A/N: This story was supposed to turn out a lot more different, but I discovered a different route. I hope you enjoy!
Since traveling with the young bard, turned savy fighter and eventual Amazon Queen, Xena found a light within herself she thought she'd lost long ago. Before the attack on Amphipolis –which caused a series of drastic lifestyle changes– the young Xena lived a relatively 'normal' life.
Cyrene ran an inn, kept house, and took care of livestock all while raising three rambunctious children. Despite their antics around the village, the reputation of the inn brought in neighbors and travelers alike. They all found solace in Cyrene's warm and welcoming establishment and, with Xena, Toris, and Lyceus helping, there was never a dull moment. Most villagers found the children a bad influence, but they couldn't deny the hospitality that their mother offered. Once Cyrene got her children to calm down and focus on tasks that needed tending to, their neighbors would forget the reason why their livestock would be covered in array of colors or why small mounds of manure lay at their doorstep –if only for a few hours or so.
Reminiscing about the past brought Xena to a halting stop on the trodden path she and Gabrielle were on. Xena pulled on Argo's reigns and clicked her tongue; Argo changed directions, abandoning the path.
"Xena?" Gabrielle stood in her spot with her hands outstretched, "What are you doing?"
The dark haired warrior looked over her shoulder, her crystal blue eyes twinkling, "There's someone I need to see."
Gabrielle's long blonde hair shook as the bard looked on at the warrior in disbelief, "So suddenly? I thought we were headed to Athens for—"
"We're closer to another village I wanna stay at," Xena yelled back, "Now do you want to stand there, or come with me?"
The bard threw her hands up in exasperation, unsure of the warrior's sudden change in direction. She watched the tanned back of her best friend begin to shrink on the horizon. The sun was losing it's intensity. Where ever they were headed to now would take days to reach. Gabrielle knew the last village they had passed through was four days back; another nearby village the bard could think of –if she had her directions and routes remembered correctly– was a sennight or so away. But she wasn't going to lag behind and keep wondering. Gabrielle lifted her staff and braced herself for a run that her toned legs could easily manage. She took off in Xena's direction, still wondering what the warrior princess had in mind.
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A candlemark before sunset, Xena and Gabrielle set up camp in a small clearing a few yards away from an expansive river. Tall trees and bushes varying in height and length bordered them in. While Xena removed the saddle, regins, and various bags off Argo, Gabrielle searched the surrounding area for wood. The warrior princess positioned their belongings in an orderly fashion, then grabbed the cumbersome bedroll. As she unrolled the bearskin mat, Gabrielle returned with an armful of branches and sticks. Automatically, Xena walked back to a saddle bag and pulled out some tinder, a flint, and dull steel. Gabrielle arranged the branches and sticks into a pile at a distance from where Xena laid out their bed; close enough so they'd be warm, but far enough so the bed wouldn't catch fire. Xena eyed the crouching bard, walking over to hand her the supplies, then reached down for the woman's shoulder and squeezed. Gabrielle looked into the piercing blue eyes and smiled her thanks, beginning to light the fire.
Argo trotted back from her small adventure through the woods –going off to graze on grass and small berries she'd come across– and nuzzled her human companion. Xena returned the affection, petting the mare's head. With her attention... at the bottom of her hooves, Argo bent down to a particular saddle bag and nudged at it. She wanted the apples Xena had placed there a few days back.
Xena shook her head while she advised, "I'm sorry girl, but we still have a week's journey to travel. You already ate an apple this afternoon."
Gabrielle looked up now from the blazing fire, "So, we are headed to Amphipolis." She crawled over to the bedroll and sat cross-legged.
Xena put her hair up in a tight bun, using a long strand of her own hair to tie it. "Matter of fact, yes, we are. It's been awhile since we've visited," Xena smiled sheepishly, "I want to get back in time for the festival." The dark-haired warrior went to the same saddle bag she'd reached into earlier and pulled out an old cloth. Argo pushed Xena from the back and exhaled through her nose, she wanted an apple. "Argo," Xena directly looked into the mare's hazel eyes, "Settle down." The horse threw her head back in response, her mane flowing in time with a passing breeze, trotting off again.
Gabrielle giggled at Argo's stubbornness, just like a certain warrior princess she knew. She unlaced her boots, reminding her preoccupied friend, "Xena, we promised Aphrodite we'd participate in her festival at Athens."
The warrior princess tore the cloth into multiple strips and picked up several branches Gabrielle had gathered earlier. She rolled her eyes, simultaneously rolling the strips of cloth around the branches. "If I remember correctly, I didn't volunteer to march in her parade," Xena took out a tin can filled with oil from a bag and drenched the makeshift torch, "...you did." She placed it into the campfire.
"Xena," Gabrielle whined, "We've roamed the countryside, battling thugs and warlords, for three months. Aphrodite offered to set us up in a temple if we participate in the parade. It'll be fun!" The bard watched the warrior remove her breastplates and arm braces. Again, she shook her head in bewilderment, "What are you doing? Are you coming to bed?" Gabrielle picked up a blanket that had been rolled into the bearskin mat, draping it over her crossed legs, "Why did you waste my cooking oil to light a torch—"
Xena handed it to her, "I'm going to the river to take a bath." She lifted her arms and sniffed both pits, grimacing to make a point, "You want me to sleep next to you, smelling like this?" She pointed to her underarm. Gabrielle wrinkled her nose, shaking her head. "Aphrodite, on the other hand, has the entirety of Athens to celebrate her existence. I don't know why we need to go." The warrior bent down and began the process of removing her boots. "Besides, it will take us thrice as long to get there."
Over the course of, nearly, two and a half years, the Goddess of Love slowly became a prominent figure in the women's lives. Xena didn't dare admit it, but she did enjoy having the overly sensuous goddess as a friend –a definite eye candy of a friend. Between the two, however, Gabrielle was closer to the goddess and it made sense. The two blondes fell into a camaraderie as they spent time together; Gabrielle found her companion for girl talk. Xena participated reluctantly and half-heartedly, wringing the fun from any discussions.
The bard staked the torch in front of her, then drew circles on the fur, "Fine... I miss Cyrene's cooking anyway."
Xena smiled defiantly, "I'd bet mom misses us too."
Gabrielle held a finger up, "But we'll have to make it up to Aphrodite."
The two women chuckled at each other as they imagined the goddess's dissapointed tone.
"Nuh-uh missy, you have to make it up to Aphrodite." Xena retorted, pointedly looking at the bard.
The bard lay on her side, propping her head up with an arm as she took in the sight in front of her. Xena stood in her leather bodice with the boot's lips peeled down to her ankles. Gabrielle's eyes followed the woman's movements, licking her lips as Xena's skirt unveiled an inner thigh. She lifted her leg back to tug the boot off and dropped it. Despite the flickering flames casting shadows against the tall frame, her beauty was difficult to miss. Since her black hair, normally covering her face, was up in a neat bun, Gabrielle was able to see her strong and feminine features. The crystal blue eyes drew her in as they shimmered with the dancing flames. Xena bit her bottom lip, tugging at the other boot, exposing the opposing inner thigh. When the blue spheres roamed up to meet the younger woman's, Gabrielle had to look away. Xena picked up her boots and went over to Gabrielle, taking her shoes too. The warrior princess went down on all fours, careful of the torch, over Gabrielle's legs.
Gabrielle sat upright again, grazing her knee on the woman's abdomen. The blonde grabbed the torch so Xena wouldn't accidentally bump into it. She faced the warrior princess and roved her eyes over the toned body. As the warrior princess placed the boots next to their belongings, she stretched further to pull a knife out of a bag. The ogling bard gripped the hard wood tightly when the leather skirt hitched higher and between the warrior's thighs.
Oh those thighs were getting the best of her. For the few seconds Xena was on the bed, Gabrielle ate each eyeful of exposed skin she could. She admired the toned legs, the bulging calf muscles, and –though hidden by leather– round bottom of the warrior princess. Xena was placing the knife between her cleavage and turned her head to ask if Gabrielle wanted to join her. But the woman had busied herself with the task of intently staring at her ass. Thankfully the shadows covered her movement because Xena was able to catch her in the act. The warrior sat on her legs, breaking the bard's focus, and took the torch from her tight grasp. She made sure to keep a somber face –inwardly laughing– as she stood up.
Gabrielle peeled the blanket off and swiveled around to grab the bag filled with an assortment of berries, nuts, and small fruits. She felt herself blink in rapid succession, uncertain if she'd been caught drooling over her friend.
"I'm going to take a dip in the river now," Xena straightened her back so the knife wouldn't pierce her, "...care to join?" Her voice rose a pitch.
The bard held the nuts in her palm, placing one between her lips, when her eyes –once again– caught sight of a hard to resist view. No longer shielded by breastplates, the warrior's round bosom protruded from the leather bodice. Gabrielle swallowed before she could chew the nut and subsequently choked on it. Xena chuckled and made a move to help the woman, but the bard raised a hand.
She coughed the nut out, signaled that she was fine, and rasped, "No, no. I think I'll stay here and finish eating." Annoyed that she'd let her desire nearly kill her, Gabrielle threw back the handful of nuts in her mouth. This time she remembered to crush them with her teeth.
As the dark-haired warrior walked off, Gabrielle called after her, "Are you sure you want to go swimming right now?" She swore she didn't want Xena to stay back because of her own selfish desire to gawk; the torch could assist the warrior to the river, but it wouldn't help her when she went in the water.
The tall woman continued through the brush and replied, "I'll be back," she turned around and winked, "Try not to choke on nuts while I'm gone."
Gabrielle felt her cheeks grow hot. She swallowed hard as the chewed up nuts traveled down her esophagus.
Why did it have to happen now? The blonde woman knew what was going on. She hated the pain and mess of it all, but knew it was going to happen soon. Being a woman came with a price –a messy, mood altering, (frankly) useless price. Every month, before the red monster announced its presence by staining her undergarment, Gabrielle's admittedly dormant friend tremored between her legs. Somehow it managed to control her actions, her eye movements, and even her thoughts. It would begin subtly first. If Xena's blue eyes watched her, it would set off the tingling. Or the warrior princess's smirk would tug at her. This time, it was the gentle squeeze on her shoulder that set her off. That squeeze went directly to her core; the sight of the tall woman's behind, her legs, and (strangely) perkier breasts revved the internal and long-running engine. When the throbbing between her legs begged for release, Gabrielle could no longer sit still. Her friend –the actual dark-haired beauty (not her privates)– would be gone for long enough. And truthfully, Xena's nearby presence made the temptation to touch herself grow. It was quite risky, but the danger caused the bard's breathing to labor. She was ready to release her frustrations when Argo pulled up behind her, shoving the apple filled pack in her direction.
"Good gods, Argo!" Gabrielle scolded, whipping her head back. She clutched her chest, trying to still her frantic heart, "Don't do that!"
Argo whinnied at her, stomping her hoof near the bag.
"You are relentless!" Gabrielle stood up, "You heard what Xena said, Argo." She picked the bag to return it in its rightful place. The mare neighed once more, forcefully pushing her head onto Gabrielle's chest. "Argo," her voice dropped an octave.
The horse lifted her head in response, blowing air into her face.
Gabrielle looked behind her, staring at the darkness, to see if the woman had come back. But, not hearing any rustling bushes or cracking twigs, she untied and reached into the pack. She smiled at the horse and pulled two apples out, "Don't tell Xena." She handed them over to the horse and watched as Argo placed one apple in front of her, and crunched away at the other.
The horse and bard never had an easy relationship yet, after two years of travel, the two eventually bonded. They didn't have a strong bond, like Xena had with Argo, but Gabrielle now trusted Argo enough to ride without fear of being thrown off.
As the horse gnawed away at the apples, Gabrielle crossed her arms fitfully, annoyed by the disruption.
The warrior princess was the main person she spent her days with. They relished each other's company and were comfortable in each other's naked or fully-clothed presence. But the two had never overstepped the boundary between friendship and lovers. They were strictly, and frustratingly, platonic friends (sometimes... well, many times... too many times, if they were just honest with each other, they could have pushed the lines). Since Perdicas, Gabrielle hadn't slept with anyone else –that was painfully a year ago. No man or woman had interested her enough to sleep with. Traveling, writing tales, and fighting kept her distracted; however, her desires overwhelmed her. When she found herself alone, she took her sexual frustration into her own hands.
She wouldn't do that now, not with Argo beside her. And Tartarus didn't stand a chance to tempt her to wander elsewhere to do the deed –not in the dark woods. "Dammit," she muttered under her breath. What would help her? Contact with another person was out of the question. Xena, the bathing warrior princess, was way out of her realm. Magic, perhaps? Gabrielle squinted her eyes and didn't want to, but if it could help...
"Aphrodite!" Gabrielle called into the darkness. "Aphrodite, you have to help me."
The smell of vanilla and lavender overcame her senses, and in a bright poof, hearts appeared in front of her. Aphrodite had her hands on her hips, smiling flirtatiously at the short blonde, "You called for my presence?" She sauntered over to the woman to hug her tightly. She pulled away and took a good look at her, "Mm..." The goddess bit the inside of her cheek and crinkled her nose, "I can feel a certain heat coming from my little bard."
Gabrielle nodded her head and rolled her eyes, "That's why I need your help." She crossed her arms, shielding that 'certain heat' from the goddess.
The half-naked woman rose an eyebrow. She looked the bard up and down, then held the bard's chin, "Gabrielle, my, my! I do favor myself with the company of women. But never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think to seduce," she tweaked the shorter woman's nose, "...you."
The shorter blonde slapped her hand away, "No! I didn't mean that!"
Aphrodite pulled her hand back, shaking it, pretending that it hurt, "Ouch." She pulled her pink lacy nightgown back, jutting out her chest, "You're feisty tonight!"
Gabrielle exhaled, "Nevermind," she walked off.
"Hey," Aphrodite placed an arm over her friend's shoulder, "I was only teasing." She bumped her hip into Gabrielle's waist, "What's making your lady parts grumble with hunger?" Aphrodite grinned wildly, thirsting for Gabrielle's juicy gossip.
The bard pursed her lips uncomfortably. Although Aphrodite was a confidant, she didn't want to spill all her truths. "The illness of maidens has come upon me."
"Ah..." the other woman responded.
"And I'm sure you know what... wait..." Gabrielle eyed the goddess, "Do you experience those?"
Aphrodite shrugged, "Nope. I think I know what you're going through though." She prodded her in the ribs, "The illness of maidens is driving you mad with sexual desire, hmm?"
Gabrielle hissed, "Yes and I can't curb the... the desire."
She had to expect that response, especially since it was coming from the Goddess of Love. "Go finger yourself silly. I've got oils I can lend you. Or find yourself a strapping young farmhand," Aphrodite held onto the bard, pulling her in, "...maybe a lovely hestian virgin..." The goddess lost herself in her sexual imaginations.
Gabrielle backed away, snapping her fingers in the woman's face, "Aphrodite," she steered the conversation in another direction, "I feel better now, thanks." The oils piqued her interest, but she remained focus, "And I'm sorry to tell you this: Xena and I won't be heading to Athens for your festival."
The goddess pouted and crossed her arms, the dissapointment in her voice reverberating in the bard's ears –just like she imagined. "Gabrielle! You guys promised to spend time with me!"
"Okay, that's not entirely true," Gabrielle grasped the woman's arms and pulled them apart, "I promised to spend time with you... and volunteered Xena to be part of it. So it's all my fault. But Xena misses her mother, and we haven't been back to Amphipolis in over a year! Please understand?"
Aphrodite snarled, crossing her arms again, "It'll be no fun without you there. Who am I going to gawk and gossip with while those muscular men and voluptuous maidens march for me?"
Gabrielle's eyebrow popped up, "Aphrodite, you can pick any man, woman, or immortal to be at your beck and call. I'm sure you'll find some sort of distraction and fun without me there."
The wheels started to turn in her mind. She enjoyed the company of both the bard, and stick in the mud warrior, but without them there... she could enjoy a fantastical orgy. "Fine." She perked up at the idea. "But you owe me one, young lady!" Aphrodite flourished her arms, ready to zap off to another destination when Gabrielle told her to wait.
"Can you do me one favor? Just one measly favor, please?" Gabrielle held her friend's nightgown. Since they were heading off to another festival, the bard was certain that Cyrene's inn would be full, unless she got her to reserve a room for them.
"Yes, Madam Horny?"
She ignored the jab, "May you please," Gabrielle smiled as she said the word, blinking innocently, "...pretty please, with delicious red cherries and sweet cream ontop, inform Xena's mother that we'll be coming over?"
Aphrodite's face went sullen at her request. "Oh, come on. You bail on me and expect me to tell the other person of your homecoming?"
Gabrielle clutched her hands into a fist, bouncing alternately on each foot, "Please Aphrodite, please? I know the inn will fill up, unless you get Xena's mother to reserve a room for us."
The goddess crossed her arms, chewing her cheek. "Well, I guess it would be impolite to munch each other's beavers with her mother in the next room."
"Munch... beavers?" Gabrielle wondered aloud.
Aphrodite felt sorry for her. She could see the bubbling tension between her friends; she desperately wanted to intervene, but didn't want to ruin or falsify their connection. Defeated, the curly haired blonde pinched her friend's cheek, "You owe me big time Gabsters." The smell of vanilla and lavender surrounded the bard again, and before she poofed away, Aphrodite added, "I expect you to comply missy!"
Her bottom lip curled into her mouth, she wasn't sure what her goddess friend expected her to do. At least she'd be able to sleep on a bed once she and Xena reached Amphipolis.
The bard looked around her. Argo had left the pits of the apple in front of her and had dozed off by a tree. Gabrielle picked up the remnants and threw it in the fire, covering her tracks so Xena wouldn't know what she'd done.
Her desire to touch herself had gone, and she was grateful for it, but there still was a small pang bothering her. "If you can't beat 'em, you join 'em." Gabrielle pinched the bridge of her nose and headed off to follow whatever path Xena had taken to get to the river. She was sure the cold water would finally take the edge off and decided to join Xena for a bath.
In the back of her mind, she could hear a voice telling her that she was only lying to herself.