By Joseph Anderson

Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renaissance Pictures and King Features. No copyright infringement is intended with this fanfiction which may not be sold and must contain all notice of copyright.

This follows the episode Motherhood. It is NOT a sequel to my story Mothers and the stuff there never happened here.

No sex or violence. A little bad language.

Note: Revised 6/20/03. Just little things here and there to make it read better.

Gabrielle looked at her friend. "Xena, are you sure about this?"

The warrior said, "Yeah, I am. After the way I always thought of her...and then she..."

The bard said, "Well, Ares did too. I mean he was the one who actually gave his godhood up to save us."

Xena shook her head. "It's different. That was personal; something between me and him." She glanced over to where Eve was taking care of the horses.

Gabrielle looked at the small temple Xena had led them to. "Look how dead everything seems, Xena." She was studying the brown grass and foliage. "It shouldn't look like that this time of year."

The big woman frowned and said, "I know." She called to her daughter, "Wait for us, Eve." The girl looked up and waved acknowledgement.

The two women walked into the temple and Xena said clearly, "Aphrodite. I've come to talk to you."

When there wasn't a response, Gabrielle said, "Please, Aphrodite. You saved me. I want to thank you."

There was a flash and the Goddess of Love stood before them. Like the last time Xena had seen her she was dressed in mourning black. She had lost her husband and most of her family. Xena killed them. Aphrodite said to Gabrielle, "You're welcome." The goddess looked at Xena. "Is that all?"

The Warrior Princess said seriously, "No. I want to thank you again. And I had to ask you why? Why?"

The beautiful blonde deity smiled a little sadly. "My family just wanted to save their skins. But you were acting from love." She shrugged. "I'm the Goddess of Love. A real no brainer. The ones left aren't talking to me mostly. Especially Apollo. He wasn't part of it because he didn't want to hurt an innocent. But him and Artemis were like that." She held up two entwined fingers. "Like you and your bro, Lyceus. I helped you kill her."

Xena said despairingly, "I had no choice."

The goddess replied, "I know."

There was another flash and Cupid appeared. Aphrodite suddenly looked terrified. She cried, "Are you crazy? Get out of here!"

"But..." Cupid started to say. Aphrodite raised a glowing hand and he disappeared.

Gabrielle was stunned. "What was that about?" She looked at Xena and saw her friend staring at the floor.

Xena said in a low voice. "I'd never hurt Cupid."

Aphrodite was shaking but calming down. "Yeah right, not unless he got in your way. Probably pointless anyway though."

"What do you mean?" Gabrielle asked.

"Xena's daughter means our death. That's what the Fates told Zeus. It's looking pretty good so far."

"You and the rest will be all right," Xena said reassuringly.

The goddess smiled sadly again. "Mortals. Something else will come along. Maybe Eve will smite us heathen idols. And you'll be right behind her if she does...just in case."

Xena didn't answer. She hated to admit it but that sounded like a possibility. Eve was an agent for Eli's god just like Hope was for Dahak.

"Gotcha, didn't I?" Aphrodite said cynically. "Don't sweat it. I know you didn't want any of this, Xena. It's a Fate thing. Like Athena falling for that stupid doll trick. It wouldn't fool me and she's the Goddess of Wisdom. It's a Fate thing. Has to be." She added, "Yours truly has other plans though. I always made a good entrance and I'm not going out like some loser. Will you look at this place? Not even a smelly fish as an offering. I can take a hint. " Xena and Gabrielle got instantly alert. They didn't like the sound of that.

Xena said, "Aphrodite, the world needs you."

The Love Goddess snorted in laughter. "You don't believe that! I was a joke to you, just a dumb spoiled bimbo."

"I don't think that now," the warrior said, her face red.

"It's a little late, honey."

Before Xena could respond the goddess said, "Boy, that Athena...I can just hear her telling me to shape up! We had responsibilities! She'd always bail me out if I got in trouble though. Or talk to Daddy for me since she was his favorite. People thought she was mean but she was just real responsible, you know?"

"Yeah," Gabrielle said softly.

Aphrodite waved a hand and a ghostly image of Zeus and Athena appeared. She bit her lower lip and they disappeared. Then an image of herself smiling with the crippled smith god looking happy but self-conscious rippled unsteadily into view. With an angry wave of her hand it vanished.

"And'd I wind up with him? But he was really smart, you know? And kind, everybody knows that. Loved kids. Who do ya think that toy maker friend of yours worshipped? And the way he looked at how could HE have ME? Like it totally blew him away! You sure showed him. Trying to be tough and look what it got him. Trying to be like Ares. He was the one I married. But he kept thinking he had to prove something. Stupid jerk! Going up against a fucking unstoppable monster! Something that lives to kill! No offence, honey."

Xena cringed at the description. "I always respected Hephaestus."

"Ex-Squeeze Me!" Aphrodite spat angrily. "You took his chains from him to capture Celesta. Just like that. Do you know how that made him look? He's a god and you're a mortal! It's not enough you killed him, Xena. You had to humiliate him!" Aphrodite's angry face softened. "You were just protecting your kid. I know." She asked, "After I brought you to Mount Olympus, did Athena try to spare you again?"

Xena nodded. "At first. When she thought she'd won she was sorry it had come to this."

The Goddess of Love said nostalgically, "Yeah, that sounds like Theny. Even after everything."

Xena remained silent.

The beautiful black clad goddess sauntered out of the temple, the two women following. Aphrodite spotted Eve and waved at her, then looked around at the dead foliage that should be green and alive. "Look at this. Demeter is so freaked she's just letting everything go. Well, to be fair she's got her hands full with Persephone. They aren't talking to me either since you barbecued Hades." At the last words she turned her face away from the mortals. Then she looked back at them with a false radiant smile. "Anyways..." she said and looked around. Selecting a spot, a cushion embroidered with her seashell materialized that she daintily sat down on, arranging her black gown around her so it showed off her legs.

"Aphrodite..." Xena said apprehensively. Gabrielle looked at the warrior and back at the goddess.

The Goddess of Love smiled at Gabrielle. "It's been real."

"No!" Gabrielle cried and would have thrown her arms around her but Xena held her back. The goddess closed her eyes. The dead grass beneath her cushion turned from brown to green and the change spread like a libation poured on the floor of a temple. The friends saw it surround and pass them like a wave on a beach, the lifeless earth under their feet suddenly verdant and alive. Dead trees sprouted leaves and new branches and saplings sprang up. Gabrielle looked around to see the tide of life moving quickly, turning pastures and hills green and then exploding with a riot of color as a field of flowers sprang to life. She looked back at Aphrodite who was turning pale. Gabrielle heard birds chirping and saw them flitting about in mating dances. She looked up at Xena's face and shrugged her hands off. The warrior released the bard who took a step closer to Aphrodite but didn't try to touch her. As the bounding life force reached a mountain range it finally slowed and began crawling up the slopes. The Love Goddess started to weave, skin porcelain white against her revealing black gown.

"Goodbye sweetcheeks," Gabrielle whispered.

As the distant peak of a mountain turned a soft hazy blue, a gentle breeze carrying pink, violet and blue petals caressed their skin and a bee meandered around them before it found a flower. Aphrodite slumped over on the lush ground. Gabrielle knelt down and raised the lifeless form up, the beautiful head resting on her shoulder. She looked up at Xena who was watching her and seemed frozen.

"I can't believe she weighs so little, Xena," Gabrielle said, her voice catching. "I mean for how important she was and everything." The goddess's hair was disheveled and she put it back in place. Aphrodite would want to look her best. She rearranged her diaphanous black robe. Then Gabrielle looked at her friend. "She told Cupid to keep away from you. Maybe he'll come and get her if you aren't here."

The Warrior Princess looked away and asked, "What about you?"

"I'd like to wait for him. I'll catch up to you later."

Eve came running up excited and out of breath. "It's fantastic! Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?!" She stopped at the sight of Gabrielle holding the pale limp form.

"No," Xena answered in a husky voice. She cleared her throat. "No, I haven't."

The End