Authors Note: Since so many folks asked for a follow up to Betrayal I thought Iíd continue it. You might want to check that story out first. Be warned. Itís not a lovey dovey mush fest. Terms of endearment will not be uttered in this one too. As always these characters have an Ďalternative slantí and they are not mineÖthey are Mr. Tapertís. Hope he does right by them in season six but until then . . .
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.
"Itís okay," Ares said breaking into the conversation between mother and daughter. "Sheís got every right to be angry."
"Youíre damn right I do," Eve said as she stood up poking a finger at the former God. "Why in Eliís name do you keep defending this jackass?" she asked Xena.
Why do I? Xena considered. Heís done more damage than good in my life. But stillÖ "Heís down on his luck right now," Xena answered with a sigh. "Weíre gonna give him a hand."
"We are huh?" Eve replied sarcastically. "And what does Gabrielle have to say aboutÖWhere is Gabrielle?" Eve said looking around, finally putting her anger with Ares on hold long enough to notice the bard was not present.
"Sheís gone," Xena answered softly.
"What do you mean sheís gone?! What happened?!" Eve exclaimed.
Xena opened her mouth to speak but nothing would come out. She didnít 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 doesnít want to travel with us anymore." Xena didnít add more. Instead she chose to wait for Eveís reaction to the news.
Sheís 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 Iím here?"
Xena could have sworn her heart broke at the sob she heard in Eveís 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 havenít been a staunch supporter of your moms relationship," he told Eve, avoiding eye contact with either woman. "Iíve 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 wouldnít surprise me if one day she comes back. If not to see me at least to see you . . . Did she tell you that youíre an amazon? That sheís a queen and gave you her rite of caste?"
Eveís eyes widened at the news and she shook her head no. "Well itís true," Xena continued with a proud grin. "Gabrielle couldnít 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 Iím paying the price."
"No offense mother but it sounds like Iím 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."
Sheís right. It might be too late but then again. . . "I know Gabrielle pretty well. I donít think sheíll 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 youíre fooling yourself Xena," Ares answered. "That look in her eyes and conviction in her voice - I think sheís gone for good," he concluded quickly.
"Yeah well I really donít 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. "Sheís 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 donít see it. And Iíll tell you what else I see." Ares didnít pause to find out if Xena wanted to hear. He just continued. "I see exactly why she left. Gabrielle isnít the same woman you knew years ago. She will no longer follow you blindly into battle. Sheís 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 itís funny because her loss should be my gain. But it feels like a hollow victory, won by default because in the end, I didnít cause this breakup . . . You did."
"Perhaps I did," Xena nodded. "But you played a very big hand in it Ė telling me to seek vengeance for Solanís 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 Iím not the one who dragged Gabrielle cross country behind a horse. Iím not the one who left her standing on the dock feeling helpless. And Iím 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. Sheíd been angry with Ares many times over the years but at this moment it far exceeded anything she could imagine. Iím 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 didnít hear Eveís 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 wasnít true. It canít 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 sheíd 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 canít be true.
But the longer Xena didnít 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 itís hard to fight my Ďdark sideí. Thatís what Gabrielle called it. She understood it. And sadly, there were times that she felt the wrath of it. Iím not proud of that because I love Gabrielle very much. I do. And itís hard to see that sometimes in light of all the things that have happened to us."
"You mean in light of all the things youíve done," Ares corrected smugly.
"You are this close to deathís door," Xena said narrowly spacing her thumb and index finger in front of him.
"Youíre right," Ares said. "That was a cheep shot but if you want the bard back Xena youíll have to start seeing the things that have happened and accepting responsibility for them. If you donít . . . youíll never get her back . . . never."
"Youíre suddenly the god of love huh?" Xena rebuffed.
"No, Iím 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 oí 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 doesnít 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 itís even worse. In fact thatís the best of the best youíve got there pal," Xena added. Whatís the harm in making Ares believe all food is terrible? Besides itís just desserts for his antagonism tonight. "Come on letís try to get some rest. Itís been a long day," Xena offered.
Xena gave Ares her bedroll and shared Eveís. As mother and daughter lay next to each other, Eve turned to Xena. "Will you promise to tell me more tomorrow? Things I didnít 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 Eveís 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 . . ."
CONTINUED IN PART III: ACCEPTANCE