Ares' Gift

part 4

by Lena

These characters, Xena, Gabrielle, Toris, Lilla, Solan and Cyrene, do not belong to me. They belong to MCA, Universal and Renaissance Pictures. The story, however, is mine alone. Please refrain from plagiarizing.

I have not received, nor will I be receiving any financial gain from the writing of this story. No plagiarism is intended on my part.

WARNING: (Alternative fan fiction. Rated NC17) There are explicit scenes of passionate love between two consenting adult women that I, deeply, enjoyed writing and I hope you enjoy reading. However, if you are under age or if material of this type is illegal in your neck of the woods, THEN .................... SCAT.



"Mmmmmm." Gabrielle stretched contentedly, having had a restful, dreamless night. To her surprise, Xena was still asleep, snoring lightly. 'Isn't this a nice surprise.' Gabrielle bent her head and softly kissed the breast she had been using as a pillow, then pulled the shoulder strap of her lover's night shift back up to cover the puckering skin. Careful, not to wake the exhausted warrior, Gabrielle skittered out of bed to relieve her screaming bladder into the chamber pot.

After washing up and dressing for the day, Gabrielle decided to serve her beloved breakfast in bed. 'I know just the thing, a fresh goose egg, warm nut bread with fig preserves. She'll love that. We haven't had a decent meal in weeks.'

Gabrielle hummed contentedly as she carried the breakfast tray into their bedchamber where her lover was still in dreamland. Placing the tray on their bedside table just inches from Xena's reclined head, Gabrielle bent down and tenderly kissed sleeping beauty's eyelids, nose and full lips until she roused.

"Hhmmmm? Oh, Gabrielle, good morning. I must have over slept." Xena said, groggily.

"You needed it, love. Lycea really wore you out. Look I brought you breakfast in bed. I intend to pamper you silly for the next seven moons." Xena smiled, turned her face toward the aroma of her breakfast and took a deep sniff.

Turning several unusual shades of green, Xena struggled to escape the confines of the blankets, grabbed hold of the window ledge, nearly throwing her upper body completely out of the room, and puked, and puked, and puked.

Gabrielle held the ailing warrior's hair back and wiped her face with a damp rag. "By the gods, Xena, are you OK?"

Xena straightened up slowly, still holding onto the window ledge, and tilted her head toward her soul mate.

"Gabrielle....., catch me." Xena murmured as she fainted into the little bard's ready arms, barely breaking her fall.

"Xena? TORIS, I NEED HELP!!! Oh, gods, Xena," Gabrielle held her unconscious lover on her lap, patting her cheek in an effort to wake her.

"What in Tartarus happened?" Toris exclaimed bursting into the bed chamber.

"I don't know. She woke up, threw up and passed out." 'Why does that sound so familiar?' "Help me get her back to bed and then go fetch the healer."

Once safely back in bed, a very confused Xena began to moan and hold her belly.

Standing in the doorway, Lilla spoke up. "Gabby, Xena doesn't need a healer, she just needs some of my mint tea and some dry crackers before you thrust a full meal upon her first thing in the morning. after all pregnancy at Xena's age is no piece of cake."

At that Xena moaned in misery. "Please, no cake."

Lilla chuckled, "Gab, you keep that cool rag on her throat and don't let her sit up til I come back." Gabrielle gave her sister a grateful smile and returned her attention to her suffering Consort.

"Stay still, love. It's just a nasty case of morning sickness. Lilla says she has just the thing to fix you up." Gabrielle brushed her hand up and down Xena's arm to comfort the still green mother-to-be.

"I wanna die. Just let me die." The miserable warrior groaned. "I'll never survive seven more months of this."

"Yes, you will." Lilla told her sister-in-law. "Now take this tea and crackers. Believe me. It will help. I had terrible morning sickness with Lycea and this is what the healer prescribed." Xena was doubtful, but was willing to try anything.

Mint tea and dry crackers became the daily morning menu and Xena did survive and by her fifth month was feeling strong, healthy, hungry and FAT.

"Xena, I can't let this tunic out any further. You either agree to go shopping with me for some maternity clothes or go nude. Now, which will it be?"

"Aw, Gabrielle, you know I hate going to the market. Everyone stares at me." Xena put on her best puppydog face.

"They stare at you because you walk around in your big brother's tunic and old beat up trousers. They think you're a beggar or a lunatic." Gabrielle stomped around the room, collecting Toris' discarded clothing.

"Ok, Ok I'll go, on one condition." Giving her lover an impish grin.

"What's that?" Gabrielle asked in exasperation.

"You make those little dumplings with the red stuff in them that I like so much." Xena clasped her hands together as in prayer, pleading with the soft hearted woman. "Oh please, please, please."

"Alright, alright. But you have to stand there, patiently, and let me find three tunics and three pair of trousers that actually fit you and two new night shirts." Gabrielle stated emphatically.

"What do you think I'm made of? Dinars! We can't afford all that." Now it was the warrior's turn to pace the floor.

"OK. Let's say two tunics, two pair of trousers and two nightshirts. Take it or leave it. That's my final offer." Gabrielle stood firm.

"And you'll bake me dumplings three nights a week til the baby comes. Deal?" Xena looked up, hopefully.

"Deal! So let's go." The bard said grabbing her staff, winter cape and money purse.

"Right now?" Xena protested.

"Yes, right now. I know you Miss "Warrior Princess". If I bake those dumplings for you tonight, you'll find a hundred reasons why you can't go shopping with me tomorrow. So, let's go."

"Geesh." Xena grabbed her chakram; she was getting to big to use her sword effectively, and her winter cape and followed her Majesty out of the door.

***

Gabrielle had chosen Xena's new clothes in various shades of blue and cranberry, even her night shirts were in cranberry.

"Those colors are very sexy on you. They bring out your eyes." Gabrielle purred.

"Sexy! Gabrielle, I am getting fatter by the day, can't bend over and have to get up at least twice a night to pee. What in Tartarus do you find sexy?"

Gabrielle sauntered up to her soulmate, placing both hands upon her growing belly. "Your body nurturing and protecting our baby is the most wondrous, most beautiful experience I have ever witnessed, much less been an integral part of. You have never been more attractive to me, my love." The shorter woman reached behind Xena's neck, pulling her into a long soft kiss.

"Mmmmm, delicious. I look forward to hearing the rest of your argument in our bed tonight. I'll even model those shifts for you, if you like." Xena gave her partner a wicked grin as she pulled from her embrace and turned toward the door.

"Where are you heading in your new clothes?" Gabrielle asked her Consort.

"To work the fields with Toris. We need to get more soil over the seedlings before the winter freezes hit." Xena responded.

Gabrielle gave her clueless lover a look of total disbelief.

Xena looked down at herself in confusion. "What?" She was wearing her new blue tunic and trousers.

"Oh, never mind. Go on get. But don't work too hard. And, when you START getting tired, come in and rest. We can take a nice nap together." Gabrielle relented.

"A NAP? I don't take naps. Children take naps and I am not a child."

Xena was irate.

"Yes, a nap, Miss "Warrior Princess". You are still pregnant and the healer said you should take a short nap whenever you feel tired. Carrying a child at your age takes a heavy toll on the body's energy."

Xena rolled her eyes, 'I am getting pretty tired of always being reminded how old I am.' "I am not old and I don't need a nap." Xena muttered under her breath.

"Besides," Gabrielle gave her lover a sexy grin and ran her hand seductively down her thigh. "I said I'd join you."

The warrior felt her irritation fade instantly and her ardor rear. Swallowing hard, "A nap....., um....., sounds....., um....., good to me. I'll see you the moment I tire." She grinned at her lover and left to work the fields.

'She's so easy.' Gabrielle returned to her chores.

***

The days and weeks went by uneventfully. Xena would work the fields with her brother, coming in for meals and the occassional "roll in the hay" with her partner, followed by a short nap.

Gabrielle still told her stories at the tavern once a week. She had put to parchment their newest adventure with Ares, changing some of the facts to save her lover and herself any embarrassment. Then the whole family would eat together and make plans for the future of their farm and their children.

Xena could never remember feeling so content.

***

Being over seven months pregnant, Xena had to stop demonstrating her fighting techniques to the young militiamen, but some of the older members were able to adequately take on that task. She just looked on, giving direction when needed and praise when deserved. She did admit to feeling frustrated with the limitations that her ever- expanding belly, and ever decreasing energy, placed upon her previously toned and agile body.

Well into winter now, Xena was getting cabin fever. There didn't seem to be anything constructive to do. She liked feeling needed and being productive. Being able to perform physical feats that most men could only dream of was something she hadn't realized was so important to her. She had been faster, stronger, smarter and virtually tireless in battle. Looking down at her vast belly, Xena thought, 'All I fight now are backaches and heartburn.' The warrior let out a breath of frustration through pursed lips.

Xena didn't realize Gabrielle had been watching her. The little bard came up behind her, wrapping her loving arms around the warrior's shoulders. "What is it, love? You have been so quiet the last few days. Have you run out of things to occupy that busy mind of yours?" Gabrielle kissed her soulmate's head and laid her cheek against the silky raven hair.

Xena looked up into those soft green eyes and smiled gently. "I guess I'm not use to this enforced leisure." Trying to hide her frustration.

"Sweetheart, how would you feel if we stayed with your mom for a few weeks? I know she doesn't ask. But, I'm sure she could use our help at the inn and it would give us something constructive to do. I'd like the opportunity to be center stage for a while. I've spent most of the passed few weeks writing new stories and I can't wait to try them out on someone other than you. No offense meant." The bard absolved.

"None taken." Xena smirked. "Well that will mean packing enough clothes, and parchment of course, for a few weeks and we'll have to get a message to Mom that we are coming. I wouldn't want to just show up on her doorstep if she doesn't want us there. A few weeks is a long time."

"All done. Your mom is totally excited. And your old bedroom is waiting for us." Gabrielle smiled in self satisfaction at being able to accomplish this task for her lover.

"Pretty sure of yourself, aren't you?" Xena grinned. "Am I that transparent?"

"Only to me, my love. Only to me." Gabrielle kissed Xena's soft tempting lips and sighed.

Making love to her mate had become quite a feat in acrobatics for the little woman. 'I can't get enough of her. When I think about the miracle happening inside of her body, I just want her more. Only problem is getting to those places that excite her passion without putting too much pressure on the baby or hurting her back, or her getting short of breath, or squeezing her breasts to hard, or stopping so she can go pee.'

Xena looked curiously at her spent lover. "What are you thinking about?"

Gabrielle gave the insecure warrior her gentlest look, full of all the affection she held for the older woman. "You, my love. All of my thoughts are of you and how much I want to please you and how sexy it is that you are with child."

To Xena's surprise, she felt the tears begin to run down her overheated cheeks. "Do you mean that? You still think I'm sexy?"

Gabrielle laid her head on Xena's swollen breast and wrapped her arm possessively around her belly. "I know it sounds strange, but I have more desire for you now then I can ever remember having before. You and our child are everything to me. You are my life." Gabrielle got up on one elbow taking her lover's hand in hers and gently kissed the palm, "and you, my beautiful mother-to-be, hold my soul in your hands."

Xena sniffled as Gabrielle wiped away her tears. "Why don't you sleep a little while and I'll go fix us something to eat. I'll have Toris hook Argo up to the wagon and have us ready to go by time you get up." Gabrielle gently kissed her lover's lips and then her belly, causing the emotional warrior to smile and shed another tear or two.

***

The next two weeks flew by for the couple. There was no end to the chores Xena's mother had for her gifted daughter to tackle, from fixing furniture to helping serve the customers in the tavern, while her little bard helped out in the kitchen and told her new stories to the enraptured patrons.

The three exhausted women looked forward to sharing quiet times by the fireplace after the customers left, drinking hot spiced tea and baring their souls to each other. Mother and daughter developed an understanding of their trials and joys. Each amazed at the other's insights.

Xena found herself tiring more and more easily, which frustrated her no end. But she found she enjoyed the attention lavished upon her by her overprotective mother and doting partner.

At the end of the day, Gabrielle sat Xena down and, raising swollen feet to her lap, lovingly rubbed the soreness away, causing contented purrs to escape her very pregnant wife.

"Daughter, you are going to have to rest more now that you're approaching your time. Gabrielle and I can handle the tavern just fine. The snows are getting much too heavy for travelers to be passing through and our regulars don't demand much. I know you get bored easily and I know you hate cooking, but, if you think you could tolerate it, I could use help with chopping the vegetables so I can be setting up the tables and washing the dishes for the evening meal. You could do that sitting here at the table with your feet up on that chair. I'll even place a pillow under them for you." Xena's mother smiled sweetly at her daughter's sour expression.

Xena blew the air out of her pursed lips, "OK, I suppose it wouldn't kill me to chop some vegetables."

"Of course not. And we can chat while I am running about." Cyrene said.

"Chat? I don't chat." The warrior responded. Realizing she was acting like a crabby child, the warrior asked, "What do you want to chat about?"

"Well, for one thing, what are you going to name my grandchild?" Cyrene looked at her, hands firmly on hips.

"Name it? I don't know. We haven't really discussed a name yet."

"Well don't you think it's about time you did?" Cyrene said as she went back to setting the tables.

"Yea, I guess it is at that." Xena said, rubbing her huge belly and smiling.

"Xena, you know you should stay here until after the baby is born and you have a chance to recuperate. Alena lives just down the road and there are any number of people that can help out." Cyrene stated.

"Yeah, I was thinking about that myself. You Ok with that?" Xena directed her question to a very drowsy bard.

"Me? Oh, sure. That's great. Thanks, Cyrene." Gabrielle yawned and helped her partner out of the chair and up to bed.

***

Hearing the clatter of the kitchen door being kicked out of the way, Xena and her mother turned to see Gabrielle struggling with a large sack of flour in one arm and rice in the other.

"Gabrielle, what do you think you are doing? That's too much for you to carry at one time." Xena exclaimed, jumping up from her chair to assist her straining partner.

"Daughter, you sit right back down there. I'll help Gabrielle. You are not to lift anything heavier than your hand til that baby gets here. Do you understand me?" Cyrene insisted.

Taken aback by her Mother's uncharacteristic outburst, Xena flopped back into her chair and watched as Cyrene took the sack of rice from her daughter-in-law's arm. 'Well, I guess she told me.' Xena huffed to herself and resumed her vegetable chopping.

***

After a week of KP duty, Xena had about all she could stand. "Mom, I'm gonna go visit with Argo for a while. Tell Gabrielle, she doesn't have to bother with feeding her. I'll get her all settled." Xena grabbed her cape and, wrapping it tightly around her expansive figure, headed into the cold, crisp day.

"Hey, girl. It's me. Did you miss me?" Xena pet her long-time companion on her tender nose. "Look what I've got for you." She pulled out a carrot she confiscated from her KP duty. Argo eagerly took the treat and bumped his head against Xena's protruding belly in affection.

Xena filled the feed bin with a bucket of sweet oats then grabbed up Argo's brush from the tac room and proceeded to slowly and lovingly groom her horse.

"I bet you're getting bored in here, huh girl. I wish there were someone to ride you, so you could get some exercise. I wish I could. It's a pretty day out, all that sunshine and crisp clean air just going to waste."

Looking over at the saddle straddling the stall gate, Xena thought, 'It would be so easy just to swing the saddle onto her back. I don't even have to bend. That's not really lifting. And I would just sit while she walks around and gets some exercise. I wouldn't even get jostled.' An evil grin crossed the ex-warlords face as she set about saddling her horse.

'Now, how do I get up there? I can't even reach my foot up to the stirrup.' Xena looked around for an alternate way to mount. Then thought to use a trick she had taught Argo many years before. "Argo, down." The horse looked at his mistress and shook her head. "Don't tell me no. Argo, down!" The huge blonde horse complied and Xena mounted him with little difficulty.

The delighted warrior road for over a candle mark just enjoying the freedom and the connection she had always shared with her equine friend.

Beginning to tire, Xena returned to the stables and dismounted her steed the same way she had gotten on. She unfastened the girth and prepared to swing the saddle back onto the stall gate like she had found it.

Gabrielle entered the stable just as Xena was using her body weight to swing the saddle off of Argo instead of lifting it. "What in Tartarus do you think you are doing?"

The sudden intrusion distracted the woman, causing her to be violently jerked by the momentum of the heavy moving saddle. A tearing pain ripped through Xena's belly, causing the warrior to release the saddle, and collapse to the straw floor, holding herself protectively.

"Oh, gods, Xena!!!" Gabrielle ran to her stricken soul mate.

Beads of sweat burst out onto Xena's face, distorted in pain. She was lying in the fetal position, rocking herself from side to side and breathing deeply, trying to control the pain.

Kneeling next to the suffering woman, Gabrielle realized she needed to get help. "Xena, I'm going to get the healer and your mother. I'll be right back. Just hold on, love." Gabrielle touched her shoulder reassuringly as Xena shook her head in acknowledgment.

Gabrielle tore into the tavern, "CYRENE, Xena's in the stable. She's hurt. I'm going to fetch the healer." Before Cyrene could respond, the frightened little bard was off and running down the road.

Cyrene looked around at a couple of large strapping male patrons and said. "You two come with me." The men followed the suddenly formidable woman without question.

Trying to keep her wits about her and stay calm, Cyrene approached her daughter. Kneeling at her side, Cyrene spoke in comforting tones, "Daughter, you're going to be OK. These nice men are going to carry you to your room and the healer is on her way." Cyrene brushed the hair away from her daughter's sweaty brow.

Xena heard her mother's soothing voice. With eyes shut tight and jaws clenched, she nodded, letting her mother know she could proceed.

Xena tolerated being lifted and carried back to the inn. She felt her body being gently placed on the large pallet and a blanket drawn up over her.

"Thank you. Thank you both so much. Go down and help yourselves to a tankard of ale on the house." The two burly assistants smiled broadly and, bowing respectfully to their hostess, quickly left the room.

Cyrene returned her attention to her ailing daughter, curled up into a ball and softly whimpering into her pillow. "Xena?" The older woman tenderly touched her shoulder. "Xena, I need to check to see if your water broke." With that, Cyrene helped her daughter to lie on her back. She pulled back the blanket and helped Xena out of her trousers, which were drenched in fluid and tinged with blood. Throwing the soiled clothes aside, Cyrene began feeling her daughter's belly to judge whether the child within was in the birthing position.

"Daughter? Are you having contractions? Cyrene asked.

"Yea, but not like I should. It's just constant wave after wave of pain. Ow!" Xena reached for her mother's hand. "Something tore inside me. I felt it, like a hot sword ripping across me here." Xena pointed to her lower abdominal area.

"You know your water broke."

Xena nodded.

"Sweetheart, there is some blood, bright red blood on your trousers." Cyrene new Xena was very experienced in the healing arts and was prepared to give any information and take any direction Xena felt necessary.

"How much blood?" Xena asked.

"Not much." Cyrene responded

"That's good. Now, Mother, I need you to see how far I have opened. Slip your hand into me and measure with your fingers how wide my cervix is." Xena looked into her mother's eyes and smiled reassuringly at the frightened older woman. "Don't worry about hurting me. I'm not important right now. We have to help my child get born."

Cyrene nodded and spread her daughter's legs that were already bent at the knees from pain.

The old woman took a deep breath, trying to steady her nerves, then gently spread her daughter's labia. Cyrene tried not to gasp when she noticed the trickle of bright red blood escaping the birth canal. Xena took in a deep breath upon feeling her mother's small hand enter her and Cyrene hurriedly searched for the mouth of the cervix and measured the spongy opening at three finger's width. She carefully removed the invading hand as her daughter panted through her pain.

"Three fingers and it feels spongy and soft." Cyrene stated, staring down at the bright red blood covering her fingers along with the clear fluid over her hand. "The bleeding is increasing, Xena, is there anything I can do?"

"No. Mother I don't know how to stop the bleeding. Where is that damn healer?" Xena's contractions had slowed in frequency, but were increasing in intensity. After catching her breath she told her mother, "From what you found, it shouldn't be long, now." Cyrene lifted her soft blue eyes to her daughter's and tried to smile reassuringly.

"What the hell happened? Have you lost your mind?" Alena, the healer, burst into the room with Gabrielle close on her tail. "Damn warrior mentality. That's what it is. Thinks she can do anything. Thinks she is invincible. Well, she's got another thought coming."

Alena complained to herself as she checked the position of the baby and then switched places with Xena's very relieved mother.

"I'm dilated three fingers, the cervix is soft and spongy and I tore something inside but I don't know what." Xena blurted out between pants and groans.

"Well, the baby's pointed in the right direction but not down far enough. I'll get him out into the world, but I'm gonna need the help of these two lovely ladies and you are not gonna enjoy this."

"And it's been so much fun til now." Xena spouted, sarcastically.

Alena instructed the other ladies. "Now, I'm gonna need lots of clean white blankets and towels. Put a kettle of water on the fire to boil and I'll need some strong twine. Oh, and a wash basin with some warm soapy water and clean wash rags and a sharp blade."

Immediately, Cyrene and Gabrielle went about preparing all that Alena demanded.

***

"Gabrielle, get behind your, um, companion, and let her upper body rest on yours." Gabrielle quickly lifted her lover and crawled in behind her, grateful to feel a part of the birth.

"Now, Cyrene, when I tell you to, you are to push down and toward me on your daughter's belly."

"But, won't that hurt her?" Cyrene asked, with a look of distress on her worried face.

"Yep, like Tartarus. But without the extra incentive, I'm afraid your grandchild will decide to live in." Alena met Cyrene's eyes, "Can you do it?"

Squaring her shoulders, Xena's mother looked into her daughter's pain filled eyes and back at the healer. "Yes. Just tell me when."

"Good. Here, Xena, drink this tea it will help dull the pain but it won't knock you out." Alena handed the tea to Gabrielle to feed to her mate, then proceeded to wash Xena's sex and thighs with warm soapy water.

Gabrielle asked for a damp rag to wipe the profusely sweating warrior's face and chest. "Gabrielle, I'm sorry. I know how much you wanted this baby, and I've ruined it for you. I'm so sorry." Xena was heart broken at the thought of what losing this child would do to her soulmate. And the knowledge that this was all her fault was nearly too much guilt for her already guilt ridden soul to bare.

"Shush, Xena, we are not going to lose our baby. Now, you've got to calm down and just concentrate on doing what Alena tells you. OK?" Gabrielle kissed her distraught lover's forehead.

"OK. I'll try." Xena concentrated on taking slow, deep breaths, trying to calm her heart that felt like it was trying to beat straight out of her chest.

"That's it, Xena, slow deep breaths. The lady knows what she's doing." Alena remarked, trying to lighten the mood a bit. She reached for the warrior's wrist under the guise of support and quickly assessed her patient's heart rate and rhythm. She didn't like what she found.

Gabrielle noticed her lover's face becoming redder as she struggled to control her wet sounding breathing. She looked toward the healer, her green eyes filled with worry.

"Cyrene pour me a cup of hot water from the kettle. Xena, I am going to give you an herb tea. You have to drink it all down. It will help to calm you. Your heart is beating much to fast. I've seen this happen before with older women. You have got to slow your heart rate." Alena looked into the warrior's angry eyes.

"The next person to make a crack about my age BUYS IT!!! I'm 38 winters. You all act like I'm 50." Cyrene held the tea cup so her daughter could drink the medicine.

"You'll be 39 next week, daughter. I'd like very much to celebrate with you and my grandchild. So, do as Alena says. Please." Cyrene pet her daughter's sweaty cheek and gave her a smile full of affection.

Xena just nodded as she concentrated on not choking on the bitter tea.

***

About half a candle mark had passed when Alena decided the mother-to-be was calm enough to continue the birthing process. Reassessing the position of the baby, she instructed the warrior to push with her next contraction. Looking toward Cyrene, "Now when Xena pushes, I want you to help her. Push down and toward me. I'll let you know if you need to increase the pressure or let up on her. You got that?"

Looking at her daughter instead of the healer, "Yes." Xena smiled up at her mother and squeezed her hand, before relinquishing it for her lover's.

"Gabrielle, you will help too. Lift Xena up as far as she can tolerate. That will help her push harder." Alena looked to Gabrielle for acknowledgment and got it.

"Ok, warrior, just say when." The healer smiled encouragement at Xena.

"Oh, gods! WHEN!!!!" Xena yelped as her next contraction hit like a ton of stones.

"Let's go ladies. Cyrene put pressure on her belly. Gabrielle help her up. Xena....."

"I know. DAMN, push!" Xena interrupted the healer's instructions.

"AAAAAAHHHH" Xena strained as hard as she could, then fell back into her lover's arms, trying to catch her breath.

"Deep breaths, Xena. Slow down your breathing." Alena felt again for the baby's position, pleased that it was making progress. "You're doing well. This baby is on the move."

The process was repeated, over and over for the next three candle marks and it was obvious to everyone that the Destroyer of Nations was in trouble.

Gabrielle continued to wipe Xena's face and chest with a cool wet rag. whispering encouragement and kissing her beloved's wet head and cheeks. "This is all my fault. If I hadn't wanted this baby so badly, you wouldn't be so sick." Gabrielle couldn't stop the tears any longer and cried her grief into her soul mates sweat drenched hair.

"Xe, you listen to me. Don't make me raise our child on my own. Please, love, slow, deep breaths. That's it. I won't let you go..... Ever."

Xena heard her soul mate's words and tried her best to concentrate on her voice as the next contraction hit her exhausted body.

Seeing that the warrior couldn't survive much more, the healer instructed Cyrene to trade places with her. This baby had to come out NOW. "Let's do it ladies. PUSH HARD!!!! Gabrielle lift her higher."

Alena pushed on the warrior's belly with all of her weight, as Xena strained to push her child into the world.

"DAMN YOU, ARES!!!!!" Xena screamed at the top of her lungs as the baby rushed into its grandmother's waiting arms, complaining boisterously all the way.

"It's a girl, a perfect little girl, Xena." Said Cyrene, eyes filled with tears of joy.

The healer quickly took the child and wiped its nose and mouth of mucus, then tied and cut the umbilical cord. She lay the infant on its mother's chest and washed her clean with warm soapy water, then wrapped her in a soft blanket.

Xena was trying hard to focus on her little daughter. 'I did it, Gabrielle. We have a little girl. I did it.' Xena's thoughts floated through her foggy mind. She was vaguely aware of the weight upon her chest and the happy voices around her.

Wheezing, shallow breaths took the elated bard's attention from her new daughter to her exhausted Consort in time to see the blue eyes she loved so much glaze over as the new mother lost consciousness.

"Xena? Hey, Xena where are you?" Gabrielle looked at the healer, who also became aware of her patient's distress. "What's happening?" The little bard was beginning to panic.

"Lay her down flat. Here, take the baby." Alena handed the infant to its grandmother. Grabbing some pillows, the healer elevated the warrior's swollen ankles. Then, sitting by the warrior's side, Alena lifted limp eyelids to check the reaction of her pupils to light. "She's still in there."

"Now let me get that after-birth and see if I can stop the bleeding." Alena returned to between Xena's legs and gently pulled on the umbilical cord till her body released the placenta intact. The bright red blood was evident along its outer surface. Reaching up to Xena's belly, the healer pressed gently to observe the color of the blood her uterus would expel. With great relief she saw only the dark, thick blood that normally followed birth.

"She's Ok. She must have torn the placenta from the wall of her uterus in the stable. I don't think that's going to give us a problem now." The healer said relieved.

Still kneeling beside her soul mate, wiping the damp cloth across the flushed skin of her face and chest, Gabrielle thought of how frail her Champion looked.

"We have to get this fluid out of our friend here, before she drowns in it." Alena remarked, noticing the continued swelling of her patient's extremities and the shallow, wet respirations.

"Cyrene, do you have any lemons or melons?" The healer asked the new grandmother, who was cooing contentedly to their new arrival.

"Why, yes I have. What do you want with those?" Cyrene asked in confusion.

"Let's situate your daughter so her daughter can get some nourishment, then I'll follow you to the kitchen and explain what we have to do."

Gabrielle released her lover's engorged breasts from the tunic and the healer helped turn the flaccid body of the new mother on to its side. The little bard took her newborn from the safety of its grandmother's arms and carefully brought her to Xena's nipple. After a few false starts, the baby's mouth latched securely onto it's prize and suckled with gusto, causing the frightened bard to forget her plight and just wonder at this beautiful little miracle.

Alena took Cyrene's elbow and led her out of the room leaving Gabrielle alone with her new family.

"You know, little one, your mother suckles me just like that. It must be in the blood." Gabrielle, smiled as she pet the black fuzz on her daughter's beautiful little head. "Xena, you gotta wake up and see this. She looks just like you. You did good, my love." Gabrielle admired her hungry daughter as she, absentmindedly pet the warrior's cooling cheek with the back of her fingers. Reaching down, she took her lover's limp hand and wrapped it around their child. "Feel that? That's our daughter, Xe. She's beautiful. Just like you........ Don't leave her, Xena...... Don't you leave me....... I need you, my warrior....... I wouldn't know how to live without you......." The tears fell from Gabrielle's already red rimmed eyes as she leaned down to kiss the head of her daughter, then the lips of her soulmate.

***

Alena and Cyrene were busy in the kitchen cutting up cantaloupe and honey dew melons and using the lemon press to squeeze all the juice into a pitcher. "Cyrene, I want 3/4ths of this pitcher full of melon juice and 1/4th of lemon. I'm going down to the river to pick out a few reeds. Do you have some pumus rock? You know, like you use to sand and polish wood."

"Gabrielle does. She uses it on her staff. I saw her polishing it just yesterday. I'll get it for you and meet you in Xena's room when you return." Cyrene said, happy to be able to help.

Less than a candle mark later, all three women were busying themselves in the bed chamber. Gabrielle was polishing the delicate reeds the healer had fetched from the river, Alena was cleaning Xena's sex and thighs, thoroughly and Cyrene was off to wash the soiled bed linens, having replaced them with fresh.

"Ok, now give me those reeds and go get me an empty gourd and throw out this dirty water, but bring back the basin." Alena wiped off the reeds gently, but thoroughly, then set them out to dry.

Returning to the room with extra linens, Cyrene was instructed to help Alena place an extra blanket under Xena's bottom to catch any waste.

Gabrielle returned with the gourd and empty wash basin then sat next to Cyrene to observe what the healer planned to do.

"Can you two ladies get that juice into Xena without choking her to death?" The healer asked as she took one of the dried reeds and covered the outer layer with an ointment to fight infection and to lubricate.

"Yes, we got that down to an art when Xena was unconscious for a few days after..... um....., after I found her." (Gabrielle whispered those last words and shook her head to make the memory go away.)

"All we need is one of those larger reeds and we'll get to it." Cyrene responded.

"Good, you two get started with that and I'll explain what I 'm doing as I go along." Alena said as she placed the basin in front of Xena's buttocks and set the empty gourd inside, it's neck facing toward her patient.

"Now, I have prepared these long narrow reeds to help your daughter empty her bladder. The mixture she's drinking should inspire her body to release its fluids into the bladder then through the reed and into this gourd, which we can empty as needed."

"How much of this do you want her to have at a time?" Gabrielle asked, holding Xena's head up as Cyrene used the reed to slowly express the mixture to the back of her daughter's right cheek as Gabrielle rubbed her throat inspiring her to swallow.

"At least a cup full, every two candle marks should do it." 'I hope.' The healer thought to herself.

The women looked at each other, expressing their fear for the warrior without words.

"That's it." Alena said as the other women heard the sound of water trickling. "It's working just fine." The healer smiled up at her cohorts.

"How'd you learn to do that?" Gabrielle asked.

"When you've been a mid-wife as long as I have, you learn all kinds of tricks." Alena stated with a big grin.

"Wow!" Gabrielle responded, in awe.

***

By sunrise, Xena's condition had improved dramatically. The swelling in her limbs was nearly gone and her breathing was deep and regular. The gourd had been emptied about every candle mark and the groggy new mom was able to sip the last cup of juice through a hollow reed as her soulmate held it for her.

"That's good. What is it?" The warrior asked.

"The nectar of the gods, little one." Her relieved, but exhausted, mother responded and leaned down to kiss her daughter's cool cheek.

"Well, ladies, I think my work here is done and my old bones are screaming to curl up near a cozy fire." Alena began collecting her things. "Now, Gabrielle you keep giving that old warrior of yours the fruit juice about every six candle marks for the next few days. You can take the reed out tomorrow morning. Send for me if she has a problem passing water or lungs start to fill up again." Then turning her attention to her patient, "I don't want you out of that bed til then, Xena. Mind your stitches. You can sit up, but not for longer than it takes to feed your daughter." As if on cue, the little Amazon Princess let her presence be known. "Speaking of which, I think someone is hungry."

"Cyrene, why don't you walk me out and let these three get acquainted." Alena smiled and winked at the little bard as she walked out of the door.

Gabrielle gently pulled Xena forward to place some pillows behind her back. "Comfortable?" Xena just smiled at her attentive partner and looked, longingly, toward the fussing infant. Gabrielle reached for their new daughter and, sitting next to Xena on the pallet, handed her treasure over to her mother.

"She is beautiful. Isn't she?" Xena's trembling hand roamed over every inch of her daughter, making sure all parts were present and where they belong, committing every freckle to memory.

"What did you feed her while I was out?" Xena gave her lover an inquiring look.

"The same thing she is about to enjoy now." Gabrielle reached over to untie the straps of Xena's tunic. "You may not have been functional, but your breasts worked just fine." Giving her lover a lascivious grin and wiggling her eyebrows into blond bangs. Xena just rolled her eyes.

Xena sucked in a breath as the hungry infant latched on to her nipple. "Oh, Gabrielle, that feels incredible. I had forgotten what it was like to nurse. I had Solan for such a short time....." Xena squeezed shut her ice blue eyes to ward off the sad memories, not wanting anything to spoil this moment.

"Shush, Xena, that's all in the past. We can't change it, but we can be the best parents ever for ......., um..... Xe, we need to give our daughter a name." Gabrielle smiled at the contented infant.

Xena thought for a minute then spoke, "Well she is the child of Ares and the daughter of my beloved Gabrielle, Bard of Potadia, Queen of the Amazons, so how about Arielle?" Xena looked into the soft green eyes she loved so much.

Gabrielle felt the tears about to spill from her own green orbs. "I am honored, love. But what about you?"

Xena chuckled as she looked down on the silky black head of her daughter who had both hands holding her mother's breast, suckling for all she was worth, trying to fit as much of the tasty flesh into her mouth.

"Oh I think she has plenty enough of me in her already."

"Yeah and don't think I'm not jealous." Gabrielle huffed, with a grin.

Xena reached a hand behind her soulmate's head and gently kissed her lips, "Oooh, my little amazon, there is plenty of me to go around. Just give me a few weeks before you ravish me." Xena smiled as her eyes began to droop.

Gabrielle stuck her finger into the little mouth to release the suction on Xena's nipple then took the sated infant out of her lover's arms. Leaning down she gently kissed the swollen nipple before retying the sleeping warrior's tunic. "Sleep well my love."

Gabrielle burped her little princess, then got washed up and slid into a clean, soft nightshirt. Lifting her daughter up in her arms they crawled into bed next to her soulmate, careful not to waken her. Her heart full to overflowing, she watched Xena and little Arielle sleep til joining them in the arms of Morpheus.

***

For the next few days Cyrene protected her daughter's little family from well wishers and the curious, allowing Xena time to recuperate and the couple to bond with their new baby.

***

'Xena's hands, so strong, yet so gentle, slid under my nightshirt, feeling my every curve with featherlike caresses. Our breathing became ragged as she slid her tasty tongue into my willing mouth. I felt her knee rise up to press against my sopping sex sending a thrill rippling through me. I waited for her long fingers to pass through my slick folds with barely contained anticipation, when................'

"WAAHH, WAAAHHH, WAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!" Arielle cried out.

"Son of a Bacchae!!!", Gabrielle was jolted from her erotic dream, "What in Tartarus?" The frustrated bard jumped to her knees on the pallet, trying desperately to grasp what was happening.

"It's just the baby." Xena groaned as she turned toward her complaining offspring. "She's hungry and not too shy about letting us know it. Ha, ha, ha..... Takes after her other mother." Xena grinned up at her partner as she adjusted herself to feed the wailing infant.

"Oh, gods. She scared me half to death, Xe." Gabrielle tried to compose herself and catch her breath.

Xena looked up at her panting lover, noticing the perspiration covering her heaving chest and the pink flush of her neck and cheeks. Raising her eyebrow into her bangs, she observed, "Must have been some dream."

The guilty little bard blushed from head to toe. "It sure was."

"Was I in it?" Xena inquired.

"You sure were." Gabrielle grinned.

The warrior gave her lover a satisfied smile. "Good."

When Arielle had suckled her fill, Xena handed the baby over to her bard to be burped and her diaper changed.

"Xena, I'm not complaining mind you, but for the past three days, you have fed Arielle every few candle marks and cuddled with her, while I have been changing dirty diapers and cleaning up baby puke. This wasn't exactly what I had envisioned motherhood to be like." Gabrielle crinkled her nose as she washed her daughter's stinky little bottom.

"Gabrielle, parenthood means sharing the good and the bad. Right now, I get the good half and you get the stinky half." Xena grinned.

***

Journal:

Our daughter, Arielle, has finally arrived. She looks just like Xena. It was a very difficult birth. I almost lost them. But, that's a story for a very rainy day. I just want to sit here forever watching my beautiful Consort with our little princess on her chest, both sleeping peacefully. I've never seen such a look of contentment on Xena's features.

It all feels so right. I am sitting here looking at my future. A future I never dared dream I'd have; my wife, (Xe always gives me that "look" when I call her wife. She prefers Consort. What's the difference?) our child and a real home waiting for us, surrounded by our family and our friends. Life truly doesn't get any better than this. G.

Gabrielle felt the tear roll down her cheek as one ice blue eye opened. "Hey..... You're crying.....? Don't cry..... Are you alright?" Xena asked, her voice full of concern.

"I've never felt better in my life. I've never been happier than I am right at this moment." The little bard let a sob escape her throat as she crawled onto their bed and cuddled up, her arm around her lover and child.

"I know.. Me too." Xena kissed her lover, trying not to jostle the baby awake.

"She really is a gift from the gods. Isn't she." Gabrielle's eyes glistened with tears of joy.

"Yes, she is." Xena sighed kissing her baby's head, then looking into her soulmate's eyes, she chuckled, "Quite literally".

"Eww. Don't remind me." Gabrielle said.

"Not a problem." Xena sighed, "Not a problem."

The End (For Now)


Sequel : Three Weeks Does Not a Lifetime Make......Oh Yeah?

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