Mirth in Heaven

Part 2

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
Please read the Disclaimer in Part One!
Warning: This story is rated NC-17. Do not read it if you are under 17 years of age, or if the idea of two women in love turns you off. This story contains fairly explicit sexual content, as well as at least one four-letter word (in part two).

 "...dost thou think, though I am caparisoned like a man,
 I have a doublet and hose in my disposition?"
   -As You Like It, III.ii
On Mount Olympus, Ares, the God of War, turned from his chessboard and decided to check up on his favorite ex-warlord. He strode to the window and looked down upon the world of mortals, locating Xena with ease. But something was wrong. "What the-" Bemused, he leaned forward for a closer look, but something caught his eye on the far side of the mountain in whose foothills Xena had camped. Ares's eyes narrowed murderously; his thin bearded lips twisted in a scowl. "Oh no you don't," he muttered, reaching for the sword in his scabbard as he hurled himself off Olympus and toward the realm of the mortals. * * * * * * * * * * "Gabrielle?" Xena said hesitantly, seizing the young ... man's ... shoulders and shaking gently. It ... he ... groaned and swam back to consciousness. Wide green eyes stared into equally wide blue. "Xena," Gabrielle breathed. "I had the most awful dream, I was a-" She stopped again, an expression of horror coming over her face. "Oh no you don't," Xena said hastily, pulling the slight form across her lap and shaking ... Gabrielle's ... shoulders again. "Don't faint on me again. Come on, stay with me, Gabrielle." Gabrielle obeyed, looking with utter consternation at ... her ... body. It was now undeniably male. The short green tunic and brown shorts it wore bore a passing resemblance to her usual attire, and the coloring and build of the male body were certainly Gabrielle's. Fearfully, she ran ... her ... hands across the length of ... her ... chest and upper thighs before turning to look at Xena. "Wh -- you do believe me don't you?" she demanded, her exclamation of confusion dying unspoken as the more awful thought intruded. "Of course," Xena said. "I mean ... I think so...." "Xena," Gabrielle said desperately, and Xena pulled her close, wrapping her strong arms around the suddenly unfamiliar body. "Shh ... it's okay," Xena promised. "We'll fix this." "It must be the work of some god," Gabrielle said shakily, her too-deep voice muffled by Xena's shoulder. "Maybe Ares?" Xena pondered. "I don't know," she said slowly. "It doesn't really seem like his style." She pulled Gabrielle away from her and looked into ... his ... eyes. "There's an oracle over the next hill, less than a day's travel away. We'll go there and get answers." "What if they won't answer?" "We'll make them answer," Xena said grimly. "Come on, can you stand up?" She helped Gabrielle to ... his ... feet. Gabrielle swayed for a moment -- everything felt so strange and unfamiliar -- but soon steadied. "Why don't you go wash up, and I'll get Argo ready," Xena suggested. Gabrielle nodded and stumbled into the bushes. A moment later she was back. "What's wrong?" Xena asked, seeing Gabrielle's expression. The face might be male, but it was still undeniably Gabrielle, its nuances just as easy for Xena to read. "I, umm..." Gabrielle looked down, blushing furiously. "I don't know how to, umm..." "Oh." Sudden comprehension dawned and Xena almost blushed herself. "Just point it at the ground, Gabrielle." "Um... okay." Grimacing, the young man moved back into the bushes, grabbing Gabrielle's washcloth and a small canteen full of water on the way. Xena swiftly began to gather their things into Argo's saddlebags, her movements choppy and frantic. When her fingers slipped for the fourth time trying to tie a simple knot, she forced herself to stop and take a deep breath. //Come on Xena, you're a warrior, dammit.// When had she gotten so soft, allowing emotion to rule her body? With an effort she forced her mind to clear, forced herself to consider the situation objectively. //Okay. It's a battle of intrigue. Someone's turned Gabrielle into a man. I'm sure they're having a great laugh about it up on Olympus.// Her lips twisted in a sardonic scowl. //The oracle will tell us who, and then ... I'll take care of them.// Firm resolve hardened her eyes. This was more like it. She was back in control. Her composure was shaken, however, when Gabrielle returned, the unfamiliar male face shiny and red from scrubbing, wearing an expression of misery. //At least she doesn't have a beard,// Xena found herself thinking. In another instant, though, the hint of amusement faded as once again Xena found herself holding Gabrielle close. The young bard's shoulders shook with fear and despair. Xena hugged her silently for a moment, then pulled her away and looked her ... him ... in the eyes. "Now listen," the warrior said, firmly but not unkindly. "You are not Gabrielle. Got it? You're Gabrielle's cousin Taric. You were sent to find Gabrielle to tell her that her mother is very ill. She rode immediately back home, and you and I are following behind." She considered this for a moment. "No, wait. You came with your brother. He and Gabrielle went on ahead, while you and I are going the long way around, because ... because you have other family in the valley to notify. Okay?" Though she was still shaky, Gabrielle found the act of planning began to soothe her. "That makes sense," she agreed wanly. "You could get to Potadeia through this valley." "Yes," Xena agreed, relieved. "Or you could get there by going around the mountain, which is what we'll be doing. So that's our story if anyone asks. But if they don't ask, just let them wonder, all right? We don't want things getting too complicated." "Okay," Gabrielle acquiesced. "Don't ask, don't tell." "Right. Ready to go?" Fighting another wave of anguish as she moved her suddenly unfamiliar body next to her friend's, Gabrielle sighed. "Ready as I'm going to be." * * * * * * * * * * Ares was on the trail of his prey, stalking through the forest, when his most beautiful sister appeared before him in a flash of golden light, radiating extreme agitation. "Dude," she said without preamble, "this is some seriously bad shit. You have totally got to do something." "Aphrodite," the God of War growled. "I should have known you were behind this. I oughta-" "Will you *chill*?" the Goddess of Love demanded. "I'm like trying to explain!" And explain she did, watching her godly brother's expression grow blacker with every word. Even Love can be brief at times, and in a few short sentences she had laid out the situation. "...and I can't do anything about it!" she finished. "You have, like, GOT to help!" Her lovely face was creased with anger and worry. Ares considered the news grimly. "All right," he said at last. "You helped create this -- MESS --" the last word exploded out of his mouth, and he took a breath to calm down - "so you can bloody well help fix it. Now, here's what we're going to do..." * * * * * * * * * * "Oof... sorry," Gabrielle-Taric gasped as his unfamiliar body betrayed her once again. A root caught his foot and sent him sprawling to the ground for about the tenth time. Her mouth set in a grim line, Xena grabbed an elbow and hauled her friend to his feet -- somewhat less gently than the first nine times. Xena was trying very hard to be supportive and sympathetic, but Gabrielle's newfound clumsiness on the uneven forest ground was seriously slowing them down. "Look," she said at last, "it's no good if everyone sees you with your hands all scraped and your knees all bruised. They'll think I've been abusing you in some way. Just ride, okay?" Gabrielle had rejected the suggestion immediately the first few times, but now she paused to consider it. While she was pausing, Xena grabbed her by Taric's slim waist and tossed her in one smooth motion into Argo's saddle. The horse whinnied and shifted uncertainly from foot to foot; the rider smelled familiar, but looked and felt so different. "Easy, girl," Xena cautioned, holding the horse's head until she calmed down. "Okay," Gabrielle relented, taking hold of Argo's mane for balance. "I'll ride, but only to make you happy." "Uh-huh," Xena said blandly, and they walked on. "Xena?" Gabrielle said after a moment. "Mm." "Why did you name me Taric? I mean, you could have just gone with Gabriel. It seems like the most obvious choice." No response seemed forthcoming. "I think my parents probably would have called me Gabriel if I had been a boy. Actually, I have a cousin named Gabriel somewhere in Crete, at least that's what they told me -- I've never met him, but supposedly he's just about my age. I-" She stopped suddenly. "I'm sorry. I'm just babbling, aren't I?" "It's okay," Xena said quietly. She wasn't about to admit how unnerving it was to hear Gabrielle's words bubbling like a cheery mountain stream in that deep male voice. "I don't know, all right? It just came to me." "Okay, if you say so." And they both lapsed back into silence, moving through the woods. In the distance they could begin to make out the spire of the oracle's temple, halfway up the mountain. From the shelter of a tall tree on the other side of the oracle, a pair of glittering eyes watched their approach....


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Last updated 3 January, 1998