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: Pretty mild this time, actually.
Teaser: The new godlings take a trip to Mount Olympus and discover that Hera’s “Family Tree” has a few surprise additions.
Part two of the: And They Were Gods series (stories: Future’s Past, Family Tree)
Started: February 18, 2008 Ended: January 8, 2009
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
Gabrielle lay with her head pillowed on her lover’s shoulder. She idly traced patterns on the raven-haired woman’s chest as she remembered the events of the past few days. She couldn’t believe that it had only been a few days since she and Xena had first arrived in Japa; so much had happened to both of them in that short amount of time.
They had arrived in Higuchi in the middle of an attack by Yodoshi’s forces. Higuchi was in flames as it had been so many years before. This time Xena and Gabrielle did what they could to douse the flames of destruction. Gabrielle had been, at first, stunned when Xena asked her what she would do. It had been a long time since Xena had tested her, and never when there was a crisis of this magnitude in progress, but the petite blonde had quickly formulated a plan of action and the two of them carried it out.
It wasn’t until much later that Gabrielle realized just what Xena had done the night of their arrival. In fact, it wasn’t until after the warrior princess had not only taught her to listen to the sounds behind the sounds but also that infernal pinch. At the time Gabrielle had still been in crisis mode, and although reluctant to learn Xena’s most prized skill she had been an apt pupil. Only later, after Xena sent her on a wild goose chase away from the main battle did the full import of the raven-haired woman’s teachings dawn upon the warrior-bard. It had hit her like a ton of bricks; Xena didn’t expect to survive the day’s battle and had, once again, sent Gabrielle out of harm’s way.
Reminiscing now, Gabrielle was able to admit that subconsciously some small part of her was proud that the warrior princess finally thought her ready to be a worthy successor, but on a much more visceral level, the petite blonde did not want to go on without her soulmate. As soon as she’d realized just what was happening she went running toward the area she instinctively knew Xena to be. All she’d been able to find was Xena’s chakram covered in blood; so much blood. It wasn’t until she’d tried to return the chakram to her lover that Gabrielle knew with certainty that Xena was indeed dead. The warrior-bard was stunned. How could Xena let this happen? Gabrielle didn’t care that the ghost-catcher said that only a ghost could kill Yodoshi, that was his job. Harukata was a ghost-catcher; he should have been the one to give up his life to defeat Yodoshi, not Xena.
Gabrielle had jumped at the chance offered to her by Kenji to restore her soulmate. Retrieve Xena’s body, no problem. Climb Mt Fuji, piece of cake. Sprinkle the ashes in the Fountain of Strength, child’s play. Of course all proved more difficult than she’d first thought, but she’d done it… all except the last. The warrior princess had stopped her hand just seconds before she would have completed the ritual to save her. It was then that Xena told her of Akemi’s deceit, although Xena hadn’t seen it as deceit at the time. Akemi had given her partner some line about the 40,000 souls needing to be avenged in order to attain a state of grace and that meant that Xena couldn’t be returned to life.
More alone than she had ever been in her life, Gabrielle watched the sun set on Mt Fuji that last time and felt her soulmate disappear. Dangerous as it was, she undertook the long trek back to Higuchi that very night and reached the town at dawn. As luck would have it she ran into a monk on his way to the temple and she asked him a few questions. She learned that what Akemi had said wasn’t true, but that since the sun had set twice since Xena’s death there was no way in Japa for her to be restored. She also learned that the gods of this land had no power outside the islands on which their worshippers lived. So, if Gabrielle took Xena’s ashes home she might find another way to bring her soulmate back.
She’d intended to do just that. The warrior-bard booked passage on the first ship leaving Higuchi; intent on returning to Greece. Late that afternoon Xena had once again appeared to her and they spoke of their plans for the future, almost as if nothing had happened. Both afraid to discuss the traumatic events of the previous few days. And then she was gone, as suddenly as she had appeared. The petite blonde looked out across the water and realized that she could no longer see that hateful island.
As she contemplated the long journey ahead of her she remembered the birthday present that Ares and Aphrodite had given them. She’d had no idea if it would work. Did she still have the power of a god? She and Xena had sworn never to use the powers again once they’d defeated Velasca, but desperate times called for desperate measures. She had opened the jar and willed the ashes to reform into her soulmate. No longer conscious of the passage of time, Gabrielle stood there for what could have been an eternity or mere moments before she felt a caress on her cheek. Not daring to hope, she opened her eyes and there before her was her partner in all her resplendent glory… and naked as the day she was born. The two of them had returned to Gabrielle’s cabin, still not daring to discuss what had transpired, but grateful to be back in each other’s arms once again. They’d spent most of the night reaffirming their love for one another before finally falling asleep a few candlemarks before dawn.
Gabrielle was content to lay in her lover’s arms for their entire trip home, but knew that wouldn’t be practical. For now, though, it was bliss, to be able to run her fingers over her lover’s body was something she’d thought she might never have a chance to do again. Fortunately she had been able to counteract Akemi’s treachery.
As she lay there, she felt the changes in the raven-haired woman’s body signaling her return to wakefulness. The warrior-bard smiled and just before her lover’s eyes opened, Gabrielle kissed her. Xena returned the kiss with equal fervor.
When they parted Xena noticed the bemused expression on her partner’s face. She smoothed a wrinkle between the petite blonde’s brows and asked, “What is it, love? What has you so concerned?” When Gabrielle didn’t answer, Xena said, “Gabrielle?”
The Amazon Queen shook her head to clear it and looked at her partner. “Xena… um this probably isn’t the time to discuss this, but…”
“Yeeessss?” Xena had a way of drawing out the word that added many levels of meaning to the question.
“Um… well, this didn’t just come up today, I’ve kinda been thinking about it for a while, but haven’t said anything yet. But after everything that’s happened, I think it might be a good time to start. Don’t you agree?”
“Gabrielle,” the warrior princess chucked, “It would be easier to agree if I knew what in Tartarus you were talking about.”
“Oh,” the petite blonde blushed. “I guess I sorta left that part out, huh?” At her partner’s nod she went on, “Well, Xe, um…. I’ve been thinking that I want to have a baby. I know we won’t be separated again, but after what happened the last few days I want part of you to carry on…”
Xena studied her soulmate’s face, gently brushing hair out of the warrior-bard’s eyes. She didn’t know quite what to say. She’d been having the same thoughts, especially the night before as they made love. She’d wished that she could leave part of herself with the bard. Wished that the two of them could create life together, but that just wasn’t possible. “Uh… Gabrielle, you do realize that isn’t one of my many skills, don’t you?”
Gabrielle let out a nervous chuckle, “Yes, Xena, I do know that, but… um… I was thinking that… well… since we’re gods and all… and I already broke that promise not to use my powers again by bringing you back, that maybe, just maybe, we might be able to use them for this?”
There was such a hopeful look in the warrior-bard’s eyes that it gave Xena pause. Gabrielle really wants this. Hades, so do I. She was startled at finding herself wanting to be a… what? A father? A second mother? They’d cross that bridge if… no, when, they came to it. “Gabrielle, if you’re sure this is what you want, then we’ll figure out a way to make it happen. I have no idea how we’re gonna do this, but we’ll become a family… and this time nothing will stop us from watching our children grow up.”
“You mean that,” the petite blonde giggled. “You really mean it? We’ll find a way?”
“Yes, love. I don’t know if there’s a way for us to create a child together, but we’ll make it happen. Just promise me one thing, ok?”
“Sure, anything you ask.”
“If it turns out that we have to get some… help,” Xena nearly spat the word, “Please don’t let Ares do the deed.”
“Count on it. Ares isn’t coming anywhere near me!” Gabrielle shuddered. “Blech, just the thought. Ugh!” She thought briefly. “Hmm… maybe Aphrodite could give us some ideas? What do you say, should we go ask her?”
“Later,” Xena smiled and kissed her partner gently, glad beyond measure that her lover would at least not be faced with that one thing. Gabrielle deepened the kiss, seeking and gaining entrance to the cavern of her lover’s mouth. Soon they were caught up in the midst of a repeat performance of their night’s endeavors.
Several candlemarks later the warrior princess and the warrior-bard were sated. Xena chuckled drawing a curious glance from her partner. “You know, Gabrielle, there really isn’t any reason for us to sail all the way back to Greece, is there?”
Her soulmate joined in the laughter. “No, I guess there isn’t. Since it looks like we’re going to keep using these powers after all, should we figure out how to make them work?”
“I think so. From what I could gather from both Aphrodite and Ares all you have to do for that teleport thing is concentrate on the place you want to go. Since we want to talk to Aphrodite, I think the first place we should look is probably Mt Olympus.”
“Agreed, but the only place I’ve been there is the main hall. Teleport there, and go searching?”
The two women dressed and gathered their belongings before finally making the trip.
A slight popping noise broke the silence and when the blue and green sparkles dissipated, Xena and Gabrielle found themselves in the main hall on Mount Olympus. Looking around Xena said, “Looks like someone decided to clean up the place.”
“Huh? Oh… my memory of what it looked like is a little fuzzy, but I guess it was pretty torn up in here,” the petite blonde answered looking around her. “Well, whoever tidied up seems to have done a good job.” Gabrielle glanced around at the marble pillars and gilded sconces. She walked over to the intricately carved throne and, running a hand over its surface, said, “Well, I’ll say one thing for them… They sure had good taste,” a wry grin creasing her features.
“Yeah, guess they did,” replied Xena with a humorless chuckle. “Ya know… We didn’t get much of a chance to look around last time we were here… whadda ya say?”
Gabrielle caught the barest hint of the old sparkle in her lover’s eyes. “Sure why not? Guess we’ve got as much right as anyone now…” Now that we’re just like them, she thought.
There was only one entrance to the hall. The same entrance that Xena had used almost two years earlier when she’d brought the injured Gabrielle and Eve to Olympus with Aphrodite’s help. Has it really been two years, thought Xena. So much had happened and her life had changed in so many ways in such a short time.
Not just in the last two years, her life had been in a constant state of change ever since she met Gabrielle. She wasn’t complaining, she loved Gabrielle with all of her heart and wouldn’t change a thing, good or bad. Ok… so she might have tried to find a way to avoid the Twilight and all that had happened with that, especially missing out on twenty-five years of their daughter’s life.
Their daughter. Yes, even though Xena knew it was a physical impossibility, she had always thought of Eve as being an expression of her love with Gabrielle; that both of them were her parents. She only hoped that someday Eve could feel the same way. Could come to love both of them as mothers.
Xena shook off her melancholy turn of thought and glanced at her partner, noticing the look of glee on the petite blonde’s face as she explored every nook and cranny of the ostentatious Great Hall of the Olympians. Smiling at her partner’s excitement, Xena ambled over and placed her hands on the warrior-bard’s shoulders. “Find anything interesting?”
Gabrielle lifted her left hand to clasp that of the warrior, “You know what, Xena? I think I have.”
“What is it, love?” Xena asked peering over her wife’s shoulder. They were standing in a small alcove off the Great Hall.
“This,” answered the warrior-bard pointing at a stand holding a gilded bowl; a bowl which the petite blonde would have difficulty wrapping her arms around. “I think this is Apollo’s Bowl of Divination,” she said placing a hand on the rim of the bowl. As she did so, a ripple raced across the surface of the water and Gabrielle began to see images. She stood still, hardly daring to breath as the images danced across the liquid. “Did you see that?” she whispered when the final image faded.
“See what, Gabrielle? I saw a couple of ripples, but that’s about it,” answered the raven-haired woman in confusion.
“The bowl… you didn’t see anything in the bowl?” asked the petite blonde turning to face her lover.
“No, Gabrielle,” Xena shook her head. “All I saw was some ripples. Was I supposed to see something?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe it only works for one person at a time or you can only see the images if you’re touching it… The stories don’t really say much about how it works, just that it does… Here, Xe, why don’t you try for yourself?”
“What do I do? Just touch it like this?” the raven-haired woman asked as she stepped beside her lover and placed a hand on the rim of the bowl, just the way she’d seen Gabrielle.
After watching her lover stand that way for a few moments, Gabrielle asked, “Well? What do you see?”
“Nothing. I still don’t see anything Gabrielle. Not even a ripple this time,” Xena answered.
Frustrated, Gabrielle placed her hand on the bowl again. Once more a ripple raced across the surface and the petite blonde saw images that made her gasp and jerk her hand away. Shuddering she turned and buried her face in her lover’s shoulder.
Stroking the smaller woman’s back Xena asked, what is it, love? What did you see?”
“You didn’t see it, did you, Xena? Not even when we were both touching it?” she asked.
“I’m sorry Gabrielle, but I’m not the one with the gift of prophecy remember…” the warrior princess said trying to lighten the mood.
“That’s got to be it!” Gabrielle cried. “I didn’t even think about that… but if that’s what it was… a prophecy… No, that can’t be right. I couldn’t have seen the future, no matter what it looked like…” she trailed off.
“Why not? You’ve had prophetic flashes before. Why wouldn’t you see the future when you looked into Apollo’s bowl?”
“Because Xena, some of the… people… I saw are dead. It couldn’t have been the future, but it couldn’t really have been the past either… It’s so confusing…” the petite blonde replied. She thought for a moment then hesitantly said, “Um… Xena, while we’re here on Olympus, maybe I’d better track down Apollo and ask him about this… maybe his bowl is malfunctioning or something.”
“Sure, Gabrielle, whatever you want. I’d like to do some more exploring while we look for Apollo and Aphrodite. Care to join me?”
Gabrielle grinned. “I thought you’d never ask,” she said, taking the warrior princess by the hand and leading her out of the Great Hall. They found themselves in a narrow corridor covered in murals and tapestries with various depictions. Pointing to one, she said, “Oh, look Xena. This one tells the story of Zeus’s rise to power.”
As Xena examined the mural depicting Zeus overthrowing the Titans, Gabrielle wandered a little farther down the corridor where she found a nondescript door half hidden behind a peacock tapestry. Seeing the raven-haired woman was still engrossed in the mural, Gabrielle opened the door. She found herself in a room whose walls were covered in intertwining branches. As she moved closer to the wall, she noticed that each branch had a different name on it. She found the names of Zeus and Hera, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Ares and the rest of the Olympian gods. She also found Hercules, Bellerophon, and Perseus on the tree. Hmmm, she thought, guess this is the “family tree”…
Examining the tree further she found some other, very familiar names. “No,” she gasped and reached out a hand to trace the well worn lettering.
“What’s wrong, Gabrielle?” Xena asked, entering the small room.
“Xe…” she started. The petite blonde swallowed and tried again, “Xena, look at this.” She pointed to the newly discovered names.
The warrior princess peered at the names engraved on the branches in front of the bard’s outstretched hand. Frowning she followed the names farther back into the family tree. Warrior and bard exchanged a startled look.
“Where… there you are,” chirped Aphrodite, I’d wondered where you’d gotten to.” The smiling, scantily clad goddess sashayed into the room. When she realized which room she was in, her smile faded. She saw where Gabrielle was pointing and said, “Oh…”
Turning to her longtime friend, Gabrielle asked, “Aphrodite, does this mean what I think it means?”
“Yes.” A single word that spoke volumes.
The tableau remained frozen for several seconds before Xena broke the silence. “Care to explain?”
“You know I would, warrior babe, but I promised Apollo I’d wait for him. It’s nearly sunset. Why don’t we go over to my place and wait for him there and then we can all chat,” the Goddess of Love replied.
“Yes, let’s,” Xena said, taking Gabrielle’s hand before Aphrodite popped the three of them to her Olympian home.
Gabrielle’s head was spinning. She and Xena had been in Aphrodite’s palace for nearly half a candlemark and were still waiting for Apollo to arrive. The Goddess of Love had been attempting to make small talk about anything and everything – except that tree. For her part Xena had sat there silently, glowering at the pink clad woman. Gabrielle herself was also more quiet than normal. She kept running over the images that she’d seen in the bowl and what she’d discovered on the tree.
Finally Apollo arrived still glowing from his daily journey across the skies.
“Hey, will you tone it down a bit?” asked Gabrielle, shading her eyes.
An indiscernible look crossed the Sun God’s face as he studied the petite blonde. “Do you really need me to?” he asked.
The warrior-bard opened her mouth to answer, then closed it again. She realized that although the handsome god was glowing as bright as the sun, she really didn’t have a problem looking at him. “Hunh… I guess not. I’m just so used to shading my eyes in bright light; it must have been reflex. I’m still getting used to this god thing,” she chuckled.
“Well, I’d like you to put a hood on it, Apollo. I may be able to look at you this way, but I’d like to see you the way you really are,” Xena groused.
The Sun God did as requested revealing a tall, handsome, strawberry-blonde man with sparkling green eyes. “Better?” he asked.
“Thanks,” quipped Xena.
“Be nice,” Gabrielle whispered, bumping shoulders with her soulmate.
“So, to what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?” Apollo asked.
“Oh, you know… this and that,” Xena replied sarcastically.
“What she means is that we had something we wanted to talk to Aphrodite about, but got a little side-tracked,” Gabrielle supplied, giving her partner a significant look.
Before Apollo could ask them any more questions, Aphrodite said, “They found the tree, Bro.”
“Oh,” he said, sinking slowly onto the couch beside his sister. Looking at the two younger women, he said, “And I suppose you’d like some answers?”
“You bet your sunbeams we do, buster,” Xena hissed.
Pink sparks flashed around Aphrodite as she strode purposefully down the hall. “I’m gonna kill her,” she fumed. “I can’t believe she took my…” Aphrodite slammed the gilded door in front of her open. “Athena!” she bellowed.
Huddled beside the bed on the floor was Athena. She was curled in a ball with her back to the door and did not acknowledge her visitor.
Aphrodite couldn’t be certain, but it sounded like Athena was crying. All traces of her earlier ire drained from her as she quickly crossed the floor to kneel beside the Goddess of Wisdom. Gently placing a hand on Athena’s back she asked, “What’s wrong, Sis?”
Athena flinched at the contact, but didn’t pull away. “Nothing,” she mumbled.
“You may be my big sister, but you’re a terrible liar,” the Goddess of Love quipped.
“I’m… It’s nothing… You wouldn’t understand,” the honey-haired goddess prevaricated.
“It’s obviously something, or you wouldn’t be in tears,” Aphrodite persisted.
The older goddess gave her younger sister a long look.
As if reading her mind, Aphrodite said, “They say it helps to talk about your problems…”
Finally, reluctantly, Athena said, “I’m pregnant…”
“Ooo,” Aphrodite clapped her hands in glee. “That’s so totally awesome! It’s been too long since there were any little ones on Olympus.”
“Dite,” Athena got out through gritted teeth, “I’m not so sure this is a good thing.”
“How can it not be a good thing? It’ll be great to see kids running down the halls again…”
“The father,” the Goddess of Wisdom replied enigmatically.
“It’s not some looser, is it?”
“I guess that depends on your definition of looser,” Athena said with a half-smile. “It’s Ares…”
“Oh. Oh!” Aphrodite said as the implications hit her. Didn’t know they’d hooked up…
“I don’t know what kind of child this will be with us as parents…”
“A warrior, no doubt,” Aphrodite said. “But if you’re really worried about it, why don’t we go ask Apollo to look in his Bowl and tell us what he sees in your baby’s future?”
“I don’t want everyone knowing, Dite.”
“Look, Sis, if any of us can keep a secret it’s Golden Boy, ok?”
“I don’t know…”
“C’mon. It can’t hurt, can it?”
Getting up, Athena said, “I suppose not.”
The two goddesses tracked down their brother and Aphrodite explained that they needed him to do some scrying for them. “But we wanna do it on the QT, ok, Bro?” Aphrodite said.
Apollo agreed and when the Great Hall of Olympus was finally empty the three of them made their way to the alcove in which Apollo kept his Bowl. “Ok, ladies,” the strawberry-blonde god said, “What is it you want me to try to foretell?”
Athena looked from Apollo to Aphrodite and licked suddenly dry lips. Releasing a breath, she finally said, “I’m pregnant.”
“And you want to find out what the future holds in store for your child?” At his sister’s nod, Apollo asked, “Why?”
Athena remained silent, but the Goddess of Love stepped in to answer the question, “Because the father… is Ares.”
“Oh, that does complicate things, doesn’t it,” Apollo replied mildly. They all knew how conniving Ares could be, and could only imagine how he would use a child to gain power. “Alright Athena, step closer to the Bowl and stir its contents with your finger.”
The Goddess of Wisdom did as requested. Apollo watched the rippling water intently; his expression growing more troubled with each passing moment. Finally, Athena blurted, “What is it? What do you see?”
Tearing his eyes from his Bowl of Divination, Apollo gazed sadly at his sister. “I fear it is not good news Athena.” He looked back at the still rippling water. “If Ares ever gets his hands on this child a great evil will be loosed upon the world. She will become the Destroyer of Nations.”
Both goddesses gasped. Athena’s hand flew to her belly where she could already feel the life within her. “Isn’t there any way to keep that from happening?”
Apollo thought about his reply before speaking. Carefully he said, “The waters of prophecy are always fluid. All I know for certain is that if Ares ever gains control of this child, she will become this Destroyer of Nations. I believe that if she were to stay here and be raised on Olympus that would definitely happen, but…”
“If she were raised with mortals?” Athena asked hopefully.
“If she were raised by mortals, as a mortal, it might be possible to avert the prophecy.”
“As a mortal?” Aphrodite asked. “You mean bind her powers somehow?”
“That’s exactly what I mean, Sis. If Ares, or any of the other gods got wind of someone who’s supposed to be mortal, but has godly powers, don’t you think they’d get a little suspicious?” Apollo asked with a smile to remove any sting from his words.
Athena wasn’t sure how she felt about this solution. On one hand she didn’t want Ares to gain control of their baby, but on the other she didn’t want to give up the child either. “So, I should just pick some mortal and hand her my baby as soon as it’s born?”
“I think a little more subtlety might be in order. It would be difficult, but I suggest you pick one of your followers and have her carry the baby to term. If you say nothing to her about it, she will think the baby is hers and she will never be able to reveal the secret.”
“But I’m already a season along.”
“Even better,” Apollo said gently. “You can perform a service for one of your followers.”
“Ask the Fates which of your followers is about to miscarry and replace her baby with your own. She will give birth to a healthy baby girl and you will have successfully hidden your daughter from Ares.”
”It took a while, but Athena finally decided to give her baby to a woman in Amphipolis,” Aphrodite said.
“Cyrene,” whispered Gabrielle.
“Yes,” the Goddess of Love said reaching out to clasp Gabrielle’s hand. “Just as Cyrene’s baby died, Apollo and I helped Athena to transfer her baby - you, Xena - to Cyrene’s womb.”
“So, I have two mothers?” Xena asked perplexed.
“In a manner of speaking,” Apollo answered. “Athena conceived you, so she was your mother. But in the sense that Cyrene gave birth to you and raised you, yes she was also your mother.”
“I don’t understand… with the Twilight, why would Athena try to kill her own daughter… or granddaughter?” Xena asked.
“Ah… that.” Apollo paused. “After giving you up, Athena was distraught. She wanted to take you back and raise you herself.” Apollo smiled grimly. “But I convinced her that it was best to leave you with Cyrene. She was so… upset that she begged me to make her forget about you. Forget she’d ever conceived you. After making certain that she was absolutely sure that’s what she wanted, Aphrodite and I modified her memory… So, by the time Eve was conceived Athena had no idea you were her daughter. If I’d known what that would lead to, I’d have refused her request”
“Ok, I can buy that,” Xena said. “But your plan didn’t work. I still became the Destroyer of Nations.”
“Not the way I had hoped, no,” the strawberry-blonde god answered. “As I told Athena at the time, the waters of prophecy are not infallible. You cannot always see every outcome.”
“No, you can’t,” Gabrielle said. “It comes in bits and pieces. Sometimes clear images, but most of the time not enough to really make sense…”
Apollo glanced sharply at Gabrielle. “You’ve looked into my Bowl?”
Gabrielle blushed. “Um… yeah,” she said. “When we first got here today…”
“But only those with the gift of prophecy can see anything in it.”
“Well…” Gabrielle’s blush deepened. “I’ve always had the gift. It kinda comes and goes, but I’ve had it as long as I can remember…”
“I… didn’t realize,” Apollo said, a look of pride crossing his features. When Aphrodite elbowed him in the ribs, he said, “We should discuss this more later, Gabrielle, but right now you two want to know more about the Family Tree.”
“You got that right,” Xena quipped.
“Yes, well… I didn’t realize that Cyrene was married to a follower of Ares. I had left the decision totally up to Athena as to whom she would give her child… you, to, but I should have checked once she’d decided. It just never crossed my mind, so I didn’t know about Atrius and had no idea that Cortese would one day attack your village, nor the consequences that would bring. All I knew for sure, as I’ve said, was that if Athena raised you on Olympus Ares would have plenty of opportunity to subvert you.” Apollo gazed at Xena. “We did what we could to prevent your meeting Ares, but it wasn’t enough.”
Aphrodite added, “And as an extra precaution, Apollo and I bound your powers when you were born.”
“To keep Ares from finding me,” Xena asked, “Or to keep me from using them if he did?”
“Both.” The Goddess of Love couldn’t meet Xena’s penetrating gaze.
After a few heartbeats of silence, Gabrielle clapped her hands together once. “Ok, that mostly explains why Xena’s name is on the tree, but…”
“You want to know why you’re on there too, Sweet Pea?” Aphrodite hazarded a guess.
“Well, yeah,” she said, a little uncertainly. “Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents… but if that tree is correct, then they’re not really my parents… you and Apollo are.” The petite blonde shifted her gaze between Apollo and Aphrodite. “If that’s true, why would you give me up?” There was a wistful look in her vibrant green eyes.
Aphrodite glanced at Apollo, but he gestured for her to proceed. “Well, Little One, that had to do with Xena also.”
“I don’t understand…”
“Let me try to explain,” the Goddess of Love said. She cast her gaze down at her clasped hands and then back at her daughter. “It all started when Xena was seven…”
“Seven?” Xena interrupted. “When my father… Atrius… tried to kill me?”
“Yes,” Apollo nodded. “I don’t know if you remember, Xena, but when you and Toris were each seven, Atrius took you to the temple to be consecrated to Ares.”
“I don’t…” A thoughtful look crossed Xena’s face. “No... wait… I do remember something. It wasn’t long before he… left.”
Xena looked up at the tall stone temple in front of them. There wasn’t much adornment on the exterior other than an over-sized pair of crossed swords above the doorway. The young girl gripped her father’s hand more tightly. This was her first trip to a temple and she was nervous about it.
Atrius looked down at his daughter. He could sense her fear in the way she moved and this disappointed him. Xena showed more promise as a warrior than his firstborn, which was why he’d decided to bring his daughter to be consecrated to Ares. But he couldn’t have her being afraid of his patron god. “Xena,” he said, perhaps a little sharper than necessary. “You have nothing to be afraid of.”
“I’m not afraid,” she said, squaring her shoulders and looking at him defiantly.
“Good.” He allowed her to continue holding his hand as they walked up the steps and into the temple. The interior was decorated just as you would expect for a temple to the God of War, with skulls, shields, and all manner of weapons. They walked the length of the Great Hall, Xena somewhat reluctantly following her father. At the far end sat a massive throne carved to look like an enormous skull, and in front of the throne was a smoking brazier.
Atrius dropped to one knee before the brazier and drew his sword. Gripping the hilt awkwardly in his left hand he placed the tip in the fire and quickly slid his right palm down the blade, letting the blood drip into the brazier. “Your servant of the sword, who has brought you much glory, calls on you Lord Ares.” Roughly he grabbed Xena’s right hand in his bloody one and yanked it towards the blade.
“Father?”the raven-haired girl questioned.
“Hush,” he ordered. Before his daughter could protest he ran her hand down the blade and squeezed several drops of her blood onto the crackling flames. “Ares, I consecrate my daughter unto you, to fight for you, and bring you honor.”
There was a flash of purplish light and Xena looked up to see a tall, dark, leather-clad figure lounging on the throne where none had been before. The girl let out a squeak of surprise before she could stop herself.
The man looked at her, his intense brown eyes boring into her soul. “You’re wrong, you know,” he said as he got up from his throne.
“What?” Atrius spluttered. “But she’s already a better fighter than her brother who’s two years older.”
“Oh, she’ll be mine,” Ares laughed. The God of War slowly walked around the pair, continuing his intense scrutiny of the girl. “But you are wrong. She’s not your daughter.” Ares smirked at this remark, crossing his arms over his muscled chest and stopping to stand in front of them.
“I… don’t understand… How do you know?” asked Atrius.
“I am a GOD!” Ares bellowed. He gestured negligently at Xena’s still bleeding palm with a flick of his fingers. “I can tell you don’t share blood.”
“Who is he?” Atrius demanded. “I’ll kill the bastard.”
Ares combed his fingers through his beard. He knew that he could give any name to Atrius and get any one of several problems out of his way. Deciding against it, the God of War said, “I don’t know.” At Atrius’ look of confused outrage, Ares continued, “Hey! It’s not like I keep tabs on everyone the wives of my warriors sleep with.” He shrugged.
Atrius was boiling mad. He couldn’t mete out justice on the man who’d cuckolded him, so he would have to find his revenge another way.
“It was a long, silent journey home… and that was the last time I saw my father,” Xena finished. “I’d totally forgotten about that visit.”
“Do you think he knew…? Ares, I mean,” Gabrielle asked.
Apollo gave it some thought. “No,” he said finally, “I don’t think he knew about either the prophecy or that Xena was his daughter. If I know my brother he’d have taken Xena then and there if he’d had any idea.”
“But he knew Atrius wasn’t her father,” the warrior-bard protested.
“Oh, that was simple,” Aphrodite said, polishing her fingernails on her skimpy attire. “With Atrius putting drops of both of their blood in the fire it was simple for Ares to compare them and see they didn’t match. There wouldn’t have been any reason to compare hers to his own.”
“Whether he knew or not, that little ceremony brought Xena to his attention,” Apollo said, “and he started keeping an eye on her.” The strawberry-blonde god frowned, marring his handsome features. “Unfortunately I hadn’t been doing the same. As soon as I found out what had happened, though, I sought out my Bowl of Divination.”
Apollo strode through the halls of Olympus, glowing angrily.
“Whoa! Tone it down, Bro.” Aphrodite snapped her fingers, making a pair of sunglasses appear in her hand. Settling them stylishly on her nose, she asked, “What’s gotten you so upset?”
Pulling his sister into a side room, Apollo said, “Xena. Or rather, our dear brother. Ares has found her!”
Aphrodite gasped, “Does he know?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t think so, but he’s been keeping an eye on her. I need to see if the prophecy is back.”
“Well, you can’t go in there like that,” said Aphrodite, tilting her sunglasses down slightly and running her eyes over Apollo’s glowing figure. “Dad’s in there and all he has to do is take one look at you to know something’s up.”
Apollo took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “All right. I’ll wait here and try to calm down. In the meantime maybe you could cause a little diversion to get Dad to leave?”
“Leave it to me,” said Aphrodite with a Cheshire cat grin.
Several minutes later she returned. “Coast is clear.”
“Good.” Apollo smiled at his sister and followed her into the Great Hall. “So, what did you do anyway?”
“Eh. I told Dad that Ares had sent a hydra after young Hercules.”
They both laughed, knowing their father’s fondness for the boy.
Reaching his alcove, Apollo stirred the water in the bowl and gazed into it for several long minutes. Occasionally he would reach out and stir the water again, as if unsatisfied with what he saw.
Growing impatient, Aphrodite tugged on his arm. “Well, tell me what you see.”
Apollo shook his head. “That’s strange…”
“I still see Xena becoming the Destroyer of Nations.”
“So, Athena’s suffering was all for nothing?”
“I’m not sure…”
“Tell me!” Aphrodite stomped one pink-slippered foot in emphasis.
“I… Usually, when I use the Bowl I see images and have to interpret what I see. Sometimes I also catch a phrase like I did with ‘Destroyer of Nations’… This time, though… I saw a green-eyed, blonde haired infant grow into womanhood… and heard the phrase, ‘Only a child of light and love will tame the Destroyer’.” He paused, perplexed. “I’m not sure what that means…”
Aphrodite looked into the green eyes of the god before her. “Apollo,” she said gently, “You are the Sun God – you are ‘Light’.” She looked at him significantly, but when he said nothing, she went on, “I am the Goddess of Love. Love and Light. I think this new prophecy is talking about our child.”
“No,” Apollo said in denial. “That can’t be right…”
Taking both of his hands in her own, the pink-clad goddess asked, “Would that be so bad? Would it be so terrible for us to have a child that would be capable of stopping such a great evil as this ‘Destroyer of Nations’ will be?”
“But Xena’s not evil. I feel it. I feel the goodness in her.”
“She is still a child. Who knows what will happen to her before she grows to adulthood? We, you and I, can still try to steer Xena onto another path, but with a prophecy as strong as this seems to be, it could be that the very thing we do to change Xena’s destiny could be what sets her firmly on the road to becoming this so-called Destroyer of Nations.”
“Apollo,” the Goddess of Love interrupted, caressing his cheek, “did you see any other way to stop this in your scrying?
“No ‘buts’ is right.” Aphrodite smiled. “I’m all for love… conquering evil.” She winked. Placing her free hand on her abdomen, she said, “Our child will stop the Destroyer.”
“Dite, I haven’t agreed to this. I don’t want to father a child simply to fulfill a prophecy,” Apollo said crossly.
Turning his face to look at her, she said, “You can be so dense sometimes.”
“Apollo,” she took his hand and placed it on her belly, “I’m already carrying our child. This is not some abstract possibility for the future, our child is real. Right here, right now.”
“A baby? You’re going to have a baby?” he asked, his face lighting with glee.
“Yes, dear. I’m having our baby.”
“Now wait a minute… I thought you were married to Hephaestus?”
Aphrodite sighed, she still got depressed when she thought of his death. “I didn’t marry Heffie until several years after you were born.”
Gabrielle looked perplexed. “You mean, I’m older than Cupid?”
“Yup,” Aphrodite smiled. “He’s your little brother.”
“Half-brother. Whatever,” Gabrielle muttered. “But he always seemed older than me… Physically, that is.”
“It’s a god thing,” Aphrodite replied off-handedly.
“But according to you, Xena and I were both born gods, but we aged at the same rate as mortals.”
“True,” Apollo jumped in. “Physically you both aged just like any other mortal, because of what Dite and I did to make you blend in with them. Though the reasons were different, it was necessary for both of you, and everyone around you, to believe you were mortal.”
Xena asked, “Physically? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, there were certain things we didn’t or couldn’t control when we bound your powers,” Apollo replied. “We took care of the obvious things like casting fireballs or similar godly things. We also altered your rate of growth, your strength, and physical abilities to make you appear ‘normal’. We never tried, nor wanted to alter your intelligence, so in that respect you were both ahead of your age-mates.” He smiled.
“You can say that again,” the warrior-bard muttered. “I never fit in with the other kids. Not only did I always want to know more and do more, I just didn’t think like them.”
“I know Sweet Pea.” Aphrodite reached out a hand to her daughter, but stopped the gesture before making contact. “I saw how difficult things were for you and wanted to help you, but…”
“But?” Gabrielle asked.
“But Apollo and I fought over that and a few other things concerning you.”
“Is that why you two broke up? Over me?” The petite blonde looked from one to the other. “What did you fight about?
“Whoa, chica. One at a time.” The Goddess of Love held up her hands in a warding gesture. “I think if I tell the rest of the story I can answer most of your questions.”
Xena leaned back against the couch, pulling Gabrielle with her. “We’re all ears.”
“Right.” Aphrodite nodded. “After you were conceived Gabrielle, Apollo and I decided it would be best if I left Olympus for a while. He wouldn’t tell me why, but insisted that it would be better for the other gods to know nothing about the pregnancy right then. At the time I thought that I was going to raise you myself.” She smiled. “I was so happy. I couldn’t wait to see you and teach you everything I know.”
Xena let out a strangled cough and received a jab to the ribs with another whispered, “Be nice.”
If she noticed the interruption, Aphrodite said nothing. “Although I didn’t see the sense in leaving, I finally agreed and moved into one of my favorite temples. While crashing there I noticed this one woman who came in every week praying for me to help her have a child.
“Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore and asked her why she was coming to me. It wasn’t my gig, ya know? So, anyway, this woman reminded me that she had served faithfully in that very temple for many years before finally falling in love and getting married. But unfortunately she and her husband couldn’t have children. So I promised I’d look into it for her.
“So, anyway, a few more months went by with me hiding out in this temple until you were born. From the moment I saw you, I loved you. You were perfect. So precious and pure… Everything any mother could want.”
Xena hugged Gabrielle tighter at this statement.
“When you were about two months old Apollo told me he’d been gazing in the Bowl again.”
Aphrodite reclined on a low divan in her private chamber, her baby nursing hungrily. “Ooo, you’ve got a healthy appetite, don’t you, Little One.” The baby gurgled happily in response, before latching onto the exposed nipple once again.”
There was a golden glow in the center of the room and Apollo appeared. He smiled when he saw Aphrodite and their child. He strode across the room and sat down beside them, reaching out one long finger for the baby to grasp. Stroking her fine golden locks, he said, “Hello, Gabrielle. How’s my girl?”
The baby released the nipple she had been feasting on with a wet plop and reached for her father. He happily complied and expertly burped the baby while Aphrodite rearranged herself. The baby let out a good belch and Apollo brought her down to cradle in his arms.
Once Gabrielle was asleep however, Apollo knew he could stall no longer. “Dite, I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
“What? Is Ares asking where I am again?”
“I wish it were that.” Apollo sighed. “I’m afraid I’ve been looking in the Bowl again…”
“It seems that even though she will be greatly influenced by Ares, Xena will grow up to distrust the gods.” He paused and looked at his peacefully sleeping daughter. “I’m afraid that Gabrielle won’t have a chance with her if our little one is raised on Olympus…”
“Ok, so I’ll raise her down here? What’s twenty or so years among mortals?”
“You don’t understand. Dite, Gabrielle can’t even know she is a god or it will ruin any chance she has of stopping the Destroyer of Nations. She has to believe she is mortal… Has to be mortal for this to work.”
“Apollo. no,” Aphrodite wailed, shaking her head in denial. “I can’t lose her.” She reached for her daughter, but Apollo held the baby back from her.
“Dite,” Apollo gave her as stern a look as he could manage, though his own heart was breaking, “Would you sacrifice the world so that our daughter can remain with us?”
In tears, Aphrodite asked, “Isn’t there another way?”
“I’m sorry. I searched for hours, but couldn’t find anything that would allow us to keep little Gabrielle and still stop Xena.”
Aphrodite was quiet for a long time. When she finally spoke, she said, “Alright. I don’t like it, but if there is no other way, then I know who I’ll give our little Sweet Pea to.”
“So, we bound your powers, and the next time Hecuba came to visit me, I told her that a dying mother had left a baby girl in one of my temples. I asked Hecuba if she would give the baby a good home, even though she hadn’t given birth to you.”
“Obviously she agreed,” Xena said, placing a kiss on the crown of her partner’s head.
“They always loved me and treated me well,” Gabrielle said, patting one of Xena’s encircling arms. “But I don’t understand, Aphrodite… You said my parents… Herodotus and Hecuba… couldn’t have children, but I remember when my mother gave birth to Lila.” Gabrielle blushed. “I was curious about all the noise and snuck into the room. No one even noticed I was there until Lila was finally feeding for the first time.”
“That’s my Gabrielle,” Xena said fondly. “Curious about everything.”
“And that also explains Lila,” Apollo interjected.
“Excuse me?” the soulmates asked in unison.
“Let me back up a bit. Apollo didn’t know it at the time, but when you were little I used to visit you a lot.” Aphrodite smiled at the memory. “Do you remember the widow Medora?”
Gabrielle pondered the name for several moments. “Oh, yeah. She lived about two miles down the road from us when I was young. She used to come over once a week or so when I was little… Wait, are you saying that was you?”
In answer, Aphrodite morphed briefly into a middle-aged woman, dark hair just beginning to show streaks of gray. “You got it, babe.” She resumed her normal appearance. “I agreed with Apollo that you should be raised as a mortal, but I hadn’t agreed to stay out of your life.”
Gabrielle smiled. “Thanks for keeping tabs on me.”
“You were my baby; I didn’t want to lose you.”
Only Apollo saw the pained expression cross Xena’s face as she thought of both Solan and Eve… and of Hope, her partner’s child, whom Xena had forced Gabrielle to give up instead of watching her daughter be killed.
“But that still doesn’t explain Lila…” Gabrielle prodded.
“You’d been begging for months for a baby brother or sister. No matter how many times Hecuba told you it wasn’t to be, you just wouldn’t give up.”
Kissing her head again, Xena said, “That’s one of the things I love about you, Gabrielle. Your determination.” This elicited a chuckle from the warrior-bard.
“So, one day when I was visiting, you climbed into Hecuba’s lap like normal, and were pestering her for a baby. You kept patting her stomach and the next thing I knew her belly glowed. We were both speechless for a moment, but you just smiled, slid off her lap, and started to play with your doll… telling it you were finally going to have a baby sister.”
“What?” Gabrielle shrieked.
“I never figured out what you did… or even how you did, because your powers were supposed to be bound. But you did something that allowed Hecuba to conceive that one time.” Aphrodite shrugged.
“When Dite told me what you’d done I was livid. Oh, not at you Little One,” he said turning to his daughter. “At Aphrodite for interfering in your life. I told her that the other gods would become suspicious if any of them discovered her visits.” He frowned in recollection. “We had a terrible fight…. And I guess that was the end of us as a couple.”
“You fought because Aphrodite wanted to keep seeing me?” Gabrielle asked incredulously.
“Yes,” answered Apollo.
“I didn’t stop though. At least not right then anyway. I cut back on my visits, sure, but continued to come for the next few years until Ares finally cornered me and asked where I kept disappearing to. I figured if he’d noticed then some of the others were bound to as well.”
“Ok, so that explains why you gave me up, but if you kept tabs on me all my life, I don’t understand why you were so… well… mean to me the first few times we met after I left home…”
“Ah, but I hadn’t. You were about six summers old when Ares caught me. As much as it pained me, I broke all contact with you… to keep you safe. I never even visited that temple near Poteidaia again.
She paused lost in thought. “Not a day went by that I didn’t think about you. Wonder what you were doing. Wondered what you looked like when you grew up… So, when we met over that whole Sarpedon/Ileandra thing, I had no idea you were my Gabrielle. It’s not exactly a common name, but it’s not like it’s completely unheard of either.” She winked at her daughter.
“You really didn’t know?” the petite blonde asked in surprise.
“No, Sweet Pea. I didn’t know until that little mix-up with Alesia. When we were traveling together you mentioned something to her about Poteidaia and I figured it out then.”
“With a little help,” Apollo said taking her hand in his.
“Oh, all right. I thought it might be you, so I asked Apollo for his opinion,” she stuck her tongue out at the strawberry-blonde god.
“I had never told Dite this, but I watched you every chance I got from my chariot. I didn’t interfere or come in direct contact with you, but I did watch you grow up from that precocious young girl to the beautiful woman you are today.”
Gabrielle blushed, but smiled at her father. “Thanks.”
“It’s true, you know,” Xena whispered in her ear.
“So I was able to confirm for Dite that you were indeed our daughter.”
“And that’s when you started to change the way you acted around me?”
“You got it, Little One,” the Goddess of Love replied.
In the corner of the room a purplish light glowed and Ares materialized. “Is this a private party, or can any god join in?” he jested.
“Sure, Ares, you might as well be part of this. You are anyway,” Gabrielle said.
Ares glanced at the warrior-bard for a moment before shifting his gaze to Xena. “Hello, Xena,” he said with his usual half-sneer, half-lust filled tones. “Have you finally come to take your rightful place on Olympus?”
“Ares,” Xena drawled. “We just came for a visit, but Aphrodite and Apollo here have been treating us to some family history. To say it’s been enlightening would be an understatement.”
“Oh, really?” Ares asked. Turning to his sister, he said, “So, Sis, have you finally decided to tell Gabrielle the truth?”
The Goddess of Love let out a little gasp before composing herself and asking, “What are you talking about, Bro?”
“Oh, you know, Sis… like the fact that she’s your daughter?” he answered as he crossed his arms and leaned back against a pillar.
“How did you find out,” growled Apollo.
“I’m not the idiot you all seem to think I am,” Ares said.
Under her breath Xena said, “That’s debatable.”
Choosing to ignore the interruption Ares went on, “The first time I tried to tempt you with a taste of godhood,” he said looking at Gabrielle, “I began to suspect something was different about you. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew it was too easy to let you feel that power.” He turned to look at Aphrodite, “Then when Gabrielle lay dying in your arms after that thing with the Furies I could see it in your eyes. You weren’t grieving for a friend; you were grieving for your daughter.” He looked smug at his deduction.
Gabrielle stood up and faced the God of War. “Ya know, Ares,” the warrior-bard sneered, “for once you got things right.”
“Gabrielle, what are you doing?” Apollo chastised.
“Stop it, will you? Just stop it,” she said to the strawberry-blonde god. “The prophecy you two were so worried about has come and gone. I think it’s time everyone here knows exactly who they’re dealing with.”
“That’s not a good idea…” Apollo spluttered.
“Why not?” Xena asked mildly. “Gabrielle’s right… though I’m not sure I really want to lay claim to him,” she said, jerking her thumb at Ares.
“Lay claim,” the God of War said, “I think I like that.” He laced his fingers and stretched them out in front of him like a maestro preparing to perform.
Gabrielle took three steps to close the distance to him. “It’s not what you think,” she said, jabbing her finger into his chest. “She’s still my wife and nothing you say or do will ever change that.” The petite blonde crossed her arms on her chest and managed to stare down her nose at him even though the God of War towered over her by nearly a foot.
“Feisty,” Ares said in admiration. “I like it. I knew there was a reason I kept you around all these years.”
“Why, you…” Gabrielle lit a fireball in one hand, ready to throw it at the God of War, but was stopped by a gentle touch on her arm.
“He’s not worth it, Gabrielle.” Xena soothed her partner.
Gabrielle released a long breath and the fireball dissipated. “You’re right, love.”
Oh, pah-leeze,” Ares said. “What’s with the lovey-dovey crap?”
“Can it, Ares,” Xena warned.
“That’s enough Ares,” Apollo said at the same time.
“Fine. Whatever,” Ares snapped. “So, now you know, Gabrielle. You’re Aphrodite’s brat. Which made you a demi-god before that thing with Velasca.”
“Full god, actually.” Gabrielle smirked.
“No. Last time I checked godly mother plus mortal father equals demi-kid,” he replied condescendingly.
“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong, Ares. Apollo is my father.”
Ares stared at her for several moments then looked at his brother. “Well I’ll be damned.”
“That can be arranged,” Xena muttered.
Ignoring the warrior princess, Ares said, “She’s got your eyes, Bro. I don’t know why I never saw it before.”
“And his smile,” Aphrodite chimed in, squeezing Apollo’s hand which she still held in her own.
“Yada, yada. Whatever,” dismissed the God of War. Turning he said, “So, Xena, for all your distrust of us, you ended up marrying a god anyway.” He lifted a hand to cup her chin. “Too bad it wasn’t me.”
“Not a chance, Ares,” Xena said pulling away from him and slipping an arm around her soulmate.
Trying to provoke her, he asked, “How does it make you feel knowing you’ve been married to something you detest for years?”
“I love Gabrielle as much now as I did the day we were joined.” She placed a kiss on her wife’s head. “As for her being born a god, she had no control of that, and she didn’t know about it until today. So, to answer your question, I’m fine with it.”
“Hunh. Who’d have thought,” muttered the God of War.
Turning to Apollo and Aphrodite, Xena said, “You know what really irks me? The only reason I beat him when I tricked the Furies into believing he was my father… was because he really is my father.”
“WHAT?” thundered Ares.
“That’s not true,” Apollo said at the same time.
“Damn right it’s not,” Ares groused. “I never went near Cyrene.”
“Well, that’s probably true, Ares,” the raven-haired woman said.
“Xena, are you sure this is wise?” Apollo asked.
“Look, Apollo, like Gabrielle said, that prophecy has come and gone. It’s time he knew.”
“Know what?” Ares whined. “What are you talking about?”
“All right Xena. I’ll leave it up to you,” the strawberry-blonde god relented.
“Ares, you might want to sit down for this,” Xena said. She gestured with her right hand and a chair appeared behind the God of War, knocking him into its seat.
“Nice one,” Gabrielle said.
“Thanks.” Xena smiled warmly at her partner. Focusing back on Ares she said, “I believe you when you say you never went near my mother… Cyrene, but you have ‘gone near’ plenty of others… including Athena.”
“Well, sure, but I didn’t… She never… She would’ve told me, wouldn’t she?” The last part came out in an uncharacteristic squeak.
“You did. She did. And, no, she wouldn’t have,” Xena replied. “Think about it Ares. A child of the God of War and the Goddess of Wisdom and Warfare?”
“And weaving… don’t forget the weaving,” Ares said stalling for time.
Xena leaned over him. “And weaving, can’t leave that out now can we?” She smiled menacingly. “Athena was understandably concerned when she found out she was carrying your baby, so she went to Apollo here to find what was in store for her child… me.” Xena paused for effect. “Low and behold, the Sun God here discovered that if you ever got your hands on me I’d become… get this… the Destroyer of Nations. Sound familiar?” She pushed his head back with one hand. “They tried to hide me from you, but it didn’t work. I went down that path until first Hercules pointed me in another direction, and then Gabrielle walked beside me on my new path as my guide.” Xena stood up once again and embraced her soulmate.
“Fa…Fa…Father? You’re kidding, right?” Ares almost begged.
“Afraid not,” Gabrielle sighed. “I’m stuck with you for a father-in-law.”
Ares was lost in thought, thinking of all the times he’d matched wits or crossed swords with Xena. It was still hard to believe, but with a false sense of bravado, he said, “Chip off the old block, huh?”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Xena snapped. “I just wish it wasn’t this damned Olympian blood that helped me defeat you.”
“About that,” Apollo interrupted. “It didn’t. Your powers were bound, Xena. Physically you were completely mortal. It was pure skill based on hard work and effort that allowed you to defeat him and to perform all the other amazing things you did.” Turning to his daughter, the Sun God added, “Same for you Gabrielle. Until your last birthday you were both completely normal, by human standards. You just trained yourselves to be able to perform incredible feats.”
“Wow,” the warrior-bard breathed.
“I need time to think about this,” Ares said before vanishing in a burst of purplish light.
“What?” Xena asked.
“Just wait until he realizes he’s a grandfather,” the warrior-bard joked.
Both women missed the glance exchanged between Apollo and Aphrodite. “About that…” Aphrodite started.
“Yes, about that,” Gabrielle said, turning back to face them. “I wanted to ask you… On the tree…” She glanced at her soulmate. “It shows Solan branching off one side of Xena, and… well… Hope branching off the other side from me…” She paused looking down at her hands.
“It’s ok, Gabrielle,” Xena said, soothing her partner with comforting circles on her back.
“Thanks.” Gabrielle sniffed, wiping a lone tear from her eye. It’s still so hard thinking of them. “But… Eve… her branch is between ours. That doesn’t make sense… I mean, she’s Xena’s daughter… shouldn’t she be on the outside, beside her brother?”
“No. The tree is never wrong, Sweet Pea,” Aphrodite said, smiling at her daughter.
“But, I don’t understand. I’m not… I couldn’t…” the warrior-bard fumbled for words.
“I think, love, Aphrodite’s trying to tell us that you are Eve’s other parent,” Xena replied, hugging her soulmate. “I’ve always considered her to be ours anyway.” Shifting her gaze to Aphrodite, the raven-haired woman asked, “It’s something like it was with Lila, wasn’t it?”
“I’m not sure, but I think it was… a little bit,” the Goddess of Love replied. “I think it has something to do with Gabrielle’s love for others mixed with a desire for children.”
“But… Lila’s not my daughter, is she?” Gabrielle squeaked.
“Oh, no, Little One,” Aphrodite said. “With you and Xena, it was your love for each other that made Eve possible. With Lila, you did something that made it possible for Hecuba to conceive Herodotus’ child.”
“What?” asked Gabrielle.
“So, I was telling the truth when I told Ares you got the job of being Eve’s father.”
Gabrielle rolled her eyes. Growing suddenly shy she asked her mother, “So… um… does that mean we’ll… um… be able to have another child someday? Maybe, with me as the mother?”
“Oh, definitely,” Apollo said, exchanging another significant look with Aphrodite.
“Alright,” Xena said, “What’s with the looks?”
Aphrodite smiled as she stood up and crossed to Gabrielle. Taking both of the petite blonde’s hands in hers, she said, “Congratulations.”
“Huh? What for,” asked the warrior-bard.
Apollo smiled and rose to join them. Placing a hand on her shoulder he said, “Maybe you should take another look at the Family Tree.”
“Why?” Gabrielle asked, growing irritated.
“Just look at the tree. Closely,” Aphrodite said with a wink.
Glancing at her soulmate, Gabrielle shrugged and transported both of them directly to the room with Hera’s tree. “I’m really not sure what we’re looking for here.”
“I don’t know either. Aphrodite said, ‘Congratulations.’ Maybe Eve’s making us Grandmothers?” Xena joked.
“Ugh. Been there, done that. Don’t want a repeat anytime soon.” Gabrielle shuddered at the thought of her grandson the Destroyer.
“Sorry, love, didn’t mean to make you think of that,” Xena apologized.
“S’ok, Xena. I know you didn’t,” the petite blonde replied placing a kiss on her partner’s cheek. Turning she faced the tree once again. Peering intently at it, her eyes grew wide just before she fainted.
Xena caught her wife and lifted her with no difficulty. Trying to see what had upset Gabrielle, Xena scrutinized the tree and found it. She saw where their branches twined together. Between them as expected was Eve’s branch. It technically came off the warrior princess’ branch, but was between her own and that of the warrior-bard. The startling thing was that Eve’s branch was not alone. Just barely discernable was another new branch budding from Gabrielle’s side of their union.
The Goddess of Love laughed aloud, but did not appear.