Angels Dancing: A Blood and Roses Tale

by

sHaYcH

Disclaimer: Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA/Universal (and they're very lucky to have them too). Blood and Roses is an alternate Xenaverse created by Katrina, and I'm just playing in her backyard for a while. Lady Evangeline St. Claire and Rhiannon Moore are creations of Bardwynna and are used here with permission.

Xex Alert: Oh, Yes, Very Much So. Sorry if the idea offends. What there is of it is pretty mild though.

Violence Alert: Oh Dear, Here We Go Again. Xena is a warrior, Gabrielle is a bacchae. These are violent professions...some blood will be spilled...and drank.

Here's my story friends, love it, hate it, whatever, please let me hear from you at: shaych3@aol.com.

*Hot is not a good thing when you're trying to get some rest.*   This was a conclusion the bard had drawn after a particularly long bout of restlessness one warm summer's eve. So she opened a window. Which was probably the invitation that "they" needed to test her strength, again. A glass bottle, lit rag dripping limply out of the neck, wobbled its way through the newly opened aperture and shattered against her recently vacated bed. The wooden four poster that she had owned for more years than she could remember lit up like a Solstice Tree in less time than it took her to sneeze. Realizing that she would not be able to make it out of her room in the conventional method, Gabrielle did the next best thing--she hopped out the window that had allowed the entrance of the molotov cocktail and began running towards the front door, intent on getting to the hose.

However, "they" had other ideas. In two's and three's they melted out of the foliage surrounding her sprawling mansion, and circled her. As the acrid smoke of burning fabric, wood and other precious objects assailed her nose, seven Ferals of the Unseelie kind jumped her. Fangs bared, claws extended and saliva puddling the ground at their feet as they prowled around her, the ferals growled and hooted their joy at coaxing the ancient one out to play. She was NOT amused.

A tan and gray striped feral leaped for her throat with a harsh growl and she ducked and struck up and twisted, ripping his throat out. Tossing aside the twisted larynx, she put a lock on the Frenzy building inside of her soul and turned to face the remaining six ferals. A pair of twin black furred unseelie thought they would confuse her by simultaneously attacking, but she just stepped back, allowed them to collide head on, then while they were still stunned, she stepped up and slammed the palms of her hands into the bridges of their noses, killing them instantly. Three more of the wrongborn lasted about thirty more seconds and the last one earned himself the "brilliant bad guy of the week award" and ran away. She didn't pursue.

It took all of fourty-five hard fought minutes to rescue her home from the embrace of Prometheus' Gift, and in the end, she had cause to grieve. Several of her mementos, objects whose memories were echoes of Her, were destroyed. Including Senticles' creation. Her heart had clutched hard when she had reached for the box that contained her treasures, only to come away with a blackened shell. The only thing that survived the conflageration was the slightly pitted, but still shiny and still VERY sharp, chakram.

"My lamb..." she croaked, and down the not so carefully constructed walls fell, a brick with each tear, untill she'd had a pile of heartache drowing in her lap and Morpheus carried her away, clutching the remnants of her past to a soot stained breast...

Gabrielle's eyes flew open, the dream-fires of long ago gone and her lover sprawled beside her. The sun streamed across the foot of the bed, illuminating the golden fibers in the large lapis colored quilt that draped her and her partner's sleep enshrouded forms. Carefully crawling over her beloved, slipping on a warm robe and a pair of soft socks, she peeked out of the lower partition of their bedroom window and smiled. Just as she'd hoped, a white blanket covered the yard and chilled the air. Even though she took every precaution not to wake her lover, she wasn't too surprised when a disheveled sable head peered around the doorway into the living room.

"You're up early, Gabrielle." Goddess, each time she heard her name roll out of that mouth...she was almost ready to believe in miracles.

"No one sleeps late on Solstice Morning, Xena." The bard smiled up at her lover gently. "Come here and join me, I have something for you." Gabrielle proceeded to lavish several gifts upon the young whore turned beloved companion, much to the other woman's consternation.

"Gabrielle, how many times do I have to tell you that I don't need gifts? You're gift enough to me." Those words...Gabrielle's heart found residence in her esophagus and she couldn't quite swallow it fast enough to ask what she so desperately wanted to ask. "Anyway, if you insist on the gift exchange thing, then I have something for you as well." The dark haired young woman reached under the tree and withdrew a small, cloth wrapped bundle. "For you." smiled the woman, handing the parcel to Gabrielle.

Gabrielle slowly, reverantly revealed the gift's contents. And almost dropped them. Inside the soft fabric was a hand carved lamb. Not daring to hope, the bard gave a very slight tug on the toy's tail and was rewarded with a faint, "Baa." She forced herself to swallow the lump in her throat this time. Setting the toy down next to her, Gabrielle captured her lover's face in her hands and locked their eyes together.

"Tell me who you REALLY are." she said softly, begging the woman before her to tell the truth and hoping it was the truth she wanted to hear. The other woman was silent for about five minutes.

"Gabrielle, I think it's my turn to be the bard." replied Xena, unlocking the cage around her soul and letting her bard past the doors in her eyes. Recognition, shock, disbelief, a million emotions flitted across Gabrielle's face at Xena's unspoken revelation.

"What? How? Xena? Is it...?" the bard finally stammered.

"Shh. Listen...It began when we got the telegram from Holmes..."

***

X&G STOP CALLISTO AFTER L&R STOP COME QUICKLY STOP SH STOP. "The telegram was fairly vague, but I finally figured out that L&R meant "Lina and Rhiannon" or Lady Evangeline St. Claire and Rhiannon Moore, descendants of ours that still lived in the old country. Somehow, Callisto must have found them, and more importantly, found a way to harm them. SH was an old friend, Sherlock Holmes. If you remember my love, we had encountered Mr. Holmes on one of our many visits to London..."

"I remember. We were visiting kin, and while walking into a restaurant, he called out "Lady Lina" and tapped you on the shoulder. I can still see the look of shock on his face when he found that you were not who he'd expected." Gabrielle shoved down her shock just enough to get herself into a more comfortable "listening" position on the couch.

"Yes, but I would have to say that meeting Sherlock Holmes and discovering that he knew one of our descendants would have to be the singular most interesting way we've ever discoverd one of our "kin"." chuckled the dark haired woman. Gabrielle smiled to herself in rememberance.

It hadn't been too big of a shock to learn that two of their descendants, one Evangeline St. Claire and a Rhiannon Moore had discovered each other and had since become "close." They had put aside their planned visit to take some time to get to know the famed detective, and through him, their descendants. Of course, it hadn't taken Holmes long to put two and two together and come up with a thousand and he confronted them with his suspicions about their identities. Both of their eons honed senses told them that he could be trusted, so they confirmed his suspicions, and told him a bit more. Ever since then, they had kept in quiet contact, with Holmes providing Xena and Gabrielle detailed reports on their descendants turned detectives.

For a while, Xena and Gabrielle had contemplated revealing themselves to their English kin, but after discussing the matter with Holmes, they came to the decision that unless it was absolutely necessary, Lina and Rhiannon would be better off not knowing of their unique lineage. The arrival of Holmes' painfully brief telegram prompted both women to pack with haste and jump on the first ship to England.

When they had arrived, Holmes had met them at the port, not bothering with hellos, just jumping in and filling the women in on the terrible situation. Callisto, it seemed, had subverted an Unseelie Duke by the name of Mordrigern and he had kidnapped both Rhiannon and Lina in an attempt to blackmail Xena and Gabrielle into falling into a trap. Instead, Holmes had discovered the kidnapping in just enough time to warn the bard and warrior before Callisto's missive arrived. Now their task was simple. Find Mordrigern and they would find Lina and Rhiannon. They did. It was almost too easy, and both bard and warrior were suspicious, but they couldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Spiriting away their descendants under cover of daylight, they never noticed the unusual shadows creeping along in their wake.

Holmes volunteered to guard the thoroughly drugged Lina and Rhiannon until Xena and Gabrielle dealt with Mordrigern and Callisto. Later, both Rhiannon and Lina would question Holmes until they were blue in the face, but the only thing that the urbane detective would reveal about their whereabouts was that they had been exposed to a toxic chemical.

The two women slipped out and returned to Mordrigern's underhill manse, prepared to destroy all of the Unseelie Court if they had to. Two shadows unpeeled themselves from the walls they had clung to, and followed the bard and warrior through the gates of underhill. Proctor and Nestalle had but one mission burned into their broodRaged brains--sire Xena. Any way and any how they could, their mission was to sacrafice themselves to the warrior's battle lust. So, they did.

Attacking just as the two women emerged from the final gateway, Proctor wrapped his toadly body around the warrior's legs as Nestalle engaged the bard's lethal staff. The attack shouldn't have surprised Xena and Gabrielle, but it did. The bite shouldn't have affected her, but it did. The warrior felt the toadly man's teeth sink into her thigh and screamed with a shrillness she'd never heard from her throat before. Reactions honed by years of fighting took over and her hands shot down, punching and twisting, and soon, Proctor lay gasping at her feet, blood pouring from his nose. Reaching into a special pouchquiver at her side, Xena withdrew a long, thin shaft of bone and drove it straight down into the broodkin's chest. He vanished with an unearthly howl. Nestalle broke off his attack on Gabrielle and turned to Xena. Leaping at her, he wrapped his hands around her head, twisting it to the side and sunk his teeth so deeply that by the time she forced him back, they had broken off in her artery. Gabrielle dispatched Nestalle with a quick slam of the butt end of her staff and a sharply thrust dryad bone, but it was too late. Xena listed over to one side queasily.

Gabrielle, concerned for her partner, had suggested that they leave and come back another day, but Xena had declaired that the menace of Callisto would be ended forever that day. So they continued on to Mordrigern's castle, aware that their presence was known, and not caring. Mordrigern was indeed, waiting for them. The battle engaged swiftly, with Xena almost tossing the bard out of the room in her exhuberance and need to get at the Unseelie Duke. The fight was quick and viscious and ended with Xena practically tearing off Mordrigern's head. Dripping in Unseelie blood, battle fury keening its way through her veins, Xena rose from her half crouch and Gabrielle stepped back at the obvious change quickening in her beloved's eyes.

"Gabrielle? Wha...what's happening to me?" croaked the warrior as she stared absently at the ichor staining her hands. The bard flinched. She could see the signs of the change, the feral taking over the rational, but she refused to believe it. Then, sharp laughter cut through the air.

"You're becoming MINE!" Callisto appeared in a swirl of smoke and sparks, head tossed back and eyes lit with insane glee. Gabrielle couldn't tell whose heart broke faster as Xena realized what the goddess meant. Somehow, Xena had been broodbitten, and she was Changing. The warrior's shoulders slumped forward, her knees buckled and a plaintive moan issued from a throat raw from battle cries.

"Stop this, Callisto. Change her back." growled the bard, as she caught her shocked lover.

"Stop it? After all the trouble I went through to get her here? Do you actually think it's easy to control the mind of one of the Unseelie? Why Gabrielle, I would have expected better of you. Surely you can come up with something a little more threatening than that pathetic growl? Come on little bardling, fight for your bedwarmer." Callisto taunted. Gabrielle let Xena's shifting form slip to the ground as she stepped around it. Bringing up her staff in a protective position, she let the Rage take over.

Feeling the Feral Sense come on, changing her stance to be more predatory, Feeling her jaw shaping itself around her fangs as the bloodlust sang arias in her veins. She struck. And struck. And struck. As hard as she could, her staff rained down blows on the mad goddess' body. Callisto's laughter continued to pour forth, irritating the bard, driving her on, until she was lost to the Frenzy. Dropping her staff, she flew at Callisto with every intention of biting to kill.

And was stopped cold by the harshly whispered, "Gabrielle, no." Xena stood, her body now totally consumed by the broodChange, only her eyes remained the same, glitterly ice blue. The Feral that was once Xena stepped forward, thrusting the bard behind her and silencing her with a look. "This is between Callisto and me." Gabrielle nodded her understanding, and stepped back into the shadows to watch the next chapter of their centuries old war against the goddess unfold.

Callisto and Xena battled and bled and fought for hours, until somehow, Xena had found a way to lock the goddess into one of the Unseelie banishing cells. It was ironic to the bard that the very thing that Callisto had thought to use to bring the warrior to her flock was turned against the revenge crazed goddess. Both women were battered, blood seeped out of wounds too numerous to count, and Gabrielle had long since lost track of how many times Xena had torn out Callisto's throat, only to watch the goddess heal immediately.

"Let me out of here, Xena. You know that I won't survive long Underhill."

"Remove the brood Curse."

"I can't. Isn't that marvelous, Gabrielle? She won't let me die, and I can't cure her of that which will make her mine. No matter how hard you fight it Xena, in the end, I will win." The goddess lost herself in a long winded cackle.

"Actually, Callisto. I can, and will let you die. I have before." Callisto immediately sobered.

"You can't. I won't let you. I ORDER you to release me." Callisto threw herself at the cage bars furiously, sending shards of darkly charged energy spluttering into the air. Xena just looked at Callisto with a blankly dry glance.

"No."

"Bitch. Fine, I'll still win. You're still going to become a very bad girl Xena. And when you do, I imagine that you'll see my side of things much differently."

"No, I won't. Gabrielle, come here." Gabrielle slid out of the shadows and cautiously approached her lover. When she reached Xena's side, the warrior touched the bard's tear stained face tenderly and then drew Gabrielle into her arms.

"You're still you..." the bard marveled as she ran her hands over the dark fur that sprouted in sickly patches all over the warrior's Changed body.

"For now. Gabrielle, I need to ask a big favor of you."

"Anything." choked the bard around fresh tears.

"Kill me."

"WHAT?" gasped Gabrielle, as she moved in to kiss the warrior's cheek.

"I can't live this way, Gabrielle. Callisto is right, I can feel myself falling into that dark pit even as we speak. Please my love, give me a chance at seeing you again in the afterlife. Give me peace." How could the bard say no? How could she deny her beloved warrior the peace of the Elysian Fields after so many years? No words were spoken, none needed to be said. Everything they would have said had been spoken so many times over during their years together that once more would be meaningless. Quietly, and with an almost softness, Gabrielle let the Feral out again. Lacing her fingers into the raven tresses one last time, the bard drew the warrior's head down, exposed her neck, and bit.

Xena tried hard not to struggle too much, knowing that her bard would stop if she did. As Xena's world went dark, she managed to direct the bard's hand to the pouch containing the dryad bones. Gabrielle understood and, reaching in the pouch, she withdrew one long shard and drove it home into Xena's heart as the bard swallowed the last drop of the warrior's blood. "Thank you...love you...Ga-brielle." whispered words tumbled from numb lips and then all was soundless.

"Oh, this is just too good. Gabrielle, little miss don't-kill-it's-wrong, just murdered her one true love. Oh, happy day." Callisto did a mad little dance in the center of the cage and snickered at Gabrielle's evident grief.

Gabrielle stood, cradling her warrior's lifeless form in her arms. Stalking over to the cage that held the immortal Callisto, she released the lock on the door, but held the goddess pinned with her gaze. Although killing the madwoman would be a pleasure, it would not do anything to bring back her beloved, and the gentle spirited bard couldn't bring herself to kill the goddess in cold blood. But she could, and would threaten her.

"Hear me well, Callisto: I blame you for the death of Xena. I may have took her life, but you killed her soul. She wouldn't kill you. I will. If I ever see your face on this earth again, I will rip your head off and spit down your neck. Got me?" There was no mistaking the seriousness of the bard's tone. Callisto gulped, and knew the threat to be true, and executable, for the bard was Artemis' Chosen and there was no way in Hades that the insane goddess could get the Huntress to go along with any plan that involved injuring Her bard. Ares had only agreed not to interfere with her revenge on Xena because she had promised him whatever was left. Callisto nodded silently and slipped out of the cage.

Just before she vanished, she smiled nastily at the bard, "I still win. I killed her soul...just like I promised." Cackling madly, Callisto vanished in a puff of sparks, fleeing Underhill and the world Outside back to Olympus.

Gabrielle returned to London, said her goodbyes to Holmes and her two descendants and then went to Greece to bury Xena beside her brother in Amphipolis, just like the bard had promised so many years ago.

***

"When they sealed the tomb behind you, I thought my soul had died." sobbed Gabrielle. Xena scooped her bard into her arms.

"Shh. I know... but listen, there's more to my tale." soothed Xena.

***

When the warrior awoke, she was laying on the bank of the River Lethe, Charon the boatman hovering nearby, poking her with his ferry pole.

"Eh dere warrior, ye gonna git on board, er are ye gonna lounge about fer all of eternity? Whatever ye do, it makes no nevermind ta me, just do somethin' soon." Xena debated waiting around for her love, but decided that she was 1) way too damn curious as to where Hades was going to stick her this time, 2) pissed off at the gods for interfering in her life -- again, and 3) mildly nausiated at the sight of Charon.

The ferryman was draped from head to foot in a voluminous black robe, but what wasn't covered was skin so pale and scabrous, that even the warrior's battlefield hardened stomach turned. Besides, no matter where she ended up, she was sure that she could get some answers from someone as to how Callisto had even gotten away with doing what she'd done.

"All right Charon, let's go."

***

"I can't believe you didn't wait for me." the bard sulked. Xena smiled and kissed away the sulk.

"Would you rather I had waited love?" she finally murmered into the bard's kiss whetted lips.

"Um, that would be a 'no'." Gabrielle whispered back and pulled her beloved down for more mouth to mouth communication. Finally, Gabrielle let Xena breathe and asked, "How did Callisto get Mordrigern to go along with her plans anyway?" The newly revealed warrior shifted her bard until they were snuggled up securely, then answered the question.

"Ares gave him to Callisto."

"What?!"

"Just wait. And listen."

***

Surprisingly enough, at least to the warrior, the Elysian Fields were Charon's drop off point for her. Xena took about a week to get herself acclimated with the in's and out's of Hades' Realm, then began to truely explore. Her demi-godhood afforded her some leeway with the guardians of the Underworld's various sections, and soon she had gathered enough information to go before Hades himself. She found the god in his study, Persephone was serving tea and Baby Bliss (now about 6 in god-years) was drooling on the carpet.

"Got stuck baby-sitting again, hmm Hades?"

"Xena. How ...nice... to see you. Is there something I can help you with?" Hades didn't seem pleased to be disturbed.

"Yes, actually. I think I was unfairly sent here. Look at this." Xena spent the next several hours showing Hades the information she had gathered. Finally, Hades held up a hand.

"All right, Xena you've made your point. What do you propose to do about it? I can't just let you go. You're dead. Fair and square. Besides, the other gods would have a coniption." Persephone came up and began to rub his shoulders.

"Dear, couldn't you...just this once?" she asked softly.

"No."

"Don't worry, Hades. I have an idea." Xena smiled ferally.

"Why do I get the feeling that I'm not going to like this."

***

"So what did you do?" Gabrielle asked breathlessly, her storyteller's soul cataloguing her lover's tale in a neat little corner of her mind. Xena smirked at the eager face of her bard.

"Gabrielle, if you keep interrupting, I'll never get this story finished."

"Oh, sorry. Please, go on."

"No worries. Anyways, so my plan was..."

***

"Ares you sniveling cowardly excuse for a father, get your ass down here right now!" Xena stood in Hades' Great Hall, head tilted back, eyes flashing and temper frizzled. A brilliant starburst of light and the War God was there.

"You rang, Xena?" the buff god crossed his arms and stood with his hips cocked in a "come hither" stance.

"Yeah, Daddy." she made the affectionate term an explicative. "It's not nice to toy with your darling daughter's emotions."

"What ever do you mean by that, my dear?" Ares was all innocence.

"I mean not coming to see me even once while I've been down here!" Xena pouted. Ares, surprised at Xena's statement, could only stare as his half-human child slid across the floor with a sexy shift of her thighs, and then was in his arms, caressing his face and pectorals. "I'm hurt." she crooned. "Don't you love me anymore?"

***

"Wait a minute, you cuddled up to Ares?!" Gabrielle sat up and jabbed Xena in the chest several times.

"Gabrielle."

"You let that...that...filthy son of a..."

"Gabrielle!"

"What?"

"You're interrupting again."

"Sorry. Sorry. Go on." the bard soothed the warrior princess' frayed nerves with a few kisses.

"Yeah, all right. So Ares he..."

***

"Xena, Xena, Xena. My very special daughter, how could I have forgotten to come and visit you. I am so remiss! My humblest apologies! Can you forgive me?" Ares was anything if not urbane. Smooth as silk his voice rolled over the warrior princess' ears. But she wasn't fooled. She was the one doing the fooling.

"Oh Daddy, you're so affectionate." Xena cooed, nuzzling the War God's neck. He grinned to himself, thinking that death had indeed, delivered him the woman he'd wanted for so long. Ares pressed himself into Xena, allowing her to feel the power of his godhood as his hands slid up her back to take possesion of that which was so rightfully his, Xena sprung her trap. Spinning out of his grasp with a giggle she dashed across the chamber to land in Hades' throne. "Oh Daddy, isn't this so magnificent? I should have come down here ages ago!"

"Yes my dear." Ares smiled tolerantly at his offspring. "Anyway Xena, what would you like to do? Terrorize a few denizens of Tartarus? Chase a few Elysian maidens?"

"Oh no Daddy." Now Xena's voice was serious and she was pouting in that absolutely sexy way that got to him every time. "I want to know why you let me die." Ares swallowed. She would ask that. Oh well, he could just leave and let her puzzle out on her own. The dark god made to teleport back to Olympus. And found he couldn't. He was stuck. Then he remembered. No one, mortal or immortal, could enter or leave Hades' Great Hall without the Master of the Underworld's permission.

"Yes, Ares. I too am interested in why my niece had to pass prematurely? I didn't expect to see her again for several eons." Hades appeared from the shadows, holding the leash to Cerberus' collar. The three-headed hound growled menacingly at Ares, who shrank back. Knowing he was caught, but too stubborn to admit defeat, Ares stood tall.

"What does it matter? She's dead now and that makes her fair game."

"No, Ares. You cheated. Or should I say, Callisto cheated for you. Clever ploy Ares, but you let yourself become involved with the fate of one of your children. We gods can't just go sticking our noses into our children's lives like that. Why look at all the havok Zeus has caused. You know the rules. I think you'd better listen to what Xena has to say." Hades leaned against his throne and smiled grimly at the woman lounging within.

"Thank you, Uncle. Yeah Ares, you'd better listen up. See, I know how Callisto was able to get to me." Ares just raised one eyebrow. "Your pet Unseelie have sent quite a few of their staff down here recently. It seems that you lost a bet with Callisto and had to pay up by giving her Duke Mordrigern. Naughty naughty, Daddy dearest. Don't you know Callisto cheats?

Anyway, we all know what she did with the nasty little Duke after she got his allegiance, so we won't re-hash that. My point is this...I want my life back. Everything. All of it. And I want you out of my life forever. No more messing with me just because you're bored." Xena sat up straight now, staring her immortal father down.

"But, I can't..."

"I know. Hades has explained that I can't be released from the Realm of the Dead once I've crossed over a second time. But I may have a solution to that. If a girl child of my lineage should accidentally become injured to the point of death, I wish to have my soul transferred into her body."

"And you're telling me this because?" Ares seemed to be about to accept his defeat.

"You will present my case to the Olympic Tribunal. You will champion my cause and you will win." Xena's voice left no room for argument.

"But..." Hades interrupted his nephew's protest.

"Ares, if you don't do everything Xena asks, I will go before the Tribunal myself and tell them of your transgressions concerning Xena. I'm sure they will be more than happy to hear me. And punish you. At least this way, you get to seem like the hero." Ares shut up.

"Ok. I can't guarantee anything, but I will do as you ask...daughter." Hades nodded and Ares dissappeared.

"Now what?"

"Now, we wait. And see what kind of nuts our plan shakes out of the tree." Xena and Hades both vanished to their respective "dwellings" in the underworld.

***

"So we waited. And waited. Ares would send us messengers every few years or so telling us of his progress. I watched over you, and our families as best as I could, always on the look out, of course, for someone who would "work" as a replacement. But we are, of course, a hardy bunch." Gabrielle chuckled.

"You always did heal faster than anyone I knew...rarely scarred too. I wonder why that is?" The bard ran her fingertips over the upper portion of Xena's left arm, tracing the not-there outlines of where Dahak's avatar servant had wounded her.

"Parentage. A warrior-god's children would be warriors too, so they'd have to heal well."

"Yeah, that makes a bunch of sense. So go on? I mean, I don't imagine it took a hundred years for Ares to get the Olympiads to listen to him, especially since they were all pretty unbusy."

"No, it actually took Ares something like 63 mortal years to get Zeus to organise a tribunal, hear the evidence in my case, and agree to my release. After that, it was all about waiting for the right person to appear. I may have had my soul back, but my body was another matter." Gabrielle nuzzled Xena's neck, nibbling first on the soft flesh she found, then working her way up to the once-warrior's earlobe.

"Mmm..." the once-bard breathed, "and such a nice body it is, too." Xena relished her lover's attentions for a few, brief minutes, then sighed.

"Gabrielle...if you...don't...stop," the bard's kisses were becoming light nips, then grew into harder ones, "that, I won't...be able...to finish...the story." Finally, Xena was able to finish her thought, and once spoken, she grabbed Gabrielle and kissed her lustily. Hands and bodies and lips and teeth and tongues moved and traced and touched and slid and soon, both women were vibrating from their arousal. The bard kissed her warrior once more, deeply, then snuggled back into her arms.

"All right, my Xena tank is full now. You can finish the story. But make it quick, I think I might have sprung a leak." Xena's eyebrow traced a familiar path up her brow, then she chuckled.

"As you wish, my bard."

"Oh, I wish." That got her a long snuggle, which was a nice and homey-kind of-comforting and did tons of repair work on the bard's long fractured soul.

"I watched you all the time, you know. I was so proud of the good you did for our kin, my love." Xena's voice brought Gabrielle out of her pleasant haze of mushville.

"Did you? I kinda wondered...I talked to you a lot. When I needed you...when I was sad...happy...lonely..."

"I know. I heard you." a softly spoken reply, joined with several more minutes of quiet hugging, and more aches were healed.

"Thank you. For listening, I mean."

"How could I not, my heart? You are the best part of my soul." Gabrielle just beamed tearily at her lover.

"And you are the best part of mine. Now finish your story before I end up bawling." Xena smiled and continued.

"Well, to cut through the boring stuff... you know, the usual: Ares trying to back out on his word, Ares getting in my way, Ares trying to kill you (oh now That Was Funny--Bacchus was Not Pleased), Callisto getting freed, then trapped again... the usual yadayadayada Same Old Walord, Different Village type thing. Anyway, after awhile, I got to feeling like some kind of morbid vulture, waiting for a direct lineage female relative to sicken or be injured. I was almost ready to give up when Alexia came onto the scene."

"Who is Alexia?"

"I'm getting to that part." Xena got up, stoked up the fire, stepped into the kitchen briefly for a tray of snacks and returned to her comfortable position on the couch.

"Oh, ok." Gabrielle gratefully accepted an offered mug of cocoa and a plate of munchables.

"Alexia Pappas was the third daughter of Mel Pappas' third cousin's second wife. She could have been born to wealth, but because of the weavings of fate, she ended up destitue, disinherited and hooked on opium." began Xena, around bites and sips and swallows. "Eventually, she overdosed and went into a coma. She was 16 when this happened. She was lucky, or maybe we were lucky, because her family was rich and well connected. Even though they had thrown her away several years before, something had changed to make them want to try to save their daughter's life. I'm sorry to say, they weren't successful. Alexia Pappas became legally brain dead on the eve of her 17th birthday. That's when Hades notified me that I had my chance. I almost didn't take it."

"What?!" Gabrielle sat up spluttering, nearly dumping her cocoa on Xena in the process. She favored the silently laughing warrior with a glare. "Why?"

"As I said, I had begun to feel rather...vulture-like...and I didn't want our reunion to be...tainted by that. But then I heard you one night, crying softly in your sleep, and that was all it took. I had to get back to you. Hades made the arrangements for my soul to slip into the place left vacant by Alexia's, and that was that. Alexia Pappas made one of those "miraculous recoveries" that occur from time to time."

"You know, I seem to remember hearing about that in a letter..." Gabrielle mused while clearing away the debris of their snack. Xena nodded and continued.

"After several months of detox to get the opium and other drugs out of my new body's systems, I began a rigourous physical training program and set my sights on finding you. I knew you wouldn't accept me for who I was at face value, so I had to become someone you would. I had heard about your contributions, " she squeezed her lover's hand, "to keeping young kids off the street. So I re-assumed Alexia's career, only I became better at it. No longer was I a two bit hooker, I was a high class call-girl." Xena's face twisted a bit at that. "I suppose I could have had worse jobs, I could have been a phone sex operator!" Not knowing what to say to comfort her mate, Gabrielle chose to just hold her and convince her without words that all was well.

"And I guess I know the rest of the story...right?" she finally asked.

"Pretty much. I made sure I knew where you spent your time "cleaning" and made sure that you saw me. After that, it was up to you."

"I guess I came through." she smiled, "Good. I like it when my stories have happy endings."

"So do I my bard, so do I." the two lovers ended up falling asleep entwined as one on the small couch. Outside, snowflakes began to fall, scuffing the earth like angels dancing across the heavens.

fin

03/11/98


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