by Rstlshart

Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and the others characters in this story are the property of MCA/Universal. This is a fan fiction story and not intended for profit. Though no violence or graphic sex is portrayed, content includes an intimate relationship between two women. If this offends, do not read. The events are written to take place after the MCA/Universal episode "Animal Attraction".

Xena sauntered over to the fire and stooped in front of it, tossing the remains of the rabbit bones into the flames. Gabrielle looked at her face in the glow of the fire and waited to feel. The crack of the dry kindling was all that broke the lingering silence. Xena moved the few steps toward where Gabrielle sat and took a seat next to her on the ground. Both seemed intent on the dancing flames.

"Not hungry?" Xena asked as she glanced at Gabrielle's nearly full plate.

"Uh, no, guess not." Gabrielle replied somewhat distractedly.

"Getting sick, you think?" Xena asked as she placed the back of a hand on Gabrielle's forehead. "Don't feel feverish."

"No, just not hungry tonight." Gabrielle sat her plate down and proceeded to unlace her boot ties.

"Or this morning, or when we stopped this afternoon. Not like you, you know."

Boots unlaced and removed, Gabrielle gathered her plate and cup and likewise deposited the uneaten dinner in the fire. She returned to her bedroll and stretched out on her back, hands behind her head, and looked into the night sky.

"Well, that's it then?" Xena asked as she watched Gabrielle settle in.

"What's it?" Gabrielle turned toward Xena's voice but avoided looking at her.

"Oh, Gabrielle, come on! Obviously something is bothering you. You haven't eaten all day. You haven't said much of anything all day. Either behavior alone is enough to make me worry, but both? No way. What's up? What's going on?"

Gabrielle turned onto her side, away from Xena. "I don't know. Maybe tomorrow we'll talk. Not now. I 'm just - I'm not ready."

"Gods, Gabrielle, now I am worried. Why can't you talk to me? When have you ever not been able to talk to me?" Xena was agitated and her impatience was evident in her voice. She stood and shook out her bedroll and laid it alongside Gabrielle's.

The silence endured in the ensuing few moments as Xena removed her boots and leathers and slipped a linen sleeping shift over her head. She draped an arm around Gabrielle's waist and nudged Gabrielle to turn toward her.

"Honey, what is it?"

Resignedly, Gabrielle allowed herself to be turned and now laid alongside Xena, facing her. Xena was propped up on her right arm. The glow from the firelight framed her face. Gabrielle studied Xena wondering how many campfires they'd shared and how many portraits of Xena like this she had stored in her memory.

"I don't know. I think maybe I'll be okay tomorrow. Maybe all of it has just caught up to me, Ephiny, Caesar, Callisto, coming back. I don't think we've really had a chance to, you know, understand this and what it means." Suddenly the mere sight of Xena caused Gabrielle to turn away and onto her side, surprising the warrior.

"Oh, ...... well, yeah, true enough." Xena was now looking beyond the fire and out onto the small lake. There was enough moon that it reflected brightly on the placid surface. She sat up and rested her back against her saddle. "So, I think my idea to see our families first and then go on to the Amazons is a good one. We can stay as long as you like in Poteidia and then spend a while with my mother in Amphipolis. It's still so early we can be in Amazonia in enough time to get everything ready before the baby comes."

Gabrielle's throat tightened and she caught her breath. Instantly she was on her feet and headed toward the lake. It took Xena a moment to register and comprehend this and then another to be alongside of Gabrielle as together they reached the shallow, sandy beach. Xena took Gabrielle by the upper arm and again forced her to face her.

"What is it, Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle gently shook loose of Xena's grip, stepped slightly away and folded her arms, gazing past Xena and out over the lake.

"I wish for a while I could be as peaceful as this. Just be, you know, unmoving, and still."

"Oh, Gabrielle," Xena reached for Gabrielle and placed a hand gently to rest on her shoulder as she searched for a way to reach her. No words came to mind. Only the soft lapping of the lake punctuated the stillness.

Xena felt the warmth of Gabrielle's palm reassuringly on her hand amd turned to look into the warrior's ice blue eyes. "Xena, I need some space."

The words hung in the night air like a weight moving in slow motion to the earth. Xena was certain she misunderstood and waited for Gabrielle to relieve the spasm of anxiety forming in her gut.

"I can't go with you now." Gabrielle continued while Xena's mind frantically sought to catch up to what Gabrielle was saying. "I need to be on my own for a while, to think some of this through. I can catch up to you later."

"Wha .... what?" Xena was dumbfounded. "Gabrielle, what are thinking? You want to leave now? Even for a while, you want to leave now? We're going to be a family! I need you. The baby needs you. I mean ..." Xena was so frustrated she ran both hands through her long thick hair, walked off several paces and then returned. She waved her arms in supplication. "How can you do this now? Gods, is this another quest of some sort? I thought all that was behind us!" She reached for Gabrielle who backed just out of arms reach.

"I know. I know. I don't know how to explain this. I just know I need to figure some things out. That's the best I can tell you."

"Gabrielle, what are you feeling? I know you can tell me that. Start there. Let's figure this out, please!" Xena implored her.

The two seemed to settle into the night silence, standing there in an impasse, void as the night was black.

"Xena, I don't feel anything. That scares me. I don't know what to make of it. And I don't think I can get to the heart of it unless I get out of the situation."

"The situation?" Xena asked holding back the tinge of sarcasm ready to accompany her question.

Gabrielle shook her head, looked down and away, and finally back at Xena. The neglected campfire was dying and only the reflected moonlight lit Xena's features. "Xena, I'm just a little behind you with the baby, okay? I mean, this morning, completely out of the blue you announce you're pregnant. You follow that with your assurance this is a really good thing and makes us a family and well, now according to your plans, we can deliver the news to our families and then do the layette and cradle thing with the Amazons. Well, please forgive me if I need a candlemark or two or three to catch my breath."

"But, Gabrielle, I thought you were happy, too." Xena protested unconvincingly as she tried to sort out the logic of what Gabrielle had just admitted.

"Xena, if this makes you happy, then I am happy for you. At least, I think I am .........but I honestly don't know how I feel. I just cannot believe you're pregnant. It's too, it's too ........." Xena heard the tears in Gabrielle's voice and her failed attempt to contain them. "Oh, gods, Xena, how could you? How could you do this to us?" Xena was reaching to embrace Gabrielle when Gabrielle pushed her away, forcing her to stumble and almost lose her footing. Steadied, she turned around to see Gabrielle walking back toward the campsite.

"Gabrielle, wait!"

Xena caught up to the bard as Gabrielle reached her bedroll and fell onto her knees, face in hands and began to weep softly. Xena knelt beside her and cautiously placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder.

"Gabrielle, you do believe me, don't you? You do know that I cannot explain how this happened?"

Gabrielle wiped her face abruptly with her fingertips and looked intently at the warrior. "Oh, really? Then perhaps I can explain it to you. You need one male and one female, and then ..." The pain was only thinly veiled in the sarcasm.

"Gabrielle, I told you I haven't been with anyone.............well, except you, that is............I can't believe you don't know that. I love you! I wouldn't. I'm as confused about this as you, but all I could tell you this morning is what I can tell you now, and that is I feel this is a good thing." Xena sensed the panic rising in her and her heart beating wildly.

        "Xena, what you can say is, and what I do believe, is that you have no memory, but by the gods, obviously, something happened, right? And it's also the fact of the pregnancy as much as it is how. It's both issues for me. And I am too confused and numb to ferret this all out. I need space, damnit!"

"Wait a minute! You think I'm some airhead, maybe fell off Argo too many times and I don't understand the enormity of this? Is that what you think? I'm the insensitive, obtuse warrior and you're the sensitive, profound poet?" Xena jumped to her feet and stomped off back toward the lake. Gabrielle laid down on her stomach and rested her head on her arm. Her tears fell silently.

"Gabrielle, are you okay?" Amarice stooped next to Gabrielle and spoke softly in case she was asleep. Over Joxer's snoring Amarice heard Xena's raised voice from their nearby campsite and decided to check on her friend and mentor.

"Huh?" Gabrielle stirred and opened her eyes.

"Gab, it's me, Amarice. You okay?" She looked around and did not see Xena. "Where's the warrior?"

"Yeah, I'm okay. She's upset and took a walk probably." Gabrielle turned over and sat up, rubbed the wet stains from her cheeks and was grateful that only embers remained in the firepit.

"So, what's up? I could hear Xena over Joxer. Gods, can he snore! I'm surprised he doesn't wake himself up."

"Which is exactly why he is not allowed to sleep near us." Gabrielle managed a smile.

"Gee, thanks. So I get the privilege. You're a pal."


"So, are you going to tell me what she's in a snit about?"

Gabrielle began halting, "Amarice, I told Xena I won't be going on with you. I need to spend some time alone to figure some things out."

"Hmmmm" Amarice sat down on the edge of the bedroll. "...some things like......?"

"Like this pregnancy, Amarice. I know that's the biggest piece of it. I've been trying all day to understand this, understand myself in this, and I can't come up with anything. I'm numb inside."

"Yeah, well, I can understand that much. I nearly fell over myself when she blurted it out. And, what about the father thing? Can she really not have any clue? I mean, is that really possible, do you think?"

"Amarice, in the four years we've been together, I only know of one time when Xena lied to me, and that was to protect me and our relationship. It was a mistake, but her heart was in the right place. Xena doesn't lie to me. I believe her when she says she has no memory, and I can't let myself believe she would ever be with anyone but me. I, I just can't ................." The pain forced itself through Gabrielle's gut and into her throat. Cleansing tears were a moment behind. Instinctively, Amarice embraced this woman who she once saw as a rival, and who had become a friend.

"Ssssshhhh, it'll be okay. There's an explanation, Gabrielle. Probably a wierd one, especially after all you've been through. But, you guys love each other and I know this is all gonna work out."

Gabrielle returned the reassuring hug from Amarice. "You're right. Thanks, Amarice. Now, get back to sleep. I'm sure Xena and I will be doing the same in a bit. She won't be gone long."

"Okay." Amarice stood and dusted the campsite from her pants. "Oh, and Gab?"


"You can count on me. I'll help you get through this."

"Thanks. Now, get going before the grumpy warrior catches you here where you don't belong."

With that Amarice disappeared into the darkness. Gabrielle stretched out again and listened for Xena's footsteps. She fell asleep listening to the waves shyly lap at the shoreline.

Gabrille was asleep by the time Xena returned to the campsite. At daybreak Xena heard Gabrielle gather her things and disappear into the woods to the horses. The dark stallion snorted his greeting to Gabrielle and the warrior listened until their footsteps disappeared. She rested her hand on her lower abdomen but could not open her eyes. "It'll be okay, little one. We'll be okay."

To Be Continued

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