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Here there be SPOILERS for everything from Gabrielle's Hope right through to Ides of March. If you haven't viewed, don't read!

Hope, Xena, Gabrielle, Destroyer, Dahok, Callisto, Ares, Strife, Bacchus and Alti belong to MCA/Universal and Rennaisance Pictures. They are used here for entertainmental, non-profit purposes.

This story is a weird one, even more so than usual. I'm busy experimenting with first person and this particular tale is written in Hope's bloody hand from her slightly warped point of view.

Basically I'm trying to convince you, the readers, to believe an outlandish notion. *EG* Let's see how many fish I can hook. Enjoy yourselves while you're at it. *G*

As always you can email me at I'll listen to comments, soak up any praise, eat any chocolates and more than appreciate any constructive criticism.

Oh one more thing. A Family Affair: "Fortunately, I fell into a niche!" Yeah, that was a good one. It sure satisified my appetite for a worthy explanation after a season of agonised waiting.

*   *   *

Hope is here to Stay

by badbard

I have a secret. It's jucier than that simpering soldier I carved up for tonight's roast dinner. I'd take it to my grave but for two things. Firstly that would be no fun. Secondly, I'm a goddess, I can't die.

Mother certainly did her best to bypass that!

I have an enemy. Her name is Xena the Destroyer of Nations. I named my son after her.

My life has been boring of late. All I can think about is resurrecting myself and putting the old plan to smooth Dahok's delivery into the world back into motion. Father is having none of that. He tells me that I'm immature and don't understand the formidable foe we are facing.

He means Xena.

So I hang out in hell, my Father's summer home, spying on Auntie Callisto's torment and flirting with this wannabe wargod, Strife. Of course, he doesn't really have a chance with me but the boy does work the leather, besides which, he knows alot about Ares and sometimes I miss my first lover. Destroyer has grown into a fine young demon and even mastered his first word the other day!

Unforunately that word isn't worth repeating.

I told Bacchus my secret just yesterday, while he was sucking my neck. I told him that if he'd suck somewhere else I'd reveal to him my fruitful revenge on the Warrior Princess. When he found out, his smile showed each and every one of his pointy teeth. I'm sure Callisto would be happy again if Father would only let me tell her too but Father has plans for Auntie so she's off limits.

C'mon, I'm sure you can guess my secret! It's so easy. I think mortals must be a dull, dense lot. Why haven't you all figured it out by now? Why hasn't Xena figured it out by now?

Is the truth too harsh to comprehend?

I'm going to tell you my big secret. I'm going to tell you and watch as your eyes widen and listen to the choking gasp that'll wheeze its way from your throat. I'm going to savour your shock and bitter disillusionment. I'm going to crush your Hope.

Open up your little mind and let me in.

Think about it, mortal. Didn't you ever wonder how my mother and I survived the lava pit? Did you ever ask how we survived the hundred foot fall, while the rising steam slurped wetly at our flesh? Did you wonder how we survived sinking into the liquid flames, our skin being sucked off our bones even as we watched with blood weeping from our eyeballs?

I can still hear Mother's pitiful screaming. I think she begged Xena to save her. Poor dear must have been delusional.

Stop feeling sorry for her! Sympathise with me for a change. We both died that day. Fortunately, Mother's mad dash to matyrdom didn't botch up my hatched up scheme. I'm half goddess and my Father's list of manifestations for the mortal realm include a bonfire. I was mostly fine. I spent a hellish few weeks as a mess of charred and dripping remains but I fixed that up with a second coming. Scores of off-canter Cultists joined my ranks thanks to that little sideshow.

*   *   *

I believed if I could just convince Xena that I was Mother, I could distract her long enough for my sweet baby to do some legendary carnage. That was phase two of Father's multi-faceted evil plan. Frankly, just between you and me, if Father kept his shenanigans simple, he'd triple his chances of success. You know how demon lords are though. Arrogant to a fault, greedy for power and far too eager to impress the natives.

Ares was impressed by Father. Sometimes, when I'm feeling depressed, I think that hunky Ares only slept with me to get on Father's good side. Too bad for him. Father's the devil; he doesn't have a good side.

Ares used to go all limp when I tongued the name 'Dahok' into his ear. What did Father do to the great god of war? I didn't much like what Father did with me. Father always says families have to bond together. When I think of the love of my Father, I almost wish for the Mother who abandoned me to him.

*   *   *

Everything was moving according to plan. After my emotional reunion with Xena and Joxer in Potadeia, I went to check on darling Destroyer. That's when I saw Gabrielle, walking stiffly through the woods.

That shocked me.

It wasn't part of the plan you see. Racing to the bedroom, I watched Gabrielle watch me in the mirror. I heard Lila lurking outside the door.

*   *   *

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if it weren't for Xena. Auntie Callisto wonders that about herself, I know. I hate Xena. Because of Xena's jealousy, I never had my mother's loving attention. Because of Xena's son, I lost my mother's lingering love. Because of Xena's tears, Mother murdered me. Because Xena's life was at stake, Mother willingly ended mine for the second time.

All that seems to matter is Xena. It doesn't matter what she does, who she hurts, they all forgive her, pity her, love her, admire her. The Warrior Princess was adulated when she was evil and she is adulated now that she pretends to be good. Xena was allowed to 'change' but she doesn't give anybody else a chance. Xena is a hypocrite. I hate Xena. I don't understand why you don't!

*   *   *

I died that night. My child, my pride and joy, was tricked into embracing me with lethal claws. As my last breath rushed from my lips, I gazed into Gabrielle's eyes and saw relief.

Therein lies the secret, mortal. I don't know why it should shock you.

Mother died in the lava. Mortals don't come back from the land of the dead.

Gabrielle took her place.

Did I neglect to mention Gabrielle? She's my daughter. I named her after Mother, just like I named Destroyer after Xena. You didn't know I had a daughter? Just call her Father's gift to me on my 32nd day of life.

I never liked her much. She reminds me of Mother. Now, Destroyer, there's a child you can cherish. He never asks for anything, does what he's told and is devoted to me. What's more, he has a destiny, just like me. Gabrielle leads a rather pointless existance and Gabrielle asks questions.

Destroyer is a tad slow on the uptake. I love him for that. I love telling him what to do. A Mother should guide her child. Gabrielle is a telepath. Although she lacks my telekinetic powers she's very adept at reading my mind. That makes for a rocky relationship. She knows I don't love her like I do my only son. Uneasy mother-daughter relationships must run in the family.

I never let Gabrielle play with Destroyer. He wouldn't be able to comprehend that we were two different people, she and I. Even if he could figure that much out and remember it, how would he deal with her fresh, unmarred beauty? She's his half sister. It wouldn't seem fair to him.

*   *   *

I gather that my Gabrielle is a lonely little girl, starved for love and attention. Knowing of her grandfather's plan, she must have followed Destroyer and I to Mother's old home and spyed upon Mother's family. Maybe they touched some unwarmed part of her heart. Maybe she wanted to save them from me.

I wish I could have witnessed her reunion with Xena. What did she say to convince the Warrior Princess that she was Mother? What fragments of information did she pull from Xena's mind to aid her?

Gabrielle is in love with Xena. Or maybe she just wants Xena to love her. Is there a difference?

That's the only possible explanation I can come up with for why she helped Xena kill Destroyer, that and she hates my darling boy for being my favourite. Sibbling rivalry is a powerful motivator.

*   *   *

It takes a demon a long time to die. Swamped in my blood, lying wrapped around the cooling body of my son in the stable, I listened to my daughter's earnest words to Xena.

"Do you ever feel like the same thing keeps on coming back, only its wearing a different face?"

I almost laughed out loud at that one.

Do you ever feel like you're staring at the same face, into those same eyes, holding the same body, Xena, only someone very different is inside? Do you, Xena? Are you in denial, Xena?

Is the truth too harsh for you to comprehend?

*   *   *

Mother did love me once. I'm sure of it. Pity I can't love Gabrielle.

It is nice that she's giving me my revenge on Xena. I would congratulate her if she hadn't decided to follow the good in her heart instead of our Father's dark legacy.

Why doesn't Xena notice the difference? Is she blind?

Her bard changes her outlook on life, her clothes, throws down her weapon, renounces everything she's found meaning in and proclaims she's found a new way and the idiot warrior believes its a result of their traumatic rift?!

Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no truth!

Oh yeah. Sure. Poor Xena. In love with a pacifist fool. She could do so much better. She could be in love with Mother!

It'll crush her when she finds out. I intend to see that she does.

What was it that Joxer said that day outside Mother's house? I had my ear to the door when Xena declaimed me to him.

"What if your vision was of Hope?" he asked innocently.

Yes, I know about that vision, about the two crosses side by side. Alti was only in hell a short while, resting between incarnations she informed me. That shaman was filled with interesting stories. I especially liked the bloody massacres she reccounted, even though most of them prominently featured Xena.

Poor, poor Mother. I feel almost sorry for her. Wherever she is now, she's lost everything. She doesn't even get to die at Xena's side.

Take heart, mortals. Buy Xena a clue. Next time you see her, ask her ever so innocently,

"What if your vision was of Gabrielle?"

I bet she won't get it.

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