul connection Eve's Mother and Destiny's grandmother shared. And today that connection had almost been severed. Destiny, always the insecure one, begged Eve to promise her she would never leave her again. Without hesitation, Eve told Destiny that evening as she finished dressing her wound.

"I remember that night by the campfire. I love you Eve."

Eve released her hold on Destiny. She gently cupped Destiny's face between her hands, tilting her head upward so she was looking directly into her eyes. After a long, passionate look she leaned forward brushing her lips gently over Destiny's lips savoring the softness. Destiny opened her mouth slightly, inviting her long lost soul in. Eve parted her lips open farther, searching for the smaller woman's tongue.

Two ancient souls shared a soul shattering kiss while the Goddess and two more ancient souls watched the reunion, not caring they were in a public place, a redneck bar at that. Gabrielle stood with her arm around Xena, leaning her head on her shoulder, her free hand covering her face crying gently as she watched the two. Xena leaned over to whisper in Gabrielle's ear. "Everything is precisely as it should be love." Gabrielle leaned closer into her lover's shoulder "Precisely as it should be," she repeated.




I would like to thank the following singers and songwriters for the songs that inspired me during this story. This story was written for entertainment only. The songwriters are listed in parentheses below each song name and artist. Some or all of the song was printed within the story. Honorable mentions go to ‘Kiss This', ‘Goodbye Earl'

and ‘Fancy'.

Song Name Artist

Even God Must Get the Blues Jo Dee Messina

(John Scott Sherril and Dene Anton)

Hole in My Head Dixie Chicks

(Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale)

Somebody Else's Moon Collin Raye

(Paul Nelson and Tom Shapiro)

Greatest Man I Never Knew Reba McEntire

(Richard Leigh and Layng Martine, Jr.)

Devil Went Down to Georgia Charlie Daniels

(Author Unknown)

Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under Shania Twain

(Shania Twain and Mutt Lange)

A Man Holdin' On Ty Herndon

(John Ramey, Bobby Taylor, Gene Dobbins)

Best Woman Wins Lorrie Morgan/Dolly Parton

(Dolly Parton)

Like a Hurricane Michelle Wright

(Michael Clark)

My Vida Loca Pam Tillis

(Pam Tillis and Jess Leary)

The River & the Highway Pam Tillis

(Gerry House and Don Schlitz)

Emotional Girl Terri Clark

(Terri Clark, Rick Bowles and Chris Waters)

Let ‘Er Rip Dixie Chicks

(Billy Crain and Sandy Ramos)

You Were Mine Dixie Chicks

(Emily Irwin and Martie Siedel)

In This Life Collin Raye

(Mike Reid and Alan Shamidin)

Twang Thang Terri Clark

(Tom Shapiro, Terri Clark and Chris Waters)

I Would Have Loved You Anyway Trisha Yearwood

(Mary Danna and Troy Verges)



Return to Main Page