Summary: This is what happens when you let Gabrielle bathe alone.
We're going to pretend they've never bathed with each other before, okay? I imagine this setting to be like the lake in A Day In The Life.
Gabrielle's anguished cry pierced the silence of the clearing, and in an instant Xena had leaped from her blankets, dagger gripped tightly in hand.
Xena raced across the grass, focused entirely on following the sound of her friend's voice. Leaping over fallen branches, not caring if the rocky terrain cut her feet, she ran down the muddy road they had set up camp beside last night.
Heart pumping, Xena listened anxiously for her friend's response as she moved, body automatically dodging potholes and puddles.
She sped up. Her breath was coming in gasps now, adrenaline racing through her veins as her muscles moved in unison. Her body was like a well-oiled machine, shaking off the fog of sleep to do what it did best – defend the innocent.
And if that innocent happened to be her best friend-
Xena shook her head to clear her thoughts and concentrated on locating Gabrielle.
Gabrielle's voice was coming from the left and as Xena launched herself into a sprint, a lake came into view. And- there she was-a blonde head was bobbing in the murky blue water.
Xena hurtled down the slight slope towards the body of water, leaping high into the air and landing in a battle stance at the bottom as she quickly scanned the area for villains.
There was not a soul in sight.
She turned her head to face Gabrielle, still poised to attack.
The blonde was looking distinctly… safe. Her chin was resting on the shore of the lake, one eyebrow was raised and she was giving Xena that slight smirk she knew irritated the warrior.
'Xena, what are you doing?'
Xena looked very put out as she realised Gabrielle was under no threat.
'Saving you!' Her tone was sharp.
A look of realisation dawned on Gabrielle's face, and she ducked her head slightly and stared very hard at the soil.
'It's alright, Gabrielle. Now, what exactly did you want?'
Gabrielle flushed slightly and looked back up at Xena.
'Please don't be mad at me-'
'I'm not promising anything until you tell me what's wrong.'
Gabrielle took a deep breath, and as she did so her chest was pulled up out of the water.
Xena's gaze was immediately glued to the shorter woman's breasts before Gabrielle exhaled, and they were plunged back into the water.
She could feel her cheeks growing warm, and fought to remain still and poised. She blinked hard, and, with a bit more force than necessary, said 'Go on, then. What?'
Gabrielle's shoulders- her bare shoulders, with water droplets running down her pale, smooth skin- Xena mentally slapped herself for staring- slumped.
'I think I've broken my wrist,' she admitted in a tiny voice.
All of Xena' wariness immediately evaporated, and she dropped into a crouch in front of Gabrielle.
'Here, let me see…'
Wincing, Gabrielle lifted her wrist out of the water, and Xena laid out a hand for Gabrielle to rest it on. Frowning, she traced its outline with her finger.
'It's not broken, but that's a very bad sprain you've got there.'
A dejected Gabrielle slowly lowered her hand back into the water, where she didn't have to strain it so much.
'Gabrielle, why did you think I'd be mad at you?'
The blonde stared very hard at the ground again as she answered.
'Um, I may have, um, possibly gone, um, diving into the lake, and you're always telling me how dangerous that is, and you always say about how you never travel with a wounded companion, and I-'
There was a small 'plink' and a ripple in the otherwise still water as a single tear ran down Gabrielle's face. Xena felt a small, hard knot of guilt in the pit of her stomach as she realised that, yes, she had said all those things, and they'd obviously stuck with her fellow traveller.
'Gabrielle, I never travelled with a wounded companion in my warlord days. It was dangerous to slow my army down, and besides-' Xena reached out and tipped Gabrielle's chin up lightly so the blonde had no choice but to look at her.
'None of them were my friends.'
Gabrielle visibly relaxed, and gave her a small smile. Xena released Gabrielle's chin, and got to her feet, the emotional conversation proving too much for her.
'So… what exactly did you call me down here for?'
Gabrielle rolled her eyes, looking much happier than she did a minute ago, and much more at ease.
'I'm not even close to being a warrior princess- I can barely pull myself onto Argo, never mind pull myself out of here with one arm,' she quipped.
Xena smirked, then froze as she processed.
'Gabrielle- are, ah- are you wearing anything?'
Xena felt her heartbeat speed up as the other woman shook her head.
'Xena, don't be such a prude!' Gabrielle said playfully.
Xena flushed and folded her arms, obviously flustered.
'I am not a prude- I was merely planning the best way to, ah, remove you.'
Gabrielle raised an eyebrow.
'And grabbing my arms- no, wait, sprained wrist- grabbing my shoulders and pulling isn't a good idea?'
Even from her position almost two metres below Xena, Gabrielle was obviously the one in charge. Xena scowled. If they were doing anything, they'd do it her way.
'That's a stupid idea. Your shoulders are too delicate to survive me pulling at them. And they're too bony. You'd slip.'
'That was almost a compliment… you keep trying, you'll get there.'
She saw the glare Xena was aiming at her and decided to move on to her next point.
'Just… I don't know, grab my waist and pull. Just do something, it's freezing in here!' she huffed, hugging her arms around her.
Xena bit her lip hard in an attempt to get rid of the extremely unwanted butterflies currently residing in her stomach.
'If that's what you feel is best…'
Xena knelt down again in front of the blonde, and Gabrielle helpfully extended her uninjured arm up and put it on on Xena's shoulder- unfortunately for Xena, this move also exposed Gabrielle's bare, water-beaded breasts.
Xena whipped her gaze away and, setting her jaw, sunk her arms into the water. She almost thanked the gods that the water wasn't so opaque she's have to fumble around for Gabrielle's waist, before remembering that the gods would probably be interested in finding out why the great warrior princess was invoking them.
And this was something she did not want them appearing in on.
She gingerly placed a hand on each side of Gabrielle, ignoring both the exaggerated sighs of faux impatience from the blonde and the feel of her skin under Xena's palms, ignoring the slight shiver that ran down her spine, the goosebumps that erupted as she slid her arms around her friend until she was practically hugging Gabrielle.
She could hear her heart banging in her chest, and fervently hoped that Gabrielle couldn't.
'Gabrielle-' Xena's voice cracked, and she cleared her throat. 'I'm going to lift you in three- two- one-'
A grunt escaped her mouth as she stood up, and she hissed as Gabrielle's grip tightened around her neck, pulling some of her hair.
However, she hadn't counted on Gabrielle jumping as Xena pulled, and as the combined force proved too much, Xena toppled backwards with Gabrielle still clinging on with her good hand.
She landed on her back in the grass with an 'oof!', and stars burst in front of her eyes as her head span from the impact it had made with the ground.
Xena shook her head slightly and waited until her vision had cleared before she lifted her head, then wholeheartedly wished she hadn't. Gabrielle's hand was no longer on Xena's neck, but it was resting on her shoulder- and in her rush to make sure Xena wasn't injured, Gabrielle had forgone climbing off Xena and had merely knelt on her, providing Xena with a direct view of her cleavage.
Xena wasn't sure if Gabrielle had forgotten her nakedness or was just revelling in how flustered she was making the warrior- both were likely.
'Are you alright? That was a nasty fall… Here, let me see.'
Gabrielle, still naked, still kneeling on Xena (she was much lighter than she looked, reflected the warrior), leaned down to get a better view of the side of Xena's head.
That's when Xena snapped.
'Gabrielle!' she barked. 'Get your- get your- get yourself out of my face!'
Xena knew she was turning bright red, but that didn't matter. All that mattered was getting Gabrielle off her, and in to some clothes, so that all these strange thoughts would disappear.
Gabrielle was obviously biting back laughter, but she obeyed Xena's wishes and stood up, grimacing as she accidentally swung her wrist.
Xena exhaled, the tension mostly leaving her body without the distraction of Gabrielle, small, sweet Gabrielle, her friend Gabrielle, naked, warm, pressed against her-
'SILENCE!' Xena shouted, sitting upright.
Gabrielle looked at her with narrowed eyes before making the decision not to ask.
Breathing hard, Xena got to her feet, dusting herself off and avoiding all eye contact with Gabrielle.
'Now change into your clothes, and we can get that wrist bandaged up.'
If Xena's voice was a little huskier than usual, that would only be because of the dust she inhaled as she crashed to the floor. Nothing to do with Gabrielle. Nothing at all.
'Ah, yes… Well, about that…'
The bard's cheery tone had a hint of apology about it, and Xena sighed, lifting her hand to her temple momentarily before lowering it. No amount of massage was going to get rid of this headache.
She spoke loudly, trying to obliterate the sound of her treacherous thoughts before they twisted that last sentence into something dirty and- and Gabrielle related,
'What is it now?'
Gabrielle bit her lip before answering.
'My clothes may have been blown away whilst I was bathing…'