DESOLATION

by Maderlin Bidmead
 
 

Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer, Autolycus, Eve and the horsies belong to MCA/Universal Pictures. Just the little story is mine

Love/Sex: Two women in love, but nothing graphic. The following chapters will also contain an m/f relationship. This is not the main part of the fic, but it is essential to the plot. F/F loving will prevail.

Angst: Yep....Good God Yes!

Timeline: This is an alternative to the events following 'Looking Death in the Eye'
 
 

NOTES: Good God! Look another update, hold on I feel feint! LOL. I hope that those who are reading this are enjoying it and I will try to update at least once a month, as I have missed writing a whole lot!
 
 

maderlin@rhanitie.fsnet.co.uk OR maderlin@yahoo.com OR ivonava_on@white-star.com
 


6
"Like, what the heck is wrong with these people?" The Goddess of Love looks with disgust at a plate of pickled larks tongues.
 
 

The blond goddess moved around her temple, surveying the offerings left to her by her worshippers. Her gauzy pink shift swirled and shimmered around her perfect body. Her chest strained against her bodice as she let out a gusty sigh, a bad habit picked up from the countless mortals that populate her life. The young Roman acolytes looked at each other in confusion at the goddesses question.
 
 

"Your Holiness?" The two young women asked as one.
 
 

"I mean, like honestly, would you want one of these if you were me? I mean, hello, Goddess!" She held up a cured bulls testicle. "Where are all the pretty, expensive things? Where's the love?"
 
 

"Oh, Great and Powerful Venus, our people simply wish to show you that they love you and give you objects that show this." The older acolyte tried to make her goddess see that these things were to honour her. It was a strange situation, until a few years ago the gods had rarely manifested physically in the Roman temples yet now they were seen fairly often.
 
 

"I should have stayed in Greece, now they know how to worship you there." The Goddess mumbled under her breath as she came up to a mirror. She began to preen and admire herself. "Looking good." She turned to the two cowering and thoroughly confused young women. "Go away kids, you bother me." The scuttled away at speed.
 
 

"Got it. Got it. Hate it. Hate it. Ewwww! Wouldn't give it to a dung beetle! I give up! I am so bored!" The Goddess of Love sat down on a plush red cushion, drumming her hand on her chin thoughtfully. "I could go visit Ares and the family...Nah, fat pregnant warrior babe is not really fun." She began to suck on her teeth. "I've got it! When in Rome...Visit the Emperor!" In a shower of heart shaped sparks she vanished from the room.
 
 

************************

 
 

In an array of sparkles the Goddess of love materialised in the well appointed gardens of the imperial palace of Rome. She turned this way and that, admiring the lush topiary and intricate sculptures that decorated the area. Now this is more like it! The palace itself was also beautifully and lavish, towering over the gardens impressively. Smiling hugely, the goddess strode towards the sound of laughing voices.
 
 

Augustus sat beside his wife on the lawn. The couple sat on a nest of plush red and gold pillows, surrounded by courtiers and nobles, all reclining in the same manner. Fifteen year old Germanicus and twelve year old Levilla sat on a satin sheet at their parents feet, on display for all of the Emperor's subjects to see. Mesella and the rest of the royal guard stood fanned behind their ruler. They were alternately facing forward and back in order to see anybody who may be on the attack. Mesella could not help but lament the fact that little Claudius was once again being hidden away inside, like a dirty secret. She didn't let that disturb her from her duty, every fibre of her being attuned to her surroundings.
 
 

As the goddess got closer to the gathering, she could hear the conversation and laughter more clearly. The laughter seemed forced, almost too amused, like the sound of people trying to please another. She had a great deal of experience in that area, when you were powerful people would always laugh at your jokes. People were always eager to please. As she began to climb the rise, her immortal senses reached out, feeling the presence of soldier all around the clearing. Now, do I want to walk into the clearing or appear? Not really wanting to be run through by a pack of over zealous warriors, it was Hades on pink silk, she decided to poof in.
 
 

"I think that we will have taken the western peninsula by the end of the month. Our forces are strong and our soldiers are intelligent and brave. Those barbarians don't stand a chance." Augustus raised his chalice to his lips, taking a healthy swallow. He watched as every head in the group nodded and titters of agreement followed. He knew they would, it was the trouble with power, everybody agreed with you. Well, everybody except Livia, its what he loved about her, she was a challenge.
 
 

The sudden explosion of lights in the centre of the gathering took everybody by surprise. The shimmering and cascading volleys of pink and red drifted to the floor in waves as a figure materialised from their midst. While the Emperor and his court sat stunned, the royal guard quickly came to their senses following their commander in charging towards the lone figure with swords drawn. Mesella was the closest to the intruder, her sword pressed to the hollow of a pale throat. The rest of the guards forming a wall between them and the nobility of Rome.
 
 

Mesella watched the blond haired woman standing in front of her. With her sword pressed to her throat she should have been able to feel the woman breathing. With the clothing, or lack of, she should be able to see the woman's chest heaving with fear. Even the bravest warrior could not be so calm in such dire circumstances as these, yet the woman showed no sign of fear.
 
 

"Who are you? What are you doing here?" The words were cold and the sword pressed even deeper into the flesh at her throat.
 
 

The beautiful goddess looked deep into the eyes of the warrior standing almost toe to toe with her. She was a small blond woman, with soul piercing green eyes and the build of a seasoned warrior. The goddess could see the muscles straining under her skin as she held the sword steady. Something about the young warrior nagged at the edges of her consciousness, she knew this woman from somewhere, and it was not the Roman royal court. She hadn't been here for many years. Time to show these people what being a god was all about. With a small flick of her wrist all of the guards found themselves back in their fanning positions, far away from the pick clad woman.
 
 

"Hi people, I am The Goddess of Love! But ya'll can call me Aphrodite. I hate Venus, its just sooo passe."

"You expect us to believe that!" Mesella was once again advancing on the blond. Nobody was going to hurt the family while she was here.
 
 

"Mesella! Stand down, lets hear what the Goddess has to say." Augustus was intrigued. He knew that the gods could manifest, he had talked with Xena and Gabrielle enough to know that they were often visited by them, Xena was even living with the God of War. "Aphrodite, would you like to give us a little more proof before my Captain has a stroke." His smile was warm.
 
 

Aphrodite liked the young man immediately. He had a charisma and command that set him apart from most petty leaders. She could tell already that he would go far. With a smile of her own and another wave of her hand hearts floated around the group, encompassing all of the nobles. As soon as the hearts settled, people turned to each other and began kissing passionately. It wouldn't have been totally unusual if five men who hated each other with a passion weren't trying to kiss each other. Augustus himself was caught in an erotic clinch with his own wife, something unusual even in their bedroom. The only person not consumed by the haze of love was Mesella, who kept her eyes firmly fixed on the goddess.
 
 

"Enough Aphrodite. Welcome to my humble palace, everything we have is at your disposal." Augustus managed to squeeze out between kisses. Smiling broadly, the goddess lifted the spell.
 
 

Sauntering over to the royal party she sat down on a big red cushion and helped herself to a fig. She looked over at the stoic young warrior, Xena coming to her mind as she watched the way that the young woman stood. It was so reminiscent of the other warrior, but different at the same time. I know you...
 
 

"So Gus, baby, tell me a bit about the place. You've done great things with the place..."
 
 

************************

 
 

Mesella was not a happy soldier. Not only was the strange immortal being allowed to stay in the palace, but she was being forced to see to her whims. When she should be protecting the family and teaching the young heir, here she was showing the too talkative blond around the city. The immortal couldn't seem to understand that the blond was not going to chatter.
 
 

"So, Messy, where do you like to shop?" For the thousandth time in the last three days she was met with silence, and it just felt wrong. Totally out of place. "Don't say much do you?" Silence. "You really don't want to be here do you?" Finally cold green eyes looked at her.
 
 

"No."
 
 

"Where would you rather be?"
 
 

"Doing my duty."
 
 

"Okay, then lets get you back to that then, warrior babe. I'll get Augustus to get me another guide." Because I am certainly not getting anything out of you. For the first time she saw something like life in the soldiers eyes and again the feeling of familiarity hit her in the gut.
 
 

"There is a young soldier called Vinicus, he could use a job like this. Nice kid."
 
 

So she can string a sentence together.
 
 

************************

 
 

After several strange and confusing weeks in the emperors palace, Aphrodite still could not shake her unsettled feeling. Something inside the palace was not right and every immortal instinct was screaming at her to involve the warrior princess. The only problem was, that whatever was wrong, she wanted to keep her suspicions hidden. So the problem she needed to solve was how to get the warrior princess invited to the palace.

7
 
 

Water sloshed over the edges of the rough hewn bucket as it swung at the brave warriors side. She would put out the evil fire beast and save the kingdom from danger. The pail hit her leg, but she ignored the bruises and made her way to tithe creatures lair. As she got closer and closer, she tried to let go of the bucket with one hand and draw her sword. Unfortunately her legs kept moving, catching the edge of the bucket and sending the brave warrior flying through the air.
 
 

The sudden crashing sound from outside brought the pair of warriors inside the cottage to their feet. As one the two dark warriors ran for the door, yanking it open and running into the front yard. The sight that they were greeted with was almost beyond comprehension. Neither warrior spoke or moved for several seconds, held captive by the incongruity of the tableau before them. Then suddenly and without warning they both burst into laughter.
 
 

Eve looked up at her mother and father from her prone position on the floor. She was laying in a pool of increasingly muddy water, the now empty pail perched on the top of her head, almost obscuring her vision. Her small, wooden practice sword stood upright, point stuck in the mud. The only piece of the little brunette that was not covered in mud were her crystal blue eyes. Eyes that were blazing with annoyance at her laughing parents.
 
 

"S'not funny!" The pout on her dirty face just made Ares laugh harder. Xena on the other hand knew that look, it was one that often graced her features, soon the little volcano would explode.
 
 

"Your right Evie." Xena pulled back her mirth and crouched down beside her child. "It isn't funny, and you could have been hurt. Your father and I are very sorry for laughing at you, especially when you were trying to be such a helpful girl and get the water." She reached out and gently lifted the bucket off of the small, dark head. "Ares, could you go and fill this up?"
 
 

"Of course. Hay, squirt, to make up for laughing your mama and I will take you to grandma's for dinner." The little girls pout transformed into a huge smile at her fathers words. Mother and daughter watched as Ares walked towards the well.
 
 

"Evie, I think we need to take a trip to the springs, 'cause your not coming in the house like that." The child's bottom lip was fast making a reappearance. "I'll race ya!" With that Xena was off and running, an extremely competitive six year old at her heels.
 
 

************************

 
 

Sometimes, Xena felt guilty. She felt guilty that she had settled down and was content. So many times, she had seen the desire for a home in Her eyes, but she had always said no. She had always accepted that and continued to follow. Yet here she was, with a home and a family. Xena still fought the good fight with Ares by her side, but they had a base now. People would come to their cottage, messages would be relayed. Against her better judgement she had allowed Ares to set up a militia, which roamed the countryside, keeping the most base thugs at bay. So far it had been a good idea, but Xena kept her eyes wide open, ready for anything. She may love Ares, she may trust him with her daughter, but she was knew him better than anyone. He could turn back to his old ways at any second, so she watched even as they lived together.
 
 

She sat on the edge of the lake, just out of sight of the cottage, Eve's head on her lap. She ran her fingers through her daughters short, midnight hair, feeling the child snuggle closer to her. Eve was a boisterous, energetic little girl, with enough fire and determination to do anything. She may have only been six years old but already she could handle a sword and out think a lot of the older children. She would even sometimes make up stories, Xena would always cry when she did but she never told her why. Eve began to stir in her mothers arms, turning onto her back to stare up into her mother's blue eyes.
 
 

"Mama." The word came out through a yawn.
 
 

"Yes baby?"

"When's the baby coming?" This was a question that Eve would ask almost daily. She was fascinated by the growing swell of her mother's belly.
 
 

"Well, a baby takes nine moons to grow and your brother or sister has been in here for four moons. So we have to wait...." She paused to let the little girl do the math.
 
 

"Five months! That's too long!" A thoughtful look crossed her tiny features. "Mama, I would really like for you to have a little boy." Xena raised an eyebrow.
 
 

"We'll see, Evie... I don't know who this little person is just yet." Xena watched in fascination as Eve turned towards her stomach and lifted the shift to reveal her belly. She placed her lips to the skin.
 
 

"Hello?" She whispered into the skin. "I bet you can hear me, so you make sure your a boy. I want a brother and I'm your big sister so you have to do what I say!" She had been very keen on being a big sister from the day the couple told her about the pregnancy. She was going to be hell on the new baby, a real little tyrant.
 
 

"You know you are going to have to help look after the baby, no picking on it until it can speak!" The duo laughed.
 
 

"I know that Mama!" Xena began to tickle the little girls face with her long hair, making her squirm and squeal. Soon the pair were rolling around on the grass tickling and laughing with abandon.
 
 

Xena suddenly stopped, poised above her first born. Her senses were still as alert as they had ever been, and she could feel the presence of the approaching figure even before they cleared the rise. She got into a crouch, putting her finger to her lips to let Eve know to stay quiet. The little girl knew better than to disobey, and got behind her mother's bulk. They waited, and soon a tall, thin man appeared.
 
 

"Hello Xena! I got something for you!" Joxer waved a scroll in the air and promptly tripped over his own feet, rolling down the hill and landing at the warrior princesses feet.
 
 

************************

 
 

Xena sat alone in the small kitchen of the cottage. Through the open door she could hear the sounds of Joxer and Eve messing around. The occasional sound of a distressed chicken let her know that they were up to some mischief. Ares was still in town getting supplies, so she was more than happy to let Eve be entertained by her favourite uncle while she read the scrolls Joxer had brought her.
 
 

Xena
 
 

Greetings from Rome, Warrior Princess. Rome wishes to invite you and your family to a great celebration in honour of those who fought and won the rebellion. On this anniversary, we will honour all of our losses and yours was as great as Rome's own. Rome will await your arrival.
 
 

Augustus Caesar

Emperor of Rome

Xena stared blankly at the brief invitation from the ruler of Rome. She remembered the young man whom she had known as Octavius, before he took on the burden of responsibility. He had been the head of the biggest empire in the world for longer than her daughter had been alive, and had sent her soulmate to her death. She forced those thoughts away, it was better not to think of Her, less painful that way.
 
 

The dark haired woman rolled the invitation back up and turned to the second parchment, trying to refocus her mind. As she unfurled the message, a sudden whiff of perfume hit her senses and a light pink cloud of dust formed around it. Xena knew without reading a word who this missive would be from. It was unusual for the Goddess of Love to write in such a mundane fashion, but not unheard of.
 
 

Warrior Babe!
 
 

This is for your eyes only, don't tell my brother. There is something going on here in Rome, I'm not sure what and that is what worries me. No doubt you have received your invitation to Augustus' celebration. There wasn't going to be one, until I gave him the idea. I needed a reason for you to come here hat wouldn't seem suspicious.
 
 

Please come, I know that you need to be here, I just don't know why. And bring that brother of mine and little Eve, she will be more than well protected. I will not give you details, I think you will know what I mean as soon as you arrive. I await your arrival.
 
 

Aphrodite

 xxx
 
 

Xena sat mulling over the unusually sober goddesses message. For Aphrodite to be that worried about a situation meant that it was bad. Really bad. Xena had long since stopped underestimating the ditzy blond, she had seen the caring side of Aphrodite once too often. She started to reread the letter when she heard the unmistakable sound of her husband approaching the cottage. His happy laughter directed at Joxer, no doubt. Taking heed of the first part of the message, Xena threw the goddesses scroll into the burning flames of the fire watching it quickly eaten up by the flames. It disappeared into nothing but cinders as Ares walked through the door and planted a kiss on her cheek.
 
 

"What's that?" He indicated the parchment on the table as he put down a big bag of flour onto the floor.
 
 

"We've been invited to a big party in Rome. Its to celebrate the end of the rebellion. I think we should go."
 
 

"Definitely." Ares could be magnanimous about the bard now that she was gone. Her memory was not as frightening to him as he had feared it might be.
 
 

"We can leave in the next few days, Joxer will be coming with us. He has his own invitation." Xena chuckled as she saw Ares eyes bug out. Some things never change, and Joxer was one of them.
 
 

TBC


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