Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and others resembling those from the
TV show, belong to Studio USA and Renaissance Pictures. No infringement on their rights is
intended. All other characters are of my own creation and belong to me.
Subtext Disclaimer: This story refers to a loving relationship between two consenting adults, who happen to be of the same sex. If this offends you, or you are under 18 years of age, or you reside in an area where this type of material is illegal, read no more. There is plenty of general fanfic out there for you. Go find it.
Shock Factor: 2. Plan D #28.
Ann, thanks for all the help.
Please send any comments to email@example.com
Enjoy, I hope.
CHOICES AND CHANGES
Written by FlyBigD
Two blue orbs, surrounded by an intricate network of fine red lines, stared at a sheet of paper. On that paper was a detailed list of things to accomplish accompanied by notes on how to get those things done and a prospective date they should be completed. The piece of paper also contained check marks beside the things that had been completed, to separate them from the things yet undone, so no confusion would occur, which was a good idea, since the lists owner was having problems focusing at the moment. Tired, but determined, the owner reviewed the list again to make sure that nothing further could be accomplished before she passed out from exhaustion. Finding no such tasks that could be done from the confines of the desk alone, Xena laid her head on it and gave her tired baby blues a much needed rest for the amount of time it took her to sigh heavily, then her head came back up and she looked at the list again.
Thus far all the things that had to be done were done. Doctors appointments had been scheduled to coincide with Gabrielles advancing pregnancy, some of which had already been attended. The cravings problem had been curbed by the purchase of a large freezer that now resided in the garage for easy access in the middle of the night. All members of both their families had been informed of the pregnancy and the ensuing fall out had been dealt with as well as possible, including Joyces wake up call. Friends and co-workers had been informed of the pregnancy as well, with mixed emotions, but on the whole everyone proved their worth by taking the prospect of another Grace running around with as much grace as possible, though many questioned the notion of immaculate conception becoming popular again. Somehow the idea that Gabrielles child was in fact a by-product of both herself and Xena, and that they had not gone the way of finding a warm willing donor, or artificial insemination seemed appropriate for a couple who stood out from the crowd, not so much for the criticism their relationship could invoke, but for the simple reason that they were two amazing women with wills of iron and a love beyond measure. Therefore, they had become the poster girls for where theres a will, theres a way and so, everyone fully expected the unborn child to be just what it was being billed as and convention and impossibilities be damned. Or so they said, but Xena suspected that it was just a cover for some serious betting going on over who the father really was.
Strangely enough, or perhaps justifiably so, the people most concerned over how the baby would be seen by the world were its parents. Though Xena and Gabrielles initial concerns had been put on the back burner with the overall support of their family and friends, and with it the question of whether or not to move back to Greece had been sidelined, but as time progressed an underlying current arose that brought that question back to the forefront. Not so much of where they should live was questioned as to who they were going to be once the baby arrived and to what world it should be exposed. They themselves lived in two worlds, wearing the masks of Grace and Faith outside their home, but the sanctuary of Xena and Gabrielle was going to have to be shared with their son, or daughter and so a decision was going to have to be made that differed from other times theyd had children in their lifetimes.
In those lifetimes theyd never told their children who they really were because itd been easier that way and the question of should they never came up. Who they really were was less important than who they needed to be at the time and though they knew their friend in a very high place still existed, T wasnt present in their daily lives once theyd entered the circle. The god had dropped out of sight completely despite all their efforts to get her back in it and over time shed slipped to the back of their minds, though shed never left their hearts. Theyd lived their lives without her and in doing so, theyd assumed the faces of the people the world saw them as, keeping themselves to themselves and out of their childrens lives. None of their other children had known they were a warrior princess and a bard, and theyd been happy to let them live in blissful ignorance without subjecting them to the problems living two different lives could bring. Though it was easy for them to do, theyd always known that walking the fine line was not what they wanted their children to have to live with and it had proven for the best, because theyd never had to face the problem of explaining to their children that they were not conceived by standard human means. And that is where the true problem laid. The cloud on the horizon wasnt really whether or not they should tell their child how it got here and who they really were, but the realization that the question of who am I was eventually going to have to be answered and Gabrielle absolutely refused to consider the possibility that the child she carried would be allowed to think it belonged to anyone other than Xena for a single second of its life, no matter the consequences. Their family, friends and the world could believe what they wanted, but the bard had made up her mind and even if Xena had wanted to change it, she knew better, which leads us back to our blood shot eyed weary warrior and her list of things to do.
Although Gabrielle was often presumed to be the adult in their relationship, with Xenas blessing, their roles were slowly shifting with the bards progressing pregnancy, which is why the warrior was in the library going over the list while her wife slept the night away in the comfort of their bed. Though she no longer wore the hat of warlord turned warrior princess the consummate strategist had never died and now those skills were coming to the forefront. Not only did the list contain details to cover a normal pregnancy, it also included ideas for making their child aware of who it was, how it got here and most importantly making sure it never questioned who it belonged to. With Gabrielles attitude on the matter, Xena had taken it to heart and was taking steps to make it happen by developing plans that covered a multitude of scenarios that would facilitate fulfilling the bards wishes and her own with as much ease as possible.
Neither one of them wanted to raise their child with a covert mentality, who felt the need to keep secrets from the ones they loved, like they did, yet the idea of not being able to walk around the house speaking Greek and calling each other Xena and Gabrielle was something theyd done out of necessity before, and only added to the complexity of the problem at hand. They had no problem keeping their worlds apart, but stretching an innocent child across their two thousand years was going to be tough without sending it to therapy the moment it was born. The balance was going to be difficult to attain and adding their self imposed one year waiting period on making a decision about moving to Greece was killing every scenario Xena came up with. Plus the fact that if they did move, theyd leave behind two families their child deserved to know and you had a warrior with a mission and a serious sleep deprivation problem, but the former had to take a number when a soft sleep filled voice made its way through the quiet house.
"Xena?" Gabrielle called out and rubbed her nose. Wrapped up in only a blanket to cover her naked body, she was trailing half of it as she came down the stairs, looking around for her pillow, with a disgruntled expression on her face. "Xena?"
Xena put her plans away and shut off the light before she left the library. Walking barefoot through the house, she made her way towards the living room and came out of the kitchen to find a woman standing at the bottom of the stairs, hair tousled, pouting, eyes half closed with sleep and looking all of twelve years old. Smiling at the sight, she shook her head and knew that if their child looked anything like its mother at that moment, she was doomed to be forever wrapped around its little finger. "Im here, Gabrielle."
The bard spotted her wife in the darkness and frowned. "You were supposed to come to bed."
"I know and Im sorry. I got side tracked." Whispering, the warrior came around the couch, closing the distance between them and wrapped her arms around the bard before she kissed her furrowed forehead.
Huffing out a sigh, the blonde head found the warm softness itd been looking for and the sleepy eyes closed as Gabrielle put her head on Xenas shoulder. "You feel good."
This brought another smile to Xenas face and she gave the blonde locks a kiss before she cradled the head against her shoulder. "You feel good, too."
Moments passed while the warrior was content to let her wife get reacquainted with her pillow before she tried to urge the bard to return to bed. "You ready to go back to bed now? She asked and felt the head shake in response, which sent her eyebrows upward and she tilted her head down to try and see Gabrielles face. "Are we going to sleep standing up?"
"No." Lifting her head, the bard sneaked a hand out from under the blanket to take hold of the warriors untucked shirt and proceeded to pull her sideways towards the couch.
Confused but compliant, the tall brunette followed the tug on her shirt until she was placed in front of the couch, then she was a little surprised when she got a shove that sent her backwards to a forced sitting position. Then she was even more surprised when her wife took up a sitting position as well, but chose to straddle her lap as a preferred seating arrangement. "We arent going to sleep, are we?"
Giving her answer in the form of a very passionate kiss, Gabrielle let the blanket fall around her waist so she could get both hands tangled up in long dark hair.
Taken off guard, Xena recovered quickly and wrapped her arms around the bards exposed waist, caressing a supple muscled back with her hands, while her head went back under the force of the assault on her lips. Almost immediately, her breathing became ragged as the intensity of the kiss sent heat spreading through her body and for the brief amount of time she still had rational thought, her mind drifted to the possibility that if she survived Gabrielles pregnancy, and the aggressiveness it produced, she really needed to paint the ceilings in the house. But then all thought went out the window, leaving her with too many clothes on and a naked horny pregnant woman on her lap trying to rip them off.
Jim, Mary and Manny sat around the small conference room with cups of steaming beverages to keep their eyelids open while they waited for their fearless leader to arrive to start the weekly meeting. While they waited, they speculated on why Graces punctuality seemed to be slipping, but the conversation didnt last long because Jim suggested Faiths pregnancy right off the bat and the other two agreed right off the bat. Normally their fearless leader wouldve met then at the door to slap them on the back and get testy for no reason, but lately, the towering brunette had mellowed somewhat and was late a lot. Both of these new tendencies were also attributed to Faiths pregnancy, however there was a great deal of speculation as to the true reason for the change in attitude. Needless to say, since they were all doctors, they all knew couples that had had babies and based their guesses on the experience they gained vicariously through family and friends, because none of them were married, or had children. And again, Jim hit the nail on the head when he suggested an over active sex life for Graces tardiness, but he was charged with being biased because of the whole wallpaper incident and therefore the truth fell by the wayside for other guesses.
Xena leaned against the conference door for a minute to gather what little strength she had left, before she went in to join the meeting. Exhausted from lack of sleep and nearly getting too much of a good thing, the seemingly five minute nap she got wasnt doing the trick, so she took a deep breath and a big gulp of coffee to help clear her head. When her tongue began to burn, the warrior opened the door to sudden silence and stood still for a moment giving each member of her team an arched eyebrow, which almost sapped her strength, so she let the lack of chatter go and found a seat as quickly as possible. As she sat down, she noticed that all eyes were on her and sighed. Placing the cup on the table, she sat back in the chair and folded her hands in her lap. "Okay, lets have it. Whats the running bets this week?"
Manny cleared his throat and gave Jim a quick glance, then he smiled. "Jim says sex. Mary says nosy parents and I say midnight runs for ice cream."
"I see. Well, we bought a freezer, so midnight runs are out. My parents have always been nosy, so Jim take your money so we can get this showboat on the river." Dishing out a weary, but winning smile, she grabbed the nearest chart while the disgruntled losers paid up.
"Ha!" Snatching the two ten dollar bills off the table, Jim pocketed the money with a smug smile.
"And next week, Jim. You get to buy the coffee and spring for doughnuts. A couple of dozen should do the trick." Flipping open the chart casually, the warrior didnt need to look at her assistant to know that his smile had suddenly disappeared, because the chuckles from Mary and Manny said it all.
Slumping in his seat, the young doctor rolled his eyes as he imagined his winnings going down a jelly filled drain. "Plain or filled?"
Glancing up with blood shot eyes, Xena smiled at him with a flick of her eyebrows and suddenly felt the caffeine kicking in. "Surprise me."
Mary and Manny hid their smiles by pretending to be interested in the chart they were reaching for.
So the day began, or the night continued from Xenas perspective with her getting in a good shot, which always made her feel better and lifted her tired spirit enough to get her through the meeting. Once that was completed successfully, she needed several more cups of coffee to make it through her rounds, then it was back to the office for more paperwork and a nice long nap, or that was the plan anyway, which died when opened the door and spotted a blonde head smiling at her. "What are you doing here? Is there something wrong with the baby?" Stepping inside, she closed the door behind her.
"Nothings wrong." Gabrielle smiled and pushed back from the desk, so she could stand and stretch. "I just came down to bring you some lunch."
Relieved, the warrior leaned back against the door. "What did you bring me?"
"Peaches and whipped cream." Flicking her eyebrows, the bard reached inside the paper bag shed brought and watched her wifes head drop in despair. "Im kidding, Xena. Youre safe, for now." Chuckling, she pulled out a large container of beef stew.
Risking a glance, she saw the container of brownish substance and almost fainted. "Thank the gods."
Gabrielle had been expecting her wife to be tired and came fully prepared to fix the problem. "Sit." Nodding toward the couch, she pulled other items out of the bag, placing them on the desk one by one, then she brought up a tray for all the things to go on and unfolded it on top of the desk.
Xena sat on the couch as instructed and watched the proceedings with curiosity. As each new item was exposed, she tried to guess what it was, but gave up because it took too much energy to wonder, so she laid her head back on the couch to await her fate.
Once the tray was filled with open containers, the bard carried it around the desk to set it over Xenas lap. When the warrior didnt respond, she smiled and patted a relaxed tanned cheek. "Xena."
"Im up." She lied and opened her eyes as proof, but left her head reclined for a minute to fully recover before she lifted it to look down at her lunch. "Gods that smells good." Slightly rejuvenated by the aroma alone, she sat up. "Thank you."
"Youre welcome." A warm smile on her lips, Gabrielle picked up a fork and handed it to the warrior. "Eat."
"Yes, maam." Happy to comply, Xena took the fork with firm grip and aimed for the beef stew, which was making her drool. "Gods, this is so good." Chewing with reverence for her wifes cooking skills, she dove after another mouthful.
The bard continued to smile as she stepped back to a safe distance, which was behind the desk. Sitting in Xenas chair, she scooted it forward, then picked up the plans before she leaned back. Looking over the rewritten paperwork that shed deciphered while the stew was cooking that morning, she propped her feet on the desk as a knock sounded at the door. "Come in."
"Grace, I . . . yi yi yi what is that smell?" Jim asked and stepped into the office to investigate. "Is that beef stew?"
"I wouldnt go near her, if I were you." Glancing up from the plans, Gabrielle smiled at him.
Xena growled to prove her wifes point and glared at her assistant while she shoved another mouthful of stew in her mouth.
He chuckled at the sight, but kept his distance and moved around the desk to stand next to Faith. "Did you make that and if you did, will you marry me?"
"Get away from her. Shes mine." Growling again, blue eyes shot daggers at Jim until he moved away from the bard.
For some reason, Jim suddenly felt quite unwanted, which made him chuckle again and he stepped away from the blonde, holding his hands up in the air. "Ill come back once the tranquilizers kick in. You did put tranquilizers in her food, didnt you? I can write out a prescription. The pharmacy is right down stairs. Ill pay for it . . ."
"OUT!" Xena shouted and pointed toward the door. When he didnt move, she started to move the tray off her lap, which got his feet moving in the right direction.
"Bye, Faith. Well talk later." Waving, Jim scuttled out the door before the big bad wolf pounced.
"Brat." The warrior grumbled, but didnt allow the irritation to keep her from her food for very long.
The bard laughed and shook her head. "Hes so you, Xena."
"Dont you start." Pointing a warning fork in her wifes direction, she shifted her glare to the blonde. "He is not a clone."
"Okay, okay." Dropping the plans in her lap, Gabrielle held her hands up like Jim had. "Hes not a clone, but you have to admit that he did inherit some of your characteristics."
"Like what?" Xena asked indignantly.
Lowering her hands, she gave her wife a knowing look. "Hes gonna be as good as you are, isnt he?"
That brought the warrior down a notch or two because she had to admit that her assistant was a talented surgeon and doctor. Dropping her eyes, she shoved another forkful of stew in her mouth and chewed in contemplation. "Maybe."
"Xena." Rolling her eyes, the bard sighed and shook her head.
"Maybe." Sending her baby blues for a spin, Xena looked up again. "Look, someday maybe, but his talent wont make up for experience and Ive got a couple of lifetimes on him in that department, Gabrielle."
"Okay, Ill give you that one." Nodding in concession, she glanced down at the papers in her lap and began flipping through them. As she scanned the warriors plans, her mood sobered slowly with each rewritten passage. "All kidding aside, Xena. How good is Jim going to be?"
Swallowing what she was chewing, the warrior put the fork down and leaned back so she could consider Gabrielles change in mood. "Why?"
Picking up the pages, the bard held them up for the warrior to see. "Ive been reading your plans and almost all of the scenarios youve come up with have us moving to Greece."
"I know, but what does that have to do with Jim?" Xena asked and shrugged, finding no connection between the two in her mind.
The bard laid the papers down and slid her feet off the desk so she could turn around in the chair towards Xena. "If we were to move to Greece, wouldnt you want an heir apparent for the throne?"
Frowning at the question, it took the warrior a second to make the connection with the help of a Vanna White impersonation from Gabrielle, who was waving her hands beautifully over the chair she was sitting in. "Oh." As comprehension set in, she scratched her ear. "You want to know if Id feel comfortable turning the team over to Jim, if we decided to move to Greece?" Seeing a nod and a smile from her wife, she decided that she needed help with the decision and picked up the fork to mull over her answer while she chewed some stew. Staring at the bard, she thought about the question from two perspectives, the personal and the professional, and gave her assistant an honest assessment on both accounts. "Maybe."
Slumping back in the chair, Gabrielle closed her eyes and shook her head. "Xena." Letting out a soft sigh, she opened her eyes slowly to present her wife with a look that requested a more in depth response.
"Its a tough call, Gabrielle." Fully aware of what the look meant, she came to her own defense by relieving her fork of its load and used it to poke the air. "Hes gonna be a great surgeon and hes a great doctor, but theres a lot more to my job than that. I have to . . ."
"I know, Xena." Stopping the list before it got started, she held up a hand, then dropped it slowly. "Youre a leader, a teacher and an administrator. I know what you do behind this desk and what you do when youre not behind this desk, because you tell me how much you hate that part of the job on a regular basis. However, I also know that much of what you hate to do gets delegated and I also know who it gets delegated to."
Another knowing look came Xenas way and she suddenly found the bowl of stew very attractive. "Hes my assistant."
"No, hes your paperboy and Im your wife, whom you tell everything to." Gabrielle corrected as she settled back in the big chair. "Xena, your skill and drive brought this team into existence, and its proven itself time and again under your guidance, and your leadership. Jim, Mary and Manny are very lucky to have you as their teacher, because you dont just teach them how to be better surgeons. You teach them to be more compassionate and how to look at things from the perspective of those people who need them. Jim can handle the paperwork and he can learn to handle the pushy administrators on his own, but hes gonna have to lead this team, not just participate in it. Can you teach him how to do that in five months?"
Having listened to everything said, the warrior put her fork down when the time frame got bumped up to coincide with the birth of their child. "I thought we were going to wait a year to decide on Greece?"
"We did, but Im not talking about moving. Think about it, Xena. How much time do you think youre going to be spending behind this desk once the baby is born?" Sitting forward, she folded her hands over the papers.
The expectant father pondered the question, then smiled a guilty smile. "Not very much." She admitted.
"Not very much." The expectant mother agreed with a smile also. "So, weve established that Greece is a formality where your job here is concerned, because Ill have to use a cattle prod to get you out of the house no matter where we live, right?"
"Right." Answering with a hearty nod, the warrior caught a certain glint in her wifes eye and recognized it as an analytical one, which brought about the realization that her leisure lunch hour was gearing up to become a strategy session and that the food shed already consumed was probably all she was going to get if the bard cranked up quickly. So, in the few moments before the next question came along, she shoved as much food in her mouth as she could, then set the tray aside to stretch out and get comfortable. "So, waffs nef?"
"Whats next?" Gabrielle asked in return as she chuckled at a pair of tanned chipmunk cheeks. "Next we have to figure out how to keep those cheeks full if you decide to make playing hooky your next profession."
Xena swallowed a large portion of her stored goods with an audible gulp that had a guilty sound to it. "We have savings."
"Xena, our savings will not last the two of us the rest of our lives and it most certainly wont last having to feed three hungry mouths." The bard practiced her motherly tone and shook her head. "And I wont even go into what college tuition will be in eighteen years."
The rest of the beef stew went down with a loud gulp and the warrior looked at her wife with disgust. "Youre gonna buy that cattle prod arent you?"
Gabrielle laughed out loud and smiled. "You dont have to work, but do you think my salary will cover food and insurance on four motorcycles?"
"Oh, I knew it. Here we go." Waggling a finger, she saw the trap open up and refused to walk in. "Forget it Gabrielle. Youre not going to make me have to choose between our baby and my babies. My motorcycles are off limits, because youve got a fortune of rare books sitting in that library of yours that could keep us in the pink for decades."
With her own babies suddenly at risk, the bard backed down with a sigh. "Fine. You keep the motorcycles and Ill keep my books, but that just brings us back to the point where one of us is going to have to earn a living, and you do make more money than I do, plus your insurance plan is better than mine."
"I know that, but youre not on my insurance policy, dear heart and as long as we live in a state where were not legally married, I cant claim you, or our baby as dependents." As the strategy session turned into a battle for who would get to stay home with their baby, Xena began smiling triumphantly. "Looks like were both going to have to stay gainfully employed, doesnt it? Maybe we can get a two-headed cattle prod?"
Getting unhappier by the minute, her wifes sarcastic tone wasnt helping Gabrielles mood any and as thoughts of having to move to another state, or put their baby in day care started popping up, she was about to begin considering alternatives when T popped in wearing a referee shirt.
"Time out." Forming her initial with her hands, T glanced between her friends. "May I say something here?"
The girls exchanged a look and both shrugged.
"Might as well. Were not getting anywhere anyway." Xena announced with a look on her face that expressed her dislike of being spied on.
"Will it help?" Gabrielle asked with her own sarcastic attitude forming.
"Ill take that as a yes." Lowering her hands, the god stared at the blonde and pointed to the couch. "If you please?"
Her answer was a sigh and to push away from the desk. Then the bard made a grudging trek around the piece of furniture to take a seat beside her wife.
"Thank you." Sighing herself, T moved to stand in front of the desk and took a deep breath, while she was stared at intensely. "Okay, heres the deal. This baby was supposed to bring you joy, not start world war three or some kind of tug-of-war between my friends. And I understand your problem, which is why Im here to hopefully offer a solution that you both can live with, but I want to explain something first." Looking each woman in the eye, the god waited for an objection before she went on and when none was forth coming, she backed up to lean against the desk. "I know how much you love Greece and how much youd like to live there. Its something that Id love to happen, but what I want doesnt count, because my life isnt hanging in the balance of your decision. All the problems and plans youre trying to work out revolve around the baby, and since I was the one who took it upon myself to help make your wish come true, I feel the obligation of helping with the problems yourpre facing."
"I thought it was against your principles to interfere directly in our lives." Xena commented and folded her arms across her chest. "How can you help without doing that?"
"Its easy." T smiled and held out her hands. "Instead of using my powers to change the world for you, Im offering you both a job. One which will solve the who gets to stay home argument and will allow you to take your time in choosing where you want to live. Hopefully."
Intrigued, Gabrielle sent a blonde eyebrow upward. "Go on."
"Okay. You see its a matter of who you two are and the fact that neither of you are capable of not having some sort of purpose in life. Even if you moved to Greece, youd want something to do, right?" Asking with a knowing smile, the god didnt really need an answer and didnt wait for one. "So, Id end up having to give you a job anyway, because youre not moochers, youre doers."
Studying her friend closely, the warrior saw a glint in dark brown eyes that she wasnt sure she was going to like. "Whats the jobs?"
"Running the console from the comfort of your own home, like I do." T stated as simply as the plan itself.
Once the word console came out of Ts mouth, Xenas hand started slipping out from its hiding place, so that by the time the statement was completed, she had it waving around. "Hold on, T. Not that Im against the idea, but that thing is huge. Where in the hell do you expect us to put the console where nobody would see it?"
T took note of the hand and its owners question with due consideration. "In the room below your bedroom."
"Thats my den!" The owner shot back as her eyes went wide.
"Really?" The god asked with a wicked smile. "I thought it was a cob web farm."
Gabrielle chuckled and got a glare from her wife. "Well, youve got to admit shes got a point, Xena." She said in her own defense. "We never go in there and nobody else in the family is brave enough to even open the door."
"And beside the library and the living room, its the largest room in the house, which makes it a prime candidate for one overly large console." Switching her smile to a more apologetic one, T shrugged. "Or."
Xena was trying desperately to come up with a reason why her unused sanctuary should stay a sanctuary, when her friends participle got hung out to dry. "Or what?"
"Or, you can add an addition to the house." Waving her right hand, T made a scale down, three dimensional holographic model of their house appear in the air. "I know you were planning on putting off building a nursery until you decided on where you want to live and that you intended to let the baby stay in your room, right?"
"Right." Sliding off the couch, the bard stared at the model with curiosity and saw it change before her eyes, as a two story addition was placed onto the back of the house on the end where their bedroom and Xenas den was located.
"How will this help?" Already off the couch, the warrior tried to peek inside the additions window.
Rotating a finger, the god split the model and opened it up to reveal how the addition would connect to the house. Pointing at the two new rooms individually, she explained their use. "This will help by giving you a nursery that opens into your bedroom and a room for the console that opens into the den. Since nobody goes into the den anyway, you can use it as a pass through and still leave the spiders in peace, although you may need a snow plow to get through the magazines, which are a serious fire hazard by the way."
Giving her friend a brief glare, Xena went back to studying the model carefully. Checking out the inside, she noticed that T had put in a tiny console in the bottom room and had decorated the nursery.
"And what if we decide to move to Greece?" Gabrielle asked as she tried to nudge her wife out of the way so she could see the rooms better.
"The choice to move doesnt mean you have to give this up, Gabrielle. You can have both worlds, whether you move or not." T said as she stepped out of the way.
The warrior glanced up from the model and looked at the god. "How are we supposed to raise the baby in both worlds and not have our families find out about us, and you?" Asking the question that was the center of all their problems, she felt a hand wrap around her arm ad looked down at her wife.
"Remember when I told you not to underestimate Gabrielle when it came to handling her mother?" She asked with a smile to the bard.
"Yea." Chuckling the answer, Xena nodded.
"Well, dont underestimate your child either, Xena." Waving the model out of existence, the god folded her arms across her chest. "This baby is the offspring of two friends whove seen the worst life has to offer since the day they were born and never failed to conquer each trial with bravery, compassion, determination and love. Grace and Faith are merely pseudonyms for strength and courage, which is what Xena and Gabrielles child is going to be born with. Plus its swimming in a gene pool that created a mighty warrior princess and a bard slash Amazon queen, so dont assume that your child wont be able to handle both worlds with anything less than the finesse you have. This baby may not have two thousand years of memories to make understanding both worlds easier, but if you were to ask my opinion Id have to say that the likelihood of your child being satisfied with only one world, is pretty slim. Considering the sources, of course." Adding a chuckle to the last part, T held up her hands when the sources started to object. "However Im not telling you how to raise your child and if you choose to be only Grace and Faith to this baby, Ill abide by your decision, but keep in mind that Bud and Gabriel may have serious objections to not being able to play with their cousin." Folding her arms again, she smiled. "And whether or not you choose to take me up on my job offer, Ill still be more than happy to provide you with the addition to your house I showed you, or another one, if you didnt like that design. The Ungara are at your disposal, as always."
The bard slash Amazon queen had a smile on her lips when she glanced up at her wife, who was smiling also. "What do you think?"
"You dont have to make a decision now." T interrupted. "Just think about it and let me know."
The warrior was thinking about it and she arched an eyebrow as a result of the thought process. "How much does running the console pay and what kind of benefits package are we talking about?"
Closing her eyes for a second, the god shook her head and wondered why she was surprised by Xenas frankness. Then she opened her eyes and gave her friends a smile. "I wasnt planning on discussing this right now, but if you really want to know the details of what I have in mind, you might as well get comfortable." Pointing to the couch, she moved back to lean on the desk while her friends took a seat. "What I thought would be a good schedule is, you two would alternate running the console on the day shift during the week, with me taking it the rest of the time; then wed all have the weekends off because thats when Chris prefers to work at the Hub. That way you can both stay home, or we can work something else out, if you want to keep the jobs you have now. Im open to suggestions."
"Xena could stay on call for emergencies and I could switch to being a substitute teacher." Nodding in agreement with her own idea, Gabrielle glanced at the warrior. "We both love what we do now."
"Thats not bad." Xena agreed as well and gave her wife an approving smile. "I could even work out a part time schedule to cover when somebody on the team goes on vacation."
"And if duty calls at the same time, Ill be happy to babysit." T added with a flick of her eyebrows. "I come fast and I have reasonable rates."
"Reasonable rates, I bet." The warrior noted with a chuckle. "We leave you alone in our house and there wont be a spoonful of ice cream left."
"Did I mention that Im available day or night?" The god asked as she ignored the warrior to pose the question to the bard.
"I got that part, yes." Chuckling herself, Gabrielle shook her head. "But what about our families? How are we going to explain how were paying our bills when were both working part time?"
"Ahh, good point. You cant very well show them the source of your other income without revealing its purpose." T tapped her chin and thought about the problem.
"Why not?" Xena asked and got two surprised women staring at her. "Oh, dont look at me like that. Im not stupid and Im not talking about showing them the console. Im talking about telling them that we have a home-based business."
"A home-based business?" The bard asked curiously.
"Yes." Glancing between her wife and T, the warrior could see they were going to need some convincing, so she explained her idea. "We dont actually have to have one, we have to look like we do, so we can tell our families that thats how were earning money. Its been all over the news about people finding ways to stay home and use their computers to make money over the internet. If we clean out the den, we could set up shop in there."
"Cleaning the den is no problem. I can do that with a snap of the fingers, but what do you intend to tell them youre selling?" More than a little intrigued, the god sat down on the edge of the desk.
"I dont know. I havent gotten that far yet." She admitted with a shrug.
"How about hard to find Harley parts?" Gabrielle suggested innocently and got her turn for a baleful blue-eyed glare. "Im not trying to sell your bikes, Xena. I was thinking about all the parts youve got in your garage. You must have two whole motorcycles in pieces in there and if we organize them, and put labels on them, we might be able to use it as a front."
"Gabrielle, who in our families is going to believe that Id part with any parts?" Xena asked and softened the glare to a knowing look.
"Shes got ya there, Ace." Shaking her head in agreement with the warrior, T smiled sadly.
"It was just a suggestion." Throwing her hands in the air, the bard sighed and turned her frustration towards T with a mild stare. "Next contestant."
"Next contestant, huh? Okay." Taking up the challenge, the god thought for a minute, with a required expression of concentration, then her face brightened and one finger went up to signal that shed gotten an idea. "What about developing a web site where you could sell subscriptions to a medical news letter, or Gabrielle could write short stories to sell."
"T, were supposed to be faking it, not making more work for ourselves. Thats kind of defeating the purpose, ya know?" Rolling one of her hands around, the warrior indicated that they should move along.
"Wait a minute, Xena." Taking hold of her wifes hand, Gabrielle thought about Ts suggestion a little further. "T, dont you have a newsletter that goes out to the Ungara?"
"Yes, but thats for the Ungara only, Gabrielle. A lot of whats in it isnt meant for public consumption and its in Ungaran." The god wasnt sure where her friend was headed, but she made sure she knew she couldnt publicize the newsletter to the world.
"I know that its in Ungaran, but thats not a problem to translate. What Im talking about is bringing the concerns of some of the worlds plights to public attention. Like a conservation newsletter, or a feed the world one. Something that could alert the public to some of the more serious issues." Clarifying her view, the bard watched her friend closely.
"We do that already." Shaking her head again, T shrugged. "Beside the letter that goes out to the Ungara, there are seven others that go out to the public that cover the most serious issues and theyre translated into virtually every language on the planet, and theyre free."
The warrior gave the bards hand a squeeze. "It was a nice thought, Gabrielle."
Sighing, the bard nodded in defeat. "Next."
Feeling the glumness shed caused, the god thought quickly to try and remedy it. "What about writing for the Ungaran news letter?" The god suggested with a smile. "Itd be adding more to your plate, but it would get you writing again and you might be able to pass it off as a profitable substitute to selling something." Doing the one finger dance again, she pointed it at Xena. "In fact, it wouldnt be a bad idea for you to get your fingers on the keyboard too."
"Me?" Surprised to be included in the conversation, Xena frowned and pointed at herself. "What would I write about?"
"You could do a question and answer column. The Ungara could submit their questions to you via the internet and you could pick which ones you want to answer, and those would go in the newsletter." Taking due notice of her friends reaction, T snickered at it. "It should be simple for someone of your many skills, Xena and the Ungara would love to get your spin on things."
"Simple! Spin! Are you kidding me? I dont even write checks because the bank returns them as unreadable!" Protesting with every ounce of her being, the warrior tried to shift the focus of the conversation back to the blonde beside her. "Shes the bard. Make her do it."
Gabrielle, who was enjoying her wifes distress, shook her head. "Youd be typing, Xena and theyve come up with a nice little program that checks spelling. Try again."
"Its paperwork! I hate paperwork! Id rather shoot myself than do paperwork. Dont make me do paperwork." Pleading her case, Xena looked more pitiful than she ever had in her many lifetimes. "Dont you have envelopes that need licking, or something? Stalls to clean out? Toilets to scrub? Something?"
"Okay, I tell ya what." T said as she tried to keep a straight face. "You dont have to do it if you dont want to, but at least give it a try. You always said youd try anything once."
"Gods!" Laying her head back in pure agony, the warrior could feel blisters forming on her finger tips already and groaned to complete the picture of someone being tortured with their own words.
Ignoring the wailing warrior, Gabrielle was ready to move on to the haggling stage and rubbed her hands together in anticipation. "Now that weve got that settled, what about getting back to the pay and benefits question?"
"Very well." Nodding, T took a deep breath. "For running the console five days a week, youd both receive a salary thats double what Xena makes now and the benefits package is all inclusive with no out of pocket expense to you. All of your insurance is paid for with 100% coverage and it takes effect as soon as you take the console, plus your baby will be covered from the moment its born. There is also a pension plan thats paid for and you have the choice of either taking a signing bonus thats one years salary a piece, or you can choose to have all your bills paid off instead. Your gross income will be taxed 15% to supplement the treasury and the remainder will be reported to the appropriate taxing agencies for processing. Youll also be offered the opportunity to open banking accounts with the treasury itself, which supply 0% loans to its members and stock purchase availability in the companies that we own." Smiling, T watched Gabrielles face fall and Xenas head come up. "You can also get direct deposit."
"Does everybody in the empire get the same thing?" Xena asked out of utter awe at the prospect.
"Everybody has the same benefits options, but unless they work directly for the empire itself, they dont get a salary and the ones that do differ according to what job they fulfill." Sounding very much like a King, T gave her friends a softer smile. "Running the console pays the highest salary, because its a very important job that connects the empire together, as you well know. And its not an easy job, as you well know, so dont think that Im biasing your salary out of friendship. Im not. Im putting the empire in your hands and paying you accordingly for the skill it takes to do the job. Its not one Id offer to anyone else and if I didnt know you could handle the responsibility, and understood the respect the job requires, Id have offered you something else, because the well being of the Ungara is the one thing I never take lightly."
"How can you afford to give millions of people those kinds of benefits and not have them pay for it?" Gabrielle asked with the same awestuck attitude as her wife.
"Firstly, youve got to remember that the Ungara are a very hearty race. We dont get sick very often and many of the services that we would normally have to pay for are done for free by the Ungara themselves. Like the addition to the house. The workers that do the construction wont get paid for the work they do and in turn, when they need some cavities filled, they wont have to pay for that. What monies we do expend are usually covered by the profits of the companies we own, but we do have to tap the treasury on the occasion. As in the reconstruction, which is taking a nibble, but weve got a stock portfolio that would blow your mind and when youve been around so long, those dinars and dollars do add up eventually." With all that said, T took a deep breath to continue and hoped there wouldnt be anymore money questions. "Lets just say weve got a piggy bank that would make Babe the blue ox look like a gnat and its not called an empire for nothing."
Unwilling, but ready, the god sat quietly waiting for the next question, while the girls tried to come to grips with the immensity of the empire they were heir to, and exhibited an array of expressions that were mildly entertaining.
"Sweet mother of Zeus." The warrior finally got out after several minutes of intense visualization, which was making her feel rather small at the moment.
"Amen." Gabrielle said breathlessly.
After unscrambling their brains from discovering what they were a part of, the girls brainstormed with T some more and spent several hours exploring possibilities, asking questions and recognizing a forming trend in the process, which was a lot of if you want showing up in Ts responses. Though their godly friend had offered them jobs and many other things in the course of their discussion, she left the decision making up to them and never insinuated her own desires into the conversation. However she did make a choice of her own and that was to leave her friends with two insurance cards and explain that shed changed her mind about them needing to take the job to receive the benefits, because they were heirs and that made them employees anyway. So by the time they wound down from exhaustion, T popped out for home without knowing what decision the girls would make, but with the satisfaction of knowing that they were at least covered. Soon after, the couple departed themselves, taking their separate modes of transportation back home and ended the day making one choice, which was that they were too tired to talk anymore, and that if they did make a decision, they would probably never remember it. This realization prompted a quick dinner and an even quicker change into their birthday suits for a good nights sleep with a brighter horizon waiting for them when they woke up.
With so much running through their minds, both Xena and Gabrielle had opened their eyes before the Sunday morning dawn made an appearance and laid together quietly contemplating their future and that of their unborn child.
"I think I could talk Jim into taking over by the time the baby comes and if I stay on part time, I can be there if he needs any help." Xena whispered as she ran her fingers slowly through soft blonde hair.
Curled up against the warriors warm body, Gabrielle stared off into the darkness. "What about Greece?"
The warrior sighed at the mention of her home land and closed her eyes. "I still want to move, but I think we should put it off until the baby is old enough to understand whats happening."
Lifting her head, the bard raised up on her elbow so she could see Xenas face. "And what about us?"
Releasing another sigh, she opened her eyes to find her wife staring at her intently and she searched the green eyes with the same intensity. "I dont know Gabrielle." Xena said and slipped her hand under the covers to caress the bards back. "I want to say that Ts right and that we should at least give the baby the chance to know all of who we are, but its so risky. Do you think we could pull it off?"
"I dont know either." Gabrielle whispered and propped her head on her hand. "Im not so worried about the risk involved, but how itll effect our baby. T could be right, but you made some very valid points against it in your plans. It wouldnt be the first time weve stepped off into the unknown, but this time wed be taking somebody else with us and Im not sure its fair to expect a baby to understand that kind of thing without there being some kind of backlash."
Tilting her head to the side, the warrior gave her wife a small smile. "True, but if we dont tell it who we are, then this baby is going to question our insistence that I helped create it. Im sure our child will love me, Gabrielle, but is it fair to expect it to accept me unconditionally and not ask who its real father is?"
The bard closed her eyes and hung her head as she was torn between her conviction of making sure their child knew who it belonged to, and the truth of Xenas words. It was unfair to expect their child to accept Xena unconditionally knowing that it wasnt humanly possible for her to have helped conceive it, but the thought of allowing that same child to think for one second that it wasnt the product of their love was something she wasnt ready to accept herself. All the questions they faced centered around that one point of contention and left both their worlds hanging in the balance.
Feeling the weight of the decision fall squarely on her shoulders, Gabrielle lowered her body under the unspoken pressure and curled up against the warrior again. Nuzzling her head into the nape of Xenas neck, she sighed heavily, closing her eyes as she did and whispered her resolve. "Were going for it."
Xena smiled and wrapped her arms around her wife to hug her tightly and felt something poke her in the side. Frowning at the sensation, she felt it again and lifted her head to try and see what was causing it, but since they were both covered up, the only thing she saw was a lot of darkness and the blanket. "What is that?"
"Too much pepper in the beef stew, I think." Chuckling softly, the bard reached out from under the covers to take hold of the warriors hand and bring it to her as she rolled onto her back. With both their hands together, she guided Xenas hand over her stomach to where most of the activity was going on. "Seems the vote is unanimous."
Curious and surprised, the warrior followed the bards motion and rolled onto her side so she could have a better reach to follow what she thought was a foot around Gabrielles tummy. Moving her hand slowly, she began to chuckle with delight and curled forward so she could have a chat with their baby. "Where ya think youre going in there, huh? You all dressed up and got no place to go, or you trying to kick start a mini Harley in there? Ooo, that was a strong one. Hey! You be nice to Mama. I felt that. Are you listening to me? Dont make me come in there."
Feeling every kick her wife was complaining about, she rubbed Xenas back while Xena rubbed her stomach and she chuckled in between threats. "Dont you think its a little early for threats?"
"Its never too early to start showing whose boss around here and I felt that." As a defiant foot pushed against her hand, Xena pushed back gently. "Just what I needed. Another pushy little person with nothing but attitude. OW. Hey! I need that ear."
"Come here, boss lady."
Once the central decision was made, all the others seemed to fall into place much easier with only their implementation to be worked out successfully. The first of these choices was the mutual agreement by the girls to accept both of Ts offers of a job and adding the addition to their house, which then led to the two ultimate choices of the design of the addition and who was going to have to risk their life by going into the den and take measurements. However the turmoil didnt last long, because T popped in with help in tow and reminded them that shed offered to clean the den, which caused a sigh of relief on the part of Xena and Gabrielle, who were then left with Bud and Gabriel to contend with, while T and Ares faced off against the dreaded den.
"Xena, what part of addition dont you understand?" Gabrielle asked from the safety of the deck, holding Gabriel while her wife walked around in springtime slush marking off the prospective dimensions of their new addition and seemed to think she was adding on a three car garage. "We do not need that much room. Move that stake back."
"Gabrielle, the nursery is going to sit on top of this thing and I have no intention of making our child live in a room the size of a walk-in closet." Xena called back and tried to keep Bud from pulling the stake out of the ground. "Get away from that."
"We also have to be able to explain that this room is just for storage, remember? What are you planning on telling your parents were storing? A herd of elephants?" She asked with disgust and stepped off the deck to get her galoshes muddy.
"Its not that big." The warrior shot back and snatched the stake out of Buds mouth. "Give me that." Giving the tiger a glare and a snarl, she shoved the stake back in the ground, then glared again before she looked up at the bard and held out her arms. "I know what Im doing. Its going to look a lot smaller once the walls are up."
Shaking her head, the bard walked to the middle of the prospective room and turned around. "Xena, the Great Wall of China wouldnt make this room look small." Sighing, she turned to her wife, who was still struggling with Bud over possession of the stake. "Bud, come here." Pointing at the ground beside her, she watched the tiger grab the stake and trot over, followed quickly by an unhappy warrior.
"Bring that back." Jogging after him, Xena tried to get her stake back when Gabrielle snapped her fingers and the tiger turned it over without hesitation.
"Take him." Using a no nonsense tone, the bard handed Gabriel off to her wife and walked away to mark off where she thought the room should be.
"Traitor." Shoving Bud with her leg, the warrior settled the baby on her shoulder and got an idea. "And dont forget the sleep overs. Were gonna need room for two beds in here."
Gabrielle stopped in her tracks and turned around to point the stake menacingly at the father of her child. "Xena this is a nursery, not a bedroom and if you dont hush, well make the den the nursery and put the console in your garage."
"Ooo. Testy pregnant woman with a weapon. Should I push my luck?" She whispered to Bud as her eyes opened up and she smiled agreeably at the testy pregnant woman with the weapon.
Buds response was to move behind the warrior where it was safe.
Guess not, she thought and continued to smile. "You know, making the den the bedroom later on is a good idea, Gabrielle, so we really dont need to make the nursery so big. I see that now." Staring at the point of the stake pointed at her.
"Good and if I come out in the morning and find these stakes moved, youre going to need an appointment with a proctologist and a lumberjack." Shoving the stake in an upward motion, she drove home her point, so to speak and turned around to place the stake while her wife imagined having it shoved up her butt.
"Ow." Cringing at the thought, Xena cradled Gabriel protectively, or as protection, but it still came out looking the same.
Shoving the stake in the ground approximately half the distance out from the house where Xena had placed it, Gabrielle marched to the other side of the imaginary room to pull up the other stake and mark it off.
Holding her cheerful smile intact, the warrior shook her head at how the room shrunk and winced when the second stake was driven into the ground.
"There." The bard said triumphantly and dusted her hands off. "That wasnt so hard."
Xena whimpered softly and closed her eyes. "Gods, I hope this baby isnt claustrophobic."
"Now lets check and see how T and Ares are doing, if theyre still alive." Heading back for the deck, Gabrielle picked up her sad wife and a muddy tiger along the way. "Bud you are not tracking that all over the house. Get up on the deck so Xena can hose you off." Snapping her fingers, she laughed when he started jumping around.
Wondering if shed ever been in control, the warrior princess turned tiger hoser handed over Gabriel without question and turned to go get the hose.
With the baby securely on her shoulder, the bard left the feisty tiger and the wayward warrior to go inside where it was warm and dry. Then she went to the door of the den and put her ear to it, to check for sounds of life before turning the knob to go in. When she did, she was stunned to find a gleaming, spotless, cobwebless, organized den inside, with two gods sitting in recliners sipping milk shakes, eating pizza, and watching some wild life show on a big screen TV. "Wow."
"You think Xena will like it?" T asked in between sips.
"Shes gonna love it." Nodding, Gabrielle walked over to T and handed off Gabriel, then began looking around the room.
"Damn. Now we gotta change it." Ares chuckled and shoved half a slice of pizza in his mouth.
The bard stood in the middle of the room, turning slowly as her eyes took in the details of what had been a waste land and was now a room that was distinctly Xena. From the small details, like things the warrior had acquired over the lifetimes, that had been stored in the attic in amongst the lines of magazines on shelves that hadnt been there before, to her sword hanging behind a desk, that wasnt as ornate as her own, but exuded Xenas simplistic taste. Along with the things her wife had purchased were things that shed bought for her and as she looked at them, she smiled at the memories they brought to mind. The room was almost a shrine to their many lifetimes together and even with the addition of the recliners and TV at one end, it still held a warm charm that belonged to only one person. As much as the library was hers, this room belonged to Xena.
Nodding in satisfaction, she backed out of the room slowly to go get her wife. "Xena!"
While the bard was gone, the warrior had taken up her allotted task with dread, but shed changed her mind once the water came on and Bud tried to pounce on it. Then itd become fun to zap the tiger with the water, then make him chase after it. So by the time Gabrielle called her name, she was laughing too hard to hear it and had to have the hose forcibly removed to be dragged inside. "Gabrielle, I dont wanna come in. Buds not clean yet."
Stopping them both before they got to the door of the den, Gabrielle turned to face her wife and smiled. "Close your eyes."
"Why, you got another stake to shove up my butt?" She asked sarcastically and put her hands on her hips.
"Please?" Stomping her foot, the bard stared imploringly.
Xena looked down at the floor and at the the bards foot. Raising an eyebrow, she brought her eyes back up and chuckled. "Are you throwing a hissy fit?"
"Close your eyes, before I kill you!" Gabrielle growled and punched her wife in the shoulder.
Rolling her eyes before she closed them, she sighed as well and walked forward when her jacket got tugged on. "This had better be good."
Guiding the warrior to the door, the bard walked her just inside, then let go of the jacket. "Okay. You can open your eyes."
"Im sleeping, dont bother me." Laying her head back, Xena laughed when she got punched again, then opened her eyes to find out what all the fuss was about. Seeing everything her wife had seen, the warriors jaw dropped as she looked around.
Ares swallowed his pizza and glanced from Xena to T. "Is that a good sign?"
"I dont know. Shes not breathing." Shrugging, T sucked on her beverage.
"Oh, shit." The bard gasped and grabbed her wifes arm to shake it. "Breathe, Xena. Breathe."
The warrior took in a lung full of air and let it out, then took another one, and continued on as normal. "What happened in here? Where did all this stuff come from?"
"We didnt think a room filled with cardboard boxes full of magazines is what you were looking for, so we embellished a little." Smiling happily, T picked up the remote for the TV and turned it off. "Wadda ya think?"
As if in a daze, Xena walked over to the desk and sat down behind it. Looking around the room from a safe sitting position, a smile started to slowly form on her lips. "Its perfect."
T and Ares exchanged a hi-five, then unreclined the recliners so they could get up.
"Well, our work is done for now, so I think well be popping back home. Enjoy." Flicking her eyebrows, T snapped her fingers, popping her family out to leave her friends alone.
"Thanks." The warrior whispered and barely noticed the departure because she was still looking around the room in wonder. "This is great."
Gabrielle put her hands behind her back and strolled over to the desk with a smile on her face. "I think you and this room are going to be very happy together. I wish I couldve done this for you."
Xena swiveled her chair around so she was facing her wife and smiled, then she reached out her hand to the bard. "Come here."
Bringing one hand from behind her back, the bard took Xenas hand and was gently pulled around the desk, then into the warriors lap, where she was wrapped up in strong arms.
"You know what I love most about this room?" The warrior asked with a sly smile on her lips.
"What?" Gabrielle asked and got the same kind of smile for herself.
"Having you in it with me." Wiggling her eyebrows, she put their two sly smiles together for a long kiss. "I love this room and I love you."
"Sure you dont want to trade it for the library?"
"Forget it, Gabrielle. You cant have my remote control."
Epilogue: And so the girls got the ball rolling on preparing for the babys arrival, with a little help from friends and even though they hadnt quite figured out all the details of how to explain the choices they were making, they knew that the choices were the right ones.
Thanks for reading.
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