Rights Disclaimer -
The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Renaissance Pictures and USA Studios, as are the way Aphrodite and Ares are depicted on the show and therefore in this story (no one truly has rights of the Gods, right?). I am using them for entertainment purposes only and in a solely not-for-profit way. No copyright infringment is intended.
Story Disclaimer -
This story deals with events immediately following the episode "Motherhood" and contains spoilers for that episode. Xena and Gabrielle are mentioned, and the story can be seen as about them, but they are not directly involved (whoa, the back buttons being pressed now...).
If you would like to contact me regarding this story or any other, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The two figures simply stood there for a moment, the enormity of what just happened weighing heavily on both of their minds. The universe seemed to silence itself, leaving only the two of them, in this empty place, all alone.
Finally, the blonde spoke. “Why’d you do it?” she asked. Her normally expressive tone was full only of tiredness and pain and her usual exuberant appearance cast only in shadows.
“I could ask you the same thing,” was all her dark-haired companion replied.
“You know why,” Aphrodite sighed, sitting gently on the dais steps in the now barren throne room. She couldn’t bring herself to sit in the elaborate chair, not now and possibly not ever despite the fact it could be seen as rightfully hers if she wanted it.
“And you know my answer,” the former God of War answered. He sat on the cool stone beside his sister. As a mortal, he knew he had no right to the chair, and after all that had happened, he wasn’t sure if he even wanted it. At one time, yes, he would have given anything to sit there and rule all of Olympus, and the entire mortal world that came with it. But now… He was discovering the hardships that came with that mantle, and that maybe there were more important things in life. One thing in particular came to his mind. Yes, some things were far more important. Turning back to one of his few living relatives, he shrugged. “As I told Athena, I got a thing for the woman.”
The Love Goddess nodded. She of all people perhaps understood his feelings best. Love, Lust, the Want to do anything within your power to protect the one you cherish… Yes, she knew exactly what he was feeling. It was just part of her was surprised that the God admitted it both to himself and to her.
“Besides,” he smiled half-heartedly, meeting her gaze. “I only gave up my immortality, not my right to be a God. You really think that I don’t know where a stash of Ambrosia is hidden? Or yet another Tree of Life? Hercules may have nuked a tree with Callisto, and between him and Xena they’ve found a few bits of the good stuff, but there’s plenty more where that came from.” He stretched himself out a bit across the steps and looked across the expanse of the room smugly. “I just have to keep myself out of trouble long enough to get to one of them. I don’t expect any help from any of us with this small little matter, but I also know that none of you will stop me. It’s just a matter of time before the God of War is back in business again.”
Aphrodite smiled in understanding. Like Ares was ever to really do anything without having a way out. As if. She knew her brother better than that. But just the fact that he was willing to make any sacrifice for any amount of time was a big deal. The God of War wasn’t exactly known for his comfy-feely aspects.
“And you?” Ares asked. There was a hint of snide taunting in his voice, but even he did not quite have the energy right now for a full-out attack. “After the death of the one you call father? After the death of your brothers and sisters? Xena killed your husband, and yet you found it in that ever-present heart of yours to protect her little friend? You watched over the dying Gabrielle while Xena went off to slaughter the rest of your family. You don’t think anyone is going to think to ask why?”
A single tear rolled down her cheek and she knew she could not meet his dark eyes. “I had to,” she whispered. “They have to understand that I had to at least try to protect her.” She buried her face in her hands and let out a near silent sob. “What mother wouldn’t protect her child?”
She glanced up at one of her few remaining siblings, knowing he wouldn’t quite understand but hoping he would try. His love for Xena was different. It was based on lust and admiration of both her abilities and what she could bring him. She loved Gabrielle for who she was, for whoever she chose to become. She loved her as a mother should.
It had taken her time to accept that fact, but now she wished more than anything to embrace it. She had other mortal children, yes, but they were different. She wasn’t ready to be a mother with them, gave them up to loving families and caring homes and cut all ties with them. Only one of her mortal children even knew she was his mother, but by then it was too late to have a truly meaningful relationship with him. Until now she had always been happy to let them be, occasionally checking in on them to make sure things were going well. It was when she did this once that Gabrielle started to catch her eye. The girl’s relationship with Xena put her more in view of all the Gods, and gave her that much more of an excuse to peek in on her. She wasn’t sure what to make of her at first, but the time she spent with her, as a mortal herself, was the catalyst she needed. She finally thought she was ready to be a parent, a real parent. Cupid was different, being a God and growing up so fast with so little involvement on her part. Hephaestus wasn’t sure, but willing to give her the benefit of the doubt – if the chance arose, he would be all for it.
Then there was the incident with the little mortal princess… Her own daughter helped teach her about parenthood – go fig. From then on though, she had promised to make a difference in her child’s life, to help out the best she could. If she couldn’t protect her in her time of need, what kind of parent was she?
She had failed her once before, when the Gods were first after her because of Xena and the warrior’s own child. Ares of all people saved her, that’s why she knew in her heart that he understood. He was able to get Xena and Gabrielle to the ice cave before they were truly dead, knowing it was the only way the other Gods would not be able to reach them to torment them for Eternity. Even Hades wouldn’t have been able to protect them in his own realm for long. The cave was technically outside of their boundaries; no Greek God would know where or how to reach them. And yet he told her where it was, allowed her to visit her child and know she was safe. All he had wanted in return was the promise that she would tell no one, and that way Xena could live on forever for him.
It was their love for mortals that bonded them together. It was their love for mortals and willingness to do something about it that separated them from the other Gods. No, she corrected herself. At least two other Gods had an inkling of understanding. Her husband had tried, but in the end he had believed Athena and stood against Xena. Even then though, he had tried his best not to hurt her child, doing everything in his power to try to stop the women without permanently harming them. Thinking back, she realized her brother understood as well, doing his best to protect his own daughter until the very end, until he had to make probably the most difficult choice in his immortal life.
Ares watched the Love Goddess lose herself in thought. He didn’t need his godly powers to know the turmoil she felt. He knew how hard of a decision she had made, and he knew she would have to deal with its consequences for the rest of her life.
He stood, drawing her out of her thoughts and forcing her eyes up to meet his own. When he spoke, it was softer than she had ever heard him, and came from a part of him she barely knew. “I just wanted you to admit it.” With that, he walked away, leaving her truly alone for the first time and allowing her to come to terms with what she had done and what she still needed to do.
She watched him leave, then stared blankly at the doorway through which he left for a long time afterwards, the tears silently streaming down her face. She thought back to Athena’s speech, the one where she turned her other siblings against Xena and Gabrielle once and for all. She had questioned them then, tried to both remain neutral and protect the ones she loved. She had done what her heart told her was the right thing to do. She had told herself she hadn’t expected the consequences, but she had always known the possibilities. She just didn’t know that living with them would be so hard.
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