DISCLAIMER: Xena Warrior Princess is the property of Renaissance Pictures and MCA.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Della Street
It was a fair deal, Xena realized, and that was the problem. Hiros wasn't known for being fair.
She stood silently in the center of the town that she had placed under her protection while the warlord, backed by two dozen or so half-decent examples of his cavalry, concluded negotiations with city representatives. If this deal went through, she would finally get some long-overdue rest and recreation. This treaty would forestall an all-out war, and had been helped along in part by Hiros's nagging suspicion that, if the Warrior Princess was sticking her nose into this, she must have an army, or at least access to one, somewhere nearby.
"There is one more demand which must be met."
Xena returned her attention to the warlord, recognizing the tone of someone who was about to get annoying.
"I think the pot needs a little sweetening." The words were spoken to the mayor, but Xena knew well who their intended recipient was. She waited to see where this was headed.
The councilman glanced at Xena, uncertain of what to say. "And what do you have in mind, sir? We have offered--"
"What you've offered is fine," Hiros interrupted. "But the Warrior Princess hasn't offered anything."
"All right," Xena said. "I'll ask it. What do you have in mind?"
Sneering at the ex-warlord who had humiliated him one too many times over the years, Hiros answered her question. "Last time we met, you took something that belonged to me," he growled. "Several somethings, actually."
Xena suppressed a smirk. She remembered the occasion well.
"Five of my slaves, including my concubine," Hiros continued. "So I'll take yours. "
"My what?" she asked evenly.
"Your concubine." He leaned forward in his saddle. "My scouts tell me you haul a little blonde bedwarmer around with you."
It was a shame that the blonde in question wasn't here to witness this, Xena pondered. That would be kind of fun. She stroked her chin thoughtfully.
Gabrielle's ears pricked up. Someone in this village sounded a lot like Xena.
She scanned the crowd slowly, trying to identify the voice. It was uncanny.
Her gaze landed on a pair of innocent-looking blue eyes in the center of the village square, and two blonde eyebrows went up a notch. Excuse me? Xena beckoned to her, and Gabrielle strolled over to the group.
"Honey bear," Xena began, "Hiros here would like you to go with him as part of this treaty." She met Gabrielle's inquiring expression with wide eyes. "I said I'd have to ask you."
The bard stared at her for a long moment, and then pursed her lips. "Like I wasn't busy," she snapped. "Like I've got nothing else to do besides be at your beck and call."
"No, Sweetie, it wasn't like that." Xena held out a hand apologetically. "Hiros just, you know, demanded that I hand you over to him. Or he'll cut everyone into pieces, you know, that sort of thing."
"Fine. Whatever." Gabrielle threw her hands up. "At least he'll probably treat me better than you do."
"Now, Gabs. . . ."
"Don't Gabs me." The bard turned to Hiros. "Are you a real warrior?"
"The best in all of Greece," he declared.
"Good. All I get from her" -- she jerked a thumb toward Xena -- "is 'Sorry I'm late for dinner, I was set upon by harpies,' or 'Sorry, the flowers kind of wilted from the heat of the molten lava.' I'm cooking her meals, washing bloodstains out of her leathers, scraping entrails off her sword, and how much appreciation do you think I get from the high-and-mighty Warrior Princess?"
Xena opened her mouth to reply, but Gabrielle held up a hand.
"Was I talking to you? " she asked.
"I am taking you to Mt. Olympus for our anniversary like you wanted," Xena offered hopefully.
"Ha -- anniversary of what?" Gabrielle snorted. "Of when you first started neglecting me?"
"Pumpkin. . . ." Xena chewed her lip. "I got you those hydra skins for your boots. . . ."
"Right." Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "A week after I asked for them."
"Well," Xena cringed, "I did have to climb that mountain to find the nest, and I had to fight Cerberus for them, and--"
'"I' this, 'I' that," Gabrielle interrupted. "With you, it's always I-I-I-I-I."
Xena slid an arm around the bard's waist, but Gabrielle jerked away from the embrace.
"Don't you even think of touching me!" she warned. "Not after you let that guy pinch my butt last week."
"But honey, I did cut off his hand--"
"One hand! And it wasn't even the one that pinched me."
"Well, I was going to do the other one," Xena said, " but, you know, his army was attacking me, and--"
"Hmph." Gabrielle waved a hand dismissively. "Same old excuses." Suddenly, her head whipped around, and she narrowed her eyes at one of the cavalrymen watching the exchange. "Are you looking at me?" She turned back to the Warrior Princess. "Xena."
"Gabrielle, honey. . . ." Xena stepped over to the rider and yanked him down from his horse. "I got those golden apples for your mother, remember?" She hammered a fist into the man's stomach. "And I paid extra for that warm bubble bath last night at the inn." She brought her knee up, and as he expelled a gust of air, she clamped her hand onto his face and shoved him to the ground.
"Lukewarm," Gabrielle corrected frostily. She watched as Xena returned to stand beside her. "That's it? After he looked at me that way?" She glared at the warrior. "Why don't you just let him rape me?"
"But. . . he didn't rape you, hon--"
"You don't care what happens to me."
"You know I do, Sweetbuns. What about last week, the king's guard. . . ?" She tentatively reached out again to the bard, but drew back her hand at a dangerous flash of green.
"Well, if you'd been able to figure out which one made that comment about my breasts, you wouldn't have had to kill all forty of them, would you?" Gabrielle replied tartly. "It doesn't matter now, anyway," she went on. "I guess I'm going with this guy."
Hiros stirred uncomfortably in his saddle.
"There's really nothing I can do about it, Sweetheart," Xena said. "Hiros doesn't believe I've changed my ways. He wants revenge."
Gabrielle pressed her lips together.
"I'll only be able to kill about half his army before he rides off with you," she continued, "and Hiros will gladly pay that price."
The warlord's riders exchanged glances.
"He wants to embarrass me," she explained, "so he'll keep you by his side day and night."
Looking down at the small blonde woman whose fists were planted firmly against her sides, Hiros frowned.
"He knows I'll spend the rest of my days hunting him down, waiting to slit his throat while he sleeps and steal you back, but that's the warrior's code."
"Uh. . . ." Hiros cleared his throat, and a moment passed before he said anything. "Er..., look, Xena, I'm an open-minded guy." He glanced at the bard again. "I'll, uh, accept your word that it's all in the past." He turned to the mayor. "It's a deal." Tugging on his mount's reins, Hiros quickly spurred the horse into a gallop, spewing dust and pebbles in his wake.
"Damn," Xena said as the retreating figures faded in the distance. She brought her finger and thumb close together. "This close."
"Ditto." Gabrielle sighed, then looked up at her tall companion. "So what are you going to give me for our anniversary, anyway?"
A suggestive smile crossed Xena's face. "Want a preview?"
"Don't even think of touching me," Gabrielle replied. "After calling me Sweetbuns in front of that overgrown--oof!"
Xena slung the bard over her shoulder.
"Don't even think of taking me to that hut to have your way with me," Gabrielle continued, the last few words staccatoed with the warrior's footfalls as they drew near the structure.
Xena swung the door open and strode inside the guest hut with her noisy haul.
"Don't even think of throwing me on that bed," the bard's muffled voice filtered through the wall.
The light impact of a body on a straw-filled mattress sounded a moment later.
"Don't even think of touching me there," the bard murmured. "No, there. . . ."
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