A Journey of Love & Life

Part 17

Gabrielle awoke to the sounds of Xena's soft snoring and realised she'd been asleep for at least three candlemarks given that it was by the position of the sun it was now late afternoon. She looked down at her warrior hoping to see no sign of tension in her face and frowned when she could still see a little furrow of Xena's brow meaning she was still in some pain.

She kissed Xena's forehead wanting more than anything to be able to end the pain her love was in, even though she sensed it was nowhere near as bad as it had been, the fact that she was still in pain bothered her. She wished one of her newfound powers was an ability to heal but unfortunately that didn't seem to be the case. Gently she let her hands wander down to Xena's stomach checking on the baby to make sure it was still happy and content after all it's mother had been through earlier that day. Thinking of how Ares had caused this only made her feel angry so she stopped that train of thought before her tension woke Xena. She wanted Xena to sleep until she lost the little furrow of her brow and relaxed completely.

“Mmmm, she likes that” Xena whispered slowly coming into awareness, the dull thudding pain in her head much easier to bear than the pain she'd experienced before. She still couldn't see, but didn't want to alarm Gabrielle by telling her that yet, she knew that it would eventually correct itself once the pain had completely receded. She lay back content to feel Gabrielle softly rubbing her stomach, concentrating on the baby's movements and allow the sensations to try and soothe the dull ache in her head.

“I love doing it, I know it calms you both down, how are you feeling baby?” Gabrielle asked quietly not wanting to speak too loudly if the pain was still present, and one look at the furrow that still remained on Xena's otherwise peaceful face told her it was still there.

“Better, still in some pain but it's manageable now, I think a few more candlemarks of cuddling and   the pain will be gone” Xena said not wanting to get into the reasons for her migraine, she knew they'd have to talk about it at some point but she was nowhere near ready for that yet. She smiled as the baby shifted it's position and brought her hand down to join Gabrielle's so that they were both soothing the baby.

“How bout your sight can you see yet?” Gabrielle asked worriedly, Xena had yet to open her eyes and she had a feeling it was because she still couldn't see and she wasn't sure if that was a good thing. She only hoped Xena's sight would return when the pain was no longer present.

“Not just yet but when the pain goes, my sight will return, it will be fine baby I promise” Xena told Gabrielle turning her face towards her so she could kiss her and let her know that she was slowly getting better. They lay there for a few moments just kissing and connecting, both needing the physical contact to reassure themselves that they were okay.

“I'm going to kill Ares for doing this to you, I'm sorry he hurt you sweetheart” Xena frowned feeling a little guilty that she'd been unable to protect Gabrielle. Having her mind go out on her at a time like that was not something Xena relished, she prided herself in her ability to protect herself and Gabrielle, and to know her body had given out when she'd needed to protect Gabrielle had left her feeling a little guilty.

“Hey what's going on in there that's putting that frown on your face, are you in more pain is the migraine returning?” Gabrielle asked worriedly and then felt even more worry as tears began sliding down Xena's face, leaking out of those eyes that were still shut. She wasn't sure what to do so she continued stroking Xena's stomach trying to soothe the hurt she knew Xena was feeling.

“I didn't protect you, and Ares hurt you, I'm sorry sweetheart” Xena said as more tears cascaded down her face as she looked in the direction she knew Gabrielle's face was wishing she could see it right now. She opened her eyes slowly and could still only see mostly blackness, little faint edges of colour trying to streak through but nothing solid.

“Xena listen to me, what happened was not your fault, your body was in charge, it knew you couldn't handle the stress you'd experienced and it shut you down, your migraine could have been ten times worse if that hadn't happened” Gabrielle said taking Xena into her arms knowing how hard it would be for her proud warrior to have that happen to her, she knew Xena prided herself in her ability to protect them both and to have her body fail her at a moment like would not make her lover very happy.

“What happened was for the best sweetheart, who know's how it would have affected the baby if the migraine was worse, I'm fine baby, a little banged up but nothing and no-one is gunna stop me from making you my wife in a few days time you hear me” Gabrielle told Xena hoping she heard the words and would stop beating herself up for something she had no control over.

“I do, so we've got immortal blood huh?” Xena asked putting a casual spin on the topic not wanting to delve to deeply into the subject for the moment. She wanted nothing more than to spend the next few candlemarks snuggling with Gabrielle, but knew it was best if they got some of this off their chests first. She wasn't exactly sure why her body had collapsed under the pressure but was sure it was something to do with the tension she'd felt at Ares presence and her pregnancy.

“Yeah, how bout that, are you okay with that?” Gabrielle asked tentatively not sure where Xena wanted to go with this, she'd been sure it would be a while before they talked about that. She looked over at her lover and saw the quiet determination on her face and knew that she intended to talk about this, and decided that if that's what Xena needed she was going to give it to her, she only hoped the topic wouldn't make Xena's migraine return.

“I'm a little stunned, and not sure if I like the thought of living forever, but as long as your immortal as well and we won't lose each other then I guess it's okay” Xena told Gabrielle looking in the direction of her face happy to be able to see some more colour emerging and she could just make out her lover's hair. She tentatively reached out her hand to caress the soft skin on her lover's face relieved beyond words that if they had to be immortal they would be together. It would still hurt facing the loss of all the people that would come through their lives, but if they had each other she knew they'd be able to get through anything.

“I feel the same way, at least we'll be immortal together, I couldn't stand it if only one of us was immortal, I'd find a way to die when you died and I know you'd do the same for me” Gabrielle said softly relishing the feel of Xena's hand on her face, the calm stroking of her skin soothing some of the worry and tension she'd been feeling.

“How about we have another long nap and then we'll go and see if the Amazon's can scrounge up some food for us” Gabrielle suggested thinking another nap might relieve the pain Xena was still experiencing. She was pleasantly surprised to have Xena not fight her one bit on the nap and soon they were both sleeping comfortably.

They awoke a few candlemarks later happy to find that Xena was no longer in any pain and her empty stomach was making itself known. Gabrielle still didn't want Xena to do too much after her migraine so she got the guards to get them some food and preceded to feed the food to her lover and herself both of them very happy the migraine had finally passed.

“So my love what would you like to do tomorrow?” Xena asked once her stomach was satisfied. She was sitting wrapped in her lover's arms and didn't want to move a muscle, she felt that content. She felt Gabrielle's hands move down to her stomach and begin to stroke it soothingly and it was all she could do to not fall asleep then and there she was so relaxed.

“How bout we start the plans for our joining ceremony?” Gabrielle asked hearing Xena's breathing get slower and knew that her lover was extremely relaxed at that moment and that's how she intended on Xena being for the next few days if she could help it. The migraine had scared Gabrielle immensely and she never wanted to have to go through a repeat of it. Seeing her normally strong lover so vulnerable and in so much pain had been a massive shock to her system.

“That sounds like a great idea, the sooner we get joined the sooner Ares won't be able to interfere with us again” Xena said stating the practicalities of them getting joined as soon as possible. “But you know what my love, I don't want to spend another day with you not as my wife, how about we skip the massive do and get joined straight away?” Xena asked not knowing if Gabrielle would be okay with breaking protocol, but she'd been thinking about things and, well with two Goddesses on their side they could get the joining ceremony prepared straight away and they could be joined tomorrow, now more than ever she wanted to make that commitment to Gabrielle.

“Well I'm sure if we ask for Aphrodite's and Atermis' help we could have everything prepared straight away, but are you sure your ready for this ceremony?” Gabrielle asked worriedly, she knew Xena was feeling better but the migraine had taken a toll on her lover and she was sure she would need a few days to recuperate.

“I feel fine, and I really want to be joined with you as soon as humanly or Godly possible” Xena said and then looked up suddenly having felt Aphrodite and Atermis enter the room. “Don't you ladies ever knock?” She asked with a mock scowl even though she was glad they had come, now they could talk about this and get the ball rolling straight away.

“Sorry Xena, but we overheard your conversation and we wanted to offer our help, we are both overjoyed that you want to hold the ceremony tomorrow” Atermis said proudly looking at the two newly discovered immortals never having felt prouder of anyone in her life. The odds these two had overcome to be together would have seemed to others insurmountable, but they had gotten there and now the love she could see that had blossomed between them was as strong as ever and nothing would be able to sever that love, not Ares, not even death, and she couldn't be more pleased for them.

“That's okay we were going to ask for your help weren't we honey?” Gabrielle said not sure if Xena really was annoyed that the two Goddesses had come or not. With Xena's hormones going crazy it was often hard to tell her lover's moods and right now she looked annoyed so Gabrielle went to stand next to her, gently rubbing her back to ward off any tension.

“Yeah, sorry bout that was just kidding around with you, can't be serious all the time huh?” Xena laughed at the looks on both the Goddesses faces and Gabrielle's. She liked to keep people on their toes by doing things they didn't expect and most people nowadays because of her pregnancy expected her to blow up at the drop of a hat. Xena had stated quite firmly on a number of occasions that she was in full control of her mood swings, but had been unable to convince anyone that she truly was. She didn't feel out of control yet but knew it would come eventually, she'd been very hormonal in the last stages of her pregnancy with Solan and it had been hard not to break down in tears at times in front of her men. Only her training and discipline had kept that from happening.

“Good one, you got us really good then Xena!” Aphrodite laughed, happy to see the warrior looking a hell of a lot better than the last time she'd seen her and mucking around with them. “Now let get this party shaking, cause one thing I know is how to throw a hell of a party!” Aphrodite laughed beginning the conversation on the ceremony. They talked for at least two candlemarks, going over the finer details, with both Aphrodite and Atermis coming up with some really good suggestions. They were just about to start on another candlemark of discussion when a soft snoring started up and Gabrielle realised Xena had fallen asleep, she'd thought the warrior had gotten a little quiet over the last few candledrops but hadn't realised she'd fallen asleep till she'd heard the snoring.

“Awww that's so cute, our warrior princess is sound asleep, by the Gods she looks so much younger when she's out to it” Aphrodite observed smiling at the picture Xena presented. She was tucked up next to Gabrielle her hand resting on the bard's knee her other arm wrapped securely around her middle her dark locks had spilled over her face and she looked almost angelic, looking at her at that moment you wouldn't guess that she was capable of killing a man with her bare hands.

“I guess we should wrap this discussion up for now, it's been a long couple of day's for her and now that she's getting heavier with child she tends to sleep a lot more” Gabrielle explained, stealing a look at her warrior princess and feeling her heart melt at the sight of her. The innocence you never saw in Xena's face was always displayed when she slept.

“Seeing her like this is always special for me, to be able to see the child in her, I know she is a great warrior and I commend her for that, but to see that she is still capable of innocence is a true delight” Atermis said looking at the woman who unbeknown to her had the power to destroy all the Gods growing inside her and feeling nothing but love for the woman. She knew that she had chosen her past and if it meant her death to protect these two women and their child then so be it. She looked over at her sister and knew that she was in agreement with her and they were both extremely glad to offer their protection to the couple. Even though Athena had placed a protection spell on the baby Atermis knew her sister well and knew  that eventually she would switch sides and fight on her father's behalf. Duty was so ingrained in Athena it would be impossible for her to say no to their father.

“Thank you both of you, for making this possible, Xena can be incredibly romantic at times as hard as it may be to believe, and this pregnancy, our love it's changing her, I love her more than I ever felt possible” Gabrielle told them, as she looked down at her warrior princess and at where her arm rested, wrapped around the place where their child grew. She still didn't know what was to become of their child but she knew without a doubt that Xena was going to be a wonderful mother, and she knew that this would not be the last time she would watch her lover asleep, pregnant with their child. She hoped they would be able to have a few more children after this one and although it still hurt that she would never carry one of them, she looked forward to the day when she looked at her wife surrounded by their children.

“I'm sorry we couldn't do anything to reverse the damage Dahok did to you Gabrielle, but I am extremely glad that you will still be able to have children through Xena, I know it's not the same but I know you will both make the best of this” Aphrodite said, sensing the sadness in Gabrielle, and knew that this was a wound that would take some time to heal, one did not get over being told they were barren easily, especially one who wanted children as much as Gabrielle had.

“I keep thinking it's got to be enough that Xena can have my children but there are days that I almost resent her for being able to have what I can't, there are times when I wish more than anything that I could carry this child or one of our children, and sometimes I feel so angry that Xena can experience that and I can't, and then I feel so guilty, she's been so good about this Aphrodite, she tries so hard to help me experience everything I can, but sometimes it's just not enough” Gabrielle said tears forming in her eyes as the guilt and anger, and sadness over what she'd lost overcame her again. She fell into Aphrodite's arms sobbing over the incredible pain a loss like that caused her. This was something she knew she couldn't share with Xena, at least not now, not while she was so fragile and to be able to let out some of the pain was in a way a relief for Gabrielle.

It took her a few candledrops to calm down and she almost started up again as she looked at her sleeping pregnant warrior princess and the guilt she felt for being angry with Xena for being able to get pregnant almost drove her to tears again, but she was able to stop the urge and just sat there watching her warrior princess sleep, and felt an overwhelming urge to lie down with her and just hold them both.

“Gabrielle lie down with her, rest., tomorrow is your joining day, I promise you one day this will be easier to bare and these feelings of anger and guilt will subside just give yourself time, for now sleep and dream of the most joyous day of your life” Aphrodite told Gabrielle settling her down on the bed and helping her settle Xena more comfortably onto the bed, the warrior princess never stirred even as they moved her closer to the middle of the bed and Gabrielle wrapped her arms around her lover and her child pressing her body as close to her lover as possible. She inhaled the scent of the woman she loved with all of her heart and fell into a deep dreamless sleep within moments.

They both awoke to the sounds of a horn blowing and realised that today was the day, it was their joining day and they both excitedly got out of bed and dressed for the ceremony. Xena was a little slower to dress than Gabrielle and was thankful for her bard's help in getting into the dress Aphrodite had provided for her. Neither of them could contain their excitement over what was going to happen that day and both were a little shocked when they heard their parents voices outside their tent.

“We'd like to see our daughter's please” Cyrene asked as humbly as possible, looking at the two guard wondering if they would stop them from seeing Xena and Gabrielle. She was overjoyed that she would be able to see her daughter and her soul mate join their hearts together in this ceremony and was looking forward to the day of her grandchild's birth.

“Of course, go right in” One of the Royal Guards told them smiling at the excitement on the older woman's face and although not happy about the presence of a male, they both knew how close the Queen was to her father now and since Herodotus had been granted special permission by the Queen's Regent Chilapa to attend the ceremony, there was nothing they could say even if they wanted to.

“Mum, Herodotus, Hecuba, where's Lila?” Xena asked as she watched her mother and her soon to be mother and father in law walk into the hut, and was engulfed into a hug by her mother before she could utter another word. She looked over at Herodotus and Hecuba and raised an eyebrow at her mother's crushing embrace but they both shrugged their shoulder's not knowing why the older woman was so emotional.

“Oh Xena, you look positively radiant, and every time I look at you you look so much bigger than six and a half moons, are you sure there is only one baby in there?” Cyrene asked looking at her daughter and seeing the happiness shining out of her. She was thrilled to be here to witness the joining of her daughter and Gabrielle and rushed over and engulfed Gabrielle in a hug with almost the same gusto as she had her daughter.

“Yes Mum there is only one baby, she's just going to be a good size” Xena smiled at the grimace on Gabrielle's face as the life was being crushed out of her by Cyrene's hug. She was happy her mother was so happy to see them even if she'd been a little too enthusiastic with her hugs, she sighed quietly as the baby started moving and knew it was going to be a long day. A long exhausting but extremely wonderful day.

“So Mum, Dad, where's Lila?” Gabrielle as after she'd extricated herself from Cyrene's embrace, wondering why her sister wasn't with her parents. She looked at them and noticed that for the first time her parents where actually holding hands and they both looked very well. She smiled and thought about their last visit and how much her father had changed since his talk with Xena. She looked over at her soon to be wife and smiled with pride at how beautiful she looked. Cyrene was right she looked radiant and the blue of the dress she was wearing almost matched her eyes. She couldn't believe that today she was going to join her soul with this beautiful woman and that in a couple of moons time they would be welcoming their child into the world.

“Oh she's outside talking to your friend Eli, I think his name was” Hecuba said and then watched a little shocked as both Xena and Gabrielle burst out of the hut to go and find their friend. Both of them were very excited to see the man they had both come to admire greatly. Xena smiled as she saw him and knew there would never be another man that she would admire more than him. He was  truly a man of greatness and she hoped never to lose him from her life.

“Xena, Gabrielle, we were just talking about you” Lila said watching as Xena was engulfed in a hug by Eli both of them crying as they held onto each other. She looked on curiously at the scene and wondered just how special this man was as tears sprung to Gabrielle's eyes as she embraced Eli as well.

“Xena you look beautiful, pregnancy definitely agrees with you, and this is one healthy and active baby” Eli smiled as he placed his hand on her stomach and felt the baby kick at him repeatedly. He looked at them both and smiled as he saw the aura of their bond around them and knew they would both be okay. He was extremely proud to be there to witness the joining of their souls even though he knew much sadness still awaited them. He desperately wanted to be there for them in the coming moons, but that was not to be, his place was with Abba and as much as he wished he could save them some of the pain they would experience he knew it was for the best.

“Thank you Eli, for being here it means so much to both Gabrielle and I that you are here to witness our joining” Xena said as more tears welled in her eyes as she thought of what was to happen today, today was the day when she gave herself fully to the woman she loved. She felt the baby's reaction to the man standing in front of her and smiled as his hand continued to probe her stomach, smiling at the baby kicking against his hand.

“It's an honour to watch two of my dearest friends give not only their hearts but their souls to each other, and to witness the life growing inside you Xena, I know she will be a beautiful child, as will all of your children” Eli told them looking at them with all of the love he felt for them both, wishing he could stay with them through this time and be there for the birth of the child, but Abba needed him and his first allegiance would always be to his God.

“Thank you Eli, now I need to get my wife to be and myself ready for this ceremony, we'll see you both there” Gabrielle said as she looked over at her lover and saw that she was getting a little too upset and wanted to get her somewhere where they could have some privacy so she could help her love relax again. She knew how Xena felt about Eli, she'd never seen Xena admire a man as much as she admired Eli and knew that she had complete faith in Eli and his God, something she never thought Xena would have. Xena didn't trust any of the God's fully and for her to have complete faith in Eli and the God of Love was an amazing feat. She guided Xena back to their hut, rubbing her back soothingly knowing that usually calmed her warrior princess. She was happy to see the tears had dried by the time they'd reached the hut but was a little concerned by how tired Xena looked.

“Do you want me to ask Chilapa to delay the ceremony for a candlemark so you can have a nap sweetheart, you look so tired” Gabrielle asked looking at the woman she loved and still found it hard to believe sometimes that this incredible woman was hers, and would be her wife after today.

“No baby, but thanks for asking, I'll be fine, crying always seems to take a lot out of me but I'm sure that excitement is going to take place of this tired feeling as soon as we are standing before Atermis, waiting to be joined” Xena said taking Gabrielle's hand and kissing it softly, what she wished more than anything is that they hadn't slept so late so she could have made sweet love to her bard before the ceremony, she wanted so much to affirm physically what she felt for her bard. Looking at their joined hands she brought Gabrielle's face down to meet hers and kissed her softly, willing all of her love into that kiss, wanting Gabrielle to be able to feel the love and passion she felt for her.

“By the Gods Xena you kiss me like that again and we'll never leave this room” Gabrielle smirked still a little stunned by the kiss, she had felt the love pouring through that kiss and it had overwhelmed her just how much her warrior loved her and she wanted so much to return that love so she kissed Xena this time pouring all of her love into the kiss, letting Xena feel all the love and passion she felt for her warrior princess in the kiss. They almost became lost in the kiss but where brought back to reality by the sound of Xena's mother's voice calling them to say it was time to begin the ceremony.

“Are you ready my love?” Xena asked shakily, still reeling from the kiss, she was so ready to throw Gabrielle onto that bed and make passionate love to her but knew this was the moment they had been waiting for and that there was plenty of time for making love after the ceremony.

“I've never been more ready for anything in my entire life, I love you my warrior princess” Gabrielle said smiling as tears welled in her warrior's eyes and then helped her pregnant warrior off their bed. She took Xena's hand and vowed to not let go until they were joined. She wanted to be physically close to Xena the whole way through this ceremony, protocols be damned!

“I love you two my bard, let's get this show on the road” Xena said as they walked out of their hut and were joined by Xena's mother, Gabrielle's parents, Lila and Eli on their walk to where the ceremony was to take place. Gabrielle looked up and saw the platform for the ceremony and smiled at the beauty of the decorations and the all of the Amazons eagerly awaiting their Queen and the Queens soon to be Consort. Proudly they walked up to the platform taking their place before Aphrodite and Atermis and waited for the ceremony to begin.

“Amazon's it is my great pleasure to preside over the joining of these two women, please stand and greet your Queen and Xena who come here today to be joined” Atermis commanded and smiled as all of the Amazon's got to their feet cheering and shouting their praise for their Queen and Xena.

“Thank you my Amazon's today is a joyous day where two women who's hearts are as one come to officially join not only their hearts but their lives and their souls together, it is also a joyous day to be able to welcome a new member to our tribe through this joining especially one with as many skills as Xena” Atermis continued looking proudly at the two women standing their hands joined in a tight grip she knew was not going to be broken on this day. She looked at Xena and saw that she was absently stroking her stomach as she listened to Atermis and smiled knowing that this day would be celebrated for many years to come, for the Amazon nation to have a warrior as legendary as Xena join them was a major cause for celebration in itself and she knew that the party after this ceremony would continue long after Gabrielle and Xena retired to their hut.

“Xena, I ask one question of you before we can continue with this ceremony and join you to your soulmate, are you ready to answer my question?” Atermis asked looking at the warrior as she snapped to attention and the look of pride on her face told her the answer she already knew in her heart.

“I am Atermis Goddess of the Amazon's” Xena replied feeling Gabrielle's fingers play with hers and looked at the woman she was about to pledge her life to and knew it would be an easy pledge to make, without this woman she was lost and she knew a pledge to honour, serve and protect the woman she loved was one she would make without an Amazon ceremony.

“Xena of Amphipolis do you pledge your allegiance, your servitude, to honour and protect Queen Gabrielle, as an Amazon?” Atermis asked her voice booming out to the audience who were all holding their breaths at the question even though in most of their minds there was no doubt of Xena's answer.

“I do, with all of my heart” Xena answered and unable to help herself brought their joined hands to her lips and kissed Gabrielle's hand, tears shining in her eyes, as she knelt as easily as she could before her Queen, “I,  Xena of Amphipolis, pledge my allegiance, my servitude, I pledge to honour and protect my Queen to the best of my ability” Xena said her head bowed in respect to Gabrielle, trying to ignore the baby kicking at her ribs obviously annoyed by the cramped position it had been placed in.

“Rise Xena, and look out to the women witnessing your joining, those women are now your sister's and everything you do will be for the good of the Amazon nation and your Queen” Atermis commanded and smiled as Xena rose as gracefully as she could to stand beside her Queen again.

“Now comes the fun part ladies” Aphrodite said as she began her part of the ceremony, both Atermis and her had agreed that Atermis would be the one to preside over the traditional Amazon parts of the ceremony, but as the Goddess of Love Aphrodite should be the one to officially join them.

“We are all here to witness the joining of these two women, these women share a love so rare and pure that both Atermis and I believe it comes from the God's themselves and so bless their union-” Aphrodite began but was interrupted by the arrival of Ares onto the scene. She looked at him angry at his intrusion even though she could see the desperation on his face and knew why he was here.

“Not so fast sis, I don't bless this union and I am certainly not going to let her have what I want, need” Ares said looking angrily at Gabrielle getting prepared to fire another fireball at her, he knew if he killed Gabrielle there was still a chance that Xena would not want him but he couldn't stand the thought that Xena had chosen a woman and a small woman at that over him. He was about to throw it when to his horror Xena stepped in front of Gabrielle, shielding her with her body.

“You will not harm my Queen Ares, please give this up, I love Gabrielle not you, I will never love you” Xena told him not unkindly, she knew how the God of War felt about her, knew he was obsessed with her and even though there was a chance he would still attack and she was putting herself and her child in danger by standing in front of Gabrielle she couldn't stop herself from taking the action.

“Ares give this up brother, you cannot interfere in this union, I've already blessed their union, the rest is just words, they are joined for better or for worse with our blessing, you've lost leave them in peace” Aphrodite begged looking fearfully at her brother, wondering if her knew of the protection spell Athena had put on Xena's baby, she knew that spell would protect both Xena and the baby from Ares' fireballs but could do serious damage to the God of War when his fireballs were deflected back to him. Cringing she heard him cry out and fling a fireball at Xena in anguish and then could only watch in horror as it rebounded off Xena straight back to Ares and knocked him flying. He landed quite a few feet away from the platform and lay there unmoving. Aphrodite extended her senses and was relieved to find out he was okay, as much as she disliked what he'd done she couldn't wish his death upon him and hoped he'd be out for the rest of the ceremony.

“Xena are you okay?” Gabrielle asked having had Xena's body flung back into hers from the force of the fireball rebounding off her. She breathed a huge sigh of relief when Xena nodded her head and then began to get to her feet.

“Aphrodite let's get the rest of the ceremony over with before he regains consciousness” Xena said shakily, although the fireball hadn't hurt her and she was sure the baby was fine, it had still knocked her down with some force and she wanted nothing more than to get the ceremony over with now. She looked at her bard and saw the concern on her face and grabbed onto her hand tightly to help reassure her that she was okay.

“Well as I was saying both Atermis and I bless the joining of these two souls before us and now we have question we would like to ask both of you” Aphrodite said smiling at the two of them, although Xena still looked a little shaken the power of their connection was coming through them in almost visible waves and as they looked into each other's eyes it was clear that they only had eyes for each other.

“Xena, Gabrielle, in joining your lives, your hearts and souls, will you promise to be true to each other, to nurture each other, to heal each other, to give of yourselves fully to each other?” Aphrodite asked seeing the answer clearly displayed on their faces. She smiled as the looked at each other, their love shining through their tear filled eyes and knew she would never witness a match as perfect as this one ever again.

“We will” They answered in one voice and smiled as Atermis began to bind their hands together to symbolise their joining. They looked on as Aphrodite produced the rings they were to give to each other to symbolise their love and connection, and to show all other's that they belonged to each other and would never part.

“And now I ask you to both give each other these rings, a symbol of your love for each other and the unbreakability of your bond, and that your hearts will be forever joined” Aphrodite said tears springing out of her eyes as she watched Xena kiss Gabrielle's hand and then gently placed the ring on her third finger of her left hand, and then they fell even more as Gabrielle just as tenderly placed   her ring on Xena's same finger and smiled as the best part of the ceremony was about to happen.

“Gabrielle, Xena I now pronounce you joined, now comes the fun part, a kiss to seal their union” Aphrodite smiled and then watched on as Xena took Gabrielle into her arms and kissed her tenderly, tears streaming down both their faces as Aphrodite could clearly see their souls unite through their connection. Soon she could see that they'd become lost in the kiss and were possibly going to have to be pried from each other and so discreetly she tapped Gabrielle on the shoulder to try and break their passionate clinch.

“Ah sorry bout that Aphrodite, we kinda got carried away” Gabrielle whispered trying not to blush as their audience laughed at the situation. She looked over at her wife and saw that she was struggling to compose herself and wordlessly put an arm around her drawing Xena closer to her so she could help relax her.

“Well girls what do you say to a nice big feast and then some serious partying?” Aphrodite asked as she led them off the platform down to the crowd of Amazon's wanting to wish their Queen and her Consort a long and happy union. Xena spotted her mother and led Gabrielle over to her as they were still joined by their hands and would be till sunrise the next day. Tears were already coming out of her eyes and she engulfed her mother in a hug almost as big as the one she'd been given by her mother earlier. She let her mother wrap her arms around her while she cried not knowing why she was crying so much on a day that was the happiest in her entire life.

“It's alright sweetheart, it's just hormones, I know how happy you are, just let the tears out and then it will all feel better” Cyrene whispered in Xena's ear, knowing exactly why her daughter was sobbing into her mother's chest on her joining day. She watched Gabrielle as she stood there quietly rubbing Xena's back and hoped they would be able to get Xena calm enough for the feast. She knew her daughter needed to eat something and probably needed to have a sleep as well, it was only near noon and if she wanted to get through the party that was going to take place that afternoon she needed to fill her stomach and rest.

“Let's get you to that feast so you can eat and then you and Gabrielle can go to your hut and have a nice rest.” Cyrene said knowing the emotions of the day and their small battle with Ares had gotten too much for her daughter and that the best thing for her was food and sleep. She saw Gabrielle nodding at her suggestion and they gently led Xena in the direction of the food and both of them watched protectively as she ate her food with gusto not realising just how hungry she'd been. Gabrielle sat on one side of her eating her own food knowing she needed to keep her energy levels up as well and Cyrene sat on the other side watching her daughter worriedly.

Once Xena had finally eaten all she could manage Gabrielle stood up to talk to her Amazon's so she could excuse herself and Xena from the rest of the feast. She looked proudly at them knowing they were good women and as much as she was worried about her ability to be a good leader she knew she would be honoured to rule them.

“Sister's, my Consort and I thank you for your presence at our joining, and for the food you have all lovingly prepared for this feast, but as you know my wife is with child and she needs her rest, so we will retire for a few candlemarks so she can have a nap, so please stay, eat and enjoy yourselves, tonight the festivities begin” Gabrielle said with a commanding air she didn't know she possessed. She was startled when they all cheered and yelled out “Long live Queen Gabrielle and her Consort Xena”. Smiling she helped Xena to her feet and guided her to their hut for some much needed rest. Xena was asleep within minutes of laying down on the bed and she looked over at her wife for a few minutes revelling in the peace she saw on her wife's beautiful face for a few moments.

She bent over and kissed her wife's forehead before getting into bed with her and wrapped her arms around her beautiful pregnant wife, feeling their child move within her and sighed feeling happier than she'd ever felt in her life, and fell asleep with a smile on her face, her thoughts and dreams turning to the two people she loved most in the world, her wife and her child.

Continued in Part 18

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