By katharsis9

Disclaimer: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Cyrene, and Joxer belong to Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal Studios, blah blah blah. The story is mine, though. Other smart remarks which may, or may not be familiar belongs to Morrisey/Marr Songs Ltd.

Sex/Violence/Language Warning/Disclaimers: Rated NC-17 for raunchy dialogue, some language, and yes! Two grrls making sweet love. "Sex! They're having sex!" as Harry Kim would say. Oh yeah, and quite a few folks get their butts whupped. If this sort of thing is like, illegal where you live, then stop and turn back. If you're under 18, what the heck are you doin' here? Shoo! Go out and play! If it is legal and you are of legal age, and this sort of stuff bothers you, then you have one of two choices: one, take some time to re-evaluate your sexuality, or two: Get out! If ya can't handle the thought of Xena getting her hands up Gabrielle's-Whoa! HELL-o! Uh, sorry. Got a little carried away for a moment, there.

Spoiler Alert: This story takes place after IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL, before A GOOD DAY and tosses in some refs to SOUL POSSESSION.

Geek Alert: Yes, I like Joxer. Deal with it.

Notes: I came up with this right after I watched the final episode. I can't believe she's really gone. All this time and she has to die because of some STUPID accident?!? No, I ain't too fond of Akemi, either. Seems to me that she should be the one to stay dead. Besides, from what I understand about Japanese culture, the burden belongs to the one who set the events in motion. If it wasn't for Akemi...never mind that I felt that it was historically inaccurate, either. The “Japa” we've seen seems a little too many centuries ahead of its time, and another thing, the ancient name for Japan is NIPPON. Where do they get this “Japa” shit? And DON'T get me started on the mushroom cloud. Hey, here's a thought. I know I'm not the only one who thinks that this backstory doesn't make any sense, or really fits anywhere. What if, since Caesar corrupted the Loom in WHEN FATES COLLIDE, the entire space-time continuum got twisted. With me so far? And then, when Gabrielle burned the Loom, our grrls simply skipped over from an alternate timeline where all the “Japa” events NEVER HAPPENED. To prove my point, watch WHO'S GURKHAN? Where Xena is questioning the lady who “comes from a land so far East, they call it The Land of the Rising Sun” and it's obvious that Xena's never heard of it. IT WAS A TIME WARP, PEOPLE! Aren't you glad I'm also a Trekkie? Don't worry. I'll deal with that issue in another story...

Updated notes: Yes!!! I just found out they're making a movie! Whew! Glad I signed that petition twice...

Comments, or whatever are welcome, just email me at:
If you're nice I'll answer ya, but if ya flame me, feel the wrath of my adamantium claws. Anyway, now that we've lost the prudes, the kids and the confused, onward shall we go...

i'm losing ground
you know how this world can beat you down
i'm made of clay
i fear i'm the only one who thinks this way
i'm always falling down the same hill
bamboo puncturing this skin
and nothing comes bleeding out of me just like a waterfall i'm drowning in
2 feet below the surface i can still make out your wavy face
and if i could just reach you maybe i could leave this place
i do not want this...


        The forest seemed to stretch out forever. The tall trees rose proudly from the soft, fertile earth, sporting the greenest of leaves through which the early morning sun peeked. Padding silently and swiftly through the wooded serenity was a tall, raven-haired beauty garbed in a striking leather battle dress. Piercing blue eyes scanned the surroundings, no detail going unnoticed.
        Suddenly, she froze, her keen hearing detecting a snapping twig. She slid behind a tree and waited, sword already drawn. She listened again to the sounds coming in her direction from three hundred paces away. Her shoulders sagged when she heard the faint, unmistakable sounds of squeaking, clanging metal.
        Hephaestus on crutches, he followed me.
        She rolled her eyes and debated whether to double back and lose him, or just clobber him as he passed by. Not that either of them would do any good. The guy just kept coming back for more. She sheathed her sword with a grumble.
        Just DON'T start singing that stupid-
        “Joxer the Mighty, roamin' through the countryside-“ The wannabe warrior clinked and clanked along the grass, shrugging his shoulders to shift and adjust the plates of metal of his body. He sneezed just as he was about to sing the second verse. “Dang rye dust-*Ah-chooo!* *Ahem! * With Gabby as his sidekick fighting with her little-*URK!*” His feet were no longer touching the ground, as he was being hauled up by the scruff of the neck by a not-too-pleased-
        “Xena! Hi!” He waved, oblivious to the scowl on the warrior's classic features.
        “Joxer, what in Tartarus are you doing following me?”
        “Well, so much for sneaking out of your mom's tavern, eh? By the way, she's kinda pissed and says for you to get your leather-clad butt back home. Quote unquote. Honest!”
        Quirked eyebrow.
        “Well, she DID send me.”
        Gritting teeth.
        “Uh, wanna put me down? I'm getting light-headed.”
        With a sigh, Xena let Joxer down. “What else did she say?”
        “Well, that was basically it. So, come you left Gabby there?”
        A grimace crossed Xena faced, and she abruptly turned, muttering, “I don't want to talk about it.” She began to walk along her original path, farther away from Amphipolis.
        Joxer watched his friends retreating back. “What? There's a mission ya gotta go by yourself? Ya runnin' an errand? What?” Not getting a response, he trotted after her until he caught up. “Ya know, if you're some mission, I'd be glad to help if Gabby didn't want to-“
        “I'm not on a mission.”
        “So where ya goin'?”
        “How long?”
        “I don't know.”
        His hand shot out and grabbed the warrior princess arm. She stopped and glared at him, then down to the hand on her arm, and back again. Joxer was really pushing it now. “There's something going on you're not telling me?”
        “Joxer...” Her azure gaze conveyed a warning.
        “C'mon, Xena, this isn't like you, leaving Gabrielle at your mom's while you're off doing...whatever. You're my pal, Xena. Both of you are. Wanna tell me what's up with you?”
        Xena easily broke the grip on her arm with a snarl. “I don't want to talk about it. It's none of your business. NONE!” She began to walk away again.
        “All right, then fine!” Joxer called after her. “Have it your way, run away. Besides, I really didn't think you'd be interested in hearing Gabby's message anyway.” Just as he'd figured, Xena stopped dead in her tracks. The look on her face when she turned around made him wish he hadn't initially held back that little detail. She looked like she was ready to cry, or something. “I'm sorry.” Spilled out of his mouth as he walked towards her, head bowed.
        “What did she say?” Xena pleaded with a gentler tone.
        Joxer squiggled his face in discomfort. “Well...pretty much the same thing your mom said, ya know...get your leather-clad butt back home, yadda-yadda-yadda, she misses you, blah-blah-blah, and...” A blush crept on his face as he hurried through the rest of the message. “Please-come-back I-love-you You-could-never-hurt-me-and-I'm-horny.” He squeezed his eyes shut in anticipation of the barrage of blows that would surely land on him.
        Instead he heard a shuddering sigh. “Come on, Joxer. There's a village up ahead so we can talk if you feel like listening. If we keep going, we'll hit it by mid-day.” Xena loped an arm around the bumbling warrior.
        “Uh, sure. Okay. Wanna stop at a tavern?”
        “Yeah, I could use a drink. And you're paying.”


ë??h, I cou

        It was good to come home after a while. Amphipolis hadn't changed much since Xena and Gabrielle had been there last. With Joxer in tow, they made their way through the town towards Cyrene's tavern, Argo's reins held tightly in the warrior's grasp. The city was as vibrant as ever, the gentlefolk smiling and occasionally waving as the three passed by. After tangling with the Scythians, along with such lovely ailments as lice, psoriasis, and stomach flu, Xena's suggestion that they stop at Amphipolis for some R&R was met with cries of enthusiasm.
        The warrior princess scratched her head, satisfied that the lice were no longer making a home there. She glanced over at her constant traveling companion, trying to shut out the sound of grinding metal from the tag-along behind them. The young bard strode happily along, staff in hand, green eyes sparkling. A shadow of foreboding crept around Xena's heart as she remembered the haunting, final vision that Alti had given her. If I have to defy the very gods themselves, I will not let that happen...not to my Gabrielle... Before she knew what she was doing, she pulled the blonde close and pressed her lips against the smooth forehead.
        Gabrielle gazed up in surprise. “What was that for?”
        Xena smiled back. “Just because.”
        The bard smiled dreamily and tightened her grip around her warrior's waist as she whispered, “What, you can't wait till we get a room?” She giggled at her friend's shocked expression.
        Cyrene emerged from the tavern just the three approached. “Xena!” she cried, arms flung wide. She rushed forward and wrapped her arms around her daughter. Once her reins were released, Argo trotted towards the stables, knowing where her stall was.
        “Mother...good to see you.”
        Cyrene stepped back and held Xena at arm's length, looking her up and down. “Look at you.” She frowned at the tiny, circular scars on her daughter's palms. “Xena...?”
        “Long story.” Was all the warrior would allow as she slid her hands back.
        Quirking an eyebrow at that, Cyrene then embraced Gabrielle. “Good to see you too, Gabrielle. Keeping her out of trouble?”
        “Always,” smiled the bard.
        “And you...” The innkeeper then reached for the man dressed in such a ridiculous-looking costume. “You must be Joxer.”
        His face lit up. “Ah, so you've heard of the exploits of Joxer the Mighty. It's an honor to finally meet you.” He took Cyrene's hand and knelt.
        Or, at least he tried to.
        As he went down, his knees buckled at the last moment from the weight of his armor and he sprawled flat on his face. “Ow!”
        Cyrene laughed and helped him back up. “The honor is mine as well. Oh, Xena, he's adorable!”
        “Yeah? Well you can keep him,” her daughter answered with a smirk.
        “Well, what are you all standing around for? Come inside, all of you. You must be hungry and tired after your...” Suddenly, Cyrene's nose wrinkled. “Is that goat dung? Xena...?” She leveled a glare at her daughter.
        “Have you been rolling around in goat dung?” She waggled a finger at a rapidly flustering warrior.
        “Mother, I can explain...”
        Cyrene held up a hand. “Never mind, I don't want to know. You get your leather-clad butt in there and start washing up so you don't stink up the place.”
        “But, Ma...”
        “Now.” The innkeeper's tone brooked no argument.
        “Yes, Mother.” Rolling her eyes, Xena went inside the inn with a giggling Gabrielle right behind her.
        Cyrene turned to Joxer, who stood there shuffling his feet. “That means you too, young man.”
        “Ummm...I would go inside, but...uh...” he muttered as he shifted, metal clanking everywhere. “I don't think I have enough dinars...”
        “Nonsense. You are more than welcome to stay. Any friend of my daughter deserves nothing less. Of course, there are a few things around here that need to be done...”
        “Chores? You've got chores?” Joxer's face lit up once more. “What do you need done? Name it. Hey, your roof's looking a little worn, how about I patch it up for ya? Ya got dishes to wash? No one in all of Greece can outclean Joxer the Mighty...”
        Laughing, Cyrene practically shoved the tin man inside...

        The room was swimming in steam. How Cyrene had gotten the tub filled up with hot water that fast would forever remain the great ancient mystery. Thanks to her efforts, Xena and Gabrielle were now sitting in it, lathering each other with scented soap.
        “Mmm, this is the life,” Gabrielle sighed as from behind, her warrior's hands roamed all over her nubile body. “I'd forgotten how good this feels. I've missed it. Don't you?”
        “Yes,” came the soft reply as she leaned over to plant a kiss on a shoulder. “I've missed you terribly.”
        The silence hung between them as Xena replayed the events of the past few months in her mind. When Gabrielle had plunged into the lava pit with Hope, her world had shattered. The single-mindedness that tempered her warrior persona had kicked into high gear. She was going to see Gabrielle one last time, come Tartarus or high water. She first went to Hades, who'd informed her that Gabrielle wasn't in his Underworld, but perhaps the Amazons'. Upon reaching the Steppes, she'd found the trapped souls of the Amazons she'd murdered waiting to cross over.
        And then, Alti.
        She'd beaten the shamaness, but not without a price. During the struggle, Alti forced her to experience future events. And future traumas. The very last vision found her on a snowy mountain about to be crucified. She turned her head and found a shorthaired Gabrielle. She felt her lips move, not listening to her own words. And then, the breathy voice from the golden-haired beauty to burned into her soul forever...
        I love you, Xena...
        Even as the nails were being driven into her hands, the searing pain spilling over into her physical body, darkening her palms in blood, she'd found the strength to defeat Alti. Gabrielle was alive and she had to find her again. And so, she went back to Greece to find her. Then came that fateful encounter with Ares...
        “You never told me how you got those scars.” The lovely bard's voice snapped her out of her reverie.
        Xena stopped lathering and moved away to rest her back against the tub's edge.. She couldn't tell her. She couldn't. “I got nailed to a tree.” she lied. And will be.
        Gabrielle turned to face her. “And you let it happen? What did Alti do to you?” She took one of the large callous hands and traced her finger over the rapidly fading scar on the palm, marveling at the tiny mole underneath the middle finger.
        “I...” Xena squeezed her eyes shut. I can't tell her...
        “She tortured you, didn't she?” She pressed her lips against the palm and began a trail up her arm.
        If that is what she chooses to believe, then so be it. “Yes. And when she told me you were alive...”
        “Why did she torture you? What did she want?”
        “Gabrielle...” The sweet kisses were at her elbow, now.
        “But you defeated her...and then, you found me.” She kissed her way up the sinewy arm, her hands tightening around the smooth flesh. “It's been so long,” she whispered. When she reached the shoulder, she turned and pressed her lips against Xena's throat, then slid her lips up to the ear, her tongue flicking out. “Make love to me, Xena.”
        The warrior leaned back and groaned at Gabrielle's touch. Their breasts touched together, infusing her body with a scorching heat. Her hands came to rest on the tiny waist, pulling her closer. She closed her mouth on the proffered lips, tasting them, driving her tongue into the willing mouth. “Mmm, Gabrielle.” She moaned as a hand cupped her right breast and began to knead. “Downstairs...Mother...”
        “Can wait.” Gabrielle cupped the chiseled face with her free hand and straddled a muscled thigh...


ë?? wait.” Gabriell

        “Daaaamn.” Joxer said incredulously. “No wonder you're having ouzo. So what's the problem? You two are like...I dunno...”
        They'd reached the tavern in the next village, a bustling place full of rough and tumble men. No one was going to bother the heavily drinking pair sitting at the table off in the corner, since Joxer's companion was so well known in these parts.
        Xena took a huge swallow from her mug, liquid fire pouring down her throat. “Ya wanna hear this, or not? Hef on crutches, I can't believe I'm talking about this to you, of all people...”
        “Hey, you helped me out when I was missing Gabby, so I figure I might as well do the same for you. And then there's that Ares didn't tell her about that, did ya?”
        “Not gonna, huh?”
        “And you'd kill me if I told her?”
        “Well, at least we got that part straightened out. I promise not to, by the way. Not that I'd want to even think about it. It'd kill her. So why'd you sneak out, anyway?”
        “I was getting into it and then you started staring at that bar maid.”
        “What? Me? Nooo, I was listening to you the whole time.”
        “Yeah, with your short sword.”
        “But I don't have a short sword.” Joxer furrowed his brow. Huh? What's she talking about?
        “Sez you.” Xena took another swallow. He'll get it in
        “Oh VERY funny, Xena!”
        The warrior smirked and tapped his mug.. “You're gonna drink that?”
        “Oh, I dunno,”
        “So much for 'I'll have what she's having', eh?”
        “Yeah, I guess. I've never had ouzo before. I mean this is the stuff for your flame-throwing trick, right?”
        “Yeah. Of course this stuff is nothing compared to what Mother makes, but it's good.”
        “Okay, here's goes.” Joxer took a sip. “Mmm. It tastes like licorice.” Once he swallowed, though, his eyes popped open. “WHOA! Hell-o! I think I'm in love.”
        “Told ya.” She grinned when he drank it in one gulp. “Just one thing. After downing it like that, it's not really a good idea to-“
        “-stand up.” Xena shook her head at the wanna-be warrior staring up at her from the floor. When it became clear that he wasn't about to get up, she grabbed him by the collar and hauled him up back on his chair.
        Thanks.” he managed weakly. “Hoooo boy, what a rush.” Just then, a voluptuous blonde barmaid with tits for days appeared beside them with a tray full of mugs balanced on one hand. “Can I get you anything?” she asked in a smoky voice.
        Joxer stared at the luscious sight before him. “Muh-hem. Muh-hemenuh...”
        Xena rolled her eyes. Joxer wasn't gonna be talking coherently for a while. “Gimme a pitcher of ouzo. He's paying.”
        The barmaid fluttered her eyelashes. “Of course.” She set a giant pitcher of the stuff down on the table then leaned over so her boobs were right in Joxer's face. “Two dinars, stud.”
        Struck dumb, Joxer handed her the money. With a sly grin, the barmaid slipped the two coins down her cleavage. “You know,” she drawled. “I can provide...other services, if you know what I mean...”
        Xena tightened her grip on her mug. Now way was she going put up with this shit any longer. “Beat it, wench!” she snapped. “We're talking here.”
        The barmaid tried to glare the warrior down, but cold blue eyes cut into her, daring her to even try it. With a snort, she sashayed away. “Bitch.” she muttered under her breath.
        Xena grasped Joxer's chin, mashing his lips between her fingers and swiveled his head towards her. “Are you done?”
        “All right.” She let go. “Now where was I? Oh yeah, so we're in the tub, right?”


ë?? right

        The steam was so thick you could cut it with a knife, but it wasn't from the hot water anymore. A certain warrior and her bard were a little busy getting reacquainted. Their mouths were welded together, tongues dueling, tasting. Gabrielle was still straddling the warrior's thigh, strong hands cupping her bottom. She slid her hands over broad shoulders before wandering down to full breasts. She squeezed them briefly and ran her thumbs over rock hard nipples. The hands on her bottom tightened as a soft growl rose from Xena's throat. She began to move her hips against the thigh, sighing as her sex throbbed with jolts of pleasure. She tore away form the hungry mouth to capture a breast with her own. She sucked at the nipple, swirling her tongue around, nipping gently, cupping and squeezing the plump flesh. With her free hand, she kneaded the other breast, rolling the erect nipple between thumb and forefinger.
        Groaning from the contact, Xena began to knead and caress the smooth buttocks, feeling the slick heat sliding up and down her thigh. She pressed back, her own sex throbbing against smooth skin. Finally, her hands wandered forward until she felt soft hair swirling underwater. She stroked the delicate folds before finding the erect nub. She fingered it gingerly, eliciting increasing louder moans from her bard. She gasped as pressure on her nipple increased. Giving the sensitive clit one final swipe, she plunged two fingers inside tight wetness, muscles clamping down hard. She began to thrust slowly, her fingers turning slightly as they slid in and out. She bent forward so her lips brushed against the bard's ear. “Oh, how I've missed this...” she whispered. “I've missed you so much. Your voice, your touch, being inside you...” Her free hand slid up from the curvy rear, trailing fingers up the spine before cupping the golden-mopped head, pressing it closer to her aching breast. She stroked the head, running her fingers through the long hair. Her fingers feathered along the delicate cheek.
        Releasing the nipple, Gabrielle threw her head back enraptured in bliss. She raised herself just a bit to reposition herself and began to slide up and down on the fingers inside of her. “Gods...Xena...” She gripped her lover's shoulders and rocked her hips to meet each thrust. “Ohhhh,” she moaned. “Yes. That's feels so good. Yes. right there. “
        Wordlessly, Xena removed one hand from her shoulder and guided it to her own sex. Fingers grasped eagerly at the nether hairs and wormed their way inside. A whimper escaped her lips as she felt herself be filled with two, then three fingers. She brushed her lips against an ear. “Yes...together...come with me.”
        They edged towards the precipice, each slowing down when the other was getting close, then matching their rhythm again. Their mouths met again, devouring each other, their heads tilting back and forth to get a better angle. They were close now, ready to take the plunge into...
        KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK “Xena? Gabrielle? What taking you two so long? Dinner's ready!” It was Cyrene.
        They broke apart in a panic. Gabrielle scooted over to the other side of the tub as Xena slid down so her shoulders was just above the water and thumped her head against the edge mouthing the word, “Fuck.”
        Not getting an answer, Cyrene walked right on in carrying a bundle. “Joxer did such a wonderful job cleaning your leathers. I know how you hate wearing the dresses I make for you. As for you, Gabrielle, your outfit's simply filthy so it needs to be soaked overnight. But in the meantime, since we're about the same size, here's one of my dresses for now.”
        “Thank you, Cyrene.” the bard smiled, resisting an urge to giggle at Xena's pained expression. “Xena? Say something.”
        “Thank you, Mother.” came the reply through clenched teeth. Thankfully her back was to her mother so she wouldn't have to face her. I can't believe she walked in on-Hera's tits! She sank lower into the water.
        Cyrene fussed about some more, putting a pile of clothes on a nearby table, then picking up dirty linen to be washed. “Now, you two hurry up. You don't want your food to get cold. It's your favorite meal, little one, gyro. Why didn't you tell me that Joxer could cook? I have never tasted such-Xena, what are you doing?” She watched in horror as her daughter's head completely disappeared under the water. Gabrielle just shrugged with a wide grin plastered on her face. A stern look crossed the innkeeper's face. “Oh, don't get all dramatic on me, it's nothing I haven't seen before. Don't make me yank you up by your hair, young lady. Warrior or not, you know I'll do it.”
        Xena popped her head back up, looking pleadingly at her mother. “Ma...”
        “Don't you 'Ma' me. Now quit that puppy-dog act and get dressed. At least you don't smell like goat dung anymore. I mean, seriously, Xena! Now hurry up and I'll see you downstairs.” She leaned over and planted a kiss on a blushing forehead before heading out the room.
        Gabrielle began to laugh for the first time in months.
        Xena turned around to glare at her. “What's so damn funny?”
        “Warlords, you can deal with. Gods, you defy. But when it comes to your mother...”
        “Not a word, Gabrielle...”
        “Whatever you say...little one.”
        Shrieks pierced the room as Xena proceeded to dunk that chatty bard.


Clap off...

        “Okay, sis, which one of these low lives insulted you?”
        Xena looked up at the source of the interruption and kept looking. The guy had to be at least six and a half feet tall, and wide, to boot. The barmaid she'd mouthed off at peered from behind. “That's the bitch, Triodes. Stomp her!”
        Just then, Joxer stood up, his head swimming with ouzo. “Hey! Nobody stomps my pal while Joxer the Mighty breathe-*URK*!” Triodes clamped a meaty hand around his throat and hauled him up. “You know,” the tin man croaked, “Now's not a good time to bother her like this, ya know? I mean the last guy to do that is still looking for his teeeeeeeeth.” In an instant, he went flying into the air and crashed into a wall. He slid down with a groan, his helmet drooping over his face.
        Triodes then swung at the warrior princess and connected with empty air. Xena cartwheeled over the table, then kicked it at the giant. Heavy wood smashed against him and he stumbled. “Sheeee-ya!” Xena delivered a roundhouse kick to his head.
        That only made him mad. He lunged at her, his face red with rage.
        "Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi!" She shot straight up in the air and somersaulted, her feet connecting with the back of his head as she landed. She then drove an elbow behind her into his kidney. He howled in pain and turned, swinging wildly. She ducked into a crouch sweeping his legs out from under him. When he finally went down, she stepped over and mashed a foot into his crotch. Her lips curled into a snarl. “You got a problem, fuckhead?”
        His eyes were squeezed shut with the pain as he struggled to breathe.
        Just then, the barmaid began to pound on Xena's back. “You leave my little brother alone, you harpy!”
        She rolled her eyes in annoyance then reached behind her and grabbed a pinkie. The barmaid squealed and sank to her knees. Xena pulled the barmaid around and hauled her upright until they were face to face. “Okay. Let's get a few things straight. Your 'little' brother just tossed my friend halfway across the room. I don't like that. I also don't like that you've been bothering us when we're trying to have a decent conversation. Now you take this piece of shit and your tits and leave us the fuck alone. You got that?”
        Pained nod and whimper.
        “Oh, and get us another pitcher of ouzo.” She let go and handed the barmaid five dinars. With a final ground of her foot, Xena let Triodes back up, who lumbered off hunched over in pain and holding his crotch. The barmaid ran after her brother. The warrior then strode over to Joxer and hauled him back up. “Hey, Joxer. you all right?”
        He blinked once, a silly grin on his face. “Mommy? Is that you?”
        “Come on.” Dragging Joxer along, she went back to their table and kicked it upright again. She sat him down and peered at him. “Hey, you in there?”
        “Uh-huh.” he paused as the barmaid returned with two pitchers of ouzo, then scurried away. He stared after her stupidly for a moment before turning back to Xena. “Okay, I'm done.”
        “Whatever, Joxer. Now, where was I?”
        “Your mom embarrassed you in front of Gabby and...”
        “Oh yeah.”


        Cyrene's heart was filled with joy at seeing her daughter again. She sang to herself as she went from table to table. The three travelers sat at a small table nearest to the counter and feasted on gyros, salad, and baklava. Dressed in her newly cleaned leathers, Xena devoured her food, noting how hungry she was. As usual, Gabrielle's appetite was gigantic. Even with her mouth stuffed with food, she chatted happily about the story ideas humming inside her head. Xena listened and nodded, adding a comment here and there. When she tasted the baklava, her eyes sparkled and she all but devoured it in one bite. Joxer beamed happily. “You know I made that, didn't ya? Didn't ya?”
        “Murm mulll? Muurrphmurph.” Said Gabrielle with a mouthful of food.
        Swallow. “I said, it's a great improvement over your radish soup.”
        “Hey, my radish soup was not that bad!”
        “Tell that to the Scythians. So, how long are we staying here, Xena?”
        “Maybe a few days.” The warrior answered. She looked around the common room, tracking her mother with her eyes. This may be the last time I see you, Mother. There's so much I want to tell you, but I can't break your heart… She looked again at the strawberry blonde bard chatting happily with Joxer. It wouldn't be so bad if I died alone. Oh, Gabrielle, my heart, my soul…
        “Little one? You're so quiet, is there something wrong?” Carrying a tray of dishes and mugs, Cyrene came up to her brooding daughter. When she turned those ice blue eyes towards her, Cyrene's heart sank. Something's happened. “Daughter…”
        The warrior mask slid back into place. “I'm fine, Mother.”
        Not wanting to press her further, Cyrene smiled and moved on. My poor child…what heartache troubles you?


I sure am…

        “I know that part. We had dinner. So what was going on with ya, anyway?” Joxer slurred, feeling no pain now.
        "You wouldn't understand..." Xena slurred back.
        "Try me. Look, Xena, I'm worrying about you here. So's your mom, which is why she sent me, and let's not get started on Gabby. I mean, you just got her back. Did something happen while you were looking for her? Gabby mentioned something about a shamaness, or something."
        At the mention of Alti, Xena stiffened. The woman was dead, and still she felt her icy fingers wrapped around her throat.
        "Hey, Xena. You okay?" Joxer placed a tentative arm around the warrior's tensing shoulders. "So that's it. She was the one who gave you the vision, wasn't she? What was in it? What did you see?"
        Xena shook her head. "I can't. I just can't, okay?"
        "Okay. But you can't shut Gabrielle out forever. Eventually, you'll have to tell her. Look, I love her with all my heart and I know that I may never have a chance with her, but if she's with someone who makes her happy...then I'm glad it's you."
        Xena looked at the man with such a wistful expression on his face. She put her arms around him and hugged him. "Thank you, friend. You may be a fool at times, but you're loyal, honest and trustworthy, for which I am most grateful. I guess if you went through this much trouble..."
        "Your mom, too. She DID send me..."
        "Then I owe you some sort of explanation as to why I left. I can't tell you what was in the vision, but.."
        "I know. Go on, tell me why you left. So, we're having dinner, mom comes up to ya, worried as heck..."


ë??now. Go on, tell me why you left. So, we're hav

        The crowd in the common room began to thin as patrons finished their dinners and went off to their rooms, or to their homes. A few of them stayed behind just long enough to speak briefly with Cyrene with gossip and other news. Some long-time neighbors went up to Xena herself to say hello. By the time the moon rose high into the sky there was no one left except the warrior, the bard, the bumbler and the innkeeper. As soon as dinner was over, Joxer leapt into action. He went from table to table clearing up dirty dishes. Cyrene opened her mouth to protest when the tray was snatched from her hands. "I got it, Cyrene." He blazed a trail to the kitchen and then the sounds of water splashing could be heard. Gabrielle looked towards the sound in alarm and mumbled something about helping him. "Just to make sure he doesn't break anything," she said before following him into the other room. Xena remained seated, contemplating the rough pattern on the wooden table, not looking up when her mother approached.
        Cyrene looked after them shaking her head. "Xena, when you said I could keep him..."
        "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Xena replied with a wave of her hand. "You'll never get rid of him now."
        Cyrene reached down and stroked her daughter's raven hair. "I've got you. Will you be staying for a while?"
        "For how long?"
        "I don't know, Ma."
        "Is something troubling you, little one?"
        "No, Ma. I'm fine."
        "Don't give me that. You've just gotten back together with Gabrielle, and yet you look as if it's your last day on Earth. Did you know that Epeios said that the Roman civil war's heating up and may be headed our way?"
        Xena stiffened. Too close. She thought back to that snowy mountain where she and Gabrielle were about to...
        "You're not dying, are you?" Cyrene pressed a worried hand against her daughter's head. "Are you ill? Shall I send for a healer? You look pale."
        "No, Mother. I'm fine. Really." She gently removed her hand and gazed up at her mother's eyes, so blue like her own. "I'm just...I guess I'm worried about you, with all the wars going on, I might not always be to protect you, and..."
        "Is that all?" Cyrene broke into light laughter. "Oh, Xena. You know that I can take care of myself just fine. I do have weapons stored somewhere so I can rally the neighbors."
        "You do?" Xena frowned. "Since when?"
        "Zaar left them for me, before he died. You do remember Zaar, don't you?"
        "Yeah." Finally, a smile. "The Greek with an Egyptian name. And the whole village thought he was just a crazy old man who'd once fought under Alexander the Great a long time ago."
        "Except you and me, of course. And, I never told you this, but...when your father tried to.." She paused, pained at the memory. "And I stopped him...Zaar found me, with the body, and he helped me. He hauled your father's body to a barn at his own house and buried him deep. Then, he came back and helped me clean up. And he promised me that no one would ever know. And no one ever did."
        "Until you told me. You never did mention Zaar's help, though. I guess I owe him yet another debt."
        "Yes, and so do I. He stayed, wanting to make sure you were all right, and stopped by from time to time to see you and your brothers."
        "And I'd always wondered why he looked at me with such sadness. Did I tell you I once asked him to marry you so he could be my father?"
        "And he said, 'I already have a soul mate, but I will be a father to you if you wish.' I miss him."
        "So do I. He was such a sweet man. And Xena?"
        "I know he was the one who taught you to use a sword, even though I didn't want him to."
        "You knew all this time, huh? He was magnificent. He didn't just wield the sword. He danced with it."
        "And he taught you so well."
        "Out of all the mentors I've had, I hold him dearest to my heart. I came back here once around eight winters ago, looking for him. You didn't know I was here, though. I wanted to show him how much I'd learned. And Philolaos, his...soul mate, found me first and told me that he was dead, but he was thinking of me and..." she reached under the table and drew her sword. "He wanted me to have this."
        Cyrene looked on in wonder. "I knew that once belonged to Zaar, but I was never sure. And now you honor his memory by wielding it in the name of justice. He would have wanted that. He always saw something in you. After you first left when you defeated Cortese, I was so angry at you. I felt you'd betrayed me by following in your father's footsteps. But Zaar didn't see it that way. He told me that you may have strayed from the path but you were destined for greatness, and that one day you would see the light. And you did."
        "Yes. Took me long enough, though." Xena nodded solemnly and raised her mug. "To Zaar, who always believed in me when no one else did." She drank deeply, then turned to her mother. "You through worrying about me, now?"
        Cyrene laughed. "As long as you're done worrying about me, little one." She smiled as Gabrielle and Joxer emerged from the kitchen. "I hope you two didn't turn my kitchen upside down."
        "Of course not, Cyrene." the bard smiled as she went over to Xena and wrapped her arms around her shoulders from behind. "Did you two have a nice talk?"
        "Yeah," Xena patted the hands around her.
        "Got any more chores, Cyrene?" Joxer asked.
        "Well," The innkeeper began, glancing at the two women at the table. "Now that you've mentioned it, there is a door hinge that needs some attention. Do you want me to show you?" She took the bumbling warrior by the arm and lead him out of the room, turning once to wink at her daughter.
        "Yeah, sure! And while I'm, at it, how about I fix that..." Their voices trailed behind them as they exited.
        Once they were alone, Gabrielle tightened her hold and nuzzled her warrior's neck. "Hmmm, now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?"
        "What, you can't wait till we get to our room?"
        "MmmmmNo." The bard proceed to suck at the smooth neck, inhaling the unique scent, then protruding her tongue to trail up to a sensitive ear lobe.
        "Then I'll simply have to remedy that." Grabbing the arms on her in a tight grip, Xena abruptly stood. One twist later, she had the bard slung over her shoulder. "Now. You were saying..." She pinched the butt playfully.
        Squeals from behind.
        "I'm sorry, what was that? You liked that?"
        Tiny pounds on her back.
        "Then what are we standing around for, let's finish what we started, eh?"
        She walked off to her old room in the back. She walked in, and kicked the door shut. With a shrug, she let Gabrielle slide off her and onto the bed. The bard landed with a giggle, arms stretched wide.
        Instantly, the vision reared its ugly head once more. She froze, hovering over the prone body below her. She can almost see the snow swirl around her as the Roman guards raised their hammers to drive the spikes home...
        "Xena? What's wrong?" A soft hand brushed against her face.
        The warrior steeled herself against the gnawing fear. No.
        That sweet voice called to her, awakening the desire within. She gazed at the beauty sprawled before her, waiting and willing. Finally, she stretched out on the bed beside her. "Gabrielle," she murmured. "I'm sorry, I..."
        "Shhh." The delicate fingers on her face went to her lips. "You don't have to say anything. Just love me." The bard raised herself and replaced the fingers with her lips.
        Xena shuddered at the touch. She moved her lips against the sweet pressure, the fire in her belly rising into an inferno. With a groan, she wrapped her arms around the smaller body and rolled on top of her. Her mouth opened and her tongue darted out, seeking entrance. The sweet cavern opened under her assault and soon their mouths melted together, the tongues executing a slow sensual dance. Shifting, the warrior slid a leg between eager thighs. Her hands wandered to the top of the dress covering the heaving chest and began to pull...
        Breaking the kiss, Gabrielle sat up. "Mmmm, be careful, you don't want to tear your mom's dress. Here, let me help you." Wriggling her shoulders, she pulled the dress down off of her, exposing pert breasts. Xena's hands covered her own as she yanked it free and tossed it aside. Naked in all her glory, Gabrielle reached up and cupped her breasts, spreading her legs wide. She undulated her hips, knowing full well the effect it would have on Xena. The patch of gold between her legs glistened in the candlelight, wet with her desire. A hand reached down and stroked it, gathering the juices before making its way to her mouth. She closed her lips on it, sighing happily. "Take off those leathers, Warrior."
        Xena shed herself of her leathers and shift in one swift motion then descended on the beauty. Their bodies shuddered with electricity when they came together. Their mouths met again, exploring anew. Xena's hands snaked its way down to the golden font below and groaned when she found a flood of wetness. "Couldn't wait, could you?" she growled.
        Gabrielle thrust her hips against the hand in reply. "" she panted. "Can't hold...out..any...longer. Please."
        "Please, what?" Feeling the need to tease her lover, Xena fluttered her fingers, parting the folds and trailing around the entrance, deliberately avoiding the most sensitive parts, the heady scent of arousal reaching her nostrils.
        "Please. Inside me...stop teasing." Sweat began to bead the bard's face. She reached down to help and her hands were immediately batted away. "AAARGH! Xena! All right, you're gonna pay for that." She bent forward and clamped her mouth down on one of Xena's breasts. Hard.
        The warrior yelped in surprise. She jerked up, but the bard's mouth was still attached to aching mound, sucking noisily. "Gods," she moaned as the sensation washed over her. She looked down at green eyes peering back up looking oh-so-innocently. Not. She cradled the head reveling in the touch. "You wouldn't..." Then squeaked when small hands found her center and plunged two fingers inside. "You weren't kidding, were ya?" She managed to croak.
        Grinning wickedly, Gabrielle slid her fingers in and out, enjoying the smooth slickness contracting and clutching at her probing digits. She rubbed her thumb over the swollen bud and increased the pressure, adding another finger. "Hmmmm, let's see if the how long the stoic warrior can take this, eh? Tease me, willya?"
        "Ohhh, Ga-bri-ellllllle." Xena spread her legs wide and clutched at the assaulting hand driving it deeper inside her. Her muscles clamped down hard on on them. She was close, now. For what seemed like an eternity, she panted, bouncing up and down, then froze, the orgasm washing over her like a tidal wave. "Urrgh! Uuugh! Aaaargh!" She fell forward, collapsing on top of her lover. She began to hum wordlessly, as shudders continued to wrack her frame.
        Gabrielle wrapped her free hand around her warrior, speaking in soothing tones. 'Shh, it's okay. I've got you."
        "I love you."
        "I love you, too. And Xena?"
        "Wanna let go of my hand? It's starting to cramp."
        "Oh. Sorry." She reached down and slid the fingers out of herself.
        Gabrielle put her newly freed hand to her mouth and sucked. "Hmmm. Sweet. Like baklava. Taste?" She touched her fingers against Xena's lips, which closed on them and drew them in.
        "Mmm. You're right. It DOES taste like baklava. Kinda makes me wonder if you taste the same."
        "Well, there's only one way to find out." And with that, the bard pushed roughly at the warrior's head. "Now," she growled.
        Obediently, Xena began to kiss a trail down the smaller body, pausing at the breasts and closing a mouth over one erect nipple, then the other, before continuing her journey. She grinned to herself as she felt the body writhe beneath her. She placed both hands on bucking hips. "So much for an all-nighter." When she reached the patch of golden hair, she kissed it delicately, inhaling the sweet scent. She parted the folds once more, revealing a deep pink, and a river of desire trickling from it. She licked at the font, tasting the delicate taste of her bard. "Hmmm, not quite the same as me, but sweeter. And why did I wait so long?" She touched her tongue to the quivering nub. Gabrielle shuddered violently, pleading her not to stop. "Whatever you wish, my bard." She swirled her tongue against the soft flesh, moans filling her ears. She brought her hands up and began to trail her fingers around the entrance before inserting one finger. The muscles clutched at it and she began to slowly slide it in and out. She added a second finger and closed her mouth against the bud, sucking it. She felt her own desire rise again.
        "Ooohhh, Xena! Gods! Harder! More!" Gabrielle's hands flew to the raven head and tugged at the hair, then clutched at the ears.
        "Ow!" Getting the hint, Xena moved faster, bring her bard to the release she so desperately needed. She devoured the pulsing flesh before her, sensing that the flood was approaching rapidly. She nipped at the bud, knowing it would send her over the edge.
        She plunged. "AAAAAH, XENA!!! AAAGH! AHH!! YES!!! OH GODS! Uhhnngh! Ahh! Oooh! Oh, Xena..." Her hips bucked wildly, as she shuddered, tensing her muscles. She gripped the covers in balls of fist, and finally her head dropped back down on the bed...
        Pant. Pant. "What?"
        "Thighs. You're squashing my head."
        "Oh Sorry." She loosened her thighs and sighed as her warrior slithered back up to kiss her deeply. "Oh, Xena. That was wonderful." She cradled her love's head, gazing into blue eyes.
        "YOU are wonderful, love. I've missed this so much. I couldn't bear to be away from you for so long." Xena took one hand and tenderly kissed the palm.
        "I'm glad you found me. I just hope that whatever you went through was worth it." She yawned, exhausted from the workout.
        Again, the vision cam back with a vengeance. A pang of impending loss pierced her soul. "It was," she replied softly. Only to lose you again? Oh, gods. "I never want to lose you again."
        "Hmmmm." She snuggled closer, wrapping her arms around her love.
        "Gabrielle. Gabrielle. There's something I need to tell you."
        "Mmm-hmmmm." She snuggled contentedly against the warm chest.
        "The vision I saw, the one Alti gave me that showed me you were alive. You...we...were..."
        A soft snore was her only reply.
        Hephaestus on crutches...

        Later in the night, still awake, Xena gazed down at the sleeping form before her and sighed. She couldn't tell her. Not now. It was too soon. Dammit, she couldn't even bring herself to tell her mother. She turned to the window, where twilight was about to descend. Only a few candlemarks before sunrise. Everyone else was still asleep. She listened intently, the sounds of Joxer's snoring from another room wafting over her. Cyrene wouldn't be up yet. I need to get out of here. I need to think, clear my head and sort this shit out. Silently, she slid out from underneath Gabrielle, and donned her leathers. Using the utmost care, she then put on her armor, then her sword and chakram. Before exiting, she cast a long look at her lover, who was oblivious to the impending pain and death awaiting her in the future. I'll be back, my love, I don't know when. I cannot bear to break your heart after we had just come together again. Soon. She crept out of the room and into the dark night air.
        Cyrene was up at dawn, going around the inn to prepare for yet another busy day. She passed by her daughter's room and smiled to herself. Not up, yet, eh little one? I am so happy you let Gabrielle into your life.
        She made her way to the common room, where she found Joxer hard at work sweeping.
        "Hi, Cyrene!" He beamed happily. "I thought I'd get a jump-start on things. There's stew brewing in the kitchen, I hope you like it."
        "Thank you, Joxer. Just try not to put me out of a job, all right? Now sit and have some breakfast."
        "Oh...okay." Putting the broom down, he plopped into a chair, armor clanking heavily. "By the way, have you seen Xena?"
        "No, she must be still asleep."
        "Uhhh, no. She's usually up at this hour."
        "Hmm, now that you've mentioned it, she usually chops some wood for me. Don't move, let me." She walked outside to the barn, listening for the telltale sounds of metal cutting wood. "Xena?" She peered inside, finding it empty. That's strange. Maybe she is still asleep, amazing as it is. But from what I heard last night, should it be any surprise? Or maybe she went hunting? She then checked the stable, where Argo was chewing contentedly on some grass. With a sigh, Cyrene went back to the tavern. She reached out her her hand just in time to prevent Joxer from standing up again. "Sit, young man. I'm getting breakfast." She went to the kitchen where the scent of a delicious stew wafted in the air. She ladled two bowls, placed them on a tray and brought it out to the common room. "Here you go, Joxer." She placed the bowl before him before sitting herself. The stew was delicious. They ate heartily, trading stories of the warrior princess.
        "Cyrene, where's Xena?"
        They both looked up to find Gabrielle at the foot of the stairs, obviously just woken up.
        "I was about to ask you, child." the innkeeper answered, knowing now that something was wrong.
        "I mean...she was with me, and when I woke up, she was gone." Gabrielle was starting to get worried. "You haven't seen her? Her armor and weapons are gone."
        And she was trying to tell me something last night, too. And she couldn't. Oh, Xena why is it so difficult for you the speak what's in your heart? Cyrene sighed, her blue eyes full of sadness. "It seems that she's gone. I hate to say this, but she's done this before. Growing up, whenever something was troubling her deeply, she would run off somewhere and not return for days."
        "But why?" Gabrielle was near tears. "She seemed just fine last night. Why would she leave me?"
        Cyrene got up and hugged the bard. "I don't know, child. But mark my words. She will come back to you. Joxer?"
        "Way ahead of you. I'll pick up her trail and bring her back." He got up, patting himself to make sure his armor was on straight.
        "You tell her to get her leather-clad butt back home by sundown, or I'm coming over to get her myself."
        "Yes, ma'am."
        "Here." Cyrene handed him a pouch. "Here are some dinars, in case you need anything."
        "You've done so much for me already, it's the least I can do."
        "All-righty, I'm on my way..."
        "Wait." Gabrielle went up to him. "I've got a message for her, too." She leaned forward and whispered in his ear. He nodded, then blushed heavily. "Uhhh...Uh...sure. Whatever you want, Gabby. Okay, ladies, I'll be back..." He turned and left, picking up the warrior's trail...


ë??back..." He turned and left, picking up the warrio

        "I'm telling your mom."
        "What, that I got drunk and pounded some guy's ass? Nothing I do shocks her anymore."
        "Oh, yeah? When you took off this morning, she was plenty mad."
        "She was, huh?"
        Xena and Joxer were back in the forest, heading back to Amphipolis. Arm in arm, weaving back and forth, they stumbled along the path, snapping twigs and scaring away anything that might have been in their way.
        "Sooo, lemme get this straight. You've just got Gabby back, you rock her world, get upset over some stupid vision, and you leave? Man, what were ya thinking?"
        "I guess I wasn't. All I wanted ta do wazta clear my head, sort things out..."
        "Because of a STUPID vision? Zeus' left nut, I dunno what was in it, an' nor do I care, but didn't all your tangling with the Olympians tell ya that ya can't always believe what ya see? Maybe it's an illusion, testing your love an' all that shit."
        "Who knows?"
        "Well, whatever happens, whenever ya decide to tell us, we're there for ya? Can ya get that through your thick warrior skull?" He reached up and rapped on Xena's forehead.
        "Ow! Okay, okay, I give. Hef on crutches."
        "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just pay me back by giving another performance."
        "Oh, come on, Xe! I was next door."
        "Don't you have anything better to do than to listen in on a private moment?"
        "A guy can only dream."
        Amphipolis was up ahead. The wove through the town, again waving to the gentlefolk. Not surprisingly, Cyrene was standing in front of her tavern, along with Gabrielle.
        "Ooooh, you're gonna get it noooow." Joxer sang.
        "Can it, Joxer."
        "Finally!" Cyrene called out as she went to greet them. Through her drunken haze, Xena noted that Gabrielle was leaning against the doorway, tapping her foot.
        Not a good sign.
        Xena released her grip on Joxer, letting him slide unceremoniously to the ground. "Mother, I can explain."
        "Don't you start now, Daughter." The innkeeper scolded. "Do you have any idea how much you worried us? How could you take off like that? I don't know what's going on with you, but it has got to stop."
        "But, Ma..."
        "And what about poor Gabrielle? Leaving her like that?" She yanked Joxer back up and shoved him towards the tavern. He teetered and tottered along until he reached the door and fell inside. "And you got that poor man drunk? Seriously Xena, what's wrong with you?"
        "Ma, I needed some time to think, all right? There were some things that I needed to..."
        "And you reek of ouzo. It's way too early in the day for you to be drinking like that. Now you get your leather-clad butt over there and apologize to that poor girl." And with that, she went inside to prop Joxer up once more and dragged him to a table to sit.
        "Yes, Mother." Sheepishly, Xena approached Gabrielle. "Gabrielle, I'm sorry I took off like that. There's something troubling me and I can't talk about it right now, but..."
        The bard held up a hand. "I understand. You'll tell me when you're ready. In the meantime, if you really want to apologize, you can meet me in your room." She leaned up on tip-toes and touched a kiss on her warrior's lips. "And don't keep me waiting..." She turned and went inside, leaving Xena staring after her, dumbfounded. Shaking her head, the warrior princess stepped inside. Cyrene had already gone into the kitchen to prepare lunch and Joxer was sitting at a table looking dazed.
        "See? I told ya." he slurred, grinning like an idiot.
        "Give it a rest, Joxer, willya?"
        "Sure, whatever. Hope yer up ta making it up to her."
        "You're sleeping at the barn tonight, buddy."
        "Not if your mom has a say in it. I just might stay on, or something."
        "Don't get my hopes up. And Joxer, one word about what we discussed, one stinking word..."
        "Xeeeenaaaaaaa. What did I tell you about keeping me waiting?" Gabrielle called from upstairs.
        Xena slung her head in defeat. This was gonna be a loooong night.
        And Joxer had to have the last word, his grin widening even deeper. "Ooooh, she's callin' ya. You heard the lady, get yer leather-clad butt up there. Gods, Xena! For such a formidible warrior, you...are so....whipped!"
        And, dammit, she couldn't quite come up with a snappy comeback to that. "Ummm...err...ah..."



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