Subtext Reports
Those crazy posts about the episodes originally posted to the nutforum and saved here for posterity in their error riddled entirety (since they were written 'on the fly'). 
Homecoming Series
A series of five (not so short) stories about Xena and Gabrielle building their life together as a couple. 
Magic Series
Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas find love as they uncover more writings of Gabrielle about her warrior princess. 
Conversations by Campfire Series
Set during Season Four, parts of the episodes are worked into chats between Xena and Gab, particularly the subject of Najara and the bard. 
Changes of Heart Series
My take on what happened after Gabby got Chakram'ed upside the head by Xena in the Season Five ender. 
Bonding of Souls Series
This series picks up where 'Changes of Heart' ends with Xena and Gabby back together. Each 'episode' is an expansion of the episodes of Season Six.
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
How DID Ares get stuck in that tomb from the Xena Scrolls? This story answers that question. 
The Play
Xena and Gabrielle have to play the leads in a performance for a ruthless king to save Salmoneus' neck. Unexpected consequences and confessions are the result. 
The Queen, the Regent, the Warrior
Xena leaves Gabrielle in the care of the amazons, only to have Ephiny and Gabby fall in love. Xena does return and chaos and secret confessions follow.
The Contest
Ares and Aphrodite battle over Xena's spirit. 
Loss of Virginity
Romantic musings from one of our gals. 
Moment of Truth
Gabrielle does anything it takes to keep Xena out of a battle that's foretold to take the warrior princess' life. 
Thank the Gods For Henbane
At an Amazon festival Gabrielle has one too many henbane brownies, which results in a funny and sexy night for Xena. 
As It Should Be
The Queen gets taken by the Warrior Princess at the Amazon Village.
Family Ties
Xena takes Gabrielle back to home to spend a little time with the 'in-laws'. 
Dueling Cousins
Xena's look-alike cousin, Sappho, has always been competitive but now the Tenth Muse wants the ultimate prize - Gabrielle. 
The End
Alternate 'demise' of Xena and Gabrielle based on the Season Four crucifixion. 
Truth or Dare
Sexy romp between Callisto and Gabrielle set during 'A Necessary Evil' 
November 29th, 1942
A little romance fic between Janice and Mel. 
Inside Outside
Set after the events of 'A Family Affair', it's a scene told through the eyes of four people - Gabrielle's Father, Mother, Gabrielle herself and Xena.
Something To Talk About
Xena and Gabrielle's friends are all surprised that the pair aren't lovers so they consider why not.
Henbane, Horsenappings and Other Obstacles
A 'murphy's law' comedy where everything that can go wrong for Xena and Gabby but, of course, they still end up saving the day.
All That Matters
During Gabrielle's birthday party in' Takes One To Know One', Xena reflects on her love for the bard.  
Warlord
What if Gabrielle was actually the one behind all the folks who influenced Xena's journey toward good? 
Have Yourself a Merry Little Solstice
A little Winter Solstice tale that's available in general (not lovers) and alternative (lovers). .
Little Moments: A Day in the Desert
A tale told through the eyes of Janice and then Mel while on a dig.  
Candy or Chaos
'Classic Xena' general Halloween story with Xena and Gabby return for the Potiedaia Harvest Festival.
Conquering Heroine
Gabrielle is the Conqueror in this piece. How exactly? Give it a read and find out. 
Watching and Waiting
Set after FIN II, Xena watches from afar as Gabrielle moves on with her life. 
1971
Police Office Carol and Protestor Erin clash but find they're fighting for the same things. A short story based on my novel, 'One Belief Away'. 

Title: Magic of Paris Part 2 of 2

Author: CN Winters

Fandom: Xena Fanfiction, Xena fanfic, Xena fan fiction, Xena and Gabrielle fanfiction, Xena fiction

Rating: R - NC-17

Disclaimers: These characters are not mine. They belong to Universal/MCA. Iím just borrowing them for my entertainment purposes. Nobody is making money off of them so call off the lawyers. If stories of two women in love and expressing that love quite graphically offends you then what the hell are you doing reading my stories!!! <LOL>If youíre too young, leave immediately. If you live somewhere that this stuff would get you in trouble with the cops, cease and desist. If none of these things are a problem please... read on.

Author Note: This is a follow up to Magic of Egypt. Itís not necessarily important that you read the first but you might enjoy it anyway. The songs enclosed here are by a man named Frank Sinatra <G>. If youíve never heard of him I suggest you pick up ĎSinatra Reprise: The Very Good Yearsí. Great stuff.<G> Yes, I am a patron of all types of music. And last but not least, this story is dedicated to Dana. Iím not sure how our story will end darliní but I have to believe the mentality of the characters in this work of fiction - If love is true... it can conquer all. Thank you for every day of my life that youíve brightened. In light of everything, itís been the best five years of my life and Iíll cherish you always and hopefully... many years to come. [Sidenote: Since people have asked...I've learned how the story ends with my gal. Not only am I a great bard, I'm a poor judge of character too it seems<LOL>. As 'Frank' sang... Regrets? I've had a few...but then again...too few to mention'<G>]

Synopsis: Ten years after Magic of Egypt, Janice and Mel make their way to Paris as Mel considers the direction of their lives.  

Feedback: Please e-mail me at cnwinters71@yahoo.com I enjoy getting to chat with my readers out there. Your constructive comments are always welcome.

Magic of Paris Part 2 of 2

Chapter 11

Paris Institute, Paris, France Ė 1957

Janice and Mel spent their first day in Paris in a musty warehouse looking over artifacts that the French felt could be a connection to their work on the Xena scrolls. So far nothing looked promising. Upon hearing the translators stomach growl, Janice smiled and turned to her lover.

"Hungry?" she teased.

"Just a little." Mel blushed.

"Why donít we knock it off for the day?" Janice offered. "Grab a bit to eat at a cafť on the way to the hotel?"

"Sounds good to me," Mel answered with a warm smile, dusting herself off.

As they made their way through the actual museum, they couldnít help but overhear two women talking in front of them. French was a language that both digger and translator knew fluently before meeting. As the pair in front conversed, Mel just had to interrupt.

"Pardon," Mel began, continuing in their native tongue, "But thatís terrible. Why would someone just Ďbring backí a child?"

The blonde woman answered. "Well, I donít know all the facts. Itís my sister that runs the orphanage but from what I understand the couple is from an Ďupstandingí family and they didnít want a Ďdefectiveí child... Itís a shame too because a wealthy family is what this child needs for the education sheíll require. And since sheís already been with a family so many are reluctant to take Ďsecond hand goodsí."

"Oh my," Mel sighed. "What will happen to her?"

"The child?" the woman asked

Mel simple nodded, her lip quivering.

"Well, sheíll probably live her life in the orphanage. No one will want her since sheís Ďusedí... and deaf."

Mel looked at Janice. Janice could see the beautyís wheels turning. Janiceís first reaction was an ohhhh noooo mentality, but she didnít utter a word. She just waited and held her tongue as her lover and the woman conversed. By the time things were over, Mel had the name of the womanís sister, an address and a phone number. The southern belle thanked the woman and watched as the two women walked on. Neither woman said a word in the vacant space between them.

"Itís worth a shot," Mel finally mustered, playing with the ends of the paper.

Janice sighed and walked away. 

"What makes you think theyíll say yes?" Janice finally asked, staring at a suit of armor.

"We have the means," Mel answered.

"You mean you have the money... Youíre going to Ďbuyí a child," Janice replied with disdain heavy in her voice.

"Iím not going to have a child any other way, Janice," Mel replied. "That is unless I find some sexy Frenchman who wants to spend-."

"Stop right there," Janice threatened. "I donít even want to hear it and if I ever find out youíve been with a man, with anyone... "

Janice was never one to make empty threats, but she couldnít finish the statement. It was too painful to consider.

"Youíll what, Janice?" Mel provoked. "Say it... Come on say it!"

"Iíll leave you!" the archeologist spat out harshly. The reply echoed down the halls coming back to ring in both their ears.

Mel paused a moment and walked to Janiceís turned back. 

"Not if I leave you first," she answered in a hostile whisper in Janiceís ear.

Janice heard Melís quick high heeled steps moving further and further away. She knew they just werenít walking out of the museum but out of her life. That realization set her in motion.

"Mel, slow down," Janice called out walking toward her. The belle wasnít stopping. "Mel?" Janice called out much less secure than before. "Mel, please stop," Janice said going into a sprint. She caught up with the translator and turned her forcefully around.

Mel hadnít uttered a single word or made even a sound but her face was soaked with tears, her eyes terribly bloodshot. Mel still didnít make eye contact - she couldnít. It would be her undoing.

Janice was unnerved by what she saw. Her gut reaction took over.

"Oh, Sweetheart," Janice sighed pulling the translator tight into her arms.

She told Mel years before she would give Mel anything she desired. This baby was something the belle wanted Ė no, she needed it in order to feel complete. The pain was evident now to Janice. And she knew that she couldnít see Mel in pain like this any longer.

She had two choices Ė leave Mel so the translator could have a full life or try like hell to adopt a child. She took one look in those deep blue eyes and her fate was sealed. "

Weíll try," Janice promised softly. "Weíll try, darliní. Some way. Some how. Iíll get you a baby."

"No," Mel returned. "Us Ė get us a baby, Janice. I need ya to be a part of my life. I need ya to be a mother too. If yer not ready for that then... maybe we should consider... everything."

Janice felt her throat constrict and she took a deep breath to steady her nerves. She didnít like where this conversations seemed to be going. 

"Everything? What do you mean by everything?"

"I just think that maybe we should spend some time apart, thatís all," Mel answered nervously, looking at her shoes, unable to face Janice. "That way ya can think about whatís really important to ya."

Mel promised Janice forever... and she wondered if forever was now over.

Janice stuttered and sputtered in her speech.

"Wha... How ca... Are yo... Mel!?"

This was ridiculous. They were destine for each other, just like their ancestors. Mel couldnít be serious. Could she?

"Iím sorry, Janice, but I think we should just keep things on a professional basis from now on. Iím going to grab some dinner and Iíll see you tonight at the hotel."

Janice stood slack-jawed, total bowled over by what had taken place. A gorgeous dame just dumped Janice. That wasnít right! If anything Janice was always the heartbreaker Ė a girl in every port. Who the HELL did Mel Pappas think she is anyway?! It took Janice all of three seconds for the answer Ė Mel Pappas was the love of her lifetime. It didnít even seem real to Janice what was happening until she watched Mel climbing into a cab outside.

Janice was unsure of when the translator moved away from her but she had darted out the door at some point. Janice began to give chase to the taxi going up the street but she quickly got winded.

Itís gotta be the cigars, Janice told herself as she tried to catch her breath. She stumbled toward the sidewalk. The short run had made her dizzy and to top it off she pulled a muscle in her arm. As Janice worked out the kink in her left arm, she found that although she stopped running, it was getting harder, much harder, to breathe. Then she grew nauseous. Something was wrong. Very wrong. 

Oh God, Mel! Janiceís mind screamed out that last consequent thought before her body tumbled to the Parisian sidewalk.

Chapter 12

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis, around 500 bc

Xena had cleaned up the tavern and her body while at her mother's inn - washing away the filth of the confrontation. Her mind flashed to her last major battle. A group of villagers stood up to a petty tyrant. A tyrant with a huge army. The healer had been killed in the previous battle and Gabrielle was the only one with enough experience to help those injured. The battle raged for hours. More and more men seemed to multiply from nowhere, but when it was all said and done, Xena and many of the villagers walked away from the battlefield in victory and in tact.

As she cleaned the blood from her hands at her mother's inn, she went back in her mind to that little village. She was covered in blood. Gabrielleís gasp was audible from clear across the room.

"Itís not mine," the warrior had assured her quickly.

Gabrielle left a competent village woman in charge so she could see to her warrior. She striped the warrior of her blood soaked clothes and took her to the river. After repeated scrubbings, Xena was finally clean... but she didnít feel clean. She didnít feel anything actually... except numb. At that point, Xena knew her time on the road must end. If she felt rage, if she felt remorse, if she felt anything that would give her the acknowledgement she needed to continue. But after all she had seen, and after all she had done that day, all she walked away with was... nothing.

Xenaís catatonic state scared Gabrielle. She saw the warrior through many battles and the after effects. Sometimes Xena would cry. Sometimes she would do drills with her sword. And sometimes she would take the bard, giving into her most carnal lusts with full acceptance from her lover. But on this day, Xena did nothing; said nothing.

Gabrielle called Xenaís name three times before the warrior turned around to face her. The warrior's face revealed nothing Ė no sorrow, no remorse, no joy Ė absolutely nothing.

"I think we should settle somewhere," Xena told Gabrielle. The warrior's bottom lips quivered a little bit. Although unreadable, Gabrielle took it as a good sign. Her Xena was still somewhere in that war battered body.

Gabrielle nodded. "Whatever you want, Xena," the bard answered pulling her into her arms.

"I know how much you love to travel. Itís why you left home but I-."

Gabrielle put her finger across Xenaís mouth. 

"The reason I left Potidaea was to be with you... Iím with you to the end Xe... Be it traipsing all over the world or in a tiny village in the hills... Iím with YOU," Gabrielle emphasized.

Gabrielleís words of that day echoed in Xenaís mind as she stood over the rinse bowl in her mother's washroom. Another villager, Janner, had offered to walk Gabrielle and the kids home until Xena was more presentable. Now that she was finished she headed home to her little family. Funny... once more the blood was gone, but she didnít feel clean.

Gabrielle was feeding Myra when Xena walked in.

"Lye is still up," she said softly. "He wants to speak to you."

Xena watched Gabrielle rise from the rocker she had made her as a solstice present one year. Gabrielle took their infant daughter to bed. She didnít wait a moment longer once they disappeared. She headed straight to Lyeís bedroom.

"Hey there, Sport," Xena whispered excitedly, coming over to tousle her son's hair. She wanted to make him feel as comfortable as possible by being her usual playful self. "Mama said you wanted to talk to me?"

He nodded, but he didnít continue. Xena hated to lead a conversation, as she was sure Gabrielle could attest to many of their friends over the years. But she knew how shy her son could be at times and she knew since she was the adult here, sheíd have to be the one to take control.

"Whatís the matter?" Xena asked, taking a place at the foot of his small bed.

He didnít answer. He just rolled his shoulders and played with the top of his quilt.

Xena sighed softly, trying to think of a starting place. She was relieved when she heard a voice from the door way say. 

"Why donít you just tell her what you asked me, Lye? She wonít get mad, sweetheart."

Xena was relieved to hear Gabrielle join the conversation but the message she came in with was a bit unsettling. 

Mad? Xena wondered. Why would I get mad? Whatever the question was she was sure it couldnít be too good.

Lye took a deep breath. He laid his palms open and started with "Okay," spoken almost in a sigh. Xena bit her lip. Sometimes he was so much like the bard it worried her, but it also amused her at the same time. Would trouble find this young man as much as it did Gabrielle? Judging by the incident earlier, it was shaping up to be that way. Xena grinned inwardly.

"If I start trouble would you think Iím a bad guy and would you stab me too?"

Xenaís heart jumped to her throat. 

By the Gods! she thought. She didnít realize she had spoken those words out loud until Gabrielle put her hand on Xena shoulder and said, "By the Gods indeed."

Xena quickly made up for it. 

"Oh sweetie," she said opening her arms for Lye to climb into. She needed to feel the boy as much as he needed to feel her. "I would never, ever hurt you. And you will never, ever be a bad guy. I promise."

"Joseph said the smithy told his father that you were good once; then you got bad and you kilt lots of people. I told him itís not nice to lie and that my momma doesnít kill people-."

Xena heard enough. She put her finger over her sons lips. She knew this would happen someday. She knew someday one of his friends would say something and that would be it. His view of her would forever be changed. She never figured it would be this early in his young life but she would explain everything the best she could to her son.

Xena filled in the incidents of her past without going into too much detail for his young mind to comprehend. When she got hung up on how to continue, then and only then did Gabrielle offer the words Xena strived for but couldnít find on her own. Xena made sure to squeeze the bardís hand at every one of those moments to convey her thanks for having the bard close at this time.

"How many men have you kilt, Momma?"

The question was spoken so matter of factly, so innocently it broke Xenaís heart. In all her years of killing she never thought sheíd have to explain it to anyone. She never imagined having to justify it later to someone she would care so deeply about. She only saw death then. And she never expected to find love. Now the past haunted her more than she ever thought possible.

"Sadly, more than I can count and not all deserved to die, son. I canít lie to you... I wasnít a very good person for quite awhile but you know what the great thing about life is?... You can always reinvent yourself. You can always change your life as long as your lungs breath and your heart beats... I gave those men tonight that chance. I gave them the option to turn around and change their lives. But they chose to fight. They chose their destiny. And if killing them meant keeping you and momma and Myra safe Iíd do it again. I donít enjoy hurting people, Lye, but Iím not going to let anyone hurt you or this family... Do you think you understand?"

Lye chewed on his lip. And Xena once more suppressed a chuckle. So much like the bard when deep in thought, she observed.

"I think so," he said cocking his head. "Those men wanted to hurt us but you hurt them before they could hurt us... But you didnít just hurt them first... You told them to go away but they didnít listen... " Xena watched as he paused and scratched his chin. Xena hadnít noticed it but his natural father, Autolycus, often did the same thing too when his Ďwheels were turningí. She wondered why she hadnít noticed it before tonight. She didnít have time to dwell on it though. Lye finished his thought. "Momma maybe itís me... but if they didnít leave when they had the chance thatís kinda dumb donít cha think?"

Gabrielle restrained a chuckle and it came out as a croaking noise that made Xena grin. The boy was young but he was also pretty bright. She had to agree with him.

"Yeah," she said rising up and tucking him back in. "It wasnít very smart, was it?" She leaned over and gave him a kiss on top of his nodding head. "Get some sleep, Sport. Itís late. Okay?"

Lye nodded and Gabrielle said her goodnights as well and quietly left the room. Xena reached to take the lantern from his room when he stopped her.

"Momma?" he asked quietly.

"Yes, Lye," she asked with a gentle smile.

"Iím glad youíre here to take care of me and mommy and sissy."

"Thank you, sweetheart. I wouldnít have it any other way," Xena said softly. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight," he called as Xena closed his door.

Xena held back the tears until she saw Gabrielle walk over to her with open arms. Xena cried silently. It had been a tremendously emotional taxing night on many levels Ė be it highs or lows. Having Lye admit that he needed her; still wanted her after the story she told, made her heart melt; her defenses bare. Maybe he didnít understand all of it but he knew Xena had a dark past and he still loved her anyway. That Xena wasnít the one he knew and loved. The only Xena he knew was the person she was today. And that was enough for her.

Gabrielle rocked Xena in her arms and told her everything was fine; everything would continue to be fine.

Xena pulled back and wiped her tears and nose, gaining her self control back somewhat. "Thank you," she whispered sincerely.

"Donít mention it... You do realize though youíll have to tell this story again sometime, perhaps many times to Lye and Myra?"

"Yes, I know. And I accept that fact... Will you be kind enough to help me again?" Xena grinned, the melancholy still on her face.

Gabrielle took Xena by the hand and led her toward their bedroom for the night.

"Like Iíve said for years Xena... Iím with you Ďtil the end." She grinned.

Chapter 13

Paris, France Ė 1957

Janice heard her name being called. It was gentle and soft. She struggled to open her eyes. Everything was white and blurry at first but finally the face above her came into focus.

"Mel?" she asked; unsure of whether to trust her eyes or not.

"Canít leave ya alone for a minute, huh?" Mel smiled, but she looked unsettled. "Always finding trouble, arenít ya?" she added.

"Yeah," Janice agreed starting to sit up and get a better look around at her surroundings. "You know me Ė trouble and I go hand-in-hand... Where am I?"

"At a hospital not far from the museum. You collapsed on the street today and some kind folks called the ambulance. I got a call at the hotel about 15 minutes ago and I raced down here."

"You raced, huh?" Janice asked with a cocky grin. "Thought you wanted to keep things professional, Mel?" she teased. Mel gave a bashful grin, but didnít reply or meet Janiceís eyes. Janice reached out and took the belleís hand in hers. "When we get to the hotel weíll talk things over some more, alright?"

Mel nodded her agreement and offered an apology, which Janice cut off with a raised finger. 

"No, Mel," Janice told her. "We both said things we didnít really mean, so letís just set it aside for now and deal with it once Iím outta here, okay?"

Mel nodded again as the doctor began to come in. "Dr. Covington... How are you feeling?" he asked in his native tongue. Janice replied back in French.

"Just fine," she answered, "What happen to me?"

"It appears that youíve suffered a mild stroke."

"What?!" Janice and Mel both exclaimed.

"Yes, it appears so," the doctor as he took out his thermometer and popped it in Janiceís mouth, leaving her mute. He possessed her arm next and began to wrap the pressure cuff around her for a reading. "According to Miss. Pappasí you smoke too much, you drink too much and you donít eat regularly."

Janice cast a scowl at her partner since words were not an option at this point. The doctor caught Janiceís look and came to Melís defense. "Now donít blame her," he chuckled. "We needed a history on you and she filled out the form. Itís not as if she Ďrattedí you out."

The doctor removed the cuff and he told Janice that things looked good so far. In a day or two she could be released. "But once youíre out," he warned her, "No smoking."

Mel nodded in agreement with a smug grin. She wanted Janice to give up those smelly cigars for years Ė now she had her chance.

"And no drinking," he continued as he stole the thermometer back from Janiceís mouth, making notes.

Mel nodded right along her grin getting larger and larger.

"And make sure you eat properly on a regular basis," he concluded as he went to the door.

Mel couldnít be more happy with the outcome of this incident and she now smiled from ear to ear. All her little pet peeves of Janiceís would have to be dealt with now whether the archeologist liked it or not. Oh yes, Mel was happy... at least until the doctor turned in after thought.

"Oh yes," he said calling over his shoulder. "It probably isnít an issue since youíre unmarried, but no sexual activity either."

The door closed. The doctor was gone. Melís smile fell instantly.

"Thatís it!" Janice said starting to get outta bed. Mel rushed over and tried to stop her. "Move it, Mel! I gotta have a word with this... this... doctor! You know, Iíll start to eat more often. Iíll stop drinking... Hell, Iíll stop smoking! But there is no way on earth Iím going to stop... " Janice didnít say the words, but she exaggerated greatly with her hands as she outlined Mel's body.  The gesture she made wasnít lost on Mel.

Mel tried to gently steer Janice back to the mattress with reassurances. "Please get into bed. You shouldnít be up yet. Iíll go speak with him, alright?"

Janice reluctantly complied, ranting the entire time with comments like ĎWho the hell does he think he is?í and ĎWhere did he get his license to practice medicine? In a Cracker Jack box?í and on and on. She still ranted even as Mel left the room, moving swiftly down the hall to find the doctor. She spotted him and called out making him stop.

"Yes, Miss Pappas?"

"This no smoking, drinking, sex thing... how long is that in effect for?"

"For forever," he answered. "Are you alright?" he added taking Mel by the elbow.

Melís sharp intake of breath as a result of this surprising news made all the heads around them turn in her direction. "Ahh... yes doctor, Iím fine... Just a little surprised that Miss Covington is hereby doomed to a life of celibacy. I find it very hard to believe that her heart isnít good enough for such... activities."

"Itís not the activity of sex as much as the result," he answered.

"You mean she can have sexual relations, but not an orgasm?" Mel asked, making sure to whisper the last word bashfully.

"No... Iím sorry Iím not making myself clear," he said scratching his head.

Mel agreed. "No, I have to admit Iím very confused right now."

"Over here," the doctor said leading her to a near by bench as they took a seat in the waiting area. "Miss Covington shouldnít have a child. Her heart may not be strong enough and given her age itís dangerous any way. Iím afraid the strain of childbirth could kill her."

"But sexual activity will not?" Mel asked just to clarify.

"Right," the doctor agreed. "She shouldnít run the risk of conception Ė conception and labor could be the true problem and why I say she should avoid sexual relations. She should wait at least two weeks before she does anything strenuous though Ė whether sex or walking a few flights of stairs... See that she doesnít overindulge in any thing for a while. With a change in lifestyle and a new diet Miss Covington has the chance to grow to be a very old woman."

Mel brightened considerable. "Thank you doctor," she said shaking his hand. "Thank you very much."

Mel didnít wait for his reply she darted back to her room. She knew she had a ranting lover to control with the good news.

A week later, Janice was sitting in their hotel room, a bunch of scrolls and museum items littering their suite. Since Janice couldnít go to work, Janice had Ďthe workí brought to her.

Mel had just returned from the kitchen area with a cup of coffee for Janice, since scotch was now out of the question. Janice had to admit Mel looked pretty damn radiant today Ė sleeveless blouse and a flowing floor length skirt. She snagged the translator and brought her down to her lap.

"How Ďbout a lil cream Ďn sugar?" Janice whispered, trying to unhook Melís buttons.

Mel put her hand over Janiceís, stopping her explorative efforts. "The only Ďcream n sugarí youíre gettiní Dr. Covington is in that cup of coffee. Doctors orders."

Mel rose and she playfully swatted Janiceís arm. Janice reached out and swatted Melís backside in return making the southerner yelp. Both women grinned devilishly at each other. This was shaping up to be the longest two weeks of Janiceís life.

Ever since the doctor told her she couldnít have Mel, she never wanted her more in her life.

Correction, Janice told herself. You havenít wanted her this much since you became lovers. Looking back now she wondered how she ever survived having Mel that close without... having Mel... That old feeling of Ďlook but donít touchí was in effect again and although she protest it, in some sadistic way, she figured, she enjoyed it. She knew, however, that Mel Pappas wouldnít be getting any rest come the 14th day of her recovery.

"Come on, Mel," Janice whined. "I feel fine. The ole ticker is in great shape. Trust me on this."

"Janice," Mel said sternly. "Iíd rather not take that chance. Besides itís only one more week. Weíve been apart longer than that before... youíll make it."

"Yes, we have been apart longer, but that was different. We were on different continents for cryin' out loud. I didnít see you everyday looking so beautiful and so goddamn sexy. I mean really: Did you have to wear that long skirt? You know that drives me nuts," she answered slinking over to Mel on her hands and knees like a predatory cat.

Janice got one hand on the loveseat that Mel was sitting on before the translator stopped her with a firm hand to the shoulder.

"Iím not trying to tease, Janice. I donít have anything clean besides this skirt. I figured it was better than wearing nothing at all... Besides didnít ya once tell me I could make a gunny sack look sexy?" Mel teased. "Donít blame yer libido on my wardrobe please."

Janice buried her head in Melís lap with a groan. "Oh pretty please Mel... Okay, how about this? You donít have to lay a finger on me. Let me do all the work. I promise I wonít get too excited."

Mel laughed out loud. "Yeah right! I donít believe that for a second. Iím not the same gullible gal ya met 17 years ago, Janice."

Janice smiled and looked into Melís eyes, "No, youíre not the same gal, but Iíll tell ya what, sweetheart."

"Whatís that?"

"I love you more now than I did then. And Iím sure the same time next year, Iíll love you even more although today that seems impossible because I already love you so much."

Mel sighed, "Thatís sweet, Janice."

She stroked the archeologistís face tenderly and Janice pushed herself up softly, delivering a tender kiss to Melís lips. When the translator didnít protest Janice went back for another. Then another. And another.

"Na ah," Mel said pulling away. "I wonít let ya seduce me, Janice Covington. The doctor said no."

Janice plopped herself down next to Mel in defeat on the loveseat. "Alright," Janice agreed. "No means no and I wonít ask again... Itís just that I know how much you like to Ďbreak the rulesí... Remember that afternoon in the lecture hall? You ended up spread eagle on my desk that day."

"Janice," Mel warned in a threatening tone.

"Or how about that beach in Madrid? Great god above, we both ended up with sand in places we never knew we had," Janice laughed.

"Yes I remember, Janice," Mel said irritated, picking up a scroll with the intention to begin work again.

"And that time we were in Asia and we went to that spa. You remember that? Oh sweetheart! That was wild! I figured youíd stop as soon as that other woman walked in and found us. But oh no! You kept right on going."

"I WAS drunk at the time," Mel said pulling her glasses down to scold Janice with her eyes. "And no I DO NOT remember. You, on the other hand, have a perfect memory of my lapse of judgment."

"Lapse of judgment?!" Janice exclaimed. "Sweetheart that was one of the most erotic experiences of my life... You hands all over me... That strangers eyes all over us... "

"Itís comforting to know ya like to think of us as a live sex act!" Mel said tossing the scroll on the table angrily.

"Not at all," Janice corrected. "Itís not the actual act that I find so erotic, Mel. Itís the fact that your desire was so great that nothing would stop you. Neither of us was ashamed of expressing our love that night. Thatís what was so appealing Ė even though someone else was present you couldnít contain your passion for me... and vice versa."

Mel calmed instantly at Janiceís words. And in some respect, she was jealous that Janice had that memory and she didnít. She just remembered waking up the next day in their hotel room, buck naked with a foul taste in her mouth and a pounding headache.

"All the more reason for us to wait another week, Janice." Mel grinned. "I want to spend many, many more years of passion with ya. Iím willing to wait until yer well." Janice started to protest once more. "I know ya think ya feel better Janice but, please sweetheart, I wouldnít be able to enjoy it if I did anything now. Iíd be too worried about you. Okay?"

Janice gave up on her afternoon conquest in light of Melís heartfelt request. It was cute for awhile. A nice little joke of sorts. But Mel was putting her foot down now... without really putting her foot down. And like usual, Janice was helpless but to comply.

"Yeah. Okay," Janice agreed. "but you gotta promise to wear this outfit next Tuesday when Iím off probation. Deal?"

Mel smiled as she picked the scroll back up "Deal!"

Chapter 14

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis, around 500 bc

Lye jumped around outside trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue. Gabrielle watched from inside the cabin as Xena put the finishing touches on his snow fort. She watched as the retired warrior got the young boys attention with the means of a well-directed snowball. Lye didnít stop to turn around to see what happened. Quickly, he bent over making a ball of his own, charging the warrior.

Gabrielle could tell he was laughing as he charged his momma and she had to chuckle along. Lye was very scholarly. He loved books and drawing. A very creative soul like the bard herself but he also was a very rough and tumble lad. He enjoyed to Ďmix it upí as Xena would call it when they wrestled around.

Lye leaped on Xenaís back as she tried to flee in mock terror, yelling and flailing her arms about. Gabrielleís laugh deepened when she watched both of them tumble to the snow. Myra began to get restless in her play area that Xena had made the year of Lyeís birth. When a villagerís child got burned on the fireplace, Xena decided to make a Ďgateí for Lye so he could play if they needed to tend to other matters. She remembered watching Xena sand down the wood to a smooth finish. She was sure that Xena resolved that nothing bad would ever happen to their children. Not even a splinter.

As she watched Lye and Xena playfully arguing upon entering the doorway, Gabrielle could have never hoped for a better Ďhusbandí or Ďfatherí for her children.

"Got you best," Xena taunted the boy.

"Did not!" Lye answered adamantly.

"You wanna go back out there and settle this once and for all?" Xena asked tower over the boy. The words were harsh, but the smile on her face was wide.

"Letís ask mom," he said turning to Gabrielle.

Gabrielle, who finished collecting Myra, looked at the two in the doorway.

"Who got who best, Mom?" he asked with a big grin. He was cocky like Autolycus with Xenaís Ďkiller eyebrowí. He was gonna be a handful when he got older. That was for sure.

"Well," Gabrielle began as she examined the pair. "Since youíre momma looks like she got covered in an avalanche... Iíd have to say you won."

"Yes!!" Lye said triumphantly as Xena argued at the same time.

"I demand another vote!" Xena grumbled. "Myra what do you thing?"

"Na ah," Lye argued. "Babies donít count. You canít ask babies what they think cause they donít talk right, Mom?"

"Heís got ya there," Gabrielle informed Xena.

"Oh brother," Xena said hanging her head in defeat taking off Lyeís boots. "Go get outta those wet clothes before you catch a fever." She grinned.

"Momma?" he asked Xena as she hung onto her shoulders for support as she pulled the shoes from his feet.

"Yes, Lye?"

"How can you catch a fever if youíre cold to begin with? I mean wouldnít you be more cold and not hot?"

"I donít know, Lye," Xena answered honestly.

"But when you catch a fever you get hot, not cold. So you really should leave your clothes on so you donít get hot?"

"Lye," Xena sighed frustrated. "Go get changed."

Lye realized this was the end of the debate and he scurried to his room.

"Our little Plato," Xena said shaking her head as Gabrielle chuckled.

"Heís at that age," the bard told her partner.

"Yes, but everything?" Xena asked. "How does this work? Who is that person? Why did this happen? Everything Gabrielle Ė absolutely everything is a question," she whispered.

"He wants to know how the world works. Heís gotta wonderful teacher in you," the bard complimented.

"Thatís debatable," Xena sighed, stripping down to her long johns.

"What makes you say that?" the bard asked concerned.

"See? Another question," Xena teased. "Now I know where he gets it from."

"And now I know where he gets his evasiveness from," Gabrielle countered.

Xena smiled and nodded. "Point one to Gabrielle."

Gabrielle led Xena to the fire as she cradled Myra. Once seated, Gabrielle handed the baby to the warrior. "Iíll get you some warm clothes," she said, going to their bedroom. Once back, Gabrielle took the baby so Xena could dress.

"You never answered my question," she continued. "Why are your parenting skills debatable?"

"So now parenting is a skill?" Xena joked.

"Oh yes." Gabrielle grinned. "And you have many skĖ."

"You donít have to say it," Xena said with a kiss cutting her short. Xena paused a moment and wondered aloud. "Iím just worried that I wonít always be there and that my past will catch up with HIM... I donít know Gabrielle. I just wonder sometimes if Iím cut out for this... family life."

"You canít be serious. Youíre knee deep in family life, Xena... Are you... restless? Do you want to leave?"

The bard wasnít even sure if she was truly asking these questions. It scared her but what scared her more is that Xena wasnít answering. "Xena?" the concern was evident in her voice.

"Oh no!" Xena quickly came back from her thoughts. "I donít want to leave. I just think that sometimes... Iím not the best parent I can be."

"You know what I was thinking just before you came in?"

"What?"

"I was thinking about how lucky I am to have you. Not just you Ė but that you were the best choice I could have made as my life partner. Youíre a wonderful wife and mother. Iím very lucky and blessed to have you... And so is Lye and Myra."

Almost on cue, Lye came running out of his bedroom and into Xenaís arms.

"Is it cocoa time, momma?" he asked snuggling tighter into her embrace.

Xena looked at the boy. Then her daughter. And then the bard. She was taking in the Ďfamilyí she wasnít sure she could lead, but realized they were all doing just fine. Gabrielle smiled as Xena offered her a wink of acceptance.

"Sounds like a plan, Sport! You get the chocolate. Iíll get the goats milk."

"Gabrielle?" Xena asked starting to turn.

"Yes, one for me too of course."

As Xena went back to her task she smiled. Yes. She and the bard knew each other well. And although it wasnít always perfect, and at times there would be doubts, life was good.

Chapter 15

Delittee Adoption Agency, Paris, France Ė 1957

Mel sat nervously in the small office. Her white gloved hands strumming on the chair arms.

"Please relax, sweetheart," Janice whispered. Although anxious herself, and wonder just where in the hell that agency woman was at, Janice tried to calm her lover.

Suddenly, the door opened and a petite woman walked inside. "Iím sorry Iím late," she apologized. "We have an adoption today and I was making last minute plans."

"Thatís fine," Mel said friendly. "Weíre in no hurry."

The woman smiled warmly before opening a file and reading through it.

"It says here that you are interested in adopting Monique, correct?"

"Yes, maíam," the southerner nodded.

"She is a special needs child, meaning that she has no hearing."

"I understand," Mel nodded.

"Sheís also spent two weeks with another family," the director informed her.

"I understand that as well," Mel nodded once more.

The woman went back looking into the file.

"I must admit it seems highly unorthodox to give a child to an unmarried woman. Especially a child which, to be honest, will be quite expensive to maintain."

Mel froze and Janice caught it.

"Mel hand me your pocketbook," Janice ordered warmly.

Mel did as she was asked and Janice took out Melís checkbook and opened the ledger. She leaned over and showed the directory the figure inside.

"Thatís American dollars." She smiled. "Feel free to contact Miss Pappas bank to confirm if you like."

The director's eyes widened and she shook off her disbelief. 

"Well, weíd have to confirm this information, of course, but it looks like you have the means to supply the child."

"Good, then where does she sign?" Janice pushed.

"Itís not that easy Miss... " The director let the sentence hang.

"Miss Covington," Janice told her.

"Well, Miss Covington," the director began again, "We like to have some idea or reason behind Miss Pappas motives of adoption."

"I want to have a child," Mel announced. "And I realize Iím not getting any younger. I feel like I need something here. Someone that I can love and teach things to. Someone that will be here long after Iím gone."

"Thatís all well and good Miss Pappas. But you are not a young woman. Youíre approaching middle age."

"All the more reason for her to adopt," Janice butted in.

The director looked annoyed. Mel felt grateful.

"In what way?" the director asked Janice.

"Sheís reached a point in her life where having a baby could be dangerous. Not only to the child, but herself as well. Miss Pappas has been single for many years... Most men regard her intellect and beauty with fear. Hence, sheís unmarried.

She may be too old to have a child now, but not to old to care for one. If God above sees fit to keep Melinda here until her life expectancy, the child will be an adult by the time Melindaís life ends. Itís the perfect time for Miss Pappas to care for a child," Janice concluded.

"Alright," the director reluctantly agreed. "I can see your point. But keep in mind that this child will require special schooling-."

"Miss Pappas father was the Dean of South Caroline University. She has many friends on the faculty, myself included, that could help put her in touch with people who would find the right program for Monique."

The directory made a note on the paper. "You do realize, however, all the paperwork that would be involved as far as citizenship and the like. It could be a very long time before-

"Like she said, weíve got time. If you start the paperwork today, Iím sure it would be done before my partner and I finish up our research here and head back to the states."

The director smiled at Janice. 

"Youíve thought of everything, havenít you?" she asked the pair.

Janice gave a cocky grin in return.

"There isnít one single reason that Miss Pappas shouldnít be allowed to adopt this child," Janice began, "Sheís a very caring, loving individual. Iíve worked with Miss Pappas for over 17 years now. Sheís my best friend in the world and sheíd make a wonderful mother. Monique needs a mother. And Mel needs a child. Looks like a perfect match to me... The alternative is to turn Mel away. But what youíll have is a child that canít get adopted because sheís Ďused goodsí and a woman whoíd spend her life wonder Ďwhat ifí... So, Iíll ask again... Where does she sign?"

Mel didnít know if Janiceís speech would work, but she knew one thing for sure. She never loved Janice more than at this moment. Quietly, and with a growing grin, the director reached into her desk and pulled out a form.

"If you would put your signature here on the Ďxí Miss Pappas," she said handing Mel the document and a pen.

Mel didnít move at first. She looked over to Janice who nodded toward the director. Mel seemed startled, disbelieving that IT was actually happening. It was the worst signature of her life, but she couldnít control her shaking hands.

"I have all the information on the forms but if I need you I can contact you at the hotel correct?"

"Yes maíam." Mel nodded.

The director began to stand up and Janice followed her lead. Mel, however, had to be lead up by Janice by the elbow. When the director reached for Melís hand, the translator took it and shook it almost violently. The director had to smile. Janice could see that the director was comfortable with the pairing of Monique and Mel already.

"Thank you very much," Janice said extending her hand, so Mel would free her grip on the director. The director took Janiceís hand and noticed the strength of the shake, the almost Ďmanlyí nature of it. Janice saw a flash of recognition in the directorís eyes as if she knew the true nature of Jan and Melís relationship.

"Iíll be contacting you... both," she added with a wink. "Give me about two days to get things going, okay?"

"Thank you again," Janice added with a nod of agreement.

"My pleasure." She smiled again.

Janice had to lead Mel out of the room. The southerner still didnít quite have her barring on the situation yet. They closed the door behind them and proceeded down the empty corridor. From what seemed like out of nowhere, Mel started to cry. Janice took her in her arms and tried to calm her sobs.

"Shhh," Janice coaxed. "Itís okay, Mel. Everythingís fine... Why are you crying, sweetheart?"

"Because I love ya so much... Ya did just what ya said ya would do. Ya went in there and got us a child. I froze, Janice. I didnít know what to do, but ya stepped up and-."

She didnít finish. She pulled Janice into a searing kiss before pulling back, tears staining her face.

"Boy, if thatís the kind of reception I get in public for one kid, letís have lots and lots more," Janice teased as she wiped Melís face with the back of her fingers, pushing the tear tracks away.

Mel darted away and gave a quick look around to see if they had been noticed. Janice chuckled. It had been years since they had let their guard down like that in public and Melís reaction humor her.

"Donít worry, sweetheart," Janice reassured as she started to walk again. "Nobody saw us... But I do want you to remember that Iím officially off probation today."

Although she couldnít see it, she knew her lover, who was swaying in front of her, was grinning from ear to ear. Mel didnít add anything else she just watched Janice with dogged determination as she planned her Ďattackí for when they got home.

They arrived at the hotel and Janice paid the driver. Once up to their suite, Janice walked ahead and unlocked the door. She barely had time to pull the key out when Melís lips where claiming hers.

Janiceís back crashed into the small foyer wall but their lips never broke contact. Mel pulled back for an instant to kick the door shut with her foot. Next, she pulled Janiceís leather jacket down to her elbows, effectively wrapping the archeologist up, making escape an impossibility as she reclaimed Janiceís lips.

Janice loved this side of Mel. The one that had the southerner belle losing her inhibitions and Ďgood gracesí she was taught all through her life. Southern refinement flew out the window at these moments. Janice knew.... she was going to be taken.

Mel gave up those beautiful lips and started to work on Janiceís ear, nibbling on the lobe.

"Iím gonna show ya just how grateful I am for what yaíve done today," Melís whispered breath tickling the archeologistís wet ear. "Iím gonna prove to ya how much I love ya. Iím gonna worship every inch of that strong, firm body of yours, Janice Covington."

Janiceís voice caught between a sigh and a moan at Melís words. Suddenly the belle jumped back; her loving hands shooting away from Janiceís body as if it were on fire.

"Are ya all right?!" Mel exclaimed.

"Iím... fine," Janice replied trying to get an understanding of what was transpiring. "Iím better than fine actually," she said feeling herself smirk; her eyebrow mischievous going into her bangs. She pulled Mel back to her with a firm grip on the translatorís hips.

She could tell, however, that Mel wasnít quite as amorous as she was moments before.

"What is it, Mel?" she whispered.

"Iím worried," Mel mumbled before slipping away, traveling into the living area.

"Worried?!" Janice exclaimed as she followed her. What did Mel have to worry about? They had a new shipment of finds coming this week. The adoption agency was starting on Moniqueís paper work. Life couldnít be better. Mel had everything she wanted and if she didnít have it right now Ė the reality of it was not that far away.

"About you," Mel said moving to the sofa. Janice promptly took a seat next to her.

"Look if itís about the adoption Ė."

"No," Mel cut her off. "Itís not that. I know if ya didnít feel ready for this ya wouldnít have made the case ya did today on my behalf."

Janice was dumbfounded and the look on her face showed it. The look didnít happen often, Mel noted. Janice was often quite sure of herself and her surroundings so when these rare occasions did occur Mel couldnít help but smile. It made her superhero Janice seem all the more human. This time was no different and Janiceís look of confusion grew larger to see the Ďworriedí belle grinning at her.

"You have to help me out here Mel-."

"Itís you," Mel said affectionately as she stroked Janiceís face. "What will happen if you... get too... excited?" Mel asked struggling with the words of how to delicately express herself.

"Welllllll," Janice smiled wiggling her eyebrows. "I might have an orgasm."

Mel chuckled. "No silly Ė thatís not what I meant."

"Well, what do you mean? Are you talking about my ticker?" Janice grinned as she lightly tapped her chest.

Mel lost her smiled and she nodded weakly. "Janice, Iíd never be able to live with myself if anything happened to you, especially if we were... well... you know... ".

Janice realized in an instant what happened. The sound she made earlier was one of deep desire, but it could also be mistaken for one of pain. Come to think of it, it is a pain, Janice thought. Well maybe not a pain perhaps Ė just a strong, throbbing ache that is nowhere near my heart.

Janice put her hands over Melís, which were collected in the translators lap.

"Mel, listen to me," Janice began. "I feel fine and I believe God takes us when he wants us... so it doesnít matter if Iím watching Jackie Gleason, teaching classes or making love to you... When itís my time to go... itís my time to go... But if you ask me how I feel right now I must confess my heart is racing... Not because itís Ďbrokení... Itís because Iím so crazy in love with you. You can be moody, overprotective and down right unreasonable... but know this... I always have faith in Ďusí and for every characteristic you have that infuriates me at times, you have ten more that I love. I love you Mel and I just want to show you how much."

Mel rose up long enough to hike up her skirt and straddle Janice. "Are you sure?" Mel whispered cupping Janice face in her hands.

"Iím positive," Janice replied as her hands crept under the cotton material of Melís skirt, moving high and higher with slow grace until finding their mark at the apex of Melís legs. "Seems like Iím not the only one Ďcrazy in loveí," Janice teased upon finding the wetness gathered there.

"No," Mel whispered sincerely, "Youíre not."

Janice took one hand away while keep the other firm in place. She capture Melís back with her palm and forearm bringing her closer. She leaned in and inhaled the sweet smell of her loverís flowery perfume. Next she placed the most delicate of kisses between Melís cleavage. Kisses that began to multiply and wander over to her breasts Ė first one and then the other as her fingers below began to set a steady pace.

Mel rocked above Janice; her eyes closed lightly. She reached down and played delicately with the archeologist nipples before adding more force behind her caresses. Janice felt like she herself just might explode as Mel snaked her tongue out to moisten her drying lips Ė lips that were becoming dry thanks to the small sighs and moans that were escaping the translators lips.

Their pace was slow and leisurely Ė more an expression of affection than a moment of passion. Melís moans became deeper; her sighs coming now as grunts. When Mel broke into light sweat and a stream of ĎOh Janísí, Janice was done for. The constant stimulation to her breasts and Melís words did her in. Janice loved seeing Mel so engrossed that she couldnít finish her name. It was only in bed when Mel called her Jan and the archeologist knew that, if anything did tear them apart, no one would ever be able to use that Ďnicknameí in her presence. That belonged to Mel and Mel alone. Janice knew that not only her name belonged to Mel but even herself as well and with that thought, she began to tumble over the pinnacle.

It was difficult but Janice said nothing Ė she gave no expression of ecstasy, for fear of frightening Mel again. Janice knew her lover was close to release and she didnít want anything to startle her from her relaxed yet wanton state.

"Oh God, Jan!" Mel exclaimed as her head fell backwards, her dark hair cascading down past the middle of her back. Melís hands released Janice and took up residence on the back of the sofa Ė her nails digging into the upholstery. Janice could feel Melís lips quivering, both sets of lips, as she reached in for a kiss.

Breathing hard and spent, Mel settled her forehead on Janiceís shoulder, kissing an exposed part of the archeologist neck.

"See?" Janice began as she stroked Melís back tenderly and supportively. "Iím still here."

"Yeah," Mel agreed, "But you didnít... you know... "

"Explode?" Janice laughed.

Mel giggled and blushed red. "Yeah."

"Sure, I did," Janice smirked. "I just kept things... quiet this time... I wanted to prove itís okay to love me and I didnít want to upset you again with... how should I say this... suggestive noises?"

Mel snuggled back into Janiceís shoulder and scooted next to her so both of her long legs covered Janiceís lap. 

"You know you really are a sweetheart to put me first like that... to put me at ease."

"Yeah," Janice joked, falling into her cranky faÁade. "Well... Donít let it get around. I have a reputation to protect, ya know?"

"Janice Covington," Mel announced, before kissing her lover on the lips. "Yer secret is safe with me."

Chapter 16

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis around 500 bc

Cyrene raised an eyebrow as she watched Gabrielle searching through Xenaís old bedroom. The bard turned and caught the expression. Like mother, like daughter, she thought as she watched the facial gesture.

"I donít mean to be nosy but... what in Tartarus are you doing, dear?" Cyrene asked stepping into the room.

"Iím looking for a scroll. One I wrote about Xena," she informed her.

"Well, that narrows it down," Cyrene teased. "Perhaps you could be more specific."

Gabrielle smiled. "Ha. Ha. Very funny... Very true. I will agree most of my work is about Xena." Gabrielle paused and watched the eyebrow expression return again to Cyreneís face. "Alright ALL of my work is about Xena," the bard smiled.

Gabrielle looked under the bed and she found a box of scrolls. She placed the box on top of the feather mattress and she began to search through them. "Itís one I wrote not long after Lye was born... I thought it was at home, but I canít find it... and I know we didnít take it on the trip to Egypt so it must be somewhere."

Cyrene took a spot on the bed and began to open one, "Whatís the scroll about, sweetie?"

"Xena being a parent... After the other night here at the tavern, sheís been having doubts... " Cyrene looked concerned, but Gabrielle smiled and patted her hand. "Itís okay... She and I talked about it. I just wanted to show her how I view her as a mother. Something to reinforce the points I made to her... but I canít find the scroll anywhere."

Cyrene began to read the one in her hand. Soon, Gabrielle heard the surprised sigh Cyrene made and she looked at the older woman who was blushing deeply. "Thatís not it," Cyrene said causally catching Gabrielleís eye and quickly rewrapping it. "but it certainly is... colorful. Thatís for sure."

It was obvious to the bard that Cyrene had stumbled across a more Ďdescriptiveí scroll that dealt with her expressing her love for Xena.

"I should warn you-."

"Too late. This is far too much information for a mother to read," Cyrene chuckled.

Now the bard blushed and rubbed the back of her neck in discomfort.

"Iím sorry," Gabrielle apologized.

"Thatís okay." Cyrene smiled. "Itís obvious my daughter is loved very much... very, very much," she joked.

Gabrielle prayed she didnít turn even redder at the comments.

 "Perhaps I should... "

"Do this yourself?" Cyrene offered. Gabrielle nodded meekly with a grin. "Not a problem." Cyrene smiled. She rose and walked back to the doorway. "By the way, Xenaís looking for you downstairs. Should I send her up or tell her youíll be down?"

"You can send her up." Gabrielle smiled. "And again, Iím sorry about... "

"Donít be sorry." Cyrene grinned warmly. "That scroll isnít anything I didnít already know," she jabbed once more before pausing in thought. "Iím very fortunate to see my daughter happy. Something I never thought Iíd see. Xena actual smiles now and I know that youíre the one that put that smile there, sweetie... Iíll send her up."

"Thank you, Cyrene," Gabrielle replied.

Cyreneís response was a kiss blown through the air. Gabrielle went back to digging through her box. Moments later Xena was standing in the doorway Ė Myra in her arms, Lye wrapped around her leg. Oh yeah, Xena was knee deep in family all right Ė literally in fact.

"Hey, Gorgeous." Xena smirked. "The tavern lady downstairs told me I could find a beautiful strawberry blonde up here... Minimal rates too," she added slyly in a low, quiet voice.

Gabrielle walked over and pulled Xenaís head down to whisper in her ear, "Minimal rates, huh? Youíre so beautiful I just might do ya for free."

"Be careful," Xena replied in a teasing warning. "Donít want to get me too shaken. I might drop this little bundle in my arms."

"Well then," Gabrielle said outstretching her arms. "Perhaps I should take over then."

Xena handed their daughter over and scooped up Lye. "Whatícha doin' up here?" Xena asked.

"Looking for a scroll actually. One I wrote about parenthood."

"Parenthood?" Xena asked. "Why? Are you still worried about my brief lapse of confidence?"

Gabrielle grinned. "Not worried... Just wanting to plant more facts behind my point is all."

"Oh yes!" Xena teased. "My plotting and charting and analytical bard... Wouldnít have ya any other way ya know?"

"Good answer," Gabrielle replied in a mock threat. "You better keep yourself in line."

"Yes maíam," Xena said with a small bow. "I know my place... Right under that thumb of yours."

Gabrielle tossed a pillow hitting her target as both of them chuckled. Even Lye laughed. Of course, he didnít understand what the dialog meant but having Mommy hit him with the pillow was pretty fun.

"Being under my thumb isnít always such a bad place to be if I remember correctly," Gabrielle replied in a seductive grin.

Their son rested his head on Xenaís shoulder so Xena placed her hands over Lyeís other ear and whispered with a smile, "Please! There are children present!"

She tried to say the line with dead seriousness but she knew Gabrielle would never fall for it anyway. The bard knew her too well.

"Well maybe we should go home and put the kids to bed?" Gabrielle offered.

"Donít you want to look for your scroll?" Xena answered.

"Nah. Itís okay," Gabrielle said as she placed Myra on the bed to stuff the scrolls back under it. "Besides you know how I feel about it all."

"Such as?" Xena offered as Gabrielle collected Myra in her arms.

"Such as, all women should be as lucky to have a mate like you... Of course they canít have YOU. YOU belong to ME... Ya got that warrior?"

"Oh yes bard," Xena said wrapping her arm around Gabrielleís waist and leading her out the door. "But possessions goes both ways ya know?" Xena added as her hand cupped her bondmateís bottom.

"Oooh," Gabrielle sighed. "It sure does."

"We GOTTA get these kids to bed as soon as we get home," Xena said in impatience. Gabrielle simply laughed.

Chapter 17

Mel sat on the sofa sipping her coffee organizing a pile of scrolls. There were lots of them but so far nothing with writing on them. Janice and Mel lost hope with each new day that passed. Not that it wasnít a Ďfindí. The institute would have a wonderful display to put forth, one piece in particular Ė it was a chest or strong box lined with rubies. It would make a wonderful edition to their ancient times exhibit, but as for being Xena related, it was useless.

Mel had two more scrolls from this find to observe. She didnít take her time in opening it. Quickly she unwrapped it, taking little care in its preservation. She flung it open so the parchment rolled toward the floor, snapping sharply but not breaking as it unfolded.

When Mel noticed the handwriting on it she stopped its dramatic swinging motion by grabbing the bottom of it. The first word Mel read made her take a sharp intake of breath - so sharp in fact that Janice looked up from across the room.

"What is it?" Janice asked.

Mel simple uttered the first word on the page.

"Xena."

That got Janiceís attention. She scurried to her feet. A box full of ancient dinning wear she had been searching through was quickly forgotten.

"You found a scroll?!" Janice asked on the short trip over.

Mel just nodded and her lips moved silently as she read it.

"Mel?!" Janice said trying to get the belle to look at her. "What have you got?"

Mel put the parchment down to look at her partner. "I havenít found anything in all this mess until now... See?" the translator offered by turning the scroll around.

Sure enough, the first word was Xena. "Did Gabrielle write it?"

"I donít know." Mel smirked, trying not to let Janiceís nosiness aggravate her. "You wonít let me read it," she added.

It was the southerner's gentle way of putting her foot down and saying Ďleave me alone so I can workí Ė a way of being firm yet gentle at the same time. Janice respected the soft-spoken authority that belonged to her partner. She even perhaps envied it on some level. Janiceís character as a hot head was known on all four points of the world.

Without any more discussion, Janice unrolled the last scroll. It had writing as well. Mel tried to look at it over Janiceís shoulder to see what was written but the archeologist pulled away, hiding the parchment from her lover.

"Nah uhh," Janice tisked. "This oneís mine. That oneís yours." She grinned.

Mel sighed in frustration but she had to smile as well. Turnabout was fair play.

"Okay then Miss Covington, Iíll make a deal," she countered with a seductive tone rising to her voice.

"Whatís that?" Janice replied, as she felt the hairs on the make of her neck rise up to scratch her collar.

"Iíll show you mine if you show me yours."

Janice smiled. She was grateful that after all these years Mel still liked to play, tease and eventually please her.

"Weíre still talking about the scrolls, right?" Janice smiled.

"Why of course my dear doctor? What did you think?"

Oh yeah. Mel still had it.

"The scrolls... of course," Janice said handing her parchment over to Mel without further argument. The belle never being one to gloat, just smiled in victory.

She held the parchment so she and Janice could both see it and read at their own pace. Over the years Janiceís pace picked up considerably thanks to all of Melís late night sessions but Mel was still the stronger of the two Ė especially with syntax. It was obvious to the translator that this scroll was not written my Gabrielle. Not only was the bard's name mentioned in it, which was very rare, but the handwriting was different. With that in mind Mel dug into the text and the two women began to read.

"Iím not sure why Iím doing this. Legacy. Thatís what Gabrielle called it when we were in Egypt a few weeks ago when she did the same thing. I called her crazy but as I sit here tonight missing my son, Lyceus, it just seems like the thing to do. Iíd tell Gabrielle about this but Iím sure sheíd never let me live it down. Not that Iím complaining. Itís one of the things I love most about her Ė she never lets me off the hook easy. She challenges the choices I make. Perhaps if I had met her earlier in my life, things would have been much different. But we canít change the past can we?

As I said, I have a son. Iíve had two sons actually, but Solan is gone. He would have been 16 this year Ė a man practically... "

The words stopped Janice and Mel in their tracks and they exchanged a look of disbelief. Both of them started to calculate what they knew about the warrior. When she was a warlord. When she met Gabrielle. When the first child was born... well at least what they THOUGHT was the first child. Their curiosity of the remaining letter however pulled them back in. They could calculate later.

"Gabrielle has been trying to have our second child together with my brother but so far itís been unsuccessful. She takes things so hard. She thinks that itís her fault but perhaps her prior experience with motherhood has damaged her in someway. It wouldnít surprise me. Perhaps Dahakís gift to her Ė leave her sterile so Hope would be her one and only. So not only has the past left us with many painful memories but also doubts in our future."

Mel pulled the parchment away and the two womenís eyes met.

"Hold on," Mel sighed. "Did I just read what I thought I read?"

"You mean that BOTH Xena and Gabrielle have had children and nothing was ever written about either one?"

"Yeah," Mel nodded, looking off across the room.

"What is it?" Janice asked.

Mel got pulled back from her thoughts by Janiceís voice. "Nothing... just thinking."

"About... ?"

Mel settled back, trying to find a starting place. "Both of them have had children right?"

Janice nodded.

"Nothing has ever been spoken about either correct?"

Janice nodded again.

"From what weíve found an entire year is missing from their lives."

"But that doesnít mean it isnít out there somewhere," Janice replied.

Mel shrugged and went back to the scroll, "Guess youíre right."

"No. Wait," Janice said placing her hand on Melís forearm. "Whatís your point?"

"Maybe the two are intertwined."

It was obvious Janice didnít see where Mel was coming from so she continued. "I mean maybe Gabrielle had something to do with Solanís death and maybe the pregnancy had something to do with that."

"What makes you say that?" Janice asked.

Mel reflected a bit before continuing. "Perhaps, Xena had to make a choice of some kind... Think about it. Gabrielle was a very loving person Ė she would have mentioned the child, BOTH of the children. Something prevented it though."

"Maybe it was just too painful to write about Ė losing a child can be devastating. Especially to someone loving like Gabrielle."

"Iíd agree but itís the fact that a year Ė AN ENTIRE YEAR - is missing from their lives. And look at Xenaís words about the child Gabrielle had... What was her name?... Hope... See how she talks about Hope and pain and... " Mel didnít go on. Her mind was active again.

"So you think that somehow this child Solan died as a result of... of what?"

"I donít know," Mel shrugged. "And from the looks of what weíve found so far we might not ever know."

"Nah," Janice said rising up and starting to pace. "Gabrielle would have wrote about it. She worked everything out on paper Ė EVERYTHING. She would have written something."

"Perhaps she did," Mel offered. "But perhaps she destroyed it herself. We might not ever know."

Janice knew that was true. If only Xena could come back into Melís body for a few minutes she could ask the warrior herself. Perhaps they never would know. But they did have more left to read and with that thought, Janice took her seat next to Mel again and they proceeded on with their reading.

"Anyway, itís in the past. And as I said we canít change the past. Our future however does look bright. And Gabrielle is a wonderful mother to Lye. He adores her to death and she does have a habit of overindulging him from time to time. My mother tells me not to worry. With Gabrielleís carefree attitude on most things and my demand for discipline we even each other out and weíre on the path to having a well rounded child.

Iím firm with him but thatís because I love him. He has to know there are limits. I never had that. And there are many parts of myself that I donít want him to follow. I also know he has the capacity for it.

My only hope is he gets Autolycusí temperament and my physical skills to aid him if trouble does arise in his life as far as whatís in his blood. Gabrielle will teach him to see the beauty in things and the need to preserve it, not destroy it. Thatís something thatís taken me years to understand. But if Gabrielle can teach me Iím sure Lye will be no problem.

The scroll Iíve enclosed here is Gabrielleís. As I said she doesnít know Iím doing this. Sheís sound asleep in our bed here in Gaul. The King sent word to us for help on our way back from Egypt. Gabrielle, like always, convinced me to lead a hand. Itís only a few extra days travel if we pushed she said. So here I sit. The woman can talk me into anything.

But, tomorrow, we leave and I canít wait to see Lye. I guess I just wanted to leave this scroll because, although Gabrielle has a biased opinion, it shows more than the daring stuff I do which she often embellishes upon. She calls it poetic license or something like that. I guess Iíd like people to know that the warrior princess was just a human... not the hero Gabrielle so often pumps me up to be. Truth be known I like the hero status but the only one whose opinion matters to me is Gabrielleís Ė she is my light. She is my source. Without her, there would be no hero."

Mel and Janice exchanged a brief look and dived into Gabrielleís scroll. To say that Xena peaked their interest with her introduction was an understatement. Two sets of eyes zeroed in on the new parchment now before them.

"Xena... My bondmate. My lover. Lyeís mother. Amphipolisí mayor... Xena has many roles now. All of them are important to me. This scroll however is about her challenges with motherhood.

Xena has many skills Ė parenting wasnít always one of them... until now. Our son is still quite young but I see each day how she learns more and more about being a mother. Watching the former Destroyer of Nations change a diaper for the first time was a rare treat. Hereís a woman who could make parchment fly yet couldnít make heads or tails of a white piece of cloth to put on her sonís bare bottom. I tired not to laugh. Honest I did. I just couldnít help myself. And by the end she and I were both laughing.

She was so nervous about motherhood at the beginning. Her past, not so much the future, was her main concern. She didnít want Lye hurt by all the pain she had caused years before. Itís understandable. Xena was not a good person but she learned about love. She realized she had the best opportunity now by having a child and teaching him all the things she didnít understand until later in life. She also has a playmate to pal around with too. A nice cover for her to have a Ďsecond childhoodí.

Lyeís toys are made from the best-sanded down wood. His clothes are made from the heaviest cotton for winter. His summer clothes are comfortable so he doesnít rash. Xena has taken every step to insure that our son is health and happy but even though she takes great care bad things still happen.

Last winter was tough. Lye, then two winters old, came down with a fever. Many people in the village had it and many people died. Xena sat with him 20 hours a day for over a week Ė only sleeping when I forced her too, only eating when I brought her something. When she wasnít watching over his bed she was mixing and matching healing herbs, looking for something Ė ANYTHING Ė that would take away the illness.

Autolycus had come to visit that week and I couldnít help but feel a pang of jealous as I saw the two of them watching Lye sleep. I knew Lye was my son but there was no denying Autolycusí presence in the child as well as the fact that Lye would never be of my blood.

As I watched them I wondered if Xena had made the right choice. Was she better off with Autolycus? Did she need a husband instead of a bondmate? Would Lye be better off if he had his mother AND his father in his life? Looking back I know it was from lack of sleep and health that made me cast doubt on whether she and I had made the right choice.

Auto didnít want to put us out so he stayed at motherís inn. After he left for the evening, Xena and I fought bitterly. I was determined to leave. She was determined I stay. I thought Lye needed something that I couldnít give him. She felt I could be the best influence on his life. I felt like an outsider that night and I took all my rage and insecurity out on Xena. She took my rage and insecurity and turned it into passion and hope.

After I realized how ridiculous the arguments had been (and she put my mind at ease) we ended up in bed making love. Hardly no sleep. Hardly no nourishment. And the woman still had stamina. But it wasnít just her stamina that surprised me that night, it was her love. Her love to see that Lye was brought up the best way possible. Her love to see that I understood her and stayed with her.

The next morning we woke up late. Lye climbed into bed with the two of us. Xena felt him and knew his temperature had dropped. And he smiled again. I donít think Iíve seen Xena return a smile as big as she did that morning. And thatís what I remember most.

All the thanks, all the praise, all the tokens of esteem Xena received over the years while being Ďthe warrior princessí, didnít mean as much as this young boys smile. It was the greatest gift she ever got. She loves our son... and me... and sheís the right choice... the only choice... for me.

Things will be hard at times, Iíve learned. But Lye has a head start on the other village children. Not because heís the son of ĎThe Warrior Princessí. Because heís the son of Xena, devoted mother."

Janice and Mel sat silent for a few moments. Mel started to sip her coffee again as Janice rewrapped the scroll.

"Even Xena had doubts about being a mother," Mel finally spoke. "And Gabrielle had doubts of her own as well... Does it make you feel any better to know youíre not alone? Insecurity goes back a long way," Mel added with a grin.

Janice smiled as well but didnít look at her partner. She opted to play with the ends of the paper instead.

"Yeah," Janice answered. "I guess it does... Things will work out, right?"

"Yes, Janice," Mel replied. "Things wonít be easy like Gabrielle wrote... but they will Ďwork outí just fine."

Epilogue

As a Ďbonus paymentí for working on the artifact research, the French institute Ďgaveí Janice and Mel the latest scrolls so they could do more analysis on them Ė returning them at their leisure. However, that wasnít the only thing they left France with. A beautiful 14-week-old baby girl was also in their Ďpossessioní.

Mel knew after the first few days just where Gabrielle was coming from in her remarks about Xenaís parenting style. Janice was always a stickler for details. Soon she found out that her loverís parenting skills fell under the same scrutiny. Did she wrap the diaper tight enough? Yet not too tight? Did she burp her enough after feeding? Did she make sure Moniqueís cap was secure before they went outside? It would have been enough to drive anyone else nuts but Mel knew it was just Janice being... Janice.

In fact, she loved knowing that Janice had an interest in the baby. She even overheard Janice doing Ďbaby talkí to Monique one evening although Janice swore up and down it was Melís Ďimaginationí. Imagination or not, it looked like Janice and Monique were well on their way to bonding. And Mel was delighted to say the least.

Mel snuggled into the airliner seat with Monique cuddled up in her arms. Janice sat to the left of her, making sure the diaper bag had all the necessities for the long trip home. Mel couldnít help but smile. Janice caught the smile.

"What?!" Janice asked in her temperamental tone. "Iím making sure we got everything. I never thought someone so little could need so much stuff. Hell, Iím a grown woman and I donít require this much."

Mel chuckled at Janiceís attempt of brash complaints as a mask for her caring nature. She simply leaned over to Janiceís ear and whispered.

"I love you, Janice," she sighed affectionately, letting Janice know she hadnít been fooled.

Janice looked at her partner and their daughter. The fact that Monique was Ďtheir daughterí finally hit home for the first time. ĎScatter to the Windsí Janice Covington now had a family and she wondered at what point she had become her father. With that realization she notice something else. She felt like her FATHER Ė not her mother, who ducked out years before. Yeah... she was in this one for the duration.

"I love you too, Mel," Janice replied feeling the plane start itís taxi. She leaned over and kissed Monique on the crown and settled back into her seat eyes closed.

Yes, it may not always be easy but one way or another it would Ďwork outí.

The End

 

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