Disclaimers: Standards apply. Copyright belong to MCA/Universal. This is a work of fan fiction, no infringement is intended.

Subtext: The only thing I know how to write.

Violence: Only, just a little.

Language: There is mild language in this one.

Sex: Mentioned. Nothing really graphic.

Joxer Content: What’s a comedy without Joxer. Come on guys he’s the little brother character they have to have just to keep Xena on her toes. <G>

Spoilers: There is a reference to Been There, Done That.

Comments: Are always welcomed at TNOVAN@aol.com

This one came to us after we had been up far too long and were sleep deprived.


By T. Novan

With G. Tibet & C.A.T



Part One

Gabrielle wrapped up the bread and cheese in a small cloth and handed it to the old man. "Are you sure you won't stay here with us tonight?" She asked as he took the small bundle.

"No lass, but thank ye' all the same. I'll just be on my way. It's not far to my brother's cabin. I should be there before it gets much darker. I do thank you for all your kindness though. A place to rest for a bit, a little food and the gentle company of a beautiful young woman." He patted her hand and smiled.

Gabrielle smiled back, that great big infectious smile she had when she got the opportunity to talk with someone new. Xena just sat on a rock and watched the two with a bemused smile as she ate some fresh rabbit stew. The bard and Dardin, as he had become known to them, had spent the entire day talking and telling each other stories. The old man had joined them on the road after Xena had saved him from a couple of road bandits who thought it virtuous to rob an old man. He had traveled from the Emerald Isle to visit his brother and had nearly made it when he ran into the thugs.

Gabrielle of course had been more than happy to offer the protection of a certain warrior princess for the rest of his trip. Xena just groaned from atop her position on Argo and proceeded down the road with the two of them trailing behind talking and laughing.

Xena had decided to make camp early that day. Argo had a loose shoe and she needed time to fix it before it got dark. So with camp set up she went off to tend to Argo leaving the bard and her new found friend to continue their nonstop exchanges. First he'd tell a story and then the bard would, back and forth, it had been like that all day and the warrior needed some peace and quiet. As evening settled in and with Argo's shoe repaired Xena returned to the camp. On the edge of camp she stopped to watch them for a moment.

Gabrielle sat mesmerized as Dardin told her another tale. Her eyes never left his face as her hand unconsciously stirred the stew with a wooden spoon. "And that's how leprechauns came to be on the Emerald Isle." Dardin finished his tale and sat back, satisfied that he had finally topped the little bard.

Xena on the other hand, just dropped her head and shook it from side to side when she heard the word leprechauns. "You have no idea what you have started for me here tonight, old man." She mumbled to no one in particular as she made it the rest of the way into camp. "So what smells so good?" She asked as she knelt down next to Gabrielle and looked into the pot.

"Rabbit stew." Gabrielle answered with a hint of fear in her voice. She looked up at Xena and tried to smile. "It's ready if you’re hungry."

"Oh I'm hungry all right, but let me wash up first I smell like sweaty horse." A protest could be heard from Argo in the distance. "Sorry!" Xena called over her shoulder and made her way to the stream to clean up a little.

When she returned Dardin was preparing to leave. She took her stew and took her perch on top of the rock to watch them. She ate as they said goodbye to each other. The old man gave Gabrielle a hug and turned to Xena. Slowly he approached her as she lowered the bowl.

"Thank you again warrior. I owe you a great debt." He said quietly.

"You've made Gabrielle very happy today, you owe me nothing." She said with a smile. "Are you sure you won't stay the night?"

"No I'll be fine. My brother is expecting me."

"So be it. Be careful Dardin."

The old man left the camp and Xena returned to the fire to be with Gabrielle. The bard smiled at her as she ate her own stew. She chewed for a moment, then, "Xena...?"

"No, Gabrielle there are no leprechauns in Greece." She said with a smile without looking at the bard.

"Are you..."

"I'm sure." They ate in silence. A smile played on the lips of the warrior as the brow of the bard showed her worry. 'I know I'm gonna go straight to Tartarus for this, but...' thought Xena as she picked her next words carefully. "There can't be leprechauns in Greece Gabrielle..."

She looked over at Xena. "Why not?"

Trying desperately to hold back the smile that wanted to break through. "Because in Greece we have gremlins." She turned her head and smiled as her body shook slightly with silent laughter.

"What? We have what?"

Xena choked back the smile and the laughter and continued. "Gremlins Gabrielle we have gremlins in Greece."

"What's a gremlin?"

Xena cleared her throat and put on her best straight face before turning to the bard. "Don't know for sure. I've never actually seen one," fighting back the smile "They're invisible you know."

"No I didn't know. I didn't even know we had gremlins."

"Yeah, yeah. I've been told that they're about so high," She held her thumb and forefinger apart about the length of her index finger. "Long ears, round little heads, squat little bodies, two arms, two legs..."

"Xena you're joking. You're playing with me now...right?"

"No I'm serious that's what I've been told about gremlins."

Suddenly the bard realized the warrior was teasing her. The warrior knew she had been caught and she released the laughter that she had worked so hard to control. She threw her head back and gasped for air as she tried to stop. She wrapped her arms around her stomach as another fit over took her when she looked at the not too amused look on Gabrielle's face. "I'm sorry...Gabrielle...I just...couldn't..."

"Oh I get it now," The bard moved to the warrior and poked her in the chest. "Gremlins <poke> are <poke> like <poke> snipes <poke>!"

Another fit of laughter erupted from the warrior as she thought of Gabrielle's snipe hunting expedition from the spring.

The warrior had initially meant for it to be a tracking lesson, but after a couple mugs of stiff ale and a little encouragement from Autolycus the bard was in the middle of the forest with a sack waiting for the warrior and the thief to flush out the snipes.

The warrior and the thief had of course returned to the inn and had a couple more mugs of ale...and a nice dinner. It was only when the innkeeper had started to stack the chairs for the night that the drunken duo decided to go rescue the bard.

Unfortunately for them she found them first. She was not a happy bard, not at all. She was limping ever so slightly and appeared to be missing a boot, it was difficult to tell because of the mud caked on her legs from the knees down. She still had the sack...

As they approached her on the road they tried desperately to hide their intoxicated state, with little success. Their giggles pretty much gave them away and if that didn't the odor certainly did.

"So this is your idea of a joke huh Xena." Gabrielle growled as she approached them. "Not funny Xena. Not one damned bit."

Xena tried to look apologetic, but with Autolycus standing next to her giggling to himself it just wasn't possible. She just tried to hide the grin on her face and nod her apology. It didn't go over well with the bard, who took it as confirmation of her last statement.

As the bard began to rant they tried to regroup and behave in an effort to soothe her. "So tell me Xena what other childish things do you enjoy doing to your best friend?"

The things that flashed through the warrior's mind at that moment weren't childish, as a matter of fact they were down right adult.

Xena's body had to release some of the energy that had built up during the last few moments and a burst of air and laughter forced itself from her lungs, which only served to coat the bard's right side in a fine mist of spit. With this, both guilty parties were rolling with laughter again. Xena reached out a tentative hand to dry the bard off.

"I'm...sorry Gabrielle..." She said with a giggle.

Gabrielle slapped the offending hand away. "Don't touch me." She snatched a scarf that was hanging around the thief's neck and wiped her arm off.

"Heeyyy..." He protested. "I...ha..had...to give good di..di..di..money for that!"

"Yeah," The warrior agreed. "Took...took himmmm...half...a can...candle...mark...to get her att...atten...tion." she said with a grin and a nudge to the thief.

"So basically while I've been out in the middle of the cold, bug infested forest in mud up to my knees... missing my dinner and holding your damned sack...you two have been at the tavern drinking and carousing with barmaids."

"Pretty much." Autolycus offered. Before he realized what had happened, he found himself enveloped in total darkness as the bard crammed the sack over his head and torso. To drunk to extract himself he fell to the ground and wrestled with the bag with very little success.

Xena was about to offer him a hand when Gabrielle's stare caught her. Like a deer trapped by a bright light, she couldn't move. Even as her friend continued to struggle, the enraged bard held her full attention. She sobered up pretty quickly. Never taking her eyes off Gabrielle she slowly reached down and groped around until she found Autolycus and helped him up. She slid the bag off his head and handed it to him with out a word. At this point he knew they were both in big trouble.

The realization of how her last joke had ended almost made her want to stop this one. Almost, but not quite...

"Gabrielle, honey relax." The warrior pulled the bard into her arms. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to tease you."

Gabrielle relaxed into the warrior and sighed. "You think it's funny don't you. That I'm that easy..."

Xena placed her fingers over Gabrielle's mouth and stopped the flow of words. "Sweetheart I don't think of you as easy. Sometimes I just like to have a little fun. I really am sorry. I won't do it anymore. I promise." She placed a soft and gentle kiss on the bard's lips and the thoughts of gremlins were gone from both minds.

As the evening became night they played with each other as lovers do, touching slightly here, a gentle caress there, a soft kiss when the other would least expect it. By the time they were ready for bed they had managed to ignite fires for each other that just demanded to be put out.

Gabrielle slipped under the covers next to Xena. Her naked form curling up next to the warrior's own nude body. "Hmmmm," She murmured. "This feels so good."

"Yes it does." Xena agreed as she pulled the bard on top of her and kissed her. Gabrielle's body wasted no time in becoming one with the warrior's.

They made love. It was passionate. It was tender. It was glorious. It was theirs and only theirs. They would happily share everything else they had with the entire world if need be, but this belonged to them and only them. This was when they became one with each other. As close to a whole as the two halves could be.

"Ohhhhh Gods...Xena..." Gabrielle moaned into the night air as her body arched and crested from the powerful orgasm that shook her entire being. She fell back into the bedroll as Xena rejoined her and took her into her arms, holding her as close as her body would allow.

"Am I forgiven?" The warrior whispered as Gabrielle's head came to rest in its usual spot on Xena's shoulder.

"Yes. Gods yes." The bard whispered into the shoulder as she placed little kisses on the bare flesh.

Xena smiled as she felt the bard fall into a deep slumber. She kissed her love on the forehead and fell gently with her.


Part Two

Gabrielle opened her eyes slowly at first. The very early rays of morning sunlight were just beginning to creep into the dark sanctuary of their campsite. She wasn't sure why she was awake this early. It certainly wasn't the norm for her. Most mornings Xena had to threaten her with a cold splash of water to get her up from their bedroll. It was especially difficult when they had shared such a wonderful night, like the one of last.

There. That was the reason. There was something crawling around in the bedroll. Gabrielle could feel it running on top of the blankets. Sleeping outside as much as she and Xena did they had become accustomed to sharing their bedroll with the occasional small critter trying to stay warm so she really wasn't alarmed. More than anything she was amazed that it hadn't woken Xena first, generally she woke at the very first sign of something amiss.

Gabrielle still wrapped in the protective arms of her warrior had no great desire to know what little pest had decided to join them. She had determined from its first movement that it was not a snake and that's all that really mattered to her. She closed her eyes and tried to return to the realm of Morpheus. For a very short time she was successful, then her eyes opened again. This time she saw it.

It was crouched down on Xena's other shoulder leaning on it's haunches, staring at Gabrielle. It's tiny hands resting on its thighs and it's little ears laid back. The scream woke the warrior...

For Xena it felt as if someone had grabbed the bard and jerked her free from her embrace. Then there was that blood-curdling scream as the cool air assaulted hot flesh where the bard had been sleeping so peacefully all night. Gabrielle's screams continued to cut through the air as Xena bolted to her feet, sword in hand looking for the bastard that dare bring this kind of fear into the life of the woman she loved. Her balance was slightly off due to the ringing in her ear from the first scream that had been torn from Gabrielle. She stumbled slightly, but recovered very quickly to see the only other person in the campsite was the bard. She turned a full circle a few more times before beginning to relax.

As Gabrielle screamed and bolted away from the warrior, the bard watched as the tiny figure was hurled forward into a patch of high grass when the warrior sat upright in response to the screams. She would even swear later that she heard a tiny thump and a groan as it hit the ground. She tried to keep her eyes glued to the spot where she thought it had landed. She grabbed her staff and headed for the patch of grass poking into the suspected area with the end of the trusty staff. She was past screaming now. Now she was just frightened and cold. She continued to poke at the grass even as she felt Xena's hand on her shoulder.

"Gabrielle what in Tartarus was that all about?" She asked as she placed a hand on the prodding staff and took it from the bard. She pulled her into a gentle embrace and led her back to the blankets where she draped them around the shivering bard. She reached above the bedroll and retrieved her cloak and tossed it over her own shoulders to ward off the morning chill. "Gabrielle what's wrong?"

"I saw it Xena." She stammered through chattering teeth.

Xena turned and began to rebuild the fire so she could get some hot tea into her chilled lover. "Saw what?" She asked as she continued to tend to the fire.

"A gremlin."

Xena stopped, thanking the Gods her back was to the bard as the smile crossed her lips. She didn't even want to turn around right now. "Gabrielle you know there's no such thing. You saw a mouse or some other little critter that just wanted to get warm." She answered as she bit back a giggle.

"I know what I saw. It was just like you said. It even had little floppy ears. Kinda like a rabbit."

The snort that erupted from the warrior gave her away and the bard gave her a shove. "Laugh at me will ya'. I'm telling you Xena it's over there in the grass." Another snort and another shove. "Damn it will you at least quit laughing at me long enough to go over there and check."

Xena cleared her throat and stood and walked over to the spot the bard had been poking with the staff. She knelt down and very thoroughly ran her hands in and over the area. Satisfied that there was nothing there she turned back to the bard and shrugged. "Nothing." She said as she stood and returned to the campfire. "Gabrielle it must have been a dream." She said as she knelt before the bard and took her hands into her own. She brought the bard's cold hands to her mouth and blew warm air onto them. Without breaking eye contact she just gently rubbed the flesh to warm it.

Gabrielle drew a deep breath, closed her eyes and nodded in agreement. "A dream. It must have been a dream." Feeling a little embarrassed and ashamed she opened her eyes and still found the warrior watching her. "I'm sorry Xena."

"It's my fault Gabrielle. I never should have teased you last night." Xena softly kissed the bard's hands and returning to the task of making tea. She poured water from a skin into a pot and set it to boil while she got the leaves and the supplies for the morning meal from the saddlebags. "Not much left here. We're gonna have to pick up some supplies in the next village. We've got a couple apples, some cheese, bread." She paused "Would you like me to go catch some fish for breakfast?"

"No it's too cold for you to be in knee deep water trying to grab a slimy fish. This will be fine." Gabrielle said as she reached for the food stuffs and began to prepare them. "I think there's some stew left from last night if you want something hot." She said as she added the leaves to the water.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw movement. She turned her head slowly to see two little ears sticking out over a small log that lay just a few feet away. She looked the other direction to see Xena getting dressed. She wanted to say something, but there were no words. She wouldn't put herself through that humiliation again. She took a small piece of bread and tossed to the other side of the log. It landed far enough away that old long ears was going to have to go out and retrieve it if he wanted it. She watched the bread intently, waiting. Glancing over at the two little ears that twitched behind the wooden barrier.

"Come on you want it." She whispered. "You know you want it. Gremlin's gotta eat too." She watched as the little creature moved away from the log towards the bread. She mused about how cute he was really. Long ears that swayed back and forth, little hands that seemed to only have three fingers, solid feet that didn't appear to have any toes. Long ears picked up the bread and appeared to be smelling it. Then he took a bite. Gabrielle smiled as she leaned forward to get a closer look.

She watched him eat the bread. He watched her too. Tiny little black eyes focused on her as she crept closer. She tore off a small piece of cheese and held it out in front of her. Long ears sniffed the air. He crammed the last of the bread into his mouth and took a tiny step forward.

Xena had finished dressing and looked over to see her bard edging toward something that she couldn't see, with the blankets draped over her like a tent. She took two long steps forward, "What in the name of Zeus are you doing?" The warrior asked.

"Feeding the gremlin." She replied without even turning around to look at the warrior.

Xena just slapped her hand over her eyes, shook her head and drug her hand down her face as she drew a deep breath and left her nails to scratch her throat and neck. She splayed her fingers over her mouth as she spoke. "Gabrielle..."

"Come here and look at him if you don't believe me."

Xena took a step forward and peered over the bard's shoulder. The empty ground before her told the warrior what she needed to know. "Okay Gabrielle I get it. Pay backs are a bitch."

Gabrielle tossed the cheese to the long eared little guy and turned to look at Xena. "Pay backs? Xena what are you talking about it's right there." She jerked her thumb over her shoulder.

"Gabrielle there's nothing there."

The bard turned around and he was shoving the last of the cheese into his mouth. "Xena it's right there! Can't you see it?"

"No Gabrielle I can't see it, but hey I'm the one who said they were invisible remember."

"Xena he's right there eating a piece of cheese."

"Gremlins like cheese do they?" Xena said as she smiled and turned back to the campfire.

"Well apparently they do." The bard replied indignantly as she got to her feet and walked over to the campfire. She watched as her long eared little friend made his way towards the log and climbed over it. He slowly moved toward Gabrielle, keeping his eyes on Xena. "You scare him." Gabrielle said quietly to her warrior as she slowly sat down. She didn't want to frighten it off.

"Smart little gremlin isn't he." Xena teased as she poured the tea. She handed the bard a cup. "How do you know it's a he?"

"Just a feeling." Long ears moved closer to Gabrielle and sniffed the air.

"Does your little friend want some tea?" The warrior asked with a grin and a chuckle. "No wait we left our teeny tiny tea cup in our other saddlebags. Sorry." Xena's laughter came freely now.

Gabrielle noticed that long ears seemed to droop a little when Xena began laughing. He kicked the ground at his feet and turned and walked away. "Aw great now you hurt his feelings. He's leaving."

With tears streaming down her cheeks from laughing Xena sat down to put her boots on. She slipped them on, but stopped long enough to wipe the tears from her cheeks. She looked at the bard who was not amused.

"You know Xena I'm hurt that you don't believe me. How much do we have to go through before you take me at my word?"

"All right Gabrielle this has gone on long enough. You and I both know there's no such thing as gremlins." And with that as her final word on the subject, Xena stood up, brushed imaginary dirt from her leathers. With her held high, she started to take a step only to pitch forward, landing flat on her face. She looked down and found that the laces of her boots had been tightly knotted together. She looked over at the bard, who sat with her chin resting on her fist, just watching.

"You were saying..." The bard said triumphantly.

Xena rolled over, sat up and growled, "I don't know how you did that, but it wasn't funny." She said as she picked at the knotted laces.

"Oh I give up!" Gabrielle growled back as she stood up and returned to the bedroll for her clothes. She dressed quickly and sat down to put her own boots on. Long ears popped up in front of her and stood between her feet. "That wasn't nice." She whispered as she laced her boots. Long ears lowered his eyes and shifted back and forth. "You understand don't you?" He raised his head and gave her a little gremlin smile and nodded. "Well then you're going to have to behave. You can't afford to make her mad."

Xena looked over at Gabrielle and watched her talk to her feet. 'We've been on the road too long. She needs a rest' Xena thought as she finished lacing up her boots. "Ah, Gabrielle..." She said softly, trying not to startle her obviously road weary, reality challenged lover. "Whaddya say we get a room in the next village and take a couple days off."

Gabrielle looked over at Xena. She was still upset with the warrior and it still showed. She tried not to sound as irritated as she felt. "I'd like that."

"Okay then. When we get to Onlet, we'll get a room and just relax for a couple of days. Maybe you can do a little shopping...I can get Argo's shoes fixed up properly..." Xena's words faded as she began packing up camp.

Gabrielle reached out her hand and long ears jumped into her palm. She raised her hand to her face to get a better look at him. He smiled at her. She could see what she thought might be an incredibly sharp little set of teeth. "You don't bite do you?" He shook his head no and rubbed his little face against her thumb. Then he noticed Xena had bent over to retrieve something leaving her backside unguarded. He looked to Gabrielle and gnashed his teeth. Gabrielle glanced over and then back to him. "Nooo don't do that. That would be bad." She said with a smile. Long ears nodded his understanding. "So what are we gonna do with you? I suppose I should get you back into the woods huh?" Long ears wrapped himself around Gabrielle's thumb and shook his head no.

Xena glanced over at Gabrielle. She raised her eyebrows and whistled under her breath. "She may need more than a couple of days..." She said quietly as she picked up her saddle and bridle. "I'm going to get Argo. Can you...and your little friend...finish up here?"

Gabrielle knew that Xena didn't believe her, so she decided just to humor her. "Sure we'll be fine."

Xena, on the other hand felt a great deal of guilt for pushing her lover around the bend and knew she would do anything she had to do to bring Gabrielle back to reality. Even if it meant humoring her for the moment.

As she approached the golden war-horse she dropped the tack and leaned forward and rested her head on the horse’s neck. "Oh girl I've really done it now." She said as she patted her beloved mare. "I've gone too far with her and she's snapped." Argo knickered and nodded her head. "We've got to help her girl. I've got to get her back." Xena reached down and tossed a blanket over Argo's back. "We've got to humor her for now girl." She tossed the saddle up next. "If she says she sees gremlins, then she sees gremlins, got it." Again Argo nodded.

Gabrielle finished packing up camp as long ears sat on a rock and watched her. He sat with his legs out in front of him, hands folded in his lap. He wiggled the tips of his feet and his ears twitched back and forth. He cocked his head from side to side as he continued to watch her. She stacked all their gear and waited for Xena to return with Argo. She looked over at her little friend. "So what am I gonna do with you?"

Long ears slid off the rock and skittered across the campsite and began climbing up Gabrielle's scroll bag. Once he reached the top, he scrambled under the flap and disappeared. Gabrielle could see the leather of the bag move as he squirmed around inside. Suddenly he appeared, his little head and hands resting on the edge of the bag.

"Going with me huh?" She asked as she picked up the bag and put it over her shoulder. She looked down and could see him nodding his head. "Well I certainly understand the need to get away from someplace unpleasant. You have to behave though. No more tricks on Xena, okay?" He nodded and let out a tiny little sigh.

Gabrielle could hear Xena coming with Argo. She walked towards them slowly. Xena picked up her pace, she reached out a hand as they came closer together. Gabrielle took her hand. "I'm sorry." They said in unison, each smiling at the other. "It's okay." Again in unison.

"Let's get packed up and head out." Xena said as they moved towards the campsite. As Xena bent over to grab the saddlebags something caught her eye. She would almost swear they were little footprints in the dirt. 'Great now I'm doing it', she thought as she hoisted the bags onto her shoulder.

She picked up their bedrolls in the other arm and returned to Argo. As Xena prepared to secure their gear, Gabrielle paid careful attention to the mare. The bard opened her scroll bag and retrieved an apple, which she noticed, had a small bite taken from it. She looked down at the guilty party who just shrugged. "These are for Argo. Leave them alone too." She whispered. Argo snorted and nudged the bag with her nose and blew her lips at the little intruder who had taken a bite from one of her apples. "By the Gods Argo," the bard said surprised. "You can see him too!" Argo nodded and took the apple.

"Did you say something Gabrielle?" Xena asked as she finished securing the gear and patted the horse.

"Ah no..." She lied. "I didn't say anything. Just gave Argo her morning apple."

"You're spoiling my horse." Xena said with a chuckle as she vaulted up into the saddle. "Would you like to ride today? We'll make it into town early if you do." Xena offered her hand to the bard.

Taking Xena's hand she allowed herself to be pulled up behind her lover. She wrapped her arms around the warrior and laid her head on her shoulder. Xena gripped Gabrielle's arm and the four of them set off for the next town.


Part Three

They arrived early in the afternoon. Onlet was a prosperous little town so it offered a variety of places to stay. Xena, decided that they needed to be as comfortable as possible if the bard was going to relax and get better so they took lodging in the finest inn in the village. Gabrielle didn't understand it, but she wasn't about to argue with the warrior. They had plenty of dinars at the moment and the thoughts of being pampered for a few days didn't seem to upset her delicate constitution. Xena escorted her to their room and then left to stable Argo, telling the bard to relax and that she would be back shortly.

Gabrielle gently put her scroll bag on the bed and stretched out to rest for a few moments. Long ears crawled out of the bag, stretched, rubbed his little eyes and happily bounded across the bed and climbed up into the bard's lap. He walked up her body and then took a seat right between her breasts. She peered down her nose at him. "Better not let Xena catch you sitting there," She said with a chuckle. "She's the jealous type you know." Long ears sighed again and rested his head in his hands, looking completely bored.

When the door to the room opened again, long ears scrambled the rest of the way up the bard's body and ducked behind her shoulder burying himself between her and the pillow. Gabrielle giggled, his movements tickled the skin on her neck.

Xena looked over and smiled. "What's so funny?" She asked as she closed the door.

"Oh nothing." Gabrielle said as she swatted gently at the back of her neck. "I've just got an itch I can't really reach."

The warrior grinned a wicked little grin as she unhooked her sheath and laid it on the table. "I bet I could help you scratch that itch." She laid the chakram down next to the sword and headed for the bed.

Gabrielle still fishing behind her for long ears knew she had to stall. "Xena, the armor?"

Xena paused and considered her armor and began removing it as well. Gabrielle knew she had bought herself a few more minutes and she continued to try and find the little gremlin without trying to appear conspicuous. Every time Xena would look her direction she would stop her searching and just smile.

With the armor removed, Xena stretched out on the bed next to Gabrielle. She leaned into the bard and gently began kissing her neck and ear. Gabrielle's breath caught in her chest, partly from her lover’s touch and partly from the fact that she knew somewhere behind her there was a little sharp toothed gremlin just waiting for an opportunity. Needless to say the bard was finding extremely difficult to concentrate.

"Ah Xena..." She said softy.

"Hmmm." The warrior replied never removing herself from the bard's neck.

"Don't you think..." Her words were cut short when Xena hit 'the spot'. "Oh Gods." The bard moaned, then regaining her senses she cleared her throat and tried again. "Xena...wait a..."

The warrior pulled back and looked at the bard. "Something wrong Gabrielle?"

The bard wanted to say no, but the fact that long ears was now tangled in the warrior's long dark hair made speech completely impossible. The absurdity of the situation almost made her want to cry. She put a gentle hand on Xena's cheek and caressed it softly, slowly inching her way toward the little prisoner that the warrior princess was completely unaware that she had even captured.

"Well Gabrielle is there a problem?" Xena asked, the mood slowly dissipating.

"No sweetheart of course not." Gabrielle said as tried to free the little troublemaker. She knew this wasn't going to be easy. She stroked the warrior's hair trying desperately not to cause injury to any of the affected parties soon she realized that it just wasn't going to be possible and with a quick yank she pulled long ears loose and reached across the bed jamming him under the scroll bag.

Xena sat up quickly as if she had just been stabbed and put her hand to the side of her head. "Gabrielle what in Zeus' name has gotten into you?"

"Gray hair?" The bard offered smiling meekly at the fuming warrior.

"Well with the way you've been acting today it's no damned wonder."

"I'm sorry love." Gabrielle said as she reached out and pulled Xena back to her. "I really am." She offered a couple of well placed little kisses to the warrior's temple. "Now where were we?" She whispered into her ear as seductively as possible while trying to keep one eye on the bag. She watched as he crawled in the bag and settled down.

Xena softened and began planting little kisses along the bard's jawline. Gabrielle fairly secure in the knowledge that her little friend was once again safely tucked away in the bag relaxed and began to enjoy the moment. Xena's lips were so soft and felt so good...

She closed her eyes and allowed herself to be wrapped into her lover’s warm embrace. Xena was so tender, so passionate with her it was easy to give in to her warrior. The bard would deny her nothing. Her head fell back and the flesh of her neck was exposed to the warrior’s warm soft kisses. Xena wasted no time accepting the invitation. The bard moaned. The warrior moaned. The scroll bag rustled...

As the lovers spread out onto the bed, Xena's hand came in contact with the scroll bag, which in her opinion was taking up far to much space on the bed. She grabbed it by the strap and tossed it over her back it hit the wall and slid to the floor. Gabrielle heard the soft thump of the leather hitting the floor. The bard jerked her head quickly towards the sound. As she moved she managed to bring her chin in contact with the warrior's nose. The crunch of the cartilage breaking was unmistakable. Gabrielle froze and bit down on her lip. Xena pulled back and brought her hand up to her nose, which was broken and bleeding profusely.

"Gabrielle!" She was still a little shocked as the blood began to pour through her fingers. She sat up on the edge of the bed and tried to stop the flow by tilting her head back. It had never worked on anyone she had ever known, but at this point any port in a storm...

"Oh Gods!" The bard was up in an instant and searching for something to stop the flow of blood. Unable to find anything she was happy with, she grabbed a pillow from the bed and started to approach the warrior.

Xena looked to her left as she saw movement. When she realized the bard was coming at her with the pillow, she was on her feet backing up. "Gabrielle I'm already having trouble breathing if you do that I'll suffocate."

The bard looked down at her hands and ripped the cover from the pillow and moved towards Xena.

"Stay there!" The warrior ordered. "Just toss it over to me."

Gabrielle looked at Xena and took a step towards her. Xena took a step back. "I'm serious Gabrielle, just toss me the cloth."

The warrior's blood was snaking its way down her arm now and the bard wanted to cry as she tossed the cloth to Xena. She watched as the warrior finally managed to get the flow under control. She tried again to approach, but Xena just motioned for her to back up. She did as she was silently instructed. She finally had backed into the bed. She got back up on it and sat with her legs curled up under her. Xena kept a wary eye on the bard as she took a seat at the table near the fireplace.

Gabrielle sat in silence as she watched the warrior finally control and stop the flow of blood from her broken nose. She watched as Xena wiped the blood from her face and arm and taking a deep breath she placed both hands on either side of her nose and put it back in place. Gabrielle cringed at the sound of the cartilage once again shifting. Xena drew a deep breath through her mouth and sighed.

"Xena I'm so sorry..." The bard whispered.

"It's okay. I'll be fine. What was that all about?"

"My scroll bag..."

"Your scroll bag? You must be kidding!"

"Yeah when you threw it across the room I got concerned..."

"Concerned about what Gabrielle? That the parchment might crinkle?"

Gabrielle eased herself off the bed and poured water from a pitcher into a bowl. "It's not important now." She slowly approached Xena and knelt in front of her setting the bowl on the table. "Let me get you cleaned up."

Xena handed her the cloth. Gabrielle tore it up and took the cleaner sections and dipped them in the water. She wrung out the cloth and started with the warrior's arm, washing it clean of the blood. Then she carefully moved to her face and washed the blood away. Both of Xena's eyes were already starting to turn black and her nose was swollen. She flinched as Gabrielle wiped the blood away from her upper lip and mouth. The bard's hand shook slightly as she washed the warrior's face.

"I really am sorry." She said as she made the final pass across her face.

"It's okay. I'll heal. It's just the first time I've every had my nose broken. It's a little disorienting."

"You mean to tell me that in all of you battles, with all of your wounds ..."

"That's right Gabrielle I've never broken my nose. Always protect the face."

"You really know how to make a bad situation worse. I don't know what to say." Gabrielle said as she moved away and stood by the window looking out.

Now Xena felt like a heel. She stood and crossed to the bard and put her hands on her shoulders. "It's okay really. Listen why don't you get out and go shopping or something. The fresh air will do you some good."

"I know. Why don't we go downstairs and have a drink. It'll make you feel better." Gabrielle said.

"Well I don't know about better, but if I have enough to drink maybe I just won't feel it." She tried to smile, but it hurt too much.

They left their room, but not before Gabrielle retrieved her scroll bag. She slipped her hand inside and felt long ears in the bottom of the bag. She didn't know if he was okay or not, but she'd have to find away to find out.

They settled into a corner table. The shadows hid the bruised face of the warrior princess from the other patrons. The innkeeper came to their table and waited for an order. Gabrielle took a deep breath and ordered ale for Xena and wine for herself as Xena kept her face down, with her forehead settled in the valley of her hand between her thumb and forefinger. She turned her head slightly to the bard.

"Wine? At this time of day? Gabrielle do you think that’s a good idea?"

"After the day that we’ve had it’s a perfectly good idea." She smiled and laid her hand on Xena’s knee.

"Okay I gotta give you that. It’s been an unusual day to say the least."

"Yeah it has and I’m really sorry." She said softly as she rubbed the knee that her hand rested on.

"It’s okay. It’s as much my fault as it is yours. I never should have teased you last night."

"No I like it when you’re playful…" She was about to say something else when she felt little gremlin hands on the top of her boot. She jerked her leg suddenly and heard a little gremlin thump as long ears fell to the floor.

Xena raised an eyebrow. The bard smiled. Long ears ran across the floor of the inn, directly for the table of a rather large imposing mountain of a man who didn’t look like he would enjoy the company of a gremlin any more than a certain warrior princess. Gabrielle held her breath as she tried to figure out what her next move should be. She watched as the little troublemaker climbed up the large man’s pants leg, up his shirt and finally onto the table. To her absolute horror he then climbed up the man’s ale mug and dunked his head in.

"Great, just great…" She mumbled softly.

"What?" Xena asked as the innkeeper delivered their drinks.

"Oh nothing. I’m just…" Her words stopped as she watched long ears fall from the edge of the mug and tumble off the table. He picked himself up and staggered back towards their table. She turned to Xena a smiled weakly.

"Gabrielle what’s wrong?"

"I…uh….nothing." She could feel him climbing back up her boot. She leaned over, pretending to scratch her leg and lifted him into her lap. She looked down, he smiled and hiccuped. "Behave." She warned him quietly.

Xena watched as she sipped her ale. Gabrielle was talking to her ‘little friend’ again. She sighed and she sat the mug down.

"You okay?" Gabrielle asked as she took the warrior’s hand.

"Yeah. I’m fine." She said as she brushed her thumb over Gabrielle’s hand. "Are you okay?"

"Never better. It’ll be nice to sleep in a nice warm bed tonight. It’s getting a little chilly at night for sleeping outside." Gabrielle realized that she was making the most ridiculous small talk.

"Yeah, yeah it will." Xena was doing it too. She simply didn’t know what to say. How do you tell your best friend, the love of your life that you think she’s lost her mind? The warrior decided that she wasn’t going to go there. If Gabrielle were completely mad it wouldn’t matter. She’d just adjust and do whatever needed to be done to keep her safe, even if it meant giving up the road and making a home somewhere.

Gabrielle was so preoccupied with the emotions crossing her partner’s face that she didn’t notice that long ears had managed to climb up on their table and was staggering towards Xena. She brought her hand to her lips, curled her fingers into a tight fist and held it firmly against her mouth as she watched him scurry up the side of Xena’s mug. She gasped when she watched him fall in. It was shear reflex that plunged her hand into the mug.

Xena, who had been tipping her chair back on its rear two legs was once again thrown off balance and fell backwards. Gabrielle removed her hand from the mug and crammed long ears in her scroll bag. "Stay there!" She growled as she got to her feet and moved to Xena’s side. The other patrons watched intently as the young woman knelt as the side of the warrior who made no effort to move.

To Gabrielle’s surprise, Xena was just lying there laughing softly to herself. Tears were forming at the corners of her blackened eyes. "Are you all right?" The bard asked as she knelt down.

Xena’s merely nodded and continued laughing.

"Come on let’s get you up." Gabrielle grasped her partner’s arm and helped her to her feet. The warrior very gingerly wiped the tears from her face as she tipped her chair upright.

"Xena exactly what’s so funny?" Gabrielle asked as she watched Xena take her seat and look into her now empty mug.

"Do you have any idea what kind of a day I’m having?" She chuckled. "Why exactly did you do that?"

Gabrielle bit her lip. "Rough one huh?" She completely ignored the second question.

"Oh yeah. That’s an understatement." The warrior noticed the bard’s lack of answer to her last question, but decided to drop it. She just didn’t have the energy. "I would really almost prefer to fight for an entire week than have one day like this. It’s just so ridiculous it’s exhausting."

Gabrielle took the empty mug to the bar and got it refilled. She also got a towel and mopped up the mess that she had made while retrieving the drunken little gremlin. She returned the towel to the bar and watched the other patrons in the bar as they snickered quietly at the misfortune of the woman warrior across the room. ‘It’s a good thing they don’t have a clue who they’re snickering about’ Gabrielle thought as she made her way back to the table.

"You know there’s only one thing that would make my day a complete loss." Xena said as she took a sip of her ale.

"What’s that?" Gabrielle said as she took her seat.

From across the room at the front door, his voice rang out. "Xena! Gabrielle!"

Xena just hung her head and shook it back and forth slowly. "That!" She said as she jerked her thumb towards the door.

Gabrielle watched as Joxer crossed the room and settled himself into a third chair at their table. He picked up Gabrielle’s wine and drained it. He sat it back down on the table and smiled at her. "Thanks." He said as he licked his lips.

"You’re welcome." She said as she rose and crossed to the bar, smacking him on the back of the head on her way.

His ill-fitting helmet slipped over his eyes and twisted catching his nose in the strap. "Owww." He whined as he readjusted the helmet and turned to the warrior. "Xena! What in Tartarus happened to your face!?" He said loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

"Nothing, compared to what’s going to happen to yours if you don’t be quiet!" She growled.

"Sorry." He mumbled as Gabrielle returned and placed a mug in front of him. She took her seat and sipped her wine.

"So my warrior chums what brings you to Onlet?" He asked as he tipped his mug to his lips.

"One," Xena growled. "We are not…"

"Here for any particular reason." Gabrielle cut her off hoping to spare Joxer’s feelings from what she was sure would be an ego crushing blow by her partner’s words. "We’re just taking a few days off."

"Looks like she needs it." He said as he jerked his head towards Xena, who just growled at him. "It looks like she ran face first into a…"

"Joxer knock it off!" Xena warned him again.

"Xena’s had a rough day Joxer. You may just want to drink your ale and be quiet." Gabrielle said softly.

Joxer leaned over to Gabrielle and whispered. "So what did happen?"


Part Four

Gabrielle stood and grabbed Xena by the forearms as she stood over the body of the now gasping Joxer. "Xena take it off! You’re going to kill him! Take it off!"

Reluctantly Xena reached over and released the pinch and Joxer began breathing again and the color began returning to his face. Gabrielle knelt down and helped him up as Xena just turned from the table and stalked up the steps.

"I tried to tell you! I warned you, but you wouldn’t listen. Crimeiny Joxer you can be so dense sometimes." She chastised him as she pulled him off the floor. She sat him back down in a chair and handed him a mug.

"What happened?" He gasped as he took a drink of his ale.

"You got pinched." Gabrielle growled at him as she picked up her scroll bag and slung it over her shoulder.

"Aw now why’d she go and do that?"

"Because you never know when to shut up. Now just enjoy your ale, I’m going to check on Xena."

"Oh sure, she nearly kills me and you go off to make sure she’s okay."

"Joxer I swear by the Gods you are the most frustrating person I’ve ever met. You irritate her and then you seemed surprised when she retaliates. You’re lucky she didn’t kill you. She’s had a really hard day."

"Everyday is a hard day for a warrior." He said with a proud arrogance as she turned and walked away. She just shook her head as she climbed the stairs towards their room. As she approached the door of their room she sighed as she pushed it open. Xena was lying on the bed with a cloth over her eyes. She didn’t even look at Gabrielle as she entered the room and sat on the edge of the bed.

"I shouldn’t have gotten up today." Xena mumbled. "I should have just stayed in our bedroll."

"Well if you remember right that’s were all this kinda started." Gabrielle said as she rubbed Xena’s hand.

"Oh yeah." She mumbled in agreement. "Whadya’ do with Joxer the Mouthy?"

"I left him to his own devices downstairs."

"I’m not paying for the damage when somebody uses him for target practice."

"Oh don’t worry about that. There won’t be much damage, he’s to daft to duck."

The warrior chuckled. Gabrielle snickered at the thought. She liked Joxer she really did but sometimes he could just be so damned annoying. Today was one of those days. "Can I get you anything?" She asked Xena.

"Actually I need some Alser root to bring the swelling down in my face."

"Do we have any?"

"Nope. Don’t suppose I could talk you into going and getting some could I?"

"Or course you can. I’ll go now and be back soon."

"Take your time Gabrielle. I’m going to take a nap."

"You’re going to…take a nap?" Gabrielle said, the surprise clear in her voice.

"Un-huh. I’m going to take a nap. You got a problem with that?"

"Oh no. I’ve just never known you to do that before."

"There’s a first time for everything. We’re here to rest and that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve earned it today."

"Yes, yes you have. You rest and I’ll be back in a bit. Do you need anything else?"

"Nope just the root."

"Okay." Gabrielle leaned over and placed a soft kiss on Xena’s cheek. The warrior smiled and lifted the cloth with one hand. She peaked out from under it.

"I love you Gabrielle."

"Love you too." She stood up and crossed the room to the saddlebags. She took the small bag that contained their dinars and put it in her scroll bag. It was then she realized long ears was missing. "Oh great Zeus…" She groaned as she dug through the bag.

"What’s wrong Gabrielle?"

"Oh nothing the um…tip…yeah that’s it…the tip broke off my quill."

"Well get another one while you’re out."

"I’ll do that. Back soon." Gabrielle dashed out the door and down the stairs, taking them two at a time.

When she got to the common room Joxer was still at the table. Gabrielle went back to the table and began looking all over for the long eared little monster. She searched all over the floor near the table, under the chairs and the immediate area. Joxer watched her with some amusement.

"Lose something?" He asked.

"Un-huh." She said as she continued her search.



"Look you just told me you lost something. Now if you’d just tell me what, I could help you look for it."

She stopped and considered his words for a minute. Then she shook her head to clear her mind for even considering the possibility. "I’ll find it don’t worry." Just as these words tumbled from her mouth she saw him sitting contentedly between Joxer’s boots. He was sipping ale from his hands that had spilled to the floor and pooled into a puddle by the toes of Joxer’s boots.

"Oh well that’s disgusting." She murmured as she snatched him up. She took a moment to examine him before standing up. He didn’t look and worse for the wear he was just hammered. He smiled up at her and hiccuped again. She didn’t notice when Joxer peeked under the table.

"Watchya got there Gabby?"

Gabrielle jerked up and hit her head on the underside of the table. Rubbing her head as she slowly rose on her knees to look at Joxer. "Can you see it too?"

"What, the little bat looking thingy? Yeah it’s right there, in your hand." He pointed to a hiccuping Long ears.

"Well if Argo’s smart enough to see him, I suppose Joxer could be." She mumbled to herself.

"Whaddya say?

"I’m not sure, but I may have just insulted myself." She said as she pulled herself up and sat in a chair putting long ears on the table.

"Hey he’s kinda cute. Can I pet him?" He asked as he reached out.

"Um I don’t know…" She said as she heard a little growl come from long ears.

Joxer jerked his hand back as long ears gnashed his sharp little teeth in the direction of Joxer’s extended finger. "Geeze Gabrielle put a muzzle on that thing will ya’, it’s vicious."

"Joxer it’s smaller than your finger. How much damage could he do?"

"I don’t want to know. Has Xena seen it yet?" He asked still keeping his hand close to his chest.

"Well not exactly."

"Keeping it a secret? Good idea. Somehow I don’t think she’d be real happy with it. Especially if it tried to bite her. She’d just smush it into the table." The last part of his comment was directed at long ears who just finally passed out and fell over into a little lump on the table.

Gabrielle rolled him over and peered at his little body. "Well he’s still breathing."

"How can you tell?" He asked as he lowered his face and eyes to the table level as well.

"Look at his little chest going up and down." She pointed at him.

"Oh yeah I see it now."

They were so engrossed in watching him breath they didn’t notice the innkeeper who had been standing there long enough to think there was something wrong with both of them. "Something wrong with my table?"

Gabrielle looked up and smiled at him as she smoothed her hands over the wood of the table. "No, no it’s a very nice table actually. One of the nicest I’ve ever seen. Don’t you think so Joxer."

Joxer still wasn’t paying attention and it earned him a kick in the shin. "Isn’t this one of the nicest tables you’ve ever seen?"

"Owww! Yeah, yeah it’s a great table!" He said quite annoyed as he rubbed his leg.

"Un-huh." The innkeeper groused as he collected up the empties from the table. "Will you two be needing anything else? Maybe if you have one more you’ll be appreciating the floor too."

"No thanks. We’ve got some things to do." Gabrielle said as she swept long ears up into her hand and stood up. "Come on Joxer I’ve got to get some things at the market." She put the little drunk in her scroll bag and grabbed Joxer by the arm dragging him out of the inn.

As they walked toward the market, Joxer reached over and peeked under the flap of Gabrielle’s bag. "You know it was almost as if that innkeeper couldn’t see it."

Gabrielle slapped his hands away form the bag. "He couldn’t, "She paused "and neither can Xena."

"Then why can we see it?"

"It’s a him not an it and I’m not sure. I guess I can see him because I believe in him, but that doesn’t explain why you can see him since you don’t even know what he is."

"And I suppose you do."

"Yeah he’s a gremlin."

"A gremlin? Oh boy you’ve lost it. You know kinda like Xena when she said the day kept repeating over and over and over and…"

"Yeah, yeah I was there remember."

"Hey you know she never did say if that was a hickey."

"Joxer drop the hickey thing okay. You really don’t want to know." She smiled as she stopped at the vendor who would have the root Xena needed.

"Why?" He asked with that certain whine in his voice that sent chills down her spine.

"Joxer look you couldn’t handle it, okay. Just drop it."

Gabrielle was grateful when the vendor stepped forward. Hopefully by the time she was finished Joxer would be ready to drop the hickey subject.. "Yes Miss can I help you?" The aged man asked with a smile.

"I’m looking for Alser root."

"I’ve got some very nice Alser root let me find one for you." The old man began digging in a pile of roots. Gabrielle took the opportunity to look around the rest of the market. She wanted to find something special for Xena to apologize for the lousy day that she had been subjected to as a result of her new little friend.

Joxer eyed the flap of Gabrielle’s bag, it began to rustle. He tugged on her sleeve. "Ah Gabby."

"Not now Joxer." She never looked at him, she continued to look at the various shops.

He watched as the drunk little thingy began to crawl out of the scroll bag. "Ah Gabby you really…" He tugged on her shirt again. She whirled around to face him. Placing her staff squarely at the end of his nose.

"Joxer I swear if you don’t stop that I’m gonna break your nose. I’ve gotten a lot of experience in that recently."

"But your little…"

He was cut off by the return of the vendor. "Here you go Miss. One fresh Alser root. Would you like me to prepare it into a powder for you?"

"How about preparing half of it into a powder and leaving the other half whole. I’m buying it for a friend and I don’t know exactly what she has in mind."

Joxer watched as long ears fell out of Gabrielle’s bag and dropped to the ground. He followed as the little critter staggered into the busy market.

"Most people use it in a powder in a poultice for taking swelling down." The vendor continued.

"Yeah that’s the plan, but go ahead and leave half of it whole. She has some very unusual methods."

"As you wish." The vendor disappeared with the root.

Gabrielle turned to talk with Joxer. "Now what did you…" She just shook her head when she realized he was gone. "I swear by Zeus…" She mumbled. She opened her scroll bag when the merchant returned and retrieved her dinars. She paid him and took her package. She placed both items back in the bag never noticing that one thing was missing.

She looked again for Joxer. She breathed a sigh of relief when she realized he had wandered off. She just hoped for his sake, he had brains enough not to go back to the inn to try and cheer Xena up.

She continued through the market place shopping at various booths trying to find something for Xena. A new knife? No, she already had so many of those; she was a walking weapons shop. Jewelry wasn’t her style. The bard knew full well to not even attempt an armor purchase. She fingered her staff as she continued walking.

The crashing sound behind her caused her to spin, staff in defensive mode. She watched in horror as Joxer crawled on his hands and knees through the market knocking over tables, baskets, breaking pottery and just generally making a mess of things.

"Come here you little…" He yelled as he lunged and sent a succession of tables crashing over.

Very soon the entire market was in an uproar. Patrons and vendors alike all trying to grab a flailing Joxer, who managed to escape every pair of hands that grabbed for him as he continued to scramble through the market.

Gabrielle began digging into her scroll bag. "Oh no!" The realization hit her like a landslide. "Damn, damn, damn!" She groaned as she ran into the commotion. By the time the trail of angry vendors ended Gabrielle saw Joxer being held by two of the city guards.

"Aw Zeus’ boots." She mumbled as she watched them cart him off. "Great, just furkin’ great!"

She quickly scanned the market for any signs of long ears. She found him at last, sitting on top of an overturned basket of fruit munching on a cherry. She retrieved him and held him up to her face. "You’re beginning to be more trouble than you’re worth. If you don’t behave I’m going to feed you to Xena. She likes Gremlin on a stick."

He dropped his ears back and let the cherry fall from his hands. "Gleep!"

"So behave or you’re dinner buddy!" She growled.

He nodded and she put him back in her scroll bag and headed for the city jail.


Part Five

"A thousand dinars!" She gasped. "You must be kidding! He doesn’t have two dinars he can rub together." Gabrielle said to the captain of the guard.

"He destroyed three rows of shops. The cost of repairs is a thousand dinars." The captain replied dryly from behind his desk, without so much as a glance in her direction.

Gabrielle bit her lip as she looked over at Joxer who held onto the bars of the cell with a look of desperation in his eyes. Shielding the side of her face from Joxer with her hand she spoke in low tones. "Captain have you taken a good look at him." She said as she pointed at him from behind her hand, arching her eyebrows.

"Well…I…" The captain looked over at the prisoner who was looking at something on his finger, which he sniffed before sticking it in his ear. "Exactly what relation are you to him?" He said turning back to the bard.

"I’m…ah…well…" She stammered.

The captain heard the words ‘wife’ and ‘sister’ at the same time. ‘Wife’ from Joxer, ‘sister’ from Gabrielle. Joxer jumped back as the cup thrown by the bard crashed into the bars.

"I an NOT his wife. I’m barely his sister!" She yelled.

"Yeah why’s that?" The captain eyed her suspiciously now.

Again he heard two voices ‘different mothers’ from the bard, ‘different fathers’ from Joxer.

Gabrielle wasn’t exactly sure how it happened, but when Joxer put his hand on her knee she growled at him as the captain slammed the cell door shut. Locking her inside as well. She dropped her face into her hands and just shook her head.

"So you wanna play a game?" Joxer asked.

"Yeah. How ‘bout, how long will it take Gabrielle to beat Joxer senseless if he doesn’t shut up?" She snarled at him.

"Great! What are the rules?"

"Just keep talking," She snapped. "You’ll find out."

"Oh Gabby everything will be fine. Xena will…"

"Joxer, Xena is back at the inn. Remember?"

"Oh yeah." He said as he dropped his head and stared at his feet. "Sorry."

Now the bard felt bad. He always managed to make her regret being so harsh with him. "No, no I’m sorry. I’m just trying to figure out how we’re going to get out of here and how we’re going to explain a thousand dinars damage to Xena."

"Well it’s his fault." Joxer said as he jerked a thumb at long ears who stood on the floor, on the other side of the bars.

Gabrielle’s head snapped around. "That’s it! We’ll send him to get Xena!"

"Ah Gab on problem. Xena can’t see him remember."

"Well do you have a better suggestion?" She crossed her arms in front of her.

"Umm no I guess not."

"It’s settled then." She got up and knelt down on her knees to talk to long ears. "You’ve got to go get Xena!" She whispered trying not to attract attention.

Long ears grabbed the bar with all his might, his little body shook as he shook his head. "Gleep!"

"Look I was only joking about that gremlin on a stick thing. She won’t eat you. Tartarus in a basket I’m not even sure she’ll be able to see you, but you’ve got to try. You’ve got to get her here."

With a great deal of hesitation he let go of the bar and headed for the door. Gabrielle looked up to see the captain staring down at her. She smiled and gave a little laugh as she got up and smoothed her skirt. She turned her back and leaned against the bars. "I wonder what God I’ve offended." She mumbled as she looked down at Joxer, who once again had his finger stuck in his ear.


Part Six

Xena woke and decided that a quick bite to eat might just soothe her shattered nerves. She sat once again in the corner of the inn with her back to the wall watching the door. Gabrielle and Joxer had been gone for almost three candle marks. She wasn’t worried yet. It had been awhile since the bard had been able to shop and she was flush with dinars at the moment. It could be some time before they returned, so the warrior tried to relax.

No one noticed as Long ears came skidding into the inn. He stopped, sniffed the air and moved to the back of the room where Xena sat eating a light meal. He climbed up her boot and then up her armor to the table. He paced back in forth in front of her trying to get her attention. He even stopped once and tried waving his tiny arms. Her blew a frustrated breath and sat down on the edge of the table. That’s when it caught his eye…

Xena didn’t feel it un-hook from her waist but she heard it hit the floor.

" What in the name of…" She didn’t get to finish her sentence before she saw it roll across the floor.

She got up to retrieve the chakram, wondering how it worked it free from her hip. As she grabbed for it, it seemed to roll faster. For his part in the whole thing, Long ears was running as fast as his little legs would carry him. His little feet just fit on the inside edge of the shiny disk allowing him to propel it across the floor and out the door with one irate warrior hot on his tail.

Xena was sure she was losing her mind as she chased her chakram out of the inn and down the street. Had her face not hurt so much she thought she might be able to catch it but it seem to be moving faster ahead of her with every step. She barely noticed the clean up effort going on in the market place as she continued to follow the weapon. It finally came to rest at the door of the city jail. She leaned over and picked it up and refastened it to her waist. She looked up at the building and took a step forward. She wasn’t sure why as her hand fell to the latch on the door. She of course had no way of knowing that she was being pushed from behind by a little invisible helper.

Once inside she realized immediately there was a problem as Gabrielle popped up at he bars of the cell followed by Joxer. She groaned as she approached the captain. She leaned on his desk with both her palms resting flat on the surface.

"Yes. What is it?" He asked, the captain never bothered to look up from his paper work.

"What are the charges against those two?"

"He’s in for tearing up the market and she’s in as his accomplice."

"And how much is bail?" She was becoming increasingly annoyed at this man’s refusal to look up.

"A thousand dinars."

The captain looked up when the jewel handled dagger was driven up to its hilt into the center of his desk and his paperwork.

"If you can get it loose, it’ll pay for the bail. Now let them out." She glared at the man, who now began to tremble at the sight of the warrior before him as he fumbled for the key to the cell. "As you can probably tell I’ve had a really bad day. If I were you I’d move a little faster before I get really angry."

The captain all but fell out of his chair trying to get up to go to the cell and release his prisoners. His hands were shaking so hard Gabrielle actually had to take the keys from him and unlock the door. Once she was free she grabbed her scroll bag and staff and then wrapped her arms around Xena’s waist. Long ears took the opportunity to climb from the toe of Xena’s boot to Gabrielle’s bag.

"So you want to tell me what happened?" She looked at Gabrielle with the eyebrow raised over her blackened eyes.

"Um…well…" Gabrielle started as she pulled back.

Joxer piped up in an effort to help his friend. "It was the…"

Xena turned and growled. "I swear if the word gremlin leaves your mouth Joxer I’ll take your tongue out through the small of your back."

Joxer’s mouth moved, but the word would not leave his lips. For this he thanked the Gods on Olympus.

Gabrielle looked over at the captain’s desk at the dagger stuck in the center. "Xena it’s your favorite boot dagger. I can’t let you…"

Xena took the bard under the chin and returned her gaze to her own bruised face. "It’s just a dagger. You’re far more important. Besides he’s going to stay here and work it off." She said with a nod of her head towards Joxer. "Once that’s done he can get my dagger back and bring it to me. Isn’t that right Joxer?"

"Anything you say Xena."

"Xena!?" The captain stumbled forward. "The Destroyer of Nations?"

"Not any more." She said softly.

"Uh…Xena if the lad is willing to stay and work it off, why don’t you just take your dagger now?" The captain tried to get the knife loose with no success what so ever.

She stepped forward and wrapped her hand around it and pulled it free. "Thanks. He’ll stay and see that everything is fixed and he’ll work off the breakage." She tucked the dagger back into her boot. "Come on Gabrielle. Joxer behave."

"Yes Xena." He said with his eyes lowered to the ground.

"Um…Xena can I have just a moment with Joxer." The bard asked.


Gabrielle walked over to Joxer and took his hand. "Thanks."

"For what. I just messed things up again."

"For believing me and for staying behind to straighten things up. I owe you."

"Really?" His mood brightened.

"Yup I sure do. Big time."

"I’ll keep that in mind."

"You do that. Listen do you want me to leave ‘him’ here to help you?"

"Oh no you take ‘him’ with you. He’s caused enough trouble."

"Okay." The bard knew she probably shouldn’t have, but she leaned over and gave Joxer a kiss on the cheek.

He swooned.


Part Seven

With evening upon them and Gabrielle not having found a gift for the warrior, she decided to pamper her instead. Xena gave in and decided to go with it. She was just about at the end of her patience with the entire day. The bard ordered a hot bath and let the warrior soak while she prepared the Alser root. She laid the poultice gently across the bruised and swollen face and began massaging Xena’s temples as she soaked in the tub.

"Better?" The bard asked softly.

"Much. Thank you Gabrielle."

"It’s the least I could do."

"I agree. It is the least you can do." She chuckled. With that the warrior found herself being pushed under the water. She came back up sputtering and spitting water. "Oh you are going to pay for that!" She twisted around and drug a fully clothed Gabrielle into the water with her.

The bard came up for air. But instead of being mad she recognized the playfulness of the warrior. Then she wrapped her arms around her and very, very gently kissed her. "Well you’re in a better mood." She whispered into Xena’s ear before giving the lobe a quick nip.

"Un-huh." She began working the laces loose on Gabrielle’s top.

"I can’t believe you’re feeling that good." She grinned as the top slid off her body and landed with a wet thwap on the floor.

"I just want to feel you against me." She said as she pulled her close and continued to undress her. "I need to feel you next to me."

Soon the bard’s clothes lay in a wet pile next to the tub. Xena held her close for a long time. Just held her. Gabrielle loved it. No words were being spoken yet they said volumes to each other at the slightest touch.

After the bath, Gabrielle slipped into one of Xena’s spare shirts and tied it off with a belt. She put on a pair of leggings that she used when the weather got colder and tugged on her boots. Xena for her part was dressed in a long robe and stretched out on the bed with the Alser poultice over her eyes.

"I’ll be right back." The bard said as she gathered a few dinars and tucked them in her pocket. She checked on long ears, who was sleeping peacefully in her scroll bag.

"Where are you going?"

"Just relax I’ll be right back."

"Don’t make me bail you out again."

"Oh don’t worry I’m not going that far. Back soon."

Gabrielle slipped out of the room. Xena just sighed contentedly and began to doze, her face already feeling better from the treatment. True to her word the bard wasn’t gone long. She returned with a dinner tray and sat it quietly on the table. She turned and looked at her partner. She knew better than to startle Xena from a sleep. "Xena. Come on Xena wake up. I’ve got our evening meal."

"Hmmm…okay." She sat up slowly and dropped the poultice to the bedside table.

Gabrielle turned and was amazed at the difference in Xena’s face already. It appeared the bruises were starting to fade even just after a couple of candle marks. She started to touch the warrior’s face, but Xena captured her hands. "Don’t Gabrielle, it still hurts and is still swollen. It just doesn’t look as bad."

"That’s really amazing. You look almost healed."

"Yeah it’s a good trick. If you don’t want people to know how badly injured you are. I would just prefer not to walk around the next couple of days looking like a raccoon."

Xena sat down at the table bringing the bard with her and sitting her in her lap. Gabrielle giggled, "What are you doing?"

"I told you I need to be close to you." She said as she reached over and poured a cup of wine and handed it to Gabrielle and then poured one for herself.

Gabrielle settled into the warrior’s lap and sipped her wine. She took a piece of cheese and brought it to Xena’s lips where it was accepted with a nip to her fingers. The bard smiled, until of course she noticed the little set of ears pop up over the edge of the table. Long ears pulled himself up and began sniffing the air. He looked at Xena and edged closer to the food.

"Xena will you do me a favor?"

"You know I’ll do anything for you Gabrielle."

"Close your eyes." The warrior obeyed with a slight smile on her lips. "Xena do you believe in me?" She asked as long ears took a piece of cheese and sat down on the table, watching them.

"You know I do Gabrielle."

"No I mean really, really believe in me? In us?"

"Of course." The warrior sat there, eyes closed a smile playing on her lips as she wondered where this line of questioning was going. She began to wonder a little less when she felt the bard’s lips touch hers. The kiss was magnificent. It was all of the love they shared in its simplest, purest form.

Gabrielle ended the kiss and stroked the warrior’s cheek with the back of her hand. Xena’s eyes remained closed. "Open your eyes and look at me." The bard commanded gently and the warrior obeyed once again. Blue and green locked together. Love, desire, respect, and total trust were reflected back and forth between them. Gabrielle smiled. "Look at the table."

Xena smiled, shrugged and looked over. "What in the name of Tartarus!" She yelled as she bolted out of her chair, dumping the bard on her backside on the floor. Gabrielle started to laugh until she saw Xena go for a dagger and long ears dash behind a cup, just barely getting out of the way before the point of the knife landed where he had been sitting.

"Xena wait!" Gabrielle yelled as she got to her feet and placed herself between the warrior and the table.

"What is that Gabrielle?"

"It’s a gremlin Xena. Just like you said."

"Aww Gabrielle that’s crazy. There’s no such thing as gremlins." She said as she ran her hand through her hair, still staring down at the table. Long ears peeked out from behind the cup, shaking just slightly.

"Obviously not. Look at him Xena he’s right there."

"Why couldn’t I see him until now?"

"Because I never asked you to." She said softly as she caressed the warrior’s cheek. "I never asked you to believe in me."

"Yes, yes you did, this morning back at camp."

"No my love I asked you to believe me, not in me."

The warrior drew a deep breath and nodded. "I get it now." She moved past the bard and leaned over to look at the little guy. "He’s kind of cute in a…well…um…"

"Gremlin sort of way?"

"Yeah that’s it."

She started to reach out for him, but the bard slapped her hand back. "I wouldn’t do that. He’s got a pretty sharp little set of teeth in his head."

"Has he used them?"

"Well he’s gnashed them a couple of times." She chuckled.

"So what are we gonna do with him?"

"Well I thought maybe we’d keep him."

"Are you crazy? After all the trouble he’s caused today. Gabrielle we can’t take a gremlin around Greece with us."

"Well we just can’t leave him here, in town. That would be even worse."

"True. Okay well then we’ll take him back to the woods and turn him loose when we leave Onlet."

Gabrielle was disappointed, but she agreed, realizing that Xena was right. Long ears was just to unpredictable to keep. He was after all a gremlin.



Xena turned and offered her arm to Gabrielle. The bard settled in behind the warrior and Argo was nudged into motion.

"That didn’t go quite as planned did it?" The bard giggled.

"No, no it didn’t. We’ll just have to figure out something along the way to the amazons."

Gabrielle ducked around the warrior to see perched right between Argo’s ears, one gremlin with his little ears blowing in the wind.


The End? Some how we doubt it.


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