General Copyright/Disclaimer:

Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. The song, "The Last Dance", was written by P. Jabora. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction.

Love/Sex Warning/Disclaimer:

This story was a submission in "The Bard’s Village" writing challenge – "How do you want the series to end!" Frankly, I would have ended the series similar my first fanfic, "The Letter." However, I had to be original for this challenge. This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you’re not supposed to read this – don’t. Otherwise, enjoy!

Special Thanks

To my beta-readers, Lady Tys, my sister, and all my special friends in the Xenaverse. Also, my heartfelt thanks to MaryD and ForevaXena for posting my stories and their friendships as well.

This story is lovingly dedicated to Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor for the power, the passion the glory, and the 2001 Pasadena Xena Convention!

July 5, 2001 Note – I just found out that this entry won The Bard’s Village Writing Challenge. I would like to congratulate all the authors who participated in the challenge for their wonderful stories. This is quite an honor for me and my sincere thanks go out to The Bard’s Village and it’s members for their talent and inspiration. I would like to extend special thanks to LJ Maas, Inspired Lor, Susan Rice and Sam Ruskin for all their encouragement and wisdom. I submitted "The Last Dance" one month prior to the ending of the series. I had no idea how the show would end. How I wish it had ended something like this! Nonetheless, this one’s for Lucy and Renee with much love!

The Last Dance

by

zeta@sierranv.net

Few words had been exchanged in the past few days as Xena and Gabrielle recuperated from the bloodiest battle in all their years together. Thousands had been killed and the stench of death and destruction lay heavy in the air. The physical and emotional wounds cut deeper than ever before, especially for Gabrielle. Gently tending to a deep flesh wound on Gabrielle’s chest, Xena could sense that the erstwhile pacifist was struggling with her conscience.

They had been deceived into thinking they were summoned to Higuchi, Japan on a spiritual mission. Spirit made itself manifest in the flesh of legions of ruthless samurai mercenaries intent on destroying the Warrior Princess and the Amazon Queen. However, due to their superior fighting skills and the wisdom of their souls, they had been victorious and had cheated death once more. Xena was somewhat relieved when just above a whisper; the young woman began to speak.

"Xena?"

"Yes, Gabrielle?"

"How long have we been together?"

Thoughtfully, the warrior replied, "Well, if you count the twenty-five years we were frozen and the year you spent in Brunhilda’s flame, I’d say about thirty-two years."

"Is that supposed to be some kind of joke? If so, I’m in no mood," the bard snapped.

Xena winced, "No, Gabrielle. It’s true, isn’t it? Anyway, why do you ask?"

The blonde woman attempted to regain her composure, "Hmmm…I’ve learned a lot of lessons in those thirty-two years, but one still puzzles me."

"What’s that?" Xena was beyond curious.

Gabrielle’s forlorn voice cracked, "Xena, why is it so hard to do good?"

It broke Xena’s heart to see her friend so sad. "Awww, Gabrielle. What’s wrong?"

"I just don’t know what to believe anymore. Just when you think you have it all figured out, it all changes. This greater good stuff is taking its toll on me." Sighing heavily, she added, "I guess I’m just tired."

"I know, Gabrielle. I’m tired too."

"Gods, Xena – you’re a big help. Those samurai were going to cut out my heart. You’d think that after all these years you would have learned how to be somewhat nurturing."

Xena was shocked by the irate tone of Gabrielle’s voice. Sadly though, she knew Gabrielle was right. "I’m sorry, Gabrielle. I guess my warrior fašade runs deep. Trust me, it’s not the greater good that’s getting you down, it’s all the battles and bloodshed."

The belligerent bard wrestled with her tempter, "Xena, I miss hell – at least it was fun there."

The warrior princess was genuinely stunned. "Gabrielle! I never thought I’d hear you say that!" Xena knew she knew she had to think quickly and that drastic measures were at hand. Then it dawned on her, "I think we need to go back to where our journey began to find some answers."

"Okay, I’m totally lost. Can you be a bit more specific, Xena?"

"Let’s go home, Gabrielle…to Greece."

"Greece?" Visibly shaken, Gabrielle’s thoughts whirled so fast, she thought she was going to faint. Then incredibly she began to calm down. "By the gods, Xena – don’t ask me why, but I think you’re right. When can we leave?"

"I’ll tie up loose ends with the samurai and we’ll leave first thing in the morning. We’re a very long way from home so you’re going to have to be content with not knowing a little while longer." She gave Gabrielle a comforting pat on the back.

"Like Callisto always said, ‘Patience is a virtue.’ I do have one request though."

"What is it?"

"Can we please travel the back roads, journey in secrecy, avoid any and all trouble and just have some fun on the trip back?"

At this point, Xena would have done anything to appease her soulmate, but she couldn’t resist teasing her, "Us stay out of trouble?

"Xena!" The battling bard’s face glared with determination.

"Okay. Whatever Gabrielle wants, Gabrielle gets! Anything else?"

"How about something to eat?"

Welcoming a glimpse of a faint smile on Gabrielle’s mouth, Xena replied, "Gladly, some things never change. You get something to eat and I’ll see you later." Xena gave her companion a reassuring hug and exited the tent…

Later that evening, as Gabrielle eagerly packed, her bright eyes lit up when she noticed that Xena had returned. In fact, her eyes always lit up when Xena entered a room, even after all their time together. The warrior had a mischievous grin on her face and Gabrielle couldn’t help but notice that Xena was carrying a large canvas bag. Nonchalantly, she set the bag on the floor and began to pack as well.

Curiosity was getting the best of the bard though, "Xena?"

"Yes, Gabrielle?"

"What’s in the bag?"

"Oh, just some supplies for our trip." Xena yawned then sternly stated, "Listen, we have a long voyage ahead of us, now let’s get some sleep."

Any other night she wouldn’t have given up so easily, but she knew her companion was exhausted. Besides, Gabrielle knew by the commanding tone in Xena’s voice that it was almost hopeless. She stretched out on the bed and made an effort to mask her impatience. Shortly thereafter, Xena began to disrobe. Seeing the warrior stand strong and naked before her did take Gabrielle’s mind off that bag. In fact, a wind of desire swept over her. Gods, after all these years, you’d think I’d have these wild desires under control.

The raven-haired beauty slipped into bed, propped her pillows and set her eyes upon the good-looking woman lying next to her. Xena couldn’t help but think I have laid eyes upon Gabrielle for years and still she grows more beautiful every day. Gabrielle glanced in Xena’s direction, but the warrior resisted being seduced by her hypnotic emerald gaze –it was a close call though.

Hurriedly, Xena blew out the candles, "Goodnight, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle buried her head in Xena’s dangerous chest, "Goodnight, Xena and thanks for being there for me. I feel much better."

"I’m so glad, Gabrielle." The warrior put her arms about the woman and kissed her golden halo of hair, "I’ll always be there for you, you know that."

"I know that…and I’ll always be there for you too, Xena."

"You always have been, Gabrielle." The dark and bloody days behind them now, they sought solace in one another’s embrace and drifted into what had eluded them for some time – a good night’s sleep.

*******

As the sun began to filter through the canopy of trees, they set off for Greece on horseback. Just as Xena had promised, they traveled the back roads to avoid trouble. There were plenty of opportunities though, but Xena was adamant about her covenant with her best friend. A warrior’s sabbatical of sorts, after a few days of being on the road, they were able to relax and have some fun.

Out of the blue, Gabrielle asked, "Xena, do you remember when Aphrodite cast that spell on us and you were obsessed with fishing?"

"Yes, and you were obsessed with yourself. What made you think of that?"

The blonde licked her lips. "I have a craving for fish. Why don’t we go fishing?"

Grinning ear to ear, the fearless hero bolted down the moss-covered path to the nearby stream.

Seeing Xena so excited made the bard smile. Following the warrior’s footsteps to the stream, Gabrielle’s thoughts drifted to that day on the river, Now what was the name of that fish Xena cast into the heavens?…

That evening as Xena prepared the fire and the fish, Gabrielle took out a piece of parchment and began to write.

"Gabrielle, I am so happy to see you writing again."

"I don’t know how to explain this Xena, but this trip to Greece reminds me of our very first year together." They exchanged reminiscently tender glances of affection. After dinner, Xena pulled out the canvas sack and placed it on their bedroll. Intrigued once again, the bard attempted to open it but Xena snatched it from her hands.

"Xena, are you going to tell me what’s in there or do I have to wrestle you for it."

"As if you’d win." Xena enjoyed teasing her friend, but she knew it was time to give in. Softly and reverently she spoke, "Gabrielle, I have a special gift for you."

The Amazon Queen was curious, "You do? What is it?"

Ceremoniously, Xena reached in the bag, withdrew a scroll and lovingly handed it to Gabrielle. "This is the very first scroll you wrote."

Dazed and amazed, Gabrielle grasped the scroll and clutched it tightly to her heart. Tears began to stream down her cheeks. "Where did you find it?"

"Seems that four of your scrolls made it all the way to Japan, and the samurai Komoto gave them to me in appreciation of our victory on the battlefield. Can we read it? Now, together?"

Gabrielle had always wondered what it would be like to read her scrolls again especially after all these years. Her throat constricted, "Yes…but will you read it, Xena? I’m just so overcome with emotion right now."

"It would be an honor, Gabrielle." Affectionately, Xena took the parchment and began to read:

Sins of the Past

I sing of a mighty warrior who rescued me from slavery. What really surprised me about this warrior is that her name is Xena. I have never met a woman warrior or a woman like her before – so fearless and strong.

I am so taken with her that I have left my family in Potidaea and have set off in search of her. I can’t explain it, but I feel as if some mystical force were guiding me. Whatever it is, I must find this Xena…I must be with her.

As Xena read on, the bard could easily visualize herself on the tumultuous path in search of the mighty warrior. Xena reached the end:

I behold a rugged warrior of few words who is distant and indifferent to me. In time, I know her warrior fašade will fade away. I’m going to grow on her. After all, I do possess the gift of prophecy. Sweet dreams my Warrior Princess.

Xena set the scroll down; memories of their fateful encounter seemed like only yesterday. A tired wave of tenderness washed over them and the warrior gathered the bard into her commanding arms, "Grow on me you did, Gabrielle." The young woman snuggled closer and this starry night, they surrendered to Morpheus’ melodious and tender lullaby.

*******

Early the next morning, Gabrielle lazily opened her eyes. Surprisingly, Xena was still asleep. That’s a first! Lying there, she stared at the sensual beauty resting next to her. Memories of their first year together came flooding in – the pain of almost losing the warrior to Darius…how Xena had risked death to join her in the dreamscape…Hercules and Iolaus and their quest to free Prometheus…that hope always was and always will be eternal. Then there were the Titans. She began to laugh aloud as she could still recall that chant.

Her laughter woke up the groggy warrior, "Was I snoring?"

"No, Xena. Well, at least not this time. I was thinking of that chant of the Titans."

Xena thought about it for a moment and began to chuckle as well, "Oh, you mean the one that only a virgin could recite?"

Mysteriously, Gabrielle’s mood grew serious, "I was so innocent in those days, wasn’t I, Xena?"

Taken aback, Xena grew solemn as well. "Yes, you were."

A sparkle of a teardrop began to form in the young woman’s eye, "You know what, Xena? I miss that innocence."

With abundant tenderness Xena replied, "Gabrielle, I know you are struggling, but that innocence is still there and always will be."

Xena’s words were like a gentle wave soothing the bard’s tired spirit. "Oh, thank you, Xena."

Suddenly, Xena jumped up, "Enough of this, we’re supposed to be having fun. What do you say after breakfast, we fly my parchment on a string for old time sake?"

The bard unearthed a smile, "As long as no giants are around, that sounds absolutely fabulous." Then, quite by surprise, Gabrielle kissed Xena on her copper-toned cheek.

"What was that for?"

"Our first year together was magical wasn’t it, Xena?"

Xena took her companion’s hand and lovingly kissed it, "Every year with you has been magical, my dearest Gabrielle."…

After a fun day of play, they continued the journey to their homeland. On the way, Gabrielle hunted and cooked up an amazing feast.

Settling down for the night, Xena teased, "Gabrielle, I see you are much better at catching wild rabbits."

The bard was miffed, "That rabbit was possessed! You never did believe me, did you?

Xena laid back and smiled wryly, "No!"

Gabrielle knew that Xena had believed her, but was not about to give her the satisfaction of knowing. "Don’t get too comfortable, Warrior Princess – it’s your turn to do the dishes."

Xena acted like she was mad, but cleaning up would give her another chance to summon up more of their rich past – her reunion with Solan and how proud she was of him when he denounced the way of the warrior…the sadness she felt in having to kill her old friend, Goliath…the return of Callisto…her solstice gift to Gabrielle…the love of Cecrops…and her possession of Autolycus’ body. She had never told Gabrielle, but it wasn’t the ambrosia that brought her back to life, it was the miracle of Gabrielle’s kiss.

Lost in the past, Xena asked, "Gabrielle, how about we read another scroll?"

"Alright, Xena. This time I’ll do the honors." Gabrielle randomly withdrew another scroll from the bag and began to read:

Paradise Found

My life with Xena has hit me right between the eyes and all my beliefs are scattered at the moment. I have met someone who is making me really question my existence. I feel like a walking contradiction, preaching the greater good but not following the path.

I am tired of the suffering and the pain. Where has my strength gone? With all that I’ve experienced and learned, why do I still feel this way? I’m struggling…fighting…holding on and still no tears.

I always thought that my path was with Xena, but Aiden tells me that no two people follow the same path. He told me to stop fighting the universe, purify my body and soul and discover the power within. He said that a sense of guilt and responsibility to Xena is preventing me from doing what seems to be beckoning. He says I look to Xena for what can only be found in myself. He asked me why I choose the battle when I could heal the world.

I have tried to teach Xena what I’ve learned but she says everything is perfect. Her dark side is scaring me…

Gabrielle paused and pondered. I’m in the midst of the same lesson. I guess I haven’t mastered it yet. Hoping to find some clarity in the scroll, she continued to read.

Like Najara, Aiden was yet another crazy crusader who tried to suck the life out of me. Why do I seem to be swayed by these kinds of people? Ironically, it was Xena’s dark side that saved us.

Xena tells me I have been running down the path. Be patient and slow down, she says – you will get there in your own time. I now know it is our destiny to experience all of life – the good and the bad. Each day with Xena is an adventure, a gift, a new beginning. I love her so much and I do so long for another massage.

Gabrielle put the parchment down but dare not look at the warrior. Why did I have to read the part about the massage?

Sensing the bard’s uneasiness, Xena teased, "You forgot the part about my bunny teeth."

Gabrielle grimaced, "Gods Xena, they were monstrous."

"One more thing, Gabrielle."

"What’s that, Xena?"

"Take off your clothes," commanded the warrior.

"What?" Gabrielle was shocked.

"You said you longed for another massage. Would you like one?"

Ever so sheepishly, she replied, "Yes."

Warming her mighty hands to the fire, Xena watched as her desirable companion shed her red velvet outfit and came to rest on her stomach. Willingly, she surrendered to the passage of the warrior’s arousing touch as it glided over her entire body. She quivered and yearned to be possessed more completely. Unconsciously, sounds were coming from the back of her throat.

Fighting her dark side was agony - Xena wanted Gabrielle more than she ever thought possible.

Gabrielle’s resistance was crumbling as well. She knew she couldn’t control herself much longer so she pretended to be asleep. Thinking Gabrielle had fallen asleep, Xena let out a frustrated sigh, brushed the sensual energy from her hands and collapsed on the sheepskin. I’m in Tartarus! Tormented, they tossed and turned all night.

*******

They were halfway home and found themselves on the edge of a magnificent lake.

"Gabrielle, let’s go for a swim." Xena began stripping off her leather. "Last one in cooks dinner tonight." Gabrielle undressed as fast as she could but Xena was victorious.

"Xena, that’s not fair. You always win."

The warrior smiled smugly, "So, what’s for dinner, blondie?"

Submerging her naked body in the captivating lake, Gabrielle declared, "Joxer’s stew." To which a splashing fight of epic proportions ensued. This time, they were even.

Surfacing from the water, Xena laid a blanket on the ground and leapt upon it.

"Oh, I see the legend has to work on her tan," Gabrielle said jokingly.

Xena motioned for Gabrielle to join her. "Hey, you could use some sun. You’re as white as a ghost."

"Thanks a lot, Xena."

"Oh, don’t get me wrong, Gabrielle. Your ivory skin is lovely."

Blushing, the young woman came to rest next to the bronzed woman, "Why, thank you."

As they soaked up the warmth of the sun, memories occupied Gabrielle thoughts once again – the Furies imposition of persecution and madness on Xena…the sadist cult of Dahak…and the death of Solan. She would go to her grave with a heart full of confusion and regrets over the birth and death of her daughter of darkness. Her jealousy of Lao Ma and her hatred of Xena in Illusia could only be overshadowed by her ultimate sacrifice to save Xena from the Fates.

While Gabrielle was thinking of when Xena had traveled to the land of the dead to find her, Xena was remembering the seductive power of the Devi. Stealing a glance at the fair beauty, a current of longing drifted over the warrior yet again. The sun always aroused her and things were really getting out of hand. Xena knew she had to do something fast or she would, simply put, attack Gabrielle. She jumped up, startling Gabrielle.

"Oh, I didn’t mean to scare you. Umm…let’s read another scroll."

Gabrielle was disconcerted, "I thought you just wanted to kick back and get some sun."

Xena patted her hand, "Another time perhaps."

Gabrielle was hoping this might be the time. Frustrated, she exhaled deeply, "Whatever you feel like doing, Xena."

If you only knew what I felt like doing, thought the lascivious warrior. But instead, she read:

Fallen Angel

It’s very difficult for me to write tonight, my body is so cold and stiff - but I feel I must. Xena and I were crucified by the Romans. We experienced death and were miraculously raised from the dead by Eli.

Xena once said, "Even in death, Gabrielle, I will never leave you," I know now what she meant – our love transcended death itself. When our spirits left our bodies, we found ourselves on top of some lofty cliffs. We were together and I have never experienced such a blissful state. Some majestic angels began to escort us to heaven, when Callisto and her demons captured me and took me to hell.

"Morning, honey." I don’t think I ever want to hear anyone call me that again. Hell was torturous and although I tried to fight it, I became a demon too. In heaven, Xena went through a purification process and became an archangel. She journeyed to hell to save me but gave her light to save Callisto.

I couldn’t believe it when I first saw Angel Callisto. Even though I was in heaven and surrounded by angels, I still hated her. She had no memory of the evil things she had done to me. I thought it was an act, but Michael told me this is how she would have turned out if Xena hadn’t killed her family. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to undergo one of the most difficult tests of my life. I resisted, but when Callisto benevolently touched my face and told me she was sorry, the hate amazingly vanished and I forgave her.

I am an archangel now and I must face Xena, who is now a demon.

Clearly disturbed, Xena grasped Gabrielle’s hand just as she had when Eli raised them from the dead.

Gabrielle noticed a look of terror on the warrior’s face. "Xena, what’s wrong?"

"Gabrielle, when I was a demon, I was going to doom you to hell with me."

"That was rather scary, Xena."

Despondent, Xena turned to her companion, "Gabrielle, it’s important for you to understand that the only reason I took you to hell was because I knew I couldn’t live without you." Xena began sobbing. "I still can’t."

Gabrielle enfolded Xena in her arms, "I know…I know. I can’t live without you either." Gabrielle cried too but continued to cradle and rock the weeping warrior until she fell asleep.

Unable to fall asleep, the bard picked up the scroll and finished reading.

My beautiful warrior princess, a demon - I can’t bear the thought. I think of your sapphire eyes and brilliant smile. Will I ever see them again? Oh, love of my life - will I ever touch your soft and luminous skin again? How will I survive without the power of your embrace? I can’t imagine not feeling your warm body beside me in bed. I think I shall go mad. I’m not going to let that happen. One way or another, we will be together for eternity…love is the way!

Thankful now for the interruption, Gabrielle tiptoed to her saddlebag and hid the parchment from the eyes of her sweetheart. Sneaking back into bed, she wondered, How could I have read this to Xena?

*******

Attempting to control the reins, thunder and lightning spooked the horses. "Well, it doesn’t look like we’re going to get very far in this storm, let’s head for that cave over there," yelled Xena. Like Bacchae out of Hades, they raced to its entrance. Cold and shivering, they put on dry clothes.

Shortly thereafter, Gabrielle lit a small fire and prepared something to eat. The ambience of the cave evoked more memories for the bard – Xena’s baffling pregnancy…the fight for the soul of her unborn child…the death of Eli and Callisto’s reincarnation…the slapstick god of despair…the ice tomb…the twilight of the gods and murderous Livia’s conversion to a saintly Eve.

Not wanting to be cooped up this tempestuous day, Xena grew restless and bored. Unbeknownst to Gabrielle, she took out the fourth scroll and read it to herself:

Been There Done That

Xena tells me the day is repeating itself. If it is, I hope this day never ends. It’s very seldom that Xena and I are alone lately, and I do so enjoy frolicking in the hay with my sweetheart.

I remember the years of laying captive by the fireside wanting Xena so desperately. When Xena would finally fall asleep, I would cuddle close, stroke her silky hair and kiss the back of her neck. As time passed and I grew braver, I would let my hands wander down her chest and all over her body. Since she was asleep, she never suspected.

Tonight, the barn seemed so cozy and warm, as did Xena. My attraction was overwhelming and I couldn’t keep my hands off her. Then, her body tightened as she moaned. "Gabrielle." I quickly pulled my hands away.

Xena gasped, which caused Gabrielle to look in her direction.

"What are you reading?"

Xena was speechless.

Growing impatient, Gabrielle snatched the parchment from her companion’s hands and saw for herself, "Xena! This one is kind of personal." Mortified, the bard lowered her eyes, crossed her arms and feverishly tapped her foot.

After a long pause, Xena approached the young woman. Raising her head, she ran her fingers through her sweetheart’s hair spun of gold. "Gabrielle, I’m so glad this happened." Like tiny of flashes of lightning, their eyes met and Xena continued to speak.

"My dearest Gabrielle, the many nights you put your hands upon me, I know you thought I was asleep. Believe me, Morpheus was no match for your erotic touch. It’s taken every ounce of my warrior restraint to resist you all these years when all I wanted to say was, ‘Please don’t stop.’ But, you were so young – so innocent and so pure. I wasn’t sure that you were ready for what I wanted…what I’ve always wanted. Tonight, I’m sure. You are everything to me, Gabrielle, and I don’t want another day to go by without telling you how much I love you, how much I need you and how very much I want you."

After thirty-two years, Xena finally made her intentions perfectly clear. The warrior enclosed the woman in her embrace, kissed her passionately on the lips and tasted the sweetness of her tongue.

"Oh, Xena…I love you too and I want you more than ever!"

Xena was pleased. She captured the woman in her strong arms and laid her upon the furs. Slowly and seductively, they cherished one another’s bodies through the stormy day and endless moonlit night…

The next morning, tiny rays of sunlight poked through the top of the cave. Lazily, Gabrielle sat up and stretched out. I can’t recall when I’ve had such a good night’s sleep. Her beloved was still asleep and Gabrielle noticed a silly grin on her lover’s face. A confident grin lit up Gabrielle’s face as well. I did rise and shine after all!

*******

Months had passed; the women finally planted their feet on the soil of their homeland, "Gods, Xena! It feels so good to be home."

"You can say that again, and I bet I know the first place you want to go."

"Yes, Xena. Can we?"

"I wouldn’t have it any other way."

Just then, they heard a familiar voice say, "Hey, warrior babes."

Simultaneously, they turned around, "Aphrodite!"

"Care for some company," beseeched the goddess of love.

"As long as you don’t try to kiss my girlfriend," Xena replied. Gabrielle’s face turned a deep shade of pink.

"Well, a goddess has to have some fun. Besides, I know what you two have been up to – like in each other?"

"And how do you know that," asked Xena.

"Duh, Xena. I am the goddess of love…get it?"

"I suspected that cave was enchanted and that you were up to your old tricks, but from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you," Gabrielle said humbly and sincerely.

Xena was sincere as well, "Me too!"

The goddess shrugged her shoulders and flashed that Aphrodite smile, "Well, you know I’ve always been fond of you Gabrielle, and I do owe Xena big time for getting me my godhood back."

The horses began to pant, "Alright, enough of this," interrupted the warrior. "The horses are obviously worn out. It’s going to take us a few hours on foot to get there, so let’s hit the road."

"Moi? Walk for hours? What a mortal thing to say and do. I have a better idea." Aphrodite raised her hand in a tantalizing motion, snapped her godly fingers and they were – smack dab in front of Lila’s farmhouse.

"Wow! Where were you when we were in Japan," marveled Xena.

"Believe it or not girlies, I went to a Xena convention at the Acropolis."

"Xena convention?" The Warrior Princess and the Amazon Queen were puzzled.

"You two have some really big fans these days. I was bored so I thought I’d drop by for a little visit. I met a lot of old friends…and enemies of yours, and mine."

Gabrielle was so amazed, "Anything interesting happen?"

"Can you keep a secret," the goddess held her finger to her heavenly lips and smiled mischievously.

"Of course. Our lips are sealed," Xena replied resolutely.

"Well, one fan wrote a play about the two of you. You know…your relationship. They cast me and that shamaness, Alti to play the leads."

Xena’s blood began to boil. "Alti? That bitch? How could they?" Gabrielle nodded her head in agreement.

"Oh, just throw a little love dust on her and she’s as gentle as a lamb. In fact, we gave the fans what they’ve always wanted – a kiss between the Warrior Princess and the Amazon Queen."

Gabrielle was blushing again, "Aphrodite, you’re joking?"

"If you don’t believe me, just ask Eve and Sarah, they were there."

In unison, they blurted out, "Eve and Sarah?"

Just then, the door to Lila’s house burst open. "Surprise!" Out rushed Eve, Sarah and Lila. Rushing into one another arms, they exchanged repeated hugs and kisses.

"What luck," exclaimed the bard.

"Luck had nothing to do with it. Aphrodite arranged the entire reunion," stated Lila.

Gabrielle bowed to the goddess, "Thank you, Aphrodite."

The goddess battered her eyelashes. "You’re welcome, Gabby."

"I was just about to make dinner. Would you join us Aphrodite," asked Lila.

"Not tonight, I have a date with Alti." Xena and Gabrielle cringed. "I’ll see you in the morning though; I have something I want to show you. ‘Til then." In a twinkle, she was gone.

As the women walked into the house they were met by another surprise - Aphrodite had conjured up a banquet of food and drink for them. As they ate, they reminisced about old times and caught up on current events. After dinner, Gabrielle, Lila and Sarah gathered by the fireplace, lost in conversation.

Holding hands, Xena and Eve went for a short walk. "I’ve missed you so much, Eve. I think about you every day. How have you been?"

"I’ve missed you too, Mother. For the past several years, I’ve traveled great distances atoning for my past and preaching the word of Eli. I’ve been in Potadeia for about a week now and have come to realize that my work for Eli is finished. I’ve decided to stay on here…with Sarah." Eve stopped in her tracks and looked at her mom, "Sarah has become to me what Gabrielle is to you. I’m in love with her, Mother."

Xena lovingly embraced her daughter, "I couldn’t be happier and I think the Angel Callisto would be pleased as well." They shared a tender and affectionate glance and continued their nighttime stroll.

Back inside, Lila was telling Gabrielle how wonderful life had been since Sarah’s return, adding, "She’s so much like you, Brie."

Xena and Eve returned and Xena let out a big yawn, "It’s been a terrific day but I’m beat. What do you say we all get some shut-eye?"

"Sounds good to me." Eve grabbed Sarah’s hand; they said goodnight and headed off to one of the bedrooms.

Gabrielle and Lila smirked. Xena grabbed Gabrielle’s hand, "I know, like mother like daughter." They headed to Gabrielle’s old room.

Gabrielle relished the delicious softness of sinking into her lover, "Xena, I can’t recall a time when I’ve felt so content and at peace."

"You’re finding some answers then?"

"Yes, there’s no place like home, especially with Lila, Sarah and Eve here too."

"What about me?"

Enticingly, Gabrielle sought out her lover’s glistening lips, "Oh, especially you. I love you, Xena."

"I love you too, Gabrielle!"…

*******

"Wake up!"

Startled, Xena flipped out of bed, battle cry in full force and grabbed her sword. There stood the Destroyer of Nations confidently naked, brandishing her mighty weapon. Confident that is, until she realized her opponent was the goddess of love. Aphrodite and Gabrielle burst out laughing and the look of humiliation on Xena’s face was priceless. Instantly, Xena jumped back into bed and covered her nakedness.

"Don’t be so modest. It isn’t anything I haven’t seen before," the goddess said with a devious smile.

Xena snarled, "Just be glad I don’t have the power to kill gods anymore or you’d be a goner."

Thinking she had better not tempt the Fates, even though she couldn’t trust them anymore, the goddess quickly changed the subject.

"Gabrielle, there is something I want to show you."

"Alright, but we need to get dressed and have a quick bite to eat."

The goddess snapped her fingers, "Room service." Two lovely maidens magically appeared, bearing food. "Don’t you just love breakfast in bed," asked voluptuous goddess.

They feasted yet again and got dressed. "For this, I forgive you for waking us up," said Xena happily rubbing her stomach.

"How big of you." Aphrodite was not impressed. "Okay Gabrielle, let’s jet."

"What about me," asked Xena.

"Xena, you don’t mind if I borrow your bard do you?"

Xena thought intently for a moment, "Only because you’ve been so nice to us lately. But like I said, no kissing."

"Jealous type, huh? Remember, Caligua was sucking the godhood out of me," rebuked the goddess.

Gabrielle thought she had better put an end to where the conversation was headed, "I’m ready."

Another zap of her godly fingers and Aphrodite and Gabrielle stood before a majestic temple in a forest covered with pine needles and fern.

"This is one of my last standing temples you know." The goddess sounded sad, which broke Gabrielle’s compassionate heart.

Entering the temple, Gabrielle noticed a myriad of lit candles, fragrant flowers and all sorts of dazzling artifacts - ancient coins, jewels, medallions, rustic pottery and many statues of the goddess of love.

"I gathered these from all my desecrated temples. Remember this one? Hephy made it for me. I miss him."

Gabrielle recalled the golden bust and attempted to console the goddess, "I know you do." She thought it best to divert Aphrodite’s attention and began to walk around. It was then that she observed some puzzling hieroglyphics on one of the stone walls. Attempting to decipher the writings, she saw some sort of animal skin hanging on the wall. Carefully, she pulled back the skin, which exposed the entrance to a hidden chamber. Curiously, she entered the room with Aphrodite right behind her. As the light of the candles danced wildly about the room, Gabrielle noticed a large shadow against one of the walls. Slowly, she moved in for a closer look and nodded her head in disbelief. Could it be? Indeed, it was - her staff. Reaching for it, she gripped it firmly in her hands - memories of when Ephany gave it to her came to mind.

Then she caught sight of a large trunk covered by an exotic tapestry. Running her fingers along the cloth, a note fell to the ground, she picked it up and began to read:

My name is Yasmin. I am descendant of the mighty Amazons and guardian of "The Xena Scrolls" written by my Queen, Gabrielle. The scrolls have been handed down to my tribe for many years and have traveled great distances over land and sea. With the help of the goddess of love, Aphrodite, they have come to rest here in her temple. There can be only one who finds them and only one who can write the next one. If you are reading this, I know it is you and I bow to you, my Queen!

Gabrielle’s heart was beating wildly now. "Aphrodite, are you going to tell me that…"

"Yes, Gabrielle." The goddess opened the trunk and there were her scrolls, hundreds of them. Gabrielle ran to the goddess, embraced her and kissed her on the cheek. The goddess returned the gracious gesture and lovingly kissed the exuberant bard’s cheek.

As Gabrielle stood frozen in disbelief, Aphrodite reached inside the trunk, withdrew a scroll and looked it over. Suddenly, an astonished expression appeared on her face.

"What is it, Aphrodite?"

"Well, it looks like you weren’t the only writing in those days."

"What are you talking about? She turned the scroll in Gabrielle’s direction, "Take a look at this." It was unmistakably Xena’s handwriting and there was a big kiss mark on it. Aphrodite saw the look of amazement in Gabrielle’s eyes as she began to read:

The Ring

My dearest Gabrielle:

When I leapt into Brunhilda’s flames and set my eyes upon you, I knew I had found my sleeping beauty. I kissed you and you said you knew I would come for you.

You may wonder why I put the ring on in the first place. You may think it was because I didn’t want to give it to Odin or that I would have been killed. That was only part of the reason. I put on the ring because I knew that its powers were no match for the love that we shared. Brunhilda was right, my love for you burns stronger than any flame. I knew that no matter how long it took - someday I would find you too.

Gabrielle was sobbing again and by the gods, so was Aphrodite. "I just love this sappy mortal stuff. Makes me feel like I’m really doing my job."

"And a good one at that." Unsuspectingly, Xena had entered the temple and had been standing in the shadows. Making her presence known, she stepped into the light.

Awakened from her dreamlike state, Gabrielle burst out, "Xena! How did you find us?"

"I have many skills, but Aphrodite left very obvious tracks."

"Alright, so I wanted you to find us," exclaimed the goddess.

"Can you believe it, Xena. After all these years the scrolls are here with us?" Gabrielle pointed to the trunk.

"What a blessing! You’ve found more answers then," inquired the warrior.

"Well, you could say I remembered something that I can’t believe I forgot."

"What was that, Gabrielle?"

"To talk about truth is one thing, but to be given another chance to realize the truth is another. Xena, your everlasting love is divine and the greatest gift of all."

They looked at each other with much love and affection. All the luscious and stolen moments seemed to melt into that one look.

"Gabrielle, our love is eternal and marvels the greatest fairy tale. I love you more each and everyday. I need you more that I ever could have imagined."

Delighted to see that optimistic spark of hope in their faces once again, the goddess looked benevolently upon the lovers. "Gabrielle, fulfillment can only be revealed when we are grateful for what we have."

Gabrielle turned to Aphrodite, "Thanks for setting us on a path of mystery. You knew what we’d find when we came back to Greece, didn’t you?"

Xena added, "Yeah, tell me again, what did we do to deserve this?"

"I told you, I wanted to thank you for getting me my godhood back. Besides, mortal love seems to come and go so easily these days, but not the endless love shared between the two of you. You are without a doubt the most romantic couple on the planet and your love is ever so deserving of commemoration. I have to go now, but I ask only one thing – remember well the lesson you have learned on the way." In a flash, the goddess was gone.

The warrior seemed inquisitive. "What is it, Xena?"

"You know what, Gabrielle? I think I’d like to go to one of those conventions someday."

"Hmmm…I never would have believed that. What would we do there with all those hardcore nutball fans?"

"Well, we could sing."

"Sing?" Like in you and me?" Gabrielle was flabbergasted.

All of a sudden, enchanting musical rhythms began to drift into the temple and to Gabrielle’s amazement, Xena began to sing, "Last dance…last chance for love. Yes, it’s my last chance, romance…tonight."

Magically, Gabrielle, joined in, "I need you by me…beside me…to guide me…to hold me…to scold me…cause when you’re bad, you’re so so bad."

"So let’s dance…the last dance…let’s dance the last dance…let’s dance the last dance…tonight." Ever so romantically, the Warrior Princess took the Amazon Queen into her embrace and they danced…and danced…

*******

They had settled in Potadeia and many years had gone by. Eve and Sarah tended the farm, Virgil stopped by every now and then to lend a hand, and occasionally Ares would pop in and attempt to stir up trouble. Sadly, Lila had passed on.

Aphrodite visited frequently. This particular day she noticed that Xena and Gabrielle had grown old and gray. She knew that soon, it would be time to say good-bye to the women. The wheels of her godly mind began to turn…

"Ladies, if you had one last wish, what would it be," asked the curious goddess.

Xena responded in an instant, "That we could do it all over again. Don’t you agree, Gabrielle."

Without hesitation, Gabrielle replied, "Yes, I wish we could do it all over again."

Aphrodite was pleased, "I knew you’d say that." Before they knew what was happening, Aphrodite raised her divine hand and declared prophetically, "As it began, so it shall end."

In the mists of the forest, there stood Xena, Warrior Princess on the road to Amphipolis saving a blonde girl and her village from a ruthless band of warlords…

(What can I say – sappy mortal stuff,

Zeta, Warrior of the Spirit)

zeta@sierranv.net

 


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