Hey y'all! I have this all mapped out and ready to write, but I'm heading into peak season at work (plus moving to a different state) so updates will stall for a while. Thanks in advance!
It was the smell that hit her before anything else. Sweet, almost like a berry jam, but not too gooey. She couldn't identify the exact taste but memories of indulging in similar sweet treats in her youth made her mouth water and her cheeks hurt. It didn't help that she seemed to be ridiculously hungry. But, that was something that the Warrior Princess had learned do in her years of travelling. Wait, why was she hungry?
She was dead.
Dead people aren't hungry.
Wasn't she dead? She had specific memories of her lips on Gabrielle's salty skin as she was transported by a force far greater than anything she'd ever encountered in wave of ethereal twinkles. After that, everything was blank - as if someone had stolen the memories right from her mind. Was this Hell? Was she doomed to live out a sentence of fleeting memories?
That was not what she expected.
She tried to open her resistant eyes and let loose a feral scream when the blazing light overwhelmed her vision until tears formed and spilled forth. A billion tiny starlights danced in front of her mimicking the shaking a dirty rug. Her lungs filled with a deep breath to scream again and the thorny scratch of the air tearing through her paperlike chest killed the yowl in her throat before it could even form. To even breathe felt like sharp grass slicing her flesh piece by piece. Her grip tightened on the edges of the wooden pallet she was on, making her joints crack in deep, echoing pops.
Where was Gabrielle?
What was this place?
Was she dead?
Maybe she was in Tartarus?
No. Couldn't be.
Xena quickly ignored the screaming in her bones as she moved her body slightly to get a better look at her surroundings. The pushback of her unused muscles was pretty intense. Every movement was a serious effort and she could already sense it would take a while to even get her mobility back to a fraction of what it was in her prime. There was something familiar about the sweet smell, the large ornate ceilings, and the very obvious...fur beneath her?
She quickly did the math and curled one lip in anger. What had that mad harpy done now?
She waited a moment and flinched when more light beams hurt her still-sensitive eyes. The recognizable tinkle of love bells echoed throughout the chamber and suddenly Xena felt a wave of warmth and comfort pour into her body.
"Hey Warrior Babe!" The bodacious blonde seemed very excited. "I've been waiting for like a millenia for you to wake up!"
Xena's eyes widened. Was Aphrodite dead too? She didn't look dead. Honestly, she looked the same as the she'd remembered her, tall hair and all.
"No, silly!" the Goddess rolled her eyes. "I saved you. Hello, a 'thank you 'dite' would be pretty appropriate right now."
Xena groaned, of course the Aphrodite could read her mind. They must be on Olympus, or whatever survived the twilight of the Gods.
"What..how?" Xena paled. "Those four-"
"-ty thousand souls. We get it. It's okay! I pulled a few favors and batted my Lashes o' Love at a few important deities. I've been healing you slowly! Since I'm the only Olympian God around, my powers have kinda dipped. It's a major bummer but that's how it unfolded." The Goddess motioned for her to get off the stiff wood she'd been lain on. Xena looked around where they were. Everything was a varying shade of pinks and purples and almost everything sparkled. It was almost cute in a fairy princess type of way. If fairy princesses kept well-oiled men in collars around. She opened her mouth to ask Aphrodite if she'd seen Cupid lately but changed her focus when she realized what the Goddess had said.
"Only god on Olympus? Ares?" Xena sat up and groaned at how stiff she felt. It was no secret that the God of War was a permanent thorn in her side. Even after seducing her with tales and promises of great power many, many years prior, the oblivious man-child would always have a special place in her heart. Dare she say...she kinda liked him?
"Ugh, he decided that Greece wasn't happenin' enough for the God of War. You can find him going by Mars in Rome. But, don't call for him, he won't answer. He's completely cut ties with us." Aphrodite shrugged and looked morose for a moment. After a few seconds of silence, the Goddess looked up and let out an exasperated sigh.
"Xena, just ask. Seriously." I can FEEL how much you want to ask - it's okay."
"Gabrielle?" the crack in Xena's voice was very noticeable. She didn't even have the full details of her resurrection worked out but the only thing she truly cared about was her soulmate, her lover, her best friend. She could definitely handle a world without Ares. Gabrielle, though, was not a negotiable clause.
Aphrodite sighed and nodded a few times before she shrugged towards Xena.
"She's had it rough, Babe. She almost didn't make it off the boat from Jappa. It was bad. I don't even like to think about it - I get the heebie jeebies. For a while I didn't feel anything from her; no emotions at all. She's much better now, but I can feel how much she misses you. She looks pretty good too. I mean, for a mortal. She looks better than most do after a twenty year sob fest."
Xena's jaw dropped and her hands flew in the air. She'd estimated that she'd been on Olympus for a season or so, not an entire lifetime!
"Twenty years!" Xena cried out, the defeated words contorting into a sorrowful howl. "That's a whole lifetime!" Not only had she missed out on even more of her daughter's life, she'd likely missed out on the majority of Gabrielle's too. Would they even remember her? She'd spent more time away from Gabrielle than with her. Eve had barely even known of her? Two decades was an eternity to be alone.
"I said almost, geeze! Also, I couldn't heal you faster without losing my immortality and ruining everything! I mean, you look hot too! Being in the dark is good for the skin!"
"Can you take me to her?" Xena hopped off the pallet and grimaced at the pain that trickled down her legs.
"Hey! Be careful! I healed you but you're still not as spry as you were when you weren't dead. Oh Gods, that is such a weird thing to say."
Xena walked tentatively towards one of the many mirrors in the Goddess' lair to inspect herself. She noticed that her hair was much longer that it was back in Chin. It was messy and snarled, the exact same way it had been during her years as a warlord. How fitting. Back where she started. Other than that and a few small changes to her face, there really wasn't much of a difference from the last time she'd seen her own reflection.
"Can you take me to her?" the vulnerable warrior asked again, almost afraid of the answer she'd get.
"See, I would. But, I can't leave Olympus anymore. Since I'm the only one here now, every time I leave the powers keeping it hidden start to fade. If a mortal finds us here, it could be the end for me." Aphrodite frowned and shrugged. "I can, however, drop you back down with the mortals. Would you like that?"
"So I could find Gabrielle myself? I can do that. Do you know where she is?" Xena asked, already stretching her limbs. She slowly went through some basic combative moves and started working out the kinks in her muscles.
"I don't, I'm sorry. I looked after her for a long time. But, eventually she stopped talking to me. She probably thinks I've abandoned her. Oh, this is so upsetting!" Aphrodite collapsed onto a large cushion that appeared underneath her and started to fan herself. "I can feel her love, same as any mortal. But, I can't see her, I hope you understand."
"So she hasn't forsaken love?" Xena's breath hitched as she spoke.
The Goddess looked appalled at the suggestion - her hair clips bobbing with the incredulous head bobble she gave Xena. "Uh, no! I'm offended. Gabs? Give up on love? Do you even know who you're talking about? Did that big giant death nap make you a big giant dummy?"
Xena laughed off the half-hearted insult and threw her hands in the air. "If she still believes in love I will find her. Where am I getting dropped?"
"I'll drop you on the foot of Olympus." Aphrodite looked like she wanted to say something else but kept quiet.
"Of course. That's fine. Closer to home than Jappa. Do you have my weapons?" Xena felt like a part of her being was missing without the familiar weight of her leathers and accessories. Something about parading around society with just a night shift and a stiff neck didn't seem appealing.
Aphrodite shot her an innocent look and backed away towards the
"I don't, actually. Gabs took them all when she left Jappa. All i can give you is one of my dresses and some dinars. Before you get mad, it's actually a good thing because no one - God or human - knows you're alive. You'll have to lay low babe, I don't want anyone to meddle with this."
"So let me get this straight," Xena started with a grimace. "You steal my body, take twenty years to revive me only to drop me on earth with nothing?"
"I mean when you say it like that!" The Goddess' lip started to tremble.
"I'm sorry Aphrodite! Come here. I'm just grumpy." Xena held her arms out to the blonde in front of her. When they embraced, she placed a kiss against Aphrodite's blonde-brushed temple and whispered, "Thank you."
"You're welcome! I know it's not fair, but you and Gabby are my favorite mortals. You've both been to Tartarus and back trying to get your happy ending. I sure hope things work out. Oh, and when you see her, give her a big ol' kiss from your favorite Goddess and remind her that I'm still here for her."
Xena arched an eyebrow and laughed when the Love Goddess winked back at her. She paced nervously and eventually hopped from foot to foot as she waited for the familiar sensation of being teleported by a God surrounded her. She closed her eyes and let the feeling envelop her. As her body transcended time, she let herself be filled with the joy that she was now alive and in the same world as Gabrielle.
But would Gabs still be the kind-hearted Amazon that Xena had left all those years on the seas of the far east? Hell, was she still in the far east? There was only one way to find out.