Disclaimers: These characters do not belong to me and I won't make a dinar from writing it. I believe Rob Tapert has first dibs on these folks.
A SOLSTICE GIFT
"What are you thinking about?" Gabrielle asked. "You haven't said two words in the last three candle marks."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I was just thinking about Eve. It's nearly the Winter Solstice. I realized I've never had the chance to celebrate with her. I was wondering where we might stop so I could find a gift for her. Something she'd like that she needs."
"How about clothes. She could use some warm clothes." Gabrielle suggested.
"That's a great idea. Let's stop in the next town and you can find just the right out fit for her."
"Me? Why me? You're her mother." Gabrielle complained.
"I know that. But, you're much better at those kinds of things. I don't know anything about what she'd like to where or even what size she is."
"Xena, I'm sure whatever you got for her she'd appreciate. She's crazy about you."
"Gabrielle, the fact that my daughter loves me won't keep her warm at night. Come on, please."
Gabrielle rolled her eyes. She could never deny her partner anything. "Ok.... Um, Xena, do we have any dinars?"
"Oh.... Good point. No, we don't. Maybe they have a tavern or an Inn where you can do the bard thing. That should raise us enough dinars to buy Eve's Solstice gift and give us a nice warm bed and hot meal. Wouldn't you like that?..... Besides, it's been a long time since.....well, you know, since we've been .....together and all....."
"Xena, I need to ask you something." Gabrielle pulled back on the reins and stopped the progress of her huge white steed. "I need to know something before we go any further."
Xena's face turned dark and worry etched the corners of her mouth. "What is it Gabrielle? You know you can ask me anything."
Gabrielle took in a deep breath and let it out, trying to slow the heavy pounding of her heart. "Were you with him?"
"What?" Xena looked confused.
"Rothgar. Were you...intimate...with him? Did you let him touch you?" Gabrielle snapped unable to control her fury at the thought of someone else pleasuring her partner.
"NO! No, Gabrielle, I swear I never let him.....you know." Xena felt suddenly self-conscious.
Gabrielle looked into the warrior's eyes for a moment. "I believe you, Xena.... I just had to know. Let's get going. I want to get those dinars and then get you in a soft warm bed." She wiggled her eyebrows and gave her lover her best lascivious grin.
Xena felt her sex tingle and smiled back. "Let's hurry."
The Inn keeper was grateful to have a bard who knew stories of Xena to bring in the lagging crowd. The bitter cold of the season kept some of his regular patrons seeking warmth at their own hearth instead of making merry at his. Word traveled fast as neighbors he hadn't seen in a quarter moon came to hear this young woman's stories, which she told with such passion. Yes, she was worth the free room, meal and the hot bath.
After three candle marks, Gabrielle begged off and collected her tips. Xena watched her from the shadows ready to come throttle any man who was stupid enough to assault her partner in any way. Then, she followed her up to their room, where a hot meal of venison stew and fresh bread awaited them.
"Mmmm, that really hit the spot. One thing you can say about these Norse people, they sure know how to fix a hearty meal." Gabrielle said.
"I wish they'd hurry up with that hot water." Xena groused as she went to the hearth to feed the flames. Just on cue, there was a knock at the door and two young blonde haired boys entered with buckets of steaming hot water, which they poured into the tub hiding behind a curtain in the corner of the room. Gabrielle thanked them and threw the bolt on the door as she bade them good night.
Gabrielle heard a deep sigh and knew Xena had already stripped and slipped her long form into the inviting water. She grinned at the thought of admiring her lover's body again. It had been such a long time. Hurriedly she stripped off her own clothes and joined her.
The women sat opposite each other, each thoroughly admiring every luscious inch of the other's charms. "I've missed you, Xena. I dreamt of you, only you." Gabrielle said, softly.
"I've missed you too, Gabrielle. I lost my memories of you, of us, but somehow I sensed you should be there at my side. I never felt whole until I freed you from the flames. You were like a constant hand on my shoulder, a presence. I guess I'm not explaining that very well." Xena looked down at her long hands.
"You're doing fine, my love." Gabrielle slid across the tub into Xena's lap and wrapped her legs around curvaceous hips. "Enough talk." With that she kissed her lover deeply, passionately, which Xena returned in kind. Hands explored soft flesh and moans were elicited with each intimate touch. Xena spread her legs to allow Gabrielle's sex to slide down and touch her own. She moved her hands down to cup firm buttocks and pull Gabrielle hard against her need. Xena's head fell back as she relished the feeling of their intimacy. "By the gods, Gabrielle, I love you." She recaptured bruised lips and allowed her partner to suckle upon her tongue as she continued to rhythmically glide the smaller woman's sex against her own, feeling her engorged clit rubbing directly over her partner's. The little bard relished the sensation of their erect nipples rubbing together as they soared toward ecstacy. Xena began to tremble as she road the waves of her arousal toward release. Gabrielle released her lover's tongue and threw her head back as her climax struck her with such force, she feared biting it off. Xena pumped into her lover over and over again until her ardor was satisfied. Unable to form words, the sated warrior tenderly kissed her partner's eyes, nose, forehead and cheeks to show her love and gratitude. Gabrielle was in a drowsy, happy, haze and began to fall asleep.
"Oh, no you don't. I am not freezing to death tonight. Come on. Up you go." Xena helped her partner to her feet then lifted her over the side of the tub and toweled her dry. "Time for all good bards to go night night." Xena lay her lover upon the soft pallet and climbed down beside her. She reached for the down filled comforter and tucked them both in snugly. "Good night, my love." Gabrielle wiggled into her favorite spot on Xena's shoulder and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.
Xena groaned deeply in her throat. The sky was just beginning to turn pink with the approach of a new day's sun. Her belly was feeling full with warmth and her sex throbbed. She opened her eyes and looked down to see a blonde head resting on her mons and felt small fingers twirling her dark curls around them, peppered with light kisses. She spread her legs to allow her lover easier access to her need and moaned loudly when her clit was gently pinched and rubbed in return. Gabrielle shifted her weight and crawled up between Xena's long luscious legs. She sniffed and savored the scent of her lover's arousal, then gently lathed her labia, enjoying the taste of her, before kissing and suckling upon her clit.
Xena reached down with long arms and grasped her lover's hair, which she was surprised she could do, forgetting how much longer it was now, and pulled her harder against her sex. "Oh, Gabrielle!" She came in her lover's warm mouth so hard that her sight dimmed and blackness threatened to consume her. Letting go of her partner's blonde locks, she fell back on the pallet, panting for breath.
Gabrielle smiled at the power she had over her lover, then decided she needed relief "Now". She crawled up Xena's long form and straddled her partners dark head. Xena needed no encouragement she grasped her lover's rear and directed the bard's sex over her tongue and drank of her nectar. Gabrielle's release was swift and sweet. The lovers lay in each other's arms, relishing their connection. They had come home.
"Let's get dressed and eat. I really want to get that gift and go find Eve. She must be frantic, thinking I've died or something. It's been over a year now." Xena said.
"I hope she's alright. Do you think she's still traveling with Virgil?" Gabrielle asked.
"I don't know. I just want her to be safe wherever she is." Xena put on her armor and turned to tie the back of Gabrielle's top. "We should buy gloves and scarves for ourselves if we have enough dinars. I think we'll be camping out in the cold for a while."
"Good idea. Let's get going." The sooner we get back to Greece and some warmth, the better.
The couple walked through the market place searching for just the right color and textured fabric to give to Eve for Solstice. Xena kept an eye out for something special for Gabrielle. She had picked up a few dinars from the floor and tucked them away. Finally, her partner found a booth she proclaimed was perfect for what she sought. Xena told Gabrielle to take her time deciding and she'd go pack up Argo and be ready to head out when Gabrielle was done. Gabrielle agreed, glad to be on her own for a while for she saw just the solstice gift for her partner. It was a leather bound parchment, small enough for her to carry with her all the time. She wanted to write a story for her lover that would express how she felt about their reunion and their lives together. She knew better than to buy Xena jewelry for she never wore any, or weapons because she was very adamant about having them made in Athens. But her sentimental partner always treasured her stories, so that's what she would get. A story just for her eyes to see.
"Ready to go?" Gabrielle asked of Xena when she walked into the barn.
"Yep. We're all set. Did you get the outfit for Eve you wanted?"
"Sure did. She'll love it. And, so will her mother. It covers a lot more skin than those rags she's been wearing."
Xena smiled. "Good."
A full moon passed and the couple made several stops in the small towns on their way home to Greece. Gabrielle would tell her stories for their room, meals and tips. They were comfortable except for the nights they had to camp out in the cold. However, the weather became more tolerable the further south they traveled.
"Where do you think she is, Xena?" Gabrielle wondered how they would track down Eve.
"Let's try Joxer's first. I think, if they are traveling together, that Virgil would want to go fix up the place for his mother and sisters."
"Mm....I think you're right. We should get there early tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a hot bath and some good Greek food." Gabrielle said.
"Me too. But, not nearly so much as I'm looking forward to holding my daughter in my arms again. She must feel we deserted her."
"We have an awful lot of explaining to do." Gabrielle piped in. "Boy, do we have some explaining to do."
"Yeah." Xena let out a deep sigh.
The couple finally stopped to make camp when the darkening sky made managing the rocky road too dangerous for their horses. Xena sat upon a fallen limb, sharpening her sword and worrying about what she would find at Joxer's in the morning.
Gabrielle sat across the fire, writing a short story for Xena, when she sensed her partner's pensiveness. She finished her story and put her things away. Quietly, she got up and walked around the fire to her partner and sat beside her. She knew just what was worrying her love and merely wrapped her arm around strong shoulders. "I love you, Xena."
Xena stopped her repetitive motions and placed her sword into its sheath. She stood up and reached out for her soul mate, who stood to slip into her strong arms. "Let's make love." Xena whispered into Gabrielle's ear.
"Mmm...Yeah." The little bard responded, then tilted her head to accept a soft, tender kiss."
"Xena, there's no sign of the damage the fire did. Not even the roof is black. They must have worked for months to repair this." Gabrielle exclaimed.
"Yeah. I'm impressed. Well, I think they're here. Let's go wish our daughter a Happy Solstice." Xena grinned from ear to ear and galloped up to the now renovated home and tavern.
Just as Xena dismounted, a frantic Virgil came storming out of the door, a look of shock and panic on his handsome face. "Xena!...Gabrielle! I was just going to fetch the healer!" Virgil yelled, turned on his heel, and ran back through the door. "Eve, your Mother, she's alive. She's here..... Thank the gods!"
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other then quickly followed Virgil. "Oh, Hera...., Evie!" Xena exclaimed at the site before her. Eve lay upon a pallet, her belly huge with child.
"Mother!" Eve yelled and shot up to her swollen feet, shocked to see the woman she thought was dead before her at the very time she needed her most.
"VIRGIL!!!" Xena instantly had Virgil by the throat, his feet dangling in mid air. "You bastard! I'll kill you."
"Xena, NO!" Gabrielle grabbed her partner's arm, trying to get her to release the terrified young man. "Let him go. You'll kill him."
"Mother, please..... We're married." Eve placed her hands upon her belly as a contraction caused her to flinch and groan.
Xena looked between her daughter and Virgil then slowly lowered him back on to his feet. She straightened out his clothes and looked to her partner for guidance.
"When? When did you two wed?" Gabrielle inquired as she pet her lover's arm to calm her.
Virgil hurried to Eve's side. "It was about three months after you two disappeared. We searched for you. I heard that you'd been seen far north and then we met a Norseman that had shared a meal with a Beowolf. He told us you were dead. Eve had a hard time with that and I was there for her. We fell in love and decided to make a life together here. We repaired the damage and reopened the tavern." Virgil looked at his adoring wife. "We've done well. Now, we have a little one on the way."
"I'd say, any time now." Xena piped in. "Look, I'm sorry. I over reacted a bit." The warrior looked sheepishly at her family.
"I understand. Look, why don't I leave you two alone while I go fetch the healer." Virgil said.
"Not necessary, Virgil. Xena's the finest healer I know. I don't think she'd want anyone else delivering her first grandchild." Gabrielle piped in.
"That's if Virgil and Eve agree." Xena said.
"Thank you, Mother. I'd want it no other way." Eve slowly walked up to Xena and ran a slightly trembling hand down her handsome face. "You're real. You're really here."
Xena couldn't help the tears that escaped from her ice blue eyes. She took her daughter's hands in hers and kissed the palms and held them against her cheek.
Eve began to cry too. "I thought you were dead. Oh, Mother." She fell into her mother's arms and both women cried for joy. Eve stepped back, once she could somewhat compose herself, and reached out to Gabrielle, who joined Xena in her arms.
"Evie, Gabrielle and I got you a solstice gift." Xena said, her eyes twinkling.
"Yeah, unfortunately, it's not gonna fit you for a quarter moon or so." Gabrielle said as she went to their saddle bags and pulled out a soft blue tunic, the color of Eve's eyes, with an embroidered sash.
"Oh, Mother and Gabrielle, it's beautiful. The material is so soft and I just love the color." Eve said.
"I'm glad you like it. I have to admit, Gabrielle picked out the fabric." Xena said with pride.
"But, I have no gift for you." Eve pouted.
Xena placed a hand on either side of her daughter's belly. "This is the second best Solstice gift I have ever received." Xena smiled, lovingly.
Eve was slightly taken aback. "The second best? If your grandchild is the second best Solstice gift you've ever received, what could be the best."
Xena pat her daughter's cheek. "You."
"Oh, Mother. I've missed you so much." She said as she fell back into her Mother's arms. "And, you too, Gabrielle. Now, I feel that my happiness is complete. OW!" Eve yelped as her contractions strengthened.
"Here. Lie down so I can feel the baby's location." Xena said and Eve did as her mother bade. "Yep. It won't be long now. It's in the birth canal. How long have you been having pains?"
"It's been about six candle marks. But the last two were the only really hard ones."
"You'll deliver quickly like I did with you. We'd better get prepared. Virgil boil a bucket of water on the hearth. Here, Gabrielle, take my breast dagger and put the blade in the flame. I'll need lots of clean linen too and some twine."
Virgil and Gabrielle went about their business, glad to feel useful.
"Now, don't push until I say so. Ok?"
Eve nodded. Fearful of the pain, but relieved her mother would be there to bring her child into the world.
The contractions continued for two more candle marks, becoming longer and deeper. Virgil wiped his wife's sweaty brow and held her hand, which she squeezed unmercifully during each pain.
"Evie, I need you to pull your knees up and spread as wide as you can for me." Xena instructed.
Eve blushed furiously.
"Come on, sweetheart, I've diapered your bottom more times than I can count." Xena encouraged.
"But, the terrain has changed considerably since then." Eve groaned and did as she was told.
"You are over three fingers dilated. It won't be long now. Virgil, I want you to crawl behind Eve and help her to push with her next contraction." Xena felt her daughter's belly and when the contraction began, instructed Eve and Virgil to push.
"Gabrielle, grab that oil lamp. I need more light."
Gabrielle held the lamp so Xena could see what she was doing.
"I see the head!... Push!" Xena pushed against her daughters skin between her vagina and rectum to lesson the tearing as the dark head passed through the birth canal and into its grandmother's heart. "I've got it. Keep pushing, Eve. Keep pushing. A little more....that's it. She's out. It's a girl!" Xena yelled and laughed at the same time. Her entire being filled with love for this new life she held in her strong arms. "Welcome to the world, little one. I'm your Gram." Xena kissed each part of her granddaughter as she wiped the protective covering away and lay her on her mother's belly to cut and tie the umbilical cord. She handed the baby to Eve and kissed her forehead. "Congratulations, sweetheart, you have a daughter." Then she returned to deliver the after birth.
"I'll clean her up, Xena. Go see your granddaughter." Gabrielle offered as she went to collect water for the task.
"She's beautiful, Evie." Xena said as she played with the thick black hair upon the baby's head. Virgil simply held his wife and let tears of joy slip down his cheeks. "What are you going to name her?"
"Cyrene, after grandmother." Eve replied.
Xena smiled, her tears now drenching her beautiful face. "..... Thank you.""
The baby nuzzled at her mother's breast and whimpered. "I think she's hungry."
"I don't know how to feed her." Eve said in distress.
"Let me help." Xena instructed her daughter on how to breast feed her new baby.
"You're good at this." Eve remarked.
"I had a lot of practice with you." Xena smiled, wanly.
"I'm sorry you missed out on my childhood, Mom. You'd have been a wonderful mother."
Xena just nodded and kissed her daughter's sweaty brow once more. "You guys need some rest. Gabrielle and I will make ourselves at home..... We'll tell you all about what happened with Beowolf when you're stronger. Call me if you need anything, sweetheart. Congratulations to you both."
"Thanks." Virgil said without taking his eyes off his new daughter.
"Wow, Xena, I ...um... you're a grandmother. Wow." Gabrielle sat, stunned, upon their pallet.
"Yeah, amazing isn't it? We have a granddaughter." Xena let out a goofy giggle.
"I wish Mom was here to see her namesake. She's so beautiful." Xena said as she washed up at the basin provided in their room.
"Xena, do you think we could take a nap. I feel like I was run over by a Minotaur."
"Me too. We'll take a nap then have a nice hot bath before checking on the new family downstairs." Xena replied as she slipped out of her leathers and into the pallet beside her partner. Gabrielle snuggled up on Xena's shoulder and both women fell into deep, restful sleep.
"Mmmm, what smells so good?" Xena asked, groggily.
"Welcome back. I made us some hot tea with cinnamon and sliced apple."
"Mmmm, my favorite." The warrior smiled broadly at her treat.
"Happy Solstice, Xena." Gabrielle smiled as she handed the hot brew to her partner.
"Happy Solstice, Gabrielle. I've got something for you. Hand me my bag, will you." Xena searched in her saddle bag and pulled out a small leather pouch, tied with a bright red ribbon. "For you."
Gabrielle took the pouch and opened it to find two tortoise shell berets, inlaid with mother-of-pearl. "Oh, Xena, they're beautiful."
"I thought, since your hair has gotten longer, you might need something to keep it out of your face."
"I do and I love them. Thank you." Gabrielle gushed.
"You're welcome." Xena blushed.
"And, I have something for you, too." Gabrielle jumped up and retrieved the leather bound parchment from her saddle bag. "It's a short story I wrote just for you. It's about the eternal travels of two soul mates and how they overcome incredible odds to stay together.....I love you, Xena...." Gabrielle kissed her partner.
"I love you, too, Gabrielle. I will treasure it always. Now, let's go join our family and celebrate the greatest Solstice gift of all." Xena's heart was full of joy and gratitude for her life seemed whole again.
"Right behind you."
HAPPY SOLSTICE, EVERYONE!
December 25, 2000