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The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, and Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles, and back-story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. The story is written only for fun, and no profit is being made. All other characters such as Tarren, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. The story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. The story itself as well as the character created by the author may NOT be duplicated or archived without the author’s permission. All works remain the copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the authors consent. This story is a continuation of my first stories called SHE HAS MY EYES, ON THE ROAD AGAIN, and NALA’S GIFTS. You really MUST read those stories first. Otherwise you will be lost as to who some of the characters I have created are. This story contains some violence, no subtext, and the use or reference of corporal punishment. I will be putting that statement in all of the Tarren series whether it exists or not in that particular story. Please understand that this does NOT reflect on my personal beliefs or politics. I am just trying to stay true to the characters and culture of that period of history. Feedback is ALWAYS appreciated and I am most grateful to all that have written and will hopefully continue to write me with your thoughts.

Sex - Nope

Violence- mild

Comfort/hurt- well you may need a Kleenex in a few spots if you’re like me.

Chapter 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   Epilogue


Home Sweet Home
By Fantimbard


Chapter 1 – Shadows of Goden

The blackness came again like a rush of chills over a fever racked body. The crystal forms were raining from the roof of the cavern. The once bright sparkling colors were all now mixed with blood. Where was Xena? Slowly the walls started to collapse on the already narrow cavern and the young child was caught in the center with no means of escape. Where was Xena? The blood that had covered the floor was slowly rising up to the youngster’s face. Soon she would be completely covered with it and unable to see or breathe fresh air. The child could no longer move. She could not even wipe the red stains from her face. A giant hand was approaching and it was covered in blood. "Momma!" the child cried.


"Momma!" Tarren screamed jumping from her bedroll like a spring that had been uncoiled. Her small body was soaked with sweat and shivering from the nightmare she had just escaped again.

Xena quickly grabbed the child, drawing her close to her chest and rocking her. "The same night mare again...little one!" she whispered as she pressed the youngsters sweaty form close to her, stroking her back tenderly hoping to ease the shivers that ran over her daughter’s body.

The child held onto her mother’s arm trying to find her place back in the real world. Tears spilled from the youngster’s eyes as she tried to recount the dream. "I ...was... back in the cave... and the crystals were falling...and...the bloody hand was coming...and..." she said in a trembling broken shiver.

Xena rocked her child slowly as she wrapped her large muscular arms tightly around the little girl. "Shh I know...I’m here. It’s just a nightmare. It’s not real Tarren," she said quickly, hoping to bring the youngster back to reality.

Gabrielle glanced up from her bedroll wiping the blond mass of hair from her face. Seeing the frazzled look on her warrior’s face and the shaking child in Xena’s arms, the bard knew it had happened again. Gabrielle quickly rose from her blankets and settled in next to her companions. Stroking the youngster’s head for comfort, she whispered to the warrior, "By the God’s Xena, not again. That’s the fourth night in a row she’s had these nightmares."

Xena nodded as she protectively embraced her daughter. " I know...I know," she said quietly, trying to form some plan of action in her mind against the demons that attacked her child in the middle of her sleep.

The warrior mother slowly got to her feet keeping Tarren cradled in her arms. She looked over at the bard and said with a sigh, "Come on let’s get her down to the stream and get her cleaned up and into some dry clothes. The poor kids sweat right through these again."

As they had done for nearly a week, Xena carried the little girl in her arms down to whatever river or stream was near their camp while Gabrielle grabbed towels and some fresh clothes and followed. It had become a ritual of sadness and suffering for all three of the travelers.


Xena placed the youngster near the edge of the water and slowly stripped off her sweaty undergarments, placing her gently in the cooling waters. Tarren held tightly to her mother as the great warrior ran her large hand gently over the child’s skin and hair hoping the fresh water would bring back the reality of where she was and the safety of who she was with.

Tarren’s’ grip on her mother’s arm remained iron clad and her youthful blue gaze never left Xena’s. "Momma... I don’t want to go to sleep anymore," the youngster cried holding Xena’s arm so tightly the warrior was sure the circulation was slowing.

The warrior mother grimaced knowing that her child was looking to her for help and comfort, but Xena did not know what more she could do. She wished she could join the youngster in her nightmares and help her fight her way through them, but she couldn’t.

She could only look sadly down at her child as she washed the cold water over her face and tried to smile as she spoke, "Hey there only nightmares Tarren. They’re not real. I’m always right here beside you. I’m not gonna let anything happen to you. I promise."

Gabrielle approached with the towel and soon Tarren was once again dry and dressed. The youngster still wore the splint on her foot that had been injured in the cave-in nearly a week ago, and it was a constant reminder of the pain the child had felt and obviously still did.

Gabrielle looked at the dripping youngster and smiled weakly. "Hey are you just do this so you can go swimming at night brat?" she asked with a forced grin.

The child tried to smile and nodded a bit wanting to join in her friend’s humor, but finding it too difficult. "Gabby I don’t wanna go to sleep," she repeated.

The bard crumbled a bit at the child’s plea and reached out to touch her hand. Gabrielle looked at Xena. The warrior was tired. She had been up with Tarren every night. Xena was plagued with concern over the youngster’s nightmares and it was beginning to take its toll on her. The warrior mother just stared at the green eyes of her best friend not knowing what answer to give. She finally sighed and got to her feet. "Come on little girl we’ll help you find some happy mischief in those dreams of yours," she said quietly moving back towards camp.

The bard followed slowly, yawning as she stretched out her own tired muscles.


When the trio returned to camp, Gabrielle reached down to the fire and mixed the usual potion that helped Tarren find gentle sleep. Xena did not like using her medicines for such a purpose, but her daughter’s lack of time in the land of Morpheous was effecting her health, not to mention Gabrielle and Xena’s

The bard handed Xena the mix of tea and returned to her bedroll knowing the rest of the night would now be quiet. Tarren eagerly gulped the liquid regardless of its fowl odor knowing it would offer her a peaceful slumber. "Hey slow down," the warrior said taking the empty mug from the youngster and gently pushing her back into her bedroll.

"Momma!" she cried as Xena started to rise and walk towards the fire.

The warrior mother quickly returned to the little one’s side and took Tarren’s trembling hand, "Hey, I was only going to put the mug back youngster. I’m right here."

A single tear ran down the child’s cheek. "No don’t go. Promise you won’t go," she cried using all her strength to try and hold her mother in place.

Xena sighed and lay back next to her daughter and whispered, "I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here with you." For the fourth night in a row the warrior mother slept at her daughter’s side with the small child clinging to her through out the night.



When morning finally arrived, Tarren woke with a smile as if the night before had never happened. It was the same each and every day since the cave-in at Goden.

Gabrielle eyed the smiling youngster with confusion, as she stood next to the warrior just out of earshot of the child who was busy wrapping her bedroll and packing her satchel. "Xena I don’t get it. How can she be so happy in the morning and so terrified at night?" the bard asked.

Xena turned and looked at the gentle innocence on her daughter’s face. She was thankful that the youngster could find peaceful thoughts in the daylight that avoided her when she slept. The warrior smiled as she eyed her young daughter burying her head completely inside her satchel in search of some lost treasure. "The memory is too painful for her Gabrielle. She only deals with it at night because she is forced to let her guard down. She has buried that fear and that pain so deep inside that when she’s awake she doesn’t know it exists," the warrior replied with a deep breath.

The bard sighed and then stopped a yawn. "Well what are we gonna do? I can’t bare to see her suffering like that Xena," she said with concern.

The warrior nodded in agreement. "I know...She just needs time. When she’s ready then she’ll talk about it. Until then Gabrielle there’s not much we can do," she said with a scowl, heading back into the center of camp.

"OK you it’s time for another days ride," Xena said with a simple grin crouching don low enough for Tarren to hop on her back.

The youngster stared down at her still bandaged foot. "When can we take that off?" she asked pointing towards the splint.

Xena knelt down and examined the wound. "Well I’d say in a few days, but are you really sure that you are so anxious to have it come off little one?" the warrior asked with a warning smile, reminding the child that she had not forgotten about her promise.

Tarren swallowed hard as she stared at her foot and then back at her mother. "Actually I’m sort of fond of it ya know Momma. It doesn’t have to come off. I like it," she said with a weak grin.

Xena nodded. "Uh huh... That’s what I thought...well it will be off in a few days and then you and I have an appointment little one," she said lifting the child onto her back.

Tarren tried to look a bit dazed. "Appointment? Hmm I don’t remember making an appointment with anyone...sorry Momma you must have me confused with someone else on your list," she whispered, as she wrapped her arms around her mothers neck.

The bard chuckled at the youngster’s ability to find humor in something Xena took very seriously. Tarren was definitely not going to make it easy on her mother to keep that promise.

Xena lifted the child higher into the air, "Nope you are the only one on my list right now little girl. Don’t worry I’ll REMIND you all about it when the time comes."

The youngster groaned at her mother’s determined words. "Gabby will you talk to her please!" she begged, reaching a hand down to the more lenient bard.

Gabrielle looked at Xena considering a defense, but the look in the warrior’s eyes told her that this was not one of those moments to challenge her. "Sorry brat, not this time!" she said patting the youngster’s back.


Tarren dropped her head wearily on the warrior’s shoulder. "Ya know I’d run away from home right now if I could run," she murmured.

Xena grinned and winked at the bard. With a quick flip she brought the child in front of her. "You would huh?" she asked with a look of true sadness.

The pouting child leaned on her mother’s chest. "Yes I would and you’d miss me lots," she said with a slight grin waiting for the warrior’s response.

"Well I wouldn’t want that to happen. You’re right I’d miss you an awful lot and be really worried about you while you were gone," Xena said quietly staring at the bard, trying not to smile at her daughter’s discreet game of make Momma Feel Bad.

"Yeah I’d miss you too!" the bard said, lowering her head to stare at her boots as she walked

Tarren, realizing she was being teased, eyed them both and slowly shook her head. "I don’t stand a chance do I?" she asked, knowing her intended threat was not gonna help her situation.

Xena considered the words and shook her head. "Nope sorry afraid not little one. Your fate is pretty well sealed on this," she said without question.

The child moaned and then lay her head back down quickly falling asleep. The nights of restless sleep and nightmares were catching up to the little girl. Xena lowered her eyes and quickly noticed that her daughter was napping. "Well lucky her," she said with a yawn.

The bard yawned as well, "Yeah...Xena about Tarren...Do you really have to punish her? I mean I know what she did was wrong, but she’s been through so much, and now these nightmares. Is it really needed?"

The warrior let out a long tired breath as she held tightly to her child. "Gabrielle believe me the last thing I want to do is punish her, but it’s for all the reasons that you just mentioned that I have to. She doesn’t really understand that the reason she got hurt was because she didn’t listen to us. Her memory of ALL of that happened in Goden stops with the cave-in. Tarren forgets how and why she wound up in there in the first place. She has to take responsibility for her actions Gabrielle. THAT is the only way we can make sure she doesn’t do something like this again," Xena sighed and repositioned the child closer to her. "This kid feels guilty about something and it is tearing her up inside...and perhaps the only way she’ll find peace in her dreams is to let go of the guilt," the warrior finished with a tired frown

The bard considered her friend’s wisdom and smiled. "Hey your getting pretty good at this mothering stuff ya know," she said poking the warrior gently in the side.

Xena grinned and stared at the sleeping child, "Yeah well...SHE makes sure I get a lot of practice."

"She sure does warrior. She sure does," the young woman said with a grin.


As the days slowly passed the trio came closer to Amphipolous. Xena estimated that they were only about two day’s travel from her village. She was anxious to see her mother and her home again. They made camp in a small grassy clearing just above a narrow stream. It would be their last night on the road before reaching Amphipolis. Gabrielle set up the camp while Xena examined Tarren’s splint knowing it was passed time to remove it.

"Tarren this has to come off," the warrior repeated for the fourth time, gently tugging at the bandage.


The youngster was quietly sitting by the fire staring at the small flames saying nothing. In the past few days the child had become sullen and moody and down right irritable. Xena and the bard tried to be tolerant because they knew the child was still plagued by nightmares and a lack of sleep.

Xena moved in beside her child. "Hey I’m talking to you," she scolded, bringing the little girl’s attention quickly to her.

Tarren stared at her bandaged foot and then into the blue gaze of her mother’s eyes. "I don’t want it off. I like it," she said with a slight pout.

Xena looked at Gabrielle and shook her head trying to contain her frustration at the child’s stubbornness. "Tarren we have been over this 145 times in the last eight days, and frankly I’ve had enough of it. You no longer have a choice. It is coming off right now," the warrior mother ordered.

The youngster looked at Gabrielle whose face was worn with exhaustion from lack of sleep. "Tarren honey just let Xena take it off," she said with a quick yawn, but the warrior child stubbornly shook her head.

Xena frowned and let out a deep breath. "That’s it! I have been nice. I have been patient. I have even been sweet, but even I have my limits," she yelled, quickly removing the youngster’s bandage and pulling her slowly to her feet.

"Now I want to see you walk on it. I want to know if it hurts when you step on it, and before you get any ideas little girl, I want you to know that I expect the truth," Xena warned with a shaking finger.

Tarren looked at her naked foot and then at her mother. She took a quick step. It actually felt good to stand again. The child walked easily just as Xena had dictated.

"How does it feel?" the bard asked, as she watched the youngster move.

"A bit stiff, but it... doesn’t hurt." she whispered, sounding a bit sorry that it didn’t.

Xena sighed with relief. "Thank the Gods. Now put your boot on and come with me," she said quietly.

The child reluctantly reached down and lifted her boot on and again took a slow step. Xena nodded at the bard and grabbed her fishing pole with one hand and Tarren’s hand with the other. "We’ll be back in a bit Gabrielle," she said rolling her eyes at her daughter’s dramatics." Come on!" she said dragging the child down the path behind her.

Little Tarren looked at Gabrielle as if Xena were leading her to the gallows. The child waved at the bard as if it were the last time they would ever see each other on this side. The bard had to grin at the little one’s overly acted angst, but still she waved a quick farewell and then leaned back on her bedroll for a needed nap.

Xena and her young daughter headed down to the stream. The child was unusually quiet and the warrior knew why. She herself would be happy when this whole incident with Goden was behind them. When they reached the water’s edge the warrior dropped her pole and turned to face her daughter. "Ya know Tarren, you have not been the easiest kid to live with these last few days. But that’s Ok because I’m not always the easiest person to be around either. However this whole thing has gotten way out of hand and it ends right here and right now. You did something wrong...very wrong and you nearly got yourself killed. That’s why you still have the nightmares," Xena said feeling a surge of emotion welling within her. "I know that you are NOT afraid of anything that might happen to you, but you see I AM. I worry about you. I care about you. Can you understand that Tarren?" she asked, trying to show her daughter what was truly inside her own heart.


Tarren nodded as she let her young eyes meet her mother’s blue stare. The warrior’s tone softened a bit as she saw the child already had a tear running down her cheek.

Xena could not help but hug the youngster. "You are such a little brat sometimes," she said cupping the girl’s face in her hands. "Now let’s get this over with, so I can catch dinner," she said quickly kneeling and placing the child over her knee. The warrior had no anger only a burden of responsibility. She wasted not a single moment or an ounce of her gentle strength following through on her promise. Soon the youngster was once again reminded of the painful price for disobeying her warrior mother.

It was not long before the cranky child was sulking by the side of the stream while her mother fished for dinner. "Are you gonna cry all day?" the warrior asked, looking wearily over her shoulder at the youngster.

The child nodded and turned her head away.

"Ok suit yourself," the warrior said with a sigh.

Xena quickly pulled a fish from the stream and tied it onto the already heavy string on the ground beside her feet. As the warrior examined the fish on her line she decided there was more than enough to feed the trio. She picked up her pole and the fish in one hand and motioned for the child to follow.

The sulking youngster only rolled on her side purposely avoiding her mother’s gaze. "Don’t wanna go," the child murmured.


"Ok have it your way," the warrior said slowly.


Xena quickly lifted Tarren up with her free hand and threw the weepy youngster over her shoulder. The child struggled a bit but a quick warning glare from her mother put an end to that fast.

As they entered the campsite Xena smiled at the sight of the sleeping bard. She knew Tarren’s nightmares had robbed her friend of her sleep, so she was not about to wake her up. Xena placed the child on her feet and looked down at her. "It’ about time you started earning your keep around here again little girl. You clean the fish while I get some more wood, and don’t wake Gabrielle up," she said quietly.


The teary eyed youngster looked at the seriousness in her mother’s eyes and reluctantly took the fish to be cleaned. Xena was about to leave when she saw the child rubbing her bottom gingerly. She moved up beside her and placed a tender arm around her. "Hey brat who loves you?" she asked tugging at the child’s ear gently.

The youngster slowly looked up at her mother and saw the genuine concern and love in her gaze. "You do...I guess," Tarren whispered.

Xena threw her head back in surprise. "You guess? Hey do you see anyone else wearing out their hand on your little butt when you do stuff that could get you killed?" she asked feeling a lump in her own throat forming.

The child wiped her eyes and bit her lip, "Nope just you."


Xena lifted the little girl into her arms and hugged her. "Well then, I repeat myself. Who loves you? And you better get it right this time." she said slowly running her hands down the child’s side.

The youngster cocked her head and raised her eyebrows suddenly, for no real reason, remembering the sight of her mother’s bloody hands outside the cave in Goden. "You do!" she answered without question in her voice.

Xena nodded approvingly. "That’s’ right, and I don’t ever want you to forget it," she said gently squeezing her daughter. Tarren nodded and much to the warrior’s surprise, hugged her mother tightly, laying her head quietly on Xena’s shoulder.

The warrior mother kissed the youngster’s head and sighed, happy to have her daughter back. "Now start cleaning those fish," the warrior ordered, placing the child on the ground.

Tarren looked at her mother strangely. "Something about the hands," the child thought, but she couldn’t quite remember. She was lost in a memory of the past and couldn’t break her concentration on the palms of her mother’s hands.

"Tarren...Tarren," Xena said quietly, trying to bring the child back to reality without waking Gabrielle.

"Huh...yes Momma," she replied, not sure what she had been thinking of a moment ago.

Xena studied her daughter. "Hey are you Ok?" she asked placing a gentle hand on the youngster’s head.

Tarren swallowed hard and nodded not sure she was being truthful in her response, and Xena just stared at her confused by her daughter’s expression


"Well then you get those fish cleaned. Ok?" the warrior repeated.

The child bit her lower lip. "Yes ma’am," she said with a mock salute wiping the last of her tears away with her sleeve.

Xena smiled and touched the youngster’s cheek. "And don’t wake Gabrielle," she repeated slowly, so the little girl was sure to hear each word.

Tarren looked down at the snoring bard and frowned. "You’re not gonna cook are ya Momma?" she asked.

The warrior cocked her head. "Hey it won’t kill ya for one night. Gabrielle needs a break," she said quietly heading out to the woods.

Tarren stared at the napping bard and then the fish. She wanted Gabrielle to wake up so she would cook and, so she would give her warmth and compassion she had come to expect from the bard at moments like this. However Xena was pretty adamant about letting her sleep, so the youngster tried to be as quiet as she could while cleaning the fish. It was purely an act of the fates when the frying pan hit the rock making such a loud crashing sound that the bard jumped from her bedroll.

"Oh you’re awake. Momma said to let you sleep," the child whispered, trying to show her friend her tears.

Gabrielle steadied herself on a tree and ran her hands through her hair trying to bring her senses back to reality. The bard looked down at the youngster making an effort to clean the fish while wiping tears from the corners of her eyes with the ends of her sleeves. The gentle bard wasted no time dropping down next to her young friend and placing a loving arm around the little girl.

"Tarren, honey are you Ok?" she asked, looking into the child’s tear stained face.

The youngster nodded, but when the bard opened her arms Tarren did not hesitate to accept the offer for some attention and affection from her companion.

"Hey what are all these tears for? It’s all over now. Let it go honey. Shh it’s Ok. At least you don’t have that splint on anymore. You can run around and now Xena won’t have to carry you anymore," the bard whispered rocking the youngster in her lap.

Tarren sniffled. She was happy at the thought of being able to run and play but her happiness was cut short by the thought that Xena would not carry her anymore. She had come to enjoy riding on her mother’s back and being with her all the time. Now she was sure she’d be left alone just like in the darkness of the cave.

"Momma is probably happy to be rid of me," she thought as she tightened her hold on the bard.

Gabrielle noticed a tear running down the child’s cheek and wiped it away thinking that the warrior must have made quite an effort on the youngster’s backside. She had no idea why the tears were really falling.

The bard knelt on the ground and lowered the child’s head gently into her lap stroking her hair gently with one hand while she finished with the fish with the other.

"You just lie there and relax. I’ll finish this," she said quietly cleaning the fish before her.


Tarren started to protest not wanting to get in trouble for disobeying her mother’s order. "But Momma said..." the child started to whisper.

"Xena is not here right now, so I’m in charge. So you do as I say and just lie there," she ordered, glancing down at the child with her emerald eyes.

The youngster buried her head in the bard’s soft lap and smiled as her friend caressed her back. "Ok Gabby you are the boss," she said with a wide grin.

Gabrielle nodded her head. "It’s about time someone realized it," she said with a quick smile.


Chapter 2 – To Tell the Truth

Xena walked into camp with an armload of wood and dropped it at her feet when she saw the bard wide-awake and cooking. Tarren slept in her lap being given a casual loving glance from Gabrielle every once in a while.

"What in Hades’ temple is going on here?" the warrior yelled. "Tarren!" she said slowly reaching out for the youngster.

The child quickly jumped to her feet and took a safe position behind Gabrielle. "Gods Xena what is all the fuss?" the bard asked, facing off with her large friend.

Xena placed her hands on her hips and stared at her daughter who was carefully hidden behind the bard.

"I told her to let you sleep and to clean the fish," she said trying to reach around the bard for a hold on little Tarren.

Gabrielle stood squarely in front of the child. "Xena she didn’t wake me. I got up on my own. I TOLD her to relax while I cleaned the fish. She was only doing what I said Xena," the bard scolded, throwing a protective arm over the little girl.

Xena threw her arms up in the air and smiled though it was not a smile of joy but frustration. "You are so gullible!" she laughed, pacing around the small camp.

When she stopped she pointed to the ground in front of her. "Tarren please come over here right now," she ordered in a no nonsense parental tone.

The youngster slowly slid out from behind the weary bard and moved to the position her mother had chosen. The warrior looked at Gabrielle and then Tarren and smiled oddly.

"Now you’ve never lied to me Tarren and that’s something I’m pretty proud of, so don’t start now. Got it?" she asked quietly, leaning down to face the youngster.

The child nodded. "Yes Ma am."

Xena paced around her daughter as if she were a witness on the stand. "Good girl. Now tell me how Gabrielle came to wake up," the warrior mother said sternly.

The youngster shuffled nervously as she stared back at the bard.

"Look at me when I’m talking to you Tarren," the warrior mother said.

Tarren looked up at her mother’s face. She knew that Xena expected the truth.

The little girl could not help but wipe a tear away as she stared at the steady gaze of her warrior mother waiting for her reply.

"I dropped the frying pan," the child whispered.

Xena closed her eyes and shook her head as the image entered her mind of the loud sound sending the poor sleeping bard jumping to her feet. The warrior ran her hand down the front of her face and looked at Gabrielle who was puzzled by the admission.

"Accidentally or on purpose?" the warrior asked sternly, while staring at the waiting bard.

The child shrugged her shoulders. "Both I guess!" she said simply, hoping that was enough of an answer.

The warrior groaned and waved her hand in the air to show that she was right.

Tarren could not help but fixate her eyes on the shape of her mother’s hand. There were five fingers and it was a large hand, but there was something about it that made her stare at it. She felt lost by the sight of it. The little girl quickly looked down at her own hands and then back at her mother’s and couldn’t understand her own fascination and fear.

Xena folded her arms tightly against her chest and gave cat like smile to the bard. She seated herself quietly on a log waiting for the bard to respond and take charge of the situation.

Gabrielle shook her head and moved towards the child who was now staring down at the fire with an unknown fear shooting through her body. The youngster was still staring at her own empty hands when Gabrielle startled her with a touch.

"Why Tarren? You know how tired I’ve been from staying up with you. Why would you do that?" the bard asked bringing the little girls blue eyes to meet her own emerald gaze.

The youngster bit her lip and faced her friend with a look of guilt and shame.

"I’m sorry Gabby I just wanted you awake cause...."

The warrior waited to hear the response.

"Because why?" the young woman asked again.

The child fidgeted a bit.

"Well Momma was gone and I didn’t want to be by myself," she whispered lowering her head not wanting Xena to see her tears.

Gabrielle closed her eyes and swallowed hard as she heard the child’s words. She smiled at the warrior. This was the first time that Tarren had ever admitted that the bard’s touch meant something to her.

"Tarren why didn’t you just tell me or Xena that you were afraid to be alone?" she asked, placing a gentle hand on the little girl’s back.

The youngster shrugged. "I didn’t want anyone getting mad at me or thinking I was a baby," she murmured, wiping a tear away with her sleeve.

Xena took a long deep cleansing breath allowing all her frustration to subside.

Gabrielle smiled and embraced the youngster still staring at the now seated warrior.

"Tarren nobody would get mad at you for being afraid, and nobody thinks you’re a baby, but you’re not a grown-up either, so you don’t have to try and act like you are. You can be afraid and tell us. We’ll understand. Right Xena?" the young woman asked looking at her now sullen friend.

Xena placed her head in her hands and rubbed her eyes.

"Tarren come here please," she said softly.

Tarren released the bard and moved to her mother’s side unsure of what to expect.

The warrior mother carefully lifted the youngster up and placed her gently in her lap.

"Tarren you can always come to me or Gabrielle with a problem. If anything is bothering you or you have something to say nobody is gonna get mad at you. You have to learn to trust that. I know it’s not easy, but we can’t read minds. If you didn’t want to be left alone you should have told me. I would have taken you with me. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid," she said wiping the tears from her daughter’s face.

Tarren laid her head down on her mother’s familiar shoulder finding that place which was now her own. "You would have taken me with you even though I can walk now?" she asked.

Xena nodded. "Of course!" she said confused by the child’s statement.

Xena lowered her voice to a near whisper, "Tarren just because I don’t need to carry you around anymore doesn’t mean that I won’t want to."

The youngster bit her lip and spoke quietly, "I liked spending time with you Momma. With my foot hurt, you took me everywhere with you...Now you don’t have to and I don’t wanna be alone...I don’t like being alone. I get scared when you leave that you won’t come back."

Xena looked at the bard and back to the small form in her lap. She closed her eyes in complete understanding. "Tarren I will never leave you. You don’t have to be afraid. You couldn’t get rid of me if you tried kid. You’re stuck with me. And I will happily take you anywhere I can with me, but it would be nice if you walked once in a while just so your legs don’t turn to mush," the warrior said with a smile, tickling the little girl’s side.

The youngster grinned a bit but did not give the response the warrior had hoped for.

"You mean it. You really still want me with you even though you don’t HAVE to have me there?" she asked leaning her head gently on the warrior’s shoulder letting fresh tears fall.

Xena raised her eyebrows confused by the child’s sudden fear of her rejection. "Tarren, of course I want you with me. Why would you ever think otherwise? You know I want you with me. What is all this about?" she asked sternly, hoping to get to the root of the youngster’s fears.

The child fingered the warrior’s armband playfully and said nothing.

Xena shook her a bit. "Hey are you still with me?" she asked and the child just nodded.

Tarren’s expression was far away and Xena could feel the shiver run through her daughter’s body. The warrior mother tightened her hold on her daughter. "Hey what is it?" she asked concern filling her voice.

The little girl lifted her eyes and stared at her mother sadly. " Momma can I see your hands?" she asked sounding a bit dazed.

Gabrielle stared at the warrior who reluctantly offered the child her hands for inspection.

Tarren ran her fingers over the healing scars that were reminders of how fiercely her mother had dug through the rock to get to her. Xena had never told Tarren anymore then she had injured her hands during the earthshake. She had never told her how she had dug bear handed through the sharp stones until her palms bled.

"I did that to you. That’s my fault" she whispered, gently running her fingers along the closed wounds.

Xena turned the child’s head to face her. "Hey it’s nothing, and why in Hades would you ever think these would be your fault little one?" the warrior scolded.

Tarren looked at her mother biting her lip as she touched the warrior’s hands.

"Momma if I lied to you would I get in trouble?" she asked staring oddly at the woman whose love she needed most.

Xena raised her eyebrows wondering why there was a sudden change in subject. "Tarren how many times have I told you not to be afraid to tell me the truth?" she asked

The little girl nodded, "Lots Momma, so then the answer is yes?" she asked still running her small finger over the warriors open hand.

Xena sighed and nodded, "Yes the answer is yes. If you lied to me then you’d get in trouble."

Tarren looked at Gabrielle who had quietly seated herself next to the Xena. The child said nothing more but continued touching her mother’s open hand. Xena looked at the bard for support.

"Tarren did you lie to us about something?" Gabrielle asked studying the child’s face.

The youngster shook her head vigorously. "No...Momma lied to me," she whispered.

Xena looked as if an anvil had just been dropped on her foot. "Wait a minute little girl. When have I ever lied to you?" the warrior asked quickly.

The child sniffled and again ran her fingers along her mother’s scarred hands as if it were a ritual. "You said that you hurt your hands in the earthshake and the truth is you hurt them trying to dig me out of the cave right?" she asked looking at her mother for confirmation.

Xena swallowed hard and nodded. "Yes that’s true sweetheart. I did hurt my hands digging at the cave, but I didn’t lie to you. Tarren, I just didn’t want you feeling bad about it, so I didn’t tell you how I hurt them," she said softly, trying to calm her own pangs of remorse at the pain she felt her omission had caused her child.

This was what the nightmares had been about. This is why there was always a large bloody hand in all the child’s visions.

The child shook her head and clung tightly to her mother’s neck. Xena did not know what else to do accept wrap her arms tighter around the little girl.

"Momma I saw you and Gabby digging me out. I saw how hard you were digging. I could see it. I could see you...crying. It’s my fault you got hurt. It’s my fault," she moaned, burying her head in her mother’s chest.

Gabrielle wiped a tear from her own eye, "Well I think you were right Xena. This sure does explain a lot."

Xena nodded as she stood with the sobbing youngster in her arms. "Yeah...but not what to do about it...unfortunately...Come on little one. I think it’s time you and I had a little chat about guilt," the warrior mother said softly.

She carried the hysterical youngster off into the woods, feeling a need to share a private moment with her daughter.

Xena moved slowly back to the spot by the water where she had fished earlier. She kissed they youngster’s forehead as Tarren sobbed into her mother’s shoulder. The warrior found a small rock to sit on, cradling the little girl as she spoke softly, "Tarren."

The child heard her name and obediently focused her eyes on her mother.

The warrior took a deep breath trying to find the right place to start. "Now listen. I didn’t tell you exactly how I hurt my hands because I didn’t want you to feel just how you are feeling now. That was wrong of me maybe...I don’t know...I just wanted to protect you...that is sort of my job ya know," she said with a slight smile.

The youngster sniffled and fidgeted with her mother’s armband again.

Xena removed a small piece of cloth from her cuff and wiped the child’s face dry. "Gee you’re crying more now then when I spanked you ya little brat," she teased, trying unsuccessfully to lighten the child’s mind a bit.

The youngster only rubbed her backside and started to cry all over again. "Great going Xena," the warrior murmured, clearly chastising herself for saying the wrong thing.

"Ok enough tears, enough crying little one. Tarren I want you to listen to me," she ordered, and the child stared into her mother’s soft blue gaze once again.

Xena held up her hand showing the small scar on her hand to the little girl. "What do you see when you look at this?" she asked.

The child bit her lip and touched the wound gently. "A bad cut Momma," she whimpered.

The warrior shook her head and looked at her hand. "Well ya know what I see? I see something that reminds me just how much I love you and how I never want to lose you. That little cut tells me that I have a daughter that needs me. I sort of hope that it never goes completely away because it’s not something I ever want to forget," she said softly caressing the little one’s face.

The child stared at her mother, "You mean you don’t hate me for causing you so much trouble?"

Xena wrapped her arms around her daughter and shook her head. "Hate you? Little one, I could NEVER hate you. I may get angry with you. I may punish you when you misbehave, but I love you Tarren. You are my daughter. You are the center of my world youngster. Can you understand that?" she asked running the back of her hand against the child’s soft cheek.

Tarren nodded, let out a deep breath and leaned on her mother. "But Momma I still feel bad cause you got hurt cause of me," she said.

Xena smiled knowing exactly how the child was feeling.

"Well let me share a secret with you...something just between the two of us," the warrior said quietly.

The child’s ears perked up at the thought of such a trust.

"To tell you the truth, I’ve been feeling sort of guilty myself. You see if I had not left you to help those strangers then you never would have gone to the cave and gotten hurt. I should have been with you because I’m your mother and I’m supposed to take care of you. I wasn’t with you for so many years Tarren. Now I want to spend every minute with you. I want to make up for all the time we lost. That is something I have nightmares about Tarren. You see I’m really afraid of losing you," the warrior mother said in a broken voice, as a tear ran down her face.

Tarren raised her eyebrow in Xena fashion, "You’re really afraid of losing me?" she asked in awe of the thought of being so important.

Xena nodded and squeezed the youngster tighter needing to feel her close.

"But you shouldn’t feel bad about that Momma. You were just doing what you thought was right. It’s not your fault I got hurt," she said, wiping the warriors tears away with her mothers cloth.

Xena took the little cloth from her daughter and kissed the child’s hand, "Well it’s not your fault that I got hurt either then now is it because sometimes things just happen. Right?"

Tarren chewed her lip and shook her head, " I guess not Momma."

Xena smiled and wrapped her arms tightly around her child bringing her close to her chest and resting her chin on the little girl’s head. "Tarren I want you to know how sorry I am that I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. I shouldn’t have left you and Gabrielle when I knew something was gonna happen. We should have all stayed together. You two are first and foremost in my life and I will never again put someone else before you. I won’t ever take the chance of losing you again," she vowed.

Tarren hugged her mother and grinned a bit. "You don’t have to worry about me Momma. I’m not going anywhere. You’re stuck with me. Why you couldn’t get rid of me if you tried," she said with a sly grin, repeating the warrior’s earlier words.

Xena chuckled. "I wouldn’t have it any other way my little one...Well then no more guilt," the warrior mother, said holding up her scarred hand.

The child nodded. "You too Momma!"

Xena smiled at her daughter. "Tarren what do you see when you look real hard?" she asked pointing to her hand.

"That my mom loves me," the youngster quickly answered, wrapping her arms around her mother’s neck.

Xena let tears run down her cheeks and squeezed the little girl with all her gentle might.

"That’s’ right little one...You’re mother sure does love you," she whispered.

Tarren looked at Xena’s face which was now soaked with tears. "Now you’re crying," the child said with a frown.

Xena laughed wiping the wet from her face, "Yeah it must be catching or something. Hey I want you to make me a promise."

The child nodded happy to offer anything to this woman who offered her so much. "I want you to promise me that you’ll tell me when you want to spend time with me, and that you’ll just ask if you want a ride on my back...You see I enjoy those times as much as you ...maybe more!" Xena said with a gentle smile.

Tarren nodded, "I promise Momma!" she replied with a grin.

Xena rubbed the youngster's face. "Now that you got poor Gabrielle up and cooking, I think we both owe her the pleasure of our company, so lets dry are tears and go back to camp and see what kind of meal the little bard has to torture us with," she teased.

Xena took a deep breath and stood ready to go back to camp. Tarren waited for a moment considering her mother’s earlier request.

"Momma?" she called bringing the muscular warrior to a halt.

"Yes," Xena said turning to face her child.

"How about that ride?" Tarren asked with a slight grin.

The warrior shook her head and smiled and cupped her hands together. Tarren ran to her mother placing her foot in the cup and flipping over onto Xena’s back.

"Very good little one," she praised with a grin.

Tarren wrapped her hands around Xena’s neck and happily rode back into camp on the back of her warrior mother.

After finishing supper that night the trio lay in the grass blissfully staring up at the stars in the sky. "Momma where do you think Nala is right now? The Elysian fields?" the youngster asked with a bit of sadness in her voice.

The warrior smiled. "Well if that’s where good mystics go then yes I’d say that is exactly where she should be, but something tells me she goes to a better place than even that little one," Xena said quietly.

Gabrielle thought about her friend’s words and let out a sigh. "Tarren I was wondering. How did you see Xena and me digging when you were in the cave?" she asked leaning on her elbow to face the child.

Tarren thought about it for a moment and shrugged. "I dunno. You were just was Nala. It was like a dream but my eyes were open. I could see you and Momma, but when I tried to touch you then you disappeared. Then Nala came and told me that everything would be all right and I guess I fell asleep," the youngster replied, happy that the memory did not seem so painful anymore.

The bard let out a breath and fell back staring up at the sky once again amazed by yet another wonder. "Wow! How is that possible?" she asked her large friend.

Xena stared at the young woman for a moment and then smiled. "Gabrielle anything is possible. Aren’t you the one who always tells me that?" she asked.

The bard grinned. "Sure warrior throw my own logic back in my face rather than give me a real answer, " she said with a grin.

Tarren pointed to a shooting star and giggled. "Look!" she said excitement filling her voice.

For a moment the trio watched the oddity of nature pass wondering what it was and then sighed in unison happy to return to their relaxing observations.

Tarren rolled on her side and climbed across her mother’s stomach eliciting a loud groan from the warrior. "Hey I’m not a tree trunk ya know," she teased tickling the child’s side.

The youngster laughed and rolled over the warrior positioning her self carefully in the nook between Gabrielle and Xena.

"We’ve got company?" the bard said with a smile.

Xena rubbed her stomach. "I know...I felt her coming," she replied with a gentle grin.

Tarren looked from one and then to the other and frowned. "Ok now I’m not gonna tell you what Nala said about the cave," the youngster warned, folding her arms against her chest in a pout.

Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other and smiled.

The warrior lifted the youngster up so that she could lie comfortably across her chest. "Ok little one...What did Nala tell you?" she asked, rubbing the little girls back lovingly.

Tarren grinned at her small victory and began her story. "Nala said that the crystal cave was very special...She said that when you were inside you could feel the presence of all those you I saw you and Gabby and Nala," the youngster said with a yawn.

Xena and Gabrielle both smiled at the child’s affectionate words. Again the youngster yawned. "Ok that’s enough philosophy and star gazing for one night. It’s time for you to get to bed," the warrior mother said, rising to her feet and pulling Tarren up behind her.

For once the youngster didn’t argue, but quickly lowered herself into her bedroll. Before the warrior could even pull the covers around her head, Tarren was fast asleep. "Goodnight Little One," she whispered, placing a gentle kiss on the youngster’s head.

Xena then returned to her place next to Gabrielle staring up at the stars.

"It sure has been an interesting few months Xena," the bard said with a twisted smile.

The warrior nodded in agreement considering all that had happened.

"Let see you found out you had a daughter. We fought an entire village to save her. You met an old friend and bid her farewell... We fought a Warlord's entire camp... Tarren ran away and found out she was your daughter... You saved the souls of Goden... We survived an earthshake and little Tarren got trapped in a cave...Yup I’d say it’s been a pretty full couple of months, " the bard said carefully eyeing her friend.

Xena nodded. "Yeah but nothing really too out of the ordinary in my mind. Yours?" she asked with a slight grin.

The bard sighed, "Nope, of course nothing will compare to Tarren meeting your mother. That should be something worthy of Salmoneus selling tickets for," the bard said with a giggle.

The warrior groaned at the thought. "Look we’ll just have to stay between them," she said stiffly.

The two friends thought about it and then laughed continuing to watch the stars and consider the new meaning of their lives.

In the morning when Xena woke she could not help but smile when she noticed, while Tarren had slept through the entire night, she had still crawled into her mother’s bedroll. The child was now closely nuzzled next to the warrior. "All right little one have it your way for now." she whispered pulling the blankets closer to the child’s body.

The little girl moved her hand just a little not quite ready to let the warrior get up. Xena lay back feeling truly content with her best friend and her daughter at her side she was going home with a feeling she had not felt in many summers, happiness.


Chapter 3 – Home Sweet Home

As they walked along the trail towards Amphipolous, Xena could not help but realize how tired her traveling companions were. They were only a few hours from the village but it was getting late and Gabrielle and Tarren were obviously exhausted. Tarren had been riding on her back the last few hours and Gabrielle had volunteered to ride Argo.

That in itself was a clue to the warrior just how tired the young woman truly was. Xena sighed heavily, realizing that the pair needed rest, and that her return home would have to wait another day. She gently lowered Tarren to the ground.

"Ok you two let’s make camp. We’ll get to Amphipolous in the morning," she said with a sigh.

Tarren yawned and stretched out her muscles. "Tired Momma?" the child asked

The warrior grinned at her daughter. "Oh yeah I just can’t go another step," she teased.

The bard slipped off Argo’s back and leaned heavily on her staff for support.

"Well if you insist Xena," she yawned.

The warrior smiled at her friend. "Uh yeah I do...Gabrielle there’s a hill at the end of this path with a small stream...we can even go for a swim," she said looking behind her, knowing she would see a wide smile on her daughters face. However when she turned around all she saw was the spot the little girl had been standing in and the quick tracks she was now making for he cooling waters ahead.

"Tarren Come back here!" she yelled, but the child just kept going in search of the stream.

"Of all the harpies in Hades...." the warrior cursed jumping into Argo’s saddle.

"Gee aren’t you glad she can run now Xena?" the bard asked with a snicker.

Xena frowned. "Oh yeah I’m just thrilled, but she won’t be when I catch up to her," she hissed, kicking the horse into action.

Gabrielle shook her head with a grin, knowing for sure that things were now definitely back to normal.

Xena tethered Argo to a nearby tree as she watched her daughter happily playing in the water. The warrior stared angrily out at the splashing child. "You know better than to run of like that. How many times have I told you not to leave my sight on the road." she scolded.

The youngster wiped the water from her face and smiled. "But Momma you said we’d go swimming. I was just running ahead to make sure the water was...err...cold," she said quickly.

Xena shook her head at the child’s fabricated logic. "Oh and I guess you didn’t hear me calling you?" she asked in a parental tone.

Tarren shrugged. "Yeah ...but I couldn’t make out exactly what you... were saying." she whispered lowering her eyes a bit.

The warrior folded her arms in frustration. "Come over here." she ordered, pointing to the ground before her.

The child looked at her mother’s angry face and moved further back into the stream. "What’s gonna happen if I do?" she asked staring into the warrior’s eyes.

Xena’s lips tightened. "Well come over here and find out my little one," she purred.

Tarren thought of her still sore bottom and shook her head. "Well then what happens if I don’t get out?" she asked with a childish grin.

The warrior started to remove her armor realizing quickly the youngster’s logic.

Tarren knew she was in trouble no matter what she did, so strategically the most logical thing to do was nothing. "Well Tarren I guess you’ve got me. No matter what happens you’re in trouble. You’re in one of these lose or lose situations," Xena said throwing her hands in the air.

Before Tarren could even respond, the warrior dove into the water and came up searching for her stubborn daughter. However the child was no where to be found. Xena quickly scanned her surroundings and when she caught sight of the grassy knoll she had just left, saw her young daughter waving to her.

"Hi Momma. You said to get out and I got out. I always do what my mother says," she recited dutifully.

Xena had to suppress a grin and the youngster’s maneuvers. She was a quick one.

The warrior mother slowly exited the stream and when she reached the child grabbed her by the arm forcing a parental tone in her voice. "Don’t you EVER run off on me like that again young lady. Do you understand?" she yelled, staring down at the sad eyes of her young daughter.

Tarren’s smile faded as she realized just how upset her mother appeared to be. "I’m sorry Momma. I was just playing," she said lowering her head.

Xena stared down at the contrite dripping child and shook her head as she remembered another youngster who would have done the same thing many summers ago. That child had wished for understanding from her own mother that she never got. "Yeah well... don’t do it again," she said tasseling the little girl’s wet hair.

Tarren nodded and the warrior released her hold.

Xena let out a long breath and grinned. "Now go get my saddlebags off of Argo ya little monster," she said sending the child on her way with a fast swat. The youngster cringed a bit at the falling hand with the important message attached, but the child thanked the Gods that there was not another to follow.

Gabrielle soon joined the pair in the clearing, and after an early swim and a quick meal the weary travelers turned in for the night. Xena wanted to get up early to make up for the traveling time she had sacrificed for her companions.

Sunrise was coming and the Warrior Princess stood at the edge of the clearing looking over the hill. The wind blew threw her dark mane as she inhaled the gentle smells of her familiar surroundings. She looked off in the distance to the village below she had known as a child and could not help but smile. Slowly the leather clad warrior turned and looked at the two sleeping figures in her small camp. She grinned slightly and shook her head standing right above them.

"If it were up to you two we’d sleep all day...Now get up," she ordered.

There was no movement just the gentle grumbling of the tired figures hidden beneath the blankets. Xena threw a small log on the fire and stirred the stew in the pot from the night before. She waved her hand in the bard’s direction so that the smoke from the pot would wash over her. The aroma of the simmering food was enough to help a sleepy Gabrielle emerge from her covers. She smiled and stretched her arms upward to the sky.

"Good morning...Mmm...Smells good if I do say so myself," she said with a yawn.

"Huh I figured the smell of food would wake you up," the warrior teased.

Gabrielle’s smile was quickly replaced by a mock pout. "Well good morning to you too Warrior Grouch!" she said with a hiss.

Xena smiled at the bard. "I’m sorry Gabrielle, but getting you to leave that bedroll is harder than fighting 10 warlords with one hand tied behind my back," she teased tasting the stew.

Gabrielle got to her feet and twisted her face into a frown. "Well Warrior Grump let’s not get started on your faults...I mean maybe I sleep so late because you keep us traveling for ten hours a day...Of course the great Warrior Princess NEVER tires...just us mere mortals...and another thing..." she rambled.

The warrior chuckled at her young friend’s temper and threw her hands up in surrender. "Ok, Ok I give up...I yield to you my’re right. I should take into consideration that you are not as ...well kept up as I am," she said with an evil smile, turning her back on her friend.

Xena could feel the steam emanating from the young woman’s face, but did not turn around to face her. Just as the warrior suspected there was a quick whoosh in the air and the sight of the bard’s staff whirling quickly through the wind.

"We’ll see who’s not well looked after." the bard seethed. But before the Amazon Queen could hit her target the Warrior Princess merely back flipped in the air landing right behind her. The bard angrily threw her staff to the ground and Xena chuckled at her friend’s frustration.

"Better luck next time Gabrielle," she teased.

"Xena I really hate when you do that," the bard yelled.

The warrior straightened her leathers and examined her fingernails as she walked past her friend. "I know you do," she purred, gently tugging on the bard’s hair with a grin.


Gabrielle ‘s anger slowly deflated as she noted what a playful mood Xena was really in. "Well I guess it’s worth a little humiliation to see you so happy and relaxed," the bard said with a smile reaching down to attend the stew.

"Thank you my friend," the warrior said with a bow and a smile.

Gabrielle looked over at the still sleeping child. "Tarren could sleep through anything," the bard giggled pointing at the still sleeping youngster.

Xena locked her arms against her chest and stared at her sleeping young daughter. "Yeah I know. I think she must be taking lessons from you," she said with a snicker.

The bard frowned a bit at the remark and turned back to her food.

Xena knelt beside the sleeping child and gently rustled the blankets. "Tarren it’s time to get up," she whispered, but the child only pulled the bedroll over her head.

"Tarren!" the warrior scolded, but the child just smiled in her dream state and remained in the land of Morpheous.

Xena threw her arms up in the air. "Gods she’s WORSE than you are," the warrior moaned.

Gabrielle could not suppress a giggle as she eyed the sleeping child with pleasure. "Oh Xena let her rest a bit longer," she replied.

The warrior paced around the youngster a bit trying to decide her next move. She had an evil glint in her eye that the bard knew too well. Gabrielle licked her fingers as she watched her large friend wear out a path in the grass.

"Xena what are you thinking?" she asked cautiously.

The warrior s body had grown a bit tense at the child’s failure to rise. "Gabrielle if we were attacked right now that kid would be killed in her sleep. I have told her 100 times that she must learn to listen to the sounds around her and be more aware when we are on the road. It’s about time she learned a valuable lesson about ...staying alert," she said sternly, pointing to the youngster.

Gabrielle jumped to her feet and positioned herself between the warrior and Tarren. "Now Xena come on...she’s just a little kid and that water is way too cold to just get dumped in," she warned.

Xena smiled and easily lifted the bard to one side. "Well I seem to recall it did you a world of good on more than a few occasions," she said evenly, as she approached her daughter who had just assumed a fetal position.

The determined warrior quickly reached down and grabbed the youngster’s wrist ready to carry her off for a morning dunking. Before she could gather the child, Tarren lifted both legs in the air catching the Warrior Princess slightly off guard. The youngster pushed with all her might rolling with her mother onto the grass beside her bedroll. The child then quickly jumped on top of the warrior with a loud thud.

Gabrielle was astonished by the youngster's quick reflexes and fell back on the ground laughing at the warrior’s predicament. "Gee Xena I guess she’s not as light a sleeper as you thought. You really showed her how to stay alert," she laughed, catching the warrior’s harsh stare.

Xena smiled at the child perched on top of her. "Good morning Momma!" the youngster said with an impish grin.

Xena nodded approvingly at the child’s maneuver and then with a quick flip tossed her over her arm and back onto her blankets with a thud. Tarren giggled and the warrior rolled on her side and swatted the child’s bottom with her hand before jumping to her feet. The little girl yelped being instantly reminded of a very tender spot once again.

"Good morning little one." Xena said with a devilish grin, pulling the pouting child to her feet.

Gabrielle could not help but feel for the little princess. She knew better than most what a wicked sense of humor the warrior could have. "Xena," the bard scolded, but the warrior gave her a look of complete innocence.

The great warrior folded her arms and rocked on her heels smiling as she stared at her daughter. While the warrior was happy Tarren was quick to react to her attempt to take her from the bed, she was not too thrilled with her lying there waiting for Xena to do it.

The child flashed her youthful blue gaze at Xena, biting her lip in frustration at her mother’s torment. The little girl turned to Gabrielle who opened her arms to embrace the chastened youngster. Tarren eyed her mother with a bright twinkle in her eye just to let her know where the bard’s allegiance was at that moment. A small smile passed across her face as Gabrielle rubbed the child’s head soothingly.

"It’s Ok honey...Big bad Xena is just playing," she said giving the warrior a disapproving glare.

Xena watched in awe at the way Tarren could manipulate the little bard with the blink of an eye. She shook her head and smiled. "Well you two can stay here and sweat if you want, but I’m going for a nice cooling swim before we head to the village," Xena said turning to leave. She knew she had said the magic word. Tarren quickly broke her hold with the bard and jumped in her mother’s path.


"Can I come?" she begged, her eyes filled with a child’s anticipation.

Xena looked up at the sky and then down at her daughter folding her arms as if contemplating the idea. "Hmm I don’t know, the way you behaved towards me this morning I should have you polishing my boots right now," she said gently scolding the youngster.

Tarren lowered her head in defeat and Xena let out a dramatic sigh tasseling the youngster’s hair, "Come on I was just teasing. That was a very nice little move of yours little girl, but don’t ever try it on me again," she warned, with a gentle tap on the cheek.

Tarren smiled and Xena lifted her up, throwing the child up over her shoulder. The youngster giggled loudly as her mother ran towards the water. "Let’s see if you’re still laughing when I throw you in ya little monster," she teased tossing the youngster in the air as she moved down the path.

Gabrielle stood alone in camp looking around at the bedrolls and the great war-horse. "No you two just go have fun...I’ll pack up the camp...really I don’t mind," she said to Argo with a heavy sigh.

However before the bard could even stir the now burning stew, she heard a small voice scream from below, "Come on Gabby we’re waiting for ya."

A broad smile quickly came across the bard’s face, "Argo I guess s you’ll have to take care of things here," she said with a smile. The horse whinnied in protest and the bard giggled. With a quick skip the young woman dashed down to the river to join her friends, her family in a relaxing morning swim.

As Gabrielle and Xena dried themselves on the shoreline Tarren still splashed happily in the water. Xena noted with pride the quick easy strokes the youngster took as she swam through the stream. She had become a very good swimmer under Xena’s instruction, in only a few months. More than that she was developing a true respect for the nature around her. Xena had taught her that any opponent whether it is man or force of nature should ever be underestimated and always respected. The child seemed to form her life around the philosophy that the warrior had knitted for her. Gabrielle caught the smile of the warrior as she watched the child. She poked her friend in the ribs.

"Why don’t you ever tell her how proud you are of her?" she asked.

Xena sighed a bit and then met the bard’s soft gaze. "She’s cocky enough already," the warrior mother said with a grin.

The bard smiled. "Yeah if she were any more cocky she’d be you right?" she said teasingly.

Xena swallowed the words as she stared at her friend. A smile slowly crept across her face. "Yeah I guess that’s what I’m afraid of," she whispered thinking of a much darker Xena of the past.

The warrior sat beside the bard pulling her legs closely to her chest as she watched the happy child splashing in the water. " Gabrielle, I see in her the child I once was, full of energy, and mischief, and wanting excitement and adventure. She’s totally defiant or tries to be," she said with a chuckle, "I had my mother and brothers to keep me in check and still it did no good. I still turned into ya know..." she said her voice turning more serious, "Well I won’t let that happen to her. I don’t care how tough I have to be on her."

Gabrielle smiled at put a gentle hand on her friend’s shoulder. "Xena ...look at her...I mean really look at her," she ordered and the warrior stared at the innocent face of her young daughter doing back flips off a small rock in the center of the stream and giggling.

"Momma watch me," she yelled and then moved to a much higher rock.

Xena raised a halting hand. "Tarren that’s too high. The water’s not deep enough," she warned.

Tarren looked at her mother sticking her lower lip out for a sympathetic reprieve. "Momma I can do it," she whined, moving closer onto the larger rock eager to impress her warrior mother.

Xena shook her head. "No you can’t and you won’t try it. The water’s too shallow," she repeated waiting for the child to lower herself down from the forbidden spot.

The youngster stood on the high rock looking down into the water and then back at her mother, and then down into the water once again as if trying to decide the value of the attempt. Xena could see the thoughts going through the little girl’s head. She stood to her full height and pointed a warning finger at her daughter. "I am not going to say this again. Get off that rock young lady," she scolded.

Tarren slowly slid from the large rock with all its temptations back to the smaller one with its safety from both shallow water and her mother’s wrath. "Yes ma am," she murmured, not even trying to hide the look of disappointment on her face.

The warrior looked at Gabrielle and took a deep breath. She could see the hurt in her daughter’s eyes, as the child lay motionless in the water. "Hey little girl let’s see some more of those back flips. You were doing those really well," Xena said with a slight grin.

Tarren’s eyes lit up in a flash, happy to perform for her mother and even happier to know that the warrior had been watching her. "Ok Momma," she said with a wide smile, and once again resumed the back flips off the small rock.

Xena sat back down and looked at her best friend with a smirk, "You were saying."

The bard smiled and placed a tender hand on Xena’s shoulder. "Hey you did great. You handled that just perfect. Xena you are such a good mother to her. I want you to really take a good look at her right now," the bard ordered.

Xena let out a small breath and then looked again at her little girl doing acrobatics in the stream and waving every time she landed in the water. The warrior mother had to suppress a smile. "Ok I’m looking...she’s a cute little kid," she said with a proud smile.

The bard let out an exacerbated huff. "Warrior take a harder look. With everything that has happened to her that little girl has no anger...She has no hatred...She’s a very happy, intelligent, and loving little kid. You can’t deny her the very dreams you once had for yourself just because you got lost for a while. Besides she has both you and me to guide her now and WE won’t let her make the wrong choices. Xena she really loves you...Zeus! She worships you. Tarren wants to be just like you, not the Xena of the warlord days, but the Xena that is here now. That’s the person who does so much good for so many. That’s the mother who cares for her when she’s sick, whacks her little butt when she’s bad, and lets her tag along even when she would like some time alone. You’re the Xena that comes to her rescue and the one that tucks her in at night. That’s the Xena she wants to be like, and I can’t think of anything better to aspire to," the bard finished with a soft smile.

The warrior looked at her friend studying her soft expression. "Still and always the wise little bard huh?" she said choking on the words a bit as she let her arm fall around her friend’s shoulder.

"Well of course while your keeping her on the straight and narrow who do you think keep you there?" the young woman asked with a laugh.

Xena smiled knowing there was actually more truth in those words then her friend realized. She rubbed her eyes a bit trying to fight the emotion she had welling within her. "Come on we better get moving," she said quietly.

The Warrior Princess stood and pulled the last of her armor on and called to her daughter. "Tarren come on its time to go," she called motioning for the little girl to leave the water.

"Ahh come on Momma ...a bit longer," she whined.

Before Xena had a chance to respond Gabrielle took a position close to the waters edge. With a stern face she scolded, "Hey you heard your mother...move it."

The warrior’s mouth clamped shut and the confused child swam quickly to her mother’s side staring oddly at the bard as the warrior dried her off. Gabrielle peered at the pair and then whispered in the warrior’s ear, "Well I can’t always let you be the bad guy now can I?"


Xena smiled with gratitude. "Always full of surprises my little bard aren’t we?" she asked.

Gabrielle just winked at Tarren who giggled, and with all the mock authority she could muster the bard growled, "All right you two I said move it...We still have a camp to pack up...I don’t want to be lying around her all day...lets go." Gabrielle then stomped quickly back towards camp hoping her warrior’s would follow.

Tarren stared at her mother and then at the figure of the bard heading up the hill alone. "Did Gabby have too much sun Momma?" she asked.

Xena laughed. "Definitely little one," she said with a nod, throwing the still dripping and giggling child over her shoulder and running up the path to join their new leader.


Xena could not help but smile at the youngster who was playing in the trees above as they moved into Amphipolous. The trees were low enough for Tarren to swing from without Xena worrying about her falling. Gabrielle poked her friend and giggled, "She’s back!"

Xena gave her friend a stoic nod. "Well she’s been sitting still for over a week. What do you expect? I guess that’s about a lifetime for her," she said.

Gabrielle watched the youngster swing happily from tree to tree giggling as she moved.

"Well even if she is a bit wild, I’m sure happy to see her smiling and full of so much life again," the bard said with a smile.

The warrior nodded in agreement, "Me too my too," she replied.


As they neared the end of the path Xena stopped and took a deep breath of the familiar site of her home village. She recognized every house and every hill around her. "Well let’s get going," she said with a grin anxious to get moving and to see her mother.

Gabrielle looked up in the tree. "Come on Tarren. It’s time to go," the bard called.

The youngster was hanging upside down from a branch not allowing her hands to touch the ground. "Nah you go...I wanna stay here," she said swinging back and forth.

"Tarren you know how anxious Xena is to get home. This is not a good time to act up," she warned.

Xena tried to ignore the exchange behind her as she looked happily at the village of her childhood. But after a while the bickering was getting on her nerves. She turned quickly on her two traveling companions. "That’s enough!" she yelled, walking over to the bard and the bat like child still swinging in the tree. "You two could wake a Titan," she scolded in frustration, "Now what’s going on?"

Gabrielle pointed to the youngster hanging from the tree. "Isn’t it obvious. Little Xena won’t get out of the tree," she said with a scowl.

Xena smiled at the comparison and watched the child swinging back and forth. "Gabrielle your problem is that you need to act instead of react...let me show you," she said pointing to her daughter. "Tarren it’s time to go. Are you gonna get out of that tree?" the warrior asked gently, watching the little girl sway back and forth.

"NO!" the disobedient youngster said firmly, happy to watch the world from upside down and not anxious to spend time in any village.

Xena nodded with understanding and with a quick swipe of her arm grabbed the swinging youngster by the legs and tossed her over her shoulder landing a brisk swat firmly across Tarren’s behind. The youngster winced but knew better than to struggle. "Are you ready to go now Little One?" she asked the small youngster slumped over her shoulder,

"Yes ma am," she moaned still feeling the echoing sting of her mother’s large hand.

"You see Gabrielle act don’t react," the warrior said with a grin, placing the child on the ground in front of her.

The bard nodded and stared down at the now humble child. "Yup but that routine only works for you warrior," she said with a smile.

The warrior folded her arms in contemplation of her friend’s wisdom. "True we do each have to find our own methods my friend," she said with a sly grin. Xena then quickly turned her attention to the sulking youngster and shook her finger in warning. "Now before we go any further young lady I want to make a few things clear. When we get to Amphipolous I want you on your best behavior. No wising off to my mother, no being disrespectful to anyone, no running off on your own, no arguing, no complaining, and you do what I it?" she scolded gently.

The child frowned. "So I’m not supposed to have any fun at all Momma? Why am I being punished? I didn’t do anything wrong." she murmured.

Xena hid a smile and the bard turned away before she broke out into a bellowing laugh at the little one’s idea that a visit to Cyrene’s was indeed a punishment. "Did you understand what I just said little girl?" the warrior mother asked, trying with difficulty to maintain a serious parental pose.

The child nodded. "Yes ma am" she grumbled. Tarren then quietly walked past her mother and picked up her satchel and started dragging her feet towards Amphipolis for what she hoped would be a very short visit.

"Poor kid acts like she’s being sent to prison," the warrior said with a chuckle.

Gabrielle considered the words. "Hmm well your mother..." she started.

Xena stopped the bard with a harsh gaze. "Will be very happy to see us, so we better get moving...Oh and Gabrielle what I just said to Tarren now goes for you too," Xena said with a wicked smile.

The bard bowed her head in mock submission. "Yes my princess whatever you say," she teased.

Xena bowed her head in kind. "Thank you my Queen," she said with a smirk. The warrior then looked ahead at the waiting child slumped against a tree dragging her satchel in the dirt. She handed the bard Argo’s reigns and moved to catch up with Tarren. She eyed the sulking youngster knowing that this trip was not exactly her idea of fun. "Come on," she said quietly, dropping to the ground offering the child a ride on her back.

Tarren quickly accepted the offer with a broad smile. "Hmm maybe with no warlords or monsters to fight we can have some fun anyway," The child thought hoping Amphipolous was not as boring as she thought it would be and this Cyrene was not as much of a pain as Gabrielle seemed to hint.


Xena strode through the village carefully pulling the reigns of the great horse beside her. She was captivated by the familiar sounds and smells that told her she was really home. Gabrielle noted a new calm had come over the warrior as they headed towards Cyrene’s Inn. The bard remembered there was a time not so long ago when the warrior would not have been welcome here...when her own mother had denied her...when she would have been ashamed to return. But now the wounds were healing and Xena found a renewed comfort in this place called Amphipolous.

Tarren sat high on her mother’s shoulders studying the village around her. "Yuk! Farmers!" she mumbled never realizing that anyone had heard her, especially Xena.

The warrior mother quickly brought the child to the ground before her. "What’s wrong with farmers?" she asked through tightened lips and a harsh gaze.

The youngster took a few steps back. "Nothing I guess...If you like digging in the dirt all day then I guess it’s Ok... just not just much fun," she replied in a shaky little voice.

Xena stepped forward menacingly, not happy at the disrespect her daughter had for these people who worked hard to earn an honest living to raise their families. Gabrielle quickly noted that the calm was gone and stepped between the warrior and her daughter. "Now Xena I’m sure she didn’t mean it the way it came out.... Right Tarren?" she asked eyeing the child.

The warrior mother waited for a confirmation, but the little girl just looked around her and then at Xena. " I just meant they were...boring," she said simply.

Gabrielle sighed and fumbled over her words. "Tarren help me out here will ya...I’m trying to save your butt," she moaned.

Xena gently lifted the bard to one side and slowly knelt down to face her child. She gripped Tarren’s arms firmly and spoke in a stiff whisper, "Apparently I did not make myself clear before. Now you listen to me little girl because I am only gonna say this one more time. "Tarren tried to back away and the warrior mother merely lifted her in the air bringing them face to face. "Tarren this is my home and these are my people. They are good people, each and every one of them. The work they do is hard, but honest, so don’t you dare disrespect them. YOU will treat each and every person here with the dignity and respect you would want to be treated with because if you don’t...If you don’t my little one than I promise you that you and I will have a big problem. So one more wise more act of disobedience and you and I will have yet ANOTHER of our private discussions...understand?" Xena said in her low husky voice.

Tarren swallowed hard and nodded quickly. "Yes ma’am...err...understood completely," she said anxiously.

Xena forced a smile and kissed the youngster’s forehead. "Good...I’m glad to hear that little one...very glad to hear that!" she said placing the shaken child on the ground. The warrior then turned on her heal and continued on her way. The little girl stayed frozen in the spot her mother had just placed her glancing carefully at the dirt beneath her feet. Gabrielle moved ahead trying to calm her friend’s frustration.

Tarren just stood in place eyeing the faces of the farmers working in the field around her. She barely noticed the large open hand that dropped out in front of her. "Are you coming or do you need me to carry you?" Xena asked with a stiff grin.

The youngster placed her hand in her mothers and bit her lip.

"Brat" the warrior mother said with a slight grin.

The child smiled, as she felt her mother gently squeeze her hand as they walked. She knew that Xena was still angry with her, but that this person would truly love her no matter what she did.

"Behave yourself," was all the bard could whisper in a pleading tone as the trio headed for the inn.

Nobody noticed the dark figure watching the trio from the distance. His eyes were filled with hatred and his mind was as black as his soul was empty. He laughed as he watched the three companions enter the Inn. "Soon Xena Warrior Princess...soon I will have my revenge," the figure whaled disappearing into the crowd of villagers.


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