The following story contains adult themes depicting explicit sexual relations between two consenting adults of the same sex. If you are under the age of 18 or reading this material is illegal where you live, please do not read any further. The writer and the person who maintains the website on which this work appears accepts no legal responsibility for noncompliance with this warning.

The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, and Cyrene are copyrighted to MCA/Universal and Renaissance. They are used here without intent to profit from or infringe upon this copyrighted material. The rest of the story is copyrighted to me (posted August 14, 1997--L.N. James). No original aspect of this story may be used elsewhere without prior written consent of the author. This story may not be altered in any way and this copyright information must appear with this work at all times.

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(Note: Any hate mail and/or icky obscene offers will be promptly deleted and forgotten. I won't debate the existence of subtext and if you don't agree, go find another story to read please. And to those who may harbor ideas of a prurient nature, you've got a snowball's chance in Tartarus of me acting out any of my stories with you in real life or on-line, ya got that? :)

Now, on we go...

Welcome Home

By L.N. James

"Coming up close
everything sounds like welcome home
Come home..."


The campfire burned low, the orange glow illuminating the small circle of rocks surrounding it. Not much light filtered back to the edges of the campsite, darkness overtaking it bit by bit. Thin, wispy white clouds drifted across the moon and stars, covering the sky with cobwebs. An occasional pop of burning wood and a multitude of other soft noises sounded as the daytime creatures settled into night and the nighttime creatures began their day. A chill crept into the air and two lovers cuddled into each other, seeking warmth and comfort in their closeness.

"So your mother's really going to do it, huh?"

Gabrielle yawned after she spoke, resting her head back down against Xena's broad shoulder, settling into their most preferred position. The warrior's strong arm wrapped itself around the bard's lower back and their legs tangled together. Gabrielle essentially used Xena as her pillow and more or less lay half on and half off her most of the night.


Xena's soft breath ruffled the top of Gabrielle's hair as she leaned down and kissed the bard's head. She smiled to herself as she felt Gabrielle gently squeeze against her tighter, eliminating any space between them.

"It's kind of hard to believe, Xena. Your mother has lived at the Inn since you were born, right? And now she's moving to a house in the country. Do you know why?"

Xena reached down and adjusted the blanket around Gabrielle's bare shoulder and rubbed her foot against the bard's leg.

"Hey! Your feet are freezing!"

Chuckling softly, the warrior simply pulled Gabrielle to her more closely.

"That's why I'm using your leg to warm them up, love."

The bard lifted her head and raised her eyebrow up at Xena and gave her a grin. Slipping her hand back under the covers, Gabrielle placed it against Xena's bare stomach and felt the warrior flinch.

"Yow! You need to keep your hands under the blanket from now on, Gabrielle."

With that, Xena entwined her fingers with Gabrielle's and their hands rested on the warrior's flat, toned stomach, rising and falling with each breath. The bard leaned up and kissed Xena sleepily on the corner of her mouth and put her head back down in the crook of a warm, strong shoulder.

"And to answer your question, I just think Mother wants some peace and quiet. She's lived there long enough with that noisy tavern. Besides, Toris is going to continue living there and Mother will simply run it during the day and go home at night. I think she'll be happy for the change."

Xena's other hand traced a random pattern across the bard's back, lightly touching her fingertips against soft skin as she started to feel Gabrielle slip towards sleep. She smiled when she felt the bard jerk and pretend she was awake the whole time.

" tomorrow we help your mother move...good thing we're camped close...we won't have to travel so far.."

Gabrielle's soft sleepy words were quiet as she contentedly sighed into the warmth of the woman she loved.

"Yeah, I wanted to spend one more night alone with you before we went into town. Mother wants me to go through all my old things still stored there and that'd probably take days."

Xena chuckled softly as Gabrielle nuzzled her way against Xena's breast and stretched her arm across the warrior, tucking her hand under Xena's side.

"right..moving day..boxes.."

Xena smiled as she listened to Gabrielle's words trail off and felt the younger woman's even breath against her skin. She tucked the blanket in around herself and the bard and leaned down and placed a soft kiss against Gabrielle's forehead. The bard stirred again, caught between that place of almost awake and definitely asleep, her words starting to mumble incoherently against the warrior.

"..warm...Xena...gotta pack my hmm....ok...ok.."

Xena gently hugged Gabrielle to her, rubbing her back and coaxing her to sleep with soft words spoken in the night air.

"Shhh...sleep, my love, sleep..."

The cool mist of early morning filled the campsite, covering everything in a fine layer of white, wet clouds. The sun had yet to burn off the chill, and the dew felt like a blanket, slicking everything it touched. The campfire stilled smoked slightly, sending off wood-flavored puffs that gently scented the air. The morning birds had just begun their calls as a new day awoke.

The young bard stirred, not normally awake at this time of the morning. The warrior smiled down at the burrowing warmth next to her and used her free hand to take the edge of the blanket and bring it up and over Gabrielle's head. Xena knew that her young love preferred to be under the blankets in the damp morning time and she chuckled softly as she felt the still sleeping bard relax in her arms. With Gabrielle tucked in at her side, the bard's leg thrown over the warrior's own legs, her arm across the warrior's stomach, her face pressed against the side of the warrior's breast, Xena herself fell back asleep to the gentle rhythm of Gabrielle's breathing.

"Wake up, sleepyhead."

Candlemarks later, soft words gently brushed against Gabrielle's ear and the bard simply tightened her grip on the warrior and continued sleeping.

"Gabrielle, time to get up."

Xena lightly squeezed the knee of her bard laying across the top of her own legs. She smiled down at the top of golden hair under the blanket as Gabrielle made soft sleepy noises, the desire to remain where she was forever clearly evident in the hold she had on the warrior's body. Xena gently ran her hand up and down the back of the bard's thigh, softly urging her awake with light strokes.

"Come on, love, let's get up."

With that, Xena pulled back the covers and exposed the semi-sleeping bard to the morning sunlight.


Gabrielle's murmured sleepy words vibrated against Xena's breast as the bard squinted at the sun. Chuckling softly, the warrior watched as Gabrielle pushed herself up on top of Xena and buried her face in the warrior's warm neck, hiding in the silky dark hair. She felt the familiar weight of Gabrielle resting on top of her and the soft beats of her heart against the warrior's chest. With her arms around the one she loved, Xena rubbed Gabrielle's back and placed gentle kisses against the side of the bard's neck and ear. This had been their routine every morning since they became lovers and it was a routine neither the bard nor the warrior ever wanted to change.

"We have a big day today, Gabrielle."

Xena smiled when she felt Gabrielle stretch and arch her back, reluctantly pulling herself up to look down sleepily at her warrior lover. A quirky grin crossed Gabrielle's lips as she smiled.

"Why do they have to start so early, Xena? I need more sleep for our big days."

The bard felt the vibrations of Xena's chuckle as the warrior smiled up at her and raised a dark eyebrow at Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle, if you had your way, we'd be in bed all day."

Gabrielle leaned down and placed a soft kiss against the warrior's lips as she repositioned herself and her thigh rested firmly against Xena's warmth. With a quick slip of the tongue, the bard deepened the kiss as she pressed her body fully against the warrior's, a hand gently kneading one of Xena's full breasts. Pulling back after a few moments, Gabrielle looked down at Xena with smoky green eyes, the last trace of sleepiness long gone.

"And that would be a bad thing?"

Xena caught her breath for a moment, always surprised by how passionate Gabrielle could be in the mornings. For someone who was dead to the world just moments before, the bard was fully awake now. The warrior fought the urge to give in as she felt Gabrielle's thigh slowly begin to move against her.

"It would be a bad thing when we have to get to Mother's as soon as possible, Gabrielle. She's waiting."

Xena's voice deepened and her eyes narrowed as the bard's fingertips gently brushed against her nipple. Gabrielle nodded down at Xena, her eyes serious.

"You're right, we can't stay in bed all day."

The warrior closed her eyes when she felt Gabrielle gently squeeze her nipple between her fingers and thumb. The bard lowered her head and placed gentle kisses against the side of Xena's neck, her breath warm against the warrior's ear, a soft whisper.

"That would be very bad."

The warrior leaned her neck to the side and shivered just a bit as she felt Gabrielle nip at her earlobe. Bending one of her knees, Xena pressed herself up against the bard's firm thigh when she felt Gabrielle pull against her nipple. Her bard had once again won this early morning battle.

"But this really isn't so bad, now is it, Xena?"

Gabrielle whispered into Xena's ear as her hand drifted down between her own well-toned stomach and the warrior's. She smiled into Xena's neck when she heard her lover's breathing increase at her touch and the effort needed to speak.

"N-no..not bad at all, Gabrielle."

The bard bit against the soft skin of Xena's neck, marking it with red nips as her fingers softly moved through the top of Xena's triangle of dark hair. Lifting herself up just a bit and resting her weight on her other arm, Gabrielle gently slid one finger down, slowly gliding over sensitive skin and wetness. A smile crossed her lips as she heard Xena's sharp intake of breath. She whispered against the warrior's ear, closing her eyes at the wetness she found.

"Mmm..I'd say this is very good, wouldn't you?"

Xena's low growl answered that question as the bard moved her finger back up, torturing the warrior with her deliberately slow movements and her soft words.

"Have I ever told you how great you feel, Xena?"

The warrior's muscled arm flexed against the bard's back as her other hand reached blindly to tangle into Gabrielle's honey hair, pulling her young love into a hungry kiss. It was all Gabrielle could do to pull back from it and slide her finger back down against Xena's warmth, her palm resting against Xena's most sensitive area. The warrior's blue eyes looked pleadingly into Gabrielle's green.

"You like when I touch you, don't you?"

Xena moved her hips against Gabrielle's hand, all the warrior could do was nod at Gabrielle. Sometimes she was simply defenseless against the bard's words and gentle touches and their effect on her. And right now, this bard had her exactly where she wanted her. Gabrielle smiled as her finger slipped inside the warrior's warmth.

"Mmm..I thought so."

With eyes locked together, Gabrielle began slowly touching and exploring her warrior's most intimate places. Her movements were gentle, her fingers caressing every inch of Xena in loving detail. The bard's expression turned serious as she studied Xena's face, watching each emotion and feeling pass across it, watching how each movement she made translated into a deeper breath or a clenched jaw or a slow smile. There was something so vulnerable about Xena when the bard made love to her that it aroused in Gabrielle feelings of intense protectiveness and desire to keep the warrior safe. Very rarely did Xena let her guard down but with Gabrielle, she trusted her completely and this the bard sensed and this the bard treasured.

With soft, slow strokes, Gabrielle moved against Xena, touching her deeply and then pulling back. When the bard saw the warrior struggling against her need, Gabrielle began a steady rhythm, her palm moving against Xena's sensitive center, two fingers now moving inside. Xena's breathing and low growls told the bard how much the warrior needed her. Leaning down, Gabrielle once again placed her lips against the warrior's ear, her breath warm, her voice gentle.

"I love you, you know.."

Xena's hips started to move in sync with Gabrielle's movements, her arms pulled the bard close to her.

"I love you so much, Xena.."

Gabrielle placed soft kisses against Xena's cheeks and eyebrows and lips as she increased the pace and the pressure, relishing the feelings and sounds of the warrior. She started to feel Xena tighten around her fingers and heard the warrior's moans of pleasure grow louder and knew she was very close. Pulling her head back, Gabrielle looked directly into Xena's eyes, seeing utter pleasure and love reflected back to her.

"So much..."

With that, Xena's hand moved down and covered the bard's own as she cried out, her release flooding sensations throughout her body. The warrior's hand pressed against Gabrielle's, moving with the bard's as Gabrielle coaxed each wave of pleasure from Xena as they locked eyes. With one last cry, Xena raised her hips against the bard's hand and collapsed back down on the blanket, her breathing coming in gasps and her eyes closed tight.

Gabrielle felt a rush of pure emotion wash over her as she looked down at the one she loved now and forever. Just knowing that she was responsible for giving this beautiful, magnificent woman pleasure simply filled the bard's heart. Gabrielle pulled Xena into her arms and held her as tight as she could, softly kissing the warrior's face and neck as Xena caught her breath. Their hearts caught up to each other and beat as one.

Eventually, Xena's arms worked their way around Gabrielle and she drew her into a deep hug, rolling over on her back and pulling Gabrielle back on top of her. The warrior's blue eyes danced as she grinned up at the smiling bard.

"Gabrielle, you are..."

Xena squeezed the bard tight and Gabrielle laughed in her arms. Pulling back, she traced her finger over Xena's smiling lips.

"I'm what?"

The warrior nipped at the bard's finger and chuckled.

"You are so good, my little bard."

Gabrielle's eyes lit up and she leaned down and kissed the warrior's lips and quirked an eyebrow as she pulled back.

"If I recall, you were the one saying something about how bad it is to stay in bed all day."

Xena's hands moved down over Gabrielle's sides as she poked against ticklish ribs, smiling at the squirming bard.

"I was obviously wrong."

Gabrielle reached down and with effort stopped Xena's tickling hands. The grin on her face was a mile wide.

"Whoa-ho! Chalk one up for the bard! Xena, Warrior Princess admits she was wrong!"

They both laughed as Xena rolled over and pinned Gabrielle easily to the blanket, the warrior's eyebrow raised as high as it could possible go.

"You're gonna to get it, Gabrielle."

The bard smiled up at Xena, her own eyebrow's height rivaling Xena's.

"Well, I should hope so."

Just as Xena was moving in to nip at Gabrielle's neck, the warrior stopped and cocked her head, her attention tuned into something stirring in the woods to the right of their campsite. The bard's expression turned serious as she felt Xena's body tense. Signaling with her eyes and her mouth for the bard to be quiet, Xena eased out of their blankets and grabbed her sword. Creeping towards the sound and listening, the warrior made her way to the edge of camp and scanned the forest. Suddenly, she stopped and spun quickly around to face the bard, a look of panic crossed her eyes.

"...Xena....Gabrielle....Where are you?"

At that instant, the bard registered the high toned voice of Cyrene drifting through the morning air. Gabrielle's eyes were wide as she looked down at her own naked self and that of the warrior and realized the urgency of the situation. It wasn't that Cyrene didn't know Gabrielle and Xena were lovers, it was more the idea that no one's mother really, really needs to see actual living, naked proof of the activities lovers engage in when they're alone.

Xena dropped her sword and scrambled around searching for her leathers;

Gabrielle tumbled out of their bedroll and got her feet caught up in the blankets, tripping across the campsite as she dashed for her clothes.

"Hurry! She's coming closer...where's that Tartarus of a boot?!"

Xena ran, pulling up her leathers along the way and searched the last known location for her boot, trying to remember if she pulled them off near the saddle or near the fire.

"Xena, I can't find my shirt! Where did you throw it?"

Gabrielle's whisper was frantic as she adjusted her skirt and tried to lace up her boots at the same time, her eyes scanning the disheveled campsite where their things were being scattered by an equally frantic warrior trying to find her one boot as she clipped her breastplate in place.

"...Gabrielle....Xena....Are you here?"

Cyrene's voice came closer and the bard and warrior stopped, looked at each other, looked in the direction of the approaching older woman, looked down at themselves, and looked back at each other. Their expressions held the same look of utter terror. With lightening speed, Xena did a high forward somersault into the air and tumble rolled across the campsite, her hand grasping the sought-after green garment as she continued her movement and flipped up on to a log. Running, launched herself up into the air and grabbed a low branch with one hand and flung the bard's shirt through the air with the other. Swinging, she let go the branch and back flipped in the air and landed next to Argo. When Cyrene walked into the campsite, Xena was nonchalantly brushing down the mare while Gabrielle turned towards the warrior's mother, her green shirt more or less on and laced.

"There you are, girls! I've been calling. Why didn't you answer?"

With her hands on her hips, Cyrene looked from the bard to the warrior with expectant eyes. Xena smiled as she kept brushing Argo.

"Good morning to you too, Mother. Glad to see you up so early."

Cyrene narrowed her eyes at Xena and gave her a look, the bard finally realizing where the warrior got some of her mannerisms.

"What do you mean 'early'? The sun's been up for candlemarks and I've been waiting for you two all that time. Xena?"

The warrior's eyes darted over to the bard's as she smiled nervously at the tone of voice her mother used. For her part, Gabrielle tried to act as innocent as bardly possible when Cyrene turned to her and then turned back to Xena.

"Yes, Mother?"

"Where is your other boot?"

Xena's eyes widened as she looked down at her bare foot. Hades.


"And why is your campsite such a mess? What's going on here, Gabrielle."

Cyrene turned to the bard and waited, her arms crossed over her chest.


Hades. Think quick, think quick. The bard smiled and walked over to Cyrene and placed her arm around the older woman's shoulder.

"You see, Cyrene, it's like this. Just mere moments before you walked into our campsite, there was this big ugly Cyclops..."

The bard turned her head and winked at Xena as she lead the older woman down the trail that lead into Amphipolis. A little white lie sometimes was necessary to protect mothers against more...delicate truths. As she listened to the bard's tall tale, Xena let out a sigh of relief and sank to the ground. Wiping the sweat from her face, the warrior sat and surveyed their campsite.

Xena's eyes narrowed and then, a look of sudden panic crossed her face. The warrior dove across the campsite and pulled her boot out of the firepit just as the leather on the toe of her boot started to smoke. Hades, it was going to be a long day.

Xena pulled up into her hometown after having dealt with the major task of cleaning up their campsite and found Gabrielle contentedly eating a large breakfast in Cyrene's Inn. When she walked into the tavern, the bard waved her over, her mouth full of nutbread.

"Xena! Over here.."

The warrior raised an eyebrow at the bard and walked over to the table where she was sitting, scanning the breakfast crowd for her mother and finding herself somewhat relieved not to see her just yet. As Xena settled down at the table and propped a boot up on the chair next to them, Gabrielle smiled at her.

"I'm sorry I left you to deal with the camp."

Xena reached over and patted her arm as she took a biscuit from the bard's heaping plate. Munching down on her mother's home cooked baking, the warrior closed her eyes in pleasure.

"Mmm...that's ok. Your bardic talents saved us. Thank you."

The warrior opened her eyes and smiled at her young love, knowing that a bard was just as important as a warrior in any number of situations. Gabrielle scooted her chair over to Xena and shared her plate of breakfast fruits and sweet pancakes and bacon. Just as the bard was about to take a bite of apple, her eyebrows knitted together and she looked across the table and then looked at Xena. Leaning over, Gabrielle whispered to the warrior.

"Xena, what happened to your boot?"

Xena looked down at the blackened toe of her boot, still smoking slightly and caught sight of her mother coming into the dining room from the kitchen. Quickly putting her foot down under the table, Xena whispered out the side of her mouth as she smiled at the approaching figure of her mother.


Gabrielle suppressed a snicker as Cyrene came up to their table, her hands once again on her hips in what was quite possibly a universal mom gesture.

"So Xena, you finally decided to join us. Gabrielle was telling me on the way here that you hate to get out of bed in the morning and that's why you both were running late. And you were always such an early riser when you were home, too."

Cyrene gave a shake of her head as Xena shot a look at Gabrielle, who chose that moment to excuse herself to refill her glass with sweet goat's milk from a pitcher at the bar.

"At any rate, I'm glad you're here now."

Cyrene leaned down and kissed Xena's cheek, ruffling her dark hair. Very few people in the known world would dare ruffle Xena's hair, but her mother had exclusive rights to such behavior. The older, greying woman loved the warrior through thick and thin, her bond with her daughter severely tested during the Dark Years to be sure. But, these days, Cyrene mostly saw the grown-up version of the child born to her and raised in this very Inn. A scamp of a girl, Xena had been the apple of her mother's eye even when she got into trouble. To be sure, the warrior was no princess growing up and the young girl had spent more than a few days of her time relegated to chores around the Inn as punishment for mischievous behavior. All in all though, Cyrene had created a solid foundation for her children built on unconditional love that had helped stabilize Xena when her world was crumbling. This foundation was also what helped the bard find a way into Xena's heart. And now, Xena had come back to the place she had called home for many winters but a home she had long outgrown.

"I was just telling your mother that I can't wait to help you go through your old things, Xena. She was telling me what a pack rat you were."

Gabrielle walked up and put her arm around Cyrene's waist and gave her a wink as she saw the warrior's exasperated expression. However, there was no denying the truth; despite Xena's current spartan existence on the road, she had somehow managed to save just about everything that had come into her possession when she was younger and at the moment, this stuff was packed away into the old room she had grown up in.

"Well, we'll see about that. Right now, we've got to get Mother's stuff packed and moved over to the country house."

Xena rose and gave the bard her best 'you'll be paying for a number of things when we're alone' look. She wasn't sure it was safe to leave her mother and Gabrielle alone together anymore.

"I've got everything more or less packed, Xena. All we need to do is load it and take it over to the house. I wish Toris was here to help, but he had to make a supply run to Albanius and won't be back until tomorrow."


Xena mumbled under her breath but smiled when her mother gave her a look over her shoulder. Cyrene lead Gabrielle through the back part of the Inn that had been the family home for many years as Xena followed them through. The warrior felt like she knew every nook and cranny of this old Inn like the back of her hand, it's familiarity ingrained in years and years of living within the walls. Despite not having lived there for essentially twelve winters, Xena still held a piece of this place in her heart. She was glad that her mother hadn't decided to sell the Inn; not having this as a place she could always come back to would have been hard. She smiled as she watched the younger woman talk and laugh amiably with her mother. Gabrielle's presence here felt right as well. Xena smiled as she walked down the long hallway to her mother's living quarters.

The warrior's smile faded, however, when she saw exactly how much stuff Cyrene had packed up and wanted moved. Wooden boxes and furniture and crates and sacks and knickknacks and odds and ends cluttered the main room that served as their living room. The children's old rooms and Cyrene's bedroom were located at the back of the main room. While the doors to her old room and to Toris' (and Lyceus') room where shut, Cyrene's was open revealing even more crates and boxes piled high.

"Mother! Where did all this stuff come from?"

Xena surveyed the inventory and figured it'd take them half the day to move it all if not longer. And wouldn't you know that despite it having been chilly last night, the heat and humidity of the late spring day was starting to make its presence known. It would be one, long, hot Hades of a day.

Cyrene put her hands on her hips yet again and gave Xena another look. Gabrielle took a load off and sat on one of the wooden crates and finished eating the rest of her apple while she watched mother and daughter interact, a permanent grin occupied on her face.

"Daughter, dear, I've been living in this same place longer than you've been alive which means I am entitled to have as much stuff as I want. And may I remind you that there is practically an entire marketplace full of things in your old room for you to deal with as well. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to get started. We lost the coolest part of the day when you chose to sleep in this morning."

Cyrene turned her back and went about organizing and sorting crates for her daughter to carry. The warrior's eyes narrowed at Gabrielle and she shook her head, promising Hades to pay later. The bard smiled guiltily and quickly went about the task of helping Cyrene. For the next six candlemarks, it was a never-ending process of loading crates and furniture on the horsecart and driving it all over to Cyrene's new house and unloading and then repeating it all over again. By the time Gabrielle and Xena had unloaded the last of the boxes while Cyrene supervised, the warrior and bard were drenched with sweat, exhausted, and hungry.

"Xena, why don't you and Gabrielle go down to the stream and wash up and I'll make you something for dinner. Don't be too long either, I don't want dinner getting cold."

Cyrene's eyes twinkled as she ruffled the warrior's wet bangs and smiled over at Gabrielle. It was quite possible that she had said those exact same words to Xena more times than she could count when she was growing up. Unfortunately, the warrior had learned the hard way that her mother meant exactly what she said about not being late for dinner. More than once, Cyrene had gone out looking for a young Xena brandishing a wooden spoon for emphasis. The young troublemaker was rarely late for dinner after that.

As Xena and Gabrielle lifted themselves up with effort from the boxes they sat on, Cyrene came over and gave them both a kiss on the forehead.

"Thank you, girls. You worked so hard today helping me and I love you both."

Gabrielle smiled at Cyrene as she took Xena's hand and pulled the warrior next to her.

"Cyrene, it was our pleasure. We were happy to help get you settled into your new home. I hope you'll be happy here."

Xena put her arm around her mother and smiled down at the woman who had raised her.

"Mother, you know there's nothing we wouldn't do for you. I'm glad you decided to find a place where you can be happy."

Cyrene chuckled and put her arms around both the warrior and bard and hugged them tight. She had come to love Gabrielle as much as she loved her own daughter and was happy they had found each other. Looking at both their sweaty faces, she smiled.

"Now, get going. Supper will be ready soon..go."

She shooed them out the door as she went to prepare dinner, making a mental note to increase the volume of food she might normally make to accommodate the bard's appetite. By the Gods, for such a little thing she sure could pack it away.

Candlemarks later, the warrior and bard sat contentedly at the big dining table in Cyrene's new house, delightfully full. All of the activities of the day had made both of them hungry and Cyrene had also seen to it that she encouraged them to take extra helpings just to be sure nothing went to waste. Or at least, that was the excuse. More likely than not, Xena's mother, like all mothers, simply liked to see her children eat. It made them feel better.

"Cyrene, that was absolutely wonderful."

Gabrielle rested her head on the back of the chair as she lazily slumped down, unable to move, a big smile plastered across her face. Xena, who held nearly the position, could only nod in agreement with the bard.

"Well, girls, I'm glad you liked it. I don't mean to make you eat and run, but it's getting late and I still have lots to do here to get settled. The kitchen's a mess and I'm not sure I can find my bed. Besides, Xena, you have your room to deal with yet tonight."

The warrior groaned at the thought and closed her eyes. Her mother always made her clean her room after dinner it seemed and that never changed.

"Alright, alright, come on Gabrielle."

Xena pulled herself to a standing position and helped haul the bard up as well. She didn't relish the idea of dealing with the stuff in her room, but she was glad that Gabrielle would be there to help her. Xena put her arm around the younger woman as they prepared to walk back to the Inn.

"I'll see you two tomorrow."

Xena held up her hand and waved as Gabrielle turned around to look at Cyrene. The older woman winked and mouthed the words "early" as the bard nodded at her. The bard didn't have the heart to tell Xena that her mother planned on helping the warrior break her late sleeping habits tomorrow morning.

"I say let's chuck it all."

Xena sat resolutely on the one tiny clear spot on her bed amidst all the junk she had kept over the years and crossed her arms in appraisal. There really wasn't much of value anyway and since she wouldn't have a place to store it, she saw no point in going through it.

Gabrielle stood from where she was bending over a wooden crate and put her hands on her hips, her finger wagging in a way that she copied from Cyrene.

"Now, Xena, you know you should go through your stuff in a methodical, organized way. Here's what I propose."

With a sweep of her hands, the bard was off as she surveyed the room and sized up the situation.

"Ok, let's have one pile called "Things I can't live without". These will be things that obviously, you think you can't live without. Let's have another called "Things I can live without but would rather not" for those little things you're just not sure of and then a "Things that I used to think I could live without but now I really should keep" pile, and of course a "Things I would regret throwing away someday were it not for my sweet and beautiful girlfriend Gabrielle who stopped me" pile.."

Xena simply rolled her eyes as the bard picked up things and started creating piles, shaking her head at some of the stuff Xena had saved. Standing, the warrior emptied two crates and started dumping stuff in them. Gabrielle stopped and looked at her.

"What's that?"

Xena pointed to the fullest one.


And she pointed to the empty one.


Shaking her head, the bard came over and put her arm around Xena's waist.

"You know, some of this stuff you should keep...just to remind yourself of when you were young."

Xena looked down at bits of old yarn and a leather ball and an assortment of other odds and ends she had. Smiling, she turned to the bard.

"Gabrielle, I remember when I was young just fine. I don't need these things. Besides, if you haven't noticed, we don't exactly have a traveling storage bin out on the road and I doubt you'd want to carry boxes of this stuff all over Greece."

Gabrielle smiled up at her and raised her finger.

"But, we.."

Xena silenced her with a look.

"No, Argo will not be used as a packmule."

Gabrielle's face deflated. Looking at a few things, she came up with a different strategy.

"Ok, Xena, but surely there is one thing in this room that you could pick. Just one thing we could pack and take with us. I'd hate to see you years from now wishing you had kept one little thing we could easily pack now."

Xena turned and looked at Gabrielle. There was no use in arguing with the bard. Besides, Gabrielle seemed like the type to keep every last souvenir she acquired if it were humanly possible. One little thing wouldn't hurt, the warrior supposed.

"What about this for example?"

Gabrielle reached down and picked up a hideously colored orange piece of fabric, holding it out to the warrior.

"Surely, this means something to you."

Xena just raised her eyebrow as Gabrielle looked down at the fabric and turned it over in her hands, her eyebrows knitting together.

"Um, Xena, what is this?"

The warrior walked over and took the fabric and shook it out. If looked at in the right way, one could almost figure out what it was. Chuckling at Gabrielle's quizzical look, the warrior took one end of the fabric and wrapped it around her leathered waist and brought it around to tie at the side. Once in place she twirled just a bit so that the bard finally understood.

"This was the very first thing I made when I started sewing. It's a wrap-around skirt."

Gabrielle eyed the uneven hemline and the questionable cut of the fabric and shook her head.

"Boy, you've really improved in that department, Xena."

Chuckling, Xena unwrapped the skirt and tossed it in the Toss box. Reaching down into an opened trunk, the warrior pulled out a small wooden sword, made for small hands, no longer than her forearm. Smiling, she turned it over in her hand and felt the dull blade. Gabrielle looked up from where she was rummaging in a box of old socks and came over to Xena.

"What's that?"

Xena looked at Gabrielle with a smile on her face and a wistful look in her eyes.

"This was the sword I made with Lyceus when I was six summers old. We shared this one until he made his own. See? We carved our initials in the blade."

Holding it out, Xena turned the blade to the smoothest side and let Gabrielle see. There, in the deep dark brown wood were the letters 'X' and 'L' crudely carved into it. Xena traced her fingertip over each letter and smiled as she remembered the pretend battles she and Lyceus had with the Romans, running through the Inn, attacking unseen enemies, plotting strategy, claiming victories. That felt like a lifetime ago. Smiling, she put the sword in a new "Maybe" pile.

"Oh, Xeennaa...what do we have heerre?"

Gabrielle's singsong voice broke her out of her revery as she peered over at the bard who was sitting on the floor with a bunch of old parchments. Holding one up, the bard's smile was mischievous.


Xena lunged over to where Gabrielle sat but the bard was too quick. Jumping up on a box, the bard looked at the parchments and read aloud.

"Dear Xena. I like you. Do you like me? Circle Yes or No. Signed Stefanos."

Laughing, Gabrielle waved the parchment in the air as Xena stood with her hands on her hips, glaring at the bard.

"Xena had a boyfriend, Xena had a boyfriend!"

"Stop it! I did not! Give me that!"

Xena reached over and snatched the parchment back from Gabrielle and went over to the pile of parchments and picked them all up.

"These are nothing but childish letters written by children and only other children would make fun of someone for keeping them."

With that, Xena huffed over to the Toss pile and dropped them all in, wiping her hands together.

"Oh, Xena, come here. I was laughing with you, not at you."

Gabrielle took Xena's hand and pulled her to the bard, smiling up at her big tough warrior and the idea that she had old love letters from when she was six summers old.

"But I wasn't laughing."

Xena tried to keep a serious face as she glared down at the bard, but was unable to suppress the smile that came to her lips. She and the bard shared a laugh as the warrior looked down at all the love letters she kept. Shrugging, Xena just looked at Gabrielle.

"What can I say? Everyone wanted me to be their girlfriend."

Gabrielle shook her head at Xena.

"Some things never change."

Smiling, the bard looked down at the parchments and noticed one folded very neatly and intricately into a geometrical pattern. Reaching down, she picked it up and showed it to Xena.

"Can I look at this?"

Smiling, Xena took the parchment and looked at it, the folds forming triangles within squares within a bigger rectangle. Giving it back to the bard, she smiled.

"Sure. I wrote this when I was seven summers old."

Gabrielle looked up at Xena with surprise as she unfolded the note, smiling as she faintly recognized Xena's concise handwriting even as a young girl. To the side of the written words, there was a picture drawn of a stick figure with long hair on a horse next to another stick figure. Both figures had smiling faces as they walked across a field of green.

"One day I'll be a princess

and do only good things for people

and maybe I'll have a horse

and a friend to come along

and we'll ride across the countryside

helping everyone we meet

and I'll never be bad and mean

and I'll be so happy someday."

Gabrielle stared down at the words and reread them and then slowly looked up at Xena. Shrugging, the warrior just smiled.

"I wasn't much of a poet. Nothing really rhymed."

Gabrielle came over and put her arm around Xena and hugged her close. The thought of a young Xena writing such a thing made her heart happy and sad all at once.

"Xena? Can I keep this if you don't want it?"

The warrior pulled back and looked down at Gabrielle. Smiling, she leaned over and kissed the bard on the lips lightly and chuckled.

"I suppose. As long as you promise not to show it to anyone."

Gabrielle smiled as she squeezed the warrior tight.

"I promise. Thank you.."

Xena just shook her head and moved over another box and continued sorting stuff. Gabrielle looked back down at the parchment and refolded in the exact same design as it had come in and went over and tucked it in her satchel. She made a vow then and there to keep it forever.

Candlemarks later, the room had been organized. The bard changed into her sleeping shift while Xena moved stuff off the bed, the warrior smiled at the various items that had found their way in the Toss pile and the very few items that made it to the Keep pile. She chuckled at the thought that Gabrielle would want that old poem she wrote so long ago, but the bard was sentimental and so Xena indulged her when she could. Turning, Gabrielle looked over at the warrior.

"What's so funny?"

Xena smiled and crossed the room, her arms wrapping around the bard as she leaned down and kissed Gabrielle on the forehead.

"Oh nothing, just happy to be here with you."

Gabrielle quirked an eyebrow up at Xena and nodded her head.

"Uh huh. Whatever you say."

Xena smiled down at Gabrielle as the bard pulled out of her arms. Dressed in her white sleeping shift, her young love looked absolutely beautiful. Gods, how did she ever get so lucky?

"So, Xena, what did you decide to keep out of all this stuff?"

Gabrielle crossed her arms across her chest and watched as the warrior reached over next to her saddlebag by the bed and pulled out the tiny wooden sword she shared with Lyceus. Gabrielle was not surprised. Smiling, the bard circled around behind the warrior and reached her arms around, giving Xena a big squeeze as she laid her head against the warrior's back.

"I thought you'd keep that. I'm glad."

Xena looked back over her shoulder and smiled at Gabrielle as her own hands covered the bard's.

"Well, sometimes it is a good idea to keep something of one's past, I suppose."

Xena chuckled and turned around in Gabrielle's arms as she smiled down at the bard.

"So, you ready for bed yet?"

Gabrielle nodded and smiled. She was happy that the warrior had allowed her to see this side of her, these things that were of a time when Gabrielle could only imagine what her lover was like. Everything had given the bard clues to what made Xena who she was. This was important to Gabrielle because very few people had the unique opportunity to know about the woman Xena was.

"Let me wash up for bed and I'll be there in a bit."

Xena nodded and smiled at Gabrielle as the young woman went down the hallway to the washroom. Surveying the items in her room that they had sorted, the warrior smiled a bit. Each thing they had gone through tonight had at one time meant something to Xena. Each thing she had stored at her mother's house she had kept for a reason, a way of reminding herself of who she had been and what had been important to her back then. Seeing all those things now had brought each of those memories back to her in sharp detail. This had been her home at one time and as long as those items remained, part of her remained with this place. However, more and more she felt less connected to things in her past. Of course, anything from the Dark Years was long ago destroyed and forgotten (or at least, she tried to forget them). But lately and not surprisingly, she felt most connected and at home with Gabrielle and the things they shared. This room and her old life felt like a familiar but distant memory that Xena no longer desired to maintain.

The warrior pulled the sheets back on the bed she'd probably never sleep in again and slid under the covers, smiling at the familiar smell and feel of the bed that had been hers for years. Her home and bed belonged with Gabrielle now and she smiled at that thought and eased into that warm place in her heart. But sometimes, coming home can be harder than one might ever imagine.


Coming back from the washroom, Gabrielle crawled into Xena's bed next to the warrior. She smiled in the candlelight as she looked at Xena who was stretched out with her hands behind her head and her ankles crossed, staring at the ceiling. The warrior turned and smiled at the bard as Gabrielle lay on her side and propped her head up in her hand with her elbow on the bed. The bard's words were quiet.

"A dinar for your thoughts."

Xena looked up again and turned back to Gabrielle and smiled.

"I was just thinking about how many times I've looked up at this same ceiling and thought about..things."

Gabrielle lay a gentle hand on the soft sheet that covered Xena's body and ran her fingers lightly over the warrior's side.

"Hmm...what kind of things?"

Xena closed her eyes and smiled. Laying here in her old bed in her old room brought back so many memories. Nights she spent dreaming of becoming so many things someday.

"Mmm...I used to think about what I'd be when I grew up. Kind of like in that poem."

Gabrielle smiled at that thought. A young Xena laying in this very same bed pondering her future. The bard guessed that the young one would have never suspected that she would have done the things she'd done or become the person she was. Gabrielle leaned over and kissed the corner of Xena's lips and the warrior's eyes opened and she smiled a small smile at the bard, her eyes, however, were sad.

"Who would have thought I'd be the Destroyer of Nations, the Warrior Princess. If only I had known.."

Gabrielle's eyes turned serious as her hand rested firmly on Xena's stomach and she looked deeply into the warrior's pained blue eyes.

"Xena, none of us can know how events in our lives are going to shape and move us in one direction or another. And even if you had known, what would you have done?"

Xena's hand came down from behind her head and her fingers began to idly trace the bard's hand resting on her stomach. The warrior looked up at the ceiling again and her eyes found the familiar cracks she had counted at night as a child. Closing her eyes, her words were soft.

"I wouldn't have been."

Gabrielle's eyebrows knitted together as she thought about what Xena said. Suddenly, understanding dawned and a look of disbelief and horror crossed her face. Clutching Xena's hand, Gabrielle sat up and held on to the warrior's hand tightly.

"Xena, don't say that!"

Xena opened her eyes as her mouth formed a grim line. She propped herself up on one elbow and looked up at Gabrielle.

"But it's true. If I had known back then that I would become a monster, I would have made sure I never made it to my sixteenth summer."

Gabrielle's eyes started to blur as the implications of what her lover was saying made its way to her heart, beating faster by the moment.

"Xena, don't mean that. Tell me you don't."

The bard's words were choked out as she tried to keep calm. The shock of this revelation after the day they had shared today was rocking Gabrielle with a sudden intensity. Surely, Xena didn't mean it.

"Gabrielle, if ending one life would have meant saving the lives of the many that I took, I would have done it."

Gabrielle looked at her as tears started to fall down her cheeks. She couldn't imagine what life would have been like if Xena hadn't turned into the person she was now. Keeping her voice as even as she could, Gabrielle shook her head at Xena.

"But Xena, just as many lives would have been lost if you hadn't become who you are now, today. You've saved so many..."

Xena sat up and ran her hands quickly through her dark hair before her eyes found the bard's again.

"But Gabrielle, is it enough? Will it ever be? I just don't think I can ever save enough.."

The bard took Xena's hands and looked at the warrior, her tears still coming as her hands shook.

"Xena, if you spend the rest of your days asking that question and coming up with that same answer, you'll never find peace. I love you too much to see you struggle with this kind of guilt. Tell me something. Are you happy?"

Xena looked down at her lap and then back at the bard, seeing Gabrielle looking back at her with love and concern answered that question.

"I'm as happy as I can be, Gabrielle."

Pulling back, the bard took her hands out of Xena's and looked at her, her eyebrows coming together.

"What do you mean, 'I'm as happy as I can be'?"

Xena's blue eyes looked back at Gabrielle as her shoulders slumped. Her words came out softly.

"I just mean that I'm as happy as I have a right to be."

Gabrielle stood up and walked away from the bed, when she turned around, her green eyes flashed down at Xena.

"So what you're saying is that you don't think you deserve to be happier because of everything you've done in the past. Is that right?"

Xena looked up at the bard, surprised by her sudden anger. Blue eyes held a hint of regret as she nodded her head.

"Yeah, I guess that's what I'm saying, Gabrielle."

The bard turned her back again at Xena as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she felt Xena come up behind her and place her hands on her shoulders, Gabrielle spun around as her voice rose.

"So not only would you have rather killed yourself or whatever than live the life you did but you also don't think you're worthy of being truly happy now that you are living?"

Xena took a step back at the ire in Gabrielle's voice. The bard's jaw clenched as she stood firm, demanding an answer. The way Gabrielle had just concisely summed up their conversation made Xena think about this. While the warrior had said what she thought was in her head, it wasn't something she had ever really voiced to anyone. Was it really what she meant?

"I don't know, Gabrielle."

The bard was silent as she looked at the woman she loved. Slowly putting one hand to her head and running her fingers through her bangs, Gabrielle turned away, trying to make sense of this whole conversation and its implications. The warrior looked at the young bard's back, her white sleeping shift moving with each breath Gabrielle took. Suddenly, Xena needed to see the bard's face, needed to see what was in her eyes.

"Gabrielle, please look at me."

The bard looked up at the ceiling of Xena's old childhood room and took a deep breath and closed her eyes. There was so much to consider. So much.

"Please, Gabrielle."

Xena placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and was visibly shaken when the bard turned. Her young face held one of the saddest looks Xena had ever seen before. It was almost a look of defeat, something the bard never showed. Concerned, the warrior touched Gabrielle's cheeks, green eyes closing on contact.

"What is it, love? Tell me what you're thinking."

Xena's words were soft and pleading as she placed both hands on Gabrielle's face. The bard took another deep breath and opened her eyes. Taking Xena's hands into her own, Gabrielle brought them down and let them go. The bard's words were quiet.

"Xena, I don't know if I can live with someone who would rather not have existed. I don't know if I can live with someone who won't let themselves be happy, who won't let themselves live to the fullest. I just..."

Looking into Xena's eyes, Gabrielle took a breath. As much as the warrior tried to hide it, a small amount of panic flickered into those blue eyes before she steeled herself. The bard spoke again.

"Xena, I love you more than I can ever tell you. I love you so much it hurts. And believe me, right's hurting so much..."

A tear slid down Gabrielle's cheek as she looked at Xena, the warrior's own eyes blurred as she clenched her jaw at the wave of nausea that overcame her. The last thing she ever wanted to do was hurt Gabrielle and the thought that she was doing just made her sick.


Xena reached to touch away the tear from the bard's cheek, but Gabrielle pulled back.


Xena's hand dropped to her side and she stood there numbly.

"Xena, you are my home. And you have been for a long time now. And up until now, I thought what we had was..."

Gabrielle took a breath. How did things get so turned around? They had just been joking candlemarks ago and now..

"I thought what we had was...enough. But right now I don't know.."

Gabrielle looked at Xena who stood there stunned. Slowly, the warrior sank to the edge of the bed, her eyes unseeing as she sat. Blinking, Xena looked up at Gabrielle, looked up at the one person she could not live without, looked up at the one person she loved more than anyone in this entire world. Looked up at the woman she could lose.

"Gabrielle...please don't leave me."

With those words, Xena closed her eyes as a single tear made its way down her cheek. The weight of holding back her emotions became heavier and heavier. Her throat was tight, her breathing became harder. It was as if the air in the room had been sucked out, leaving Xena fighting for a breath, fighting against the darkness of the room closing in on her, crushing her.

Gabrielle came over and crouched down in front of Xena and placed her hands on the warrior's knees as she looked at the face of the woman she loved with all her heart. Her words were soft but firm as Xena opened her eyes.

"I need to know you don't regret being here with me now and I need to know that I make you happier than you've ever been in your life. If you can't feel those things right now with all your heart because of what happened in the past, then..."

Gabrielle left the sentence unfinished, each of them knowing exactly what she meant. Taking a deep breath, Xena looked at Gabrielle. There was nothing she wouldn't give to this young woman, nothing she wouldn't do for this love. Placing her hands on top of the bard's, the warrior spoke.

"Gabrielle, I have never regretted one second I've been with you, not one moment. There's nothing about you and me that I regret. I love you so much and I am so happy with you that I can't help but think that no one deserves to be that happy..."

Gabrielle tried to speak but the warrior took the bard's hand and kissed the palm of it and placed it against her cheek as she shook her head.

"I know, I know...but I'm telling you what goes through my head every morning we wake up together. I look at you when you're waking up laying up on top of me all sleepy-eyed and beautiful and I think to myself that I am happier than I've ever been or could possibly be."

Xena looked into Gabrielle's green eyes as the bard listened to her words, hoping that she'd be able to say the right thing, express what she meant, tell this woman what was in her heart.

"Gabrielle, if changing one thing in my life somehow meant that I would never get the chance to love you like I do right now, I wouldn't change anything, believe me."

Gabrielle closed her eyes as tears streamed down her face. She needed to hear this. She needed to know. Blinking her tears away, the bard looked at Xena, a small smile crossed her lips.

"I was hoping you'd say something like that."

Xena's eyes softened and she took the bard's face in her hands, looking deep into her young love's green eyes.

"Gabrielle, I..."

Xena stopped as a sudden wave of emotion passed over her, knowing how much she had hurt Gabrielle with words spoken from a guilty soul. She wasn't going to let that guilt and the thoughts inspired by it hurt her love anymore. She knew she had to put an end to it right now, right here if she ever had a chance of keeping Gabrielle in her life forever. She couldn't live in the past, she couldn't wipe away her warlord days with a simple wish that she hadn't lived to become that person. And she couldn't deny herself true happiness because that would mean denying Gabrielle and that was simply something Xena could not and would not do.

"Gabrielle, I'm so sorry.."

The warrior closed her eyes tight as she clenched her jaw against the tears that threatened to fall. Gabrielle looked at the pained face of her warrior and stood, pulling Xena's head to her stomach, pulling her lover close. Xena blindly reached her arms around the bard's waist and held on tight, as if her life depended upon the connection. And to be honest, it did. Silent tears fell against the soft cotton fabric of Gabrielle's shift as the bard held on to Xena's shoulder with one hand and softly ran her fingers through the warrior's dark hair with another, soothing her with gentle strokes.

The bard closed her eyes as she held Xena tight and thought about what had been said tonight. She started shaking slightly at how close she had come, how close they had come to..she didn't even want to finish the thought. She couldn't bare the thought that Xena would rather be dead than have become who she was but she knew those words were spoken through the filter of the warrior's deep, deep guilt. No one had ever said it was going to be easy loving someone like Xena. No one had ever said "Gabrielle, you're going to have to be strong enough for the both of you sometimes." No one had ever said that she might have to hurt along with the warrior for things that happened or things that might have been. But, by the Gods, she was not going to allow them to sacrifice their present love and happiness in payment for sins of the past. If that meant forcing the warrior to confront these issues like they had tonight, then so be it. The bard planned on fighting for their love until she no longer had a breath left in her body.

Xena pulled back, her eyes were wet as she peered up at Gabrielle, emotionally exhausted by the night but also filled with a stronger sense of their commitment and connection. This woman who stood before her was quite possibly the most beautiful, strong, loving person Xena had ever known. Her heart swelled at the thought that she was lucky enough to be the person Gabrielle chose to make a home with.

"I love you so much, Gabrielle. So much.."

The bard looked down into blue eyes and smiled. Written plainly across the warrior's face was pure happiness, nothing held back, nothing regretted. Pure and simple love and happiness at this moment. Leaning down, Gabrielle placed her lips gently against Xena's and pulled back.

"I love you too, Xena. So much."

Xena's arms tightened around Gabrielle as the bard leaned down and kissed the warrior's soft lips again. Putting her hands on Xena's face, Gabrielle softly kissed the warrior's cheeks, tasting away the salt from drying tears. Gentle kisses moved over Xena's eyelids and brows, across her forehead as the bard loved her warrior. Pulling back, Gabrielle looked deeply into Xena's eyes and they both saw into each others hearts in that one moment and reaffirmed their destiny together.

The bard took Xena's hands and gently pulled her up so she stood tall in front of Gabrielle. She needed the warrior's arms around her, she needed closeness. With one deep breath, Gabrielle leaned forward into the hollow between Xena's breasts through her shift, nuzzling at the warmth and security she found there. Xena's arms held her tight and close, both of them feeling the emotional waves roll over them.

The warrior pulled back a bit and placed a soft kiss on Gabrielle's forehead, her lips moving softly against wispy blond hair as her hands moved against the bard's back, touching lightly. As Gabrielle looked up at Xena, the warrior moved a hand to the side of her face and she leaned down, covering the bard's lips with her own in a gentle kiss. When she felt Gabrielle lean into her, searching with her hands and with her lips for contact with the warrior, Xena deepened the kiss, letting the sheer weight of her love for the bard fall into that one kiss.

Gabrielle made soft noises against Xena's lips as the warrior pressed against her, the bard craving their deep connection. Xena pulled back from the kiss and looked at Gabrielle's flushed face, a testament to just how much the sensitive young bard was affected by the entire evening. Gabrielle's eyes spoke volumes, the green sea in front of Xena called to her.

With hands slowed by the intensity of the moment, Xena gently moved them through the bard's silky blond hair and down across the tops of her shoulders. The warrior's fingertips were light as she traced the soft fabric of the sleeping shift and the warm skin of Gabrielle's shoulders and neck. Gently sliding her finger between one shoulder strap and the bard's skin, Xena moved the fabric to the side so that it lay down the bard's arm, exposing the soft skin of Gabrielle's shoulder. As if in slow motion, Xena leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss where the strap had been, closing her eyes at the softness of the bard's skin and the scent of the woman she knew so well.


Gabrielle took a deep breath and leaned her head back, closing her eyes as she felt the warrior trail a path of wet kisses across her shoulder and up the front of her neck. The bard tangled her hands in Xena's dark hair as her breathing increased at the contact.

Xena's lips and tongue smoothed against warm skin as her hands ran slowly over and down Gabrielle's back. The bard softly moaned when she felt the warrior's hands glide over the back of her shift and down, the warrior's hands gently kneading the bard's curves. With her face buried in Gabrielle neck, Xena slid one arm up to the bard's lower back and used her other strong arm to gently pick the bard up, carrying her to their bed. She wanted nothing more than to make soft, slow love to Gabrielle right now and forever.

Gabrielle sighed into the weight of Xena as she lowered down on top of her. When Xena pulled back from her neck and looked down at the bard, Gabrielle's eyes were serious.

"I really need this, Xena. I need to be close to you right now..."

Xena closed her eyes briefly to take a breath and then looked back at Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle, there is nothing I need more than to make love to you."

The bard pulled Xena to her lips and kissed her deeply and then, moving to the warrior's ear, she whispered.

"Please, love me, Xena. Please."

The warrior's heart nearly stopped from the pressure of loving Gabrielle more at this moment than she had ever loved her before. Everything about this day had conspired to intensify their feelings. The past faded as the present became the focal point, pulling them closer than they had ever been.

Xena's eyes locked into Gabrielle's as her hand slowly moved down over the soft cotton shift, grazing across the white plains of the bard's body. With a gentle touch, the warrior's fingertips covered every inch in a light dance as the bard held her breath. When Xena's hand moved to Gabrielle's thigh, lightly running her fingers over the soft, whisper thin blond down, the bard bit her lower lip gently as her eyes narrowed up at Xena. She watched as Xena looked down at where her hand rested against the bard's skin and moved up, pushing the white shift up with it, exposing the bard's thighs and triangle of soft, blond hair at her center.

Xena closed her eyes at the sight, feeling like this was the first time she had ever seen such beauty, feeling like this was the first time she had ever made love to the bard. Looking back up into Gabrielle's eyes, the warrior saw that her young love was feeling the exact same way. Swallowing, Xena moved over a bit and slowly pushed the shift the rest of the way up Gabrielle's body, her eyes feasting on creamy smooth skin, each tiny molecule on the bard's body was burned into her memory. Reaching her arms over her head, Gabrielle let the warrior pull off her shift so that she lay naked before her love.

"Gabrielle, you are so beautiful."

Xena's words were low and deep as she pulled back and gazed across the body of her young love. With her hand and eyes, she traced a path up a naked thigh, over the curve of a hip, across a firm, muscled stomach, up and over the swell of a full, large breast, and rested her fingertips against the pulse point at the base of a throat where Gabrielle's heart beat fast. When she looked up at Gabrielle, the bard's face and eyes told her a story of love deep and strong.

Just as the warrior was about to lower her head and trail kisses down the bard's body, Gabrielle put her hands on Xena's shoulders and stopped her with soft words.

"Please, stay here with me."

Xena looked at the bard and kissed her softly on the lips as her hand gently moved back down the path it had first taken. Letting her lips move to the bard's ear, Xena breathed.

"Anything you want, my love, anything."

Gently Xena's hand moved across the bard's breast, her fingertips taking in the full curve and the weight of Gabrielle. She pulled back and looked into the bard's eyes when she heard Gabrielle breath catch when Xena's fingertips grazed across the bard's nipple, already full and erect.


The bard's word came out with difficulty as the warrior gently pressed her fingers against Gabrielle's nipple, lovingly caressing it. Gabrielle's arm found its way around Xena's back and pulled her close. Looking deeply into Xena's eyes, Gabrielle brought her other hand up to Xena's and placed it on top of the warrior's.

"Please, I need to feel you.."

With those soft words, the bard guided Xena's hand down, closing her eyes when she felt the warrior's strong fingers press against her warmth. Her other arm pulled Xena down to her, needing to feel the weight of her warrior lover against her.

Xena left a trail of wetness against the bard's salty sweet neck, kissing and nipping as she buried her face against Gabrielle. She took a deep breath when she felt wetness against her fingers where Gabrielle guided her, the bard's hand remaining on top of hers. When she tried to pull up to look at Gabrielle's face, the bard murmured against her.

"Stay here.."

Moving her fingers gently over Gabrielle's warmth, her lips found the bard's ear as she softly kissed her.

"I'm right here..I'm not going anywhere, Gabrielle."

Xena shuddered just a bit as she heard Gabrielle moan against her ear when the warrior slowly entered her, the bard's own finger following Xena's inside.

"Stay with me.."

Gabrielle's words were quiet as she moved against Xena's hand, using her own to press down. The muscles in Xena's forearm flexed as she moved against Gabrielle, gently applying pressure, gently moving with the bard.

"I'm right here with you, Gabrielle."

Xena's lips moved over the bard's ear as her own breathing increased, the pleasure and love she was giving the bard took her breath away. With the bard's soft moans in her ear, Xena fought back her own desires and let the tide of emotions coming from Gabrielle roll over her.

"Love me, Xena, please.."

Gabrielle's breathing was coming faster, low moans punctuating the night as she lay in Xena's arms. She urged the warrior to pick up the pace as their fingers fought for space inside of the bard, each sliding against the other, each touching deeply and then retreating.

Xena's lips found the bard's ear again as she rocked with Gabrielle, their movements in sync, bringing the bard closer.

"I do, Gabrielle, I do.."

Gabrielle's low cries became louder as they moved together. Raising her hips slightly, the bard demanded with her hand and with her body. When Xena began to feel the pull deep inside of Gabrielle, she pulled back and locked eyes with Gabrielle as they continued to move together. The bard's brow knit together and her face flushed as she struggled to keep her eyes open, her mouth parted as gave in to her need.

"So much, so much.."

Xena's words floated down to Gabrielle as her mind concentrated on their movements, the constant pressure and rhythm finally caught up to the bard as she began to feel herself release. Blindly pulling Xena down to her lips, Gabrielle cried out against the warrior's mouth as their hands moved in prefect harmony, moving together as one. Pressing down against Xena's hand, Gabrielle raised up one last time as she gasped into the warrior's kiss. In that single moment, Xena and Gabrielle connected at a level deeper than could be seen by the eye, deeper than could be felt by the senses. It was as if the worlds realigned themselves after diverting a near disaster and that alignment created a stronger bond than before.

And they became one.

For long moments after, the warrior and bard held still, content in that place of total comfort with each other. The bard's breathing started to return to normal as she buried her face into the warrior's shoulder, breathing in Xena's scent with each breath. Xena moved slowly and kissed gently against Gabrielle's cheek, surprised at the salty taste of tears. Pulling back, Xena looked at the bard, the young woman's face flush and red, tears streaming down her cheeks.

"Gabrielle, are you ok?"

Gabrielle opened her eyes and looked up at Xena, a smile starting to make it's way across her lips as she eased their hands from her body.

"Yes, I'm very ok, Xena."

Xena's eyes softened as she studied Gabrielle's face, her arm circling the bard's back and resting against her.

"Are we ok?"

Gabrielle brought her hand up to trace against Xena's jawline, taking a moment to think about it.

"We had a scare there, Xena, but I think we are definitely ok. Great, in fact."

The bard smiled as she watched Xena's face ease, the tension of the night leaving her body. It had been one long physically and emotionally draining day and right now, the two of them found comfort in each other.

Xena rolled on her back, quickly removing her sleeping shift in one swift movement and bringing the bard to tuck in at her side, the position they both found most comfortable. Gabrielle molded her naked body against Xena's side and lay her head on the warrior's broad warm shoulder, her arm bending across the warrior's chest as she rested her cheek on her hand.


Xena's voice was low as she looked up at the ceiling and looked into her own heart.


Xena closed her eyes and held the bard tight.

"You are my home."

The bard lifted her head and looked at Xena, a smile coming to her lips. It was true, they had found a place to share together, a place to call home. And while it wasn't always going to be easy, what they had was worth fighting for and fight they would: Fight the demons of the past, fight the insecurities, fight the fear. Together.

"And you're mine, Xena."

The warrior's blue eyes opened and she smiled at Gabrielle, the woman who owned her heart as much as she owned the bard's. Gabrielle laid her head back down and was quiet for a moment, each of them happy in that thought.

Then, Xena felt the bard chuckle in her arms.

"What's so funny?"

Gabrielle lifted her head and looked up at Xena, her face lit by a huge smile.

"I just hope you can find your boots in all this mess."

Xena's eyebrows came together as a puzzled look crossed her face. She had no idea what the bard was talking about.


Gabrielle smiled at the warrior as she tickled against Xena's sensitive sides.

"Your mother's coming in here bright and early to get us for breakfast since you have such a hard time getting up in the morning."

Xena narrowed her eyes at Gabrielle and poked her ticklish ribs.

"You're still going to pay for that, my little bard."

Gabrielle laughed and put her head back down as she stretched into her sleeping position.

"Yeah, yeah..promises, promises."

Xena just shook head and smiled at the burrowing warmth next to her. Squeezing her tight, Xena placed a gentle kiss on the top of the bard's head and tucked the sheet in around them, blowing out the candle next to the table as she settled into her old bed with her love next to her. At the end of the day, they eased into their closeness, letting go and giving in to each other. It felt like they had come home together yet again. And it felt good and it felt right.

"Coming up close

everything sounds like welcome home

Come home...

And oh, by the way, Don't you know that I could make a dream that's barely half awake come true?"

Colophon: The writing of this story was greatly aided by a drive through the Berkshires and quite possibly one of the more perfect songs in the known world-"Coming Up Close" by Aimee Mann (and 'Til Tuesday).

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