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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 story called SHE HAS MY EYES, and you really MUST read that one 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.

Sex - well I guess some is implied

Violence- mild

Chapter 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   Epilogue


On The Road Again
By Fantimbard


Chapter 3 – Consequences

As the days passed, the girl’s strength returned and she was able to walk around camp easily. She no longer had need of the sling Xena had made for her arm.

It was then that they resumed their journey towards Athens. They were camped a day’s ride from the city in a small clearing by a river basin.

While starting a fire, Xena eyed the restless child. With her arm completely healed, the youngster was anxious for adventure. The warrior smiled a bit as the child did back flips and practiced routines with her chucks. She was full of energy and, as always, looking for trouble. The warrior sighed. It was time to deal with things.

"Tarren come over here," she said in a stern voice.

This was something that Xena was not looking forward to, but felt a responsibility to go through with. She had no anger. She had only love and concern for her child’s safety. Being on the road gain, meant the rules had to be obeyed.

The child turned and, noting the warrior’s sour expression knew that her time of consequence had come.

The warrior mother motioned for the girl to sit beside her. Xena took a deep breath. "We need to clear the air about a few things that have happened lately. First of all, I want you to know that you’re here with ME now, because that is where I want you to be, NOT because Nala made me take you. Your home is with me now, Tarren. It is something I want. Do you understand?" she said tenderly.

The child nodded and lowered her head, remembering the words she had not meant to speak days before.

"However, you do seem to have a real problem doing what I tell you to do, and that, little one, IS a problem we must unfortunately deal with."

The warrior stood and wrung her hands together while she paced. "I made you a promise about what would happen if you climbed those high trees again, and I need to keep that promise now," she said with a slight touch of remorse in her voice.

The girl stood and tried to make a sprint for the trees, hoping that a delay would defuse the warrior’s decision.

Xena caught her by the scruff of the neck and firmly placed her before her. "Now, trying to run away will only make it worse, Tarren," she said holding the child in place. "Come on," she said, pulling the small figure to a fallen log and dropping herself down. The warrior pulled the child over her knee. The youngster cried in protest and begged the warrior not to spank her.

Xena took a deep breath and shook her head, "Sorry, little one, but you had your chances. I am gonna leave my hand print on your bottom tonight, so you will never forget how your disobedience could have cost you your life. Your safety may not seem very precious to you, but it is very precious to me," she scolded. Then, her large hand fell swiftly and firmly.

Tarren cried as her mother’s hand fell into a steady pattern of brisk slaps. Each time, the youngster gritted her teeth as the hand fell harder and faster. Once when she thought the spanking was over, Xena merely repositioned her and began anew, leaving the child sobbing under the unrelenting hand of the very determined warrior mother.

Xena cringed at the painful lesson she knew she had to teach her child about consequences. Yet, when she thought of what had happened to Tarren and what might have happened to her daughter, it only reaffirmed her need to continue. "It will be a month before this one even thinks of sitting, let alone climbing, those trees. She will never forget this. She will NOT make the same mistake again," she thought as she continued the punishment. When her hand had fallen in one final finishing WHACK, she gently lifted the youngster off her lap. Xena knew that the punishment had been harsh, but she needed to make sure Tarren understood that the road was not a place for playing games or taking unnecessary chances. If this child was to remain with her then disobedience was not an option.

There was fear and shame but no anger in the child’s eyes as the youngster gently rubbed her tender bottom.

Xena met the blue gaze of the little girl without moving. "NOW, I will do this every day and every night until you get it through that thick skull of yours that YOU DO WHAT I SAY or you pay the price," she said, lightly tapping the girl’s bottom with the palm of her hand to emphasize the point.

The child winced, and the warrior nodded with satisfaction, walking towards the fire and throwing a few sticks on.

"Good, Now, maybe we can now go an entire week without having this same conversation. And another thing, IF you are hurt...YOU tell me that you are hurt, so I can help you, Tarren. No punishment I could ever give you should be worth risking your life over. I care about you, and I only want you to be safe. Have ya got that?" she finished with an angry command, trying not to show her own tears.

Tarren nodded and then slowly slid past the warrior and headed down to the stream to be alone with her tears. The warrior did not follow.

Night came soon afterward. When Xena decided it was time for the child to return, she easily followed her tracks down to the water’s edge Shed found her blankly staring out at the water, just as she had done back at Rasa.

"Come on, it’s time for bed," she said with a stern but gentle tone.

The girl shook her head.

Standing beside her, the warrior noticed that the youngster’s face showed the path of fresh tears. Although she knew Tarren had been crying throughout the day, Xena felt only a little remorse. She could not get the image of the greater pain she had seen in her child’s eyes after having fallen from the tree. Xena’s heart only raced when she remembered how the youngster had tried to cover up her injuries rather than admit her mistake. That memory brought a rush of fear and pain through Xena’s mind that little could soothe.


The warrior mother placed her hands on her hips in determination. "Tarren, I said it’s time for bed NOW!"

The girl looked up, her eyes full of tears, and shook her head. "NO! I don’t want to go with you. I want to stay here."

Xena could not help but wince at the girl’s uncontrollable sobs. She knew the child was tired and upset and in pain, so she lifted the youngster into her arms and headed back for camp.

Tarren struggled in protest, but Xena merely pinned her against her chest and headed for the camp.

When they arrived, she gently placed the sobbing girl on her bedroll and removed her boots. She then tossed a blanket over her and slowly walked away. Xena studied the child who lay on her stomach still crying into her blankets. She wished Gabrielle were here to offer the little one some comfort since the Xena was obviously the last person she wanted around.

Xena placed her bedroll on the opposite side of the fire, deciding that a little distance was best. She tried to sleep but Tarren’s constant tears kept her from finding peace. After listening to the heart-piercing sobs for what seemed like hours, the warrior mother growled slightly to herself and jumped up from her blankets. She dropped them next to Tarren and positioned herself closely to the youngster.

With a gentle yank the great warrior brought the child next to her. The girl struggled to free herself. "Stop it," Xena whispered as she held the child in a gentle embrace. Soon the girl’s struggling ceased, and Xena wrapped her arms around the weepy figure. The child nuzzled in close to the Xena’s familiar form, burying herself in the comfort of her guardian’s arms.

"What am I gonna do with you?" she whispered, kissing the child’s forehead and stroking her back to comfort her. Soon, the crying stopped, and the youngster was asleep. Xena lay there singing a lullaby, hoping it would help her daughter find more pleasant dreams.

When the child awoke the next morning, Xena was no where in sight. Fear shot through her mind, afraid the warrior had tired of her and moved on. Seeing Argo still tethered to nearby tree, she relaxed a bit.

Moments later, the warrior sprinted up the path with a rabbit in her hands. "Good morning," she said slowly looking over the girl.

The child nodded and murmured, "Good Morning... I thought you ...left,"

Xena dropped the food at the fire to cook and stared, confused, at the child. "Why would you think that?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

The child shrugged and returned to her blankets trying to hide her tears.

Xena lowered her self beside the girl and folded her long legs in front of her. "Tarren, I told you that I would never leave you, and I meant it. You are stuck with me, kid. That is a fact...although, right now, I am not too sure that is something that makes you very happy," she said gently, shaking the girl’s arm but eliciting no response.

With an unhappy sigh, Xena returned to her cooking duties knowing that the child was still sulking about the spanking she had given Tarren the night before. "So, how do we start this day, Tarren? With a smile or with more tears? I leave that up to you," the warrior said quietly without moving from her cooking task.

The child stood and rubbed her now throbbing backside and considered the words. She did not speak and only stared at her companion.

Xena shook her head in frustration. "OK, so it’s the silent treatment. Have it your way. You will find that I am better at that game than you are, and it’s still a long way to Athens."

The warrior cooked the meal and then offered a plate to the child, who leaned up a tree as she ate. Xena had to hide a smile knowing that pose was the result of her handiwork.

"Well, I don’t want to go all the way to Athens without talking to ya," the girl whispered with a sulk as she picked at the food.

Xena nodded. "Well neither do I. It would make for a very lonely trip," she agreed leaning up against the tree next to Tarren to enjoy her meal.

"Besides I would really miss hearing your voice." Xena said with a smile.

The girl opened her eyes wide as she could and looked up at her mother.

"Save the doe eyes, kid. I’m onto it already." she said with a grin.

But Tarren’s eyes did not waver. Her expression was pure and truthful.

Xena glanced at her and sighed, placing her plate on the ground at her feet and leaning on one arm to face the child. "Tarren, I certainly do NOT enjoy punishing you. Believe it or not it causes me a lot of...pain too."

The small figure looked into the eyes of her warrior friend and biting her lip whimpered, "Well...I ...don’t enjoy it either, but you sure ARE good at it," she said with a sniffle, rubbing her sore bottom.

Xena nodded and then placed a tender arm around her youngster. "Well, if I didn’t do a good job, you might not think that I am serious about what I am saying, and I think we both know JUST how serious I really am, huh?"

The child nodded. "Oh yeah! You’re serious!" she said frowning at the thought.

Xena grinned, placing a loving hand on the girl’s head. "Well good, I’m glad you understand me. What do you say we try to behave ourselves for a while then? I think we would both be MUCH happier."

The girl swallowed and looked to her friend "I always TRY," she said with a slight grin.

The warrior shook her head and tasseled the child’s hair. "Ya do, huh?" The girl nodded "So you had no idea that you weren’t supposed to be in that tree, and you really did not think I’d want to know that you were hurt," the warrior said, her voice low and serious.

The child looked away, " I just didn’t think...."

Xena finished the sentence, "You just didn’t think you’d get caught, so that made it all right?" As she said it, the warrior remembered her own childhood misdeeds.

"I guess," the child said wondering how the warrior always knew her thoughts.

"Well, ya got hurt, Tarren, and ya got caught, and you paid a very heavy price for that. Do you want to pay it again?" she asked quietly.

The child shook her head fighting back tears at the mere thought of a repeat performance.

"Well I don’t want to see you pay it again either, so BEHAVE YOURSELF and LISTEN to what I SAY," Xena said, carefully singling out the meaning of each word.

Tarren tossed her empty plate to the ground and looked to her feet. She was just beginning to realize how much trouble she had really caused. Not only had she broken her promise to Xena. She had caused Gabrielle to have to go on alone to Athens, and throughout everything Xena had stayed with her and cared for her as she had always promised. She now KNEW that Xena kept her promises...ALL of them. Tarren looked up at her friend with a slight smile. "I messed up, huh?"

"YUP!" Xena said with a nod and a grin. "But you’re a kid, so you are allowed to mess up once in a while. It’s just my job to make sure you don’t make a habit of it," the warrior said with a slight smile. She then pulled the child closer to her.

Tarren giggled and gave the warrior a friendly poke in the ribs, "OH NO, I can’t see you ever letting that happen."

Xena shook her head: "NOPE!"

The youngster shuffled her feet and then stared up at the warrior contritely. "I’m sorry Xena."

The warrior nodded approvingly at the child’s repentance. "Well, that’s a good start, but don’t ever do anything like that again!" she warned reaching playfully for the child. Xena held her daughter for a moment and then kissed the girl’s cheek gently.


"I won’t climb the high trees, and I promise I’ll tell you if I’m hurt," the child said slowly staring at the warrior for approval.

Xena nodded, "Good then lets just consider this a lesson learned the hard way and put it behind us." She said dropping the youngster gently to the ground.


"Now, come on, let’s get moving. Gabrielle is waiting for us. We are gonna have to walk fast, unless YOU want to ride Argo," she said with an evil grin. The girl’s face went white at the thought and the warrior motioned her forward with a smile." I was just kidding. Let’s go."

The girl sighed with relief and then picked up her satchel and bedroll and took her place next to Xena.

The warrior placed a gentle arm around her child as they started down the path into Athens.


The travel was long and hard, but Xena was proud of the way Tarren kept up. She enjoyed these peaceful moments with the girl. It gave her an opportunity to spend time alone with her, to talk with her, and to get to know her daughter better.

"Xena what are we gonna do in Athens?" the girl asked kicking up the rocks in front of her as she walked.

The warrior tapped Argo’s reins against her chest in thought. "Well, we could do lots of things. First, we are going to see how Gabrielle is doing in the bard contest. After that, we could go to the festival. I know Gabrielle is gonna want to go to at least a few plays." The warrior sighed heavily at the thought of sitting through her friend’s favorite form of entertainment.


"What’s a play?" the child asked noting the warrior’s displeasure at the words.

Xena shrugged. "It’s where a bunch of people get dressed up and pretend they are something they are not for two long hours. They sort of tell a story, but it’s not usually very good. But don’t you dare tell Gabrielle I said that," the warrior warned stopping and pointing a warning finger at the girl.

"I wouldn’t do that Xena," the youngster moaned hurt that her friend did not trust her.

Xena smiled and rubbed the girl’s head. "I know you wouldn’t. I’m sorry."

The child shrugged it off the apology. "What about the athletic competitions you told me about. Can we go to those?" Tarren’s eyes lit up at the thought.

Xena herself had wanted to attend those. Gabrielle had always despised the athletic events, but sat through them just as she did the plays. The warrior was pleased that Tarren shared her interest.

"Sure. As a matter of fact, that is something just you and I could do together."

The little girl’s grin widened. "Just the two of us. Promise?" she said with a smile.

"I promise!" the warrior nodded.

The child looked at the tall woman beside her with wonder. Tarren truly loved Gabrielle, but she relished any time she could spend alone with the warrior. Getting to know Xena wasn’t nearly as easy as the bard. Never before had anyone shown her such attention and care as these two woman did. Xena had stayed with her even when she was hurt. Even when she punished her somehow Tarren could feel her friend’s pain at performing the task. The youngster knew Xena really cared about her. She was like a friend and a guardian all rolled up into one person. She played with her and cared for her and never let her feel anything could ever harm her. Nala was too old to play with her, so Tarren had spent most of her time playing alone. With Xena and Gabrielle she felt as though she had a real family and real friends. Xena stared down into the face of the child wondering what had her so deep in thought.

"What?" the warrior asked.

The youngster shook her head. "Nothing...I was just thinking about Nala and about you."

Xena stopped and knelt to face the girl. Her smile faded, and she touched Tarren’s face in understanding. "Hey, if you ever want to talk about Nala or anything else, I want you to promise that you will come to me, OK?"

The girl nodded. "I promise, but you have to promise the same?" the child said with a smile.

The warrior considered the words and grinned. "OK, you’ve got a deal." She offered the girl her hand, and they shook on it, sealing their promise as friends do.


Just as they approached the final hill above Athens, Xena’s head snapped around, and she quickly grabbed her sword. "Tarren, get into the trees!" she ordered.

The child knew the warning meant trouble, so with a quick vault she landed in the branches just above Xena.

Noting the girl had made it to safety, Xena readied her sword for what she had smelled was coming.

Sure enough, seven men dressed in warrior garb fell from the bushes ahead. They wore the symbol of a raven with a dagger through it on their helmets.


"Traiger," the child whispered from the trees.

Xena too recognized the symbol and waved her sword in warning. "So boys, is there something I can do for you, or did you just stop to pass the time of day?" she purred.

The tallest man stepped forward. He was a young, tall and muscular figure. He removed his helmet and a wave of blond hair fell to the sides of his face. "I am Rendan, son of Traiger. We claim this path as our own in the name of Traiger the Mighty, so lay down your sword in surrender."

The warrior smiled a bit, "Well, well, well; first of all I think you are a little out of your jurisdiction. This is not even close to Traiger’s territory. Second, well I just don’t give my sword to just anyone. "

Rendan angrily put his helmet on. "Get her!" he yelled and his men quickly advanced. One by one the men fell to the ground at Xena’s mercy. Tarren watched in awe of the warrior’s great skill.

Finally, the young Rendan was the only one standing, and he froze in place as Xena caressed his neck with her blade.

"Now, do you know who I am?" she asked.

The man nodded fully aware of the Warrior Princess and her reputation. "Well, then, you go tell your daddy that I would be very unhappy to hear that the people of this area were stepping over trash like you on their way into this fine city. Ya got that?" she purred.

Again he nodded noting how close the tip of her blade was to his throat.

"And one more thing! Tell him he should never send a little boy to do a grown warrior’s work. Now get out of here before I get mad," she said sheathing her blade. The young man reached down for his sword but the warrior stepped on it, "No, no, sorry, children should not play with such sharp objects. Ya might cut yourself," she teased sending him on his way with the side of her boot. The other men quickly followed after him leaving the road clear. The warrior shook her head as she examined the young man’s blade and then threw it into the brush hoping that the boy would not die in some foolish battle trying to prove he was worthy of such a weapon.

Tarren laughed a bit as she watched the warrior’s running through the woods.

"What are you laughing at?" the warrior asked grinning a bit as she signaled the child to return to the ground.

With a quick leap Tarren landed skillfully next to Xena. "I don’t know. It was sort of funny to watch."

Xena quickly grabbed the girl’s tunic and held her slightly off the ground. "Tarren, a fight, any fight, is never funny. A person could easily be killed. I don’t want you to ever forget that. EVERY opponent should be met with caution and respect. It is always wisdom before weapons, Tarren. Cockiness could get you killed understand?"

The child lowered her eyes and nodded. "I didn’t mean anything by it Xena," she said as the warrior released her hold.

Xena sighed and placed a gentle hand on the girl’s shoulder. "I know, I know. I just want you to understand that fighting is NOT a game. People get hurt and they die in fights, even as silly as this one."

The warrior wrapped an arm around her youngster and pulled her into a hug as they walked. "What am I gonna do with you?" she asked, knowing the child has no real clue what she was trying to tell her.

The girl shrugged and yawned, not having an answer for her warrior friend.

Xena noted the second yawn. She had pushed the girl too hard and long, and it was starting to take its toll. They were still a good three hours outside of Athens.

The warrior stopped and lowered herself down. "OK, get on," she said motioning the child to hop on her back.

"I’m OK, Xena," the child yawned.

The warrior smiled. "Yeah, sure... I know, up ya go."

With a quick jump the girl settled herself on Xena’s back, placing her arms around the warrior’s neck. Xena could barely feel the extra weight of the child’s form on her back as she walked.

"Xena?" she called as they continued at a quicker pace.

The warrior turned her head a bit. "No, you can not put a saddle on me," she said with a grin.

The child laughed at the thought, but continued with her question. "Why were Traiger’s men here?"

Xena stopped and tilted her head back. "How did you know who they were?" she asked with surprise.

The child yawned, "Well I heard them tell you, and I saw the symbol on their helmets. Nala and I were in their camp for a while a long time ago. Nala said that Traiger was an old friend of my mother’s, which is why he took us in."

Xena’s eyes grew wide. She tried to hide her discomfort at the thought of Tarren being in the warlord’s camp. True, they had been allies once, but never really friends. He was a figure from her dark past and not one she wished Tarren to know. Xena knew that the time to tell the girl who she was would now come upon her faster than she has planned.

The warrior continued walking. "I don’t know why they were here, but the important thing is they are gone now, right?" she said trying to force a smile.

The child nodded sleepily happy to accept no answer as an answer. "Sure Xena, if you say so." The girl leaned her head on the warrior’s shoulder settling herself for the ride.

"Well, I say so!" she yelled hoisting the child higher in the air.

Tarren giggled loudly. "You are more fun to ride than Argo," she laughed. The great war-horse whinnied in protest. The warrior and the child laughed in unison as they headed into Athens.


Chapter 4 –Athens

By the time Xena entered the Inn where she and Gabrielle had agreed to meet, Tarren was already fast asleep. Xena had simply placed her small form over one shoulder holding her in place with her arm.

The innkeeper eyed the sleeping child with a grin.

"Something wrong?" the warrior asked, not liking the way he stared at the girl.

"Uh no, I was just thinking how the young one must be exhausted."

Xena noted the sleeping girl with a quick smile and responded without a waste of emotion. "She’s doing just fine. Now do you have a room waiting for us? It’s listed under Gabrielle of Potedia."

Quickly the small, stout man reached for a key. "Oh yes, the young lady said you’d be coming. She left you a note."

Xena sighed and the cherub of a man handed the large warrior a parchment.

"Dear Xena, I went to do some shopping. Be back soon. Get some rest and take a bath...BOTH OF YOU! Love, Gabrielle"

The warrior princess shook her head and placed the note in her cuff. "Shopping. It figures," she muttered with a slight smile and then headed up the stairs to the room.

There was a large tub in the center of their room already filled with hot water. "Well, well, my bard, you do think of everything," she said with a broad smile. Xena gently lowered Tarren to the bed. "OK, your ride’s over." The warrior stood stretching out the muscles in her back and looking longingly at the bath water. She tapped Tarren’s leg gently. "Come on, wake up.... We’re here."

With a yawn and a roll the child merely repositioned herself into a fetal position on the bed.

Xena smiled. "Oh no you don’t! Not just yet. I know you can smell that bath water."

The girl opened one eye cautiously. "Bath water?" she groaned staring up at Xena. She picked her head up lazily from the bed and eyed her muscular friend. "A bath, Xena. Do I have to? Haven’t I suffered enough?" the youngster whined.

"Yes, you have too," the warrior moaned mocking the child’s groan.

Tarren quickly pulled the blanket over her head and tried to go back to sleep.

Xena shook her head. "OK, so it’s the hard way today...why not?" Xena lifted the girl from the blankets and with a quick toss had her standing on her feet. "Now, do you want to take your clothes off or do I have to do it?" she asked an evil smile.

"Oh, I don’t want a bath!" the girl groaned kicking her boots off and trying to slip under the warrior’s arm back to the soft pallet.

Xena caught her by the scruff of her tunic. "No, no, no, NOT again," she said with a flashing smile quickly pulling the child’s tunic off of her. Tarren giggled, ready for the chase, and sprinted to the far side of the bed.

It had been a long trip, and they both needed some relaxation, so the warrior decided to allow them both some fun.

"So you want to do it this way, huh?" Xena carefully edged her way closer to Tarren who quickly vaulted over the bed. Xena nodded approvingly. "Very good, but not quite good enough." With a quick flip Xena flew through the air landing right beside the child. With a fast whip of her hand she had the girl nestled in her muscular arm.

The girl giggled as she struggled to get free. "Oh, still not ready to give up huh?" the warrior cackled.

Tarren shook her head, and Xena flipped the girl over holding her in the air by one leg. She then started to tickle the bottom of the child’s foot.

Tarren screamed and laughed as the blood rushed to her head. While the youngster squirmed to get lose, Xena quickly removed her long breeches and tossed them to the side.

"I give up! I give up!" the child cried as the warrior started to tickle her bare legs. "Please Xena, I‘ll get in the tub. I promise."

Xena eyed her child who was now panting for mercy. "Promise?" the warrior, said with a wicked smile. The girl nodded and the warrior lowered her gently to the floor. "OK then, but you better be in that tub before I am," she warned as she started to remove her leathers.

Tarren smiled and with lightening speed removed her remaining clothes and made a large dive into the large tub splashing water all over the proud warrior. "I’m in!’ the girl said with a playful grin."

The warrior turned a warning gaze on the laughing youngster as she wiped the water from her face. "So you want to play, do you?" she said in a menacing tone. The warrior removed the last of her clothing and jumped in the tub pinning the child up against the side of it with her muscular arm. She then began the torturous tickling once again, and this time closed an ear to the child’s pleas for mercy.

Tarren cried in agony as the warrior held her in place running her fingers lightly along the child’s arms and side.

"Bad girl!" Xena exclaimed playfully. "Now, are you gonna behave, or do I have to get tough?" she warned with a wicked smile.

The girl coughed from exhaustion and nodded hoping the warrior would let her go and she did.

Tarren quickly moved to the other side of the tub and glared angrily at the warrior who only smiled with satisfaction. "That’s not fair. You are much bigger than I am." The youngster pouted.

Xena shrugged her shoulders and smiled. "Ahhhh, well then maybe you should pick on someone you can handle next time."

The child folded her arms sulking at the warrior’s lack of compassion. Xena felt a little remorse for the elongated revenge. "OK, I’m sorry. Come here."

The child hesitantly moved toward her large friend who gently pulled her closer. "Come on let’s get clean before Gabrielle gets back," she said tossing a dry cloth on the child’s head while she reached for the soap.

The girl pulled the cloth off and quickly soaked it in the water. When the warrior turned around she tossed it at Xena’s head, and it landed with a SPLAT on the muscular woman’s nose. "You did not just do that?" the warrior said evenly removing the soppy rag from her face. The girl giggled and answered her warrior friend with a quick splash of water in the face. Xena nodded in understanding "OK, you asked for it, but no more mercy for you," she said with a grin. In moments splashing water and laughter filled the room.

As Xena and Tarren dressed, they eyed the room and noticed that the floor all around the tub was soaking wet. "Boy, Gabrielle’s gonna be mad at you," the girl said with a grin.

The warrior gazed down at the child. "Yeah, but don’t worry. I’ll see you share in ALL the glory," the warrior laughed.

The girl giggled as she pulled her boots on knowing that she would indeed share in the glory.

Xena brushed the water from her mane and then turned her attention to Tarren who was still trying to dry her hair with a towel. Xena seated herself in a straight back chair in the corner and motioned the child over. "Come here."

The girl stood in front of the warrior and allowed her to brush the wet tangles from her head. She leaned on the warrior’s chest a bit to steady herself. "Xena, can I ask you a question?"

"Uh huh," she replied still working on a mess of tangles with the heavy brush.

"How do you know when a person needs something?"

Xena paused at her task and studied the girl "What do you mean?"

Tarren thought about the question. She had been considering Nala’s request to give Xena her diary when she "needed it most," but did not know how to KNOW when that was.

"Well, I mean how do you know when a person needs something -- like when you said Gabby needed to be left alone, or a person needs a hug?"

Xena smiled and continued her task. "Well that depends on the need and the person Tarren. Sometimes a person will tell you what they need, and other times you can tell from their body language. Like if someone is angry then it’s usually a sign that need to be left alone a bit. If they’re sad then maybe they need comfort. There’s no sure-fire way to know Tarren. You study people and do your best to do the right thing. Why do you need something?" the warrior asked with a questioning smile.

Tarren shook her head. "No, I have you and Gabby and my stuff. I guess that’s all I need," she said lost deep in her own thoughts.

Xena smiled and caressed the girl’s cheek affectionately. She was happy to know that, in the short time they had been together, Tarren had come to accept both she and Gabrielle as her family.

The child stared into the warrior’s eyes for a long moment. "Xena is there anything you ever need?" she asked her voice filled with a child’s concern.

The warrior thought for a moment. "Yeah...I need that hug you mentioned."

The girl grinned widely and threw her arms around the warrior’s neck allowing her to squeeze the girl into a gentle bear hug. Tarren still had no clue as to when to give Xena the diary, but at the moment it really didn’t seem to matter.

Xena paced around impatiently waiting for the shopping bard to return. She instructed Tarren to take a nap, which the child seemed reluctant to do.

"I’m not tired anymore," she said lying on her stomach kicking her foot over the side of the pallet.

Xena shook her head in frustration. "Yes, you are. Just try to go to sleep."

The girl shook her head. "I did and I can’t. Why don’t YOU take a nap?" the youngster giggled.

The warrior stopped and studied the restless little form on the bed. "I know where this is going, and I am not taking a nap," the warrior said shaking her finger in the air as she continued to pace.

The child folded her arms under her chin. "Me neither," she said resolving herself to staring at the floor.

Xena threw her hands up in frustration. "All right, I will lie down with you until you fall asleep."

The child grinned in victory as the warrior placed her sword and chakram on the table beside the bed and then eased herself next to the child. Tarren nuzzled herself comfortably into the warrior’s side, and Xena smiled wrapping her muscular arms around her daughter.

"You are such a spoiled brat," she said teasingly ruffling the child’s head.

The girl grinned widely but said nothing. Xena actually enjoyed these moments, but she really felt more comfortable when Tarren sought her out.

Within moment the youngster was asleep and Xena lay there stroking the girl’s head humming a song that brought back pleasant memories of her own childhood.

Gabrielle pushed the door open and barely made it in the room with all her packages spilling out of her hands. When she managed to find what she thought was the table she dropped them, but her aim was off and the bundles landed on the floor. "Oh Zeus!" she cried. As she started to pick them up she quickly noticed the two sleeping forms in the large pallet. The bard smiled at the peaceful sight and sighed happily. She then noticed the wet floor around the tub.

"XENA!" she yelled bringing the warrior quickly to her feet sword in hand. "What happened to this floor?" the small bard demanded arms folded.

The warrior angrily dropped her sword to the table. "Gabrielle you know better than to do THAT!" the warrior admonished.

The bard noted the warrior’s tense form and took a step back. "Sorry!...Now please, tell me what happened to the floor in here?"

Tarren shook the sleep from her eyes. "I think the tub leaks, Gabby. You really should complain," the child whispered through her pillow. The bard gave a gentle nod to the youngster and a quick stare at Xena who was smiling with satisfaction at the child’s quick thinking.

"Leaks, huh? OK, that’s ONE possibility," the bard said suspiciously as she paced the floor scanning all the evidence. "OR someone could have had a water fight in here, but I know that the Warrior Princess would never allow that behavior at an INN, so the tub must leak." Gabrielle studied her warrior’s guilty face. "Well I better go downstairs and give that innkeeper a piece of my mind." The bard started towards the door, but was quickly halted by Xena’s grip.

"OK, OK, so there was a small water fight," she admitted.

The bard playfully poked her in the ribs. "I KNEW it!" she yelled triumphantly. Gabrielle’s frown turned into a scolding grin. "The least you two could have done is wait for me," the bard said with a smile hugging the warrior. "I have missed you both so much. How are Tarren’s wounds?"

Xena smiled and sighed with relief. "We missed you too, and that child has amazing recuperative powers," she said with a grin returning the bard’s embrace. Tarren stayed wrapped in her blankets ignoring the sentimental exchange.

"Hey aren’t you even going to say hello?" the bard chided leaning towards the sleeping form. The girl made no sound or movement. Gabrielle folded her arms and then crawled on the bed next to the child. "Hello!" she said playfully swatting the child’s bottom. Tarren jumped out of the bed quickly rubbing the still very tender spot. "OUCH!"

The bard looked to Xena who only shrugged. "Well, I won’t ask if you and Tarren had a chance to talk about the consequences of climbing those trees or how important it is to tell us when she is hurt. Obviously you did," the bard said evenly.

Xena smiled wickedly and sat back on the bed. "Oh yeah, I’d say we covered that point quite extensively." The girl glared at the bard whose face was now full of sympathy.

"I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to hurt you," she said pulling the girl into a tender embrace. "Are you OK? How’s your arm and your shoulder?"

The little girl frowned a bit. "My arm and my shoulder are fine. Xena fixed them." She said proudly.

"But I don’t have to sit on them! Xena fixed that too." The child groaned still cautious of another attack. The bard sensed her discomfort and offered her a gentle smile.

"Hey did you miss me?"

The child thought about it for a long moment and gave Xena a quick wink. "Just your cooking!"

Gabrielle poked her gently in the side. "You are as bad as she is," she said pointing to the reclining warrior with a grin.

Tarren smiled, "I’m only kidding ...I missed ya, Gabby. I missed ya a lot." The child’s words were filled with heartfelt emotion, and the bard hugged the girl for a long moment before releasing her.


"Good, because you two are not gonna get rid of me so easy again!" she said wiping a tear from her eye as she looked at the faces of her two friends.

Xena stood from the bed stretching out her muscles. "OK, that’s enough of this mushy stuff. For once I AM starving. Let’s go get something to eat, and you can tell us how the contest has been going."

The bard nodded and grabbed Tarren’s hand to lead her to the tavern below.

Xena paused and looked at the plethora of packages the bard had accumulated in only a few days. She shook her head wearily. "Not on my horse’s back, Gabrielle," She whispered to the empty room as she headed after her companions.

Down at the inn Xena found a table in the back up against the wall. The instinct to always be prepared and watch for danger would always be with her. Gabrielle sat quickly, eager to tell her tales of the city.

Tarren just eyed the wooden chair and sighed. "Xena I’d rather eat in the room."

The warrior grinned at the dilemma and offered the child her hand. "Come here, brat," she said affectionately reaching out her hand to the youngster. Tarren willingly accepted the warrior’s offer to sit on her softer lap instead of on the hard chair.

Gabrielle could only smile at the former warlord, Xena, Warrior Princess, acting so tenderly and caring towards this child.

The warrior caught the bard’s smile and twisted her lips in a slight frown. "Not a word Gabrielle. Not a word!" she said with a flashing smile.

Gabrielle threw her hands up in surrender knowing this was not something to tease her friend about.

The innkeeper came over and Xena ordered stew for all and a mug of ale for herself, and a mug of cider for the bard. She then smiled and asked for a mug of fresh milk for Tarren.

"Milk?" the innkeeper, said with a frown.

Tarren nodded in agreement. "Yeah, milk, Xena?" she said in disgust. Xena glared at both of them.

"YES, milk!" she ordered.

The innkeeper shrugged and turned to fill the order.

"Xena, I don’t like milk," the girl whined.

"Well, you don’t get any of it on the road, so you will drink it when we can get it."

The child scrunched her lips in a face of disgust, but said nothing.

Gabrielle patted the girl’s hand. "Hey, Xena is right. You need to drink your milk. Don’t you want to grow up and be as big and strong as Xena?"

Tarren smiled and turned her head to study the warrior’s muscular shoulders. "I don’t think milk is gonna do that for me, Gabrielle," she said with a mischievous grin.

Xena shook her head and smiled. "You are just so funny, little one," she said as she reached over to tickle her sides. Soon all three friends were laughing.

When the food and drinks arrived, Tarren eyed the milk cautiously. She decided it was best to leave it to sit for a while. "Hey Gabby, you sure you don’t want some of this? You might grow a bit, too," she said teasingly.


Xena drank her ale trying not to let the bard see her grin.

"Very funny. Ya know, you even sound more like Xena every day," she said with a wry smile pointing a finger at the warrior. Tarren and the warrior exchanged a wink.

"Thanks!" the child, said simply before diving into the stew before her.

The warrior and bard merely gave each other a satisfying smile knowing that Tarren’s relaxed nature was a sign that she was truly becoming a part of their lives.

Gabrielle talked for hours about the bard contest. She had made it to the final rounds and would be reading her story before the entire city in two days along with the other finalists. Xena nodded approvingly happy that her friend’s great talents were being recognized.

Gabrielle noted the full glass of milk on the table and pointed to it. "You haven’t had any milk, Tarren," she said with a frown.

"I’m not thirsty," the child said leaning back against the warrior’s chest for comfort.

"Drink it," Xena whispered in her ear.

The girl frowned and took a sip of the vile mixture spitting it out as fast as she had swallowed it and coughing wildly. Xena patted her back as the bard wiped her face.

"What’s wrong?" the bard asked her face filled with worry.

Xena picked up the mug and sniffed the milk. It was sour...probably a week old. She lifted the girl off her lap and stood to her full height, slowly walking over to the bartender and putting the mug down before him.

"I told you I wanted fresh milk," she said with a steady glare.

"Well, it’s the freshest I have. It won’t kill the kid," he replied ignoring the warriors obvious anger.

Xena quickly drew her sword and pressed the tip to the man’s throat, "Drink it!" she ordered.

The man shook his head. "I hate milk."

The warrior looked at his bony form. "Figures... Drink it anyway, JUST for me! It won’t kill you right, but I might," she purred.

The man reached for the mug and drank half the contents down gagging on it.

"No, no, no! Didn’t your mother ever tell you to always finish your milk? Now drink!"

The man felt the point of the steel piercing his throat. So he quickly finished the milk and fell to the floor spitting it up as fast as he had drunk it.

Xena sheathed her sword and looked over at him. "Now, tomorrow I expect there will be fresh milk right?" she said with a smile as the man groaned behind the bar.

He quickly nodded to the warrior who smiled with satisfaction. "Good!" She returned to the table and gave the child a mug of cider to replace the bad milk.

The girl’s white face turned quickly into a smile as she drank down the sweet tasting cider.

Xena shook her head at the bard who merely offered her friend a knowing smile.

Xena and Gabrielle spent the day trying to follow Tarren around the city. She had never been to Athens and wanted to see and touch everything around her. The day ended with Gabrielle’s agenda, which much to Xena’s dismay included a late play.

"Now Xena, I chose a play that I know you will like."

The warrior frowned as they entered the playhouse. The bard gave her a gentle poke in the ribs. "Hey, you promised to be open minded."

The warrior nodded. "OK, what’s it called?" she said with a slight grin.

Gabrielle stopped and allowed herself a satisfying smile as she announced the title, "The Fall of Caesar."

The warrior nodded approvingly. "Hmm, maybe this won’t be so bad after all."

Tarren watched the exchange wishing they could go see the games or be at the festival.

Gabrielle noted the child’s dissatisfied look and unusual silence and gave her a warning glare. "And as for YOU, children are not usually allowed in these plays. I had to do some fast-talking to get you in here, so I want you to behave yourself and pay attention to the play, OK?" the bard finished.

The girl nodded. "Yeah... unless you want me to meet you at the festival. I could make that sacrifice," she said hoping her eager smile would free her from the promised misery.

Xena shook her head and smiled wishing she too could be at the festival. "Oh no ya don’t. If I have to go then you have to go. Besides, if you think I would ever let you run lose alone in this city, then you were drinking out of the WRONG mug at the inn."

The child’s shoulders slumped in defeat, and the warrior could only smile.

Two hours later, a chatty bard and a frustrated warrior left the same way they had entered. In Xena’s arms was the sleeping form of a youngster barely 11 summers. "Xena, I had no idea that it was a comedy. I swear," the bard argued. The warrior merely studied the child in her arms and envied her ability to sleep through most of the play without being noticed by the bard.

"Hmm funny thing is Gabrielle that I wasn’t laughing at Caesar’s fall."

Gabrielle stopped and faced her friend. "Look it was a metaphor, a play on words."

Xena stared down at her young friend’s eager face. "Gabrielle, the entire play was about whether or not Caesar would fall off a chair."

The bard frowned and nodded. "OK, OK, so it wasn’t the best play, but the next one will be better."

The warrior cringed at the thought of another, but held tightly to her promise to sit through a second one before they left Athens.

"Maybe we should ask a member of a younger generation what she thought of the play," the bard said with a smile poking at the yawning child in the warrior’s arms. "Come on, Tarren, be honest. Tell us what YOU thought of the play," the bard asked with a smile waiting anxiously for a reply.

The warrior stopped and placed the yawning child on her feet. Tarren looked at Xena and then the bard stretching her arms up in the air. "Oh I liked it, Gabrielle, but I would have changed it a bit to make it more fun," she said with a smile.

The bard pointed at the child. "You see, Xena, Tarren can appreciate the artistry, and she even has thoughts on improvements."

Xena frowned and shook her head in disbelief. "OK Tarren, how would you have made that play fun?" the warrior asked folding her arms tightly anxious for an answer.

The child again stretched out her arms and faced her friends excited to offer her suggestions. "Well, I kept thinking how much better it would be if Xena had flung her chakram at the left pillar just as Caesar sat down in the chair. It would have bounced off the pillar hit the back walls and then sliced the legs off the chair. Then Caesar would have fallen in the first act and we could have left hours ago."

The warrior laughed loudly and tasseled the child’s hair, "Ya know, that might have worked, but it may have had to bounce off the right pillar to get all four legs."

The bard nodded her head frustration filling her young face. "OK, you two, laugh ALL you want."

Tarren touched the bard’s arm gently. "Well, Gabby, you said it was a comedy. Aren’t we supposed to laugh?" she asked with all the innocence of her youth.

The bard studied the youngster’s eyes and giggled. "I give up on you two. You are both impossible," she said poking the child’s side playfully. "Come on, let’s get back to the inn. I am starving," the bard said with a wide grin.

The warrior smiled. "Of course you are, my bard."

Tarren stopped and lifted her arms up towards the warrior who only shook her head and smiled lifting the child into the air. "YOU are only gonna get fat and lazy if you keep this up," the warrior scolded.

"Oh, you’d never let that happen, princess," she said smiling at the warrior who lifted her higher in the air. "Go higher!" the child begged laughing happily as Xena tossed her quickly into the air above catching her just before she touched the ground.

"Enough!" the warrior said sternly lowering Tarren to the ground. "Start walking or next time you carry me."

The child threw her hands up in surrender. "I’ll walk a matter of fact I’ll run." With a quick sprint the youngster took off and vaulted in an arial somersault as she ran to the inn.

The warrior stopped and smiled at the child’s acrobatic moves. "Where does she find the energy?" she said shaking her head.

The bard smiled. "Gee, I don’t know. Could it possibly be inherited?" the bard giggled.

Xena shrugged her shoulders and grinned at her young friend.

As they continued their walk, the bard’s voice grew a bit more serious. "How are YOU doing, Xena?" she said studying her friend.

The warrior shrugged. "Me? I’m fine," she replied evenly.

Gabrielle stopped her with a hand. "Xena, I know that what you went through with Tarren was tough. Seeing her hurt and all. Are you OK?" the bard asked with obvious concerned.

The warrior’s smile faded a bit. "Look Gabrielle, it happened. She didn’t listen, and she got hurt. She got punished for that, and it won’t happen again. Done over, finished," the warrior said with finality.

The bard nodded again. "Xena, it’s me you are talking to, remember?"

The warrior looked into the eyes of her best friend and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Gabrielle, I am fine, really I am. I have it all under control. I promise," the warrior said with a smile.

Gabrielle nodded allowing her friend to hold her feelings inside. Noticing the warrior’s now sullen expression, the bard quickly changed the subject. "You know, you are really great with her."

Xena shrugged but the bard continued. "No, I mean it, Xena. You really are great with her. Look at that kid. She is happy and full of life, and she loves you. THAT is plain to see," Xena smile returned, and she looked down at her friend. "Thanks" was all she wanted to say or the bard needed to hear.


Chapter 5 – Old Friends and New Enemies

When all three had finally arrived to the inn, they returned to their table in the back. Xena had placed a pillow from the room on Tarren’s seat, so they could both enjoy their meals in greater comfort. The warrior noted that the innkeeper was not as pale as when she had left him. She smiled a bit remembering the man’s discomfort.

He quickly brought over two ciders and ale for the warrior. "Yes ma’am, there will be fresh milk in the morning," he said without even being questioned.

The warrior nodded approvingly as the man gave an apologetic stare to the child and moved on.

As the three companions started their meal, a familiar face entered the inn and made his way over to the table. "May I join you ladies?" Xena’s eyes met his and they were locked in a moment that only they two shared.

"Hercules," she said with a soft smile.

Gabrielle jumped to her feet and hugged the large muscular man making it hard for him to break free.

Xena merely stood and slowly strode over taking his hand. "It’s good to see you," she said staring into his eyes.

"You too," he said kissing her hand. "So, may I join you?"

The warrior nodded, "Of course."

Hercules pulled the chair out for the Warrior Princess to sit and then placed himself in the empty chair across from her. He eyed the child whose stare had been with him since he had kissed the warriors hand. "Who might you be, pretty one?" he said with a smile.

Tarren observed the man noting all his muscles and knowing full well who he was. Even only being a child she knew that somehow this man was a threat to her time with Xena, so she did not respond.

Xena gave her a gentle poke. "Tarren, introduce yourself."

Again the child said nothing but merely finished her food and sipped at her cider.

The warrior sighed heavily. "Hercules, this is Tarren," she said with obvious pride.

The large man studied the deep blue eyes of the child closely and then quickly looked at Xena.

She shook her head slowly as if to tell him all would be explained later.

Hercules smiled and offered his hand to the youngster. "Well, Tarren, it is a pleasure to meet you."

The bard frowned at the unmoving child. "Tarren, you are supposed to shake his hand. It’s a polite way of saying hello," the bard instructed glancing at Xena.

The child looked at Gabrielle and then at Hercules, but did not offer her hand. Instead she folded her arms tightly against her chest to let him know that he was no friend of hers.

"TARREN!" the warrior scolded.

Hercules waved her off. "It’s OK, Xena," he said pulling his hand back.

The warrior stood and grabbed the girl’s wrist pulling her from the seat. "No, it’s definitely NOT all right. Excuse me, please," she said politely as she dragged the silent girl up to the room.

The door flung open, and Xena pushed the child ahead of her slamming the door behind her. "What was all that about? You know better than to behave that way," she scolded.

The child locked her arms firmly against her chest. "I don’t like him," she whispered.

The warrior shook her head. "You don’t even know him, Tarren. How can you not like him?"

The girl said nothing. "Fine, well like him or not, he is a friend of mine, and you ARE going down there to apologize to him," Xena ordered. The child shook her head, "NO!"

The angry warrior searched the room with her eyes trying hard to control her festering anger. She yanked the child to the nearest corner of the room placing a chair facing the wall. "Fine, then you can just sit here and think about that for a while. If you change your mind, then let me know, but if you don’t, then you better not move from this chair until I say so. Ya got it?" she ordered in an angry parental tone.

The child flinched as she was pushed down into the hard wooden seat and reminded once again of a harsh sting in her backside. She swallowed hard but would not allow herself to cry in front of the warrior.

Xena studied the stubborn child sitting in the corner unwavering. The warrior shook her head. "Fine, sit there all night!" she cursed as she left the room and returned to her friends.

When she was sitting alone in the dark, one tear strayed from the child’s eyes, but she did not know if it was from the pain of sitting or the fear of losing her friend.

Xena returned to her seat with a deep breath. "Hercules, my apologies. I don’t know what’s gotten into her."

The large man shook it off. "It’s OK, Xena. She should be weary of strange men, and to her that’s what I am."

Gabrielle nodded. "Xena she just needs a chance to get to know him that’s all," the bard said with a quick smile.

The warrior’s muscles eased a bit as she considered her friend’s words. "Perhaps, but I will not tolerate that behavior for ANY reason," she said with an authority no one would dare challenge.

Hercules leaned back in the chair and watched his friend and lover. This child had changed her. He knew there was more to the story, and he was anxious to hear it. As the hours passed the three friends shared their recent adventures.

"So I’m supposed to meet Iolaus in three days just outside the city. I just passed through to see the competitions," Hercules finished as he sipped at a mug of ale.

Xena nodded in understanding. "Well, we were going to attend those. Why don’t you join us?" Their eyes met once again.

"I’d like that," he said with a sly smile.

The bard caught the tender exchange and yawned, "It’s getting late. I think I’ll head up to the room." The warrior smiled at her friend thankfully. "What do you want me to do with Tarren?" the bard asked as she stood.

The warrior’s smile faded as she considered the many things she wanted to DO to Tarren at that moment. She frowned, angry that the child had chosen to painfully sit alone in the room rather than apologize. "Just put that stubborn child to bed. I’ll deal with her in the morning," she said shaking her head.

The bard smiled. "Stubborn as a mule. Yup, wonder where she gets that from?" Gabrielle said with a grin as she headed up the stairs leaving Xena and Hercules alone to laugh at the comparison.

Gabrielle entered and found a small figure sleeping in a chair in a far corner of the room. She shook her head. "Come on you stubborn little princess. It’s time for bed." Gabrielle lifted the girl out of the chair and gently placed her on the bed removing her boots and tunic.

The sleeping youngster rolled on her side and the bard threw a blanket over her and kissed her forehead whispering, "I don’t know what’s going through that mind of yours kid, but you are walking on some pretty dangerous ground here." Gabrielle gently shook her head and then headed for her own bed to sleep.

The girl opened one eye and then quickly closed it never saying a word.

 Xena and Hercules strode through the town hand in hand as she quietly explained about Tarren and Nala.

"So the Warrior Princess has a daughter. I think that is wonderful," he said with a grin.

Xena nodded. "She can be a handful, but she’s a good kid, most of the time," she said with a smile not even trying to conceal her obvious pride in the child.

"I would expect nothing less from her," he said with a grin.

The warrior stopped and kissed the gentle lips of the man who had once freed her from her evil past. She looked into his eyes aching to share with him all the feelings that ran deepest inside of her. "Ya know, it’s good to have an ‘adult’ around... nothing against Gabrielle, but someone who understands what I feel. I don’t know what I feel..." she whispered pulling away from his embrace.

Hercules took her hand and gently kissed it. "Xena, your whole life has been turned up side down. Allow yourself some time to adjust. Stop being so hard on yourself. Tarren is with you. She’s not going anywhere. You have a lifetime to share with her. Don’t try to fill years into each day. Just be yourself. I think you will find that it is all she needs or wants from her mother."

The warrior’s eyes softened. "The gods must have sent you here tonight because I can think of no greater comfort than to have you here with me right now," the warrior said caressing his large arm.

Hercules took the woman into his arms, and for once Xena was happy to feel the safety of someone just as strong as she was. She was happy to be able to lean on him if only for a night.

The following morning Tarren awoke and saw Gabrielle still fast asleep and snoring as usual. Xena’s bed was still made, so she knew the warrior had never returned to the room.

The child jumped out of the bed and ran over to shake Gabrielle awake. "Gabby, Xena ‘s gone. Wake up! Something happened to Xena!" the girl yelled trying to control her angst.

The sleepy bard shook her head. "Huh, Xena? What are you talking about, Tarren?" the bard asked in a sleepy tone.

The anxious child gave the bard a yank pulling her to her feet. "Hey!" the bard yelled, not happy to be taken from the comfort of her pallet.

The child pointed to the empty bed. "We have to go find Xena. She could be hurt."

Gabrielle smiled wickedly at the thought and then quickly sat on the bed covering her face with her hands trying to bring her senses to full alert. She pulled the child close to her and placed a gentle arm around her. "Uhh, Tarren, calm down.... Xena is fine, I promise you. She just spent the night, err, talking with Hercules. They are very old friends and had a lot to talk about."

The girl studied the bard’s face and tried to make sense of the mixture of emotions she saw. "All night! She talked to him all night." The youngster yelled in disbelief.

The bard nodded, "Well yeah, old close...friends do that sometimes," she muttered inwardly cursing Xena for leaving this in her lap. Just then the door opened and a rather content warrior walked in the door.

Gabrielle crossed her arms and glared at the large muscular figure, as did Tarren. "Well good morning to you both!" Xena said with a smile noting the sour expressions on her friends’ faces.

Tarren said nothing, but merely dressed.

Gabrielle shook her head, "Tarren go downstairs and tell the innkeeper to send breakfast up here please."

The child looked at the bard and saw something she had not seen before, true anger. She lifted on her boots and slid passed the warrior without a word.

Xena fell into the chair that was left in the corner. "I know, I know... I should have told you that I’d be gone," she said with a slight smile.

The bard silenced her with a wave. "NO Xena, I am a big girl. I know where you were, but Tarren is just a little kid and she didn’t. I really wasn’t up to giving those details. That’s your job. When she woke up and saw that you had not been back all night, she was terrified that something had happened to you. SHE doesn’t understand, and I am not sure she should have to at her age, Xena," the bard lectured. She then turned on her heel leaving the warrior to ponder the words and her own actions.

Xena rose from the chair and slowly made her way over to her pallet. She sat beside the stewing bard and bowed her head in regret. "Gabrielle, I’m sorry. Ya know I never even thought about it. I should have said something to her, but I really needed some time to myself."

The bard’s tone softened as she gently placed her hand on the warrior’s arm, "Look, I know and you know, but she doesn’t. I told her you spent the night talking to Hercules. I think she bought it, but she sure was not happy about it."

The warrior raised an eyebrow and smiled, "Talking? That’s the best YOU could come up with?"

The bard grinned, "Well, I wasn’t expecting a birds and bees talk at dawn, Xena. Besides, I don’t think she would handle the truth very well. You should have seen the look "talking" got."

The warrior paced around the room rubbing her arms in frustration. "I’ll speak to her. It’s my fault. I never should have left last night without finding out what’s eating her anyway."

 The door opened and Tarren walked in once again passing the warrior and heading for her bed. "The food will be up in a little while, Gabrielle," she said settling on her bed.

"Thanks, Kid," the bard said with a smile. Gabrielle started to dress and Xena sat on the edge of Tarren’s pallet pulling her gently towards her. "Come here. I want to talk to you," she said in a near whisper.

The child stood before her, but she refused to look at the warrior.

Xena wiped the stray hairs from the girl’s eyes as she spoke. "Look, I owe you an apology. I should have told you that I would be out all night ... err ‘talking’ with Hercules. I’m sorry that I scared you. I never meant to do that."

The girl lowered her head a bit at the sincerity in her friend’s voice. The warrior gave her a gentle shake. "Hey, do you forgive me?" she asked lifting the child’s chin with one finger.

The girl’s eyes weld with tears. "I thought something happened to you. I thought you were hurt or..."

The warrior silenced her with a gentle embrace feeling pangs of remorse for her actions. "I know, I know. I’m sorry, little one. I promise I will not go anywhere again without telling you first, OK?"

The child held tightly to the warrior’s neck and nodded.

"Xena pulled her forward and with a small piece of cloth from inside her armor, wiped the tears from the girl’s eyes."


Gabrielle watched in awe at the way Xena could so quickly touch on the child’s emotions and know exactly how to offer comfort. There was a total trust between them that the bard would have never thought possible.

"OK then, so what do you say that we start this day brand new. I’ll behave myself, and YOU will behave yourself. No more rude behavior, young lady, understand?" she said in a stern tone.

The girl nodded. "I’m sorry about last night, Xena," she said with a slight grin.

The warrior smiled, "So am I, Tarren. So what do you say, today we go to the games and just put it behind us, OK?"

The girl’s eyes widened at the thought of the games, and she again embraced the warrior. The three shared a quiet breakfast.


Gabrielle was dying to ask Xena about her night with Hercules but knew it would have to wait.

The warrior could see the anticipation in her friend’s face, so she teasingly tossed her a wicked grin.

 Tarren raced ahead into the street anxious to get to the games with Xena. "I’ll meet you two back here in three hours and we can go to the festival," the bard said keeping pace with the warrior.

Xena smiled and asked mockingly, "Sure you don’t want to come to the games?"

The bard shook her head, "Hmm, watch a bunch of large men throwing things and beating each other up? Nope, I do that for a living. I can miss it."

The warrior smiled and placed a gentle hand on her friend’s shoulder. "OK, but NO MORE shopping, got it?" she warned with a finger.

The bard frowned, "But Xena, there are things we need."

The warrior gave her a firm look. "Gabrielle, I do not know how we will even take what you already bought with us. No more ... enough ... done, OK?" she ordered.

The bard nodded unhappily. "OK, I won’t buy anything. I’ll just look," she said with a slight grin. The warrior shook her head knowing that was an impossible task.

As the three friends walked down the street, Tarren was stopped suddenly by the sight of Hercules. "Good morning, ladies," he said with a broad smile and a bow.

Xena blinked her eyes slowly in greeting. "Good morning," she purred softly. Tarren took a step back.


"So are we ready to go?" he asked. Tarren looked quickly at Xena for an answer. "Hercules is gonna join us at the games," she said with a smile. Tarren backed off behind Gabrielle. The warrior looked puzzled by her movements. "Tarren, come on, let’s go, or we are gonna be late. You don’t want to miss the start do you?" Xena said with a confused grin.

The youngster lowered her head. "I decided I‘d rather go shopping with Gabrielle," she whispered never letting her eyes meet the warrior’s gaze.

Xena lowered herself before the child and held her arms gently. "Hey, you’ve been wanting to go to this for a week. You were all excited about it this morning. Why the sudden change of heart?" she asked in a gentle but firm tone.

Gabrielle placed a caring arm around her shoulder, and the child was grateful for the touch.

Tarren quickly raised her eyes up and glared at Hercules.

Xena caught the stare and stood placing her hands on her hips. "Tarren, we discussed this already," her voice again filling with frustration.

Hercules moved forward. "Maybe I better go on alone," he said sensing the child’s discomfort at his presence. Xena shook her head "NO! Tarren is going to the games, and she IS going to behave herself, right?" the warrior commanded in a no nonsense tone.

Gabrielle stepped forward, "Xena maybe it would be better..."

But the bard’s words were cut off with a glare from her large friend. "Right?" Xena repeated staring down at the sulking child.

The child nodded reluctantly and looked up at Gabrielle who sighed and grabbed Tarren’s hand. "Well as long as this is a party, I may as well tag along. Nothing like a good stick throwing," the bard said trying to resolve herself to missing another day’s shopping. However it seemed that Tarren needed her more at the moment, and that was more important.

The warrior nodded at the bard grateful for her support and still confused by the child’s actions. "Let’s go," she said giving the youngster a quick glare before walking up ahead to join Hercules.

Tarren said nothing, but like a little soldier followed the pattern of footsteps she was ordered to follow.

Gabrielle tried to figure out what the child’s problem was before she got into real trouble. "Tarren, he’s a nice guy. What do you have against him?" the bard whispered.

Tarren’s eyes held back tears as she watched Xena and Hercules laughing and holding arms ahead of them. "Xena promised me that we would go to the games, just the two of us, but ever since he has been here that is all she seems interested in."

The bard threw her head back in understanding. Tarren was jealous of Xena spending time with Hercules instead of her. The bard chastised herself for not realizing it sooner and leaned beside the girl.

"Hey, just because Xena is enjoying the company of an old friend for a few days does NOT mean she does not love you, Tarren. Nobody can take your place."

The girl shook her head and gripped the bard’s hand even tighter. "Gabrielle, Xena is the one that told me that a promise is like a person’s marker. When I broke my promise about climbing the trees she punished me. She didn’t keep her promise about the games, so why should I believe anything she says is true? She wants to be with him. I’m just someone she got stuck with."

The bard started to protest when the warrior called them forward. "Hey, you two, you better move it or we really are going to be just in time for the closing ceremony," she said with a broad smile.

Tarren broke her grip with the bard and moved quickly passed Xena and Hercules straight through the gates of the arena.

Xena sighed heavily, "She’s asking for it, Gabrielle. She is really asking for it," the warrior said to the bard with frustration as she watched the child silently slip through the gates.

Gabrielle started to speak when Xena heard the opening announcements and grabbed the bard’s hand pulling her quickly through the gates. "Come on. We are late."

 Tarren sat next to Gabrielle far from Xena and Hercules. She refused the warrior’s offer of a pillow, content to suffer with the pain of the hard surface rather than accept a gift. Xena tossed it to the ground at her feet. "Fine! Well, if you are feeling that comfortable, then maybe I didn’t make as much of an impression as I should have... I can remedy that quickly, Tarren," she warned Xena’s voice becoming a threatening parental whisper.

The girl merely glanced at her and again said nothing. They were half way through the events, and Tarren had no interest in the company or the events.

Gabrielle knew that the warrior’s frustration was building and things were gonna get worse if she didn’t do something soon. "Xena, what do you say that you and I get some refreshments for everyone." They already had drinks in front of them that no one had even finished, so Xena stared at the bard confused by her request but understanding that she wanted to talk to her alone.

The warrior stood stiffly. "All right!" She pointed her finger at Tarren menacingly. "BE NICE!" But before either woman could rise, the gentlemanly Hercules sprung to his feet. "Now ladies, it is a gentleman’s job to see to a ladies’ needs." He quickly sprinted towards the refreshments leaving a frustrated bard wondering why he always had to be so nice at the wrong times.

"OK, so what do you want to talk about?" Xena asked the bard directly. The bard tried to direct her eye towards the child without Tarren noticing. "Gabrielle, are you OK is there something wrong with your eye?" she asked with a bit of concern cupping the bard’s face with her hands and looking into her friend’s eye.

"No, no, my eye is just fine. I just wanted to...." She arched her neck repeatedly motioning again towards the girl.

"Is it your neck?" the warrior asked feeling the bard’s skin for a bruise until Gabrielle slapped her hands away. The frustrated bard gave up on discretion. "I want to talk to you about..." but before she could finish the sentence Hercules had returned with the drinks. "By the gods he has to be fast too," the bard murmured under her breath.

Xena shook her head in confusion. "Gabrielle, we will talk later," the warrior sternly said not happy at her friend’s idea of a joke.

Xena smiled at Hercules and accepted the cool drink he offered. Gabrielle accepted hers and smiled, "Thanks, you really know how to come through ALL the time, big guy," she said with a grin. Hercules smiled at Gabrielle with a bit of confusion and handed the final mug to Tarren who refused it.

"I’m not thirsty," she said staring up at the large man.

Xena’s dark gaze fell upon her. "Tarren, when someone goes to the trouble of getting you a drink, you accept it and thank them, even if you do not wish to drink it," she said sternly using all her greatest efforts to control her anger.

Hercules knelt in front of the child hoping his friendly gesture would lower her wall of hatred for him. "It’s gonna get so hot here today that your gonna welcome this cool drink, little one. You’ll even want to bathe in it," the friendly man said with a smile.

Tarren nodded, "Oh really! Well then, thank you," she said sarcastically taking the drink. "If that’s true, then please allow me to return the favor and cool you off now."

Gabrielle could not move fast enough to stop what she knew was coming. With one quick flip of Tarren’s wrist, the son of Zeus stood drenched in cold water. "And don’t call me little one," the child ordered dropping the mug at his feet.

The bard buried her head in her hands shaking her head.

Hercules merely smiled, and wiped his shirt dry.

Xena’s eyes flared with an anger even the bard had never seen. She grabbed Tarren roughly by the wrist. "That’s it!" she said with a finality that possessed a threat and a promise.


Gabrielle stood. "Xena can we talk before you go?" the bard begged, but the warrior just shook her head. "No Gabrielle, there is nothing you can say. Just stay here," the warrior commanded.

The bard sighed as she watched the warrior drag the child off. She sat down and stared oddly at Hercules. "She really is a good kid once you get to know her," she said tilting her head with a grin. He nodded trying to smile. "I’m sure," the large man said still drying his tunic.


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