Disclaimers: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess and all other associated with the television series of the same name are owned by MCA/ Universal Pictures. This is a work of fan fiction and no copyright infringement is intended.
Subtext: I guess with my writing so far we'll just quit calling it subtext and call it maintext. Yes they are in love with each other.
Sex: Well its quite obvious in the last scene, but not graphic.
Violence: Ep takes a dip in the river, but weve all known that was coming didnt we?
Other: Part fifteen in the series "Raising Melosa". Also, my apologies to Douglas Adams. This one is for Storm. She knows why.<g>
I picked up the stringer of fish and held it out to Melosa who just looked at it and wrinkled her nose. "What am I suppose to do with that?" She asked.
"Tie it to the back of your saddle."
"Oh no. Im not riding home with smelly old fish tied to the back of my new saddle."
"Might I remind you young lady that I made that saddle for you and I put that ring back there for just such an occasion."
"Oh I knew there had to be a catch." She said as she took the fish and held them at arms length as she made her way to her pony.
Ep and Solari managed to contain their giggles as they looked back and forth at each other as I picked up my gear. "So long and thanks for all the fish, well my friends its been a wonderful day."
"Oh yeah for you!" Sol growled. "You caught every fish in the river."
"You cant catch a fish without being willing to get wet."
"I refuse to believe that punching them in the face is a better method than using a pole and a line." Sol continued.
"Yeah well Im taking home dinner for my family tonight. How are you doing? Hmmm?"
"Yeah why dont you just go home to your family there Grandma." Ep said as I was walking past her.
Funny, I dont remember my arm thrusting out and pushing her into the river, but apparently it did. The next thing I heard was a splash and a few rather nasty comments about my heritage as I made my way over to Argo and stowed my gear.
"Damn it Xena that water is cold!" She yelled as she drug herself back up on the bank.
I mounted Argo and turned her around to see my friend removing her top to wring it out. "Next time think before you speak there Ep. You never know whos gonna be behind you."
Melosa giggled as she climbed up on her pony and we headed back to the house. "That really was mean." She said as we rode home.
"Yeah well. Im sure shell get over it."
"I doubt it. Ill bet shes gonna get you back."
"She can try." I chuckled.
"Im sure she will."
As Melosa and I headed for the house from the barn I noticed Solans wagon parked at the side of the house. I grinned at Melosa who just smiled at me and rolled her eyes. "He hopeless." She said as we continued on.
"No hes a new father and hes just a little scared. I was the same way with you. It took me three days before I would even hold you. I was afraid Id hurt you."
She smiled and me and took my hand. She carried the stringer of fish in the other hand. "You know these things really stink. How can Cook make them taste so good?"
"Shes very talented."
"Yes she is."
"Make sure you take those through the side door. Your mother will have both our hides if you take them through the house."
She took the fish around to the side of the house and I went in the front door. As I went in I could hear Solan talking with Ri. Our granddaughter was being quite verbal at the moment, but began to quiet as I went in.
"I cant get her to eat. She wont sleep. I dont know what to do." He said as he passed the baby to Ri.
"You did the best thing you could right there." I said as I shut the door behind me.
"Oh Mom hi." He said as he dropped into a chair at the table.
Ri managed to get the baby to stop fussing as I crossed over to her. Without a word she pointed to the bathing chamber. I dropped my head and went to take a bath. She had a long-standing rule about getting close to me after I had been out all day. I remember a time when she wanted to be near me no matter what condition I was in. The domestic life was not necessarily all it was cracked up to be.
I settled into a hot tub of water and closed my eyes. The door opened and I turned my head to find Melosa coming through the door. "Thanks." She growled as she started to get undressed.
"Because of your old smelly fish I have to have a bath too." She said as she tested the water.
"You ever think you might need a bath because YOU STINK." I said as I put my face close to hers and rested my forehead on hers.
"I only STINK because of YOUR fish." She replied.
"Get in the tub." I leaned back against the tub to give her room.
"Its too hot."
"It is not."
"Melosa get in the tub!" This was the voice of our Queen giving her command through the door.
"Yes maam." She called back as she eased into her side of the tub. "Its still too hot." She whispered at me.
"Is not." I whispered back.
"Dont make me come in there you two!"
"Yes maam." We called in unison.
Freshly bathed and dressed Melosa and I were allowed to rejoin society on the whole. I poured a cup of wine and settled at the table with Solan as Gabrielle managed to get the baby to take a bladder of warmed milk. Poor Solan looked exhausted. "Son why dont you go into Kais room and go to bed. Well take care of her for you." I said as I patted his arm.
"Like you two dont have your hands full already." He said with a yawn.
"Exactly. Whats one more?" Ri said as she cradled the baby. "Your mom and Melosa can help me. Go get some sleep."
He drew a deep breath and nodded. "Maybe I should. I swear if Alana doesnt get home from hunting soon Im going to go insane." He said as he got up and headed off to his bothers room. A few moments later Kai came out clutching his soft bear with a terrified look on his face. He kept looking back at the door and back at Ri.
"Whats the matter honey?" Ri asked as he climbed up on my lap.
"Solan say you told him to nap."
"I did." Ri answered.
"But hes big." Kai looked to me with wide eyes.
"Yes, but shes the Queen." I said.
"More importantly Im the Momma." Ri said with a grin. "Ill always be able to make you take a nap."
He looked at me again. "Its true." I said as I kissed him on the forehead. "She has that power."
"Does she make you?"
"She makes me go to bed all the time." I winked at Ri.
"Xena! I swear by the Gods. Its no wonder Melosa has a mouth like a Roman soldier."
"What are you gonna do? Make me take a nap?" I teased as I wiggled my eyebrows at her.
"Yeah in a room completely separate from mine if you dont behave. What has gotten into you today?"
"She pushed Aunt Ep in the river today too." Melosa ratted me out from her spot in front of the fire where she had been such a nice quiet child until that very moment.
"Xe why did you push Ep in the river?" She finished feeding the baby and began rubbing her back.
"She called me a dirty name in front of Melosa."
"Not until after you pushed her in " Mel piped up.
"Would you be quiet." I called over my shoulder to my daughter who was now giggling uncontrollably on the floor. "Go over there and annoy your sister." I put Kai down and gave him a swat on his backside. I got up and went to Ri and the baby. "Let me have her."
"Why so you can teach her to be rotten too?"
"Yup." I said as I took my granddaughter in my arms. "Hello beautiful."
"So what did Ep call you?"
"She used the g word."
"Ohhh. I see. Because one of my best warriors stated the obvious you pushed her in the river?"
"Umm-hmm and Ill do it again." I put the baby over my shoulder and continued to rub her back as I walked back and forth with her. "Come on I know its in there." She gave me a little burp and I brought her back into a cradling position.
She was three moons old now and absolutely beautiful. Solan and Alana had named her after Gabrielle. Alana insisted that her first daughter should be named after the Queen of the Amazons. Ri pretended to be embarrassed, but she loved the fact that our first grandchild was named for her. Truth be told it made me pretty happy too.
"ACCKK " The cry brought me out of my thoughts and focus from the baby. I looked over and found Mel had her brother pinned to the floor and was menacing over him.
"Take it back!" She warned him.
"Nope." He giggled. "Its true."
"It is not! Take it back!"
Ri moved to them and merely stood over them with her arms crossed. Mel looked up and smiled that great big Oh boy Im in trouble now smile. Kai just giggled harder.
"Let him up." Ri said very calmly.
"Yes maam." She begrudgingly as she rolled off her brother. Kai sat up and turned around to face Ri.
"And you young man why were you teasing your sister?"
"Mommy told me too."
Ri looked back at me. My mouth moved, but nothing came out. She turned back to Kai. "Leave your sister alone."
She turned on me. I skirted around her and headed for the nursery. "Im going to put the baby down."
"You do that. Without waking the other two if you dont mind and then you come right back out here."
"Yes maam." I said quietly.
As we settled down for the evening meal Solan looked a little more rested. Little Gabrielle slept peacefully in the cradle next to her father as he ate. Kessa tried her best to squirm away from me as I fed her, while Rosa sat like a perfect little princess on Ris lap and ate her meal as it was fed to her. Kai and Mel battled silently as they always did, back and forth across the table mostly with looks and little gestures they had made up between them. I wasnt sure what some of them meant, but I had a pretty good idea and Ri wouldnt be happy if she ever figured them out.
I looked at each one of them. Just watched them. My family. MY family. I never saw myself with children after losing Solan the first time. Now we had five and our first grandchild. Sometimes it all happens so fast you just have to stop and really look at them and take them in to make sure its all real. A very contented little sigh left my lips as Kessa fed me a piece of her fish.
"Hey you. Youre suppose to eat that." I chuckled as I picked off a small piece of fish and offered it to her.
She refused with a shaking of her head. "No." She said defiantly. Then came the face. Okay we were gonna have to go a different route with this tonight. I looked over to Mel who had a little smirk on her face.
"You want to try?" I asked offering her, her sister.
"Sure." She took the baby who settled right down and began eating for her sister.
"I dont believe this." I mumbled.
With the evening meal over and all the children tucked in and sound asleep we finally had time for some adult conversation in the house. Solan and I sat and talked quietly at the table while Ri finished up a few pieces of village business she had set aside until now.
"I brought it with me." He whispered and winked.
"Good. Where is it?"
"Its out in the wagon. The frame came out beautifully."
"I hoped it would. I wish I could have given it to her when it was done."
"Shes going to love it. Besides you were a little preoccupied with that whole war thing." He grinned.
"Youre as bad as your mother."
"Do you want me to go get it?"
Solan looked over my shoulder at Ri who still didnt seem to be paying any attention to us and he slipped out the front door.
"So what are you two up to?" She asked. I turned around. She sat up and turned to me. "So?"
"What makes you think were up to something?"
"Im reading warrior, not deaf. When you two start whispering, youre up to something."
"Come here." She stood up and I met her half way across the room.
I wrapped my arms around her and turned her towards the fireplace standing behind her with my arms around her waist. "I thought the mantle needed a little something."
She cocked her head and considered the stone fireplace before her. The mantle had always had little things on it and Ri constantly kept fresh flowers on it. "Whats wrong with the mantle?"
"Its missing something." I said with a soft kiss to her neck.
"And I suppose you think you know what that is? I swear Xe if you bought some old shield or something that you think Im going to let you hang over the fireplace "
Her words were cut off as Solan came back in the door carrying the covered item. It was easily the width of his extended arms and a little more that half my body length. It could be a shield I mused silently. Romans had wide, long shields.
"Okay where do you want it?"
"Can you get it up on the mantle?"
"If you come over here and help me." He grumbled.
"Okay, okay. Ri close your eyes and keep them closed."
"Do you want to know what it is or not?"
She closed her eyes and I went over to Solan. We removed the cover and placed it up on the mantle. Solan winked at me and went quietly to the room he was currently sharing with his brother and daughter. I went back to Ri and put my arms back around her. "Can I look now?" She asked as she tipped her head back and smiled, her eyes still closed.
"Promise to give it a chance and not be mad?"
"It is an old shield or something isnt it?"
"Okay you can look."
She turned her head and I felt her legs go weak as she gasped just a little. It was the reaction I had hoped for. "Xe its beautiful! Absolutely beautiful! When ?" She walked over to the fireplace to examine the portrait of our family that I had meant to be a gift to her almost a season and a half ago after Kessa and Rosa were born. Of course between the time that it took for it to be started and completed, I was called away. When I returned I started on the frame which was grueling to do because it had the pattern of my armor on the side rails and Gabrielles royal seal and pattern on the top and bottom rails. The frame alone had taken almost a half season.
The portrait was of Ri and I and the children. Solan was too busy building his home for Alana to be sketched for it, but we had talked about it and he wasnt upset. He actually thought that it was a sweet and wonderful portrait the way that it was. Marin however had gotten another job when he saw it after Gabrielle was born. He had her do Alana and baby.
Marin was truly a magnificent artist. She had managed to sketch us all at different time in different places yet put us all together in a family portrait. She had place Ri in a chair, her legs stretched out and her body turned slightly to the right. She was holding Kessa and Rosa. Kessa was sound asleep and Rosa was looking adorable as ever. Melosa stood next to her mothers chair looking to Ri and the girls. Marin had even managed to capture the fact that Mel stood on the side of her feet at the age. As for me, she has placed Kai in my arms, standing to Ris left in profile. It was a wonderful portrait. I was so very pleased with it and I hoped Ri would be as well.
I stepped forward and placed my hands on her shoulders. "Do you like it?" It came out barely a whisper.
She turned around, tears in her eyes and caressed my cheek. "Of course I do. Its beautiful. Its a memory in a frame Xe. Its wonderful." She gave me a soft kiss with trembling lips and turned back around to look at the portrait again. I pulled her into my arms and held her as she fingered the bottom of the frame. "This must have taken weeks."
"Well I had hoped to give it to you a long time ago, but a war got in my way."
"Im glad you waited. Im glad you got to give it to me."
"So am I."
She lay on top of me as I stroked my fingertips up and down her back. She lifted her head and looked into my eyes. "How is it after all these seasons you still managed to surprise me?"
"Surprise you? Ri weve done this a thousand times. I figured there were very few surprises left."
"Not this." She gave me a playful slap on the arm as she rolled next to me and pulled the sheet up over us and propped herself up on her elbow, her head resting on her hand as her other hand gently rubbed my stomach. "The portrait."
"Oh. Well I just thought we should have something in the house that was a part of all of us."
"You know I think youre becoming just a little bit of a romantic."
"Shh dont let that get out."
"Youre secret is safe with me."
"I knew it would be." I took her in my arms and kissed her as we began making love again.
NOTE: The "portrait" was really done by the very talented
Angelique and can be seen on her web site at http://www.sirius.com/~angelik/ang_melosa.html
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