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Title and Chapter Number: Better Late Than Never 1/1 Vignette
Fandom: Xena/Ares Temple
Rating: NC17
Disclaimer: Xena, Ares, and other Herc/Xenaverse Characters are owned by their respective creators and they retain all rights. Priestesses own themselves. Fireheart and other OC's are owned by me.
Special Warning: None
Beta: None
Cast: Ares' Temple Priestesses, OC Centaurs
Timeline: AU
Spoiler: Not really, since this never happened
Summary: PWP
Notes: Written for Deirya & Tyrus' Birthday.

Fireheart stepped into the hall. The Party had been in full swing since Friday, but she'd been otherwise occupied, getting just the right presents for Tyrus and Deirya.

She'd wandered the bizarre for hours, totally at a loss. Finally, Fire decided that she might as well make the journey to the next town, for their festival. All the regions best artisans would be there, and Deirya and Tyrus deserved no less.

The trip would take a full day, but it was early, and her horse, Bowen, was still fresh. Fire picked up a few supplies, and a little pouch of her favorite travel food, unsalted sunflower seeds. Bowen immediately begged for his share. She packed her saddlebags for the trip, and strapped her war-staff to her back (just in case). Fire mounted, turned Bowen to the west road, and they set off at a jog.

The day was warm, but the road was shady, and the breeze was cool. The rhythm of Bowen's hooves lulled Fire into a sense of security. Bowen took care of the rest, his ears switching this way and that, alert for the first sign of danger.

Suddenly, multiple hoof beats sounded ahead of them on the road. Both horse and rider snapped immediately to attention. Bowen's nostrils flared, trying to catch the scent of what ever was approaching. Rounding a bend, five Centaurs raced headlong towards them. Bowen reacted first, recognizing the Centaurs as friends; he whinnied an equine greeting. A second latter, Fire also recognized the Centaurs, Darrin, Erich, Garret, Derrick, and Aaron. Five brothers, the first friends she'd made besides Ares after he'd brought her here from across the sea.

"Montu!" she called, a greeting from her homeland, reserved for only those nearest and dearest to her heart.

With shocked looks on their faces, the Centaurs pulled up as one, all but for Garret, the youngest, who nearly crashed into Bowen's chest. Laughing, Fire leapt from Bowen's back, to be caught in Erich's ample embrace.

"Tubo! Fire?"

"Yes my friends! I've missed you all so much!" Disentangling herself from Erich's crushing bare hug, Fireheart turned to Garret, who was blushing, as usual. "Garret, you have certainly grown! Into a promising young stallion!" Fire winked slyly at him, which just caused him to blush a few shades deeper. Reaching up to him - he really *had* grown - she planted a smooch directly on his lips. Darrin, Derrick, and Aaron jostled each other for the next place in line for her attentions.

"My dears you are simply *too* much! Where are you guys headed?"

"No where in particular, we were just racing," Darrin boasted, "and I was winning."

Cutting off what she knew would be a long sibling discussion about just who was really winning, Fire asked, "Well then, would you like to accompany me to Sorno? I could use the company."

Aaron, the second youngest, happily volunteered their services, bowing gallantly to Fire, "But of course My Lady, we'd be honored."

The six of them made quite a picture coming down the road into the town. But five Centaurs were not the strangest thing these people had seen, especially at Festival time, so after a few initial looks, most of the townspeople took no notice of them.

It was getting late, but it was still light. The scents of roasting meat and sweet pastries was heavy in the air. Fire's stomach instantly made it clear that after all day on the road with nothing to eat but sunflower seeds, it was not happy. Even Darrick, bringing up the tail of the procession heard her stomach's protests. "I guess I'd better get something in me, before I implode."

The six went their separate ways to find their chosen treats, agreeing to meet at the old twisted apple tree on the north side of town.

It was dark by the time they had all regrouped, and Aaron, the first at the tree, had built a nice fire. Fireheart staked Bowen and turned to recline against the tree. In no time, she'd drifted into a deep sleep, surrounded by friends and protectors.

It was dawn when Fire awoke, to find herself curled against Erich's flank, covered by his blanket. She sat up and stretched. Even Bowen was still snoring. ~A couple too many apples~ Fire thought with a smile for her grand pig. She sat up to stir the coals, and added some wood to the fire. A cold breakfast wouldn't do.

After they had all eaten, Fireheart announced her intention to go into the town for some shopping. The Centaurs didn't really look interested, so she sent them all on ahead of her back to the Temple to enjoy the festivities. But not without Aaron's protest. "I'll be fine, I promise. I've got Bowen, and my staff, and besides, who would risk the God of War's wrath by attacking one of his Priestesses?" Aaron finally had to agree, swearing to clear the road of all bandits before her passage.

Fireheart took her time, moving from booth to booth, surveying all the wares brought for sale to the Festival. Having no idea what she wanted to buy didn't help. She looked at some beautiful cloth, saw sweet smelling bath and massage oils, some thick old volumes that would make great additions to the Temple Library, some really cute ice cube trays, strawberry flavored lip balm, funky fur covered shackles, and many, many more things that would be just perfect for other Priestesses. But nothing that was just right for Deirya or Tyrus, that she could transport home alone at any rate. After her third circuit of the town, Fireheart was very discouraged. She munched a sweet, and decided that it was good enough for another. ~To drown my sorrow~ she thought.

As Fire followed her nose back to the pastry seller, a little old man with crippled hands beckoned her. “Oh my child, you have such beautiful hair...I have just the thing for you...right...here...in my...bag...ah-HA!"

Fire started to protest: "I'm sure you do father, but I'm not here to buy for myself - " but her words died on her lips when she saw what the old man offered. The most beautiful hair combs she'd ever seen. With teeth long enough to penetrate all of her hair piled on her head. Silver toned, but with a deep finish. White gold, etched with endless sworls and knots. She knew that she had to have them, whatever the price. Fire tried to keep her desire off of her face, lest the old man realize her need and raise the price. "They're lovely."

"But no more lovely than you."

Fire turned to haggle mode. "How much?"

"Can a price be placed on such beauty?"

Fire forced herself to turn as if to go.

"Wait! Please...15 dinars are all I ask."

15 dinars. A more than fair price. And she'd brought enough money to still get Deirya and Tyrus presents - if she ever found just the thing for them.

Misinterpreting her hesitation, the old man foraged in his bag again, producing 2 more pair of hair combs, the same pattern, but in yellow gold and rose gold. "The set, for 40 dinars." He offered them to Fire for closer inspection. "Be careful my dear, they're sharp."

Holding the combs in her hands, she noticed how well they fit in her palm, and how balanced they were, almost like a throwing knife. Realizing their true worth, Fire said, “Sold!”, and reached into her bag for her dinars. After paying the old man, and placing the combs in her pouch, she turned back to him, to thank him again, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Road weary and dirty, Fireheart rushed to her rooms for a quick shower before making her grand - if late - entrance. She couldn't wait to see the Centaurs again, and was doubly anxious to see the looks on her friends’ faces when they saw their presents. She'd wrapped them carefully in paper and ribbons that she'd bought at the Festival. She'd also picked up a length of the cloth that she'd been admiring, and it would go perfectly with her white bikini top, and she'd still fit right in with the Hawaiian theme.

Things were finally coming together.

Piling her hair on top of her head and *very* carefully pinning it in place with her combs, Fire gathered the packages and headed for the Party.

Fireheart threw the double doors to the hall wide with a bang. When all eyes turned to her, she said "Greetings!" When it took more than a beat for the party to resume, "What's wrong? Have I grown an extra head?"

When things returned to normal, she made her way to where Tyrus and Deirya were reaffirming their claims to the title MOTGC, and making the Canoers a tad uncomfortable. "They are a lot to take all at once, aren't they?" she asked the Speedo and watch clad hunks.

"Fire!" Tyrus yelled. "We wondered what had happened to you. The Centaurs said you'd be along, but we were getting worried."

"Well, it took me a long time to find just the right gifts for you two. But I'll tell that story latter."

"By the look on your face, it's going to be a good one," Deirya said.

Fire just rolled her eyes. "For you, Tyrus, and you Deirya," she said as she handed over the boxes.

Both birthday girls’ eyes' widened when they saw their combs.

"Be careful, they're sharp." Deirya and Tyrus turned the combs over in their hands. "Watch this," Fire said, as she pulled one from her hair and threw it at the wall with a quick flick of her wrist. It stuck there, quivering. "I practiced all the way home."


Use them with care! Happy Birthday guys!