* See Immortal, Inhuman, Accursed for the complete adventure involving Nickoli Vampyra.

Self Reflection

The moonlight bathed everything in its pale glow, reflecting silver on the rippling surface of the lake. The tiny fire crackled merrily as Gabrielle and David lay next to it, gazing up at the stars.

  Gabrielle wore only her long tunic, since the rest of her clothes were still soaked from being thrown in the lake earlier. David lay in a pair of jeans only, his bare feet crossed and his arms behind his head.

  “The entire time I’ve been here,” David said thoughtfully. “I never really looked up at the sky during the night.”

  “Beautiful, huh?” Gabrielle looked up and smiled.

  “Weird,” David replied.

  Gabrielle frowned. “Why do you say that?”

  David sighed. “There’s so many of them, and not a single airplane or satellite to be seen.” He smiled. “It’s so quiet.  It had me on edge for the first few weeks that I was here.”

  Gabrielle paused and listened. She could hear the night sounds of the animals, the gentle rippling of the lake as it pressed against the shore. The chitter of bats flitting through the night sky.

  “It’s not that quiet,” she said. “I hear all kinds of noise.”

  “I don’t mean that,” David replied. “I mean the sounds of technology. In my time, there was always some kind of background noise to the world. Like a subtle hum, I guess you could say?”

  “And you miss it?” Gabrielle asked.

  “No,” David said after a long moment of thought. “No, I don’t. I find the absence of it very relaxing.”

  The slight light-headedness hit him as he sat up and reached for the half empty wineskin. He took a swig and grimaced before passing it to Gabrielle.

  Gabrielle smiled and also took a long pull at the wineskin. “Not to your liking?” she teased.

  David shrugged. “It’s like drinking Mad Dog 20/20,” he said. Then a wistful expression came over his face.

  “Give me a nice bottle of Chianti any day of the week and twice on Sundays.” He sighed.

  Gabrielle giggled suddenly and leaned up next to him.

  “I think it has the right effect,” she said, slipping up against him.

  David smiled. “So I see.” Then the two of them froze at the same time and sat up, their senses suddenly alert.

  “What was that?” Gabrielle asked. Her eyes scanned the surrounding darkness in vain.

  David had little better results, even though he could make out the auras of the trees and small creatures like shadowy ghosts.

  “I don’t know,” he replied. “But when the hair on the back of my neck stands up-?”

  He continued looking about. Eventually, both of them fixed their eyes on the far bank of the lake. There was still nothing to be seen, but the silent alarms in both their heads said someone, or something was observing them.

  “I am not liking this,” David mused.

  Gabrielle said nothing, but shivered suddenly.

  “What is it?”

  “I don’t know,” Gabrielle replied uneasily. “Just a feeling. Something I felt one time before, but that was a long time ago.”

David fixed his gaze back across the lake, trying to pierce the veil of night with his senses. Whatever this thing was, it was definite, though indistinct. The nebulous sensation seemed to float over them from a wide area just beyond the shadow of the trees.

  He tried forcing his perception a little further, attempting to home in on this vague shade among the deeper shadows. Aside from a slight chill creeping up his spine, he gathered no other information.

  “Maybe we really do need that vacation,” he finally said. “I think we’re both getting a bit paranoid with everything that’s happened since we hooked back up.”

  “Maybe,” Gabrielle agreed. She leaned in closer to David. “I don’t know.”

  The alarm slowly faded, as if the unseen presence had withdrawn, and the two of them finally breathed easy again.

  “When did you have that feeling before?” David asked as they collected their things and extinguished the fire.

  Gabrielle’s eyes continued to turn back towards the far bank of the lake as they worked even though the feeling had dissipated.

  “It was like,” she began. Then she stopped and re-framed her thought. “I felt like that when I met Nickoli.* But that was almost thirty years ago, and he’s been dead for decades?”

  “Who was Nickoli?” David asked. “I don’t think you ever told me about him?”

  Gabrielle shrugged. “There was no need. Xena destroyed him long before we ended up asleep in that mountain.”

  They left the table and chairs behind and began heading back towards the village.

  “Tell me anyway,” David requested as they walked.

  They were still deep in conversation when they finally reach Lila’s home. They went in as quietly as possible, only to find Lila awake and prodding at the fire with a poker.

  “That does it,” David said lightly. “I now believe that you never sleep.”

  “I couldn’t,” Lila replied teasingly. “Not after what I saw earlier today.”

  David laughed out loud. “Well, barring outside interference,” he looked sidelong at Gabrielle. “You won’t have to see it again.”

  “Oh,” Lila said regretfully. “What a shame.”

  “Lila!” Gabrielle blurted.

  All three of them burst out in laughter.  The three of them spent a little time, passing the wineskin between them and discussing the various opinions of the other women that had been present at David’s little stunt.


  It was the same temple again. The faceless guests all in attendance and seated expectantly. Gabrielle saw David at the end of the aisle. Immediately, she remembered what had happened before.

  “Not this time,” she said, and she half ran, half walked down the aisle to stand before David and the faceless priest before even the small band had begun to play. She smiled up at her betrothed, who was staring at her with barely concealed astonishment.

  “I’m not going to let that happen again,” she said triumphantly. Then she looked at the faceless priest. “Go ahead.”

  David cleared his throat nervously. “Uh, honey?” he said. “Are you sure you want to get married like that?”

  “Like what?” she asked, suddenly feeling that dread form like a stone in her gut. “What are you -?”

  She turned and looked out at the assembled guests, all wearing that same disapproving look, and then, her eyes were drawn down to look at herself. Aside from the bouquet of flowers, she stood there, amidst the assembled throng, completely naked!

  The horror of it and the embarrassment rose up like a tidal wave and came crashing down upon her…

  Gabrielle screamed out loud and sat bolt upright in the bed once again covered in cold sweat. Instantly, David was upright, looking about the room for whatever threatened them, then he looked at Gabrielle, eyes wide, breathing hard and glistening in the fading moonlight.

  David smiled comfortingly and touched her shoulder, feeling her tremble.

  “Another nightmare?” he asked.

  Gabrielle nodded. “Only this one was worse in some ways.”

  Lila came rushing in, her eyes wide in fright. “What happened?”

  “I’m sorry, Lila,” Gabrielle held a hand up to stay her. “It’s all right. Just a bad dream.”

  Lila visibly relaxed and sighed. “Do you want me to make some tea, just to help you sleep?”

  Gabrielle shook her head. As much as her stomach was churning at the moment, the idea of putting anything in it was a dangerous prospect.

  “I’m all right, really.” She lied.

  David gave Lila a slight nod, and the elder lady withdrew.

  “Well,” she said as she closed the door. “Let me know if you change your mind.”

  Again, Gabrielle nodded. The door closed, and the two of them were alone once more.

  “Okay,” David said. He placed his fists before him and folded his legs, sitting Indian style before her. “No more of this. What’s going on?”

  “It’s nothing,” Gabrielle repeated.

  “Two nights in a row?” David countered gently. “That’s a bit more than nothing. Come on, out with it.”

  Gabrielle looked at him sheepishly. “You’ll think it’s silly.”

  David smiled warmly. “Try me.”

  Gabrielle looked into his eyes for a long time, then she settled down across from him and let everything come out.

  Instead of laughing at her, or making light of it, David simply listened and nodded.

  “I need to ask you something important, Gabrielle,” he said. “And I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, okay?”

  She nodded.

  David looked at her for a long moment and placed a hand on hers.

  “Are you sure you want to marry me?” He finally asked.

  She looked into his eyes for a long time and then nodded.

  “Hey,” David said. “I don’t want you to say yes, just because I’m here. After everything we’ve been through, we really haven’t been able to have time for just us, you know what I mean?”

  Gabrielle nodded. “I think I do. David, it isn’t like that, really. I don’t know why I’m having these dreams. All I know is that when I have them, it all centers around our wedding, and something going horribly wrong.”

  “I know,’ David nodded. “Let me give you a little amateur dream analysis, okay?”

  Gabrielle waited for him to collect his thoughts.

  “In the first one, you wanted to get to me, but something was holding you back. And in the second one, you weren’t held back, but you were, um, woefully ill prepared for what was coming. That tells me that there’s something inside you, keeping you from wanting this, even if only subconsciously?” he stopped when he saw Gabrielle’s frown.

  “That’s right,” David sighed. “No Sigmund Freud for another two millennia.” He thought furiously. “Okay,” he finally said. “Something inside you, is telling you that either you aren’t ready for this, or something about the situation isn’t right, follow?”

  “So you’re saying that this is my fault?” Gabrielle asked.

  “No. No, not at all.” David answered quickly. “I’m only saying that maybe you need to take a little time and make sure this is what you want. Hell, Gabrielle, we’ve only known each other for a few months. Maybe we’re rushing things a bit?” David shrugged.

  There was a ferocity in Gabrielle’s eyes that made David catch his breath. Quickly, he leaned forward and put his hand on her cheek.

  “Hey,” he reassured her. “I’m not saying that we shouldn’t. I’d be there tomorrow if you said the word, okay? I love you and I know that you love me. I also know that those feelings are never, never going to change. If you are certain, then great. If something about this doesn’t feel right, I can wait till it does. I’m not going anywhere, Gabrielle.”

   He smiled, and the feral intensity died down a little.

  “Remember when I told you that you didn’t owe me for anything?” David continued.

  She nodded and sniffed suddenly.

  “Well,” David continued. “I meant that. You don’t have to do anything you aren’t ready to do, just to show how you feel about me. I already know.”

  He smiled at her and she reached up and touched his hand, still caressing her cheek.

  Her mouth opened to speak, and then closed again. She looked into his eyes, and David did see a twinge of fear there.

  “I’m just so afraid that I might lose you,” she finally said. “I want to give you everything, and I don’t know how long we have. I want to make the most of every moment. Does that make any sense?”

  David nodded. “Sure it does. But I don’t want you to regret any of those decisions, just because you’re afraid that something might happen tomorrow, okay? Tomorrow will always be there. I can tell you with great certainty, that the world will not end for at least two thousand years, and by then, old Professor MacGhee will be clearing out our family tomb to display our shit in a museum. So don’t worry.”

  Gabrielle laughed suddenly, and at the same time, a tear rolled down her cheek. She enfolded herself in his embrace and sighed.

  “Debbie was right about you,” she said with a laugh.

  David’s eyebrows rose. “Oh?”

  Gabrielle nodded. “I couldn’t find another man like you if I lived for a thousand years.”

  David grinned. “Careful,” he said. “I could end up with a terribly inflated ego.”

  Gabrielle looked up at him. “I mean it.” She said, and she smiled when she caught the subtle blush in his cheeks. Her smile widened.

  “You get uncomfortable when someone compliments you, don’t you?” she asked, her own anxiety vanishing as she realized what effect her words were having.

  “What?” David replied. “No I don’t.”

  Gabrielle sat up and looked at him, now smiling again. “Yes, you do.”

  David shook his head. “You’re nuts.”

  Gabrielle leaned up next to him and wrapped her arms around his neck, looking into his eyes. “Someone compliments you, and you get all embarrassed. It’s like you don’t think you deserve it.”

  “I’m trying to remain humble,” David smiled.

  “You?” Gabrielle laughed. “Humble? Oh please!”

  “I said I was trying,” David smiled, and he kissed her. “I never said I was succeeding.”


  The next morning, Gabrielle woke to discover David still awake, lying next to her, his eyes fixed on the ceiling.

  “Did you sleep at all?” she asked, rolling over next to him.

  David blinked suddenly, coming back from his thoughts.

  “What?” he asked, looking over at her.

  “Did you sleep at all?” Gabrielle repeated. There was something in his eyes that suddenly made her nervous.

  David shrugged. “On and off. I’ve been thinking.”

  “Oh no,” Gabrielle thought. Her anxiety jumped up another notch. When she spoke, she tried to sound casual.

  “About what?” She braced herself.

  Her attempt at nonchalance failed, and David smiled at her knowingly.

  “I’m not putting the kibosh on the whole marriage thing,” he reassured her. “But there is something I want you to do?”

  Gabrielle internally sighed with relief. “What’s that?”

  “I have two days left to get this little project done.” David said. “I want you to get away from all of this insanity for the next two days.”

  She frowned.

  “I want you to take some time for yourself. No wedding plans, no preparations, no nothing. Just you, a path, and a bunch of trees. Take a walk and think. If you come back in the same frame of mind about getting married, we’ll do it this week. If not, I’ll wait till you’re ready, alright?”

  “You’re serious?” Gabrielle asked. “I mean-“ she stammered. “I just don’t want you to think – um,”

  David put a finger on her lips and smiled. “Get out of town.” He said playfully. “I’ll be here when you get back. I promise. Pick a direction and go that way for one day, then return the next. When you get back, I’ll show you everything, okay?”

  “David,” Gabrielle stammered. “They’re only dreams?”

  “You’re burning daylight,” David said evenly, though his eyes told a more compassionate story. “Amscray.”


  Gabrielle gazed up through the trees as she walked. She had already covered several miles, and it was looking to be a temperate day.  The sunlight permeated the canopy in a myriad of golden rays.  She found her mind wandering as she walked, drifting back over the years to the times when she and Xena would be in transit from one adventure to another. Now, without some emergency driving her to some pre-appointed task, she actually felt a calming pleasure of her travel. She smiled and shook her head.

  “He was right again,” she mused, laughing softly.

  “Yeah, isn’t it a bitch when that happens?” a melodic voice echoed around her. Gabrielle stopped, looking around, then she caught the scent of roses and sighed.

  “Hello, Aphrodite,” she said. “What do you want?”

  The Goddess appeared before her in a shower of sparks, grinning wide.

  “What’s up, girlfriend?” she asked. “What’s shakin?”

  Gabrielle smiled and shook her head. “Not very much.”

  The Goddess looked both directions, as if searching for someone and then looked back at the young bard.

  “Where’s your man?” she asked.

  Gabrielle’s smile faded a bit and she shrugged. “He’s back at home, working on his little project.”

  “Ah,” Aphrodite nodded knowingly. “So you’re just out here, chilling, huh?”

  “Something like that,” Gabrielle said.

  Aphrodite put her hands on her hips and stared at Gabrielle for a moment. Her face softened to something more serious, which was uncommon for her, though her smile remained.

  “Those nightmares have been pretty intense, huh?” she finally said.

  Gabrielle’s eyes went wide. “You know about that?”

  “Gabby,” Aphrodite rolled her eyes. “What do you think? I’ve been keeping an eye on you two ever since you and your man got together.”

  “You have?”

  “Well,” The Goddess replied. “It’s kind of hard not to. That man of yours radiates like a beacon. I mean, I’ve seen couples in love, and I’ve seen people smitten, especially when Cupid nails them. But I have never seen anyone so completely devoted to another person in centuries!”


  “Hey,” Aphrodite said evenly. “Look at what that boy went through, just to get to you. And I don’t mind saying, he saw a few things along the way that would have discouraged most people from trying.”

  “Like what?” Gabrielle asked with a sudden sense of vague dread.

  Aphrodite looked at Gabrielle for a long moment. “Are you sure you want to know?”

  That statement caused Gabrielle to pause for a moment. To hear the usually jovial Goddess sound so earnest made her gut twitch.

  A feeling of dread began to creep up her spine. Finally she nodded.

  Aphrodite shrugged and looked back in the direction Gabrielle had been heading.

  “Okay,” she said. “Let’s walk.”

  The two women continued down the path.

  “So,” The goddess asked. “What did David tell you?”

 Gabrielle shrugged. “He told me about bouncing around a little, before you helped him. And he told me about meeting Xena, and getting the pinch put on him.”

  “Yup,” Aphrodite nodded. “Hey gave you the children’s version.”

  “Oh?” The bard’s eyebrows rose. “What did he leave out?”

  The Goddess paused. “Maybe I shouldn’t say anything. I mean, I did promise him that I wouldn’t influence your decision. He was very set on that part.”

  “Hey!” Gabrielle said with a sudden vehemence that surprised them both. “I need to know, okay?” She paused and took a deep breath. “Sorry, I just – “she paused again. “I really need to know.” She finished more softly.

  “Okay,” Aphrodite shrugged. “I’ll tell you what. You tell me what you’re so afraid of, and I’ll tell you what I know. Deal?”

 Gabrielle nodded.

  “Cool.” Aphrodite smiled. “Okay, you first.”

  Gabrielle thought for a long time, framing her words as they walked. Finally she let out a long sigh.

  “I suppose I’m afraid that I won’t live up to his expectations,” she finally confessed.

  “What do you think he expects?” Aphrodite asked. She looked sidelong at Gabrielle with a sly smile. “Because if you’re worried about technique, I could give you a few pointers?”

  Gabrielle smiled. “Nothing like that,” she paused. “I think?”

  She saw the look on Aphrodite’s face and smiled.

  “On that,” The Goddess’s smile broadened. “I can tell you with more than reasonable certainty, that he is not complaining one bit.”

  The two women laughed, and then Aphrodite looked at her again.

  “What other things do you think he expects?”

  Gabrielle thought furiously, but the thoughts simply wouldn’t congeal into anything that she could enunciate.  She let a frustrated growl issue from her throat.

  The Goddess saw the jumble of thoughts whirling in her mind and smile sympathetically.

  “I’ll tell you what,” she offered. “How about I tell you what he expects, and we move on from there, okay?”

  “Okay.” Gabrielle agreed eagerly.  They continued walking and the Goddess remained silent for several minutes.

  “Well?” Gabrielle finally asked.

  “Well what?” Aphrodite replied.

  “What does he expect?” Gabrielle asked impatiently.

  The Goddess smiled. “That’s it.”

  “You didn’t say anything!” Gabrielle retorted.

  “Oh yeah,” Aphrodite said, smiling. “Cool, huh?”

  “But you didn’t say anything!” Gabrielle said again.

  “Because he doesn’t expect anything from you, silly.” Aphrodite shot back. “Don’t you get it?”

  Gabrielle stared back at her, utterly perplexed.

  “Okay, fine,” Aphrodite sighed. “There is one thing that he does want.”

  She looked at Gabrielle evenly and her smile pulled at her lips again. “He wants you to be happy.”

  “That’s it?” Gabrielle asked.

  “It?” Aphrodite replied. “Honey, that’s the most important thing!”

  “Aphrodite,” Gabrielle exclaimed. “He’s stuck here! Even if we didn’t get married, he’d still be stuck here!”

  “No he wouldn’t!” Aphrodite shot back, and then her hands clamped over her mouth. “Oopsie.”

  “What do you mean, he wouldn’t?” Gabrielle asked, her hands on her hips.

  The Goddess looked like a small child, caught in the midst of mischief. “Nothing?”

  Gabrielle stared hard at the Goddess.

  “Okay, fine!” Aphrodite relented. “I told him that, if you decided you didn’t want this, that I would, um, well, help him get back home.”

  “What?” Gabrielle’s mouth dropped open. “You mean he could have gone back any time he wanted?”

  “Yeah,” Aphrodite admitted. “The point is, sister, that he doesn’t want to go back! In fact, he only wants one thing – you! Maybe that’s why you’re having issues?”

  Gabrielle stormed off down the path, her emotions all in turmoil. “Why is he putting me on a pedestal?” she blurted.

  “What?” Aphrodite gaped. “You think he’s put you on a pedestal?” She vanished in a flash and reappeared in front of Gabrielle.

  “You stop right there!” She held a finger in front of Gabrielle’s nose. “You better hope he puts you on a pedestal, because that’s the only way you’d ever get close to him! You have him set on one so high that you’re afraid you won’t ever live up to his expectations! Talk about being totally whacked!”

  Gabrielle opened her mouth to speak, but the Goddess wasn’t done.

  “And, now you want me to give you the gory details of what he’s been through, just to get to you! Why? So you can set him up even higher?”

  “No!” Gabrielle shot back. “Because – I want to know!”

  “Fine!” Aphrodite snapped. “You want to know? Fine! Quick version! He dug through his own coffin, saw his own bones, watched his own funeral, got the pinch from your best friend and nearly died, and bounced around in a place that we Gods don’t like to mess with because it scrambles our minds – and he did it twice, deliberately!” She folded her arms across her chest and seethed. “There! Satisfied?”

  Gabrielle stood there, her mouth hanging open. “What do you mean, it scrambles your minds?”

  Aphrodite calmed herself down with a few deep breaths and held her hands out, as if steadying herself.

  “The Chronos Stone used to belong to the Gods,” she said. “It was used as part of a test, if dad thought someone was worthy to join us, they would have to use the stone to prove their worth.” She shrugged. “Most people who tried?”

  Gabrielle was surprised to see the Goddess shudder, as if remembering something unpleasant. “Let’s just say that David was the first one to use it in a long, long time, and not get fried, okay?”

“What about Autolicus?” Gabrielle asked.

  “Oh, he was just messing around. He didn’t do anything like your man,” Aphrodite answered. “To do the really hard core stuff, like David did, means he’s either one of three things. One: He’s one step away from being a God himself, and I can see that in the sack, but not really anywhere else?”

  Gabrielle looked at her sternly as the Goddess smiled.

  “Second,” she continued quickly. “One of the Gods was helping him out, which I can’t see, because he dropped into my view at his own funeral, then shot past me and ran into Xena. That was when I helped him out, and let me tell you, he was pretty blown out by that time.”

  “And the third?” Gabrielle asked.

  Aphrodite smiled. “That he was so bound, determined, and plain old bent on getting back to you, that nothing was going to stop him, including the Gods. I gotta tell ya, if I ran into someone as bound and bent as your man, I would have gotten out of his way. As it was, he was so strung out by the time he finished his little meeting with Xena, I had to do something!”

  Gabrielle’s expression went from a frown to one of growing concern. “How bad was he?”

  Aphrodite shrugged. “The boy was one step away from total overload, and when that happens? Girlfriend, we are talking a total meltdown!”

  “You mean he?” Gabrielle asked. Aphrodite nodded.

  She held her hands together and then made a gesture that mimicked an explosion. “Like a ripe melon, baby.”

  “Why did he do it?” Gabrielle blurted

  “What? Come after you?” Aphrodite laughed. “Because, to him, you are all that matters!

  “Aphrodite,” Gabrielle said. “He had a life in the future. He had a home, friends!”

  “Yup,” Aphrodite agreed. “Then you showed up.”


  “And everything changed for him,” Aphrodite nodded.


  “And for you too.” Aphrodite finished.

  “Not really,” Gabrielle answered immediately.

  “No?” Aphrodite smiled a knowing smile. “Girl, you were bumming since Xena crossed over, and then you get zipped off to wherever, and meet someone who filled that mongo hole in your life. Face it, toots. It scares you.”

  Gabrielle resumed walking. “Yes it does,” she admitted. “I’m afraid he’s going to die too!”

  “And he will,” Aphrodite answered simply. “Someday.” She looked at Gabrielle for a long time. “You’re still holding onto that whole “alive and hating you, dead and loving you,” thing, aren’t you?”

  “Maybe I am,” Gabrielle replied. “I just can’t believe that he would be able to do the things you said he did, if it was as dangerous as you say? There has to be something else going on! That feeling we got last night, down by the lake? I mean, I know David is a powerful shaman, or witch - whatever! But he can’t be that strong! So what’s going on? How did he really get back to me, and if it’s going to put him in danger, I want you to take him home, right now!”

  “Good grief, Gabby!” Aphrodite replied. “You are freaked, aren’t you? First you wanna know what he did, and now you’re fishing for a reason to make me yank him away from you! What gives?”

  Gabrielle said nothing. She merely locked her gaze on Aphrodite and waited.

  “Okay,” Aphrodite put her hands together, musing. “Just to be practical, which is so not me. Let’s assume for a moment, that David is here for reasons other than you.”

  Gabrielle’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Is he?”

  Aphrodite put her hands on her hips. Gabrielle noted idly that this particular deity was never good at subterfuge.

  “He is here for something else, isn’t he?” She asked. “That was what the Stygian Witches meant when they called him the closed circle.”

  “What, those old cows?” Aphrodite replied. “Oh, baby, you can’t trust anything they say. Never trust anyone who does his or her own decorating, that’s what I always say. They could have meant anything by that.”

  “Dite?” Gabrielle pressed.

  “Okay,” Aphrodite relented again. “Okay. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. I know I don’t have any plans for him, except for his marrying you, of course! Surely you recognized a certain family resemblance between him and a certain someone else that you and Xena had a run in with?”

  Gabrielle frowned and shook her head.

  “Oh, come on Gabrielle,” Aphrodite said anxiously. “Think about it, and think about that little twinge from last night.”

  Gabrielle thought, searching back in her memory. Suddenly, the image rose up out of her past like a ghost.

She looked up into the green eyes of a man in a dark cloak with long dark hair and pale skin. His features were chiseled and well defined, even handsome. A thin, neatly trimmed goatee framed his mouth.

  “Um, hi,” Gabrielle said helplessly.

  The man bent closer to her and grasped her by the neck and shoulder. She could not even struggle as the man looked at her neck. He turned her head roughly to the right and then to the left.

  “Did he bite you?” he asked urgently in a smooth crisp, accented baritone.

  Gabrielle was too stunned to answer. The look of the man, the feel of his cold skin against hers and his inhuman strength said that he was also a Bacchi.

  “Did he bite you?” he asked again in a ferocious growl.

  “No!” Gabrielle stammered.

  The man let her go and moved towards the sound of Xena’s battle.  He stopped and his eyes turned back to Gabrielle, still kneeling on the ground.

  The eyes went from a clear green to an inhuman glowing crimson, and the fangs extended as he smiled at her.

  “Run,” he said in a deep growl. “Get far away from here, if you value your soul.”

  Gabrielle’s breath caught in her throat.

  “Nickoli!” she gasped. “He looks like Nickoli!”

  “That boy wasn’t always a Bacchi, Gabrielle,” Aphrodite admitted. “Before big, red, and ugly got a hold of him, he was a family man. His children had children, and so on, and so on…all the way down to David, there.”

  “David is related to Nickoli Vampyra?” Gabrielle asked breathlessly.

  “Oh, don’t tell me you didn’t realize it,” Aphrodite said, then her smile faded. “You really didn’t realize it, did you?”

  “No!” Gabrielle shot back. “And I bet he doesn’t know about it either!”

 “Probably not,” Aphrodite replied.

  “I should probably tell him, then?” Gabrielle asked. “Don’t you think?”

  “Never mind about that,” Aphrodite countered. “This isn’t about me or the Gods, this is about you and your man.”

  “But – “ Gabrielle started.

  “Hey,” Aphrodite countered again. “Let’s keep this simple, okay? Do you love him?”

  “Well, yes,” Gabrielle answered honestly.

  “And do you believe he loves you?” Aphrodite continued.

  “Yes,” Gabrielle said again.

  Aphrodite suddenly looked wistful. “Could you spend the rest of your life in those arms?” she asked with a smile.

  Gabrielle felt the smile pull at her lips and nodded. “Yes I could.”

  “Well,” The Goddess said. “Then what are you all freaked out about?”

  “I?” Gabrielle started, then she sighed. “I don’t know.”

  “Then it’s simple,” Aphrodite said with a smile. “You’ve got yourself a case of the pre-wedding jitters. Don’t freak about it. It happens to a lot of people.”

  “Jitters?” Gabrielle answered, not entirely convinced. “Are you saying that I’m just nervous?”

  “In a nut shell?” Aphrodite answered. “Yup.”

  “That’s ridiculous,” Gabrielle replied.

  Aphrodite smiled knowingly. “Is it?”

  She grinned, shrugged and vanished again in her characteristic flash.


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