Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and all the other characters in the Xenaverse are the property of MCA, I'm just playing in their sandbox.

*This story takes place after Necessary Evil. -----

Clashing steel and mumbled curses echo within the confines of the tavern walls. Anxiously I watch the large, dark hair woman exchanging sword blows with the man before her. Suddenly a battlecry shrieks out as she launches into a flip. Landing behind her bewildered attacker, a solid boot heel to the head removes him from the fight. As two more men move to take their friend's place a smile spreads across her well-defined face.

Shaking my head in disbelief, I realize she's enjoying this. Watching her delight at this latest attack I once more wonder why the Fates choose me to give birth to such a mighty warrior. There was a time when I cursed their decision, but no more. No longer am I ashamed to speak of my daughter, the Warrior Princess.

A man crashes into the bar near me and staggers a step before a well placed staff strike drops him. Having dispatched the man Gabrielle smiles at me before turning to finish off another of the fools who did not have the good sense to stay down. She seems to be enjoying this as much as Xena. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons they're friendship is so strong. I turn back to check Xena's progress with the two ruffians. Both men are swaying unsteadily it will be over soon. The man on her left charges, she strikes him across the face with the hilt of her sword, quickly his knees buckle and he begins to fall. As she turns to the remaining the brute, the fallen man grabs her free arm trying to pull her off balance quickly she lashes out slamming a boot into his head. As he collapses backward the other one charges. The distraction only lasted a moment but it is enough. Using this turn of events to his advantage the last man plunges his sword deep into her chest. My blood runs cold as she cries out in pain.

But the man's victory is short lived as her sword flashes removing his head with one stroke. The headless corpse hovers for a moment before collapsing. Moments later Xena's sword crashes to the floor and she staggers clutching at the weapon still lodged in her chest. I reach her as she slowly sinks to her knees. Grabbing board shoulders I pull her into my arms, cradling her tightly. Suddenly Gabrielle is by her side trying in vain to stop the blood flowing from around the blade, her pleading sobs are as painful as my daughter's labored breaths. Stroking Xena's forehead I force a smile. "It's alright little one, you're going to be alright."

She smiles back and tries to speak, but all she can manage is a cough as blood threatens to choke her. "Hush, don't try to talk." I tell her as I fight to hold back my tears. She reaches for my cheek, brushing it lightly with trembling fingers. Suddenly her body shutters, the hand falls away and crystal blue eyes stare up at me their shine forever faded. My daughter is dead. A scream forms somewhere deep down in my soul and erupts with a deafen roar.

Sitting straight up in bed I clutch at my chest trying to keep my heart from pounding through. Staring at the darkened room I realize it was all a dream. Another nightmare, one of many, which have haunted me since the rumors began. Unsteadily I raise from the sweat drenched bed. There will be no more sleep this night.


With the sun cresting the mountain ridge I've long since finished my morning chores. No matter how hard I try my thoughts keep returning to my daughter. How I long for some word from her, some sign that the rumors are just that.

A floorboard creaks and I turn to find a young man making his way to one of the corner tables. Though he is a stranger I find his presence comforting. While he wears armor it is obvious he has much to learn about being a warrior. When he arrived several days ago I thought he was just another young fool trying to make a name for himself. With helmet in hand he stumbled through an awkward introduction. Telling me of his friendship with Xena and how he had traveled with her, helping her on many occasions. Listening to his tales I couldn't help smiling, Xena always did have a soft spot for strays. Yet, what truly convinced me of his sincerity was when he spoke of Gabrielle. The way he grinned and laughed at the mention of her name, his feelings for the girl were obvious. I wonder if she knows how much he loves her? Then he told how they had planned to meet nearly a week ago, but Xena and Gabrielle never arrived. Having searched for days he was at a loss as to where they could be. My chest tightened at the tears in his eyes as he spoke of hearing rumors about Xena's death. When he asked if it would be all right to wait here, for a few days, I hadn't the heart to turn him away. Besides, even with his clumsy habits I welcome the company.

Course laughter fills the room awakening me from wandering thoughts. Wearily I watch as the first group of ruffians stumble through the door.

"Four mugs of grog, woman." calls one of the men as they slump down around a table.

The sight of them sickens me, they've heard the rumors as well and I know they are here to see if they are true. They began arriving three days ago and their numbers increase daily. No doubt they are hoping to collect on the many bounties hanging over Xena's head. Turning my face skyward I offer a silent pray for her safe return, though given my past relations with the Gods I doubt any are listening. 'Oh, Xena' I sigh 'where are you daughter?'

Several candle marks later another figure enters and the sight of him nearly causes me to drop a tray of drinks. As he starts toward me I can see the concern in his eyes. Suddenly I feel numb.

"Mother." he says reaching out to me. "Is it true?"

'So he has heard the rumors as well.' sighing deeply I wrap my arms around him. "I don't know my son. I don't know."

We talk quietly in between serving customers. He shares with me the rumors he has heard and they mirror the one's I already know by heart. Thought the where and when very from story to story the end is always the same. Xena and Gabrielle were in a fight and Xena was seriously wounded. Gabrielle tried in vain to save her. Gabrielle, I don't understand the child, she left home to follow Xena. And follow her she does, she has such loyalty for my daughter. What's more surprising is Xena's loyalty to her. After all those years of being a warlord I never would have thought Xena could care for anyone again. If the stories are true I wonder what the girl will do without Xena.

As Toris relates the rumors he brings one a new one.

"I spoke with a farmer who said he saw Gabrielle leading Xena's horse and pulling a coffin. She told him she was taking Xena home."

My knees weaken and I grab the bar for support. 'No it can't be true.'

"But that was nearly a week ago, she should have been here by now."

"Where do you think she is?" I manage to whisper.

"I don't know." he hesitates. "She may have given up and buried the coffin."

"No, Gabrielle would not have given up. If she planned to bring Xena home she will do it. Besides, she would see to it I knew the truth."

"If she's able."

"What do you mean?"

"Mother, there are many who would like to know Xena is dead and most of them are willing to pay for that proof."

As he speaks I can't keep my eyes from the four animals sitting near the door. "I know."

"I'm sure Gabrielle tried her best, but...well she's by herself and she's not a warrior."

I smile at him. "Don't underestimate her my son. She has a good teacher."

He starts to protest but stops himself. Then he offers me a forced smile. "You're right mother."


It's well after midday and the tavern is nearly overflowing. Most days I would welcome such a crowd but judging from the assortment of roughens gathered in small groups around the room, there will be trouble. How I loathe their presence. Several times I've considered closing, but that would mean sitting and waiting and that is something I cannot do. I must keep busy or the fear will overcome me.

'More movement at the door where do they all come from?' Stealing a glance at this latest arrival my heart skips a beat. I know it's been a while since I saw her last but she looks so much older. She's not the little girl who left home to chase after a warrior. My chest tightens at the realization she is alone. Standing in the doorway with staff in hand her eyes carefully study the room. Xena has taught her well. As her eyes met mine a smile wipes the seriousness from her face and once more I can see the girl I first met. Still smiling she starts toward me. Steadying myself against the bar I wait for her news.

"Gabby!" Joxer jumps into her path as she reaches the center of the room. "Where have you been? I've been looking all over for you? Where's Xena?"

One of the four men who arrived this morning, moves next to Joxer roughly pushing him aside. "Yeah, I'd like to know where she is too? Remember me, little girl?"

Sniffing loudly Gabrielle frowns. "How could I forget?"

"Where's your other little friend? He get tried of saving you?"

"As I recall he saved you from me." she taunts.

Others are slowly moving to surround her. Doesn't she realize how dangerous this is? Why is she taunting them?

"Where is she?" growls the man.


"Enough games." he draws his sword. "I want her body and I want it now."

"If you think you can take it, then it's yours."

'By the Gods the rumors are true, Xena is dead.'

"I will." he lunges at the girl.

Effortlessly she side steps the attack and strikes him across the head with her staff. He falls to the ground stunned. The other's attack and she skillfully meets each one.

"Leave her alone!" growls Joxer charging into the battle. Toris rushes from the back, with sword in hand. Together they struggle to drive the men back. I offer as much aid as I can. It's amazing how quickly a man falls to a blow from a chair leg. But we are greatly outnumbered.

Joxer is the first to fall, stunned by a sword hilt to the jaw. Toris is struck from behind, while two brutes overpower Gabrielle and finally I find myself pinned to the bar by two foul smelling men. Toris and Joxer try to raise but both are quickly grabbed. Struggling against her capturers, Gabrielle releases a chorus of curses I would not have thought her capable of. It would seem fighting is not the only thing Xena has taught her.

While the two men hold her, the one who first confronted her grabs her roughly by the chin. "I'm only going to ask you this once, then I'm going to start taking you apart piece by piece. Where is Xena's body."

"Go to Tarasus." hisses the girl.

Why is she doing this? Surely she must know Xena would not want her to die like this.

"You had your chance, little girl." sneers the man drawing a dagger. "Hold out her hand I'll start with her fingers and work my way up."

As he places the blade to her hand I try to pull free, but the men holding my arms only tighten their grip. Too her credit Gabrielle doesn't flinch from the blade. Unable to watch I turn away from the scene.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." warns a voice from the doorway. "She likes her fingers where they are and so do I."

All eyes turn to the voice and the silence is deafening. "Xena" I gasp. 'She's alive, my little one is alive.'

"Get her!" screams someone.

Chaos erupts as they charge her. But, they are no match for the Warrior Princess, effortlessly she knocks them aside. Having been forgotten, Gabrielle, Toris and Joxer reclaim their weapons and take once more to the fight. Within moments the remaining men are charging for the door, each fighting to be the first out. As the last of them disappears, Xena turns to Gabrielle.

"Are you alright?"

"Never better." answers the girl with a smile.

"Xena!" Joxer embraces her tightly.

"Joxer," she growls. "let go of me."

No sooner does Joxer release her than Toris gathers her up spinning several times.

"Toris, have you lost your mind? Put me down."

"Can't a guy show some concern?" he answers sitting her down. "I thought you were dead, as does most of Greece."

"Yeah well don't believe everything you hear." she mumbles.

I see the look she exchanges with the girl. The rumors were at least partly true, how close did I come to losing her this time? It doesn't matter she is here now. Rushing forward I wrap my arms around her waist for once welcoming the smell of worn leather. How good it feels to hold her once more.

"Mother, you're breaking my ribs." I hear her joke.

"They'll heal." I answer, refusing to release her just yet.

Strong arms gently embrace me and I feel a light kiss on top of my head. "It's alright, mother." she whispers. "It's alright."

Pulling away I smile up at her through tear filled eyes. "Where have you been?"

She wipes the tears from my eyes. "It's not important, I'm home now."

I know she will not tell me what has happened for fear of upsetting me. That is fine I'm not sure I want to know the details all that matters is she is safe.

Pulling away from her I turn to Gabrielle. Yes, she has grown so much. Without asking I hug her tightly, she returns the embrace. "I'm glad to see you too."

"Thanks." she answers.

Releasing her I slip an arm around Xena's waist and the other around Toris pulling him close. "It's so good to have both of you home. This calls for a family celebration." Leading them to one of the few upright tables I notice Gabrielle and Joxer have not followed, Xena has noticed as well.

"Come on, Gabrielle grab a chair." she insist.

Gabrielle and Joxer exchange uncertain glances. "You three should have some time alone, this is a family get together."

"Exactly," answers Xena crossing the room she slips an arm around Gabrielle's shoulders. "and like it or not you're part of this family. Come on."

Gabrielle smiles broadly.

As they start toward the table I notice Joxer's appears disheartened at not being invited, I start to offer him a chance to join us, but Xena beats me to it.

Without looking back she calls to him. "Come on Joxer you're welcome here too."

He rushes to the table like an excited puppy.

Gabrielle is well into her second bowl of stew and her third story when a male voice calls from the doorway.

"Must have been some party." shrugs the man eyeing the overturned tables and chairs.

He is short with curly blond hair and looks like a bit of a ruffian. But, his companion is one I'm concerned about. Nearly a foot taller than his friend the man is a mountain of muscles. No doubt he would be a formidable fighter. More challengers for Xena's head no doubt, perhaps she can take one but I don't know about both.

"Iolaus." cries Gabrielle rushing to embrace the man. Judging from the smile on his face he has no objection to the young woman's show of affection.

"Gabrielle, glad to see you made it." pulling away from her the smile slips from his face. "Hercules and I came to pay our respects."

"I've got a surprise for you." she answers pulling him toward the table

Xena moves toward them. "You boys are a little out of your territory aren't you?"

"Xena." whispers the shorter man, obviously in shock.

"Surprise." smiles Gabrielle nudging him in the ribs.

Before he can say more the large man rushes forward grabbing Xena by the shoulders. "Xena? Iolaus told me you were dead."

Folding her arms across her chest Xena arches an eyebrow. "Do I look dead?"

"Not hardly, in fact you're looking rather well for a corpse."

Pushing pass the large man the short blond stares at Xena in disbelief. "Xena how...? I saw your co..."

"It's a long story." she answers quickly cutting him off.

Stealing a quick glance at Gabrielle he offers Xena his hand. "Well I'm glad it had a happy ending."

"Thanks." she answers. "Come on I want you to meet someone."

Quickly she introduces Toris and I to her friends. So she is a friend of the son of Zeus, my daughter is full of surprises. Going for another pitcher of grog I stop for a moment to watch them. Xena and her friends sit laughing, joking and sharing stories. There is such a careful feeling among them it's hard to believe just a few candle marks ago I thought she was dead. Turning away I offer a silent pray of thanks to the God that has been watching over her and wish that they continue to do so. Then I can't help asking for one more wish, that they show mercy and allow me to pass on before her. For I don't think I could face the death of another child. Feeling a gentle hand upon my shoulder I look up into crystal blue eyes.

"Mom are you alright?"

The concern in her face brings tears to my eyes. Patting her hand I smile. "I'm fine daughter. Now that you're home I'm just fine."

Her head drops. "Mother you know I can't stay."

Raising her chin with a finger I stare once more into those beautiful eyes. "I know. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the time your here."

"Your right." she smiles.

How beautiful she is when she smiles. "Go on your friends are waiting."

Squeezing my shoulder she returns to the table. Gathering the food and drinks I pause a moment to steal another look at the carefree group. Perhaps one day the rumors will be true, but until that day I'll take very moment I can with my daughter. Wiping away the last of my tears I push away all thoughts of death and loss this is a time for celebration. Returning to the table I place a hand on each of my children's shoulders, they both return my smile. No matter what happens tomorrow I'll always remember how good it felt to have my family together today.

The End ----------------------- Onora

Hope you enjoyed the journey.

As always reviews are welcome and greatly appreciated.