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The Snow Queen

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AN: I said I would write a sequel and so I did. Probably a giant twist from the last story, obviously, but if you haven't read The Lady of Shanghai, you probably should as ties from the previous story are put into this one. I listed Discord as one of the characters, but I used her Latin name instead and changed her appearance.

Enjoy and feedback much appreciated!

The Snow Queen

Fifteen years later

Summary: Xena's Grecian Empire has lost the African countries she won from Octavius fifteen years ago through two longer battles in a span of six years. Octavius has expanded his Roman Empire to Assyria and Persia making an alliance with the new Persian King and colonizing Assyria with Allat as its King. Too many rulers among these lands and Xena's Empire is wedged in the middle of the conflict and territories. Octavius is at his peak meanwhile Xena is losing control of her Empire. Solan is now working with Allat in Assyria to push back the Roman elites and regain control of their land. Eve has taken initiative to spread her mother's empire to Eastern Asia in the territories of Qin and India and occasionally works with Qin's mercenaries in secret.

While Xena senses that her prophecy may come true she wishes not to rule Greece for an extended period of time and decides to leave Athens and go settle her Empire in the land of the Pharaohs. Although, Xena has kept this vision that Ares showed her many years ago, to herself and did not even tell Gabrielle, keeping it locked away inside of her. As she ages she realizes that she will not live forever and is twice the age of Octavius. She fears that time is not on her side and soon her empire will fall to the Romans –her greatest enemy for over thirty five years.

Gabrielle goes back and forth from Athens to Cairo to be with Xena and keep the fort down in Athens as well. Though, Gabrielle begins to notice a change in Xena. Even after all these years of being together, she still couldn't figure her out completely. She could be so secretive and though Xena had opened up about a lot of things over the years, she still remained locked away in her mind. Gabrielle began to think that Xena's worst enemy was her mind.

She noticed that Xena was changing back into the person she used to be over two decades ago and she hadn't the slightest idea why.

Chapter 1

On Mount Parnassus the Greek Muses gather every afternoon to enjoy their festivities together and even invite a few Olympians to join in on all the fun. Erato, Muse of love, spooned some wine into Apollo's mouth and he relaxed comfortably underneath a canopy. A bright light appeared before all nine Muses and they gasped.

Terpsichore, Muse of song and dance, smiled at the Olympian God who appeared before them. She sauntered over to him and traced her fingers along his black vest. "Ares, God of War, what brings you to Mount Parnassus?"

Thalia, Muse of comedy, came to approach her sister and greet the War God. She smiled at him and took off her mask showcasing her beaming face. Ares rolled his eyes and brushed off the Muses. "Ladies, I'm looking for Erato. We have business to discuss," he eyed the love Muse placating his brother, Apollo, under a canopy, getting him very drunk. He marched over to her and she stood up grinning at him mischievously.

"Ares, I have what you want," she snapped her fingers and a blue vial appeared in her palm. He reached for it and she snatched it away wagging her finger. "Not so fast, dark and mysterious." Ares frowned, as he didn't really have time for this he folded his arms and raised a thick dark brow at the Muse. "you have to tell me what you're using this for. It could be dangerous, you know?" she smirked.

He sighed heavily, "I just need it. Do I have to explain anything to you? I'm a god!" he laughed loudly and Erato frowned circling him sensually.

"Yes indeed you are which makes me not trust you!" she pouted. "Does Aphrodite know you are using this?"

Ares blew in her face and sent her flying backwards about ten feet and she landed on top of Apollo. The sun god smiled and she kissed his cheek then stood up to face Ares again. "My sister does not need to know my business with you unless you want to die a horrible death?" he grinned.

Erato handed the vial to him reluctantly and frowned. "Fine! But if you must know, if you use this on a mortal it could end very badly if not used correctly."

He rolled his eyes, "use it sparingly, yadayada yeah I got it. Anything else I should know?" he folded his arms tucking the vial into his vest pocket.

The love Muse smiled and came within inches of the War God's face. "Yes..." she hissed, "it only works if the person is willing to use it. You can't force it on the person," she whispered.

Ares groaned and pushed her away. "You didn't tell me about that!" he yelled and Erato blinked, shocked at his tone.

She shrugged her shoulders, "you wanted it, Ares. Besides, I have never seen a mortal use that before, only immortals use it," she sighed, "well, if you don't mind I have some business of my own to fulfill!" she grinned and went back to Apollo under the canopy. Ares shook his head and soon disappeared leaving the Muse to attend to his rotten brother.

Ares beamed back into his Halls of War and took out the blue vial from his vest pocket examining it carefully. He unscrewed the cork and smelled the liquid within the bottle. It smelled like violets mixed with a hint of vanilla. Frowning he corked the bottle again and set it on his throne staring at it as if waiting for something magical to happen.

"so you finally had the balls to get it, huh?" a familiar feminine voice startled Ares and he groaned.

"Don't do that again, Eris," he demanded. He normally did not like unannounced guests coming into his temple but he rather liked Eris, Goddess of Chaos, she was something he had been waiting for.

The raven haired goddess floated around him and grabbed the vial. Ares tried to snatch it from her but she disappeared to the other side of the room. Her golden eyes narrowed with a devious smile. She held up the bottle into the light and tapped the glass with her long fingernails. The vial lifted out of her hands and floated high into the air as she admired its strange liquid inside.

"I can't believe you actually got it from...what's her name?" she grinned and laughed under her breath. "Oh that's right, Erato."

Ares marched over to the goddess and he snapped his fingers then the bottle appeared in his palm once more. "Why are you interested? It has no affect on us gods," he scoffed and opened a box placing the vial inside. Eris glided on the floor and leaned over her elder brother's shoulder as the box locked keeping the vial safe and sound.

Eris sat down on Ares throne and he rolled his eyes growing tired of this goddess' games and arrogance. She began twirling her fingers casually and a star from the night sky appeared in her fingers, spinning the star slowly. "So what mortal are you going to use that on?" she inquired and the star spun faster as Ares avoided the question. The raven haired beauty smiled evilly, "oh I know who. Xena...isn't she a little old to be your warrior queen?" she scoffed. "You need a new warrior queen, Ares. Someone younger, more vibrant, someone...fresh!"

Ares grabbed his sword and began swinging aimlessly in the air. "Oh someone" he laughed and Eris crushed the star in her palm. The star dust crumbled to the ground and she crossed one leg over the other, tapping her fingers on the armrests.

"Well we both know that'll never happen. Chaos and war? Those go together during a battle but for love? It just doesn't work," her golden eyes sparkled and Ares rolled his eyes. She sauntered over to the War God and traced her long fingernails on his arm, making him lose concentration. "Besides, I want someone better than Xena." She circled him with a sly smile. "How 'bout that daughter of hers? She's perfect. Spitting image of your old worn out warrior queen and she's very young." She whispered in his ear, "easy to manipulate..." she hissed. "Easy to mold..."

Ares shook his head and continued to sparing, "Eve is off limits, Eris."

Eris laughed audibly, "afraid your warrior woman will kill you if you go near her?" he didn't answer and she giggled. "Oh Ares. Just because you won't go near her doesn't mean that I won't..."

With that she exited the room with a hushed laugh as she disappeared into thin air. Ares growled and looked around still hearing her menacing laugh. "Eris!" he cursed to himself and threw his sword into the wall. "Damn I hate her," his eyes glanced over at the box and it was as if the bottle spoke to him. He trailed over to the box and opened it slowly. Lifting the vial out of the box he tilted the bottle watching the purple liquid sway side to side. He furrowed his brows as he continued to stare at it. He hadn't ever used this before on anyone and truthfully he had no idea how he was going to get Xena to agree to this plan of his.

Xena swung her sword around in midair inside her bedroom in the Egyptian fortress. She had completely redone Cleopatra's palace and made it her own. Keeping with the Greek-Egyptian theme she added a few touches from her homeland to keep her sane. She sliced the sheer red curtain in half and sweat droplets formed on her forehead.

She heard the door open and spun around with the sword pointed at the intruder. Gabrielle's eyes blinked and Xena breathed heavily as she saw her friend standing a few inches away from the blade. She realized that Gabrielle was the intruder and shook her head, lowering the blade.

"Are you alright? You've been acting strange for a few days now." Gabrielle said and sat on Xena's bed.

Xena paced around the room and put the sword on the wall away from harm's way. "Yes..." she walked towards the mirror and saw her reflection. A few wrinkles were now apparent around her blue eyes. Her hair was wrapped up in a tight bun with her bangs slicked back. "I am old, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle smirked, "people get older, Xena. It happens to everybody, even you," she teased.

Xena shook her head and looked away no longer wanting to stare at her aging face. Though to others, she looked just the same, maybe even wiser as she aged. "It's not that Gabrielle," she walked out onto the balcony and her blonde companion followed her, wrapping her arm around her friend. "I am too old for this..." she waved her hand at the city of Cairo before her. "I will never defeat Octavius and his Empire. "My Empire is dying and I'm...afraid."

Gabrielle frowned, sensing her friend's distress in her voice. Her quietness was most upsetting. Xena never doubted herself and always had a plan but it was obvious that she was tired. Her eyes showed it well. The fire in her eyes had gone and it was almost as if she were losing herself in the process. She squeezed Xena's arm and received no response of affection towards her.

"It's okay to feel afraid, Xena. Everyone feels fear some time in their life," Gabrielle reassured her.

Xena shook her head once more, "no Gabrielle, I am not afraid. I do not fear the loss of my empire. I do not even fear death," she smiled weakly. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she did not want to think of that. They still had so many years left and the thought of death or even losing Xena was not an option, at least not now.

"so what are you afraid of?" Gabrielle asked quietly.

Xena peered down at her blonde friend with a smirk, "losing myself." Her eyes glanced over at the grand city below her and sighed deeply.

Gabrielle understood that. Xena had been going and going for over two decades now and it was not likely that she'd stop, but she sensed some defeat in her friend. She feared for her that she'd give up just for the sake of not losing. Xena was a sore loser and that was not in her vocabulary.

"Sometimes..." she looked up at Xena as she continued to gaze off at the city. "We need to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves."

Xena wrapped her arms around herself as a gush of wind blew by them. She smirked, "and who told you that? Some great philosopher?" she teased.

Gabrielle smiled as her cheeks blushed, "you. You told me that." She left Xena's side and sat on her bed chuckling to herself. Xena turned and saw her amused friend. "When I was young and lost I told myself that I would never forgive you for what you did, but I did, remember? It was like you were a different person in those days, now I feel as're becoming a different person for the third time, Xena..." she glanced up at her friend's confused expression.

She sighed and rubbed her head anxiously, ruffling her short blonde locks. "You were a horrible person when I met you then over the years you've changed, changed for good. Now when I look at you...I see that your eyes are not the same. You're not the same person any more, Xena and that's what scares me," she placed a warm hand over her heart.

Xena smiled sadly and sat down next to Gabrielle. "Sometimes, Gabrielle, people change as the years go by. I was not the same person I was twenty years ago and you aren't either. I am not the same person as I was yesterday or even a few hours ago," she smiled. "That's the good thing about being human, we change," her eyes traveled around the room in deep thought. She began to think she was spending so much time with Gabrielle, that she was beginning to sound like her.

Gabrielle nodded, "if that's true then...I don't like the way you've changed in these last few minutes," she grinned and stared into Xena's blue eyes. "I once saw a powerful woman and now I see an empty one with dull eyes staring back into my soul." She stood up and placed a hand on Xena's shoulder. "Whatever decisions you make you know I'll be there with you until the end."

"Like always," Xena admitted softly.

Gabrielle smiled, "like always," she repeated then left the room as Xena sat alone self pitying herself. Xena stood up and walked over to the mirror staring at her reflection again. She took the pins out of her bun and let her hair tumble down her back all the way to her waist. She ruffled her bangs separating each strand with her fingers. She took a cloth and wiped the black kohl off her eyes and took off the lip stain from her lips. The longer she stared at herself the more she saw the woman that Gabrielle explained. She was lost, not confused, but just lost.

Eve had been in the outskirts of Qin for the last week or so. Her mother insisted that she'd take a large group of men with her just in case something happened. At the age of twenty two she was quite independent and basically did whatever she wanted. As a princess of Greece she wanted to make sure that her message of the empire was spread peacefully and not by bloodshed –something Xena was not keen on.

Xena and Eve were vastly different in the sense that Eve wanted more peace and Xena constantly won wars through bloodshed over the years she tagged along in battles or stayed back in Athens listening to her mother argue with Gabrielle in her office about the Romans. Eve never understood why her mother hated the Romans so much as she did, but it wasn't like she didn't have good reason. The Roman Empire was expanding quickly and the Greek Empire was dwindling as the years went on. Xena was not winning small battles and though her people had faith in her, she lied to them, telling them everything was fine, when it definitely wasn't.

Eve came out of her tent and wrapped her red cape around her black armor, mimicking her mother's armor she wore so long ago. She appeared menacing but it was just for looks, nothing more. She walked to her men sitting around a fire and sat down with them warming her hands from the cold desert breeze.

"We should leave tomorrow morning to arrive in the Kingdom of Qin. We can't get anything done if we're out here," Eve smiled. The men nodded and then a scout came running towards them, a bit out of breath. Eve stood up ignoring the man's pleas and message when she saw a group of riders coming in on black horses, wearing dark clothes and had their faces covered except their eyes.

"Oh good, company," Eve smiled and grabbed her sword wrapping her black veil around her face, exposing only her bluest eyes. The riders came to a halt and the leader, she assumed, hopped off the giant stallion and approached her with a special hand signal, which she picked up on immediately. She had worked with mercenaries before but these people were a new group she hadn't seen before.

"What brings you to the land of Qin?" the rider asked in a muffled voice.

Eve's eyes darted from her men to his. "I could ask you the same question. I'm on a mission to spread the message of peace from the Greek Empire."

The man chuckled and sheathed his sword. "Message of peace from the Greeks? I find that hard to believe."

She smiled beneath her veil, "it's fine if you don't believe. What I say is true. If you trust me, disarm yourself of your weapons and my men will do the same."

The man eyed her carefully then looked to his men. He dropped his sword and his men followed suit. Eve nodded her head at her men and they did the same as her. She threw her sword in the sand and the man bowed his head generously at the Greek Princess.

Awhile later Eve sat down with the black riders. Both of the leaders, Eve and this mysterious man, did not reveal their true identities and remained shielded by their black face veils. Eve shared food and wine with the men and they agreed to join in with the others. Eve stared at the man and his eyes were so green, they reminded her of Gabrielle's eyes –so sweet, kind and yet strong.

"I never heard of the Greek Empire spreading peace," the man blurted out.

Eve smiled fixing her veil around her face. "It is the only way to keep the Romans at bay. The more peace we spread, the more followers we have."

The man nodded in silence and watched the fire burn. "You are not a mercenary." He stated. This caught Eve off guard and she didn't really know how to answer this man. It was true she was not a mercenary but he was so bold to say so.

He chuckled, "for all I know you could be..." he stared at her blue eyes for quite some time then looked away.

Eve frowned, "could be what?" she asked and when he didn't answer she started to become irritated. Standing up she put her hands on her hips.

The man glanced up at her, "nothing. You just remind me of someone I used to know a long time ago."

Eve's temper died down and she sat next to the cloaked man again, feeling a bit embarrassed getting so angry so quickly. "She had eyes as blue as the Aegean Sea and she was wild, like the fire here," he smiled beneath his veil.

She grinned at his kind words. "She sounds beautiful." He bobbed his head in agreement and sat in silence for a few minutes thinking quietly to himself. "To be honest, you look like a mercenary but you aren't one," she slyly said.

The man frowned, "what makes you say that?"

She shrugged, "mercenaries don't sit down and talk for hours on end. They get told a command and go on about their duties. I've been working with them for awhile now. The Empress wants a lot of feedback on her empire," she proudly smiled, thinking of her mother and her strides.

The man scoffed, "I have not seen the Empress come out of her grand palace in years," he mocked.

Eve let that comment slide. She didn't want to give this person too many details about her mother or herself so she changed the subject. "You've met the empress before?" she curiously asked.

He nodded, "once. A really long time ago. I'm sure if she saw me again she wouldn't recognize me, but I would definitely recognize her..." he snarled.

"I know that she hurt a lot of people in her past," Eve admitted sadly. She had seen many deaths in her short life by her mother's sword and she couldn't say she was proud of it.

"She killed my father," he said bluntly and Eve felt a knot in her throat. Though she had seen many deaths in her life she had never really spoke to someone who's loved one died by her mother's blade or army. The only person she saw die was Phraates and she was a child then. She couldn't grasp anything that went on during that innocent part of her life.

Eve didn't quite know what to say and the man chuckled. "It's alright, that was a long time ago and I have forgiven the empress for that. I am a better person than my father ever was!" he said proudly. Eve smiled, glad to hear something positive come out of this tragedy.

"so what are you doing in Qin? I know you're not working for the Greek Empire," she teased.

The man sighed and smoothed out his face veil, concealing his identity. "I am scouting the area for a special someone." He winked, "secret business." Eve smiled nodding her head, completely understanding. He stood up and stretched his legs. "My men and I must be going. We have a lot more land to cover. Thank you for the hospitality," he extended his hand and Eve shook it firmly. "Perhaps we will cross paths again."

"Perhaps we will," Eve stood up and he left with his men following behind him. She watched them mount their horses and ride off into the darkness of the desert. She removed the face veil and squinted her eyes as she saw them disappear from the campsite. She snapped to one of her mother's men and the commander came running to her aid. "I want them followed," she demanded.

Lykus frowned, "Xena does not want you to engage in dangerous missions, princess," he advised as politely as he could.

Eve frowned, "I said I want them followed!" she retreated to her tent and Lykus groaned commanding some men to go follow the black riders and report back what they saw if they found anything.

As she entered her tent she gasped as she saw a woman laying down on the ground wearing a purple gown. Her raven straight hair draped over her shoulders and her golden eyes pierced through her soul.

"Hello there," Eris smiled.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Xena sat in front of the mirror putting on gold earrings and a necklace to match. Throughout her entire life she had not been a glutton for jewelry but in this land it was seen strange if she did not at least appear to be royalty. She sighed and put her hair in a long ponytail and slicked back her bangs with golden headband. She noticed the Egyptians really enjoyed fine white linen but she was not going to adopt everything here. She wore her traditional black short sleeve dress with a mesh shawl wrapped around her shoulders. After examining herself in the mirror for the millionth time she exited her room to find Gabrielle.

One of the servant girls came running towards her and she knelt down holding up a scroll. Xena smiled and gently lifted the girl up. Xena ripped off the ribbon on the scroll and unrolled the parchment. "Ugh Latin," she grumbled. She brushed passed the servant girl to find Gabrielle.

After awhile of searching the long deserted halls she finally found Gabrielle in one of their large meeting rooms. Gabrielle smiled weakly at her and continued organizing scrolls on shelves in alphabetical order. Xena stepped in and folded her arms, a bit embarrassed to ask Gabrielle to read this for her. She had just given up on that language of the Romans many years ago.

Gabrielle turned around and saw Xena still standing at the entrance with a scroll in her arms. "Do you need to me to read something?" she teased.

Xena marched forward and handed the scroll to her friend. The blonde smirked and took it from her. "Oh," Gabrielle's eyes twinkled, "your favorite language!" Xena rolled her eyes and sat down in a chair resting her chin on her palm waiting for Gabrielle to decipher the text. "It's from Solan and Allat!" she beamed and this caught Xena's attention and a warm smile appeared on her lips. Gabrielle sat down next to her and then Xena saw a distinct frown form on her friend's lips.

"What does it say?" Xena scooted to the edge of her seat and Gabrielle rolled up the scroll rubbing her chin. "Gabrielle, you can tell me. Gods knows that I have seen horrible things in my life," she joked. Gabrielle looked in her eyes and Xena frowned standing up.

"They lost the territories to the Roman Empire..." Gabrielle sadly admitted. Xena buried her face in her hands then she left the room in a hurry. Gabrielle blinked and then ran after her. "Where are you going?"

Xena stormed down the hall as Gabrielle ran after her. "I'm going to write a letter to the Roman Emperor," she smiled tightly. Gabrielle crinkled her nose and pulled Xena's arm.

"But you don't write," Gabrielle stared at her with a confused face. Xena snatched her arm away from her and she frowned. "Let me write it!" she called out and Xena halted turning her head over her shoulder. "You don't exactly have a good reputation for writing in Latin," she half smiled. Xena nodded and Gabrielle followed her into her bedroom.

Hours later Gabrielle had gone through four parchments trying to write exactly what Xena wanted written down but she was being so indecisive which was very unlike her. She could tell by her constant pacing that she was not acting like herself. Gabrielle threw the quill down and Xena stopped pacing.

"What are you doing? I'm not finished yet –"

Gabrielle stood up and slammed her fist on the table, "we've been in here for hours and we haven't written a single proper letter!" she groaned and Xena blinked, a bit shocked at her friend's frustration. Gabrielle sat back down and dipped the quill into the ink and grabbed a fresh parchment. "I'm going to write this and when I'm finished I'll read it to you."

Xena shook her head, "but Gabrielle I..."

"No Xena! Just go sit down and wait until I'm done. You're starting to irritate me," Gabrielle huffed and began writing. Xena did as she said and sat down in a chair as she watched her intensely as she jotted some words down.

Gabrielle's eyes peered up and saw Xena's intense stare and suddenly she couldn't focus with that look in her eyes. "On second thought why don't I just leave your room and continue this down the can wait here," she smiled and exited the room leaving Xena alone. As soon as Gabrielle walked down the hall she was glad to be out of that room. Xena's pent up energy was clouding her mind and preventing her from thinking. She had observed Xena's odd behavior for quite some time now but had not asked her about it. She thought maybe that it was because she wasn't in Athens anymore and in a strange land. Her palace in Athens was now turned into a school and run by teachers.

Xena told Gabrielle that she no longer wanted to live in Greece as it only brought her problems but Gabrielle didn't think that's why Xena wanted to leave. She was either up to something or something was bothering her, she couldn't tell. They had been in Egypt for over a year now and it wasn't that much different than Greece except it was very hot, extraordinarily hot. The people of Egypt did not seem the least bit fazed by Xena becoming the leader of Egypt. She figured that these people have had many leaders throughout their lives and the last one Cleopatra, wasn't a great one. Though, Xena had yet to touch on changing the laws of Cleopatra's dynasty since she moved here. After Cleopatra died Xena had control of some territories but Octavius was able to weasel his way into the Egyptian kingdom and have guards posted there. Xena drove them out very quickly as she wanted to make sure that Egypt was ruled by a woman, not by a man.

Octavius had shown his gratitude by sending Xena many bribes to convince her to give Egypt to him, though none of them worked. Xena turned his gifts and bribes away. She was more disgusted that he would stoop so low to bribe her. She figured that the Emperor was growing tired of her and wanted to wipe her out.

Xena tapped her fingers on the armrests of the chair as she waited in her bedroom while Gabrielle wrote the letter. She grew tired of waiting and grabbed her sword to practice while she waited. She did not like to waste time and sitting there wasn't going to make Gabrielle write any faster.

She swung the sword to her side and stood in a defense mode. She circled around herself and then heard something. She swiftly turned around and thrust the sword forward into the intruder's chest. Ares looked down at the sword in his chest and Xena smiled.

He took a step backwards and the sword slid out of his torso. She twirled the blade in her wrist with a sly smile. "What are you doing here, Ares? Haven't you had enough of me?" she teased and set her sword on the bed.

The War God thought about it and said, "no I haven't. I've been watching you Xena for many years."

"What a surprise," she rolled her eyes. She held out her palms and smiled endearingly, "come on, tell me what you've come for."

Ares folded his arms, "you haven't changed at all. You like to get right to the meat, that's what I like about you!" he chuckled and sat on her bed comfortably. She raised an eyebrow at him and her lip quivered at his relaxed state. She swatted him off her bed and he got up holding his hand up in his defense. "Alright, alright!" he sighed and she folded her arms staring at him.

"I'm not getting any younger, Ares. Tell me what you've come for and then I'll tell you' no' then send you on your merry way. Sound familiar enough?" she smiled and Ares pursed his lips at her. He was too predictable, he gathered.

"speaking of youth," he pulled out the blue bottle from his vest and Xena eyed it cautiously. "I have a proposition for you."

Xena scoffed, "we both know your propositions don't end up as you've planned. Do you think I am still the little girl you once found all those years ago? Get out of my palace," she shooed him away and he remained standing there. She went to the mirror and fixed her eyeliner on her eyes. Ares appeared behind her and she frowned. "I thought I told you to get lost?"

"Hear me out then I'll leave," he smiled and she turned to face him with a knowing disbelieving look. "Promise," he snickered. She sighed and folded her arms waiting for him to explain himself. He held the blue vial in front of her eyes and she eyed it as he swayed it back and forth. Her eyes followed the vial and she creased her brows.

"this little bottle of magic is just for you. It can make you younger with just a few drops," he teased her and she eyed the bottle then stared into his dark eyes.

"Do I look like someone who is a glutton for vanity?" she raised an eyebrow and the War God grabbed her turning her around to see her reflection in the mirror. He touched her high cheekbone with the backside of his hand and she snatched her face away.

"If you use can become almost immortal. Look at your face, Xena," he placed his hands on her shoulders as she stared at herself. "You were not the same as you were thirty years ago," he whispered in her ear.

Xena blinked, getting caught off guard by his seductive voice. "Everyone gets old, Ares. I am not excluded from this cycle of life," she stepped away from the mirror and went to the balcony overlooking Cairo.

Ares came up beside her and sighed watching the busy city go on about their daily routine. He saw the Mediterranean Sea not far from here and smiled. "You once used your looks to get what you wanted Xena and can't do that," he slyly smiled as he saw her face change from stoic to solemn in a few moments. He snapped his fingers and the blue vial appeared in his palm. "Just keep it. Think of it as...a gift...from me," he grinned. He put the bottle in her palm and folded her fingers over it. she stared up at him with a blank face.

"I always knew you were destined for greatness Xena," he winked and disappeared in a flash. Xena let out a large sigh then stared at the small vial in her palm. The temptation was obvious and she felt herself wanting to open the bottle and see what it was capable of doing. She uncorked the bottle and peered inside. The liquid was quite thick and a strange color, but it did smell nice, very nice.

"Alright, I think you're going to like this," Gabrielle came into the bedroom and Xena quickly corked the bottle and slipped it down her dress. Gabrielle looked at Xena as she stood on the balcony. "What are you doing over there?"

Xena smiled and came forward close to her friend. She touched her hand and looked into her green eyes. "Just admiring the city. Let me see what you have," she sat down in a chair and Gabrielle frowned then unrolled the scroll to read what she had written.

Eve drew her sword and pointed it at the mysterious woman inside of her tent. Eris grinned and stood up at least two feet taller than the princess. Her mouth gaped at the woman's height and the goddess didn't realize that she seemed more menacing. She snapped her fingers and shrunk down to mortal size, about Eve's height.

"Better?" Eris grinned and Eve backed away slowly.

"Olympian gods are obviously trying to distract me," Eve snarled and sheathed her sword as she knew this would not be any use against a goddess.

Eris walked around Eve and touched her dark hair. "You know your gods." She gathered and smiled wickedly, "but do you know who I am?" she pointed to herself and Eve shook her head 'no'. "I should really build some more temples in Greece!" she huffed. The dark haired goddess casually sat down on the floor and Eve didn't want to come close to her. "No matter, I'll just introduce myself. My name is –"

"I don't care what your name is. I don't want anything to do with the Olympians," Eve interjected. Eris blinked, a bit surprised at the young woman's behavior.

The goddess twirled her hair around her finger and chuckled. "Wow, you really are like your mother." Eve's eyes widened. The goddess grinned, "your mother's name has made its rounds around Olympus for many years, princess. Don't act so surprised." Eris stood up rolling her eyes. "Xena this, Xena that. I'm pretty sure if not for Ares, she'd be wiped out by now!" she threw her hands in the air at her own frustration.

Eve knew who Ares was, though she had never seen him before. Her mother told her never to talk to Ares or any other Olympian gods for that matter. The dark haired goddess circled around her and Eve closed her eyes, feeling the woman's long fingernails graze her skin. "So, Xena has you wandering around these strange lands all by yourself?" she hissed. Eve refused to answer and looked up at the ceiling trying not to give into this goddess' words.

"I heard you sent out a few men after those riders. Dumb move, if I do say so myself."

Eve frowned, "it's not dumb! I want to see where they are heading."

Eris tisked and wagged her finger in the princess's face. "So you defy your mother's orders to see who those riders are?" she shook her head disappointingly. "You seem like a good girl but you have a rebellious heart," she traced Eve's heart with her fingernails and Eve winced as she felt the heat radiating off the goddess' fingers. She backed away slapping Eris' hand out of the way. The goddess frowned as she didn't like being the one out of control. She grabbed Eve by her throat and lifted her in the air with ease. "Don't do that again. Ares may be more forgiving towards your mother, but I won't be!" her gold eyes glowed and Eve coughed as she threw her down on the ground.

"About those riders," Eris waltzed over to a pile of pillows and sat down making herself comfortable. Eve coughed and rubbed her throat, still feeling the burning of the woman's hands wrapped around her neck. "I think you'll be very disappointed once you find out who they are or maybe..."

Eve stood at a fair distance from the goddess, "or maybe what?" she snarled.

Eris smirked, "never mind. Anyway, I didn't come down here to torture you, though it was fun even if it was just for a moment." Eve opened her mouth to speak and Eris waved her hand, rendering Eve mute. "No talking," she wagged her finger.

Eve touched her lips and she opened her mouth but not a sound came from her lips. Eris chuckled at the young princess. She was far too easy to manipulate. If Xena were here, she would have already done something irrational. Eris was thankful that Eve was not as skilled as her mother. "I'll let you talk again if you promise to do something for me and stay quiet about it, got it?" she narrowed her eyes. Eve shook her head folding her arms.

Eris sighed heavily and tapped her fingers on her hip as she laid down comfortably. "Fine. I hope you know some sign language." She grinned and disappeared. Eve's eyes widened and she tried to scream but couldn't. she touched her throat and felt nothing. This is just great! She picked up a vase and threw it on the ground to express her anger.

A soldier ran into her tent and saw the broken vase on the ground smashed into pieces. "Are you alright, princess?"

Eve frowned and pushed him out of the way exiting the tent. He rubbed his head in confusion but followed behind her. She mounted her horse and wrapped the veil around her face. The men stood up from the campfire and stared at her waiting for her command. She opened her mouth and soon forgot that she had no voice. She waved her hand forward and gestured them to follow her. All the men stared at one another thinking it odd that she didn't speak but they mounted their horses and followed her as they head north of the outskirts of Qin.

Gabrielle finished reading the scroll and waited on Xena's response. She saw that her eyes were fixated on something or something in her mind. She rolled her eyes and snapped her fingers in front of Xena. "Did you even hear anything I said?" she pouted.

Xena shook her head and adjusted in the seat. "Of course I did, Gabrielle," she waved her hand dismissively.

The blonde didn't believe her. She folded her arms doubting her friend. "Okay then tell me what the last line said." She pressured her and Xena smiled weakly. "Xena! I worked really hard on this and you didn't even listen to me!"

Xena groaned and stood up, "alright, alright. I'm sorry, for Zeus sake Gabrielle, you're giving me a headache."

"The only person who's giving you a headache is yourself!" Gabrielle threw down the parchment on Xena's bed and the empress turned with shocked eyes. "Don't look at me like that! You've been acting strange ever since we came here and now..." she sighed as she realized yelling was not getting through to Xena and she was being ignored. "Something is wrong with you and I don't know what it is."

Xena's eyes lowered and she folded her arms. She had kept that vision locked away inside of her for many years and Ares always wants to come in with his stupid propositions and mix her emotions up all over again. She didn't want to tell Gabrielle and she wouldn't –she couldn't. She thought it'd be best if she stayed quiet and not speak of it. maybe if she didn't speak of it then it wouldn't come true.

"I'll read the scroll before I go to bed," Xena remained facing forward with her back turned on Gabrielle.

Gabrielle cocked her head to the side, "but you can barely read Latin..." she thought this was obvious to Xena and since she remained silent in her response she figured that she was just using her sly words because she wanted to be left alone. "Don't be push me away Xena." She walked towards the exit and saw Xena still standing there by the balcony. "If you need to talk to me, you know where to find me."

Xena nodded her head slowly, "yes I know," she responded in a low voice and heard Gabrielle's footsteps leave her room. She turned around and saw she was alone. She was around Gabrielle and many people constantly but she felt alone, more than ever. She took out the vial hidden inside her dress and stared at it, frowning. She set it on her bedside table and sat on the bed looking at it, as if waiting for an attack.

She grabbed the bottle and uncorked it wafting the scent close to her nose. The smell was almost intoxicating. Though she was never one for gloating over her looks, Ares did have a point. She often used her charm and sexuality to get what she wanted for half of her life and now that she couldn't, she had to rely on her other skills more than others to get what she wanted. It wasn't working at all for the last five years especially since Octavius was expanding his empire very quickly and efficiently.

Xena put the bottle close to her nose letting the scent engulf her nostrils. The temptation was almost something unworldly. She felt as if the bottle was speaking to her. She was more than tempted to pour a drop onto her skin but she resisted. She corked the bottle and put it in a drawer in her table and laid down staring at the table for several minutes.

Gabrielle leaned on the wall as she watched Xena seal the tiny bottle and put it back in her drawer. She frowned knowing something was definitely up with her. She crept into the room and scrawled on the bed sitting close to her. Xena felt a body come close to her and she knew it was Gabrielle.

"What's in that bottle?" the blonde asked. Xena sat up and turned to look at her friend with a half smile.

"Something that plays with life," Xena said cryptically. Gabrielle didn't understand so she continued, "Ares came by with another one of his propositions. He didn't give me a chance to reject him."

Gabrielle's eyes widened, "Ares came to you? I haven't seen him in years!" she saw the distress in her friend's eyes and rested her palm on her knee. "Xena, we both know Ares is trouble. Nothing good comes from him." Xena nodded in agreement. "So...what does the...what does the bottle have in it?"

Xena pulled out the vial and examined it. "I don't know. He said something about youth and that it can make you younger. I don't really know."

"The elixir of youth. It belongs to one of the Muses on Mount Parnassus," Gabrielle said and Xena blinked. "I read about it when I was a little girl. "I thought it wasn't real, but I guess anything is possible." Gabrielle eyed the bottle and took it from Xena placing it back in the drawer. "Xena, that stuff could be dangerous. There could be effects..."

Xena smiled, "I wasn't going to use it Gabrielle. Just going to keep it for insurance."

Gabrielle grinned, liking to hear some of the old Xena once again. "Glad to hear you being yourself again." She kissed Xena's hand and Xena grinned in response. "Have you heard from Eve?"

The empress shook her head with a sad frown. "Not for a few weeks. I know she wants to do things by herself but I still worry about her."

"Me too but she's a strong young woman now. She's not a little girl, though she could definitely handle a few men even as a little girl," she chuckled. Xena shared a laugh with her friend. "Hopefully she comes back with good news."

"Yes, hopefully."

Chapter Text

AN: oh Enjoy and sorry for not updating this. I don't really like writing sequels to be honest, but I'm putting my best effort forward to create a new storyline for this story. Of course some overlap will occur, but anyway. Rambling. Enjoy and let me know ya'lls thoughts! :)

Chapter 3

Eve rode through the outskirts of northern Qin to look for those riders. She touched her throat, begging to speak but her speech was lost to her. Grimacing she pulled the reins of the horse and continued riding onward with her mother's men following behind her.

After riding for awhile she spotted the riders and approached them with her sword pointed at the man she met before. He stood up with his hands up and she nudged him to come closer to her. He inched closer and she pointed the blade closer to his chest. He frowned at her, "I thought we were friends?"

Eve opened her mouth to protest but she was mute. Groaning she sheathed her sword and the young man took a generous step back. This was going to be difficult to communicate with her voice lost to her. She snapped her fingers at her men and took a rope out of her bag and handed it to one of her men. The young man pulled out his dagger and Eve's eyes narrowed.

"I thought you were spreading peace?" he yelled at her and she remained silent. "You've gone dumb or something?" he scoffed and the man tied him up and knocked out his men following him. "What are you doing?!" he spat at her as she sat proudly on her horse. The men took him away and hoisted him on top of a vacant horse. She kicked her horse and rode off to leave Qin. She needed to get back to Cairo to see her mother and Gabrielle. She knew that this man could possibly be a spy or something which is why she wanted him followed.

Xena wanted her to spread peace across the vast amount of land beyond Greece and so far she has done so, but she had to bring this man back to Cairo as she didn't trust him for whatever reason.

Hours later they slowed to a trot and Eve saw the sun rising in the east, they were far, far from Cairo but getting closer to Persia. She peered behind her and saw the man asleep on the horse sitting up. She smirked and continued leading her men into the Persian lands. She had been here before and was to make sure that she'd never return. Out of all the places to spread peace, Xena said never approach Persia, for obvious reasons. The past had damaged any sort of peace treaty there so long ago.

Eris appeared sitting behind Eve on the horse and touched her arm gently. Eve gasped and turned to face the mysterious goddess. "Want your voice back?" she hissed into her ear. Eve frowned and said nothing, obviously. She didn't even dare look at her either. "Can't talk to your precious mother with no voice now can you? She'll know something is up," she grinned wickedly. She wrapped her arm around Eve's slim waist and the princess's eyes widened, not moving. She was still as stone, refusing to react violently as others would see.

Eve looked around to see her men focused on the road ahead. Eris grinned and chuckled lowly. "Don't worry you're the only one that can see me." She sighed. "So how 'bout listening to my offer, huh?" eve shook her head and furrowed her brows trotting faster. Eris looked behind her and saw the young man wake up from the horse's sudden pace startling him. "That man, he's cute isn't he?" Eve did not react and Eris touched Eve's face with her long slender hands. "I did some digging into your past. That man is closer to you than you think, Eve. Tell you what! I'll let you have your voice back when you reach Cairo but not a word about me to Xena, got it?"

She contemplated the goddess' words and she relented, nodding her head. Eris pinched Eve's cheek and she grimaced. "Good girl, but one more thing before I go." Eve peered behind her to see her gold eyes staring back at her. "You must do everything I say and leave your wretched mother out of it!" she frowned deeply then disappeared. Eve sighed heavily finally able to breathe normally now that she was gone. Xena had told Eve about the Olympians and how they like to toy with mortals' emotions periodically. She was beginning to think that she was right. Eve had no idea what this goddess wanted or why she chose her. She hadn't even told her what exactly she wanted her to do, but she was sure that she'd find out and soon.

A week passed by in Cairo and Xena was expecting Solan to return any day now. She woke up early and dressed in her black dress with a beaded belt around her waist. She walked to the entrance and saw Gabrielle already waiting outside of the palace waiting for Solan to arrive, though with horrible news, it would be nice to him after many months of being away.

Gabrielle felt Xena's presence behind her and she smiled. "Kora told me that she saw men on horseback on the Nile." She peered up and saw a smile on Xena's lips, a genuine one at that, something she hadn't seen in a very long time. "I know he'll be very happy to see you," she winked.

Xena placed her hands on Gabrielle's shoulders, squeezing them lightly. "Ten months and five days," she said softly and Gabrielle pat her dear friend's hand. Both looked at the gates and the large doors were opened. Solan rode on a white horse wearing Assyrian armor and a large helmet with a black plume on top. He waved at them and Xena's smile widened. She then left Gabrielle's side and came down the steps almost jogging to greet her son she hadn't seen in so long.

Solan dismounted the horse and walked forward embracing his mother warmly. Though he was not a child anymore, he was still seen as one in Xena's eyes. He pulled away from the embrace and took off his helmet handing it to Kora, one of Xena's trusted maids in the palace. He touched Xena's cheek and her eyes lit up. "You look tired, mother," he said solemnly and she grabbed his hand squeezing it tightly.

"I am always tired," she smirked and Solan chuckled then peered behind her to see Gabrielle waiting anxiously. He smiled and instantly ran towards Gabrielle and hugged her so tight he lifted her off the ground.

She coughed, "Solan!" Gabrielle gasped and he set her back down on the ground. She cleared her throat and brushed her black knee length skirt off. "Nice to see you again!" she smiled and he kissed her cheek softly.

Immediately he thought of something he nearly forgot. "I brought back you guys something!" he smiled and pulled out not a scroll but a loosely woven book from his bag. He presented it to Gabrielle bound in nice leather. "For you Gabrielle."

She took the gift and examined it closely. She frowned and opened up the bounded papers in awe at the organization of it all. "What is this?" she stared up at him.

"It's a book. Allat's scholars in Assyria put it together just for you. I know you really like philosophers, so these are the philosophers from Assyria and Persia combined into one manuscript!" he grinned and Gabrielle hugged him warmly, thanking him. He then whistled at one of his men to bring out his mother's gift. "I got something for you too mother," he slyly smiled.

Xena shook her head, "you didn't have to do that. I have everything I need," she politely rejected and Solan tisked then one of his men brought out a blonde horse. He grabbed the reins and placed them in Xena's palm, closing her hand tightly. "I know she's no Argo, but she's a really good horse. Allat said I could give her to you. I know you'd take good care of her." He smiled and Xena blinked, not sure what to say. Argo died years ago and she hadn't had another horse since then, but this horse looked almost just like her.

"I...don't know what to say," Xena stepped forward and brushed her hand on the horse's mane. Solan shrugged and admired the happiness he saw in his mother's eyes. He knew that she did not like gifts unless they could be used and were meaningful. He figured that she could use this horse and get out of the palace since she hadn't left, he supposed, since he and Eve left.

"You don't have to say anything," he said softly. "I brought back a new strategy game from Assyria for Eve. Is she here?" he scanned the area and Xena shook her head. He frowned in response and Xena pulled the reins of the horse, gesturing for all three to come inside the palace.

Awhile later the three sat in a private chamber close to Xena's room and Solan leaned back in the chair, now out of his heavy armor, wearing only white pants and tan tunic. He swished the glass of water in his hand and shook his head. "She's still in Qin? I thought she'd be back by now."

Gabrielle nodded, "so did we. She hasn't sent a word back to us since she left six months ago," she sighed and Xena remained quiet, staring off into dead space. Solan looked to his mother and soon Gabrielle's eyes followed his. They both noticed the strange look in her eyes. "Are you alright?" she asked aloud.

Xena turned her head with a weak smile. "I think I have made a mistake letting her go off on her own. I should have gone with her," she sighed, rubbing her chin nervously then scratched her knee.

"Xena stop it," Gabrielle's eyes looked to her insolent scratching. "Eve is an adult now. She is fine, probably busy, nothing to worry about."

Solan smiled trying to lighten the mood. "Yeah, she's probably beating up some guys," he chuckled and both women turned to him with a glare. He sunk lower in the chair. "Or maybe she's not...?" he sheepishly smiled. "We all know that she can probably beat me up!" he laughed aloud and Gabrielle hit him in the shoulder. He winced and rubbed his arm then stood up. "Well ladies...I'm going to leave you two alone while I go get myself situated." He turned to leave then halted, staring at his mother. "I need to talk to you about Octavius later...if you have time," Xena nodded, waving her hand dismissively and he smiled, exiting the room.

Gabrielle turned her attention onto Xena now that they were alone. She knelt down close to her and held her hand in hers. "She'll be alright, just wait," she grinned trying to reassure her then kissed her hand and Xena sighed.

Late in the night Xena refused to come to dinner, allowing herself to be locked away in her room. She did not even let Gabrielle in, which she was not happy about. Xena stared at her reflection in the mirror as she began taking off her earrings and wiping the lipstick off her lips and eyeliner around her eyes. She felt hands come to her shoulders and she tensed up. Her eyes went to the mirror and saw Ares standing behind her and she frowned. "What do you want now?"

He grinned, "just admiring you, is that not allowed anymore?" he teased and she ignored him, continuing her nightly routine. "You miss Eve, I can tell." She paused and stared at the earrings in her hands. She threw them in the jewelry box and grimaced. "Octavius is on the move too in Assyria," he tisked mockingly. "I know that's got to eat you up inside," he hissed in her ear and she shivered as he was nearing.

She stood up and turned to face him. "Whatever you're doing it's not going to work."

He sighed and folded his arms staring at her as she began to fix the sheets on her bed. "Silk sheets. Look at you, living the high life while others starve." Xena pulled back the sheets then breathed in slowly trying to calm herself, not allowing herself to give into Ares' manipulative ways. "You let your precious Eve go into Qin all alone and for what? To spread a message of peace?" he smirked. "HA! If that isn't the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard coming from you!"

Xena took the sword out from beneath the mattress and thrust it into Ares' torso. He gasped then raised an eyebrow at her. "If only you were a mortal, just for a day Ares," she smirked. "You wouldn't last one minute." She pulled out the blade and paced around her room. "I see coming to torture me has become a bit of a hobby of yours."

Ares rolled his eyes. "Right and getting all mushy with Gabrielle is yours," he teased and Xena glared at him. "Oh yeah, I went there." He looked to her bedside table with her chakram lying on top of it. he opened the drawer and pulled out the vial that he gave her. "I see you haven't used it yet." He nodded shaking the bottle and the liquid glowed a bright purple.

Xena stared at the bottle in his hands and he smiled deviously at her. "You miss it don't you?"

"Miss what?" she snapped and he shrugged nonchalantly.

"Being in the war zone. All the killing, the fighting, etcetera!" he came behind her and wrapped his arm around her slim waist. "Being an empress become too boring for you huh?" he whispered in her ear. He pulled the cork off the bottle and wafted it in front of her nose. She closed her eyes, ignoring his tempting ways. "Just take it, you will become invincible."

Xena growled and pushed him away. "I don't want to be invincible! I want to be normal!" she shouted then he blinked. She touched her mouth not believing what she just said. She hadn't even told Gabrielle how she had been feeling, but she mistakenly told Ares.

He began laughing and this only angered Xena even more. Her blood began boiling within her veins and his laughter boomed through the room. "Can...can you repeat that?" he mocked. "Normal! Oh Xena you really know how to tell a joke," he pushed the vial in her face becoming serious again. "Take it." she waved her hand and took a step back. "Do it, Xena! Or I'll make Eve mine and maybe even Gabrielle too," he shrugged, "just for shits and giggles," he winked. Xena's eyes widened. She didn't want Ares to come near Eve at all. He remained in the shadows for her entire life and she didn't need him coming around destroying that. And Gabrielle...she frowned at the War God and he smiled enticingly at her.

"We all know how this can end. Eve becomes my new warrior queen leading a life of destruction and war or..." he pushed the vial into her face. "you can take this and I'll leave her alone...leave everything alone," he whispered.

A knock was heard on her door and Xena gasped. She heard Gabrielle's voice behind the door and she stared back at the War God. He raised his eyebrows and uncorked the bottle. "Come on..."

"Why? Why Ares? Why do you want me to do this? What do you get out of it?" she grimaced.

He sighed heavily. "I just want to see you rise to the top, Xena. Your boat is sinking and quickly too if I might add," he smirked and Xena heard Gabrielle now yelling at her. She went back and forth between the two. Ares held the uncorked bottle in his hand and she frowned. "Perhaps you'd like to see Gabrielle reunited with all those dead philosophers?" he grinned and Xena's eyes widened.

She dropped the sword and stepped forward, ignoring Gabrielle behind the door. I'm so sorry, Gabrielle. She took the vial and tipped it over ever so slightly and two drops of the liquid fell onto her wrist. Quickly it dissipated and dissolved into her skin immediately. Ares' eyes lit up just looking at it. she examined her hand and found nothing strange happening, nothing weird. He stared into her eyes and she instantly regretted doing this. She just made a deal with Hades, she thought. Though, Ares was far worse than Hades.

"Next time I'll use the blonde in another crisis. She is useful after all!" he grinned and disappeared. Xena looked to her wrist and found nothing odd. She then realized that Gabrielle was still rapping on her door and more frequently, her voice spoke of urgency.

"Xena!" Gabrielle yelled and the door swung open. She saw Xena with unkempt hair and wild eyes. She blinked and stared at her strange appearance. "What in Gaia's name were you doing in there that you couldn't answer the damn door?!" she set her hands on her hips angrily staring at her friend.

Xena ignored her question. "What do you want, Gabrielle?" she said in a soft calm tone. Gabrielle groaned and ran her fingers through her short locks.

"I've received word that Eve is on a ship to Cairo right now. She should be arriving by tomorrow morning," she thought that would lighten her friend's mood but so far she seemed unfazed. She folded her arms and stared skeptically in her eyes.

A delayed response of a smile came to Xena's lips. "That's great news," she said unconvincingly then went back into her room tucking the bottle into her dress so Gabrielle wouldn't see. Gabrielle closed the door behind her and Xena sat on the bed, back turned to her.

"What is the matter with you?" Gabrielle ran to Xena and faced her. She saw a foreign look in her eyes, almost as if she feared something. "Did something happen?" she knelt down and touched her hands and Xena remained quiet. "This is not the time for the silent treatment, Xena." Still no response and Gabrielle stood up frustrated with her. "Fine, if that's how you want to play it." she paced with a mocking smile. "You know, I don't know if it was something I did...or I don't know, talk to me, Xena!" she yelled.

Xena stared out into the open balcony at the dark sky. "Gabrielle..." she said quietly and then slowly turned her head to face her. "I need to tell you something that I've been keeping from you.."

Gabrielle's face softened and she sat next to Xena on the bed, grabbing a hold of her hand. "For how long?" she asked barely above a whisper.

She smiled weakly, "for a very...very long time," she admitted sadly. "Do you remember when we took Eve to the inner city of Athens when she was seven?" she spoke softly and Gabrielle nodded her head. "Ares showed me something," she began and turned to see the malice in Gabrielle's eyes. She sighed, "he showed me the future –our future." She stared up at the ceiling not sure how to word this. "I saw Eve in Athens, commanding an entire army. Then I saw were fighting against her, Gabrielle." She sighed heavily. Gabrielle remained quiet, knowing that Ares' little mind tricks were quite famous in the past. "And...I was dead," her eyes widened.

Gabrielle didn't want to hear that. She couldn't hear that and stood up, facing her. "What do you mean dead?!" she yelled frustrated at this entire picture that Xena painted. She stared up at her and Gabrielle began pacing back and forth. "So you decided to keep this from me for...fifteen years?" she yelled and Xena had no good reason for that. She settled down then sat down next to Xena taking everything in.

She inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly for a few silent moments. Xena remained still and staring at her hands in her lap. Gabrielle peered over at her friend and she couldn't be angry with her, though it was easy to be. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Xena groaned, "because I didn't want it to come true! I thought if I didn't talk about it then it would just go away."

She felt the need to slap Xena for saying such pathetic words. "So you decided to run away from the problem? That's not like you..." she stared off into the dark skies contemplating the correct words to say at the moment. "Is that why you've been acting strange? Is that what is on your mind?" Xena remained silent so she took that as an affirmative 'yes'. "I see. I thought we agreed no secrets between us?"

Xena rolled her eyes, "Gabrielle I don't need a lecture. I know what I did was wrong and I'm...sorry. when Ares showed up recently it only made me think about it even more. And with Eve gone for so long..." she folded her arms and Gabrielle wrapped her arm around her body.

"We're supposed to do things together. Remember when you were pregnant with Eve?" she smiled and Xena half smiled thinking of those difficult times. "You said that you were glad that you weren't alone because you had me there, remember?" Xena nodded. "'re not alone, not ever. I'll always be with you, Xena, but don't shut me out." Those words were echoed into Xena's mind far too many times over the years by Gabrielle.

Xena nodded her head and stared into those green eyes she had loved to look at for so many years. "Can you forgive me?" she pleaded.

Gabrielle smiled smugly. "I'll have to think about it," she teased and Xena half smiled at her companion's joke. She stood up then Xena grabbed her hand gently.

"Gabrielle, would you..." she smiled embarrassed to admit herself. Gabrielle smirked and pulled back the sheets and laid down in the empty spot next to Xena. She grinned at her blonde friend and laid down under the sheets, staring at her in the dark. "Thank you."

The blonde reclined on the soft pillows and peered over at her raven haired companion. "You wouldn't let me in your room and now suddenly I get to sleep with you." She smirked. "You must keep secrets more often." She teased and Xena lightly slapped her shoulder and Gabrielle gasped.

"One day I'll get you when you least expect it," Gabrielle proudly told herself. Xena began chuckling under the breath and she glared at her. "What's so funny?"

"I'm still waiting for all those punches you promised you'd give me after Eve was born. Twenty two years later, I'm still waiting!" she teased and Gabrielle rolled her eyes.

A few silent minutes later Xena saw was on her side, her back facing her. She grinned mischievously and then punched Xena in the shoulder blade. The empress huffed then swiftly turned her head with a playful glare. Gabrielle smiled smugly. "That's one." Xena groaned and rolled over to go to sleep. Gabrielle hit her again and Xena rolled over narrowing her eyes. "Two."

"Stop it Gabrielle," she said lowly and closed her eyes, bringing the sheets close to her. Gabrielle balled her fist up again and was about to hit Xena straight in the shoulder until –"If you hit me again I'm going to throw you out of the bed," she mumbled and Gabrielle blinked. Xena opened her eyes with a lighthearted grin then closed her eyes a few moments later, getting comfortable.

Gabrielle stared at the ceiling then hit Xena in her collarbone and swiftly rolled on her side, her back facing Xena now. "Three!" Xena groaned and she giggled softly. She then felt a kick to her back and she fell out of the bed loudly onto the floor. Xena grinned smugly and Gabrielle climbed back into bed after rubbing her probably now bruised spine. She glared at Xena. She looked so peaceful with her eyes closed and that subtle smile was too obvious that she enjoyed that too much. "Not bluffing were you?" she folded her arms.

Xena exhaled softly. "I never bluff, Gabrielle," she mumbled. "Good night."

"I kind of liked when you were depressed. Not so bossy," Gabrielle teased and Xena's eyes opened staring at her blonde friend.

"You're a real comedian. Go to sleep," she rolled over onto her right side to get comfortable.

Gabrielle grinned, "I love you Xena."

"Love you too, Gabrielle, now for the love of Zeus, go to sleep," she grumbled and Gabrielle missed that odd sense of humor Xena once had.

In the morning Xena awoke to a bright sun shining in her eyes. She looked next to her and saw Gabrielle still sleeping, like a baby. She smiled and swung her legs to the side of the bed, rubbing her face. She walked to the mirror to brush her hair and her mouth gaped. She took a step back not sure what she was seeing was real. She touched her face and inched closer to her reflection.

Her hair was shinier, her skin complexion was smoother, softer, like it was about ten years ago. The subtle wrinkles around her eyes were gone as well. She touched her waist and it was slimmer as were her legs. She looked to her hands and it was as if time went backwards. She took the vial out of her dress that she didn't bother to put away. She stared into the purple liquid, almost fearing it. she put in her drawer and slammed it shut, alarming Gabrielle.

Xena looked to the bed and saw Gabrielle awakening. "'re always up so early." She grumbled and rubbed her eyes. Xena turned away not wanting her to stare at her face, afraid of her initial reaction. She ran her fingers through her soft hair and sighed. Gabrielle got up and grabbed two towels for them both. "Are you coming to the baths or what? I'm sure Eve will be here in a few hours."

", go without me. I'll catch up to you later," she had her back turned.

Gabrielle raised a brow, but was not bothered by it. "Alright," she opened the door then stared back at Xena's long hair. "Did you brush your hair?" she marveled.

Xena felt her nerves creeping up on her and she twiddled her thumbs anxiously. "Yes, a few times...just before you got up," she said softly, scratching her arm nervously.

"It looks nice!" Gabrielle complimented her then left the room. Xena let out a loud sigh then stared at her reflection in the mirror once more. She couldn't believe what she had done. This was too noticeable, she thought.

She began to run through all the scenarios in her head of why Ares would give her this. Was it to stop the future from happening? But what does youth and age have to do with that? She rubbed her chin pensively then stopped looking in the mirror as it freaked her out. She had gotten used to what she looked like for awhile now and it was like seeing another person –well, not really.

She then grabbed her towel that Gabrielle got for her and exited the room. Passing all the servants they bowed to her and she hid her face from them making her way down the hall as fast as she could. She never realized there were so many people in the palace up at this hour. Suddenly she felt more self conscious than ever in her entire life.

Entering the baths quietly she saw Gabrielle oiling her skin. She turned her back to her and stripped herself of her robes. Gabrielle eyed her cautiously and noticed a difference in Xena's body. Her legs were most noticeably different, though she didn't say anything. "Aren't you going to come in?" she grinned and swam to the edge of the bath, tapping Xena's ankle. "The water is really nice."

Xena grinned nervously. "I'm sure it is," she looked down at herself and then noticed the scar that was once on her abdomen had disappeared. She touched her stomach with a confused frown. Not keeping Gabrielle in suspense any longer she slipped into the water, immediately dunking her head below the surface.

She came up from the water and had her back slightly turned to Gabrielle then she felt her soft hands on her shoulders. "You seem less stressed after last night," Gabrielle mused and rubbed soap on Xena's shoulders. Xena grinned anxiously nodding her head.

"Yes...I feel a lot better now." Though truthfully she didn't feel better at all. She just lied to Gabrielle again for the second time. She would notice for sure if she turned around. She remained with her back turned and allowed Gabrielle to rinse her long dark locks.

"That's great! You were really worrying me," Gabrielle rinsed the soap off of Xena's body and she felt a sudden tension in her. She tried to turn her towards her but Xena resisted. "What's wrong?"

Xena got out of the water and wrapped the towel around her body. "Eve should be here soon. I need to get ready," she left without further explanation. Gabrielle frowned and stared as Xena walked the halls soaking wet. Gabrielle couldn't blame her though. She had been keeping that horrible secret to herself for a long time and didn't have time to process it all. She only told her last night and knew when to leave Xena alone to compose herself.

Chapter Text

AN: and the trouble continues! Enjoy ;)

Chapter 4

Xena ran back to her room and slammed the door, leaning against it she slowly slid down to the floor and roughly ran her fingers through her hair. Her heart was beating faster and faster by the minute. Her eyes widened and she stared down at her hands, aware that she had just turned back time. Her fingers were not as thin anymore and her hands were void of subtle wrinkles. She got up and threw the robe on her bed, going to pick out something to wear. Truthfully, she didn't want to come out of her room especially of how she looked.

She opened her wardrobe closet and took a good look at her clothes –black –all she saw were black clothes. Everything was so dark and she had been wearing black for many years now. Grimacing she took out all of her black clothes and threw them on her bed. In the back of the closet she saw a blue gown that she had not worn in many years, with mesh sparkling sleeves and backless. She grabbed the dress and touched the fabric gently with her fingers, remembering wearing the gown so long ago. She couldn't remember why she decided to keep it.

A smile came to her lips as she held the dress in her arms. It reminded her of Greece, her palace in Athens, and how it used to be. Now she was here in Egypt and nothing was the same anymore. She frowned and slipped on the dress then went to the mirror to look at herself. She smoothed out the wrinkles in the gown and stared at her face once again –it was as if her reflection was Medusa staring back at her. She shied away then grabbed all of her black clothes and opened her door.

"Kora!" she called out and the young Egyptian woman came to her aid. She knelt down in front of her and Xena smiled weakly. "I want you to take these dresses and..." she frowned, "burn them."

Kora stood up confusedly at her and took the large mass of gowns from the empress. "All of them?" she questioned in a soft tone then Xena nodded her head slowly. "Alright, I will do that."

Xena grinned folding her arms, "I want you to go and buy new fabric from the vendors in the city," she said and Kora nodded. "Of every color." She young servant girl smiled and left her said skipping down the long hallway to go dispose of the gowns like Xena asked her to. She closed the door behind her and let out a loud sigh then grabbed a towel and dried her wet locks.

She sat in front of the mirror and brushed her bangs forward, fidgeting with them with her fingernails then grabbed her lip powder and dabbed some of it on her lips. She stared at the liquid eyeliner then threw it out the window, feeling like she didn't need to wear that anymore. She wasn't Egyptian, she was from Greece. She was Greece's empress. Smiling she grabbed her dagger from the vanity to set it in her bedside table drawer the pricked her finger clumsily. She hissed from the large cut on her index finger and blood trickled down her finger.

Then she went through her drawers to find a small cloth to wrap her finger with to stop the bleeding. She pulled out a small makeup cloth and looked at her finger, but it was no longer bleeding. In fact, the cut was slowly disappearing and her eyes widened.

Startling her she heard Gabrielle on the other side of the door and she jumped. She put the dagger away and told her to come in. Gabrielle waltzed in and closed the door behind her, already dressed in a tan knee length skirt and a sleeveless top to match. She was surprised to see Xena wearing something that was not black.

She noticed that was a very familiar dress that she had seen before. She wore it in Greece a lot, so much that it had to washed more than once a week. She smiled and folded her arms while Xena remained preoccupied with her lips and face at the moment.

"I haven't seen you wear that in a long time," she mused and Xena smiled weakly, hiding her face from her friend. Gabrielle then looked to her wardrobe and all of her gowns were gone and she frowned. "What happened to your clothes?"

Xena rubbed her lips together and wiped her fingers off on a cloth. "I told Kora to burn them," she said bluntly and she heard Gabrielle gasp. "It is time that I do not wear black anymore," she said in a low voice.

Gabrielle smiled and came up to Xena, placing her hands on her shoulders. "It's good to see that you're acting like yourself again."

Oh please don't say that, Gabrielle. She turned away from the mirror and picked a pair of silver dangle earrings. Gabrielle looked at her still wet hair and then ran her fingers through it, causing Xena to tense up her entire body. "I can put your hair in a bun for you," she smiled and Xena sighed, sitting down in the chair with her back turned to her. Gabrielle picked up the brush and carefully ran it through Xena's long hair.

As Xena sat in the chair silently she felt Gabrielle's fingers against her scalp, twisting her hair tightly. She wouldn't be able to hide anything especially when Eve came here. She would see her face eventually and feared her reaction because she'd know what she did and she wasn't sure if she could face any more disappointment from Gabrielle.

Gabrielle twisted Xena's hair on top of her head in a large bun and stuck a large flower comb into it. "Finished!" she smiled and Xena refused to look at her reflection. "Are you sure you're better? You ran out of the baths in such a hurry."

Xena nodded, "yes I'm just...excited to see Eve again," she hid her lies and Gabrielle could understand that, though Xena wasn't much for being so abrupt when it came to her daughter. Her reaction to her coming home was very unlike her. She expected her to be elated but instead she was aloof and silent about it all.

Gabrielle ignored her tone of voice and grabbed her hand pulling her out of the chair. Xena hid her face with her hand and Gabrielle frowned. "What in the world?" she chuckled at Xena's odd behavior. She stopped and tried to pry her hand away from her face. When Xena wouldn't move her hand she frowned. "Xena..." she grabbed her wrist and finally pulled her hand away from her face.

It took awhile but Gabrielle's green eyes lit up in awe at what she saw. It was like they went back in time a decade or so ago. She stared into Xena's eyes and they were different. She touched her face with the backside of her hand, her face was smooth, her lips plumper and her hair was darker, shinier and smoother as well. She had more color in her cheeks and she wasn't even wearing blush. Xena stared at Gabrielle's face, seeing confusion, she was mystified.

Finally it donned on Gabrielle and she pulled her hand away. "What did you do..." she grimaced and then went to Xena's bedside table and opened the drawer to see the elixir. Xena said nothing and saw the anger rising in Gabrielle. "Tell me you didn't do what I think you did," she breathed heavily holding the vial in her hand. Xena looked away and folded her arms solemnly.

She came to her and pushed Xena backwards forcefully, catching her off guard Xena stumbled back. "You told me you weren't going to use it!" she pushed her again and Xena stumbled back a few steps and Gabrielle hit Xena in her shoulder. She didn't respond and allowed her friend to hit her and push her as many times as she wanted. "Now, I understand!" Gabrielle snarled and pushed Xena so hard she fell to the floor. Xena's eyes widened and she stared up at her. "" she groaned and stared at the elixir. "What's the matter, nothing to say?" she frowned.

Xena shook her head putting her hand up for surrender. "Gabrielle no, you don't understand!" she defended herself and Gabrielle raised an eyebrow disbelievingly at her.

"What is it that I don't understand? You made a deal with Ares! Something you said you would never do again!" she yelled then threw the vial on the bed storming out of the room. Xena got up and ran after her.

"Gabrielle, wait!" she called out and stopped running after her once she saw she wasn't going to come back to her. A hand came to her shoulder and she frowned.

"She's pretty upset at the new and improved you, isn't she?" Ares snickered and Xena's heart beat quickened.

"Good job Ares, you've just turned my best and only friend against me. She hates me," her head hung lowly and Ares chuckled at her and that made her even more angry.

He sighed, "I didn't do that. You did," he whispered in her ear. "don't you have a daughter to greet?" he smiled and disappeared. Xena looked over her shoulder to respond but he was already gone. She cursed herself then marched onward to exit the palace. She was sure Gabrielle was there already to greet Eve.

She saw the gates open and Eve riding in on a large horse and she smiled at her. Xena smiled falsely and waved her hand at her from afar. Much to her surprise she didn't see Gabrielle here and Solan wasn't here either, but she was sure that he was asleep still from his long journey.

Eve felt her voice instantly return to her just like Eris said, but her words still lingered in her mind. She hopped off the horse and jogged over to her mother with a grand happy smile. Xena stepped forward and embraced her tightly. Eve recognized instantly that her dress was not black like usual. She loved that blue gown and had seen her mother wear it many times. Pulling away from the warm much needed hug she took a good look at her mother and furrowed her eyebrows, confused at what she saw. When she left Egypt, she definitely remembered her mother not looking the way she did.

"You look...different," Eve said curiously and Xena's smile disappeared, a bit embarrassed and had no good explanation for it, well she did, but she'd rather not say any of the sort to her daughter. Eve saw her mother's smile die and she decided to leave it alone. "But you look a lot happier since I last saw you!" she saved herself. She kissed her cheek and Xena grinned warmly. "I'm so happy to see you again! Where's Gabrielle?" she scanned the area.

Xena sighed, "she's busy right now. I'm sure you'll see her later." She peered behind her daughter and saw a few other men enter within the gates and a young man tied up and a bag covering his head. She frowned pointing at the strange guest, "who's that?" she inquired.

Now it was Eve's turn for the smile to disappear. She knew that her mother was not going to be happy to find out she had basically kidnapped a man, keeping him hostage. "Well, he's someone I met in Qin. I...had him followed then decided to take him here..."

Xena frowned, creasing her brows. "You kidnapped him?" she said lowly. Eve rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly. "This was supposed to be a mission of peace!" she marched forward and took the black bag off the man's head. He blinked at the bright hot sun beating down on him. He then looked down to see Greece's empress glaring up at him with that knowing frown he had seen far too often in the past. She saw the realization in the man's eyes and she folded her arms, disappointed with her daughter.

"Xena..." he said aloud and Xena raised an eyebrow, not expecting him to know her name, as she had never seen him before. "You look just as I remembered," he half smiled.

Eve put her hand on her hip staring at the young man, a bit confused by his words. He did briefly mention to her that he met her mother before, but she never recalled meeting him before. Xena smiled apologetically at him. "Sorry but I don't recognize who you are. You must forgive my daughter," she glared at Eve and she looked away from her mother's dagger eyes. "I didn't send her to bring hostages to my palace." She snapped her fingers at the guard. "Set him free," they immediately untied his hands and he hopped off the horse, rubbing his sore wrists.

He glanced around at the desert entrance and the palace had Greek accents to it, definitely not Egyptian at all. "I thought your palace was in Athens?" he smiled and Xena turned to face the young man.

"Not anymore, that was a long time ago," she admitted sadly. "I will have my maid, Kora, take you inside and you can have whatever you want then you can leave." She placed her hand on Eve about to head off into the palace. The young man smiled and walked ahead of the women into the palace. Kora was waiting at the entrance and he figured this was the maid Xena spoke of.

Xena squeezed Eve's shoulder tightly and she winced. "You and I need to have a little talk about kidnapping people," she whispered in her ear and pushed her forward. Eve sighed, rolling her eyes and sluggishly walked inside the palace with Xena following behind her.

As soon as they entered and the guards closed the doors Xena grabbed Eve's wrist. "Go change and then come to my room immediately." She stared into her daughter's blue eyes and Eve tried to snatch her wrist away but Xena only gripped tighter.

"Alright!" Eve yelled and Xena's eyes widened then finally released her. "Ever since we moved here you've been so mean to everyone! Gabrielle wouldn't treat me like this." She turned and went to her room and Xena folded her arms, watching her leave in one of her tantrums. She sighed, rolling her eyes then thought of Gabrielle. She needed to find her and quickly then deal with Eve later.

Xena casually strolled through the long halls checking in every room to find Gabrielle but so far no sign of her yet. She rounded the corner and bumped into Solan. He smiled and apologized to her. She grinned weakly at him and tried to get around him. He placed his hands on her shoulders and she inwardly groaned, thinking she didn't have time for this.

"I haven't seen you wear that dress in years!" he marveled and Xena sighed heavily. "You look a lot better from when I saw you yesterday."

She pat his cheek, "Solan, I don't really have time to talk right now." She tried to sidestep him but he moved in front of her then she rubbed her forehead, becoming frustrated. "Solan.." she smiled tightly, "could you...move?" she stared up at him and he moved out of her way. "Thank you!" she marched forward down the hall. He stared at his mother confusedly and watched her round the corner in a hurry. He shook his head then continued down the long corridor.

All the places she looked in were empty and no sign of her blonde companion. She was beginning to think that she left and suddenly it hit her. The library. She head to the east wing of the palace and opened the double doors and saw Gabrielle sitting down at a table with the book that Solan brought her back from Assyria. She looked up and when she saw Xena, she frowned, ignoring her and kept reading.

"Gabrielle..." Xena stepped closer and sat down opposite of her."You and I need to talk," she said placing her hand over hers. Gabrielle pulled her hand away and Xena's head hung lowly, feeling even more ashamed of herself. She sighed and set her hands in her lap, "I didn't do it because I wanted to..."

The blonde dug her head deeper in the book and propped her sandals on top of the desk, hiding her face from Xena. The empress sighed and began fidgeting with her thumbs in her lap. "I did it to protect you and Eve!" she said and Gabrielle's eyes peered over the top of the book to see Xena's pleading eyes staring at her. She went back to 'reading' ignoring her. "Ares said that –"

Gabrielle slammed the book on the desk. "Since when do you believe what he says?" she said in a flat tone and Xena blinked, not sure how to answer that. The true answer was never, but this time it was different. "He's a liar, Xena and you gave into his temptation. I'm so disappointed in you," she folded her arms and Xena sighed.

"Me too," she mumbled. "But listen Gabrielle, I couldn't take the chance of losing the two of you so I had to do it and...I'm sorry," she scratched her head nervously and Gabrielle reached over the desk slapping her hand away from her head.

"I hate it when you do that," referring to her anxious scratching. "You could have found another way." She said and Xena remained silent. "You could have come and told me," she said a softer tone. The two sat in silence in the giant library and Gabrielle sighed, throwing her legs off the desk and rubbed her head anxiously. "Do you...feel any different?" she felt concern instead of being angry. It wasn't like her nor was it healthy to be angry at her best friend.

Xena eyes traveled up and she shrugged. "Not really."

She nodded, "I'm going to find out more about the elixir, but for now...I will leave it alone." She stood up and held out her hand to Xena. "I need to see Eve," she smirked. Xena grinned and grabbed her hand then both left the library together.

Eve had taken a bath and washed her wavy dark hair and wore a new piece of clothing she bought in Qin. She sat in front of Xena and Gabrielle, both of them staring at her though Xena had a menacing glare while Gabrielle remained stoic. She sighed heavily and shrugged her shoulders trying to lighten the mood in the room. She didn't like sitting in her mother's room especially when she was in trouble, though she felt as if she didn't deserve to be lectured. She was an adult now, not a child but her mother made sure that it would never be that way.

"You don't even know his name do you?" Gabrielle said finally. Eve shook her head sealing her lips shut and stared at her mother. Xena tapped her fingernails on the chair's armrest. "Eve, we sent you on a mission of peace, not to capture people."

Eve folded her arms. "What does it matter? He came into my camp first anyway. I didn't trust him," she shrugged and Xena remained quiet. Gabrielle looked to her then back at Eve. "why do you keep staring at me like that?" she asked her mother and Gabrielle's eyes widened, surprised by her behavior.

"What do you want me to say? You didn't do what I asked you to do," Xena straightened herself in the chair and Eve rolled her eyes.

"You weren't so peaceful once upon a time ago, mother," she snickered and Xena got up from her chair then Gabrielle stepped in front of her. Gabrielle grabbed Xena's arms and pleaded with her eyes. Xena stared at her then back at her sassy daughter. Eve smirked and remained seated, bouncing her foot up and down waiting for some backlash from her mother.

Once Gabrielle felt Xena calm down they both sat down. "What's gotten into you?" Gabrielle reprimanded Eve. The arrogant princess stayed silent. "You have nothing to say?" she raised her eyebrow.

Eve stood up throwing her hands in the air. "It's this place! I hate Egypt! I want to back to Athens where I belong!" she glared at her mother, "where you belong," she chided. "But you decided to come here and try to fit in here. We don't, mother!" Xena pursed her lips observing the change in behavior in her daughter and it was rather unsettling.

"Sit down!" Gabrielle stood up and Eve blinked. She sat down back in her chair slowly, staring up at Gabrielle. "Xena decided to come here and give the palace for the students to study. Octavius is moving his empire further into Greek territory. It wouldn't be safe for us to stay there and leave Egypt unguarded." She set her hands on her hips and Eve frowned.

Xena smiled at Gabrielle's mothering skills towards Eve. She seemed to listen to her more than her biological mother, which wasn't surprising to her. Eve always liked being around Gabrielle more because she wasn't her mother, she let her do things that Xena wouldn't allow her to do –in other words, Gabrielle spoiled Eve more than Xena liked.

"Why are you both so afraid of Octavius? He should have been wiped out a long time ago!" Eve frowned staring at her mother. Gabrielle sighed, feeling a headache coming along.

Xena interrupted, "I'm not afraid of him. I never was and never will be," she stated and Eve didn't argue with her. "I already lost many of my territories to him and now Allat has lost his kingdom to Roman rule."

Eve huffed, "well I'm tired of failing! This mission of peace isn't working, mother." She stood up and brushed her long skirt staring at the two women. "If you won't do anything then I will. You can't keep me here locked up like a child." She stormed out of Xena's room and Gabrielle ran to catch her.

"Don't Gabrielle," Xena said and she halted watching Eve run down the hallway.

Gabrielle scoffed, "what has gotten into her?" she shook her head. "I can't believe she spoke to you like that!" she folded her arms frustrated at Eve and her awful attitude.

Xena stood up and picked up the elixir staring at it. Gabrielle stared at her cautiously. She didn't like the tension between her and Eve nor did she like it between her and Gabrielle. She came forward and presented the bottle to her. "I want you to keep this." She placed it in her hand and smiled.

"Alright...but what about the hostage?" Gabrielle was less focused on the stupid potion and more focused on Eve's little kidnapping move.

"I am not concerned with him. He seems like a traveler. I told him he can leave and take what he wants," Xena sat on her bed and Gabrielle didn't really like the plan, she saw it in her eyes. "I should go talk with Solan about Octavius. I was really...rude to him earlier," she mused and got up to leave. Gabrielle frowned and left the room as well but she decided to leave the palace to a much library –the library of Alexandria. It would take her about four hours by horse to arrive there but she needed answers and would not find them here in Cairo.

Eve marched to the large sitting area and stared out the balcony at the brightly lit desert city before her. It was nothing like Athens. Athens was gorgeous, lush greenery, many tall trees, huge forests and gorgeous weather. This place was hot, dry and there was nothing green to look at.

"I get the feeling you don't like here much," the young man startled Eve and she huffed, leaning on the balustrade, overlooking the city. He came to stand next to her and join her. She scooted away from him, not liking his close proximity. "Not all of Egypt looks like this, you know," he smirked.

"why are you talking to me? I kidnapped you," Eve mocked. He shrugged and looked into her blue eyes.

"I had an idea about who you were when we met in Qin but now it is confirmed since you brought me here," he smiled and Eve stared at him confused at his words. "you don't recognize me do you, Eve?"

Her eyes widened. "How did you know my name?" she stepped away from him. He folded his arms with a charming smile. His eyes sparkled in the sunlight and his dark long wavy hair flowed in the gentle breeze. The longer she stared at him the more he seemed familiar to her. Her mouth gaped and she took a step closer. "Samuel?" she said aloud and his smile widened. She reached her hand forward then realized what she had done, her cheeks became red with embarrassment.

"You just kidnapped the King of Persia," he chuckled and she shook her head. She didn't recognize him, it had been such a long time she had seen him and he was...did he say, king? "Still stubborn as ever!" he smirked and Eve stared at him with a frown. "And the same frown too."

"My mother is going to have my head when she finds out about this!" she felt angry more at herself. She should've listened to her mother, she thought, but since she didn't, this was her consequence. Kidnapping a Persian King was probably the worst thing she had done in her short life.

Samuel shrugged, "Xena is the empress of peace now though, right?" he mocked. "I'm sure she'll forgive you." He reached out to touch her shoulder then retracted his hand. "Oh I forgot, you don't like to be touched," he grinned then walked off the balcony back into the palace.

Eve rubbed her forehead frustratingly. Mother is going to kill me.

Xena went to Solan's room to speak to him and found him on the floor, hissing in pain. Furrowing her brows she ran to him and saw his hand stained with blood. "What happened?!" she instantly felt fear and he leaned against a chair and she looked around for something to stop the bleeding from his wound. She found a scarf and wrapped his torso and he winced at her touch.

She grabbed Solan's sword off his desk and circled the room slowly, opening neighboring doors but found nothing. She looked out the windows and came up with nothing. He groaned and stood up, she turned her attention towards him after closing the curtains to the open windows. "One of your guards came in here..." he winced, moving his body slightly. She helped him up to sit on the bed and took off his cloak, throwing it aside. "And he stabbed me!"

"Why would one of my guards do that to you?" she asked then furrowed her eyebrows. "Are you sure he was one of mine?" she stared into his eyes and he honestly didn't know. He was dressed like every regular guard in the palace but to be attacked randomly was odd. Xena didn't think so.

"Yes I'm sure!" he groaned and she frowned.

Eve walked into Solan's room and saw her mother sitting next to her brother. "Mother I need to talk to you..."

Xena stood up and waved her hand. "Not now. I need to find Gabrielle."

Eve frowned, "but this is really important!" she yelled and Xena stared into her eyes, not wishing to hear her news.

"I said not now!" she brushed past her daughter and Eve huffed. She looked over to see Solan was hurt and she came to sit next to him, she saw blood seeping through the scarf around his torso.

"Solan, what happened to you?!" she touched his face and he pulled away, not wishing for his sister's affections.

He pushed her touchy hands away. "I'm fine! Someone stabbed me, one of mother's guards," he knew that sounded ridiculous as soon as he saw the strange look in her eyes. "You gave me the same look mother did." He smirked, trying to make light of the situation.

"I'm going to get Kora," Eve ran out of the room to go find the maid girl to aid her brother's open wound.

Meanwhile Xena stormed through the halls calling out Gabrielle's name and again, she was lost to her. Kora was carrying some fresh linens and Xena stopped her. "Kora, have you seen Gabrielle?"

Kora frowned, "she went to Alexandria. I thought she told you."

"She what?" Xena blinked, "no, she didn't tell me!" she yelled and Kora winced, taking a step back. Let's do things together, she says. Let's not lie to each other, she says. Xena growled then went to find her men to scope out the palace grounds and the entire surrounding homes to find this guard. She knew he wouldn't be here in the palace if he was smart.

Chapter Text

Mirror Mirror on the wall
True hope lies beyond the coast
You're a damned kind can't you see
That the winds will change
Mirror Mirror on the wall
True hope lies beyond the coast
You're a damned kind can't you see

That tomorrows bears insanity
Gone's the wisdom
Of a thousand years
A world in fire and chains and fear

Leads me to a place so far
Deep down it lies my secret vision
I better keep it safe
Shall I leave my friends alone

Hidden in my twilight hall
I know the world is lost in fire
Sure there is no way to turn it
Back to the old days

Song: Blind Guardian –Mirror Mirror

For Xena



Chapter 5


Xena grabbed her chakram and sword from her room then went outside of the palace to search for the guard alongside her men. She didn't bother to change and still wore her blue gown, running through the outskirts of the palace. Guards were trailing behind her and she narrowed her eyes, thinking this becoming quite the search party. She was beginning to believe that Solan had sent her on a wild goose chase to find this so called guard, but why would he lie about something like that?

The sun would be setting in just a few short hours. She noticed that Egypt's sun always left the sky much quicker than Athens and that meant little time during the day to get things done. It would make this a lot harder to find intruders lurking in the dark.

She marched on the outer wall and saw Eve on the second floor of the palace talking with her captive. She frowned staring up at her, completely oblivious to her watching. "Did you find the guard?" Xena yelled up at her daughter and saw Eve was a bit startled.

"No mother, I haven't found anything yet!" Eve leaned over the side of the wall and Xena snarled, then kept moving. Eve turned her attention back to the Persian King, Samuel. He smiled charmingly at her and she half grinned, feeling sheepish. "I'm sorry I kidnapped you," she whispered, then looked over the wall to see her mother scouting the area with her men in tow. "I didn't have a chance to tell my mother about you..." she sighed.

Samuel folded his arms, "what a small world isn't it?" he chuckled. "You got kidnapped by my father years ago and now you kidnap me! That is too funny."

Eve frowned, not really finding any of this funny at all, though she always liked his charm even though she was annoyed by him as a child. "I need to get you out of here before something happens to you, or to me..." she thought of her mother's wrath and she wasn't equip to deal with that. It appeared that she was very hostile right now, she was on a mission. Eve knew better than to tell her mother about certain chaos during a time like this.

The Persian King shrugged his shoulders, "I am in no rush to go home, Eve." She stared at him bemused by his lack of caring of being here, as a hostage. "My men will come looking for me sooner or later." He leaned in closer to her, "that guard was Persian not Greek or Egyptian," he hissed in her ear. Eve's mouth gaped and she took a few steps back away from him. He smiled at her mischievously. "So you see, your mother has no idea and you're probably going to tell her everything, right?"

Eve's eyes widened then left his side running down the stairs to catch up to her mother. Samuel leaned over the wall and watched the young princess run on the outer walls of the grand palace. He looked around at the architecture of the palace, nodding his head at the fine craftsmanship. "Xena, you are quite the architect." He sighed and went inside the palace, enjoying his free time away from his kingdom for awhile.


As Xena came to the city, far from the palace grounds she really wished that Gabrielle had not run off like she did without telling her. Whatever she was doing in Alexandria couldn't be so important she had to run off in secret. Forgetting about Gabrielle for a small moment she saw a large crowd of men in armor approaching the palace grounds. Her eyes widened and she thrust her sword forward. She felt her blood boiling inside, and dare she say, she was excited to fight again as she had been hiding away in her grand palaces for many years now.

All of the men turned to look at her and she smiled, standing in defense mode, she ripped the bottom half of her dress off ready to attack them. She noticed that all of the men's armor was not Greek, Egyptian or Roman, but...Persian? she thought that odd but gave her men the go ahead and they ran in front of her attacking the Persian men.

Xena ran ahead and the Egyptian people were observing the fight between both parties. She pushed the women and children away. "Go! Get out of here!" she yelled and they ran down the long alleyway, far from the fight. She turned around grimacing at a soldier coming near her, she thrust her sword in his torso and he fell to his knees, then suddenly everything was a standstill.

Raising a brow she saw the fight was paused. Nobody was moving, speaking and had swords in each other, while others had arrows ready to shoot. Xena took out her blade and the soldier remained still, staring up at her blankly. It was as if time was frozen and she didn't understand why. She waved her hand in front of an almost beheaded Persian and he didn't even flinch. What is this sorcery?

Stepping over a dying Persian she saw an arrow in midair coming right for a Persian behind her. She touched the arrow and broke it in half. Off in the corner she saw Eve was paused as well looking as if she were running towards her. Xena didn't understand why everything was paused. She looked up to the sky and saw a bird in midflight was also at a halt. Everything was so silent and she couldn't make sense of this at all. She immediately thought of Ares, but he couldn't stop time, at least she thought he couldn't.

Frowning she pushed one of her men aside and then battle began again to her surprise. She was hit in the back of the head with a hilt of a sword and fell to the ground. Eve gasped and saw her mother fall to the ground like she was falling in slow motion. She saw a Persian come behind her and thrust his sword ready to stab Xena in the back. Without thinking Eve picked up a sword from a fallen Persian soldier and ran towards him tackling him to the ground, stabbing him through the heart.

She panicked and was beginning to think this was all her fault, she flipped her mother's body over and stared at her. Her eyes closed and a bloody wound on the side of her head. She touched the back of her head and there was blood as well. Eve's eyes widened and she grabbed Xena from beneath her arms and drug her off away from all the fighting. She glanced up and saw a Persian coming for her. Growling she left Xena against a wall of a home and took her sword and clashed against the Persian.

"You won't kill her! Not today!" the princess snarled and head butted him and he fell backwards, but still he was resilient. She stood guard protecting her mother's unconscious body.

"We are here for our King!" the soldier yelled at her and he saw a realization in the princess's eyes.

"You want him! Go ahead and take him! But leave here at once!" Eve said and thrust her mother's sword into his torso, knocking him to the ground. She looked around to see the Persians had fled into the palace grounds and she panicked. She knelt down next to Xena and brushed the backside of her hand on her cheek. "I need help!" she called out. A few Grecian soldiers saw the princess kneeling down next to the empress. Two men came over and one giant soldier lifted Xena into his arms and the three ran back to the palace, taking the back entrance.

The soldier placed Xena in her bed and Kora came in with some towels a basin of water. Eve sat on the edge of the bed holding her hand tightly. "Why didn't you duck mother?" she questioned. She was so confused as to why her mother didn't see that attack coming, it was so unlike her. Kora cleaned the wounds on the side of Xena's head and then tended to the back of her head gingerly.

Kora saw the solemn face of the princess and half smiled, trying to reassure her. "She will be alright, princess." She wrapped Xena's head with a large gauze and removed the basin from the table, heading out of the room. She turned to see that Eve was definitely not going to leave Xena's side. "I will be back later to change the bandages..." she said and received no response. She head out of the room and closed the door behind her. She then saw Solan heading down towards Xena's room with a worried look on his face.

He held his side and frowned at the Egyptian maiden, "is she alright?" he tried to side step her but Kora blocked the door. He furrowed his brows and Kora remained in front of the door. "Can't I see her?" he folded his arms.

Kora shook her head, "no, she needs to be alone right now, Solan." She said then left the door. A few guards came to Xena's room and guarded the door. Solan huffed and went in search of Gabrielle.


Gabrielle arrived in Alexandria much faster than she expected. She took off the tan veil around her face, protecting her skin from the scorching sun she stepped inside the library. She thought this was a great place and always dreamt of coming here, she was glad that she was so close to it.

She smiled at the library keeper at the front desk and he stood up grinning at her. He was an older man, dark skinned with a black beard and dark wavy hair loosely tied in a ponytail. "Gabrielle! It's been many moons since I've seen you!" he wiped his hands from the dust.

Gabrielle nodded, "yes I know, Amas." She sighed heavily taking in all of the literature surrounding her. "I'm afraid I haven't come to enjoy your philosophical works this time," she frowned sadly and Amas folded his arms, concerned for his literature-loving friend.

"What is it that you've come for then?" he smiled and took out a few pieces that he had been organizing. "These were sent from Carthage last week. It's about the annihilator, I know you like history," he winked.

Gabrielle smirked, "no not that, but thanks. Do you have anything related to...magic of Greece or...something?" she seemed hopeful. She saw Amas' gears turning in his head and then left the desk going to the east wing of the huge library, she followed him.

He climbed  a tall ladder and rummaged through a few parchments, looking for something that might suit Gabrielle's needs. He grabbed about twenty scrolls and hopped off the ladder, presenting the large mass of literature to her. Her eyes widened and he grinned smugly. "I think this might help you, friend." She thanked him and took the scrolls to a table to sit and begin reading. Amas raised a brow then sauntered over to her, as she began unrolling all the scrolls one by one, using paperweights for each of the corners. "What is this for? Are you dabbling in magic?" he joked.

Gabrielle shook her head, "no, it's not for me, it's for...a friend," she mumbled and started reading but so far this wasn't really what she was looking for so she unrolled the other scrolls, desperately looking for information on this elixir Xena had with her.

"Let me know if you need anything else, Gabrielle," Amas offered and he left her to be alone reading all the manuscripts.

Two hours later and Gabrielle was becoming frustrated as she had found nothing that was related to this elixir. She groaned, throwing the scrolls aside, burying her face in her hands out of frustration. It would be dark soon and there were very few people in the library now.

Amas leaned on a large shelf observing his friend. He felt that she was obviously very disturbed by whatever it was she was looking for her. Slowly he approached her and sat down opposite her at the table. Gabrielle breathed heavily then looked up and saw Amas smiling at her, she jumped back, not expecting him to be staring at her like that. "Didn't find what you were looking for?" he inquired and she shook her head, feeling defeated. "Why don't you tell me exactly what you're looking for and maybe I can help you?"

Gabrielle sighed and dug in her bag she carried with her and pulled out the vial that Xena allowed her to keep. She placed it in the middle of the table and frowned. "I need information on that!" she folded her arms leaning back in the chair. Amas picked up the bottle examining it carefully. "It's an elixir of youth or something. It's from the Olympians."

Amas' eyes widened as he looked at the purple viscous liquid. "So fascinating! The Olympians you said?" he then stared at his blonde friend cautiously. "How on earth did you get this?"

She shrugged, "it's not mine, it's my friend's."

Amas now understood everything and he stood up pacing around marveling at the vial. "Is it...your friend...Xena?" he smirked and Gabrielle's eyes lowered, not wishing to respond. Now he knew everything. "Ah, so it is." He frowned tipping the bottle side to side. The more he did the liquid became thicker, almost like clots of blood. Very interesting, he mused. "Come with me Gabrielle, I think I have something you might find useful to you," he walked off into a separate quarter of the library.

They came to a small room, most likely his office. There were hundreds maybe thousands of scrolls in this tiny room. Gabrielle would love to look at them all, but she simply didn't have time and if they were in his office that meant he would take ages to organize them in order to be put in the library for public display.

He rummaged through a large pile of scrolls, silently cursing to himself. Gabrielle hid a smile beneath her hand as she watched the elderly man look through a needle in a haystack. He pulled out a large scroll, about two feet long, he unrolled it on a podium and Gabrielle's eyes widened. She stepped closer and saw a painted illustration of the Muses from Mount Parnassus. There were hardly any words, but a lot of inked paintings on the scroll. Amas groaned and scooted the scroll and let it roll onto the floor, pushing it further to the left, there were more pictures.

Gabrielle touched the parchment and he grinned. She then saw a picture of the elixir. Amas leaned in closer to make out the small handwriting on the manuscript. "It says that...anyone who uses this elixir will instantly become younger." Gabrielle thought much was obvious. "But if taken too much, it could have serious complications such as hallucinations, change in behavior or.." he groaned, "can't make out that word there," the word had been faded and was almost illegible.

"How much is 'too much'?" she asked in a hushed tone. Amas grumbled then pushed the scroll, coming to much larger text connected with the picture to the left.

He shrugged shaking his head trying to read the text as best as he could. "It says that it differs from person to person." He kept reading then found something noteworthy. "Sometimes it can make a person invincible but it really depends on the giver of the elixir."

Gabrielle immediately thought of Ares and how this would possibly have any gain for him. "What does it say about that?"

Amas kept reading and then pointed at a sentence, "the supplier of the elixir is responsible for all the actions of the accursed person. They have rules though!" he raised his finger and kept reading further. "This elixir must not be used in force or through threats or something horrible could happen to the accursed. It could end in death if not used correctly and –"

Gabrielle didn't want to hear that, she didn't like that word death and she also hated Ares for this stupid plan of his, which she had no idea what that plan exactly was. "Can I take this with me? I promise to return it to you when I study it further," she pleaded. "I need to return to Cairo."

Amas smiled and placed a warm hand on her shoulder. "Sure, anything for you Gabrielle." She smiled and they both rolled up the large scroll and she held it underneath her arm in a hurry to leave at once. Amas followed her and saw her mount the horse, wrapping the veil around her face. "Gabrielle!" he called out and she stared at him, pulling the reins of the horse, ready to take off. "Let me know how it goes..." he half smiled and Gabrielle nodded, then took off to return to Cairo at once.


Xena woke up in her bed, and her eyes scanned her surroundings. She was not in Cairo anymore. She was in her palace in Athens, in her old bedroom. She looked to her right and saw her spider, Zoe in her cage. Zoe died years ago, she thought. She was beginning to feel like she was losing her mind and jumped out of bed and saw she was wearing a burgundy robe, one of her favorites to wear on a lazy day, if she ever had one.

Cautiously she opened her bedroom door and saw Racha walking down the halls, smiling, greeting her warmly. Xena stepped out of the room, touching all the walls to make sure this was all real and everything was here. She didn't understand why she was back here and this definitely wasn't present time, otherwise she'd be in Egypt right now. She didn't really remember anything after those Persians came.

The rubbed the back of her head and winced, feeling a sting of pain at her subtle touch. Thinking that odd she ran down the stairs and saw her palace was completely empty, void of children, of everything. It was as if everything was taken back in time.

She looked through all the doors and nobody was there, no teachers, scholars, students, no Solan, nothing! Groaning she went to another hall and saw Gabrielle. Finally someone normal. She smiled and ran towards her, startling the blonde.

Gabrielle's eyes widened as she saw Xena standing in front of her, embracing her warmly. "Xena...Xena, can't breathe!" she coughed and Xena pulled away. "Are you alright?" she questioned.

"Gabrielle! What are we doing back in Athens and how come nobody is here?" she frowned.

Gabrielle looked at her curiously then touched her forehead, checking for a fever. Xena frowned and slapped her friend's hand away from her. "Are you feeling okay?" she asked and Xena groaned, folding her arms.

"Yes, I'm fine! How did we get here?" Xena felt as if that Gabrielle was completely distant towards her and had a deer in the headlights look in her eyes.

"we...never left?" Gabrielle took a step closer and examined Xena's eyes. "Are you sick?" she whispered.

Xena's eyes widened and now she truly felt like she was in a twilight zone. "What are you talking about? We live in Egypt now! We left Athens a long time ago!"

Gabrielle took a step back, a bit afraid for her friend at the moment. "I don't know what you're talking about. I've even been to Egypt, Xena." She sighed and Xena began pacing around in a circle. "Are you drinking again?"

"No I'm not!" Xena yelled and Gabrielle winced. "Sorry..sorry," she rubbed her forehead. "Where is Eve?" she surveyed the area, hoping that something else normal would pop up besides Gabrielle.

Now the blonde was completely oblivious to Xena's little charade. She had no idea what she was talking about. What is all this talk about Egypt and leaving and now this? "Who's Eve?" she asked and Xena turned to her with wide fearful eyes.

"My daughter...?" Xena's voice trembled and Gabrielle shook her head.

"Xena, you don't have a daughter. Did you hit your head or something?" she feared that Xena was making things up now. A daughter? Is she crazy?

Xena scratched her head then ran back up the stairs to Eve's room next to hers. She swung open the door and saw the room was not a child's room at all, but like it was left many years ago. There were no lavender curtains, no bed, nothing. What is going on, she thought.

Feeling herself suddenly going into a panic attack she ran to her room and looked at herself in the mirror. She was just as she was when she was in Egypt, though now she wasn't in Egypt anymore. She was back home in Athens where she belonged...

She grabbed her sword on the wall and smashed the mirror into a million pieces then sliced through the extravagant chair in front of her vanity set. Groaning she ripped the curtains on the window and breathed heavily.

Gabrielle peered at Xena at the entrance of her bedroom and saw her ripping the place apart. She was so angry, though she knew that Xena could be a bit unpredictable at times. Xena swiftly turned around with the sword pointing at Gabrielle and she feared for her life. Xena came at her, grabbing her by her blouse and threw her on the bed, with the blade pointing at her neck. "Are you real? Is any of this real?" Xena chuckled mockingly and Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear.

"Xena...I'm're real...everything here is. I –I don't...understand why you're acting like this..." she looked to the blade and Xena growled, stepping away from her blonde companion. Gabrielle sat up staring at her friend pacing around in a circle.

Xena slumped down to the ground, leaning against a wall she threw her sword across the room. She banged her head against the wall and winced as the subtle pain returned for a brief moment. She noticed Gabrielle's fear in her eyes. She didn't want to come back here, and by the looks of it, she was set back in time just like her appearance was.

Something came to her and she slipped her robe open, staring down at her abdomen. The scar was gone just like she recalled back in Egypt that morning. Something wasn't right here and now she was stuck here, if this was real or a dream, she didn't know, but she needed to get out of this place.

"Is Solan gone too?" Xena said blankly, her eyes wide open staring off in a daze. A single tear streamed down her cheek and Gabrielle came to sit next to her friend, holding onto her hand, unsure why Xena's odd behavior had emerged suddenly.

Gabrielle cleared her throat, "he's in Rome with Octavius, remember?"

Xena smiled weakly, "of course he is. Silly me," she mocked. Gabrielle stayed close to her albeit a bit afraid of her absent mindedness. Xena pat Gabrielle's hand gently.

"'re worrying me," Gabrielle hushed and Xena lolled her head to see her friend. Gabrielle wiped her friend's tear stained cheek, not understanding what was going on inside that head of hers.


Eve sat in a chair staring at her mother as she laid in her bed, still not awake and it had been a few hours now. Xena laid still as stone with her arms by her side. Kora had changed Xena's gauze around her wounded head and she really hoped that she'd wake soon. Eve sighed as she continued to stare, not taking her eyes off of her in case she awakened.

Solan entered the room and saw his younger sister watching vigilantly for hours now. "Eve, she's not going to wake up now, why don't you go to bed?"

"No!" she yelled out and folded her arms. "this is all my fault anyway," she mumbled. Solan placed a warm hand on her shoulder and she sighed heavily, feeling the guilt overwhelm her. "Why didn't she see that Persian behind her?" she frowned, shaking her head at the mystery of it all.

"She hasn't been herself for awhile now. Perhaps...she is out of practice," he smirked and Eve remained silent. He thought it best not to make jokes as their mother lay in bed practically like a vegetable. "She will wake up eventually. She's Xena after all," he smiled and Eve peered up at him, grabbing hold of his hand.

"Where is Gabrielle?" Eve frowned, thinking of her second mother missing in action was strange.

Solan pulled up a chair to sit down next to his sister. "She's in Alexandria, that's what Kora told me. I wonder what she's doing there."

"Well she should be here!" Eve grimaced then touched the torn dress that her mother wore and a smile came to her lips. "Her favorite dress is ruined now," she smirked.

He shrugged, "she can have new ones made," he lamely said then stared at his mother's face noticing a change in her face that he had not recognized before. "She looks so different."

Eve nodded, leaning back in her chair, frowning at her mother's appearance. "She does...I noticed it before when she came to greet me, but I didn't think anything of it."


Chapter Text

Whisper, whisper in the dark
Tell me what you see
Poisoned by this lie infested poetry

Liar, liar on the wall
Give the world to me
A wasteland or a monarchy?
(Liar liar) Tell me what you see

Now I'm here and my pain is my companion
Now I know it wasn't meant to heal, the cut is way too deep

No more wasted years of sacrificial bleeding
I'm the master of the war inside me

Song: Kamelot –Liar Liar

For Eve

AN: Can Xena be in two places at once? Is it all real or make-believe? Enjoy ;)

Chapter 6

Xena ran downstairs to her office inside of her Athenian palace and rummaged through the large stack of documents trying to find out what was going on and why she was here. Gabrielle stood by the entrance and watched Xena throwing scrolls and manuscripts all over her office, making a tremendous mess of things. Xena picked up one large manuscript and luckily for her, it was in Greek, she read it over carefully. She couldn't believe what she was reading and now she had to know this wasn't real at all, she was dreaming, that's it.

She ran to Gabrielle, grabbing her arm forcing the parchment in her face. "What is this? When did this happen?" she yelled and Gabrielle winced as Xena's grip tightened further. "Tell me, Gabrielle!"

Gabrielle wiggled out of Xena's hold and looked to the document reading over it quickly, skimming the entirety of it. "You signed it last week, don't you remember?" she stared into Xena's unknowing eyes and so she continued, "Octavius gave all of his territories from Anatolia to North Africa to you."

Xena nodded, making sure what she was read wasn't a lie. "There was no war between Greece and the Romans, then?" she asked innocently and Gabrielle shook her head confusedly. "How did he give up his territories to me so easily?"

Gabrielle frowned, now not sure what was going on with Xena at all anymore. She was acting so strangely she didn't even know her anymore. "Your naval fleet attacked Rome and Cairo. He pulled back his army..." she stared at Xena's bemused face. "What's gotten into you? It's like you're not even the same person as you were yesterday."

Xena smiled weakly, "I am not the same person I was an hour ago, Gabrielle," she knew that those words would meaning nothing to her, but she needed to feel somewhat normal in this fantasy world she was living in. She won, she actually won. Sure, she won the right to these territories and that was through a large and long war with the Roman Emperor, but in this world, she didn't listen to Gabrielle and decided to use the naval fleet, destroying the Roman's army and he surrendered. It was a great dream this was, she thought.

"'re telling me that we won, I won..." Xena smiled, folding her arms. Gabrielle stayed silent observing Xena basking in her already won victory against Octavius. Xena then realized this all had to be some trick and shook her head and scratched her forehead anxiously. "No! This is not real, none of this is real. You're not real, I'm not real."

Gabrielle shook her head taking a step back from Xena. She wasn't sure what was going on anymore. Xena wasn't acting herself and she was fine yesterday, but now, it was like she had amnesia. Xena brushed past her and ran back up to her room, shutting the door behind her. Gabrielle was tempted to go after her and once she heard the door slam she decided to leave her alone for awhile. Perhaps if she cooled down for awhile then she would be alright, she hoped.

Gabrielle went to her room and decided to write about this strange experience that she was having with Xena just to get her thoughts out of her mind. She closed her door and sat on her bed, pulling the curtains aside to let the bright sunlight in. Immediately she jotted down all her thoughts, some out of order and the grammar wasn't there but she just needed to write. Though to be honest, she figured that Xena was still in denial about what she did. She banished Solan from ever returning to Athens because she couldn't have him here.

He still didn't know about her being his mother, which Xena preferred, for his own safety and her own. She wanted to preserve her empire and her people as much as she wanted to keep Solan away from her. She didn't want him near her as she thought she was a danger to him. Gabrielle knew this to be true, her ambitions were quite dangerous, though she won. She hoped that one day she could allow Solan to come back here and not with Octavius in tow as his foster father.

Xena sat on her bed for many hours until the sun had set. She threw the empty wine bottle off her bed and rubbed her eyes, feeling extremely drained from everything today. She wanted to go back home, though when she meant home, she thought of Athens, not Egypt. Perhaps Eve was right, Egypt was not where she belonged, she belonged here, in Athens, as their ruler. But here, she was here and Eve wasn't. She was supposed to be here and yet she wasn't.

Picking up a half empty wine bottle she poured a new glass for herself and downed it quickly. When she came to Egypt, she had left wine alone, it wasn't her friend, but here, wine was her best friend, especially right now. She peered up and saw Gabrielle enter her room unannounced. She grinned, downing another glass of wine. "You never knocked..." she mocked.

Gabrielle saw her friend finishing off not one but two bottles of wine all by herself and now she knew something was wrong here. She wouldn't do that, at least not by herself and when she did, it was with her allies that came to visit or when she threw extravagant parties. Slowly she tread in, trying to ignore Xena's excessive alcohol consumption.

She sat on the bed a few feet away from Xena observing her odd behavior. She frowned, "did you finish all of that by yourself?" she said, a bit shocked. Xena nodded and offered some wine to her which she kindly refused. "Xena I don't understand your behavior, it's like you have amnesia...did something happen to you?"

Xena smiled and sipped on the wine slowly this time. "A lot of things have happened to me Gabrielle." Gabrielle felt like that was a bit of an understatement. "But you know, there's something I don't...understand," she groaned finishing off the glass of wine. Gabrielle's eyes widened and Xena pointed her finger at her confused friend. "I have a daughter...and she's not here. I don't...belong here," she looked outside at the dark skies and smirked. "And I know this isn't real because..." she exhaled heavily and Gabrielle raised a brow staring at her now drunk friend. "Because...I won by naval see, I won this battle many years ago, and you were there, I was there, everyone was there!" she smiled nodding her head remembering that ridiculous battle. "And I killed all...ALL...of Octavius' men on the ground...soil," she reiterated. "I won by bloodshed and strategy because he wouldn't comply!" she chuckled and Gabrielle leaned in closer to her, worrying for her. "Because of your strategy, Gabrielle, so...I know," she wagged her finger with a smug smile, "I know this is all just in my head and you are too!"

Gabrielle frowned sadly at her as she watched Xena finish off the second bottle of wine, throwing it off her bed along with the other empty bottle. "Xena, you need to sleep...maybe you'll act more...normal in the morning."

Xena grimaced at her blonde companion. "Normal?! I am not normal, Gabrielle! I never was and never will be!" she leaned against her pillows with her arms folded, no longer finding this dream world amusing anymore. She felt something trickle down on her lip and she touched her nose. She saw Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear.

"You're bleeding!" she exclaimed and Xena rubbed her nose and saw her blood stained fingers. Gabrielle ran to grab a cloth from the bathroom and immediately started dabbing Xena's nose.

The empress slapped her friend's hand away with a large frown. "Stop it! stop trying to help me!" she snarled and Gabrielle pulled away.

Solan fell asleep in the chair next to Eve while she remained awake, staring at Xena in her bed, still not awake just yet. Eve was writing down her thoughts and she wanted to deal with Samuel, but she was sure he was gone now, though this was a large palace, he could be lurking elsewhere, but she doubted that. The Persians were here to take him and they made that very clear.

She looked up from her parchment and saw her mother's nose was bleeding. She slapped Solan in the arm to wake up. "Solan wake up!" she knelt beside Xena and dabbed her bloody nose with a wet cloth. He abruptly woke up and saw Eve hovering over their mother. "Her nose is bleeding!" she frantically grabbed another cloth and kept cleaning up the blood on the lower half of Xena's face. He leaned in closer and saw she was still asleep. He sighed and shook his head.

Gabrielle finally returned to Cairo, this time it took her quite awhile to reach the palace due to the exhaustion of the horse. She unwrapped her head and saw Kora running towards her. She tucked the large scroll in her bag hanging over her shoulder. Kora came to her breathless and she frowned. "Xena...she has been hurt, we've been waiting for you!" she breathed heavily and Gabrielle's eyes widened. She didn't bother to listen to Kora any longer and ran down the hall as fast as she could.

She saw the guards posted outside Xena's room and she burst through the doors to see Eve and Solan hovering over Xena's body. She kept thinking that she was dead or dying and her heart stopped. She dropped her bag and came to the other side of the bed. Eve was thankful to finally see Gabrielle appear after her long strange and unneeded absence.

"Gabrielle! I'm so glad you're here! Why did you go to Alexandria?" Eve frowned. Gabrielle brushed her hand along Xena's cheek ignoring her question entirely. Eve understood Gabrielle's worry and fret so she let it slide this time. "She's been like this for hours now," she groaned, "she hasn't woken up or even moved a muscle!" she threw down the cloth on the bed once the bleeding stopped.

Gabrielle stood up putting her hands on her hips staring at the two offspring. "What happened?" she frowned.

Solan said nothing, after all he wasn't there. Eve sighed, not wishing to stare at Gabrielle's angry face. "A group of Persians came here and attacked everyone. She was hit in the back of her head by a Persian's sword!" she shook her head, not understanding anything. "I don't know why she didn't see it coming."

Gabrielle heard the word Persians and that sparked something inside her. "Why were the Persians here?" she glared at Eve and the princess remained quiet. "Eve...?"

The young princess shrugged, "I might have done something...something unforgivable." Now both Solan and Gabrielle stared at her disbelievingly. "That hostage I captured in actually...the Persian King.." she mumbled.

"What?!" Solan and Gabrielle said in unison.

"I know!" Eve stood up becoming more frustrated at herself than the two blondes glaring at her. "It's all my fault that she's like this! I was trying to tell her...but she pushed me away!" she frowned.

Gabrielle rubbed her temples, feeling a headache coming on. "Maybe if you would have listened to your mother then we wouldn't be in this situation!" she smiled mockingly and folded her arms. "You're so careless!" she spat and Eve's eyes widened. "Xena has done so much for you, Eve and you take it all for granted. I'm so disappointed in you."

Eve slumped her head down then ran out of the room, bumping into Solan on her way out. Gabrielle sat down on the bed looking down at her friend's peaceful face, it had been awhile since she saw that look on her face. Solan slowly retreated out of the room feeling that it was not his place to stay here anymore. "I'm going to check on the entitled princess..." he half joked and left the room closing the door behind him.

Gabrielle smiled and grabbed hold of Xena's limp hand, holding it tightly in her own. She kissed her knuckles and stared at her serene face once more. "I'm sorry I wasn't here for you Xena," she sighed. "But I'm here now, just like I always am. A little late though..." she smiled weakly and she knew that Xena was not going to respond so she kept holding her hand tightly. "I found some information on the elixir," she whispered, talking to a wall practically. "I'm going to help you." She touched Xena's cheek softly and her skin radiated. "You always try to do fix things on your own. You never follow the rules," she chuckled quietly. "No, you make your own rules." Her laughter died down and she frowned staring at Xena's practically lifeless body. She wasn't there, only her body was. "But this time I make the rules and I'm going to help you get out of whatever you've done to yourself." She left her side and went to pick up her bag with the large scroll and rolled it out onto the floor, pushing the heavy parchment across Xena's room.

She decided she would sit here for as long as it took until she knew everything about this elixir and its effects. Regardless of Ares' plan, she would find some kind of loophole even if she had to skip meals and stay up all night. She peered up at Xena on the bed still asleep, she knew she wasn't going to wake up anytime soon so this was the perfect time to get to the bottom of this stupid problem.

After looking at the first few paragraphs of the long text, the scroll must have been twenty feet long. This is going to take awhile, she told herself. "Why'd you do it, Xena?" she bit her bottom lip and pulled out a parchment and immediately began taking notes of the scroll in front of her.

Samuel, the young Persian King was on a ship on his way back to his kingdom across the Mediterranean Sea. He smiled as they sailed further away from Cairo. He could see the palace even from far away. He snapped his fingers at his right hand man. "I want to send a decree to Xena when we return." He tapped the railing lightly the young scribe began jotting down notes instantly. "I want her to know that I will take Egypt and her entire empire. She is growing old and cannot rule forever," he smirked then looked to his scribe. "Did you get all that?" the young man nodded his head then disappeared below the deck.

A tall Persian soldier approached his king and smiled. "I wounded the empress pretty badly, sir." Samuel eyed him cautiously and folded his arms, not quite sure to think of that.

"Will she live?" the king asked hopeful that Xena was not to die from a simple wound.

The soldier straightened himself thinking that was not high on his priority list. He could care less about Xena and her Greek empire. He wanted to Persia to rule Greece like it did long before Rome and long before Xena's expanding empire, though her empire was dying out slowly as the years passed by. "No your majesty. She will live, I'm sure of it."

Samuel nodded liking the sound of that. "Good, I don't need her daughter coming after me again if her mother dies," he chuckled. "Although," he rubbed his chin, "that might be interesting..."

The soldier agreed and chuckled lowly. The king slapped him on the back with a grand smile on his face. "We shall rule Greece like Persia used to hundreds of years ago! We shall be on top of the world again!" he sighed looking at the blue water before him on his giant ship. "I am such a better ruler than my father ever was." He snapped his fingers then made his way to his barracks below the deck. "Wake me when we arrive in Persia," he called out then disappeared.

Eve sat outside in the garden behind the palace by herself. She figured it would be the last place anyone would look to find her. She sighed and looked at all the greenery in the garden. It was something that reminded her of Athens. Her mother wanted to make her feel more at home and insisted that there would be a palace garden that filled the entire empty field. She didn't understand why her mother wanted to move to Cairo and she really hated it here. She had been living here for five years now and hadn't grown to love it like her mother said she would. She preferred Greece over any other place.

She heard some rustling in the bushes behind her and she stood up then saw a shadowy figure coming towards her. She then noticed the gold eyes staring at her and she rolled her eyes staring at the goddess, Eris, once again coming to torture her. Eris pouted and came around behind Eve, placing her hands on her shoulders. Eve cringed at her touch.

"Oh poor Evie," Eris tisked and had a devious smile planted on her lips. "Sorry about your mother, but like you's your fault..isn't it?" she hissed in the princess's ear. "Yes, you did that to your mother and now she's experiencing every type of pain you could imagine in that state she's in..."

Eve gasped and Eris enjoyed the sadness radiating off her body. She fed off of it like a leach. "I can help you...if you let me," she whispered circling around Eve. She touched Eve's cheeks and felt the girl shiver.

Eve shook her head and took a step back. "I don't make deals with gods I don't trust." She folded her arms standing her ground. She might be at fault for her mother's condition but she wasn't going to give in to this goddess.

Eris raised her eyebrows, "oh but your mother did," she wagged her finger and sauntered around playfully then sat down on a stone bench staring up at the princess. "She looks different to you doesn't she?" she saw the realization in her eyes and she chuckled. "Yes, she made a deal with my brother, Ares."

Eve refused to believe that. Her mother hated Ares. "You're lying."

"Am I? I could take him and he can tell you himself," she twirled a lock of her hair around her slender finger. Eve turned her back to the goddess, closing her eyes rethinking everything at this moment. She slithered over to Eve and grazed her fingernail over her arm. "Ares helps your mother get what she wants and I help you.."

Eve frowned, turning to face the goddess. "What exactly do you want from me?"

Eris laughed aloud, "I want to help you become an empress! The best empress that you could be! Better than your mother! Think of could create a bigger empire, a better one but you need my help," she hissed. Eve shook her head still denying the goddess' words.

"My mother is still empress. This is her empire, not mine," Eve didn't want to listen to this woman's poisonous lies any longer so she left the gardens retreating back to the palace. Eris appeared in front of her stopping her in her tracks and she gasped.

Eris frowned deeply, "I can help your mother if you ally with me against my brother, Eve. I am the Goddess of Chaos! Together we can go against the God of War!"

Eve shook her head and brushed past the goddess rushing back into the palace as quickly as she could manage. Eris tapped her fingers on her arm and smirked watching the princess leave her side. "you will be mine," she disappeared in the shadows.

Xena woke up and saw she was still in Athens and it was morning already. She looked around and saw Gabrielle staring at her sitting on the edge of the bed. "Am I dead?"

Gabrielle smiled, "no, you just had too much to drink last night. You passed out."

Xena sat up in bed and felt her head pounding, she groaned and rubbed her temples trying to soothe her self-induced headache. "I'd rather be dead," she grumbled and Gabrielle blinked, then her head hung lowly not sure how to respond to that. She saw the solemn look on her friend's face and sighed, touching her hand warmly. "I didn't mean that but Gabrielle...I need to get out of here. I don't belong here anymore."

Gabrielle was sure that she'd be out of that kind of thinking but it appeared she was not. "I don't understand why you keep saying that!" she groaned and stood up pacing around the room. "I don't know if you're on some kind of mission to find yourself but it's starting to worry me..."

Xena folded her arms and kicked off the sheets, staring at the room that was once hers long ago. "Gabrielle, I know you don't understand but I don't belong here. I live in Egypt with you and Eve and Solan now." She sighed and saw the irritation rising in her friend's eyes. "Somehow...I am stuck here in this place again and I don't know if I am dreaming or not, or that I'm going crazy but.." she stared into her green eyes pleading innocence. "I need to go home."

Gabrielle huffed then sat next to Xena on her bed with her. "But you are home, Xena." She touched her hand warmly. She stared into her blue eyes and she did seem very confused and lost. Perhaps she was telling the truth since she was acting so strange but the two had no explanation for it. Slowly she leaned in closer to Xena and she saw her eyes widen as she came closer. She then kissed Xena gently on the lips.

Xena's body tensed up then relaxed until Gabrielle pulled away. The blonde smiled at her, her cheeks blushing and Xena turned her eyes elsewhere, not sure what to think of what happened there. "I'll always be here for you, Xena. I hope you know that." Gabrielle stood up to leave and Xena sat in her bed, leaning against the headboard in shock. She had known Gabrielle to be affectionate towards her but not that intimate, or was she forgetting things? Was this more than a dream? Was this actually real, she wondered? Or was she stuck in another game hosted by the Olympians again?

She slapped herself and then shook her head, realizing that wasn't the smartest idea. She thought she'd be back in Egypt by now, but she wasn't. She was stuck here for whatever reason. Was she here for a second chance or was this all make-believe? She had no real explanation for it and what was even more strange was that Solan wasn't here and Eve ceased to exist. As far she remembered, that battle she had with Octavius, she was pregnant with Eve at the time and here, she wasn't, she was without both her children. All alone.

Was she still the tyrant that everyone believed her to be in this world? Or was she the changed Xena that Gabrielle made her to be over the years of being together? She couldn't wrap her head around it all, but her palace was lonely and quiet much like it was before Gabrielle arrived and here she was, and it was still bleak and lonely even when she was here.

Is this what it takes to win a war? To be lonely forever? Xena curled her legs close to her and stared blankly off into space rethinking all of her life decisions at this very moment. This isn't a second chance, this is a nightmare.

Chapter Text

I can't see you, I can't hear you
Do you still exist?
I can't feel you, I can't touch you,
Do you exist?
The Phantom Agony
I can't taste you, I can't think of you,
Do we exist at all?

The future doesn't pass
And the past won't overtake the present
All that remains is an obsolete illusion
We are afraid of all the things that could not be
A phantom agony
Do we dream at night
Or do we share the same old fantasy?
I am a silhouette of the person wandering in my dream

The age-old development of consciousness
Drives us away from the essence of life
We meditate too much, so that our instincts will fade away
They fade away

What's the point of life
And what's the meaning if we all die in the end?
Does it make sense to learn or do we forget everything?

Song: Epica –The Phantom Agony Part I & II

For Gabrielle


Chapter 7


Three days later and Xena still had not awaken yet. Gabrielle remained in her bedroom on the floor trying to decipher the large mass of text before her. She hadn't come out of the room and she wasn't planning to until she found something but so far, she found nothing to help Xena. Kora came in occasionally to redress Xena's wounds and make sure her vitals were alright, which they were, but it was like she was dead or somewhat close to it.

Her breath was subtle and she laid there voiceless in her stillness. Gabrielle had never witnessed an injury so severe where Xena didn't come to. After taking notes for several hours early in the morning she waltzed over to the bed and sat down next to Xena. She brushed her dark hair with a solemn smile.

"I promise I'll find a way for you to be free from this..." she took out the vial and threw it onto the floor. "...this curse!" she growled then stood up pacing in front of Xena's bed occasionally looking over at Xena just to see if she'd respond, but she didn't. "Why won't you wake up?!" she yelled and Xena laid there motionless.

She ran to her and cupped Xena's cheeks in her hands shaking her. "We need you to wake up! I need you to..." she stared at Xena's peaceful state and groaned in frustration. "Xena, can you hear me? I'll always be here for you. I know you can hear me, at least I hope you can...please, Xena," she furrowed her brows and her eyes filled with tears as her friend remained unresponsive to her pleads.

Getting up she huffed and looked around the room. She needed a distraction and needed to entice a certain someone to come to her aid. She grabbed a vase and threw it at a nearby wall. The guards outside the room opened the door  once they heard the commotion and Gabrielle threw a chair at the door. The guard's eyes widened and he immediately shut the door.

She growled and then flipped over a table and all the plates smashed onto the floor and the wine glasses shattered everywhere. Smiling she picked up the elixir and held it high in the air, prepared to smash it.

Ares appeared in Xena's bedroom with an irate expression. He growled, "alright you got my attention, Gabrielle! Chill..." he saw her holding the vial and she grinned smugly.

She quickly grabbed one of Xena's swords off the wall and pointed it at the War God. "Look at her! What did you do to her?!" she grimaced and he held up his hands defensively. His eyes glanced over to the slumbering empress in her bed, completely unaware of his existence, though that wasn't new, even when she was awake, she ignored him.

He grinned, "she's fine, Gabrielle," he teased and she slashed his arm with the sword and he winced. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she saw she had drawn blood from the War God. He wiped the blood off on his vest and raised an eyebrow at her.

"You can bleed..." she said barely above a whisper. She came at him with the blade and he backed up bumping into the bed and fell next to Xena. "Fix her or I'll chop you up into pieces!" she growled.

Ares chuckled trying to save himself. He scooted away from Xena and stood up slowly. "Now, let's not get carried away here..." she thrust the sword forward and he backed up into a wall. "Gabrielle! Violence is not the way!"

Gabrielle chuckled, "that's funny coming from you," she inched closer and he couldn't go anywhere now, she had him cornered. "Tell me a way to fix her. Now." She frowned.

He grinned pleadingly, "I can't fix her whatever that means in your little blonde head," he rolled his eyes and she let the sword slowly come down to her side. "That's better," he smirked. He slowly brought his hand to Xena's face and Gabrielle hoisted the blade up defensively. "Hey now! I'm just checking...relax, blondie." He winked and touched Xena's cheek softly with the backside of his hand. She eyed him carefully, wary of his touchy hands.

"Well, congratulations, she's alive," he smirked folding his arms and she stepped closer with blade in hand. He frowned and stared into the blonde's fiery green eyes. "I know you're upset...but whatever happened to Xena has affected me too!" he grimaced and Gabrielle scoffed. "I'm serious, Gabrielle!" he folded his arms and stared down at the sleeping empress. He then chuckled, "well whatever is going on inside of her, is not stagnant..."

She lowered the blade with a raised eyebrow. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Do I look like a fortune teller to you?" he mocked. "She has her own war she's fighting, Gabrielle," he sighed.

Gabrielle looked to her raven haired companion with a sadness in her eyes. "How can we wake her? She can't stay like this forever!"

Ares put his hand over Xena preventing Gabrielle from coming any closer. "Don't try to wake her Gabrielle or risk the consequences." He said lowly and she grimaced at him. She didn't know what that meant and she was sure that he didn't know either. Walking to the scroll on the floor she knelt by it and looked over her mass of notes on many scrolls. He folded his arms cocking his head to the side staring at the large scroll. "What's this now, you playing with magic?" he teased.

"It's a scroll about the stupid elixir you gave her. I don't know what you said to make her use it...but I'll find a way out of it, eventually..." she sighed staring at the large amount of information before her. She flipped through her notes and pointed at a paragraph reading silently to herself. She stood up staring at the War God and he folded his arms. "It says that she can experience hallucinations. Is this true? It's that's what's happening to her right now?"

Ares rolled his eyes, "slow down with your questions. To be honest," he chuckled, "I don't know the effects of the elixir. I got from the Muse, Erato on Mount Parnassus."

She folded her arms, "I want you to take me there right now!" she demanded.

He laughed loudly, "and why would I do that?"

Gabrielle smirked smugly and twirled the blade in her hand, "I'll make sure you'll never be able to have sex again," her eyebrows raised and she saw the God's face pale instantly. "Right. So take me there, would you?" she playfully smiled and he growled then waved his hand and both disappeared from Xena's bedroom.


Xena strode down the long corridor upstairs and Racha was coming towards her with a document in hand. "Empress, this came for you –"

Xena waved her hand dismissing the woman, "don't call me empress, I freed you a long time ago," she brushed past her and swiftly made her way downstairs leaving Racha very confused.

As she made her way downstairs she found Gabrielle sitting down by herself writing something, of course, she mused. She changed into her black blouse and pants then tapped Gabrielle's shoulder. The blonde looked up and saw she had changed. "Feeling better?" she asked the empress.

Xena shook her head, "not really. I want to go to Rome right now." She folded her arms defensively and Gabrielle stood up with a bemused face.

"To Rome?" she repeated. "Why would you want to go there? Octavius hates you."

She sighed rolling her eyes. "Yes, yes, I know he hates me. Old news. Anyway, I want to go there to see Solan. He belongs here with me and if I can't have Eve then I can at least have him in this awful nightmare." She huffed and Gabrielle took a step closer to her causing Xena to tense up.

"that's enough of this charade Xena. We're not going to Rome and you're not ever going to see Solan again," Gabrielle harshly put it, but it was the truth.

Xena felt that she lost a bit of herself when Gabrielle said that to her. "Wh...what? What do you mean I'll never see him again?" she shook Gabrielle and the blonde slapped her hands away from her, shocking Xena.

Gabrielle frowned becoming frustrated with her friend. "I don't know what's wrong with you lately but you're making me angry. Just stop doing this, Xena and act like yourself!"

"No you don't understand! I'm acting like myself but you're not, Gabrielle! None of this is real!" she smiled mockingly and gestured to the empty palace. "This is not how it's supposed to be! This place is depressing, look at it!" she yelled. "We turned my palace into a school...don't you remember Gabrielle?" she pleaded and her friend looked so lost. "Don't you remember?" her eyes swelled with tears and her hand reached to Gabrielle's cheek.

Gabrielle took a step backward away from the empress. "That never happened, Xena," she exhaled heavily trying to calm her anger rising inside her. "Tell you what, I'm going to leave the palace for awhile so you can...sort out whatever is going on in your head then I'll come back." She took off and Xena's mouth gaped.

She turned to see her leaving her all alone, once again. "You can't leave me, Gabrielle! You're supposed to be here with me, like you said...!" she called out but Gabrielle ignored her. "Gabrielle!"

Deciding to take matters in her own hands she grabbed a horse and rode off by herself to Rome to see what Gabrielle meant by she was never going to see Solan again. But first, she would make a stop inside the inner city of Athens to see the state of her people. She hadn't been to Athens in many years and trusted that everything was fine there, but in this alternate life, she wasn't sure what it had in store for her.


She trotted into the city of Athens and saw that her people were not suffering, but they were not wealthy either like she left them years ago. She had completely renovated the city last time she lived here but this...this was a complete mess and she saw the fear in their eyes.

Dismounting the horse she pulled on the reins and made her way through the city. Many people made way for her and shot her fearful glances or hateful ones. She didn't like that her people hated her. She worked very hard to regain their trust over the years and that was no easy task, but last time she was here, everyone loved her and they weren't afraid of her anymore.

She saw a few children playing outside in a large courtyard and she smiled at them, finally seeing children. They saw her approaching and grabbed their toys and ran from her. Frowning she left her horse and saw a child fall to the ground. Running towards the young boy she helped him up and he cowered in fear.

"Are you alright?" she asked sweetly kneeling down to his eye level and the boy stared up into her eyes pushing back a scream. "I'm not going to hurt you," she smiled. She picked up the boy's wooden toys and handed it to him.

He took the toys and hugged them to his chest. Suddenly his mother came up to her and he ran to her, hugging to his mother's skirt, hiding behind her. Xena stood up and took a good look around, many eyes were on her and she sighed. The woman smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry Empress, he was just playing outside and I wasn't watching him..."

Xena grinned, "you don't need to be apologize to me. He didn't do anything wrong," she peered at the fearful child as he hid behind his mother. The woman and her boys left to go back to their home and Xena folded her arms glancing around what a horrible place this was. Gabrielle would be so upset to see something like this, she told herself, shaking her head at the tragedy of it all. Then she remembered that this wasn't real, or perhaps it was and she was just crazy? Was she sent back in time to be cursed to relive this life of a conqueror once again? She mounted her horse and took off to go to Rome like she said she would.


Gabrielle and Ares arrived to Mount Parnassus like he promised. She felt a bit strange being here as she was mortal and suspiciously she began to think that Ares was too, or at least half mortal because he could bleed. Or unless Xena had a sword forged by Hephaestus himself and she didn't say anything, which was highly unlikely.

Terpsichore smiled and pranced over to the two guests. "Oooo, Ares! You brought a mortal!" she circled around Gabrielle. "And she's so cute too!"

Ares smirked and Gabrielle nudged him in the ribs and he surprisingly winced. Gabrielle grabbed the muse's arm tightly. "I'm not here for cute small talk. I want to talk to you about this," she presented the elixir and Terpsichore gasped. All the other Muses saw the elixir and began whispering among themselves.

The svelte muse admired the elixir then grabbed Gabrielle's hand leading her to Erato's corner. "She can help you with that," she pushed Gabrielle forward and she groaned not liking being pushed around like some kind of a toy for these Muses.

She saw Erato talking with someone and Gabrielle recognized him easily. It was Cupid, Aphrodite's son. She rolled eyes and snapped her fingers trying to get the muse's attention. Erato frowned and then saw a mortal standing there with the elixir in her hand. She pushed Cupid off her barely covered body and sauntered over to Gabrielle. "What are you doing with that?" she smiled sweetly.

Gabrielle folded her arms, "I want you to tell me what this does to mortals."

Erato giggled, "I can't tell you that. You're not the giver of the elixir. If I seem to recall...I gave it to Ares," she tapped her chin checking to make sure she remembered that correctly.

Gabrielle nodded then went to grab the God of War. She ushered him to the muse and Erato's smile grew as soon as she saw him. She put her hands on her wide hips staring at the God before her. She playfully twirled her finger in her long red locks. Ares smirked at her and Gabrielle felt sick watching these two.

"Okay get on with it. He's here now explain what this does to mortals," Gabrielle interrupted their little party and Erato frowned at her.  

The muse of love sat down shrugging her shoulder nonchalantly. "Depends on the mortal. It's different for everyone."

Gabrielle slapped her forehead out of frustration. Ares chuckled at her demise and received a glare from her so he stopped laughing. "The person who used it had a bit of an accident...she was hit in the head and hasn't woken up for days."

Erato nodded, taking it all in. "Has this person had any hallucinations?"

"Not that I know of." Gabrielle folded her arms wanting to get on with this silly charade.

"I see..." Erato stood up and wrapped a silk robe around her body and ran her fingers through her hair. "Well, if she has already used it which obviously she has," she smiled, "the wound on her head is not what is keeping her from waking up." She poured some wine for Cupid and handed it to him as she winked at him. She turned around to Gabrielle and Ares again. "You can't wake her up, only she can do that herself." Gabrielle didn't like to hear that, which meant that Xena was fine, which was good news, but she was stuck inside her mind with no help whatsoever.

"How can I help her?" Gabrielle begged.

Erato sipped on her wine and sighed heavily, "well you could use the elixir on yourself..." she grinned mischievously, "but only if you're willing to do it. It doesn't work unless you're willing to use it."

Gabrielle wasn't understanding this muse's words. "How will that help her?"

"Well...." Erato trailed off not sure how to say this. "If you use it, you could go in her mind with her." Gabrielle now understood what she was saying, but still, how would she do that. "But," she held up her finger. "You need an Olympian willing to help you and it can't be him," she pointed at Ares with a large smirk.

Gabrielle frowned at Ares and he scoffed. "As if I'd ask him for help." She sighed and turned her attention back to the muse. "When I use will a god help me after that?"

Erato shrugged, "don't know, that's up to you. That's all got. I have to go now, it has been fun talking to you mortal," she winked at them both then went to tend to Cupid.


Ares brought Gabrielle back to Xena's room and she was still in the same state that she was before they left. Gabrielle stared at the elixir and saw Ares eyeing her cautiously. "Why are you still here?" she chided. The War God rolled his eyes and disappeared without a trace. She sat down on the floor staring at the bottle in her hand. Who will help me?

She immediately thought of Aphrodite and thought she'd be willing to help or at least maybe the thought of it. Gabrielle ran out of the bedroom in search of Eve. She went to Eve's room and found her alone, sharpening a blade that didn't really need any sharpening at all.

Eve saw Gabrielle enter her room and she averted her eyes. "Are you still upset at me?" she asked in a quiet voice.

Gabrielle didn't care about that right now. "Eve, I need you to do something for me," she came to sit next to her and Eve set down the blade on her bed. She awaited for Gabrielle's request and stared into her hands and saw a bottle. She frowned, quite confused. "I need you to tell Aphrodite to come here."

Eve stood up, "why do you need her?" she raised a questioning brow.

"Please, Eve. She loves you, she's like your...other mother," Gabrielle weakly smiled. "I need her to help me so I can wake Xena up." She pleaded.

Now Gabrielle and Eve stood in Xena's room staring at the basically lifeless empress. Eve sighed then folded her arms staring at the bottle in Gabrielle's hands. "Okay, I'll tell her to come here but what is that?" she eyed the vial.

Gabrielle didn't want to explain but if she didn't then Eve probably wouldn't comply with her. "It's an elixir of youth...Xena used it for whatever reason I don't know...but she's stuck somewhere and Erato said –"

"Erato? The Muse of Love?" Eve was now truly confused and why would her mother use that? That didn't sound like her but now it explained why she looked so different to her when she saw her. "Just explain it to me later.." she smiled at Gabrielle, figuring that she was suffering enough.

Gabrielle was thankful that Eve was being compliant with her. She waited patiently as Eve stood there closing her eyes, calling upon the Love Goddess.

Aphrodite appeared dressed in all black, not pink like normally was. Her appearance shocked them both and Eve's eyes widened. The goddess looked at the two then saw Xena lying on her bed. "What happened to Xena?" she frowned.

"Why...are you dressed like that?" Eve said without acknowledging her question about her mother.

Aphrodite looked at Xena and folded her arms. Gabrielle was still shocked to see Aphrodite look so dark and gloomy instead of her cheerful self. "You know, I had a feeling something was off when Ares came to me." The goddess rolled her eyes.

"Ares came to see you?" Gabrielle was truly bemused now.

Aphrodite saw the bottle in Gabrielle's hand and her eyes widened then she snatched it out of her hands. "Did Xena use this?" she shook her head, "now I understand what Ares was talking about!" she frowned. "Ares is so stupid!" she groaned and sat down on Xena's bed holding the elixir in her hand. "He threatened Xena with this. That is one of the rules!"

Gabrielle remembered that when she went to see Abas in Alexandria. Threats and willingness and Xena was neither, obviously, especially if Aphrodite knew about it. She must have been linked to it since she is rather friendly with Erato. "What does this mean?"

The goddess shook her head over and over. "He didn't think about the consequences. If you use this wrongly...he could lose his godhood," she sighed.

Now that made sense to Gabrielle since she was able to draw blood from him awhile ago. "And what about you?" she wasn't sure she wanted to hear the answer to that.

Aphrodite frowned, "without war there cannot be love either," her head hung lowly.

Eve became irritated. "Well, do something about this! This is ridiculous and my mother has been like this for days! We need to help her!"

Gabrielle nodded agreeing with the princess. She sat down next to Aphrodite. "Erato told me that if I take this willing," she stressed, "you can help me with...Xena," she hoped she would.

Aphrodite's eyes widened, "hey blondie, that's not a good idea. You two could be stuck in an alternate world, which it looks like Xena is there right now..." she eyed the empress as she lay there silently, though her mind did otherwise.

"I don't care. I want to help her. Please, Aphrodite? I don't have anyone else..." Gabrielle begged and grabbed the goddess' hand tightly.

Aphrodite looked at Eve then at Gabrielle again. She sighed, relenting to help all of them.

Gabrielle stared at the bottle and opened it. immediately an aroma filled the room and it was definitely enticing. She could understand why Xena was bewitched into this, although she had help. She would have to get Ares later. Aphrodite instructed her to lay down next Xena and pour a few drops on her wrist, just as Xena had done. Gabrielle stared at Xena and exhaled, slowly pouring the elixir on her wrist.

It soon dissolved into her skin and she didn't feel any different so far. She grabbed Xena's hand and Aphrodite told her to close her eyes then she placed each hand on Gabrielle's and Xena's foreheads, linking the two together.

Eve stood afar and watched as Aphrodite sent Gabrielle off to do something either very brave or very stupid. She didn't want to lose them both. Gabrielle let out a loud breath then went quiet, her head lolling to the side, close to Xena's.

Aphrodite doubled over exhausted and Eve grabbed hold of her. "Are you alright?" Eve asked. The goddess felt like she was losing more of herself and that took too much out of her.

" this what it feels like to be mortal?" she smiled lamely and Eve's eyes widened. She helped the goddess sit down in a chair and knelt beside her holding her hand.

"will...Gabrielle be able to help mother?" Eve whispered. Aphrodite shook her head unknowingly.


Gabrielle woke up in a bed and glanced around the room. This wasn't Egypt, it was Athens back in Xena's old palace. Quickly she got up and exited the room she saw the palace was void of people, nobody was here, no children. Xena, where are you?

She waltzed through the halls and saw Racha watering some plants inside the atrium. She ran towards her and Racha smiled at her. "Have you seen Xena?"

Racha frowned, "she told you that she was going to Rome..." first Xena's strange behavior and now Gabrielle. What is going on, she thought?

Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear. "To Rome?" she put her hands on her hips deciding what to do next. "When did she leave?"

"Well just a few hours ago, Gabrielle –" Racha saw her take off running and she sighed, shaking her head at this strangeness that surrounded her.

I will find you, Xena.


The lucidity of my mind has been revealed in new dreams
I am able to travel where my heart goes
In search of self-realization

This is the way to escape from our agitation
And develop ourselves
Use your illusion and enter my dream...

Song: Epica –The Phantom Agony Part III

For Xena



Chapter Text

You were my first love
The earth moving under me
Bedroom scent, beauty ardent
Distant shiver, heaven sent

I'm the snow on your lips
The freezing taste, the silvery sip
I'm the breath on your hair
The endless nightmare, devil's lair

Only so many times
I can say I long for you
The lily among the thorns
The prey among the wolves

Someday, I will feed a snake
Drink her venom, stay awake
With time all pain will fade
Through your memory I will wade

Barely cold in her grave
Barely warm in my bed
Settling for a draw tonight
Puppet girl, your strings are mine

Song: Nightwish – Feel For You

From Gabrielle to Xena

AN: quite an emotional overdrive in this one. Very dense.

Chapter 8

Gabrielle rode through Athens and saw the massive change in the city. If Xena was here she could only imagine what she was going through when she laid eyes upon this tragedy. She had worked so hard, they had worked so hard, to change this city for the better, but it was like she stepped back into time, only it was awful. Athens was a thriving city and known for its education and multiple opportunities. It was almost as if Athens had remained much of the same more than a decade ago as Gabrielle remembered. These people used to fear Xena and now they loved her and though it took many years for Xena to accomplish that, it was well worth the effort. Now as Gabrielle laid her eyes on the distraught city and people, she hated seeing herself in this distorted land. Nothing had changed and it was like time had stood still or perhaps it was moving too fast? She needed to catch up to Xena but that was unlikely at the rate she was going.

Racha informed her that Xena left hours ago, but Gabrielle didn't know when she left and how long she had been riding. Xena was always a better horseman than she could ever be. She could ride for hours on end without stopping only because she was on a mission and usually it was an important one at that. She pulled on the horse's reins and trotted off beyond the city borders to catch up to Xena as fast as she could.

Knowing Xena she would be half way to the edge of the Greek border because of her excellent time management. Gabrielle had spent many years with Xena and even though they had grown so close, she still had much to learn from her. Xena had so many great qualities about her but she failed to acknowledge them. She was a great empress, a kind person albeit a bit misguided in the beginning, she prevailed and pushed through to see the light in her dark path, which Gabrielle had to give herself at least some credit for that.

Gabrielle believed that she was Xena's light, though she kept this to herself, too embarrassed to bring this up to Xena even after almost two decades of sharing a life together. As she trotted through this alternate world she wondered if Xena was a bit miffed to be here. She imagined that Xena would have a panic attack and maybe that was why she decided to go to Rome? She didn't understand why Xena was sent back in time, especially to her home in Athens, of all places. She expected to be transported into some kind of scene of Tartarus, but she supposed in Xena's mind, this place was a Hellfire.

This world reminded Xena of everything she used to be, the awful person she used to be and to be put back into it like nothing ever happened must have frightened her. Gabrielle frowned, continuing to ride along far from the rural villages, ignoring the confused glances by the villagers. She knew the path that Xena took to Rome all too well and she even knew her favorite resting spots too. She knew that she would have to ride this horse to death in order to catch up to Xena. Hoping that Xena had stopped to rest a bit, she would find her and guide her through this world.

It was rather strange being here again. It was as if she were just a scribe and or slave to Xena again and she grew up a lot during that short period. After Xena had seen she was a tyrant the closeness between them grew stronger and a lot happened in that year. Both Xena and Gabrielle faced many hardships together and alone as well. So many wars, bloodshed and destruction was held in the Greek Empire. Gabrielle wasn't even sure if Xena wanted to defeat the Romans anymore. She believed that she was not focused on them anymore as she had shown lack of interest.

She then thought of the fifteen year long secret that Xena kept from her and that instantly cut deep. She felt that Xena had betrayed her and she did it again when she used this stupid elixir given to her by Ares. She wanted to understand why Xena took it and maybe if she found out why, she could forgive her for her selfish actions. Xena was not known to be very selfless, although she had gotten better as she grew older with age.

After Xena left Athens years after the final war with Octavius, she didn't want to show her face anymore. Gabrielle knew that battle was a hard, devastating blow to her ego and entire empire. She wasn't the best any longer and Gabrielle saw in Xena's eyes that she was defeated and ashamed of herself. Eve had a point and that was that Xena belonged in Athens not in Cairo. She only moved to Egypt because of her crushed ego and shame she brought upon herself –creating a dark cloud constantly hovering over her head. If only she knew what secret Xena kept for all those years perhaps she wouldn't have lost, perhaps she would have been more focused and won the last war?

Xena had lost herself after that last war between the Greek and Roman empires. She wasn't angry that she lost, she was sad, which only meant one thing –defeat. Gabrielle knew that Xena did not accept defeat, it just wasn't in her vocabulary. Xena was conquered and once a long time ago she was the conqueror, the destroyer of nations, the tyrant empress, the cold hearted Thracian witch. Now, Xena wasn't any of those things, she was just an empress that was losing her empire. Gabrielle knew that cut deep into Xena's soul. She hated to see her companion lost and alone even if she were surrounded by a sea of people, Xena acted alone, she was alone, for so long. Gabrielle had no idea how Xena felt all these years, keeping that awful vision to herself, but she was going to make sure that vision didn't come to light and she needed to get them both out of this nightmare before it was too late.

Two hours later Gabrielle finally arrived to the border of Greece and there was no sign of Xena. She had passed two resting spots awhile back and Xena wasn't there, which meant she was riding her horse to death all the way to Rome, or perhaps she'd buy a new one after the other horse had grown too exhausted.

She halted the horse and saw many guards standing at the border between the Roman Empire and Greece's. The guards were obviously Greek and she thought that she was well known so she tried to pass through but all the guards put up their spears at her head. She frowned and reached down in her boot to pull out one of her Sais.

"Did Xena come through here?" she asked calmly, trying to contain her frustration with these ridiculous guards.

The soldier in the middle smirked, "she came through here an hour ago. Why are you trying to leave the Greek Empire?" he asked questionably.

Gabrielle felt the need to laugh at this man's question. "I need to find her. This is very important!" she growled. The guards wouldn't budge so she sighed heavily and threw the Sais into the guard's chest and kicked a few out of her way so she could pass through them.

Quickly she grabbed the Sais sticking out of the man's chest and rode off beyond the Greek border trailing into Roman territory now. She looked back and saw a few men throwing their spears at her. Instinctively she ducked her head and rode off West to find Xena. She knew she'd have to be very careful being in Roman territory now, though the Greek soldiers weren't very nice to her, which she thought odd since she was very close to the empress. Later thoughts, she told herself, for now I find Xena and I seek answers later.

Though her memory was foggy she did seem to recall Xena putting soldiers at Greece's border to section them off from the Romans. Though, it didn't last very long after the war in the poppy fields. She smiled thinking of that chaotic battle. Xena won, they both won, but it wasn't easy and there were many obstacles in their way that they both had to overcome. Gabrielle didn't want Xena to face those same obstacles again.

After a few hours of riding some more towards Rome she saw a campfire while the sun was just about to set. She figured that it was Xena and she remained hopeful. She hopped of the horse and walked the remainder of the way just in case it wasn't Xena and she had to hurry out of there.

She approached the campfire slowly and saw Xena sitting by herself and appeared to be writing something down on a scroll which was rather odd for her. She never wrote anything and if she did, her horrid grammar would surely frustrate her in the end. Gabrielle tied the horse to a tree far away from the camp and expected Xena to instantly acknowledge her presence but she was so focused, or rather distracted it seemed like.

Taking another step closer Xena remained focused and intensely writing at a very fast pace completely ignoring her surroundings. Gabrielle felt sadness for her dear lifelong friend. She was so lost in her own world that she was not acting like herself. A solemn smile graced her lips and she leaned on a nearby tree observing the fallen empress writing to her heart's content.

"Xena..." she whispered and suddenly Xena turned to see her standing by a tree. Gabrielle smiled warmly at her and then Xena instantly frowned at her, almost as if she was unhappy to see her. Gabrielle felt her heart sink to her stomach at Xena's reaction. She tread closer to her cautiously then sat down next to her on the grassy ground while Xena sat on a blanket she laid out on the ground.

"You decided to come to Rome after you berated me and told me not to come," Xena scoffed. "You're the one who isn't acting normal, it's not me!" she griped then threw the scroll off to the side.

Gabrielle could feel the anxiety in Xena's voice and wanted to comfort her not to yell at her. Whatever happened before she got here must have really struck her in a negative way. She wanted to help Xena understand that she was not alone and she too was in this alternate world with her, forever always, never alone, no matter what Xena said to herself.

So instead of inciting the issue she remained stoic and calm about everything. Whatever Xena had dealt with these last few days in this world obviously was making Xena lose her sanity, she could tell. She pointed to the discarded scroll with a soft smile, "what were you writing?"

Xena rubbed her cheek anxiously and steered clear of Gabrielle's sudden warmth. A few hours ago she was opposed to everything she wanted and probably thought she was crazy, now she was here sitting by her acting completely different towards her. She had done a complete 360 in behavior and action. "It was nothing...I was just writing down my thoughts," she mumbled.

Gabrielle nodded and decided not to pry anymore. She thought it'd be best to connect with Xena on another level, something that would make her happy or at least lift her out of her dark cloud. The little time she was in the palace she noticed that the large fortress was bleak and lonely, not like when they left it. It was turned into a school and though she didn't know what period of time she was being thrust back into, it was obviously way before the school for children, or was it?

She smiled in silence as Xena sat awkwardly, avoiding her gaze. "Athens is not how I remember it," she began and Xena's eyes widened at that. "The people were so fearful and poor like they were many years ago..." she trailed off then Xena turned her eyes towards her. Gabrielle saw the look of realization in her eyes and her grin widened as her friend finally understood that she was not crazy or alone.

"Gabrielle...?" Xena felt the need to say her name to wake her from this awful nightmare. This was her Gabrielle, not the one back in the palace who constantly fought against her and knew nothing of her memories back in Athens so long ago.

"I told you I would never leave you, Xena and I meant that," Gabrielle's eyes sparkled and Xena's face erupted with happiness and immediately embraced her, wrapping her arms tightly around her friend's body, holding her close. Finally no longer feeling alone in this strange world that she was in, Gabrielle was there for her, just like she always told her.

Gabrielle closed her eyes allowing Xena to hold her as long as possible. It was so strange to see her like this, so vulnerable that is. Her appearance was just as she was many years ago, but she wasn't the tyrant she was, she never will be again. Xena pulled away from the warm much needed embrace and Gabrielle saw tears swelling in Xena's eyes. She rubbed her thumb across her cheek and Xena smiled warmly.

" did you find me here?" Xena managed to say trying to pull back her shakiness that completely engulfed her entire body.

Gabrielle sighed heavily, "that is a long story, but in short, I had Aphrodite help me get to me to this place," she gestured to their current surroundings. Xena didn't really understand what that meant and furrowed her eyebrows in utter bemusement. Gabrielle saw that Xena was completely oblivious which was not good, she had no idea what was going on in the real world in Egypt right now. "Xena, do you know what is going on in Cairo right now?"

Xena shook her head and ran her fingers through her long dark hair. "I...I just woke up in Athens one day with no logical explanation. You were there...but I wasn't, at least not mentally. I thought I was sent back in time because of Ares." She stared into Gabrielle's concerned eyes. "What?" she half smiled, a bit worried of her companion's expression.

She twiddled her thumbs in her lap and Xena took notice immediately. This was something that Gabrielle did when she became nervous or apprehensive when chaos was brewing. "'ve been unconscious for the last four days. A Persian soldier hit you in the head and you never woke up."

Xena couldn't believe she was hearing this. It was like it was new information to her and she had no idea. "I don't remember any of that," she groaned and held her head in her hands out of frustration. For a moment she felt like she wasn't crazy and now it was all back again. She had no recollection of this injury and now she truly questioned if she was dreaming or not, but she couldn't be because Gabrielle was here too which didn't make a lick of sense in her mind. "Are you injured too? Is that why you're here?" she felt her breath quicken as her mind raced.

Gabrielle shook her head, "no I'm fine. Eve and Aphrodite are overseeing the process, or whatever you want to call it," she half smiled lamely. "Xena, this place is real because you're allowing it to be real. It's just an awful reminder of what you used to be!" she grabbed Xena's hand and squeezed it tightly.

The empress scoffed mockingly, "so this all just some big joke?" she stood up slipping her hand from underneath Gabrielle's. she began to pace anxiously as her arms were folded, she began biting her fingernail out of nerves. "How can we get out of here, Gabrielle? This life is different. I won that war with you when Octavius decided not to heed my words. And Eve ceases to exist here..." an overwhelming sadness overcame her as she thought of her daughter, then of course Solan. He was not in her grasp here, he was still in Rome, which is something that had been resolved so long ago. She wondered what they were all doing in Egypt right about now and if anything disastrous was going on while she was "asleep" as she lightly put it.

The blonde folded her arms thinking about what Xena said and this indeed was not a dream, it was an alternate reality, but why? Why go through all of this trouble? Obviously it was connected with the elixir but Gabrielle wasn't so sure that was the cause of it all. There had to be something else, some other force at work here and it wasn't Ares that's for sure, because he was suffering too from this stupid elixir of youth he enticed Xena with.

This was a long shot but she had to offer something to aid in this weird situation. "Maybe you were sent here to correct this place? Like you had it before you left Athens?"

Xena raised a questionable eyebrow at her friend. "That doesn't make any sense. Why would I be sent here to correct things that I have never done? Eve isn't here and neither is Solan! My people hate me and Octavius has surrendered. This is not what I did all those years ago. Things are different here!"

She plopped down onto the blankets again and now the sun had set, everything was dark. Once again she felt her world was enclosing on her again –pure darkness, much like her heart in the past. "Was I sent here as a punishment?" she began rambling on all the possible things that racked her brain. "If so, who sent me here and how can I leave this place?" she looked into the starry sky questioning every life decision she had ever made. "Is this a sign that I should go home...back to Athens? Where I belong..." she mumbled as she thought of her daughter's words that were said to her before this giant mess. She shook her head and buried her face in her hands. "Is this a test by the Fates? Am I and always will be, the awful tyrant that everyone believes me to be?"

Gabrielle rolled her eyes, getting sick of hearing Xena's pity party she was throwing by herself. "Stop that, Xena. You're not the person you once were. You're not a conqueror anymore...remember?" she stared into Xena's blank blue eyes. "And you're never going back there! This place is only here to remind you of all the horrible things you've done, nothing more, nothing less." She smiled, hoping Xena would come into the light.

Although Xena heard her words, she didn't listen to them. Instantly she became enraged at herself and the entirety of the situation. "If it's so awful then...why are you here?" she said quietly as her rage began to die as Gabrielle kept her eyes glued to her every move.

She shrugged lightly, not really knowing the answer to her ambiguous question. "Perhaps I am here to remind you of how far you've come." She grinned and Xena bobbed her head slowly, neither agreeing or disagreeing. "Xena," she began tersely, "you're the best thing that has ever happened to me and I don't tell you that enough because perhaps," she chuckled, "I have taken you for granted." Xena eyed her, a bit surprised to hear that come out of her mouth. Though, she knew that Gabrielle was quite philosophical and poetic with her words, she hadn't heard something like that come from her in quite a long time. It was a sweet reminder that she truly had Gabrielle in her heart, more than a friend or a companion. She was much more than that, she knew that.

Xena remained quiet allowing Gabrielle's words to sink in. Gabrielle began once more, "when I saw you lying in your that," she lowered her eyes. "You looked dead. You were unresponsive. It was like you were there but you weren't," she grunted, not sure she was getting her point across. "I thought you were going to wake up at any moment, but you never did..." she trailed off.

"Gabrielle, I thought we went over this before," Xena showcased a jesting smile. "If I was going to die, I'd tell you," she winked and held onto her hand tightly. Gabrielle shook her head, wiping her eyes from the incandescent tears. She always thought Xena made jokes at such inappropriate times and she would never want Xena to change her sense of humor, even if it wasn't welcomed. "It is so strange being in this place," Xena announced, delightfully changing the subject. "I thought I could escape my failures when I left Athens, but it always seems to haunt me and you're always here..." she grinned scooting closer to Gabrielle.

The blonde nodded then a few silent moments passed. She thought she should ask this question and it might help them both leave this dreadful place. "Xena...what made you want to use the elixir? Ares threatened you, I know he did."

Suddenly the mood became stagnant and Xena did not want to answer that question. She wanted to avoid it but that was unlikely especially since Gabrielle could be so pushy sometimes for good reason, though. She sighed heavily, thinking everything over in her head. "Ares told me...he would use Eve for his own gain and you too if I did not comply..."


Xena stared at Gabrielle and immediately felt the fire within her growing, though she contained her anger very well, not like her. "Gabrielle, I didn't know what to do," she covered her mouth and stared into the giant flames before her. "I have lied to you many times, Gabrielle and I'm sorry. I lied to you for fifteen years simply because I thought I could ignore it, but obviously that didn't work. I...don't even understand myself sometimes," she sadly admitted.

"You hurt me," Gabrielle blurted out. Now it was time for Xena to be quiet and sit in silence as well as shock. She turned to her empress friend with a subtle frown on her face. "You lied to me without good reason. You didn't have to lie to me, Xena. You could have come and told me what Ares showed you in that stupid vision of his all those years ago, but you didn't." she turned her attention to the campfire avoiding Xena's icy eyes. "you could have told me what Ares said to you and refused to use the elixir, but you didn't, once again."

Xena grumbled, "Gabrielle, I was put under a lot of pressure!" her anger getting the best of her and Gabrielle slowly turned to face her with an incredulous look.

"Are you kidding me? Xena, when are you not under pressure?!" she spat back forcefully, deciding not to take any more of Xena's excuses. "I came here to help you clean up the mess you've made for yourself!" she stood up and Xena grabbed hold of her wrist. She snapped her head around and snatched her arm away from her. "Maybe I have come here to make you realize how selfish you can be, Xena."

Xena shook her head. This was going for a bad turn, she thought. "No Gabrielle, no I –"

"No, what? Xena," she sighed closing her eyes trying to calm herself. "I love you and care about you, but you seem to have lost your way and I –"

Xena stood up and placed her hands on Gabrielle's shoulders, interrupting her. "You are my way, Gabrielle."

"What?" she managed to utter, not quite understanding Xena's words. Out of all the years of being together, she was never so expressive and usually she would get angry and throw a fit about being in the wrong and not admitting it, but this was different.

"I lost myself when I came to Egypt ten years ago. I was so focused on myself and my own ego that I did not stop to think about anyone else," Xena admitted and felt a bit embarrassed. She saw the shocked look on Gabrielle's face which made her want to laugh, but she kept it to herself. "I put a wall between myself and everyone else, especially you, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle stared at Xena's flushed cheeks and a subtle smirk came to her. " this your apology for fifteen years of crap?" she jested. Xena smirked, hiding her quiet laugh beneath her breath.

She shrugged, "I think I owe you more than an apology, but..I'm sorry," she blinked and Gabrielle wanted to stay mad at her, but she couldn't and it was obvious that Xena was lost and had been lost for quite some time. She finally saw her old self emerge from the dark pits within her mind. Her mind was definitely her enemy.

Xena somehow felt like that was enough to set themselves free of this place but nothing happened and she felt the same. Gabrielle saw a pensive look in her eyes and raised a questioning brow. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking we're never going to get out of here. This place is real, Gabrielle..." her eyes surveyed the area feeling very unsafe at this moment. "Which is either a really good thing or a bad thing.." she frowned and unsheathed her sword, sensing a presence nearby. Gabrielle pulled out her Sais from her boots and trailed behind Xena at a fair distance.

Xena crept out into the darkness as she heard rustling in the trees. She knew that this was Roman territory and she was trespassing here technically but this was far away from Rome and far from Octavius' guards posted at the border. She knew he wouldn't send men this far out just to scope the area, it would have been a foolish move on his part.

Gabrielle came closer to Xena and snapped her head around in all directions wary of anybody nearby. "Would you...go back and do it all over again, if you had the chance?" she whispered.

Xena frowned at Gabrielle's question. This wasn't the time for philosophical bullshit, she told herself. She ignored her question and walked further into the darkness no longer hearing anything. Lowering her weapon she felt a stabbing pain in her side and it spread to the pit of her stomach. Frowning she bent over slightly resting her hand on her hip, trying to relieve herself of the random pains within her.

Gabrielle noticed that she had not moved and it was rather dark. She squinted her eyes and came towards her, seeing her unresponsive state. "Are you alright?" she wrapped her arm around her friend but Xena remained silent, hiding whatever what was bothering her. "Xena, now is not the time for secrets," she frowned, feeling like she was being betrayed again.

Xena closed her eyes, blocking out Gabrielle completely, now focused on the pain engulfing her. Gabrielle was now more concerned since Xena was not even responding to her. She grabbed hold of Xena's arm trying to move her but that was not happening. "Xena?" she cried out and still, she received silence. "Xena!"

Deciding not to hide her pain anymore she dropped to her knees and breathed heavily, clutching her abdomen while Gabrielle remained helpless. She had no idea what to do and stood there nervously watching her. She tried to lift her up but Xena pushed her away.

"Just tell me what's wrong," Gabrielle pleaded and Xena's eyes closed tightly, holding in her impending screams that awaited to be released. "Maybe I can help you?" she ran back to the campsite and emptied all of Xena's bags searching for something that might help even though she had no idea what was happening. She sniffed a few herbs and ran back to Xena and knelt down in front of her. She held up the herb close to Xena's nose alerting her. Her eyes opened and Gabrielle grabbed the wineskin filled with water urging her to drink. "It's for pain, that's all I know..." she never felt more helpless until this moment.

Xena did as Gabrielle told her to do then sat down leaning on a tree, allowing her breathing to slow. Gabrielle sat in front of her tapping her fingers on her knees, patiently waiting for the herb to do its job though it would take awhile. Xena was so good at hiding her injuries and pain from others, it was hard to tell when she was in dire need sometimes.

Gabrielle raised her eyebrows expecting a response from Xena but all she received was a defensive glare. "So...are you alright now?" she asked nicely and Xena shook her head, ignoring the traveling pain throughout her abdomen and lower back. "I want to help."

Xena exhaled slowly as her fingers dug into her side, trying to subside the stabbing pain. Sweat began to form on her forehead and she smiled weakly. "Tell me a story, Gabrielle."

"What?" she was sure Xena was now out of her mind or she was really good at ignoring whatever what was happening to her. "I don't know if that's going to help you...I mean you just –"

She nodded extending her hand to her and held on tightly. "Tell me a story about something joyful" her eyelids slid over her eyes and Gabrielle eyed her cautiously. "Please?" the blonde relented and nodded her head agreeing to Xena's odd request.

Chapter Text


The day she came to power our lives forever changed
Never before a darkness like this have we seen
No end to suffering, all hail our mighty queen

There's no hiding from her
She sees everything
Rules with the iron fist
You know she is

The matriarch
She'll eat your heart

I've heard it said that she can melt you with her eyes
And out her fingers spits a burning liquid fire
Without a single word you'll fall under her spell
And rip yourself apart with your bare hands while marching to her bell

There's no rising above
She drowns everything
Freedom doesn't exist
You can't resist

The matriarch

Song: Unleash The Archers –The Matriarch

From Xena to the Holy Roman Empire


Chapter 9

Gabrielle stayed with Xena leaning on the tree telling her stories of their years spent together. They had been through a lot these last seventeen years and they were beginning a new chapter in their lives once again. She looked up at Xena as her eyes started to glaze over, losing consciousness. Xena lolled her head to the side staring at Gabrielle's serene face and she grinned.

Gabrielle brushed her fingers along Xena's cheek softly then stood up trying to get Xena up off the ground. "Come on," she urged her and held out her hands. Xena grabbed her hands and the small blonde hoisted her up with all her strength and Xena groaned from her aching body. Gabrielle wrapped her arm around Xena's shoulder and carefully aided her to their campsite not too far from where they were.

She dropped Xena on the floor carefully and then ran back to retrieve their weapons laying in the grass. She knelt down next to Xena and gave her the wineskin filled with water which Xena refused. Gabrielle sighed and Xena laid down cautiously on her back while Gabrielle remained sitting up, staring down at her friend. "Are you still in pain?" her hand came to Xena's shoulder and the empress showcased a large smirk on her face, which tempted Gabrielle to chuckle but she resisted.

Xena's eyes wandered around and then looked up at the starry sky. "I...should have never left Athens, Gabrielle," she sighed heavily.

Gabrielle shook her head, "you only did what you thought was right at the time, Xena."

Xena disagreed with that. "No, Gabrielle. I left because I was a coward. I lost a war and I wanted to hide so nobody could find me and I did just that," she lifted herself up and winced at the subtle aching in her abdomen. Gabrielle immediately came to her aid until Xena put up her hand refusing help. "Instead of facing my loss, I left and never returned."

Gabrielle was at a loss for words at this point. Everything Xena said was true and she couldn't disagree with her. When she decided to move to Egypt for seclusion she stopped coming out into the public and nobody even knew what she looked like anymore. She had hid her face for ten years and as she aged, she knew that people would say things of her and possibly send assassins after her. Xena thought she could hide and forget what happened but that only provoked Octavius to spread his empire even further beyond the Mediterranean Sea. He didn't have Egypt but he had all the rest of North Africa, which Xena fought long and hard for many years ago. Xena refused to give Egypt up but continued trade with Assyria's kingdom, but now that had stopped since Octavius took Assyria under his command. The Romans now had Allat's kingdom and that was partly Xena's fault. The Greek Empire is friends with Assyria and promised to help them but because of Xena's absence in the political arena, she could not, or would not, help Assyria and its people.

The ties between the Greeks and Assyrians had always been friendly but Xena's friendship with them had faded over the years because of her refusal to send treaties and men to help them fight against the Romans. Gabrielle knew that Xena cared less and less about the Roman Empire as the years flew by. She felt hopeless and perhaps Eve was right, Xena didn't belong in Egypt, she belonged in Athens, but Gabrielle knew that it would take a lot for Xena to move her empire back to Greece again.

She was losing herself in more ways than Gabrielle could count. The woman was slowly breaking down into millions of pieces and there was nobody that could help her but herself. She stared into Xena's longing eyes. "What if we moved back to Athens?" she suggested.

Xena's eyes rolled over to her and she blinked. "How can I do that? I would feel so ashamed of myself. I abandoned my people all because I lost. I failed them!" she clenched her teeth as her anger seeped through her skin.

"Xena your people love you and you've been absent for many years. If you could reinstate your empire again and push back the Romans!" she grinned, hopeful that her words were getting through to her.

The warrior shook her head, "Octavius has won. He has more land than I do now. It will only be a matter of time before he takes my people too..." she sighed, drained from all her past thoughts coming back to her.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes and scooted closer to Xena then grabbed hold of her hands. "You let him win. I've seen you in battles Xena. You're a great strategist. If you fight against him, you can win..." she smiled. "I believe in you," she said softly and Xena's head hung lowly at that. It wasn't something she wanted to hear right now. "You need more land and people on your side. You must convince the republic states that you can offer a better life to them."

Xena nodded now liking this idea. "There is only one problem..." Gabrielle looked into her eyes, creasing her brows. "We need to get out of this place before we can do any of that..."

She agreed to that. They were stuck here with no way out. "Why were you heading to Rome anyway?"

Xena's eyes narrowed and her pupils dilated. "To take back what is mine," she frowned deeply. "Octavius still has Solan and I left in such a hurry...I –I wanted him back in my grasp in this nightmare world. He belongs to me, nobody else!"

Gabrielle nodded, "this world is different, Xena. He might not know who you are."

"Then I will fight the Roman pig until I get Solan back," she eyed Gabrielle carefully as her blood boiled inside her.

Ten Years Ago –The Hawk and The Dove

Xena sat in her office organizing some strategic plans to attack Octavius and his stupid ever expanding empire. He wanted the North African territories even after she won them years ago. She wanted to keep them so she could cover more ground and so far within the last six months he attacked her naval fleet and she was losing. She lost half of her ships and men in the process.

Frantically she looked through the stack of documents and pulled out one of her military plans from years ago when she won the war against Octavius. She figured that these plans wouldn't work because he was attacking her by sea and not on land this time. Athens was known for their port and navy, but Xena started to think that she needed a new plan to wipe the Romans out of Greece.

They were camped out in their ships miles away from Greece, but close enough to attack. There had been a three day standstill on both sides as they all needed new supplies and to recuperate. Xena needed more time. Three days just wasn't enough. She needed help and with no allies except the Assyrians, she was alone in this war.

Gabrielle came running into her office with a scroll in her hand and a grand smile. Xena's eyes traveled up as she felt the vein in her forehead throbbing with all the paperwork she had to look through. "Good news, Xena. The Spartan general has decided to aid you in the fight against Octavius."

Xena stood up and took the wax sealed scroll and broke it. A subtle nod was her only response and she left her office with Gabrielle following her in tow. Both dressed in black armor and Xena wore a large black velvet cape with gold trimming. She read the alliance as they both strode through the long marble halls. She handed the scroll back to Gabrielle with determination. "It is not like the Spartans to join with Athenians. I am actually...surprised," she smirked.

She came to the training grounds to oversee her men training and gathering much needed supplies. As soon as she entered the training grounds everyone stopped fighting one another and bowed their heads. She waved her hand and her lead commander came to her, saluting her with his hand over his heart then curtly bowed to her.

She frowned as all the men continued their training once she gave them the signal. "The Spartan General, Xanthippus, has decided to ally with us against the Romans."

Her commander thought that was rather strange as the Spartans were not really known allies of Athenians in the past. "When will he be here? Octavius and his men will attack again and soon, Empress."

"According to his letter, he will be here by nightfall. Make sure his men feel at home," she smiled then left his side. Gabrielle followed her back into the palace and saw Eve, now twelve years old, sparing with one of the girls her age in the school. Eve saw her mother and Gabrielle then ran towards them.

"Mother, any news about the Romans?" she eagerly asked with her bright blue eyes twinkling. Gabrielle folded her arms and Xena was almost tempted to roll her eyes.

"I won't discuss politics with you, Eve. You're too young for that," she smiled and pat her cheek gently with the palm of her hand then brushed passed her. Eve folded her arms, pouting slightly. She decided to run after her mother and she tugged on her arm halting Xena as she passed by a few classrooms.

"But when will I be old enough?" she frowned. "I'm a really good fighter, just like you. I can help you mother!" she pleaded and clamped her hands together. Gabrielle sighed audibly as she folded her arms, watching this young preteen try to entice her queen mother to show some mercy.

Xena shook her head, "I said no. I expect you to be in bed soon and don't try and sneak to the training grounds like you did yesterday," she reprimanded then left her side to go back to her office. Eve pouted and folded her arms.

Gabrielle smirked and placed a hand on the young girl's shoulder. "You'll get your chance to help your mother, but for now, do as she says, okay?" she eyed Eve and saw the preteen already rebelling her words. She had always been very close to Eve, more than Xena in some ways and she even treated her as her own daughter when Xena was away sometimes. "O-kay?" she stressed and Eve nodded her head sadly. Gabrielle saw the dagger in Eve's belt and snatched it away from her.

Eve frowned, "hey!" she squealed.

Gabrielle smiled, "you need to work on your reflexes," she winked and placed the dagger in Eve's hand then ran off to Xena's office. The young princess huffed feeling embarrassed that she was caught off guard. She didn't even give her a chance to react.

Xanthippus stood with Xena and Gabrielle on a large Athenian ship. The Spartan men were spread apart between at least five ships. The sun was barely rising and Xena squinted her eyes through the fog, trying to see what Octavius had planned next. The Spartan general awaited for Xena's command but so far she had said nothing. Everything was so quiet as they were docked in the middle of the open waters, something the Spartans were not used to. They fought on land mostly but occasionally fought by ship like they did against the Persians hundreds of years ago.

Gabrielle came to Xena's side alerting them both, "I have the oil ready in the bottom of each ship," she nodded and Xena acknowledged her information with a curt nod.

Xanthippus' eyes blinked, a bit surprised that Xena was using that tactic. "You're using the oil trick?" he smirked. "That is an old Spartan ploy," he mused.

Xena nodded and looked through a telescope scoping Octavius' main ship he was on. A devious smile came to her lips. "I've used it before. Against the Persians," she added winking at the Spartan general. She collapsed the telescope and handed it to Gabrielle as she continued to survey the Roman ships no more than a couple of miles from hers. They were quiet, very quiet. The general rubbed his scruffy beard as he folded his arms waiting for the empress' command.

"I trust you know what you're doing, empress," he chided.

Xena frowned, "something's not right," her eyes wandered around and then she suddenly heard a subtle whistling sound coming from up above. Gabrielle looked up as did Xena at the sound but couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Xena's eyes widened as she saw flaming arrows coming towards their ships. "Get down!" she pushed Gabrielle to the deck floor as she fell next to her.

The Roman archer shot flaming arrows at Xena's surrounding ships with the oil and two exploded, bursting into flames. Xena's eyes grew in fear as she heard a loud explosion not far from her ship. She wrapped her arm around Gabrielle then unsheathed her sword, clenching her teeth, she jumped up and grabbed her black plumed helmet. Gabrielle coughed from the smoke of the surrounding ships and saw Xena climbing on one of the sails. "Xena! What are you doing?!" she stood up covering her mouth with her hand, trying not to inhale the deadly smog of burning oil.

Xena cut down her sails with her sword then jumped down and went below deck. She saw many barrels of oil still intact and she sheathed her sword. Pushing the barrels to the back of the ship Xanthippus came to her side. Struggling to push the large barrels he aided her and she smiled. Together they worked on moving the oil barrels to the back of the ship so she could dump them in the water. "I have two more ships with oil barrels on board. If Octavius shoots more of his flaming arrows, I will have lost five ships in one blow." She groaned as they pushed another barrel.

The Spartan grunted as he pushed another barrel alongside Xena. He huffed then turned his attention to the empress. "the Romans aren't known to use archers in battle especially at sea." He exhaled slowly, "someone must have told him that you had oil on these ships otherwise...why shoot arrows especially flaming arrows?"

Xena nodded agreeing with him. There had been a mole in her army . Octavius had poor archers and he only used them as a last resort. He was more of a hand to hand combat kind of guy unless he had Persians working with him, but she doubted that. Xena had destroyed any alliance Rome had with Persia especially since she killed their king years ago. Suddenly water started seeping through the decks and swords pierced through the bottom of the ship. Both Xena and Xanthippus unsheathed their swords and stood back to back cautious of the Romans' motives.

A sword pierced through the deck close to Xena's boot and she gasped and water began shooting up from the bottom of the ship. The Spartan shook his head at this entire situation. They were trying to sink her ship and doing very well at it too. Another sword came through and sliced into one of the barrels of oil. Xena's eyes widened as oil began to pour all over the floor boards. "We need to get off this ship," she concluded and the general did not disagree. They drug their water soaked boots through the foot of water and another sword came piercing through the floor boards again and Xena let out a loud cry and chopped the Roman's blade in half. "This is some guerilla warfare, Octavius," she grumbled and waded through the water, finding it difficult because of her heavy cape weighing her down.

Finally reaching the deck Xena to see Gabrielle overseeing the battle. Octavius' surrounding ships were coming closer to hers. Gabrielle had the Spartans throwing bombs at the ships and so far that had slowed them down. Xena ran to her and grabbed her shoulder forcefully turning her towards her. "Why are you using the Greek fire?!" she yelled.

Gabrielle frowned, "what am I supposed to do? Watch them come closer and closer to us!" she shrugged her shoulders and nodded at the Spartan soldiers. "Fire!" she commanded.

Xena growled and stood in front of the line of Spartans. "Stop!" Gabrielle's frown deepened as she saw Xena standing in the way. "This ship is sinking! The Romans pierced holes in the bottom of the ship!"

Suddenly with all the commotion going on the ship began creaking and swaying then a large jolt made everyone stumble. Xena held onto the railing then snapped her head around to see what was behind her. An unfamiliar ship had approached them and had chains attached to Xena's ship, pulling them deeper into the Mediterranean Sea. She squinted her eyes and saw a woman on the deck of the ship and she had tattoos on her face with a large grin.

Gabrielle came to her side and stared at the strange woman, "who in Hades is that?"

Xena snarled, "Octavius' new ally," she grumbled and turned to the Spartans. "Get off the ship! Now!" she demanded and they grabbed the escape boats and dropped them down into the water, jumping over the railing one by one. Xanthippus breathed heavily as he stared at the foreign woman.

"that's Sayyida al-Hurra, she's a Moroccan pirate queen," he shook his head and spat on the deck in disgust. "Only dogs lie with dogs," he mumbled.

Xena turned to Gabrielle with pleading eyes, "Gabrielle, I want you to leave with the Spartans."

Gabrielle couldn't believe she was saying this. "No way! I'm staying with you!"

Xena growled, "do as I say!" she saw Gabrielle being defiant and she needed to focus and she couldn't do that if Gabrielle was in the way. "Don't make me force you..." she pleaded. Gabrielle refused to move and Xena cried out then head butted Gabrielle with her steel helmet, knocking her out. She picked up her blonde companion and handed her to a Spartan soldier. "I'm sorry Gabrielle. It's only because I care about you..." she sighed and left the Spartan's side to be with Xanthippus.

He snickered, "tough love between you two?" Xena glared at him and he focused on the matter at hand, this Sayyida woman he spoke of. Xena wanted to get on her ship and she looked to the chains hooked onto her sinking ship. Surveying the area the entire battle scene fell silent. She saw men yelling, swords were clashing, bodies falling into the sea, fallen soldiers crying out, but she couldn't hear anything. She wasn't going to lose, she couldn't.

She jumped onto one of the chains and steadied herself, balancing her body she unsheathed her sword. Sayyida's eyebrow raised at the brave Grecian Empress. Xena smirked and began walking across the chain holding her arms out balancing carefully. Xanthippus saw Xena bravely walking across the chain and his widened in awe of her. He never had seen such an ambitious woman in his entire life, not even Spartan women were so brave to do a stunt like that.

Xena flipped over onto the ship screaming loudly and many men surrounded her. She unsheathed her sword and smiled deviously at them. "Come and get some," she hissed and her eyes narrowed and held her sword out ready for them to attack.

A swarm of men came at her and she cried out then grabbed the sail's rope and swung to the other side of the ship. Sayyida chuckled, admiring this Xena woman's tactics. The men came running towards her and she kicked two men and threw one overboard. She then jumped onto the highest deck and thrust her blade into a soldier's chest and grabbed his sword, jabbing an attacker from behind into his gut. Another soldier came at her and she head butted him and he fell down the stairs, breaking his neck.

Retrieving her sword she laid her eyes on the Moroccan woman with a mischievous grin on her lips. Five more men came at her and she twirled the two blades in her hands, shaking her head mockingly. "Come on..." she hissed awaiting for them to run closer to her. "Yeah that's it..." she looked up and saw a rope that held the largest sail. Jumping up she cut the belay and the large sail fell on top of the men. Xena then cut the bitts and they came tumbling down on the soldiers, crushing them to death.

Xena finally saw Sayyida's subtle smirk change to annoyance. Good, she thought. She flipped onto the afterdeck twirling the swords in her hands facing the pirate queen. Sayyida drew her scimitars and stood in defensive mode opposite Xena. "You have destroyed most of my ship, Xena," she teased.

"You have too many sails," she gestured. "They got in my way," her eyes narrowed as she danced around the woman. "Are you Octavius' new puppet?" she grinned.

Sayyida snickered, "he offered me a better deal than you ever could, Xena."

Xena frowned, "you side with a man, yet you could side with me. We could be strong women together and you turn to the enemy instead!" she clenched her teeth.

"You've made my country a living hell, Xena. I won't let you win this war," Sayyida smirked and Xena growled then came at her full force.

Gabrielle finally came to and she was not on a ship anymore. She was on land with a few Spartan soldiers. She rubbed her forehead and groaned, standing up. Realization began to sink in and she ran towards the shore to see Xena's ship sinking into the sea. She covered her eyes from the bright sun and saw Xena fighting with that Moroccan pirate queen on her ship, alone. "No she didn't..." she grunted and grabbed a Spartan's sword and pushed a boat into the water, heading out by herself.

Xanthippus hopped onto a different ship and saw Octavius standing overseeing the losing battle. He looked down at his men in smaller war boats and he whistled at them. "Attack the front of the emperor's ship!" he demanded. "It's the weakest spot!" he saw a Roman coming for him and he cried out and sliced the Roman's neck then threw him off the ship into the deep waters.

The general then scoped around and saw Xena fighting with Sayyida. If anything he knew that Xena could hold her own against anyone but Sayyida was a very good fighter and Xena was angry. He knew that anger clouded the mind and Xena would lose that fight if she allowed the anger to continue to scorch through her veins.

Gabrielle rowed the boat in the middle of the all chaos. Many fallen men fell into the sea as she sailed through the large Greek ships. She was determined to aid Xena against this pirate woman and then once she was finished, she would surely go for Octavius. She looked ahead and saw Octavius' ship sitting so still and calm. He was probably drinking wine basking in the glory of this disaster of a battle. Her eyes peered up at the Moroccan woman's ship and she decided to change her course to go to the Roman Emperor's ship instead.

Everyone was so distracted that she figured that nobody would notice that she was cruising through to the emperor's ship. She steered the boat to the side and grabbed a hold of a rope hanging off the side and sheathed the sword to her hip then began climbing all the way to the top, hoping that no one would notice her.

Xanthippus fought back the Romans on one of Xena's ships then saw the blonde friend of Xena's climbing up Octavius' ship and his eyes widened. Then he looked to Xena who was still fighting Sayyida. He thought it'd be best to save Gabrielle than Xena at the moment.

Xena swung her leg underneath Sayyida and she fell overboard and almost fell into the open water until she grabbed one of the belay's. Xena's eyes widened delighted to see the woman's pleading eyes. She stepped up onto the railing looking down at the pirate queen. "We could have been such great friends," Xena sighed as she casually glanced at her nails. She took a small knife from her breastplate and held it close to the rope, teasing to cut it. Sayyida's eyes grew in fear. "You chose the wrong side..." Xena began slowly cutting the rope.

Sayyida shook her head, "I never would have allied with you! You're insane!" she shouted as she saw the knife cutting deeper into the thick rope.

Xena smirked, nodding her head. "Depends who you ask..." she jested. "You see Sayyida, insanity is just a perspective of the enemy," she began speaking cryptically and grinned deviously down at the woman. "And sanity is only a gift that comes from the you see, insanity is just an illusion forged by liars!" she grunted and cut the rope, watching the pirate fall into the water. She raised an eyebrow and placed her hands on her hips, disgusted at the woman's betrayal. She hadn't even known she existed until today.

Letting out a large exhale she then saw Gabrielle climbing aboard on Octavius' ship. She immediately felt her heart drop. She thought that Gabrielle would have been knocked out a bit longer and all this chaos would have ended but it appeared that it was just beginning. Her side was losing and losing quickly. Her ships were in flames and her own war ship had sunk to the bottom of the sea. She now understood why the sudden change of tactics from Octavius, because those tactics weren't his at all, they were Sayyida's, his new ally. Though, Xena didn't kill her, she knew she'd come back up eventually and try to fight again, but for now, she had bigger things to focus on.

Gabrielle finally made it to the deck of the ship and Octavius stood from his seat once he saw the irritating blonde friend of Xena's. She drew her sword and stared into his eyes. "What exactly do you think you're going to accomplish coming up here by yourself, Gabrielle?"

She shrugged, "surrender Octavius or I'll kill you."

He began laughing and then a knife was thrown inches away from his head. His laughter stopped and saw the knife stuck in the wall behind him and he felt like he almost lost his eye. Looking to see who was the attacker he saw no other than Xena standing at the bow of the ship with a dissatisfied look on her face.

"You missed," he chuckled with a smug grin.

Xena snickered, "I wasn't aiming for your head. Don't worry, I'll make sure I won't miss next time," she unsheathed her sword and winked at the scared emperor.

"I've always loved your jokes, Xena!" he chided and began laughing. He frowned and snapped his fingers. "Stop this nonsense Xena, you can't win, not this time." He stared at Gabrielle as his men surrounded her head with their spears close to slicing her neck. "you want your friend to die, do you?" his eyes narrowed wickedly.

Gabrielle frowned, "don't listen to him, Xena!" she yelled and the emperor folded his arms staring at the silent empress.

"Nothing to say? That's something new," he jested and Xena saw Gabrielle standing completely still. He gestured to the battle before them with a grand smile. "Look around, Xena! You're losing! And there's can do about it," he snickered.

"I will kill you right now, Octavius," Xena took another step closer and the Roman soldiers inched closer to Gabrielle's neck.

Octavius sighed heavily shaking his head at the arrogance of this woman. "Listen Xena, I know you don't like to listen, but I have men surrounding your palace in Athens as we speak. They plan to blow it up into smithereens unless..." he say her eyes grow in terror. "you me." He proposed. He nodded reaffirming the shocked look on the empress's face. "Yes, you see, all those children in your fortress will die because of you," he began slowly erupting in laughter, "and then everyone will hate you again! Tough decision I know but if you surrender, you may have your silly little empire and I take my men and leave." He folded his arms, becoming more serious now. "So what will it be, empress?" he hissed.

Xena looked at the battle behind her and she didn't like to surrender but there were many lives in the palm of her hand right now. Her daughter was there and everyone was probably completely oblivious to Octavius' plan and she thought he may be lying but she didn't want to take that chance. She turned around and sheathed her sword and held up two fingers surrendering in the losing fight against the Roman Empire. Octavius grinned at her defeat and waved his hands allowing Gabrielle to go free.

"Smart move, Xena," he nodded. Gabrielle ran back to Xena and grabbed hold of her arm tightly, glaring into her icy eyes.

"You're surrendering?!" she whispered.

Xena stared down at her fiery friend. "I can't risk it, Gabrielle." She shook her head blankly staring at her men dying before her. "I can't."

Xena and Gabrielle returned to the palace two days later after she had surrendered. She didn't like surrendering but she knew she was also losing the battle. She thought she could use old tactics and had little time to prepare and she lost over two hundred thousand men in the process over six months of the never-ending battle.

They walked through the doors and Eve saw her mother with her battle armor on and her cape was torn, her face scratched up and her hair a mess. She frowned and halted in front of her then saw the same solemn expression on Gabrielle's face.

"Did we win?" she innocently asked. Xena smiled and brushed her thumb against Eve's cheek then slowly left her side to go to her room upstairs. Eve was very confused as she didn't get an answer and Gabrielle didn't want to answer for her either. She was tempted to follow them both but decided to wait downstairs for any more news.

Eve went to sit down in the atrium and Solan came to sit next to her. She smiled as her brother grinned at her. He hugged her tightly and she groaned. "Solan come on, I'm not a kid anymore." He rolled his eyes at her and then she sighed quietly, turning her head towards him. "I tried to ask mother if we won the battle, but she didn't answer me..." she leaned against a few large pillows, folding her arms. He sighed warily and then she saw that look in his eyes.

As Xena was taking off her armor she threw it on the chair nearby for Racha to collect later. Gabrielle helped Xena take unlace her corset until her door burst open and the lanky preteen was standing at the entrance with wide eyes. "We lost?!" she blurted out. Both women blinked at Eve's sudden outburst and looked at one another. "How...what...I can't..." she began to pace around at the entrance of her mother's room and Xena sighed, slightly pushing Gabrielle away to leave her corset for another time.

Xena grabbed Eve's hand and sat her down on her bed. The young princess stared up at her mother with her big blue eyes and Xena knelt down in front of her, holding her hands tightly. "Sometimes we lose and sometimes we win," she smiled sadly.

Eve nodded understanding what her mother was saying, "and this time we lost," she affirmed.

Her queen mother nodded, "right. We're going to take a trip somewhere." She stared into her daughter's confused eyes as she awaited her response. Gabrielle watched the two exchange with one another. Xena had told Gabrielle what she wanted to do the day after she retreated from the losing war and she fought her about it, but there was no changing Xena's mind about it. "We're going to Egypt." She began slowly and Eve remained still and quiet. "to live there for awhile."

Eve's mouth gaped. "But why? Mother, I like living here in Athens."

"I know you do, but this will be better for all of us, I promise," Xena smiled hoping she'd comply. Eve snatched her hands away and folded her arms defiantly. Xena blinked as her reaction.

"What about all my friends here?" she frowned.

"You will make new friends!" Xena tried to make light of the situation but Eve wasn't having it. "You've been to Egypt before. You loved it, remember?"

Eve scoffed, "yeah but not to live there! Athens is my home, I'm not going."

Xena frowned then stood up, narrowing her eyes. Gabrielle saw she was about to turn from mother to terrifying empress so she stepped in. Gabrielle knelt down in front of Eve stepping in between her and the angry Xena. "Eve, your mother thinks this is the best decision and you should respect that. I'm going too and we'll have lots of fun." She grinned hopefully.

The princess grimaced at her mother matching her expression. "Fine, I'll go, only because you want me to Gabrielle, not because of her." She stood up and stormed out of the room.

Xena rubbed her face with her hands vigorously trying to calm her rising frustration with that daughter of hers. "Sometimes it's hard to believe I gave birth to that sassy girl," she shook her head groaning.

Gabrielle smirked, "yeah me too. She's just like you," she teased. Xena glared at her friend and Gabrielle shrugged. "What? It's true," she continued and Xena folded her arms not enjoying her teasing. She sighed, "don't worry about her. She'll come to love Egypt, I'm sure of it..."

Xena stared distantly at the slowly dying embers of their campfire, remembering the entire battle and every moment that came after it. Gabrielle bit her bottom lip out of nerves. "We need to go to Rome and when we get out of here, we're going back to Athens." She turned her head to Gabrielle with determination in her eyes. "Where we belong."


AN: I like to incorporate certain historical figures in this story and each one has a purpose. Everyone that I add that is not particularly from the Xenaverse is a real figure in history. Sayyida al-Hurra was a real female pirate that is very important in Moroccan history (though she's from a different time period). As are Allat and Queen Zenobia from the first story. ;)

Chapter Text

The kiss of death is all I need

Set me free from the night
To a place without a name
Wake me up from the sea of dreams

Now, now the storm is over
And the sky is clear
The ruins of my past
Are standing so still and silent
Fading into eternal sleep

My frozen eyes have opened up
The dreamcarnation is dead

Guide me through all the dark
Into the glory of the heavens
Rising up from the sea of dreams

Take my dream
Take my everything
I'll be nowhere to be found

Song: Battle Beast –Sea of Dreams

From Xena to Eve

AN: the truth of Ares' vision that Xena saw so long ago is finally revealed to Gabrielle. She will now find the whole truth that was not apparent to Xena fifteen years ago. Good luck ;)

Chapter 10

Eve sat alone in her mother's bedroom with Aphrodite waiting to see if anything had changed between Gabrielle and her mother, but so far they laid still together, next to each other. She had been waiting for hours now and refused to leave the room in case something did in fact happen.

Kora came inside of the room to check on Xena's head wound and saw Eve sitting there by herself watching the bed. She smiled and then took off the bandages around Xena's head then frowned to see her wound was healing and rapidly. A lot better than it was just a few days ago. Eve saw the confusion in the young Egyptian woman's eyes and stood up to come by her side.

"What's the matter?" the princess asked.

Kora shrugged her shoulders and set the bandages in a bowl. She didn't need the new bandages it seemed. "Her wound is healing very well. Hopefully she'll wake up soon, right?" she frowned as she saw Gabrielle laying next to Xena. "What's wrong with Miss Gabrielle?" she inquired.

Eve smiled shaking her head, "nothing she's just sleeping," she lied and Kora left the room closing the door behind her. The princess turned to the Love Goddess with pleading eyes. "Are they alright? Can you check and see?"

Aphrodite sighed not sure if she was able to do such a thing. To be truthfully honest she knew as much about the elixir as Eve did, absolutely nothing. "Sorry Evie, I don't know anything about their condition. It's probably best if they are untouched." She smiled softly hoping that would suffice for now. "Hey don't look so gloom, this is depressing enough!" she scoffed, rolling her eyes.

Eve plopped back down into the chair and folded her arms, sliding down feeling in fact very depressed. "I can't help but thinking this is all my fault. I should have told my mother about Samuel but I didn't and now this happened!" she groaned. She glanced behind her and saw all the scrolls and notes that Gabrielle had laid on the floor searching for answers about the elixir. Getting up she waltzed over to the large scroll that was on the floor. Frowning she knelt down and looked through all of Gabrielle's notes. "Gabrielle was really busy...trying to find out what this elixir can do..."

Aphrodite yawned, feeling exhausted just sitting here waiting. It wasn't like she had anything better to do at the moment but she was bored. "Yeah, she's a real bookworm," she joked.

Eve skimmed through the notes and then looked at the mass of information about the elixir in the large scroll. Her fingers grazed the parchment and a frown came to her lips. "This must have been why she left for Alexandria..." she saw Gabrielle had numbered her pages of notes and put them in order. She had been taught how to read because of Gabrielle and now she was here alone on the other side of whatever was going on in those heads of theirs, entering an everlasting sleep. "It looks like she never finished her research," she tapped her chin and unrolled the rest of the large scroll until it hit the other side of the wall. Her eyes widened, "wow there's so much information in this scroll. I'll never be able to find anything on my own," the gears in her mind began turning. "I'm sure she went to the library in Alexandria to find this scroll, otherwise why would she go?" she stood up staring at the bored goddess.

She came up to her shocking her a bit. "Aphrodite, I need to go to Alexandria to find out how she got a hold of this scroll. I need help deciphering the text."

Aphrodite nodded, "do what you want, princess. Wish I could help you more," she grabbed a hold of Eve's hand and the princess smiled sadly at her.

Solan walked into the room and his eyes widened to see the Love Goddess present in the room, but she looked different. Everyone looked different these days he couldn't keep track. Aphrodite grinned at his presence and set her hands on her hips. "Hello handsome. Look at you, all grown up!" she winked and Solan smirked as his cheeks reddened. "You're definitely not the skinny teenager you once were!"

Eve rolled her eyes then her brother came to her with a scroll sealed with wax. That couldn't be good, she thought. He presented her with the scroll with a serious expression on his face. "Eve, we have a problem." She snatched the scroll and unrolled it reading it quickly. "Samuel wants to attack Athens and since he knows mother isn't there, it's unprotected."

She shook her head and crumbled the scroll in her hands. Turning around to see her sleeping mother and Gabrielle, she couldn't let her mother's empire be attacked no matter what. She knew coming to Egypt was such a bad idea. "Solan, we need to go back to Athens. We can't let our mother's empire be destroyed for something that I did..." she sighed, letting her head hang lowly.

Aphrodite chuckled lowly and the two looked at her bemused and a bit annoyed. "History repeats itself again! Mother fights Persian king and now the daughter fights the son of a dead Persian king. This is such a great story," she winked.

Eve ignored the goddess and turned her attention back to Solan. "Tell the men that we will leave tonight by ship. It's the best thing we can do right now."

He nodded then saw Gabrielle lying next to his mother. "What about them?"

The princess sighed as she looked at the two slumbering friends next to one another. "We take them with us. I won't leave them behind." She narrowed her eyes and Solan left to tell the men the plan as soon as possible. Eve came to the side of the bed and brushed the back side of her hand against her mother's cheek with a sad but hopeful smile. "I won't fail you again, mother. We will save your empire, I promise," she leaned down and kissed her forehead and brushed her bangs aside.

Xena woke up abruptly and saw the sun slowly rising. Gabrielle was still asleep curled up next to her and she shook her shoulder gently. The blonde grumbled then opened her eyes to see Xena staring down at her with crazy wild eyes. She sat up and rubbed her eyes, yawning heavily. "What's the matter, Xena?"

"I felt Eve, she was close to me," she placed a hand over her heart and Gabrielle raised a confused brow at her friend. She grabbed a hold of her shoulders forcefully now fully waking her up. "She was here Gabrielle! I could feel her," she smiled and started to feel more hopeful about the entirety of the situation. She got up from the ground and clutched her side, still aching from whatever happened to her last night, it was still there but less painful.

Gabrielle saw Xena hesitate and she got up throwing the blankets aside. "Does it still hurt?" she came around and touched Xena's arm gently.

"A little bit but I'll live," she smirked then gathered up the supplies and hopped onto the horse. Gabrielle sighed and snuffed out the embers in the campfire and mounted her horse, trotting close to Xena. "to Rome then?" she smiled mischievously and Gabrielle shook her head, sighing.

"To Rome," she concluded.

Days later Xena and Gabrielle arrived at the gates of Octavius' fortress and she tapped on the gates with her sword. The Roman guards turned to see none other than the Greek Empress behind the bars. She smiled and slipped her blade through the metal bars. "Hello boys," she winked and the guards frowned in disgust at her. She poked one of the guards in the shoulder with the point of her blade playfully. "I have a date with your emperor."

One of the guards smacked her blade back with his javelin and her eyebrows raised. "Octavius has no meeting with you, empress."

Xena laughed and pulled back her blade. "You know what I used to those who disobeyed me?" she leaned in closer to the bars and the guards looked at one another but remained silent. "You see these bars here?" she looked up and they did as well. The gate had large pointed edges on top and she grinned. "Imagine one of these struck through your body...left for the vultures." She sheathed her sword and saw the fear in the Romans' eyes. "So how about letting me in and I will spare your lives for another day, hm?" she pulled on the reins of her horse and the Romans grumbled then opened the gates.

She grinned curtly nodding at the two guards. Gabrielle followed in frowning at the two Romans and trotted close to Xena. She looked back to see the fearful Romans closing the large gate and saw the imminent smile on her friend's face. "You weren't really going to do that to them were you?" she whispered.

Xena looked at her with a bit of mirth in her eyes. "Of course not Gabrielle. I'm not a barbarian," she scoffed. "But I was thinking about it," she mumbled.

Gabrielle frowned, "what was that?"

"Oh nothing," she grinned and rode in further to Octavius' palace.

As the two dismounted their horses Xena walked up to the grand entrance and the doors were opened immediately. She waltzed in and definitely recognized this place. She hated it, she remembered everything about it and she saw many statues of Roman goddesses and gods in the atrium. A few servants roamed the halls and cowered once they laid eyes upon her. Gabrielle came to her side and grabbed her hand tightly. "What now?" she whispered.

"We wait, Gabrielle," Xena saw the Roman Emperor marching down the hall straight for her with a less enthusiastic expression. He came up to her and she placed her hands on her hips. He was so young, she recalled when he was still very young and he was a great ruler but he must have been butthurt that he lost the war. Little did he know that he won later on in life against her no more than a decade later she would run off to Egypt ashamed of herself. But here, it was different, everything was different. She still won, but she did it another way, but when she won, she was without the dear things close to her –Solan and Eve ceased to be in her grasp in this world.

She began to wonder if winning wasn't the best thing for her if she had to lose what meant so much to her. Octavius folded his arms after bowing to her since he was the loser in this fight. "Xena, what brings you here? I'm sure you're not here to gloat, or are you?" he teased.

Xena grinned and shook her head, "no I'm not here to gloat, Octavius. I'm just..." her eyes wandered noticing a few changes since she had last been here, many moons ago. "...observing."

Octavius glanced over at Xena's blonde scribe turned warrior. He smiled at her and Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "Gabrielle, what brings you here?"

"Observing, like Xena said," she smiled mocking the emperor. He frowned at that knowing that she was just making fun of him, he stepped back and gestured Xena and Gabrielle to come in further to his home. Gabrielle stuck close to Xena a bit unsure of this plan of hers although Xena had no plan, at least not one that she knew of. Octavius walked behind them as Xena looked around.

The empress turned around swiftly and the emperor raised his eyebrows. "You have a boy here, right?" she played coy and Octavius frowned at her question.

"You mean Solan?" she nodded in response. "Why the curiosity?"

She shrugged a shoulder and kept walking around hoping to see Solan anywhere but she saw nothing. She did see the emperor's sister, Octavia, sitting outside with a few girl friends drinking some wine and chatting. She didn't really like that woman, she was useless.

"Octavius I need to talk to you..." a familiar voice filled the room and immediately Xena felt rage within her. She swiftly turned around and saw Marc Antony standing in the same room as her. She unsheathed her sword and came marching towards the traitor.

Octavius' eyes widened and he stood in front of Xena blocking her way towards Marc Antony. Xena growled and then felt Gabrielle's hand on her shoulder, bringing her back to reality, or whatever this was. "Xena! Have you come to slaughter us all?!" he yelled at her and Xena's lip quivered seeing this man still alive. She killed him and here in this alternate world he was alive and well. She would give anything to kill him again for what he did to her brother so long ago.

Marc Antony chuckled, "it's alright Octavius. Xena and I have a bit of a strained relationship, wouldn't you agree, Xena?" he smirked folding his arms. Xena snarled and sheathed her sword trying to regain her composure.

"Forgive me. I had a dream that you died by my sword...I thought I must have still been dreaming," she smiled mockingly and he laughed then she chuckled lightly folding her arms.

Octavius breathed out slowly and then offered the two guests to sit down since he knew that they have traveled very far to come to Rome. Xena sat down with Gabrielle next to her and then a servant brought them wine. Xena took the wine and drank a large amount of it while Gabrielle nursed the glass in her hands, not feeling like drinking any wine at the moment. Though she noticed Xena downing the wine like it was water, which was never good.

Gabrielle leaned in closely, "don't drink too much of that," she whispered.

Xena stared at her knowing what she meant, but sipped the wine anyway. "I will need this as a distraction to keep me from killing Marc Antony," she frowned as she watched the two men chatting in a corner. "I should slit both of their throats," she mused.

Gabrielle didn't like to hear Xena talk like that, it was like she had reverted back to her old self again, but she knew how much she hated Marc Antony. She probably hated him more than Octavius. "Xena, you're worrying me."

"Stop worrying about me Gabrielle. I'm fine," she continued to sip the dark wine and the blonde sighed setting her glass down on the table, feeling Xena's angst seeping through her skin.

After a few minutes of talking with Marc Antony, Octavius then decided to greet his guests. He frowned at Xena and she simply smiled at him. He really didn't like her, and he knew that she'd never change. He had no idea why she was here in the first place. He would have thought that she wanted to be far away from him ever since she won the war. "Xena, I am having a party tonight, you should join since you're already here." He then eyed her warrior scribe and tightly smiled, "and you too Gabrielle."

Xena stood up finishing the glass of wine and placed a hard hand on the emperor's shoulder. "A party you said? I love parties. I haven't been to one in years."

Octavius smirked, "perhaps because nobody wants to invite you," he mused.

"Octavius," she chided, "I'm not so bad once you get to know me," she pat his cheek then left his side wanting to roam his fortress. Gabrielle nervously smiled then skipped to catch up with her.

As Xena walked through the marble halls she looked at all the tapestries and wiped her finger on the tables, finding no sign of dust or dirt, she nodded and kept walking casually. Gabrielle glanced around and saw the servants quickly passing them by. They had fear in their eyes and she could understand why. This was not a good idea to be here, she thought. "Xena, are we really going to stay for the party? We need to figure out a way to get out of here..."

Xena pulled Gabrielle aside into an empty hallway and put her hand over her friend's mouth. "We're going to stay for the party, Gabrielle. I'm here only for Solan."

"so you're not thinking of killing Marc Antony, right?" Gabrielle glared at Xena.

The empress rolled her eyes and Gabrielle huffed. "Xena!"

"No, I'm not going to kill him even though I want to..." she sighed and then waltzed through a separate hallway with Gabrielle in tow.

Later in the night many Roman nobles attended the party and Xena remained in a secluded corner watching everyone enter the large room. She kept her eyes peeled for anything unusual but she figured this entire world was unusual so she was ready for anything. Gabrielle came to her side with two glasses and handed one to Xena. She drank from it and frowned at her. Gabrielle smirked. "I'm not giving you wine, Xena. Drink the water," she mused.

"Is this my punishment?" she smirked at Gabrielle. "to be sober to endure this ridiculous party," she added with a scoff and drank the water.

Gabrielle stayed with Xena in their own little corner. Others circulated the room and subtle glances came their way obviously knowing who they were. Whispers were heard from nearby and Gabrielle sighed listening to all the negative comments about Xena, it was so awful to hear those things. If only they knew what good Xena had done in the last decade they would think differently. Gabrielle couldn't wait to get out of this place. It was such a nightmare to be sent back here, everything was so opposite here and she just wanted to go home with Xena, Eve and Solan, where everything was normal, well as normal as it could ever be.

Xena seemed to be scoping out the area and Gabrielle noticed Marc Antony walking in with Solan by his side. Gabrielle nudged Xena in her ribs and pointed over to the other side of the room. Xena's eyes widened as she saw Solan very close to Marc Antony, a little too close. Xena set down her glass of water and made her way over there. Gabrielle panicked and followed her, trying to keep up with her large strides.

Marc Antony saw the empress approaching and a smile came to his smug face. He raised his chalice of wine and Xena tightly smiled at him. She eyed Solan, the slim teenager standing beside him. Solan noticed her eyes focused on him and he politely smiled at her. He remembered her when she came here before but also realized that she was the victor in the war, so he didn't like her just like Octavius didn't but he wasn't rude.

Gabrielle saw Solan and he was dressed nicely with his short hair combed back. He definitely looked like a true Roman and she was sure that Xena didn't like seeing him like that. It was probably eating her up inside.

"Xena, so nice of you to stay for the festivities," Marc Antony chided and Xena blinked, focusing her attention back to the Roman ignoring Solan's presence for a moment.

"It would have been rude of me to decline..." she smugly smiled then looked to Solan. "Solan, right?" she smiled at the blonde teenager.

He nodded and outstretched his hand and her eyes lingered for awhile longer then she finally shook his hand. "I remember you," he curtly bowed his head and Xena smiled sadly, trying to hide her subtle emotions within her. It had been so long since she had seen him at this age and he was so naive then and so sweet. "You traveled a long way to get here!" he marveled.

Gabrielle stifled a laugh at Solan. He was so energetic and that was one great quality he still possessed even after all these years. Xena smiled sweetly at her young son and nodded her head. "So," she paused staring at Marc Antony's smug smile then turned back to Solan, "you've been studying a lot, right?" she hoped he hadn't abandoned his passion for studying.

Solan frowned, "I stopped my studies a few years ago." Xena's eyebrows creased once she heard that. She didn't want to hear that, he enjoyed studying and here he had abandoned his studies to do..what? she wondered.

"If you're not studying..what are you doing?" Xena frowned staring at Marc Antony.

He was about to answer until Marc Antony stepped in, placing a hand on the boy's shoulder. Xena's entire body tensed up and she folded her arms awaiting for his response. "He is training to become Octavius' successor, aren't you Solan?" he wrapped his arm around the lithe boy's frame.

Xena's eyes grew and her blood began boiling when she heard that. Successor? Is this what would have happened to Solan if she didn't take him while she had the chance. Here, it was obvious he had no idea who she was and now this happened. This was the worst thing that could have happened. She would rather die a thousand deaths than allow her son to become a true Roman. Successor, she scoffed at the idea.

Gabrielle saw Xena reaching for her sword and she touched her hand. Xena spun around them pushed Gabrielle out of the way and she fell to the floor. "Xena, no!" she yelled out and apologized for landing on a few guests on the floor.

Xena drew her sword and kicked Marc Antony to the ground holding the blade close to his throat. Solan backed away dropping his wine glass, fearful that she would kill them both right now. The Roman smiled holding his hands up for surrender. "Xena...what are you so angry for?" he chuckled nervously.

Xena smashed her boot's heel onto Marc Antony's hand and he winced in pain. She lifted him up by his blouse and stared into his eyes. "You use a child for your own exploits! You think I am a monster, then what does that make you?" she spat and he frowned staring at the blade coming closer to his neck.

Octavius ran over to see Xena pinning down his trusted friend on the floor. "Xena get off of him! If you leave now...then I won't kill you," he said in a calm voice.

Xena stood up and placed her boot on the Roman's chest, preventing him from getting up. She turned to see Solan run to Octavius' side, fearful of her. She pointed the blade at the emperor. "You allow this man to train Solan to become your successor?" she shook her head disgusted at the entire idea.

Gabrielle watched as the entire room had their eyes on Xena. The Roman Emperor folded his arms at Xena, not exactly sure how to respond to this kind of behavior. She was worried that Xena might do something she would regret later, but she had already done so many things and this alternate life, was all an illusion, an illusion of nightmares all combined into one false reality.

Xena chuckled and stared at Marc Antony still under her boot. Her eyes grew wide with fire and twirled the sword in her wrist. "I will not allow this happen!" she cried out and plunged the sword through Marc Antony's torso and Gabrielle yelled out then wrapped her arms around Xena, trying to pull her off.

The empress cried out as the horrible pain in her abdomen had returned and she bent over, wincing at the agonizing pain. Clutching her torso she fell to her knees as the pain turned from aching to an almost burning sensation inside of her. Gabrielle looked to Xena doubled over in pain and then looked down at her own hands, they were glowing a bright white and soon enough her entire body was overcome with a strange tingling sensation.

She scooted over to Xena and wrapped her arms around her and closed her eyes, hoping that their deaths were close as she knew that Octavius were surely have Xena executed. She whispered to Xena, "you can't play with this world, Xena!" she shut her eyes tightly.

Suddenly Gabrielle didn't hear anything nor did she feel like she were dead either. She opened one eye and then saw that they were not in the Roman Emperor's ballroom anymore. They were in a dark place, void of people. She opened her other eye and looked around to see nobody around them, not a soul. She was sure they weren't dead. She held onto Xena still but now she was unconscious again, she let go of her and laid her down on the dark ground. It was so strange, but even though it was dark, she could see everything.

As she brushed Xena's hair away from her face she gasped as she saw a single white streak in Xena's raven hair. She couldn't understand why that happened. Perhaps they were back home, she hoped. Although she knew that couldn't be true because then they'd be in Egypt right now. She slapped Xena's cheek lightly, "Xena, wake up!" she cupped her face in her palms and groaned out of frustration.

"She always being knocked out, isn't she?" Ares appeared in the darkness and Gabrielle growled then came at him, pushing him back a few steps. He frowned and put up his hands. "Relax!"

Gabrielle yelled, "what are you doing here?! If you've come to help then I suggest that you leave!"

Ares smiled, "I'm not real Gabrielle. None of this is real," he shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly.

Gabrielle paced around in a circle then looked at Xena lying on the ground completely oblivious. "How do we get out of this place? I don't want to be transported anywhere else if I don't know where we are and what we're supposed to do." She huffed.

The War God circled Gabrielle and placed his hands on her shoulders. "I want to show you what Xena saw many years ago, then maybe you will understand."

"I don't need you to show me anything. You've done enough."

Ares grinned, "just close your eyes Gabrielle and I'll show the way..." he hissed and Gabrielle thought what did she have to lose right now anyway? She sighed and closed her eyes, allowing herself to calm down and let go fully.

Moments passed and Gabrielle opened her eyes and she was in a field with Ares. She saw a burning village and a woman wielding a sword slaughtering innocent people. As she took a step closer to get a better look she squinted her eyes trying to see who it was. "This is Amphipolis isn't it?" she turned to Ares and he remained silent. "Who is that?" she ran forward before he could stop her.

She was in the middle of the battle and people ran passed her as she was invisible to the naked eye. Ares grunted and came to Gabrielle's side a bit irritated that she ran off without him. Gabrielle frowned and walked through the crowd and only feared that it was Eve leading this rampage. She wanted to yell out her name or at least acknowledge that she was here but she knew nobody could hear or see her.

She saw the woman on the horse turn around and expected to see Eve and her heart raced almost begging to come right out of her chest. Once she saw the woman turn around it was not Eve, it was someone else, someone she didn't recognize. Gabrielle frowned a bit confused at that. She turned to Ares, "if that's not Eve...then who in Hades is that woman?" she folded her arms.

He sighed, "I have something else to show you, Gabrielle," he grabbed her hand and they disappeared from the burning village.

They were now in Xena's palace in Athens. Gabrielle saw that nothing had really changed except the palace was void of children, much like it was in this awful place. She recognized this room, it was Xena's royal chambers and hardly anyone came in here unless it was for discussing treaties with guests that showed up. She saw a large shrine filled with flowers and she didn't want to look as she had a feeling who it was.

She peered down into the glass floor and saw Xena's body incased beneath the floor and then she took a closer look. Her hair had that same white silvery streak in it just like she had currently after she killed Marc Antony for the second time, she noted that. "And where is Eve?" she demanded of the War God.

He pointed to the open window and Gabrielle frowned, marching over to the window and saw Eve commanding an entire Greek army and she wore gold armor with a red cape. Her mouth gaped, but she refused to believe that a sweet girl like Eve could turn into a monster, but there was something odd. The woman in the village was not Eve, it was someone else. Gabrielle couldn't imagine what Xena must have felt when she saw all of this and she kept it to herself for fifteen years. She now understood why Xena had shut herself off from the world and her own empire. She didn't want this to happen to her daughter or anyone around her so she ran away from Athens to Cairo. But Gabrielle wasn't fully convinced of this alternate vision that Ares showed her.

"Xena mentioned that I fought against Eve. I would never do something like that," she frowned, very skeptical of this vision. She smirked, "take me down there so I can observe what Eve is doing."

"Gabrielle that is not necessary," he smiled.

She spun her head around with wild eyes, "I said take me there! I can smell a rat," she yelled and Ares groaned but did as she commanded.

Now on the training grounds she saw Eve walking through two lines of men instructing them on how to fight against the enemy and the enemy was the Assyrian Kingdom and the Romans who occupied it. Gabrielle walked through the men going completely unnoticed and saw a side of Eve that reminded her of Xena. She was very tactical and that made her smile. Hers and Xena's training had not been in vain after all, she thought. But there was something missing here. Eve wouldn't attack Assyria unless she had good reason and why would she be fighting Eve in the first place? Whatever Ares showed Xena all those years ago had some missing segments in it.

After Eve had finished giving instructions they all saluted her and she left the training grounds. Gabrielle saw her come back into the palace and she followed her. Ares pulled on her arm and she grunted, trying to snatch her arm away. "No Gabrielle, you'll ruin everything!" he spat.

Gabrielle smirked, "you said you're not real so I'm not going to listen to you! I'm going to follow her!" she kicked the War God in the groin and ran into the palace.

Huffing and puffing she saw Eve head into the royal chambers, just where she was a few moments ago. Gabrielle saw Eve take off her plumed helmet and kneel down close to Xena's lifeless body. Gabrielle tread carefully and came to see Eve whispering to herself holding a flower in her hand. Gabrielle smiled sadly and Eve placed a flower on her mother's shrine.

"I promise I will bring your empire out of this mess, mother, like I said I would," she whispered then looked up at the ceiling. Gabrielle knelt down next to Eve and touched her hand but her touch was nonexistent. She forgot and sighed audibly watching Eve look up at the ceiling. Eve looked at her mother once again and Gabrielle wouldn't look at Xena. She couldn't be dead, that was not an option and this life was all a lie. Eve sighed, "none of this would have happened if I hadn't accepted Eris' offer, mother. I hope one day you can forgive me. I brought shame to your name and will have to attack Gabrielle and Solan because of my horrible decisions."

Gabrielle frowned, "Eris?" what does that goddess have to do with any of this? Eve got up and grabbed her helmet. The blonde sat staring down at Xena's body then she knew that this vision was more than Ares, it was his sister as well and that must mean that...Eve was or will speak to Eris and soon this will all end. Xena's hair was definitely the key to everything. That streak in it was the same one she got in that alternate world.

She could stop this from coming true and they could go home, she hoped. Ares appeared by her side and she folded her arms. "Take me back to Xena."

"You think you have it all figured out, don't you?" he mocked.

She nodded her head, "Xena didn't see any of this! She only saw what you wanted her to see! You deceived her again, you bastard!" she shoved Ares into a wall and he grunted. "You wanted her to see this destruction and made her suffer for fifteen years for it!" she saw a sword and grabbed it off the wall. "Want to see if you can bleed again, Ares?" she smirked and brought the blade up to his neck.

Ares put up his hands, fearful of the small blonde warrior. "Alright! You win...for now," he frowned and disappeared.

Gabrielle was brought back to the dark place where Xena was again still lying on the floor unconscious. She ran to her and slapped her in the face very harshly. "Xena!" she shook her body and finally saw the empress's eyes open slowly. Her blue eyes blinked and Gabrielle smiled as wide as possible and hugged Xena close to her chest.

Xena coughed and the pain in her torso was now gone. She pulled away from Gabrielle's embrace then noticed where they were. It was a dark place, void of color, people, voices. It was so quiet she could hear her own thoughts speaking to her.

"Xena, I saw the vision of Eve...Ares took me there," she whispered and the empress frowned, shaking her head trying to figure everything out.

"You really saw it?" Xena pleaded with her large blue eyes. She didn't feel crazy anymore now that Gabrielle had seen everything.

Gabrielle nodded, "yes I did and it was a lie. Everything Ares showed you was a lie. Eve didn't destroy your home, someone else did." Xena's eyes widened once she heard that. For a moment hope came into her mind and a small smile appeared on her lips. "Eve said she accepted Eris' offer. Ares' sister is the problem, Xena and she's trying to deceive Eve."

Xena frowned deeply, "Eris? All this time I thought it was Ares..." she couldn't wrap her head around all of this.

In the darkness clapping of hands was heard and both of them turned their heads to the sound. Then a tall figure came out of the darkness under a stream of light. Eris stood still clapping her hands and her golden eyes twinkled. "You blondes are so annoying," she sighed and folded her arms.

Xena and Gabrielle stood up, the first time seeing the goddess and she was very slim, tall and had dark hair. Eris walked around the two women with her hands behind her back observing Xena's new hair. "That's a nice white streak you got there," she smirked. Xena frowned and reached for her sword and it disappeared from her hip. Her mouth gaped and Eris smiled. "I have to give you credit for finally figuring it out, Gabrielle. Ares always said that you were very smart, I never believed him."

"What are you doing with Eve?" Xena demanded, tilting her chin at the goddess. Eris appeared behind Xena and twirled her hair around her finger. Xena snarled at the goddess.

"The same thing that Ares did to you so long ago. She will be mine," she said with a smug smile. Gabrielle stepped away from the goddess and Xena rolled her eyes.

"Enough of your games. I'm not going to stand around and allow you to take control of my daughter. I'd rather die first," she turned to the goddess and Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear.

Eris shrugged at the warrior and let out a loud sigh. "That can be arranged. You know that vision that my dear brother showed you, that is only a year from now." Xena growled and grabbed hold of the goddess neck and Eris frowned then pushed Xena a few feet away from her.

Gabrielle ran to Xena to help her up and Eris walked over to the two women. "You are so irritating!" she groaned then let out a loud ear bleeding scream and shook the entire ground. Xena and Gabrielle covered their ears and watched the goddess as her scream filled the entire room. Blood poured from both of their ears as they tried so hard to block it out.

Eris' scream faded away and she frowned at the two. Xena uncovered her ears and smirked, "that was quite a tantrum" she teased the goddess.

The goddess lifted Xena off the floor as she gripped her neck. Xena's boots lifted a few inches off the ground and her eyes widened staring right into Eris' gold eyes. Gabrielle tried to pull Eris' hand off Xena but she was tossed aside. Eris grinned wickedly at Xena as her grip tightened around the warrior's neck. She pulled out the vial of the elixir and presented it to Xena. "Now this...this is what you used on yourself. I suppose Ares didn't tell you what it does to mortals, huh?"

She snickered as Xena coughed. She finally let go and Xena dropped to the floor. Gabrielle huffed and crawled over towards Xena then Eris waved her hand frowning at the blonde. "You stay there!" she prevented Gabrielle from moving any further. She paced in front of the empress admiring the bottle. "I love my brother like any sister would, but sometimes he can be so...spontaneous!" she grinned, chuckling to herself. Xena coughed rubbing her neck feeling the burns left behind from Eris' grip. "He used this on you without your permission. He broke the first rule. He also threatened you, rule number two, which he also broke," she shrugged. "Oh and number three, since he was so irresponsible, your soul is vulnerable so that means any Olympian can control you, so I decided to take the job."

Gabrielle frowned thinking over everything she had read. She didn't get that far into the text, which would explain why Ares was slowly losing his powers since he acted so irresponsibly. "But I used the elixir too," she blurted out.

Eris tapped her fingernails on the bottle and nodded. "So you did but you did it to help Xena. You were willing to sacrifice yourself to save your dear friend. You acted selflessly, Xena did not," she turned her attention to the empress with a smug grin.

Gabrielle shook her head not understanding this, "but Xena only used the elixir to save her family. Isn't that selfless?" she questioned the goddess.

Eris smiled at Xena and folded her arms. "Yes Xena why don't you tell her what really went through your mind when you used the elixir?"

Gabrielle turned to Xena with a curious look. "Xena...?"

Xena's head lowered ashamed of herself. Though Gabrielle was right, she did it to save her family, but the thoughts in the back of her mind of becoming invincible and a threat to all who despised her haunted her. She couldn't hide from the truth in the back of her mind.

Gabrielle shook her head, "Xena! Tell me she's wrong!" she yelled and Xena turned away, refusing to look at her friend. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she groaned loudly.

Eris smiled, "yes Xena why don't you tell your friend the whole truth? You wanted to be a powerful empress again without aging. Ares always said you could be the best. Well," she sighed, "I guess being the best comes with a price, doesn't it?" she ridiculed.

"Xena, how could you do this?" Gabrielle said barely above a whisper. Xena's eyes filled with tears and she heard her friend, but did not respond. She felt too ashamed of herself. If she could, she'd take it all back and would have never listened to Ares in the first place.

Eris sighed becoming bored of this pity party. "Well since I don't really need can go back to your sad little life," she shooed away Gabrielle and she disappeared from the dark room. Xena spun around and saw Gabrielle was no longer with her. She stared up at the intimidating goddess and frowned deeply. Eris grinned and knelt down to Xena's eye level. "As for may want to make a deal with me." She raised the bottle close to Xena's eyes with a smug smile.

Gabrielle woke up gasping for air and she examined her surroundings. She felt the floor beneath her moving and realized she was on a ship. She saw Xena lying down on a bed next to her and saw her hair had the white streak in it just like it was in the alternate world. Everything that happened to Xena carried over into reality. She wondered why they were on a ship and she opened the door running to the deck.

She scanned the area and saw Eve talking with Solan and she had a solemn face. Gabrielle ran up to her and touched Eve's shoulder. The princess turned around and her eyes grew in shock as she was staring at Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle!" she hugged her tightly and Gabrielle smiled warmly, wrapping her arms around her body. She pulled away and remained hopeful. "Did mother wake up too?"

The blonde pursed her lips and that meant no in Eve's eyes. "I'm afraid not, Eve, but she's in a lot of trouble right now." She then frowned and stared into the princess's blue eyes. "You and I need to talk about Eris," she said in a low voice.

She saw the initial surprise in Eve's eyes and then she turned away, a bit afraid to acknowledge her.

Solan folded his arms, a bit lost in this conversation. "Who is Eris?"

Gabrielle and Eve looked to him and the blonde folded her arms. "Eve will explain, won't you?" she furrowed her eyebrows and Eve lowered her head in shame.

Chapter Text

A boy gone astray, deceived by a god
Remembers the day, bereft of his blood
Might to your dismay now equal we meet
Self righteous repay, you kneel by my feet, I stand
By the sword in my hand
I will conquer the land
I will decimate and decapitate
Those who question the sword in my hand
I seek what you took, I promise you'll pay
By hook or by crook, a boy gone astray I stand
By the sword in my hand
I will conquer the land

Song: Tyr –The Sword in My Hand

From The Persian King to Eve

Chapter 11

Assyria Kingdom

Octavius stood outside walking around the new kingdom he had conquered. The Assyrian King had put up quite a fight with Solan by his side, though the blonde warrior was gone now and Allat was alone. His mother had been assassinated by the Romans a few years ago because she resisted them. She wanted to have her kingdom free of Romans and Allat thought he had failed his mother and his people. Octavius now had Assyria in his grasp and nobody was there to aid him, not even their formidable ally, the Greek Empire. Xena had been long gone from Athens ever since she lost that war ten years ago. Octavius knew that Xena was still sour about the loss and he enjoyed it. he wanted Xena to suffer and he also wanted her gone. He wouldn't have the Greek Empire until Xena was out of the picture permanently and that meant death.

Allat had managed to cooperate with the Romans and he was no longer allowed to govern his people, but serve himself to the Roman Empire, as if he had a choice. Octavius smiled as he saw the blue Mediterranean Sea gazing back at him. He closed his eyes enjoying the scenery. It was far better to look at than Rome. Rome was great and that was his home but he really liked Assyria. It was so beautiful here, he could understand why Zenobia wanted to keep him away and she did well for many years until her death. Octavius knew that he wanted to make Palmyra his when Zenobia refused to give her land to the Romans and even cut off the grain from Egypt to Rome, which was the last straw. It took him five years to find Zenobia and to execute her once and for all. Now, if he was only so lucky with Xena. That'd be a great treasure, but Xena was hiding in Egypt.

Tiberius walked up to him with a forlorn look on his face which troubled the emperor. He didn't want to see that face which only meant there could be bad news. He couldn't think of anything that stood in his way. He hoped it wasn't too ridiculous and something he could handle easily. Once he walked up to the emperor Tiberius clicked his heels together tilting his head at his emperor.

"Sir, there are ships docked at Athens, I just received word from one of our scouts in Crete." He looked for a change of emotion in the emperor's face but he was left with a blank face.

"Are these ships...Greek?" Octavius raised an eyebrow, hoping that it wouldn't be.

Tiberius nodded his head, "war ships and a few Egyptian ships, sir. They are Xena's men. She's back in Athens."

Octavius smiled mockingly and swayed back and forth on his heels. "So Xena has decided to come back to Greece. She must have been feeling homesick," he scoffed. "We shall make a visit to Xena's palace in Athens. I wish to see her again, I do enjoy her jokes," he chuckled lightly then turned on his heel and left to his post in the Assyrian Kingdom.

The Persian Empire

Samuel's right hand man came in interrupting his time with a few women indulging him with opium and vast amounts of food. The king sat up in his throne pushing one of the women off him and cleared his throat as his assistant stood patiently. "You have some information for me?" he smiled charmingly.

The man nodded, "indeed, your majesty. Xena is back in Athens again. She has her ships docked there as we speak."

Samuel stood up with a large frown. "Really? That is very interesting. The minute I have a chance to attack she suddenly goes back to her humble abode." He rubbed his chin then folded his arms leaning towards his assistant with an eager smile. "And Eve? She is there too?" the man nodded affirming his question. "I always thought she was very beautiful. I wish to see her." He snapped his fingers then plopped down on his throne. "Make it happen," the assistant began leaving and Samuel called out, "don't be forceful with her. This is a civilized meeting, Balal. I don't want her mother coming after me," he rolled his eyes then began chatting with the various women surrounding him.

Balal turned around as a sudden thought came to his mind. "And if she resists, your highness?"

Samuel sighed audibly as he was getting annoyed being interrupted for the second time in a row. "This is mandatory, not up for discussion. She'll come," he winked and went back to the subtle entertainment.

Eris circled Xena in the barely lit abyss. Xena watched her every move with malice in her icy eyes. The goddess tapped the vial against her palm as she was thinking what the empress might do once she presented her offer.

"So brother has a thing for you, obviously," Eris grinned sneakily. Xena did not answer but her eyes remained glued to the goddess. "He is losing his godhood you know," she casually said.

Xena's eyes widened once she heard that. Could this be because of what he did to her? Or was it because Eris was doubling as his replacement and he was unaware? Or was this because of the consequences of the elixir? She didn't understand the ways of the gods even after so many years, but she tried to keep out of their way as much as possible, though it proved to be impossible even to ignore them. Eris was targeting Eve and she had no idea.

"I could care less about Ares and his godhood. It was his idea to use the stupid elixir and he is the one who got himself in this mess, not me," Xena frowned. Eris nodded her head in agreement then stopped dead in her tracks. "What do you want with my daughter? She is of no use to you."

Eris chuckled then knelt down close to Xena, touching her cheek with her fingernail. Xena snatched her face away in disgust. "See that's where you're wrong, but it will be more difficult since now you know about our little friendship," she hummed.

"She will never follow you," Xena's eyes narrowed and Eris grinned smugly.

Xena eyed the elixir in the goddess' hand and head butted the woman. As soon as she did Eris' hold on the vial loosened and Xena grabbed the bottle. The goddess stumbled back then she stood upright, furrowing her dark thick eyebrows and clenched her teeth. "You witch," she then grew in size, at least a foot or so taller than Xena. The empress's eyes grew in shock as she saw the goddess grow in numerable size right before her. She was more menacing and her eyes had lightened a few shades and it even looked like her fingernails had grown even longer than they were. "You could have listened to me and it would have been easy for you!" she yelled and Xena stood up backing away.

Eris picked up Xena and threw her across the now very lit room. Xena groaned and her eyes scanned the area. They were in a desert area now and sand blew around her. She turned around to see Eris sauntering over to her with a menacing glare. Xena scooted back and clutched the elixir in her palm, she quickly got up hugging her dislocated shoulder, wincing in pain as she continued to back away from the nearing Chaos Goddess.

Xena grinned mischievously and uncorked the bottle causing the goddess to halt in her step, glaring at her with her glowing golden eyes. "What if I am willing to use the rest of this...what will happen to you then?"

Eris growled, "you know nothing of the powers of that elixir, Xena!" she pointed her finger and came closer. Xena tipped over the bottle towards her wrist and Eris frowned. "Don't you dare!"

Xena's grin remained firmly planted on her lips, "and if I do dare?" she tipped the bottle closer to her flesh and Eris screamed coming towards her. Xena's smile disappeared and she poured all of the contents of the elixir onto her wrists, neck and face. Eris' eyes widened and she took a step backwards as if almost afraid of her. Xena raised an eyebrow, not feeling any different she dropped the bottle and smashed it with her boot's heel.

Eris shook her head, "what have you...done...?" her eyes wide and fearful of Xena now. Xena felt the same stabbing pain in her abdomen and she collapsed onto the ground, clutching at her torso with her arm.

The desert was gone and now they were back in the dark abyss. Eris downsized to her normal height and watched Xena on the ground groaning in pain. "Ares never said you were crazy.." she mused as she took a few steps closer she saw Xena was unresponsive.

Xena opened her eyes and looked at her hands, they were void of all wrinkles and her nails were a bright youthful pink. She touched her face and it was like it was many years ago, before Eve, before Gabrielle. She was youthful again, she could feel it. she stood up and rotated her shoulder, it was no longer dislocated and she felt like she was born anew. She stared down at her hands then grinned at the fearful goddess. Xena stepped closer to the goddess, a bit prideful of what she had become. "Now...I used this elixir save my daughter," she frowned deeply. She felt her sword reappear on her hip again and she smiled widely then unsheathed it, pointing the blade at Eris. "Now...leave her alone!"

Eris folded her arms, "you're insane."

"Many people say that, now send me back." She demanded.

The goddess grunted, "you have no idea what you have just done, Xena! You have won this time, but you won't win in the long run," she smiled smugly and disappeared in the darkness.

Xena breathed heavily as the goddess was now gone from her sight. She couldn't believe she just did that, but it had to be selfless. It was true that she thought of herself the first time she used the elixir, but now, it was for someone else and that's what the goddess said it was supposed to be used for. She looked around and she was all alone in the dark once more. She thought maybe that she'd close her eyes and drift off, hoping that she'd awaken in Egypt again with Gabrielle, Solan and Eve after so long being away from them all, it was starting to burden her emotions.

Gabrielle paced around Xena's bedroom as Eve told her everything that Eris had told her. She then stared at Xena's body laying there void of color and all life within her. Eve sat in a chair close to the bed and rested her palm on her chin, staring at her mother, hoping she'd come to.

"Eve, why didn't you say something before?" Gabrielle frowned.

Eve sighed heavily, "she threatened me Gabrielle. I didn't know what to do. I should have also told everyone about Samuel. I had no idea that was him, I swear by all the gods," she groaned becoming frustrated with her choices over the last few days. She brushed her mother's hair away from her face and took notice of the strange white streak in her raven hair. "Why is her hair like that?"

Gabrielle shook her head, "it's a long story. You know he's going to attack Athens, right?" she continued to pace. "This is a mess. What would Xena do..." she tapped her lips with her fingertips gently.

Eve looked at her mother then saw her fingers twitching slightly. She stood up and peered over her body to see if she would awaken. She held onto her hand with a hopeful smile. "Gabrielle! Come here!" Gabrielle frowned then saw Xena's eyebrows twitch and her lips parted. The blonde's eyes widened and she smiled, sitting on the bed next to Xena. She had hoped that was able to escape from Eris and it was appearing like she did or something else was happening.

Xena's eyes fluttered open and her vision was rather blurry but she saw Eve, finally, and her dear companion sitting next to her with a giant smile on her face. A small exhausted smile appeared on the empress's lips and she touched Eve's face with the backside of her hand. Eve's eyes swelled with tears and Xena frowned. "Don't cry," she smiled and Eve kissed her mother's hand.

"I'm sorry this happened to you, mother. Gabrielle told me everything...about Eris..." she held herself solely responsible for everything.

Xena sat up slowly and she felt like she had been laying down for quite some time. She wasn't all there obviously and she felt worse than when she was wounded from a tough battle. She popped her back and winced in pain. "Yes...that goddess is quite a troublemaker.." she jested and Gabrielle rolled her eyes, never an appropriate time for jokes, she thought.

Eve wiped her tear stained cheeks and aided Xena to get up off the bed. "So what happened between you and Eris?"

Xena grinned and pat her daughter's cheek lightly, "I'll tell you when you're older," she brushed past Eve and went to look at herself in the mirror. She appeared younger, more youthful, except for that white thick strand of hair in her black locks. She frowned and ran her fingers through her hair. Then she realized that they were definitely not in Egypt, they were in Athens. Anxiety began to stir inside of her and she thought this was some alternate reality. She swiftly turned around and Gabrielle saw the realization in her eyes.

"This is real, Xena. We're back in Athens. Eve decided to come back here..." she slowly tread closer to Xena and saw her relax a bit.

Oh good, I was beginning to think I was insane. "What made you want to come back to Athens?" she asked curiously.

Gabrielle folded her arms and raised her eyebrow at Eve. The princess sighed, once more feeling ashamed of herself. Xena then copied her blonde consort and Eve turned away from them both, glaring at her. "Samuel wanted to attack Athens and I just...I just couldn't let that happen!"

Xena sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose then exhaled deeply taking this all in. It seemed that she was just transported to more bullshit she had to deal with, but in truth, she looked forward to this. She smiled at her daughter and Eve raised a confused eyebrow. "Well, it looks like I arrived just in time to save you once again from the Persians," she jested then opened the door. She saw two guards standing by and they looked surprised to see her after so many days of lying in bed. "Boys," she greeted with a warm smile and they bowed as a late reaction and she left their sides.

Gabrielle caught up to her and grabbed her by the arm. "Xena, how did you get away from Eris?" she whispered.

Xena pursed her lips and pat her friend's hand. "Later, Gabrielle." Her friend eyed her curiously and she smiled. "No secrets anymore, I promise." She leaned down and kissed Gabrielle's cheek softly and saw shock in her eyes. She grabbed hold of her hands tightly, "you're the best thing in my life, Gabrielle. I want you to know that. I appreciate everything you do for me. You'll never disappoint me." She kissed her again and then left her side leaving Gabrielle bemused and a bit flabbergasted.

Solan rounded the corner and saw his mother walking through the halls. His jaw dropped then she caught glimpse of him and smiled in his direction. Running towards her he hugged her tightly and she was a bit set back. "Mother, you're alright! You were beginning to worry me!"

Xena smiled and kissed Solan's forehead. "Of course I'm alright. I had some business to take care of," she winked. "Solan," she began seriously and he raised his brows, "I'm glad you decided to come live with me." She sighed and touched his short blonde locks, "I just wish it could have been sooner," she admitted sadly.

Solan shook his head and grabbed his mother's hand warmly, "I don't blame you for anything, mother. You have taught me so many things over the years."

She nodded, glad he understood where she was coming from. "Great. Ready to learn some more?" she wrapped her arm around his broad shoulders and began treading down the long marble halls. "I need you to command my army, you can do that, right?" she smirked.

Solan nodded, "yes!" he grinned, eager to showcase his skills to his mother. She spoke to him as they walked together. She explained that the Persians were going to come here and attack or so Samuel thinks. She wanted to be ready in case the arrogant Persian King was going to come here. She wasn't going to let a young king overstep her and take over her empire. She was going to revive her empire like she should have done years ago. This was a new beginning for her.

As they walked together he caught a glimpse of her hair. "What happened to your hair?" he mused.

The following day Xena laid in bed as the sun rose she stared at the bright sun, blinking slowly adjusting to the sunlight. She felt around in her bed and touched a leg close to hers. She almost forgot that Gabrielle was with her and she rolled over staring at her. She was still sleeping. Xena bit her lip and felt a bit playful she grabbed a pillow and smacked Gabrielle's face.

Gabrielle grumpily woke up and rubbed her face. She turned to see Xena's playful smile on her face. "By the gods Xena, don't you know I hate waking up early!" she rolled over covering her face with the blankets. Xena grabbed the blankets and pulled them away from her face. Gabrielle opened one eye and smirked at Xena. "What is with you?" she chuckled lowly.

Xena shrugged her bare shoulder, "I'm just happy to be here with you and not somewhere else," she raised an eyebrow and Gabrielle knew what she meant by that. She got out of bed and wrapped her black robe around her body, brushing her fingers through her long hair.

Gabrielle pulled the covers up to her chest and watched Xena waltz over to her mirror, staring at herself then she began brushing her hair. "So strange what happened to your hair..." she yawned.

Xena sighed, "it's better than being dead, I suppose," she joked and Gabrielle sighed.

"Yeah I guess so. It's good to see you back in your own element you know," she began and Xena turned to face her. "It feels good to be back in Athens. I really missed this place. Eve was right, you don't belong in Egypt."

Xena nodded, "I should have never left Athens, but now we are back and I'm not going to let these arrogant emperors step all over me again." She remained determined to save her empire and push the Romans out for good.

"And that's the Xena I know and love!" Gabrielle mused and Xena smirked at her blonde friend. Suddenly the door creaked open and Eve poked her head in. Xena set the hairbrush down and smiled at her daughter and told her to come in.

Eve held two scrolls in her hand and a solemn face. Xena frowned and Gabrielle grabbed a robe to wrap around her body and exited the bed to come to stand alongside Xena. "These are from Samuel and Octavius," she pushed the scrolls forward and Xena eyed Gabrielle.

Gabrielle sighed and took the scrolls, of course Xena wouldn't read them. She broke the wax seal and read Octavius' message first. "Octavius is coming here, he wants to meet with you," she eyed Xena.

The empress smugly smiled. "Good, I'm looking forward to it." she folded her arms. "And the Persian's message?" she egged Gabrielle on to read it and quickly too.

The blonde's eyes widened and she rolled the scroll back up. Xena saw the shocked look in her friend's eyes. Eve looked a bit nervous even though she hadn't read them. Gabrielle glanced over at the princess and said lowly, "he wants you to come to Persia as a guest..."

Xena felt her blood pressure rising the moment she heard that. "Absolutely not!"

Xena and Gabrielle argued with each other in whispers while Eve completely blocked them out. She understood why her mother would forbid her to go to Persia, but she created this mess. She saw they were still arguing a few moments later and she frowned deeply. "Stop!" the two stopped and blinked at her. "I will go. This is my fault."

Xena shook her head, "I will not allow it."

Eve closed her eyes begging for serenity. "Mother I understand why you don't want me to go, but I need to go. I could stop him from coming to attack Athens. I'll be careful..." she pleaded. Xena folded her arms and remained silent.

Gabrielle felt Xena's anger radiating and she smiled weakly at the princess. "Eve, we don't know if he will kill you or not. It's not safe."

Eve huffed, "you two always say I'm not ready for any type of responsibility and when I actually do something wrong I am not given the chance to prove myself and fix the situation!" she yelled and threw her hands in the air. Xena's face softened hearing her daughter's frustration. "How am I supposed to learn from my mistakes if you both won't let me?!"

Xena suddenly felt like a hypocrite and an awful mother when it came to teaching her child about consequences. She had many things she had to fix in herself and she didn't want Eve to suffer the same way. She sighed and Eve glared at her with her large blue eyes, mirroring her own. "I don't want you to go alone."

Eve smiled slightly, a bit hopeful that her mother had relented, "Solan can come with me." Xena eyed Gabrielle for the go ahead and the blonde nodded in her direction. Eve's smile grew then she hugged her mother, surprising her sudden outburst. "I won't disappoint you!" she hugged her tightly and Xena smiled.

"You will never disappoint me, Eve," she pulled away then cupped her cheek. "Be careful or I will go there myself," she grinned and Eve nodded leaving the room.

After Eve closed the door Gabrielle threw the scrolls on the floor and Xena blinked, shocked at her initial response. "Are you crazy?! I can't believe you're allowing her to go there!"

Xena grabbed a couple of towels and threw one at Gabrielle. "Solan will protect her. If anything happens to her I will make sure Samuel won't live to see another day." She opened the door to her bathroom and had an eager smile. "Are you coming?"

Gabrielle groaned, "you make it impossible to say no, you know that?"

Xena nodded, "I know." She said nonchalantly.

Chapter Text

Crownless again shall be the queen
Trophy on her grave still remains unseen
A boat on the river confessing the sins
The Riddler revealing the deep hidden things

Crownless again shall be the king
A gull covered in oil with a broken wing
A hitcher on a road alone and lost
Iron sharpens iron... - a truth that once was

Mine is the Earth and the sword in the stone
Mine is the throne for the idol
One fleeting moment and it is all gone
Crownless again
Will I fall?
Song: Nightwish –Crownless

The Greek Empire vs. The Roman Empire

AN: yes Xena is back and there will be some hell to pay for a few people. And Eve is heading into a direction that she thinks she can control. Good luck and thanks for following along ;)

Chapter 12

A few days later Samuel had sent some of his best men and his assistant, Balal, to retrieve Eve and bring her to Persia, willingly of course. They arrived mid-afternoon at the entrance of the large Athenian palace in the middle of nowhere, far from civilization. Balal himself had never been to the palace that belonged to the Grecian empress and it was quite large, even larger than the his king's palace in Persia.

The Persian soldiers were granted entrance once they stated who they were and what business they had with the empress. Balal stepped inside and saw the empress in flesh for the first time. She was everything that Samuel said she would be. She was intimidating, yet had a beautiful aura about her and once he saw the princess, he knew instantly that was Xena's daughter. She too had her height, her stature, icy blue eyes and dark hair, though, her hair was much curlier while her mother's was stick straight. Balal saw the two talking amongst themselves and he waited patiently.

Eve turned her head as her mother was speaking to her and saw the Persian soldiers waiting for her to go with them. A hand came to her shoulder and she swiftly turned to see the concern in her mother's eyes. She grinned lightly and grabbed hold of her mother's hand, squeezing tightly. "Don't worry, mother, if anything happens I will –"

"Let me know immediately," Xena said firmly and Eve nodded, knowing she was quite serious. She never joked about her safety and Eve knew that to be true. She had saved her before and would die for her if it came to that. Xena hugged Eve tightly as if hugging her for the first and last time. The young princess gasped for air and pat her mother's shoulder.

Gabrielle stifled a laugh and pulled on Xena's shoulder. Without realizing she was crushing her own daughter Xena pulled away with an embarrassed smile. "She will be back, right?" she eyed Eve carefully.

Eve nodded and hugged Gabrielle as well before she left. Gabrielle brushed a few long strands of hair away from her face and grinned widely. "I will fix this, I promise." She kissed Gabrielle's cheek then her mother's and let out a large sigh. She walked off heading to Balal and the king's soldiers waiting for her patiently.

Solan came out of the palace in his armor and Xena grabbed his shoulder forcefully, "if anything happens to her there will be terrible consequences not just for Samuel but for you too," she whispered lowly. Her son smiled nodding his head, completely understanding his mother's over protectiveness of Eve. She was much younger than him and she was his mother's baby in her eyes even if she was a young woman now.

"No need to threaten me, mother. I will protect Eve. She is my little sister after all," he smirked. He walked off going to grab a horse and saw Eve waving him to hurry it up. He mocked her waving and mounted the horse to trot alongside the Persian soldiers.

Xena called out, "don't let her out of your sight, Solan." She added and folded her arms, straightening herself. Solan rolled his eyes and nodded, suddenly feeling like she didn't trust him or had little faith in him. He wouldn't let that Persian King come a foot near his sister unless she allowed it.

Gabrielle and Xena watched the crew leave the palace and Eve was in a really nice caravan that Samuel sent for her, which Xena thought was really suspicious. As they rounded the gates they were no longer seen to the naked eye anymore and Xena turned to Gabrielle with a grimace. "Do you think this is a good idea?"

"Nope," Gabrielle shook her head, "but I trust that Solan will keep her safe and Samuel really liked Eve when they were children."

Xena pursed her lips, narrowing her eyes, yes she definitely remembered that very well. "That is what worries me, Gabrielle." She turned on her heel and entered the palace with Gabrielle skipping behind her. "Phraates tried to get the two married, if you don't remember," she scoffed.

The palace that she left behind was just as she remembered it would be. Children in classes and very educated teachers of course. She liked seeing this and she missed it greatly while in Egypt. She really enjoyed seeing the children learning in the place which she lived in. As soon as she walked through the halls a young girl ran into the front of her as she was running down the hallway in a hurry.

The child looked up at the empress with apologetic eyes. Xena smiled and knelt down, "hello there, where are you running off to in such a hurry?"

The child grinned at the empress, no longer fearing the empress's reaction any longer. She shrugged her small shoulders, "I have art class in a little bit," she said in her small voice. Xena looked up at Gabrielle with a warm smile. She did miss interacting with the students when she had the chance to and since she was so busy she hardly had any free time to interact, except when she taught the combat class all those years ago. She thought she should do that again since she was here. It would give her something more relaxing to do when she wasn't caught up with everything else in her life.

"I don't want to make you late," Xena told the young girl and stood up. "Get going now," she smiled making a path for the young girl and she ran past her and Gabrielle.

Gabrielle folded her arms with a smug grin. "You miss the children, don't you?" Xena nodded in agreement and they walked together outside to see some of the elder students studying quietly outside. Their eyes were glued to their scrolls not even acknowledging their entrance.

Xena turned to Gabrielle, "I want to start my combat class again. I think the children would really enjoy it. What do you think?" her eyes lit up and that was hard for Gabrielle to resist.

The blonde chuckled lightly, "I think it's a great idea, Xena. Plus, it would give you something to do, I mean, something fun to do," she corrected herself.

Xena liked the idea of renewing that class. She really enjoyed teaching those girls how to fight, but fight well and not violently. "I want to start as soon as possible. Tomorrow, perhaps," she nodded for her own self affirmation. Gabrielle thought Xena was being a bit hasty about this, though she didn't want to rain on her parade. She only had come out of that awful nightmare world a few days ago and though she saw a change in Xena, a good one. She hadn't been herself for a long time and she felt she was coming back to her regular self after a decade of harboring secrets. Her eyes were not tired anymore and her stature had changed as well. She was Xena again, after so long of being lost in herself, she was normal again.

Together they walked through the gardens that were definitely missed but had grown ten times since they left Athens. Xena was not one for enjoying flowers or nature but Gabrielle sensed a change in her. She was actually enjoying the lush green scenery which she was glad, but it was something new.

"Gabrielle, I told you I wasn't going to keep secrets anymore," Xena began softly as they walked through a large archway filled with vines and orchids. Gabrielle remained quiet following by her side with her hands behind her back. She could only expect the worse. "I used the entire elixir to be free from Eris' world. She used that as a hold on me and wanted to get close to Eve and I just couldn't allow that to happen. I have hurt you and I can't apologize enough for that, Gabrielle. You risked your life to come and save me from that awful place and I take you for granted. Somehow you are always saving me from my mistakes." She stopped and turned to her companion, who had doe eyes and saw her cheeks redden, though she couldn't tell if she was angry, sad or surprised. She grabbed her hands, grasping them tautly. "When I was in my palace in that other acted different towards me," she frowned and sighed not sure how to continue with her thought.

Gabrielle waited patiently and saw Xena slipping. "Different how?" she egged her on and Xena looked up into her green eyes. She smiled warmly, allowing her to have her full attention.

"I told you that I didn't belong here...there, in Athens, that I belonged in Egypt and didn't believe me. You thought I was crazy and that I...was not acting like myself." She sighed, hoping this was going to come out easier than she thought, but it wasn't. "It was then that I knew I was alone and it scared me. I never thought that I'd feel alone even with you there, but I did. I wanted you to believe me, but you didn't and I don't know why was the first time I felt angry towards you. Perhaps, I was more angry with myself than with you, it sounds silly," she chuckled and covered her eyes, trying to feign embarrassment.

Gabrielle wasn't there when Xena was in that awful nightmare world, but obviously what she saw was something she didn't want. It was a good thing she decided to show up just in time and also explained why she was so hesitant to her first appearing before her. She had no idea what went on before she got there but now she knew. She grabbed Xena's hands and saw her watery eyes staring down at the dirt.

"Xena, whatever you saw there wasn't real and I always believe you, no matter how crazy it sounds," she jested lightly. "You are never alone but you sometimes shut yourself off from the rest of the world. You always think you can conquer things by yourself and you can, but can't. You need people, friends, to help you and you need to learn to accept the help," she lifted Xena's chin and saw a single tear fall off her cheek. She didn't like to see Xena cry, and it was a rare thing to see, but that was what made it all the more painful to watch.

Xena wiped her eyes and smirked, "you'd think I would have learned that after all these years being with you," she mumbled.

Gabrielle smiled, "it's never too late to learn how to accept yourself, Xena." A few short moments of silence passed between them and so she thought she'd ask one simple question, though it had complex answers. "Do you feel any different after using the elixir?"

Xena sighed, knowing that question was going to come up sooner or later. "I did, I mean I do. I feel rejuvenated, almost like a new person but I don't know...there was something Eris said. She was shocked and almost fearful when I used the rest of the elixir. I saw fear in her eyes."

Gabrielle tapped her chin pensively. "Maybe she is afraid that you could have killed her?"

The empress scoffed jokingly. "I cannot kill gods, Gabrielle. It must be something else, something else that we don't know." She frowned thinking of Ares once again, the person who got her into this mess. "If Ares would have never shown up, this would have never happened."

The blonde agreed but also disagreed with her. "But at the same time, this experience has changed you and in a good way. In some way, Ares did some good." She smirked knowing that'd light a fire beneath Xena.

"That'll be the first and last time you ever admit that," Xena firmly said. Gabrielle did not abject to that at all. She didn't like Ares from the first moment she laid eyes on him, but in this case, he saved Xena from what she was. She was awful to be around, so moody, grumpy and just not in her own element, but now...she was normal again. And most importantly, they were back in Athens again, where everyone belonged –where Xena belonged.

"So, all this time I thought Eve had turned but it was just Eris the entire time?" Xena referred to the vision Ares showed her fifteen years ago.

Gabrielle nodded, "yes. He hid the truth from you. He wanted to make you believe that Eve would betray everything you had taught her. In that sense...Ares is a pig," she smirked. Xena joined her in that statement of fact.

"He made me fear something that was never true to begin with," Xena shook her head feeling foolish for ever believing the War God. She knew that he lied to her on several occasions but that was just the icing on the cake. She was sure that she wouldn't see him anytime soon since his little plan didn't work and his sister was on her case as well as his. Whatever Eris had in mind obviously didn't work for now, as she told Xena. Xena only had to deal with Ares, no other disaster-causing Olympian and it sure sparked her when Eris wanted to control Eve. She wouldn't allow that to happen for several reasons. She knew that Eve had that fire inside of her as did Xena at that age, but as long as she stayed glued to her side, she would never turn to the dark side like Xena did. Eve was everything Xena wanted to be at that age and she wanted to make sure it stayed that way.

Though there was one thing that Eve seemingly pointed out very often and that was Xena's over protective nature. She wanted to keep Eve hidden and locked away so nobody could harm her but it only proved harder to do that as she grew older and had less control over her. At the young age of twenty two, Xena knew that she wouldn't be able to keep Eve by her side forever, no matter what path she took in the long run. But she was determined that it would be a peaceful path and not a violent one like the vision she saw, which turned out to be a facade more than a premonition. Xena knew that Ares was cunning but that almost seemed desperate in some regard.

Gabrielle saw Xena's mind was drifting off the longer they stood in the gardens. Her hand came to Xena's arm, shaking her out of her daze. "Are you alright?"

Xena shook her head and rubbed her temple, "yes, I'm fine, just thinking," she grinned.

"Well don't think too much," she teased.

Their moment together was interrupted by one of Xena's guards running to her with an urgent message. He huffed and then bowed his head towards her and she folded her arms. "Empress," he began breathlessly, "Octavius is arriving this evening from Assyria."

Xena's smile lit up her entire face and Gabrielle sensed the fire in Xena. She knew that Xena had been waiting for this moment for a very long time. She was definitely a changed woman. "Excellent," she hissed. "Prepare the west wing for the Roman," she demanded and the guard bobbed his head then left in a hurry back into the palace.

Gabrielle began sauntering with Xena back into the palace and they passed a few students whom were still studying quietly to themselves. "You are excited, aren't you?" she beamed.

The empress sighed, "I've been absent far too long, Gabrielle. It is time to take back what is mine," her pace quickened and Gabrielle frowned, not sure what exactly she meant by that.

"What do you mean 'take back what is yours'?" Gabrielle asked and Xena didn't answer. "Xena? Hello?" she groaned and caught up with her, pulling her arm. "You mean take back Greece?"

"No. I'm going to interrupt his little expanding empire party," Xena stormed off to her bedroom to get ready for this evening. Gabrielle blinked in shock, she thought that Xena had changed for good, which she did, but she came back with a vengeance and that was so...enthralling to hear. She smiled and ran up the stairs after Xena.

Eve arrived in Persia in a timely manner by horseback then by ship and then by horseback again to get to the palace. She remembered this place definitely since she had been there before when she was very young. It hadn't changed much except there were a lot more guards posted outside. She figured that when Phraates died the security around the palace expanded since Xena came there. She was not surprised, but she was surprised that Samuel asked to see her. She kidnapped him without knowing it was him and it had been quite a long time since she had seen him. He was very charming and he was very nice to her even after he told her that she captured him as a hostage. He was definitely not like his late father at all. She could tell even when she was young that he was not like Phraates.

The large doors opened and she saw Samuel standing at the entrance to greet her. She stepped out of the caravan and Solan jumped off his horse, wary of the Persian King with that smug look on his face. He would have to be extra careful around this guy, he thought.

Samuel walked down the steps and he glanced over at Solan, who he did not invite and did not recognize. "Who is this?" he said in almost a jealous tone. Eve turned to her brother and she smiled sweetly at the young king.

"This is Solan. He is my older brother," she hoped that Samuel would comply. Solan curtly nodded his head at the king and Samuel snickered. Eve leaned in close to the king, "mother wouldn't allow me to come unless someone else came with me," she whispered.

Samuel grinned and kissed Eve's hand, which he hoped that she wouldn't hate. She always hated being touched he remembered. "Well, I'm not going to harm you or anything," he winked. Eve smiled uncomfortably and Solan took notice of the charms the king had shown his sister and took note of it. "Please, come in," he gestured and Eve passed him and walked up the stairs. Solan trailed behind his sister and Samuel frowned at him then went in front of him. He grabbed Eve's hand aiding her up the stairs.

She eyed him cautiously, a bit nervous to be around him even after everything had happened. He probably had no idea that she knew that he wanted to attack Athens, which was a plus for her, though he wasn't stupid, she knew that much. She would have to be very careful around him, though it was nice to be around someone else besides her mother and Gabrielle. Even though she loved them dearly, she often felt like she was being suffocated by her mother and this was her time to set things right between the Persian and Greek empires.

They entered the royal throne room and Eve looked around. Nothing had really changed since she was last here. "Looks just as I remembered," she grinned. Samuel stepped in front of her and grabbed her hand and her eyes widened, afraid to take a step forward.

"Come sit with me. Your brother can watch from afar," he snapped his fingers at his guards and they blocked the entrance with large javelins in front of Solan. The blonde groaned but stood not willing to put up a fight. This wasn't the right time for that. As long as he could see Eve then everything was fine and as long as the king didn't do something stupid, then he would stay away.

Eve sat on the floor next to Samuel and wine was brought to them. Some servant girls also brought them a tray of fruit and other food stuffs. She eyed the wine cautiously and he chuckled at her suspicious nature. She gazed up at him raising a brow.

"It's not poisoned. I didn't ask you to come all this way to poison you," he sipped on his wine and Eve sipped hers as well. It was good, but as she remembered, not as good as the wine in Greece.

She set the glass down and eyed him as he reclined on a few pillows. "So why did you ask me to come here?" she wondered this for days as she traveled here.

Samuel shrugged a shoulder, "I wanted to be with you. I like you, you know. Just because our parents did not get along doesn't mean we can't, right?" he said with a charming smile. Eve grinned sheepishly, not quite sure how to address that subject. She didn't really want to talk about her mother and she didn't really have a plan but she wanted to make small talk with him.

"I'm really sorry about kidnapping you. It was an accident..." she admitted shyly. He dismissed it as if it never happened. "But your soldiers attacked my mother and her palace in Egypt. Why would they do that?"

Samuel sighed, "I told you Eve that they were going to come for me. It wasn't personal. You know I really admire your mother," he said as he bit into an apple. Eve raised an eyebrow at that. Now she was truly suspicious and he saw that in her eyes. "I do, Eve. She's a great warrior and strategist. I'm sure she's taught you well."

Eve nodded and sipped on her wine, "yes she has, but I don't think you brought me here just to talk about my mother..." she sneakily slipped that in, in order to change the subject.

He agreed to that and moved closer to her. "You're right. Let's not talk about her, let's talk" he beamed and that made her uncomfortable. He touched her arm and felt her body tense under his fingers. He realized he was coming on a bit too strong and also eyed Solan, who was watching them like a hawk. Quickly, he got up and ran to the other side of the room to retrieve something that might make her happy.

She frowned and he returned with a large box. He set it down in front of her and opened the lid. Her eyes lit up seeing that. She hadn't seen one of those in a long time.

"I know how much you like playing chess. Do you still play?" he grinned.

Eve shook her head, "no not anymore."

He pushed the chess board closer to her, "do you want to?" he lamely attempted to get her on his good side. She smiled and finally relented. Excitingly, he pulled out all the chess pieces and she helped him. Their hands touched and she pulled hers away, her cheeks reddening. He smirked at that and continued gathering all the pieces out. Solan sighed as he thought this was going to be an awfully long and boring night if they were going to play chess. Eve played coy but she was very good at this game and she would stop at nothing until she won.

Eve arranged her pieces after Samuel did and she eyed him curiously. "Please tell me you didn't bring me here just so you can lose at a game of chess?" she teased.

Samuel laughed, "I would be happy to lose to you! You were always a great player and no, I didn't, but I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable..." he eyed her and saw her smile disappear. "Are you...uncomfortable?"

She sighed, "we were children when we met, Samuel. It's different now. We are different people."

He grinned charmingly at her, "you still look the same to me, maybe a little less stubborn though," he teased.

Eve gasped, "I am not stubborn!" she protested folding her arms.

Samuel nodded, "I guess I'm're still stubborn," he winked and moved his first piece. "Your turn."

Octavius told himself that he would never come here again but here he was. He hadn't seen Xena in fifteen years and when he knew that she left for Egypt, he was glad that she was pitying herself and decided to hide.

The west wing doors were opened and he saw Xena standing there drinking some wine in dressed in a bright red dress with mesh sparkly sleeves. His eyes widened as he saw her. It was like time had stood still and she looked...gorgeous. He half expected and hoped that she'd be an old hag by now and look a mess, but that was far from the truth. The only difference he saw was the white streak in her hair, but everything else was right where it should be –her slim frame, her firm legs and wrinkle-free face.

Xena turned and saw the initial shock in his eyes. He couldn't believe his eyes and she was hoping for that kind of reaction. She made sure the atrium was filled with wine and food for her guest. She didn't want to put on a bad impression and she was dying to engage in conversation with the emperor. "Well don't just stand there and gawk, Octavius. Come in," she lead the way and he followed her, still in awe at her youthful appearance.

Xena had formulated a plan with Gabrielle hours before he arrived and it was going to put even more shock in the emperor. Gabrielle stood on the second floor in the dark, looking over the balustrade watching Xena saunter around showing him the well decorated atrium. She smiled looking down at Xena. She was beautiful, just as she always was, but this was a different kind of beauty. She was very confident of herself and she wasn't afraid to show it –something that she lost many years ago. Xena was back, she leaned on the railing as she listened to Xena from down below.

Octavius was handed a glass of wine and Xena gestured for him to sit down as she walked around. He sat down graciously and looked up at her. She was no hag for sure. He sipped on his wine and Xena turned around sitting across from him with an enticing sneaky smile on her lips. "So what made you want to come back to Athens?" he chided.

Xena sighed over exaggeratingly, "I grew bored of Egypt. I belong in Athens. This is my home," she waved her arm around at the grand atrium they were sitting in alone minus the few maids standing off to the sides.

"And what a...lovely home it is," he scanned her body and she took notice of that. The slit on her dress slipped over her leg as she crossed it over the other. He looked away, admiring all the decorations around the room. "You look like you're going to throw a party," he said awkwardly.

She grinned smugly and sipped on her wine, "Octavius, you're a dear old friend of mine. How would it look if I didn't show some effort in your arrival after all these years?" she winked.

He shook his head mockingly, "you love to joke. That is one thing I miss the most about you."

Her eyes lit up, "oh so you did miss me? How sweet of you..." she adjusted herself in the seat and leaned forward getting right to the meat of the real reason she wanted to talk with him. "I hear you expanded your empire to Assyria." He eyed her and nodded his head. "The Assyrians are my friends," she touched her heart with a pitiful face. "You hurt my friends, Octavius and when you hurt my friends, you hurt me," she played the victim and he caught on quickly.

The emperor scoffed, "you left your people behind you when you fled to Egypt for sanctuary, Xena." She frowned at that but pulled herself together, maintaining her composure. "And you had Solan working with that Allat fellow." He shook his head.

Xena pursed her lips and set down her glass. "Let's not talk about Solan. Tell me, why did you decide to visit me?" she smiled.

He nursed his glass of wine then stared directly in her blue eyes, which was an immediate mistake. "I wanted to see you. I haven't seen you in fifteen years, Xena!" he grinned. "It would have been rude of me to ignore your return.." he raised an eyebrow and sipped his wine.

"Yes of course, what was I thinking. Oh but you know what, Octavius?" she folded her fingers together and he avoided her gaze. "I sense you have a hidden agenda. You never liked seeing me because it meant that something bad was going to happen..." she lowered her eyelids gazing at him with a mischievous smile. "So you know what I'm going to do?"

He lifted his head and smiled tightly, "no, what's that?"

She frowned deeply then stood up, towering over him. He was no longer a young emperor, though not as old as she was, he had much to learn and she was about to give him a lesson. "I'm taking back what should have been mine. I want Assyria, North Africa, Anatolia and maybe I'll take Persia too," she smirked.

Now he stood up eye level to her with a large apparent frown on his face. "You lost those territories years ago, Xena. And you'll never have Anatolia or Assyria again and you can forget about Persia," he laughed, "unless you're going to kill the Persian King, again."

She took a step closer to him and now she was inches away from his face. Gabrielle leaned over to see that this conversation had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. She expected him to rebel and so did Xena. She waited patiently to see what Xena had planned next.

Octavius breathed heavily and that only made Xena happier. She fed off his fury and looked into his blue eyes. "I will win, Octavius," she hissed in a hushed voice.

The emperor waved his hand and stepped away from her, finishing off his wine. "In your dreams, Xena."

She scoffed, "had a lot of those lately and let me tell you, they're not filled with unicorns and rainbows," she jested and laughed at her own joke.

Gabrielle up above smacked her forehead with her palm listening to Xena's inappropriate jokes. Every time..she has to do that every single time.

"You don't even have any followers in those areas. You'll never win, Xena. Not in this lifetime." He stormed off and Xena folded her arms then ran to the entrance blocking his way out.

She breathed out heavily and smiled at him. "Oh you don't just get to leave in a tantrum, Octavius. I prepared this feast just for you and I and you're going to turn it down?" she played with riddles and he rolled his eyes.

"Get out of my way. It was obviously a mistake coming here," he tried to side step her but she continually blocked the way out. He was growing aggravated with this woman now.

Xena finally opened the door and he stormed out, brushing past her. She grinned and leaned on the doorframe watching him storm off. "I hope to see you again, Octavius!" she called out and he ignored her, continuing to walk to his men waiting for him on the side of the palace.

Gabrielle came running down the stairs and grabbed Xena's arm. "Did you just declare war on the Roman Empire?" she smiled, eager to get into the meat of their conversation.

Xena closed the door and grabbed Gabrielle's hand. "I hope so. I need more allies," she felt the adrenaline in her body roaming over her entire body. It felt so good to tell off Octavius, she couldn't even explain it, not even to Gabrielle, though she had a feeling she felt the same way she did. "Gabrielle, you're wonderful," she leaned down and kissed her cheek.

Gabrielle grinned, "I can't believe you did that! You were always such a great talker," she complimented her friend and it was Xena's turn to play coy. "You can get anything you want with just talking."

Xena laughed, "no that's you Gabrielle! This was your idea anyway, I should be thanking you." She sighed and grabbed another glass of wine and handed it to her. "Without you, I don't know what I'd do."

"Go crazy?" she teased.

The empress sipped on her wine and widened her eyes. "Already there," she joked. "But at least I don't have to be crazy and alone," she eyed her friend's green eyes and winked as she sipped on the dark red wine.

Gabrielle came around the table and sat down next to Xena enjoying the nice atmosphere. "So what now?" she anxiously asked.

Xena sighed and let her hair down from the updo and ruffled her hair with her fingers, relaxing on the couch next to Gabrielle. "We enjoy the decorations and good wine, Gabrielle," she smiled. Gabrielle smiled at her and moved closer to her. Xena propped her legs on the table in front of the sofa and felt Gabrielle's body close to hers and she smiled, finally able to relax without any interruptions or bad news, so far. Octavius was quite a surprise and it was fun to throw him around like that. She would definitely be doing more of that.

After many hours of playing Samuel had got beat by Eve twice in a row. He enjoyed her company enough and did not get flustered by his consistent losing. She yelled in victory just as she did when she was a child, he recalled. He laughed at her excitement and soon she realized that she needed to quiet down. Her cheeks reddened and he smirked at her. "You won again, not a big surprise," he pushed the chess board aside then stood up after downing the last of his wine. He stretched out his hand nudging his head to come along, "come with me."

Eve looked to Solan and saw he was nowhere near her. He was still watching afar in the same spot he was in for hours now. Samuel saw her eyes travel to her brother and he smiled helping her up. "Don't worry, Eve. You trust me, right?" she sighed and gave the nod to Solan.

Solan eyed the two carefully and folded his arms. "I can take care of myself, Solan," Eve called out with a wide smile. She took Samuel's hand and they left the royal chambers. Solan groaned and kicked the wall. Eve was an adult yes, but if something happened to her then he would have to deal with his mother, and he didn't want to do that. That would be a rude awakening for him. Samuel was not Phraates that was for sure, but he was also so very charming and Eve knew that, he hoped. Eve had spent some time with him when they were children and she even felt bad for him when Xena killed his father, but she was a child then. This was different, they were adults now and after hours of playing chess, Eve grew back into the child form of herself again, reconnecting with Samuel as if time stood still.

Samuel covered Eve's eyes as they walked through a long hallway and she tried to pry his hands off and smiled. "What are you doing?" she asked innocently.

"I want you to see something, just turn to the left," he guided the way and she reached forward trying to grab onto any walls nearby but there was nothing there. She allowed him to guide her through the unknown hall and she stumbled on a step and he stopped. "Okay, you're safe to open your eyes now."

Eve shook her head then saw they were on a balcony and very high up she might add. Her eyes widened and she then realized what she was looking at. It was the back of the palace and she saw mountains, they didn't have those in Athens and there was even, "snow?"

Samuel nodded, "sometimes I go up to the mountains in the summer. You should come with me some time, it's very beautiful up there. You can see the entire city!"

Eve smiled then realized what he was suggesting. He wanted to spend more time with her and she liked that idea, she always liked Samuel, but then her mother came to her mind again. Turning to face the king she frowned. "You know I can't stay here..." she said in a hushed tone.

He knew this but he still liked being around her. He never forgot about her when she was in the palace all those years ago. It was definitely fate that they met once again in Qin, though the turn of events was a bit unexpected, he enjoyed seeing her again. "Well, I didn't mean right now. It's not summer yet," he said with a jesting voice. Eve smiled at his charm and overlooked the scenery before her.

The princess then thought of Samuel's plan to attack Athens and she focused on that. "Would allies with my mother?" she asked continuing to admire the dark sky and glistening snow on the mountain tops.

Samuel didn't think of that and he didn't hate Xena. It was her that made him king even with his elder brothers in the way, he rose to the top. He was very qualified and became king at the age of twelve, a few years after his father was killed. He owed Xena, but he felt like he didn't owe her that much. He wanted to expand Persia and the only way to do that was through conquest. "Your mother doesn't really like me or my people, Eve," he smiled trying to lighten the mood.

She nodded, "she didn't like your father. She loves Persians. We have some Persian students studying in Athens," Eve said proudly. Samuel blinked, a bit surprised to hear that.

"A Greek who loves Persians. That is the first I have heard," he chuckled. He grabbed her hand and she eyed him cautiously. "I thought you didn't want to talk about your mother?" he kissed her hand.

She smiled weakly at his kind gesture but remained focused. She wanted him to admit that he was going to attack her mother's empire, but she couldn't be so upfront about it. "I don't, mother and the Persians were friends once, before I was born," she added.

Samuel sighed and leaned on the balustrade looking out into the distance. "Yeah, strange times. I don't know how my father ever agreed to that," he scoffed. "It didn't last long though. She taxed my kingdom to death in order to cover more land for her empire." He was growing irritated just thinking about it and Eve sensed that. He sighed and straightened himself with a smile. "But let's not talk politics Eve. I asked you to come here so I could spend time with you. I really enjoy your company."

She smiled nodding her head, "I do too. It seems every time we meet it is under awful circumstances."


Then the two started laughing and he grabbed her hand leading her away from the balcony as their laughter died down. They walked down another long hallway that Eve recalled even from all those years ago, she remembered every hallway because she was trying to escape though this time it was different. She was here at her own free will and he was not trying to kidnap her or keep her as a hostage like Phraates did. She didn't have to come here, but she did.

Eve noticed a large room they passed and she pulled away from him. "Which room is this?" she eagerly said trying to distract the king. He ran after her as she entered the room. He remembered that she went wherever she wanted and didn't care about the consequences.

He leaned on the archway as she walked around the room, touching vases and statues. "This is my room," he casually said. Eve smiled sneakily and turned around feigning surprise. She knew this was his room. It was too grand to be anyone else's.

"Oh, it's very nice. Almost as nice as mine," she teased. She took off the extra fabric hanging around her neck and flung it aside. "It's always so hot in Persia."

Samuel sighed and came closer to her as she took off the mesh fabric around her waist, now exposing her midsection and wearing a cream colored top with tailored short sleeves. She sat down on his bed and brushed her hair aside from her shoulders. He looked away, now he was the one feeling uncomfortable. "You were always so curious. You do whatever you want, don't you?" he rubbed his chin as his eyes remained focused on a wall.

Eve saw that he was feeling rather shy and she smiled. Good, she thought. I have you unfocused now. "When I'm with my mother, I can't do whatever I want but she's not here so..." she hoped he would turn around but he didn't. "She can be rather controlling you know." she lied.

"What a surprise," he chided.

"why won't you look at me, Samuel?" Eve laid down on his bed running her fingers through her hair.

He cleared his throat, "because it would be rude of me. I am not my father, you know. He had many wives," he admitted a bit embarrassed. His brothers too, had many wives, but he chose not to have any and if he would, he would only have one wife.

Eve seemed surprised at his restraint. "Wow, you're quite the gentleman. Perhaps my mother will ally with you if you agree of course."

Samuel finally turned around and saw her sprawled on his bed then he looked up at the ceiling. Eve was rather enjoying this as he would not look at her, for some odd reason. "Why do you want me to ally with her? She killed my father. I can't just forget that and yes he was a horrible person and –"

"But you're not like him, Samuel. You're better than him," she stood up and touched his face, now lowering his gaze to stare into his green eyes. "Just think of the good things we could do together if we joined forces," she used a bit of her mother's play on words to win him over.

Looking like he was about to protest she frowned then kissed him forcefully. His eyes widened and then relaxed. Her hands roamed around and took off his vest throwing it to the side. Samuel stopped and pulled away from her embrace leaving her confused. "What are you doing?"

She smiled, "you said you like me right?"

"Well I –"

"I like you too," she smiled as her eyes narrowed and her fingers touched his bare arms. She needed him to become distracted and she felt like she was a snake in the grass at this point. Truthfully, she did like Samuel, but she was using him for her own gain to fix what she had done. She didn't want him to attack Athens. It would be better if they allied and then her mother's empire would expand and she would have more land. Everyone is happy, she told herself.

She grabbed his hand and lead him to his bed. He had a wary look in his eyes which she ignored. She pushed him on the bed with an eager smile and his eyes grew in shock, surprised by her sudden behavior. "Are you always like this?" he asked as she unlaced her top and threw it aside. He was tempted to look away but now he couldn't. She ruffled her wavy dark hair with her fingers and kissed his lips gingerly.

"I do get what I want," she smiled and he finally cracked a smile. Yes, embrace with me. Give in, Samuel. She had bewitched him and she had done it well, obviously. Too much reading from Gabrielle's scrolls, she reminded herself.

He caressed her arms and she smiled at him. Surely, she couldn't be the only woman he had seen naked, she wondered. He wasn't like his father for sure with his many wives, but he was still Phraates' son and all the Persian boys liked women. Obviously he had done this before and she had not, but she was willing to learn.

He flipped her over on her back and kissed her gently taking her for surprise. "Are you sure you don't want to stay until summer?" he winked and she shrugged her shoulder, wrapping her arms around his neck.

"We will have to see about that," she responded and he kissed her neck. Her eyes widened and she tensed up. He felt it beneath his touch but then his eyes glanced up at hers.

"Are you alright?" he smiled and she nodded, then he felt her body relax finally.

Conquering is a lot easier said than done.

Chapter Text

AN: super long chapter this time. Good luck and enjoy. A lot of things happening this go around ;)

Chapter 13

Solan paced around for a few hours and he was growing rather impatient waiting for Eve and the king to emerge from wherever they were. He didn't like the idea of her going with him in the first place. He knew this was a bad idea and his mother knew it too yet she allowed her to go see the Persian. He figured that his mother wanted to give Eve some responsibility but honestly he didn't think that Eve would be able to fix what she had done. Samuel was reasonable so far and he had shown no violent signs towards them when they came to his palace.

He was actually very kind to them even though it was obvious he wanted to be alone with the Greek princess. Solan sat down on a bench keeping his eyes peeled on the royal chambers waiting for them to appear but when they didn't, he only assumed the worse.

Deciding to take action he walked over to the guards and tapped on one of their shoulders. "Can someone go find them? I am not going to sit and wait here," he folded his arms impatiently. The guard turned to him with a grimace then snapped his fingers at a servant girl, wearing hardly anything, she came to them bowing her head slightly.

"Go see where the king is and report back to me," the guard demanded and the girl nodded her head then ran off to find the two. She had an idea of where they might be. Solan huffed and waited behind the guards blocking the way into the chambers. He didn't want to cause trouble here especially since he was a guest and he was technically Eve's bodyguard according to their mother. He didn't want to disappoint her and whenever people did that, bad things happened to everyone.

The servant girl heard muffled sounds and talking behind the king's bedroom doors. She knocked on the door quietly then the talking ceased immediately. She waited patiently and heard some rustling around and even some laughter as well. Frowning she saw the door opened and the Persian King stood with a sheet wrapped around his waist and he was bare from the waist up. She averted her eyes and Samuel smirked, leaning on the door-frame.

"The princess's brother is asking where you two went..." she said with reddened cheeks. Never did she see the king so exposed in her life working in the palace.

Samuel sighed then turned around to see Eve in his bed, covering herself with the black silk sheets. He grinned turning back to the girl. "I forgot about him," he mumbled. "Tell him that he is invited for dinner this evening and we'll be there," he winked and the girl nodded as he closed the door. She went off to tell the other servant girls to prepare an impromptu dinner.

Eve sat up covering her bare chest with the sheets and Samuel folded his arms smirking at her. She grinned and ran her fingers through her wild curly hair. He walked over to the bed and stretched his arms out comfortably. "My brother asked about me?" she feigned innocence.

He nodded, "I wasn't going to tell her that you were with me. He'd probably kill me," he chuckled then crawled onto the bed, laying next to her he kissed her forehead and she grinned. "You seem more...relaxed now, no?" he hoped that she was feeling more comfortable now. He didn't expect her to jump into his bed the moment she got here, he didn't expect anything from her except for her company just for a little while.

Her smile had shown it all even though she had an agenda of her own, she liked Samuel, she felt comfortable around him. He was the only person that didn't judge her or doubt her much like she thought her mother felt sometimes. She knew her mother meant well, but she was just too protective of her and she knew why especially what happened to Solan, she didn't want to lose her, but Eve wasn't going to run off somewhere. Solan was much an heir as she was, but there was extreme pressure on her to be the best warrior and to live up to her mother's name. She didn't want to become a shadow of her mother nor did she want the baggage that came along with it. Her mother's empire was the only empire that was ruled by a woman and Eve had to be the best princess that her mother ever had. With her mother hiding Eve all her life for safety reasons, that was no longer the case.

The Persians knew about her but Octavius didn't even after all these years. He was not in contact with the Persians after Phraates was killed and he thought the Persians brought him nothing but trouble, which was true in a sense. They were reckless sometimes, although great rulers and scholars, but they were not ones to negotiate with other empires. Persia wanted to be the single empire out of them all, but their empire was weak compared to the Roman Empire and even the Greek Empire. The Greek Empire had dwindled down in size making Persia and Rome the superpowers, but Eve wanted Samuel to ally with her mother so they could be a team and cover more ground. She was going to make sure that happened no matter what, even if she had to stay here for awhile longer and her mother wasn't going to approve of that.

Samuel looked at Eve's blank eyes and smiled, caressing her cheek softly. "Eve?" he called out and she blinked, staring at his concerned eyes. "I think I lost you," he jested.

She smiled and pat his hand gently. "No I was just thinking...what if I stayed here a bit longer than a few days?" she laid down beside him, staring into his bright green eyes.

The young king was stunned at what she had just said. He was under the impression that she wanted to leave and didn't want to be here but after those few hours of being with her, he began to think otherwise then another thought entered his mind and he frowned. "What about your mother?"

She shrugged a lazy shoulder and traced her fingertips along his bronzed muscular arm. "She is the Empress of Greece yes but I am the princess, so I can stay here if I wish. She is not the boss of me, you know."

He laughed at that. "I would like you to notify her if you decide to stay longer...I don't want her to come here and chop my head off or any other pertinent body parts." He saw a frown appear on her lips almost as if she thought he was patronizing her. "I mean, you can do whatever you wish like you said, you are the princess," he winked. "Besides, imagine what she would do to me if she found out that you slept in my bed." His eyebrows raised with concern and suddenly her smile reappeared.

She leaned over and kissed his lips gingerly, "she won't find out about that, I promise you." He grinned at her then it fell silent between them. She sighed, "so what's this about a dinner? Trying to keep my brother away?" her eyes narrowed playfully.

Samuel got out of bed and put on his wide-leg pants and tied the sash about his waist. "Something like that. I trust you have something else to wear?" he raised a curious brow. She nodded and covered herself with the sheets. "I'll have one of the girls fetch your clothes from the caravan then." Slipping on his blouse he leaned over and was tempted to kiss her again but instead kissed her hand and left the room in a hurry after slipping on his sandals.

Solan saw the king emerge from a large hallway and he had a huge grin on his face but Eve was not with him. He tried to push his way through the guards but they held him back. The king waved his hand allowing Solan to enter the chambers finally after many hours of looking from afar. "Where is Eve?" he looked around to see if she'd come trailing behind him but when she didn't, he became worried.

Samuel smiled, "I asked some of the girls to get her clothes from the caravan outside. She wanted to wear something nice for this evening." He sensed anger in the blonde's eyes. "Something wrong?"

"Did you hurt her?" he immediately asked folding his arms defiantly.

The Persian shook his head, "no I would never hurt the princess. She is a very precious gem to me and your mother," he smiled and sauntered off to a separate hall. "Join me, Solan?" he called out and Solan frowned not liking the king's response. He was far too kind to Eve and not in the way that he liked. He feared that Eve had gone along with the man's charms.

It had been a couple of days since Xena's little talk with Octavius and she didn't really know where he went. She could care less if he decided to go cry back to Rome or stay in Athens. She kept herself busy in the east wing of her palace organizing some wooden weapons for the class she wanted to reestablish. For once in a long time she felt happy to be in Athens again. She missed her palace and the people here. Gabrielle mentioned that she should make a public appearance in order to reassure her people that she was indeed back here and there would be order.

Gabrielle came into the east wing and saw Xena happily putting the wooden weapons onto a rack by herself, completely satisfied with her idea of continuing education in combat arms for the young girls in the palace's school. Xena acknowledged her finally and she smiled at the empress. "Gabrielle, would you like to help?"

She shook her head, "no this is all on you," her smile grew seeing the happiness in Xena's eyes that she had not seen in a very long time. It was strange though, her meeting with Octavius was not uneventful but it would prove worthy in the long run. It felt like they were repeating history all over again, but this time it was different, Xena was different and for the better. She seemed less stressed out and Gabrielle didn't know if it was because they were back in Athens or perhaps it was the elixir, reviving Xena and allowing her to come out of her stupor of depression.

Once she finished organizing the weapons she joined Gabrielle in walking outside alone in the east wing garden. Gabrielle fidgeted with her thumbs behind her back as she walked alongside Xena. "It's really nice seeing you like this, you know."

Xena smirked, "like what?"

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulder casually, "happy, I guess. You weren't like this in Egypt."

The empress frowned, not wanting to remember those years in Cairo any longer. Athens was her home and perhaps she knew that all along and should have listened to her twelve year old daughter when she had the chance, but she didn't. It took some meddling with a few gods to come back to her senses but she was sure there were consequences. The powers of the elixir was basically unknown to mortals and it seemed like the Olympians had little knowledge of it as well. For now, Xena wasn't going to be bothered with that until the time came. She didn't know when that would be or if it would ever come, but she wanted to enjoy her life. She hadn't enjoyed life in quite some time and she couldn't keep dwelling on something that no true answer. She didn't want to live her life always wondering, thinking of the worse or her mistakes.

"Yes, I'm sorry Gabrielle. I was a horrible person to be around. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have never left Athens," Xena concluded and Gabrielle nodded, agreeing with her. Everything she said was true, they both couldn't deny that. "But let's not talk about the past and focus on the future. That's what counts, right?" she smirked bringing in Gabrielle for a warm side hug.

Gabrielle chuckled, "except the past was just a little more than a week ago. Our lives are never dull are they?" she smiled.

Xena sighed, "a week that felt like a year to me. I think I'm done with time traveling for awhile." She stopped and turned to face her blonde companion. "Gabrielle, I don't know any way to thank you for everything you've done for me. You changed me and made me see life through your eyes. I don't think I could ever repay you."

Gabrielle's cheeks reddened as Xena said that to her. She loved Xena a lot and their relationship had been through its ups and downs over the last decade and she hoped that would never change. She enjoyed seeing the different changes in Xena. "You don't owe me anything, Xena. I'll always be here for you and I'll always remind you of that," she winked. Xena liked hearing that even though Gabrielle had said that for many years it always felt like she was saying it for the first time. She always relied on herself to fix things and for a long time she felt alone, but when Gabrielle showed up, she no longer felt alone in anything that she did.

They walked together enjoying the nature surrounding them both and Gabrielle it her bottom lip, almost afraid to bring this up but it had been days since Eve left and she was worried about her even though Solan was with her. "So what do you think Eve and the 'king' are doing in Persia?" she asked casually.

Xena shook her head and rubbed her forehead trying to get the anxiety out of her. She had thought of Eve every day since she left and although Samuel was a charming man, he was still Phraates' son. "I trust Eve's judgment. I'm sure she'll keep the king in check," she had to keep telling herself that or she was going to go crazy thinking about all the horrible possibilities.

"She's a smart girl. You raised her right," Gabrielle smiled and felt Xena's hand intertwine with hers as they walked together. She felt Xena's fingernails slightly graze her hand and she shivered at her touch, almost as if she was holding onto someone...different. Her touch was different, everything was different about Xena these days and she wasn't surprised about it, but still it was as she thought, different.

"No, we raised her Gabrielle. I couldn't have done it without you," she stared into her green eyes and they exuberated surprise. "Really," she added.

Gabrielle smirked embarrassingly, "you're being awfully nice," she chuckled. Xena stopped in her tracks and let go of her hand setting it on her hip. The blonde hid her smile with her hand and the empress pursed her lips.

"So I can't be nice now?" she teased.

"I didn't say that. Just an observation," she shrugged and continued walking without Xena beside her leaving her dumbfounded.

Hall of War

Eris appeared as Ares was sparing with one of his metal warriors. He cut the armored illusion in half and saw his sister standing there glaring at him. Groaning he kicked the pile of metal down with a swift kick and twirled the sword. "Something you want, dear sister?"

The goddess sighed heavily, "why yes, brother. I want to know where you get your brains from, your mother or your father are so stupid!" she folded her arms and Ares smirked.

"Wow nice to see you too." He threw the blade aside and sat down on his large thrown nonchalantly hanging his leg over the armrest staring at her wishing she would just leave. "Well?"

Eris frowned, "I see you got your godhood back," she teased and he rolled his eyes as a response. "You're not going to back to your warrior queen?" she pouted.

Ares shook his head, "the elixir had no affect on Xena. At least, not the one I was hoping for," he grimaced thinking of his failures and his sister was there to remind him of that.

"Oh but that's where you're wrong, brother. Xena did wake up from her dreamcoma." She saw his eyes light up. "Why else would you get your godhood back? I had to intervene to save your ass from Zeus and Hera." She sauntered over and sat down on a chair admiring his hall, decked out in armor, various weapons and shields upon the walls. "You shouldn't have given a mortal that elixir, you know. Xena used the entire bottle on herself, now she's on this mission to save her empire. Goodie for her," she rolled her eyes in disgust at the woman.

Ares straightened himself up staring at his dark haired sister. "So it did work on her then? I knew she couldn't resist the power," he smirked, really enjoying this news to brighten up his dull day.

Eris stood up, "she used it selflessly in order to save her daughter," she groaned.

The War God rubbed his temples in frustration of his sister. He really didn't understand her fascination with Eve. She was young and powerful yes, but she wasn't Xena. "What is your deal with Eve anyway?"

"I could ask the same for you and Xena," she spat back. "Listen Ares, Eve is Xena's heir and she is already a great warrior. A little birdie told me that she is in Persia right now with that young king," her eyebrows lowered and Ares didn't like the sound of that. Xena would have a cow, he knew she would. She didn't like Persians as they always caused trouble for her. That king obviously was stepping in the wrong zone –the danger zone. "She is more like Xena than you think."

Ares shook his head, "she is not like Xena. She has never tapped into her dark side, but I told Xena I wanted nothing to do with Eve. She is off limits to me and should be to you too!" he yelled and Eris grimaced. She didn't like being told what to do especially by her elder brother.

She stood up ready to leave this place. He was annoying her by now and there was no talking sense into him. "I suggest you research more about that elixir..." she smirked and turned to leave. "Xena is no longer a mortal..." she laughed then disappeared in a flash.

Ares sat on his throne rubbing his chin thinking about what she said. No longer a mortal? So could Xena be a god as well? That didn't seem right...if she used the entire elixir on herself and selflessly, could she be an immortal? No those were usually damned unless you were Hercules and he was already half god. No there was something wrong here. He didn't want to go to his father as he would just disappoint him. He would need to pay a visit to the Fates in order to solve this question at hand, or at least try to. He hated the Fates, he thought they were know-it-alls but he needed some answers and didn't know where else to look.

Solan and Samuel sat at the table together in silence. Both had wine next to their empty plates waiting for this dinner to start. Solan eyed the king with every move he did whether he drank wine or simply fidgeted his hand, it was noticeable. He took note of that.

Eve entered the room wearing an off the shoulder black and gold gown that Gabrielle had made for her awhile back. She thought it would come in handy. She fixed her hair and wore dark eyeliner around her eyes. Samuel's eyes widened at her appearance and stood up immediately as did Solan the moment she came closer to the table. She smiled at her brother and he smiled back at her weakly.

"I hope I didn't keep you both..." she said shyly and Samuel smiled shaking his head.

"No, not at all. Come sit," he gestured to the chair at the end of the table. Solan and Samuel sat at either side of her which probably made her feel like she was being watched by two men at once and that was unnerving. She didn't want to tell Solan about her thoughts of staying here longer, but she needed to.

Once the food was brought to the table Eve quietly sipped on her wine, casually eyeing Samuel and he would smile at her slightly, trying his best not to show any affection towards her because Solan was watching like a hawk, much like Xena would if she were here.

Eve set down her glass in the middle of eating her food, which she barely touched. "Solan," she said quietly and he turned to her with a curious face. "I have decided to stay here awhile longer. I want you to relay the message to mother as soon as possible."

Solan set down his spoon and frowned at her then at Samuel. "Why do you want to stay here? Mother will not be happy about this I hope you know," he looked to the king and mockingly smiled, "no offense."

She sighed, "I just think it would be best if I did because we have poor relations with the Persians right now." She saw Samuel's eyes avert elsewhere and she felt awkward continuing. She wanted him to be on her side but she also wanted Solan to comply with her demands. "If I stay here then maybe mother will way of fixing things," she smiled lamely and Solan did not like this idea.

"You're the boss," Solan did not wish to continue this conversation and went back to eating. Eve expected more backlash from her brother but when she didn't receive it she remained skeptical. He was quiet and passive much like their mother was when she was very angry or disapproved of something. Sure when she was angry she'd yell and let you know her thoughts and opinions, but when she was more than angry..she was very quiet. He and her were more alike than they'd both like to admit.

Samuel smiled and lifted his wine glass, "so, it looks like you will stay here awhile longer then!" he looked over at Eve who seemed less excited than he was and her brother was silent throughout this entire awkward situation.

After dinner Solan wanted to get word to his mother about Eve's decision but first he wanted to talk to his sister before sending anything and to make sure this is exactly what she wanted to do. The king had his eyes on Eve the entire evening and Solan took note of that as well. He wasn't going to tell his mother that or else she would probably panic or worse, come over here and do something regrettable.

Eve stepped off to the side and Solan grabbed her arm pulling her away. Samuel was preoccupied with his assistant, Balal, at the moment anyway. She frowned and snatched her arm away. "What is the matter with you?" he whispered.

She sighed, "Solan, this is something I need to do! If I stay here for awhile longer...I can maybe convince Samuel to ally with our empire."

Solan folded his arms and peered back at the king discussing something obviously important as he couldn't hear anything they were saying. He turned his attention back to his younger sister with a face of disapproval. "He wants to attack can't trust him Eve." He stood shaking his head at the entirety of the situation.

Eve knew her brother meant well and he was very concerned for her it was apparent, even to Samuel. She placed her hands on his shoulders with a small amount of pressure. "I know I can convince him. It would be great if the Persians and Greeks allied again in almost twenty years!" she smiled, "just think of the great advantages we would have!"

He groaned, still not liking that she wanted to stay here but he would too, just in case something terrible happened. "I wouldn't mind if we allied with them, but it's just will you get her to agree?"

She smirked, "about that..." her eyes lit up and Solan shook his head knowing exactly what she was suggesting. "You're going to convince her and I'll do the rest."

"She will want to see proof that Samuel will not attack Athens."

Eve looked back at the king and he glanced over at her with a sly smile. "She will have proof. I'll make sure of it," she smiled back at Samuel then looked at Solan once more. "Send the message to mother," she left his side to go speak with Samuel now and leave Solan to do what she asked him to do. Hopefully, her mother wouldn't be too upset at her.

Xena was in her office and it had been a long time since she had been in here. Everything was so desolate in the room. All her documents were on a book shelf and most were still in Egypt. She would probably have to send someone over to Cairo to retrieve the missing documents but for now, she wanted to organize a few things while she had some free time.

She walked over to a shelf filled with various maps over the span of thirty years. She pulled all of them out and set them on her desk. When she turned around she saw Gabrielle in the doorway waving a scroll in her hand. She stopped what she was doing and waltzed over to her. "Are you suggesting that I read that?"

Gabrielle shook her head, "no I'll read it. It's from Persia..." she added quietly then saw Xena's eyes light up. She hadn't heard from Eve in over a week and was dying to find out what news she had. Gabrielle unrolled the scroll and read over it quickly then her face changed from shock to confusion in a matter of seconds. Xena waited patiently and couldn't bear to look at Gabrielle's ever-changing facial expressions.

"Well come on Gabrielle, don't keep me in suspense," she grinned, hopeful that it was good news and nothing awful. She had a feeling it might be a mix of both as she noted her expressions.

Gabrielle rolled the scroll back up, "well Eve said...according to Solan, that she wants to stay in Persia for awhile longer..." she eyed Xena and saw sadness in her eyes. "To convince Samuel to ally," she frowned, confused at Eve's logic, though it wasn't the worst idea. Samuel liked Eve and he didn't really like Xena, she knew that, but still, it was a strange decision.

Xena shook her head, "ally with the Persians? I have not been allies with them for over twenty years! Has she lost her mind?" she rubbed her temples trying to relieve her stress. She began to pace around in a circle.

"It's not the worst idea," she saw Xena halt and stare at her incredulously. "If we allied with them, we could cover more ground and that will intimidate Octavius since he has never been able to conquer Persia.."

Xena didn't like the idea of her daughter staying there to pursue this little side mission of hers. Initially it was not the plan at all. She only went because Samuel wanted her to for whatever reason but Eve must have seen an opportunity while she was there in her short amount of time. "Even if she does get him to agree...I will need to meet with him. I really hate politics."

Gabrielle grinned, enjoying Xena's dilemma. "I will be there to handle everything, as usual."

"How long will she be staying there?" Xena got right back to the point of this mission of Eve's.

She looked for a time period that Eve would be staying there for but there wasn't anything. "It doesn't say, but I'm sure it won't take too long." She saw Xena slowly nodding her head as if she was going over everything that was happening. She wasn't sure if she was able to process all of this at one time. She had just gotten back to Athens and already there was too much to do. " have a visitor waiting for you in the west wing," she smirked.

Xena looked to her and smiled knowing exactly who this unexpected guest was. She tread down the long hallway to the west wing passing many children walking through the halls. She smiled at them all then the guards at the end of the hall opened the giant doors and she saw exactly who she wanted to see.

"Octavius, I see you've come back for more of my jokes," Xena grinned mischievously and the doors closed behind them after Gabrielle entered after her.

The Roman Emperor was tempted to roll his eyes. No he certainly didn't want to come back here but he felt that he left without further explaining himself and it was rude of him to leave even though he really didn't like Xena at all.

"I thought I should show my respect to you," he smirked, "I am surprised that your empire is still alive even after all the territories I took from you," he took a jab at her and saw that her expression didn't change. She wasn't angry or if she was...he couldn't tell.

Xena waltzed around a large marble column and grabbed a bottle of wine offering him a glass which he kindly took from her. She poured a glass for herself, making sure he wasn't going to run out like last time. "Well, you can't win all the time. You win some and you lose some, it's all a giant game," she smiled and folded her arms staring at the Roman's shocked face.

"You really think you can win all those territories back, Xena? You're..."

"Old?" she smiled finishing his thought. He remained quiet and wouldn't dare say that, even though she was a lot older than he was, she could be his mother. Solan was just a mere ten years younger than he was and yet he was an emperor and Solan wasn't. "You seem surprised that I want to keep my empire alive. You were hoping that I'd give up, right?" she tapped her glass with her fingernails keeping him on edge.

He shook his head, "on the contrary Xena, I enjoy our little tiffs despite your awful personality and self confidence...that never seems to die," he chuckled and Xena mocked him, laughing along with him. She cleared her throat and took a step closer to him.

"I won't be going anywhere, you understand me?" she smiled tightly. "Prepare yourself, Octavius, because I'm coming for you."

He scoffed, "you're declaring war with me?" he couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"If that's what you want to call it," she casually shrugged a shoulder.

He began laughing, "you won't win, Xena. You lost last time because you were incompetent in your duty as empress."

Xena smiled tightly, growing irritated with the man. "I'll make sure I won't lose...this time."

He sighed and set the glass of wine on a table and put his hands behind his back. "It's your funeral," he turned to leave and Xena smiled watching him leave. He was so sure of himself, she thought. He wants to win, but he forgets that his empire will not last forever and neither will he. There will be a new emperor, there were always new people that came into power if one person was killed or simply died of illness. He was spreading his empire too thinly, he couldn't be in many places at once and she began to think of Eve's little plan of allying with the Persians. It wasn't such a bad idea especially since Octavius thinks he is indestructible and unbeatable. Xena would make sure that wouldn't happen.

"Gabrielle," she called out and the blonde came running to her side with an equal sense of gratification about her. "Tell Eve to go ahead with her plan."

Gabrielle smiled, "really? You want to ally with the Persians again?"

Xena nodded, "yes but this time it will be different. We will work together against the Romans like we once did twenty years ago. I'm going to wipe the floor with Octavius' body," she downed the rest of the wine and slammed the glass on the table. Gabrielle smiled wider as she saw the determination in Xena's eyes. She was glad that she had so much energy and will power to go against a vast empire again. She fought hard to keep her empire afloat and this time, she would win and they would have more land. Two empires against one was better than one against the largest empire in the world.

One Month Later

Eve walked through the dark halls of the palace since she was so familiar with it by now. All the servants knew her and tended to her whenever she needed them. She was glad that her mother decided to go ahead with the plan she had in mind. The longer she stayed here the more she began to grow accustom to living here with Samuel and the rest of the Persians. Solan was given the go ahead from Xena to come back to Athens after two weeks of staying in Persia. Xena felt that Eve had everything under control and he was no longer needed there as her bodyguard. There had been no signs of assassination while he was there and he even liked staying in Persia. He was able to roam around the city with a few Persian royal guards during the daytime. Samuel was nothing like Phraates, but Solan remained skeptical of his actions.

During his two weeks there he noticed that Eve had grown very close to the king and they spent a lot of their time together, not alone. He hoped that this was all part of Eve's plan and that she wasn't becoming sidetracked from her mission that she set out to do.

Samuel was sparing with a young man outside in the dry garden. They were surrounded by large palm trees and a fountain in the center square where he sparred. He liked being out here during midday as it allowed him to focus on his training and to be away from politics for awhile.

He kicked his partner down and saw Eve standing there wearing a floor length skirt and a black top with a scarf draped over her slim frame. He smiled at her and when she smiled back at him he threw down his sword and came running towards her, dripping in sweat. He rubbed his forehead with a towel and she folded her arms holding a scroll in her hands.

"What's this?" he grinned and took the parchment from her, reading over it. it was in Greek and luckily for him, his father paid many scholars to teach his children at least five languages. Greek was his least favorite but it was inevitable that it come across to him. He squinted his eyes in the bright sunlight then stared back at the princess. "Your mother's empire is going to war with the Roman Empire?" he said in surprise.

She nodded, "that's what she says. Octavius must have really ticked my mother off for her to do that," she grinned.

Samuel exhaled slowly and rolled up the scroll tucking it in his belt. "Well that only means that he will try to come to me for help." He grabbed her hand and head back into the palace to the baths to clean himself up.

She walked with him down the hall to the baths then stopped halfway there and he paused, staring at her confusedly. "This would be a great opportunity to meet with my mother so we can bring both empires together."

He had heard Eve speak of this for a month now and he wasn't annoyed with her or the idea. It would be a great idea but he wasn't sure about it still. He felt like he would be betraying his father and his people if he allied with the Greeks. Although his father allied with Xena before and their empire prospered not just in wealth but in agriculture as well. It was a good system for awhile until Marc Antony showed up and convinced Phraates to join with the Roman Empire. Samuel didn't like the Romans and his empire was smaller than Xena's but large enough to withstand on its own. With this news about the war between the two empires he knew that Octavius would weasel his way into his kingdom asking for more allies. He didn't want that either. He didn't want to suffer the same fate as his father did.

When Xena fought against Phraates and Octavius twenty some odd years ago, she won and destroyed the Roman Empire's reputation as well as the Persian's. She was able to cover vast amounts of land and her people also loved her which was always a plus.

"If I do ally with your mother...will she promise not to kill me?" he smirked.

Eve chuckled under her breath. "She won't kill you unless you do something stupid. She's not insane."

He nodded, "Eve, your mother is insane, but in a good way. Don't take it the wrong way," he winked and stripped of his clothes when he reached the baths and stepped into the hot water. He swam to the edge of the baths and stared at her gorgeous face. He really liked her eyes and pale complexion –something that was sought after here in Persia. "You should come join me," he extended his hand.

She shook her head, "I don't feel well right now, maybe later?"

He frowned, "what's the matter?" he immediately felt concerned. She didn't want to worry him so she decided to say nothing to him but she knew if she did, he would ask her a lot of questions. He always wanted to be very close to her which was good for her plan, but she also needed to be alone for awhile, which she had been when he was in his office or meeting with the scholars in a private room. Women were not allowed, not even her, which gave her time to be by herself.

She smiled softly, "it's just so hot here. I'm not used to the heat," she folded her arms hoping that get him off her back.

He remained skeptical of her answer. "You will let me know if you aren't feeling better soon, won't you?" she nodded at him and he seemed satisfied with her response and he grinned, settling into the warm water, submerging his body.

"I think I'm going to read for a little bit," she smiled then left the room eager to step away. It was only midday and it felt like the Sahara outside. She wiped her brow and continued onward to find a comfortable spot to sit in where the sun wouldn't hit her directly.

Coming into Samuel's bedroom she pulled out a few scrolls that she took with her from Gabrielle's library. She never left home without at least two of them. She liked to read Gabrielle's scrolls as she was so poetic with words and also gave her more insight to her mother's life before she came into the picture and during as well. Gabrielle was a very talented writer because she was so descriptive of everything that went on during their lives. Eve always liked writing with Gabrielle as much as she enjoyed her mother's strategic and combat classes, she really preferred writing and reading a lot more.

After she found a nice spot to read on the floor near a large window she sat against the wall quietly reading to herself for over an hour. She ignored all of the chatting and rustling around in the palace from the servants rushing by her. She had a large glass of water next to her and the girls even tried to give her food but she refused.

Samuel saw Eve reading by herself and he smiled sitting beside her. She grinned and set the scroll aside. "What are you reading?"

"Something that my aunt wrote a few years ago. It's really interesting," she mused and he nodded, pretending to be interested but she knew he wasn't so fascinated with her readings as much as she was and he read a lot as well. He enjoyed learning about other cultures since his father virtually gave him no choice as a child.

He scooted closer to her and leaned against the wall. "So are you feeling better?" he eyed her, touching her leg gently. She shrugged her shoulder not really wanting to talk about this right now. "You should eat something," he waved his hand to a servant girl standing by and told her to bring some fruit over.

Eve smiled weakly, "no really I'm fine. I don't want to eat anything right now," she admitted quietly.

A tray of fruit was brought to them and he smiled thanking the young servant girl. He took a bite of the pear and pushed the tray towards Eve and she cringed, pushing it away. "It will make you feel better."

"No it won't," he kept insisting that she'd eat a piece of fruit and it was getting on her nerves. She frowned and stood up, "stop it! I don't want to eat the stupid fruit!" she breathed heavily and Samuel blinked, a bit shocked at her sudden outburst. She sighed closing her eyes regaining her composure. "I'm sorry, it's just...I'm not very hungry right now that's all."

He set the piece of pear down and stood up then held her hands in his own. "If something is wrong you can tell me, you know?"

She felt herself becoming a little overwhelmed and she closed her eyes trying not to stare at him. She averted her gaze elsewhere, "I'm fine. Just tired that's all," she smiled.

He frowned not liking her passiveness towards him. "Are you sure?" she nodded although that didn't make him feel at ease. She had a weird expression on her face but he decided not to pry anymore. She was very stubborn and obviously wanted to do things her own way all the time, she was very independent. He remembered this when they were children and she was more like the boss and he was following her orders, but now, he didn't feel like he was above her in any way. He was concerned for her and she hid her feelings from him.

She began to feel really uneasy and her stomach started turning the longer she stood there. Her mouth gaped and Samuel frowned speaking to her but she couldn't hear anything, blocking everything out. She pushed him aside and ran down the hall to his bedroom. He blinked and set his hands on hips bemused at her behavior.

She ran to the latrine in his room and dry heaved for a good while, but nothing seemed to come up no matter how long she forced herself. She coughed and breathed heavily then leaned against the wall, running her fingers through her dark hair. She felt like such a child right about now but she really wished her mother was here with her. She could be tough when she wanted to and constantly switched back and forth from being mother to empress if her mood changed or if she demanded she'd do something as a princess. Though, Eve knew her mother meant well and she was quite loving towards her when she was not in empress mode even if she was a tad over protective at times. She had been away from home for a little bit more than a month now and it felt like only two weeks had passed. It would have been so much easier if Athens was just a day's ride away but that just wasn't the case. She couldn't go back yet, she needed to stay here until she convinced Samuel to ally with her mother and she wasn't going to let a small illness impede her goals.

Samuel knocked on the wall and saw her sitting on the floor, very pale and looking depleted. He walked over to her and knelt down, touching her cheek. "I believe you're sicker than you're leading on," he half smiled and she sighed heavily. "Should I notify your mother?" he whispered.

Eve's eyes widened. She thought he was reading her mind but then she realized she wasn't a child. She didn't need her mother by her side for every little moment in her life. "No, no...that will only worry her," she winced trying to get up off the floor. He lend his hands out and gradually helped her off the floor.

He walked her over to the bed and she laid down, staring up at the ceiling. He laid beside her and her insides started churning. She tried not to think about it and his staring was not helping. "I don't want her to kill me if you're really ill and I don't tell her," he jested and she cracked a smile. She placed her hand over her stomach and he placed his hand on hers. "I should get some yogurt for you. It will probably ease your stomach."

She sat up as he was leaving the room. "No Samuel I don't want anything, really."

He waved his hand dismissively at her, "I'll be back in a few minutes," he left the room and she groaned, leaning back on the pillows again.

Samuel did return in a few minutes just as he said and he had a large glass of kefir waiting for her. She eyed the yogurt drink and cringed just thinking about it touching her tongue. He smiled and pulled up a chair sitting next to her. She sat up and crossed her legs. "My mother used to swear by this drink. She would give it to me and my brothers whenever we had stomach aches."

She nodded and sniffed the drink and there was no distinct smell, which was probably a good thing. She took a small sip of it and licked her lips, unsure how she felt about it. He eyed her and she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. She smiled looking at his hopeful face.

"Are you sure you don't want to contact your mother?" he pressured her more and she drank a more reasonable amount of the yogurt and frowned at him.

She set her hand on his knee, "I'm sure. She's probably very busy right now anyway," she smiled reassuring him. He nodded and leaned back in the chair watching her. She looked over at him and felt a bit uncomfortable as his eyes were glued to her. "Do you mind?" she frowned.

He put his hands up, "alright I'll leave," he teased. "I have to go meet with someone anyway. I'll come back later this evening." He closed the door behind him leaving her alone in the room. Once he rounded the corner he saw Balal talking to the vizier and he frowned, not liking the sight of this man. He was so annoying and constantly was in his business.

The grand vizier, Jazzar, had been away on the other side of the empire on a small vacation. He bowed his head at the king and Samuel simply remained blank faced. "Your highness, it's so nice to see you again. It's been awhile."

"Yes it has..." Samuel said and gestured for him to come into the meeting room down the hall but the vizier chose to stay put which Samuel thought was odd.

"Balal has informed me that you have a Greek Princess in your palace," Jazzar grinned lifting his brows. Samuel remained quiet and neither affirmed his statement nor denied it. He didn't want to bring attention to Eve's presence. "I didn't know you had befriended the Greeks."

Samuel straightened his stance, glaring at the vizier. "Not yet. I have yet to meet with the Empress about allying with her."

Jazzar's smile disappeared. "Allying? You wish to ally with that witch? Your father would be so disappointed in you, Samuel," he chose his informal name and that immediately enraged the young king.

"My father used to be friends with her. Perhaps you should watch yourself, vizier or I shall replace you..." he grinned and the vizier's eyes widened and decided to keep his mouth shut from now on.

"You do know that the Greeks are now at war with the Romans, your majesty?" he added and curtly bowed his head. Samuel nodded, knowing exactly what Xena and Octavius were doing. They were competing for land and power. Now that he had Eve here it seemed odd not to be friends with Xena to rise against the Romans. He knew that Octavius would come for his kingdom.

"I should go to Athens to visit the Empress within the next week. Prepare everything, Balal," Samuel grinned as he saw the initial shock and disapproval of the vizier, but the man was in no position to argue against him for sure. He sauntered off going to talk with Balal alone until he would return to check on Eve later.

Chapter Text

AN: it's been quite a long time since I've updated this and I'm sorry for that. I had to do a lot of stuff this summer and was not able to have access to a computer. Sorry if this a bit drawn out but it's all I got for now lol. Enjoy ;)

Chapter 14

The Capitol –Athens

Xena decided to go into the city to look around and inspect the rest of her empire. She had not been outside of the palace for quite some time and after being trapped in that awful dreamscape she needed some fresh air. The palace sometimes felt more like a prison than a home especially when war was brewing. Whenever there was a war approaching everything was put on a hold in the palace so she could focus on battle plans and new strategies. Her strategies for war were never the same and that's what made her unbeatable until that one time she lost. Xena knew that she lost because she was being lazy and unfocused. Her mind was in several places and she remained distracted throughout the entire war with the Romans. She would make sure that wouldn't happen again. Gabrielle mentioned that she would handle everything in the background, which she did, but Xena didn't ask her to do this, she wanted to do it.

While she roamed the city many of the people smiled at her, happy to see her back in the public eye. It had been a long time since she had shown her face to her people. She had been absent far too long and that lead to an immense amount of guilt in her heart. She used to not care about these commoners at all until Gabrielle came along. Xena realized that she would probably be dead because of her carelessness if Gabrielle hadn't shown up in the strange way that she did. She never expected a small blonde village girl to befriend her even after what she did all those years ago. And here they were yet again, their third war together and still with the same people –the Romans. Xena was growing bored fighting Romans, she thought that they should just be exterminated. If they were gotten rid of then she would have nobody to fight with which made being an empress very boring and tiresome. Although, she enjoyed having the freedom to wander around her city without any interruptions as she was alone. Gabrielle was back at the palace writing up a storm to scholars in Persia, Allat in Assyria and some colleagues in Egypt.

A month went by and Xena had not heard from Eve and her whereabouts. She told herself not to worry as that only lead to awful thoughts and horrid memories of her own past. She only hoped that Eve was not making a mistake staying with Samuel. It wasn't that she didn't trust Eve but as she grew older she noticed the fire slowly building up inside her daughter. Eve was far too much like Xena at that age; unpredictable and spontaneous. These were good traits some of the time and could be used wisely. In her heart she knew Eve was a smart young woman and she had grown so much in a short amount of time, but there was one problem, one little thing that separated her from Xena. Eve was somewhat a spoiled brat at times and often times threw tantrums when she did not get her way. Xena was never like this when she was growing up and she blamed that on the lifestyle that she gave Eve.

Her daughter had everything and anything that she could ever want, which was a good thing, but Xena never had the things that Eve had. She lived a life of luxury and never suffered at all or went through the amount of pain that Xena did, but she didn't want her to go through that. In fact, Xena promised herself that she would never allow Eve to see the awful things that she did when she was that age. The empress recollected the young years of her life and at Eve's age she had already a child, many warrants out for her and she was on several kill lists. Not to mention that she was a warlord and a ruthless murderer at that age.

Looking back at those times Xena could not even recognize herself being like that anymore. She didn't want Eve ever to know that old Xena. She never saw that Xena but Solan did for awhile when he was a teenager. Eve had only known one Xena, the good one. Throughout Eve's life she knew that she had done some questionable things and could be a bit overprotective of her but she didn't want her to turn out like she did. Xena knew that she wouldn't as long as she kept an eye on her, but she was her own person. She couldn't control Eve especially since she was a woman now, not the little stubborn girl she once was –still stubborn though. She was capable of making her own decisions.

Eve took it upon herself to stay with the Persian King for awhile longer to devise a plan to make him ally with the Greek Empire. Xena knew that was only half of the reason Eve wanted to stay. She knew that the two liked one another when they were children so long ago. It was obvious even back then. They had good chemistry together and got along very well with each other. Now that they were adults, it was different because now they had adult feelings, more uncontrollable emotions and desires.

A subtle smirk crossed Xena's lips as she thought of her daughter's sneaky ways. She knew all too well why Eve wished to stay, though she would keep these thoughts to herself when she saw Eve again. She didn't want to cause a rift between them because of a man. Still, she wanted to hear back from Eve to see how things were fairing in Persia, but she decided to be patient and patience was a virtue that she had not gained yet even after all these years.

She tread down the narrow alleyway back to her black stallion waiting for her. Smiling, she hopped onto the horse and swiftly left the city to go back to the palace. A few hours of solace was all she needed to regroup her thoughts. She will need to be focused for Octavius and his devious plans. She was ready for him and she had the feeling that he was underestimating her because of her absence in the battlefield. Xena was going to make sure that she would defeat the Roman Emperor and take over once and for all. It wasn't just about winning anymore, but about ending the awful aristocratic nature of the Roman Empire. The Greeks were more free thinkers and although Xena was not by nature a true Greek, she was a mere cousin of them and ruled their people. She felt the need to preserve the Greek culture and not have the Roman culture come swooping in. divide and conquer, as the great Caesar once said. Xena grinned thinking of that Roman. It was a shame she didn't kill him first, but his own beloved friends and senators did that for her. He dug his own grave with his arrogance to be a great king of Rome, king of the world.

She didn't desire to rule the world. She desired peace, something Gabrielle taught her. She hoped that she could live up to that goal.

Gabrielle sat outside in the atrium focusing on inner peace and tranquility. She had her legs crossed in front of her with her eyes closed. She exhaled slowly and tried to make her mind very still. Her mind had been so chaotic lately especially with stupid Octavius in the way and Xena's constant demands of this document and that. She wanted to be left alone for awhile and was actually thankful that Xena decided to take some time and go to the inner city for awhile.

Finally, some peace and quiet, she thought.

Xena's heels clicked on the marble floor as she came closer to the atrium and saw Gabrielle sitting...on the dirt? Her footsteps ceased and she folded her arms, amused at Gabrielle's stillness. She quietly padded outside and rounded the blonde, coming to stand in front of her, blocking the bright sunlight.

Gabrielles eyebrows creased as she felt a shadow blocking the warm sun. she opened one eye and looked up to see Xena with a large smirk planted on her face. She groaned and now her concentration was broken. "I was in the middle of something," she tersely grumbled.

Xena's eyebrows lifted in shock. She was tempted to laugh but remained calm, setting her hands on her hips. "What are you doing?" she mocked.

"Meditating. But now you have ruined that," she sighed and stood up brushing the dirt off her pants. Xena blinked once she saw what Gabrielle was wearing. She had never seen her wear something such as this. The pants were airy and brightly colored with a subtle pattern of orange diamonds. She was also not

"Since when do you meditate? Are you a monk now?" Xena teased, not knowing that Gabrielle had taken some serious thought into this. The blonde snapped her head around and frowned at her. Xena's smile disappeared and suddenly she felt like she let out a side of Gabrielle she rarely saw. "It's just a joke." She lamely added. Too late for fixing, she told herself.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes and grabbed her wineskin to retreat to the palace. Xena followed her quietly and she felt like Xena wanted to keep asking questions but wasn't really in the mood to answer any of them. She went to get her bag of scrolls and dug through it, pulling out a large scroll. "This is for you, it's from Persia."

That made Xena's eyes light up and her smile reappeared. "What did it say?" she took the scroll then saw Gabrielle walk off without answering. "Gabrielle?"

"I didn't read it," she called out. "I'm going to take a bath, maybe I can meditate in the bath in peace," she tartly added as she rounded the corner, disappearing for good. Xena cocked her head and shook her head, confused at Gabrielle's sudden spoiled behavior. She wondered what bit her in the night for her to act so sour towards her.

No matter, she thought. Happy that she got word from Eve she hastily went to her room to change and read what the scroll said.

Once changed into something more comfortable she sat on her bed alone with the scroll. She opened the seal and began reading it as quickly as her eyes and brain allowed her. A strange feeling came over her when she read that Eve was coming here to Athens with Samuel. She didn't call him king, she called him Samuel. This letter was so informal, which was fine, but usually Xena got a letter from the king or emperor. This entire meeting was informal and that struck her as very odd. Though, she was excited that Eve had decided to come back to Athens and maybe even bring a possible ally too.

She set the scroll aside and stared blankly at the wall almost hoping that it would talk back to her. The door opened and Gabrielle waltzed in looking happier and more relaxed than she was earlier. She saw Xena's blank stare and became concerned. Must have been the letter from Eve, she guessed.

"So what did the letter say?" Gabrielle inquired. She sat next to her then picked up the scroll skimming over it as Xena remained quiet. Once she read it, she didn't see anything wrong with it. she thought Xena would be happy to hear that Eve was coming back to Athens but her reaction was...empty.

"Aren't you excited?" she asked yet another question and got silence as her answer. Sighing deeply she grabbed Xena's hand finally getting her out of the daze she was in.

Xena smiled weakly at her blonde friend, "I was lost in my own thoughts once again."

Gabrielle hadn't the slightest idea what Xena meant by 'again'. The two hadn't seen each other all morning. She began to wonder what Xena exactly did when she took that small trip to the inner city. It wasn't like her to sit and think or even delve into her inner thoughts. Xena was quite reserved when it came to rehashing the past and she hid it very well. She wasn't a talker unless it was to get something that she wanted, like Rome for example. No, Gabrielle saw Xena was lost deep in her own mind. Xena once told her that her mind was her own enemy and it definitely was. Xena was her own worst enemy when it came to her psyche.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she grinned, hopeful that Xena would comply. She scooted closer to her, feeling the warmth of her skin touch hers. She felt Xena relax though inside she was tense, she knew it just by looking at her mannerisms.

Xena shook her head, "I feel there is something wrong, Gabrielle," she said quietly.

The blonde nodded, unsure how there could be anything wrong at the moment. Everything was going very smoothly and Eve was coming back home. What could go wrong? There was always something wrong apparently in Xena's mind. "What do you mean?"

"I've been thinking a lot about Eve since she left," she began and waited for a response but instead Gabrielle listened quietly. "She reminds me a lot of myself in many ways. She thinks she knows what she's doing, but the truth is...she doesn't," she smirked. "At her age I thought I knew everything about the world. I thought I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. In my mind I was invincible." She sighed heavily and folded her arms. "But I wasn't invincible. I knew nothing about how the world worked at the time. In my youth I believed that the universe revolved around me and everything had to be done my way on my time. I fear that Eve thinks this way. She said she wanted to fix what she had wronged, but I feel..." she placed a hand over her heart, "she is doing more harm than good."

A few moments of silence passed and Gabrielle now understood what had been bothering Xena, but if she was so distressed, she could have said something about it. she said there would be no more secrets, yet Xena still kept some, of course. She wasn't offended by this, Xena was just this way and probably would never change no matter how old she was.

"You feel like convincing Samuel to ally with us was a bad thing to do on Eve's part? She only wants to help, you know how she is," she soothed her friend. Xena remained still and calm on the outside, remaining glued to the wall ahead. "Eve is her own person you know. She has a lot of your traits yes, but she's not you," she said awkwardly.

Xena eyed her curiously. "You didn't know me when I was her age, Gabrielle. I was wild and untamable. Borias knew that which was why we always fought and disagreed on everything," she snickered remembering her old ways.

"And you feel like she is following in your footsteps?" Gabrielle questioned, still uncertain what Xena was getting at here. She was going back and forth, not really making a whole lot of sense.

The empress shook her head, "Eve is her own person, like you said. She and I are nothing alike in that aspect. I told myself that she would never have the life that I did and I've made sure of that so far."

Gabrielle now understood everything. "So you're just worried about her?" she glanced over into Xena's ice blue eyes and saw an understanding. She smiled, "she'll be fine. You have nothing to worry about. If that Persian King has done anything to her I'll make sure to get him before you do." She pulled out of her Sais and tapped it on one of her palms.

Xena grinned, "I can always count on you Gabrielle," she teased. Standing up she pulled Gabrielle up off the bed. "She didn't say when she was coming and this letter probably took a few days to get here so I assume...they will arrive soon, very soon," her eyes narrowed. Gabrielle didn't like that look in her eyes one bit. A sly smile appeared. "We should prepare for them..."

Gabrielle followed Xena out of the bedroom hastily down the stairs. She had something up her sleeve for sure. Xena had a plan and it was mischievous.

Eve rode in the caravan with Samuel through the mountains of Assyria, taking the back roads towards Anatolia to grab a ship to sail to Athens. He advised that this was the fastest route not to mention he really enjoyed the scenery. It was much better than traveling through the flat plains of Persia and Assyria.

She stared out the window, peeking behind the curtains, fidgeting with her fingers in her lap. She didn't know why but she felt nervous going back to Athens to see her mother and Gabrielle. She felt as if they would be disappointed in her. Somehow, she convinced Samuel to ally with Greece, which was good. Her plan had worked, but her mother was tough to impress. Samuel was a good king, but he was still a Persian and it was more than just that.

The young king looked up from the map he was reading and saw Eve's nerves getting the best of her. He grinned and folded the map up. "Hey, you need to relax," he said jarring her. She breathed out sharply and looked across from her into his green almond eyes. "You are nervous to see your mother, right?" she nodded as a response. "You're not the only one. One trick my brother taught me was to bite the inside of my cheek whenever I became nervous. It works every time."

Eve scoffed with a smirk. "Your brother is strange," she sighed. "It's not that I am nervous to see my mother again. It's just...that you're here...with me," she pointed at herself.

Samuel nodded, now understanding everything. "I apologize if I am making the situation more uncomfortable." He said so sincerely and Eve smiled sweetly.

"It's not you, it's just me that's over thinking this meeting. I just hope everything goes well," she hoped. Samuel grinned and pat her knee gently, reassuring her.

Jazzar, the king's vizier rode on his horse alongside Balal in front of the caravan. He looked back with a face of disgust. He really did not comprehend why the king was hanging around a Greek princess. She was Xena's daughter which only meant trouble down the road. Although, Samuel was good at getting what he wanted within reasonable measures of course. Jazzar tried to warn the king about coming in close contact with the Greeks. They were not the same people as the Persians.

The vizier saw the Greeks as inferior to the Persians. Their culture was less developed and the Persians had accomplished so much. Gifted in so many things –math, science, architecture, astronomy, alchemy –the list goes on. The Greeks had philosophy and art. Worthless things to learn according to the vizier.

Jazzar had been Phraates' vizier for many years. He was old as sin but still very quick. He himself had never held a sword, but did most of the battlefield exercises and planning over the years. Samuel had kept Jazzar on the back burner ever since he became king once he hit puberty. When Phraates died, Jazzar appointed one of Samuel's elder brothers to be king but he failed miserably and ended up making a mockery of the Persian Empire. When Samuel turned twelve Jazzar appointed him as king but acted as his advisor for awhile until the young age of sixteen. Samuel told Jazzar that he no longer needed a vizier and sent him on a sabbatical for a few years, asserting his independence.

Samuel believed that Jazzar was holding him back and doubted his authority to rule as a great king of Persia. It wasn't until a few years ago that he decided to allow Jazzar to resume his role as vizier again, but only as an advisor and nothing more.

The thin vizier rubbed his chin as he stared at Balal, the short Persian man riding on the horse across the way. "Balal, what do you think of the princess?"

Balal blinked and stuttered, "oh well...I –I think she is very nice. Princess Eve is a polite girl, very sweet and kind," he grinned.

"hmm," Jazzar nodded his head slowly, pretending to care. "I believe the king has become too close with the princess," he whispered. Balal said nothing and remained quiet. Jazzar snickered. "He has you wrapped around his little finger doesn't he?"

Balal frowned, "his highness is very generous to me. I would never betray his trust, vizier."

"I'm sure," Jazzar replied tersely. He pulled back on the horse's reins and tapped on the caravan. He saw Eve's slender hand pull back the curtains and he smiled creepily at her. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you, princess."

She half grinned but said nothing. She felt Samuel come sit next to her and she set her hand on his lap, assuring him not to intervene. The vizier smirked and trotted alongside the caravan. "We should be reaching Anatolia by night fall. I wanted to make sure you are feeling well. Sometimes these long caravan rides can make others ill."

Eve raised a brow, "I'm fine thanks for asking," she scooted away from the window and felt Samuel's eyes burning into the side of her face. She frowned and snapped her head towards him. "Why does he have to come along?" she whispered forcefully.

Samuel sighed, "if I don't bring him it would look unprofessional in front of your mother. Remember Eve, this is a political meeting between two empires. This cannot be informal. What will she think of me if I just showed up with nobody to represent me?" he asked and she nodded, understanding his reasons.

"I don't like him," she folded her arms and cringed. "He stares at me like I'm the next plague."

The king hid his amusement at Eve's terrible joke. He didn't wish to upset her or bring more fire to the situation, but the things she said sometimes were quite funny. "You're definitely not a plague," he winked and Eve's cheeks reddened. He pulled out some fruit from the bag he carried with him and handed her a pear.

She shook her head refusing the fruit, although it looked really good right about now. The air was crisp and much colder than it was in Persia. Samuel frowned and scooted closer to her. "You still don't feel well?"

She shrugged a lazy shoulder, "I'm just nervous. I'm sure my appetite will return once I am back home," she smiled reassuring his worries. He put it off as being nerves and decided not to bother with it anymore. It was unlikely that she was going to budge anyway. She was very stubborn and she was probably the only woman who refused anything from him. He wasn't used to it, but actually didn't mind it coming from her. He secretly enjoyed her abstinence towards him.

Suddenly he shifted and sat across from her scrambling through his pocket to grab something. She frowned, furrowing her eyebrows as she watched him dig further into his pants to find whatever it was he desperately wanted. Finally, after a few struggling moments, he pulled out a really large locket. It was much bigger than any coin Eve had seen. He flipped the locket open and it was a sun dial in miniature form.

"What's that?" she leaned in closer and saw the dial's shadow slowly shifting.

"A sun dial that my astrologist gave me the other night before we left," he grinned and closed the locket back up. "He told me that he predicts great things will happen in the next year for me and my people."

Eve folded her arms disbelievingly and chuckled, shaking her head. "You and your astrology. You put too much faith into those scholars," she claimed. The king looked shocked and a bit hurt that she'd even say that. She saw the strange absence in his green eyes. "No offense, but I don't believe in those sorts of things."

Samuel grinned, "right. You have your Greek gods to predict stuff for you," he teased.

She frowned, "I don't rely on the gods for anything." Huffing she ignored his teasing manner. "My mother always told me that nobody can predict the future or your fate. We make our own fate."

"Perhaps I may have underestimated your mother, princess," he smiled knowing that really bothered her when he called her princess.

Eve smirked, "she has her moments of wisdom." She watched him as he twirled the sun dial locket in between his fingers. He was in awe with it. "She's not that bad you know," she admitted quietly. His eyes lifted with a small smug smile on his lips. "She's just..."

"Scary? Intimidating? Frightening?" Samuel teased although inside he was deeply serious. Xena scared him ever since he was a child. After she killed his father he never forgot the look on her face. She seemed relieved that he was gone, but once she saw the fear in his young eyes, she seemed to almost soften immediately. Samuel remembered that cold glare in her blue eyes change for a split second to concern for him as a child. He knew at that moment that she did not kill because she wanted to or liked to, it was just the opposite. He was too young to understand at the time because his eyes were blinded by hate for the Greek empress. But now, he felt the utmost respect for the woman and secretly thanked her for killing his father. He wasn't a good person nor a good ruler for Persia. He knew this even at the age of nine and now that he is king, he wanted to make Persia and Greece whole again.

"Just a joke," he lightened the mood and saw a smile appear on Eve's face. He really enjoyed seeing her smile. She had a beautiful smile and aura about her that he had never seen on any other woman before. He hadn't been around a lot of women in his life, at least not ones that he cared about. Since his mother and father were gone and his brothers remained absent, he was all alone. The vizier often encouraged him to marry one of his cousins to keep the family line pure, but he never wanted to do that. His cousin was gorgeous yes, but too shy and much too young, not to mention that she was his family. It wasn't so odd to marry family members in his culture, but it disinterested him. The vizier quickly found out that he could not force anything down the young king's throat like he did to his late father.

Xena was picking out fabric that was laid out on a large table downstairs in the atrium. She walked down the table and carefully examined each set of fabric and ones that she did not like she tossed away with a wave of her hand then one of the maids would grab the fabric and fold it into a basket. After many trials she finally picked a fabric that she liked –a nice dark sparkly burgundy. Pointing to that one the young maid grabbed it and opened up the long piece of fabric. Xena nodded her head overlooking the cloth once more. Smiling she decided that'd be the best fit for what she had in mind.

Later she came into her bedroom and saw Gabrielle meditating on the floor in a strange position. She closed the door behind her and raised a curious brow at her dear friend. "How can you stay in a position like that?" she circled Gabrielle like a hawk, examining her twisted body.

Gabrielle opened her eyes and saw Xena staring down at her. She smiled, almost tempted to laugh at her hilarious confused expression. "It's called yoga and it takes practice."

Xena folded her arms nodding her head, trying to understand just what she was doing. "Is this what you do when I give you time off?" she smirked. "Remind me to give you more work to do," she teased.

Gabrielle collapsed finally as Xena had distracted her enough. "You should try it with me sometime," she stood up and wiped the sweat off her brow. The empress turned her head slowly with a laughable 'are you insane' face.

"I don't think my body can contort in those positions anymore, Gabrielle. I may look younger but I am not," she shook her head and opened her closet to look for a set of clothing to wear for when Eve and her Persian consort arrived. "I picked out the fabric for Eve's dress I am going to have made for her."

"Oh you mean you finally chose one?" Gabrielle grinned and Xena frowned. "Xena, you must have gone through over fifty different colors. Let me guess, it's either blue, green or some shade of red." She rested her hands on her hips.

Xena pursed her lips, "actually it's burgundy," she said defensively. "It's sparkly too," she added.

Gabrielle chuckled, "figures. So predictable," she wrapped the towel around her neck and saw Xena's jaw drop as if she were surprised.

"I am not predictable," she argued.

The blonde clicked her tongue and folded her arms, ready to challenge the empress. "Okay, so you either have that emerald green dress or the dark navy blue one with the mesh sleeves in your hands right now."

Xena looked at her hands and she indeed had both gowns of those exact descriptions in her possession. She put the gowns back on the hangers. "Lucky guess, Gabrielle," she mocked, rolling her eyes. The blonde giggled. She knew her too well. She then pulled out a black gown with silver trim on the sleeves and showed her blonde companion. "How's this for predictable?"

"You would pick black next," Gabrielle teased with a smug grin. Xena frowned and threw the gown on the bed feeling a bit defeated.

"I'm wearing it," she closed the closet doors and mumbled to herself. "Predictable...yeah right."

After a long week of traveling Eve and Samuel finally made it to Athens and came inside the palace entrance. Eve stepped out of the caravan, still exhausted from the long journey. She hardly slept or ate anything unlike Samuel. Her eyes scanned the palace and it brought a smile to her face. She missed seeing the grand white columned palace. This place was her home. Everything here was so different than the Persian palace she had grown to like. Everything was white and pristine. The gold finishes on the columns and doors was always a nice touch. It was so odd to see the statues of female goddesses in front of the palace instead of lions like the Persian palace. The large staircase in the front of the palace was also something she missed. It made for a grand entrance and also made visitors a bit intimidated as the empress stood at the top of the stairs.

She felt a hand came to the small of her back and she turned to see Samuel. "Happy to be home?" he asked and she nodded her head, unsure what to say or how to feel. She felt like she had been gone so long and never realized how much she missed her home until she was gone. Looking up at the top of the stairs she saw Gabrielle and then her mother coming out slowly from the entrance. She looked happy, but yet reserved or somewhat containing her emotions. Probably because Samuel was here and so was his Persian entourage.

Eve left his side and immediately ran up the mile of stairs to greet them both. Unexpectedly she crashed into her mother, hugging her tightly as if it were the last time she'd ever see her again. Xena's eyes widened and somehow forgotten what it felt like to be embraced like that from Eve. The only time she remembered when she hugged her like that was when she was about ten years old.

She pulled away and then hugged Gabrielle tightly as well. Gabrielle felt her lungs constrict and couldn't take in a deep breath enough for her to react equally. "I've missed you both so much," Eve said with a huge smile on her face.

"We missed you too, by the gods," Gabrielle exhaled deeply, catching her breath. She never knew that Eve would react like that. Xena smirked then saw the lonely king standing at the foot of the stairs pacing around in a circle, waiting patiently.

"Eve aren't you going to invite your guest in.." she eyed Samuel and Eve gasped, almost forgetting the poor guy was down there.

Eve hurried down the stairs and smiled at him. "Mother says I should invite you in."

"I don't know, I kind of liked staying outside?" he teased then took her hand and walked up the stairs into the palace following Xena and Gabrielle.

Once all were inside Xena lead everyone to sit down in a more comfortable area. Samuel was anxious and sat far away from Xena and Gabrielle but not too close to Eve. He was afraid of what she might say. Gabrielle eyed the two and smiled at Eve. She seemed just as nervous as Samuel was, although a different kind of nervous. She now understood what Xena meant from their conversation a few days ago about Eve. She really liked Samuel and it was very obvious even if she didn't intend it to be. The young king couldn't keep his eyes off of her even when Eve shied away from him.

Xena sat down and observed Samuel and his tense stance. She smiled, "am I making you uncomfortable?" she asked with a bit of mirth in her eyes.

Samuel nervously chuckled, "yes, very much," he answered.

"At least you are honest," Xena smiled. She saw the fear in his eyes, a different kind of fear. It had been awhile since she had dealt with such a young ruler. He was younger than Octavius was when she met him for the first time in person. This Persian king was a fine ruler and very polite, unlike his father. She admired his bravery for even coming up here no matter what Eve convinced him to do. "Well, I'm not here to make you feel uncomfortable as much as I'd like to. For the sake of my daughter, I'll be civil with you, Samuel," she winked. Her gestures only made him feel more uncomfortable but he did his best to hide it.

Eve sighed and leaned back in the cushioned chair watching the two exchange a silent conversation with their eyes. Samuel seemed the most nervous out of everyone. Meanwhile Gabrielle had her notepad ready to go. She was always taking notes but Eve had forgotten that this was technically a business meeting. She also forgot that her mother was in the room and that she was the empress and he king.

The longer he stared at Xena the more he realized that this was a challenge for him to assert himself. He now understood her game and she was very good at it. she had many years on her plate as a ruler and he had so few compared to her. She couldn't possibly take me seriously, he thought.

"I came here to ask if I could ally with your empire. It was brought to my attention that you and Octavius are now at war with one another yet again. He will try and come to me for help. While E..." he eyed Eve and corrected himself. "...the princess stayed with me I realized that it would seem odd not to ally with her mother's empire. The Persian Empire used to be friends with the Greeks and I'd like to rekindle that relationship. I believe that it would do both of us some good especially since Rome is expanding her empire further into the eastern lands."

Xena nodded her head quite impressed with the king's little speech. It seemed that Eve had done well, although she felt that most of those words were his own and not her doing at all. Perhaps Eve's going to Persia was a good thing after all. She sat up and crossed one leg over the other. "I never had a problem with the Persians you know. Some people just made it more difficult for me to like them..."

Samuel smiled softly, "my father was a pain I understand. I grew up with him as a father and a ruler. I would listen to him rant about you and the entire Greek race. It never made any sense because my mother was half Greek," he admitted this to no one until now. Only his father knew of this. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she continued to record everything he said down on the parchment.

"so technically, I am one of you," he smiled and Xena smiled in return. She was enjoying this young man's company and his manners as well. She almost didn't want to believe him since he was the seed of Phraates but he truly was unlike his father. "We are all the same people no matter where we come from. It is silly that we have our lands divided because of our color, culture, food and language. For a long time I've wanted a better world and ever since I became king I wanted a better Persia for my people. Everyone deserves to be more educated about other people's cultures. We could all learn from one another."

Xena blinked, unsure of what to say after that lengthy speech he just gave. "You have a way with words that I do not have. I am impressed with you Samuel but you have not won me over yet. You may have been gifted by Virgil The Poet, but are you good with a sword?" she grinned deviously.

Samuel became serious and curtly nodded his head. "I have been trained by some of the best assassins in Persia, empress. I may have not been in a war but I have seen it. I want to avoid it," he said honestly.

Xena shared a glance with Gabrielle and both smiled at each other. She focused back to Samuel. "War is unavoidable in this world, but anyone who enjoys war is a fool. I used to look forward to wars because it meant that there would be a victor and a loser. It is different when you are not alone and I once told a good friend of mine that it is not a nice feeling to be alone," she eyed Gabrielle once more.

Samuel followed her eyes and hid a grin when he realized that someone was Gabrielle that the empress spoke of. The words that his father said about Xena were all wrong. She was intimidating but she was not the snake that he made her out to be. She was compassionate and strong. She was not the Xena that his father ranted about for years and years.

"Forgive me but...I was not expecting you to be like this," he began.

This did not surprise Xena one bit. "Were you expecting a hydra with six heads?" she teased. He shook his head unsure how to respond to that. "Small joke. I make those a lot. Octavius loves them," she winked.

Eve rolled her eyes, "she's joking again," she told him and Samuel smiled for the first time, no longer feeling uncomfortable. He looked at the princess with soft eyes and Xena tilted her chin watching the two exchange a silent stare with each other.

Xena interrupted the two's little conversation. "This meeting is very informal and I am eager to learn more from you, Samuel but I'd like to steal my daughter for awhile. We will revisit this conversation, yes?" she stood up and he copied her. He nodded her head and she replied with a smile.

Eve stood up and felt a rush overcome her and an instant headache emerged. She fell back down into the chair placing her hand over her forehead. Gabrielle stood up coming to her aid but Samuel had beat her to it. He knelt down next to her and placed his hand on hers. Gabrielle looked to see Xena a bit confused. Xena creased her brows and watched the young Persian and his genuine concern for her daughter. It was an odd sight to see and she somewhat wished she had that when she was her age.

He stood up and folded his arms. "She hardly ate anything the entire way here. I am sure she is overly tired," he nodded.

Xena frowned and grabbed Eve's hand gently pushing her to Gabrielle's arms. "Take her to her room, Gabrielle," she pushed them along. Samuel began following them and Xena put her arm in front of his chest. "We can handle it from here," she curtly said.

Samuel didn't like that but he had to remember that he was a guest in her home and after that nice conversation, he'd hate to spoil that. "Will you let me know if she's alright then?" he felt a bit out of bounds when he asked this but he didn't really care.

Xena raised an eyebrow at the young king. He truly cared for Eve, very strange she noted. "I will."

He sat down watching the three women disappear upstairs. He sighed heavily and his head hung low as he waited. He figured that he would be waiting here for a long time and he was rather impatient with these things.

A few hours later Gabrielle had managed to get Eve to drink an abundance of liquid and tried to make her eat something but refused many times. She sat up in bed as she listened to Gabrielle talk to her constantly to keep her busy from impending boredom.

Xena walked into the room and leaned against the wall listening to Gabrielle talk and talk. She could talk her way out of anything, she thought. Gabrielle caught a glimpse of her and smiled. Eve saw her eyes travel elsewhere and turned around to see her mother standing in the doorway. The empress grinned at her daughter and Eve smiled weakly.

"He keeps asking about you," she meant Samuel and Eve let out a sharp sigh. "How are you feeling now?"

Eve shrugged, "alright I guess. I haven't been feeling myself for awhile. He told me to tell you...but I didn't want to worry you," she mumbled.

Xena sighed and sat down on the bed next to her with Gabrielle on the opposite side. "So you think telling me now makes me any less worried?" she grinned as her finger traced Eve's slender cheek.

Eve shook her head with a small smile. "No..." she admitted shyly, almost feeling like a child again. "I just wanted to do things on my own."

Gabrielle looked at Xena and saw the color fade from her face. "Where have I heard that before," she saw Xena look away then she got up and turned her back towards them. "It's alright to do things on your own. We both encourage it don't have to be alone. We are both here for you, you know this right?"

The brunette princess nodded, "I understand that but you both can't mother me forever."

Gabrielle saw Xena staring out the window and decided that they should both leave. She got up and squeezed Eve's hand. "I think your mother and I will leave you alone for awhile. I can send Samuel up here to keep you company if you'd like?" she eyed Xena and saw that she did not even flinch. Eve's eyes lit up at that. She expected her mother to protest but got silence instead. "Xena, let's go," she grabbed a hold of her arm and they left the room closing the door behind them.

"Did you hear what she said?" Gabrielle whispered outside of Eve's room. Xena remained quiet and Gabrielle slapped her arm.

The empress frowned, "Yes I heard what she said." She turned to look at the closed door and closed her eyes recollecting herself. "She has been gone for far too long," she narrowed her eyes. Her mind began ticking and she thought of all the scenarios running through her mind.

Gabrielle was confused at what Xena said. She didn't understand but what she did see were the gears turning in Xena's head. "What does that even mean?"

"You will see, Gabrielle."

Chapter Text

AN: dang, so much drama, so little time ;)

Chapter 15

Samuel sat with Eve on her bed keeping her company for awhile. He knew that Xena did not like him near her daughter but he was grateful that she even allowed him to come in her room. He tried his best to keep Eve occupied while she laid in bed. He began talking about all of the different types of stars that he studied over the years. He explained each star had its own name and all meant something different when it came to interpretation when applied to real life situations. She seemed interested and followed along, smiling the entire time.

Eve cocked her head to the side staring at Samuel as he went on and on about these stars he had been studying. He looked at her and stopped talking. "Why did you stop?" she asked curiously.

"I don't want to bore you," he admitted shyly. "I just don't want you to get bored," he winked.

She smirked, "I'm not bored," she reached for her glass of water and sipped it carefully. It was the only thing she was able to keep down currently. She cringed and had become quite bored of drinking water and it wasn't much, but if downed too fast her stomach began to churn and twist.

Samuel half smiled, seeing the discomfort on her face. "Your mother is worried about you."

Eve nodded, "she's always worried about me," she grinned.

"Isn't that her right as a mother?" he teased and scooted closer to her. "I'm worried for you too, is that a bad thing as well?"

She sighed, "no I didn't say that. It's just...there's nothing to be worried about! I just don't feel well but I'll be better soon I'm sure of it," she pat his knee gently, but he seemed suspicious.

Both heard the door open and Gabrielle stepped inside with a tall glass of some kind of concoction. Eve's face contorted and she frowned. She didn't want to know what was in that glass but it couldn't be good. Gabrielle smiled anxiously at the Persian king and he stood up immediately feeling a bit awkward. "Could I have a moment alone with Eve?" she asked politely.

He smiled and bowed his head curtly, "it's your home," he turned to leave and Gabrielle sat on the edge of the bed close to Eve. "I can...come back to see her later?" he asked hopeful. Gabrielle smiled warmly and nodded her head. He was thankful of that and left closing the door behind him.

Just as he turned around he saw Xena standing just a few inches away from him with a smirk on her face. He blinked and cleared his throat feeling that this was just a bit too close for his taste in personal space. "Hello," Xena greeted him in a low voice.

"Empress..." he answered in a clear voice, not entirely sure what she was doing. He saw her hand raise and his eyes followed it. she placed her hand on his shoulder firmly and his body tensed up.

"You should walk with me, Samuel," she gestured to the stairs and he nodded his head. She lead the way and he walked alongside her, not sure what she was up to but he felt like such a small child around her.

They walked outside into the gardens. Great, he thought, no witnesses in case I die. Xena was silent so far and she looked around at the flowers and vines covering the archways as they walked together. He really liked her home, it was beautiful on the inside and outside. He could see why Eve missed this place. Although, his palace was equally as extravagant, but these gardens were definitely something out of a fairytale.

"You like my daughter a lot, don't you Samuel?" Xena began rather bluntly, throwing the young king off a bit.

He cleared his throat not sure how to answer that. "No, empress."

"So you're lying to me?" she smiled.

Samuel felt his heart beat quicken as she began to question him. "No, empress..."

"You do like her then?" Xena could feel his nerves seeping out of his pores and she secretly enjoyed torturing the young king.

He cringed and tried to remain as professional as possible. "Yes, empress. Forgive me, I'm acting...strange," he couldn't find the best word to describe his feelings. His cheeks reddened once he said that. It was a poor translation from his language to hers, he noted. Xena laughed under her breath, noting he was indeed acting 'strange' as he put it. "I'm sorry," he sighed.

She put her hand up, "don't apologize to me," she said firmly and he shut his mouth instantly with no response. "Do you like children, Samuel?"

The Persian's eyes widened and he thought this question was rather personal, although Xena didn't seem to be shy about anything he realized this as soon as he met her. "They're pretty neat. One of my older brothers has five children, all girls," he smiled. "I believe his wife is expecting another one soon in the spring."

Xena nodded her head as she pursed her lips, "the Persians are very family oriented, are they not?"

He agreed with that though he didn't understand why she cared about Persian's lifestyle at the moment. "We tend to have very large families, so yes, I suppose we are." He saw Xena's eyes narrow as they continued walking together. He wanted to ask why she was asking such questions but decided to keep quiet and let her do the questioning. He was her guest in her home. He knew that she would do the same if she were in his home.

"And you want children someday too?" she smiled at him eerily and he didn't like that look at all. She looked like she was up to something or maybe ready to kill him. He didn't know.

Samuel stammered and he didn't know what to say. "Well I...maybe someday," he looked elsewhere, not daring to look in her blue frightening eyes.

"That's good to know," Xena halted in her step and Samuel stopped as well. He turned to look at her and she still had that eerie smile on her lips. " are a nice person, I can tell. I want to remain good friends with you and I will consider allying with your empire." His eyes lit up at that and he almost thanked her until she held up her finger. "On one condition," he remained stoic and anxious waiting for her proposal. "You marry my daughter," she frowned deeply.

Samuel's eyes widened at what she just said. He wasn't expecting her to say that at all. "Empress...I...why do you want me to marry your daughter?"

Xena smiled folding her arms, leaning towards him. "Is my daughter not good enough for you?" she hissed.

He shook his head, "no, no empress! She is perfect like the stars and moons," he spoke poetically and Xena raised her eyebrows, not quite expecting a response like that.

"When should I tell her?" he asked lamely, not sure how to continue this awkward conversation. He had always been ordered to marry women throughout his life by the vizier and now he was being ordered by the Greek Empress to marry her daughter. He didn't abject to it, but he was thoroughly confused.

Xena licked her lips, "oh don't you worry about that, I will tell her myself," she turned to leave and called out, "please, feel free to make yourself at home," she said nonchalantly with a smirk on her face. She left the confused king alone in the gardens as she went back into the palace to see how her daughter was fairing.

Samuel sat down on a bench and rested his chin on his hand, not sure what to make of that odd talk he just had with the empress. He didn't think she was going to say something like that. "Marry her?" he said aloud, not believing it. "Marry a Greek princess?" he kept speaking to himself. He saw a few small eyes staring at him. A few school children had caught sight of him and he smiled at them, still a bit miffed from earlier. The young girls smiled at him and ran along to go to their class.

Up in Eve's bedroom Gabrielle had finally gotten the princess to drink the awful concoction after several tries. Eve sipped some of it and it stained the inside of her mouth green and she coughed, barely getting it down. Gabrielle stifled a laugh, noting Eve's face was priceless. She had the same face she made when she drank wine at the age of seven. Her lips puckered and her eyes must have grown two sizes.

"I can't drink any more of this," Eve pushed the glass away and Gabrielle pushed her back to her mouth.

"Oh yes you can," she pushed the glass against Eve's lips and the princess groaned, not liking this treatment at all. She was trying to relax and here she was trying to make her drink this awful thing.

Eve shook her head, "Gabrielle this is torturous...I can't really," she lowered the glass and felt instantly sick to her stomach. She was able to drink half the glass and thought that'd be enough. "It tastes like charcoal...and...grass?" she shook her head, wrapping her arm around her midsection. Gabrielle smirked and took the glass from her, seeing that she was quite serious that she definitely couldn't drink any more of it.

"It should make you feel better I promise," Gabrielle rubbed Eve's arm and the princess's eyes widened. Her cheeks paled and she leaned over the side of her bed and vomited every last morsel within her body into a flower vase next to her bed.

Xena opened the door and her eyes traveled down to see her daughter leaning over the bed. She raised an eyebrow and heard Eve's subtle moans and groans. She sighed and looked to Gabrielle who seemed rather helpless but rather stressed out.

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders, "I tried," she held up the glass shaking her head. Xena smirked at her dear friend and sat down on her daughter's bed once Gabrielle stood up, allowing Xena to take her spot. Xena grabbed onto Eve and pulled her up leaning her against the headboard of the bed. She wiped her mouth with her thumb and saw that she definitely did not look well at all.

She couldn't help but laugh at her and Eve frowned. She exhaled slowly and folded her arms, " exactly so funny mother?"

Xena pulled herself together, "Nothing is funny, I'm sorry," she smiled holding back laughter.

Eve coughed and brought her knees close to her chest and buried her head in between her knees. "I'm going to die," she whined dramatically. Gabrielle smiled, covering her mouth and Xena winked at her.

"You're not going to die," Xena pat her daughter's leg.

"That's what you think!" the princess's voice muffled in between her legs.

Gabrielle tapped the glass and looked to Xena. She nudged her heard towards the door. "I'm going to go get some bread for her..."

Eve popped up with a distressed look on her face. "Food?! Please no..." she begged and Gabrielle smiled, disappearing from her bedroom. Xena sighed and scooted closer to Eve and sat beside her, stretching out her legs on her bed. "Mother, you're not going to make me eat the food are you?" she pleaded like a child. Xena grinned and wrapped her arm around her daughter, kissing the top of her head.

"You're such a drama queen," she said and Eve shot her a mean glare. "You are..." she teased and Eve folded her arms resting her head on her mother's shoulder.

Eve threw her hands up, her big blue eyes clearly filled with concern. "I don't know what's wrong with me!" she huffed and plopped her hands in her lap, "it's like this endless cycle. It's been like this for over a month and I just can't...I don't know," she sighed heavily.

Xena could understand how she was feeling all too well. She too had a similar reaction when she was around her age. She didn't understand what was happening to her body until it was far too late then by the time she knew, she didn't know how to handle it. of course it only ended in disaster, but Xena was going to make sure that wouldn't happen to Eve. She had family here with her and Xena had nobody. She tried to do things her own way and that didn't end well –it never did.

"Nothing is wrong with you," she comforted her daughter. Gabrielle came back into the room with a tray of flat bread and yogurt. Eve looked up at the tray and instantly felt the knots in her stomach return. Xena sighed and took the tray from Gabrielle setting it on the bed.

Gabrielle had a miffed look and Eve noticed. Her mother though, had a different look on her face that she hadn't seen before. She was not upset, sad or had that goofy face that Gabrielle had. No, she was being a mother, not an empress. She hadn't seen her act like that in quite some time. She had turned off her empress mode and was a normal mother.

Xena folded the bread as she spread the yogurt in the middle and raised an eyebrow at her daughter. Eve looked at the bread, it would have seemed delicious a few weeks ago, but now it looked unappealing. "Come on..." she smiled warmly and pushed the bread further towards Eve's mouth and she continued to back away. "Eve, please, just try," she looked into her daughter's glossy blue eyes and they were pitiful to look at.

"I can't," Eve put her hand up refusing the bread. Gabrielle sat on the bed staring at Eve then at Xena. She looked more concerned than Eve was.

Okay if you don't want to eat the yogurt then perhaps the bread. Xena took a fresh piece of the flatbread and ripped off a small corner of it. "Without the yogurt," she pressed on further, hoping that she'd eat it. "Please for me?" she smiled and Eve sighed, not really giving into her mother's sweet ways right now. She didn't want to touch the bread at all. It looked like a disaster in the making. Xena realized she was going about this all the wrong way. She was trying to be nice and comforting, as much as she could, but Eve was stubborn, as usual. She was going to have to be blunt and she knew Gabrielle was just waiting for it. She could see the blonde eagerly waiting to burst from the awkward air filling the room. She also had a goofy smile on her face.

"If you won't do it for me then perhaps you will for your child," Xena said and it suddenly got quiet and Eve's eyes widened, her mouth gaped, completely in shock, in awe. Gabrielle let out a much needed sigh.

"I thought you'd never say it," Gabrielle grinned and Xena rolled her eyes. She turned her attention back to Eve who was speechless for once in her life.

Xena smiled at Eve's face. She was completely frozen. "Bet you weren't expecting that were you?" she teased winking at her daughter.

Eve looked into her mother's eyes and then saw Gabrielle looking rather excited or something like it. "How did you know and I didn't..." she lowered her head, her eyes roaming the bed and her hands in her lap.

"I just noticed a few symptoms that's all," she said casually. Eve was still in shock and then realization set in. what in the world was she going to tell Samuel?

"What am I going to tell Samuel?" she cupped her cheeks and her breath quickened. She felt herself hyperventilating and Xena grabbed her shoulders firmly, trying to calm her down.

"Hey, calm down," she hushed her. "Don't worry about him. He and I came agreement earlier," she smiled sneakily. Eve didn't like that look at all. Now she was worried, but her mother's touch definitely calmed her down. "I asked him to marry you," she said bluntly.

Eve raised an eyebrow at her mother. She wasn't angry nor was she freaking out anymore but now she was confused. "Marry Samuel? Mother why would you propose an idea like that...?"

"I don't want you to end up like me. A fatherless child is nothing that a child or a mother should ever have in life, especially the life that we have," Xena admitted sadly. Gabrielle frowned at that, she knew how much that still hurt Xena even after all these years. "You don't seem opposed to the idea," she grinned.

Eve shrugged her shoulder, "Samuel and I...have a special relationship," she blushed. "Does that mean that you are going to ally with the Persian Empire then?" she asked hopeful that was the case. Xena half rolled her eyes and she took that as a yes. "If I marry Samuel then that means...I will be a queen," she smirked.

"I don't care if you're a queen, you're still my daughter and my word trumps yours," Xena said firmly and Eve sat stilly and nodded her head, noting her empress mode had suddenly switched back on. "I almost forgot, I have a present for you," she got up and went to her bedroom. Gabrielle grinned and scooted closer to Eve.

"She got me a present?" Eve asked Gabrielle. She was surprised she did that for her. Her mother never gave her presents. That was usually Gabrielle's department.

"She wanted to get you something for when you returned home," Gabrielle grinned and kissed Eve's cheek. The princess smiled, no longer feeling so terrible anymore. Xena returned with a sparkly burgundy sleeveless gown. Eve's eyes lit up and she immediately got out of bed to examine the gown for herself.

"Well I guess you won't be able to wear this for long but...I had it made for you," Xena smiled and Eve took the dress, feeling the soft fabric in her hands. Eve then came and gave her mother a hug, squeezing her tightly.

The following morning Xena received a letter that she had been waiting for. Gabrielle was in Xena's office sitting at her desk writing up a storm and organizing various documents while Xena was reading quietly to herself. She ripped open the letter and it was from Octavius. "Oh he's so...infuriating." she tossed the letter on the desk and Gabrielle looked at the letter and wanted to read it but she was really busy.

"What did he say?" she asked as she continued to write.

Xena groaned and leaned back in her chair, "he has already attacked Assyria and Solan is there with Allat. I hope they are alright. We need to send some of our men to help them. Assyria is our ally."

Gabrielle nodded, "I'll get on it once I finish this," she sighed rubbing her forehead feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Xena saw her friend was rather stressed out and she didn't need anything extra coming onto her plate of things to do. "No Gabrielle, I will handle it. you have enough to worry about," she smiled and Gabrielle grinned thankful of her for taking over. She was so busy she didn't think she could handle another task at the moment. Xena got up and took her sword with her twirling it in the air out of habit.

"What are you going to do about Eve and Samuel?" Gabrielle asked before Xena exited the office.

The empress smirked, "oh you mean the wedding? I will make preparations for that soon. Don't you worry about that. Can't have war without love can you, Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "Stop joking around, Xena. It's going to get you killed one day," she teased.

Xena felt hurt. "I thought you liked my jokes!" she feigned sadness and her blonde consort waved her hand dismissively at her. Xena chuckled, "Gabrielle," she said seriously this time and she looked up from her mound of paperwork. "When you're finished with that, I want you and I to spend quality time together."

"Wow, since when do you make time for that?" she smirked.

"Only for a select few of people in my life," she winked. "Now excuse me I have some troops to ship off," she twirled her sword in her hand and left the office in a rather good mood. She hadn't been in a good mood for awhile now, but everything seemed to be working out so far.

Eve came down the stairs in a black knee length dress with a gold sash wrapped around her slim waist. She knew Samuel had to be around here somewhere. She knew her mother had put him up in the West wing of the palace, but she was sure he was up by now. Outside in the atrium she heard the swishing of a blade and boots scraping on the sandy soil. She rounded the corner and saw Samuel practicing with a sword, shirtless of course, what an awful distraction, especially in her mother's home.

She peered from the archway and he was so focused he didn't even realize he had eyes on him. "Samuel..." she slowly said his name and his blade swung in the air and he turned to face her with a beaming face. He ran his fingers through his long dark wavy hair that reached his shoulders. She smiled at him and he set the blade down on a bench to come to her.

"Eve, you're feeling better I see," he was happy to see she was out of bed after yesterday. She nodded and he grabbed her hands, kissing her knuckles softly. "Your mother...spoke to me yesterday about a proposal."

Eve knew about it since her mother told her. "Yes I know, she told me." She saw relief cross his eyes and she smiled then creased her brows. "Do you...want to marry me?" she asked curiously.

He half laughed. "Your mother didn't really give me a choice," he saw the smile fade from her face and he didn't like to see a frown cross her lips. "I mean, even if she didn't force me to I would probably have asked you eventually."

Eve half smiled, "probably?" she teased.

"I would have," he said seriously. The wonderful smile he liked to see so much appeared back on her lips and he grinned. He kissed her forehead and looked in her eyes. She seemed like she had something on her mind. "Something wrong?"

She shook her head, "no nothing is wrong. There's something I need to tell you..."

He became concerned and held onto her hands firmly, "what is it? you don't have the fever do you?" he scanned her body.

Eve laughed, "no, no! nothing like that. I um..." she looked into his green sparkling eyes and realized she didn't have anything to fear. He had been so understanding so far and even put up with her mother. "I'm pregnant," she blurted out finally and he paused, unsure what to say.

"Pregnant?" his eyes grew and then the conversation he had with Xena yesterday was beginning to make sense now. All that talk of children and she was hinting the entire time and he had no idea. "Of course you are!" he exclaimed and Eve blinked, a bit miffed at his reaction. "It all makes sense..."

She frowned, "what makes sense?"

He shook his head dismissing that thought. He didn't really want to explain to Eve about the talk that her mother gave him yesterday and it was a weird one at that. Then realization began to sink in, "God, you're mother is going to kill me isn't she?" he ran his fingers through his hair and began pacing around in a circle speaking in his native language. Eve watched him dig a hole into the sand and he wouldn't stop talking to himself.

She smiled, "Samuel..." she tried to get his attention and he continued to pace around. "Samuel!" she yelled and he paused. "She's not going to kill you. If she was going to do that she would have done that already."

"Right..." he realized he was acting rather irrational and completely forgot about how she was handling everything. He came up to her with a nervous smile. "I'm sorry, forgive that little...whatever that was." His eyes traveled down to her stomach and he brushed his fingers over the fabric her dress. "You must forgive my loss of words."

"It's alright I just –"

"Samuel!" Xena's voice boomed down the marble hallway and she saw him standing with her daughter and she raised an eyebrow.

He stepped away from Eve, putting on his royal face. "Yes, empress?"

Xena saw Eve fold her arms and her face redden. She smirked, "you're wanted in the training grounds."

He frowned, he hadn't heard anything about any training ground? "By orders of whom?"

"By orders of me," she tapped the hilt of her sword. She scanned his naked torso and she pointed the blade at his chest. "Might want to put on some clothes," she winked and disappeared. "I haven't got all day!" she called out from inside the palace. Samuel blushed and quickly put on his tunic and grabbed his sword.

He ran passed Eve then ran back and kissed her cheek. "I promise we will talk later," he smiled and followed Xena to these so called training grounds.

Once they reached the training grounds Xena was up in the balcony overlooking the soldiers training. Samuel was standing next to her and he peered over the balcony and saw Gabrielle was down there. He definitely needed to know more about Gabrielle. She was a quiet one...but he felt that she was not quiet at all.

Xena felt her hand stinging and a shooting pain went up her arm suddenly. She winced and looked down at her hand. It had changed to a dark reddish brown color and then the color faded as if it wasn't there anymore. Her eyes widened, feeling a bit self conscious, she didn't want to show it. That's new, she thought. She had forgotten about the elixir this entire time because she felt normal...perhaps it was some strange side effect that she didn't know about? She didn't understand anything about the elixir still, but as long as it didn't cause any problems..she was fine with it. there was always no sign of Eris or Ares, which was a good thing, but she felt that something was awry.

"So why did you bring me here, empress?" Samuel interrupted her thoughts and she smiled at him.

"I need you to do something for me."

Chapter Text

AN: thanks to all for following along in this journey! Things are looking good for Xena so far, or are they? Enjoy :D

Chapter 16

"Old as time long foretold
We all know how it ends before it has grown old
By the hand of the Queen our hearts shall be redeemed

Out for blood call the bluff on his heart for the queen
Takes the lead and foresees stakes decline here tonight
Play the game, lead the way ready to crush and scorn
Blood will fall from her thorns for the queen is reborn."


Solan sat with Allat inside of the palace in the center of Assyria. Allat had lost his status as king once Octavius overthrew him, taking his entire empire for himself. Assyria will now be known as a Roman state, something that Allat's mother would have had a heart attack over. He felt so ashamed of himself and thought his mother must be rolling in her grave because of his failure to keep his kingdom afloat.

Solan felt like a failure as well. He and Allat decided to sulk alone in his palace guarded with Romans. He had failed Greece, his mother and Gabrielle. He promised he would keep Allat and his people safe but he failed them all. Now Assyria belonged to mother Rome, the most wretched mother on the planet. There was nothing left to do but sit and wait for something to change. The Romans had taken the entire Assyrian army and sent them away to a prison camp because of their refusal to join Octavius. Anyone who defies the emperor was sentenced to death or imprisoned. For that, Allat felt like he was the most awful king there had to be in the history of Assyria.

His people counted on him and he abandoned them all. The empire would surely parish under Roman rule, he knew this to be true. Solan lounged on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. Allat was playing a game of chess by himself for the last two hours. He had grown tired and bored of sitting around. Allat swiped his hand over the chest pieces and threw the board across the room. Solan sat up and saw the young king was irate, overcome with grief and anger.

"You have the power of Ares scorching through your veins, brother," Solan smirked, laying back down, ignoring his friend's tantrum.

Allat rubbed his forehead and groaned loudly. "I cannot stand here and do nothing, Solan!"

Solan sat up again, "Octavius has your empire now, Allat. There is nothing you can do...I'm sorry..." he frowned, sad for his friend.

Allat's eyebrow raised as he saw something very interesting outside of the large balcony. The morning was bright and sunny, unlike his mood. He moved closer to the balcony slowly, his bare feet stepping over the chess pieces. Solan saw the Assyrian king in a trance of some sort. "What is it?" he asked the king.

He came closer and stepped out onto the small balcony and through the clouds he saw the Greek eye staring straight back at him. Squinting from the sunlight beaming in his eyes he smiled softly. Not one Greek eye, but many scattered in a diamond in the Aegean Sea. Solan stood up and noticed Allat raise his arms up, as if praising a deity and he let out a loud victory yell.

Solan ran to the balcony and saw ten Greek ships sailing in the Aegean. He recognized that Greek eye anywhere, the sails were hard to miss, he thought. "The reinforcements have arrived," he smiled widely and then Allat embraced him tightly and kissed his cheek forcefully, catching him off guard.

"Your mother is truly a goddess, my friend," Allat's smile had not disappeared and as the ships came closer to the shore he saw the ship leading the way raise a large black sail with an X on it. he slapped his hand on Solan's back roughly, "I must go greet them," he left the balcony grabbing his sword and slipped on some flats.

Solan looked on at the ships as they crashed into the sands of Assyria, one by one, forming a line of ten war ships. He wished his mother would have told him that she were sending soldiers to come aid Assyria, but he figured that the letter would be compromised in this area because of the Romans guarding every inch of the place. Surely, the Romans were not prepared for this. Smiling, he thought what a conniving woman his mother really was. Spontaneous was more the word he looked for.

Coast of Anatolia

Tiberius had occupied a large abandoned palace on the coast of Anatolia to maintain the grounds that Octavius had captured. The Roman empire will grow so large that it will stretch for miles, country to country. Octavius will make it become a reality. Tiberius knew that he was more than able to do so. He had been working on this plan for many years and since Xena took a hiatus from the battlefield, anything was game, and her empire was next. The general knew that Octavius would reign victorious in the end and Xena would perish, once and for all.

Truth to be told, he thought that Xena would have given up a long time ago, but here she was. He also thought that she would be an old queen by now but by Octavius' description of her lately, she hadn't changed and looked better than before. Tiberius wondered if his emperor had been on the opium and liquor lately because he simply could not believe his words.

The general's assistant came running into the throne room where Tiberius was going over copious amounts of paperwork and maps to send to Octavius while he was in Rome. He looked up at the labored breathing man and frowned. "What is it, Daniel?" he eyed him cautiously.

"Sir, I think you need to see for yourself. It is as if she has come back from the dead!" he exclaimed and Tiberius threw down his quill and followed Daniel to the nearest balcony.

He looked out into the open Mediterranean Sea and saw six war ships heading for the coast. That awful Greek eye staring back into his soul. He thought that Xena was ambitious but he truly doubted her. Frowning he grew more angry as he stared at the Greek sails swaying in the gentle breeze of the morning wind. On the bow of each ship there were statues of mermaids with wild hair, almost resembling serpent hair like that of Medusa, the gorgon. That is exactly what Xena was to Tiberius –a gorgon; a gorgon that never seems to die no matter how many snakes you cut off –perhaps she was more like a hydra.

He took off his cape and threw it on the ground. Daniel looked alongside his general in fear of the ships nearing. "What will we do, sir?" he asked softly.

Tiberius scowled, "we will destroy her. I want her destroyed!" he cried out and turned on his heel to leave the balcony. "Make sure those ships do not come any closer. Prepare the catapults," he demanded and Daniel nodded, leaving the palace immediately to alert the men on the coast.


Luka, one of Octavius' best ship navigators guarded the coast of Carthage and maintained the rest of the African coast in his possession while the emperor retreated back to Rome. Octavius made sure he had each person posted at his territories for security purposes. Luka sat in a villa, close to the coast drinking hot coffee in the middle of the hot summer morning. He was reading over a long treaty that he needed to bring to all the African territories by Fall. He looked up from his glass and noticed five large war ships coming for his coast.

He stood up setting the coffee glass on the armrest of his chair. He set down the lengthy treaty and frowned. Grabbing a seeing-scope he adjusted the poor piece of glass enough to see the blue Greek eye staring into his very soul. He knew that eye too well, he had seen it before many times in his life. The eye was protection from evil and evil-dooers. But here it was, all the evil in the Mediterranean Sea had come to Carthage to show itself after many years of absence.

"By all the gods in Olympus..." he spoke softly as he watched the ships make their way to the coastline of Carthage. "She is back." He frowned and put down the scope, tipping over his chair out of anger and frustration. Though he noticed something peculiar about those war ships. A mermaid statue on the bow of each ship, he thought that was odd. Xena never had mermaids on her bow, in fact he didn't know if she had anything on her ships. Also, the shape of the ships were not Greek at all, but Persian he noticed. He knew a Persian ship when he saw one and those five ships were not Greek, but Persian.

"Greek sails..Persian ships," he grinned, "how fascinating."

Amphipolis –Thrace

A woman working in the wheat fields outside of her villa felt a violent breeze come through. She and the other villagers had little to work with after the Romans came through Thrace and destroyed most of their crops and homes. She was fortunate enough to live close to the coast and had little damage to her farm and home.

Looking out to the ocean she frowned as she saw a line of war ships coming in. she feared it was more Romans and they had come to completely excavate her home and farm. The fog subsided and she saw large sails hoisted up from afar. Squinting her eyes she held her free hand over her eyes against the bright morning sun. The Greek eye. It took her a moment to realize but then she finally clicked. The Greek eye. She dropped the wheat stalks in her arms and covered her mouth, not believing it was so.

She went running back to her home almost tripping in the process, scaring the horses and sheep. She burst through the doors and her husband eyed her curiously, noting the surprised yet shocked look on his wife's face. She ran to him and cupped his cheeks in her palms. "She has come to free us from the Romans!" she shouted and his eyes widened.

"What are you on about, woman?" he frowned, still confused.

She pointed to the seaside and she was simply speechless. Nothing more would leave her mouth. He got up throwing his tools down on the table. He stepped outside on the hill and saw the war ships coming to shore of Thrace.

"The Greek eye..." he whispered, not believing what he was seeing before his eyes. He thought their empress had abandoned them –left them to die for the Romans. He smiled feeling relieved seeing ships for the first time.

"She's going to free us all," his wife reiterated.

He folded his arms with a big smile on his face. "About time," he chuckled.


Xena laid out a map in front of Samuel and Gabrielle in her office on a long table. She placed little model ships on the map at each corner of the Mediterranean Sea –Carthage, Anatolia, Assyria and Thrace. She and Gabrielle had devised a plan to shock the Romans into defeat. With the help of Samuel's large navy Xena was able to scatter many ships to each of these areas to trap the Romans. It was not an attack, but a scare tactic that Persians used many times. She thought it would not work, but figured if she had each corner of the expanding Roman Empire, that it would work. Using the Persian ships instead of her own she was able to use over thirty war ships to her advantage while still keeping her own Greek war ships in the port of Athens in case she needed them.

Using her own army of men and Samuel's army they were able to fill the ships full of soldiers. Though she told them not to attack the Romans, only to set up barricades. She didn't want to slaughter the Romans all in one blow, that would be foolish of her. No, she just wanted to send Octavius a message –a message that she was serious about regaining her status as the Empress of Greece. She wanted everything he had and she was willing to fight for it. She lost once, but she wouldn't lose again; she was going to make sure of that.

This entire plan was put in action the fastest she had ever seen. With her army and Samuel's they were able to execute this plan in a matter of three weeks, less than a month. Her name was going to be spread throughout the western world as the greatest empress there was. She wanted her name to not be tainted, but that also meant that she would need allies and friends. She had Persia and Assyria. Now to get back her Carthaginian friends and African territories. Once she discovered that Octavius had taken Thrace, that was definitely the last straw. She was from Thrace and those were her people that she let down. The Romans had expanded into Thrace while she threw herself a pity party in Egypt. But no more, she was going to take back what was hers.

Once Xena finished putting all the model ships on the map a smile crossed her lips and she twirled a dagger in her wrist. Gabrielle saw happiness and determination in Xena's eyes that she hadn't seen in over fifteen years. She was definitely not going to be defeated this time. "What will the world think when they see Persians working with Greeks?" Gabrielle asked with a small smirk.

"That Greece can ally with their worst enemy. That anything is..possible," she smiled and Samuel grinned, feeling quite proud to be able to contribute in this war effort.

Samuel bowed his head at Xena and she smirked at his manners. "It has been the most amazing experience to work with you, empress." He thanked her politely.

She waved her hand, "stop calling me empress. Xena is fine," she winked and his smile widened.

"You are more than ally to us now," Gabrielle chimed in and Samuel bowed his head graciously to her.

"Samuel!" Eve's voice carried outside of the office coming from down the long hallway. Samuel nervously smiled and Xena and Gabrielle looked to him incuriously. His name was called once more and he cringed, thinking how embarrassing it was to hear his name being called out like that especially in front of those two.

Xena grazed her fingers along the dagger, ignoring the cries of her daughter. She sighed, "you should probably answer your said wife," her eyes twinkled with mirth and Gabrielle stifled a laugh. Samuel's name echoed in the hallway once more and Xena smiled deviously. "She sounds urgent," she kept teasing.

Samuel grinned anxiously. "Can I be excused..." he said as his cheeks flushed.

Xena shrugged, "I'm not stopping you."

He nodded and took his leave, "thank you again emp –Xena..." he corrected and quickly left the office to find Eve as she kept calling out his name.

Gabrielle finally let out a much needed laugh and Xena smile as she cleaned her dagger. "She's being very...bossy towards him lately," her laughter died down and she saw the empress was rather amused, but did not admit so.

"It's all...out of my hands," she wiped the dagger on her pant leg with an eager smile. "But this," she stabbed the dagger into the table onto the map, "is in my control." She felt that stinging sensation travel up her arm again and she winced at the pain. On her left hand she wore a glove protecting her arm for the last few weeks. Still, she had been so preoccupied with the planning of this war that she put off this strange ailment to the side. She didn't need any more distractions in her life at the moment.

Gabrielle frowned, noticing Xena's discomfort. "Xena, what's wrong?" the empress shook her head and held onto her left arm, biting her bottom lip. "Don't lie to me," she came around to her and looked at her friend's paled face. "What's the matter with you?" she scanned Xena's body and noticed she was clutching onto her arm. "Let me see," she said and Xena shook her head again. Gabrielle slapped Xena's hand out of the way. "Let me see!" she commanded.

Xena relented and released her arm to Gabrielle. The blonde took off the glove on her left arm and gasped at what she saw before her eyes. A reddish brown color all along Xena's hand and arm. It looked like a really terrible burn, but Xena hadn't been in fire lately, unless Xena was having a mutilation party she didn't know about. She touched Xena's skin and the empress shot her a glare.

"By the gods Xena..." she covered her mouth looking at her arm. "What is this?" she looked into her eyes firmly. Shaking her head she didn't understand it at all. "When did this happen?" she became concerned and pulled up a chair to examine her arm.

Xena sighed and held the bridge of her nose. "Awhile ago..." she answered barely above a whisper.

Gabrielle frowned, not the least bit impressed. "How long is awhile?" she was starting to become irritated at Xena and her secrets. She understood that Xena was tough and while she definitely was, she was hurt and didn't say anything and she was sure it was more than a few days.

"Three weeks..." Xena lamely smiled and saw the angry glare in those green eyes. She averted her gaze elsewhere, not daring to look into Gabrielle's eyes. Gabrielle sat stilly for a few moments then raised her hand and slapped Xena's unhurt arm not once, but twice. Xena's mouth gaped but she did not retaliate. She knew Gabrielle's frustration with her especially after that talk they had to not keep secrets from one another.

"Xena! I thought we talked about this!" she yelled and the empress slumped down into her chair, now feeling like a child. "You should've told me!" she sighed and sat back down. "Now...what is this from?"

Xena looked up confused and dazed. Shaking her head she answered, "I have no clue." She answered honestly and this time Gabrielle believed her. "It started on my hand and slowly spread to my arm. I don't understand it."

Gabrielle couldn't make sense of it either. "The elixir..." her mind snapped to. "It must be the cause of this," she looked to Xena's arm.

"You should become a fortune teller, Gabrielle," Ares appeared in the room and Xena snarled at him while Gabrielle stood up with a frown. She grabbed her Sais from her boots pointing them at the War God. He chuckled, "Gabby...please, we're all friends here." He said nonchalantly.

"Hardly," Gabrielle smirked mockingly at the god. Xena stood up then winced as the pain traveled even further up her arm and now was on her collar bone. She touched her neck and groaned, holding back the intensifying pain. Gabrielle looked back at her with concern then heard Ares clapping slowly. "What are you doing here?" she demanded an answer.

He shrugged, "I'm just checking in on you two. I heard a congratulations is in order," he focused in on Xena. "I just can't imagine you as a grandmother," he laughed and Xena wished he could kill him at the moment, though she was occupied with her own problems, almost becoming paralyzed from the left side of her torso.

"shut up Ares," Gabrielle spat and Ares frowned at her. She smiled wriggling her eyebrows and he rolled his eyes with a loud exasperated heave of a sigh.

Ares smiled at Xena who seemed incapacitated. "Just look at her..." he grinned, "she can't handle it."

Xena groaned and tried to get out of the chair and leaned on the wall, losing complete feeling in her left side. Her hand roamed the shelves to help her walk towards a mirror. She breathed in heavily, trying not to show any weakness whatsoever.

Gabrielle looked to her friend in need, but turned her attention back to the War God. "What do you mean by she 'can't handle it'?"

He clasped his hands together, lacing his fingers. "Oh you mean with all of your expertise you couldn't find the fine print in those scrolls about the elixir?" his smile was oh so mischievous and it was starting to concern Gabrielle.

There was a loud crash and Gabrielle snapped her head around to see Xena on her knees. She gasped and Ares chuckled lowly. Xena grabbed her sword and hoisted herself up off the floor, digging the tip into the floor holding half her weight on the blade. She groaned and looked at herself in the mirror. She saw the scarring had spread to her shoulder and onto her left side of her neck. Touching the affected areas she cringed as it burned her flesh.

"Ares!" Gabrielle pointed her Sais at the god. "Tell me what's going on right now!" she demanded.

He rolled his eyes. "You were always so annoying." He sighed, "well when I was in control of the elixir," he frowned deeply, thinking it probably would've worked if Xena had just taken it without any remorse and not used it guilt free like she did with Eve and Eris taunting her. "I didn't know the full strength of that magical potion but sister has informed me of something so...intriguing." he grinned rubbing his hands together.

He flashed over to Xena and touched her cheek with his fingers. Xena's eyes widened and she elbowed him in the face. He knocked back a few steps and shook his head, wrinkling his nose, not happy that she just did that. "Now, now Xena..." he held his hands up and Xena turned around slowly lifting the blade at his torso. "You want to kill me?" he mocked. "Wish you could," he smirked.

"I'd rather you be tortured for awhile first," Xena snapped back.

His eyes widened, "kinky," he grinned and Gabrielle was growing impatient. "Anyway, that sickly looking rash on your skin...which is ruining your lovely complexion by the way," he jested.

"Ares!" Xena hissed and came closer towards him, forcing her left side of her body to walk with her in a steady limp.

"Look all I know is that it isn't exactly safe to use on mortals," he stated. "And since you used the entire elixir on yourself...selflessly," he griped. "You're not a mortal anymore..." he let the rest speak for itself.

Gabrielle was starting to feel her head pound. She was confused just as much as Xena was. "So what? She's an immortal now?" she saw Xena struggling to walk and then she fell to her knees, almost as if she were gasping for air. She came to her side and wrapped her arm around her forgetting about Ares. Looking up at the War God she frowned. "Are you going to help her?"

Ares chuckled, "me? Help Xena?" he shook his head, "no, no. She told me she doesn't need my help," he mocked Xena's proud astuteness.

Xena was going through all of the scenarios in her head at the moment. Ares had not helped at all in the last two decades she had known him. He always caused destruction wherever he went and this was no different. She would not succumb to his manipulative ways again. She had suffered too much but also gained a lot throughout her life. She wasn't going to throw it all away for a little help from the God of War, especially if he was talking to his sister, Goddess of Chaos. The two together would be inseparable. Xena could only imagine the damage those two would conjure up. This war being one of them. She was sure it was feeding their egos which was probably one of the reasons he showed up.

Gabrielle growled, "but this is all your fault, Ares!" she yelled. "You never fix your mistakes. At least Xena fixes hers!"

Xena felt relieved that Gabrielle was sticking up for her even after everything she had done. She still had her heart even in the worst of times. A shooting pain traveled in her ribs and went to her hip on her left side. She held her side and Gabrielle's arm held tighter onto her. Xena half smiled, though kept her gaze low from Ares.

"I didn't make her take the elixir, technically. She did this all on her own and now she must fix herself, as always. The lone wolf," he folded his arms shaking his head at his defeated warrior queen. "I have followed you for many years, Xena. I've watched you win and I've watched you fail. Still, you are resilient after all these years. How do you do it?" he mocked.

Xena half smiled weakly, "strength does not come from only one person, Ares." She held onto Gabrielle's hand tightly as the pain worsened. "Something you will never," she winced, "as a God."

"Power in numbers," he nodded his head. "Touching," he smiled and Gabrielle stood up leaving Xena on the floor, groaning in pain.

She shoved him against the wall and his eyes widened, a bit shocked at her manners. "Ares, don't you see she is in pain? She is being tortured and I find it hard to believe that you don't feel the least bit concerned about her," she eyed him with a smirk on her lips.

She wasn't wrong about that. He looked over at Xena as she was on the ground, holding in her pain as best as she could. He didn't want to see her suffer, Gabrielle was right, but at the same time, Xena did not desire his aid and he couldn't give it without her consent. He knew that trying to convince Xena was impossible by now. She had grown too old and wise for his tricks.

"Gabrielle, your speech is heartwarming, really," he nodded and pried her hands off of him and stepped to the side, not willing to hurt the blonde this time. "But she won't let me help her so what can I do?"

"You mean you are unwilling to help simply because you won't get anything in return?" Gabrielle shook her head in disgust. "If you truly cared about Xena then you would help selflessly but I can see that word is not in your vocabulary." Gabrielle came to Xena's side and wrapped her arm around her body hoisting her up off the floor. She groaned as she lifted half of Xena's body weight onto her small frame.

Ares folded his arms feeling insulted by the blonde. He never liked her and wondered why Xena kept her around. Though, she was a tough woman, he had to give her that. Her compassion overrides everything in her path and her path being Xena. "I will tell you this..." he spoke softly, more concerned about Xena now than he had shown earlier. "The more the war continues, her condition worsens."

Gabrielle's jaw dropped. "But it can't be has only..." she peered up at Xena's pained face. "Just begun..." she finished leaving a sour note hanging.

The God of War was out of options. "If you need me you know where to find me," he disappeared and Xena felt as if she could finally breathe again. Gabrielle clung to her and then drug her over to a chair for her to sit in.

Gabrielle set her down carefully and Xena was starting to feel the nerves come back in her hand. She wiggled her fingers and a smile came to her face but then she saw the face staring back at her. Tears formed in Gabrielle's eyes and Xena creased her eyebrows, sitting upright, slowly gaining movement in her left arm after Ares had left.

"Don't cry," Xena touched Gabrielle's cheek gently and Gabrielle placed a hand over hers.

"Xena..." Gabrielle shook her head and covered her mouth, feeling a tear fall. Xena frowned and wiped the tears off her cheek. She stood over Xena barely able to look in her blue distraught eyes. "You're killing yourself," she said with an intense amount of emotion.

Xena weakly smile staring up at Gabrielle's glossy green eyes. "I'm not going anywhere I thought I told you this before?"

Gabrielle smiled and then wept more, not sure what to say. She felt Xena grab her hand and lace her fingers in between hers. She breathed slowly and wiped her eyes. She exhaled slowly and saw a smile on Xena's face. How could she smile at a time like this, she thought. "You can't do this to yourself anymore Xena..." she whispered. "You have so much to look forward to," she was starting to a bit more clear in the head now and her weeping subsided. "Think of Eve and her baby, Samuel and Solan." She shook her head wiping her eyes.

"You forgot Gabrielle," Xena said and saw the blonde's cheeks flush with color.

"You forgot yourself," Gabrielle retorted firmly and saw Xena's smile die off and her eyes wandered elsewhere.

Chapter Text

AN: Eve and her bright ideas lol.

Chapter 17

"shadow won't you stay with me
nothing's ever what it seems
are you wandering just like me
within this sad reality"

Gabrielle was able to get Xena into her bed after struggling to support her weight on her small frame. Xena's condition remained the same since Ares left, though it didn't seem to spread anywhere else which was a good sign –well as good as they were ever going to get. Gabrielle took Xena's boots off and threw the large duvet over her. Xena felt a bit useless and that wasn't a feeling she was used to. She didn't like people fussing over her.

"Would you stop..." Xena hoarsely said and her companion looked to her with a knowing look.

"Not a chance," Gabrielle smiled and unbuttoned Xena's tunic exposing her shoulder, which looked pretty rough. Her neck was covered in the strange rash. She cringed just looking at it which didn't go unnoticed by Xena. She sat down on the bed, fixing Xena's hair and the empress slapped her hand away, feeling like a sick child. "I know this must hurt your pride," she teased. "I'm going to ask for help to get more information on this elixir."

Xena's eyes widened thinking of the consequences. "You aren't...going to ask Ares, are you?" she said in a soft voice.

Gabrielle shook her head, "no I'm going to ask Aphrodite," she quirked her mouth to the side, "I am surprised she hasn't come around know, because of Eve."

The empress nodded her head slowly as she thought of her daughter a smile came to her then the realization hit. She couldn't let anyone see her like this or there would be panic. Although it might be inevitable that Eve or Samuel eventually found out, but she would have to keep it secret for awhile. "She must not know about this Gabrielle."

The blonde understood and she squeezed Xena's hand tightly, "I will tell her that you are not to be disturbed, don't worry." She sighed looking at her friend's ailment. "I don't...know how to help you, Xena. Is it painful?"

Xena nodded her head, "nothing that I can't handle," she sneered and Gabrielle rolled her eyes, finding her friend's pride the center of attention was not what she wanted to hear at the moment.

"I'll find something for the pain. Don't move," she teased and kissed her hand before she left the room, closing the door behind her. Quickly rushing down the stairs she saw Eve sitting with Samuel. Together they were talking quietly among themselves and she saw his hand come to her face in a loving manner, although Eve did not appear to receive it very well. Gabrielle crept passed the two hoping they wouldn't notice her. She didn't really have time to deal with Eve and her disputes with Samuel or anyone else at the moment.

Once she was in the clear she exhaled heavily, dodging a bullet there until...

"Gabrielle!" Eve called out and the blonde groaned, halting in her step. So close yet so far. She turned around to see Eve running up to her and she tightly smiled.

"Yes, Eve? I'm a little busy right now so whatever you need to talk to me about can it wait?" she said instantly and Eve blinked, quite shocked that she didn't even get the chance to say anything. Gabrielle continued walking ahead without Eve's response.

The princess followed her lifting her gown careful not to trip, she hurried to catch up to Gabrielle. "Wait, please, Gabrielle!" she tugged on her arm and finally they stopped. Gabrielle saw the concern in her eyes then sighed, obviously this couldn't wait. This better be good, she thought. "I have some questions," she said in a soft voice.

"What kind of questions?" Gabrielle asked, her mood softening. She was almost expecting the princess to lash out in anger but instead she was being rather docile.

Eve's eyes wandered around trying to figure out the best way to word her question. "Well," she began, "I just want to know how it was to raise me as a baby. Was it...difficult?" her tone was more of concern than anything else.

Gabrielle smiled sensing some anxiety in the young princess. She pat her shoulder gently, "it wasn't difficult until you turned four," she teased and Eve sighed, not finding jokes very amusing right now. Gabrielle straightened herself out then lifted Eve's chin to stare into her blue eyes. "You'll be fine. You aren't alone," she grinned and pinched Eve's cheek.

The princess bit her bottom lip still feeling her nerves overcoming every sense in her body. "I need to talk to mother," she turned and Gabrielle's eyes widened in fear. She took off running and Gabrielle ran after her grabbing her arm pulling her back. Eve frowned, "Gabrielle, what are you –"

"On second thought, if you have any questions you can ask me. I was there with your mother the entire time. I practically lived through it all," she smiled nervously and Eve sensed some nervousness in Gabrielle as well, but it was odd to her.

"What's going on?" she raised an eyebrow, mirroring her own mother's famous expression of suspicion and doubt. Gabrielle knew that face all too well and Eve was quite good at copying her mother, it was almost scary.

She smiled, "nothing is wrong. Xena is sick right now so she's resting."

Eve's mouth gaped, "sick? But she was fine earlier," she folded her arms.

"She hasn't been feeling well for awhile but didn't tell anyone. I finally convinced her to go stay in her room. It's probably best that you stay away from her. I don't want you to get sick too," she lamely added hoping that Eve would buy her story but the look in her eyes was telling Gabrielle that she definitely wasn't buying it.

"Gabrielle..." Eve could only fear the worst. "What is going on?" she asked again, not believing her mother was ill. She was fine and she magically is in bed after she had just spoken to her this morning.

Gabrielle shook her head with a tight smile. "Nothing." She placed her hands on her hips nervously, giving herself away completely. Xena was always better at these things –you know, keeping things under wraps or in other words...lying.

Eve pursed her lips nodding slowly. "Alright Gabrielle," she smirked and cocked her head. "How 'bout you tell me what's going on and we can stop playing this little charade," she said calmly.

Gabrielle knew that Eve was quite pretentious at times and got her way when she wanted it most if not all the time. Though her attitude was slowly beginning to change from a spoiled princess to a mother, she still was the same when it came to finding things out. She sighed, "fine. Xena apparently has been having strange effects from that stupid elixir she took. She can't move her left side of her body at the moment so..." she saw the fear in Eve's eyes. "I put her in bed for now. I'm going to find a way to help her."

Eve couldn't believe what she was hearing and here Gabrielle was trying to hide this valuable information about her mother from her. "What about the campaign? I know she's been working on that with Samuel and you for weeks now. She can't fall behind!"

She tried to calm her down and grabbed onto her shoulders firmly, "I know," she calmly voiced. "I will make sure that she will not fall behind in her campaign against Octavius," she smiled. "Alright?"

Eve nodded, "can I see her?"

Gabrielle bit her lip and Eve rolled her eyes. "She told me she didn't want you to know." Eve groaned loudly and she sighed, "she doesn't want you to worry about her."

"Why not? She's always worrying about me," Eve folded her arms feeling more like a child right now. "I'm going to see her. If she asks why I came to see her, I'll tell her it wasn't your fault Gabrielle." She smiled then ran up the stairs before Gabrielle could stop her.

Well, she couldn't stop that disaster now. She had to contact Aphrodite and she wasn't sure she'd get an answer but she needed to go somewhere quiet to talk with the goddess. She stormed down the hall to the library. That place was always quiet and nobody ever went in there unless they had to. She rounded the corner and Samuel called out to her. She inwardly groaned and turned around with an irritated expression. "What?" she asked firmly.

The young Persian king seemed a bit taken aback by Gabrielle's hostility. "Forgive me Gabrielle but I have been looking for Xena. I have some news for her that she might want to hear," he had his hands behind his back and Gabrielle sighed, not really wanting to deal with this right now.

"Xena is not available right now. I will take whatever information you have and give it to her later," she put her hands up before he spoke, "but right now I have something I need to do. Give me an hour..." she smiled begging him and he didn't seem to mind. She thanked him then continued to the library.

Samuel sighed and looked around the empty hallway. He felt like he could get lost in this place if he truly wandered around. He had only been to certain areas of the palace and this wasn't one of them. He wondered where Gabrielle was going but he wasn't nosy like Eve to follow her and find out. He then frowned thinking of Eve. Where has that woman run off to? He had been looking for her too when she disappeared after he spoke to her.

Gabrielle entered the library and closed the giant doors behind her. She looked around to make sure nobody was inside and it was dead silence. Inwardly she wished she could stay in here for awhile to be away from everybody, but she had a job to do, a mission to fulfill. She huffed placing her hands on her hips looking up to the ceiling calling Aphrodite's name, hoping she'd appear before her. She called her name twice and still nothing.

She frowned, "it's urgent..." she pressed. Then she heard a wisp sound and turned to see the goddess standing with a smile on her face.

Aphrodite grinned then came to hug her little blonde friend. "Gabrielle!" she squealed and Gabrielle felt her breath weaken as the goddess crushed her in the embrace. "I haven't spoken to you in forever!"

"Yeah...I've been a little busy," she tapped her shoulder. "I can't breathe..." she pleaded and Aphrodite pulled away seeing her friend's labored breathing was quite amusing.

The goddess still had that goofy grin on her face which always made Gabrielle uneasy. "Where's Evie?" she folded her arms. "I have been looking for an excuse to come visit her," she smugly smiled and Gabrielle sighed, knowing exactly what she was thinking. "I heard my baby is having a baby," she clamped her hands together and couldn't contain her excitement anymore.

Gabrielle softly smiled nodding her head. "Yes, there's that but Aphrodite –"

"And with that Persian cutie Samuel too. I knew they would get together," she sat down and began twirling her hair.

"Uh huh, I have no doubt. Listen Aphrodite I need to talk to you about something –"

She was interrupted yet again. "They grow up so fast don't they Gabrielle? I mean I feel like I just saw Eve as a baby and now this!" she exhaled heavily feeling so old at the moment even though she was immortal, she liked very few mortals and Eve was special to her.

"Aphrodite!" Gabrielle yelled and finally caught the goddess' attention.

"Well jeez Gabrielle, what's the matter with you?" she scoffed.

Gabrielle pinched the bridge of her nose feeling her temper getting the best of her. She didn't have time to listen to the goddess' tangents about Eve and babies at the moment. There would be time for that later. "A lot of things," she mumbled. "Anyway, I need your help. You remember the elixir that Ares got from Erato awhile ago?"

Aphrodite nodded listening to her blonde friend. "Yeah what about it? I know Xena used the entire thing on herself. Ares lost his godhood as did I for awhile because of it."

That was interesting that she was affected too, Gabrielle noted. "Well you see, I have a problem. Xena is having some weird side effect from the elixir. She is basically paralyzed on one half of her body! I don't know what to do." She saw the goddess' eyes widen in shock. "I was wondering if you knew more about the elixir and you could possibly help me..." she pleaded. Aphrodite tapped her fingers on her knee and Gabrielle sighed. "Please Aphrodite, I can't ask Ares to help me he –"

"Ares?!" Aphrodite stuck her tongue out at the sound of her brother's name. "Why in Gaia's name would you ask him for help?" she cringed in disgust. "He's been getting on my nerves lately with this war going on. I figured Xena was involved," she rolled her eyes. "You'd think he would finally give up on her, amIright?" she chuckled then saw Gabrielle was not in a joking mood. "Alright Gabrielle," she cleared her throat then stood up to talk to her. "I know more about the elixir than Ares does. After all I am good friends with Erato. You can't trust those muses you know," she smiled.

Gabrielle was at a loss for words. "What do we do?"

Aphrodite quirked her mouth to the side, "well first off, Xena isn't really Xena anymore...if that makes sense," she raised her eyebrow hoping Gabrielle would get the gist. "She's different now," she explained further and Gabrielle listened intently. "You see Gabrielle, she used the elixir with greed in mind at first. Then later she used it selflessly to save you and Eve. Eris is too stupid to understand the effects of the elixir. Xena should have killed her when she had the chance."

Gabrielle stopped her right there. "Wait a minute. She could have killed Eris? How? Isn't she a god?" she questioned feeling very confused all of a sudden.

Aphrodite nodded her head, "right she is, but Xena technically...can kill gods right now which is probably what all the commotion was up on Mount Olympus the other day..." she frowned now realizing how ignorant she truly was and was too involved with herself to realize the chaos down below on earth.

"So let me get this straight. Xena can kill gods as of right now?" she wanted to clarify and the goddess nodded her head. "But Ares said that because of the war that her condition will worsen as the war progresses..."

Aphrodite erupted in laughter and Gabrielle blinked, shocked at her reaction. "Ares is dumb, Gabrielle! He's scared of Xena! The war has nothing to do with what happened to Xena," she grinned and that took some weight off of Gabrielle's shoulders.

"Thank the gods," she breathed out feeling like the brick on her chest had been lifted. "But that still doesn't explain the weird rash on her body or the paralysis..." she frowned, not getting anywhere just yet.

The goddess nodded seeing Gabrielle's point. "The elixir feeds off emotions of the person. It seems that Xena has some inner issues to resolve before she can fully accept herself."

All of this god/immortal stuff was really complicated. Gabrielle felt her head begin to throb from it all. But then the question came to her. What could Xena be so conflicted with even after all these years? Was she dissatisfied with her empire? Her family? The way her life was? Gabrielle couldn't understand what else Xena could feel angst over after everything she went through even when she was younger. Xena had talked about her past with Gabrielle on several occasions but there must be something still bothering her.

"What left is there to resolve?" Gabrielle truly didn't understand at all. Even now Xena was a mystery to her.

Aphrodite shrugged her shoulders. "Don't know Gabrielle, but whatever it is Xena can't get passed it. I don't think you can fix that for her," she tisked. "Sorry."

"So what you're telling me is that this is all up to Xena? Only she can fix this problem?" Gabrielle asked quite concerned.

The goddess nodded. "Correct." She saw the puzzled look in her eyes. "Cheer up kid," she nudged Gabrielle in her arm and the short blonde grinned at the goddess. "Everything always works out in the end, right?" she winked. Gabrielle could agree to that. Somehow through all the chaos everything eventually worked out in the end despite a few bumps in the road. "Oh by the way Eris has had her eye on Eve since she found out about the baby," she frowned. "I will make sure she doesn't come near her. I've been neglecting Eve," she sighed.

Gabrielle didn't need to hear that. Perhaps the goddess should have kept that to herself. That was one more thing to worry about. "She's not going to hurt her is she?" she frowned.

Aphrodite sensed some motherly instincts shine in Gabrielle and smiled. "Of course not Gabby, but you should know Eve's baby is special," she winked.

"What does that mean?" Gabrielle didn't like the sound of that at all.

The goddess grinned then kissed Gabrielle on the cheek. "Eve is a special girl, Gabrielle." She then disappeared leaving Gabrielle very confused, more than she was before she spoke with her.

She slapped her forehead thinking what a mess this all was, but she had to remain calm. Someone had to. Even though she talked to Aphrodite she answered some much needed questions but now the real answer was Xena. Xena was the problem of her problems –what an oxymoron, she thought.

Eve had crept into her mother's room without her consent of course and against Gabrielle's wishes. She closed the door behind her and could hear her mother shifting in her bed. She rounded the corner to see her mother in bed and she grinned waving at her. Xena sighed, barely able to move, she couldn't exactly tell her daughter to leave now.

"I came up here on my own will so don't get mad at Gabrielle," she immediately stated and smiled. Xena didn't say anything instead she just stared at her. Eve came to the side of the bed and sat down looking at her mother. She had some strange rash on her neck and arm. She cringed just looking at it, it seemed painful but she didn't want to ask. She had seen a lot of strange things happen to her mother over the year and this didn't seem too surprising.

Xena reached for Eve's hand tapping her fingers trying to get a grip on her hand. "How do you feel?" she said in a hoarse voice.

Eve grinned weakly, "I'm fine but I was worried about you. How do you feel, mother?" she looked into her blue eyes and they were calm yet pained she could tell.

"Not too bad," Xena winked and her daughter smiled, amused at her everlasting light mood in the darkest times was something truly admirable and sought after by most.

"Mother I don't know how you get yourself into these situations honestly," Eve scooted closer to her and Xena had no response. "One day you will have peace, I'll make sure of it."

Xena didn't really like the sound of that. She heard some determination in Eve's words. "I guess I am just unlucky," she said with a sly smile. She sat up straighter, leaning against the headboard and Eve sat patiently staring at her. "I wish you would stop looking at me like that."

Eve sighed, "sorry. I just wish I could help you but I can't," she then began thinking of a plan, a very good plan. "Or maybe I can..." she tapped her chin and Xena frowned, unsure what she meant by that. Eve leaned in and kissed her mother's cheek. "I have to go, but I will come see you later mother." She grinned hopping off the bed to run to the door.

Xena leaned forward, "Eve!" she called out and her daughter turned around. "Don't do something foolish." She said softly, her voice filled with concern for her daughter.

Eve grinned, "don't worry mother. I know what I'm doing." She then quickly left the bedroom to find Gabrielle and Samuel. Xena groaned and hit her head against the headboard. She didn't even want to know what Eve had planned in that little devious mind of hers.

Eve ran down the stairs and saw Gabrielle waltzing through the hallway appearing to be less stressed than when she saw her earlier. "Gabrielle!" she ran to her and Gabrielle smiled seeing her grinning face coming towards her. Eve truly had a gorgeous aura about her. She was definitely special just as Aphrodite said. She stopped and saw Gabrielle was just staring at her and she nervously chuckled. "Why are you staring at me like that?"

Gabrielle shook her head, "no reason. I've just realized what a beautiful young lady you have come to be," she grinned making Eve blush.

"You sound like mother lately. I wish she'd stop fussing over me," she sighed but then she also just came from seeing her mother and she wasn't exactly looking too good.

"Allow her to fuss over you Eve. She's the only mother you have," Gabrielle said softly.

Eve grinned, "no she's not. I have two mothers. I wouldn't be the person I am today without you Gabrielle."

Listening to those kind words made Gabrielle warm inside. She had always thought Eve was like her own daughter as much as she was Xena's, but hardly ever thought anyone recognized that.

"I came to find you," Eve took Gabrielle's hand into her own then looked around with a frown. "Where is Samuel?"

"Right here," he appeared and smiled warmly at both women. Gabrielle had realized she had been rather curt with him earlier because of the situation. She hoped he wouldn't be offended. Eve's face lit up as soon as she saw him and Gabrielle smirked, feeling awkward standing here. "What a coincidence. I was looking for the both of you!" he grinned.

Gabrielle turned to him, "I'm sorry about earlier Samuel. I had something on my mind. You mentioned you wanted to tell me something...?"

Eve frowned, "is something wrong? I want to know too," she eagerly said.

Samuel looked to his fiancée with a worried expression. "It's about the campaign," he said and it was dead silent and Eve blinked.

"I want to help," she said instantly and both Gabrielle and Samuel looked surprised.

The blonde shook her head, "nope. No way." She waved her hands, "I understand your desire to help Eve but your mother would probably kill me, literally." She said firmly.

Samuel nodded, "I have to agree with Gabrielle on that. Your mother may like me, but she'd probably kill me too." He took Eve's hand squeezing it tightly, "I told your mother that I would protect you."

Eve frowned feeling insulted. "I don't need your protection!" she snapped back. She turned to Gabrielle, "I want to take my mother's place as overseer of the campaign until she...recovers," she lifted her chin folding her arms defiantly.

Gabrielle groaned not feeling like she wanted to argue with the princess. She was so obstinate sometimes and that was definitely a trait she got from Xena. "Eve...that's not going to happen."

"Gabrielle, I won't get in the way I promise," she begged.

"That's what Xena said in the first war with Octavius and Phraates when she was pregnant with you," Gabrielle frowned and Samuel blinked.

"She went to war while she was pregnant?" his voice filled with shock. "God in heaven," he mumbled to himself. He was now seeing that Xena was crazy or perhaps his father's stories were true about the empress. He remembered that war, he was very young, but his father was away a lot and he was with his mother during that time.

Eve huffed, "that's not the point, Gabrielle. I won't go in the battlefield but I want to be a part of this. My mother doesn't have to know."

Gabrielle sighed, "you know I'm going to have to tell her eventually. She'll figure it out."

"I'll tell her myself," Eve protested.

Samuel's eyes widened, "do you wish to give your mother a heart attack, Eve?" he raised his eyebrows in fear for her. He could only imagine what Xena would say to this proposal. "The warzone is not for you, Eve, not now." He shook his head.

Eve folded her arms feeling like she was working against these two. "By royal decree if the empress is not fit to perform her duties then the next in line would be me. I can take her place. It's a written law," she smiled slyly, "a law that you wrote, Gabrielle." Her eyes sparkled.

Samuel began to wonder how "unavailable" Xena really was now since Eve wanted to take her place. He didn't want to pry so he remained quiet. Gabrielle on the other hand looked absolutely furious and displaced. He felt the tension between the two women rising as his eyes danced back and forth at them both.

It looked like Eve had caught Gabrielle in her own game using the law on her side.

Chapter Text

AN: Xena must remind herself that she is a mother before an empress. Enjoy ;)

Chapter 18

"King suicide you won't wither on your throne. Let it be known tonight I am out for blood, call the bluff on your heart ,I the queen take the lead and foresee stakes decline 'cause the wild card the game on her way ready to crush and scorn"


Octavius sat in his headquarters going over some documents and had just received word from his officials in Anatolia, Carthage and Assyria. Opening the letter he read through it and immediately became irate. He yelled then threw all the parchments on his desk onto the ground then smashed a vase onto the floor. Breathing heavily his guards opened the doors to see what the commotion was. They blinked at their emperor who appeared to be very irritated and angry over something.

" everything alright?" one of the young guards asked.

The hot headed emperor let out a loud cry then huffed, rubbing his face. He plopped down into his chair and tapped his fingers on the armrest. "She has got to go." He said defiantly. He slammed his fist on the desk and groaned. "Why doesn't she just die already! The woman is a cockroach!" he furrowed his brows and his guards remained utterly confused at his sudden outbursts.

His scribe walked in to see his master a bit flustered and quite angered. He figured he had seen the letter by now and that was the reason for his foul mood. "Sir, Xena's ships are docked at each of our territories."

Octavius gritted his teeth. "I'm aware..." he mumbled angrily. He sighed staring up at his terrified scribe. "How does she have enough of men and ships to surround me like this!" he demanded an answer.

The scribe cleared his throat, lowering his gaze. "It appears that Xena has allied with the Persian King, sir. He is aiding in the war effort."

The emperor began laughing, "does she really want to go down that road again?" he chuckled some more then ran his hand over his face calming his nerves. "How could she entice that Persian to join her? She is old enough to be his mother!" he smiled just thinking of it all. "So we are war with not just Xena and her Greek empire but the Persians too..." he rubbed his chin pensively in deep thought. "I will make note of that." He shook his head at the thought of it all. Persians and Greeks –a team once again, surely to fail in the end like it did before. "The young king forgets that she is the snake that killed his father," he sighed spinning a paperweight on his desk mindlessly. "Interesting." He clicked his tongue against his cheek. "Xena is about to repeat history once again. Fifteen years later and she is still trying to get rid of me," he chuckled, "well," his eyes widened, "that's not going to happen."

He pointed to his scribe and told the guards to close the doors for privacy. Octavius stood up and walked around to the front of his desk folding his arms arrogantly. "I want you to send a message to Xena." The scribe sat down at the emperor's desk and dipped the quill into the ink, ready to begin writing. Octavius paced around the room slowly thinking of the best words for the Greek Empress.

"Empress," he began, "I wish to engage in a meeting with you in Rome so we may discuss...a deal," he grinned and the scribe rapidly wrote down everything he said from then on out.

Xena wished to be alone for the next couple of days, she didn't even wish to see Gabrielle. Staying in her bed she realized how useless and worthless she felt at this moment. Opening her eyes to the bright sun shining in her room she wished she could get up and close the curtains and remain in the darkness. She groaned and sat up in bed. Looking down at her left arm she noticed the strange rash had not disappeared. She wiggled her fingers and she smirked, finally getting some feeling back in her hand.

She swung her body to the side of the bed, lifting her left leg to the edge of the bed. She pulled her arm close to her and looked around to see if she could use something to help her stand up. Her sword she saw was on the table near her bed. It was so close but to her it was so far. Sighing she stood up allowing her entire weight to lean to her right, she hobbled over to the table and grabbed her sword. Her chakram was hanging up on the wall next to her armor. Frowning she used the sword as her cane for now, which she didn't like. It was dulling the blade as she dug it into the floor.

Slowly crutching over to her vanity she sat down and looked in front of her mirror, wrapping the robe around her body tightly. She pulled the sash tightly around her slender waist. Staring at herself she touched her neck and exposed her shoulder to see the damage that had been done. She cringed just looking at herself.

Touching her hair she saw the silvery white streak still present, a very thick streak making it so noticeable. Staring at her reflection she wanted to chastise herself. She was falling apart from within and it was coming out to show her true demise. Her eyes were a dull blue, not vibrant as they usually were. Leaning in closer to the mirror she narrowed her eyes as she glared at her reflection. She almost expected her reflection to say something to her, of how stupid she could be, but she pulled away.

She began to dig in the drawer to find an herb to put on her skin. Gabrielle had brought it to her the night before and it had helped the stinging sensation some but it just was a strange pain, not a curable one, Xena knew that. She knew this was not an injury that could be fixed by herbs, but just to alleviate some of Gabrielle's concerns she used the herbal mixture anyway.

Groaning she kept looking for the mixture in her drawer and she heard a tapping noise. Lifting her head she scanned the room but saw nobody in her room. Raising an eyebrow she thought it must have been a bird near her window, she looked down in the drawer trying to find the bowl of herbs.

A few moments later she heard tapping again and she looked up and curiously looked into the mirror, but saw her same old reflection staring back at her. She snapped her head around and expected someone to be standing behind her but there was nothing. Somehow she felt like someone was watching her and she didn't know what or who it was.

A breathy exhale was heard and Xena now felt like someone was definitely in her room. She picked her sword up and wished she could move her body as she could before. It would make self defense a lot easier. The subtle whisper came closer to her ear and she turned, suspicious she wanted to ask who was in her room, but felt that would be awkward, especially if nobody was in there with her.

Xena looked at the mirror and leaned in closely, finally finding the herbal mixture that was hiding in the back of the drawer. She spread it on her neck and shoulder, blending it into her skin. She winced at the painful touch of her fingertips grazing her skin. As soon as she was finished she air dried her shoulder and set the bowl back into the drawer.

"Xena..." the whispering eerie voice came back and Xena looked around. She felt like she was going a bit insane. Were the voices real or were they all in her head? She couldn't make out for sure but being cooped up in her room for a couple of days probably wasn't helping. One thing she knew for sure was her sanity. Sure she acted crazy sometimes but she wasn't crazy in the head, she knew that, despite what some people might say.

The tapping noise came back and she turned to look at the mirror. The tapping noise coming from the mirror. Now she was questioning her sanity. She reached forward and touched the mirror but it was just a piece of glass, just as she thought. Frowning she grabbed the sword to hoist herself up she heard her name being whispered again and she turned back to the mirror at the vanity but nobody was there.

Feeling an eerie presence near her she heard a knock come to her door and she jumped back, a bit startled. Gabrielle came into the room and she smiled at her softly, rubbing her forehead nervously.

Gabrielle closed the door and was holding a dress in her arms. "Xena, you're up..." she raised an eyebrow, "that's good to see. How are you feeling?"

Xena waved her off, "fine, I'm fine. Gabrielle," she looked around and came up to her, "did anyone come up to my room this morning?"

The blonde frowned. She gave specific instructions not to let anyone come near Xena's bedroom unless it was a dire emergency. "No Xena. Nobody has been up here." She saw the strange look in her blue eyes and suddenly felt like Xena wasn't admitting something. "Why do you ask?"

Xena turned and still felt the weird presence in her room and it definitely wasn't Gabrielle. "I guess I am just crazy," she smirked.

Gabrielle smirked, not thinking anything of it. Xena noticed the gown in her arms and she pointed her head at it. "What's that you have?" Xena asked.

"It's for you!" Gabrielle showed the dress to her friend and Xena smiled at her. "I decided to go into the city yesterday and saw this and thought you might like it..." she saw Xena's bright smile. The gown was a dark maroon, not similar to her other gowns, simple but yet beautiful at the same time. Donned with a black sash and flowing sleeves.

"You didn't have to do that Gabrielle, although I will gladly take the dress..." she smiled smugly, "it is quite beautiful."

"You look good in anything," Gabrielle winked and Xena touched the dress, almost instantly feeling better that someone cared about her even when she was at her worst and that person would always be Gabrielle. She felt some feeling come back in her arm and she moved her wrist slowly.

Gabrielle noticed Xena moving her hand and her fingers slowly. "You can move your hand! That is great," she grinned anxiously. She had yet to tell Xena what Aphrodite told her. She wanted to see if Xena's condition would resolve itself since Xena was the only one that could fix herself, even though Gabrielle had no idea what was going on in that mind of hers. Whatever it was, it was still bothering Xena and affected her so much that it came out into the open. Her true colors coming forth, Gabrielle presumed. Xena had a dark side to her yes, but Gabrielle thought she had gotten rid of that. She didn't want Xena to succumb to that side of herself again, but as the years went by she still saw some of that side come out in her especially if trouble arose. Her dark side would probably never leave her and somehow Gabrielle thought Xena would be lost without it. she needed both halves to make her whole. Right now, she was falling apart inside and had no idea how to help her. But Aphrodite said only Xena can help herself, whatever that meant.

Xena took the dress off her hands and wanted to change into immediately. She didn't want to sit in bed all day and if she had to then at least she would do it wearing something special. "Any news from Octavius?" she said as she was behind a screen slowly changing into the gown. She felt her arm gain movement again and she smiled.

Gabrielle sat on her bed waiting patiently. "No not yet. If I receive news I'll make sure you're the first to know," she called out.

"And how is Eve?" she asked in a soft voice. She hadn't returned to her room like she said would a couple of days ago. She knew she was probably busy but she hoped while she was out of commission at the moment, that Samuel would be working with Gabrielle.

The blonde rolled her eyes. She hadn't told Xena about her daughter's brilliant idea to be a stand in empress. So far Samuel and Eve were going over tactical battle plans if the Romans planned to attack Greece. Gabrielle hated to admit it but Eve was very good at strategic battlefield planning. She had an idea for every side of the Mediterranean if they were attacked. It seemed that on her missions in Qin that she had picked up a few tricks along the way.

"She's feeling a lot better now," Gabrielle answered as she slapped her forehead thinking of how to tell Xena, but she definitely wasn't going to spoil her good mood now.

Xena frowned behind the screen, "she was ill?" she poked her head out and saw Gabrielle with a blank face.

The blonde grinned, "well she was, yesterday." She saw the concern in Xena's eyes. "She has discovered that fish is not her friend," she smirked.

The empress grinned and finished putting on the dress finally. She tied the sash around her waist. "She is going to find out a lot of foods will become her enemies soon," she stepped out and brushed the dress down with her free hand. Gabrielle stood up and her eyes blinked, seeing the dress on Xena was even more beautiful than she imagined. She knew she had picked the right one yesterday.

"Wow," Gabrielle was speechless. "I knew I made the right choice," she folded her arms and felt quite proud of herself. Xena hobbled over to the full length mirror and turned to the side admiring the new gown.

"You should pick out my clothes from now on Gabrielle," Xena teased. She looked to her and kissed Gabrielle's cheek. "Thank you," she looked to her skin in the mirror and the rash had somewhat disappeared on her neck which was a good sign. She couldn't explain that but she wasn't going to question it.

A knock came to the door and Gabrielle turned to the door. She rushed to it and opened the door to see one of Xena's soldiers. He bowed his head to her, feeling rather intrusive that he was just a few feet away from Xena. "Gabrielle," he said firmly and saw the empress staring into the mirror, completely ignoring his presence. He stammered, "the Princess is asking for you."

Xena heard the young man and she turned her head now her full attention on him. Gabrielle nodded, "I'll be there," she whispered. Turning to Xena she smiled, "Eve is asking for me."

The empress nodded, "I heard. Is something wrong?" she desperately wanted to go downstairs to see for herself but she knew Gabrielle would protest.

She shrugged, "who knows. I'm sure it's nothing. Let me handle her and I'll be back later?" she turned to leave.

"I will come join you all later. I want to get out of this room, it's driving me nuts. Literally," she smiled and Gabrielle nodded, feeling a bit nervous about that. She closed the door and Xena continued to look at her reflection and ran her fingers through her long locks. She took a step closer to fix the V-neck collar of the dress and the longer she stared at herself she felt her reflection staring back at her.

She looked into her eyes and then saw her reflection wink at her. She blinked and stepped back, unsure if her mind was playing tricks on her or not. She waved her hand and the reflection was normal. She moved away from the mirror then came back to see her reflection. Placing her hand on the glass she tapped on it. "That's it, I'm going crazy," she whispered to herself.

Grabbing her brush she quickly ran it through her hair and looked at herself one last time in the mirror to make sure she appeared presentable enough. She smiled admiring the gown Gabrielle got for her. She grabbed her sword and cloak, wrapping it around her. She opened the door taking in a deep breath she felt somewhat apprehensive about leaving her room. She had been stuck in there for a few days and it was enough to make her seem like she was going crazy. She wouldn't allow that to happen.

Closing the door behind her the same tapping noise came back. Within the mirror Xena's reflection tapped on the glass and she frowned, pressing her hands on the glass, feeling trapped and suffocated inside the mirror. The mirror image hit the glass and clenched her teeth, wishing to be free from her hold. Letting out a loud groan she hit the glass once more and realized she was forever going to be trapped in this world unless someone let her out –that person being Xena, of course.

Gabrielle walked into Xena's office and it was so strange to see Eve standing there looking over maps and documents instead of her mother. "You wanted to see me?" she interrupted and Eve looked up to see Gabrielle and she nodded, gesturing to her to close the doors.

"We have a problem," Eve said seriously. She pulled out a letter and it had already been opened. She presented it to her. Gabrielle walked forward cautiously taking the letter from the princess. "The Romans have Allat and Solan captured in Assyria. I fear they will be killed unless we do something."

Gabrielle read over the letter and covered her mouth, shaking her head. "By the gods," she whispered. "Eve, your mother has to know about this," she set the letter down back onto the desk.

Eve frowned, "no I don't want her to worry. If she finds out Solan is in trouble she'll want to go there and chop some heads off," she shook her head, "no we will handle this a different way." She circled a few spots on the map of Assyria she had. She pointed to the mountains, "we can have our men attack them through the mountains. The Romans would never suspect an attack from there."

"That seems risky...but it could work." She groaned. What am I thinking?! She chastised herself. "Okay no, just no Eve. Xena has to know about this. If she finds out about this too late then she will go berserk."

The princess folded her arms, "I have more news," she pulled out another letter and handed it to Gabrielle. "Octavius wants to see mother in Rome as soon as possible."

This certainly wasn't good news at all. Gabrielle had just seen Xena and she was starting to recover, now this pops up. She knew it was coming but she didn't know when that would be. It was too soon and Xena was dealing with too much right now. She really did appreciate Eve stepping up to help but if Xena ever found out she let Eve do this, she will surely have a royal fit, quite literally.

"Well, she can't go...not right now," Gabrielle sighed and set the letter down. She sat down in the chair and tapped her cheek thinking of a better solution.

Eve came to Gabrielle and knelt down in front of her. "Let me go see Octavius in mother's place. I'm just as good of a face as she is. He will take me seriously."

Gabrielle looked into Eve's promising blue eyes then began to laugh, throwing the princess for a loop. "Take you seriously? Eve...he doesn't even know what you look like! He will not take you seriously even if you say you're Xena's daughter. In fact, he definitely won't. he doesn't even take Xena seriously and it's been how many years?" she shook her head.

The princess stood up folding her arms, "you have any better ideas then?" she retorted, feeling a bit insulted.

Xena finally made it down the stairs after what seemed like a lifetime. She hadn't felt so slow in her life until now. She saw Samuel notice her and he smiled making his way to her. He extended his hand for her and she took a glance at it then kindly grabbed his hand, feeling as if her pride was drifting away from her. She needed to recognize when she needed help as Gabrielle told her countless times over and over again for many years.

"Xena, I see you are feeling better," the kind young king smiled. Xena nodded her head and stepped off the last step tightly grabbing the young man's hand. He raised an eyebrow but refrained from saying anything.

"Thank you Samuel," she said in a rather hushed voice. It wasn't often that she had others help her especially men. She really did come to like Samuel, he was very kind and smart. He was very tactical when it came to war strategy. It was hard to believe that he was Phraates' son. "I hope Eve has not been demanding," she half rolled her eyes.

The Persian grinned, "I learn when to stay out of her way. She is very persistent in getting what she wants when she wants it."

"Don't I know it," Xena looked around, "where is she anyway?" she turned to the king as they walked together.

Samuel wasn't sure how to answer that. He was sure Xena didn't know about Eve and her plans. "I don't know. We were in my room and –" he saw Xena give him a subtle glare and he cleared his throat changing topics, "she left in a hurry," he saved himself with an awkward grin. Xena smirked at him. Truthfully, she liked to make him feel uncomfortable at times just for her own amusement.

"Well I'm sure she hasn't gone far. This palace isn't that big," she continued to walk.

Samuel blinked. Not that big? Is she blind? He sighed and walked alongside her remaining silent. He felt a bit nervous being so close to her. Sure, he had gotten used to being around her but that was different. They were allies working together against their opponent. But when it was just Samuel and Xena, not Empress and King, it was awkward for him. She was more than just an ally to him which could complicate things.

"Xena, may I ask you something?" he was feeling brave. Xena turned her head to him and nodded silently. He breathed in slowly and nervously spoke with his hands. "I would like it if my family could come here for the wedding." Xena didn't think that was a problem at all. He had more. "Also I want to invite my mother. She's been on sabbatical for awhile now in Baghdad. I haven't seen her in years."

Xena could tell that Samuel really longed and missed his mother. She figured it was refreshing to be around a family. She could empathize with that. "It sounds like you miss your mother," she grinned.

Samuel nodded his head profusely. "Yes I do. My mother would love Eve and will be very excited to know that she will be a grandmother for the sixth time..." he exhaled deeply. His elder brother had five girls and his other brother had yet to marry. He was too wild and flamboyant to marry just one girl. No he wanted all the women, all at the same time.

"Sixth time huh?" Xena grinned, feeling that she was a bit behind. "Have you not contacted your mother?"

He shook his head, "she wanted to be left alone. She said she was trying to find inner peace," he shrugged. "You must understand something Xena," he touched her shoulder and she looked at his hand unsurely. "My father had many wives. My brothers are not from my mother, but two other women. My mother is the oldest out of them all, though she had me years later my brothers were born. She was my father's only wife for a long time. She was dare I say..happy or rather relieved that you killed him. She was tired of his tyranny and mistreatment of her." He sighed. "I am sure she would love it here. She was raised in Corinth and some time in Athens before she moved to Persia."

Xena felt like the boy was asking for help and it a very regal way, it was almost pitiful to her. "Should I send someone to find your mother in Baghdad? I am sure she would not refuse an invitation from the Empress of Greece," she slyly smiled.

Samuel's smile brightened up his entire face. "Well you don't have to do that but it would certainly get her attention instead of me sending a message."

"I will send someone as soon as I get around to it," she walked slowly and Samuel lend his hand to her. She sighed then took his hand graciously, feeling a bit embarrassed that she needed help especially from him.

After some time Xena and Samuel made it to her office and the doors were opened. Xena frowned as soon as she saw Eve sitting at her desk with Gabrielle behind her. They seemed to be writing a letter of some sorts. She sauntered in and waved her hand to the guards to close the doors.

Samuel stepped in behind Xena and looked fearful for Eve. Xena stepped forward and Eve stood up, looking into those icy blue eyes.

"Eve..." Xena said calmly, "what are you doing at my desk?"

The princess nervously brushed her hands down her dress and Gabrielle looked away, not daring to face Xena. "Gabrielle and I...were just writing a letter."

Xena nodded, "I see that, but why?" she turned to the blonde. "Gabrielle?" she wanted an explanation.

"A letter to Octavius, Xena," Gabrielle finally said. Xena walked toward her desk. She was not expecting her to come in here especially so soon.

Xena snatched the parchment off the desk and began reading it. Her eyes widened and Eve never felt so scared in her life. Suddenly she was feeling ill. She stepped away from the desk in fear of her mother. Xena crinkled the parchment in her hand and she threw it onto the floor. "What is going on in here?" her voice rose as did her temper. "Writing letters without my permission?"

Eve shook her head, "no mother, I was trying to help you."

"Who asked you to help?" Xena growled. Gabrielle folded her arms, fully expecting a reaction like this. Samuel backed away to the doors. Eve looked to him then to her mother's irate face. "I thought I told you that if anything important came up that I was to be told," she snapped her head to Gabrielle.

The blonde frowned, "I was going to tell you Xena. The letter just arrived today. I always write letters for you," she snapped back. Xena nodded her head.

The empress pointed to her daughter, "and you! You are not authorized to..." she saw the fear in her daughter's eyes and realized she had switched to empress mode and had forgotten that she was her daughter for a moment. Her eyes softened and she sighed resting her hand on her hip. "Just leave please," she said nicely. Eve lowered her eyes and brushed passed her mother, she touched her arm and Xena averted her gaze.

"Mother..." Eve whispered and Xena turned her head away from her. Eve's shoulder touched hers as she walked by and went to Samuel. They left the room and Xena rubbed her forehead, feeling her temper getting the best of her.

She turned to Gabrielle, "you allowed her to take my place as empress?" she frowned.

Gabrielle sighed, "Xena I didn't allow her to do anything. You know how she is!"

"Oh I know, but you could have told her no. You knew that I wouldn't be stuck in that room forever. Eve is not to be exposed to this war like I was so many times before." She folded her arms and pursed her lips.

"She was trying to help Xena. You are too harsh on her sometimes," Gabrielle's voice softened. Xena looked into her eyes with a knowing yet blank face. "You are. She may be your daughter but she's not a child anymore. I think she is more than capable of leading an army." Xena's eyes widened at these words. She was defending this awful idea. "She had great ideas for an attack plan in Assyria." She pulled out the maps and pointed to the areas that Eve circled.

Xena stepped forward examining the map. She still didn't like that the two went behind her back, but she couldn't deny that she was impressed. Gabrielle then pulled out the two letters that they received, one about the meeting with Octavius and the one of Allat and Solan.

"And these came today. Eve read them already." She knew Xena would not bother to read them. "The Romans captured Allat and Solan. It seems they rebelled against them. Eve believes the Romans will kill them if we don't attack."

Xena's eyes widened and suddenly her heart dropped. She didn't want her son to die, he had done so well in his life as a warrior, of course against her wishes, she couldn't stop him. He was too old to be bossed around by his mother, but she still had Eve and would keep her close.

Suddenly she felt like she had just made a really terrible mistake. "I need to find Eve," she turned slowly and winced as her leg tightened. The pain had come back though she was able to walk steadily for now. Gabrielle watched her make her way to the door and felt sorry for her.

"What are you going to tell her?" Gabrielle curiously asked.

Xena stopped before she opened the doors. "I'm going to...apologize."

Gabrielle smirked, seeing that Xena had forgotten she was a mother first to Eve before a ruler. It was a rare sight to see an apology come from Xena's mouth but whenever she did apologize, she was very sincere.

Xena exited the room and entered the grand hallway. She could think of a few places Eve would be. Either her room, the library or she was off somewhere with Samuel. Although seeing as though Samuel was camping out in the hallway alone it seemed that option was out the door.

She walked up to him and he straightened as soon as he saw her. "Where is Eve?" she asked. The young king felt a bit fearful to speak to her and she sighed. "Just tell me where she is..." she pleaded.

"She's in the atrium outside. I tried to go with her but she said she wanted to be alone," he shrugged. Xena nodded, thinking that was quite odd that she would be there. She didn't usually sulk in that place. She made her way outside as Samuel watched her leave he let out a sigh of relief.

Eve sat on a bench as she sharpened a blade keeping her mind off of the situation. Xena walked outside slowly and saw her daughter sitting by herself in the middle of the atrium. She walked towards her and stood in front of her. Eve saw her mother's dress and looked up to her and Xena stared down at her.

"May I sit with you?" Xena asked and Eve scooted over on the bench. Xena sat down beside her and looked around at the beautiful flowers that had just bloomed. Summer was always nice here despite it being so hot in the afternoons. Eve continued sharpening the blade until Xena placed her hand over the sword. Xena slowly grabbed the blade and set it aside by her hip and Eve suddenly felt awkward, holding a stone in her hand. She didn't want to look at her mother, feeling embarrassed.

"Eve, I want to...apologize to you," she said and Eve lifted her head, shocked at her mother. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you like that."

Eve looked away still silent, not ready to respond.

Xena sighed definitely feeling the cold shoulder treatment. "Your plans are very good," she smiled and Eve looked at her with surprise. "Gabrielle showed me."

"You didn't even want to look at them or hear me out," Eve said quietly.

"I know you want to help Eve, but the thing is...I don't want you to. This feud I have with Octavius has nothing to do with you and I don't want you to get involved."

Eve frowned and stared into her mother's eyes. "This is my home too, you know. I care about the empire as much as you do. I should be allowed to help especially when you need it the most. Gabrielle was right," she huffed.

Xena was surprised to hear Gabrielle's name brought into this. "What did Gabrielle say?"

Eve frowned, furrowing her eyebrows. "She told me you don't like it when people help you because you let your pride get in the way. I see that is true now."

She didn't like to hear that. She always had heard Gabrielle say that to her for years, but never thought anything of it until now. Eve was obviously affected by her behavior and she hadn't realized what she was doing was affecting her so badly. Her eyes wandered around as she thought of everything she had said to Eve. She never complimented her on her good deeds, instead she yelled at her because she believed she was protecting her, but now she saw that it was a negative effect. Gabrielle was right, she was too harsh on Eve.

"Well," Xena said softly, "I don't know what to say," for once in her life. "I'm sorry I made you feel this way. I appreciate everything you do, Eve. Sometimes I don't show it, but –"

"Sometimes?" Eve snapped back.

Xena smiled, "okay, I don't show it at all." She grabbed Eve's hands holding them tightly, "I promise I will make sure you get the appreciation you deserve from now on." She saw Eve was thinking it over and Xena leaned down to look in her eyes. "You know I don't break my promises," she said and Eve nodded.

"I'm..sorry I didn't tell you about this earlier. Don't be angry with Gabrielle. It's not her fault, she tried to stop me," Eve admitted. Now that just made Xena feel even worse. She had reprimanded Gabrielle in the office about this situation. She would have to apologize to her as well, she thought.

"You should listen to Gabrielle more often," Xena teased and Eve finally smiled. She brought Eve closer to her and Eve rested her head on her shoulder. She kissed the top of Eve's head and wrapped her arm around her small frame. "You should rest," she said and Eve let out a loud sigh causing Xena to smirk.

"I am not tired," Eve protested.

Xena grinned at her stubborn daughter. "I promise you will need it later," she placed her hand on Eve's stomach and Eve placed her hand over hers.

Eve leaned up right and stared at her mother with fearful eyes. "Mother..." she began and she had Xena's full attention now. "I have..." Xena's eyes widened and her smile was warm.


"Ihavealotofquestions," she said quickly and Xena almost wanted to laugh seeing the fear in her daughter's eyes.

Gabrielle leaned on the archway and saw Xena sitting with Eve in the atrium. She figured the two had made up since Xena was smiling, almost laughing and Eve looked pretty afraid for some reason. She stood there shaking her head. Eve probably told Xena that she was worried or had "many questions" as Eve lightly put it as Gabrielle remembered.

"Xena," Gabrielle called out and got her attention immediately. "I need you for a moment," she smiled. Xena stood up bringing Eve along with her. She was clinging closely to her, which seemed unusual. Gabrielle grinned, "since you're up, I wanted to discuss the meeting with Octavius."

Xena turned to her daughter and Eve still had that doe-eyed look about her. She pat her daughter's hand, "after I am finished with this I will be there to answer all your questions, alright?" Eve nodded, liking the sound of that, it eased her nerves.

Gabrielle raised her hand, "Can I join? I have some stories to tell myself," she grinned deviously.

Eve seemed intrigued while Xena was not amused. "What kind of stories?" the princess asked.

"Never mind the stories," Xena waved her hand and Gabrielle pouted.

"Come on, Xena! I'm sure Eve would love to hear them..." she grinned and Xena rolled her eyes.

Eve smiled at her mother's face. She was obviously annoyed and walked off without them. Gabrielle hooked arms with Eve as they walked behind the empress. "I want to hear the stories," she grinned.

Xena groaned, "after this remember?" she reiterated.

Gabrielle nodded and pat Eve's cheek. "Right of course. Business first," she winked and Eve smiled. Xena then pulled on Gabrielle's arm to walk faster with her to the office. She nearly tripped and Eve shook her head.

Chapter Text

AN: some fluff before some bullshit happens. Enjoy lol.

Chapter 19

Xena had finally decided on a date to go see Octavius and had Gabrielle write the letter out for her choosing her words very carefully. She still had so much to do and would probably leave at the end of the month to see the emperor. That was the quickest she could see him and she hoped that he would understand, but it was quite a long journey to Rome and time was just not on her side lately. The two spent a few hours in the office going over tactics scanning over large maps of the Mediterranean.

Gabrielle sat in a chair in front of Xena's desk and placed an X over Anatolia and Assyria. She pointed to the areas and Xena folded her arms. "The Romans already have this area and our ships are there at the ports right now. We gave them specific orders not to attack, but it seems that in Assyria the men either didn't listen or were fighting in self defense." She sighed. "That's the only reason that I can think of that the Romans would capture Solan and Allat."

The empress nodded her head going over the various scenarios. She groaned, biting her bottom lip due to nervousness. "I want to send more men to Assyria to help Allat and Solan, but I don't think they will be of much help by then."

"We sent almost half of our men to these ports. You want to deploy more soldiers just to Assyria?" Gabrielle was questioning Xena's motives right now.

Xena shook her head unsure of what to do now. She rubbed her face feeling frustrated that she was so far away and couldn't help anyone. She knew that the other Roman ports in North Africa would not attack her ships because Octavius had poor generals in that area. But in Anatolia, Xena was unsure if they would attack. She wasn't even sure if they attacked already or not. Given the general that was stationed in Anatolia she was positive that her ships were going to be wrecked.

She threw her hands in the air, "I don't know what to do." She was more frustrated at herself for not having a backup plan.

Gabrielle sat in silence and flipped to the next map of Assyria alone. "Maybe Eve can help us. She is very good at strategic warfare, although I don't know how," she rubbed her chin. "She's only seen two wars when she was younger."

Xena waved her hand and smacked her other hand on the map standing up abruptly. "Those Roman rats need to disappear off this planet," she groaned and began pacing around her office. Gabrielle stood up and kept looking over the map. "Has Samuel put in any input about this problem?" she brushed her finger on the wall, finding a bit of dust. She raised an eyebrow at this and rubbed her fingers together continuing to walk around the room.

Gabrielle sighed, "I didn't get a chance to talk with him."

"I see." She turned to her blonde companion. "Before I forget, I want a messenger sent to Baghdad," the mention of the Persian king reminded her of her promise she made to him about sending a special invitation to his mother.

Gabrielle furrowed her brows, a bit confused as to why Xena wanted a message sent there. "What's in Baghdad?" she was almost afraid to ask.

Xena smiled, "the Queen of Persia," she said casually. Gabrielle blinked, now even more confused. She saw her face and wanted to laugh at her bemused expression. "Samuel's mother lives in Baghdad. He wants her to come here for the wedding. I promised I would send her an invitation for him."

Gabrielle nodded, still a little confused. She had almost forgotten about the wedding as it hadn't been the focus lately. "Right. The wedding," she sat back down feeling super overwhelmed, perhaps more than Xena was. She was so calm about that, of course it was her idea, but she didn't seem worried about it. "Xena, what are we going to do about that?" she felt a bit of angst just thinking about it.

"That's something we both need to discuss with Eve," she turned to see the sun was looming in the sky. It was mid afternoon and she had still yet to speak with her daughter like she promised. She never broke any of her promises and she wasn't going to start now. "Should we call it a day?" she smiled at Gabrielle. "For now at least."

Gabrielle nodded, quite thankful. "I thought you'd never say that. I'm so exhausted!" she stood up and linked arms with Xena. "Wars are tiring," they exited the room and Xena smirked at her friend. "We still need to figure out what to do about Allat and Solan. I don't want anything to happen to them."

"I have complete confidence in them both, but I guess that is also something we can discuss with...Eve," she sighed, finally relenting to allow some of her daughter's insight during this campaign.

The two entered the main hallway which was filled with classrooms. Gabrielle squeezed Xena's hand, "I'm going to find Eve to meet with us," she smiled.

"I will be in my room waiting," Xena grinned as Gabrielle ran off to find Eve. She looked up the long staircase and sighed. This was going to take awhile she thought. Taking gradual steps she climbed the never-ending stairs to her bedroom.

Greeting the guards outside her room she opened the doors and entered her room, feeling like this place was awfully dark. She went to the large open arched windows and pushed the thick curtains back, letting in some sunlight into the dark room. Turning around she saw her armor neatly placed on the wall with her chakram next to it. Her fingers grazed the armor and somehow wished she would never have to wear it again, though she was sure she would have to eventually.

Sighing she looked into the mirror to see if her skin had changed at all. Her neck was almost completely clear though her arm was not. Stepping closer to the mirror she tapped the glass just to make sure she wasn't completely insane. She smiled chuckling at herself. "My mind is playing tricks on me," she said aloud then turned around to fix the blankets on her bed.

Within the mirror Xena's reflection reached out beyond the glass and tugged on her dress. Xena gasped and turned around but saw nothing behind her. Frowning she began to walk around the room and picked up the chakram off the wall, walking steadily. She opened her wardrobe and pushed her gowns aside to see if anyone was hiding but again, she came up with nothing.

She scratched her neck feeling anxiety rising. She lowered the chakram and went back to her bed to finish rearranging the blankets. She didn't like for her bedroom of all places, to be messy especially if her daughter and Gabrielle were to come in here soon. She placed the chakram on the end of the bed and fixed the pillows.

A hand from behind slowly reached for the chakram and slid it off the bed. Xena saw out of the corner of her eye that her chakram was missing. She snapped her head around and her eyes widened at what stood before her. A mirror image of herself. Her eyes went to the mirror and saw her reflection was missing. The mirror image of herself covered Xena's mouth with her hand and smiled at her.

The reflection of Xena waved the chakram in front of Xena's face. "Don't make any sudden moves," she whispered and Xena blinked, refusing to fight back due to shock. "I've been watching you."

Xena raised an eyebrow and slapped the hand away from her mouth. "What are you?" her eyes kept glancing back at the empty mirror and back to the image of herself. Her eyes scanned the woman, she was wearing the same dress as her obviously. Truly a mirror image.

"I'm you of course!" the mirrored Xena said with a smile.

Xena laughed mockingly, "that's it. I'm losing my mind," she grumbled and rubbed her forehead feeling a bit warm all of a sudden.

The mirror image twirled the chakram in her hand leisurely and Xena frowned. She grabbed the chakram but both held onto it tightly. Xena groaned and tried to pry it away from the mirror image of herself. "You need this?" she teased and Xena head butted the image, and both stumbled back. Xena fell onto the bed and she moaned. Her head began to throb and the image huffed getting up off the floor.

"If this is one of Ares' dirty tricks I'm not going to fall for it," Xena pointed the chakram at the mirror image of herself.

The reflection grinned, "I'm not one of Ares' spies," she stepped closer and Xena stepped away, still unsure of this. "You need me Xena," she pleaded with a hand over her heart.

Xena shook her head, "I don't know what you are, but you're not me. You're not real."

"But I am real, Xena," she reached forward and touched Xena's face with her hand. Xena flinched almost as if she were being touched by a ghost. "I can help you...if you let me," she said in a soft voice.

Xena closed her eyes wishing that this thing in front of her would disappear but as soon as she opened her eyes she realized that it wasn't going away and was indeed real. "I don't need your help..." she retorted and the image frowned at her.

"Yes you do!" she yelled back and grabbed onto Xena's arm tightly. Xena almost felt like her arm was on fire and she cringed. "You never want anybody's help!" her grip tightened and Xena's eyes grew in fear as her entire arm was burning and that awful rash was coming back. "Let me help you!"

Xena growled, "I don't need help from strangers," she kicked the mirror image in her torso sending her to the floor. Xena groaned and wrapped her arm around her midsection, feeling winded. She soon came to realize that whatever pain she inflicted onto the image of herself, also was inflicted upon her. She breathed slowly, trying to ignore the pain both in her arm and stomach. She leaned over the bed trying to regain her composure.

The image looked up and saw Xena leaning over the bed. She smiled and crawled on the floor grabbing her ankles throwing Xena off balance, sending her face first onto the ground. She grabbed onto her legs climbing on top of her and Xena looked behind her to see the woman using her as a ladder basically.

"You should stop trying to run from your problems, Xena!" the mirror image said and flipped Xena over, now pinning her to the floor straddling her legs on Xena's hips. Xena blinked as she stared up at the perfect image of herself. It was quite frightening to look at yourself let alone the person pinning you down to the ground.

Xena frowned, "I don't run from my problems anymore," she said calmly.

"That's not what I've seen..." the image grinned deviously and Xena didn't understand. She nodded her head slowly, "oh yes I've been watching you like I've said. For many years now you lied to Gabrielle and you continue to lie to her!"

Xena shook her head, "no...I haven't lied to Gabrielle..." she began to think of all the things that she has said recently.

The image grinned and got inches away from Xena's face. "Now you're just lying to yourself..." she hissed. "You need me Xena. I can make you whole again!" her eyes filled with fury and Xena's eyes enlarged.

"I don't need help from you!" she growled.

The reflection laughed in Xena's face and sat up straight. "Look at you." Her laughter died down a bit. "You cannot even accept help from yourself. You're more at war with yourself than you are with your enemies." She frowned clenching her teeth. "When will you have peace, Xena?! When?" she yelled and Xena blinked. "You're so self centered that you forget about the ones who love you the most."

Xena was getting tired of listening to this. "That is not true," she disagreed.

The image leaned forward, "is that so?" she grinned raising a curious brow. "Your daughter is to be a mother soon and you have shown no compassion towards her," she leaned in closer to Xena's face. "Gabrielle has been your friend –your partner –for twenty years, yet you take her for granted." She saw the self realization in Xena's face. "She has always been by your side whenever you needed her. Have you done the same for...her?" her voice hissed and Xena lowered her eyes, unsure how to feel now.

"I would do anything for Gabrielle. I love her," Xena said as she stared into her own eyes from above.

The image quirked her mouth, "but have you told her?" she smirked.

Eve opened the door and saw her mother on the floor holding her chakram in one hand. "Mother..." she frowned. Xena lifted her head, now realizing she was alone, the reflection of herself had disappeared. Gabrielle was standing beside Eve looking equally confused. "What are you doing on the floor?" she ran to her side and grabbed her hand.

Xena got up off the floor carefully and stared into Gabrielle's bemused eyes. "I was...having self reflection time," she played it off, though not meaning that figuratively in the least. She stared at the mirror and nothing stared back at her. She felt like she was going crazy, but she definitely wasn't alone in that moment.

Gabrielle smiled, "when I said meditate Xena, I didn't quite mean it to do it in that way..." she jested. Xena weakly grinned at her and then placed the chakram back on the wall next to her armor.

"I'll have to remember that," Xena brushed her hands down her gown, smoothing the wrinkles out. She rolled her sleeve up to examine her arm. The burning sensation had not subsided yet but it was less noticeable. She turned to see Eve sitting on her bed waiting patiently.

Gabrielle had her arms folded and looked to Xena for an explanation. "Are you feeling alright?"

Xena wrapped her arms around Gabrielle and squeezed her tightly. Gabrielle gasped not really expecting that. "Gabrielle, you know I would do anything for you, right?" she asked and Eve stared at the two's exchange.

Gabrielle coughed, "yes of course, Xena." She tapped her gently on the back. "I can't breathe..." she said hoarsely. Xena let go of her and pulled away, brushing Gabrielle's hair away from her cheek. "Something going on with you?" she chuckled.

"No, I just wanted to let you know that," she grinned. She saw Eve on the bed smiling warmly at them both. Xena came to sit next to her daughter and touched her wavy locks in between her fingers. Gabrielle sat on the floor with her legs crossed. Eve stared at Gabrielle and offered her to sit on the bed with them but she preferred the floor.

Xena stared at Eve and wrapped her arm around her, bringing her close. Eve felt like her mother was being very odd and unlike herself lately. "Mother," she winced as her mother tightly hugged her. "Are you okay...?" she smiled.

"I'm sorry I haven't been paying attention to you," Xena looked into her daughter's eyes and saw them light up immediately as did her smile. Gabrielle looked at Xena and grinned, not sure what happened to her but she was in a very good mood right now.

"You're in a good mood," Gabrielle mentioned and Xena turned her attention to her. "Maybe I should meditate on the floor..." she frowned and Xena stayed silent, not breathing a word. Her eyes went to the mirror and it appeared normal. She exhaled softly, feeling a bit relieved for now.

Eve touched her mother's arm and Xena winced, pulling her arm away. "Sorry. I just wanted to see if your arm is doing better," she fidgeted with her hands in her lap.

Xena smiled, "it's better but thank you," she pat Eve's hand gently. "So," her smile beamed, "you have questions?" she leaned in closely with a warm grin and Gabrielle hopped onto the bed behind the two. The princess suddenly felt put in the spotlight as the two women stared at her anxiously.

"Well," Eve began and Gabrielle leaned in closer. Eve nervously laughed, "I don't know if I can ask with you two staring at me..." she lowered her eyes.

Gabrielle chuckled, "sorry Eve, we're just...anxious to hear your concerns," she egged her on.

Xena could feel that Eve's nerves were getting the best of her. She was very quiet and that was unusual for her given her personality. She was always so outspoken and wasn't afraid to share her opinion but now, she was quiet. It reminded her of when she was a child and she had done something embarrassing and kept quiet for days on end. "We're making you uncomfortable aren't we?" she smirked.

Eve nodded, "just a little bit," she blushed. She crossed her legs and wrapped her arms around her midsection. "I don't feel very good right now," she sighed. Her nerves building up inside her causing her stomach to churn.

Gabrielle rubbed Eve's arm and came close to her. "When is the last time you ate something?" she pried. Eve averted her eyes afraid to say that she hadn't eaten all day. "I thought so!" she crawled off the bed. "I'll be right back," she kissed the top of Eve's head only making the princess feel more awkward than she needed to right now.

Now together, Xena and Eve were alone sitting on the bed. Xena saw the distress in her daughter's face. It was true that she hadn't been paying much attention to Eve lately but she always thought she was a strong girl, but then realized how she must have been feeling. She thought to herself that if she would have had her mother with her when she was pregnant when she was younger, that she would have felt a lot better, safer and less scared of the unknown.

Eve scratched her arm out of a nervous habit she picked up from Xena unfortunately. Xena grabbed her hand and Eve looked at her mother and saw her smiling at her. "Eve," she sighed and grabbed her daughter's hand. "I know how you feel right now." The princess blinked at her as she couldn't fathom her mother's kindness towards her. "I know you're scared, right?" she leaned closer and Eve nodded silently. "But you don't need to be scared because I'm here with you," she smiled.

Eve felt a little better about that, realizing that her mother would and has always been there for her during her life. Even when she was far away, she was always with her. "What did you do when you found out you were pregnant with my brother?" she asked catching Xena off guard.

The empress thought for awhile about that. It had been a very long time since she thought of that. Digging deep into her memories she remembered that exact moment. "Well, at first I was in denial," she smirked. "I was very young at the time, around your age. I kept it a secret for a long time before I told Borias."

Eve frowned, finding that very shocking coming from her mother. "How long is a 'long time'?" she asked curiously.

Xena laughed lowly thinking of how naive she was. "Many weeks," she saw the shock in her eyes and only made her laugh more. "Too long," she pat her daughter's hand. "But eventually I told him and then he wouldn't let me out of his sight after that. I was too stupid to realize that he actually cared for me at the time. I pushed him away." She stared now, seriously, in her daughter's eyes. "I didn't want that to happen to you. You are lucky to have Samuel. He really...cares for you, I can tell," she smiled warmly.

The princess smiled nodding her head. "He does, but sometimes he annoys me. He always asks me how I am doing and," she groaned, "I am just not in the mood."

Xena grinned finding that amusing. "It's better than he cares instead of not caring at all. You must remember that he is probably just as scared as you are. Men are better at hiding that," she winked.

Gabrielle returned with some fruit and bread. She set the tray on the bed and joined the others. She grinned at Eve making her feel uneasy. "You didn't tell any stories without me did you?"

"Just one," Xena said and Gabrielle pouted.

"Great." She frowned, "which one was it?"

Eve chimed in, "mother was telling me about when she told Borias about Solan," she grinned seeing her mother's uncomfortable state. She picked at the grapes slowly eating them one by one not to upset her stomach.

Gabrielle had a smug grin, "that's an intense story," she said and Eve looked to her mother who had a blank face glaring at her blonde companion. "Can I tell a story now?" she begged. Xena hung her head lowly and Eve suddenly was feeling a lot better. "So when Xena was..." she counted on her fingers trying to remember exactly, "five or was it six months...," she shrugged, "anyway, when she was pregnant with you," she pointed to Eve and Xena was feeling an embarrassing story coming on, she just knew it. Gabrielle completely ignored Xena at the moment. "She was sword fighting with me outside. She was complaining the entire time that she couldn't fit into anything and constantly had to have new dresses made." Xena groaned just listening to this. She knew this story all too well.

"Gabrielle can you tell another story?" Xena pleaded.

"No!" Gabrielle smiled and Eve hid her smile from her mother. Xena rolled her eyes. "As you know, your mother is a very good swordsman," her eyes narrowed as she peered over at the annoyed empress. She continued, "she never lost her balance, ever!" her voice heightened keeping Eve enticed in the story. "Well that day, Xena found out that balance wasn't her friend anymore." She heard Xena curse to herself and Eve rested her hand on her mother's knee. "She always gloated about her will to balance so well..."

Eve grinned, "I can tell this doesn't end well..." by the look of her mother's face it was obvious.

Gabrielle held up her finger, "you guessed right, but wait for the climax. So, we were fighting together and I caught her off guard somehow. I must have been lucky that day. She stepped backward losing her footing and fell into the fountain in the garden behind her." Eve began laughing then saw her mother's face and stifled her laughter. "You remember that day don't you, Xena?"

"Unfortunately," Xena replied flatly.

"She never gloated about her amazing balance again," Gabrielle smiled and bowed her head as Eve grinned clapping her hands. "I have another one," she began and Xena reached forward covering her mouth with her hand.

"I think that's enough stories for now, Gabrielle," she pinched her arm and Gabrielle squealed. The empress smirked and let go of her. The blonde rubbed her arm frowning at her.

It was rare that Eve got to hear anything humorous from her mother. She was always so serious and firm, but it was nice to see that she was a normal person sometimes. She supposed she had Gabrielle to thank for that. Gabrielle brought out the best in Xena and Eve was quite aware of that her entire life. Her mother was not the same when Gabrielle wasn't around.

Eve smiled at the two and saw her mother share a glance with Gabrielle. "You're right mother," she said and Xena turned towards her, a bit confused. "I shouldn't be scared because I have you two with me...and Samuel of course," she grinned.

Gabrielle nodded, "just to let you know Eve, your mother was a nervous wreck the entire time." Xena shot her another glare.

Eve turned to her mother a bit shocked to hear that. "Really?" suddenly she didn't feel so alone.

Xena interrupted before her blonde could continue. "What Gabrielle is trying to say..." she raised an eyebrow and Gabrielle smiled slyly. "That I didn't know what to do. I was very clueless about children. I didn't raise Solan, so I didn't experience motherhood the same way other mothers did. But, Gabrielle helped me and you turned out fine," she smiled and brushed her fingers through her daughter's hair. "Just like we will be here to help you."

"I feel very lucky," Eve smiled and the two women shared a knowing smile with each other. Eve continued eating the fruit as it remained silent for awhile. "So mother..." she began, "the campaign. Gabrielle told me you need my help."

Xena sighed, "did she?"

"Let me help, please? I want to help you," she begged her mother and grabbed her arm firmly.

Xena stared back at the mirror and remembered what the mirror image of herself told her. If she couldn't accept from herself, how could she accept from others? She was still feeling uneasy about that small encounter but she realized that if someone was offering help, that she should take it. Eve had very good ideas and Xena knew that, but she was too worried –no proud –to allow her daughter to aid her. Perhaps she, meaning her other self, was right. She was too prideful.

"Alright you can help," Xena mumbled and Eve's eyes lit up.

"Really? You will let me help you?" she leaned in close and Xena nodded her head silently. Eve kissed her mother's cheek. "I promise I won't disappoint you!"

Xena smiled, "you could never disappoint me." Gabrielle smiled at Xena and winked at her. Seeing Eve's excitement was definitely the highlight of Xena's evening. She had been so glum for awhile now, but now it was like she was a completely different person. Xena cringed and looked at her arm to see the rash had faded somewhat and the pain subsided.

Eve finished the last of the fruit and bread then quickly jumped off the bed. "I have to tell Samuel," she ran to Gabrielle and kissed her cheek and left the room.

Now the two were in the room and Gabrielle sighed, feeling quite proud of Xena. "You have some kind of epiphany on the floor earlier?" she leaned back on the pillows, relaxing. She thought of what Aphrodite said to her about Xena fixing herself and herself alone.

The empress swayed her head side to side. "Something like that." She admitted quietly. "Gabrielle," she said seriously now that Eve had gone, "I would do anything for you because I love you. You know that, right?" she looked into those green eyes. Gabrielle sat up staring at Xena.

"Of course I know that or I wouldn't be here," she jested. She crawled closer to the empress and took her hand in hers. "I love you too, Xena." She smiled and Xena grinned, liking the sound of those words coming from her mouth. They truly didn't say it enough to one another. Xena truly took Gabrielle for granted, when one day she might slip away from her.

Xena then started thinking of her campaign. "When I go see Octavius in Rome I want to go alone," she said and Gabrielle frowned.

"But why? We always travel together," she felt so disappointed.

"I want to go alone. Stay with Eve and Samuel. If anything happens while I am away I don't want Eve to be in the way."

Gabrielle could understand that but she would surely miss Xena when she left. "Alright, I'll stay. Do you think something will happen here?"

Xena frowned, "you can never be too sure with Octavius. He has grown wiser and trickier over the years. He thinks that I am old and worn out, which might be true!" she smirked. "But it is age that has given me the wisdom I need."

"There's a rumor going around that he is calling you a cockroach," Gabrielle stifled a laugh.

"I'd rather be a cockroach than a Roman any day," Xena joked and the blonde rolled her eyes. Her jokes...she thought, her damn jokes.

Chapter Text

AN: I always break these dense chapters into two parts. Something brews in Assyria ;)

Chapter 20 –Call of Destiny Part I

During the week Xena, Gabrielle, Samuel and Eve were inside Xena's head office discussing what they planned to do about the Romans in Assyria. So far they had spent days trying to come up with a plan but had come up empty every time. Samuel was growing tired of going around in circles for days now and time wasn't their friend at the moment. He knew that the Romans were waiting for Xena to show up and save the day otherwise they would have been sent a letter about Allat and Solan by now.

The young Persian king tapped his fingers on the armrest as he sat facing Xena and Gabrielle with Eve sitting next to him. "I have an idea," he said and all three women looked intrigued, staring at him. "I can go to Assyria to help Solan and Allat."

There was silence in the room and Eve sighed loudly, "are you sure that's a good idea?" she asked feeling worried about him leaving Greece.

He shrugged, "Xena is going to see Octavius in the next few weeks and you obviously can't go," he grabbed her hand smiling warmly at her. "So I volunteer to go myself. I will bring reinforcements with me."

Gabrielle rested her chin on her palm listening to the Persian. "It's not such a horrible idea, right Xena?" she turned to the empress who seemed a bit conflicted. She tapped her fingernails on the desk calmly.

The empress stared at Samuel carefully, "what exactly will you do when you get there? If you attack the Romans then that will only enrage Octavius. Not to will certainly speed up the process of this campaign."

Gabrielle nodded her head agreeing with Xena. "We are not ready to attack the Romans full force yet."

Eve chimed in, "yes I agree, but you don't always have to use a sword to get what you want," she raised an eyebrow towards Samuel.

"Technically Solan and Allat belong to Greece. It is unlawful for them to keep them as hostages and since Persia is now allies with Greece, they also belong to me. They can't keep them locked up forever," he grinned.

Xena understood where Samuel was coming from but she had dealt with Romans all her life and knew that they didn't always play the game the correct way. "I know you have not been in a war before, Samuel, but you will soon find out that your enemy does not play fairly. Octavius has been trying to get rid of me for almost two decades now and has lost several times. He is making sure that he has every area guarded in case I attack him. He is ready to spill blood." She shook her head feeling a headache coming on. "The Romans will outnumber you."

Gabrielle interjected, "The Persians are known to be good fighters at sea so that is why we used your war ships instead of ours. If you go to Assyria you will definitely be outnumbered on land."

The king sighed, feeling frustrated that the two women did not have the least bit of confidence in him. "My men are very skilled in fighting on land. Many of them are the sons and cousins from my father's army years ago. They come from a long line of soldiers and warlords. I only pick the best men for my army," he stared at the empress and she didn't seem the least bit impressed.

The princess tapped her fingers on her knee feeling the tension rising in the room. Her mother was not cutting Samuel any slack and she had been in many wars before and knew the process. She was right, Samuel was too inexperienced to deal with a matter like this. Eve knew her mother would not risk someone else's life for the sake of a war. She leaned forward and raised her hand to speak. "If Samuel does go to Assyria, he will not be taken seriously since he is Persian and not Greek." Samuel looked at her in shock to see that she was not defending him in the least. "Mother is going to leave soon to meet with Octavius but that doesn't solve the situation in Assyria. I can go with Samuel to see the Romans in Assyria." She saw all three of them stare at her especially her mother giving her a vicious glare. "Gabrielle can come too," she added as the audience remained silent.

Xena folded her arms, "you want to represent Greece in Assyria?" she raised a curious brow. "Are you out of your mind?" she groaned.

Gabrielle came to Eve's rescue, "I can go with them and make sure nothing happens."

"Something always happens, Gabrielle," Xena snapped back.

"Mother you said I could help you. I think this would be a great way for me to aid in this war." She pleaded and her mother was not listening whatsoever. "Solan is my brother and Allat, a good friend. I won't let anything happen to them."

Samuel watched the three women exchange back and forth until Xena started arguing with Eve it became a bit awkward for him.

"I understand that you want to help but it's dangerous for you to go to Assyria," Xena protested.

Gabrielle scoffed loudly causing Xena to turn her head towards the blonde. "That is so hypocritical of you Xena. You fought on many occasions when it was 'too dangerous' for you too."

Xena now started arguing with Gabrielle and Eve stood up joining in. Samuel's eyes widened as he saw all three women arguing with each other and talking over one another. Their voices jumbled and he had no idea what either of them were saying or if they were getting each other's points across. He covered his ears listening to their voices carry loudly in the room.

He stood up, "ladies! Please!" he yelled and the three women ceased argument. He exhaled deeply, thankful that was finished. "My god," he rubbed his face calming himself down. "I understand your concern Xena, but Eve will be safe with me and Gabrielle," he saw Eve and she smiled at him, thanking him silently that he was sticking up for her. Gabrielle grinned at him as well. The only person not smiling was Xena. He faced the very irate empress and cleared his throat. "I promise, if anything happens to her, you can punish me as you see fit," he bowed his head averting his gaze.

Xena lifted her chin, "be careful what you say, Samuel or should I remind you what I used to do to my enemies?" her grin most unknowing and devious. Eve's eyes widened and she grabbed Samuel's arm gently.

He shook his head, "no...I'm quite aware," he half smiled feeling very small at the moment.

"It shall be a diplomatic mission," Gabrielle said finally joining in. this basically meant that they were all going and all three of them outnumbered Xena in her vote, but lest they forget, that Xena was still empress, higher than them all, even Samuel in this instance.

The empress sighed folding her arms feeling very defeated right now. "You will be careful, all of you." She said quietly. Eve hid her excited grin and Samuel felt her hand firmly grip his arm. She flipped through a few pages of notes they had all written down together. "You should leave by tomorrow, we cannot waste any time," she casually said then looked up at Samuel and Eve, who were standing motionless. She widened her eyes, gesturing them to leave to pack at once.

The two left in a hurry and now it was just her and Gabrielle in the room. Gabrielle stood beside Xena twirling her fingers on the desk. "You don't want us to go, I know."

"I can't stop you," Xena said finally admitting the truth. "I trust you Gabrielle," she smiled weakly. "It is very rare that we go our separate ways in these sorts of things," she shrugged casually, not allowing her full emotions to arise.

Gabrielle came up to Xena wrapping her arm around her waist, "we'll be back before you leave for Rome, I'm sure of it." she rested her head on Xena's arm, feeling her warmth close to her.

The following morning before the sun had risen, Eve, Samuel and Gabrielle were ready to make their long trek to Assyria. Samuel was readying the horses with many travel bags filled with the necessities. He also packed many weapons, which he hoped would not be needed.

Xena had her arms folded wearing a black long sleeved dress with a high collar wrapping around her neck and her hair up in a neat tightly coiled bun. She watched Gabrielle and Samuel prepare their horses in silence, the air was so calm and it was quite foggy this morning. Gabrielle looked up to see a very solemn Xena looking dead at her. She was obviously not very happy.

She came up to the empress and scanned her attire. "You look nice," she marveled.

Xena scanned Gabrielle and she was wearing minimal armor, something she hadn't seen Gabrielle wear in awhile. "I haven't seen you wear that in a long time," her fingers grazed the metal shoulder plates and then touched her cheek softly. "Gabrielle if –"

Gabrielle hushed Xena, "don't worry, I have this handled. I've done this many times, remember?" she grinned warmly. Xena smiled at her in return, feeling as if she were a parrot, constantly reminding Gabrielle of everything that she knew all too well.

Eve came out of the palace and Gabrielle saw her first and she couldn't help but gape at her. Xena turned around and her eyes widened. The princess felt a bit awkward as both women were staring at her as if she had done something wrong. "Something wrong with my clothes?" she turned about herself making sure she was ready to go. She saw nothing wrong with what she was wearing.

Xena couldn't take her eyes off of her daughter. Eve was wearing a gold set of armor, a pleated skirt with knee high dark boots to match her dark sleeves beneath her plated gold armor. It reminded her of her armor she wore in that awful dream she had from so long ago that Ares showed her. It was almost identical. She blinked finally realizing she was staring far too long, making Eve uncomfortable. She cleared her throat, "where did you get that armor?" she asked politely.

"I got it when I was in Qin," the princess smiled. Gabrielle was speechless as was Xena. She wrapped a dark cloak around her, clasping it to her armor. She turned to Gabrielle. "Are you ready?"

Gabrielle turned to Xena then back to Eve, nodding, readying herself to leave. She hugged Xena tightly and Xena sighed. "I'll bring her back in one piece, don't worry," she whispered. Xena smiled pulling away. Gabrielle slowly let go of her hand as she made way to her horse with Samuel.

Eve stared at her mother, still unsure of her feelings about her leaving. "Mother I know you don't want me to go –"

"No Eve, this is your land too, and your people," Xena held up her hand. She exhaled deeply, "I can't stop you from doing what you want to do. I think I've finally learned that..." she lowered her eyes. The princess smiled widely then embraced her mother and Xena held onto her tightly, not really wishing to let go.

Eve tried to pull away but her mother was still holding onto her. She dropped her arms and her eyes wandered around wondering when her mother was going to stop. She grinned, "mother, I need to go..." she whispered in her ear.

Xena finally pulled away and cupped Eve's cheeks with her hands, staring into her blue eyes. "Be careful and stay out of trouble!" she firmly said. The princess nodded and Xena smiled at her, then kissed her forehead before she went running off to her horse to join Samuel and Gabrielle.

The soldiers opened the large iron gates and Xena watched all three trot off beyond the gates, exiting the palace grounds. Gabrielle turned around and waved at her and Xena stood still, smiling at her. For the first time, she was alone, without Gabrielle and they had separate missions instead of doing them together. They did everything together and to see her ride off without her by Gabrielle's side, she felt like she had lost a part of herself in that moment. Xena stayed at the entrance watching the three leave the grounds until she could not see them anymore and the iron gates closing. She felt enclosed and very alone at the moment. She couldn't remember the last time she spent time alone in the palace without Gabrielle. She was beginning to have doubts about allowing them to go off on their own, but Xena had to remember that Gabrielle was more than capable of defending herself and Eve as well. All three were very skilled fighting against the enemy, but Xena had confidence that Gabrielle could take Samuel any day.

The hardest part was going to be waiting for them to return and what would she do until she had to go to Rome? Would they even return by the time she had to leave? Gabrielle said they would come back before then by Xena had her doubts about that. It was a few days journey to Assyria, half by horse and the other by ship. Xena also hoped that their arrival would not stir too much trouble and not cause them grief. There was no way they were going to return in two weeks before she had to leave to see Octavius. No way, she kept telling herself.

Xena sauntered back into the palace and the doors were closed. She saw a lot of children walking sleepily to their morning classes. She didn't want to stop their education just because of an ongoing war. She didn't stop it before years ago and even when she left to Egypt, the school kept going without her presence. She smiled at them all as they appeared to be walking like zombies to class.

The only thing she did like was that the palace that had classrooms were all on one side while her and everyone else's quarters were on the other side in the west wing. And there was a long hallway parting the two wings so they were definitely not close to each other, though the entrance was in the east wing, she sometimes passed through when she came and went.

As she was passing through to get to the west wing she heard a small voice call her name and she turned around to see a child no older than six, staring up at her. Xena smiled and knelt down to his eye level. He didn't want to look in her eyes so his wandered around the palace. He stammered a bit trying to get out what he wanted to say. "Is the princess going to come to our class...this morning?" he fumbled in his words.

Xena blinked. She didn't know that Eve even went over to this wing, but it answered her question when she wondered where Eve had disappeared to for hours on end and she couldn't find her. She placed her hand on the small boy's shoulder. "The princess is away right now."

The boy seemed disappointed in that and Xena lifted his chin. "Tell me...what does the princess do in your class?" she asked, curiosity getting the best of her.

He beamed, "she –she tells us stories!" Xena was fearful about that, she hoped that Eve didn't tell them any inappropriate stories. Gabrielle used to tell children stories in class years ago until she got too busy with political affairs. "She told us stories about kids in other lands. She told us that we should help them. She says that we are lucky to be here because other kids don't even have homes," the boy calmly explained to the empress.

Xena's eyes sparkled and she smiled. "Yes that is true and one day you will help those children, right?" she raised her eyebrows and the boy nodded.

"We made some clothes for them," the boy's grin was wide showing his small teeth. Xena pursed her lips, unsure what he meant by that. Xena stood up and peered into the classroom. There were piles of clothing stacked up on a table and she thought was interesting. Certainly explained why her maids kept going into the city and coming back with loads of fabric. She was obviously too busy to notice or to care why there was an abundance of fabric coming into her palace.

"The princess told you to do this?" Xena asked the boy. He nodded up at her. She suddenly felt out of the loop when it came to her daughter and her sneaky missions. It appeared that she was far too busy to notice anything except the campaign. Thus, the little talk she had with herself, had been proven right. She didn't pay enough attention to others around her even though it happened right under her nose. She told the young boy to go back to his class and carry on with their charitable work.

Gabrielle, Samuel and Eve rode until the sun began to set. The three decided to make camp and would reach the port of Athens in the morning since they were making such good time. Samuel had never camped out before since he never really left his palace and normally spent his nights traveling in caravans. He could say he was very privileged but he noticed that Eve was completely casual about it. he figured that she was probably used to do doing this because of Gabrielle's and Xena's influence on her. He decided not to voice his complaints and played along –when in Rome, right?

After a failed attempt to make a tent, Eve saw him struggle and helped him set up the tent. That was definitely embarrassing to him but she didn't say anything rude to further embarrass him. Gabrielle on the other hand was watching the entire time as she sat in front of the fire, the sun was just setting and she was wondering when Samuel was going to get his tent in order until Eve intervened.

Eve excused herself and took the wineskins with her to go fill them up with water. Samuel sat down on the ground and Gabrielle poked at the fire. He appeared to be a bit dishelmed which didn't go unnoticed by Gabrielle. She smirked at him and poked him with the long stick she had. He glanced up seeing her smug face. "You don't get out much do you?" she asked.

He sighed, "is it that noticeable?" he scoffed. "I've never camped before but Eve seems to enjoy it, so I can learn to enjoy it too," he grinned.

Gabrielle nodded, thinking that was a positive way to look at it. "You're very optimistic, Samuel. If Xena were here she would probably give you a dirty look or something," she chuckled. "She used to do that to me when we camped together while traveling."

He smiled, "Xena is an interesting lady," he mused. He looked at Gabrielle more seriously now. "You and Xena did a good job of raising Eve. Hopefully she and I can do the same," he half smiled.

Gabrielle could sense his nerves from the other side of the fire. She could tell that he was having the same feelings that Eve was having except he was less vocal about it, but since Eve was gone for now, he was able to say something. "It's okay to be nervous, Samuel. Eve was having the same feelings and she told Xena and I about it."

The king blinked, surprised to hear that Eve was feeling the same way. She hadn't voiced her opinions to him. "Well, she didn't tell me."

"She didn't want to worry you, but..." she toyed with the finger some more. "If something is on your mind, you should tell her. I told Xena that a long time ago. It's not good to keep things from each other."

Eve came back with the wineskins filled with water and saw Samuel talking with Gabrielle. She smiled and sat down beside him. "What are you two talking about?"

Gabrielle shrugged casually, "nothing really." She smirked and Samuel felt awkward suddenly. Eve eyed her then turned to Samuel but he just grinned at her. "Well I'm going to sleep. We need to get up early so we can make it to the port," she eyed them both. "Don't stay up late."

Eve rolled her eyes, "Gabrielle..." she felt like she was being chastised like a child. Now they were alone and Gabrielle in her tent. She drank some water and then scooted closer to Samuel. "So you and Gabrielle looked pretty engaged in a conversation..." she pried, her fingers trailing up his arm, touching his dark wavy hair.

"Eve," he said and grabbed her hand. She stared at his green eyes as he looked to her firmly. "We are honest with each other, yes?" he asked.

She frowned, "I think so. Why do you ask?"

He sighed, rubbing his chin now sure how to approach this subject. "Gabrielle told me that you were nervous about having a child."

Eve now understood his distant attitude towards her. She grabbed his hand in hers, "I was nervous, but I'm not anymore. My mother told me not to be scared because she will be there to help. She made feel a lot better." She smiled but noticed he was not happy, more annoyed at her. "Are you nervous?" she leaned in forward and he was silent, refusing to answer, or perhaps he was just shy.

He sighed, "you didn't tell me you felt this way."

Eve now thought of what her mother told her when she spoke with her last about this. Samuel had the same feelings as her but was either too shy or too proud to admit it, though she didn't tell him for the same reasons. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. You can talk to me," she smiled.

Samuel finally smiled and kissed her forehead, bringing her close as she rested her head on his chest. "From now on I want you to tell me everything."

Eve pulled away staring into his eyes with a raised eyebrow. "Everything?"

He nodded, "we are going to be parents together, Eve, so I want to know everything."

"I don't think you want to know everything..." she grinned nervously at him. He stared at her confused at what she meant by that. "Trust me, there are some things you don't need to know," she smiled and leaned into him.

Samuel cocked his head as he toyed with Eve's hair. "Like what?" he asked. Eve's eyes widened, not prepared to answer that loaded question.

Gabrielle called out from her tent, "go to sleep," she groaned, feeling as if she were listening to two teenagers, not to mention she felt old because she was so sleepy so early in the evening.

Eve stifled a laugh and Samuel smiled. She grabbed his hand to retire to their tent so they wouldn't be bothersome to Gabrielle anymore than they already have.

Eight days have passed since Xena spoke with Gabrielle, Samuel and Eve. She was sure they were already in Assyria. They should have arrived at least three days ago, but she also knew that they would experience some difficulties reaching the coast since the ship they took was Greek and obviously not liked among the Romans guarding the coast of the Assyrian kingdom. She just hoped that there would not be any trouble while they were there.

During her time waiting continuously she sent a messenger to Baghdad like she promised Samuel. She sent a messenger the same day the three left on their mission. She figured her messenger would arrive there fairly quickly especially since the Persian kingdom was allies with hers, traveling was made easier for everyone.

She spent most of her time within her room, bringing her office to her. She looked through the various documents and treaties she had with the Roman empire. There were very few since Octavius disagreed with almost everything she proposed to him over the years. The only treaty she found that was a success was a grain trade between her empire, Assyria and Rome. Zenobia used to be in charge of the grain trade until she was unlawfully killed by the Romans long ago. Xena took over the trade and she nodded staring at the parchment. She would have to use that in the meeting she had with Octavius. She needed to have threats just in case he was irrational.

A knock came to her door and she looked up, groaning not wishing to be disturbed. "Come in," she was in her robe with her hair down, feeling very lazy today, not wishing to get out of bed.

Her trusted messenger opened the door and bowed his head. She folded her arms hoping this wouldn't take too long. He was back very quickly she gathered. "Your highness..." he said lifting his head. "I have delivered the message to the Queen of Persia."

Xena nodded, "good. What did she say?"

He smiled bowing his head again averting his gaze. "Empress..." he paused. "She came back with me." There was a moment of silence.

The empress's eyes widened, not expecting the queen to come here especially so quickly. "She is here right now?" she raised an eyebrow.

"Yes Empress," he lifted his head. "Her name is Queen Hatima Hatun II."

Xena pursed her lips, thinking that was quite a name and obviously came from a line of royalty, unlike herself. She also remembered Samuel saying that his mother was half Greek, but her name was not Greek at all. It was definitely one hundred percent Persian. She folded the maps back up and set them aside. "Uhm..." she tapped her knee, "tell her I will be down in a few minutes," she told him and he nodded, backing away slowly then left her room.

She got out of bed and opened her wardrobe. Sadly, she had to get dressed, which was not on her agenda for the day but it was very rare that someone came to see her, especially a queen, especially the queen of Persia, and the king's mother. She sighed and picked her favorite blue dress that Gabrielle loved her in so much. She smiled thinking of Gabrielle. It was awfully lonely without her here. She truly did take her for granted.

The Persian Queen sat in an open atrium inside of the palace. Her eyes wandering around the room looking at all of the decorations, statues and plants inside the home. She hadn't been to Greece since she was sixteen and this palace definitely reminded her of her home so long ago until she left for Persia. Xena's maids kept her quite well fed and brought her an assortment of fruit and wine while she waited.

Though she didn't have to wait long. About half an hour later Xena walked into the room. Queen Hatima turned around and saw Xena waltzing in. "Sorry for keeping you waiting, I was...busy with other things," Xena apologized. The Persian Queen stood up, a petite woman, yet not short, not like Gabrielle. She scanned her attire and definitely was not simple. She wore a white gown embroidered with gold and her long crimped hair hidden beneath a thick white veil draping over her shoulders and back that was attached to a beaded traditional Persian headdress. Xena had forgotten how the Persians often over accessorized their outfits. She felt so simple standing next to her.

"I was well taken care of..." Hatima gestured to the tray of food and drinks that were brought to her while she waited. Xena nodded, smiling softly at her. Both women sat down and Xena wasn't really used to talking to other women especially royal women, except for Zenobia. She was a great ally and a friend to her, but all her life, she had never spoken to Phraate's wife, his first wife, Hatima. "When I received that letter from you I thought it was really odd until you mentioned Samuel's name," she said.

Xena nodded, "he told me that you two haven't seen each other in a long time."

Hatima lowered her head. "Sadly that is true. I left the palace about five years ago and told my son that I didn't want to be disturbed. And then...I got your message," her brows creased, "you are allies with my son?" she was quite shocked.

"It's a long story," Xena admitted, "I wasn't expecting you to travel all the way to Athens."

The Persian queen nodded, "yes I wasn't either but I thought I have been away from my son long enough..." which brought up another question circling in her mind. "You mentioned that he was getting married to your daughter...Eve, right?" she asked. Xena nodded her head unsure what to make of this queen. She had never seen her nor met her before, but she seemed nice. She had the same green eyes as Samuel and almost the same facial structure as him. This must have been why he was nothing like his father, he was very much like his mother. Hatima smiled remembering a time long ago when her husband was still alive. "I remember your daughter when she was a little girl when she was taken by my husband..." Xena hinted some malice in the queen's voice at the mention of Phraates.

She was surprised that the queen even remembered Eve. It had been so long, but apparently the queen was more aware of her surroundings than she thought. "My son really liked her a lot when they were younger. He even asked about her when he was a teenager," Hatima grinned, making Xena feel a bit more relaxed around her.

Xena hadn't mentioned that Eve was pregnant in her letter, as that might seem too much of a shock and better said in person than in a letter from a stranger. "He is a very nice young man," she admitted, which was true, he was very kind and gentle, unlike his late father.

"I never thought the Persians would ally with the Greeks in my lifetime again," Hatima said and looked into the empress's ice blue eyes. "The marriage is an alliance?" she asked more out of curiosity.

Xena was now beginning to feel some awkwardness pass between the two. She nervously grinned, "well it's more than an alliance. Yes, of course, it will bring our empires closer together, but that's not the only reason I asked them to marry." She began and saw confusion in Hatima's large green eyes. She didn't know how else to say other than very bluntly, which might shock her. She was so nice and traveled all this way to meet with her. "You see," Xena tapped her fingers against one another, "my daughter, she's pregnant." She finally said and there was silence.

Hatima's eyes widened as if they could get any bigger, Xena noticed. The Persian queen sat silently and Xena was not able to read her expression. She couldn't tell if she was angry, sad, confused or happy. Her eyes were still wide and she was obviously speechless, something Xena was trying to avoid.

The queen looked at Xena and felt the need to apologize. "Forgive my silence I just...wasn't expecting that." She felt like she was being rude towards Xena, since it was her daughter. "I hope my son has not put a burden on you."

Xena smiled, "no he has been the opposite. I don't know if you've heard but, Greece and Persia are at war with the Romans." Hatima nodded her head, feeling a bit unnerved by that. "He has been helping me in fighting against the Romans."

Hatima smiled, "that is good news," then it donned on her. "Where is Samuel by the way?" she knew that he had to be here with her since Eve was obviously his said wife.

"My daughter and your son are on a mission in Assyria right now. They left eight days ago. I am hoping they return soon," Xena had her doubts though. She knew they wouldn't return in time before she had to leave.

The queen felt nervous for her son going to Assyria. She knew that kingdom was under attack by the Romans. "You allowed your daughter to go there?" she questioned then realized she probably over stepped her boundaries. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked that," her cheeks flushing a bit.

Xena saw many traits in her that reminded her of Samuel. "I didn't allow her. She just went," she grinned. "I cannot stop my daughter from what she wants to do."

Hatima grinned with the empress, understanding that completely. Her step sons were very much like that, but Samuel was not. Samuel was special and he was a great king. His brothers were too irresponsible to handle the burden of the crown, so it was handed off to the youngest son, that being Samuel. "So we are to be family..." the queen said awkwardly. "I never thought that the Persians would befriend the Greeks let alone intermarry," she smiled. "That's not a stab at you," she immediately said. "My husband hated you and the Greeks, yet he forgot that I am half Greek," she sighed.

Xena remembered Samuel saying that and apparently it was true. "Your husband did a lot of questionable things..." she put it lightly. Hatima agreed, not afraid to speak ill of her late husband.

"I am grateful that my son did not turn out like his father," she exhaled deeply and Xena bit her tongue on that one. There was so much she could say about Phraates but she refrained, keeping Gabrielle in the back of her mind. She almost had to pretend that she was in the room with her, calming her down. "Although I can't say the same for his other sons." She shook her head thinking of those irresponsible reckless men. "But anyway," Hatima grinned. "I want to help you if I can."

Xena's mind began ticking. There still had to be a wedding and Xena hoped that would happen as soon as she returned from Rome and the others from Assyria. She didn't want to keep putting that off. She then smiled smugly and leaned in closer to the queen. "Well, there is something you can help me with." Hatima smiled nodding her head. "I am very busy with this campaign...I haven't had time to organize everything for their wedding so if you could..."

Hatima's face lit up. "I can do that!" she felt excited and Xena smiled, feeling a weight being lifted off her shoulders. She was never good at planning those types of things, and if this woman was willing to help then she wasn't going to turn that down. "I have planned five weddings for all of Samuel's sisters."

Xena's eyes widened. By the gods how many siblings does this young king have? Obviously it was a lot and none of these kids were Hatima's either. "Great," she grinned, "you can stay here if you'd like," she offered. She definitely was not going to turn away the king's mother, especially since she traveled so far to get here.

"That's kind of you," both women stood up and Xena really needed to get back to what she was doing earlier. "Thank you for allowing my son to stay here," she said politely.

"I sort of gave him no choice," Xena joked but then saw Hatima did not get her joke and her smile disappeared. "I want him to be around Eve," she saved herself and the queen smiled. Xena gestured for her to walk alongside her so she could stay in a room in the west wing.

Hatima walked with Xena down the long hallway and she smiled, "I can't wait to see your daughter." Xena smiled, feeling very prideful at the moment.

Chapter Text

AN: some reminiscence of Twilight of the Gods in this. Enjoy ;)

Chapter 21 –Call of Destiny Part II

"My heart cried out for you over an ocean and your pain cried out for me across a wave."

Underneath the Assyrian palace Solan and Allat were kept imprisoned. Eve, Gabrielle and Samuel came to see them and free them but Allat tried to warn them about the obstacles they encountered while being down here in this dark dungeon below the palace. The Romans seemed to have a bit of help, not like they needed it, but the Spartans from Greece were aiding Octavius to rise against Xena. Solan was sure that his mother had no idea about this problem and couldn't exactly write to her and tell her what was going on because he was arrested with Allat.

Xena's and Samuel's men were threatened by the Romans and Spartans. If they were to attack then Solan and Allat would die along with all of the Assyrian people in the kingdom. Allat couldn't afford that so he begged the Greek and Persian soldiers to refrain from attacking the Romans. When Eve, Gabrielle and Samuel arrived they were greeted with immediate threats but calmly explained that they wanted to see the prisoners. The Spartan general allowed them to see Solan and Allat, but little did they know that the Spartans were disguised as Romans and very well at that.

Once the three visited them the Spartans arrested them all and they were trapped in different cells below the palace. Solan and Allat were chained to the wall together in one cell. The cell next to them was Samuel who was also chained to a wall though his arms were high above his head, far more uncomfortable than everyone else's imprisonment. His arms were starting to become numb after three days of being in the confinement.

Eve and Gabrielle were given special treatment and in a cell on the far side of the dark dungeon, chained together with their backs against a pole, facing away from each other.

Solan sighed and looked at the Persian king who was trying to scratch his face with his tongue. "Hey Samuel, how's it going over there?" he asked sarcastically.

Samuel groaned, "just fine..." he grumbled. He kicked the ground with his boot and yelled out in anger. "We've been in here for three days!"

Allat rolled his eyes, "and we've been in here for weeks. How are we going to tell Xena about this?" he wondered. Solan blew some hair out of his face and twiddled with his thumbs out of boredom.

As the three men were talking among each other Eve sighed and banged her head against the pole. Gabrielle touched Eve's fingers, intertwining them with hers. "Eve, don't beat yourself up over this," she calmly said.

The princess frowned, "Gabrielle this is all my fault. I could have sent out a letter to my mother about the Spartans betrayal to the empire, but instead I was really stubborn and chose to fight against them. Now we're here...trapped." she looked up to the ceiling, feeling a bit hopeless.

"We came here as a team. We all failed, it's not fair for you to blame yourself alone," Gabrielle sighed and thought of Xena's reaction to all of this. She was definitely going to kill her once she found out that they were arrested especially since she promised that Eve would be in good hands. "Your mother is going to crucify me," she groaned.

Eve smirked, "now who's being too hard on themselves?" she retorted and Gabrielle frowned at the sassy remark. Eve shifted in her spot, no longer finding this armor very comfortable as she remained in it for the last three days. It was so stiff and constantly propped her back up as straight as possible. She glanced up and saw Samuel looking her way. They both smiled at each other and even though she could tell he was in a lot of pain she saw warmth in his eyes. He was very caring even in a horrible situation such as this.

A Spartan soldier came in and everyone turned to look at three soldiers that waltzed in. the soldier looked at Eve and Gabrielle's cell immediately. He walked over and snapped his fingers. One of the men opened the door and the women frowned at them. He smiled at Eve and pointed at her. "My general wants to see the Greek Princess," he smiled folding his large muscular arms. The two soldiers came towards Eve and her eyes widened.

Gabrielle frowned, "what for?" she asked.

The soldier grimaced, "none of your business," the soldier unlocked both of the chains and Gabrielle kicked the man in his groin and the Spartan growled and gripped Gabrielle's neck. "Don't try anything or she dies, understand?" he hissed. Gabrielle struggled to breathe and he let go of her neck. Eve's eyes were filled with fear and she wasn't foolish enough to try and fight back so she went with the Spartan soldiers willingly. She stared at Gabrielle as she was being chained back up again.

Solan frowned as he saw his sister being taken away. "Don't do anything for those pigs, Eve!" he called out and the Spartan kicked the cell door.

"Enough out of you!" he smiled kneeling down eye level to Solan. "Just wait until your mother hears about this," he winked and walked out behind Eve.

Instant panic set in as Samuel watched Eve being taken away from this awful place. He looked to Allat, "what are they going to do to her?" he felt his heart beat quicken out of nerves.

The Assyrian king sighed, "I don't know, but Eve is a smart woman." He smiled, "she will take care of herself."

The Persian king growled and squirmed, trying to break free of the chains. He began to sweat and breathed heavily. "this is my fault. I promised to keep her and Gabrielle safe and I failed," his head hung lowly as he pitied himself.

Solan looked at Samuel with a curious eyebrow. "So...are you and Eve a thing now?" he asked and Gabrielle lifted her head listening to their conversation. This was about to get awkward. She turned her head and saw Samuel's head lift to face Solan.

He was almost embarrassed. "Something like that," he mumbled and Solan didn't really like that answer. Eve was his little sister and from the last encounter with Samuel, he was quite cozy with her from what he remembered. "Your mother wants us to get married," he said.

Solan blinked in shock. "Excuse me?" he was now becoming irritated. "Why would she suggest a crazy idea like that?" he spat out. The Persian's cheeks reddened and he didn't want to face him. "Look at me!"

Gabrielle rolled her eyes at the immense amount of testosterone in this small room. "Eve is carrying his child," she said aloud and Allat blinked, not quite expecting that. Her voice was random and there was an awkward silence in the room.

"Wow," Allat said first, breaking the silence.

Solan lunged forward pulling his arms forward as far as he could but the chains prevented him from moving any further. "I'm going to kill you!" Samuel never felt so lucky to be in another cell until right about now. He saw the same fire in his eyes that Xena had. It was almost scary. Solan was more like his mother than Eve was at times, he saw it in his eyes and facial expressions.

Allat reached for Solan's arm and frowned. "Brother, you need to relax," he tried to calm him down the best he could.

Solan sat down against the wall once more as he continued glaring at the Persian king. "He impregnated my sister and you want me to relax?" he growled at his dear friend next to him.

Samuel frowned, he didn't like the way he was talking about this situation. "It's not like we planned this!" he yelled turning to face Solan.

The blonde prince smirked, "obviously," he mocked. He frowned at the Persian, "when we get out of here I'm going to beat you senseless," that was a promise.

"Oh really?" Samuel challenged. "Well I'd like to see you –"

Gabrielle rattled her chains, "enough!" she shouted and everyone silenced themselves. "Nobody is going to beat anyone up," she exhaled audibly. "Instead of arguing with each other, we should be trying to find a way out of here," she used her common sense and Allat nodded, agreeing with her.

"Gabrielle is right. We need to work together not against one another," he nudged Solan's arm and the blonde grimaced. He called out to her, "got any ideas?"

Gabrielle sighed looking at the ceiling, "I'm working on it..." she felt a bit hopeless at the moment. Xena couldn't save them now since she had no idea what was going on and she would be leaving in the next week to Rome. She would be wondering where they were. Eve was their only hope since she was outside of the prison. "Xena, what would you do?" she whispered.

Xena was beginning to realize how much work Gabrielle actually did once she was gone. She had to organize all of her documents and parchments by herself for her trip to see Octavius in the coming week. Gabrielle usually did all of this for her and she always thought it was easy, but she realized it was quite a lot of work. So far she had organized ten documents in a matter of two hours. She was a lot slower than Gabrielle. Sighing she rested her head on her hands, feeling exhausted. Her reflection was right –she did take Gabrielle for granted.

A knock came to her door and she lifted her head. She didn't want to see anyone right now, but she had been waiting on news from Gabrielle, Eve and Samuel for nine days now. She hoped that it was a message from them. She told the person on the opposite side to enter.

A guard opened the doors and Xena blinked now her excitement was gone. There was no letter from them even after all this time. "What is it?" she tapped her fingers on the desk staring at the young man.

He cleared his throat bowing his head curtly, "Empress, Queen Hatima is asking for you. She wishes to see you," he said firmly and Xena raised an eyebrow. What could she want? She had been here for less than two days and though Xena didn't mind Samuel's mother being here, it was quite odd that she wanted to see her.

"Send her in," Xena sat up and he nodded, making way for Hatima to enter. The Persian queen smiled at him and stepped into the room. She saw Xena sitting at her desk, looking very casual and it appeared she was very busy she gathered by the stacks of parchment and scrolls piled up on the desk.

Hatima smiled at Xena and the guard closed the doors, startling her a bit. "I'm sorry if I am bothering you," she said politely.

Xena waved her hand, "I needed a break. You wanted to see me?" her voice hinted at a bit of curiosity. She gestured for her to sit down and Hatima sat down carefully, brushing her long hair out of the way before she sat in the chair opposite Xena.

She nodded, "yes I wanted to ask a few questions if you don't mind," she said and Xena curtly nodded, giving her way to speak. So she began, "I know you want me to help you with the wedding, but I..." she smiled nervously, "I'm afraid I don't where to begin!" she looked at Xena's blank face. "Where do you want it to take place?"

Xena rubbed the bridge of her nose, "anywhere. Outside, inside. It does not matter to me," she said calmly.

Hatima gathered that Xena was rather impatient with her so she decided to make this hasty, "and how far along is your daughter?" she asked and Xena lifted her head, her eyes widening.

"Well," Xena creased her eyebrows thinking that over for a minute. She tapped her finger on the desk and looked at the sweet Persian queen. "Almost four months or so," she smiled and Hatima nodded her head once again. "why do you ask?"

Hatima's green eyes lit up, "I was only asking because for one, I was curious and two, the fitting of her dress," she smiled and Xena now nodded, understanding. "I'm sorry for bothering you. I can see you're very busy," she pointed to the pile of documents. "You have not heard from them yet?" she asked seeing the angst in Xena's eyes.

The empress shook her head, "not yet, which is beginning to worry me. I trust Gabrielle is handling things," she hoped everything was going well and she had no choice but to put her trust in Gabrielle.

Hatima recognized that name. "Gabrielle," she tapped her chin, "I remember her. She is your blonde friend, yes?" Xena raised an eyebrow and Hatima smiled. "I have only seen her a few times. She is a good fighter from what I recall." She saw that Xena was rather unresponsive and it was getting a bit awkward. She stood up bowing her head curtly. "well, I will be on my way. Sorry to disturb you," she head for the doors and Xena leaned forward watching her saunter away.

"Hatima," she called out and the Persian queen turned around with a small grin. " know I had to kill him..." she felt a bit guilty for killing the woman's husband.

Hatima smiled shaking her head raising her hand, "Xena, you don't need to justify that to me. You did me a favor," she said and saw the empress smile weakly. "If you didn't do it I would have done it myself eventually." She said firmly which shocked the empress. "You gave my son the opportunity to rule as king and he is a good king to his people. He is fair, something his father never was." She silently thanked Xena and smiled before exiting the room.

Xena was expecting the queen to say something like that. She obviously did not like her own husband and resented him probably more than Xena could imagine. A favor? She thought that was an odd word to describe that. That woman was full of surprises, she noted. She suspected that Hatima had more influence in the Persian Empire than she was leading on.

Eve was brought into a room inside the Assyrian palace. The guards threw her in and there was blue gown laid out on the bed. She stared at it then turned to the Spartan men. "You won't get away with this," she grimaced. The Spartan smiled deviously at her then touched her cheek and she snapped her head away.

"Such a pretty face," he grabbed her cheeks firmly forcing her to stare into his dark eyes. "If the general didn't ask for you...I would have taken you for myself," he hissed and leaned in closer. Eve's eyes widened and she slapped his face. He pulled away and touched his cheek. He grinned, rubbing his jaw. "I'll remember that, princess," he winked and Eve cringed in disgust.

"When my mother finds out about your betrayal you'll lose both of your heads!" Eve spat folding her arms.

The Spartan chuckled, "we'll see about that. I'll be back in a few minutes to take you to my general. He wants you to wear that," he pointed at the gown and he winked. "I'm sure it'll fit you nicely..." he hissed and closed the door. Eve felt so violated at the moment. She really needed to think of a plan and wished her mother was here to save them all, but she wasn't and that was the sad reality of it all.

She picked up the blue gown and it reminded of her home. It was definitely a Greek design. She held it up to her body and sighed, thinking this was such a bad idea, but she had to pay along.

A few minutes later Eve stared at herself in the mirror, smoothing the dress against her body. Her hand came to the small life growing within her and she felt so irresponsible as a mother already. She couldn't help but blame herself for this mess she got them all into. "I'm sorry," she apologized aloud to her child and felt her eyes fill with tears.

"Don't be so glum, Evie," a voice appeared and Eve lifted her head recognizing that familiar voice. She looked into the mirror and saw Aphrodite standing behind her with a smirk on her lips.

Eve turned around and saw Aphrodite's smirk turn into a big smile. "Aphrodite?" she couldn't believe she was here before her. She hadn't seen her in a long time and was actually quite happy to see her. She smiled and hugged the blonde goddess. Aphrodite wrapped her arms around the princess and squeezed her tightly. "What are you doing here?" she whispered.

"I had a feeling that you might need my help," the goddess winked and Eve smiled up at her. "I hope you have a plan," she eyed the princess and saw her smile die.

"Not really..." Eve admitted sadly.

Aphrodite nodded, "I see. The Spartan general is waiting to see you. His name is Laconicus and he is tricky so you need to be alert."

Eve nodded understanding. "Forget about me, what about my brother, Samuel, Allat and Gabrielle? They're still trapped down there."

"This new selfless attitude is really refreshing Evie," Aphrodite smiled but then placed her hands on the princess's shoulders. "But you have someone else to think about now. Something that I had to remind your mother so long ago," she winked. Eve blushed and the goddess lifted her chin. "You will always have a special place in my heart, Eve." She kissed the top of her head. "Sometimes it is better to stay in the background instead of fighting the enemy," she whispered in her ear.

Eve eyed the goddess. "Since when did you get so philosophical?" she scoffed.

Aphrodite shrugged, "I guess listening to Gabrielle for years does that to you," she smiled and Eve's smile disappeared. Gabrielle was very smart obviously and her mother trusted her. She began to feel a bit guilty now. She should have listened to Gabrielle more instead of pushing her over like her opinion didn't matter. "Remember what I said to you, Eve."

"Wait, Aphrodite!" she called out and the goddess disappeared. The doors were opened and the awful Spartan was staring at her. She frowned at him and he grabbed her arm forcefully leading her out of the room.

Laconicus was sitting in Allat's throne waiting for Eve to arrive. His men brought her and she was wearing the gown he picked for her. Eve groaned and struggled as they held onto her arms tightly. He waved his hand and the men let go of her arms. She brushed her arms off and stared at the Spartan general. He was handsome, maybe a few years younger than her mother, but not by much. She eyed him carefully. "Leave us," he stood up and his men left the throne chamber. Now they were alone. Eve felt her heart beat quicken as he came closer to her.

He touched her wavy dark hair in between his fingers and smiled as he circled around her. "You have your mother's beauty," he said softly. "Though I sense that you are not like her at all..." he smelled her hair and Eve cringed.

"What do you want?" she asked in a calm voice, hiding her initial fears. Laconicus smiled almost laughing at her for asking such a question.

"Your mother enjoys playing games, I've watched her for several years," he whispered in her ear and Eve moved her face away from him. "No need to be shy around me, princess." He smiled. "I heard that Xena had a daughter but never imagined you would be as beautiful as you are right in front of me."

Eve felt the need to gag and her stomach began to churn at the thought of this man coming any closer to her. He touched her hip and her body stiffened as her eyes widened. "Why did you betray my mother and join the Romans?" she asked, hopeful to get some information out of him.

Laconicus grinned, "Octavius offered me land in exchange for my loyalty to him."

She frowned, "has my mother not been fair to you?" she asked and felt his hand come wrap around her waist, she turned to face him and he looked into her blue icy eyes. She gasped and blinked. "She allowed you to rule your area of Greece for many years."

He sighed, growing bored talking about this. "Your mother never paid any attention to the Spartans. We are the true Greeks, your mother is not even Greek. She is Thracian," his eyes narrowed. "She is a foreigner ruling our land."

"She is more Greek than many of the people within the empire..." she admitted and he smiled down at her, bringing her closer. She grinned nervously and pulled away."If you believe in the Greek empire why would you abandon your people to join the Romans? They are not of your own kind..." she used his own logic against him.

He nodded, "indeed they are not, but your mother has sided with the Persians. We both know that the Persians were the Greeks' enemy for hundreds of years. Why would she ally with them?" he leaned in closer and Eve frowned.

"Maybe she has learned that borders and culture are meaningless. We are all the same inside. It looks like you haven't learned that yet," she smirked. He grabbed her arm and brought her to the balcony. She frowned following reluctantly. Together they stepped onto the balcony and she saw an arena below outside the gardens of the Assyrian palace.

He pointed to the arena, "your friends are going to play a little game and if they win, you can take your prisoners back to Greece. If not...then they will be executed."

The thought of Gabrielle, Solan Allat and Samuel fighting one another seemed unfair. They would never dare fight each other since they were all friends and allies. Eve couldn't wrap her head around this, yet she was spared and she knew why. "And you're using me as bait for my mother..." she concluded.

"Smart girl," he grinned. "They won't be fighting each other, but fighting my warriors." Eve didn't like the sound of that. "I'm sure you know that the Spartans are known for their combat skills."

"Yes..." Eve breathed slowly, trying to comprehend all of this. She turned to face the general, "and what do you plan to do with me?" she asked coyly.

"I'm glad you asked. You will watch the fight with me." He smiled.

Eve didn't like this at all. The thought of it all was making her sick. She didn't want to see her friends fight to the death and certainly didn't want Laconicus as company. Is this what Aphrodite meant by staying in the background? No, that couldn't be what she meant. She was too cryptic in her words for Eve to understand at the moment. Right now she didn't want to watch a death match or stand in the background.

"Tomorrow morning it begins," Laconicus grinned and Eve kept staring out at the arena, wishing this were all just a really horrible dream.

Xena fell asleep rather late in the evening and she was alone in her palace for the first time in such a long time. It was almost like it was twenty years ago when she had nobody here but herself with the exception of Hatima, but she didn't know her well.

She stirred in her sleep and felt someone's eyes on her. Slowly her eyes opened and saw the mirror image of herself laying down right next to her. She yelled and punched 'it' in the face then she groaned as her own nose began to throb. She had forgotten whatever pain she inflicted on the mirror image also was projected upon herself.

"son of a bitch," Xena mumbled and covered her nose. She really knew how to throw a punch. Her reflection too rubbed her nose and Xena frowned. "What are you doing here?"

Her mirror image sighed, "do you always greet people like that, or just me?" she smirked. Xena didn't find her humor amusing. "The answer to your question...I was just checking up on you."

Xena sat up in her bed and saw a bit of blood coming from her nose. "I don't need to be checked up on." She groaned and wiped her nose with the backside of her hand.

"Oh I think you do. You feel lost without Gabrielle, right?" the mirror image asked and Xena remained silent. "Afraid to show your emotions as usual." She sighed.

"No offense but I don't need advice from a copy of myself," Xena got up out of bed and went to her vanity to check her nose. She dabbed the blood with a cloth and saw her reflection sitting on the edge of the bed. This was just too creepy.

"I'm not a copy of you Xena, I am you. Your better half," she grinned and Xena turned around with a knowing look in her eyes. "The person you look at every day in the mirror is your true self, yet you keep her hidden away. Why is that?"

Xena shook her head, "I don't need to hide anything. I've always been the same person."

The mirror image laughed, "is that true?" she stood up and came behind Xena, touching her shoulder. Xena's body stiffened and she shrugged the hand off, stepping away. "Why are you so afraid of yourself, Xena?" she stepped closer and Xena backed up into a wall. "Stop running from who you have become, Xena."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Xena questioned, still not understanding.

The mirror image came closer to Xena and touched her hair gently. "You haven't noticed any changes in you since you took that elixir? I find that hard to believe." She grinned. "You are different, Xena. Even others have noticed and I'm not talking about your youthful appearance. The Olympians fear you, even Ares fears you."

Xena frowned, "he has no reason to be afraid of me. It's his fault that I am like this anyway," she grumbled.

"Is it? He didn't force you to use the elixir. You did it with your own free will," the reflection came closer to Xena's face. Xena fell silent as she knew that was too true, especially hearing come out of her own mouth. "You're on the brink of immortality Xena, can't you feel it?" her eyes widened as she stared in Xena's blue eyes. "Let me in so we can be whole again," she hissed and grabbed Xena's hands, squeezing them tightly. "I won't bite," she smiled.

Xena's eyes widened as she heard those words. Those words that were oh so familiar to her from so long ago.

"Gabrielle! Gabrielle! That scary lady is outside and..."

"Lila we need to get out of here right away!" Gabrielle took a hold of her sister's hand and jumped out their window. Their parents were nowhere to be found right now. They were stopped by one of Xena's soldiers and their eyes grew with fear.

"You're not supposed to be out here!" he said loudly throughout all the screaming and crying in the background. "Get out of here!" he told them

Gabrielle and Lila ran the other way trying to dodge everybody in their way. Lila's eyes couldn't be torn away from the horror before her. All her friends were being killed right in front of her and she couldn't do anything about it. They stopped behind a large tree and Lila still looked at her once called home.

Gabrielle shielded her sister's eyes, "don't look Lila. Okay I want you to stay here and don't go anywhere. I'm going to find mother and father, understand?"

Lila nodded her head and Gabrielle left her side and crept behind houses to see if she could find her parents if she still had parents. She scanned the battlefield and saw Xena coming into the village dragging two men behind her and then she held her saber at a man's neck. A neck that she surely recognized –it was her father. Gabrielle wanted to run out to him, but she knew if she did this she would probably die and she cared about Lila too much to risk her life and leave her sister. Xena's sword plunged through her father's torso and she kicked his body to release her bloody sword.

Gabrielle covered her mouth and now she couldn't get the image out of her head. She ran back to the tree where she left Lila, breathing heavily she hurried back to find Lila gone. She started to panic and call out to her sister but with all the chaos it was useless. She decided to wait behind the tree for the battle to be over, she covered her ears at the sounds.

What seemed like an eternity later, there was dead silence besides the horses' galloping retreating back to the hill tops. Gabrielle looked out at the battlefield and saw Xena was rounding up her men and she spotted her hiding behind a tree. Gabrielle feared this woman, but at the same time she hated her for killing her family, her friends and Gods' knows what happened to Lila.

"Come out little one, I won't bite," Xena reassured the young girl with a deceitful smile and wild eyes.

Xena's memory came rushing back to her and saw the look in the reflection's eyes. She pushed her away and grabbed her chakram off the wall. "You're everything that I used to be. Everything I used to hate about myself..." she was beginning to understand what was wrong with her. She pushed her dark side into the back of her mind for so long, completely ignoring it but never dealt with it face to face before.

"You try to deny who you really are, Xena but without me, you are incomplete, you are nothing without me!" she lunged at Xena and both of them tumbled down to the floor. Xena beneath the image and she saw the devious look in her reflection's eyes. "Submit to me!" she growled and Xena cringed then punched her in the face but this time it didn't affect her. Xena eyed her carefully, laying still watching her every move. The image laughed and wrapped her hands around Xena's neck, restricting her airway.

Xena watched the mirror image's eyes change from blue to a bright golden color and her face began to morph. Xena's eyes widened and she was no longer looking at an image of herself but at the Goddess of Chaos, Eris.

"You!" Xena hoarsely said and Eris' grin widened as her grip around Xena's neck tightened.

Eris grinned, "yes me again. So nice to see you Xena. I told you I would be back..." she chuckled. "You see, I told you that you won last time but is my turn!" she hissed. Xena swung the chakram across Eris' arm and drew blood. The goddess gasped and let go of Xena's throat, holding onto her arm. Her arm began gushing out gold blood and she grimaced. Xena smirked and got off the floor then the goddess let out an ear piercing shriek, shaking the walls and tapestries fell of the walls. Xena covered her ears and closed her eyes, trying to block out the awful noise.

Eris stopped screaming and looked to her arm, blowing ice over it to clog the bleeding. "You cut me," she smiled. "I suppose that is why my brother is so afraid to come near you..." she twirled one of her dark locks around her finger. "You may be immortal now, but you are nothing like we gods are, Xena!" she came closer to her and Xena backed away, unsure if it was wise to swing at her again to risk sudden hearing loss.

"I didn't ask for this," Xena said calmly and turned to see the open balcony a few feet behind her.

"And I didn't ask to have Ares for a brother and Aphrodite for an older sister, but you can't choose your family can you?" she frowned folding her arms. "My brother has been a bit busy in Assyria you see," she smiled coming closer to Xena. She saw the fear in the empress's eyes. "The Spartan General has chosen to follow the path of Ares and I decided to do some scouting for myself." She stopped and Xena backed up against the railing of the balcony and Eris smiled deviously.

"It's not a surprise that a Spartan would follow Ares. They are ruthless," Xena said and the goddess nodded, agreeing with her.

Eris held up her finger, "yes but you see your little friends have been captured by the Spartans including your precious daughter," she smiled and Xena's eyes grew in anger and fear all at once. "Oh yes I've been watching Eve for awhile now. It is I who lured them all to Assyria, not Ares, but me!" she said almost like a child, pouting that she wanted to be better than her brother.

"You stay away from Gabrielle and Eve," Xena warned and held her chakram close to her ready to strike if necessary. She saw the goddess take a step back, almost fearful of the chakram.

She smiled, "no need to be violent Xena," she said sweetly. "Wouldn't want to damage that pretty face of yours..." she raised a brow and Xena snarled. "If you cooperate with me I won't harm your daughter."

Xena didn't trust this goddess, she was far worse than Ares not to mention she didn't know her motives or her next move at all. She was in unfamiliar territory right now. "Or her child," she added.

Eris tisked, "I didn't say I wouldn't harm the child." She saw the anger in Xena's eyes. "You see Xena, your grandchild needs to be gotten rid of. It is a threat to the Olympians!" her voice rose and she took a few steps closer to the empress.

Xena smiled, "you mean to tell me...the great gods of Olympus are scared of" she couldn't believe what she was hearing.

The goddess grew in size and Xena blinked. "That thing is not a baby! It is a mockery of the Olympians no thanks to my sister's meddling!" Xena figured that Eris spoke of Aphrodite's intersession of Eve's conception.

She was able to calm herself down and stared at the empress with cold eyes and a menacing smile. "I will make sure that abomination does not see the light of day."

Chapter Text

AN: it is always so difficult yet fun to write battle scenes. Long chapter because a lot going on at once and good luck everyone. lol.

Chapter 22 –Four Mice, One Lion

"I never thought someone would ever see me, or make a prisoner of my heart but like a warrior dressed in armor you carved your name in it, right from the start. Now you are my prisoner, and I am your slave. We'd both stopped searching for any acceptance and I have no precious gifts to give you. I only have these words...I love you, still."

The doors to the dungeon below the palace were opened and Gabrielle squinted her eyes from the bright light. She had no idea what time it was without windows it was hard to tell. Solan yawned and saw many Spartan soldiers coming to open the doors. Gabrielle's chains were unlocked and she rubbed her wrists and felt hope inside of her. Samuel was dropped to the floor and he groaned from the numbness in his arms. He didn't believe anyone could experience this kind of pain, but he was wrong.

Allat was manhandled by one of the soldiers and Gabrielle was ushered out of her cell. He smiled at her hopeful that Eve might have done something to free them all.

Samuel looked to one of the soldiers who hoisted him up and pushed him out of the cell. "Does this mean we're free?" he asked and the man laughed at him. Gabrielle lifted a curious eyebrow and felt like this wasn't freedom they were tasting, no it was something else. Maybe Xena decided to come to Assyria and free them after all? No, that couldn't be it. Xena had no idea what was going on in this palace. How would she get here? No, they were all alone still and Eve was still absent.

"I doubt it, Samuel," Solan grumbled and punched the Spartan in the jaw and he smirked. One of the other soldiers came to him and kicked Solan in his gut and he groaned, dropping to his knees, doubling over. "'re no better than the Romans," he spat out and the Spartan grinned down at him. Allat helped his friend up off the ground and linked arms with him.

Gabrielle was grabbed by one of the Spartans and she groaned, pulling her arm away. "Where are you taking us? Where is the princess?" she demanded an answer or she wasn't moving.

The Spartan sighed, "the princess is in good hands," he grinned deviously. He pulled Gabrielle along and pushed her up the stairs. "Get moving."

Solan walked alongside Samuel with Allat behind them. He grimaced at the Persian and Samuel avoided his glare. "Remember what I said Samuel..." he smiled and Samuel frowned at him, not pleased at his behavior.

"Your mother didn't react like you," the Persian retorted.

"Well Eve is not my daughter, she is my sister," he growled and Samuel rolled his eyes. "My mother probably wanted to skin you alive."

The Persian grinned mischievously, "actually, she was rather excited," he said proudly and that only enraged Solan more. Allat grabbed onto his friend's shoulder, squeezing tightly.

"Boys, we can settle this matter later, right?" he smiled hoping that would lighten the mood, but Solan shrugged his hand off and continued walking up the stairs pushing Samuel into the wall.

Allat sighed. Samuel brushed off his chest and stared at the Assyrian king, "he has a temper doesn't he?" he jested and Allat shrugged his shoulder casually.

"He is very much like his mother," Allat pat Samuel's back and head up the stairs. Samuel was coming to find out that Solan was more like Xena than Eve was, which was kind of scary to be honest. He didn't want to piss him off, although it seems that he already did that involuntarily.

"I'm beginning to see that," Samuel muttered under this breath.

The four were brought up to the first floor of the palace and suddenly were blind folded. Gabrielle gasped and struggled as she tried to pry the Spartan's hands off of her but he restrained her hands as soon as he tied the cloth around her eyes.

"Bihaq al-jaheem!" Allat cried out in his native language and swung his fist at a soldier, though missed and the Spartan punched him in his jaw. He groaned, rotating his jaw trying to relieve his pain.

Samuel growled equally trying to struggle to be free from the two Spartans holding onto him. "khook az jahneem," he spat blindly at the Spartan traitors.

Solan frowned, "can we stick to one language?"

Gabrielle was the only one chuckling in this awful situation. She translated the kings' words and Solan felt a bit out of the loop not skilled in Persian or the Assyrian language. "Samuel is right, you are all pigs!" she growled and she felt a large spear come to the middle of her back pushing her forward.

"Shut up, all of you!" the Spartan demanded.

Laconicus waited up in the balcony above the arena. Eve sat next to him and she was obviously on high alert. He could sense her nerves even from far away. He touched her hand and she snatched it away, frowning at the general. He smiled and grabbed an apple from the tray, presenting it to her. "Fruit?" he offered.

"I'd rather eat dirt," Eve retorted and he shook his head, taking a bite out of the apple. Though the crunching sound of the fruit was rather enticing. She hadn't had a proper meal in days now and she could feel her stomach churning, curling in on itself from the pain of hunger. Her hand came to her stomach and thought of what Aphrodite said to her. She was selfless, but at this moment, she didn't need to be. She was right, she had someone else to think about, but how could she with everything happening? The princess felt her head throbbing, wishing her mother were here to solve this issue.

Her hand was reaching for a peach and Laconicus watched her, but then she heard the crowd yelling and she turned her attention to the arena below them. She stood up leaning over the railing. She saw Gabrielle, Solan, Allat and Samuel being ushered to the middle of the arena all blind folded. She felt her body stiffen seeing them all standing blindly. They had no idea what was happening and here she was, unable to help them all.

"I hope this is quick," the general said and received a menacing glare from Eve. "Sit down and relax, princess." He winked and Eve remained standing, watching them all back to back, still blind folded.

"By the gods, this is awful," she whispered lowly.

Gabrielle felt her arm touch one of the men she was surrounded by. She heard a lot of cheering and yelling. "Where are we?" she asked.

Solan touched Gabrielle's hand, making sure she was next to him. "I don't know, but it can't be good."

Allat knew exactly where they were and this was all a sick game. "We're in my arena," he said solemnly.

Samuel gasped, "excuse me? Arena?" he groaned, "these Spartans are obviously looking for a fight."

"So why don't give them one?" Solan smiled.

Gabrielle took off the blind fold and saw thousands of people staring at them. "By the gods," she looked around and her eyes burned from the bright sun beaming into her eyes. She looked up and saw Eve standing looking down at them all. She had a fearful look in her eyes and there was...Laconicus, the Spartan General. The other men took off their blind folds and their eyes wandered around.

"Whoa," Solan said. "This brings back some painful memories," he said lowly. He remembered when he fought his mother many years ago in the Roman arena, though he didn't know she was his mother at the time. He was ready to kill her. What is this? What kind of a sick game were the Spartans up to?

Gabrielle nodded, "agreed," her own memories fighting in the arena per Xena's request many years ago flourished in her mind. She would never forget that, but everything was different now. Xena was different now, that was the past and it was an awful past, she chose not to dwell in it. she smelled something wrong with this picture. "Is he expecting us to fight each other?" she wondered, raising her eyebrow as she continued to look at the crowd, yelling at them all.

"I'm not going to fight anybody," Samuel said standing his ground.

"Me neither," Allat said in agreement with the Persian. He smiled at him and Samuel weakly grinned back at him.

Solan folded his arms and saw the gates open and two Spartans on horses came riding in. "I doubt we will be fighting each other, guys." Everyone turned to see the two Spartans but then out of the other three corners more horsemen came out, fully decked in armor and held jousting spears.

Gabrielle grabbed Solan's hand tightly, "this is an unfair fight..." she snarled.

Two Spartan soldiers threw measly weapons at them on the sandy ground. There was a staff with no spear head, a dull blade, a scythe and a shield, which technically wasn't a weapon at all. The soldiers ran back behind the gates and closed them waiting for Laconicus to declare the fight.

Each person picked up their weapon of choice. Gabrielle chose the staff, Solan the blade, Allat the scythe and that left Samuel with a large Roman shield. "They're crazy if they think we'll win with these weapons," Allat said.

The Persian scoffed, "speak for yourself! All I have is a shield!"

Solan smirked, "anything can be a weapon, Samuel. You just have to know how to use it," he turned to him and the Persian looked so confused. "My mother taught me that."

Gabrielle was getting tired of these two. "Would you two shut up?" she said and they both remained silent and Allat smiled, silently thanking Gabrielle. "We need to think of a plan. We can't take them all at once." There were six men on horses and only two had javelins. "We need to take out the ones with the spears first," she gestured to the two on horses in front of them.

"How will we do that? We're out numbered," Samuel said and although it was obvious, Gabrielle frowned.

She turned to the king, "it's called teamwork."

Solan chuckled, "and you want to marry into this family?" he chided. Samuel narrowed his eyes at the blonde prince.

Laconicus stood up raising his hand and the crowd died down, taking their seats. Eve stood beside him and saw the fear in all of their eyes in the arena. This wasn't a fair fight, but she knew that it wouldn't be. She just wished she could have warned them before hand.

The general waved his hand to commence the fight and his men below saluted to him and started circling around the four in the middle. Eve sat down on the edge of her seat, almost not wishing to watch.

"This is a sport that dates back hundreds of years in Sparta. I'm sure you're familiar with it?" he smiled at the princess but she refused to answer his question.

"My mother is going to kill you," she turned to the general with a menacing glare. "And the Roman Emperor too," she smiled smugly.

Laconicus laughed, "she should have killed him years ago! But she couldn't because she was too busy bathing herself in pride," he drank some wine.

Eve smiled, "don't underestimate her. She has changed but she will gladly take your head as a trophy."

"On the contrary princess, I never underestimated your mother but she is old and worn out now. Where is she? Not here, is she?" he snickered and Eve frowned, turning her attention back to this awful 'sport'.

Xena stared at the goddess as she held the chakram close to her ready to attack. Eris had an eerie grin upon her lips which made Xena sick to look at. "You touch her, you die." She said firmly. "That's a promise."

Eris grinned, "unlike you, I can pop in to any place. Maybe if you think hard enough you can imagine you are there in Assyria," she laughed aloud at her own joke. Xena didn't find it amusing. "I understand you are about to make a trip to Rome to see the emperor, yes?" she hissed. Xena remained silent, refusing to give information to this goddess. "I know you want to go to Assyria to help your family but you also have to see Octavius or he will obliterate your navy." She tapped her cheek churlishly. "What a predicament you are in, Xena," she grinned evilly.

"I can always find more men," Xena said and the goddess chuckled.

"you are willing to risk your entire army to save your family?" she stepped closer to her. "Doesn't sound like the changed Xena..." she hissed. "Alas, you can't save everyone, can you?" she winked at the empress.

Xena brought her chakram up and Eris stepped back, fearful of the thing. She grinned, "don't like that do ya?" she teased and came closer. The goddess frowned and disappeared to the opposite side of the room.

"Don't toy with me, Xena. You are not in the position to play games with me!" she challenged. "Your blonde friend, girlfriend, wife, whatever you want to call her, is in a life or death situation and you want to slay little ol' me?" she chuckled and saw Xena's fill with hate and anger. "Yeah, that's right, get angry. It suits you."

Xena recognized some similarities between Eris and her brother, Ares. Though, she was far more annoying than he was or is. She too was driven off of hate which shouldn't be a surprise –goddess of chaos didn't come from rainbows and kisses. Her and Ares were quite a team but Xena suspected that Eris was keeping secrets from her older brother.

" and Ares," Xena grinned, playing this game with the goddess. She needed to make a decision and of course the obvious one was to go to Assyria and help her family and friends, but she probably wouldn't make it in time. "You two working together?" she pried.

Eris scoffed, rolling her golden eyes. "As if. I can't work with my brother. He is very bossy," she said and eyed Xena with a mysterious grin. "Fishing for answers huh? Look Xena, I don't care about you like my brother does. It's Eve I care about and that child..." she balled her fist up. "It needs to be destroyed."

Xena circled around and Eris remained a very good distance. "Why are you so afraid of a child?" she smirked.

"I am not afraid. That thing...inside of your daughter, is going to ruin everything on Olympus." She folded her arms lifting her chin glaring at the empress.

"I think you Olympians are drinking too much of Bacchus' wine," Xena smiled, almost wanting to laugh hearing Eris' end of days story.

Eris rolled her eyes, "make jokes if you want Xena, but you will will see," she grinned. "Anyway, it seems you have a choice to make," she held up her palms raising her left one first. "Go to Rome," then rose her right palm, "or go to Assyria." She shrugged nonchalantly. "Either way you lose because Octavius is expecting you in a few days and you'll never make it to Assyria in time to save your family." She saw the malice in Xena's eyes and laughed, "well it's been fun, I have business to attend to," she waved before Xena could grab her and disappeared, her laughter trailing behind.

Xena groaned, frustrated at herself. The obvious choice was to go to Assyria, but Eris was right, she wouldn't make it there in time to save them. She couldn't care less about Octavius. He always wanted everything on his time. He can wait, she thought.

A knock came to her bedroom door and she was a bit startled. She readied her ground in case something burst into her room. "Empress, are you alright? We heard some loud crashes from your room," the young guard said and Xena sighed, lowering her chakram.

She took a good look at her room and all the tapestries were on the floor and a few statues knocked over. "No everything is fine," she called out and it was silent. "Actually," she hastily went and opened the door. "Could you ready my horse for me?" she smiled and the young soldier nodded his head running down the stairs hastily. She closed the door and exhaled deeply.

"Xena," a voice was heard in her room and Xena spun around with the chakram ready to attack. Aphrodite's eyes widened and she lifted her hands for surrender. "Whoa..."

Xena was beginning to feel very paranoid and she grumbled, lowering her stance. "Aphrodite...don't sneak up on me like that."

The goddess grinned, "I'll make sure to remember that..." she looked around the room and it was quite a mess. "I see my sister came to see you," she sighed drastically.

"I don't have time to talk Aphrodite, I need to go to Assyria." Xena took off her gown and changed into her armor, slipping on her pants and boots first.

The love goddess averted her eyes as Xena was changing. "I'm aware of what's going on in Assyria," she said aloud and Xena halted, staring at her curiously. The goddess turned and smiled. "I came to help you travel to your family," she winked and Xena never felt so relieved to see Aphrodite in her life until this moment. The empress grinned at the blonde goddess.

Solan and Allat were back to back staring at the two horsemen carrying javelins. "So we go for the legs?" Solan asked. Allat nodded. Gabrielle and Samuel remained in the middle, sticking close together watching the other horsemen circling around them creating a sand cyclone. Samuel shielded his eyes from the sand with his arm and Gabrielle knelt behind his shield.

"We can't stand here forever," Gabrielle said.

Samuel coughed, "I know! But we need to wait for Solan and Allat to disable those horsemen." He peered over the shield and saw an arrow coming straight for them. He gasped and knelt behind the shield. Gabrielle saw an arrowhead pierce through the shield an inch away from her shoulder and her eyes widened in fear. "This shield is a piece of shit," he grumbled.

Solan ran to the left side of one of the horsemen and Allat created a distraction. He waved his hands, "hey over here, pig!" he shouted with a smile. The Spartan growled and kicked the horse coming right for him. He steadied his stance holding the scythe ready to attack. "come on Solan..." he frowned.

Solan swung the dull blade across the back of the horse's legs and tore a few tendons. The horse reared on its hind legs falling over on its side along with the rider. Allat smiled and swung the scythe at the fallen Spartan but he blocked the blow with his javelin and the scythe broke in half. The Assyrian's eyes widened. "Shit," he said aloud and the Spartan kicked him down on the ground. Solan turned and saw the other horseman coming towards him and he panicked, running from him and saw the Spartan walking towards Allat as his friend lay on the sand in pain, holding his midsection.

He grabbed the broken scythe and stabbed the Spartan in the neck and he cried out in agonizing pain, trying to cover his wound as blood spewed from his veins. Solan grabbed the Spartan's javelin and then grabbed a hold of Allat's hand, hoisting him up to run from the horseman riding towards them.

"Thanks brother," Allat smiled and they ran towards the opposite side of the arena.

"You can thank me later," the Greek prince said and handed the spear to his friend. He looked behind them and saw the Spartan ready to strike the javelin. He yelled at Allat, "go left and I'll go right!"

"What?!" Allat protested and Solan groaned running the other way. The Spartan halted his horse as the two split in opposite directions.

In the center of the arena Gabrielle and Samuel were still protected by the shield as the horsemen continued to shoot arrows at them. "We need to move!" she said and Samuel looked around, afraid to lift his head.

"How? They've surrounded us!" he saw an arrow come close to his boot and panicked. He saw Gabrielle's staff and had an idea. "Give me the staff," he said and Gabrielle looked at him like he was crazy. "Just give it to me!" he demanded and she handed him the wooden staff. "Use the shield to get out of here," he said and she stared at him blankly.

"Samuel I don't think –"

He frowned, "just go!" he pushed her forward and she sighed, picking the shield up and ran away from the center, blocking the arrows coming for her. Samuel stood with the staff in the middle of the arena and the horsemen turned their attention towards him forgetting about Gabrielle. He twirled the staff and the Spartans laughed at him and stood in a semi-circle around him, pulling their arrows back. He took a fighting stance and moved back a bit to see the entirety of the attack. He had trained all his life for this but never got to use his skills in real combat.

The arrows came for him and he twirled the staff, knocking the arrows out of his way swiftly. The Spartans frowned and readied their bows again. The Persian smiled at them ready for another attack.

Gabrielle ran and dropped the shield breathing heavily. She saw Samuel blocking the arrows and she thought that was quite skillful. She had no idea he possessed such a skill. Her eyes then looked to her right and saw Solan and to her left was Allat, running from horsemen carrying large clay-mores. Her eyes traveled up at the balcony and Eve sat, leaning over the railing looking very nervous. She smiled at the princess and Laconicus seemed to be enjoying himself.

Laconicus rubbed his chin and looked at Eve. "Your friends are very resourceful..." he gathered.

Eve frowned, "you underestimated them?" she looked ahead and saw Samuel in the middle trying to defend himself against three archers on horses. She knew that Solan and Allat were definitely used to this sort of game and Gabrielle was a master at it, but Samuel surprised her. She didn't know how long he would be able to keep that up though.

He saw who she was staring at and knew that look anywhere. "The Persian," he began and Eve froze, "he is yours?" he grinned sneakily. She chose to remain silent and he didn't need an answer to justify his suspicions. "There's only one of him and three archers. His chance at surviving is slim," he said casually and Eve frowned, glaring at the general.

"No matter, he will be eliminated soon enough," Laconicus thanked the maiden as he took another glass of wine. Eve sighed, rubbing her forehead, beginning to sweat.

Eris appeared in the balcony, unknown to the two. She stood next to her brother, Ares, as they watched the battle below. "These mortals and their petty games," she rolled her eyes in disgust.

Ares grinned, "I enjoy these games. It shows the true potential of humans," he folded his arms as he stood behind Laconicus overseeing the arena. Eris stood behind Eve and he peered over at his sister. "Still scared of her?" he smirked.

"It's not her, it's that thing inside her," Eris cringed. Children, she hated them so, especially if they threatened her very existence in this world. She mischievously grinned at her brother, "I paid a little visit to your warrior queen," she hissed.

Ares frowned, "haven't you learned to stay away from Xena by now?" he gestured to the scar on her arm from Xena's little attack.

The goddess flipped her dark hair and covered her arm, "that was a little slip up on my part," she defended herself. "I don't care about Xena, Ares. You know this." She frowned, "but Aphrodite, she needs to keep her love out of war."

Ares grinned, chuckling softly, "you can't have war without love, Eris!" he shook his head at his little sister's ignorance. "She is no threat to us. I wouldn't worry about her."

Eris snuffed her brother and placed a hand on Eve's shoulder smiling down at her. The princess shivered and looked behind her but the goddess' appearance was unknown to her. Eve frowned and turned back around to watch the fight below. Eris' ears perked up and she heard the heartbeats come from within Eve's body and then her frown deepened as she listened further. Ares eyed his sister confused at her suddenly confused expression.

"What are you doing?" Ares asked.

Eris balled her fist up, her fingernails digging into her palm. "She carries two brats in her!" she growled and Ares blinked, not the least bit fazed.

"Xena is going to have fun with that one," Ares snickered.

Eris grabbed hold of Ares and shoved him into the column. "you fool! We're all going to die because of those...abominations!" she spat and Ares frowned. Eris took a step closer to the balustrade of the balcony and saw the four putting up quite a fight against the Spartans. She eyed the Persian who was still fighting the archers. She smiled and twirled her fingers slowly.

Ares watched her and then looked out into the arena and saw sand begin to swirl in the arena slowly. "Eris..." he warned. Eris kept twirling her fingers and smiled as she saw the sand begin to swarm the entire arena, blocking everyone's sight. "You're insane."

She grinned and blew against her palm and the small cyclone of sand turned into a massive storm, swarming the crowd as well. She chuckled as she watched everyone scream in panic. Eve coughed, covering her eyes from the sand whirling in the balcony, the small glass scraping her skin.

Down below Allat shielded his eyes from the sand and wrapped his arm around Gabrielle, protecting her from the storm. "There is no wind in the air!" he yelled.

Gabrielle covered her eyes and tucked herself close to Allat's body. "This is not normal weather..." she gathered. "Other forces are at work here."

"Your gods I presume?!" he yelled through the loud sand swirling around them.

Eris grinned and held up her hand, closing her fist and the sand storm ceased, though a large cloud lingered. The sand began to wither away and the crowd was quiet. "You like to watch mortals play these stupid games and I like to play my own games..." she winked at Ares.

Solan lifted his head and saw the storm had dissipated. He stared at Samuel and smiled at him, thankful to see he was alive. He saw Allat and Gabrielle in a separate corner, still alive as well. Looking up he saw Eve sitting with the Spartan General and frowned, though he was glad she was alive.

He ran to the Persian and lifted him up, running away from the middle of the arena. "Good job staying alive, buddy," he grinned and Samuel smiled weakly, not sure if that was a compliment or not. He picked up a javelin from a fallen Spartan and gave it to him. "I think you will need this."

"Thanks..." Samuel twirled the spear in his wrist and saw two more horsemen coming towards them. They both gasped and ran the opposite way.

Gabrielle stood up and saw Solan and Samuel running away from the horsemen. She saw Solan trip and fall. She frowned and snatched the javelin from Allat's hand making a run for it. Allat's eyes widened in fear. "Gabrielle, no!"

Samuel turned around and saw Solan on the ground, but didn't understand why he wasn't getting up then looked at his leg. A whip was wrapped around it. groaning he wanted to turn back but the other horseman was riding straight towards him. He then saw Gabrielle running with a javelin in her hand. He stood still watching as if in slow motion.

Gabrielle stabbed the Spartan soldier in the side and he cried out, turning towards her, he saw a smile on her face. He growled and pulled out his blade and swung swiftly, cutting her arm. She held onto her arm wincing at the pain. Solan unwrapped his leg from the whip and jumped up on the Spartan, knocking them both off the horse and onto the ground, wrestling him, he punched the soldier in the jaw and the Spartan head butted Solan with his helmet. Solan groaned, holding his head as it began to throb. His vision was blurred and saw Gabrielle. "Go!" he cried.

The blonde frowned and saw the Spartan's sword laying in the sand, free to take. She grabbed it and came towards them as the Spartan began to choke Solan. She stood behind the soldier and stabbed him through his armor in his heart.

The Spartan began coughing up blood and she took the sword out and the sands were drenched in a dark red now. Solan stood up and felt blood dripping from his head. "Gabrielle, when I say go...don't stand there," he smiled.

Gabrielle grinned, "and let him kill you? Not a chance," she stared in his eyes that so reminded her of Xena's.

A loud cry was heard from Samuel not too far from them. The Spartan horseman had sliced through the Persian's leg and he fell to the ground, clutching his leg. Solan frowned and took the sword from Gabrielle running to help him. Allat finally caught up to Gabrielle and breathed heavily. "Gabrielle..." he exhaled deeply, "you're almost as crazy as Xena."

"I'll take that as a compliment," she smiled then saw a Spartan running towards them and they didn't have any weapons. She looked to Allat and both ran together away from the soldier.

Eve gasped as she saw Samuel on the ground hurt and her brother coming to help him. She gripped the armrests tightly as she watched. She hoped that Solan was going to make it on time.

Laconicus smiled, "this is getting interesting."

A few screams were heard from the other side of the second story of the arena and he saw his guards being flung over the side of the wall, falling to their deaths. He frowned and grabbed his sword, standing up he saw the curtains sliced off the columns and his guards yelling, then being flung over the wall once again.

Eve raised an eyebrow, though not afraid she heard footsteps and the curtain fell blocking her view. She saw a blade slice through the fabric and Xena stepped forward wearing her black armor with her red cape behind her. She smiled, so thankful to see her.

Xena smiled at her daughter then glared at the Spartan General. "You should really hire better guards," she said lamely and sheathed her sword. "Call off this ridiculous game."

Laconicus smiled, shocked to see Xena. "Empress...what a surprise to see you here." He took a step back and Xena grabbed Eve's hand pulling her close to her body and Eve stood behind her mother, using her as a shield.

"Yes I imagine you're very excited to see me," Xena's eyes widened wildly as she smiled at the Spartan. She looked below in the arena and saw Gabrielle and Allat trying to defend themselves as they were weaponless. Gabrielle using her handy combat skills while Allat dodged every attack from the soldiers. Xena's heart stopped as she saw Gabrielle in this environment once more. Solan was dragging Samuel off to safety. She frowned and unsheathed her sword, pointing it at Laconicus.

"Stop this madness now!" she demanded and Eve gripped onto Xena's shoulder almost like a child fearing the enemy.

He grinned, "and stop all the fun? Xena..." he grabbed a torch and Xena remained in fighting stance, watching his every move. He lit the curtains on fire and then threw the torch into the audience. The wooden benches began burning and he jumped over the balcony to run through the tunnels inside the arena.

Xena growled and ran to the railing to see Laconicus escaping. She cursed to herself then a part of the ceiling collapsed behind her. She turned around and jumped over the burning debris. She grabbed Eve's hand and ran down the corridor. Eve smiled as she ran beside her mother, despite the chaos ensuing around them. "I'm so glad to see you, mother!"

Xena smiled, "I'm glad to see you are safe," they ran down the stairs and came to an opening. She pushed Eve forward. "Wait by the sea and don't argue with me," she demanded. Eve was in no position to argue nor did she want to. She ran off and Xena frowned, hearing the wooden bleachers above creaking and cracking as the fire had spread drastically. She ran through a tunnel to find an entrance to the battlegrounds.

Gabrielle punched a Spartan in his jaw then kneed him in the groin then kicked him to the ground. She breathed heavily then looked around to see the entire arena was up in flames. "Umm..." she looked at Allat who just broke a Spartan's arm and she cringed. "We need to get out of here."

Allat breathed heavily then looked up, "oh yeah...probably," he scanned the area and saw these soldiers weren't giving up. "Don't these guys ever quit?" he was beginning to feel worn out. His arms were sore and blood seeped from his leg. Gabrielle's arm wasn't holding up well either.

Samuel laid on the ground as he was unable to move his leg. Solan was able to fight off the Spartans as long as possible. He sliced through the soldier's chest and kicked him to the ground. Though, through the gates more Spartans came out. He looked up to see they were surrounded by fire. "This is not good," he shook his head.

"There's too many of them..." Samuel said wincing in pain as he tried to stand. Solan wrapped his arm around him and helped him stand. "We're going to die here."

Solan groaned as they began to hobble away, "don't think about that right now." A Spartan came towards them and Solan closed his eyes waiting to be struck by his blade. Though he heard the soldier cry out and fall to the ground. Opening one eye he saw his mother pulling her blade out of the man's backside. He grinned, so thankful to see her. "Mother!" he exclaimed and Samuel turned his head to indeed see Xena. "How did you get here?"

Xena placed her hand on her son's shoulder, "ask me later." She looked at the badly wounded Persian and frowned, "get him out of here. Eve is waiting by the coast." She smiled at them both and ran off to help Allat and Gabrielle.

Gabrielle and Allat put their fists up ready to fight once more as three Spartans came running towards them. Burning debris fell from above and Gabrielle felt her heart race basically watching as the place concaved around them.

Xena ran through coming from the side and sliced through a Spartan's torso, splitting his body in half. Gabrielle's eyes widened. "Xena!" she grinned and ran to hug her tightly. She pulled away staring in her blue eyes, "how?" she creased her eyebrows bemused at her appearance.

"Aphrodite. Long story," Xena smiled and saw Gabrielle had a large gash on her left arm and a wound on her forehead. "Gabrielle..." she touched her cheek and the blonde smirked.

"Just a scratch," Gabrielle shrugged, smiling at the empress.

Allat came to Xena and placed a hand on her shoulder, "Xena you are a goddess," he kissed her hand and Xena rolled her eyes. These men and their polite manners.

The Spartan soldiers came at them and Xena turned, pointing her blade at them. Their eyes grew in fear as they saw the caped woman was their empress. "Run. Now." She smiled deviously and they ran away in the opposite direction. Gabrielle laughed at the cowardly men and the empress sighed. "Fools."

She grabbed Gabrielle's hand, "we need to get out of here," the three ran out from the arena through a series of tunnels. Gabrielle always had trouble keeping up with Xena, especially since she was so exhausted. She had been jailed for days with little to no food and now this impromptu battle.

"What did you do with Laconicus?" Gabrielle asked ducking her head from the falling debris.

"He got away," Xena frowned, leading the way, rounding tight corners, never letting go of Gabrielle's hand the entire way.

Finally making it out of the palace walls, they stopped and saw Solan hobbling along with Samuel, not getting very far at all. Allat grinned shaking his head. "And he wanted to kill him the other day."

Xena frowned, "what?"

Gabrielle blinked grabbing a hold of Xena's arm, "never mind that," she grinned and Xena was very confused.

Xena took a Roman horse and told Solan to put Samuel on it to travel faster to the coast where her ship awaited them all. Gabrielle walked with Xena towards the sea and Gabrielle turned to see Allat was not following behind.

"Aren't you coming with us?" Gabrielle asked. Xena turned awaiting for Allat to come.

He shook his head, "no this is my home. My people need me here, you've both done so much for me already," he bowed his head at the two women.

Xena smiled, admiring his bravery. He had always been very strong willed since she met him long ago when his mother was still alive. "I will leave my ships and men here with you," she said.

Allat's mouth gaped. "Xena, I can't take your offer –"

"It wasn't an offer," Xena said firmly and the Assyrian King smiled, nodding his head.

"Thank you," he saw them walk off together, Gabrielle clinging to Xena closely. "Make sure Solan doesn't beat up Samuel," he teased.

Xena frowned, turning her head and Gabrielle turned Xena's face around. "What is he talking about?" she asked, still confused.

Gabrielle grinned tightly, "nothing," she pat Xena's arm. Xena pursed her lips but did not want to ask any questions.

The sun began to set as they sailed back to Greece Gabrielle was on the deck overlooking the peaceful ocean. She felt Xena come close to her and her fingers grazed her wounded arm. "Let me take care of this for you," Xena offered. Gabrielle shook her head.

"I'm fine, really. Samuel is the hurt one," she smiled.

"I already patched up his leg." She grabbed Gabrielle's hand. "Don't be stubborn now," she grinned and the blonde scoffed.

"I'm stubborn?" she said disbelievingly, since Xena was the stubborn one.

Below the deck in one of Xena's lavish quarters Gabrielle sat on the bed as Xena took off her cape and washed her hands in a water basin. She grabbed a cloth, bandage, herbs and a needle. Xena knelt down on the floor and began dabbing Gabrielle's wound. "I knew something was wrong when I didn't receive a letter from you," she said softly.

Gabrielle sighed, "it happened so fast. We didn't know the Spartans were working with the Romans."

"I'll have to deal with them later," Xena said and Gabrielle winced. "Sorry," she grinned and dipped the cloth in the water, squeezing out the diluted blood. "Being in an arena must have brought back some unwanted memories for you," she lowered her eyes paying attention to Gabrielle's wound.

The blonde smiled at Xena's empathy towards her. "It just reminded me of how far you –we have come. Together."

"you four seem to put up quite a fight," Xena smiled and rubbed some herbs inside of Gabrielle's wound.

The blonde nodded, "I think so. We'd make a good team," she joked. "Not as good as you and I, though," she smiled and Xena smirked, looking up in her green eyes. "Aren't you supposed to be on your way to Rome?"

Xena bit off some thread and began threading the needle. She grazed the needle over a lit candle and grabbed her arm tightly. "I'd travel across a thousand oceans to save you and my children, Gabrielle." She smiled and gently dug the needle in her arm. Gabrielle grinned at Xena's sudden warmth towards her. She couldn't remember the last time she had seen Xena like this, probably years ago when Eve was a child.

After finishing sewing the wound up Xena pat Gabrielle's arm. "All finished," she grabbed the dirty water basin and herbs. Gabrielle grabbed Xena's wrist and their eyes met, staring as if time stood still. Gabrielle leaned in and kissed Xena's lips softly. Pulling away she saw initial shock in Xena's eyes. "What was that for?"

"A thank you," Gabrielle blushed and saw the empress smile warmly at her. Xena stood up and placed the items on a table. She extended her hand to Gabrielle.

"I want to check on Samuel and Eve, come with me?" she pleaded.

Gabrielle grabbed her hand, "I don't think I'm going to leave your side to go on another adventure alone again," she joked and together they left the room to a separate smaller room in the back of the ship.

Xena opened the door and saw Samuel asleep, propped up against some pillows and his leg resting on a few blankets. Eve was asleep next to him with her arm draped over his body. Gabrielle peered behind Xena and saw the two sleeping on the bed together.

"Too much excitement for them," Xena whispered.

Gabrielle nodded, "I'm just glad that Eve is safe." She felt responsible for her safety and ultimately failed. "I'm sorry I couldn't keep her from harm's way."

"Gabrielle, I don't blame you. There were a lot of obstacles in your way. What matters now is that everyone is safe," Xena smiled and Gabrielle leaned into her.

"I'm happy to be going home. Remind me to never leave again, okay?" Gabrielle linked arms with her consort.

Xena smiled, "just one thing," she whispered. "Octavius is going to be livid once he finds out that I foiled Laconicus plans."

"Oh yeah," it donned on Gabrielle that there still was technically a war going on between the two empires and now the Spartans betrayed the Greek Empire which only caused more problems and possibly a rift between the Athenians and Spartans. "Are you still going to meet with him?"

The empress nodded, "of course I am," she grinned slyly. "But for now, let's focus on getting home." She closed the door allowing the two to sleep soundly. "But you're coming with me to Rome," she pointed at the blonde.

Gabrielle smiled widely, "it'll be like old times!" she laughed and Xena raised an eyebrow. "I a good way, not meeting Octavius again, bad kind of...way." She weakly smiled and Xena chuckled lowly. "See I knew you'd understand."

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

Late the following morning Samuel woke up now feeling the full of effects of his wounded leg. He looked down and saw Eve sleeping next to him. He tried to readjust slowly careful not to wake her but she stirred in her sleep. Cursing to himself he saw Eve lift her head, staring up at him with sleepy eyes. She smiled at him and he raised his eyebrows.

"Good morning," she greeted him warmly and ran her fingers through her wavy locks. Lifting herself up she saw the sun wasn't as bright which meant that it was definitely not early in the morning. She looked down at his leg and frowned. "How do you feel?"

He shrugged, "I'm alright. Your mother did a good job dressing my leg," he smiled. She was glad to hear that, but she still was concerned, but decided not to talk about it more, only because she knew it'd annoy him. He wrapped his arm around her and she rested her head on his chest. "But, how do you feel? We had adventure," he grinned, not sure if that was a good word to describe what they went through.

She yawned, "just tired," she grazed her fingers over his bare chest peeping out from his slightly open tunic. "And hungry," she smiled. Looking up at him she raised an eyebrow and he looked confused. She kissed his lips randomly and his eyes widened, though he definitely wasn't going to refuse that.

Pulling away he smirked at her. "What was that for?"

"I just wanted to do that," she grinned mischievously. Her hand traveled down to his hips and he chuckled nervously.

"Eve..." for someone who said they were tired, she was being quite handsy and very much awake. She took his tunic out from his pants and he scooted away from her, propping himself up on the pillows. "Your mother and Gabrielle are not far from here..." he nervously said as she kissed his neck.

She smiled up at him, seeing the nervousness in his green eyes. "Well, don't be loud then," she climbed on top of him and his eyes widened, surprised at her behavior, completely forgetting about his injured leg.

"What has gotten into you?" he felt her lips graze his chest and then come to his cheeks traveling down to his lips.

Gabrielle and Xena sat together in their room eating some bread and Xena drinking some much needed wine. She hadn't drank wine in quite awhile but she felt like she needed it. they would arrive in Athens by nightfall and wanted to keep herself busy with Gabrielle.

They were in the middle of a game of chess and Xena moved her pawn piece, eyeing Gabrielle with a smug smile. The blonde nodded her head and rubbed her chin thinking of her next move. Xena sipped on the wine waiting for her opponents next move.

Gabrielle was still festering on her next move and Xena frowned. "Well come on Gabrielle! I haven't got all day," she teased.

The blonde mockingly smiled at the empress then moved the king. "Check!" she yelled, clamping her hands together, excited that she actually beat Xena for the first time ever. It looked like all those games she played with Eve over the years finally paid off.

Xena eyed the board and frowned, "congratulations. One for you, a million for me," she smirked finishing off her glass of wine.

Gabrielle grinned widely, "I captured the queen. So I win."

"You certainly did," Xena winked and the blonde blushed. She poured another glass of the thick red wine in the glass and poured one for Gabrielle. Handing her the glass she lifted her own. "To capturing your queen," she smiled subtly and Gabrielle smirked, then drank from the glass staring into Xena's sparkling eyes.

A loud crash was heard from the back of the ship and Xena stood up setting her glass down. Gabrielle frowned and both left the room. They went to the room where Eve and Samuel were. Xena opened the door and saw Samuel on the floor and the bedside table knocked over and Eve leaning over the edge of the bed.

Gabrielle stepped in and raised an eyebrow. "What were you two doing?" she asked and Samuel nervously smiled at her with reddened cheeks.

Xena folded her arms and her daughter turned to her with an innocent face. Eve got down on the floor and tried lifting Samuel off the floor. Xena and Gabrielle came to help and she pushed her daughter out of the way. "Don't even think about it," she and Gabrielle hoisted Samuel off the floor and he winced in pain, moving his leg slightly. They placed him back onto the bed.

"I was just trying to help and he fell off the bed," Eve sheepishly said and Gabrielle smirked at the young princess.

"Uh huh," the blonde said, embarrassing Eve and Samuel both. Xena smirked and placed her hands on Eve's shoulders.

"You should let Samuel rest," she began pushing her daughter out of the room and Eve tried to stop her mother by planting her feet on the floor.

"But I –" Eve protested and Xena continued to push her out of the room with Gabrielle following behind.

"No, no. He needs to rest and you're just a distraction," she finally guided her daughter out of the room and Gabrielle smiled smugly at the king and closed the door.

Xena brought Eve to her room and Gabrielle closed the door. Eve was still wearing the blue gown that Laconicus gave her from yesterday. Xena ran her fingers through Eve's hair and pulled on her dress. The princess frowned, and slapped her mother's hands away.

"Mother stop," she protested like a child being fussed by her mother.

Xena smiled, "just checking to see if everything is where it is supposed to be." She lowered Eve onto the bed and the princess eyed Gabrielle, unsure what to make of her mother's odd behavior. She expected her to be irate, but she wasn't.

"You're not mad at me?" Eve asked and saw her mother pouring a glass of water for her. She took the glass and Gabrielle came to sit next to her.

"No, why would I be mad at you?" Xena sat in the chair opposite her, pushing the tray of bread closer to her daughter.

Eve shrugged, "I ruined the entire plan to free Solan and Allat. I got everyone arrested!" she lowered her eyes, tapping the glass with her fingernails.

Gabrielle rubbed Eve's back and leaned in closely to her, "to be fair, we all got ourselves arrested," she smiled. Eve grinned, enjoying lightening mood she was currently in.

The empress sighed, "I am just glad everyone is back in one piece." Eve smiled at her mother and Xena returned the smile. "But now will you listen to me and Gabrielle when we say 'no'?"

Eve nodded her vigorously, "I don't think I'll be going on any adventures for awhile. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you both the first time," she sighed. "I can be a real pain, can't I?" she jested.

Gabrielle scoffed, "yeah you can!" she immediately and the princess shot her a glare. "A beautiful pain," she grinned. Xena chuckled softly sipping on the wine and propped her boots on the edge of the bed.

A few moments of silence passed and Eve began eating the flat bread. She took a few small bites and set the bread aside. "I don't mean to be a pain again..." she began and both women looked at her anxiously. "But when are we getting off this ship?" now that she was fully awake she was starting to feel sick and food no longer interested her no matter how hungry she was.

Xena and Gabrielle shared a knowing glance with each other and smiled. Eve eyed them both and frowned, "I was being serious." Eve reiterated.

As the sun began setting in the dark skies they finally made it to Athens. Unfortunately for them all, they would have to ride a few hours to get to the palace. Gabrielle was beginning to think having the palace in the middle of nowhere was not such a good idea. They were at least four hours away from the palace.

The men at the port gave them horses of course once they saw their empress exit the ship. Xena and Gabrielle shared a horse and Solan rode behind Samuel and Eve, both on their own horses. Xena was able to dull Samuel's pain by using accurate pressure points in his thigh so he would be able to ride without tremendous amounts of pain.

"I don't think I've ever been so happy to see Athens," Gabrielle said leaning her head against Xena's back.

Xena smirked, "I didn't know you hated it so much," she teased. She felt a slap on her shoulder and she turned her head seeing a playful Gabrielle behind her with a smug smile. "I'll have to remember to get you later," she turned her head more and saw Eve riding next to Samuel and Solan behind them. "How are you holding up back there you three?" she called out.

Samuel smiled, "just fine," he glanced over at Eve who seemed to be feeling better after getting off the ship. Xena nodded and turned back around, riding ahead at a steady slow pace. She didn't feel the need to stop and rest. They had been riding for an hour already and only had two more hours to go before it was completely dark.

Solan trotted up next to his sister and nudged her arm. She turned and smiled weakly at him. "How are you feeling?" he asked, concerned for her.

"I'm alright, anxious to get back home," she nodded and Solan smiled at her.

"I can't believe mother let you travel to Assyria," he frowned. "I should talk to her about that."

Eve shook her head, "I'm the one who wanted to go. She and Gabrielle told me not to but –"

"You disobeyed them," he finished her sentence and she grinned sheepishly. "Typical Eve. Always doing what you want whenever you want," he playfully added and his sister laughed softly, enjoying his company. "You should listen to them more often."

She nodded, "I think I know that now," no longer willing to fight against her mother or Gabrielle's wishes anymore. She eyed him carefully after a few moments. "You're not upset about me and Samuel are you?"

Solan looked at the Persian riding a few paces ahead of them and turned towards his sister. She had a bit of fear in her eyes and he sighed. "No, not anymore. I told him I was going to kill him when Gabrielle said you were pregnant."

Eve blinked, "you what?" she was surprised. That didn't sound like the loving brother she knew.

He rubbed the back of his neck anxiously and chuckled. "I'm not going to kill him." He said easing her nerves. "I just care about you. You're my little sister and I don't want anyone to hurt you."

Eve smiled, "thank you Solan, but Samuel is very nice. Mother likes him so that's a good thing. If she didn't then I don't think he'd still be here."

"Good point," he concluded. "I still might punch him though." He mumbled.

"What?" the princess blinked with wide eyes.

He grinned and pat her shoulder, "nothing," he pinched her cheek and rode ahead to meet with Xena and Gabrielle to see how far they were away from the palace. Eve rubbed her cheek, frowning at her brother.

The following morning Xena woke up to see Gabrielle still sleeping next to her. She smiled and shook her shoulder, trying to wake her. "Gabrielle..." she whispered and the slumbering blonde groaned, turning over underneath the covers. Xena smirked and whisked the covers off of Gabrielle.

"Xena!" Gabrielle woke up immediately and clutched her body, feeling cold. She turned around with an annoyed face though Xena had a big smile on her face. "What's with the face so early in the morning?" she groaned and Xena got out of bed, wrapping her robe around her body. Gabrielle pulled the covers over her body again ready to go back to sleep.

Xena knelt down beside the bed and Gabrielle opened her eyes and yelped. "Get up Gabrielle. We have work to do!" she smiled and the blonde pulled the blankets over her face.

"We can't sleep in just this once, Xena?" she complained and Xena yanked the blankets off her once again.

"No!" she grinned, feeling a bit playful at the moment. She waltzed over to the mirror and brushed her long locks, now down to her hips. "Oh I thought I should have mentioned this yesterday or maybe even on the ride over here last night but..." she saw Gabrielle was still in bed as she glanced in the mirror. "Samuel's mother is here."

Gabrielle sat up instantly and rubbed her eyes, "what do you mean his mother is here? Like here in the palace, like right now?" she raced through her questions.

Xena smiled nodding her head, "yes Gabrielle. She arrived here a few days after you left. It was a surprise to me too, but I told her that she could stay here."

"Well." Gabrielle sighed heavily, "that is unexpected." She finally got out of bed scratching her head. She grabbed her clothes, a dress that Xena graciously picked out for her. It was a dark orange color, which Xena thought it'd compliment her skin. Gabrielle never really wore dresses, but if Xena picked it out for her, she wasn't going to oblige to it. "Does she know we're back?" she asked, slipping the dress over her head.

Xena didn't really feel like wearing clothes today but she had to. She honestly wished she could just stay in her robe all day and sleep like Gabrielle wanted, but she had things to do. She pulled out a white dress, a color that she rarely wore. She threw it on the bed and stripped of her robe. "I don't think so. We came in late last night and she is in another wing," she slipped the gown over her head, fixing the strap on her left shoulder. Her right shoulder was bare and this dress definitely made her look like a true Grecian woman.

The two looked at one another in their unconventional dresses and grinned. "You should wear white more often," Gabrielle said.

"You should wear dresses more often," Xena replied. They left the bedroom and Xena saluted casually to the guards that stayed ever so vigilant outside her room.

"So what 'things' do we have to do today?" Gabrielle asked as they walked down the stairs together.

Xena slyly grinned, "Rome, Gabrielle. We need to leave as soon as possible. I can't have Octavius think that I would miss an opportunity to see his precious face," she mocked. Gabrielle rolled her eyes at Xena's casual joking.

Hatima walked down the hall wearing a green gown with her hair down, reaching beyond her hips. She saw Xena and Gabrielle walking and talking together. She frowned, a bit confused. She didn't know that they were back and in fact, Xena disappeared the other day and now she was back and so was Gabrielle, which meant her son was back as well as Eve was.

"Xena!" Hatima said aloud and the empress turned her head. They stopped and waited for her to approach them. "Gabrielle," she smiled at the blonde warrior. "I didn't know you had returned."

Gabrielle studied the woman's face and definitely saw a lot of Samuel in her, including her big green eyes. She was also very beautiful and had fair skin, complimenting her dark wavy hair. "We...uh, we just came back last night," she said nervously. "Xena just told me this morning that you were staying here..." she grinned and Hatima nodded.

"She was kind enough to allow me to," Hatima bowed her head curtly towards Xena. "My name is Queen Hatima Hatun, but you may call me Hatima." Gabrielle grinned apprehensively and bowed her head, not entirely used to having a queen around, except for Zenobia, but that was a bit different.

Xena linked arms with Gabrielle and began pulling her along. "Gabrielle and I have some work to do for awhile. I'm sure Eve and Samuel will come out in a bit." She saw the queen's eyes light up at that news.

"I am anxious to see them both," Hatima's eyes grew in excitement and Gabrielle smiled then both left her side.

Xena and Gabrielle walked towards the dreaded office that both loathed at a time like this because they had to sort through a lot of documents. "She seems nice," Gabrielle said and Xena remained silent. "She's gorgeous," she added. "Did you see her eyes? They're so, so..." she tried to find the right words to describe them.

"Big?" Xena teased and Gabrielle smirked. The guards opened the doors to Xena's office and gestured for Gabrielle to enter. "After you."

"Oh how kind of you..." Gabrielle's words dripping with sarcasm as she stepped into the room with Xena following.

Eve woke up and saw Samuel still sleeping. She sat up and looked around the dark room, glad to be back home, she really missed it for once in her life. She was about to get out of bed when she felt a tug on her wrist.

Samuel sleepily spoke, "where are you going?" his eyes fluttered open and Eve smiled down at him.

"I'm going to get dressed and head downstairs," she said and he pulled her back in bed. "Samuel..."

"Just stay here," he sleepily said and smirked up at her.

Eve shook her head, "you can stay here if you want." She felt his hand come to her stomach and she glanced down curiously.

"I have a better idea. We can all stay here in bed together. I'm sure your mother wouldn't mind," he smirked and the princess sighed.

"And she probably wouldn't but," she slid his hand off her stomach and grinned. "I am starving and I can't exactly eat if I stay in bed, so..." she hopped out of bed. "I'm leaving," she grabbed the nearest dress from her wardrobe to change into. "You wouldn't want to deprive our child of food, would you?" she teased.

Samuel sighed and leaned against the headboard of the bed. "Definitely not," he had his hands behind his head relaxing peacefully. "I'll be down later." She quickly changed into a dark red gown, hugging her subtle curves. His eyes widened and Eve smoothed out the wrinkles in the gown as she stared at herself in the mirror. She realized that this dress was a bit tighter than the last time she wore it and that was a bit disappointing considering it was a favorite of hers. She turned to her side and saw it was definitely noticeable that she was carrying a small child.

She saw Samuel gawking at her through the mirror and she smirked. "You act like you've never seen me in a dress before," she placed her hands on her hips.

"You just look...different," he said awkwardly and saw her eyebrow lift in confusion. "I mean, lovely," he grinned.

"Uh huh," Eve nodded then slipped on her shoes and left the bedroom.

She walked down the stairs and it was very quiet, she didn't see Gabrielle or her mother. She knew her mother would be awake by now though because she didn't like to sleep in unlike Gabrielle and herself. She liked to sleep in at least until the sun came up, but not Xena, she always wanted to rise early to get her duties done before early afternoon.

Eve saw a woman with very long dark brown hair and a green gown. She knew it wasn't her mother because her hair was far too long and she was shorter than her mother. Approaching slowly she put her hands behind her back. "Hello..." she said aloud and the woman turned around.

Hatima looked at the princess and instantly knew it was Xena's daughter. She had grown a lot since she had last seen her, but she'd recognize her anywhere. She smiled and Eve blinked, staring into her eyes longer than expected.

"Queen Hatun," Eve bent down touching the Persian queen's shoes and Hatima grabbed her shoulders lifting her up. She remembered Samuel's mother even after many years of being apart from them. She saw her with Samuel when she was in Persia many years ago. She never thought she'd have the chance to meet her again since she didn't see her during her last trip to Persia recently.

The brunette queen grinned, "I'm surprised that you recognize who I am even after all these years," she saw the shocked look in Eve's eyes. She scanned her body and grasped Eve's hands in her own. "You have grown into a beautiful young lady!"

Eve blushed, feeling a bit awkward standing in front of Samuel's mother. "Such kind words..." she lamely said trying to hide her flushed emotions. Hatima touched Eve's hair and the princess eyed her cautiously. "I had no idea that you were here."

Hatima gestured for Eve to walk with her. "Your mother sent a letter to me and I decided to come here to see you and my son. I haven't seen Samuel in five years. It was a surprise to me that you all had returned so quickly."

Eve nodded, "you can thank my mother for that." She walked alongside the queen and silence passed between them both. "It was nice of you to travel all the way to Greece to see Samuel and I."

"Xena asked me to help with the wedding preparations." Hatima said and Eve looked at her bemusedly.

"She did?" Eve knew that her mother wasn't the one to ask for outside help so she thought that was odd. She was now the one who underestimated her mother and her caring attitude towards her own daughter's well being. "I didn't mean for that to be rude it's mother doesn't usually ask for help."

Hatima knew that immediately when she first met Xena. She was a woman who liked to do things her own way and knew that it was quite an honor that she'd even ask for her help. "She is probably overwhelmed."

Eve knew that was too true. "She's always overwhelmed with something," she smiled towards the queen. "With everything that has happened I almost forgot that Samuel and I are going to get married," she admitted a bit embarrassed to say so.

The Persian queen grinned, "it is understandable. Your mother told me that you are pregnant," her eyes widened and Eve blushed, feeling a bit awkward around this woman. Sure she was nice, but she didn't really know anything about her.

"Did she?" Eve tightly grinned. "I should go tell Samuel that you are here," she began to pull away and Hatima definitely wanted to see her son, but didn't want to ask about him to seem overzealous.

"I will wait here for you both to return," respecting their privacy. Eve smiled and left to run back upstairs to inform Samuel.

Xena sat at the desk with Gabrielle going over past treaties she had with the Roman Empire. Xena pointed at one she made with him years ago. "What about this one?"

Gabrielle cringed and shook her head tossing the parchment off the desk. "It's probably best not to bring that treaty up again."

The empress was growing impatient the longer she stayed in this room. "Then I have nothing..." she tapped her fingernails on the desktop. "I have to address the Spartans with him. They cannot get away with their treason in my empire."

Gabrielle nodded, "agreed. He's not going to be happy to hear that his Spartans failed." She smiled.

A slow clap was heard and Ares appeared in the office. Xena stood up enraged to see the war god standing before her. Gabrielle stood and took a step back next to Xena. "You managed to get away from the Spartans. Bravo to you, Xena."

"What do you want Ares? Why did you convince Laconicus to side against me?" Xena frowned.

Ares grinned, "I didn't convince him. I just enticed him. The Spartans were already angry that you were not paying enough attention to them so I just...gave them a boost!" he folded his arms arrogantly staring at the empress. He looked over to the blonde, "you put up a good fight back in Assyria, Gabrielle. How's the arm?" he sneered.

Gabrielle frowned, touching her wounded arm unconsciously. "You were there watching the whole time?" she growled. "I knew something was going on with that vicious sand storm," she scoffed and Xena eyed her curiously.

Ares chuckled, "oh that? That wasn't me," he shook his head wagging his finger, "that was my sister, Eris. You see, she was a little pissed off," he tapped his chin. "She discovered something that wasn't exactly to her liking," he smirked.

Xena pulled out her sword from beneath her desk and pointed it at him. His eyes widened and backed away from her. "Tell your sister to stay away from my daughter or I will personally chop her into pieces," she smiled deviously.

The War God chuckled nervously as he looked at the blade. He had never feared a sword wielded by Xena until now. "Oh so you don't know, do you?" he smugly smirked and Xena's eyebrows creased.

"What are you talking about?" Xena asked and Gabrielle's eyes went back and forth between Xena and Ares as they stared at each other for quite some time, creating an uncomfortable atmosphere in the room.

Ares sighed, "congratulations, you are now a grandma times two," he sarcastically said with a churlish grin. He saw the initial shock on Xena's face and was enjoying every moment of it. "Surprise!" he grinned and Xena was speechless.

Gabrielle stood behind Xena with wide eyes and was waiting for a reaction from Xena but she was silent and wasn't moving at all.

Ares started laughing at Xena's lack of emotion. "Well, that was a disappointment, I was looking for a reaction," he sighed. "I must get back to Sparta. Duty calls. I'm sure all of us will meet...again," he winked at Gabrielle and disappeared.

Finally now that he was gone Gabrielle touched Xena's arm, though she didn't even flinch. "Xena..are you alright?" she asked quietly. "You're really quiet."

Xena put the sword on the desk and her eyes were wide, still trying to process what Ares told her. "I need to see Eve." She said calmly and Gabrielle nodded, hastily making her way to the doors.

"I don't know if she's still awake, but –" there was a loud crash from behind her and she turned to see Xena on the floor, knocked out. "By the gods," she ran and knelt down beside Xena. She gently pat her cheeks trying to wake her up. "Xena!" she cupped her face in her palms and felt instant panic ensue inside her. "This is not good," she spoke aloud to herself. It reminded her of so long ago when she fainted and she didn't know what to do.

She stood up and began to pace back and forth, nothing really changing from the last time this happened. She knelt down again and slapped Xena's face. "Wake up, woman!" she said and Xena wouldn't budge. She groaned and then looked at the chair nearby. She could get Xena there if she tried really hard. Gabrielle sighed and grabbed a hold of Xena's arms, dragging her across the floor, struggling and definitely not getting far especially with her injured arm.

Solan opened the door to the office and said, "you both know there's a woman in the –" he saw Gabrielle dragging his mother across the floor and frowned. "What happened here?"

Gabrielle dropped Xena's arms breathing heavily. "Oh thank the gods you're here Solan," she placed her hands on her hips. "She fainted." She exhaled trying to catch her breath, "I was trying to get her to the chair over there –"

Solan immediately knelt down and picked up Xena in his arms effortlessly. Gabrielle frowned as he made it look so easy while she was over here struggling. He placed his mother in the chair and leaned her head back, he looked at her intensely and Gabrielle folded her arms. "Why did she faint?" he asked and pat his mother's cheek gently.

The blonde remained silent and Solan turned to her looking for an answer. "She found out something a bit...shocking," she grinned nervously.

Solan saw a glass of water and threw it in his mother's face. Xena's eyes opened and she coughed, gasping and saw she was drenched in water. Her eyes looked up to see two blondes staring at her concerned. She winced and touched the back of her head from the fall earlier. "Why are you two gawking at me like that?"

"Gabrielle said you fainted," he knelt down and grabbed his mother's hand squeezing gently.

Xena looked to Gabrielle and saw fear and anxiety in her green eyes. "Well that's embarrassing," she said coolly, totally dismissing that she just fainted on the floor. She stood up and now her gown was covered in water she sighed. Then it donned on her, "Eris is going keep more of a sharp eye on Eve now."

Gabrielle frowned, "Eris? She's still after Eve?"

Solan was very confused and Xena interjected, "not her, but her children," she eyed Solan's curious expression then saw his eyes widen.

"Wait a minute. Eve is having twins?" he said not believing his mother. Gabrielle and Xena remained quiet and stared at him. "Now I'm definitely going to kill Samuel."

Xena blinked, "what? Don't be ridiculous," she folded her arms.

Solan frowned at his mother, "this is his fault. Seducing her while I was away. I knew I should have stayed in Persia."

Gabrielle rolled her eyes, "I don't think he was the one doing the seducing," she slyly added and Solan blinked, not wanting to hear that about his sister. He cringed in disgust. He shook his head and left the room. Gabrielle and Xena shared a glance with one another. "Solan, where are you off to?" she called out then followed him with Xena behind her.

Hatima saw Samuel limping over to her with Eve holding onto him. She creased her eyebrows to see his leg was bandaged up and the Persian king's eyes widened, seeing his mother for the first time in five long years. "Samuel, your leg!" she gasped and Samuel smiled.

"It's nothing to worry about," he stared at his mother's face and touched her hair. Hatima glanced up and saw a smile on her son's face. She embraced him warmly. "This is a nice surprise to see you here." He whispered.

Hatima pulled away and kissed his cheek. "I think I have been absent long enough."

Xena, Gabrielle and Solan were walking down the hallway towards the three. Hatima turned and smiled at the three, though Solan, she knew that Xena's eldest child, didn't look happy. Eve frowned seeing her brother's face and her mother and Gabrielle trailing behind him.

Samuel's eyes widened, "he's going to kill me," he said and Eve stood in front of him.

Solan came up to Eve and folded his arms. "Get out of the way, Eve." He said as politely as possible.

She shook her head, "no, you're being ridiculous." She looked into his eyes almost the same eye level as him.

Xena came up behind and placed a firm hand on Solan's shoulder. "Solan, go see the men on the training grounds and tell them I need four volunteers to go with me to Sparta."

Gabrielle blinked, "we're going to Sparta?" this was news to her. She didn't receive a response from Xena and Solan eyed the Persian king before leaving per his mother's request. He didn't ever disobey her commands unlike his sister. Shaking his head as he turned the corner Samuel was able to breathe again.

"What was that about?" Hatima said, asking for everyone.

Xena smiled anxiously, "he was just upset about something. He'll get over it," she calmly said, though that didn't really answer the queen's question.

"He was about to deck me," Samuel smiled and Eve snapped her head glaring at him. His smile disappeared when he saw that Eve was not very keen on his joke.

Eve stood pinching the bridge of her nose until she felt a hand on her arm. She glanced up and saw her mother smiling down at her. "I need to talk to you," she eyed everyone, "alone."

Chapter Text

AN: and so it begins.

Chapter 24

"Bow to the Queen."

After Xena and Gabrielle escorted Eve to Xena's bedroom upstairs to be alone. Xena told her daughter what Ares revealed to her earlier and did mention Eris briefly, but did not specify what the goddess had planned for her. She thought that information should be spared from her daughter especially after the news she gave her.

Eve sat on Xena's bed quietly, staring at the wall lost in her own thoughts. Xena stood beside her waiting for a reaction for the last five minutes but she got nothing from her. Gabrielle bit her fingernails anxiously as she stood next to Xena, staring at Eve. She had said nothing for five minutes now and she wasn't sure if it was from shock or fear.

Gabrielle pulled Xena aside away from Eve so she wouldn't hear them. "Xena, she's in shock," she whispered. Xena turned around seeing her daughter stare blankly at the wall in front of her then brought her attention back to the blonde.

"I know but I had to tell her," she said in a hushed tone. Gabrielle continued biting her nails and Xena frowned, pulling her fingers away from her mouth. "Stop doing that." She chastised and Gabrielle hid her hands underneath her armpits in order to not tempt herself further. Xena decided to sit next to her daughter on the bed and Gabrielle stayed behind watching the two. Slowly she slid her hands out from under her arms and began biting her fingernails as soon as Xena left.

"Eve," Xena began slowly with a calm voice. She placed her hand on her daughter's back attempting to comfort her. "I understand that she is a lot for you to process right now –"

"Gods lie don't they?" Eve interrupted catching her mother off guard.

Xena smiled, "they do, yes. Sometimes," she finished, now seeing Eve look to the ground unsure what was really going on in her mind at the moment.

Eve continued, "Ares lies to you or he has in the past, right?" she looked into her mother's eyes. Xena looked at her apologetically but remained silent. "Maybe he and Eris are lying. I have no reason to believe them," she frowned.

The empress nodded, finding Eve's words to be true. She too did not trust the Olympians especially when it came to Ares and now his annoying sister, Eris. But there was one thing that lingered in her mind and that was Eris' threats towards Eve that concerned her. Eris had no good reason to lie about this especially if Eris said she wanted Eve's children eliminated off this planet, which Xena also did not fully understand, nor did she want to. The goddess made an imminent threat towards her family and she never took threats lightly especially coming from a god.

"while I sympathize with you Eve, Eris has no reason to lie about this. Gods lie yes, but only when it benefits them. This news doesn't benefit her in any way." She exhaled slowly and saw the disappointment linger in Eve's eyes. She knew that explanation would not make her daughter feel better, but she had to say it in order to get the denial out of Eve's mind.

Gabrielle sighed and walked over to kneel down in front of Eve, grasping her hands in her own. "Gods or not, we're here for you, you know that right?" she lifted her eyebrows in hope and Eve turned to her with a small smile then Gabrielle grinned up at her.

"Gabrielle is right, we are here for you," she and Gabrielle shared a glance with one another, exchanging cheeky grins. Xena kissed Eve's head, bringing her close to her. Eve leaned into her and breathed out slowly still very much in shock.

Eve furrowed her eyebrows and lifted her head staring into her mother's blue eyes. "What am I going to tell Samuel?" her eyes widened and Xena sighed. Gabrielle sat on the floor blowing a piece of her hair out of her face and looked back and forth at Eve and Xena.

"If Solan doesn't kill him, this news surely will!" Gabrielle jested and Xena's eyes widened at her and curtly shook her head. Gabrielle bit her bottom lip then saw the concern in Eve's eyes. The princess' breath quickened and she started fidgeting with her fingers in her lap.

Xena frowned and saw Eve begin to panic. She grabbed hold of Eve's shoulders, squeezing tightly. "I'll deal with Solan and if Samuel loves you like he says, then it won't be a problem." She smiled and Eve's nerves ceased for a bit, she saw a weight lifted on her daughter's shoulders. Kissing her head she stood and pulled Eve off the bed.

"I should go tell him," Eve said with a loud sigh. "But he's going to ask me how I know..." she eyed her mother and Gabrielle.

Gabrielle stood up with a bit of skip in her step, "you can tell him that your midwife told you," she smiled and Xena raised a confused eyebrow at her as did Eve. She stared at the two with the same expression and her smile disappeared. "Well, he doesn't have to know you don't have a midwife..." she grinned sheepishly.

Xena rolled her eyes, "just tell him whatever he wants to hear," she began pushing her daughter out of the room and then grabbed onto Gabrielle's arm forcefully pulling her along with them.

After Eve disappeared down the stairs Xena stared at her until she was no longer in sight. Gabrielle stood next to Xena at the top of the staircase. "That went well," Gabrielle grinned. The empress slowly looked at her with an unbelieving look. "What?" she uttered bemusedly.

The two women went outside in the atrium to find Solan sword fighting alone out in the open, probably relieving some much needed stress off his back. He wore wide harem pants that he got in Assyria whilst staying with Allat. Shirtless he swung the blade then saw his mother and Gabrielle standing outside with blank stares. He lowered the blade and wiped his brow with a towel hanging around his neck. Even as a man his build was very slim, though more built than he was when he was a scrawny teenager, he looked much the same, though his hair short and eyes blue as ice, mirroring his mother's and sister's. it was hard not to see the resemblance between son and mother as he grew older.

"If you've come to talk to me about Samuel, I'm not going to hurt him," he wiped the blade down and held it up in the sunlight.

Xena approached her son slowly, "that's not what I came here to talk to you about, but that's good to hear that you won't harm Samuel," she smugly grinned and snatched the blade from Solan, looking at the edges, checking to see if it was sharp enough. He eyed her cautiously and Gabrielle stood beside them both. "Since Samuel is hurt I want you to come to Sparta with me and Gabrielle." She finished examining the blade and handed it back to him. "We need to leave by tomorrow."

Solan's eyes were filled with excitement. It had been quite a long time since he had gone on a mission with his mother and those were very few. He could count on his hand how many he actually went on with her and Gabrielle. "We're going to show those Spartans who's in charge, right?" he winked and Gabrielle smacked her forehead with her palm and Xena sighed audibly. "What?" he looked at the two women and his mouth gaped, "this isn't a mission of peace is it?"

Xena folded her arms, "I don't want to war with the Spartans. Peace is what I am after but if he refuses then I will have no choice but to fight."

Solan grinned, nodding his head. "Laconicus works with Octavius so you know he's not going to be peaceful towards us, right?"

"Unfortunately," Gabrielle said with a dramatic eye roll.

"Make sure you gather the four volunteers I asked for," Xena began walking off with Gabrielle and Solan scoffed.

"Only four? Mother..." he chided and Xena turned to him with a menacing frown. "okay, four men it is," he corrected and Xena smiled leaving him to fulfill his duties before tomorrow's leave.


Laconicus made sure to return discreetly and his men continued to train outside his large villa on the hillside of outer rim of Sparta. He had just received a letter from the Roman Emperor stating that there was delay meeting with Xena, which he wasn't surprised. He had no choice but to inform him about the failure in Assyria to capture Allat and his kingdom. The Romans were probably wiped out by now because Xena left her naval fleet with the Arab king. Allat was due to take his kingdom back with the help of the Greeks and Persians, so ironic the Spartan General thought to himself.

Tossing the letter aside he groaned. "Persians and Greeks," he scoffed, "if I ruled Greece, this farce of a relationship wouldn't exist." He rubbed his chin in deep thought, "why would Xena ally with the Persian King?" he whispered to himself.

The doors to his throne chamber opened and saw his wife looking disarray and worrisome. He stood up and she swiftly walked towards him. "Gorgo, what brings you here?" he smiled.

His wife frowned and met with him face to face. "Laconicus, have you brought your problems home with you?" she chastised and he frowned, not understanding what she was talking about. "The Empress is waiting outside of the gates!" she yelled. Laconicus pushed his wife aside and ran outside to see Xena for himself.

Running out of the villa on the balcony he saw Xena waiting with her elite guards, plus four men and her son with her as well as Gabrielle. Xena looked up at him and smiled. She waved at him and he growled. Gorgo appeared beside him. "What is she doing here?" she questioned with malice in her voice.

"I'm about to find out..." he mumbled and waved at his guards to open the gates to allow the empress to enter. He turned on his heel and went down below to meet the empress and her entourage.

Xena and Gabrielle trotted in on their horses with everyone following behind. Everyone clad in black and silver armor, though Xena donned her black cape and silver helm with the large fan shaped plum feathers. She normally only wore this helm in formal wars or battles, but she wanted to assert her power and authority over the Spartans and their general.

As they entered Laconicus' grounds the Spartans stopped sparing with each other and took a few steps back, glaring up at her. Gabrielle noticed the not-so-friendly welcome they got. "I am getting the feeling that the Spartans don't like you," she whispered to Xena.

"Really? I didn't notice," Xena smirked and halted her horse as soon as she saw Laconicus waiting for her a mere twenty feet away. She hopped off her horse and Gabrielle followed suit. The Spartan soldiers came towards Xena and Gabrielle with spears and Xena's men surrounded them with swords. Xena smiled putting her hand up to her men to back away from the vicious Spartans.

Laconicus grinned, "it is pretty brave of you to show your face here, empress," he folded his arms in a defensive stance. His wife, Gorgo, stood at the balcony on the second floor of their villa, watching the exchange.

"I own this land," Xena grinned tightly, "so I can come and go as I please or did you forget that?" she teased.

He waved his hand at his men to back away from Xena and they reluctantly did so, following his orders. Xena watched them all with a sly grin on her lips. He took a step closer towards her and stared into her mischievous eyes. "You may own this land, but you gave me the rights to govern my people on my own accord or did you forget that?" he threw her words back at her and the empress stood unfazed.

She nodded, "I did, you are absolutely right, Laconicus but," she held up her finger, "you captured my friends and family. You betrayed me by allying with the Roman Emperor so your word means nothing to me," her smile faded and now she was frowning menacingly at the general.

Laconicus stood silently then looked to the empress's friend and an eerie grin appeared. "Ah yes. Gabrielle was it?" he saw the blonde's eyebrows crease. "How's the arm?" he asked, chuckling lowly.

Solan frowned and took a step forward. "Let me straighten him out," and Xena put her arm over his chest. He groaned and almost took out his sword but his mother gave him a glare and he backed down.

"How is your sister, Solan? I hope she is well," he winked and Solan frowned then spat on the ground displaying his lack of respect for the Spartan. "I see where he gets his manners from," he teased and glared over at Xena.

Xena frowned and took a step closer towards him. "Laconicus, I don't want to fight you. We can make this very simple and no blood will be shed or you can be difficult and defy me." She waited for a response and all she got was an arrogant chin tilt and her frown deepened. "Break your alliance with Octavius and I will be lenient with your punishment."

He laughed at her and his men smiled, joining in with him. Xena looked around at all the men laughing at her and felt Gabrielle coming closer towards her. She raised an eyebrow and he ceased laughter. "You expect me to believe you? You were known as a tyrant before you supposedly changed, Xena! You fled to Egypt and abandoned your people. What kind of a ruler does that?"

She sighed, "you're trying my patience, Laconicus. Back down now and I will spare your life," she drew her sword from its sheath and pointed it at his heart. "Or continue this alliance and I promise there will be nothing left to your name." she looked in his eyes to see any compliance. "What'll it be?"

Laconicus clenched his teeth and spat in her face. Xena blinked and wiped the saliva off her cheek with the backside of her hand and he grinned cheekily seeing the rage engulfing Xena's eyes. Her pupils enlarged and that was the Xena he knew so long ago. "I knew you haven't changed. I guess being in the city of Ares does that to you," he grinned.

Xena sheathed her sword and turned to walk away. Gabrielle's mouth gaped, surprised that Xena did not retaliate. She ran to her and Xena mounted her horse. "What are you doing?!" she said aloud and Solan was also surprised that his mother did not rip this man to shreds. She would have done so many years ago, but he didn't think his mother would stand for such disrespect.

Solan turned his attention towards the Spartan General, "you disrespected your empress, Laconicus."

"She is no empress of mine," he shrugged nonchalantly.

Xena felt her blood pressure rising and her heart racing as soon as Laconicus spat in her face and defied her in front of her own men and his as well. She hadn't felt like this in about twenty years. She had changed from a tyrant to a gracious empress over the years but her patience was very thin as she grew older. She had fought very long and hard to maintain her empire and she was beginning to feel some familiar emotions that she felt nearly thirty years ago, before she was even Empress of Greece.

She looked down and saw Gabrielle speaking to her but she heard nothing. All she could hear was her heart beating in her ears and her anger seeping through her skin. She turned her horse around and saw her men were waiting for her to give the okay to attack. She smiled at them and they placed their hands on the hilts of their blades, ready for anything.

"Kill them all," she said calmly and slowly trotted in between her men and they unsheathed their swords, hopping off their horses and began attacking the Spartan soldiers.

Gabrielle frowned as she saw Xena slowly riding off leaving the battle to her four men and Solan as well. She grabbed her Sais from her boots and plunged the blades into a Spartan's chest as he ran towards her. She kicked him down and then ran for Xena.

"Xena! What in Hades was that? Kill them all?" she breathed heavily and saw Xena turn around with that look in her eyes. A look she never thought she'd see again. "Your eyes..." she blinked, unsure what to think. It was like time had shifted and they were back to square one so long ago. "I don't like that look," Gabrielle turned once she heard cries of agony and saw Solan plunge his blade into a Spartan. Laconicus was fighting off one of the elite guards. "You're just going to let them fight alone?"

Xena smiled watching her men fight the Spartans and they were valiant against them. The Spartans were very well trained, but so were her men. Some of her men were originally from Corinth and Sparta so it did not surprise her that they fought very well. "I am done playing nice guy, Gabrielle," she sighed. "I have tried to be reasonable but these idiots won't listen to me. They undermine my authority as empress. I just can't allow this to happen anymore!" she snarled and pulled out a dagger throwing it at a Spartan coming towards Gabrielle.

The blonde turned and saw the soldier clutch his chest and blood stained his hands. He looked up at Xena and dropped to his knees breathlessly. Xena smirked as the Spartan took out the dagger from his chest and tried to clog his bleeding wound. Gabrielle's eyes widened in horror. She didn't expect this to happen and for Xena to back down like this, although she was backing down in another way. Reverting to her ways as empress decades ago when she watched on the sidelines as others fought in her name.

"You see how he is on his knees, Gabrielle?" Xena gestured to the dying Spartan. "Everyone should show their respect like this to me. I am Empress of Greece. Not Laconicus, not Octavius, not Marc Antony, not Phraates!" her heart raced as she brought up names from her past and Gabrielle stared at her with her mouth slightly agape, a bit fearful of her behavior. Xena composed herself again and exhaled slowly, "anybody that defies me should be fearful of their consequences."

Gabrielle frowned, "Xena, although I do agree with you that the Spartans need to be stopped but...if you kill Laconicus it will enrage Octavius."

Xena snapped, "so what?!" she growled. "That Roman brat has been after me for years. It is time to show him that the Greek Empire is not to be messed with!" she yelled and before Gabrielle could respond one of her men called her name. The Spartan soldiers were either dead or badly wounded by her men. Solan held Laconicus' hands behind his back and Jorge held his sword up to the General's throat. Xena smiled and hopped off her horse sauntering over to the defeated general.

Gabrielle sighed shaking her head and followed Xena. She sheathed her Sais and watched Xena slowly approach the man. "Be careful what you do, Xena." She reminded the empress, though Xena smiled at Gabrielle.

"Of course," Xena unsheathed her sword and told Jorge to back away as Solan held Laconicus hands. "It seems you are defeated, Laconicus."

The general grumbled. "You are a snake in the grass, Xena."

Xena grinned, "I haven't heard that in a long time," she mused, thinking of Marc Antony as he called her a snake so many times in the past. That was something she didn't expect to hear again, yet here she was. "You should have taken my offer, Laconicus," she touched his cheek with her fingernail, digging into his cheek. He bit his tongue and she scratched his cheek, leaving a long scratch across his face. "Thanks to your arrogance I am going to show the known world who really is in charge of this empire!" she grinned and lifted her blade high in the air.

Gabrielle gasped and yelled, "Xena no!" she cried and Xena swung her blade chopping Laconicus' head off right before everyone's eyes. Gorgo above in the villa cried out for her husband and Xena looked up to the wailing woman. Gabrielle's eyes widened as she couldn't believe she had done that. A ruthless kill that was now considered out of character for Xena to do. The man was captured and useless to them, but Xena decapitated him with no remorse. "What did you just do..." she touched Xena's shoulder and the empress breathed heavily and sheathed her sword.

Xena grabbed the general's head and grabbed a spear off the ground. She began marching outside of the gates. She stuck the spear into the ground and pierced Laconicus' head on the spear's sharp end. She wiped the blood off on her black pants and walked back to Gabrielle and Solan. "I want Laconicus' body sent to the Emperor," she stated and Jorge nodded, gathering up the other men to lift the decapitated body to be put on an available horse.

Gabrielle touched Xena's shoulder and the empress turned to her. "This was supposed to be a mission of peace, not a massacre." She said a bit displeased with her consort's actions.

Xena smiled, "Gabrielle, he was never going to agree with me. Now I must show Octavius that I will not back down this time," she frowned. "I spared his life long ago, but now it is time that he respects the true empress of Rome."

Gabrielle blinked, shocked at Xena's behavior. "Empress of Rome? You want to wipe out Octavius and take Rome for yourself?"

"That's right." Xena mounted her horse and whistled to her men to gather together. Gabrielle mounted her horse and looked behind her to see the tragedy they left behind. She hoped that Xena knew what she was doing.

"Xena," she said and Xena halted her steed. She looked into her blue eyes. "Promise me that you are still the person I became to know and love..." she said lowly.

The empress grinned softly and touched Gabrielle's cheek, "I haven't gone anywhere Gabrielle," she kissed her hand gingerly. "I am doing this for you, for Eve, for Solan...for my entire empire."

Gabrielle smiled feeling a bit relieved to hear that. She thought she had lost Xena for a moment there but she was quick to switch off her war mode into the loving person she had known her to be inside. "You just reminded me of someone I used to know..." she admitted quietly.

"Mother, Gabrielle, are you coming?" Solan called out. Xena turned to him and nodded. He smiled and turned to lead the men out of the Spartan territory.

"And who might that be?" Xena asked Gabrielle.

The blonde lowered her eyes, " the old you," she whispered. Xena frowned sadly, now seeing the concern of Gabrielle and understood why she might be afraid.

"Gabrielle, I am still the Xena you know now but sometimes I cannot try things your way," she saw the blonde lift her head. "the peaceful way," she went on. "I'm going to need your help in this war against Octavius. You will help me, right?" she extended her hand and Gabrielle looked at Xena's palm.

She smiled, "as if you had to ask," she grabbed her hand and Xena smiled, gripping tightly. Together they rode out of the gates and Gabrielle looked at Laconicus head on the pike and cringed. "I still don't think you needed to decapitate him."

Xena smirked, "he talked too much anyway."


Octavius sat in his office and one of his guards came into the room. He saluted at the emperor and Octavius tapped his fingers on the table. He was most displeased that Xena did not meet with him as she said she had prior engagements elsewhere and Laconicus had disappointed him with his failure at capturing Assyria. He knew that kingdom was lost to him now.

"What is it?" the emperor impatiently asked. He had a lot of work to do and now with Xena's absence for the last week he was growing tired of her games. He didn't know what she was up to but whenever she was silent it was never good.

Two more men came in behind the guard and they were dragging a body across the floor. The emperor frowned and came in front of his desk. The men dropped the body a few feet away from him. They took the cloth off the body and saw the man was decapitated. Octavius' eyes widened and he could smell the body already decomposing as he stood there.

"What in Hades is this?" he asked, a bit enraged that his men brought in a dead body into his office.

The guard nervously began, "a gift from Xena, my lord," he bowed his head. "She said to watch your head since Laconicus did not learn his lesson..." he finished as he stared at the floor refusing to look into his emperor's eyes.

Octavius frowned and kicked the body over and saw the crest of the Spartan General on the body's armor. This man was Laconicus and Xena had killed him. He balled his fists up and grabbed his dagger and plunged it into his guard's chest. The man cried out and collapsed on the floor, wincing in pain as blood poured from his wound.

"Xenaaaaa!" he screamed loudly and his men winced at his rage. He threw everything off his desk in a fit of rage and breathed heavily. "I want her dead. Tell Tiberius to retreat to Rome and bring in all of our forces." He took the dagger out of the man's chest and wiped it on the man's armor. "She's wants a war, she'll get one," he grinned staring at his reflection in the dagger.

Chapter Text

Chapter 25 –Plague One: Sea of Tears

One Month Later

Octavius rode with some of his best men to parts of Greece. Due to Xena's lack of outposts he was able to get into the territories quite easily. He was most displeased by the little gift that she sent him. He wanted her dead and Xena knew that. He'd been trying to get rid of her for thirty years and still she was a sore in his eye. She needed to go, he thought. The first real war they had he felt so defeated but karma was on his side years later when Xena lost and she ran away like a sad puppy instead of the beast she claimed to be.

Xena had claimed to be a changed woman and he didn't really have too many encounters with her when he was a teenager, but she was a new empress at that time and his adopted father despised her he knew that much. Caesar wanted Xena dead when she tried to invade Rome so long ago, but not only did she lose, she lost her entire army in the process. Octavius often wondered how Xena was able to pick herself up so quickly after such a loss and create an entire empire in her name. She gained power in such a short amount of time and that was what made Xena the great empress she soon became to be known as. Although, Xena was a destroyer, a conqueror, a tyrant but now she was different. She said that she had changed and changed many things in her empire to accommodate her people and the countries that she controlled. People loved her now, but Octavius knew that Xena was always the same woman she always was. She could never change inside, he thought. Nobody changes overnight from a tyrannical leader into a saint. Xena was no saint –far from it.

There was thing he truly admired about Xena and that was her skills and strategies. She was always so good at strategic warfare. She could count on her hand how many times she had lost battles and wars over the course of thirty years. She had been in power longer than him in the formal sense. She had more experience than him which made her very dangerous and she had help too. He couldn't believe that anyone would want to help a snake like Xena. She was difficult to negotiate with and always wanted things to go her own way and when her enemy disagreed she destroyed them vehemently.

No trace would be left of her enemies. She was known to line heads on pikes guarding her enemies' camps, villages and territories. It was a warning to intruders not to mess with her. Octavius knew in the past that Xena had many assassination attempts when she was younger, but he didn't know if that tradition continued. She had won the people over with her peaceful treaties and warm motherly attitude towards the citizens of Athens and all of Greece's territories. Everyone loved her, but not him. The Roman Emperor did not wish to die and see Xena still sitting on her throne. He suspected that she'd die on that throne with sword in hand and the empire would live on without her and Gabrielle especially since she has two heirs to her throne.

He never paid much attention to Xena's daughter, because she hid her well for many years. He was not even aware that Xena had a daughter until she was a teenager in their last hoorah together, his last victory against the Grecian Empress. Octavius was most disappointed to see Solan turn from his adopted Roman roots to the Greek ways. Xena was not even Greek, which made Octavius sick. She was a Thracian. He wondered why the Greek people would allow a foreigner to rule over them. How did she win their hearts? He would probably never know the answer. And there was another thing as well, Xena had a slew of hidden allies –the Persians being one of them. Samuel became the king after his father, Phraates, died and he was a terribly young king. Octavius wouldn't dare think that Xena would befriend a boy only a few years older than her own daughter. She was old enough to be his mother. Samuel was an inexperienced king and Xena allied with him anyway, which that struck very odd in the emperor's mind.

There was also the young Arab king, Allat, who was a very good ally and friend with Xena. Allat was a bit older than Solan, but not by much and Octavius smiled thinking of Allat's dear late mother, Zenobia. His men slaughtered her because she was a threat. She wanted her Assyrian empire to grow further outside into Anatolia and Xena would have been in full support of that. He feared that Zenobia and Xena would join forces together and create a duo-empire to overthrow him. He wouldn't allow that to happen just like he wasn't going to allow Xena to overthrow him. She was older now, though her appearance looked as if time stood still which was most odd to him as well. He wondered what sorcery Xena had committed to somehow retain her good looks. He was beginning to think that she'd never die and live forever –forever haunting him even in his death.

The emperor pulled on the reins of his horse and halted his men. They came to the Spartan camp of the late General Laconicus. He looked inside and it looked pretty barren minus a few men working inside of the camp and the large villa on the hill within the gates. He saw the spear in the ground and the spearhead was rusted and darkened from old blood. He figured that's where Xena planted the General's head after she decapitated him. She was using her old tactics to scare off people including him, but that wasn't going to work.

He trotted in and the Spartans bowed their heads at him. He saw Gorgo watering a few plants outside of the villa and she turned to face him. A large frown appeared on her lips and he dismounted the steed. He approached her and curtly bowed his head. "Lady Gorgo," he smiled. "I am truly sorry about your husband. Laconicus was a great warrior and ally."

She set the watering pot down and placed her hands on her hips glaring at the emperor. "He was decapitated by the Empress. We were your allies and yet received no help from you or your men! This could have been avoided and he would alive," she looked at the spear outside the gates. She refused to remove it so it may remind her what an awful person Xena was. She was not in control of where her husband's body was taken since Xena and her men left in haste.

Octavius nodded, "I understand your pain. We share the same feelings. I promise you the Empress will get what she deserves."

Gorgo frowned, "she has been Greece's ruler for so long, I don't believe even the Roman Emperor can get rid of her. She's a gorgon." She spat on the ground and the emperor blinked.

"Xena and I have been having a war with each other for more than two decades. She managed to win the first time, but I guarantee you that she will lose once and for all," he smiled deviously.

Gorgo had her doubts about that. Xena was a great warrior and now that she is allies with the Persians, her army is twice the size as the Roman army. "With all due respect, emperor," she began and saw the man's eyes widen, quite intrigued, "Xena has accumulated almost one hundred thousand men for her army. It will be difficult to defeat her even with your skilled men."

Octavius' eyes widened. He didn't think that Xena's army plus Samuel's army was quite that large. That was a lot more men than he had. He barely had forty thousand and she has almost one hundred? That didn't seem right. He narrowed his eyes taking a step closer to the woman. Whispering he asked, "where did you get this information from?"

She looked into his light eyes and frowned deeply, "I have friends in Athens. It is hardly news that the Greek Empire is at war with the Roman Empire. Everyone knows about it, though they trust their empress will save them and have no fear or worries about the war. They go on about their business just like any other day." She folded her arms.

Octavius lifted his chin, not liking the sound of this at all. "I see." He rubbed his chin then snapped his fingers at his men. "We ride to the source of the problem."

His men placed their hands over their hearts, bowing to their emperor. "Yes my lord." One of the men looked up in the sky, "Sir, a storm is expected to drown Greece for the next week."

The emperor smiled, "that will not delay our journey, my friend. We must leave at once then," He then turned to Gorgo and kissed her hand, "thank you for this information. I promise you will be rewarded greatly." He hastily made his way to his horse and mounted, riding off through the gated Spartan community. Next stop would be Athens and Xena would have no idea that he was coming. He grinned mischievously.

Gabrielle sat with Xena in bed as they looked over a large map of Greece and the Roman Empire's claimed areas. Xena was circling some areas and drew a lot of X's over certain spots in the Aegean Sea and the surrounding areas of Italia. "Do you think Octavius will use the same tactics he always does?" she asked.

Xena pursed her lips, "he has gotten older and hopefully wiser so I am hoping he uses the same tactics. It would surprise me if he attacked a different way. He always swarms people from the outskirts, but he can't do that if the naval fleet is guarding Greece's borders at all times."

Gabrielle nodded, "right but just one problem," she took the quill out of Xena's hand and circled the entire Mediterranean Sea and put a big X in the middle. "Rome doesn't have a good navy like Athens does. He would never attack by ship. You should remember this from twenty two years ago when I asked you to make your navy back down." She saw the realization in Xena's eyes. "It would be useless to use a third of the army for naval purposes. We should station them on land in various areas of Greece. Octavius likes to attack on land and Samuel's men are good archers."

The empress grinned, "so we use the Persian army on land and our army close to us." She nodded liking this idea far better. "This is why I have you here Gabrielle. You always have such good ideas," she grabbed the quill from her and began writing a note on the map to herself.

Gabrielle blinked, "wait can you say that again?"

Xena continued writing, "say what?" she looked up at Gabrielle's shocked face. "What?"

"Did you just say I have good ideas?" the blonde smugly grinned. "Come on, say it again. I don't hear it too often."

The brunette shook her head smirking. "Okay, you have good ideas." She placed the quill down on the parchment. "Happy now?"

"Yes in fact I am!" Gabrielle grinned. "You're in a good mood lately you know in the midst of this chaos."

Xena sighed leaning on the pillows behind her, "you can't let war get you down, Gabrielle. I am able to separate war from my personal life." She winked. The blonde came closer to her and leaned against her shoulder. "Gabrielle," she uttered quietly and the blonde peered up at her, staring into her eyes. "Thank you for always being there for me."

Gabrielle smiled and kissed Xena's cheek, "I said I would always be here for you, Xena. Many things change but that never will." She grabbed Xena's hand, toying with the empress's long slim fingers. "I am here to make your life easier," she jested.

"Let's not get carried away now," Xena said and Gabrielle gasped. "That was a joke."

She frowned, creasing her brows. "That is one thing I'll never get used to. Your jokes are not funny Xena," she sighed. "They're scary sometimes you know. I still never know when you're joking or not."

Xena exhaled dramatically, "well I guess that's one thing you'll never figure out about me." There was a gust of wind that entered the bedroom and the trees swayed violently in the wind. She frowned looking outside at the darkening sky. "A storm is coming here." The clouds were dark and looming over the sea. The water could be heard crashing against the palace walls.

"Maybe the gods can sense your dark mood," Gabrielle joked and looked to Xena's unapologetic face. "What? You can make jokes and I can't?" she scoffed.

"You're jokes aren't that funny either, Gabrielle." She said with a serious face.

Gabrielle stared at Xena for a silent moment then started laughing. "That was another one of your jokes, right?" she stared into Xena's blue eyes. They were blank and her face was stone. Her laughter died down as soon as she realized Xena was not joking about that. She felt somewhat offended.

Xena's lips then broke out into a cheeky grin and the irritated blonde frowned and punched her friend in the arm. Xena gasped and rubbed her arm. Man, she could really throw a punch. By the gods. "Gabrielle!"

"Looks like your immortal self is not susceptible to pain," she giggled and the empress grimaced still rubbing her sore arm. Suddenly she jumped off the bed and Xena raised an eyebrow looking to see where she was going. Gabrielle disappeared into Eve's vacant room next door and Xena waited patiently on the bed. Returning she had a box in her hands and she shut the door quietly. Hopping back on the bed Xena eyed her partner curiously.

"What is this you have here?" Xena reached for the box and Gabrielle slapped her hand. Xena frowned and rubbed her hand, retracting her hand.

Gabrielle grinned, hugging the medium sized box close to her chest, "no touching," she teasingly said and that only made the empress more curious. "I got something for Eve," she thought for a moment, "well it's not for her, but her babies." She grinned.

Xena's miffed face soon broke out into a large grin. She watched Gabrielle as she slowly opened the box and pulled out two small outfits. Xena instantly reached for them, grabbing them from Gabrielle's hands and laid them out on the bed in front of her. "I always said that you spoiled Eve...and I was right, you still do." She looked at the outfits and they looked brand new, just made by the seamstress in the palace. White fabric with gold trim, a matching set.

"You think that she will like it?" Gabrielle anxiously asked.

Xena eyed her with a knowing look, "if it's from you then she will definitely love it." she brushed the wrinkles out in the fabric and then a loud clap of thunder roared in the skies. Both of them slightly jumped and grinned at one another.

Gabrielle folded the outfits and placed them back into the box. "I think being a mother will be good for Eve," she said and Xena cocked her head to the side, confused at that. She chuckled, "Eve is a wild child and likes to do things her own way. She will learn to calm down. It will be good for her."

Xena couldn't agree more. "She will have her hands full and we won't have to worry about her running off or disobeying us both," she smiled slyly and Gabrielle exhaled, thinking that was going to be a relief. She began to think about a time when Eve went behind her back only to go to Gabrielle for help. "Gabrielle, do you remember when Eve was ten and she tricked you into taking her to a party in the Boys Academy in Athens?"

Gabrielle frowned folding her arms, not wishing to rehash that memory. "She didn't say it was a party. She said that she was going to be studying with a few friends."

Xena laughed, "I can't believe you believed her!" she saw the annoyed look on Gabrielle's face. "As if Eve ever studied. She asked me if she could go and I said no because there were older boys there."

"That was one time! Geez..." Gabrielle sighed, not liking this story at all. "Never trust a ten year old," she grumbled.

Xena's laughter died down and saw her consort was a bit irritated. "That's alright Gabrielle. I allowed her to go to Persia and she came back pregnant and with a king." Gabrielle broke out in a weak smile. "I think I win," she teased.

"Never trust a twenty two year old either," Gabrielle teased back. "Lesson learned." She nodded and Xena rolled her eyes. Both looked outside and saw rain pouring down violently. Gabrielle got up and looked outside to see the dark gloomy sky. The sea was definitely not calm either, waves crashing against the side of the palace. She peered down and saw more than seven feet of water rising. Stepping away she saw Xena relaxing on her bed. "I haven't seen a storm like this in a long time."

Xena sighed, "looks like we are trapped here for a few days then," she grinned. She rolled up the map and scooted over patting the empty spot next to her. "Gives us more time together and less time discussing Octavius," she invited Gabrielle to sit with her.

Gabrielle smiled and hopped onto the bed and a gust of wind blew out the candles in the room. Her eyes widened and looked to Xena, a bit fearful. "Are you afraid of storms, Gabrielle?" she teased with mischief in her eyes.

The blonde grumbled, sinking lower in the bed, "no, it's just rain," she mumbled and leaned in closer to Xena and lightening lit up the dark sky and thunder roared. She gripped onto Xena's leg and the empress' eyes grew.

"Not afraid huh," Xena teased grabbing Gabrielle's hand.

"I'm not afraid," Gabrielle defended herself, although she clung tightly to Xena. She looked up at the empress' smug face. "I'm not," she reiterated.

"Whatever you say Gabrielle."

Down in the large meeting area inside the palace Eve, Solan and Samuel gathered together, playing a friendly game of jenga in the middle of the unexpected storm. All three remained silent as Eve was pulling out a piece out the center of the four foot tower of wooden blocks. She carefully pulled out the block and smiled then placed the piece on top of the tower.

"Beat that boys," she grinned sneakily. Samuel and Solan stared at one another, thinking how Eve was able to pull that piece out. It was like she defied all laws of physics. The tower should have fallen by now but it was still standing. They had been playing the game for four hours now.

Samuel downed the rest of his wine and stood up from the sofa, examining the jenga tower. Eve sat down watching him testing the tower's ability to stand. "I don't know how you did it Eve..." he rubbed his chin pensively. He reached for a piece towards left center and Solan grabbed his wrist.

"Don't get that piece! It's going to fall!" he exclaimed. The Persian groaned and pushed his hand away.

"Relax, it's not going to fall," he bit his bottom lip and leaned forward looking at the tower. He peered through an empty slot and saw Eve's smug face. He grinned and started pulling out the piece and Solan's eyes widened. Samuel saw the tower begin to lean and he cringed, slowly pulling the piece out swiftly and the tower leaned to the right but then centered itself. He chuckled lowly and placed the wooden block on top of Eve's block she took out.

Solan and Samuel gave each other a high-five and Samuel looked at Eve's smiling face. "And that's how you do it, princess."

"Is that so?" Eve said and pointed at the tower. It was beginning to lean to the right now and both men gasped and slowly the tower crashed onto the floor. She jumped up and clamped her hands together. "I win!"

Samuel sighed and Solan folded his arms. "Told you so," he mumbled to the Persian. He looked over at his sister beaming and he grinned. "Congratulations Eve, you win...again." he sighed.

"Don't be such a spoiled sport, Solan. I'm sure you'll win next time," Eve falsely pouted and pat his back teasingly.

Solan brushed it off, "we would have won if somebody," he glared at Samuel, "didn't pull out the wrong block."

Samuel gasped, "I was sure it wasn't going to fall!" he folded his arms frowning.

Eve smiled watching the two throw a minor tantrum over a silly game. "Boys, you both lost. Just face it, you both suck at jenga." She shrugged and the two men looked at her blinking. "We can play chess next."

Solan shook his head and downed the wine, "no way! I am not going to play chess with you!" he began walking off with the wine bottle in his hand. "You have magical powers when it comes to playing chess."

Samuel grinned, "thanks to me."

Eve frowned, "I beat you many times in chess."

He chuckled, "yeah but I'm the one who taught you."

Her mouth gaped, "no you didn't, Solan taught me!"

"Well he obviously taught you how to lose," he teased and Eve nudged him in his ribs. He winced rubbing his side and Solan sighed, walking off leaving the two to argue among themselves.

In the middle of the night Octavius and his men arrived in Athens. They were a few miles from Xena's grand palace. He had his cloak on hiding under a large tree from the storm. The rain swayed in the wind, blocking some of his view. He saw the large Grecian palace on the hillside, secluded from everything. It was dark there but there were many rooms lit still this late in the evening and it would be morning in about four hours.

One of his men came running towards him in soaked clothing. He wiped his mouth and breathed heavily. "Sir, we found the dam. It's just right up the hill, about a mile from the Empress's palace."

He grinned, "good," he stared at the large palace completely out of harm's way. "Break the dam." He said and his men nodded, heading off on their horses in the dark of the night. "Xena shall drown in her own sea's tears," he folded his arms and saw a light go out in the palace's open windows. Smirking he trotted through the storm to follow his men towards the dam.

Early the next morning, there was no sun in the sky and Eve opened her eyes to see it was still raining violently. She saw Samuel still sleeping and smiled at him. She yawned, thinking it probably wasn't the best idea to stay up late playing games with Samuel and her brother. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and stood up and realized she was standing in a foot of water. Her eyes widened and jumped back onto the bed.

She panicked and shook Samuel's body. "Samuel!" she yelled and he woke up to her violently shaking his body. He grumpily opened his eyes and saw concern on her face.

"What is it?" he sat up and touched her face. She pointed to the room and his eyes grew in fear. "Oh..." he saw there was a foot of water in the room and quickly got out of bed and saw his shoes were soaked and floating elsewhere. His clothes were also soaked. He was only wearing his pants and had no shirt. Groaning he grabbed Eve's hand as they waded through the water slowly. He tried to open the door and clenched his teeth he pushed the door open with his shoulder and saw the entire hallway was filled with water. "What in God's name..." he mumbled.

"This has never happened before even in the worst storms..." Eve clung to his arm and saw the staircase leading to her mother's room was halfway underwater. "My mother is in her room with Gabrielle."

He sighed, "find someplace dry and I will go up there," he said and waded through the cold water, drenching his pants. The water was continuing to rise and as he came closer to the grand staircase he was now waist deep in the water.

Finally making it up the stairs he groaned and saw two guards posted outside Xena's bedroom. He walked closer and they stared at him. "I need to speak with the empress." The two guards wouldn't allow him in and he folded his arms. "It's urgent." Still not letting him through they blocked his path crossing their javelins. "I don't have time for this," he threw them aside and opened the doors to see Xena asleep and Gabrielle beside her.

He raised an eyebrow and Xena woke up seeing a shirtless Samuel in front of her bed. She frowned and nudged Gabrielle awake. "What are you doing in here?" she asked.

"Your palace is going to become the next Atlantis," he said cryptically. Xena looked at Gabrielle, unsure what he meant. She grabbed her robe wrapping it around her black slit gown. She left her room and saw the guards on the floor. Gabrielle followed and Samuel lead the way.

He saw the look in her eyes and he grinned sheepishly, "you'll forgive me later," he ran down the hall and both women followed him. He stood at the top of the stairs as the water had risen quite a lot in a short amount of time. Xena joined him and her eyes widened seeing her entire palace turning into the sea itself.

Gabrielle caught up and gasped, covering her mouth, "by the gods," she mumbled.

Xena frowned, "the dams have been broken," she looked to see the rain was speeding up the process and the water continued to rise inside. She then looked to Samuel, "where is Eve?"

"I told her to get somewhere dry. I don't know where she went," he knew that didn't sound too good but it was the truth. She groaned and stepped down on the stairs.

"Go find Solan," she demanded and continued to wade in the water, now up to her breasts. Gabrielle sighed and followed Xena, grabbing onto her shoulder for guidance through the water.

Gabrielle clung onto Xena, "this hasn't happened before, right?" she said feeling a bit fearful of this entire experience.

"No, someone manually broke the dam," she frowned, looking around. "We need to get everyone out of here," thinking of all the children in the other wing of the palace. They probably had no idea what was going on, but luckily that wing was on higher ground than hers and hopefully the water was not as high as it was over in this wing.

Gabrielle nodded, "on it," she let go of Xena and realized she was too short to touch the ground. This was going to be a difficult task to get to the other side of the palace. She cursed Xena for having such a large home. "What about Eve?" she called out now a good few feet away.

Xena nodded, "I will find her, just get everyone out," she looked around at what a disaster this was. She suspected Octavius was at play here. Actually, she had no doubt it was him and that only infuriated her more. Wading through the water she pushed tables out of her way and vases floating the water. The palace only gave an eerie vibe because all the candles were blown out and the dark skies were not helping with the storm still alive and well. "Eve?" she called out and went through the large doors in the grand hallway pushing items out of her way she groaned, quite annoyed at this entire situation. She hoped that Gabrielle would be able to get everyone out in a peaceful manner, but if the palace was under water, that only meant the entire city was underwater as well.

She called out to Eve once more and heard Eve's voice from up above. She looked up and saw Eve on the third floor of the palace. Xena smiled, thankful to see Eve was well and in one piece. "We need to leave right now!" she waded over to the stairs and climbed up, her heavy soaked robe pulling her down.

Eve ran to her mother and hugged her tightly. "Where is Gabrielle?"

"She's helping the children get out of the palace," she wrapped her arm around Eve and saw the rain begin to seep through the ceiling. Frowning she clung to her tightly, "we need to go," both stepped off the stairs and back into the cold water. Summer had long gone over a month ago and autumn was here for a short time. Winter would arrive in two months and the water was freezing. Xena squeezed Eve's hand as tight as she could. "Don't let go of me." Eve nodded.

Together the two waded through the water, now the water rising to their shoulders, Eve clung tightly to her mother, afraid to let go. Xena groaned and grabbed a sword off the wall since she didn't really have time to grab any other weapon from her bedroom. She saw Samuel and Solan not far ahead of them.

Solan was thankful to see his sister with his mother. "Eve!" he grinned and Eve smiled at him.

Xena pushed Eve forward, "Solan take Eve and get out of here. Samuel and I will help Gabrielle."

Solan grabbed onto Eve's arm and she wrapped her hands around his arm. She looked back at Samuel and he winked at her, trying to ease her concern. "You'll be fine with Solan," he said and she nodded. Xena pulled Samuel along in the opposite direction to find Gabrielle and the children.

Gabrielle was now ankle deep in water in the student wing escorting children out of their rooms. A small girl came up to Gabrielle tugging on her knee length skirt, "are we having a pool party?"

Gabrielle sighed smiling at the innocent child, "no we're not. Just keep following the other children, okay?" she pushed her along and kept the children in one line getting them out as fast as she could by herself.

Xena showed up with Samuel, completely drenched. Gabrielle gasped audibly and kept gently guiding the children to the exit. "Thank the gods you're here Xena. Did you find Eve?"

"She's with Solan," Xena saw the children walking out of the palace looking very confused. It was very lucky that none of them drowned and this wing was on higher ground than the other half of the palace, but the water was rising and she couldn't control it. she could control a lot of things, but this was one thing she couldn't.

"Your men are outside helping the children get out of the palace and onto higher ground." Gabrielle said, "I think we're almost done here." She smiled at the confused faces of all the children.

Xena checked all of the other rooms but they were empty. Gabrielle did pretty well for doing this all by herself although she shouldn't be surprised. "Gabrielle," she said aloud, trying not to alarm the children, "I think this is Octavius' doing. The dam has never broken even in the most violent storms. This has his name written all over it."

Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear, "do you really think he would do something like this?"

Xena raised an eyebrow nodding her head, "yes! He's trying to kill me!" she said and the smallest child out of the bunch looked up at her. Xena nervously smiled down at the young boy and he blinked. Gabrielle quickly ushered him out of the palace to follow the rest of the students.

"We need to create a new dam," Samuel said immediately thinking of a new plan. He noticed the water was now up to his and Xena's knees and Gabrielle's waist. "But we should get out of here first," he said and waded through the water following the children.

Solan and Eve made it to the highest hill outside of the palace grounds. Solan wrapped his arms around her and looked to see everyone get out safely. He then saw Xena and Gabrielle with Samuel exit the palace as well. "They made it out," he said and Eve looked over and smiled at them all.

Xena blinked, squinting her eyes as the rain blurred her vision. She saw Octavius on his horse with a few of his Roman soldiers. She saw a smile on his face and she frowned at him. He waved at her and that only irritated her more.

Gabrielle came to stand next to Xena and saw who she was looking at. "That bastard," Xena grumbled as she saw him ride off with his men. She was lost now, her home was gone and everyone was scattered around the area. Her army was still available but there were still not enough. Octavius had destroyed her city and home in a matter of a few short hours. She had underestimated his tactics. This was not a war, this was a game. A game that he is going to lose, she told herself.

"He is playing a dirty game," Xena uttered and Gabrielle grabbed her arm firmly. "He will lose."

Chapter Text

AN: battle is nearing, but not quite here just yet. Enjoy this part I of II :)

Chapter 26 –Desert Winds Part I

They all had no choice but to go to one of Xena's largest voyage ships. She used this ship formally and definitely wasn't a war ship and commonly used it to travel to faraway places across the vast seas. The ship was docked close to the palace and since they couldn't go back inside their home, they would have to camp out here for awhile until Xena thought of a plan to station everyone.

The rain continued to pour down and the ship gently swayed on the water. Everyone was below deck to fend off from the storm. The massive ship had six rooms below and a gathering area in the middle of the ship. Eve and Samuel sat together on a chaise lounge and Solan sat in a chair opposite them. Gabrielle sat on an ottoman looking at Xena as she paced around back and forth, talking silently to herself.

"Why would Octavius do something like that?" Solan rubbed his chin thinking aloud. "It's not really his style. I could see Marc Antony doing something like that but not Octavius." He shook his head thinking of the entire situation.

Gabrielle sighed having enough of Xena's silence fill the room. She walked to her and grabbed her arm, Xena halted and stared into her green eyes with fury. "Xena, you're making me sick just looking at you pace around like this."

Xena snatched her arm away from her and continued walking around in circles. "He really wants me gone, Gabrielle. He attacked my home!" she yelled and everyone fell silent, staring at her irate state. "Everything I have worked so hard for is now gone..." she folded her arms, now the realization of the situation setting in. Her entire palace was under water as was her entire city. She had lived in that palace for over thirty years and everything was ruined. All her scrolls and important documents, her library that Gabrielle built, was now gone. Her life was gone.

"The important thing is that nobody is hurt," Gabrielle said trying to ease the mood, though she feared that wasn't going to make Xena feel better. She saw the sorrow in her eyes and her silence proved her anger towards the Roman was heightened because of this catastrophe.

Xena let out a much needed exasperated sigh. She couldn't fix her palace, but Gabrielle was right. Everyone was alive and safe. That mattered more to her than a building, even though it was her home it was after all a thing and things could be replaced. People could not be replaced and so she took a step back, thanking the gods above for allowing her family to be safe. This was not a normal war and Octavius was going to try everything to destroy her. He already struck a chord in that department. He destroyed her home and did it so tactfully too. It was unexpected and completely out of character for him. Xena now understood that the Roman Emperor had completely lost it and was determined to get rid of everything she loved in order to see her fall.

"So," Solan said and his mother turned to him, "where are we going to go now? We can't exactly go back home..." he admitted sadly. Eve smiled weakly and placed a hand on her brother's knee.

Xena thought for a moment and reverted back to a place that was her second home for quite some time. "Egypt," she announced and Gabrielle's mouth gaped. "We will be out of Octavius' reach there."

Eve rolled her eyes and lolled her head on the chaise lounge, staring up at the ceiling. "I hate Egypt," she folded her arms. "I spent half of my life in Cairo. I don't want to go back there."

"Well it's not like we have a choice," Gabrielle said not finding Eve's complaining the best idea right now.

Xena shook her head, "not Cairo. That would be too obvious," she bit her bottom lip then saw her daughter's confused face. Of course there was a palace in Cairo that Xena had, but if they fled there, Octavius would know. Xena knew that Eve hated Egypt, but in reality it was because she was uplifted from her home in Athens and taken there reluctantly and not by her choice. Eve spent most of her life in Cairo, learning to make new friends at an awkward age in a different society who also spoke a different language and had different customs. It was a good learning experience for them all and Gabrielle soon became to love Egypt and often spent her time in Alexandria over the years.

Gabrielle touched Xena's arm. "If not Cairo, then where?" she wasn't aware that Xena had any outposts anywhere else besides Alexandria and Cairo.

"Luxor," Xena said and Solan raised a curious brow. Gabrielle looked very confused. "It is just down the Nile. I have a palace there as well."

"Since when?" Gabrielle asked, quite shocked to hear this new news.

Xena smiled sneakily, "I had one commissioned while we were in Cairo. I did not mope around like most believed." She still couldn't stop looking at everyone's faces especially her own daughter's. she sighed hearing the rain coming down on the deck above. "We will have to leave soon. The storm will let up in a few days, but as soon as we get out of Greece, the storm should not follow us."

She left and went to her room and Gabrielle immediately followed her. As soon as they entered the room Gabrielle closed the door and placed her hands on her hips. "So we're just going to ignore the fact that you have a secret palace in Luxor?"

"It's not a secret anymore now is it, Gabrielle?" Xena said with a snide tone.

Gabrielle frowned and sat on the bed watching Xena take off her soaked robe and gown to change into something else. "What's with your attitude?" she said and Xena ignored her. "Don't do this again, Xena. You always do this."

"I'm not doing anything," Xena half smiled, finding Gabrielle a bit annoying at the moment. She slipped on some pants and a black fitted tunic.

"Yes you are. You're shutting everyone out like you always do when you're in a bad mood." Xena gave her a disapproving look and Gabrielle frowned. "Don't look at me like that. You know it's true." She felt a bit flabbergasted. "I didn't even know you had a palace in Luxor! Why would you have a palace in Luxor anyway?"

Xena sighed feeling a headache coming on. "I have my reasons Gabrielle and it will work in our favor. So would you just drop it?"

"No, I'm not going to just drop it, Xena. Stop pushing me away like you always do," Gabrielle was getting more irritated the more Xena calmly refuted her. "We're supposed to help one another and I can't do that if you block me out."

Silence. Xena closed the curtains to the window and lit a few candles. Gabrielle watched Xena as she completely ignored her.

"Wow, alright." Gabrielle groaned and Xena turned with a blank face. "Doesn't this sound familiar to you? The last war we had with Octavius twenty two years ago, you pushed me away and wanted to do things on your own without any help. This time it's different, Xena. You need to stop thinking about yourself and start –"

"I am not thinking about myself, Gabrielle!" Xena spat back and Gabrielle closed her mouth. "I'm thinking about you, about Eve, Solan, Samuel...everyone! I don't need a lecture from you right now. I need...solace," she wrapped her arms around herself and sat on the bed, hanging her head lowly hiding behind the veil of dark hair.

Gabrielle sighed, not really thinking about Xena's feelings. She bottled them inside her and it took her quite a long time to release them, sometimes years. She thought this was a lot of progress considering how Xena was. She leaned her head against Xena's shoulder and wrapped her arm around her shoulder. "I'm sorry, I am not upset at you, I guess I'm just processing all of this just like you are."

"I lost everything," Xena whispered and lifted her head. Gabrielle looked at Xena and saw a tear stream down her face. Gabrielle's eyes widened in shock. It was a rare sight to see Xena shed a tear and if she did, then that must mean that she truly was hurting inside.

"You still have me," Gabrielle smiled and Xena wiped her cheek, not wishing to show her emotions any more than she already has. "We can rebuild. We have been through worse things than this," she attempted to comfort the solemn empress.

Xena turned and smiled towards Gabrielle, bobbing her head. "You're right Gabrielle." She sighed and wiped her eyes standing up, fixing her top. "I want Solan and Samuel to stay in Athens to round up the army to help the citizens in the city."

Gabrielle grinned, liking that Xena was able to turn herself around and she allowed herself to release some pent up emotions. "That's a good idea. What about Eve?"

"She will be coming with us to Luxor. After what just happened I don't want her out of my sight," she slipped on her boots and head out of the room to alert Samuel and Solan of the plan.

Three days later they were getting close to the port of Alexandria and from there they would take the rest of the journey by horse to get to Luxor. It wasn't as lush as Cairo and was in the middle of the hottest part of the desert, which made it difficult for enemies to find them. Xena had commissioned to build a palace there ten years ago just in case she would need it later and this was the perfect time to take the opportunity to hide out there.

Xena stood on the deck enjoying the bright sun. They traveled through rain for more than a day and the rest of the trip was sunny. She only hoped that Solan and Samuel would be successful in gathering all of the army in the middle of that awful storm. They also didn't have anywhere to go since the palace was under water. She hated to think about it so she chose not to.

Below the deck Gabrielle was with Eve in one of the larger bedrooms. Gabrielle was able to find one of Xena's dresses for Eve to wear. She didn't exactly seem too happy about it considering it was clung to her every curve and the sleeves were quite long as her mother was a bit taller than she was.

Eve sighed and fanned herself with a cloth fan she found in her mother's drawer. It looked to be from Qin. "It's so hot," she complained and Gabrielle smiled, dipping the quill in the ink pad, continuing to write. Eve rolled up her sleeves and leaned against a pillow, wiping the sweat off her brow. "How can you write at a time like this, Gabrielle?"

"When is the best time, then?" Gabrielle retorted with a smirk and wrote the last of her thoughts. She put the quill down and saw the princess was definitely uncomfortable and not enjoying this ship ride at all. She got up and grabbed a glass of water and handed it to Eve. She thanked her and downed the water immediately. "I guess you forgot how hot it was in Egypt."

Eve sighed and shifted, sitting up, leaning her back against the bed's frame. "Isn't Luxor in the hottest part of Egypt?" her eyes were filled with concern. Gabrielle nodded and Eve groaned and threw her head on the pillow behind her staring at the ceiling. "I'm going to melt."

Xena entered the room and saw Eve fanning herself and she was also wearing an old dress of hers. It was an emerald green with black lace on the sleeves and neckline. "That's one of my favorite dresses," she eyed Gabrielle and the blonde grinned sheepishly at her. "I got it in Corinth thirty years ago." She poured a glass of water for herself, finding it very hot, definitely hotter than Athens ever was.

"I really want to rip the sleeves off," the princess said and Xena blinked, seeing her daughter's cheeks were flushed and obvious she was getting irritated from the heat.

"Well I guess you could but I really –" Xena said and Eve immediately tore off the sleeves and threw them aside. The princess sighed, feeling cooler already and she continued to fan herself. Gabrielle's eyes danced back and forth between Eve and Xena. She saw a shocked look on Xena's face and wondered what she was going to do. "Feel better?" Xena raised an eyebrow as she saw the ripped sleeves on the floor beside her boots.

Eve nodded, "yes, a lot better." She turned to see her mother's devastated face. "Oh, I'm sorry mother, but it's just really hot and –"

Xena held her hand up and grinned, "it's alright. It's just a dress," she sat on the opposite side of Eve and brushed a few tendrils away from her face. "We should be in Cairo soon and then we'll ride to Luxor." She saw the instant fear and disappointment in Eve's face. Gabrielle stifled a laugh seeing Eve's face. She was not excited about that. Xena crossed her legs and leaned against the pillows, drinking the water in silence.

Gabrielle sat back in the chair and began writing again. Xena smirked, "what are you writing about Gabrielle?"

The blonde lifted her eyes and dipped her quill in the ink pad, "it's not finished yet. You can read it when I am done writing it," she began jotting down her ideas and Xena looked at Eve, both sharing a similar knowing look. Gabrielle hadn't written anything in awhile, at least, not anything to her liking, besides treaties and letters she wrote for Xena. She didn't have the time to write for herself.

"How are those two doing in there?" Xena asked her daughter, speaking of the twins. Eve finally broke out in a smile and then sighed.

"Probably complaining about the heat as much as I have been," she jested. She placed her hand over her stomach and felt small flutters against her palm. "They don't allow me to sleep when I want to."

Gabrielle laughed and Eve turned with raised eyebrows. "Get used to that," she didn't lift her head and kept writing.

Xena placed her hand over Eve's and smiled nervously, "what Gabrielle is trying to say should sleep as much as possible."

"It gets worse?" Eve's eyes grew in fear and Xena looked at her apologetically. "Oh, I am really excited now," she added sarcastically. She let out a sigh and looked to her mother. "It could be worse I guess."

"You're so right, Eve but you have two babies, not one. You're going to be sleep deprived for awhile," Gabrielle grinned and Eve was now fearing life right now. Xena rolled her eyes and covered her face with her hand, wishing Gabrielle wasn't so talkative right now.

"Aren't you supposed to be writing?" Xena snapped and Gabrielle bit her bottom lip, continuing to write in silence. She turned Eve's chin towards her. "Don't pay attention to her. We will help you and Samuel will be with you." She hoped that would ease her daughter's anxiety for now and that Gabrielle would keep her mouth shut.

"When are we getting off this ship?" Eve asked, now her nerves catching up to her.

Xena rubbed Eve's back, "very soon I promise," she grazed her daughter's cheek and she was very warm. "You're very warm, you feel alright?" she frowned, now becoming concerned. It seemed like Eve was complaining about the heat but it seemed like she more warm than usual.

Gabrielle set the quill down and dipped a cloth in some water and came over to dab Eve's forehead. Xena adjusted the pillows and laid Eve back further, brushing her hair away from her face. "She's probably just overheated," Gabrielle said trying to ease the mood. Xena nodded and kissed Eve's forehead.

"I'm going to see how close we are," Xena said smiling at Eve and left the room. Gabrielle stayed with Eve, continuing to dab her forehead with the damp cloth.

"You should probably eat," Gabrielle said and dried her hands off then left to get some food or what little they had until they would reach Egypt.

Solan was on his horse looking at the army helping the people evacuate Athens. Samuel was instructing his men to blockade Athens from preventing anyone coming in. They still had to look out for the Romans and Octavius because Solan knew that they would not be far.

"Is Xena going to come back to Athens?" Samuel asked, shielding his eyes from the rain.

Solan looked at the citizens now leaving their homes. He was on the lookout for the Romans. "I think so but she has to take Eve to Luxor. I'm sure she'll show up with Gabrielle."

Samuel sighed, "I hope Eve will be alright."

Solan pat the Persian's back, giving some sort of comfort towards him. "If she's with my mother and Gabrielle, she'll be fine."

Samuel didn't seem convinced. "She was complaining that she wasn't feeling well before the storm." He looked to Solan and he had that same face that Xena and Eve both shared. He didn't seem too happy that he revealed this information to him and it was a bit late now because Eve was gone off to Egypt. Samuel looked away, staring at his men. "Her stomach was bothering her, but I'm sure Xena and Gabrielle will take care of her if it worsens."

Solan grabbed Samuel's arm tightly, "you should have told my mother before they left!" he was now furious that he and his sister did not breathe a word about this and now they were gone. Hopefully they were in Egypt now. "You should pray to the gods that she's alright."

"I don't pray to multiple gods," Samuel said and Solan raised an eyebrow. "I'm Zoroastrian." He said and this meant nothing to Solan, nor did he care what religion Samuel was associated with.

Solan rolled his head, holding the bridge of his nose. "Eve is going to be your wife and she's the mother of your children. I think you should pay more attention to detail."

Samuel nodded, he wasn't going to refute that. He felt like he was already failing at being a good husband and father to his children. "You're right," he said and that shocked Solan. He and Samuel never agreed on anything since they met and their relationship wasn't very stable most times. "I do care about Eve and our children. I should have told your mother, but I thought she was feeling better." He cursed to himself. "I am going to be a horrible father," now chastising himself, feeling sorry for himself Solan sighed.

The prince placed a hand on the Persian's shoulder, "you shouldn't say things like that. I didn't have a father or a mother growing up, but I wish that I did." He smiled sadly, "you have everything that you want right in front of you and you'll be there for Eve and your children." He became more serious, "but if you hurt my sister in any way I will –"

"Kill me, I know," Samuel smirked and Solan nodded. He knew exactly what Solan would do to him and he believed him. He was Xena's son and they both never backed down from a threat or promise. He wasn't scared of Solan but he had to be mindful that Solan was Eve's brother and he obviously was very protective of her. "I will keep her safe, I promise." He said on a serious note.

One of the Persian soldiers came riding up to them and he bowed his head curtly to them both. "Your highness, the Roman Emperor has entered Athens."

Samuel frowned and looked around to see where he was but couldn't find him. "Where is he?"

"Just over that hill, sir," he bowed his head and Samuel nodded, waving his hand to dismiss the soldier.

Solan pulled the reins on his horse, "well let's go meet the sorry bastard," he rode off and Samuel's mouth gaped, he soon followed him. Both completely drenched from the rain. Solan obviously wanted a piece of Octavius but without Xena here this meant that Samuel had full control of Greece per their agreement in case one was absent. He didn't really know Octavius, certainly not as well as Solan did. He was lucky that he had him here.

Octavius waited in the woods on the hillside and saw Solan approaching him with the young Persian King behind him. He thought it was odd that the king was staying inside of Xena's palace. When he saw him exit he knew that was very suspicious. The two seemed to have a very warm homey agreement with one another, which was also odd because Xena's allies were never that friendly to her and vice versa.

"Solan, so nice to see you again," the emperor grinned. The blonde prince grimaced at him and pulled his hood off, running his fingers through his wet hair.

Samuel took off his hood as well and his long locks were soaked. Octavius eyed him cautiously and grinned at him. "you must be the King of Persia. It is nice to meet you finally. I didn't know you were staying with the empress. It's very odd that she invites guests into her home."

Solan rolled his eyes, "it's none of your business. Why are you here? Since my mother is not here I cannot kill this will be diplomatic as possible."

Octavius chuckled, "as you wish, Solan. You would have made such a great Roman. Too bad you went to live with your mother." He sighed thinking of those days when he was just a boy, too naive and now he was a man and a slave to his mother's dying empire. "Xena wanted a war so I gave her one."

Samuel spoke before Solan could, "I control Athens in Xena's place. You have no business being here and that was a personal attack not a diplomatic one. You attacked Xena's home and that enters you in a whole other level of war, Octavius."

The Roman Emperor frowned at this man's tone with him. He was such a young king and so inexperienced. He didn't even know what war looked like and here he was scolding him on what to do during wars and what not to do. "Your mother and I have been fighting each other since you could barely walk. You have never seen war, you're just a child, no older than the Greek Princess."

Samuel frowned, "don't underestimate me, emperor. My army could wipe out yours any day," he smugly grinned. Solan blinked, not sure that was the best thing to say.

"Wow, is that a threat?" Octavius was surprised at the arrogance in this young king.

"That's a promise. Xena and I will destroy you, God willing," he looked to the sky lifting his hands silently praying. The Roman scoffed and shook his head.

"That's a big promise that I wish to see you try and fulfill, but where is the empress now? She has fled the scene once again!" he laughed. "She's always running from me. I have yet to meet face to face with her and she took Gabrielle and that daughter of hers too."

Solan frowned, "don't mention Eve's name. She is not involved in this war, Octavius."

The emperor saw a pained expression on the king's face and he was beginning to connect the dots when he mentioned the princess. It was beginning to make sense now. "I have no quarrels with the princess, don't worry your pretty head Solan. Although I am beginning to understand the alliance with the Persians. It is more clear to me," he winked and Samuel's eyes widened. Solan unsheathed his sword pointing it at the emperor.

"Leave Greece, Octavius. There is nothing here for you," he demanded that the emperor leave at once.

Octavius nodded, "I will be back and I hope to see Xena in the battlefield. We will see who the real victor is." He whistled at his men and they rode off deep into the forest, retreating.

Solan breathed out, thankful that didn't have to get messy. Samuel looked rather concerned, or pissed off, he wasn't sure. He was not able to read his face. "That could have been a lot worse," he sheathed his sword once more. "That was really bold of you to talk to Octavius like that, you know."

"Xena is right. He needs to be eliminated off this planet. I don't want him to come near your mother, Gabrielle and Eve anymore. He is a pain," he spat on the ground and Solan smiled, really liking the king's attitude. Before he was slightly irritated at him but now this is what he wanted to hear. Samuel was always so nice and sweet towards Eve, but he was a good king, just like Xena had said.

"I'm beginning to really like you, Samuel," Solan smiled and trotted off.

The Persian grinned, finally being on Solan's good side for once. He rode after him back to see how the men were rounding up the Athenians.

Finally after quite a long ride Xena, Gabrielle and Eve made it to the secret palace in Luxor, although by the looks of it, it definitely wasn't secret. It was quite large and didn't help that there two large statues of the god, Horus, probably over one hundred feet tall, in the entrance. The place really was a desert, even though the Nile was just along the palace, it was very hot.

Now they reached the palace by nightfall and it was already winter in Egypt and the desert was freezing at this time of year. Eve fell asleep through the entire journey from Alexandria to Luxor since Xena was somehow able to get a caravan thinking it best that Eve not ride on a horse since she wasn't feeling well.

Even though the palace was vacant it seemed that Xena employed many people to live there and keep up the place while she was away. Gabrielle was beginning to wonder when Xena had time to do all of this secret business planning without her knowing for all these years, but she supposed she shouldn't question it, considering it was pulling in their favor at the moment.

One of the men that worked in the palace as a guard carried Eve inside and found a room on the lower floor. He placed her on the bed and Xena followed behind with Gabrielle at her side. He turned to Xena and bowed his head to her. "Thank you Mehmet," she smiled and he graciously smiled back at her.

"Anything for you, Xena," he grinned at Gabrielle then quickly left the room.

Xena pulled the blankets off and covered Eve. Gabrielle still couldn't get over the look of this place. It was completely furnished and she was sure that every bedroom in this place was furnished just like this one. Eve opened her eyes and saw her mother and Gabrielle standing over her.

"Hey there," Gabrielle smiled and Eve looked around and saw she was in a bed and also in a room that was definitely Egyptian and not Grecian at all. It reminded her of Cairo and her bedroom in that palace that she spent many years in as a teenager. Gabrielle sat down, touching Eve's cheek. "How do you feel now?"

Eve sat up and immediately felt cold. She forgot how cold it could get in Egypt during winter season. "I still feel hot," she touched her forehead and even though it was freezing outside she could feel the heat radiating off of her. Suddenly she felt her stomach churning and she placed her hand over her abdomen, cringing.

Xena raised an eyebrow, not really liking seeing her daughter so ill. She had a feeling that she was ill before they left Greece and didn't say anything about it. "Gabrielle, go find one of the maids to bring some food and water to this room."

Gabrielle blinked, "there's maids here? Xena do you have any more hidden palaces I should know about?"

Xena smiled, "no Gabrielle. Could you...please?" she pleaded and Gabrielle half smiled nodding her head and squeezed Xena's shoulder before she left the room to find this so called maid. She brought her attention back to her daughter and pushed her back gently onto the pillows. "You need to rest, you have a fever."

Eve sighed and immediately felt panic settle in. Looking down at the two lives growing inside her Xena saw the panic in her eyes. Her mother's hand came to rest on her abdomen and Eve looked up at her. "Don't worry about them, they will be fine," she smiled reassuring her daughter.

"Are you sure?" Eve questioned, still feeling skeptical. She felt two small feet jab her in her side and frowned.

Xena grinned as she felt that jab against her palm "I am sure," her hand roamed over her daughter's belly, finding this a lot more amusing and comforting than dealing with matters of war at the moment. Eve saw a gleeful look on her mother's face and she hadn't seen her look that way in such a long time and it definitely brought a smile on her lips.

Gabrielle returned with a tray of a lot of food, more than she asked for actually, but once she said Xena was here, they were more than happy to give her food to take to the princess. She set the tray down on the bedside table and smiled seeing Xena looking quite peaceful, which was unusual. "Having fun?" Gabrielle said and Xena turned to her, not realizing she had returned.

"I can't wait to meet them," Xena lifted her eyebrows and Gabrielle smiled, enjoying seeing Xena's joyful mood.

Eve grinned, "you will have many stories to tell them I'm sure," she said and her mother eyed her carefully.

"Only the good ones," she sighed then saw the tray of food. "I should leave you alone. You need to eat something. It's been a long journey," she smiled and pat her daughter's leg before getting off the bed.

Xena grabbed Gabrielle's arm leading them out of the room. They stood at the entrance, slightly closing the door and Xena looked around making sure nobody was around. "We need to go back and help Solan and Samuel, but I don't want to leave Eve here while she is sick..." she sighed, rubbing her forehead.

Gabrielle nodded, "I agree but we promised that we wouldn't separate anymore when it came to these missions. Do you think Eve will be fine by herself?"

Xena shook her head, "no I want her to be with someone. I want to stay with her but I need to go back to Athens to deal with Octavius," she sneered. She then started to think of her past and she didn't want Eve to have the same problem as she did. "I had the Nile fever once, a long time ago," she said quietly.

"You did?" Gabrielle closed the door more so Eve was not able to hear. "Is that what Eve has?"

The empress sighed, "I hope not. When I was pregnant with Solan, Borias and I traveled to Egypt but I was really sick and couldn't get out of bed for days." A small sad smile came to her lips, "he wouldn't leave my side." She shook her head getting out that little daze she was in. "And I don't want her to be alone."

"I can go back to Athens to help Solan and Samuel while you stay here with Eve," Gabrielle suggested. She said she'd never leave Xena again as they were partners but she was willing to break that promise.

Xena sighed, folding her arms not really liking the options she had right now. "If you go, I don't want anything to happen to you."

Gabrielle smirked, "I've done this several times with you. I'll be fine, like always."

Xena didn't like this idea, but she wanted to be in Athens and be in Luxor with Eve. She couldn't be in two places at once and she also didn't want to leave Eve all alone in this palace while she was ill. She reluctantly agreed to Gabrielle's idea about her leaving to Athens to help, but she said that she would catch up to her eventually and when Eve was well enough, she'd leave her here in the palace.

Chapter Text

Chapter 27 –Desert Winds Part II

With Gabrielle's absence and Xena staying with Eve, this palace in the middle of the desert was quite lonely and sometimes boring. So far Xena and Eve had been in Luxor for two days and Xena figured that Gabrielle would hopefully be in Athens by the next morning if she didn't run into any complications along the way. Xena knew that she could trust Gabrielle and at least Samuel and Solan were still in Athens, but what troubled her most was that she could not be there when it was most necessary. She wanted to stay with Eve to make sure she was alright, but at the same time she desperately needed to be in Athens making sure her city didn't cave in on itself.

Eve had been asleep for the past two days and hasn't really moved much. Xena was asleep in the chair beside the bed, growing tired of watching her daughter sleep only to wake her up sometimes to give her water and minimal food before she fell back into a deep slumber.

The maids were very nice and came in often to check on them both. Xena had been trying to think of a suitable plan to get out of Luxor without leaving Eve alone by herself. Her fever had somewhat gone down but not by much. She only hoped that she'd awaken and be alright, but for now, she stayed beside her, waiting...and waiting some more.

Eve's eyes fluttered open and attempted to sit up but her body was too weak to do so. She winced and saw her mother sleeping in the chair beside the bed. "Mother..." she croaked and Xena immediately woke up with a smile on her face. She came to sit on the edge of the bed next to Eve and touched her forehead, checking her temperature.

"Your fever has finally broken," Xena smiled relieved to see her daughter finally recovering slowly. She dabbed Eve's forehead with a damp cold cloth and Eve frowned, trying to sit up but Xena pushed her back down. "Don't get up, save your strength," she smiled and Eve sighed, feeling useless and helpless at the moment.

Eve's eyes wandered around the room and she frowned, "where is Gabrielle?" she asked. It was odd to see her mother anywhere without Gabrielle.

Xena's smile disappeared, "she's traveling to Athens to help your brother and Samuel."

Eve grabbed her mother's wrist and creased her eyebrows, "and you're not with her? Why didn't you go with her? Octavius and his Roman dogs are probably destroying the city!" she began coughing and Xena gave her some water.

"We both agreed that you shouldn't be left alone here. She volunteered to go while I stay here with you," the empress eyed Eve and she seemed more upset that Gabrielle was gone than concerned about her own illness.

Eve finished drinking the glass of water and let out a deep sigh. "That's very nice of you mother, but you should be in Athens, not in this...desert," she grumbled thinking about this wretched desert. She hated Egypt so much and the weather wasn't kind to her skin or her health at all.

Xena half grinned at her daughter's persistence. "As much as I want to be in Athens helping, I couldn't leave you here alone. contracted the Nile fever while in Greece," she saw her daughter's eyes widen. "Yes I know you were ill before we left and you should have told me."

The princess felt a bit embarrassed and lowered her eyes, " do I get rid of it?"

"A lot of rest and water, that's the only way to get rid of the fever," she dabbed Eve's forehead again and Eve sighed, not really liking being confined to the bed. "I had the Nile fever once," she said and Eve lifted her eyes becoming curious. "I was pregnant with Solan. Borias and I were traveling to Egypt and I became so sick that I couldn't leave the ship. It took me a couple of weeks to get over it, but even with my stubbornness, Borias made sure I stayed in bed," she smiled.

Eve quirked her mouth to the side, "I wish Samuel were here right now," she admitted sadly. Not that she didn't mind her mother's company but she was worried about him being in Athens fighting against the odds.

Xena grinned, "I am sure he feels the same way as you." She sighed and put the cloth back into the water basin. Queen Hatima had left Athens a few weeks ago because she had some family matter to deal with in Karnak, Egypt. Xena immediately had an idea and Karnak was only a couple of hours from Luxor. She thought it might be a good idea to send a message to Hatima so she could come stay with Eve and she would be able to return to Athens without worry. "I'll be right back," she pat her daughter's knee and got up leaving the room before Eve could utter a word. The princess blinked, surprised at her mother's hasty exit.

Xena went to the falcon room and saw a young boy handling the birds. She smiled and wrote a message for the falcon to deliver to Karnak. She slipped it out of her tunic and presented it to the boy. "This is very important, make sure it gets to where it needs to be, alright?"

The boy smiled eagerly and slipped the message onto the falcon's talon. "I'll make sure it gets there, Xena," he opened the cage and let the bird fly off into the desert sky. She thanked him then left the room.

Mehmet, the nice Egyptian man she met with two days ago came running to her looking distressed. She frowned and he knelt down, bowing his head at her. She lifted him up by his shoulders and he looked frightened. "What's wrong?" she asked, almost afraid to know. She hoped it didn't have anything to do with her daughter.

He breathed heavily, "there is a visitor asking for you. He says that he knows you..." he bowed his head again.

Xena was not in the mood for this and how was this person able to find her? This place was supposed to be a secret from the public eye, but apparently not if someone already has found her. She honestly wished that it was a horde of Romans so she could take them out all at once.

Swiftly walking down the long corridor, her heels clicking on the marble tile, she walked out of the open entrance and saw a young man wearing a Nemes Headdress, those worn by the Pharaohs of Egypt. But there was one problem, all the Pharaohs were extinct especially after Cleopatra died. Her dynasty had collapsed and so did the dynasty of the Pharaohs –taking the ancient practice to her grave.

The young man turned around and met eyes with Xena as she stood at the top of the stairs. He was surrounded by royal guards, which Xena thought was odd. He smiled at her and she began walking down the steps, afraid to approach this man. He looked to be around Solan's age, maybe a bit younger but not by much.

Now Xena was a mere ten feet away from the man and he folded his arms. "Who are you?" she asked with a raised eyebrow, very skeptical of this false Pharaoh.

He bowed his head, "My name is Ptolemy, you haven't met me before but my father has," he lifted his eyes with a mischievous grin.

Xena had met a lot of fathers in her life and killed many she was sure, but by the looks of this man, she didn't recognize him at all and certainly didn't remember killing any Egyptian Pharaohs. He took a step closer and she took a step back. He chuckled nervously and began, "I don't expect you to know who I could you anyway?" he grinned and Xena eyed him carefully. "Perhaps my Roman name will ring a bell. I also go by Caesarion."

The Empress's eyes widened and she pulled her sword on him, "Caesarion?" she looked into his dark eyes and was now beginning to see the features. Roman name, huh? "You take the name of Julius Caesar..." she said lowly.

Ptolemy nodded, "correct! You see, my father hid me well from the public eye. After my mother died I decided to go into hiding so Octavius would not find me."

Suddenly everything was beginning to don on her, "you're Caesar's and Cleopatra's son?" her eyes grew, almost irate at the fact that those two even got together. She felt sick to her stomach now that she stood before the spawn of her most hated enemy. Caesar died long ago but apparently made his rounds in Egypt as well as other places. She indistinctly made a face of disgust and Ptolemy laughed.

"You seem shocked," he sighed, "well frankly, I'm shocked to find you in Egypt. Aren't you supposed to be in...Corinth or something?"

"Athens," she corrected.

"Right, Athens. Forgive me but I haven't been very well connected with the world outside this desolate desert." He took another step closer and pushed her blade out of the way. "No need for weapons, empress. I didn't come here to kill you."

Xena lowered her blade still wary of the young Pharaoh, "then why did you come here? Unless you have some information about the Romans, you are useless to me."

"I do have some information that might be valuable to you..." Ptolemy grinned deviously. "You're at war with Octavius, right?" she nodded in response. "I have some inside information about the emperor. If you invite me inside your fortress I'll be glad to tell you..."

Xena stared at him for awhile unsure what to do. She didn't even know that Caesar had a son and with...Cleopatra? she wasn't expecting that at all. It made sense that Caesar kept his son a secret because of Octavius becoming his successor. Ptolemy would be killed ultimately because of Octavius' lust for power. She gestured for him to come inside. She hoped she would not regret this later.

The following day Gabrielle docked in Athens, right outside of the palace walls. She stepped off the ship and saw the entire palace was underwater and sighed, thinking of Xena's devastation. It broke her heart to see Xena so upset and she rarely saw Xena cry about something unless it meant a lot to her and that palace was her world, everything she built and conquered came from inside that palace. Now it was gone and belonged to the sea.

She saw the rain storm had gone but it was still cloudy and rather gloomy. She wondered where Solan and Samuel were camping out during this catastrophe. They couldn't go back inside the palace and Xena ordered them to help the citizens. She would have thought that they'd be done with that by now. She pulled the hood of her cloak over her head and tread down the hillside in search for those two.

Solan was on horseback and saw a hooded figure walking alone and then recognized those boots from anywhere. He smiled waving his hands at her. "Gabrielle!" he called out and she lifted her head with a bright smile, so happy to see that he was alive. He waved to her still and then realized that his mother was not with her and that troubled him the most. It was rare that they split up when it came to things like this. He was now becoming worried.

Gabrielle met with him and she grabbed his hand, so glad to see him. He hoisted her up onto the horse and she wrapped her arm around him. "Where is mother?" he asked, concerned.

She pursed her lips, "she is with Eve in Luxor still. She was very sick. Xena and I agreed that she'd stay with her and I come to help you and Samuel."

The blonde prince groaned, "is she doing better at least? I mean Eve..." he trotted away from the palace grounds to go to the little hideout that Samuel and him were able to make in the woods.

"Xena is taking good care of her, I'm sure," Gabrielle smile reassuring Solan.

They arrived in the middle of the dark woods and Gabrielle saw a group of yurts in the surrounding area. She hopped off the horse taking the hood off her head. She raised an eyebrow. "Where did you get these yurts?" she walked around and saw a small campfire that had been extinguished not long ago.

"Some Athenians were kind enough to give them to us when we were evacuating the city. Mother's men are escorting the citizens to Delphi. They left a few days ago, they should be there soon."

Gabrielle turned to Solan with a frown, "Delphi is pretty far from Athens, don't you think?"

He shrugged sheepishly, "Delphi is the next largest city and we didn't want smaller neighboring cities becoming overcrowded." Gabrielle nodded in agreement with Solan, though that was quite a journey for those displaced Athenians. She knew that they were working against all odds –weather, destroyed homes and the Romans. They had to take all precautions as possible.

Samuel came out of the yurt and smiled, thrilled to see Gabrielle had made it back from Egypt. He ran and hugged her tightly. Gabrielle was a bit caught off guard by the king's warmth towards her. "Gabrielle! How is Eve and what about Xena? She didn't come with you?" he frowned.

She shook her head, "Xena is with Eve in Luxor. She's very ill right now," she eyed him cautiously and saw some disappointment in his green eyes. "Don't worry, Xena will take good care of her," she smiled reassuring the Persian as best as she could. Solan meanwhile was in the background grimacing at the king as he spoke to Gabrielle.

"And...the babies? They're okay, right?" he expressed imminent concern and Gabrielle smirked, patting his shoulder gently.

"I don't think Xena would let anything happen to them. She'd probably die first," she winked and saw Samuel break out into a smile, hoping for the best.

She sighed and took a good look around this small campsite they made for themselves. "Well, has Octavius come back?"

Solan eyed Samuel and they shared a worried stare. Gabrielle raised an eyebrow then folded her arms, anxious to hear this story. Solan began, "Samuel kind of threatened Octavius but that was a few days ago. We haven't seen him show his face back here since."

Samuel frowned, "I only threatened him because he committing illegal acts of war against Xena and Greece. He didn't belong here so I told him to get lost," he folded his arms and Solan rolled his eyes.

Gabrielle put her hands up, "enough!" she said firmly and both men stopped speaking. "If Octavius is playing dirty then expect him to come back and with friends. Our army is spread out right now which is not very good, but at least we have more men than him."

"He's never done this before, right?" Samuel asked aloud.

Solan shook his head, "no he hasn't. I am surprised he's acting like this. He must be desperate to get rid of my mother." He sighed and grabbed his bow and arrows, strapping it to his back. "I'm going to go search the area for any intruders."

"Samuel and I should stay here if they decide to come back in the area," Gabrielle offered and Solan was fine with that. He gathered up a few Persian archers and left the area to the outskirts of the woods to higher ground. She turned to the Persian king and he looked a bit disheveled and stressed. He sat down on the ground trying to start a new fire. She sat opposite him and placed a hand on his shoulder as he was rubbing twigs and rocks together. "Eve will be fine."

He nodded, "I hope so. I knew she was sick but I didn't think it was serious." Growing frustrated he threw the rocks and twigs down on the ground. Gabrielle smiled and decided to start the fire for him. He ran his fingers through his wavy dark hair and cursed silently to himself.

She blew against the faint embers and soon a small fire emerged. She stared at the king and smirked, thinking it so odd that someone so kind and gentle could come from Phraates. "You really are nothing like your father, you know."

Lifting his head he smiled weakly at her. "My mother would love to hear you say that."

"Your mother is a very nice woman," Gabrielle said and blew against the small flames.

He nodded, "yes she is. I miss her," he sighed then thought of his older half brother. "I don't know why she visits my brother and his wife, he isn't even her son."

"You agreed that she is a nice woman. Maybe she thinks of your brother as her son too. You don't have to be related by blood to be a mother to someone," she smiled and Samuel caught on and he agreed with her, sitting in silence.

In the middle of their nice serene conversation a gust of wind came and the fire went out. Gabrielle frowned looking at the fire she had just lit now was destroyed. An arrow landed a foot away from her thigh and she gasped, standing up immediately. Samuel grabbed his bow and grabbed Gabrielle, pushing her in the yurt. "Wait here, Gabrielle," he suggested but she pushed him out of the way. He grimaced at her defiance.

"I'm not going to sit around and do nothing." She grinned sneakily and grabbed a bow and a set of arrows sitting by the yurt. Together they walked around, hiding behind tree trunks and Samuel saw another arrow fly by his ear and he let out a sigh of relief. Gabrielle knelt down and crawled on her knees to a tree closer to the outskirts of the woods.

"Gabrielle, what are you doing?!" he hissed. She ignored him and peered from behind the tree and saw many Romans lined up fully decked in armor and archers in the back row. The amount was a lot but it definitely outnumbered them in this small area. Pulling the bow's string tautly she aimed at one of the Romans and said a silent prayer to herself that she wouldn't miss.

She thought of Xena. "I never miss, Gabrielle." She clenched her teeth and pulled the arrow back tightly, close to her cheek. "If you think too much about your target, you will have poor aim." She smiled as she heard Xena's voice speaking to her within her head. "Don't think at all. Just do it." she released the arrow and saw it pierce one Roman in the throat.

The Roman soldier cried out and fell to the ground. Gabrielle then saw the archers begin to panic and then they drew their bows and her eyes widened. "Time to leave!" she turned to retreat and Samuel saw a slew of arrows coming right at them. He ran behind Gabrielle, dodging the arrows barely missing his boots. They ducked down low and went deeper into the woods. "Where in Hades is Solan?" she griped and came to hide behind a tree and Samuel collapsed behind the tree beside her.

He shrugged, "who knows but hopefully he's doing better than we are," he grinned between baited breath. He saw an arrow land in between his fingers and he gasped. Looking behind them he saw Romans were now in the woods with them. He closed his eyes and lifted his palms to the sky, silently praying to himself.

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow, "are you seriously praying at a time like this?" she peered behind her and saw the Romans coming their way. She rolled her eyes and saw Samuel still praying. "By the gods..." she muttered.

"There's always time for prayer, Gabrielle," he smiled and stood up pulling an arrow back and shot three at once, piercing through three Romans' chests. He extended his hand to her with a sly grin, "come on, we gotta find Solan." Gabrielle sighed and grabbed his hand and the two ran off out of sight from the Romans behind them.

Xena sat staring at Caesarion, tapping her fingers on her knee impatiently. She hadn't really said a word to him since he arrived. The two just stared at one another and he had been in her palace for about twenty four hours and the two barely spoke except when they first met outside yesterday. Xena made sure that Eve was taken care of while she dealt with this nuisance.

"So, are we going to talk or just stare at each other?" he asked awkwardly making the tension worse he feared.

"I just can't seem to understand why Caesar had sex with Cleopatra. I can't wrap it around my head," she stared into the man's eyes and saw much of his mother in him, more than Caesar. Which she didn't know if that she was a good thing or not. Cleopatra was a snake as well, a lustful snake.

He shrugged his shoulders, "wish I had an answer for you," he leaned forward in the chair, "listen empress, I know a lot about you. You hated my father and even tried to kill him, but failed. Not long after you took the throne of Greece I was born and was kept a secret." He saw some hesitation in her eyes. "If Octavius found out about me he would definitely kill me."

Xena smiled, finding that information rather useful to her. "I am planning to return to Athens soon," she looked at the morning sun and hoped that Hatima would come to her rescue and stay with Eve. She understood that she had family matters to take care of, but it would help her a lot if she came to look after Eve in her place. She leaned forward with a smug smile, "why don't you come with me?"

Ptolemy's eyes widened, "I won't go to Athens. Octavius will find me. You two are in the middle of a war."

She sighed loudly, "well I think it would benefit us both if you came to Athens with me. You said you have information about Octavius and I think since you found me here...I should show my gratitude and take you with me to Athens." Her eyelids lowered, "what do you say?"

"If I go with you to Athens I want something in return from you," he said and Xena raised her eyebrows. "If you kill Octavius I want control of Egypt."

Xena laughed, "as if I would give Egypt to a child like you!"

He frowned, "I am not a child! Egypt belongs to me as much as it belonged to my mother. It's not yours!"

The empress's laughter died down and she stared at the serious face of the Pharaoh, "if I gave Egypt to you then I will have another spoiled Roman king to deal with and I won't allow that to happen."

He then smiled seeing the arrogance in the empress. "What if I help you defeat Octavius? I know his military strategies very well."

She shook her head, "I've been in many wars since before you were even thought of, Caesarion. I don't need help from you. I know how to fight Octavius." She grinned deviously.

Ptolemy was growing tired of this woman. He stood up and signaled to his royal guards. "Fine. I will come back later this evening with some vital news then we'll see who needs help," he brushed passed her and Xena turned around as he left. He marched down the halls, eager to leave so he could cool off for a bit.

He exited the large palace and saw a caravan had just arrived. He recognized the design and saw a woman with light eyes and fair skin. He raised an eyebrow and went to his horse to go back to his palace in the Upper Nile until this evening. He promised to give Xena what she wanted. She wanted news, well she's going to get some news alright.

Hatima exited the caravan and saw Ptolemy leave with his entourage. She frowned thinking that was rather strange that Xena had guests over. She had a three year old girl in her arms and saw Xena at the top of the stairs looking a bit irritated.

Xena smiled once she saw the Persian queen. She was glad that she came. Hatima walked up the stairs and Xena saw her carrying a child in her arms. "I see you got my message."

She nodded, "I did. I hope Eve is alright," she frowned sadly, thinking the worst, mirroring her son's thoughts even from hundreds of miles away. Together they walked inside and the child in her arms looked around at the high ceilings and statues of many Egyptian gods, instantly intrigued.

"who is this?" Xena smiled looking at the toddler's big brown eyes. The child hid her face from Xena, burying her face into Hatima's blouse.

Hatima grinned, running her fingers through the girl's wavy hair. "My step son's daughter, Halime. Her mother asked me to watch her while she and her husband went back to Persia to visit their older daughters." Xena nodded and they came to Eve's room and slowly opened the door.

Eve saw Queen Hatun step inside and she sat up, smiling, surprised that she was here. "Hatima...what are you doing here?"

"Your mother asked me to come watch over you while she returns to Athens," Hatima sat in the chair next to the bed and placed Halime on her lap. The toddler stared at Eve with wide eyes and Eve smiled down at her.

The princess looked to her mother, "so you're going to Athens to help them?" she asked, hoping it was true. Xena nodded and that actually relieved some of Eve's stress. "When are you leaving?"

Xena sighed, "I wanted to leave as soon as Hatima arrived but it looks like I am delayed."

Eve frowned, not sure what she meant by that. "What do you mean 'delayed'?"

"It's nothing to worry about. I have some business to attend to, I will be back by nightfall," Xena smiled and left the room to Hatima and Eve.

The princess smiled at the small child on Hatima's lap. She took the covers off as she was feeling rather hot again and during the day it was super hot unlike the evenings, which she enjoyed more. "And who is this?" she grinned, scooting forward to see the small child. Halime grinned up at her and then her eyes wandered around and looked down at Eve's midsection.

Halime pointed at Eve's stomach and Eve looked down at herself, confused. Hatima caught on and she smiled grabbing Halime's small hand. "She has a baby like mommy," she grinned and Eve blinked, not quite expecting that to come out of that child's mouth.

Hatima smiled, "that's right but Eve has two babies," she held up two fingers and Halime's eyes widened, finally catching on. Eve stifled a laugh at the little girl's expression. "I'm sorry, her mother is pregnant as well. I promised my step son that I'd watch her while they are away."

Eve smiled, "that's alright. I wish I could hold her," she sighed, almost forgetting that she was still ill. "I hope you coming here wasn't too much trouble. My mother can be very demanding sometimes..."

The queen shook her head and set Halime on the ground so she could wander around, but still be in her sight. "She asked for my help and I will always be here to help you and my son. Besides, those are my grandchildren as much as they are Xena's," she smiled and Eve grinned nervously. She was beginning to think that her mother and Samuel's mother weren't going to leave her alone. Both of them were always asking how she was and fussing over her every change they got. Eve hoped that their over protective motherly behavior would disappear once the twins arrived.

"It's really nice of you to come stay with me. My mother needs to go back to Athens," Eve said and watched Halime start rummaging through a chest of some sort. "She is very curious..." she noted.

Xena paced around outside the entrance of the palace contemplating what she was doing. Ptolemy was very persistent and he was acting like a spoiled king, as he rightfully is. His parents hid him well just as she hid Eve for so long until she was unable to hide her as she grew older and ventured out by herself. Eve was still unseen by most and Octavius had yet to lay eyes on her daughter, which she knew that was a good thing. If this war was going to be a prolonged problem Xena wanted Eve to stay in Egypt for as long as possible until this war was over and done with. She didn't want her in the way and considering they had no home to go to in Athens, it was best that she stay far away, very far away.

Now that Xena was more focused and had help from more people than just herself and Gabrielle and the fact that this time she will actually participate in the war effort with Octavius. The first time they fought she was pregnant with Eve and could not put forth a good effort in the fight like she wanted. Gabrielle did most of the work and she did a fine job, but this time Xena was well prepared in her mind and she was going to get rid of the Roman Emperor for good this time. He lived the first time only because Xena did not want to deal with his council if she murdered him. It was a death sentence but Xena no longer cared if she got in trouble and how could she now? If he was gotten rid of then Xena would have control over the Roman Empire and the Greek Empire. She would be in control over so many lands. Thinking of that victory she grinned.

Her preemptive victory was interrupted when she saw Ptolemy arrive just as the sun was setting. She frowned looking at the young boy king. He was probably a bit younger than Solan, in his thirties but he was still young in her eyes. She was old enough to be his mother and just the thought of his parents being who they were was making her nauseous. She didn't care for Cleopatra and definitely hated Caesar, although he wasn't as vindictive as his successor was.

He hopped of his horse and grinned at her. "So are you willing to listen to me now, empress?"

Xena smiled tightly, "of course." He began walking up the stairs and she held up her hand, "but you don't need to come inside. We will make this short and sweet."

He nodded curtly at her and stepped down, folding his arms looking up at the empress. "Octavius' military strategies are the norm for a Roman. I have been watching him through someone else's eyes." He grinned and saw intrigue spark in Xena's eyes. "I have a spy working in the Roman fortress in Rome. He has told me that he plans to destroy Greece from the inside out."

Xena chuckled, "he has already done this. Tell me something I don't know," she frowned, creasing her eyebrows now becoming impatient with this boy king.

Ptolemy sighed, "you might already know but he has most of his army in Anatolia still. They did not retreat back to Rome as you might suspect. He will attack your precious empire by ship, something he does not normally do but with the nomadic Turkmen on his side, his navy will obliterate yours."

As soon as he said that Xena's blood began to boil. Gabrielle had suggested that they take the navy out because Octavius never attacked at sea but now that she had this information, she only hoped that his navy would not come for her city and surrounding cities. She also did not fully trust Ptolemy, he was after all a Roman by blood. She laced her fingers together staring at him blankly.

"And how can I trust what you say is true, Caesarion?" she asked the most obvious question.

He chuckled, "I would not lie about this, empress. Octavius is my enemy and I wish to see him perish just as much as you do. I want him destroyed!" he growled and Xena smirked at this enthusiasm.

"If what you say is true then...I definitely think you should come to Athens with me," her eyes narrowed and saw fear strike in his eyes. "It will prove to me that you are not lying to me. I don't like liars, you know," she winked making him more nervous. "You know what I do to those that lie to me?"

Ptolemy grinned anxiously, "yes empress I'm aware. Stories of your wrath have reached Egypt," he grinned deviously and saw Xena's face change from an eerie smile to a menacing frown. "And what about what I said earlier? Will you give Egypt to me once the Emperor is defeated?"

Xena clicked her tongue. "I'll think about it," which was a nice way of saying no but he didn't have to know about it. "I wish to leave tonight. Meet me in Alexandria if you're man enough to join me," she smirked and disappeared back into the palace.

The Pharaoh let out a sigh of relief now able to breathe since she was gone. One of his men came up to him with a worrisome expression. "sir, are you really going to travel with that witch to Athens?"

He grinned, "if she is willing to think over my proposition of giving Egypt to me then I will gladly accompany her to Athens."

Xena came back into the room where Eve and Hatima were. She closed the door and began gathering up her things that she brought from her ship. Eve sat up and smiled weakly. "Are you leaving for Athens?"

Xena smiled, "yes," she slung the bag over her shoulder and went to Eve's side and kissed her forehead. "You will be safe here with Hatima," she grinned towards the Persian queen and Hatima returned a small smile.

Just as she turned to leave Eve called out to her, "will you tell everyone that I wish them the best of luck?"

The empress nodded, "of course," she knew her daughter was mostly speaking of Samuel, concerned for his well being. "I will come back for you once I finish with Octavius." She smiled and left the room immediately going to her horse so she could make the long trek to Alexandria. She had to get there before sunrise so she could sail to Athens. She was beginning to worry for Gabrielle and the others all by themselves.

Gabrielle and Samuel were now hiding in an alcove from the Romans. They had met up with Solan briefly and he was doing quite well keeping the archers at bay. Most of them were defeated but by now Gabrielle and Samuel were running out of arrows and weren't exactly in the best of armor to defeat the Romans.

"This is quite exciting," Samuel said as he tore off a piece of his tunic and wrapped his wrist. He had hurt his wrist while running from the Romans and tripped over a tree root, tumbling down a hill. Gabrielle sighed, thinking she was getting too old for this. She was beginning to feel like Xena.

"We can't just keep running like this. They always catch up," Gabrielle looked behind her and didn't see any Romans coming their way which was good thing. "They haven't come this far. Hopefully Solan and your men were able to hold them off."

Samuel stood up, "we need to go back and help them Gabrielle. Xena wouldn't hide," he winked and started running off. Gabrielle's mouth gaped and she got up, groaning, and ran behind him. She was growing tired of running around.

They were able to make it back to the campsite in the entrance of the woods and saw Solan with about twenty Persian soldiers lined up in a row hiding behind the trees. The Roman archers were down below still shooting arrows at them. Gabrielle ducked down as an arrow flew by her head. She crawled on the ground and clung onto Solan's arm.

"Hey Gabrielle, how you doing?" Solan grinned and began filling up bottles with alcohol. Gabrielle eyed him cautiously and he would hand the corked bottles to the Persians down the line.

"What are you doing?" Gabrielle asked, quite curious.

"Making bombs!" he chuckled playfully and Gabrielle's eyes widened. He finished corking one of the small bottles and dipped his arrowhead into the small fire they made and Gabrielle shook her head, thinking this was an awful idea. He threw the bottle down below and drew his arrow aiming for the bottle.

As soon as the fiery arrowhead hit the bottle it exploded and four Roman soldiers were immolated and crying in agony, running around trying to put out the fire on their bodies. Solan smiled then turned to a very shocked Gabrielle staring at him in disbelief. "What? I learn from the best," he winked at her.

"Solan you are a genius," Gabrielle smiled finally. She had used a similar tactic in the first war with Octavius although she didn't use alcohol, it was a good substitute for what they had at the moment. Solan began pouring more alcohol into another bottle and she put her hand over his. "May I?" she smiled smugly and he raised an eyebrow at her.

She grabbed the bottle and corked it, then began making more as Solan watched her. She threw at least four bottles down at the Romans and Solan blinked, not sure why she did that. Gabrielle dipped one of her last arrows in the fire and stood up, aiming at the spilled alcohol on the ground near the Romans. She shot at the ground and a wall of fire surrounding the soldiers. She saw them instantly panic and begin to run away from the spreading fire.

"Alright, Gabrielle!" Solan cheered her on and Samuel smiled kneeling down close to him.

"Impressive. You must teach me your skills," Samuel said and Gabrielle grinned.

She sighed now seeing most of the Romans retreating. She was on the lookout for Octavius but so far he was hiding which only made him seem cowardly. She wondered how long it would take Xena to come back to Athens and also, they couldn't stay in the woods like this either. They would need to move since Octavius knew exactly where they were. Gabrielle began to think of another place they could go and wondered if Xena had any secret hideouts. If Xena had any secret places she definitely didn't tell her and she was still a little sour about Luxor, but she would have to put all that behind her now.

Hours later the sun began to set and the Romans had gone realizing that their effort wasn't the best in defeating them. Octavius was probably furious but Gabrielle couldn't care less about his feelings and anguish. Their home was destroyed while Octavius' fortress still stood.

She poked the fire with a stick and Samuel sat next to Solan eating some bread and soup. Gabrielle wasn't too hungry and set her food aside trying to come up with a good plan.

Solan noticed Gabrielle's silence. "What's on your mind, Gabrielle?"

She glanced upward and sighed, "we need to move to a different spot. We can't stay here or we will be killed. Xena's army is scattered across Greece which puts us at a disadvantage."

He could agree with that. "But where will we go? We can't go back to the palace obviously."

"If Xena were here she would know what to do," Gabrielle groaned and threw the stick into the fire. She stood up and began pacing back and forth. Samuel and Solan looked to her as they finished off their food in silence.

"Well she's not here so we have to work together," Samuel spoke up. "Xena's army should return from Delphi soon and when they arrive we can come up with a plan."

Gabrielle nodded, liking the sound of that. She was beginning to worry less now about their safety and more about the plan. She didn't need Xena here because Xena was with her wherever she went. Instantly she had an idea but it would take while to bring everyone together. For now, since both Eve and Xena were not here she was to step in Xena's place of authority, according to the law as Eve spoke of earlier, using it against her.

"I have a place that we could go to..." Gabrielle smiled sitting down, thinking it over. "It will be a long journey but the Romans are not used to this territory." They both stared at her awaiting for her brilliant idea. "We should travel to the Balkan Mountains in Thrace, Xena's homeland."

Solan frowned, "why the mountains?"

"Because it will be difficult for Octavius and his men to maneuver around the terrain."

"It will be winter in a couple of months, the weather in those mountains is unbearable," Solan shuddered just thinking about it. All that snow, so much snow. If this war was going to continue like it was, it might go into the winter season which he hoped it wouldn't.

Samuel raised his hand to speak, "how will Xena find us if we leave before she gets here?"

Gabrielle smiled, "I will leave clues for her. She will find us. She is Xena."

AN: and so it begins, for real this time lol.

Chapter Text

AN: I've broken up this battle into five parts. Each title important to the chapter. Enjoy and thank you for reading :)

Chapter 28 –Part I of V: Empire of Blood and Power

Gabrielle, Solan and Samuel were able to gather up the remaining army scattered across Delphi and Athens so they began their journey to the Balkan Mountains in Thrace. An entire army of one hundred thousand men following behind the three in front leading the way. Gabrielle lead the way remembering a few shortcuts, though it was difficult terrain it was pertinent that they reach this area. Gabrielle knew that Octavius would catch on eventually and follow them. He was obviously looking for a fight but Gabrielle wanted the fight to be difficult for the emperor only because he destroyed Athens and Xena's and her home. That palace in the highlands of Athens was demolished and probably couldn't be saved unless they tore the entire building down and started anew. Gabrielle didn't wish to see such devastation in Xena's eyes again and was going to make sure that it wouldn't happen again.

Xena had built that palace so long ago and it was more than a home to her, it was her legacy and now it was gone. Octavius may have seen it as just a large building that housed political discourse but it was a home, a school, a library, a political outpost, a training facility and more. Gabrielle began to think that a place couldn't be a home, but a person can be a home too. Xena was her home and she was going to make sure that Octavius would come crashing down just like he should have twenty two years ago.

Xena arrived in Athens though a bit delayed she stepped off the ship and onto the hillside of her city. She took a good look at her palace and sighed inwardly, thinking that her life had definitely come tumbling down right before her. She walked down the hill and saw Athens was deserted and Gabrielle, Solan and Samuel were nowhere to be found. A bit of distance away she saw three of her men waiting for her on their horses and she smiled, thinking that Gabrielle had a plan and must be good, but she also was on the lookout for the Roman Emperor. She thought he wouldn't dare show his face here again after what he did. After all, there was nothing left here for him.

She snapped her fingers and some Egyptian men she brought with her pushed Ptolemy down the hill to follow her. She didn't trust Ptolemy at all, considering his bloodline. He was no king to her, he was just an annoying man child that she wanted to lug around for her own amusement. Though she hadn't hurt him, she did tie him up in chains and got rid of his so called royal guard leaving them in Alexandria. She didn't trust them and wanted Ptolemy all to herself. Essentially she was using the Egypto-Roman as bait for Octavius. She couldn't wait to see his face when she presented the spawn of Julius Caesar himself to the emperor.

Meeting up with the soldiers they smiled, finally seeing her arrive, though it was delayed. She couldn't exactly send a message saying she was coming because at the time she had no idea how long she'd be in Luxor for. Leaving Eve with Hatima was the best possible solution to keep her safe. She smiled at them, "I guess you have a message for me?" she inquired.

One of her men nodded, "indeed empress. Gabrielle and the others are traveling to Thrace. They left two days ago to the Balkan Mountains."

Xena's eyes widened quite shocked to hear something like this. Why would they go to the mountains? The weather is treacherous there but then she cracked a small mischievous grin. She thought Gabrielle was a genius. The Romans would have to follow them to the mountains thus making it so difficult to fight one another, also it gave a lot of coverage in the warzone, giving them the advantage.

"And Gabrielle wants me to follow them there?" Xena asked and the men nodded in unison. She grinned, "clever girl," she sighed turning to see Ptolemy glaring at her. "I caught a fish in the desert. He'll be coming with us," she huffed and grabbed one of the men's horses, mounting it and began riding off. Ptolemy was man handled by Xena's men and they threw him on a horse and rode behind Xena.

If Xena was lucky enough she would be at least three days behind Gabrielle and crew, but she would make it eventually.

Gabrielle saw the mountains not far from where they stood now and she halted her horse. It was early in the morning and hopefully by nightfall they would reach the mountains. They had made two stops so far, but she wanted to keep rest stops to a minimum because she feared that Octavius and his Romans would catch up to them. She was constantly on the lookout for them but so far, they were not being followed just yet. She knew it was coming though and it might not happen tonight or tomorrow but it would happen eventually. Octavius was out for blood and he was going to do everything in his power to overthrow Xena and be rid of her for good this time. He will fail, she thought.

Solan rode up next to Gabrielle and yawned. "We are almost there," he smiled and Gabrielle nodded.

"Yes. We need to keep riding to make sure we get there by nightfall. We are making excellent time," Gabrielle smiled and continued riding at a steady pace. The entire army walked behind them, some on horses, though most didn't have horses due to the flooding in Athens. They were growing tired of walking all that way to Thrace, but it had to be done. Gabrielle wasn't going to stop anymore since they were so close.

Samuel rode alongside Solan and he squinted looking at the snowy tipped mountains. "It reminds me of Persia," he said aloud and the blonde prince smiled, nodding his head. "I miss my home. Don't get me wrong Greece is wonderful but it's not my home," he sighed.

Solan smirked, "a home doesn't have to be a place, Samuel. Eve is your home now." He pat the Persian's shoulder gently.

Gabrielle heard what Solan said and she slipped a small smile. It was exactly what she thought about Xena. Xena was her home, not Greece or Athens or the grand palace.

As the sun began to set Gabrielle and company finally reached the Balkan Mountains and now it was a lush green, but soon in a couple of months this terrain would be covered in snow and ice. It was the perfect place to deter Octavius. The army finally stopped and looked around at the terrain, quite in awe of the place. It was a beautiful sight to behold and there were even waterfalls not too far from where they stood. The air was crisper up in the mountains and autumn was a bit colder in Thrace than it was in sunny Athens.

"We need to find a place to set up our camp," Gabrielle frowned and looked around at the area. There wasn't much flat land unless they went in the trench of the mountains, though even then it was very rocky and hilly.

Samuel nudged Solan in the arm, "we will go scout for an area, Gabrielle," he suggested. She nodded and together the two men trotted off slowly down the sloped hill to find a suitable place to set up camp.

Xena now slowed to a steady pace giving the horse a rest on the long journey. So far she had been traveling for a day and didn't think to stop unless it was absolutely necessary. She looked behind her and saw Ptolemy sleeping on the horse, his head lolling side to side. Smirking she kept her eyes peeled for any Romans following. She hoped that Gabrielle did not run into them or anything out of the ordinary.

One of her men approached her on foot and cleared his throat getting her attention. She peered down at him and he smiled up at her. He was carrying a large bag with him, mostly filled with water and food for the journey. "Gabrielle asked me to retrieve something from the palace."

Xena frowned, "you went in the palace?"

He pulled out something from his bag and Xena broke out into a grand smile. He lifted the large silver helmet with the black fan shaped plume feathers. Her eyes showed excitement and she grabbed the helmet. There was at least one thing she had from her home and it was the most important thing. "Gabrielle gave me specific instructions to give it to you. She said that it would mean a lot to you," he bowed his head placing his hand over his heart.

Xena smiled and placed the helmet on her head, finally feeling like she hadn't truly lost everything. Gabrielle was right, a palace was just a building, but at least her family was safe and that was more important than a palace. "I'll have to thank her when we arrive in Thrace," she smirked.

Mid afternoon Xena decided to stop and get water from a nearby stream to replenish their wineskins as well as the horses. Ptolemy was next to the stream drinking water from his hands as a soldier watched over him carefully. Xena smiled and corked the wineskin placing it back on the horse, she walked over to him.

The Pharaoh lifted his head and saw Xena staring down at him through her veil of dark hair. He frowned, "you're keeping me as a hostage..."

"That's right. I don't trust you though I don't think you could do any damage to me even if you tried," she chuckled lowly and began walking away to grab an apple from the bag.

He stood up and wiped his mouth with the backside of his hand. "You act as if you're a god Xena."

She peeled the apple with her dagger and turned slowly to look into his dark eyes. "Now that's just silly," she smirked and ate a slice of the fruit. She cut a piece off and walked over to him teasing him with the fruit. He snubbed her and she smiled. "Don't like apples, Caesarion?" she teased.

"I don't take fruit from snakes," he spat and Xena shrugged her shoulder, walking away. "If my father were alive he would obliterate you."

Xena laughed, "obliterate me? His own people betrayed him! Don't make me choke, Caesarion." She spit out some skin of the apple and stared at the irate king. "When I assumed the throne of Greece your father was already on his way out. His empire was failing and he was losing trust in his people. In a way he sort of killed himself," she grinned and Ptolemy snarled. "Come now, Caesarion, don't be a spoilt sport," she winked and that only infuriated him more.

He was surprised that she was so arrogant towards him. He had always heard stories about Xena and her cryptic ways. She liked to dance around words that confused her enemies and it was a good tactic if the person was weak minded. Though it was hard to resist a beauty like Xena. He was expecting her to look old and worn out but it was just the opposite. She still looked as youthful as ever and he had never laid eyes on her before but given the time of his father's death, she should be in her fifties by now. He was surprised by her appearance to say the least, which also made him believe that she was a mortal god-like figure. Only kings and queens of Egypt could assume the title of god or goddess, but it seemed that Xena had broken that ancient rule.

He stared at her as she finished eating the apple and she cleaned her dagger in the stream. He had wondered this all his life and he had a right to know. "How did you gain power so quickly?" Xena lifted her head and wiped the dagger on her pants before sheathing it in her boot. She looked confused. "I mean," he continued, "how did you rise to take the throne of Greece so fast? After Caesar destroyed your army you were left with nothing. It seems impossible..."

She sneered, "do they teach this in history classes now?" she scoffed. He looked to be serious and wanted an answer. She mounted her horse and the soldiers forced Ptolemy to mount the horse behind her. "It is not impossible because I did it," she said seriously and began trotting off. "If you really want to know," she peered behind her and he looked a bit intrigued. "I made people submit to me or die. I gained status as a warlord after Caesar destroyed my army. I created a new army after I left Rome and we pillaged villages and I claimed them as my own. I went to every city in Greece, taking Roman territories for myself."

He frowned thinking of Xena's past. It was definitely rich. "So that is why the Roman Empire hated you so much..." he stated.

She nodded, "yes. I had many assassination attempts back then. Don't get too many of those anymore," she smirked. "Do not be fooled, Caesarion. The Greek people hated me for years but I was able to redeem myself to them."

He chuckled and she snapped her head around to see a smile on his face. "I'm sorry, I just find it hard to believe that someone like you could change for the better," his laughter dissipated.

"Believe what you want, Caesarion but your father was not liked by his people until his death," she said coldly and Ptolemy didn't like to hear that. She thought that might insight him.

They rode in silence for a few minutes until he spoke up again, interrupting the lovely silence. "What do you plan to do with me once we reach Thrace?" he didn't exactly trust the empress considering her past, though she wasn't a witch like many believed her to be. Perhaps she was different and she had changed. If she really was the Xena he had heard stories of growing up, she would have killed him in Egypt but she didn't.

"Let me worry about that, Caesarion," she smiled and trotted along, picking up the pace a bit.

Solan and Samuel were able to find a place to set up their camp and it would be a large camp. One hundred thousand men definitely was not a small army. Solan came to Gabrielle and offered some bread to her. She smiled taking the bread and he sat opposite her. "Gabrielle, we don't have any tents or yurts for our men," he sighed and she agreed that this was a problem. "We also do not have any supplies or extra weaponry except for the swords we have on our backs."

She knew this was definitely a problem. "I know I was thinking about that earlier today. Even when Xena arrives she will not bring a slew of weapons to us since most likely she is traveling alone."

He nodded. "Yes that's true. We are going to need help and we don't know when she will come here anyway."

Gabrielle smiled, "I'm sure it won't be long. She's Xena and always has a plan for everything."

He grinned thinking of his mother. Gabrielle was right, Xena always had a plan even in the middle of chaos and he didn't doubt her skills, though he worried for the army and lack of supplies. They were wedged in between these mountains with no real escape route either. If Octavius came in it would be difficult for him to find them but nevertheless, he would find them and try his best to annihilate them.

Octavius gathered up his entire army and rode through the low plains of Greece. He saw horse tracks and footprints leading the way. He frowned looking down at the tracks and it appeared that Xena's army was on the move.

He clicked his tongue and snapped his fingers to his scribe. "Tell Tiberius to reroute and not to attack by sea anymore..." he smiled seeing the tracks going north. He had no idea what they had planned nor had any idea what they were doing. "Oh Xena, what are you up to?" he looked around at his men and they were awaiting his command to ride further. "She seems to disappear and reappear like a Jinn," he smirked and kicked his horse trotting along the tracks eager to see where they would take him.

Xena was riding on the low plains of the desert part of Greece. She knew that it would not be long now, just a couple more days until they reached the desired destination. She heard something in the background and halted her horse. Her men looked around and she frowned as her hearing heightened greatly. "Horses," she hissed and rode up to a hill and her eyes widened. She saw the Roman army riding towards the Balkan Mountains following Gabrielle's tracks. She didn't think that Gabrielle was stupid enough to leave their position wide open like that. "She wants him to find her..." she whispered, thinking that interesting yet dangerous as well. A mysterious smile graced her lips thinking how clever Gabrielle really was. She didn't give her enough credit, she told herself.

Ptolemy looked behind Xena and saw Octavius leading his men and his mouth gaped. Xena turned to see the shocked king and she stifled a laugh. "Could've been your position." She said and he frowned at her.

"You're not going to do anything about him following us?" he cried out.

Xena shook her head, "do I look stupid to you?" she chuckled. "My army is waiting for me. I want this to be a fair fight..." she stared at the fearful boy king and smirked. "Don't be scared of Octavius. He is the lion and I am the mouse. He acts so tough but he refuses to come face to face with me and instead he destroys the things most precious to me," her eyes darkened thinking of what he had done to her beloved palace.

"I am surprised he hasn't attacked your daughter," he said and Xena's head snapped around her eyes widening, shocked and infuriated all at once. He turned his head and saw a menacing glare coming from her. He feared her just now, it was like the stories he had heard of her when he was a child.

"How do you know about my daughter?" she came closer to him on her horse and had her hand on the hilt of her sword.

Ptolemy eyed where her hand was and instantly his heart beat quickened. "I have spies everywhere. I –I don't know anything about her, I swear," he blinked and saw her hand slip from the hilt and he exhaled softly, relieved.

She stared him down for a few silent moments and frowned, turning her horse around to north. "Let's go." Keeping Eve a secret from the outside world was most important to her thought she knew the older she got she couldn't keep her locked away for long. Her appearance was unknown to Octavius, which she was thankful for that, but yet she was known through the grape vine and she wasn't sure how she felt about that. Now, she thought it was best to keep Eve hidden away from prying eyes, especially now.

Xena did not stop through the night and even took a shortcut to get to the mountains. She wanted to arrive there before Octavius and with no army behind her she knew that would quicken her pace and slow Octavius down since he had his entire army coming for her. Little did he know that her army was already in the mountains, at least that's what she hoped.

Early in the morning, the sun barely rising in the sky Xena arrived in the Balkan Mountains and smiled warmly seeing the beauty of the landscape. The mountains of her homeland was definitely a sight to see. Lush green terrain with waterfalls and snowy mountain tops. It was a paradise, though a bit rough in the winter, right now, the crisp air was wonderful and very refreshing from humid Athens and dry Egypt.

She trotted down the hillside and looked for Gabrielle and her army, she knew that they would be hiding somewhere though with the amount of men she had, they couldn't hide very well she knew. Ptolemy opened his eyes from his light slumber and felt the horse struggling to ride down the steep slope. His eyes widened at the sight before him. He had never been to Thrace or Greece before but it was definitely a lot more beautiful than Egypt ever was. Egypt had an odd beauty to it but it was nothing like this.

Near the large lake she saw a group of Persians filling up wineskins and she smiled. Whistling at them they turned their heads and saw Xena riding down the hillside. Large smiles graced their lips as they saw her coming towards them.

She finally made it to flat ground and they grinned, bowing their heads towards her. "Where is everyone else?" she scanned the area.

"Right through the trees there, empress," one of the Persian soldiers said and lead the way. They all noticed Ptolemy on the horse and eyed him cautiously. They weren't expecting Xena to bring anyone along, though they saw his hands were in chains and that was interesting, though they didn't question it.

Gabrielle was going over battle plans with Solan and Samuel. She drew in the dirt with a staff, drawing X's for Xena's army and O's for Octavius' army. She was guessing where Octavius would lead his army but there was no way to tell. She was deeply focused until she heard a few rustling in the trees ahead. Stopping she squinted her eyes and saw Xena riding in on her horse. Her face broke out into a large smile and she dropped the staff running towards Xena.

Xena smiled and dismounted from her horse, instantly embracing Gabrielle tightly. "I told you I would come back," she whispered.

Gabrielle pulled away, still smiling. "I had no doubt that you would come." Xena brushed Gabrielle's cheek with her palm and she blushed.

The empress took a good look around and saw all her men plus Samuel's men staring at her. She smiled placing her hands on her hips. "What made you want to come to Thrace?" she turned to Gabrielle.

The blonde shrugged, "it is your homeland. What better place to win a war than in your own home?" she winked and Xena smiled, grateful that Gabrielle had brought everyone here and so quickly too. She was rather impressed.

"A home doesn't always have to be a place," Xena said and Gabrielle's eyes widened. Solan smiled folding his arms as his mother spoke of the same words he said to Samuel a few days ago. Gabrielle couldn't believe that came out of Xena's mouth. It was like she heard her own thoughts even thousands of miles away. Xena walked over to Samuel and saw the concern in his eyes. She placed a hand on his shoulder, easing his anxiety. "Eve is with your mother in Luxor. Her fever broke before I left. She'll be fine."

Samuel let out a big sigh of relief and lifted his palms to the sky. "Thank God," he said.

Solan sighed, "this guy is always praying," he chuckled. "You made it here quickly, mother."

Xena nodded, "I wanted to beat Octavius here. He is on his way here, I saw him with his army yesterday." All eyes lowered, fear growing inside them. "He should be here by nightfall."

Gabrielle frowned, "Xena we don't have any supplies. Everyone brought the weapons on their backs, that's it."

Xena knew that this was a problem that they would run into. Her army had limited supplies and Octavius would have a slew of weaponry. She saw the caravans filled with weapons as she traveled here. Though she had one advantage and that was that she had double the amount of men than he had, but she didn't want to sacrifice hers or Samuel's men because of the lack of weapons.

"We will have to make do with what we have for now," she said and everyone nodded, feeling a bit hopeless right now. "But we're going to need help."

Samuel spoke up, "the sea is not far from here. I can have my men go back to Persia to get supplies."

Gabrielle frowned, "Persia is too far from here," she then had an idea and snapped her fingers, "what if we ask Allat to help us?" she suggested. Solan nodded, not opposed to the idea and Samuel agreed, shrugging his shoulders. All three looked to Xena for her approval though she remained silent.

Xena shook her head, "Allat's kingdom is recovering from the Roman invasion. He will not have enough supplies for our entire army." Everyone was beginning to worry now until Xena smiled suspiciously. "We are in my homeland," she stated and everyone looked at her confusedly. "We can send men to cities in Thrace for supplies." She said and Gabrielle smiled thinking that this was a good idea. "Send the men out immediately and tell the people Xena sent them. I'm sure they will have no problem offering to help us fight against the Romans."

Solan was the first to offer assistance, "I will gather a group of men and go with them to the villages." He smiled and Xena nodded. He disappeared to find willing volunteers to go with him per his mother's request.

Samuel looked to Ptolemy who was patiently waiting on the horse. He pointed at him, "who's that?"

Xena turned around with a sneaky grin, "oh him? Something I picked up in Egypt. Chain him to a tree, would you?" she smiled and walked off. Samuel blinked, confused why she brought this man here at a time like this but he learned not to question Xena and her ways of doing things by now.

Gabrielle followed Xena and both sat down around a campfire. Xena took off her helmet and Gabrielle grinned. "I see you got your helmet."

Xena smiled, "thank you for saving this for me," she set the helmet next to her boot and brushed her fingers across the black plume.

The blonde looked back to see Samuel chaining the mysterious guest to a tree like Xena asked him to do. "So...who is that?" she whispered.

"His name is Caesarion but he goes by Ptolemy," she sighed drinking some water, quenching her thirst. "He's the son of Caesar and Cleopatra."

Gabrielle gasped and looked back at the Pharaoh. "Caesar has a son?" she couldn't believe it and Xena nodded her head. "He kept him well hidden..." she supposed.

"He's a sneaky bastard," she chuckled. "I am using him as bait for Octavius. He wants me to give him Egypt." She saw the shock in Gabrielle's eyes and both started laughing. "I know, that was my instant reaction."

Gabrielle's laughter died down. "Are you going to kill him?"

Xena shook her head, "no. Even though he is the son of my enemy, he is innocent in all of this. He's lived his life in captivity because of his parents'. He doesn't deserve to die because of his parents' negligence."

"Wow I'm impressed. The old Xena would have beheaded him at first sight," Gabrielle smirked and Xena looked into her green eyes.

"The old Xena is dead...for now," she winked.

Gabrielle laughed, "Ha-ha, is that one of your jokes?" she said and Xena stared at her blankly and her smile disappeared. "That's not funny, Xena."

"We might need the old Xena for this war," Xena said with a hint of mischief. "Love and peace is not really working out for me and Octavius is like a flea that never seems to leave my skin. His entire empire needs to die along with him," her eyes darkened as she stared off in the distance.

AN: to be continued in Part II!

Chapter Text

Chapter 29 – Part II of V: Revival of the Warlord

Octavius had arrived a day after Xena did to the Balkan Mountains and was oblivious as to why he was lead to this place, but by the tracks he knew that Xena and her army were hiding here. He had no idea where they were hiding, which obviously gave Xena the advantage here.

Xena was hidden behind a large amount of trees with Gabrielle by her side. Solan and a group of men had gone to the cities in Thrace to retrieve weapons. She hoped that there would be enough for everyone, though she was known to improvise when necessary. Octavius obviously had more than enough weapons but not nearly enough men as her. Though, numbers were not important to Xena. A bigger army didn't always mean that you were better than the opponent. It often meant that they were gloating or showing off. Xena just happened to doing all the above. She wanted Octavius to leave and never come back, but she knew the only way that would be happen was if he was dead. And she was going to rid the Roman Empire of this young arrogant emperor.

Gabrielle squinted her eyes and saw Octavius and some of his army in the open field, completely unaware that they were staring right at him. He was giving himself away, but she knew that would happen because this was unfamiliar territory for him. Normally the battles were fought on flat land, nobody had anywhere to hide, but now, there were many hiding spots.

"When do we attack him?" the blonde asked, quite eager to get this on with.

Xena smiled, putting a finger over her lips, "not yet, Gabrielle. He is looking for a place to set up his tents for his army," she frowned, glancing around seeing exactly where he was planting his campsite. It was so obvious to her, though she was sure he was feeling anxious about this entire war.

The days were short in these mountains thus making darkness the ultimate advantage for Xena. A sneaky grin appeared on her lips and she grabbed Gabrielle's arm, pulling her along with her. "I have an idea," she was ecstatic. Gabrielle huffed and followed forcefully with Xena.

Later that evening Octavius was camped in his tent. They had found a reasonable spot, at least in his eyes. They were hidden in the trees, though not far from the stream down below. He sighed as he was looking for a map of the area. He was unfamiliar with these mountains and he had yet to see Xena and her army. He knew that she was here, which also made him incredibly nervous. He had no idea where she was hiding, but if she was here, then she'd already know that he'd arrived.

One of his men came into the tent and the emperor put down his quill staring at the young man. "Sir, we have the entire campsite set up."

Octavius nodded, "good. I want guards posted on the outskirts," he rubbed his bare chin, "I don't want Xena's men coming anywhere close to us. I know she's here, hiding in her snake hole."

The soldier quirked his mouth, "sir are you sure that she is here? We haven't seen any sign of them."

The emperor stood up and balled his fist, "of course she's here! The tracks lead us here!" he groaned and began to pace around. "Make sure we are well guarded," he shooed him away and the soldier left, bowing his head firmly before exiting. Octavius sighed and plopped down in his chair once more feeling stressed about this entire war. He was beginning to regret destroying Xena's home because he made a personal attack and Xena did not like it when her personal life interfered with political warfare. But considering that Xena had been out of practice in warfare for fifteen years, he wondered how well prepared Xena was, if she was at all. With all the years he had known her, he knew never to underestimate her. Since he did an unconventional act against Xena, he knew that was making her blood boil. She looked livid when he saw her face as she exited her flooded palace.

Back in Xena's campsite she gathered up a group of some of her men and some of Samuel's. She of course asked Gabrielle to accompany her. Since her last big war with Octavius twenty two years ago was definitely a victory, Xena was not able to participate as much as she'd like to, but this time it was different. And since Octavius was no longer playing by the rules then that meant that Xena wasn't either. She was going back to her roots, forgetting politics and elegant warfare of the empress status she worked so hard for. She forgot her title and was now a soldier just like everyone else. She wasn't going to stand off in the sidelines watching the battle from afar. No, she wanted to be a part of this war effort.

Dropping her crown as empress and her extravagant armor and cloak, she striped down to the bare necessities. Wearing only pants and a long sleeved top. She hooked her chakram onto her belt and strapped a bow to her back with a cluster of arrows.

Gabrielle stood with her arms folded quite confused as to what Xena's plan was. "Xena, what exactly are we doing?" she asked.

Xena grinned, "guerilla warfare, Gabrielle." She, the soldiers and Gabrielle were in a swampy area of the mountains. She knelt down and dipped her fingers in the mud, rubbing it in between her fingers. She then spread the clay mud across Gabrielle's cheek. "If Octavius wants to play, we can too." She gestured to the mud and the men immediately covered their faces in the clay. Gabrielle was still confused but she did as the others did.

Group of five men tagging along behind Gabrielle with Xena leading the way. Xena pinned back her bangs and her face and neck was covered in mud, making sure her silhouette was unseen to the naked eye in the darkness.

Everyone crept behind trees down to where Octavius' campsite was. Xena saw a few soldiers guarding the outskirts and halted her hand. Gabrielle crawled on her knees and eyed the soldiers. They were pacing around slowly, complaining about the cold crisp mountain weather. She looked up to Xena with a curious grin. Xena nodded and Gabrielle grabbed a rock throwing it at one of the Roman's helmets.

The Roman groaned and his partner immediately unsheathed his sword. His eyes dancing around trying to find who threw the rock. His heart began to race as he heard rustling in the trees. "Come out here!" he yelled, but nothing. His moaning partner growled and began walking to the bushes with a torch to get a better view.

One of the Persian archers smiled and drew his bow, shooting the pacing Roman. He groaned and fell to the ground. His partner gasped, turning around to see an arrow sticking out of his friend's chest. Now he was beginning to become afraid. It was so dark out here and there was no light from the moon and stars due to the high mountain peaks.

Xena crept behind the tree, smiling at the frightened Roman. She quickly grabbed him, covering his mouth pulling him into the darkness. With a quick move, she snapped his neck and drug his body behind a large tree. She waved her hand to the men behind her. Gabrielle came beside Xena and stared at the young Roman soldier.

"I've never seen you use these tactics before..." Gabrielle was really curious now. Xena winked at her and walked ahead quietly.

"Sometimes, you must go back to your old ways to win something new..." she whispered and crouched down. They all came to a stopping point and there Xena spotted the wagons filled with weapons. "If we don't have weapons, neither should he..." she grinned mischievously.

Gabrielle saw a Roman walking around with a torch circling the wagon. She saw Xena eyeing the wagons and something came over her. She smiled and ran forward. Xena's eyes widened, fearing that Gabrielle was going to ruin the entire plan. Gabrielle now understood what Xena's plan was, even though she was rather cryptic about it. She took out a dagger from her boot and covered the mouth of the Roman, slitting his throat.

Slowly, she lowered his body to the ground and took his torch. She saw some other soldiers were unaware even though they were a mere fifteen feet away from her. She threw the lit torch into one of the wagons and ran back into the trees.

Breathing heavily she grinned, quite proud of herself. Xena blinked, surprised at her skills. Gabrielle looked to her brunette consort and shrugged. "What? It's what you wanted, right?" she snickered.

Xena smiled at her then saw the other Romans screaming and yelling that one of their weapon caravans was on fire, burning all the bows, axes and arrows. "Well done Gabrielle," she drew her bow and shot three arrows at the three Romans running around like fire ants.

Two Persian soldiers ran forward and grabbed the other torches from the fallen Romans and lit the other three caravans on fire. Xena frowned as she saw a slew of Romans coming for them. She ran down below and looked up at the frail branches of the trees above the path the Romans were running through. She smiled and lit two of her arrows on fire and closed an eye, aiming upward at the branches. She shot the arrows and the frail branches immediately caught fire and Xena saw the Romans running. Her eyes widened wildly as she glanced at the branches beginning to break.

Gabrielle's mouth gaped as she looked above and saw the branches break and collapse on a bunch of Roman soldiers coming their way. The soldiers screamed in agony as their flesh began to burn and she looked to see Xena was elated.

"Xena..." she said breathlessly, "you've been holding back on your skills," she grinned widely and Xena pat her shoulder firmly. The empress whistled to the Persian soldiers to retreat. She knew more Romans would come and the job had been done. Step one, get rid of Octavius' resources. This was to be a fair fight, right?

Everyone returned to the campsite and Xena took the bow off her back, throwing it on the ground. Gabrielle looked below and could still see the fire and it had spread some. Black smoke filled the dark skies and she shook her head. She saw Xena beginning to wipe the mud off her face with a cloth. She sat beside her and drank some water. "You seemed excited back there," she nudged Xena's arm.

Xena smirked, "it has been awhile, was nice," she gave Gabrielle the satisfaction of being right.

"Should we expect an attack soon?" Gabrielle asked, now coming back to reality. They had just destroyed hundreds of extra weapons and that would surely enrage the emperor.

Xena shook her head, "no, Octavius would not be foolish enough to attack at night. The dark is not his friend," she smiled and splashed her face with some water, trying to get the clay off her skin.

"Until the morning then," Gabrielle said with a mysterious grin.

In the dead of night a soldier burst into Octavius' tent with baited breath. The emperor frowned giving the man his full attention. "Sir! The caravans –burned! The weapons –gone!" he exhaled harshly.

The emperor's eyes grew irate. He growled and the map of Thrace off his desk. "Xena!" he yelled and flipped his desk over, growing more angry by the second. He brushed passed the young soldier exiting his tent. He looked around and saw his men running around like chickens with their heads cut off. They were in a panic.

He snarled, his upper lip quivered thinking that Xena had done this. She was playing dirty and she was so good at it. he had truly underestimated her skills as a fighter even at her age. He thought that this was going to be easy but he was wrong.

Looking around he frowned deeply. "Where are you..." he hissed. His head snapping around in all directions trying to figure out where the gorgon was hiding. Wherever she was hiding he was determined to find her. She was smart and had no open camp fires out in these dark mountains. She was good at hiding, it was a skill of hers. "I will find you, Xena," he smiled deviously.

A few short hours later morning arrived and Octavius had not slept all night. The war had not even touched its peak and he already lost at least ten men. Ten men he couldn't afford to lose compared to Xena's large army. He also lost his extra caravans of weapons, which was not good news for him. He needed those weapons. It was the only advantage that he had against her but he suspected that she knew that and got rid of the weapons to put herself at the top of the mountain.

Riding on his horse with a few men he pointed to his left. "Some of you go that way and the others will go the other way. I want you all to scout for Xena and her men. I want to know where she is hiding." He frowned, looking around. He thought it would be easier to see where she was during daylight, but he was wrong. She could be anywhere. "I also want to move our campsite elsewhere. Since she knows where we are, we are right in her trap." The men nodded to him and left to their respected areas.

Xena knew that Octavius would be on the move the following morning and so she was prepared. Sleeping a few hours was just enough for her to come up with a new plan. She had asked for a set of armor from one of her men. She was able to retrieve two sets from her men, of course they gladly offered it to her.

She returned to the camp and threw the armor on the ground startling Gabrielle as she was eating some fish. Gabrielle jumped and dropped her spoon in her bowl. "What's this?" she glanced up at Xena.

The brunette smirked, "our new armor." She began taking off her own gauntlets and putting on the male's large gauntlets.

"But we have armor..." Gabrielle wasn't following. She set her bowl aside and saw Xena continuing to don the armor set. She slipped the chest plate over her torso and tightened it with the leather straps. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and stood up. "What are you doing?"

Xena picked up the extra chest piece and pushed it into Gabrielle's chest. "We're going in disguise as male soldiers, Gabrielle. Come on, keep up," she jested and the blonde eyed her questionably.

"And why would we do that?" she asked though slipped on the heavy armor. She grunted and pulled the straps as tight as they would possibly go. She learned not to question Xena's ways of doing things but this was just unconventional. Xena's tactics were unlike she had ever seen and they were new to her, though Xena had obviously used these tactics before a very long time ago. Perhaps when she was a young warlord just starting out in the battlefield and as she grew more powerful she hid behind her veil of power. This war with the Roman Empire brought out a new side of Xena that Gabrielle had never witnessed before. It was refreshing though confusing at all once.

Xena smiled, "we're going hunting," she took one of the Persian's turbans and wrapped it around her face, hiding her long locks and feminine face.

She gathered up a group of ten men from her army and Gabrielle followed her. They went east in the mountains. Xena knew that Octavius was going to try and find her, but she wanted to confuse the poor emperor. He will never find me, she thought, even though I am right in front of him.

Everyone had their faces covered with a black long piece of fabric, including Gabrielle. They walked together in the woods and Xena stopped, looking up at the trees. She eyed Gabrielle with a bit of mischief in her eyes. "do you climb trees, Gabrielle?" she hissed. Xena jumped up and grabbed onto a tree branch, swinging her legs up and over, landing on the tree branch.

Gabrielle's eyes widened and now she didn't even know who Xena was anymore. She had been in battles with her before but this style of strategy was unknown to her, especially with her own upbringing. She had trained with Roman fighting styles but this method was almost archaic and tribal. She wondered where Xena learned how to do this.

A few voices were heard and some of the men managed to climb up in neighboring trees. Gabrielle wasn't even going to try, she thought she would definitely injure herself. Instead, she crouched down behind some brush, peeking through the leaves. Looking up in the tree above she saw Xena crouched down against the tree trunk, listening to the voices come closer. Gabrielle sighed, feeling her heart racing. It was such a thrill, yet scary all at once.

Xena creased her eyebrows and peeked from behind the tree and saw Romans on horseback and foot searching the area. She looked to her men in the trees across from her. She shook her head preventing them from attacking. She smiled and saw the last Roman on horseback riding behind the entourage. She silently jumped down onto the horse and covered the Roman's mouth.

He looked back and saw a soldier with his face veiled. Xena smiled behind the veil and dug her fingers into his neck, knocking the soldier out and then slit his throat before throwing him off the horse. She rode behind the Romans and they were completely oblivious.

Xena's men above crouched down and walked across branches from one tree to the next, trying to keep up. Gabrielle came out from the brush and saw the dead Roman lying on the ground. She quietly followed behind hiding in the trees, remaining unseen by the Roman soldiers.

"I can't believe he's making us look for Xena," one of the Romans said.

Another scoffed, "yeah, it's pretty obvious that she doesn't want to be found."

"She hides a lot. It's what she's good at!" the other Romans laughed along with him.

Xena frowned and pulled out a dagger, throwing it at one of their necks. He let out a loud cry and fell off his horse. The other soldiers turned around and saw one of their cohorts dying on the ground. They also saw a masked soldier, one of Xena's men. She waved at them and they drew their swords, hopping off their horses. She jumped off the horse and withdrew her own sword waiting for this moment.

Gabrielle was still hidden behind a tree and she smiled, drawing her Sais out from her boots and attacked one of the men from behind, stabbing the Sais into his calves. The Roman cried out in agony and collapsed onto the ground. Xena winked at her and thrust her blade into an oncoming soldier.

The archers in the trees aimed and shot their arrows into the Romans down below. One of them was missed and he looked up and saw Xena's men in the trees. "What in Hades is this?!" he yelled in fear. He saw his brothers being slaughtered by just a few of Xena's men. He quickly ran to his horse and dropped his weapon out of fear and a hurry to get out of this area. He didn't care about Xena and her men, he didn't want to die.

Gabrielle punched one of the Roman's in the face and stabbed him with the Sais. She breathed heavily, feeling her blood pumping through her veins. Glancing up she saw one of them escaping. Xena growled and kicked the soldier down onto the ground and twirled her sword in her wrist right before plunging the blade into his chest.

"He's getting away!" she yelled and Xena pulled out her sword, finishing the last of the small group.

She sighed and took the veil off her face, and watched the coward ride away into the woods. "Let him go. He's going to die anyway when Octavius finds out that all of his men died," she smirked. Looking around at all the dead Romans surrounding them. She placed a hand on the blonde's shoulder. "Good job, Gabrielle. You're getting good at this," she smiled and began walking off into the western mountains.

Gabrielle took the veil off and gaped at Xena. "Good at what? Xena!" she ran after her.

Solan was able to travel to neighboring cities in Thrace to gather weapons like Xena asked him to. He rode on his horse further into this village and squinted his eyes from the bright sunlight. A smile came to him once he realized where he was. It was his mother's home, her true home when she was a child and teenager. Amphipolis. He had been here before a very long time ago, but hadn't been back since that last time to see Cyrene, his grandmother.

Xena did not seem to keep in contact with her mother as much as he'd hoped. A lot had happened in the last decade, but he did miss this area. It wasn't as busy or metropolitan like Athens was. It was calmer here and relaxing too. The people here were also very kind and not so business-like compared to the larger Greek cities. He wondered if Amphipolis was still the same as he left it so long ago.

Riding into the city he saw many people staring at him, of course, he was not recognized, but he recognized all of the shops and homes in the village. Everything was the same except for one thing. The Romans had invaded Amphipolis which definitely sent Xena over the edge. He attacked her homeland in hopes to gain more territory and that's what perhaps started this entire war, or at least one of the things.

Smiling at everyone, the group of men behind him saw fear in the people's eyes. They looked afraid of them. These people had obviously been through a lot and he almost didn't want to ask for any weapons from them.

He came to the outskirts and saw his mother's old home, it was larger than most homes, probably because her mother, Cyrene, owned not one but several taverns throughout Amphipolis and various Thracian cities. She was considered rather wealthy in this small village. Solan hopped off his horse and told his men to stay behind and wait for him.

He walked towards the home and exhaled heavily, not sure this was a good idea especially in the middle of a war. He knocked on the door and took a generous step back from the door. He waited for awhile and heard rustling from inside. Gradually the door opened and he saw Cyrene, she looked much the same, minus a few grey hairs in her auburn brown hair.

Cyrene squinted her eyes at the man at her door then her eyes widened. "Solan?" finally recognizing who he was. He was a lot older than she last saw him. He reminded her of her youngest son, Lyceus –the same blonde hair, eyes and facial structure, although he had a lot of Xena in him. His smile was definitely Xena's and his slim build.

"Solan?" she smiled and he grinned back at her nodding his head. She stepped out of the house and embraced him warmly. "What are you doing in Amphipolis? Is your mother with you?"

He pulled away with a pained face. "Well, she's not in Amphipolis but she is here. We're warring against Octavius right now in the mountains in the west. She asked me to come gather weapons for the war effort, but..." he looked around at the people in the village, "I don't really want to ask you guys for weapons.." he grinned sheepishly.

Cyrene shook her head thinking of Xena. She hadn't seen her in many years and thought she was done with those Romans, but apparently not. "Your mother is very stubborn. She will stop at nothing, will she?" she smiled weakly.

He shrugged his shoulders, "you know how she is," he chuckled softly.

Cyrene agreed, "yes I definitely know how she is," she smiled looking at what a fine young man Solan has become. "You've grown up so much, Solan. I wish I could have been there more for you," she sighed then her eyes lit up, thinking of her other grandchild, Eve. "How is Eve? Is she with Xena?"

Solan quirked his mouth, "no she's in Egypt right now." He saw his grandmother's confused face. "She's um," he tapped his chin, "she's pregnant and mother didn't want her anywhere near the war right now."

She stood still and silent. Solan blinked, watching her expression go unchanged for a few moments. "She's pregnant?" she couldn't believe her ears. "When did that happen?"

He didn't really want to talk about Eve and Samuel's relationship because it was his sister and also was none of his business. He smiled kindly, "about six months ago. Maybe when this is all over, we can bring Eve to see you," his smile widened.

Cyrene grinned quite liking that idea a lot. "I still remember when Eve when a little girl, somehow I believe that she grew up to be quite a handful, considering Xena is her mother," she exhaled heavily.

He scoffed, "you have no idea! She was definitely more than mother could handle especially when she was a teenager. Now though, she's more calm," he smiled.

"I hope so. Is Gabrielle with Xena right now? I miss that girl, she's so smart, isn't she?" she grinned.

Solan nodded, "yes she's with mother. She's great, I love her a lot. I don't know where I would be without her by my side. She and mother have been through a lot. It will be tough to separate those two," he smirked. He looked to his men who were waiting for him and he sighed, "well, I need to get back to the mountains with these weapons."

Cyrene hated to see him go. She hadn't seen him in so long and now he was leaving her once again. "Tell Xena...that I miss her and she should come visit," she said sadly.

He nodded with a wide grin, "I will," he hugged her tightly before saying goodbye to make the trek back to the Balkan Mountains. Cyrene watched as he mounted his horse and left with the caravans of weapons with the soldiers in tow. She sighed thinking that she had missed so much of her daughter's life and now Eve was pregnant, which would make Xena..a grandmother. Cyrene couldn't imagine her daughter's face when she found out about that. Xena was always prepared for the worst but somehow she believed that Xena wouldn't have been prepared for a surprise such as that.

Gabrielle walked over to Xena as they sat down in their small campsite. They waited and waited for another attack but she presumed that Octavius was running out of ideas and obviously had gotten word from that soldier that left the scene on horseback. She sighed drawing in the dirt with a stick.

Xena was cleaning her sword and looked over to a disturbed Gabrielle. "What's wrong, Gabrielle?"

She glanced up and smiled weakly, "nothing. I was just thinking of all the skills you have." She tapped the ground with the stick and scoffed, "how did you learn how to do some of that stuff?"

Xena smiled, "I learned from the Amazons a long time ago. Their skills are very useful in a battle like this."

"Amazons? You met Amazons?" Gabrielle rubbed her forehead. "You are full of surprises, aren't you?"

The brunette winked, "I like to keep you on edge at all times, Gabrielle. It's my secret for staying so young," she teased. Gabrielle chuckled softly and then saw Samuel come up to them.

"I did what you said, Xena. My men are guarding the perimeters of our camp." He pulled out a pouch from his vest and frowned. "I didn't find the berries you asked for, but I did find these leaves. They're very poisonous." He tossed the bag to her and she looked inside, smelling the leaves.

Gabrielle frowned, "poisonous leaves?" she almost didn't want to know.

Xena nodded, "Gabrielle, I have a mission for you." She stood up and pointed to the stream close to Octavius' camp. "See that stream over there?" Gabrielle nodded. "I want you to crush these leaves and put it in the water."

"You want to poison their water supply?" Gabrielle was surprised at these tactics. Xena nodded her head with a sneaky smile. "Well, alright," Gabrielle grinned mischievously, now excited that she was assigned a special mission. It was obvious that Xena wanted to get rid of Octavius by taking out all of his resources without bloodshed first. It was smart, yet dangerous too.

"Take a group of men with you," Xena called out and Gabrielle nodded, running off to find a willing group to go with her. Now Xena was alone with Samuel and he was being very quiet. She sat down and continued cleaning her blade. Samuel stood looking out mindlessly at the waterfall below the hill.

"Something troubling you, Samuel?" she asked nicely and he turned to her, shaking his head in silence. She smirked, "you know I don't like when people lie to me."

He sighed and leaned against a tree, folding his arms. "It's been almost two weeks since I've seen Eve."

Xena knew that he definitely missed Eve and it was painfully obvious in his face and lack of voice. "I know you miss her, but once this is all over you will be able to see her again." She smiled.

He nodded, understanding her but still didn't fix the fact that Eve wasn't here with him now. He kicked some dirt with his boot and sighed deeply. "I don't know how long this war will go on. So far, it's very slow."

Xena grinned deviously, "it won't be slow once Gabrielle is finished with her mission." She looked at the clean blade and set it aside. She pat the empty spot next to her and he waltzed over and took a seat beside her. "I know you've never been in a war before, but it doesn't always end as quickly as we want it to. Sometimes wars go on for years. I just happen to shorten mine," she winked and he smiled weakly. "Wars that go on for years are pointless and very costly." She saw her speech wasn't really making the Persian King feel better at all.

They sat in silence for awhile and then she sighed. "Eve asked for you when we were in Luxor." She saw his eyes lit up. "I know she misses you as much as you miss her. What you two have is special and even when you're far apart, know that it's only temporary."

Samuel agreed to that. "I know, but it feels so long!"

She grinned, "when you're young everything feels that way, but as you get older it becomes easier. I promise you," she pat his shoulder and he smiled.

"I just want to help her as much as I can and I can't do that while I'm here so...I guess that's why I'm" he was trying to find the word to convey his angst.

"Upset? Depressed? Sad?" she teased and he looked to her. "It's pretty obvious, Samuel." She saw his cheeks blush and she smiled. "Only temporary, remember that," she winked and he grinned at her, feeling a bit better than he did earlier.

She stood up sheathing her sword and watched from behind a tree. She saw Gabrielle creeping around the waterfall to the other side where the Roman camp was. Samuel came beside her and he asked her, "so after Eve has the twins, I should talk to my mother about the wedding, right?"

Xena's eyes widened and she grinned nervously. "One thing at a time, Samuel," she pat his cheek and he blinked.

Chapter Text

AN: my title of this sequel is finally coming to light in this chapter, for good reason.

Chapter 30 –Part III of V: The Snow Queen

Eve had been waiting in Luxor for the last few weeks, almost a month now to hear from her mother and Gabrielle but so far she was left in the dark. She hadn't received any word from them at all and wondered how everyone was fairing. She knew that her being here was for her own good, but to be honest she was quite bored even though she had Hatima here with her. The Queen had left briefly to go back to Karnak to take her step son's daughter back before her parents arrived. Though that was a few days ago and Hatima returned in a timely manner.

Eve stayed in bed as long as possible but she was feeling significantly better and no longer stayed in bed. She roamed around this hidden palace of her mother's and thought it was quite beautiful, even more than the one she had in Cairo. The only down side was that it was in the middle of the desert and it was boring because they were far from civilization. It had been so long since she had seen something green and she was dying to get back to Greece where she belonged. She just hoped she wouldn't have to stay here for much longer. She wished that her mother would send some kind of letter to her like she said she would, but she hadn't.

In the middle of a rainy day, which was apparently very rare in the desert, Eve welcomed the change of weather for once. This past month had been so dry and hot a little rain was quite nice. She roamed through the large empty hallway and stared at all the Egyptian statues. Sighing she came to an empty hall that she hadn't explored yet. Curiosity getting the best of her she rounded the corner and opened the first door that she walked by.

The room was dark so she lit a few candles and then saw the room was a library, a place that was obviously rarely used. Her eyes widened and her mouth gaped looking at the towering shelves filled with scrolls and even books. Greece didn't have books, apparently they were a new thing, although she presumed that Egypt was no stranger to these compiled manuscripts. Treading in further she blew the dust off one of the books on a shelf and brushed the remainder of dust off with her palm.

"Al..." she squinted her eyes trying to read this language. She wished that Gabrielle were here, she'd know exactly what this said. Groaning she then heard a noise coming from the window. Her eyes traveled to the noise and saw a large black cat laying on the window ledge. A smile came to her when she saw the cat. It was obviously a cat that had grown accustomed to the palace considering it wore a gold collar around its neck.

Slowly she approached the large cat and it began swishing its tail slowly. She touched the top of its head and instantly the cat began purring loudly.

Hatima came into the room, looking for Eve she saw her interacting with quite a "Eve, what are you doing in here?"

Eve turned and saw Hatima staring at her worrisome about the cat. "I found this library then I found this cat! Isn't he gorgeous?"

The Persian Queen nodded nervously, "I didn't know that Xena liked cats...especially big cats..." she stepped closer though kept her distance.

Eve smiled and rubbed the leopard's neck and he pawed her hand gently. "My mother doesn't really like cats. She likes...really unconventional pets," she smiled, "I used to have a pet spider when I was younger. Well actually, it was my mother's spider but she let me keep her. Her name was Zoe."

Hatima nodded, "oh, well that's...interesting," she tried not to sound too squeamish. She would have never thought that a princess like Eve would keep a spider as a pet. "Why don't you come with me, I received a message from Xena," she smiled waving a letter in her hand.

Eve instantly left the large feline to go with Hatima. Just when she was about to the leave the library the cat followed her and clung to her leg. Hatima's eyes widened, a bit afraid of the giant feline. Eve grinned and tried to close to the door but the leopard opened the door with his paw and followed her. "I don't think he wants to leave me..."

"Oh how nice of him..." Hatima smiled nervously as the black leopard followed Eve out of the library.

They came back into the bedroom and the cat followed them both. Eve sat on the bed and the cat jumped onto the bed, relaxing at the end with his long legs hanging off the edge of the bed. Hatima sat a good distance away from the cat, fearful of the giant beast. Eve ripped open the letter and read over it quickly.

A frown came to her lips, "they're still at war with Octavius and his army." She sighed and kept reading, "although we seem to be in the lead," she smiled softly. "At least that's good news, right?" she looked to the Persian queen.

Hatima smiled patting Eve's knee gently. "Any news is good news, right?"

Eve tossed the letter aside and groaned, "gosh, I'm going to be stuck here forever!" she griped. "My mother has never had a war last this long," she laid down, toying with her hair mindlessly.

"Fire!" Xena yelled and the Persian archers shot flaming arrows into the skies aiming directly at Octavius' men below. A month passed by quickly and just as Xena thought, Octavius had extra help when Tiberius and his Turkic friends came from Anatolia to help. Xena still had the larger army, but now, they had fancy weapons such as catapults, something that she desperately needed at the moment.

Snow had covered the entire terrain and continued to fall during daylight. At night there were occasional blizzards but nothing that they couldn't handle. Without Solan's help the entire army wouldn't have any shelter and the tents weren't anything special but they sufficed for now.

Xena covered herself in a white fox pelt and hat for warmth. Wearing long black gloves she was trying to pour powder into a bottle. She groaned and bit off the glove and tossed it aside, seeing her breath from the cold frigid weather. Gabrielle came to her aid and took the bottle from her. She silently thanked her.

"This isn't really working, Xena. They have catapults! Freakin' catapults!" she yelled in the midst of all the background noise.

"I know Gab –" she heard a whistling noise and looked up and saw they were the instant target. She pushed Gabrielle and herself out of the way and rolled down the hill together.

Gabrielle lifted her face out of the snow and looked to see their tents on fire. She saw Xena struggling to get out of the snow then realized she had hurt herself. "Xena!" she stood up, picking her boots out of the snow, slowly wading through the thick snow trying to get to Xena.

Xena hissed and saw her leg had a large part of a tree branch embedded into it. Gabrielle gasped and realized they were in the open and completely vulnerable. She wrapped her arm around Xena and hoisted her out of the bank of snow. "This is so...stupid," the blonde mumbled and together they walked out of the snow slowly.

Gabrielle threw Xena's weight down next to a tree, finally able to get cover. She knelt down and looked at Xena's leg. "I need to take care of this..."

"No!" Xena tried to get up and Gabrielle raised an eyebrow, not willing to argue with her.

"Just –stay here and don't do anything ridiculous," she sighed and ran back to their camp to grab some bandages and herbs. Xena groaned and looked around to see she was all alone. She looked down to see Octavius definitely hiding, though his view was completely obvious. She also saw Solan and Samuel at the bottom of the hill, having too good of a time together fighting the Romans in the front of the line behind some archers.

She began to recall the last time she had a perfect view of Octavius and she was about to shoot him with her arrow until someone shot her in the leg instead. She would never forget what a terrible day that was. She did win the war, but she lost many important people to her, one being Borias. He saved her and in the process, died for her. Groaning she scooted forward and took the bow off her back. Breathing heavily from the agonizing pain, she tried not to move her leg too much, but it was nearly impossible.

She pulled an arrow out from the holster and squinted her eye trying to get a good view of the Roman Emperor. He obviously couldn't see her, just like last time. "This time..." she hissed, "I won't miss," she pulled back the arrow leveling it steadily.

The arrow was released and her eyes widened watching the arrow and saw it hit Octavius in the shoulder. She grinned then turned to see Gabrielle gawking at her with a bandage in one hand and herbs in the other. Xena couldn't wipe the smile off her face.

"I didn't miss," Xena said lowly, quite proud of that moment. That arrow probably wouldn't kill him, but it was a direct hit. Gabrielle immediately saw a group of people dragging off Octavius into a more secure area to treat his wound. She sighed and knelt down getting ready to dress Xena's leg wound.

"Did you really have to do that?" she said and touched the wound and Xena winced.

Xena smiled weakly, "yes! I've been waiting to take that shot for over twenty years!" she pulled her leg away as Gabrielle was trying to pull the branch out. "Gabrielle!"

"Sorry! I can't be any more gentle okay," she sighed and slowly pulled the branch out and tossed it aside. Xena let out a sigh of relief. She looked down below and saw the Romans beginning to retreat for now. Inwardly she thanked Xena for that little moment of...whatever that was –because it bought them some time to regroup. They had been going at this archer-catapult battle for three days now and it was destroying their side of the field a lot more than what damage they were doing.

That evening Solan and Samuel gathered everyone from the field and head up to their camp. They were smiling and talking together when they came up the hill. Their laughter stopped when they saw Xena's leg bandaged and put in a small splint.

"What happened to you?" Solan said and Xena waved her hand like it was nothing.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes, "we were trying to avoid a catapult attack and rolled down a hill. She hurt her leg there." Xena glared at her and she smiled sneakily at her.

Solan sighed, "you always manage to hurt yourself, mother." He smiled, seeing that his mother was obviously not fazed by her injury. "You should have been down there! It was so exciting!"

Xena smiled, "I saw you two down there. But careful," she couldn't stress that enough. Her son rolled his eyes and went to grab some much needed water.

"winners don't need to be worried!" Samuel winked, feeling a lot better since that battle down in the field against the Romans. His depression had lessened as the days went by and he hated to admit it, but it was going fast like Xena said it would. He didn't believe it at first, but he definitely did now. It was winter in the mountains now and he was actually enjoying the snow unlike his men who hated the cold weather.

Gabrielle watched Samuel leave and head off with Solan elsewhere. She smiled and Xena was watching them as well. "Those two are getting along really well."

"Yes they are," Xena shifted and winced even at the slightest movement of her leg. She saw the worried look in Gabrielle's eyes. "I'm fine." She held her hand up and Gabrielle backed down.

"Did you send the letter to Egypt?" Gabrielle whispered. Xena nodded. "Hopefully Eve doesn't think that we have forgotten about her."

Xena smiled, "I told her I would come back for her and that's what we're going to do, but we have to win first," she winked.

Two days later Xena was overlooking the empty field. It was very quiet and all she heard were the rustling of the trees from the crisp winds. Everyone was waiting for an attack especially since Xena had wounded Octavius, though the emperor did not know this, Xena was sure he had an idea it was her.

She saw a white flag appear from the Roman's side of the field and she smirked. "He is trying to surrender. How cute," she folded her arms. She looked to her men, "raise the flag."

Gabrielle's mouth gaped, "you are surrendering?"

Xena shook her head, "no I'm just letting him think that I am." She grabbed Gabrielle's arm. "Come on Gabrielle, we have a meeting with the wounded emperor," she smirked, limping along to get to her white horse.

In the middle of the field Xena and Gabrielle rode together alone as Xena requested. Though the entire army was waiting on standby in case something happened. She looked around for any attacks but so far there was none. She saw Octavius standing with Tiberius up on the hillside. She smiled trotting along slowly, all dressed in white matching her horse and snow surrounding her.

Octavius snarled looking at Xena coming closer to his camp. "Look at her and that arrogant smile on her face."

Tiberius frowned, "she needs to be exterminated," he stated. The emperor nodded then halted with his hand.

"Not yet," he smiled as he saw Xena walking up the hill with Gabrielle leaving her horse down at the bottom of the hill.

Xena smiled and now stood a mere ten feet away from the emperor. "Octavius..." she hissed.

"Xena," he smiled mischievously. He pointed to the flag, "I see you have surrendered. This war has gone on long enough, don't you think?" he tried to sway her and she just laughed at him. He frowned, "let's just call a truce and I'll go back to Rome and you can go back to your...oh wait," he grinned, "you don't have a home anymore!" he chuckled softly with his partner laughing along with him.

Xena frowned, "you must think you're so funny." She took a step closer and that quieted the emperor. "I'm not going to let you leave these mountains until the snow bleeds red." She hoped that would get his attention.

"is that a threat?" Octavius asked with a straight face.

"Is it?" she hissed. "You tell me," she winked. Her cryptic language beginning to come to light once again, infuriating the emperor. "I'll tell you what, Octavius," she unsheathed her sword and touched the tip of the blade playfully, "you duel with me and if you win, you can go back to Rome. If I win..." she grinned wickedly, "Rome is mine."

Octavius smiled and held out his hand. Tiberius looked to him as if he was crazy. "Are you serious?"

"Give me my sword!" he demanded and Tiberius handed him the sword. He smiled, "alright Xena, I know you are not one to go back on your word."

"Can't say the same about you," she teased.

He pushed her out of the way with a slight brush to her shoulder and she clicked her tongue against her cheek. Gabrielle put her hand on her shoulder. "Xena...are you sure you want to do this?"

Xena nodded, "he's not going to win, Gabrielle. Don't worry," she smiled and walked off to meet Octavius in the open field below the hill. Gabrielle shook her head feeling a headache coming on.

Octavius saw Xena coming towards him casually twirling her sword with her wrist. He wasn't able to move his left shoulder due to his injury. He smiled steadying himself in the snow. "White doesn't really suit you Xena. It's too...pure."

Xena smiled, "you talk too much Octavius." She swung her sword and he blocked her blow. She circled around him graciously. "That's a nasty wound you have there," she pointed to his shoulder.

"A gift from you I'm sure..." he playfully said with a smirk. She shrugged a shoulder and swung at him again and almost got his arm. He chuckled and she smiled at him continuing to circle around him.

"Almost had you there," she said and bent her knees, holding onto the sword with both hands.

He frowned and swung at her neck but she ducked and swiped her leg underneath him, knocking him off his feet. He groaned then saw Xena about to plunge her sword into him and he gasped, rolling over and Xena plunged the sword into the snow. He got up as quickly as he could and breathed heavily staring at her. She had a wild scary look in her icy blue eyes. Perhaps the snow was indeed her friend, he thought.

"You look like some kind of queen of the snow in that outfit you know," he smiled trying to distract her.

Xena smirked, "snow queen, empress –they're all just titles."

Gabrielle watched from afar and she cringed every time Octavius came close to her and also whenever Xena missed. She was obviously holding back, but why? She wanted to play with him that's what it was. She wanted to tire him out since she wouldn't be able to get tired it was a big advantage to her.

Octavius swung his blade and Xena lost her footing and fell on her back onto the soft snow. Her hair doused in the snow and she grunted. She saw his blade coming for her head and she rolled over. He plunged the blade into the snow and he began laughing as soon as Xena stood up.

She saw chunks of her long hair fall off her shoulder and saw the remainder of her hair in the snow. Her mouth gaped and she touched her hair pulling a chopped piece out. She was absolutely horrified. Her hair was now to her shoulders, her long hair no more.

Gabrielle covered her mouth as soon as she saw Octavius chop off all of Xena's hair. It just laid there in the snow and Xena looked equally as terrified seeing her hair in the snow.

"What is a lion without her mane..." Octavius chuckled seeing the horror in Xena's eyes. He then saw the horror disappear and now she was angry and his smiled died.

She cried out and swung her blade at him and then kicked him in the gut and he stumbled back. She could feel the fury running through her veins. He took her home, her life and now her hair. She kicked him down and he fell in the snow.

Xena picked him up grabbing onto his clothed cape and head butted him and he groaned loudly. She then punched him in the nose and he moaned.

Gabrielle's eyes widened as she saw that Xena was basically pounding Octavius' face in. she wanted to intervene but it was obvious that she had been wanting to do this to Octavius for quite a long time.

Blood trickled down Octavius' face and Xena rammed him into the snow and straddled her legs over him and sat on top of him. She breathed heavily and reached for her sword that was lying in the snow. She looked down at the Roman and he had one eye open, the other so badly wounded. She smiled down at him.

She saw the Roman crest on his armor and looked at it carefully. She then ripped it off his armor and he stared up at her. "This is mine now," she narrowed her eyes and thrust her sword high into the air. "I win!" she let out a loud war cry and thrust her sword into his chest of armor. She dug the blade deeper and deeper, hearing him screaming out in pain.

Blood poured out from his mouth and he coughed blood onto Xena's face. She cringed and wiped the blood off her cheeks, smearing it. She stood up and took her sword out and wiped the blood on his cape. "Now you don't have a home either...or a life," she spat at him and left him to die in the snow.

Walking towards Gabrielle she saw the shock in her eyes. She opened her palm and there was the Roman crest pendant in her hand. "I want you to keep this," she smiled and Gabrielle took the pendant for herself and still was in a bit of shock. Xena touched Gabrielle's cheek softly and kissed her forehead lightly.

Xena then frowned and saw Tiberius up on the hill. She marched up the hill and he began to back away. "Your emperor is dead," she said and his eyes widened. "I am your new empress now," she grinned.

Tiberius snarled, "you don't own the Roman Empire, Xena! You'll never be a Roman Emperor!"

"Empress, Tiberius, Empress. I am...Empress," she narrowed her eyes with a sly smug smile.

He grabbed his sword in a fit of rage and swung at her. She growled and blocked his attack and knocked the blade out of his wrist. She then grabbed his arm and broke it. he cried out in agony and then kicked him down to the ground.

"We will never...submit to you..." he held his broken arm breathing heavily as he glared at her from down below.

"I'm not asking for your submission." She smiled, "I ask for obedience!" she plunged her sword into his chest and he coughed violently, dying a slow death.

Gabrielle came to Xena's side. "Xena..." she said softly, "is it finally over?" she could only hope.

Xena smiled and glanced over at the dying Roman beside her. She sighed loudly, "I'd say so..." she kissed Gabrielle warmly on her lips and pulled away, smiling softly at her.

Gabrielle's face broke out into a wide smile and then touched Xena's shoulder length hair. Xena grabbed her hand tightly, "it's just hair," the empress said trying to hide her emotions.

"We should get back to the men and tell them what happened," Gabrielle grabbed Xena's arm pulling her along.

Xena nodded then halted. "Wait," she wiggled out of her hold and saw Octavius' Roman helmet sitting on his chair. The big red plumed golden helmet. She picked up the helmet and smiled, raising an eyebrow she put the helmet on.

Gabrielle smiled seeing victory finally. "It doesn't really suit you..." she teased.

"It's the red feathers isn't it?" Xena jested and linked arms with Gabrielle, walking to their horses to head back to camp together.

AN: but it's not over yet! ;)

Chapter Text

Chapter 31 –Part IV of V: Starting Over

Xena and Gabrielle returned to their campsite and all the men were still waiting on standby although they did see the quick duel between Octavius and Xena, they only hoped everything was over.

Solan smiled once he saw his mother and Gabrielle return safely. He saw his mother wearing Octavius' helmet, which only meant that she won. Everybody won. "So does this mean the war is over now?"

Gabrielle smiled, "I think so, right Xena?"

Xena nodded, "well I hope so but Octavius should really get a new helmet, this one is hideous," she took the helmet off and Solan gasped at her short hair.

"Your's...gone," he said barely above a whisper. All his life he had only seen his mother with extremely long hair and now it was chopped off to her shoulders. It looked so strange to him, she didn't even really look like the same person.

The empress sighed, "yes well, we had a bit of an...accident down there," she put it lightly and touched her short hair. It was definitely something that she would have to get used to, but after all it was just hair in the end. Although, her hair was her pride and a part of who she was and now that was gone. Everything she had was gone, but now that Octavius was gone, she felt like that none of that really mattered anymore.

Samuel walked over and his eyes widened seeing Xena's hair. "Whoa," is all he could say. "Xena, your hair..." he smiled awkwardly seeing the blank stares he was getting from Xena and Gabrielle alike. "Looks nice, going for a new look?" he chuckled nervously and Solan raised an eyebrow at him. He cleared his throat then heard something from down below in the field.

He squinted his eyes and saw Roman soldiers coming for their campsite. "Hey guys..." he said lowly, "I think we have a problem."

Gabrielle and Xena walked forward and saw the Romans running towards them. Gabrielle shook her head, "they won't give up will they?"

Xena's lip quivered, "why won't they admit that they lost?" she huffed and grabbed her sword. Gabrielle blinked and followed her.

"What are you doing?" she asked and Xena donned the Roman helm again.

"Going to give them a taste of their new empress," she winked and threw a sword to Gabrielle. "Coming?"

As if Gabrielle could refuse her. She smiled and followed Xena down the hill by foot to confront the Romans. Solan pat Samuel's shoulder with a big sneaky grin. "Well, Samuel, looks like it's time to fight again."

Samuel showcased a cheeky grin, "I can't believe I would ever say this, but let's do this," he winked and slapped Solan's hand before going to meet with his archers hiding behind the trees. He knelt down and saw Xena and Gabrielle casually walking towards the Romans, though many of the Greek soldiers followed behind them, walking a steady pace.

"On my word," Samuel yelled out and Solan grabbed his bow to stand behind a few of the archers. Samuel saw the Romans coming closer and closer. "Ready..." he heard the bow's strings pull back and he waited a few more moments until the right time. "Go!" he smiled and a sky of black arrows were shot into the sky.

The Romans halted and saw the arrows coming right for them. They panicked and grabbed their shields protecting themselves from the raining arrows.

Xena and Gabrielle paused and waited for the rain of arrows to stop. Xena sighed and Gabrielle chuckled seeing Xena's impatience. The empress looked behind her and saw Samuel and Solan waving at her. She shook her head and kept walking along into the field.

The Romans still alive came running towards her and she sliced through them with ease as she walked along casually. Blood splattering on her face and white fox pelts. She wiped her mouth and kept walking through the sea of soldiers. Taking a good look around she frowned, seeing all these fools trying to fight when they had no leader anymore. Octavius was gone, she killed him and though she knew he wouldn't have a chance in Hades, they still were loyal to him. "Unbelievable," she hissed.

Gabrielle plunged her blade into a Roman's chest and growled, kicking him down to the ground. She ran to catch up to Xena. Breathing heavily she said, "will they ever stop?"

Xena snarled and marched further into the field, her men creating a circle of protection around her. Gabrielle stuck close to Xena, fighting Romans that were trying to break the circle. Xena ignored them all.

She came to Octavius' dead body and frowned, seeing his pale face and blood stained snow around him. She lifted his head up by his blonde hair and swiftly swung her sword, decapitating his head from his body. Xena turned around and lifted his head in the air and all the Romans looked to her.

"This is who you follow? A dead man?" she yelled out and the fighting ceased. "A man who cared more about war than his own people!"


"If we combine empires, we can live in peace but instead..." Xena smiled, "you'd rather fight."

A Roman soldier growled, "Rome will never follow you, Xena!"

"They said that about Athens too...yet I have been alive and well ruling the city for decades," she smiled. She tossed Octavius' head into the center of the circle and pointed her blade at it. "Don't be foolish." She lifted her eyebrow, "surrender now and I will personally escort your entire army to Rome myself." She offered lifting her chin.

The Romans looked confused, staring at each other, unsure if this was a trick or not. Xena saw their apprehension in their eyes. She sighed, "or you can stay here and freeze to death, your choice." She smiled.

One Roman spoke up, "why should we trust you? The Romans hate you!"

Xena smiled and stuck her sword into the snow, completely unarmed. "I don't want to fight you anymore. I'm done fighting. I'm offering you asylum yet you want to stand here and fight. Interesting," she folded her arms.

Gabrielle sighed, "Xena wants to make the world a better and safer place. She doesn't hate Romans, she just hated...their leaders," she added though that didn't really make it sound any better. "Octavius raised the taxes in order to go to war with us. He put his entire empire into debt and for what? To get rid of her?" she pointed to Xena. "She is giving you a chance to live and you would rather refuse and follow a dead man's words..."

Xena smirked at Gabrielle and her way with words. She was always more wise than she lead on to be. "Octavius has been trying to get rid of Xena for years and he failed every single time. This time, Xena is on your side. She wants to help you all," she smiled and saw Xena smirking at her. "Rome will be a better place now."

The Romans looked at one other and realized that even if they did fight Xena, they would lose in the end, whether it be now in these mountains or later in Rome. They had been trained to skill and trained to kill Xena and her Greek army, but now that Octavius was dead, they had no leader to fall back on. They lost.

Everyone sheathed their swords and Xena smiled at them all since they had come to their senses. Gabrielle came to her side and Xena wrapped her arm around her. "Philosophical bullshit," she whispered.

Gabrielle's eyes widened and looked at her in shock. "I haven't heard you say that in a long time..."

"It still works," Xena winked.

Solan and Samuel were fighting Romans until they saw the white flag on the Roman side being raised up by the Roman soldiers. Xena and Gabrielle were walking back towards them. Samuel put his hand up, "hold your fire," he said to his archers and they lowered their bows.

"How did she get them to surrender?" Solan asked and then saw the rest of the Romans stop fighting the Grecians.

Samuel smiled, "because she's Xena, that's how."

Xena and Gabrielle returned to the hillside and Solan and Samuel were waiting for them, with big grins on their faces. Xena smiled and took off the helmet. "We're going to escort them to Rome with us."

Solan blinked, "what, really?" he was shocked to hear that come out of his mother's mouth.

"Yes really," Gabrielle interrupted.

Samuel frowned, "what about Eve?"

Xena smirked at him, "I had a feeling you'd ask that." She sat down and drank some water, feeling completely drained. "You and Solan will go to Egypt to get her while me and Gabrielle go to Rome. Deal?" she winked at the king. Samuel's eyes lit up and Solan rolled his eyes shaking his head then left the area.

Gabrielle sat down next to Xena and held the helmet in her hands admiring it. "So does this mean I have to call you Empress of Rome now?" she teased.

"Gabrielle," Xena rolled her eyes, "don't be ridiculous."

"Yes whatever you say, my lord," Gabrielle jested more and chuckled. Xena nudged her in the ribs and she yelped. "Ouch, jeez..." she rubbed her side. "It was just a joke..."

Xena smiled, "what did I tell you about your jokes not being funny?" she said playfully.

A few days later Samuel and Solan arrived in Egypt and Samuel was dying to see Eve. Solan was growing so bored looking at the young king's face the entire trip. They were both tired and sore, yet none of that seemed to bother him at all.

Eve sat on the bed reading the book she found in the library last week. She was trying to translate the words as best as possible, but she ended up having to look most of them up. Her new feline pet was lounging on the bed with her. She hadn't gotten to get the cat away from her ever since she found him in the library. He was definitely her new best friend.

Hatima came in with a tray of tea and Eve lifted her head. She set the book aside and the queen smiled setting the tray on the bed, still wary of the cat. "He won't hurt you, he's nice," Eve leaned forward and pet his head gently. Hatima continued to ignore him and poured some sugar into her glass of hot tea.

"Well I'm glad you have someone to keep you company," Hatima smiled nervously as she sipped her tea. Eve grinned, nodding her head and then sipped the hot tea. She could never understand why these Egyptians drank such hot beverages in the middle of the desert, but it was quite good she did admit.

It had been raining for the last week and luckily it was not sunny outside like it normally was, lowering te temperature a bit. Eve looked out the window and saw it was evening now. She hadn't realized that she spent her entire day reading this book, but at least she had something to keep her busy.

She set the glass on the tray and sighed. Hatima lifted her eyes to see Eve adjusting her black dress and bringing her knees close to her so she could continue reading. "You seem to really enjoy that book," she commented.

Eve shrugged, "if I knew anything about alchemy it probably would be more interesting," she half smiled and opened the book to where she left off at.

A knock came to the door and Eve looked over the brim of the book and frowned. Hatima set the glass down and got up, "who is that?" she sat up and set the book aside. Nobody ever came to this room and if they did it was just the maids or Hatima, but they never knocked.

Hatima opened the door and her eyes widened seeing her son and Solan standing in front of her. Both had big grins on their faces. "Samuel!" she embraced him warmly and he was startled.

Eve heard Samuel's name and immediately she jumped out of bed and hurried to the door. Hatima smiled and pulled away from her son and Eve's face broke out into a big smile. Samuel looked at her with warm eyes and she wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly.

She pulled away then kissed his lips. Hatima's eyes widened and Solan sighed, leaning against the doorframe. Samuel brought Eve closer to him as much as he possibly could and Eve wrapped her arms around his neck.

"See, this is why I didn't want to come because I'd have to see this..." Solan chuckled and tapped the door. The two were obviously completely oblivious to the others around them. "Okay, we get the idea," he said and tapped Samuel's shoulder. Eve pulled away, blushing a bit. "She's still my sister, you know."

Eve smiled nervously, brushing a tendril behind her ear. "Nice to see you too, Solan," she teased. She left Samuel's side and hugged her brother warmly.

"Oh so now you notice me?" Solan jested and kissed Eve's forehead. Eve punched her brother in the shoulder and he winced. "Jeez," he rubbed his shoulder, "just like mother," he mumbled.

"I thought you forgot about me!" Eve grabbed Samuel's hand smiling softly at him, staring in his green eyes, those that mirrored his mother's.

Samuel shrugged his shoulder, "it took longer than expected, but good news! We won finally!"

Eve grinned and looked to her brother and he nodded for confirmation. "Does that mean we're going home?" she hoped.

Solan pursed his lips, "well actually, we're going to Rome. Mother is moving the empire there."

Eve blinked, "Rome? Really?" that was shocking to hear. "Well," she sighed, "I'm just glad to get out of this place! It's awful! So hot and boring," she grinned. She felt her feline friend rub against her leg and Solan frowned. Samuel took a step back from the giant leopard. "Oh...yeah, I made a friend. I named him Assad." She smiled and bent down rubbing his ears. "Isn't he cute?"

Solan folded his arms, "yeah, real cute. I'm surprised he hasn't eaten you yet," he chuckled.

"Solan!" Eve grimaced. "I'd hate to leave him here," she sighed and Assad rubbed his body against her legs. "Do you think mother will mind if..."

"No way!" Solan protested.

"I have to agree with Solan on this. He can't come with us," Samuel shook his head.

Eve frowned, "why not? He obviously likes me and a desert isn't really a place for a cat like him," she smiled and heard Assad begin to purr loudly. "I don't think mother will mind, right?"

Solan slapped his forehead with his palm, "Eve, is this going to be like that one time you brought that stray wolf home?"

"That was different," Eve frowned, defending herself. "Assad is my friend. He likes me," she smiled.

"If mother asks," Solan sighed heavily, "I have nothing to do with it!" he held his hands up for surrender.

Eve broke out into a smile and Samuel folded his arms. "Are we really going to take that thing with us?"

"You got a problem with it?" Eve narrowed her eyes and he shook his head. "Good," she smiled.

Their trip was rather long because Solan suggested to get a caravan in Greece to travel to Rome so Eve didn't have to ride on a horse for such a long time. Hatima and Solan rode on horses in front of the caravan while Samuel stayed with Eve.

Samuel woke up and peeked through the curtains to see where they were. They were in the desert area of Greece, which meant they were close, well close enough. On the outskirts of Greece at least. He yawned and looked down to see Eve sleeping, resting her head on his lap, laying on her side. He couldn't believe that Eve wanted to take that giant leopard with them to Rome. He was sure that Xena was going to have a cow when she saw Assad. He was put in the back of the caravan where he casually lounged, enjoying the scenery the entire trip. He didn't even try to escape, not once, which Samuel thought was very odd for a cat. He must really like Eve he supposed.

He peered down and ran his fingers through Eve's long wavy hair. He sighed thinking that they had spent a month away from one another, it only seemed like yesterday since he had seen her. Though he was sure that she didn't feel the same way. She was probably bored out of her mind in Luxor. After all, she was stuck in the middle of the desert.

Eve shifted in her sleep and Samuel saw a frown appear on her face. She moved her leg closer to her body and grimaced trying to get comfortable. Opening her eyes she saw Samuel staring down at her. "By the gods, Samuel," she was startled and rubbed her eyes. "Why are you staring at me like that?"

"You were moving a lot," he smiled and she sighed then sat up, leaning her head against his shoulder. "You slept for awhile. Feel better?"

She yawned, "not really," she said sleepily. She then felt a stab in her side and she winced. He frowned seeing her distressed face.

"What's wrong?" he scanned her body yet saw nothing that would imply that she could be hurt in any way.

She shook her head, "nothing. These two make it hard for me to get comfortable in any position," she smiled weakly.

"Oh.." he smiled no longer feeling worried anymore. He placed his hand over her abdomen and felt a small kick against his palm and his smile widened. "I wish I could help you sleep better," he said.

Eve smiled, "me too," she joked then rest her head against his chest, exhaling slowly. Closing her eyes she began to fall asleep again until she felt a swift kick to her ribs and she groaned. She opened her eyes and looked up at Samuel and his smug smile planted on his face. She smirked and rested her head back onto his chest again to try and sleep a little while longer.

A few days after Samuel and Solan left for Egypt, Xena and Gabrielle gathered up everyone in the mountains and set out on their trek to Rome. Gabrielle and Xena lead the way with the Romans wedged in between a group of Greek and Persian soldiers, just in case. Even though Xena was allowing them their freedom she still didn't trust them completely because of their lack of confidence in her as their new ruler.

Xena realized that a female ruler was odd to the Romans, especially a female that they all absolutely hate and have despised for decades. Everyone in Rome knew who Xena was and she had made her presence there well known over the last thirty years and she always told them that she would be back. She would never leave Rome because it would always be a major problem for her until their leader was wiped off the face of the earth. Now that Octavius was dead, Xena was unsure how the Romans' reactions will be like when she and her entire army come casually waltzing into the city.

Gabrielle rode beside Xena on her own horse. She couldn't seem to understand why Xena was so silent more than half the trip from Thrace to Rome. She knew that Xena must feel a bit displaced, or perhaps she was so overjoyed that she was speechless, but that didn't seem like the right answer because even though Octavius was dead, Xena still had to deal with the people of Rome. They had been governed by a line of Caesars for more than three decades and it was going to be a shock that that line was now destroyed and eliminated. But as Gabrielle knew, there would be other leaders besides the line of Julius Caesar.

Looking back she saw Ptolemy sitting on a horse and riding in the middle of the Romans. He looked rather displaced. Xena didn't get a chance to use the king for bait like she hoped. Octavius was a major distraction and it wasn't like he was a threat to Octavius –his biggest threat was Xena at the time.

"Xena," Gabrielle cleared her throat and the empress turned her head slowly towards her. She sighed, "what are we going to do with Ptolemy?" she thumbed behind her.

Xena peered over her shoulder and saw the king looking solemn on the horse. She smirked and turned back to her blonde consort. "I have a special job for our little Caesar," she narrowed her eyes.

Gabrielle creased her brows not sure what she meant by that. "What exactly does that mean?"

"You'll see Gabrielle. Let's just get there first, okay?" she smiled and trotted on faster.

Midday Xena saw the Roman square and she exhaled heavily. She was a bit nervous coming into this land once more but this time it wasn't on business. She could already feel the glare of the Roman people before she even stepped into the square. She felt a hand grab hers and she turned to see Gabrielle smiling at her.

"I'm here with you," she smiled. "Always."

Xena grinned in return, "always," she squeezed Gabrielle's hand tightly then rode into the city.

The Romans saw the gates open and they were expecting to see the emperor ride in with victorious news but instead they saw the Greek Empress trotting in with her army behind her as well as the Roman army. They were confused when they didn't see Octavius at all. They had fearful eyes and backed away from her as she made her way through the sea of people.

Xena saw many different expressions in the crowd. Some confused, others angry and many afraid. This was only the calm before the storm. They were just in shock that their deceased emperor didn't grace his presence in the city. Instead, they saw her and they didn't know why she was here.

Even though Xena had changed her tyrannical ways, Gabrielle saw fear in children's and adult's eyes. They only saw her when she had business in Rome and that always almost never a good thing. She hoped that there wouldn't be an uproar once Xena claimed Rome for herself. She had been waiting for this moment for decades and she knew that the Roman people were not going to be happy about it.

Xena dismounted her horse and a few soldiers came up behind her, making sure nobody would attack her. Although the sea of people dispersed and made a pathway for her to pass to the massive fortress ahead. It was eerily quiet and she didn't like that. She pulled out Octavius' helmet from the bag hanging around her shoulder.

She turned around to face the people of Rome and held the helmet high in the air. All eyes traveled to the helmet with gaped mouths. "Your emperor was unable to fulfill his duties of defeating me," her voice carried and it was silent. She placed the helmet on staircase rail's end post. "Due to his incompetence, I am staking my claim as Empress of Rome."

Now there was chatter in the crowd but still nobody rebelled, not yet. Her eyes surveyed the crowd and saw many confused and upset faces. "Octavius," she began, "has put your entire empire into a considerable amount of debt for this war. He has left you all jobless and in poverty all because he wanted to kill me and my people."

It was still silent and she was surprised that they were actually listening to her. She looked to Gabrielle and saw her nod her head. Xena smiled weakly and decided to keep going. "As your new empress, I will eliminate your debt with my treasury in Athens and hopefully be able to bring both empires..." she looked around and saw more confusion and concern than anger now. "There will be no Roman or Greek empire anymore," she breathed out heavily and began fidgeting with her fingers behind her back, becoming nervous. "From now on, this will be known as the Empire of the West and East, a meeting of both worlds. Rome will be city of prosperity and wealth as it should have been long ago."

"How can we trust you?" a bystander said aloud and others nodded their heads in agreement.

"Yeah, Rome has despised you for years! You destroyed our city once years ago!"

Others began talking among themselves and Xena sighed, putting her hands on her hips. Gabrielle saw the look in her eyes and smiled at her, trying to give her comfort from afar. Xena removed her hands off her hips, refraining from looking menacing and intimidating in front of these people.

"This is true. I won't lie about that, but it was Octavius who destroyed your city not me. He wanted to go to war with me even though I offered a peace treaty. He refused my treaties for years. My loss made me go into seclusion in Egypt for quite some time..." she admitted sadly. The more she said that, the more it made her sound cowardly.

"And if someone else rivals you then will you abandon us too?!" another man shouted and now there was a loud uproar and Xena frowned.

The chatter continued and then Xena raised her voice. "Enough!" she yelled and everyone stopped talking. "I left my empire but I did not let my people suffer in my absence. Octavius destroyed my home and my city a little more than a month ago. He committed an illegal act of war against me, provoking me to fight him." She looked around and saw some realization hit some of the Romans. "I've tried to reason with the Romans for more than twenty years and he continually denied me! He denied you all peace and prosperity." She saw the Roman flags waving in the air along the posts of the palace.

She ripped the flags off their poles and tore them to shreds. Everyone gasped and she then broke the poles in half, snapping them against her knee. "It is him who has deceived you all! I am not your enemy...not anymore.." she held her breath and Gabrielle smiled warmly at her from afar, giving her a thumbs up. She must not have been doing so badly if nobody tried to attack her yet.

"You all are not Romans, you are all just humans, like me. We're all the same. I was told this by a young Persian King that I have become allies with," she smiled slightly. "There is no need for borders and warring empires anymore." She looked around and sighed heavily. "If you all give me a chance as your empress, I promise that there will be peace across the Mediterranean. We can all work become an empire that will set an example for the rest of the world –two worlds that can coexist peacefully."

The Roman people seemed skeptical but they listened to what Xena had to say. There was a bit of discrepancy at first, but now they seemed to realize that Xena was not the tyrant that their late emperor had made her out to be. If everything she said was true, then they were more than willing to give her a chance especially if it meant that their people would not live in poverty anymore. And if Xena was here and there was no Roman empire opposing anyone then there will most likely be no more war in the future. On the other hand, she could become like any other emperor and fill her heart with greed, but she had been an empress for a very long time and her empire was well off, more wealthy than the Roman Empire for sure especially these days.

Some people started clapping and then others joined in and Xena smiled widely, enjoying all of the happy and joyful faces she was seeing now. She looked to Gabrielle in the crowd and smiled at her. Was it true? Was she finally able to bring peace among both empires? Empires no more, the Roman Empire was gone.

Gabrielle released the Roman soldiers and granted their freedom. They were no longer soldiers anymore and could do as they please. She was sure that they had families to go to and haven't seen in months or even years in some cases. They had been soldiers all their lives and they were ecstatic to be free from their chains of war.

She climbed the massive amount of stairs into Octavius' palace which was in the outskirts of the city, but it was very noticeable when you entered the city. It was huge, though not as large as the palace in Athens. She traveled through the palace and it sure brought back some memories. She had only been in here for a few times but she was sure Xena had been here plenty of times, especially when Julius Caesar was alive.

Rounding a corner she found Xena in a large room, obviously made for meetings and parties. "I've freed all of the Romans," she said and Xena nodded, remaining silent. Coming to her side she gripped her hand. "That was brave of you. I'm proud of you."

Xena smiled, peering down at Gabrielle. "Thank you Gabrielle. I wouldn't be here without your help and guidance." She sighed and placed her hands on her shoulders. "You changed me Gabrielle –for the better. You have shown me a way that I would have never found if I didn't...find you," she grinned weakly. "You made me a better person and all of this..." she gestured to the Roman palace they were standing in, "is as much yours as it is mine. You're the best thing in my life."

"You've taught me many things over these years, Xena." She began with a sly grin, "and even with your setbacks and odd quirks," she chuckled softly, "I haven't figured you out completely, but I will eventually." She saw the warmth in Xena's eyes and she blushed a bit. "You taught me how to forgive."

Xena frowned, cocking her head to the side, unsure what she meant by that. Xena was not known as a forgiving person in her past and even now, it was difficult for her. Gabrielle saw her confusion and grinned. "Without you in my life, I would have remained bitter for the rest of my life. I thought that if I couldn't forgive you and your past then...I could never forgive anyone and I would be a hateful person –filled with vengeance." She looked into those icy blue eyes. "You gave me hope that even the worst people can change and without you, I don't know what I'd do." She rubbed her forehead feeling nervous all of a sudden. "So you see, without you, I wouldn't be the person I am today and you shouldn't blame yourself for everything. You affected me as much as I affected you and I think, you made a bigger impact on me than I did on you," she winked subtly.

Xena felt her heart stop as soon as Gabrielle said that. She always knew that Gabrielle loved her deeply, but she never told her how she felt and she thought that this was all one sided, even after twenty plus years. It wasn't just her, it was both of them.

"Now the question is; can you forgive yourself?" Gabrielle said seriously and Xena's eyes dropped to the floor.

"I think..." Xena began and lifted her head, "I will have to continue to redeem myself even in death," she smiled weakly.

Gabrielle frowned, "that's not what I asked, Xena."

"The simple answer," Xena said softly. "I don't deserve forgiveness especially my own. You saw me Gabrielle, I was a terrible person. There are even some things that you don't know about me...they are unforgiveable."

Gabrielle smiled and grazed her hand against Xena's cheeks. She saw her eyes fill with tears, begging to fall. "You've come a long way from that life Xena. You've spent more than half your life as a good person, a person working for the greater good. You're not a conqueror or the destroyer of nations like you once were. You are who you are. You can't erase your past and you shouldn't forget it either –it's a part of you just as much as the present and future are." She looked in her eyes and smiled, "so do me a favor...and give yourself a break," she nudged her shoulder playfully and Xena finally cracked a smile.

"Knock, knock, guess who I brought back with me?" Solan smiled interrupting their time alone. Xena and Gabrielle turned around and saw Solan leaning on the wall casually.

"Solan!" Gabrielle smiled and ran to hug him tightly. "I was wondering where you were," she looked into his blue eyes and ruffled his hair like a child. Solan groaned and ran his fingers through his hair. She was worse than mother sometimes, he thought.

"Yeah well, we kind of took the long route. I decided to get a caravan so Eve didn't have to ride the entire way back," he smirked and saw his mother standing there looking rather relieved? He wasn't sure, he couldn't exactly read her emotions.

Xena came to him and embraced him warmly. He returned the hug and squeezed her body close to his. She pulled away and looked behind him, hoping to see Eve behind him. "Where is she?" she frowned.

"Oh she's with Queen Hatun while Samuel is unloading her chest of clothes. She didn't really enjoy the ride here let's just leave it at that," he cringed and walked off. Xena and Gabrielle shared a glance then followed Solan as he casually strolled down the long hallway.

All three came to a halt and Solan pointed to the bathroom and they heard Eve retching and coughing loudly. Gabrielle's eyes widened and Xena buried her face in her hands. The two women brushed passed him and he sighed, hearing his sister basically coughing up her own lungs. She had been doing that for the last few hours and he was glad that she had more help. He was sure that Samuel's mother was tired enough from the journey to deal with Eve was just another burden.

Xena and Gabrielle entered the large bathroom and saw Eve on the floor with Hatima knelt down beside her. Hatima looked up as she rubbed Eve's back. She smiled seeing Xena and Gabrielle. Silently she stood up and took a step back. Xena smiled and knelt beside her daughter. She placed her hand on her shoulder and Eve was completely oblivious to her presence. Gabrielle smirked folding her arms as she stood by Hatima.

"Not feeling too good are you?" Xena said and immediately Eve lifted her head and looked to see it was her mother smiling at her. Eve wrapped her arms around her neck and hugged her tightly.

"Mother..." she never thought she'd be so happy to see her until now. She pulled away and then saw her mother's long hair was gone and her jaw dropped. She touched her mother's hair in between her fingers and saw the smile on her mother's face. "You..cut...your hair?" she raised an eyebrow.

Xena sighed, "not exactly, but never mind that," she shook head and moved a few tendrils away from Eve's face and brushed them behind her ear. "I heard that your journey here wasn't the best to put it lightly," she smirked.

Eve cringed and shook her head. "I don't want to talk about it." she began to get up and Xena assisted her.

She linked arms with her daughter, "I'm glad to have you back here with us," she said and Eve smiled softly.

"Me too. I thought you forgot about me!" she joked and Xena chuckled softly.

"I could never forget about you." They came into the hallway and she sighed looking around. "I'm sure we can find a room for you somewhere," she teased, knowing full well that this palace had more than enough rooms.

Eve looked around then saw Gabrielle come to her side, linking her arm with hers. "Gabrielle!" she grinned and the blonde winked at her. "So...are we going to live here now?"

Xena opened a door and saw a really large bedroom, probably for a guest as it wasn't entirely decorated like the others were. "I'll be making a lot of changes to this place, but the answer is yes." She set Eve down on the bed and Gabrielle hopped onto the bed sitting beside Eve. Xena opened the curtains to let some sunlight in and she saw a Roman bust of Octavius in the room. Frowning she picked up the bust and threw it out the window. There was a loud shattering sound from down below.

Eve and Gabrielle turned around and blinked. Xena turned around with a playful smile. "What was that?" Gabrielle asked.

"Some garbage," Xena said with a smug grin and waltzed away from the windows.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes then paid more attention to Eve. She grabbed her hand and the princess looked into her eyes. "So, how are you feeling?"

Eve gave her an incredulous look and frowned, "really?" She said flatly. "I was fine for the first couple of days but then..." she made a face of disgust. "Like I said, I don't want to talk about it." she shook her head.

"It's okay we don't have to talk about it," Gabrielle dismissed it and then placed her hand on Eve's abdomen and instantly grinned with excitement as she felt small movements against her palm. "They are already great warriors!" she joked.

Xena shot her a glare of disapproval. "Gabrielle..." she chastised.

Gabrielle grinned sheepishly, "warriors...of peace?" she lamely said and Xena smirked enjoying the joy in Gabrielle's eyes, although Eve didn't seem to share the joy at all.

"Maybe we should let Eve rest, she's had a long journey," Xena said and Eve pouted.

"No, I want to hear about the battle," she smiled and leaned against the pillows. Xena rolled her eyes and Gabrielle scooted closer to Eve.

"I will tell her, you can go Xena, I can stay with her," she said and Xena didn't seem convinced. "Go, go. Both of you!" she shooed Hatima and Xena out of the room.

Xena smiled putting her hands up, "alright but I'll be back in a few hours," she turned to leave behind Hatima then stopped. "Gabrielle could you leave the...gory details out?" she frowned.

"Sure thing Xena," Gabrielle smiled. "Now go!" she demanded and Xena sighed, closing the door.

Eve smiled and turned to Gabrielle, crossing her legs in front of her. "I want to know all the details!"

Gabrielle nodded, "right, but don't tell Xena," she winked and Eve smiled and winked back at her. "Okay so..." she began all the way from the beginning after Eve and Xena left for Luxor and when she returned to Athens.

Xena sighed and turned to Hatima, "thank you for staying with her. I don't know how to repay you..."

Hatima smiled, "you don't need to do that. I was more than happy to help and Eve is a very smart young lady. She found a library in the palace and read a lot before we left Luxor." Xena was surprised at that, although she knew that Gabrielle had been rather influential on Eve's education all her life and Eve enjoyed reading as much as she did. Xena could care less about reading, but that something special between Eve and Gabrielle, something that she'd never take away from them. She thought that was good that Eve was able to occupy herself in reading and learning even thousands of miles away from home.

"Xena! So nice to see you again," Samuel came up with a chest of clothes and dropped it on the floor breathing heavily. "It seems that Eve did some shopping in Luxor. She has a lot of clothing..." he sighed and Xena smirked.

The empress looked behind the king and saw Solan and a giant black leopard walking beside him on a leash. "What is that?" she pointed at the cat.

Samuel and Hatima turned, they both immediately cringed when they saw the large cat walking beside Solan.

Solan laughed nervously, "oh this guy? You're going to love this when you hear it!" he saw his mother's wide and irate eyes. He cleared his throat and his laughter died down. "Eve wanted to bring him with her from Egypt. He's kind of...her pet."

Xena shook her head, "no! Absolutely not! Get out of here," she folded her arms.

Samuel sighed, "we tried to tell her that she couldn't bring him with us but she refused to leave him behind."

Solan nodded, "he really likes her a lot. His name is Assad." There was silence and Hatima looked to Xena and saw that she did not approve. "She will be really upset if you get rid of him..."

Xena rolled her eyes and buried her face in her hands. She was beginning to think that white streak in her hair was caused by Eve and not by that stupid elixir she took months ago. She groaned, "just...put him in a room or something for now. I'm going to have a talk with the princess about bringing animals home, again.."

"This has happened before?" Hatima blinked.

Xena laughed aloud, "more times than you know," she said flatly.

Hours later after surveying the entire fortress Xena was exhausted. She never thought she'd be this tired but she had been going nonstop for months now and she really felt like she needed to sleep. She wished she could sleep for years.

She decided to check up on Eve and Gabrielle like she promised. Samuel and Solan were up late playing a game, obviously even after their long journey they still had energy. Must be nice, she thought. Hatima found a vacant room and retired super early after visiting with her son for awhile.

Xena opened the door and saw Eve and Gabrielle sleeping on the bed together. Eve was on her side and Gabrielle close to Eve, sleeping in the same direction. She smiled softly at the two and closed the door.

Chapter Text

AN: this chapter is incredibly long but has a lot of stuff in it! Some humor and more adventures later :D

Chapter 32 –Part V of V: Empress of Rome

A week passed by and Xena didn't really like the look of the inside of the palace. She wanted everything cleared out immediately and so over the next week she had many of her men moving furniture, statues and tapestries out of the Roman fortress. She didn't want any trace of Octavius in this place anymore. She said that there was no Roman Empire anymore and she was going to make sure that it stayed that way.

Although, she didn't want certain things to go to waste. She suggested that the furniture be taken to the market square for civilians to take for their own homes. But the statues of Roman gods and tapestries were burned. Xena would never keep statues of gods or goddesses whether they were Greek or Roman, she didn't care. They were all the same to her and the eerie quietness of the Olympians was unsettling to say the least. She hadn't heard anything from Ares or his sister, Eris, in awhile and she liked to keep it that way, although Eve would deliver soon and that only made Xena worry more, afraid that Eris might do something stupid and irrational. She kept the bit of Eris from Eve as she didn't want to worry her daughter anymore than she needed. She didn't need that right now, but it never left her mind. Also another reason why she decided to leave Eve in Luxor instead of Greece without supervision.

The palace was completely bare now except for the essentials. Xena tore up one of the bedrooms she found to stay in. she certainly wasn't going to stay in Octavius' room. No she would use that room for something else, definitely not to sleep in. this room she found was bigger, nicer and in a quiet part of the fortress away from prying eyes.

Gabrielle slept beside Xena and the sun began to rise in the sky. Winters in Rome were always much colder than the winters in Athens. There was a considerable amount of snow and it snowed a lot during the daytime and less at night, but of course that made all the rooms much colder if there was not a fireplace inside it.

She stirred in her sleep and felt something tickling her foot and she giggled. "Xena what are you doing?" she mumbled and moved her foot but she kept laughing. She felt the blankets slowly slip off her body and she scooted closer to Xena's warm body.

Xena opened her eyes and frowned, looking behind her to see why Gabrielle was giggling so much. She saw Assad, Eve's pet leopard grabbing the blankets off the bed and licking Gabrielle's legs and feet. "Gabrielle..." she said sleepily and covered herself with the blankets some more and saw that the cat wasn't stopping. He ripped the blanket off the bed and Gabrielle's eyes opened feeling the cold air touch her bare legs.

The blonde looked at the foot of the bed and saw Assad sitting at the end of the bed. She yelped and sat up bringing her legs close to her chest. "Gods, I hate that cat!" she grumbled and Xena chuckled softly, still covered in another blanket.

"He obviously likes you," Xena sighed and closed her eyes to go back to sleep for a little while longer.

Gabrielle was having a staring contest with Assad and the cat yawned then laid down comfortably, swishing his tail back and forth lazily. "I can't believe you allowed Eve to keep him..." she complained.

"He's not so bad," Xena said softly and Gabrielle's mouth gaped then she felt a punch in her shoulder and Xena's eyes opened and she turned, glaring at Gabrielle. "What did you do that for?"

Gabrielle smirked, "you don't like cats, Xena and now you're saying he's 'not that bad'?" she shook her head.

Xena rolled her eyes, "I didn't say I liked him...I just said he wasn't that bad." She turned over and rested her head on the pillow once more. "He's a good guard cat," she smirked and Gabrielle ripped off the blanket. "Gabrielle!" she sat up and the blonde chuckled softly covering herself from the crisp cold air filtering in the room.

"Assad can be your blanket since you like him so much!" Gabrielle laid down and snuggled up in the blanket.

Xena groaned and stared at the feline. He yawned and stared at her blinking his golden eyes. "Don't look at me like that." She said aloud and Assad continued staring at her. "Yeah I don't like you either," she got out of bed and grabbed her clothes to get dressed. It was obvious that her sleep time was over.

After she put on a black gown with long sleeves she sighed staring at Gabrielle as she was still in bed. She came to the other side and knelt down patting her cheek. "Come on sleepy, we have work to do."

Gabrielle groaned and pulled the covers over her face. "I'm on vacation, come back when there's another war."

Xena sighed and folded her arms then stared at Assad and he was eyeing Gabrielle. She smirked and snapped her fingers, calling the feline to her aid. Assad stood up and gingerly sauntered over to Gabrielle and pulled the covers off of her then hopped off the bed.

Gabrielle brought her legs close to her and glared at Xena. "I hate you." She teased.

"Love you too, Gabrielle," Xena smirked and walked off. "I'll be waiting for you in the atrium," she left the room.

Gabrielle grabbed the blanket off the floor and covered herself with it. Smiling she closed her eyes and thought she could sleep a little while longer. Assad ripped the blanket off and she groaned, glaring at the cat and he licked his lips staring at her. "Did Xena put you up to this?" she questioned the cat and he just sat there staring at her, not blinking at all. She reached for the blanket slowly and Assad picked up the blanket in his mouth and walked off with it throwing it on a chair. Her jaw dropped and thought what a smart but stubborn animal.

He then jumped on the bed and began nudging her shoulder but she wasn't moving. "I'm not getting out of bed," she argued. Then he used his paw and pushed her off the bed and laid down in her spot comfortably. She huffed and shot the cat a glare. "I know you're secretly working for her..." she smirked then realized she sounded crazy. "I'm talking to a cat," she frowned and got off the floor to get dressed reluctantly. "I'm watching you," she eyed him and he rolled over purring loudly, "that cute stuff may work on Eve but it's not going to work on me."

Down the hall in the room where Eve and Samuel stayed in Eve was sound asleep until she felt a cold wisp of air graze her skin. Her arm reached for Samuel but the spot next to her was empty. She opened her eyes and looked around, sitting up on her elbow she saw Samuel was sitting next to the window in a chair with the curtains drawn.

"What are you doing?" she yawned and he turned around smiling at her.

"Just reading some books I found in your chest of clothes." He lifted the book and she smiled. "Alchemy huh? Not really your style you know," he chuckled and set the book down coming to sit on the bed with her. He bent down and kissed her forehead. "You slept for a long time. Hopefully you slept...well?"

She shrugged, "I guess. This place gets some taking used to, you know. It's not like Athens," she scooted closer to him and he wrapped his arm around her shoulder.

"It's kind of similar..." he said and she shot him a glare. "I mean, the architecture is similar –big columns and large entry ways, not to mention everything is marble."

Eve scoffed, "Romans steal everything from the Greeks."

He nodded playfully going along with her. "We have similar buildings in Persia –the Greek style, I mean."

"Of course because my mother used to own Persia," she joked, although it definitely wasn't a joke. She knew her mother had ties with Persia long ago and it was brutally cut off until this year. She toyed with the laces on his black tunic and felt him bring her closer to him. She felt a stabbing pain in her side and she hissed.

Samuel frowned and looked down at her seeing the distressed look on her face. "Something wrong?" he asked concerned. She nodded and rested her head against his chest. "Are you sure?" he asked again.

"Yes I'm fine," she smiled up at him reassuring him.

"You would tell me if something was wrong, wouldn't you?" he stared at her seriously and she nodded though he wasn't entirely convinced. He realized that since he has spent time with her, Eve liked to downplay a lot of her discomfort, which reminded him of Solan and even Xena sometimes. They were good at keeping secrets hidden away, which he was not used to.

Peering down at his children, their children, inside her and he grinned softly, placing his hand over them both. "So, when do you think they will come?"

She sighed heavily, "hopefully soon because honestly, I am sick and tired, literally," she smirked.

He frowned, "you feel sick now?" he started to get up and she clung to his shirt.

"No, no I'm fine right now," she smiled and he settled down again against the pillows. "You think it will be two boys?" she peered up at him.

Samuel quirked his mouth, "hopefully. God forbid we have girls," he chuckled and she punched his shoulder and he winced, rubbing his shoulder.

"What's wrong with girls?" she frowned.

"Nothing, but that means they'll be just like you sooo..." he teased her and Eve rolled her eyes shaking her head at his subtle jokes. "It doesn't matter if they're boys or girls, I'll love them either way," he grinned and she smiled, yawning, still quite tired.

Suddenly there was a loud crash outside of the room and Eve lifted her head, tempted to get out of bed. Samuel got up and told her to stay put. He tread cautiously and opened the door to see an entire set of statues were smashed on the marble floor.

"What in God's name..." he muttered then saw Solan arguing with Gabrielle. He closed the door and walked up to them. "What's going on?"

Gabrielle huffed folding her arms, "nothing," she mumbled then smiled at Samuel. "How is Eve?"

The Persian raised an eyebrow, "she's good, in bed still," he shook his head. "Why...why are there broken statues everywhere?" he pointed at the floor.

Solan's eyes wandered around elsewhere, "I don't know why don't you ask Gabrielle!" he frowned.

"This was your responsibility Solan!" she argued back and he groaned. "You were supposed to take these statues outside but you can't even do that."

The blonde prince scoffed, "you know what I am –"

Xena frowned and saw the small party of three in the middle of the hallway. "What happened here?" she put her hands on her hips and they all stopped and stared at her with wide eyes. She looked down and saw the broken statues on the floor. "Solan, what's this?" she eyed him.

Gabrielle folded her arms and smirked, giving him a knowing look of satisfaction. Solan rolled his eyes and clamped his hands together looking apologetic towards his mother. "I was taking them outside but...someone," he eyed Gabrielle, "told me to take them to the back entrance instead and they all fell...down."

Xena nodded not entirely understanding how four statues broke the way they did, "clean this up," she grabbed Gabrielle's arm, "I need to borrow you," she drug her along and Gabrielle looked back and winked at Solan. He groaned and looked at the mess he had to clean up.

Samuel smiled, "I'll help you," he offered. Solan relented and took him up on his offer. Both bent down and began picking up the large pieces of the broken statues. "We should play a game when you have time..." he smiled mischievously.

Solan looked up at him with a knowing smile, "sure, what did you have in mind?"

The Persian grinned sneakily, "we could play jenga again? Eve can play with us, I know she's been bored staying in her room all the time."

He nodded, "yeah I'm sure she's going crazy. She never likes to stay in one place for a long time, but..." he frowned, "we're not playing jenga if Eve is playing," he set some ground rules.

Samuel chuckled, "afraid you'll lose again?"

"Yes! Why don't we let her pick the game?" Solan grinned. "But no chess," he demanded. Samuel nodded, stifling a laugh. Solan really hated playing chess with Eve because he always lost.

Xena came to the highest balcony in the palace and Gabrielle overlooked the city. It was a beautiful view and it was actually nice to see people out and about unlike the palace in Athens. Xena's previous home overlooked the sea, which was nice, but it was secluded from civilization. Gabrielle began to think that was because of all the death threats that Xena got many years ago. It was quite a journey to get to her palace and the trail was difficult not to mention guards were everywhere. It was different in Rome, everything was more open, their ruler was close by which was a new thing to get used to.

"I know I said that this is no longer the Roman Empire but it is still an empire and..." Xena looked to the people below them. "We still need a coronation ceremony."

Gabrielle smiled smugly, "can I pick out your dress?"

"Gabrielle, no." Xena sighed.

"Please? You always pick black or some dark color! Please, Xena?" she begged and Xena sighed, relenting. "Yes, finally I get to pick your clothes!" she tried to hide her excitement once she saw Xena's blank face. "Too much?" she sheepishly smiled.

Xena rubbed her forehead and then tapped her fingernails on the railing. "I actually didn't ask you to come out here to help me pick out dresses..." she began. "I wanted to make a new flag. I can't use my own flag because I said this would be a coexistence of two empires."

Gabrielle nodded and rubbed her chin then trailed back inside, trying to find out what Xena could use for a new flag. She had always used the Greek eye as her flag or a giant X to represent herself, but now those were not important anymore and neither was the Roman's flag either.

She took a good look around the empty room they were in. Xena really excavated this palace and in a hurry too. It was obvious she didn't want anything Roman left behind in this place. Immediately Gabrielle thought of Athens and what she could use that would satisfy Xena's vision and the Roman people's at the same time.

The vision of the statue of Lady Justitia came to her mind. There was a statue of her in the middle of the square of Athens. Xena was never one to showcase statues of deities but Lady Justitia, she had a special place for her. Gabrielle snapped her fingers and Xena eyed her carefully.

"A balance scale!" she blurted out.

Xena raised a confused eyebrow, not entirely understanding. "I'm not following."

Gabrielle grabbed Xena's arms and squeezed them tightly, "the statue of Lady Justitia in Athens –she holds a balance scale in her hand. We could use that symbol on the new flag. It's perfect!" she beamed and Xena thought about it for a few moments.

"It's not a bad idea," Xena quirked her mouth to the side.

Gabrielle bobbed her head, "the scale represents equality –something that you've always wanted!" she couldn't wipe the smile off her face. Xena smiled and brought her in close to her and Gabrielle could barely breathe.

"See, this is why I have you here with me, Gabrielle!" Xena smiled and Gabrielle pulled away from the tight embrace. "Sorry..." she subtly apologized.

They linked arms and Gabrielle leaned into her, "so, when are we having this ceremony? I can do all the preparations."

Xena sneered, "oh so kind of you Gabrielle," she said sarcastically. The blonde pouted and pinched Xena's arm. The empress then winced and rubbed her arm. "Why do you keep hurting me?!" she whined.

"Because I can," Gabrielle chuckled then began, "so I think we should have everything finished in a month. How does that sound?" she glanced up at her and obviously Xena was still slightly annoyed.

She sighed, "if anyone can make that happen, it's you," she smiled finally.

"Such little faith you have in me!" Gabrielle teased and she received a punch in the shoulder. "Ow!" she frowned and rubbed her shoulder and Xena chuckled lowly. "I pinched you! punched me and Xena..." she groaned, "your punches hurt so much more than a stupid little pinch to the arm..."

Xena smirked, "that's for this morning in bed."

Later in the early evening Xena found herself so busy with Gabrielle going over plans and reorganizing this entire palace that she didn't really even check on Eve all day. She figured that Samuel had handled that well but it was obvious that not even he could keep her entertained for long. He seemed restless and looked really tired lately, though, everyone was tired. Hatima offered to help her son but he refused her, and kept telling her that he could handle everything on his own.

Xena told Gabrielle that she was going to check on Eve and then come back to the bedroom to keep working on the flag design and ceremony together. She walked down the candle-lit hallway and saw Samuel heading the same way as her carrying a glass of something unrecognizable from afar.

"Samuel," she called out as he was about to open the door. He stopped and smiled tiredly at her. "What's that you have?" she gestured to the glass.

He looked to the glass and realized that this might seem kind of odd. "It's kefir," he said and Xena stared at him blankly. "It's a yogurt –"

She stopped him, "I know what it is," she smiled softly, "but why do you have it?" she eyed him and he lowered his eyes. "Is it for Eve?" she smiled leaning in closer and he nodded, saying nothing at all. He slipped the glass out from his hold, "I can stay with her for awhile."

He sighed, "I promised I would stay with her and –"

Xena grinned, "and you have done a great job at keeping your promise but I can stay with her now. You look tired. Solan is in the atrium, you should go join him."

Samuel looked to the atrium then to the door, not really knowing which was the best decision. Xena saw the distress in his green eyes. "I can take care of her, just go," she said and he thought about it for a moment longer. "I'm ordering you to go," she teased. He half smiled at her and definitely didn't want to argue with her, though he knew he'd lose. He thanked her and went to find Solan in the atrium like she said he was.

Xena opened the door and saw Eve laying on her side and her cheeks were rather pale. Eve lifted her head and expected to see Samuel but was a bit surprised to see her mother. Xena smiled and set the glass of kefir on the table. "He brought this for you," she sat on the edge of the bed. She didn't seem that interested and Xena checked Eve's forehead but she felt fine. Obviously she wasn't, but at least she wasn't running a fever like last time.

"I know this is difficult for you, but I promise the hardest part is almost over!" Xena said with a hopeful smile and Eve just stared at her unconvinced.

"No offense mother but you're not the greatest at making someone feel better," Eve sighed and tucked the blanket under her chin.

Xena chuckled softly, "I'll make sure to work on it," she pat Eve's hip gently and she shifted slightly.

"I feel like shit," Eve said and Xena widened her eyes. "Sorry..." she mumbled seeing the shock in her mother's eyes at her choice of language. "Where did Samuel go?" she wondered.

"Don't worry about him. I'm going to stay with you," she smiled.

Eve sighed, "oh boy..." she muttered. "You don't have to stay with me, mother. I'll be fine by myself."

"No I want to be with you," she now laid down in the empty spot next to her leaning against the pillows. Eve looked up at her and it was very quiet between the two. "You should come with me and Gabrielle into the city tomorrow."

That seemed to perk Eve's interests. "What are you going to do there?"

"We're going to pick out some fabric for my dress..." Xena sighed, "Gabrielle wants to be in charge of everything, even my clothes."

Eve smiled finally, "as usual."

"We can pick out some fabric for you too," Xena said and Eve's eyes lit up. She always liked clothes, she seemed to get that from Gabrielle. "And the twins too," she added. Eve smiled at that and nodded her head in agreement. "You know, Gabrielle had some clothes already made for them but I'm afraid that were left in the palace in Athens."

Eve frowned, "oh, that was nice of her to do that." She sighed thinking of their home in Athens. "I miss our home."

Xena could felt the same way and kissed her forehead, "I know, me too. This is our home now. Perhaps in the future we can rebuild in Athens," she said hopefully and Eve liked that idea, but Rome wasn't so bad. It was better than Egypt at least.

Eve yawned, "that sounds nice," she closed her eyes and Xena smiled laying beside her.

The following morning Gabrielle did not expect Xena to stay with Eve for so long since she didn't come back last night. She didn't feel the need to check up on them both but they had things to do today and she was dying to go get fabric. Xena was going to hate every color she picked out but that was the fun of it all.

Gabrielle walked down the hall and opened the door to Eve's bedroom and saw Xena asleep with Eve on the bed together. Both of them were obviously exhausted. She smiled and hated to wake them both but she had to. She went to Xena and shook her shoulder gently.

Xena opened her eyes and saw Gabrielle staring down at her. "Gabrielle..." she said groggily and looked over at Eve who was still sleeping. "I didn't expect to fall asleep here..."

"You two must have had a wild night," she joked. Xena rolled her eyes at her and then stared over at Eve. She touched her shoulder.

"Eve..." she whispered and the princess stirred in her sleep. "Don't you want to come with us to pick out fabric?" she said and Eve's eyes fluttered open. She didn't exactly expect to see Gabrielle standing beside her mother. Eve sat up with a big smile, eager to get out of this place even if it was just to pick out some fabric.

Mid-morning Xena, Gabrielle and Eve rode together on horses into the city. Eve wore a large black cloak, matching her mother's and Gabrielle wore a white cloak. There was a light sprinkle of snow falling as they made their way into the city. Eve smiled at everyone and everything surrounding her. She hadn't been outside in awhile and it was nice to see people again.

"We should stop here," Xena said and dismounted her horse. Gabrielle did as well and tied all the horses to a post. The merchant with fabric wasn't very far from this spot which was good. Xena went to Eve and helped her off the horse and brushed some snow off her cloak. She grabbed her hand, "ready?" Eve nodded her head eagerly.

Xena knew this was going to happen but only a few shops in Eve wanted to stop at every single one, looking at jewelry and pretty scarves. They weren't even to the fabric shop yet and already they were behind schedule. Gabrielle, of course, followed Eve in and both of them ogled over the items each merchant had. Xena waited patiently for them both like always. She didn't really like shopping and she only agreed to come with Gabrielle because she invited Eve, otherwise she would stay behind at the palace instead.

"Alright come on you two..." Xena sighed and tried pulling both of them out but it was difficult.

"Mother, did you see those necklaces? They're from India!" Eve grinned and Xena linked arms with her pulling her away from the jewelry.

The empress nodded, "yes they're very pretty." She could see the fabric shop from here and it was so close yet so far. Eve looked around and found another shop but Xena held onto her arm firmly. "We can look later, okay?"

Gabrielle caught up with them, enjoying the shops just as much as Eve was. "We should go to India, Xena. We've never been there!" Xena groaned inwardly thinking maybe she definitely should have stayed behind and let these two do the shopping together.

"Let's just focus on the fabric for now," Xena said flatly.

Finally what seemed like ages later they all arrived at the fabric shop and it was large. Most of the fabric was shipped in from Egypt which wasn't a huge surprise. Xena looked around casually but Gabrielle asked to see a lot of different colors.

Eve helped Gabrielle pick out some colors and Xena peered over to see a gold sparkly fabric that they chose. "No way am I wearing that color," she protested.

"It would look great on you," Gabrielle smiled.

"Yeah maybe if I was King Midas' wife," Xena spat back and Eve chuckled. Gabrielle bought the fabric without Xena's consent and the empress rolled her eyes, feeling like arguing with this woman was useless.

About an hour later they were still looking at fabric and Xena was growing so bored. She saw Eve looking at a few patterns and decided not to let her foul mood infect the others around her. "Did you find something you like?" she said placing a hand on her daughter's shoulder.

Eve nodded, "I like this one," she pointed to the green fabric, "and this one," pointing to the dark purple fabric next to it. She let out an exasperated sigh. "I can't choose!"

"Why not get both?" Xena said and Eve agreed, she hadn't even thought of buying both of them.

After another half hour of buying and packaging the fabrics Xena was so bored and ready to get out of here before those two bought anything else. She saw Gabrielle carrying two boxes with her and Xena stood up from the chair she was sitting in. "Are you two finished?"

Gabrielle smirked, "yes, Xena. You don't have to suffer anymore," she teased.

"Thank the gods for that," Xena smirked and grabbed Eve's hand as they all walked out together into the light snowfall.

As the three made their way back to the palace Eve didn't really want to go back just yet. "Do we have to go back right now?"

Xena felt the need to slap herself. She turned around with a soft face, "you would like to stay and look around some more, wouldn't you?" her daughter nodded her head and Xena sighed with a weak smile. "Alright..."

Gabrielle could see that Xena wanted to get back and continue working on the coronation but she also wanted to please her daughter. "I can show her around, you can go back to the palace," she offered.

That was a big relief, "are you sure, Gabrielle?" she wanted to make sure and not seem too eager to leave.

"Yes. I'll take good care of her," the blonde promised and Xena looked to Eve's excited face and she trusted Gabrielle.

"Alright," Xena turned to leave in the opposite direction, "but don't buy anything too extravagant," she said firmly.

"Of course not," Eve said with a big grin. Xena was unconvinced and if Gabrielle was shopping with her without her present then that was a bad idea because there would be no boundaries.

Xena returned to the Roman fortress and heard a lot of growling from down the hall. She frowned and followed the sound. She peeked her head in the room and saw Solan with a staff and Assad circling him cautiously.

"Solan, what is going on?" she was concerned as she heard the large feline growling and hissing at Solan in the room. Her son looked up then saw Assad bite the staff and push him down on the ground. Solan stared at the broken staff and blinked at the black leopard. Xena pulled out her sword not really trusting the feline then suddenly Assad rolled over on his back and licked his paw casually.

Solan stood up and laughed at his mother's face. "You should see your face!"

Xena frowned and sheathed her sword. "What exactly are you doing?" she asked and looked at the large cat rolling on his back playfully.

"I'm teaching Assad to become an attack cat!" Solan smiled triumphantly and Xena blinked at him, staring blankly. "He's pretty good, right?" he smiled and still saw his mother's concern. "He convinced you didn't he?" he winked.

She shook her head, "it seems kind of dangerous," she said and Assad came to Solan's side and rubbed his body against his legs whilst purring loudly.

"Only when he wants to be. He's a big baby," Solan scratched Assad's ears giving him ultimate satisfaction. "Probably the only animal I like that Eve brought home with her," he smirked.

Xena smirked, "he's a good alarm for getting Gabrielle out of bed."

Solan nodded then proceeded to exit the large empty room and threw Assad a treat and then the cat followed them both out, trailing behind them casually. "Aren't you supposed to be with Eve and Gabrielle?" he looked around to see that his mother came back alone.

Xena sighed rolling her eyes, "I was so bored shopping with those two. I decided to come back here and work on the ceremony while Gabrielle and Eve continue exploring."

He smiled, "you never really liked shopping anyway," he wrapped his arm around his mother and her eyes widened. "I want to help you with the ceremony since Gabrielle is off with Eve doing 'girl things'", he teased. She smiled liking that idea very much. It wasn't very often that Solan offered to help with those sorts of things, but obviously he was just as bored as she was.

Samuel came into his bedroom after helping clear out another room in the palace just like Xena asked. He had been working on that room all morning. He figured it was a ballroom considering all the decor, which was now gone, destroyed or taken to the city for the civilians. He took off his tunic throwing it aside on a chair and grabbed a bottle of wine off the table.

He looked at the bed and saw Assad laying down taking up the entire front end of the bed. He set the uncorked bottle down and raised an eyebrow. "How's it going?" he smirked and then poured a glass of wine for himself. Assad continued staring at him and he yawned widely. "Yeah, I feel you," he sighed. "You miss Eve huh?" he sat down opposite the cat and he blinked at him with his gold eyes. "She'll be back later." He sipped the wine and thought it was really odd that he was talking to a cat. He didn't really like cats that much but Assad was nice and super protective especially of the women in the palace, he noticed.

Xena entered the room and heard him talking to Assad by himself. Samuel almost spit out his wine and realized he wasn't really properly dressed in front of her. He grabbed a blanket and covered himself smiling nervously at her. Xena smiled and stepped inside, "talking to cats are we?" she spied Assad on the bed laying down sleepily.

"He's a good listener," he lamely said.

She chuckled softly, "I want to show you something," she said and he set the glass down on the table then grabbed a fresh tunic slipping it over his head to follow her.

They came to a room just a few doors down and she opened the large doors and Samuel looked inside. It was a reasonable sized room and obviously had nothing in it since she cleared everything out. "What do you think of this room?" she asked and stepped inside.

He looked around and saw large windows and nodded. "It's nice," he turned to her confused, "what are you going to use this room for?" he asked.

She smiled at his puzzlement, "for the twins?"

His eyes widened, "oh," and then it donned on him. "Ohhh," he smiled and bobbed his head, "then it's perfect!" he set his hands on his hips looking around. "I almost forgot." He then frowned, "I mean, I didn't forget about them, that's not what I meant –"

Xena placed a hand on his shoulder, "I know what you meant," she grinned. "Samuel, you need to relax." She advised and he sighed heavily. "I can see stress written all over your face."

"It's not normal to feel this way?" he asked concerned.

She smiled, "no it's a very normal response, but I think you're worried than Eve is," she teased. He half smiled realizing that he was far too stressed about this, and if Xena saw that then his own mother, Hatima, saw it too. He didn't want to appear that way in front of Eve in fear that would worry her.

"No stress, got it," he huffed. Xena smiled thinking those same exact words that she reiterated herself when she was pregnant with Eve. Gabrielle told her countless times to relax, though it was easier said than done. "Where is Eve anyway?" he frowned.

"She's with Gabrielle, probably buying everything she set her eyes on," Xena smirked.

Samuel slapped his forehead, "oh boy. I can't handle it when she buys a lot of stuff. Did you see all the clothes she brought back from Egypt? My God," he sighed heavily.

Xena chuckled, "she likes shopping. She gets that from Gabrielle. Unfortunately, Gabrielle gave Eve whatever she wanted when she was younger. To say the least, she turned into a brat for much of her childhood until she turned sixteen."

The Persian blinked, "Eve? A brat?" he couldn't believe that. She nodded, affirming his disbelief.

"She didn't like to hear the word 'no' and often still doesn't, though I don't think that's because she was spoiled," she sighed thinking it was her entire fault that Eve became so rebellious and often disobeyed her many times due to her suffocation and over protectiveness throughout her life.

"Well, she's not like that now. I wonder what changed her," he thought.

Xena smiled smugly, "maybe she met someone who changed her for the better," she hinted and saw Samuel wasn't following along. She sighed and thought that at whatever age men were at, they could never get hints to save their life. "I gave Gabrielle a list of things to buy in the city for the room. I just hope they don't come back with more things than needed."

"You did say Gabrielle buys her whatever she wants..." he teased.

"I know and that's what I'm afraid of," she sighed then thought for a moment. "I should take my own advice and learn to relax," she smirked.

Gabrielle and Eve had been looking at every shop for hours now and Gabrielle suggested they stop for awhile to sit down and eat something. They found a tavern in the city, though there were many, this one was the closest to where they had left off during their escapade.

Eve drank the rest of her water and both had finished eating. Gabrielle glanced around and saw many eyes on them especially on Eve. They looked a bit out of place and though some of the citizens saw Gabrielle with Xena many times, they hadn't seen Eve and were curious as to who she was and why she was with Gabrielle.

Eve brushed a tendril behind her ear and ran her palm over her slicked back hair that was pulled into a large bun on top of her head. She saw many men staring at her and she frowned. "Why are they staring at me?" she whispered to Gabrielle. She wrapped her black cloak around her body feeling a bit self conscious.

Gabrielle shrugged lightly and sipped her wine, "maybe they're surprised a small person like you can eat that much," she teased.

The princess frowned, "small? Gabrielle, have you seen me lately?" she smirked.

"Well, you can't really tell with that cloak on," Gabrielle smiled and finished off her wine. Eve's eyes looked around and still saw the men staring at her, men of all ages. "I don't think they know who you are," she whispered. "Plus, you aren't exactly dressed like a common person," she gestured to her nice cloak, purple gown and not to mention her hairdo.

Eve nodded understanding where Gabrielle was coming from. "One of the perks of being hidden for years I guess," she sighed. "Thank you mother," she muttered.

Suddenly she was startled when one of the waiters came up to their table and Eve anxiously rubbed the back of her neck looking away. "Gabrielle," he smiled at her and she falsely smiled at him. "Who is your guest?" he asked. Eve looked up at him and he looked at her light blue eyes.

Gabrielle stammered and didn't exactly know how to introduce Eve to him. She wasn't sure if Xena wanted her super exposed to everyone in this city, considering they had just won them over, it was like walking on eggshells sometimes. ", she –she..." she frowned unsure and looked at Eve who kept staring at the waiter. "She's just a –"

"Princess," Eve blurted out and Gabrielle's eyes widened.

The waiter looked confused and he folded his arms, "a princess huh?" he grinned. "I don't recall any princesses from this area," he chuckled.

Eve frowned, becoming irritated at this young man. He obviously thought she was joking. "I am a princess," she said flatly, "Princess of Greece." Gabrielle slapped her forehead with her palm and cursed to herself. Now others surrounding them were listening and looked over in their direction. Gabrielle glanced around with her head low and saw many prying eyes.

"I think we should leave..." Gabrielle mumbled and Eve narrowed her eyes at the waiter and then saw many others staring at her.

"Princess of Greece?" the waiter said in disbelief. "The Empress –"

"Is my mother," Eve said firmly and the waiter's jaw dropped. The surrounding eavesdroppers began whispering to each other and the tavern became very quiet.

Gabrielle smiled nervously glancing at everyone and grabbed Eve's arm. "We should get going..." she pulled her up and Eve stared at everyone. "Like now!" she said firmly and pushed her out of the tavern.

Once outside Gabrielle firmly held onto Eve's arm. "What was that back there?" she said in a hushed tone.

Eve yanked her arm away, "he was annoying me!" she folded her arms. "Did you see him? He didn't believe me when I said I was the empress's daughter!"

"Lower your voice," Gabrielle said and saw others around them look their way.

The irate princess climbed onto her horse and fixed her collar on the cloak. "I'm going back to the palace," she pulled on the reins and left Gabrielle by herself as she trotted off through the city.

Gabrielle groaned and saw Eve round a corner. She cursed to herself and mounted the horse following behind her at a fair distance.

Once Eve arrived at the palace she dismounted the horse and stormed up the stairs picking her gown up and her cloak furiously waving in the wind behind her. Samuel was working on the outside decor of the palace and smiled seeing Eve's return. "Hey Eve, how was shopping?" he asked and she completely ignored him entering the palace and the Grecian soldiers moved out of her way as she made her way through.

Gabrielle finally arrived and hopped off her horse running up the stairs. Samuel frowned and saw her, "Gabrielle, how was –" she ignored him too and briskly walked into the palace. "Okay then," he shook his head and saw one of the banners falling off the roof. He groaned and yelled at his men up above in some foul words of his native language.

Inside Gabrielle saw Eve walking quickly down the long hallway. "Eve!" she called out and the princess ignored her. "Eve!" she said more forcefully this time. "Stop!" she yelled and finally Eve halted mid-step. Gabrielle caught up to her and came around to face her, looking up at her. She obviously wasn't very happy and truly annoyed. "You can't just say things like that in public." She explained more calmly.

Eve huffed, "why not? Mother has kept me hidden long enough. Nobody knows that I exist!"

"For good reason. Xena made sure to keep you away from the public's eye to keep you safe. We've been over this," Gabrielle said and it wasn't convincing the angry princess.

"I know that, but there is no Roman Empire now. I don't need to be in seclusion anymore," she sighed. "I'm going to my room," she brushed passed her. "Thank you for taking me shopping," she said in a soft voice. Gabrielle watched her walk down the hallway and sighed deeply. Eve was right about one thing, the Roman Emperor was gone and technically, there was no threat anymore.

Xena approached Gabrielle and tapped her shoulder scaring her. "I didn't mean to scare you," she smiled and Gabrielle nodded. "Did you get the things I asked for?" and Gabrielle nodded but didn't say anything. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing," she smiled weakly.

"Where's Eve?" she asked looking around.

Gabrielle looked down the empty hallway and Xena asked again. "She went to her room. She's really tired."

Xena smiled and asked Gabrielle to walk with her. "Did you two have a good time?"

"Yeah," the blonde said softly and kept walking alongside Xena.

"Please Gabrielle, don't keel over with excitement," Xena sarcastically teased and Gabrielle chuckled softly at her joking manner.

"We had a good time," she said reassuringly, "she bought a lot of stuff."

Xena sighed, "I hope it wasn't too much stuff..." she hoped.

"I'll save you the heart attack then and won't tell you," Gabrielle pat Xena's cheek playfully and the empress blinked, now afraid of what and how much Eve actually bought.

A couple of days later Xena was sitting in the atrium working on a document by herself to come up with a few laws that were essential. She was able to find Octavius' office and rummage through his manuscripts to find out what kind of laws he had in place for his people. She couldn't believe some of the things in here and made a lot of changes.

She dipped the quill in the ink and one of her men entered the room announcing himself. She stumbled and splattered ink all over her parchment. She groaned inwardly and stood up looking at the young soldier. He handed her a rolled up parchment, "this is for you."

For me? She wasn't expecting a letter from anyone and why would she? Everyone was either dead or lived elsewhere. She took the parchment and he left the room to go outside to continue working on the palace's infrastructure. Unrolling the parchment she saw it was in Latin and sighed. She had grown more accustom to this language over the years but it was difficult to read for her. Although, this was short and sweet.

She frowned reading through the text and her eyes widened. Her mouth gaped and she ran towards the balcony. She saw parchment all over the city, on the ground and others reading it. She saw a few people look up at her and she groaned, closing the curtains.

Furiously she stormed down the hall and Solan walked by with Assad following beside him. "Hey you know there are people outside the palace, right?" he thumbed to the entrance behind him. That only made her more furious and she brushed passed him to the entrance.

She swung open the doors and saw people crowded around the stairs. Her army was keeping them away from coming any closer. The Roman citizens saw Xena standing at the entryway and bombarded her with questions and she instantly became overwhelmed.

Snarling she left the sea of people and their unanswered questions. She went to her bedroom and Gabrielle was in bed going over some patterns for the dress she wanted Xena to wear. Gabrielle saw Xena storm in and she had a parchment in her hand.

"What in Hades is this bullshit?" Xena instantly said and Gabrielle blinked, completely confused. "Allow me," she smiled tightly and read aloud, "Gabrielle, one of the empress's trusted warriors, accompanied a mysterious beautiful young woman through the streets of Rome on a sunny winter day. The woman claimed that she is the Empress's daughter, the Princess of Greece to an unknown Roman citizen in a small tavern in the city." She stopped refusing to read any more and threw the parchment at Gabrielle. "Explain this to me," she folded her arms.

Gabrielle grabbed the parchment and read the rest of the text over quickly. "Xena, this was an accident." She explained calmly and she saw Xena was anything but calm.

"Accident..." Xena chuckled and rubbed her forehead. "What do you mean it was an accident? Eve just happened to blurt this out to a random person?!"

"No, it didn't happen like that," Gabrielle said calmly. "Everyone was staring at her and she got super irritated and she just...she just said that. The man asked who she was because I was with her and he didn't know who she was."


"Obviously the Romans are really curious about her..." she sighed. "Look at this way, Octavius and his dogs are gone! She's no longer in danger and would it be so bad that people know about her? They know about Solan."

Xena glared at her, "that's different." She began to pace around back and forth in front of the bed.

Gabrielle agreed that was a bit different and Solan was already known in Rome long before he left for Greece in his teens. "It might make you more relatable to the Romans if they know you have a family," she tried to make the situation better.

"Or it will raise questions as to why I kept her a secret for twenty two years," Xena said and sat on the bed finally. She looked at the wall blankly, "am I overreacting?"

Gabrielle smiled and scooted closer to her, "do you want the honest answer?"

Xena looked at her and saw the truth in her eyes, she didn't need to say it. "I think I already know the answer." She sighed. "What am I going to say to them? They're all crowded around the entrance!"

She shrugged, "you don't really have anything to say. You could introduce her to everyone during the ceremony next month..." she suggested and Xena nodded silently agreeing to that. "She was really upset that nobody knew who she was. I mean," she chuckled, "she is the princess."

"You're right Gabrielle," she stood up to leave.

"Where are you going?"

"I'm going to pay a visit to my big mouth daughter," Xena jested then took the parchment with her.

She came to Eve and Samuel's room and knocked on the door first before allowing herself to come in. she opened the door and saw Eve reading a book by herself on the bed. Eve lifted her eyes from the book and saw her mother. "Hello," she said and closed the book setting it aside.

Xena sat on the bed next to her and gave her the parchment. Eve frowned and opened it, reading it carefully she saw her title and Gabrielle written in this. Her face immediately paled and she looked into her mother's icy blue eyes.

"You're very popular," Xena said in a steady calm tone.

Eve sighed and looked over the gossip once more. "I didn't know they were going to publish this..." she mumbled. "Are you mad at me?" she asked and Xena shook her head.

"Gabrielle told me that you very upset that nobody knew you. You deserve to be recognized for your title just as much as anyone else," Xena smiled and she saw some relief on Eve's face. "But next time make sure you tell a credible source because right now you're just a rumor," she teased.

Eve smiled, "I'm sorry, I must have made your life more difficult."

"As always," Xena winked and her daughter gasped. "Joking," she said and kissed Eve's forehead. "So, Princess of Greece huh?"

Chapter Text

Chapter 33 –The Laurel Part I

One Month Later

Gabrielle worked extremely hard to prepare everything for this ceremony and so far everything was going according to plan. Xena was less stressed which always made things better for Gabrielle and much easier as well. She was a lot more relaxed and she didn't remember the last time she had seen Xena so relaxed or if she ever was relaxed in her life. Xena smiled more and perhaps it was because that Octavius was gone and she didn't have anything to worry about her, or maybe because she achieved her lifelong goal to be rid of the Roman Empire for good. Or perhaps it was everything all above plus Eve was giving her grandchildren which Gabrielle knew Xena thought that'd never happen due to their chaotic lifestyle.

She wanted everything to be just right and that included Xena's dress, which she had someone else make with her special instructions of course. Xena had yet to see the gown and Gabrielle was not going to show her until the coronation, which was tomorrow morning. For now, she sat on the bed with Xena and Eve in their bedroom. It was extremely cold outside today and it had been snowing for the last week but now it finally stopped. It was very sunny which was better than it being dark and gloomy like it was for the past few days.

It was Xena's idea to use the fabric that Eve bought last month to make clothes for the twins. Xena always surprised Gabrielle when it came to her hidden skills. She may have not been the best writer or reader, but