Disclaimers: Yeah, they STILL don't belong to me, and never will. But for some reason Xena and Gabrielle have decided to come play again, so I'm going with it. Thanks very much to the people who actually own them for letting me do so, without suing me. We appreciate it!
A Bard's Best Friend
5th in the Eternity Series
By T. Novan
"Xena!" Gabrielle shrieked with laughter as she dashed around Oikos in an attempt to evade the long arms and legs of her spouse. "Stop it!"
"Never!" Xena yelled playfully as she made her way up the ladder on the back of the wagon and stepped quickly over the roof to drop down to the ground in front of her partner, grabbing her up in a strong hug. "Gotcha!"
Xe ...!" Gabrielle's breath was coming in short bursts due to her laughter. Tears were ready to spill from her eyes as she managed to find a breath, "I surrender!"
"Now that." Xena's arms eased into a warm embrace as she pulled Gabrielle close to her body and nuzzled her neck. "Is more like it."
"Gods you're ornery." The Bard chortled as she melted into the other half of her soul.
"You're complaining?" The Warrior's head pulled back from the tender flesh under her lips.
"No," she shook her head, drawing Xena's head back to her neck. "Not a peep. Please continue."
"Well, lookie what we have here boys! Two bits of fluff ready to provide us with some fun."
The gruff, unfamiliar voice caused Xena to slowly draw her head up and give a bored look at the three bandits sitting atop horses in the road next to their campsite.
"I assume," Xena started after releasing a deep and completely annoyed breath. "That you fellas think you've stumbled onto something that will entertain you this morning?"
All three of the grungy men laughed and nodded.
The apparent leader offered a lecherous, mostly toothless grin as he grabbed his groin and eyed Gabrielle, "If she's fun enough for you, she should be fun for us. Bet she'd enjoy us more."
"Oh," Xena took a HUGE step back from Gabrielle and put her hands up over her head in total surrender, as she addressed the three idiots on the horses. "You picked that fight, now you deal with it. And I'd advise you to get off your horses and draw the sharpest damn thing you own. I'm assuming your wit will not be coming into play."
The men watched with amazement as the tall, fierce looking one went and leaned against the wagon with her arms crossed, leaving the small, fair looking one standing near the road looking as pissed as a harpy.
"You got this, right?" Xena inquired as Gabrielle squared her shoulders and allowed her head to roll in a way that let her neck crack like branches of a long dead tree.
"Oh, yeah!" The irritated Bard nodded as she pushed up her sleeves and gestured for the men to get off their horses. "Well? Are you going to sit there all day?" Just for extra effect, the brought her hands together, interlacing the fingers and flexing them outward, causing a cracking of her knuckles nearly as loud as that of her neck.
The leader of the men laughed to the point of doubling over. Finally, he managed to gesture for one of his compatriots to dismount and ‘handle' the girl.
"Ooooo," Xena grimaced as she watched the first of the morons connect his jaw with Gabrielle's fist and then his groin to her foot.
The Bard's blows dropped him to the ground with him trying to hold both body parts as he groaned.
Xena tried to be sympathetic, "That's gonna hurt all day today and most of tomorrow too. And it's gonna bruuuuise like you wouldn't believe! Whole new meaning for blue balls."
When idiot number two hit the ground at her feet, Xena offered sincerely, "Ice will make the swelling go down, but you're gonna need someone else to reset your nose."
Only when the Bard realized the wounded men were scrambling after their fleeing horses and leader, did Gabrielle finally start to calm down. "Come back here, you cowards! I've got more fun for you! Come on! You'll enjoy it!" she yelled, starting down the road after them, until a firm hand on her arm stopped her.
"Leave them be, Gabrielle. One ass kicking by a tiny blonde is more than anyone needs first thing in the morning."
The Bard turned, eyes flashing, her breath coming in short pants. Her fists were balled tight and her arms came up in reflex.
Xena took a step back, raised her hands, and said calmly, "Relax."
Gabrielle nodded, taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly. "Sorry," she shook her head. "It's been a while."
"I know." Xena grinned, taking a half step closer. "You okay?"
"Yeah." The Bard nodded and sighed again. "I'm good."
"Forgot what battle lust can do, didn't ya?"
Gabrielle nodded and made her way to the back of the wagon, where she used a ladle to take a long draw of water from one of the barrels. "I guess I had. I spent the last ten years just making my way back to Greece. I avoided fights and conflicts as best I could and when I did have to fight, I tried to ..."
"Use your head." Xena smirked and nodded. "I know. Just like I taught you."
"I forgot what it felt like to get the blood pumping like that."
"Felt good, didn't it?" Xena's brow rose in question, even though she expected she knew the answer.
"Yeah." Gabrielle nodded. "Good to know I haven't lost it."
"Come on." Xena wrapped her arm around the Bard's waist. "Let's fix some breakfast. I'll bet you're hungry."
"Now that you mention it, I could eat."
"Half a boar if the way you went after those bandits is any indication."
"Well, damn it, you know I hate to be underestimated."
Xena chuckled. "I know."
"And they always do."
"And you always kick their butts." Xena snorted her amusement.
"Someday, they'll learn." Gabrielle sighed.
"No, they won't, but that's okay; it's fun to watch you hurt them. Gabrielle, criminals are stupid. That's why they're criminals."
"You'd think I'd remember that."
"Nah." Xena shook her head. "When they come at you like that, you forget the details."
Gabrielle was settled at the table working on a scroll. Xena was lying back in their bed, just relaxing and watching her wife work.
"Recording your valiant victory of this morning?" The Warrior teased.
"No." A blonde head shook. "Writing about their humiliating ass kicking at the hands of a tiny blonde bard."
"Well, never let it be said that your scrolls aren't honest."
"Not sure they'll be amused if they ever read it."
"You're assuming they can read."
"Ouch. You know." Xena crossed her legs at the ankles and plumped the pillows under her head. "Not all bad guys are illiterate. I knew how to read by the time I was five."
Gabrielle shook her head, "You were never truly a bad guy."
Xena's laughter shook the wagon. "I wasn't? I think most of Greece and some other known parts of the world would disagree."
"No." The Bard moved from her table to crawl onto the bed, straddling Xena's waist. "You were a victim of circumstance. We both were."
Xena's hands began a slow and well known path up and down her partner's back. "Even now, you make excuses for me."
"It's not an excuse. It's the truth. You were forced onto that path, Xena. You didn't choose it. It was thrust upon you and it was easier at the time to go with it that to fight it. You had Ares promising you power and prestige and you were only a girl. He was the God of War; of course you were going to give into that. I would have given into that."
"No, you wouldn't have." Dark locks shook. "You're too damn good for that. Just because I drug you through the darkness, doesn't mean it's really a part of you."
"I followed you into that darkness. I embraced it. But that doesn't make it any less true that we were victims. The Gods played with us."
"And we survived and now we're free," Xena smiled.
"Yes, we are." Gabrielle leaned over and kissed her wife deeply. When she drew back, she traced her finger over Xena's lips as she offered, "And if I had to, I'd do it all over again to get us right here."
"Come to bed, Gabrielle."
"I did." She laughed as she felt her blouse being slid from her shoulders.
Gabrielle sort of, kind of, maybe heard a noise outside the caravan door. Or her sleepy brain thought she did. She mumbled into Xena's back, without ever actually gaining consciousness, "The dog is barking."
"Mmmm." A dark head nodded slightly, not really hearing what was said because its owner was mostly still asleep, too.
Quiet returned for a few minutes as the pair shifted and adjusted. Xena rolled over and pulled Gabrielle into her arms, rumbling something in her sleep as her chin came to rest on the top of Gabrielle's head.
The Bard heard it again, and sighed into Xena's throat this time. "The dog is barking."
"We don't have a dog." Xena finally managed to understand what was said and offered the obvious reply.
"Then why is there a dog barking outside?"
"It is possible it's someone else's dog you know?" Xena stretched, not really wanting to get up and check out, but knowing she should.
"And if someone else is out there ..." Gabrielle nodded, nuzzling the pillow Xena's head had just vacated.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm going." Xena stood, snagging a blanket to wrap around her naked body. This caused Gabrielle to yelp as her own body was left uncovered. "No complaints; it's warm in here and cold out there."
"I know." The blonde nodded, grabbing another blanket to pull over her. "Take your sword."
"For a dog?"
"And his six angry owners."
"Only six? I could use one of your quills for that."
"Then take a quill."
Xena snorted her amusement and unlocked the door. Opening it slowly, she did see a medium sized, mangy, dirty brown colored dog standing several yards back from the caravan, but looking directly at it and barking like mad.
The mutt was bouncing and barking. He would spin in circles and then stop and bark at the caravan again.
"Go on, get!" Xena yelled from the door. "People are trying to sleep, ya mutt!"
The dog barked harder and louder.
Xena stepped down from the caravan, then closed the door. Waving her arms, she tried to shoo the dog away. "Go on! We've got nothing for you! Get!"
The dog stopped barking and seemed to look past Xena, cocking its head slightly before starting to whine.
"What the ..." Xena turned around just in time to find what was causing the dog to sound the alarm. "Son of a Bacchae!"
The yell brought Gabrielle out of bed and to the door, not worrying or caring about her own nudity. "Xena!"
"Stay inside!" Xena commanded through the door. "It's a damn mama skunk and her four babies!"
"Oh, Xena, no," the Bard laughed as she barely cracked the door, then pulled it shut quickly when the odor assaulted her nostrils. "I'm so sorry!" She was howling now.
"Oh, it's hysterical," grumbled Xena from the other side.
"What are you going to do?"
"Make skunk skin slippers."
"Oh, Xena don't kill them!"
"You're joking, right?"
"Take them into the woods." The Bard called.
"Gabrielle I'm wrapped in a blanket here. She's backed up under the wagon next to the wheel. She's already sprayed me once. Do you think I stand a chance of picking her and her babies up?"
"You've already been sprayed once." Gabrielle reasoned.
It was very quiet for a few minutes until Gabrielle heard grumbling. Xena was crawling under the wagon, cursing very loudly with every inch she moved.
"I can't believe I let you kiss me with that mouth!" Gabrielle called through the floor as she followed the sound of Xena's movement under her feet.
"Says the one who whispers all the dirty things in my ear during sex." Xena yelled back. "Oh, Xena, take and make me c ... eeewwww!"
Gabrielle snorted and tried to cover her mouth to block the noise, knowing Xena must have gotten sprayed again. "I don't EVER recall any such conversation in our bedchamber there, Warrior Princess.
"Come here you rotten little bast- ..."
A hard, loud bang and another round of cursing indicated the Warrior had hit her head.
"I think we're going to have to move Oikos. The smell is starting to seep in."
"Well, while I drag this happy little bundle of misery off the to the woods you can do that."
Gabrielle opened a window to find a buck naked Xena holding the blanket in a knot, making a dash for the edge of the woods. She also noticed the mangy dog was bounding after her. She wrinkled her nose, knowing that being outside wasn't going to be pleasant, but inside was quickly becoming intolerable, too.
She dressed swiftly, and got on with the business of moving the wagon. Once she was happy with its new odorless placement, she opened the door and windows and began the airing out process. She also took the time to light a small bowl of herbs and sage to help purify the air.
Xena managed to make her way back a few minutes later. "The blanket was a loss. We'll have to get another one."
"Stop!" Gabrielle put her hand up. "I just got the wagon moved. You're not going in there to stink it up again."
"I need clothes."
"You need to get clean first." She tossed a rag and a skin of a special herb and oil concoction for just such an emergency. This wasn't the first time one of them had tangled with a skunk. "Go to the lake and scrub."
Xena came stomping back to the wagon nearly an hour later, clean, but cold and irritated beyond belief. She stopped in her tracks at the sight in camp.
The damn dog that had started this whole fiasco was in one of the large tubs she had procured from the wagon maker for the purpose of cleaning humans and clothes, getting a bath, with warm water being boiled over a fire!
"Oh, that's nice!" She gruffed as she came into camp. "How does he rate a hot bath?"
"Xena, he's a dog."
"And?" Xena went inside and grabbed a shirt, along with a pair of trousers. "Dogs can't be washed in a lake? If it's good enough for me, it should be good enough for him. He has fur for Gods sakes. Do you see any fur on this body?"
Gabrielle's brow went up, but she shook herself and decided against it. "I think you woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning."
"Getting skunk stunk before breakfast will do that." Once she was dressed, Xena settled in the doorway of the wagon and pulled her boots on.
"He's kinda cute," Gabrielle mused as she scrubbed the dirty dog. "Once you get past the crud. I think he may be white. What are we going to name him?"
Xena's head dropped with a groan. "Gabrielle," she warned.
"No, that won't do," the Bard teased. "I'm Gabrielle. It'll get confusing. Besides, he's, you know, a he."
"Do we need a dog?"
"We can't leave him here?"
"Why not? Here is where he found us. Maybe he's got a den somewhere. Maybe he's got a wife and puppies. If you take him, you might be dognapping."
The dog chose that very moment to lay his big head on Gabrielle's shoulder, as he stared at Xena. "Awww," the Bard cooed as she scrubbed his neck.
"He's sucking up, Gabrielle." The Warrior's eyes narrowed when she thought she saw the dog stick his tongue out at her. "Are you sure it's really a dog? You know what dog is backwards?"
Gabrielle pulled back from her furry, sudsy canine friend and looked at his face. "Nope, just a dog."
"How can you be so sure?" Xena was not convinced.
"I can see his soul in his eyes." She gave him a gentle pat to his head and down his back as she rinsed his fur. "He's just a dog."
"And now he's our dog, huh?"
"We've never had a dog before. An experiment, remember? If it doesn't work, we'll find some nice family in the next village and leave him there."
Xena surrendered. "Lobo."
"His name. He kind of looks like a wolf, you should call him Lobo."
"Oh, that's nice!" Gabrielle nodded, satisfied. "Good choice."
"Welcome to the family, Lobo."
"He's not allowed on the bed."
"Don't ‘aww, Xena' me. I get to set some rules too."
"Okay," the Bard nodded. It was understandable. "Not on the bed. Anything else?"
"No." She shook her head and smiled. "I'm glad he makes you happy. I think he'll be good to have around. He did try to warn us about the skunks."
"It would have been more helpful if he'd been able to yell, ‘Skunks under the wagon'," Gabrielle tormented as she stood and let Lobo out of the tub.
The dog immediately moved near Xena and shook out his fur, drenching her from head to toe in the smell of wet dog.
"Aww Hades' Helmet, Gabrielle!"
"Lobo! No!" She pulled the dog away from Xena and threw a rough cloth over him to dry him off. "I'm sorry."
"I don't think he likes me."
"Maybe he just has a thing for blondes."
"Couldn't fault his taste on that," Xena chuckled as she retrieved a sharpening stone and a couple of their small cooking knives from a drawer. She had noticed the edges had worn away. As she settled back down in the doorway, she gestured to the dog. "You should train him."
As she finished rubbing his fur dry, Gabrielle stood and commanded, "Sit."
Lobo's butt hit the ground, his tail thumping.
"Good boy! Lay down."
He immediately lay down, his big, brown eyes never leaving Gabrielle.
"Seems he's got the basics," Xena nodded, pleased. He didn't actually seem like a bad dog. She would get used to him.
"Yes, it does." Gabrielle nodded as well, happy with his performance. "Okay, now that everyone is clean and not making my eyes water, what would you like for breakfast?"
"Whatever you two go catch." Xena gestured to the forest. "I've done my bit for home and hearth today. But be careful; there's an irritated mama skunk out there somewhere."
"We can do that!" Gabrielle grinned as she retrieved a bow and quiver from a storage bin on Oikos. "Back in a bit." She leaned over and kissed Xena. "Try to stay out of trouble, Stinky."
"Will do my best."
"Come on, Lobo." Gabrielle called and the dog happily bounded after her, his tongue hanging out of his mouth.
Xena could only smile and shake her head as she watched them go. From a safety stand point, it didn't hurt that Gabrielle seemed to have bonded with the dog right away. He was clearly her chosen companion. The Warrior suspected her wife now had a new, fierce protector. She just smiled as she continued sharpening the knives.
Less than an hour later, Xena's head came up when she heard Lobo crashing out of the woods, barking happily. She saw Gabrielle emerge, a small doe slung over her shoulders as she and her dog made their way back to camp.
"Hey, you two make a great team! That was quick. You get to do all the big hunts now." Xena stood and met them, taking the deer that had been field dressed and was ready to be skinned so the meat could be prepared.
"He was wonderful, Xena! He spotted her and made sure he didn't let her get away. I got her in the lung with a good, clean shot and he ran her down."
"I'm glad. Guess he's going to earn his keep."
"Oh, yeah," Gabrielle nodded. "I saved the liver and kidneys for you because I know you like them, but he already got the heart."
"Seems fair." Xena nodded as he retrieved a rope so she could hang the carcass. "This meat will last us for a few weeks."
Xena quickly and proficiently skinned the deer, making sure the hide was properly put away until she would have time to tan it. Then the meat was butchered and prepared for smoking.
Lobo was happy to sit a few feet away and snap scraps from the air tossed to him as Xena readied the meat. She figured it was a good way to earn his trust and bond with him.
Gabrielle was already in bed by the time Xena opened the door and entered the wagon. The Bard smiled happily as Xena waited and gestured for Lobo to enter the caravan.
"Now be good and lay down," The Warrior told the dog, who found a spot under the table and curled into a ball. "Good boy."
Xena sat down on the edge of the bed and removed her boots. She yawned as she stripped out of her clothes, then she had a good stretch.
Gabrielle always enjoyed this part of Xena's nightly routine. She considered it her own private show. She just laid back and watched that perfectly sculpted body, move and stretch. The muscles rippling slightly with each turn and pivot. She lay there, watching, feeling that fire ignite in her gut. To be this helplessly, hopelessly in love with someone must be a mental illness. The thought made her snicker and Xena turned to face her.
"Something funny?" Xena looked her own body up and down. "Did I sprout something I should know about?"
"No," Gabrielle's head shook as she threw aside her covers to reveal her own naked form to her partner. She crooked her finger, as she smiled and slowly, very slowly began spreading her legs. "I've got something for you." She winked.
Xena's nostrils flared at the sight before her. She joined Gabrielle on the bed, slowly bringing her body directly on top of her spouse. Her body was physically jolted by both the feel of the warmth and the sound of Gabrielle's breathless moans as their bodies came together.
It didn't take long. It never did for them. Within minutes they were caressing, craving, desiring, demanding, giving and taking from each other. Their moans, coupled with the occasional groan or deep chested grunt, added to the level of ardor in the little cottage on wheels.
Lobo's head came up, ears perked, he listened when there was a growl that made him growl in response. He stayed low and crawled out from under the table.
"OUCH!" Xena yelled, as she yanked her foot away from the end of the bed.
Gabrielle's erotic haze vanished like smoke in a heavy wind as Xena bolted upright in bed.
"He bit my foot!" Xena grabbed the extremity in question and inspected it to make sure all her toes were accounted for. "He bit me! LOOK!" She twisted her torso, and shoved her foot in Gabrielle's face.
"Yes." Gabrielle nodded as she looked at the barely pink mark on the top of Xena's foot. "I see that horrible wound. Are you going to live or should we amputate?"
"He bit me!"
"That..." She pushed Xena's foot from her face. "Is a nibble at best."
Gabrielle climbed from the bed and looked down at the dog. He looked to her with what could only be described as puppy love in his big brown eyes.
"She will turn you into both a rug and stew," Gabrielle warned. "Now go lay down and be good or I'll put you out myself."
Lobo's head cocked and he moved to a spot near the door when Gabrielle pointed for him to find a spot to lie down. He did manage to snort his displeasure as he laid down.
The Bard turned to Xena, who was still trying to milk the ‘bite', for all it was worth. She was still counting toes and mumbling, "I can't believe he bit me."
"Want me to kiss it and make it better?" Gabrielle chuckled.
"Yeah!" Xena stuck her leg straight out, her foot once again a hairs width from Gabrielle's face. She wiggled her toes. "Kiss it and make it better! Your damn dog bit me!"
Gabrielle gently took Xena's foot and placed a tender kiss to the top where the pink marks still stood out. "Better?"
"Getting there." Xena nodded.
"Oh, look." Gabrielle's hand and fingers traced up Xena's calf. "It looks like he bit you here, too."
Her lips followed with another gentle kiss. "Anywhere else?"
"Umm, right here?" Xena pointed to a spot on her inner thigh.
"Oh, yeah." Gabrielle's head bobbed. "I see that now." Her lips dropped down again.
"And right here?" Xena's trembling fingers grazed the spot where her right leg and torso met.
"Mmmm." Gabrielle nodded again, taking a deep breath. The scent of Xena's arousal sent a fire flashing through her veins. "And just slightly to the right, too," the Bard whispered as her head dipped down, causing Xena's body to convulse and arch into her.
"Gods, Gabrielle!" Xena's hand found the back of Gabrielle's head, her fingers tangled in silky locks. "I love you!"
Once she was sure the Warrior's egregious wound had been properly kissed into obscurity, for the time being at least, Gabrielle stretched out along her partner's lanky frame. "Better?"
"Un-huh." Xena nodded, her arms wrapping around her mate. "Thank you."
"Making love with you isn't a hardship, Xena," Gabrielle offered as she settled down on her wife's shoulder. "Never was. Never will be."
(Scientific Note: Yes, we know skunks do not live in Europe and are not found in Greece. But this is fiction – and Xena fan fiction at that!)
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