The One Thing That Does Not Vary
A fated coupling?
 In virtually every case, the characters sense some kind of connection, often described as an "unnerving" familiarity, usually combined with an intense desire to protect and/or redeem the other character. Since this is a feature which rarely changes in Uber-fiction, it's reasonable to guess that the goals these souls are trying to reach have more to do with rediscovering this connection than with exploring different ways of being in the world. So let's look at this feature more closely.
 As we have seen, the characters often have help understanding this familiarity: family stories, artifacts, or contact from their ancestors. But whether the Uber-story makes explicit reference to their heritage or not, the women are routinely left marveling how on earth they could suddenly feel as if they have known this new acquaintance forever, and why they do not want to let each other out of their sight.
 In "Surfacing", lawyer Charlotte Browning forces herself to explain her feelings to Diana before she loses her nerve entirely:
"What I feel when I look at you is the same kind of familiarity I feel when I look at the sky, the ocean, or the lines on my palm. We may have met less than twenty-four hours ago, but I know you, Diana Starrett," Charlotte declared, the passion rising in her voice as she sought to find the right words. Other stories do not lend themselves as well to spoken revelations, but the simultaneous senses of shock and certainty are still there. As Brie and Zim sip coffee at a diner, shortly after meeting at an AA meeting, Zim is hit with an epiphany (...not to be confused with being hit by an Eponin or an Ephiny -- that would be another story altogether):
"I don't want to scare you, but if I don't say this now, I know I'll regret it." Charlotte folded her hands reverently and lay them on Diana's thigh, trying to draw some courage through osmosis. Blue eyes regarded her kindly, exuding patience. She took a slow breath to fill her lungs and jumped off the deep end.
"It's like my whole life, I've been stumbling around in some dim, crowded room. I knew some of the people there, but I still felt like I was alone. I started looking around for a lightswitch, a windowshade or something so that I could see them more clearly; but then yesterday morning, the shades rolled up all by themselves and the light streamed in and I saw you. I could hear my soul sighing in relief and saying, 'Finally! There she is! We can go now. There she is.' For twenty-five years, I've been milling around in my best dress, waiting for you to show up and take me to some cosmic prom." Charlotte squinted and shook her head. "And I'm not even mad at you for being late."
Brie smiled brightly at Zim, her head cocked to one side just slightly. Also in, "Love and Death in the Trailer Park":
Zim took in a sudden intake of air, her breath catching at the sight of red gold hair framing the sparkling green eyes, invoking a feeling of sudden familiarity - almost a deja vu experience. Her meditations at night that mellowed her into sound sleep always focused on her place of peace - a meadow on a small ridge that overlooked a stream leading into a gentle pool of water. The sky was blue and flocked with puffy clouds allowing the warm sun to wash over the meadow. Usually she imagined herself laying quietly on the grassy slope, letting the sun warm her body and breathe energy into her, but lately, when she drifted off to sleep, her vision continued into her dreams. She was still lying on her grassy slope, but whenever she raised her head to take in the stream and pool there stood a figure of a young woman. She was holding a staff and dressed in a costume of ancient design, and when she turned to face Zim, she smiled broadly and looked... Just like Brie.
["A Fork in the Road"]
Mechanically Gabrielle got up and skulked to the door. She opened it. Zina, dressed in a Metallica t-shirt and Levi's, mirrored sunglasses masking her brilliant eyes, grinned at her. "Am I too late?"
Gabrielle stood speechless. A sense of relief, of warmth, washed over her, and she didn't know why. Why was she so damned happy to see this woman? "Oh... no," she said quietly. "You're... right on time." She did not move, but continued to stand in the doorway and stare at the woman before her.
Zina pulled off the sunglasses. Her deep blue eyes showed concern. "Hey, you okay?" she asked gently.
"Uh, yeah. I am now." Gabrielle broke into a grin.
What Gets Gotten Right... When we recognize what doesn't vary among these stories, and see the repeated references to "rightness" almost instantly felt, we can see that Uber-fiction is not about slow-learning souls trapped in constant rematches with prior karmic issues. These souls know exactly what they want, and where they have to go looking for it. If the price is having to redeem Xena from yet another life of revenge and loneliness, or getting Gabrielle to recognize that she can be a success by following her dreams, well, so be it.
 As you have probably guessed, much like the Xena: Warrior Princess show itself, I have been skating around an issue (you can debate among yourselves whether it's the same issue) for most of this article: Uber-fiction is usually lesbian fiction. Out of the forty or so Mel and Janice stories I am familiar with, only eight of them feature a distinctly non-lesbian relationship between the two main characters, and among the other Uber-stories, only two out of some forty-five are without a lesbian or strong subtextual relationship.
 The first of these exceptions, "A Meeting of Chance", has the Xena character and her Uber-Hercules fiance going to meet his best friend, an Uber-Iolaus, and the friend's Uber-Gabrielle sister, where Iolaus's old amulet triggers everyone's memories of their heroic teamwork. In the second, "The Kind", by L. Graham, a lost wolf cub helps an older, injured black she-wolf, and they end up roaming the wilds together.
 Virtually every other non-Mel and Janice Uber-story has as a strongly featured lesbian component, as Xena and Gabrielle's progeny work out the often elaborate obstacles to both their friendship and the bedroom, not necessarily in that order.
 In short, what these souls want is each other. Bards can have them save the world, and drape as much "for the greater good" wrapping paper around them as they like, but it doesn't change one iota what these souls are after.
 In some cases, oxygen takes second place to their need and passion. First kisses tend to be followed by a fair amount of hyperventilation...
"I've wanted to do that since I laid eyes on you," [Elizaabeth] confessed, resting her head on Jude's chest and smiling at the frantic cadence of the heart underneath her ear. Depending on how bard-like the Uber-Gabrielle character might be, we sometimes find a soul's goals in writing. In "Fire and Ice", Danielle provides a concise list in her journal: "In my mind, there is but one certainty. I want Alex: in my heart, in my life and in my bed."
"Me too," Jude admitted softly. "I just didn't think..." It would feel like this... so terrifyingly good and right... She glanced down the length of their bodies, arms and legs entwined so tightly that not even the tiniest molecule could pass between them.
 So much for subtext.
Experiencing Technical Difficulties Although Uber-characters seem to be fairly quick off the mark in recognizing their desires, it takes longer for them to accept how deeply their feelings really run, and how much about their lives will have to change in order to follow where those feelings lead. We saw one example of that back in "Surfacing", where Xena was trying to make Diana admit the obvious. Here is another: Jude Lucien is easily spooked by intimacy, and was already wrestling with the emotions brought on when Elizabeth Peterson gives her an unexpected embrace. Watch how quickly Jude's darkness surfaces when Elizabeth sets off a scalding memory with a teasing remark:
"You could have just dumped me at a hospital and vanished back into the night. But you took care of me, make sure I was safe. Most people in your position wouldn't have done that." A soft smile lit her face from the inside, brightening the mossy green of her eyes into a glimmering emerald. "I'm beginning to think you're not as tough as you pretend." Usually, when one soul falters, the other tries to intervene, but since the old patterns of violence and self-hatred have not been eliminated, there is plenty of risk involved. The guard Xenia Krieger has spent years getting pleasure from her prisoners with the assistance of her service revolver. To Clyde, the older prisoner, who is watching from a nearby cell, the Kid seems suicidally unimpressed with Krieger's demands.
"Come on, Angel... get over your big bad self,"
Jason's voice taunted her relentlessly as she tried to walk away. "You may have this dark and brooding thing down pat with everyone else, but I know you hurt inside. You're not as tough as you pretend..."
Jude's eyes darkened dangerously at the surfacing memory, and Elizabeth backed away instinctively from the sudden menace. "You're wrong," the tall woman growled. "I'm much, much worse," she warned, turning on her heel and fleeing, shutting the door firmly behind her.
The Kid said, "Will you STOP walking in circles. You are making me dizzy. Can't you just stand and talk, like normal people?" "Ubermadness: Battle for the Third Age" has not been completed yet, but from the sections available so far, Rielle knows she is Gabrielle, but Xero is not buying the idea she is really Xena, despite multiple lectures from Mel and Janice in her dreams.
"There are no normal people in this place. There are just weak ones and strong ones. You are one of the weak ones and I am one of the strong ones. You got that?! And we are all together here in hell."
"Whither I fly is Hell; myself am Hell."
"John Milton. Actually Milton's devil. But I guess you don't get to read much Milton here."
"Do you never stop? You are making me crazy!"
"I'm not trying to make you crazy. I'm trying to make you gentle." And then in a tiny voice I [Clyde] could hardly hear, "I remember you being gentle."
"I was never gentle, not in this life. Not in this hell." But Krieger's voice had in fact gotten softer.
["Women in Prison"]
"You've got quite a way with people," Rielle observed taking a sip from her bottled water. While there is a certain amount of struggle, there is also a sense of inevitability. After being treated to, or tortured by (take your pick), Mel reading a section of erotic poetry written by Gabrielle about Xena, Janice realizes, there is simply no point in fighting the attraction.
"So why aren't you listening to them and heading for the hills?" the hacker asked as she leaned back and closed her eyes.
"Because you being a complete asshole doesn't convince me you aren't Xena."
"Jesus Christ. . . these d*mned feelings are genetic."
Again in her mind she pictured Mel, lovely in the lamp light, reciting the poem. She shook off a tingle of desire. "That g*dd*mn*d bard brat."
["All the Colors of the World']
Even though he knows he stand a snowball's chance in Tartarus, 'Jacques' defends the ladies.
 While the main characters spend time beating themselves up about how they do not deserve happiness, or could not possibly be having such strong protective and romantic feelings about their new friend, the supporting characters watch the drama and wonder when the pair are going to buy a clue.
Mae grinned as the outlaw and her companion entered the inn together and shook her head when one of the "girls" muttered, "They're inseparable." In "A Fork In The Road", an Uber-Salmoneus is thrilled to see that the taciturn Zim has brought her new friend from AA to his restaurant.
"Uh huh," Mae said. "Soulmates usually are."
"But they don't even know..."
"Give them time," Mae said. "They'll figure it out."
As soon as she was out of earshot, he turned to Zim and verbally pounced on her. "She's fabulous, Zimmer!" This version of Salmoneus might even offer to buy them a clue, using the proceeds of a winning lottery ticket, if he ever happened to have one. But it is clear that he, and the Uber-Cyrenes, and the assortment of devoted housekeepers in these stories, all wish the best for their old friends.
Where ever did you find her?? It's about time, you know. You've been by yourself far too long now..."
Zim held her hand up to stop the barrage, "Hold it! I just met her... at a Meeting. We're just friends, and she's straight. Got it?" She glared at him with an exasperated look.
He looked at her with somewhat of an annoyed look, and then leaned over to her "Yea, right, and I'm the Queen of Sheba!"
"Queen, maybe. Sheba... naw, I don't think so." Zim gave him a mischievous grin that quickly changed to a serious look, "But Sal, don't push. She's just starting recovery and she needs a friend. That's all I'm doing."
"Right now, anyways." He shot back. "Look, it's really great that you start off as friends, heaven knows, I've gone the other route far too many times!
But there sure is a big attraction there!"
 Of course, not everyone is happy for these reunited soulmates (Yeah, yeah, I finally used the word). There are plenty of Uber-Callisto's and Velasca's out there, and Ares appears, too, as a god in some stories, and as various shady characters in others. Probably the lightest Uber-character objecting to the renewed partnership is the Uber-Lila in "Love and Death in the Trailer Park". Lila Hockenberry set her sister Gabrielle on the path to meeting Zina when Lila tried to convince her to go on Jerry Springer. Gabrielle reacted in horror and shame and ran off to the Saddlehorn Bar. Several weeks later, Purdy, Lila's boyfriend discovers Zina in the Hockenberry bathroom, and Gabrielle admits that this tall dark firefighter is her lover.
"You've gone queer on me!" Lila wailed.
"Oh for Christ's sake, Lila." Gabrielle groaned.
"I knew I shouldn't have taken Purdy away from you," she blubbered.
"What are you talking about?"
"You're too sensitive Gab, you always were. Obviously, the shock of it-losing Purdy to me-was too much, and it made you gay."
"Lila, you can't make people gay. The therapist on Jenny Jones last week said so."
Unconditional Lifetime(s) Guarantee So karma does come back. Love recognized and freely given in one lifetime echoes back across the Styx to enrich future lives. The traumas the Uber-Xenas and Gabrielles endure seem minor in comparison to what they regain, over and over again. These two souls may not be headed towards the Nirvana where all desires are extinguished (and would we want to read about it if they did?), but they always head towards each other, where all their desires are fulfilled.
 Oh, that the rest of us might be so lucky...
"Luck," Mae said from behind. "Has nothing to do with it. Isn't that right Zeen?"
"That's right," Zeen agreed with a grin. "It's not at all about luck, it's all about destiny."
"Destiny?" Ike asked. [Ike's an Uber-Iolaus -- RB]
"About three thousand years of it," Rielle said, exchanging a knowing glance with Zeen.
Works Cited With Links"All Souls Night"
"All the Colors of the World"
"The Amphipolis Expedition"
"And a Nightingale..."
"Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
"The Banshee's Wail"
"The Dangerous Truth"
"Destiny at the Amphipili Nursing Home"
"Don't Look Back"
"Fire and Ice"
"Forests of Eyulf"
"A Fork in the Road"
"Four Days in April"
"Home Is Where the Heart Is"
"Intimate Strangers" series
"Is There a Doctor on the Dig?"
"Learning the Ropes"
"Legends Book One: Companions"
"Love and Death in the Trailer Park"
"A Meeting of Chance"
"Outlaw II: Outlaws, Guns, and Roses"
"The Price of Innocence"
"Promises to Keep"
"Reflections of the Past"
"Rescue My Heart"
"The Search for Amphipolis"
"Secrets of the Hoary Deep"
"The Ship Who Remembered"
"The Sunne in Gold"
"Sunne in Scarlet"
"The Sword of Ares"
"Towards the Sunset"
"Ubermadness: Battle for the Third Age"
"Ways To Be Wicked"
"Who's Going To Miss an Angel or Two, Anyway?"
"Wild West Roots"
"Women in Prison"
"Xena by Gaslight"
Table of Contents
Rhet Belraven is the pen name of an English professor [ooh, there's a surprise], who reads entirely too much and too fast for her own good. You might find her during the day teaching scientists how to communicate effectively, and during the evenings hanging out with friends, singing, writing, or doing the occasional random woodworking project... when she isn't scouring the nets for the best and worst of fanfiction. The basic stats: Father is a swordmaster -- check. Dark hair -- check. Low voice -- check. Mobile eyebrows -- check. Fondness for leather and sharp shiny objects -- check. Devoted bard companion -- Hmmph... I knew I was missing something...
Favorite episode: ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313), LOST MARINER (45/221)
Favorite line: Xena: "We all eventually become what we pretend we are." BLIND FAITH (42/218)
First episode really paid attention to: ALTARED STATES (19/119) [I was flipping channels and caught Xena coming up out of that lake. Oh, my.]
Least favorite episode: KING CON (61/315), and that Egyptian thing with two Joxers [KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308)]