by Nene Adams
The bard sighed and stretched again, silken sheets sliding against her skin like cool spring water, only more solid and not as wet. Well, not as wet right now, but last night... she giggled.
Her hand slipped along the bed... eyes closed, Gabrielle imagined Xena beside her... waking up slowly to a series of delicious little kisses... perhaps digging into their saddlebag for Item #14A, or perhaps that wicked little #56 number, or maybe even the Silesian egg-scrambler from Fantasy Atoll... Mmmmm....
Her fingers did the walking (or actually, it was more of a seductive little fluttery strut. Mata Hari would have turned pea-green with envy) across the bed. Gabrielle anticipated running those naughty fingers along Xena's smooth skin, dipping into valleys and taking those unbelievable curves at speeds even Janus and Deanus might have found too dangerous to attempt.
Oh, morning at the Plenty Zug-Zug... would there be strawberries? Would there be nutbread? Would they have time for a leisurely game of Hunt The Cucumber? Oh, yeah... time to make rabid weasels give up in complete humiliation.
The bard's fingers slid further... and further... until with a crack, they smashed into the wall.
Gabrielle sat up straight, rubbing her bruised knuckles.
She was the only occupant of the heart-shaped bed.
There was silence, broken only by the creaking of bedropes in the room next door, and the muffled sounds of two people engaged in what appeared to be their daily religious devotions. (''Oh, gods! Yes! Oh, gods!'' and ''Zeus! Zeus! Ohhhhh ZEUS!'')
Gabrielle settled down for a monumental pout.
Dream rabbit had skipped, leaving one unhappy bardie poo behind.
Xena stared up at the mountain, a coil of rope over her shoulder.
Big Mazuma was one of the highest mountains in Greece. Few climbers had ever dared scale its heights; fewer still had returned to boast of the deed. Xena looked at her guide; a raggedy, infirm, lice-ridden individual with a cast in one eye and a severe hacking cough.
''Well?,'' she asked, eyeing the man who had introduced himself to her as Scrofulous. ''Where do we get started? And are you sure I can climb this thing and get back before breakfast?''
Scrofulous hacked and spat out a glob of some shuddery substance that promptly crawled away as soon as it hit the ground. ''Ayup,'' he replied. ''Shore thang.''
Xena took a handful of iron spikes out of her backpack. A steely glint appeared in her pale blue eyes; a gleam that promised the mountain that here was its conquerer; there would be no turning back; no quarter asked and none given; and as a brief aside, was there a little warrior's room somewhere about because the bladder was beginning to get a bit testy.
She began her ascent, Scrofulous at her side.
Gabrielle's stomach, having finally managed to muscle through the overwhelming emotional upheaval her brain was occupied with, forwarded a sharp note indicating that:
a) It had been hours since dinner;
Still pouting over the abrupt popping of her romantic fantasies bubble, Gabrielle got dressed and went downstairs alone to seek what solace she could from the siren lures of fresh baked pastries and sun sweetened fruits.
The dining room was full of couples enjoying a leisurely repast. Gabrielle threaded her way past table after table of cooing, baby-talking, sickeningly sweet smooching couples who fed one another, sipped from each other's glasses of light ale, and played footsie under the table. To say the bard was depressed would have been an understatement; even now, within her emotional center, Suicidal Impulse was threatening to jump, and Common Sense and Cooler Head were trying to talk it down.
The bard decided she couldn't stay in the dining room; if she was forced to endure watching a pair of Amazons make kissy faces and smear one another with jam, she'd go mad. Signaling the server, she had a basket breakfast made up and took it out into the garden, hoping the sunshine and flowers would make her feel better.
As she walked along, Gabrielle sang beneath her breath:
''Oh where, oh where has my dream rabbit gone?
Suddenly, as she rounded a corner, Gabrielle saw Xena. Bigger than life and twice as beautiful, standing there sniffing a flower with every evidence of enjoyment, wearing one of the loose robes handed out by the inn. The basket fell to the ground, forgotten... (Ravenous Appetite screamed in anguish and threatened to pitch a hissy fit; the day was saved by Romantic Inclinations, who firmly bopped Appetite on the noggin with a leather cosh and hollered, ''Kreegah!''.)
...forgotten, that is, save for a colony of ants who blew their teeny trumpets, screamed, ''wealth beyond the dreams of avarice!,'' and proceeded to march in their myriads to gather up this unforeseen bounty. Much later, the ant priests performed sacrifices of ant virgins to thank their gods, and thus it was that Gabrielle's unwitting contribution to the beautiful process that is nature preserved this ant colony from starvation that winter. Until the following spring, when some gardening bastard poured poison into the mound and decimated the entire population, plunging the whole ant kingdom into deep mourning and sending the price of black muslin skyrocketing, precipitating an economic crisis that later led to a complete collapse of the ant stock market, accompanied by massive suicides and a severe depression. But that's another story...
Gabrielle's heart went pitter patter, poom poom thunk! (Think of Fred Astaire on an acid trip). ''Dream rabbit!,'' she exclaimed, running over to the warrior she loved. She threw her arms around the taller woman and proceeded to manually examine Xena's tonsils with her tongue. Right thoroughly, too.
Xena mmmph'd and hmmmph'd and tried to push the bard away, but Gabrielle wasn't having any of that nonsense. Let whoever might come, come and watch this graphic demonstration of her love - Hades, let them take notes and make sketches, too! - but come what may, having found her beloved Xena, Gabrielle intended to cling to her like a limpet... whatever that was, besides some animal, vegetable or mineral with a tenacious grip.
However, even bards with unbelievable lung capacity have to breathe, so Gabrielle released Xena long enough for the warrior to gasp, ''What are you doing?''
Gabrielle planted tiny smoochies along Xena's jaw. Her hand slid between their bodies and got a grasped one of the warrior's prominent attributes. ''I love you, dream rabbit,'' she murmured indistinctly.
''What?'' Xena squirmed. ''Wait a moment! Stop! Who ARE you? Oh, gods... STOP! Don't touch me there! What do you think you're doing?''
Startled, Gabrielle stepped back a little. ''Xena? Don't you remember me? I'm bardie-poo! Gabrielle! Your mate! Oh, gods, did you hit your head again?''
''I'm not...'' Xena began, but Gabrielle quickly laid a hand over her mouth.
''Shhh, it's all right,'' the bard said. ''I'll try and help you remember. Surely you haven't forgotten that night we spent in that deserted cave? You know, where you taught me the forbidden Stalagmite Shimmy?''
Xena's eyes opened wide.
Gabrielle continued, ''Or how about when you and I were trapped in that cave- in... with nothing more than a zucchini and a leather strap? Remember when the strap finally broke and we had to eat that squash? Raw? Well, kinda marinated but...''
Xena's eyes opened even wider...
''Oh! How about the time we got caught in this blizzard and you broke both your legs, an arm and your coccyx and we had to shelter in this cave... remember you told me the only parts of you that worked were your tongue and your, er, woogie, and you needed to exercise 'em both to keep up your strength?''
Xena's eyes bulged...
Gabrielle giggled. ''Need your memory refreshed some more?'' She removed her hand and leaned forward for another kiss.
''Pervert!'' Xena's pale blue eyes were practically standing out on stalks. ''How... how did you... aaargh! Ptooie! Ptooie!'' She spat on the ground and wiped her lips on the back of her hand. ''How dare you address me like that! How DARE you lay your filthy hands on me!''
''What?!! But, but, dream rabbit...''
''I'm NOT your dream rabbit! I'm Her Royal Highness, Princess Diana!'' The princess, who by some strange coincidence looked exactly like Xena, glared down at the flabbergasted bard.
''P-p-princess Diana? Oh... caco!'' Gabrielle sank down abruptly on the ground (squishing a few ants in the process) and moaned.
Princess Diana drew herself up to her full height. ''Yes! What made you think I was Xena, anyway? Do I look like I have a shamrock in my pocket?''
''No, but I thought you'd be glad to see me,'' Gabrielle retorted bitterly. Her lips were still tingling, but Romance had retreated in embarrassment and was busily writing a poisonous memo to the Memory and Recognition Department.
Princess Diana drew a breath. ''Well... I know we look a little alike, but really!'' She peered down at the stricken bard. ''Um... I didn't know you ladies were, uh... you know...''
''You know!'' Princess Diana blushed hotly. ''Please don't make me say it. I'm far too well bred.''
''You mean we're lovers? Actually, we were married in the Amazon village a little while ago.''
''Oh! So this is your honeymoon?''
''Actually... we had our honeymoon on the Lust Boat.'' Embarrassment was tip-toeing away quietly; Gabrielle's flushed face was beginning to return to its normal healthy shade of peaches-and-goat's-milk.
''Ooooooooh!'' Princess Diana squealed, then daintily sank down on the grass beside the bard, making sure (in the inborn way that princesses instinctively behave) not to show too much thigh (or anything else) in the process. ''Tell me all about it, do! I just adore girl talk!''
''How much further?,'' Xena screamed over the howling of the wind.
Scrofulous hacked up a goodly chunk of lung and replied, ''No much.''
They continued their climb...
Gabrielle finally made her escape from the chatty Princess. Zeus!, she thought as she hastened away after an extended series of good-byes and see- you-soons, not to mention keep-in-touch and have-your-people-call-my-people- we'll-do-lunch, I have GOT to find Xena!
She wandered into the inn's common room, deserted at the moment save for a lone figure at the bar, who appeared to be slurping down cup after cup of some elaborate cocktail decorated with exotic fruits, paper umbrellas and ice cubes in the shape of tiny bacchae.
It was Xena!
Gabrielle's heart did a gleeful little dance (think Martha Graham with an excruciating itch) and she ran up to the woman she adored.
''Xena!'' She threw her arms around the warrior and began kissing her frantically.
Xena struggled, giggling against the bard's lips, and her cup spilled on the bar, layers of hard liquor bubbling as it ate through the varnish.
Gabrielle made a face at the taste but continued her efforts to suck Xena's eyeballs out backwards.
At last, however, she released the taller woman just enough to murmur, ''Oh, dream rabbit! It's you at last!''
Xena giggled, wiping her lips with the back of her hand. Her pale blue eyes stared owlishly. ''No, it ain't!,'' she replied.
Gabrielle stared. Something about that voice was disturbingly familiar...
''You know, I don't usually go fer girls,'' her beloved (?) said, ''but I gotta say, you got one helluva pucker! Whoo-hoo! I charge a coupla dinar fer that kinda stuff, but fer you,'' she winked, ''I gotta special discount. Only, none of that kinky stuff - a girl's gotta reputation to maintain, you know.'' She adjusted her breasts with both hands and grinned.
Gabrielle moaned. She felt an incipient headache coming on... ''Meg?''
The woman crowed, ''R-r-r-r-right!,'' and punched the bard's arm.
Gabrielle rubbed her throbbing temples. Oh, gods...
''Are we there yet?,'' Xena screamed.
Scrofulous simultaneously scratched his welted, inflamed armpit, hacked and spat, and hitched at his trousers. All while dangling out over a thousand foot drop with nothing more than an increasingly frustrated warrior's good intentions and a skinny piece of rope between himself and a suddenly altered existance as a rather nasty stain.
''Arrrr,'' he replied, and spat again for good measure. ''Soonest, m'word.''
Xena peered at the sun, sighed, and commenced climbing once again.
''Say, have you seen Joxer anyplace?'' Meg screwed her eyes half closed and ran her tongue around her lips. ''He said he was gonna meet me here in a coupla days... ooooh... he's such a big strong warrior... and he's gotta cute butt, too...''
Gabrielle gagged silently. Joxer? She'd seen baboons with more attractive rear ends. Unfortunately. ''Uh, no, haven't seen him all day,'' she replied hastily. ''Oops! Look at the time! I gotta run!''
''Hey! Wait a minute!'' Meg frowned. ''We gotta date or what? Ya still owe me a coupla dinars fer that kissing stuff...''
''Er... um... just bill me!'' Gabrielle said over her shoulder as she sped out of the room, Embarrassment warring with bowel-clenching Fear...
Deep within the bard's mind, hasty messages flooded the Control Center in response to a sudden fantasy image of Xena's scowling face as the warrior said coldly, ''I hear you've been running around the place kissing everybody in sight, Gabrielle... what gives?''
(This imaginary consequence of Gabrielle's unwitting actions brought to you by the Conscience, in conjunction with Guilt, Love and Resistance of Temptation, in cooperative partnership with Shame.)
Gabrielle ran outside again, seeking refuge in a hitherto unexplored part of the garden. A wandering minstrel, seeing her tear stained face, struck a chord and began a silly love song that was quite popular in Brittania:
''Oh, dilly a dally a dilly all day,
Oh, dilly a dally a dilly me sick,
The minstrel lay where he had fallen, stricken unconscious after Gabrielle, losing patience and feeling somewhat nauseous, heaved her staff at his head.
She sat down on a marble bench, then sprang upright immediately.... that marble was cold! The bard hastily adjusted her short skirt to provide maximum protection of her more delicate parts, then sat down again to think.
So far, she was 0 for 2.
Next time, Gabrielle told herself firmly, make sure it's Xena before you start smooching! And while you're at it, make a firm mental note to make an offering to Artemis soonest... and pray Xena never finds out what you've done!!
The bard sat miserably contemplating life without Xena. Surely, she won't ask for a divorce just over a couple of misunderstandings! I mean, how could I have known that Princess Diana and Meg would be here! And it's all her fault, anyway! She shouldn't have left me alone all this time!
In the manner of right thinking hominids everywhere, slowly Guilt turned to Rationalization, thence to Righteous Indignation.
It was all Xena's fault!
Gabrielle sat there for a candlemark or so, her brain busily adding up Xena's sins from the past few years, every grievance, each tiny grudge suddenly as large at Atlas' own burden. Ah.... justification was sweet...
Just when the fires of Fury had been stoked up and were flaming quite nicely, a familiar figure stepped into the grove.
Gabrielle stood up. Her eyes were filled with wrath; she quivered with suppressed emotion; her nostrils flared. She opened her mouth and shouted, ''XENA!''
The warrior turned... ''Gabwie... Mmmph!''
The bard had given Xena a good clip on the ear and was winding up for another pass. ''How could you!,'' Gabrielle screamed, on the verge of ranting and raving. ''You left me here all alone, you, you, you... oh! I can't think of a word bad enough!''
Gabrielle was on a roll. ''And to think I married you, you unfeeling brute! Insensitive lout! I let you do things to me that would make my mother faint!''
Abruptly, Righteous Indignation vanished under an onslaught of Guilt (helped along by Romantic Inclination and given a nice shove into oblivion by True Love) . ''Oh, Xena!,'' Gabrielle wailed. ''I'm sorry... I hit you! Oh, gods... will you ever forgive me?'' Tears fell from her eyes.
She grabbed Xena and kissed her frantically, ignoring the other woman's muffled protests.
Eventually, however, Gabrielle had to come up for air... whereupon her partner in this extraordinary bout of master-class mouth music squealed, ''Gabwielle! Wheah did you leawn to do that? Awen't you a viwgin anymoah?
The bard groaned in anguish and heartily wished for this nightmare to end.
Xena struggled, every muscle in her well developed body working in concert to heave itself up onto a narrow ledge. ''How much longer?,'' she yelled.
Scrofulous made a noise like a dyspeptic camel with chronic constipation and replied, ''Soon. Arrrr. Soon, I vow.''
''Leah? What are you doing here?''
''Pwaise Hestia!,'' Leah said, smoothing the front of her robe. ''I had a dweam about this pwace, Gabwielle... Hestia hewself told me to come heah and twy to save as many viwgins as I could...'' Her blue eyes, so like Xena's, glinted momentarily. ''I see with you, I'm too wate.''
''Oh! Er... you mean that, um, face sucking business?'' Gabrielle thought furiously. The last thing she wanted was a lecture from the go-getting priestess of Hestia on virginity... or lack of same. ''Actually, I was just demonstrating a new martial arts technique I learned in Chin.'' She crossed her fingers behind her back.
''Weally?'' Leah sidled closer. ''What do you cawl it?''
''Um... Two Cranes Swooping Over a Wet Hummock,'' Gabrielle ad libbed desperately. ''It's quite effective in close quarters...''
''Weally?'' Leah looked thoughtful. ''I wonduh...''
''Hmmm?'' A bead of sweat shone on the bard's brow.
''So that's what my acowytes have been pwacticing!'' A look of sheer relief crossed Leah's features. ''I wonduh'd how my viwgins leawned to do that... Xena must've tawt them when she was impuhsonating me.''
''Oh, er, yeah... Probably those crazy martial arts tactics from Chin! That Xena, she's such a kidder!'' Gabrielle began backing away slowly. ''Well, good luck with your virgin saving campaign, Leah! I'll see you around...''
The bard fled as Leah called out, ''Do these Chin-ese tactics use squash at awl? Wike zucchini? Or kew-cumbeahs? My viwgins just wuv ker-cumbeahs!''
Xena hauled herself up another rocky spire. ''Are we there YET?,'' she screamed.
Scrofulous dug a thick finger into his nose, withdrew it, and examined the result with a connoisseur's eye. ''N'much more now,'' he replied absently.
Xena sighed and carried on...
Dazed, confused and heartsick, Gabrielle walked with heavy tread and hanging head to a reflecting pool surrounded by colorful flowers and bushes and dangling strands of ivy. Cooing doves jostled for position with sweet melodied songbirds, and even the frogs were doing a four-part harmony number.
Even as she sank down into the lush grass and moodily chucked a stone into the pond (striking the lead amphibian baritone and knocking him unconscious), a familiar voice behind her made the bard sit up straight and listen, both ears cocked and locked.
''I came alone into this place,
Gabrielle turned around. There stood her beloved dream rabbit, smiling sweetly. The bard's own heart began to jog a bit in place (sweatbands optional).
Xena continued to recite, ''Oh, bardic girlie, sweet desire,
Gabrielle's mouth dropped open and the front of her ugly green cropped top heaved with the forcefulness of her breath. Deep within her brain, certain special synapses were firing off commands at speeds far exceeding the safety limits, and nerves were desperately trying to keep up the pace.
Xena propped one foot up on a rustic-yet-artistically presented log and strummed the lyre resting on her thigh.
Gabrielle sighed... (A blinking red warning light made Central Command scream, ''More lubricant!'')
Xena played the lyre for a few more minutes (accompanied only by the hmph-ing of severely jealous birds, disgusted frogs and the sighing of one stupefied bard).... ending her song, she chucked the lyre over her shoulder and knelt down in front of Gabrielle.
''Oh... my...'' Gabrielle stared into Xena's eyes... (A harried Central Command, receiving dire warnings from the now panting and stuttering heart, began issuing orders for massive amounts of hormonal cocktails to be poured into the faltering organ. The heart, reviving somewhat and feeling as strong as a bull, began pumping for all it was worth and then some.)
Murmuring endearments (calculated to induce severe diabetes in eavesdroppers of the less romantic inclination), Gabrielle leaned forward and kissed Xena with every drop of tenderness and passion she could muster up.
When her oxygen-starved lungs began mounting a protest (even going so far as to contemplate a Union-sanctioned strike), Gabrielle tore herself away from Xena's lips. ''Oh, dream rabbit...,'' she whispered...
''What?,'' Xena whispered back, her tongue beginning a leisurely exploration of the bard's ear.
''I love you so much, my widdle pookie-ookie snookums...''
''Huh?'' Xena's hands, so strong, so firm, so singular of purpose, began their own journey along Gabrielle's sun-kissed flesh...
''Oh! Honey wunny, I just wuv you to pieces...''
''Are you related to that lisping Hestian priestess, sweetheart?''
Gabrielle's mind, once chugging merrily along a one-sided track of desire, came jolting to an abrupt halt. She pulled away slightly and looked Xena in the eye. ''Um... you are my iddy-biddy honey-wunny dream rabbit, right?''
Xena smiled. ''Angel tits, you can call me anything you want.'' She brushed a knuckle across the bard's lips. ''So... your room or mine?''
Gabrielle's chin quivered. ''Oh, dear sweet gods... ANOTHER ONE???''
''Huh?'' The newest Xena look-alike leaned back on her elbow and grinned. ''What are you talking about?''
''I don't believe this! I just don't believe this!'' Gabrielle heaved herself off the ground, fists planted on her hips. ''Okay... so what's your name?''
''Sappho.'' The famed poetess plucked a blade of grass and began chewing on it thoughtfully. ''You're Gabrielle, right? Xena's little companion? I've heard of you. You write pretty good stories, sugar butt. And you're much cuter in person.''
''Xena's little... Okay! I've had enough!'' Gabrielle scanned the sky. ''Aphrodite, get your honey-frosted buns down here RIGHT NOW!''
As Sappho watched with a lifted eyebrow, there was a sparkling of light and the Goddess of Love appeared. ''Hey, like, you're not s'posed to me yelling at me and stuff, okay? I'm, like, a goddess?''
Gabrielle's Wrath knew no bounds (and was beyond the point of discretion). ''Aphrodite... you got some s'plainin' to do!''
The goddess giggled...
Xena clawed at the sheer rock face, finally managing to cram three fingers into a barely discernible crack. ''How much further?,'' she hollered.
Scrofulous popped an enormous zit thoughtfully. ''N'much further,'' he calmly replied.
The warrior sighed...
''Like, chill, babe, okay?'' Aphrodite twirled a lock of frosty blonde hair around one finger. ''It was like, so totally not my idea!''
Gabrielle leaned forward. nostrils flaring dangerously. ''WHAT wasn't your idea?''
Aphrodite shrugged. ''Ares made a bet with me that he could keep you celibate all day. So he's got Xena up on that mountain,'' she gestured to the looming Big Mazuma, ''and I've, like, been whomping up Xena's twins as bait, right? Only, you're one hard fish to catch, babe!''
''You? And Ares?'' Suddenly, a great many things made sense. Gabrielle cast a glance at Sappho then back to Aphrodite. ''Gods, goddess! This is probably one of Ares' plots to kill Xena!''
''Think so?'' Aphrodite examined a fingernail. ''Then, like, the bet's off. I don't do death, babe. That is like, so totally Hades' department.''
Sappho chose this moment to rise. ''Aphrodite,'' she said, bowing politely, ''May I escort you somewhere?'' She cocked her arm and smiled, tiny wavelets of lust rolling off her like a mist. Rabid weasels, contemplating her expression, would have committed hara kiri in abject humiliation.
Aphrodite looked the poetess up and down. ''Mmmmm, hate to disappoint, you're a babe-alicious dudette all right, only I don't do chicks, either. Ta-ta!'' With that, Aphrodite vanished in a cloud of attar of roses.
Gabrielle coughed and waved a hand in front of her face. ''Sappho,'' she began, then realized the poetess was just standing there with a glazed expression. ''Yoo- hoo! Er, Sappho? Sappho? HEY, LUST MONKEY!''
Sappho blinked. ''Huh?''
''Listen, I have to go save Xena from Ares' clutches. Want to give me some help?''
''Did you see the size of her...''
''Oh. Um, yeah, sure. Whatever.'' Sappho blinked again. A thin line of drool snaked down her chin. ''So round, so firm, so fully packed...''
Xena stood upon the pinnacle. ''We're here! We made it!,'' she exulted.
Scrofulous nodded and scratched his head, flakes of dandruff drifting down like a miniature snowstorm. ''Ayup,'' he replied.
Xena breathed heavily. ''I just have one question, Scrofulous.'' Her pale blue eyes gleamed.
''Ayup?'' The guide picked a scab on his arm.
Xena leaned closer, practically looming. The tone of her voice was deep and absolutely serious. One hand was wrapped around the hilt of her sword, and her body was coiled, every muscle prepared for action.
''Is there a little warrior's room around here?''
''Oh, Aphrodite, goddess fair,
''Sappho! Will you knock off the love songs and give me a hand?'' Gabrielle struggled with the climbing gear she had rented at the Plenty Zug-Zug.
The poetess grinned. ''She's just so... I've never seen perkier...''
Xena smiled, gazing out over the landscape. The view from the top of Big Mazuma was magnificent; she could practically see the whole of Greece laid out before her like one of those pictures the artist Atlas had drawn before the gods had plopped the world upon his shoulders and given him one helluva monkey on his back... kinda like the joke about the four-hundred pound gorilla...
''It's incredible!,'' she exclaimed.
''So... Is there an express trail down from here?''
Scrofulous grinned evilly.
''Oh, goddess of love, I dream of you,
Scrofulous' form changed. The lice ridden, pustulent figure transformed into that of the incredibly handsome God of War... a god of war who had an enormous zit on the end of his nose. Xena stifled a guffaw.
Ares' eyes crossed, then he gestured and the zit disappeared. ''So, Xena...,'' he said in his most seductive voice. ''Whaddya think about this?'' He gestured at the landscape.
''Nice view.'' Xena put her hands on her hips. ''I knew it was you all along, Ares. Mind telling me exactly why you thought it was necessary to drag me all the way up here for a tete-a-tete?''
''It's Gaulish. Answer the question!''
''Well...'' Ares scratched his head. ''Tell me, Xena... wouldn't you like to own all that?''
''Is there a buried treasure around here I don't know about?''
''No! I mean... you could conquer it all. Instead of Greece, they could call it something like, oh, I dunno, Xenaland?''
''Xenaland? Sounds like an amusement park!''
''How about New Xenaland?''
''Isn't that an island?''
''Hmmm.... you may be right. Never mind about the name right now. I'm sure you'll think of something catchy.''
''So, let me see if I have this straight.'' Xena rubbed her chin. ''You made me climb all the way up to the top of Big Mazuma so you could tempt me?''
''Oh, gods, Ares!'' She laughed. ''I thought you were going to push me off or something!''
''Hey!'' Ares snapped his fingers. ''Now that's an idea!''
''I mean, if you're not going to go back into the warlord business for me, then why not just kill you? Everybody'll think it was an accident... 'Hey, didja hear about that warrior princess? Climbed Big Mazuma and fell off! What an idiot!' Yeah, I kinda like the sound of that.'' He chuckled.
''You... you aren't really going to push me off, are you?'' Xena backed up as much as she was able.
''Mmmm...'' Ares flip-flopped his hand back and forth. ''Maybe.'' He grinned...
''I'm so much in love with the goddess, you see,
It's far too late now for my poor heart to flee,
It's fated, I think, Aphrodite and me,
Make kissies and play with a sex toy or three.''
''Um... I thought you wanted to turn me to the darkside...''
''Naw.'' Ares shook his head. ''That's another story.''
''Oh.'' Xena scratched her nose. ''So I guess you aren't my father...''
''Nope.'' Ares gave the warrior a chilling little smile. ''And no last minute rescues, either. I hate those things! They're so cliched!''
''So you're a drama critic now?''
''Oh, give it up, Xena! You're gonna die, right here, right now - the goody- goody two-sandals warrior princess is gonna be nothing more than a red stain on the ground and maybe a few miscellaneous bits of unidentifiable glop on the grass!''
''Ewwwww!'' Xena wrinkled her nose. ''THAT sounds nasty!''
''You better believe it, sweetheart!'' Ares moved closer. ''Think you can learn to fly before you hit the ground?''
''I want to caress every inch of your skin...''
Xena stared. ''Ares! You wouldn't!''
''Oh, wouldn't I?''
''And lick you in places you thought was a sin...''
''Don't do this!''
''Why not? Dammit, Xena, I'm a god, not a mortal! I can do what I please!''
''You'll giggle and sigh and make quite a large din...''
Ares cocked his head to one side. ''You hear anything?''
''Huh?'' Xena paused and listened. ''Sounds like...''
''AND YOUR LOVE WITH MY LOVE SHALL SOONEST BE WIN! Darn. It rhymes, but does it, you know, sing?''
''Gabrielle?'' Xena was astonished.
''Sappho?'' Ares looked horrified.
''Ares?'' The poetess' ebony brows furrowed.
''Xena!'' Gabrielle threw her arms around her warrior and squeezed like a boa constrictor on a rubber pig binge. ''Oh, dream rabbit!''
''Bardie-poo!'' Xena hugged the smaller woman. ''What are you doing here?''
''Saving you, that's what!'' Gabrielle released Xena and glared at Ares. ''Aphrodite told me about your scheme, you anthropomorphic incarnation of pure evil, you!'' She shook her small fist at the god, who shrugged.
''So what? A god's gotta make a living...'' He glanced nervously at Sappho.
The poetess stomped over to Ares. ''So! Still trying stupidly elaborate plots, huh?''
''Oh. Hi, Sappho,'' Ares said, a sheen of nervous sweat on his brow. ''I was just...''
''If I've told you once, I've told you a million times, KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!'' Sappho glared. ''The audience just isn't going to buy some dumb plot that relies on coincidence, divine manifestations and what not! Tragedy, comedy... stick with the classics!''
''Excuse me? Do you two know each other?,'' Gabrielle asked.
As Ares tried to demur, Sappho cut him off. ''Well, yes! He's been coming to me for writing lessons for years! Wants to be a playwright... I told him to take a lesson from Wyllam Spear-Shaker; now that girl knows how to write!''
Ares tittered. ''Hee hee hee... no, you must be mistaken. That was some other god of war...''
Sappho snorted; at precisely the same moment, so did Xena. The two women stared at each other a moment before their gaze drifted off into the realm of okay-I'm-gonna-totally-ignore-this.
Sappho continued to berate Ares. Xena whispered to Gabrielle, ''Let's get out of here, okay? Just follow my lead and be cool.''
She led the bard away from the debating poetess and her erring student. Just as they disappeared down the trail that led back to the inn, Gabrielle glanced over her shoulder in time to catch the poetess clipping the god of war on the ear.
''One more time with feeling!,'' Sappho commanded.
Ares gulped, rubbing his ear and rolling his eyes.
A rich baritone followed Xena and Gabrielle down the mountain...
''Oh, Aphrodite, some sugar I need,
Gabrielle giggled... and after a moment, Xena joined her.
Later that evening at the Plenty Zug-Zug...
There had been strawberries... there had been nutbread... there had been Item #34-D... there had been lost soap (eventually found, accompanied by much splashing and chortling)...
Xena sighed in complete contentment. ''So, bardie-poo... what did you do with yourself all day while I was out conquering Big Mazuma?''
Gabrielle's eyes opened wide... ''Um... nothing much.''
''Really?'' Xena toyed with a lock of the bard's hair. ''How'd you meet Sappho?''
''Oh. We just kinda bumped into each other.'' Gabrielle rolled her eyes Olympus-ward and prayed.
''Hmmm... I saw Princess Diana down in the dining room... and Priestess Leah... and that tramp, Meg... Wonder what they're all doing here?'' Xena asked lazily, rolling over on her stomach.
''Um, nothing. Probably just one of those coincidence thingys.''
''Mmmm-hmmm...'' Xena closed her eyes and snuggled closer to her companion.
And for a moment, Gabrielle lay there, utterly relieved. Then she sat up. ''Bards!,'' she exclaimed in disgust before flopping back down again.
The silence at the Plenty Zug-Zug was broken only by an evil chuckle from the aether as the author of this mayhem decided to end her character's torment and leave them at peace by typing...
Gabrielle sat back up again. ''Um... Bardwynna?''
''Oh. We aren't gonna have a big finish with gods puking their guts out from laughing so hard, or Hercules and Iolaus dropping by in drag?''
''Naw. Relax, Gabrielle. This really is...''
''Wait a second!'' Gabrielle frowned.
''What is it now?''
''So how come you had me running around smooching all these Xena look- alikes?''
'''Cause it was funny, that's why.''
''Oh? Didn't seem all that frimpin' hilarious to me!''
''Look, Gabrielle. I just writes 'em as I sees 'em, okay? Now, will you go to sleep already?''
''Look! I'm sick and tired of all this Myth business... can't you get a new hobby?''
''Gabrielle, you're gonna wake Xena up...''
''I don't care!'' The bard was, once again, on a roll. One of those onion/sesame/poppy seed thingys that positively scream for the liberal application of butter.
Gabrielle contemplated the chunk of bread that had suddenly appeared. ''Very funny,'' she said, miffed. The freshly baked roll hit the floor and rolled under the bed, where many months later it would spontaneously come to life, terrorizing the countryside until it was at last vanquished by a valiant baker...
''Hmph.'' The bard flopped back down so hard the bedsprings protested, and glared at the ceiling.
Beside the bard, a tiny smile crept across Xena's lips...
And the author, heartily sick of prima donna characters who argue over every little thing and won't do as they're told, decided to give the whole thing a wash and typed...
(pause to make sure there are no more protests... Whew!)
THE END (FINALLY!)
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