"Nobody understands... Nobody can understand what it's like to be the little sister of a legend..." Willow read back from her journal before scratching it through with her quill. Nah... too whiny, Willow pouted, though the sentiment was true.
Willow, sixteen years old, was lying on her bed in her small room in the farmstead that was her house. Aside from assorted knickknacks were books. Loads and loads and loads of books, scrolls, tomes and anything in between about any and all subject imaginable. Because while her older brother Hercules' gift from the gods was great strength, Willow's gift was that of a keen intellect and an insatiable thirst for knowledge.
Despite that great gift, Willow felt a little short-changed. Though she loved Hercules and his best friend Iolaus dearly, and greatly enjoyed the few moments they returned home, the stories of their exploits only only made her feel more ambivalent about the whole situation. Sure, she knew everything there was to know about the Hydra, the She-Demon and the Stemphalian Bird, from diet to mating habits, but she never actually defeated any of them... while her brother seemed to fight and finish a new monster every week. It just wasn't fair.
She rose from her bed and strolled in the living room, giving a quick greeting to her mother. Alcmene was preparing a cake for the evening meal and was putting a lot of work to it. Willow briefly wondered if it was because uncle Jason would be coming round tonight. Mom and uncle Jason had been seeing each other a lot lately, after all.
Willow strolled outside to begin her morning chores : feeding the pigs, gathering the eggs and going to the shop for food and supplies in town.
"You know, Herc," Iolaus sighed while and he and Hercules were fixing the wall surrounding the farmstead. "I don't get it. Every time we come here, we fix up the wall. And every time we come here afterwards, the wall's in need of fixing. What happens to it every time?"
"See old Herman over there?" Hercules pointed to an old lazy bull grazing in a different pasture.
"Old Herman and a red-haired Willow," Hercules mouthed. "Not a good combination."
"Oh," Iolaus bit his lip. "It's good thing Willow can run fast."
"So can Old Herman. Until will reaches this wall and jumps over it, that is," Hercules said while lifting another brick with his enormous strength and plopped it down onto the wall.
"Hi, guys!" Willow emerged from the front door with her basket. "Oh, hey, let me help!"
"Hi, Will," Iolaus greeted. "Uh, you sure you want to help? It is rather heavy."
"Heavy, pfft," Willow said while walking to the cart. "I can help. I've read a book about lifting weight. The key is lifting from your legs and making good use of your bodyweight."
"Uh, Willow," Hercules pointed out. "Maybe you shouldn't..."
But it was too late. Willow had her arms clamped around the largest of the bricks and slowly slid if off the crawl. A strangled croak escaped from her mouth as her whole body trembled from the weight of the brick. She slowly toppled backwards, landing backwards into the mud with a heavy brick on her chest, its weight slowly pressing her deeper into the mud.
"I got it," she groaned weakly. "I got it..."
Hercules was quickly at her side and lifted the brick from her chest before pulling her to her feet. "Are you alright, Will?"
"Pfft, why wouldn't I be?" Willow pouted. "I'm just not strong enough... But, Hercules? I'm sixteen now, graduated from the academy. Can I come with you and Iolaus? I want to fight evil with you, I want to see the world and help people like you do."
"Willow," Hercules started with a serious expression on his face. Willow sighed as she knew what was coming: she had been hearing this speech since she was seven. "It's a dangerous world out there, and though your heart is in the right place, I'd worry about you constantly."
"It's because I'm not strong, is it?" Willow pouted. "But... I know oriental fighting techniques! I'm a master because I read all the books about it. Hiyaaaahh!" she said, taking a rather unbalanced fighting-stance.
"There's more to fighting that reading about it, Will," Iolaus said. "And don't think you're useless, you're not. You're a pretty girl and you've got a big brain, you know? And you need that to make Herc here look like the dumb ox he is."
"Ey?" Hercules raised an eyebrow.
"Work with me here, Herc," Iolaus whispered to Hercules. "Willow what's the square root of 88804?"
"It is?! Oh, yeah, yeah, it is. Herc, same question to you."
"Uh, what's the number came after the eight?" Hercules scratched his head.
"Sure," Willow sighed. "If someone tries to kill me, I'll just block him with my big brain. I want to see, Herc, I want to learn. I can take of myself and I want to take care of myself. And I know what you did to Ozymandius, don't bother denying it."
Hercules and Iolaus shared a look. "That boy was bad news, Will," Iolaus shook his head. "Two-timer, we saw it ourselves."
"Oh, so instead of telling me, so I could break it off myself, you threaten to beat him up and Herc picks him up and throws him across the square?" Willow raised an eyebrow. "I appreciate the thought, but I wish you'd let me do things on my own a bit more. And I know that sounds paradoxal because I want to travel with you, but I can take care of my own while I'd be travelling with you. Come on, little sister wants to see the world here."
Hercules sighed heavily. "Willow," he started again. "I'll keep this simple. It's dangerous out there and I care too much about you to see you getting hurt. And... you're just too young."
"Fine," Willow pouted. "I'll just go shopping then. At least I'm not too young for that and it's not a task that's too complicated for little tiny Willow."
"Uh, Willow," Hercules said while Willow was stomping off. "You sorta got mud all over your back..."
"Oh," Willow said. "First I'll change and then I'll go shopping! So there!"
"Okay, Tara, try again!" said Tara's big sister as Tara was, rather unimpressively trying to assault a wooden practise dummy.
"Okay, UH!" Tara yelled as she thrust the sword forward. It collided against a chain holding up the dummy and flew from her hand. It shot through the room and landed harmlessly on the other side of one of the windows.
"Uh, yeah," big sister bit her lip. "Well, at least it went better than last time. The hilt didn't hit me in the back of the head this time. How you managed to do that while I was standing behind you, I'll never know."
"I'm sorry. Does it still hurt?"
"Look, violence is your department," Tara sighed as she sat down on a bale of hey and let her blonde thresses flow over her leather tunic. Though it was a light battle armor, Tara had never seen real battle in her life and really didn't want to. She was happy enough to help her sister by taking care of the horses in the camp's stables. "I'll just stick with the horses."
"Tara," her sister sat down beside and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Imagine you're in a dark alley at night and this uncouth bastard walks up to you because want to rape, mug and murder you. What do you do?"
"Well, first of all," Tara nibbled on a lock of her hair. "Why would I want to go into a dark alley at night? That's just silly."
"Well... Okay, but..."
"Second of all, what would I do? Well, running would be a good idea."
Big sis nodded for a moment. "Yeah... Yeah....... Yeah. I... suppose that could work too. But wouldn't it be much more fun to just rip his arms off, kick him in the groin, rip his heart out and show it to him before he dies?!"
Tara blinked. "Look, Xena," she said. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I'm just not comfortable with the..." she awkwardly shadow-boxed in an uneven fashion for a moment.
Xena frowned. "Swimming?"
"Violence," Tara nodded. "I'm better taking care of horses than doing all that warlordy violence-crap."
Xena sighed and pulled Tara in an embrace. "So why'd you leave home to come with me? You could have stayed with mother in the inn and be happy."
"Someone has to look out for you, Xe," Tara smiled. "You easily make the wrong kind of friends, you know? Didn't I warn you about Ceasar and Alti? Those were bad apples, Xe, and you should be happy you never got involved with them. And didn't I keep you from burning down Cirra? That would have been a very bad thing to do."
"I just get the feeling I haven't been taking good care of you," Xena sighed. "You've been lonely lately, haven't you? Ever since the young amazons left for home, right?"
Tara said nothing, but the look on her face said everything that Tara needed to know.
"Well, you stick with the horses for now," Xena said. "I'm heading into town."
"Xena," Tara said suspiciously. "What are you up to? Come on, spill. I've known you longer than today, you know?"
Xena said nothing, but was determined to present Tara with a nice surprise later on today.
Discord was bored out of her skull. Nobody to taunt, nobody to screw, nobody to pit against someone else. Today was a dull day, so, from her temple, she looked down upon the mortal world in search opportunities. She had been observing random people until she stumbled upon a certain red-headed sister of one Hercules. Discord saw plenty of opportunities there and already a plan was forming in her mind. Oh, seeing little Willow getting viciously slaughtered might be a good bit of entertainment today. At least better than the putting green dye in Aphrodite's shampoo bottle again.
Willow left the shop with her basket filled with her purchases, mostly food for tonight's dinner.
Gods, everybody has a more interesting life than me, Willow sighed. Herc and Iolaus fight evil, Xander builds houses and Buffus is off slaying Bacchae in Thrace for the summer. And here I am with my big useless brain dragging food back home. I'm doing something wrong in my life here.
But life soon because a lot more interesting. In front of her appeared a short woman with long dark hair, wearing a suit that seemed to scream 'hurt me, baby'. She smirked at Willow. "Discord," Willow greeted warily. Willow knew that, as a demi-goddess, she was able to see Discord while the people around her could not. She moved to a more quiet position as to not draw unwanted attention to herself. More than she already had.
"Hercules warned me about you," Willow narrowed her eyes.
"Oh, so you're listening to Hercules now, hm? Wow, you sure are dependant on him. I bet he does everything for you. And I think you let him."
"That's not true!" Willow challenged. "I'm my own person, I am. I'm Willow, daughter of Zeus and I can be as much as a hero as Hercules is, but..."
"You'd rather have big muscles than a big smushy brain, hm," Discord smirked. "What if... I give you some of my godly strength?"
"I'd say to myself 'Hey, self, that's suspicious'. I've read about you, you know?" Willow challenged. "You're not exactly known for your kindness."
"Hey," Discord moved to Willow and lay her hand on her shoulder, causing Willow to flinch. "I'm your pal. And girls have to look out for each other. Also, I'm the goddess of Discord, so I'd just be doing my job by allowing you to beat up some people. Just stand still."
A glimmering light shot from Discord's hands and engulfed Willow. Willow couldn't explain it, but she felt... stronger. Instinctively, her hand moved to a heavy stone wheel leaning against the side of the building and, to her surprise, she could lift it as if it was made from paper.
"Now," Discord pointed to a rowdiest bar in town, the 'Bloody Axe', just as one of the patrons was forcefully ejected from the establishment through the window. "Why don't you put all that book-knowledge to work and put those rowdy mercenaries and bandits in their place, hm."
"Okay, I will," Willow said proudly. "Thank you, Discord."
"My pleasure, Willow," Discord rubbed her hands while she watched Willow strut towards the bar. Oh, the spell she used had given Willow super-strength... but only for about five seconds. It was going to be so much fun to see Hercules' face when he'd find his baby sister cut to pieces by the psychopaths that frequented that bar. She rubbed her hands in anticipation.
Willow strutted confidently into the bar. Everything reeked of alcohol while the occasional bar stool flew over her head. So far, the crowd of rowdy layabouts was ignoring her while Willow scanned for a potential target to beat up. Unfortunately for her, a target found her.
Willow found herself staring upwards at a six foot woman clad in leather armor. Her long raven hair was tied in a pony and an exotic weapon Willow recognized from a book as a chakram hung from her belt. Willow had noticed this woman checking out every other girl in the establishment and now the red-head was the center of attention.
Well, she's as good as any scoundrel, Willow thought as the tall woman reached out for her. Confidently, Willow grasped her arm with both hands with the intention to throw her over her head and out the door... but to her horror, she found that she was as weak as she used to be and couldn't even lift the tall woman an inch above the ground.
The tall woman was not impressed and fiercely grabbed Willow's jaw. "Hm," the tall woman said while feeling Willow's hair, despite her mumbled protestations. "Nice soft hair, lovely green eyes, firm young bosom..." she squeezed Willow's jaw. "And a set of good, strong white teeth. Yeah, you'll do."
Seconds later, Willow was staring at the inside of a burlap sack and was unceremoniously slung over the tall woman's shoulder. A long, bumpy ride on horseback later, she was tossed to the floor... somewhere.
"You did what?!" Tara shouted as she and her sister walked across the warlord's fortress towards the stables.
Xena merely shrugged. "You were lonely so I got you a girlfriend."
"You... you can't just rip somebody off the street and dump her in my stables!"
"Because it's wrong!"
"You think everything's wrong. I try to slice someone in half, it's 'No, Xena, it's wrong'. I try to burn down a village, you say 'It's immoral!'. If I try to have a rowdy party in the tavern, you say 'Think of the people who are trying to sleep'. It's always something with you."
Xena and Tara entered the stables, only to find an empty sack lying in the middle of the stables. A few meters further along, they found a girl trying to squeeze herself through a ventilation hole in the back wall that was way too tiny for her to fit through.
"What are you doing?" Xena put her hands on her hips.
"Escaping," sounded the muffled voice of the girl. "Is it working?"
Xena grabbed the girl by the belt and yanked her back into the stables. "No," she said calmly. "Not really. Well, I'll leave you two to get acquainted and," she whispered to Tara, "my tent won't be used tonight, if you need a 'romantic' place to retreat to later."
Tara blushed wildly while Xena gave her a sly wink and retreated. And finally Tara dared to look the strange girl in the eyes.
And she was lost.
The beautiful creature in front of her filled her with feelings that defied all form of reason. That wonderful red hair grazing her creamy skin. Those wonderful deep pools of green she could just drown in and die a happy woman. She just couldn't resist those pouty lips and smile. Eyes brimming with... [i]concern[i]?
"I warn you," the girl took a stance. "I am a master of oriental fighting techniques! I read everything there is to know about it, so I'm a master! Stand back!"
Tara swallowed hard, dazzled by the girl's beauty and determination. "Calm down, n-nothing's going to h-happen to y-you. I'm s-so sorry about my sister. I-if you want to leave, you're free to d-do so."
The girl raised an eyebrow. "For real? For real real? You're not just saying this to get to to..."
"For real," Tara said sincerely. "If you'd like to leave, I won't stop you. But... I'd r-r-really like you s-stay for a while. We could t-talk."
Thought the girl seemed wary, she had apparently decided Tara was sincere and eased somewhat. "Willow," she said. "I'm Willow."
"Tara. N-nice to meet you, Willow."
When Willow hadn't come home in time for dinner, Hercules and Iolaus had decided to investigate. The trail led them to the Bloody Axe, where some of the villagers had seen her enter. I didn't take Iolaus long to find Willow's basket lying on the floor. Some questions and a lot of punches later, Hercules held the only remaining conscious person in the bar against the wall and asked him where the girl the basket had belonged to was.
The man's answer made Hercules' blood run cold.
"Don't be afraid," Tara smiled at Willow, who was pressed against the wall. "It's just a horse."
"That's not a horse," Willow replied with a croak in her voice. "That's an elephant!"
Admidst all the warhorses and ponies in the stables, stood Tiny. Tiny was the clydesdale that pulled the catapult and even though Tara had explained it was the kindest and gentlest animal of the lot, he was still... very big. Very, very, very big.
Tara stood next to the brown horse and patted him on the neck. Tara's encouraging smile made Willow dare to foot forward, sliding ever towards the clydesdale until she was just in front of him. Only then she realized the horse's head was about as big as her entire upper body.
"Just lay your hand on his nose, like that," Tara said, guiding Willow's hand on top of Tiny's nose while she slowly stroked the soft skin of the red-head's hand. "Now, put the carrot on the top of your other hand and bring it up to his mouth."
Willow squeezed her eyes shut when she felt Tiny's lips search for the carrot. She heard crunching noises and then nothing.
"Is it over?"
"You can open your eyes now."
Willow did so and was relieved to see that her hand was still attached.
"Eww," Willow took the cloth Tara offered her to wipe off her hand. "Horse-slobber."
Willow and Tara sat down on a bale of hay next to the horses. "So, I take care of the horses, yeah. I'm not really warrior material. I come in and feed them, take care of them and brush their manes. I even sleep in the stables. My room is up there on the loft. That there's my sister's horse, Argo. She has the best pen."
"Yeah," Willow rolled her eyes. "I've been for a ride on her... kinda sorta."
Tara sighed. "Again, I'm really sorry. Xena means well, you know. She saw I was lonely and tried to fix it. She's meant well and I'm glad to have met someone to talk to, at least. Again, you're not a prisoner, Willow."
"WHOA!" Willow gasped. "Your big sister is Xena? Destroyer of Nations? Warlord Extreme? Dominatrix Maxima? But... but... isn't she an extremely violent woman? I've read about her in the Thracian almanac! She's been trekking around the known world for years and... you have too? Wow, the things you must have seen? Uh, I mean, not the evil, bloody, horrific killing things, but I'm sure you must have seen a lot of wonders. Did I mention Xena is evil?"
"Hey," Tara huffed. "That's my sister you're talking about! And she's not evil, she's just misunderstood. She has a kind soul, you know, but sometimes her morals are a bit lacking... Deep down, she's a pussycat, really."
"Xena, a pussycat?"
"Sure, she just needs to somebody to love," Tara smiled. "Last month, we were in this little town called Potediea and we went to see the bards perform at the inn. There was a really good one, a strawberry blonde with a cute smile. I tried to introduce her to my sister, but Xena got nervous and ducked out at the last moment. I'll have to try again next time we're in the neighborhood."
"AH!" Willow started when a huge head bent over the pen and ducked towards feedbag which was still strung over Willow's shoulder and pushed his big nose right in. Tiny munched happily on the carrots still inside.
"Tiny, you little thief," Tara giggled. "He always does that. He'd sell his soul for a carrot. Probably has."
"So, why did Xena bring me here? So you'd have someone to talk to," Willow asked.
"Someone to love," Tara blushed. "She took it on herself to bring me a girlfriend, seeing Xe and I are the only girls in camp at the moment... present company excluded."
"Girlfriend?" Willow frown. "But you're a girl yourself."
"Yes," Tara frowned. "Isn't girls kissing girls something you read in one of your books?"
"Mother says there are some books I'm not ready for," Willow frowned. "But... girls kiss boys," she stated as if it was the most logical thing in the world.
"Not all girls," Tara smiled. "Not me."
"Here," Tara blushed slightly. "Want me to... s-show you?"
Willow had never been kissed before, but she'd read about it. And from reading Plato's guide to basic anatomy, she knew the basic mechanics behind the bodily movements involved with kissing. But any written word could in no way describe the actual experience.
Tara leant in and their lips met. As Tara started a slow exploration of Willow's mouth, the red-head first just sat there, stiff as a board. When she dared to move, she tried to fold her arms around Tara without breaking that wonderful kiss and the indescribable sensations that came from it. Tara was unlike any person he had ever met before.
So intense was their experience, that neither girl so much as noticed the violence outside of the stables. A flurry of screams, shouts, punches, clonks of metal and a high-pitched A-yiyiyiyiyiyiyi never so much as reached their ears. In fact the girls were still kissing while Xena and Hercules slammed through the stable-doors, locked in a flurry of kicks and punches. Iolaus followed suit, fending off a number of Xena's soldiers.
And so Willow and Tara broke there kiss... and suddenly found themselves being stared at by a blinking Hercules and a smirking Xena, while Iolaus had started a thorough examination of the stable's interior, meticulously following the lines in the cedar wood.
"Ah! I know I was right," Xena smirked. "I usually am about things like that. I know my little sister's tastes."
"Willow," Hercules asked. "Are you alright?"
"Never been better," Willow whispered, sounding as if she was talking down at them from cloud 9.
Tara blinked. "Whoa, do you know who this is? This is Hercules!"
"I know my own brother," Willow smirked. "I'm fine, Herc. Thanks for coming to my rescue, even though it's not really necessary."
"HERCULES IS YOUR BROTHER?!" Tara and Xena shouted at the same time.
"Figures," Xena crossed her arms. "Of all the girls in the world, I picked the sister of my mortal enemy to bring home. Great, I suppose we should stop being mortal enemies for our sister's sake now."
Hercules nodded. "Perhaps it's time for to turn a new leaf, Xena. The forces of good could use a warrior like you and..."
Xena glowered at Hercules, actually making him take a few steps back. "Don't push your luck, muscle-man!" she threatened.
"Herc!" Willow smiled. "Can Tara come over to dinner tonight?"
"Can Xe come too?" Tara asked quickly.
While Hercules wondered how he was going to break it to his mother that Willow was involved with the sister of a fierce warlord, Iolaus stepped up to the place. "You know, Herc," he chuckled. "I think our lives just got a whole lot more complicated."
In her temple, Discord was ranting, shouting and screaming. Not only had there been any guts and gore to laugh about, but in the end, she had actually done a good deed and brought harmony between two mortal enemies. Her! The goddess of Discord. Curse that Willow and Tara. She swore they hadn't heard the last of her!
She took a moment to relieve her anger by kicking a stray cat that had walked into her temple... only to have the cat hiss and turn into a whirlwind with claws directed at her face.
For Discord, this was turning out to be a very, very, very bad day.