DISCLAIMERS: Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer, Alti, Ares, KAo Hsin, Argo, Handsome, Eli and Amarice are all characters that were created by Pacific Rennaisance studios, and are licensed by Studios USA. My use of them here is strictly for fun, not for profit. I also am aware that they lost Amarice long before this, but I needed her so I used her like the bit (oops, never mind). Anyway, fantasy within fiction within fantasy. It all adds up to a bit of fluff that just had to be yep it did.
SPOILERS: This does take place during Season Five. I dont think I really cross any spoiler lines, but you never can be too sure. So, if you are not in a viewing area that is showing Season Five, and do not want to be spoiled, please dont read this.
Subtext: Yes, but of a PG-13 nature. They love each other, and they kiss, maybe once. Cant like it, cant accept it, please dont read it.
Violence: Implied, but not graphically.
AND GABBY MAKES THREE
Gabrielles eyes tracked Xena as she brought down the last raider. Releasing her war cry, Xena flipped backwards and let loose with one last kick into the mans head as she landed lightly back on the ground. Amarice and Joxer ran to her side, fussing over her, making sure she was not injured considering her condition. Xena assured them that she was fine, better than ever.
Gabrielle shook her head and wandered back to their camp. Tears threatened to come spilling down her bruised cheeks. She was not crying because she was injured, her tears came unbidden from the shaking in her heart. More and more as Xenas pregnancy progressed they were being thrown into increasingly dangerous situations. Alti should have been the wake up call. And then Chin. After that whole mess she should have tried to talk Xena into settling down until the birth.
If something happens to this baby, it will be my fault. Xena still thinks she needs to protect me I think. Maybe I am a danger to her. I mean, I know we are destined to be together, but maybe she needs her space. Perhaps I should leave for a while. The simple fact she got pregnant without my knowledge doesnt say much for our "relationship" anyway. Maybe I was a diversion after all. I know she says she doesnt know how it happened, but still she could be just trying to cover up a mistake. Could it be that I am misinterpreting what our destiny together means? Whatever it is, I just dont think Im wanted here anymore, maybe Im just in the way.
Lost in her thoughts, Gabrielle barely noticed when the others had returned. Joxer immediately spotted her sitting on a log near the fire, and rushed over to join her. Ever since he had declared his love for her, he wouldnt leave her alone. Glaring at him out of the corner of her eye, she grabbed her weapons, and stalked off into the woods not even affording Xena a second glance.
Gabrielles departure did not go unnoticed by Amarice. "Geez, what flew up her ?"
"Amarice!" Xena stopped the annoying girl before she could finish her sentence.
Wishing for the hundredth time that Amarice had not caught up to them after they had left her with the Northern Amazons, Xena stepped over to Joxer, casually grabbed him by the front of his clothes, and pulled him into a standing position.
"What did you say to her?" Xena hissed menacingly.
"I I Xena I didnt say anything. Really, she didnt give me a chance. She did look a little battered though." Joxer pleaded, hoping Xena wouldnt hurt him.
Pulling Joxer closer, Xena gave him her most venomous glare. "I hope youre telling the truth, because if youre not "
Dropping him with a loud thunk to the ground, Xena stalked off into the woods. Truth be told she was on the border of either fainting or puking, but she didnt want either of them to know. When Joxer had said that Gabrielle had looked battered, her heart immediately froze in fear.
Not now Gabrielle, not ever. Please dont be hurt. I know youre angry with me for getting pregnant. If I could only get you to understand that I really, really dont know who the father is. I love you, I want you to share this joy with me. We both need to be parents to this child. It needs to have both of us love it, and teach it to be right with the world, to carry on our legacy for the greater good!
Stopping for a moment to listen to the sounds of the woods, she almost missed Gabrielle. Xenas pregnancy had made subtle changes in her abilities, and not all were for the better. Her speed, agility, and strength gave her an almost feral quality. But her hearing, emotions, and awareness of her surroundings were shaky at best. In Chin, when she was filled with Lao Mas power, she never felt more alive. Turning her thoughts to KAo Hsin she smiled with the pleasant thoughts that encounter brought back to her soul. Whoever would have believed that she would have Lao Mas memory live on in the heart of one of her daughters. It was a shame that KAo Hsins sister was so totally different, the epitome of greed and self-serving evil.
Gabrielle watched Xena from a distance. Silently counting to herself, she was not surprised when after a short span of time Xena changed direction, and returned to the camp, Gabrielle or her destination completely forgotten. Taking the sai from her boots, she nearly exploded with anger and frustration. Lashing out at the trees and bushes with her weapons she fought, kicked, and slashed at her unseen enemy. Exhausted, she collapsed to the ground, tears flowing from her eyes, her body wracked with sobs.
Xena arrived back at the campfire, surprised to see that Gabrielle had not returned yet. Settling in next to the fire, she pulled her coat around her ever-increasing middle, shivering slightly at the cold breeze that slipped quietly into the circle. Joxer and Amarice stared at her wide-eyed. Amarice, never the one to know when to keep her mouth shut, was the first to speak.
"Umm, Xena? Did you forget something?" Amarice tilted her head for emphasis.
"Forget what Amarice? Weve got food, a fire, and pretty soon here Im going to call it a night, because tomorrow well hit the next village, and I promised myself and Gabrielle that " The words died on her lips as the memory of why she had gone out to the woods came flooding back.
Standing up from her seat, Xena almost blacked out at the sudden flow of blood to her brain. Stopping for a moment to regain her balance, she shook her head to clear her thoughts. Turning to head back out into the woods to find Gabrielle, she was stopped by the sudden appearance of her missing love at the edge of the flickering firelight. Quickly making her way to Gabrielles side, she was stunned when she was shrugged aside as the angry blond passed by her.
As Gabrielle passed by Xenas reaching hands, she had to fight herself not to fall into that much missed embrace. Her body was aching with the pain of so many weeks without feeling her lovers touch. She couldnt remember the last time they had a moment to themselves, or when was the last time that they had just held each other. The more she thought about it, the more it hurt. As far as she could remember, they hadnt really even hugged since they had died at Caesars hands. Striding over to her bedroll, she pulled it away from Xenas, and rolled it up. Grabbing her saddlebags she knelt for a moment and rifled through one of them. Finding what she was looking for, she withdrew the bag that she kept their money in. She shook five dinars out into her hand, and then tossed the bag to Xena.
Xena was shaken out of her shock as the rather heavy bag smacked her in the chest plate. Rapidly striding over to where Gabrielle was carefully packing her things, she stopped short, suddenly uncertain whether or not she should come any closer. Bending closer to the tousled blond hair, she reached tentatively with her hand. Xena was startled at how much it shook. Gabrielle was careful not to let on that she had noticed.
"Gabrielle I are you okay?" Xenas voice trembled giving away her fear.
"Im fine." Gabrielle replied through clenched teeth.
"Im sorry, I guess I havent been myself lately. Please, talk to me?" Xena pleaded with her recalcitrant mate.
"Nope. Now is not a real good time for me to talk to you. Youre busy, and I just seem to be in the way. AMARICE! JOXER! Saddle up Handsome for me, I have some riding to do." Gabrielle turned away anxious to tear her gaze from the pain reflected in Xenas crystal blue gaze.
Suddenly needing to be anywhere but there, the two tag-a-longs ran quickly to do the Amazon Queens bidding. The last thing they wanted was to become the focus of her anger. And as curious as they were, they decided it was best that they leave some space between themselves and the two arguing lovers.
"Gabrielle. Where are you going? You cant just leave. You cant just leave me behind." Sobs broke Xenas pleas.
Standing and looking down into Xenas eyes, Gabrielle fought hard with herself over her next move. "I have to. You left me behind when Eli brought us back from the dead. I accepted that there would be more healing time. That we needed to recover from Heaven and Hell, and the battle. You dont need me anymore. Our destiny is to be together, and we always will be. But right now I need some time to think to think about where I fit in your life. Wake up Xena! You havent noticed me for more than five seconds since we came back. I LOVE YOU! But you havent wanted me, or held me or even noticed me much over the last several weeks. And now youre pregnant, and we dont even know how! Think about it. When was the last time you were attracted to me?"
Without waiting for an answer, Gabrielle stalked over to her horse, and after a small struggle to get up into the saddle (with a helping hand from Joxer), pointed him in the direction of the next village. Before she left the last glow of the fire, she risked a glance back. Xena had slipped to her knees, her hands covering her face. Her shoulders shook with the weight of the sobs that poured from her heart. Gabrielle couldnt look any longer. Glancing over to Amarice, she told her they could find her at the Inn at the village. With that, she gave Handsome a nudge, and they disappeared into the darkness.
Gabrielle rode on in silence, the sound of her horses hooves in the dust almost mesmerizing her into sleep. Her head was spinning. Was her outburst back there the most stupid thing shes done lately?
How can I be so selfish? I said so myself, I love Xena. But things have been so confusing since our return from oblivion. Does she love me? Would she want me to share the baby with her? I mean I killed her other son, who would want to take that risk? And then there was Hope. She keeps forgetting me, ignoring me. That could be her subtle way of letting me down easy. One things for sure, if she hooks up with the father, Ill have to leave. I wont be able to stay with her and watch that happen before my eyes. Maybe its better I leave now and get it over with.
"AAAAAAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!" Gabrielles scream was so loud it scared her horse, and was heard all the way back at the campfire.
Handsome snorted, and almost reared up on his hind legs. He realized after a moment, that his mistress was in distress, and stopped himself from throwing her to the ground. He stood still for a moment, and turned his head back, eye-balling Gabrielle before he tried to speak to her.
"Gabrielle, she loves you as well. Human women are well different when they are with child. Their focus adjusts, attitude changes, and their own opinion of themselves changes. Perhaps you are caught in the maelstrom of female human emotional chemical discharge that seems so prevalent in your kind." Handsome waited to see if she understood.
"Do you think? I mean sure women are emotional, what with all of those hormones floating around, but still. How could she forget me? Do you realize she hasnt even let me touch her stomach to feel the baby lately. I just feel so left out, unloved. Gods, and the food weve been eating. If I dont stop eating with her, I am going to have to buy some sort of leather muu muu or something."
Gabrielle had not realized yet that she was conversing with her horse.
"You see. You dont really want to leave now do you? So often you two have such a problem communicating. I suggest that when Xena reaches the Inn tomorrow, that you attempt to form some sort of peaceful venue, and speak to her honestly about your feelings. I am sure you will find that she is unaware of the distance she may have put between you. And honestly Gabrielle, she really does not know how she got pregnant, nor who the father is. She certainly has no intentions of leaving you ever." Handsome began to continue his slow walk to the village.
"Are you sure? I mean, most of the time she doesnt even see me, let alone even one small kiss. Gods, I ache for her touch, her attention. Hey since when do you know how we communicate. You just got here not too long ago. Has Argo been gossiping about us? Boy, see if I give her anymore apples after this." Gabrielle frowned.
Handsome knew better than to answer her for the time being. He just snorted happily, glad that she at least understood this much. Humans can be such a bother sometimes. He realized that they could be companionable, and were a great source for apples, and other delightful tidbits, but some of them were impossible to train. They injured each other and their animals. It was wrong that they should treat others that way. Handsome was very glad that he finally gave into Gabrielles attempts to win him over. Besides, Argo was quite the looker. Who knows, maybe someday they may have children of their own.
Back at the campfire, Amarice and Joxer were doing their best to keep Xena from following Gabrielle. The angry, heartbroken warrior was struggling to walk, Joxer doing his best to hang on to her leg, and keep from being whacked with the hilt of her sword. Amarice dodged back and forth in front of Xena, fighting the urge to grab her arms and restrain her. She was certain that if she tried, Xena would break both of them.
Xena stopped, feinted left, and zigged right. Shaking her leg, she managed to loosen herself from Joxers grasp. A well, placed hand on Amarices back moved her enough to allow Xena clear passage. Heading for Argo, she prepared the warhorse for travel.
"Xena wait!" Joxer called.
"Wait for what Joxer. I need to go to her she needs me. And even if she doesnt, I need to talk to her." Xena continued readying Argo.
"Xena be reasonable. If she wanted to talk, she wouldnt have left. Give her some time to herself. Let her think. Gabrielle will be better in the morning." Even as annoying as she could be sometimes, Amarice made some sense.
Xena stopped working on Argo. Refusing to remove her saddle and bags, she left her faithful companion at the ready just in case. Returning to her place by the fire, she stared at the flames ignoring the other two. They sat quietly, hands folded in their laps, casually pretending to be invisible, to no avail.
Joxer, forever not thinking before speaking, suddenly had a revelation. "Soooo, Xena? This love thing between you and Gabrielle, thats just a "friends thingy" right? I mean, heh heh, you guys dont really well, you know, do you?"
Amarices head spun so fast in his direction, she almost gave herself whiplash. "Oh boy! Are you ever stupid. Did you really think that an Amazon Queen would fall in love with you? Wake up and smell the goat dung buddy. Xena is Gabrielles consort. Or are you so slow you missed that whole part of their life together. For Goddesses sake Joxer! Youve known them for how many years now, and you are just this moment catching on? Sheesh, get a life."
"AMARICE!! Do you have to be so crass. Give the guy a break. Sometimes men are blinded by their emotions, and they dont see whats hap DAMN! Im the one thats stupid. Right there under my nose, and I missed it. I have to get to Gabrielle." Xena stood and prepared to mount Argo and follow Gabrielle to the village. Too late, because Joxer was already in the saddle and almost out of site.
"JOXER!! COME BACK HERE WITH MY HORSE!!" Xenas face was purple she was so angry.
Joxer looked back trying hard not to fall off the horse. "ILL SEND HER BACK XENA. I JUST CANT STAY HERE ANYMORE. I NEED TO TALK TO GABRIELLE!"
Amarice was dumbfounded. Standing between Xena and the rapidly retreating horse and rider she couldnt decide whether or not to cry, throw up or run. She realized immediately, that it was her fault for hurting Joxers feelings. Sometimes she can be so stupid.
"Umm Xena? Xena Im sorry. You probably really want to kill me about now. And uh, I dont blame you. Sometimes I shoot my mouth off and " She stopped when she saw the look of death in Xenas eyes.
"Stop talking Amarice. Gabrielle is not here to protect you right now, and Ive had just about all I can take. We can all be a little less than polite to Joxer. Gabrielle and I were aware of his inability to realize the scope of our relationship. We had decided that if he didnt catch on soon, Gabrielle was going to break it to him gently. So hes not the sharpest spear in the army, thats no reason to hurt him."
Returning to the edge of the fire, Xena added more wood realizing that the likelihood of getting any sleep was slim to none.
Feeling positively ill, Amarice took her place on the other side of the fire, as far away from Xena as she could get. The idea did not escape her that she should start making plans to return to the Northern Amazons. She was only supposed to deliver a message to Xena, and come back as soon as possible. She still had a lot to learn about the Amazons, and apparently, people in general.
Xenas thoughts returned to Gabrielle. She searched through her mind, trying desperately to figure what went wrong, and when it went wrong. Going back to when they returned from death, she thought about whether or not they had actually had any time together. Eli, Amarice, and Joxer had been with them for a while, and then just Amarice and Joxer. And of course there was that bad spot with Alti, and the visit to the Northern Amazons. Then there was Chin and Lao Mas daughters.
Gabrielle was right of course. Xena hadnt really even held her close, even when they came back from Hell. What was wrong? Was it the baby? No. Did she not love Gabrielle anymore? NO! Is it because they just havent had time, and both of them are really worn out? Possibly. (Could it be TPTB are inadvertently letting their fans down? Too soon to tell.) Vowing to find Gabrielle as soon as possible when her horse returned, she silently planned what she was going to say.
That was when they heard Gabrielles scream
Gabrielle rode for two or three hours before she noticed the first torch lights in the distance. Her journey had been largely uneventful, with the exception of ongoing attacks of heart-wrenching sobs, and periodic conversations with her horse. It finally hit during one of the last times that they spoke to each other, that she was actually talking to a horse. She supposed it couldnt be too strange, since Xena talked to Argo all of the time.
Before long, Gabrielle rode up to the front of the Inn. It wasnt hard to figure out where it was since there was a lot of noise and ruckus coming from inside. Seeking out the stable nearby, she shouldered her saddlebags, and whispered to Handsome that she would be out later with apples. Approaching the door, she took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and adopted her toughest dont mess with me face.
Grabbing the handle, she gave the door a mighty tug. Not realizing that the door had great hinges, she let go and it swung back and hit the wall with a resounding crash. The entire Inn fell silent waiting to see what new terror the night had brought with it. Blushing furiously, Gabrielle almost changed her mind and ran for the stable, more willing to spend the night with her horse, than be embarrassed by her dramatic arrival.
Stepping across the threshold, she immediately began apologizing to everyone within earshot about the noise.
"Sorry sorry fast hinges sorry you can go back to your drinks now sorry dont know my own strength, heh sorry." Gabrielle refused to make direct eye contact with anyone in the room.
Approaching the Innkeeper, she stood waiting while he finished pouring ale and trading stories with a couple of Traders. Once he was finished, he began to step away to the other end of the bar, when he noticed the fidgety blond out of the corner of his eye.
"So there muscles what can I do fer ya?" He chuckled good-naturedly.
Blushing again, Gabrielle glanced around before answering. "Umm, could I get a room with a bath, and a large mug of ale. Yeah, thats it, Ill have some ale."
Eyeballing her again, the Innkeeper looked around to see what she was looking at. Not finding anything in particular, he poured the ale, then gave her directions to her room.
"And Ill send someone up ahead of ya to pour the hot water for your bath. How long are ya plannin on stayin? Its a dinar a night just sos ya know." He waited patiently for her answer.
"Oh, at least a night or two. I might have someone joining me tomorrow. Im expecting to meet a friend sometime about midday." Gabrielle replied, still watching the room.
Taking her mug of ale, she slipped to the back of the room, sitting at a small table, her back to the wall where she could see the entire area. She did a visual check to see if there was anyone that might threaten her, and seeing that the group was pretty normal, settled back to think for a bit. While she sipped her ale, she allowed a little bit of her Bardic inclinations to slip out. For fun, she started to mentally make up stories about the various people drinking and talking around her. Most of them were Traders, or local villagers. A couple of rough looking men were on the opposite side of the pub playing some kind of betting game, but they seemed to be well into their brew, and pretty harmless.
When the story game got boring, her thoughts turned to Xena. Gabrielle had really begun to worry about whether or not it was such a good idea leaving her out in the woods with only Joxer and Amarice to protect her. She was also wondering if maybe this had all been her imagination that she was overreacting to some mysterious hormone cloud just like Handsome said she was.
Several candlemarks passed, when Gabrielle realized that the Innkeepers daughter had been by several times to fill her mug. Oh No! Im thinkin I maybed lost count. Oh oh, Xena will be mad at me fer shore. Ohhh noooo, Xenies not eben here wit me. Damn, thats didnt taken furry longs for me to get smash-ed. I should go to beddy-bye now, but heh, Ahm a big girl, and Ahm on my own. Soooo, I can do anythin I am wanting toooo. HA! The only thin I am wantin to do is be with Xenie! Waahhhhhh!
Far into her mugs, and depressed about Xena, Gabrielle somehow missed Joxers arrival. He had ridden up on Argo, and after getting his foot stuck in the saddle, and landing on his head on the ground, he finally turned the horse back to return to her mistress. He made her promise to tell Xena he was sorry, even though Argo would no more speak to him than she would fly by flapping her tail.
Grabbing the door handle in much the same way that Gabrielle had, he flung it backwards, but instead of hitting the wall, it swung back and smacked him in the face. Stumbling backwards down the steps, Joxer managed to make even more noise with the clanking of his armor than he did with the door. When he finally regained his footing, the noise in the pub had resumed. Putting on his best "I am the great Joxer " face, he stepped in, making sure that he watched the door this time.
Stepping up to the bar, he addressed the Innkeeper in his loudest warrior voice. "Ho there Innkeeper. Have you seen a diminutive blond woman warrior in these parts?"
Looking at him like he was nuts, the Innkeeper almost didnt answer him. "I mightve. And you dont need to be so loud there fella, I can hear jest fine. Now who might ya be, and why might ya be lookin for this small blond woman warrior?"
"Why, Im Joxer the mighty and she is my friend." Joxer boomed.
Deciding that it would be better if he put Joxer off the trail, he offered him a mug of ale, and then sent his daughter to take Gabrielle up to her room. Making small talk, and keeping Joxer occupied was no great problem, and when the two women made it past him, the Innkeeper promised that he would keep his eye out for her.
Joxer made his way to the same table that Gabrielle had just left. Eyeballing the crowd, he resolved to sit there until Gabrielle showed up. Or until he got tired, or drunk, or both. Getting bored pretty fast, he decided to see if he could find something to do. Wandering over to the betting games, he bumbled his way into playing a few games of chance with the rough guys. They immediately took him for a boob, and drunkenly planned their strategy to take all of his dinars. Unfortunately for them, Joxer was on a bit of a roll, and started winning every round.
The Innkeepers daughter, Meara, had taken Gabrielle under the arm, and practically carried her up the stairs. The combination of too much ale, and an afternoon of battle, mixed with a good dose of depression and tears pushed the blond warrior over the edge rather quickly. Kicking open the door to her room, Meara led her over to the bed and dropped her on it sideways.
While Gabrielle dozed for a moment, Meara filled the tub with pleasantly warm water, and then began the task of undressing the drunken woman. Hmmm, this little warrior woman sure is nice looking. Even under the bruises shes got a great body. I wonder if shes single. Father would kill me if he found out, but Gods is she hot!
Slipping Gabrielles boots off, Meara was slightly surprised when she saw the Sai in their holders. She thought they were an unusual weapon, and made a promise to herself to stay only on the warriors good side. Placing the dozing blonds arms around her neck, she pulled her into a sitting position, attempting to remove her long coat. The drunken dead weight pulled the smaller woman back down, pulling the much taller Meara over on top of her.
"Mmmm, Xena, you sure smell great. Have you been bakin bread? Wow, being with a baby might suit ya after all. Ive been missing yooouuuu. Give us a kissy wissy." Gabrielles eyes were still closed, not realizing that she was holding the wrong woman.
Meara panicked not sure what to do, whispering, "Umm, tell you what, why dont you get in the tub, before the water gets cold and Ill wash your back. Then Ill give you a kiss later."
Quickly dimming any candles that might give away her identity, she got behind Gabrielle, and after helping her remove the rest of her clothing, led her to the tub filled with steaming water. Gabrielle slid down until the water was just below her chin. Blowing bubbles in the water, she hummed to herself. Believing that Xena had gotten there and that everything was going to be just fine, she couldnt be happier.
Meara was panic-stricken. She wouldnt mind a little roll with this truly magnificent little blond, but she also heard Xenas name mentioned. That could only mean one person. If she was ever found out, she was sure that would be the end of her life. Since the blond warrior was more than likely referring to Xena, Warrior Princess, then this must be the infamous Gabrielle. Oh well maybe a stolen kiss or two wont be noticed. She certainly is attractive. I dont remember hearing that she was a warrior though. For some reason I thought she was just a Bard.
Deciding that she couldnt pass up this opportunity, she threw caution to the wind, and after a pointedly sensual bathing of the blond, she helped her back to the bed, and let her lust take over. After all, what other reason would she have had to pour all that ale, except to take advantage of a poor drunken, cute warrior. Gabrielle responded to Mearas first tentative kiss enthusiastically. Still not realizing that it was not her beloved she was attempting to seduce, she allowed her hands to take over and wander down Mearas ample frame.
Suddenly Gabrielle was wide-awake. This is very definitely not Xena. OH GODS! Who is this? And why are they taking advantage of me this way? Oh Xena, how could I do this to you? Suddenly feeling very naked, and now extremely sick to her stomach Gabrielle pushed Meara away, and ran to the window, immediately throwing up the entire contents of her stomach onto the street below.
Realizing that she had been discovered, Meara made a hasty dash for the door. Gabrielle turned, and grabbing one of her sai from her boot on the floor, threw it in the general direction of the retreating feet. The weapon struck Meara on the back of the head, and stunned her enough to make her fall to her knees. Grabbing her coat and covering herself with it, Gabrielle landed on Meara with her knee firmly planted in the small of her back. Gripping one of the womans free arms, she yanked it up to the middle of her shoulders, exerting just enough pressure to keep her immobile.
"Who are you? And why have invaded both my person and my privacy this way?" Gabrielle growled.
"Oh, owww. Im sorry, I meant you no harm. My name is Meara, Im the Innkeepers daughter. I saw you there alone, and well its been such a long time since Ive been with someone well like me that I guess I couldnt control myself. I should have told you who I was when you first thought I was Xena. Im sorry." Meara sounded whiny and petulant.
"SORRY! Youre sorry? How in the Goddess names am I going to explain this to " Gabrielles fury was interrupted by another trip to the window to expel the fowl contents of her stomach.
Just as Gabrielle stuck her head out the window, a group of three rough looking men tossed a fourth man out the door, and into the dirt. Gabrielles aim was true, and she managed to launch right onto the hapless warriors shoes. Realizing that someone had just vomited on him, Joxer peered up at the window ready to let fly with a few expletives. Recognizing the white blond hair of his hearts desire, he stopped short.
"HEY! GABBY! WHATRE YOU DOING UP THERE? AND HOW COME YOU JUST THREW UP ON MY SHOES? THEY TOLD ME YOU WERENT EVEN HERE." Joxer was a little on the drunk side himself. He had managed to win most of the rough guys money, but spared no expense on ale.
Quickly falling back into the room, Gabrielle covered her eyes with her hands. "Oh my Gods, it cant get any worse than this!"
Meara pulled her self up off the floor, satisfied that Gabrielle was more than likely not going to kill her. She was debating whether or not to slip out and pretend that nothing happened, when someone knocked loudly at the door.
Gabrielle jumped up, and holding her coat closed with one hand, covered Mearas mouth with the other. Gesturing with her eyes to "keep your mouth shut", the two women listened wide-eyed, waiting to see if the person on the other side of the door had decided to leave.
"GABRIELLE!" Joxer shouted from the hallway outside her door. "I REALLY NEED TO TALK TO YOU! PUHLEEEEEEAAAAASSSSSEEEEE?"
"Not now Joxer! I dont feel well, and I dont feel like talking to anyone. GO AWAY!" Gabrielle shouted through the wooden door.
"WHAT? I CANT HEAR YOU. LET ME OPEN THIS DOOR SO I CAN STOP SHOUTING." Joxer made a grab for the handle.
Without thinking, Meara grabbed one of the water buckets, and pretended to be adding more to the tub, while Gabrielle pulled her coat tighter, and made a dash for the windowsill. She had just seated herself on the edge, when Joxer came blustering in.
"Wow, how come its so dark in here? Oh, excuse me, I was looking for my friend Gabrielle. I must have the wrong room." Joxer was preparing to back out the door, when he saw Meara instead of Gabrielle.
"Oh, no problem, Im the Innkeepers daughter. I was just bringing more water." Meara blurted out in a rush. Making a beeline for the door, she slipped out before anyone could stop her.
"Hey Gabrielle. So whats new? I was passing by, and oh, I guess that doesnt sound right does it?" Joxer began mumbling to himself, trying to find a way to tell Gabrielle why he was really there.
Misinterpreting his intentions, Gabrielle began to be concerned that there was something wrong with Xena. Stepping away from the window, but being careful not to get too close, she pulled her coat tighter still, wishing she had the rest of her clothes on.
"Joxer, is Xena all right? Did she send you? Shes not ill or injured is she?" Gabrielle was beginning to panic.
"Uh, oh, no. I well, I was sitting with her and Amarice at the fire, and well, a thought occurred to me and so I asked. Gabby? Are you and Xena lovers?" The pleading tone to his voice softened Gabrielles heart.
"I, uhh, well, yes we are er, or were anyway before we were killed and brought back again. We havent been very close lately, and thats kinda why I had that tantrum and left. I mean with Xena being pregnant and all, and us not knowing who the father was I guess I just dont know where I stand anymore." Gabrielle watched Joxer closely for his reaction, regretting that she had said anything, but relieved that the game was finally over.
Letting out a breath he had no idea he was holding, Joxer stumbled to the windowsill and sat down, his head in his hands. He was so still, Gabrielle couldnt decide whether or not he was crying, or contemplating throwing himself out the window. She was about to approach him, when he finally looked up at her, definitely signs of tears in his eyes.
"Joxer, I dont know what to say. I really thought you knew, until you made your declaration a few weeks ago. I just havent been able to find the right way to tell you." Gabrielle felt so sorry for him at that moment.
"Yeah, well. I guess I really am the stupid moron everyone thinks I am. All these years, and I never noticed. Honestly Gabrielle, I dont think Im that stupid. I just didnt really want to admit it, and well its not like you were real public or anything. Truly, Im happy for you. I will always have a place for you in my heart, but I promise Ill stop bugging you." The sadness in Joxers voice was enough to make Gabrielle start to cry.
"Oh, Joxer, thats great. I really appreciate your support, and Im very sorry that you had to get hurt by all of this. Is that why you left, to come and tell me this?" Gabrielle wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her coat.
Joxer gazed out the window for a moment, deciding whether or not to tell Gabrielle the truth. "Um, not exactly. The actual reason isnt that important anymore. The important thing is that weve talked, and were still friends. The other was just another one of those things I have to deal with on occasion. Can I tell you something else?"
Gabrielle was surprised, she had no idea Joxer was capable of the "sensitive talk" mode of communication. "Yeah, sure, go right ahead."
"I may not always be the smartest, or the bravest, but you know you and Xena will always have my heart. Most people dont realize it, but sometimes the things they say to me really hurt. Way deep down inside. Sure, theres been a lot of times when Ive just wanted to go off by myself, and leave all my friends behind. But the honest truth about that, is that Im too afraid. My family doesnt want me, and most of my friends dont either. Thats why I put up with the abuse. Its that, or a life of complete loneliness. Anyway, enough of this drivel. The sun is coming up soon, and Xena will be here. You two have a lot to talk about. When I left, she was an emotional wreck." Joxer stood, and prepared to head downstairs to talk to the Innkeeper about getting a room for him self.
"Joxer I dont know what to say. Im so sorry if Ive hurt you all of these years. I guess there is so much I took for granted, and I never really saw the real you. I apologize." Gabrielle stood, and crossed the room to give him a hug.
"Its okay, I still love you. Just dont tell Xena I said so, okay?" Placing a small kiss on her chin, he clanked his way out the door and down the stairs to the pub.
Gabrielle quietly closed the door behind him. Leaning against it for a moment, she suffered a great pang of regret. All these years shes treated him so poorly, and underneath it all he knew it, and just didnt say anything. She would have to tell Xena all about it when she got there. Oh Gods! Xena! What am I going to do about that woman, and the kisses. Ohhhh, my head!
And with that thought, Gabrielle was back at the window again.
Xena paced. Ever since she had heard Gabrielle cry out, she had been positively inconsolable. She kicked the rocks, bushes and anything else that got in her way. She knew she would not be capable of making the trip on foot. The pregnancy was too far along to risk it. Still, what if Gabrielle had been injured or captured.
At this rate, she would be willing to face a lifetime in prison for murdering Amarice and Joxer, if so much as one hair on Gabrielles head had been harmed.
"AMARICE!" Xena yelled for the surprisingly scarce pest.
"Yes, Xena, your majesty, right away." Amarice skittered to a stop, several feet away from the pacing warrior.
"Stop calling me your majesty, before I slap you sideways. How long has it been since Joxer left? I want to figure out when my horse will be back." Xena snarled.
"Um, at least three and a half candlemarks, I think." Amarice was too afraid to look Xena in the eyes.
Ever since the skirmish that afternoon, everything had gone straight downhill. Amarice really wished she had talked the Northern Amazons into sending someone else to carry messages to Xena and Gabrielle. So far, she hadnt done a single thing right. She needed more time, to learn how to act properly, to mature more.
Xena, lost in her thoughts, was startled when Argo came galloping into camp. As anxious as she was to get in the saddle, and hurry to Gabrielle, she knew that the warhorse needed to rest. Taking a moment to hold Argos head to her shoulder, she was surprised when the horse spoke to her.
Xena, you need to relax. Youre going to have that child before it is time if you dont slow down. Gabrielle is fine. I went by the stables on the way back, and talked to Handsome through a loose board. She is terrified of losing you Xena. She loves you more than you can even imagine. You have to understand that when Human women are with child, their emotions are out of control. I would venture to guess, that your little side trip through Hell had a much more profound effect on the two of you, than either of you is willing to admit. You have both been concerned in your hearts, about when the next "Rift" is going to come, than what your combined destiny actually means. You need to stop directing all of your energy to outside projects, and return it to where it is needed most Gabrielle.
Xena considered this most profound message that of all things, had been delivered by her horse. Here she is, the entire Known World of humanity within her reach, and the one being that has anything valid to say is her horse Argo.
"Since when are you so philosophical? And so long-winded. I thought Gabrielle was the "sensitive-chat" member of the family, but I guess I was wrong. I do love her Argo. She is my heart, my soul, the only person who can complete me. I just dont know why I feel like this. Like I have been running from everything. Almost as though Im waiting for her to reject me, to find someone else." Xena hunted in her bags, cursing her luck that Gabrielle had taken all of the apples.
Dont worry about the apples Xena, Im fine. I could use some water though. Umm, Xena? We have company Should I just kick him and get it over with?
A little later than usual, Xena felt the air shift. It could only mean one thing Ares. Tempted to let Argo have her way, Xena decided to find out just what had brought him at this worst possible time. Of course, she just answered her own question, it was the worst possible time.
"Go away, Ares." Xena sighed heavily.
"Awww, whats wrong Xena? Babys got the blues? Tell me wheres the blond? Oh, thats right, you dont know where she is. Hmm, whatll you give me if I tell you, its guaranteed to make you really angry." Ares reached out to touch Xenas stomach. She grabbed his hand and pushed it away before he could lay his hand flat.
Ares noted Amarice, and her intentions of whacking him from behind. Pointing a finger at her, he knocked her to the ground. Amarice jumped back to her feet, ready to run him through with her sword. Again he pointed his finger at her and knocked her to the ground.
"Goodness Xena, havent you taught her to mind her manners. Or does she need a little lesson in just who shes dealing with. How many more times do I have to give her the finger, before she catches on." Ares wound up, ready to strike again.
"Leave her alone, and dont touch me. And dont give me your crap about Gabrielle. I know where she is, and I dont want or need your help. Come on Argo, were leaving." Xena took her reins and prepared to mount the horse.
"Ah yes, you do know where she is, but I bet you dont know who shes with. It really is a shame Xena. Got so wrapped up in our baby, and forgot all about your little wench. Well, shes not waiting for you. Nope, shes moving on. Oh, shell still spend eternity with you, but shes certainly not going to well you know. Shes got someone else for that now." Ares smirked, waiting for the explosion he was sure was about to erupt.
Xena stepped up into the saddle. "Not your baby. It would serve me right if she did find someone else. And if she has, then its something I will have to live with. Now I have somewhere to go, so do your thing and disappear."
"How do you know its not my baby? It might be Xena, you just cant tell these things." Ares looked away, not too certain himself. He didnt remember doing anything with Xena that would cause a baby, and his powers seemed to be blocked by the little pollywog, but you never knew.
"I know, trust me. If you had anything to do with this, I would definitely know." Pointing Argo towards the road, Xena rode next to Amarice, and grabbed her arm pulling her up in back of the saddle.
Urging Argo back to the trail, the two women took off at a mild canter. Ares, angry that once again she had dismissed him with logic, blinked back to Mount Olympus. When Xena was sure he was gone, she let out the breath she had been so carefully holding in. He had stabbed her right in the heart when he began talking about Gabrielle having a tryst with someone else. But Xena was damned if she was going to let him know how much he had hurt her.
The sun had begun its slow morning climb peeking in and out of approaching rain clouds, by the time that Gabrielle finally cracked an eye. Sitting up, she quickly laid back down, the throbbing in her head making her hair hurt. Slowly the events of the prior night came creeping back into her consciousness.
Staggering to the tub, she dunked her head into the now cold water. The shock caused her to gasp for a moment, her heart pounding solidly in her chest. Carefully scanning the area, she managed to locate most of her clothing. Putting them on, was another thing entirely.
As she struggled with her boots, a soft knock sounded on the door. "Hello. Ms. Gabrielle? Its Meara, I wanted to apologize, and see if there was anything I could do for you."
Mentally, Gabrielle groaned. "Havent you done enough? What in Hades have I done to Xena? Shes liable to kill both of us."
"Can I come in so we can talk about this? Please, Ill stay on the other side of the room, I promise." Meara pleaded.
"Fine, whatever. Nothing matters much anymore anyway." Gabrielle sighed, resigned.
Slowly the door opened, and the Innkeepers daughter slipped in, quietly closing the door behind her. Gabrielle stared at her solemnly, wondering silently how she ever could have mistaken this woman for Xena and how she could have been so stupid. Vowing never to drink alcohol again, she wandered to the bed to sit down, waiting for whatever this this woman had to say.
"Okay. Um, I know this doesnt mean much, but when I realized who you were, and that you were alone, I assumed that you werent with Xena anymore, so to speak." Mearas words came out in a rush.
"Why would you assume that? Is it so unusual to see us apart? Maybe I was doing an errand, or on a separate mission. Ever think of that?" Gabrielle was beginning to shout.
"Shhh, the whole Inn and surrounding area will hear you. Some of these folks would be glad to hear, just to stir up trouble. Anyway, we had heard through stories, that you were never separated. That you were always at Xenas side. Naturally, when she wasnt here, and you looking so unhappy and all, well all I can say is Im sorry. I made a faulty assumption, and I shouldnt have. What can I say, youre terribly attractive, and I couldnt resist. Besides, it wasnt as though we slept together or anything." Meara tried to appeal to Gabrielles sensibilities.
"It doesnt matter, Meara, I was unfaithful to Xena, and thats all there is to it. I have to tell her, and then let her decide if she still wants me." Gabrielle looked to the floor, an unmeasureable sadness creeping into her voice.
Meara stepped out of the shadows, still maintaining an acceptable distance. "Gabrielle, why do you have to tell Xena? She wasnt here, and no one else knows what happened. It could be our secret, no harm done."
Gabrielle didnt even need to ponder her question. "Because Meara, thats not what it means to love someone as much as I love Xena. Weve been down an incredible road together, and have worked our way past the need for lies and falsehoods. I have to tell her. If she sends me away, then I deserve it. I should never have left her out there in the first place. Shes right though, I always seem to get myself into trouble. I need her in more ways than I can count."
Meara still didnt understand, but since she had never experienced a love like that, she really didnt have anything to draw from. Excusing herself, she promised to stay out of the way for the duration of their visit. She would return later if anything was needed.
Gabrielle settled into her own dark thoughts. She tried to think back to when all of this had started. When did they start to drift apart again? Or did they really start? The more she thought about it, the worse she felt. Laying her head back down, she began to drift off, when she heard the unmistakable sound of Xenas war cry. Sitting upright, again fast enough to cause a serious jolt to her brain, she edged to the window.
Xena was just setting Amarice on the ground, as Gabrielle looked out. Even though her back was turned, she felt a tug at her heart that could only mean Gabrielle. Looking up towards the window, she found herself unable to control the tears that began to slip from her eyes. Gabrielle was equally overcome. Bursting into tears, she crossed her arms on the windowsill, laying her head down, her shoulders moving uncontrollably with the pain she was suffering.
Fearing that she had been injured, or raped, Xena jumped from the saddle, nearly overbalancing herself and landing on her rear end. Amarice was beside her in a flash, and immediately helped her regain her footing. Shrugging off the assistance with a mumbled thanks, Xena handed Amarice the reins, and quickly strode through the door of the Inn. This time when Xena slammed the door, the patrons immediately quit talking. No one moved, no one made a sound. Except of course, Joxer. He had been sitting quietly in a corner eating some lunch.
"Xena, over here. Gabrielle is still in her room. Top of the stairs to your right. Kill me later, you need to go talk with her." Giving him a second look, Xena scowled and headed in the direction he was pointing.
Quickly taking the stairs, she avoided taking them two at a time in deference to the baby she was carrying. When she reached the door, she paused for a moment, listening for sounds coming from inside the room. Hearing only the sound of Gabrielles sobs, she tapped lightly, waiting for a response. Before she could put her ear closer to listen, the door flew open and her arms were completely filled with hysterical bard.
"Whoa! Hang on there. Youre gonna knock me on my rear end doing that. Come on now, tell me whats wrong. You didnt think I was going to leave you now do you? Honest Gabrielle, if Joxer hadnt taken off with Argo, I would have been here hours ago." Xena shifted Gabrielle, to make room for her ever- increasing stomach.
Pushing Gabrielle backwards into the room, Xena kicked the door shut. Placing her hand under Gabrielles chin, she tried to gently raise her face to look at her. Gabrielle buried herself deeper into Xenas coat, refusing to let the warrior see her face. She felt miserable, and wasnt certain whether or not she might have to run to the window to be ill yet again.
"Hey there. Sweetie? Look at me. Do I need to go kill someone? Honestly, after the night Ive had, it would be a welcome relief. Please tell me whats wrong." Xena pleaded with her grief stricken lover.
Gabrielle shook her head no. "I cant Xena. I cant tell you."
Even though the sounds were muffled by Xenas long winter coat, she had a pretty good idea of the meaning behind those words. Apparently Ares attempt at implicating Gabrielle in some clandestine tryst had not been too far from the truth. Steering Gabrielle towards the bed, Xena sat on the edge, forcing her to share the space with her.
"Okay, how about if I tell you. Ares stopped in our camp. His primary goal was as usual to find a way to drive a wedge between us. He seemed to believe that you were leaving me for someone else. Huh, what do you think of that guy?" Xena tried to laugh off the story, as though she never believed it.
Gabrielle finally looked up, tears staining her cheeks, her skin visibly pale. "I uhh, oh Gods!"
Gabrielle launched herself at the window again. Fortunately, she was unable to "rain on the passing parade". Heaving a few times, she contemplated jumping to her death when a pair of warm strong hands pulled her back, and enfolded her in a crushing embrace.
"Xena I" Gabrielles voice broke.
"Shhh, I gave you good reason. If youve found someone else, then I deserve it. I havent exactly been as attentive as I should be. I love you. I cant imagine life without you. But I need to remember that everyday, not every once in a while. If you want me to go, then I will. I dont want to, but I will." Xena sighed, the tears just beginning to slip from the corners of her eyes.
"NO! I mean, no dont go. I was drunk Xena. I thought it was you. I was so angry at myself for leaving you out there with the idiot twins. This woman, the Innkeepers daughter, came into the room. She tried to seduce me, and I began to respond. I missed you so much. I kept trying to figure out what went wrong, where I failed you. Nothings been right since we came back. Especially when your dark side was gone. Even then you were willing to give me up to Joxer, and when I caught you with Ares, then well I just didnt know where we were headed. Then the baby. Well, I just assumed that " Xena put a finger to Gabrielles lips to stop the torrent of words spilling from her lover.
Capturing Gabrielles lips with her own, she effectively calmed the Bards nerves, and effectively settled her own at the same time. Seconds turned into minutes, their pulses racing. They almost forgot the last moments since Xena had returned to Gabrielles arms. Realizing they both needed to bathe, and eat, they reluctantly separated.
"Xena? Does this mean were okay?" Gabrielle asked shyly.
Running her fingers through her soulmates short blond locks, she smiled. "Were okay my love. That Innkeepers daughter better be on her toes, but were just fine. And Gabrielle? Dont let things get this far out of control. Talk to me. Let me know how youre feeling. Its much better Ive decided, when we communicate with each other. Now, summon your wench, and lets get cleaned up and comfortable."
Gabrielle giggled at Xenas reference to Meara. Almost certain that Xena wouldnt harm the woman, Gabrielle stepped out the door, and worked her way down the steps to the bar. The Innkeeper was absent, but his worker assured her that someone would bring up hot water, and food to their room. She was amazed at how much better she suddenly felt. On her way back, Joxer caught her eye. He was still sitting at his table, Amarice sitting across from him.
"Uh, oh hi Joxer, Amarice. Umm, well Xena and I are going to bathe, eat and well, rest, so well see you later this evening." Gabrielle mumbled, anxious to get back upstairs.
"Oh, no problem. Listen Gab, Amarice and I are going to take off. She is anxious to get back to the Northern Amazons, and well, I just need to do some thinking. Ill catch up with you guys later." Joxer smiled weakly, still not over the previous days revelations.
"Oh, okay then. Well, you two be careful, and try and stay to the trade roads as much as possible. We should be somewhere near Amphipolous by the next full moon. Xena wants to visit with her mother for a week or so." Gabrielle mentally sighed in relief. Truth be told, she was beside herself with joy over the fact that she and Xena would be alone for a while.
Excusing herself, she fairly skipped up the stairs. Pushing open the door, she stopped suddenly when she saw Xena with Meara pinned against the wall, several feet off the floor. Mearas face was slightly red, and Gabrielle was sure she could hear a low growl coming from Xenas throat. Upon hearing Gabrielle return, Xena set her captive back down.
"Now, finish bringing us our food and bath water, and then go think about what you did, and how you will never do something like that again." Xena pointed Meara towards the door, and gave her a shove outside.
Stepping closer to Gabrielle, she pulled her Bard close, holding her slightly off center, in deference to her middle. Gabrielle snuggled in, reveling in their mingled scent, no matter how stale and "unwashed" it may have been. She didnt care. All she cared about was being held and cherished and loved by the only person in the known world that she loved and cherished. Their moment was broken when Meara returned. She had brought two more people with her to carry buckets and food so there would be no reason to return. For several hours anyway.
Quickly finishing their jobs, the group exited out the door quietly. Foregoing any unnecessary conversation, Xena and Gabrielle began to undress each other, and prepare for their bath. What at one time had been routine, had suddenly taken on a newness of its own. Gabrielle realized that the last time she had been this close to Xena without clothing was before their deaths. Since then, they had bathed alone, or at least without any intimate contact.
Xena carefully unlaced Gabrielles top, a small moan escaping her throat. Her fingers lingered, tracing small patterns across the tops of her lovers shoulders. Placing small kisses along her throat, she worked her way to the soft spot below Gabrielles ear. Her breath made the hairs on Gabrielles neck stand up, and sent a shiver down her spine.
When they finished undressing each other, Gabrielle held out her hand while Xena stepped into the roomy tub. She wouldnt want Xena to fall, especially in her condition. Once Xena was seated comfortably, Gabrielle stepped in and slipped between Xenas outstretched legs, turning herself sideways, and leaning her head carefully against the strong warm shoulder behind her.
"You know, even with you being pregnant, we still fit together pretty well." Gabrielle chuckled deep in her chest.
Xena smiled. Suddenly, everything was right with her world. Pulling Gabrielle closer, she kissed her temple. Words just didnt seem to fit in at the moment. Grinning widely, she searched between them, and found the bar of soap. Tenderly she began to wash her love, persuading her to dunk her head and get her hair wet. Her thoughts ran back to the last time that they had shared a moment like this. Gabrielle was right, it had been much too long since they had truly shared any intimacy.
When Xena finished her ministrations, it was Gabrielles turn to take over. Moving behind her pregnant lover, she loving washed ever inch, lingering over the much swollen belly. She washed Xenas hair, scrubbing her scalp, just the way that Xena liked it. When she was done, she stepped out of the tub, and grabbed the last of the full buckets of water. Still warm, she poured a little more than half over Xena, allowing her to rinse most of the soap off. When she was finished, Xena did the same for her.
Rather than join the rest of the Inns population, the two women retired to their roomy bed, whispering loving words to each other, making tender love, and sharing quiet intimacies. They came up for air only once, long enough for Gabrielle to ask the Innkeeper to send up a large meal for their evening repast. Xena, being pregnant was starving, and Gabrielle could always pack away a significant amount of food.
Early in the evening, as the moons bright rays began to slip between the clouds, and scatter in patterns across the floor of their room, Gabrielle shifted to lay in Xenas arms, her head tucked securely into her shoulder, one arm draped protectively across Xenas middle, as if to protect both her lover and the baby they would soon share.
Quietly, almost like a whisper in the wind, Gabrielle spoke. "I love you Xena."
"I love you too Gabrielle." Xena whispered back.
Sometime early in the morning Xena awoke to the strangest feeling somewhere near her navel. It felt tickly, soft, and almost sensuous. The sensation was accompanied by the softest of whispered words. So quiet were they that Xena was certain they were actually real. Slowly she opened her eyes, and took a peek in the direction that the sounds and feelings were coming from. She was surprised to see Gabrielle on her hands and knees, lips moving slightly with her whispers, a look of deep concentration on her face while she spoke into Xenas belly button.
Reluctant to disturb her lover, she couldnt resist the need to know what Gabrielle was doing. Holding back a giggle, Xena cleared her throat to draw Gabrielles attention her way.
"Ahem, good morning, and by any chance has my navel come up with the meaning of life on this bright and rainy day?" Xena smiled at the blush that began to creep up Gabrielles neck.
"Oh, uh, hi. I know this looks strange, but well, I was speaking to the baby. I wanted to apologize, and assure it that I will do everything in my power " Suddenly her throat constricted. Tears formed rapidly at the corners of her eyes.
"Hey, come back up here. Lets not have any tears right now." Xena reached for Gabrielles arm, tugging her back into the security of her embrace.
Kissing her on the head, she stroked Gabrielles arms and back, periodically running her fingers through her hair, patiently waiting for the tears to subside. Pulling in a deep shuddering sigh, Gabrielle finally calmed down. Not without a few shaky after sobs now and then.
"I Im sorry Xena. I didnt want to wake you, and have you see me begging an unborn child for forgiveness for anything I might do to endanger its life. I mean I dont exactly have a great track record with kids you know." She closed her eyes as a fresh torrent of tears appeared on the horizon.
"Gabrielle, whats happened to you. All of thats past us. You know, Argo said something about human women and pregnancy. Maybe were affecting each other some way." Xena pursed her lips in thought.
"I know, Handsome said the same thing. He said that with all of the extra human female elements blowing around, it isnt surprising that our bodies and our emotions are going through all of these changes. And considering that there is a certain unknown element with the baby, theres no telling what might be interfering with us." Gabrielle sighed deeply again.
Xena thought about their problem for a few minutes until an idea came to mind. Kissing Gabrielle lightly on the lips, she wiggled out of bed and began digging in her bags for something to wear. Finding a heavy cotton shift, she slipped into it, and then put her long coat on over that. Her boots were soon to follow. Gabrielle watched her silently, a look of impending doom shadowing her eyes.
"I guess I dont blame you. For leaving I mean." Gabrielles voice was flat dead.
"NO! Im not leaving. Im just going downstairs to get a pot of hot water for tea. I want to try something, and see if I can help us stabilize a bit. Dont worry, Im not leaving you ever, so get used to it. I just want to see if I can fix this problem were having." Xenas eyes sparkled, a plan rapidly forming in her mind.
Before she left, she pulled Gabrielle into her arms again, and whispered reassurances in her ears, all the while touching her and stroking her skin. Tucking her into the covers, she stoked the small fireplace in the corner, and threw a fat log on for good measure. Heading down the stairs, she met the Innkeeper just as he was heading off to sleep for a few hours. He was quite happy to give her the pot of water, and included some fresh baked sweet rolls in the deal.
Back in the room, Xena opened her bags again, and pulled a good sized wooden box out and set it on the edge of the bed. Finding their travel mugs in Gabrielles bags, she set about pouring some of the water into each one. With the look of an alchemist in her eyes, she opened the box, and started removing small packets. Each contained a different kind of herb or spice. She had collected a number of them in Chin during their last trip, as well as adding some of the standard ones she always carried.
Pouring a small amount of each of the ones she selected into two small squares of cloth, she carefully calculated her formula. Twisting them with a bit of twine from the box, she dipped one into each mug, allowing them to steep, and brew into a rich fragrant tea. Satisfied that she had found the right combination, Xena removed her long coat, and returned the packets to their box, and the box to her bags.
Rejoining Gabrielle on the bed, she set the mugs on the floor, while she removed her boots. Once she got comfortable, she nudged Gabrielle out of a light doze, and handed her one of the mugs.
"Okay, down the hatch. If this doesnt do the trick, well try something else." Xena sipped the hot liquid, being careful not to burn her mouth.
"Mmm, this is really good Xena. Very tasty." Gabrielle gulped at her mug, oblivious to the heat.
Several minutes went by. The two women snuggled in companionable silence, enjoying the tea, and the sweet rolls that the Innkeeper had given them. When the tea and buns were consumed, Gabrielle turned, and after urging Xena to remove her shift, settled herself comfortably against the warm silky skin of her chest. Barely minutes went by, and she was sleeping peacefully, visions of lovemaking, good food, and a certain warrior with crystal blue eyes and raven black hair invading her dreams.
Xena stayed awake a little longer, listening to the crackle of the fire, and the soft blustery sounds of the rain outside the shuttered window. She couldnt stop touching Gabrielles skin, running her fingertips lightly across her back, and along her arms. Kissing her once more, she slipped into a similar set of visions, featuring her blond bard, with eyes the color of a spring meadow.
Later, the sounds of thunder shook the two of them awake. Cautiously, Xena looked into Gabrielles eyes. She was met with a relaxed, loving expression. Certain that her tea had done the trick, she succumbed to the promised passions her dreams had built inside.
After spending another whole day resting and making love, they decided it was time to bathe again, and head downstairs to get something to eat. They were content to stay in their room for several days, but Xena reminded Gabrielle that they had friends with them, that needed some attending to. Gabrielle had forgotten to tell Xena about Joxer and Amarice leaving, and had assumed that she was referring to Argo and Handsome.
They sat downstairs for a short time, and ate their meal, content to listen to the conversations around them. Every so often they would steal a glance at each other, a soft blush on their cheeks, a sweet smile in their eyes. It was quite a while before Gabrielle finally asked when they were going to the stables to see their friends.
"Gabrielle, dont be silly, Joxer and Amarice arent staying in the stable. Thats where Handsome and Argo are." Xena playfully poked her lover in the ribs.
Bursting into giggles, Gabrielle realized her mistake. "Oh, Gods, Im sorry. I forgot to tell you they left yesterday. I guess my mind must have been elsewhere."
Raising her eyebrow in a knowing smirk, Xena poked Gabrielle again. "I guess its true what they say, huh? Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or in our case, death builds character, and a healthy libido."
"Xena! Shh, someone will hear you." Gabrielle feigned embarrassment.
"Yeah, well, its not like they havent figured it out by now. Weve been here for almost 2 days, and this is the first time weve been downstairs together." Xenas grin grew wider.
"Okay, enough. Lets go check our four-footed friends, and then get back upstairs. Id much rather be upstairs in bed by the fire with you, then sitting down here with all of these strangers staring at us." Gabrielle shot a mock grimace at the crowded room.
Gathering herself together, Xena slipped off the bench, and stretched a bit, working the muscles in her lower back. Anticipating her need, Gabrielle walked alongside her, lightly massaging the area, trying to help work out the strain. All this fighting, walking, and then two days of resting, etc. had taken its toll on Xenas back. It was one thing to do all of those things and not be pregnant, and another thing altogether with that additional bulk up front. One thing she would not allow herself to do is waddle. No way!
Unconsciously waddling out the front door of the Inn, Gabrielle couldnt help but chuckle a little to herself. She was so relieved that Xenas special tea had worked. She felt certain, that if she kept drinking that every now and then, she would make it through her lovers pregnancy.
Reaching the stables, they slipped inside, and waited a moment for their eyes to adjust to the dark. Satisfied that they would be able to find their way to the stalls, by the bits of moonlight slipping between the clouds, they walked carefully into the gloom. Argo snorted softly, as though to help lead the way.
When they reached their respective horses, each animal stuck their head over the stall and nudged his or her mistress in the chest. Argo was very gentle with Xena, considering her condition. Gabrielle reached into her pockets, and pulled out four small shiny apples.
"Here you go guys, dont gulp them down." She handed two of the apples to Xena for Argo.
So little one, I see that things are working out for you two. Are you happier now?
"Oh, uh yes, much happier. I think Xena is too." Gabrielle was still startled whenever her horse spoke to her.
Gabrielle looked over at her lover. Xena seemed to be in a similar conversation with Argo. "She took your advice, and tried an herb mixture to see if we could combat some of the "human chemical overload". It worked wonderfully. Thanks."
To be sure little one. Even though we are not completely educated in the ways of humans, Argo and I are still way ahead of most others of the equine persuasion. We are both pleased that you have repaired your differences, and will be moving on together.
Thanking him again, Gabrielle stepped over, and taking Xenas hand, led her to a spot just inside the door to the stable. Standing on her tiptoes, she stole a kiss from her Warrior Princess.
"Whats that for?" Xena returned the kiss.
"Oh, for being patient, helping see me through our problems, and for being tall, dark and sexy. I guess, because I love you." Gabrielle snuggled in for a hug, before heading back to their room in the Inn.
"I love you too. And remember, all it takes is a little horse sense, to see us through our differences." Xenas statement drew chuckles from both of them.
Thank you for allowing me to share this vision of the current season with you. For some reason this concept just grabbed me and made me put it in writing.
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