Xena strode towards to the hut where she could hear the baby's cries get louder and louder. She flung open the door and saw Hecuba shaking a rattle for the baby, who was grizzling lying on the bed. She walked up to the baby, and Hecuba after taking a look at her angry face stood back.
Xena looked at the crying child. Memories of the briefest of times with Solon flashed through her head. And then of Gabrielle nursing Hope before their world came crashing down and Xena asked her partner to do the unthinkable; let Xena kill her child. She saw the blonde hair and her promise to Gabrielle flashed through her head.
She heard footsteps and quickly bent down and gathered the child in her arms. She brought him to her and kissed the top of his head smelling the soap that Hecuba had used to clean him, her anger dissipating.
"Xena," said Cyrene.
Xena swallowed and turned around. The baby was clutched to her chest and stopped crying but was trying to suck on the warrior's breastplate. She looked down and smiled.
"You are hungry little man. You are so like your mother." She gripped him tighter. "How about some milk?" She looked around and could see relief on the faces of those present.
"A baby needs its mother," she said simply. "I promised Gabrielle I would be fighting for him and I will."
Cyrene approached Xena. "That's my girl," she said quietly.
Xena sat down on the bed and sobbed. She rested her face on the baby's head. "I'm sorry," she whispered to the baby.
"I just-" Xena blinked back the tears, "I thought of him as the cause of what happened that he was Lindos' son, and he's not. He's Gabrielle's through and through."
"And yours," said Cyrene. Xena nodded.
Hecuba held out her arms and Xena passed the baby to her. "I was worried what would be become of him if…Gabrielle….passed. But now I see his place is with you." She stared into Xena's eyes. "I can see how much you love our daughter. I know you will love our Grandson like your own."
"Gabrielle's not going anywhere," said Xena determinedly. "Not with us behind her." She smiled in gratitude at Hecuba and took the baby back from her. He started to grizzle.
"Come on, let's get you fed," said Xena. "Let's go and see your mummy."
"The crib is beautiful," said Hecuba, as she watched dotingly the baby sleeping.
"Iolaus made it," said Xena. She ran her hand over the wood paying particular attention to the detailed quill carved in the wood. "It was a surprise." She looked back at Gabrielle who was lying unmoving.
The door opened and Herodotus walked in noisily.
"Ssshh," said all the women in the room.
"Oh, sorry," he walked over to the crib and peered in proudly. His eyes then turned to his daughter lying in bed.
"No change?" he asked.
Hecuba shook her head.
"The boy's been fed?" asked Herodotus.
"Gabrielle fed him," said Cyrene. "With help from Xena," she added.
"It'll be good for them both," said Piri quietly.
Herodotus looked momentarily embarrassed and looked at the crib again. "Can't keep calling you boy can we? Need a name, er, boy."
"Had you and Gabrielle discussed names?" asked Cyrene.
Xena shook her head and looked at Gabrielle. "It was a bit early."
"It is tradition in Poteidaia to name your eldest child after a Grandparent," said Hecuba. "What is your father's name?" she asked Xena.
Xena exchanged a glance with Cyrene. "That's complicated," she said.
"Sorry, I didn't mean anything," said Hecuba flustered.
"I'll tell you later," said Cyrene.
"So Herodotus it is," said Herodotus proudly.
There was silence. No one wanted to voice their thoughts.
"Let's wait for Gabrielle, dear," said Hecuba finally, shaking her head.
"OK," said Herodotus, frowning at her.
"I'm going to examine Gabrielle, now," said Piri.
Hecuba went to her daughter and kissed her on the forehead. "See you soon."
She turned and went to the crib. Herodotus took Gabrielle's hand. "Little H needs you."
Hecuba rolled her eyes. "Come on Big H. We both could do with a wash and something to eat."
They left the hut. Cyrene stood by the crib.
"Do you want me to go?" She asked.
"You can stay and help," said Piri. "She probably could do with a change of sheets too." She started to push Gabrielle's stomach.
Xena sat by the bed and held Gabrielle's hand.
Piri finished her examination after several minutes. She looked at Mother and daughter. "The good news is the bleeding has stopped. The swelling is reducing."
"The bad news," said Xena coolly.
"I think we'll know one way or another within a few hours."
Xena turned to look at Gabrielle. "Come on bard. You've done it before, come back to me. Come back to us." She then stood up and wrapped her arms around the bard and lifted her up. Cyrene removed the dirty sheets and replaced them with fresh. Xena gently lay Gabrielle in bed and covered her up.
"Xena you must be exhausted. Why don't you get in bed?"
Xena was about to shake her head, but then changed her mind. "I think I will," she said. She removed her breastplate and bracers and slid her boots off.
"Don't worry, we'll leave you be," said Piri.
Xena slid into the bed and took the cool bard in her arms.
"Good night, Xena," said Cyrene. Xena kissed Gabrielle and shut her eyes gradually drifting into a much needed sleep.
She opened her eyes and spent several moments trying to focus, and then lifted her head from the pillow, but found it an effort so lay back again. She heard murmurings and turned her head to look at the sleeping face that was so dear to her and brought her hand to her cheek and stoked it gently. Two azure eyes shot open. Her hand was instantly covered by a larger one.
"Gabrielle?" said Xena hesitantly.
"I hope so," said Gabrielle. Her voice was just a whisper.
"Gabrielle," repeated Xena, and sat up. She stared at the bard.
Gabrielle became self conscious as Xena's eyes drilled into her.
"Oh Gods, we have been so worried," said Xena and she lay back down and started to cry.
"Ssshhh," said Gabrielle and edged closer to Xena. She then felt arms round her and pulled towards the warrior. She was held tight and could feel Xena's sobs. Gradually they subsided and the hold was loosened.
"Hey," said Gabrielle, gently.
Xena sniffed. "I thought I was going to lose you. " She kissed Gabrielle gently on the lips.
"I'm still here," said Gabrielle smiling.
"Please don't ever do that again." Gabrielle saw the pain in Xena's eyes and the fact she was barely able to control her emotions.
"Don't apologise. Oh Gabrielle!" Xena tightened her hold once again. After several moments she cupped the bard's face.
"How are you feeling?"
"Washed out," Gabrielle tried to move up the bed and grimaced. "A bit heavy limbed." She stared at Xena's face that now radiated joy. "I don't remember, what happened."
Xena smiled. She slipped out of the bed and then put her arms under Gabrielle and sat her up the bed. She then put an extra pillow behind the bard and sat down on the bed and took one of the bard's hands and brought it to her lips.
"You lost a lot of blood. You've been out of it for a while."
Gabrielle closed her eyes and nodded. "The baby?" she said suddenly and opened her eyes. "Is he ok?"
"He's fine," said Xena with a smile. "Absolutely beautiful. Wait there."
Xena got up and walked to the crib. She picked up the baby and brought him over to Gabrielle and gently placed him in her arms. She watched as Gabrielle scanned his face and then unwrapped the blankets and held his little hand. She then held his other hand and brought it to her lips.
Xena took a step backwards, wanting to give Gabrielle time with her son. She was about to turn when she heard Gabrielle say, "Where are you going?"
Xena looked down feeling self conscious. "You should have some time with him. Alone," she murmured.
"Thanks. But I'd rather have time with you both." Xena looked up into Gabrielle's eyes and gave a reticent smile. She walked over to the bed and slid behind Gabrielle so she was supporting the bard, and gave the blond head a kiss. She then stroked the tiny cheek with her hand and watched indulgently as Gabrielle cried tears of happiness as she inspected every inch of her newborn son.
After several minutes, Gabrielle said," Xena could you hold him, I'm getting a little tired."
"Sure," said Xena, and took him and stood up. Gabrielle kept her eyes fixed on the baby.
"Do you think, do you think he looks like him?" said Gabrielle, shakily.
"No," said Xena firmly. "Not a bit of him." She looked down at the baby who was starting to stir, "He certainly has your appetite," she said smiling. She placed a pillow across Gabrielle's lap. "Ready for him?"
Gabrielle nodded and took her son in her arms again. Xena watched with a feeling of pride as well as a tinge of envy. She shook herself mentally. Now was a time for celebration.
"You've got the hang of it," she said. "I'm just going to let the Amazons know."
Gabrielle looked up. "It must have been hard on everyone. My parents!" she said.
"I think they'll want to see you as soon as possible. Trouble is so will the whole tribe," said Xena. She stepped out of the hut and gave a sigh of relief. She saw one of the guards and asked her to get Piri and their parents. Her wide smile meant she did not have to say anything else.
She then stepped back in and saw that Gabrielle was still feeding the baby. She went to the fire and put a pot of water over it and arranged two mugs nearby.
She turned around and saw that the baby had finished feeding and Gabrielle was now looking exhausted. Xena walked to the bed and took the baby from her and held him against her shoulder. A large belch was heard.
"Definitely like you," she said and sat on the bed and laid the baby on Gabrielle's lap again supporting him. They looked at each other and shared a kiss.
The door opened, and Piri and their parents came rushing in shrieking screams of joy. Piri went straight to Gabrielle's side and felt her forehead and pulled her eye slightly before checking her neck.
"Thank you," mouthed Gabrielle.
"Good to have you back," said the healer and stepped back so Hecuba could give her daughter a hug. She did awkwardly as Xena was still sitting by Gabrielle and then gave the warrior a hug and a kiss.
Herodotus was standing back beaming and Cyrene was hovering and as soon as Hecuba moved she took her place and gave both Xena and Gabrielle a kiss.
"How are you feeling, dear?" she asked.
"Tired," said Gabrielle. "But very, very happy."
"I think they'll be a huge party when you are well. We're stay for that," said Hecuba and Herodotus nodded in agreement. "They've gone to get Lila. They thought, well that doesn't matter now. But she'll enjoy seeing you and her nephew."
"Suppose she'll bring that boyfriend of hers," said Herodotus gruffly.
"No one would ever be good enough for his girls," said Hecuba gasped in horror as she realised what she said looked at Xena.
Xena smiled. "I can understand that," she said and looked at Herodotus and nodded in understanding. The older man gave her a salute.
"So what about a name," said Hecuba? "Your father has been calling the poor child Herodotus."
Herodotus frowned at her.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes. She looked at the baby and smiled. "I was going to ask Xena and Cyrene if it was ok." She looked around the room. "I'd like to name him Lyceus."
Cyrene gasped and put her hand to her mouth. Xena looked at Gabrielle with tears in her eyes. "Are you sure?"
"I want him to be a part of you Xena, and so giving him your brother's name felt right."
Xena leant in and gave Gabrielle a kiss, and then held her finger for Lyceus to grasp. "It's perfect." She then stood up and scooped up Lyceus and gave him to Cyrene who was crying silently.
She smiled through her tears. "He reminds me of Lyceus when he was a baby. Must be the blond hair. Thank you."
"Darn fine name," said Herodotus. "A good man's name."
"It is," said Xena, smiling.
As Gabrielle and Xena walked into the dining hut the place erupted into cheers, whistles and clapping.
"Where's my Godson?" said Ephiny and made a bee line for the new entrants. Gabrielle placed Lyceus into her arms and she turned and walked towards to a crowd of amazons who immediately started cooing and talking baby-talk.
Xena rolled her eyes. "For a bunch of warriors," she muttered. She helped Gabrielle to a chair. "You do realise that you won't see him until he is ten years old."
Gabrielle chuckled and eased herself down.
"Welcome to invalids corner," said Aella brightly.
Gabrielle took her hand. "I'm so pleased," she said. "Ephiny deserves someone like you."
"I think so too," said Aella laughing. She turned around to face Solari. "Still seeing double?"
The scout nodded painfully. "At least that's an improvement. Three lots of Pony in the morning is too much."
The others laughed.
"I'm just going to see mother," said Xena and gave Gabrielle a kiss and walked to where her mother was chatting with Athena. The Goddess was dressed in a long blue dress and arrived at the borders saying she was a friend of Cyrene. Xena smiled inwardly at the irony of that. Only Hercules, Iolaus, Piri, Joxer and Ephiny knew the truth of who she actually was.
Xena gulped. "I owe you an apology. I said terrible things." She looked into Athena's blue eyes.
"I'm sorry I couldn't help. You know if I could have I would have." The Goddess looked around at the party. "Thank you for inviting me."
"You're a part of the baby's life. You're a part of my life. We-I wanted you here. It's good to get to know you." Xena stepped forward and embraced Athena tentatively. Cyrene watched with a tear in her eye and pride radiating from her.
"Thank you for the toy horse. Argo says the likeness is uncanny."
"A baby has to have a favourite toy," said Athena. "Now where is the guest of honour?"
"Good luck getting your hands on him. I think his God father has him." She pointed to where Joxer was sitting with Piri both cooing over the baby.
"This could get nasty," said Cyrene. "Wish us luck."
Xena laughed and watched her mother, no her parents, she corrected herself, walk to the healers.
She looked around and was about to return to Gabrielle when she saw two figures away from the crowd. She walked up to them.
"Xena," said Lila. "I was going to get a drink for us. Do you want anything?"
Xena shook her head. Lila scampered off leaving Xena with a terrified looking young man.
"Georgios, isn't it?" she asked.
Georgios nodded silently.
"First time to an Amazon camp?" she added slyly.
He nodded. "First time out of Poteidaia," he whispered.
"Aahh," said Xena. She looked at him and then looked around. Gabrielle was in deep conversation with Aella. Epinon had joined Solari was sitting with the scout's head on her shoulder. Hercules and Iolaus were telling several of the Amazon elders about their time in Amphipolis with Salmoneus. Her parents were having an animated discussion with Joxer and Piri and Gabrielle's parents were serving drinks and food and chatting happily with anyone that came their way.
"A bit full on, isn't it?" She said.
"A bit?" said Georgios in astonishment.
"That's families for you," she said and patted his arm. "Get to know them, you may be surprised."
He immediately looked across at Herodotus.
Xena grinned. "Don't worry about him. His bark is worse than his bite. And I should know."
She walked over to Lyceus and motioned to her mother.
"I've only just got hold of him," she whined.
"You both had him half the morning," retorted Xena.
Athena patted Cyrene's arm and Cyrene grudgingly put him in her daughter's arms. The Goddess laughed and put her arm around Xena's Mother. She walked across to where Gabrielle was sitting. The bard had closed her eyes for a moment, but opened them as Xena placed Lyceus in her arms.
"Thought you'd like a cuddle, before you lost him for a while. Mother is giving us the evil eye, and I'm sure there may be an Amazon that hasn't babbled in his direction yet."
Gabrielle turned and gave Xena a gentle kiss on the lips.
"Thank you. For everything."
"No I should thank you," Xena swallowed. "Before I met you I thought I could manage on my own. Didn't need anyone else. Lone tree in the forest being the strongest. But I can't. It isn't. You've shown me what it means to love and be loved. To be a family."
"Oh Xena," said Gabrielle. "You've always had people that love you."
"I realise that now. And I've got a whole extended family. Even if they are amazons." She rolled her eyes as Gabrielle gave her a slap on the arm. "But now I've got you two." She stroked Lyceus' blond hair. "And that's everything to me."
"We're family," said Gabrielle burrowing in closer to her.
Xena put an arm around Gabrielle, kissed the top of her head and sat back and enjoyed the festivities.
Thank you for your comments. If you liked it please tell me. If you didn't, please tell me how I can improve.
To be Continued and concluded in Journey of Discovery: Part two: Denouement