A Shadow's Image
by hobbes

The story is mine and written by my demanding Muse for your entertainment, but the characters from Xena:Warrior Princess belong to MCA/Universal.

As always, the story belongs to me, and the Characters to MCA/Universal

NOTE:A Shadow suggested a story about Meg & Diane, hence the title.

Xena and her friend Gabrielle waited for the appearance of Princess Diana. They helped themselves to the wine that was on the table and made themselves comfortable. They had traveled long and hard to get there, at the Princess' request. They didn't know the nature of her troubles, but
would find out soon enough..

"I hope the three of you don't pull any more switches. I really thought you had gone insane or something the last time. I don't think I could handle it this time. After that last incident, I was tempted to tattoo you just so I could tell the difference.", she teased.

Xena lifted her left eyebrow. "No need to get drastic. How about a code word? If you ever doubt it's me, just ask for it."

"Good idea! How about Argo's tail?", she suggested.

"Easy enough. Just don't get carried away with it. Just use it if my behavior seems different. I'd hate to have Diana or Meg doubt *your* sanity.", she said with a grin.

"My mother would probably say I've lost it long ago.", she joked.

"And she'd be right. Traveling with me is proof enough of that.", she said while avoiding a punch to the shoulder from her friend, "Hey, don't kill the messenger! Besides, you walked right into that one.
Don't blame me for taking advantage of it."

Xena was saved from a scathing remark by the arrival of Meg. At least that's who Xena thought it was. She wasn't as well dressed as Diana would be, and obviously pregnant.

"I guess I won't have to use the password with this one!", Gabrielle whispered with a smile.

"Xena! Gabrielle! I was told you were here. I just hadda see the two of you again. I hope you don't mind?', she asked endearingly.

"Not at all, Meg. It's good to see you , too, but ..", Gabrielle indicated her condition with her eyes.

"Oh, yeah. I forgot. One of these days, I'll learn to write well enough to tell the father."

"He doesn't know? Oh, I'm sorry Meg. That was rude of me.", Gabrielle said.

Meg waved her hand to let her know it wasn't taken that way.

"Don't worry about it. One of these days, he might come back through, and I'll tell him then. Or maybe if you see him again, you can tell him for me. And tell him don't worry, I'm not askin' for money or anything. I just wanted to let him know he was a daddy.", Meg told them.

"If we meet him? Meg--who's the father?", Xena asked.

"Didn't I say? Silly me! It's Joxer of course. Well, I better get back to the kitchen. Kingy can get uptight if he has to wait for his supper."

The two just stood there in shock. Joxer. Daddy. They looked at each other and shuddered in harmony.

Part Two

"By the Gods, Xena! That's the last image I needed dancing in my head.", Gabrielle said pitifully.

"I know what you mean.", Xena said with another set of shivers.

"Who wants the honor of telling him?"

"Don't look at me! You do the sensitive chats, remember? *You* tell him, if we run across him again."

"If? Xena, he keeps turning up like a bad copper. It's just a matter of time before we see him again."

"Yeah, you're right. I don't know what got into me. Sorry."

Just then, Princess Diana entered the room. Diana appeared at ease, and Gabrielle wondered once again why they were summoned. She didn't look worried about anything.

"Xena. Gabrielle. It's good to see you both again. How are you doing?", Diana asked.

"Fine, Your Highness.", Gabrielle said.

"Gabrielle, relax, and call me Diana. We've been through too much for formalities." The bard smiled and nodded.

"So, Diana, why did you send for us?", Xena asked bluntly.

"I need a favor. From Gabrielle, actually. We're negotiating a trade agreement between my kingdom and an Amazon community. I know you can't intervene directly in another's territory, but I thought your presence would ease things along. For some reason, they're almost hostile even though we've never caused them trouble. Will you help, Gabrielle?"

"Sure, but I'm not exactly sure what you want me to do."

"I'm not either. We'll just have to wait and see. I have rooms ready for each of you. They're the same as before, so you shouldn't have any difficulty finding them. I also have assigned servants
for each. Just ask if you need anything. I'd be pleased if you'd join us for dinner tonight, just after sundown. until then, my friends.", she left the room.

"I don't know about you, Xena, but I want a bath before I sit at a royal table. I smell of road dust, and you smell like Argo."


"Sorry. Let me amend that. You stink like a horse *and* road dust. Get thee to a bath O Mighty Warrior!", she laughed.

Part Three

Gabrielle made sure she locked her door, mistrusting her friend, who just might try to get a little revenge for her last remark. The bard giggled, remembering the look on her face. It had been hilarious, but she chided herself. One of these days, her mouth was going to get her in a lot of hot water. She looked down at her bath water and laughed at her own pun.

A sudden banging on the door made her jump.

"Gabrielle? You in there? It's me, Meg. I need to talk to you."

"Give me a minute. I'm in the tub.", she shouted.

Gabrielle pulled herself up and quickly dried. She wrapped the damp towel around her and opened the door, peeking to make sure it was her, and not Xena. The huge belly reassured her, and she smiled.

"What did you want to talk about?", she said as she entered the sleeping chamber and sat on the bed.

"Well, it's about Joxer. I know he's always busy, fighting the bad guys and all, but I was just wondering how he's been doing."

Gabrielle swallowed a laugh, and cleared her throat.

"Well, we haven't seen him in almost a month, but he was doing good. How are you and the baby doing? No problems?", she asked.

"Nah. We're both real healthy, though I do get this craving for pickled eggs all the time."

"I'm glad you're feeling good. How's it been working out for you and King Lias? He still like the spicy foods?"

"Most of the time, though I try not to let him eat any at night. It keeps him up, you know."

"Spicy food can do that. And speaking of which, I had better get dressed if I want to meet with Diana for dinner. It wouldn't look good to be late."

"And I need to get to my kitchen. I hope to see you again before you leave. You and Xena really helped me out, and I just wanted to thank you."

"You're welcomed. I'm sure we'll get plenty of chances to talk while we're here." Meg smiled and left the room.

Xena stewed while soaking in her tub. Lately, the teasing and insults have gotten out of hand. Gabrielle was having entirely too much fun at her expense of late. The Bard found alot of delight out of making her cringe, and getting even only made it worse. She'd have to think on it.

Part Four

Gabrielle left her room, and headed for what she hoped was the dining hall. After several twists and turns, she knew she was lost. She spun in a circle, hoping against hope in spotting a servant. No one. She sighed and just kept moving. Sooner or later, she had to find someone.

The luck was with her, and she found a servant girl passing by.

"Excuse me. I'm afraid I'm lost. Could you help me find the dining hall?"

"Sure, no problem. Follow me.", the girl led her through a maze of passageways. Gabrielle felt silly. She had been her before, and she had to get help in finding her way. She wondered what Xena
would think about this.


Xena looked at the doorway again. Where was Gabrielle? She tapped a long finger against the tabletop. The royal family waited with her, and Xena feared Gabrielle would be late for her dinner. Xena suddenly smiled at the thought. *Gabrielle missing a meal? That's a first!*

Diana caught her smiling. "What's so amusing, Xena? It's not often we see you smile like that."

"It's an inside joke, Diana.", she said evasively.

"Please, I'm really interested.", she said prettily. Xena considered it, then answered.

"I was smiling because Gabrielle is late for a meal. She's a bottomless pit when it comes to food, and she isn't here. She's either in trouble, or she's lost. "

"And you find this funny?", she said, convinced Xena was a little strange. How many people thought it funny that their friend may be in trouble or lost? Papa once said that everyone laughed at
different things, but this was too strange for her. She hoped Gabrielle showed up soon.

King Lias understood her humor , as did Philemon. They both loved Diana dearly, but she was a bit naive on some things. King Lias gave Xena a conspiracle wink, and she grinned back girlishly at him. She had a warm spot in her heart for the older man, and saw him as the father figure she always missed.

He showed her genuine respect and caring, and that meant more to her than he'd ever know. He also expected the same. He was a kind man, but he was strong when he had to be, and was nobody's fool. Those attributes made him a good ruler. Xena took the time to look into his eyes,
basking in the warmth she saw there. He gave her a fatherly smile and gave her hand a squeeze. Just then, they heard someone's approach.

Gabrielle was shown into the room by one of the servant girls, who quickly left. The bard strolled in, a sheepish smile on her face.

"Got lost?", Xena asked with a teasing tone.

"Not one word, Xena.", Gabrielle growled.

Xena raised both eyebrows and looked over her shoulder, pretending to look for someone there, then gave her a 'Who? Me?' gesture. Gabrielle snorted and sat down. The royal family laughed at Xena's unexpected humor.

Part Five

"Gabrielle, I wanted to take this time to discuss our situation a little--if that's alright with you? I'd also like to thank you for helping. If this trade agreement goes through, many people from both
sides will benefit from it."

"It's fine with me--go ahead."

"The Amazon tribe we want to trade with is an isolationist group. They never venture from their lands, or have much contact with others. It was all we could do to get them to come here. I
think they only agreed to that because they didn't want us on their lands.

"Anyway, they have perfected a newer metal that stronger than anything we've ever seen. They claim it's steel, but just has fewer impurities in it. We want to trade for it. It would make stronger
weapons, and farm equipment and so much more."

"Do they need anything you have. If I were them, I'd be leery of selling something that could make better weapons, unless I really needed something in return.", Gabrielle asked.

"I agree. Unless you have something special, your chances are almost nil.", Xena added.

"That's just it. They made the first contact. Not us. We don't know what they want.", said King Lias.

"If it brought them out of their seclusion, it could be serious. Guessing won't get us anywhere, so I suggest we wait and see.", said Xena


Part Six

With nothing to do, Xena and Gabrielle went to one of their rooms to relax and just chat. Gabrielle leaned back in her chair, and watched Xena while she picked at her stitches on her arm guards. The bard leaned forward and grabbed her busy fingers, stilling them.

"Stop it! That habit is annoying. Why they haven't fallen apart yet is beyond me."

"Sorry. I don't like just sitting around. It makes me nervous."

"At least you don't bite your nails--that would drive me insane."

"I don't have any to bite, or I would. See?", she held up her hands, showing the stubby nails. Gabrielle peered at them and grunted.

"I guess a warrior's lifestyle doesn't promote long nails. Hey! I just thought of something! If I want to figure out if there's been a switch between you and Diana, all I have to do is look at her nails.
She lives such a pampered life, that she has them, as well as being well-groomed.", she sat back, pleased with her idea. Xena felt a twinge of hurt. Gabrielle caught it, and was instantly sorry.

"Xena, that wasn't very kind of me. I'm sorry. I didn't mean that you're some kind of slob or anything. We just never have much time for primping. We're lucky if we can get regular baths sometimes."

"I know, but every once in a while, I envy someone like Diana."

"For being pampered, why? Diana just wanders around in her castle, accomplishing little more than deciding which gown to wear that day. *You*, on the other hand live in a way that touches so many.", Gabrielle took both of Xena's hands in her own, " You and Diana may look alike, but she's only a watery reflection of yourself. A shadow's image on the ground. I wouldn't be so envious if I were you. You are someone of substance, not a bit of fluff. Be proud of who and what you are. "

Xena smiled. "You're good for a girl's ego, Gabrielle. Thanks."


Part Seven

Xena met Meg as she walked through the maze of passageways. She had wanted to take a walk, and take the edge off her excess energy from the enforced inactivity.

"Xena! Just the person I was hoping to see!", Meg said as she spotted the warrior. Xena made herself smile, and turned to face the King's cook.

"Hello, Meg. How are you today?", she asked. She wondered how she could make an escape.

"Fine. Just fine. Me and Junior here are having a good day. "

*Junior?*, the warrior thought with a queazy feeling in her stomach.

"Listen. I was wondering if you could do something for me?", she asked.

"Let's hear it, Meg."

"You see, it's like this. I was wondering if you could help me write a letter to Joxer. I still don't write good, and so...", she trailed off.

"Meg, I'm not the person to see. Gabrielle is th..."

"No! That's just it. You're a warrior like Joxer and you would know what to say to him. Gabrielle would probably make it too fancy, and he'd be embarrassed by it. Could you help me out, please?", she begged.

Xena couldn't think of a good reason to say no, and nodded wearily.

"Great, I'll see you later!', she said with a smile. Xena could only wince with regret. How did she get into these messes?

Part Eight

King Lias met with Gabrielle in his study. He was fond of the child, she had such a sweet nature. He poured her a goblet of cider.

"I wanted to extend my thanks for your help, as well, Gabrielle. Diana has worried herself sick over this. I have been giving her more and more responsibilities since my illness. I wanted her prepared for my eventual death. She needs the experience. Philemon is a fine man, but he's only her prince, and an outsider to many. They expect her to take over with my death.", he explained.

"Can she handle the strain? I don't mean to make this sound insulting, but she's still pretty naive. She might be taking on more than she can handle right now.", the bard said gently.

"No, it's not insulting to speak the truth. Diana is the child of my heart, but she is naive. But with your help, I think she'll do fine. I don't want to appear overprotective around her, you see. She
might feel I'm doubting her."

"So you want me to guide her a little--with your guidance , of course."

"You're pretty smart for one so young. Yes. I'll give you guidance from the sidelines, so to speak. I want everything to go smoothly. The Amazon trade agreement can mean much to both of our peoples, and I don't want it ruined due to inexperience."

"I'll do what I can, King Lias."


Part Nine

Xena sat by the fountain, watching the water fall softly, catching the sunlight in sparkling reflections. She found the sight of water soothing, and her tension fade away. She lost in the play of the
water, and the soft sounds of it hitting the small pool in the bottom of the fountain. Memorized, she never heard the approaching Gabrielle.

Gabrielle stood there for several minutes, watching her friend stare blankly into the water. She took a coin from her belt and tossed it into the fountain. The sudden plop it made caused the warrior to
jump. Xena glanced at her friend, then reached down to retrieve the coin.

"No, you can't take it out now! It'll cause bad luck. "

"That's just superstition, Gabrielle. Why waste a coin? The gods only know that we're broke most of the time."

"Let it be on your head then. I won't take it back.", Gabrielle warned.

Xena made a sound of exasperation, and pulled the coin from the water. She shook the water from it, and placed it inside her bodice.

"See? The sky didn't rumble from Zeus' displeasure, and I didn't drop dead. It's just a silly wives' tale."

"Xena! Xena! It's me, Meg--are you out here?", a shout from stairway alerted them.

"Curses come in all forms, Xena. Remember that."


Xena found herself sitting at a table, quill in hand, writing a letter for Joxer, of all people. The parchment laid blankly in front of her, untouched. She had no idea what to say to him. Meg wanted her to write to Joxer and explain about the baby, and to reassure him that she wanted nothing from him but a visit. To say she hated the very idea of penning the letter very distasteful.

Gabrielle peeked into the room to deliver a quick 'told you so', then left as fast as she appeared. Xena lowered her head in frustration and weariness. This was going to be a very long day.


Part Ten

Gabrielle found a dress made in an Amazon style sitting on her bed the next morning when she awoke. Diana had informed her that something a little more elaborate would be made available for her meeting with the Amazon delegates. She looked over the warm brown cloth and had to admit Diana had good taste, and though not true Amazon garb, it was fairly close.

She freshened up and then got dressed. It felt odd to be wearing something other than her usual attire. She stood in front of the mirror, looking at her reflection.

"Very pretty. Now let's go!", her friend said from the doorway. Gabrielle spun around, and followed Xena, who had already turned away and was heading up the hallway.

"Will you please slow down?", she said to her friend's back. Xena stopped and turned around, "When are you going to learn that I can't keep up with those long legs of yours? They won't get here for several more hours yet. There's no rush."

"Yes there is. King Lias wants to see us now, not two hours from now. Apparently they showed up early."

"Oh good mother of Zeus! Why didn't you say so?!"

Gabrielle rushed passed her, Xena shook her head in amusement, and followed the little Amazon Queen.

Part Eleven

Gabrielle rushed up to the doors of the meeting room, where two guards were keeping watch. She took a moment to catch her breath, then nodded at the. They opened the doors, and allowed her entry.

Inside were Princess Diana, Philemon, and two women she assumed were the delegates. One was older, about forty winters old, her hair slightly graying, but her posture straight and proud. She bored her gaze into her own with dark eyes that seemed to cut right into her. She held the gaze, unwilling to look away. it was a test of some sort, and she refused to fail it. The woman suddenly smiled, satisfied in some way. She looked away, and freed Gabrielle.

The Bard then looked to the other woman, a young girl in her mid-twenties. She leaned forward to get a better look at the Queen of Melosa's band, and seemed not to care one way or the other. It was up to Gabrielle to make a good impression.

She sat at the empty seat, and smiled her greetings to everyone.

"Shall we begin?", she asked.

Part Twelve

"Gabrielle, let me introduce our guests. This is Ulnevea, the representative for the Amazons", she indicated the older woman, who nodded her head, " and Asteria, her assistant in theses talks."

"Princess Diana, " said Ulnevea, " I'm curious as to why you invited Queen Gabrielle to these trade talks. I don't want to sound accusing, but it almost seems to be a ploy to keep us off guard.", she
accused mildly.

"Not at all. In all honesty, I felt a little confused, and since we knew each other, I thought she could be some help--to avoid misunderstandings.", Diana explained.

The woman thought it over, and then nodded her acceptance.

"Very well, I'll begin. We want something as you do. You want our techniques for making stronger metal, and we want land--a special piece of land that is. "

"Could you be specific? I'm sure we can make arrangements, but it depends on the land you want.", said Diana.

The woman paused, knowing it would cause a scene once she spoke. She took a deep breath, and told her.

"We want the land located by your northern border. The land by the river, just southeast of the Guardian stone." Silence filled the room, each for a different reason. the Amazons held their breath in fear of being rejected, Gabrielle in confusion at what the Guardian stone was, and Philemon, waiting for the explosion from his wife.

"What! Do you *know* what that area means to my people. It's a symbol--a..a..monument to those who died to protect our land from invaders. And now you want it? How could you..", Philemon grabbed her elbow, bringing her tirade to a halt.

Gabrielle stepped in for a moment. "Ulnevea, I don't know exactly what's going on as yet, but perhaps if you explain *why* you need it, it would help everyone understand."

"You're correct. We need it for a very simple reason. Long before the people of this area had settled here, the land had been sacred to us. We lost it in a power play over a hundred years ago, and now we want it back."

"What will you do with the land, if it becomes yours?", Gabrielle asked.

"We will build a shrine to Artemis, where one had stood before. ", said Asteria.


Part Thirteen

Gabrielle pulled the princess to the side as they left the room.

"Why are you so upset? This is supposed to be a friendly trade talk---not the clash of the Titans! You must keep calm.", she said.

"I'm sorry. but that land is important to us...''

"And them."

"Yes, and to them. But can't you see? If I allow that land to leave our control, there would be an uprising of the masses."

"It seems to me, and it's just my opinion, that the Amazons won't settle for another piece of land. You'll have to end the talks---or..."

"Or what? Gabrielle, if you have any advice, don't hold out on me! This is important."

Gabrielle knew she had her full attention, and used her speaking skills to reel her in.

"Well, if you *share *the land, then both of you could benefit'

"Share the land? How?", asked the princess.

"They only want it for a shrine, right? And your people use it as a monument. No one lives there I assume, "Diana indicated she was correct, " so, just share the land. The Amazons are only giving you information in exchange, so why give them ownership to the land? Promise to keep the secret of the metal among yourselves, and I think they'll accept your offer.", she advise.

"Gabrielle! You're brilliant! As soon as we resume our meeting, I'll suggest it. Thank you!", she said with a smile. She turned away and sought out her husband. The bard smiled, pleased with her own
idea. Maybe hanging around Xena had rubbed off. The idea had come from nowhere, just like Xena's.

Part Fourteen

"You look pleased. Did the meeting go well?", Xena asked.

"Actually--no. *But* I think it'll work out."

"That's good. Ready for our workout? I'm ready to go crazy with just sitting around. I need to move.", she complained.

"OK, I guess a little spar can't hurt anything. I don't want to see you tense, now do I?", she teased. Xena made a funny scrunched up face, and pretended to punch her on the chin.

"Just for that, I'm gonna trounce you!", Xena promised.


Xena spun her makeshift staff, a branch pulled from a tree in the courtyard. She had used her dagger to chop off the branches, and now was ready to fulfill her promise. She faced Gabrielle in front of the fountain, and grinned.

"Come and take your beating, little bard.", she taunted.

"Maybe I'll surprise you, and win." , Gabrielle quipped.

"Uh huh."

"OK, you'll trounce me, but I'm not going to make it easy for you.", she warned.

Xena made the first move, going for the knees. Gabrielle easily jumped over it and made a teasing swing at her midsection. Xena did a quick twist and thumped her friend on the behind with her branch.


"Stop playing, and get serious. I won't let you get away with moves like that. It was sloppy."

"Yes, but...", she took advantage of Xena's position and made her dodge a blow that forced her to the fountain's edge, " I wanted to try *this*!", she shouted as she began to pommel her friend with a series of blows, which were just fended off. Xena sensed the stone of the fountain behind her, and with a yell, leaped backwards over it.

"Oh..! I hate it when you pull that stunt!", Gabrielle complained.

"Too bad. Everything goes--remember? There's no rules on the battlefield."

"There ought to be."

Once again, they began their match, not paying attention to the people coming to the courtyard. They had a growing audience, but ignored them, too busy to care.

Part Fifteen

Ulnevea and Asteria stood among the crowd, watch the person that looked like Princess Diana sparring with Gabrielle . The confusion on their faces was obvious. How could such a simpering little thing like her ever have the skills to fight a gnat--much less the Amazon Queen?

"I don't understand this, Ulnevea. It's got to be some sort of trick. Perhaps a 'show' for us."

"You think perhaps they're trying to impress us? I doubt it though. *This* woman is far too confident and skilled to be Diana."

"Quite right. Her name is Xena.", Philemon said from behind them, "And don't worry, your words didn't offend me. I much prefer my wife the gentle soul she is. Xena is a warrior that we meant last year. My father-in-law had sent for her because he had heard of her resemblance to my wife--though we weren't married at the time."

"I've heard of Xena. I think every Amazon has. I'm amazed your wife didn't have her attend the meeting as well."

"She wanted to put you at ease--not throw you off balance. My wife is a caring woman. Don't let her emotional outburst color your opinion of her. I think you can still hammer out a deal. Well, I've
said enough. I'll let you make your own judgements from now on.", he said with a kind smile.

The two women returned their attention to the combatants, the fight was almost over. Gabrielle was quickly running out of steam, and the warrior was going in for the kill. She sent a punishing series of blows towards the Queen's head, forcing her to continuously lift her arms to fend off the blows. Her arms were giving out.

"OK, Xena! I give.", she relented. Xena stepped back with a smug smile.

"I told you that you'd be taking a beating!", she boasted.

"Go ahead. Rub it in.", she said wearily and sat down in exhaustion. Just then, the people who had been watching began applauding. The two women looked at the crowd sheepishly. Xena gave a little wave to the onlookers and then sat down next to the bard.

The Amazons stepped forward, wanting a closer look at the infamous Xena.

"You two gave us all an impressive performance. Do you do this often--spar in public?", asked Asteria.

"No. Only when we're forced by circumstances. Xena hates being cooped up with nothing to do.", Gabrielle told them.

"Well, maybe next time, she can allow one of us the honor. I'd enjoy a match with her.", said Ulnevea.

"Maybe if you asked me--and not her, you could get the chance.", Xena growled softly. She didn't like being spoken to in the third person.

"I'm terribly sorry. I didn't mean to give offence. I hope you'll give me a chance at a match. It's not often one gets to spar with a legend.", she said in attempt to smooth her ruffled feathers.

"We'll see.", she said without commitment, and walked away.

Part Sixteen

Gabrielle knocked on Xena's door when she found it closed. She heard a muffled 'Come in', and entered. She went into the small room, but Xena wasn't in sight.


"Just a moment.", her voice said. Gabrielle looked around, but couldn't determine where it came from. A movement caught her eyes by the huge bed, it's satin covers wiggling. She stepped closer and knelt by the spot. She took hold of the bedspread, and lifted them. She found Xena's booted feet.

"What *are* you doing?"

Xena didn't answer, but her feet shifted as she made her way backwards from under the bed. The bard noticed a parchment in her hands once she cleared the frame. She stood and wiped the dust from her leather.

"Got it!"

"Got what? Wait, is that the letter you wrote for Meg?"

"Uh huh. It wasn't on the table when I came back, and since I had agonized over this for most of an afternoon, I had to find it. I didn't want to rewrite it again."

"Can I read it?", Gabrielle asked.

Xena thought about it, then handed it to her friend. Gabrielle sat at the table and began reading.


Gabrielle and I are visiting the Castle of King Lias. I'm sure you remember our last encounter there with Diana and Meg. Meg asked me to pass on a message to you, and this isn't a jest at your
expense. Meg is pregnant, and due soon.

She told me that the child is yours, and that she doesn't want to alarm you with this news. She expects nothing from you. She doesn't wish marriage, just a visit at a time in the future to meet with
her and your child. She seems sincere, and I hope you do so.

You're friend,

"Friend?", Gabrielle asked.

"Well, what should I sign? 'The person you annoy'?", she complained.

"That wouldn't sound good. I suppose 'friend' will do."

"I'm glad you approve", she said dryly. Gabrielle barked a quick laugh.

"So, are you going to give it to Meg to send, or are you going to just hold on to the letter and agonize over it some more?"

"I refuse to rewrite it again . Let's give it to her and be done with it.", she said while heading for the door.


Meg wasn't in the kitchens, and the assistants couldn't tell them where she was. She asked for directions to her chambers, and they pointed down the hallway. They followed the instructions and knocked on her door.

"Meg? Are you there?" Their answer was a screamed moan.

"The baby's coming!', they said at the same time. Xena pushed open the wooden door and rushed in. Meg was on her bed, gasping from the pain.

"Meg, why didn't you tell someone?", Gabrielle chided.

"I didn't know. My back was hurting, so thought a rest would help.", she said between gritted teeth.

Xena ran her hands over Meg's stomach.

"I say the baby will make it's appearance real soon. Gabrielle, fetch some clean cloth and some string, then pass on the word to King Lias." Gabrielle nodded and headed out the door.

"I guess I'll have to rewrite my letter to Joxer after all.", Xena muttered.

"You finished it?", she asked.

"Yep. But I'll have to redo it and tell him whether he has a son or daughter.", she chuckled.


The royal family stood outside of Meg's chambers, waiting for the baby. In spite of Meg's background, she had become part of the family. They listened to her shouts and screams of her labor, flinching with each one.

Everyone suddenly stopped and held their breathes when they heard Xena say loudly, "I see the head!" A few moments later, the sound of a baby crying made them shout in happiness.


Once more, they left the palace.

"This is becoming old habit, Xena. We've seen more of this castle in the last year, than our own homes.", she commented.

"In a way, it almost seems like home. I think we'll probably see this place again--if only to visit little Joxer Jr.", she said with a wry grin.


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