Please read the Disclaimer in Part One!
Note: Obviously this story involves characters from the episodes "Warrior...Princess" and "Warrior...Princess...Tramp." Other than the characters themselves, there shouldn't be any actual spoilers for said episodes. Character name spellings are from WHOOSH, so if they're inaccurate, don't blame me. As far as I know, the baby in "WPT" was unnamed, so I invented a name for her.
Xenite Disclaimer for Part Six: No military recruits were brutally "hazed" during the production of this fanfic.
The opponent, a burly youth, lowered his head ox-like and charged. The young student, apprehensive, planted his feet and turned his shoulder into the other boy's stomach. The attacker went flying. Flushed with triumph, the smaller boy turned to grin at Xena.
"Good," she said. "Now-"
"Time for a break," interrupted a firm voice from the edge of the courtyard. Xena rolled her eyes and extended an arm toward the large youth on the ground. Eying Gabrielle warily, he clambered to his feet unassisted.
"Tomorrow," said Xena, "we learn how to fall." A short nod, and the small class dispersed. "How long were you standing there?"
"Not too long. You know, Xena," said Gabrielle, approaching, "I don't know how much more I can let out your leathers." She tugged lightly at the leather covering Xena's bulging belly. "And it's going to be a pain taking them back in when you get your figure back."
"Who says I'm going to get it back?" Xena replied mock-morosely. "I'm not as young as I used to be, you know."
"Oh, come on," Gabrielle said fondly. "Of course you'll get it back. With all the exercising you do?" Kneeling, she pressed her ear to Xena's belly. "Look how big you're getting. Hey!" She looked mischievously up at her lover. "Maybe we're having twins!"
Xena groaned. "Hades, no," she said with feeling. "Anyway, if there's anyone having twins it's Diana. She's already big as a house."
"That's not twins. It's just that she hasn't stopped eating since we got here," Gabrielle giggled, getting to her feet. Leisurely, they walked toward the entrance to the castle.
"Well, having Joxer's Mom in the kitchen doesn't help," Xena added. "Who would have thought a warlord's wife would be such a great cook?"
"Speaking of which-" Gabrielle began, but a shout interrupted her.
"Xena! Gabrielle!" The two women turned to see Joxer approaching at speed.
"Hercules and Iolaus are coming back," he reported as he came within range. "The lookout spotted them on the western ridge." He barrelled past them, heading for the kitchen.
"About time," Xena grumped. "I'm going crazy not knowing how the battle went."
"I hope they had time to visit Alcmene," Gabrielle mused as she and Xena diverted their course toward the castle gate. "Hercules seemed anxious to talk to his mother."
"...and then I tells the chef, I says, don't you 'don't bruise the meat' me, youngster! I been slingin' slop since before you was weaned off yer momma's tits!" Joxer's Mom stirred her stew vigorously, punctuating her story with sharp nods of her head.
Wide-eyed, Meg almost forgot the heavy scraper in her hand and the pile of potatoes in front of her. "You really talked like that to Queen Clytemnestra's royal chef?!"
"Royal chef, my Aunt Fanny," the ex-warlord's-wife scoffed. "Royal pain in the rear, more like." She tapped the side of a mug loudly. "Drink up, girl! You're gonna give me a big strong grandchild if I hafta beat it inta you, by Zeus!"
"Listen, Ma," Meg said timidly, lifting the mug to her lips. "There's something you oughtta know about...."
"They're back!" cried Joxer, bursting noisily into the kitchen. "Ma, Hercules and Iolaus are back!" He noticed the other woman in the room. "Oh ... hi, Meg." Blushing, he looked at the ground and drew circles with his toe.
"Hiya, big boy," Meg said coyly, giving him a dazzling smile. He blushed harder.
"Aw, not in front of my ma!" Joxer protested weakly. His mother slapped the potato peeler into his hand.
"Nonsense, boy! Yer ma don't know the facts of life? Now get peeling! You!" She grabbed Meg's arm and hauled her off the potato-peeling stool. "Stir the stew, girl! I'm gonna go fetch me some eggs! Them boys'll be hungry after their travels!"
"And no hanky-panky while I'm in the chicken coop!"
She barrelled out. Joxer, scraping, and Meg, stirring, shot sly sideways glances at each other.
"...so then they sent out another squadron, with spears," Hercules was telling Xena, "but their formation was sloppy...."
"...and Alcmene sends you her love," Iolaus was telling Gabrielle, "as does Jason. What's been going on around here?"
"Well, Joxer and Meg made up not long after you two left," Gabrielle replied. The four strolled unhurriedly down the hall toward the dining room.
"You were right. They couldn't stay mad for long."
"No," she agreed. "They're so much in love...."
Overhearing, Hercules turned to say over his shoulder, "Did you ever imagine fatherhood could calm Joxer down?"
"No, I certainly didn't," Iolaus grinned.
"Well, stranger things have happened," Gabrielle put in. They walked on for a moment in silence. Xena, Hercules and Iolaus frowned. Finally they all stopped walking and looked at Gabrielle. Xena put voice to what they were all thinking.
"Ooh, is it time for lunch already?" Diana squealed delightedly as she entered the dining hall and found a small crowd already gathering. Gabrielle snickered. Hercules and Iolaus raised their eyebrows. Although the three pregnancies were at the same point, Diana's belly was noticeably larger than those of her two lookalikes.
"We're having a celebratory ... snack ... in honor of Herc and Iolaus's return," Joxer explained, squeezing Meg's thigh under the table. She looked sideways at him and grinned.
"Oh ... welcome back, gentlemen," Diana said graciously, summoning her queenly dignity for a brief instant before falling into her chair. "Mmm! Dumplings!"
A sudden delicate chiming filled the room, and a golden light illuminated the head of the table as an extremely curvaceous blonde popped into being. She looked around the room, hands on hips, and tossed her head in indignation.
"Like, hel-LO!" she exclaimed dramatically. "Why was I not invited to this little party? I am, like, so dissed!"
"Um ... sorry, Aphrodite," Hercules said, standing up. "We were just-"
"-planning to keep your little papoose a secret from me?" his divine sister whined. "That is, like, so not cool! I totally love babies!"
"Hey, thanks to you that's my baby," Gabrielle said firmly, standing up. Hercules rolled his eyes. Aphrodite looked around and blinked.
"Dude! Like, that musta been some kickin' brew at the Bacchanal, cuz I am like seeing triple!" She looked carefully at each brunette. "You're not Xena ... Like whoa, you are definitely not Xena ... Aha!" She winked cheerily at the real Xena. "Gotcha, babe!" Xena nodded tolerantly. Aphrodite looked back at the lookalikes. "Hey! Is that my boy Joxer hiding behind the trampy Xena?" Meg scowled. "Aww, come on out, studmuffin!"
"You just leave him alone, you nasty cow!" Meg burst out, rising from her chair to shake a finger at Aphrodite. "He's not your boy any more! He's mine!"
Aphrodite raised her eyebrows dubiously. "Dude, getta loada those hormones, willya?" She sighed nostalgically, looking at the ceiling. "I remember when I was knocked up with Cupie...."
"Listen, Aphrodite," Gabrielle interjected, stepping forward before Meg could get any more upset. "We're really really sorry we didn't contact you about this before." She lowered her voice, taking the goddess's arm. "You know, some of us kind of blamed you for this mess, for a while. But we got over it," she added hastily as the beautiful blonde started to protest. "Listen, I was thinking. Meg...." At Gabrielle's gesture, the king's cook reluctantly stepped forward.
"Oh, Gabrielle, I don't think-" Joxer began, but Gabrielle cut him off, turning back to Aphrodite.
"Can you tell us who the father is?"
Meg and Joxer blushed hotly. Hercules and Iolaus coughed and looked away. Xena sighed resignedly. Diana dug into Joxer's plateful of food.
Aphrodite frowned. "Wow, that's not normally my gig, but...." She put a slender finger to her pouty lips, pondering. "Well...." She reached out and put her hand on Meg's belly. Meg started to object, but Gabrielle touched her arm lightly and she fell silent. Everyone else did the same, watching, except Diana, who was pouring herself some more wine.
Now a faint golden aura began to suffuse Meg's torso, glowing round her rounded belly. She watched it from above, wide-eyed. Suddenly Aphrodite yanked her hand away, gasping. The glow disappeared. Meg wobbled. Hercules lunged across the room and caught her.
"Oops," said Aphrodite. "Like, sorry!" She grinned and winked at Joxer. "Joxie, you dog!" His eyes widened.
"Really? I -- you mean -- really?" Aphrodite nodded solemnly. Everyone exclaimed with relief, except Xena, who merely nodded again, and Diana, who was licking her plate.
"Joxer!" Everyone, including the goddess, jumped at the strident voice. The short round cook-pro-tem barrelled into the dining hall, yelling. "You no-good boy! You never said nothin' 'bout knowing the Goddess of Love!" She grabbed him by the ear. "Whadda you gotta say fer yourself, rotten kid?"
"Sorry Ma," he yelped. She turned her glare on Meg.
"And you! Been foolin' around behind my boy's back have ya?"
"No Ma," Meg gulped, cowering in Hercules's sheltering arms.
"No?! Don't lie to Ma!"
"It was only once, Ma, I swear!" Meg whimpered. The older woman narrowed her eyes for a moment, then gave a grunt and turned her glare on the goddess.
"You! Whadda you waitin' for?"
Aphrodite stared, too astonished to be angry. "What?"
"Well, come on!" Joxer's Mom shoved her son toward Meg, and pushed the startled Hercules aside. "Marry 'em already!"
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