Disclaimer: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess are owned by MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures, bless them. No copyright infringement is intended.

Note: This is my one and only rift aftermath story. Antipany is a character from a previous story, but this tale stands alone. Suffice it to say that Antipany and Xena still don't like each other very much. Many thanks to Inga, whose command of language is so much better than mine, for suggestions and corrections. The quote from "Silk's Lil Black Warlord Book" is used with the permission of Silk. Thanks Silk. All feedback is appreciated.

Chapters 4-10

Chapter 4

Xena was up with the sun practicing her drills. It was while she was practicing with her sword that she became aware of others hiding in the dense brush. Smiling, she put a little extra effort into her practice, somersaulting off rocks and bouncing up and down trees. Barely audible oohs and aahs came from the brush. Suddenly there was a loud crack and a puff of smoke and eight boys came flying out of the brush, flushed like a covey of quail. They skidded to a halt in front of the warrior princess. Antipany followed them out of the brush.

"It's not nice to spy on people, boys. If you want to watch, then ask."

Chrolus stepped forward as the others studied their sandals. "We're sorry Xena, we just didn't want to disturb you." He couldn't contain his excitement. "Boy, that was cool. Are you going to teach us that?"

"I don't think you're quite ready for that, Chrolus. Why don't you introduce me to your friends and then we'll start with some exercises, all right?"

Antipany made her way back to the stables as Chrolus was making introductions. When she checked on them a bit later, the boys were listening in rapt silence as Xena explained what they could do with a staff, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea after all.

When Telamedes came by at the midday meal to check on his family and collect his initiates, his wife again reassured him that Xena wasn't turning them into merciless warlords. As they made their way to the clearing, they could hear shouts and squeals of laughter. Antipany and her husband exchanged startled glances as they watched the most fearsome warlord in the land play tag with a group of Apollo's finest prospects.

"It could be new training technique," Telamedes said slowly.

"Could...be," agreed his wife.

The boys took turns trying to tag the warrior. She jumped, tumbled, ran and somersaulted always staying just out of reach. When the one boy tired he tagged another of his mates and the chase began anew. Finally Chrolus called a few of the others together and they made a new plan. Xena suddenly found herself chased by all eight boys. Laughing, she allowed herself to be tackled and they all piled on, howling in victory.

"She has the right to know," Telamedes said softly, his arms around Antipany.

"All in good time, my love," she replied, reaching up to kiss his cheek.

Telamedes made his way over to the pile. "Time to leave, boys. You can continue this tomorrow if Xena is willing." He looked at Xena and she nodded in agreement. The boys grumbled at the interruption of their fun but soon were headed back to the temple for more sedate lessons. She watched them leave with a smile on her face that faded into sadness as soon as they were out of sight.

"Unique teaching method," Antipany said dryly.

"Teaches them to work together. There's always strength in numbers."

Antipany nodded. "Yes, two together are stronger than one standing alone."

"I'm taking Argo for a ride. I'll be back tomorrow morning," Xena said abruptly, heading back to the stables. And true to her word, she did not appear again until the next morning.

The boys were back early, eager to begin their lessons. To their surprise they found their teacher dressed not in her usual leathers, but in a plain blouse and long skirt. After spending some time with exercises she divided them up and soon they were happily banging away at each other with their staffs. The morning flew by. When Telamedes came by to collect his charges he found a young woman he hardly recognized diligently teaching her pupils the fine art of self-defense.

Later that afternoon Antipany persuaded a reluctant Xena to sit with her goddaughter while the sorceress attended to chores. She exited the stable to find the young woman sitting on a fallen log holding the baby and singing lullabies to her. The voice was exquisite and as she watched, Antipany could almost understand what Gabrielle cherished about the warlord. She listened to the familiar tune until the end then moved up noisily behind her and putting her hands on Xena's shoulders, she kissed the top of her head. "You know, princess, there are times, very brief times, when I almost like you." Antipany leaned down and stroked the baby's cheek. Even though the little girl slept most of the time, she was now looking up at Xena in wide-eyed adoration.

"Oh, child. I can see we're going to have to have a little talk about your taste in role models." Antipany sat down on the log beside Xena. Untying her bodice, she freed a breast and gently took the infant from Xena. The little girl latched onto the offered nipple with gratifying enthusiasm.

"Seems to have a hearty appetite," Xena observed. "Are you sure she's your daughter?" She placed an arm around Antipany's shoulders and the new mother rested against her as the infant suckled.

"Takes after her father, don't you little one."

"When are you going to give this poor baby a name, Antipany?"

"When Tele and I can agree on one. Tele wants to name her Hippolyte after some great Amazon queen. Over my dead body. No warrior name for you, my sweet." Antipany winced suddenly. "Suck on it, don't eat it," she scolded her sweet innocent cherub. Antipany glanced up at an amused Xena. "Have you been teaching her table manners, princess?" She eased the nipple from the infant's mouth and switched breasts. "I'm more inclined to name her Electra."

Xena raised an eyebrow. "After the woman who helped murder her mother?"

"If this little one grows up to follow in your footsteps, it'll kill me. I've decided knowing the future is not what's cracked up to be, princess. I'd rather live in blissful ignorance. At least then there's hope... or at least delusion."

"Stop being so melodramatic, Antipany." Xena squeezed her shoulder gently. "I don't want her to be a warrior any more than you do. You know those oracles are notoriously obscure. It could've meant anything."

"Tell that to Telamedes. He's ready to turn her over to the Amazons when she's old enough." Antipany's lower lip quivered. "I won't let that happen."

"Not all Amazons are warriors. Look at Gabrielle, she's a bard and a diplomat and she fights with words when she can, not swords. We've got a long time to figure this out, Antipany. I promise you, I won't encourage her to become a warrior."

Antipany studied the warrior for a few moments before nodding reluctantly. "All right, Xena." She looked down at her baby who was now sleeping contentedy in her arms. "So that still leaves the problem of a name. Any suggestions?"

Xena was silent for a moment considering. Antipany handed her the infant and proceeded to readjust her bodice. The warrior gently rocked her as she thought. Finally she said, "How about Antandra?"

"Hmm, Antandra? Antandra," Antipany rolled the name around a little. "Not bad. Anyone you know?"

"Knew. She's dead now, but she was a brave, honorable woman. Just like this one's going to be."

"I'll run it by Tele, but I'm sure he'll approve since you suggested it."

Xena thought it unnecessary to mention that she had met Antandra at Troy or that the woman had died fighting side by side with a cadre of her Amazon sisters.

"You know, I used to think love was a bitch," Antipany mused. "Well, I still do, but I think forgiveness is an even bigger one." She glanced at the warrior. "Isn't it, princess?"

Xena's expression grew neutral. "You should know, Antipany."

"Yes, I do. 'I forgive you', so easy to say, so hard to practice. Especially with those you trusted and then let you down."

"I have forgiven Gabrielle," Xena said, her mouth twisting in annoyance. "Unlike you, who can't seem to get past it."

"Ahh, but there's no love lost between us, Xena, so it doesn't matter to you what I think. However, you do love Gabrielle. And you say you've forgiven her but your actions tell her you don't trust her anymore. Deep down you haven't forgotten her betrayal and it haunts you."

"You're the last one to be lecturing me on forgiveness," Xena said hotly.

"You have to go to her, you know." Antipany hated to break the fragile truce the two had just established, but someone had to talk some sense into the blockhead sitting beside her. "Gabrielle needs to know you still want her with you."

"Gabrielle doesn't want to be with me right now." Xena tensed and deposited Antandra back into her mother's lap. "Stay out of it, Antipany. If she wants to come back, she will. I'm not going to force her into anything."

"Anybody ever tell you you're an idiot?"

Xena gave her a cool appraising look. "And lived?"

Antipany looked down at her child. "All right I won't say it. I'll just think it," she muttered.

"This isn't the first time Gabrielle has gone off on her own, and it won't be the last. We see the world through very different eyes. She always comes back as soon as she thinks things over."

"You ARE an idiot!" Antipany burst out unable to restrain herself. Then froze, unable to look at the warrior. You just committed suicide, she thought in detached wonder. She looked up into pools of deadly blue ice and swallowed convulsively. "All right, do your worst, princess." Picking up Antandra, she offered her to the warrior. "Take good care of her, Xena. Being part of your family is not an easy road to travel. May you protect her better than you did your brother or your son or Gabrielle."

Fists clenched, fighting for self control, Xena felt a multitude of conflicting emotions wash over her. Hurt, guilt, rage warred for dominance before icy self control finally reasserted itself. Turning away from the proffered child she said calmly, "I'm going for a ride. I'll be back tomorrow morning for the boys' lesson." Xena stalked over to the corral.

 Not even bothering to saddle Argo, she vaulted onto her back and urged the horse into a gallop. With dark hair flying and skirt billowing out, the pair were a picture of power and freedom as they galloped out of sight. Antipany sighed, feeling a moment of regret. Her words had pierced that icy calm, wounding the warrior and she knew they could never be taken back. It would be better for Gabrielle to just go home but that's not what the bard wanted. "Yep, we're definitely going to talk about your choice of heroes," she said to the child sleeping in blissful innocence on her lap. "...Mothers, don't let your daughters grow up to be warriors...," she crooned.

Xena stared blindly down the road her companion had departed on. She had to leave this place. Staying here just put its inhabitants in danger from her many enemies and Gabrielle was no longer here to stop her from finally killing Antipany. It was getting dark when she finally turned Argo around and rode back to her campsite but there was still no sign of her companion and Xena knew in her despairing heart she wasn't coming back.

Chapter 5

Gabrielle had to admit that Theocles was good company. The young acolyte was erudite, handsome and best of all eager to hear her stories. They discussed medicines, politics, recipes, the gods, philosophy, and inevitably the conversation eventually got around to Xena. The days flew by quickly as the two talked their way to the Amazon village. Gabrielle hadn't realized how starved for conversation she had become. By the fifth day of travel she had almost stopped looking behind her in hopes of seeing a tall dark haired woman on a golden horse coming down the road after her.

"She'll be along," Theocles said, noting the glances Gabrielle was throwing behind them. "Antipany says Xena is one of the smartest women she knows."

"Antipany said that?" Gabrielle looked at him skeptically.

"Yes, and the bravest."

"Are we talking about the same Antipany? The one who hates warriors?"

Theocles smiled. "Well, I know she would never admit it but I think Antipany really admires your friend."

"I'm not sure she wants to be my friend anymore. I really messed things up in Chin. I told myself I was just trying to protect her soul."

"Are you sure that's your responsibility Gabrielle? It seems to me only Xena can decide where her soul will reside."

Gabrielle considered that for a moment. "Sometimes she just needs a reminder, Theocles. I went way beyond that in Chin. And then I let Hope kill Solon. I can't blame her for not wanting me around and now I don't know how to make things right."

"With the gods involved, there wasn't anything you or Xena could have done to prevent Solon's death. His death was part of a larger plan." They walked in silence for a while. "Kind of hard to patch things up if you're here and she's back there, isn't it?" he asked gently.

She stopped and stared up at him. "Yeah, it is. Theocles, can you go on to the village by yourself?"

"Sure, I've been by there lots of times."

"You have?" Gabrielle frowned. Suckered again.

"Of course," he laughed. "We're healers and priests, Gabrielle and we go where ever we're needed. I've been all over the country."

"I'm going to hurt her," Gabrielle announced, smiling tightly.

"What? Who?"

Before she could respond the pair were suddenly confronted by a squad of well-armed mercenaries. One grabbed Gabrielle before she could react. Another reached for Theocles but he turned and fled back down the road. Antipany was right, he was fast. But she was also wrong. He wasn't as fast as the wind. Or even as fast as the arrow that impaled itself into his back and sent him sprawling, unmoving in the middle of the road.

"Theocles!" Gabrielle cried, trying to wrench herself free from the grasp of the soldier. She was silenced by a hard slap across her face. "What'll we do with her?" she heard a gruff voice ask. "Kill her. The fewer people who know we're here, the better," came the dreaded reply. Gabrielle shook her head to clear it.

Then another voice piped up. "Wait! I know this woman." He sounded excited. "Ketos, she's a bard. I heard her a couple of years ago and I'll bet she's even improved some by now. But back then she was traveling with Xena."

"Xena?" Heads surveyed the surrounding landscape nervously.

Gabrielle looked almost annoyed. "Relax, boys. She'll not traveling with me now. But I am a bard." She poked the chest of the young soldier who recognized her. "And I'm a darn good one."

Ketos smiled unpleasantly, "We'll let Creon decide that. He wasn't too impressed with the last seven bards who worked for him."

"But I don't want to work for him!" Gabrielle protested.

He laughed. "Neither did they, young bard. Neither did they. Now let's go." He pulled her roughly along.

"But what about Theocles?" she protested.

"If he's not dead, he will be soon. You can't help him now."


At the end of staff practice that morning, Xena called the boys together and proposed a new game. When Telamedes and his wife came to collect his charges they found the boys whooping and hollering, staffs clashing. A piece of cloth was tied to a pole.

Telamedes looked at his wife. "Another new training technique?" he asked puzzled.

"I don't think so," Antipany grimly replied. She had a bad feeling about this. But before she could stop the mayhem, one of the boys thumped his opponent on the head, knocking him to the ground and disarming him. "You're dead," he trumpeted before racing to the pole and grabbing the cloth. "We win!" he yelled and three of his teammates lifted their staffs in triumph. Antipany buried her face in her hands.

Telamedes looked on in horror. When his jaw finally snapped shut, he hurried over to the group. "That's enough!" he roared. The boys looked at him in surprise. They could tell he was unhappy, but didn't know why. He pointed in the direction of the temple. "Lessons are over. Go back to the temple and we'll discuss this." He threw a peeved look at Xena who merely lifted an innocent eyebrow.

He then directed his gaze in Antipany's direction. Stalking over to where she was standing, she could see the words beginning to form. "It's not my fault, Tele!" she protested. "I didn't tell her to do that." Xena smiled innocently and batted her eyelashes at the sorceress. He took his wife's arm and they walked to the stables. Antipany looked back. "We're going to talk!" she said angrily to Xena.

Xena snorted. Talk, talk, talk. Why did everyone feel it was so necessary to talk?

Two hours later Antipany finally got a word in to remind Telamedes that he could have stopped the lessons anytime he wanted. But by that time Xena had vanished. She had said her farewells to the boys, cleaned up her campsite and ridden off on Argo. Antipany knew she wouldn't be back. She could only hope Theocles had better luck with Gabrielle. But it was the finely woven leather Amazon necklace and talisman she found in Antandra's crib that set off her ire once more and the stately vase finally lost its battle to stay intact.

Chapter 6

The striking neatness of the camp was the first thing Gabrielle noticed. Tucked away out of sight of prying eyes, the tents were in neat rows, with gear laid out in orderly fashion. The stench that usually accompanied so many men was conspicuously absent. Soldiers patrolled in alert fashion, constantly moving. The little group had been challenged three times while walking to the center of the camp. Everyone was busy. If not on patrol, the men were cleaning gear, practicing with their weapons, or doing a variety of chores. Whatever else Creon was, he knew how to command.

Finally she was taken into the biggest tent and they stood at attention waiting for the warlord to notice them. He was bending over a map talking to his captains. When he glanced up at them with piercing gray eyes, all thoughts of escape fled from Gabrielle's mind. She had seen the fire in those eyes before. When Xena was leading the Athenians against the Horde. What Gabrielle also saw was an opportunity to study and maybe finally understand the life that drove the warrior to act as she did.

Creon straightened up. "That's it for today. Meet back here tomorrow and we'll finalize the plan. We need those scouts' reports before we decide anything else." The captains saluted and left the tent.

Ketos shoved the bard forward. Creon leaned against the table, arms folded across his chest and gave her a lazy speculative smile. "What do we have here Ketos?"

"A bard, sir."

He raised an eyebrow. Gabrielle gave a little mental head shake. It was uncanny how familiar the gesture was. "Doesn't look like much of a bard, does she?"

Gabrielle gazed steadily into his piercing eyes. "If you were really that bad a judge of character, you would have been dead long ago," she said coolly.

His eyes narrowed ever so slightly. "All right. Let's see just how good a bard you are. You will entertain us tonight and every night we're in camp. As long as we stay entertained, you live. Disappoint us and you die. Your predecessor lasted two days."

She studied him for a moment. "What do I get out of this?"

"Your life isn't enough?" he asked quizzically.

"My life is worthless without your guarantee of protection. As long as I'm alive you will guarantee I'll be left alone."

He laughed. "Done. I guarantee it." The smile faded. "But everyone will have a turn at you if you fail."

The fear that caused her heart to clench didn't show on her face. Xena had taught her that. "Done."

He waved his hand and Ketos showed her out of the tent to another. This one had a set of shackles staked to the ground and these he applied to her ankles. "Not that we don't trust you little bard..."

"Gabrielle. Ketos, my name is Gabrielle."

"...Gabrielle, but we don't want you running off before the first performance." He smiled self-consciously at her.

"I never run out on a chance to perform, Ketos," she promised him. And then proceeded to engage him in conversation. By the time the poor man made it out of the tent, the bard knew a great deal about the camp and what kind of stories the men liked.

After the evening meal she was led to a platform. As she looked out into the sea of scowling faces and jeering voices, she smiled and walked along the platform making eye contact with as many as she could. "My name is Gabrielle," she told them in her best bardic voice. "And I tell stories. Some may even be about you." The noise quieted a bit. "I have heard that you are the bravest, and the strongest, and the smartest warriors in all the land." That brought a cheer. "And I want to write your stories so that all may know your deeds." The men were thinking now. "But first let me tell you of another great war, of brave men and heroic deeds. Of lives lost and battles won. A war over which women will forever weep. I sing a song of Troy...," she paused dramatically. With any luck she could keep this story going for weeks. "...the prequel."


The lush green countryside stretched before her in all its glory, but Xena didn't see its beauty. Without the bard to point out the minute wonders of her surroundings, the warrior just viewed it as land to be crossed. To where, she wasn't sure. She simply let Argo have her lead and went where the horse took her, stopping where ever she thought she could do the most good. That Argo was taking a slow roundabout path toward Amazon territory never filtered through Xena's conscious thoughts.

At first Xena enjoyed her newly found solitude. She could come and go as she pleased, relieved not to have to drag the bard out of bed every morning or listen to her chatter every waking minute and food lasted three times as long without having to fill Gabrielle's noisy bottomless pit. So Xena ate when she was hungry, which was increasingly infrequent and bathed when Argo finally refused to carry her. All in all, she thought it wasn't a bad life.

One sunny day Xena passed by a farm house and saw two men arguing in the middle of the road. There was a small pig rooting nearby. She was about to pass them when the men suddenly began to pummel each other. Debate whether to get involved or not ended when one of the men drew a knife and swung it at the other. Casually she vaulted off of Argo and landed between the two men.

"Put that away," she snapped. "That's no way to settle your differences." Good for you, a familiar bardic voice said. Xena narrowed her eyes and looked around but Gabrielle was nowhere to be seen.

"He's stealing my pig!" exclaimed one of the men.

"You sold that pig to me," the other replied.

"Did not!"

"Did too." They glared at each other.

Xena looked at them wearily. Assaulting each other over a pig. Shaking her head she walked over to the sow. "This is the pig in question, I assume?"

The two men nodded. Then before they could even blink, the warrior whipped out her sword and cleaved the young sow into two equal halves. Longways. The pig didn't have even time to oink.

The men looked on in shock. "She was going to be a breeder sow," one finally managed to sputter.

"Oh." Xena shrugged. "Well, now she's lunch." She cocked her head and listened, her brow furrowed in irritation. "Oh, for cryin' out loud Gabrielle, it was only a pig." She threw up her hands and started back to Argo. "Yes, I know you would have handled it differently, but you're not here, are you?" She smacked her head a few times. "Except in here. Don't you ever stop talking?"

The two men looked at each other. "Who's she talking to?" one asked.

"Dunno. Who's Gabrielle?"

"Dunno." They picked up the carcass of the pig and beat a hasty retreat to the slaughterhouse, thankful the sow was the only one the deranged warrior thought to kill.

Argo glanced back at Xena before taking a more direct meander to the Amazon territory.


Telamedes made hurried preparations to leave. A messenger had galloped into the temple grounds that morning with the news that Theocles had been found with an arrow in his back. He was still alive, but not by much. When questioned about Gabrielle, the messenger just looked perplexed. Even more troubling was the news that two warlords were about to battle it out not far from where the bard had disappeared.

"We need to find Xena," he said thoughtfully to his wife while he packed. "Would you send Peisander out to find her?"

"What makes you think she'll follow him, even if he can find her?" she asked worriedly.

"I'll write a note." He hastily scribbled on a piece of paper while Antipany called the big bird over. Peisander looked mild insulted when Antipany attached the note to his leg.

"I know you're not a carrier pigeon, but this is important Peisander. Go find Xena." Now the big bird looked mildly alarmed. "Please Peisander. Gabrielle's in trouble. Take Xena to her. She's probably somewhere near Amazon territory, so be careful; you know how those crazy women like to shoot at any moving target." With a loud squawk the vulture flew off. Telamedes kissed his wife and galloped off to aid Theocles. Next time, Antipany promised herself, those two weren't getting out her sight until they patched up their differences.

Chapter 7

Gabrielle not only made through that first night but all the rest as well and she was just in the sixth year of the Trojan war. For the first couple of days she was shackled in her tent until it was time to perform. She entertained herself by polishing her stories and by unlocking her restraints with the two thin slips of metal concealed in her braids. Autolycus had been a very able teacher and she had been a very quick learner. It paid to have many skills. Xena had taught her that. On the third morning she was escorted to Creon's tent.

She entered as his commanders were filing out. They greeted her cordially and complimented her storytelling. She beamed at them. "Aww, thanks guys." Creon stared at her as if he were trying to make a decision. She waited patiently for him to speak.

"Well, you're still alive I see," he said finally.

"Ah, yeah." She hoped she looked appropriately grateful.

"I need someone to document my life. I think you just might be the one. What do you think?"

What she thought was that no one would be interested in his life, but wisely didn't say as much. And considering the alternative, it was probably a fine idea. She smiled brightly. "That's a great idea! Let me grab a piece of parchment and I'll get started."

So she spent the next couple of weeks trailing behind the warlord documenting his every word, noting his every action. It took no time at all for her to discover the total reverence with which his men regarded him. His orders were accepted without comment or question. The only two men who dared voice opinions were two of his closest captains. He would listen to their arguments and then make up his mind, but once he gave a command he expected it to be followed without question. And it was.

She marveled at this blind obedience and the harsh discipline that accompanied life in the camp. Only once was she accosted by a soldier and he was dealt with promptly, strung up and whipped in front of his mates. His crime, she knew, was not that he had tried to assault her, but that he had disobeyed the order that she be left alone. Everyone kept a respectful distance after that.

Preparations were underway for the coming battle with Bercilius. There was a tense nervousness pervading the camp which grew as the time for war approached. Swords were honed to razor sharpness, practices became more intense, tempers became much shorter. Gabrielle watched the practice, her attention being drawn to one young man who seemed to lose every match. Finally he stalked off the practice field and headed to the brush. Curious, she followed him and found him on his knees, vomiting into the grass.

He glanced up, startled when she appeared, then sank back down, his head in his hands. "I'm going to die out there," he despaired. "They all say I'll be the first to fall ." He started to cry softly.

Gabrielle studied him for a moment. It wasn't that he didn't know how to fight, she decided. His technique wasn't that bad, he just seemed tentative and defensive. He had been beaten up so many times that now he expected to lose and what he needed was some confidence in himself. "I've been watching you," she said. "And you really are good... ah, what's your name?"

He glanced up hopefully. "Somias," he replied.

"All right, Somias, I'm going to get you something that's going to give you an edge. With this potion you'll be able to beat anyone. Wait here a minute. I want you to build a small fire while I'm gone."

She hurried to Creon's tent and grabbed a small handful of leaves from a clay container. As she was leaving she noticed a couple of scrolls open on the table. Unable to contain her curiosity, she glanced around and finding no threat, she picked up a scroll. "The Art of War, by Sun Tzu," she murmured. Great, now they were writing scrolls about war and making it an art form. It was a good thing most warlords didn't know how to read. She picked up the other scroll. "Tips And Rules To Conquer By, by Silk." Good grief, Creon had a whole library on the best ways to kill and maim. She read the first tip. "Never leave your tent without clean underwear." Huh? Warlords do listen to their mothers, she marveled. This Silk was probably another one of Xena's warlord buddies from the Far East. Then frowned in misery at the thought of her friend. She should have known the warrior wouldn't come looking for her she thought, scowling at the scroll and muttering, "There must be a tip in here somewhere that says, 'Never go running after your sidekick. It might make her think you really care.'" Brushing away a tear, she dropped the scroll and went to the cook's tent to borrow a pot and a few ingredients.

When she returned Somias had a fire going. She put some water in the pot and hung it over the fire. As the water was coming to a boil, she threw in her ingredients, one by one and chanted softly as the brew bubbled. Finally she cooled the liquid and poured some of the concoction into a cup and handed it to the wide-eyed soldier. "Drink up," she said cheerfully.

He looked at her doubtfully, then shrugged and took a careful sip. "Ugh," he said, wrinkling his nose. "What is this stuff?"

She looked around carefully, making sure they safe from prying eyes. "A sorceress friend of mine taught me this. It's made from..." She looked around again then leaned forward and whispered in his ear.

The young man's mouth dropped open and he regarded the brew with wonder. "Really?" he asked.

"Really," she confirmed. "Creon himself drinks it every night." Which was the truth, she thought with only a slight twinge of conscious.

Somias downed the rest of the cup in great gulps. Then he tipped the pot and drank the rest. When she headed back to camp he was licking out the pan and eating the sediment. "Remember, Somias," she called back over her shoulder, "it doesn't make you invincible, it just enhances what's already there."

The next few days flew by as they broke camp and headed for their confrontation with Bercilius. Gabrielle continued to document the warlord's every word and tell her stories at night. By the time they reached their appointment with destiny, Gabrielle had a pretty good idea what life must have been like for the warrior princess. Creon was tense, eager to begin the battle. It didn't help that his once plentiful supply of chamomile tea had mysteriously dwindled down to nothing in no time at all, a cup being part of his nightly ritual to relax after a hard day of command duties. But he had to say he was pleased with the unusually high degree of confidence and aggression displayed by his men.

Chapter 8

Argo ambled down the road with her brooding mistress scarcely paying attention to their direction. But even in her pensive state, some part of her was acutely aware of her surroundings. She took note of the chirping of the birds, the rustling of the underbrush from small animals and when the noise of battle reached her subconscious, Xena snapped to attention. A grim smile crossed her face and she greeted the sounds with relief. If there was ever a day she was in the mood for a fight, this was it. She urged Argo into a gallop and entered the embattled village with a warcry that caused heads to raise up in wonder.

The raven-haired beauty cut a swath through the invading soldiers as a sickle through wheat, a feral chuckle greeting every death. She plunged her sword into one after another of the mercenaries, then flung her chakrum and watched it bounce off a rock, a cooking pot, two posts and slice three soldiers' throats before returning to her. She plunged her sword into another when she heard a yell behind her. The approaching mercenary's nose met the end of her elbow.

She dispatched two more men then looked around and found the young soldier had staggered to his feet. Disappointed that he was only one left standing, she decided to take her time with him. A fist to his jaw and the youngster found himself flat on his back once again, a sword digging its point into his throat. She studied him with her intense icy blue eyes. Eyes lost in bloodlust and wanting his life so bad she made no effort to hide her need.

"Please," he whispered, tears forming in his eyes.

"Please," the word echoed in her mind, only in Gabrielle's voice. "Xena, he's hardly more than a boy," the bard whispered. Xena felt the soft touch of her friend's hand as it caressed her arm and rested on her sword hand. "Enough, Xena." Warm gossamer breath kissed her lips.

The beautiful warrior blinked and sanity returned. But no warmth. Stone faced she studied the young man for a few moments before finally saying, "You need a new line of work. Go home."

If the point of her sword had not been planted so firmly against his throat, she was sure the would-be warrior would have nodded enthusiastically. As it was he could only whisper, "Yes, I'll do that. Thank you." The sword returned to its sheath and he scrambled to his feet and began to run, not daring to look back.

Xena watched the young man fly out of the village as if Hermes himself were giving him a lift. She had been ready to slit his throat, eager to feel the power once more. But feeling Gabrielle's hands restraining hers, hearing her young friend's voice pleading for reason had dragged her back from the abyss once more and she held on to those sensations as long as she could.

She looked around slowly. The villagers stood staring at her with a mixture of gratitude and fear. Most of the invaders were dead and those she hadn't killed outright were quickly dispatched by the villagers. "It's all right," she said wearily. "I'm not here to hurt you. I just want to help." So she spent the next few days helping to repair the damage, burying bodies, and fortifying defenses.

But she never felt accepted, never broke through the reserve that surrounded her. Gabrielle would have put these people at ease in a heartbeat with her chatter and stories and by the time they left 'Xena, Destroyer of Nations' would have been remembered as 'Xena, Savior of Timorine'. The villagers were appropriately gratified for her help but still there was a vague sense of relief on all sides when she finally departed.

After another few days on the road Xena accepted the hospitality of a farm family exchanging help in the fields for a place to stay in the stables and some meals. She hoped the hard work would tire her out enough to finally get a good night's sleep. Sleep had always been hard to come by but the last couple of nights it had been virtually nonexistent.

After the evening meal she took an ax and attacked a downed tree, splitting wood with mindless zeal. She began to think about her companion and her fury grew. Why? Whack! A log split into two neat pieces. She hadn't done anything wrong. So why did she feel this was her fault? Whack! Two more sticks of firewood. If Gabrielle thought she was going to beg her to come back... Whack! She couldn't understand what the bard was so upset about. She was only trying to protect her friend. Whack! Why couldn't Gabrielle understand her soul wasn't worth saving? Whack! Maybe this was for the best...

Suddenly Xena stopped and listened. Then curled her lip. "Great, just great. What do you want Ares?"

The god appeared in front of her, pacing back and forth, glaring at her. "What do you think you're doing? I didn't train you to work in the fields or chop wood. This is beneath you!" He stopped for a moment fuming, then made an effort to calm himself.

"It's honest labor, Ares. You should try it sometime."

"Pulleeeze," he said, scorn dripping from every syllable. He trailed a finger along her cheek and stepped behind her whispering in her ear. "I have an army just waiting for you, Xena. That idiot Bercilius commands it now but with you in command it would sweep away everything in its path. No one would question your decisions. No one would make moral judgments against you."

"No irritating little blonde bards in that army, huh Ares?"

"Not a one," he chuckled. "In about a week your army will battle another led by a warlord called Creon. He's good, Xena. Almost as good as you. It will be an interesting fight. Aren't you just a liiittle bit tempted?"

That was the problem. She was always a little bit tempted by his offers and this was no different. And she was tired. Tired of wandering, tired of being alone, and most of all tired of hearing that voice in her head without the comforting presence of its owner. She knew in her heart it wasn't Ares who could provide what she needed.

"Ares, give it up. I'm not interested. Not now, not ever. Go tempt some unsuspecting fool with more balls than brains and leave...me...alone!"

They glared at each other for a few moments before Ares threw up his hands in frustration. He pointed a finger at the downed tree and it blew up in a thousand pieces. "I'm going to do that to you one day, Xena," he threatened before vanishing.

"Hey!" she yelled, looking at pieces of wood scattered everywhere. "You could at least stack it before you disappear." She began to pick up the firewood. "Just like a god," she muttered. "Always leaving a mess behind for some else to clean up."

When she departed the next morning there was an dark emptiness inside her that she still refused to acknowledge. The bard would have told her that her soul was starving in an environment of communal deprivation. The farmer's wife simply commented that Xena was the loneliest person she had ever met.

Chapter 9

 Xena sat brooding, staring at the campfire and the small pot of vegetables cooking on the fire. She was restless and her feeling of foreboding continued to grow. Sleep had been just a pleasant memory for some days now. She ate just enough to keep her going but not enough to prevent her from losing weight. The circles under her eyes had grown more prominent as the lonely days progressed and the wandering was getting tiresome, but there was only one place she wanted to go and that was anywhere Gabrielle was.

It had been almost a month since she had seen the only face she wanted to see, but the longer she stayed away, the harder it was becoming to believe Gabrielle would want anything to do with her. But she had to know. Argo's wanderings had brought them within a half day's ride of Amazon territory and she was determined to see her friend.

Irritation stirred as she heard the rustling of wings and a big ugly bird settled himself on a branch above her. He cawed out a cautious greeting but the warrior never moved. Argo whinnied and moved closer.

"Fine, you talk to him," Xena muttered.

The vulture stared down for a moment then flew to the ground, awkwardly hopping over to where the woman sat. "Go away," she growled waving an arm at him. The big bird hopped back, startled, then sat pondering his next move. The hubris of these two-legged animals confused him. They all breathed the same air, defecated on the same ground, and in the end even the proudest of all these creatures ended up as roadkill just like any other animal. What was there to be so arrogant about? He was mystified.

Peisander slowly extended the leg with the note tied to it. The warrior glared at him. "I don't care what trouble Antipany is in now. I'm not going back." She cast a feral smile in his direction, her upper lip curling. "And if you don't leave, you're going to end up in that pot of vegetables. I've always wondered what vulture stew tastes like."

The big bird blinked slowly then suddenly squawked and rolled onto his back, feet extended into the air, not moving. Xena looked at him in dismay. "Great Zeus, I've killed Antipany's bird." She looked at Argo. "How am I going to explain this?" Argo just snorted and shook her head.

She knelt down by Peisander wondering if blowing air down his beak would help. After all, it had worked on Gabrielle... She sighed, thinking about her companion. When she looked down again she noted one big eye staring up at her. The leg with the note waved in her face and it was then that she noticed the writing on the note was not Antipathy's. She snatched it off the vulture's leg and sat down on the ground to read.

"Cxah cuote, debtiewlle em lrimbal. triwche himt vltk Clian orn Betqlian. rirrl"

"Hades take Telamedes and his abominable handwriting!" she muttered. Peisander rolled back onto his feet and peered at the note over her arm while Argo looked on from over her shoulder. "I don't suppose either one of you could translate this?" she asked hopefully. All she got in return was blank stares. "Didn't think so," she muttered. Absently she scratched the big bird's head while she tried to decipher the note. Peisander amended his thinking. These two-legged creatures were good for something besides roadkill. He crooned his appreciation.

"All right, Telamedes wouldn't write unless it's important. Maybe that word is..." She jerked upright and looked at Peisander. "Is this about Gabrielle?" The big bird squawked in excitement. "Is she in trouble?" Peisander flapped his wings and started to dance. Her eyes narrowed. "Are those words 'Creon' and 'Bercilius'?" she asked. The vulture squawked again. "Thank you, Ares," she muttered, smiling darkly.

Xena felt a calmness she hadn't felt in quite a while. Now she had focus and a reason to go after her friend. "We'll leave tomorrow morning," she told them and proceeded to eat her stew, sans vulture meat. The rest of the evening was spent bathing, cleaning her leathers, sharpening her sword and waiting impatiently for the first glimmer of light.


Creon stood on the hillside and watched the battle unfold. It was going just like he planned. Carefully he explained what was happening to Gabrielle. "See that group of men there," he said pointing down to a group who were extending themselves precariously forward. "They're going to draw our opponents out and down. We'll be able to divide their forces and bring up our reserves to finish them off."

Gabrielle looked and frowned. "Your men will be massacred, won't they?"

He nodded. "That group will take heavy losses. But they know the risk. It's for the greater good and in the end they'll gladly give up their lives for our cause." Excitement gleamed in his eyes.

Gabrielle looked for some regret, some sign that the warlord saw these men as more than just pieces in some morbid game. But there was no regret in his manner and suddenly she understood the mindset that had molded Xena into a heartless warlord. Gabrielle had always judged her companion in the context of the person she now knew, not the murderer of that past time. But the warlord still lurked beneath the goodness that now defined her friend. It had taken a tremendous strength of character to bring herself back to humanity and a tremendous will to keep herself there.

And as Gabrielle watched those men willingly go to their deaths for a cause that had more to do with power than righteousness, she also understood the gravity of the crime she had committed in Britannia and then in Chin, at least in Xena's eyes. For it was the strong who defined the greater good and set the rules of the game. And by warrior rules, Xena had no choice but to stand by her companions, right or wrong and repay her debts no matter what the cost, even if the price was her soul. Those values Gabrielle knew she could never share because the cost did matter. Right and wrong did matter. Every life deserved a chance.

So Gabrielle had tried to make her friend play by new rules, her rules. She understood now why she shouldn't have tried. Xena had proved her loyalty time after time. When she risked a lifetime on Cecrop's ship for her. When she had defended her from the Horde. And Gabrielle knew the depth of the warrior's love. Powerful enough to want to kill her. And then deep enough to forgive her. But it was a betrayal perhaps too quickly forgiven then buried so completely in her companion's iron will that Xena wasn't even aware that the hurt was still there, festering.

Gabrielle sighed. It was time for her to go home. She prayed there was still a home to go to. Her chance came when the battle being decided, Creon prepared to enter the battlefield and deal with Bercilius himself. Gabrielle politely declined to go, using the time honored defense understood by all men. She fainted.

And was promptly brought back to consciousness by a cup full of wine hitting her face. "Oh, what happened?" she sputtered opening one eye to glare at the wine thrower. She sat up, holding her head. "I don't feel so good," she said softly.

"Too much for you, little bard?" asked Creon with some amusement. "Take her back to her tent," he ordered. He gave her a hand up. "Don't worry, I'll tell you all about it tonight so you can write it down." Barking orders, he mounted his stallion and rode off with most of his men.

Gabrielle was escorted back to her tent and shackled. Darkness was fast approaching and she knew she would have to hurry to get away before Creon returned. Carefully she removed the thin metal strips from her braids and picked her locks. Gathering up her belongings and staff she debated on taking her scrolls and then decided to leave them. Creon deserved them, she thought. She called her guard in and quickly dispatched the unsuspecting soldier with her staff. Because most of the soldiers were at the battlefield, the camp itself was lightly guarded.

Only one sentry challenged her. She tried to bluff her way past but the guard was not fooled. He tried to grab her but she dodged away, bringing her staff up in a defensive position. Growling in frustration, he drew his sword and brought it down on her staff. Gabrielle hit the ground rolling and brought her staff up to strike where it would do the most damage. Suddenly a fist shot out from behind her, landing with devastating effect on her assailant's nose. His eyes glazed and he fell slowly over backwards, his helmet falling off as he hit the ground. Gabrielle continued to roll up to her knees, sweeping the staff to take this new adversary's legs out from under him. Except that this foe wore a leather skirt and easily jumped over the sweeping staff.


And in an instant, Gabrielle's arms were holding her tight, her face buried in the warrior's chest. Xena's heart was right; it was exactly what she needed. She returned the embrace with a relieved sigh. Gabrielle looked up, her eyes full of questions. The warrior held a finger to the bard's lips. "Let's get out of here," she whispered and spun around heading away from the camp before the bard could say any more.

Silently they crept through the trees until they came to Argo. Xena swung up into the saddle and offered an arm to her companion who was showing no inclination to accept the help up.

"I could have gotten away without your help, you know."

"I know." Her arm was still extended.

Gabrielle studied her friend. "You don't look so good. You've lost weight."

"I know."

"What took you so long?" The query was calm but Xena felt sudden danger.

"I came as soon as I heard you were in trouble."

"Otherwise you wouldn't have come at all?"

Oh, oh. While Xena acknowledged that she wasn't the most sensitive soul on Gaea's green earth, she hadn't lived this long without the uncanny ability to accurately gauge the subtle nuances of her surroundings and she now determined that the air had just gotten several degrees chillier. Xena suddenly cast an alert gaze into the darkness. "They're coming!" she hissed, reaching for her companion's arm.

Years of experience had taught the bard not to question Xena's instincts even though nothing seemed out of order to her. She grabbed the proffered arm and swung up behind the warrior. Xena urged Argo on as fast as they dared through the trees and back on to the road. She breathed a small sigh of relief, hoping against hope that Gabrielle would not utter those four little words that always caused her gut to spasm.

The bard tapped her shoulder. "We have to talk," she said firmly.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

Chapter 10

After persuading Gabrielle that silence was needed until they were safely away from Creon's camp, the pair rode steadily in the silvery moonlight until late in the night. Xena would have been content to ride like this forever, with Gabrielle's arms around her waist and her head leaning against the warrior's back. Not that she would admit to anyone, even herself, how much she had missed her friend. When Gabrielle was sure the numbness in her posterior was a permanent condition and Argo was beginning to labor, Xena finally halted the horse and slid off, helping the bard down and led them into the forest to an area hidden from the road.

"We can't build a fire, Gabrielle, it's too dangerous." Xena removed Argo's saddle and the saddlebags. The horse wandered over to the small nearby stream and took a much needed drink of water.

"Fine with me," the bard said wearily. "Let's just go to sleep." She pulled out the warrior's bedroll and sank down wearily. Within minutes she was fast asleep. Xena listened to the gentle snoring and felt a peace within her that had been missing since the bard's departure. She brushed a stray lock of golden hair away from Gabrielle's face and gently kissed her cheek, wondering if that peace would once more take flight after they had her friend's much longed for talk. Sighing, she settled against a tree and prepared to defend against intruders, the blackness, and her own dark fears.

Gabrielle woke the next morning stiff but well rested from the best sleep she'd had in weeks. Sometime during the night she had awakened and noting that Xena was determined to stand guard, she had simply gathered up the blankets, settled herself within the hollow of her friend's shoulder and thrown the covers over them both. Without a word being exchanged, she was asleep again the minute she felt Xena's arm tighten around her, much to Xena's grateful amusement.

They fell into their well established routine with Gabrielle starting the morning meal while Xena foraged and attended to Argo. After breakfast, Gabrielle finally felt awake enough to finish what should have been done a month ago.

"Xena...," she began.

Her companion knew she would not be put off any longer. "Gabrielle," Xena interrupted, "I love you." That stopped the bard for a least a couple of heartbeats. "I just wanted you to know that," the warrior continued, "before we do anymore talking."

"I do know that." Gabrielle smiled in spite of herself then looked stern. "But that's not the problem is it?"

No, it certainly wasn't. Xena tried again. "I do trust you, you know," Xena said finally.

"You trust me to cook your food and not poison it," Gabrielle replied. "You trust me to carry the dinars and not rob you blind. You trust me to find the best bargains in the marketplace and negotiate deals between disputing parties, but you don't trust me to protect your life. I was wrong in Chin and I've admitted that. And if you expected me to see Hope as anything but my daughter, you were wrong." She looked at her friend sadly. "Now you don't trust me to back you in any fight."

"I just don't want to keep putting you in a position where you have to choose between what you know is right and what I believe is right. One of these days you'll defend me and end up violating every principle you hold dear. I don't want to be responsible for that."

Gabrielle thought for a moment. "It's too late for that now, my friend. My view of good and bad, right and wrong has been changing ever since we met. Maybe that's because I'm getting older, I don't know, and things just don't seem so black and white anymore. Or maybe it is because of your influence. You're a strong woman, Xena, with strong convictions. But my principles are not your responsibility. It'll be my choice in the end."

"And my soul is mine, Gabrielle."

They both studied the ground for a moment knowing Xena would never stop protecting the bard as Gabrielle would never stop trying to rescue the warrior's soul. They loved too much to stop now.

"I don't know why I said what I did about betraying me," Xena said finally. "I forgave you a long time ago, after Illusia."

Gabrielle looked up. "But when will you forget?" she asked softly. For that her friend had no reply.

 Xena finished loading Argo then turned reluctantly to face Gabrielle. "Are you still going to Amazonia?" she asked quietly.

The bard nodded. "Yes, but I want to see what happened to Theocles first." She paused for a moment studying the warrior's face. All her friend had to do was ask her to stay. "What are you going to do?"

Xena refused to meet her gaze. She looked at the horizon and shrugged. "I don't know." She fiddled with Argo's reins.

Gabrielle sighed. She knew this was all she was likely to get. "Goodbye, Xena. You'll always be welcome by the Amazons." She reached up and kissed Xena's cheek before turning away.


The bard turned back and looked at her questioningly.

"I want to come home," Xena said quietly. "I miss my family."

Gabrielle shook her head, feigning confusion. "Amphipolis is that way," she said waving a hand to the east. "But you know that." Come on Xena, she urged silently, you're almost there.

Xena shook her head in frustration. The bard didn't seem to understand. "No! Not there. I..." She stopped, trying to find the right words. It seemed like everything she said lately came out wrong.

Being one of the more sensitive souls on Gaea's green earth, Gabrielle had a good idea what her companion was struggling to say, but for once she was not going to speak for her. Her hopes were dashed when her friend looked away, saying nothing. Gabrielle turned away once more. "Go home Xena, wherever that may be. I wish you peace." She stopped abruptly when a hand suddenly clamped down on her shoulder.

"Wait, Gabrielle." The urgency in the warrior's voice caused Gabrielle to turn around and stare at her, determined not to move until Xena finally managed to spit it out.

Xena looked down at the bard, who was staring at her with an expectant gaze, and smiled ruefully. "You're not going to help me out here, are you?"

"Nope. Not unless you want me to whack you between the eyes a couple of times."

Those piercing beautiful blue eyes narrowed. "That won't be necessary." She took a deep breath and began, "My soul is just an empty expanse of desolate wasteland without you. My spirit blooms in your presence and dies in your absence. My heart...my heart...," she floundered and looked disgusted. "What a crock of... Aww Tartarus, Gabrielle, I miss you, and I'm dying without you."

Gabrielle blinked. "That was pretty good." More than she expected in fact. Maybe it was time to give her a hand. "So, your home is still with me?"

Xena nodded. This wasn't exactly the reaction she was hoping for but at least the bard hadn't run away.

"And I'm still part of your family?"

"You'll always be my family," Xena replied. Of that she had no doubt.

Gabrielle stared at her, thinking. She wanted to do nothing more than throw herself into Xena's arms and vow never to disappoint her again. But she knew that was a vow she was unlikely to keep. Too much had happened. Too much had changed. She had changed. And there was still too much left unresolved between them. She willed her arms to stay at her sides.

Xena tried to hide her disappointment at the bard's hesitation. "It's all right, Gabrielle," she said gently. "I've handled things badly and if you don't want to be with me, I understand." She turned to mount Argo.

Gabrielle grabbed her arm. "No! It's just that I've changed so much these last few months. I won't follow you blindly anymore, Xena. I won't stand by and watch you assassinate someone. I don't care how much they deserve it. You have to accept me for who I am now. Can you do that?"

Oh yeah, she could do that. You made allowances for family. You forgave family. You loved them in spite of their mistakes. Gabrielle had taught her that. Xena nodded to the gentle green eyes. "Gabrielle, you never followed me blindly and I never wanted you to. I know we'll never see eye-to-eye on everything but I still believe we can work things out when we disagree. I promise you, I'll listen to you better from now on. You won't even have to hit me with your staff."

Gabrielle couldn't stop the tears, she didn't even try. "Then...please...come home, Xena." She gasped as she suddenly found herself in a bone crushing hug. She relaxed and returned the embrace, laughing softly. "I love you too."

They stood for long moments resting in the comfort of each others arms until Xena finally released the bard. Grabbing Argo's reins she started walking down the road. "Let's go then. We'll have to find where you were attacked if we're going to find Theocles." She started to hum happily to herself.

Gabrielle stared after her. Xena humming a lullaby? And here she thought all the warrior sang were dirges. She wiped away the last few tears and ran to catch up. "Xena, what did you do to Antipany?" she asked.

Xena glanced at her companion. "Nothing."

"Nothing?" Gabrielle asked with some trepidation.

"Well...I did put the pinch on her. And she got her revenge. I'd say it came out about even."

"I gather she was still alive when you left?"

"Oh yes, a little livid, but most definitely alive," Xena replied with some regret.

"What was her revenge?"

Xena grimaced. "It seems by virtue of being Antandra's godmothers we've become full fledged members of Antipany's... family." She looked like she just ate a green persimmon.

Gabrielle looked startled then snickered as the possible consequences of that development sunk in.

Xena looked at her, irritated. "That's not a laughing matter. There are certain members of our family who I'd rather not see anytime soon. She's one of them."

Gabrielle stared ahead thoughtfully. She was so happy to be with Xena again. But she wondered if her companion would ever truly trust her. She considered apologizing once more for her betrayal, for Solon's death, but knew in her heart that it would be a futile gesture. Xena was a woman of action, not words. Actions formed a solid foundation to the warrior while words were carried away by the breeze. Well, it had taken three years to build that bond of trust before she destroyed it and if it took another twenty to rebuild it, then so be it. She just hoped they were given the time.

"So they decided to name her Antandra, huh? I like that. Our family sure has grown over the last three years, hasn't it? Your relatives, mine, Solon, a demigod and his sidekick, a thief..."

"Now there's a family member to be proud of."

"...a merchant..."

"Otherwise known as a swindler in some villages."

"Please, Xena." Gabrielle jabbed her gently in her ribs. "A whole nation of Amazons, a sorceress..."

"A madwoman you mean. And don't forget her vulture."

"I didn't forget Argo either. And several wonderful godchildren. A little unusual but It's a pretty good family, Xena."

Xena put an arm around her companion's shoulder. "Yeah, I guess it is. You'll always be the center of mine, Gabrielle. Always." Then her soul grew as lush as a verdant forest when Gabrielle smiled up at her, while her spirit blossomed into a thousand brilliant colors and her heart... Her heart sang with the complex melodies of a chorus, not that Xena was aware of it. All she knew was that it was great to be home.

They walked in comfortable silence for a few moments.

"Xena, can we talk?" Gabrielle grunted in discomfort as the arm around her shoulder spasmed.


"Sure, Gabrielle."


There are times when love is not enough.
Or loyalty. Or trust. Or honor. Or forgiveness.
Or any of the other building blocks that form strong relationships and meld families.
There are times when the only way to keep a home standing is simply to forget.


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