By Joseph Anderson

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

Sequel to Love Goddess and the whole twilight of the gods storyline on the TV show.

It was late afternoon and the two women were walking on either side of the little blonde girl, each holding one of the toddler's hands. Passing between the stalls of merchandise, they smiled down at her and would sometimes both haul up on her arms lifting her up and she would giggle. The toddler pulled them over to a pottery booth. The child's eyes got big as she looked at the red figure vases decorated with stories of gods and heroes: Zeus and the rest. The two women looked at them cynically. At a disturbance ahead in the village market the smaller blonde woman picked the little girl up as her larger dark haired companion studied the situation. They saw a ragged woman grabbed roughly by a cursing shopkeeper and some vegetables fall out from under her clothes. The shopkeeper was about to slap her when a powerful hand caught his upraised arm.

"Be nice," Xena said.

"Mind your own busi..." he started to say but stopped as he looked in the cold blue eyes. The warrior princess let go and he carefully released the beggar woman. He nervously licked his lips.

Gabrielle walked up still holding Eve and forced a coin into his hand. "This is more than it's worth." The tradesman nodded at her then looked nervously at Xena again.

Gabrielle and Eve were picking up the few cheap vegetables that had dropped on the ground. The hooded figure mumbled something and began walking off but Gabrielle said, "Wait, don't forget these." She reached for the beggar again and the ragged scarf covering the face fell away.

Gabrielle and Xena just stared. Eve smiled and pointed at the haggard, sickly looking woman.

"Aphrodite," Xena said after a moment.

The beggar took the vegetables from Gabrielle and the toddler and scuttled away into the crowd.

"Come on, Gabrielle," Xena said and they followed in the direction the beggar had gone. It was starting to get dark.


"By the gods, Xena," Gabrielle said. Then hearing herself blushed.

In the dim light they were observing the ragged woman from the market as she fed another thin, almost cadaverous figure. He looked too weak to feed himself. They seemed to have a sort of nest underneath a bridge. Xena approached followed by Gabrielle who still held Eve. The sickly woman heard them and looked up but didn't say anything.

Xena stopped and looked at the supine figure covered in dirt. She saw sores and scabs all over him. "Ares," she said softly. He opened his sunken eyes slightly but they were cloudy and Xena thought he was probably blind.

"What's happened to you?" Gabrielle asked. She was horrified.

Aphrodite got up and coughed. She was so weak she almost fell over and she had a shaking tremor in her hands, but she smiled at Eve, showing three missing front teeth. There was a hint of the goddess's old fire when she looked back at Gabrielle and answered in a slurred voice, "What did you think was gonna happen? You wanted the twilight of the gods. This is it."

Gabrielle held her hands out in a helpless gesture. "But I didn't's's for the greater good. I...we...I thought you'd all just disappear or something." Gabrielle thought of the harvest festival when she was 13. She spent the night before praying to Aphrodite that Perdicus would notice her. The next day he told her someday they would be married. She'd been as happy a couple of times since then...maybe.

The haggard woman had another racking spasm of coughs. The tremor in her hands got worse and seemed to progress to the rest of her body. "See if your precious new order will help a young girl feel pretty. Mark my words: anything that makes you happy is gonna be forbidden someday. You'll want us back but it'll be too late."

At the stricken look on Gabrielle's face, Aphrodite reached a dirty skinny hand out. "Sorry, honey. Don't mean to be a sore loser." She began coughing again and Gabrielle kept her from falling and wiped her mouth. Aphrodite was coughing blood.

"Where are the rest of the Olympians?" Gabrielle asked, as she wiped her own eyes with her sleeve. She was holding the frail figure, hoping that would somehow stop the spastic shaking.

"We're it," the dirt smeared, sick woman answered. "Athena was selling baskets for a while in Athens until somebody knocked her in the head and stole her cart. It doesn't take anything fancy anymore like Hind's blood or the dagger of Helios. Poseidon drowned."

"This is a trick. It has to be a trick!" Gabrielle said pleading. She began to quietly cry.

Aphrodite eyed Gabrielle. "Take it easy, honey. I'm the one who should feel bad, not you." On the last words she began to spastically shake even worse than before.

Meanwhile Xena had been staring at the emaciated figure on the ground. Most of his hair was gone now. There were just wisps on top of his head and where his beard used to be. The scraps he was wearing barely covered his starved looking frame with its many open sores. She was remembering when he first came to her. She was a teenager defending Amphipolis and Ares appeared beside her when her brother Lyceus was killed. He gave her strength when she thought she couldn't go on. Then she sought him out later as her ambition and bloodlust grew and he gave her what she desired.

Xena wanted him to sneer at her, to taunt her that no one understood her like he did. He should be circling around her looking for a weakness like an army flanking an opponent, his beautiful lethal body moving with a dark grace that excited her, no matter what she claimed. But Ares was too weak for that now. He was too weak to talk or even turn his head. He only made wheezing sounds with shallow breaths. She caught a movement and saw roaches running over his body under the rags. One of them ran across his face and he didn't react. She felt her throat constrict.

Xena said, "Gabrielle, take Eve and Aphrodite behind that tree over there."

"Xena, no," Gabrielle said.

Aphrodite touched her arm. "It's okay, honey. You take kiddo here back there like she said."

"What about you?" Gabrielle said. Her mouth was dry.

Xena was watching them both. Aphrodite coughed again and answered, "I'm staying with my brother." Her speech was sounding more slurred all the time and she was becoming hard to understand. Xena began to shake her head but the fallen goddess said in her cracked voice, "I helped you plenty of times, sweet cheeks. All your life. You think you got so good in the sack all on your own? No more than you got so good at fighting without him."

Xena said in a faltering voice, "Ares is my...I have to....but..."

Aphrodite looked at her in disbelief and started to shake worse, crying hopelessly. She began to collapse. Gabrielle caught her and said, "I'll do it." Xena looked at her in surprise. The forsaken Goddess of Love held onto her gratefully. Gabrielle gently disengaged herself. "I'll be right back."

Gabrielle picked up the toddler and carried her behind a tree. "Stay right here, Eve." She and Xena would be able to see if the girl began to wander off.

She returned to the others in the twilight. Xena had her sword out and was standing over the skeletal filthy figure lying on the ground. Aphrodite, frail and hunched in her rags, was waiting. She began coughing again and doubled over beside her brother. Gabrielle reached down and took the matched sais from the boot sheaths.

The End