Subtext Reports
Those crazy posts about the episodes originally posted to the nutforum and saved here for posterity in their error riddled entirety (since they were written 'on the fly'). 
Homecoming Series
A series of five (not so short) stories about Xena and Gabrielle building their life together as a couple. 
Magic Series
Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas find love as they uncover more writings of Gabrielle about her warrior princess. 
Conversations by Campfire Series
Set during Season Four, parts of the episodes are worked into chats between Xena and Gab, particularly the subject of Najara and the bard. 
Changes of Heart Series
My take on what happened after Gabby got Chakram'ed upside the head by Xena in the Season Five ender. 
Bonding of Souls Series
This series picks up where 'Changes of Heart' ends with Xena and Gabby back together. Each 'episode' is an expansion of the episodes of Season Six.
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
How DID Ares get stuck in that tomb from the Xena Scrolls? This story answers that question. 
The Play
Xena and Gabrielle have to play the leads in a performance for a ruthless king to save Salmoneus' neck. Unexpected consequences and confessions are the result. 
The Queen, the Regent, the Warrior
Xena leaves Gabrielle in the care of the amazons, only to have Ephiny and Gabby fall in love. Xena does return and chaos and secret confessions follow.
The Contest
Ares and Aphrodite battle over Xena's spirit. 
Loss of Virginity
Romantic musings from one of our gals. 
Moment of Truth
Gabrielle does anything it takes to keep Xena out of a battle that's foretold to take the warrior princess' life. 
Thank the Gods For Henbane
At an Amazon festival Gabrielle has one too many henbane brownies, which results in a funny and sexy night for Xena. 
As It Should Be
The Queen gets taken by the Warrior Princess at the Amazon Village.
Family Ties
Xena takes Gabrielle back to home to spend a little time with the 'in-laws'. 
Dueling Cousins
Xena's look-alike cousin, Sappho, has always been competitive but now the Tenth Muse wants the ultimate prize - Gabrielle. 
The End
Alternate 'demise' of Xena and Gabrielle based on the Season Four crucifixion. 
Truth or Dare
Sexy romp between Callisto and Gabrielle set during 'A Necessary Evil' 
November 29th, 1942
A little romance fic between Janice and Mel. 
Inside Outside
Set after the events of 'A Family Affair', it's a scene told through the eyes of four people - Gabrielle's Father, Mother, Gabrielle herself and Xena.
Something To Talk About
Xena and Gabrielle's friends are all surprised that the pair aren't lovers so they consider why not.
Henbane, Horsenappings and Other Obstacles
A 'murphy's law' comedy where everything that can go wrong for Xena and Gabby but, of course, they still end up saving the day.
All That Matters
During Gabrielle's birthday party in' Takes One To Know One', Xena reflects on her love for the bard.  
Warlord
What if Gabrielle was actually the one behind all the folks who influenced Xena's journey toward good? 
Have Yourself a Merry Little Solstice
A little Winter Solstice tale that's available in general (not lovers) and alternative (lovers). .
Little Moments: A Day in the Desert
A tale told through the eyes of Janice and then Mel while on a dig.  
Candy or Chaos
'Classic Xena' general Halloween story with Xena and Gabby return for the Potiedaia Harvest Festival.
Conquering Heroine
Gabrielle is the Conqueror in this piece. How exactly? Give it a read and find out. 
Watching and Waiting
Set after FIN II, Xena watches from afar as Gabrielle moves on with her life. 
1971
Police Office Carol and Protestor Erin clash but find they're fighting for the same things. A short story based on my novel, 'One Belief Away'. 
March 26, 1943
Sequel to November 29, 1942. This time it's Janice's birthday and Mel has some sexy plans for her lover. 
The 10th Muse
In this traditional subtext story that's part French farce; part musical, Gabrielle has a Doppelganger, the Poetess Sappho. It's up to Gabby, Xena and Sappho's friend Aphrodite to guard Sappho during the 10th Muse Competition...Of course they must also try to repair Sappho's damaged relationship with her lover (a woman, and bandmate, who's the spitting image of Xena).

Title: No Place Like Home Part 2

Author: CN Winters

Fandom: Xena Fanfiction, Xena fanfic, Xena fan fiction, Xena and Gabrielle fanfiction, Xena fiction

Rating: R

Disclaimers: As always Xena, Gabby and the gang aren’t mine. They belong to MCA/Universal. This story is however mine and it’s just for recreation. If the idea of two women in love (who show their affection explicitly and use some ‘naughty’ words in the process) offends you please move on. Same rule applies if love is illegal where you live or if you’re too young.

Author Note: Please keep in mind this is the four story in the ‘Homecoming’ series. It’s not necessary to read it the others, but you may enjoy them and gain greater insight on my take of the Xena/Gabrielle love thang. 

Synopsis: Xena and Gabrielle go about finding a suitable male to produce an heir.  

Feedback: I love feedback so if you felt moved by these words (either positive or negative) drop me a line at: cnwinters71@yahoo.com. I look forward to non-homophobic constructive comments. Thanks for reading.

No Place Like Home Part 2 of 2

CHAPTER XV

Ephiny paced in her hut, wringing her hands together. Xena smiled. It felt like yesterday to the warrior when she was in the same position.

"Nervous?" Xena asked.

"I shouldn't be," Ephiny replied firmly. "I know this is what I want."

"But you're still not sure, right?"

Ephiny looked concerned - almost afraid to reply. So Xena continued.

"I felt it too. I wondered if I was making the right decision. I knew I loved Gabrielle. She was everything I ever wanted, but I... I didn't know if I could measure up to any of her expectations...  And I wondered if she would always be what I wanted. Looking back, I know I made the right choice. I'm betting you will too, Eph'."

That made the blonde warrior release the smallest of grins - perhaps not grand in scale, but it spoke volumes to Xena.

"It's just jitters, right?" Ephiny began. "Because I know I love her. When I almost lost her in Zagreus' attack... " Ephiny trailed off remembering the pain and torture she felt watching Diteria cling to life, fighting her hardest to come back.

"But you didn't lose her," Xena replied reassuringly.

"Thanks to you." Ephiny grinned. "She's alive because of you," the regent said with pride as a realization occurred to her. "And you fixed me up with her too, if I remember correctly," she added jabbing the warrior.

"It was the least I could do," Xena said softly; sincerely. But soon a mischievous smile crossed her face. "And if I remember correctly the reason I fixed you up with her is because you were starting to have eyes for your queen who, by the way, just happens to be my bondmate."

"I most certainly did not," Ephiny replied soundly. "It was strictly a reaction to seeing her naked." Xena watched as Ephiny called up the memory. The regent couldn't help but smile. "You have to admit she looks damn good naked."

Xena laughed at the tone in the regent's playful voice. "No arguments here," Xena answered with a hands-up gesture. "She's absolutely gorgeous," the warrior added.

"What do you like most about Gabrielle?" Ephiny asked. "And don't say something like her 'heart' or her 'soul'. We're talking body parts here," she added.

"Well, the body isn't much without the woman inside of it, but if you insist... " Xena considered the question. She loved everything but she knew that wouldn't please Ephiny. "The small of her back," Xena finally answered.

"Really?! The small of her back?!" Ephiny was amazed.

"You asked!" Xena said defensively.

"Yes, I did," Ephiny countered. "I guess I wasn't expecting that answer... What's so special about it?"

"She's very trim... toned... smooth."

Xena looked across the room as she thought of the bard's lower back and the way it felt in her fingertips. As she gave a small shake, she came back to the present conversation and Ephiny had to laugh.

"You're really not kidding about being worked up over her back, huh?"

Xena let the comment go and turned the tables. "Now... What do you like about Diteria?"

"Everything," Ephiny answered sincerely meeting the warrior's azure eyes.

Xena smiled. "You stole my original answer - everything - I would have told you that, but I didn't think you'd let me off that easy."

"You're right." Ephiny grinned. "I wouldn't have," she chuckled.

"What makes you think I'm going?" Xena countered.

"Because I'm nervous now and you wouldn't be that cruel." Ephiny replied, trying to talk her way out of this confrontation.

Xena shook her head. "Nope. I'm not buying it... Come on. What part?"

Ephiny thought a moment. "Her arms... She's an archer so they get a good work out on a daily basis. And the shape is unique. Not as strong as a man's but not petite like a woman's...  Kinda in-between...  Kinda wonderful."

Ephiny was now the one staring off. Before Xena interrupted her.

"Nice to see I'm not the only passionate woman here," Xena teased. "Besides, Gabrielle, that is. She can be so passionate it scares even me."

"Oh really?" Ephiny asked with extreme interest.

Xena realized she may have put her foot in her mouth. Taking about favorite body parts is one thing but talking about activities with those parts was something else all together. She wasn't sure if Gabrielle would be agitated if Ephiny found out some intimate details of their life together.

Xena decided to nod her reply. Of course that didn't stop Ephiny from probing further. "Like what?" the regent asked.

Xena thought quickly. "Let's just say that Gabrielle is the type of woman that when she sees something she wants she goes after it. And also seeing that she's not always the most patient woman in the world that leads to ... unexpected results."

Ephiny chucked but the sound was soon overshadowed by a wailing baby girl. Gabrielle entered the hut with the infant in her arms. 

"I don't think she's willing to wait until after the ceremony," she said to the two warriors.

Xena held her hands open and Gabrielle brought their daughter over. Within seconds the infant was contently suckling from Xena, filling her empty belly. "Guess we'll have to wait a while longer," Xena apologized.

"I'm a mom remember?" Ephiny grinned. "I know how things go -- Usually never the way you expect or intend," she laughed.

"But well worth it," Xena added.

"Most definitely," Ephiny agreed.

CHAPTER XVI

The joining went smoothly. Well... accept for the fact that Diteria almost passed out from the heat and Ephiny threw up moments before she was supposed to walk down the 'aisle'. Other than those small details things went well. 

Gabrielle now watched Ephiny and Diteria feeding each other with large grins plastered on their faces. She had never seen her regent so happy. Watching Ephiny's joy made the bard grin as well.

"Any ideas yet?" Xena asked, taking their daughter back from Gabrielle's protective arms.

"Huh?" Gabrielle asked, totally confused.

"Her name." Xena smiled, raising the baby in her cradling arm. "Any ideas on what to name her or are we just going to say 'hey you' for the rest of our lives?"

"You're lucky you're holding that baby," Gabrielle answered in a mock threat. "I'd have smacked you by now."

"Knew this kid would come in handy for sumpthin'," the warrior teased.

Gabrielle chuckled before resting her head on Xena's broad shoulder, considering a name.

"We could name her Cyrene," the bard offered after a bit of silence.

"Nah," Xena shot down. "Don't get me wrong. I love my mother, but I want the child to have it's own identity... Understand?"

"Okay ... Let's see... Oh wait! I've gotta list," the bard said moving quickly to their hut.

Xena rolled her eyes, but didn't say anything and it went unnoticed. The bard had a list for everything - she was convinced. So much in fact that she was sure that Gabrielle stashed notes on their sex life. Kind of a do's and don't theme. The warrior chuckled at the thought as the bard returned taking her seat.

"Okay," Gabrielle began. "I've narrowed my list down to these names and their meanings."

"Meanings?"

"Yeah. What the name means?"

"Huh?"

Gabrielle sighed. "Let me explain... Let's see - Maja. It means pearl. Aurora. It means golden dawn."

"So names actually have meanings?" Xena inquired.

"Absolutely."

"What does Gabrielle and Xena mean?"

"Well, Gabrielle is 'God's heroine'-."

"That fits," Xena answered. "You've saved their necks big time on quite a few occasions. What does Xena mean?"

Gabrielle paused a moment. She knew the meaning, but she wasn't sure if she should say it. However, she cleared her throat and found herself uttering, "Distant place."

Xena smiled. "Once again, that fits."

"You're not a distant place to me," Gabrielle offered sincerely. "In fact, you're home...  Poteidaia. Amazonia. These place aren't home to me. It's only when I'm with you do I feel at peace. And I always will, Xena."

"The feeling is very mutual," Xena replied kissing the bard's forehead. She looked over at Gabrielle's list and tried to lighten the mood. "What else ya got there?"

"There's Lexia," Gabrielle said hopefully.

"Lexia," Xena said the name out loud. This had potential. She liked the way it rolled off her tongue. "Lexia? What does it mean?"

Gabrielle smiled. "It means protector of humanity." She smiled broader when Xena's eyes lit up.

"I like that," Xena nodded.

"I liked it too." Gabrielle agreed. "It seems fitting with our 'line of work' and the fact that it's a child 'we' created."

Xena turned back to the infant. "What do you think ... Lexia?" The baby cooed happily and that was all Xena needed. "Lexia it is!" she whispered excitedly.

Gabrielle giggled softly. "Now how about this one?" she said rubbing her stomach. "Let's pick something right here, right now... I know we talked about knowing a child, but really, Xena... let's just have something to start with. If it doesn't seem fitting we can always change it, okay?"

"You're the boss," Xena agreed.

"No. We're a team, so I'd like your input."

"Alright," Xena drawled. "How about is one here," Xena pointed to the parchment. "... Karis... It means grace. And since you and Autolycus are both pretty 'smooth' it seems fitting."

"You like Karis, huh? Guess it could be a girl or a boy." Gabrielle considered the name. It sounded like a fine name indeed. "Karis works for me," she finally replied.

CHAPTER XVII

Gabrielle was in her sixth month. She'd given up her royal amazon attire for something more presentable. Something that covered her growing belly. Xena, of course, loved all the curves that were taken shape in different regions and locales on the bard's physical landscape.

Gabrielle now opted for long tops and skirts. It reminded Xena of the clothes the bard donned in their first year of travels together. "She even has her 'glow' back," Xena remarked to Ephiny one evening. The warrior explained to the regent how content and carefree the bard seemed back then.

It wasn't exactly the same however. Life experience had taught the bard much about the world. The 'glow' now came from a peace the bard had found - as a queen, as a mother - her overall self. The future may not be easy, but it was bright and beautiful because they were a family now and in just a few short months their family would grow bigger.

One night, Xena asked the bard if she was up for traveling. Gabrielle's first concern was Lexia. But as Xena explained, the baby was sitting on her own and eating soft food, she should be just fine.

So with four royal guards the party set forth to Poteidaia and Amphipolis. The bard's folks were the first to see the latest 'arrival'. They promised they would return after Gabrielle's child was born and after that they continued on.

When they arrived in Amphipolis, after the bard's many 'call of nature' stops, Gabrielle went into the inn first.

Cyrene quickly put down her serving tray and rushed over to the smiling bard. They hugged, but Cyrene pulled away quickly. Her hands shot down to the bard's stomach and soon her eyes lit up.

"Yes. You're going to be a grandmother," she told the elder amazon.

Cyrene began to laugh and called amazon bondmate Taria from the kitchen.

"We have another surprise," Gabrielle announced.

"What could be bigger than this?!" Cyrene asked as Taria walked over.

"You'll see." Gabrielle grinned.

Moments later, Xena walked in with Lexia in her arms. Cyrene didn't move. She didn't trust her legs to support her.

Xena did the introductions. "Mom. This is Lexia. Lexia. This is Grandma Cyrene and Grandma Taria."

Cyrene thought she would cry, but instead she opened her arms, gently snatching the infant away.

"How old is she?" Cyrene asked.

"Six months," the bard replied.

"She's big for six months!" Taria exclaimed softly.

"Look at her momma," Gabrielle giggled as she slipped her arm around Xena's waist.

"Six months?" Cyrene asked. "You've had this child for six months and this is the first I hear about it?"

"I wanted to surprise you," Xena explained. "Besides, she wasn't old enough to travel and I didn't want you and Taria traveling alone to see her."

"Sure," Cyrene teased. "You can travel alone, but we, grown women, can not?"

"Who said we were alone?" Xena smiled as she heard the Amazons come in behind her. "We'll be needing three rooms by the way," she retorted warmly.

Cyrene smiled and shook her head. "Always prepared, huh, little one?"

"Always." Xena smiled. "Think you can put us all up for a few nights?"

"Of course! Come in everyone! Come in," Cyrene replied happily, moving toward the living area. Xena reached out for the child, but her mom walked away - not ready or willing to give the baby back. Gabrielle, gently put Xena's hands back down.

"I think we've lost our daughter," the bard snickered.

"Think you're right." Xena grinned as well. "But don't think I won't wrestle that old lady to the ground to get her back."

The bard simply chuckled as they followed Cyrene's lead. 

CHAPTER XVIII 

The stay had been a pleasant one and it was the final night of their visit. Taria spent most of the time catching up on the village gossip with the guards who arrived. She missed her friends in the village, but she was more than satisfied with her life since she had Cyrene again.

Xena sat on the porch after feeding Lex. The baby snoozed in her arms, quite content listening to her mother's heart beat. Quietly, Cyrene took a seat next to her daughter.

"So what's it feel like, little one?" Cyrene asked.

"Motherhood?" Xena clarified.

Cyrene simply nodded and smiled. Half-expecting the answer.

Xena thought for a moment. "Joyous. Wondrous. Frightening... Many things."

"Don't forget funny and tiring too," Cyrene chuckled.

"Oh never," Xena said with a half-grin mischievously. "You must be thinking of Toris when you say that."

Cyrene chuckled lightly not wanting to wake the baby. "You had your funny and tiring moments too, dear."

"Oh really," Xena challenged.

"Uh ha," Cyrene answered. "Remember that time Toris convince you to take a mud bath. Only thing I could see that night when you came home was the whites of your eyes and your smile." Cyrene chuckled. "I remember the first trip we took to Lookout Canyon. Your eyes got so big when you saw that waterfall for the first time - it was like I was looking at it for the first time myself." Suddenly, however the glee soon became replaced by anguish. "I also remember that fever you caught the winter you were seven. You were rarely sick, but this sickness you couldn't seem to shake... I prayed to every God I could to see that you got well again... And of course I did." Cyrene's mood seemed to lighten. "And I pray to the gods once more that everything will work out for you and you'll have many happy memories with your children. Kids aren't everything in life, Xena, but the world wouldn't be the same without them. "

"I know that," Xena answered soundly.

Cyrene chuckled. "Xena... You ain't seen nothin' yet, dear."

The woman continued to chuckle as she made her way into the house as Gabrielle was coming out. She put her hand on her daughter's bondmate shoulder as they passed. "I'm tired," she told them both. "Goodnight you two."

"Goodnight," the duo said in harmony.

Gabrielle quietly took her seat next to Xena and their sleeping daughter. "How you feeling?" the bard asked.

"I was just about to ask you the same thing," Xena replied.

Gabrielle grinned. "I'm good. Actually better than good. I feel... frisky."

Xena gave a broad tooth smile. "It's nice to know your increased appetite isn't just for foods," Xena teased.

"You mean I might get 'lucky' tonight?" the bard said with a giggle.

"You? Lucky?" Xena countered. "If anyone is lucky around here, it's me, Beautiful. You are the sexiest thing ever to walk the earth." Gabrielle blushed at the compliment before turning away. Xena could feel a tension, flow over the bard. "What is it?" Xena asked

"Look at me Xena. I'm starting to get as big as a house. How can you say you find me sexy?"

Xena could hear the insecurity in the bard's voice. "You're kidding ...right?" the warrior asked.

"No," Gabrielle croaked back tears, remaining strong. "I'm quite serious."

Xena took Gabrielle's chin in her fingertips softly, gently forcing their eyes to lock. "You are and always have been the most beautiful woman in the world to me. The way your body is changing; growing - it is delightful! Every new curve, every valley - let's just say I'm a very happy explorer." Xena kissed Gabrielle softly on the lips - just once - before pulling back to meet her eyes again. "I truly feel like I'm the luckiest woman on earth or in the heavens. So yes Gabrielle, I think you're sexy and yes I'm very lucky because I'm the only person you grace by letting me love you so intimately."

Xena knew that was just what the bard needed to hear. And she was rewarded with a smoldering kiss.

"Let's go to bed," the bard whispered seductively.

It reminded Xena of the first time she'd heard the come hither tone in the bard's voice. They were on Lesbo - drinking and dancing. But this time was not like the first. The first time there was great desire and indecisiveness. Her feelings were somewhat similar now. But unlike that time years ago, Xena was quite sure of what she wanted. Tonight she wanted her bard without reservation.

Gabrielle rose and walked to the door holding it for Xena and her precious cargo, whom slept soundly in the warrior's arms. They traveled to the room. No sooner had Xena laid down their sleeping daughter she felt Gabrielle's 'attack'.

"Gods, you feel so good," Gabrielle whispered behind Xena squeezing the warrior's mounds.

Xena moaned her response and covered Gabrielle's hands, encouraging her exploration. That, however, was soon not enough. Xena felt Gabrielle stripping her of her linen garments, planting delicate kisses along her back.

When the warrior could take no more, she turned; welding her lips passionately to the bard's. She pulled back long enough to removed Gabrielle's dress - button by button. Once her task was finished she slipped the material off Gabrielle's shoulders. Xena made her descent to her knees, along with the fabric. Carefully she pulled down the bard's britches. She inhaled deeply. Gods how she loved the smell of her lovers arousal. 

But it's nothing compared to the taste, Xena thought. With that she ran her finger through Gabrielle's lips, making the bard sigh in excitement. Without wasting a moment, Xena tasted the bard's sweet nectar on her finger, sucking it dry.

"Delicious," Xena replied after she was done with the appetizer. She smiled because she knew the feast was yet to come.

That voice. Those words. It was doing the bard in. Her legs felt wobbly. "Bed," she told Xena. "Now," she added urgently.

Xena rose and scooped the bard in her arms. Xena thanked the gods it wasn't far. Gabrielle hadn't gained much weight, but the warrior still felt unsteady herself - done in by her arousal more than anything.

She sat the bard down on the edge of the bed. Then she grabbed the pillows to make sure she was comfortable. Gently ,she laid the bard down. Her kisses started at the bard's forehead and worked down inch by inch - her nose, her lips, her chin, her neck, her collarbone. Gabrielle was soaking up the seductive attention. It amazed her, even after all their years together, that Xena was such a careful yet passionate lover. Xena knew exactly what she needed and delivered tenfold.

Xena worked further southward. The bard's breasts were next. They were heavier and fuller than ever and Xena loved the feel of them in her hands. She made no secret of her admiration as she emitted a groan from deep within herself. Hearing that sound made Gabrielle echo the warrior with a groan of her own.

Next, Xena made sure to cover the area of Gabrielle's growing belly. Her fingertips lightly stroked the skin, teasing the bard as the warrior's hands came dangerously close to her center. Gabrielle could take it no longer.

"Please," she whispered down to Xena.

"Please what?" Xena teased.

Gabrielle buried her fingertips in the black locks. Her tight hold was fierce and ardent and to tell the truth, slightly painful. Xena loved this 'determined' side to her lover. The side that demanded 'proper service'. Xena stroked the arm of the hand that was behind her head.

"Just say it Gabrielle," the warrior prodded seductively. "I wanna hear you say it, Beautiful."

Gabrielle moaned. She was hot. She was wet. She was racing with desire. "Do it," Gabrielle ordered, giving Xena's hair a light yank. "Do me," she clarified, her voice dark and husky.

Xena sighed - both at the words and the feel of Gabrielle forcing her face between the bard's legs.. She lapped at the bard like a kitten with a saucer of milk. And want glorious milk it was. She tasted so sweet, so magnificent. Xena thought for a moment or two she was actually purring.

It didn't take much. Gabrielle had been more than ready. The constant lashing across her clit made her explode in mere minutes and Xena drank the bard of all she had to offer her lover. Finally, as Gabrielle's breathing steadied out, Xena made her way back up to her bard. Gabrielle licked Xena's chin clean of her juices and the warrior couldn't help thinking just how 'feline' the pair really were. Of course that wasn't all she was thinking. Gabrielle's lips batting across her chin made her think of the bard's mouth on other caverns on her body.

She didn't have much time to dwell on it. Soon she was on her back with Gabrielle over her. "I want you," Gabrielle said almost apologetically.

Xena understood. Gabrielle wanted to taste her. She didn't want to explore any other area except the one between Xena's legs. 

Who am I to deny my bard? Xena smirked silently.

Xena nodded her reassurance as she whispered her reply.

"Take me."

Those two words were all Gabrielle needed. She delved deep into the warrior's apex as her hands caressed the warrior's full breasts. Soon however Xena took the bard's hands and lead them to her center. She forced the bard's fingers deep inside her, from which point the bard and warrior found a steady rhythm together.

"Yes, Gabrielle. Yes," the warrior panted. Gabrielle simply moaned at the growing cries, her mouth happily full at the moment.

When Xena arched and began to contract, Gabrielle pulled away. "Oh Xena," the bard sighed. "Give it to me. Give it to me."

Xena understood just what the bard meant. She watched as the Gabrielle returned, lapping up the explosion of juices that oozed as a result of her release. Gabrielle contently dined on Xena's body until the warrior had little left to offer. Xena moved first and pulled back the bed covers. She patted Gabrielle's space as she laid down. In silence, the bard joined her. Neither woman needed to speak - the closeness alone spoke volumes as they snuggled.

Xena felt joyous that they had reached this point to where no words were necessary - where just a look or a caress was a tale in itself. Of course words were a nice touch Xena thought silently.

"I love you, Gabrielle," Xena whispered in a sleepy haze.

"I know. You just told me a few minutes ago." Gabrielle grinned. "And in the most wonderful of ways," she added slyly.

Xena's chuckle was the last thing they heard. Well, at least for four candlemarks which was marked by Lex's scream for her pre-dawn feeding.

CHAPTER XIX

Another three months had passed and Gabrielle was getting closer. She drove Xena nuts. Every day when the warrior walked into their hut she found the bard cleaning, dusting or washing something. It was beginning to draw on the warrior's nerves, but Terris explained it was perfectly natural. She watched many amazons do the same thing - very bird-like in a sense. And there stood Sparrow Gabrielle, make sure the 'nest' was nice and secure.

Actually,Xena was surprised Gabrielle didn't have the baby already. Gabrielle had lost her mucus plug the week before when she tripped. Gabrielle, against Xena's orders, decided to work out with her staff - just to stay in shape, when she took a header in the dirt after her third swing. Xena confiscated the weapon immediately upon finding out. And once more Xena was concerned. And again Terris told her she had seen it happen before, but everything worked out fine. That, again, put the warrior at ease.

But for now, Xena was in the mess hall - after her morning run with Argo, eating some eggs and bread. Nagen, however, came running in, crashing into the table. "Queen Gabrielle ... " she said trying to catch her breath.

"What's wrong?" Xena asked.

"I've been looking everywhere for you. She's with Terris. 'This is it' she says."

Xena, Ephiny and Diteria - with whom she was eating with - all looked at each other before bolting up from the table. Xena, of course, held the lead all the way to their hut.

As Xena came into the entrance, she saw Terris ordering Gabrielle to push. Upon seeing the warrior, Terris told Gabrielle, 'I'll be back'.

Terris asked Ephiny and Diteria to stay with Gabrielle. Quietly, the healer took Xena outside by the arm.

"Something's wrong," Terris said.

Xena could hear the graveness in her voice. "What is it?"

"Her labor is coming fast," Terris answered. "Almost faster than yours. I've only seen it once before and that was with a woman who had an infection in her womb."

"What happened?" Xena asked fearfully.

Terris paused a moment. "I lost the mother and the baby," Terris said remorseful.

"I'm not going to lose her," Xena said defiantly, rushing back into the room. Terris followed and they found Ephiny 'coaching' while Diteria wiped Gabrielle's sweaty brow.

"She's burning up," Diteria said cautiously, trying to hide her level of fear. Women often ran warm during the strenuous part of labor... but not THIS warm.

Terris assessed the situation again, examining Gabrielle once more. "Okay," she coached. "Just a few more pushes."

Xena took Diteria's place along with the cool towel. Diteria was right, Gabrielle was burning up and the warrior stroked the bard's body, trying to keep her cool. Xena wasn't sure how much time had lapsed. She was caught up in the bard's condition. 'If Terris is right then Gabrielle could... ' She didn't finish the thought. Suddenly, she heard a baby crying. She looked down and saw Terris grin.

"It's a girl," the healer said wrapping her up. Quickly, she cut the cord and handed the baby over to Gabrielle.

"Isn't she beautiful?" Gabrielle asked the warrior as she snuggled the baby into her arms.

Xena did her best to muster a smile. "Yes, she is."

"Her hair is so dark," Gabrielle remarked, at the little black fuzz on top of the child's head. "You know for years people will think this is your kid, the way people say Lexia is mine."

"Well, I say they are both ours no matter what anyone says," the warrior menaced jokingly. She wanted, no - she needed to keep things optimistic. She wanted to be strong for Gabrielle.

Xena noticed that Terris had been examining Gabrielle through the whole conversation, but she hadn't said a word.

"Are you still warm?" Terris asked Gabrielle.

Gabrielle hadn't paid much attention to her temperature. She was enjoying their new princess too much. "Yeah. I am," Gabrielle replied. "Is something wrong?" she asked.

Terris knew she had to tell the bard, but she looked at Xena for 'approval' first.

Xena did the job for her. "Terris believes you may have an infection. Your labor was very hard and very fast, Gabrielle."

"What does that mean?" the bard asked.

"It means I have to start some herb therapies as soon as possible to combat it," Terris said. "I'm going to do everything I can."

"You're certain there's an infection?" Xena asked the healer. It sounded quiet intimidating; challenging.

"Almost positive," Terris answered. "Almost."

Ephiny, Diteria and Terris all left for the healers hut. Once they were gone for sure Gabrielle turned to Xena.

"Am I gonna die, Xena?"

Xena felt like she could become a puddle of tears at any moment, but she knew healing the body with a positive mind helped. She wanted to encourage Gabrielle to fight even though she was unsure of what the final out come would be.

"Of course not," Xena insisted. "Of course not... because I won't let it happen." 

CHAPTER XX

A week had past. The fever hadn't broken. Terris didn't want Gabrielle to nurse so Xena took on the task of feeding both babies. That was when she wasn't wiping down Gabrielle's sweat soaked body. The bard ate under protest, saying she wasn't hungry. Terris and Xena however made her eat, trying to keep her strength up.

On the eighth day, Terris came into the healing hut to see Xena searching through her herbs and bottles. Gabrielle's breathing was growing shallower and Terris knew the bard didn't have long. So did Xena and the warrior looked frantic as she searched through Terris supplies.

"I've tried everything," Terris said sadly.

Xena acted as if she didn't hear her as she searched. After a few more bottles were examined she muttered, "There must be something."

"I've tried everything," Terris repeated.

Xena was angry. She couldn't believe this was happening. This isn't how it was supposed to end. After all the danger they face. After all the times when Hades had taken them - both - and returned them safely. This wasn't Gabrielle's destiny. The warrior was sure of that. Zeus be damned! They were a family now. This wasn't right. This wasn't fair. 

How many more people do I have to lose? Xena thought.

And the more she thought, the angrier she got. Suddenly, her arm lashed out clearing the table of its contents with a loud smash. As the last bottle teetered on the table's edge, she wondered why she didn't feel any better. How could she find release from this Tartarus?

"I'm sorry," Xena sobbed as she looked at the mess she created. "I know you've done everything, but I... I just can't accept this... She's supposed to grow old. She's supposed to tell her grandchildren all her beautiful stories... It's not supposed to end this way. Not for her."

Terris didn't say anything. She wanted to let Xena get everything out.

"And Karis...  That poor baby," Xena said turning around. "Sometimes I look at her and I... I hate her. She's just a baby...  It's not her fault, but I feel like I should blame her. If she wasn't here then Gabrielle would be okay... Gods, Terris! Does that make me a terrible person?"

"No," Terris said honestly. "It makes you human, Xena. And believe it or not, it's actually a good thing that you recognize your anger with the child. It's even better that you understand that it's unfounded. Your anger with Karis will pass if you talk about it... And I'll listen if you like; without judgment."

Xena's reserve of the last eight days fell apart. She'd been so strong in front of Gabrielle. Never taking the time or courage to cry. She found herself balling now with Terris joining her. Terris loved Gabrielle too. And she loved Xena. And she knew leaving someone you love is the hardest thing - no matter what the means to the depart may be.

After a few minutes of holding each other while they cried, Xena pulled away and wiped her tears from the dark circles under her eyes. She hadn't had much sleep either and that wasn't helping HER health or spirits any either. Terris recognized this.

"Lay down in here," Terris instructed. "Even if it's for only an hour. You need your rest."

"No," Xena answered firmly. "Gabrielle might call for me."

"Xena, I'll stay with her myself. If she asks for you or it looks like she's... passing over... I'll send for you. But for now - please - just close your eyes for awhile. You look like Tartarus, Xena and that has to be hard on Gabrielle too."

Xena didn't want to, but yet she grinned in admiration. Terris was really good at that 'mind stuff'. If reassurance didn't work, she would throw in a little guilt. "Okay," Xena replied, taking one of the medical beds. "You win."

Xena snuggled in. And for the first time, in months actually, she slept for six hours straight. Terris was quite please with herself about getting the warrior to rest - at least until she had a reason to wake Xena.

CHAPTER XXI

"Xena? Xena. You need to wake up."

The warrior's eyes shot open and focused on Terris.

"She wants you," the healer informed the warrior.

Xena jumped up and moved swiftly from the healers hut. Lila and Ephiny watched the consort sprint to the royal chambers as Terris walked slowly outside. Lila and Ephiny looked briefly at each other before both resolved that they needed to speak to the village healer.

"Well?" Lila asked Terris, not adding more. She was still in shock over the whole incident. All Gabrielle wanted was a baby. Not this.

"Her time's at hand. She knows it. Xena knows it," Terris shrugged. She didn't know what more she could add.

"I can't believe this," Ephiny whispered.

Suddenly, Xena emerged from the hut yelling, looking around outside. "Ephiny! Lila!"

"On our way!" Ephiny yelled back as the duo broke into a run.

Once they all entered the chamber they found the bard looking drained. She was white - snow white - and her breathing was labored even more than their last visit days ago.

Lila couldn't control it and she started to cry. Gabrielle shushed her and held out her hand. They all came over, but it was Lila who took the offered appendage.

"I'm giving Ephiny my rite of caste until you're confident to lead the nation, Lila. When Lexia is old enough I'd like you to give her the throne, but only if she wants it. Who knows? Maybe she'd rather trample the countryside telling stories." Gabrielle giggled before becoming serious again as she faced Xena. "Make sure she's free to make her own choices in life, Warrior Mine - Lex and Karis both. Teach them everything about you - the darkness and the light. And tell them my stories," she added with a weary smile.

"I'll never be able to tell them as well as you," Xena insisted.

"Sure you can. You have many skills," Gabrielle encouraged. "Tell me my favorite - about how Zeus created man. Let me hear you."

"Now?" Xena asked astonished. This was not the time or the place for the warrior to show her lack of bardic skills. "Gabri-."

"Please," the bard whispered. She didn't have to ask twice.

"A long time ago," Xena began as she took Gabrielle's other hand. "People had two heads and two hearts. And Zeus, using his great thunderbolts, separated everyone so they had only one heart and one head. But something was missing. So for years people have been looking; searching for that 'something' - the other half of their soul... to make themselves whole once more."

"See," Gabrielle said proudly. "I knew you were always listening... You CAN do it Xena," the bard added with a light squeeze of the warrior's hand.

Xena understood that Gabrielle wasn't speaking of just her stories. The bard was also talking about raising their daughters.

Xena squeezed her hand back. "I'll do my best, Beautiful."

Gabrielle closed her eyes. "My other half... " Gabrielle grinned, fighting to get the words out. "I'll wait for you."

Xena didn't have the chance to respond. Gabrielle... Queen. Bard. Mother. Lover... was gone. Lila began to cry again. She dropped Gabrielle's hand and buried her face in her hands. Ephiny, with a solitaire tear running down her left cheek lead Lila out of the hut.

Xena sat expressionless; numb. She didn't cry. She didn't scream. She simply sat stroking the bard's overgrown bangs away from her eyes. She didn't even hear Terris enter the hut. It wasn't until the healer put her hand on her shoulder that she knew she was there.

"Come on," Terris said leading the warrior to her feet. "Ephiny will take care of you. I'll see to Gabrielle and make sure she's ready for the pyre."

"No," Xena said harshly.

"She's gone Xena. There's nothing more you can do."

"I'll take care of her," Xena argued. "I've always taken care of her."

"Xena, are you sure you're up to this? I mean -

"Please go," Xena interrupted in a softer voice. "Please."

Terris nodded in understanding. It was just something the warrior need to do to let go and say goodbye. "I'll be outside if you need anything."

Xena cut Gabrielle's clothes away and cleaned the bard's body, taking the sheets away with the soiled garments. Once Xena had her dressed in her amazon regalia - breastplate and all - she brushed the bard's long hair. It was a difficult task, but she pulled the body up so it rested on her shoulder and she stroked the golden red tresses with great care and gentleness. 

Not like she can feel it now, the warrior had to remind herself.

It was at that point that the situation hit home. Gabrielle was dead. Her lover was gone. She left. She just... left. By Hades and the bard herself, was Xena mad. 

How dare she leave me to raise these kids ... alone. I have to raise these kids alone while she prances in the Elysian Fields.

She began to feel guilty next. It wasn't Gabrielle's fault, but she still felt angry. She had to be mad at someone or something. But the longer she sat there brushing her bondmate's hair the more she realized something. 

Yes, the bard was gone, but someway; somehow they would be together again. And she would make the bard proud of her by raising happy, healthy daughters someway; somehow, even though she was alone.

Gently, she sat Gabrielle's body back down. She looked at the beautiful face of the woman she loved. 

She can hear my thoughts. Xena grinned. Okay, I'll say it again... Even in death, Gabrielle... I'll never leave you... never...  never.

The End

Authors Note: Okay. You can direct your hate mail to: cnwinters71@yahoo.com or just reply below. Yes I killed the bard, okay? I figured if the producers could do it, I could too.<G> This 'Homecoming' series was just getting a little too perfect for me so I decided to make 'necessary changes'. I hope you liked this story and I would like to hear your comments. Thanks, as always, for reading.

 

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