Magic of Paris
By CN Winters

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>

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.

Chapter 13

Paris, France - 1957

Janice heard her name being called. It was gentle and soft. She struggled to open her eyes. Everything was white and blurry at first but finally the face above her came into focus.

"Mel?" she asked; unsure of whether to trust her eyes or not.

"Can't leave ya alone for a minute huh?" Mel smiled but she looked unsettled. "Always finding trouble aren't ya?" she added.

"Yeah," Janice agreed starting to sit up and get a better look around at her surroundings. "You know me - trouble and I go hand and hand. . .Where am I?"

"At a hospital not far from the museum. You collapsed on the street today and some kind folks called the ambulance. I got a call at the hotel about 15 minutes ago and I raced down here."

"You raced huh?" Janice asked with a cocky grin. "Thought you wanted to keep things professional Mel?" she teased. Mel gave a bashful grin but didn't reply or meet Janice's eyes. Janice reached out and took the belle's hand in hers. "When we get to the hotel we'll talk things over some more alright?"

Mel nodded her agreement and offered an apology which Janice cut off with a raised finger. "No Mel," Janice told her. "We both said things we didn't really mean so let's just set it aside for now and deal with it once I'm outta here okay?"

Mel nodded again as the doctor began to come in. "Dr. Covington. . .How are you feeling?" he asked in his native tongue. Janice replied back in French.

"Just fine," she answered, "What happen to me?"

"It appears that you've suffered a mild stroke."

"What?!" Janice and Mel both exclaimed.

"Yes, it appears so," the doctor as he took out his thermometer and popped it in Janice's mouth, leaving her mute. He possessed her arm next and began to wrap the pressure cuff around her for a reading. "According to Miss. Pappas' you smoke too much, you drink too much and you don't eat regularly."

Janice cast a scowl at her partner since words were not an option at this point. The doctor caught Janice's look and came to Mel's defense. "Now don't blame her," he chuckled. "We needed a history on you and she filled out the form. It's not as if she 'ratted' you out."

The doctor removed the cuff and he told Janice that things looked good so far. In a day or two she could be released. "But once you're out," he warned her, "No smoking."

Mel nodded in agreement with a smug grin. She wanted Janice to give up those smelly cigars for years - now she had her chance.

"And no drinking," he continued as he stole the thermometer back from Janice's mouth, making notes.

Mel nodded right along her grin getting larger and larger.

"And make sure you eat properly on a regular basis," he concluded as he went to the door.

Mel couldn't be more happy with the outcome of this incident and she now smiled from ear to ear. All her little pet peeves of Janice's would have to be dealt with now whether the archeologist liked it or not. Oh yes, Mel was happy. . .at least until the doctor turned in after thought.

"Oh yes," he said calling over his shoulder. "It probably isn't an issue since you're unmarried but no sexual activity either."

The door closed. The doctor was gone. Mel's smile fell instantly.

"That's it!" Janice said starting to get outta bed. Mel rushed over and tried to stop her. "Move it Mel! I gotta have a word with this . . .this . . .doctor. . . I'll start to eat more often. I'll stop drinking. . .Hell, I'll stop smoking!! But there is no way on earth I'm going to stop . . ." Janice didn't say the words but she exaggerated greatly with her hands and the point she made wasn't lost on Mel.

Mel tried to gently steer Janice back to the mattress with reassurances. "Please get into bed. You shouldn't be up yet. I'll go speak with him alright?"

Janice reluctantly complied, ranting the entire time with comments like 'Who the hell does he think he is?' and 'Where did he get his license to practice medicine? In a Cracker Jack box?' and on and on. She still ranted even as Mel left the room, moving swiftly down the hall to find the doctor. She spotted him and called out making him stop.

"Yes Miss Pappas?"

"This no smoking, drinking, sex thing. . .how long is that in effect for?"

"For forever," he answered. "Are you alright?" he added taking Mel by the elbow.

Mel's sharp intake of breath as a result of this surprising news made all the heads around them turn in her direction. "Ahh. . . yes doctor I'm fine. . .Just a little surprised that Miss Covington is hereby doomed to a life of celibacy. I find it very hard to believe that her heart isn't good enough for such . . .activities."

"It's not the activity of sex as much as the result," he answered.

"You mean she can have sexual relations but not an orgasm?" Mel asked, making sure to whisper the last word bashfully.

"No. . .I'm sorry I'm not making myself clear," he said scratching his head.

Mel agreed. "No I have to admit I'm very confused right now."

"Over here," the doctor said leading her to a near by bench as they took a seat in the waiting area. "Miss Covington shouldn't have a child. Her heart may not be strong enough and given her age it's dangerous any way. I'm afraid the strain of childbirth could kill her."

"But sexual activity will not?" Mel asked just to clarify.

"Right," the doctor agreed. "She shouldn't run the risk of conception - conception and labor could be the true problem and why I say she should avoid sexual relations. She should wait at least two weeks before she does anything strenuous though - whether sex or walking a few flights of stairs. . .See that she doesn't overindulge in any thing for a while. With a change in lifestyle and a new diet Miss Covington has the chance to grow to be a very old woman."

Mel brightened considerable. "Thank you doctor," she said shaking his hand. "Thank you very much."

Mel didn't wait for his reply she darted back to her room. She knew she had a ranting lover to control with the good news.

A week later Janice was sitting in their hotel room, a bunch of scrolls and museum items littering their suite. Since Janice couldn't go to work, Janice had 'the work' brought to her.

Mel had just returned from the kitchen area with a cup of coffee for Janice, since scotch was now out of the question. Janice had to admit Mel looked pretty damn radiant today - sleeveless blouse and a flowing floor length skirt. She snagged the translator and brought her down to her lap.

"How 'bout a lil cream 'n sugar?" Janice whispered, trying to unhook Mel's buttons.

Mel put her hand over Janice's, stopping her explorative efforts. "The only 'cream n sugar' you're gettin' Dr. Covington is in that cup of coffee. Doctors orders."

Mel rose and she playfully swatted Janice's arm. Janice reached out and swatted Mel's backside in return making the southerner yelp. Both women grinned devilishly at each other. This was shaping up to be the longest two weeks of Janice's life.

Ever since the doctor told her she couldn't have Mel, she never wanted her more in her life.

'Correction,' Janice told herself. 'You haven't wanted her this much since you became lovers'. Looking back now she wondered how she ever survived having Mel that close without. . .having Mel. . .That old feeling of 'look but don't touch' was in effect again and although she protest it, in some sadistic way (she figured) she enjoyed it. She knew, however, that Mel Pappas wouldn't be getting any rest come the 14th day of her recovery.

"Come on Mel," Janice whined. "I feel fine. The ole ticker is in great shape. Trust me on this."

"Janice," Mel said sternly. "I'd rather not take that chance. Besides it's only one more week. We've been apart longer than that before. . .you'll make it."

"Yes we have been apart longer but that was different. We were on different continents for cryin out loud. I didn't see you everyday looking so beautiful and so goddamn sexy. I mean really: Did you have to wear that long skirt? You know that drives me nuts," she answered slinking over to Mel on her hands and knees like a predatory cat.

Janice got one hand on the loveseat that Mel was sitting on before the translator stopped her with a firm hand to the shoulder.

"I'm not trying to tease Janice. I don't have anything clean besides this skirt. I figured it was better than wearing nothing at all. . .Besides didn't ya once tell me I could make a gunny sack look sexy?" Mel teased. "Don't blame yer libido on my wardrobe please."

Janice buried her head in Mel's lap with a groan. "Oh pretty please Mel. . .Okay how about this? You don't have to lay a finger on me. Let me do all the work. I promise I won't get too excited."

Mel laughed out loud. "Yeah right! I don't believe that for a second. I'm not the same gullible gal ya met 17 years ago Janice."

Janice smiled and looked into Mel's eyes, "No you're not the same gal but I'll tell ya what sweetheart."

"What's that?"

"I love you more now than I did then. And I'm sure the same time next year, I'll love you even more although today that seems impossible because I already love you so much."

Mel sighed, "That's sweet Janice."

She stroked the archeologists' face tenderly and Janice pushed herself up softly, delivering a tender kiss to Mel's lips. When the translator didn't protest Janice went back for another. Then another. And another.

"Na ah," Mel said pulling away. "I won't let ya seduce me Janice Covington. The doctor said no."

Janice plopped herself down next to Mel in defeat on the loveseat. "Alright," Janice agreed. "No means no and I won't ask again. . . It's just that I know how much you like to 'break the rules'. . .Remember that afternoon in the lecture hall? You ended up spread eagle on my desk that day."

"Janice," Mel warned in a threatening tone.

"Or how about that beach in Madrid? Great god above, we both ended up with sand in places we never knew we had," Janice laughed.

"Yes I remember Janice," Mel said irritated, picking up a scroll with the intention to begin work again.

"And that time we were in Asia and we went to that spa. You remember that? Oh sweetheart! That was wild! I figured you'd stop as soon as that other woman walked in and found us. But oh no! You kept right on going."

"I WAS drunk at the time," Mel said pulling her glasses down to scold Janice with her eyes. "And no I DO NOT remember. You, on the other hand, have a perfect memory of my lapse of judgement."

"Lapse of judgement?!" Janice exclaimed. "Sweetheart that was one of the most erotic experiences of my life. . .You hands all over me. . . That strangers eyes all over us. . ."
"It's comforting to know ya like to think of us as a live sex act!" Mel said tossing the scroll on the table angrily.

"Not at all," Janice corrected. "It's not the actual act that I find so erotic Mel. It's the fact that your desire was so great that nothing would stop you. Neither of us was ashamed of expressing our love that night. That's what was so appealing - even though someone else was present you couldn't contain your passion for me. . .and vice versa."

Mel calmed instantly at Janice's words. And in some respect she was jealous that Janice had that memory and she didn't. She just remembered waking up the next day in their hotel room, buck naked with a foul taste in her mouth and a pounding headache.

"All the more reason for us to wait another week Janice," Mel grinned. "I want to spend many, many more years of passion with ya. I'm willing to wait until yer well." Janice started to protest once more. "I know ya think ya feel better Janice but, please sweetheart, I wouldn't be able to enjoy it if I did anything now. I'd be too worried about you. Okay?"

Janice gave up on her afternoon conquest in light of Mel's heartfelt request. It was cute for awhile. A nice little joke of sorts. But Mel was putting her foot down now. . .without really putting her foot down. And like usual, Janice was helpless but to comply.

"Yeah. Okay," Janice agreed. "but you gotta promise to wear that dress next Tuesday when I'm off probation. Deal?"

Mel smiled as she picked the scroll back up "Deal!"

Chapter 14

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis, around 500 bc

Lye jumped around outside trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue. Gabrielle watched from inside the cabin as Xena put the finishing touches on his snow fort. She watched as the retired warrior got the young boys attention with the means of a well-directed snowball. Lye didn't stop to turn around to see what happened. Quickly he bent over making a ball of his own, charging the warrior.

Gabrielle could tell he was laughing as he charged his momma and she had to chuckle along. Lye was very scholarly. He loved books and drawing. A very creative soul like the bard herself but he also was a very rough and tumble lad. He enjoyed to 'mix it up' as Xena would call it when they wrestled around.

Lye leaped on Xena's back as she tried to flee in mock terror, yelling and flailing her arms about. Gabrielle's laugh deepened when she watched both of them tumble to the snow. Myra began to get restless in her play area that Xena had made the year of Lye's birth. When a villager's child got burned on the fireplace, Xena decided to make a 'gate' for Lye so he could play if they needed to tend to other matters. She remembered watching Xena sand down the wood to a smooth finish. She was sure that Xena resolved that nothing bad would ever happen to their children. Not even a splinter.

As she watched Lye and Xena playfully arguing upon entering the doorway, Gabrielle could have never hoped for a better 'husband' or 'father' for her children.

"Got you best," Xena taunted the boy.

"Did not!" Lye answered adamantly.

"You wanna go back out there and settle this once and for all?" Xena asked tower over the boy. The words were harsh but the smile on her face was wide.

"Let's ask mom," he said turning to Gabrielle.

Gabrielle, who finished collecting Myra, looked at the two in the doorway.

"Who got who best mom?" he asked with a big grin. He was cocky like Autolycus with Xena's 'killer eyebrow'. He was gonna be a handful when he got older. That was for sure.

"Well," Gabrielle began as she examined the pair. "Since you're momma looks like she got covered in an avalanche. . .I'd have to say you won."

"Yes!!" Lye said triumphantly as Xena argued at the same time.

"I demand another vote!" Xena grumbled. "Myra what do you thing?"

"Na ah," Lye argued. "Babies don't count. You can't ask babies what they think cause they don't talk right mom?"

"He's got ya there," Gabrielle informed Xena.

"Oh brother," Xena said hanging her head in defeat taking off Lye's boots. "Go get outta those wet clothes before you catch a fever," she grinned.

"Momma?" he asked Xena as she hung onto her shoulders for support as she pulled the shoes from his feet.

"Yes Lye?"

"How can you catch a fever if you're cold to begin with? I mean wouldn't you be more cold and not hot?"

"I don't know Lye," Xena answered honestly.

"But when you catch a fever you get hot, not cold. So you really should leave your clothes on so you don't get hot?"

"Lye," Xena sighed frustrated. "Go get changed."

Lye realized this was the end of the debate and he scurried to his room.

"Our little Plato," Xena said shaking her head as Gabrielle chuckled.

"He's at that age," the bard told her partner.

"Yes but everything?" Xena asked. "How does this work? Who is that person? Why did this happen? Everything Gabrielle - absolutely everything is a question," she whispered.

"He wants to know how the world works. He's gotta wonderful teacher in you," the bard complimented.

"That's debatable," Xena sighed, stripping down to her long johns.

"What makes you say that?" the bard asked concerned.

"See? Another question," Xena teased. "Now I know where he gets it from."

"And now I know where he gets his evasiveness from," Gabrielle countered.

Xena smiled and nodded. "Point one to Gabrielle."

Gabrielle led Xena to the fire as she cradled Myra. Once seated, Gabrielle handed the baby to the warrior. "I'll get you some warm clothes," she said, going to their bedroom. Once back, Gabrielle took the baby so Xena could dress.

"You never answered my question," she continued. "Why are your parenting skills debatable?"

"So now parenting is a skill?" Xena joked.

"Oh yes," Gabrielle grinned. "And you have -

"You don't have to say it," Xena said with a kiss cutting her short. Xena paused a moment and wondered aloud. "I'm just worried that I won't always be there and that my past will catch up with HIM. . .I don't know Gabrielle. I just wonder sometimes if I'm cut out for this . . .family life."

"You can't be serious. You're knee deep in family life Xena. . .Are you . . .restless? Do you want to leave?"

The bard wasn't even sure if she was truly asking these questions. It scared her but what scared her more is that Xena wasn't answering. "Xena?" the concern was evident in her voice.

"Oh no!" Xena quickly came back from her thoughts. "I don't want to leave. I just think that sometimes. . .I'm not the best parent I can be."

"You know what I was thinking just before you came in?"


"I was thinking about how lucky I am to have you. Not just you - but that you were the best choice I could have made as my life partner. You're a wonderful wife and mother. I'm very lucky and blessed to have you. . .And so is Lye and Myra."

Almost on cue, Lye came running out of his bedroom and into Xena's arms.

"Is it cocoa time momma?" he asked snuggling tighter into her embrace.

Xena looked at the boy. Then her daughter. And then the bard. She was taking in the 'family' she wasn't sure she could lead but realized they were all doing just fine. Gabrielle smiled as Xena offered her a wink of acceptance.

"Sounds like a plan Sport! You get the chocolate. I'll get the goats milk."

"Gabrielle?" Xena asked starting to turn.

"Yes, one for me too of course."

As Xena went back to her task she smiled. Yes. She and the bard knew each other well. And although it wasn't always perfect, and at times there would be doubts, life was good.

Chapter 15

Delittee Adoption Agency, Paris, France - 1957

Mel sat nervously in the small office. Her white gloved hands strumming on the chair arms.

"Please relax sweetheart," Janice whispered. Although anxious herself, and wonder just where in the hell that agency woman was at, Janice tried to calm her lover.

Suddenly the door opened and a petite woman walked inside. "I'm sorry I'm late," she apologized. "We have an adoption today and I was making last minute plans."

"That's fine," Mel said friendly. "We're in no hurry."

The woman smiled warmly before opening a file and reading through it.

"It says here that you are interested in adopting Monique, correct?"

"Yes, ma'am," the southerner nodded.

"She is a special needs child, meaning that she has no hearing."

"I understand," Mel nodded.

"She's also spent two weeks with another family," the director informed her.

"I understand that as well," Mel nodded once more.

The woman went back looking into the file.

"I must admit it seems highly unorthodox to give a child to an unmarried woman. Especially a child which, to be honest, will be quite expensive to maintain."

Mel froze and Janice caught it.

"Mel hand me your pocketbook," Janice ordered warmly.

Mel did as she was asked and Janice took out Mel's checkbook and opened the ledger. She leaned over and showed the directory the figure inside.

"That's American dollars," she smiled. "Feel free to contact Miss Pappas bank to confirm if you like."

The directors eyes widened and she shook off her disbelieve. "Well, we'd have to confirm this information of course but it looks like you have the means to supply the child."

"Good, then where does she sign?" Janice pushed.

"It's not that easy Miss. . ." The director let the sentence hang.

"Miss Covington," Janice told her.

"Well, Miss Covington," the director began again, "We like to have some idea or reason behind Miss Pappas motives of adoption."

"I want to have a child," Mel announced. "And I realize I'm not getting any younger. I feel like I need something here. Someone that I can love and teach things to. Someone that will be here long after I'm gone."

"That's all well and good Miss Pappas. But you are not a young woman. You're approaching middle age."

"All the more reason for her to adopt," Janice butted in.

The director looked annoyed. Mel felt grateful.

"In what way?" the director asked Janice.

"She's reached a point in her life where having a baby could be dangerous. Not only to the child but herself as well. Miss Pappas has been single for many years. . .Most men regard her intellect and beauty with fear. Hence, she's unmarried.

She may be too old to have a child now but not to old to care for one. If God above sees fit to keep Melinda here until her life expectance, the child will be an adult by the time Melinda's life ends. It's the perfect time for Miss Pappas to care for a child," Janice concluded.

"Alright," the director reluctantly agreed. "I can see your point. But keep in mind that this child will require special schooling-

"Miss Pappas father was the Dean of South Caroline University. She has many friends on the faculty, myself included, that could help put her in touch with people who would find the right program for Monique."

The directory made a note on the paper. "You do realize however all the paperwork that would be involved as far as citizenship and the like. It could be a very long time before-

"Like she said. We've got time. If you start the paperwork today, I'm sure it would be done before my partner and I finish up our research here and head back to the states."

The director smiled at Janice. "You've thought of everything haven't you?" she asked the pair.

Janice gave a cocky grin in return.

"There isn't one single reason that Miss Pappas shouldn't be allowed to adopt this child," Janice began, "She's a very caring, loving individual. I've worked with Miss Pappas for over 17 years now. She's my best friend in the world and she'd make a wonderful mother. Monique needs a mother. And Mel needs a child. Looks like a perfect match to me. . .The alternative is to turn Mel away. But what you'll have is a child that can't get adopted because she's 'used goods' and a woman who'd spend her life wonder 'what if'. . .So I'll ask again. . . Where does she sign?"

Mel didn't know if Janice's speech would work but she knew one thing for sure. She never loved Janice more than at this moment. Quietly and with a growing grin, the director reached into her desk and pulled out a form.

"If you would put your signature here on the 'x' Miss Pappas," she said handing Mel the document and a pen.

Mel didn't move at first. She looked over to Janice who nodded toward the director. Mel seemed startled, disbelieving that IT was actually happening. It was the worst signature of her life but she couldn't control her shaking hands.

"I have all the information on the forms but if I need you I can contact you at the hotel correct?"

"Yes ma'am," Mel nodded.

The director began to stand up and Janice followed her lead. Mel however had to be lead up by Janice by the elbow. When the director reached for Mel's hand, the translator took it and shook it almost violently. The director had to smile. Janice could see that the director was comfortable with the pairing of Monique and Mel already.

"Thank you very much," Janice said extending her hand so Mel would free her grip on the director. The director took Janice's hand and noticed the strength of the shake, the almost 'manly' nature of it. Janice saw a flash of recognition in the director's eyes as if she knew the true nature of Jan and Mel's relationship.

"I'll be contacting you. . . both," she added with a wink. "Give me about two days to get things going okay?"

"Thank you again," Janice added with a nod of agreement.

"My pleasure," she smiled again.

Janice had to lead Mel out of the room. The southerner still didn't quite have her barring on the situation yet. They closed the door behind them and proceeded down the empty corridor. From what seemed like out of nowhere, Mel started to cry. Janice took her in her arms and tried to calm her sobs.

"Shhh," Janice coaxed. "It's okay Mel. Everything's fine. . .Why are you crying sweetheart?"

"Because I love ya so much. . . Ya did just what ya said ya would do. Ya went in there and got us a child. I froze Janice. I didn't know what to do but ya stepped up and-

She didn't finish. She pulled Janice into a searing kiss before pulling back, tears staining her face.

"Boy if that's the kind of reception I get in public for one kid let's have lots and lots more," Janice teased as she wiped Mel's face with the back of her fingers, pushing the tear tracks away.

Mel darted away and gave a quick look around to see if they had been noticed. Janice chuckled. It had been years since they had let their guard down like that in public and Mel's reaction humor her.

"Don't worry sweetheart," Janice reassured as she started to walk again. "Nobody saw us . . . But I do want you to remember that I'm officially off probation today."

Although she couldn't see it, she knew her lover, who was swaying in front of her, was grinning from ear to ear. Mel didn't add anything else she just watched Janice with dogged determination as she planned her 'attack' for when they got home.

They arrived at the hotel and Janice paid the driver. Once up to their suite, Janice walked ahead and unlocked the door. She barely had time to pull the key out when Mel's lips where claiming hers.

Janice's back crashed into the small foyer wall but their lips never broke contact. Mel pulled back for an instant to kick the door shut with her foot. Next she pulled Janice's leather jacket down to her elbows, effectively wrapping the archeologist up, making escape an impossibility as she reclaimed Janice's lips.

Janice loved this side of Mel. The one that had the southerner belle losing her inhibitions and 'good graces' she was taught all through her life. Southern refinement flew out the window at these moments. Janice knew. . . .she was going to be taken.

Mel gave up those beautiful lips and started to work on Janice's ear, nibbling on the lobe.

"I'm gonna show ya just how grateful I am for what ya've done today," Mel's whispered breath tickling the archeologist's wet ear. "I'm gonna prove to ya how much I love ya. I'm gonna worship every inch of that strong, firm body of yours Janice Covington."

Janice's voice caught between a sigh and a moan at Mel's words. Suddenly the belle jumped back; her loving hands shooting away from Janice's body as if it were on fire.

"Are ya all right?!" Mel exclaimed.

"I'm . . .fine," Janice replied trying to get an understanding of what was transpiring. "I'm better than fine actually," she said feeling herself smirk; her eyebrow mischievous going into her bangs. She pulled Mel back to her with a firm grip on the translator's hips.

She could tell however that Mel wasn't quite as amorous as she was moments before.

"What is it Mel?" she whispered.

"I'm worried," Mel mumbled before slipping away, traveling into the living area.

"Worried?!" Janice exclaimed as she followed her. What did Mel have to worry about? They had a new shipment of finds coming this week. The adoption agency was starting on Monique's paper work. Life couldn't be better. Mel had everything she wanted and if she didn't have it right now - the reality of it was not that far away.

"About you," Mel said moving to the sofa. Janice promptly took a seat next to her.

"Look if it's about the adoption -

"No," Mel cut her off. "It's not that. I know if ya didn't feel ready for this ya wouldn't have made the case ya did today on my behalf."

Janice was dumbfounded and the look on her face showed it. The look didn't happen often, Mel noted. Janice was often quite sure of herself and her surroundings so when these rare occasions did occur Mel couldn't help but smile. It made her superhero Janice seem all the more human. This time was no different and Janice's look of confusion grew larger to see the 'worried' belle grinning at her.

"You have to help me out here Mel-

"It's you," Mel said affectionately as she stroked Janice's face. "What will happen if you. . .get too. . .excited?" Mel asked struggling with the words of how to delicately express herself.

"Welllllll," Janice smiled wiggling her eyebrows. "I might have an orgasm."

Mel chuckled. "No silly - that's not what I meant."

"Well what do you mean? Are you talking about my ticker?" Janice grinned as she lightly tapped her chest.

Mel lost her smiled and she nodded weakly. "Janice I'd never be able to live with myself if anything happened to you, especially if we were. . .well . . . you know. . .".

Janice realized in an instant what happened. The sound she made earlier was one of deep desire but it could also be mistaken for one of pain. 'Come to think of it, it is a pain', Janice thought. 'Well maybe not a pain perhaps - just a strong, throbbing ache that is nowhere near my heart'.

Janice put her hands over Mel's, which were collected in the translators lap.

"Mel, listen to me," Janice began. "I feel fine and I believe God takes us when he wants us. . .so it doesn't matter if I'm watching Jackie Gleason, teaching classes or making love to you. . .When it's my time to go. . .it's my time to go. . .But if you ask me how I feel right now I must confess my heart is racing. . .Not because it's 'broken'. . .It's because I'm so crazy in love with you. You can be moody, overprotective and down right unreasonable. . .but know this. . .I always have faith in 'us' and for every characteristic you have that infuriates me at times, you have ten more that I love. I love you Mel and I just want to show you how much."

Mel rose up long enough to hike up her skirt and straddle Janice. "Are you sure?" Mel whispered cupping Janice face in her hands.

"I'm positive," Janice replied as her hands crept under the cotton material of Mel's skirt, moving high and higher with slow grace until finding their mark at the apex of Mel's legs. "Seems like I'm not the only one 'crazy in love'," Janice teased upon finding the wetness gathered there.

"No," Mel whispered sincerely, "You're not."

Janice took one hand away while keep the other firm in place. She capture Mel's back with her palm and forearm bringing her closer. She leaned in and inhaled the sweet smell of her lover's flowery perfume. Next she placed the most delicate of kisses between Mel's cleavage. Kisses that began to multiply and wander over to her breasts - first one and then the other as her fingers below began to set a steady pace.

Mel rocked above Janice; her eyes closed lightly. She reached down and played delicately with the archeologist nipples before adding more force behind her caresses. Janice felt like she herself just might explode as Mel snaked her tongue out to moisten her drying lips - lips that were becoming dry thanks to the small sighs and moans that were escaping the translators lips.

Their pace was slow and leisurely - more an expression of affection than a moment of passion. Mel's moans became deeper; her sighs coming now as grunts. When Mel broke into light sweat and a stream of 'Oh Jan's', Janice was done for. The constant stimulation to her breasts and Mel's words did her in. Janice loved seeing Mel so engrossed that she couldn't finish her name. It was only in bed when Mel called her Jan and the archeologist knew that, if anything did tear them apart, no one would ever be able to use that 'nickname' in her presence. That belonged to Mel and Mel alone. Janice knew that not only her name belonged to Mel but even herself as well and with that thought, she began to tumble over the pinnacle.

It was difficult but Janice said nothing - she gave no expression of ecstasy, for fear of frightening Mel again. Janice knew her lover was close to release and she didn't want anything to startle her from her relaxed yet wanton state.

"Oh God Jan!" Mel exclaimed as her head fell backwards, her dark hair cascading down past the middle of her back. Mel's hands released Janice and took up residence on the back of the sofa - her nails digging into the upholstery. Janice could feel Mel's lips quivering, both sets of lips, as she reached in for a kiss.

Breathing hard and spent, Mel settled her forehead on Janice's shoulder, kissing an exposed part of the archeologist neck.

"See?" Janice began as she stroked Mel's back tenderly and supportively. "I'm still here."

"Yeah," Mel agreed, "But you didn't . . .you know. . ."

"Explode?" Janice laughed.

Mel giggled and blushed red. "Yeah."

"Sure I did," Janice smirked. "I just kept things . . .quiet this time. . .I wanted to prove it's okay to love me and I didn't want to upset you again with. . .how should I say this. . .suggestive noises?"

Mel snuggled back into Janice's shoulder and scooted next to her so both of her long legs covered Janice's lap. "You know you really are a sweetheart to put me first like that. . .to put me at ease."

"Yeah," Janice joked, falling into her cranky façade. "Well . . . Don't let it get around. I have a reputation to protect ya know."

"Janice Covington," Mel announced, before kissing her lover on the lips. "Yer secret is safe with me."

Chapter 16

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis around 500 bc

Cyrene raised an eyebrow as she watched Gabrielle searching through Xena's old bedroom. The bard turned and caught the expression. 'Like mother, like daughter', she thought as she watched the facial gesture.

"I don't mean to be nosy but. . .what in Tartarus are you doing dear?" Cyrene asked stepping into the room.

"I'm looking for a scroll. One I wrote about Xena," she informed her.

"Well that narrows it down," Cyrene teased. "Perhaps you could be more specific."

Gabrielle smiled. "Ha. Ha. Very funny. . .Very true. I will agree most of my work is about Xena." Gabrielle paused and watched the eyebrow expression return again to Cyrene's face. "Alright ALL of my work is about Xena," the bard smiled.

Gabrielle looked under the bed and she found a box of scrolls. She placed the box on top of the feather mattress and she began to search through them. "It's one I wrote not long after Lye was born. . .I thought it was at home but I can't find it. . .and I know we didn't take it on the trip to Egypt so it must be somewhere."

Cyrene took a spot on the bed and began to open one, "What's the scroll about sweetie?"

"Xena being a parent. . .After the other night here at the tavern, she's been having doubts. . ." Cyrene looked concerned but Gabrielle smiled and patted her hand. "It's okay. . .She and I talked about it. I just wanted to show her how I view her as a mother. Something to reinforce the points I made to her . . . but I can't find the scroll anywhere."

Cyrene began to read the one in her hand. Soon Gabrielle heard the surprised sigh Cyrene made and she looked at the older woman who was blushing deeply. "That's not it," Cyrene said causally catching Gabrielle's eye and quickly rewrapping it. "but it certainly is . . .colorful. That's for sure."

It was obvious to the bard that Cyrene had stumbled across a more 'descriptive' scroll that dealt with her expressing her love for Xena.

"I should warn you-

"Too late. This is far too much information for a mother to read," Cyrene chuckled.

Now the bard blushed and rubbed the back of her neck in discomfort.

"I'm sorry," Gabrielle apologized.

"That's okay," Cyrene smiled. "It's obvious my daughter is loved very much. . .very, very much," she joked.

Gabrielle prayed she didn't turn even redder at the comments. "Perhaps I should. . ."

"Do this yourself?" Cyrene offered. Gabrielle nodded meekly with a grin. "Not a problem," Cyrene smiled. She rose and walked back to the doorway. "By the way, Xena's looking for you downstairs. Should I send her up or tell her you'll be down?"

"You can send her up," Gabrielle smiled. "And again I'm sorry about. . ."

"Don't be sorry," Cyrene grinned warmly. "That scroll isn't anything I didn't already know," she jabbed once more before pausing in thought. "I'm very fortunate to see my daughter happy. Something I never thought I'd see. Xena actual smiles now and I know that you're the one that put that smile there sweetie. . .I'll send her up."

"Thank you Cyrene," Gabrielle replied.

Cyrene's response was a kiss blown through the air. Gabrielle went back to digging through her box. Moments later Xena was standing in the doorway - Myra in her arms, Lye wrapped around her leg. Oh yeah, Xena was knee deep in family all right - literally in fact.

"Hey gorgeous," Xena smirked. "The tavern lady downstairs told me I could find a beautiful strawberry blonde up here. . .Minimal rates too," she added slyly in a low, quiet voice.

Gabrielle walked over and pulled Xena's head down to whisper in her ear, "Minimal rates huh? You're so beautiful I just might do ya for free."

"Be careful," Xena replied in a teasing warning. "Don't want to get me too shaken. I might drop this little bundle in my arms."

"Well then," Gabrielle said outstretching her arms. "Perhaps I should take over then."

Xena handed their daughter over and scooped up Lye. "What'cha doin up here?" Xena asked.

"Looking for a scroll actually. One I wrote about parenthood."

"Parenthood?" Xena asked. "Why? Are you still worried about my brief lapse of confidence?"

Gabrielle grinned. "Not worried. . .Just wanting to plant more facts behind my point is all."

"Oh yes!" Xena teased. "My plotting and charting and analytical bard. . .Wouldn't have ya any other way ya know?"

"Good answer," Gabrielle replied in a mock threat. "You better keep yourself in line."

"Yes ma'am," Xena said with a small bow. "I know my place. . .Right under that thumb of yours."

Gabrielle tossed a pillow hitting her target as both of them chuckled. Even Lye laughed. Of course he didn't understand what the dialog meant but having Mommy hit him with the pillow was pretty fun.

"Being under my thumb isn't always such a bad place to be if I remember correctly," Gabrielle replied in a seductive grin.

Their son rested his head on Xena's shoulder so Xena placed her hands over Lye's other ear and whispered with a smile, "Please! There are children present!"

She tried to say the line with dead seriousness but she knew Gabrielle would never fall for it anyway. The bard knew her too well.

"Well maybe we should go home and put the kids to bed?" Gabrielle offered.

"Don't you want to look for your scroll?" Xena answered.

"Nah. It's okay," Gabrielle said as she placed Myra on the bed to stuff the scrolls back under it. "Besides you know how I feel about it all."

"Such as?" Xena offered as Gabrielle collected Myra in her arms.

"Such as, all women should be as lucky to have a mate like you. . . Of course they can't have YOU. YOU belong to ME. . .Ya got that warrior?"

"Oh yes bard," Xena said wrapping her arm around Gabrielle's waist and leading her out the door. "But possessions goes both ways ya know?" Xena added as her hand cupped her bondmate's bottom.

"Oooh," Gabrielle sighed. "It sure does."

"We GOTTA get these kids to bed as soon as we get home," Xena said in impatience. Gabrielle simply laughed.

Chapter 17

Mel sat on the sofa sipping her coffee organizing a pile of scrolls. There were lots of them but so far nothing with writing on them. Janice and Mel lost hope with each new day that passed. Not that it wasn't a 'find'. The institute would have a wonderful display to put forth, one piece in particular - it was a chest or strong box lined with rubies. It would make a wonderful edition to their ancient times exhibit but as for being Xena related, it was useless.

Mel had two more scrolls from this find to observe. She didn't take her time in opening it. Quickly she unwrapped it, taking little care in its preservation. She flung it open so the parchment rolled toward the floor, snapping sharply but not breaking as it unfolded.

When Mel noticed the handwriting on it she stopped its dramatic swinging motion by grabbing the bottom of it. The first word Mel read made her take a sharp intake of breath - so sharp in fact that Janice looked up from across the room.

"What is it?" Janice asked.

Mel simple uttered the first word on the page.


That got Janice's attention. She scurried to her feet. A box full of ancient dinning wear she had been searching through was quickly forgotten.

"You found a scroll?!" Janice asked on the short trip over.

Mel just nodded and her lips moved silently as she read it.

"Mel?!" Janice said trying to get the belle to look at her. "What have you got?"

Mel put the parchment down to look at her partner. "I haven't found anything in all this mess until now. . .See?" the translator offered by turning the scroll around.

Sure enough the first word was Xena. "Did Gabrielle write it?"

"I don't know," Mel smirked, trying not to let Janice's nosiness aggravate her. "You won't let me read it," she added.

It was the southerners gentle way of putting her foot down and saying 'leave me alone so I can work' - a way of being firm yet gentle at the same time. Janice respected the soft-spoken authority that belonged to her partner. She even perhaps envied it on some level. Janice's character as a hot head was known on all four points of the world.

Without any more discussion, Janice unrolled the last scroll. It had writing as well. Mel tried to look at it over Janice's shoulder to see what was written but the archeologist pulled away, hiding the parchment from her lover.

"Nah uhh," Janice tisked. "This one's mine. That one's yours," she grinned.

Mel sighed in frustration but she had to smile as well. Turnabout was fair play.

"Okay then Miss Covington I'll make a deal," she countered with a seductive tone rising to her voice.

"What's that?" Janice replied, as she felt the hairs on the make of her neck rise up to scratch her collar.

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

Janice smiled. She was grateful that after all these years Mel still liked to play, tease and eventually please her.

"We're still talking about the scrolls right?" Janice smiled.

"Why of course my dear doctor? What did you think?"

Oh yeah. Mel still had it.

"The scrolls . . .of course," Janice said handing her parchment over to Mel without further argument. The belle never being one to gloat, just smiled in victory.

She held the parchment so she and Janice could both see it and read at their own pace. Over the years Janice's pace picked up considerably thanks to all of Mel's late night sessions but Mel was still the stronger of the two - especially with syntax. It was obvious to the translator that this scroll was not written my Gabrielle. Not only was the bards named mentioned in it (which was very rare) but the handwriting was different. With that in mind Mel dug into the text and the two women began to read.

"I'm not sure why I'm doing this. Legacy. That's what Gabrielle called it when we were in Egypt a few weeks ago when she did the same thing. I called her crazy but as I sit here tonight missing my son, Lyceus, it just seems like the thing to do. I'd tell Gabrielle about this but I'm sure she'd never let me live it down. Not that I'm complaining. It's one of the things I love most about her - she never lets me off the hook easy. She challenges the choices I make. Perhaps if I had met her earlier in my life, things would have been much different. But we can't change the past can we?

As I said, I have a son. I've had two sons actually but Solan is gone. He would have been 16 this year - a man practically. . ."

The words stopped Janice and Mel in their tracks and they exchanged a look of disbelief. Both of them started to calculate what they knew about the warrior. When she was a warlord. When she met Gabrielle. When the first child was born. . .well at least what they THOUGHT was the first child. Their curiosity of the remaining letter however pulled them back in. They could calculate later.

"Gabrielle has been trying to have our second child together with my brother but so far it's been unsuccessful. She takes things so hard. She thinks that it's her fault but perhaps her prior experience with motherhood has damaged her in someway. It wouldn't surprise me. Perhaps Dayhak's gift to her - leave her sterile so Hope would be her one and only. So not only has the past left us with many painful memories but also doubts in our future."

Mel pulled the parchment away and the two women's eyes met.

"Hold on," Mel sighed. "Did I just read what I thought I read?"

"You mean that BOTH Xena and Gabrielle have had children and nothing was ever written about either one?"

"Yeah," Mel nodded, looking off across the room.

"What is it?" Janice asked.

Mel got pulled back from her thoughts by Janice's voice. "Nothing. . .just thinking."

"About. . .?"

Mel settled back, trying to find a starting place. "Both of them have had children right?"

Janice nodded.

"Nothing has ever been spoken about either correct?"

Janice nodded again.

"From what we've found an entire year is missing from their lives."

"But that doesn't mean it isn't out there somewhere," Janice replied.

Mel shrugged and went back to the scroll, "Guess you're right."

"No. Wait," Janice said placing her hand on Mel's forearm. "What's your point?"

"Maybe the two are intertwined."

It was obvious Janice didn't see where Mel was coming from so she continued. "I mean maybe Gabrielle had something to do with Solan's death and maybe the pregnancy had something to do with that."

"What makes you say that?" Janice asked.

Mel reflected a bit before continuing. "Perhaps, Xena had to make a choice of some kind. . .Think about it. Gabrielle was a very loving person - she would have mentioned the child, BOTH of the children. Something prevented it though."

"Maybe it was just too painful to write about - losing a child can be devastating. Especially to someone loving like Gabrielle."

"I'd agree but it's the fact that a year - AN ENTIRE YEAR - is missing from their lives. And look at Xena's words about the child Gabrielle had. . .What was her name?. . .Hope. . .See how she talks about Hope and pain and. . ." Mel didn't go on. Her mind was active again.

"So you think that somehow this child Solan died as a result of . . .of what?"

"I don't know," Mel shrugged. "And from the looks of what we've found so far we might not ever know."

"Nah," Janice said rising up and starting to pace. "Gabrielle would have wrote about it. She worked everything out on paper - EVERYTHING. She would have written something."

"Perhaps she did," Mel offered. "But perhaps she destroyed it herself. We might not ever know."

Janice knew that was true. If only Xena could come back into Mel's body for a few minutes she could ask the warrior herself. Perhaps they never would know. But they did have more left to read and with that thought, Janice took her seat next to Mel again and they proceeded on with their reading.

"Anyway, it's in the past. And as I said we can't change the past. Our future however does look bright. And Gabrielle is a wonderful mother to Lye. He adores her to death and she does have a habit of overindulging him from time to time. My mother tells me not to worry. With Gabrielle's carefree attitude on most things and my demand for discipline we even each other out and we're on the path to having a well rounded child.

I'm firm with him but that's because I love him. He has to know there are limits. I never had that. And there are many parts of myself that I don't want him to follow. I also know he has the capacity for it.

My only hope is he gets Autolycus' temperament and my physical skills to aid him if trouble does arise in his life as far as what's in his blood. Gabrielle will teach him to see the beauty in things and the need to preserve it, not destroy it. That's something that's taken me years to understand. But if Gabrielle can teach me I'm sure Lye will be no problem.

The scroll I've enclosed here is Gabrielle's. As I said she doesn't know I'm doing this. She's sound asleep in our bed here in Gaul. The King sent word to us for help on our way back from Egypt. Gabrielle, like always, convinced me to lead a hand. It's only a few extra days travel if we pushed she said. So here I sit. The woman can talk me into anything.

But, tomorrow, we leave and I can't wait to see Lye. I guess I just wanted to leave this scroll because, although Gabrielle has a biased opinion, it shows more than the daring stuff I do which she often embellishes upon. She calls it poetic license or something like that. I guess I'd like people to know that the warrior princess was just a human. . .not the hero Gabrielle so often pumps me up to be. Truth be known I like the hero status but the only one whose opinion matters to me is Gabrielle's - she is my light. She is my source. Without her, there would be no hero."

Mel and Janice exchanged a brief look and dived into Gabrielle's scroll. To say that Xena peaked their interest with her introduction was an understatement. Two sets of eyes zeroed in on the new parchment now before them.

"Xena. . .My bondmate. My lover. Lye's mother. Amphipolis' mayor. . . Xena has many roles now. All of them are important to me. This scroll however is about her challenges with motherhood.

Xena has many skills - parenting wasn't always one of them. . .until now. Our son is still quite young but I see each day how she learns more and more about being a mother. Watching the former Destroyer of Nations change a diaper for the first time was a rare treat. Here's a woman who could make parchment fly yet couldn't make heads or tails of a white piece of cloth to put on her son's bare bottom. I tired not to laugh. Honest I did. I just couldn't help myself. And by the end she and I were both laughing.

She was so nervous about motherhood at the beginning. Her past, not so much the future, was her main concern. She didn't want Lye hurt by all the pain she had caused years before. It's understandable. Xena was not a good person but she learned about love. She realized she had the best opportunity now by having a child and teaching him all the things she didn't understand until later in life. She also has a playmate to pal around with too. A nice cover for her to have a 'second childhood'.

Lye's toys are made from the best-sanded down wood. His clothes are made from the heaviest cotton for winter. His summer clothes are comfortable so he doesn't rash. Xena has taken every step to insure that our son is health and happy but even though she takes great care bad things still happen.

Last winter was tough. Lye, then two winters old, came down with a fever. Many people in the village had it and many people died. Xena sat with him 20 hours a day for over a week - only sleeping when I forced her too, only eating when I brought her something. When she wasn't watching over his bed she was mixing and matching healing herbs, looking for something - ANYTHING - that would take away the illness.

Autolycus had come to visit that week and I couldn't help but feel a pang of jealous as I saw the two of them watching Lye sleep. I knew Lye was my son but there was no denying Autolycus' presence in the child as well as the fact that Lye would never be of my blood.

As I watched them I wondered if Xena had made the right choice. Was she better off with Autolycus? Did she need a husband instead of a bondmate? Would Lye be better off if he had his mother AND his father in his life? Looking back I know it was from lack of sleep and health that made me cast doubt on whether she and I had made the right choice.

Auto didn't want to put us out so he stayed at mother's inn. After he left for the evening, Xena and I fought bitterly. I was determined to leave. She was determined I stay. I thought Lye needed something that I couldn't give him. She felt I could be the best influence on his life. I felt like an outsider that night and I took all my rage and insecurity out on Xena. She took my rage and insecurity and turned it into passion and hope.

After I realized how ridiculous the arguments had been (and she put my mind at ease) we ended up in bed making love. Hardly no sleep. Hardly no nourishment. And the woman still had stamina. But it wasn't just her stamina that surprised me that night, it was her love. Her love to see that Lye was brought up the best way possible. Her love to see that I understood her and stayed with her.

The next morning we woke up late. Lye climbed into bed with the two of us. Xena felt him and knew his temperature had dropped. And he smiled again. I don't think I've seen Xena return a smile as big as she did that morning. And that's what I remember most.

All the thanks, all the praise, all the tokens of esteem Xena received over the years while being 'the warrior princess', didn't mean as much as this young boys smile. It was the greatest gift she ever got. She loves our son . . .and me. . .and she's the right choice. . . the only choice. . . for me.

Things will be hard at times, I've learned. But Lye has a head start on the other village children. Not because he's the son of 'The Warrior Princess'. Because he's the son of Xena, devoted mother."

Janice and Mel sat silent for a few moments. Mel started to sip her coffee again as Janice rewrapped the scroll.

"Even Xena had doubts about being a mother," Mel finally spoke. "And Gabrielle had doubts of her own as well. . .Does it make you feel any better to know you're not alone? Insecurity goes back a long way," Mel added with a grin.

Janice smiled as well but didn't look at her partner. She opted to play with the ends of the paper instead.

"Yeah," Janice answered. "I guess it does. . .Things will work out right?"

"Yes Janice," Mel replied. "Things won't be easy like Gabrielle wrote. . .but they will 'work out' just fine."


As a 'bonus payment' for working on the artifact research, the French institute 'gave' Janice and Mel the latest scrolls so they could do more analysis on them - returning them at their leisure. However, that wasn't the only thing they left France with. A beautiful 14-week-old baby girl was also in their 'possession'.

Mel knew after the first few days just where Gabrielle was coming from in her remarks about Xena's parenting style. Janice was always a stickler for details. Soon she found out that her lover's parenting skills fell under the same scrutiny. Did she wrap the diaper tight enough? Yet not too tight? Did she burp her enough after feeding? Did she make sure Monique's cap was secure before they went outside? It would have been enough to drive anyone else nuts but Mel knew it was just Janice being . . . Janice.

In fact, she loved knowing that Janice had an interest in the baby. She even overheard Janice doing 'baby talk' to Monique one evening although Janice swore up and down it was Mel's 'imagination'. Imagination or not, it looked like Janice and Monique were well on their way to bonding. And Mel was delighted to say the least.

Mel snuggled into the airliner seat with Monique cuddled up in her arms. Janice sat to the left of her, making sure the diaper bag had all the necessities for the long trip home. Mel couldn't help but smile. Janice caught the smile.

"What?!" Janice asked in her temperamental tone. "I'm making sure we got everything. I never thought someone so little could need so much stuff. Hell, I'm a grown woman and I don't require this much."

Mel chuckled at Janice's attempt of brash complaints as a mask for her caring nature. She simply leaned over to Janice's ear and whispered.

"I love you Janice," she sighed affectionately, letting Janice know she hadn't been fooled.

Janice looked at her partner and their daughter. The fact that Monique was 'their daughter' finally hit home for the first time. 'Scatter to the Winds' Janice Covington now had a family and she wondered at what point she had become her father. With that realization she notice something else. She felt like her FATHER - not her mother, who ducked out years before. Yeah. . .she was in this one for the duration.

"I love you too Mel," Janice replied feeling the plane start it's taxi. She leaned over and kissed Monique on the crown and settled back into her seat eyes closed.

Yes, it may not always be easy but one way or another it would 'work out'.

The End

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