Rated R

E-mail: astarte

Pairing: Xena/Callisto

Warning: Rough sex. Violence.

Disclaimers: The principal characters are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended, and no financial profit is anticipated.

Summary: Callisto consoles Xena on Gabrielle's wedding night.

Note: This story takes place during the time frame of the episode, "Return of Callisto," on the night of Gabrielle's wedding to Perdicas, although I've probably somewhat altered the time frame. The story won't make a lot of sense unless you're familiar with that episode.

Feedback encouraged and welcomed.

Blood Sisters

by atara

Copyright (c) 1998

Heaven's just a rumor she'll dispel

as she walks me through the nicest parts of hell

i still dream of lips i never should have kissed

well she knows exactly what i can't resist

-Nine Inch Nails, "Sanctified," _Pretty Hate Machine_ (TVT Music, 1989)

She had to find Callisto. That snake Theodorus hadn't known where she was, but she had to find her. Xena thought about Hercules pursuing her after Darphus had disobeyed her and slaughtered an entire village, children included. She remembered the waves of anger rolling off him as they had fought-and something else too. Was it desire even then? And now here she was on a similar crusade to stop a murdering fiend with no respect for human life. Another time she might have been able to muster a wry smile at the irony, but not this night.

As she rode, her own determination seemed to be streaming away behind her into the breeze. Even her muscles seemed increasingly sapped of strength, and her heart thudded dully against the cold walls that seemed to constrict it. Her lungs drew less air, which couldn't flow past the growing block in her chest. She couldn't fight Callisto, not tonight. Gabrielle was married, and Xena didn't know if she would ever be able to force herself to get up again once she lay down. Gabrielle was married, was offering herself to Perdicas, and the pain was threatening to swamp her. At the wedding, she had smiled, assuring Gabrielle that she was happy in her happiness. It was the performance of a lifetime, and she had only gotten through it by damming up her feelings through fierce will and cold determination. Now, the ice built up around her heart, but threatened to melt into a never-ending flood. Xena fought the tears, afraid that if they started they'd never stop.

But they kept threatening because Gabrielle was married, and all the joy and all the light in the world was taken away from her. By Perdicas-who had captured Gabrielle's heart with his distaste for violence. No, not by Perdicas. It was Gabrielle's choice, and she had left her warrior companion for a life without swords and blood and battles. Battles? Xena didn't think she had strength even to draw her sword.

Yet part of her wanted to draw it, to feel it jabbing through flesh, again and again. Dangerous thoughts. Thoughts that would draw Ares to her side if they didn't stop arriving unbidden in her brain. Ares. She was tempted, very tempted. Xena envisioned the unruly mane of black hair, the swelling biceps, the muscular chest with its covering of dark curls, the powerful thighs, and the self-satisfied grin that infuriated and stirred her at the same time. His heat was sufficient to boil her grief away, render the threatening flood into harmless steam. He would consume her with heat and sweat and bloodlust and the smell of leather and his own dark musk.

No. If she went down that path, now, this night, she would never come back. She would never be able to give it up. Every time the pain and grief threatened, she would burn it away with lust and battle, her quest for good overwhelmed in an addiction to the only sensations strong enough to keep her sorrow at bay. No, not Ares. At least not yet. Not everyone had the god of war available to quench their miseries. There were other ways.

She had spotted an inn ahead. And, exhausted and drooping, she felt she couldn't ride any longer. Not tonight. She forced herself through the motions of stabling Argo and getting her water and hay, then went inside. Within moments she found herself at a corner table, back to the wall out of force of habit, and a mug of dry red wine clutched like a lifeline in her hand. The serving-girl recognized the look on Xena's face-she had seen it in many a patron-and full mugs followed the first one in rapid succession. This one would need a place to sleep-she obviously wasn't going anywhere tonight. "I'll order a room ready for you?" she had inquired, and Xena had nodded dully. Her heart's only home had left her, and it didn't matter where she slept.

Xena had become very adept at drinking as a warlord; she had earned more than one warrior's respect by drinking him under the table. Her capacity was impressive, and the contents of several mugs passed her lips before she felt the grief and pain start to abate just slightly under the wine-saturated haze inside her head.

"What a *lucky* coincidence, my pretty! I've been looking all over for you." Callisto. As soon as her voice penetrated the haze, Xena reached for her sword. "It's all right," said the blonde warrior in a reassuring tone. "I'm not going to try to kill you tonight. I just thought you might like a little company."

Concentrating, Xena focused her eyes into a determined glare. "Prove it."

Callisto stepped back, unsheathed her sword, and handed it, hilt-forward, to Xena. "Why are you doing this?" demanded Xena. "I could kill you."

"I can think of worse fates," muttered Callisto, then more brightly, "I *felt* you, Xena. You need me tonight. Your little girlfriend has left you all a-lone. I'm who you used to be, Xe-na. And you need *her*. If the old Xena doesn't come back tonight, your heart will break, won't it, my sweet? The new Xena let herself get soft and weak and opened her heart. *That* was a mistake, wasn't it, Xe-na? I can help you-tonight."

"Why?" Xena reached for Callisto's sword and stashed it between her chair and the wall.

"Why?" repeated Callisto softly, her face suddenly softened. "Why? Because you're what I always wanted to be. My role model for better or worse. And you need me right now."

Xena felt a flash of compassion for the younger woman, thinking of a young girl much like she herself had been, strong, fiery, determined to make more of life than village existence. And who was the first woman she saw who wasn't a wife and mother or future one, farming, sewing, cleaning, and cooking? A killer, a murderer, leading a band of equally murderous thugs. Yes, that was her first vision of independence.

Noticing Xena's empty mug, Callisto signalled the serving-girl. "You want it, Xena; you miss it. Think about how it feels, your sword driving through flesh and muscle, life escaping through the open wound. Think about blood soaking the ground, blood you caused to flow. Think of all the hearts that stopped beating because of you. And your own hurts so much, doesn't it, Xena? Stopping other hearts gets rid of the pain for a while, doesn't it? You miss that, don't you? You've forgotten how to stop the pain."

Xena stared at Callisto, wide-eyed, snake-fascinated, transfixed. The full mug arrived, and Xena abstractedly wrapped her fingers around the handle and brought the mug to her lips, her eyes never leaving Callisto. "Look at me, Xena," she ordered, somewhat redundantly. "Can you tell me you don't want me?"

Xena's eyes traversed the form in front of her, taking in the slim thighs emerging from the short skirt, the flat, hard abdomen, and the round breasts, just barely contained by the black leather that molded them. Her eyes returned to the warrior's face, all angular planes set off by full lips, crowned by a halo of golden hair, and illuminated by the fire smouldering behind the eyes. Yes, she recognized that fire; she could see its effects in the wiry tension that hummed through all the limbs. How could such a slender being contain so much fire? She remembered Callisto's question and shook her head, still in a seeming trance.

Callisto reached out, one fingernail grazing a burning trail along Xena's cheekbone and jaw. Energy flared between them, and Xena trembled with lust. Callisto smiled. She drew her knife and slashed a thin line along the palm of her left hand. Sheathing the knife, she followed the slash with her fingertip, bringing it to Xena's mouth. Automatically, Xena's lips parted, and she accepted the offering. "Taste it, Xena," murmured Callisto. "It burns your tongue, doesn't it? And it tastes so familiar, just like your own, the way yours used to be. Blood with no taint of weakness, Xena. You need that. I can take away your pain-tonight."

Xena disregarded the warning in the last two syllables. Her hand shot out and caught Callisto's hand. She brought it to her mouth, tracking the trail of blood with her tongue. Then she yanked Callisto closer, her other hand wrapping itself into her adversary's blonde hair. She pulled Callisto's mouth to her own lips, forcing her tongue inside so Callisto would taste her own blood there mingled with the smoky tang of wine. When Xena finally released Callisto's mouth, after exploring all its searing recesses with her tongue, she said curtly, "Upstairs. Now."

On the way, Callisto grabbed Xena's mug and paused to acquire a carafe of wine from the serving girl. Xena watched, warily, but gratefully. She hadn't planned on being anywhere near finished drinking by this point in the evening. As soon as Callisto had put the carafe and mug down on the bedside table, Xena grabbed her, pulling her close with a harsh shake. She plunged her tongue into the younger woman's mouth, then worried her lower lip between her teeth until she drew blood. Callisto giggled with pleasure, while Xena caught the droplets of blood on her tongue.

Xena began to unfasten Callisto's garments, feeling at the same time a pair of hands beginning to remove her armor. A flash of fear at the insanity of what she was doing rocked her for a moment, but the sight of the breasts she had freed from their leather confinement sent a surge of lust through her body that smothered any warnings from her brain. Every touch was making the pain recede just a little farther-how could she stop now? Soon, both women were nude, garments and armor and weapons strewn about the floor. Xena pulled Callisto in roughly for another kiss with a quick yank of the blonde hair, then picked up her companion and flung her lightly onto the bed, joining her after another long swallow of wine.

Low growls met high-pitched giggles, as teeth and lips sought out tender flesh that purpled, swelled, and blossomed under their harsh care. Fingers tightened, and nails pierced and raked skin, eliciting droplets of blood. Tongues wrestled for advantage, each pressing for victory in the other's mouth. Long hair, dark and blonde, strained in tight grasps, as fingers sought purchase and stability before embarking on further sorties across sweat-slick, blood-streaked skin. Muscles tensed and trembled, and a wine-flushed fire ignited nerves and raced through veins. Under rough handling-rolling, pinching, and twisting-nipples hardened and ached. Delivering a swelling pleasure, a tongue coaxed a momentary surrender from between a pair of thighs before the advantage shifted again, and invading fingers opened a passage, and sometimes two, into the enemy's stronghold of desire. Convulsing muscles and harsh cries signalled victory to the attacker, and both sides claimed repeated triumphs until exhaustion and sleep defeated both parties . . .

Xena awoke in the morning, her mouth arid and brine-tasting and her throat parched. A low throb emitted from the base of her skull, while iron bands tightened around her head. Her first thought was a desperate hope that the night before had been a nightmare, a fever-dream of an overwrought imagination, but the small rational part of her mind that lurked behind the wine-soaked rags that seemed to fill her skull was aware that she hadn't imagined her encounter with . . .

"Hades!" she exclaimed, realizing that she was alone. She leapt up to discover a torn scrap of parchment on the table. An untidy scrawl read, "You shouldn't have let your guard down, Xena. I warned you that I would kill your soul." Xena's brain cleared in an instant, sobered by a shock of horrified realization. She knew exactly where Callisto was headed and what she intended to do, but she had to try to stop her. Married or not, Gabrielle's life was the only thing that mattered. She was ready and on the way to the stable in a matter of minutes.

"I should have killed her while I had the chance," muttered Xena to herself as she rode. But later, as events transpired, she had to confess, in the darkest recesses of her soul where her guilt and self-loathing swirled and festered . . . she had to confess that she was grateful that she hadn't.

The End