by S. Derkins
Disclaimers and Such: Yep--another shameless borrowing of the characters from Xena: Warrior Princess. This story's outline was the result of the mad ravings of a group of friends, suffering from the lack of sleep at a chat line--so I hope you all enjoy it.
Yes, indeedy, the story is for the subtext friendly, so try and not be offended. If you would be offended--or if you are underage--please seek your reading pleasures elsewhere.
It started as play one evening. The two women had gone through a grueling week of ridding a district of a small group of raiders and had found a quiet glen in which to rest for the night after a job well done.
They chatted amicably while eating, feeling jubilant about life in general. They teased one another, trading friendly insults, sassing one another good-naturedly. High spirits ruled that starry night, which led to unexpected actions.
Gabrielle scooped some of her cooked grain from her bowl and smeared it across the Warrior's nose, giggling at the expression on her friend's face. A minor food fight broke out, then a small tussle began once the food was gone. The Bard found herself at a disadvantage--her friend was much stronger and taller, and soon ended the match by trapping her arms against her body while holding her in a bear hug.
The dark-haired woman demanded her surrender, but the petite Amazon refused. She leaned forward and bit her friend on the soft skin of her neck where her armor wasn't protecting her. The bite wasn't harsh--it was nothing more than a strong nip, but the results were more than Gabrielle bargained for.
The Bard surely didn't expect to hear a sigh from her friend. She didn't expect to see the Warrior shudder and drop her own head against the smaller woman's shoulder. Gabrielle froze in place, her mouth still pressed against the warm skin of her friend. Xena's arms no longer painfully trapped her--they had loosened to gently hold her close. Gabrielle closed her eyes and leaned into Xena.
Xena was walking, leading her horse into the stables. She was tired and just wanted a respite from the constant chatter of Joxer as he followed the two women into the building. She and Gabrielle had ran across him early that morning on their way southwest. As hard as they tried--they couldn't shake the warrior wannabe. The women's less than subtle hints for him to get lost had gone unnoticed by the man--so here they were, unable to escape from him.
"So, anything interesting happen since I last saw you both?" he asked for the third time that day.
"Nope. Same old, same old," Gabrielle told him. She was hoping he would get bored by the lack of enthusiasm and find somewhere else to spend the night. No such luck. The one and only inn had no rooms available, but the innkeeper had said they could spend the night in the stables. Joxer followed them into the building, and found himself a comfortable spot on a pile of straw. He pulled off his hat and homemade armor and flopped down. So much for privacy. Gabrielle looked at Xena, the disappointment clearly showing in her eyes.
Xena shrugged and led Argo to an empty stall. She removed their bags and blankets, tossing them to the smaller woman before unsaddling the horse. She spent some time brushing down the patient mare, then fed her. Once finished, the Warrior joined Gabrielle on the blanket the Bard had spread out and sat down. Xena's feet were killing her.
Argo needed new shoes and had been almost lame for the last few leagues. After a night of little sleep and a long, hard day of traveling--she was exhausted. The Warrior was even too tired to think about leaving the stables to get something to eat. She opened her eyes and looked at her companion. Gabrielle was staring at her, her eyes filled with questions. They hadn't spoken the night before--both too stunned to find the words.
And now, because of their unwanted company--they lacked the privacy to talk about the real issues, and spoke of the mundane.
"Do you want me to go to the inn and bring us back something to eat?" Gabrielle offered.
"I'll go with you!" Joxer said, bouncing back to his feet. His obsession with Gabrielle was all too apparent to the Warrior. She rolled her eyes wearily and nodded.
"Do you want anything special?"
"No. Anything is fine."
"Okay, I'll be back in a little bit." Gabrielle stood and placed a hand on Xena's shoulder in encouragement before leaving.
Joxer stared at the barmaid in wonderment. The pretty blond had an amazing bustline, which she had generously dressed to enhance. He stared while trying to look like he wasn't--but Gabrielle kept elbowing him, letting him know he wasn't hiding it very well.
The small inn was crowded, and she had found herself pinned against her unwanted companion while they waited for their food. The place was filled because of some sort of family gathering from what the Bard could overhear. People were arriving for an engagement party.
Gabrielle shifted uncomfortably, unhappy about the situation. She suffered in silence until the barmaid returned. The strawberry-blond smiled her gratitude and took the food. The two of them made their way through the sea of bodies, finally making it to the outside. The cooler night air felt good against the Bard's skin after the heat of the crowded inn's common area.
They returned to the stables and found Xena asleep. She had removed her armor and was on her back, eyes closed. The Warrior didn't even flicker an eyelash at their arrival. Gabrielle grinned, a mischievous glint in her eyes.
"Joxer, why don't you wake her up while I set out the food?" she said.
"Okay," he said without thought. He bent over the prone woman and tapped her on the shoulder. The next thing he knew, he was being flipped over her body, landing in a breath-stealing thud, with a powerful hand to his throat. He choked out his protests and the tall woman released her hold with a grimace.
"You have got to be suicidal--that's all there is to it," Xena muttered under her breath.
Joxer glanced at Gabrielle, who had an innocent expression on her face. He frowned, but said nothing. Maybe she hadn't realized that would happen. He sat up and cleared his throat experimentally.
It was the third night of repeated day, and Xena watched the fire burning Gabrielle's funeral pyre. Dread filled her as she prayed that the day would indeed repeat itself and her friend would be alive in the morning. Joxer and Argo had both been returned to the living, but if Gabrielle wasn't...then she didn't know what she would do. The Warrior remembered to her shame that the talk they had needed to share had never come about. She had avoided it, thinking they had all the time in the world--and now, maybe they didn't.
Gabrielle, hidden under the blanket and straw to keep warm, felt fingers touch her in a very ticklish spot, making her squeal. Seconds later, the blanket had been pulled from her and Xena grabbed her, a look of pure joy on her face. The confused Bard was stunned as her friend pulled her into an embrace, wondering what had brought this on. She wasn't complaining of course--Xena rarely openly showed her affection, but she couldn't help but wonder why it was happening now.
Suddenly, the stable door opened, blinding them momentarily with the morning sun. Joxer came in, an odd look on his face. He then dropped his hat and ran to them saying, "Group hug!" He threw his arms around them, a silly giggle coming out of him. Gabrielle was repulsed, telling him to get off of her. She was pinned against Xena's shoulder, his head resting on her arm as he hugged them.
He finally released them, and each woman took a satisfying poke at his nose.
Gabrielle watched her friend ramble almost in-coherently. She had been mumbling to herself for hours. The story she had told them sounded outlandish--and the Bard wondered if Xena had lost her mind. It was time to take action.
The Amazon covertly sent Joxer to the inn to fetch some dinner and a bottle of strong port for them--with orders that he would bring her the meal and disappear--she needed privacy to speak with Xena. The man had been hurt by her brusque manners, but agreed. He returned with a platter of assorted foods and a crock, leaving as ordered.
Gabrielle made sure the large wooden door was barred and joined Xena on the straw pallet.
"Hungry? Joxer brought us our meal."
Xena snapped out of her dark musings and looked at her. "Hmm? Oh--where is he, by the way?"
"I think he went to find that barmaid. It was lust at first sight," she joked.
"I know how that goes," Xena muttered.
"Never mind. So, what did he bring us?"
Gabrielle lifted the cloth off the platter and found mostly vegetables and bread. She placed the platter between them so they could share. The bard turned her body, facing her friend and crossed her legs. She picked up a carrot that had been soaked in olive oil and herbs. Her mind was preoccupied with how to bring up the subject and she only played with the carrot, merely licking off the oil.
Xena stared as the Bard ran her tongue along the vegetable, distracted by the act. Mesmerized, the Warrior watched for long minutes until she realized what she was doing and snapped angrily.
"Gabrielle, either eat it or put it down. Stop playing with it!"
"What? Oh, sorry." Gabrielle took a bite from the carrot and chewed slowly. She put the carrot down and poured a cup of the strong liquor, handing it to her friend. Xena seemed awfully testy and she thought the port would help. The older woman took the cup and took a large swallow, feeling the welcoming burn in her throat and stomach. She ate little, but refilled her cup frequently.
The Warrior was feeling frustrated, her failure to solve the problem of this stupid little town was driving her insane. How many factors could there possibly be? She emptied her cup once more, taking a large gulp.
Gabrielle watched as her friend drained yet another cup of strong wine. This was getting bad. She wanted her friend relaxed--not drunk. She reached to take the cup from Xena's hand and had her hand swatted away for her trouble.
"Give me a break, Gabrielle. Tonight--I need this--more than you can even realize."
"Drinking won't solve your problems," Gabrielle lectured.
"No, but it sure makes me feel better."
"Forget it. Give me the cup," she ordered. Xena pushed her away.
"Try and take it again and I'll put you over my knee--I swear it!" the Warrior threatened.
"Big words coming from someone who's drunk. You know damned well I'd never forgive you if you did."
"Ha! You wouldn't even remember it. Just like you won't remember the fact I tied both of you up this morning--I enjoyed that by the way. I can do just about anything right now--because this whole bloody mess will start all over tomorrow!" she slurred. "Do you know--I killed Joxer yesterday? Yep--he annoyed me one time too many and I sunk my chakram right into his chest. Boy--you were really upset with me then! But it felt *so* good!" Xena smiled wickedly.
Gabrielle looked on in shock--not believing what she was hearing. "You don't mean that. I know he's a pest--but I can't believe you'd get so much pleasure from killing him."
Xena snarled and swept the platter onto the floor. She rose to one knee and loomed over her friend. Gabrielle leaned back, worried. "Do you know what I'd really want to do?"
Xena leaned forward, and the Bard leaned backwards, finding herself reclined on the pallet. Xena propped herself with an arm on each side of her. The older woman rested her head on Gabrielle's shoulder and nuzzled into her neck, making herself comfortable. She gave a mighty sigh and passed out.
The rooster crowed and Xena woke once more to the sight of Joxer entering the stable, shouting "Rise and shine!"
Xena mocked him, repeating his words and gave him a push out of her way as she left the barn. The benefit of the reoccurring days meant she had no hangover--but she was in a foul mood as she remembered how the night before ended. She was frustrated and at her own drunken actions. The one thing she was grateful for was the fact that Gabrielle wouldn't remember any of it.
*What would have Gabrielle thought of me if I had told her what I wanted?* Xena pushed the thought away. On to the business at hand.
She had already saved the old man from the cart, and was now waiting for the fighting to start. Joxer and Gabrielle joined her, and once more--she had to explain what was going on. Seeing the doubt in their eyes, the Warrior answered their questions in advance and pushed them aside, heading for duelists.
Using the information she had gathered the day before, Xena ended the fighting. She walked away, hoping this would finally be the end. Gabrielle placed her arm around her waist and Joxer suggested a celebration. She agreed, a nervous smile on her face. *Please, let this be the end.*
Xena wanted to talk with Gabrielle, but the only fly in the ointment was Joxer. She smiled and caught his attention.
"Joxer, were you going to go visit that barmaid again? You and she...seemed pretty close yesterday."
"We were? You think?" he grinned, then tried to wipe the smile off his face. "Well, I suppose I should go and see her before we leave town tomorrow. You know." He left the stables while the two friends grinned at one another.
Xena leaned forward, resting her forearms on her knees. She opened her mouth and nothing came out. Where were all the words she had so carefully planned? Her mind was a blank. Looking up, the older woman saw the questioning gaze of her friend.
Her friend began for her. "Xena, about the other night..."
Joxer left the inn, a silly smile on his face. The large breasted barmaid had welcomed him with open arms and then a kiss goodnight, making him promise to stop and say goodbye the next morning.
He walked back to the stables, hoping not to wake his friends. The torches were still burning inside and he peeked into the building through the cracks between the slats. Inside, he saw the two women sleeping in each other's arms under a blanket. Joxer hesitated, and feeling like an interloper, he turned around. Maybe he could find a quiet corner in the alley.
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