by Eva Allen


BE ADVISED: This story includes the depiction of sex between two
consenting adult women. If this offends you, please find something else
to read!

Constructive criticism and unadulterated praise are always welcome!
Write to me at


She dreamed a memory -- a peaceful memory in which her body felt light
and warm, suspended languorously in the fragrant water of the bath in
Lao Ma's palace. It was not that first day she was remembering -- not
that terrifying space of time when she had hidden from Ming Tzu, her
heart pounding and lungs bursting, in this same bath. No, it was a day
or so later, early evening, and Xena lounged alone in the soothing water
amid the glow of candlelight. But she paid scant attention to her
surroundings, her mind being occupied instead with thoughts of what she
had witnessed that afternoon. She had seen Lao Ma shatter a vase
without touching it -- using only the power of her mind. It had been an
amazing performance, done apparently without effort, yet when Xena
herself had tried it, concentrating all her willpower on the task,
nothing at all had happened. In fact, Lao Ma had laughed at her.

The warrior sighed and moved a few steps forward through the water, then
let herself sink down so that she was totally submerged. She stayed
under for a few moments, breathing out slowly through her nose. Then,
drifting back to the surface, she emerged face-first, her dark hair
swirling around her. The whole world was driven by a will, Lao Ma had
told her, but in order to transcend the world's limitations, it was
necessary to conquer one's own will. Xena didn't understand it. She
didn't understand how she could stop willing or why doing so would give
her the kind of power Lao Ma had. The concept seemed radically opposed
to everything she had lived and believed up until now.

Moving to the edge of the bath, she sat on an underwater ledge with only
her head and shoulders out of the water. Soft tendrils of hair floated
in front of her and reaching out, she wrapped one loosely around her
fingers. Then, hearing the sound of a door, she looked up to see Lao Ma
crossing the room. Her bare feet whispered softly across the smooth
stone floor until she came to a stop near the bath. She was wearing
only a simple blue robe, and her unbound hair cascaded down over her

"May I join you," Lao Ma asked with a quiet smile, "or would you rather
be alone to do some thinking?"

"No, get in," Xena said, gesturing awkwardly.

Slipping out of her robe, Lao Ma let the garment fall to the floor, then
stepped to the edge of the bath and sat down. It was the first time
Xena had seen the other woman unclothed, and she found herself strangely
moved by the sight -- the golden skin of her breasts and stomach, the
dark triangle of hair below. But realizing that she was staring, Xena
quickly looked down, watching the water lap gently at her own breasts as
Lao Ma entered it.

"The water feels nice, doesn't it?" Lao Ma said after a moment. "It's
warm and soft, yet strong enough to bear our weight. Do you know what
Ming Tzu said to me that day while you were hiding here?"

Xena shook her head.

"He said I was a strange woman -- that I was soft and hard at the same
time. I told him I was like water, which can be very soft, and yet hard
as a raging flood. I think it's a good image, don't you?"

"Yes. It fits you," said Xena.

Lao Ma smiled and then ducked herself under the water. When she came
up, glistening droplets of water clung to her eyelashes and slid down
the smooth almond skin of her face. Looking at her, Xena felt a
distinct sense of pleasure, and this time she did not avert her eyes.
Far from appearing to mind the warrior's interest, Lao Ma returned her
gaze frankly. Then, after a few moments, she seated herself on the
stone ledge near Xena.

The warrior shifted her position self-consciously and began to play with
a floating lotus petal. Even after spending several days in the palace,
she still had no idea what to say to this mysterious woman to whom she
felt so strangely attracted. She could not understand why Lao Ma had
befriended her nor what she would demand in exchange for having saved
her life. And the fact that she was so distinctly clueless made Xena
very nervous.

After a short time, Lao Ma broke the silence. "Does the water make your
legs feel better?" she asked.

Xena looked at her. "Yeah, it does," she said.

"Do they hurt all the time, or only when you walk?"

"Mostly when I stand or walk, but sometimes they ache in the night and I
can't sleep."

"What happened to them?"

"They were broken."

"Both of them at once?"

Xena nodded.

"How did it happen?"

Xena turned her attention to the lotus petal, plucking it out of the
water and then tearing it slowly in half. "I was crucified," she said.

"Crucified? By whom?"

"By the Romans," Xena said in a flat, bitter tone of voice. "By a man I
thought cared for me. He ordered my legs to be broken."

Lao Ma did not respond, and after a moment, Xena looked up to see her
reaction. The depth of sympathy in the other woman's dark eyes
surprised her and she quickly turned her gaze back to the lotus petal.
"So you see," she added, "there's a good reason why I'm so full of hate
and anger."

"Yes, of course there is," Lao Ma said, laying a hand on the warrior's
arm. "You've known a great deal of suffering, for one so young. But
Xena," she continued, "hate and anger are emotions that can only lead to
death -- if not to physical death, then to death of the spirit. That is
what I was trying to tell you earlier." She rose and moved to stand in
front of the warrior. "Let me see your legs," she said.

Xena hesitated, then lifted one of her legs to the surface of the
water. Lao Ma supported it with one hand while running the fingers of
her other hand carefully along the shinbone. "Is this where the break
was?" she asked after a moment.

Glancing at the spot indicated by the other woman, Xena nodded. Lao Ma
probed the site with gentle fingers for a short time and then made a
similar examination of the other leg. When she had finished, she sat
down again beside Xena.

"It's puzzling," she said. "The bones appear to have been set well and
to have healed strong and straight. All I can figure out is that a
great deal of anger was trapped inside the bones when they healed, and
that's what is causing you the pain. We will have to find a way to
release that anger."

Xena stared at her. She had never heard such a strange diagnosis.
Anger trapped inside her bones? It sounded preposterous.

Rising again, Lao Ma made her way to the other side of the bath and
picked up a sponge and dish of soap. Turning back to Xena, she said,
"Would you like me to wash your back?"

"You don't have to. I can do it myself."

"Yes, of course you can do it yourself," Lao Ma said, "but I would like
to do it for you, if you'll let me."

"All right," Xena said, a bit uncertainly. Standing up, she turned her
back toward the other woman and pulled her hair out of the way. The
soapy sponge began to make gentle circles across her shoulders and
back. "Is this part of that thing about serving someone you hate?" she

The movement of the sponge stopped. "Xena, I don't hate you," Lao Ma
said quietly. "Did you think that I do?"

"I tried to kill you. You have every right to hate me."

"Well, that's a right I choose not to exercise." The sponge began to
move again.

"I still don't understand why you did it," Xena said. "I don't
understand why you saved my life."

"That's because the types of motivation you understand best are anger,
greed, and fear. But there are other reasons why people act the way
they do."

Xena considered this for a few moments as Lao Ma squeezed water over her
shoulders to rinse them and then began to soap her lower back.

"What did you mean by saying I was capable of greatness?" Xena asked.
"Were you talking about achieving power?"

"No, at least not the kind of brute power you're thinking of."

The warrior was silent as Lao Ma began to move the soapy sponge over her
arms. "The man I told you about," she said, with an edge of bitter
sarcasm, "the man who had me crucified -- he believed he was destined
for greatness." She stopped as she felt rage rising like a red flood
within her, choking off her words.

"Yes, and what about this man?" asked Lao Ma.

Xena took a deep breath and let it out again, fighting to push the rage
back down. "He said that greatness meant doing what other men thought
was impossible. Is that what you think greatness is?" she asked,
turning to face the other woman.

"I think that's one possible definition," Lao Ma said slowly, "but
mostly I think you need to find your own path -- a path that is not
dictated by anger and hate. There is so much that is good in you,
Xena," Lao Ma went on, moving closer and putting her hands on the
warrior's shoulders. "When you have learned to let go of the bad, the
good can come out."

"I don't know how to let go!" Xena said, roughly shrugging Lao Ma's
hands away. "You have no idea how much bad there is in me. You can't
possibly understand me that well. And I can't understand you, either.
I can't understand your way of thinking, and I don't know what you want
from me!" Then, turning abruptly, she moved across the bath and stood
leaning stiffly against the side, her back to Lao Ma.

There were several long moments of silence and then the gentle slushing
of the water as Lao Ma came to stand behind her. "Forgive me, Xena,"
she said softly. "I've been expecting you to learn in just a few days
what I've spent many years learning." She moved closer and laid her
hand on the warrior's back. "It's just that I see so much potential in
you and I want so many things for you. That's why I'm pushing you to
learn everything at once. I forget that we have plenty of time. We'll
take things slower from now on, and you will soon come to understand. I
really believe you will."

The warrior let out a breath she hadn't known she was holding and turned
to face the other woman. Was it true what Lao Ma was saying? Would she
understand, eventually? The calmness of her teacher's gaze reassured
her and without expecting to, Xena smiled.

Lao Ma smiled in return. Then, reaching out to touch Xena's cheek for a
moment, she let her fingers trail lightly down over the warrior's chest
and one breast. "You're a beautiful woman, Xena," she said quietly.

And quick as a shooting star, a thought flashed through Xena's mind.
Maybe this was it. Maybe she had finally found the key to understanding
this strange woman. Sex. Maybe it was sex Lao Ma wanted. What else
could this intimate gesture mean? Well, sex was a game Xena definitely
knew how to play. She had played it often enough with men. How
different could it be with a woman? Returning Lao Ma's steady gaze,
Xena let her smile widen seductively. "You're very beautiful, too," she

"You do me great honor," Lao Ma responded, her eyes carefully searching
the warrior's face, "but my looks are really very ordinary. You,
though, with those blue eyes and high cheekbones -- you have quite an
exotic sort of beauty."

"Exotic? Me?" Xena asked in surprise. "You're the one who's

Lao Ma laughed. "Maybe I would be in your land of Greece," she said,
"but here I look much like everyone else." For a moment, there was
silence, then Lao Ma asked, "Have you ever made love, Xena?"

"Well, of course," Xena said, laughing. "I'm not a child, you know."

"I'm not talking about simply having sex," Lao Ma returned. "Anyone can
do that."

Xena frowned. "What's the difference?" she asked.

"The sexual act doesn't necessarily have anything to do with love," Lao
Ma said. "It may end up being political or even warlike. It can be a
way to conquer and control someone. But when you make love to another
person, it is a pure, unselfish act. You do it because you wish to
honor the other person with the gift of pleasure. It is a way of
serving someone you care about."

Xena stared at her, unable either to look away or to think of a

"Just now, when I touched your breast," Lao Ma went on, "I'm guessing
that you thought I desired you sexually and that my desire would offer
you a way to control me, at least to some extent. Am I right? Did you
think something like that?"

The warrior nodded mutely.

Lao Ma smiled. "I do have a desire, Xena," she said quietly, "but it's
not the kind of desire you're imagining. My desire is to give you a
gift from my heart -- the gift of pleasure. Can you do me the honor of
accepting my gift?"

Xena swallowed hard. "I-- I guess so," she stammered.

"Thank you," Lao Ma said with a smile. "We will begin soon. But first
we need to finish your bath. Come back over here." She turned and
waded across the bath.

Xena followed her slowly. Damn this woman, she thought. She was so
full of surprises and bizarre twists of thought. There was just no way
to guess what she would do next.

Dipping her hands into the soft soap, Lao Ma turned to meet Xena. "Pull
your hair out of the way," she said. Then she ran her hands over the
warrior's shoulders, reaching around to massage the back of her neck.
"Xena, your muscles are as tight as a bowstring," she said softly. "Are
you afraid?"

"No!" Xena said quickly. "I just-- I don't know. I just feel--"

"You just feel what?"

"I don't know. Confused, I guess."

"Stop trying so hard to figure everything out," Lao Ma said. "You can't
make understanding come by sheer force of will, any more than you can
break a bottle using your will. When it's time for understanding to
come, it will come. Until then, just relax. There's nothing to be
afraid of."

The voice of her teacher was soothing, and Xena could feel the warmth of
the small hands on her shoulders and neck, skillfully releasing the
tension. She closed her eyes and began to relax, as Lao Ma scooped
handfuls of sweet-smelling water over her shoulders. Then she heard the
other woman lathering her hands again and soon felt gentle fingers
caressing her breasts, lifting them, and sensuously massaging the
nipples. With a slight gasp, she opened her eyes. Lao Ma was watching
her, and for a moment Xena thought she might drown in the depths of
those dark eyes. She reached out to touch Lao Ma's face and was
surprised to find that her hand was trembling. In fact, her whole body
was trembling with what she now recognized as desire. How had it
happened? She had never desired a woman before. Lao Ma must be some
kind of enchantress. There was no other way to explain it.

She pulled Lao Ma toward her, suddenly wanting nothing more than to feel
the softness of the other woman's lips against her own. But Lao Ma
resisted. "No, Xena," she said, easing herself free from the warrior's
hold, "not like this. It's not about conquest -- try to remember that.
Do you want me to wash your hair?"

Xena stared at her without answering.

Lao Ma dipped her hand in the soap again. "Bend down," she said, then
lathered the warrior's thick, black hair and gently massaged the scalp.
"Now rinse," she instructed, and Xena ducked under the water.

As she came back up, she stumbled a little, and felt the other woman's
hand steadying her. Xena wiped the water away from her eyes and
cautiously opened them. Lao Ma smiled at her. "Go dry off," she said.
"I'll be out in a few minutes. There's a big pile of soft furs over
there," she added, nodding toward the spot. "I've told the servants not
to disturb us."

Xena climbed the steps in the corner of the bath, then wrapped herself
in a thick linen towel and stood watching Lao Ma bathe herself. This
whole thing had been planned, she now realized. It had been planned as
carefully as she had once planned her own seduction of Caesar. The bath
had been prepared, the pile of furs laid out nearby, the servants
ordered away. If that didn't mean Lao Ma wanted to have sex with her,
then just what did it mean? Making love. A gift of pleasure. Why
couldn't the woman just call things by their rightful names?

Sighing, Xena carefully toweled her hair and body until her skin glowed
rosy. She kept an eye on Lao Ma meanwhile, and the warrior soon
discovered that there was a wetness between her legs which she could not
seem to dry. When she had finished with the towel, she hobbled over to
the furs and sat down. Lao Ma climbed out of the water, her body
streaming and glistening golden in the candlelight. Xena's breath
caught in her throat and she became aware that her heart was thudding in
her chest. Something told her this was going to be very different from
any sex she had ever had before. She wasn't even sure how two women
went about doing this kind of thing, but Lao Ma clearly knew. Xena
would have a good teacher.

Kneeling in front of her, Lao Ma smiled softly. "Are you sure you want
to do this?" she asked. "You don't have to, you know."

"I want to," Xena said, her voice barely more than a whisper.

Lao Ma leaned forward and took Xena's face between her hands. Then,
pulling the warrior toward her, she kissed her tenderly. Xena felt a
warm current of excitement spreading through her, and she returned the
kiss with growing passion, her fingers intertwining in Lao Ma's dark

"Teach me," Xena murmured in the other woman's ear when the kiss ended.
"Show me what to do."

Lao Ma pulled back a little to look at her. "Your job is to do nothing
-- just accept my gift and enjoy it."

"That sounds easy enough."

"Yes, it sounds easy, but it means you must trust me completely and let
go of your desire to be in control. That could be very difficult, even
frightening for you."

Xena looked at her without speaking.

Lao Ma smiled and cupped the warrior's breast in one hand, then bent to
gently suck the nipple. Xena felt a delicious shiver of anticipation
deep in her gut. "Lie down," Lao Ma said after a few moments. "Let me
make love to you."

Xena stretched out on her back and Lao Ma began to work her magic. With
skillful fingers and soft lips, she soon brought forth a response from
parts of Xena's body which the warrior had never even thought of as
sensitive. Gradually, the sweet sensation of arousal grew within her,
but with it came the fear Lao Ma had predicted -- a stark, cold terror
which crept in each time Xena felt herself losing control.

And when the fear came, Lao Ma would wait, stroking Xena's face and
talking softly to her. "It's all right," she murmured. "There's
nothing to be afraid of. Just trust me enough to surrender your will.
Nothing will harm you if you let go. Just allow yourself to feel the

Then the terror would fade and the beautiful sensations Lao Ma was
creating in her body would return, lifting Xena to even higher levels of
ecstasy than before. Moaning and trembling beneath the other's woman's
touch, she began to lose all sense of time and place, surrendering
herself at last to the wonder of the crescendo building within her.
Again and again, Lao Ma brought her close to the edge and then drew her
back. And finally, when Xena thought she could endure no more, she
began to beg for release. "Please, Lao Ma!" she panted. "Please!" And
with a fond smile, her beautiful tormentor slid down between the
warrior's legs, and used her lips and tongue bring about the climax -- a
glorious explosion of sensation unlike any Xena had never known before.

* * *

She woke with a soft moan, as the orgasm surged through her body.
Reaching between her legs, she kept the sweetness of it alive as long as
possible, then lay basking in its afterglow. The child within her moved
and kicked against her ribcage. Xena patted her belly and absently
wondered how an orgasm felt from inside the womb. Then, easing herself
onto her side, she saw that Calandra was curled up fast asleep on the
other side of the fire. Xena sighed and closed her eyes, wanting to
recapture the beauty of her dream. She floated back again in time,
remembering how she had lain with Lao Ma's arms around her as the
tingling glow of her climax had gradually faded.

"Do you want to do it again?" Lao Ma had asked.

"No. I mean yes, but this time I want to make love to you," she had
replied. Then, when Lao Ma looked at her a bit quizzically, Xena had
added, "I want to give you the gift of pleasure. Will you do me the
honor of accepting my gift?"

Lao Ma had laughed softly, with a sound like music. "Yes," she said,
brushing back the hair from Xena's face, "I will do you that honor -- as
long as you remember that you are giving a gift and not making a

"I'll try to remember," Xena said, "but you may have to help me."

Then, carefully and a little hesitantly, she had made love to the woman
who had saved her life and become her teacher. Lao Ma coached and
encouraged her, chiding the warrior a few times when she became too
aggressive. And Xena marveled at the other woman's responsiveness and
at how good it made her feel to give joy to someone she had come to care
so much about. "I think I could really get into this serving stuff,"
she said afterwards, with a sly grin.

But Lao Ma did not share her amusement. "We'll see how you feel
tomorrow, after you have served Ming Tzu," she said.

Xena scowled. "I still don't see the point in serving that old pig,"
she grumbled. "I'd rather just serve you."

"You will learn much more by serving Ming Tzu than you ever could
serving me," Lao Ma said quietly.

But the serving of Ming Tzu had not gone well. He had sat at Lao Ma's
table, blithely spewing insults until Xena's rage had reached the
boiling point. Only the look in Lao Ma's eyes and the most stringent
exercise of will had kept Xena from slitting the bastard's throat then
and there. Lao Ma claimed that Xena had learned something from the
experience, but Xena was not so sure.

The evening had held other lessons, though. Xena had learned how, in a
land where women had no power, Lao Ma had come to rule her husband's
kingdom. Lao Ma spoke of it as her "gift" to a brutal tyrant, and had
shown Xena the book of wisdom she was writing in Lao Tzu's name. But
most important, and most surprising of all, Xena had learned that Ming
T'ien, the boy she had kidnapped and corrupted, was Lao Ma's son.

Later on, the two women had lain on the cool silk sheets of Lao Ma's bed
and talked through the long, dark hours of the night. Lao Ma had told a
little of her childhood -- how she had grown up the daughter of her
father's fourth wife. And how an uncle, her mother's childless brother,
had taken an interest in teaching her to read and write, to use pressure
points, and to understand how the will which drives the world can
sometimes be transcended.

Because of her low rank in the family, there had been no thought of
finding Lao Ma a husband. Instead, her father had sold her as a
courtesan into the court of Ming Tzu. There she had found favor with
Ming himself, and had borne him the son that neither of his wives had
been able to give him. Overjoyed, Ming had acknowledged the boy and
proclaimed him his heir, but having done so, he had sold the boy's
mother to the tyrant Lao Tzu. Hoping for an heir of his own, Lao had
made her his wife number two. No conception had taken place, however,
and when wife number one died, Lao Ma had begun using the secret of
pressure points to disable her husband and rule benevolently in his

Xena opened her eyes, brought back to the present by the start of a
contraction. She stared into the fire, welcoming the returning pain as
it moved through her body. When it was over, she pushed herself to a
sitting position. She laid her hands on her swollen belly, feeling the
slight movement of the child within. "It's all right," she whispered.
"It's safe to come out now."

Struggling to her feet, she wrapped her cloak around her and walked to
the opening of the cavern. The sky was glowing a pure light blue,
except in the east, where vivid orange streaks proclaimed the imminent
arrival of the sun. The air was chilly and crisp, and the rocks felt
cold and damp beneath her bare feet. She had loved Lao Ma -- at least,
she had loved her as much as her fear of betrayal would let her love
anyone. But Lao Ma had not betrayed her. She had betrayed Lao Ma
instead. Xena had allowed her rage to shatter the trust that Lao Ma had
placed in her. The thought of it slashed like a knife through her
heart, but even so, she wasn't certain that she could have acted in any
other way. The evil within her was clearly too strong to be conquered
-- even by Lao Ma's love.

Another contraction came -- this one much stronger. Closing her eyes,
Xena leaned against the stone that hid the doorway. When the pain was
gone, she looked at the sky once more and saw the first rays of the sun
glinting through the winter trees. This was the day her child would be
born -- a day which promised to be clear and bright. If she were a
person who believed in signs, she would surely see this as a good one.

Hearing a noise behind her, she turned and saw Calandra.

"Did you get any sleep?" Calandra asked.

"Yeah, a little."

"Me, too."

"So I noticed," Xena commented.

"The pains have started again, haven't they?"


"See? I told you they would," the girl said. Then she added, "Come
inside. You'll catch your death of cold out here barefooted."

Xena turned and followed her back into the cave. Then, as another
contraction gripped her, she gave a small cry and put her hand on
Calandra's shoulder for support. "They're closer together now," she

"That's good," Calandra said. "Let's check and see how far along you

The opening was at four fingers, and within half an hour it had reached
five. After that, Xena measured time only by the pain -- wave after
wave of pain that seemed determined to rip her body apart.

"You can scream all you want to," Calandra said. "There's no one around
to hear you."

So Xena screamed and moaned and paced the cavern, frantically seeking
some kind of relief or escape. But after a time, the contractions grew
too strong, and she could no longer walk. She had already taken off her
cloak, and now she took off the tunic, too. Sweating with the effort of
enduring the pain, she no longer cared a fig about modesty.

She sat on a boulder while Calandra massaged her shoulders, urging her
to relax.

"Why should I relax?" she asked irritably. "Shouldn't I be trying to
push the baby out?"

"No, don't push yet," Calandra said. "I'll tell you when it's time.
For now, you need to try to relax. It will help make the pain easier to

So Xena tried to relax, but the pains just kept coming, each one seeming
worse than the one before. Finally, grabbing Calandra's arm, she said
urgently, "If I die, you must go to my army and tell them to come get my

"You're not going to die," Calandra assured her. "I know it hurts, but
everything's going well. You're a big, strong woman with wide hips, and
the baby's in the right position. Everything will be fine."

Xena nodded, hoping desperately that the girl knew what she was talking
about. A few minutes later, she grabbed the midwife's arm again. "I
think I feel it moving down!" she panted.

"You need to squat down," Calandra said, "right here is fine. You can
hold onto me, if you like." And then when Xena had eased herself into
position, the girl did a quick check. "I can see the head -- it won't
be long now!" she said excitedly.

"Should I push?"

"Yes, go ahead and push."

And so, wanting only for her ordeal to be over, Xena gritted her teeth
and bore down hard.

"That's it," Calandra encouraged her. "The head's coming out! Keep
pushing!" Then, a few moments later, she said, "Okay, now stop
pushing. The baby has to turn so that the shoulders can come out.
They'll come out one at a time."

Breathing hard and perspiring heavily, Xena crouched there, clutching
the girl's shoulders for support.

"All right, push again!" called Calandra, and Xena obeyed, screaming out
in pain, even while she knew the pain was almost over at last. And
then, peering down between her legs, she saw the baby slide out into
Calandra's waiting hands.

"It's a boy!" the girl exclaimed, as the infant let out a hearty wail.

"A boy," Xena murmured, realizing that she had never really considered
which sex the child would be.

"Yes! A strong, healthy boy, from the sound of that cry!" Calandra said
as she quickly wiped his nose and eyes clean and then counted his
fingers and toes. "Sit down and I'll let you hold him."

"Aren't you going to cut the cord?" Xena asked as she carefully lowered
herself into a sitting position and leaned back against a rock.

"In a minute," Calandra said. "We'll wait until the blood stops pulsing
through it." Then she handed the crying child to Xena. "Be careful to
support his head," she warned.

"He's so little," the warrior said, taking the baby awkwardly in her
arms. "And red. And why does he keep crying like that?"

"You'd be red, too, if you'd just been squeezed through such a tiny
opening," Calandra said. "See if you can get him to nurse. Nursing
helps the afterbirth come out."

Nurse? Xena had never pictured herself nursing this child, and she
wasn't really sure how to go about it. Hesitantly, she moved the baby
close to her breast and pushed the nipple into his mouth. To her
surprise, his crying stopped abruptly as his lips closed around the
nipple. Then, after a few hesitant tries, he began to suck rhythmically
and with apparent success.

"He's doing it!" Xena said in amazement.

Calandra knelt at her side. "Yeah, looks like he's a natural," she said
with a grin. Then she began tying off the umbilical cord. "Xena," she
said, looking at the warrior, "don't kill this child. Please. If you
don't want to keep him, then let me find a home for him. I know of a
couple of families in the village who would be more than happy to have a
fine, healthy boy like this. No one will need to know whose son he is.
Just tell me you won't kill him."

Xena looked at the child and then at Calandra. "I won't kill him," she
said quietly.

"Thank you," Calandra said with relief. And then she cut the cord.

Xena returned her gaze to the baby. So this was what had been growing
inside her all these months -- not the monster she had imagined, but
this tiny little person with such perfectly formed fingers and toes.
And the sensation of his mouth drawing nourishment from her breast -- it
was a unique sensation, and it felt sensuous in a way that she could
never have imagined. She smiled a tired smile and then gasped slightly
as she felt a new contraction.

"It's the afterbirth," Calandra said. "Don't worry. This will be much
easier than delivering the baby was."

The girl was right, and within a few minutes, it was over. "Well,
that's it," Calandra said cheerfully. You're all done with
contractions. How do you feel?"


"Yeah, I'm sure you are. You had a long labor."

"What time is it?" Xena asked, glancing at the patch of light that
marked the opening to the cave.

"I don't know. Midday, I guess. Do you want something to eat?"

"No, I want to sleep."

"Okay. I'll just get you cleaned up and then you can go to sleep." She
brought a pot of warm water over from the fire, dipped a cloth into it,
and began to gently cleanse between the warrior's legs. "This looks
good," she said. "There was hardly any tearing. Sometimes we have to
sew people up afterwards." When she finished, she folded a clean, dry
piece of linen to make a thick pad and then fashioned a belt to hold it
in place.

The baby was no longer nursing, Xena noted. In fact, he seemed to be
mostly asleep. She wondered if he felt as tired as she did.

"Here, let me take him and I'll clean him up, too," Calandra said. "You
go ahead and lie down."

Xena moved to her bedroll and eased herself down, stretching out on her
back. She closed her eyes and was only half aware when Calandra brought
the sleepy baby and laid him in the soft hollow between her breasts.
And by the time the girl got a blanket spread over them, Xena was sound

Continue on to Part Four...

alt fic index <> homepage