Disclaimer-I obviously don't own and for obvious reasons, the characters are a bit OOC. Oh well…I suppose I own the step sisters. That's about it. Do enjoy.

The air filled with ash and washed the walls black with every sweep of the broom. Cinders spilling from the overly large fireplace began to form a neat pile in the center of the room though it was slow work. The broom itself was shabby and falling apart so it hardly did a job of cleaning, mostly it just spread the mess out. Even if that wasn't hard enough cinders were not a pleasant thing to clean. They were fine enough that with each sweep they billowed through the air and colored whatever tattered dress Quinn wore black and sent her into fits of coughs. Or at least that use to be the case when Quinn was a child and forced to clean the fireplaces, now a tender age of 19 Quinn had learned to tie cloth around her nose and mouth to act as an air filter and even if Quinn were permitted, she no longer wore dresses.

No Quinn wore men's breeches that her step mother had thrown at her one day and a tanned jerkin over a long sleeve linen button up shirt giving her the appearance of any typical male. Had it not been for Quinn's golden hair that fell over one shoulder in ringlets and her gentle curves, she would be mistaken for a man. As it were Quinn's stepmother, Sue, liked to introduce Quinn as her stepson just to spite the girl. Sue didn't want anyone knowing who Quinn was, however Quinn herself did not know this she just had assumed it was her evil stepmother seeking to further put Quinn down. Not that Quinn minded much, she was content just being in the background where Sue pushed her.

Here in the large room lit only by the perspiring candles in the chandelier, Quinn was content with her lot. Life wasn't a happy thing for the blond, that much was true but it was better than living as a homeless orphan. Instead she was just a stepdaughter forced to work hard labor day in day out since her fathers passing 9 years ago. An 11 year old with free falling tears rolling steadily down her soft cheeks clung desperately to her stepmothers leg as she watched her fathers casket being pushed out to sea in a long boat, at the time had no idea that in the days to come her life would become hell. Not a single thought had run past her grief stricken mind that Sue would make the girl work until blisters sprouted all along the balls of her feet and fore palm of her hands. More tears had fallen over years of painful growth spurts and lonely nights as Quinn grew up separately from her step mother and step sisters who had drown themselves in the wealth Quinn's father had left behind. Not a penny of it was spent on Quinn or Quinn's needs. Every last copper was put towards sequined silk gowns, brand new French heels, and all other sorts of newly fashioned high priced wares for Stacey and Janet, Quinn's sisters. The young blood related Fabray wasn't even permitted to sleep inside the manor, instead forced to reside in the loft of the barn above all the horses. Still you'd never once hear a complaint drop from Quinn's luscious ruby colored lips when her mother told her to sweep every fire place in the massive manor house nor when her sisters threw their laundry at her to do. The young woman merely nodded with a genuinely soft smile before running off to complete the task given to her like the faithful servant she was. A servant of her own home.

Warm breath seeped through Quinn's parted lips in the form of a soft, victorious sigh once she had finally accomplished sweeping all the burnt remnants from the hearth into a neat pile. A tedious job that had taken the blonde woman nearly over three hours. The fireplace was massive, taking up nearly the entire wall, and Sue had made sure that every burnt log left in blackened dust was spread all over the great floor to make Quinn's job harder. Just to stick it to her, Quinn had made sure to do the job exemplary so the evil woman she was forced to call mother would have little room to do anything except sneer for Quinn's job well done. And if the young woman hadn't done just that then by the gods divine, she wasn't sure what had been done in its stead. With a proud smile lightening up Quinn's soot streaked face the girl pulled the kerchief tied around her nose down around her neck, swiveling her head to survey her work. Well done indeed.

Clacking of heels hitting tile alerted Quinn of an oncoming and most likely unwanted presence from her left. There was no point in looking to see whom was paying her a visit, she knew already. Judging by the fact that the sound was two sets of feet taking heavy steps in her direction and not one it could only mean Stacey and Janet wanted something from her. Hazel eyes remained glued to the pile of dark cinders by her feet until two sets of feet came into the top edge of her line of vision. Another sigh fell from those puckered lips only this one was more laced with aggravation than happiness.

"Quinnie!" Janet's nasally high pitched voice attacked Quinn's ears, seeping though them and grating against the nerves in her spine like the nails of a tiger. Much like Janet's voice, the girls appearance was an assault to your senses. With her short stature and slightly protruding belly the older of the two twins reminded Quinn of a goat. Short legs, big belly, blan round eyes, wispy wheat colored hair, pointed stubble coated chin, and the tendency to eat anything and everything.

"Guess what Sister?" Stacey's voice had the opposite affect. Instead of causing every nerve ending in Quinn's body to protest in the agony of hearing Janet's annoying voice, Stacey's was like a joke. The low pitch of it sounded so gruff sometimes when Quinn wasn't sure, she was convinced Stacey may have very well been a man addressing her. Laughter tickled at the insides of Quinn's stomach each time she heard it, threatening to throw up the laughter in Stacey's face. Like her voice Stacey very much looked like a man with her insanely tall stature, beefy legs and arms, large chin structure, and short hair.

Quinn leaned her weight onto the broom handle her hands were clasped over and dropped her chin on the back of her pale hand, "Yes? What is it?" Mental walls miles high that were made of the toughest impenetrable steel rose instinctively around her soft mind and heart in their presence. Usual soft, gentle features that normally graced Quinn's princess like self drew into a hard grimace showing no emotion. For the twin evils standing before her in fine clothes worth fortunes each were kin to vultures when it came to Quinn's emotional well being. If the barest increment of feeling showed they pounced on it and bit, clawed, hacked, and stabbed at it with their verbal weaponry until it died without given a chance. After years of crawling away after their verbal war on her being, leaving her an empty self loathing husk, Quinn had learned how to turn herself into an unmovable mountain of complete stillness they couldn't harm.

"Well," Janet drawled out, circling Quinn much like the predatory bird the blonde was picturing her to be in her minds eye, "You'd never guess what we heard today in town!"

"We heard," Stacey began circling Quinn as well, moving in the opposite direction as Janet for affect, "that there is going to be a ball held in the royal court for the Princess's birthday."

"And," Janet purred in that disgustingly annoying voice of hers, "that the Princess invited everyone in her kingdom to come!"

"Really? Why would she do that?" Quinn hoped that her actual interest in the matter was being covered up with the monotone she was using.

"Well," Stacey stopped her pacing just in front of Quinn, giving the blond an unpleasant smile, "The princess wants to share her 19th birthday with all the people she cares about and she cares about all of her people. And we got invitations!" Quinn watched Stacey reach into the overcoat hanging loosely around her thick arms to pull out three wax sealed letters. One she kept for herself, another she handed a squealing Janet, and the last one Stacey reached out to give to Quinn. Elegant scroll in glittering gold ink marked the front of the envelope with Quinn's name along with some smaller print she couldn't make out. She had never received a letter let alone one from the royal court inviting her to a ball. Excitement like none she had felt before burst to life inside her, twisting her stomach into a tight mess. She longed to be excepted, to be loved and she felt perhaps this ball was her chance. She had never left this house other than to perform the duties Sue made her do. She didn't know what it was like to play outside with friends, she didn't know what it was like to have friends period. Getting dressed up and going to a dance with thousands of other people there made her fizzle like a log in fire. So many happy emotions were swirling around inside of her Quinn forgot to keep her guard up and let all that she was feeling show with a huge smile and twinkling eyes. Just as Quinn's fingertips brushed the letter, Stacey ripped it away with a cold laugh reverberating through the otherwise silent room. Quickly Quinn realized her mistake and felt tears burn at her eyes but refused to let them fall. She had already messed up once, twice was unforgivable.

"Give it to me Stacey. That letter belongs to me." Quinn's voice was hard as the edge of a blade and just as cutting. Though fearsome as it was it barely phased the sisters.

"Actually I think I'm going to keep it Quinnie." Stacey flounced over to her twin who was giggling behind her hands at Quinn's pain. Hazel eyes followed the letter that was once again stowed away inside Stacey's overcoat much to Quinn's ever growing rage.

"You can't. It is my letter."

"Nope wrong again Q," Janet smiled around the venomous words spewing between her chapped lips, "It belongs to mom."

"It does not! It had my name on it! Give it to me!" Janet tutted Quinn's outburst. The blond wasn't even bothering to conceal her emotions now, she was letting every ounce of boiling anger spill from her as if she were a volcano spewing hot magma. Fist remained clenched at her side, perfectly straight teeth ground down into one another to prevent her spitting out insults at the twins. They had the common sense to back three large steps away from their stepsister for their suddenly endangered health yet they didn't stop taunting her.

"It may have your name but you belong to mom. And anything that is yours is hers by proxy."

"Give. Me. The. Damn. Letter. Or so help me I'll-"

"You'll do. . .what, Quinn darling?" Quinn's spine went stiff and her natural reaction to flinch sent the broom flying from her clutches to the floor where the cinders were piled. The wooden shaft landed squarely in the pile making them billow and fan out across the room and wash over her shoddy riding boots. Hazel eyes slammed shut in hopes of preventing the burning behind her eyes to turn into tears. It had taken her nearly two hours to complete the task to a gold standard and now she would have to do it all over again with Sue's vengeance to boot.

Behind her, Sue tutted Quinn's misfortune while taking slowed deliberate steps in her stepdaughters direction.

"And watch your mouth. Or I'll swat it." Sue's steely gaze burned an embarrassed blush onto Quinn cheeks. The blonde woman reopened her eyes and glanced at her faux mother, flinching slightly from the intoned anger in those merciless eyes.

"Yes of course Mother. I apologize."

"You'll be cleaning this floor over again."

"Of course Mother."

"Better than the last time I hope, the hearth looks filthy. I want it shinning."

"As you wish Mother."

"Good." Sue glared at Quinn until the blonde summated silently by dropping her eyes.

"Mother," Stacey purred in her gravel tone, sauntering up to Sue's left flank and latching onto the woman's long arm, "Quinn was being mean to me. She hurt my feelings."

"Yeah," Janet slunk over to Sue's right side clinging to her free arm, looking up with her blan eyes and poking out her lower lip in a pout, "Me too."

Sue surveyed both her blood daughters faces with her sweeping gaze before traveling over to Quinn's simmering hazel eyes desperately attempting to glower encompassing her beautiful visage, "That so Quinn? What do you have to say for yourself? You know I'll not have for you tormenting your sisters simply because of your jealously towards them because they are more marriageable than you."

Amusement tickled Quinn's belly threatening to show itself in the form of a radiant grin. The only reason her sisters were more marriageable than herself was because of the Fabray fortune backing them and that the only people who knew of Quinn's existence assumed she was a man thanks to Sue. Not that Quinn minded, she had never had a desire to be married off to any man. She was content alone. The smith boys Finn and Noah had taken a keen interest in Quinn when the blonde had turned 16 but, like with any other suitor who eyed Quinn to closely, she turned them down as politely as possible. Though in Finn's case Quinn had been forced to be so blunt so he could understand it had been borderline hurtful for both of them. Plus Quinn suspected Sue didn't want Quinn to be married off like her sisters for selfish reasons.

Quinn smoothed her palms down the sides of her jerkin, using the feeling of each rough piece of lace holding the thing plastered against her curves as a distraction from letting her amusement show. It worked well enough though she still felt her upper lip twitch slightly. She only prayed Sue took no notice of it.

"Mother," Quinn's husky voice charmed, each word she uttered simply dripping with eased guile delivered by her silver-tongue, "Stacey and Janet have something of mine that they are withholding from me for their own amusement. I had no intensions of insulting either one of them and if you would and I could ask it of you, please forgive me for doing so. I was upset and I suppose in a tizzy due to their teasing but I realize that's no excuse so again I apologize. I'd just really like my property returned to me."

Stacey and Janet's glare practically burned holes into Quinn but the blonde only cared for Sue's indecisive twitch of her nose, letting Quinn know she was actually considering siding with Quinn for once. Steal eyes passed to Stacey's now withering, cowering form.

"Is it true you took something of your sisters to tease her?" Stacey made no response so Sue turned her eyes to Janet. Again no answer was given. Hope rose in Quinn's otherwise hopeless soul, thinking that perhaps just once she might win at something.

"Let me see what it is you took." Sue didn't bother waiting for any form of retort from her children, merely holding her hand out palm up in anticipation for the stolen item. Begrudgingly Stacey pulled the invitation from her coat to plop it into her mothers awaiting hand, swiftly turning her back and folding her arms in a pout after she was finished with her task. Quinn watched in eager waiting as Sue turned the letter over two or three times to thoroughly inspect the invitation, even going as far as to slide her thick nails under the seal and pop it off to read over the belly of the letter. Many different emotions flashed across Sue's weathered face as her eyes roamed the page, leaving Quinn utterly clueless to the outcome of this confrontation. That it is until Sue closed the letter with finality and slid the invitation into the sleeve of her evening dress. All remnants of hope died painfully within the blonde, knowing down inside her bleeding heart that she would not be going to the Princess's birthday ball.

"Do you know what the letter was about Quinn?" Quinn nodded despondently not bothering to even pick her eyes up from where they were staring at the scuffs in the leather of her boots.

"You'd like to go wouldn't you Quinn?" Again the blond nodded, though more careful this time because she wasn't sure where Sue was going with this. It almost sounded like she was going to allow Quinn. Against Quinn's wishes broken shards of hope began resurrecting itself.

"Alright. You may go." Quinn shot her head up so quick the taut muscles lining her shoulders and upper back protested greatly though she ignored it. She stared at her stepmother with wide disbelieving eyes and Sue just stared back emotionless as always, tapping her wickedly long fingers against her ribcage.

"R-Really? Truly? I can go?" Sue nodded solemnly. A lovely smile pulled Quinn's red lips tight around her pearly teeth that flashed in the growing light filtering through the windows above.

Janet screeched in displeasure, ripping herself from her mother fast enough to wrench her mother from the still position she had been standing in. Before Sue could reprimand her daughter for it Stacey whirled back around with a slack jaw and wide eyes closely matching Quinn's though the gangly girl was clearly displeased.

"Mother! You can't be serious! Your going to let it go to the Princess's gala!?" Stacey stomped her feet childishly, flinging her arms in Quinn's direction.

"We'll be the laughing stock of the town Mother! Please don't let her go! Please!" Janet tugged on the sleeves of Sue's satin dress.

The elder ash blond woman scowled at her daughters antics and slapped both of them in the back of the head to still them, "If you'd both let me finish! Your yapping is worse than Mrs. Tannihill's nappy dog. Quinn," The blonde girl dipped her chin slightly in acknowledgement, "You may go if, and only if, you complete the set of chores I give you. They need completed by dinner tonight seeing as the ball is in 2 days time. Should you complete your tasks you'll have my permission to go however I refuse to cover any of your expenses such as your dress and shoes and whatnot."

Once again the hope within her was squashed flatter than the floor she stood upon but at least this way she had something of a fighting change even if it was miniscule, "I understand mother."

"And you'll need to find your own ride to the palace. Our carriage will not have room for you."

"Of course Mother."

"Also I must approve of your dress before you are allowed to wear it."

"Yes Mother."

"You agree to the terms then?"

"Yes Mother."

"Good! Here is your list," Sue pulled a folded slip of parchment from her opposite sleeve and handed it over to Quinn, "Get to it quickly."

"As you wish Mother."

"After you clean this filthy floor."

"Of course Mother."

"Great! Come along girls, we're going to go see what's for breakfast! I'm starving." Sue paused, throwing an insipid look over her shoulder towards Quinn, "You may eat once your done with the list."

Quinn nodded curtly, reaching down to retrieve the broom, "Yes of course Mother. Thank you." For nothing, Quinn fought the urge to add.

Sue harrumphed Quinn's response, leading her daughters from the room towards the kitchens quarters.

For a few long moments Quinn just stood among the cinders gripping the list in her hand tight all the while reining in the urge to let herself breakdown into a fit of useless tears. She had been so close. Just this once Quinn had gotten a taste of what happiness felt like, she almost had won over her sisters and almost been given permission to go to the social event like any other young woman her age would be doing throughout the kingdom. Then it was ripped from her like a cruel joke, being left only the barest illusion that she might be allowed to go. Even if she could come up with a way to pay for her expenses, she couldn't fathom how she would find a way to get there.

Sighing deeply Quinn decided to push on anyway and opened the folded parchment and go over the list. Another sigh slipped through her tight lips. The list was long. Not counting all the household chores, there were a few things that would require her riding into town. She'd need to go to the smithy to have new shoes made for the horses then to the carpenter to have a new axel made for the carriage and after that she would have to go to the cobbler for new shoes for both her stepsisters and mother and lastly to the tailor to pick up a few new gowns made for her step sisters. All before dinner. It was neigh on impossible.

Hours later it was around lunch by the time Quinn had finished with cleaning the manor top from bottom until it was gleaming. Her feet were throbbing already and her fingers ached from the mutinously detailing she had done scrubbing the hearth Sue wanted to shine. Her knees were bruised and chapped from being on them for well over three hours when she had mopped the entire ballroom floor by hand. Now she was going to have to ride horseback for an hour before she hit town. She was already exhausted, just thinking about all the work that lay ahead of her made her want to just die.

On a another note she was pleased to have a change to spend time with her horse, Argonaut. It had been ages since she had been given the opportunity to take her glorious white stallion for a ride. Properly since before her fathers death when Russell had given it to her as a birthday gift. She had been out to brush him down every night before she climbed into the loft where she slumbered and made sure to feed him properly but he had not been properly run for far to long.

Something she could tell the moment she pulled him from his stable into the afternoon sun. He pranced around sidestepping left and right in his anticipation to be moving once again. Though graying only slightly his white flanks illuminated in the bright light making him somewhat of a sight to behold. Warmth spread through Quinn at the sight and feel of her horse, reminding her of older times. Times of happiness and love and general all around peace. Before she knew what blisters were and before she was enslaved to her own household. Smiling she held Argonaut's strong mandible between her palms and rested her forehead to his, eyes closed tight as she remembered the warmth of her mount. His hot breath spilled over her collarbone, filling her down to her boots full of memorable warmth.

"I missed you." She whispered against his snowy nose and placing a light kiss on his head before pulling away. Argonaut whickered, tossing his crimped mane around in the way that showed his excitement. Quinn grinned again.

"Well we have a long ride ahead of us Argonaut. Not to awfully long but still an hour. I'm already tired so you may have to do all the work." As Quinn spoke she went about prepping Argonaut to ride. Gently she slid the silver bridal around his proud head, laying the straps over his corded neck so that she could throw the colorful saddle blanket across the expanse of his strong back. Once that was completed she hefted the heavy leather saddle up and onto his back just over the saddle blanket. Practiced fingers made short work of all the buckles needing fastened and double checking each one to make sure they were held tight. Completed she stepped back to check her work, pleased that she still remembered how to do everything that was needed.

Argonaut looked over at her expectantly, flicking his mane from his round sorrel eyes as if beckoning her to climb onto him so that they could be off. Quinn shook her head, patting his flank lightly.

"Not just yet boy. I've still got to get something then we can leave. Wait for me here won't you?" She gave him one more pat then hurried back into the stables. Taking two rungs at time Quinn scaled the ladder quickly to the loft padded by hay strewn around. In the far left corner was a single bedroll of furs she usually slept in less Sue keep her up all night to patrol the sheep (she was a paranoid woman, convinced the 80 year old Mr. Packer was after them) or nurse her sisters health through the night. Scattered nearby it were stacks of different books that she had traded for while in town or looted from the family library when Sue wasn't watching. Her only pleasure. Save for the books her only other possessions were a few spare change of clothes and her fathers family sword which she kept wrapped in leather beneath her pillow. What she was after lay atop her bedroll, sticking out among all the blan colors surrounding it.

Rushing forward she lowered herself gently onto her knees, wincing slightly at the discomfort this produced, and pulled the carmine cloak around her thin shoulders. The cloak fell to about her knees and fastened near her shoulder with a large ocular buckle made of bronze that had her family's crest stamped into it. It to had been her fathers, the only other thing of his that she had managed to save from her stepmother who had proceeded to burn or sell anything that had belonged to Russell. It was thick and warm even after all this time and still smelled faintly of the minx oil that it was saturated in to made it repellant to weather. She reached back and hooked her fingers around the hood to pull it up over her head. Now she felt read to travel.

She contemplated bringing her family sword with her just in case bandits decided to make an appearance on her journey but decided against it considered the sword was worth a small fortune and was the only thing that still lasted of the Fabray lineage save herself. She'd just have to be careful. She descended the ladder and hurried to Argonaut who still stood there waiting for her.

"Okay boy, lets do this."

The dirt path to the town wound through a dense forest overpopulated with ferns, old towering trees, and dangerous wildlife. Lush green leaves hugging tree branches that reached miles high as if to touch the blue sky above. Bursts of golden light seeped through the canopy to illuminate Quinn upon her horse, clopping down the path deeper into the forest. Sounds of chattering squirrels clicked above her and foxes barking at one another came from all directions below her, filling the vast space with constant sound. She wasn't afraid. She had walked this road to many times to be afraid of it. To her this was just like playing in her backyard with the exception of more trees and wolves in the prowl. Her mood was as high as the redwood she rode under. Likewise Argonaut seemed to be radiant, pleased that he finally had the freedom to trot clop along instead of remain cooped up in his stable all day. He was, after all, a purebred racehorse raised by one of the finest breeders in all of the kingdom. Russell had paid many gold pieces for the white thoroughbred all to make his little girl smile. Since his passing Sue had been using Argonaut to pull her carriage, undermining Argonauts great purpose he was bred for. Speed.

They were very nearly halfway to their destination already since Argonaut had shot off the instant Quinn had mounted him. She had to retrain her muscles before she could reign him in and by the time she had, they were already in the forest down the path she use to run him along. Now that he had run himself out he happily trotted along with his rider stroking his long crimped mane and humming to herself as they went. All was well.

"Hoe! Hoe! Whoa boy! Stop!" She tightened her grip on his reins, wrapping them around her forearm to tug harder to the left. Argonaut snorted indignantly yet submitted to his masters wishes and stopped just a few paces away from what Quinn had spotted ahead in the road.

At first she had thought it to be a wild animal laying in the road but now that she was closer she noticed tell tale signs that it was in fact a woman and not a man. The little woman's dark locks were splayed across the dirt of the road and her half raised arm her head lay propped against, a gleaming steal plate helm lay a little ways off. Laying in her opened palm was the wire wrapped hilt of a brilliant hand-and-a-half sword laying alongside her, almost lost to the unconscious woman. The steel of her blade matched the steel of the breastplate protected her torso beautiful inscribed with pictures of, Quinn assumed, the woman's different battles. Metal chain links hooked into the leather of her long sleeve jacket covered her shoulders where the breastplate ended all the way to the woman's thick leather gauntlets incasing her small hands. Steel greaves strapped around the woman's calves above her leather pants, the greaves also etched with intricate designs and embalms. Closer up Quinn noticed a small trickle of blood leaking from a nasty looking gash just above her hairline. Quinn assumed the woman, though heavily armed and clearly able, was jumped by bandits while walking or possibly riding along the road into town.

The blond stroked Argonaut's neck as she peered down at the beautiful woman, taking in her prominent jaw and full, pink lips. Her long dark eyelashes brushed her round, sun kissed cheeks. The skin the woman's armor showed, her neck and a sliver between her pants and where her breastplate had risen up, was just as tan as her face. She was beautiful. More beautiful than any woman Quinn had ever seen growing up. Just looking at the woman made the breath in her lungs disappear and her stomach fill with an unusual fluttering. It was exactly unpleasant but it wasn't familiar either.

"Better check to see if she's alive huh boy?" Quinn whispered simply because she couldn't find her voice the long she stared. Reaching down her hand she hooked her fingers into her bootstraps and yanked them both up, pulling her small feet back inside seeing as they were an inch and a half to large for her. Once her boots fit again she pulled them from the stirrups and swung a long leg over great back of Argonaut and hopped down to her feet. Dust swelled up to swirl around her boots, adding to the layer of cinders still coloring the tanned leather black.

She strode purposefully towards the woman, carefully throwing glances left and right in case any of the raiders who attacked the woman may still be hanging around. Thankfully no on jumped out and no crossbow bolts hummed past her head when Quinn kneeled beside the unconscious woman. She pulled the hood back from her face and let it fall against her shoulders once more so she could use her peripherals to keep an eye out for attackers. Deft fingers made short work of the straps holding the ornate breastplate to the woman's chest, carefully removing it and setting to the side. Now that it was off Quinn had to undo the first few greenwood toggles of the woman's royal blue gilet to expose her tanned chest. Quinn swept her long tresses to one shoulder so her ear was visible and lowered it to the woman's chest, closing her eyes to constraint on the sound. The sounds of slow breathing and a equally slow heartbeat thumped against Quinn's ear, pleasing the blonde greatly. The woman was alive. Wonderful.

A light touch brushed the top of Quinn's head, sending her eyes flying open in shock and scurrying back onto her rear end to survey the surrounding area for what may have touched her. She had assumed for a tall, dark eyed robber to be standing above her with a weapon in his hand ready to strike her down. What she saw instead were wide expression filled brown orbs staring out at her from under a curtain of the woman's filthy hair. Another, stronger wave of constricting flittering rolled through Quinn's belly at the sight. She was twice as beautiful to the blonde now.

"What.." The woman shut her eyes with a grimace, her voice throaty and hoarse.

"I-I was riding into town and I saw you lying here. I was checking to see if you were alive. Can you remember what happened to you?"

The woman opened her mouth to speak but flinched again, bringing her gloved hand up and tapping her throat with her forefinger.

"Thirsty?" She nodded. Quinn scrambled to Argonaut for her water skin tying to the saddle. With shaking hands Quinn pulled the cork from the top and lowered it to the woman's lips, letting out small drops for the woman to suckle on. Brown eyes closed shut and the woman tilted her head back slight in an attempt to get more water down her dry throat. Quinn obliged, letting a more steady stream trickle through her parted lips. Fast enough that a few droplets dribbled down from the corners of her mouth and rolled along the column of her smooth throat. After a few more seconds Quinn withdrew the water skin, corking it once more and laying it within the woman's reach less she want more. Out of instinct Quinn reached with her curled finger and brushed the remaining drops of water from the woman's plump lips, gasping slightly when she was met with how velvety they felt. She unfurled her finger to trace the contours of the woman's lower lip with the tip of her single fingers, brows lowered in deep concentration and her lip worried between her teeth. She was fascinated. More than that, for once in her life, Quinn felt true desire.

"Thank you." The woman spoke bringing hazel eyes from pink lips to meet unreadable brown ones. A beautiful blush colored Quinn's normally pale cheeks, realizing only in that moment she had basically molested the strangers lips. The same lips pulled tight over white, straight teeth to display a radiant smile directed Quinn's way.

"Your welcome." Quinn dropped her chin in embarrassment, letting her hair curtain her face until her blush passed. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted the woman's breastplate she had removed and, deciding to be useful, hurried to grab it and thrust it out towards the brunette.

Said brunette looked at it thoughtfully then glanced down at her torso with a frown, "Why don't you hold onto that for me? My ribs hurt a little to much to support it's weight. Help me up?" The brunette stretched her sword arm out, leaving it lying in the dirt.

"Of course Ma'am!" Quinn dropped the breastplate in an instant and hunkered low so that the woman's outstretched arm hooked around Quinn's slender neck and stood, pulling the shorter woman with her. A little cry of pain filled the air, the woman's knees buckling and tumbling for the ground had Quinn not looped her arm around her waist to catch her.

"It's okay I've got you," Quinn soothed in her honey like voice, helped the woman walk towards Argonaut, "It's okay. I'll help you." Quinn smiled lightly for the woman's benefit, the small tripling in size when the brunette smiled back.

"Thank you. It's very kind of you." Quinn felt the woman grimace when she hoisted her up into Argonaut's saddle and hooked her feet into the stirrups, hoping and praying the woman wouldn't fall off before Quinn climbed up behind her.

"Of course. It's no problem. I'll go grab your things. Don't…die." Laughter like the sound of bells sounded quietly behind Quinn's back as she hurried back to grab the heavy sword and the breastplate both caked in dust. Quinn decided she quite liked that laugh. Thankfully Argonaut's saddle hosted a lot of loose straps for travel bags that Quinn managed to tie the breastplate off to, letting it dangle slightly against the horses left flank. The sword Quinn gave to the woman who took it in silence and slid it back into its long ornate sheath, still using her sword arm the other she seemed to be favoring. It must be injured.

"I'm Rachel by the way and I greatly appreciate your kindness. It will not be lost to me." Rachel spoke with confidence and clarity, looking down at Quinn who was lingering, trying to figure out how to climb upon her horse and fit into the saddle with Rachel.

Quinn froze, looking up into sincere brown eyes, "I…" She looked down at her shoddy boots, hiding her blush once again, "Your welcome. I'm Quinn. And I'm glad you weren't dead." Without picking her head up Quinn managed her way up onto Argonaut behind Rachel and slid her arms around the woman's small waist, holding the woman close to Quinn's front so that she wouldn't fall off along the ride and to grab the reins with her free hand. Argonaut took the hint and began to clop slowly down the road, almost aware that he needed to go slower to accommodate their passengers wounds.

A light brush of fingers trailed Quinn's wrist hugging Rachel's waist, wracking shivers down the blonde's spine, "So am I."

Okay this was originally one shot but because it turned out to be so long I'm turning it into a two maybe three shot. Stay tuned and leave lots and lots o' reviews!