The Challenge:

I sense a game of Toss The Chakram coming...

So, here's a thought. Younger Gabrielle. Xena is .... well, somewhere. A tavern. Trying to gather information. She isn't allowed in with her weapons, so she's left them -- along with Gabrielle -- in the stable.

Gabrielle, ticked at not being allowed inside the tavern and wondering what the big deal is anyway, gets herself some wine and drinks herself silly. After trying (and failing) to converse with Argo, she decides to play a game. She rams Xena's sword into the stable floor and starts tossing the chakram at it, trying to get a bullseye.

Not being a warrior, she's not facing the door to the stable. In fact, she's on the ground in an empty stall.

So it begins...


Part One, by Stacia:

"Gabrielle...." came a low warning growl.

Beautiful green eyes, open and without guile, turned to her. "Hi, Xena! I thought of a game! Want to play?"

"Is that my chakram? and my *sword*?!?"

Argo nickered and tossed her head. Xena looked over to her and raised her chin in agreement.

"These are not toys, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle pouted.

"Are you...You are, aren't you? You're drunk!" Delighted laughter from the warrior princess.

"Oh that's right, go ahead an' laugh't me. 'S ok. I'm used to it. Gabby the sidekick, followin' Seena 'round the known world like a puppy." Her head lolled back against the stable wall.

Xena managed to stifle a smirk. "Come on, Fido, I got us a room upstairs."

"Don' wanna go."

"Warm bath...soft meal..."

Dreamy green eyes looked up at the warrior. "We're gonna eat in the bath?"

Xena's eyebrows disappeared into dark bangs. "I hadn't considered that option."

"S'too bad."

"Come on Gabrielle, let's put you to bed." Walking over to the bard, Xena put a strong arm around her waist and helped her to her feet.

"kay. You coming with?"


Part Two, by Faithful:

"I don't think you'd make it there yourself."

"Making it *would* be more difficult alone. I hate being left 'lone, Seema."

Xena propped Gabrielle up against the side of the stall, then went to pick up her weapons. Gabrielle squealed.

"Xena, can I carry your shock'em, cock'ram, oh shit,...chakram," she finished proudly. "It's pretty!"

By this time, Xena was flushed red and having a hard time figuring out where to put her sword. As she turned to head back to Gabrielle, she tripped over the wineskin someone had left in the stables from a prior debauch. Despite Gabrielle's best efforts, the large skin was still over a third full.

"I think I might be needing this," Xena muttered to herself, as she tied the skin to her belt.

Gabrielle reached out to try to unhook Xena's chakram, wanting to continue with her game, but Xena evaded her grasp, cautioning, "Gabrielle, that is *not* for you! Little girls aren't supposed to play with big girls' things."

"I'm a big girl, Zeemsa," Gabrielle protested, as she darted under Xena's arm and retrieved the glittering ring. Giggling triumphantly, she stumbled off toward the tavern, with a bemused Xena in her wake. When she reached the inn, Gabrielle turned and taunted, "Warrior can't catch me, warrior can't catch me," before she headed up the stairs, tripping over every step.

"Oh, can't I?" Xena growled under her breath and headed after the tipsy bard.


Part Three, by Stacia:

And nearly tripped over the blonde in her haste to catch up to her.

"You all right there, Grace?"

"I'm fine. Ground broke my fall," Gabrielle attempted to stand up. Her hands and face were dusty, her skirt was turned halfway around, and a bit of straw poked up out of her green top.

Xena chuckled. "Let's go inside." She put an arm around the bard's shoulders and steered her toward the tavern.

Gabrielle giggled and slapped at Xena's hand. "Stop tickling me!" She tugged at her skirt, trying to pull it into place, and succeeded only in exposing even more of her midriff.

Sending up a brief prayer to any god except Aphrodite, Xena deftly straightened the bard's skirt and pulled the straw out of her top, accidentally brushing the top of Gabrielle's breast in the process. The warrior studied the piece of straw intently, trying to control the flush that she felt on her cheeks.

Gabrielle characteristically made matters worse for Xena by moaning softly and whispering in a husky voice, "mmm, Perdicus, don't stop."

Xena's mouth dropped open and she stumbled back a step.

"Gotcha!" The bard raced off triumphantly, chortling at the warrior's discomfort.


Part Four, by Faithful:

"That's it," said Xena, emphatically, glancing around to make sure that no one had witnessed their little exchange. Then she stood tall (and when you're over 6 feet, that's saying something!), straightened her leathers, threw back her shoulders, and deliberately mounted the steps into the tavern.

For the brief span of that trip, Xena was once again in control, in charge of her destiny and beholden to no one. Then she entered the bar.


Part Five, by Stacia:

She heard Gabrielle before she saw her.

"S'truth. She told me to get a cup of ale and meet her in the bathtub for dinner."

Xena hung her head and took a deep breath, not wanting to face the men inside the tavern. She took another deep breath and walked into the room.

Gabrielle was perched on a stool next to the bar, waving the chakram as she spoke. The men around her ducked and weaved as they attempted to view her cleavage without losing their noses in the process.

The bartender, relieved, gestured to Xena. "She with you?"

Shifting slightly, the warrior nodded her head.

Gabrielle continued on, unaware of Xena's presence. "She's my bestest friend, you know. She lets me polish her breastplate, and pet her pony, and if she's in a really good mood, I get to play with her sword." She took a big gulp of ale, oblivious to the lecherous laughter around her.

The warrior groaned. "Party's over, boys. Time for little bards to go to bed."

"But, Zeeeeeee, I'm not sleepy. Can't we go back to the stables and play that sword game again?"

Steely blue eyes looked deliberately around the room, daring anyone to say anything.

Gabrielle burst into laughter. "Oh yeah. They're shaking in their boots now!"

Xena grabbed the bard's arm and hauled her to her feet and growled, "Upstairs. Now."

Pulling away from Xena, Gabrielle crossed her arms across her chest and muttered, "damn dark brooding fun at all....I wasn't gonna hurt anything...."


Part Six, by Faithful:

At that, a tall dark...uhm, well warrior would be overstating the case, but that was what *he* called himself, stepped to Gabrielle's side. "Of course, you weren't, pretty darlin'," he slurred, as he leaned over Gabrielle's shoulder to leer at her rather substantial endowments, cleavage accented by yet another waving straw.

"Gabrielle..." Xena growled, "I said we are going upstairs."

"Don't you think that the lady can make up her own mind?" asked the beefy barfly, adding fat to the fire. "Perhaps she'd like to dance." And with that he turned to a befuddled Gabrielle, who was running two sentences behind everyone else.

"Make up mind o' mind, make up mine d'own mine, make out mine own, you're mine..."

"Make out, you say? Now that seems like a mighty fine idea." The "gentleman" began to steer the drunken bard toward to poorly lit corner of the room. Xena's hand was immediately on her sword--no way was this oaf going to have his way with Gabrielle. No way at all.

She needn't have worried. Gabrielle, in her typical muddled fashion, had the situation well in hand. "Did you say dance?"

Slipping out of his brawny grasp, Gabrielle headed the opposite direction toward the bright dance floor. Xena knew that Gabrielle loved to dance, and in that open, clearly lighted space, it was unlikely that the oaf would try anything or succeed, even if he did. "Better him than me up there," she thought as she sat back on the stool and signaled the barkeep for a mug of ale. This could be a long night.

Gabrielle kept dancing and the mugs kept coming. By this point, Xena had begun to relax, long legs stretched out and crossed in front, as she reclined again the bar, enjoying the sight of Gabrielle spinning around the room. "Looks good, but she's gonna be mighty sorry come morning," thought Xena to herself. Through the haze of alcohol, Xena felt her senses slip. She was acutely aware of Gabrielle's heightened color and of the way her breasts heaved (come on, ya gotta have heaving breasts!) as she danced. Xena even began to imagine that top coming off, as one lace after the other was undone.

Xena awoke with a jerk. Joxer was shaking her shoulder, as the room was rocked by rhythmic stomping. Instinctively, Xena glanced about the tavern, trying to locate the blond bard. Oh, shit! Blond bombshell was more like it. Xena was off the stool in an instant. Standing in front of her wobbling friend, the warrior spread her arms and shouted, "Enough! Show's over." Then she took Joxer's cape and spread it around the shoulders of Gabrielle, who was now even more scantily clad than usual. Followed by Joxer, and bard in tow, Xena headed for the room.


Part Seven, by Stacia:

"I had things under control," Joxer whined, attempting to adjust the cloak that barely covered Gabrielle.

"Sure ya did," mumbled Xena, as she firmly removed his hands from the bard's neck. "The idea is to keep her covered, big guy."

Joxer raised his eyebrows and cocked his head as he scratched at his own neck. "I know that. It's got a tricky clasp is all, and I wanted to..."

"Izzat Joxie?" squealed the bard. "Joxie! Can I play with your sword? Zinnia took hers away and won't let me have it back."

Joxer stopped to ponder her request.

"Don't even think it." Six feet of pissed-off warrior loomed over his shoulder.

"Well, it is a family heirloom..." Joxer turned tail and fled to the stables.

Gabrielle fixed Xena with an accusatory stare. "You scared Joxie!"

The warrior blinked before raising her eyebrow. "Hades' codpiece, when's the last time I had to will that thing to go up, anyway?" she thought to herself.

The bard was still prattling on about Xena's lack of manners when the two women reached their room. "Finally," thought the warrior. "Now to get her into bed..."

Gabrielle had other ideas. She stood back, swaying slightly, and ran her gaze over Xena's figure from her head to her boots and back again. Her eyes lit up with a sudden realization. "You didn't dance with me!"

Her mind still hazy with alcohol, Xena purred, "You never asked me to."


Part Eight, by Faithful:

Unfortunately, Gabrielle's sodden brain wasn't up to following the conversation. "Ask you what, Xena?" she queried, head tilted to one side.

Then, raising her arms above her head so that Joxer's cloak slipped to the ground and her top gaped open, Gabrielle twirled dizzily. When she finally came to a stop, the small blond found herself face down in a soft pile of plush towels.

"Ooomphh." Gabrielle ineffectively tried to push herself upright, only to wind up with a mouthful of cotton. "Theenath, didenth you promith me a bath?" She lisped, extricating herself from the pile. Grabbing a handful of cloth, Gabrielle headed into the next room, dragging her towel behind her.

Gabrielle's skirt had become twisted again, and the hem was riding on the bard's rounded, swaying hips. The straps of her green top were pushed down around her arms, and its open laces were tickling her smoothly muscled belly, causing the bard to giggle as she moved. Xena, somewhat buzzed herself, gulped as she watched her friend meander into the bathing room. A cold bath. Yes, perhaps a cold bath was a *very* good idea. She headed after Gabrielle, only to spin round at the last minute and grab the wineskin. No need to waste good wine, now was there? And from Gabrielle's behavior, this was *very* good wine, indeed.


Part Nine, by Stacia:

"Best to make sure," she thought, and took a long pull from the wineskin. "Oh yes, this is definitely good wine." Another sip and Xena's cool air of confidence returned. She sauntered into the bathing room.

And gaped like a horny teenager.

Gabrielle was leaning over the bathing tub, testing the heat of the water. Her skirt clung precariously to her hips, outlining the curves of her buttocks.

Xena quickly took another swig of wine.

The bard stood up and attempted to undo the last of the laces on her green top. Just then, a low rumbling sound filled the room. Instinctively, the warrior knocked Gabrielle to the ground and pulled her sword. She circled the room, trying to ascertain the origin of the sound. After several seconds of silence, she sheathed her sword and turned her attention to the bard.

"You pushed me," the blonde pouted, rising to her feet and rubbing her bottom. "Why'd you do that?"

"Didn't you hear that...that beast?" Xena asked in disbelief. "It sounded almost as if it were here in the room with us!"

"Thass right, the mean ugly beastie was gonna attack the bard with its nasty, pointy sharp teeth," illustrating this with her fingers in front of her mouth, "and the big bad warrior had to save her."

"Oh, for the love of Zeus."

Another rumble, followed by giggles, a snort, and more giggles from the bard.

"I'm hungry. You promised! You said we were gonna eat in the tub. Both of us!" she stamped her foot, causing her breasts to jiggle slightly.

Xena found herself nibbling the opening of the wineskin. She scowled and took another sip.


Part Ten, by Faithful:

"Alright, Gabrielle, you get into the tub and I'll go hunt down some supper," said Xena, thinking that with all the drinking they'd been doing, some food to absorb the alcohol might be wise.

"Okay, Xenie," said Gabrielle, agreeably, as she attempted to remove what remained of her outfit before entering the tub.

Xena nodded, set down her weapons and the wine, and headed out the door and down the hall before she could do something she regretted.


In the kitchen, Xena piled a tray full of meats and sweets and other delectable goodies she knew Gabrielle would enjoy. As the crowning touch, she placed an entire freshly baked, still hot loaf of nutbread precariously on the top of the pile. Then Xena returned to the room.

Unfortunately, a full tray meant difficulties opening the door. Xena shifted her load from one arm to the other, attempting to free a hand and open the door. Finally, sighing with exasperation, (another swig sounded really good right about now!), Xena set the tray on the floor, opened the door, and then bent to pick up the food. She chose that moment to look into the bathing room.

At first Xena thought that Gabrielle was upside-down only because the warrior was bending, but as she straightened Xena realized that her topsy-turvy vision was due entirely to the position of the bard.

Gabrielle had not *quite* succeeded in disrobing. Somehow her BGSB had wound up around one ankle, and Gabrielle's belt had hooked her elbow to the top. Despite her tangled condition, the young bard had apparently attempted to enter the tub, with only limited success. One leg was fully immersed, the other flung over the side in reckless abandon, while the rest of the bard lay awkwardly upside down, hanging from the edge, head resting on the floor.

Strangely, Gabrielle didn't seem the least disturbed by her predicament. Or her lack of clothing.


Part Eleven, by Stacia:

"I dream of Xenie with the jet-black hair," the bard's off-key voice warbled through the room.

Xena quickly stepped back into the doorway. "I've, uh, got some food here, Gabrielle, just as soon as you're ready."

"Food?" The bard attempted to turn her head to look at the warrior. "You're usside-down. How'd you do that? How'd you end up with so many skills, anyway?"

"Years of practice," Xena purred from the hallway.

"You never practice with me," pouted the blonde, attempting to lather up her hair with her one free arm. "An' where's my dinner?"

The warrior carried the enormous platter of food into the bathing chamber, placing it on a table near the tub. "Here ya go." She sat on a nearby bench and removed her armor, gauntlets, and boots.

Water sloshed onto the floor as Gabrielle attempted to right herself, her stomach rumbling loudly. She fell back into the tub--upright this time--with a splash and a loud thump.

Clad now in only her leathers, Xena picked up an olive and, holding it in her fingers, began nibbling its flesh from the pit. "You've got soap in your hair." She set the pit aside and picked up another olive.

The bard was silent, fascinated by the sight of the warrior's tongue and teeth nipping at the salty treat.


The blonde blinked slowly, then looked into Xena's blue eyes. "Um, yeah?"

"I thought you said you were hungry."

"Oh. Yeah. Yes. Yes, I am." She managed a drunken pout. "But you're still dressed--"

Xena smirked. "I could almost say the same of you."

"And you're not wet yet."

The warrior choked as she nearly inhaled the olive, pit and all. *She must be drunk,* Xena thought to herself. *Gabrielle would never say these things. Still...this could be fun.* With a wicked grin, she turned back to the tub.

"Ya gonna help me with that?" She moved toward the tub with catlike grace, kneeling next to the flushed bard. She turned around, pulling her hair over one shoulder to expose the laces of her leather armor.

With a mighty yank, Gabrielle liberated her arm from her ankle, destroying the BGSB once and for all. She flung the sodden piece of cloth across the room, not noticing as her amazon belt landed next to Xena's boots.

Now completely naked, the bard unlaced the leather dress and pushed it down the length of Xena's body. She leaned back against the edge of half-empty tub and said, "C'mon in, water's fine."

*Gods, she IS drunk,* thought Xena. She said aloud, "I'm going to add some more water first, how's that sound? And that bubbly stuff that you like." *No, I can't be babbling. Am I?*

*She's babbling!!* the bard realized with delight. She looked at Xena. "More water's ok. Don' want bubbles though."

"But you love bubbles."

"S'matter, you've never seen a naked bard before?" Gabrielle challenged. She stood in the tub, hands on her hips, looking the warrior straight in the eyes.

*Oh no. No no no no. This is not happening. She's gonna be so hung over tomorrow. Please, please don't let her remember this in the morning.*


Part Twelve, by Faithful:

Xena shook her head to clear it of her disturbing--and slightly fuzzy--thoughts, then--with one last longing look at the flushed and shiny bard--headed toward the hearth, where several buckets of water were warming.

"Xena, *Xena*," Gabrielle cried plaintively, "You're going the wrong direction,...I'm over here....XENA!"

But the strong-willed warrior set her shoulders and firmly refused to look at her companion until she had her overactive libido firmly in to speak. *Hhhmmm...firmly in hand, now that was a definite idea,* thought Xena. *Perhaps the only way of making sure I don't do something we'll both regret later.* With that, Xena headed around the central fireplace, seeking a little privacy.

"Stupid warrior," muttered Gabrielle. "She promised me dinner in the bath, together. But she keeps disappearing. How am I ever supposed to be satisfied if she's never around?"

Gabrielle hit the water in frustration, starting a chain of ripples that splashed over the side, almost dousing the nutbread. Seeing the tray gave the bard an idea. *At least I can tend to one appetite,* she thought, striding through the warm water. The bard knelt, then reached over the side of the tub, chest resting on the top of the enclosure as she s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to reach the tray that Xena had placed just...almost...not quite...yes! within reach. Proudly, the tipsy Amazon hooked the tip of her finger on the tray and pulled it toward her--miraculously without dumping the contents, although the nutbread did wobble a bit.

The tone deaf bard hummed with pleasure at her accomplishment, then stopped, startled at the quality of her voice. *I don't usually sound so good,* she thought; *it must be the wine.* But wait--Gabrielle was fairly sure that she wasn't still humming, yet the low musical note continued.

The bard shook her head, and tried to pop her ears before she finally realized that the sound was coming from behind the fireplace. She looked in that direction, peering through the circular furnace to the hearth on the other side. Illuminated by the dancing flames was a strong, slender, and extremely naked warrior. A very occupied warrior.

"Ooohhhh..." Gabrielle breathed, a flush coming to her cheeks.

"Well, Shtyx! Wha' 'bout me? I wanna be amooshed, too," slurred the bard. She peered through the fire again, but Xena must have shifted position because now Gabrielle could only see flames and the far wall. Understandably, the image of Xena nibbling the olive flashed into the bard's sodden brain.


The Amazon princess began rustling through the contents of the tray, searching for the salty delicacy. There they were--ripe and plump. Gabrielle squealed in glee, then dove to snatch two of the firm fruits. She delicately nibbled the end of one olive, then--taking a huge breath--sucked out its pit, and stored the stone in one cheek. After repeating this process with the second, the honored Amazon princess looked exactly like a chipmunk.

After years of being left alone while Xena went off to do the big, bad warrior thing, Gabrielle had developed quite inventive ways of amusing herself. Xena's chakram propped up against the warrior's armor reminded Gabrielle of her earlier game of Chakram Toss, and she decided to continue her pasttime, albeit with a new twist. Standing up, Gabrielle looked around her for a safe place to put her choice olives for future consumption and beamed when she found a handy location. Next, she carefully spit one seed into her palm and used her other hand to brace herself against the side of the tub. Then, taking careful aim, Gabrielle spat the seed across the room and through the center of the chakram so that it made a musical *ping* against the metal armor. The intoxicated blond was delighted. *Now I can make music, too, just like Xenie!*

As Gabrielle leaned forward to send the second pit through the gleaming metal ring, Xena sauntered around the fireplace and was greeted by the bard's rounded backside. Immediately, all benefit from her hard work disappeared. "'Dite's tits!" she swore, startling the young Amazon and throwing off her aim.

"Xena!" exclaimed Gabrielle, looking back over her shoulder at her friend. "You made me miss! Now I'll have to suck another olive." And Gabrielle leaned even further forward and grasped another ripe delicacy. Xena gasped softly, as Gabrielle angled slightly, holding a rounded fruit to her lips.

"I'm playing Chakram Toss, Xena. Do you wanna play?" invited the bard.

*You have no idea how much,* thought Xena, wryly.

"I don't have any olives, Gabrielle," the warrior growled, doing her best to keep her distance.

"Tha's okay, Xena, you can share mine." And the bard faced her friend head on, spreading wide her arms so that Xena could view every inch of her. There were Gabrielle's olives, exactly where she had placed them for safe keeping. One plump fruit each, snuggly fitted over Gabrielle's distended nipples.

Xena gulped, as a flush, beginning in her loins, spread slowly up her torso until it colored her already glistening face.

It was at that moment that Joxer burst into the room. He didn't stay long, obviously; Xena took care of that, but the image of Gabrielle remained with him, forever. Indeed, he always credited that sight with the inspiration for a culinary creation that was praised the world over: Joxer was the first epicurean to stuff an olive with red pimento.


Part Thirteen, by Stacia:

Xena finally managed to get Joxer's face out of the way and close the bathing chamber door. Still facing the door, she took a deep, calming breath, then adjusted the shift she'd hastily donned when Joxer burst into the room. *Why in Hades did I bother with that?*

She turned around to find Gabrielle on all fours, frantically searching the bottom of the tub. "Lose something, Gabrielle?" A perfectly arched eyebrow accompanied her question.

"My olives fell off." The bard was near tears.

*Ares, I swear, if I find out you watched this, I will pull out your chest hairs one by one, don't think I won't.* Xena tried to think of something appropriate to say, but was sorely hindered by the lack of blood flow to her brain. *Food! That's it!*

The warrior walked over to the table and picked up a cherry from the tray. "Look, Gabrielle, I found something even better."

The bard rewarded Xena with a dazzling smile. She exited the tub with a singular lack of grace, then stumbled toward the table. She plopped down onto the bench and reached for the morsel of fruit.

"Oh, no," Xena purred silkily. "This one's mine." She dangled the cherry in front of her lips and slowly sucked it into her mouth.

*Two can play at that game.* Gabrielle gave her cherry the same treatment, never losing eye contact with the warrior.

Not to be outdone, Xena picked up a peach and bit into it, allowing the nectar of the juicy fruit to run down her fingers. She slowly licked each digit clean.

Gabrielle unconsciously licked her lips as she watched. *Do I dare to eat a peach...* She shook her head. *Where did that come from?*

Xena dropped her gaze to the fruit; rotating it to find the perfect spot for her next bite. As she lifted the peach to her lips, she felt a sharp pain in her hand.

"You BIT me!" She looked at the bard, outraged.

"What was in that peach? I fink I broke my toof," the blonde mumbled.

Knowing that human bites are highly prone to infection, Xena picked up the wineskin and drank a generous amount. *There, that oughtta help.*

The warrior made a show of wrapping a towel around her hand, watching Gabrielle grow progressively more pale with each twist of the fabric. When she'd tied off the makeshift bandage she poured two glasses of wine, handing one to the blonde.

"Ooooh, Xe. I am soooo sorry..." The still-naked bard looked up at Xena with wide green eyes.

"Cheers," said the warrior, "to the only person I can think of who has had the nerve to bite me..." She paused as the bard, thinking the toast was over, took a healthy swig, then finished, "without waiting for me to ask."

Xena ducked just in time to avoid the dual streams of wine that flew from Gabrielle's nose.

"Oh, warrior, you're gonna pay for that one."

"Oh yeah? What are you gonna do, jab me with your quill?"

"Ha ha. I will get you. When you least expect it..." The bard launched herself at the warrior, knocking them both off the bench and onto the damp floor.

After a brief struggle Gabrielle noted, with some surprise, that she had managed to pin the warrior by the shoulders. Judging by the look on her face, Xena was impressed too. *Woo hoo! Score one for the bard!*

She moved down slightly to straddle Xena's hips. That's when she caught sight of the warrior's breasts, clearly outlined in the now soaking-wet shift. Her mouth went dry and her limbs turned to mush; her naked body landed on top of the taller woman's. *Morpheus, whatever you do, don't kick me out now. Just five more minutes, that's all I ask.*


Part Fourteen, by Faithful:

Xena growled. It was all she could do. Whether inspired by their vigorous battle or by something more...primal, she never knew. The warrior simply expressed her emotion the only way she knew how.

At that low, throaty sound in her ear, Gabrielle sighed contentedly, then squiggled (there was no other word for it) her naked, slippery body up Xena's prone form. Her movement caused Xena's shift to ride up a bit, which encouraged the bard to squiggle again, which, in turn, prompted another growl from the warrior princess. "This is more fun than Chakram Toss!" enthused the Amazon, and Xena had to agree.

Just as they were beginning to get into the rhythm of the new game, a sharp knock was heard at the door. The pub's proprietor bellowed, "What in the name of Hades's Helmet is going on in there? Water's dripping through the ceiling, my guests are reporting wild cries and breaking pottery, and now I've got some fool with a lid on his chest telling strange tales about new

ways to serve olives!! Just what are you two doing?!"

After a few seconds of silence, the enraged gentleman heard sounds of hurried scuffles and whispers, then the door was thrown open and a very tall, very damp, very angry warrior princess grabbed him by his vest. "What," she asked in a voice cold enough to freeze Hestia's Hearth, "did you want?"

With wide eyes, the poor man took in the condition of the room. Water and bubbles were running across the floor, dripping through the floorboards, olives, cherries, and peaches were rolling everywhere, and the lone loaf of nutbread perched precariously on the edge of the table. The now empty wineskin sagged over the side of the tub, dripping its dregs into the bathwater. "What happened?" What was meant to be a forceful demand came out as a fearful squeak.

Gabrielle, still wet and shining, but now wrapped in a thirsty towel, appeared from behind the dark warrior. In her most reasonable and innocent of tones, she answered: "I slipped."

*You most certainly did,* thought Xena. Though her cheeks flushed at the thought of that golden body slipping over hers, the former warrior never loosened her hold on the innkeeper.

"You slipped?" The barman sounded incredulous. "And that did all this?"

"Well, Xena had to catch me, didn't she? You wouldn't want me to suffer, now would you?" And the bard batted her eyes at the confused barkeep.

*And if you don't leave soon, I *really* will be suffering,* she thought, as she attempted to maintain her composure. Xena really did look fetching in the wet shift.

"So all those sounds of crockery breaking . . . ?"

"I was simply trying to reach Gabrielle before she hurt herself," replied Xena, evenly.

"See," Gabrielle pointed to Xena's bandaged hand, "she even was hurt in the fray." *But you tasted delicious. I think I'll have to dine*with* you, again.*

The innkeeper gave up. He obviously wasn't going to win this one. "Well, alright, I guess that makes sense. Do you need any help setting things to rights?"

Both women vigorously shook their heads NO.

But as he turned away, two plump olives fell out from under Gabrielle's towel and rolled across the floor to his feet. Swiftly Xena slammed the door in the poor man's face, placing her back against it to hold it shut.

"Alright, Bard, c'mere!"

And Gabrielle dropped the towel she'd been holding and threw herself into Xena's waiting arms.


Much later, as the moon shone down upon the now-quiet inn, Gabrielle asked "Xena, can we play Chakram Toss everyday?" and a lone figure wandered the night, attempting to soothe his longings with a concoction of ripe olives.



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