Little Bard: Chapter 18
^^-^^-^^ Epilogue ^^-^^-^^
"Come on, Gabrielle, this is ridiculous."
"Oh no, warrior mine, you promised, and now you have to pay up."
Xena scowled, shifting on the log she was sitting on. Watching the bard turn her attention back to the scroll she was writing, she sighed as her mind flowed back to the day before…
It had been almost a week since Gabrielle had returned to her old self. Together she and the bard had tracked down the remnants of Darnan's gang, bringing them to justice along with their comrades, who were already being detained in town. Life had again quieted and the bard and the warrior had moved on. Not having anywhere particular to go, they headed back to the clearing with the waterfall, with the intention of spending some time doing a little fishing and just being together.
The last week had been quiet between the two. Since the kiss they'd been more open to each other, sitting closer together, holding hands, and cuddling in the evenings and at night. They'd even shared a few moments of heated passion and heavy groping, but had found trouble progressing any further than that. It was frustrating because it wasn't just one of them; Xena had broken it off as often as Gabrielle had. For some reason the situation just hadn't seemed right to progress any further, so they had both agreed to just let nature take its course and not to push anything too fast. Over all it was just an odd feeling, for even through their new found interest in each other was growing steadily, and they both had to admit that they hadn't been this happy in a long time, there was still something between them that seemed unresolved.
The night before, Xena remembered Gabrielle squatting down next to the fire, stirring up the flames with a stick before she added another log. The fresh fish that was simmering on in the pan was making her mouth water.
"Xena, it's almost done," Gabrielle had called out, not realizing that Xena had already left the water, ending her swim just a few moments before.
"Smells wonderful," the warrior whispered in the bard's ear, causing Gabrielle to nearly jump out of her skin.
"Xena," Gabrielle responded with a backhand to her arm. "You scared me."
"And you should be paying more attention to what or who comes up behind you," Xena gently chastised, softening the scold was a kiss to the cheek.
"Uh-huh, like anyone could sense you coming," the bard responded, leaning into the kiss.
"Well, I do have many skills," Xena teased back as she grinned.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "Well is one of those skills fetching our plates? Think this fish is ready, and I'm starved."
Xena retrieved the requested plates, and as the bard filled them up, they both settled in for another night of cuddling and quiet whispers. It had been like this every night since the night Gabrielle returned to normal, and it was becoming a routine that they both enjoyed. As the hours passed and the night's sky welcomed the stars, they'd curled up together on their bedroll.
"I still think it looks like a bear," Gabrielle quietly murmured.
Xena snorted at the old argument, answering, "Go to sleep, Gabrielle."
Of course that was last night, before Xena had accidentally incurred the bard's wrath. It was an innocent mistake, really, but Gabrielle had been furious with her when she returned to camp a mere five hours later.
Xena supposed it was her fault. She's left for an early morning ride and a quick scout of the immediate area. How was she supposed to know that the Goddess of Love would be making an appearance?
Xena had just brought a cupped hand of cool water to her mouth when she felt it. That strange tingling sensation that signaled there was a god about. She tuned in on the feeling, wondering what Ares wanted this time, but took her time as she splashed the cold water over her face. It was going to be a hot day. Already the sun was causing beads of sweat to trickle down her neck.
The presence was getting stronger; it was more than a prickle now. There was someone standing not ten feet away. With a growl she turned on it, "What do you want…?" she trailed off. Expecting to see Ares, she was a bit thrown by the pink-gossamer and crossed arms of the Love Goddess. She raised an eyebrow. "…Aphrodite?"
The goddess shook her head, but couldn't help cracking a smile. "Perhaps there is something I can help you with."
"Haven't you done enough helping? Go away and leave us alone."
"Ha, that's gratitude for you. I'm responsible for you two, you know. Without me it might have taken you the next seventeen years to figure it out."
Xena snorted, "What exactly do you mean by that?"
"That you two are in love of course."
Xena rolled her eyes at the goddess. "I already knew that."
"Yes, but you never acted on it." Aphrodite sighed heavily. "Just took a little of this goddess's wonderful abilities for you to admit it, warrior babe. Although you and your bard give a new meaning to the term: taking it slow."
"Taking it slow? Seriously how much slower would we have had to take it if she were to remain a child?"
"You and I know that was just temporary. Besides it was necessary."
"Necessary!" Xena balled her hands into fists. "You have any idea what you put me through?"
The goddess of love smirked.
"Don't you look at me like that," Xena scolded. "I had to put up with the worry, the tantrums, and the questions! I didn't think it was possible, but she actually talked more when she was younger. I even had to spank her, can you believe that?"
Aphrodite shrugged. "From what I saw she was asking for it. Although, it's not like she never asked for it before. You were just doing a better job of listening this time." Xena's eyes narrowed, but the goddess brushed her off, seemly unconcerned with the warrior's wrath.
Xena gritted her teeth and looked away. She tried to hold on, but couldn't help it as she felt the tension ebb away. Maybe it was the presence of Love that was affecting her, or maybe it was that she knew deep down that Aphrodite was right. After a moment, she took in a long, slow breath. "You know, with all your meddling, you do have a point. You did do something for us, something very special. Aphrodite, I hate to say it, but thank you."
Aphrodite smiled, her grey eyes sparkling. With a sudden squeal of glee, she threw her arms around Xena in a joyful hug. "Oh, you're so very welcome, warrior babe."
Xena's eyes went wide, half in surprise and half in panic, but before she could react the goddess had released her.
Grinning widely, the goddess ignored Xena's discomfort with her affections. She held out an empty hand, and after a tiny flash of light, the emptiness was replaced by a small pink vile. "I have something for you. Now, I know you and Gabrielle are having, well issues. And it's not from lack of trying, believe me," Aphrodite winked. "But this, this will help."
"No offence, but I think you've done enough for us."
"Now Xena, hear me out. I'm giving this too you out of respect. Normally with mortals, I'd just slip a few drops of this into a drink, or a bowl of stew, but you and Gabrielle. Well I want you to be happy."
"There is no way I'm going to slip some sort of love potion into Gabrielle's food."
"Not just hers, Xena. Yours too. Just a couple drops, and your inhibitions will fall away, and you'll finally be able to…"
"Aphrodite," Xena growled a warning. "Gabrielle and I, that's our own private business…"
Aphrodite interrupted her with a giggle. "That's where you're wrong, Xena. It is my business, it's kinda what I do."
"The scorpion of love," Xena muttered as she rolled her eyes. "If I take the vial, will you leave us be?"
"For now," Aphrodite promised. She then placed the vile in Xena palm, before disappearing in a flash of pink hearts and rose petals.
"For now?" Xena called out, not surprised that she didn't get an answer. Muttering to herself again, she looked down at the vial in her hand. "I should just bury this thing. Not worth the trouble."
She tucked the vial in her bodice, for safe keeping as she did just that. Using her chakram to dig a shallow hole, she fished back out the vial and covered it back up with dirt. Tapping her boot gratifyingly over the dirt, she lifted her fingers to her mouth to signal Argo, when she felt something shift inside her bodice. Curious she reached down, only to fish out the vial once again.
"What..." she trailed off, suddenly second guessing herself. Did she forget to put the vial in the hole? She distinctive remembered it in the dirt, but… Confused she drooped to her knees and used her chakram once again to dig the hole. Shifting through the dirt she found no vial.
This time she carefully laid the vial in the hole. She was positive this time that it got covered with dirt. And this time when she tapped her boot to pack down the earth, she was satisfied that she'd never see the vial again. That is until a few seconds later, she once again felt something shift inside her bodice.
Letting out a sting of courses that would make Ares blush, she threw the vial on the ground. It lay there for a moment before suddenly disappearing and returning to her bodice. She tired throwing it in the water, throwing it as far as she could, tying it to Argo and sending the horse in a different direction. She even tried to smash it with her sword, and as a last resort to slice it through with her chakram. It seemed no matter what she tried, it always returned to her, as whole and as pink as ever.
"Damn, stupid, mother of a bacchae…" she muttered as she felt the vial return again after her last attempt to destroy it. Apparently fire had no effect on it either. It wasn't even hot. She sat for a minute; maybe she was going about it the wrong way. With a smirk, a new tactic occurred to her. She fished out the vial again, this time uncorking it, and poured out the contents. Maybe she couldn't get rid of the vial, but it was what's on the inside that mattered. She recorked the vial, satisfied that she'd finally out-smarted the goddess.
She then tossed the vial back into the fire. When it reappeared, she fished it back out, and then started a new string of curses, finding that the vial was once again filled with liquid. Almost in tears at her frustration, she tried half a dozen other tactics, but only half-heartedly. No matter how clever or desperate she got, the vial – full of liquid – always managed to find its way back to her bodice.
Xena again shifted on her log. It was probably the most uncomfortable log she'd ever sat on, yet she didn't move. She felt the lump in her bodice, but by this time she didn't care. She almost gotten used to it. She hadn't told Gabrielle about it yet. She wasn't sure she wanted too. Maybe it was better to let the bard think that she had just gotten distracted, or needed some time alone. It certainly sounded better than that truth.
She thought back to when she returned to camp. It had only been a few minutes ago, but Gabrielle was waiting for her, and the bard was not happy.
"Xena! Thank the gods you are ok. Where have you been? I've been worried sick."
Xena slowly dismounted Argo. By the position of the sun, she'd been gone half the day. She'd only intended on being gone an hour or two. She couldn't blame Gabrielle for being upset. "I'm sorry, I guess the time just got away from me."
Gabrielle frowned. "What do you mean the time got away from you?"
"Ah. Just that," Xena answered, the bard's gaze making her a little uncomfortable. "I was out riding, stopped to get a drink, and before I knew it was getting late."
"What aren't you telling me?" Gabrielle's eyes narrowed. Xena was purposely being illusive, and she didn't like it at all.
"Aren't you making a big deal out of this?" Xena asked, giving Argo a pat and watching at the horse trotted over to the nearby stream. "It's not like I was gone all day."
"It's after noon, Xena. You might as well have been. I thought you wanted to leave today. It's too late now…" the bard continued to lecture.
Xena signed and promptly tuned her out. The vial in her bodice was making her itch, but she daren't draw attention to it now. For all she knew Aphrodite enchanted the thing so that she couldn't tell Gabrielle or perhaps something terrible would happen if she tried. Besides even if it was safe to tell the bard, she knew it would upset her, and right now, at this moment, that was the last thing she wanted to do. Regardless, she knew that whatever the goddess was thinking, she'd obviously put a lot of effort into that stupid pink vial.
"Xena, are you even listening to me?"
"I, um. I'm sorry?" she tried. "I swear, Gabrielle. I never meant to worry you."
The bard crossed her arms across her chest. She regarded the warrior for moment, as if studying her. Finally, she took a deep breath. Xena stepped forward, thinking that she was off the hook, but Gabrielle shook her head. "See that log over there, Xena?"
Xena looked in the direction indicated. "Yeah…"
"Go sit on it."
"You heard me, Xena." Getting a stunned look from the warrior, Gabrielle continued, and elaborated, "And don't look at me like that. Remember, you promised me. You said that if you didn't hold up you end of the bargain; I could make you stand in the corner. Since I don't have a corner, that log will have to do. Now, go have a seat, and stay there until you're ready to tell me the truth."
"Promised? Gabrielle, oh, come on. You're not serious…" Xena frowned, as she was suddenly cut off by an angry glare. "Ok, fine," she muttered as she turned and headed to the log.
"Damn, stupid, little, pink vial from Tartarus…that's what it is," Xena muttered as she kicked a rock with her boot. A whole five minutes passed before Xena ran out of rocks that she could reach. Another two or three minutes passed before she discovered a line of ants also occupying her log. A few minutes later, and the ant population of southern Greece was suddenly diminished.
Finding nothing else to occupy her she called out, "Come on, Gabrielle, this is ridiculous."
"Oh no, warrior mine, you promised, and now you have to pay up," came the unhurried reply.
Xena scowled, shifting on the log she was sitting on. It was quite possibly the most uncomfortable log in all of Greece, perhaps even of all the known world. She watched Gabrielle turn her attention back to the scroll she was writing. The bard seemed to be in deep thought, almost like she was meditating. Xena grinned, getting an idea; meditation, that was the ticket. Maybe she could channel some inner peace until the bard got tired of this game.
Xena closed her eyes, seeking that place that she'd feel warm, and relaxed, and anywhere but sitting on the most uncomfortable log in all of the known world. She tucked her legs up, crossing them beneath her, trying to assume a more peaceful pose. She was almost there… when suddenly she felt the world spin, and she realized that she lost her balance. She toppled over, landing on her back, her legs and arms a jumble.
"Xena, what are you doing?"
Xena opened one eye and then the other, giving the bard a slight smile. "Meditating."
Gabrielle put her hands on her hips. "Well, stop it. You're supposed to be thinking about how you broke your promise, not messing around. Are you ready to tell me where you were yet?"
"I have been thinking about it," Xena replied, her voice almost slipping into a whine. "I've been over here for hours. You've got to believe me, I'm sorry."
"Xena," Gabrielle admonished. "You've only been sitting on this log for 15 minutes."
The warrior's jaw dropped. She couldn't help but check the position of the sun, only to confirm Gabrielle's claim. With a frown, she meekly accepted a hand up, and allowed the bard to help her get resituated on her log.
"I can't do this anymore," Xena pleaded, looking up into Gabrielle's eyes. "It was Aphrodite, it was all her fault."
"Aphrodite?" Gabrielle asked. Curious, she sat down on the log. "What did she do, send you on some secret mission?"
"No, not exactly."
"She needed help to save one of her temples from vandals?"
"Oh, I know. Baby bliss got into some love potions…. And you needed…"
"No, no. Nothing like that," Xena sighed. "She gave me this," Xena finally relented, putting the little pink vial from her bodice. "Damn thing is enchanted. I can't get rid of it."
Gabrielle looked confused, as she took the small vial from Xena. Xena cringed, waiting for it to blow up, or lightening to strike, or even for it to disappear and find its way back to her bodice. Yet as the bard held it, none of those things happened. In fact nothing happened at all.
"What is it?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena shrugged, "Something to help us get over our inhibitions. I'm supposed to put a couple of drops into our food or drink."
"Oh," Gabrielle replied.
"Oh? I thought you'd be more upset."
"Well, I am. At least a little bit. I never thought we'd need something like this. After all, I love you," Gabrielle reasoned, giving Xena a small peck on the cheek.
"And I love you too," Xena returned, stroking the back of her hand over the bard's cheek. "It's just that something been preventing us from… well, you know."
"So what is it then?" Gabrielle asked. She held up the vial, noticing how it seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. "It's pretty. Almost as pretty as you."
"It's a pain in the butt, that's what it is," Xena mumbled.
"Like me?" Gabrielle's eyes twinkled with mischief.
"Sort of, but then I don't want to get rid of you," Xena chuckled. "And I wouldn't mind if you kept finding your way back into my bodice," she continued, her voice dropping down into innuendo.
Gabrielle playfully pushed Xena, her face reddening at the thought of actually getting into Xena's bodice.
Xena grinned, as she grabbed one of Gabrielle's arms and pulled her closer. "Did I embarrass you, my bard?" she whispered into Gabrielle's ear, before allowing her lips to gently kiss it. Gabrielle involuntarily shivered, as Xena lips continued to move down to that soft spot right below her ear, and then down to her collar bone.
"Xena," Gabrielle warned. Despite a cool afternoon breeze, she was suddenly feeling very warm. "Xena, wait…" Gabrielle warned again, this time, this time getting the warrior's attention.
"You want me to stop?"' Xena asked with a frown. Xena mentally braced herself, waiting for the bard to pull away. They would tease and torment each other like this. They'd been doing it for days, but it never seemed to go any further.
"No," Gabrielle interrupted. "I want to get more comfortable." Gabrielle stood. She gently put the small vial down on the log next to Xena, and then smiled as she repositioned herself so that she was sitting on Xena's lap, straddling her hips, and facing her.
Xena smirked. She wouldn't she wouldn't have left the most uncomfortable log in all of the known world for a throne on Olympus itself. For a brief moment their lips met.
Xena couldn't help but let out a small whimper. "You are an evil woman," she murmured.
"I am huh? So what you gonna do about it," Gabrielle teased.
"Maybe I should turn you over my knee," Xena returned the tease.
"You wouldn't." Gabrielle suddenly pulled back, not at all liking the glimmer in the warrior eye. The bard then yelped as Xena made her move. She pulled back, managing to knock the vial off the log and into the ground. Both she and Xena froze, as it broke in half, and the liquid within seeped out into the dirt.
Xena braced herself, waiting for it to magically reappear back in her bodice, but as the seconds ticked by, and it didn't, she wasn't sure if she should feel relieved or disappointed. She didn't like the idea of it, but at the same time, it was like a safety net that has just been ripped from them.
Seeing the crestfallen look on the warrior's face, Gabrielle bent and picked up the pieces. "I'm sorry, Xena, I didn't mean too…"
Xena held out her hand, and the bard handed over the broken pieces. The warrior then sent them down next to her hand grabbed Gabrielle's arm. "Xena, what? Hey!" She tried to flee, but the warrior already had a firm grasp. Before Gabrielle knew what was happening she found herself staring at dirt and the two halves of the broken vial. The warrior had successfully pinned her over her lap, and she knew no amount of struggling was breaking that hold.
Gabrielle found herself conflicted. Her memories flashed back to the last time she was in this position, but this time it was different. She also felt a warmness deep down inside her gut. She swallowed, and found herself shivering involuntarily again, as Xena ran her fingers across her upper thighs. "Xena," she squeaked, feeling a half-hearted swat to her right check.
"Yes, my bard?"
"You're supposed to be the one in trouble…"
Xena laughed. "Who said anything about trouble?" Xena let her hand wander further up the bard's thigh, lightly swatting the left cheek, and then tickling that sensitive spot where that cheek met her leg.
"Xena," Gabrielle squirmed, trying to retain her composure. Xena knew that was one of the spots she was most ticklish. "You're torturing me on purpose."
"Un-huh," Xena agreed, before lightly slapping the cheek next to her hand. "Come, on, honey," she then encouraged, releasing the pressure and pulling Gabrielle back up, allowing her to settle in her lap instead of over it. "You have any idea how much I love you?" she asked as she gathered her bard closer to her.
"You're not mad at me?" Gabriele asked.
"Of course not," Xena returned.
Gabrielle giggled as Xena continued to tickle her, although this time it was along her neckline with a series gentle kisses. "Gods, Xena," she murmured. "You have any idea how much I want you right now?"
Xena pulled back long enough to catch Gabrielle eyes. She smiled, seeing nothing but love and pure joy reflected. Gabrielle giggled, and suddenly descended on Xena with renewed vigor. Xena raised a single eyebrow, and couldn't help but be pulled into the bard's enthusiasm.
"Woah, Mom, I figured you were the one behind this," Cupid appeared next to his mother who was giggling with delight as the warrior and bard, lay next to each other, both fast asleep. Xena was half propped up against a log, her armor lying in various piles around them, her leather battle dress, suspiciously hanging in a nearby tree. Gabrielle was in no better shape. She was still only partially clothed, and unceremoniously draped over her warrior pillow.
"Yeah, it's wonderful isn't it?" the goddess practically squealed.
"I felt the vibes half way across the known world. Psyche and I were trying to have a quiet dinner… and well after that. Bliss just might be getting little brother or sister soon."
Aphrodite smiled, kissing her son on the head.
"So what did you give them? Must have been some powerful stuff. Lilac oil? Essence of Chocolate?"
Aphrodite wrinkled her nose, still giggling at her cleverness. "Water, and they didn't even drink it."
"You're kidding. Water? Damn, you are good, Mom."
"Well it was a little more complicated than that. Age regression, a little fear, anxiety, and little paranoia. All the good tricks."
Cupid looked at his mother as if she'd suddenly sprouted horns, but she only giggled. "I know. You still have a lot to learn, kiddo."
"I have my own tricks you know," Cupid rolled his eyes. "Hey someday I'm ever going to have my own holiday. You'll see."
"Sure, every mother's dream, honey. Well, I need to be going. Have a princess up in Trace who has been pinning over the blacksmiths son."
"Yeah, Psyche is waiting for me. Thanks for the vibes, Mom."
"Anytime," Aphrodite returned, giving her son an affectionate kiss on the cheek before she disappeared in a burst of pink hearts and rose petals.
-x- The End –x-
Thank you all for the wonderful support and overwhelming 'love vibes' through the process of this story. I really appreciate all those who read and stuck by me throughout this process. I didn't really plan it this way, but it seems as if this story was meant to fall in at Valentine's day… So I hope you all enjoy the ones you love, and if you're lucky as little bit of chocolate as well.