Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and the other characters from the Xenaverse are all property of MCA and company, I'm just playing in their sandbox for a while.

By Any Other Name

Now is the time of day I have learned to welcome wearily, for here in the quiet of night I find my mind wandering and at times the paths it leads me down can bring great joy or gut wrenching sorrow. Tonight will be a night of contemplation. For the thousandth time I find myself wondering how I ended up on this strange path in life. And once again I'm reminded that my fate has not always been my own to choose.

Since the beginning my life has been entwined with Gods. They have altered my destiny far more than I care to know or admit. Even now they affect who I am.

On the day I was born my mother named me Eve. Yet it would be some five and twenty years before I would hear her call me that. For the Gods once more stepped in to alter my fate. Perhaps none as much as the God of War, when on a beach long ago he unknowingly changed not only my destiny but my identity. On that day Eve died and Livia was born. It was she who grew up under the banner of Rome and for a brief time became its champion. The Champion of Rome, a title, one of many I've carried over the years. As Livia I hungered for titles, for power, for all that Rome could give me. And when my wants were refused the Bitch of Rome was more then willing to take it by force. When I left behind the comforts of Rome I thought I had left behind those titles as well. But I know now that no matter what there will always be those who see only the titles.

Even now as I begin life anew I'm faced with titles. The Eligans call me the Messenger. Of all the titles I've carried this one weighs the heaviest. For with it I carry not only my own destiny but also the destiny of all who would follow me. I pray I have the strength to see this through.

There is movement from across the fire and I look up as she enters the soft light. Watching her move to a large flat rock I study her closely. As a small child I often wondered what she would look like. She is taller than I imagined and her eyes are bluer then my own but there is little doubt the same blood flows through our veins. There are some who would say that is my curse, but to me it is a blessing. She reaches for sword and stone, beginning her nightly ritual. Skilled hands work stone against steel with a steady rasp. Most people would find the sound disturbing, perhaps even annoying, yet to Gabrielle and I the sound is strangely comforting.

Gabrielle. I turn to the small blond haired woman seated just out of reach. Her head is bowed as she furiously scribbles on a scroll. The steady whisper of brush against paper is the only sign of her presence. Strange how the sound of her brush stroke seems to blend with the rasp of stone and steel. Together they complete each other in a unique symphony, just as she completes the warrior. My time with them has been short but it does not take a seer to know these two belong together. No matter what the task they move together as one. Each seems to know the others needs without speaking a word. I've never known a friendship like theirs and I doubt I ever will. What they share is special and I feel privileged to have been a witness it.

The bard pauses for a moment and turns to me. No doubt she has felt my gaze, strange for such a gentle soul she has the gifts of a warrior. She offers me a warm smile before returning to her work. That simple gesture only adds to me confusion. I don't understand her. If anyone ever had a reason to hate me it is she. It is because of me that she lost twenty-five years of her life, while she slept all she knew, all the people she loved, were lost. It was by my own hand that her friend was slain, there are times when I can still feel his blood on my hand. The thought of that one act sickens me more than any other crime I've ever committed. For in that moment of bloodlust I not only killed an innocent man, but I hurt the two people who love me most in the world. It frightens me when I think of how close I came to losing that love forever.

Shaking away the thought I turn once more to the bard. While she is still saddened by her lost, I know she has forgiven me. Though she has never said it I can tell by the little things she does for me. When our paths cross those of people I have wronged and their curses and threats sting me, she is always there with a comforting look or touch. Though I would never ask her to do so I know she would lay down her life for me if necessary. I do not understand her, but I do understand why my mother loves her so. She too has titles, but all of hers have been earned though acts of courage and love. Had things been different I would have grown up calling her Aunt, and I'm shamed by the memory of mocking her with that name. Though now I believe she would not object if I were to call her by that again, perhaps she would even be pleased by it. But, I cannot, I have not earned the right. She offers her love to me freely and for that I am grateful but for now I do not feel worthy of it.

With that thought I close my eyes, resting my chin against raised knees. The steady sound of sword and pen lull me into a relaxed state. For the moment all is right in our world, as long as the sound continues we are safe from anything that may lie beyond the darkness. After all who would dare enter the camp of the warrior and the bard. Content with that thought I feel myself starting to drift off. I'm not sure how much time has pasted when I sense a presence kneeling beside me and feel the weight of a blanket against my shoulders. Raising my head I find clear blue eyes looking back. She smiles and without thought I return the smile. Her smile broadens and once again I'm reminded that I'm one of the warrior princess's few weaknesses. Kissing the top of my head she whispers something about getting some sleep before moving to her bedroll. I watch her move to Gabrielle's side as they both settle down for the night. Warrior Princess, she too has titles to bear. We share so much in common yet in so many ways we are still strangers to each other. One thing I do know is I never want to disappoint her as I have in the past.

There are times when I wish the quiet moments like this would never end. But I know that cannot be for tomorrow we will pack up and move on. Once again we will answer to the titles the world has given us. But for tonight we are a family. Settling onto my bedroll I look once more to the large warrior. Though it has taken sometime for me to realize it I know that no matter what to me she will always be mother. I find a comfort in that thought I've never known before and even more comforting is the knowledge that to her I will always be Evie. That is a name I can live with.

The end

Onora

Hope you enjoyed the journey.