by The B.F&F Corporation
COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and back story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way.
LOVE DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story. Please note no graphic sexual scenes are contained within the story.
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It was a cool night, the wind coming in cadence to match the waves of the water outside the beachfront cave. Xena moved another piece of driftwood into the fire and watched the flames come up. She glanced across the fire at Eve as her young daughter moved to stretch out her now healed injuries and brushed out her hair. Leaning back a little heavier on the rock wall, she finally turned to look at her lover who sat nearby. It had been a hard time for all of them. Deposited on the beach so unceremoniously after the battle on Olympus. The whole of Greece was in a controlled panic, of that the warrior was sure. The Gods had fallen and for the moment their would be an obvious struggle to replace them. In an effort to heal and regroup they decided to stay put for a few days and then decide on a next move. She couldn't help shake the heavy feeling of loss that hung in the air around everyone.
Gabrielle carefully pulled her sias from her boots and laid them beside her blanket. She massaged her calves a little through her boots as she too focused on the transformed young woman whom she had come so close to killing.
"I think I'll go get more firewood." Eve stood up abruptly, a little unnerved by their watchful eyes. "I won't be long."
Gabrielle said nothing, she just watched the dark haired woman move away. Part of her expected Xena to accompany or at least suggest they didn't need more wood. Xena however let her go without objection. She knew they all had a lot to assimilate and maybe this would let her daughter have a brief moment alone. Her injuries were all but healed and her mother's instinct remained low. Besides the lie of the cove they were nestled in would let her hear any disturbance if it occurred.
"Are your calf's bothering you?" Xena asked the question of her partner slowly as she leaned forward off the rock wall.
"I think I have a chill about me." The blond replied her calves did ache but then again most of her did.
"There's less wind over here." Xena offered not sure why the bard had chosen the spot by the entrance. "I could try and massage them out for you." She hated the stifled feeling each of her words had. The brief feeling of impending doom that came each time Gabrielle even managed to look at her.
"I can see the stars from here." Gabrielle thought of a kinder way to turn Xena down but none came to mind.
"At least wrap this around you." She lifted up the blanket she'd been sitting on as she rose and moved to offer it as a wrap to the bard.
"Xena It's okay." This time it was Gabrielle who stood up and moved closer to the cave's entrance.
"Gabrielle, it's obviously not okay." The warrior stopped her approach lost.
"This isn't working is it?" Gabrielle turned slowly looking around the cave at their possessions and bedrolls.
"This?" Xena's eyes widened. "It's just been a crazy time. Things will even out."
Eventually the blonde bard managed to look up at Xena, she shook her head.
"Do you really believe that?" She asked her voice heavy.
"Of course I do." The warrior was honest. "It just needs time and talking."
"Time? Talking?" The bard shook her head and turned away from the warrior, taking a step out of the cave into the ever increasing darkness.
"Gabrielle!" Xena followed her every step, gaining on the smaller woman with the large strides she took. "You're just going to walk away?"
"Answer me one question Xena." Gabrielle stopped and whirled round her eyes more angry than anything else.
"Anything." Xena stopped a little surprised by the bard's anger. It was a new thing, though an old thing. She's seen hints of it over the years but recently it had taken up permanent residence just behind green eyes.
"I was willing to take the life of my daughter because she was evil, when we met Eve - she was evil too. If she hadn't turned round, would you have done the same?" There was a large element of challenge to the bard's question.
"I..." The warrior wavered briefly. "Yes." She finally found the horrible reality.
"And now, if we found out she was just bluffing? Could you kill her now?"
"You think she's bluffing?" Xena knew it was the wrong question to ask but it came out quick from her hurt.
"Answer me Xena, it's the least you can do."
"Yes, if there was proof she was bluffing." The warrior made the answer firmly.
"You know what Xena." The bard took three steps towards her lover and tilted her head up her green eyes firm and yet behind the anger was something deeper. A thick free flowing pain, "I don't believe you." With these words Gabrielle continued her walk back to the cave straight to where she had placed her weapons.
"Gabrielle, why don't you believe me?" The warrior had no choice but to play catch up and follow her again.
"Because I've seen how you look at her." The bard spoke as she picked up her sias and placed them in their holders. "I've seen how you are with her."
"What like if she slashed and burned her way from here to the Nile I'd let her?" Xena shook her head. "I would have killed Livia, Gabrielle."
"But she's already dead isn't she?" Gabrielle tried to take the edge from her voice as she picked up her blanket and shook out the small stones and dust from it.
"Yes." Xena was adamant. "This is Eve, surely you can see the difference? It was you alone who believed I could change, don't you believe she can?" She cast the questions quickly trying not to be panicked by what the bard was doing.
"Xena we do not know what she has done for the last 25 years. What influences she has had? We don't know anything." Gabrielle folded up her blanket roughly and bent down to pick up her pack.
"I know there is a lot we need to learn." The warrior conceded. "But it takes time to learn it."
"No Xena. There's a lot for you to learn, about your daughter."
"Our daughter." Xena corrected her quickly.
"Your daughter," Gabrielle shook her head.
"You want me to choose?" The warrior felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach and drained all the air out of her lungs. She was tired. She'd just killed half a dozen Greek Gods and now while the world was still spinning from the aftermath the one constant in her life was packing up her side of camp.
"You already did." Gabrielle briefly put her hand to the back of her head and then gave an involuntary shudder. "I have to go." She tacked onto the end of her sentence.
"Gabrielle, that was not a choice." Xena flinched as the bard gestured to her head. "It was a reaction, a really, really bad one."
"It was a choice." The blond said sadly checking the ground for her things as she took a few steps to the cave mouth.
"Where are you going to go?" Xena asked defeated.
"I thought I would try catching up with Virgil. He was making his way to his mother."
"Gabrielle, please don't leave me." Xena made the plea in a tiny whisper.
"There's no place for me here." The bard shook her head again
"There is, I swear there is." The warrior took a step closer.
"No, there isn't." She continued shaking. "Think of it this way." The bard stopped at the cave entrance "I tried to kill my own daughter three times and I have tried to kill yours once. That makes me the last person who should be here."
"There are circumstances Gabrielle." Xena tried to reason. "It wasn't you, it was the Furies."
"Was it? How can you be sure? She killed Joxer, that hurts." Gabrielle felt a tear on her cheek. "It hurts here." She rested her hand over her heart. "And here." She lifted her hand to her temple.
"I'm not sure Gabrielle, I don't even think Eve is." Xena flinched again. "But it takes time to prove and if you think I'm not mourning Joxer your wrong."
"Enjoy your daughter Xena, teach her well." Gabrielle had had enough of the conversation she moved out of the cave. Xena closed her eyes unable to watch her lover leave her sight of vision.
"I still love you Xena." Gabrielle whispered as she took unsure steps away form the cave entrance.
"Gabrielle you're leaving?" Eve came up on the bard with an armful of wood. With a slight jump Gabrielle looked up straight into the brown eyes of Eve, unable to maintain the look she turned away.
"Look after you mother Eve." She said softly placing her hand around the top part of Eve's left arm.
"You can't leave her." Eve pleaded gently. "She needs you."
"She used to." Gabrielle rubbed the arm briefly before moving it off she took a step away.
"Gabrielle she'll always need you." Eve turned with her. "If I leave will you stay?" She asked desperate knowing she'd caused enough pain and suffering in her young life.
"No." Gabrielle shook her head though the fact shocked her as she admitted it.
"I've never loved anyone like you and her love each other." Eve tried to reach her. "Don't throw it away Gabrielle, it's far to precious a thing."
"There's a lot you don't know Eve." Gabrielle said softly.
"I know you love each other." Eve countered. "Seems like there's not much else important."
"It's not how much you love someone or something Eve, it's how you love them that matters." Gabrielle tried to make sense of her reasons. "I love you both, and therefore I know I have to leave."
"I don't understand Gabrielle." Eve shook her head. "If you love us both why do you have to go?" Gabrielle stopped her need to leave the area for a moment and held Eves eyes.
"You don't know this, but I had a daughter." The bard kept her voice low. "And I loved her, I loved her very much." Eve listened silently, as Gabrielle said the words she was surprised at the pain they still brought to the surface.
"I..." Gabrielle stopped deciding against what she was about to say.
"You?" Eve tried to urge her on.
"It's time I let this all go Eve." Gabrielle changed her attitude with a slight shake of her head. "I need to go."
"Is there any way to convince you to stay?" She asked not knowing what to do. "It's selfish, but we both need you so much Gabrielle."
"You can't undo what has already been done." Gabrielle felt another tear on her cheek "I'm sorry." She added quietly.
"Just tell me this is short term?" Eve frowned. "That there is at least a little chance of you coming back."
"Maybe." Gabrielle nodded.
"I wish I was better at this stuff." The woman's frown deepened.
"With your mother being who she is, you don't have much chance." Gabrielle forced a slight smile.
"Guess it's one of those selfish things I was going to rely on you for." Eve knew it wasn't fair but she was running out of attempts.
"Life will teach you Eve." Gabrielle felt the growing need to leave now her resolve failing slightly. "I have to take advantage of the full moons light." She glanced up. Eve merely nodded mutely. "I'm sorry Eve, for everything." Gabrielle began her walk to the coastal path.
"It's not your fault Gabrielle." She shook her head. "I'm the one who's sorry." She watched the bard leave. Holding the wood in her arms a little tighter as she turned to go back to the cave.
"Mother?" Eve sounded the name soft and meek as she entered.
"Did you find us lots of wood?" Xena replied in a strange voice.
"Yeah, I..." She looked back out of the entrance. "I saw Gabrielle."
"Oh." Came the unusual reply from the warrior. Eve moved over to place the wood in the reserve pile and she moved over to sit near the warrior.
"Are you okay?" She asked awkwardly.
"I'm..." Xena paused. "Of course." She finished finally.
"Mother, this is silly." Eve picked up her sword and poked at the fire. "You have to be upset, Gabrielle just left."
"It's what she wanted to do." Xena watched the flames and sparks.
"That doesn't mean it's right." Eve countered. "She left cause of me didn't she?"
"No Eve." Xena shook her head and reached over her hand to place it covering her daughters on the sword hilt. "I think this is more to do with me."
"Mother, what happened to Gabrielle's daughter?" Eve asked the question softly.
"Did she tell you she had a daughter?" Xena was surprised.
"Yes just now, as she was leaving, what happened?"
"It's a long story Eve, and a sad one, but it might help to know it." The warrior reflected. Shifting a little Xena fixed her eyes on the dancing flames as she began to recount the long and tragic saga of Hope.
"Eve?" Xena asked gently as she knelt beside her daughter who was still curled up in a sleepy ball, the warrior had already packed up all of their things. The woman started awake.
"What? Mother?" Eve calmed immediately.
"Sorry." The warrior apologized.
"It's okay." She reached up to run a hand through her tussled hair. "You should have woken me to help pack." She looked at the things all ready to leave.
"I thought it was time we faced the world." The warrior pushed herself up from the floor beside the young woman.
"Where are we going?" Eve yawned and got up.
"Well I'm not sure." Xena admitted as she checked the cave. Seeing a small bundle of things leant against the far wall the warrior moved over to them once there she picked up the small pack full of scrolls.
"Did you have these?" Xena picked them up and turned to Eve a frowned creasing her brow.
"Yeah." Eve smiled softly. "I started reading them after you went to sleep last night. Mother, you can't let her go." She knew they'd argued about this last night but there was no way she was letting it go.
"Did I ever tell you I read you these when you were a baby?"
"No." The young woman shook her head. "You read them before that didn't you? Some of those seem like you and her weren't even together yet."
"Funnily enough no." Xena shook her head and sadly sat on the cave floor she pulled out a scroll at random, opening it just to see the bard script.
"Oh." The admission stopped her in her tracks. "You always loved her didn't you?" Eve leaned against the cave wall watching the warrior.
"Yes." Xena breathed the answer.
"Mother, we both know you still love her." Eve spoke back softly.
"Always." Xena agreed softly.
"You can fix whatever is wrong. You just have to try. I mean after what happened after Britannia..."
"I don't know that I can do." Xena shook her head.
"Don't give me that!" Eve fell a bit angry. "You just spent the last week changing me from the scum of the earth to..." She paused. "Well to someone who knows she wasn't living properly. You killed almost all the Greek Gods and your trying to convince me you can figure out how to get her back? You came back from the dead for her, or was the one scroll in there that was an exaggeration?"
"Gabrielle didn't exaggerate." Xena listened to her daughter's words.
"Well then?" Eve looked at her.
"She chose to leave Eve, there is nothing I can do about that." The warrior forced the scrolls into the pack and stood up.
"Mother, she didn't want to go. I saw it in her eyes." Eve tried to make her see. "She's confused and lost. She didn't know what else to do."
"And what can I do about that?" Xena looked at her daughter.
"That's what we need to figure out." Eve smiled softly. "At the very least we can keep track of where she is and make sure she's safe."
"I guess we are heading towards Athens then." Xena smiled softly.
"Between the two of us we've strategised in our own times to take over the world Mother." Eve made the admission with a heavy heart. "I'm sure we can figure a way to get her back."
"I would only ever want her back if it was what she wanted." The warrior admitted.
"I didn't mean tie her up Mom." Eve laughed. "I meant help her be okay again." She tapped her head. Xena made an effort to laugh with her daughter but her hearts was still heavier than it had ever been.
"Come on she's got a head start on us." Eve stirred into action, as she knew they were already hours behind the young bard.
Gabrielle trudged on, her legs weary and her head giving her more pain than it had. She had started with the merest of dull aches that had turned into a definite pain. On top of which she was achy and shivery and generally lost, not physically, but in all other ways.
"Ares didn't do such a good job on the head thing did he?" Aphrodite appeared in a sparkle of stardust beside her meeting her pace. "He was never good with the healing thing."
"Oh I don't know." Gabrielle threw a smile at the Goddess of love. "Considering the damage, which I can only guess at, I think he did okay."
"Yeah." The Goddess grimaced. "Wasn't pretty. You had us all in such a tizzy." Aphrodite smiled at her.
"Thank you." Gabrielle stopped walking and nodded towards a nearby tree stump.
"I figured I sorta owed you." The Goddess moved over with her.
"It took a lot." Gabrielle said softly. "You've lost so much." She added looking at the beautiful Goddess not even wanting to contemplate how she must be feeling.
"Yeah, it's not so hot." The Goddess smiled weakly. "But these things happen I guess. How come the lack of Warrior Princess?" She asked softly not wanting to dwell on her own situation either.
Gabrielle kicked her legs on the tree bark for a moment of silence.
"I..." Gabrielle paused. "I left."
"Mad at her for the lobotomy, can't blame you." Aphrodite grimaced again.
"An apology would have helped." The bard admitted.
"Not even an apology?" She shook her head. "Ouchie, though for what it's worth little one, she looked like someone had ripped out her heart when she realized." Gabrielle looked away form the Goddess and shook her head.
"The thought of losing me, didn't stop her doing it." Gabrielle couldn't help but sound betrayed.
"I can't defend her Gabrielle." Aphrodite admitted.
"It would hurt less." Gabrielle began and then stopped with a heavy sigh. 'What right do I have to be doing this to Aphrodite? Hasn't she had enough of the pain of others?' The bard berated herself.
"Would hurt less?" The Goddess urged her on trying to offer a comforting ear. "Come on, I don't care about the twilight I'm still the Goddess of love." She reached out and patted Gabrielle's arm. "Spill." The bard smiled and sighed again.
"When I had to chose between Xena and my daughter." Gabrielle began her voice hollow and sad. "I chose Xena, she chose Eve. That hurts."
"I bet." Aphrodite nodded. "Can ask something without seeming like I'm trying to cause trouble? Cause I'm not. I'm 110% on your side little one."
"There is no way you could cause trouble." Gabrielle looked up sad but lovingly at the blonde.
"Know a smidge about the whole Hope thingy." She smiled. "I know it's a bit of a different situation but right off did you really choose her first?"
"When she was an innocent child who had done nothing wrong?" Gabrielle replied. "No, I didn't. When she had proved that she was evil, then yes."
"I'm sorry, I'm meddling." Aphrodite gave a sad smile.
"Am I wrong Aphrodite?" Gabrielle asked suddenly.
"There is no wrong Gabrielle." The Goddess shook her head. "There just been enough pain going around lately I hate to see one of the great love stories fall apart."
"It's been going wrong for a long time." Gabrielle's voice was sad.
"The whole Eve thing?" Aphrodite tired to get her to talk.
"There's no place for me anymore." Gabrielle shrugged lost.
"Okay now that's where you're wrong." Aphrodite shook her head.
"Am I?" Gabrielle queried.
"You've been right by her side for the whole thing Gabrielle. Sure Xena's been a bit mental but there is no one on earth that could take your place."
"And what is my place?" Gabrielle asked suddenly. "What do I add to her life? Things have changed so much. We are such different people now."
"They have changed." Aphrodite moved her leg to gently kick the bard's sais. "Look at you warrior girl, not quite the young woman who followed her out of Potadeia. Love is never an easy thing little one as people are always changing. The hardest thing is finding the same thread of love through each new day."
"Can I ask you for something Aphrodite?" Gabrielle said looking up form the ground.
"Of course." The Goddess winked.
"I want to get away from here, my plan was to meet up with Virgil. Could you help? You don't have to." The bard looked down again.
"So I'm a travel agent now eh?" The Goddess smiled and waved her hand as they appeared in the middle of Athens outside of Joxer's tavern. "Is here good enough or should I zap you inside?" She tried to get the bard to look up.
"I can walk." Gabrielle rewarded the immortal with a smile.
"You just call if you need me okay?" The Goddess smoothed out her dress.
"We can have another girls night at the temple." She winked and disappeared. Gabrielle looked at the empty space the Goddess left for a long moment before walking with purpose to the tavern door.
"Gabrielle!" Virgil called to her surprised from behind the bar the moment she appeared in the door.
"Virgil." She opened her arms and he moved around the bar to come and hug her.
"How are you?" He asked worried. "Where's Xena?" He asked the question hesitantly.
"With Eve." Gabrielle replied.
"Oh." He glanced behind her, worried he'd see his father's murderer.
"They're not with me Virgil."
"Come sit you look exhausted." He moved to guide her to an empty table. She moved with him to sit down. "Mother will be so upset she missed you. She's just gone to market." He sat down trying to be upbeat. "Or are we lucky enough to have you staying for a bit?"
"If there is room. I'd like to stay."
"We have the best room in the house for you." His grin was obvious. "Do you want a meal or just to go lay down for a bit? You look exhausted."
"I think a lay down would be a good idea." The blonde said softly feeling very tired suddenly.
"Come on then let me show you." He stood up and offered his arm.
"It's good to see you." She added softly as she took his arm.
"Good to see you too." He nodded.
Eve silently shed the fur blanket and with one last glance at the warrior sleeping across the burnt out fire, she slipped into the forest and away from camp. The overlying tension that Gabrielle's absence was causing had made it impossible to sleep.
'Especially since it's all your fault.' She thought as she reached the riverside and the area was lit up more by the soft crescent moon above. 'The question is how am I going to fix it?'
Picking up a stray stone she tossed it into the river, watching the ripples it cause turmoil before the water settled to its normal calm.
"Come on Eve, you were the champion of Rome surely you can put too upset lovers back together?" She tried to think as she tossed another rock into the water. "If only I could make Gabrielle see that Mother only did what she did out of instant instinct."
"I have this big problem with you kiddo, but I can't stand to see anyone hurting." The Goddess of love shimmered into view just behind the forlorn young woman, looking at her with a slight expression of mistrust.
"You have a right to have a problem with me Aphrodite. " Eve stood up recognizing the Goddess' voice. "And for the record it's not so much me hurting as it is my Mom and Gabrielle."
"Yeah that is a mess." The larger than life Goddess raised her hand to lightly tap her forehead.
"It's a disaster and the worst part of it is that with them not talking there's no way of fixing it." Eve turned to pick up another rock and toss it in the river.
"I would have said the biggest problem is that Gabrielle is five days ride away personally speaking." Aphrodite added her own opinion honestly.
"How did she get that far?" Eve turned to question just as the answer became clear. "I guess I'm not the only one you've been visiting. Where is she?"
"She's with Virgil, it's where she wanted to be. What Gabrielle wants, Gabrielle gets. Your mother used to understand that the most." The Goddess reflected sadly.
"It is still the truth, they've just gotten so sidetracked from it." Eve shook her head. "I just need to find a way to remind them both of that."
"Do you have any idea how you are going to do that?" Aphrodite asked, genuinely interested.
"Well..." Eve raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "I have one idea, but it would hinge on whether or not a certain Goddess is up to giving me a little help."
"Would you be looking at me? Silly question really as there aren't many of us around." The blonde immortal could not keep the bite from her voice.
"No, there isn't." Dark hair hung down in shame. "Why don't we just forget it there has to be another way?"
"Giving up like that will definitely NOT get the bard back." Aphrodite gently chided. "I'd only help you if you could convince me that Gabrielle's place is with your mother. It's the best deal you're going to get. Want to try?"
"Sounds like a sure thing to me." Eve smiled, trying to fake confidence. "As it should be easy to convince the wise Goddess of love who put them together originally that together is the best place for Gabrielle."
"I am glad to see you haven't inherited your mothers charm." The Goddess smiled briefly before letting her face fall a little and her tone drop. "Gabrielle is hurting Eve, you mother hasn't been the best partner in the world."
"No one can deny that but it doesn't mean that she loves Gabrielle any less." She tried to defend the warrior. "And she's tried so hard to be better than anyone every dreamed she'd be able to be. The only reason the chakram every left her hand was because I was in danger, she didn't see Gabrielle, she only saw a threat. If our positions had been reversed I would be the one with the blade sticking out of my head and the truth is I wouldn't blame her."
"I hear you kid." Aphrodite nodded sadly. "But it wasn't you and you didn't get a chakram hair cut. And, not that you know this, but when you were a babe no one could have done more to make you happy that Gabrielle did. Having a daughter was in her plans for the two of them. When she found out, she tired so hard to make everything just right for you. And even then Xena made it as hard as she possibly could." The Goddess paused, watching the anguish on the young face before her. With a slight sigh she shook her blonde curls. "You're heart is in the right place Eve, but it's going to take more than a free ride from a Goddess to sort this out."
"But what if we show her that the choice Mom made wasn't a conscious one?" Eve felt a spark of a plan forming. "What if we show her that Mom has the same gut reaction instinct for the both of us and if it was Gabrielle that was in danger she'd do the exact same thing to me without realizing it? I mean from the stories I've heard, Mom would do anything for her without hesitation."
"Are you suggesting that you try and take out the bard? Just to get a reaction?" A frown formed on the immortal's face.
"No, I'm suggesting that with Gabrielle's help we set up a situation that can't help but get Mom reacting." Eve took a step closer. "The mighty Warrior Princess isn't doing much of anything right now but sulking and feeling sorry for herself. Just a little shove in the 'protect your woman' direction might be all she needs to get this fixed and if Auntie Gabrielle is in on it then there won't be any worry of this blowing up."
"I understand the direction you are heading in kid, but a few issues leap to mind. The main one being that Gabrielle can more than take care of herself these days. When she made her move on you, driven by the furies you were less than 100 percent."
"True, but Livia has bested her before so it's not completely out of the realm of possibilities and I'm being driven mad by how unhappy the two of them are. That has to count for something?" The young warrior grasped at straws.
"And what have you got planned to win the Bard round?" Aphrodite nodded thinking carefully.
"Let me take care of Auntie Gabrielle. I'm hoping what she really needs is a chance to talk." Eve smiled softly.
The Goddess of love let silence rule for a long moment before looking up at the young warrior.
"Okay you have your chance, but..." She fixed Xena's daughter with a strict gaze. "You get this one chance Eve, Gabrielle is precious to me. If this fails you leave her alone, you and that warrior mother of yours. A broken heart isn't easy to mend when the cause of the wound refuses to go away."
"Deal." Eve nodded. "Though before you do the little sparkling thing, I think there's one thing more I better do to get Mom's end of this on the go."
"Do what you have to do, I'll be right here."
Eve turned and moved back swiftly through the forest to the campsite. The slight stir in the sleeping warrior before she realized it was just her daughter returning only lasted a moment before she settled back into slumber. Not wasting time, the young warrior pulled a scrap piece of scroll out of the saddlebag and scrawled a hastily composed message. The last thing she did was silently slide the Warrior Princess' signature weapon away from its place near her sword before she signalled to the Goddess that she was ready to go.
Green eyes tried to focus on the blurry world of reality that was forced upon them as Gabrielle woke up. Sighing gently the bard through the covers back off her body and got straight out of bed, an unusual action in itself. In the days long gone, if her and Xena had taken the time out to rest at a tavern she made sure she didn't get out of bed until the warrior brought her breakfast.
The very thought of times past brought a stab of pain to Gabrielle's heart and head.
'Come on Gabrielle.' She cajoled herself. 'You chose this.'
"Gabrielle?" Virgil's voice at the door made her focus reality quicker. She glanced around to the bed ready to pull something around herself, quickly realising another fact that had changed since her split with the warrior. With a second sad sigh the young blonde opened the door.
"Morning." She said trying a smile.
"Do you need anything?" The young man enquired doing his best to look sympathetic.
"If it's alright with you, I'll just stay close to my room for the day and rest up." Gabrielle shook her head.
"Of course." Joxer's son nodded in a way that instantly reminded her of his father. "If you need anything..."
"I'll just ask." Gabrielle assured him.
With another nod the young man moved back from the door, and headed away from her room. The bard slowly closed the door. Suddenly aware of a cold draft catching her bare neck, she turned towards the window to check that it was secure, only to come face to face with Eve.
"Hi!" The black haired woman gave a small wave. "I know I'm the last person you expected to see. Well maybe second last." She gave a sad smile. "But just hear me out."
"H-h-h-how did you get here?" The bard frowned.
"That's not really the important part, but for the record I'm feeling more and more guilty about what happened with the Olympian Gods." She leaned back against the window frame.
"If Aphrodite helped you, you must have had a good line, the least I can do is listen to it." Gabrielle gave the young woman a little breathing space.
"Mostly it involves putting Mom to a test so you can see that what happened the last time we were in this inn wasn't directed against you so much as it was a knee jerk reaction." Eve didn't know how well she was starting out but she just kept going. "And that if the situation was reversed she'd have the same reaction without even thinking about it. Cause the one thing she does without thinking, is protect the people she loves."
"Testing your mother never strikes me as a good idea Eve." Gabrielle moved away from the woman to the bed, absently tidying the covers a little.
"Gabrielle, I can't think of anything else to do." The woman's voice was pained. "She's completely defeated since you left. She's barely been eating and that's only what I've forced her and she's only been sleeping cause I think it gives her a chance to not hurt so much." She sighed. "And let's be honest here Aunt Gabrielle, don't you want to see what she'll do?"
"I don't know if I do Eve." Gabrielle shook her head "If she knows she's been set up I don't think she will be happy."
"And she's so happy now?" Eve countered. "You're so happy?"
"No Eve, I'm not happy." A tear instantly sprang to the bard's eye "But have you ever thought that your mother might not want me back?" She voiced one of her many inner fears.
"Aunt Gabrielle..." Eve moved closer to her, being hurt by the tears she saw. "Anyone who even remotely glanced at her would see that she is absolutely miserable and that the only thing she wants in the entire world is to be with you, forever."
"And what do you want?"
"I just want you both together and happy." Eve's voice was soft as she sat on the bed. "I know the three of us missed a lot of time together Gabrielle, but I keep hearing stories for people who were there when I was young and every time I do I get filled with this wonderful feeling." She looked up at the bard through misty eyes. "A feeling of family and of love."
"We loved you Eve," Gabrielle placed her hand gently on the other woman's arm. "Love you." She corrected.
"I know I messed a lot of things up." She hung her head a little. "That's why I want so much to make it right. I've seen the light that shines between you, I was a lucky kid to even have that for as long as I was able."
"I know if we could turn back the time we lost we would in an instant little one," Gabrielle stroked her hand up and down the thin arm. "But we can't and we can't change things that have happened. Perhaps you would be better making a new life with your mother."
"No, no!" Eve was adamant. "It's meant to be the three of us together. Even that it's meant to be you and her. Just give it this one chance, if it doesn't work out I already promised Aphrodite that the two of us will leave you alone and let you make a new life for yourself." Her voice went softer. "Please give us a second chance Mom."
The word hit Gabrielle hard and knocked most of her senses reeling. Desperately trying to catch onto something concrete the bard only managed to stop the whole world ending by moving her hand rest on Eve's pale damp cheek, her thumb absently brushing away the tear.
"Okay, but this one is for you. Because believe it or not, you are as much of a daughter to me than Hope was and I would have changed the whole world for her, and you deserve no less."
"I love you." Eve couldn't help but hug the smaller woman tightly. She only hoped and prayed that her Mother would use the last chance given to her and react on instinct as they all planned.
Xena didn't open her eyes right away as she woke. She just listened to the sounds of the forest, instantly registering the missing cadence of her bard's breathing beside her.
The call of a raven finally called her to sit up and look around. The absence of her daughter made her senses immediately react. She snatched the slight scrap of parchment by the saddle bags up and read it worried.
"After a lot of thought and worry I've decided I can't bare to see you hurting like this..." The warrior read the short note her eyes growing wider. "So I have gone to finish what you started. It's time for the pain to end."
The warrior stood as she read the note again in shock. She knew she'd been depressed and distant but how could Eve had gotten such a stark raving idea as to go kill the bard in order to end her pain. She walked around the long dead fire again and again trying to figure out what was going on. The obvious answer struck her suddenly.
"APHRODITE!" The warrior screamed as loud as she could into the silence forest sending frightened animals scurrying from the echo.
"You yelled." The Goddess appeared in a shimmer of gold dust.
"Where is she?" Xena fixed her with a steely glare.
"Eve? She's gone to talk to Gabrielle, she wants you two to be sorted so much, I just had to help her out."
"News flash, she's gone to kill her!" The warrior tossed the piece of parchment at the Goddess. "And it has the stinky air that the Fates are again playing cards in a hope to ruin my life forever."
"But, but" Aphrodite shook her head as she stammered picking up the note, and becoming even more flustered. "She wouldn't do it would she?"
"In her right mind no, but she doesn't sound very right. You have to take me to them now!" She stared the Goddess into submission. "If she hurts Gabrielle, if she thinks that's what I want..." The warrior felt her mind shutting down.
"Oh my little one." Aphrodite felt herself warming to her part. "What have I done? Is everything I ever cared about going to be taken from me by you and your daughter."
"Stop blubbering and just get me there!" Xena took a step closer. "And she's mine remember, not yours." The warrior felt very threatened all of a sudden.
"I'll be watching you to make sure you don't hurt her again." The Goddess warned as she raised her hand above her head snapping her fingers and the two disappeared just as she had appeared.
When the sparkles had cleared from her eyes Xena took in the scene before her. Her beloved bard was face down on the floor her face covered in dirt and straw her hand tied behind her back, lashed to her ankles, which were also bound.
Eve was down on her haunches by Gabrielle's head. In one hand she held a burning torch just short of the straw, and in the other she held Xena's chakram. Xena could see her daughters lips moving but could not hear what she was saying.
"EVE!!" Xena shouted her voice piercing the oppressive silence.
"Mother?" The young woman looked up with a vague feral smile. "Come to watch her pay for hurting you." She quickly switched her tone as she looked down at the prone bard again.
"Eve this isn't the way." Xena began in a soft voice, trying to find her daughter's eyes hoping to talk them out of the situation.
"But it is Mother, she hurt you. She keeps hurting you." Eve looked up at her, her pupils darting over the warrior's face. "You don't love you, you don't need her. It's better for everyone this way." She shifted her grip on the torch slightly.
"Eve, I don't want you to do this." Xena said slowly she took a step forward.
"I'm just finishing what you started Mother." One side of her mouth curled up into an evil grin.
"I didn't start anything Eve." The warrior princess shook her head. "What I did to Gabrielle was the worst thing I have done in my life. I did it because I didn't stop to think. She was going to hurt you and... " She stammered. "And I had to stop her. But it wasn't her, I ..."
Her uneasy steps had taken her closer to Eve and her lover. The warrior princess looked down the site of Gabrielle prone and in mortal danger broke her heart.
"What I did was wrong Eve." She said almost silently.
"Come off it Mother, you walked into the room and once you had her in your sights you let it fly." Eve made an exaggerated arch with the deadly weapon. "And you haven't had one inkling of regret since."
"You're wrong Eve, this is not what I want. Let her go baby." Xena requested gently her eyes never leaving the chakram's movements.
"It's okay Mother, I'll tell everyone you did want this." Eve winked at her slowly. "But we both know you don't love her that much, its not like she's your soulmate or anything."
"Eve, you don't know what you are saying and because you don't I am going to forget this as soon as you move away and let me release Gabrielle. Your short life has been filled with so much pain, and I know I haven't been there to help you, but Gabrielle is my life. In all my anger, all my darkness she was the one and only light. I cannot live without that light Eve, for nothing burns in my life with such brightness. I could never forgive you if you hurt her." The warrior's words were firm and honest.
"And what will you do if I don't back up?" Eve asked the question with a maintained amount of resistance but made no move to hurt the bard.
Xena slowly lifted her hand back and drew her sword from its scabbard.
"I will not let you hurt her Eve." The warrior princess held her sword apparently slackly at her side but her eyes were burning fiercely.
"Well there is only one thing left to be said..." Eve looked down at the bard, hoping and praying the show had been enough.
"Eve..." Xena's voice was loaded with warning as she braced herself ready for action.
"It's okay Xena." Gabrielle moved her head to the side and looked up between the warrior and her daughter. "Eve, thank you." She said softly.
The young warrior nodded as she laid the Chakram down beside the bard harmless and stood up from her knees in one swift motion. Silently she backed up and dropped the torch in its holder before exiting the barn.
"What in Tartarus is going on?" Xena felt her fingers flexing around the sword in her hand unable to understand what was going on.
"I'm being taught something very important." The bard replied.
"What?" The warrior sheathed her sword and moved quickly to start undoing her bindings. She might not have a clue what was going on, but to see the bard still held in the uncomfortable position pained her.
Feeling her hands and legs suddenly become free Gabrielle shifted in to a more comfortable sitting position.
"We have an amazing daughter who is as smart as me and as stubborn as you." She grinned.
"So she hasn't lost her mind?" Xena asked kneeling down with her partner, still very worried but having a small bit of serenity seep into her from Gabrielle's demeanour.
"No, I think through all of this she is the only one who has managed to keep it." Gabrielle desperately wanted to reach out and touch her warrior but wasn't sure that her battlemode had receded enough yet.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Xena reached out tentatively and stroked down her shoulder and arm brushing away stray bits of straw.
"I am now." Gabrielle laid her hand over Xena's squeezing it slightly.
"So am I right in that I'm starting to figure out that a certain Goddess, my daughter and you have successfully gotten one over on me?" The warrior gave a crooked smile.
"Not so much gotten one over you as much as letting you show your true colours." The bard beamed back.
"I'm so sorry Gabrielle." Xena looked down into the straw.
"Was that so hard?" Gabrielle whispered reaching a hand up to brush a stray dark hair from the warrior's face.
The warrior shook her head softly, revelling in the touch that she'd feared she'd never feel again.
"I love you Xena." Gabrielle cupped her lover's cheek tenderly.
"As I love you Gabrielle." The warrior replied reaching down and pulling the bard forward into a gentle embrace.
"We do good work." Aphrodite smiled at Eve as they walked away from the barn.
"Yeah." Eve nodded as she felt that warm feeling fill her again. "So tell me all about twenty five years ago." She looked at the Goddess hoping she could get a few more pieces of her past filled in for her.
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