By Akiela Xal
Copyright: All the characters are owned by Renaissance Pictures/Universal, etc, etc, etc, but the story is entirely from my imagination.
Violence: No worse than you would see on an average Xena episode.
Subtext: Yup, it’s there
Teaser: When Velasca finally escapes her rocky tomb, Xena and Gabrielle are thrust into a race against the clock to save their lives.
Part one of the: And They Were Gods series
Started: March 9, 2007 Finished: March 15, 2007
Feedback: If you’ve got any, positive or negative, or if you’d like to see more to this story email me at AkielaXal@yahoo.com
The ground began to rumble and shake with vibrations. A hiss of venting gasses was heard as the rumbling grew louder. Suddenly a chasm opened in the ground and a small, tanned hand appeared over the lip. The hand was followed by a second, and then by a pair of arms as a figure slowly began to pull itself out of the ground. In moments an auburn haired, leather clad woman with milky white eyes stood surveying her surroundings. She threw back her head and laughed, “I’m free! I am finally free.” The wind began to pick up around the solitary woman, swirling faster and faster. A vortex opened in front of the auburn haired woman and she stepped through.
“It’s good to see you eating again,” said Xena smiling at her small blonde companion.
Gabrielle finished chewing and swallowed the bite in her mouth. “Well, I haven’t been very hungry since Velasca showed up. Now that she’s gone, I’m ravenous,” she said grinning.
“I noticed,” smiled the warrior. “That’s your third helping. If you keep eating like this, I’ll have to go catch some more fish.”
“Oh, would you,” said the bard innocently batting her eyes. Xena arched an eyebrow, and Gabrielle laughed. “I’m only kidding, this is really good, but this is my last helping, promise.”
Neither woman noticed the two pair of eyes peering at them through the trees. The taller observer put her hand on the back of the smaller one and jerked her head to the side. The smaller nodded her agreement and they silently slipped farther back into the trees.
When the two observers were far enough away from the campsite not to be heard the smaller one said, “So… Daria… what’s the plan? Do we hook up with these two, or do we strike out on our own?”
“I haven’t decided yet… Phaedra,” answered the one calling herself Daria. “We know she’ll attack them so we should at least stay near. If we head off looking for her, we might miss her and not be able to get back in time.”
“I say we join them,” said Phaedra. “It’s just easier if we’re with them. The real decision is do we ‘introduce ourselves’ tonight, or bump into them in the morning?”
“Morning, I’ve got plans for tonight,” said the taller woman with a wicked glint in her eye. “C’mere,” and she held out her arms to her partner.
Phaedra stepped into the circle of Daria’s arms. She put one hand on the back of Daria’s neck and stretched up for a kiss. What started as a soft kiss grew passionate, and soon the two were lost in each other.
Morning saw Xena and Gabrielle packing up camp and continuing their journey back to the Amazon Village. Ephiny would be glad to know that Velasca was trapped
They’d been on the road about half a candlemark when they came across another pair of travelers headed in the same direction. Both were women, the taller was two or three inches shorter than Xena with light brown hair. She was wearing a short, serviceable, dark blue skirt with matching halter-top.
The other was two or three inches taller than Gabrielle with very short, straw colored hair. She wore a braided leather top and a short reddish/brown skirt. Both were well muscled, though only the shorter one carried any noticeable weapons; what looked like a strange pair of daggers tucked into her boot-tops.
The taller woman glanced over her shoulder when she heard others approaching. She nudged her companion and they moved over to the edge of the road and slowed their pace.
“Morning,” said Xena as they caught up to their fellow travelers. “Where ya headed?”
“We have a message for the Regent Ephiny,” said the blonde.
“We’re headed there ourselves, we could deliver the message for you. Save you the trip,” the Warrior Princess replied.
“Thank you, but we need to see that the message gets delivered personally. We would however, be glad of the company.”
Xena looked at Gabrielle who shrugged and said, “Sure, why not. I’m Gabrielle, and this is my best friend Xena.”
“Phaedra and my partner Daria,” said the blonde stranger. She and Gabrielle were soon deep in conversation, swapping stories. Their companions didn’t say much, but smiled at their friends as the four continued down the road.
It was nearing the end of the second day of traveling with their new friends, and Gabrielle was out gathering firewood when she heard voices. She curiously sought them out only to discover Daria and Phaedra deep in conversation.
“It’s been two days,” Daria said taking Phaedra’s hands in her own. “I would have expected her to show up before now.”
The younger woman answered, “I know, I expected her long before this. You don’t think she can sense us, do you?”
Daria looked thoughtful, “No. For some reason, I don’t think it works that way with her. Not like it is with some … people we know.”
Phaedra looked up at her partner and asked, “Should we split up and look for her, or stick with the plan?”
“I know I always say we’ve gotta be flexible, but my gut says we stick with the plan. I just hope she comes here before she goes after the …others,” answered Daria.
“Oh…” cried the blonde, “I didn’t even think that she might go after them first.” She let herself be gathered into the arms of the taller woman and accepted the comforting embrace. Daria tenderly kissed her on the forehead. Phaedra lifted her face to kiss her partner. As they kissed their bodies began to shimmer and morph, Daria becoming taller, and Phaedra shorter. When the kiss ended, the smaller woman rested her head on her partner’s chest.
Gabrielle gasped as she got her first clear look at Phaedra. She stepped back and stumbled. Catching her balance quickly, she ran back to camp.
“Gabrielle, wait!” called Daria taking a half step toward the fleeing woman.
“Let her go,” whispered Phaedra. “What are we going to do, capture her and erase her memory?”
Daria chuckled, “Guess not.”
A beautiful, shorthaired, blonde sat leaning against a boulder gazing at the evening stars. She drew one knee up, circling it with her arms, and rested her chin on the knee. “You know Xena, even if we did miss Sappho, this was still my best birthday ever.” She grinned at her friend, “Especially flying with you. That was unbelievable!”
“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. I’m still sorry that I made you miss hearing Sappho, though,” answered her soulmate.
“It’s ok, really. We can see her another time,” said Gabrielle. “You don’t need to keep apologizing. It was a great birthday…” Anything else the warrior-bard might have said was lost as she suddenly felt a tingling on her skin. She looked up to see Xena also stiffen in reaction. “Ares?” Gabrielle queried, a surprised look on her face.
“Ares,” stated Xena flatly, locking eyes with her partner.
Just then the pair heard the sound of clapping. They turned in the direction of the sound and there, leaning casually against a tree was Ares, God of War. “Very good ladies. I’m impressed Gabrielle. Until now, Xena’s been the only one to sense me when I don’t want to be noticed.”
“Well, Xena’s taught me almost everything she knows,” replied Gabrielle dryly. “What do you want?”
“What I want is to help you,” answered the god doing his best to look sincere.
Gabrielle shook her head and scowled, “Oh, no you don’t. I’m not falling for that.”
“Wait, Gabrielle,” insisted Ares, “I came to tell you that Velasca has gotten loose.”
The color drained from Gabrielle’s face and Xena moved to stand beside her soulmate, placing an arm over her shoulders reassuringly. “When?” whispered the bard.
Ares looked at her, with what appeared suspiciously like concern. “A few days ago.”
“A few days ago, and you’re just telling us now!” shouted Xena. “Gabrielle’s life is in danger and you wait until now to let us in on it?”
“Now Xena,” pleaded Ares patting his hands in the air between them and taking a step backwards. “It’s not what you think. As soon as she broke free, she created a time vortex, and it took me a while to figure out exactly when she went. It turns out that she went back to a time a few days after you originally trapped her and Callisto in the lava.”
“Too bad I don’t still have the power to kill gods,” complained Xena bitterly.
“Oh, being able to travel through time so we can stop her would be nice too,” added Gabrielle wryly.
“Weellll…” drawled Ares, “I may be able to help there.” He saw Xena arch her eyebrow and went on, “I could make you both gods, then you could travel back to that time and take out Velasca before she can kill your younger selves.”
“Why… Why would you do this Ares?” asked Gabrielle softly, walking over to the God of War and searching his face.
Ares barked a short laugh, and then grew serious, “Because I owe you. Both of you. I owe you my life, my sanity, and… my godhood, not to mention my sister. The two of you saved both of us. Now it’s my turn to repay you.”
“What’s the catch Ares?” asked Xena suspiciously.
“No catch, Xena.”
“No catch, huh?” drawled the Warrior Princess. “No hidden agenda? No ulterior motive? No ‘this offer expires at midnight’? No ‘then you become my Queen’ is that it?”
Ares actually looked hurt, “Trust me Xena. There is no catch. This offer is for real and if you take it, I won’t be able to undo the gift. And won’t ask anything in return… we’re even.”
Xena shook her head, “Look Ares, I don’t trust you. There’s gotta be another way.”
At this remark Gabrielle touched her partner’s arm to get her attention. Turning back to Ares she asked, “Can we sleep on this and give you an answer in the morning?”
“Yeeeesssssss…” answered Ares slowly, “but I suggest you don’t take too long to make your decision. I don’t know how long it would take for any changes Velasca makes in the past to ripple through to your present. Temporal mechanics gives me a headache.”
“Temporal what?” asked Gabrielle. At the look on Ares face she decided not to press the issue. “Never mind. We’ll give you our answer tomorrow, promise.”
“Alright, I’ll see you then,” and with that Ares disappeared.
Xena wrapped her arms around the warrior-bard. She searched the face of her partner, and asked, “What’s on your mind, Gabrielle? What are you thinking?”
Green eyes gazed into blue, “I think we should take him up on his offer, Xena.” She placed a finger on the warrior’s lips to forestall the argument. “I’m scared, Xena. I know that we can’t defeat Velasca without someone’s help… his help. Not now, and certainly not then. I don’t know if we can trust Ares either, but when I looked into his eyes I sensed that he was really telling the truth. He actually cares about us Xena,” said Gabrielle, her eyes pleading with Xena to believe her.
“I guess being mortal was good for Ares after all,” replied Xena gruffly. “I’ll think about it, and we’ll talk more in the morning, ok?”
“Ok,” said Gabrielle hugging her partner. They settled down for the night, but sleep was a long time in coming for either woman. “You know, Xena, even with Ares visit, this was still my best birthday ever.” She didn’t see her partner’s smile in the darkness.
The next morning dawned bright and clear. Neither woman had slept much the night before; they’d had too much to think about. They ate a quiet breakfast, neither wanting to start the discussion they knew was coming. Finally, Gabrielle broke the silence, “Xena, I…”
“Gabrielle,” broke in the Warrior Princess, “I know what you’re gonna say, and you’re right. It looks like Ares is unwilling or unable to stop Velasca on his own either now or in the past, and I know that the old Xena and Gabrielle won’t be able to trick Velasca again. We’ll have to take Ares up on his offer; I just don’t trust him. He’s always got an ulterior motive. I can’t believe he’s doing this out of the ‘goodness of his heart’.”
“I know, Xena,” the warrior-bard answered, “I have a hard time believing he’s doing this to help us, but you didn’t look into his eyes last night… I did. There was genuine honesty and… oh, I don’t know… caring? Not his usual lust or conniving. He actually seemed concerned, maybe even a little frightened for us… for me.”
Xena tried to break in, but Gabrielle stopped her with a finger to her lips. “Xena, I’m not a little girl anymore. I don’t go falling in love with everyone who says nice things to me, and I don’t trust as easily as I once did. I’ve been through too much, seen too much… done too much to be that way anymore. This isn’t like Petracles and the ambrosia, Xena. It’s not some game; it’s life and death. Our lives… I’m not ready to give up and die… and I won’t lose you either. Not to Velasca or anyone else.”
“You’re not going to lose me. We’ll find a way to defeat Velasca. I just wish it didn’t include Ares.”
“Unfortunately, it does. We’ve got to do this Xena… that or we’ll both die.”
Xena tilted the bard’s chin so she could gaze into her eyes. “Gabrielle, do you want to be a god? Do you want all that power?”
“Of course not. If there was a way to make it temporary, just have the power long enough to defeat Velasca once and for all, and go back to normal, I’d jump at it. But it sounds like that isn’t possible for some reason. I suppose… I suppose we could make an agreement to only use the powers to defeat Velasca, then never use them again…”
“That’s not a half-bad idea. Agreed, if we do this, we only use the god-thing to kill Velasca and get back here and then never again.” The tall warrior stood and stretched tired muscles.
“I just wonder,” began the blonde woman, “why he’s offering this to both of us… I mean he’s always wanted to make you his goddess…”
Xena grinned at her partner, “Hey, it’s not like this is the first time he’s offered a godhood to you. Remember that little encounter with Mavican?” Xena laughed at the shocked expression on Gabrielle’s face. “Besides, I think he finally realizes that he can never split us up.”
Gabrielle stood up and placed a hand on her soulmate’s shoulder. “So, are we agreed then… we’re gonna do this ‘god-thing’?”
“Yes,” Xena nodded her agreement, and then called out, “Ares!”
There was a shimmering in the air and two figures appeared. The tall, dark, and deadly form of Ares, and the scantily clad form of Aphrodite stood just across the campsite from the soulmates. “How’s my two favorite warrior babes?” cooed the Goddess of Love.
Gabrielle smiled and started to take a step toward her godly friend, “Aphrodite,” but then her face clouded. “Wait, are you in on this too?”
“My bro came to see me last night after he left you two. He told me what happened, and about that Velasca chick. Uncool, man. I can’t let her take you out. That would be like… such a total bummer. Ya, know? Anyway, Ares was afraid that you wouldn’t take him up on his offer and he asked me to come with him today to like, talk you into it. But my guess is that since you called him, you’ve decided to do it, huh?” Aphrodite winked on this last statement, and Ares looked a little sheepish.
“Hunh,” said the bard, “not bad Aph. Yes, we’ve decided to do it.” The Goddess of Love clapped her hands like a little girl. “But that doesn’t mean we aren’t still a little concerned.”
“Look, I already told you, there’s no catch,” Ares huffed. “Once you’re a god it’s final, for keeps. Neither I nor anyone else can make you mortal again. I’m not gonna try and call in any favors. With… well… Aphrodite, as my witness, we’ll be even.”
“Isn’t there a way to help us defeat Velasca without making us gods?” asked the Warrior Princess. “And besides, if you’re so hip on getting rid of Velasca, why can’t you do anything directly… why make us gods?”
“I don’t know of any other way to help you. I tried to intervene when I followed Velasca, but for some reason, I can’t do anything against her. So, I decided to talk to my ‘other self’, but I couldn’t convince him…me either. You know I don’t like it when people ask me for help… The only way I can give you the power to destroy Velasca is by making you gods, it has something to do with the kind of power involved… a mortal body just can’t handle that kind of power.”
“Will we still be ourselves?” asked Gabrielle hesitantly. “I mean our personalities won’t change will they?”
“Oh, babe, if you’re thinking about Callisto and Velasca, don’t worry about it, the ambrosia brought out their strongest traits,” breezed Aphrodite. “They were bad to begin with, so they just got worse. You two are both good, and you’ll stay that way – no changes. Yes, Xena you are good,” she finished at Xena’s look of disbelief. “Are you ready?”
The warrior and the bard glanced at each other, and then nodded their heads in agreement. Ares walked behind the two women and placed one hand on each head. Aphrodite stood in front of the pair and did the same. “Oh, by the way… happy birthday, Gabrielle,” whispered Ares in the bard’s ear. Brother and sister looked at each other and at Ares nod, bestowed godhood on their… friends.
“Whoa,” said Gabrielle swaying dizzily. She stumbled back against Ares who supported her as she shook her head. “That was … intense.”
Xena put one hand on her own temple and closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again she said, “I don’t feel any different… other than dizzy, that is.”
“Well, try to do something godly. Make your chakram appear in your hand without picking it up or something,” suggested the Goddess of Love.
The Warrior Princess held out her hand and thought about having her chakram in it. Suddenly, the chakram was no longer beside the bedroll, but now in her hand. “Ok, that works. So, how do we create this ‘time vortex’?”
“I’ll show you,” replied Ares, “but I suggest you don’t go through the one I create, but make one of your own so you’ll know how to make one to get back to this time.” The new gods nodded their heads and Ares proceeded to show them how to make the vortex and how to lock into a specific time. Xena then created her own vortex and she and Gabrielle stepped through.
Xena stood up as she heard Gabrielle come running back to their campsite. The firewood clattered to the ground, and the smaller woman ran to her friend and buried her face in Xena’s chest. “Shhhh, it’s ok. It’s ok. What’s wrong Gabrielle?” she asked wrapping her arms around the bard and stroking her hair.
It took a few moments for Gabrielle to calm enough to finally tell her friend what had happened. “I… I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I just kind of did… I was out getting the firewood,” she said gesturing to the fallen wood, “and I heard voices, so I went over to check it out. It was Daria and Phaedra. They said something about being surprised that someone hadn’t shown up… I don’t know who they were talking about – they were being kinda vague. Then Daria said something about ‘her’ maybe going after someone else and Phaedra got scared… Daria gave her a hug and kissed her on the forehead, then Phaedra kissed Daria… on the lips…”
When Gabrielle paused, Xena asked, “Is that what bothered you? Two women kissing?” She wasn’t sure she really wanted to hear the answer.
“Noooo, it’s not that,” answered the bard. “It’s that when they kissed, they both kinda started to shimmer and changed into two other people…” She had a difficult time going on.
“Do you know who they were, Gabrielle?” asked the warrior softly.
The bard, still wrapped in the warrior’s arms, looked up to gaze into her friend’s eyes and whispered, “Us.”
Xena’s expression was unreadable as she gently asked, “Does that bother you?”
With a small smile, Gabrielle quietly answered, “No, it just… surprised me,” and with that she reached up and tenderly kissed the warrior.
Xena responded in kind, relishing the simple contact. When they finally broke the kiss, they remained close, foreheads touching. “So,” asked the warrior, “what are we gonna do about them?”
The bard was thoughtful for a moment, and then said, “See if they come back, and then find out what’s going on? But for now,” she grinned, “let’s get dinner started.”
“So, what are we gonna do to salvage this?”
“I don’t know,” Phaedra/Gabrielle answered. “I suppose we’ll have to tell them the truth… at least about the main reason we’re here.”
“Main reason,” asked Daria/Xena, “I thought it was the only reason…”
“Weellll… have you noticed how I’ve occasionally been touching Gabrielle?” At the taller woman’s nod, she continued, “With each touch, I’ve been adding a bit of confidence to Gabrielle… Confidence in herself and her abilities… and in her… feelings…”
“Feelings?” her partner asked.
Phaedra/Gabrielle blushed. “Well… I know how long it took for us to finally admit our feelings to each other, even though we both know, now, just how long we’d been hiding those feelings. I just thought it would be nice if … they didn’t have to wait quite as long.”
Daria/Xena guffawed. When she was calm enough to speak, she told the younger woman that she’d been doing the same thing, although she admitted that she didn’t have to do as much since she knew that Xena already acknowledged her feelings for her friend, if only to herself, though she would never say anything to Gabrielle. “So, I guess we ought to head back to camp.”
The pair, back in their guises of Daria and Phaedra, entered camp and sat on a log across the fire from Xena and Gabrielle. They waited for the others to break the silence. The warrior and the bard studied the newcomers. Finally Xena said, “You may as well drop the disguises, we know who you really are. What we don’t know, is why?”
Daria/Xena glanced at Phaedra/Gabrielle who shrugged, and they both dropped the disguises to reveal their true identities. An older Xena, now back in her leathers, and an older Gabrielle, still in the same outfit, sat across the camp from their counterparts. “Better?” asked Phaedra/Gabrielle.
Still a little shaken, Gabrielle asked, “Are… are you really me? Or is this another trick?”
“I’m really you, just a few years older,” Phaedra/Gabrielle didn’t think she needed to mention that they were actually from 30 years in the future. That would be much harder to explain. “We’ve come back to warn you, and hopefully protect you.”
“Warn us about what?” asked Xena.
“That Velasca has broken free and is coming after you,” said Daria/Xena calmly.
Gabrielle paled, “But we just trapped her… how could she have gotten free so soon?”
“Actually, it wasn’t ‘so soon’, she broke free in our time, and created a portal to come back here to attack you and Xena, and then the Amazons,” said Phaedra/Gabrielle watching her counterpart carefully.
Warily, Xena asked, “How did you follow her?”
“How isn’t important,” answered Daria/Xena. “The fact that we’re here is. We’re here to stop Velasca and keep you safe. We need to stay with you until she attacks, and when she does we need you to get the Hades out of here and let us do our job.”
Xena was frustrated by this arrangement, “I don’t run from a fight.”
“And neither do I!” said Gabrielle with equal fervor.
“This isn’t running from a fight. This is about protecting yourself and Gabrielle,” replied Phaedra/Gabrielle. “You can’t defeat Velasca this time, but we can. We need you both to get to safety… otherwise we won’t be here to save you. If either of you dies foolishly now, we’ll be gone too. Xena… for once you’ve got to trust me,” said the warrior-bard holding the gaze of the younger Warrior Princess.
Xena resisted for a few moments, sighed, and finally nodded her head in agreement. “Would you please tell us how you got here and how you plan to defeat Velasca?”
Phaedra/Gabrielle glanced briefly at Daria/Xena and launched into a brief explanation. “I can’t tell you everything, but I’ll tell you as much as I can. It could be… harmful… to know too much about your own future.” She knew all too well how true this was after the vision Alti had shown first to Xena, then to Gabrielle herself.
Phaedra/Gabrielle told them about the meetings first with Ares, then with both he and Aphrodite, changing the offer from godhood to simply having the power to defeat Velasca. “We’ve learned a few… tricks that will take care of Velasca once and for all,” she finished.
“We hope to catch Velasca in a cross-fire. One that she won’t be able to escape from,” said Daria/Xena.
“Gabrielle,” the young bard shook her head and laughed, “Ok, that’s weird it sounds like I’m talking to myself.”
“How do you think I’ve felt the last few days,” laughed Phaedra/Gabrielle. “Why don’t you continue calling us Phaedra and Daria? That should make things a little simpler.”
“Daria… for my grandmother?” asked Xena.
Daria/Xena nodded and said, “I fondly remember those visits to her, and I’ve never been as imaginative as Gabrielle, so it was hard to find a different name to use.”
“And Phaedra because I’ve always like that name so much,” added the young bard to which Phaedra agreed. “Anyway, Phaedra, I’ve noticed you don’t carry a staff, but you have those funny dagger things…”
“They’re called sais,” answered Phaedra/Gabrielle, though she wasn’t sure how to go on. “I… lost… my staff a few years ago. I still miss it sometimes,” she finished wistfully.
Daria/Xena put a comforting arm around her partner’s shoulders. She was still distressed herself at that loss, and what it had ultimately meant for her soul mate.
“I still don’t understand why we have to wear our cloaks,” Gabrielle complained for probably the tenth time late the next afternoon as they continued their journey back to her Amazon village.
This time Xena answered the question, “So that it will be easier to fool Velasca when she shows up. If she can’t see us clearly, she should think that they are us and we’ll be able to get away.” She stopped suddenly, head cocked in that listening pose she so often wore. “We’ve got company.”
At that a dozen men stepped out of the trees to surround the foursome. “Lookee what we got here, boys,” said the leader grinning widely. “Some pretty bits fer the takin’.”
Phaedra/Gabrielle looked at Daria/Xena and said, “You know, I’m really getting tired of the same old garbage all the time.”
Daria/Xena grinned back and said, “Yeah, but it keeps your reflexes sharp.” With that she launched her chakram. It split and deftly sliced the two attackers farthest away, while she dealt with two nearer to hand.
Phaedra/Gabrielle meanwhile was enjoying the battle, spinning and kicking at her three opponents, keeping them off balance. She found an opening and stabbed one of the thugs knowing that he wouldn’t be bothering her again.
“Phaedra!” hissed Daria/Xena gesturing at the bloody sai and back toward their younger selves.
Phaedra/Gabrielle looked embarrassed and quickly switched her sais to defensive positions, but not before Xena saw the exchange.
Gabrielle concentrated on her two attackers. She was having minor difficulty maneuvering her staff with the cloak in the way, but she adapted and knocked them out. Xena quickly dealt with the three thugs nearest her and soon the battle was over.
Daria/Xena distracted the younger duo by complimenting Gabrielle on her staff work while Phaedra/Gabrielle discreetly cleaned her sais. Xena however watched Phaedra/Gabrielle uneasily. She’d seen how well the blonde fought, and could tell it wasn’t the first time she’d killed someone. Oh, Gabrielle, she thought, what happened to you to make you change so much. She’d have to talk with her about that if she got the chance
While Phaedra/Gabrielle was still a little distance away from the others, the wind picked up suddenly and a vortex opened. Daria/Xena turned to Xena and Gabrielle and called, “It’s her, get out of here! Go! Hide! We’ll take care of Velasca.”
Reluctantly Xena and Gabrielle dashed into the woods pulling their cloaks back up to hide their faces. Before they were completely out of sight, Velasca stepped through the vortex and prepared to cast a firebolt at them.
Phaedra/Gabrielle called out defiantly, “Let them go Velasca! It’s me you want!” in an effort to save the younger pair.
Velasca whirled around to face the challenge. “So, little Gabrielle, you’ve grown a backbone while I’ve been away. How… nice. It will make it that much better when I kill you,” she said laughing wickedly.
“Hey, Velasca,” sneered Daria/Xena, “I see you didn’t get any smarter stuck in that lava pit.”
Velasca slowly turned to face Daria/Xena and pointing at the warrior said, “I’ll take care of you later, but first… I want Gabrielle.”
Velasca started to turn back toward Phaedra/Gabrielle and they knew they had her exactly where they wanted her – right between them. Daria/Xena shouted, “Now!” and both unleashed firebolts of their own at Velasca. They hit her squarely and stunned her. Daria/Xena held up a hand and froze Velasca in place momentarily while Phaedra/Gabrielle created a column of flame around Velasca, causing a tormented scream to escape. Daria/Xena gestured with her other hand and sent a lightning bolt through Velasca, quickly followed by another from Phaedra/Gabrielle. They kept up this barrage until Velasca exploded in a brilliant flash. “It’s over… she’s gone for good.”
“Yes,” Phaedra/Gabrielle agreed, “I can’t feel her anymore. She’s finally gone.” She lifted her voice, “Xena! Gabrielle! If you can hear me, it’s safe to come back now!”
What neither she nor Daria/Xena knew was that Xena and Gabrielle hadn’t gone far. In fact Xena had actually watched the entire battle in amazement, and she wasn’t pleased with what she’d seen. Gabrielle had kept her face buried in Xena’s chest however, so she hadn’t seen a thing. When they heard the call, Xena hesitated briefly before leading Gabrielle back to the older pair of women.
As they neared the other two women, Xena turned to Gabrielle and said, “I’d like to scout ahead… see if there are any more surprises out there for us. She surveyed the others, and almost as an afterthought said, “Phaedra, will you join me?”
Phaedra/Gabrielle exchanged a glance with Daria/Xena, both suspecting what was coming, but only said, “Sure… I’ll go with you.”
As Daria/Xena and Gabrielle watched the two sprint into the distance, Gabrielle turned to Daria/Xena and said, “You know, Xena still doesn’t trust you two… I’m not entirely sure why. Of course, even though I do trust you, I can still tell that things don’t quite add up.”
“Oh?” queried Daria/Xena arching an eyebrow. They continued to follow the others at a slow walk.
“Yeah, little things mostly. Like you for instance, you don’t really look any different except for your chakram… I’d love to hear the story about that…” the bard trailed off wistfully.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be there, and you’ll write the story about this chakram,” joked Daria/Xena.
“It’s not just that it’s her too… I mean me… I mean Phaedra. I can tell she’s me, but she’s not me… she looks like me but she’s different…”
“Gabrielle,” soothed Daria/Xena, “You’re what? Nineteen? Twenty? Phaedra’s older. If you’re talking about appearance, a woman still changes, matures, quite a bit in her early twenties.”
“Well, there’s that, but I’m talking about attitude…” said Gabrielle thoughtfully. “She’s a lot more confident, self-assured than I am. And then there’s those sais… I like my staff. It’s a good defensive weapon. I can’t imagine myself ever choosing something that’s so… so obviously designed for killing. It’s not me…”
Daria/Xena sighed; she knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I’m gonna have to tell her… Trust Gabrielle to get me to talk about things I don’t want to. I wish Phaedra was here, she could do this much better that me… “Gabrielle, what we told you last night is true. It’s not good for either of you to know too much about your future. Knowing your future could cause you to make changes. Phaedra and I have been through some difficult times, but it’s been worth every minute of it…” Daria/Xena trailed off thinking about some of those difficult times and realizing that what she said was true… it was worth it. Daria/Xena then launched into a very abbreviated narrative detailing some of the life changing adventures she and Phaedra/Gabrielle had been through, making no mention however of Eve or their twenty-five year ‘nap’.
A mile or so down the road Phaedra/Gabrielle was easily pacing Xena when Xena called a halt. The Warrior Princess slowed to a walk, and turned to the woman who looked so like her companion and began questioning her. “Alright, if you’re really Gabrielle, you know I didn’t ask you to come with me to scout ahead.” Phaedra/Gabrielle nodded her head in acknowledgement. “I have some questions and I expect answers.”
Phaedra/Gabrielle sighed, and said, “I figured as much. If you’re wondering if we’re really you, yes, I tell you again we are from a few years in your future. We thought it best to disguise ourselves so that you wouldn’t know who we were… less questions that way… but then Gabrielle caught us last night. We let our concentration slip, and with it our disguises disappeared,” she grinned ruefully.”
“More like you let your passion take over…” suggested Xena.
“Yes, you could say that…” shrugged the warrior-bard.
“So you two have been … more than friends for a while, now? But my guess is that this isn’t how… or when it happened, right?” asked the warrior.
“Right. We have no memory of Velasca ever getting loose or of meeting our future selves. It was still a while before either Xena… Daria… my Xena or I would admit our feelings for each other even though we each knew almost from the start that we were meant to be together… as soulmates…”
“Soulmates… I like that, it’s how I feel… You know, Gabrielle’s right this gets confusing talking to our future selves…” grinned Xena, shaking her head. “Ok, so that’s two questions,” she stated, and then grew serious. “I want to know what happened to you, Gabrielle, that made you kill? I saw you today when you nailed that thug. I could tell it wasn’t your first time and saw Daria remind you that ‘Gabrielle’ doesn’t kill…” she said with sadness in her eyes.
Phaedra/Gabrielle looked equally disturbed and grew quiet. Finally she looked up at Xena and said, “You know I can’t tell you everything. If I did, it might cause you to do things differently and change your future, our past. Despite everything, including me taking a life, it has been a good past. But after everything I’ve been through, I feel I owe you an explanation…” She paused to gather her thoughts before going on.
“Maybe we should sit down?” said the warrior-bard gesturing to a nearby log, and they sat. “Xena, ultimately, what caused me to change my ‘philosophy’, if you will, was you.” She saw the hurt look on Xena’s face and hurried on, “It’s not what you think. Please don’t blame yourself. You didn’t do or say anything that caused me to kill. In fact you always did everything you could to keep me from needing too. But there came a time when you were … badly injured and there was absolutely no way for you to defend yourself. I made a conscious choice to pick up your sword to protect you. When the fight was over, I’d killed seven… attackers. In a weird, sad sort of way, we were both proud of my accomplishment that day. You never did teach me to use a sword,” she laughed.
Despite the pain this knowledge brought, Xena shared in the laugh, before growing serious again. “I’m sorry Gabrielle. Sorry that being with me brought you to this. I never wanted you to feel the need to kill…I wanted to protect you from that pain,” she said with a tear glistening in her eye.
“Xena, don’t,” Phaedra/Gabrielle said putting a hand on Xena’s cheek to catch the tear. “It’s not your fault. We’ve been down this road before… or rather will be down this road… Arrrghhh! The Xena I know and love has been down this road with me before. I’ll tell you the same thing that I told her. I love you, and will do anything in my power to protect you… even if that means taking a life. I would do it all over again if given the choice. I’ve never regretted it, and you shouldn’t either. Like you, I did what had to be done. Besides, you’ve seen me fight; I’m almost as good as you – all due to your teaching. We’re more of a team now, than we ever were and it only gets better,” Phaedra/Gabrielle grinned.
“You are as good as I am. There’s not much more I could teach you…” said the warrior thoughtfully. “There’s one more thing I need to ask.”
“Thanks for the compliment,” blushed Phaedra/Gabrielle. “Shoot.”
Xena stared hard at Phaedra/Gabrielle for a moment, and finally said, “You told us about Ares and Aphrodite giving power to the two of you to defeat Velasca. I find that difficult to believe with the Ares and Aphrodite I know, but I can accept that they may very well have changed in the future just as you’ve changed…”
She took a deep breath and plunged on, “I didn’t take Gabrielle very far away when you fought Velasca… I watched the whole thing, though I kept Gabrielle from seeing anything. I don’t believe any mere mortal could wield the kind of power you two demonstrated. It was exactly like Velasca’s, Callisto’s, or even Ares himself… What, exactly, are you?”
Phaedra/Gabrielle looked away from the warrior for a moment, and finally whispered, “I was really hoping you wouldn’t ask that, Xena.” She looked back at her longtime friend, and said, “You’re not gonna like this…”
The eyebrow went up, and the Warrior Princess said, “But you’re gonna tell me anyway, right?”
“Yes,” sighed the warrior-bard. “I’ve never really been able to lie to you, so I’ll tell you the truth. What I told you was true. Ares did tell us about Velasca and offered to help us. What I didn’t tell you is that the only way for us to defeat her was to become gods ourselves.”
“No!” Xena hissed, “There had to be another way!”
“Believe me, we looked for alternatives and so did Ares. He followed Velasca here, and tried to intervene, but for whatever reason he wasn’t able to… he also tried to talk his counterpart into stopping her, but that wasn’t successful either – you know that Ares doesn’t think anyone who asks for his help is worthy of it… even if Ares is the one asking,” grinned the blonde warrior. “No one knows where either the Hind’s Blood or the Dagger of Helios is in either our time or yours, though you were the last one to use either…”
“I just used the Dagger of Helios to get the Ambrosia, but it’s gone now. The Hind’s Blood… I’ve never used it,” replied Xena cautiously.
“Not yet, you haven’t, but you will. And, no, I’m not going to tell you why or when,” said Phaedra/Gabrielle quietly, remembering exactly why Xena had gotten the Hind’s Blood in the first place. “There was no other way. In order for you to survive to become us, we had to do this. We’ve agreed that once we get back to our own time from this adventure we’ll never use the powers again – we’ll live like we always did… as mortals.”
At that point Daria/Xena and Gabrielle came into view. Phaedra/Gabrielle and Xena stood up and waited for the other two to catch up to them. Xena looked around and said, “I know it’s a little early, but this is as good a place as any to make camp for the night.” She turned to Daria/Xena and Phaedra/Gabrielle, “Are you two going to escort us all the way to the village, or will you be leaving soon – now that Velasca is gone.”
Phaedra/Gabrielle smiled and answered, “We’ll stay through dinner if you don’t mind…”
“That would be great… there’s so much more I’d like to ask you,” bubbled Gabrielle. “If you’re willing to talk, that is…”
The four sat around the fire after dinner each lost in their own thoughts. Finally Gabrielle broke the silence. “Ya know, as difficult as it was waiting for Velasca to show up again, I really enjoyed getting to know you, Phaedra, Daria… It’s nice to know that we’re still together in the future and that we can stay together through difficult times – even if you won’t tell us what those are,” she grinned wickedly.
“But I’ve been thinking. Xena I hope you agree. We know too much already.” The young bard grew thoughtful. “Knowing what I do know… I think it may already affect some of the choices I’d make. I think there are things I’d do differently, and that could have drastic results in your lives. We’ll be back at the Amazon village by midday tomorrow, is there a way you could somehow make us forget this whole encounter? Make us forget about Velasca’s return and… meeting you?”
Daria/Xena and Phaedra/Gabrielle glanced at each other and then at their counterparts. Finally Phaedra/Gabrielle asked, “Xena, do you agree? Do you want to remember everything about the last few days, or would you also like to forget?”
“If I chose to remember what you’ve told us, then I know that I would do anything I could to change things.” She looked at Gabrielle, her soulmate, “I don’t want her to have to go through what you did, but I also know that no matter how much I try to protect Gabrielle, she’s got to be free to make her own choices.” Xena took a deep breath. “Yes, erase our memories.”
“All right, then,” said Daria/Xena when you go to sleep for the night, we’ll erase your memories of this last encounter with Velasca and of us. We will leave you with a memory of a pleasant trip back to the village however so that you don’t realize your memory has been tampered with… is that good enough?”
Xena took Gabrielle’s hand and both agreed. The two got ready for sleep and lay down in their shared bedroll. Daria/Xena and Phaedra/Gabrielle waited until their breathing had become slow and even indicating that they were asleep. They stood up and walked over to their counterparts, Daria/Xena to Xena, and Phaedra/Gabrielle to Gabrielle and placed a hand on each forehead.
“Daria,” whispered Phaedra/Gabrielle, “Don’t erase their memory of being together… they deserve to keep that.”
Daria/Xena agreed, “Ok, but this is still gonna change our past…”
“Not by much,” said Phaedra/Gabrielle. “Don’t you remember, that last morning on our way back to the village, we finally talked about that kiss, the one when you were inside Autolycus, and what it meant? We admitted our feelings… I’d totally forgotten until now, but this is when it started.”
“That’s right… how could I have forgotten?” wondered Daria/Xena. “Ok, we’ll give them the memories that we have, from the first time, of our trek back to the Amazon village.”
A soft glow emanated from the fingertips of the two gods as they worked to alter the memories of their sleeping younger selves. When they finished the two older women walked a short distance from the camp to make their vortex to return home. “You know, Gabrielle, I guess this is why we don’t remember any of this happening. We chose to forget… kind of weird, huh?”
“Sure, but it makes sense,” answered the older Gabrielle. “We are who we are… we may age, but our personalities really stay pretty much the same. Hey!” she said, her eyes twinkling, “do you still have those Sappho tickets?”
“Yeeessss,” drawled the older Xena.
“Well, I was thinking, why don’t we go back a half-day earlier and catch the Sappho reading. We could avoid ourselves until late the next morning. Please, Xena… please, please, please,” begged Gabrielle doing her best puppy-dog impression.
“You’re bad…” Xena laughed. “Ok, if you really want to see Sappho that badly, we can go back early. Your idea, you create the vortex,” she said gesturing to the empty space in front of them.
Gabrielle clapped her hands with glee and threw her arms around Xena. “Thank you! My birthday just got even better!” With that the warrior-bard gestured and created a vortex that would take the pair back to midday on her birthday.
Gabrielle stared out across the water and realized that she could no longer see Japa. She lowered her gaze and studied the small jar of ashes in her hand tracing an intricate design with one finger. “Gods, Xena,” she thought, “I miss you,” a tear finding its way down her cheek.
“Gods.” Suddenly the young woman threw back her head and laughed. “Gods, that’s it! We’re Gods.” She eagerly broke the seal on the small jar and opened the container. Hesitating only a moment, she placed her fingers into the jar, touching the ashes that were her friend, her soulmate. She closed her eyes and willed the ashes to reform, taking the shape of Xena.
Gabrielle didn’t know how long she stood like that willing Xena into existence. Eventually, she felt a gentle caress on her cheek followed by her lover’s sultry voice, “I wondered how long it would take you to figure that out.”
Gabrielle opened her sea green eyes and looked into the sky blue ones of her soulmate. She threw her arms around Xena expressing through touch all the emotion the bard, for once, couldn’t say with words.
Xena hugged her friend just as tightly, saying, “I love you, Gabrielle.”
“I love you too, Xena,” breathed Gabrielle. She finally took a moment to look at her companion fully and grinned, “We’d better get some clothes on you.”
“Or some off you,” Xena said with a wicked glint in her eye.
“Either way, we should get off this deck,” answered Gabrielle. With their arms still wrapping each other tightly, they sauntered off the deck of the ship into the cabin they would now share secure in the knowledge that they would never be apart from each other again.