“Didn’t get much look at it.” Kibbin looked “Didn’t look like no cat though.
Big round eyes, they were.” He glanced up at the grate. “Didn’t spect the light, ran then.” “Stick around.” Xena said. “In fact, someone get me all the men your size or smaller.” She studied the grate. “Because my shoulders aren’t going to fit in there, that’s for sure, and the muskrat’s not crawling in there either.” “Phew.” Gabrielle let out a breath. Xena glanced at her. “Tell me you didn’t really think I was gonna shove your adorable ass in that hole.” “Well.” Her consort edged a bit closer to her. “I’m sorta the right size.” “Gabrielle.” Xena planted her hands on her hips. “Gimme a break.” She glowered until Gabrielle pressed herself against her body, giving her an apologetic hug.
She draped her arm over the shorter woman’s shoulders and savored the warmth, her eyes lifting again to the grate. At last, she felt like she was going somewhere with this.
Searching the dungeons had got her nothing but some scraps and attempts at pincushioning.
She knew she could be chasing the bastard around in the lower halls all winter and not really have a chance to catch him, there were so many passages, and so many places to hide. But that grate, now.
Xena smiled, as she heard the soldiers start to return, with the construction materials she’d ordered.
That grate went somewhere, and it went somewhere she had no personal knowledge of. “Y’know something, muskrat.” She gently rubbed the edge of her thumb against Gabrielle’s arm. “I got real lazy real fast in this place.” Gabrielle looked up at her. “Huh?” “Why didn’t I know that grate was there?” Xena asked. “Why didn’t I scope out all the tunnels, and do something with em?” “I’m sure you were busy.
With all the soldiers and stuff.” Gabrielle said. “I’m sure I was a complacent post adolescent jackass who was too busy wiping my ass with velvet robes to really get a handle on this place.” Xena sighed. “Damn it, why do I have to learn everything the hard way?” The soldiers were assembling the ladders, and Brendan was pointing up at the grate, and ordering a hook to yank it out of the wall.
Xena was content to step back and keep Gabrielle safe from any flying debris as they watched. “How could you learn everything the hard way, Xena? You know everything.” Gabrielle objected. “WOuldn’t it have taken you a whole lot longer if you learned it the hard way?” Xena looked down and found those open, honest eyes watching her. “I don’t know everything.” She whispered. “But don’t you tell anyone that. “ Gabrielle hugged her seemingly content to stay nestled against Xena’s side as they watched the men work.
She lifted one hand up and examined it, grimacing a little as she flexed her fingers. Xena caught the motion.
She took hold of her consort’s hand and examined it, making her own face at the raw, scuffed skin. “That from the rope?” Gabrielle nodded. “Yeah.” “Sorry, muskrat.” The queen lifted her hand higher and kissed the palm. “See? Dumbass thing for me to ask you to do.” That was charming.
Gabrielle leaned closer and gave the queen a kiss on the shoulder. “It’s okay.” She said. “I’ve never climbed up a rope before.
It was harder than I thought it would be, and then you made it look like it was nothing.” The queen chuckled softly. “Kibbin’s not the only one who hauled their ass up and down the sheets on a ship.” She admitted. ‘I did my share of that.” Gabrielle tried to imagine her lover climbing up the mast and found it quite easy to do.
Xena had a way of making you believe she could do and be anything and suddenly, she wished she’d been there in that earlier time in the queen’s life. It would have been so much fun.
She could picture herself as a scruffy ragamuffin, maybe helping the ship’s cook while Xena steered them to their next adventure.
After a moment, she let out a sigh. “Hand still hurt?” Xena examined it more closely. “Ah.” She turned Gabrielle’s hand toward the light, and bent her head over it. “Splinter.” Gabrielle had a very close view of Xena’s profile, as she concentrated on extracting the tiny sliver from her palm.
As always, she was serious and intent, totally focused on what she was doing with a look of fierce attention so typical of her.
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