I was watching One Against An Army last night, and was struck by the impression that Gabrielle seemed to give up awfully quickly. This led me to remember other episodes, like Forget Me Not, that seemed to indicate that, although Illusia had given the dynamic duo their friendship back, Gabrielle was still plagued by guilt. She certainly seemed to be showing signs of depression. And I wondered, if the guilt was so strong after Illusia, what was it like before? So, this is my alternative to the aftermath of Maternal Instincts. Warning: This story contains elements that some may find disturbing. If reading about depression and its effects on a person and those around them is a difficult subject for you, give this one a pass, with my blessings.

The Price We Pay

by Souzan

"Guilt is the price we pay for doing what we are going to do anyway" Isabelle Holland

She stood next to her soulmate, but the space between them seemed to stretch for leagues. Gabrielle swallowed hard then turned jerkily to look at her partner. She studied the angles of the face that tried mightily to remain impassive, but was betrayed by the wet trails running down flushed cheeks.

I've got to try…just once more.

"If I had just done what you said…when you told me to do it...then they would still be alive," she paused, "Kaleipus and Solan…"

"No," Xena turned to look at her…friend. Grief and anger twisted her features. "No, don't you even speak his name."


"No…no, you lied to me. I trusted you, and you lied to me. Now Solan is dead…" Xena jerked her gaze back to the fire, and her features hardened. "My son is dead…because of you."

Gabrielle stared at her partner. No, please…just look at me…please. She felt her heart shatter as she owned the pain she had caused her best friend…her soulmate. She silently begged for one last chance…just please look at me. "I love you, Xena."

She waited for a reaction, a flicker that would tell her it would all be okay. Her mind raced, trying to think of a way to fix this, to undo this horrible evil she had committed on her soulmate. Two waterskins…I should have brought two…she thought dazedly. Looking away from the set face, Gabrielle turned and walked back to the hut she and Xena were sharing.

Not seeing when the warrior's mask crumbled into tears of grief and loss.

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"Xena, wait!" Ephiny called at the tall warrior's back. She had watched them from the platform after singing the funeral dirge. Her soul wept for the pain both her friends, even as her mind tried to make sense of everything. They both lost their children today…but how did Gabrielle have a daughter that age…a daughter that was somehow involved in the death of Xena's child…she poisoned her own daughter…her thoughts reeled with impossible questions.

Xena increased her pace, wanting desperately to get away before she broke down completely. She hadn't felt pain like this since…Lyceusoh, Gods…The proud and fierce ex-warlord had never allowed anyone to witness her emotions…except Gabrielle…and so had given in to her instincts and walked rapidly toward the woods. Hearing the Amazon behind her, though, a part of her recognized a friend and newly developed instincts caused her to slow, finally stopping by a large tree. Resting her head against the rough surface, she felt the tears break through the barriers and course down her face.

Hearing the footsteps behind her slow, Xena tried to gather her composure. The gentle hand on her back ruined her efforts, and she felt herself being pulled into a strong embrace as choked sobs were wrenched from her throat. The curly headed warrior held firm as Xena half heartedly tried to pull away, silently providing a haven for the weeping woman…yes, woman…I forget that sometimes…as strong as she is, she is still a woman…a mother who has just lost her son.

The two held the embrace for long moments, standing just outside the light from the pyres. Slowly, Xena calmed and eased away from her Amazon friend. Slightly chagrined, she hesitantly offered a gruff, "Thanks," glancing up to look at the understanding face. Xena ran a shaking hand through her hair, almost loosing herself to the tears again as her gaze skipped over the burning pyres.

"Xena," Ephiny hesitated, then gathering her resolve, "Where's Gabrielle? I think…"

"I can't…Ephiny, not now." Xena interrupted. "She…I…just…not right now."

Ephiny shook her head. "I know now's…not a good time. But, Xena," she raised her hands, then dropped them helplessly, "Was that really…the girl, her…?" Breaking off in shock at the feral snarl that answered her.

"Gabrielle's daughter?" Xena growled, "Oh, yes. She gave birth to that…demon…that killed my son. She let that thing live…knowing what it was…" She stopped, breathing deeply to try to control the sudden, surprising rush of rage that swept over her. In her mind's eye, she saw herself taking her vengeance, beating, whipping, stabbing that…that…Gabrielle, this is Gabrielle...I can't

Astonished, Ephiny watched as her friend struggled to regain control of herself, jaw muscles working, fists clenched. "Xena, this is Gabri…" pausing at the low rumble, "this is your friend we're talking about. I'm sure she didn't mean…"

"She lied to me! She told me she killed it…hid it from me…then sent it to my son to kill him! She killed my…" Xena stopped abruptly, stunned. What am I saying? Gabrielle didn't kill Solan. Hope killed him. Then Gabrielle killed Hope. Oh, Gods, Gabrielle killed her daughter! Xena stared blankly at Ephiny's bewildered face, remembering the guilt and regret she heard in Gabrielle's voice moments ago. "If I had just done what you said…I love you, Xena."

Xena sank to the ground, head cradled in her hands. Ephiny crouched next to her, wrapping her arms around the warrior again. "Shhh, it's okay." She murmured. "You're upset…angry. It's okay. It's going to be okay." She continued whispering to Xena, comforting, nonsense phrases, rocking the tall woman. She still had little understanding of what had happened, but she had seen all kinds of reactions to loss before. All she could do was to be there for her friends. Both of them, she thought, wondering suddenly where Gabrielle had gone.

Sometime later, feeling Xena calm and relax a bit, Ephiny said cautiously, "Xena, I'm going to go check on…our friend. Okay? Will you be alright for a few moments?" Hearing a soft sigh, she pulled back slightly and tried to catch Xena's eyes.

Xena took another long breath and nodded. "Yeah, I guess you should. I…I just can't. Not yet." Blue eyes lifted to meet understanding hazel.

Ephiny nodded, then rose and headed towards the huts. Xena absently watched her walk away, trying to force reason through the overwhelming emotions she was feeling. She tried to logically categorize what she was feeling…sorrow, anger, an aching emptiness…guilt? Yes, a little. She knew she injured Gabrielle when she didn't respond to her entreaty. But she was angry with her, right or not. At this moment, she needed to blame someone for Solan. Hope was dead, Callisto was buried. Gabrielle had lied to her, and that lie allowed her son to be killed. Xena always tried to be honest with herself, and she knew that she would hold that anger for awhile, unreasonable or not.

But right now she was just so tired. Xena lay back in the cool grass and closed her eyes, both wishing for sleep and dreading the dreams to follow. Maybe if she just closed her eyes for a few heartbeats…

"XENA!" The shout and sound of running footsteps jerked Xena out of the light doze she had fallen into. Jumping to her feet, she met Ephiny's approach.

"What is it? Ephiny, what…" Xena demanded. Shakily, Ephiny handed Xena a folded piece of parchment.

Let it be known to the Amazon Nation, that I hereby, before Artemis, bequeath my Right of Caste to my Regent, the Warrior Ephiny. She has ruled honorably in my stead, and I trust she will continue to lead the Nation with honor to its destiny.

Queen Gabrielle

At the bottom was a short note:


The Amazons deserve a queen that will bring truth and wisdom to her rule. I can offer neither. Please tell Xena…well, sorry means nothing, so tell her I'll try to negotiate a trade with Hades.

Your friend, Gabrielle.

"I found these in her hut," Ephiny held out two dark green glass vials. Xena took one, removed the stopper and sniffed. Thoughtfully, she replaced the stopper and rolled it between her fingers. Ephiny watched, observing her musing with agitated disbelief.

"What are you waiting for? We have to look for her! She going to…to…damn it, Xena! Snap out of it and help me! We have to find her."

Xena raised an eyebrow, then answered softly, "Do we?" If anyone can bargain with Hades, it's Gabrielle. Besides, do I have the right to stop her? the grieving mother rationalized. The part of Xena that had protected the bard for more than two years, however, violently disagreed with the calm logic. With a sigh, she acknowledged that there was no decision to be made. Even while Ephiny was trying to respond to the unexpected question, Xena was already moving at a run in the direction of the clearing where she had found the bard and…her daughter…Hope earlier.

Finding, as she expected, the slumped body of the bard, hand wrapped around a waterskin. Xena dropped beside the still form and, after briefly checking the pulse point, quickly pulled Gabrielle up and over her knee. Sticking a finger down the woman's throat, she pressed her knee into Gabrielle's belly and forced her to vomit up the dark black substance. Xena was somewhat bemused to find her heart beating frantically as she worked to save the young woman she thought of as…murderer, betrayer…friend.

Ephiny kneeled beside them and wordlessly handed Xena a full waterskin. Xena raised an eyebrow in appreciation of the Amazon's training and nodded her thanks. She began to trickle the water into Gabrielle's mouth and rub her throat, causing her to automatically swallow. She gave her about half of the waterskin, then forced her to vomit again, until she felt she had flushed out all the poison out she could.

"That's all I can do here," she told the worried Amazon. "Let's get her back to the hut. I'll need my herb bag for the antidote." Ephiny nodded and moved to help lift the young queen, but stopped as Xena easily lifted Gabrielle in her arms. Motioning with her head, they started back.

"I think we should keep this between us, for now," Ephiny ventured cautiously, receiving a grunt in acknowledgement. The centaur village was quiet, as most had retired for the night after the funeral. They met no one as they moved to the hut shared by Xena and Gabrielle. Ephiny watched nervously as Xena gently placed the bard on the pallet and moved to start water heating.