Guess Who’s Having a Baby
Aphrodite sighed in contentment. This was one of those perfect moments, the kind that reaffirmed her dedication to her godly work and made it all seem worth the effort. Had the couple sprawled on the bed been aware of her presence, they no doubt would have been outraged at the invasion of their privacy, but luckily for the sometimes erstwhile goddess, she didn’t have to actually be present in person to see the results of her handiwork.
“Do you know how much I love you,” Gabrielle sighed, idly twisting a lock of silky raven hair between her fingers. Xena was sprawled on her back across the bed, limbs spread bonelessly, replete with pleasure. The bard lay slightly on top of her, one sleek leg nestled between two longer ones. Her arms were crossed beneath her, laying just below the Warrior Princess’s breasts, the side of her face cradled against one soft peak. Bright green eyes roamed over the face above her, gently tracing over lush lips and closed lids.
“Hmmm, no talking,” was her only reply, the throaty hum vibrating through the warrior’s body, tickling the bard’s chin.
With a laugh, Gabrielle turned her head slightly, straight white teeth nipping at tender flesh. She watched with amusement as bright blue eyes suddenly appeared behind hooded lids, one elegant brow arched, and the corners of a luscious mouth turned up in a smirk.
“Gabrielle,” Xena growled warningly, lifting her head slightly to pin her crystal gaze on her partner.
“Yes?” the bard replied innocently, letting her eyes round in a pantomime of contrition.
“You’re perfect,” came the gruff reply, accompanied by a startled release of breath from the bard in question. Seeing the younger woman practically melt on top of her, Xena smirked in satisfaction. Never let it be said that she couldn’t be appropriately romantic when the occasion called for it.
From far away, Aphrodite watched as the scene slowly turned steamy, dimples widening on her cheeks as she watched the tender tableau. Dissolving the vision with a wave of her hand before it became too intrusive, she cocked her head to one side, blond curls bouncing impishly as she thought.
“Hmmm, that was just adorable,” she murmured distractedly, the beginnings of an idea flitting around the corners of her mind. She wanted to give the lovers something, to reward them for finding what they shared amidst the pain they had undergone. There had to be something she could do. While the happiness that the pair was experiencing had managed to fill most of the voids caused by the unhappy events of the past year, there were still a few hints of emptiness lurking around, little indications that there could be something more, but that it was just outside of their reach.
“Ah ha!” she cried, snapping her fingers as the answer came to her. “I know what I can do for them.” With a mischievous smile in place, she started to put her plan in action, feeling satisfaction creep over her as she watched things fall into place just as they should. It wasn’t an easy task, but she was a goddess after all, and once she made up her mind, nothing was going to stop her.
When Xena awoke the next morning, her eyes instantly noticed that there was something amiss. Scanning the room calmly, she soon found what it was that had upset her, and gently sliding out from under the clutch of the bard, she made her way over to the table, picking up the piece of parchment resting there. It hadn’t been there last night, and it unnerved her to no end to think that someone might have snuck in while she and the bard slept and left it, unnoticed by either.
“What is that?” came the slurred voice of the bard, and Xena looked over to find blurry green eyes looking at her questioningly, short tufts of blond hair sticking out at all angles around the sleepy face.
Scanning the writing, Xena sighed in exasperation.
“Looks like Aphrodite left us a note,” she replied, tossing it to the bard.
“Girls, I’ve decided to give you a little gift. Its in the works now, but won’t be ready for a little while. You can thank me later. Love ya, ‘Dite,” Gabrielle read, confusion evident in her voice. “What does that mean, Xena?”
“I don’t know,” the warrior growled ominously, “but it can’t be good. It never is when one of them decides to interfere.”
Two Months Later
Gabrielle was concerned. Xena almost always awoke before she did, but for the past week, this hadn’t been the case. On top of that, as soon as she awoke, the warrior tended to turn a rather odd shade of green and rush to the bushes to empty out whatever meager contents her stomach might still hold. She was convinced that something very bad was wrong with her warrior, but Xena had merely shrugged off the bard’s concerns, claiming that she must have gotten hold of some bad fruit or something. Gabrielle had accepted that excuse the first day, and even the second, but this was the fifth day in a row that she had awoken to find Xena still slumbering beside her, and if the warrior took off running for the bushes again this morning, she was going to put her foot down.
“Morning,” Xena said softly, pulling the bard from her reverie. Gabrielle smiled down at the older woman gently, dipping her head for a soft kiss.
“Good morning, you,” she replied, a bemused smile flitting across her features. It quickly faded, though, as she watched the warrior look around in panic before jumping to her feet, running as quickly into the bushes as she could. Sighing, knowing what was coming next, Gabrielle struggled to her feet. Finding the waterskin and a clean cloth, she headed off after Xena. The warrior was on her knees, one hand holding her hair in a ponytail at the back of her neck while the other braced on the ground. She heaved violently, but with nothing in her stomach, there was nothing to come back up. Dropping her hand to the other woman’s back, rubbing it in slow, comforting circles, Gabrielle sighed. When she finally felt the spasms still, she wet the cloth with water from the skin she had brought and used it to gently clean around Xena’s mouth before running soft, gentle fingers down the other woman’s cheek.
“I’m worried about you,” she said gruffly, handing the nearly full waterskin to the warrior. Taking a few calming swallows, Xena sat back, using a nearby tree for a backrest.
“Its just a bug,” she grumbled, letting her head fall back against the rough bark, eyes closed against the nausea still roiling through her abdomen.
“Its not just a bug,” Gabrielle said fiercely, cupping the warrior’s cheek in her palm. “You’ve been sick every morning this week, running off into the bushes just as soon as you wake up. You’re sleeping more than you normally do, surely some sign that your body needs rest to heal from something, and well, I’m worried about you. You aren’t sick all the time, like you would be if this was just some stomach bug. Its only in the morning that this happens, and if I didn’t know better, I would say that you’re… Oh gods.”
Xena cracked an eye open at the gasp, looking at the horrified expression on the bard’s face. She watched the other woman stumble backwards, pulling away from her as if she had been burned.
“What?” she asked crossly, taking deep breaths to calm her stomach.
“By the gods, you’re pregnant. How? When? Who?” Gabrielle asked, rattled, before trailing off, tears brimming in her wide green eyes.
“Yeah right,” Xena snorted, then narrowed her eyes in anger at the implications of the bard’s accusation. “You think that I’m pregnant? You think that I was with someone else, that I cheated on you?”
“Well how else do you explain it, Xena? I mean, look at your symptoms and tell me that I’m not right, and I know that I didn’t get you that way, and though I don’t want to think that you’d do that to me, what else can I think?” she whispered harshly, tears clogging her throat.
“I can’t believe this,” Xena muttered, pushing herself up and away from the tree. “You’re sitting here, accusing me of cheating on you?”
“Yes… No, I don’t know. No, I don’t think that you’d do that to me, but if you aren’t pregnant, then you’re really sick. Right now, I think that I’d rather you cheat on me than you be really sick,” Gabrielle admitted miserably.
“Gabrielle,” Xena sighed, moving closer to the distraught bard, “I’m not sick. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m not sick. I’ve been sick before, and this isn’t it. In fact, I haven’t felt this way since…” the warrior trailed off, falling back in stricken silence.
“Since when?” the bard prompted when Xena’s voice faded.
“Since Solon,” she whispered raggedly before bellowing, “APHRODITE!”
With a shower of glowing sparks, the gleaming goddess of love appeared in the clearing, smiling down at the two women.
“You called, doll?” she asked, fighting to keep a wide grin off of her face.
“You have something to tell us, don’t you,” Xena said fiercely, and the grin disappeared with no problem at the warrior’s menacing tone.
“Uh, I thought you girls had finally figured it out,” she said, slightly confused.
“Figured what out? Xena, I don’t understand. What does Aphrodite have to do with all of this?” Gabrielle asked, her brow scrunched in confusion.
“Why don’t you tell her, Aphrodite,” the warrior intoned, dark brows drawing together in anger as she pieced it all together.
“Well, Gabrielle, you’re going to, like, be a daddy,” Aphrodite said, her smile once again appearing at the look of complete and utter shock on the young blonde’s face.
“I’m what?” the bard asked, coughing in surprise.
“You remember that little note we found a while back?” Xena asked, amazed that all of the color could drain out of someone’s face so quickly.
“The one from Aphrodite? Where she said that she had a surprise for us that she was working on?” Gabrielle asked, comprehension slowly creeping across her features.
“Yep, that’s the one,” Xena replied, feeling a ripple of resignation wash over her.
“A baby?” the bard squeaked. Then, both Xena and Aphrodite watched in astonishment as moss green eyes rolled back in the young woman’s head and she fainted dead away.
“Surprise,” Aphrodite said weakly, drawing an angry scowl from Xena.
It had taken them a few minutes to rouse the bard, but once everyone was conscious again, the trio tromped back to the campsite. Aphrodite went reluctantly. The lovers didn’t seem to appreciate her gift quite as much as she had anticipated, and even though she was a god and Xena a mere mortal, she was still a little worried about the blazing glares being sent her way from that quarter.
Once they were finally seated around the smoldering campfire, Gabrielle turned vaguely shocked, vaguely inquisitive eyes on the goddess.
“Why?” she asked, watching out of the corner of her eyes as Xena settled her stiff frame onto the ground beside her.
“I thought you guys would appreciate it. I mean, you were so happy together but I knew that there was more, you know. This truly makes you, like, a family,” the goddess said meekly.
Xena took a deep breath, trying to calm her rapidly racing pulse while viciously pushing down the urge to whack the goddess upside the head with her chakrum. “Okay, I can understand your motives, but why me? I mean, I’m the warrior here, the one that takes care of swordwielding problems. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have gotten Gabrielle pregnant?”
“First of all, I didn’t get anyone pregnant, not technically. Gabrielle got you pregnant, and I’ll admit that I helped a little bit, but she did it all on her own. Besides, once I figured out how perfect this would be for you girls, I couldn’t decide who it should be. I mean, it was hard to choose, you know. So, I decided to let you choose. You’re a, uh, pretty amorous pair, you know, and so I set it up so that the next one of you to truly appreciate your lovemaking, so to speak, was the one,” she explained earnestly, trying to make the duo understand the magnitude of her gift.
“So basically Gabrielle got horny and I got knocked up,” Xena commented sardonically, shaking her head and rolling her eyes.
“If you want to think of it that way, sure,” Aphrodite replied, brightening a little. “So, like, surprise, I guess. Congratulations and all that.”
“I guess that means that there’s no way to get out of this?” the warrior asked, arching a dark brow at the goddess, happy with herself that she managed to keep her reaction confined to sarcasm and not to actual decapitation.
“If you mean, can I take it back, then no,” the goddess replied, moving to stand. “I’m sure that you know some healer-y stuff that might, you know, get rid of the baby, but my work here is done.”
With that, the goddess was gone, and Xena couldn’t refrain from picking up a nearby rock and throwing it at the spot where she had once been standing, letting loose a long and rather impressive string of curse words as she did so. Deciding that it might help if she stood up and jumped up and down in a little display of temper, she did that as well before running her fingers through her hair and groaning.
“I knew it was no good. Interfering little… Why can’t they just keep to themselves,” she grumbled, kicking a rock with the toe of her boot.
“Xena,” Gabrielle called out, too disturbed to be amused by the warrior’s antics.
“Arrogant, meddling immortals. No one asked for their help,” Xena continued, not hearing the urgent note in the bard’s voice.
“Xena,” Gabrielle called again, a little more strongly this time.
“I’m a warrior, for goodness sake,” she complained, starting to pace.
“XENA!” the bard finally screamed, sighing in relief when her companion stopped pacing.
“What?” the warrior asked angrily, unsure what she had done to be on the receiving end of the bard’s yell.
“You wouldn’t really do it, would you?” Gabrielle asked, now uncertain.
“Do what?” Xena asked in confusion, her brows drawing together as she tried to comprehend what the bard was asking her.
“Get rid of it… the baby I mean. Aphrodite said that you’d know how, and I know you’re not happy about this and I don’t know exactly how I feel about it yet, but you can’t get rid of it. If you don’t want it, then I’ll take it. I mean, its mine too, you know,” Gabrielle babbled, unable to stop the flow of words once they started.
Seeing the concern on the younger woman’s face, Xena paused for a moment in her anger. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath, counting to ten to make sure that she had ample time to push the rage back as far as possible.
“No, Gabrielle, I wouldn’t hurt the baby. I’m not too happy about this right now, but I’d never take it out on the baby. Besides, like you said, as unbelievable as this may sound, it’s your baby too and I’d never make a decision like that without you first agreeing to it,” the warrior said calmly, slightly unsettled that Gabrielle actually thought she would consider that option.
“I didn’t think you would,” the bard breathed, “but you seem so angry and I know how you hate it when the gods interfere in your life. I don’t want you to be unhappy, but I just don’t think I could handle it if you… if you did something like that.”
With a plunk, the warrior princess fell to the bedrolls, her legs spread out before her, her elbows resting on her knees and her head bowed. Concerned, Gabrielle crawled over to her lover, placing a comforting hand on the other woman’s shoulder.
“What’s wrong honey?” she asked, her voice soft.
“Its just that, well, I don’t know what to think. We’re talking about a baby here, Gabrielle. Its not like a pet or something like that, but a baby who you have to take care of and feed and clothe and protect and love. I don’t know if I’m ready for that, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Motherhood isn’t for me. I’ve already had one child, and look how that turned out. The thought of bringing another one into the kind of life that I lead… well, I’m not too sure about it. Think about how this will affect us, Gabrielle. We can’t continue on like we have. The road is no place for a baby,” the warrior said softly, looking up with uncertain blue eyes to meet the concerned gaze of her companion.
“I know that its going to be hard, and I know that its going to mean a lot of changes for us, Xena, and as much as it’s something that was given to us rather unexpectedly, I can’t help but be glad for it. Without Aphrodite’s help, no matter that it was unsolicited, this would never have happened. As much as I’m frightened by the prospect of becoming a mother, or a father… I’m not sure which I’ll be…” she paused wryly, “anyway, as much as I’m frightened by it, I’m also thrilled. I’m going to have a baby with the woman that I love. It will be part me and part you, and I never thought that would be possible. I’ll admit that I’d thought about having a family before, about settling down one day, hopefully with you if you’re still willing to have me tagging along then, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I might be able to do that with a child of my very own that was yours too.”
The bard was silent for a minute, afraid that she had said too much, that she had revealed too much of her heart to the warrior. No matter how much you loved someone, you couldn’t see into their heart. You couldn’t know that their level of commitment ran as deeply as yours, or that their love was as strong. As often as Xena told her that she loved her, there would still be some hint of hesitancy on the bard’s part, mainly because she still couldn’t imagine that someone like Xena, who could have anyone in the world, would choose her.
“So what do we do now?” Xena asked breathlessly, in awe of the fact that Gabrielle had actually planned for a long-term future with her.
“Well, right now we head for the Amazon village for a joining ceremony,” Gabrielle said firmly.
“What?!” Xena cried, pulling back slightly.
“We’re going to be joined. I know that you might not want that or might not be ready for that, and that you might never be ready for it, but if we’re going to bring a child into this world, we’re going to be joined when we do it. You can leave later if you want, but, by the gods, you’re going to be my wife when you have my baby.” Slightly surprised by the outburst, Gabrielle pulled back, unsure. It was a big step, and one she was pretty sure Xena wasn’t ready for, nor was she sure it was something the warrior would even want. But, it was something that she felt strongly about, and it was going to happen if she had to drag the warrior with her kicking and screaming.
Xena recognized the look of determination on Gabrielle’s features, and though she wasn’t happy with the pronouncement, she wasn’t going to challenge it. At least, she amended silently, not yet.
“Alright then, we’ll go to the village,” Xena replied, but Gabrielle knew that look in her eye. The warrior was planning something, and it would probably be something the bard wouldn’t like.
Three Weeks Later
Gabrielle sighed in relief. They were finally here. The trip shouldn’t have taken half as long as it did, but Xena seemed to be dragging her heels, traveling only short distances during the day and breaking for camp early. She excused it to Gabrielle by saying that she still wasn’t feeling well and that she was more tired than usual, but the bard wasn’t buying it. The morning sickness had stopped a week ago, and though the warrior was still sleeping more than was usual, she had been fine before.
The trip, luckily, was fairly uneventful. Well, Gabrielle thought with a cringe, except for that one little thing. They had come up a rather nasty band of men who wanted to take their horse and their belongings, demanding, in the usual manner of all common thieves, that the bard and the warrior surrender their possessions or forfeit their lives. Taking exception to the threat of her fledgling family, Gabrielle had stomped in front of Xena possessively.
“Gabrielle,” Xena had purred dangerously, wanting to bard to move to safety.
“No way, Xena,” Gabrielle had retorted angrily. “You stay right there and let me take care of these idiots. I mean it too. Don’t you move a muscle. If you get off of that horse and go after them, then you might as well keep on going because you won’t be sharing a bedroll with me anymore.”
“Gabrielle,” Xena intoned, her voice indicating that she wasn’t happy with the bard’s reply, “I’ll not be treated like an invalid.”
“By the gods, don’t get your feelings hurt or anything,” Gabrielle said, exasperation plain in her voice. “I know you could take care of these men with no problem, but they threatened my lover and my baby, and I’m not going to take it. Now, STAY PUT!”
The villains, who up until this time had been watching the whole exchange in amusement, suddenly pulled together when the bard approached them, swinging her staff before her in graceful circles as she readied herself for the coming battle.
“What, you going to try hurt me with that little stick, girlie?” the leader asked, laughing. That is, he had laughed up until Gabrielle had taken her little stick and brought it up hard between his legs. Then he had stopped laughing all together and collapsed to the ground in a groaning heap. The other two men, not to be taken by surprise like that, broke apart, circling the bard warily. Turning so that she could keep an eye on both, Gabrielle waited until one lunged. Quickly dropping to the ground, she saw the man sail over her, impaling his companion with the tip of his sword. Two quick blows from her staff had knocked him off his feet and into unconsciousness. Jumping quickly to her feet, knowing that the other man was still a threat, having suffered only a flesh wound from the blade of his friend’s sword, she was surprised to see him drop his weapon in defeat and run. Smirking, clapping her hands together to knock off the dirt she had accumulated, she turned to Xena triumphantly, motioning her forward.
The warrior had grudgingly maneuvered Argo past the men, not bothering to look down at Gabrielle or the injured outlaws. Muttering to herself about the ungrateful nature of certain ex-warlords, Gabrielle had followed along behind her, pausing only once to look with pride at her handiwork. Once they were a safe distance away, Xena had jumped down lightly from Argo, moving to stand in front of the bard.
“That was stupid,” she said angrily, blue eyes darkening.
“You would have done the same thing,” Gabrielle replied, a little shocked at the waves of anger she could feel rolling off of her companion.
“But you’re not me,” Xena pointed out. She had been so frightened for Gabrielle, ready to step in at any moment should it because obvious that her help was needed. Even with her help though, the bard could have been seriously injured.
“You’re right. I’m not you,” Gabrielle had spat back. “But, if I were you, I would know that if I died because my stupid pride was more important than anything else, that I’d be killing two other people along with me.”
“Huh?” Xena asked, confused.
“Xena, if you got killed, the baby and I would die too,” the bard explained patiently.
“You’d be fine,” Xena replied, still slightly confused. She understood the baby part of it, but the rest seemed a little sketchy.
“You honestly don’t think that I could go on living without you, do you?” Gabrielle asked tenderly, green eyes beseeching the warrior to see the truth.
The waves of anger had disappeared as the warrior merely stared at her in disbelief. Then, with a great, sobbing intake of breath, she had pulled Gabrielle close, holding her so tightly that the bard was sure she’d wear the imprint of Xena’s armor for weeks.
“I love you so much,” the warrior had said, her voice raspy with emotion.
Drawn out of her memories by a familiar bird-call, Gabrielle waited for a moment before returning it with one of her own and raising her hands above her head in a traditional Amazon gesture of greeting. Seconds later, the rasp of ropes being lowered was followed by a cadre of Amazons descending from the trees.
“My Queen!” Ephiny exclaimed brightly, “What brings you here?”
“How about we head toward the village and get me some food, and I’ll explain it all,” Gabrielle replied, comforted now that they were on her turf.
The warrior, however, wasn’t quite as happy. She had put off the inevitable as long as she could, but now that she was on Amazon land, she felt her unease triple. Things weren’t going according to any plan she might have ever come up with, and she didn’t like it. Reluctantly, she followed along behind the bard, listening with half an ear to the younger woman’s excited chatter.
A little while later, Gabrielle, Ephiny, and Xena were firmly entrenched in a hut, steaming plates of food beckoning them welcomingly from the table. Gabrielle dug in greedily, always ready to take advantage of a well-cooked meal, and Ephiny was surprised to see Xena following suit. In past visits, the taciturn warrior had eaten little, and Ephiny wondered where her strength came from since it certainly wasn’t from food. The little Queen, however, should have had enough energy and strength to defeat an army of centaurs on her own, if you looked solely at her food intake. Finally, seeing the pair push their plates away contentedly, Ephiny looked up with curious eyes.
“So, to what do we owe the pleasure of this unexpected visit?” she asked anxiously.
“Xena and I need to be joined,” Gabrielle replied simply, watching as surprise and happiness chased themselves across the regent’s countenance.
“Why Gabrielle, that’s wonderful,” Ephiny replied, leaping around the table to grab the bard in a fierce hug. “Wait… what do you mean you need to be joined?”
Her initial happiness was replaced by worry. Was there something going on that she was unaware of, some challenge to the Queen that would require Xena’s protection?
“Gabrielle knocked me up,” Xena offered helpfully, taking perverse pleasure in the scowl that the bard threw her way.
“I hate it when you say it like that,” Gabrielle hissed. “Can’t you say something like impregnate or maybe just simply that we’re going to have a baby?”
“Congratulations! I’m so happy for you both!” Ephiny exclaimed before the meaning behind the words finally sank in. “Wait, what do you mean, Gabrielle knocked you up?”
Gabrielle would have laughed at the confused expression on the regent’s face if she had been in the right frame of mind. As it was, she was worried, confused, and a little annoyed. Xena wasn’t being completely helpful, and the bard wasn’t completely sure that she wasn’t going to wake up one morning and find the warrior gone.
“You see, Ephiny, it all started with a gift from Aphrodite…” Gabrielle began. When she had finished her tale, she almost laughed at the slack-jawed look on the regent’s face.
“So you mean that you two are going to have a baby?” she asked stupidly, looking back and forth between the warrior and the bard.
“Looks that way,” Xena drawled.
“And so you see why we need to be joined, right?” Gabrielle asked hopefully.
“Uh, of course I do. I’ll see to making the arrangements as soon as possible,” Ephiny replied, pushing back from the table.
“Don’t bother,” Xena said sharply, causing the regent to freeze in her place.
“Xena, what are you talking about? I’m sure that Eph has a lot to do before we can have this shin-dig.” Confusion laced the bard’s words, and she looked at Xena with worried green eyes.
“Gabrielle, I said I’d come with you to the village. I did not, however, say that I would be joined with you,” Xena replied triumphantly.
“What in Hades are you talking about? Xena, we discussed this and we both agreed that…” Gabrielle started, before Xena cut her off.
“No, you discussed this and you agreed. I don’t quite recall ever agreeing,” she protested vehemently.
“And you wait until now to bring this up?” Gabrielle almost screamed. “I thought that this was settled. And now, here at the village and in front of our friend, you tell me no?”
“That’s pretty much it. You made the decision, not me,” Xena said, lounging back in her chair.
“I can understand it if you don’t want to join with me, Xena, but did you have to do it like this? I mean, so you don’t want me… tell me that on the road on the way here, not in front of someone else. I mean, I thought that you, I thought that we…” Gabrielle stopped, at a loss for words. Her eyes dropped to the table as she tried valiantly to hold back tears.
“Its not that I don’t want you,” Xena said, horrified to hear the hint of tears in her own voice. Ephiny looked at her in amazement, catching the sheen of liquid in the other woman’s eyes. Xena glared at her, or at least she attempted to glare. ‘I will not cry’ the warrior repeated mentally. ‘Warrior princesses do not cry.’ She sniffed piteously.
“Why?” Gabrielle asked, her voice broken, tears streaming down her face. It was too much for the warrior. Cursing her raging hormones, she burst into tears.
“I don’t want it to happen this way,” she wailed, feeling hot rivers running down her cheeks. “I don’t want you because your stupid honor makes you join with me. I want you to want me because of me, and not because of the baby. I don’t want you to do it because you feel like you have to. I want you to do it because you want to.”
Ephiny watched the scene unfold before her with incredulity. She knew she should leave the two alone to talk this out privately, but hard as she tried, she couldn’t manage to take a step.
Gabrielle rushed over to the warrior, dropping onto her knees before the woman and wrapping her fingers around her hands. Lifting a tear stained face, she took in a deep breath.
“Honey, is that what you really think? You know how much I love you, don’t you? True, the circumstances aren’t what I had hoped for, but I’ve never wanted anyone more than I want you. I’ve never loved anyone more than I love you, and I know that I never will. You mean everything to me. My heart lives right here, in the palm of your hand, and you could crush it easily if you wanted to. If you really don’t want to join with me, I won’t force you, but nothing would make me happier than to have you as my wife.” The words poured out of her in a rush.
“Really?” Xena asked, sniffing loudly, her lower lip quivering in a shadow of a pout.
“Really,” the bard affirmed, pulling the warrior’s head down to hers for a passionate kiss. Breaking apart moments later, she looked questioningly into her lover’s eyes.
“Yes,” Xena whispered, answering her unspoken plea. Breathing a sigh of relief, Gabrielle turned to the still stricken Ephiny.
“If you can manage to pry your feet off of that little bit of the floor, you might want to go ahead and let everyone know,” Gabrielle said sarcastically.
They both watched the regent’s retreating back in amusement as blond curls bobbed from side to side as a confused Ephiny tried to make sense of all she had just seen. It was too much, honestly, for her to bear. First she gets confirmation that the pair is together, then she finds out that they’re having a baby, and then Xena… well, Xena cried. She might have even whined a bit, the regent mused, shaking her head to clear it. Perhaps she had gotten hold of some henbane-laced nutbread. From what she understood, it would be the only thing strong enough to provide the hallucinogenic effect needed to imagine the warrior princess… whining.
“I… I’m sorry about that,” Xena sniffed, wiping her eyes violently with the backs of her hands. “I’m just so damned moody, and…”
“Hush, love.” A small finger silenced the flood of words. “I shouldn’t have taken anything for granted. I was just too caught up in what I wanted to think about what you wanted. I’m sorry I was so selfish. If I hadn’t been, maybe I could have taken the time to ask you right, maybe court you or something.”
“Court me?” Xena snorted, the corners of her mouth crinkling as she smiled.
“Yeah, what’s wrong with that,” the bard replied, her voice filled with faux huffiness. “I mean, its not everyday that I get the chance to coerce tall, beautiful, dark-haired warriors into joining with me. I might as well get it right the one time I do.”
Two Months Later
“Xena, please gods, a break,” Gabrielle panted, falling back onto the mattress in exhaustion.
“Come on Gabrielle,” the warrior pleaded, beautiful blue eyes looking into green beseechingly. “You don’t even have to do anything but lay back, okay.”
“NO… I mean, just give me a few minutes to recover, and I’ll be more than happy to rejoin you. Just a few minutes, I swear.” I’m begging, Gabrielle mused. Not 2 seasons ago I would have done anything to have this happen, and now I’m begging for a break. Wimp.
The joining had been beautiful, with the weather cooperating and the Amazons pulling out their ceremonial best. Wine had flowed freely, so freely that none had noticed when the Queen and her new consort had slipped off rather early in the celebrations, not to be seen, though one couldn’t say that they wouldn’t be heard from, again that night. After a little while of accustoming herself to the idea, Gabrielle found that she was quite pleased with the arrangement. She now had one reformed warlord, part and parcel, bound to her forever. It was a pretty heady thought, and one that she marveled at almost daily.
It had been a little difficult for Xena to settle into the rhythm of the village, especially after Gabrielle had caught her training with the warriors and thrown a full-out temper tantrum in front of all of her Amazons. Cheeks reddening with embarrassment as Gabrielle went from scolding to pleading to crying, the warrior had finally promised to stay away from all sharp objects and the people wielding them for the duration of her pregnancy. A teary-eyed bard, unconcerned that she had put on a spectacle for the entire village, had happily led Xena back to the Queen’s hut to show her just how happy she was that the warrior had seen the wisdom of her argument.
Of course, an inactive Xena was a dangerous Xena, and it wasn’t long before Gabrielle found herself as a test subject for various inventions. Putting up with the experimentation with what she considered good humor, she was happy when the warrior found something else to occupy her time. That was, however, until the warrior’s new diversion threatened to kill her.
Around the start of her fourth moon, Xena had become amorous. Actually, amorous wasn’t quite the word. Perhaps lust-filled and insatiable were better descriptors. Gabrielle would crawl out of bed after long nights of lovemaking, walking gingerly toward to food hut to gather together a suitable breakfast for her mate, who would wake up famished later on in the morning. After leaving the repast on the table so that it would be there for Xena when she awoke, it was off to some meeting or the other, or to the training ground to prove to her people that she wasn’t a sedentary leader, until her warrior tracked her down and pulled her back into the hut. After several hours, Gabrielle would once again extricate herself from the grip of the sleeping warrior and head off in search of food. Normally she’d leave the snack on the same table that received breakfast, and head back to the food hut for nourishment for herself.
Usually, a little bit later, she would be joined by her partner, who would finish off a full dinner of her own despite the earlier snack, and once again find herself being tugged urgently back to the hut. In the past three weeks, she hadn’t managed to get one single full night’s sleep, though Xena managed to sleep contentedly for long stretches of time after finally taking the edge off her lust. She knew she should be happy that the warrior was too tired after the marathon bouts of lovemaking to get herself into trouble, but if she couldn’t live through the pregnancy to actually see the birth of her child, it would be a really big bummer.
“Come on Gabrielle,” a sultry voice pleaded, and the little blond roused herself with effort.
Time to do my duty, she sighed, feeling questing hands trace over her flesh. Well, if I die, at least I die happy.
Three Months Later
“You don’t find me attractive anymore,” the warrior princess sobbed, unable and unwilling to stop the outpouring of emotion.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Gabrielle replied, truly concerned. While she had noticed that her partner was becoming a little more emotional as of late, this was by far the biggest outburst that she’d witnessed.
“I can tell, every time I look in your eyes,” Xena sniffed, turning sad big blue eyes filled with large, perfectly formed tears, up at her wife. “I wouldn’t find me attractive either. I’m so fat, and ugly, and swollen, and blotchy, and…”
Dropping to her knees, Gabrielle stemmed the flow of words with a quick, gentle kiss. Propping her head on the warrior’s swollen belly, she gingerly stroked the tight flesh, smiling up at the still sniffling warrior.
“Do you think this makes you unattractive to me?” she whispered, turning her head slightly so she could kiss her lover’s gloriously distended abdomen.
“Yes,” her consort replied, pouting.
“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” the bard said intensely, wrapping her arms around Xena. Or, at least, she tried to wrap her arms around her. She managed a pretty loving half-hug, though. “I’ve never seen you more beautiful. You glow, enchanting me the moment you walk into the room. I find myself breathless.”
“Waddle, you mean,” the warrior sniffed, though she perked up slightly.
“No, glide. Xena, I don’t know what to say. I’m humbled by you, in awe of the miracle of what you carry, right here,” she patted the ex-warlord’s belly, “and more in love with you right now than I ever have been. You couldn’t be more beautiful to me.”
“But all the other Amazons, with their skimpy little leathers and their toned little bodies…”
“Have nothing on you,” Gabrielle finished, reaching up to kiss the warrior tenderly. “Trust me on this one.”
Crawling up on the bed, the bard moved behind the warrior, sitting so that the larger woman was cradled in the vee of her thighs. Pulling back so that Xena’s back rested against her, she wrapped her arms lightly around her, letting her hands drop lightly on the top of the other woman’s large belly. Stroking in gentle circles, she bent her head slightly, moving Xena’s hair off of her shoulder with her chin so that she could perch there, looking down at her hands.
“My life is perfect,” the bard whispered brokenly, suddenly in awe of the two treasures she cradled.
One Week Later
Xena poked the slumbering bard in the side again, trying to rouse the notoriously heavy sleeper. Placing a hand under her belly, she scooted it over with the rest of her, moving closer to her wife.
“Honey, come on, wake up,” she said, gently shaking the other woman’s shoulder.
“Go ‘way,” the bard mumbled irritably.
Pushing against her shoulder harder, Xena was gratified when the bard rolled over, prying her eyes open to look at the dark-haired woman in confusion. Smiling radiantly at her, she chirped, “Good, you’re awake.”
“No, I’m not,” the Queen muttered darkly.
Another not so delicate push had the bard sprawled on the floor, looking up over the edge of the bed angrily.
“Well, since you’re up, how about going to get me some pickled pigs tails, okay honey,” Xena urged, trying to look properly contrite.
“That’s disgusting. Do you really want me to go find that for you?”
“Please,” the warrior wheedled, drawing the word out in her best pleading tone.
“Fine,” the other woman exclaimed, pushing up off the floor. “But don’t think you’re going to kiss me with those lips.”
“Hurry,” was her only reply, followed by yet another brilliant smile.
Cursing, shaking her head, the bard tromped out of the hut. It took her a half a candlemark to find what her wife had requested, and by the time she did, Xena didn’t want it anymore. So, she headed back out on another quest, hoping irrationally that someone would attack the village, right then, and need to take her hostage.
Two Weeks Later
“Queen Gabrielle, hurry,” the young Amazon cried breathlessly, rushing into the chamber housing her queen and a number of the village elders.
“Is it time?” the bard asked, concerned, jumping from her chair.
“Yes, your majesty,” the girl replied, barely managing to jump out of the way as the small blonde barreled past her. Racing through the village, Gabrielle skidded to a sudden stop, realizing that she had passed her hut three huts ago. Turning to head back in the other direction, she finally flew through the door to see the warrior princess laying rather calmly on the bed, legs spread and bent, a folded sheet covering the lower half of her body. Dropping to her knees beside the bed, Gabrielle peered up at her wife, concern written across the open planes of her face.
“Are you alright? Do you need anything? How can I help?” she asked in a jumble, eyes searching the small enclosure frantically, looking for some way she could be of assistance.
“Nothing you can do for me right now,” Xena said with a small chuckle. “Why don’t you go get something to eat. This could take a while.”
“No way. There’s no way that I’m leaving your side,” the bard vowed, clutching the warrior’s hand in her own smaller one.
“Then there’s nowhere I’d rather you be.”
Three Candlemarks Later
“You’re never touching me again, Gabrielle! Never, I mean it. I don’t care how horny you get,” the warrior cried out, clutching down fiercely on the bard’s hand as another contraction ripped through her. She was sweating profusely, her face red, tendrils of hair glued to her cheeks. Teeth were bared in a grimace as she pushed down, trying desperately to help the baby in its quest to be free of her womb.
“I’m so sorry, love,” Gabrielle almost cried before adding sheepishly, “I love you.”
“I don’t want to hear it right now,” Xena snapped, her eyes shooting daggers at the healer assisting with the birth.
“Can’t you do something?” Gabrielle asked frantically, her eyes pleading with the other woman. She would do anything to see her lover not in pain any more, especially if that meant she’d be able to pry her hand out of the death grip it was in now.
“Just be patient. I’d say its not long now,” the woman vowed, wanting out of there just as quickly as she could. Even in childbirth, the ex-warlord could scare the leathers off of her.
Half a Candlemark Later
“Gods, Xena, she’s beautiful. I’m so proud of you,” Gabrielle cooed, watching the inquisitive infant curl perfect tiny fingers around one of her own. Xena smiled, looking down into blue eyes that mirrored her own before sighing.
The baby was a perfect mix of the two, with Xena’s piercing blue eyes and delicately arched brows and straight nose, and the bard’s slim face and golden hair. She was a beautiful baby, and everyone agreed with her doting mothers when they pointed it out.
“She did turn out alright, didn’t she,” the warrior grunted, feeling her eyes droop tiredly.
“What should we name her?” the bard inquired, green eyes shining with almost unbearable love at her wife.
“How about Hannah?” Xena asked, one finger lightly tracing over wisps of blonde curls.
“That’s beautiful,” Gabrielle sighed, surprised. She hadn’t actually expected the warrior to have a name in mind, much less one that she liked as well.
Exhausted, the warrior slept.
Three Years Later
One very precocious, more cute than should be allowed, little blonde burst into her parent’s silent room, jumping on the bed between two slumbering bodies. She was a sturdy little girl, tall for her age, with the cunning nature of her dark-haired mother and her fair-haired mother’s ability to charm people with ease. Full of energy, and somehow able to get into more predicaments than should be humanly possible, she nearly ran both of her mothers ragged. Having settled near Amphipolis, but not too far from Amazon territory, the bard and the warrior had decided to take a bit of a break from the road. If someone came requesting Xena’s help, she would give it, but no longer did she roam the countryside, looking for ways to reform her soul. Instead, she found her reformation at home in the form of a little girl who was too smart for her own good and one loving, adoring wife.
“Morning!” the little girl called gleefully. “Guess who came to see me!”
Two sets of bleary eyes pried themselves open, and Xena stifled a groan. She loved her daughter, but sometimes she wasn’t quite sure whether or not she would live long enough to see her into adulthood. Whenever she would visit her own mother, collapsing wearily onto a bench in the inn, the older lady would just smile at her mirthfully. Finding it hard to walk in my shoes, daughter? the older woman would ask, gently reminding her tall daughter that she had been quite a handful herself.
“Who visited you, pumpkin?” Gabrielle asked, trying to focus in on the blonde blur rooting around in an attempt to find just the right spot.
“Aunt ‘Dite,” the little girl replied happily, finally finding just the right place between the two warm bodies on either side of her. “She said to give you a message.”
“Oh,” Xena drawled, already feeling a sense of resignation wash over her.
“Yep. She said to tell Mommy,” the little girl turned to the now awake bard, “surprise!”
With a groan, Gabrielle rolled onto her back, trying to block out the sounds of her warrior’s dark chuckle mixing in with her daughter’s gleeful laugh.
“What’s wrong with Mommy, Mama?” Hannah asked, giggling at Gabrielle’s antics.
“Looks like I’m going to be a daddy,” Xena murmured softly in response to the child’s question, finding, strangely, that the notion wasn’t at all unpleasant. “How would you like a little brother or sister?”
“Really?” the toddler gasped, blue eyes alight with pleasure.
“Only if you’re good,” the warrior teased, flipping over to face her young daughter, running fingers up and down Hannah’s sides until the child erupted in laughter. From the other side of the bed, she thought she heard the bard mutter faintly, “Cursed, interfering, meddling immortals…”