Gabrielle: Bard of Hearts
This was Orion's big break and he knew it. His editor was allowing him the opportunity of a lifetime. Actually, Judicles didn't have a choice since her ace reporter had met an untimely end trying to do an expose on an Amazon tribe's bathing habits. By the Gods wasn't the most respectable paper in Greece but the young reporter had naïve hopes of changing that.
Orion had heard the stories of Xena and Gabrielle since he was a child and now he was going to get the chance to interview them himself. A smile spread across his youthful features as he walked into the tavern he'd been tipped the Warrior Princess and the Bard were.
The room was dark and it took a moment for his eyes to adapt to the change. He scanned the crowded area and his eyes eventually fell upon his subjects sitting together at a table, their backs towards him. The young man slowly made his way towards the pair, his heart began beating faster and hands sweating with anticipation. He stood on the other side of the table facing the two woman who were deep in conversation. He couldn't believe he was actually standing there across from two of his heroes.
Xena stopped talking and looked up at him, catching his stare. Her piercing blue eyes narrowed as she took in his dark hair, light brown eyes and handsome baby face and decided he was no threat. He had no visible weapons, only holding a scroll and pen in his hands. She decided to have some fun with the kid.
"We'd like two mugs of ale and a half a loaf of nutbread." She announced gruffly.
Orion's eyes widened at the request and he hurried to the bar to put in the order. He hoped this would give him an in for his interview and he also feared what would happen if he didn't complete the task.
Gabrielle looked from the kid who'd just raced away then back to her partner, "I don't think he works here Xena."
The warrior grinned at the blonde. "Yeah, I know. But I figure the kid wants something and the service here really sucks, so we might as well put him to use until we find out what it is."
The bard shook her head at her friend's reasoning.
In a few moments he returned to the table carrying the requested items haphazardly on a tray. Gabrielle worried that at any moment the contents were going to tumble to the floor or worse yet, onto one of the unsavory characters frequenting the establishment.
Orion set the tray down on the table and sighed in relief that he had made it there without spilling anything. Xena took the mugs from the tray and handed one to Gabrielle as the bard took the plate of containing the nutbread and set it between them.
The warrior removed a few dinars from a pouch and held them out to the young man who took them cautiously. "Thank you." She told him and then turned her attention to her mug and companion.
Gabrielle almost laughed at the downfallen expression on the young man's face when he was dismissed by her friend. She took pity on him and extended a hand. "I'm Gabrielle and this is Xena."
The reporter stared in surprise a moment at the offered hand before he enthusiastically took it in his own. "Oh I know." He was surprised by how small her hand was. He felt his brain's language center turn off as he gazed into the green eyes he knew had seen so much.
"And you are?" Xena asked interrupting the moment. The young man quickly released the small hand.
Orion fought the warmth that traveled across his cheeks, knowing his face was turning redder by the second. "I...I'm Orion. I'd like to ask you a few questions if I could." He removed the scroll and pen from his belt where he'd placed them when he carried the ale over.
"You're a reporter?" Xena asked, her voice revealing the dislike she felt towards the profession and she began to stand intent on throwing the man out.
The bard placed a hand over Xena's and squeezed it in an attempt to calm her. The warrior reluctantly sat back down. Orion's face had lost all of its color and Gabrielle could see the parchment was shaking in his hands.
"Who do you write for?" She asked gently hoping the young man wasn't going to pass out. She motioned for him to take a seat.
Orion paused a moment as he thanked the gods, well the ones the woman before him hadn't killed, that he was still breathing and had managed not to ruin his pants. He then cautiously sat down and tried not to notice the glare he was receiving from the icy blue eyes that were fixed on him.
"Actually this is my first assignment. I'm with By the Gods." He looked down at his hands as he said this. He knew the reputation the paper had with most people for sensationalizing things.
Xena's eyes flashed with recognition at the paper's name. Well if you could call it a paper. Most people she knew wouldn't be caught dead with a copy of it in their home, or at least they wouldn't admit to reading such trash. Of course the warrior had checked out the bogus headlines once or twice while she waited for Gabrielle to finish shopping.
"Uh huh. That's the one that did the story on the two headed centaur baby isn't it? And of course my favorites has to be 'The truth about Xena...is she really a he?'"
Gabrielle tried unsuccessfully to hide the smirk forming on her face as she remembered the aftermath of that article. It took a few broken arms before the word got out and the people from the shallow end of the gene pool stopped trying to cop a feel under Xena's leathers to see if she had equipment she wasn't suppose to.
Orion swallowed hard as he glanced at Xena and nodded. "Yes. That's the one." He admitted. "But I'm not about that." He added quickly when he saw her lip snarl.
The bard came to his rescue. "Okay Orion. We'll give you a chance to prove that."
She saw a combination of surprise and annoyance on her partner's features and she patted her bare thigh and leaned over, whispering something about checking her for extra appendages later.
The reporter swore he saw a brief smile appear on Xena's face as Gabrielle leaned in and spoke softly into the taller dark woman's ear. But it was gone as quickly as it had appeared and now her attention was again on him. "Okay newsboy. You've got half a candle mark. We have a pending engagement we can't miss."
"Great! Thanks." He unrolled the scroll and skimmed the questions Judicles wanted him to ask. His brow furrowed as he attempted to find one that would not cost him his life if he asked it. He sighed softly. The closest one he found was, "What do you wear to sleep in?", and he figured even that one would get him at least a beating from the already irritated Warrior Princess.
The petite blonde watched the reporter scouring the piece of parchment before him as he tapped the end of his pen against his mouth nervously.
Xena couldn't take it any longer and grabbed the paper from him. She read the first few questions before crumpling it up into a ball and threw it across the room into the fireplace. "You'd better come up with something better than those." She warned him.
Orion's mind went into overdrive as he tried to remember all the tales he'd heard about the pair of women. He chewed his bottom lip as he sought an idea for a story. Then a thought came to him and he pulled out his research notes from his pack. Now he just had to get it past the former warlord.
"Umm...I've heard stories about Gabrielle, the Battling Bard of Poteidaia and how her beauty has gained her many admirers throughout the years," he began hesitantly. He saw Xena lean forward a little as she clenched and unclenched her fist a few times in a threatening manner. Orion chose his next words carefully. "And I was just wondering what your thoughts were on that."
Gabrielle chuckled and he saw Xena relax a touch. "I don't know where you got your information Orion, but I think someone was exaggerating a bit."
"Uh, my source is actually pretty reliable on this subject." He assured her as he reviewed his notes. And according to my source, at least 13 people have fallen for you since you joined with Xena." And I can see why, he thought as he took in her beauty.
The warrior raised an eyebrow in amusement at this information, while Gabrielle looked slightly shocked. "Thirteen people?"
"My, aren't we the social butterfly." Xena teased and received a light punch in the arm for her comment.
"The first person mentioned is Sphaerus." Orion announced.
"Who?" Xena asked.
Gabrielle paused a moment. "Remember when you were shot with an arrow and,"
Which time?" The Warrior interrupted.
The bard sighed. "This was the time you were helped by the peaceful farmer guy."
A glimpse of recognition passed over Xena's face. "Uh huh. So Sphaerus would be the warlord kid who fired that arrow. The one with the bad attitude father?"
"Yeah. That's him." Her friend replied.
"Okay Orion. That's one. How about another name?" Xena inquired.
The reporter nodded, "All right." He took a momentary glance at his notes and skipped the next two names knowing they would not be pleasant memories for the bard. "What about Altrech?"
While Gabrielle was thinking about the name, Xena used her perfect eyesight to sneak a peek at Orion's notes. She saw the next two names on the list were Talus and Perdicus.
The former had helped them release Death from King Sisyphus only to be taken by her afterward. Something that had caused her friend a great deal of pain. And then of course Gabrielle's slain husband Perdicus.
Xena's opinion of the young reporter went up a notch for skipping over two painful times in her bard's life.
Gabrielle shrugged her toned shoulders when she couldn't remember the name Orion had spoken.
"Maybe I can jog your memory," Xena offered. "Puppy love. Raw squid."
The smaller woman shook her head. "Oh no. You can't put him on the list. I mean the guy hadn't seen a woman in like 25 years, of course he's gonna go gaa gaa over the first one he sees."
"I see. So I guess you'll want to take Draco off the list for a technicality too?" Orion inquired.
Gabrielle's eyes widened. "Well yeah! He didn't fall in love with me on his own. Baby Bliss had something to do with it."
Xena chuckled under her breath at the thought of the warlord Draco promising to do good in the name of his love for Gabrielle. Course that plan later backfired when the man decided if he couldn't have the bard then no one could and planned her demise. But remembering her friend in that white, fringed bikini caused her heart to beat a little faster.
"Uh, Xena?" A small voice interrupted her pleasant thoughts.
The dark haired warrior returned her attention to the present. "Yeah Gabrielle?"
"Would you please tell Orion he's wrong. He has this crazy notion that Najara had this thing for me."
"Umm. Sorry Gabrielle, but he's gotcha there. That woman may have been crazy, but she was head over heels for you." Xena informed her friend.
"Oh come on!" Gabrielle replied petulantly. "All right," she conceded. "But all those people are from a long time ago though."
Orion smirked a little. "So you want some names from the time after you woke up from being a bardsicle then?" He then froze as he realized he may have made a joke out of something the pair found painful.
There was a moment of uncertainty and then the sound of laughter broke the tension.
"The battling bardsicle of Poteidaia." That has a nice ring to it Xena announced smirking herself.
"Oh sure. Laugh it up 'Xena Warrior Ice Cube'!" Gabrielle shot back smiling. Her green eyes twinkled mischievously.
"I'll take that as a yes then?" Orion inquired.
"Sure. I think you're going to have a harder time though." The bard challenged.
"We'll see. The first post-bardsicle name we have is Virgil."
Gabrielle's jaw dropped. "Virgil? You're kidding right? I mean I know Joxer cared for me. But Virgil?" She paused for a moment. "Why didn't your source mention Joxer?"
"Actually they did," he answered softly. "But I didn't want to bring up any painful memories for you. I know what good friends you were."
The bard nodded. "Thank you. So what were you saying about Virgil?" She was smiling again.
"I heard you and he got pretty friendly during the time Xena was tempting Lucifer." Orion informed her.
Xena decided to save her friend who now had a full blush going on. "I believe we have another technicality here." The warrior explained. "You see there was this problem with intoxicating evil and. Well let's just say things got a little weird."
"Uh huh. What she said." Gabrielle told the reporter as some of the redness left her cheeks.
"Okay. A technicality." He marked something on his scroll. "What about the twosome of Beowulf and Brunhilda?"
"Yes, Gabrielle. What about our Norse friends?" Xena chimed in.
The Bard wrinkled her nose at the Warrior then stuck her tongue out. "Jealous?" She joked.
"Nah. Course not. I just wish someone would turn themselves into a wall of flame for me." She winked at the small blonde.
The bard did her impression of Xena's eyebrow waggle. "You never know. You might get lucky one day. And besides, you haven't been lacking admirers since the thaw."
"Gabrielle..." Xena growled while the bard did her best to look innocent.
Orion watched the exchange with interest. He felt like he'd died and gone to the Elysian Fields sitting there with these two women. The reporter heard Xena's reply to her friend's teasing and decided to throw caution to the wind and have some fun. Besides, if the Warrior Princess killed him he'd go a happy man.
"Gabrielle's right." He announced and then almost wished he could take the words back when the stunning blue eyes were trained on him.
Xena stared at the reporter a moment before glancing at Gabrielle who was now watching the ceiling with great interest, her face strained to keep from smiling. "I thought this story was about you?" The warrior remarked.
Gabrielle moved her green eyes from the ceiling and locked them onto the pair of blue ones next to her. The corners crinkled with a smile Xena thought could brighten the darkest corner of Tartarus. "At least hear him out." The bard requested.
"Okay, okay. What'cha got kid?" The Warrior asked doing a good imitation of being bored.
Orion peeked at his list and when his eyes came back up he looked at the pair hesitantly.
"Yes?" Xena inquired.
"All right. But just remember I didn't make up this list." The reported explained.
The bard's interest was piqued and she motioned for the young man to continue.
Taking a deep breath, Orion announced the first name. "Ares."
"I think I can take a technicality on that one since he had feelings for me before I was frozen." Xena informed the other two nonchalantly.
"Oh really?" Gabrielle replied with mock irritation in her tone.
"Uh yeah. Well I think it's time for our other engagement now." Xena told Gabrielle in an attempt to change the subject.
"Maybe I want to hear the other names." The bard countered, an evil gleam in her eyes.
The Warrior Princess shrugged. "Fine. Orion please continue."
The reporter received the impression that he needed to do this quickly or risk having to deal with an irritated Xena.
"Only a few left really. Gurkhan, Lucifer and Caligula." There. He'd finished it.
"Umm. What is it with you and bad boys, Xena?" Gabrielle teased poking a finger at her friend's ribs.
"Must be the leather." The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. He quickly clamped his hands over the traitorous part; his eyes widened when Xena stood up.
Tears rolled down Gabrielle's cheeks as she laughed at the expression on Orion's face. The poor reporter seemed to be hoping the ground would open up and swallow him. But it didn't. Instead, an intimidatingly tall figure stood over him. To Orion it appeared he was about to get his trip to the other side, but Gabrielle could see the playfulness in her friend's eyes and knew she was just tormenting the kid.
"Xena." Gabrielle stood up and placed her hand on Xena's arm. "I think it's time to go."
The warrior heard the underlying meaning in the tone and her lips moved to form a small grin.
"Sure." She took her hand and slapped Orion on the back in a friendly manner. "Good luck kid."
"Uh. Thanks." The young man was thankful things hadnt led to something painful. Then he felt the woman lean in closer.
"Just make sure this story doesn't turn into something ugly." The words were spoken calmly and just above a whisper, but Orion heard the message loud and clear.
"You have my word." He assured her.
Gabrielle watched the dialogue with a small frown. She couldn't hear what her companion was saying to the young man, however from his expression she could see it was something serious.
Xena straightened back up and flashed a smile at Gabrielle. "Shall we?" she motioned towards the exit.
"Sounds good." The bard turned back to Orion a moment. "Just out of curiosity. Who is your source?"
"I can't tell you their name." He confessed. "Let's just say they look really good in pink lingerie."
The Bard nodded her understanding. "Stay out of trouble Orion."
"No problem." He waved goodbye from his seat as the pair exited the structure.
The night air felt cool after being in the stuffy tavern all evening. The women walked silently towards the inn, the sound of crickets filled the air.
Gabrielle gazed at the stars overhead. "He missed someone you know." She said breaking the silence.
"Really?" Xena stopped and turned her friend around so they faced each other.
"Sure. I bet Argo Jr. loves you a lot." The bard laughed at the warrior's open mouth expression.
The taller woman recovered quickly, "Why you little..." She wrestled the bard's head under her arm and used the other hand to rapidly rub her scalp. The bard's mock cries of mercy joined the sound of crickets.
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