Characters belong to RenPics and Universal and all the nifty people who have a hand in Xena: Warrior Princess. You guys are amazing!
This story is impossible to read without having seen most of, but particularly the ending of the fifth season. It's written in between and in place of scenes from the episodes Livia, Eve, and Motherhood. It's an alternate piece, meaning that the two women are very much in love with each other, so if this gives you a sour face, go fly a kite, cause I don't need you butchering one of my first attempts at writing. However, if would be lovely if you read it anyway to broaden your horizons... you'll even get a cookie.
Feed the bard! I'm really new at this, so let me know if you'd like to see this expanded upon, or anything like that, because I'm pretty much experimenting right now and seeing what I can do. Your comments, any and all, are appreciated!!!
Then the Morning Comes
Copyright July-August 2000
"I feel like there is no way home." Came the aching voice of her best friend.
Gabrielle gazed compassionately at the bent head next to her. Not knowing what else to say, she asked softly, "What do you mean?"
Xena's blue eyes glanced at her briefly before once again examining the floor. "I gave away one child once. This time I wanted to do right by Eve... but I woke up and my child had been ripped from my arms, and formed into everything that I set out to keep her from becoming. What am I s'posed to do now?" She looked at Gabrielle in silent appeal.
"She's alive." Was Gabrielle's firm response. "Eve has us... she can change. Like mother like daughter."
Xena considered this, and while slightly mollified, was still unsettled. "Okay." The very quiet, sad response came hesitantly, as she now turned her eyes to study her boots, trying to distract herself with thoughts of getting that damn hole repaired.
Gabrielle ached to make everything better. Whenever things went wrong for her, Xena always seemed to find some kind of solution. Why couldn't she do the same for her?
Well, maybe the small bard couldn't wave a magic wand and make the world turn a different direction, since she was convinced that the earth simply must be round, but at least she could offer some of the same comfort often given to her.
Gabrielle's hands moved to Xena's shoulders and slowly, but not hesitantly pressed downward until the taller woman was seated in the chair next to her. Blue eyes turned quizzically to Gabrielle's face, and then closed in relief as her head came to rest against the blonde's chest, fair arms pulling her closer in mute comfort.
No words were spoken for several minutes, although a few tears were shed and many thoughts were racing through both women's heads as each digested the currents of emotion running between them.
Finally, Gabrielle broke the silence, taking a deep breath and beginning a rhythmic rubbing of Xena's back while beginning to speak. "It's been a really long time, hasn't it? But it doesn't seem like it, since for 25 years, we were oblivious to the world around us. So much has changed... we've got a lot to learn, and adjust to."
As she paused, Xena's voice floated up from below her. "But we haven't changed, Gabrielle. Our feelings, or mine, at least. I still love you. I've just been so concerned with Eve... Everything has happened so quickly."
Suddenly guilty, the warrior felt the need to explain and apologize. "I wish I'd spent more time with you."
Gabrielle pulled back slightly to look at her friend. "We've got time now, Xena. We've got forever, because I have no intention of leaving anytime soon. That okay by you?"
The two women smiled at each other, and Xena nodded, as they then returned to their positions for a very long time.
There would be time for more talk later. Right now there was just the moon smiling, the stars winking at each other, and two souls as different as night and day that could only find safety with each other.
But talk didn't come for quite some time. Xena became more and more focused on the goal, plowing through the obstacles with single-minded abandon while Gabrielle faded into the background.
A week or so later, a tired Gabrielle approached the distant warrior by the campfire. It had been a particularly hard day as all observed the carnage wreaked by the hell-bent empress, Livia.
Feeling the need, to show her support, Gabrielle carefully laid a hand on Xena's shoulder, only to be shrugged off. This not being the first time this happened that day, Gabrielle became annoyed.
Not showing her irritation, the bard gently stated, "Now Xena, stop that. You can't just keep pushing me away."
No answer from the warrior who remained expressionless. After a few moments, the reply came. "Please leave me alone." Xena's weary voice wasn't giving a request.
Gabrielle considered this for a few moments, before latching firmly onto the warrior's arm.
"No." She replied in a calm, clear voice. "No, and you know why? Because I've been here, and done that. I've had to kill my own child not once, but over and over again, always with the homicidal maniac who murdered my husband lurking in dark corners and once..." the bard's tone became strained before she took a deep breath and continued. "... once with my own best friend trying to kill me in the aftermath." She stopped again, breathing a touch ragged. She then calmed, and finished carefully. "But you, Xena... you've got your best friend right here with you, ready and willing to share the burden. Why are you fighting me so hard?" Gabrielle watched her soulmate carefully for her reaction.
Of which there was none. Xena looked at Gabrielle, expression void of emotion, before turning back to the fire. The bard blew out an exasperated breath and shook her head.
"I'm going to bed. You know where to find me."
Xena knew. The night wore on with the dark warrior continuing to scrutinize the fire, lost in the past.
TWO WEEKS LATER...
"Looks like you got your daughter back." Gabrielle stated softly, but without conviction.
Xena glanced briefly at her friend, and placed a hand on her shoulder. "No, we got our daughter back." She countered, more to make the bard feel better than anything else. None of her thoughts were really going too deep lately. Best to stay away from that sort of thing while so much is going on so quickly.
Gabrielle had been wanting to hear those words for some time now, but they lacked much meaning since she knew that Xena wasn't thinking too much about what she was saying, or anything else for that matter. With a sigh, she headed back towards their nearby camp in the forest, wanting to give Xena the chance to spend more time with her daughter. Seemed to Gabrielle that that was all she was really doing lately - thinking about what Xena wanted, and what Eve wanted, and what was best for them. There really wasn't time for Gabrielle. But that was okay, because she was pretty much used to it by now.
It was almost a routine.
Xena gazed sadly in the direction her soulmate had left, but dismissed any thoughts of the petite blonde for the moment. Time enough for that later... right now, Eve was down there, and looking up at her with the most beautiful expression of adoration and trust she could imagine. Smiling, the warrior strode down to join her daughter in examining the hapless creepy crawlies that might be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The afternoon wore on and drifted into night, which found Gabrielle sliding from her bedroll next to Xena's and taking a seat by the fire. She watched as the flames crackled and the burning logs creaked in protest to the heated attack on their bark.
Her thoughts were less passionate than the vision her eyes were receiving, however. All she really felt was a dullness. Shouldn't there be some happiness mixed in there somewhere? After all, they had just saved 'their' daughter and defeated the Olympians that were trying to kill them. However, there was just a small measure of relief and an emptiness in her chest to keep her company. Certainly Xena was too busy to take time with her so-called best friend.
>From the dark blankets on the ground, firelight glinted off of two blue orbs
peering worriedly at the scene in front of them. Xena fought with herself over whether she should join Gabrielle by the fire, her hesitation giving Gabrielle just enough time to sigh deeply as she arose from her position and move off into the surrounding trees and the nighttime darkness.
Sleep was no longer an option for the warrior, and the dark, bothersome thoughts that she'd been pushing down until now were bubbling to the surface with a fierceness that she'd rather not have to deal with at the moment. However, there didn't seem to be much choice in the matter, and as her gaze moved to the still form of her daughter across the fire, one of Gabrielle's scrolls clutched in a hand, Xena began to face the reality of just what her situation was.
She had a tormented daughter not unlike herself to support and care for, while she also had a neglected and equally tormented best friend to try and make amends with.
The stoic warrior didn't exactly realize just how complex a task she really had in front of her, and what an emotional journey was ahead of her.
Gabrielle's hands disturbed her reflection she'd been studying in the river as they splashed about. She smiled as she remembered all the good times she and Xena had spent playing and laughing in gentle stretches of water not unlike this one. Those times were so simple and precious compared to the harsh reality of the current situation.
Her sudden departure from the campfire was necessary in the intensity of the moment, as she had sat and pondered the emptiness she felt inside, and realized the cause of it when her eyes had come to rest on Eve's face, peaceful in slumber.
The hugeness of the loss she felt suddenly had crashed on top of her when she decided that there was simply no place for her, since she'd obviously been replaced by the child Xena had always wanted. Maybe this wasn't exactly how she'd planned for things to turn out, but she had her child, and her dream was being realized. Who needed Gabrielle? Eve could be Xena's best friend now.
The still young bard had a long life ahead of her, although it seemed to be shortened on a regular basis. She had long ago decided that she'd be with Xena forever... there would be no more of this running home to Potedaia, or leaving for silly reasons. But this wasn't silly... Xena really didn't seem to care about her anymore, something that Gabrielle had thought would never be possible. Apparently, she was wrong.
In fact, she probably would have decided to pack up and leave right then, her thoughts in such a turmoil that she really wasn't thinking quite rationally, if a hand hadn't settled hesitantly on her shoulder, startling her out of her reverie.
"Gabrielle?" Eve asked softly. "Are you all right?"
The bard exhaled and turned to face her current nemesis, then almost melted at the concerned expression on the youthful face.
"Yes... yes, I'm fine, Eve, thank you." She nodded in confirmation. "Just thinking."
Eve's booted toe scuffed the ground. "Listen... I'm no expert or anything, but I sort of saw the expression on your face. It wasn't exactly happy. Then you started to look really determined, and I sort of got scared that you might be thinking of leaving... or something..." She trailed off, unsure. "It was just a thought. I know you think mo.. um, Xena doesn't care about you..." Her voice again faltered at the expression on Gabrielle's face. "Uh..."
"Eve, what gave you that idea?" Gabrielle questioned softly.
She snorted. "It's really obvious. I mean, I watch you guys... I know how much you love each other. And I HAVE been reading your scrolls night and day... Gabrielle?" She peered worriedly at her adopted mom.
Who sighed. "So it's obvious to even you that there's no hope?"
"Uh, no... actually, that's what I came here to tell you... you know, that you shouldn't give up or anything, 'cause I really think that you guys have something special that can't exactly be broken quite so easily. Can you give stuff some more time?" She paused and continued in a hurry. "Please? I really want to get to know my second mom a little better." Eve took a breath and waited.
Gabrielle studied her for a moment, and then cracked a small smile before nodding. "Guess it couldn't hurt to stick around a while longer, huh? Five years is an awfully long time." She smiled at Eve's relieved breath.
"Yeah, I think so. Can we go back to camp now? I'm freezing." The girl shivered and smiled at Gabrielle's answering nod, happy with the cloud that had lifted from the blonde's eyes.
Morning came all too soon for the three women who had gotten very little sleep the night before. There really wasn't all that much of a need to get up, since there wasn't anywhere they needed to be. However, none of them wanted to just sit around all day, so travel was the only option.
So, around midday, three women and two horses set out on a journey towards Amphipolis to see what was left of Xena's family, since Gabrielle wasn't quite ready to face Potedaia. The blonde gazed at the other horse, and found Eve gazing back at her from behind Xena, arms wrapped around the taller woman's waist just as Gabrielle used to do. The bard felt a slight pang of jealousy, but pushed the sensation down, having resolved to sit things through a little longer with a good night's sleep behind her.
On Xena's part, well, she was just waiting for the other shoe to fall. She knew something was up with Gabrielle, but figured that all she could do was make it worse, so unless the bard decided to be forthcoming with her feelings, Xena would just stick it out until things had smoothed over. Would have worked just fine if Gabrielle's problem hadn't been Xena herself.
The days continued as such until they turned into almost two weeks. The women had decided to take their time in reaching Amphipolis, so travel was slow and many detours were taken along the way. In a way, all this was a necessity, in that it was important to see how much things had changed, and prepare for what they'd find upon reaching their hometowns. Eve stood by and watched mostly, since this was all foreign to her, Rome being home and having stayed away from this part of the world. It was interesting to her, though, to see her mothers' reactions, although that was all she had to go on, since there was no talk to be had.
A routine had been established - Gabrielle and Eve woke up to Xena having already bathed and caught breakfast, and Gabrielle cooked while Eve bathed. Then while Xena and Eve did the dishes, Gabrielle bathed, and then they packed up camp and moved on their way. There was a much diminished number of ruffians to deal with along the way as compared to old times, and both Xena and Gabrielle noted that the change wasn't completely welcome, since the spice of life was always getting people and each other out of constant jams. Both women missed the easy camaraderie of their previous time together, but neither commented.
After a while of this, Eve had just had enough. Here were two women that she had come to love very dearly, and gods know they had saved her a million times over, so what was the problem? The problem was that Gabrielle was upset, and Xena was oblivious, and both had no idea of the feelings the other had. When the looks turned from wary to almost hostile, she blew out an exasperated breath before exploding.
"What is WRONG with you people? Haven't you ever heard of TALKING when something is obviously wrong? Mom! Look at Gabrielle, huh?" The girl angrily indicated the stunned bard. "She's been in tears every night for weeks! You can't tell me you haven't noticed! By the gods, you notice EVERYTHING!" Eve glared at Xena before turning towards Gabrielle. "And you... Gabrielle, you KNOW that you're upset, so why don't you SAY something?
Xena obviously doesn't have a clue, so you'll have to give one to her. Is that so hard to do?" With that, Eve spun around and started to walk away before turning back and speaking quietly. "You both need to just spend some time alone, so that's what I'm gonna give you. I'll be... around." And continued away into the surrounding mist.
Teary green eyes and extremely wide, round blue ones glanced at each other before looking back at the ground.
After a few moments, Gabrielle sighed and sat down. Xena followed suit. Neither spoke for a bit, but the silence became more friendly when the bard gently touched Xena's arm before turning to her. "She's right, y'know."
The warrior nodded. "Yeah. Things have been a bit strained for a while." She offered hesitantly.
Short blonde hair moved in the slight breeze as Gabrielle's head nodded. "A lot's been on my mind that I haven't really wanted to talk about, but I guess we need to."
Xena peered back at her uncertainly. "You wanna go first? I don't really know what to say."
The bard smiled. "There's a big surprise." She kidded, and bumped Xena gently, who smiled and bumped her back in slight relief.
Gabrielle fell silent as she took a moment to compose her thoughts. She then turned to Xena but kept her eyes downwards to keep from being distracted, and began to speak in a quiet, sure voice. "Xena, I understood that you had to extend all of your efforts to cover Eve. She's your child, and she's lost. I knew it was and is important for you to have as much time with her as possible. But this has been going on long before that. Even when we first... came back... things were just different. You became distant, although there were moments when I was sure that things had finally turned the corner, but that never lasted long."
Gabrielle paused and took another breath before continuing. "That was all understandable, though, since you then suddenly found out that you were mysteriously pregnant, and had no idea how or why or when. Anyone would be a little rattled, y'know?" Gabrielle didn't stop. "And I tried my best to be there for you every step of the way. Always." She nodded as though confirming this. "Time went on, and things got really confusing with the whole twilight deal, and then suddenly we were propelled 25 years in the future. That was a bit of a shock for both of us, I think." She smiled wryly at Xena's knee.
Clearing her throat, she finished, "But Xena, you got so distant that no matter how hard I tried to help, or no matter how much I DID help, it was like I wasn't even there, and still aren't, really. And when I was there, it was like you really didn't want me to be. There were times when you were... I dunno, in a good mood or something, but when push came to shove, Gabrielle was the first to go. Maybe this is all in my head, but it's how it's coming across to me. I think what bothers me the most, though, is that you didn't even notice that I was upset when things cooled down and stuff could have gone back to normal." She paused, and then looked up, ready to continue, but stopped at the expression on her soulmate's face.
They stared at each other for a moment or two, before Xena softly said, "Gabrielle, I... had absolutely no idea. If I had known..." She stopped and shook her head. "Anything else?"
Gabrielle considered for a moment, then nodded. "Yes. Xena... something you said to me a while back has really been bothering me, and I s'pose it probably doesn't matter, but I think I should say something anyway just because communication seems to be such a problem these days."
The warrior nodded. "Okay..."
Gabrielle thought carefully about what she wanted to say. "Xena, I don't think you really noticed... but this whole thing with Eve, when it first got started, was a lot like some stuff that happened to us in the past." She saw the comprehension in Xena's eyes and suddenly suspected that this might have been on her mind as well. "And then when you told me that day, you said to me, 'Gabrielle, there's life within me. And it's good.'" She stressed the last word. Pausing, she took a deep breath. "I think that's probably the worst thing you've ever said to me that I can remember. Xena, you must have known how that would come across to me... is that what you wanted?" She looked at the warrior with pained eyes.
Xena just shook her head. "I have absolutely no explanation for that, Gabrielle. I just... I mean, I wanted this child, this CHANCE that I finally had, for both of us... to give both of us back what we had lost. I wanted you to know that this child is a good thing, and I had no idea of how to tell you that it was to be both of ours, forever."
Gabrielle sighed. "But Xena, later on, it was like Eve wasn't mine at all, and then I was just along for the ride."
Xena looked at her, then stated softly, "Are you sure that's how it really was, though, and not just how you thought it seemed to be? I didn't ever mean to make things look like that. Eve was to be as much yours as she ever was mine."
Gabrielle smiled suddenly. "Maybe that's just how it was all along, and we were both were just under some extreme misconceptions. But y'know, Xena... that's how it was, and this is how it is now... can't we just move forward, now?" Jade eyes beseeched to their owner's other half.
"That's all we really can do, Gabrielle." Xena looked down, then back. "Talk more, though, huh? I don't want for things to get so out of hand anymore."
Gabrielle nodded slowly, then reached over suddenly and kissed her, wanting to convey to the other woman the intensity of the moment for her. She pulled back after a moment, unsure of the reaction.
She need not have worried, for the second the contact ended, Xena quickly resumed it, taking a more leisurely time now exploring her lover, although neither had felt that word to be appropriate for some time. Gabrielle guessed that was about to change.
It probably would have, had the still air not been pierced by a high pitched scream for help in the distance. A very familiar one, at that.
Xena and Gabrielle glanced at each other before they leapt up from their positions and bounded at frightening speeds in the direction of the scream that each knew to be Eve's.
Gabrielle gasped softly when they reached the stream as Xena pointed upwards to a slight figure holding on to the edge of the cliff for dear life. The cliff which apparently was breaking a bit more each minute.
"Damn.. damn.. damn." Xena chanted, then turned towards her soulmate. "Gabrielle, I'm too heavy.. I'll break it. You've got to go up there and pull her up." She gazed with complete confidence into Gabrielle's eyes. "You can do it."
Fearful but determined, Gabrielle looked back at her and nodded firmly before climbing quickly but carefully to where Eve was hanging, precariously holding on.
As she reached the top, Gabrielle noted that below them the fall wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the rocks that would impact Eve upon her letting go, so that definitely wasn't an option. The only choice would be to climb to the edge and pull her back, praying that the ledge wouldn't give way.
And so she moved slowly, planning each step, and after a moment, she dropped to her hands and knees, crawling until she could feel the stone creak beneath her. It was then that she knew she wouldn't be able to do this on her own. She cursed softly, before calling down to Eve, "Don't worry! I'm going to get you back... just hold really tight for a few more minutes." She barely heard the whimpered response.
Moving back, she could feel that the beginning of the ledge was pretty firm. If only she had something heavy... Gabrielle looked down, then scrambled a few feet towards Xena. "It'll break if I do this without a counterweight! Come up here for a minute!" She shouted.
Xena looked puzzled, but moved swiftly to Gabrielle's side. "Okay?"
Gabrielle continued in a hurry. "If you sit at the end holding onto my ankles, I can pull Eve up without falling off myself. Just sit tight, and don't let go!" Without waiting for an answer, Gabrielle moved to the top, and perched at the beginning of the ledge while Xena moved to in behind her. When Xena had a firm grip on her ankles, Gabrielle lay on her belly and inched her way towards the hand that was still barely holding on. She spent several moments prying the fingers away from the ledge and latching them onto her own, then exhaled deeply when she finally had the hand securely in her own. Using muscles that had taken years to develop, she hauled Eve upwards until she had both of their hands clasped together and pulled her over the top.
Which broke, and only Gabrielle's tight hold on Eve and Xena's on Gabrielle kept the two women from careening into the water below. Now it was Xena's turn to pull them both back, and she did, scrambling backwards and hugging them both tightly to her in relieved ecstasy.
Gabrielle could feel the heart pounding beneath her as Eve moved away while she remained attached firmly to Xena. "Hey... hey, it's okay. We did it... we both did, together. Everyone's safe, love." She crooned softly to her soulmate who was breathing hard and fighting tears.
The husky voice replied, "Lets just go back to camp for now, huh? It's getting dark."
Three battered figures made their way slowly back, and a campfire was started immediately in the now surrounding darkness. None felt much like eating, especially since fish was the only option at the moment, so Eve decided to go on to bed while Xena and Gabrielle sat by the fire, each lost in her own thoughts.
Gabrielle was the first to decide to share hers. "That was really something, huh?"
Xena wouldn't pretend to not know what she meant. "It has been awhile.. felt kind of good to be working together like that."
The bard nodded. "I thought it felt really good." She paused. "So did getting some of that stuff out that we've been bottling up for a while. Aside from just not liking the feeling of pent up emotions, I have missed talking to you, Xena." She smiled up at her soulmate.
Xena nodded, eyes starting to mist over as the events of the day caught up to her. Gabrielle noticed, and pulled her down next to her on the soft dirt. "You're so tired, love... lie down, hm?"
Gabrielle was exhausted, too, Xena observed, but she didn't want to deny what both of their bodies were craving, so she lowered her head down into the bard's lap, loving the feel of Gabrielle's fingers combing gently through her hair.
The peace of the night was unbroken. Neither woman wondered at what tomorrow would bring, safe in the security of their renewed bond. There was still a long way to go, and so much to resolve, but at least that journey had begun, and everything would eventually work out, as long as they were together.
END, but who knows what's to come next? We'll find out soon enough. Until next time, m'friends...
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