This story takes place right after Many Happy Returns, and before Friend In Need
Read the following statement: Xena and Ares have had a smoking sexual tension type of relationship going on for years, but Ares is very probably Xenas daddy. If this statement makes you want to whimper and crawl underneath your desk, you might want to give this story a miss. If, however, you can take it in a Greek Gods will be Greek Gods kinda way, read on.
This story contains references to romantic and sexual actions between two women. Nothing graphic, but plenty suggestive, to the point of being downright bawdy, much more so than I originally intended, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your tastes. Reader discretion is advised.
All characters belong to Renaissance Pictures and Studios USA. No copyright infringement is intended.
Feedback and criticism can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Xena lazily circled over the cliff face, enjoying the view, the play of light and shadow over the rock and the sea as they were struck by the first rays of dawn, and the exhilarating feeling of sustained and limitless flight, knowing that she might not have the chance to feel quite so perfectly happy and free again, as she would need to turn in the Helmet of Hermes to Aphrodite as soon as the sun had risen fully. Reluctantly, Xena slowly glided in for a landing.
As her feet touched the earth, Xena turned to the precious cargo she held cradled in her arms. Her soulmate was sound asleep, her head resting on Xenas shoulder, her features relaxed in an expression of complete peace and contentment. Now that was a view Xena would never grow tired of watching. In sleep, Gabrielles face often assumed a sweet, childlike innocence, as it did this morning, and it never failed to touch Xena deeply, down to the very depths of her soul.
Which was a bit ironic, since earlier that evening Gabrielle had been thoroughly engaged in quite a few activities that were the very antithesis of the words innocent and childlike. Hence her current exhausted condition. Xena smiled down on her soulmate. My little trapeze artist. Xena would never have guessed that poetry would inspire her bard to do, well, those kinds of things. It made Xena wish shed figured that out sooner, because if she had, well, thered have been quite a few starving poets in the world who wouldve suddenly got a nice regular source of income, thanks to her. Xena was feeling pretty exhausted herself. Shed spent the first half the night being imaginatively and thoroughly thanked for the birthday gift shed given her lover, and the second half of the night scouring the shores of the Aegean Sea, trying to figure out where all their clothes had landed.
Incredibly enough, they actually managed to find most of them and don them midair, which was difficult and tiring and not nearly as much fun as losing them in the first place, so Xena wasnt surprised that her bard had nodded off on the way back.
Xena looked around her. There was no sign of Aphrodite anywhere, so maybe they could both get some rest. But as the warrior began to gently lower her soulmate down to their bedroll, Gabrielle sighed softly, and her eyes fluttered open.
Hey there, sleepyhead, Xena murmured gently, and was rewarded with a shy, adoring smile, as her lover gazed up at her through beautiful sea-green eyes. As many times as Xena saw that look, every time it happened she simply couldnt believe that look was for her.
Last night was wonderful, said Gabrielle. That was the best birthday present Ive ever had.
It was the least you deserved, for putting up with me and my pranks all day.
That earned her a wry look from her soulmate. Things could get pretty dull around here without your sense of humor to liven things up. I wouldnt have you any other way.
Xena was about to remark that of all the dangers they faced in life, dying of boredom was definitely not one of them, at least not as long as she kept traveling around with a certain cute blonde trouble-magnet, when, as if on cue, trouble arrived, in a bright flash of light and a golden shower of sparkles.
Well, good moooooorn-innnnnng! sang the goddess Aphrodite. She was the very picture of good cheer, grinning mischievously at them, and twirling a bright red cloth between her fingers. Hermes is going to need his helmet back, though I think that kind of a shame, yknow. Aphrodite favored the two lovers with a sly wink. You two put it to much better use.
It was at this point that Gabrielle began to notice that the red cloth Aphrodite was flipping about, in a suspiciously too-casual fashion, was unsettlingly familiar.
Aphrodite, whats that youve got there?
Got where? Aphrodite was now demonstrating her mastery of the art of pretending-to-look-innocent-and-deliberately-not-succeeding.
In your hand. The red thing in your hand. Your left hand, Gabrielle said, as the goddess made several seemingly-bewildered glances in every direction except for the most obvious one. Gabrielle had the sinking suspicion that she was about to be thoroughly teased and embarrassed by a being who had centuries to perfect the art.
Oh, this? Aphrodite stopped twirling the cloth, and held it up for inspection. Truthfully, there wasnt much you could say about the object in question, other than that it was very lacy and there wasnt much of it.
Gabrielle regarded the garment with a look of pure dread. The sinking feeling she had was confirmed both by the fact that she recognized the cloth, and the fact the shed just realized that a certain portion of her anatomy was feeling just a bit draftier than usual.
Aiiigh! Aphrodite, put that away! Where did you get that? Gabrielle was turning a shade of red that almost matched her panties.
Weeeellll, thats kinda a funny story, said Aphrodite, determined to savor every minute of this. I was feeling kinda jazzed after all the fuss and hullabaloo we had yesterday, so I thought, What better way to calm down than to take a nice moonlight swim, maybe catch some waves, out on the ocean at night, when its all nice and peaceful, when all of a sudden, I hear these really odd noises coming from up in the air, and Im thinking, I never heard a seagull make a sound like that, so I look up, and what should come dropping out of the sky but these. Aphrodite directed a cute little smirk at the thoroughly flustered bard. These wouldnt be yours, now, would they?
Ohhhh, Im gonna die! Gabrielle buried her face in Xenas shoulder. Xena felt sympathetic, but not so sympathetic that shed tell the love goddess to lay off. Plus, Gabrielle was extremely cute when she was embarrassed.
Aphrodite burst out laughing. Gabrielle was soooo cute when she was embarrassed! Well, arent we just Little Miss Modest today? You werent nearly so shy yesterday, when you were scandalizing young virgin sacrifices.
That was... bathing. Thats normal. Thats different from getting caught doing..., the normally loquacious bard was finding herself at a loss for words, or at least words shed use in public, ...doing.... ....doing that, finished Gabrielle, and the thought of discussing that out loud, even in the vaguest of terms, turned Gabrielles blush to an even deeper shade of scarlet.
Xena remembered that. That had been a sudden, unexpected, and extremely inventive maneuver that had startled the living daylights out of her and had come within a hairs breath of knocking the Helmet of Hermes right off her head. Damn near got them both killed. Xena grinned at the memory. Woulda been worth it, though. They wouldve both died smiling, thats for damn sure.
Aphrodite snorted, Honey, Ive seen more varieties of that than you can ever hope to see in your limited lifetime, the love goddess paused before adding with a wicked grin, though thats definitely not due to a lack of effort on your part.
Gabrielle steeled herself, and gathered the remains of her shredded dignity around her. Are you done tormenting me yet? Can I have my panties back now?
Aphrodite now assumed an expression of wounded innocence, that once again was hugely unconvincing. Well, thats a fine way to say thank you. I went to all this trouble to return these very nice and expensive silk things to you, which Im sure have all sorts of special memories for you, and thats the reception I get? Aphrodite sighed dramatically and tossed Gabrielles underwear back to the bard. Its just the fate of the Goddess of Love to be forever unappreciated.
Gabrielle caught the lacy red silk, and, after realizing that she had no pockets, and that there was only one place she could put them where they wouldnt be be out in the open, and be a further incitement for teasing, stepped into them and slid them up underneath her skirt, an operation that was watched with varying degrees of interest from the members of her audience. Gabrielle turned to Xena, her hands on her hips, and cocked an eyebrow at Xena. Enjoy the show?
Xena just grinned. She had, in fact, enjoyed the show immensely, but knew better than to gloat about it. She was currently reevaluating her immediate need for sleep, possibly to be rescheduled in favor of other activities as soon as Aphrodite left.
Aphrodite piped up, Hel-looo-oooo? Seeing as Ive just returned something of yours, theres a little item youve got of mine, and its getting to be about that time...
Xena paused, then remembered. Oh, right--the helmet! Reluctantly, she removed the helmet, and was unable to squelch a profound feeling of loss as she did so. Nothing compared to the complete uninhibited freedom of personal flight, not even when she was a Valkyrie, riding a flying horse--even that didnt fully compare.
Oh, quit pouting, said Aphrodite as she took back the helmet. Its not like theyre gonna revoke your membership in the Mile High Club or anything.
Xena stopped pouting and started glaring. I do not pout!
Mile High Club? Gabrielle was confused. Whats the Mile High... Gabrielle blushed as she figured it out. Oh... right. Wait--theres a club for that? Who else is in it? I mean, who could be in it?
Oh, a buncha gods, some Valkyries, Perseus and Andromeda, some other folks you wouldnt have heard of, you know. Aphrodite tucked the helmet under her arm. Look, if you wanna make this an annual thing, a special birthday treat for the little one, I could see my way clear to loaning it out to you guys--If you ask nicely.
Its not just that, said Xena, who was not, repeat, not pouting. Its just that this thing could be really useful. Xena noticed the love goddesses huge smirk at that last statement. For life or death situations, I mean. Especially given this ones, with a gesture at her soulmate, tendency to go falling off things. I mean, into rabbit holes, off cliffs, into Hell--you name it. I mean, if Ares hadnt caught her that one time with the lava pit, I dont know what Id be...
Ares? What? Xena, what are you talking about? Gabrielle regarded her friend with a look of pure bewilderment. Ares didnt catch me--I hit a ledge, remember?
Xena sighed. She really was exhausted. She really never intended to let Gabrielle know about that. Gabrielles memories of that time were painful enough as it was. There was no need to add more trauma to them. But the cat was out of the bag now, and there was nothing else to do except come clean.
Thats all you remember because Ares wiped your memories after he saved you and put you back in Potedaia...
What? That doesnt make sense. It was Ares idea to have me take out Hope in the first place. I remember at that point he really wanted me out of the way. Why would he then turn around and save me? Gabrielle was truly perplexed now.
No, Ares wanted to save Hope, she was carrying his kid, so he grabbed you both, and...
Xena, I saw Hope hit the lava.
That was put in your mind by Ares.
No, I ran into Hope later on in Potedaia, and she said that she was caught by the fire, but the fire was really Dahak, and...
AAAAIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!! Both Xena and Gabrielle stopped arguing and swiveled to face the source of the terrible, earsplitting noise, to find a truly and mightily pissed-off Goddess of Love. Her face was bright red, and golden energy crackled and sparked off her. One of the golden bolts hit a poor innocent nearby woodland creature, who immediately ran off and started mating frantically with some nearby shrubbery.
Aphrodite was visibly shaking, with a fury that neither of the two heroes had ever seen her display before. That... that RAT! That... creepy... rotten... disgusting... great big... Aphrodite paused, as she racked her brain for a word nasty enough to appropriately describe her brother, but she couldnt find one, so she had to settle. Great big.... JERK! The final expletive set off a matching energy explosion from the goddess, and a nearby tree began pollinating like there was no tomorrow.
The two heroes stood staring with silent amazement at this outburst, and neither was quite sure what to say. Gabrielle, self-appointed Head of Sensitive Chats, decided to go first. Aphrodite, is there something bothering you?
Aphrodite wasnt paying much attention. After all that trouble I went to, he goes and just takes all my credit. Like it was easy to turn myself into a gust of wind and blow a falling bard onto a nearby ledge at just the right moment? And digging a tunnel through all that rock and up to the surface while she was all passed out--that was so gross. I ruined three, three whole outfits and got about six feet before I had to ask Hephy to finish it for me--he liked that stuff anyway. But I cant believe that... that LOSER would just go around... why Ive got half a mind to...
Realization hit Xena like a ton of bricks. That BASTARD! He TRICKED me! And I FELL for it! That no-good, son of a bacchae... And here Xena began to list a series of word that accurately described the God of War in great detail. Unlike Aphrodite, Xenas vocabulary did not fail her in the slightest.
Gabrielle just stood there in total bewilderment. The only coherent thought she was capable of forming at the moment was that she really needed to have a talk with Xena about her language. Those were Doric curses she was using, but she was saying them with an Ionian rhythm. That would simply never do, but right now did not seem like the best time to bring this up, or say anything, really. Gabrielle waited for both women to calm down.
After a few minutes, Aphrodite was no longer shooting off sparks, and Xena had ceased cursing in favor of repeatedly smacking herself in the skull with the heel of her hand and muttering, Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid... like a mantra. Gabrielle approached the still-fuming goddess with her first question. Aphrodite, you saved me from the pit? Im very, very grateful for that, but why did you do it? As I remember, we werent exactly on the best of terms, back then.
Yeah, SO? Like Im going to let my own daughter get all burnt to a crisp over a silly little thing like a stolen diamond? Sha, RIGHT! Geez, do you really think Id be that shallow?
Aphrodite indignantly crossed her arms, tossed her head, and waited for an apology. Mortals could just be so ungrateful sometimes. There was a long silence, and the goddess was beginning to get irritated again. Mortals could also be incredibly dense. WELL? She turned to confront Gabrielle face-to-face...
...and was confronted with an expression on the bards face shed simply never seen before. It looked like Gabrielles brain was on overload. Aphrodite looked at Xena, only to find the warriors countenance similarly arrayed. Puzzled, she extended her senses. Nope, there werent any magicks or enchantments around, and if either of them had been hit with stray love sparks, shed know, so what could...
Gabrielle finally regained some of her powers of speech, enough for a stammering, M-Mom?
Aphrodite winced, looked about apologetically, her hands flying to her lips. She hadnt meant to let that slip. Oopsie!
Mom? It really wasnt the most intelligent conversation the bard had ever had, but it was really the best she was capable of, considering the circumstances.
Pookie! Aphrodite threw her arms wide, and rushed over to embrace her daughter. If her secret was out, she might as well make the most of it.
As well as she could, Gabrielle commanded her arms to hug her mother back, but her brain was still reeling from the shock. B-but, how is that possible? I mean, you never... I never thought...
You know, that would explain few things. Xenas analytical mind had recovered already and was working overtime. Actually, it would explain eight or nine things, most of them from last night, that a prim and proper lass raised in straight-laced Potedaia had no business doing that well, but those werent the things she was thinking of. Well, they werent all the things she was thinking of. They werent the things shed discuss out loud. In mixed company.
What are you grinning about? Gabrielle had a fair idea what the answer to her question was, but she really wasnt in the mood for any of that right now.
Uh, well--Yknow, I always thought it was odd that Lila never looked much like you, and you said you never fit in at Potedaia. Aphodite's the most beautiful goddess there is, and youre the most beautiful mortal woman in the world by far, hell, you had almost the entire male and female Nordic population throwing themselves through a wall of fire to get to you, though I think part of thats due to the fact that at the time, you had actually gone a whole year without saying anything, that probably fooled em... Xena trailed off as she realized she was digging a hole for herself that would be very hard to climb out of.
Gabrielle automatically threw a glare Xenas way, but she was still too stunned to put much heart into it. She was struggling to mentally reconstruct her life, as everything she ever believed about herself and her roots now seemed to waver in a state of uncertainty. She needed to reorient herself, she needed to know the truth, but the enormity of what shed just learned was such that she found herself unable to even form a question that could lead to the answer she needed.
Xena, on the other hand, was less overwhelmed, and was used to working under pressure. She turned and queried the goddess, So, why did ya keep this a secret for so long? Why are we just hearing about this now?
Now it was Aphrodites turn to look embarrassed. Hey, now--remember, Im the Goddess of Love, all right? I mean, if kept perfect tabs on every measly little kid Ive had over the millennia, why--Id never get anything done. Its a rough job, okay?
Aphrodite! Gabrielle was shocked, and turned on the goddess, temper flaring. Are you saying you abandoned me and just forgot? Thats the most thoughtless thing Ive ever heard! I cant believe even you would be so selfish. How can you abandon your child like that and still call yourself a mother? How COULD you?
Aphrodites face tightened into a stiff mask, as she responded with a terse, Look whos talking.
It was like she had been physically struck. Gabrielles face turned ashen, and she felt her guts churn. Xena automatic reaction to leap to her soulmates defense was short-circuited by the sudden reminder that the whole Hope debacle was partially her fault, which led to the memories of how she ended up abandoning both her children, with disastrous results in both cases.
The three of them stood staring at each other, each caught up in their own private hurt. Aphrodite broke down first, and Gabrielle rushed over to comfort her, and Xena followed last, wrapping her arms around them both.
Im sorry, Pookie, I didnt mean...
No, youre right, I was being judgmental, but I did the same thing with Hope, and she was my child...
Sweetheart, you had to do what you did, to keep me from getting at her, I didnt give you any choice...
But Xena, I should have listened...
No, no--you two, Aphrodite began to take deep breaths, trying to regain her composure, This is still the Little Ones birthday. Its her party and she can cry if she wants to. Its supposed to be a happy day and Im just dumping tons of stress on her with all this news.
Im okay, Im just a little confused... I mean... how could you lose your... I mean, Im sure theres a reason... Gabrielle paused, the typically loquacious bard once again at a loss for words, not wanting to ask her question in a way that would sound like she was accusing the goddess of anything.
Its okay, you can say it--how could I lose you? Well, Ive got an explanation. I mean, I may be blonde, but Im not that blonde. You see, your daddy was a mortal, and when that happens, the kids could either be mortal, or immortal, and theres know way of knowing which way theyll turn out beforehand. Well, you turned out mortal, and while you were soooo cute and soooo precious, (At this point Aphrodite directed a huge smile at her daughter, which prompted a smile in return, which prompted Xena to think that Dites description was still perfectly accurate even today) but for a mortal kid to be raised on Olympus--well, its not allowed, and even if it was, it just wouldnt be safe at all. So, though it was hard, I gave you back to your daddy, so you could be raised safely among mortals.
Xena regarded Aphrodite with mild surprise. So, you and Herodotus? I wouldnt have pictured that, but I suppose in his youth...
Aphrodite stared goggle-eyed at Xena for a full thirty seconds before bursting out in hysterical laughter. HERODOTUS! Like I would actually... the love goddess next words were swallowed up by another laughing fit. Gabrielle had to smile herself, as she couldnt see that pairing happening herself in a million years. Of course, she could hardly fathom the idea of her adoptive parents ever having sex with anyone, including each other. Sometimes she wonder how they even managed to have two children. The answer being, she now realized, that they hadnt.
Xena glared at the goddess, but it wasnt one of her more effective or intimidating glares. She didnt appreciated being laughed at by anyone, except maybe Gabrielle, but she was trying to take it in good humor. All right, so who is the father, then?
Gabrielles father was a poet. A verrry good poet. Specializing in love poems, and let me tell you, there aint nothing that can get my motor running like a nice, passionate, eloquent love poem. Gets me every time. Im just a sucker for em. Aphrodite let out a sensual shiver at the memory.
Heh. Runs in the family, said Xena, as she grinned wolfishly at Gabrielle, who started blushing furiously.
Uh... well, right... Wait, if Im not really related to Herodotus or Hecuba, why did they raise me? Gabrielle was eager to change the subject, as she didnt like the details of her sex life made public, which is why she never put them in her scrolls, and she didnt want them discussed in front of her mom, even if she was the Goddess of Love. What happened to my real dad?
Aphrodite sighed, Well he got sick, and died, like you mortals often do. The goddess didnt like this subject at all, because it reminded her of the frailty of the two people with whom she was talking. One day, the same thing would happen to the both of them, as well, and shed be all alone. It was so much easier to think of mortals as pawns or playthings. That way, it didnt hurt so bad when Celesta came for them. But the little one had a way of making it impossible to not care. There was just something about the young bard--surely part of it was inherited from her mother, thought Aphrodite with no small amount of pride, but part of it was a completely ineffable quality that the goddess simply couldnt explain. And as for the father... Aphrodite interrupted her musings with the realization that she had let her thoughts go way off-track. What had she been saying? Yes. Well, anyway, by the time I found out about it, Pookie here had already been adopted, and her parents seemed... well, okay--aside from being really dull, so I figured she was best where she was. But the only problem is, her new family was like, really strict. And they didnt trust strangers at all, so I could only go visit now and then, and I had to do it in disguise, and you know, for us gods, we just measure time much differently than you mortals do. You know, you think to yourself, Ill do it first thing tomorrow, and then tomorrow comes, and then theres whole ton of other stuff to do, so you say, this time Ill really do it tomorrow... and, you know... time just flies. Aphrodite sighed. The last time I saw you, you know, before--you were 11 or 12.
Gabrielle thought for a minute, then her eyes went wide. I remember that. That strange old woman who knew all this stuff about me--that was you? The goddess nodded, and Gabrielle continued reminiscing. You were really nice, and I told you a story. It was one of my first. It was about a woman who had a flying horse, and she flew the horse up to visit the stars in the sky. The woman was beautiful, hair as black as a ravens wing, and eyes as blue and cold as ice. Everyone said she was cruel and cold-hearted, but she only acted that way because she was sad and lonely inside. She flew up to the stars to hear them sing, because she heard that if you could listen to the starsong it would tell you how to find your one true love. I had completely forgotten that until today. Gabrielle looked over at Xena and smiled, Beautiful, blue-eyed and dark-haired. And years later, the hero from my childhood fantasies comes to life and saves me from slavers. Its no wonder I dropped everything and followed you.
Xena smiled, but her brain was demanding her immediate attention, as it usually did whenever it found a connection, a pattern, that might be important. Gabrielle was about 16 when they first met, so when Gabrielle was 11 or 12 Xena would have been...
...In the Northlands. With the Valkyries. Riding a flying horse. Back then she had been cruel and bloodthirsty. Had she really been sad and lonely? And then Xena remembered. The one activity she truly loved back then, other than warfare, was the simple thrill of riding a flying horse, which shed do for hours, long into the night. And one night she flew higher than shed ever had before, so that even Valhalla seemed small in the distance below her. And up above her she saw the stars, and shed had the sudden, almost overwhelming urge to fly up to those stars, at the time, shed thought, just to see if she could. Shed circled at that great height for a very long time before finally, shed thought to herself, come to her senses and headed back, to complete her plans to steal the Rheingold, and gain ultimate power, which was far more important than possibly killing herself for no real reason other than childish curiosity.
But now Xena wondered, had the stars actually been singing to her, very faintly, just below the edge of her hearing? If she had flown higher, would she have heard the full song? At would it have told her of a beautiful young maiden, the daughter of the Goddess of Love, who lived in a small town in Greece, with green eyes and blonde hair, who was dreaming of her and waiting for her and loved her even then? Xenas reverie was interrupted as her soulmate continued her questioning.
So you didnt recognize me the next time you saw me? Gabrielle still found this hard to believe.
Of course I didnt! You had already been with Xena for, what, over a year already? You had grown up sooo much. Like, Im supposed to see this buffed, staff-swinging Amazon chick I meet in Amphis, and immediately connect that with the cute, precocious little peasant girl I left all the way over in stuffy, provincial little Potedaia? I may be a god, but thats a stretch even for me.
Gabrielle grinned ruefully, remembering just how much shed changed over the years. Sometimes she could barely believe it herself. But still... The name Gabrielle wasnt a tip-off? Gabrielle knew her name was really unique in this region, and she had never met another woman that shared it.
Aphrodite snorted, Gabrielle isnt your real name, its just the name Hecuba and Herodotus gave you. When you were born, I named you Amaltheia, and thats how I always thought of you. Id be, like, I wonder how little Amaltheia is doing, or Id sneak out and watch you, and Id be, like, Theres my little Amaltheia. So when I run into this Gabrielle chick conking baddies over the head with a great big stick... Aphrodite trailed of with a shrug of her elegant shoulders, and an expression that said, Who knew?
Gabrielles expression was unreadable. You named me Amaltheia? The name was oddly familiar. Gabrielle searched her memory, and in her bardic repertoire found the reference, to the story of Zeus childhood, when he had to be hidden from his father, Kronos, and was spirited away to the isle of Crete, and was nursed to manhood by a magic fairy... A goat? You named me after a GOAT?
Aphrodite giggled with delight. Yes! Isnt it a great name?
Umm... Its really... well, Gabrielle was rapidly searching her vocabulary for just the right word to describe her birth name, but even though she had a huge vocabulary, the right word was not making itself known.
Just fabulous, right? Aphrodite was delighted. Now, I know youve been using Gabrielle for, like, your whole life, but now that you know what your real name....
What, dont you think its...
Well, what if..
Not even if its just the two of us, and...
Not even. Gabrielle hated to be harsh, but nobody was calling her a goat.
Xena smirked. New ammo. I dunno, Amaltheia, I think it kinda...
Gabrielle whirled on her soulmate. Dont You Even Start!
The warrior knew her partner well, and she had learned what that tone of voice meant. It meant that continuing down this path would surely bring her far more misery that amusement, so she quickly retreated from her wicked, smirking look to a neutral innocent look. Her retreat was noted with disgust by a disappointed Goddess of Love, who had placed great hopes on this new ally, only to have them crushed by Xenas near-instantaneous withdrawal. Aphrodite saluted Xenas retirement from the field by waving her hand and making whip-cracking sound effects.
The bard felt it was time for a change in subject. But, even with the name-change, eventually you figured it out, and a while ago, too. Because you did know who I was when you caught me in the lava pit, right?
Uh-huh. It was, like, right before then, when we all had that leetle misunderstanding about that mystic diamond thing, and I kinda sorta put just a bit of a spell on the both of you?
Oh, yeah--that was so embarrassing! Gabrielle shook her head at the memory. Xena couldnt stop fishing, and I got completely obsessed with myself. I turned into the hugest egomaniac on the planet.
And you were soooo good at it! Aphrodite beamed at her daughter with pride. I saw that and I said to myself, Damn--since when did she get that kinda style? I mean, honey, you were just smokin up the wilderness with that routine. It was great! And that poem--no--that song you did... How did it go again?
Gabrielle, the legendary bard, grimaced as she recalled what she considered to be the absolute lowest point of her bardic career. Uh, I cant really remember now, plus...
Xena knew an entrance cue when she heard one. Ohhhhhhhh....
Xena! Dont you dare...
Wrong tone of voice, gotta say it like you mean it, Xena thought with a smirk as she started to sing, Listen to mstory bout Gab-ri-elle,
Aphrodite recognized the tune and joined in on the next line, Cute little gal thats lookin really swell,
The bard knew it was futile, but she couldnt keep from trying, It's okay, guys, I remem...
The poetic carnage continued, Perfect hair, such a lovely lass,
(with extra gusto for the finale) Nice round breasts and a firm young...
GUYS! Gabrielle was beside herself with embarrassment.
What? We were really groovin there, whats the problem here? Aphrodite loved her daughter, but she could be such a killjoy sometimes. I blame her upbringing.
Xena, the exasperated bard said as she faced her partner, Out of all the years weve been together, and with all the poems Ive written over those years, that has to be the one poem you remember?
I like it. Its catchy. And it rhymes. And, the warrior added with a leer, its completely true.
And, said Aphrodite, Its so completely me. When I heard that song, I knew something was up. You dont get that kinda style from nowhere. So I thought really hard, you know, and I remembered--hey, Amaltheias that age, could it even be possible... and I had to make sure, so I popped on over to Podunk--Potedaia, I mean, and you werent there, and then I knew. And that Herodotus person was really rude when I asked about you, Gabs, and he said some things about Xena that werent nice at all. And... Xena, I cant believe youd really think that Id actually sleep with that man. I mean, give me some credit here--I do have my standards.
Xena would have replied, but she had a sudden coughing fit, only the coughs ended up sounding a lot like Caligula!
Oh, ew! Okay, like, maybe if I was totally unbalanced and completely out of my mind, the goddess wrinkled her nose in distaste. Truth be told, I dont even know how that happened. I can barely remember anything from around that time. Ive got no idea about what I couldve being doing. Probably some wild stuff.
Oh, Ill say, Gabrielle chimed in. Why at one point, you even tried to...
Gabrielles voice trailed off, and her face suddenly went white as a sheet. Oh! Ugh! Ew! Ew! Ewwwwwwww.... The mortified bard clawed at her tongue, trying to clean it off, but it wasnt working, Gross! That is so gross, I cant even... Aaaaaaaiggghh!
And then, driven by a sudden urge for some serious time-out in private, Gabrielle ran to the edge of the clearing, and dived into some nearby shrubbery, dislodging a startled and exhausted shrubberphiliac rodent, who had to shuffle off in search of another bush.
Xena and Aphrodite both stood and stared at the now bard-laden shrubbery, utterly baffled by Gabrielles outburst. Aphrodite recovered first. Ew? she said in voice that was little more than a whisper, She finds out Im her mom and she says, Ew? She... she thinks Im gross?
Xena could see where this was going, and she didnt want it to get there. Aphrodite, Im very sure that thats not what she was upset about...
But Aphrodite was on a roll. I knew it! I mean, you guys always treat me like an annoyance. I know you dont respect me, you never have! I mean, most mortals, when they meet a god, theyre just fawning all over you from word one. But you guys never did that, neither of you. And okay, maybe in the beginning, for a while there, you had some reasons, but Ive been good lately, havent I?
Yes, you have. And Im sure...
I mean, I know I screwed up sometimes, but I was so trying to help. Okay, flipping your spirit into the body of that little kid was a serious screw-up, Ill admit it, and Im sorry I lost that little virgin at the market, but didnt it turn out all right? I mean, Ive got a big, serious job here, keeping love going for the whole world. Does that sound easy to you? I lost my job once, and NEITHER of you liked it AT ALL. Some APPRECIATION wouldnt HURT. Just a teeny, tiny, little bit of... And at this bit, the goddess voice changed to a choked-up squeak, right before she ran to Xena, wrapped her arms around her, and began sobbing on her shoulder.
Xena was out of her element. Before she met Gabrielle, having someone turn to her for comfort in this fashion was an alien and awkward experience. And now, she was discovering that having someone who was not Gabrielle sob on her shoulder was just nearly as awkward. And as much as shed like to argue otherwise, Gabrielle really was better at the sensitive chat thing. And Gabrielle was always better at handling Aphrodite than she ever was, for reasons that were now obvious. Still, a warrior had to try.
Okay, now. Thats okay. Let it out, go ahead. Just let it all out. Come on, deep breaths, can you give me some good, deep breaths? Xena relaxed a bit, as the goddess began to calm down. Aphrodite gestured, and a filmy hanky appeared from nowhere. She put it to her nose, and blew a great honking blast into it. She tossed the hanky aside, and it dematerialized, gone from whence it came. For some reason, doing that sort of thing is always reassuring on some level, even for a goddess, so she did it again. That brought her almost back to normal, and she helped the rest of her tears to dry by fanning herself with her hands. Then, the goddess leaned against, well, her daughter-in-law, though she hadnt thought of it that way before, and sighed.
Xena, why doesnt my daughter like me?
I told you, she does, just...
Just not as a mother, though, huh?
I dont think thats it, I... I dont know exactly what got into to her, but it was something about Caligula... You know, Gabrielle had a pretty conservative upbringing, its easy to forget that now, but it comes out sometimes. I think the thought of her mom and Caligula, you know--doing the nasty, I think thats what freaked her out. She doesnt even like to think of her pa--of Herodotus and Hecuba having any kind of sex. She said to me once, Xena, my parents have had sex twice, once for Lila, and once for me. Thats it.
Aphrodite snorted, Where those two are concerned, she wasnt inaccurate. She was only off by one.
The warrior tried to control her astonishment. What? You gotta be kidding...
The goddess shook her her head and rolled her eyes.
And that was Lila?
And never again?
Just the once. This wasnt a favorite topic of the goddess. There were few things she hated worse than squandered resources.
No wonder they were so grumpy-looking every time I ran into em, Xena still had to control her amazement. Well, when you consider all that, the fact that Ive got a sex life at all now is a furkin miracle.
Aphrodite sniffed. You are, like, so welcome. She let out a sigh. I still dont think she respects me at all. I tried, a lot, but never could figure out how to, you know, do something that would really... really make her proud. And then, when Id done that, I could tell her, but... the goddess trailed off, and Xena sensed another crying jag approaching.
Aphrodite, why dont you take a rest while I go see whats really bothering Gabrielle, okay? Well come call you after weve all calmed down and gotten some sleep, and Im sure Gabrielle will be happy to catch up with her mom then. All right? Xena was seriously hoping that it was all right, she wasnt sure if she could deal with another outburst.
Okay, Aphrodite sniffed, Ill just be... (sniff)... waiting... (sniff)... in one of my temples... (sniffle)... by myself... (choke)... All Alone. The last bit was delivered in that squeaky voice that Xena now knew to be the preface for another of the love goddess crying fits, but fortunately, Aphrodite popped out to wherever she was headed before the warrior had to deal with it.
The warrior took a breather, and focused on the point where her soulmate was still moaning in the shrubbery. Xena grimaced and steeled herself for the task ahead. Two sensitive chats. In one morning. Back-to-back. With no break in between. Well, no one ever said the course of true love would ever be a smooth one.
Xena sidled up to the bard-filled vegetation. She waited a minute, then figured shed have to start this off after all. So, wanna talk about it?
No, mumbled the grouchy hedge.
Oh. Oh, well--okay then. You dont have to talk about it if you dont want to. Xena carefully kept any amount of amusement from her voice. Shed traveled with her soulmate for over six years, she knew her better than that. The warrior started counting off the seconds that her partner actually managed to stay quiet for. She got up to six hippopotamus before Gabrielles resolve went out.
Xena, its like... well, you know, how you meet someone, and you get to know them, and you think of them in a certain way, and then you learn that theyre completely different from how you thought, and its... you just dont know how to act around them any more.
Well, yeah, I could see how that could be rough on a person. Xena remained patient. She could sense there was a lot more to it than that, or her lover wouldnt be so distraught.
And, well... weve been, you know, hanging out together lately, and... I mean, there are things you shouldnt be doing with your own mother, and... Gabrielle was struggling to put her confusion into words. I mean, Xena, weve gone oil wrestling together!
Xenas train of thought had a complete and abrupt derailment. You did what together?
Oil wrestling. And really, thats just not a proper mother-daughter activity. Gabrielle paused, she was trying to gently ease herself into saying the horrible truth she knew shed have to face up to. I mean, Im not blind. I had noticed that Aphrodite had sort of begun to take an... interest in me lately. Which is a total change from how she used to be. When we first met, she looked down her nose at me. She thought I was this completely naive kid.
Xena was looking a little hurt. You never asked me to go oil wrestling with you.
Xena, it was no big deal. What Im trying to say is, for a while now, Aphrodite and I have been pretty close, not as close as you and I are, of course. But still, shes really been making sort of, you know, this extra effort to hang around with me and... um...
The warrior had her arms crossed and was muttering to her boots, I mightve liked to do some wrestling too. I happen to be a very good wrestler. Over six years weve been together, and just once, she mightve turned around and said to me, Hey, Xena--theres this hobby Ive got, and...
XENA! Gabrielles annoyed head shot up from underneath the shrubbery. It was when Aphrodite accidentally popped you into that little girls body, and the only way we could get you back was with this special kind of oil, and these twins, Castor and Pollux, had it, and they were holed up in this sleazy club, and the only way we could get close enough to them to steal the oil was by doing the oil wrestling, and it was totally disgusting and totally degrading, and the only reason I ever did it in the first place was to save your life, okay?
Xena digested this new information. So, you wouldnt want to be doing it again anytime soon, then?
Not even if we...
I said no! And quit pouting! And--Xena! Have you even been paying attention to a word I was saying?
Most people would have been in serious trouble at this point, but Xena had intensely conditioned her awareness to the point where she was always paying attention, even when she wasnt paying the slightest bit of attention. She also had a near-flawless memory. Aphrodite used to ignore you, now shes been following you around, and... Realization struck. Xena let a huge grin cross her face. You thought she was flirting with you.
Gabrielle let out a piteous groan, and sunk back into the bushes.
And I bet you didnt exactly mind the attention, either. Xena was having fun now. This would be prime teasing material. After all, its quite a coup, to have the extremely sexy and gorgeous Goddess of Love herself following you around like a lovesick Joxer, right? Not exactly damaging to the ego, now, is it?
And she was trying to be motherly. And I took some perfectly innocent overtures of family affection, and I thought it was... um... Gabrielle was about ready to curl up and die from the embarrassment of it all.
The warrior let out a gentle chuckle. Gabrielle, you had no way of knowing. How could you have been able to figure something like that out, if she never bothered to tell you herself? I couldnt have guessed it. Plus, this is Aphrodite were talking about here. Her whole existence revolves around love and sex. What were you supposed to think?
Anything but that. Gabrielle was adamant. You never think that about your parents.
Gabrielle, youre a human being, Xena was sure shed get through to her partner if she kept at it, And Olympian gods are eternally young and beautiful, and your mom is the most beautiful of them all. Which shouldnt be surprising, since she is your mother. Xena smiled as she said this. Sweet-talking was easy, when you had a subject like hers. Besides, a few stray thoughts are nothing to be embarrassed about. I mean, its not like you had a passionate make-out session with her or anything, right?
Silence from the shrubbery.
Xena tried again, with a bit of uncertainty this time, Its not like you had a passionate make-out session with her or anything, right?
YOU HAD A PASSIONATE MAKE-OUT SESSION WITH APHRODITE? Xena was beside herself, mostly with astonishment. Had her bard actually strayed, or...
NO! Well, um... NO! Well... she did kinda kiss me. Gabrielle really didnt know how to best explain the incident, especially when it was now giving her an extreme case of the heebie-jeebies.
She kissed you? Xena needed more details Was this when you were oil wrestling?
NO! This was in Rome, when Caligula was sucking out her immortality, and she was completely out of her mind, and didnt recognize anyone. Gabrielle cringed at the memory. She was messed up, and confused, and right out of the blue she up and starts trying to kiss me.
Did you kiss her back? This story was sounding fairly reasonable so far, but Xena needed to make sure.
No, I pushed her away almost immediately, Gabrielle replied indignantly.
Oh. Well thats okay then. No big deal. Xena was relieved that this turned out to be such a small matter.
No big deal? I KISSED my MOM.
You kissed your mom? You sick, twisted, Gabrielle you. Xena really thought her soulmate needed to lighten up a little.
But... but... there... there was... there was... Gabrielle didnt want to say it, she really didnt, but there was no other way for her to deal with the horror that was her existence right now but to stand up and call it by name, There... there was TONGUE! I had my MOMS TONGUE inside my MOUTH! Do you have ANY idea of just how GROSS that is? Gabrielle was wailing inconsolably, How do I GET into these messes? Im a GOOD, PROPER girl from Potedaia, I really try to be, but somehow I end up doing.... Aiiiggghhhh!
Gabrielle, you are good. Xena thought it was time to put things in perspective. The stuff I used to do, killing and pillaging and looting, thats bad. This type of stuff, its just a bit kinky, is all. And accidental, to boot. Its really nothing to worry yourself about.
A blond head began to emerge from the hedges, but it stopped just after sea-green eyes cleared the shrubbery and latched onto Xena with a long, green glare. Somewhere, a mouth attached to the glaring eyes spoke, Why am I not surprised? What other advice was I expecting to get from Daddys Little Girl?
Xena remained cool as a cucumber. Thats never been proven, she said with a sanguine grin.
Gabrielle snorted. Xena, do I look stupid? Gabrielle was on a roll now. I remember the evidence, I did the bard thing. I know my mythology. Every Greek hero who was ever worth a pile of grapes has had a divine ancestor somewhere. Gabrielle paused before adding, Including me. I dont see why you, who can make colossal leaps no ordinary human should be able to survive, should be the exception. Plus, you look alike.
Xena smirked. Well if that were true, and since Ares is Aphrodites brother, thatd actually make you my cousin, so you might want to rethink that.
Gabrielles eyes went wide, and Xena immediately realized that shed miscalculated. Badly. Xena barely heard her the other half of her soul whisper, C-Cousin? Y-Youre my... were cousins?
Xena was starting to get nervous. Now, Gabrielle, just think about this before you...
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Gabrielles brain had finally overloaded completely. She disappeared back into the greenery and began wailing, EVERY RELATIONSHIP I HAVE TURNS TO INCEST! WE MAKE THE OEDIPUS FAMILY LOOK WELL-ADJUSTED! IM NEVER GONNA HAVE SEX AGAIN!
Now Xena was a very worried warrior indeed. This was serious! Honey, its immortal blood--it doesnt count. The normal rules dont apply. I mean, Hera was Zeus sister, for crying out loud.
FINE FOR THEM, NOT FOR ME!
But, Sweetheart, youre overreacting. I mean... Cousins! Cousins isnt bad. Thats legal in most city-states...
Its still family. And not allowed where I come from.
Now Xena was puzzled, Gabrielle, youre from Potedaia. Its a small farming community. I thought marrying your cousin was practically a requirement there. I mean, wasnt Perdicus...
Gabrielle piped up indignantly, PERDICUS was NOT my COUSIN! Then she had to think twice about the question for a second, and then said, with only slightly less conviction, Im PRETTY SURE that PERDICUS was NOT my COUSIN!
Xena was getting desperate. Sweetie, what does it even matter where were concerned? I mean, its not like the kids are gonna come out funny-looking or anything...
Gabrielles only answer was a string of curses that almost rocked her partner back on her heels. Xena was truly impressed. It was a skill that Gabrielle almost never used, but believe me, nobody, and I mean nobody, can curse like a bard. Especially the Doric curses. Xena wasnt sure why, but they always had a particular zing to them when her partner said them. Shed have to talk to her about that later. It was at that point Xena suddenly thought of something. It was a bad, naughty, evil thing, and she knew shed pay dearly if she said it out loud, but somehow, she just couldnt resist...
The Punch line:
Whoa there, sailor, Xena said with a smirk. You kiss your mother with that mouth?
There was a moment of silence, a moment when the whole world seemed to be holding its breath. Xena took off running as truly pissed-off bard exploded out of the shrubbery.You keep running, Xena, she yelled as she tore off in pursuit of her laughing partner. Because when I catch you, itll be the last thing you ever remember!
Epilogue: Gabrielle eventually calmed down, and she and Xena took a much-needed long morning nap. Later they caught up with Aphrodite, and after a teary reunion where Gabrielle reassured the emotional goddess that she was absolutely pleased and honored to have a mother like her, and that her early reaction was just due to... being really startled, is all. Aphrodite sympathized, as it was a shock to her when she learned that she had also been adopted, too. Yes, the Goddess of Love had actually spontaneously formed out of sea foam, and had later been adopted by Zeus, so Aphrodite wasnt actually really related to anyone in her family, either. Then there was much rejoicing and singing and dancing from the bard, and much relief from the bards warrior, and Gabrielle was so happy that she vowed to put any nasty or squicky thoughts about her parentage right out of her head (As well as some other myths shed heard about what that sea foam actually was, that was just too gross for words) and never think or speak of such things ever again.
Disclaimer: No lacy red panties were harmed during the making of this motion picture. However, Gabrielles modesty may never recover.