Takes place throughout and after 'The Black Wolf'

Childhood Remembered

by Marie E. Costa

Xena walked slowly toward the guard harassing a woman old enough to be her mother. Her lower lip lifted in a sneer and she worked to keep her anger under control. "You like shoving women around try me." She attacked the guard satisfied to teach at least one male pig a lesson. Turning to help the woman her concern turning to shock as she recognized her...to think Flora's family had moved here...I cried in the tree...does Flora remember the tree...all alone when they left...never told anyone...not even Lyceus.

Flora? Little Flora in a dungeon? I find that hard to believe...anyone but her...the rest of your family dead? I will get her back for you. Finally a chance to help someone from Amphipolis...right at least one wrong. No way Flora deserves to be in prison ...she's as innocent as Gabrielle.

A lost cause? How could her mother think anything dealing with human suffering could be a lost cause? That certainly wasn't what she taught us when we were little, but maybe losing her husband and sons... She seemed so old...maybe I ought to go see my mother when I finish up here? I have to make her realize that causes are only lost when people give up...maybe Flora already knows that, maybe that's why she's with this rebel group. I can't see her mixing with the wrong crowd. There has to be another explanation. She was always too independent to fall for that.


"You've grown up." She looks good! Still fit as a fiddle. Look at her...all taut and full of energy...does she know how bad - how evil I became? I don't want her to hate me. My insides are trembling as I search her face and listen carefully to her reply.

"You've grown legendary."

Ya, she knows. Will she still trust me? She looks at me with eyes wise beyond her years and tinged with a sorrow I wish I could wash away. I stare back...trust me...I'll save you. I speak. "I've changed. Search me...I never lied to you. Who's this man that guards you? A slight glimmer enters Xena's eye. So not as innocent as Gabrielle. Flora has a lover...or soon will if I am any judge...and he is jealous of me.

"Would you believe Xena taught me how to swing a sword and how to embroider the linen for my wedding chest."

Ahh Flora, your lover doesn't trust me...he sees an evil warrior, not the girl you want him to see...but you and me we know.

"I'm not a little girl anymore."

That's obvious...but have you learned the lessons I tried to teach you...no, my only reply can be to acknowledge your growth. "No you're not."

Remember the tree...Times change people, and people change the times. You gotta have faith...you gotta. Did you ever learn the lesson I tried to teach you?

"You were the closest thing I ever had to a sister...that was important to me...you were important to me." I can't explain how important you still are. You'll just to have to find the strength from within...it's there I know it is.


"What in the gods name are you doing here?!" Xena stared in shock at Gabrielle. She's right I should have known she'd come. Xena suppressed her smile. And she brought me weapons...Gaia but she's a smart one. Maybe now I can plan something that'll work.


I can't let them kill anyone. "Trust me?" I asked Flora, slightly surprised when she nodded. I knew her pack wouldn't, but they'd go along with whatever she wanted and Gabrielle would help...people tended to trust her.


"Come on Gabrielle," Xena said relief at the way things had turned out evident by the smile she allowed to surface as she watched her childhood friend embrace her mother. "Let's get outta here."

"Don't you want to visit?" Gabrielle asked puzzled.

"Nope." Xena ran her tongue over her gums and raised an eyebrow at the younger woman as she walked past her. "Some things are best left in the past." She smiled at Gabrielle's obvious confusion.

Gabrielle looked a t Flora then turned to follow Xena, skipping once to catch up to the warrior. "Xena?" She paused as Xena swung up onto Argo. She glanced at the hand held out to her and grimaced, but placed her own hand into Xena's, allowing herself to be swung up and behind the taller woman. Once settled she tried again. "Xena?"

"Hmmm," the Warrior murmured acknowledgment of her name, but didn't speak. Instead she tapped the war-horse smiling as she felt the legs bunch up and then the wind whip her hair as the horse galloped down the path and out of town.

"Oh great!" Gabrielle's arms tightened. Xena knew she hated riding. Why did she insist on torturing her like this? She leaned closer to Xena and closing her eyes laid her head on the warrior's back.

Xena winced at the sudden pressure around her waist. Poor Gabrielle. She grinned. She knew it was silly, but she felt freer than she had in years. She let Argo have her head and placed one hand protectively on Gabrielle's. The horse continued at top speed long enough for the town to recede from view. Slowly she eased Argo down to a walk. Her grin staying in place, she twisted to look over her shoulder. "Wanna make camp?" She bit back a laugh at Gabrielle's frantic nod and slid out of the saddle. Reaching up she helped Gabrielle down. Laughter danced in her eyes as she looked down at her friend's slightly pale face. "I'm sorry."

"No, you're not...you're enjoying this!" Gabrielle glared at Xena.

Xena simply raised an eyebrow and turned to unpack Argo.

"Great...I'll start the fire." Gabrielle stomped off.


Gabrielle looked across the fire at Xena, trying to gauge her mood. She didn't understand anything that had happened today and desperately wanted to. From Xena's reactions when she showed up at the prison, to her actions before dinner.

Xena squirmed uncomfortably as she realized that the younger woman was going to spend the whole evening staring at her unless she explained herself. But how? "What?!"

Gabrielle squinted still not sure how Xena would react. "Why?"

"Why what?" Xena asked perplexed.

"Why did you go to prison? Why didn't we stay so you could get reacquainted? Why did we race like Hades himself was after us? And Why-"

"Stop." Xena commanded. "I know what you're asking now. She looked at the bard and half grinned. "I'm happy." She raised both brows and leaned forward. "Is that okay with you?" and smiling at Gabrielle's nod and furrowed brow, decided to try and explain herself.

"I went to the prison because it seemed like the fastest way to save Flora. Until I got there and she wouldn't leave. I discovered she was responsible for the others. She was like a little sister to me...always tagging along trying to learn to do whatever we were doing. She had no sisters, aunts, or cousins to teach her anything...I had aunts and cousins that taught me." She shrugged. "So I taught her." She glanced away, "Her family moved...she was nine I was twelve. I hadn't seen her again until this week." Her voice trailed off as she remembered the past. Running through the fields...wrestling...sewing under the tree...forbidden swordplay...always Flora would do whatever Xena wanted...whether it was chores Xena had to do or fun.

Gabrielle tilted her head. "And this is supposed to explain our leaving?"

Xena smiled. "No, I guess not." She shook her head. "What we shared were childhood memories. If I stayed she'd of expected me to behave to her as I did when we were children. And I would have wanted her to be the adoring little girl she was...the one who thought I could do no wrong. I couldn't do that and she isn't. She's a woman who's grown strong and good. And as for the ride..." a long pause as she relived the joy. "...In the end she trusted me...she knew what I had become and she chose to trust me." Xena's voice was bubbling with joy and wonder. "MY own mother didn't trust me, but she did."

As her best friend fell silent Gabrielle nodded her understanding. Friends because of a common past, but friends with no common ground today, and no time to truly build common ground with. Together they contemplated the fire, until finally Gabrielle spoke. "Want to hear a story?"

Xena nodded.

Gabrielle cleared her throat and began, "I sing of Flora, leader of the Black Wolves. I sing of a friendship lost and found during a battle of life, death and freedom."

Xena smiled and leaning back closed her eyes, letting her bard's voice wash comfortingly over her. The perfect end to the day.


Xena smiled and leaning back closed her eyes, letting her bard's voice wash comfortingly over her. The perfect end to the day.