Disclaimer: I have intended no copyright infringement in the writing of this fan fiction story that contains characters, names, title, and backstory found in the syndicated television series Xena: Warrior Princess owned by MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures.
This story cannot be sold or used for profit, and I have not financially profited from it in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use, and all copies must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
References/ Spoilers: This story refers to events that occurred in "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and "Return of Callisto"
Sexual Content: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal where you live, please do not read it. If depictions of sex, attraction, and/or love between adult women offends you, you might not want to read this story.
"Xena, it's too big!" insisted Xena's companion, from their campsite, in the middle of a forest at dusk.
"Take it, Gabrielle," Xena persisted.
"Oh no you don't!" Gabrielle said , "You've been trying to sneak it in all afternoon!"
Resigned, Xena placed the frying pan she had been holding back into the her own pile of cookware. For several hours, the two women had been separating out their belongings, preparing for Gabrielle's marriage, and then departure, with Perdicas.
"Fine," Xena answered, "It's just a bit... much for a warrior to lug around all the time. Thought you could make better use of it as a wife ."
Gods, there was that tone again. Xena had given me her blessing, calling Perdicas a good man. Still, I wondered, are all women this... confused about marrying?
" Fine, " I said, turning toward Xena, "I'll take it."
Perdicas had said he couldn't be a warrior anymore. Said he had to go back home. When he proposed to me I hesitated, but I understood why he couldn't be a warrior anymore. That resonated with something inside of me.
"Here" Xena said, thrusting the frying pan at me. She was so stubborn sometimes. She should just keep the godsforsaken pan, I'm sure I won't be lacking them when I get home. During our time together, though, I've learned that sometimes it's just easier to give Xena what she wants. Looking Xena in the eyes, I reached for the pan. Intending to grab the handle, I instead tightly grabbed Xena's hand that was holding it.
"S-sorry," I said quickly and looked away, dropping my hand. Startled, Xena dropped her hand at the same time. The pan fell, clanging on the rocks.
"Sorry!" we said at the same time, both bending to pick it up. Both of our hands reached for the pan, and seeing the other reach for it, we both pulled our hands away. Our faces hovering inches apart, we locked eyes. Xena said "I... I'm sorry," and stood up, turning her back on me to continue rummaging through Argo's saddlebags.
I felt the redness in my cheeks and was annoyed. There are things about Xena I don't understand. She can pluck arrows out of mid-air, but she turns into a bumbling schoolgirl around me sometimes. She insists that it's okay for me to marry Perdicas and leave her side but I have my doubts. She's not one to share her feelings.
Like, back when we were dealing with the Titans, Xena had looked hurt when she found Philius and I sleeping together. Nothing had happened. I didn't let it. Xena didn't know that, though. She had assumed I lost my virginity to Philius, and then she had become angry with me. I told her it wasn't her business, but as soon as the words left my mouth, I knew it wasn't true.
Over the months, we had developed a companionship that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. But as for her, I wondered if anything would top the heat of battle. Even though Xena didn't say it in so many words, I know she at least appreciated my presence at her side. I feel it whenever she pulls me up onto Argo with her, my arm retaining heat wherever she touches me. I feel it when she wakes me up in the mornings, having already prepared our breakfast. In our time together, she showed a love for me in these simple things, in her own way.
As for actually talking about any of this, well, Xena doesn't make it easy to talk about feelings . Oh, I've tried a couple of times. Like the time I started, only to have her shush me so she could throw her chakram toward a sound she heard in the forest. After ricocheting it off of a few trees and catching it again, she was so busy admiring one of her many skills that the mood was sort of ruined. Or the night not too long ago, lying in our bedroll s . I had finally worked up the courage to tell her how happy I was to have had her come into my life . As I waited for a response, I looked over only to see her eyes closed and hear her snoring.
Such is the life of a warrior, I suppose. No time for the mushy stuff.
"Hey, you might want to take this back with you," said Xena, with a smile, as we continued separating my belongings. She was holding up my old peasant blouse and skirt up to her own body and posing. I chuckled. While she could undoubtedly clean up pretty well, she would always be a warrior to me, much more at home in armor and leathers than skirts and blouses.
"Gods!" I said, "I used to wear this?" before I was a warrior, I added to myself. Xena handed me my old outfit, I re-folded the skirt and blouse, and placed them in the pile with the items I was taking home. Looking down at my short skirt and even shorter top, I realized that another outfit change would be in order soon. Not too long ago, the Amazons had given me my current warrior outfit. They had explained that exposing more of my skin was much more conducive to fighting.
My mind was drawn back to those women warriors.
I am still in awe that this tribe of regal women had quickly recognized me and accepted me as one of their own. Before I met the Amazons, I had heard many things about them. The men back home used to joke about the Amazons by scaring rambunctious little girls with tales of "wildwomen" snatching them up and raising them in dangerous all-female societies. Some, well, some of the men were beginning to hint that women had no business living in the woods on their own like that. Fighting, keeping an army.
To me, though, the Amazon Nation was both frightening and beautiful. I was frightened of what the Amazons' acceptance of me meant, and even more frightened to tell Xena. I didn't know what it would mean for us when I didn't even know what it meant for me. Still, Ephiny told me that the knowledge was in me. It was just who I was. I didn't know what Ephiny meant then, but now I think I do.
"You write to me often, you hear?" Xena insisted, interrupting my memories of the Amazons. She had come to the scrolls at the bottom of one of Argo's saddlebags. "You have a gift, Gabrielle. I want to hear all about your adventures in Potidaea!"
"Of course," I answered. What did she mean by "adventures," I wondered. Was she mocking me? As if Potidaea will be as exciting as Xena's battles against evil warlords, gods, and kings. I ran my fingers along the small scar that had recently begun to form on my neck. Besides, I was beginning to have doubts about my "gift." My latest addition to the Xena Scrolls had been giving me serious trouble.
Usually, when I sit down to write, I can't stop the words. It's as though a story needs to tell itself through me. The story of the Bacchae, though, has been different. It comes out in starts and fits. I think I have most of it written but, to me, it still feels...unfinished. Incomplete. As though the story is missing something very important but I can't remember what I have left out.
A few nights before we had met up with Perdicas, I was bitten by, and briefly turned into, a Bacchae. Some people say that a single bite from a Bacchae can turn an innocent young woman into a wild, soulless creature. Because of their perpetual hunt for blood, the Bacchae invoke terror in the minds of children, women, and men. Others though, like the Amazons, say that Bacchus, the God of Wine and Ecstasy, is the Liberator and that when humans are under his influence, we can be freed from the boundaries we keep ourselves in during daily life.
The Cult of Bacchus and the Amazon Nation splintered long ago. A small band of women came to reject the God of Wine's control over their pleasure. They traded wine for wilderness and, in the process, came to know what it meant to truly be free. Then, when the Goddess Artemis came to them, they became the Amazon Nation. Ephiny explained it to me. All of the Amazons study these origins. While many myths surround the Cult of Bacchus, the Amazons say that a Bacchae is only capable of changing a woman if she, in the recesses of her heart, invites one to change her. Men and children, the Bacchae only feast on. Women, some women anyway, they seek to make immortal. It didn't make much sense when Ephiny told me this. But, I understood all of it later.
When I was a Bacchae I could smell human emotion all around me. Fear, anger, lust. Most of all, I remember- no, I can still feel - a hunger.
"What do you want for dinner?" asked Xena, now that we had finished separating our supplies. This was our last night together, sleeping under the stars, before my wedding. My belongings were sitting in a small, lonely pile next to my bedroll.
Night was beginning to fall and we would start a fire soon and then, we would eat supper like we had so many times before. Dare I bring up The Bite? It had been nagging at me ever since we left Bacchus' lair a few nights before. I kept thinking about it. I wondered if Xena did too. Wait, focus, Xena had just asked me something-
"-Wha?" I replied, distracted.
"Dinner?" Xena asked, eyebrows raised, "Fish okay?"
"Y-yes. Fish," I answered.
"Ohhh-kay," responded Xena, eyebrows a bit arched. Not pressing my distracted nature, Xena began preparing our meal, softly humming.
Pull yourself together, Gabrielle. Now who's the school girl?
It's just that when I had been a Bacchae, I drank Xena's blood. I had made her like me. That night in Bacchus' lair, the God of Wine had been urging me to drink from a goblet that would have made me immortal. I would have done it, too. But then, well, I smelled Xena. I smelled her blood before she even entered the lair. I smelled her pheromones, her sweat, her fear, her adrenaline, her yearning. I smelled it all. When I finally saw her, I wasn't having thoughts. Only instinct. I had only a pure animalistic desire for blood. Her blood. Her.
Bacchus had urged me to bite Xena, to make her one of us. As if I needed encouragement. In his lair, I found myself standing behind her on a ledge when she bared her neck and told me to do it. She could have saved her breath. I knew she wanted it. I could smell it on her.
Once my teeth first touched and then broke the surface of her soft skin, I knew only ecstasy. As I drank her, each beat of her heart pumped more and more warm blood into my mouth. She didn't pull away for a long time, as I drank. She didn't want me to stop.
Looking back now, I understand why the Amazons also call Bacchus the God of the Epiphany. Drinking Xena was, quite simply, a revelation. I heard the moonlight chanting of the Amazons. I understood why they had rejected this God of Wine. A Bacchae's desire to quench that one hunger was all-consuming. It is how Bacchus controlled us. When I had been a Bacchae, I knew I would have devoted my entire immortal life to seeking out and drinking blood. I knew who I was. I knew who Xena was. The same blood was running between us.
On a level that had been quite annoying to me at the time, I somehow understood that we had to kill Bacchus. It had been an agonizing, murderous choice for one under the influence of Bacchus to make. It meant the end to the bliss we had both just known.
I don't remember much after we had killed Bacchus. Only that we had stumbled out of the cave. My clothes had been very tattered and my back was scraped. Outside of Bacchus' cave, Argo was waiting for us and I remember thinking how amazing it was that the horse always seemed to know how to find us. We caught up with Joxer and Orpheus, stumbled into an inn, and fell asleep, wiped out by the night's strange events.
When we had awoken the morning after, neither of us spoke of what had happened the previous night. The Bite. That ecstasy . We still haven't spoken of it. My head that morning was foggy, like I had had too much wine the night before, but physically I felt envigorated. The blood of a warrior was pumping through my veins. There was a strange, but not unwelcome, wetness between my legs. Parts of the night were lost to me, dream-like and fading. Others I knew I would remember for the rest of my life. Like, The Bite. A person can't just forget that and move on with life like it didn't happen.
Or, judging by my current circumstances and status as bride-to-be, I guess I can.
At our campsite, on my last night with Xena before my wedding, I looked over at my pile of clothes, scrolls, and my staff. I don't know what I would do with my staff, now that I had decided I was to be a wife and not a warrior.
As night fell, I helped Xena stir the fire and roast our dinner. I thought of how to broach the subject of The Bite but I didn't know how. Yet, I knew it could be my last chance to do so. At a rare loss for words, I only found myself staring at the warrior. Xena had already removed her armor for the night, a task I usually helped her with. I wonder who would do that now? Xena's lean, toned body was, in the glow of the fire, somewhat revealed thorough her undergarments. The warrior was generally stoic, but tonight Xena's silence was unreadable. Staring, I searched those blue eyes, but she avoided eye contact. As I shifted my gaze lower, my eyes fell upon the scar on Xena's neck. Remembering the taste, and the warmth of Xena's blood running through me, I blushed and felt warm. Again.
I thought this would fade when I turned back to normal. Gods, how can I go through with this tomorrow?
"So, anything special you wanna do on the night before your wedding?" asked Xena, with a grin, as we ate the dinner we had cooked.
"Wine, we should drink some wine," I answered. That seemed right.
"Wine?" laughed Xena, surprised, stuffing a piece of fish into her mouth.
"Yes," I said, looking through my supplies for a goblet. "Do we have any?" I continued. Xena rummaged through her items and threw a nearly full goatskin over to me.
"Where did you get this, Xena?" I asked. We had been sober since the Bacchae incident. Although we hadn't talked about it, I think we both knew we weren't quite ready to imbibe in anything that might make us lose control. Tonight, though, it would certainly take the edge off of things.
"Joxer found it in Bacchus' place. Said he visited the wine cellar on his way out," Xena laughed, "Personally, I think he just got lost."
"Heh, probably," I nodded. "Lucky us, though. I'll bet the God of Wine had quite the stash," I said. I was nervous, but secretly happy. This was a good opening to start talking about The Bite.
I poured some of the wine into my goblet and placed the goatskin on the log that Xena and I were sharing as a seat.
"Feel better?" asked Xena, poking at the fire.
"I will in a minute," I said. Holding the goblet, I took in the aroma of the slightly berry-smelling liquid. I licked my lips
The sun had completely set and a full moon was in the sky. I looked up at Xena, and saw that the warrior had been watching me. She quickly looked away.
"What?" I asked.
Xena looked me in the eyes. Finally, she shows me those eyes. Yet, Xena's look was serious. Before I could take a drink, Xena reached over and placed her hand on my arm. I took a breath, enjoying the physical attention the warrior was showing me. Here it comes. We're going to talk about it. I swallowed, preparing my response.
Still looking into my eyes, Xena asked, "You're nervous about tomorrow night with Perdicas, aren't you?"
"Wha? No. What? Ye- I don't know! Gods Xena!" I stammered. I took a swig of wine from the goblet and loudly swallowed.
The wine ran slightly sweet and warm, down my throat. I felt it run through my stomach and then, well, lower. It ran through my limbs and then up to my head. I felt woozy. My head reeled. I briefly wondered how strong the God of Wine liked his drink. And then, in my head, I saw an orange flash of memory.
The night of the Bacchae, there had been hands on my hips. Somebody's hands. Familiar hands. I had been on the floor. There were hands all over me. Between my legs. Inside of me. It was intoxicating. Wh-
"It's just that, you know, you're a virgin," Xena said, interrupting my strangely vivid vision. I looked into the wine glass and wondered if it contained something more than wine. No, that's ridiculous. "Unless I missed something," added Xena, with a small laugh. She added, "Um, did I... miss something?"
It was, for a bit longer anyway, still her business.
"Yes. I mean, no. I am," I responded, shaking my head, "a virgin."
What was that memory? Gods, it was so familiar. So real.
"Yes. Like I said," said Xena. "Just thought you might be nervous about your first time. Many women are, you know."
"I... I know," I said. This is not what I wanted to talk about. I hadn't given that much thought to my impending wedding night, actually.
This really big decision had all happened so fast. Running into Perdicas again, him proposing to me. I hadn't want ed to leave my life with Xena but she had made it clear that I shouldn't think about her. Meanwhile, Perdicas had been incredibly enthusiastic about expressing his love for me. He was always like that. Enthusiastic. He had no trouble talking about feelings. He said he wasn't a warrior. He didn't like the person that war was turning him into. I accepted his proposal. I hadn't thought much about being with him yet. I first had to say goodbye to Xena.
"Well, anyway , are you gonna share that wine, bard?" Xena took the goblet from me and took a large drink. As she did, a small drop slid down the corner of her mouth and then, down her neck. I licked my lips and tried to swallow, my mouth suddenly dry.
Merciful Zeus. She is beautiful.
Xena squinted, then. She became quiet but her eyes were alive, staring into the fire. It danced in the night.
"Xena?" I asked after a few moments, "Where... are you?" I wondered, then, if she was experiencing the same strange effects of the wine that I had just experienced.
Xena shook her head as if to clear it. "Right here Gabrielle," she said, distracted, rubbing the scar on her neck.
"This wine... is it..." I started.
"Strong?" finished Xena.
"Or something... I..." I began. I wanted to ask if she, too, felt like we were forgetting something. It was as if someone had removed a scroll from my memory, and it was being returned to my head, slowly unrolling itself. Am I drunk already?
Going back to Xena's question, I answered, "I'm not nervous about that , Xena, about being with a man. It's not what you think. I mean, may I?" I took the goblet out of Xena's hand and drank from it, "I will miss this. I will miss... you." As I swallowed, I felt very warm once more. The warmth was making its rounds through my body again, and then it reached its destination in my head. And again, I remembered a little bit more. Another flash of memory.
She had offered me her neck, and I made her like me.
And then aloud, as Xena and Gabrielle were sitting together on the log, sharing a glass of wine, they both heard a voice. Ephiny's voice, explaining, "The Bacchae are only capable of biting women who- in the recesses of their hearts- desire to be bitten. "
Xena and Gabrielle quickly stood up. Both remembering.
After we had killed Bacchus, Joxer and Orpheus had hightailed out of the cave. Xena and I had found ourselves left standing alone, together, in the red glow of Bacchus' lair. We had both been breathing very heavily, stunned at what had happened and how close we had been to losing it. We had been Bacchae and the smell of blood, of human emotion, had been all around us.
When Bacchus died, the demon in us quickly began to fade that night. An intense hunger, however, had been awakened. Standing there, in the cave, it had stubbornly lingered . Th e taste of her blood still on my teeth, I sough t Xena. Before I could even turn, I saw a blur, coming at me. Suddenly, lips were crushing my own and, with my eyes closed, I knew it was her. Xena. I knew her smell and, after what I had done to her, I knew her taste. Most of all, I knew it was right. Surprised, at first I had resisted but seconds later, I let the kiss soften and then deepen before slowly pulling away.
Bacchus' lair had begu n to rumble around us. We ignored it. Instead, we locked eyes, without speaking. Xena looked scared at what she had just done. We both knew that we were passing a boundary that would change everything. She had started to retreat. I held onto her arms, pulled her back into an embrace, and slowly pulled her toward me. Her body relaxed into mine and her lips began searching for my own. When our mouths met again, she used her tongue to open my mouth. Our tongues met. After seconds or maybe minutes, she pulled away again. As she did, she bit my lower lip rather hard and then, my neck, leaving a mark. She had said she owed me one.
Somehow, we made it to the ground. It was rocky, and the rumblings from deep within Bacchus' cave were getting more frequent. My clothes were already torn from the battle, and we both began ripping at them to get them off of me. I quickly found myself naked, with my best friend on top of me. I laced my arms around her neck and continued kissing her as I pulled her body onto mine. I rolled us over, so that she was beneath me. Well, she let me roll her over. And then, I locked her arms over her head and began kissing her neck, my hair falling over us.
The knowledge was in me. And, I knew that I needed more. Xena spun me off of her and easily flipped me onto my back again, smiling. She knew that I needed more, too. Sliding her thigh between my legs, she began rocking. I moaned and briefly noticed the hard, rocky floor digging into my back. I remember thinking that I would deal with scrapes later. I was already close, and I bit Xena's neck to try to slow myself down. My hands fumbled with the straps of Xena's clothes, but gods, she was wearing all of that armor! Mercifully, I managed to get her breastplate off. My hands began roaming up her undershirt, where I felt the full breasts I had often admired from afar, but then she stopped me and said that tonight was about me. Of course, I thought, she has done this before.
When she asked me if I was sure about this, I took her hand and placed it between my legs. She took a breath, and began stroking. As she did so, I remember crying out. I think I surprised her when I guided two of her fingers all the way inside me. That it could hurt wasn't a thought I was capable of having at that point. With the pressure within me building, I put my thigh between Xena's legs, hoping to give her at least some of the pleasure she was giving me. With Xena moving inside of me, we, and the ground beneath us, continued rocking, together.
In Bacchus' lair, with Xena on top of me, I didn't know where anyone else was. Joxer, Orpheus. They didn't exist. I only knew that moment.
And now, I know that, as Xena and I finished together, I had cried out loudly. I had been doing so for quite a long time, I realized, once the waves had stopped. And right after, I remember thinking that I used to believe I wouldn't be loud at sex. I remember lying there with Xena, when we were done, her fingers still inside of me. I was softly kissing her face, her hair, and her lips.
All of this... I... we... now remember, standing in the firelight, the night before my wedding to someone else.
"You?" I started, remembering everything, "... and me?" Looking at Xena's face, I knew that she remembered this too. I didn't understand. Was the wine making us hallucinate and share these... visions?
"We're..." started Xena, empty goblet of wine in hand.
"In love," I finished. "And, I mean, we're saying that... I'm not...actually," I continued.
"A virgin," Xena finished.
Or entirely into men, I added to myself.
Unsure what to do, I approached Xena.
"What in Tartarus is going on? This is not at all good timing," I said, stating the obvious. "Is this some sort of trick?"
"I don't think so," Xena said, drawing me near. Still a bit woozy, I stumbled into her. As her strong arms caught me, she lifted my chin to draw my lips near to hers. I knew then that I couldn't go through with the wedding tomorrow.
"I love y-" Xena started. I put my fingers to Xena's lips to stop her. Oh Zeus. Again, my head was reeling. It had to be the wine, and Bacchus, again. As I felt that warmth in my head and sensed the familiar feeling of an upcoming flash. I was beginning to remember more.
"-Wait, Xena. There is more you should know. Gods..."
Still in Bacchus' lair, Xena and I had been on the ground together, basking in our discovery. I knew without a doubt now that this remarkable woman wanted me as I wanted her. In our frenzy, we had lost track of time. After round one, we both wanted to continue exploring each other, , but I also knew that we had to get out of there. The cave had been rumbling for some time. Rocks and debris were falling around us.
Transforming back into warrior mode, Xena said, "Gabrielle, we have to get out of here . This cave is going to collapse."
Groaning, I kissed her again. I didn't want to lose the Xena who had become my lover. Lying on our sides, facing each other, she returned my kiss. While our kiss lingered, she slowly ran her hands along my still-naked hips, moaning in appreciation. This was unexpected. This power that I had over the warrior. Teasing her, I stopped her roaming hands, mocking, "This cave is going to collapse!" and then, because it was true, "Trust me, this is as painful for me as it is for you."
Eyebrows arched, challenging me, she responded, "That so, bard?" Flipping me onto my back, she lowered her body onto mine. She began exploring first my mouth, and then my neck, with her tongue. My willpower to ever leave this cave was fading fast.
"Xena!" I said, not sure whether I was trying to get her to stop or continue. The ground shook slowly, and we heard more rumblings from deep within the cave. A few small rocks tumbled into her hair. Laughing, I put my hands on Xena's shoulders to stop her, "I mean it, Warrior, let's get out of here. There's an inn not too far from here and if you're lucky I'll let you share my bed."
Now, it was her turn to groan. But she looked excited at the prospect of sharing a soft bed with me.
"Throw in a bath and we have a deal," Xena answered, crawling off of me. She stood up, held out her hand, and helped me to my feet. We searched for my tattered clothes, chuckling at the dilapidated state of them. Perhaps it was finally time for another new outfit. I dressed, and with Xena's hand protectively resting on the small of my back, we made our way to the opening of the cave a few minutes later.
"Xena, my staff!" in our afterglow, I realized I had forgotten it in Bacchus' lair.
"Stay here, I'll get it," Xena said, starting to turn back.
I stopped her, "No, let me," I insisted.
"Okay, but hurry. I'll get Argo," she answered. Before running back through the cave, I kissed her again. When I pulled away, she pulled me back to her, kissing me once more before I ran back into the cave.
I easily made my way the short distance through the cave and saw my staff lying on the floor of Bacchus' lair. I heard another rumble. Or, rather, a twinkle. The smell of Bubblegum whiffed through the air and, before she appeared, I heard a familiar voice.
"Well, well, well, little one," she taunted, "somebody has a girrrrlfriend."
I turned and saw the spectacle of bosoms, blondness and, well, more bosoms, appear before my eyes.
"Aphrodite..." I blushed, suddenly embarrassed. Did the gods watch people have sex?
"Sometimes," Aphrodite said , nodding . "But don't worry, Bardalicious," she continued, "You and that Tall Drink of Warrior of yours have some serious sparkage going on! Nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, if you were a goddess I-"
"Aphrodite!" I reached out and gave her arm a pinch.
"Oooh, kinky. Don't tempt me, Mortal," Aphrodite said with a wink. I felt the color in my face deepen.
"Humans, they're just too easy," Aphrodite said with a sigh. But still, she moved closer to me, fingering the tattered and revealing remnants of my shirt.
"What do you want, Aphrodite? Xena's waiting for me," I asked, flustered. The Goddess of Love could drive a person insane sometimes!
"Alright already!" she exclaimed. "Look, there have been some major grumblings on Olympus."
"What kind of 'grumblings?'" I asked, losing my patience. I didn't care about the gods' latest dramas. My mind was already fixed on that soft bed with my warrior .
"Oh, the usual. The Fates, a dangerous philosopher," Aphrodite said, "theendoftheAmazonNation." With that, I noticed a form appear behind Aphrodite. At first making the shape of a deer, it morphed into the outline of a woman. Tall, strong, and regal.
"Aphrodite, what in Zeus' name are you doing?" the deep female voice demanded.
"Arty! I told you I could handle this!" Aphrodite whined.
"Yeah, it looks like you're handling something alright" the other figure, now coming into full form as the Goddess of the Amazons, nodded towards Aphrodite's fingers, still playing with my tattered shirt.
"Oh, ha ha. Oopsies!" Aphrodite laughed, pulling away, but not before letting her fingers graze one of my nipples.
"Artemis!" I yelped, trying to ignore my body's reaction to the Goddess of Love. The attentions of two divine women in one day? When it rains it pours. Shaking my head, trying to get the conversation going somewhere, I added "What is going on? I have to get out of here. I have to get back to Xena."
"The Fates have spoken, Gabrielle," Artemis began. "They say that a philosopher will bring about the end of the Amazons, the end of the woman warrior. The death of Artemis."
"And when Artemis ain't happy, Athena ain't happy, lemme tell you!" Aphrodite said, referring to the de facto goddess of the gods.
"What are you talking about?" I said .
"Well, Athena and Artemis, they're lov-" Aphrodite began.
"-His name is Mistotle." Artemis interrupted, annoyed. "He is a mortal who has built a small following with some rather unusual teachings. He says that it is in the nature of men to fight and command, and in the nature of women to be weak and obey," explained Artemis. "I have been watching him for some time. And now, the Fates have spoken. Mistotle will inspire warriors who will begin to enforce this new code of behavior. He will inspire one warrior in particular, who will become Mistotle's Champion. Together, they will end the days of women warriors."
At that, I laughed, "I don't believe it. Women not meant to be warriors? Who would believe such teachings?"
"People believe what it benefits them to believe, Gabrielle," Artemis explained. "They think they are using reason. Sometimes they are. But they don't see how their reason is limited by their humanity. A human's 'reason' can never completely reflect reality as it is. So, they make themselves gods and, in the process reject the pantheon."
"Downright heretical, isn't it?" added Aphrodite, running an admiring hand along Artemis's backside.
"Aphrodite, focus!" Artemis commanded, swatting the Goddess of Love's hand away. Artemis and the Aphrodite had had their share of dalliances. But that, well, that was before Athena.
Artemis continued, "Look, Gabrielle, in the next few days, you will encounter a man who no longer wishes to be a warrior. He will ask for your hand in marriage. As it is now aligned, due to," here she cleared her throat, "recent events, you will be unable to accept his proposal. He will begin his journey home, alone. Just outside of Potidaea, he will encounter followers of Mistotle. The philosopher's message will resonate within him, and he will decide it is a cause worth picking back up his sword for. With Ares' blessing, he will become a great warlord. Hardening, he will inspire masses and become more and more seduced by power, war, and bloodlust. Ultimately, as it is now written, he will bring about the end of the Amazon Nation. The end of women warriors. The end of the Warrior Princess."
"What are you saying?" I asked, tears forming in my eyes. "Xena can kill him."
"I don't know, Bard," Aphrodite sighed.
"It's not a matter of if she could , Gabrielle, it's a matter of if she would, " Artemis continued.
"I don't understand..." I cried. But I did. I remembered the men back home. The ones who used to make their snide remarks about the Amazons. Perhaps it was true. All they were lacking was a leader. Validation. Enthusiasm. Someone to make their thoughts a reality.
"However," Artemis spoke, "there are other ways. If you agree to take his hand in marriage, we have reason to believe that it will save the Amazon Nation."
I was appalled.
"I know, bummer, right?" said Aphrodite.
"Are you two out of your minds!" I exclaimed. "What makes you think I can marry someone who is as evil as you say he is?"
"Oh?" Artemis said. The inconvenient truth of Xena's past made itself known in the silence. I swallowed.
Artemis continued, "Correction, Gabrielle. The man who will ask for your hand is not yet... 'evil,' as you say. Everything is so black and white to you mortals. Humans aren't 'good' or 'evil.' They are what they are, their actions and experiences continually defining and redefining them. You of all people should know that."
This not at all good timing, I thought. "And if I marry this man," I said aloud, "I can't be with Xena. I can't... be an Amazon." As horrible as it sounds, I didn't know if I could do it. Even to save the Amazons. Options raced through my head. Xena and I could go somewhere . The East maybe. We could fight this. Whatever it took.
"You could. But how much blood would have to be shed that way?" asked Artemis, seeing my mind at work. She knew my thoughts on shedding blood.
"Just... just give me a second, okay?" I said.
"Little one..." Aphrodite said, pulling me aside.
"Aphrodite," I interrupted her, "you saw what happened here with Xena... and me. I can't just forget that and move on with my life like it didn't happen. If I marry this man..." I said, unable to continue, tears rolling down my face.
Aphrodite, took a tissue from her bosom and wiped at my eyes, "We have ways to make this easier for you. Put your trust in us. When the gods are not all on the same side, we have to do things in roundabout ways, you know?" She took my chin in her hand and looked into my eyes.
I stared at her, my eyes red.
"Look, it helps when you have friends in high places. Which you do. You and your woman warrior have caused a few of us deities to engage in some serious strategery, 'kay? It's not just about us, you know . Some of us are rooting for you two lovebirds," Aphrodite explained.
"I... don't know..." I said.
"Trust me," said the Goddess of Love, putting my hand on her heart.
I heard footsteps and seconds later, Xena came running back into Bacchus' lair, "Gabrielle, Argo's ready. Let's go! Did you find your staff?"
I looked at the woman I loved. In her eyes, I could see her love, her concern, for me. I admired her strong arms, and the way she began to draw her sword when she saw that I had company in the lair. Xena was a warrior. It was who she was.
"Artemis," I began, "do it." The tears that had formed in my eyes, spilled over and ran down my cheeks.
Artemis nodded, saying "You are a true Amazon Queen, Gabrielle," and then "Athena, I call on you now!"
With that, two glowing yellow eyes appeared in the darkness. They grew larger and Xena and I stood transfixed, staring into the eyes of a large owl. I had the strange sense that we were being moved, like game pieces on a board with bi-colored squares. I looked around me and saw that I was standing still, yet I felt nauseous. I cried out when I felt an incredible pain in my head. Xena cried out seconds later. Memories began to fade. I reached toward Xena, unable to take my eyes away from those glowing yellow eyes. I found her hand.
And then, darkness. Everything had faded. When I opened my eyes again, Xena and I were standing alone, together, in Bacchus' lair. Having just killed him.
I stood before Xena, next to the campfire, next to the empty goblet of wine, and next to my little pile of separated belongings the night before my wedding to Perdicas.
Gods, I wondered, what was Xena thinking of me?
Xena smiled then, arching her eyebrows. I moved toward Xena, pressing my body into hers. We were sweating. Where do we go from here?
I sought her lips.
"No," said Xena, placing her hand on my hip, stopping me.
"Yes," I said, taking hold of Xena's hand and lacing her fingers through my own. I inched my face closer.
Breathing me in, Xena's resistance was weakening, "It is written. The Fates. You have to marry Perdicas. You have to be true to that." Still, she allowed me closer.
"But I am my own person right now . This is what I want. You... and me," I answered. I felt her give in.
"Gabrielle... " Xena started, but what could she say? She let me kiss her lips. And then, she pulled back, kissing my forehead, and then my tears.
Perched high above, on a tree branch, a beautiful, lighthearted goddess wiped a mock tear away with a tissue pulled from her ample bosom. "Oh, the pain!" she laughed to no one in particular, "You're killing me, lovebirds. But don't worry. Soon enough..." she sighed, and her body jiggled in preparation to disappear.
" Aphrodite , is there something you want to tell me?" asked Artemis through clenched teeth as she appeared next to the Goddess of Love. Artemis had had a feeling that the Goddess of Love was up to something. She wasn't the only god who had noticed that Aphrodite had taken more than a passing interest in the bard and her lady companion as of late.
"Oh, come on! It's just that they're so... sapph tastic , Arty. If anyone should understand why they're entertaining to watch it would be y-" Aphrodite began.
"- You could have jeopardized the entire Amazon Nation with that little wine stunt of yours!" Artemis fumed. "How did you do it anyway? Powder in their drinks?""Hey! Assume much?" gasped Aphrodite, taking mock offense, "Just consider it a little parting gift from the the God of Wine. You know, he likes a mortal's appreciation of a good rompfest just as much as the next god," she giggled.
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