By joan the english chick
Part 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15

This is the sequel to "Apotheosis," which I strongly recommend reading first. All three chapters of "Apotheosis" are available on this webpage.

Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, and any other characters you recognize are property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance, and are used without permission. This story is property of the author, namely me, and may not be reproduced, retransmitted, or posted anywhere without my expressed permission.
Warnings: 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 may contain explicit sexual content, as well as probably some four-letter words and violent imagery.
Spoiler Warning: This story takes place after the episode "The Debt II." Spoilers may be contained herein for all episodes of XWP Third Season, as well as previous seasons. In addition, there will be spoilers for the HTLJ episode "Prodigal Sister."
Angst Warning: this is a pretty "heavy" or "dark" story.
Xenite Disclaimer for Part One: Argo was not harmed in the production of this fanfic; on the contrary, she was quite pleased to return to service after her long vacation.

"I'm going to Amphipolis for a day or two," Xena said as she loaded her things onto Argo. "You don't have to come. We can meet up in the village by the river."

"Of course I'll come," Gabrielle said. "I'd love to see Cyrene again." She watched her friend with a troubled expression. "I mean, unless you don't want me along."

"Let's go, then," Xena replied brusquely, mounting up, and reaching a hand down to help Gabrielle onto the horse. Her touch was businesslike and formal.

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena's waist and held on, brooding. Once she would have leaned her head against her friend's strong back and listened, mesmerized, to the sounds of Xena's breathing and pulse, but now there seemed to be an unseen barrier between them. Gabrielle sighed.

It had been a long, tense journey back from the Land of Ch'in. Despite Xena's claim that the events of recent weeks were behind them, she had been stoic and aloof the entire time, poring over the half-understood word-characters in Lao Ma's book of wisdom, rebuffing all of Gabrielle's attempts to draw her out.

Not that the bard hadn't tried. On the first night, when they had lain down under the same fur for warmth, Xena had turned her back on the bard and curled herself into a ball. Gabrielle, tears prickling her eyes in the dark, had put a soft hand on her friend's back and asked, "Xena, are you still mad at me?"

"No," came the simple, gruff reply. But Xena's back remained tense until Gabrielle removed her hand. The bard ended up turning around herself and, with her back pressed against Xena's, she cried herself to sleep.

The rest of the journey proceeded in similar fashion. In fact, Gabrielle thought bitterly, Xena had been happier to reunite with Argo than to be still with Gabrielle. The bard knew that if her friend was indeed still angry, or bitter, or lacking in trust, she had none but herself to blame. A thousand times she had cursed the irrational impulse that had driven her to betray Xena in the most horrific of ways. A thousand times she winced in self-disgust as she remembered all the times Xena had saved her, not just physically, and then in her mind's eye she saw herself repaying Xena -- with a slap across the face, delivered at the bidding of a monster. Since leaving the ruined palace of the Green Dragon, Gabrielle had done little more than castigate herself for her actions. But Xena's continued distance was more punishment than any the bard could inflict upon herself.

Abruptly, Argo stopped walking at a small signal from Xena. The warrior frowned and studied the sky.

"What is it?" Gabrielle asked dully, lifting her head. Xena twisted around to look at her.

"Are you crying?"

"No," Gabrielle lied inexpertly, drawing the back of her hand across her face. Xena made an impatient face and nudged Argo back into motion.

"Thought it was raining."

Miserably, Gabrielle wiped away her tears that had dripped on Xena's back, and they traveled on in silence.

The dark mood was alleviated somewhat by the joyful welcome they both received from Xena's mother. Her inn was mostly empty when they arrived just before dusk, and Cyrene came rushing out the front door to enclose her daughter in a tight embrace.

"Xena, thank the Gods," she said moistly, her voice muffled somewhat by Xena's shoulder.

"I'm fine, Mother," Xena said gruffly, but her return hug was just as tight.

"I'm so glad you're here," Cyrene said, finally releasing Xena to deliver a similar hug to Gabrielle. "I heard all kinds of wild stories about you two."

"I'll bet," Gabrielle said, managing some of her characteristic humor. "The truth was even wilder." She bit her tongue ruefully when she saw Xena's expression.

"I don't want to hear any of it," Cyrene avowed as she led them inside. "Oh, yes, I do." She paused. "No, I don't. Is it bloody? She almost died again, didn't she?" This last to Gabrielle as she guided them into seats.

"Yes," Gabrielle admitted, looking at the table. Cyrene paused, her gaze growing worried as she looked from one woman to the other.


"It's all in the past now ... Mother," Xena said, looking at Gabrielle as she spoke. The bard was still studying the tabletop, so she missed the expression of agonized tenderness that crossed the warrior's face.

Cyrene, however, missed nothing. "There's some stew left from lunch. You two look famished," she said with concern, laying a hand on both their shoulders briefly before heading off to the kitchen.

When Gabrielle finally looked up, her face was composed. "Where will we go next?" she asked in a subdued tone. Xena looked away, studying the familiar contours of the room.

"Farther west, I think," she said distractedly. "To find news of Boadicea."

"Oh," Gabrielle said in some surprise. In all the chaos of the past few months she had all but forgotten the abortive battle in Brittania. "Do you think-"

But she stopped in midthought as Cyrene reappeared, bearing two steaming plates. Xena rose smoothly to help her mother, and the older woman gave her a grateful smile.

"Xena, I'm just so glad you're here," she said again. "Can't you stay a few days? At least just the night? We have so much to talk about."

To Gabrielle's surprise, Xena acceded. "All right," she agreed. "We'll stay the night, and tomorrow ... we'll see."

"Oh, wonderful," Cyrene said happily. "I'll go make up a room."

"No," Xena said quickly, firmly. "We can do that ourselves, later. Sit and talk with Gabrielle. I want to check on Argo." She waited until her mother had reseated herself before rising again from the table and striding out of the inn.

Gabrielle watched her go with hooded eyes. Cyrene looked in concern at her daughter's friend, but refrained from prying. A moment's uncomfortable silence ensued before Gabrielle finally spoke.

"A lot has happened since the last time we saw you."

"So it seems." Cyrene leaned over the table, capturing Gabrielle's gaze. "Do you want to tell me about it?"

"I don't even want to think about it," Gabrielle sighed, looking away. The calm acceptance of her friend's mother was almost too much to bear.

"Whatever it is, it'll be all right," Cyrene said with confidence. Gabrielle shook her head.

"I don't know about that, this time. I betrayed Xena ... I put her and myself in danger ... I lied to her." This last came out a near-whisper, as Gabrielle squeezed her eyes shut and wished with all her heart not to hear the words. But they floated heavy in the air, as if mocking her in her own voice.

"Gabrielle," Cyrene said, interrupting her brooding, making her open her eyes again and look up. "After everything you and Xena have been through together, surely ... well, this is just another episode. It'll pass."

"I don't know," Gabrielle said again, despair sweeping through her again as Cyrene covered her small hands with her own.

"I do. You and Xena love each other." At this, Gabrielle looked up in surprise, but the older woman's eyes held nothing but acceptance, her expression matter-of-fact. "You'll get through this. I know it."

"I hope so," Gabrielle said softly, forcing her tears back. With an effort, she shook off her gloom and blinking, giving Cyrene a bright smile. "So, what can I do to help around here?"

"Well, if you want to come upstairs with me, we'll find a room and get you two set up," Cyrene replied with equal cheer, taking Gabrielle's cue. "I suppose Xena will bring your things in when she gets done in the barn."

"That's not all I'll bring in," said Xena's voice from the doorway. Gabrielle looked up in surprise at the woman who accompanied the warrior.


"Gabrielle," the Amazon greeted with a respectful bow of her head. "I bring you a message from Ephiny."

"Oh?" Gabrielle was suddenly on alert, noticing how Xena seemed to tense although her stance remained relaxed. "Trouble in the Amazon Nation?"

"You had better read it," was all Solari said, producing a small scroll which she handed over.

Gabrielle looked uneasily at Xena and sat back down. The warrior and the Amazon joined her, Xena picking up a spoon to dig into her forgotten stew. Gabrielle distractedly pushed her plate toward Solari as she opened the scroll and read.

     To Gabrielle, rightful Queen of the Amazons, greetings. There is
     dissent among the Nation, and the gentle guidance of your wise hand
     is sorely needed. If at all possible, we pray you will leave your
     current journey aside and join our messenger, who will bring you
     safely to the royal court. There you will be informed of all
     developments and accorded all the assistance and counsel you may
     need to bring us out of this dark time. Please come quickly. The
     lives of many, innocent and not, are at stake.

     May the wisdom, power and speed of Artemis be with you.

The scroll was sealed with the sign of the Amazons and with Ephiny's personal sign, which Gabrielle recognized immediately. She read the words again before looking up and, with a small frown, handing the scroll to Xena.

"What's going on in the Nation?" Gabrielle asked Solari uneasily, capturing the Amazon's gaze as Xena ran her eyes across the scroll. The messenger shifted in her seat.

"It's not my place to speak of the conflict, my Queen," she said, choosing her words carefully. "Ephiny will tell you everything when we return. That is, if you'll come."

"Well, of course I'll come," Gabrielle said in surprise, glancing at Xena as the warrior set the scroll down. "It must be serious for Ephiny to send for me."

"I don't like it," Xena said grimly. "She gives no details, and Solari won't speak either? It could be a trap."

"Solari wouldn't be part of a trap," Gabrielle protested, bemused. "Xena, you're just being paranoid."

"She could have been suborned," Xena said, looking speculatively at the Amazon. "Or maybe they're holding someone she loves hostage. Maybe this isn't even Solari."

"If someone wanted to trap you, why bother with the elaborate ruse?" Solari retorted, bristling angrily, but remaining in control. "I'm close enough to kill you both right now."

"I'd like to see you try," Xena snorted, preparing for a confrontation, but Gabrielle, who had only been half-listening as she pondered the implications, cut in.

"Xena, you haven't sworn a vow of allegiance to the Amazons," she said firmly. "I have. I'm going with Solari. You can go on westward as you planned, and we'll meet up after this trouble is dealt with." Or never, a voice in the back of her head whispered unhappily. Once Xena had a chance to return to the solitary life, surely she would remember how much better off she was without Gabrielle in her life. Why would she want to return to collect the errant bard, who had betrayed her, lied to her, endangered her life, and showed her neither gratitude nor mercy? An equally strong part of Gabrielle's brain begged Xena to object, to propose an alternate plan that didn't involve them splitting up. Gabrielle knew it was childish, but she so badly wanted not to lose her best friend....

"All right," Xena said reluctantly, but with resolve, handing the scroll back to Solari. Gabrielle's heart sank. "We'll sleep here tonight, and in the morning I'll see you two as far as the river."

"Um... very well," Solari agreed, her glance at Gabrielle showing that she had expected Xena to accompany them, and was confused and wary at the change of plan.

"I was just going to help Cyrene make up a room for us," Gabrielle said, rising. "Solari, you can help too. I hope you don't mind sharing with me and Xena. I don't want to be any trouble for Cyrene."

"Not at all, my Queen," the Amazon agreed, rising as well.

"You don't have to call me that all the time," Gabrielle told her with a hint of a smile. "Just Gabrielle is fine."

As evening fell, the tavern filled up and Xena became increasingly morose. The Amphipolitans were wary at first, but they were also unaccustomed to having an Amazon warrior in their midst, and soon enough their fascination with Solari overcame their suspicion of Xena. Gabrielle, for her part, was relieved that Solari's tales of Amazon bravery mitigated the need for her to pull out any of her own bardic stories. She didn't think she, Xena, or their tenuous peace could stand the recounting of any of their adventures.

Xena spent the evening in a corner, brooding over a pint of ale. Her desire to protect her young friend, sorely tested over the past few months, was reasserting itself strongly as she faced the prospect of parting from Gabrielle in the morning. It wasn't that she lacked faith in Solari; she felt sure the Amazon would see her queen safely to the village, and after that Ephiny and the others could provide more than adequate shelter ... not to mention Gabrielle's own fighting skills. But Xena, who recently had spent a lot of time thinking about her relationship with Gabrielle in the newly rekindled light of Lao Ma's teachings, was wracked with indecision and self-doubt.

Had she failed in her well-meaning effort to help Gabrielle mature into a sensible, intelligent woman of the world? Certainly it was because of Xena that Gabrielle had seen, done and been all the things that she had. Yes, Gabrielle had maintained the essence of her benevolent personality through it all; but wasn't the combination of the two a recipe for disaster? So how could Xena be disappointed, or even surprised, if that sweet personality reacted to those awful events by betraying her mentor, her tutor, her friend? Wasn't it Xena's own fault, after all, for failing to predict the logical outcome of subjecting Gabrielle to all that suffering?

Yet, this self-recriminating logic didn't make Xena feel any better about her newfound lack of trust in her young friend. You said yourself that she's predictable, she thought glumly. Yet you turned a blind eye, and almost got both of us killed. How could you misjudge her so badly? Gabrielle, whom you know better than anyone?

It was because of all this that Xena had begun to think separating might be best for both of them. Finally freed, as Lao Ma had hoped, from desire -- from the pull of her own treacherous will -- Xena could see clearly how she had been using Gabrielle, and how, in light of that, Gabrielle's equally treacherous actions had been in large part Xena's fault.

I'll never be what you dreamed of, Lao Ma, Xena thought muzzily as the ale began to take its effect on her mind. But I get a little closer, all the time.

"Xena, it's late," Gabrielle said without emotion, approaching the warrior's table. With a start, Xena realized the room had mostly emptied. Solari stood like a sentinel by the door leading to the stairway. "I'm going to bed. We have an early start in the morning."

"I'll be up soon," Xena said gruffly, raising her mug once more to her lips. She didn't watch as Gabrielle joined Solari and the two disappeared upstairs.

"Xena, talk to her," Cyrene urged without pretense, coming over to join her daughter. "Whatever's between the two of you, work it out. She loves you."

"I know," Xena said quietly into her mug. Her mother watched her for a moment, and then sighed.

"Of course you do." Her hand fell warmly on the warrior's bare shoulder. "I love you too, you know. Be well."

"I'll come back for a proper visit, soon," Xena promised, still unable to meet Cyrene's eyes. She rose to her feet and stretched a little. "Soon."

Cyrene nodded acceptance, saying no more. She took the empty mug from Xena's hand and headed back toward the kitchen.

Looking at the darkened door to the stairs, which seemed to beckon like the mouth of a hungry tiger, Xena sighed minimally and squared her shoulders. Only one more night, one morning, and then she was free of Gabrielle. Free of the dependance, the aching struggle for trust, the companionship. Free of the love that burned in her stomach like the ashes of Lao Ma's plans. Free.

She smoothed her anguished face into a mask of disinterest, and mounted the stairs.

Definition of Title

Theodicy is a religious/philosophical concept which involves justifying the belief in a benevolent God in a corrupt world. Or, to put it succinctly as my dictionary does: "defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil." Make sense? Any questions, email me privately. But please bear in mind that I'm no religious scholar, so if my phrasing seems inaccurate I hope someone who knows the subject better will hop in and correct me.

Also, for those who are wondering, apotheosis has three possible meanings, two of which are a pretty fine distinction: a) the manifestation of the divine in human form; b) the transformation of a human into a deity (this is of course metaphorical, as in "the apotheosis of Princess Diana in the eyes of the public after her death"); or c) less commonly, apotheosis can also mean quintessence or epitome, as in "Xena is the apotheosis of a warrior woman."

I hope that this provides some food for thought regarding the subject matter of my stories, how the titles relate to the action, and also how the two titles and the two stories relate to each other.....

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joan the english chick
Last updated 28 February, 1998