by Maderlin Bidmead
Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer, Autolycus, Eve and the horsies belong to MCA/Universal Pictures. Just the little story is mine
Love/Sex: Two women in love, but nothing graphic. The following chapters will also contain an m/f relationship. This is not the main part of the fic, but it is essential to the plot. F/F loving will prevail.
Angst: Yep....Good God Yes!
Timeline: This is an alternative to the events following 'Looking Death in the Eye'
Comments: All feedback gratefully received: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meetings with Octavius had been few and far between. Even though Xena now knew the reason why Aphrodite had engineered this gathering, she wished that she could spend a little more time with the young emperor. She felt an odd sort of kinship with him and wanted to give him some counsel about his wife. Livia troubled the Warrior Princess, her demeanour reminded her too much of the likes of Alti and Callisto. She had a feeling that some time in the, very soon, the Emperor would need to watch his back. Today was to be one of these rare meetings.
Xena walked down the lavishly decorated hallway at a leisurely pace, knowing that she had plenty of time before her meeting. The smooth silk of her red dress clung to the sides of her stomach, brushing smoothly across it as she moved. That was a definite perk to being in the palace, although she no longer wore her leathers every day she never wore anything like this. She couldn't wear this all the time but the opportunity was nice, indulgent.
Nearing the doors she was suddenly brought to her knees by searing pain lancing through her stomach. She hit the ground hard with her knees, one hand clasped to her belly and the other braced against the floor. Hoping against hope that it was just a fluke she tried to stand and was felled once again by the pain that had doubled in intensity. Fighting against panic, this could not be Alti, she made to move again. A scream was torn from her as she moved, before she could topple to the floor strong arms scoop her up and she found herself cradled securely. Looking through a veil of tears she realised that she was being carried in Mesella's arms, briskly towards her room.
The pain had stopped coming in agonising bolts and was now an almost constant dull pain. Almost able to shut it out as she was carried, she took her mind off the pain by studying the strong young woman holding her. Even at her best Gabrielle had never been strong enough to carry her like this for any period of time, yet Mesella looked like she could do this all day. The arms around her were solid with muscle, familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. That familiarity soothed her further as they reached the door to her suit.
Xena reached out and turned the handle for the blonde and was carried through to the large bed. Through all this, not a word had been said by either woman. It was the first time in almost a week that Xena had seen the smaller woman and she was more than willing to just bask in her presence. She was laid gently onto the bed but the motion jarred her enough to trigger more pain although this time was much less intense than the last. Seeing that she was settled, the soldier turned to leave.
"Don't go, please." A long, tanned arm reached out towards her.
"I should get the healer." She refused to meet the dazzling blue eyes.
"Sarah, the maid, will be in here in a moment. Send her for the healer. Please stay with me. I feel safe with you here." It wasn't a lie; she really did feel more secure in her presence.
"Fine, I'll stay until your… um… husband gets here." Shy green eyes finally met soft blue and were transfixed. They stayed like that, staring into each others eyes until the door was pushed open by the buxom maid.
"Sarah, please could you go and fetch the healer for me?" Xena kept her voice strong and light, not wanting the other woman to start fussing over her.
"Yes miss, are you all right?" She eyes the soldier suspiciously. "Would you like her to leave?"
"No, we're fine Sarah, I just need the healer." With a final glance at the two women she rushed out of the room in search of the royal physician.
Mesella began to scratch at the back of her neck, unsure what to do now. It had seemed so right to help the fallen woman, like a piece of her had clicked into place, filling a void that she had never noticed before. Should she drag in a chair? Sit on the bed? Get the other woman a drink? You could ask her dummy! Xena saved her from further quandary.
"Come and sit down," she patted the bed beside her. "Talk to me, please. It'll help me take my mind from the pain." The blonde was now seated on the bed and staring fixedly at her stomach. Her hand reached out as if to touch it and then pulled back as though burnt. "Hey, its fine I you want to touch it."
"No, I might hurt you some more. I'll go and get you some water." Leaning close she propped pillows behind the taller woman's back and helped her to sit up before almost running from the room.
Almost as quickly as she had left she was back carrying a pitcher of water and a thick towel. Pouring a glass of water and handing it to the prone woman, she set the pitcher on the night stand and moved towards the fireplace. Lighting the hearth she placed the towel on the rack in front of the flames. Xena was curious but didn't ask what she was doing, sure that she would find out in due course. Moving away from the carefully placed towel, Mesella sat gingerly back on the edge of the bed.
"How are you feeling now? Does it still hurt?"
"A little, but nothing like in the hallway. I hope it was just a fluke. Thank you for saving me." Against her better judgement she reached out and grasped the other woman's arm in a gesture of thanks. Letting go she took guilty pleasure in sliding her fingers over smooth skin.
"It was nothing, really. I couldn't just leave you there like that." Drawing in a deep breath she straightened and forced herself to meet the other woman's piercing eyes. "I'm sorry for the way I acted, before. I mean, we were just talking and I run off and then avoid you like a child. So, I'm sorry." The eye contact broke with the last word.
"I won't say that I understand but I'm glad that you're here now." About to launch into more she was startled as the small woman sprang over to the fire and snagged the towel. Folding it lengthwise she placed it over Xena's engorged stomach. Instantly warmth suffused her skin and soothed the lingering ache. "Thank you."
"S'okay," she was again perched on the edge of the bed, looking so bashful that Xena couldn't hold back. She leaned forward and brushed her lips to a soft cheek. The young warrior turned a shade of red that made Xena suddenly fearful that she might feint.
"I'm really sorry if that embarrassed you, you just looked so cute and I wanted to give you a thank you."
"It's fine, really." Just as she was about to say more the sound of the outer door banging open and several pairs of feet striding purposefully towards them stopped her dead. Knowing almost instinctively that one of the people approaching was Ares, Mesella leapt from the bed as if burned and stepped away from the bed.
Ares appeared in the doorway seconds later and rushed to his wife's side, followed closely by the healer. Forgotten Mesella made her way towards the door as soft words were exchanged by the bed. Just as she reached the door in the outer room, ready to make her escape, a deep voice called her back. Turning she found herself face to face with the War God.
"Thank you, Captain, for rescuing my wife. She must have been in a bad way to admit it now." The blonde mumbled something vaguely like thank you and left. Ares found himself still looking at the place where she had been his suspicions raised by her high colour and obvious nerves. What was going on between his wife and this young soldier?
On the other side of the door, the captain sagged with relief feeling absurdly guilty about what she had shared with the god's wife. What was wrong with her? Every time she got near the other woman she acted like an idiot and felt guilty about everything afterwards. Confused and not knowing what else to do she headed to the only person that could help.
Ares, meanwhile, made his way back to his wife's bedside. He held her hand and gave her a reassuring smile before the pair turned their attention to the small wizened man in front of them. A pair of raised brows were enough to tell him that they wanted the prognosis.
"Everything appears to be fine with the baby. Some women go through early contractions that come to nothing. They can be small and barely noticeable or very painful, such as the ones you experienced. All you need is a couple of days rest to help the baby settle. I'll leave you some teas that should also help you to relax. After that you can return to life as normal." He laid out several paper wrapped packages before backing his equipment back into his bag.
"So everything will be all right?" The relief was evident in Ares face.
"Indeed." With that he was gone.
"Let's spend some quality time together in here. Eve is being well taken care of and your little soldier will keep her safe." Xena was about to protest at the description of the guard. "I just meant that you spend a lot of time together, that's all." He laid himself down onto the bed and snuggled her. "Let's take a nap, be decadent."
"You've been so busy lately, it'd be nice." Ares said nothing, just hoping that Xena wouldn't ask too many questions. He needn't have worried as she soon drifted to sleep.
Knocking made Postumus look up from his scroll, placing his quill neatly on e desk he called for the person to come in. The door was pushed open and in walked Mesella looking strained and confused. Wordlessly she moved to his empty bed and slumped down on it with a lack of grace that was almost alien to her.
"Messy, what's going on? You look terrible." He moved his chair to face her.
"I am so confused and you're the only one I can turn to. I can't go and talk to Lepida, it'd really hurt her."
"Mesella, start at the beginning."
"The Warrior Princess, Xena, she's been watching me, you know that. Well we started to talk the other day and she touched my leg. I ran like a school girl. I realised that I like her, really like her." She slumped still further. "I've been avoiding her all week when I find her laying on the floor in agony this afternoon. What else could I do but tae her to her room? When we got there I wanted to leave but she made me stay…" Her hand was now rubbing her cheek.
"Mesella I've known you for years, what else went on?"
"She kissed me on the cheek and I almost passed out. I was nearly sick when her husband spoke to me! What in Hades is wrong with me? After I ran the last time I realised that Lepida looks like Xena and that is why I chose her. She's always reminded me of somebody… Always! How could I have been missing a woman I'd never met before?" Her frustration was evident in every line of her body.
"I think that you need to sit down and have a real talk with this woman. Listen to her, ask her question. Find out what is going on my friend, because as sure as I know my own name I know that something here doesn't smell right. First the Goddesses and her fascination with you and now this. It has to be connected." Thus began the formulation of a plan and the calming of one warrior by another.
Xena woke several hours later, feeling relaxed, refreshed and pain free. The baby stirred in her womb, leaving her satisfied that it too was feeling fine. Stretching out she found the bed empty and called out for Ares. His head appeared almost immediately around the door frame, grinning broadly at her, pleased to see her awake and smiling for several reasons.
"Hello sleepy head. How are you feeling now?"
"I feel much better. So does the baby, it's busily wriggling around in here."
"Good to hear. I've been waiting for you to wake up, I have to go. I have a meeting." Moving quickly he kissed her on the lips and headed for the door.
"Will you be back tonight?" The call from the bedroom was flat.
"We'll see." Yanking the door open he barely avoided a fist to the face from the soldier outside, prepared to knock. "You again?" There was an edge to his voice that neither he nor the small woman could identify.
"I just wanted to know how she was doing." Ares made no move to reply, just pushed past her while jerking his thumb in the direction of the bedroom on his way out.
Mesella stood in the doorway, half in and half out as she watched the burly man disappear around the curve of the corridor. This was all getting just a little too strange. Should she just leave? No, only cowards run away, you go and face that woman! Squaring her shoulders she moved into the room and closed the door firmly behind her.
TBC in Chapter 15
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