DISCLAIMERS: These characters belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures, etc. and not to me. This little story takes place after the ep. Motherhood. It's one of those "What if....." stories. I hope you enjoy it. That rating is PG. July 15, 2000
APHRODITE'S GOT A SECRET
On the cold marble floor lie the goddess, Athena, her life's blood draining away from the sword wound to her belly. Nearby lay Artemis, struck down by two of her own arrows. Ares stood in front of the Warrior Princess, not sure of what to expect from the woman who'd killed his sisters. He had sacrificed his immortality to bring back her beloved partner and child from the jaws of death. He had no choice, he realized. He loved her. Xena stood before the former God of War, her heart filled with gratitude and respect for the one who'd given her nothing but torment her entire adult life. "Thank you," she said and had never meant the words so much before. Ares breathed a sigh of relief and nodded his head.
Standing behind the thrown of Zeus, the now deceased king of the gods, Aphrodite watched the scene before her, tears streaming down her face at the carnage. Not only had she lost her sisters and feared the same fate for her brother, but she'd nearly lost her sweet Gabrielle.
'I won't lose my little one again. There is no one to stop me now. No one to judge whether what I did so long ago was right or wrong. There have been enough lies, enough pain and loss. We all need a new beginning. One based on truth and love.'
Aphrodite appeared kneeling at Gabrielle's side, scaring poor Eve, who crawled behind her mother's larger form. "I'm here little one. You are safe now. There is no one left who'd hurt you."
"Aphrodite?" Gabrielle was stunned and confused, not sure what had transpired since they found Eve wandering in the desert. "Xena?"
"I'm here Gabrielle. You're going to be just fine." Xena knelt at her partner's side across from the Goddess of Love.
"Warrior babe, I'll take us someplace safe, where you all can recuperate." Aphrodite offered.
Xena nodded her assent and they all disappeared in a flash of golden dust.
"Where are we?" Gabrielle asked.
"Where is this place, Aphrodite?" Xena demanded.
"It's my home. We're in a forest, very far off the beaten path. No one ever comes here, just the animals. You should see the beautiful waterfall out there and I even have a natural hot spring here that you and my little sweet pea can share and get cleaned up." The Goddess of love gave Xena a wink and wiggled her eyebrows lasciviously. "I brought you all here so you can heal your wounds and like sort out every thing that has happened." The beautiful, sad goddess waved her hand gracefully and clothing, linens and soaps appeared upon the many large pillows that were strewn around the hot springs. The room was spacious and had several smaller rooms attached to it. It seemed to be built into the side of a mountain, with part of the ceiling rock as well as part of the floor. The rest was marble with a slight pink hue. "I hope that's everything you need. Ares, why don't you pop over to the Halls of War while the ladies take a dip."
"I'd be happy to, sis, but I seem to be about a quart low on godlike powers these days." Ares retorted, flabbergasted.
"Oh, bummer! How could I forget what you did for my little sweet pea. Thank you, brother, from the bottom of my heart. I'll give you a little boost over to your place." Aphrodite raised her bejeweled hand.
"Aphrodite, before you send him away, let me take a look at that wound I gave him and wash it in the spring." Xena piped up, feeling an obligation to care for her old nemesis.
"Sure, warrior babe, knock your lights out." Aphrodite fell back into her normal manner and disappeared again in a cloud of golden dust.
"Come on, Ares, let's get that leg sewn up." Xena helped the former God of War to sit beside the hot springs. Using her boot knife, she cut his pant's leg away to inspect the arrow wound in his thigh. While she was washing away the blood and stitching the wound, she had to ask. "Why'd you do it."
"Do what?" Ares asked through gritted teeth. He had little experience with mortal pain.
"My daughter and Gabrielle, why'd you save them. You could have let Athena kill me and avoided all of this. So why didn't you just let things be. I don't understand." Xena spoke sincerely as her hands expertly sutured.
"I had no choice." Ares pursed his lips and blew out a lung full of hot air. "I couldn't live without you and the only way to save you was to save Eve." Ares looked sheepishly at the woman he loved.
"I never really believed you when you said you loved me..... Thank you." Xena whispered. "But that doesn't explain why you saved Gabrielle. I mean, you knew how we feel about each other but you still saved her. Why? It doesn't make sense."
"Aphrodite is my favorite sister. You killed her husband, our father, our sisters. She's suffered enough. I wasn't going to let her lose Gabrielle too." Ares had a moistness in his eyes that Xena had never scene before.
'By the gods, he looks like he's actually going to cry. What in tartarus is this all about!?!'
"Ares, I know that Aphrodite likes Gabrielle. I mean, they're kind of friends, I guess. But, why would you give up your immortality to save your sister's friend? Come on, Ares, I know you. Your just not that selfless. Well, actually, until today I didn't think you had a selfless bone in your body." Xena sneered then quickly corrected her expression, remembering what Ares had done for her family.
"Look, she's her kid, alright!?! Dite's probably going to hit her with that little tidbit of news herself, anyway, so you might as well be the first one to know. Now that Zeus and Athena are dead, there is no one to stop her."
Xena's eyes went wide. "What are you saying?" She hissed through clenched teeth.
"Gabrielle, she's Aphrodite's daughter." Ares stated, matter of factly.
"That's ridiculous. You expect me to believe that." Xena began packing up her supplies, having finished with her patient.
"I just found out myself. Dite was begging Athena to spare the bard a bit too earnestly. So when I confronted her on it, she told me the whole story."
"I'm listening." Xena urged, a look of disdain on her beautiful face.
"Well, it seems Gabrielle's mom was practically raised in the temple of Aphrodite. In fact was being groomed to be a Priestess of the temple when she fell in love with Herodotus and married. Then, when she didn't get ripe with child after the first couple of seasons, Hecuba thought she was barren and went to the temple to beg my sister's help. Dite felt so bad for her she took one of her own eggs and implanted it in young Hecuba. When she and Herodotus got in on, whammo! One Gabrielle in the oven. The funny thing is she wasn't barren at all, but had Lilla a few winters later. Go figure." Ares' was amused.
Xena looked like she'd been horse whipped. "Are you sure?" She asked softly.
"Oh yeah. It seems Zeus and Athena were the only one's who knew about it. They were none to pleased with my sister's interference in mortal lives. They wouldn't even let her help out with that whole Hope thing. I always wondered what the big fascination with the little blonde was. Now, it all makes sense."
Aphrodite reappeared in a flash of light carrying a tray filled with luscious delights. "I knew you'd be hungry. I hope this will help and.." There was another flash of light and two clay vases filled with wine appeared, along with five goblets. "Here is some really cool wine..... Ares, bro, go home and take a bath, whew!" Aphrodite waved her hand, snapping her long fingers, and Ares disappeared. "He has a lot to learn about that mortal hygiene thing." The Goddess grinned as she held her nose.
The women ate in relative silence, mostly too shocked by the events of the day and too tired to think straight. Xena took her food over to the hot spring and slipped out of her armor, leathers and boots, then sunk into the healing waters. She set her plate upon the rock floor and ate to her heart's content.
"Mind some company? I feel like I've been dragged through the mud. I have grime places that I can't imagine how it got there." Gabrielle remarked as she began removing her clothes, wincing at the stiffness of her right arm and the dull ache in her head.
Xena cringed at the knowledge she would have to fill her partner in on the events of the day. But, how to put it..... 'Gee Gabrielle, first I smacked you in the head with my chakram, then I dragged you by your arm through the mud in the pouring rain and then you died lying on the cold marble floor of Zeus' palace.' "Yeah, that will go over well." Xena said to herself.
"What did you say?" Gabrielle asked as she sank her nude form into the water.
"Oh, nothing. Just babbling to myself. Do you want me to wash your hair for you." Xena hoped she could wash all of the blood out before Gabrielle realized how severe her head injury had been.
"That would be nice, Xena. Thanks." Gabrielle said as she sat upon a sunken rock in front of her partner and let the luxurious feel of her touch release some of the stress of the day. "Mmmmmm, that feels so good...... It's been a long time, Xena."
"Too long, Gabrielle. I'm sorry. I know things have been tough on you since I conceived Eve. I know I haven't been giving you the time and attention you deserve. But, I promise I'll try to make it up to you....." Xena stopped washing Gabrielle's hair and settled her hands upon well muscled shoulders and caressed them. "I love you, Gabrielle. I always have and I always will. You are still the purest thing in my life." Xena directed her companion to duck her head under the water to rinse the soap away before she could turn around and see the regret on her face. "How's that? Better?" Xena inquired.
"Mmmhmmm, much better. Thank you." Gabrielle turned in the long, strong arms. "Xena, can you tell me what happened? How did I get hurt?" Gabrielle looked trustingly into ice blue orbs.
"Gabrielle, I.....umm.....what I mean is.....the furies.....well they sorta made you go insane and try to kill Eve and I tried to stop you and I.....um, I sorta.....I sorta killed you with my chakram."
"YOU WHAT!?!" Gabrielle couldn't believe what she was hearing. She yelled out her disbelief at Xena as she felt her heart break.
"I didn't mean to, honest. Gabrielle, I'm sorry. Really, I am. When I saw you standing over my daughter, plunging your sais into her back, I just lost it and threw my chakram at you, just to stop you."
"You stopped me alright! How could you do that to me, Xena, after all we've been through, after all I've done for you." Gabrielle ranted as she rubbed her still sore head.
Big crocodile tears came to the warrior's eyes and her chin began to quiver as her heart broke over what she'd done to the one person who meant the most to her. She was emotionally and physically exhausted and didn't think she could keep her stoic facade in place for another instant. "I'm so sorry, Gabrielle. Please, forgive me."
"Oh, Xena, don't cry. Sshh, don't cry now. It's over. We're Ok, Eve's fine. Come here." Gabrielle reached out her arms and held the distraught warrior tightly. "I forgive you. You must have panicked seeing that. You didn't want to hurt me."
Xena cried on her friend's shoulder. "I didn't. I swear I didn't want to hurt you."
"Sshh. I know. I understand, Xena. You were just trying to protect your daughter. Now, let's get dressed so Eve can have a nice soak in privacy. I think we both could use some sleep."
"Yeah. Will you sleep with me?" Xena asked tentatively.
Gabrielle smiled warmly as she gazed up at her partner. "That would be nice."
Gabrielle awoke with the odd feeling she was being watched. She turned over to see Aphrodite sitting up within a conglomeration of huge, colorful pillows, watching her sleep with the saddest look upon her lovely face.
"Good morning." The groggy little blond rubbed her eyes and took a closer look at the Goddess of Love and saw a trail of tears. "Dite, you Ok?"
"Oh, little one. We have to talk." Aphrodite waved her arm and she and Gabrielle were instantly transported to another room, filled with scented candles and two large comfortable chairs with a table between them covered with fresh fruit, a vase of wine and two goblets.
Gabrielle looked around taking it all in. "Why have you brought me here?" The groggy bard didn't know if she should be irritated with her often air headed friend or not.
"I need to tell you a story and I need you to listen to it all before you say anything, Ok?" Aphrodite handed a goblet of wine to the bard.
"Ok. But make it fast. I don't want Xena waking up to find me gone."
"Please, have something to eat." Aphrodite pointed toward the plate of fruit.
Gabrielle helped herself as she got comfortably settled in the gigantic chair. "I'm listening. Talk."
"Wow, it's like...., ok, Once upon a time...."
Aphrodite continued with her story as Gabrielle enjoyed a succulent kiwi. "Mmmmmm."
".....So, I placed one of my eggs in her womb and when her husband did the deed, she conceived a beautiful little girl that they raised and loved as their own. You see they never knew what I'd done for them. I stayed close by to watch my little girl grow up and I protected her from harm whenever I could. But, then my father found out about the situation I got in soooo much trouble for "interfering" in the lives of mortals. Like he never interfered and let's not even talk about Ares. Woe, I mean, no one has interfered more than bro. So, long story short....."
Gabrielle tried to make eye contact with the goddess, wondering whatever became of the little girl in her story.
"I'm your mother." Aphrodite flinched as if she expected Gabrielle to hit her.
"You're my WHAT!?! No, no, no. I have...um...had...a wonderful, loving mother." Gabrielle exclaimed through the wine that was spewing from her mouth.
"I know. I loved Hecuba. She was my most devoted and I gave you to her to make her happy. She was so sad that she couldn't have a baby of her own."
"But, she could have a baby of her own or how do you explain Lilla?" Gabrielle kept shaking her head in disbelief.
"Well, she was a surprise. I guess I acted too soon. Hecuba wasn't barren after all. Who knew? Aphrodite chewed her lower lip.
"So, I could be her's. You don't know that it was your egg that was fertilized." Gabrielle insisted.
"But sweetpea, you don't look a thing like Lilla. You don't think like most mortals. You are intellectually superior to most of them and you can hold your own in a staff fight with the Warrior Babe. Helloooooo, if it looks like a duck, has feathers and quacks....." Aphrodite crossed her arms under her ample breasts and rolled her eyes.
"Hey, I am one of 'them'." The irate little blonde jumped out of her chair and paced in front of the Goddess of Love. "If I am your daughter how could you let all those horrible things happen to me. First Xena died, then I get raped by Dahok and bear his demon spawn, then I fall down a lava pit to destroy her. Where were you during the worst days of my life, huh..., Mom?"
"Oh, pumpkin, I was there. I was always there. Zeus forbade me to interfere in your life. When the warrior babe bit the big one, I sent M'lila to her in Tartarus. I had no power against Dahok, but I did send Cupie to catch you before you fell into the lava and he delivered you to that hospice."
"You are really serious about this aren't you." Gabrielle was exasperated.
"Well, yeeaah. Now that Zeus and Athena are dead, there is no one to stop me from telling you the truth and maybe..... you could accept me. I mean, maybe even love me some day?" Aphrodite said in a pathetic little voice, filled with hope and fear.
"By the gods, this has been the strangest quarter moon of my entire life. First I temporarily die to save Eve from your family." Gabrielle points an accusing finger at the goddess. "Then I get frozen in a tomb of ice for twenty five years and wake to find Joxer has married Meg, Eve is the evil champion of Rome. Then Eve has a spiritual epiphany and becomes a disciple of Eli and Xena is given the power to kill the gods. The furies get in my head and make me try to kill Eve, Xena attacks me, Eve and I die, Ares gives up his immortality to save us, as Xena kills most of your family. Now, you tell me you are my mother and want to be accepted as such..... I need a long rest, somewhere quiet and peaceful. This is all too much." Gabrielle shook her head and sighed. "You'd better send me back to Xena before there is anymore trouble."
Aphrodite walked up to her little one and reached out to brush away a few hairs that had fallen into Gabrielle's eyes. "You do like me, just a little bit, don't you?" The look on her lovely face broke the young bard's heart.
"Yeah, of course I like you. You are my friend. Look, can we talk more about this later. I really need to get back to Xena." Gabrielle said.
"Sure." With that the Goddess of Love waved her arm and Gabrielle appeared directly before a startled warrior.
"Where have you been? I was just going to search for you." Xena demanded.
"I was with Aphrodite. Xena, you're not going to believe the story she just told me. She thinks she's my mother. Do you think the strain of losing her family has cracked her nut? I'm really worried about her." Gabrielle shook her head and rubbed the bridge of her nose.
"Gabrielle, I don't know how to tell you this, but the story appears to be true. That's one reason Ares' saved you at so much cost to himself. You are his niece." Xena's voice and face were filled with sympathy.
"Oh, not you too. Has everyone gone bats around here?" Gabrielle stomped around the room, flailing her arms and shaking her blonde head.
Eve, who'd been sleeping soundly, chose that moment to wake up. "Mother, is everything all right? Good morning Gabrielle."
"Good morning, Eve. I think I'll let your mother tell you while I go get some air." Gabrielle turned on her heel and walked briskly away from her companions.
Eve sat pondering Gabrielle's situation for a very long time after her mother explained it all as best she could. "So, Gabrielle is part God?"
Xena nodded, searching her daughter's face for some clue as to what she was thinking.
"She and Eli, they were very close weren't they? I mean she loved him didn't she."
"Yes, they were very good friends and loved each other a lot. Why do you ask me that?" Xena was concerned with the direction Eve's thoughts were going.
"It is the Twilight of the God's, Mother. I don't want her to become a victim." Eve had tears in her big blue eyes.
Xena felt a stab of fear shoot through her heart. "What do you mean, Eve? Do you think the followers of Eli might try to hurt her because Aphrodite's her mother?"
Eve couldn't stop the tears that began to stream down her face. "Fear and ignorance make people, even good people, do horrible things. I couldn't bare the thought of anyone hurting her. She mustn't come with me to join the other disciples. If anyone found out....."
Xena's face went ashen as she scooted to rest her back against the cold wall, bent her knees to her chest and hugged herself, while she gently rocked, offering herself comfort from the storm of emotions now battering her badly bruised soul. "What are you saying, Eve?"
"I have to join them, Mother. It's where I belong..... You belong with Gabrielle." Eve's face was resigned.
Xena felt like her heart was being ripped from her chest.
"I just found you. I don't want to lose you again." Xena heard herself say as she shook her head in denial.
"Your not losing me." Eve went to her mother's side and wrapped a long arm around her stooped shoulders. "I love you, Mother. You saved me from myself and have given me the chance to atone for my sins. I am so very grateful to you and Gabrielle...... Now, I have a path of my own to walk and people who need me."
Xena felt her daughter's breath upon her cheek as she touched her forehead to her mother's temple. "This is not the end. It's the beginning of a whole new life for me. I want you to know your efforts were not in vain. I'll come to visit you and if I need any help I know who to turn to. But I must follow my way. Do you understand?"
Xena wiped a tear that was trickling down her sad face. "Yes, I do understand. Gabrielle and I will make sure you get there safely."
"Thank you, Mother. I know I can always count on you." Eve kissed her mother's cheek as Xena turned to pull her into a tight embrace.
"I'll always love you, Evie. I'll always be here for you. I promise." The tears streamed down her face as she cursed the fates for separating her once again from her child.
Eve sobbed into her mother's strong shoulder until she had no more tears to cry. "One of us has to tell Gabrielle."
Xena groaned out her dread of that conversation.
"I'll do it. She may take it better coming from me right now." Eve offered, wiped her eyes and headed in the direction of her other mother.
Gabrielle sat upon a large flat rock, looking out over the edge of an huge waterfall that shimmered in bright and varied colors, the sun causing a rainbow through the mist as the water crashed down upon the stream below and out too far for her eyes to follow. She felt the presence of her partner rather than heard her approach, so she was not startled when the tall dark figure sat down beside her. "I wonder where it goes?" Gabrielle mused.
"Into another body of water and another larger one yet until it joins the oceans." Xena responded.
The young bard nodded. "Like our lives. One seemingly small event effects another larger one and then another. We never know just how far reaching the effects of what we do are."
Gabrielle continued to stare out toward the horizon. "I want to go home, Xena. I want that so much. I want to see Lilla, again and Cyrene. Did I ever tell you how much I love your mom? I do.....did." Gabrielle's eyes glistened with tears. "I miss the baby. That must sound insane. I mean she just spoke to me. She told me..... She told me goodbye." Tears flowed freely now as Xena took Gabrielle's small hand in hers and helped her to her feet.
"Come with me." Xena said as together they walked to a nearby tree. Xena sat, her back resting against the trunk, as she pulled the distraught woman to sit between her bent knees, her back resting against the soft leather covering the warrior's chest. Long, strong arms wrapped around Gabrielle's waist, pulling her close. A warm cheek lay upon golden hair. "We're losing our little girl." Xena sighed. "I expected to share her life. To teach her all I know. But she has a path to walk and it doesn't include us. The fates have taken another child from me. I swear they'll never take another. I'll die first."
Gabrielle felt her partner's hot tears falling onto her ear. The pain they shared was soul wrenching as the little bard turned in her warrior's arms and held her tightly. "We still have each other, Xena. We'll start over. Do you think Lilla and Toris are still alive?"
The trembling warrior nodded her head.
"Then, let's go find them. We can take Aphrodite and Ares with us. They really don't have anywhere to go either and I'd like to get to know my....., gods this sounds weird, my mother. Can we do that?" Gabrielle asked as she wiped the tears from her face.
"Ares! You want to travel with the God of War!?!" Xena exclaimed.
"The former God of War. He has no knowledge of what it truly means to be mortal. We need to take care of him until he can take care of himself."
"Terrific, we get to babysit a muscle bound egomaniac." Xena pouted.
Gabrielle gently wiped the tears from her partner's beautiful face. "He saved my life and Eve's. We owe him."
Xena shook her dark head. "Yeah, I guess you're right. But, I don't have to like it. And the first move he makes on you, he'll eat my chakram."
"Deal. let's go pack up and get Eve where she needs to go. I'm sure my Mom will be more than happy to help us find Eli's followers."
Xena let out a downcast sigh.
"You know, she did say she would visit us from time to time. I told her to just call on Aphrodite, far away from her people of course, to find out where we are. Having a goddess for a mother could come in handy." Gabrielle grinned at her morose partner. "Hey, we'll get through this. We always do."
Xena gave her friend a smile as her eyes still shone with tears. "Yeah. We'll stick together like always and make a new life here....., somewhere..... What would I do without you, Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle gave her partner a genuine smile. "Humph, I don't know, Xena. The good news is you're never going to have the opportunity to find out." Gabrielle pulled her partner into a loving embrace, resting her golden head upon her chest. "We'll always have each other won't we? I think I could face anything but losing you, again." She said through the lump in her throat.
"Always. I love you, Gabrielle." Xena said as she leaned down and placed a chaste kiss upon soft lips.
Gabrielle returned the kiss then pulled back just a bit to look into ice blue eyes. "I love you too, Xena."
Til next time
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