Special Thanks: To my friends and new family at the Bardic Circle. Kamouraskan, Jules, Extra, Taleweaver, Xena's Little Bitch and all the rest. You guys are the best.
Duel of the Hearts
The chakram whirled and sparks flew as it bounced off a rock formation. It turned and headed for a small figure. Short blonde hair switched the face of the determined young woman as she ran for her life. The chakram followed her like a guided missile. Her chest heaved as her heart raced, and her legs pumped harder, but her stamina waned and her legs started to feel rubbery. She realized she was not going to outrun the deadly weapon.›
The whistle of the circle rang louder and louder as it neared her desperate form. Luck was with her as she tripped over a stump and fell hard. She struggled to her feet, but she could run no further and sank to her knees. A sound alerted her, she looked over her shoulder and saw it strike another rock. Then it was upon her. She turned her face away and screamed until it struck the back of her head.
"Nooo!" Gabrielle shrieked.
"Gabrielle! What is it?" Xena yelled at Gabrielle and shook her. "Wake up!"
Gabrielle opened her bloodshot eyes and backed away from Xena. "No Xena! Please don't hurt me!"
Shocked, Xena stepped back. "What?"
Gabrielle shook her head and looked around, she recognized the campsite and saw Eve sleeping. "Xena?" she whispered.
Xena didn't move closer, but she spoke softly. "Gabrielle, did I hurt you in your nightmare?"
"Yes. No. I don't know. It was your Chakram, and I couldn't escape it, Xena. No matter how hard I tried. The faster I ran, the closer it came, and when I fell. I thought I had escaped it. Suddenly it was coming at me again, and I couldn't get away. It hunted me, Xena!" Gabrielle sobbed. ›
"My chakram," Xena replied suddenly understanding Gabrielle's nightmares.
›"Your chakram!" Gabrielle cried out and rose to her feet.
Eve bolted upright and jumped to her feet. "What?"
"It's okay Eve," Xena said without looking at her daughter. "Gabrielle?"
"Xena, please help me," Gabrielle paced three steps and then two. "I can't get away from it!"
Xena carefully went to Gabrielle and hugged her gingerly, but firmly. "It's okay, I'm here. Oh Gabrielle, I'm so sorry."› Gabrielle's body shook in Xena's arms, and Xena felt completely responsible for her pain.
"Xena, it's been ten days since I slept peacefully."
"Ten days? You can't go on like that Gabrielle."
"We can get to the root of the problem."
"I thought when you apologized it was over."
›"Gabrielle, have you told me everything?"
Xena could read her mind. "I, ah, no. Xena, I was thinking about home, and I'd like to see how Lila and Sarah are doing." Gabrielle answered. She thought she needed to figure out why she kept having the chakram nightmare over and over. "I think I need to go... home.... and forget about the dreams.... maybe I can forget about the chakram."
"That's a good idea. Gabrielle, we can leave now," Xena suggested.
"Xena, can you sit down for a minute?"
"What is it?" Xena asked.
Gabrielle sat on a dead log, she dusted off a place for Xena, but the Warrior Princess just stood in front of her.
"Xena. I would like to go... alone." Gabrielle ran her hands through her hair and placed her elbows on her knees. She leaned on them and placed her head in her hands. She lifted her pink tinged green eyes and looked into Xena's blue eyes. "Oh Xena, this is hard. Do you remember when I had the problem with my self-confidence?"
Xena nodded, her heart started to speed up. She remembered that time well because she was afraid she had lost Gabrielle.
"It's kind of like that, and I just need to talk to family. I mean you're my family, but it's different. I need my sister," Gabrielle stammered.
"Okay," Xena answered, she felt deeply hurt. She had caused the terrible memory of the chakram attack. She hoped Gabrielle had dealt with the awful event; but the memory was strong, and it wasn't just going to go away. Xena felt like Gabrielle's family. But a voice in her head cried out she wasn't really.› Gabrielle's blood family was Lila and Sarah. She was her best friend. Several thoughts raced through Xena's mind and although she didn't understand completely, she said, "don't worry about it, Gabrielle."
"You could spend some time with Eve." Gabrielle searched for the best way out of the awkward moment. "You need time for each other."
"Yeah, that would be good. Gabrielle, you should go on...› home, and don't feel badly about it. I understand." Xena smiled, her heart breaking. She loved Gabrielle that much; she would let her go.
"Thanks, Xena. I appreciate it very much," she said as she got to her feet. Slowly Gabrielle walked to her horse.
"Gabrielle?" Xena whispered.
"You're coming back?"
"I want to, but we'll have to see how things turn out." Gabrielle offered a brave smile. She didn't know what the future held, but she hoped she would, if she could. "I'll get my things."
"Okay," Xena watched the bard gather her supplies and mount her horse. As she rode across the field, Xena wanted to run after her and demand to help. The warlord would do that. Being a warlord had its good points, but instead of chasing Gabrielle, Xena waved. Gabrielle didn't see it, because she never looked back.
"Mother?" Eve said.
"Yes." Xena answered absently.
"Where's Gabrielle going?"
"Home." Xena said.
"I thought she was home." Eve said.
Xena mentally pushed the knot in her throat away and turned to face Eve. "So did I."
The ride to Poteidaia had taken less time than Gabrielle thought it would. She rode hard at first. She felt a sense of urgency, something told her to hurry. As she rode into town something seemed wrong immediately. Two or three people stood on the street and watched her suspiciously. She forced the horse to speed up.
The house was in better shape than she remembered and she dismounted with a plop. She went through the gate and her boots made little swirls in the dust as she ran to her childhood home. She knocked on the door and leaned over to look through a window when the door opened.
"Gabrielle!" Lila yelled.
"Sarah! Gabrielle's here!" Lila called to her daughter. She looked around the bard and searched the horizon.
"I'm alone," Gabrielle said quietly.
"Oh," Lila said.
Sarah hugged Gabrielle and the trio went inside.
"Are you hungry?" Lila asked. "We've just finished our meal but we have plenty left-overs."
"Starving!" Gabrielle laughed. She tried to be cheerful, but her heart was heavy with guilt and uncertainty.
Later they sat in the small living room and watched as the fire danced. A warm yellow and red light flickered across the faces of the family. Gabrielle was soaking in the warmth and Lila watched her sister.
"Is everything okay Gabrielle?" Lila asked.
Gabrielle smiled; her sister knew her well, even after all the years had passed. "I don't know. I've been having nightmares."
"Really? What are they about?" Lila asked.
Gabrielle had never told Lila about Xena hitting her with the Chakram. She wasn't sure how to explain it without making it seem like Xena wanted to kill her. "I keep trying to escape from something...."
"Do you know what it is that is chasing you?"
"Yes, I know what it is," Gabrielle answered, surprised at herself.
"Then why haven't you fixed it?" Lila asked. It seemed simple enough.
"I thought I had fixed it," Gabrielle answered. She remembered Xena apologizing in the amazon village:
"Gabrielle, when I hit you with my chakram... "
"Xena, it wasn't your fault... it was the Furies.› They drove
me to try to kill your daughter.› I've forgiven you.› You should,
"I nearly lost you."
"But you didn'tů" or did she. Gabrielle's eyes filled with tears.
Lila saw the pain and grabbed Gabrielle and held her tightly. "Sister, I don't know what it is that hurt you so, but you're safe now. Okay?"
Gabrielle shook as she cried harder than she had in her whole life.
"Gabrielle?" Lila stroked her sister's head gently. "Are you okay?"
Gabrielle pulled herself together, but it was not easy. She smiled sadly at her sister and answered meekly.› "I don't know Lila. I just don't know."
Lila had offered some warm milk, but Gabrielle didn't have the heart to drink it. She felt as if she had lost her desire for anything. She felt as if she could cry at any moment, as if she had nothing to look forward too. She realized she was depressed and what frightened her about that was, she didn't know if she even wanted to feel better. Better meant back to the life she had left and she didn't want to go back. But why?
Later that night Gabrielle walked in the front yard. She wrapped a scarf around her shoulders and paced. She looked up into the sky and struggled with her fears. She was afraid to sleep, afraid to voice her greatest pain, afraid she would lose Xena and afraid of the real reason why Xena struck her with the chakram. Xena had explained she didn't have time to stop Gabrielle from killing Eve. Still, Gabrielle wasn't sure.
Their relationship had changed drastically. Xena's pregnancy and the Gods ruthless pursuit of Eve, and Xena's role as champion of the bringer of twilight had hurt them. Xena had been Gabrielle's champion until Eve. After Eve's birth, Xena had become detached, protecting her child and keeping her safe had taken a toll. Xena had even gently rebuffed Gabrielle's loving hugs and at times Xena seemed colder to their relationship.
There was a time when Xena engulfed Gabrielle's body and soul in a loving inferno. But lately, Xena's passion was less than stirring dying embers. Gabrielle attributed it to Xena's pregnancy and care of Eve after her birth. She tried to understand and be patient.
Things seemed to be better after they'd awakened after 25 years in Ares ice tomb. She had felt closer, but wondered if it were just wishful thinking. Gabrielle had supported Xena completely and when they fought off Athena's army of inept deities, their relationship seemed stronger than ever. But then the furies charged into Gabrielle's mind.
She was so tired of running from the Gods. Physically drained, exhausted of tears, Gabrielle had a difficult time thinking just one single thought, period. Her mind raced from one thing to another and wouldn't let her rest. She desperately wanted peace. Her body needed relief, her head pounded; darkness strangled her heart and gripped her soul. She loved Xena, and desperately wanted to save Xena from a horrible death.
She remembered thinking killing Eve would be the only way to save Xena. Gabrielle knew how bad that feeling was. The horror of murdering one's child devastated and shattered the soul. Hope, her child, killed by her mother's hand, after she killed Xena's son Solon. Xena said Gabrielle didn't really kill Hope because she'd come back. Then, when Hope turned the Hind's blood dagger toward Xena, Gabrielle attempted to kill her child again and sacrificed herself to save Xena. Even then Xena asserted Gabrielle didn't kill Hope, because she'd returned more evil than ever.
Then Gabrielle's heart took another blow and it was not just the grief of murdering one's child, she'd committed murder by deception. She tricked Hope's child into killing his mother. She remembered Hope's agonized stare at her after she'd been dealt the blow from her son. The pain Hope must've felt when she realized that her son killed her, gnawed at Gabrielle's psyche. She still felt the searing red-hot guilt, branding her heart.›
Feeling that pain, and having the love she had for the Warrior Princess, Gabrielle resolved to do what she could to prevent Xena from facing the horror and grief of infanticide. She asked Xena several times if Xena could kill her own daughter? Xena answered, Žif she had to, yes.' Gabrielle rationalized Eve's death was due punishment of her past evil. A death she deserved, but Xena was too blind to see that. Gabrielle sensed Xena's torment just at the thought of killing her child. Gabrielle had done the deed three times before and decided if it had to be done, she would do it herself.
Perhaps deep down, she wanted to kill Eve anyway, even without the urging's of the furies! Eve had come between them! Taking all of Xena's time! Gabrielle waited like a starving puppy for Xena's affection... Gods! Gabrielle thought, she was jealous of Eve. Gabrielle had those feelings tug at her for days until she stabbed Eve. When Joxer and Hope visited her and validated her thoughts, she rationalized Eve's death was the punishment of her past evil. A death Eve deserved. As she plunged her sai into Eve's body she felt free from the demons, but then Gabrielle felt the chakram strike her head.›
"Xena!" Gabrielle cried out.
Gabrielle took off running from her home, she ran until her knees swelled from being stuck by the other, she ran until her lungs screamed for relief, she ran until she could no longer cry, she ran until she found herself overlooking a large bluff she'd been warned about as a child. She stopped, dropped to her knees and cried out. "WHY! Why!" her fists pounded the ground. "Why?"
A shimmer caught her off guard. Gabrielle stood on wobbly legs and tried to compose her self, but gave up.
Aphrodite smiled at the bard and cupped her chin with her silky fingers. "What is it little one?"
"Aphrodite?" Gabrielle blinked.
"Are you real?"
"As real as my beautiful body could get, sweet cheeks."
"What are you doing here?" Gabrielle stepped closer to the edge.
"What are you doing here?"
"I don't know. I don't know much of anything anymore."
"Little one," Aphrodite moved closer. "Your heart is in so much pain."
"Yeah," Gabrielle smiled. "You'd know."
"Where's Xena?" Aphrodite asked.
"She's around." Gabrielle answered. "With Eve probably."
"You want to sit down and talk awhile?"
"I'm not much on talking right now. I can't even talk to myself," Gabrielle leaned over and peered into the darkness below.
"You're awfully close to the edge," Aphrodite reached out to Gabrielle. "Take my hand, okay?"
"Nah, I'm okay."
"Please, I feel nervous with you so close to falling."
"Well, uhm, I'm sorry for scaring you. You see I've got to figure out what's wrong with my head. The view here is refreshing."
Aphrodite didn't mention that it was too dark to see any type of view.
"You've been here before?"
"Yea, lots of times. With my dad, and Lila. You know, my family." Gabrielle regretted what she blurted out immediately. "Oh, Aphrodite, your family. I'm sorry. I... I've gone mad."
As if in slow motion, Gabrielle turned away and stepped over the edge. Shocked, Aphrodite waved her hand. Seconds later she and Gabrielle were in Mt. Olympus.
"Gabrielle, you have to do better than that! I won't stand by and watch you kill yourself!" Aphrodite ranted.
"I didn't mean to! I mean, I wasn't trying to kill myself, I... I was just going somewhere else. I'm sorry, I can't think straight, I can't sleep, I can't eat, I can't do anything right!"
Aphrodite hugged the bard and Gabrielle clutched at the Goddess of Love.
"Oh little one! Let me help you."
"You've got something bothering you very deeply, and until you deal with that, you won't get better." Aphrodite brushed Gabrielle's hair away from her face.
"I think... I don't know! If I did I could figure all this out."
"Gabrielle, what's scaring you?"
"I don't know," Gabrielle said loudly.
"Gabrielle what is it? You have to know."
"I told you!"
"No, you said you don't know."
"I don't know!"
"You must know!"
"I don't..."Gabrielle grabbed her head. "I don't...."
"I don't want to lose Xena!" Gabrielle sunk to her knees and cried pitifully. "I don't... want to lose her. I think I already have."
"Oh little one," Aphrodite hugged Gabrielle and smoothed her hair. "Why do you think that you've lost her."?
"She's got Eve now," Gabrielle's voice cracked. "I thought I could come to terms with our relationship. Xena keeps saying Eve is our daughter. But I cannot bring myself to be a mother to her. I had a daughter, Hope. And as evil as she was, I loved her. I look at Eve and think Xena is so lucky. Why did it work this way, why are the Fates so cruel? I've tried to accept Eve, but lately just little things she does annoy me so much. My feelings when I stabbed Eve haunt me too. There was more to what I did, why I tried to kill Eve."
"I'm sorry, but I don't follow."
"Why did I try to kill Eve? It was my own doing! Because of my uncertainty, I keep rationalizing, it was it the furies. They made me want Eve dead!" Gabrielle shook her head. "But it wasn't just the Furies. It was me! I hated her! I hated how she was more important to Xena! I hated her for taking my love! My heart! I gave up my daughter for Xena! Would she do the same for me?"
"I don't know," Aphrodite answered.
"When she saw me stab Eve, Xena used her chakram. My life or her daughter's, she chose her daughter. Even after she had promised she'd never hurt me again." Gabrielle said in a whisper. "Xena had to have sensed my feelings of hatred and jealousy, and it easier for her to lose me."
"Oh, Gabrielle," Aphrodite lifted the bard's lowered head. "If you could have seen how scared Xena was for you. She was so afraid. Xena needed you, and she loves you. Your feelings about Eve taking Xena away from you are normal human emotions. A child changes people."
"I know, I know. I wanted to be with Xena. When I look at her and Eve interact with each other, and I have to wonder where I belong. Eve fills something that I cannot. They don't mean to leave me out; they just have so much in common. I feel like a third wheel. I hate feeling like this. I've tried to figure out a way to get through this, and the only way I can let go is in Mnymosene's temple. I'll let all my memories go." Gabrielle seemed calmer.
"But you can't Gabrielle. Your love for Xena is so powerful you won't be able to forget it. Love is a recipe of all emotions and it requires both angst and guilt. Feelings make love powerful and painful." Aphrodite's heart wept with her friend. "Don't you think you could talk it over with Xena?"
"I don't want her to pity me. I can't take her away from her daughter," Gabrielle cried. "I couldn't tell Xena... I was afraid she would... hate me for feeling the way I did when I stabbed Eve."
The truth is you must settle it with Xena, Aphrodite thought, and she waved her hand and Gabrielle disappeared and reappeared in the Goddess of Love's valentine shaped bed. For the first time in days, Gabrielle slept.
Xena sat on a creekbank. Although deep in thought she still felt Aphrodite's presence. "Show yourself."
"Xena!" Aprodite said excitedly. "Wow! Ares always said you could sense him, and you can sense me too!"
"It's a gift," Xena said. She eyed Aphrodite cautiously. The Goddess of Love had been a friend, but Xena wasn't going to take any chances. "What can I do for you?"
"Do you mind if I sit with you?"
"No, there's room," Xena smiled uneasily.
"Xena, Gabrielle is in trouble..."
Xena was instantly in Aphrodite's face. "Where is she!"
"Xena, please sit down. I want to help and I can't with you being all powerful and threatening." Aphrodite smiled sweetly at the Warrior Princess.
"Xena, Gabrielle is being eaten up inside. She's not doing so well, and I'm afraid she'll do something drastic." Aphrodite didn't really believe Gabrielle would commit suicide, but she needed to reach Xena quickly.
"Aphrodite, I don't understand this. Gabrielle was a little down when she left, she'd felt that way before and returned home. I thought she needed to see her sister..."
"Her sister isn't what she needs, she needs something you might not have to offer," Aphrodite felt the truth had to be addressed.
"What does she need?"
"I think you know, Xena."
Xena sat beside the Goddess and rubbed her temples. Her hands shook and her stomach began to churn. "I'm losing her aren't I?"
"I lost her a while back. I injured my best friend's heart when I hit her with my chakram. She never recovered," Xena said as a tear rolled down her face.
"You do know," Aphrodite was surprised.
"I tried to apologize and Gabrielle stopped me. I didn't take the time I should have. I guess I've been so busy with Eve that I've ignored Gabrielle. I..." Xena grimaced.
"Xena, when you struck Gabrielle, you didn't have another way to stop her, right?"
"I don't think... I don't know, No. No. I would never harm Gabrielle, but that's not true either. I've thought about it and deep down, I could have hit the sais. But it was like I didn't have the time to think, like my hand was being controlled by another." Xena stopped and searched Aphrodite's eyes.
"You think the furies might have guided the chakram?"
"No. I did it. I hit her with my chakram. I saw her attack and it reminded me of Hope killing Solan. I just reacted. I couldn't tell Gabrielle... I was afraid she would do what she's done. I didn't want to lose my best friend," Xena sniffed. "And that's just what I've done. I've lost her."
"Don't give up Xena, fight for her!"› Aphrodite yelled.
Aphrodite waved her hand a scroll appeared. She left a message for Eve and took Xena to Mt. Olympus.
Gabrielle rose and wiped her eyes. She felt more rested than she had in months. She looked around the room and remembered Aphrodite bringing her to Mt. Olympus. She got out of bed and walked over to a large window, as she peered out Xena entered the room.
Xena didn't make a sound and watched Gabrielle for a while. When the bard turned and saw Xena she took in a sharp breath. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you."
"When did you? How did you? Aphrodite," Gabrielle answered her own questions.
"Yeah, she says we need to talk," Xena said with a slight edge to her voice.
"Uh, yes, we do. I've decided to make a life style change Xena."
"Okay," Xena answered. She sat on the bed and touched her fingertips together. "What would that be?"
"I don't want to come between you and your daughter. I have been living in a lie and I cannot do it any longer. I don't want to hurt you Xena. I don't want to hurt Eve either. I love you both and I think I should let you go."
"Really, that is what you want?" Xena said angrily. "Or, is that what you think I want?"
"Look Xena, I don't want a big fight. I've made up my mind. I know I can do it..."
"But I can't! I don't want to lose you Gabrielle. I am so sorry for the things I've done that hurt you. I promised to change, and I'll include you more...."
"That isn't what the problem is. I just don't think we're being honest. I cannot stay where I have to live a lie. That is what we're doing isn't it?"
That struck Xena hard, because it was true, they hadn't been honest with each other. Xena didn't know what to say.
"See?" Gabrielle said, her tears started to fall. "How can we live together when we cannot deal with the truth?"
"What is it then? Tell me, Gabrielle. I am not quitting us. Do you want to be with me?"
"Good, because I'm sure I want to be with you. Now, let's get down to it," Xena got up and reached for Gabrielle's hand. "It isn't going to get better until we make it better. I'm not letting you go without a fight, even if it's you I battle with!"
Gabrielle looked at Xena with an uneasy feeling in her gut. "And you're certain?'
"I have to be completely honest," Gabrielle looked straight into Xena's eyes.
"I wouldn't want it any other way."
"Xena, I know you wish to protect me. But I'm not sure if you're aware of it, but I want to protect you."
"When I stabbed Eve, I felt I was saving you. I thought I was saving us. The furies might have made me crazy, but the anger was already there. I thought Eve was taking you away from me. I hurt inside. I was jealous and I hated her for making me feel like that. I hated her as much as I loved you. I know you had to stop me with your chakram, but deep down I wondered if you were tired of being with me."
"No, I'm not. But Gabrielle, when I saw you stab Eve, my soul filled with rage. I was going to stop you no matter what. I wasn't going to lose another child," Xena stopped and willed her self to calm down. "When I lost Solan to Hope, all I thought about was destroying her evil. Seeing you standing over Eve overwhelmed me. When you stabbed her I was convinced that you had that evil inside you. I decided to cut it out with the chakram. Eve's cry ignited a bloodlust within me that had to be satisfied. I wanted to hurt you, like you'd hurt my daughter, and I wanted you to suffer, like she suffered. I loved my daughter more than my own life."
"I understand that Xena. Hope, as bad as she was, was my daughter. I love her as much as you love Eve." Gabrielle said gently. "I know I couldn't have a relationship with her and you. When she died, I resented you thinking I could just forget my child. When Eve was born you blossomed, and you were so beautiful with her. The Gods went after her and you fought for her life with everything possible, I felt eat up with grief and shame. Why didn't I fight for Hope like that? Why didn't I fight for her all? You didn't understand the pain I felt losing Hope, and you acted like you didn't care. I was a failure as a mother. When I tried to talk about it, you grew angry and told me to never discuss her."
"She killed my son!" Xena cried out.
"She was my daughter! I was responsible for my daughter's death, and when she died, you thought she should be forgotten because she was evil. She was still my child! The worst part Xena, is that Hope was killed by her son, after being deceived by ME! Three times. Three times! You never seemed to get that."
"I saw her evil, she was less than human, Gabrielle. I didn't see her as a child, especially not your child." Xena grimaced and rubbed her temples.
"That's just it, Xena. She is my child, evil or no. Why can't you see that? Just because she wasn't a perfect being did not mean I loved her less. She is my child. My child! "
"I imagined your child to be like you. Pure and innocent."
"That's a laugh. I don't think I have ever been pure or innocent. I have a dark-side too." Gabrielle looked at the ground when she spoke.
"Gabrielle, you were pure and innocent, your darkness is my doing. I involved you in terrible battles. I caused you to lose your blood innocence, I took you to Britannia, I was not there when you were attacked, and even Hope is my fault."
"Xena, when are you going to allow me to be human? I have a dark-side too. A dark-side just like any other person. Why do you insist upon being the bringer of evil Gabrielle? You aren't responsible for my actions."
"Gabrielle," Xena replied, but Gabrielle wasn't finished.
"Listen to me. Yes, you can affect some of my choices, yes, you can make me madder than anyone on Earth, and yes, you aren't innocent. But neither am I! By the Gods, my daughter's dark-side could have been from me too. She didn't have a chance, and you know what? I loved her anyway. I love my child! Even when I killed her, I loved my daughter."
"Like I love Eve."
"The pain you must feel. I'm so sorry." Xena's heart filled with sadness for Gabrielle, and she understood Gabrielle's heartache over losing her daughter.
"Xena, I'm sorry I tried to kill Eve. I don't think I ever told you that before and meant it with all my heart. You were right, you should have stopped me in anyway possible."
"When I saw you above Eve, I saw Hope attacking Solan. My mind was filled with hatred, I kept thinking you sent her to Solan and I wanted you dead." Xena stopped and shook her head, and then said, "I thought Illusia had taken that anger from me. It didn't and when I struck you, it was gone. Vengeance served."
"I saw Eve's sword deep in Joxer's chest, and I plunged the sai into her body,." Gabrielle shook her head. "Vengeance served."
"We hated each other and fed our darkness, and the evil nearly destroyed us both."
"But it didn't, and we're still here," Gabrielle scooted next to where Xena sat. She draped her arm across Xena's shoulder, and wasn't afraid anymore. Xena's hand found Gabrielle's and their fingers locked. They looked into each other's eyes and smiled.
Xena felt the warmth cover her aching soul. Gabrielle's heart jumped like it did nearly six seasons ago.
"I love you, Xena."
"I love you, Gabrielle."
Aphrodite shimmered and addressed them both. "Okay, here's the deal. You will speak only the truth, no matter how much it hurts. From the time Eli brought you back until now you've drifted apart. You both know it, and it is up to you to decide your future together. I didn't put you two together so you could screw it up!" Aphrodite noticed they were lying side by side and blushed brightly.
"Been there," Xena started.
"Done that," Gabrielle finished.
"Thanks Aphrodite," Xena and Gabrielle said together.
"You two!" The goddess of love smiled. She was thrilled. They had caught the love preserver she had tossed to them, and they held on to each other for dear life.