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) and one five-letter "b" word (in part 5).
Xenite Disclaimer for Part Six: Ares's gorgeous ass was not harmed in the production of this fanfic, although his pride took a bit of a beating.
Now I'm on your track, and I'm in your mind And I'm on your back, but don't look behind I'm your meanest thought, I'm your darkest fear But I'll never get caught, you can't shake me shake me dear... -Queen, "The Invisible Man""Yeah, you've totally got *her* under control," Aphrodite said nervously, moving to stand behind her godly brother as he got to his feet, glowering at Xena and Callisto, who were locked in a face-off. The tension hung in the air, a physical presence, like a blanket covering everyone and making them sweat.
"Ares," said Xena quietly, never taking her eyes from Callisto, "this is between us. Don't get involved."
"It's a little late for that, isn't it?" Gabrielle said before she could stop herself. She winced and bit ... his ... lip.
A wealth of unspoken communication was passing between Xena and Ares. "All right then," the god said grimly. "I'm leaving." He pointed a finger at Callisto, and grinned an unpleasant grin. "You've got one hour to do what you like with her."
"Meaning what?" Xena asked, her voice still low and dangerous.
"Oh, you still can't kill her," Ares shrugged, "but you're safe from her ..." he grinned even more unpleasantly "...powers, for the next hour."
"What!" Callisto whirled around to face him, furious. "What did you do?"
"One hour," Ares repeated, speaking over Callisto's head to Xena. "After that-"
"After that, you'll be back," Xena said, making it a command. "And I'm going to get an explanation."
Ares raised his eyebrows, but said nothing. He stepped back and gestured to Aphrodite.
"I can't go," she whispered to him as they faded from view. "Like, I gotta stick around for, you know...."
"Yeah." Still glowering, Ares disappeared.
"So, Xena," Callisto said, still angrily trying to throw lightning bolts from her suddenly unresponsive fingers. "How have you been since the last time you killed me?"
"Why don't you tell me how you talked Aphrodite into doing this to Gabrielle?" Xena replied threateningly. The two women circled each other slowly, warily, looking for openings.
"It didn't take much," Callisto said nastily. "Nothing does, with her." She smirked. "Besides, I thought you might enjoy it." As if her meaning weren't already abundantly clear, she stroked the back of her hand down Gabrielle's/Taric's cheek. Gabrielle flinched away from the touch.
Xena's sword flickered out, batting Callisto's hand away from Gabrielle/Taric. "You should have stayed dead this time," she hissed. Callisto laughed lightly.
"Oh, but what *are* you going to do, my sweet?" she taunted. "I'm still a god, after all." She smiled seductively, moving closer to Xena. "My offer still stands, you know. I could find you some ambrosia. We could spend the rest of eternity..." she sighed softly... "together...."
"I don't think so." Xena dropped her sword and seized Callisto, who had walked right up to her. Grabbing her enemy's arms, Xena swung her over and threw her on the ground. Callisto sprang to her feet in an instant and kicked out. Xena ducked the kick and threw one of her own. Callisto went down again, and Xena pounced. They tussled for a moment, rolling over and over each other -- Gabrielle watched uneasily, fingering her staff, unwilling to risk intervening -- and then they rose again, standing, Xena holding Callisto with her arms pinned behind her. They spun around to face Gabrielle; Callisto struggled and fought with all her strength, but Xena had her at a disadvantage and held on with grim determination. The tight, drawn, angry look on the warrior's face was frightening; Gabrielle could recall having seen it only once or twice in their years together.
"Come on, Gabrielle," Xena said fiercely, sounding slightly winded. "Take your best shot." Only Gabrielle saw the look of surprise and dismay that flitted momentarily across Callisto's face before it sank back into its usual expression of careless cunning.
"What?" Gabrielle asked uneasily.
"Come on!" Xena pushed Callisto a step closer. The warrior's eyes glinted with a strange bloodlust. Warily, Gabrielle raised her staff. She could see Callisto preparing for the pain. A surge of the same bloodlust swept over the bard, as she thought about Perdicus and Argo and even Joxer, and all the damage Callisto had done to Xena both inside and out. Anger took over for an instant and she raised her staff for a cruel blow.
But something stopped her. Perhaps it was her innate nonviolent nature; perhaps it was the fear she imagined she could see lurking behind Callisto's outwardly unconcerned eyes. The oracle's words returned forcefully to her memory. Slowly, Gabrielle lowered her staff again and leaned closer, her unfamiliar male face filling Callisto's vision so that the young god had no choice but to look at her/him. I must not complete the cycle, Gabrielle thought, and a hot, empowered feeling of peace flowed across his ... her ... skin.
"Callisto," Gabrielle said softly. "I forgive you."
There was a moment's silence, and then, to the shock of all three, Callisto began to cry. Xena froze. Gabrielle felt another surge of emotion, this one strong and comforting and ... yes ... confident. She looked over Callisto's bowed head at Xena.
"Xena," she said, just as softly. "I love you."
Xena forgot to breathe. Her heartbeat, which had just begun to slow down from her exertions, sped up again. She opened her mouth to respond.
A sudden gust, as of wind that touched no one but Gabrielle, arose from nowhere and knocked the bard onto the ground. She let out a small "oof" and blinked in surprise. A voice, heard but not seen, called out, "Oops, sorry babe! Like, it's easier when you're asleep!"
"Gabrielle," Xena almost whispered. The bard looked down at herself ... yes! She was a woman again. She felt dizzy with relief as she struggled to her feet, suddenly wobbly.
The moment of quiet wonder was broken suddenly by Callisto, who ceased her quiet sobbing and yelled out, "I hate you both!" She thrashed wildly in Xena's confining arms. "What right do *you* have to forgive *me*?" she demanded of Gabrielle. "How many times must you two kill me before you're satisfied?"
Xena let go suddenly, stepping back from Callisto as if the contact had suddenly burned her. Gabrielle moved back as well, cautiously, but Callisto made no move to attack. Wrapping her arms around herself, she snarled wordlessly at both of them and loped off into the woods. Bard and warrior stared at each other, the latter with barely concealed wonder, the former with growing trepidation.
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