Disclaimers: These characters are not mine. They belong to Universal/MCA. I’m just borrowing them for my entertainment purposes. Nobody is making money off of them so call off the lawyers. If stories of two women in love and expressing that love quite graphically offends you then what the hell are you doing reading my stories!!! <LOL>If you’re too young, leave immediately. If you live somewhere that this stuff would get you in trouble with the cops, cease and desist. If none of these things are a problem please . . .read on.

Authors Notes: This is a follow up to Magic of Egypt. It’s not necessarily important that you read the first but you might enjoy it anyway.

The songs enclosed here are by a man named Frank Sinatra <G>. If you’ve never heard of him I suggest you pick up ‘Sinatra Reprise: The Very Good Years’. Great stuff.<G>

And last but not least, this story is dedicated to Dana. I’m not sure how our story will end darlin’ but I have to believe the mentality of the characters in this work of fiction - If love is true . . . it can conquer all. Thank you for every day of my life that you’ve brightened. In light of everything, it’s been the best five years of my life and I’ll cherish you always and hopefully. . . many years to come.

‘Nuff said. No on with the story.<BG>


Magic of Paris

By CN Winters

Chapter 1

Pappas Estate, South Carolina, 1957

"Jesus Christ Mel!"

The archeologists voice boomed through the hallway of the southern mansion. "How long does it take one woman to get ready?"

"I’m almost done. Hold yer horses!" Mel shouted from behind the bathroom door just as adamantly.

After another 60 seconds, Janice started a slow rhythmic tapping on the door. "We’re going to be latttteee," she warned in a sing-song voice. Mel still didn’t answer. "Come on!" she barked harshly. "Now!"

Suddenly the door opened.

"Where’s my heels?" Mel asked, moving past Janice traveling toward their bedroom.

Janice saw Mel for only a few seconds before the southerner bolted away. She was momentarily stunned by the beauty of the dark woman. Once Mel disappeared from view, Janice’s’ mind took control over her hormones.

"What do you need heels for?" Janice argued. "You’re tall enough as it is," she added, making her way to the bedroom doorway.

Mel was on all fours, looking under the bed. Janice did nothing to hide the mischievous smirk and arched eyebrow at the alluring sight of her lover.

"Ah ha!" Mel exclaimed, triumphantly pulling one out. She blushed when she saw the look on Janice’s’ face, knowing exactly what was running through the archeologists mind.

They had been lovers for over ten years now and it was difficult for Janice to understand how Mel could be so shy and reserved about sex when they were out of bed.

Her confusion steamed from the fact that while in bed, Mel was a tigress; a vixen. ‘While in bed,’ Janice mused as she watched her lover. ‘In the tub. . .in the rumble seat. . .on the kitchen table. . .’. She shook her head of the thoughts that began to consume her . She knew if she kept up this train of thought they’d never make it to the lecture on time.

"Have you seen it?" Mel asked rising to her feet.

"Seen what?" Janice asked, still a little lost in her thoughts.

"My other shoe silly," Mel grinned.

"Oh," Janice said, jittering just before fully entering the room, to help with the search. Shoes were the last things on Janice’s mind right now. "How would I know?" Janice grumbled, looking around.

Mel smirked this time. "Because ya were very insistent that I keep them on the last time I wore them. Any idea where ya finally threw them?"

Janice looked bewildered for a moment. ‘What the hell is she talking about. How would I – ahhh. . .’ Realization of the last time Mel wore those heels kicked in. She wanted Mel to keep them on as she made love to her. She loved the feel of the leather rubbing against her lower back while Mel’s thighs draped over her shoulders.

The illicit memory clicked on the light bulb. With a snap of her fingers and a wink to Mel, she went to the closet directly behind her.

"Ah ha!" she exclaimed, mimicking Mel. She brought the shoe over and knelt before Mel, placing the heel in front of her.

"Here you go Cinderella," Janice teased affectionately, stroking Mel’s calf as she slid her foot inside. "A perfect fit," Janice replied, rising to her full height again. "Ya know what this means don’t ya sweetheart?"

"We live happily ever after," Mel remarked with a sly smile.

"Of course," Janice answered. "But it also means you have to wear those shoes again tonight," she said wiggling her eyebrows.

"Well," Mel began as she closed the short distance between them. "If ya promise me the same treatment as last time, I’ll be more than happy to oblige."

Neither woman said anything for a few moments, both fully understanding what was going through each others minds. Finally Janice found her voice although it sounded like more of a croak.

"We gotta get out here or we’ll never make it," Janice said rushing from the room, knowing if they stayed a moment longer their passion would consume them.

"Right behind ya," Mel agreed whole-heartedly.


Chapter 2


Ancient Greece, Amphipolis, around 500 bc.


"Come on sweetheart! You’re almost there. One more. One more. Push!"

Cyrene held the laboring woman’s sweat-soaked hand, offering what support she could. She hated to see her daughter – either one of her daughters – in pain. Carefully Cyrene wiped the laborers brow which was also covered with sweat.

After another strong grunt, the baby slipped lower but receded back up again.

"The baby’s not coming," the mother announced in a shallow breath. Something was wrong. She knew it. They had been at this point for well over an hour, always with the same result.

"Save the baby," she whispered. "Let me go."

"No. No. I can do this and you’ll both be fine. Trust me," she smiled warmly. That smile always had a way of comforting her lover; cooling her temper; filling her with hope. "When you feel the next contraction let me know. . .I’ve got an idea."

The mother shook her head rigorously. "No!" she cried. "Don’t hurt the baby."

"Shhh," Cyrene whispered placing a kiss on the mother to be’s head. "Little one relax. Relax. When Toris was born it took almost a whole day – we have lots of time."

Cyrene’s gentle soft spoken words calmed the laboring woman at least until the next contraction took hold.

"Here it comes," she warned, fighting for air.

She reached inside the mother’s birth canal, getting a firm grasp on the baby’s shoulders.

The howl the future mom emitted was loud enough that she didn’t hear her lover dislocate the baby’s shoulders as the contraction ended. She pulled and the child slipped out. As fast as she could she cleared the mouth and patted its back.

The baby screamed and it was the best sound they thought they ever heard. The deliverer popped the shoulder back into place and began to clean the child as best as she could. Quickly, she wrapped it before it got too chilled.

"What is it?" Cyrene and the mother asked in harmony.

"It’s a girl," she answered proudly, handing the child to her bondmate. "It’s a beautiful girl, just like her mama – red hair and all."

Cyrene let go of the bards hand and gently kissed her forehead. "She’s beautiful," Cyrene sighed. "Absolutely beautiful."

Xena cut the cord and made certain that the afterbirth was delivered. Once she was certain Gabrielle was safe, she made her way up to the bard, kissing her soundly on the lips. Cyrene smiled as she watched her girls admiring the newborn.

"You two stay," she announced, wanting to leave them alone.

"I’m not going anywhere right now," Gabrielle chuckled. She was exhausted . . .but extremely happy.

Cyrene giggled too. "I’ll let Toris know everything is okay."

The baby’s sire had been pacing outside more frantically than anyone. Bringing a child into the world was a dangerous procedure for some. And with the way this labor had been proceeding he felt ‘responsible’ if anything were to happen to the bard.

Cyrene walked around and took Xena in her arms. "Congratulations," she whispered. Before leaving she offered the same remarks to the bard but with a gentle kiss on the forehead.

"Mother?" Xena asked. "Please let Lye know he’s got a sister and tell him I’ll be there in a short while."

"Certainly," Cyrene winked and walked outside. A few moments later a cheer was heard and the couple couldn’t help but smile at each other at the sound of their friends joy for them.

Xena and Gabrielle studied each other silently admiring one another. Gabrielle knew the greatest torture for Xena was seeing her in pain. And she knew the labor had been taxing on the retired warrior. But she could feel Xena beginning to relax and breathe evenly again.

Xena looked again at the large newborn suckling Gabrielle; child and mother both looking quite content in the process. It made Xena smile. It had been years since she was in the same position. Lye was growing like a weed, taller and taller everyday. He was only four years old but he was almost up to the bards hip in height.

"What are you going to name her?" Xena asked.

"Oh no," Gabrielle smiled. "I had to name Lye so now it’s your turn," the bard countered.

Xena thought for a moment. "Well you have to help me out," Xena protested. "Is there a name you like? Someone special?"

Gabrielle was on the verge of saying something but stopped. "Oh no you don’t.. You almost had me there. You almost let me name this child."

Xena tried to look shocked and bewildered. But the ‘whatever are you talking about bard?’ routine wasn’t going to work. Gabrielle was sore. She was tired. But she wasn’t stupid. Xena didn’t hear that argument but she saw it in Gabrielle’s eye and had to smile.

"Well, you can’t blame me for trying?" Xena replied, casually shrugging her shoulders.

"I could," Gabrielle grinned. "If I wanted to . . . but I don’t. We have lots of time Xena. Let’s just wait and see okay. Once we get to know her then we’ll name her. Agreed?"

Years ago, Xena would have rolled her eyes and asked ‘How do you get to know a baby?’ but she knew, since Lyceus, that it was possible. Even at a few days old you can judge temperaments. Lyceus had always been easily pacified. Little whimpers when hungry. And he was growing up into a happy, soft spoken young boy. Xena jokingly wondered if he was really hers, but she resolved it to be from Autolycus’ side. The King of Thieves himself was some what laid back in nature, rarely upset or angered by things around him.

Xena looked back at the bard and the baby snuggling together and felt the grin tugging at her lips. "What ever you want Gabrielle," she smiled kissing the bard once more.

Carefully she stroked the little patch of red hair on the baby’s head and she wondered how many more times in her life would she feel complete. She didn’t question it for long. She would simply enjoy it.


Chapter 3

University of South Carolina, East Lecture Hall - 1957


"So what you’re saying Dr. Covington is that this warrior, Xena , and her traveling companion, Annabelle-

"Gabrielle," Janice corrected with hostility in her voice. "Her name was Gabrielle."

"Whatever. . .Gabrielle. . .What you’re saying is, now correct me if I’m wrong, you’re saying they were lovers?"

‘Christ’, Janice thought, ‘does Margaret Mead run into these debates with assholes or is it just my own good misfortune.’

"It would appear so yes," Janice remarked.

"I find that rather odd," the man argued in the filled lecture hall. "It was quite common that men engaged in homosexual activity openly and honestly with little or no back lash. Women, on the other hand, weren’t accepted as such."

"Just because something isn’t accepted doesn’t that mean that it isn’t done. . .For years doctors believed that pregnancy was a term of six or seven months and not the usual nine. And why did they believe this you may ask? Because engaged couples were having pre-marital sex and lying about it. It took years to put two and two together. . .So just because female/female sexuality wasn’t widely accepted in Greece doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. . . " Janice paused a moment holding up her hand so the man wouldn’t interrupt her. "But even if you’re point was true how would you explain the Isle of Lesbos and the Amazon Nation?"

Janice watched the man smile, so self-assured, so goddamn cocky. She was ready. She was ready to dive right over the podium and rip his head off. "Fiction," he laughed. "It’s all fiction."

Janice didn’t ‘dive’ yet she simply nodded and smiled.

"Fiction huh?" Janice nodded, trying to cool her anger. "Well myself and other researchers have begun to uncover proof that the Amazon Nation did exist. And not only was the ‘Isle of Lesbos’ a landmark find in literature it also collaborated the writings of one of the worlds finest poets. Ever heard of Sappho?" Janice offered. "Not only did she write eloquently of a woman’s desire of another woman she was quite revered by people in her time. Plato himself called her the Tenth Muse. Certainly you can’t argue with Plato?" Janice teased. It brought a wave of chuckles through the crowd, calming her edginess a bit.

The man remained friendly although he could tell the debate was beginning to get heated; perhaps even more scorching. "I guess the point I’d really like to make is regarding the validity of this find. I mean how do we know that Miss Pappas is correct in her equation of Xena’s relationship with. . . with. . .. "

"Gab-ri-elle," Janice answered stringing out the name.

"Gabrielle," he began again. "Miss Pappas isn’t a doctor like yourself or her own father for that matter. In fact she has had no formal training at any University. How can we be certain that what she is interrupting the facts and not, how should I say, some bias on her part?"

The bias, that the man spoke of wasn’t lost on the couple or a few people in the auditorium. Rumors surrounding Mel and Janice’s relationship was at one point the ‘talk of the town’ so to speak. This however was the first time anyone had the courage to address it, even as indirect as the statement had been.

Mel looked up to Janice as the man finished. The archeologist right eye began to twitch and Mel knew it meant trouble. Mel shot up next to Janice, gripping the blondes forearm, which was hidden from view. She hoped her touch would sooth the rage within her lover. Instantly it did - not much, but enough to prevent the archeologist from clobbering the man below her in the audience with a flying tackle.

"Since ya asked this question about me I think I should answer it. . .It’s true. I’ve had no formal trainin’. Just experience. Years of experience, I might add. My daddy, who was a doctor as ya pointed out, taught me everything I know about ancient writin’s from the time I was a little girl. By the age of ten I knew Egyptian Hieroglyphics. By 15, I was well acquainted with Greek and Latin. My father was one of the best translators in this country, if not the world. And as far as any bias I have, it would be that I would do anythang to see that GABRIELLE’s words survive for years to come . . .The presentation that Dr. Covington and I prepared is the words-not as I see them, but as they are written. As for the subject of validity, other doctors have looked at these works and have reached the same conclusions."

The man graciously bowed in defeat. He would no longer put up the fight and with a quiet ‘Thank you’. He took his seat.

"Are there any more questions?" Janice asked the audience. She did a wonderful job of hiding her disgust with this whole academic circus. No one raised their hands or made a motion, so Janice began to collect her papers. "In that case, let me thank you all for coming. If you’d like to see this report in it’s entirety the campus library will have it available soon. . .Thank you again for coming and have a good afternoon."

The audience applauded loudly as the division chairs began to rise and shake hands with the women. After the last hand was shook Janice turned to Mel. "Let’s get the hell outta here!" she whispered hotly, her anger still quite present.

Mel didn’t argue about missing the post lecture luncheon that was planned. She only nodded and followed her lover faithfully. . .at least for the moment.

Chapter 4

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis, around 500 bc


Xena stood by the door, stomping the snow from her boots as quietly as possible. She could see Lye sleeping soundly in his room while Gabrielle cradled Myra in her arms. She watched as the bard gently rocked the infant in her arms and a smile tugged at her mouth.

The baby was getting larger by the day. The bard was sure that one day Myra would tower over her mother – not her – but Xena. The baby was already large by comparison to other children in the village. She was large. . .and she had a temper. When she wanted feed, she wanted feed now and she made sure everyone knew it.

But for the moment she was quietly content in Gabrielle’s arm. The bard rose and carried her to her crib, not far from the foot of their bed. After gently laying her down on her side, which Xena told her was the best possible position, she walked back to the living room. She recalled the debate Xena had with her mother, Hecuba. Xena always kept Lye on his side but Hecuba insisted the child would choke to death. Xena’s logic however made more sense. It wasn’t Morpheus who stole the young in their sleep. It was the way they were sleeping on their stomach. Their bones and their organs were so new and the pressure was killing them at night. Of course when Xena suggested this to the town healer he called her crazy too. But Lye was thriving as prove to Xena’s theory.

‘My analytical warrior,’ Gabrielle grinned as she took a seat back in her chair. ‘Always looking for a way to disprove and upstage the gods.’

Gabrielle sat rocking back and forth casually looking at their living room. It seemed almost like a dream. She became everything her parents wanted her to be. A wife, a mother, living on a little farm. It was a modest one story dwelling with three rooms – two bedrooms to either side of the living room/kitchen. Xena, along with help from Hercules and Iolaus, built it with stone. It was warm in the winter; cool in the summer.

Xena joked once that it was smaller than her tent she had as a warlord. The comment had a deeper meaning to the bard. It showed Xena was forgiving herself more and more as the years went by. She still helped people when they sought her aid but roaming the country side aimlessly was gone. Gabrielle didn’t mind. She stayed in shape playing with Lye and working in the fields. In the evening, she told stories at Cyrene’s Inn. It was always a packed house when she preformed. Cyrene was grateful and the bard felt useful – something more than just a farmers wife, which is what she wanted when she first left the comfort of Poteidaia so many years before.

When the bards parents passed away they decided to settle in Amphipolis. The amazons were a possibility but neither Xena nor Gabrielle wanted to leave Lye, which would have been required. So she gave the mask to Ephany for good and they returned often to see their friends, when time permitted. With Xena’s mother getting older and needing help, the duo decided Amphipolis was the best place to be. Xena looked up from stoking the fire to see the bard deep in thought.

"Wanna talk about it?" Xena asked.

"Talk about what?" Gabrielle asked now giving her bondmate her full attention.

"Whatever it is that has you so perplexed?"

"Wooo Hoo," Gabrielle joked, "That’s an awfully big word for such a strong warrior."

"Retired warrior," Xena corrected. "What can I say? I live with a bard. I guess it’s contagious."

Gabrielle smiled warmly. "I was just thinking; that’s all."

"Hmm," Xena smiled back. "That’s my old excuse I used whenever I was fantasizing about you."

It amazed Xena but even after all these years she watched the bard blush at the comment. "Yes and to think if only I had pressed a little harder the things I could have learned!"

"Better late than never," Xena countered.

"I’ll buy that," Gabrielle agreed. The bard stood up and offered Xena the chair. Once the ex-warrior sat down, Gabrielle took a spot on Xena’s lap. She rested her head on Xena’s shoulder and sighed peacefully.

"IS everything okay?" Xena asked again.

"Everything’s fine," Gabrielle insisted. "If you must know I was thinking about us. About the house. About the baby. Everything. . .I’m very content right now."

"Good," Xena remarked. "I’m very content too."

Gabrielle paused a moment. "Do you miss the road?" she asked after the brief silence.

"Sometimes," Xena replied truthfully. "Being able to go where the wind takes us. Not having to worry about the commitment of children. Sometimes I miss it. But then I think about that soft bed and Lye’s laugh and I get over it. . .No. Missing the road doesn’t happen often because the best part of it all was you. And I still have you. So I’m happy."

"I knew there was a reason I fell in love with you. You’re very smart and when push comes to shove you know just the right thing to say to make me smile."

"I live to make you smile," Xena said stroking the bards cheek. "Don’t forget that."

Their lips met softly at first. But the more and more they connected, the more urgent they became. Xena began to untie the laces of the bards floral printed sleeping shift but Gabrielle grabbed her hand.

"Maybe we should continue this discussion in the bedroom before Lye wakes up," the bard suggested.

"I don’t think I can wait that long," the ex-warrior groaned as she buried her head into the nape of Gabrielle’s neck. The bard closed her eyes as the warriors teeth and tongue began to nip at her flesh.

Reluctantly, Gabrielle pulled away and stood up. "Come on Sexy," she said pulling Xena to her feet. The former warrior moaned and clutched her knee as she stood. "It’s getting worse isn’t it? Have you seen the healer?"

"Yep. And there’s nothing I can do," Xena replied. "One too many tumbles he tells me. I never thought I’d live to feel this old."

"Well, I for one, am glad you did," Gabrielle replied a bit offended. Xena had forgot how sensitive an issue her mortality was with Gabrielle. The bard spent years worrying about when Hades would call her lover for good.

"I’m sorry," Xena apologized sincerely. "It was just a joke. I didn’t mean –

"Shhh . . .I know what you meant. C’mere." With that Gabrielle lead Xena to their bedroom by her collar, kissing her sporadically along the way. Xena for her part was succeeding in working the laces free on Gabrielle’s nightgown.

Xena slipped the gown down just a bit to expose the bards creamy shoulders yet still cover her ample bosom. Xena could feel her body losing the battle with gravity but the bard. . .the bard was just as firm as the first night they made love in Egypt. Her hair was getting lighter and a bit grayer but Xena found that Gabrielle wore it well. Her experience showed in her laugh lines around her eyes but those same eyes still glowed with excitement and with passion. For Xena, Gabrielle was, and would always be, the most beautiful woman in the world.

"Take these off," Gabrielle insisted, tugging on the pants Xena wore. With a swift, firm pull they were on the floor. Her socks came off next; followed quickly by her shirt. Gabrielle reached to pull her dress off but Xena stopped her.

"Please," Xena said kissing each of the bards hands. "Leave it on for now."

Gabrielle smiled. Sometimes when Xena was feeling very ‘amorous’ she liked to take the bard with her clothes still on. Gabrielle didn’t complain. She knew it took the warrior back to the days when they traveled. Some days neither of them would nor could wait until the end of the day for satisfaction. Xena would find a secluded spot of the trail and ravish the bard in a meadow or against a tree or on a sandy beach. She could tell by the look in Xena’s eyes – the warrior would not be denied. That look alone made Gabrielle moan aloud. She felt her britches growing wetter by the second. And she too had to have what she desired most.

"Take me," Gabrielle whispered, pulling the warrior in for a deep kiss.

Playfully Xena pulled back, "Patience Gabrielle. Patience."

Patience was not an option for the bard. She grabbed the warrior wrist and placed it against her soaked center. She knew her arousal would be the warriors undoing. Once again she was correct. Xena began to stoke her forcefully and purposely. She was going to make the bard come. By the Gods she was. And nothing was going to stop her. If this is what Gabrielle wanted this is what Gabrielle would get it – her fingers hard and fast, rubbing all the right areas, dipping teasingly into the well of the bards desire.

Gabrielle grunted harshly; her hips bucking against Xena’s hand.

"Inside," Gabrielle said, tickling and exciting Xena’s earlobe. "Need you inside me," she added, forcing the words from her ardent lips.

"Can I?" Xena asked.

Gabrielle knew just what the warrior was asking. After years of loving making and being able to read her lover she knew what Xena wanted to do. She wanted to take the bard – very hard and very fast. Gabrielle felt goosebumps welt up on her skin in anticipation.

"Yes," Gabrielle replied, deep and throaty. "Do it Xena."

Xena carefully tossed the bard on their bed. She ripped the dress straight up the middle until she could see the bards britches. Gabrielle yelped softly in surprise and arousal. Xena was so strong, so passionate and so good when she was bad. The bard knew the dress was beyond repair but she didn’t care one bit. The heat that flamed from her body upon watching the warriors biceps strain as she pulled the material was worth it.

"So wet," Xena smiled. It wasn’t smile of innocence or admiration. The look of pure lust washed over the warriors face and it enthralled Gabrielle even more, forcing her to cry out.

"By the gods Xena," Gabrielle muttered as her fists clutched at the quilt on their bed. "I love it when you’re like this. . . Gods Xena. Rip’em off. . . My britches. . .Tear them away too," Gabrielle’s words were even more forced, coming out as a hot whisper.

"You want me bad huh?" Xena said menacingly as she placed her body over the bards. "You want my fingers high and deep inside of you. Pumping in and out don’t ya?"

All the bard could do was shut her eyes tight and moan her answer. The ache within her was so far reaching now it was growing unbearable. Finally she found her voice.

"Gods Xena. Please-

She didn’t have the chance to finish. Her sentence turned into a groan of satisfaction as Xena’s hand plunged between her slippery folds. The warrior won approval that was evident in the bards motions and words.

"So good," the bard whispered, bucking her hips again. "You feel so good inside me. . .Bet you’re as wet as I am right now"

Xena knew where Gabrielle was going. On nights like tonight, all it took was the bards voice and her raunchy words to send her over the edge too.

"I’m wetter," Xena groaned in response.

"I bet you taste delicious too," Gabrielle prodded. "I bet nothing would make you happier than having my head buried between your firm thighs. Tasting you. Teasing you. Pleasing you. . . It would please you wouldn’t it? It would please you if you came all over my face wouldn’t it Xena?"

Xena sounded like she was in pure agony as she continued prodded the bard with her long fingers.

"You do have many skills," Gabrielle breathed. She could feel her orgasm beginning to lay claim on her. Xena could feel the rippling too. "You’re best skill," Gabrielle said, fighting moment by moment to push the warrior over. "You’re best skill is fucking me."

That did it. Gabrielle said the f-word and Xena was done for. Her orgasm shot through her veins. And upon seeing Xena’s satisfied reaction, Gabrielle tumbled over right behind her.

Xena collapsed next to the bard as both women tried to steady their breathing. Xena rolled to her side with a huge grin on her face. She opened her eyes when she heard Gabrielle chuckle.

"I have many skills too ya know?" the bard teased. "Not just anyone who can make someone climax by just talking."

Xena smiled but slowly began to look sober. She tenderly stroked the bards cheek. "No one but you my bard. . .No one but you."


Chapter 5


University of South Carolina, 1957

"I don’t think we should leave," Mel said firmly.

"I don’t need to be a part of high society to feel a sense of self-worth," Janice rebuffed.

Mel slammed her pocket book on the hood of Janice’s’ brand new Chevy Bel-Air.

"What the hell is wrong with you?!" Janice exclaimed, moving to see if the southerner caused any damage to her new ‘baby’.

"YOU are my problem at the moment!" Mel replied hostile.


"Yes Dr. Covington. You," Mel sighed in frustration. She had to make Janice see. "I don’t care what ‘high society’ thinks of me. If I did I woulda called things off between us years ago Janice. Ya think I don’t know the stares we get in town! Ya think I don’t realize the things people say behind our backs!"

Janice started to reply but Mel held up a finger cutting her off.

"I know what people think Janice and I don’t care because I know we’re right. I know I belong with ya and no one else. And I’m not about to let ‘Mr. I know you’re queer’ intimidate me or keep me from this luncheon. . .Look Janice. I could care less about those people in there, well except for Miss Epherson. All the others can go to hell. The reason I say we should stay is because if we don’t, it’s like we’re running away. He rattled our chain so we’re just gonna run back into the doghouse?. . . I’m sorry Janice but not me. I’m not gonna let that bastard get the upper hand. I’m staying at this luncheon and walkin’ in with my head held high because it’s the only thing that will someday stop the whispers and the myths about who we are. I’m not just doing this for me or for us. . .I’m doing it for the greater good."

Janice didn’t reply. She knew Mel was right but she didn’t know what she could say at this point.

"Look," Mel said giving her the option. "If ya want to go home, then go home. But I’m stayin’ Janice. . .I have to."

Mel didn’t add more. She simply walked back toward the lecture hall. She was surprised that she didn’t hear Janice’s footsteps behind her but she kept walking anyway.

"Where’s Janice?" Epherson asked when she saw Mel come in alone.

"She decided to go home," Mel explained. "She’s not feeling well."

"Oh, that’s too bad," Epherson said sincerely.

It wasn’t an outright lie. But it was better than getting into a discussion Mel just wasn’t up for at the moment. "How ‘bout a drink?" Mel offered. "I’m getting a little thirsty."

"Sure - right this way," Epherson said, taking Mel by the elbow to the beverage table. "You didn’t miss anything," Eph offered. "The band just finished setting up."

"Gee, we have music today too?" Mel asked.

"Yeah. Rumor has it the Dean is trying to impress some French museum types who came for Janice’s lecture today."

The orchestra started to play a spiral melody and Mel knew it. She didn’t even need to face the bandstand. ‘Witchcraft’. Sinatra. Mel could picture Janice in the Rat Pack with her fandora and her cigars.

But when the vocals started she didn’t quite trust herself to turn around. She looked to Epherson first, who at this point was fixated on the stage, her eyes wide in wonder and amazement.

‘"Those fingers in my hairrrrrr

That sllllllly come hither stare

That stripppsss my conscience bare

It’s witchcrafftttt"

"Oh my god Janice," Mel whispered shaking her head as she slowly turned around. She told Janice they should make a stand but this isn’t quite what she had in mind. Standing side by side, talking with associates, perhaps eating a little cake. That’s what she had in mind. She was helpless now as she watched Janice take the stage to crone Sinatra.

"And I got nooooo defense for it

The heat is toooo intense for it

What gooood would common sense for it dooooo

Cause it’s witchcraffffftttt

That crazy witchcrafffttt

And althoughhhhhh

I knowwwww

It’s stricklllly tabooooe

When you arrrrrrouse the need in me

My heart says yes indeed in me

Proceedddddd with what you’re leeeedin’ me tooo.

It’s such an ancient pitch

But one that I’d nevvver switch

Cause there’s no nicer witch than youuuuuu."

"Oh my God." That’s all Mel could say during the musical break down as she watch Janice slinking around on the stage, quite seductively actually. The more she watch the more captivated she felt. Who knew Janice had an artistic side? And the more she relaxed the more she realized Janice had a beautiful singing voice. Of course she heard Janice sing before in the shower but in this hall, it was different. She looked so confident on stage and she had everyone captivated.

"She’s really good," Epherson said touching Mel’s shoulder reassuringly. "Who’d I’ve thought Janice could sing with the best of ‘em?"

Mel felt proud at that point and smiled. ‘Yeah’ Mel thought, silently. ‘That’s MY Janice’. "Well performing does run in her family," Mel said aloud with a wink.


"Cause it’s witchcraffffftttt

That crazy witchcrafffttt

And althoughhhhhh

I knowwwww

It’s stricklllly tabooooe

When you arrrrrrouse the need in me

My heart says yes indeed in me

Proceedddddd with what you’re leeeedin’ me tooo.

It’s such an ancient pitch

But one that I’d nevvver switch

Cause there’s no nicer witch than youuuuuu."


As Janice finished, the crowd applauded like thunder and instead of insisting Janice leave they were urging her on to do another number. "Maybe later," Janice finally said over the microphone. "Thanks for perpetuating my indulgence to sing," she laughed.

Mel and Eph rushed over to meet Janice but the dean of the university got there first.

"You have made a mockery of this university for the last time!" he hissed in a quiet voice.

"Is that so?" Janice said dryly, taking champagne from a serving tray passing by her, caring little of his comments.

Mel stood back and watched the exchanged. ‘God how I love to watch her when she gets cocky’ Mel thought silently. The belle knew the archeologist position was on the line but she didn’t care. If she got fired they would simply find a dig site someplace to do more research. Janice had nothing to lose in this exchange so she watched with anticipation of what the strawberry blond would say or do.

"I have very important people here-" the dean continued. He was cut short however when those very important folks walked over to meet Janice.

"Dr. Covington. . .You like Sinatra, no? We love Sinatra," he smiled.

He was French and his English was very good actually, although slightly choppy.

"Very much so," Janice nodded. "I had to do Witchcraft. It’s one of my favorites."

"Oh," he said slightly embarrassed for not being proper. "Forgive me. I am Mercel Vilette. I am with the Paris Institute. I have followed your work on the Xena scrolls."

"Is that so?" Janice smiled warmly. She knew the dean was fuming before, and now that one of her peers was complimenting her, she was sure the dean was near heart failure due to his rage.

"Oh yes! When we heard of your coming lecture I told my associate Rene here that we must attend." He motioned to the man standing next to him.

"Well, I appreciate your interest Mister Vilette. . .and that of Rene’s as well," Janice smiled politely. "Can I get you a glass of champagne? I’m sure it’s not a wonderful as what you’re used to," she teased, "but it’s good to wet your whistle."

The man smiled and said no. "What I’d really like to hear is another song." She watched as he turned to his associate and they began to speak French. The dean looked confused but Janice carefully spoke up interrupting them.

"It’s called ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’", Janice interrupted them.

"You speak French?" he said surprised. Janice could follow their conversation. Janice simply nodded. "Well what do you say? Are you. . .how do you say. . .up for it?"

"Am I up for it?" Janice grinned wickedly at the dean. "Sure I’m up for it," she told the institute members. But before she took the stage again she whispered to the dean. "Gotta keep those museum types happy huh pal?" . She gave him a strong chuck on the shoulder before moving back to the stage. The audience started to applaud before she even had a chance to confer with the band.

Mel moved up until she was right next to the stage, looking up at her lover affectionately. ‘Leave it to Janice to make lemonade outta lemons’ she grinned silently.

Janice smiled down at Mel before speaking to the crowd.

"This next and hopefully last number. . ." she paused with a grin. "is for our fine friends from the French Institute. . .It’s also for those who’ve ever been truly in love . . .or hope to be someday."

Epherson joined Mel at the stage and gave her a knowing grin. She always had her suspicions about the pair but now seeing the two of them looking so intensely at each other, she knew her thoughts on the matter were finally confirmed. Neither said a word; they focused on Janice’s voice.

I’vvvve got youuuuu under my skinnnnnn.

I’vvvve got youuuuu deep in the heartttttt offff meeeeee

So deep in my hearttttttt that your realllly a partttttt of meeee.

I’vvvv got youuuuu under my skinnnn.

I tried soooooo, not to give innnnn.

I said to myself this affffairr, it never willlll gooo sooo welllll.

But whyyy should I tryyyy to resist when babyyyy I knoooooow soooo welllll. . .

I’vvvve got youuuuu under my skinnnnn.

Mel watched and felt herself blush again as Janice stopped look around the audience and focused on her as she finished her number.

I’ddddd sacrifice anything come what might for the sake offffff havinnnnn’ ya near.

In spite of a warrrrrrnin’ voice that comes in the night and repeats, repeats in my earrrrrr.

Don’t you knoooooow little foooool . . .you neverrrrrr can winnnnn.

Why not uuuuse your mentality.

Step up.

Wake up

toooooo reallllity.

But each time that I do just the thought of youuuuuu makes me stop. . .before I beginnnnn.

Cause I got youuuuuuu uuuuuunder my skin.

Yeah you grabbbbed meeeeee . . .uuunder my skinnnnnnnn.

The tinkling of the piano hit the last note and Janice winked at Mel. It was the first ‘public display of affection’ she’d ever gotten from Janice – if people weren’t talking after this luncheon it would be a miracle. . .and the more she thought about it the more Mel loved it. . . ‘Yeah,’ the southern beauty thought. ‘We made a stand.’

Chapter 6

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis around 500 bc

Xena walked into her mothers inn and grinned when she saw the man at the bar trying to hear Gabrielle over a loud group of men talking among themselves and laughing. Instead of ‘starting a ruckus’ as her mother would call it, she ignored their rudeness and walked over to meet her friend.

"How ya doin’ Joxer?" she said offering her forearm.

He stood to his full height and took her arm in a firm grasp. "Good," he nodded. "I was passing through and I thought I’d stop in and see the latest edition to the family."

Xena never would have believed it was the same man. After a few months of training years ago, Xena gave him the skills he needed to survive as a warrior. He came to realize the warrior arts simply weren’t for him. The skills Xena did teach him however gave him courage and enough confidence to pursue a real talent he possessed – music. He spent years traveling in Sappho’s band of minstrels all over Greece.

"I’m glad you stopped in," Xena said as the noise got louder behind her. She was going to continue but she realized the raunchy men were now taking notice of Gabrielle – and not in the most pleasant of ways.

"Hey there little lady," the entire tavern heard one of them yell. "Why don’t you stop on up to my room tonight? I got much better things you can do with that tongue."

Gabrielle wasn’t new to hecklers and she usually won the room over all by herself. Xena sat back and watched quietly. Gabrielle shot a quick glance to Xena and watched the warrior nod. Gabrielle knew, after years of traveling and at home, the warrior was letting her take care of things.

"I’m sorry sir," Gabrielle said politely with a wicked grin. "but you’re not my type."

"Oh really. . . I’ve heard you’ve taken one too many trips to Lesbos. Is that true sweetie?" he said rising to his feet. Xena didn’t move. . .not yet. She let him stagger a little closer. When he wasn’t stopping, the former warrior made her move behind him.

"I think you’ve had a little too much port tonight fella," she said trying to keep the peace. "Why don’t you find someplace to sleep it off umm?"

"I know you," he said as he swayed. "You’re the big hero she talks ‘bout aren’t ya?"

Xena didn’t know where this was going so she decided it was best just to press her point. "Like I said-

She didn’t finish. He pushed her back over a patrons lap. Her trick knee made her lose her balance and she fell onto the floor.

"Haaa," the man taunted. "Some warrior," he added smugly. "Now like I said sweetie," he said turning his attentions to Gabrielle again. "What you need is MAN. Someone who-

The fist seemed to come out of nowhere and level him hard. His two buddies jumped up and the room fell quiet when they heard a blade released from its scabbard.

"Who’s next huh?"

The two men looked at each other and put their hands up in surrender. They cautiously made their way over to their friend, collecting his barely conscious body. "Wise choice," they heard over their shoulder as they scuffled out the door and into the night.

Joxer made sure they were completely gone before turning around to Xena. He offered his hand and pulled her to her feet – the retire warrior tried hard not to whence as the pain shot through her kneecap. She casually dusted herself off upon standing. "Thanks Joxer," she whispered.

Showing just the smallest of grins he simply nodded. By now Gabrielle was at Xena’s side.

"Are you alright?" she asked in a soft tone.

Xena nodded but Gabrielle could tell. . .the warrior was hurting. "Nothing a little bit of port won’t cure," Xena said with a grin.

As they made their way to the bar Xena wasn’t sure what hurt worse - the pain in her leg or the fact Joxer had to save them. Upon closer inspection Xena realized it was neither – the worst pain was that she was unable to protect the bard from some simple loud mouth drunk.

Chapter 7

Pappas Estate, South Carolina 1957

Janice dipped Mel over her knee once they were through the front door of their home. Then they proceeded to dance their way into the kitchen. It always amazed Mel how strong her lover was given her petite form.

Evening was beginning to fall. The time flew by at the luncheon as Janice and the French Institute representatives talked of the prospect of Janice coming to Paris. Their government had discovered some articles that could be of some use to Covington’s quest. They didn’t want Janice to get worked up – because they may not be related. That, however, didn’t stop Janice – or Mel too – from being joyfully overwhelmed.

Mel released her dance partner and took two wine glasses down from the cupboard as Janice snaked her arms around her lovers mid-section. The archeologist rested her cheek between Mel’s shoulder blades and sighed.

"What’s that for?" Mel teased softly.

"I don’t know," Janice began. "I just feel . . .complete. . .like everything fits. A beautiful woman in my arms who loves me, a few weeks in Paris coming up, perhaps a few more scrolls . . .I have everything I ever wanted."

Janice immediately felt Mel stiffen.

"What’s wrong?"

"Nothing," Mel said nervously, avoid eye contact even after Janice turned her around.

"Don’t give that Mel. . .Something’s up so what is it?" Janice replied as she gently forced Mel to look at her by holding her cheeks.

"Nothing, really," Mel grinned. "I’m glad ya feel complete. I’m glad I make ya happy."

Janice didn’t know what to do at this point. Mel, who excelled at talking had simply clamed up. ‘Maybe, it’s just me; just overreacting like usual,’ Janice considered as she watched Mel walk into the living room. But when she saw the translator moving quickly as if to escape; her head hung low – she knew all was not well. "Nahh," she said aloud to herself in a whisper. "Something’s wrong."

"You know if you tell me you might feel better," Janice offered as she followed the tall beauty.

"I want a baby," came the whisper.

Janice felt like she’d been sucker punched. She actually took an unsteady step back as the words settled in.

"What?!" she exclaimed - more in surprise than in anger.

She didn’t see this one coming not at all. They were happy with their life, traveling the world, ‘playin’ in the dirt’ as Mel like to call it. ‘What the hell does she need a kid for?’ Janice considered. ‘Who needs more than what we already have?’. Even as Janice asked the silent question she knew the answer – Mel.

Mel needed that if she was ever going to feel complete. She often fawned over children they met in their travels. Her smiled rivaled the local kids as she passed out hard candy treats on Halloween. . . And don’t even take her to the department store at Christmas. If Santa is visiting children, you’ll never leave at a decent hour.

Janice’s first emotion of confusion now led into fear. She was leaving. Mel was leaving her.

"Are you sure?" Janice asked when Mel hadn’t replied to her reaction of ‘What?!’.

Mel nodded and took a seat on the sofa but she still wouldn’t face Janice.

Janice stayed rooted, rubbing her palms together and Mel heard the sound.

‘She’s nervous,’ Mel thought. ‘She always rubs her hands together when she’s nervous.’

"Since when?" Janice asked, creeping closer. Instead of taking a seat next to Mel, the archeologist knelt beside her, hoping to lock eyes. As she suspected Mel had begun to cry.

"I’m not sure," Mel answered. "For awhile now. . .Don’t get me wrong Janice. I love our life together. I love my work. . .but that’s just not enough anymore."

Janice listened as her fingers pulling at her chin in thought. "Do you still love me?" Janice whispered. She swore her heart stopped when she asked the question, afraid of the answer to follow.

"Oh my, yes Janice! That isn’t what I meant at all!" Mel said comfortingly, stroking Janice’s face tenderly. "I just. . .I don’t know. . .I want to be a mother too. I want to be able to pass on what I’ve learned. Something good for the world after I’m gone. Does that make any sense?"

Janice nodded although she didn’t totally understand Mel at this point. "Yeah I can see what you’re trying to say I guess. . .I may have many skills Mel but impregnating you isn’t one of them. . .You’d have to-

‘Sleep with a man’, Janice said silently, unable to voice the thought. "I don’t know Mel," Janice added after the thoughtful pause.

"It is an odd situation I’ll grant ya that Janice. . .And I’m sure there are many . . .donors, for lack of a better word. . .out there. . .But I’m not sure if I’m comfortable being with a man. . .like that."

Janice grinned. ‘Okay. Maybe this isn’t so bad. Maybe Mel will think this through some more and we can lay this whole issue to rest.’

"I was thinking about adoption."

‘Damn’ Janice thought defeated. ‘She has REALLY thought this through. But wait. . .’.

"Mel," Janice began neutrally. "What makes you think any agency is going to give you - a single mother – a child?"

"It is a bit unorthodox. I will say-

"Mel," Janice said trying to keep her temper under wrap. "You are an unwed woman, in the bible belt. No agency is going to give you a child."

"We don’t know that Janice," Mel protested gently.

"Mel," Janice said more forcefully. "Let me spell it out for you . You are a lesbian. Everyone in town thinks you are a lesbian. Any agency that you walk into is going to tell you that you are immoral, unethical and unfit for parenthood."

That did it. Mel’s tear faucets opened up and she darted upstairs, taking them two at a time until Janice heard the bedroom door slam. And with the slam of the door came the slam of Janice’s head in the sofa pillow. She managed to unintentionally hurt Mel, once again, with her brash demeanor.

Chapter 8.

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis around 500 bc

Joxer was sleeping in Lye’s room. The boy didn’t mind sharing his big bed with ‘Unkie Jocer’ as he called him. He looked forward to the tall man’s visit this time. Lye remembered the past spring when Unkie took him to the orchard and placed him atop his shoulders so he could get the highest apple from the tree. Lye asked if they could do it again and Unkie said he would but the trees were bare now for winter. But since there was fresh snow on the ground, he offered to help make a ‘guardian’ in front of the cabin at first light . . .if it was okay with his moms of course.

Lye looked up hopeful to Gabrielle.

"First light is out of the question but after breakfast would be fine," she added with a smile. The two ‘boys’ gave each other a thumps up sign and both got a ruffling of the hair from Gabrielle before sending them off to bed.

"You’re awfully quiet this evening?" Gabrielle observed as she brought Xena a cup of tea

Now, as the household slept, it was just Xena and Gabrielle alone. The warrior was surprisingly quiet all evening – almost as quiet as when the pair first met and began traveling together. ‘Well maybe not THAT quiet’, Gabrielle added in a humorous after thought.

"Just thinking," Xena answered as she stared into the fire.

"About tonight?" Gabrielle offered. She stepped softly around her aloof wife. She’d fallen out of practice of getting the warrior to open up.

"Yeah," Xena sighed. Gabrielle examined Xena a few moments. She couldn’t take it any longer.

"What is it? Tell me please," she said softly, now starring into the fire as well.

Surprisingly, Xena answered immediately. "I let you down."

"What?!" Gabrielle’s face shot over to Xena and she immediately lowered her voice from the initial shock. "I mean. . .how did you let me down?"

"I couldn’t protect you from some loud mouth drunk. . .He’s right you know. . . Some warrior I am huh?"

Gabrielle immediately shook her head. "No Xena. He took you by surprise and he had a better position. That’s all."

"No Gabrielle. . .He knocked me to the floor and I was helpless to protect you."

It was Gabrielle turn to sigh.

"Xena, I’m not going to argue with you all night but I will tell you that I feel quite well protected with you around. You know I’ve never felt safer anywhere else. . .You have protected me in the past. You will continue to protect me -–and the kids – in the future. I have faith in you Xena. You’re the only thing I’ve ever truly believed in. We traveled from one side of this world to the other searching for a sense of peace and understand. Funny thing is . . .it was a wasted trip in a way because all I ever needed . . .all I need now . . .are your arms around me and your love."

Xena considered her words and Gabrielle felt like she was making a little head way with the warrior.

"Besides," Gabrielle began with a mischievous smirk, ". . . how many warriors can still fit into their leathers as well as they did ten years ago huh?" Gabrielle wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. She felt rewarded when she saw the warrior give a sincere grin. Xena begin to relax. It was a good sign.

"Thank you," Xena replied as she took Gabrielle’s hand in hers and kissed the knuckles.

"For what? . .Telling it like it is?" Gabrielle smiled.

"Yes," Xena said smiling broad as well. "And for sharing this journey with me."

Chapter 9

Pappas Estate, South Carolina 1957

Janice opened the door of their bedroom. She was surprised to find it unlocked. As she tiptoed in she saw Mel’s head buried in a pillow.

"Mel honey," Janice began softly. "Don’t be mad. I didn’t try to upset you. . .I just. . .I opened my big mouth and put my foot in it like usual. I didn’t want to hurt you sweetheart. You gotta believe me Mel."

Mel sniffled and wiped her tears from her cheeks. "I know," Mel answered.

Janice breathed a soft sigh of relieve. ‘Went easier than I thought,’ she decided as she took a seat on the foot of the bed.

"You’re right," Mel replied. "I know that’s exactly what they will say to me. I guess I just hoped that ya’d like the idea and ya’d think I’d make a great mother." Mel began to whimper again. And Janice collected the large, shaking woman in her strong arms.

"Don’t ever doubt the faith I have in you," Janice said softly. "That’s not at all what I meant. . . I just didn’t want you to walk in and get your hopes up. . .I wanted you to be prepared for what may follow. . . That’s all sweetheart. . .As for being a mother well, I think you’d make a great one." Neither woman said a word until Janice quietly added, "It’s me that I’m really worried about."

Mel pulled back and faced Janice who began to play with a string on the bedspread. "What do ya mean Janice?"

"What do I mean?" Janice said, rising up and beginning to pace. "Look at me Mel I’m goin’ on 40 years old. I travel the world for my work. I can’t put a kid through that kind of life. . .Sure, it worked out alright for me but I missed things Mel. I never built any real friendships because we were always on the move."

"But ya didn’t just sit in a class room ‘hearin’ ‘bout history Janice. . .Ya lived it. Ya saw the coliseum instead of just readin’ about it."

"Yes that’s true and I guess for every ‘con’ I have you’ll throw a ‘pro’ right back at me won’t you?" Janice smiled. Mel simple nodded with a sly grin. "Can’t you let me brood even for a little while?" the digger chuckled.

"Nahh. . ." Mel teased. "I like to see that devilish grin, my angel."

Janice chuckled but the smile began to slip further from her face. Mel’s expression began to mimic her lovers. She was going to ask why Janice was becoming melancholy again but she didn’t get the chance.

"What if I become my mother?" Janice said softly. Mel could hear the pain from deep inside Janice’s words. "What if I realize I can’t cut it and I decide to split too?" Janice met Mel eye to eye.

Mel walked up to Janice and snaked her fingers through her blonde hair. "One word," the translator whispered. ". . .destiny."

She gave Janice a soul searing kiss before pulling away slowly, still savoring her lips.

"I’m serious," Janice said, trying to calm the disruptive energy Mel was sending through her body.

"So am I," Mel answered. "The first moment I saw ya Janice Covington . . .I knew. . .ya were my destiny. . .And I know for a fact I’m yours. . .And with that. . .well. . .we can take on anything darlin’. . .ANYTHING. . .even motherhood," she added with a grin in place.

Janice pulled Mel tightly against her, feeling the warmth from the translators bosom, smelling her flowery perfume. "I don’t want to disappoint you Mel. I never want to let you down."

Mel ran her fingers over Janice’s hair. "You will disappoint me. You will let me down."

Janice started to pull away but Mel kept her firmly in place. "The reason. . .," Mel answered. "is because when ya love someone ya open yer heart. . .and ya will get hurt from time to time. . .but if that love is true, then it will always prevail over all else. That’s what I feel Janice. You’re only human darlin’. We’ll BOTH make mistakes. . .but we’ll both love each other in this life and in the next. . .and that’s all that matters in the end."

Janice smiled. "Have I told you how much I love you recently?" she asked.

"Yes," Mel replied. "This morning in fact. When ya looked at me while I was searching for my shoes . . .it told me everything in yer heart."

"The shoes," Janice drawled slyly starting to look down.

Mel hooked Janice under the chin and brought her eye to eye. "Trust me Janice," she winked. "There still on. . .now it’s time to hold up yer end of the deal."

Mel arched her eyebrow and tugged Janice toward the bed.

Janice knew, by the look of that eyebrow, it was going to be another wonderful, ‘soleful’ night.

Chapter 10

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis around 500 bc

Lye enjoyed Joxer’s week long visit and both bard and warrior invited him back again. He promised to return in the summer so he and Lye could visit the orchard again to collect apples for his Granny Cyrene.

Once more Xena found herself sitting at the bar waiting for her bard to finish her set so she could walk her home. Lye played behind the bar quietly ‘cooking’ with one of Granny’s pots and some wooden spoons. As the bard reached the climax of her tale the door burst open. Three men entered – the three men from the week before – and Xena could feel a lump rise to her throat.

"Where is he?" one demanded, his drunken slur nowhere to be found this time.

Gabrielle stopped her tale and answered quickly. "He isn’t here," she said matter of factly. "You shouldn’t be here either."

Xena didn’t wait this time. She casually walked up to the men before they could take another step toward the stage.

"Is that so?" he taunted.

"Yes, that’s so," Xena said before Gabrielle could reply. "Leave now and don’t come back. . .I’m giving you the chance to live," Xena replied evenly.

The men began to laugh merrily. No one in the establishment uttered a sound. No one except Lye who peeked out from behind the bar. Pot in hand.

"Mama?" he asked innocently, looking at the warrior.

The thug looked at the child and then at Xena. Gabrielle knew what the man was thinking even before the crossbow left his shoulder.

He was fast and Gabrielle dived to Lye. But she fell short of the boy, mere inches away. The arrow slipped through Xena’s grip and everyone watched as the speeding projectile raced toward the child.

Call it instinct. Call it ‘genetics’. In any case, Lye raised the pot deflecting the arrow. Gabrielle scrambled on her stomach and shielded her son before the highwayman could send a second round. It was a fruitless effort though.

Seeing that her son was safe Xena grabbed the man by the ruff of his throat and sent him into a table of dinning members, who promptly scattered. The two remaining men unsheathed their swords. Before they could raise a strike, Xena kicked one in the groin forcing him to double over. The other she grabbed by the ears, snapping his neck with easy. As his body collapsed lifeless to the ground, the first foe rose from the broken table behind him with a wooden leg in hand.

Xena took the lifeless mans sword. She twirled it with expert grace and without looking behind her, she buried it deep in his chest. Once she felt it embedded, she turned and kicked the man from the blade. People were looking through their hands – some sighed, some screamed, some stayed as silent as the dead men at the warriors feet. Xena turned back to the last man standing.

"You have an option. Leave here and never return or join your friends in Tartarus. What’s it going to be pal? You think you can take on the washed up warrior?" she taunted. "Come on, gimme a reason," she continued as the man stayed mute. He looked frozen and Xena found herself throwing down the blade. "Get outta here," she threatened, turning around to walk back to her family.

The man let out a growl and charged. Xena shook her head. He had a choice. So be it.

He swung his dagger over his head aiming for the warriors heart. Xena stopped it with ease and snapped the man wrist. She swung the helpless soul around and buried his own blade in his own heart with his own hands.

Three dead men lay in the middle of her mothers tavern – travelers and villagers looked on, some in disgust; some in awe of the power Xena still possessed. Xena herself was a mix of emotions – a feeling of triumph; a feeling of dread. The only eyes however that mattered now were those of her family.

"Are the bad guys all gone now Mama?"

Xena heard Lye ask Gabrielle the question spoken in a child’s innocence. She never wanted Lye to see that part of her nature – her ‘dark side’ as she still called it. She wanted to protect him from it for as long as possible but as she walked over to them she knew that time had past. And she wondered, for the briefest of moments, why she thought someone like her could ever make a decent mother.

"Yes," Xena heard Gabrielle answer their son. "They’re all gone now. You’re safe. Mama kept us safe. You okay?" she asked examining the boy.

Lye nodded and hugged Gabrielle tight around the neck. The bard looked up and gave a grim smile to her warrior. Xena knew Gabrielle felt the same sensations – pride for a job well done, and despair. . .for a job well done.

Chapter 11

Paris Institute, Paris, France – 1957

Janice and Mel spent their first day in Paris in a musty warehouse looking over artifacts that the French felt could be a connection to their work on the Xena scrolls. So far nothing looked promising. Upon hearing the translators stomach growl, Janice smiled and turned to her lover.

"Hungry?" she teased.

"Just a little," Mel blushed.

"Why don’t we knock it off for the day?" Janice offered. "Grab a bit to eat at a café on the way to the hotel?"

"Sounds good to me," Mel answered with a warm smile, dusting herself off.

As they made their way through the actual museum, they couldn’t help but overhear two women talking in front of them. French was a language that both digger and translator knew fluently before meeting. As the pair in front conversed, Mel just had to interrupt.

"Pardon," Mel began, continuing in their native tongue, "But that’s terrible. Why would someone just ‘bring back’ a child?"

The blonde woman answered. "Well, I don’t know all the facts. It’s my sister that runs the orphanage but from what I understand the couple is from an ‘upstanding’ family and they didn’t want a ‘defective’ child. . .It’s a shame too because a wealthy family is what this child needs for the education she’ll require. And since she’s already been with a family so many are reluctant to take ‘second hand goods’."

"Oh my," Mel sighed. "What will happen to her?"

"The child?" the woman asked

Mel simple nodded, her lip quivering.

"Well she’ll probably live her life in the orphanage. No one will want her since she’s ‘used’ . . .and deaf."

Mel looked at Janice. Janice could see the beauty’s wheels turning. Janice’s first reaction was an ohhhh noooo mentality but she didn’t utter a word. She just waited and held her tongue as her lover and the woman conversed. By the time things were over, Mel had the name of the woman’s sister, an address and a phone number. The southern belle thanked the woman and watched as the two women walked on. Neither woman said a word in the vacant space between them.

"It’s worth a shot," Mel finally mustered, playing with the ends of the paper.

Janice sighed and walked away. "What makes you think they’ll say yes?" Janice finally asked, staring at a suit of armor.

"We have the means," Mel answered.

"You mean you have the money . . .You’re going to ‘buy’ a child," Janice replied with disdain heavy in her voice.

"I’m not going to have a child any other way Janice," Mel replied. "That is unless I find some sexy Frenchman who wants to spend-

"Stop right there," Janice threatened. "I don’t even want to hear it and if I ever find out you’ve been with a man, with anyone. . ."

Janice was never one to make empty threats but she couldn’t finish the statement. It was too painful to consider.

"You’ll what Janice?" Mel provoked. "Say it. . .Come on say it!"

"I’ll leave you!" the archeologist spat out harshly. The reply echoed down the halls coming back to ring in both their ears.

Mel paused a moment and walked to Janice’s turned back. "Not if I leave you first," she answered in a hostile whisper in Janice’s ear.

Janice heard Mel’s quick high heeled steps moving further and further away. She knew they just weren’t walking out of the museum but out of her life. That realization set her in motion.

"Mel slow down," Janice called out walking toward her. The belle wasn’t stopping. "Mel?" Janice called out much less secure than before. "Mel please stop," Janice said going into a sprint. She caught up with the translator and turned her forcefully around.

Mel hadn’t uttered a single word or made even a sound but her face was soaked with tears, her eyes terribly bloodshot. Mel still didn’t make eye contact - she couldn’t. It would be her undoing.

Janice was unnerved by what she saw. Her gut reaction took over.

"Oh Sweetheart," Janice sighed pulling the translator tight into her arms.

She told Mel years before she would give Mel anything she desired. This baby was something the belle wanted – no, she needed it in order to feel complete. The pain was evident now to Janice. And she knew that she couldn’t see Mel in pain like this any longer.

She had two choices – leave Mel so the translator could have a full life or try like hell to adopt a child. She took one look in those deep blue eyes and her fate was sealed. "We’ll try," Janice promised softly. "We’ll try darlin’. Some way. Some how. I’ll get you a baby."

"No," Mel returned. "Us – get us a baby Janice. I need ya to be a part of my life. I need ya to be a mother too. If yer not ready for that then . . .maybe we should consider. . .everything."

Janice felt her throat constrict and she took a deep breath to steady her nerves. She didn’t like where this conversations seemed to be going. "Everything? What do you mean by ‘everything’?"

"I just think that maybe we should spend some time apart, that’s all," Mel answered nervously, looking at her shoes, unable to face Janice. "That way ya can think about what’s really important to ya."

Mel promised Janice forever. . .and she wondered if forever was now ‘over’.

Janice stuttered and sputtered in her speech.

"Wha. . .How ca. . .Are yo. . .Mel!?"

This was ridiculous. They were destine for each other, just like their ancestors. Mel couldn’t be serious. Could she?

"I’m sorry Janice but I think we should just keep things on a professional basis from now on. I’m going to grab some dinner and I’ll see you tonight at the hotel."

Janice stood slack-jawed, total bowled over by what had taken place. A gorgeous dame just dumped Janice. That wasn’t right! If anything Janice was always the heartbreaker – a girl in every port. Who the HELL did Mel Pappas think she is anyway?! It took Janice all of three seconds for the answer – Mel Pappas was the love of her lifetime. It didn’t even seem real to Janice what was happening until she watched Mel climbing into a cab outside.

Janice was unsure of when the translator moved away from her but she had darted out the door at some point. Janice began to give chase to the taxi going up the street but she quickly got winded.

‘It’s gotta be the cigars’ Janice told herself as she tried to catch her breath. She stumbled toward the sidewalk. The short run had made her dizzy and to top it off she pulled a muscle in her arm. As Janice worked out the kink in her left arm she found that although she stopped running, it was getting harder, much harder, to breathe. Then she grew nauseous. Something was wrong. Very wrong. ‘Oh God Mel!’ Janice’s mind screamed out that last consequent thought before her body tumbled to the Parisian sidewalk.

Chapter 12

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis, around 500 bc

Xena had ‘cleaned up’ the tavern and her body while at her mothers inn - washing away the filth of the confrontation. Her mind flashed to her last major battle. A group of villagers stood up to a petty tyrant. A tyrant with a huge army. The healer had been killed in the previous battle and Gabrielle was the only one with enough experience to help those injured. The battle raged for hours. More and more men seemed to multiply from nowhere but when it was all said and done, Xena and many of the villagers walked away from the battlefield in victory and in tact.

As she cleaned the blood from her hands at her mothers inn she went back to that little village in her mind. She was covered in blood. Gabrielle’s sigh was audible from clear across the room.

"It’s not mine," the warrior had assured her quickly.

Gabrielle left a competent village woman in charge so she could see to her warrior. She striped the warrior of her blood soaked clothes and took her to the river. After repeated scrubbings Xena was finally clean. . . .but she didn’t feel clean. She didn’t feel anything actually. . . except numb. At that point Xena knew her time on the road must end. If she felt rage, if she felt remorse, if she felt anything that would give her the acknowledgement she needed to continue. But after all she had seen and after all she had done that day, all she walked away with was . . . ‘nothing’.

Xena’s catatonic state scared Gabrielle. She saw the warrior through many battles and the after effects. Sometimes Xena would cry. Sometimes she would do drills with her sword. And sometimes she would take the bard, giving into her most carnal lusts with full acceptance from her lover. But on this day Xena did nothing; said nothing.

Gabrielle called Xena’s name three times before the warrior turned around to face her. The warriors face revealed nothing – no sorrow, no remorse, no joy – absolutely nothing.

"I think we should settle somewhere," Xena told Gabrielle. The warriors bottom lips quivered a little bit. Although unreadable, Gabrielle took it as a good sign. Her Xena was still somewhere in that war battered body.

Gabrielle nodded, "Whatever you want Xena," the bard answered pulling her into her arms.

"I know how much you love to travel. It’s why you left home but I-

Gabrielle put her finger across Xena’s mouth. "The reason I left Potidaea was to be with you . . .I’m with you to the end Xe. . .Be it traipsing all over the world or in a tiny village in the hills . . .I’m with YOU," Gabrielle emphasized.

Gabrielle’s words of that day echoed in Xena’s mind as she stood over the rinse bowl in her mothers washroom. Another villager, Janner, had offered to walk Gabrielle and the kids home until Xena was more presentable. Now that she was finished she headed home to her little family. Funny. . .once more the blood was gone but she didn’t feel clean.

Gabrielle was feeding Myra when Xena walked in.

"Lye is still up," she said softly. "He wants to speak to you."

Xena watched Gabrielle rise from the rocker she had made her as a solstice present one year. Gabrielle took their infant daughter to bed. She didn’t wait a moment longer once they disappeared. She headed straight to Lye’s bedroom.

"Hey there Sport," Xena whispered excitedly, coming over to tousle her sons’ hair. She wanted to make him feel as comfortable as possible by being her usual playful self. "Mama said you wanted to talk to me?"

He nodded but he didn’t continue. Xena hated to lead a conversation, as she was sure Gabrielle could attest to many of their friends over the years. But she knew how shy her son could be at times and she knew since she was the ‘adult’ here, she’d have to be the one to take control.

"What’s the matter?" Xena asked, taking a place at the foot of his small bed.

He didn’t answer. He just rolled his shoulders and played with the top of his quilt.

Xena sighed softly, trying to think of a starting place. She was relieved when she heard a voice from the door way say. "Why don’t you just tell her what you asked me Lye? She won’t get mad sweetheart."

Xena was relieved to hear Gabrielle join the conversation but the message she came in with was a bit unsettling. ‘Mad?’ Xena wondered. ‘Why would I get mad?’. Whatever the question was she was sure it couldn’t be too good.

Lye took a deep breath. He laid his palms open and started with "Okay," spoken almost in a sigh. Xena bit her lip. Sometimes he was so much like the bard it worried her but it also amused her at the same time. Would trouble find this young man as much as it did Gabrielle? Judging by the incident earlier it was shaping up to be that way, Xena grinned inwardly.

"If I start trouble would you think I’m a bad guy and would you stab me too?"

Xena’s heart jumped to her throat. ‘By the Gods!’ she thought. She didn’t realize she had spoken those words out loud until Gabrielle put her hand on Xena shoulder and said, "By the Gods indeed."

Xena quickly made up for it. "Oh sweetie," she said opening her arms for Lye to climb into. She needed to feel the boy as much as he needed to feel her. "I would never, ever hurt you. And you will never, ever be a bad guy. I promise."

"Joseph said the smithy told his father that you were good once; then you got bad and you kilt lots of people. I told him it’s not nice to lie and that my momma doesn’t kill people-

Xena heard enough. She put her finger over her sons lips. She knew this would happen someday. She knew someday one of his friends would say something and that would be it. His view of her would forever be changed. She never figured it would be this early in his young life but she would explain everything the best she could to her son.

Xena filled in the incidents of her past without going into too much detail for his young mind to comprehend. When she got ‘hung up’ on how to continue, then and only then did Gabrielle offer the words Xena strived for but couldn’t find on her own. Xena made sure to squeeze the bard’s hand at every one of those moments to convey her thanks for having the bard close at this time.

"How many men have you kilt momma?"

The question was spoken so matter of factly, so innocently it broke Xena’s heart. In all her years of killing she never thought she’d have to explain it to anyone. She never imagined having to justify it later to someone she would care so deeply about. She only saw death then. And she never expected to find love. Now the past haunted her more than she ever thought possible.

"Sadly, more than I can count and not all deserved to die son. . .I can’t lie to you. . .I wasn’t a very good person for quite awhile but you know what the great thing about life is?. . .You can always reinvent yourself. You can always change your life as long as your lungs breath and your heart beats. . .I gave those men tonight that chance. I gave them the option to turn around and change their lives. But they chose to fight. They chose their destiny. And if killing them meant keeping you and momma and Myra safe I’d do it again. I don’t enjoy hurting people Lye, but I’m not going to let anyone hurt you or this family. . . Do you think you understand?"

Lye chewed on his lip. And Xena once more surpressed a chuckle. ‘So much like the bard when deep in thought’ she observed.

"I think so," he said cocking his head. "Those men wanted to hurt us but you hurt them before they could hurt us. . .But you didn’t just hurt them first. . .You told them to go away but they didn’t listen. . ." Xena watched as he paused and scratched his chin. Xena hadn’t noticed it but his natural father, Autolycus, often did the same thing too when his ‘wheels were turning’. She wondered why she hadn’t noticed it before tonight. She didn’t have time to dwell on it though. Lye finished his thought. "Momma maybe it’s me. . . but if they didn’t leave when they had the chance that’s kinda dumb don’t cha think?"

Gabrielle restrained a chuckle and it came out as a croaking noise that made Xena grin. The boy was young but he was also pretty bright. She had to agree with him.

"Yeah," she said rising up and tucking him back in. "It wasn’t very smart was it?" She leaned over and gave him a kiss on top of his nodding head. "Get some sleep Sport. It’s late. Okay?"

Lye nodded and Gabrielle said her goodnights as well and quietly left the room. Xena reached to take the lantern from his room when he stopped her.

"Momma?" he asked quietly.

"Yes Lye," she asked with a gentle smile.

"I’m glad you’re here to take care of me and mommy and sissy."

"Thank you sweetheart. I wouldn’t have it any other way," Xena said softly. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight," he called as Xena closed his door.

Xena held back the tears until she saw Gabrielle walk over to her with open arms. Xena cried silently. It had been a tremendously emotional taxing night on many levels – be it highs or lows. Having Lye admit that he needed her; still wanted her after the story she told, made her heart melt; her defenses bare. Maybe he didn’t understand all of it but he knew Xena had a dark past and he still loved her anyway. That Xena wasn’t the one he knew and loved. The only Xena he knew was the person she was today. And that was enough for her.

Gabrielle rocked Xena in her arms and told her everything was fine; everything would continue to be fine.

Xena pulled back and wiped her tears and nose, gaining her self control back somewhat. "Thank you," she whispered sincerely.

"Don’t mention it. . .You do realize though you’ll have to tell this story again sometime, perhaps many times to Lye and Myra?"

"Yes, I know. And I accept that fact. . .Will you be kind enough to help me again?" Xena grinned, the melancholy still on her face.

Gabrielle took Xena by the hand and led her toward their bedroom for the night.

"Like I’ve said for years Xena. . .I’m with you ‘til the end," she grinned.

Continued...Part 2 (Conclusion)

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