Disclaimers: We all know that I don't own Xena, Gabrielle or the Amazons with the exception of Cullen, Ananda, and Marai, who are my characters. I also don't own the Brady Bunch or anything that might in some way resemble them. I'm really just playing with the general idea here
Violence: None, really. This is rather lighthearted stuff.
Sex: They love each other and that's the only way I know how to write them. Nothing graphic, though, sorry.
and now have fun with my little story.
"You want me to do what?" The tall warrior couldn't believe her ears. She turned around to face the smaller blonde.
"Xena," the blonde pleaded, "it would mean so much to them. You know they all look up to you as the greatest warrior around."
"Uh huh." Xena's reply was non-committal. "Not when you hear 'em talking," she murmured.
Gabrielle heard her anyway. "You know it's true nonetheless." She smiled. "You ARE the greatest warrior in Greece "
"Flattery will get you nowhere, Gabrielle." And with that the warrior turned around and looked out the door of their hut.
Taking the Amazons on a tracking trip was not how she would have liked to spend the beginning of their new life with the Amazons. Not at all.
Looking out across the village she spotted a couple of Amazons and snorted. One had just fallen over her own two feet while carrying two buckets of water from the well to the dining hall. The water in those buckets flew in a beautiful arch, hitting two other women, who took off after the first one as fast as they could. Which wasn't very fast, Xena mused while she kept watching to see what would happen next.
Gabrielle moved over to where Xena was standing completely still. Well, except for the muffled snorts of amusement and despair. Deep down, Gabrielle agreed with the warrior's reluctance. It wasn't her idea and in the beginning she had outright refused to even ask Xena. She had wanted them to have a quiet couple of weeks, in which she wanted to try and see if it wasn't possible to deepen their relationship.
Then the elders, of course, had to remind her of her duties as a queen of the Amazons, of her responsibility to offer her tribe the best opportunities that were available to her and to them. Especially now that she and Xena were planning to live with them.
And it just didn't get any better than having a warrior like Xena around for some practice of their tracking skills.
Gabrielle stood next to her best friend and watched the antics of the women outside. And it's not as if they couldn't need a little more discipline and instruction from my big bad warrior here, she thought wryly. My warrior. She loved the way that sounded, even though it was untrue. They were only friends, but it was hard to tell whether Gabrielle had ever wanted to change something more than she wanted to change that.
Her eyes met Xena's and they grinned at each other while the warrior pointed a thumb at a sprawled woman next to the well. "You want me to take THEM on a tracking excursion?"
"Uh huh," Gabrielle confirmed carefully. "It's just . it's not really me who wants you to do that. It's more the elders " She stopped and looked up into questioning blue eyes.
Xena's mind was working very quickly. What are you not saying here, my bard? That you don't want me to go? I wonder if I can ever make you see what you mean to me
Then an idea hit her right between the eyes and refused to go away.
She turned to the bard and put her hands on the smaller woman's shoulders. "Okay, I'll do it."
Gabrielle's shoulder's sagged in relief and disappointment. "You don't really "
"I said, I'll do it." Xena repeated seriously. "However, I have several conditions."
The bard looked up into blue eyes and saw the twinkle in them. She swallowed, having been on the receiving end of Xena's mischievous side too many times to count. "So what do you have in mind?"
"She wants to do what?" The blonde's voice was unbelieving.
"Look, it wasn't even her idea to begin with so I think it would be fair to do it her way." Gabrielle tried to calm her regent down.
Ephiny looked up from under her curly bangs and blew out her breath in a long-suffering sigh. "You do realize that this will most probably result in trouble?"
"Trouble?" Gabrielle looked at her. "I don't know what you mean. It'll just be Xena and me and six Amazons running through the forest. And at the end of the day one party will have won."
"Uh huh." The regent just nodded. "The trouble, my queen, is going to start the second certain warriors are chosen and others are not. And you know that." She turned to look out across the village and her voice became serious for a moment. "You also know there'll be at least three very frustrated Amazons at the end of the day. Probably six."
"I have perfect trust in the tracking abilities of the Amazons, Eph." She gave her friend a smile. "One team should be able to find us."
"Gabrielle, you and I know that if Xena doesn't want to be found, she won't be found."
The bard nodded. "Yeah, I know. However, I'll be there, too, and I can be very clumsy at times." She grinned, but not for the reason her regent might think. She wasn't intending to be clumsy at all.
Ephiny shook her head, but gave her queen a smile. "So, which team will you be leaving clues for?"
"My own, of course," Gabrielle replied without hesitation. "That dark-haired warrior is going to see that the color of our hair has nothing to do with our abilities." There's nothing like a little needling to get the blood pressure going.
"She doesn't really think that, does she?" Ephiny was shocked.
"I don't know, Eph," Gabrielle looked out the window, "I don't know. All I know is that she chose three dark-haired Amazons because she said they were so much better than the rest."
Before she had even finished speaking, Ephiny had left the hut fuming and ranting at absent warriors and looking for the best blonde Amazons in the village.
Gabrielle turned around and faced the tall woman who had appeared at the door to the second room of their hut. "Think she's egged on enough?" she asked and gave Xena and broad smile.
The warrior grinned back. "Yep, and so are Eponin and the other two. I told them that you swore that blondes' just had more fun in life and that you were the better leaders anyway. I just said that with you and Ephiny leading this tribe you probably have a point." She walked over to stand right in front of her friend. "I think they want to win no matter what now and they'll keep each other away from us."
Xena's plan was simple. She'd agree to the excursion, but on her own terms. She and Gabrielle would each choose three warriors to take part in a competition. Then the two of them would leave the village at dawn, while the two teams would have to wait until noon before heading out. They had until nightfall to find Xena and Gabrielle. The team who found them first would win. The other team would have to serve the winners for a moon.
However, neither Xena nor Gabrielle wanted to be found. They thought it would be a nice way of getting a day to themselves and of teaching the elders to leave Xena alone when they were visiting. The animosity between the teams would help ensure that they would get their point across. Xena had chosen Eponin, Solari, and Cullen, the best warriors in the village.
Gabrielle, of course, had chosen Ephiny to be the leader of "her" team, but left the two other choices up to the regent. It was pure coincidence that all women on Xena's ream had dark hair, but Gabrielle had come up with the idea to use that to their advantage by turning the whole thing into a competition between brunettes and blondes. It was a stupid idea to begin with, and thats exactly why Xena agreed to it. She just knew it would work.
Gabrielle gave Xena a bright smile. She was beginning to look forward to the next day.
"All right," Cullen murmured, "so the queen and Xena head out in the morning and have until noon to find a nice place to hide. Then we'll follow them and have until dark to find them. That leaves us with what maybe six, seven candlemarks?"
A nod and an agreeing grunt answered her. She continued very confidently. "Well, that should be a piece of cake then, shouldn't it?" The dark-haired warrior was still very young and had only ever heard of Xena before this visit by the queen and the warrior, but had never experienced her skills from close by.
"Listen, Cullen," Eponin sighed, "this will NOT be a piece of cake. First off, we'll be very lucky if we can find any trace of Xena at all when we set out tomorrow. It's quite possible we'll go home empty handed without seeing neither hide nor hair from the two of them."
Cullen wanted to interrupt, but Eponin silenced her with an outstretched hand. "Secondly, even if we find any tracks, we'll still have to get to them before the other team. And, frankly, I know that Ephiny will be on it and she's very, very good." The stoic warrior blushed a little at her words, as she often did when she mentioned the regent.
"Which means that our success depends on two things," Solari took up the thread. "We have to hope that either Gabrielle inadvertently leaves us some clues, or that Xena actually wants us to find them, and we'll have to stop the other team from getting to them."
"Have you ever thought about working WITH the other team instead of against them?" Cullen suddenly asked. She had heard that Marai would be on the regent's team and she wouldn't mind spending some time with her. "Maybe we should get together in a council or something."
Two pairs of outraged eyes looked at her, but Cullen refused to back down. She watched Eponin and Solari quietly and confidently, and the longer they sat like that, the more interested the looks in the other women's eyes became.
"You know," Solari finally murmured, "that actually has some possibilities. I've em " She cleared her throat. "I've talked to Ananda and she'll be on Ephiny's team. I could probably ask her if they were interested "
She let her voice trail off, but she didn't need to say more anyway. The whole village knew that Solari had been pining away for the beautiful warrior with the long blonde hair for years. She'd use every excuse to talk to her or spend time with her and everyone knew that and teased her about it.
"Do that," Eponin chuckled.
"Okay," Cullen said before Solari and Eponin could get into a teasing contest, "and I'll talk to Marai. But you," she pointed to Eponin, "will have to speak with Ephiny, because it won't work without her."
"Okay," came the slightly squeaky reply before all three women left the hut in search for their respective targets.
"It's still dark out, Xena."
The warrior and Gabrielle were standing before their shared hut. Both of them were impatiently waiting for dawn to break so they could get away from the village.
They were also both trying to hide the fact from the other.
Finally, the first rays of the sun were crawling over the forest around them, bathing them in a gentle pink glow. "About damn time," a grumpy Xena mumbled under her breath. The dark-haired warrior was frustrated beyond belief. She had woken up again to find the small bard wrapped completely around her, still fast asleep. Every breath the Gabrielle had taken had traveled over her breasts, which had become increasingly sensitive.
Then, Gabrielle had to stretch, making those squeaking sounds that drove Xena to total distraction. The warrior had disentangled herself from the blonde limpet before she could wake up fully and had left the large bed in a hurry. The cold water in the queen's private bathing chamber had felt extremely good this morning.
I need to do something about these feelings, the warrior thought. I either let her know what I feel or I go crazy. Tough choice. What if she doesn't want me that way?
Gabrielle was watching Xena who was biting her lower lip as she often did when she was debating with herself or was contemplating a difficult problem. She had woken up before her body pillow this morning and had taken extra care to wrap herself around the taller woman, knowing that Xena would always put it down to an unconscious reaction.
She had fallen asleep again, but had not missed the warrior's flushed face or her hasty trip to the bathing chamber.
She couldn't wait to be alone with Xena and was watching the tree line with pleading eyes. When the sun finally graced them with their first rays, she breathed out slowly in relief and saw that Xena did the same thing. If I didn't know better, I'd say she was as impatient as I was.
They left the village under the watchful eyes of Ephiny and Eponin, both smiling contentedly.
"I thought you watched them leave," Cullen said to the others after they had tried to find a trace of Xena and Gabrielle.
The two teams had waited just long enough for the sun to reach its zenith before heading out in the direction Eponin and Ephiny had seen the two leave. That had been at least a candlemark before and they hadn't been able to find anything. No broken branches, no twisted leaves, not even the small plants seemed to have been disturbed.
"We did see them leave in this direction," Ephiny replied. "That doesn't mean they actually went this way."
"I told you last night that we're not going to find them if they don't want to be found," Eponin grumbled. "Seems Xena wants to make it real hard for us."
After the first half candlemark they had stopped looking for tracks because there just weren't any that pointed them in any particular direction.
"So what do we do?" It was the first time the usually quiet Marai had said anything. "It's no use running around in circles, is there?" The others shook their heads. "Why don't we go back a bit and search in the other direction?" She looked expectantly to Ephiny who was chosen as the person who apparently knew their two targets the best.
"I think that's a good idea," Ephiny agreed. "Let's think outside the box. Where could they have gone?"
She turned and stepped around tree. Right into a trap that had her hanging from a branch by ankle in no time at all, leathers and feathers dangling all around her.
She groaned and struggled to get lose. When she didn't get any help from her fellow hunters she looked up to see five laughing women who were desperately trying to conceal their mirth.
The regent growled and reached for her hunting knife.
Eponin looked up at the sound close to her right ear. Taking a deep breath to dispel the last remnants of her laughter she looked around and came face to blade with a knife that was still moving slightly from the force that had driven it into the tree. Her eyes traveled the way the knife had come from until she came right to Ephiny's gray eyes. "Uh oh."
"Get. Me. Down." Ephiny said in a very controlled voice. "Now."
"Do you think one of them found one of your little traps yet?"
Gabrielle turned towards Xena when she heard the non-committal reply. Her tall friend was standing at the entrance to the small cave they had managed to find. Find so quickly in fact that Gabrielle assumed that Xena had known from the start that it would be right there waiting for them. Complete with overgrown bushes hiding the small path to the mouth of the cave and handy little fireplace inside.
Now, the warrior was just standing there, watching the time crawl by, lazily twirling a greenish-brown leaf in one hand.
"Xena, do you think that pigs can grow wings and fly us over the Amazon village?" The brad decided to try to get the warrior's attention once more. The dark-haired woman had been even quieter than usual on their way out and had resorted to grunts and the occasional 'hmm' whenever Gabrielle asked or said something.
Gabrielle walked over to Xena and turned her around by one shoulder.
"What? What is it, Gabrielle?" The warrior's voice was startled and slightly alarmed.
"Nothing, except that you haven't heard a word I said all morning." The bard almost smiled at the blush that crept up Xena's neck.
"Did too," came the almost childish reply. "You were talking about you said that "
Gabrielle stopped Xena's attempt at digging herself a deeper hole with a hand on her arm. "Xena, it's all right." She smiled up into blue eyes. "Just tell me what's bothering you."
"What's bothering me?" Xena stalled.
Yeah, what's bothering you, Xena? her mind mocked her. Why don't you just tell her, hm? The warrior had spent most of their quiet walk through the forest thinking about how to tell her bard how she felt about her. Trying to come up with romantic ways to profess her ever-growing feelings had driven her into a somber mood since she had come up empty, even though they had reached their destination.
She had the cave all scouted out since she had found it during their last visit to the village when she had been bored to death one day. Her plan was to take Gabrielle here and show her
Show her what?
Show the bard her love, her feelings. And now she was standing here, a beautiful bard in front of her, smiling to conceal the concern in her eyes, and she was unable to say a thing.
Xena was startled out of her musings by a small hand that was waved in front of her eyes. "I'm beginning to get worried here, Xena," the bard said, worry clearly audible in her voice.
"I'm all right, Gabrielle," Xena said twice as calmly as she felt. "I was just thinking."
Xena led the bard over to a small cluster of rocks and sat them both down across from each other. She kept a Gabrielle's hand in her own and looked everywhere but the bard's eyes. It's now or never. "You, actually us as in you and me," she finally managed to stammer.
Gabrielle's heart gave a small jump. "Us?" was all she managed to say in a voice that didn't sound like her own.
Xena looked up, straight into green eyes and took a leap from the edge at the squeaky tone in the bard's voice. "Yes, us," she continued with more confidence. "I'd love to talk about you and me, Gabrielle."
The warrior raised her free hand and cupped the bard's flushed cheek. "I want to tell you what you mean to me." The second hand let go of a clammy small grip and cupped the other cheek. "I need to tell you that I love you." The warrior drew her friends face closer to her own. Inches before their lips met, she stopped. "I'm in love with you, Gabrielle," she whispered as she pressed her lips lightly on Gabrielle's. Her eyes closed in pleasure.
There was no reaction whatsoever from the bard.
Xena broke the kiss and distanced herself from Gabrielle's face to look at her. The bard's eyes were closed, but her lips were curled into a blissful smile. "Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle had simply passed out and was enjoying X-rated dreams of a tall, dark-haired warrior.
"Why the Hades did you have to get tangled in that stupid trap?" Eponin whined. She had Ephiny's arm around her shoulders and supported the regent around the slender hips. She would have enjoyed the close contact if it hadn't been for Ephiny's sprained ankle that was slowing them down.
"It wasn't that trap that hurt my ankle, Ep," Ephiny growled.
And it hadn't been. The Amazons had managed to get the regent down rather quickly and not too softly. Ephiny had, in fact, fallen to the ground like an overly ripe apple from a tree. Then they had laughed and the regent had chased the along the way that led deeper into the forest.
She almost had Cullen's leathers in her fingers when the younger Amazon suddenly vanished into the earth, following the other four sisters and pulling the regent with her.
Landing on Marai in the pit had resulted in the sprained ankle, which had resulted in another rescue mission, at the end of which the regent was ready to kill herself with her hunting knife.
But not after strangling the others with her chobos first.
"Stop complaining," Marai mumbled under her breath. "You're not the one you landed on feet first." The younger Amazon had her hand in a makeshift sling and walked with a slight limp. She had landed on her knee, which had landed on Cullen's backside, and had pulled something in her shoulder trying to pull Eponin from the pit. "Who knew muscles were that heavy?"
Solari was the only one who had managed to escape the pit fiasco unscathed. She was leading the small group into the forest where she assumed Xena and Gabrielle had gone. She had a sneaking suspicion that Xena had gone to a place she was at least slightly familiar with. She also knew, deep down in her guts, that the traps were Xena's way of keeping them occupied for a while.
She thought about Xena and Gabrielle for a while and remembered the looks she had seen the two of them give each other.
"That would actually make a lot of sense," she said aloud. "I think it's time for another council session."
"What would make sense?" Cullen grumbled unhappily, one hand rubbing her bruised tailbone.
"This whole thing has nothing to do with a competition," Solari stated, convinced of her idea.
"What do you mean?" Eponin bristled and the others nodded.
"Have any of you guys watched the queen and Xena a little closer since they've come to the village?" Solari turned to face the other women. "Haven't you seen the looks they give each other, the constant "
"Touches," Ephiny finished for her. "The way the queen is always around when one of you fools challenges her champion.
"Or the way Xena is always close to the council hut whenever Gabrielle has business with the elders," Eponin chimed in.
"Hera's tits, you're right," Marai smiled. She paused. "But what does that mean?"
The others groaned. "It means," Solari explained as if to a five-year-old, "that Xena is most definitely using this whole competition thing the elders forced her into to get a day with the queen alone."
"So you're saying that the two of them are probably around here somewhere making out while we are running around in circles like clueless Hestian virgins?" Ephiny summarized.
"I wouldn't have put it quite that way, but, yes, that's what I'm thinking," Solari agreed.
"Sounds reasonable," Cullen said. "What does that mean for our competition?"
"It means we have to decide whether we want to find them or whether we want to leave them in peace to enjoy their day together," the regent declared.
"Oh, so you're saying there's actually a chance of us finding them before all of us grow old and gray?" Eponin's sarcasm was only mildly tempered by the smile she gave the woman in her arms.
"I say we just keep walking through the forest, not looking too hard, but not ignoring any clues they might have left either," Solari said as she turned back around and proceeded down the path.
Stumbling right into thin rope that was strung between two trees low to the ground. The rope triggered a mechanism somewhere and in a matter of seconds Solari was lying on the floor, covered in a heap of leaves and small branches that had dropped from a net above them.
A small squirrel came up from under all the leaves, shook itself, and hopped away, using Solari's head as a springboard.
"I'd say that was a pretty big clue," Eponin managed to get out before breaking into helpless giggles.
Xena tenderly patted the bard's shoulder. "Well, that hasn't happened before nobody's ever passed out from one of my kisses "
"I didn't pass out from the kiss," came the quiet voice, laced with a smile. The bard opened one green eye to look at the concerned warrior. "I was just holding my breath while you were trying to get to the point, and it just took you too long." The twinkle in her eyes told the warrior that the bard wasn't being serious.
When nothing else was forthcoming, Xena became nervous. "Well, you heard what I was saying once I got to the point."
Gabrielle nodded. "Yeeeessss?" she drawled out.
"So?" Come on, work with me here, Gabrielle. The warrior swallowed.
"Xena," the bard's voice was more serious now. "I love you." She pulled the warrior's face closer to her own. "I thought you realized that when I passed out on you." She said with a teasing grin before she covered Xena's lips with her own to gently explore that wonderful feeling.
They parted when they both needed oxygen and smiled at each other. "Wow," Xena mumbled. "Damn, Gabrielle, I love you." The warrior moved in for another kiss. She moved her lips against Gabrielle's, tracing them with her tongue until the bard opened her mouth in invitation and the exploration deepened.
Gently, the warrior pushed Gabrielle back onto the ground that was only slightly softened by moss. Without stopping the kiss, she trailed her fingers down the bard's chest, and around her navel. Gabrielle inhaled sharply, and Xena took the expansion of the bard's breast as an invitation to move her mouth towards the hardening nipples.
The bard pressed herself up into the body hovering above her, hardly noticing the small rocks poking her in the back.
Ananda was really getting tired of this excursion. When she had been asked to be on the regent's team she had readily agreed because it was honor. Having Solari on the other team hadn't hurt either. She thought she would be able to show the imposing dark-haired warrior that she might be a worthy partner.
Now, they were all either hurt or very, very grumpy. Actually, all of them were both. It was getting darker in the forest and they still didn't have a clue where Gabrielle and Xena had gone to hide.
But, Ananda guessed, they had probably found all of Xena's little traps. Well, you could see them as tracks, couldn't you?, a tiny voice said in her ear, but she pushed it away. Her head was buzzing enough as it was anyway from taking that jump into the ice-cold creek and hitting her head on the ground.
Probably can't blame that on Xena, though. Or that she had been running from a family of wild bats at the time into whose small cave she had stumbled. She was pretty sure that it hadn't been Xena's fault that Eponin was chasing her in that direction because she, Ananda, had caught her foot in a root on the ground and had tried to hold herself upright by grabbing onto the next best thing.
It probably wasn't Xena's fault that that thing had been Ephiny's leathers, or that the regent had been so surprised that she had squeezed Eponin's breast with the hand that she had around the weapon's master's shoulders.
No, all of that wasn't Xena's fault probably. However, Ananda would have loved to be able to blame her anyway.
"Listen," Solari's just barely calm voice pulled her from her musings. "We need to take a break soon. I'm getting tired of limping around here and you all look like you could use a bandage or two and something to eat."
Nods greeted her announcement. "Anybody have any idea of a nice comfy place where we can hide for the next three moons or so?" Eponin grumbled. No way was she going to show herself in the village with cuts and bruises and no Xena or Gabrielle.
"Well," came Marai's quiet voice, "I know of a system of caves not too far from here "
"Caves?", a five-Amazon choir asked.
"Em, yeah," Marai stuttered. "I found them when I was out here during the great rains a couple of years ago. I hid out there to wait out the rain. They aren't great, but at least they're something." Her voice trailed off uncertainly at the disbelieving faces she looked into. "What?"
"You know of a cave system close by and it never crossed your mind that that's exactly where Xena and Gabrielle might be hiding," Cullen stated with biting sarcasm.
"Em no?" Marai was taken aback by the comment. "I mean they're not much and I almost forgot about them and I thought nobody else knew where they were anyway and "
"You're babbling," Ephiny interrupted the nervous young warrior, but her voice was much gentler than Cullen's had been.
"Sounds just like a place our Warrior Princess would take the Queen," Eponin said and whistled under her breath. "All this running around and now I bet we're going to find them cozy as can be in one of those caves." She shook her head and started to move in the direction Marai had indicated earlier. Her steps seemed much lighter now.
"No bet," Solari said. "I'm sure that's where they are." She paused. "The question is: do we want to find them or not?"
Eponin stopped dead in her tracks, almost letting go of Ephiny who was still clinging to her. "What do you mean? Of course, we want to find them that's what we're here for."
"Yes, I know," Solari began.
"But when what we assumed is true," Ephiny took over from there, "then Xena took Gabrielle there to have some privacy away from the village. We know she didn't care for this tracking thing and I bet she thought she could keep us away long enough to "
"-- to get into the queen's leather," Cullen finished, a look of awe on her face.
"Must you always be so crude?" Marai asked. "I think it would be romantic." She sighed.
Cullen rolled her eyes. "Romantic, yeah."
"-- to tell the queen how she feels," the regent finished as if Cullen and Marai had never spoken. "And I think we should leave them alone."
"But that would mean we'd have to forfeit this challenge and have the whole village laughing at us," Eponin whined.
Everyone contemplated what would happen once they were back in the village without having found Xena and the queen. "Urgh."
"Why don't we go to the caves to see if they're there first before we decide what to do?" Marai tried to be pragmatic. "Maybe you're all wrong and they're not there."
"And IF they're there," Cullen said in agreement, "we'll decide what to do. Maybe they've finished doing whatever they were doing and are ready to be found."
She looked around into her Amazon sisters' faces and saw a round of nods.
"Okay, Marai," Ephiny said finally, "lead on."
"Do you think the kids will make it here sometime this moon?"
"Huh?" Xena sat up with a start. "What kids?"
"The Amazons remember?" Gabrielle sat up as well. "The six women out there who are trying to find us?"
"Oh, them yeah, I remember." Xena sighed. "But why do you call them kids?"
"Because they behave like a bunch of kids most of the time," the bard replied as she was trying to get up. However, Xena had an arm around her waist and was having none of it.
"Where are you going, my bard?"
"Um I thought we'd you know since we " Gabrielle gave up and blew her hair out of her eyes in frustration.
"You're trying to say that now that I've had my way with you and you had your way with me we can get up and do what?" Xena was smiling and looking into her lover's eyes. "Do you really think this is it now?"
"Well, I wasn't sure what to expect to be honest," Gabrielle mumbled.
"What can you expect? Well, let me put it like this: you can always expect me to be there for you, you can always expect me to love you, and you can always, always expect me to make love to you every chance I get, because, Gabrielle," Xena wiped a tear from her bard's cheek, "because I love you and you are the best thing that has ever happened to me."
"I love you, too, and I want you to expect all of that from me, too, Xena." Gabrielle looked a lot happier after hearing Xena's words.
"So, are you coming back to our meager bed now?" the warrior asked with a bright grin. "I mean before the kids make it here?"
Gabrielle nodded and joined Xena on the blanket Xena had spread after having the bard complain about the many small rocks eventually.
"This is it?"
Five expectant faces turned towards Marai, who nodded. It looked more like an overgrown molehill than a cave system, but the caves she had told them about were lying peacefully before them. "The entrance is at the other side and we need to crawl a bit through those bushes over there." She pointed to a thick hedge of something prickly looking. "You'd never know it was there, if you didn't well, know."
"Sounds quiet, though." Cullen sounded only a little disappointed. "They must be somewhere else. Let's check this out."
Just then a very loud groan traveled over to where they were standing.
Followed by another, deeper one.
Eponin and Ephiny blushed and let go of each other instinctively. Solari and Ananda grinned until they met each other's eyes and blushed, too. Marai dragged her toes through the dirt, not sure where to look. Cullen smirked.
Another, two-voice-groan, could be heard and then there was quiet.
"Holy Artemis," Ephiny breathed. "If that's not them "
"It is them," a smiling voice said from behind them. "And a good thing it is too. Took them long enough."
Six Amazons whirled around while trying to get to their knees at the same time before their goddess.
The end result was a heap of Amazons at Artemis' feet.
The goddess waited patiently while her Amazons sorted themselves out before addressing the regent. "Hello, Ephiny," she said through a wide smile, "it's good to see you again."
Ephiny bowed her head, but was pulled up by the goddess of the hunt. "Artemis," was all she said.
The goddess motioned for the others to get up as well before she continued. "As you can hear our two friends are busy, and I'd really appreciate it if you wouldn't disturb them just yet."
"Why, Artemis?" Cullen, always the rebel, asked. "We were meant to find them, we're having a competition and "
"I know all that, Cullen," the goddess interrupted, "and I'm impressed that all the little booby traps couldn't stop you from getting here, but still "
"They need some more time alone." The goddess declared and then looked around as if looking out for any listeners that shouldn't be there. "My sister is working on a little project and she's not yet --"
"Finished!" came the triumphant voice out of the pink cloud that settled to reveal a beaming Aphrodite.
"Mighty Aphrodite," breathed Eponin, only barely able to grasp what might be going on.
"Yup, that's little ol' me." She turned to her sister. "Did you give your girls your orders yet, sis?"
"No, I didn't." She faced Ephiny again. "Listen, we need a favor from you. I want you not to disturb the queen and Xena before it is fully dark."
"And then you can bring them something nice for dinner," Aphrodite threw in.
"Nice dinner?" Solari had the feeling her brain was slowly dribbling out her ears.
"Dite," Artemis admonished her sister, "you know I love my Amazons, but why would we want to punish Xena and Gabrielle like that?"
"Punish?" Aphrodite smacked herself on the forehead. "Duh I was going to prepare the feast of course."
Eponin had heard enough. "Can one of you two please tell us what's going on here?"
"Ah, not really sweetcakes," the goddess of love replied, "sorry."
"All will be revealed in time," Artemis said with an enigmatic smile, leaving her Amazons frustrated. "We need to go now, before our brother gets wind of this little get together." With that she raised her hand and disappeared.
"Toodles," Aphrodite followed in another pink cloud.
Only seconds passed before another, smaller cloud appeared, leaving behind a nice feast for two in a basket. "And hands off the food," cam the goddess' voice from thin air.
"Aphrodite," Artemis exasperated voice could be heard as well.
Another basket appeared, filled to the brim with goodies for the hungry Amazons.
"It's getting late, Gabrielle," Xena murmured, still half asleep.
She couldn't remember falling asleep, but she felt as if she had slept for a long time. Looking out the mouth of the cave she saw that it was almost fully dark outside. And inside. "That's weird," she said under her breath. She never slept that deep. Very weird.
As was the tingling feeling she had all over her body. Must be love, Xena mused.
"Gabrielle, you need to wake up," she kissed the bard's shoulder until the blonde woman raised her head.
"Were we sleepin'?" she asked in a sleep-filled voice. "Can't remember."
"Neither can I, my bard," Xena said. "All I remember is making love to you and then nothing." But oh, boy, did she remember that lovemaking. They had been so close, closer than she had ever been to anyone, and when they had come simultaneously, it felt like she was exploding inside and all around Gabrielle, while the bard was all over her and inside her. "We are truly one now," she whispered in awe at the feelings she remembered.
"Yes, we are," Gabrielle agreed, knowing instinctively what her warrior was talking about.
"So," Xena cleared her throat, "are we going to wait for one of the teams to show up or do we go back to the village?"
"Do we have to "
Xena held up her hand to stop the bard.
There faint voices could be heard . coming closer.
Then a knock resounded through the cave when someone banged their sword hilt against stone.
"Hades!" Xena covered her sensitive ears while Gabrielle tried to find her clothes in the darkness.
The warrior found a torch by touch and lighted it with her striker, revealing a bard who was trying to climb into the warrior's leathers. "Those are mine, Gabrielle," she said gently, handing the bard her clothes.
"Sorry," the bard mumbled and quickly dressed.
They were both dressed when six Amazons made their way into the cave to join them.
"So, you managed to find us," Xena said in greeting. "Which group was here first?" She tried not to look too closely at the assorted scratches and bruises that liberally covered the six women.
"Yep, we sure did," Cullen beamed, before getting a kick in the leathers by Eponin. "We brought dinner," she finished while rubbing her now even sorer backside.
"Dinner?" Gabrielle and Xena asked simultaneously, although the warrior sounded a lot more skeptical than the bard.
"Yup, dinner," Eponin confirmed. "It's even edible."
"Okay, okay," Xena relented before more Amazons could praise their offering, "sit down and tell us how your day went."
The Amazons plopped down to the floor and blushed before four of them talked at the same time.
"Nothing special "
"No problem "
"Found you easily "
Only Ephiny and Eponin didn't say anything. They were too busy pointing out the hickeys on Gabrielle's and Xena's bodies to each other. The regent didn't care what the younger Amazons were thinking, or if they even realized what a monumental event this joining of two hearts and bodies was, but she was extremely happy for her two friends and she knew that Eponin agreed with her.
When Ephiny realized that Xena's eyes were on her, she simply smiled and said, "Congratulations."
Xena blushed like an Amazon on her first date.
Eponin grinned, but for once left the warrior alone.
After that, they all enjoyed a quiet and at least for the bard and her warrior - surprisingly tasty dinner.
Xena decided not to ask about the Amazons' many and varied injuries.
"So," Gabrielle asked after a very satisfying dinner, "who won?"
The Amazons all looked at each other. Finally, Ephiny mumbled. "Honestly? None of the teams actually won "
"Or you could say we did it together," Eponin threw in. She looked at her queen. "We sort of got together this morning and decided to track you as one team."
"Ah," Xena sighed with a smile. "Clever. Very good idea."
"Yes, it was," Gabrielle agreed. "Which means none of our little needling techniques worked, my warrior."
"Needling techniques?" Ephiny and Eponin asked together, both frowning. Then the regent slapped her forehead. "Of course, the blonde comments "
"Why did you do that?" Ananda asked.
"You see "
"You see," Gabrielle finally said, "we sort of wanted to keep you occupied with each other instead of tracking us, because " She looked at her lover.
"-- because we wanted to be alone," the warrior continued bluntly, "and we didn't quite relish the idea of having to spend a day being chased through the forest by you when we could be doing something much nicer."
There was silence around the makeshift picnic area. "Well," Cullen finally said, "your traps had the same effect, it seems."
"Looks like it," Xena agreed without a trace of regret. "But the way you look, you met a lot more things than our traps."
Six Amazons blushed, but remained quiet.
"Okay, okay," Gabrielle held up her hands, "we understand. you don't need to tell us." Xena nodded. The queen snickered. "Your injuries tell an interesting enough story anyway." She gave them a very obvious once over. "I wonder if I can turn this into a nice story for the kids."
"Oh, please, Gabrielle," Ephiny pleaded, "don't. Just don't "
"Please?" The whine was heartbreaking, especially coming from five tough Amazons.
The bard tried to stay serious, but the puppy-dog looks made that very difficult. "Okay, I'll think about it."
"You better come up with something nice to convince her," Xena told them.
The Amazons looked at each other and before they could agree on something, Cullen blurted out, "We're going to prepare your dinner for the next five days", which resulted in her receiving some kicks by her sister Amazons.
"Are you crazy?" Marai hissed, but Cullen ignored her. She figured that the queen would never agree since she knew neither of them could cook to save their lives.
"Um you guys are going to prepare a dinner like the one today for us," Xena clarified. "For the next five days?"
Cullen groaned. She had completely forgotten that they had supposedly prepared their feast. There was nothing left to do but nod. "Uh huh," she said, knowing full well she'd have hell to pay from her sister Amazons as soon as they were back in the village. Centaur poop.
"Sounds good to me," Gabrielle said with a smile before she curled into a ball around her still sitting warrior to go to sleep.
"When do you think we'll know if your experiment worked, sis?"
"I'm not sure. It's not like I put in a bell the little one can ring so we know it's there. It's only been a moon "
"Guess we'll have to keep watching them a while longer then "
"Goodie! But it's not as if it is a hardship for you, sis everyone knows you really love our Chosen."
"Yeah, our Chosen. She's as much a woman of love as an Amazon queen."
"Yeah, yeah, I know Look, there they are!"
"Oh, how cute! Look, the warrior babe is like totally holding her close. Ooops, what now?"
"Ungh, my Chosen is sick! Whatever did you do to her, Dite?"
"Oh, man no wonder you're a virgin, sis "
"That's our bell, Artie that's our bell."
With a delighted laugh, the goddess left in a whirl of pink stars.
Artemis stood a while longer, watching her Chosen and the warrior holding her close. The queen was glowing despite having just lost her breakfast.
"Yes, it worked," she sighed to herself. "Thank you, Dite," she told her absent sister.
"My pleasure," floated from the trees, still laced with an audible chuckle.
In the Amazon village, a warrior princess was trying to come up with an explanation for Gabrielle's sickness. Other than the obvious one. The healer in her knew pretty well what was going on.
She remembered the day in the cavern, their first time, and the wonderful power of their lovemaking.
And the tingling feeling she had felt.
She shrugged it away. Things were as they were, and they'd just stay here indefinitely. She just knew that she was now building a new family with the woman she loved and a whole bunch of Amazons.
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