by JS Stephens
Copyright © 1999, revised 2013. All Rights Reserved.
Comments to: email@example.com
Disclaimer: The various characters represented here mostly belong to Renaissance Pictures, as does parts of the back story. I am merely borrowing the characters and story elements for this here piece of fiction. But, the goddess Dike is thousands of years old, so no one can claim copyright on her.
Yes, Xena and Gabrielle are married, if you can't deal with that, then leave quietly. You really should be 18 or older since this story does deal, in part, with two women who love each other (gasp!) There will be references to violence but nothing really spelled out. There will also be references to various episodes from the third and fourth season, so they might take on spoiler type roles.
Gabrielle sat there, holding Xena in front of the fire, listening as her mate brokenly related the story of Solon's birth and her subsequent offering her son to the Centaur Kaleipus. Xena had also told her much more about the death of Borias, her lover and Solon's father, how he had tried to turn her from evil, tried to get her to form alliances, tried to turn them into a family. "I just couldn't, I believed too much in my destiny as the Destroyer of Nations, as Alti had foretold. It seems that everyone I love dies violently, dies because of their connection with me. Alti foretold your death, too, Gabrielle, your destiny."
"Xena, with all due respect, that is a bunch of horse shit," Gabrielle finally said. "Destiny, my love, is what you create, not what some twisted witch of a woman predicts! How many times has Ares told you that your destiny lies with him, ruling the world by his side and how many times have you told him just to stuff it? Xena, you listen to me for a change, just because someone tells you that your destiny is this or that does not make it true, if that were true, I would be a meek little housewife, not an Amazon Princess and former queen, and certainly not your wife!" Gabrielle finished angrily.
Xena looked up into Gabrielle's blazing green eyes and saw the truth etched in them. She could see the strength that her partner owned, the overwhelming love they shared, and the fierce belief that Gabrielle had in Xena's goodness. Gabrielle might be right, but so many had been taken from her over the years; Mao La, M'lila, Borias, Marcus, Lyceus, Solon, and she had nearly lost Gabrielle several times. She could not speak, for the ghosts of the past stood behind Gabrielle, yet, she had to live for the future, if only to help Gabrielle prove Alti wrong...
Solon could see Xena and Gabrielle standing apart, staring at the funeral pyres for himself and Hope. He longed to reach out to them, to comfort them, but could not reach them. He knew he was dead, and he knew that instead of his death pulling Xena and Gabrielle together, it was tearing them apart. He tried to speak to them, to tell Xena how much Gabrielle loved her, how much he loved her, but failed. He finally turned his back on the scene and cried out to the gods, "Please, help me make it better for them!"
A woman tapped him on the shoulder and said softly, "I can help you, Solon. I can help you create a place away from time, a place of dreams and illusions, a place where these beloved women can come to terms with their hurting hearts. Is that what you wish?"
Startled, he answered, "Yes, that is it, but how?"
She smiled and said, "Watch, Solon, son of Borias." He looked down and saw Xena tearing through the Amazon village, then pulling Gabrielle behind her, horrified that this woman that he thought of as an aunt or someone close laughed maniacally as she tried to kill her very own best friend. The woman beside him put her hand on his shoulder, saying, "Wait, Solon, watch as they enter the Land of Illusia." He saw Xena try to throw Gabrielle off the cliff but Gabrielle turned and fought back, then they both tumbled over the edge...
...and through the waters of Illusia, each going a separate trail until they met in combat, each trying to kill the other. "No!" he screamed, "they must not die!"
"They will not die, Solon," she said. "I promise, they will not die." He looked into her face, wondering who she was, but felt compelled to turn back to watch as Gabrielle and Xena were tied to the altar and the cross, the finally discovered that their love could overcome and help them start healing. "Go to the waterfall and call them," the woman told him. He ran off, then waited as Gabrielle dashed through the water and Xena hesitated.
"Xena!" he called to her. She looked at him, then at Gabrielle, then finally up at the ghost of Ming T'ien, shouting, "I killed you, you bastard!" The ghost shattered, then Xena could finally pass through the waters and pulled him into her arms, calling him son. He felt her love, felt Gabrielle's love for Xena, but son? Xena was his mother?
Xena laughed in sheer relief as she and Gabrielle rolled on the beach, healed physically and starting to heal emotionally, thanks to the gift from Solon. "Gabrielle, I love you," she shouted to the heavens. Gabrielle grinned as she pinned the larger woman down, then laughed as a wave broke over them, soaking them, baptizing them as they could start their lives anew...
Solon was relieved as he saw them on the beach, then turned as they started trudging away from the sea. The dark haired woman beside him smiled gently and said, "They must find their destiny and you must find yours, Solon. You are not dead yet, my child, for your destiny is incomplete."
"What?" he asked, startled. "But I'm dead, how can I be not dead?"
She motioned and he saw a vision, saw her pull his body from the pyre just as the flames were about to start licking his body. The vision faded away as she continued, "I am Dike, goddess of human justice, sister of Themis, goddess of divine justice. I have chosen you to be the next lawgiver in Athens, the one who will break old cycles and re-write the Draconian laws of injustice."
"But, Dike, I was dead, Hope killed me," Solon protested.
"Your body is slow to decay and swift to heal, like your mother's. When I reunite you with your body, you will forget that Xena is your mother, for this knowledge is to be revealed many years from now. Another body was burned, you will be found by an Athenian couple and raised as their own. You will remember everything prior to your death, but not after your death, until your resurrection."
He scratched his head, still puzzled. "I still don't understand."
"You will, Solon, you will. You were chosen by myself and Themis, you have the moral courage and compassion of your father Borias, the intelligence and cunning of your mother Xena. You have the ability to see good in people like Borias, and the attention to detail of Xena. You will have the ability to love and connect with all people like both of your parents. You will meet your mother again, I promise. Now, go on the road to fulfill your destiny." Dike pointed to a trail and Solon reluctantly started walking toward it, then stumbled over a root and lost all consciousness.
"Why, Gregor, why should people be bound by debt? Why should men and women be allowed to sell their very bodies and souls into servitude?" Solon asked his friend.
Gregor repeated his argument. "Solon, that is the way the law has been for hundreds of years, you can't change it now."
Solon shook his head vigorously, not buying his friend's point of view. "Why not? The law should not be carved into stone, the law is a living, breathing thing, to balance the scales of justice."
Gregor groaned as he flopped on his bed in their dorm room. He covered his eyes and said, "Solon, you are too damned inquisitive. Who put a burr under your saddle blanket this morning? You'd think that someone had told you to re-write the entire code or something, not to just learn it." He rolled back over on his side to look at the serious young man. "Besides, this equal rights stuff is just too much. I know that the senator you are clerking for is rather liberal, but you don't have to believe everything he says!"
"Adeimantus is not that liberal, he just believes in the freedom of the human soul." Solon retorted.
Gregor eyed his handsome roommate, wondering if the older man was Solon's lover. Many older men took younger men under their wings, taught them the arts of love, then helped them find compatible wives. Solon certainly attracted his fair share of attention from both genders with his beautiful blonde hair, serious gray eyes, tall slender build and deep tan. He excelled in many sports, but refused to ever pick up a sword, saying that his father would have frowned on it, his real father, not his foster father. Yet, Solon rarely seemed to notice the lustful looks cast his direction, putting all of his energy into his studies. Gregor had sometimes wondered what Solon was like as a bedmate, not that he was usually attracted to men, but Solon had such a passion for the law, surely this passion would spill over into his love life as well.
"Gregor, are you even listening to me? I swear, you spend more time mooning over what's her name, Julia, than you spend on your studies," Solon teased.
Gregor grunted as he sat up. "Oh, Julia, yes, well, she is a beautiful woman, Solon. I think our fathers are going to come to an agreement soon over the dowry."
"So, will you marry after you conclude your studies?" Solon asked.
His roommate answered, "Yes, then I will work with her father in the merchant hall as his clerk. So, have you met any women you like? Or men?"
Solon gazed steadily at the other man, then answered loftily, "Yes, and her name is Dike, goddess of human justice." He broke into a rare smile. "No, you idiot, I haven't met anyone, but someday, I'm sure I'll find the perfect wife, probably when I least expect it." He chuckled, then added, "I'm going to the library for a while, don't wait up on me."
Gregor flopped back down. "Oh, I won't."
"Going to the gymnasium with Alexander, the wrestling coach again?" Solon asked, eyebrows waggling suggestively.
Gregor stared at Solon in shock. "How did you know?"
Solon smiled again, this time very mysteriously. "I have many skills, Gregor, I have many skills." He left the room, leaving Gregor to wonder who else knew about his affair with Alexander. It wasn't like it was shameful or anything...
Julia waited for Gregor to show up for dinner at her parents' house. She supposed that he would make a fine husband, but he did not excite her; she felt like his attention was really turned elsewhere. At least he was bringing someone with him, a fellow student, she remembered, a man named Solon. Her mother, Miranda, came into the room and called gently, "Julia, our guests have arrived."
"Coming, Mother," Julia said. She stood up and adjusted the pleats of her dress, then walked into the living room to greet the guests. "Gregor," she said as her finance' dutifully kissed her hand. She then looked up into the solemn gray eyes of his friend, feeling them boring into her. She felt warm under the man's intense stare and asked, "And you are?"
The eyes smiled slightly as the man said, "I am Solon, foster son of Mikael and Palla, son of Borias, foster son of Kaleipus the Centaur." He broke into a wider smile and added, "I'm Gregor's roommate at the academy as well. You must be Julia, his betrothed, I am honored to meet you." Solon took her hand lightly in his and bowed over it.
Julia nearly jumped at the touch of his hand around hers, thinking, Gregor never affected me like this! Gathering her wits, she said, "Welcome, Solon. What do you study at the academy?" she asked politely.
Solon answered, "I mostly study law, but study some music and poetry as well, Julia. I do remember Gregor mentioning that you play the lyre and sing, will you be demonstrating your talents tonight?"
"Perhaps, Solon, perhaps." Julia's brown eyes started sparkling at the mention of music. She did love to play and sing and Gregor seemed to endure rather than to enjoy her music. As she thought this, Gregor took her arm possessively in his as one of the servants announced that dinner was served.
As dinner progressed, Julia found herself talking more with Solon than anyone else at the table. Gregor noticed and started drinking more wine than usual, slinking into a deep sulk, even being nearly rude to her parents. Her father desperately tried to engage Gregor in conversation but failed. Julia did not notice Gregor's rudeness, she was too busy listening to Solon's tales.
"Oh, yes, I did meet Gabrielle the Bard, Julia. I was about nine years old, living in the Centaur village when Gabrielle and Xena came through. Now there was a striking pair, the fair bard and the dark warrior, each complimenting the other. Gabrielle told some tales and Xena tried to teach me the futility of war." He leaned forward in his intensity. "Xena was unlike any woman I had ever seen, such grace in motion, far better with the sword than any swordmaster at the academy, yet, she took time to try to teach me that war is not everything, that war took my real parents from me." He leaned back in his chair. "I've kept up with their exploits, Xena knew my real father, a warrior named Borias. She said that he was not only a brave warrior, but also a peacemaker, always trying to hammer out this or that deal between warring factions."
Julia was fascinated that Solon had met the famous pair. "I don't know about Xena, but I would love to meet Gabrielle. Didn't she give up her throne as Amazon queen to marry Xena?"
"So I hear, my lady," Solon confirmed.
"Oh, how so romantic," Gregor grumbled. "Gods, what tripe, sounds like a bad poem, two soulmates meeting and making ultimate sacrifices to stay together. What next, they died for each other?"
Solon frowned, feeling as if a memory was tickling his mind, but not coming into focus. Instead, he answered, "Love is a gift from the gods to be shared, not scorned."
Julia's father, Giles, abruptly stood up and announced, "Dinner is over. Gentlemen, would you like to adjourn to the library with me? We can continue our discussion there." Gregor pulled himself up with an effort to follow his future father-in-law while Solon reluctantly left the table, sending a quick smile in Julia's direction.
After the men left, Julia followed her mother to the smaller sitting room as the servants started clearing the remains of the meal. As they settle themselves, her mother asked, "Julia, I could not help but notice the attraction between you and the young Solon. Have you met him before tonight?"
"No, Mother, I have not." Julia thought about Solon's expressive features, allowing a quick smile to grace her features. "But I wish I had met him before the marriage had been arranged with Gregor." Julia turned to her mother, observing, "Gregor does not seem very happy with our engagement, do you think he would like to call it off?"
Miranda laughed at the notion. "Julia, Gregor is very mercenary, he would no sooner call off the wedding than give his last dinar to the poor. Poor child, you have lost your heart to Solon, haven't you?"
She smiled broadly. "I admit, he is a charming man, with wonderful tales to tell."
"And handsome," Miranda added.
Julia agreed, "That doesn't hurt."
Her mother sighed. "My father arranged my marriage to your father, but fortunately, we fell in love the moment we met. I get the feeling that Gregor will never love you the way your father loves me and that is not good." She frowned, then looked at her daughter. "Do you love Gregor?"
Julia sighed deeply, glad to finally be able to talk about her concerns. "Not really. He is nice to me, but I think his heart is really with his wrestling coach. I also think he was jealous of how much attention Solon was paying to me tonight."
"Well, dear, don't fret just yet. I'll tell your father that paradise has a taint and I'm sure Gregor can be persuaded to accept another wife." She smiled at her daughter, who smiled back. Julia knew how persuasive her father could be, and Gregor could be persuaded with enough dinars. But did Solon feel the same spark she did?
Solon found that his concentration had been broken by the beautiful Julia. He tried to hide his attraction to her, especially since her parents kept inviting him to dinner when Gregor went, but he knew that she could see right through him. Gregor also noticed and broke off his affairs with Alexander to concentrate on keeping Julia interested in him. He did not want to lose his place in her father's company, so he actually started trying to woo her with poetry and songs, not relying merely on negotiations between their fathers to pique her interest.
Gregor finally approached Solon's senator, Adeimantus, with the request that Solon be given some task that would take up all of his time, leaving none for Julia. Adeimantus laughed at the young man, saying, "If Cupid has truly shot his arrow into both of them, all the tasks in the world will not tear them apart."
"But my father can contribute much to your cause," Gregor pointed out.
Adeimantus retorted, "Son, you may marry the fair maiden, but don't be surprised if she has no eyes for you. Why don't you gracefully give up and find some other woman to marry? You could probably still work for her father without marrying her, had you thought of that? I'd think it would be a fair compromise."
Gregor snorted angrily. "She is supposed to be mine."
Adeimantus shook his head. "No, Gregor, you do not own her, nor can you own her. Perhaps you can lay claim to her body, but never to her soul. Give up, young sir."
Gregor rose to leave the office, then said, "We'll see about that!" He turned on his heel and stormed out of the building, heading for Julia's home. When he arrived, he found Julia and Solon in the library, animatedly discussing his ideas of how the law should be changed and re-codified.
"Good afternoon, Gregor," Solon said to his roommate.
"Good afternoon my ass, you fool. How dare you try to steal my wife!" Gregor snarled.
Julia glared at Gregor and said, "Excuse me, but I don't seem to recall a wedding ceremony, Gregor. Besides, property can be stolen, but not wives or fiancĂ©es. Suppose I change my mind and don't want to marry you?"
Gregor glared from one to the other, then grabbed Solon by his tunic front, yanking him out of his seat, growling, "You've put her up to this, you little shrimp! You and your high-faluting ideals about women being free and all that! I won't stand for it!"
Solon replied calmly, "Gregor, we are in a library, you should respect others' right to study in a peaceful atmosphere. Please leave us so we can continue our studies, or sit quietly and join us in studying. It is your choice."
Gregor's face darkened. "Choice, huh? I'll chose to fight you for Julia."
"Violence never solved anything, Gregor," Solon responded rationally.
Gregor completely lost his temper and tossed Solon against the table, then leaped on top of him and started pummeling him. Solon blocked the punches the best he could while Julia grabbed Gregor's arms, trying to keep him from throwing punches. Gregor turned around and struck Julia across the face, then turned his attention back to Solon.
Other students jumped in the fray, trying to separate the combatants, scattering furniture and scrolls in their scuffle. The library director suddenly came out of his office bellowing, "Gregor! In my office, NOW!" Shocked, Gregor let go of Solon and meekly followed the man to his office. The director motioned for Solon and Julia to follow as well.
"Now, can any of you three tell me what in Lord Hades' name was going on?" the director demanded.
Julia spoke first. "Sir, Gregor is jealous of my friendship with Solon, has started to treat me more like his personal property than his intended wife. Now he is accusing Solon of trying to 'steal' me, since Solon treats me with respect and credits me with having a brain."
The library director stroked his short beard, turning sharp eyes on Gregor. "Young man, according to current law, you may be within your rights to treat Julia like property, but in my library, everyone is treated equally. This means, Gregor, that you do not go assaulting other patrons because you disagree with them. And, in my library, my rules override the law. I am well within my rights as library director to simply expel you from the library, to bar you from entering it again. Think of how that would affect your studies."
Gregor's color drained as the director's words sunk in. Without access to the library, he would be unable to complete his studies and his father would probably cut him off, like he had threatened to before when Gregor wanted to quit school last year. He slowly said, "In that case, I apologize to you, Libris."
"You need to apologize to Julia and Solon," Libris demanded.
He swallowed hard, then unwillingly apologized. "Julia, Solon, please accept my apologies."
"Apologies accepted," Solon replied.
Julia stared at Gregor for a long moment before finally saying, "Apologies conditionally accepted."
"Conditionally?" Gregor asked, confused. Damn it, I apologized! he thought.
Julia stated, "Yes, on the condition that you get out of our lives, Gregor. I cannot marry a man who thinks that violence is the answer to his personal problems."
"But our contract-" Gregor spluttered.
"Is null and void," she replied icily. "My father will get in touch with your father with the settlement terms." She stood up. "Thank you Libris, for your assistance. Solon, would you please escort me to my home?"
Gregor watched as Solon eagerly took her arm and left the office. He turned to Libris and asked, "What did I do wrong?"
Libris eyed him cooly, replying, "Did you ever get to know her? Find out her likes and dislikes?"
He stared at the director, answering defensively, "I did tell her all about school, about working with her father--"
Libris held up a hand, stopping the flow of words. "Gregor, that's were you went wrong, you told her instead of asking her." He chuckled. "My dear wife chose me over a much richer man because I asked her what she thought about this and that and did not force her to accept my views. We disagree, but it makes life more interesting. Go, but if you find yourself liking a woman again, please talk to her, find out who she is before just assuming that she will marry you for your prospects. I'm a romantic at heart, but I think the best marriages are a true partnership, not just a couple of individuals thrown together in a business deal."
Gregor frowned, but got up and left without saying anything else. He was not looking forward to telling his father that he had lost Julia. Not at all.
Giles met with Theseus, Gregor's father, the next morning. "Come, have a seat, Theseus, would you like some refreshments?"
Theseus shook his head. "No, Giles, but I thank you for your offer. Why did Gregor come home last night and moan about it all being over? Gods, he was so drunk and angry, just kept repeating that I would be furious with him when I met with you. Do you know what he was talking about?"
Giles clasped his hands together, laying them on his desk. "Theseus, my daughter wishes to break off their engagement. I agree with her, it seems that lately Gregor has not been treating her well at all. I foresee many problems ahead if they marry."
"So? After she bears him children, she would be free to take a lover, my wife and I have both done that," Theseus said, "why should it be a problem?"
Giles replied, "That is not acceptable in our household. You see, my dear wife Miranda and I met each other on our wedding day, but our parents talked about our respective likes and interests as part of the marriage contract and agreed that we would get along fine. Her father even wrote into the contract that if we were unable to tolerate each other after sixty days, that the marriage would be nullified. Forward thinking, and I should have followed suit when finding a husband for my dear Julia."
Theseus sighed wearily. "My son may not be the best husband material, but he is my last child. His brothers and sisters are all married with children, I just wanted to see his children before I died."
"My dear Theseus, Gregor has much potential as a merchant, but he needs, shall we say, some seasoning? Also, I hear rumors of his involvement with one of his teachers, something not unexpected, but it went deeper than the usual teacher-student relationship," Giles said delicately, uncomfortable with the whole conversation.
"And your point is?" Theseus asked, bored. Why was this man so upset?
Giles leaned forward and said bluntly, "I don't think Gregor saw my Julia as a woman or as a partner. He was taken by her beauty and by the chance to move up in the world through my business contacts. I am willing, however, to place Gregor on one of my ships for a few years as the cargo master's assistant, get him away from Athens, allow him to mature a bit before he has to decide whether he likes men or women more."
Gregor's father thought a moment, then said, "You put it so bluntly, yet you still offer my boy a chance. I will agree, with one condition."
"Yes?" Giles asked, eager to conclude this chat.
"That you pay a penalty for breaking the contract, say a thousand dinars," Theseus offered.
Giles quickly countered, "How about five hundred dinars and no pressing of assault and battery charges against Gregor?" He quickly described the scene in the library.
Theseus wearily hung his head. "He is too quick with his fists. Perhaps a spell at sea will improve his discipline. I accept, five hundred dinars and sending him to work with you." He stood up slowly, then held out his hand. "Tell me, though, do you love your wife so much that you don't pursue other women?"
Giles grinned sappily. "With all my heart and soul, for the rest of my life."
Theseus shrugged. "I guess Cupid blessed you. Good-bye." He left the office.
"Yes, Cupid blessed me indeed, as did his mother Aphrodite," Giles said after the other man departed. "I am truly blessed."
"Xena, this looks like a good place for lunch," Gabrielle said as she and Xena walked in the market area of Athens. "It looks pretty clean and smells wonderful."
Xena smiled fondly at her wife. "I get the hint. It would be nice to sit for a little bit, shopping tires me out. Hey, do I smell roast lamb? I haven't had lamb in several weeks."
Gabrielle sniffed deeply. "I smell it too. Hey, the prices even look reasonable and since it is past the noon hour, maybe we can get enough space to set our packages down on the table."
Xena smirked. "Next time, we rent a room first so we can dump them off."
"Yes dear." Gabrielle led the way into the dining room and found them a table. "Is this to your liking, oh princess?"
"It is, oh queen. Oops, former queen," Xena added slyly as she laid down various packages. A waitress came over and recited the daily specials and left with their orders. "Okay, after lunch we find a room, then we leave for Amphipolis in the morning. Why do you suppose Mother asked us to come home for several weeks? I thought the inn was in pretty good repair."
"She did say that she wanted us to learn more about running it. Do you suppose Mother Cyrene is thinking about retiring?"
"Mother? No, I hadn't thought about it, Gabrielle. But, come to think of it, she doesn't have anyone else to hand it off to. Or, do you think she's ill?" Xena asked, suddenly worried.
"No, I think if she were ill she'd have said to come directly rather than to come within the next month. Of course, she did specify that we come before our tenth anniversary," Gabrielle pointed out.
Comprehension dawned in the warrior's eyes. "She may be planning a party for us or something."
"Could be. Ah, our food," Gabrielle noted with approval.
They stopped talking as they applied themselves to their meal. Finally, Xena wiped her lips with her napkin and sighed contentedly. "Good lamb, well roasted." She started to say something else but noticed the couple coming in the door and turned pale. "Uh, Gabrielle, who does that man look like?" she asked nervously.
Gabrielle turned in her chair to look and nearly dropped her fork. "By Zeus, he looks like Solon!"
The young man happened to look in their direction and looked stunned for a few seconds, then recovered and smiled at them, pointing them out to the young woman by his side. She looked over and said something to him, then they approached the table. "Xena, Gabrielle?" he asked tentatively.
"Solon!" Xena said in a strangled whisper as she rose from the bench. "You are dead, I saw your pyre..." Her voice trailed off, not sure what to say or even think.
Solon reached for Xena and hugged her tightly, then pulled back, smiling. "No, I was rescued before it burned, I'm not sure how, though. Oh, let me introduce my wife, Julia. Julia, this is Xena and Gabrielle, whom I've told you about. Xena, Gabrielle, my dear wife Julia, whom I had the pleasure of marrying last month."
Julia flashed a dazzling smile at the two women. "I've heard so much about you, Solon always asks visiting bards for new tales of your exploits. I am so very pleased to meet such fine heroes," she said as she clasped each woman's arm in turn. "May we join you?"
"Of course you may," Gabrielle said, recovering her wits quickly as she motioned for the waitress. After their order had been taken, she asked, "So, this is quite a coincidence, meeting you in Athens."
"Not really, we live here," Solon said, "and I work for the senator Adeimantus as his legislative assistant, researching issues, helping draft bills for introduction, other things like that. I am convinced that our laws must be overhauled and he is giving me the chance to learn all about politics and law so I may do an effective job." He smiled sheepishly, adding, "I do get carried away, but it is my life's ambition to change the law. So, what are you two up to these days?"
Gabrielle answered, "Xena and I are heading home to Amphipolis, her mother wrote and asked us to come stay for a bit. We've just been going around, righting wrongs, stuff like that. I check into the Amazon village from time to time to see how things are going there. You remember Ephiny? Her son, Xenon, is now one of the upcoming leaders for the Centaurs, we are so proud of him, aren't we, Xena?"
"Huh? Yes, very proud," Xena said, still staring at her very much alive son.
"Xena, it is not polite to stare," Gabrielle muttered to her wife, then continued by spinning tales of some of their more recent adventures. She noticed that Solon seemed to be only half listening, he and Xena kept staring at each other. Julia was soaking up the tales, however, so at least a third of her audience was attentive, Gabrielle told herself dryly.
"Gabrielle, it sounds like you have fabulous adventures. Are you staying in Athens overnight? If so, you may stay with us, my parents' house has plenty of room for guests. We are living there temporarily until our new house can be completed," Julia offered.
"Sounds great." Gabrielle said, accepting Julia's kind offer. "Where is it?"
Julia gave her directions, adding, "Why don't you come in a few hours? Solon can take our packages back to the house so you won't have to keep up with them."
Solon finally snapped out of his daze. "Yes, of course, I'll take your things back home. We'll be happy to see you again."
"And my father will want to hear your stories, Gabrielle," Julia confided, "he's a big fan of yours, has copies of most of your scrolls."
"He does?" Gabrielle preened, thinking about meeting this unknown fan. "Okay, we'll see you in a few hours. Xena, we have more shopping to do."
Xena and Solon shared a "Oh, gods, more shopping!" look, then Xena said, "Anything you want, my dear. Solon, Julia, we'll see you soon, and thank you for your kind offer." Goodbyes were exchanged, and the two couples went their separate ways.
After a wonderful dinner, Solon asked Xena, "Would you like to see the gardens?" Xena nodded and Solon took her arm, escorting her outside. He took her through, showing her various plants and flowers from all over Greece, then finally steered her to a bench that was mostly hidden from the pathway.
They sat down, and Solon finally said, "Xena, I have followed your exploits ever since I met you and Gabrielle, when I was nine. I knew that I would find you again some day, I feel strongly drawn toward you, like the gods intended for us to know each other somehow. No, I don't mean I'm in love with you, I love Julia more than words can say, but I do feel, well, like you are part of me somehow."
He held up his hands, to interrupt her. "Xena, please, let me finish. Last night, I had a vision. Dike, the goddess of human justice, visited me and told me that my destiny lies in law, in re-writing the Athenian codes so that everyone will be equal in the eyes of the law. She said that I had been chosen, because my mother was a warrior and my father a negotiator. She further said that I would meet my mother soon, then I would know it was time to start pushing forward some of my ideas of equality and justice."
Solon let the words hang in the air for a moment, watching Xena's face, and added, "She also revealed that she saved me from Hope, that she pulled me from the pyre. I seems I wasn't completely dead, Xena, but that I had to be taken away so that Hope could not kill me again."
Xena took a deep breath and expelled it. She looked into Solon's eyes and finally said, "Dike spoke correctly, you have met your mother. I am your mother, Solon. I should have told you earlier, but I didn't want you to remember your mother as a warlord, or to be a target all your life because of me."
Solon grinned broadly. "Really? You are my mother?"
Xena nodded. "Yes, Solon, I am your mother. Borias was your father, a fine man, just ahead of his time. He wanted us to be a family, but at the time, I could not give up my selfish desire to rule the world for a mere baby." Xena smiled bitterly, wistfully. "It wasn't until Borias was killed trying to come back for us as I was giving birth to you that I realized, for a brief moment, what unselfish love could be. I chose to give you to Kaleipus, the leader of the Centaurs, for he was the first one to fight me to a standstill. I knew that someone that brave would raise you right." She sighed, unsure how to continue.
Solon reached over and hugged her fiercely. "Mother, Mother, you did what you thought was best," he said. He pulled back, looking at her as a memory tugging at the edges of his mind. Suddenly, it burst into his consciousness and he said, "Illusia! I saw you and Gabrielle in Illusia! Dike helped me create it so you would stay together, I wanted you and Gabrielle to remain friends."
"Illusia," Xena repeated, memories washing over her for a moment. She shook her head to clear it, then asked, "Did you know that we were..."
"Lovers? Not at the time, but later I did hear of your wedding, how Gabrielle gave up her crown to take you as her wife. Gods, that was so romantic!" He grinned happily.
Xena smiled broadly for the first time that night. "Romantic is right, son, that is Gabrielle all over. Hmm, maybe the gods got confused, it sounds like you are the romantic yourself, maybe Gabrielle should have been your mother."
"No, Mother," he laughed, "but I don't mind her being my step-mother. Tell me, how did you two meet?"
Xena relaxed as she told her favorite tale. "Well, I had just been drummed out of my own army and was wandering around aimlessly. I came across a slaver who was trying to kidnap the good people of Potedaia and I saw this young blonde girl actively resisting. I was intrigued, so I joined in the fray..."
"...and she came in, like an avenging angel, beating up these horrid men with just her fists and feet! I never saw anything like it, I knew that I had to follow her, learn her secrets," Gabrielle told Julia. "I snuck out of the house and followed her, much to Xena's dismay, but I saved her from an angry mob in Amphipolis by making them stop and think." Gabrielle's eyes sparkled as she told the tale.
Would Xena the Warlord come home and try to save them? Would I defend her so veheminantly if she had not just saved my life a day earlier? 'No,' I told them, 'I will not follow an evil woman, only a good woman!' Of course, neither one of us realized at that point that we were destined to fall in love and get married, I just wanted a way out of my boring life. Xena seemed just the ticket, Julia, but I have learned so much from her over the years." The bard concluded her tale, bowing slightly as she sat down.
Julia leaned forward, eager to hear more. "That sounds wonderful, Gabrielle, so when did you two get married?"
"That is another long tale, but our tenth anniversary is in a few weeks and we will spend it with Xena's mother, Cyrene, and our goddaughter Rebecka and her parents, Diana and Joxer. That, too, is another long tale." Gabrielle leaned back in her chair, then felt arms wind down around her neck. She smiled happily, pressing the arms close to her chest. "Hello, beloved, did you enjoy your tour?"
Xena came around and sat in the chair next to her. "Yes," she said simply.
Solon smiled and said, "Julia, I need to amend my introductions of this afternoon. This is my mother, Xena, and my step-mother, Gabrielle."
Julia looked over at the tall warrior and her companion, then back at her husband. "Yes, I do see the family resemblance," she said seriously, "You get your height and build from Xena and your coloring from Gabrielle."
"What?" the other three chorused.
Julia smiled wickedly. "Just a joke, just a joke. Xena, I'm proud to have you as a mother-in-law." She rose and kissed Xena's cheek, then kissed Gabrielle's cheek. "Welcome to the family, both of you. Oh, maybe this is the right time, Solon you have been so busy lately and I wanted to make sure."
Solon took her hand. "Be sure of what?"
Julia smiled at her husband and answered, "Be sure that I was pregnant. Congratulations, Solon, you will be a father!"
Father and grandmother fainted at the same time. Gabrielle quirked an eyebrow and said, "Yup, they're related."
"So, Xena, are you going to tell Cyrene about Solon?" Gabrielle asked as they rode Argo toward Amphipolis.
"Not yet, I haven't sorted it out in my mind yet," Xena replied. "It is so hard to realize that my son is alive and a man at that. Wonderful wife, nearly as wonderful as you."
Gabrielle hugged her warrior around the waist. "You can be romantic when you want to."
"Hey, don't let it get out," Xena teased. She put her right hand over Gabrielle's hands, holding the reins in her left hand. They rode in silence for several minutes, then Xena mused, "Can you imagine, my son chosen by Dike to re-write the laws of Athens? The offspring of the Destroyer of Nations, destined to be the Uniter of the City. What the mother destroyed, the son will rebuild. Poetic ring, eh?"
"Very." Gabrielle kissed Xena's arm, then buried her face in Xena's back, breathing in her unique scent.
"Hey, you are pretty quiet today, love, what's up?" Xena asked.
"Xena, do you forgive me?" Gabrielle asked.
"For what?" Xena asked, puzzled by her question.
Gabrielle took a deep breath. "Do you forgive me for not killing Hope when she was a baby? I mean, if I had done what you told me, you would have been able to tell Solon that you were his mother much sooner, maybe even have had some influence in his life, been a mother to him."
Xena stopped Argo and slid down, then motioned for Gabrielle to slide down as well. She walked the bard to a nearby rock and sat down. "Honey," she said very seriously, "I forgive you. You really wanted to see good in her, but her father was too strong. We had some hard times then, but we've come through them in one piece. Gabrielle, sometimes I wish that Hope would have been good, so you could have had a child. Well, to be honest, I wanted you to have a child, someone we could both love, someone we could bring up together. I was so shocked when Diana and Joxer made us the godmothers of Rebecka, it seemed like a third chance. But, we've been traveling and haven't seen her enough..."
Gabrielle reached up and stroked Xena's face. "Xena, don't you think that we were destined to travel until we met Solon again? To see that he was on the path to fulfilling his destiny? I have a funny feeling that our traveling days are coming to a close, that we will be fulfilling our roles as godmothers much better in the near future."
Xena nodded and leaned against Gabrielle. "Maybe you are right," she said quietly. Then, she lifted her head and looked around. She stood up and pulled Gabrielle by the hand, saying, "There is a hidden spot over there, let's go."
"Why?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena smiled wickedly. "Enough of destiny for now, I want to fulfill my desire for you!"
"Oh," Gabrielle said as she followed her wife. Sometimes, Xena had very good ideas...and this seemed like one of them.
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