This was written as part of a challenge. The rules, as such, were that it should feature Gabrielle and Aphrodite romantically, Aphrodite should offer Gabrielle immortality and it should be post FIN.

I hope you enjoy it.

Friends: A love story

Aphrodite felt her presence the moment she stepped onto Greek shores. She sighed and waited until nightfall before transporting herself to the fireside.

Gabrielle looked up as she felt a feeling of calm and peace wash over her; something that had been lacking for the last two years. "Aphrodite, I know it's you," she said.

Aphrodite stood opened mouth by the fire. "Just how did-No I don't want to know." The Goddess looked Gabrielle up and down and was shocked by what she saw. Gabrielle had lost a considerable amount of weight, her clothes and hair were unkempt, and Aphrodite seriously doubted if Gabrielle had a full night's sleep in the past two years. At least it didn't look like to her.

"Sweet pea", she said and walked over to Gabrielle and gave her a hug. At first Gabrielle was frozen, but gradually she responded, and held the Goddess tight.

"I know," whispered Aphrodite, and that caused Gabrielle to start crying. Gabrielle had tried to bottle up her emotions since that day, since Japa, but now the tears broke through and she was powerless to stop them. After an age of crying and sobbing, she sat still in Aphrodite's embrace and tried to regulate her breathing. No words were spoken until Gabrielle looked up at Aphrodite and said simply, "thank you."

"Oh sweet pea, I wish I could have helped you more. Why did you take so long to come home?"

"Xena was my home," whispered Gabrielle. She shook her head. "If I came back to Greece and took her ashes back to Amphipolis, It was like admitting she was gone, never returning. I guess the longer I took to get back to Greece the better."

"Where did you go?" asked Aphrodite, materialising a cup of hot tea and pushing into Gabrielle's hands. "Drink this it will make you feel better."

Gabrielle eyed it suspiciously and took a tentative sip. "Egypt, India to see Eve, the Norse Lands. Wherever."

"You're back now," said Aphrodite soothingly, and rubbed Gabrielle's back.

The bard could feel the barriers she had carefully erected around herself crumbling under Aphrodite's gentle probing and loving care. And as the Goddess said "tell me," Gabrielle sobbed and between tears told Aphrodite the circumstances that had led Xena to her death. She told Aphrodite of the anger she felt initially toward Xena for not only her choice but that she had not shared her plans with Gabrielle. But those feelings had passed leaving sadness, guilt and a deep seated loneliness.

Aphrodite listened and didn't say a word. By the time Gabrielle had finished, her head was in Aphrodite's lap, and she was sobbing. Within a few minutes the bard was asleep. That night two significant events happened; Gabrielle slept for a full night for the first time since Xena died, and Aphrodite realised she was truly and utterly in love with Gabrielle.

Gabrielle tried to orientate herself before she opened her eyes. For several moments she struggled to remember where she was, and as the sounds of someone moving around close by permeated through her consciousness, who she was with. For a milli second she thought it was another early morning with Xena; the warrior banging around the campsite un-subtly trying to wake her up. But that brightness passed leaving her with the familiar gut-wrenching, loneliness that was now her constant companion.

But there was a new sensation, Gabrielle noted as she opened her eyes, and sat up. She ran her tongue around her teeth and blinked several times. She felt rested, she had slept all night. She usually woke at least once during the night; it was either screaming as she remembered Xena's beheaded body in Japa, or rolling over and reaching for her lover, only to feel cold, empty bed clothes. But last night she had a dreamless night and actually felt rejuvenated.

She looked around the campsite and saw a well banked fire with a pot boiling away. Argo was happily grazing and ignoring the blonde goddess who was talking to her-continually.

"Hey," said Gabrielle as she stood up.

"Morning Sleepyhead!" said Aphrodite with a smile. "Would you like some tea?"

Gabrielle nodded and Aphrodite hurried to the fire and fussed around with some tea leaves and water and handed Gabrielle the mug.

Gabrielle sniffed it suspiciously and eying the blonde Goddess took a sip.

"Perfect," she said with a smile.

Aphrodite's face lit up after hearing the compliment. "Well I have picked up a few things here and there," she said stammering and blushing slightly.

Gabrielle was taken back to her reaction when Xena first paid her compliments. Every one was cherished and documented in her scrolls, and the scrolls read and re-read. She smiled at the Goddess who blushed even more.

"Smells nice," said Gabrielle.

"Oh you must hungry, it's been ages since you ate, sit down, sit down," said Aphrodite and guided Gabrielle to a log.

"How long did I sleep for?" asked Gabrielle?

"Nearly a day," said Aphrodite. She dished up the stew onto a plate and handed it to Gabrielle with some bread.

"A day," said Gabrielle with surprise. "Wow! Dite you didn't have to stay with me."

"That's ok. No parties today," said Aphrodite, trying to sound flippant.

Gabrielle laughed, and then tucked into her stew. "Good," she mumbled with her mouth full. She looked at Aphrodite who was watching her anxiously. She couldn't remember the last time she had laughed. Guess today was certainly a day for revisiting experiences.

After two bowlfuls, Gabrielle sat back against a tree and stretched out. "That was magnificent, Aphrodite, really good." The Goddess has spent her time fussing over her, and Gabrielle had enjoyed the pampering rather than it annoying her.

"What are your plans?" Asked Aphrodite, lightly.

All of a sudden, Gabrielle's mood darkened. She stared at her saddle bag for several heartbeats and then turned to face the Goddess with a look of despair on her face.

"I need to go to Amphipolis; to take Xena back."

"Oh," said Aphrodite and looked down. When she looked up Gabrielle still looked desolate. She got up and sat next to the blonde and wrapped her arm around her. After a while Gabrielle laid her head on the Goddess' shoulder and started to cry again.

"I could come with you," said Aphrodite after a pause. "Not right to Amphipolis, I mean. But I do believe I have a window of opportunity in my diary to allow me to travel with you."

Gabrielle turned to her. "I can't see you travelling in those clothes," she said, pointing to Aphrodite's pink, flimsy negligee and high heels.

"Well, duh," said Aphrodite rolling her eyes. "I have picked up a few things from Artie, Athena, and Haephie about-"she stopped and looked away, suddenly overcome with emotion thinking about her lost family.

"Hey," said Gabrielle gently. Her hand caressed Aphrodite's cheek and turned it towards her face. "I'd love you to come." There was a pause. "Guess I am not the only one who has lost someone, eh?"

Aphrodite found her self staring deep into the green eyes and losing herself in them. She reluctantly and almost painfully tore her eyes away. "Silly really. I have lost friends, family and lovers for centuries now but-"

"Some people you thought would be with you forever. I know," said Gabrielle emphasising the last two words. "Alright then, I'd love the company."

Aphrodite's smile was dazzling. She jumped up and clicked her fingers. Her outfit immediately changed to a black leather outfit. Gabrielle laughed.

"Too Ares," she said chuckling.

Aphrodite clicked her fingers again and changed her outfit.

"No way! Too kinky-don't do chain mail," said Gabrielle smirking.

"Really, must make a note of that," added Aphrodite waggling her eyebrows, causing Gabrielle to laugh even harder.

After six costume changes, Aphrodite finally wore brown leathers with a pink trim that Gabrielle approved of.

"Thank you," said Gabrielle, earnestly. She took the Goddess' hand and squeezed it.

"You don't have to thank me, sweet pea," replied the deity. "You're the one with the warrior fashion sense."

"No, Dite, you've made me smile again. I had forgotten what it's like to…to spend time with someone I care for."

Aphrodite felt a warm glow. She had dealt with love for centuries; she had felt love for so many different people including her dear sweet Hephaestus. And yet these feelings were so inimitable. Part of her wanted to stop these feelings from rushing along this path, but the other path wanted to be taken on this wild ride.

"A pleasure," she stammered. "So who drives the horse?"

Gabrielle took a deep breath in and entered the crypt. As expected it was full of dust, leaves and cobwebs and she took her bag off her shoulder and carefully placed it on the floor and looked around. Fighting back the tears she walked over to the tombs and picked up the dried flowers that her and Xena had placed when they last visited. Sighing, she threw the flowers into the corner and rummaged around her bag. She pulled out a waterskin and a cloth, sighed again and set to work.

It took several hours but when Gabrielle stood and admired her hard work, she gave a smile. She had cleaned the crypt fully, polished the stone work and laid fresh flowers on Lyceus and Cyrene's tombs.

She closed her eyes and again tried to fight back the tears. But this time the tears won, and they streamed down her cheeks as she reverently took the black urn from her bag. She hugged it close and reluctantly placed it in a nook in the wall. She then placed a scroll next to it.

"A few words, Xena, for you, that I didn't have time to say to you." She turned away from the urn. "Oh Gods Xena, I miss you so much. Why did you-I know I can't-" She slumped to the ground and ran her hand through her hair. "I miss you Xena. I'll always love you." She brought her knees up to her chest and hugged them. After several minutes she slowly stood up and with one last lingering look around the crypt walked out.

Argo was waiting patiently outside and Gabrielle buried her face in the Palomino's neck. When she finally stood up straight it was with a sense of purpose. "Come on girl, let's head to Potidaea." She mounted the mare and headed towards Gabrielle's hometown.

Gabrielle dismounted Argo as she entered Potidaea. She smiled to herself as watched people bustle around the market. It hadn't changed in the 34 years since she had left to follow Xena, and Gabrielle wondered just how long Potidaea would remain this quaint, sleepy Greek village.

There were so few people she now knew, so many had passed away. But it was someone she did know, Helena, Perdicus' sister who spotted her. Helena screeched, surprising several people around her and rushed towards Gabrielle who was initially surprised and then delighted to see her.

"Gabrielle, oh Gabrielle, how nice to see you," said Helena and wrapped the bard in a massive bear hug. The older woman pulled away and looked Gabrielle up and down. "Oh Gabrielle," she said in a tone that caused Gabrielle unease. "I wondered when you'd come. Guess the messages got through."

"Messages?" said Gabrielle, frowning. "I haven't received any messages. I just wanted to visit Lila and Sarah."

Helena sighed and looked at the ground. "I am so sorry Gabrielle. Truly I am."

"Raiders came to the town. The men tried to fight them off-Sarah joined in." Helena's voice petered out, and she avoided Gabrielle's stare. "She stood and fought, Gabrielle. She died saving Andros' girls being taken."

Gabrielle gritted her teeth and spoke in an unnatural voice. "Lila?"

"She died a few days later. She had no one left-she thought you were gone. She just gave up."

Gabrielle nodded and continued to stare at the graves.

"Can I get you anything?" asked Helena.

"I'd like to be left alone," said Gabrielle, neutrally.

Helena turned slowly, opened her mouth to say something but shut it as she saw Gabrielle's expression.

"Thanks Helena," said Gabrielle not turning.

She didn't know how long she stood there, but when darkness fell and she could no longer see the graves she decided she should move. Gabrielle felt numb as she wandered away, Argo patiently following her into the woods. She walked aimlessly until she tripped over a tree root. As she lay in the dirt, Gabrielle started to feel anger for the first time since she heard the news. She jumped up, and walking to Argo, took the ketana from the case and walked to a tree and started to strike it.

With every strike she grunted and then yelled, and then it became cries of names of people she had loved that had died. When she reached Xena she threw down the sword and started to sob. She felt a sensation on her body and knew who was there without looking. Still full of anger she jumped up and strode to Argo again, ignoring the blonde goddess, and pulled one of the saddle bags off the horse and emptied it onto the ground. Smiling grimly she picked up the item she wanted and brought it to her arm.

As she pressed the chakram down on her wrist, she was knocked off her feet onto the floor, the chakram falling on the floor. Winded she rose to her knees. "Stay out of this Aphrodite," she growled.

"I'm not watching you kill yourself," said the Goddess.

"Well go then, don't watch," Gabrielle snapped and reached for the chakram again.

Yet again she was surprised as Aphrodite kicked her hand with some force, meaning she lost her grip on the weapon.

Gabrielle cursed and held her hand with her other one. "I can't do this any more. I can't," she screamed.

"Gabrielle, listen to me, I-what are you doing?" said Aphrodite in a panicked voice. She stepped forward as Gabrielle jabbed two fingers into her neck. She fell to her knees and looked defiantly at Aphrodite.

The goddess' eyes widened in realisation. "Please don't do this, Gabrielle," she said desperately.

"Why not?" gasped Gabrielle. "I have watched everyone I have loved die. I outlive everyone. I can't be alone any more."

"You're not alone," screamed Aphrodite. "You don't have the monopoly on watching loved ones die you know." Their eyes locked for a moment and Gabrielle nodded in acceptance and then looked away, blood oozing from her nose.

"Do you think Xena wants this for you?" cried Aphrodite.

"At least we'll be together. It's got to be better than this…this existence."

"It won't, Gabrielle. You won't be together, not if you kill yourself."

"She killed herself," screamed Gabrielle as loud as she could, although it came out hoarsely. She fell to the ground gasping, and Aphrodite fell to her knees and gathered the bard in her arms.

"Why did she go by herself?" said Aphrodite, tears streaming down her face. She could tell Gabrielle's time was nearly up, and frantically pushed her neck trying to reverse the pinch. "Why did she do that? She didn't tell you what she was doing, because she wanted you to live."

Gabrielle stared at Aphrodite and her lips quivered. She shut her eyes and as the goddess was about to cry out, Gabrielle pushed down on her neck and took a long gasp.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," whispered Aphrodite and hugged Gabrielle tighter and kissed her forehead. Gabrielle lay there crying, her body racked with sobs. Eventually the sobs quietened, and Gabrielle lay in Aphrodite's embrace breathing heavily.

"I meant what I said, sweet pea, you are not alone. I'm here for you." She kissed Gabrielle's forehead again, lingering for a moment enjoying the sensation.

Gabrielle looked up, so their faces were a mere inch apart, each could feel each other's breath on their face.

Gabrielle closed the small distance between them and kissed Aphrodite on the lips.

"Make me forget," she whispered into Aphrodite's ear. The bard's breath was causing said ear to tingle and Aphrodite was fast losing rational thought. She knew it was risky, what she could lose but she couldn't stop herself and at this moment didn't want to.

"Anything you say," she said, and started to kiss Gabrielle's exposed throat.