The following contains spoilers for ĎThe Haunting of Amphipolisí.
Gabrielle had tried for the umpteenth time to light a fire in the old fireplace of Cyreneís with no success. She dropped the flint and ran her fingers through her hair in frustration omitting a deep sigh.
"No fire eh?" Xena teased as she walked in with Eve carrying their saddlebags.
"Itís too damp in here I think," Gabrielle answered.
"Here," Xena instructed as she put down their belongings before taking a spot next to Gabrielle. With a few clicks the twigs were smoking and moments later when the wood was added the room began to warm up considerable.
Gabrielle grinned and shook her head. "Iíve tried at least half a candlemark trying to light that fire. Whatís the secret?"
"Guess I gotta knack for fire," Xena answered. "Being Queen of Hell might have its advantages after all," the warrior chuckled.
Neither Gabrielle nor Eve found much humor in the statement yet they remained quiet.
"Look," Xena sighed. "Everything will be fine. Iím not taking any thrones despite what some wind bag demon from the underworld says, okay? Heís not the first evil god Iíve vanquished so donít worry. Everything will be okay. . . youíll see," Xena added as she smoothed the bards arms up and down for reassurance.
"But what if you donít have a choice mother? What if Hell comes for you instead of you going to it?"
Xena tried not laugh but failed. "Evie," the warrior smiled. "Gabrielle and I have been through Ďhellí before so I canít say Iím all that concerned."
Gabrielle grinned. Itís true. We have been through Hell before. In this life and the afterworld. But still . . . "Eve does raise a point Xena. What do we do if you get Ė I donít know Ė sucked down there?"
"Mmm," Xena gave a playful growl as she picked the bard up and sat her on the table behind them. She started to nuzzle Gabrielleís neck playful. "Will my sexy blonde girlfriend come with me?" she added.
Gabrielle took Xena by the shoulders and pushed her back to arm length. "Iím serious," the bard told her.
"Like I said Iíll cross that bridge when I come to it," Xena answered as she walked away to put another log on the fire. "I think you two should just relax. Hell isnít going to get me without a fight. I realize my place. I know what I consider Ďhomeí. Everything will be fine. I promise you," Xena replied as she walked back to the bard. She picked up each one of Gabrielleís hands, giving a light kiss to her knuckles. "I promise."
The answer satisfied Gabrielle and Eve. Xena went to work emptying the saddlebags as Gabrielle began to straighten out an area for their bedrolls. Eve noticed a small drawing on parchment hanging on the wall. It was a picture of a small girl. She cocked her head as she examined it. Carefully she took it down, bringing it over to Gabrielle. "Is this mother?" Eve asked.
Gabrielle smiled upon seeing it. "Yeah it is," she answered. "Hey Xena," the bard called out to the warrior who had gone into the kitchen. "Check this out."
"What is it?" Xena asked, carrying out a tray of food Ė bread, cheese, fruit and wine.
"Your mother still had this drawing," Gabrielle answered handing it to her.
Xena grinned. "Donít let this drawing deceive you Eve," the warrior gave a sly grin. "I was much cuter than this picture."
Gabrielle gave the warrior an elbow for acting so conceited before grinning.
"Itís a bit unnerving," Eve answered.
"Whyís that?" Gabrielle asked before Xena could.
"We looked a lot alike. I was always smaller Ė thinner framed. But this picture looks a lot like me as a child."
So many years lost. What I wouldnít give to see a picture to compare Xena thought. Perhaps Hecuba and Herodetus will have a picture of Gabrielle we can see. Eve just might look like her other momma too. "Did your parents ever have a picture of you commissioned?" Xena asked the bard.
"Oh jeez," Gabrielle answered. "Not that I know of. But it might be a possibility. Did you have any baby pictures Eve?" the bard asked. "Iím sure Augustus had enough riches to hire an artist or two."
"I believe so," Eve answered. "Iím sure theyíre all burned at this point . . . Not that I blame him," she answered before quietly moving away. The young womanís head and shoulders seemed to slump in response.
"Did you really love him Eve?" Gabrielle asked, considering perhaps regret she was witnessing.
"In my way . . . yes. I mean itís nothing like you and mother by any means," she chuckled before a sober look returned to her face. "But few people in this world have what you and mother have. I think itís very rare and very beautiful. So yes I did love him . . . But I also know I used his power more than I cared about his love."
"Youíll find the right person someday Eve," Xena replied. "Iím sure of it."
"Iím not sure if thereís a single soul out there that could see the things Iíve done and still love me."
"You might be pleasantly surprised someday," Gabrielle grinned warmly. "Just donít be so quick to brush her off and try to send her home packing," the bard teased the warrior with a nudge which earned her a playful swat on the backside. Eve grinned at her parents, which made everyone feel a bit better. Neither woman enjoyed seeing Eve enter a dark mood nor did they want her to dwell on it too long when those moods did arrive. "Come you two - letís eat," the bard said taking them over to bench.
Later that night Eve slept as Xena stared into the fire. She darted to her feet as quietly as possible when she watched the bard walking in juggling some wood in her arms.
"I could have done that," Xena chastised.
"I was outside anyway," Gabrielle answered as they set the wood into the fireplace. "That should be enough for the rest of the night donít you think?"
"Yeah," Xena answered. "We should be quite cozy," she grinned.
The warrior and bard cuddled up on the bedrolls, both of them watching the fire wordless in each otherís arms. After a few moments Gabrielle could feel some tremors pass through her lover.
"Xena? You okay?" she asked.
Xena didnít answer immediately. The bard heard her sniff and watched her wipe her eyes. The warrior had begun to cry silently. "I miss mother," she finally said softly.
Gabrielle tightened her hold. "Iíll miss her too . . . but now sheís finally at rest," the bard added optimistically. "You might not have been able to save her life Xena but you saved her soul. I think that means more in the end. Sheís at peace now."
I donít care that sheís at peace. I want her here. I want to hold her. I want to be held. I want her to spend time with her granddaughter like she wanted. "I guess Iím just selfish," Xena replied to the bard. "Peace doesnít mean much when I think of all the time thatís been lost."
"Yes . . . Missed opportunities. Things you wish you could have changed. Done differently," the bard commented. "I think I understand," she added.
Xena grinned despite her pain. Her bard did understand. "Well things can only get better right? I mean chances are Lila is still alive. Eve will get to spend time with her aunt . . . But still . . ."
"I know," the bard answered. "Itís not the same. But someday weíll all be together again." I wonder if Lila is alive? And what about my parents? Did they meet the same fate? Did the King of Hell go after them too? No sense in worrying now. Like Xena says, weíll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Xena tightened her grip on the bard. "Iím so lucky to have you in my life," she whispered.
Gabrielle gave a light chuckle. "Not that Iím complaining but where did that come from?"
"My heart. My soul," Xena grinned as she moved up, giving the bard a tender kiss on the cheek. "No matter what Gabrielle. I will never, ever stop loving you Ė ever."
"Iíll never stop loving you Xena," Gabrielle answered in kind. "Even when I went away . . . I was angry but I never stopped love you. I never hated you. I never could."
"Iím not sure what Iíd do if you went away again," Xena answered honestly.
"Well letís BOTH promise to do our best to see that doesnít happen," Gabrielle grinned as she held out her pinky.
Xena gave a light chuckle and grabbed hold with her own pinky finger. "You gotta deal."
They both settled down to relax to get some sleep. But before Xena drifted off she heard Gabrielleís voice. "I would follow you to hell . . . Iíd follow you anywhere."
Xena closed her eyes with a new resolve as she snuggled closer. That wouldnít happen. She wouldnít be going to hell. She already had heaven here on earth. And her name is Gabrielle.
CONTINUED IN PART III: INTO THE HEART