No Place Like Home
(part ii of ii)
Ephany 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," Ephany replied firmly. "I know this is what I want."
"But you're still not sure, right?"
Ephany 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?" Ephany began. "Because I know I love her. When I almost lost her in Zagreus' attack. . ." Ephany 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," Ephany 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," Ephany replied soundly. "It was strictly a reaction to seeing her naked." Xena watched as Ephany 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 regents 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?" Ephany 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 Ephany. "The small of her back," Xena finally answered.
"Really?! The small of her back?!" Ephany was amazed.
"You asked!" Xena said defensively.
"Yes I did," Ephany 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 bards lower back and the way it felt in her fingertips. As she gave a small shake, she came back to the present conversation and Ephany 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," Ephany 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," Ephany 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." Ephany replied, trying to talk her way out of this confrontation.
Xena shook her head. "Nope. I'm not buying it. . .Come on. What part?"
Ephany 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 mans but not petite like a woman's. . . Kinda in-between. . . Kinda wonderful."
Ephany 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?" Ephany 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 Ephany found out some intimate details of their life together.
Xena decided to nod her reply. Of course that didn't stop Ephany 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."
Ephany 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?" Ephany grinned. "I know how things go -- Usually never the way you expect or intend," she laughed.
"But well worth it," Xena added.
"Most definitely," Ephany agreed.
The joining went smoothly. Well. . .accept for the fact that Diteria almost passed out from the heat and Ephany threw up moments before she was supposed to walk down the 'aisle'. Other than those small details things went well. Gabrielle now watched Ephany and Diteria feeding each other with large grins plastered on their faces. She had never seen her regent so happy. Watching Ephany'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."
"Yeah. What the name means?"
Gabrielle sighed. "Let me explain. . .Let's see - Maja. It means pearl. Aurora. It means golden dawn."
"So names actually have meanings?" Xena inquired.
"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 bards 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.
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 Ephany 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 bards 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 bards 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 bards 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 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 smirked.
"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.
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 mothers 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 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 you're funny and tiring moments too little one."
"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. You're 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 you're 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 bards 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 bards 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 warriors 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 warriors 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 bards. 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 bards 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 bards 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 bards 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 bards 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 bards 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 bards 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.
Those two words were all Gabrielle needed. She delved deep into the warriors apex as her hands caressed the warrior's full breasts. Soon however Xena took the bards hands and lead them to her center. She forced the bards 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.
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 warriors 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, Ephany 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 Ephany 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 Ephany '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 bards body, trying to keep her cool. Xena wasn't sure how much time had lapsed. She was caught up in the bards 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 conversations, 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. You're 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."
Ephany, 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."
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 Tartaris?
"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 judgement."
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 - get some rest. You look like Tartaris 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.
"Xena? Xena. You need to wake up."
The warriors 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 Ephany watched the consort sprint to the royal chambers as Terris walked slowly outside. Lila and Ephany 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," Ephany whispered.
Suddenly Xena emerged from the hut yelling, looking around outside. "Ephany! Lila!"
"On our way!" Ephany 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 Ephany 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. Ephany, 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 bards 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. "Ephany 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 bards body, taking the sheets away with the soiled garments. Once Xena had her dressed in her amazon regalia - breastplate and all - she brushed the bards 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.'
Authors Note: Okay. You can direct your hate mail to: email@example.com. 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.