Nightmares From the Past by Paully Adams


Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle and any other characters featured in the actual TV series are copyrighted to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures; just borrowing for this story. The rest of the story and other characters are mine. Please contact me before using any of my stuff. Thanks.

SPOILERS: This series takes place during season five. However in my timeline, anything to do with the twillight never happened! So basically everything up to "Succession" is up for grabs.

SERIES DISCLAIMER: This is part 1 of a series. However, this story also contains material found in "Sophia's Family" and "Sophia's Choice". You may want to read both stories to fully understand what is going on.

VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.

HURT/COMFORT WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story focuses on child abuse: physical, sexually and mental. As my beta reader Virginia said "[The stories] were intense but not so that a reader would be squeamish." If you think you would have trouble with this story or that this story will cause you discomfort, please find something else to read. I've suffered enough discomfort writing this for the both of us.

Thanks to my beta reader Virginia for editing this series.


"Come here, you little..." he didn't finish his sentence. Instead, he grabbed her and pulled her close. "Why do you have to be so bad?" He looked down into her eyes which were wide with fright. "You know its your fault. You tease men with your words and they fall under your spell." His breath was hot and heavy and it seemed to pound her flesh with every breath. "When you were younger, I tried to beat that evilness out of you. But it didn't work. You are so stubborn. Now, you are older, a woman." His left hand slid down her arm, her hand, and finally settled on her thigh. "And unfortunately, you have placed me under your spell. I am yours." He sneered and drew his face closer. "And now, I will make you mine."

"NO!!!" Gabrielle screamed out in her sleep as she swung her arms, trying to fight the ghost in her mind. Xena wrapped her arms around her."Gabrielle, wake up!"

But as soon as Gabrielle felt the arms holding her, a blood-curdling scream left her mouth. Xena removed her arms from the young woman and instead said words of love and affirmation in a soothing voice. "Gabrielle, honey. It's a nightmare. Your here with me, Xena. Calm down."

Gabrielle opened her eyes as the spell that the nightmare had over her was broken. Gabrielle began to sob uncontrollably. Xena reached out to her, but as soon as Xena's hand brushed her skin, Gabrielle winced. "Don't touch me!" Gabrielle curled her petite frame into a ball, her blond hair hid her face.

Xena looked over at her partner with concern shining through her eyes. "Gabrielle, you need to talk to someone."

"Xena, leave it be."

Xena pulled her hand through her raven hair in frustration. "No, I won't leave it be. Gabrielle, the nightmares are getting worst. Remember giving me this?" She pointed to her black eye. "Now, you won't even let me touch you, comfort you."

"Is that all you are worried about, touching me? Fine." Gabrielle rolled over on her back. "Go ahead, touch me...do whatever you want. I don't care."

Xena took a deep breath, and spoke through tight lips, trying to control her temper. "Gabrielle, get up now. I don't understand what is going on, but I'm trying to help you."

Gabrielle sat up. "You can't help me." With that, she stood up and walked off from the camp.

Xena couldn't do anything but watch her soul mate as she left. Usually it was Gabrielle who would calm down Xena after a nightmare. However, their roles would reverse once a year. For as long as she has known her, the same time every year, Gabrielle would have nightmares. The nightmares would come and hold Gabrielle hostage for a week. By the end of the week, Gabrielle acted like a frightened child, scared of every shadow and strange noise. Xena had in the past, tried to get Gabrielle to talk about it, or at least write down her emotions, but she refused. But this year, the nightmares seemed stronger. Last night, Xena received a black eye from a sleeping Gabrielle when Xena tried to wake her aftera nightmare. Tonight, Gabrielle refused to be touched.

*I wonder what is causing her nightmares to become worse?* Xena thought about the events from the pass couple of months. Nothing unusually. The same typical stuff: saving towns, rescuing villagers, taking a break at Amazonia, in fact nothing different, except for the trip to Poteidaea. I wonder if this trip has anything to do with it? Xena really did not look forward to this trip, but it'd been three years since Gabrielle saw her family and Xena thought it was about time for a visit, so she sent a messenger to let the family know that Gabrielle and she were on their way. Gabrielle seemed shocked and outraged by the surprise. Xena was mulling about this information, while Gabrielle came back to camp.

Her eyes were swollen and bloodshot from crying. She didn't say a word, but took a seat on the other side of the fire and sat against a log. The night was warm, and the stars were bright. She looked up at the sky, and noticed the darkness of the sky. *Empty. Nothingness. I wish I could find that place. A place where I

could feel nothing at all.* She sighed.

Xena mistakenly thought Gabrielle was looking at something else. "The stars are beautiful, aren't they?"

"Huh, what? Oh, I guess so. Goodnight Xena." She leaned further on the log, and closed her eyes.

Xena's jaw dropped. We've have never slept apart, not since... I don't believe this.... Why won't she talk...ugh! Xena stood up, walked to Gabrielle and sat down. "Listen Gabrielle, is this about Poteidaea?" Xena knew the answer when she heard Gabrielle's sharp intake of breath.

Gabrielle opened her eyes and stared at Xena. Her eyes were crystal green, reflecting the anger and sadness she felt. *Damn it Xena, just leave it alone.* "Xena, you know that there are things about your past that you won't share with me. Well, everyone has a past, including me. And there are some things I don't share with anyone. Okay?"

"No, not okay. I want to help. We can face whatever is troubling you. Together we can solve anything."

"THERE IS NOTHING TO SOLVE!" Gabrielle lowered her voice. "Please Xena, let it go."

"I love you, Gabrielle. I don't like seeing you in pain. There is nothing that you can't tell me. If I can do anything to make it go away, let me do it, please."

"There is nothing you can do. It's late and I just want to go to sleep."

"You want to go asleep. Fine." Xena walked over to their bed pallets and blankets, and pulled them over to where Gabrielle was sitting. "We sleep, but don't expect us to ever, ever sleep apart. I'm going to help you through this, no matter what. I love you."

Gabrielle lowered her head. "For your sake, don't love me too much." She laid on the bed pallets and wrapped herself with one of the blankets.

Xena stood there stunned. What are you so scared of? Xena laid by her love. And every time a nightmare threatened to overcome her, Xena was there to stop it with her soothing words.

*****

Three pairs of eyes looked down at the scene below. All three were concerned because someone that each of them cared for was involved. "Hey, sis, just where is my Guardian?"

Athena looked at her sister, the Goddess of love. Aphrodite just seemed to naturally sparkle. Her flowing white dress fitted her well. Athena never quite understood her sister. Talk about contradictions. Innocent, sweet, experienced, sassy, smart and yet foolish all rolled into one person; the perfect persona of love. *How does she pull it off?* Athena looked at herself and her other sister Artemis. Both looked like warriors, Artemis dressed in deerskin with her silver bow and arrows, her green eyes flashing; always ready for a hunt or a fight. Athena herself wore her silver breastplate armor, and a leather dress underneath. She carried her trusted spear in her left hand. "You know Aphrodite that she goes away to do what she has to do."

"Well, I need her here. These two are never going to make it."

"She's right, Athena. She may be the only one who can talk some sense in my Chosen One."

Athena sighed, and looked at her family. "You know, we have to do a better job and picking Chosen Ones and Guardians. Why do we always seem to pick stubborn ones?"

"Maybe it is in the bloodline." Aphrodite's smart side was starting to shine through. "I mean just look at the facts. My Guardian is your daughter through your former Chosen One and Ares. Talk about stubbornness, the child had no chance!" She looked at Athena, and saw anger flashed through her gray eyes. "Opps! Sorry Athena, you know what I mean." She swallowed and quickly continued, "and Artemis chooses some fast talking bard to be her Chosen One and Queen of the Amazons, who can be as stubborn as Artemis herself." She realized she said something she shouldn't, when she noticed that Artemis removed her bow, plucked at the string, and then looked back at her like she was some game to be hunted. "Anyway, Gabrielle was able to find her soul mate, your Chosen One Athena. And let me tell you, Xena has to be the most stubborn person I've had ever met. She's as stubborn as..." She did some quick calculating, as realized that she was the only one of the three that hadn't been insulted. "...Me!" She smiled. "And because they are soul mates who found each other, and have such great love they come under my care!"

Artemis looked at Aphrodite with new found respect. *She's not a dingbat after all.* "Wow, that almost made sense. Almost." She looked at Athena. "Well, can Sophia make it?"

Athena sighed. "She's going to have to. I'll tell Hades to send her up. I just hope her darkness doesn't overpower her."

"Don't worry, Athena baby. Love is the most powerful force. She'll do fine."

*****

So far, the day had taken place in complete silence. Xena looked at Gabrielle, who quietly rode her brown steed. Gabrielle still did not have a name for her new companion, so Xena called him Horse. Gabrielle stared straight ahead, not paying attention to the flowers, the insects or to the summer sky. Xena decided to break the silence. "The sky sure is pretty, today. And look at the buttercups. They are so pretty. And the butterflies, They are so..." she paused trying to find the perfect word. "Pretty."

Tension and exhaustion crept into Gabrielle's voice. "Is everything pretty to you today?"

Xena bristled at Gabrielle's tone, and decided that silence was better. Xena's eyes focused on the road, while her mind focused on her bard. *We need to talk, and soon.* She took a quick glance at Gabrielle. *You are trying to shut everything out, but I won't let that happen.*

Up ahead, Xena noticed a lone figure dressed in black leathers, with silver adornment on the shoulders and the waist running towards them. *Thanks the gods, it's a friendly face.*

Gabrielle was lost in her thoughts. The nightmare had invaded the day. She could see him coming toward her. She wanted to run, but fear froze her body. Even if she could run, there was no place to hide. He would have found her, and his wrath would have been worse.

The lone figure stood in front of the horses, and waved at Xena before addressing Gabrielle. "Gabrielle..." Before anyone could blink Gabrielle had pulled out a sai and flung it straight at the figure. Sophia caught the sai right before the blade entered her chest.

Xena looked at Gabrielle with shock. "Gabrielle what is wrong with you!"

Sophia reached out and touched Xena, and shook her head no. She then walked over to Gabrielle, and gently but quickly pulled Gabrielle off the saddle. Gabrielle started to struggle and scream. "Its all right, Gabrielle. It's me Sophia. Everything is going to be all right." Sophia pulled her into a hug and gently caressed Gabrielle's head. Gabrielle scream lessened into sobs. Sophia continued comforting a confused and grief-stricken Gabrielle.

Xena jumped down from Argo, and watched as Sophia tried to reach Gabrielle. *She's in so much pain. By the gods, I feel so helpless.*

"Sophia?"

"Yes, it's me. Everything will be all right."

"By the gods, I'm so sorry. I thought..."

"I know what you thought. Hush, it's alright. I promise you, he won't hurt you again." Gabrielle's sobs softened as Sophia continued to comfort her. "Hey, you're getting pretty good with these things." Sophia's bad attempt at lightening the mood and changing the subject was wasted. She looked at Xena and motioned

Xena to take Gabrielle. Xena embraced Gabrielle as she sighed.

"Oh Xena, I'm so sorry, you must think of me as a monster."

"I could never think of you as such. I'm just worried about you. Gabrielle you need to tell me what's going on."

"No, I can't." She pushed Xena away. Gabrielle needed to change the topic. "So Sophia, what are you doing here?"

"I'm on my way to Poteidaea for a visit."

"Really, that is where we are headed." Xena looked over to Gabrielle. "I thought it was about time that Gabrielle visited her family." *Now I'm wondering if that was such a good idea.*

Gabrielle could not believe that this was just coincidence. Therewas only three people who knew. "So are you here for pleasure? Or for business?"

"What do you think?"

"I think that maybe you should mind your business."

"This is my business, remember who I am Gabrielle. There are beings who care greatly about you. You don't need to be alone at this time."

Xena was getting frustrated. *What are they taking about? Damn this code-talk.

I'm going to get to the bottom of this.*

Gabrielle looked to Xena. "I'm not alone."

Sophia looked at Xena. "So I guess you know what this is about?"

"No, I don't. Gabrielle refuses to tell me." Xena swiped her hand through her hair.

"So you are going into this blind." She faced Gabrielle again. "You might as well be alone. No disrespect meant Xena, but there is no way you can help if you don't know what is going on. If fact, you might make it worse."

Xena raised her eyebrow. "Make what worse?"

Gabrielle silently pleaded with Sophia not to tell. Sophia sighed and shook her head yes. "I can't tell you. She has to." Sophia walked to Gabrielle and grasped both shoulders. "Tell her, for both your sakes. She doesn't need to hear it from anyone else." Sophia turned and walked away, giving the couple some privacy.

Xena looked at Gabrielle, who had started to shiver. There were plenty candlemarks of light left in the day, but Xena knew that Gabrielle needed to rest and regroup. "Come on, lets make camp, then we can talk." Gabrielle nodded her agreement.

Xena found a spot for camp in a meadow, about 60 paces from the road. As the three nearly finished making camp in relative silence Sophia stood up. "I'm going to go hunting; be back at sunset." She reached out a hug Gabrielle and whispered, "Tell her." She then took out her daggers, check the blades, and place them back. She walked to Xena and placed her hand on her shoulder. "She is going to need your strength." She headed to the woods leaving the two soulmates alone.

Xena sat across from Gabrielle. "I need to know. No matter what had happened in the past, I will always love you; you know that, don't you?"

Gabrielle leaned her head back and looked at the sky. She took a deep breath and lower her head, looking at the ground. Xena noticed that Gabrielle refused to look at her.

"Xena, you know I haven't seen my family in years." Xena nodded. "There is a reason for that. But before I tell you, promise me that you won't interrupt me. I might chicken out from telling you if you do." Xena nodded again, agreeing to the terms.

"People who live in Poteidaea follow the old way of thinking. Everything is an omen, a sign from the gods. When I was born, I had six toes on my feet." Xena smiled, remembering she made that discovery during their adventures in the dreamscape. "Well, my family took that was as a sign; a sign that I was different. My father...my father took it as a sign that I had some evil power." She swallowed again. "When I was a child, anything that I did that was different was frowned upon. Usually I got beaten for it."

I remember the first time I told a story, and everyone loved it. They bragged to my parents about how gifted I was. That night, my father beat me for telling stories. He said that my voice was a evil power that could control people. Then, another time my uncle captured a few horses. The men were trying to break them, but they were fighting a losing battle. Then one of the men got to close, and the horse kicked him and was about to trample him. I don't know what possessed me, but I went to where the horse was, and spoke to him, kind of like what I did with Horse. He clamed down, and the others were able to pull the injured man out. That day, my uncle gave me my pony, and within two hours I was riding him.

My uncle told my father that I had a gift for animals. That night, I was beaten. It was so bad that I couldn't leave the house for weeks."

But you know, no matter how many beating I received, I couldn't stop telling stories. In fact, making up stories was the thing that kept me sane. I would hide in my fantasy world of adventure. I guess he finally gave up. The beatings stopped after my 12th summer. I guess I was spending so much time at Sophia's home, that he worried that they would see the bruises. In fact, I realized that he would never hit me if I was over at Sophia's or if Sophia was at my house. He was afraid of her; she was so different, and if didn't help matters that she was part god. I guess he was afraid he would be struck down or something."

Anyway, when I was fourteen, my dad made this big announcement to the family that he realized that he and I should be closer, that he wanted to make up for the distance between us. So he told my mom that he wanted to take me on a fishing trip. He thought it would be a chance for us to get away, and make up for lost time. She agreed, and I went with him."

As Gabrielle told her story, her body language changed. Xena noticed at first Gabrielle she sat on the ground with her legs crossed. Then as the bard continued the story, her knees came closer and closer to her chest. Xena instinctively knew what Gabrielle was trying to tell her.

"The lake he wanted to get to was one days journey of horseback. After we got to the lake, he found a cave. And then, something inside of him snapped." She wrapped her arms around her knees, drawing them closer. "He grabbed me, and told me that I was evil. He said that I wanted to be evil, that I was stubborn." She slowed down and her eyes glazed, for she was reliving the events as she told them. "He said that he tried to beat the evil out of me, but it did not good. Then he said that I had placed men under my spell, including him." She began to rock. "He pushed me to the ground. And he..." She remembered to breath. "And he raped me." She did not look up at Xena, fearing that she would see disgusted in her eyes. "For two days he kept me in that cave, doing whatever he wanted. I was so afraid. Afraid for myself, afraid that he would do the same to Lila, afraid of what he would do to Lila and mom if I told, so when we returned home, I said nothing to anyone. And he did not come near me again. Of course, I made sure he couldn't because I wouldn't let Sophia leave my side."

I stayed inside the house for the rest of the summer, refusing to see anyone, but Sophia and family. My mom asked me what was wrong, and I told her I was upset because I did not catch anything. She said that wasn't important, as long as father and I got closer. I guess she decided not to push it, since I became the perfect daughter after that trip."

After a while, I started to believe that he would never violate me again, that it was that one time. Then the next summer, he announced that he heard that a traveling group of actors was performing in a nearby town, and he wanted to take me to see them, since I liked stories and plays and such. And it happened all over again."

The following summer, Sophia decided to search for her destiny. She told my parents I needed to be with her, since I was the best friend of Athena and Ares daughter. At first my father said no, that he had other plans. But then, Sophia talked to him in private, and I don't know what was said, but he had changed his mind. Of course, it was all a lie. But it did get me out of town. I was worried about Lila though, and after two weeks, I needed to go home. Sophia understood. She stayed by my side for a week. After that there was no need for her to do so."

Xena forgot her promise. "Why?"

Gabrielle refused to lift her head. "Because you came into my life." She did not say anymore.

Xena did not believe that it was possible to hate someone as much as she did Herodotus. *When I get my hands on him, he is going to wish he was in Tartarus.* Nor did she believe that she could love Gabrielle any more than she already had. But she did and love overpowered hate at this moment. "Can I hold you?" The petite bard nodded and Xena wrapped herself around Gabrielle. "You have to be the strongest person I've ever known."

Gabrielle finally exhaled the breath that she had been holding, and started to cry. "You still love me?"

Xena looked into her eyes. "How can I not? Listen, it's not your fault. You are not evil. He is! You are the best thing that ever happened to me. And nothing, nothing can make me not love you. You are everything to me."

The weight of the world was finally lifted from Gabrielle's shoulder. And the freedom allowed her to finally let go. She cried for a while and Xena continued to embrace her. She finally fell asleep in Xena's arms. Xena continued to hold the woman that she loved.

*****

Sophia came back to the camp with a ham and some goose eggs. Xena looked down at her sleeping companion and gently eased her to the pallet. Then she stood up, stretched and headed toward Sophia.

"Where did you get those?"

"Poteidaea is only a few candlemarks away. So I went to scout."

"And what did you find?"

"Did she tell you?"

*I hate it when someone answers a question with a question.* "Yes, she told me. Now answer mine."

"It looks as if the bastard has flown the coup. A couple of friends said that he left town to do some business."

"He must have left after they received the message I sent. Is Lila with him?"

"No, she's safe at home." Sophia showed off the grin she inherited from her father. "Trust me, he would never touch her."

Xena nodded. "Gabrielle told me about the beatings and the rapes. I now understand why she only talks about her mom and Lila and why we did not stay to explain about Hope and the Destroyer." Xena ran her hand through her hair. "Damn it, all the signs were there, and I did not even noticed."

"Xena, you can't blame yourself. There was no way you could have known."

"How did you find out? From what I gathered, Gabrielle did not want anyone to know."

"I found out about the beatings purely by accident. I knew something wasn't right. Every time I saw a bruise, she would claim she got it from falling or playing with the boys. I final figured out that she was lying. Gabrielle may not be the most graceful person alive, she is far from being a klutz. And she never liked playing with the boys. I did not know for sure until one night I went over to her house. Gabrielle's room had a back window, and she would always leave the shutters slightly opened for me to sneak in the house." Sophia saw Xena's eyebrow quirked."We use to sneak into each others homes because we were afraid that our parents would tell the other one to go home. Anyway, one night I was trying to sneak, um, I mean go into her room, I heard voices."

She paused as she tried to control the rage that was inside of her. "I peeked, and I saw Herodotus grabbing Gabrielle and shaking her, then he slapped her and she fell to the floor. Then he started to pound on her. After he had left, I climbed in and took care of her the best I could. Then I sneaked back out, and was determined to find Herodotus."

I sneaked into their barn and waited for him. He came out that night to check on the animals and that was when I attacked. I wanted him to die slowly, and painfully. I started to choke him, and I could feel myself slowly crushing his throat, he couldn't talk nor could he breathe. And I thoroughly enjoyed his pain and suffering. All the dark thoughts I had while I was waiting for him where coming to fruition. Then next thing I knew, Athena had pulled me off of him."

"Why?"

Sophia sighed. "There are many advantages of being a child of the gods, but there are many disadvantages as well. That night I learned that I had inherited some form of darkness, a darkness I couldn't control. It was about to break through. It would have been one thing if the darkness was aim at Herodotus only. But it wasn't. While I waited in the barn, I thought about ways to torture and kill the whole family and town except Gabrielle. I wanted to punish Hecuba for not protecting Gabrielle from Herodotus, and I wanted to hurt Lila for loving her daddy. I blamed the town because Herodotus seemed beyond reproach because he agreed with their old ways of thinking. I wanted everyone to share in Gabrielle's pain and to pay for it. Athena had sensed my thoughts and stopped me."

"I know about darkness. For ten years I let it control everything in my life. At times, I still struggle with it."

"Xena, no offense, but the thoughts I had in that barn that day would had made the old you look like one of Athena's virgin priestess. Athena knew that no one would be safe if she left me there. So she took me to Tartarus to work off my aggressions. It worked. Nothing is better for uncontrollable darkness than fighting with the eternally damned."

Xena looked at the Guardian. *A mortal who enjoys fighting against the eternally damned. Have to remind myself never to get her mad with me. One word from Gabrielle and I'm toast,* she thought to herself.

"Anyway, that little attack kept Herodotus at bay. I never saw another mark on Gabrielle after that." She looked at Gabrielle and grew somber. "But, it wasn't enough. I did not found out about the rapes until two summers after he had started. I've would have never found out, if it wasn't for love."

"Love?"

"Trust me, it was purely love."

Xena quirked up her eyebrow. "What do you mean by that?"

Sophia looked at the sleeping form that was softly snoring. "I mean what I said, it was love. Something told me to cancel my annual stay at Tartarus. So I decided to make plans with Gabrielle. But that same feeling lead me to go through their front door, instead of sneaking in the window. Hecuba was standing in the kitchen. I asked her where Gabrielle was, and she told me that Gabrielle had gone berry-picking. So I went to the woods to find her." Sophia shuddered at the memory.

"I found her alright. She was crying and I instantly thought that Herodotus had done something. She had gone berry picking, but the only berries in her basket were the poisonous kind. From the red streaks around her mouth, I knew she had eaten some. She confirmed this, and then she told me about the rapes. I did the only thing I could, I hit her in the stomach so hard that she vomited. I carried her back home. Her mom was out back, so it was relatively easy to sneak her in.

When Hecuba found us in Gabrielle's bedroom, I said that Gabrielle was sick from eating too many berries, and some of them were unripe. I spent the night there."

Gabrielle's father came in, and asked me to leave. I wanted to attack him right there, the anger was quickly rising, but just as quickly I calmed down. Instead, I told him no, and told him that Gabrielle needed to go to Athens with me. I told him that Gabrielle was needed in a ceremony, because she was my best friend. I also reminded him that it would be best not to get Athena mad. And he, being the coward that he is, eventually said yes."

"Yeah, Gabrielle told me about that. She thinks you lied to protect her."

"Well, you know the truth." She looked at the sleeping form of her friend. "If it wasn't for her, I would never had become a Guardian. You know, Aphrodite was not really sure about me as a Guardian because she had some concerns about my dark tendencies, but when I listened to her voice and my heart that day in Poteidaea, she knew. She knew I could hear loves voice and I would follow. So it was love that saved the day, and Gabrielle's life. If it wasn't for Aphrodite, Gabrielle may had died in the woods that day."

"I guess I owe her a big one."

"You do. So the next time you want to curse the gods, remember that a few of those cursed gods care for Gabrielle. You and I owe her for Gabrielle's life."

"So, Sophia the Guardian has come to lend us a hand, huh?"

Gabrielle gave Xena a smirk. "Just giving you guys a helping hand. Gabrielle wasn't going to tell you, she was going to try to suffer through this alone. She needed to be nudged in the right direction."

"So I guess you will be leaving?"

"Well, I have done what I needed to do, and I know you can handle it from here. But I would really like to tag along, if you don't mind."

"Not at all. I think she is going to need all the support she can get." Xena looked at Gabrielle. It was at that moment, Gabrielle started to twist and stir from another nightmare. Xena quickly sat down next to her and started to whisper words and comfort in her ear. Within fifteen candledrips Gabrielle had calm down.

Sophia looked at the display of love and comfort. A pang of jealousy stabbed her in the heart. She knew that as a Guardian, her life was dedicated to saving love, and that there was no room in her life for such companionship. She decided to turn her head, to give her favorite couple some privacy.

After comforting her love, Xena got up and walked back over to Sophia. She crossed her arms in front of her chest. "I don't understand, how can someone hurt a child like that?"

"I don't know, Xena. You know, when I became a Guardian, I thought that it would be a great thing...you know, helping couples right each other again, love in the air kind of stuff, but it is not all it is cracked up to be. Most of the time I'm busy trying to protect someone's heart and spirit from those who claim to "love" them. Do you how many children are hurt by their parents? Too many. And even with the work of the other guardians, we can't save them all. Then we also have to deal with husbands who hurt their wives, innocents who are tortured. Everyday, many hearts and souls are permanently marred by so called love. There are times when I see someone as innocent and as loving as Gabrielle was, and I have to watch as that innocence is torn away, and that love is beaten and deformed into hate, pain and emptiness. And you know what, there is not a damn thing I can do. There is just too many of them. Too many."

Sophia took a few steps from Xena, took a deep breath and tried to reel in her emotions, which were starting to get out of control. Then she turned back. "But I made sure that at least one would not be hurt in that way."

"Lila."

"Yeah. When we came back from Athens, Gabrielle stayed with my family. Then the slavers attacked and you rescued the girls. I knew who you were thanks to Aphrodite. I knew that Gabrielle should be with you, but she wouldn't stay with you if Lila wasn't protected. She was so afraid that Herodotus would turn his wrath upon Lila if she ever left. So I had to find a way to protect Lila. The day before Gabrielle ran away, I showed Herodotus his future if he ever touched Lila in a harmful way. It was such a toasty scene."

Sophia saw the confusion in Xena face. "Xena, there are advantages to being a child of the gods. You get so many skills. I was able to show him what awaited him in Tartarus, thanks to Uncle Hades. Then I told him that I would come down to Tartarus once a year, and personally inflict more pain and suffering to his worthless carcass. And just so that he wouldn't forget, I arranged for monthly visits from Uncle Morpheus. Uncle would show him the vision in full color and sound."

Xena shuddered slightly. She wasn't sure if it was from her memories of walking through Tartarus and seeing the eternal pain and suffering that went on there, or from the cruel dark joy Sophia displayed as she thought about Herodotus' punishment.

Sophia was still relishing on her previous thought. "You know Xena, there are moments that darkness and love can fit together perfectly."

"Remind me never to get on your bad side."

"Keep loving her and treating her well, and you never will."

"That's a promise I can keep."

Stay tuned for Part II, Pain of the Present


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