by Blindzon Elyzon
Disclaimer: I give full credit to the folks at MCA Universal and of course Ren Pictures for the creation and characters of Xena, Warrior Princess. In no way am I trying to steal from them any thunder and/or profit by the writing of this story. So basically I am saying, no copyright infringement was intended.
Subtext Warning: Yes, a loving relationship is more than implied in this story between two consenting, adult women. If you are under 18 or this is illegal in your state/country, or you may be offended by it, you may want to choose something else to read.
Acknowledgments: Kam, thanks once again for all your help. Your slave driving techniques work all to well. By the way, where did you say you wanted that cotton planted? I’m also going to thank Sam who is a real pain in the butt, but I couldn’t do this without her. (Sam is my computer speech program that drives me nuts sometimes)
Feedback: Yes, I greatly enjoy and welcome it. BlindzonElyzon@aol.com
"I’m getting way too old for this," Xena said as she stood and cracked her back while stretching. Another night on the cold ground next to the campfire, under a clear, star filled night had somehow lost its appeal, especially when it came time to start moving in the morning.
Xena remembered when she looked forward to being on the road, in the great outdoors, but now, well, it seemed to be taking its toll on her aging warrior body. "I need to get the blood circulating," she mumbled to herself. In a slightly crooked manner, she began moving away, from the bedrolls and the snoring Gabrielle so as not to disturb her. As she walked, she felt each little ache from an injury sustained in some battle or another. She felt her legs creak; the dull reminder where Caesar’s men had done their handiwork when they had crucified her the first time.
"I guess the good thing about dying from that second crucifixion is that nothing extra hurts," Xena said as she leaned on a tree trunk for support and stooped to massage her aching legs. She began to chuckle to herself, "You know what? I eat right, because Gabrielle makes me. I get plenty of exercise, so, so much for what they say about healthy living."
The tall, dark warrior had always presented her foes with a menacing visage of strength and power. "Gods, if they could see me now," she said shaking out her arms and hands, hoping to loosen the battle worn muscles.
The once raven haired, bronzed warrior had succumbed to the onslaught of time of time. The silver that adorned her now shorter locks gave her the appearance of a woman who had lived a very long and fulfilling life. There was nothing frail in her appearance, inner strength and beauty radiated from this powerful woman. The clarity and sharpness that had always shone in her eyes remained, and revealed a soul that had seen and learned much.
Xena had held many titles, Destroyer of Nations, Warrior Princess, Defender of the Faith, all portraying chapters of her life that signified who she was or had become. But the titles she held now meant more to her than anything else in her life. To Gabrielle, she was companion and lover. To Eve, she was mother and mentor. And to the newest addition of their family, Grace, she was grandmother.
She looked down at her hands and arms noting each scar given by an attacker from her past who likely resided in Tartarus now. Many of the injuries had healed without leaving a mark, and the others served as distant reminders of the years she had mostly put behind her.
Grasping her fingers and giving each one a quick tug, Xena continued to work out the kinks in her body. Again she chuckled, "Yeah, pull my finger," and she let loose that which had been trapped and building overnight.
Sniffing, she decided it would be best to move a little upwind from her current position.
Xena began the routine she had developed many years ago to keep her body fit and ready for action. She had modified it only slightly and out of necessity. She knew she was capable of her flips, but didn’t relish the idea of the jarring movement, and in all honesty, she couldn’t recall the last time she even found it remotely necessary to perform such an act. "Trouble doesn’t seem to follow me like it used to." she said sighing in mild disappointment. "What happened to me?"
"You got old and obsolete," a husky voice replied.
The hackles on her neck had risen moments before, but she had shook it off and ignored what had been an old warning she thought was no longer needed. Instead of listening to her instincts, she was startled to hear a response coming from behind her and turned quickly to face the speaker. "Ares!"
Before her was the God of War, who had pursued her for so long and had disappeared many years ago. He remained relatively unchanged, standing before Xena with the same bravado and cocky posturing he had always presented. The alterations in his appearance were minor, some graying in his hair around the temples and beard. The once mane-like hair now slightly receding. And Xena detected a bit of a paunch in Ares’ midsection.
"It seems as if the years are catching up with you too" Xena spoke as nonchalantly as possible, in an attempt to cover her off-guard surprise. "I thought somebody would have killed you by now, without your immortality to protect you."
Ares clutched at his chest, mocking the pain of Xena’s words cutting into him. "Ouch, Xena. And here I was hoping to have a warmer reunion of sorts with you." The once mighty war god still had it in him to pass a leering gaze over the warrior’s body.
Xena returned his gaze with icy blue eyes and replied, "How many ways can one former god be turned down?" Xena held up her hand and began to recount the times she had just said, "No," and began by using her middle finger to emphasize number one.
Mouth gaping, Ares quickly clapped it shut and cleared his throat. "I don’t think there is a need to get all nostalgic here," he said shifting uncomfortably.
Lowering her hand again, Xena smiled wryly and asked, "It’s been years since I’ve seen you, why are you here, Ares? What is it that you want now?
The War God’s expression changed, softening, replacing smug confidence with an air of sincerity. It was a look that did not come naturally to him and looked awkward, but Xena felt it to be true.
Ares walked over to a nearby fallen tree and sat down upon its trunk. He gestured with a sweeping motion to request Xena to sit with him. Hesitating momentarily, she agreed and moved to his side, but slightly further away than he had indicated. She noted the small sigh her action had elicited.
"I see you are still as direct as ever Xena," Ares said with a knowing smile, "I believe it was me who gave you focus, it’s good to know you still haven’t lost it over the years."
Xena sat quietly, with no reply. She had known Ares too long, his tricks, his ability to manipulate, his charms, and she knew that there was something he wanted. Sooner or later, Ares would reveal his hand. In the meantime, she would just wait and listen until she could determine what it was.
The two of them sat in silence for a few minutes. Ares had begun to speak several times and each time he abruptly closed his mouth as quickly as he opened it. He fidgeted, changing his sitting position in a miserable attempt to relax. Finally, taking a deep breath, he blurted it out.
"I’m getting old!"
The once mighty immortal, who struck terror in the hearts of man, who rallied warlords to do his bidding, and swaggered while doing so, was now reduced to whining. It wasn’t pretty.
Xena sat there, momentarily taken aback. She tried to suppress the laughter welling up inside her without success. Finally, spluttering and guffawing, she could not contain her amusement at this revelation. Every attempt she made to calm the boisterous laughter resulted in another spraying of spittle as she again lost control. Holding her sides from the ache of laughter, Xena was eventually able to regain some composure, only snickering occasionally.
Ares was indignant at this display toward his revelation. He stood up in disgust at such behavior and insensitivity. The quickness of his action however brought about the final humiliation, for in his earlier attempts to become more comfortable, he straddled the tree trunk. His springing up sprung a vital muscle, and he grabbed at his groin, yelping in pain.
The sight and sounds of Ares’ agonizing cries, sent the weakened warrior into another tirade of unbridled laughter. Unable to hold herself upright, Xena slipped backwards off the trunk and became entangled in the trees branches. She lay there, unmoving except for the latest wave of giggles, waiting to regain her strength.
Finally, Xena’s reserves returned, and she disentangled her sprawled limbs from the tree. Pulling herself up, she brushed dried leaves from her hair and clothing, and shifted all her wares back into place.
Ares had stumbled about ten paces from his original spot before collapsing on the ground. He sat there holding himself, his expression pain filled and rather childlike. Xena did her best to ignore the groans emanating from the fallen god and asked, "You don’t expect me to kiss it and make it better do you?"
Ares look shot daggers in Xena’s direction. His only response was a feeble, "Oh ha."
He made no attempt to get up from the ground, although he did turn slightly in the opposite direction. Sitting there, shoulders slumped, Xena thought she detected a quivering motion in his back. She couldn’t help her rolling eyes response and felt mildly guilty for having done it.
Xena said muttering under her breath, "Nothing worse than seeing a grown god cry," and with that, she walked to his side and sat down. Not wanting to add more insult to injury, Xena ignored Ares attempts to wipe away the tears.
"Must have gotten something in my eye" Ares said, rather predictably.
Xena shrugged off the statement and started over. "Ares, why are you here?"
Without hesitation, Ares responded, "Look at me and what I’ve been reduced to." The humbled deity threw out his arms in an expression of pathetic disgust. "I was born to live forever, rule the world, have mortals cower before me and pay homage," he said, exasperated, "but instead, I’m a middle-aged mortal!"
"Going through a bit of a mid-life crisis," she added quietly.
Ares looked at her sideways, not wanting to fully acknowledge the truth of the comment. "All I’ve ever wanted was power and some feared respect thrown in, is that asking too much?" He had begun to stand up, momentarily forgetting his injured pride, and was quickly reminded with a shooting pain in his ‘godhood’. A groan escaped his lips and once again, he was reduced to immobility.
Xena was better prepared to resist the urge to laugh this time. She bit her tongue to help maintain the focus she needed.
Ares continued, "I had it all, Xena, and I gave it up, all for..." his words trailed off.
"Yeah" was all he uttered.
Xena remembered the sacrifice Ares had made to save Gabrielle and Eve’s lives. His healing them without the permission of Athena resulted in the loss of his immortality.
Xena had not seen Ares since that day on Mount Olympus, not until now. She had expected him to pursue her more than ever to give him an heir. She believed he would have used her indebtedness to try and acquire what he wanted. But he disappeared. She had heard the stories of alleged sightings of the former god, an older, heavier version of what she had known, and of women claiming that he came to them while sleeping, but she knew these were most likely myths. Now she wondered if there was some truth in them.
They both sat there, lost in their own thoughts.
Xena was the first to speak again. "Ares, I am grateful for what you did and always will be" she paused briefly, "but why are you here now?"
He turned to face her, grimacing and grunting slightly. "I have children", the air of arrogance returned with a smile as he continued, "many, many children, but none of them are worthy to be my true heir."
Xena’s honed instincts tingled with the approaching danger before her. She finally knew what direction this conversation was heading in and felt the bile rise in her throat.
Taking her hand in his, Ares looked deeply into Xena’s eyes and said, "There has only been one woman worthy of me, and she’s the one who is worthy of giving me an heir. I’ve always tried to coerce you, or threaten you for a child, but this time I am simply asking. With no strings attached. Xena, give me a child."
Withdrawing her hand from his grasp, remembering where it had just been, Xena sat there, stone faced and unmoving. Her searing blue eyes focused on nothingness. Even her breathing had slowed and Ares was unsure how to read this curious behavior of the woman before him. He had anticipated more laughter, or anger at the very least, but this was not what he had predicted. What came next threw him even further off balance.
"Are you OUT of your ever lovin’ MIND?"
Both Xena and Ares turned in unison to face a red-faced bard who was obviously fuming. Gabrielle’s green eyes were showing more than jealousy. Confusion and rage danced in the mix of emotions.
Gabrielle’s appearance over the years had changed from youthful girlishness to a radiant mature woman. Her wholesome demeanor had grown into a more wise and knowing expression and her body maintained its muscular physique. The blonde hair still shone brightly with the reflection of the sun’s light, but it revealed strands of silver throughout the shoulder length.
At this particular moment, the stern, grim look Gabrielle was directing their way, made Xena wonder how the laugh lines managed to appear around the bard’s eyes in the first place. And considering all the times Gabrielle had given her that look of disapproval, why she didn’t have more gray hair than she already did.
Ares was the first to speak, "Well if it isn’t the little irritating used to be blonde." A smirk crossed his lips and broke into a self-satisfied grin.
Gabrielle only glared at the God of War and then turned her attention to a now somewhat meek warrior princess. "Xena, may I have a word with you...in private?" It was less of a question and more of a demand, and the warrior had fought enough battles in her lifetime to know when to stand her ground. This wasn’t one of them.
Xena rose to her feet and walked past the smaller woman, avoiding making eye contact and heading back towards the camp they had made for the night. It was only a two-minute walk, but with the silence between them Xena was beginning to feel they would never get there.
Once there, she wished the camp had been further away.
Dread had set in and the warrior braced herself for what was shaping up to be an endless lecturing by the verbose bard.
But the short walk had helped the bard calm down and gather her thoughts. The initial need to verbally berate Xena had passed and she was able to calmly ask, "Xena, is there something you would like to discuss with me?"
Xena stared at her companion, somewhat disoriented. She had not expected Gabrielle to ask her anything. Instead she had prepared a defensive strategy to handle this situation, but the directness of the question threw her, and all she could do was tell the truth.
"Gabrielle, I’m not getting any younger and I can feel changes in my body. I have some regrets in my life... but I have learned not to dwell on them because I can’t change the past. But I can choose my future." Xena hesitated a moment to collect her thoughts. "I’ve decided I want to have another chance at motherhood."
Gabrielle stared up at the woman before her with almost no trace of expression. Slowly her brow began to furrow as she fought to process this information. After several moments of silence, the bard spoke softly at first, enunciating every word.
"Xena, have you suddenly become...STARK RAVING MAD?"
With that Gabrielle began a maniacal march around their campsite, gesturing wildly and muttering incomprehensibly. Occasionally Xena was able to translate the bard’s new language, but then she would wish she hadn’t.
Words and questions such as "...old woman.... Is she trying to drive me insane?... that arrogant son of a bachae... If she thinks I’m going to get up at night..." all spewed out of Gabrielle’s mouth as if she had turned rabid.
Xena tried to interject a comment occasionally, but thought twice about it as she cringed from the incensed glare cast from those usually warm and inviting green eyes. Instead, she stood mute, as the normally calm Gabrielle ranted while circling her.
The processional around the very stoic warrior slowed as Gabrielle either ran out of words or possibly steam. Xena wasn’t exactly sure which, but was not going to interfere with the bard’s de-escalation by asking a question now. The bard’s pacing stopped and brought her directly in front of the somewhat sheepish taller woman. Eyes closed and hands grasped in front of her, Gabrielle appeared as if she was meditating to regain some semblance of control.
Taking a long, cleansing breath and then opening her eyes, Gabrielle tried again to communicate calmly. "Now Xena," she paused to take another cleansing breath, "I know how you had to come to terms with not raising either of your children and how very difficult that was for you."
Xena just stood there dumbly nodding her head in agreement. She still knew this wasn’t the right time for her to begin talking.
Gabrielle continued, "I can understand your need to have another chance to be a mother and that Ares is the first man in a long," she hesitated, "very, very long time, that has propositioned you." Reaching for Xena’s hand, the smaller woman held it firmly between hers as if to show her support, "but you’ve got to get a grip on reality!"
Gabrielle watched as Xena still stood there, eyes blinking. Gabrielle had begun to question Xena’s true hair color and wondered if it had been of the lighter variety at one time, when the warrior’s uncomprehending trance seemed to wear off.
Xena looked deeply into her companion’s eyes and replied, "What do you mean? It’s been a long time? Just the other day, there was this guy..."
"Hey, Xena. Stay with me here," Gabrielle said, lightly slapping Xena’s hand to regain her attention, "What I mean is, these are supposed to be our golden years. No responsibilities, no thugs, warlords, or gods to contend with. Just time for the two of us to be together doing what we want, when we want. You know?"
Xena nodded slowly, "Yeah, but..."
Gabrielle interrupted, still on a roll, "But nothing. How long have we known each other, more than 20 years? We’ve been through a lot together, for Petra’s sake, I’ve followed you to Tartarus and back, and not just once! You’ve done many craz..." she stopped to rethink her wording, "...daring things in your lifetime, and I’ve enjoyed the ride. But Xena, I’m ready to settle it down just a bit."
The bard’s voice had softened, no longer angry or annoyed. The warm and sensitive Gabrielle had returned. Still holding Xena’s hand in hers, the smaller woman began stroking it reassuringly, and quietly asked, "Xena, do you want to tell me what this is really about?"
Acting as though she had been found out, the self-assured warrior’s stance deflated a little. She pulled her hand away from Gabrielle’s comforting embrace and moved to sit on the bedrolls still lying on the ground.
Gabrielle watched as Xena sat there, staring into the smoldering embers of the fire. She followed her companion to sit alongside her, intertwining her arm in the crook of her lover’s and resting her head on the powerful shoulder. She thought to herself, ‘How many times have we sat like this, bearing our souls to one another, comforting each other?’ A loving smile crossed her lips at the memory.
They sat there unmoving for some time, both lost in their own thoughts, when a more sullen Xena broke the stillness. "Solan was the child I never really knew, I gave him away, and then... he was taken from me." She fell into silence again for a few moments before continuing, "and Eve was to be my second chance to be a mother... but I was taken from her..." Again her voice trailed off.
Gabrielle sat there unmoving, her very presence providing the reassurance Xena needed to continue.
"I just wanted another chance." her voice faded to a whisper. A tear lightly splashed onto Gabrielle’s arm.
"I know Xena," the smaller woman’s delicate hand touched her companion’s face and wiped away the remaining tears. A quiet fell over them as each woman peered into the other’s eyes and soul.
"Xena. You have that chance again, with Grace."
Love and understanding began to shine in Xena’s eyes as the realization of Gabrielle’s words hit their mark. She broke from the piercing gaze of those green orbs and replied, "I didn’t want to interfere..."
Gabrielle sat stunned, as if slapped by Xena’s statement.
"THAT’S why we have been trudging all over Greece and half the known world? You didn’t want to be a meddlesome mother?" The bard was dumbfounded. "You said you wanted to see the country, not get involved in fighting. Relax and take it easy for a change."
Xena did not move.
"You mean... I could have been in a normal home? Soaking in a hot tub, sleeping in a real bed??" Gabrielle withdrew her hand abruptly and gestured expansively, "Instead. You drag me out here in the middle of NOWHERE?" The red was returning to her face and the calm expression was replaced with escalating irritation.
Not wanting to go down that path again, Xena did the only thing that came to mind to save her from another bardly lecturing. With self-preserving passion, she took hold of the fuming woman before her, pulled her close, and planted a searing kiss upon her lips. The suddenness of the action, as well as its timing, caught Gabrielle so off guard that she did nothing to resist.
Further taking advantage of the bard’s stunned response, Xena leapt to her feet and quickly departed
Leaving in her wake, one slightly flustered and wanting bard.
"I hate when she does that!" said an exasperated Gabrielle, her words echoing down the trail to a smiling and escaping warrior.
Xena returned to the place she had left Ares and found him still nursing his injury. He had managed to move to a more comfortable position and now sat under a large shade tree, dozing.
She stood watching him as a fly buzzed around his face. Lazily he blew at the annoying disturbance, never opening his eyes. Finally, the persistence of the irritating insect drew a large handed swat from the war god, which landed soundly on his cheek. A look of disgust appeared as he wiped insect intestines from his face. It was only then that he noticed Xena’s return, and amused expression.
Trying to act as nothing happened, and nonchalantly wiping his hand on the grass beside him, he said "Well, are you ready? I know of this little tavern down the road that rents rooms by the hour and...."
Xena’s amused expression disappeared and she stood shaking her head.
A look of confusion settled on Ares’ face as he looked at the woman before him. "Okay, if you rather do it here, that’s fine by me," and he began undoing the buttons to his trousers.
He looked at her even more perplexed, "What then?"
In a rather drone-like manner, Xena said, "Persistence is futile."
Xena sighed, "Ares, I can’t and won’t have yours or anybody else’s baby. I don’t want to, and besides..." she paused briefly, trying to think of the right words, "I’m a grandmother now, and that’s where I’m needed."
Not moving, pants half unbuttoned, the God of War sat there and started laughing. "Well, where’s the surprise in that?" he said, as he laughed even harder.
A smile crossed Xena’s face, "I know."
"Yeah," he continued, trying to stifle his laughter, "I knew it was a long shot asking you again, but you can’t blame a guy for trying."
"I guess not," was all she muttered.
"Xena, it’s been real knowing you," and with that, Ares clambered up, grunting, and gingerly walked away down the path.
Xena watched as the once mighty God of War tripped slightly and grabbed at his now tender pride. The groan she heard turned into a bellowing laugh as he slowly made his way down the road and out of sight.
"He’ll be back," was all she said, and she got up to go find Gabrielle. Xena’s return into camp found Gabrielle busily packing up their belongings and placing them on an already saddled Argo and, ‘Damn, what IS that horse’s name anyway?’ she thought to herself. Shrugging her shoulders, she walked over to give the industrious woman a hand.
"So, Gabrielle. Where are we going now? How about the Great Adrian Way to catch a couple of shows?"
The hurried bard came to a halting stop and turned to face the grinning warrior. Staring directly into those bemused blue eyes, Gabrielle simply said, "Home."
Xena’s amused grin turned into an all out smile. She took two quick steps; placing herself directly in front of the woman she had loved for so many years and knew all too well.
"Gabby, you’re the greatest" and she kissed her lovingly.
Abruptly pulling back, Gabrielle gave her companion a little shove in the direction of the horses, and smiling wryly, said, "Quit stalling, we can do this at home... in the hot tub."
Needing no further suggestive encouragement’s, Xena swept the laughing bard off her feet, tossed her onto the horse with no name, and gave it a sound slap on its rump to set it into motion. She watched as Gabrielle adeptly rode off, glancing back over her shoulder to yell, "Last one home has to fill the hot tub!" and she kicked her mount into a full gallop.
Standing motionless a second longer, Xena whispered under her breath, "Oh yeah, someone’s gonna get lucky tonight." With that, she let out her trademarked war cry and jumped onto the waiting Argo.
In a blaze of hooves and thunder, the rejuvenated warrior princess was in her glory once again.