Standard disclaimers: This story carries on past the end of Motherhood. I personally would like to see a lot of the issues that have been left hanging addressed and I think this would be the perfect time for Xena and Gabrielle to be able to do that. As always the story is mine but the characters are owned by Universal and Ren Pics. No copyright infringement is intended.
Subtext: To get right to the point, this moves far past subtext. In fact there is no speculation as to a romantic relationship here. It's spelled right out. Xena and Gabrielle are in love. If that is a concept that bothers you, then this may not be the story for you.
Authors note: Many thanks to Paymaster for her editing skills and input.
Tell Me Why
Marion D Tuttle
"Well Xena, it looks like you've got your daughter back."
The warrior felt an overwhelming sense of joy looking at the young woman letting a spider run across her fingers. She had taken on the biggest fight of her life and won but that didn't mean there hadn't been casualties along the way. Even though her heart was overflowing at this moment with happiness at the restoration of her child to her, she knew a profound sadness too. For all the years that she had missed and for the pain she heard in her soulmate's voice when she spoke of her daughter.
She placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder, trying to show the woman beside her that their love was still in tact. "No, we got our daughter back." Even as she said the words, they sounded hollow in her ears. She meant them, every word. But a part of her couldn't help but wonder if it was too little too late. She knew that she and Gabrielle were going to have to talk about everything that had happened and the truth was, she was dreading it. She had never been good with words, that was Gabrielle's strength. Her bard was going to want answers and Xena wasn't sure that she was going to be able to give them to her. Not all of them any way.
The one thing that Gabrielle was going to question her about, the most important thing, was a blank to her. She knew that her bard was going to ask why she felt the need to use such deadly force in stopping her and the warrior had no answer. The truth of the matter was she didn't even remember it. All she remember was coming into the hut to see Gabrielle standing over her prone daughter, her sais plunged into Eve's back and then nothing....Her next memory was of trying to revive Gabrielle and seeing her chakram with blood and bits of Gabrielle's hair clinging to it. That was when the sick feeling had come over her that she had done this to Gabrielle. Her daughter and the woman she loved where both lying there dying and she felt as if she was powerless to stop it. She had thought about plunging her dagger into her own heart just before Aphrodite had appeared.
At that moment Xena was in no mood to talk to the Gods, any of them. She had come very close to ending the Goddess Of Love's life right there. But there was something that stopped her, maybe it had been the look on Aphrodite's face. A look that said 'I only want to help.' That had stopped her. She had to admit that while Aphrodite had played a few dirty tricks on them over the years, she had never done anything to harm them. That was more than she could say for any of the other Gods. She found herself asking, "What do you want?"
The self assured swagger that usually accompanied the Goddess was gone and in it's place the appearance of a woman that had lost nearly everything and for the first time in her life knew the pain and fear of loss. "I just want to help Xena."
"Then heal them.", was her cryptic response.
"I can't do that...The Gods can't heal without Athena's blessing."
"Take us to Olympus then." She sensed the wavering in Aphrodite. She knew that the Goddess held a special place in her heart for her love. Softening her tone she added, "Please, Gabrielle doesn't have much time left."
Aphrodite did in fact take them to Olympus. The battle that had ensued had been the hardest one she had ever fought. Xena had all but begged Athena not to take this any further. She had told her she had no interest in killing the Gods off. If Athena would give her word that Eve would be left in peace, then Xena would do the same and leave them to their own lives. She didn't want this war and was more than ready to have it end.
Athena was having none of it though and fought Xena to the death but not before Ares had given up his immortality to heal Eve and Gabrielle. for all the Gods that had died at her hand in the last day, Xena felt the deepest sense of regret over Athena. She had held a sense of respect for this Goddess and thought it ironic that the Goddess Of Wisdom would be so lacking in wisdom over this. But then when one's own survival is at stake, their vision tends to get a bit clouded.
Her mind had wandered and she snapped back to the present, standing next to Gabrielle watching Eve play with a spider. She tried to shake the thoughts from her head but they were still there. She knew Gabrielle was going to say they needed to talk tonight after they got settled in camp somewhere. She would just have to deal with it when it came up.
An idea came to her then. They were not going to camp out tonight. Xena was going to take Eve and Gabrielle into the nearest town. If she was going to have to go through the most draining conversation of her life, she wanted to make sure she and Gabrielle would be as comfortable as possible. Taking Gabrielle's hand she moved towards their horses. "Come on Eve, we need to get going before it starts to get dark."
Eve looked up with a bewildered look on her face. "Aren't we going to set up camp?"
"No, we're going to get a room." Trying to keep the mood as light as she could she added, "I think we all deserve a hot bath and a soft bed tonight. Don't you?"
Gabrielle tried to hide the smile that had crept to her lips. She knew that Xena was never fond of staying in town. She would much rather be out in the woods than at an Inn. The only time that she had suggested getting a room in the past was when she was going out of her way to try and make Gabrielle happy. She was sure that 25 years entombed in ice hadn't changed that. The bard knew that Xena was also thinking about the events of the day and it was true that Gabrielle had a lot of questions for Xena. But, she also had some things that she needed to tell the warrior and for the first time in her life, the bard was at a loss for what she was going to say.
They gathered their belongings and mounted their horses. It had been 25 years but somehow Xena seemed to know where they needed to go to find a village. The warrior's sharp senses never ceased to amaze Gabrielle. Riding at the pace that Xena had set, it was a very short time before they came to the village. Xena instructed Eve to go stable the horses while she and Gabrielle secured rooms for the night.
The tavern was dimly lit and filled with men that were in varying degrees of drunkenness. Xena's eyes surveyed the room, looking for any signs of potential trouble. A voice from her side, "Funny how some things never change." She smiled at Gabrielle. "I was just thinking the same thing."
'That's very true.' The warrior thought to herself. 'Even in 25 years nothing much has really changed. Here we are after dealing with an event that had an impact on both our lives and I'm still trying to work up the courage to tell this little bard why I feel the way I do. The big difference here is in the past I have always had the answers. I may not have even known it or been ready to admit it but the answers were there. This time she is going to ask me things, she is going to ask for answers that I don't have to give.'
For Gabrielle's part her thoughts were moving in much the same direction as the warrior's. They needed to talk and soon, of that there was no doubt. Gabrielle had sensed a distance growing between them for the past few moons and was scared to death that if they didn't do something to stop it, it would be too late. Then the thought returned to her again, the thought that had been haunting her for so long now. What if it was already too late? She shook her head to clear it of the thoughts. 'Hold on just a little while longer.', she told herself. 'Let's just get settled for the night and then we can talk.'
The Innkeeper looked at both women with a mixture of fear, awe and respect. News traveled fast and it hadn't taken long for the villagers to hear about what had happened. Was this really the Xena and Gabrielle that there had been so many legends about? Whatever the truth was, it was clear to these people that they were out from under the rule of the Gods and these two women were the ones they had to thank for that.
Approaching the bar, Gabrielle motioned for the Innkeeper to come towards her. "How much for two rooms, a couple of hot baths and three meals?"
Hearing this young woman speak put the older man's mind at ease. He knew now he had nothing to fear, nor did his patrons from these two. They just wanted a place to rest. "After what you have done for us this day, I could not charge you for anything. You will be my guests."
Gabrielle started to protest, saying they could pay but he merely held up his hands saying, "You and your friend over there have given us all our freedom. We owe you more than we could ever pay. It is the least I can do."
Stepping forward Xena smiled at the man. "Since you put it that way, how could we refuse?"
The bard couldn't help but smile. Xena's reputation as a warlord had always preceded her in the past but the warrior had always had a way of putting people at ease if and when she choose to. That was a side of Xena, the side that was sensitive to other people's feelings, that didn't get shown very often in the past. It had been something Xena had made a concise effort to work on when she found out she was pregnant with Eve. Eve, the thought of her name brought Gabrielle's thoughts back to recent events and the talk that she and Xena needed to have.
Just as she was thinking this, Eve came through the door. "The horses are settled." She hadn't really spoken much since everything had happened. Gabrielle felt like she needed to say something to Eve as well. She knew that the young woman had to have some questions too. She was torn between talking to her and taking her warrior by the hand and running upstairs. The thought crossed her mind to put it off but something told her that she would be able to handle things better with Xena if she made her peace with Eve first.
Xena saw Gabrielle looking in Eve's direction and sensed that there was something there that needed to be taken care of. "Go talk to her. I'll go up and get the bath ready."
"Thanks Xena. I won't be long."
"Take all the time you need." In truth Xena was hoping that if Gabrielle and Eve talked long enough it might buy her the time she needed to find some answers.
Moving towards Eve, Gabrielle touched her lightly on the shoulder to gain her attention. "Can we talk for a minute?"
Eve looked at the smaller woman standing before her. She was seized with a mix of emotions. If anyone else had tried to do to her what Gabrielle had, they would have been dead by now...but that was before. Now Eve wasn't sure of much of anything, except for the fact that her mother had told her the truth. She and Gabrielle had loved her, did love her. They hadn't abandoned her as she had been lead to think by Ares. Something else seemed fairly certain to her too. That Gabrielle had a good reason for what she had done. "Gabrielle I know you want to talk about what happened. I want you to know, I don't blame you. I don't pretend to understand everything that has happened but it has become clear to me that it all happened for a reason."
The bard felt a lump in her throat as she looked at the young woman she had nearly killed and remembered the infant she had been willing to lay her life down to protect. "I'm so sorry Eve."
"You have no reason to be. You were doing what you thought was right. I was evil...You weren't sure I could be trusted and you wanted to keep my mother from having to kill her own child. "
Flashes of her feelings at having to do that very thing when her daughter Hope had been trying to take over the world assaulted her. Eve had hit the nail on the head with that one. She had wanted to spare Xena from ever having to feel the pain of having to destroy her own child. But the truth was, Gabrielle had not made a concise choice to kill Eve. Her actions had been alterd by the Furies and the visions that had put into her head. She thought of telling Eve that but it occurred to her that it would make no difference. Eve had clearly forgiven her for her actions and she saw no point in making things more complex then they already were. "I'm not just talking about that, although I do deeply regret what I did. I should have listened to your mother. I mean, I'm sorry that we missed your growing up."
Eve smiled, the first genuine smile she could remember giving anyone. "Do you know something Gabrielle? I think my mother must be one of the luckiest people in the world. Is she aware of how lucky she is to have you?"
Gabrielle blushed at the compliment. She wasn't sure if Eve had known the full extent of her and Xena's relationship but it was clear she did. "Thank you, I think we both got pretty lucky."
"Go tell my mother that. Something tells me she needs to hear it right now. I've read some of your scrolls Gabrielle and I have to tell you, there are a lot of things that I have questions about. But there is one thing that is abundantly clear. You and my mother share something that is very rare and special."
In that simple statement Eve had reminded Gabrielle of the one thing that was most important in her life, Xena. She knew that the time had come for them to talk. Thanking Eve and hugging her she turned to go upstairs. One last thought occurred to her before she left. "Eve, you know I love you don't you?"
"I do now." Was the simple answer, for now it was enough.
Opening the door to their room, Gabrielle saw Xena sitting in a chair by the window. The sun had set and a glow from the moon fell across the warrior's features. Gabrielle was surprised to see a tear glisten on Xena's cheek. Moving to kneel in front of her, Gabrielle gently wiped the moisture away. "Tell me why Xena, why are you crying?"
Xena tried to move so that Gabrielle wouldn't see the extent of her turmoil. She had wanted to be calm and together for this, oh well so much for that she thought. "Gabrielle...I'm so sorry.", was all she could manage to say.
The temptation to ask a thousand questions was there. But something told the bard that this was one of those times when her best action would be to just wait and listen. It was clear that Xena was trying to get some emotions out and that it was going to take her some time to do that. The only action Gabrielle took was to move so that she was sitting next to her warrior. Taking her hand in her own she waited for the words to come. She didn't have long to wait. "I know that you want answers about what happened and you have a right to know why...I only wish I could tell you."
"What do you mean you wish you could tell me?" Her mind was swimming, was it possible that there were no answers to be had. There had to be. Gabrielle could forgive Xena for what she had done, of that she was sure. But there was something inside her that told her she needed to hear from Xena's own lips why it had happened. Xena had always taught her to act, not react. But isn't that just what she had done. Gabrielle struggled not to let go of all the emotions that were churning inside of her. This had to be handled in just the right way, the bard had things she needed to tell her warrior too. But this had to be taken care of first, for both their sakes.
Xena looked up to see a thousand unspoken questions in her lover's green eyes. "Just what I said, I wish I could tell you why I did it, why I threw the chakram at you, but I can't." Her head hung low, no longer able to meet the eyes that were normally her solace. But right now they where a source of pain and torture for her, reminding her of what she had done.
Closing her eyes Gabrielle worked for control. 'Breath' she told herself. 'You can do this, you and Xena can get through this but you have to get to the answers here first.' It was then that her fears came to the surface again. She had been trying to keep them at bay but there they were again refusing to be ignored. She knew that she was going to be able to find a way to forgive Xena but what if Xena were never able to forgive her. Did Xena even know that it was the Furies and not Gabrielle herself that had moved to kill Eve. Flashes from their past came up to haunt her as they had so many times in the past few days.
She remembered another child that Xena had lost and the look of pain and betrayal in Xena's eyes when Gabrielle found her cradling the dead body of her son. Xena's fury at her for not telling her the truth about Hope. Everything that they had gone through in Gabrielle's search to find peace. She had feared that this would be the last straw, that Xena would see this as another betrayal and walk away from her. True...she had begged the Goddess of Love to bring them to Olympus and had seemed genuinely grateful for Ares healing her as well as Eve. But did she still love her? Gabrielle was sure that Xena meant her no harm but did she still want a life with her? Did she still view Gabrielle as the person she was fated to be with? These were questions that had haunted the bard's mind.
Gabrielle swallowed past the lump in her throat preparing to speak. Before she could form words, a bright light filled the room. Both women turned to see The Goddess Of Love standing before them. She was still dressed as she had been the last time they had seen her, in the black lace that revealed far more than it hid from view. The main difference was in her bearing. Gone was the happy go lucky, self absorbed twitter that was Aphrodite's trademark. And in her place stood a very serious woman.
More than a little surprised to see her, Xena and Gabrielle forgot for the moment their own worries. On the defensive Xena asked, "Aphrodite,is there something we can do for you?"
"Yes Xena, as a matter of fact there is."
Both women waited for the Goddess to go on. When she didn't speak, Xena made the first move. "I wanted to thank you again for trying to help...."
Aphrodite waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. "Your welcome, but I'm not here for thanks. I'm here to help you two get things straightened out so you can get on with your lives. I won't let everything that happened be for nothing...." A silent tear slid down her cheek. For the first time in her life Xena actually felt sorry for one of the Gods. For the first time she stopped to think of what had happened. She had saved her child but in so doing, she had killed just about every member of Aphrodite's family. The Gods were not a tightly knit group that was true, but still, that had to hurt. She wanted to say that she was sorry but some how she thought saying that would make things worse.
Gabrielle felt the pain too. Aphrodite had been a friend to her more than once. It hurt her to see the once proud Goddess this way. Almost as if she could read their minds, Aphrodite spoke. "Don't feel sorry for what you did. You were only doing what anyone would do, protecting your child was your only concern. If my family hadn't been so wrapped up in killing her, none of this would have happened. I tried to tell them."
Gabrielle spoke "Aphrodite...I don't know what to say..."
A smile touched her lips. "There isn't anything to say, other than clearing up a few things." Aphrodite moved to stand by the fire and wrapped her arms around herself as if she were trying to keep warm. "First of all, Xena, you have been wondering how you were going to tell Gabrielle why you threw the chakram at her. Right?"
Xena was unable to bring her eyes to meet those of Aphrodite or Gabrielle. "We were just talking about that. The truth is, I don't know why I did it. I can't even remember doing it. It makes me sick to think that I could do that to Gabrielle. After everything we have been through, that I could hurt her like that..."
"What do you mean I didn't? It was my chakram, I threw it..."
Aphrodite waited until Xena's eyes met hers. "Yes Xena you threw it but it was never your intention for it to hit Gabrielle the way it did."
"Nice try Aphrodite but we both know that I rarely miss. If I aim at something, that's what I hit."
"True... But normally you don't have your chakram deflected by someone else...."
This was the first thing that the Goddess had said that had caught the attention of both women completely. "Are you trying to tell me..."
"I'm not trying to tell you anything. I'm flat out saying that Athena made your chakram change course. She thought that if Gabrielle were dead, that would completely destroy you and you would lose sight of saving Eve. She hoped that it would buy her enough time to really make sure Eve was dead. By the time you came to your senses, it would have been too late for you to help either one of them."
Aphrodite's words slowly started to sink in for both women. Xena was stunned at this new revelation. So she hadn't actually done the harm to her bard she thought she had. But the fact that she had thrown her chakram still remained. There was that lingering doubt, would she have harmed Gabrielle to stop her from killing Eve? She couldn't answer... everything was still a blur.
Gabrielle had thoughts going through her head at the same time. She noticed the play of emotions crossing Xena's face. It came to her all at once what they had to do if the were going to move past this. Gently taking Xena's hand into her own she looked into deep blue eyes, the eyes that she had looked into nearly every day for as long as she could remember. "Xena, I think I know what you're thinking. Your mind is full of what ifs right now. What if you hadn't thrown the chakram in the first place? What if you had taken Ares offer to keep Eve safe? All the way back to before we were even frozen. What if we had stayed with the Amazons and raised Eve? What if, what if.... We can what if everything to death Xena, but it won't change anything. We have to deal with what is, not what might have been."
Xena felt like steel bands were tightening around her heart. Was this going to finally be it? Had she gone to far at last and pushed Gabrielle to the point that she couldn't forgive her actions and was going to leave her? The bard hadn't been acting like she was going to leave..not really. But then she had seemed different, distant almost. She looked at Aphrodite hoping to gain some answers there. Nothing was forthcoming from the Goddess. She would just have to hear what Gabrielle wanted to say but she felt like she had to try one more time to make Gabrielle understand that she did love her and wanted their life back. Lowering her eyes she said. "I understand Gabrielle. A lot has happened and I'm sorry that I hurt you so much...I love you..."
"I love you too Xena, that's not what I'm talking about here. You have a lot of regrets but you're not the only one, don't you know that?"
For the first time in a long time Xena thought about something other than the events surrounding Eve. "Are you talking about..."
"Hope, Solan, Chin, Najara, Eve, Eli,...all of it Xena. I have regrets too. I can't tell you how many times I have asked myself why I didn't listen to you. Or why I made the choices I made. I guess what I am trying to say Xena is, we have both made some really big mistakes. But one thing that has never changed and never will is the fact that I love you."
Tear were streaming down all three faces now as Xena moved to take Gabrielle into her arms. Looking toward Aphrodite they saw her sad smile. Coming to stand before the Goddess that had been so much more than just a friend to them, Xena said, "Aphrodite, I know I told you this already but I am truly sorry for what you have lost."
The old Aphrodite was still there but she had taken on something that had never been there before. She seemed to be less focused on herself than she had in the past. "As I said before Xena, you have nothing to apologize for. You did what anyone in your position would try to do. You were trying to protect those you loved. What happened to my family was their own fault. I tried to talk them out of it but they wouldn't listen. I will miss them but they sealed their own fate." She prepared to leave. "Before I go, I want you two to promise me something."
"If we can."
"You can. What I want from you is your promise that you will talk things out. You have come too far together not too. You owe each other that. You are destined to be together but if it is going to work, you have to get everything out in the open." With those last words, the Goddess of Love left in a shower of golden light.
Turning to Xena, Gabrielle started... "She's right you know."
Xena could feel the cold fingers closing around her heart. This was it, this was where Gabrielle was going to tell her that she was leaving, that she couldn't handle their life together anymore. The warrior couldn't blame her, not really. Xena had put her through so much. Gabrielle had already told her that she had regrets. She had made it clear that there were things she would change if she could. But she had also said they had to deal with what was, not what might have been. She steeled herself to hear the words she knew would break her heart. All she could think of to say was, "I know."
Searching the blue eyes of the woman she loved, Gabrielle knew she was going to have to be the one to start. "I want to make it clear to you Xena that I do understand now why things happened the way they did. I won't say that I forgive you because for there to be forgiveness would mean that I felt you were to blame in the first place and I never did."
A weight felt like it had been lifted from her heart at hearing that Gabrielle didn't blame her and hadn't. But it was just as quickly replace by another confusion in her mind. "Well if this isn't about what happened...my hurting you.. then what is it about?"
She didn't expect the answer she got. "Ares."
"Ares? What has he got to do with this?"
"Everything Xena. I know you said you didn't feel anything when we cooked up that plan to trick him in Amphipolis. But you can't deny that there is something between you two..."
"Gabrielle I am not in love with Ares, I'm in love with you!"
Moving closer to Xena she embraced the warrior. It hurt her to say the words that were coming but she knew they had to be said. "Xena I know you love me and no, I don't believe that you are in love with Ares. But there is an attraction there, he represents your past..."
"Do you think that's what I want? My past? Listen Gabrielle...I won't deny that there is something about Ares that has always been a part of me and in a way I guess always will. It's just who I am. I thought you accepted me for me and what I was."
"I do accept you Xena." This wasn't going as she had planned but then again why should that surprise her. "What I won't and can't accept is feeling like I am second choice." There...it was out there, she had said it. Now the question was how would Xena react.
The crestfallen look was not what she had expected to see. "Is that how I make you feel?"
She thought of just trying to tell Xena that it didn't matter. She wanted to pretend this conversation had never taken place but then the words of Aphrodite came back to her. 'What I want from you is your promise that you will talk things out. You have come too far together not to. You owe each other that. You are destined to be together but if it is going to work you have to get everything out in the open.' She knew that this had to be resolved or their relationship could never move past the point they were at. "Sometimes yes...Xena I know you don't mean to do that." She rushed to try and reassure her. "But sometimes I feel like you....that maybe I'm not what you need."
Xena was starting to understand what Gabrielle was saying. It made her heart twist with pain to think that there was another thing to add to the list of hurts she had inflicted on her bard. But this one was truly not her fault. Gabrielle was talking about something that was so clear that she hadn't even thought about it. She started to tell Gabrielle that she was finally getting it. "Gabrielle..."
"No, please let me finish this Xena. Now that I have started I'm afraid if I don't get it out now I never will. I saw the look in your eyes when Ares asked you to give him a child. Even though he may not be the ideal father figure, I couldn't help but notice. You have lost two children Xena, Solan to death and you lost Eve's childhood because of the Gods' attempts to kill her. Can you stand there and tell me that you don't want a child? Can you say that Xena because we both know that is the one thing I can't give you that Ares can." Tears poured from her eyes at this admission.
Now that Xena knew what it was that had been bothering her bard, it was simple to address. Tilting her face up to look into blue eyes that were filled with love and admiration for the woman that stood before her she breathed softly, "That's where your wrong Gabrielle, it is true Ares could give me a child but what you give me far outweighs anything I could get from the former God Of War. You give me a heart that sees love and light, where his only sees desire for what he wants. You give me the freedom to be the person I am instead of trying to form me into your image of what I should be or what you want me to be. Your love doesn't come with strings and conditions. You are the one that taught me to love again Gabrielle, don't you know that? I could never chose Ares over you."
"Do you really mean all of that?"
"All that and more. Whatever fate may have in store for us Gabrielle one thing I know is true. We can handle anything that comes along as long as we do it together."
The bard's eyes clouded over. "I remember you saying something very much like that to me before, after..."
Xena's mind went back to when they had to face off against Hope and her evil spawn. "Yes I remember. I meant it then and I mean it now. We're meant to be together."
No further words were necessary as both women looked into the eyes of the person that held the keys to her heart and soul. Slowly Xena lowered her lips to Gabrielle's, claiming her bard in a kiss that had a sweetness and intensity that had been missing for so long. Finally all the questions and doubts were out in the open. They had literally gone through Hell and back. They had fought to protect a child and in the end it would seem it had been a fight they had won.
Eve had grown to be all she had been destined to be, despite some very wrong turns along the way. They regretted some of the actions they had to take but in their hearts they knew they had done what needed to be done. But above all of that, for the first time in a long time, they felt like they were where they belonged, safe, with each other. Their hearts and love once again in tact and ready to face whatever challenges might lay ahead.
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