Standard disclamers: The charecters of Xena, Gabrielle and company are the property of USA, Or is it Oprah Winfry now? Any way no copyright infirngement is intended. I'm just inviteing them out to play in my imagination for a while. I promise to put them back where I found them when I'm done.
Subtext: It's way past that at this point. I write from the point of view that our two leading ladies are in love and if the haven't admited it in the begining of the story you can rest assured the will by the end. If two women being in love is offensive to you this may not be your cup of tea.
Spoilers: The first part of this story is at some point direct quotes from the episode The Bitter Suite I do not intend plegerisim. While I liked The Bitter Suite I always had my own ideas of how Xena and Gabrielle would get over the rift that TPTB put them through. I took the liberty of using the first part of their story to pave the way for said ideas.
Forgiveness Part I
Marion D Tuttle
There never seemed to be more noise then there was at night when all the world was at rest and the stillness of her surrondings had settled over her. Not the type of noise that one would think of, children playing in villages. People going on about their buisness the sounds of every day life.
No, the noise that invaded her thoughts was that of her own making, her own demons . Her actions and the consequenses of them were what created the noise that plauged her mind. She looked around at her surroundings, the hut she had been staying in bore no resemblance to her normal quarters. When she came to the village she made it clear that she didn't want to stay in the Queen's hut. There were too many memories there for her there, too much to face.
She had been in the village for close to a week. She had come here because she didn't know where else to go. She couldn't go back to her home and she couldn't stay with Xena, the warrior had made that abundantly clear when she had coldly turned away from her at the funeral of their children.
Gabrielle had reached out to Xena, she had told the warrior that she loved her but the pain had been to fresh in Xena's heart and she couldn't accept her friend's words. The bard had been torn apart with guilt over the lie she had told to cover the presence of her evil Daughter. She sought to look for a way to explain to Xena that she had wanted to believe that her child was not evil. That she wished she had seen the truth before it had cost Solan his life. None of this had meant anything to Xena however. She felt the pain of her Son's death and the deeper pain of what she believed to be the ultimate betrayal by the one person she loved and trusted beyond any other.
When Xena had turned from her, Gabrielle felt her heart shatter into a million pieces. The pain she had felt at having to end her daughter's life had nearly crushed her. She had considered taking the remaining poison and ending her life, ending the pain right there. Then it happened, she looked up and saw Xena looking at her from the line of trees that lined the clearing. She had held a spark of hope in her heart at the fact that Xena was there, maybe there was still a chance for them to get through this together. But the warrior had only looked at her, not making a sound. She had then turned from her, silently, retreating back into the darknes of the trees leaving Gabrielle alone in her despair.
Still her mind refused to accept that their relationship was beyond repair until they stood watching the funeral fires. They stood together but apart watching the flames consume the bodies of their respective children. She felt the need to speak, turning her tear stained face to her friend "Xena, I'm sorry...If I had just done what you told me, they would still be alive. Kalipus...Solan."
"No, don't you even speak his name."
The coldness in the warrior's eyes went straight to her heart. "Xena, I..."
"No...no you lied to me. I trusted you and you lied to me. Now Solan is dead. My son is dead...because of you."
It was out there now Xena had made it clear where she thought the blame belonged and the sad part of it was Gabielle couldn't think of anything to convince her otherwise. "I love you Xena."
Silence was all that greeted her statement. It was clear that there was nothing she could say that was going to reach Xena. Feeling nothing but an empty space where her heart used to be she turned from the warrior and walked away.
Tears flowed down the warrior's face as she walked in the opposite direction feeling the unbearable loss of not only her son but of the love she would now never get a chance to express.
Dragging her mind from the painful memories Gabrielle looked around again at where she was now. She had seen no one or spoken to anyone, except for Ephiny and Solari in the time she had been here since the first night.
She had come to the village out of instinct, part of her wondered if she even knew where she was going. She hadn't planned to come here, but this was where she had ended up. It had just been by chance that Ephiny had been on border patrol when an exhasted Gabrielle stumbled into Amazon territory.
Seeing that her friend and Queen was visably upset and that Xena was no where to be seen put the Regent on automatic alert. Something was very wrong and she intended to find out what it was. The first thing she had to worry about though was getting Gabrielle back to the village with as few people knowing about her presence as possible. She signeled for Solari to join her. "That's Gabrielle over there, Xena isn't with her. I know that after everything that happened their was a distance between them, but from the looks of things it's worse than I thought."
Ephiny had told Solari some of the details of what had happened in the Centaur village. But the truth was there was still a lot she didn't know herself. She had decided not to divulge any of the information Gabrielle had shared with her about her child. She thought her friend deserved the chance to tell that story herself if she wanted it told. "What do you think is going on?" Solari asked.
"I don't know, but it won't do Gabrielle any good to be crowded at this point, even if everyone's intentions are good. She was in a lot of pain and so was Xena. I know those two, if they have split up something unthinkable has to have happened. I need some time to talk to Gabrielle alone I'm going to take her to our place. See what you can do about keeping the rest of the patrol distracted so they don't see us heading into the village?"
Seeing the deep concern in her bond mate's eyes Solari could tell that there was more to this story than she had heard. However she had no doubt she would get the rest of the details later. "Sure, but you better make it quick before anyone gets back over this way."
Ephiny lept down from her vantage point in the trees above to land directly in front of Gabrielle. She was surprised when their was no reaction from the bard, she just stood there with a blank expression on her face. Almost as if she didn't know where she was. "Gabrielle?" Getting no response she reached out to touch her friends arm. The physical contact seemed to bring Gabrielle out of the trance like state she had been in.
"Ephiny? How? Are we on Amazon land?"
The Regent began to show real signs of worry. It was almost as if Gabrielle had no idea what had happened to her. "Gabrielle, I think you should come with me. Something tells me we should talk."
There was no response Ephiny took her friend by the hand and led her towards the village. All the way along the path Gabrielle never said a word. At a loss for what to say she just let Ephiny led her on.
Once they arrived at Ephiny and Solari's hut it was almost as if a dam had burst. Before Ephiny knew what was happeneing she found herself with her arms full of a very distruaght Amazon Queen. Trying to give Gabrielle time to bring her raging emotions under control Ephiny held on to her, waiting for the storm to subside. Finally, after what seemed like hours Gabrielle began to gain some control over herself. She pulled back from the iron grip Ephiny had been holding her in. "I'm sorry." She began. "I think I have held it in since I left the Centar village and it just hit me all at once."
Seeing the look of pain and despair in her friends eyes tore at the amazon's heart. "It might help if you talked about it."
"I don't think anything is going to help." Gabrielle's head was bowed she sat oppisite her friend. She looked totally defeted. "Xena hates me, and she has every right to...." She blurted out.
"Gabrielle no, I can't believe that. I know Xena was in pain over Solan's death. That's to be expected maybe she just needs some time alone...."
Seeing Ephiny looked at her she swallowed the lump in her throat, she had to tell her the truth, all of it. Not being honest with the people she loved was what had caused this mess. "It's more than a Mother's grief Ephiny. She hates me because I am the reason her Son is dead."
"I don't understand...Callisto..."
"No Callisto didn't kill Solan." In a voice that was nearly a whispher she went on. "My daughter did."
Ephiny searched Gabrielle's face trying to understand what she had just heard. This couldn't be right Gabrielle had told her about having a child, but that was only a few months ago and she had said the child had died.
The young Queen could see the confusion and questions in her friend's eyes. "I told you about Hope, and what I told you was the truth. Or at least I thought it was the truth when I told you. I didn't lie to you Ephiny, but I didn't tell you everything either."
It was clear that there was a lot more going on then she had originally known. Taking Gabrielle's hand gently in hers she tried to reassure her friend. "Maybe it's time you told me."
Nodding her head Gabrielle went on. "The child I told you about was not a mortal child. She was the daughter of Dayhok. When she was born at first Xena tried to protect her from the warrior's that wanted to kill her because they believed her to be evil...but then." She took a breath before going on. "Hope grow at a rate that made it clear she was not a normal baby. We had planned to try and leave the castle we were in as soon as I got my strength back. Xena had found out that one of the warriors that had gone aganist the order was going to betray us. She went after him, leaving Gowen to watch over me and Hope. While Xena was gone...Hope killed him."
Ephiny tried to absorb what she was being told. Gabrielle was her friend and she wanted to believe her but what she was saying didn't sound possible. A newborn baby had killed a trained warrior? It didn't make sense. "Did Xena kill Hope?"
Gabrielle shook her head at the memory. "No, she tried to but I wouldn't let her. I didn't believe my child had done that. I still believed that she was an innocent baby. In the back of my mind I knew she was Dayhok's daughter, but she was mine too and I believed I could help her overcome her dark side. I took the baby and ran, Xena was convinced that Hope was pure evil and there was no choice but for her to die. I couldn't let her kill my baby but I knew Xena wouldn't rest until Hope was dead. So I devised a plan. I led Xena on a chase to the top of a cliff,Xena saw me carring Hope and I made Xena believe that Hope had turned on me and I threw over the cliff."
"You made her believe you threw her? But you didn't really did you?"
It was more of a statement then a question. "I had a big enough lead on Xena that I had the time to make a switch. I put Hope in a basket and sent it down the river. Then I took I took a bundle of cloth and blankets and pretended it was Hope. I waited long enough for Xena to show up and started running up the mountain. By the time I got to the top I had enough time to throw the bundle over and make it look like I had thrown...." the tears cut of her voice she couldn't go on.
"So Xena assumed that Hope was dead and you thought that was going to be the end of it."
"Please try to understand Ephiny she was my child and I just couldn't."
"I do understand Gabrielle...but how did all this tie in?" Then it dawned on her there had been two dead children Ephiny had seen how distraught Gabrielle was and attributed her grief to Solan's death. No one, except for Xena, Gabrielle, Kalipus and it was later reviled Calllisto, had known before his death that Solan was Xena's son. With everything that had happened it seemed no one had reveled Hope's true identity.
"Hope, she had come back. She was the one that released Callisto from the lava. The child Falia, she was really Hope, and I lied to Xena again."
"But you couldn't have known."
"I didn't, at first. But just before Xena and I went out to meet Callisto, Hope dropped the wooden lamb I had given her. She told me the people that found her had told her it was in the basket with her when they found her. I should have told Xena right away, but I was afraid she wouldn't give Hope a chance. I wanted to believe she wasn't evil I thought if I could just find the right time to tell Xena I could make her see...I should have told her...."
Ephiny felt her friend's pain. "You wanted to believe that she was a victim and not evil. She was your child."
"That's right, I'm the one that sent her to where Solan was hiding. That's why Xena hates me. If I had told her the truth...."
There was a definate split in the feelings Ephiny was having on the one hand she wanted to tell her friend that she had been wrong and she should have told Xena the truth immediatly. But she knew that Gabielle had not lied to hurt the warrior, she had simply wanted so badly to believe her child was not evil and she knew in her heart that she would not have a chance to prove that if she had gone to Xena in the beginning. "I don't want to cause you any more pain Gabrielle but I have to ask. Do you still think that Hope could have been saved?"
The sadness was heavy in the bard's voice when she answered. "No, I don't. I wanted so badly to believe in her, I was blind."
"You can't be blamed for loving your child."
"Xena knew, I should have known that she would never have tried to destroy Hope if she had even the slightest doubt, but she was so sure. If I had listened to her..."
"What you need right now is rest, stay here. So far Solari and I are the only ones that know you are here. I think we should keep it that why for a while. Gabrielle you need to get your head together before you decide what to do next." In her heart she knew her friend was going to want to go in search of Xena to see if their was any way to put their relationship back together. At this point she didn't think that would be the best thing for either woman. Gabrielle was so wracked with guilt and unless Ephiny missed her guess Xena was going to be feeling rage and anger at her son's death she headed out to find Solari to tell her what had happened. That had been three days ago.
Gabrielle had not gone outside, not wanting to draw any attention to herself. The only people she had seen had been Ephiny and Solari. She had spoken with both of her friends about what had happened on a very limited basis. After her initail conversation with Ephiny it was almost like she had built a wall around herself. She began, for perhaps the first time to understand what isolation was.
Three days is not a long time, but somtimes it can seem like an eternity. After leaving the Centar village Xena had wandered. The first two days she had just walked with no particulair destination in mind. Her grief had blinded her to everything even thought her heart was still beating she felt a coldness. She remembered the last time she had felt this aching emptiness, it had consummed her there had been nothing to fill it up with, nothing but hate and rage. She had given in to that before. She had sworn that she never would surrender to that again. But the person that she had made that promise to. The person that had been her light had been the one to cast her into this pit of emptiness again. She had done it by lying and betraying the warrior's trust
The third day found her in the highlands, snow swirling around her she finally gave into the grief that had been driving at her. She wailed her pain to the winds, not expecting it to change anything but helpless to stop it. Her expression of pain was inturrupted by an all too familar voice. "Great vocal, but you sure can't dance to it." He came to stand in front of her. "Look I feel your pain, but when are you going to start doing something about it.?"
"My son is dead you souless Bastard. What can I do about that?"
"It's just proves what I've said all along. No good deed goes unpunished." he placed is fingers on her chin, forcing her head towards him until she was looking directly into his eyes. "It this whole atonement kick youv'e been on lately, defending the weak, trusting someone that betrayed you..."
"Gabrielle..." The name slipped out in a whispher
"This isn't you Xena your full of fire, rage. Accept it, embrace it. You know what to do, who to kill."
Thoughts of Gabrielle crowded in on her. She had trusted Gabrielle as she had trusted no other and the bard had betrayed that trust in the worst possible way, not once but twice. Maybe Ares was right, maybe there was only one outlet for her pain.
The morning sun cast long shadows across the village Ephiny was outside talking to some of the younger members of the tribe. Curiosty had been growing in the village as why Ephiny and Solari were spending so much time secluded in their hut. The Regent had told Gabrielle of the questions circulating around the village. The Queen had agreed that it might be best to let the women of the village know she was here but to also let them no that she wished her privacy for personal reasons. she planned on making an apperence later in the day just to schelch any rumors that might start to circulate that she was ill or hurt. Gabrielle had complete faith that her tribe loved and respected her, still there were alway those few trouble makers that if they saw an opportunity to seize power might try to take advantage. The bard just didn't think she could handle any challenges at this point.
Solari came into the room running a hand through her hair. "Ready for your first public apperance?" She tried to keep her tone light she knew this was harder on her friend then she was letting on.
Forcing a smile onto her features Gabrielle answered "Sure, the sooner I go out there the sooner I can get on with figuring out what I'm going to do."
Features turning serious Solari sat down acroos the table from the young Queen. "Listen Gabrielle, can I ask you something as a friend?"
"Well I don't profess to be an expert in the field of love but before all this happened where you and Xena....intimate?"
"You mean are we lovers?"
Solari was surprised that Gabrielle would be so direct about her relationship with the warrior. Not that she was the type to hide her feelings. She just never struck the older woman as someone that would talk about something that was so personal so easily. "Yeah....I mean if that's the case then maybe things aren't so bad. I mean, sure Xena's upset but after she's had some time. It doesn't take an oracle to see how much she loves you....Gods I'm making a mess of this..."
The sight of her friend so flustered brought a small smile to Gabrielle, something she hadn't done in the past week. "Solari, it's O.K. Really I know what your trying to say, and I wish that I could tell you everything was going to be alright. But the truth is I don't know. In answer to your question, no Xena and I aren't lovers. I had hoped to change that but things just kept getting in the way and now with Solan's death.....Well she may never forgive me."
"Look Gabrielle, I don't know all the details but I know that nothing is going to change unless one of you does something to change it."
For the first time since this nightmare started Gabrielle felt a small glimmer of hope that things might change. The words that Solari said had seemed to give her an idea. "Thank you Solari,you've just given me an idea. Would you ask Ephiny to come in here?"
This was the first sign of the old Gabrielle Solari had seen since she had arrived here. Still there was something in her friend's eyes that told her what she was planning could lead to trouble. She could only hope the young Queen knew what she was doing. She left the hut to get her bondmate, telling herself the whole time that everything was going to be fine, but not quite believing it.
Upon entering the hut Ephiny found Gabrielle in a flurry of activity. It was a definate contradiction to what her actions had been. "Solari said you wanted to see me."
Gabrielle turned from the scrolls she was going through to face her friend. "I want you to form a search party." Was the simple statement. "I want a detail of Amazons to be ready to set out within an hour."
"Set out for where?"
"To find Xena."
Ephiny wasn't surprised that Gabrielle wanted to find Xena. What did surprise her was that Gabrielle would send Amazons out to look for her. She further suprised her Regent with her next statement "I want you to lead them. I want Xena brought back here as quickly as possible."
"You aren't going along?" The question wasn't meant with any disrespect. Ephiny just found it hard to believe that Gabrielle wouldn't want to go looking for Xena herself. The young Queen could see the confusion in her friends expression. She thought about telling Ephiny all of her plan but then thought better of it. If Ephiny understood what it was Gabrielle was going to do she would refuse to have anything to do with it. She would think the risk far to great. At this point Gabrielle was willing to do whatever it would take. If it ended in the worst possible way what diffrence would it really make. Her life as it was now without Xena was not the way she wanted to go on. This way, one way or another it would be over.
"No it's best that I stay here, and Ephiny Xena is not to be hurt is that clear?"
She couldn't help but mutter under her breath. "As if we could." Seeing the determined set of Gabrielle's jaw Ephiny continued. "I'll get everything ready. I don't know what's going on in that head of your's though."
The next words were spoken with heart felt emotion. Not Queen to Regent but friend to friend. "Please trust me."
"I do....I'll get everything ready." Turning to leave Ephiny sent a silent prayer up to Artimis that Gabrielle knew what she was doing. Bringing Xena here right now didn't seem like the best idea to her but if that was what Gabrielle wanted she would try to do it.
Xena had been riding for two days she had only stoped to rest when it was clear her horse could go no further. She had left Argo behind, this was a mission she never thought she would be going on. She had struggled for hours after Ares had left her on that mountain top with the images in her head. She had tried to block any thoughts of Gabrielle out altogether but they had come through. First images of the Gabrielle she had loved. The sweet voiced bard with deep caring eyes and a heart that would always look to help those around her. The young woman that had systematicaly torn down the emotional walls the warrior had built around her heart over the years. These images turned to Gabrielle lying to her and sending the evil spawn she had born to kill her son. Then finaly she felt cold satisfation fill her as she invisioned Gabrielle cold and dead by her hand.
Ares had done a good job of stiking her rage. She was at a pitch know that the only thing that would satisfy her desire for revenge was blood, Gabrielle's blood. She had thought about storming into the Amazon village but had ruled that out. The Amazons would of course try to protect their decitful little Queen. It wasn't that she was not sure of her ability to handle any defense they might mount but she wasn't so far gone into the darkness that she wanted to spill more blood than she had too. She wanted to find a way to get to Gabrielle with as little opposition as possible.
She could sense the presence of the woman long before she saw or heard them. Standing up she extended her senses outward trying to determine if Gabrielle was out there with her Amazons. She held her hands above her head in the Amazon sign of peace. "Show yourselves." She said.
It never failed to amaze Ephiny that Xena seemed to have almost a superhuman ability to know when she was being watched, even by the Gods. The Amazons lowered themselves from there perch in the trees. "Xena." she greeted the warrior
"Ephiny, to what do I owe the pleasure of you company?" It was a simple enough question but just the tone of her voice and her demeanor let Ephiny know that one wrong word could be disastorus.
"Queen Gabrielle has sent us to escourt you back to the village." She had used the formal address hoping That Xena would take it as a sign that they had no intention of trying to harm her.
"So your little Queen sent her Royal Guard out to collect me? No matter I was on my way to see her anyway." The thought that Xena was going to see Gabrielle should have eased Ephiny's fears but if anything it escalated them. Xena had not asked how Gabrielle was, she had not even refered to Gabrielle by name. It was clear to Ephiny that Xena still had a lot of anger inside her over the events that had happened. Once again she found herself wondering about the wisdom of this action.
"We should camp tonight. If we leave at first light we should be there just before sunset." Looking at the Regent Xena couldn't believe her luck. She had been trying to come up with a plan to get to Gabrielle and her own Amazons were going to take her right to the Queen.
Gabrielle sat at her normal table in the dinning hall. After she had come out of her seclusion and assured the nation at large that she was fine and just needed some time she saw no need to go back to avoiding everyone. For the first time in recent memory she actuly felt hungry. Maybe the fact that she had a plan of action now had something to do with it but she did feel better then she had since she had last seen Xena.
A messenger came in to inform her that Ephiny's party had found Xena much sooner than expected and they were in fact on the borders of the village. The young Queen felt the knot tighten in her stomach. She knew what she was about to do was a huge gamble but she didn't see where she had any other options. She started making preperations for Xena's arrival. When the Warrior Princes got here she was going to be greeted by The Amazon Queen in all her regal glory.
Xena rode quietly, surronded on all sides by Amazon gaurds. She was well aware that they were going to do everything in their power to protect their Queen if it came to that. She was also aware that her best shot at revenge was to act complacent, at least for the moment. Let them think she was calm and was only going to talk. Then when the moment was right she would take her revenge. Hopefully the only blood that would be spilled was Gabrielle's. She felt a shudder go through her at that thought but she pushed any feeling of tendernes or love down into the depths of darkness, where the could not touch her heart. The warrior was no fool, she knew as soon as she had exacted her revenge the Amazons would pounce and she would very likely end up dead. For some strange reason that thought held no fear for her. Once she avenged her son's death she would have no more reason to want to go on.
Ephiny thought about trying to break down some of the walls she had seen Xena put up. She knew if she could reach the warrior, make her see past the pain she could find her way back to herself, back to Gabrielle. It hardley seemed fair that after everything that had happened to these two that yet another wedge should try and force it's way between them. "Xena can I ask you a question?"
It was barley noticible but the warrior shrugged her shoulders, indicateing that she really didn't care one way or another. It was clear the Regent was going to ask her question whether she granted permission or not. "Do you remeber when Gabrielle died in the temple in Thesely?"
"Of course I do." Was the short response
"Good keep that in mind."
That seemed an odd thing for Ephiny to say. Xena couldn't help but ask. "Why would you bring that up now?"
"Just remeber the pain and despair you were in when you thought you lost her. The two of you have been through more than any two mortal women should ever have to see, but that can't be changed. What you did, what Gabrielle did...It's all in the past. So you can take the cowards way out and let the rage and bitterness eat at you or you can look inside yourself and find the courage I know you have and find a way to move past this."
To be Continued
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