DISCLAIMER: All characters and their backgrounds mentioned in this story which are also present in the television show Xena: Warrior Princess are the sole property of MCA/Renaissance Pictures and the author intended no copyright infringement. All other characters not already owned belong to the author and copyright laws apply. This story cannot be archived without permission from the author. If permission has been granted, this complete disclaimer must be attached along with any other general notes and warnings.
NOTE: I wrote this one just because I liked that scene in The Furies :) And because Argo doesn't get nearly enough exposure these days.
What Some Will Do For An Apple
Two women walk along a dirt road. The taller of the two, a warrior dressed in dark brown leather and bronze armour, leads a golden palomino horse while the other woman, carrying an Amazon staff, walks beside her, pointing off into the distance as she speaks.
"To that tree over there. The one with "Gabrielle wins" written on it."
"Where? Oh, yeah, the tree that's right after the one that has "Xena wins again" on it, huh? I see." She chuckles as her companion narrows her green eyes at her. "Okay, so what do you get if you win?"
"Um," she puts a finger to her lips as the thinks. Suddenly, a thought pops into her head and she grins mischievously, her eyes lighting up. "If I win," she says slowly, "you have to sing for me tonight." She thinks about that, then changes her mind quickly. "No, actually. If I win, you have to sing for me every night this week. And," she adds, silencing Xena's protests, "you have to collect firewood for ... oh, I'll be nice and say ... for three days."
"Fine then. Singing for one week, and collecting firewood for three days. But, if I win," she gives her friend a cunning grin, "you have to tell the next village," she pauses for effect, "three stories where you are the hero."
"What?! But I can't think of three! That's not fair, Xena." She pouts but the warrior only chuckles.
"I can think of many and I know you can too."
"Okay, fine then. Three stories with me as the hero. Can I at least mention something that you've done?"
"No, it's all you, you, you," she replies, tapping her friend's nose on the last three words and grinning.
"Okay. But for that, I get a head start and you can't do any flipping or gravity defying acts. All right? Just plain good old-fashioned running," she notices the look on Xena's face and adds, "on feet only."
"Fine with me. And no cheating this time, my bard." She gives Gabrielle a look and the bard nods in agreement.
"Fine." The two women stop walking and Gabrielle takes three rather exaggerated steps ahead. Each woman prepares themselves and the bard counts. "Ready ... set ... go." The two women take off down the path, leaving a confused Argo behind, who snorts and shakes her head as her master starts to catch up to Gabrielle.
"Oh no you don't," laughs Gabrielle as Xena comes up beside her. She reaches out and grabs hold of one of the warrior's leather strips that makes up her skirt.
"Hey!" Xena cries out as she is pulled back a few paces behind the now laughing bard. "Two can play at that game," she mumbles as she catches up once again and grabs hold of the back of Gabrielle's top. She hangs on as the bard struggles to get free, crying out loudly as the destination nears.
Argo becomes caught up in the excitement and she gallops over to the end tree, watching intently to see who passes it first. The women come closer, each grabbing and pulling at the other. Finally they pass the finish line and realise that they could not tell who won. Xena turns to Argo.
"Okay, girl. Who won?" Both women smile at the horse, who whinnies softly and takes a step toward the winner, nuzzling at Gabrielle's body.
"What?!" Xena cries out in surprise.
"I guess that means I won," the bard laughs, patting Argo's nose.
Xena sighs and looks off into the horizon -- the sun is setting. "I guess that means I've gotta go and get some firewood." She gives the horse and bard the "look" before walking into the woods.
Gabrielle chuckles to herself and reaches into her top, where Argo keeps nuzzling. She looks around for a second, then pulls out an apple! She hands it to the horse who gulps it down eagerly. "Good girl, Argo. I knew you'd help me out." She laughs and readjusts her top. "Kinda feels all airy in there now. I hope Xena doesn't notice the slight ... change in size." She pats Argo once more before walking off to find a good spot to camp.
Xena returns after a while with her arms full of kindling and some larger logs. She plops the load down onto the ground and prepares the fire. When a strong flame is burning, she rises and turns to leave the camp.
"Where are you going?"
"Well, we've gotta eat," Xena chuckles as she heads off towards the nearby stream.
Gabrielle smiles and looks at Argo who's busy cropping a patch of grass a few meters away. "I knew we'd find some common ground my horsey friend." Argo whickers softly and the bard giggles.
"What's so amusing?" Xena asks as she returns to the camp, holding a couple of large fish.
"Oh, nothing. Those fish look great!"
When the two women finish dinner, they prepare to go to bed. As they lie in their bedrolls, Gabrielle looks over at her friend who has a rather uncomfortable expression on her face.
"You know, you don't have to sing if you really don't want to," the bard says softly, placing a hand on Xena's arm.
The warrior blinks and turns her head to the woman lying beside her. "Oh, no, it's not that. I was just having trouble thinking of a song to sing. There's one I know from my childhood, but I can't remember all the words."
"Well, why don't you just sing the ones you do. Sometimes when I don't remember all of a story, starting it helps me to remember." She smiles as Xena nods her head.
"Well, okay then." She licks her lips and takes a breath. Her voice rings out in the night, each note perfectly in tune and crystal clear as she sings of a child and the hero she idolises. The song tells how the child finally meets her hero when he saves her from drowning in a river. Gabrielle closes her eyes and pictures the story in her mind as Xena sings, remembering all the words and putting so much feeling into the performance, that the bard can almost feel herself becoming part of the story. As the song comes to a climax, Gabrielle opens her eyes and watches Xena as the warrior sings with her eyes closed and her hands resting on her stomach.
"That was beautiful," Gabrielle whispers when the warrior finishes singing. "I've never heard you sing like that before."
"It was a song my mother used to sing to me whenever I had a nightmare," Xena replies quietly. She turns her face towards her friend and smiles. "I haven't sung that song in many, many years. Thank you." Her smile changes slightly and she adds, "Even if you did cheat."
Gabrielle almost chokes as her breath catches in her throat. She has to sit up as she coughs and the warrior chuckles, patting her on the back and handing her a waterskin.
"How did you know?" the bard is finally able to ask.
"I saw the apple when Argo nuzzled you." Her blue eyes sparkle and her friend blushes. "It's okay. I'm glad you two are getting along." She grins and lies back down, closing her eyes.
"One day I'll win, Xena. One day when you least expect it." Gabrielle sighs and lies down, missing the amused look that passes over the warrior's face.
"G'Night Xena. G'Night Argo ... at least we tried." Gabrielle smiles as the palomino whickers softly in understanding.
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