The Challenge
By Janet Lynne

Part 2

-3-

Laughter filled the dining room as its occupants enjoyed the delicious southwestern spread. Marty, an excellent cook, had spared no effort in presenting a wonderful traditional New Mexican meal of layered enchiladas, corn, rice, salsa, and Native frybread. As it turned out, and to his sister's great surprise, Zac was also no slouch in the kitchen, and the resulting meal anchored the family celebration.

Ryan sat back against the antique high-backed, wooden chair, happily savoring foods she had not eaten in years. "Marty, this frybread is awesome. Would you mind showing Janna how to make it?"

"Jesus, Sis, don't you have two working hands? Why don't you learn?"

"Because, smart ass, I don't cook. The last time I tried to boil water, I burned it."

Janna set her margarita glass back on the table and giggled. "She's telling the truth, Zac. She tried to boil water for me and left it on the burner too long...she burned up the pan!"

"Well, baby, if memory serves, I was a little distracted at the time." Ryan's jaunty grin left no question as to what she was referring and Janna quickly nodded and waved her hand at Ryan.

"Yes, right, okay...no need to share that information. You're right, honey."

Zac burst out laughing and slapped the table. "Jesus Christ...you two are unbelievable!"

"Hey, I'm a stud, what can I say?" Ryan's brilliant blue eyes sparkled as she grinned, clearly very proud of her sexual prowess. Marty shook her head, unused to such frank discussions at the dinner table, but was enjoying herself nonetheless.

"Okay, you guys...and I do mean 'guys'...cool it!" Janna playfully slapped at her mate's arm.

"What? Can I help it if I'm a bigger stud than my brother is?" Ryan eyed her brother, grinning, as she took a swig from her bottle of Corona beer.

"What! Oh, no...no fu...uh, friggin way, Sis! Right, Marty?" He winked at his girlfriend.

As Martha blushed, Ryan continued, "Oh yeah? Tell me, buddy, how many times have you gotten laid in the last week?"

"Ryan!" Janna gasped, blushing brightly.

"Oh, come on, baby...we're all family here." She grasped her wife's hand tenderly and looked pointedly back at her brother. "Well?"

Zac glanced at his girlfriend, who smiled and shrugged. "Okay...I'll bite. Let me see...in the last week?" At Ryan's affirmative nod, he continued, "Four times."

"Ha! Sorry, bro. Nine!" Ryan all but puffed out her chest, while her mate groaned and laid her head on the table in embarrassment.

"Nine? No freaking way, Ryan!"

"Yes, way, Zac. Janna, am I lying?"

Janna's face remained hidden as she replied meekly, "No, you're telling the truth. And before anyone asks, yes, that is a typical week for us."

Ryan pointed at her brother and grinned. "See!"

"Jesus Christ..." Zac muttered, shaking his head. "And it's...um...you know...good? Every time?"

"Every single, goddamned time, Zac...for both of us." She smiled proudly and looked at her mate, who could only groan.

"Fuck..." Zac muttered.

Janna took a deep breath and chanced a look up, to meet Marty's amused expression. "Sorry, Marty...I don't know how the conversation managed to degenerate so drastically. Um, can I help you clean up?"

Marty chuckled as she replied, "Don't worry about it, Janna...it's been an interesting conversation, to say the least! And no, Zac will help me clean up. You sit...relax. You two had a very long drive today."

"Are you sure? I don't mind..."

"I'm positive, and anyway...I think he owes me." She looked pointedly at her fiancÚ, who tried to hide behind his beer bottle.

"No less than my wife owes me." Janna shot a friendly glare toward her mate, who mimicked her brother's cowardly action.

Zac cleared his throat. "Um, what do you ladies say to Ryan and I fixing breakfast in the morning?"

His idea was met by two wide grins and a sharp groan, after which his beautiful sister stated matter-of-factly, "Zachary, you are truly ready to become a husband."

Zac's features softened as he turned his gaze to his future wife. "I'm not going to argue with that, Ryan."

Ryan groaned again. "Oh, God, please tell me that we aren't that sappy, Janna."

"Sorry, love...I think you and I have cornered the market on sap." Janna smiled warmly at her mate and linked their hands.

"Yep, you two have...no question." Zac glanced at his sister. "But it's kind of nice."

Marty smiled as she agreed. "Yes, it is."

Zac glanced around the table. "More Margaritas, anyone? Beer...wine?"

"I think I'll have a Marg now, bro...thanks."

As Zac poured the frothy drink into a salt-rimmed glass for his sister, he asked, "So, um, what's the plan...for later this week, I mean?"

"Do you want the technical details or are you talking in general terms?" Ryan took a sip of her drink and smiled at its pleasant, sweet tang.

"Honey, I just think he needs to know what will be expected of him...and when."

"Yes, Janna, that is what I was getting at, thanks." Zac raised his eyebrows at his pain-in-the-ass big sister.

"Okay...Janna's been tracking her ovulation and is due to ovulate again on Friday. She'll monitor her temperature until then, and when it rises, we'll need a donation from you Zac, which we should use within one hour. Then we would like to repeat the process the next two days. Think you can handle that, my bro?"

"No problem, Sis. And uh, didn't you say something before about me abstaining for a few days before?"

"Yeah, uh...that's what's usually recommended...sorry." Ryan gazed apologetically at her brother and then at his girlfriend.

"Don't worry about it, Ryan. It's the least I can do...really." Zac stated sincerely and Marty nodded her agreement.

Janna's eyes misted as she replied, "Thanks guys...this is so special of you...of both of you." Ryan nodded her agreement as she grasped Janna's hand.

The jovial mood continued until late into the evening, with the four family members bonding over happy conversation and more good food and drink. Ryan and Janna retired some time later, exhausted after their long day, but both feeling very happy.

As she readied herself for bed, Janna remarked from the bathroom, "Honey, I think I'll start checking my temperature again in the morning, just in case...where's the basal thermometer?"

"It's in the kit with the rest of the stuff, in the Adidas bag."

"Okay, thanks." Janna lifted the bag onto the counter and removed the contents. She placed the large plastic bag containing three medicine syringes and three sterile specimen jars on the countertop. She also pulled out a package of surgical gloves and a thermometer case. Leaving the rest of the kit on the sink counter, she brought the thermometer to the bed and set it on the bedside table, smiling as she did so.

Her mate, reclining lazily on the large bed, remarked, "I'm happy too, Janna."

Janna gazed at her partner, both filled with love for her and awed by the strength of that love. She switched off the small lamp, plunging the room into darkness, and climbed into bed next to Ryan. "I can feel your happiness, love...it matches mine." She settled into her wife's warm embrace and kissed the nearby breast.

At the contact, Ryan sighed deeply and pulled Janna even more tightly against her body before covering them with the sheet. "Good night, love. Sweet dreams."

"Good night, my destiny." They shared a short, sweet kiss and nodded off together into dreamland.

The warrior lay in the soft, warm bed, with her mate nestled against her as always, and relished the feeling of contentment that filled her being. As she rubbed her slightly swollen belly, her mate covered her hand with hers and sighed. A warm fire burned in the nearby hearth, filling the room with a pleasant glow.

The small blonde woman turned slightly to look into her dark warrior's eyes. Softly, she said, "I'm very happy about this Xena, but I'm also confused." Her dark blonde brows knit together as she gazed back down at their hands where they rested on her mate's abdomen.

"Not half as confused as I am, Gabrielle. I honestly have no idea how this could have happened." She gazed seriously back at her mate and shrugged.

"Are you sure, Xena...I mean, maybe..."

"Gabrielle...I haven't been with a man...any man...since I've known you. And certainly not since we've...you know...been together."

"I know...then do you think it was one of the gods?" She shook her head in confusion. "What else could it possibly have been?"

"I don't know. I wish I did. What I do know is that this is good. I can feel it, Gabrielle. This baby is a good thing." She lifted a hand to her mate's face and softly caressed her cheek. "I want this to be our baby, Gabrielle. I want for us to be a family." Her voice cracked slightly as she added, "I'm very happy about this."

The bard turned her face and kissed the hand that had been caressing her cheek. "I am too, Xena. More than I can say."

"Write about it then, Gabrielle. Put your feelings down on a scroll...for me...please?" The warrior's beautiful light blue eyes, which contrasted so dramatically with her dark hair and tanned skin, implored her mate with their intensity.

"I will. I love you Xena."

"I love you, Gabrielle." The warrior gently grasped her bard's face and pulled her in for a loving kiss. They slowly savored each other's tastes and basked in their love, which spread from their heart centers and embraced them, and included, for the first time, the tiny essence growing within the warrior's strong body.

Ryan sighed deeply as the pleasure that she felt at being gently sexually connected with her wife threatened to overcome her. They lay quietly together, bodies entwined, but unmoving. Neither partner felt the need for more ardent lovemaking. On this morning, they needed simply to lie connected; sharing loving energy in the ancient, sacred fashion that had become a daily ritual for them.

Ryan muttered into Janna's mouth, not breaking their connection, "I love you, baby."

Janna returned the sentiment, also not breaking the connection. She breathed deeply, filling her body and soul with her wife's essence and with her breath, and sharing her own in kind.

Several minutes later, they slowly, gently parted; however, only insofar as to disengage connecting fingers and mouths. They snuggled together happily, neither having the least desire to part completely.

Finally, Ryan murmured, "Sweetheart, I had another warrior dream. But I can only remember bits of it. All I actually can remember clearly was that I was pregnant, and we were very happy."

"That sounds nice, honey. And, since our warrior dreams usually contain messages for us regarding our current life, that makes me very positive about our near future." She squeezed Ryan's waist tightly and sighed.

"Mm, that's true, love." As she held her beloved soulmate, Ryan tried to remember the fragments of the dream that were eluding her. "It seems that the pregnancy was a great surprise. I really pick up on that feeling...as if she had no idea how it could have happened. How strange is that, Janna?"

"It's very strange, Ryan. How could an adult woman, apparently intelligent and very capable, not know how she had become pregnant?"

"It's a mystery to me...unless I'm not picking up on all of the facts...it was just a dream, after all."

"Yes, but honey, we know from experience that our warrior dreams are more than just dreams. They are past-life memories, stored in our first chakras, and that they usually appear for a reason."

"True...but most of the details are eluding me for some reason this time."

"Maybe you're remembering simply what you need to remember."

"Possibly." Ryan remained pensive as she absentmindedly stroked her mate's arm where it had wrapped itself around her waist. She glanced at the bedside clock radio and sighed. "Well, my love, it's almost oh-seven hundred, as Zac would say. I'd better get up so I can help him with breakfast. They need to be at the base by 8:00."

"Okay, baby, but only because you promised." Janna squeezed her mate possessively to punctuate her point.

"Hey, there's nothing that says we can't return to bed after they leave, is there?" Ryan nuzzled Janna's hair and stroked her arm more seductively to punctuate her own point.

"Nope...except that Zac wants to show us around the base a little later."

"But that's later, love...my baby." Ryan's low voice drawled sexily as she turned so that she covered Janna's body with hers and leaned down for a kiss. After savoring Janna's soft, sweet lips and tongue for a long few minutes, Ryan parted reluctantly and leaned back slightly, still straddling her wife. "He doesn't expect us until mid-morning, because he has a meeting before then."

"Well, it's settled then. Go fix breakfast for Marty and Zac and then get your beautiful, shapely butt back in here."

Ryan grinned and raised her expressive eyebrows at her mate. "Shapely? How about firm?"

Janna grinned and shook her head.

"Trim?"

Another negative shake.

"Athletic?"

Again, a negative shake of the head, accompanied by a cute grin. "Shapely."

"Hmm..." Ryan stole another quick kiss and then another, before asking, "You're not planning on skipping breakfast are you?"

"In favor of waiting here for some red hot sex with you? I absofuckinlutley am, to quote you, love." Janna grinned widely at her mate's surprised expression.

"God dammit, Janna, I love it when you talk like that..." She leaned back down for another kiss, and lingered there. "Shit, Janna...now I want you, baby, but I have to get up."

"You know where I'll be, love."

"Ugh...Ryan groaned as she rolled off of her wife. She continued the roll and settled her feet on the floor, then stood and reached a hand down toward Janna. "Come on, Janna. If I'm getting up, so are you. I don't want to come back in here all hot and ready for love just to find you asleep."

"Good point." Janna grinned as she sat up and grasped her mate's hand.

"Hey, I know what we'll do...we'll come back after breakfast and shower together." A trademark jaunty grin accompanied equally trademark raised black eyebrows.

"I have a better idea...we'll come back and play in bed, and then we'll play in the shower."

Ryan closed her eyes and swallowed hard before answering. "Oh, God, Janna, you're gonna wear me out before I have the chance to get you pregnant."

"No possible way, love." Janna stretched up and kissed her mate's cheek, then walked away toward the bathroom, leaving a slightly discombobulated former warrior looking after her.

-4-

The rest of the week sped by, and enjoyably so, as the Norden-Zamoras made the most of their visit to New Mexico. In addition to interesting and informative tours of various parts of the missile range, led by Zac and Martha, they had enjoyed daily sightseeing trips in and around the Las Cruces area, and had made a day-long pilgrimage to Janna's mother's birthplace, the nearby small city of Deming.

On Friday morning, they found themselves making the pleasant drive up to Silver City to visit a favorite great-aunt of Janna's.

As Ryan drove north on highway 180, venturing out of the high desert plateau and into mountainous terrain, she remarked, "What a fuckin' small world, Janna, that we both have family in this region."

"Small Universe, Ryan, remember? It's a very small, synchronistic Universe that we live in."

"That it is, baby. That it is." She glanced warmly at her adorable mate. "So tell me about this special aunt of yours, love." She looked back to the highway before her and mused, Jesus...I cannot believe how fucking much I love this woman. She is my Universe. She alone.

"Well, love, she's my Grandpa's baby sister...my Aunt May. She's precious...absolutely precious to me. For as long as I can remember, she has made a trip out to California to visit us every few years...despite the fact that she does not drive. She has a daughter who lives in Albuquerque who usually comes out with her." Janna stopped speaking and smiled as she pictured the favorite aunt.

She smiled fondly as she stated, "Grandpa loved pinon nuts...pine nuts...but they used to be hard to find at home, and very expensive, so she would always bring him a big bag of them when she visited...even though they're sort of expensive even here, and not harvested often." She sighed as special memories were awakened. "And Grandpa would always share them with Dan and I, as treasured as they were. I understood even then, as a child, how unselfish that act was." She swallowed as a tear rolled down her cheek. "God, I miss him."

Ryan reached out and grasped her hand, trying to comfort her mate. "I wish I'd known him, Janna."

"I feel him here, Ryan. This is where he grew up...where he was struck by lightening as a child on the cattle ranch. I swear that I feel his presence here with us."

"I'm sure he was with us yesterday in Deming, my love."

"He was, Ryan. And so was Grandma. She was a Michigan native, but she loved it here, and grasped his Native ideals of environmentalism and respect for nature as much as he did."

"Baby, I can see...I can feel...how much they meant to you."

"They were both very close to Aunt May. I'm glad you'll have the chance to meet her." Janna chuckled as she added, "You know, she is the close friend of an Apollo astronaut and always said that if I came out here, that she would introduce me to him." She grinned at her wife. "I wonder if I can still take her up on the offer...at this late notice."

Ryan laughed gently. "I don't know, babe. Which astronaut?"

"Harrison Schmidt, of Apollo 17...the only civilian ever to go to the moon. He was a geologist and later became a New Mexico Congressman." She grinned as she added, "Republican."

Ryan grimaced, but then smiled. "And you still want to meet him?"

"Sure! The astronaut factor overrides the conservative factor."

"Sweetheart?"

"Hmm?"

"I love you."

"Love you too, Ryan."

~~~~~~~~~~

"God, Janna, it was a great day. I love your aunt. She's incredible." As she recalled the small, warm, feisty, white-haired lady, Ryan gazed at Janna with a look full of longing, love and respect, and added sincerely, "Now I can see very clearly what you will be like at eighty...and baby...I am so looking forward to being there with you. So much." She brought Janna's small hand to her lips and kissed it before pressing it to her cheek.

"Ryan...you're making me cry," Janna sniffled. She grasped the hand that still rested on her cheek and brought it to her own lips, kissing it gently.

Ryan lifted herself onto an elbow and gazed seriously at her wife. "Janna, let's make this baby."

Vibrant green eyes met brilliant blue as Janna kissed Ryan's hand again before reaching out to gently guide her face closer. When the beautiful, perfectly shaped Cupid's bow lips were within inches of her own lovely lips, Janna leaned forward, capturing them lovingly. She savored Ryan's soft lips, reveling in their sweet taste and velvety texture until she was breathless. She pulled back and met blue eyes darkened by desire, which matched her own desire-darkened green orbs.

"Make love to me, Ryan. Make me pregnant."

Ryan grinned down at her wife and drawled a favorite catch phrase of theirs. "Your wish is my command, baby."

She rose to her elbow again and seductively ran long fingers down Janna's naked form, raising gooseflesh as she went. As her fingers traveled southward along Janna's body, Ryan bent her head and raked a hot tongue against a willing nipple.

"Oh, God, Ryan..."

Slowly, Janna's sexy mate turned toward the nightstand beside the bed and grasped the specimen cup that sat waiting. A 5cc needleless medicine syringe rested in the cup, and Ryan manipulated it, bringing Zac's generous donation up into the tube. She lifted the tube out of the cup and inspected the milky substance before tapping the syringe with a fingernail, forcing any air bubbles to the top, then gently depressed the plunger a fraction to further force out any trapped air bubbles. Now prepared, the syringe full of life-giving seed was replaced in the cup, to await the proper moment for insertion.

As Ryan refocused her attention on her mate with eyes full of anticipation and lust, Janna shivered. She reached up and wrapped her arms around her wife's neck, pulling her down atop her as she kissed Ryan deeply. Their tongues intertwined and danced ardently as their bodies were pressed together, desire overwhelming them.

Ryan reached a long arm down and ran her fingers down Janna's torso, ending softly entangled in the golden curls at the apex of her legs. As Ryan's loving fingers gently caressed her outer folds, Janna gasped. Ryan kissed her deeply, reaffirming her love, and then bent her head, kissing her way down to Janna's soft breasts.

She brought her left hand up to gently knead and caress Janna's left breast while her tongue ran skillfully over her mate's right nipple. When her lover gasped with pleasure, Ryan sucked the hard nub gently into her mouth, enjoying its velvety texture.

"Ryan, yes..."

As she continued to suckle erotically at Janna's breast, Ryan caressed her gently with her right hand, bringing the small bundle of nerves just inside her inner folds to full arousal. As the tiny erection announced her wife's readiness, Ryan inserted a finger and gently stroked her lover. At the contact, Janna's hips bucked, and Ryan gently inserted a second finger. All the while, her mouth and talented tongue never lost contact with Janna's breast. The doubled sensations sent Janna hurtling quickly toward oblivion, and she moaned loudly.

At the moaned permission to enter her more fully, Ryan did so, inserting another finger and stroking her lover deeply. With her thumb, she continued to pay devoted attention to the small, hard nub, and Janna began to writhe uncontrollably. "Oh, God, Ryan...I'm close..." she panted.

Ryan's deep voice responded, "Here I come baby..." As she continued to lavish attention on her mate's sensitive breast and nether regions, she lifted slightly and reached for a latex glove with her left hand. After deftly slipping it on her hand, she reached for the syringe that sat in the sterile cup. Ryan grasped the syringe and brought it down to join her fingers.

As she held the syringe which contained the precious substance that would create their child in her gloved hand, Ryan brought her mouth down to join her fingers in their devoted stroking of her mate.

"Yes, Ryan...oh God..." Janna brought her knees up and tangled her fingers in Ryan's thick, dark hair.

The deep, sensuous strokes of her beloved's tongue sent Janna over the edge, and as her inner muscles began to contract rhythmically, Ryan pulled her mouth back and inserted the syringe as far into her mate as it would go. As she stroked her mate with the thick syringe, Janna loudly moaned her release, and Ryan depressed the plunger, shooting the semen deeply into her mate. Janna's orgasmic contractions aided the tiny swimmers in their journey up through her birth canal.

As her partner was swept by the waves of pleasure, Ryan continued to stroke her with the syringe, prolonging the orgasm and maximizing the sperms' chances of reaching their intended target. As soon as Janna's body became limp, Ryan grabbed a pillow and gently pushed it under her lover's thighs, raising them slightly off the bed, and removed the syringe. Then she stripped off the glove and deposited it in the empty specimen cup before grabbing the thin bed sheet and pulling it up above Janna's waist. She then crawled up and captured Janna's lips hotly.

Janna responded to the kiss fervently before needing to break for a breath. "Ryan," she breathed. "My God, that was good..."

"For me too, lover." She kissed Janna again, then pulled back to gaze at her. Noting tears slowly tracking down Janna's cheeks, she gently wiped them away. "I love you so much, Janna. Rest now and keep your legs up...give those little guys a good shot at hitting their target."

"I love you, too, Ryan, but I'm not quite ready to rest yet, love." She stroked Ryan's cheek tenderly. "Our lovemaking has never been a one-sided affair and we're not gonna go there now. Crawl up here and straddle my face so I can love you."

"Janna, no...I don't..."

"Ryan...right now. I can feel your desire and I will not deny you. Get up here."

Ryan grinned. "Yes, ma'am!" She dutifully made her way up Janna's body and positioned herself above her mate's face. When a loving, talented tongue immediately snaked out and stroked her anatomy, Ryan gasped and grabbed the bed's headboard.

"Oh, shit, Janna...oh my God..."

"Mmm...you're already close, love." Janna enjoyed Ryan's flavor immensely and vocalized the fact. Her voice rumbled oh so pleasantly through Ryan's sensitive cleft, hastening her climax, and she wriggled uncontrollably, hips rocking and gyrating until she screamed her release a few minutes later.

Still holding onto the headboard, Ryan hung her head limply as she regained control of her breath. "Jesus, Janna...fuck, baby. That was soooo good."

"For me too, Ryan." She sighed and a small sob escaped. "I think we made a baby, love."

Ryan swallowed hard as the emotion stuck in her throat. A sob escaped from her as well, as she said, "I believe we did, Janna." She wiped the embarrassing tears away before lifting her hips away from Janna's head and making her way to Janna's side, where she leaned down for a sweet kiss, each of them tasting her wife's essence on the other's lips. They parted and Ryan lay down in Janna's arms. Their usual positions were switched as Janna cradled her.

"Be careful, love...you're fertile right now, too and I know you don't want to get pregnant."

"I'm leaving the sheet right where it is, baby." Ryan nuzzled Janna's throat, enjoying being held by her wife for a change. "This is nice, Janna. God, you feel good." She hugged her smaller mate tightly as Janna kissed her hair.

"Mm...I kind of like this change of position. You feel great there."

"Mm." The dark woman's eyes closed involuntarily as the emotion of the moment, coupled with the strenuous activity after a long day, took its toll on her body.

At the same moment, her small mate yawned and they settled more deeply into each others arms as sleep, and very happy dreams, overtook them.

A short time later, Zac and Marty walked silently hand-in-hand down the hallway after returning from their date, and both smiled as they noted the quiet darkness of the guest room, hoping in unison that their sisters' very special evening had been productive.

In her hiding place behind the Earth's shadow, Grandmother Moon began her new phase, and sensing her friends' act of love and creation, smiled in response. She wrapped them in her invisible, loving energy and protected them throughout the night.


~~~~~~~~~~

"Ohhh..." The warrior groaned in agony as her mate helped her along the wooded path near a temple. The sounds of nearby fighting floated on the air, and the smaller warrior quickly led her mate to a safe clearing.

"Here, Xena...this looks like a good place." The blonde warrior-bard helped her mate to sit on the ground under a tree with a large canopy of leaves.

The dark warrior sat where her mate had indicated and grimaced as another pain hit, moaning, "Uhhh...get it off. Get it off me."

Her smaller mate helped her out of her large coat, but then the warrior shivered. "I'm cold."

The bard held her coat out to her, but the tall woman batted it away and held out her arms. "These...take these off." She impatiently indicated the armored leather bracers that covered her forearms and her mate unlaced and removed them. She settled her partner back against the tree and encouraged her to squat. The warrior did so as another pain hit, and she leaned forward into her smaller partner's arms.

"Ahh...Gabrielle!" The dark woman screamed.

The bard grimaced in empathy as she embraced her mate, gently rubbing her back. "Xena, remember Ephiny...remember what you did when she was having her baby..."

"Please be quiet...just be quiet. Ahh!" As the strong warrior was hit by another intense labor pain, her mate squatted in front of her, holding her within her embrace. The dark woman laid her head on her mate's shoulder and screamed again.

Her bard urged, "Push! Come on, Xena, push!"

Her partner bore down and screamed again as the pain cut through her like a hot sword.

"That's it, Xena...push again." The bard squatted in front of her mate and supported her. The warrior did so, accompanied by another ear-splitting scream, and felt the baby begin to crown.

"That's good, Xena, here it comes...I can see it!" The small blonde held her hands below her partner's body, where the baby was exiting.

"Get it out...get it out, now, Gabrielle! Ahh!"

"It's coming, Xena...keep pushing!" The baby's head emerged and the bard gently supported the tiny body as its mother continued the agonizing chore of pushing it out of her body. The baby's shoulders emerged and then the rest of the tiny body quickly slipped out, and the bard held the tiny infant in her hands. As she gazed in wonder at the tiny new life, she was consumed with love for the child, and looked up into the tired but wide-eyed gaze of her mate.

The strong warrior looked down at the baby in her mate's hands and smiled as tears tracked down her cheeks. They were no longer tears of pain, however- they were tears of joy. Her bard held her baby out to her and she tenderly took it into her arms. The dark woman, exhausted and sweating, gazed at the baby and gasped, "It's a little girl!"

"Yes!" The bard gazed lovingly from the newborn to her mother and then cut the umbilical cord. The tough warrior gazed softly at her infant and held her close while her partner finished with the birth necessities.

As she lovingly cleaned her partner and their baby, the warrior-bard was nearly overcome by the overwhelming love that she felt for them both, and silent tears steadily tracked down her cheeks.

Janna turned in Ryan's embrace and settled more fully atop the firm, but soft in all the right places, body, and sighed in her sleep. Ryan, already awake, as usual, smiled warmly and hugged her wife, feeling the desire for her begin to build. God, I hope we made a baby last night. I want this so much. I want to experience pregnancy and parenthood with her. She sent a silent prayer to the spiritual Grandfathers and Grandmothers, asking for their blessings as the soft yellow early morning light of the desert gently illuminated them.

Ryan nuzzled the blonde head under her chin and let her love for Janna fill her being. She took a deep breath, filling her body and soul with Janna's essence. Slowly, she exhaled and then drew in another deep breath, feeling the calming influence as the ki entered her body along with the air. She visualized the energy traveling to each part of her body and felt its invigorating effect. She continued the mindful breathing for another few minutes and then lay contentedly, waiting for her wife to awaken.

Her mind drifted to the previous day, when she and Janna had visited her mate's great-aunt in the mountains. The three of them had taken a long walk down the lovely lane that Aunt May lived on. Their aunt led them to a break in the pines, to an overlook, and they were stunned at the view of the mountains and of the desert beyond. They perched on a rock and enjoyed the view, alternately sharing warm conversation and silence, all of them appreciating the beauty that surrounded them.

At one point, Janna's elderly but exceptionally spry aunt had left them briefly to pick wildflowers in the adjacent meadow. As they sat together shoulder to shoulder on the large, sunny rock, Janna tilted her head back and looked up at the brilliant sky.

"Ryan, there's so much ki here!"

"Do you feel it, love?" Ryan asked as she lazily threw her arm around Janna's shoulders.

"Yes, but I see it, too. Look up!"

As Ryan did so, Janna continued. "Do you see the tiny silvery squiggles all over the place?"

Ryan squinted and then after a moment, exclaimed, "Yes!" She looked back down at Janna's cute face. "That's ki?"

"Yes! You can see it anywhere, but it's easiest to see against a bright blue sky. And I think there's more of it where the air is clean and pure."

Ryan looked back up, amazed at what she was seeing. The tiny squiggles of energy were everywhere, dancing on the air and around everything that exists, writhing and moving so quickly that single strings could not be focused upon. She could only see them against the backdrop of the blue sky, however. Unless she concentrated her newfound gift of second sight and gazed at the auras of nearby trees and plants, then she could see the ki within as golden sparks.

"Janna, that is so fuckin' amazing!"

Janna grinned at her wide-eyed mate and then whispered, "Here comes Aunt May, watch the language, love." As she made the request, Janna's sparkling eyes communicated the love she felt for Ryan.

"Oh, yeah...sorry, babe." Ryan grinned. "I forget. Um, you know that's it's gonna be a hard habit for me to break, don't you?" The sparkle in Ryan's eyes matched that of Janna's.

"Yep, but I have faith in you, love. You can handle anything."

"Well, Janna, that may be the hardest thing about parenthood, for me."

Janna chuckled. "Oh, you think so, huh?"

Ryan nuzzled her wife's cheek and whispered, "Yep, I do. Why don't we get back to Las Cruces so we can work on that parenthood thing?"

Ryan smiled again at the fond memory and then Janna began to awaken. A soft moan escaped Janna's lips as she stretched and opened her eyes. The incredibly lovely sight of her mate's left breast greeted her and Ryan could feel her mate's grin against her skin.

"Morning, baby."

"Morning, Ryan." She glanced up at her mate and smiled again. "You look as good as you feel this morning." She looked back down and softly kissed the nearby breast.

"Mm, that's nice, Janna...and I don't have to get up to help cook this morning." She craned her neck to kiss her mate's forehead.

Janna sighed and then lifted slightly to reach Ryan's lips. She muttered against them, "I'm very glad of that," and then captured them softly.

They savored each other's lips softly for a while before the kiss and the tasting became more fervent, and Ryan rolled them over so that she was above Janna. She gazed down at her wife and murmured, "I love you, baby."

"Love you too, Ryan." She reached up to push a strand of hair behind Ryan's ear as she added, "So much."

Ryan answered her by leaning down and kissing her sweetly, then rolled them onto their sides so that they could make their gentle morning connection. Fingers and mouths connected gently, softly, for the daily energy exchange, which usually lasted from five to ten minutes, except when the touching became more ardent and turned into lovemaking.

Some time later, the bathroom had filled with steam while the two lovers played in the shower. "God, Janna, you are so good..." Ryan murmured when the ability to speak returned.

"I'm so glad you think so, love." Janna murmured against the soft skin of Ryan's taut abdomen. "But I don't think I'm nearly as good as you are."

"Oh, fuck, Janna...baby, don't even think about going there. You're the best I've ever had, by far." She reached down and pulled her wife up by the shoulders. As she gazed lovingly into Janna's eyes, she leaned down and kissed her hotly, communicating all she needed to with simply a kiss.

Janna enjoyed the kiss and murmured, "Mm, thanks Ryan. But you're in love with me, honey...you're not exactly objective."

"Shit, Janna...you're starting to make me mad, honey. I can be objective about this. I'm a very honest person, you know that." She gazed seriously at her wife. "Where is this coming from, love?"

"I don't know...it's never worried me before...could I be pregnant already?" She grinned up at her mate.

Ryan chuckled. "I don't think so, baby...I think it takes a day or two doesn't it?"

"I think so, yeah." She kissed the luscious throat in front of her.

"Janna, you should know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are all I need. All I will ever need...all I will ever want. You are perfect for me." She smoothed wet strands of hair from her love's face. "You are my soulmate, my Universe...please don't ever, ever doubt that. And," she added to punctuate her point, "you are, without a doubt, the best, the hottest, the most exciting lover I've ever had. Ever." She kissed her wife again before adding, "I love you more than life itself, Janna. I always will."

Janna wrapped her arms around her mate and hugged her tightly. "Thank you, my love...you're my everything too, Ryan. Always." She looked back up at her wife and grinned. "I think we used up all the hot water again."

Ryan returned the grin. "Looks like it. We're rude house guests, aren't we? Zac and Marty may not invite us back again." She took a deep breath and let it out. "Well, come on, love...let's go get some breakfast."

"I'm there." As Ryan turned the water off and turned back around to help her out of the shower stall, Janna commented, "Honey, I think I am."

"You think you're what, Janna?"

"Pregnant."

Ryan stopped and turned Janna to face her. "Why do you think that?"

"I had a really intense warrior dream last night. You were giving birth to our daughter."

Ryan pulled Janna tightly against her and swallowed hard. "Jesus, Janna, I want that." She kissed her mate's wet head and then leaned down and captured a kiss.

"So do I, Ryan. So do I."



To be continued in part 3

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