Conversations With My Mother

by ArdenTly

Disclaimers: The following story is for mature audiences. It contains scenes of implied sexuality between two consenting females. While there is no violence, per se, there are scenes alluded to from the fourth and fifth season of Xena: Warrior Princess.

That being said, the characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Argo and others alluded to from the series all belong to RenPic, MCA/Universal Studios. No infringement is intended in the writing of this short fanfic. I think it'll be short, but one never knows.

Any and all offerings, burnt or otherwise, can be directed to me at

The two weary travelers dropped their saddlebags and grip with relief as they stood outside the barn.

"Well, it sure is good to be home, huh?" Gabrielle yawned and nodded as she rubbed her buttocks.

"Yeah, as much as I like Argo, I don't think I coulda rode one more mile on her back. She was beginning to feel like a kit bag filled with assorted horse shoes."

Argo snorted and swished her tail derisively. Xena wiped the smirk off her face as the horse passed wind and gave her a long-suffering look.

"Heh, well I bet we didn't feel much better, huh girl?" Dipping into a small bag at her side, Xena brought out a bit of sugar and held it out to her horse.

"C'mon, girl...c' know you want it...c'mon..."

She chuckled deeply as the mare's tongue slid across her hand and up her arm.

Gabrielle shuddered as the spittle drooped in ropes down to the front of her lover's leathers.

"You are not touching me until you wash, warrior. Bleck!"

Xena smirked as the horse continued to nibble her hand with very insistent, yet tender, lips.

"Oh, she just wants to play is all. C'mere. Maybe we can get you all lathered up, too."

Gabrielle yelped and jumped back out of reach as Xena attempted to drag her before the slobbering animal.

"No way! The only lips I want on me are yours, Xena. And any lathering up will come immediately there after." She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

Argo snorted and then brayed at the advancing bard, who then proceeded to wipe the mung from her face and clothes.

"Yuck! Oh, that was pretty. Yes indeed. Thank you so much, Argo."

Xena walked over to the trough and began splashing water on her face and hands.

"Better wash up."

"Trying to get back in my good favour, Xena?" Her smirk slipped as the warrior splashed a large wave her way.

"Nah. We can worry about that later. Now, well, we gotta get cleaned up for Mother. After all, she's been alone these long 25 years we've been gone. Hades, she probably thought we were dead, or something."

"Yeah, but it was nice of Virgil to bring her news. He's such a sweet guy." She sighed with a smile.

"Uh...huh." The warrior arched her eyebrow.

"What? Oh please...not that 'red shirt boy' thing again. You know I only have eyes for you, Xena."

Xena patted her lover's derriere and then grabbed up the heavy saddlebags.

"Gods, what do we keep in these things? They get heavier all the time!"

The bard grinned. "Oh, you know: a little of this, a lot of that."

Cyrene kicked another log into the fireplace and cocked her ear again. 'Yep, sounds like my daughter, all right. Got that skinny bard with her, too, by the sounds o' things. Darned irritating blonde. Well, she must be good for something if Xe's still got her hanging around.'

The door burst open, the two women swept inside, and there the three of them stood, just looking at each other.

"'Lo, Mother." The warrior said as she deposited their weapons behind the bar.

Two eyebrows shot up.

"After all these years, that's all you gotta say to me? 'Hello, Mother'?"

She sighed heavily and then dragged her butt back over to the rocker by the fire.

"Well, c'mon in and set a spell. I guess you must be hungry, and tired, andÉdid you stable some beast in the barn just now?"

Xena scratched her chin. "Yeah, hope that was okay. Argo won't take up much room and we'll be goÉ"

"Argo! What the Hades are you talkin' about, Argo. How could that old mare be still kickin' her heels up? It's been, what, forty years or somethin'?"

"Only twenty-five, actually. Heh, well it's a long story, Ma. See, that's not really Argo, but her daughter, Argo."

"Gods, that sounds lame, Xena." The warrior shot the grumbling bard a dirty look. "And what would you have named her? I think Argo is a fine name." Gabrielle decided not to comment on the lack of imagination as Xena more than made up for it in other aspects of their relationship.

Cyrene listened to the banter, and then resettled the blanket around her knees. It was getting too damned cold these days. It seemed the weather was changing all over the place. She wondered if it didn't have something to do with the absence of the gods.

"Oh, c'mon and have a seat, will ya? And grab coupla plates of stew there on the stove. Oh, and Xena? Grab a bottle of that grog on your way by, too. I think I need something to keep that briskness from m'bones."

"Yeah, sure Ma. Hey GabrielleÉare youÉ" The bard's stomach grumbled loudly.

"Never mindÉI guess you are. Big plate or bigger bowl?"

Gabrielle cleared her throat and blushed furiously. Crossing both arms over her belly, she smiled as the warrior held up the bowl.

Xena winked and then snatched up a bottle and three glasses.

Gabrielle passed her lover another piece of wood and Xena poked the mess until the flames were all but roaring.

"There, MomÉthat oughta help keep the chill from settling in." The windows began to rattle in the back bedrooms.

"Looks to be a storm comin' up, kids. I hope that barn door was closed tightly, or yer horse might be in the next county come mornin'." She cackled and then resumed her rocking.

The two younger women settled down to the food, filling the air with scrapping and then contented burps.

"Gods, that was good, Mother Cyrene."

The old woman arched an eyebrow but said nothing.

"Yeah, MaÉI missed your cooking. We've had nothing but hard tack for three weeks now."

"Yeah, game is scarce these days." The bard patted her belly. "Ah, I was wondering if I could haveÉ"

Cyrene smiled indulgently. "Why sure, sweetie. That's what it's there for, help yerself."

Gabrielle patted the older woman's shoulder as she made her way to the kitchen.

"Xena?" She held a full ladle up but the warrior declined.

"Nah, I'm good."

Silence filled the room as Gabrielle placed her empty bowl back down on the table. Xena sighed a few times, wondering what to say next as Cyrene's rocker creaked in gentle, albeit irritating, accompaniment.

"So. What you two girls been up to the past twenty-five years anyway? How come ya never came by? I thought for sure you would have showed up for Toris' funeral five years ago, but ya never did. Always wondered about that." She missed the shocked and saddened expression on her daughter's face, and blithely went on. "I knew you two weren't all that close, but I figured you'd have made an appearance anyway. What, where you fighting off dragons 'n such? Can't be that damned Roman fellahÉhe's been dead these 27 long years. Can't be Augustus, he's the wimpy sort and just got married, so he's been busy."

"I'm sorry to hear about Toris, Mother. He was a good man." She said nothing about the marriage, knowing only too well whom he'd married.

Cyrene peered carefully at the smaller woman. "Say, what ever happened to that guy you used to follow around all the time?"

Gabrielle's mouth opened and she sat stunned. "Whatcha mean, 'I' followed him around all the time? Joxer was always following 'me' around! He was like some big old puppy dog, always nipping at my heels, getting in the wayÉ" She sniffed and then wiped her nose with the back of her hand. "I'm gonna miss him so much."

Xena patted her hand. "There, there. He died the way he wanted to liveÉas a warrior. That's all any of us can ask for, Gabrielle."

Cyrene began to fiddle with the hairs in her ears.

"Is my hearing off again or did you say that nice young man was dead?"

Gabrielle grabbed a napkin and blew noisily into it. "Yeah, Joxer's dead. He died protecting me in a fight. The foolÉI've always been able to handle myselfÉalways."

Xena bit her lip but said nothing. "He was just trying to help, babe."

"Yeah, well he didn't helpÉhe hindered! Not only did that She-Devil get away but he goes and gets himself killed, too!"

"Some warlord or another, huh?" Cyrene sighed as she watched her daughter comforting the young woman. Her eyes narrowed as the warrior kissed the bard's cheek and then whispered endearments into her ear. There was no doubt in Cyrene's mind that the two were more than just good friends; it was clear as day by the way that they looked at each other and any fool could see it a mile away.

Xena sighed as the blonde snuggled closer to her.

"Well, it's like this, Ma. We've done a little of this a little of that, got into a few scrapes, got ourselves crucified, and then was responsible for the Twilight of the Gods. Nothing much, really."

"Ha. Well, that doesn't sound too hardÉfor you. That shoulda kept you busy for about 2 yearsÉthen what?"

Gabrielle pushed her hair out of her eyes. "Well, that thing with the gods was a little more than we had bargained for, Mother Cyrene. Hercules ended up killing his own father to protect Xena and the baby."

Cyrene slapped her knee. "That's right! The baby! Say, she must be aboutÉoh, twenty-five years old now, huh? Got her married off with a passel of kids running about, do ya? Xena: Warrior Grandma! Heheheh." Xena bit her lip. She and Gabrielle had already decided not to tell Cyrene about Livia. They'd have to hunt the woman down first, and then see what rehabilitation could be done before that happened.

A look of sorrow passed over the pair, making the old woman stop her cackling and apologize.

"See, we got into this argument with Ares, Ma. He was always trying to get me back to my evil ways. He just wouldn't leave me alone. And if that wasn't enough, well he kept trying to seduce Gabrielle to the dark side, too. That bastard even tried to convince the Furies he wasn't my father." She shook her head morosely as the past swam before her eyes.

"You remember that time years ago, Ma? When we had some words, you and IÉ"

"And you threatened to carve me up, just for fun? Yep, I remember 'em, just fine. But he wasn't your father, Xena."

Gabrielle reached across and grasped her lover's hand fiercely. Although they knew it in their hearts, it was nice to hear the truth from Cyrene's own lips.

"He tried to destroy me when I wouldn't come back to him." She sighed. "Tried turning everyone I know and love against me with whatever perverted 'truth' he could think up. All those twisted years with that god. He certainly taught me how to take. I don't even know if I can actually have a healthy relationship with someone."

Cyrene grabbed the bottle and poured out another stiff couple of drinks.

"The man you told the Furies was your father, then used that against you and tried to make you believe that you were his daughter after all? Heh, he probably even told the young bard here that as good as you were, she'd be way betterÉmaybe even be the daughter he never had."

Xena took the proffered glass. "Yeah, how did you guess?"

The old woman patted her daughter's knee. "Ah, that's easy. The gods have always been great manipulators, Xena. And yet with every lie there is a kernel of truth, after all."

Gabrielle sat forward. "What? What kernel of truth?"

Cyrene smiled knowingly and settled herself deeper into the blanket.

"Put another log on the fire, will you dear?"

Xena pulled her chair closer. "So, tell us Ma."

"Well, it's like thisÉ"

Gabrielle sat back in her chair, the air slowly escaping her tight lips. "Holy shit, you had sex with tall, dark and gruesome? Ewwww."

Cyrene pursed her lips. "Well, it wasn't as bad as all that. In fact, it was pretty damned good."

Xena snorted softly, seeing her mother in a new light. "Yeah, that bastard can be damned sexy when he puts his mind to it." She sighed heavily, remembering the erotic dreams he used to put her through.

She was brought out of her daze with a sharp pinch to her leg. "Hey, whydja have to go and do that for?"

Gabrielle frowned at her lover. "I know that look."

Cyrene smacked her lips a little and nodded towards the grog. "Wet my whistle, will ya toots?"

Gabrielle smirked and poured the woman another full glass.

"So, ya never got married then, Gabrielle?"

"Oh, I was married. Once. He was a very nice man, but he was killed in battle."

Cyrene nodded knowingly. "Ah, that nice guy who wore the kitchen implements. Yeah, I could see by the way you two looked at each otherÉkinda like the way you and Xena look at each other, too."

Xena squirmed in her chair but said nothing.

"Now, Mother CyreneÉ"

"Oh, pleaseÉcall me Mom."

Xena's eyebrows shot up. This was a big deal. If her mother was telling the bard she could call her that, it was inviting her into the family! She reached over and took the older woman's hand.

"Thanks, Mom."

Fluttering both hands in the air, Cyrene dismissed the importance of the gesture and implored Xena to go on with the story.

"First of all, it was Perdicus, and not Joxer. Joxer wanted more from Gabrielle, but she wasn't interested. He kept after her, though, and couldn't catch a clue. Even at the end, poor dope."

"He was a lovely man, Xena, and I really wish I could have loved himÉfor my parent's sakeÉI guess I was always a disappointment to my family. I never turned out the way they'd hoped."

Cyrene rolled her eyes and pushed the younger woman's shoulder.

"Bah, who ever turns out like their parent's want? No one, that's who. Besides, how boring is that? Gods, I'd have never married her father, never gone on to run a tavern and inn, never decided to accept Xena back into my heart. You played a big part in that, girl, and I love you for it. I was so blind, so terribly hurt by it all. When Xe took up being a warlord, well, part of me was damned impressed, I'll tell yaÉand yet the rest of the town looked down on it. When she got up close and personal with the God of War, wellÉlet's just say it was just a little dŽjˆ vu for me."

"So, you knew Ares before or after Cortez, Ma?"

Cyrene rubbed her forehead in thought. "Lemme see. It was before I took an axe to your father, so yeah, it was before you tangled with Cortez, too."

"Why didn't you ever tell me? I mean, you knew this guy was bad news, why didn't youÉ"

Both women watched as the old woman got up and slowly made her way around the room. Xena felt a kinship as she watched her mother trying to limber up, and ease sore cramped muscles. After years of working in a tavern, lifting kegs, throwing out drunks, and breaking up fights, it was apparent that she'd earned every one of the aches and pains associated with being an old woman of 76. Xena decided that her days of whining over her own chronic back problems were at an end. After all, she only spent hours riding on a horse.

"There were a lot of things I wished I'd done, Xe, and quite a few others I wished I hadn't. Ares was one of the few that straddled both lists. He was a vibrant man, full of energy and passion, and just as willful as the day is long. Say, what ever happened to him, anyway?"

Xena ignored the question and began removing her bracers, stretching her arms out wide until the joints in her shoulders popped. "Ah, I needed that." Gabrielle pushed the warrior forward and began giving her a shoulder rub.

"Gods, Xena. Your shoulders are full of knots. You should have said something earlier, and I would have taken care of it for you."

Xena's hand fluttered in much the same way her mother did. "Bah, it's no big deal. Not like I was doing much besides sitting a horse, after all."

It was Gabrielle's turn to snort. "Yeah, and the two bands of cutthroats that attacked us and the broken wagon you helped fix wouldn't have anything to do with the pain you're in now, right? You big dumb warrior." She gave the taller woman a light smack on the back of her head.

"Was she always like this?"

"Yep, always. In fact, all three of my kids were just like their father. I think it took Atrius until Xena turned 10 before he was even aware she was a girl. There was nothin' to hold her back, ya see. He raised her with an open mind, thinking she was a boy like the other two, so Xena pretty much ran wild. I think it was a good thing, really. I can't see her trussed up in some ball gown, or working in a kitchen surrounded by kids, can you?"

Gabrielle sighed. Yes, she could. Over the years, Xena had used disguises of all sorts, but when she really gussied up in one seduction get up or another, well it was all the bard could do not to drool. And kids? Well, Solan's formative years aside, the bard was convinced that Xena would have made a perfect mother. If that damned Ares hadn't fouled things up. But Xena settle down? That was a laugh.

"You know, Mother CÉum, Mom, Ares has been a constant factor in our lives. He was there to tend and nurture the hatred he found after Cortez left. He was there to use Xena as the scourge of Greece, spreading his foul name from one end of the country to the other. It was also Ares that denied your daughter her second chance at motherhood."

"Eh?" Cyrene winced and gave a low moan as the vertebrae finally popped in her lower back. Waddling back to the rocker, she eased down slowly, and then sighed in relief.

Xena echoed the sigh. "Do we have to go into that tonight, Gabrielle? I mean, Mother looks tired. I know I could sure use a good night's sleep."

Cyrene nodded affably. "Yeah, yeah. No worries. Just a few more questions and you can be off. I've got spare rooms upstairs, just pick one you like. The inn hasn't been very busy the past couple of months. I've pretty much decided to close it down early for the winter."

Xena poured her mother another bit of grog and smiled as Gabrielle turned down a similar offer. The bard yawned mightily, and then quickly covered her mouth in embarrassment.

"Oh, excuse me."

Cyrene cackled. "Company boring you, young lady? You still bein' a baby and all, you'd better get along to bed now."

Xena elbowed her and snickered. Gabrielle yawned again and the warrior found herself stifling one of her own.

"So, you had loads of trouble with Ares, I got that. And two guys that the bard loved up and died in battle, I got that, too." She held up her hand at Gabrielle's protesting. "Yadda, yaddaÉmy turn to talk, your turn to listen."

She cleared her throat. "All right. You mentioned crucifixion. I'm thinking resurrection was part of the deal because here you both are. Did it have something to do with that Eli fellah you were seeing, Xena? I always thought perhaps one day you and heÉ"

Xena wiped her mouth quickly. "No, Ma. Never. He wasÉwell, he just wasn't, that's all."

Cyrene shrugged. "Well, you did give me two grandkids. There were only two, right?"

Xena nodded slowly. "Yeah, only two. But there would have been at least one more if Ares had his way."

"That guy again? Say, one of you guys shoulda married the man, and got it over with."

Xena pushed herself away from the table and stood up. "Are you crazy? Why in Hades would I wanna do something stupid like that? Didn't you have enough of my evil ways when I was with that man, roaming over all of known Greece as the Destroyer of Nations?"

Gabrielle put her hand on her lover's lower back. "Take it easy, Xena."

"Ha, you take it easy! Marry that poor excuse for pond scum? I'd rather die. Which is exactly what I told the bastard, too."

"Well, I guess you know best, dear. Now me, I'd have married the fool. It's been my experience that if you give a man what he wants, he don't want it no more. He gets tired of it, and then moves on."

"Give 'em what they want and they leave? Gee, I should have tried that on Joxer."

Xena stepped away from both women. "Now you're both crazy. Say, what's in this grog, anyway?"

"Well, it would have solved your problem if you'da tried it, Xena. Maybe he would have grown bored with you, found another woman to torment and bed."

"I did not bed him, Mother!"

"Mind you, I never really got a good explanation as to how that baby got in your belly, Xena."

The warrior whirled on the blonde. "I told you! It was the Archangel Michael. He and CallistoÉ"

Cyrene rolled her eyes and wondered if the grog hadn't turned septic over night.

"Angels smangels. I have no idea what yer talkin' about Xe, but I have it on good authority that it takes one man and one woman to make a baby. Period."

"Well, I can shoot arrows through that theory, Ma. I've only been around Gabrielle for a couple of years before I even conceived. There was no man. Ever."

"Except for Hercules and Iolaus, who kept popping up almost as often as Ares did. Then of course there was Eli, and Aiden, and Brutus and Caesar, just to name a few."

"This is unkind, coming from a woman who heard me tell Ares that she was the father of my child."

Cyrene's eyebrows all but hit the roof.

"What? You told a guy that your sidekick got you pregnant?"

Both women answered in unison. "She is not my sidekick!"

"I am not her sidekick!"

Cyrene nodded knowingly. "Yeah, wellÉI don't much wanna hear about exactly what you are to my daughterÉliving in sin for who knows how long? You couldn't have made an honest woman out of her and married her before she got knocked up?"


"Oh, stop yer pacing and sit down, child!"

Xena's shoulders slumped and she sat down in a huff, making Gabrielle purse her lips together tightly in an effort to squelch the burbling laughter threatening to get out.

"I'll be you looked just like this when you were a child, Xena. Was she much of a handful, Mom?"

Cyrene settled back against the headrest and sighed in contentment. "Yes, she was that. But you know, even when she was a handful, there was always something innocent in that wild way you find deep in the forest. There was never a mean bone in her body then. Only when she took up with that dadblamed God o'War. He turned ya, didn't he, child? I guess if I'd had a chance to do it all over again, why I might have tried harder." She sighed again, but this time with a tinge of sorrow.

"You couldn't have known, Ma. No one could. And who knows if Ares brought out the worst or the best in me?"

Gabrielle squinted trying to get her head around what her lover had said. "Okay, you lost me. Best or worst?"

Cyrene steepled her fingers. "Ya know, there's merit in what you say, Xe. I suppose all the attributes you had while in his clutches might have been there, just lurking in the reeds. After all, a body's gotta take what building blocks are there to begin with, right? And not all of the characteristics you have are bad, although it was certainly hard for me to see anything good in ya before this little one came along." She reached over and chucked the bard under her chin. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and blushed. Xena began picking at her cuticles.

"But ya know, even when she was this hateful, heartless bitchÉ"


"Well, you were, dear. You can't deny that. Well, you could but who would believe you and deny their own eyes?"

Xena scrubbed a weary hand over her face and seemed to shrink back into the blankets lining the chair.

Cyrene patted her daughter's knee again and looked pointedly at the bard.

"Even when she was this terrible person, well, there was something pure about it all, ya know? I mean, she never does anything by halves. She has to be the very best at what she does, with miserly efficiency. Gods, the way she used to sweep over the landÉit wasÉ"

"Frightening?" Gabrielle piped up helpfully.

"Exhilarating! She used to have this animal magnetism, this animal graceÉit was poetry in motion!"

Xena sighed morosely. 'Used to. Yeah, I used to a force to be reckoned with, and now I'm just a reputation used to scare small children.'

"I'll spend the rest of my life trying to erase all the lives I've ruined, Mother."

Cyrene nodded her head towards the woodpile, and then smiled as Gabrielle took the hint and threw another piece on the fire. She cringed as the wind howled around the building. "Yep, storm's just about right over head now. Rain'll start any time." Droplets began spattering against the windowpanes, and the innkeeper smiled.

"Well, Xena, I guess you could get mired in all that atonement thing, and just forget about all the good you did do."

"Good?" Xena and Gabrielle piped up with surprise.

"Yes, good. Fer one thing, you unified the people against one known foe instead of all the backstabbing, bellyaching, petty wars we'd have year after damned year. I think you helped mold a bunch of layabouts into something amazing. I mean, just look at some of the generals you had in that army of yours. They've gone on to be damned good pillars of society, the most of 'em. They've got good heads on their shoulders, do ya see? They might not have amounted to anything but you got 'hold of 'em and put the steel in their spines."

"Not like they had a choice, Ma. It was my way or the highway. They did what they were told or they died, simple as that."

"Well but that's another good thing. See, you winnowed out all the damned riff raff along the way and left the good behind."

Xena arched one dark eyebrow at her mother. "Oh, don't be too sure about that. We come across all sorts of my old soldiers in arms. Not too many have what you'd call redeeming qualities, Ma. Most of 'em need a killing, and I'm all too happy to oblige."

"Yes! You see, you know you made mistakes, and set about fixin' 'em, too. Efficient. Without you roaming the countryside, why those damned fools might have caused the country untold misery. No child, you made a difference. Your eyes were clouded by that damned Ares, but his darkness couldn't keep you down for long. I think it was just a matter of time, child."

'Ten long years.' How much longer would she have been free to brutalize the good people of Greece? If Gabrielle hadn't come alongÉ"Ya think one person can make such a big difference in someone's life, Ma?"

Xena remembered just how stubborn she was when she first hooked up with Ares. And it hadn't been easy to just put away her lust for blood and power when Hercules had come around either. But there was no getting around the fact that both brothers had made a large impact on her life. Would she have turned things around while still in Ares' hands had the half-god not come into her life? She thought she would have eventually, but a small niggling in her belly told her she wasn't completely convinced.

Cyrene smothered yet another yawn and pushed the last of her grog across the table.

"Well, I think it's more a case of a whole bunch of things happenin' in a set order that makes the difference. You might not have been ready to change if Gabrielle had come by a month or even a day earlier. What if you hadn't decided to interfere with the slavers? And that boy of Zeus', perhaps he wouldn't have made any difference if he'd shown up later than he did. No, I think things happen for a reason. Gabrielle might not have been the sole reason you changed darlin', but I think she was that last piece in the puzzle. And I'd wager she's the better for your meetin', too."

Xena bumped shoulders with the bard and smiled. "Well, I dunno about that, but I'm sure glad she was the type to bad mouth those slavers and get my attention." She caressed her lover's face. "You always were a feisty one. Following me even when I told you I didn't want you."

Gabrielle chuckled. "Feisty, huh? I think that describes you much more than me, hon. Besides, I knew a good thing when I saw it."

Cyrene nodded to herself. "Well, ya sure opened my eyes and let me see past the stupid stuff to the child I'd given birth to. Doesn't matter what your parents think, Gabrielle, I think yer a fine daughter."

Xena winked at the bard and gave her a saucy look. Gabrielle found herself blushing again as the old innkeeper stared at her knowingly.

"I suppose you two oughta go up to bed now. You'll find a right nice soft bed in the first room you come to. My room's in the back, far away from things. Can't hardly hear a thing from way back there. And my hearin' just ain't what it used to be either, of course."

Xena rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah, we get the drift; you figure the bard snores, huh?" She dodged a pinch. "Or is it something else, Ma? Well, I guess we might as well just be up front about it. Gabrielle's myÉsidekick."

"Oh you!" The bard grabbed a napkin off the table and swatted the warrior across her shoulder. She watched as a sparkle danced in her lover's eyes. The tightening in her chest seemed to ease a little more. Although she'd told the warrior time and again that her own life was changed because of that one fated meeting, well, Xena needed to hear it from somebody else. She cringed thinking about the life she might have had. Perdicus was a good man, and even had some qualities that she found endearing, but there was no way in Hades' Dark Realm that she would have ever known the complete unconditional friendship and love that she had with Xena.

Both women helped Cyrene up from the rocker, and then Xena banked the fire. Gabrielle watched as her partner stared off into the flames, no doubt remembering some of the other fires she'd either caused or been caught in. Both fire and water seemed to be important elements in the warrior's life. Was she symbolic of one or both? An image of Xena rising up from the lake, water slowly streaming off her beautifully formedÉ

"AhemÉ" She coughed and cleared her throat. No, she was pretty sure she was a mixture. Her knees felt wobbly and she thanked the gods for wise old women. 'Room far in the back, my left boot! Well, this high wind will probably hide the moaning.'

Xena turned to see the small blonde grinning rather lasciviously, and her mother wincing with one hand pressing against her lower back.

"Hey, just a sec." She eased behind her mother and pressed her fingers into a few spots on the old woman's back causing her to gasp in surprise. Then before Cyrene had a chance to exhale, she grabbed her under the arms and lifted her off the floor.


Xena gave her one quick shake and then settled her back down on wobbly legs. "Just stand still for a minute, Mom. You'll see."

Cyrene cocked her head to the left and then again to the right. "Huh. That feels pretty good. Damned good parlor trick, Daughter. You know, you could open a shop and make a fine living doing stuff like that there."

Gabrielle made a face. "Yeah, can you really see her staying in one place for long? Talk about frustration! Hades, she'd be out rough housing the guys in the bar and then fixing 'em back up in her shop. Come to think of it," she laughed, "I'd like to see that. Xena: Medicine Woman. Oh, or 'Xena's Fixit Shop. For the Severely Twisted'. Whatdya think, Xe?"

Thoughts of the rough housing they were going to do later popped into her head, but Xena just smiled knowingly. Perhaps this was the night she'd introduce her lover to the joys of frieze number 32? Gabrielle wasn't too sure whether it was a cold draft that wafted by or the glacial tint to her lover's eyes, but she decided that she'd just shut her mouth while the getting was good.

The group stopped at the bottom of the staircase, said their good night's, and then both warrior and bard watched as the old woman climbed slowly up to her room. At the back. Away from prying eyes and ears. They hoped.

Xena ran one fingernail up the bard's arm, enjoying the rapid intake of air it caused. Gabrielle gave her a little smile. She was really looking forward to sleeping in a bed. Her right hand unconsciously rubbed the bruise on her butt. Between the bark rash and the evil pebbles that seemed to find her no matter how careful they were, Gabrielle was certainly ready for a nice comfortable surface to work with. She scratched her chin. She wondered if there was a table or some other hard surface in the room? Of course, the floor would always do in a pinch. Gabrielle swallowed deeply as she looked up and found a very vapid looking warrior staring back at her. Just as if she were prey.

"Oh, one more thing. What's this Twilight of the Gods thing? You don't much see 'em anymore."

Xena dragged her gaze off the bard and smiled at her mother. "Oh, nothing much, Ma. A guy with flowing robes and wings gave me the power to kill the gods, so I took 'em out, one by one. Decapitated one, burped fire at another, you knowÉsame old same old."

Cyrene made a face and put both chubby hands on her equally chubby hips. "Now look here, Missy. If you don't know the answer to the question, all ya gotta do is admit it. Sheesh, like you know everything. Power to kill the gods, bah! They probably just went away on vacation. Some posh resort, I'll bet, too." She carefully picked her way up to the top of the stairs and then grumbled. 'Sidekick, huh? I gotta get me one of those.'

Xena shrugged and patted the blonde's butt again. "C'mon, Bardypoo."

Waggling her eyebrows, the bard stopped briefly to wonder if anyone would ever really believe the truth about the Twilight if they knew it. And if they did, would they hunt the pair down or canonize them?

"Ya know, it's not as if they gave you any choice in this. I mean, all you wanted was for them to leave us alone."

Xena took a large breath, held it, and then slowly let it out again. "Yeah, I s'pose. Hey, they have kids, they shoulda known better."

Gabrielle rubbed the back of her head. "Yup. Nothing worse than getting between a mother and her child."

The warrior's shoulders slumped, and Gabrielle mentally kicked herself. They'd been over this ground many a time.

"I know you didn't try to kill me, hon."

"Well gee, you'd think I'd be a pro at this by now."

"You're good, Xena, but that good all the time? No one's that good all the time. Even the gods make mistakes."

Xena reached the top of the stairs and smiled over her shoulder. "Heh. Yeah, you remember that time when Ares lost his sword? Gods, but that was funnyÉwatching him get punched out, falling down drunkÉand then the time that he and Dite lost all their powers and began to smell likeÉJoxer!"

"I think you miss that guy."

"Joxer? NahÉhe was a nice guy, but I swear, if he stumbled onto our private camping trips one more timeÉ"

Gabrielle screwed her mouth up. "Yeah, well I kinda liked that feeling of dangerÉwill he or won't he catch us making out? And don't be coy. You knew who I was talking about."

Xena probed a tooth with her tongue.

"Well, first off, there's no one but you, okay? And second off, we can drag Virgil around if you like. Give you that nice sense of danger again. Mind you, I thought the roving bands of cutthroats and thieves did that admirably."

"Yeah, we could do that. And don't skirt the issue."

"Issue? Oh, you mean Ares? I'd completely forgotten about him."

"Yeah, well just so you don't scream his name out again."

"I neverÉ!"

The bard smiled largely. "Good, just checking. Race you to the room!"

Xena narrowed her eyes and thought of the many ways she'd make her lover pay for those remarks. It wasn't as if she even thought about the guy, or anything. Well, not much anyway.

"We can only stay a couple of days, Gab, and then we've got to get back on the trail of Livia."

"Oh, and like just how far do you think she'll go? Now that she's married to Auggie, she'll be as busy as we are. Heh."

"Yeah, right. Damn! Say, you go ahead and get ready. I forgot the saddlebags downstairs. Can't very well sleep without them. And Gabrielle? Don't start without me this time, okay?"

The End

Started August 12, 2000.

Completed August 13, 2000.

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