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Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Hope, 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.

This story takes place after "The Way" and before "The Convert". Gabrielle's hair is short and she's found the Way of Love. This story also references a lot of episodes in the third season and some from the fourth.

by Xena's Muse

Chapter 1

The crowded tavern was unusually quiet. A lone blond woman was sitting on the end of the counter that ran the length of the building, telling a story of the great hero Hercules and one of his adventures. Her warrior companion was sitting against the back wall, her beautiful blue eyes scanning the room unconsciously cataloging everyone and everything, automatically searching out any hint of danger. The warrior always kept her companion in view though, a habit so long ingrained that she didn't even notice anymore. Her mind was only half listening to the bards story, the rest traveled along it's own well worn path, figuring out what to do next in her own personal odyssey of redemption.

Her eyes caught sight of a woman in a big heavy cloak with a hood that shielded her face. Xena's eyes paused and looked more closely at the woman. Her hands were in plain view and she didn't look threatening in any way. There was just something about her that didn't seem quite right to Xena. Her stillness seemed unnatural but she may have just been caught up in Gabrielle's story. "It certainly isn't the first time I've seen that happen" Xena thought musingly.

Xena's eyes again traversed the room. She wasn't quite sure what was tweaking her internal antennae but she always listened to these feelings. It was how she always knew when Ares was around. This felt similar to that but different, it didn't put her on edge. "Maybe there's a nice God around, if there's any such thing" she thought distractedly.

On the tavern counter Gabrielle was finishing her story and the patrons were clapping and throwing dinars into the bowl that Gabrielle had placed next to her for this very purpose.

"Tell us another"

"Tell us about Spartacus"

"Tell us another about Hercules"

"Tell us about ......"

The requests came from all directions. Gabrielle loved how alive this attention made her feel. She flushed with pleasure and glanced over towards Xena, catching her breath as she caught sight of the warriors incredible beauty. Xena grinned at her friend and motioned for her to go ahead. They weren't in any hurry. Gabrielle flashed her a grin and a look of complete understanding passed between them.

The bard raised her hands to motion for the crowd to quieten and quickly assented to tell another story. This time about a hero that had lived a long time before.

"You know what I wish" Gabrielle asked the crowd with an impish grin "I wish that I could sit and talk and listen to one of these ancient hero's for just one night. Imagine how fascinating they would be and the stories that they could tell."

"At least that would give me a break for a night" Xena thought, chortling out loud as she pictured Gabrielle sitting and firing questions at someone like Spartacus and cross examining him on his life and exploits. "Poor man wouldn't know what had hit him".

"I sing a song of......." As the story unfolded Xena noticed the cloaked woman stand and make her way slowly towards the door. The patrons who were standing in the woman's way moved aside automatically without seeming to notice.

"Strange" thought Xena. She soon put it out of her mind though, there were more immediate things to concentrate on. Her best friend and the story she was telling to start with. Xena had heard this particular story dozens of times but somehow Gabrielle always made it seem like the first time. Xena was glad that she could relax in anonymous peace for a change. Usually Gabrielle told of their exploits and Xena never felt comfortable with the resultant curiosity. They'd made a pact before they'd entered the tavern. If Gabrielle refrained from telling any stories about Xena then Xena would take Gabrielle to watch a play in the next large village they came to.

Chapter 2

Several hours later the two women were setting up a campsite next to a swiftly flowing stream. Argo stood grazing in the lush vegetation contentedly. The evening was just turning dark and the sky to the west was a brilliant rainbow of crimsons and reds. The first stars were making an appearance to the east where the sky was already an inky black.

"I can't believe how many dinars we made Xena" Gabrielle said excitedly as she unfolded a blanket and spread it on the ground, "You'll be able to get new soles on your boots and we'll be able to get Argo a new brush and reins. I'd really like to get some new scrolls and another quill"

"The way you're going Gabrielle we'll end up with even less money than we started with" Xena rejoined laughing. She always found it amazing how the simple things could touch and excite her friend after all they had been through together. Xena found this the most soothing and special of all her friends unique qualities. Through Gabrielle's enthusiasm Xena could glimpse the simple joys of life and reconnect with them again. Gabrielle called it "stopping to smell the flowers".

"Well, the first thing we have to do is go to see a play of course, what do you suppose is playing ? How long until we get to a village big enough to have a theatre ? I can't wait. I'm so excited" Gabrielle glowed with a happiness that had not been seen in a long time. Xena made a pact with herself that she would get Gabrielle to a tavern more often so that she perform as a bard. Xena realised that they had both forgotten how important that part of Gabrielle's life was to her and vowed not to lose sight of it again.

"We'll have to see when we get to the next village. Do you like those travelling shows ? I remember seeing some in my warlord days. They'd come and perform for my men, it was good entertainment."

"No way Xena. I want to go to a proper theatre and watch a proper play. You don't think I'd let you off that easy do you ? Ha ! When those people kept asking to hear about Hero's I felt like saying 'There's one sitting up the back there' but I kept our bargain" The bards brilliant green eyes twinkled as she looked up at the person she loved most in the world. Happiness suffused Gabrielle in a way that she hadn't felt in a long time, and it showed. She felt almost drunk.

Xena smiled at her friend and they continued to set up camp for the night. It had been worth a try.

Later after they had rinsed their dinner dishes and set them to dry next to a crackling fire they each prepared to get an early night. Not long after they had settled down and Gabrielle had finally stopped talking Xena felt all the hairs on her body stand up and knew that there was a presence nearby. She leapt to her feet grabbing her sword and Chakram and scanning the surrounding forest in one smooth movement. Gabrielle lay startled for a couple of seconds then she also jumped up. She looked around trying to see if anything was moving. She stood just behind Xena, back to back, and whispered to her "What.... What is it ? I didn't hear anything" The comment was only half hearted though. Gabrielle knew that her friends instincts and hearing were much better than her own. She remained on alert for what seemed like an eternity.

"There's someone or something coming" Xena whispered back "I don't know what it is, just stay alert and behind me". Both women continued to strain their senses trying to pick up a clue as to what had alerted Xena.

Suddenly Xena felt her entire body lose it's will. She could no longer control her arms or legs and she stood there in the grip of a powerful force. She couldn't even speak. Panicked she tried to turn around to see if Gabrielle was all right. The warrior couldn't move at all and the blind fury that usually helped her overcome incredible powers surged through her but this time it did not help at all.

Just as Xena thought that her heart would explode from effort she felt as if love and peace and tranquility were flowing over and through her entire being. The warrior felt a calm so deep and so profound that momentarily she forgot who she was and where she was. She relaxed and gave herself up totally and knew a deep and powerful bliss unlike anything she had ever experienced before.

A soft voice spoke inside Xena's head. The voice was soothing and calm. Xena felt a love so absorbing that she didn't quite understand what was being said. There was no impatience in the voice as it seemed to wait until Xena had regained her focus.

"Xena, your friend is very lucky tonight, her wish is being granted. She is going to spend from now until sunrise talking to any person that she wishes. There will be no danger to her, either physically or spiritually. You must stay behind and guard her body until she rejoins it when the rooster crows. I mean neither you nor her any harm"

Xena felt that the voice was speaking truthfully and believed it totally. "You're the woman from the tavern, the woman in the cloak" Xena thought at the voice.

A warm chuckle reverberated up Xena's spine. Xena shivered with bliss. "You are very observant. It is talked about on Mt Olympus how you have the power to know when there is a God close by. I'll admit to feeling a curiosity about this skill and wanting to test it for myself. Then I heard your friends stories in the Tavern and I was enchanted. Unlike my cousin Ares I can understand what you see in her"

Xena relaxed further. "I feel your goodness, that's why you can understand and he can't" Xena thought back and received a surge of warmth that felt like a huge warm hug in return. Control of her body was slowly returned and Xena started stretching her arms and legs. She felt like she had just awakened from a long refreshing sleep.

Xena could tell that the Goddess was gone but traces of her still lingered. Xena looked at her friend who was laying on the ground as if asleep. "No" Xena corrected herself "She looks like she is in the middle of the biggest warmest hug in the world". Xena smiled and covered her friend with a blanket and made her comfortable. Xena then built up the campfire and prepared to sit by her friend until she returned from wherever she had gone.

Idly Xena wondered who Gabrielle would choose to talk to all night but decided that knowing her friend it could be anyone.

Chapter 3

Gabrielle's first thought when she found that she was paralysed was that Xena was not going to like this one little bit. She tried to turn to see her friend but found that she couldn't move a muscle. Panic started to overtake her as she struggled against the unseeable. 'Xena help me' her frantic mind screamed but there was no answer. Gabrielle redoubled her efforts to free herself.

Gabrielle stilled as the same feelings of love and peace flowed over her as Xena had experienced. She relaxed and enjoyed the feeling, wishing that she could always stay where she was now. The closest she could come to describing it to herself was when Xena had jumped into her body to fight Velaska for the Ambrosia, so long ago. A voice spoke inside her mind startling the bard momentarily but the voice was kind and loving.

"Gabrielle, Bard of Potedia, your wish has been granted. You will spend from now until sunrise in a world between worlds talking to anyone you desire. You will be safe and no harm will come to you. Your friend will watch over your body and you will return at the first rooster crow. All you need to do is name the person you wish to meet and speak with"

"Me ? Why ?" the bard stammered, confused.

"I heard your stories in the tavern. I heard your wish to be able to spend an entire night speaking to anyone you want. That wish has been granted. You can name any person, Hero, God or Goddess, anyone you choose, living or dead"

Gabrielle thought quickly and then quietly whispered a name.

Gabrielle looked around and found herself in a large dome. There were trees and vines and a stream running through. A warm breeze gently ruffled Gabrielle's short hair. The area looked like any one of a number of places she and Xena had camped over the years. Gabrielle went and sat on a rock over to one side. "This must be like the world where Hercules said that the Sovereign is kept" she thought. Gabrielle felt nervous as she waited for her guest to arrive. "What will I say ? Will we get on ?" she wondered, nervously twisting her hands in her lap. "Maybe I should have asked to speak to someone else." Gabrielle stood up and started to pace. Panic started working it's way up her spine. Before it had a chance to take hold though there was a shower of blue and gold lights and Gabrielle turned to look into her own face.

"Hello mother. You wanted to speak with me ?" Hope's deep voice reverberated around the dome as she gazed at her mother with ill concealed distain. Gabrielle swallowed hard and tried to smile but the effort felt false and she gave up. Hope was wearing a red robe, no longer imitating her mothers apparel. She looked annoyed at having been disturbed, and surprised to see her mother. She slowly eyed her mother from head to toe taking in the short hair and new clothes.

Gabrielle tried to smile again and willed herself to relax. "Hope, I... yes I did want to speak with you. I've always wanted to be able to sit down and talk to you, to try to explain. But everytime we see each other there isn't the chance, there isn't enough time...." Gabrielle's voice trailed off nervously under Hope's stare.

"You mean you're usually in the middle of trying to kill me and don't have time to chat ?" the sarcasm and bitterness in the accusation cut Gabrielle to the bone. She winced as she conceded the point to her daughter. It was true wasn't it ?

"I was hoping to be able to try and clear the air, to explain and I was thinking that perhaps the best way would be for me to tell my side, like I was telling a story, and for you to tell your side. If we both do it without accusations then maybe......" again Gabrielle trailed off as the look on her daughters face turned from distain to hatred.

"You expect me to sit and listen while you tell me how evil I am and how I have to die and how you chose your good friend Xena over me, your own daughter ? Why would I do that ?"

"Because I think we both need to hear each others stories so that we can try to understand so that we can start to heal. Because we should at least try....." The last part came out sounding like a question in Gabrielle's own ears. Hope would never agree, Gabrielle realised with a sinking heart. How could she blame her ? "I'm sorry Hope, I shouldn't have disturbed you". Gabrielle turned away with tears in her eye's knowing that she'd never get the one chance that she'd always secretly dreamed of, the chance to try and explain her actions and decisions to her daughter.

Hope watched her mother silently for a few moments, then came to a decision. "May as well" she conceded, "I'm stuck here until some rooster crows anyway."

Gratitude swept over Gabrielle like a wave and she flashed a brilliant smile at her daughter. Hope had never seen her mother look like that and was momentarily startled. "Do you want to start or do you want me to start ?" Gabrielle asked elatedly.

"Oh please, you first" Hope said sarcastically, settling down onto a rock adjacent to that her mother had been sitting on. She swept her hand briefly at the empty space, inviting her mother to sit, as though she were being a gracious hostess.

Chapter 4

Gabrielle sank down onto the rock Hope had indicated. She kept telling herself over and over that she could not get angry or upset about anything Hope did or said. This was too important. Hesitantly Gabrielle started.

Gabrielle started with how she'd left home in the middle of the night, to catch up with an ex-warlord who had saved her. She told of how she wanted adventure instead of marrying and settling down to the dull and predictable village life that was expected of her. She told how she wanted to see the world and live life to the fullest. She told her daughter of her dreams of becoming a bard. She tried to show Hope how very innocent and idealistic she was.

Gabrielle could tell that against Hope's will she was soaking up all that her mother was telling her. Gabrielle had never completely appreciated what a gift her bardic abilities were until now. She wanted to share herself with her daughter and these talents were making that possible.

Then Gabrielle's voice faltered slightly. She told of the trip to Britannia, of meeting Khrafstar, of being captured by Caesar, and finally of her murder of Meridian. Gabrielle could not meet her daughters eyes as she told of how Xena and Khrafstar fought while she was suspended in Dahak's flames. She tried to convey to her daughter her terror and pain. Hope started fidgeting but didn't interrupt.

Gabrielle soldiered on, giving voice to feelings and events that she'd tried very hard to block from her own mind for so long. The pain of recall was acute but she still continued.

She told of being sick and thinking that it was just a result of killing but that it was in fact morning sickness. She told Hope about her pregnancy and how she came to be named Hope. She told of the flight from the Banshee's, into the castle and Hope's birth. At this point Gabrielle turned and looked directly into her daughters face "I was so happy, you were the most beautiful, precious baby I had ever seen. You took my breath away."

Hope swallowed but didn't respond. She had relented slightly but not enough to accept any compliments from her mother.

Gabrielle told about how the soldier was found dead beside Hope who was playing with a trinket of his. Gabrielle was acutely aware that she was trying not to sound accusing but knew that was how it was being perceived. She wasn't surprised when Hope jumped to her feet, bright colour rising in her cheeks, emerald eyes flashing. Gabrielle hung her head and bit her lip.

"How dare you accuse me, I was a baby ! I couldn't even talk, let alone understand right from wrong. From this one act of innocence how could you possibly condemn me ? You were supposed to be my mother ! You were supposed to love me unconditionally ! You were supposed to teach me, nurture me !! How dare you reject me because I did something wrong, without even knowing it ! How can you say that was evil ? How could it possibly be evil if I didn't even understand what it meant ? How could you mother ?"

Gabrielle didn't respond at all. She kept her head bowed and accepted all of Hope's rage. Tears streamed silently down her pale face. Hope continued with her tirade and Gabrielle accepted it all, without defending herself once.

"Look at me !! Why won't you look at me" Hope screeched, sounding like one of the Banshee's from so very long ago. Gabrielle raised her head and looked straight into the flashing green eyes, so similar yet so different from her own. Still she said nothing. This seemed to enrage Hope more and she flew at her mother, punching and kicking at her, raining down a volley of violence that should have knocked Gabrielle to the ground. The Goddess had said that no physical harm could come to her here and Gabrielle found that it was true. She let Hope continue to punch and kick until she realised that she wasn't harming her at all. Then Hope sat back, spent from effort and emotion, defeated by her inability to hurt her mother. She didn't seem to have her remarkable powers in this realm.

They sat silently side by side for a while. Hope trying to regain her composure and Gabrielle giving her the time and space she needed. Finally Hope looked up at Gabrielle and motioned for her to go on.

Gabrielle told about how she turned the Banshee's on Xena so that they could escape, and how she knew that Xena would track them down eventually. Gabrielle told Hope of how in a flash she had seen how she could escape and protect her daughter. She told of how she and Xena had found a baby once, in a basket that had been set adrift on a river to save the child from being murdered. She thought that she'd use the same ruse and tell Xena that she'd had to kill Hope. She told Hope of lying to Xena and praying that Hope would be safe.

Gabrielle then told Hope of how she had betrayed Xena, with the help of Ares, in Chin and Hope smiled. Gabrielle didn't like that smile but she could understand it. Through it all she kept trying to put the blame back onto herself and away from Xena. With a sinking heart she realised as she was telling her daughter these things that she had never really, deep down, accepted the full responsibility for her own actions. A part of her had always shifted a lot of the blame back on to Xena. Gabrielle tried to make her daughter realise that she, Gabrielle, could have done things differently, and was responsible for her own actions.

Finally Gabrielle got to the part of her story that she knew Hope wasn't going to like. Their reunion at the Centaur village. Gabrielle told Hope how overjoyed she was, how she just wanted to scoop her up and hug her and protect her and never leave her again.

Then she got to the death of Solan. The horror she felt about that act came through in Gabrielle's voice and Hope burst out "I wanted to punish Xena for taking you away, for making you choose her over me. I wanted to make her suffer !! And I wanted you to suffer too !!" The fact that this would make my father happy was a bonus !' The raw hatred in this outburst startled Gabrielle into silence. Hope sounded like a child who hadn't gotten her own way and was lashing out. Gabrielle realised that that was very close to the truth, especially at that time.

Gabrielle waited until she was sure that Hope was finished and continued. She got through her killing of Hope with the poison and how she nearly swallowed the rest of the bottle. She told of the sleepless nights and nightmares that constantly woke her.

"Sleepless nights ? You had sleepless nights ? How many nights do you think I lay awake wondering how my own mother could hate me so much - first abandoning me, then killing me with poison ? I'm so sorry that you had to lose sleep over that too !" Hope spat with venemous sarcasm.

Gabrielle told of how she couldn't let Xena sacrifice her own life killing Hope, when Hope was pregnant with the Destroyer. She couldn't live with the guilt of that. She felt that the responsibility for that was her own. She also tried to convey to Hope that the reason she jumped into the pit with her was that she didn't think she could go on knowing that she'd killed her own daughter - again.

Gabrielle took a deep breath and looked Hope right in the eyes. "You were a much better mother to your child than I ever was with you. You loved and protected him. He adored you, I never got to feel that. He was so gentle with me when he thought I was you. You had a special bond between you that I regret missing out on with you." Gabrielle's eyes filled with tears. "Many nights after you and your child died I would wake sobbing with a picture of you reaching up to hug and comfort your child as you died in each others arms. I saw then what it was that I had missed out with you. That one moment is frozen in my memory forever." Gabrielle choked back a sob.

"Since then I've travelled around, trying to find my way. I found it in India, the way of Love". Briefly Gabrielle sketched her travels in India to her daughter, feeling much better about a more neutral subject. She thought Hope might be interested in the other Gods and beliefs that she had encountered there.

Gabrielle was so caught up in her memories and her new philosophy that she didn't see the change come over Hope's face until it was too late.

"How can YOU possibly think that yours is the way of Love ?" Gabrielle recoiled physically from the contempt and hatred in her daughters voice. "How dare you sit there and tell me that you are following this path !! This is me, your daughter, the baby you abandoned in a river, the child you poisoned, the pregnant woman you threw into a fiery pit and the mother that you tricked her only child into killing ! Even Xena, with her dark past cannot compare with that ! If that's the way of Love, mother, then I wouldn't like to see what you would call the way of hate, and you think that I'm evil !!"

Gabrielle looked at her daughter, speechless. Hope was glaring at her. Finally Gabrielle broke the silence and tentatively asked "Do you want to tell me how you feel, your side ?"

Chapter 5

Hope glared at her for a moment longer. "Very well mother. I am enjoying this bonding session so much" Hope's answer dripped in sarcasm. Gabrielle didn't respond at all.

"My earliest memory is of wanting a pretty, sparkly thing that some man had. He wouldn't give it to me so I took it. I had absolutely no comprehension that I had killed him. I didn't even know what that was" the accusation in Hope's voice was not lost on Gabrielle who looked steadily at her daughter.

"I think I thought he was sleeping or something but I'm not sure. Then I remember being scared and being carried though the forest, you were running and I could feel your fear. It made me angry because I didn't want you to be scared too. Then you put me in the basket and gave me the little wooden sheep to play with. I thought it was a game and didn't understand why you were crying. Then I remember feeling so hungry and cold. I wanted you and cried but you didn't come. I felt so scared and alone."

Hopes eyes had a far away look in them and her voice was quiet and sad. Gabrielle wanted to reach out to her but knew that doing so would break the spell and Hope would not continue.

"Some villages found me and took me in. They fed me and gave me some milk to drink. It seemed like every time I ate I'd grow a lot and the villagers realised that I wasn't a normal baby. The woman who found me, Semele, protected me from the rest of the villagers for as long as she could. I stayed there probably about a moon before the Banshee's came. The villagers ran me out and stoned Semele for hiding me. They blamed both of us for the Banshee's coming. The Banshee's took me to their castle and looked after me. After another moon had passed I returned to the village and killed every last person there, in revenge of Semele. "

Hope eyed her mother, to see her reaction to this announcement. "How does it make you feel mother that a stranger died protecting me, while you just abandoned me ?" Gabrielle flinched at this but didn't respond. "I killed all of them, does that make me evil ? Am I any more evil than your precious Xena, who has done the same and worse in her day ?"

Hope took a minute to regain her composure.

"After that the Banshee's took me to my father. He loved me so much. I was his little girl and he adored me. I always knew that there was a price to be paid for this but I didn't care. The one thing that he never did was talk about you. I always wanted to know why I was so different and why you had rejected me. He always said that I was different because I was special. I was going to become a Goddess and rule the world with him. But he never said why you had rejected me. I did get him to promise that you were to be left up to me. He wasn't to have you killed or anything. I was allowed to decide what I wanted to do with you."

Hope paused, remembering a time when she was happier.

"I was so angry with you mother. I loved you and despised you at the same time. Sometimes I'd feel like I would be happy if I could just kill you but then I'd think that if you were dead then I couldn't ask you why. Then I'd think that death would be too easy for you, that I wanted you to suffer, like I had suffered. Then other times I just wanted to crawl into your lap and have you hug me, love me." Hope turned a bitter, accusing tear stained face towards her mother. That look cut Gabrielle deeply. She saw how Hope was really feeling, without any of the blustering she usually used to hide her feelings.

"Why ? That's all I ever wanted to know. Why ? I know that this little session was supposed to tell me but it hasn't. I'm never going to know, am I mother ?"

Gabrielle swallowed. "There isn't an easy answer Hope. I wish there was. I wish I could say 'this is why' and have you understand, or at least know. But I can't. It would make things easier for us both if I could." A tear coursed down her face as her pain shone from her eyes into identical eyes with identical pain. Hesitantly Gabrielle reached out her hand towards Hope but Hope jerked her arm out of her mothers reach.

Taking a deep breath she continued in a brisk tone. "Where was I ? Oh.. yes... my deal with father about your fate. I was to have a lead role in bringing in the new world order. I figured that if you were considered a good person in comparison with everyone else then it was no wonder a new world order was needed. My father and I were the obvious choice. I still believe that !" The last comment was snapped out defiantly, as if daring Gabrielle to argue.

When Hope realised that Gabrielle wasn't going to comment she continued. "I think we've more or less covered our first little reunion. I wanted to make you pay. I wanted to see what you were like. I wanted to make Xena pay. I think I accomplished that very well, didn't I mother ?" Hope's gloating smile chilled Gabrielle but she didn't show any reaction at all.

"Well, I couldn't believe that you actually poisoned me. You seemed to love me and yet you killed me. That confused me. How could you love me yet hate me enough to do that. You did hold me as I died though. I remember thinking that I felt so good in your arms and wondering why it couldn't always be like that. I could feel how upset you were but didn't realise it was because of Solan, I thought it was because of me" Hopes voice was filled with bitter self mockery as she remembered.

"But that's not true !!" Gabrielle protested. "I was upset about Solan's death, yes, but I was more upset that I had found you and that I had to lose you again. I was devastated at what you had done. I'd always hoped that you would take after me more than your father and wouldn't kill people. I felt responsible for Solan's death."

"It seems, though, that each time you kill me I get stronger. Ironic isn't it ?"

Hope continued, her husky voice raising and falling with the emotions she was reliving. She told Gabrielle how she had questioned Joxer about why he loved Gabrielle, of trying to find out how so many people could love and admire a woman who could kill and abandon her only child. She told of conversations between her and Callisto when she was trying to understand the reasons why she had been betrayed by her mother so often.

Hope told of her time with Ares and her resultant pregnancy, of her desperate wish that Gabrielle would come and be her mother, that she would finally be chosen over Xena.

"But that wasn't to be, was it ? No, you couldn't let Xena die so you killed me yourself, again ! How noble that you sacrificed yourself this time too. Were you hoping for a reunion in Tarturus ?" Gabrielle flinched at these accusations but did not reply. "Even then all I wanted to know was why."

Gabrielle remembered Hopes cry as they fell down the pit "Why Mother ?" The echo of that cry still woke her up in the night sometimes.

Hope paused and looked at her mother briefly before continuing. "Then I felt the flames and knew that my father would save me. He would love me. He wouldn't try to kill me. His flames caught me and took me to him. I stayed there with him for a while and then I asked him what had become of you. He said that you were alive and being taken care of. He saved you for me. He knew that I was angry with you and hated you but he also knew that I loved you too. So he made sure that you were taken care of." Hope turned a beseeching face towards her mother "Does that sound to you like a God who is totally evil ?"

This revelation shocked Gabrielle but it also made a lot of sense. It made a lot of things about that whole blurry time make sense.

"After my son, your grandson, was born, I went to Potedia and pretended to be you. I wanted to find out about you. I wanted to know you and try to figure out why. I also thought that your home village was a good place for your grandson to grow up and start his destiny as the Destroyer. I will always blame Xena for not having my mother at my side as I gave birth, for not knowing you, for having to masquerade as you to meet my Grandparents and Aunt. For not having that chance." Bitterness again suffused Hope's countenance. "How I hate her !"

"Hope, please don't blame Xena, blame me. I am the one you are angry with, blame me."

Hope glared at her mother "Why do you always defend her to me mother ? Have you forgotten that she murdered my son ? She tricked him and stuck her sword into his back. She tricked him into killing me, didn't you see how devastated he was ? He was a baby ! He was my baby and your grandson, don't you dare defend her to me !!" Hope's words echoed in Gabrielle's head, eerily similar to words that Xena had once said in relation to Hope.

"He was here to destroy all of humanity Hope, you both were. We couldn't let that happen. I'm sorry." Gabrielle hung her head and cried.

"I may not have been mother, if I'd been shown a different way. Or if I'd known many people who loved me. The only people I've ever known like that was Semele and my father." Hope's voice was sad, she seemed tired, drained.

"I've always loved you Hope" Gabrielle said softly.

"I've only ever wanted you to love me as much as you love Xena, but she always wins, doesn't she ?" Gabrielle didn't say anything but she didn't have to, the answer was obvious.

Finally Gabrielle repeated "I have always loved you Hope. I just can't let you destroy all of humanity, I have to stop you."

"I actually believe that in your own way you do love me" there was amazement in Hope's voice as she looked consideringly at her mother. She continued to regard her for several moments. "I love you too, but I also hate you. I have to fulfil my destiny Mother, this doesn't change that."

"I know." Gabrielle looked sadly at Hope, "And I have to stop you."

Hesitantly Gabrielle reached out and touched Hope's arm. Hope didn't pull away so Gabrielle slowly pulled her into a hug. Hope was tense and stiff in her arms but after a few moments she relaxed slightly and returned the hug. Tears coursed down Gabrielle's cheeks as she stood hugging her daughter, knowing that this would probably never happen again.

Somewhere in the distance a rooster crowed.

Chapter 6

Xena rushed to Gabrielle's side as she awoke sobbing. "What's wrong ? The Goddess said that you would not be hurt. Are you alright ?" Xena glared around trying to find the Goddess, or whatever was upsetting Gabrielle.

Gabrielle layed in her friends arms and continued sobbing for what seemed like a long time. Eventually her sobs died down and she was able to talk. "I'm fine Xena but I don't want to talk about it, please" her beautiful green eyes begged her friend to let the subject drop.

Xena considered Gabrielle and her request for a moment. She was still concerned but finally agreed. She didn't like it when her friend was in pain and there was nothing she could do.

Silently Gabrielle got up and started packing up the camp site. She hadn't even eaten breakfast but didn't seem to notice. Xena decided that maybe getting on the road again was what Gabrielle needed and silently helped.

Mid morning found the pair walking, still silently, down a dirt road in brilliant sunshine. The golds and greens of the landscape that usually captivated Gabrielle's eye and imagination weren't even registering with her. Xena was beginning to get seriously worried and kept casting side long glances at her. Gabrielle was walking beside her friend but her mind was not there. She had gone off in her own head to somewhere Xena could not reach.

Suddenly Xena put out her arm to stop Gabrielle as she drew her sword with her other hand. Gabrielle automatically stood behind Xena and prepared to run, but her heart wasn't in it. The Goddess appeared in a shower of Golden Blue lights on the road in front of them. She stepped around Xena completely ignoring her to concentrate her gaze onto Gabrielle.

"Did you find your answers ?"

"I did. I'm glad I did it. It just hurts so much. Thank you for granting me this wish. Maybe now we'll both be able to find some peace and heal a bit."

Xena looked from Gabrielle to the Goddess confused. She had no idea what they were talking about but she was beginning to get seriously angry. She wanted to know why her friend was so upset and here Gabrielle was thanking the person who caused it.

As though she read her mind the Goddess turned and smiled at Xena and she saw that there was no malice in the Goddess. Her anger dissipated quickly. The Goddess once again disappeared in a shower of lights.

Xena couldn't contain herself any longer. She turned to Gabrielle and demanded "Who did you see ? Who did you speak to ?"

Gabrielle remained silent and looked down at the path. Suddenly Xena's mouth gapped open and she looked at Gabrielle with horror "Hope ? You saw Hope ?" Xena physically took a step back from Gabrielle as though she had a disease.

Gabrielle took a deep breath and raised her eye's to those of her friend. Those blue eyes were flashing with such hatred that Gabrielle lost her courage and just nodded. She could understand her friends hatred of her daughter, she had murdered Xena's beloved son.

Slowly she took another deep breath and looked straight at her friend. "I know that you despise Hope, and why, but Xena she is my daughter and I had to talk to her, to explain, to try and understand and ask her to understand. She's my daughter and I love her."

Xena looked at Gabrielle, the murderous hatred slowly draining from her eyes "I understand that she is your daughter Gabrielle but I cannot think of that monster as being any part of you".

Hopelessly the two friends looked at each other. This was the one subject that they would never be able to bridge or reach a compromise on.

"I love you Xena and I loved Solan but I also love Hope. I just want a peace with her and a peace with myself. Everytime I have to kill her or witness her death it's like a part of me dies. The same as when I see you die or get hurt. " Gabrielle paused, "Except when that happens to you I can show it, I can express it. But when I feel that way about Hope I have to hide it, that gets tiring and even though I know what she is I still need to mourn her. I'm still her mother."

Gabrielle and Xena silently continue down the road, side by side. Each caught up in her own thoughts, wrestling their own demons.

From nearby the Goddess and Hope had been watching and listening to this exchange. They came out and stood in the road and watched as Gabrielle and Xena walked away, unaware of their audience. Hope looked amazed and pleased that her mother had defended her to her greatest enemy.

"Ready to go ?" the Goddess gently asked Hope. Hope turned to her and smiled, her first truly happy smile.

The End

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