The Homecoming

Written by: Maureen McGowan

As the sun slowly began to rise over the hills, Xena turned over in her bedroll and was immediately wakened by a sound coming from the far corner of the campsite. Instincts took over and the warrior grabbed her sword, always within her reach at night, and jumped to her feet, startling the only other person in the area.

"Aahhh!!! Oh, sorry Xena...I was trying to be quiet. But you hear *everything* for Gaia's sake!"

Xena tried to focus in on Gabrielle, who normally had to be physically threatened to get up in the mornings. She had obviously been awake for a while, and was in the process of feeding Argo. A perplexed Xena relaxed her battle-ready muscles and looked at her friend for an explanation.

Gabrielle looked over innocently at Xena. "What?"

"Gabrielle, you're normally peacefully snoring this time of the morning. Are you all right?"

"I don't snore...and yes I'm fine...just excited about going home. We *will* be there late this afternoon, right? I mean, you know...we're going to be able to get there by this mean that...well, um..."

"Calm down Gabrielle." Xena sat back on the blanket, smiling at her companion. "We'll be there...that is if you don't have a heart attack first." Xena watched as her friend smiled, accepting her assurances, and went back to feeding Argo. Once finished, the bard made her way over to the campfire.

"I thought I'd cook some fresh fish for breakfast."

Xena was further amazed when Gabrielle produced two filets that she had obviously prepared earlier this morning. "Don't tell me you were up earlier catching fish! This is just too bizarre...I still must be asleep!"

The bard gave Xena an exasperated look, then smiled and began cooking their breakfast. As she worked on the fish, Gabrielle turned to her friend. "I already cleaned your armor and Argo's all set, so why don't you go take your morning bath and get dressed. By the time you get back, your tea and fish should be ready."


"Go on! You don't want your fish to be overcooked, do you?"

Xena got up, shaking her head, and grabbed her leathers and boots. She casually walked barefoot over to Argo who nudged her master with her head - as if she too was trying to tell Xena to get lost. Shrugging her shoulders, the warrior gave up trying to figure out her traveling companions and headed for the river.

Gabrielle walked over to Argo, patting her head and neck. "Good girl! Let's just keep her out of trouble today. We have a schedule to keep! No side trips, no hero stuff...just a nice relaxing ride to Poteidaia.

As she had no real camp chores to busy herself with, Xena allowed herself the luxury of taking extra time in the river. After washing her hair, she floated on her back, listening to the gentle breezes and basking in the warm morning sunlight. She knew Gabrielle was up to something, but wasn't sure what it could be. Knowing her friend, Xena surmised that she probably had some hairbrain adventure planned and was trying to soften her up "for the kill." Xena smiled thinking that Gabrielle really didn't have to push her very hard anymore. Xena, the fierce Warrior Princess usually capitulated to her traveling companion fairly quickly.

Letting her mind wander some, the warrior's thoughts kept coming back to her friend Gabrielle. Xena was amazed that they had been together almost two years. During that time, Gabrielle had grown up right in front of her eyes. Xena couldn't help but feel pride when she saw the woman, her closest friend and companion, practice with her staff, or heard her tell her intricately woven stories over and over and over again. Smiling again, Xena remembered all the times she tried to rid herself of Gabrielle. Luckily, the bard was a stubborn, persistent spirit, who stuck around during those hard early times. Now, the thought of traveling without her friend was unimaginable.

"Even when she *is* plotting something..."

Shaking herself out of her daydreams, Xena gracefully swam to the shore and began to dress. By the time she got back to the campsite, Gabrielle had set out her fish and tea, and was putting the finishing touches on some bread.

"Good! You're back just in time." Handing Xena her food, Gabrielle sat down with hers and began to munch. "EAT!!!"

Sitting down beside Gabrielle, Xena tasted her fish. "Uum...this is wonderful. Thank you Gabrielle...this was really sweet. Now, why don't you tell me what's on your mind." The warrior continued eating as she looked at the bard for an explanation.

Gabrielle looked up at Xena and shook her head. Now came the time for a few little white lies. "Look, I couldn't sleep, and well...I wanted to say thank you for coming home with me. I mean, I know you're uncomfortable with my family. They weren't all that nice to you the only time you met. My father practically kicked you out of town, even after you saved his two daughters! And I know you're aware of their misgivings towards you...and me being with you...I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate the effort."

"'re my best friend, and you haven't seen your family in over a year. I'm glad we could make the trip. Really. So, what else is there?"

"Nothing Xena! Geez, can't someone be nice without a reason? Finish your fish!"

The rest of the meal went by quietly as the two friends shared a comfortable silence. Seeing Xena was finished with her food, Gabrielle stood up and grabbed her friend by the arm, helping her to stand.

"Look, why don't I start packing up things while you and Argo go out for a run? She hasn't been exercised in a few days and you guys should spend some time together." Seeing Xena's questioning looks again, Gabrielle continued. "Go! Have fun, and when you come back, I'll have everything ready to move on."

Xena was now totally convinced that Gabrielle was up to something, but the prospect of getting out with Argo for a while - guilt free - was just too good to pass up. Grabbing her saddle, Xena walked over to her horse and lifted the load onto Argo's back. After checking that everything was secured, Xena grabbed the reins and led the war-horse out of the shielding woods into an open field not far away. Mounting her, Xena did not even have to order the horse forward. Knowing her master, Argo bolted forward, happy to be able to stretch her legs and enjoy a fun run.

The rest of the morning went by uneventfully. Xena and Argo returned to the campsite to find everything ready to go. After stowing all their gear, the group made their way towards Poteidaia.

Chapter 2

The trio had been on the road for most of the day. Gabrielle had passed the time by telling all Xena's favorite stories...which meant none of them were about the Warrior Princess. They had even stopped for a while to eat and let Argo drink from a small stream. While resting, Gabrielle had somehow talked Xena into allowing her to braid some hair over the top of her head. As they continued towards Poteidaia, the bard congratulated herself on the results. She had even managed to put a few small flowers throughout the braid. Of course Xena did not know this...but that didn't matter. What she didn't know wouldn't hurt her. The bard was very pleased with how the day was if only the evening...Gabrielle's thoughts were interrupted suddenly by her normally stoic companion.

"Gabrielle, can I ask you something?"

It was midafternoon and the travelers were but just a few hours from Poteidaia. Gabrielle looked up to see a slightly nervous Xena staring down at her.


"Um...well...are you sure your family will welcome me here? I mean, I can camp out while you visit. That way..."

"No! Xena, everything'll be fine. Trust me on this okay?"

Shaking her head, Xena continued. "It's just...well, besides *who* I am...I mean that by itself makes most people uncomfortable to say the least...I, well, I mean they probably hate me for taking you away...not to mention Perdicus."

Gabrielle stopped dead in her tracks. Knowing they had plenty of time, the bard quipped, "Okay, I'm tired...let's rest a few minutes."

"I thought you were in a hurry?"

"Get down off Argo Xena. We need to talk."

Once Xena got off Argo, Gabrielle grabbed her reins and led her over to a copse of trees. Xena followed and grabbed a water pouch off the saddle, then sat down in the shade. Gabrielle followed suit and took the offered water pouch from Xena. After quenching her thirst, the bard put the water down and placed her hand on Xena's leg.

"I'm sorry Xena. I guess I sometimes forget...because you're always so strong, and you NEVER tell me what you're thinking... I should've known that you would be nervous about this trip."

"Gabrielle, this is your family we're talking about. I want *you* to be able to enjoy yourself. I don't want to be in the way, or intrude, or be some type of diversion from that."

The bard stared at Xena. This woman meant the world to her and it was times like this that just broke Gabrielle's heart. When it came to basic socialization skills, Xena was like a child. Thanks to her past, Xena was not exactly the best conversationalist around, and most people preferred not to be near her anyway...and made that very clear. The Warrior Princess, who was unequaled in battle skills, survival tactics, and the healing arts, was totally unprepared to deal with normal human contact, especially in groups. She avoided it whenever possible. It was only with Gabrielle that Xena opened up at all...and that normally took alot of prodding on the bard's part.

"Xena, I want you to listen to me...but more importantly, I want you to *hear* what I'm saying. *You* are my family too. My parents and my sister know that and they trust me. They just need to get to know you a little...that's all. And yes, Lilla was jealous of you for a very long time - hated you for taking me away. But the last time I was home, she saw that she's still my sister and that you're no threat to our relationship. It really will be okay."

Taking a breath, Gabrielle continued. "Xena no one blames you for Perdicus...most importantly me. You did what you could saved my life. I never want to hear you even hint that any of that was your fault again. Never Xena. The memory is painful enough without having to add your misguided guilt to it."

Moving her hand onto Xena's shoulder, Gabrielle finished up her pep talk with a smile. "Heck, I'll be there with you the whole time Xena...I mean, you would never send me into battle by myself. There's no way I would make you deal with my parents one-on-one. That'd be cruel and unusual punishment! Please trust me on this. It really will be all right and you may actually enjoy yourself."

Standing up, Xena shook her head. "Well, all right. If you insist...but..."

"No buts Xena, let's go. Don't want to be late!"

Xena smiled seeing Gabrielle's excitement take hold of her. She mounted Argo and reached out to her friend. "Well, if you want to get there faster, hop up!"

Xena was pleasantly surprised when Gabrielle accepted her help onto Argo. Once on and settled, Gabrielle took up her nonstop chatter where she left off. "Let's go! Did I tell you how great a cook my mother is?"

Chapter 3

An hour later, Xena and Gabrielle arrived in Poteidaia. They dismounted Argo and walked down the crowded market streets, where Xena noticed that everyone seemed to know Gabrielle.

"Hi Gabrielle!" "Good to have you back home Gabby!" "We've missed you Gab!" "Great seeing you cousin!"....

On the other hand, people acknowledged Xena's presence with a cautioned nod of their heads. Although Xena noticed, her mind was on her traveling companion again. The warrior had never been that popular in her home village...not like her brother Lyceus. She had never known the kind of love being shown to her friend. It made her realize just how much Gabrielle had given up to come with her.

Gabrielle turned and looked at Xena. "Still with me?"

"Yeah, um...sure. You *know* all these people?"

"Well of course I do. I grew up here, my whole family's here." Gabrielle pointed over to one of the market stalls. " See that fruit vendor over there? He's the third nephew...or is it the my cousin Nemos. He used to play spin the goblet with us at my grandparent's house while the grownups were doing whatever the grownups normally did!"

"Spin the goblet?"

"Don't tell me you never..." Seeing Xena's vacant expression, Gabrielle chuckled. "Remind me to tell you all about it some time. Ah here we are..." The bard pointed to a fairly large sized house at the end of the main village pathway. She turned and looked at Xena. "You okay?"

"I'm fine...just a little nervous, that's all..."

As Xena secured Argo to a nearby hitching post, the door to the house burst open and Lilla ran out, grabbing her older sister; hugging her tightly

"Lilla...Lilla...I can't breathe! It's great to see you too but let go!!!" Lilla relaxed her hold on Gabrielle but continued hugging her as their parents appeared at the doorway. Gabrielle broke away from her sister and ran up to her parents, throwing her arms around them both.

"Mother...Father...I've missed you both so much!" Tears streamed down the emotional bard's face, as she turned and motioned Xena forward. " remember Xena...Xena this is my father and mother...and my sister Lilla."

With a nervous smile on her face, Xena shook hands with Gabrielle's parents. "Sir, ma'am, it was nice of you to include me in your family reunion." Turning towards Lilla, Xena extended her hand. "Lilla, it's a pleasure to finally *really* meet you. The first time was a"

Lilla refused to take Xena's hand. Instead she threw her arms around the stunned warrior and hugged her. "Thanks for taking care of my sister. She's always talking about your adventures in her letters...and's like I already know you."

Gabrielle's father spoke up inviting everyone inside. "Dinner's almost ready and you two probably need to clean up before the other guests arrive. Gabby, we figured you could both stay in your old room while here if that's okay with you." The bard eagerly shook her head and followed her father inside the house.

Gabrielle could not help but see the look of dread in Xena's eyes as they walked down the hallway to their room. Xena caught the bard's attention and silently mouthed, "Other guests???" Gabrielle just shrugged her shoulders and whispered that she didn't live there anymore. Once inside their room, Gabrielle earnestly began to freshen up. Xena followed suit and removed her armor, if for no other reason than to give her nervous hands something to do. It was then that she noticed the flowers in her braid.

"Gabrielle, where did these come from?"

"Um...I have to go and help my mother with the food. I used to always be the kitchen know...uh...I'll see you later!" The bard fled before Xena could get another word out.

Turning back to the mirror, Xena smiled and decided to keep the flowers in place. She'd pay Gabrielle back for this one later. Finishing up, Xena sat down on the bed and began to get nervous again. She was totally clueless as to what to do next. She didn't want to go out and impose on Gabrielle's reunion with her family, but at the same time, she did not want to appear rude. Xena was so engrossed with her thoughts that she did not hear Gabrielle come back.


"Huh? Oh...I was wondering when you'd come back."

"Look, everyone's here, but one person wanted to say hi in private."

Gabrielle stood aside as a small woman, barely taller than the bard stepped into the room.

"Happy birthday daughter."


Chapter 4

Gabrielle smiled from ear to ear and started backing out of the room. "Why don't you two get reacquainted. Dinner'll be ready in a while."

When Gabrielle left, Xena was still in shock. Her mother walked slowly over and put her arms around the warrior. "It is *so* good to see you Xena!"

Xena hugged her mother tightly as tears streamed down her face. She still had trouble believing that she had ever forgiven her for her past...let alone traveling all the way to Poteidaia from Amphipolis. " mean...I...I've missed you so much Mother!"

Eventually they let each other go and sat on the bed, still clasping hands. "Gabrielle has been planning this for quite a while. That's some friend you have there."

"But how did she know about my birthday? I mean, it explains alot of her actions today, but I'd totally forgotten and I know I never told her."

"Gabrielle and I had a long talk after you rescued the town from that woman Callisto... Anyway, she asked me when your birthday was and said she wanted our families to meet. Let me tell you, she can be *very* persuasive!"

"You don't know the half of it!" Xena just stared at her mother. "I can't believe you're here." Xena couldn't help it; she hugged her again as if to reaffirm that this was really happening.

"Well, you refuse to come home for visits daughter, so I have to track you down."

"I'm not exactly the most popular person in Amphipolis Mother. I don't want to cause you any trouble." Xena stared down at her feet, the shame she felt evident on her face.

" doesn't matter. We're here together now. Torres would be here too, but he's home running the tavern for me. It's so good to have him home again. He told me what you did, and how you stopped him from...." Xena's mother shook her head, trying not to think of what her oldest child almost became. "And I've heard so many good things about you...that you're trying hard to make amends..."


Holding up her hand, silencing Xena, the older woman continued. "Daughter, I had also heard that you died. I knew it was wrong...that it couldn't be true...I knew it had to be a cruel joke. Then someone said they had seen you in some village named Laral...and Gabrielle passed on word to be here..."

"Mother, I did die. I know that sounds crazy, but I did. Thanks to Gabrielle and a few other people, I came back. I know this will sound weird, but I was so hurt, and I wanted to die... and I did. But Gabrielle's thoughts...I heard them...and I knew I had to try to come back for her."

Xena hugged her mother again, and they sat quietly in each other's arms. After a short while, there as a knock on the door, and Xena looked up to see Gabrielle standing in the hallway.

"Um...dinner's ready. We can wait if you'd like, but this is your birthday Xena. You're the guest of honor."

"Come daughter...let's go and eat."

Xena stood up and wiped away the remnants of tears from her face. Once satisfied that she was presentable, she replied, "Let's go eat then."

Chapter 5

Xena was so taken by her mother's presence that she had completely forgotten that Gabrielle's father had said dinner "guests"...plural. As she walked arm in arm with her mother into the dining room, Xena stopped cold, totally shocked at what she saw. Besides Gabrielle's family, Hercules, Iolaus, Salmoneus, Autolycus, and Ephiny all crowded around the table.

Hercules stood up, raising his wine goblet. "Happy birthday Xena. From us to you!"

"Happy birthday!" they all sounded in unison.

Xena was lucky that her mother had hold of her as someone could have knocked the mighty Warrior Princess over with a feather. She stood in the doorway totally shocked and speechless.


"That's my Xena," Gabrielle joked, "always the profound orator! Why don't you sit down so we can eat!"

Xena's mother led her to the empty chair at the head of the dining table, and took a seat on one side of her daughter, while Gabrielle took the empty place on the other side of her friend. The bard noticed that Xena's hands were shaking and reached over grasping one, squeezing it reassuringly. Finally, the food bowls were passed around the table, and Xena could occupy her hands constructively. The warrior, although still totally taken aback by the people in front of her, began to relax a bit and enjoy herself with the small talk around the table. All her friends took the time to catch up with her, as Gabrielle's family sat in amazement, staring at their daughter's mixture of friends. Only their colorful wayward oldest child would show up to dinner with a reformed warlord, a demi-god, a thief, a shady used chariot salesman, and an Amazon queen. This would be the talk of the town for years to come!

Chapter 6

The evening went better than Gabrielle could ever have hoped. She had never seen Xena so happy or relaxed. Once the initial shock of the situation had worn off, her friend had warmed to the occasion and had spent her time talking with all her friends, and happily opening the gifts they had each brought for her. Hercules and Iolaus had presented her with a small beautiful gemstone, found while on one of their adventures. Autolycus had given Xena a gorgeous pair of earrings. No one dared to ask where they had come from. Salmoneus, ever the salesman, presented Xena with a gift scroll, entitling her to a free set of earthen dishes he was selling. Ephiny handed Xena an Amazon knife. Its intricately carved bone white handle depicted Xena's and Gabrielle's adventures with the Amazon nation. Gabrielle's family gave Xena a short, pale blue dress with matching soft boots, and finally Xena's mother handed her daughter a small etching, made by an Amphipolis artisan, which carried the likenesses of Xena, her mother, Torres, and Lyceus. The Warrior Princess could barely thank her friends and family as she was overwhelmed with emotion. Luckily Gabrielle was there to rescue her friend by jumping in with a few stories for the assembled group.

Chapter 7

Finally the evening ended. Everyone was leaving in the early morning, so they said their goodnights and headed to their beds. Gabrielle waited until she and Xena were alone in their room and reached into her travel pouch, pulling out her present...a small scroll.

Xena slowly untied the golden bow that was gently wrapped around the parchment. As she read the prose her friend had written, Xena was touched to the depths of her heart. All of the unspoken, yet accepted, feelings of trust, friendship, and love they shared had finally been verbalized in Gabrielle's beautiful song. Xena silently stared down at the words as tears welled in her eyes.

" didn't know what to get you Xena. But I guess I just wanted you to know how much you mean to me. After you died...I hated myself for not telling you...Then when I know...afterwards...well, things were a little out of hand. But it's important to me that you know."

"I know Gabrielle...I've always known." Putting down the parchment, Xena drew her friend to her and hugged her tightly. "What you did here today...for one has ever done anything like this. I can't even begin to tell you how much it's meant to me."

Holding Gabrielle out at arms distance, Xena looked deeply into her eyes. "You know I'm not real good with words...that's your department." The women smiled at each other acknowledging the truth of her statement. "Everything you said in your song...I feel the same way. I just hope you know that because I know I don't always show it. Gabrielle, you're my best friend, my family, my strength... I don't know how to describe're my soulmate, a part of me. I thank the gods every day that you came into my life." Xena drew Gabrielle back in and gently kissed her. "Thank you."

Gabrielle wiped the tears from her eyes and changed the subject. "I guess we should get some sleep. Everyone's leaving pretty early tomorrow."

Smiling, Xena responded, "I take it your old sleeping habits will miraculously reappear in the morning. I'll make sure I pry you out of bed so you can say good-bye to everyone!"

"Xeennnaaa!!!" Gabrielle turned around and grabbed one of the pillows off the bed and hit her friend across the face. Xena, not one to take any such action lying down, grabbed the other pillow and spun it into her friend, knocking her back onto the bed. A full fledged very loud pillow fight ensued.

The next thing they knew, Gabrielle's angry father was at their door in his rumpled dressing gown. "Stop it! People are trying to sleep here!!! Now go to bed...both of you!"

Gabrielle hung her head, attempting to appear serious and not laugh. "I'm...I'm sorry father..."

Xena on the other hand, was having trouble maintaining her laughter, and put her hand over her mouth and mumbled, "Yes'll ...sorry..."

When the door shut again, Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other and put their pillows over their mouths as they fell on the bed laughing. It took quite a while for them to calm down enough to actually get into bed. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Chapter 8

It had been three days since all the guests had departed Poteidaia. Gabrielle and Xena had stayed on as planned, allowing the bard a nice visit with her family. Xena had taken the time to get to know Lilla better and to relax. But tomorrow, they were leaving, heading out to continue their wanderings. Xena's only regret was that Gabrielle's parents were still somewhat distant with her. Although they seemingly accepted her, there was still some tension there.

Xena pondered this fact as she walked Argo back towards the house. They had been out running in the open fields surrounding the village. And for the first time, Xena was wearing the dress and boots that Gabrielle's family had given her for her birthday. Although it made her nervous traveling anywhere without her armor and weapons, Xena felt it important to let her friend's parents know how much she appreciated their kindness. This was one small gesture to do that. Actually, Xena liked the look and feel of the outfit and had decided to make a habit of wearing it from time to time if an occasion came up to do so. As she passed through the end of the market place, she saw the merchants and passersby give her friendly nods and greetings. She almost felt welcomed was a nice feeling.

Finally Xena arrived at Gabrielle's home. As she was leading Argo to the barn, her friend's parents both came out the front door. "Xena, we were wondering if we could talk with you."

"Um...sure...just let me get Argo settled. Is there something wrong?"

" your time. We'll be out back when you're ready."

Xena's nervousness returned with a vengeance. She made sure Argo was all right, then walked towards Gabrielle's parents. All she could think was that Lilla had taken Gabrielle gods only knew where this morning and that they weren't back yet. Xena muttered to herself, "Gabrielle, you said you wouldn't make me do this on my own...where are you????" Taking a deep breath, she approached her hosts.

Gabrielle's mother offered Xena a cup. "Please sit down...we have some tea here."

"Um...thanks..." Xena sat down and then stared at the table top, uncertain of what to say. "I, uh really want to thank you both for all your hospitality...and for the party...everything. I..."

"Xena, it was all Gabrielle's doing. We've always had trouble saying no to her."

"I know that feeling," Xena responded with a smile.

"We just wanted to talk with you for a while...get to know you better, and to talk about our daughter. I know we weren't exactly kind to you before..."

When Xena tried to interrupt, the woman raised her hand asking the warrior to let her finish. "And we'll be very honest with you. We still worry about Gabrielle being out there with you."

"Sir, ma'am...Gabrielle means the world to me and I would do anything to see that she's safe and well. And I know that you would probably have picked practically anyone else to be a friend to your daughter...but I..."

"Oh, Xena, you misunderstand us," Gabrielle's father interjected. "I readily admit that we hated the idea of her being with the infamous Xena: Warrior Princess in the beginning. But not now...this isn't about you. Gabrielle's written us about all the good things you've done and...well...we can see how much she means to you. And we've seen that you're not the evil person everyone says you are. We just worry about our headstrong daughter. If she has to be out this adventure she's living...we can't think of anyone we'd rather have her with."

"Thank you...that means alot to me...really it does."

"We wanted to thank you for taking such good care of her, and well, we wanted you to tell us about her. She's grown up since she's been gone...tell us about her life."

Xena smiled at Gabrielle's parents and began to talk about her friend, their adventures, and all they had learned from each other.

Lilla and Gabrielle returned at dusk loaded with packages. They were cooking dinner tonight for the family and wanted everything just right. As they walked up to the house, they heard laughter coming from out back. Walking around the side of their home, they saw their parents and the normally stoic Warrior Princess joking and laughing about something.

"So, what's so funny?" Lilla called out as the two sisters approached.

Her father responded, "Xena's just been telling us some things about Gabrielle."

Gabrielle turned a deep shade of red and looked inquisitively over to her friend, only to be given one of Xena's patented raised eyebrow looks.

"Great, just great...I'm going to cook dinner! Come on Lilla!" As she left, the laughter began again.

Chapter 9

The next morning, Xena finished packing up Argo as Gabrielle spent some last moments with her family. Bringing the horse around the front of the house, Xena saw the whole clan walk out of the house, with a teary-eyed Gabrielle saying her final good-byes. Walking down towards Xena, the bard inquired, "Ready?"

Xena nodded towards her friend and began to lead Argo away. From behind she heard Gabrielle's father call out. "Xena!" As the warrior turned around, he finished his statement. "You always have a home here. Please take care of each other." With a wave and a nod, the duo made their way out of Poteidaia.

The End

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