Spoiler Alert: Spoiler Alert: This story takes place during the 5th season, after the visit to the town of Spamona, without Xena becoming pregnant, and without Gabrielle adopting a horse.
My thanks to Ink Warrior, a great bard in her own right, for BETA reading my story and providing me with wonderful feedback and support.
Part 1: "Another Second Chance"
Part 2: "In the Company of Warriors"
Part 3: "The Drums Beat For You"
Part 4: "Blood of an Amazon"
By the time the Amazons made it back to their village and settled down into a routine, Xena's predicted early winter began. A chill settled over the land and icy winds howled through the nights. The Amazons were ready for it, though, the food sheds fully stocked, the village homes in good repair.
It was hard on these active people to endure an enforced indoor confinement. It put them on edge, many finding themselves short tempered, full of nervous energy. Saren did not know who was worse in this regard, Gabrielle or Xena. Several weeks after their trip to Poteidaia, the royal couple was having an argument in front of the queen's council members. The heated debate was over whether or not it was all right for Gabrielle to continue her morning workouts. She was approaching her eighth moon of pregnancy and it was as cold outside as Hades was hot, first thing in the morning, which of course was when the queen wanted to go.
Saren rolled her eyes as the pair went back and forth on the merits of exercise and being responsible and reasonable. These two spent the last few days hanging out in the royal home during a snowstorm and they both had a major case of cabin fever. The other Amazons had been cooped up as well, but the combination of Xena's pent up energy and Gabrielle's raging hormones made for quite the show.
Finally hearing all she could take, Saren stood up, towering over everyone but Xena, and shouted, "ENOUGH!" This unexpected outburst silenced the room. Four pairs of startled eyes focused on this impressive woman, who suddenly flushed at the position in which she found herself. "My apologies, my queen. I meant no disrespect," Saren said with a slight bow to a very pregnant Gabrielle who stood with her mouth hanging open, staring at Saren, one hand on her belly, and one finger still in the air making a point at Xena.
"May I suggest something which your council and I have been discussing? It may help?" Saren found herself at a loss for words. So Shalaba jumped in to save her.
"Queen Gabrielle, your council and I have decided that you and your champion need a ?vacation." ('Yeah, that's it', she thought.) Shalaba said carefully. "So we have, uh," the queen's assistant looked to Eponin for help in continuing.
"So we have decided to provide you with a special gift," Eponin threw in, glancing toward Saren.
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other, then at the stumbling council members in confusion. "What are you talking about?" the couple said in unison.
Shalaba, always the quick thinker, spun out the plan to the delight of Saren and Eponin who were happy to let her take the reins and the responsibility for whatever was about to happen. "It was meant to be a surprise for when the baby came, and you needed to take a break, get some rest, you know?"
"Shalaba, what are you going on about?" Gabrielle demanded, still hot from her unfinished argument.
"Ok, we have a cabin we have been building for you, less than half a day's ride north into the woods, near the hot springs. It is the village's joining present to you. We almost had it done when the snow hit, so we decided to wait and present it to you after the baby was born. But we think that we can have it ready for you in a week." The queen's assistant paused to see how the information would be received.
Xena and Gabrielle let out mutual sighs and looked at each other. "We've been pretty unbearable, haven't we?" Gabrielle admitted. Saren opened her mouth to agree but quickly shut it at a stern look from Shalaba.
"It isn't nearly as big as your royal quarters. It's just meant to be a private get away. A place for you to rediscover each other," she added suggestively.
"Xena, it sounds perfect. We need to get away. What do you think?" Gabrielle asked excitedly. Xena glanced at the four expectant faces focused on her.
"When do we leave?" she asked resignedly.
A week later, during a much-welcomed break in the weather, Xena and Gabrielle found themselves being loaded into a comfortable fur lined sleigh and chauffeured by two royal guards to their vacation paradise. The sleigh ride itself was a pleasure. The two, spirited horses shaking their harnesses adorned with sleigh bells, made merry music as the group sledged along over the snow-covered path. Gabrielle snuggled into the fur and leaned against Xena who had to admit that this wasn't so bad after all.
Reaching the cabin, they found it was well made, and very snug. It sat in a small clearing within walking distance of the Amazon hot springs, a popular winter spot when the weather allowed for the travel time to reach them.
"Look at this, Xena. See how much they love us," Gabrielle gushed, spinning around in a circle to show the warrior the cabin's comfy bed, cozy kitchen, and the main feature, a glorious bear skin rug before the hearth.
"They love you, Gabrielle, this is all for you. I have nothing to do with it, but I'm glad to be allowed to share it with you," the warrior's voice softened, as she came up behind the happy queen and put her arms around her, encircling the woman's large belly. Xena nipped at Gabrielle's earlobe.
"I'm hungry," the mother-to-be suddenly announced. "Let's see what we have to eat." She pulled away and eagerly began unpacking the baskets that were sent with them.
"I'm hungry, too," thought Xena, eyeing the animated woman before her. With the warrior's surly behavior and general grouchiness, it had been a while since she'd appreciated the beauty of her wife. Pregnancy only enhanced it. "Maybe we can go to the springs after we eat?" suggested Xena. Gabrielle stopped unpacking the food at the tone of voice she heard. Looking up at Xena, she saw a spark in her eyes that she had missed in recent weeks.
"Maybe we could go to the springs before we eat," suggested Gabrielle, raising an eyebrow.
"If you insist," Xena laughed, sweeping Gabrielle into her arms, grabbing their bag of bathing supplies and stomping toward the door. The sudden appearance of the couple startled the two royal guards who were still unharnessing the horses and preparing to put things away in the small lean-to stable behind the cabin.
"We'll take that," said Gabrielle, swiping a fur from the arms of one of the guards as Xena carried her past. "Don't wait up for us," she called, collapsing into giggles that brought knowing smiles to the Amazons' faces.
Xena and Gabrielle found themselves walking through the woods on a glorious winter day. The stillness in the air had a magical quality that made a person want to shout, just to hear the echo. The most recent storm passed two days before, leaving two inches of powdery snow on top of the harder crust below. Gabrielle wadded up a ball of the white stuff and plastered Xena a good one. The warrior was defenseless because she was carrying the fur and the bag.
"I'll get you for that, Gabrielle," Xena playfully threatened, shivering as a bit of snow made its way down her back. They reached the hot springs and spread the fur near a large evergreen overlooking a rocky pool. The two lost no time in stripping off their clothes. Shivering and laughing at how they hopped barefooted through the snow, the two eased their way into the warm water.
"Ahhh," they both sighed as the steamy air surrounded them, and the warm water enveloped their chilled bodies.
"Now I get to pay you back," growled the warrior, lurching her way like a bear across the pool toward Gabrielle.
"Oh, goody," Gabrielle replied. "I mean, help, help somebody save me," she giggled at the gloriously naked, dripping beauty advancing toward her.
The warrior princess descended upon the Amazon Queen growling ferociously, nipping at the blonde's shoulders and neck. "Where are those guards when you need them?" Gabrielle gasped, as the nips turned to passionate bites. "I'm afraid I'm about to be eaten alive."
"You're what I want for lunch," Xena said huskily.
Xena sat and pulled Gabrielle up against her, giving her a kiss. The two laughed at their previous antics. "How about a back rub, love?" the warrior offered, knowing the strain that the advanced pregnancy placed on her wife, although Gabrielle never complained.
"Wonderful!" Gabrielle exclaimed, turning her back toward Xena, sitting on the woman's knees. Xena expertly manipulated the tight muscles of Gabrielle's back, gaining satisfaction from the moans of relief coming from the blonde. The talented masseuse gently but firmly worked her way from shoulders to lower back. "Ohh, that feels good, Xena. I did not realize I was so tight," Gabrielle breathed.
"You do too much, you know. You need to start slowing down. The baby is growing so fast right now, it takes a lot of your energy away from you," Xena preached, running her hands around from behind to stroke the swollen belly. Feeling quite a kick from beneath one of Gabrielle's ribs, she commented, "That must be a special feeling."
"Mmmm," said Gabrielle, "your child is quite the kicker these days." Taking Xena's hand, she ran it up her belly and placed it on her breast. Squeezing Xena's hand, she helped the warrior to massage the full mound. Xena brought her other hand up on her own and proceeded to fondle the other breast. Leaning her head back on Xena's shoulder, Gabrielle silently requested a kiss. The couple kissed tenderly, enjoying the special place and moment.
They spent the afternoon making love, moving from the spring to the fur and back again. Finally, hunger and the coolness of approaching evening drove them to shelter. They stayed in their little hide away for the next three days, reconfirming the love they held for each other. This trip to the woods was just what they needed.
Winter took a break for the next week, and the village decided to plan a few festivities to get everyone out in the fresh air and socializing after being shut up for so long. A two-day celebration took place with skills contests, weapon displays, dances, food, and of course stories from the queen. Xena was proud of her "First Years". The young warriors put on an impressive showing of hand-to-hand combat techniques. The rest of the Amazons were pleased as well, both with the girls and their trainer.
Xena was getting dressed for the second evening's festivities when she caught a look of discomfort on Gabrielle's face as she bent to lace her boots.
"Let me do that for you," Xena offered, kneeling at her feet.
"Gods, Xena, I'm not an invalid. I can put on my own boots, you know," the ungainly woman snapped.
"I know, Gabs, I didn't mean any?"
"I'm just a fat brood sow," Gabrielle burst out, struggling to make her arms long enough to reach past her belly and to her feet. "Even Argo doesn't look as big as me," she sniffed.
"Uh oh, here we go," thought Xena. "You and Argo are both beautiful mothers-to-be. It just gets uncomfortable toward the end," Xena consoled.
"Uncomfortable? I can't eat, because I get heartburn if I do. I can't sleep because if I lay down, I can't breathe. And if I do manage to fall asleep, I have to get up to pee every candle mark. I walk like I am trying to straddle two horses, my feet are as swollen as a water bladder and now my back has decided to join the party." She allowed Xena to finish lacing her boots and made a face as she hauled herself to a standing position, digging her fist into a spot on her lower back. "This baby has no more room to grow, Xena. My insides are smooshed!" Gabrielle complained, looking miserable.
"Maybe you should bow out of the storytelling tonight. Get some rest," suggested Xena.
"Absolutely not. It will at least be a distraction for me. Owww!" Gabrielle dug her fist into her back again.
"Pretty bad, huh?" Xena said sympathetically.
"Yeah, it's been bugging me off and on since this morning. Guess I strained it. Probably just by getting out of bed," she snorted.
Xena rubbed the tender spot, gently and walked along with Gabrielle toward the village commons. She noticed the increased waddle in her wife's gait and believed the position of the baby was lower than yesterday. "Won't be long," she thought. "Thank the gods."
The first couple they saw was Amarice and Kameiro. Amarice was happily settling in to village life and Kameiro was obviously pleased to have her company. The healer felt protective toward Amarice and wanted to help her to find her place among the Amazons. Gabrielle and Amarice stopped to chat, comparing their growing bellies, though Amarice was not due for another three or four moons. Kameiro took Xena aside to talk.
"The queen's time is near. She is showing signs," the healer said.
"I can do nothing to please her, Kameiro," Xena said, with an exasperated look. "She is having some discomfort. Nothing out of the ordinary. Can't get her to eat much, which is unusual for her, not sleeping well. And she's complaining about her back today," Xena replied, watching Gabrielle place a hand on her back for extra support, as she stood with Amarice.
"I'll be near when the time comes, warrior. I have prepared the birthing supplies, just call when you need me," the gentle woman said. "I cannot help you with her mood, just let her know you love her. It is hard the last few weeks, the body goes through such change." The healer placed a hand on Xena's shoulder to show her support and smiled.
"Thanks, Kameiro." Xena said with genuine affection. "This village is fortunate to have you."
The people in the commons began to settle down for a story upon seeing the queen climbing the steps to the dais. Xena took a seat with Kameiro and Amarice to listen to the entertainment, remembering the many nights on the road Gabrielle had gifted her with stories before they went to bed. The warrior princess marveled at how Gabrielle's eyes seemed to transport her away, taking her audience with her. Her features animated with the adventure of her words, she led her Amazons through many lands, seeing great things. Xena did not know what she liked the most, the look on Gabrielle's face while she was playing the bard or the looks on the faces of her audience. They were absolutely spellbound.
Finishing her first story, the queen nodded to the applause, declining the invitation for an encore. Xena was surprised because Gabrielle was not one to say 'no' to a story. Asking Shalaba to begin the dances, Gabrielle made her way down the steps to Xena.
"What's wrong, Gabrielle?" Xena called over the drums that had begun beating, placing an arm around the blonde's shoulders.
"You were right, Xena. I am just not feeling up to this tonight. Let's go home." Gabrielle leaned into her mate and walked slowly back to her royal quarters unaware that the observant healer was watching her every move.
Xena helped Gabrielle with a warm bath, hoping it would get her to relax and ease some of her aches and pains. She marveled at the changes that had taken place to the bard's body over the last few moons. Xena could not believe it was her child growing inside this woman, the owner of her heart. She was so thankful to Artemis for this gift and was no longer reluctant to acknowledge the goddess with her gratitude.
Gabrielle dried herself, while Xena readied a plate of food that was sent from the dance. "Got some dinner here, when you're ready," the warrior princess called to the bathing room. "Nut bread, applesauce, some of your favorites," she said enticingly.
Gabrielle came in pulling her nightshirt over her head. "No thanks, Xena, I am so tired. I think I'll just get some sleep." She gave Xena a peck on the cheek before entering the bedroom and carefully lowering herself onto the bed. Laying down, the weary woman let out a low groan.
Xena did not know how Gabrielle could possibly sleep with the drumming going on, but found the woman breathing deeply a short time later. The warrior helped herself to a bath and some dinner before settling down in the chair next to the bed. She wasn't really tired and did not want to disturb Gabrielle. At the same time, she did not want to be away from her either.
Some hours later, Xena awoke with a snort. Her feet were propped on the bed and her head had fallen back. "Guess I was tired," she thought. The room was dimly lit with light cast through the doorway from candles in the main room. Xena saw that Gabrielle was not in bed. "Poor thing has to pee so much now, no wonder she's exhausted." The warrior got up and walked to the bathing room.
From the sounds of retching coming from the chamber pot doorway, Xena could tell it was not a full bladder that prompted Gabrielle to get out of bed. She helped Gabrielle to a chair when she finished, holding her while she caught her breath.
"Haven't done that in a few moons," the pale queen admitted. "Gods Xena, my back is killing me. It hurts so much it made me vomit. It wasn't this bad earlier today. The pain would ease up if I rubbed it, but it is stronger now." Gabrielle leaned her head against Xena's side and tried to keep from weeping.
Xena knelt next to the chair and placed her hands on Gabrielle's abdomen. "Tell me when it hurts, Gabs," she said softly.
"But it doesn't hurt there, it hurts in my ba? oooh, there it goes," she moaned, arching away from the chair and forcing a fist into her back again.
"Gods," Xena said, getting up quickly. The warrior princess was at the main door in three steps and was talking to the guard outside. Gabrielle was only able to catch one word, 'Kameiro'.
"Gabrielle, you're in labor," Xena insisted. "I can feel your belly contracting. You're just feeling the pain in your back for some reason."
There was a knock at the door, which opened on its own accord, and Kameiro came in with Leah, who carried a basket. The healer directed her younger sister to the bedroom and proceeded to the table where Gabrielle was seated.
"That was fast. You got dressed and over here quickly," Xena commented.
"I never undressed," Kameiro answered, placing her hands on Gabrielle's abdomen. "I knew it would be tonight."
Xena and Gabrielle shared a look of disbelief before the queen drew in a sharp breath and reached for her back again.
"She is having contractions. I felt them. But she only feels the pain in her back. Poor thing's probably been in labor all day," Xena said with a guilty look on her face.
"It's not your fault, warrior. Cases like this are tricky, often fooling the mother. My queen, I would like to examine you more thoroughly to see if my guess is right, but I need you to move for me, all right?" Kameiro told Xena to spread a fur on the floor and directed Gabrielle to kneel on all fours upon it.
"Cases like what?" grunted Gabrielle, getting down on her knees a bit awkwardly.
"Sometimes a baby will be turned inside, causing unusual pressure on the back. When labor starts, the mother feels it there instead," Kameiro said knowledgably, feeling around the girth of Gabrielle's belly as it hung down toward the floor.
"Do you think the baby is breech? I never sensed that when I have felt it," Xena asked.
"No, not breech, just turned," she said, making one more circuit over the belly. "It feels as if the child is on its side. Perhaps digging an elbow into your spine. That would cause your discomfort." The healer stroked the queen's shoulder as she watched the woman inhale with another sharp pain.
"Can you do something?" Gabrielle breathed, sweat forming on her forehead.
"Yes, but we will all have to work together. You stay on your knees like that, and work with all your might to just relax. Don't tense any muscles. I will manipulate the child externally, and see if I can get her to turn." Looking over Gabrielle's back to meet with Xena's eyes, the healer mouthed the words, "Calm her."
"Ok, Gabs, take a deep breath and let it out slowly," Xena said soothingly. "Try to think of that morning in our valley when I took you to see the waterfall at sunrise. Think how beautiful it was, how happy we were." Xena stroked Gabrielle's back gently and caught an encouraging look from Kameiro, as the healer pushed on Gabrielle's swollen stomach.
"Remember how I had to carry you down to the riverside because your ankle was hurt? Remember our breakfast?" Xena continued, talking softly and methodically.
"I remember," Gabrielle gasped, trying to lose herself in the pleasant memories.
"Almost there," said Kameiro.
"You're doing so good Gabs. Have I told you lately, how much I love you?" the warrior princess asked.
"Got it," Kameiro announced triumphantly.
"Gods," moaned Gabrielle. "Can I get up now?"
"Yes, let's see how you feel with the next contractions. You may decide whether to sit here or lie down." Kameiro and Xena helped Gabrielle to her feet and back into the chair.
"I feel the difference already," Gabrielle said. "The head has moved down, I can feel it." She looked at Xena with a nervous smile. "My back is better, too." Standing up, Gabrielle gave her back a little stretch to show them. Her face darkened with a sudden pain.
"Xena!" Gabrielle squeaked, reaching out for support. The warrior grabbed the woman and let her lean against her chest. "NOW I feel it in front," muttered the laboring woman. "Ohhh, sweet mother," she moaned. Xena held her and rubbed her back. Giving another gasp, she looked up at Xena in surprise.
"What?" Xena asked.
"Her waters have broken," said Kameiro. "Let's get you into bed, my queen. I wish to see how far along you are."
Moving into the bedroom, the women could see that Leah had efficiently prepared the bed for a birth and had the side table full of supplies. Kameiro and Leah seemed so at ease and sure, as they took Gabrielle by the hands and helped her to the bed. Xena had some experience helping women to give birth, as well as giving birth herself to Solan, but now felt completely at a loss, feeling miserable for Gabrielle and a little bit frightened, too. She would not let herself consider all of the things that could go wrong at a time like this.
Kameiro seemed to notice this uncertainty. The woman took Xena by an elbow and steered her toward the bed as well. "Go to your wife, warrior. Sit behind her. Let her lay back against you. It will calm you both and you will be able to help support her when she needs to push." Xena managed a nervous nod and slid into position, helping Gabrielle to scoot until she was sitting back against her chest.
Kameiro sat on the bed as well, preparing to examine Gabrielle. Gabrielle felt the tightening of another contraction and stiffened. "Don't fight your body." Kameiro directed. "It knows what to do. When you fight against the pain of the contraction, it slows the progress of the birth and makes it that much more painful."
"Kameiro, it hurts! How do I ignore it?" Gabrielle shot back.
"Breathe with it. Think of your body as the ocean tide. The contractions are the waves hitting the shore. The time between is the ebb. Let yourself move like the ocean. Feel yourself opening for this child, listen to the sound of the waves. Become a part of it." Kameiro's gentle voice had a calming effect. Xena could feel Gabrielle's body relaxing even as the healer spoke.
"That's it, Gabs. Breathe with it," the warrior urged.
"You still have some time to labor, my queen," Kameiro said, withdrawing her hand from between Gabrielle's bent legs.
"How can you tell?" asked Xena, interested in learning more about the birthing process. She would store the details in her vast mental library of medical knowledge.
"When the womb is ready to deliver, it opens to about a hand's width. The queen's is about three fingers wide, right now. The child's head is descending, but the tip of the womb has not flattened entirely. When it has, it will be time."
"So what do we do, then?" Gabrielle asked, laying her head back onto Xena's shoulder. Xena nuzzled her wife gently.
"Breathe with the next few contractions. Don't push. If you push before your body is ready, you may cause tearing and you will tire yourself unnecessarily," the healer advised. Gabrielle nodded, feeling Xena's protective arms about her. The young woman was scared of the unknown, but this experience was nothing like the nightmare pregnancy and birth of Hope. She found security being next to Xena and in the obvious knowledge of this kind Amazon healer. "Leah and I will be in the next room. I have found it is easier for the mother to labor with her partner. The less distractions the better." Kameiro gave a respectful bow before leaving the room with Leah.
The labor progressed for the next two candle marks, with Xena patiently encouraging the exhausted Gabrielle. The mother-to-be was giving it her all, but was rapidly approaching the end of her tolerance with the situation. Anger surfaced as a way to deal with the pain and frustration. Unfortunately, Xena was the only target available.
"Ughhh," groaned Gabrielle with a new contraction. Bracing against her feet, she pushed her body back into Xena.
"Don't push Gabrielle. Breathe with it," Xena said, panting at her wife in example.
"I'm NOT pushing," snapped the irritated woman, obviously straining. "And would you quit breathing on me? You are making me nuts."
Xena sighed, and smoothed Gabrielle's sweaty bangs from her forehead. "Sorry, Gabs. I wish I could make things better for you." Xena was trying so hard, but nothing seemed to soothe Gabrielle at this point.
Gabrielle gruffly pushed Xena's hand away from her face, and moaned with another contraction. "Mother of the Gods, Xena!" she gasped. "I've got to push. Please!" she begged. Xena called out for Kameiro, needing someone else to help calm the queen. Gabrielle was the one doing all the work, but Xena felt like she'd been fighting wars all night.
Leah and Kameiro reentered the room. Leah brought a cool cloth for Gabrielle's forehead and wiped away the sweat that had gathered there.
"Thanks, Leah," Gabrielle murmured. Xena raised an eyebrow at the gratitude.
"Didn't like it when I tried it," the warrior thought wearily.
Kameiro completed her exam and announced that Gabrielle could begin to push with the next contractions. "Start small at first," she counseled. "When we see progress, you'll be pushing harder. Give your body time to adjust to the baby moving down the birth canal. Have patience. It's almost over."
"Patience is the LAST thing I have right now," grunted Gabrielle, pushing into the next contraction. "Nnnngggg?.gods," she squeezed out, bearing down with the tightening in her belly.
"Good, my queen. You are opening nicely. Work with it. Good."
Leah stood by handing small towels for Kameiro to clear fluids with and continued to wipe Gabrielle's brow. Xena leaned forward with Gabrielle's next pain, helping the woman to bear down again. Two more pushes and Kameiro announced that she could see the top of the baby's head.
"Oh Gabrielle, you are doing so well. I love you so much," Xena gushed, her emotions beginning to take over. The warrior excitedly leaned forward to see if she could catch a glimpse of the baby's hair. Gabrielle was too busy panting for breath to reply.
"Would you like to deliver your child, warrior?" Kameiro asked.
"Could I? I mean is it all right? Gabrielle?" Xena sputtered, her delight with the idea plain to everyone.
"Yes, Xena. Do it," Gabrielle managed to smile. "You should be the first to hold our baby." Xena moved from behind Gabrielle. Leah propped pillows behind the queen to replace the missing support. The warrior princess took a moment to bring Gabrielle's hand to her lips and send her a message of love with her eyes before moving to the foot of the bed.
Xena watched in awe, as the baby's head appeared a bit more with each contraction. She found it amazing how much a woman's body could give in such a situation.
"Gabrielle, she has dark hair. A real head full," Xena said, stretching a finger out to touch the soft curls slowly emerging.
"Oh, XENA," Gabrielle cried out. "It burns! It burns!" Pushing and straining with all her might, the Queen of the Amazons worked to give birth to the head of the new heiress. Kameiro knelt on the opposite side of the bed from Xena and gently worked with Gabrielle to try and keep her from tearing.
"Slowly, my queen. Don't push. Breathe. Pant it out, now. Good," she encouraged. One more mighty push and the entire head came into view. Xena supported it with her hand, while Kameiro cleaned the mouth and nose. The baby's face was wrinkled and red, the eyes tightly shut.
"Look, Gabrielle! Look at her," exclaimed the excited warrior. Leah helped Gabrielle to sit up slightly so that she could see the child about to enter the world.
"She's beautiful, Xena," Gabrielle whispered, lying back against the pillows. The next pain was tightening her abdomen. Try as she might, she could not contain the scream that built in her throat. This pain was like all the others put together and she felt herself arching against it in agony. Her body pushed against the body of the child. Gabrielle no longer had anything to do with it. She felt an incredible stretching as the baby's shoulder passed through her. "God's Xena? get her out!" she cried.
Xena continued to support the child's head, watching the baby's body naturally rotate as a shoulder came into view. Kameiro cleared the baby's airway.
"One more time, Gabrielle. You've almost done it," Xena encouraged.
Gabrielle panted wearily. Flopping back onto the pillows, she began to weep. "I can't," she cried.
"Yes, you can. You're doing great," Xena nodded at her.
"I can't do it," Gabrielle wept. "I've taken arrows that hurt less than this!"
Kameiro and Xena exchanged looks. Xena could not help the small grin that appeared on her lips. Kameiro kept a straight face, but her soft brown eyes sparkled. Ultimately, Gabrielle had no choice. The next contraction made the decision for her. With one last powerful push, and a cry the gathering villagers could hear from outside, the new mother gave birth to her child.
"It's a girl, Gabrielle," Xena smiled, beaming with happiness.
Gabrielle felt immense relief as the body of the baby slid quickly from her after pushing out the second shoulder. She fell back onto the pillows with a big sigh, watching Xena and Kameiro bending over the bed. A tiny wail broke the stillness of the room and Gabrielle closed her eyes and smiled. When she opened her eyes the next moment, she could see the first rays of the new morning light coming through the window.
Xena cut the baby's cord with a knife that Kameiro held for her. Then, wrapping the baby in a soft white towel, Xena brought the child up and placed her on Gabrielle's stomach. The baby's cry intensified and Gabrielle watched her daughter grow pink with her first breaths. Stroking the infant's hair with her fingers, she leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on the child's forehead. Looking up, she saw Xena sitting next to her with tears streaming down her cheeks. Gabrielle felt another contraction and began to tense, pulling the baby to her protectively. This pain was not as strong at the others but she was confused by it.
"It is the afterbirth, my queen," Kameiro explained, knowing exactly what was going through the queen's mind. Gabrielle felt something slip from her and then the pain diminished. "Everything looks as it should," the healer declared. "It is always a pleasure to bring life into the world. Congratulations, my queen? warrior. You are both greatly blessed." Kameiro and Leah helped to make Gabrielle a bit more comfortable and sat her up in the bed so she could hold the baby.
"Xena," Gabrielle said softly, "she is so little. And beautiful." Sticking a finger in a tiny palm, the young mother watched with a full heart as her daughter curled miniature fingers around it. Eyes peeked open and the fussing baby stopped its noise upon taking her first glimpse of the world. Xena leaned forward to see and her long black hair dangled over the baby's face, causing the child to sneeze.
"I hope she's not allergic to me," chuckled the warrior, flipping her hair back out of the way and stroking the baby's cheek with a finger. "Look at those eyes. She's a beauty, like her mom." She chuckled again as the baby turned reflexively toward the finger stimulating its cheek and tried to grasp it with her mouth.
"You should suckle your child, my queen. The sooner you do, the better for the both of you. It will help slow your bleeding. Then, this tearful warrior and I, will give your lovely daughter a bath and Leah will help you get cleaned up and something to eat. I know of many villagers who would like to hear some news," Kameiro added, nodding toward the window.
Gabrielle smiled at the 'tearful warrior' remark and reached up to wipe a tear from Xena's cheek. The warrior princess leaned over and kissed her wife and then her daughter. "I have never been so happy, Gabrielle. Thank you," she said.
"Which mom would that be?" asked Gabrielle, unlacing the front of her nightshirt and exposing a breast.
"What do you mean?"
"You said she's a beauty, like her mom. I think she looks like you," Gabrielle said, giving a small gasp and jumping, as the rooting baby found the proffered nipple and latched on with vigor. "Wow, reminds me of you in other ways, too," she laughed nervously. "Am I doing this right?" she asked, feeling slight cramps in her abdomen with every tug at her nipple.
"You are doing great, love," Xena said. "You look so beautiful. I wish I could keep this moment forever," she whispered to her wife, kissing her cheek and smoothing the baby's hair. The baby nursed contentedly, gazing with unfocussed eyes at the two women who brought her into the world.
"What should we call her?" Gabrielle asked. It was funny. The two had never really discussed names for the baby. The nursing mom flinched as the baby bit down with hard gums. "Ouch! Maybe we could name her Jaws?"
"I know what I would like to call her," Xena said smiling. "Briena. I know, it may sound corny, but she is a part of the both of us so I thought maybe her name?"
"Briena," the bard mused. "What do you think sweetheart?" she asked the babe in her arms. The child, weary from its recent appearance in the world, let loose of the breast and closed its eyes, falling asleep with her lips slightly parted. "I've seen that face before, Xena," Gabrielle laughed. "She is your daughter, for sure. Briena it is."
Kameiro came to take the baby from Gabrielle. Xena joined the healer in the bathing room to clean and dress the newborn. Leah helped Gabrielle up and moved her into the bathing room as well. The new mother was allowed to stand in the tub and clean herself but was advised not to sit in the waters until her bleeding stopped. Leah poured water over the tired woman, washing away the sweat and blood left from the birth. Gabrielle inspected her emptied belly with a sigh.
"You'll be back to your usual firm self in no time. You took such good care of yourself," Xena said, as she held her daughter while Kameiro cleaned Briena with a wet cloth. The sleepy baby barely protested, flailing an arm out wildly now and then when startled.
The warrior princess allowed Kameiro to secure the diaper and wrap the child in a soft blanket. "I will do this first diaper, but you will quickly become adept at the art," the healer teased, handing the comfortably swaddled baby back to Xena. The warrior cuddled her daughter to her chest a bit awkwardly, then relaxed as she felt the love for this small person rushing through her.
"You two look so good together," Gabrielle said from behind. Xena turned to see her pulling on one of her fancier robes, while Leah combed the queen's hair back.
"What are you up to?" Xena asked, walking toward her and cooing at the baby who had reopened her eyes to peep at this interesting being holding her.
"Xena, the entire village is waiting out there. We need to make an appearance. Just something to let them know we're all right." Gabrielle caught the beginnings of a 'no' from Xena and quickly added, "We'll just step out on the porch, show them the baby, and then I'll go to bed. I promise. You will not have to fight me to get some rest." Xena saw the circles under Gabrielle's eyes, but they were dimmed by the new glow of motherhood. She understood why the queen would want to share her joy.
"All right. Let's show the village the next Amazon Queen." Handing the baby to Gabrielle, Xena wrapped an arm around her wife's shoulders and led them to the door. Stepping outside into a glorious, crisp morning, the royal couple prepared to greet the eager villagers.
A hush fell over the milling Amazons at the appearance of their queen and her champion with a babe in arms. Kameiro and Leah slipped out quietly from behind and made their way into the crowd. The infant squirmed and managed to free a tiny arm from the blanket and waved it in the brisk morning air. Unused to the new climate, the child let out a vigorous wail. It seemed to those present that the future queen was waving and calling to her subjects and the crowd broke into cheerful laughter.
Xena took the baby and held her out at arms length toward the village. "The queen and I greet you. We have been blessed with a healthy daughter."
"Give thanks to Artemis for this wonderful gift," added Gabrielle with a tired smile. The Amazons erupted with loud cheers and the village drums began a familiar beat. Pulling the baby back into her arms, Xena turned with Gabrielle and walked back inside.
Gabrielle wearily snuggled under the covers with her new daughter tucked in the crook of her arm. Xena sat on the edge of the bed and gazed in wonder at the sight. The sound of drums and happy chants filled the village. The warrior kissed Gabrielle tenderly and then placed a soft peck on the top of her sleepy daughter's head. "Listen to the music, Briena. Your people are happy that a new life has come to the village. The drums beat for you, my child. The drums beat for you."
Xena awoke a few hours later. She was lying on top of the covers next to her wife and child. The warrior princess found Gabrielle sitting cross-legged in the bed, cradling their newborn to her breast. Propping her head up on an elbow, Xena drank in the scene.
"Good morning," Gabrielle smiled at her tousle haired mate. "Did you get some rest?"
"A bit. How 'bout you and this little beauty?" Xena asked, pulling back the edge of the baby's blanket and fondling five perfect little toes.
"I feel pretty good, considering. Just a little sore, sitting down and such, but not too bad," Gabrielle smiled, and watched Xena continue to explore their daughter's little body.
"Look at her," Xena breathed, "Tiny little feet, dimples on her knees. Goddess, what a doll! I still can't believe it all really happened."
"Well, reality is here, Xena. And this little one needs a change. I need to tend to myself as well." Gabrielle gently broke the suction of the baby's mouth on her breast with her finger. "Could you change her?" she asked, holding the small bundle out to Xena.
"First time for everything, I suppose," Xena grinned, standing up and taking the baby. "Need some help?" she asked, watching Gabrielle gingerly scoot to the edge of the bed.
"No, I'm ok. Just have to go slowly." Gabrielle stood up a bit unsteadily at first and then gaining her balance, walked with Xena into the bathing room. "Kameiro made us a little changing table and left supplies," Gabrielle called from the chamber pot room. "She left me everything I need, too. She is so thoughtful."
Xena managed to get Briena unwrapped and was doing a pretty good job of cleaning the baby's soiled rear, when Gabrielle reappeared. "That's better," the new mother said, adjusting her robe. "Having a baby is so? messy. Hardly makes up for missing nine moon cycles," she commented.
"The bleeding lasts for about a moon, more or less." Xena said. "Your first few days will be heavy. Just keep clean. Every day will get better." A dark look passed over her face that Gabrielle missed because Xena's back was to her.
"Not bad, momma," Gabrielle said, sliding an arm around Xena's waist and watching the warrior finish with the diaper. The two women stood for a moment, watching their daughter try to bring a tightly clenched fist to her mouth. "She still seems hungry. Guess I'll try to feed her again. Doesn't seem like much is happening there, though."
Xena pulled Gabrielle to her for a small hug before releasing her and wrapping the baby back up in the blanket. "Your milk will come in soon. Maybe today, or tomorrow. She is still getting nourishment in the meantime," Xena said. This time Gabrielle caught the flash of pain that crossed her mate's face. But it passed so quickly, she wasn't sure if it was her imagination or not.
Settled back in bed and offering her hungry daughter her breast, Gabrielle looked into Xena's eyes for a moment, searching for something. She knew Xena was ecstatic over the birth. She had seen the freely exhibited emotions. But something else had surfaced, something that caused Xena pain. The warrior, smiled a tight grin at her wife and said, "I'll get you some food, too." before turning to leave the room and exit the house.
Returning a short time later, Xena sat on the bed and hand fed Gabrielle a few bites of a late breakfast, while she finished nursing the baby. "I'm going to get spoiled, you know," Gabrielle murmured, looking lovingly at Xena. "And so will she, I suppose," she sighed happily, looking down to watch the young one slowly nod off. Xena took the baby and placed her on the bed so that her mother could lie down.
"You deserve it Gabrielle. All the happiness in the world," Xena said. Gabrielle heard the slight catch in the warrior's voice and again gazed into her mate's eyes. Xena turned her eyes away, climbed into bed and cuddled into Gabrielle's side.
"What is it, Xena? Something's wrong. Aren't you happy?" Gabrielle put her arms around her warrior and hugged her.
"I'm fine, Gabrielle. I couldn't be happier about the baby?"
"Come on, Xena, I know you. Tell me, please?" Gabrielle pushed away the dark bangs that hung over Xena's brow and was surprised to see the woman's eyes full of tears. "Tell me," she pleaded, her voice full of worry.
"I don't know where these feelings have come from, Gab. It's been so long. But seeing you with the baby. I just," Xena choked back her tears and fell silent.
"Gods, Xena. I'm so stupid. Of course this would bring back memories of when you gave birth. I'm sorry," Gabrielle whispered, kissing the top of Xena's head. "I know it was a horrible time for you."
"I was so alone, trying to understand what was happening to me. It wasn't like it was with you. With Briena, it was so beautiful, happy. I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I know you're tired," Xena hesitated, not sure if she should continue, not sure if she wanted to continue.
"I want to hear it, Xena. Talk to me," she said, continuing to hold Xena tightly.
"I was scared. It hurt so much, a different kind of pain than battle pain. That I knew. This was new. There was no one there I could trust. I was so alone," Xena repeated. "Then I gave him away. I just gave him away and left." Gabrielle could feel Xena's body shaking with silent sobs, and began to weep with her.
"You did what you had to do, Xena. Not because you didn't love him, but because you did."
"Then I was left alone, in pain, in the dark. That's what I remember the most. My bleeding was so heavy. I really did not know what to expect. I was a leader of armies. I did not dabble in domestic affairs. I just never knew." Gabrielle sniffled and wiped her tears in sympathy for the pain Xena must have endured.
"Gods, Gab. I hurt for so many different reasons. I just wanted to die. Then the final misery? my milk came in and I had no way to?" Xena fell silent again, not wanting to go on.
Gabrielle lay quietly, holding Xena in her arms, a tear falling down her cheek every now and then. "It's so different now," Xena said. "How can I be so happy and so sad all at the same time?" she asked the woman who held her. "I'm such a mess. You'd think I was the one who just gave birth."
"Xena, you will always have those memories. But you have taken what you did not like about those times and changed things. Look at all your accomplishments. I cannot take away your pain, I can only tell you how much I love you, and how happy I am that I was able to give you a child. Our child. You are a hero in my eyes, Xena. You always will be," Gabrielle said.
Xena looked up, her blue eyes rimmed with red and gave a weak smile. Gabrielle put her finger under her love's chin and pulled her up for a kiss. The warrior snuggled back into her wife's side and fell asleep. Gabrielle lay there with her infant daughter on one side and Xena on the other, thinking there was no place in the world she'd rather be.
When Amazon babies have lived for a moon, the village holds a naming ceremony. Although, Gabrielle and Xena already named their daughter, it was an official ceremony that Gabrielle did not want the child to miss. Special offerings and prayers are given to Artemis and the temple priestess would bless the baby, making her birth official.
The first few weeks of Briena's life were fairly uneventful. Gabrielle and Xena slipped into a comfortable routine of caring for the child, and the baby was agreeable to just about anything they had to offer. Toward the end of her first moon, Briena was sleeping several hours at a stretch so Gabrielle did not even have to suffer through the sleep depravation that many new mothers did.
The naming ceremony would be in two days, and Gabrielle was excited. She had been a bit of a recluse lately, but now with the weather warming with an early spring and the baby obviously thriving, she could not wait to get out and socialize a little. Several of her friends visited to see the baby and Briena acquired many lovely outfits along the way. Gabrielle was flipping through the pile trying to decide what the baby would wear for the ceremony, when Xena came in with a rather excited look on her face.
"You look like you just caught the biggest fish in the pond," Gabrielle teased. "What's up?"
"Argo is getting ready to foal. She may deliver by tonight. I have her in the stables. Everything is all ready for her. She just has to labor for a while. You know the drill," Xena said happily. Xena washed her hands and went to get Briena who started to fuss in her cradle, a gift from Saren and Leah.
"Look who I woke up," she exclaimed. "Mmm. Hello, little one. How are you this evening? I missed you today." Xena hugged the baby to her with genuine affection and laughed when her daughter turned her head toward Xena's breast and tried to nurse through the leathers. "You'll have to discuss dinner with your other mom," she grinned, handing the baby to Gabrielle who got into a comfortable position, sitting against pillows at the head of the bed.
Xena's sad memories of her earlier years had slowly dissipated over time. The joy this child brought to the home overpowered any grief she still harbored. She never tired of watching Gabrielle nurse the baby. It was one of her favorite times of the day. The baby latched on greedily, but Gabrielle was past the tender point, having toughened quickly for the girl's endless appetite.
As Xena sat at the foot of the bed, she noticed how quickly Gabrielle's pregnancy puffiness had left her. The blonde absolutely radiated beauty as she fed her child. Xena let her eyes fall on the creamy swell of breast visible beyond her daughter's head. The warrior felt a familiar heat pass through her body and settle between her legs. "It's been a while," she thought to herself. "Quite a while."
Gabrielle looked up from her daughter's face. The child was beginning to drift back to sleep and was only half-heartedly sucking. She noticed the look in Xena's eyes and the direction of her gaze and felt a hot flush begin to creep up her face. Their eyes met and they exchanged a look of intense passion.
Without a word, Xena crawled up to Gabrielle's side and loosened her soft leather top, freeing the other breast. The queen drew in her breath and felt a shiver go down her spine as the warrior traced sensuous circles on the sensitive flesh. Leaning forward, Xena flicked out her tongue, grazing the rosy tip, eliciting a massive shudder from her wife. "Xena," she moaned.
Xena decided it had been too long since she'd heard her wife sound like that. Taking the hardening nipple into her mouth, she suckled gently at first, then with more vigor. Gabrielle gasped and let her head fall back. The incredible sensation of having her baby feeding at one breast and her lover sucking greedily at the other, made her senses reel.
The warrior sent an exploratory hand running along Gabrielle's thigh. The woman shifted automatically, allowing free access. Xena realized Gabrielle would not be quite ready to renew their relations just yet, but that didn't mean she could not have a little fun. Continuing to tantalize Gabrielle's breast, Xena slipped her fingers inside the top of her wife's trousers and sent them down to tease the blonde curls escaping Gabrielle's underclothes.
The queen still clutched her daughter to her other breast. Wrapping her arm around Xena's head, she pulled her firmly to her. "Don't stop," she whispered. The warrior had no intention of stopping. Her roaming fingers had found their target and she slipped them back and forth over Gabrielle's clit, tonguing her nipple all the while.
"Ohhh," Gabrielle moaned, panting with increasing lust. She was going to have a quick climax any second and knew it was going to be explosive. "Sweet goddess, Xena," she groaned, arching back slightly and trying not to wake the now sleeping infant. Xena felt a familiar shudder begin to pass through her wife. Increasing the tempo of her fingers, she brought her mouth up to claim Gabrielle's lips. Xena was rewarding with a deep passionate kiss, ending with a small cry as Gabrielle came to her peak as quietly as she could, not at all an easy task. The warrior continued to kiss her wife as Gabrielle slowly came back to earth, the taste of her own breast milk on her lips.
Xena pulled back and looked at Gabrielle's enchanting green eyes. Those emerald gems were so full of love for the warrior princess. Xena feared her heart would melt. "That was a nice surprise," the blonde managed, a twinkle in her eyes.
"I think I should have my dinner in bed more often," Xena said. Rising, she held her arms out for Briena, and placed the baby back in her cradle.
Gabrielle noticed Xena straightening her leathers, and said, "Are you going?"
"Got to check on Argo. It may be a long night." Leaning again toward the bed, Xena kissed Gabrielle. It was only meant to be a little peck, but Gabrielle pulled her into it and Xena found herself wishing with all her heart that she could fall onto the bed and kiss her wife like this all night. Reluctantly, she broke the contact and stood up. "Soon, Gabrielle. Real soon," she promised.
Gabrielle awoke very early the next morning to find Xena already gone. The sun was not quite up and the house was quiet. "I wonder if she even came to bed? Hope Argo's doing ok. Boy, can I empathize." she thought, while changing Briena. Yawning, the sleepy mother hoped that the baby would go back to sleep after eating, so she could snooze. Lying back down in bed on her side, Gabrielle brought the baby up to her. This was one of her favorite positions in which to nurse. Especially when she was tired. She smiled at the soft coos and gurgles that her daughter was developing as she ate. The two lay together comfortably, enjoying the peaceful closeness. Soon mother and daughter drifted back off to sleep.
It was definitely morning when Gabrielle awoke again. She blinked her eyes against the bright sun that streamed through the bedroom window. Moving her arm reflexively, she gasped to find the baby gone from the spot at her side. Pushing past the initial panic, Gabrielle had a sneaking suspicion as to where the child could be. Dressing in comfortable leathers, the queen walked outside, breathing in the fresh air of a cool spring morning. She proceeded directly to the stables, smiling and nodding her greetings to the Amazons who were also up and about, busy at their various tasks.
As she suspected, she found one warrior princess and one baby daughter in the stables. The two were standing overlooking one of the horse stalls. Gabrielle caught the nodding tan head of Argo as she came up behind the pair. "Look, Briena," Gabrielle heard Xena say. "This foal will be your horse. He looks like he will be a real handful, but then I imagine that you will be, too." Gabrielle stood quietly behind Xena and their daughter, not wanting to spoil the moment. She could spy a wobbly gray foal in the stall, struggling to walk, encouraged by nudges from Argo.
"So what to you think, Brie? I'll have you riding before you can walk. Just don't tell your mom that." Xena turned the baby toward her and Gabrielle could see the infant's chubby face. Xena bent over the little girl and gave her a kiss on the cheek, her dark hair tickling the child's ear. Pulling back, both women were rewarded with the sweetest first smile any baby had ever given. Gabrielle gasped with delight. Turning at the sound, Xena saw Gabrielle standing there. With a look of pure joy, she exclaimed, "Did you see that, Gab? She smiled at me!"
"I saw it. I heard you two conspiring together, too. Shame on you," she teased.
"Look at Argo's new baby," Xena said, changing the subject. "He took his time coming. He's a big boy." Argo snorted in agreement. Gabrielle went over and patted the mare's shoulder, and took a good look at the feisty little foal, once again up on his feet, wobbling toward mom. He ducked under her belly and butted into her before latching on and suckling.
"Looks familiar," chuckled Gabrielle. "Glad Briena does not have to head butt me first."
The warrior and the queen laughed as they exited the stables with baby in tow. The royal family proceeded to the commons, to join the Amazons for breakfast. Some families chose to eat in their homes others preferred a more social environment. Today, Xena and Gabrielle sat down with Kameiro and Amarice. Although not an official "couple" the two women had become close over the past several moons, both finding comfort in the other's company and both understanding the other's pain. Gabrielle felt that when the time was right, Kameiro and Amarice would come together. Briena announced she was hungry, so Gabrielle began to nurse her at the table.
"You look like such a natural," said Amarice, staring curiously at the breastfeeding mother. "Does it hurt?"
"I was a bit sore at first, but you get used to it. Now, it just seems 'natural', like you said. You will get your chance. Soon from the looks of things," Gabrielle replied, smiling at the young Amazon's round belly.
"I can't wait," Amarice replied with a groan. "I feel so squished. I can hardly breathe."
"Sounds familiar," Xena teased, nudging Gabrielle with her knee. The queen nudged her back and the two began an under-the-table thigh war that made Gabrielle giggle. Xena started playing dirty by introducing her hand into the game. She began stroking Gabrielle's thigh suggestively, out of sight of the others. Xena continued to eat innocently with her right hand and participate in the conversation as if nothing was happening. Gabrielle shot her a sideways glance and knew Xena did not plan on stopping the torture any time soon.
"Amarice has been reading some of the scrolls of Amazon history," Kameiro said, knowing full well what the royal couple was up to.
"Mmm, really?" Gabrielle asked, trying to eat, feed Briena and not melt into a puddle all at the same time.
"I told her that you have been writing your own scrolls regarding traditions and such," Kameiro continued, shaking her head with a smile at the 'who me?' act the warrior was displaying.
"Yeah, Gab," Amarice blurted out. Kameiro flinched at the impropriety. "Since I can't do much else right now, I really could use something to read. Kameiro has to go with Leah and Saren to town today to get medical supplies. I wanted to know if I could hang out with you, maybe read some of your scrolls?"
"Uh huh," replied Gabrielle absently, her breathing unsteady. Xena could not restrain a smirk.
"I have an even better idea," offered Kameiro, watching the queen's color slowly ripen. "Why don't you two go for a nice long?walk. Briena looks like she's about ready for a nap. Amarice can baby sit and read while the child sleeps. She needs some baby practice anyway," the healer added, placing a hand on Amarice's belly. Amarice smiled at the gesture.
"Great idea," announced Xena. Rising from the table, she plucked the sleepy Briena from her mother's arms, and handed her to a surprised Amarice. "We'll be back before she wakes up," Xena promised. Grabbing Gabrielle by the arm, the warrior started to pull her toward the path that led to the woods. The blonde followed awkwardly, trying to close up her shirt with one hand.
Kameiro chuckled and walked with Amarice and the baby toward the royal home.
Xena and Gabrielle did not make it very far into the woods before turning off the path. Although the warrior had specific plans for her wife in mind, she was pleasantly surprised when Gabrielle stopped short and pushed her back up against a tree. "I owe you, BIG time," the amorous woman whispered, pushing her body up against Xena.
"Oh? And what do you have in mind?" Xena asked trying to act as if having this blonde bombshell rubbing sensuously against her was having no affect.
"Oh, a little of this," she said, nipping and kissing the warrior's neck, "And a little of that," she continued, slipping her hand inside Xena's leathers to caress a firm breast. Xena leaned back against the tree and enjoyed her wife's payback.
Gabrielle slowly removed Xena's clothing starting with the top and working her way down before following suit. Placing hot kisses on the new skin exposed, Gabrielle slipped her hand between her warrior's legs. Groaning inwardly at the heat and moisture found there, she moved her fingers over Xena's center and heard her love gasp with pleasure. "Mmm, Gab, it's been a while. I've missed you," she said in a low voice, her hips moving slightly.
"I'm sorry, my warrior," Gabrielle said softly, enjoying the feel of Xena's own exploring fingers. "It won't happen again." The two women mutually pleasured each other, kissing deeply. It wasn't long before Gabrielle found herself trembling with a wonderful climax. She leaned into Xena to catch her breath and felt the warrior wrap her arms around her, a sign of completion.
"Oh no, you don't get off that easily," no pun intended thought Gabrielle. "I'm not done with you yet." Trailing kisses down Xena's firm belly, stopping to give extra attention to her navel, for this always made her warrior squirm and the blonde giggled when it happened, Gabrielle opened Xena's legs.
"Oh, Gab," groaned Xena. The warrior had gone without for a few weeks due to the new baby. Everything had been so hectic that she really hadn't thought too much about missing sex, but it all came rushing back now. Feeling her wife's tongue on her sent jolts of pleasure through her body. She felt herself holding onto the tree behind her for support. Gabrielle had her mate right where she wanted her and was enjoying herself thoroughly. Several times she felt the warrior princess beginning to rise toward her peak and several times Gabrielle would back off on her ministrations until she felt Xena calm down.
Xena enjoyed the teasing for a while but soon found her passion overwhelming her. Filling her hands full of blonde hair, she pulled Gabrielle's head to her. "Now, love. I need you now!" Xena pushed into Gabrielle's tongue and threw her head back in ecstasy when she felt two fingers enter her. Gabrielle held on with one hand and moved her other rapidly while continuing to move her tongue against Xena's hard nub.
"Ohh, GODS," yelled Xena, her voice echoing into the woods. Straining against the tree, Xena arched into her wife and exploded with a mighty climax. Sinking to her knees alongside Gabrielle, the warrior put her forehead on the blonde's shoulder while catching her breath.
The couple enjoyed their private time in the woods but after a while they knew they should be getting back to relieve Amarice of her babysitting duties. As they strolled back into the village, they noticed a commotion near their home. Picking up their pace, they found a pale Kameiro in the arms of Saren, in front of the royal quarters.
"What happened? What is it?" Xena and Gabrielle both said at once.
Saren looked down at the limp form in her arms and back up at the couple with a mixture of grief and rage. "She tried to stop him. I could not reach him in time," she muttered.
"Stop who? Spit it out, Saren," Xena yelled, picking up an oddly familiar tingle with her senses.
"Ares. He took them," Saren said, still not communicating well. "Kameiro jumped on him and he threw her all of the way out of the house to here."
"Oh gods!" Gabrielle gasped. "BRIENA!" The queen raced into the house, shouting for her daughter. "Xena!" she screamed in anguish, upon finding the home empty.
Xena gathered the sobbing woman into her arms and brought her back out to Kameiro and Saren. Kneeling she placed a hand on the woman's cheek. "Kameiro, can you hear me? Tell me what Ares said. I need to know." Xena's voice was shaking with anger.
The dazed woman struggled with the spinning sensation in her head. She opened her eyes to see the frantic faces of the royal couple. With a grimace of pain she said, "I was going to say good bye to Amarice before we left for town. There was a flash and He was in the room. Amarice tried to run with Briena, but he did something? they just disappeared. I tried to stop him." The healer choked back a sob, "I'm sorry, my queen."
"Gods Xena, Ares has them! Do something!" Gabrielle was near panic.
"Kameiro," Xena said firmly, struggling to maintain her own fear, "Did he say anything?"
"He said, 'I promised Artemis I would not mess with her Amazons, but these two aren't official, yet.'"