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"Maternal Instincts": The Lost Ending

By Erin Hunt

I know many people were very disappointed with the end of "Maternal Instincts", as was I. That's why I've written an alternative ending that I feel much improves on the original. So here it is, the way "Maternal Instincts" really ended. :-)

Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

NOTE: All works remain the copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.

This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Although I really don't think the violence in the story will bother anyone, readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.

The twin fires flickered on the rows of somber faces around it. Somber, that is, except for one face. Xena's face twisted in her effort to hold back her tears. She would not, WOULD NOT, break down in front of the traitor who had robbed her of her son just as she had finally gotten the chance to be his mother. She would figure out what she was going to do later, but for now, her one goal was to nurture the raw and bleeding wound in her heart with dignity. She was aware of the anguish of the small redhead huddled meekly at her side, and it pleased her in a way that gave her no real pleasure at all, but for now...

Gabrielle, on the other hand, sobbed openly. She had held herself together until Ephiny's dirge had filled the smoke scented air, then the first sob came. Like the droplets before a storm, more sobs came after that one, and accelerated until they painfully shook her whole body. She had calmed down somewhat now, but the tears still came freely. She looked at her friend's stiffly squared back, and wondered if she would ever be forgiven. She had been so convinced that she could tell the difference between right and wrong. So foolishly certain that her heart would tell her what had to be done. Not like Xena at all.

She had tried to set right what she had put wrong. Oh yes, she had. Hope had come running in, "crying". And she, still believing the girl should be given a chance, had taken the Evil One trustingly into her arms.

So unlike Xena. More's the pity.

She held the abomination as it screeched about Callisto killing Solan, about Callisto threatening it, about running in terror, and still she believed.

Such a fool...

Then came that awful, terrible moment when she heard Hope speak Solan's name, and all her precious illusions were shattered. Hope claimed she had heard Callisto say his name, but at last she could see it for the hollow excuse that it was.

Poor little fool...

With all the tenderness of the mother that she now knew she had never really been, she took the girl's hand and led her to a "safe place". They reached a point where Hope recognized the path to Kaleipus' hut and tried to run, but Gabrielle picked her up and carried the struggling demon seed the rest of the way. Hope's screams must have preceded them, because Xena was waiting outside the hut when they got there. Her eyes lit up with a wild and dangerous glow. It was a look that used to scare Gabrielle, but now she saw it and knew that there was truth behind it. She set Hope down before Xena like a sacrificial offering, hoping that this act of penance would, in some small way, start to mend the rift between them.

How pathetic...

Xena's sword flew out of it's scabbard, and she drew it back. With a scream of "Vengeance!", she drove it through the cowering child's neck... no, not the child, "the body, the vessel, the instrument for evil".

Why was that memory so disturbing...

Xena had carried the body over to the edge of the woods and tossed it aside like the contemptible thing that it was...

Yet it hadn't healed anything between the two of them. How could it? After all she had done, how could forgiveness be possible? And did she even deserve forgiveness? Gabrielle decided that she had to make the attempt.

She moved tentatively closer to Xena.

"If... if I had just done what you said when you told me to do it, then they would still be alive. Kaleipus and... Solan."

Xena spun around and gazed fiercely into the bard's eyes, blind to their reddened state.

"No!! Don't you even speak his name!!"


Xena's tears began to flow, in spite of herself, and it made her hate the woman beside her all the more.

"No! No, you lied to me! I trusted you, and you lied to me! And now Solan is dead. My son is dead... because of you."

Gabrielle looked into Xena's livid face, and for once had nothing left to say. Xena was right, and their relationship was over. She turned, fresh tears welling up, and began to walk away. She wouldn't have been surprised to feel Xena's foot crashing into her back at that moment.

As she did so, scattered gasps of shock caught her ear, at the same time that a flash of light caught the corner of her eye. She turned, and went as pie-eyed as the others as she saw that a dramatic jet of flame, deeper and more... there... than the fire on either side of it, had sprung up between the burning piers. The flame flashed briefly bluish as it congealed into the much-loathed Goddess of Obsession. A ragged bundle dangled limply from under her arm, tucked there like a sack of meal being taken to market.

An odd choking sound came from Xena. A beat later, the Amazons drew their swords almost as one, and a bank of arrows notched into taut bows were leveled at the slight figure. Gabrielle stared, fascinated. The flames from the piers transformed the bloody goddess's evil smile into a rictus, and bathed her armor and unnaturally blond hair in a Tartarus light. She was surrounded by reddish light flickering off of dozens of swords, creating the impression of a ghostly army. This wasn't a scene from the real world; this was a nightmare tableau.

A dryly sardonic purr cut across the clearing like the first breath of winter.

"I brought you a gift, dearest Xena. Just my little way of showing my deep regret for your loss."

Callisto flung the ragged bundle through the air as though it weighed nothing. It skidded to a halt barely three yards from Xena. Gabrielle moved slowly toward it until she was standing next to Xena, each step suddenly an effort. It was Hope, her face and hair matted with blood from her throat wound. Her eyes were fixed in a sightless expression of pleading. Xena and Gabrielle both looked questioningly up at Callisto, both fighting different but equally conflicting emotions.

Callisto laughed. Not the high-pitched, slightly insane sound they were used to, but a rich, throaty chuckle. "Oh come, Xena, what is this, a funeral? You honestly believed that little brat killed your son, didn't you? I mean, you really did. Not that it wasn't marvellously predictable. Innocent children never have stood a chance around you, have they, Xena?"

She smiled again, drinking in the sight of Xena's world crumbling around her. Exactly as the warrior princess had once stood and drunk in the sight of Callisto's world crumbling around her. A howl of rage broke the awkward silence, and to Callisto's surprise, it had come from Gabrielle.

Gabrielle gestured at the archers with shaking hands and screamed, "GET HER!!" The Amazons reacted to their queen's command immediately. Arrows hailed down on Callisto, penetrating her body with dull little thuds. She stumbled forward, gaping in shock. "AGAIN!!" Gabrielle screamed. A second volley hit. Callisto looked down at herself with the first awe she had felt in a long time. She was a pincushion, bristling with big feather-tipped needles. Ow, and she didn't like it!

She glared up at Gabrielle with eyes that began to glow as she gathered her godly energies within her. Xena grabbed her and pulled her to the ground just as Callisto threw her arms straight up in the air and screeched. An inferno shot up from where she stood, and the arrows violently flew from her body, frequently ending up in the bodies of Amazons standing around her. Ephiny tumbled from her perch with an arrow in her shoulder and hit the ground hard, alive but unconscious. Callisto surveyed the carnage, grinning madly. Tonight was turning out to be a very good night for her indeed. Xena helped Gabrielle to her feet. Gabrielle simply stared, trance-like, at Hope.

"You kids have a good time, ya hear?" Callisto said, and vanished with a theatrical flourish and a ball of fire.

Xena turned to Gabrielle and saw her standing there so still, except for the tremors running through her body. She placed her hand feebly on her shoulder and got no reaction. She swallowed past the dry lump in her throat and said, "Gabrielle?" Gabrielle finally tore her eyes away from Hope and met Xena's. Xena's heart descended all the way into her churning stomach, and she felt as if she might throw up. For the pure white light was gone from those eyes, replaced by a different kind of light. A red light that Xena was all too sickeningly familiar with. The light intensified, and she got the uncomfortable feeling that the person behind those eyes was not the same person who had been there three (eternal) minutes ago.

"By the gods, Gabrielle," she whispered. "How could I have been such a fool?"

Gabrielle slowly and deliberately turned her back, and just as slowly and deliberately walked away. "Gabrielle... please..." she called out, then stopped and watched the person who was everything to her walk away from her, her back radiating a disgustingly familiar iciness. Xena had never been good with words, but she knew in her heart that even if she had the eloquence of Athena herself, nothing she could say could touch the bard now. Now it was her turn to feel tears of guilt burn tracks down her face, knowing that tears of grief were doing the same to the face of her friend.

She had been so convinced that she knew what was best. So foolishly certain that direct action was the only good kind of action. And Callisto had played her like a lyre. How could she be forgiven now? She didn't know.

But fifteen minutes had barely passed before a third pier was blazing between the piers of Solan and Kaleipus. Xena stood over it, singing the dirge she had sung for Marcus and Serena. Much farther back in the Amazon village, Gabrielle stood in a doorway. She watched and listened and mourned the loss of her daughter, just as she had finally gotten the chance to be her mother. Maybe, just maybe, it was a start.

The End

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