Och, naught but a wee bit o'nonsense then. Don't own the characters, RenPics
does, so there. Mild references to two women in a relationship, oh my! And an
occasional blasphemy against good writing.
Thanks to the loverly folk at the Bardic Circle, especially Lariel! May you babble muchly and fruitfully! I love honest feedback and I always answer it: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hot and humid days made Gabrielle angry. Very angry. The kind of angry that bubbles inside your skin like someone's under there blowing glass. Angrily.
She was gripping her reins with rather more vim than was necessary and muttering under her breath as she rode. Sweat glistened across her face, arms and back - and as anyone who habitually wears leather for a living will tell you, it isn't the preferred fabric of summer. It rubs. It irritates. It expands and itches. It rubbed, irritated AND itched Gabrielle. And the air smelled. And the horse smelled. And it was too bright. And the road was dusty and annoying, the trees were parched and annoying, it was BLOODY STINKING HOT. And annoying.
Xena knew better than to say One Single Word. Even one word could bring her under the spotlight of Gabrielle's wrath. Sometimes she didn't even have to say anything at all. It was a crap shoot. Speak and Be Humbled? Remain Silent and Risk Death?
Today, she chose silence.
"I'm gonna SLIDE off this horse soon," floated to the warrior's ears. "Like a frickin' greased pig. SLIDE!"
Be quiet, Xena, she cautioned herself.
"Stupid Apollo, just cause no-one gives a rats' ass about him, what is this? What is this? Some kind of STATEMENT?"
Be quiet, Xena.
"Is it possible for the human body to EXPLODE? Is it? Is it? IS IT? I bet it IS." Without pausing for breath, the bard's attention switched to her saddle bags, which she began to rummage about in with fiendish vigour. "No bloody sugar left, of COURSE, because SOMEBODY wanted to get to the duel before we went shopping!" Raising a fist to the sky, she howled, "Damn you gods! You're enjoying this, aren't you? AREN'T YOOOOU?"
The warrior sighed to herself. This was just like last month at the Horny Hunter Tavern when Gabrielle had booted several personal-space-invaders in the groin, and tossed that big fellow down three flights of stairs because she "didn't like his haircut."
Wait a minute. Last month? Suddenly suspicious, Xena did some quick arithmetic in her head. 25, 26, 27, 28. Oh no. Oh, NO. Dueling enemies and a bard on her cycle. Would the gods never stop conspiring against her? She imagined the various scenarios in which she would die horrible deaths by opening her mouth, so she didn't.
"Look at YOU! Seventeen thousand degrees and you're as SPRINGTIME FRESH as a bloody HESTIAN VIRGIN!!! Doesn't ANYTHING bother you?"
Oh, yes indeedy. But I value my eyes.
Aloud: "Gabrielle, we can stop if you want."
"Huh! If I want! If I want!" spat Gabrielle, flailing her hands around wildly. "So you make it about me, that's great. So we stop, then we get there too late to stop the duel, Kilburn will get smooshed, his whole family will blame ME, and then who's happy? NOBODY, Xena. NOBODY."
Oh great, she's going into rant mode. Take cover, Thrace.
"I mean, if it isn't enough that I massage YOUR feet, now it has to be the HOTTEST day EVER in the history of the world. GO FIGURE!"
Xena, who was unable to see the connection, chose the safe answer. "Uh, sorry."
"What are you saying sorry for?" asked Gabrielle dangerously. Her voice dropped to a sibilant hiss. "Are you humouring me? That's what you're doing, isn't it?"
Xena panicked. "Sorry."
"Don't you 'sorry' me!" fumed Gabrielle. "Don't even talk to me when you're like this! Don't say ANYTHING!"
Xena stayed silent, kept riding, and fixed her gaze on the next turn in the road. By the time we turn that corner, she told herself, Gabrielle's sanity will have returned. Remember, you've got the good end of the bargain (and how good it is) 29 days of the moon, so just shut your mouth and deal, woman.
"It's not like you can cook worth a damn ANYHOW." Having spat that out like Amazon arrows, the bard contented herself with muttering something else inaudible.
Xena cleared her throat uneasily. "Maybe you should-"
She had been going to say 'have a drink or something', but was cut dead by a steely glare.
"Xena, are you trying to tell me what to do?"
"No. No!" assured the warrior hurriedly. "I just thought you-"
"Xena, which of the two of us is the boss of me? YOU are NOT the Warrior Princess of ME!"
Too frightened to do anything but nod, the warrior did so emphatically. Oh My Gods, she's gonna kill me!
Gabrielle reached across the narrow gap, seized Xena by the breastplate and wrenched her close enough to kiss, getting a little squeaky 'Ooo!' from the warrior, whom under other circumstances would have loved that particular move.
But no kiss was forthcoming. Instead, a ululating shriek: "ARE YOU GETTING THIS?"
Xena's head bobbled up and down in misery and fear.
"WELL?" the Amazon roared, eyes blazing.
"What? What?" gabbled the frantic former warlord.
"WRITE IT DOWN!" bawled Gabrielle in a frenzy, and hurled some tattered parchment at her stunned partner, who caught it and stared at her in trepidation.
Gabrielle leaned forward in her saddle and poked Xena in the chest with a sai. Enunciating very clearly, reinforcing each word with a vicious prod, she hissed: "Xena. Not. Warrior. Princess. Of. Gabrielle."
The chastened warrior scribbled furiously and then tucked the little scroll down the front of her breastplate. This seemed to mollify the bard somewhat, and she contented herself for the next few minutes by violently and erratically swiping at imaginary mosquitoes.
Very Cautiously: "Er, Gabrielle?"
"Yes?" One simple word, multiple unspoken threats.
Xena fidgeted nervously as she reined Argo in, forcing Gabrielle to stop her horse. "I think... I think, that it's pretty hot."
A biting stare. "Duh."
"And I think that we should stop for a few hours."
Gabrielle squinted into the sunlight at her friend. "This is your decision, right? Yours, not mine."
"No blaming of me if we're late for the duel?"
"None at all."
Suddenly and eerily cheerful, the bard popped off her horse and headed for the trees. "I found a shady nook, Xena," she called happily over her shoulder. "Although I don't understand why it's called a nook, really. What is a nook? Can something be nook-ish? Nook-like?"
"If you say so," answered Xena, mildly dizzy. One body, several personalities. Who knew? She looks innocent enough.
All smiles, Gabrielle stretched out and patted the ground beside her. "Come on, what are you waiting for?"
Your head to twist around. "Nothing."
"Well, sit down!" burbled the blonde cheerfully. "I thought of a story for you this morning. Do you want to hear it?"
A story? What, while you were plotting my death back there? "Uhh."
The storm clouds gathered swiftly. "Xeeennaaa!"
"Sure! Sure I do, sure, sure; uhuh, I was just..."
"Oh, here it is," Gabrielle beamed, and grabbed for the warrior's hand as she unearthed a scrap of papyrus from somewhere about her person. She cleared her throat and assumed her best barding position. As Xena sank to her knees beside her, the bard began to recite with a light, unbelievably sweet voice:
'I sing of Xena (as usual) who on this morning is not at all the warrior she was when last you heard of her. No, for as the early heat rises from the ground beneath our campsite-'
Gabrielle broke off, her eyes scanning rapidly ahead. "Well shave my ass and call me Moonface," she uttered with a skeptical frown. "Did I write this?"
"Why?" asked Xena, wishing she hadn't.
"It's a bit, well, rough," admitted Gabrielle, a crushed expression appearing as she read still further. "I mean, you're not THIS much of a bitch!"
"... and I actually kind of like it when you fight people naked." Her lower lip trembled. "...and you're not even stinky at all, not lately. I don't know what I was thinking!"
"It's okay, Gabrielle," reassured the thankful warrior. She's back! Thank the gods!
"No it's nooot!" wailed the bard plaintively, her eyes filling with tears. "I love you sooooo much! And look what I wrote! Loooook at it!" She flung the scroll down on the grass, and collapsed against the warrior in floods of tears.
Xena gaped, then recovered her senses. Disarmed by the words, she wrapped an arm around her bard and stroked blonde hair as Gabrielle sobbed heartily against her shoulder.
"I love you too, it's alright, Gabrielle," she soothed, eyeing the parchment as it flapped in the breeze. Yeah, NOW. But by Gods are you gonna catch it tomorrow. Do I see the word BUTTOCKS??
"No it isn't," mourned the bard, her voice muffled by leather. "You're so g-good to me and, and I'm just a ho-horrible biiiiiiiiitch!" The wails doubled in volume and Xena rolled her eyes. Bards!
"Really, Gabrielle, it's fine."
"N-no it isn't!"
"Yes it is," assured Xena patiently. Freak.
"ISN'T, XENA!" shouted Gabrielle furiously, sitting bolt upright and slapping the warrior sharply. "Stop trying to placate me, you TURD!"
Slap! "Ow! Gabrielle-"
Slap, slap. "Leave me alone!" Slap!
"Fine!" Slap! Frustrated, Xena jumped to her feet, evading little bardly fingers with ease.
"Get away from me!" screeched the red-faced Amazon madly.
"Fine, fine, FINE!"
Gabrielle stared, hand upraised, eyes wild. "WHERE IN TARTARUS ARE YOU GOING?"
"Away! From you! Right now! Gabrielle, I could go and stop our friend from getting his ass smeared all over Mantarus, or gee, I could stay here and be your punching bag while you try to decide which Fury you are! Ooh, let's see, what should I do, what should I do?"
The warrior broke off, sweating, breathing hard, and couldn't believe it when Gabrielle started laughing.
"Xena, you're so cute when you're outraged! C'mere and gimme a kiss, eh?"
The warrior gaped. "You have GOT to be kidding."
Gabrielle convulsed with giggles. "Sorry, sorry. I'm sorry, it's just, you look so..." Her voice deepened, "You have GOT to be kidding," she mimicked with a dour, slapped-ass expression on her face, before grinning. "You're so cute, Xena. Come on, let's go get Kilburn."
Xena sat in silent awe as Gabrielle hopped up happily, planted a kiss on the warrior's cheek with a resounding smack and clambered into her saddle, humming under her breath. Is she allowed to just do that?
"Hurry up, slowchariot!" chirped Gabrielle, gathering the reins in her hands. "We'll be late! And it's such a nice day!"
Xena shrugged, drained. Guess so. She headed for Argo. As she swung easily into the saddle she heard eight words that made her blood run cold.
"Xena, do these leathers make me look fat?"
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