Disclaimer & Notices: See Prologue.


The Bluest Eyes in Greece
by Red Hope

Chapter 2 ā€“ The Goddess of Many Skills

Gabrielle was standing and planted in place. She couldn’t do anything or stop it from happening again. She could only watch her friend dangle from the bridge’s rope. “Xena?” she hollered.

Velasca stepped out onto the bridge. She pointed her right finger at the warrior. “Goodbye, Xena.”

The bard didn’t know what to do, but she wished she could use Xena’s chakram correctly. She helplessly watched Velasca charge her thunder bolt.

Xena bounced the bridge’s main rope and caused Velasca’s shot to go wild. She still remained hooked to the rope with both hands.

Velasca growled and unsheathed her sword. She quickly moved across the rope and decided to take out the warrior the old fashion way. She came in range, spun her sword, and aimed for the Warrior Princess.

“Cut the rope, Gabrielle!” Xena yelled.

The former Amazon plunged her sword into Xena’s left shoulder.

Gabrielle gasped when her partner released a piercing scream.

Velasca raised her sword and prepared to drive the tip into Xena again.

Xena gazed over at Gabrielle and demanded, “Cut it, Gabrielle!”

Velasca drove her blade towards Xena’s head.

“Xeeenaaa!” the bard cried out. She ran out onto the rope bridge, but she lost her footing and slipped. She fell off the bridge just as Xena was killed and fell from the bridge. Gabrielle only heard Velasca’s piercing laugh echo around her.

“Gabrielle, wake up,” Xena ordered.

The bard hastily sat up and breathed heavily. The panic still swept through her, but she clung to her friend’s muscular arms.

The warrior remained knelt beside the upset bard. She held Gabrielle by her sweaty sides, and she soothed, “It was a dream.”

Gabrielle gasped for air and dropped her head against Xena’s arm. She closed her eyes and tried to reclaim herself. “Gods… it was so real.”

Earlier Xena had heard the faint sounds from Gabrielle that meant an onset of a nightmare. She’d hoped it’d past, but instead it’d worsen until Gabrielle woke up. “It wasn’t,” she argued. She withdrew some so that she could get a better view of Gabrielle’s face. “Are you okay?”

The bard peered up into captivating blue eyes, and she recalled the reality that her friend was indeed a god now. She dipped her head slightly because she felt as if Xena’s eyes could read through her. “Yea, I’m fine.”

The warrior didn’t believe it. She hooked Gabrielle’s chin with her index finger and tilted the bard’s head back. She studied deep into the bard’s eyes and easily read the emotions normally hidden deeper. “It was about Velasca?”

Gabrielle was briefly caught in Xena’s eyes, but she broke away and replied, “Yes.” She captured Xena’s hand into hers. “You were back on the rope bridge. You didn’t have the ambrosia this time, and Velasca…” She shook her head. “I didn’t care about stopping her anymore. I just… ran out on the bridge and fell off.” She sighed and muttered, “I didn’t want to go back to that place… where you’re dead.”

Xena was amazed by the emotional depth she felt for the bard. She considered a better plan for the rest of the night. She gently teased, “So are you comfortable sleeping here?”

Gabrielle mimicked Xena’s arched eyebrow.

“Come on.” The warrior helped the bard stand, and she scooped up the staff too. She guided Gabrielle over to her earlier sitting spot. She’d been seated on the ground with her back against a soft tree. Xena set the bard’s staff down on the ground, then she unhooked her sword and chakram.

Gabrielle was curious, yet she didn’t question her friend. She briefly glanced at the campfire, which had hardly weakened and most likely because Xena had kept plenty of wood in it.

The warrior finally sat down and ordered, “Come here.” She watched Gabrielle shifted around and come to sit between her open legs. Xena propped her legs up then reached forward. She snaked her arms around the bard’s waist and gently tugged.

Gabrielle pressed her hands against Xena’s propped up knees. She pushed her body back deeper and then laid back. She was amazed at how warm she found Xena’s body. “I know you’re always hot blooded but wow.”

Xena chuckled, then she shifted around until they were both comfortable. “I think it has something to do with the godhood.”

“Mmmm… it must.” Gabrielle felt comfortable, warm, and quite safe in her partner’s arms. She rested her head against the warrior’s broad shoulder and closed her eyes. “Thanks, Xena.”

Xena softly smiled and more so because she could sense that Gabrielle’s earlier, upset emotions were now gone. She felt relieved that her idea helped the bard calm down. She could tell though that Gabrielle wasn’t quite sleepy yet.

“We’re going to have to stop the Athenian Army, you know.”

The warrior sighed and leaned her head against the tree. “I know.”

“Then there’s your godhood.” The bard considered the godhood problem and mentioned, “It’ll come in handy though if we have to fight the Athenian Army.”

“We’re not fighting the army,” the warrior argued.

Gabrielle had her hands in her lap, but she placed her right one on Xena’s solid leg. “Well they seem pretty well prepared to fight the Amazons if they’re toting a few siege weapons.”

Xena sighed but more at the fact that Gabrielle was starting to understand how armies worked. She hadn’t realized how much the bard was catching on these days. “Most likely it’s a misunderstanding.”

The bard could tell her partner was trying to be the optimistic one, which was usually Gabrielle’s job. She brushed her bangs back with her left hand. “I hope you’re right.”

“Well,” the warrior started, “between your bard skills and my fighting skills, I think we can produce a pretty convincing case why they shouldn’t attack the nation.”

Gabrielle laughed and bowed her head slightly. She lifted it again once the laughs died. “Never mind that you’re a god now?”

Xena smirked and reminded, “They don’t know that.”

“Yet,” the bard muttered.

The warrior hadn’t lost her grin, but she ordered, “Get some sleep.”

The bard rested her head back on Xena’s shoulder. She idly started to move her right hand over Xena’s leg without thinking about it. She made random patterns in a soothing motion. She remained mostly quiet and sleep wasn’t far from her again. She then softly asked, “Do you regret coming back?”

Xena was caught off guard by the question, and she needed a second to understand its context. She bowed her head closer to Gabrielle’s. “No, I don’t.” She had a slight view of the bard’s profile, and she questioned, “Why?”

Gabrielle shrugged so she seemed more casual than how she felt. “I was just curious.”

The warrior let it go and softly urged, “Get some rest, Gabrielle.”

The bard decided not to argue. She rested back into her friend’s warm body. She found sleep much easier this time, and she was surrounded by the warrior’s presence.

Xena remained awake all through the night. Never once did her dreams call her, and she considered if she’d ever see her dreams again. In reality, she knew her dreams always transformed into nightmares, and she was quite content to leave them behind her now. The other night, after she’d been brought back to life, she’d had a nightmare again about dying and going to Hades. It wasn’t so much the death that’d frightened her or even Hades, but it was seeing Gabrielle so hurt again. Xena didn’t think she could return to that place again… she couldn’t return Gabrielle to that place again.

Just before dawn, the warrior stirred her sleeping partner. She let the bard wake herself while she went in pursuit of some quick breakfast for the bard. Xena wasn’t at all hungry, but she knew Gabrielle’s mood could often depend on her stomach’s moods. Gabrielle had washed her face down in the creek nearby, then she warmly received the berries that Xena had forested for her. Xena promised they’d make it to the nation by sun high and in time for lunch.

The duo continued on their journey back to the nation. Xena led the way around the army’s camp and came out on the road just in front of the stone bridge. She and Gabrielle crossed it, and soon they’d enter the Amazon’s territory.

Gabrielle had been mostly quiet during the trip because it’d taken her some time to fully wake up. She felt rather rested today but there were still a few dark circles under her eyes. She peered up at her friend and inquired, “So, what do I tell the Amazons about your eyes?”

“My eyes?” Xena took a second to catch up, then she recalled the dilemma. “I drank too much milk,” she offhandedly replied.

Gabrielle furrowed her eyebrows when she didn’t at first follow Xena’s thinking. She suddenly stopped walking when she realized what Xena said to her. “Xena?” She halted the warrior.

The god stopped and turned to her partner. She arched a perfect eyebrow.

The bard hesitated when those dazzling blue eyes rested upon her. She shook her head to rid herself of the alluring call from them. She ordered, “Draw your sword.”

Xena was confused, but she did as she was told. She watched as Gabrielle grabbed the blade and adjusted the blade a certain way.

“Look at your eyes.”

The Warrior Princess sighed and focused on her thin image in the blade. Gradually her right eyebrow inclined to that arc again. She peered over the blade and smirked at Gabrielle. “They go well with the leathers, don’t you think?”

Gabrielle rolled her eyes and remarked, “Black leathers would match better.” She sighed and continued the trip back to the nation.

The warrior sheathed her sword, and her long strides easily brought her to Gabrielle’s side. “One of Velasca’s lightening bolts made my eyes bluer.”

Gabrielle groaned and remarked, “I see the godhood hasn’t done anything to improve your creativity.”

“Hey,” Xena shot back, “I’m perfectly creative during fights.”

“Alright,” the bard relented. She slightly grinned. “Goddess of Creative Fighting.”

Xena gave a disgusted look then picked up the pace.

Gabrielle snickered, but she easily caught up to the warrior. “Should I say the lightening bolt hit you in the ass?”

“Get off it, Gabrielle,” Xena threatened.

“I’m just going with your brilliant suggestion,” Gabrielle remarked in a cheerful voice.

The warrior shot a glare at her friend. “You’re relentless.”

“That’s why we get along so well.”

Xena displayed a devilish grin. “Oh is that why?”

Gabrielle hesitated, but she managed to stay at the warrior’s side. “If I didn’t know better-” She suddenly lost her words when Xena’s hand came over her mouth. She muffled her last words.

“Sssh,” the warrior ordered. She removed her hand and turned around. She slotted her eyes when the distance horse hoofs rung in her ears better.

“What?”

The Warrior Princess dropped her head and studied the leafy trees over her. “I think it’s a scout.” She turned to the bard, grabbed her hips, and prepared to jump up.

“Wait, Xena. I really hate-” Gabrielle squealed when she was rocketed up into the air. She almost dropped her staff, but she managed it. Xena balanced her safely on the branch. “Why do you have to do that?”

The warrior had a broad grin. She softly ordered, “Stay here. I’m going to check it out.”

“I’m coming too,” the Amazon Queen argued.

Xena chuckled and started down the tree branch. “If you can, Gabrielle.” She ran down the branch, hopped off, and landed on another tree’s easily.

Gabrielle edged out on the branch some, saw the distance between the branches, and the distance to the ground. She slightly paled and gazed back at the warrior. “I’ll guard this tree.” She rolled her eyes at Xena’s low laugh. “Just go.”

“I won’t be long.” The warrior disappeared deeper into the trees.

Gabrielle came back to the tree’s trunk. She felt safer, and she leaned her back against the trunk. She lifted her staff and played with it. She considered the warrior’s earlier comment about why they get along. She had to admit they were pretty opposite so how did they manage to get along after a year and half?

Gabrielle lost her thoughts when she heard hoof beats. She carefully hunched down so she wouldn’t be as obvious. She slotted her eyes when an Athenian soldier on horseback rode into her view. She tilted her head and carefully watched him.

The scout slowed down and gazed about the local area. He halted his horse and reached behind to his saddlebags.

The bard bit her lower lip. She was able to stare directly below where the scout had stopped. She wondered what’d happened to Xena.

The Athenian scout unrolled a map in his front of him. The map clearly marked out the lay of the local land and showed the Amazons’ borders. He pointed at his current location, which wasn’t far from the borders. He lifted his head and stared at the trees before him that stretched deeper. The scout then traced his finger to the west, and he tapped a specific location.

Gabrielle leaned to her right and tried to get a better view of the map. She wanted to know what spot he was pointing at because it could be where the army planned to camp. She scraped her boot over the branch accidentally and made an audible noise.

The Athenian scout straightened up at the sound. He reached to his sword handle at his side, but he didn’t unsheathed it. He scanned the forest carefully and looked for any danger.

Gabrielle bit her lower lip and prayed to the gods that he wouldn’t spot her. She knew she could easily handle one soldier, but she didn’t want to think about the repercussions if the scout didn’t show back up at the army. She then stopped her prayer to the gods when she recalled that her best friend was indeed a god. Instead she smirked and cursed that particular god for leaving her here.

The soldier released his sword hilt then gazed back at the map. He rolled it up after a second then ordered his horse to head west.

Gabrielle sighed once the scout was gone. She dropped her head against the tree and closed her eyes.

“I heard you damning me,” remarked a husky voice, which echoed in the woods.

The bard straightened up and look about for her friend. “Xena?” She then slightly grinned when the warrior slowly appeared on the ground, under the tree.

“I was right here the entire time he was here.”

Gabrielle sheepishly smiled and shrugged. “I didn’t know.”

Xena shook her head and grinned. “Come on.” She held up her hands. “I’ll catch you.”

The bard debated the jump, but she gave in anyway. She first tossed her staff onto the ground, stood up, and made the leap for Xena.

The warrior stretched out her arms, braced her body, and easily caught the bard. She set the bard onto her feet, but she still held the bard’s hips.

“So, you gave into the invisibility huh?” the bard teased.

Xena slightly lifted her eyebrow.

“Hmmm… that’s not too creative,” Gabrielle idly remarked. She pulled out of Xena’s hands and retrieved her staff a few steps away.

The Warrior Princess sighed and waited for Gabrielle, then she continued the walk back to the nation. “Did you come up with a good story for my eyes yet?”

Gabrielle puckered her lips and cheerfully stated, “You ate ambrosia. How about that?”

Xena sighed at the terrible joke. She sped up the pace and hurried to the nation.

“You think that spot he was pointing to was where they plan to make camp?”

“Most likely,” the warrior agreed. “The valley is about the perfect size for the army.”

The bard shook her head and muttered, “Who attacked the temple though?”

The warrior glanced at her partner then replied, “Velasca.”

Gabrielle’s eyebrows almost met, and she deeply considered the idea. “You think she had enough time to do that while we were leading her to the ruins?”

“It wouldn’t take long to destroy the temple.” Xena shrugged. “A little detour to deface Artemis’s temple.”

Gabrielle shook her head and wondered what they could do now to convince the Athenian Army that it wasn’t her nation. She realized there wasn’t much to fix it because Velasca was still an Amazon regardless.

Xena touched the bard’s back and gently offered, “It’ll work out fine.”

“And if it doesn’t?” the bard argued. “What if we have to battle the army? I don’t think the nation is strong enough to defeat them.”

“It’s not going to happen,” the warrior promised.

Gabrielle released a sigh and brushed the warrior’s hand. “I hope you’re right.”

Xena lightly touched the bard’s back in response. She hurried up the pace again and hoped to make it to the nation in about an hour. She knew Gabrielle would be plenty hungry by the time they’d arrive plus they’d need to catch up with Ephiny.

At Helios high, the partners made it back to the nation. Ephiny and Solari greeted them at the gates and asked how it went with Velasca. Gabrielle quickly relayed that everything had turned out well and that Velasca was now entombed in the lava pit. Ephiny and Solari followed the pair to the dining hut and talked some more.

“So I don’t remember your eyes being that blue, Xena,” Solari commented. She took a seat at the table after everybody else sat down.

The warrior noticed how the Amazons were staring deep into her eyes. She mentally groaned and bowed her head. She prayed her friend would take over the conversation.

Gabrielle softly laughed and studied her Amazons, who kept staring at Xena. “I think it’s from the ambrosia.”

Ephiny broke away and studied the queen. “Ambrosia?”

Xena remained silent and ate her meal.

“Mmmhmmm.” The bard swallowed her mouthful and mentioned, “Since Xena came back from the dead they’ve just been getting bluer.” She shrugged then turned her head to Xena. “That’s the only thing we can figure out.”

Xena lifted her head to the bard. “I think my eye color is the least of the concerns.”

Gabrielle inwardly grinned at Xena’s tactic to change the topic. She turned back to the Amazons. “Xena’s right. We have a slight problem.”

Ephiny grew concerned, and Solari leaned against the table.

“The Athenian Army is headed this way.”

Ephiny, the regent, gaped and demanded, “Where? Here to the nation?”

“Yes,” the warrior answered, “they plan to destroy the nation because the Amazons ruined a temple to Artemis.”

“What?” Solari laughed and shook her head. “That’s impossible.”

“Not entirely,” Gabrielle debated, “We think Velasca has something to do with it.”

Ephiny lowered her eye contact and considered it. “It’s possible she did it. There was a gap of time we couldn’t find her.”

Xena and Gabrielle exchanged looks when they had their answer. Xena returned to her meal while her partner filled up the conversation.

“Then most likely that’s what happened.” Gabrielle pushed aside her mostly empty plate, which only had a piece of flat bread on it. “I think we should contact the commander. Maybe we can work out the problem without getting into a fight.”

“The nation needs to be on alert,” the regent offered, “in case we can’t work it out.”

“I know,” Gabrielle sadly murmured.

Xena had her right hand under the table, and she slipped it over to the bard’s knee. She gently squeezed and silently promised to make sure it worked out okay without any bloodshed. She could tell after this predicament was taken care of they’d need a vacation.

The group continued to chat for awhile and formulate an initial plan. At nightfall, Xena would leave the village and track down the exact location of the army. Gabrielle and Ephiny would spend the time preparing the Amazons for a possible battle. Solari also promised to assist Ephiny and Gabrielle with preparations. After the lunch, Xena and Gabrielle separated from the Ephiny and Solari and went to their hut for some time to relax.

Gabrielle took a chair at the table and stretched out her legs. She’d already propped her staff against the wall, near the door. “You’ll be careful tonight?”

The warrior, now a god too, slightly grinned and sat on the bed. “Oh I will be.”

Gabrielle chuckled at her mistake. “Something could always happen.” She’d certainly learned that when Xena was hit by that lashed tree and died days later. She sadly released a sigh and leaned forward until her elbows met her knees. “One day you’re alive, the next dead, then alive… and now a god.” She peered up and slightly grinned. “You make it interesting, Xena.”

The warrior returned the half grin, but she could tell Gabrielle was torn about it. “I do, don’t I?” She leaned forward and collected Gabrielle’s hands into hers. “You wanted an adventure when you left Potidaea.”

Gabrielle stared at their opposite hands. Hers were much smaller compared to Xena’s, but they both had calluses from their weapons. She also found Xena’s hands soft like hers. “Yea, I did.”

Xena slid her fingers through Gabrielle’s and locked them. “So what’s your theory about why I came back?”

The bard silently thought it out, but she’d already considered it since Autolycus’s arrival in the village. “To finished what you started with the Greater Good.”

“Hmmm.” The warrior was quiet then replied, “I was ready to pay for the rest of my sins in Tartarus.”

Gabrielle lifted her gaze from their hands and was captivated by Xena’s eyes. She tried to break from her haze, which seemed to be created by the blue of Xena’s eyes. She opened her mouth to ask, but she stopped when the hut door opened with a proceeding knock.

“Gabrielle?” called Ephiny’s voice. The regent walked in and hesitated when she found the close position of the pair. She’d caught the tail end of something intimate, and she witnessed the instant retraction from them when she’d walked into the hut. She mentally slapped herself for the intrusion.

Xena had straightened up, and Gabrielle separated their hands. Xena decided to get up and move away from the bard.

“Yes, Ephiny?” The bard leaned back in the chair.

“I needed to talk to you about some things…” Ephiny hesitated and glanced at the warrior then back at Gabrielle. “About protocol for war and such.”

Xena understood the subtle hint so she remarked, “I’m going to see to Argo.” She brushed past Ephiny, but Gabrielle’s voice haltered her hasty exit.

“I’ll meet you there later.”

Xena turned her head to the bard. She let go of her earlier annoyance at Ephiny’s unexpected entrance.

“Maybe we can go for a ride,” Gabrielle offered in compensation.

The warrior held onto the open thatch door. She smiled finally and answered, “You’re on.” She quickly left the hut and closed the door.

Ephiny blew up some air. “Thanks.” She walked over to the bard. “I didn’t mean to barge in.”

“You didn’t,” Gabrielle argued. “We were just talking.”

The regent didn’t fully believe the cover up story, but nor did she plan to pry that deeply. She knew Gabrielle had a lot to struggle with since Xena’s death and rebirth. Ephiny had seen her own life turned upside down countless times. “So is Xena more up to speed than when she first…” She wasn’t sure how to phrase it right.

Gabrielle understood the meaning and nodded. “Yes, you could say that. She had… no problem handling Velasca.”

Ephiny took Xena’s vacant spot on the bed. She casually remarked, “It’s pretty amazing she came out of that fight without a scratch.”

Briefly the scene of Xena’s cut, bruised, and beaten body under Velasca’s sword flashed through Gabrielle’s mind. She shoved the memory away and thanked the godhood’s healing powers. “Xena has many skills.”

Ephiny softly laughed, but she noticed how the bard didn’t at the old joke. She went more serious and started the conversation about war protocol in the nation. She was grateful that the bard was so patient and intent with the topic. It was obvious that Gabrielle cared for the Amazons and what happened to them. Gabrielle was meant to be a queen despite she’d always follow Xena’s path.

Later Gabrielle was escaped from the hut and Ephiny. She trekked across the village and went into the stables where Xena was finishing with Argo’s brushing. Gabrielle smiled and leaned against the stall. “Are you still up for that ride?”

The warrior, who loved to ride, grinned and taunted, “Are you?”

“With you?” Gabrielle shrugged and joked, “Always.”

Xena started with a grin, but it shaped into a smile. She then noticed Gabrielle had forgotten something. “Where’s your staff?”

The bard repeated her shrug and answered, “I figured I didn’t need it.” She folded her arms on top of the door. “You’re a god now… that’s all the protection I need.”

“Even I can’t be in two places at once,” the warrior teased.

“You won’t have to be because I’ll be right beside you.” Gabrielle smirked at Xena’s doubtful look. “Come on, oh godly one.”

Xena dramatically sighed and hurried to get Argo tacked up. She found the stall door opened thanks to Gabrielle, and she guided Argo out. She and Gabrielle then strolled out of the stables into the warm afternoon.

“It’s a beautiful day.” Gabrielle stopped just outside and gazed up at the clear, blue sky. “Almost like your eyes,” she murmured.

The Warrior Princess now studied the sky and recalled her eyes’ reflection in her blade. She turned her head to Gabrielle and softly smiled when Gabrielle looked at her. “Come on.” She headed for the gates.

Gabrielle mimicked Xena’s earlier smile, and she easily followed along side. She tenderly whispered, “I’d follow those eyes anywhere.”

Xena chuckled, but she couldn’t hide her smile at all. She came outside the open gates and easily climbed into the saddle. She held out her hand to Gabrielle and waited.

Gabrielle collapsed the warrior’s arm, and she was easily lifted into the saddle behind Xena. She grasped the warrior’s hips and stole one last look at the guards by the gates. She smirked at how they were all staring at Xena. She leaned forward and whispered, “We have an audience.”

Xena took notice of the guards that studied them, but her godhood allowed her to figure out that they were mostly intent on her blue eyes. Xena felt as if she could draw people’s attention to her because of the godhood. Not that she wasn’t use to doing that, but the godhood seemed to intensify it. “Hang on,” she commanded and tapped Argo’s sides.

The duo started out with a slow ride, but Xena signaled Argo into a strong canter. Gabrielle finally slipped her arms around the warrior’s waist and held tighter. She’d grown accustom to the rides, and she could even nap at times if Argo was only walking. Xena always treasured any moments she was able to get Gabrielle in the saddle with her. She rarely struggled with Gabrielle, who often refused her offers. Eventually Xena mostly stopped offering rides unless they had to cover ground or if she noticed Gabrielle needed a break from the walking. Overall, Xena credited Gabrielle’s persistence to always walk to the well developed muscles in Gabrielle’s legs. In all reality, it paid off for the bard because the toned legs helped her become a better fighter with her staff.

After a solid thirty minute ride, Xena slowed Argo into a walk again. Gabrielle lowered her head and rested her cheek against Xena’s shoulder blade. Gradually her eyes drifted shut.

Xena silently enjoyed the beautiful day, ride, and her friend’s presence. She was glad for the moment of peace for them before the crisis with the Athenian Army struck the nation.

“This is nice,” Gabrielle muttered. “Are you sure we have to go back?”

The warrior chuckled and freed her left hand from the reins. She bunched up the reins into her right hand and now easily patted the bard’s hands over her stomach. “I’m sure Ephiny could handle it.”

The bard grunted and remark, “Oh no. Now that I’ve shown my face again, I can’t leave… Ephiny would make sure of that.”

Xena chuckled and squeezed the bard’s hands. “I wouldn’t worry, Gabrielle.”

The Amazon Queen was silent, but she eventually raised another question. “If we can’t settle this peacefully then are you going to use this godhood?”

The warrior remained quiet and carefully thought out a decent response. The godhood was certainly a benefit in many ways, but the fact that she was also immortal would prove to be a problem. She had every intent to grow old and hopefully with Gabrielle. She finally formulated a good enough answer and softly promised, “If it comes down to it, then I will use it.”

Gabrielle bit back a faint yawn and remarked, “It’d probably take you all of ten minutes to wipe out the Athenian Army.” She slightly smirked. “I mean it’d take you about an hour if you didn’t have the godhood.”

Xena laughed and shook her head. “So what mathematical formula are you using?”

“It’s really easy,” Gabrielle mentioned. “You first have to find out how many warriors equals a Warrior Princess. So far, by my calculations over the year I’ve determined that’s about ten warriors.”

“Uh huh. Go on,” the smirking warrior encouraged.

“The next thing is you have to figure out is how many warriors equals a god.” Gabrielle lifted her head off of Xena’s shoulder as she really fell into the role. She puckered her lips and tapped Xena’s leather clad stomach. “Well let’s use Ares as the basis. You think he’s like a hundred warriors?”

Xena grinned, yet she went along with the game. “That sounds reasonable.”

“Okay so that’s a hundred.” Gabrielle nodded twice. “Now to correctly assess your new level of skills, you have to multiply one Warrior Princess by one god… or rather ten warriors times one hundred warriors.” Gabrielle paused and listened to her friend’s laughs. “That equals a thousand skill level. Now just going on a rough basis… I suspect it would take you one second to stop one warrior.”

“Sixty warriors in a minute,” Xena calculated between her chuckles.

“Exactly.” Gabrielle beamed and declared, “That’s six hundred warriors in ten minutes. I bet the Athenian Army is about that size too.”

The warrior laughed because Gabrielle’s estimation about the army was around there. She shook her head and teased, “That’s a very interesting formula.”

“It’s pretty precise too,” Gabrielle teased.

Xena smirked and tormented, “Do you have a name for this… formula?”

The bard wasn’t beat, and she shot back, “I call it the Skill Formula.”

The goddess shook her head, but she had to admit that Gabrielle did have the creativity in their friendship. She hoped someday that the bard would utilize her creativity in fighting, but she figured Gabrielle wished Xena would do the same with her daily life. Xena shifted from her thoughts and studied the local area. She estimated that they were near the lake that they’d often passed but never visited. It was the perfect time to visit.

Gabrielle’s expression lightened when she saw the serene lake. She’d known of the lake yet never seen it until now. She was thankful that Xena had thought to stop here. Soon enough, Gabrielle found herself helped out of the saddle and onto her boots.

Xena decided to give Argo a break too. She removed the face tack and hung it on a tree branch nearby. She patted her mare then went to the waiting bard. Xena and Gabrielle strolled down to the lake’s edge and watched the silent lake.

The bard leaned towards her partner and whispered, “You think there’s any good fish in there?”

The warrior smirked and replied, “I don’t know.” Then a dangerous glint filled her eyes, and she threatened, “Why don’t you find out.”

Gabrielle took a beat to translate the warrior’s threat, however, a set of strong hands were at her shoulders. “Xeeena! Noooo!” She screamed and squealed, but it was useless. Gabrielle was suddenly airborne and soaring for the lake.

“Don’t forget to count them for me!” the warrior hollered just before the bard made the dive.

Gabrielle’s body broke the peaceful lake’s surface. She dove into the water, which swallowed her scream and ever her body. The bard went down to the bottom then made the swim back to the surface.

Xena folded her arms over her chest and leaned her weight onto her right foot. She was quite smug and waited for the bard’s surface.

Gabrielle had swam closer to the shore until she knew she could stand again. She slowly rose out of the water, and she was nothing short of furious.

The Warrior Princess softly laughed at her partner’s angry features. “So how many?”

The bard gritted her teeth while she stood in waist high water. “I was too busy getting over my shock to count them.”

“Well maybe you should go back-”

“Xena,” the bard snarled. She fisted her hands at her sides.

Xena tensed at the bard’s tone. She easily predicted what the bard may do. She bent her knees slightly when Gabrielle lifted her fisted hands out of the water.

Gabrielle also bent her knees and mentally prepared for battle.

The warrior lifted her right foot ever so slightly.

Suddenly there was a warcry from Gabrielle, who exploded from the water. The warrior broke into a normal sprint and let out an echoing, tormenting laugh. Gabrielle was on the shore, and she continued her fast pursuit for her friend. She and Xena knew if Gabrielle managed her wet body onto the leather clad warrior that it wouldn’t fair well. The slightest bit of water tended to irritate the warrior, who cursed any water on her leathers or proud armor.

Xena raced up towards the woods where she knew there were plenty of hiding spots. She disappeared into the woods and ducked behind a tree.

The soaked bard blazed past a stunned Argo and entered the woods. She stopped after a few paces and scanned the trees. “Xena?” she angrily called. She was breathing hard and her heart pounded. She carefully stalked through the woods for her tricky friend.

The warrior silently shifted through the woods and eventually made her way behind the bard. She knelt and carefully crept up behind the bard, who was silently moving through the woods. Xena edged closer and closer until she was just a few steps from the bard.

Gabrielle unexpectedly whirled around and smirked at the warrior. “Gotcha!” She jumped for Xena.

The surprised warrior just caught the flying bard. She fell on her back and rolled around with the irate Amazon. She tried to get a grip on the bard, but Gabrielle was rather quick.

Xena finally managed to roll them, and she came on top of the bard. She pinned the bard under her then grabbed the bard’s small wrists. She easily held the fuming bard under her weight and strength.

“This is completely unfair,” Gabrielle growled.

“Why?” the bemused warrior asked.

“Because you have a godhood,” Gabrielle replied.

Xena chuckled and lowered her head closer. “I’m not using any of it and besides what makes you think I couldn’t do this without the godhood?”

Gabrielle huffed and tried to wiggle her wrists free, but it was completely useless. “You know, sometimes I just hate you.”

Xena was even more amused at the childlike statement from her partner. She dropped her head down and brought her lips close to the bard’s ear. She immediately noticed how Gabrielle stopped struggling when she came that close. “How much do you hate me?”

The bard’s eyes fluttered, and she tried to recall the question. She then realized it was another game from the warrior that she wasn’t going to play into again. “Honestly hate is such a strong word.”

Xena withdrew and studied the prone bard. “Really?” She didn’t require her godhood to detect the surging emotions in the bard. She used her eyes and position to her advantage and studied deep into Gabrielle’s eyes.

Gabrielle felt like melted ambrosia when she became caught in Xena’s gaze. Her thoughts were blank, and she could only daze off into the warrior’s alluring blue eyes. She couldn’t explain it, yet she felt at peace and calm unlike the past moon after all the chaotic events.

Xena blinked, which seemed to break the spell finally.

The bard had quickly learned, and she took her opening. She used her strong legs to toss them to the right, and she was soon free from the warrior’s grasp. She rolled away from the warrior, popped up onto her feet, and proclaimed, “Tuhda!” She stood proud with her hands on her hips.

The Warrior Princess was also proud, but she was grinning on the outside. She came to a kneeling position and revealed her more ruthless smile.

Gabrielle back stepped once. “Do you know how much I love you, Xena? I mean a poem just wouldn’t cover it.”

“Oh really?” Xena slightly lifted herself and raised her hands up in a ready position.

The Amazon Queen cleared her throat and stepped back again. “Really, really.” She suddenly squealed when her friend went on attack. Gabrielle made a run for it and screamed loud enough to chase off the local birds.

Xena ran after her friend, and they were headed back to the lake. She made a quick plot for revenge.

Gabrielle glanced over her shoulder and saw how close the warrior was to her. She felt a surge of fear course through her at being so closely tailed by the tricky warrior. She realized she was coming back to the lake, and that could spell trouble.

Xena increased her strides and speed. She quickly came up behind the bard, and she prepared to scoop up the bard.

Gabrielle screamed again when strong hands and arms lifted her off the ground. She realized Xena wasn’t stopping and stilled aimed for the lake. “Xena, no! Please!” She quickly squirmed and desperately tried to find an escape.

Xena braced her body to toss the bard and stop on the edge of the water. She gave a resounding battle cry.

Gabrielle’s legs were first lifted up, and she was going to hit the water on her back, feet first. She let out another yell, but she didn’t give up and quickly latched onto some armor and limbs.

Xena’s eyes grew wide when Gabrielle tangled onto her. She lost her footing on the muddy ground and started to go with the bard.

Gabrielle smiled just before her back was swallowed by the water. She’d actually managed to turn the table on the clever warrior. She hit the water and went deep into it.

Xena, however, hit the water face first, and she almost hit her face on the bottom of the lake. She was able to push up and arch back up to the surface. She had every intent to make the bard pay for her wet leathers and armor. She surfaced first and angrily wiped her soaked bangs from her face.

Gabrielle came to the top next, and she proclaimed, “I’ve got skills!” She laughed between Xena’s angry features, her amazing feat, and her joke.

The warrior suddenly dove under the water.

Gabrielle instantly went quiet and moved around in the water. “Oh gods, oh gods.” She had no idea where the warrior would pop up. Then behind her there was a loud surge of water and a familiar battle cry. Gabrielle screamed yet again, but she was silenced when she was hauled under water.

Xena had easily pulled her friend underwater. She held tightly to the small hips, and she swam them closer to the shoreline. She didn’t plan on keeping her leathers and armor in the water any longer than they needed to be.

Gabrielle’s feet hit the bottom, and she stood up for a gulp of needed air. She didn’t have much time to relax because Xena picked her up and carried her to the shore. She remained gleeful and tossed her left arm around the warrior’s shoulders. She swung her feet in midair like a kid and teased, “I gotcha.”

“Finally,” Xena tormented back.

The bard’s parade was not at all rained on by the warrior’s tease. She’d finally beat Xena at her own game, and she planned to live it up.

Xena set the bard down on her feet, and she continued to trek up to Argo. She stopped next to the tree that held the tack. She took a moment to throw her hair forward and work the water out of it.

Gabrielle had squeezed most of the water from hers while she approached the warrior. She grinned happily.

Xena straightened up and shook her head at the bard’s look. “You’re quite happy with yourself.”

The bard evilly laughed and just started the trek back to the village.

The warrior shook her head, but she was quite amused. She efficiently tacked Argo again then easily caught up to her friend. She’d briefly considered using her godhood to dry her leathers and armor, but she completely decided against it. She didn’t find dry leathers and armor worth it compared to Gabrielle’s accomplishment and enjoyment.

The bard strolled along side the soaked warrior. She walked closer and thoroughly teased, “You want to ride Argo?”

Xena mock glared because she and Gabrielle both knew how hard it was to ride in wet leathers. Xena wouldn’t opt to be chaffed in certain places, but in reality it wouldn’t both her now that she was a god. Xena though went along with the joke for the bard’s benefit.

The bard and warrior walked in comparable silence on the way back to the nation. They enjoyed the last of the warm afternoon and the lively woods around them. The ride and romp around the lake turned out to do them a lot of good. When they were about ten minutes from the gates, Gabrielle edged closer to her friend.

Xena curiously peered down at the bard.

“Do we have to really go back?”

The warrior bit her lower lip some then honestly answered, “No.” When the surprised bard looked to her, she added, “But we should.”

Gabrielle sighed and nodded. “I know… just wishful thinking or wishful asking.”

Xena lightly considered it and promised, “We won’t take long to handle this.”

The bard brushed the warrior’s arm. “I know.” She smiled though and mentioned, “I’m just glad you’re here.”

The warrior mirrored the smiled and replied, “Me too.” She lifted her head until the gates came into her view. She inwardly sighed and her mood darkened at the thought of the Athenian Army.

Gabrielle felt the change in her friend so she decided to correct it quickly. She nudged the warrior with her elbow. “I got it now.”

Xena turned back to the bard. “What’s that?”

Gabrielle smirked up at her partner, and mirth filled her voice. “The Goddess of Many Skills.”

“Gabrielle!”

To be continued.