Sophia's Choice

by Paully Adams

Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle and any other characters featured in the actual TV series are copyrighted to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures; just borrowing for this story. The rest of the story and other characters are mine. Please contact me before using any of my stuff. Thanks.

PROFANITY DISCLAIMER: Just a couple of words (B* and D*)

SEXUAL/ROMANCE DISCLAIMER: This story depicts women who are in love with one another, but nothing too explicit. If this bothers you or is illegal (whether because you are underage or the state you live in) please read something else. There are a lot of good general fan fiction out there.

SPOILERS: Comedy of Eros, Sins of the Past, the Greater Good, Chakram, various episodes from seasons 1-5.

THANKS: The all those who inspired me to continue writing, and to my beat reader Virginia Carper, who always makes my stories better.

The Goddess of Love stood in her snow white marble temple. Even though the temple itself was magnificent, with fragrant flowers adding their perfume to the air and candle light dancing, the temple could not compete with the beauty of the goddess. Her creamy white skin looked radiant as her white silk gown flowed and gently outlined the curves of her body. Her long sun blonde curly hair was swept up, reveling a swan-like neck and her blue eyes spoke of love, passion and flirtation. Not even the erotic pictures that canvassed the walls could hold a candle to the eroticism that seemed to flow out of Aphrodite. But that Eros quality was tempered with the other rivers of love that seemed to flow out of her: agape, friend, sibling, parental. Even though she liked to display the erotic side of her being, she was truly the manifestation of all love.

She looked around her temple as she smelled the scent in the air. *No, too many red roses; need more yellow ones.* With a whiff of her hand, a bell sounded, and the temple priests arrived with baskets full of yellow rose petals. They sprinkled petals on the floor, and added petals to the potpourri bath. Aphrodite nodded her approval and the priests left. *There that's much better.*

The goddess smiled as she thought about this special day. "I'm so glad she's coming back where she belongs. My Guardian is coming home!" Unlike other gods, Aphrodite did not have a chosen one because the facets of love were so numerous, she would need a chosen one for each facet. Instead, she was allowed to pick three people who would act as Guardians of Love. These Guardians gave up their chance at love to protect and nuture the love of others. Sometimes a Guardian would help a couple find their way back to each other, at other times a Guardian would be able to help an abusive parent or spouse to change their ways.

Sometimes they succeed, other times they failed; but their goal was always the same-- to help the world to love.

Aphrodite looked up to the ceiling mirror overhead, and was amazed by her own beauty. "Why of course, she's coming back to me! Who could ever stayed away from me!"

"No one in their right mind could!" Sophia swept into the temple sending a dazzling smile at the Goddess of Love. Dressed in black and red leather armor with silver adornments, a silver dagger on each side, her red and black cape blowing from the sudden breeze, and her raven hair slicked back, the drak-eyed mahogany beauty looked more like a great warrior than a Guardian of Love. She looked down at the red and yellow flower petals and shook her head. "Are these for me? You shouldn't have Auntie!"

Aphrodite lips curled in disapproval. "Don't call me auntie! I'm too young to be an aunt."

"Hate to break this to you, but you are old enough to be a mother and a grandmother." Aphrodite's blue eyes flashed in mock anger. Sophia decided that it was best to soothe her aunt's major ego.

She walked before Aphrodite, bowed deeply and then took the goddess' hand and lowered her forehead to its back. She looked up to her aunt. "But you are still the most beautiful grandmother I have ever seen." Sophia lowered Aphrodite's hand to her lips and gently kissed it.

"You are such a big flirt!" She gently pulled her hand away from Sophia. "So what brings you here, my little one?"

Sophia stood up. "I've come back to reclaim my duties as your Guardian. That is if you will have me back."

"Of course, I will. But are sure you are ready to come back? You have been through a lot lately. I don't want you to rush back."

"So you know, huh?"

"About Ares? Of course. When Zeus returned with Athena, all of Mount Olympus shook. I never seen her so angry and grief-stricken before. Athena personally destroyed half of Ares' armies before Zeus was able to calm her down. But nothing could ease her grief when she thought she had lost you." Aphrodite had heard all about what happened: The discovery about Ares being the father of

Sophia, Sophia's disowning of Athena and Ares, and the shaky reunion of Athena and Sophia. Aphrodite could feel Sophia's love for her mother, but that love was mixed with anger and sadness. "She loves you very much, you know that, don't you?"

"I love her as well, more than anything. It is just going to take time that's all. They say time heals all wounds." She grabbed her pendant and held it to her eyes: one half of the pendant was green, the other half brown and each half was separated from each other by a silver bolt. Athena had given it to her during her seventeenth summer. *I guess time doesn't heal all wounds.*

Aphrodite gently smiled as she watch her niece looked at the pendant. She could feel the love flowing in Sophia's soul. "You still love her don't you?"

"I will always love her. But I knew I wasn't her soul mate. And she knew she wasn't my destiny. Her soul mate is Xena, and my destiny is to be a Guardian of Love."

"But knowing", Aphrodite pointed to her head then placed her hand over her heart, "doesn't stop the feeling."

"I know that fact all to well. But being with them, I knew that she and Xena belong together. You should have seen the sparks between those two. But you already have, huh?"

Aphrodite crossed her arms. "Ump. Yeah I've seen it. Heck, half of Greece has seen it. Unfortunately, those two don't seem to see it."

"What?!? I thought for sure those two were..."

"No, they are not. They can be stubborn as a pack of mules." Aphrodite threw her hands up in disgust. "I've tried every trick, every scheme I have in my arsenal. But do these two see the light? NOOOO! I even helped little Eros escape, by putting the love bug on his mom to keep Cupid busy. I even made sure that the arrow struck Gabrielle. But then that darn Joxer got in the way. He is such a PEST!"

"Well they are stubborn. But I think that they are both scared."

"Love is nothing to be scared of Sophia. It is the greatest thing one can experience."

Sophia smiled at her aunt. "Yeah, it is. But look at their track record. Xena has never felt like this before. She wants and needs Gabrielle. She is scared of losing her and losing control."

Aphrodite nodded her head in agreement. "And Gabrielle's afraid of the same thing. She lost you to me, ghost-boy had to return to Hades, Iolaus had to continue his travels with Herc and she then lost Perdicus. It seems that everyone she loves either leaves her or dies. And then there's her ..."

"Let's not bring him up please, too many bad memories. And you know how I get when he's mentioned." Sophia's eyes started to turn dark with anger. Aphrodite reached out and held Sophia's hand. "I'm sorry."

Sophia swallowed hard. "That's okay." She calmed herself before speaking. "So how do they overcome their fear?"

"Obviously, it isn't with love. That hasn't work so far."

Sophia shook her head. "No, love needs something else to open the door. What if we use their fear against them?"

Aphrodite's eyes grew wide. "You have a plan?" She clapped her hands wildly. "Oh, goodie! A plan, I hope it works because I've run out of ideas."

"Oh, it will work. But first, you have to return me to Guardian status."

"Done." With a wave of her hand, asilver chain with a heart shaped charm appeared in Aphrodite's hand. She slipped the silver chain over Sophia's head and kissed her cheeks. "There you are, babe." A huge grin spread across her face. "Now tell me about your plan."

After talking through the plan, Sophia noticed concern in Aphrodites' eyes. "Don't worry auntie. Everything will work out."

"Are you sure you want to do this? I could send one of the others..."

"Sorry, but no. I know these two better than the other Guardians, and that can be used to my advantage. Besides, Xena will not see Karis and Argus as a threat. I'm the only one of the three who can pull this off."

"Well, good luck, and be careful. I hope this works."

"Yeah me too."

"Well, if it doesn't, we are going to have to use a much less subtle approach."

"Like what auntie?"

"Like sticking them in a cold dark cave with no food, water or wood and making sure they can't come out until they finally admit and express their feelings."

"You know, we might have to try that if this doesn't work. Of course those two might rather die from starvation or thirst than tell one another." Aphrodite laughed as Sophia headed out to begin her plan.


Apollo's rays shined down on the warrior and bard. Xena instantly woke up after feeling the rays on her face. She raised one hand, and removed some of her raven hair from her face.

For her part, Gabrielle mumbled, and quickly snuggled closer to Xena. Xena sighed. *I really love waking up like this. It is the only time I can indulge myself.* She focused her cobalt blue eyes down at the object of her indulgence. *Oh, if you only knew.*

The Warrior Princess couldn't remember the exact moment she fell in love with the blonde petite warrior bard and Amazon Queen. All she knew was that she was willing to do anything to keep Gabrielle in her life, *even if that means I can never tell you how I truly feel.*

Fear started to edge its way into Xena's heart. She was so afraid, afraid that Gabrielle would leave in disgust if the bard knew how she really felt. But that was the least of her fears. *Even if she did feel the same, if we became lovers, I know her family wouldn't understand. They would most certainly cut her out of their lives.* In her mind, she could see Gabrielle's father raging out of control, her mother crying and Lila throwing daggers at her. *I don't like Herodotus, but he is still Gabrielle's father. And unfortunately, the rest of the family follows his lead. If he cuts her out, the rest will also.*

And then there were her enemies. Former enemies were still crawling out of the woodwork, and there would always some wanna-be warlords who wanted to make a name for themselves by being the ones who kill the former Destroyer of Nations. And many of them knew that they best way to draw her into a fight was to attack Gabrielle. Xena smiled and looked down at her warrior bard. Of course they soon realized that Gabrielle is a formable warrior herself. In fact, Gabrielle was developing quite a reputation of her own....

Three days ago, they arrived in a small village. As they entered the tavern, someone shouted, "It's her!" A young man, no older than Gabrielle came running up to them. Xena quickly drew her sword, preparing for an attack. The man quickly dropped to his knees in front of them and lowered his head. "I can't believe it is you! The gods have heard my prayer."

Gabrielle looked over her shoulder to the Warrior Princess. "Looks like you have another fan Xena."

Xena was about to tell the man to get lost when the man quickly lifted his head.

"Her? Oh no, not her." He pointed at Gabrielle. "You are the one I wanted to meet. The Bard of Poteidaea. The Queen of the Amazons. The warrior-bard who travels and rights the injustices she comes across. The woman with the body of a warrior, a heart made of gold, and eyes the color of the sea. With the face of an angel and wisdom of the sages you were able to turn the most feared warlord into an agent of good." With that line, he gently caressed Gabrielle's hand, lifted it to his lips and placed a gentle kiss on the back it.

Xena decided that she had lost her appetite. She looked at the man and noticed he was quite handsome, in a non-threatening type of way. His dark brown hair was offset by his sparkling green eyes. His body, though not a body of a warrior, showed that he was not afraid of hard work. And his eyes, well his eyes were only on Gabrielle, and they spoke loudly about his puppy love and infatuation with the bard. Xena quickly realized that this man was the type that Gabrielle had fallen for it the past. Her stomach started to turn. She looked at Gabrielle.

Gabrielle was certainly taken aback by the words the man had said. Gabrielle motioned for the man to stand. "What's you name?"

"The name is Loki. But you may call me anything you wish."

Gabrielle gently smiled at the young man. "Loki, would you like to join us for dinner?"

Xena's eyes grew in shock. *Is she really inviting him to dine with us? Is she falling for him and his stupid words?*

"I would be delighted to join you. I have to let my father know. I'll be right back." With that the man ran to the kitchen, nearly knocking over the barmaid in the process.

Xena grabbed Gabrielle's arm. "Are you crazy? He could be a nut for all we know."

"Take it easy. I just want to find out how he knows so much about me, that's all."

"Well, why didn't you just ask? He would have told you, one way or another." Xena started to think about the ways she could slowly torture the young man.

"Have you ever heard the saying 'You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Let's just say that dinner is the honey."

Xena imagined the man as a fly. Right now she wished she had a fly-swatter. "Yeah, okay. But be sure that he understands that you are NOT dessert okay?"

"Always my protector huh?"


Xena and Gabrielle found a table in the back corner of the tavern. Loki carefully balanced three plates of food as he looked for them. As soon as he spotted the pair, he walked to their table, lowered the plates and sat down next to Gabrielle. Xena sat back and watched Gabrielle weave her magic. They quickly learned that the man was the son of the tavern owner. They also learned that

Salmoneus, Iolaus, Joxer and Hercules had stayed in the tavern a few moons ago. Salmoneus and the tavern owner were friends, and Salmoneus knew about Loki's desire to be a bard; so Salmoneus showed him some of Gabrielle's scrolls.

Loki smiled at Gabrielle. "I've learned a lot from reading your scrolls." A look of shock came upon the bard. "You have? Like what?"

"First, a bard needs to find something or someone who inspires. Luckily for me, I already have that." He let his eyes tell Gabrielle who his inspiration was. "Second, a bard lets the inspiration be the hero of the story, and minimizes their role. I learned that because I asked why you never seemed to play a big role in the story. Both Salmoneus and Joxer were eager to fill the details that you left out. Like the way you fought a whole army just to bring Xena's body back home. Or the way that you nursed Iolaus back to health, and the way you protected Xena when she lost her memory, and..."

Gabrielle held up her hands. "I get the point." She lifted her mug of cider and drained it.

Loki quickly stood up and grabbed the empty mug. "Be right back."

As soon as he left, Gabrielle turned to Xena. "Remind me to kill Joxer and Salmoneus the next time I see them."

Xena started to laugh. Gabrielle tried to quirk her eyebrow, but failed. The failure made Xena laugh even more. "What is sooo funny Xena?"

"Remember all those times when someone came up to me in adoration while we were visiting Amazonia? You would always tell me to be patient and that it was a sign of respect. Now the boot is on the other foot, and you look like you're irritated. Where's your patience?"

"I left it back in Amazonia."

"Oh come on, I think he likes you."

Gabrielle could not retort because Loki had returned with her mug. Looking downcast, he said to her, "I have to get back to work. Can I talk to you tomorrow after the breakfast crowd?"

Taken aback by his moondog eyes, Gabrielle just couldn't say no. Hearing her yes, Loki beamed as he returned to work.

The next day, Loki invited his father to the talk. It was there that he announced his intention on following his inspiration and writing stories about her. "You are a hero, your story needs to be told, so that future generations may learn to strive for what you hold dear: justice, love, forgiveness, kindness and the greater good. Your story simply cannot be lost."

Gabrielle looked to Xena for help. But Xena did not help, but instead she grinned and played Devil's Advocate. "You know, he's right. Your story does need to be told." Gabrielle glared at Xena. *If looks could kill, her sais would be sticking out of my chest.*

Loki's father pleaded with his stubborn son because he was shorthanded. But no amount of pleading from his father would change Lokis mind. Failing to convince Loki, he turned to Gabrielle for help. "Please, he is my only child. Please persuade him to remain here with me."

Gabrielle came up with a plan. "Okay Loki, you want to become a bard, right?" Loki nodded. "And you need Loki to stay here to help run the tavern, right?" The father nodded. "How about if three nights a moon, Loki can tell stories at the tavern. That way he can work on his skills and still help out with the tavern."

"But you are my inspiration! I need to tell stories about you. How can I do that when I'm stuck at this tavern while you are travelling around the world?"

Gabrielle was finally at a lost of both words and ideas. Xena decided to step in and rescue her friend. "How about if I promise you that ever few moons Gabrielle will send you a scroll detailing our adventures? That way you have your inspiration and your father will have you here." Xena could feel Gabrielle's eyes boring down on her. *Yep, sais sticking out of my chest, and her staff taking out my knees.*

"The stories must be about her, and I don't want one detail left out."

"Well, she is humble. I promise to read them and make sure she isn't leaving out her part. Okay?"

Loki looked at Gabrielle and Xena and then at his father. He knew that he could not break his father's heart. "Okay, agreed." His father let out a breath and nodded.


Xena was brought out of her musings when Gabrielle placed her arm around Xena's waist and snuggled closer. Xena brushed Gabrielle's bangs away from her eyes and the bard sighed at the gentle touch. "Time to get up sleepy head." Gabrielle responded by snuggling closer. "Come on Gabriellee. We got some adventuring todo. Can't let Loki be disappointed, now can we?"

*So that is what she's been thinking about! Loki!* Gabrielle kept her eyes closed, even though she had been awake for some time now. It was a game she loved to play: she would pretend to be asleep and snuggled up close to Xena. In the beginning, she did have lots of problems getting up for she wasn't a morning person. But she knew that a good warrior never slept too hard. Xena still had no idea that Gabrielle had learned that lesson; for Gabrielle didn't want Xena to know, for this was the only time that Xena seemed to lower her guard and did not mind being gentle and loving; nor did she seem to mind Gabrielle's snuggling closer to her. *If you only knew. But what good would that do? You could never love me the way I love you.* "Loki? Why did you bring him up for? I wanted to start my day on a good note."

"You don't like thinking about your doting apprentice? He seemed nice enough to me."

"Well, if you liked him so much, why didn't you invite him to come along with us?"

"If I had wanted a wanna-be who had goo-goo eyes for a certain bard to come along with us, I would have invited Joxer. At least I know what to expect from him."

"Joxer?" Gabrielle sat up. "Did you have to bring him up? You really know how to start a day off right, don't you?"

Xena laughed at Gabrielle's reactions to her two admirers. "Come on, get up. We need to get moving. We won't find nothing to write about here."


Both of them loaded up their gear, hopped on the horses and rode out. Both Argo and Horse represented their owners: Argo was a large war-horse, who thought and acted like Xena & Horse was a slightly smaller stallion who was calm and gentle until someone that he loved was hurt or being threatened; just like Gabrielle.

Even though Xena was glad that Gabrielle had finally gotten over her fear of horses and riding, she missed the days when Gabrielle would be forced into riding with her so that they could make good time. Now that Gabrielle had her own horse, Xena could no longer use that excuse to be physical close to the bard.

She looked over to Gabrielle and her stallion. Winning over the wild Horse took a bit of effort, but not nearly as much as it should have; given the fact that they had found the wild beast in a hunting trap. The horse instantly calmed down when it heard Gabrielle's voice and Gabrielle used her gentle voice to lead the stallion into the stall and kept it calm as Xena took care of its leg. It was like they instantly connected. *I still have yet to learn how she did that.* She smiled. *I guess my bard has many skills of her own.* It was at that moment that Gabrielle turned toward Xena and gave her a smile that could light up the night.

*Like the way she can cause my heart to race with just one smile.*

"A dinar for your thoughts."

"Huh, oh, just thinking about my favorite subject."

"Really? Okay, what new way have you come up with to defeat our next set of foes?"

Confusion clouded Xena's face. "New way?"

"Yes Xena. We had this conversation before, remember? You always have to come up with a new way to defeat someone. In all this time, I've never known you to use the same method twice."

Xena quirked her eyebrow. "Oh really?"

"Yes really."

"Well, for your information, I wasn't thinking about a new way to defeat someone. I was thinking about something else."

Gabrielle's curiosity got the better of her. "Like what?"

"Oh no, I m not telling you." Xena gave her a playful smile.

"So you want to play games? Fine. Is it an animal?"

Xena shook her head. As many times as they have played this game, Gabrielle never seemed to be bored with it. "One could say that it is an animal."

"Is it something you can pick up?"

"Yes and no."

"What is that suppose to mean?"

Xena's eyes twinkled. She knew she was playing with fire, but she just couldn't stop herself. "Well, it depends on what you mean by pick up?"

Gabrielle was too busy thinking to notice Xena's tone. "I mean can you lift it?"

"Yes, I can."

They played the game for a couple of candlemarks. Xena was having such a good time being vague with her answers that she did not notice the storm clouds that suddenly appeared in the sky until the wind grew stronger. "It looks like we better head for shelter. A storm is coming."

They arrived at a nearby cave by the time the rain came pouring down. Since the entrance was so small, Xena led Argo in the cave first. "You won't believe this..."

"What?" Gabrielle tried to peek around both Argo and Xena, but couldn't see a thing.

Sophia raised one finger to her lips, and began to sneak to the side wall of the cave. Xena smiled, realizing what Sophia was about to do. Xena and Argo moved forward, with Gabrielle and Horse following close behind. "It looks like someone left a whole lot of firewood here. Looks like we won't have to go back in that rain."

"Oh is that all? I thought you saw some kind of wild animal or something."

Sophia managed to sneak behind Gabrielle, and placed her arms around her. She then picked her up and spun her around. "Who says I'm not wild?"

"Sophia! Wait until you put me down!"

"Who says I'm ever going to let you go?" Sophia lowered her voice, both in octave and strength, "In fact, I might just hold you here forever."

Xena smile began to disappear. *If I didn't know any better, I swear that Sophia was flirting.*

Gabrielle laughed. "Okay, okay. Can you put me down?" She too changed her tone. "Please?" Xena watched as the one word that had the power to control her seemed to work on Sophia as well. Xena's smile disappeared from her face completely.

Sophia lowered Gabrielle to the ground, and placed a kiss on her cheek. She then walked forward and greeted Xena with a warrior's handshake. "Xena." Unlike the last time they shared a handshake, Sophia made no attempt to embrace Xena in a hug. The handshake was firm, very firm. "Sophia." Xena returned the firmness of the grip. "What brings you to these parts?"

"The same as you probably. I didn't want to get caught in the storm so I took shelter."

"We're lucky that we found the same cave as Sophia, right Xena."

"Yeah, lucky." Xena looked at Sophia. "So Sophia, I thought you were going to spend time with your mother."

"Oh I did. I spent 10 days with her and then I visited Aphrodite for awhile."

"You did?" That was when Gabrielle noticed the silver necklace and charm. She walked over to Sophia and picked up the charm. "So you're back on duty?"

"Yeah. I almost let my obsession with finding my father ruin one of the best things that ever happened to me. Luckily you were there to point me in the right direction...again. You are always being the light for someone aren't you?" She took the charm out of Gabrielle's hand, making sure she brushed her hand against Gabrielle's. "Yes, I'm back on duty," she made sure she held Gabrielle's eyes before continuing, "for now." She smiled at Gabrielle. Gabrielle began to blush.

*Okay, that does it! She is definitely flirting with her.* "Well, I guess Gabrielle and I better head on out and find another cave to stay in."

Gabrielle gave Xena a questioning look. "Why can't we stay here?"

"There is not enough room for three people and two horses Gabrielle. It may seem cozy now, but from the looks of that storm we are going to be here for a couple of days. By the time we leave, this cozy cave will seem like a jail cell."

Both Gabrielle and Sophia looked at the cave and then at each other. True, the entrance of the cave was small, but the cave itself was enormous. "Nonsense Xena. There is plenty of firewood and room, and between mother and Aphrodite, I have plenty of supplies. Besides that storm looks really bad." Just then, a bolt of lightening and a clap of thunder decided to make its presence known. *Thanks Grandfather.* "See! It is much too dangerous. We are just have to be on our best behavior and just get along. Besides, now we have time to catch up." Sophia smiled.

Xena imagined the two walking mouthpieces chattering away during all candlemarks of the day. She looked away, trying to find a place to where she could escape. There was none-- no where to run, no where to hide. *Maybe I could find something to stick in my ears.* "Okay, I guess we have to stay here. Let's make camp."

They settled into the usually routine: Gabrielle unloading their supplies, while Xena took care of the horses. Sophia never left Gabrielle's side, helping her with camp, all the while both of them laughing and sharing stories. *Of course. She is really starting to get on my nerves.*

Xena needed someone to talk to, and she knew just who. Argo patiently listened as Xena talked and brushed her coat. "I know I'm doing the right thing for her. I know I can never tell her the way I feel. Our lives are full of danger as is and if the wrong person knew..." She looked over to where Gabrielle and Sophia were. They had finished setting up camp and now they were sitting on their bedrolls and talking. Gabrielle was laughing so hard that her bangs kept getting in her eyes. Each time, Sophia would reach over and moved the bangs. Xena felt a twinge in her chest. "Okay, I'll admit it. I'm jealous. And there is no good reason for it; I know that I have no claims on Gabrielle. She deserves someone who can love her the way she ought to be loved; someone who isn't afraid of showing her that love, someone without so many demons inside." She paused, trying to gather her thoughts. "What am I going to do girl? I can't tell her that I'm in love with her, that she makes my life worth living. But at the same time, I can't stand the thought of anyone else being with her like that. She said she would never leave me again, and I know that she won't. But am I standing in her way of happiness?"

Argo neighed. Horse shook his head and neighed too. They both looked at Xena, then turned away. "If I wanted your advice, I would have asked for it." Xena walked away from the horses and headed towards Sophia and Gabrielle. "So what are you two talking about?"

"I'm trying to find out what has happened since the last time I saw you both. Gabrielle claims that nothing has happened, but you know how good of a liar she is." She turned to face Gabrielle, who had a look of mock indignation plastered on her face. "So tell me Xena, what adventures have you been in?"

Xena looked at Gabrielle. Gabrielle's eyes spoke her thoughts, *Don't you dare, Xena. I will make your life a living Tartarus if you do!* Xena couldn't help but to accept the challenge issued by the bard's eyes. "Well, Gabrielle did meet a nice young man who was an admirer of her work."

"Really, now. Sounds interesting. Tell me all about him."

Xena began to tell Sophia about their run in with Loki. Gabrielle did not listen but instead thought about the numerous ways to torture Xena. *I should make her eat her own cooking for a month. No, that means I hhave to eat her cooking for amonth. Maybe I'll tell only Xena stories when we stay in taverns. Yeah, that would embarrass her. Of course, I might run into another Loki.* Shuddering at the thought, Sophia's question brought Gabrielle out of her thoughts of revenge.

"So, is there a love connection between you two?"

"No! He's not my type."

"Sounds like your type to me. You always fall for the tall, dark, good-looking, smart types." *I should know.*

"No, I don't Besides, I like my life the way it is. Fighting for the greater good, righting the wrongs, and fixing injustices. With my faithful companion by my side, I ride my trusty steed into the heart of danger, ready to battle evil everywhere." She looked at Xena. "Right?"

Xena couldn't help smiling. "Speaking only as a faithful companion who stands by you, I think you are the greatest hero I have ever met."

Sophia could tell that Xena spoke from the heart and turned to Gabrielle to see her reaction. She glanced at Gabrielle and caught her blushing. *Sparks, sparks everywhere, but a fire has yet to start. Boy, you two are thick headed!* Sophia looked back at Xena. *Yep definitely Gabby's type: tall, dark, good-looking and smart!* A small voice inside reminded Sophia that she too fit that category. She pushed that voice down and sighed. *I've got a job to do. I just hope I can do it, and live through my heartache once more.*

Sophia got up and went through her bag. She found her whetstone and returned to her seat next to Gabrielle, preparing to sharpen daggers. Even though the daggers never needed sharpening, the action calmed her nerves. Each dagger was silver and slightly larger than most daggers. The metal did not show signs of any workmanship, no markings from a blacksmith's hammer, no uneven edges, and no imperfections. In the hilt of each dagger was an emerald.

Xena looked at the daggers and remembered the words that Sophia said when she showed Gabrielle the new additions to them: 'I have added emeralds to my hilts, so that I can remember you. To help us remember our friendship. I love you Gabby.' Xena's heart started to beat faster. *I wonder. Does Sophia love Gabby as a friend or something more?*

Sophia looked at Xena. "Hey Xena, after I sharpen my daggers, would like to play a game? We could practice throwing daggers. Of course, we are going to have to use my daggers."

"Sure, why not? But I rather use Gabrielle's." She turned towards Gabrielle, "If that is alright with you?"

"Of course. I think I'll write a story."

"One to send to Loki?"

"Ha, ha; very funny, Xena. Remember, it's your fault I have to send him stories."

"Hey, it was either that or he would be with us right now. Just be sure you don't leave yourself out of the story."

Gabrielle tossed Xena her daggers which were similar to Sophia's and made with the same type of metal and craftsmanship, but the blades were thinner and longer. Xena eyed the tigers eye stone in each of the hilts. Xena remembered Sophia's words as she grabbed the daggers from the air, 'So that you can remember me.' *Okay Xena, stop acting paranoid. They are just friends.* "Thanks."

Xena and Sophia headed toward the left far wall of the cave and marked a bull's eye on the wall, step back ten paces and started throwing the daggers. "You go first Xena."

As Xena was eyeing the bull's eye, Sophia eyed Gabrielle. She could feel her pulse race and her palms getting sweaty. * Boy, I still have it bad, even after all these years. What did auntie say? Oh yeah, knowing doesn't stop the feeling.*

Xena looked over at Sophia and saw the way Sophia looked at Gabrielle. It was similar to the way that Loki looked at the bard, just more intense. *So you do love her.* Xena swallowed hard and clenched her fists as she walked over to the wall, and pulled out the daggers. "Hey Sophia! Your turn."

*If you don't watch it warrior, it will be my turn; in more ways than one.* Sophia looked at the target. "Hey, how am I suppose to know how close you got to bull's eye if you don't leave the daggers in?"

"The first hit bulls eye, the second missed by a hair."

"Okay, my turn," Sophia stated as she focused on the target. Xena glanced to Gabrielle and then to Sophia. Xena's voice was barely a whisper, but she knew Sophia would hear her. "What is she to you?"

Sophia was about to throw when Xena asked the question. Sophia wasn't expecting such a direct question and the dagger missed the bull's eye by three finger widths. She turned to Xena and could see the jealousy in her eyes. *Perfect.*

She walked over to Xena and looked directly in her eyes, "She was my first love." Sophia walked back to her place. She threw the second dagger. She smiled as the dagger hit the mark perfectly. "Bull's eye. Your turn."

Xena stood there with her mouth open. She quickly replaced her surprised reaction with a stoic look on her face. *So Gabrielle has loved a woman before? Well, that calms one of my fears.* She prepared herself to throw the dagger.

Sophia waited until Xena was about to let the dagger fly. "So do you love her?" The dagger missed the center by three hand widths to the left. "You don't have to answer that. I already know."

Xena looked at Sophia. "I don't think I want to play anymore."

"Why not? You seem pretty good at playing games. Or are you worried you might lose this one?"

Xena silently walked up to Sophia. Her voice was low and menacing. "She is not a game piece that you can toy around with."

"No she's not. However, Gabby is the best thing that has happened to either one of us. The question is which of our hearts are going to finish this, and which one is going to be broken? Both of us can't win."

"I'm willing to do what is best for her."

"So am I Xena, so am I." *You pig headed fool. You're the best thing for, why can't you see it?* "I'm warning you Xena. If she gets hurt because of you, Tartarus will seem like a vacation when compared to what I will do to you."

"That goes double for you."

"Deal." Sophia stuck out her arm. Xena grabbed it, and they gave each other a warrior's handshake.

Even from her seat, Gabrielle sensed the tension in the air. Gabrielle looked up from her scroll and at her two friends and saw them clasp each others forearm. *Uh-oh. The game seems to have become a little too serious. Better step in before they kill each other.* She jumped up, and quickly walked to them. "Um guys, what's going on?"

They released their grips on each other. "Just some friendly competition that's all."

"Well, it doesn't look so friendly to me Xena."

"Nothing to worry about, Gabby. You know how warriors get when we compete. Warriors don't like to lose," she looked Xena right in the eyes, "at anything."

As Gabrielle eyed both of them suspiciously, Xena knew it was time to change the subject. "Are you finished with your story yet?"

"Yeah, in fact, I was about to drag Sophia away from this game and get her to read my scroll." Sophia mouth shaped itself into a smirk.

Xena started to reach for the scroll. "I could do that for you Gabrielle. After all, I did promise Loki that I would read your scroll before you sent it to him."

"That's okay Xena. I know you don't like reading them and since Sophia is here, she might as well be useful. Come on Sophia." Gabrielle grabbed Sophia's hand and led her away. Sophia smiled back at Xena. Xena stood there, wishing that she had one of Gabrielle's scrolls to read.


Later that night, the rain broke off and Xena decided that she needed to get some fresh air. All throughout the day and even during dinner, Sophia helped Gabrielle with the scrolls. *She never needed help with her scrolls before.* "Hey, I'm going to check the perimeter. Be back in a while."

"Okay." Gabrielle did not bother to look up from her scroll as Xena left the cave.

As she walked the woods, she thought about the revelations made during the day. Sophia loved Gabrielle, and was still in love with her. Every touch, every move, every word gave that fact away. And Sophia knew how Xena felt. Even with all her walls, Sophia was able to find out that Xena loved Gabrielle. *I wonder how many others know. Am I that obvious?* In the past, some of her enemies let her know that they went after Gabrielle because she was important to Xena. But none of them knew just how important Gabrielle was to the warrior. But the fact remained, whether they were lovers or not, Gabrielle's life was in danger because of her association with Xena. Knowing this, her second fear began to melt away.

*But how does Gabrielle feel?* Gabrielle reacted naturally to Sophia's actions. In fact, she did not seem to mind them at all. Xena wondered if Gabrielle ever got over Sophia. *It must still hurt her because she never talked about it. I wonder if she still loves her? Do I really want to know?* Her heart told her to tell Gabrielle how she felt, but her fear of ruining the best thing in her life was still too strong. *What happens if Gabrielle doesn't feel the same? I know she loves me, but is she in love with me?* Xena paced. *Well, warrior princess, you are not going to find out unless you ask. I need to know. can't live like this forever.* After checking the perimeter, she returned to the cave, determined to find out the truth.


"That was a fine story, Gabby."

"You think so?"

"I know so! Tell me, do you and Xena always argue about the stars?"

"Every chance we get."

Sophia shook her head. "Well, I want to see that bear. Come on!" She stood up, and pulled Gabrielle up. They walked outside and stood in front of the cave entrance.

Gabrielle pointed to the sky. "See the bright star over there. Okay, follow my finger. Gabrielle moved her finger left and followed the pattern that she saw as a bear. "See, there's the legs and back."

Sophia squinted her eyes. "I don't see it. But I do see," she pointed to another clusters of stars, "Orion."

"What's Orion?"

"You never heard of the story of Orion? Let me tell you. Listen to a tale of love and lost. Listen to the story of Orion and Artemis..."

Sophia told the story as best as she could. She was no bard, but Gabrielle could tell that the story touched Sophia's heart. "...and so, because of her great love for him, Artemis convinced Zeus to place Orion in the stars. So even though they are no longer physical together, no other god would be able to tear them apart because he is in the heavens, and each night during the hunt, Artemis could see her love. But when hunting season is over, he flees from the dreaded Scorpio, for fear that he would lose his one opportunity each year to see his love again." Sophia stopped and looked at the young bard. "I love that story."

"I can tell, Sophia. I can tell."

Sophia looked up at the sky. "I love the stars. There is something magical, mysterious, mystical about them. Kind of like love, don't you think?"

"Um, I like that, comparing love to a star. I have to remember that one."

They continued to look at the stars. They reminisce when they were younger and use to look at the night sky. "You know, when we were younger, I use to wish that I could fly you to a star, to take you away from the pain and fear." Tears began to rise in Sophia's eyes. "That is my biggest regret, that I couldn't protect you from..."

"Hush. I don't want to talk about that. You were there when I needed you the most. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't be here." Gabrielle reached up and wiped away a tear. "You know, your love was my guiding star. You fought for me when I had given up."

"I would fight anything and for all eternity for you Gabby." They looked into each other's eyes. In her mind, they were no longer in front of a cave or young women, they were sixteen summers old looking outside the small barn window at the night sky.

Sophia placed a finger under Gabrielle's chin and tilted her head. She moved in and their lips touched. Slowly at first, their lips reacquainted themselves to each other. Then the passion took over and their kisses grew deeper. Sophia moved away, and her lips traveled along Gabrielle's jawline down to her neck and she took at nibble where Gabrielle's pulse. "Sophia," Gabrielle breathy said, her voice dripping with passion.

Xena stood in shock. From where she stood, she knew they could not see her, but she saw everything she needed to see. Her bard and Sophia were kissing passionately and she could hear Gabrielle say Sophia's name. She quickly turned around and walked away, believing that she did not need to see or hear anymore.

*Gods, this is wonderful. I haven't felt like this or done this

since...Perdicus.* The memory of her late husband jolted her back to reality. "Sophia, Sophia we got to stop." She pushed Sophia away.

"What's wrong? Did I do something?"

"No, it's me. I'm making the same mistake all over again." She sighed. "I can't use you like I did Perdicus."

*Use me, use me!* Sophia's inner voice pleaded. "It's Xena, isn't it?"

"I will always love you. You were my first love. But I'm no longer in love with you." Gabrielle grabbed the Guardian's hand. "I was once; never doubt that. But I loved you so much to give you up, so that you could fulfill your destiny. I won't allow you to settle with being second in my heart because you deserve better. Besides you have a destiny to complete, and I'm not a part of it. And I won't be the reason you don't fulfill it."

"You really are in love with Xena, huh?"

"With everything that I am. Sometimes I wish it weren't so. She could never love me the way I love her." She turned away from Sophia. "Why would she?"

Sophia moved until she was facing Gabrielle. "Because you are the most radiant person I have ever met, both on the outside and inside. You want to see the good in all people. You're willing to stand up for what you believe, even if that means putting your life in danger. After all you have been through, your love and light still shine for all to see." Sophia hugged Gabrielle gently to her. "And if she can't see it, then she's a bigger fool than what I thought."

They stood like that for awhile, just holding one another. "Gabby, I have one small request. I know it might sound stupid, especially since we know how I feel about you, but..." She paused. "Don't let your fear keep you from your heart's desire. Don't be so stubborn that you can't see what is in front of your eyes. Okay?"

Gabrielle looked at her friend's face. "Okay. Maybe you're right. When Xena gets back, we're going to have a talk."

"That's my Gabby." Sophia held Gabrielle's hand and led her into the cave.


Xena didn't return to the cave until dawn. Her body ached from sleeping on the hard ground without any protection from the elements. But more importantly, her heart was broken. As she came closer to the cave entrance, she could hear voices coming from the cave. *Probably telling each other how much they love one another.* She stalked in, and started to groom Argo.

"Xena, are you alright? Are you hurt? Where have you been?" Gabrielle jumped up and went to Xena's side. She reached out and touched Xena's arm.

Xena jerked her arm away as if Gabrielle's hand was made from fire. "WHAT DO YOU CARE?!?" Gabrielle jumped like a scared bunny as Sophia rushed to her side. But Xena did not noticed, nor did she care, for she wanted to make Gabrielle hurt as much as possible. "I don't need a mother, thank you very much, I already have one. I don't need you. So mind your own business."

"Fine. I was just worried. When you didn't come back last night..."

"Don't worry your pretty little head about it. I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself." Xena started to pack her saddlebags. She proceeded to turn Argo around.

Gabrielle's jaw dropped open. *Surely she's not thinking about leaving without me?* "What are you doing?"

"Well, I figured that you and Sophia needed more time to catch up, so I'm taking off for awhile."

"Where are you going?"

"Why you want to know?"

Gabrielle crossed her arms. *Because I'm in totally and hopelessly in love with you damn it.* "So I can meet you later."

Xena's voice dripped with venom. "Don't bother."

Gabrielle stood there, tears in her eyes. But she refused to let those tears fall. "Fine. I'm going to pick berries. I'm be back in a while Sophia." She rushed past Xena and exited the cave.

Sophia stared at Xena. *Damn stubborn mule. That's what you are! You don't deserve her!* Xena returned her glare. Sophia placed her hands on her hips, refusing to back down. "Xena, there is a word for someone like you. The word is bitch. Maybe you heard of it?"

Xena glared at Sophia. "Listen you. You won. You got her." Xena clutched at her chest. "You managed to look at my heart and rip it out! Are you happy now?" Tears rolled down Xena's cheek.

"I haven't won anything. And no, I'm not happy."

"Why not? You love her."

"Of course."

"And she loves you."

"Yes, she does." The last piece of Xena's heart crumbled as she sank to the ground as Sophia spoke those words.

Sophia looked at the fallen Warrior Princess and wondered if she should take pity or not. *You are lucky that I love her so.* "Do you know what the worlds problem is? Too many people are willing to settle for second instead of embracing the grand prize. Too many people are willing to marry someone they love instead of waiting for the one that they are in love with. And then people wonder why they are so unhappy. People are in such a hurry to love and to be loved, that they miss their chance at being in love.

Take for instance Gabrielle. Did you know she married Perdicus because she thought that she was not worthy of someone's love? She thought that this person could never love her the way she wanted. She was about to make that same mistake last night; not that I didn't want her to. You know, she is some lady. She managed to dump me and make me feel good at the same time. Yes, she loves me, but she's not in love with me."

Xena turned and looked at Sophia as Sophia took a seat next to her. "When we were sixteen summers, we went to Athens so that I could discover my destiny. Two gods were making claims on me: Athena and Aphrodite. My mother promised me that I would live a long and noble life as the most famed scholar in all the world, and that Gabrielle would be by my side forever. I love Gabby so much, that I was about to jump at that offer. That is, until Gabby asked Mother if that would fulfill my destiny. You should have seen the look on Mother's face. Athena admitted that she was trying to protect me, because most half-mortals had short

life spans; especially warrior types.

Aphrodite then told us that my destiny did lay on the path of the warrior, a warrior of the heart. She had been testing me, and I had passed with flying colors. But as a Guardian, I would have to give up my love because I would be far too busy to nuture a relationship. I was going to turn her down right then and there, but Gabby stopped me. She said that she did not want to be second in my heart, and that one day I would resent her. She asked me to think about it and of course, I could deny her nothing. That night Aphrodite came to me and told me that she wanted me to make an informed decision. She showed me that Gabrielle's true soulmate would come and that it was through this soulmate that Gabrielle would fulfill her destiny. She then asked me if I loved Gabby enough to set her free."

Sophia looked into Xena's eyes. "So there are two obstacles standing in our way: my destiny and her soulmate." She held up her pendant. "You ever heard of Orion and Artemis? The same thing that separated them from each other is the same thing that binds them together for all eternity. Kind of like Gabrielle and me. These two obstacles separate us, and yet somehow link us together. But we can never be truly together because we both know it is not for the best." Sophia reached to Xena and grabbed the pendant that she gave her.

Xena's pendant was similar to Sophia's, just smaller, and instead of brown and green, it was blue and green and there wasn't a silver bolt that divided the two colors. Instead, the blue and green intermingled with each other in the center of the pendant. "On the other hand, there is nothing that comes between you and Gabrielle, except obstacles that you both put in your way such as pride, stubbornness and fear. You guys are soulmates, in every sense of the word. You see, Gabrielle loves me, but she is in love with her soulmate. Unfortunately, her soulmate seems too stupid to realize it."

Sophia paused to let her words soak in. "And you, most stoic warrior, was willing to settle for second also. You rather hold on to your noble notions of sacrifice instead of facing your fears. Instead of telling her how you felt, you made grand motion of sacrifice, and let her marry Perdicus. And you were about to do it again, Oh Great and Noble Warrior." Sophia's voice dripped with disgust as she eyed Xena. "You are not a warrior, you are a coward. You are so afraid because you cannot control what you are feeling. She does things to you, things that you can't explain and you are so scared, that you rather push her away than embrace her."

Xena knew in her heart that Sophia was right, but she wouldn't admit it. As stoic look remained plastered over Xena's face, Sophia shook her head. Her anger was building with each phrase she spoke, "Fine, you want to remain the noble and stoic warrior, go right on ahead and lose the best thing in you life. I know that there are some very willing people who want to pick up the pieces of Gabrielle's heart. She has so much love inside of her, maybe that person will never realize that he or she is second in her heart. Who knows, maybe some nice Amazon warrior will sweep her off her feet? Gods know you are too chicken to try."

Xena tried to act bored. "Are you finished yet?"

"No, I'm not." Sophia stood up. "I've given you two chances warrior. The first was when I let her go the first time. Now, I've given you a second chance. You better not blow it. She should be returning soon and you better get it right. If you do blow it, I'm going to do everything in my power to sweep her off her feet. And I promise you, there will not be a third chance." Sophia headed out of the cave.

A big grin slowly spread itself on Xena's face. "She loves me!" She stood up and began to pace the floor. "She's in love with me!" Then reality slowly sank in. "After what I just did to her, she probably will never want to speak to me again. Some big apologizing needs to be done." She looked around the cave. "Flowers, I need to get flowers." She was about to exit the cave, when a revelation struck her. She held up her pendant to her eyes. *Sophia's a Guardian; she gave this to me six months ago; she knew all along! I've been played like a lyre!* She started to laugh. "She got me, but this is one time I don't mind losing. Thanks, Sophia."


Gabrielle stomped into the cave. Her body shook with anger and sadness. *I could kill her! So she wants to leave me behind, good riddance! She will be doing me a favor.* She was so occupied that she did not notice Argo until the war-horse neighed. Her heart skipped a beat as she realized that Xena hadn't left. At that moment, she wished Xena was here so that she show her how much she needed her.

"Look at me, I'm so pathetic. One minute I want to kill her, the next I want to love her." She sat the basket of berries down and began to sob. "What am I going to do? I can't keep living like this. I have to tell her. I just have to prepare myself for the worst."

Xena peeked into the cave, and saw that Gabrielle's back was to the entrance. While she picked the flowers, she tried to come up with an eloquent speech that would both apologize and tell Gabrielle what the bard meant to her. She had the words in her mind until she saw Gabrielle. The bard's shoulders were drooped and Xena could tell that she was crying. At that moment, all her prepared words disappeared as she walked up to her love. "Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle wiped the tears from her eyes, but she did not turn around. "What?"

Xena kneeled down and wrapped her arms around Gabrielle. "I'm so sorry. I acted like a fool. Please forgive me." She spun Gabrielle around to face her. "There is no excuse for what I said to you, but let me explain. When I saw you and Sophia kissing, it broke my heart and I wanted to hurt you as much as I hurt."

"You saw us?" *Why would that upset her unless...* Gabrielle eyes grew wide as she realized that Xena was jealous. She kept her face as stoic as possible, but her insides were dancing for joy.

"Yeah, I saw you. I was running back here to tell you that I was hopelessly in love with you, and that I wanted more than friendship. But then I saw you and Sophia, and I thought I lost you forever." Gently the warrior princess lifted the Amazon Queen's chin with her hand. "Can you please forgive me?"

Gabrielle slowly slid her hand around Xenas neck and pulled her closer. Xena could feel every one of Gabrielle's breaths. "Do you really love me?" Crystal green eyes searched cobalt blue eyes for the truth.

"With all that I am."

Gabrielle's stoicism was washed away as tears streamed down her face. Xena delicately wiped the tears from Gabrielle's cheek.

This was the moment that they had been waiting for. Time passed every so slowly as Xena lowered her head. As their lips carefully and tenderly brushed together; a spark ignited and the kiss became more passionate. Each pair of lips caressed and explored the other. Soon, their lips, tongues and mouths moved in a dance, a

dance that displayed all the passion and love that they had for each other; a dance that would last a lifetime and beyond.

Xena swept Gabrielle into her arms and carried her to their bedrolls. As she lowered Gabrielle to the ground, Xena pulled away. "I need to see you. I'm afraid that this is a dream, and I will wake up, and you won't be here."

"This is no dream, no illusion. Let me prove it to you my love." Gabrielle pulled Xena to her and into a heated kiss. "Oh...Xe...yes," Xena slid her tongue in between Gabrielle's separate lips.

Xena looked down at Gabrielle. "I love you." Gabrielle smiled at Xena. "And you, my warrior, are the most beautiful star in the heavens."

Xena ran her fingers over Gabrielle's lips and she realized that she would do anything, give anything to make her bard happy. Her fears and doubts about this relationship melted away, while love and trust filled the spaces in her heart.

Gabrielle looked into her love's eyes and saw the depth of love, trust and passion Xena had for her and she knew in her heart her own eyes reflected those same feelings. Even with her knowledge of words; no poem, no story, no epic could ever describe what she felt for her warrior. "Xena, I need to feel your touch, I need to touch you."

Their bodies came together as one. Their lips and hands roamed each other's bodies; not one inch was neglected, as they tried to memorize each curve and plane. Crashing waves of ecstasy were experienced, new heights were reached as they tried to show each other the love in their hearts; a love that would last for all of eternity.


After their first expression of love, they held each other close. Xena looked at Gabrielle. *She's mine. It's no dream. She's my bard.* "Promise me something Gabrielle."

"What is it love?"

"Promise me that this adventure will not be in the scroll that you send to Loki."

"I don't know. You know he wanted me to chronicle everything I do. After all I'm his inspiration, his muse." Gabrielle's eyes danced with amusement. "It's going to take some convincing on your part to keep me from writing this adventure down and sending it to him."

"Well let me get started." Their bodies once again started the dance of love.

And Gabrielle's hands were far too busy to do any writing.


"What are you doing up here?"

"I'm putting plan B into action." Aphrodite looked at Sophia as if she lost her mind. "Don't you remember, auntie? Trapping them in a cave until they admit their feelings for one another." Sophia gave the extremely large boulder another push but it refused to budge.

Aphrodite tapped her niece and favored Guardian on the shoulder. "No need for drastic measures. Your plan was a success." With a wave of a hand, a portal opened. Aphrodite and Sophia saw just how good the plan worked. Sophia quickly turned her head and began to walk away, while Aphrodite looked on in amazement. "Oh! You go girls! Babe, you out did yourself this time. Congratulations!"

Sophia lowered her head. "Thanks." She continued to climb down the cliff. The further down she climbed the lower her heart sunk. *I know I did the right thing. But why do I feel so much pain?* She quietly walked away from the cave. "Good-bye Gabrielle and Xena. Take care of each other. You two are truly blessed."

Aphrodite watched as Sophia walked away. "Poor kid. She needs to take her mind off of this." A idea popped into her head. In a flash of light and glitter she reappeared in front of Sophia. "Hey girl! Its time to celebrate."

"Don't feel like it, Aphrodite."

"That's auntie to you, and you have no choice. I need an escort to Dionysus' latest out of this world party. And I have chosen you." Her voice turned serious. "Besides, you need to take your mind off of this."

"It's not my mind that is in pain but my heart."

"Listen to me. You are a Guardian and you did what you had to do. But most importantly, you did what was best for Xena and Gabrielle. You laid down your heart, your life for someone else's happiness. There is no greater expression of love and I'm very proud of you, Sophia." She linked arms with her niece. "Now take me to the party of the century."

Sophia shook her head and smiled. "I'll escort you, but you are going to have to do the taking. I don't have that particular power remember?"

"Details, details. Let's just go." With a not so subtle light and glitter show, they disappeared, leaving two lovers in the sanctuary of a cave.


Sophia sat in Aphrodite's temple and held her head. *Why did I let her talk me into it?* Her eyes were bloodshot and her leathers smelled. Even the small amount of light given by the candles caused her headache to worsen. The party lasted for seven days; seven whole days of food, wine and sex. It took an addition three days for her to open her eyes and to get out of bed. "Next time,

I'll just say no."

Light and glitter filled the room. Sophia winced in pain as her aunt appeared. "Must you do that? After all I've been through, you just had to do that light show, huh?"

"Still in pain? Poor baby." Aphrodite walked over to her niece and caressed her face and smiled. Just when Sophia thought she was going to get some sympathy, Aphrodite shouted, "WELL, GET OVER IT BABE! No one forced you to drink that whole barrel."

"Hey, give me a break. I was trying to drown my sorrows." Sophia looked up and saw a smirk on the goddess face. "What?"

"Oh nothing. Dino just wanted me to invite you to all the parties in the future. You were a huge hit." Her smirk turned into a grin.

"Oh no! What did I do?"

The grin turned into a wicked smile. "Let's just say that you were very, very popular at the party, and you did not seem to mind the attention."

"Oh no, I feel so stupid. Why didn't you stop me?"

"You seemed to be having so much fun. And I know I had fun just watching you."

Sophia lowered her head in embarrassment. She could only remember bits and pieces of the party, and those recollections were from the first three days. "Never again. I feel so bad."

Aphrodite took pity on her niece. "Well maybe this will make you feel better." She walked to a table. On the table was a package. "It came two days ago." She handed the package to Sophia.

Sophia slowly opened the package and silently read the note.

Dear Sophia,

We just want to thank you for everything. If it wasn't for you, we might have never shared our feelings. You are truly a Guardian of Love.


Gabby and Xena

P.S. You played me like a lyre and I'm glad you did. Thank you for loving Gabrielle so much. I know that it was hard letting go. It was your love that bonded us together and I will never forget that. Now when your soulmate comes, I'll be more than happy to return the favor. Thanks again,

Love Xena

Along with the notes was a bracelet. The bracelet was made from three straps of leather. The green and blue straps laid next to each other. The brown strap wrapped around the other two, holding them together. Sophia smiled as she tied the bracelet on her wrist. She studied it for a moment and then turned to her aunt.

Aphrodite watched as Sophia's eyes lit up and danced. "So...where any of these people who I was popular with, were they cute?"

"They were bodacious babe! Why?"

"Well..." She looked down at Xena's note. "Let's just say that someone wants to play me as a musical instrument, but first I need to find someone I can make sweet music with."

"You are such a flirt."

Written and copyrighted by: Paully Adams

July 19, 2001

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