Disclaimer: The characters in the story are the property of Renaissance, MCA/USA and are presented for entertainment only with no intent of copyright infringement. The Furies were not present during the invasion of Xena's mind as that was the imagination of the author.
BeHold - The Message
Her eyes gleamed with reflection like ocean blue water. The glow on her hair was golden in the moonlight and stirred only slightly with the night breeze. She is my strength as much as I am hers, Gabrielle thought as she lie relaxed near the campfire watching Xena.
Xena finished taking off the saddle and gently brushed Argo II only a moment. She went and sat on a log and began removing her armor. Rising ever so tall as she walked, Xena strolled over to lie prone next to Gabrielle. She made a long but quiet sigh as she at last was lying beside Gabrielle. Xena gazed upward to the stars and felt glad to come to rest after a long and grueling day.
"Xena" Gabrielle whispered.
"Umm huh" replied a very tired Xena.
"Do you think Eve is okay for now with the Baptist?"
"Yes, Gabrielle. Some time there will be good for her. Those scrolls of yours we saved will help her the most. I hope they do for her what you did for me."
Gabrielle rolled over on her side to face her Warrior Princess and still in a soft voice said, "she was lost Xena. Is that how you hurt inside when your past enters your mind?"
Xena turned in surprise to face her companion who had suffered much the past weeks. With the danger facing Eve and the relentless attempts of the Olympian gods to kill them all, Xena realized she hadn't had time to think of herself or Gabrielle lately.
"Gabrielle, there are deep hurts in my mind and my chest. Sometimes my heart actually aches and yet there are no tears or words for me."
Gabrielle believed she felt Xena's pain as always and wanted to offer her relief. She really wanted to erase all the hurt Xena carried but it wasn't to be done when it came to Eve. It felt strange to her now that when Xena needed her as much as ever, she had no words to lift the hurt of Xena not raising Eve. She felt a sour taste in her mouth and anger in her mind because Eve had killed Joxer.
"You have had enough, haven't you?" Xena asked Gabrielle with concern showing in her face from a weak moonlight glow. Xena turned to focus her eyes on Gabrielle and gently laid her hand across Gabrielle's shoulder.
Gabrielle held back all but one tear that rolled slowly across her cheek. Xena wiped the tear away with her finger and then moved her hand back to her side.
Silence seemed to loom completely over them both and there were no words. The only sound was the crackling of the fire, as it burned lower. Xena was consumed with feeling angry at herself. Why wasn't she able to tell Gabrielle how torn she's felt since realizing her daughter had been stripped from them for 25 years? Her thoughts turned sarcastic but kept passing through her mind. Here she was a warrior who was given the power to kill gods and yet she couldn't let herself seem or act weak before Gabrielle.
Gabrielle closed her eyes even though sleep was not anywhere near. The question again of feeling fear for Xena's dark-side was stronger than it had been in a long, long time. Xena had explained earlier that The Furies entered her mind and drove her to stab Eve. She accepted Xena saying that she had reacted in rage. Stop! Stop! Don't think anymore, Gabrielle begged her own mind. The thoughts kept coming despite them not being welcome. Like a painful ringing, Xena had said she felt torn….torn to save them both but responsible to protect Eve especially after Angel Michael's message that made her mission clear.
Gabrielle had learned new emotions herself, the past year. After the crucifixion she knew she could feel rage. That emotion had served her well to save Xena from the Roman's when Callisto threw the Chakram and paralyzed Xena. She understood now that sometimes you have to push back. A simple act to retaliate was a dark-side and now she had one of her own. Gabrielle felt sickened she was having these dark feelings for what Xena had said and done.
Like a loud crack of thunder from nowhere, Gabrielle turned and began to beat against Xena's bosom and was crying hysterical tears of rage. Without more thought, Gabrielle cried out ….. "I hate Eve ! I hate her! I hate her ! I hate her Xena!"
Startled and shocked, Xena quickly sat up grabbing a tight hold of Gabrielle and her reaching to hold her wrists tightly and in control. "Gabrielle stop! Stop! You don't mean that ! " Xena exclaimed.
Both Xena and Gabrielle leaned forward close to one another and tightly embraced. Gabrielle began crying hysterically and her words were unclear. Xena was feeling confused and hugged Gabrielle tightly, as she was hoping the strong embrace would calm Gabrielle.
Gabrielle pulled back from Xena and taking a deep breath, she continued talking. "Xena, you've changed. We've both changed. I don't know when really but everything has been to fast. I can't go on like this."
"It's okay, Gabrielle," Xena interrupted.
"No…no, let me finish, " Gabrielle pleaded as she looked directly into Xena's eyes.
Xena stiffened and continued to sit and listen although inside she wasn't sure she wanted to hear the rest of what Gabrielle wanted to say.
"Xena, …from .the moment I saw your weakness after Eli brought us back I've known I wanted to take care of you. I've always wanted to be like you but now I thought there would be time for us. A time for me to give back something for all you've done for me. Realizing I survived death and accepting that fighting was for the greater good, I wanted you to notice me. I moved too fast, I know. I tried to take on too much but I mostly wanted you to notice me, just me."
Gabrielle paused as Xena stood towering above her and reached for the water pouch.
"Drink some, Gabrielle" Xena said as she turned the water for Gabrielle to wet her dry lips.
"Xena, sit…let me say this."
Xena took a small sip of water and sat down to face Gabrielle again.
"When you told me you were pregnant, something changed Xena. I wanted to be happy for you and I wanted to protect you and your child but something changed inside of me that I can't explain."
Xena began feeling really nervous. Her mind never expected something like this to be said. While listening her mind questioned, why now? Why after they both tried to trick the gods with their own deaths to save Eve, both lost much in those 25 years because Ares wouldn't leave them in their death… Why was Gabrielle saying she hated Eve?
It's really me she hates, thought Xena.
"Gabrielle, you don't hate Eve. You're upset I know. We've been through a lot lately," Xena blurted out.
"Stop! Xena," Gabrielle quickly replied, "I haven't been completely open and honest with you. It was before Joxer died. Don't you hear what I'm telling you? It was all along. I loved you pregnant Xena, I did. You were beautiful and happy and I could feel your love. But love for the child and I wanted your love to be for me. I wanted time, Xena. Time for us. Before they put us on those crosses, I watched you shiver in cold and pain. I've never loved you more than those last seconds before the excruciating spikes were driven in my hands. It was that love that made the pain tolerable and it didn't seem to last long. My memories weren't clear either of the time in paradise. When I was really clear in my mind, you didn't even remember being a warrior."
Gabrielle paused as if the thought and moment was precious to her.
"But Gabrielle, you said I wasn't whole and you encouraged me to feel complete" Xena added.
"I know Xena. I questioned if I wanted your dark memories back. I knew you would never be the warrior I met without them. Seeing you on the balcony, praying and this time knowing you were everything I had ever wanted you to be, well …you were who I wanted you to be in my mind, in my writing and in my fantasies. Then I realized all I ever wanted was your heart. You as you were and me not just fighting your dark-side but strong and fighting along side with you. You say you have a warrior's heart. Well, I'm a warrior now too, Xena. I want the look in your eyes I saw you once give Hercules and Marcus. I've always wanted that, " Gabrielle said as she sighed deeply.
Xena now had tears forming in her eyes and her emotions wanted to hold Gabrielle close again but she pulled her desires inward and only continued to listen.
Gabrielle lifted her arm and laid it across Xena's shoulder and continued, " I don't mean to hurt you. I would never want to hurt you. I first thought my feelings of your having a child was still because of my loss of Hope. It took some time for me to sort that out. When we realized Solan wasn't in the Elysian fields, I hurt all over again for your loss as well as my own. I found a balance there but then I knew you had a second chance. It was a chance for me too and you've shared that, " Gabrielle explained.
"Xena, you have to understand, I don't feel the love you do for Eve. I'm sorry you lost 25 years with her but we lost 25 years with each other. Nothing has been the same for too long now. Argo, Joxer, the gods - nothing is as it was. I'm not as I was, " Gabrielle said as she removed her arm and turned to look toward the fleeting fire. "I'll get some more wood, I'm cold" Gabrielle stood and walked over to pick up the branches she gathered earlier for the fire.
Xena remained seated and realized suddenly that she felt a numb. I don't have Gabrielle's way with words, she thought. Xena's mind reflected on an earlier feeling that she too was now different. Her mind recalled that her heart felt split into two halves. One half still feeling as a warrior and longing for the life she and Gabrielle had before Eve. The other half hurts for loosing this blessed opportunity to raise Eve. Xena's guilt for being a warrior had cost her Solan and perhaps still being a warrior had now cost her a second child. There is only so much a heart can take, Xena thought as Gabrielle rejoined her on the blanket.
Would being a warrior now cost her Gabrielle too, Xena's mind screamed as Gabrielle began to speak.
"Xena, please…hear me out," Gabrielle asked as Xena rose to her feet and without comment walked to saddle Argo II.
"Where are you going?" Gabrielle shouted.
Gabrielle sat stunned that Xena would leave at a time like this. Xena saddled Argo II quickly, picked up her armor and weapons, mounted and said, "I'll be back."
Xena then rode off into the night.
Gabrielle sat alone feeling a large knot in her throat. Why can't Xena just turn loose once and discuss things with me, she questioned in her mind as she rose to grab a large branch and begin beating it with anger against a tree.
"Why !" Gabrielle shouted, "I wanted to love Eve. I tried!" she continued to shout as the branch made thunderous noises each time it struck the sturdy trunk.
A feeling of all energy being drained overcame Gabrielle and she dropped to a sitting position and leaned back against the tree while crying uncontrollably.
Her thoughts became like self-interrogation with questions moving through her mind rapidly. Why did Ares have to foil their plan causing she and Xena not being allowed to raise Eve together? Why was it always Ares involved in Xena's life when his love was the last thing Xena, Eve or she needed? No! No! Don't think these things, Gabrielle encouraged her mind. Her thoughts kept pouring one right after another. Xena shows such compassion for Eve and so little inclusion of me now. Eve killed Joxer. She didn't blink an eye when she ran her sword through a man who had never harmed man, woman, child or beast. I don't care if I saved Xena from her dark-side resurfacing, Gabrielle continued to think. I don't want Eve in our lives!
With that admission, Gabrielle gathered her emotions and walked back over to add more branches to the fire. She felt really cold inside and a chill came over her from the night air. It would be first light soon and she lie on the blanket alone feeling little warmth from the fire or the empty space beside her.
Xena had ridden Argo II hard through the night. The morning light was just breaking through the clouds as she arrived at the burned remains of Joxer and Meg's tavern. Xena dismounted and walked toward the barn that had escaped the flames of the god's just days before. She gave a glance at Argo II and a brief thought of how much like Argo this horse was in more ways than just appearance. Inside the barn, Xena sat numb upon a bail of hay and quickly gave a look to the empty stalls. Her mind thought this must have been where Joxer kept Argo for her last days. No horse would be a replacement for Argo but at least she had Argo II, thanks to Joxer, her mind reasoned.
Xena stood quickly and said, "Arezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."
From back of the barn Ares stepped into view, looking worn from his wounds inflicted by Xena's sword and an arrow. "Xena," Ares said with surprise in his voice. "Why are you here? I thought you, Eve and Gabrielle would return to Amphipolis."
"Oh, you thought that did you," Xena replied sarcastically. "Well, I don't know if I even have a home in Amphipolis. I haven't even had time to think of mother since I was a little busy with your ice box and your brother and sister gods."
"Now look, Xena" Ares interrupted.
"No you look!" Xena demanded, "I'm grateful you gave back Eve and Gabrielle's life. Let's just leave it at that. Don't expect more from me."
Ares paused and stepped closer to Xena, gently placing his arm on her shoulder as he said, "I'm not asking for anything this time, Xena. I know you despise me. I won't die from that but I need help. This mortal thing is a little hard for me. I've only tried it once before and well….I'm just not good at it."
Xena shoved Ares hand off her shoulder and with a scowl look she turned to say, "You'll just have to get over it. I've saved a daughter I don't even know. I probably just lost the best thing in my life doing it. Your little mortal problems just don't interest me right now."
With that Xena walked strongly out of the barn, remounted Argo II and planned to ride off again just as she did earlier after she and Gabrielle's talk.
"Xena, wait!" Ares shouted as he ran from the barn. "Let me help you. No strings this time. I need help with this mortal problem and you don't look all smiles and cheers either. Whatta you say? Can't we just help each other for a change?"
Xena paused as she yanked on the reins, turning Argo II's head to one side.;
"Okay. Maybe I owe you that much. First you come with me. I have some talking to do with Gabrielle and you're a big part of the conversation," Xena replied as she grabbed Ares arm and pulled him forcefully on Argo II behind her.
Xena gave a slight nudge to the bridal and Argo II began to gallop forward, back in the direction where Gabrielle waited.
Gabrielle had risen early that morning with no real sleep through the night. She kept the fire burning to make some hot herbal tea. Her stomach was in knots and her heart felt heavy. Even sitting close to the fire, Gabrielle still felt chilled but she knew it wasn't from the weather. Just as she finished her tea, she heard the sound of a nearby horse riding in her direction.
Xena rode directly into camp and pushed Ares off the back of Argo II as she said, "get down and don't move!" Xena dismounted and grabbed Ares by the shoulder, jerking him forward and sitting him down on a second log near the campfire.
"Xena, you went to get Ares?" Gabrielle questioned with surprise.
"Yeah. He's as much the cause of all of this as you and I are, Gabrielle. He may have thought he did us a favor. What he did was take away our chance to be a real family. That was something you and I needed" Xena spoke bluntly.
Gabrielle remained silent for the next moments as Xena seemed to have something planned. It was obviously something to do with Ares and not her. Xena had tied Ares hands to his back and angrily tossed his sword on the ground beside her. She walked to stand over him, pointing her sword down at his heart and said, "You bastard!"
Ares snarled at her calling him that again and said, "Xena, haven't we been through this already? I got your message loud and clear. I don't think you got mine …but I sure got yours."
Xena gritted her teeth tightly and with a growl in her voice she said, "Oh, I got your point. You have been my nemesis forever. You gave me the glory of a warlord, charmed my warrior's heart and gifted me with my chakram. You even gave me dark emotions, stirred them at your will and then used them to torment me."
Xena paused only to squeeze the handle of her sword tighter as she continued saying, "and you know the worst of all…the really worst of all? You taught me to like it. I do have the heart of a warrior but you taught me to be numb to the killing. Gabrielle taught me to feel for the killing, the suffering and dying and I learned to use what's locked up inside me for a good cause. I can't say you didn't stir something in me. Part of who you are made me who I am. That's a bond and something I wish I didn't have. You saw the same heart in my child and you trained and manipulated her just as you did me. I'm showing Eve a new way. Sick as it is, I owe you for her and Gabrielle's life. No…no, I won't kill you Ares. Killing you would be like killing part of me. Sometimes I want our death as much as the gods did."
Xena pulled her sword back away from Ares chest, turned it toward her back and put it into her scabbard.
"You can hate me, Xena," Ares spoke. "I'm used to that. Zeus had a weakness for mortal thinking mixed with the strength of a god. You and Hercules are alike in that even if you are a pure mortal. Like my father, I love you for your strength and I envy your mortal mind. Love, hate….hate, love…it's all the same. It's all I know."
Xena seemed angered by Ares words and she grabbed his jacket and twisted it tightly in her hand. "Your family problems don't interest me Ares. Mine do! Just because you missed a parents love, you couldn't possibly know what I feel. Your sick idea that love is punishment, a warlord or vengeance is a sport, it never impressed Zeus or me. I can't hate you completely and that sickens me. You torment me. There isn't room in the warrior heart you gave me but you're there. Eve and Gabrielle are there and right now it is so full it hurts!"
Gabrielle sat across from Ares as her mind was displeased of his presence. Hearing Xena say her heart was hurting and including Gabrielle there as was Eve and Ares, rattled her thoughts. How? Gabrielle's mind asked. How, could Xena feel the same for Eve or Ares as her? Even though she didn't want to feel or think this on top of already admitting she hated Eve, Gabrielle shuddered at her next thought of why then had Xena brought Ares to camp.
"Gabrielle," Xena spoke as she again grabbed Ares, raising him to his feet, stepped over to pick up Ares sword and turned to Gabrielle to say, "saddle up. We're going to go see Eve. This little family rift is about to be settled, one way or another."
Xena once again threw Ares on the back of Argo II as she gave a nudge to the rein. Gabrielle mounted her horse and rode along side with her mind still thinking of how she hurt inside and curious what Xena had planned. After all she said to Xena the night before. it remained Ares is again in their presence and now they are riding to see Eve. Not much comfort, Gabrielle thought.
"Gabrielle," Xena said as they crossed a hill near the temple where the Baptist would be found.
"We're going to need Aphrodite. If your thoughts can draw her near. Do it!"
"My thoughts?" Gabrielle responded in shock because Xena had suddenly mentioned Aphrodite, the only goddess she didn't kill days before.
"She's your friend. She cares more for you than you know. If you think strongly of her, she will appear eventually," Xena replied.
"Okay," Gabrielle replied in a yielding tone.
"Oh great! Now we need a widow goddess to join us" Ares exclaimed.
"Shut-up Ares!" Xena said as she forcefully jabbed her elbow into Ares ribs.
The remainder of the ride was silent as they rode toward the temple where the Baptist met with villagers to cleanse them of their mortal anguish.
After leaving the horses outside of the temple, Xena, Ares and Gabrielle entered the temple's main hall. They saw the Baptist and Eve at the altar, appearing to be in meditation.
Eve rose to stand and showing her excitement and pleasure, she greeted Xena and Gabrielle. She turned to give a scowled look at Ares saying, "what's he doing here?"
"Eve listen," Xena began. "Ares is part of who you and I are and what is in our hearts. If I kill him, a part of both of us will die too. I know now that my heart or yours can't be completely be filled with love until we embrace it fully and unconditionally.
Gabrielle looked on and listened intently as the Baptist took leave to go outside and join a group gathered at the water's edge.
"Eve," Xena continued, "you have a destiny of your own now, Eve. You're the messenger for the god of love. I don't know what god that is or if the world will even know that to be one god. I'm not much to leave fate to a god but I know all to well what my heart needs now. I gave you life, Eli gave you back your soul and the Baptist will guide your way. My destiny is complete. I'll love you always and you're the symbol of hope for both Gabrielle and me. We're going to be apart for a long while but we will keep each other in our hearts until our paths meet again."
"Okay Mother, I understand. You and Gabrielle be safe in your journey. I am learning a lot about myself here and the time has been good" Eve responded as she and Xena tightly embraced.
Eve released her arms from around Xena and walked over to Gabrielle, giving her a gentle but brief hug as she said, "You've already preserved Xena in your scrolls, Gabrielle. I know she will never be alone." Then Eve walked to the altar, picked up Gabrielle's scrolls and handed them to the awaiting arms of Xena.
Ares stood rolling his eyes and feeling impatient of the family scene he witnessed. He dared not speak while still wondering what Xena meant by him being in both her and Eve's hearts.
"Take care Eve," Gabrielle said softly, "I hope your soul is filled with light just like your Mom's."
Xena tucked Gabrielle's scrolls securely under one arm as she grabbed Ares with the other, "Tell her goodbye for all time, Ares!" Xena demanded.
"Oh..okay, goodbye Eve. Have a nice life," Ares said as Xena led him back outside to the horses with Gabrielle following behind.
After riding further toward a mountain, Xena, Ares and Gabrielle stopped in front of an opening barely visible on the side of the tallest point of the mountains' center. Xena continued to have a firm look on her face and a strange focus in her gleaming blue eyes. Gabrielle's mind questioned if Xena had gone totally mad or if her plan would relieve the ache in her own heart. Still not understanding why she was to think of Aphrodite, Gabrielle relied on her sense of loyalty as they all entered a large cave.
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