Disclaimers 1: Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal. No infringement is intended and no profit will be made.
Disclaimers 2: This little addition was inspired by the episode 'Animal Attraction' because there was a conversation just waiting to happen.
Thanks: To Renee O'Connor for providing such a good opening for this piece.
Authors Notes: Set directly after 'Animal Attraction'.
Warning: This story is sub-text friendly. If this kind of material offends you, or is illegal where you live, or you are under age then the exit is the way you came in.

For Avator

XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
ANOTHER CHANCE
By Masque

The full moon shone down, basking Gabrielle in an eerie silver glow as she sat at the window to the room they had rented at the inn. With her back against one side of the frame and a booted foot braced against the opposite one she twirled her two Sai absently. The weapons formed complex patterns in her sure hands but her mind was not really focused on what she was doing. Though her eyes were trained on the village beneath the window her thoughts drifted over her shoulder to the peacefully sleeping figure on the bed.

The bard turned her head taking in her resting companion. Xena had wanted to travel a little further that evening but even Gabrielle could see that the warrior was falling asleep in the saddle again. When Gabrielle had suggested stopping in the village they were just about to ride into Xena and once again objected, preferring their usual arrangement of sleeping under the stars despite the cold weather.

Usually Gabrielle would humour the warrior and then curl up close to her to keep them both warm, but this time that was not going to be good enough. This time Gabrielle had been determined to make Xena stay at an inn, and she was going to make sure that they had a roof and a bed until they got back to Greece. With the knowledge that Xena was expecting a child Gabrielle did not want the warrior taking any chances. Xena had reminded Gabrielle that she had been pregnant before and that she had continued on her march to Corinth while she carried Solan. Gabrielle had reminded her that at the time she had kept her pregnancy a secret, she had been surrounded by an army and had a tent with all the creature comforts she had needed. At this stage in the argument Gabrielle knew that Xena had agreed just to shut the bard up, it was a petty win, but an important one.

Xena was pregnant. Now that she looked more closely she could indeed see that the warrior's stomach had begun to swell. The thin sheet on the bed outlined, even enhanced the condition of the naked body beneath it. While Gabrielle had taken Argo and the first new addition to the family, her own horse, to the stables for the night, Xena had secured a room and gone up. She had been so exhausted that she had simply stripped off and climbed into the bed and fallen asleep.

Gabrielle had had no such luck. The warrior had slept for a few candle marks but the bard had been left fully awake with her thoughts in turmoil. Xena was pregnant - whether it was from a man, a god, or some other miraculous intervention - it hurt like Tartarus.

"You not sleeping?" The low voice purred out of the darkness, invading her thoughts.

She wanted to ignore it but she had never been able to. She wanted to ignore it because she was not ready to deal with what was happening, but she found herself answering, "Can't."

A moment of silence passed and then Gabrielle could hear a rustling sound as Xena sat up and wrapped herself in the sheet. "You're still thinking about it."

"You expect me not to?" She spun the Sai once more and then sheathed them on her boots.

Xena noticed that Gabrielle was looking out of the window, wrapping the sheet more securely around her body she stood and began to walk towards where Gabrielle was sat. "You do believe me, don't you, about not knowing how it happened?" Gabrielle did not turn, "Gabrielle?" She moved closer, so that she could see Gabrielle's face in the moonlight, "I swear to you, I have not been with anybody since you and I…" She reached out to touch Gabrielle, to reassure her, Gabrielle flinched, pulling herself out of Xena's reach.

Gabrielle could not have Xena touching her right at that moment. The turmoil inside raged, she was clinging to her equilibrium and one light caress for her lover would tip the balance one way or the other; she would either lose what hold she had on her temper or fall into the warriors arms sobbing uncontrollably. She did not want to do either; she wanted to be strong, strong for both of them.

Xena withdrew her hand, dropping it to her side. Gabrielle's rejection had stung her. She wanted them to be happy, to be a family; whatever power had granted her this precious gift did not matter, something they believed that they could never have, without outside help, was now within their grasp and Gabrielle was fighting it. For what reason Xena did not know, she had to admit that the whole situation was a bit far fetched and with no explanation as to how her pregnancy had materialised Gabrielle's reaction was understandable. Yet Xena knew that she had not been unfaithful to her lover, she had sworn it to the woman and she needed to know that Gabrielle believed her. "Do you think I'm lying to you? Do you think that I've been with someone else?" A lump rose in her throat as she waited for Gabrielle's answer.

Slowly Gabrielle turned and finally forced her eyes to meet Xena's. The truth was there as it always was, in the depths of the powerful blue eyes that glowed even through the darkness of night. Gabrielle was one of the few who could read answers in those expressive eyes and right now they told her that Xena was telling her the truth. "No." Her eyes dropped and her head slumped forward, "I know that you're not lying to me, and I know that you haven't been with anyone else. But I also know that you need a man to make a baby." She closed her eyes as memories threatened to overwhelm her, "Or a god."

Xena lowered herself to the windowsill and sat opposite Gabrielle. Her relief at knowing that her lover believed her was short lived as the words that Gabrielle had uttered sank in. "You really think that a god might have done this?"

"I don't know. Maybe." The bard looked out over the village again, and on towards the woods where the branches swayed in the breeze.

Xena thought for a moment. Gabrielle had answered her question but she did not seem particularly concerned by the thought of a god being involved. She reached for Gabrielle again, this time grasping the young woman's chin in her hand and turning her head so that their eyes met. "Gabrielle, what is this really about?"

The intense blue eyes, imploring her to open her heart were too much for Gabrielle and she ripped her chin from Xena's fingertips. Gazing once again at the moon she prayed to Artemis to give her the strength to tell Xena why she was hurting so much inside. For a moment she did not know where to begin, but then one word seemed to be the best place. "Solan."

"Solan?" Even saying his name caused the pain to rip through her very soul.

When Gabrielle heard the choke in her lovers voice as she repeated the name Gabrielle knew that she could not stay near Xena. She leapt from the window ledge and moved across the room, into the shadows. It was not that she feared Xena's actions, that had been resolved between the two, it was the anger she held for herself that made her feel as though she could not be in Xena's presence.

Xena remained at the window, confusion evident in her features. Why Solan? Why now? She did not understand. "Gabrielle?"

The unmistakable sound of a fist hitting wood startled her, as did the anguished scream that issued from Gabrielle's lips. Suddenly Gabrielle appeared from the shadows; a tear had escaped from her left eye.

"Because of Hope, because of me. I took something from you that I can never replace, as much as I want to. And now someone, or something, has. It hurts so much, knowing that it wasn't me." She raised her hands to her head, raking her fingers through her short blonde hair.

They never talked much about the children, it brought too much pain and anger and memories of a time that they both wanted to put behind them. The past belonged in the past, but the future was not yet written. "This child is a chance for…"

"A chance for you. A chance to succeed where you failed Solan. A chance for you to get it right."

As Gabrielle had began her frenzied statement Xena had moved from her seat at the window to stand before her lover. She grabbed one of Gabrielle's flailing arms at the wrist. "A chance for both of us." With her free hand she loosened the sheet, letting it fall to the ground, leaving her naked before the woman she loved. Slowly she began to lower their hands.

As Gabrielle realised what Xena was intending to do she began to resist. "Xena no." She tried to free her hand but the warriors grasp was too strong.

Xena felt Gabrielle's resistance but she needed this, they both did, "Please."

As soon as her finger tips made contact with the soft skin of Xena's stomach she could feel something changing. Gently she laid her palm flat against small swell of the early pregnancy and could almost feel the life that was growing within Xena. "Oh gods, I'm so sorry." From that moment she knew that she would love this child, no matter how it had got there, it was a part of Xena and a long time ago Gabrielle had chosen to love all of the Warrior Princess.

Gabrielle's palm was warm against her stomach, but when she dropped to her knees and placed soft kisses against Xena's skin she knew everything was going to be fine. It was almost as if the bard was reaching inside and touching both the warrior and the baby, giving them her acceptance, her blessing and her love.

Xena's fingers intertwined with those that Gabrielle still had laid upon her stomach and now the other hand threaded through the short blonde hair, holding Gabrielle close to her. When she next spoke her voice was low, "Gabrielle, I want to raise this child with you." Blue-green eyes gazed up at her, listening intently to her words, "As far as I'm concerned you sired this child, if not physically then spiritually. I would never be ready to have a child if you hadn't come into my life."

Placing a final kiss against Xena's stomach she stood and kissed the mother to be. The kiss was searing, leaving both of them breathless and crying. They rested their foreheads against one another; each wiping the others tears away, every now and then a small laugh escaping between them.

After a few moments Xena clasped Gabrielle's hand and brought the open palm to her lips, kissing it. "Come to bed." All Gabrielle could do was nod as Xena led her towards the pallet.

They lay together, and for the first time in a long while Gabrielle held Xena in her arms. Xena's head rested against Gabrielle's shoulder, while Gabrielle stroked Xena's ebony hair. "So are we having a boy or a girl?"

"A boy." Xena replied sleepily.

"I want a girl." Gabrielle teased.

It was quiet for a moment and Gabrielle could tell as Xena's breathing began to even out that the warrior was already in the realm of Morpheus. Placing a light kiss on top of Xena's head she tightened her grip around the warrior and their baby. A small smile teased her lips; "We're going to be a family."

The End

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There you have it. Hope you enjoyed it. Now reply to it.