Candy or Chaos
Disclaimers: This is NOT an ALT story…I know…Shocking coming from me. I don’t think there’s anything in here to ‘offend’ anyone. Unless you think Halloween is the work of Satan — but I can’t help you with your delusions. Here’s something not so shocking — these characters aren’t mine. They belong to USA Studios. Please note that this is set during the ‘Classic’ years — no not Chaucer or Shakespeare folks — this is Classic Xena and Gabby. It’s been awhile since I seen one of these.
Oh..and yes…this IS a comedy. I couldn’t think of anything ‘scary’ that these two HAVEN’T faced at this point so I went for funny instead. Enjoy.
Write the bard at firstname.lastname@example.org
"You know the worst part? The worst part is he’s gonna give me that…look."
Gabrielle chuckled as she walked next to the warrior, her staff tapping the ground with each step. "And what look would that be Xena?"
"The one that says, ‘You stole my little girl from home you demonic creature from Hades’," Xena answered wearing a pout on her lips.
Gabrielle’s chuckle deepened. "Oh it’s not that bad. Grant it, you’re not his favorite person in the world."
"Not only are you a remarkable bard but you’re the mistress of understatement."
Gabrielle bumped her shoulder into the warrior to lighten her mood. "It’ll be okay. And if you really want, you can go to Amphipolis and see your mother. I can catch up there."
"No," Xena began. "I told you I’d attend the great Potiedaia Harvest Festival and I’ll keep my word…That is if you still want me there." The bard stopped walking, making Xena pause as well. "What?" the warrior questioned with a raised eyebrow.
"Xena, why wouldn’t I want you there?"
"I don’t know," the warrior sighed. "It just seems like my list of many skills doesn’t mean anything in your father’s eyes. Remember what happened last time? I don’t want to put you through that."
Oh yes. The bard remembered the last visit well. It ended with her father threatening to kill the warrior with his bare hands when he found out that Gabrielle had joined the ‘harlot’ amazons and became a ‘man-hater’. Gabrielle tried to explain that Xena had NOTHING to do with her becoming an amazon but it fell on deaf ears. For Gabrielle’s sake he made a truce with words but his attitude was anything but friendly toward the warrior.
"That wasn’t your fault," the bard replied. "We know the truth and yes I know my father can be…"
"Overbearing, pushy, obnoxious-."
"Hey! I know he’s…protective…but he’s still my father."
"I’m sorry." Xena shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Okay. New visit. New view. I’ll wipe the scroll clean and we’ll start with a new, fresh parchment."
"That’s all I ask," Gabrielle replied starting to head toward the small town again.
"Wish he could do the same," Xena muttered under her breath. The warrior wasn’t the only one with keen hearing and again Gabrielle stopped walking and faced Xena. "What?" the warrior whined. Gabrielle didn’t say anything. Her eyes just bored into Xena. "I know where you get that look from - you really are daddy’s little girl," she grinned, hoping to lighten the mood. Gabrielle wasn’t impressed. "Okay, I’m sorry," Xena conceded. "We’ll go to the festival. I’ll participate in all the activities and I won’t complain once. A good time will be had by all. I promise."
Gabrielle gave a deep sigh and gripped her staff tighter. "Okay and I’m holding you to that promise just so you know."
"I wouldn’t expect any less," the warrior grinned. Gabrielle started down the path as Xena followed behind leading Argo.
As Gabrielle approached the old farmhouse she saw her father working in the family barn, shoeing a horse. Without realize it, she picked up her pace upon seeing him and Xena smiled outwardly at the bard’s anticipation.
"Dad?" Gabrielle called to get his attention. He looked up and beamed like a lantern. Xena could say what she wanted about the man but she also knew he loved Gabrielle very much. Even if he didn’t understand what was right for the bard, Xena respected the fact he obviously cherished the young woman. Now if only he’d lose that ‘look’ when she was around.
"Hey ya Gabrielle!" He darted up and headed outside where Gabrielle made the rest of the journey with a light jog. She dropped the staff and threw her arms around the man. Playfully, he twirled her around once in the air before setting her down. "So how’s my eldest doing?"
"Great! We thought we’d come by for festival this year."
We? Oh . . . Yeah . . . Xena. "Well I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Your mother’s helping with the baking committee so she could use some help. She’s got cart full of pumpkins out back to make Zeus knows how many pies," he chuckled.
Xena had arrived at that point and gave a nod to Gabrielle’s father. "Herodotus," she said politely.
"Xena," he replied with little emotion in his voice.
Well that went well. He called her by her name instead of ‘warrior’. No one’s pulled a sword yet. This might not be so bad this time, Gabrielle considered. "Is Lila home?" the bard asked.
"Yeah, she’s bringing in the pumpkins. Come on inside," he said wrapping a protective arm around his daughter. In afterthought, he called over his shoulder. "You too Xena. Once your mare’s stabled, that is."
"Be right there."
Xena nodded and watched Gabrielle speaking to her father and saw the merry expression on his face. For the briefest of moments she felt a pang of guilt. If Gabrielle was traveling with someone well liked by her family she might be inclined to visit them more often. Stop it warrior. Gabrielle’s free to do what she wants and if she wanted to visit more she would. It’s as simple as that.
Gabrielle entered the house along side her father. "Guess what I found outside?" he shouted as he came in.
Lila and Hecuba both turned to the distraction and soon broke into smiles. They quickly wiped their hands clean on dishrags before coming over to engulf the bard.
"You made it!" Hecuba said pulling Gabrielle closer. "I’m so glad."
"Well, the problem in Athens didn’t take as long as we assumed," Gabrielle commented.
"Mother’s making pumpkin pies," Lila said. "You wanna lend a hand?"
"Yeah, that’s what dad said. Sure, I’ll help out."
With that Xena walked through the door and the room fell deathly quiet.
"Oh look Lila," Hecuba said with a forced smile. "Xena’s here too. You didn’t say that Xena was here too," she added to Gabrielle.
"I assumed it would be a given," Gabrielle answered in a sweet voice but a defiance planted behind it.
Realizing that neither her father nor mother were going to move, Lila went over to Xena and pulled her invitingly into the depth of the room. "Do they have harvest festival in Amphipolis?" Lila asked.
"No. Well…Not like Gabrielle’s told me about Poteidaia. You folks go all out from what she tells me," Xena smiled.
"It’s a long tradition," Hecuba said. "It’s been going on since I was a little girl."
The woman didn’t know what else to add and the room fell quiet again. Gabrielle cleared her throat. "Well, how many pies do you plan to make mother?"
"As many as I can before the festivities tomorrow," she answered. "With the four of us girls baking it shouldn’t take long."
"Three," Gabrielle corrected. "Xena can’t cook to save her life."
"Well actually. . ." All eyes turned to the warrior as she spoke and she felt suffocated for a moment by the attention. "I can bake…I just can’t cook."
"You? Bake? Really?"
The bard looked dumbfounded and Xena chuckled. "Me. Bake. Yes," she smiled. "Mystifying but true." The bard scrunched her eyebrows in disbelieve. "You can ask mom the next time we go to Amphipolis. She’ll tell you."
"Well looks like we have four then," Hecuba said making her way back over to the table. "Come on girls."
Herodotus excused himself to finish up with the horseshoeing as Gabrielle walked over to Xena.
"Tell me you’re not gonna poison the entire town just to get out of working with my father," she whispered.
Xena gave a light chuckled. "No I won’t ‘poison’ anyone I promise. Come on, I’ll show you a few skills you didn’t know I have," she teased with a wink.
Gabrielle took a moment to watch the warrior move toward the baking hearth but she still wasn’t convinced. Reluctantly she followed. This I gotta see.
The pies the girls made were almost cool — 15 in all. More than the town could probably eat Xena surmised but there they sat. Gabrielle poked at the pie Xena had made and the warrior playfully slapped the bard’s hand away.
"Stop that," Xena grinned. "No tampering with my pie."
Gabrielle rested her hands on her hips. "I will say this…It LOOKS edible."
"Very funny. But I’ll have you know that when you take a bite you’ll think you’ve died and gone to the Elysian Fields."
Gabrielle laughed out loud. "Awfully sure of yourself there warrior princess," she taunted. "I’ll be the judge of that."
"You go right ahead," Xena nodded before walking over to the bench and taking a seat. "But later I’ll be accepting your apology for doubting me."
Gabrielle turned to see Xena’s legs propped up on the other bench and her arms folded in total arrogance. She had to smile. She also had to admit that so far Xena had kept her word. They were having a good time. No fights. No arguments. No death threats. Life was good.
Gabrielle walked over and knocked Xena’s feet off the bench, taking the spot across from her. Xena caught herself and sat up right, resting her elbows on the table. "Now tell me about this evening ritual again…I still don’t grasp the concept."
Gabrielle sighed. "Okay, the kids will come to the house dressed up in costumes and say ‘Candy or Chaos?’ You give them candy and they go away. If you don’t well…something might happen to your house later that night. Parchment in your trees. Soap on your windows. Stuff like that."
"So essentially, they’re warlords in training. ‘Give us what we want or we’re coming after you’?"
"Xena." Gabrielle rubbed her temples. "It’s for fun. Didn’t you ever have fun as a child?"
"Sounds like more fun if I didn’t get the candy. Then I could come back and wreck a little havoc," she beamed.
"You’re impossible," the bard sighed. Xena started to laugh as Herodotus came in carrying a lantern.
"Here it is," he grinned putting it on the table between them. "The harvest lantern!"
Xena looked to Gabrielle. "Okay, explanation please."
"The harvest lantern is what we put on the porch to be sure the children know that we’re home and we have treats," Gabrielle explained.
"Ahh, so the little warlords don’t waist their time knocking on villages not worth plundering. A time saving measure. Pretty inventive." Xena rose to go over to inspect the pies and when she did the chakram on her hip swung knocking the lantern to the ground, shattering it.
Gabrielle and her father looked at the lantern now scatted in tiny pieces across the kitchen floor before fixing their slit eyes on Xena. The warrior was sure she could handle one of them at a time…But both of them?
"It was an accident," Xena said quickly.
"Sure it was," Gabrielle retorted, moving to the floor to clean up the mess. "You’ve been poking fun all night at our custom."
"No really Gabrielle. I didn’t mean it," Xena replied, coming down to Gabrielle’s side to help.
"You’ve done enough already," Gabrielle answered, shooing the warrior away. "Why don’t you get the treats ready by the door for when the kids arrive? Of course I’m not sure how they’re going to know to come here since we don’t have a lantern but perhaps you’ll think of something. Maybe one of your many skills can fix that problem."
Xena looked up to find Herodotus smirking at her. He was loving this. Not only did he hate her but now his daughter did too. "I’ll go see to Argo," Xena answered and rose to go outside. As she walked to the barn she saw the kids lined up in town by the horse troth dunking their heads in. Her argument with Gabrielle was momentarily lost as she wondered what the children were doing. After a few moments she watch one child emerge with an apple between her teeth before dropping it into her hand.
"I got it! I got it!" she squealed.
Xena chuckled and for a brief moment wondered what it would be like to be a child again. She was sure Gabrielle probably was one of the best apple dunkers in town when she was a child. And with the thought of Gabrielle came the renewed sense of disappointment. Not with the bard but with herself. She really did want Gabrielle to have a good time this weekend and she honestly had no intention of harming her plans. She figured once Gabrielle calmed down she’d go back in and reason with her.
Once inside the stable Xena greeted her mare.
"Hey there girl. How ya doin’?" Argo whinnied a response. "Me? Not so good. Seems I upset Gabrielle by destroying a family heirloom. My approval rating with ‘dad’ just decreased 5 times, as if that were even possible." Xena got out Argo’s brush and started to rub down the horse. "Now she’s worried no kids will come tonight for the treats her folks made." Argo gestured her head out the door and nudged Xena. "I should talk to her huh?" She watched the horse nod in response and she chuckled. "Yeah I suppose you’re right…Is this what they mean by horse sense?" she asked, scratching her nose. Argo snuggled her snout against Xena’s neck, making the warrior laugh. "Okay, girl. I’m all over it," she told her. Xena went to her saddlebag and tossed the palomino an apple. "Behave tonight. They’ll be a lot of noise but don’t worry," she told her scratching her mane.
With that Xena turned to walk from the barn.
"What d’ya think?!"
Xena jumped at the sight in front of her — a set of glowing eyes with razor sharp teeth. Upon closer inspection she saw it was one of the empty pumpkins from earlier in the day, a bizarre face carved in it.
Gabrielle lowered the pumpkin and pulled it back. "I decided to make my own lantern," she said.
"That pumpkin looks mighty upset," Xena answered playfully, hoping all was forgiven.
"Yeah well," Gabrielle blushed. "I was in a bad mood and decided to take it out on the vegetables. But the more I started chopping the more it looked like a face and well…"
"The creative bard took over?"
"Yeah. My dad suggested putting a candle in it and using it as the lantern this year. Lila and mother saw it and they decided to use the other pumpkins to make more faces. The kids might not see the lantern but I’m sure the pumpkins will draw them over."
"So we’re…okay?" Xena asked tentatively.
Gabrielle gave a bashful grin. "Yeah…and I’m sorry for losing my temper. I know you didn’t mean it. It’s just tense being home."
"Come ‘re," Xena said pulling the bard into a tight embrace and kissing her on top of the head. "I know it’s not easy for you coming home. Especially when your parents hate me."
"They don’t really hate you," Gabrielle answered. "They just have a hard time understanding the choices I’ve made."
"What about you? Are you happy with your choices?"
Xena pulled back to look at the bard with concerned eyes. She never wanted to stand in the way of Gabrielle finding joy.
"Yes, I’m very happy," she answered honestly, as she handed over the pumpkin. "But I’ll be happier if I can try that pie of yours now to see if you’re just all talk and no action."
Xena grinned warmly and put the pumpkin under her arm while she wrapped her free one around the bard. "You’re on Gabrielle."
Xena sat across from Gabrielle in anticipation. Lila, Hecuba and Herodotus all stood behind Xena with anxious expressions on their faces as well. Gabrielle took her time and chewed the pie before washing it down with some apple cider.
"Well?" the warrior asked. "Remember, you have to be honest."
Gabrielle wiped her mouth with the napkin and started to nod. "I have to admit…It’s pretty darn good," she added before going back for another bite.
"Ah ha!" Xena said, reaching her spoon over to take a piece for herself. "Told ya I could bake."
Gabrielle stopped Xena’s spoon before it could make contact. "This is mine. Get your own," she warned. Xena did as the bard instructed and as she cut herself a piece. But she decided instead to offer it to the rest of the family. Lila took the first one. Hecuba took the second one and with a little prodding Herodotus took the third. At this point, half the pie was gone. Xena went to finally cut herself apiece when they got a knock at the door.
Hecuba wiped her hands to answer but Xena rose. "I’ll get it," she told the older woman before leaving the table. "Finish your pie."
When she opened the door she met a small girl dressed as an amazon and what appeared to be two boys in a centaur costume.
"Candy or Chaos?!" they yelled in unison.
"Well, I don’t need any amazon or centaur troubles," Xena told them. To herself she muttered, "Been there done that." They held out their pillowcases and Xena dropped the hard candy treats inside. "There you go," she told them.
"Thank you," they answered politely. As they left the porch the girl turned around to Xena. "I like your warrior costume ma’am."
"Thanks," Xena replied automatically — she took a moment to realize she wasn’t dressed up. This was her wardrobe. She started to feel a bit indignant as she shut the door. Costume eh? I happen to be a fearsome warrior princess. Xena started on the way back to the kitchen when another knock came. She opened the door to see a small girl dressed as Aphrodite holding a black cat. Oh this is too damn cute. She’s gotta see this, Xena thought silently, starting to really enjoy this evening.
"Hey Gabrielle come here!" Xena shouted behind her. The bard walked up and saw the young girl on the porch and started to chuckle.
"Oh isn’t she adorable," Gabrielle cooed at the child.
"Yeah, yeah. I’m all that and a bag of ambrosia," the girl said in a ho-hum voice marching her way inside. "Look ladies, me and the pussy here have a problem," she said putting the cat on the floor.
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other and then at the little girl who was now standing in Gabrielle’s living room, hands on her hips.
"You call me a pussy one more time and I’ll scratch your eyes out. Got it?"
Totally taken aback, Gabrielle stepped closer to Xena who was equally wide eyed. She wrapped her hands around the warrior’s arm. "Xena," she asked watching the cat. "Did that cat just talk or did you put henbane in the pumpkin pie?"
"No, that cat talked," Xena decided watching the two. "And I’d swear that voice belongs to Ares."
"No kidding Plato," the little girl remarked to the two of them.
Xena and Gabrielle examined the child closer. "Aphrodite?" Gabrielle asked. "Is that really you?"
"Yes it’s me," she said taking a seat. "I’ve got a big problem."
"Looks more like a little one," Xena teased. That earned her an elbow from the bard.
"What happened?" Gabrielle asked. At that moment the bard’s family came in to see what was going on.
"Thanks to Ares over here, dressed in this stunning spiked collar, who even as a cat has no sense of fashion, decided to play a prank on Athena tonight. Well she didn’t take too kindly to it. At first he blamed me. So I got zapped for being ‘childish’. When I told her I had nothing to do with it she went in search of the sneaky, conniving feline Ares and…well there you have it."
"Is this permanent?" Xena asked.
"Hades if I know," Aphrodite remarked with a sigh. "But at this point I need a safe place I can crash. We’ve got no powers, no resources and well…look at us!"
Xena was the first one to lose her reserve and started to chuckle until Ares spoke.
"Look here Xena! You do NOT want to cross my path," he warned.
"Yeah you’re real menacing in that fancy collar," Xena taunted. "We might have some left over fish around here if your hungry," she teased. "Perhaps a saucer of milk?"
A loud hiss erupted from the cat and he jumped at Xena’s face but only making it to her breastplate. Xena grabbed Ares by the scruff of the neck.
"Yowww, that hurts," he whined. "Put me down!"
"Are you gonna behave?" Xena asked coming nose to nose with him. "If not I’ll have to throw you out for the night and it’s a cold, hard world out there Ares."
Ares tried to take a swing with his claws. When that didn’t work reluctantly he agreed. She gave him a light toss and he landed on his feet, scurrying over to Aphrodite to hop in her lap.
"What are we gonna do?" Aphrodite pouted.
Another set of kids came to the door and Lila saw to their treats. Gabrielle and Xena still stood with blank expressions when she returned from her task.
"Any ideas?" Gabrielle asked the warrior.
"Not a one."
Aphrodite released a sigh and scratched absent-mindedly behind Ares ears.
"Well cat or no cat, the god of war is not welcome in my house," Herodotus said from behind, coming up to examine the pair.
"Gee, Poppa Gab doesn’t like war. Now there’s a shocker. No wonder she’s a goodie goodie," the cat snickered.
"Knock it off Ares. You want our help or not?" the warrior warned.
"Yes we want your help," Aphrodite spoke for them both before Ares could say anything more. "Pay no heed to the fleabag."
"Fleabag?" Ares said, his back hunching with his tail tufted out.
"Hey! At least I didn’t call you a pussy again," Aphrodite countered.
Xena and Gabrielle walked away from the argument. Neither of them cared to witness the sibling rivalry between child and feline any longer nor did they want to hear the vulgarities they were now slinging back and forth.
"What are we gonna do Xena?"
Xena gave it a moments thought. "Since Athena caused the curse she can take it off. Let’s go see her and try to reason with her. I don’t think either one of us is looking to ‘adopt’ a temperamental child or a ‘fleabag’ as Aphrodite put it. So let’s set it right or we’ll never get rid of them."
The duo walked back to the bickering brother and sister, watching how the exchange had escalated. Ares was on top of Aphrodite’s head trying to scratch her eyes while Aphrodite continued to tug on Ares tail making him scream louder. Gabrielle’s family looked on in silent awe at the display before them.
"Oh kids," Xena called out.
It didn’t work. They continued to brawl — a few screams, a bit of fur flying.
"Oh kids," she said a little louder.
That didn’t work either.
Finally Gabrielle put her fingers in her mouth and gave a loud whistle that brought the room to a halt.
"Thank you," Xena nodded to the bard.
"Any time," she replied with a grin.
Xena turned back to the godly pair. "You two stay here. Play nice. Do a little ‘Candy and Chaosing’ if you like. But just don’t ‘fight’. If need be Hecuba will split you two up and if you give either her or Gabrielle’s father any grief I swear this trouble with Athena will seem like a pleasure cruise when I get done with ya. Ya got that?" Child and cat both nodded. "Good. Now Gabrielle and I are going to Athena’s temple and see if we can’t get this little mess straightened out. Okay?" Again, she got two sets of nods. "Alright then," Xena said opening the door and motioning for the bard to go out. "Gabrielle after you." Quietly Xena closed the door behind them.
Xena poked her head back in the door and caught the pair trying to look innocent. "Come on guys. Would you give it a rest? We’ll be back soon," she said.
"I know I can be mature," Aphrodite responded in the 9 year old voice.
"So can I," Ares agreed. "Think I’ll just curl up by the hearth if you don’t mind."
With that Ares strolled over and did two circles before finding a place that looked comfortable.
Xena turned to Gabrielle’s parents. "We’ll be back in a flash. And remember, any problems. You let me know." With that she darted away again.
"Well this temple hasn’t changed much," Gabrielle remarked as she entered.
"Looks kinda vacant," Xena remarked.
"Well as I’m sure you’re aware, the townsfolk of Poteidaia don’t often seek enlightenment or wisdom," she chuckled.
"You’re telling me."
Both woman turned to the voice to see the goddess Athena standing at the alter. "At least MOST of the residents are that way. Not all, but most. I’m surprised such a backward little town could build a temple like this but I have to admit it’s not bad."
"Well, I’d like to say we’ve come by to discuss architecture but we haven’t," Xena began.
"Oh yes, the war god and the love goddess. How are they holding up?" she snickered.
"They’re fairing well…all things great and small considered," Gabrielle answered.
Athena gave a laugh. "Well that’s good to hear."
"You’re not really gonna leave them that way are you?" Xena asked. "Because you’d never be able to pay our babysitting fee."
"No I don’t." Athena walked down to meet the pair wearing a smile. "In fact by sunrise they should be back to normal. Of course, they don’t realize this and I’d like to keep it that way if you don’t mind. It will teach them a lesson or two."
Xena smirked slowly before giving a much broader grin. "Your secret is safe with us. As long as we can have a little fun with it that is."
"What did you have in mind?" Athena asked with a knowing grin.
"Like you said…A lesson or two."
Athena chuckled conspiratorially with Xena. "You got it ladies. Just keep them safe alright? I don’t want to kill them. I just want to teach them to be careful who they try to trick. Okay?"
"You got it," Xena said turning so she and the bard could leave.
"Xena, what did you have in mind?" Gabrielle asked.
"We’ve only got a few hours left. But trust me. We’ll make the most of it."
"Bad news," Xena said as she entered Gabrielle’s house. "Spoke to Athena and she said you’d have to ‘grow up’ first."
Aphrodite darted to her feet in a huff. "What in Zeus’ name does THAT mean?"
"It means that you’re gonna need a mom," Gabrielle replied.
Xena nodded playing along. "Two mom’s in fact. Gabrielle and I have decided we’ll raise you until you can care for yourselves."
All of them - Aphrodite, Ares, Hecuba, Herodotus, Lila — shouted in unison.
"Afraid so," Xena replied. "It’s either that or an orphanage. Well at least for you Aphrodite. I’m not sure what they’d do with a stray cat. Probably skin it for a quilt…So what’s it gonna be?"
"Whatever you say ‘mom’," Aphrodite answered taking a dejected seat in her chair.
"Oh don’t sit down yet," Gabrielle told her before turning to her sister. "Lila, can you get the sheet for my pillow?"
"What do you think you’re doing?" Ares asked.
"It’s Harvest Festival. What kind of parents would we be if we didn’t take you out for a little Candy or Chaos?"
"Oh no," Aphrodite argued. "I’m not going back out there again."
"Oh come on. It’ll be fun. And people will just adore your costume," Gabrielle countered.
"This is NOT a costume," she huffed with her hands on her hips. "Xena be reasonable. Please."
Lila returned with Gabrielle’s pillowcase as the bard opened the door.
"Let’s go — you and the pussy. We’re goin," Xena said walking out, almost running into another set of candy seeker. "Look out for the Minotaur and Hercules," she warned waving them outside.
"They’ve made quite a haul tonight," Xena grinned to Gabrielle.
The duo walked behind Aphrodite and Ares who trotted along the town’s dirt street. Well perhaps not trotted. Dragged was more like it. She was sure this was the most both Gods had walked in a long time and it showed.
"When are you gonna tell them?" Gabrielle leaned over, not to be heard.
"When I’m ready," Xena smiled.
"You’re awful." Yeah she was awful but that didn’t stop Gabrielle from chuckling.
"I figure we walk their little legs off tonight and by morning they’ll think twice before getting on Athena’s bad side."
Aphrodite stopped and turned around to face them. "We’ve been to every house now," she began. "I’ve been poked, pinched and cooed over more than I can stand. And although it has it’s appeal as a god as a mortal it really sucks."
Xena and Gabrielle both stifled a laugh.
"Yeah really Xena. My pads have calluses at this point," Ares quipped in.
Xena reached down and pulled Aphrodite up into her arms. "Come on kiddo, I’ll give you a lift."
Now under normal circumstances she was sure that Aphrodite would complain. But she was just too tired to put up a fight. She rested her head on Xena’s shoulder and gave a contented sigh. Xena had to admit that, in a way, she could get used to this motherhood bit. She watched as Gabrielle offered to carry Ares home too but getting turned down flat. Of course that didn’t stop him from whining about his aching paws the entire trip home.
As they approached the house they could see the candles nearly burned out of the pumpkins on the porch and everything looked quiet. Xena stopped a moment and took it all in. When was the last time she felt like a ‘normal’ person? It was years and she admitted silently it was a good feeling. No immediate danger. No emotional distress. It was just a peaceful feeling in the chilled autumn air. The bard came up beside her asking what was wrong.
"Nothing," Xena answered. "Everything’s perfect actually. Despite a few stumbling blocks I’ve really had a wonderful weekend. Thank you for sharing it with me Gabrielle."
"It’s been my pleasure," the bard smiled and nodded toward the house. "Let’s get the ‘kids’ to bed."
Xena smiled and followed Gabrielle inside.
Early the next morning as Aphrodite, Ares, Xena and Gabrielle lay in a mix of blankets and pillows for a make shift bed they felt an explosion of warmth and a bright light. The warrior and bard opened their eyes to find that the Gods had their original forms returned to them with Ares lying between Xena’s legs.
"Now I could get used to waking up this way," he leered.
"Well don’t," Xena said giving him a kick as she sat up.
"I’m big again!" Aphrodite exclaimed, looking at her legs. She reached down and grabbed her breasts. "I really am!" she added.
The warrior and bard both rolled their eyes before shaking their heads at each other.
"Yeah, yeah you’re big," Gabby yawned. "I don’t know if I could’ve put with Daughter Dite for much longer," she told Xena. "Glad Athena kept her word."
"What?" the godly pair asked.
Xena and Gabrielle looked guiltily at each other until Xena spoke. "Well…seems Athena was gonna turn you back this morning."
"You knew?" Aphrodite asked. "And you made us go out…and…beg…for candy. That’s incredible. That’s despicable. That’s-."
"Pretty damn funny," Ares chuckled.
"And we’re keeping the candy too," Xena added.
"Why I ought-."
"Hey sis," Ares said stopping Aphrodite from continuing. He stood up and pulled her along with him. "Let’s just be grateful we had a place to crash last night huh?"
"Ares — the defender of logic. Never thought I’d see that," Gabrielle grinned.
"Yeah well…What can I say? Maybe I grew up, huh? Later girls." As Ares finished, the two gods vanished, leaving Xena and Gabrielle alone in the living room. Xena turned to Gabrielle with a grin, which infectious affected the bard.
"What is it?"
Xena sighed and rested her head on the bench behind them. "Let’s make a deal."
"Every year - Harvest Festival in Poteidaia and Winter Solstice in Amphipolis. Whatta ya say?"
"Well we could always bring our families together for both?" Gabrielle offered.
"Your parents at mom’s tavern?" Xena chuckled.
"Hey you can bake…So stranger things have been known to happen," the bard retorted.
"Very true…So is it a deal?" Xena asked offering a handshake to the bard.
Gabrielle paused a moment and then offered her hand as well. "Deal…But no more Gods. Ares and Aphrodite better watch themselves. We can’t keep our parents at peace for Solstice if we have to baby-sit."