Authors Note: Since so many folks asked for a follow up to ‘Betrayal’ I thought I’d continue it. You might want to check that story out first. Be warned. It’s not a lovey dovey mush fest. Terms of endearment will not be uttered in this one too. As always these characters have an ‘alternative slant’ and they are not mine…they are Mr. Tapert’s. Hope he does right by them in season six but until then . . .

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By CN Winters

Eve was sitting up in her bedroll as Ares and Xena walked back into the camp.

"What is HE doing here?" she asked unable to show her disgust.

"Try to remember he saved your life," Xena retorted.

"It’s okay," Ares said breaking into the conversation between mother and daughter. "She’s got every right to be angry."

"You’re damn right I do," Eve said as she stood up poking a finger at the former God. "Why in Eli’s name do you keep defending this jackass?" she asked Xena.

Why do I? Xena considered. He’s done more damage than good in my life. But still… "He’s down on his luck right now," Xena answered with a sigh. "We’re gonna give him a hand."

"We are huh?" Eve replied sarcastically. "And what does Gabrielle have to say about…Where is Gabrielle?" Eve said looking around, finally putting her anger with Ares on hold long enough to notice the bard was not present.

"She’s gone," Xena answered softly.

"What do you mean she’s gone?! What happened?!" Eve exclaimed.

Xena opened her mouth to speak but nothing would come out. She didn’t know where to begin her explanation.

"Is she dead?" Eve asked, terror beginning to fill within her eyes at the thought.

"No," Xena said quickly to calm Eve who was beginning to shake. "She just doesn’t want to travel with us anymore." Xena didn’t add more. Instead she chose to wait for Eve’s reaction to the news.

She’s gone? Eve thought. How can she be gone? How can she just walk away? I spent 25 years without a mother to finally discover, in truth, I had two . . . And now one of them is suddenly gone? Perhaps the responsibility was too much? Perhaps . . . "Is it because of me?" Eve asked softly. "Is she leaving because I’m here?"

Xena could have sworn her heart broke at the sob she heard in Eve’s voice. "No sweetheart, no. She left because of me."

"And me," Ares said piping into the conversation. Xena looked over to Ares when she heard the less than proud response. "I haven’t been a staunch supporter of your moms relationship," he told Eve, avoiding eye contact with either woman. "I’ve been very much the adversary more times than I can count."

"Go figure," Eve replied tartly and rolling her eyes.

"Look," Xena replied moving closer to her daughter. "Gabrielle loves you very much and it wouldn’t surprise me if one day she comes back. If not to see me at least to see you . . . Did she tell you that you’re an amazon? That she’s a queen and gave you her rite of caste?"

Eve’s eyes widened at the news and she shook her head no. "Well it’s true," Xena continued with a proud grin. "Gabrielle couldn’t have loved you more than if she had given birth to you. I was too preoccupied or blind or . . . whatever . . . to see that. She said it often but it fell on deaf ears and now I’m paying the price."

"No offense mother but it sounds like I’m paying the price too. I might not get the chance to know her now." Eve mentally kicked herself for the way the remark came out so insensitive. She hurts bad enough right now and you gotta go lay her on a guilt trip. Real smooth. "That came out all wrong," Eve added, taking a spot back on the ground again at her bedroll. "I just mean it would be nice to get to know the woman behind all those scrolls I read . . . but that chance might be gone."

She’s right. It might be too late but then again. . . "I know Gabrielle pretty well. I don’t think she’ll stay gone long," Xena grinned. Ares cleared his throat and Xena snapped her head around. "You have something to add?" she asked clearly annoyed with the ex-god.

"I think you’re fooling yourself Xena," Ares answered. "That look in her eyes and conviction in her voice - I think she’s gone for good," he concluded quickly.

"Yeah well I really don’t give a damn about your opinion Ares," Xena retorted. "I still say I know Gabrielle better than you." Ares smirked and shook his head in disbelief but said nothing. "What?!" Xena answered, her annoyance turning into anger.

Ares and Xena faced off for a moment, sizing each other up. "She’s right. Gabrielle was right," Ares sighed. "I stood on that beach and tried to convince her to stay with you." That news obviously startled both mother and daughter. "Yeah I know, hard to be believe but true. . . Why? Because I see how much she means to you Xena and I know how difficult it would be if she left . . . even if you don’t see it. And I’ll tell you what else I see." Ares didn’t pause to find out if Xena wanted to hear. He just continued. "I see exactly why she left. Gabrielle isn’t the same woman you knew years ago. She will no longer follow you blindly into battle. She’s a warrior and a woman in her own right. You never recognized that."

"This from the man that views her as the irritating blonde," Xena said to Eve.

"At one time yes," Ares answered. "She irritated the hell out of me and I know why now. She could love you unconditionally. She had the POWER to make you see the goodness inside you . . . but somewhere along the way you both lost sight of that. And it’s funny because her loss should be my gain. But it feels like a hollow victory, won by default because in the end, I didn’t cause this breakup . . . You did."

"Perhaps I did," Xena nodded. "But you played a very big hand in it – telling me to seek vengeance for Solan’s death, making a deal with Gabrielle by using her jealousy over LaMao, offering to train Gabrielle as a warrior when she was grief stricken over Eli-."

"Well I’m not the one who dragged Gabrielle cross country behind a horse. I’m not the one who left her standing on the dock feeling helpless. And I’m not the one who condemned her for not interfering when a friend asked her to look the other way . . . You did all those things on your own Xena. You made the choice in the end, not me."

Xena could feel her pulse in her head. She’d been angry with Ares many times over the years but at this moment it far exceeded anything she could imagine. I’m looking at a dead man her mind hissed. She was ready to pull her breast dagger and slash Ares throat in that second and she would have if she didn’t hear Eve’s voice.

"I never read any of that," Eve said looking at Xena for conformation. "Did you do those things?" Eve asked, almost pleading that it wasn’t true. It can’t be true, Eve thought silently. All those scrolls never mentioned anything like that. They sang of all the people that she saved, all the good she’d done. How could she hurt Gabrielle? Gabrielle risked her life by walking into my Roman camp just to say that they loved me. How could mother hurt anyone that brave and daring and noble. It can’t be true.

But the longer Xena didn’t answer the more Eve realized that yes it was true. Gabrielle just never mentioned it in her writings. Eve began to wonder why. Was it out of love? Was it too painful to put on parchment? Why?

"Eve," Xena began, "I was a terrible person for a very long time . . . and sometimes," Xena began to tear up but quickly swallowed them down. "And sometimes it’s hard to fight my ‘dark side’. That’s what Gabrielle called it. She understood it. And sadly, there were times that she felt the wrath of it. I’m not proud of that because I love Gabrielle very much. I do. And it’s hard to see that sometimes in light of all the things that have happened to us."

"You mean in light of all the things you’ve done," Ares corrected smugly.

"You are this close to death’s door," Xena said narrowly spacing her thumb and index finger in front of him.

"You’re right," Ares said. "That was a cheep shot but if you want the bard back Xena you’ll have to start seeing the things that have happened and accepting responsibility for them. If you don’t . . . you’ll never get her back . . . never."

"You’re suddenly the god of love huh?" Xena rebuffed.

"No, I’m suddenly mortal with eons of experience with humans. I see things a lot more clearly now . . . I just wish you did too."

Suddenly Ares stomach made an atrocious churning noise. All three looked to Ares belly and at each other, thankful for the break in the deep conversation.

"Hungry?" Eve poked fun.

"Is that why my stomach hurts and makes hideous noises?" the newly mortal god asked.

Xena grinned and shook her head. Boy o’ boy does he have a lot to learn about mortality. She reached into the saddlebag next to her bedroll pulling out some bread and cheese, tossing it to the former war god. "Here," she offered. "That should quiet things down so we can get some rest tonight."

Ares took a bite and turned to Xena with a wince. "Please tell me all food doesn’t taste this bad."

Eve and Xena grinned at each other and nodded, This is gonna be some road trip all right. "Oh yeah, some of it’s even worse. In fact that’s the best of the best you’ve got there pal," Xena added. What’s the harm in making Ares believe all food is terrible? Besides it’s just desserts for his antagonism tonight. "Come on let’s try to get some rest. It’s been a long day," Xena offered.

Xena gave Ares her bedroll and shared Eve’s. As mother and daughter lay next to each other, Eve turned to Xena. "Will you promise to tell me more tomorrow? Things I didn’t see in the scrolls? Maybe things about Gabrielle?"

Can I really do this? Xena considered. Yes you can. You have to. Eve deserves the truth. "Yes but only one story at a time," Xena considered.

"How about tonight?" Eve said snuggling closer. "Just a small one?"

Xena smiled. Story time with her daughter. She missed much in Eve’s growth but perhaps some moments could still be saved and experienced. Xena cleared her throat to speak. "I sing of Gabrielle. The girl I met . . . the woman I love . . ."

TBC? Please let me know.


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