A/N: Hey guys! This is my first attempt at a one-shot and was prompted by a challenge in the UF Group using the word "Picnicking". Its set after "Is there a Doctor in the house?" but before "Orphan of War", and it also includes my idea of how Gabrielle recieved her season 2 outfit ;D Happy Reading Folks!
"Xena? Can we please stop soon? My legs aren't nearly as long as yours and they're burning. And you still haven't told me where we're going!" Gabrielle complained.
Xena slowed Argo, turning her around to circle back to Gabrielle. The bard had stopped; resting her forehead against her staff as she tried to catch her breath. She smiled when she saw the flustered state in which her friend was in. Gabrielle looked as though she'd been running all afternoon. It seemed that even after a year of travelling with her, she still hadn't gotten used to the far stretches of distance they walked daily.
Xena took advantage of the break to look around from atop Argo. As she gazed around the hillside they'd stopped on, her eyes caught sight of a small patch of bright, green grass sitting under a rocky lip. A prime spot for what Xena had planned.
With a smile she slid from Argo's back and took the reins, opting to walk the rest of the way. "Let's go rest over there for a while." She looked up at the sky briefly, sniffing the air. "Better be quick too. It'll rain soon."
Gabrielle looked up. "How do you know that? Its looks like it's going to stay clear to me."
"It's one of my many skills. Now, come on. Before it rains." Xena said, pulling Argo toward the patch of land.
With a shrug, Gabrielle followed behind her. She caught up quickly. As she walked beside Xena, she looked toward the place she'd pointed out. It was a small clearing of grass sheltered by a large lip of rock acting as a roof. As they approached, and Xena tethered Argo's reins to a small tree sticking out from the hill, Gabrielle went to stand on the top of the incline.
The sight took her breath away. She could see for miles; the sun hung suspended far off in the distance like a blazing orb, trying to break free from the endless billows of clouds that confined it. Fallow fields stretched across the distance, the lush greenery of untamed growth spanning as far as her eyes could see. Dotting the land were numerous cedar scrub trees. Looking toward the river, she saw some that reached cross the water of the river they'd passed before their ascent of the hill.
She felt her move next to her, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from the natural beauty of the land. "It's so beautiful, Xena. Don't you think so?"
Xena smiled at the awed expression on her friend's face. She looked too. "Yeah, it is." she touched her shoulder and gestured behind them. "C'mon, we can eat and admire the scenery at the same time."
"Eat?" When Xena left her side, Gabrielle frowned. "I thought we were going to the village to get more food? You said we don't have-" The words left her when she turned and saw the small piles of food laid out upon the thin blanket like a picnic. She glanced up at Xena, watching as she sat down and shrugged nonchalantly.
"I lied. Or at least, I lied about the amount we had left. Come on, sit down will you?" Xena said, patting the blanket before reaching out to grab an apple.
Not needing to be asked twice, Gabrielle quickly rushed to sit on the blanket and stared at the food. Not eating all day had made her stomach tight with hunger. Staring at the food, the ambrosial fragrance reached her nose before the food touched her mouth and she could already taste it. It made her mouth water. There were chunks of cooked meat and a bowl filled with juicy looking fruits; violet sweet plums, ripened strawberries and grapes were among them.
Her stomach growled as she reached out and grabbed a chunk of meat. She groaned as she bit into it; savouring the sweet taste of the honey cured meat as she chewed. "Why didn't you tell me we had some left? You knew I was starving!" Gabrielle accused around a mouthful.
Xena grinned. "You would have eaten it all back at the last village if I hadn't saved it. Plus, waiting before having more makes it taste better, doesn't it?"
Gabrielle couldn't reply. She had already inhaled the meat and was already digging into her second piece. Xena shook her head with amusement and looked out at the luscious natural scene.
Not long after they had sought refuge under the rocky cover, sure enough, it had started raining. The smell of the rain mixed with the food created a delicious aromatic smell that filled their nostrils, only making the food smell harder to resist.
As Gabrielle rushed out to collect her scroll satchel, Xena moved to shift Argo closer to their shelter where the tree's canopy acted like a natural covering to protect her from the cold rain. As she ducked back in, Gabrielle dragged the blanket further under the lip and tucked herself deeper into the protective nook when a slight wind threatened to push the rain in.
"Oh no, the blanket is wet!" Gabrielle complained, crawling forward to feel the corners.
"It's fine. A little rain never hurt anyone." Xena said as she wrung the water out of her hair. She reached forward and tugged at the bard's wet clothes, pulling her back to sit next to her. "Here, try some of these. I want to save some of that meat before you nearly eat it all again."
Pushing her soaked fringe out of her eyes, Gabrielle took the swollen dew drop covered strawberry from Xena and bit into it. Its sweet taste burst in her mouth. "Oh my gods…" she sighed and closed her eyes, enjoying the lingering juicy tang.
"I take it its good?" Xena guessed.
"Beyond good, Xena. Beyond good."
Xena smirked. "Good. Happy birthday."
Gabrielle opened her eyes. Surprised, she glanced over at Xena who just bit into her apple. The sound of the rain whispering against the grass as it rushed by was the only sound that echoed in the silence between them. "What?"
"I said happy birthday." Xena arched a questioning eyebrow at her. "Are you sure the rain didn't get in your ears?"
Gabrielle sat back on the balls of her feet. "How did you know when my birthday was? I never told you."
"The last time we passed through Potidaea I asked your mother. I considered asking your father, but I get the sense he doesn't like me very much." She chuckled and threw the apple core onto the blanket. "That reminds me. I have a present for you. I know how much you've been going on about getting a new outfit. But with everything going on and you almost dying, I figured you didn't have time to shop. So, I got you this. I was going to give you it when we got to the village, but now seems as good a time as any."
Gabrielle watched, lifting herself to sneak a peek as the warrior princess reached into her saddlebag. Her eyes widened when Xena lifted out a light brown skirt along with a woven, dark green top. She could hardly contain her excitement as they were handed over to her.
"Xena….I don't know what to say."
Xena sat back, waving a hand dismissively. "You don't have to say anything. It's just a present, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle held the garments up to her and looked down. They looked as though they would fit perfectly as she pressed them flush against her body. She had been complaining for weeks that a change of clothes was in order. She hadn't thought the warrior princess had listened. She convinced herself that Xena had resigned herself to blocking out her moans. It seemed not to be the case.
Grinning broadly, she placed them aside and crawled over to her friend; tucking herself into her side. Before Xena could protest, Gabrielle swept her hand across her stomach and pulled her into a hug.
"Thank you," she muttered.
Xena chuckled. "For what?"
Gabrielle snuggled deeper into her side, resting her head against the breastplate. As she looked out at the wonderful, natural scene before them, she felt her heart swell with happiness. "For everything."
Xena smiled, dropping her hand to wrap it around the young bard. As she pulled her gently closer she heard Gabrielle's breathing slow into a relaxed pace. "Do you want some more food?" she asked.
Gabrielle shook her head. "No…I think I've had enough. Do you mind if I just lay here? I think I just need to rest for a while. My legs are still killing me."
Xena's mouth lifted up at the corner. "Sure."
Seconds soon turned into minutes and Xena knew when she was asleep. She could feel the gentle rise and fall of Gabrielle's chest against her own. Looking down she could see the bard's eyes closed and her damp fringe was matted against her forehead. Reaching up, she brushed it aside out of her eyes. Not having the heart to move her, Xena succumbed to the undeniable tiredness that washed over her and closed her eyes, listening to the gentle sound of the rain until she too drifted off to join Gabrielle in the realm of Morpheus.