Disclaimer: The following is a piece of fan fiction. The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess remain the sole property of RenPics and Universal Studios. No infringement is intended by their presence here.
Note: This story resumes the tale of the Xena and Gabrielle clones created in the Season Six episode of X:WP entitled, "Send in the Clones." It's probably rather apparent that I'm a big fan of both Xena and Buffy, so you will find definite elements of both shows in this fic. Imagine that Xena and Gabrielle have gone on to make lives for themselves in modern times. The only problem for Xena is that today, there aren't too many greasy warlords around to take on, and it isn't exactly socially acceptable to run around beating on people. Xena has to figure out how she's going to continue her warrior ways without getting herself thrown into jail.
Ratings: This fic features a loving relationship between two consenting adults who happen to be of the same sex. If that sort of thing bothers you, you'll probably not want to read any further. This fiction is rated "R" for violence, language, and sexual content.
* * *
The front door to the small, one bedroom apartment burst open with enough force to crash against the opposite wall. A surge of hot, humid air rushed into the air-conditioned living room, followed by a tall, dark-haired woman. Reaching up to remove her sunglasses, she glanced around the small enclosure before entering. After determining that there was no apparent threat, she sauntered across the threshold.
Immediately behind her, a smaller blonde woman hurried inside from the narrow landing. Eyeing the wide open door, she cast a look of disgust toward her companion. She closed and locked the door behind her, then carefully examined the plaster for any damage.
“You know, you're going to punch a hole in the wall one of these days,” the blonde muttered. “Then we'll lose our security deposit.”
The other woman stood in the apartment's tiny kitchen, which was separated from the main room by an island counter. Dismissing her partner's comment with a wave of her hand, she pulled open the refrigerator door and bent at the waist to peer inside. She rummaged around the cramped interior for several moments before rising triumphantly, a can of cold beer in her hand.
“Gotta love electricity,” she proclaimed before popping the can open and taking a long swig. Wincing, she glared at the metallic container and added, “But this shit is so watered down. Apparently the art of ale-making has been lost to the ages.”
The blonde woman ran a hand through her short-cropped hair and sighed in exasperation. “Xena,” she said. “Would you just forget about the damned beer for a second? I'm not done talking to you.”
Ice-blue eyes gazed across the room at her. “I heard you, Gabrielle,” Xena responded. “But that guy…he was really asking for it. It'll be the last time he grabs a strange woman's ass.”
“Xena, you can't just go beating people up anymore,” Gabrielle said. “This is the third time you've been arrested in the past four months. We're trying to build a life here, you know? I'm Diana Blake, and you're—“
“Samantha Carter, I know,” Xena interrupted.
“Your identity just isn't going to hold up if you keep getting into trouble with the law.”
Crossing the room to drop her long frame onto their large white couch, Xena propped her head up with one hand and gave her lover a warm smile. She downed the remainder of her beer in one large gulp and placed the can on the coffee table beside her. “Well, if I ruin this one, you can just buy me another,” she said magnanimously, and belched.
Sighing once more, Gabrielle shook her head and sat in the wicker chair opposite her friend. “I know you're bored,” she said. “Things aren't the same as they were back in Greece. I also know that you're feeling a little resentful that I'm the one providing for us. But acting out like this is just going to cause more trouble than you can handle.”
Xena's eyes glinted sharply at her comment. She sat up on the couch and stared at Gabrielle solemnly. “There is no trouble I can't handle,” she murmured. “And if you really believe that I'm jealous of your little kiddie books, you've got another thing coming.”
Gabrielle watched as her friend rose to her feet and stalked into the bedroom. The door slammed, making her jump. She groaned, putting her face in her hands. “That did not go well,” she muttered.
She'd been trying to talk seriously to Xena for weeks, but her friend wouldn't have any of it. In the two years since Alti brought them back, they'd managed to create something of an existence in a time that was completely foreign to them. Sometimes Gabrielle wondered if there wasn't just a little too much of Xena's darkness left over. For an instant in that junkyard, watching Alti croon over her lover's shoulder, Gabrielle thought that Xena might actually fall back to her evil ways. It was a terrifying thought, and the subject of her nightmares to this day.
But it wasn't possible, she thought to herself. Xena was her old self again. She was just starting to get a little bitter at the limitations of this time. For all of her skills and abilities, Xena really wasn't that good at change. Gabrielle was always more at ease to roll with the punches, and to allow herself to be affected by her surroundings. It didn't mean that Xena couldn't change…just that she resented the very idea that someone might force her to behave differently.
Gabrielle glanced up at the closed bedroom door. Beside it, the promotional poster for her first book hung in a wooden frame on the wall. It showed a small dark-haired girl standing at the banks of a lake, a fishing pole in her hand. In puffy white letters under the artwork was the title Xena's Big Catch.
Smiling, Gabrielle realized they were quite lucky to be living as comfortably as they were. The apartment was not much bigger than a closet, but it was clean, and in a good neighborhood. She'd managed to utilize Xena's popularity in this culture and actually make some money for them. The television series based on her scrolls may have been cancelled, but the fervor of Warrior Princess's fans hadn't faded one bit. Gabrielle's books were aimed at children, but her publisher told her that a good forty percent of her readers were over the age of eighteen. And there were just as many adults at her book signings as there were kids.
“Who knew your childhood would be so interesting to the people here?” Gabrielle murmured.
She heard the shower start in the bathroom off their bedroom and felt a pang of guilt. Perhaps she shouldn't lecture Xena so much. That wasn't helping either of their stress levels. Gabrielle stood and walked toward the bedroom, her smile turning devious. She knew a way to take Xena's mind off things…
Xena stared at herself in the mirror above the sink. Her t-shirt and jeans lay in a heap at her feet. The water running behind the sliding glass door had already steamed up the room, and her features were slowly fading as the surface of the mirror grew foggy. She wiped some of the moisture away and caught another glimpse of the rage simmering in the depths of her blue eyes. She spent most of her time angry over something these days.
This place just wasn't any fun, Xena decided. Oh, people were basically the same now as they had been in her day—they just hid behind fancy titles and bureaucracy. So there were no more warlords bent on ruling the countryside with iron fists…there were politicians and CEO's of powerful corporations. It all boiled down to the same thing. The regular folks were still getting raped while the fat cats partied in their fancy palaces and penthouse suites.
But these days, a girl couldn't ride in on her golden steed and take out the local megalomaniac. No, today a girl could get arrested for punching a man in a tavern after he tried to stick his tongue down her throat. “What kind of fucked up system of laws is that?” Xena muttered.
Gabrielle thought hiding behind stolen identities was the best bet for them. It was easy for her to adjust, Xena thought sullenly, she has a talent that fits in here. Nobody wanted an ex-warrior with too much attitude.
Raising her arms, Xena shook them briefly and watched the flesh underneath them wiggle. She was getting soft. It was time to take action. Running had kept her weight from going up, but the food in this time was just pure evil. Kicking the doughnut habit wasn't as easy as it sounded. No, what she needed wasn't a gym, but some real old fashioned butt-kicking.
A knock at the door made her turn. Gabrielle poked her head inside, her mouth open and ready to speak. When she saw Xena standing there naked, her green eyes widened. The blonde fell dumb that instant as she gave her lover a look that was anything but innocent. Xena felt a rush of warmth at the blush staining the smaller woman's cheeks.
“You're going to take a shower?” Gabrielle asked lamely.
Xena nodded and offered, “Want to join me?”
They were both able to put away their petty thoughts after that. Several minutes later, they stood under the pulsing spray of the showerhead. Xena lathered Gabrielle's short hair with gentle hands, massaging her scalp. Gabrielle closed her eyes and leaned back against her lover contentedly.
“Okay, rinse!” Xena exclaimed, playfully shoving Gabrielle's head under the water.
Gabrielle sputtered and coughed when water ran up her nose. “Not fair,” she complained. “You just wait. I'll get you.”
“Wash my back first,” Xena commanded, turning around.
Faced with the broad expanse of her lover's back, Gabrielle grinned. Grabbing the large sponge from the carryall hanging from the showerhead, she rubbed in a fair amount of soap. She started washing between Xena's shoulder blades, but the sponge quickly started moving farther and farther down the other woman's back. Xena's shoulders tightened when Gabrielle slowly passed the sponge across her buttocks. Gabrielle continued her gentle rubbing, briefly pressing the sponge between Xena's legs. At the woman's gasp, she knew she had her.
“I thought we were washing,” Xena chastised. Her breath caught when Gabrielle dropped the sponge and touched her with her fingers.
With a low growl, Xena whipped around and grabbed the smaller woman about the waist. Her mouth lowered to catch Gabrielle's, their lips clashing savagely. Teeth and tongue came into play. Xena was feeling rough tonight. The bard's hands reached up to thread themselves through her wet hair. Xena's hands were busy sliding across the blonde woman's slick skin.
“Don't be angry with me,” Gabrielle murmured, her breath ragged.
Xena brushed a trail of kisses across her lover's wet neck, then licked the water from the hollow of her throat. “Never,” she whispered.
It would occur to her later that Gabrielle had more on her mind than she was discussing with her. Xena realized it was strange for the bard to hold back. She was always so straightforward—almost uncomfortably willing to talk about her thoughts and feelings. But at the moment, Xena was rather occupied with the business at hand. She didn't give Gabrielle's fervent request another thought until well after they both lay sated in the queen sized bed that dwarfed their pathetically small bedroom.
With her lover sleeping soundly beside her, Xena stared up at the ceiling and wondered exactly what was so worrying to the bard. They'd both gotten into some pretty serious scrapes. She didn't think a couple of nights in jail should give anyone pause. Something was up, and Xena would eventually have to swallow her pride and question the smaller woman directly. Snuggling against Gabrielle's naked form, she vowed she'd take care of things the very next day.
* * *
“I have that lunch today with Marie,” Gabrielle was saying as she breezed through the kitchen. She grabbed a piece of toast without buttering it and hurried toward the door. “Can you pick up the items on the list I made up last night?”
Xena looked up from her meager breakfast and winced. “Grocery shopping?” she asked, her face sour.
“Please?” Gabrielle asked. She stood in the open doorway, the heat of the LA morning streaming in behind her. “I just don't have time.”
Nodding, Xena waved her out the door, her mouth full. She swallowed her bite of Rice Krispies and frowned once Gabrielle was gone. “Great,” she muttered. “Now I'm a fucking housewife.”
She continued her tirade as she rinsed her empty cereal bowl in the sink. “I was a god-killer,” Xena snarled, viciously wiping the bowl with a dishrag. “I died. Twice! Or was it three times?” she wondered aloud. “Now I'll be pushing a cart through narrow lanes of perishable goods. This sucks.”
“You said it, not me,” a male voice interjected.
Xena whirled, brandishing the bowl like a weapon. A dark haired man sat at one of the stools on the opposite side of the island counter. He laughed when he saw what she held in her hands. “What are you going to do with that? It's plastic.”
Feeling foolish, Xena placed the bowl on the counter. “What do you want, Ares?” she asked.
“Just checking in on my favorite girl,” he answered. His dark eyes roved over her body, gleaming lasciviously. “Damn, you still look good. Pathetic and sad, but good.”
“I'm not in the mood to hear it from you,” she said.
“Hear what? It's only the truth,” Ares responded. “You lost it. Look at you, you're doing dishes! You'll be out later to fetch some milk and eggs. You were the Destroyer of Nations. You single-handedly killed most of my pantheon. I just don't know what to think of you now.”
“I'm sensing a familiar dance number coming up,” Xena said. “Can we just skip it? Besides, your way of doing things doesn't fly in this world, not anymore.”
Ares's mouth dropped open in surprise. “What are you talking about?” he demanded. “My way has never been so popular. Do you even watch television?”
With a sweep of his arm, the TV set in the living room snapped on to reveal the news channel CNN. The anchor was introducing “breaking news” concerning the newest video tape of Osama bin Laden. Ares turned to watch for several moments, his brows raising when the bearded visage of a thin man wearing a turban appeared on the screen.
“Now that guy's crazier than I am,” Ares commented. “That's saying a lot for a mortal. Definitely doesn't know his history though…what is that saying about sleeping giants?” Ares glanced over his shoulder at Xena. “Bet you'd like to take him on,” he said.
“Oh, yeah,” Xena whispered, feeling a thrill at the pit of her stomach. “That's a language I understand.”
“The world is still filled with violence,” Ares said. “It's just as motivating now as it was back then. And still unfocused, too. What the world needs is someone to step in, take the reins, and be a real leader. Someone that the masses can truly look up to.”
Xena shook her head. “You never give up,” she said ruefully. “I'm done with all that,” she added. “I'm not leadership material, not anymore.”
“But you miss it,” Ares said. “You miss the blood rush. The heat of battle, the lament of your defeated…you want that back.”
Sighing, Xena argued, “It doesn't work now. The butt-kicking biz just isn't the same anymore. A girl can't go around busting heads…they have police and other bloated governmental offices to handle all of that.”
Ares frowned. “I figured you'd give me some lame excuse,” he said. When she scowled at him, he held his hands up in defeat. “All right, all right…let me just say one last thing. I think you're missing a very big point here. There are still plenty of bad guys roaming around…a whole subset that flies under the radar of the 'officials.' These folks are living the high life because nobody really notices them. So no one will notice when they start disappearing.”
At her confused look, Ares groaned. “What, do I have to spell it out for you? You used to be a lot smarter, Xena. Probably all the preservatives you've been ingesting. These people we're talking about? They aren't exactly of the mortal persuasion, if you get my drift.” He held out one hand and tilted it back and forth like a seesaw as he spoke.
Xena regarded him silently a moment before replying, “I'm really not interested in hunting down old, weakened gods.”
“As usual, you set your sights too high,” Ares grumbled. “Think about it. Hey, I'm just trying to help out an old friend.”
With that, he vanished in a plume of blue smoke. Xena stared at the empty air for a long time before shaking her head. “It's another trick,” she decided. Why would Ares care if she was bored? He thought he'd get her to switch sides again, as if she would suddenly agree to it now after he'd asked for the hundredth time.
Xena grabbed the grocery list from the counter and stuffed it into her purse. Slinging the small bag over one shoulder, she quickly left the apartment before Ares could make another appearance. If there was one thing she was going to regret in life, it was not taking out that bastard when she had the chance.
* * *
After braving merciless traffic, driving endlessly through the lanes of a crowded parking lot, and then scuttling about the grocery store with a laden cart, Xena felt like beating somebody to a pulp. Her cart lurched to the right as she turned the corner toward the dairy case. The front wheel was loose and wobbled dangerously with every movement. Unable to stop it in time, she could only watch as the edge of the cart caught an end display and sent a dozen boxes of macaroni to the floor.
“This was not how I planned on spending the rest of my life,” Xena muttered. After gazing around to see if anyone noticed the spill, she eased her cart around the mess and continued on.
Ares's words rang sharply in her ears. There had to be something she could do here that was worthwhile. But she questioned the god's motives. Somewhere along the line he wanted her to trip up, and fall back into her old ways. Although, these days the past wasn't sounding so terrible.
Something sharp rapped across her back. Whipping around without thinking, she reached out to grab her attacker with a practiced hand. Xena's eyes widened in surprise when she found herself clutching the t-shirt of a young boy. He gazed up at her dumbly, his cherub face irresistible under a full crop of blonde hair.
“Martin?” a woman's voice asked. A mousy woman turned the corner a moment later. She held her purse as though it were a wild animal about to get away from her. When she saw Xena holding her son, she gasped and put a hand to her throat.
“What do you think you're doing?” she asked. Glancing around, she said in a raised voice, “Someone alert security!”
Xena released the boy and took a step away from him. “Settle down, lady,” she muttered. “Your kid hit me.”
The woman appeared personally affronted at such a suggestion. “I don't believe it. My son was raised better than that. You don't have the right to put your hands on him.”
Sighing, Xena turned away from them. “I don't really give a damn what you believe.”
The tabloids at the checkout line were emblazoned with such titles as, “Madonna Expecting Twins,” and “Devil's Face Seen in Smoke Above Afghanistan.” Xena paged through the National Enquirer while she waited, chuckling at the stories she found inside. Modern people prided themselves on their intelligence and superiority. But she'd discovered that they were just as superstitious and desperate to believe as people had been in her time. How else could one explain the hard-hitting journalism that had revealed the tree with the face of Jesus to the world?
“Did you find everything you needed today?” the bland checkout girl asked in a monotone voice. She was just about as happy to be there as Xena was.
“Actually, I didn't,” Xena answered.
The girl glanced up from her register, surprised. “No?” she asked. “Can we help you—“
“I don't think you'll be able to, no,” Xena interrupted. She was beginning to wonder exactly who would manage to bring her out of her doldrums.
Several hours later, Xena sat in a musty bar and drank herself to oblivion. She'd brought the groceries home, put them away, and then left to sit at the duck pond in the park nearby. It was well after dark, and Gabrielle was likely wondering where in the hell she was. Looking around herself with bleary eyes, Xena realized she didn't know where the hell she was anymore.
“Hey,” she gestured toward the bartender. “What is this place?”
He frowned, then leaned back when he caught a whiff of her breath. “I think you better get out of here. Call yourself a cab and go home.”
Xena laughed. “Oh, please,” she said. “It takes twice as much liquor to get me drunk nowadays. Who the hell taught you people to brew, anyway? This stuff is like iced tea.”
She wavered on her stool and clutched the edge of the bar to steady herself. A couple of patrons nearby were staring. Scowling, Xena mumbled, “That's impolite.” She reached down toward her side, her fingers brushing the air at her hip. “If I had my chakram, I'd teach you a lesson.”
Xena rose to her feet, stumbling a bit. The bartender looked as though he might say something, and she cried, “All right, I'm leaving!”
Outside, she took a wrong turn on her way to the car and found herself in an alleyway beside the bar. Xena slowly turned in a circle, not remembering which way she'd come in. Suddenly the evening's refreshment gurgled insistently in her stomach. She fell against the nearby dumpster, and emptied her belly onto the concrete. Wiping her mouth thoughtfully, she stared at the filth and grunted.
“Guess I had more than I realized,” she murmured. She was feeling a little perkier now, though.
A faint cry erupted in the distance, making her pause. She held her breath and listened intently. When it came again, she immediately started running down the alley. There were some things a girl never forgot, and the sound of someone in trouble was one of them. As she ran, the fog in her mind began to lift. Adrenaline surged through her system, and she started sobering up. The expectation of a fight had her heart jumping.
Xena saw several cars parked near the head of the alley. Bursting out into the open air, she found herself in an unfamiliar parking lot. Her gaze shot toward the couple struggling next to a black sedan. The woman was the one who'd screamed. In a glance, Xena saw that her blouse had been torn and that she was actively trying to squirm out of the embrace of the man with her.
The guy had the kind of oily look that she remembered well. He wore a leather jacket with jeans, and his head was shaved nearly bald. Xena saw the glint of an earring in his left ear. He had the woman by the waist, and pressed her up to the sedan while he rubbed his body against her. Xena frowned. Some things never changed.
She uttered her favorite yelping cry, just for old time's sake, and leapt into the air to land beside them. The move was always just for show, anyway. When she grabbed the man by the shoulder and spun him around, Xena was struck by how comfortable she felt. This was what she was meant for—she knew it in her gut. The day she laid down the sword would be the day she died. Even then, she could easily imagine herself making some waves in the next world.
“Didn't your mother ever teach you not to—“
Xena cut herself short when she saw the man's face. The first thing she noticed was the smear of blood staining his lips and chin. Red-rimmed eyes glared at her furiously. Then the man opened his mouth and actually hissed at her. His lips stretched back to reveal sharp fangs. She didn't have to look back at the woman to know what kind of wounds she'd have.
Regarding the vampire with a sly smile, Xena murmured, “Oh, goody.”
Xena reached back to throw her first punch, putting her weight into it. She struck the man square in the face, forcing him backwards several steps. He bounced against the side of the car, which exploded with an electric wail and flashing lights. The alarm had gone off. Leaning forward, she grabbed him by both shoulders before he had a chance to recover, then forcefully threw him in the opposite direction.
The vampire went flying, finally crashing down against the concrete with a grunt. He was back on his feet a second later, not looking very happy. Xena took a deep breath and found she couldn't wipe the smile from her face. Snarling gleefully, she went running at him, launching herself into the air once more and flipping herself forward. The soles of her boots met the hapless creature at the center of his chest, and she flipped back to land on her feet as he folded into another heap on the ground.
She caught sight of a broken chair sitting forlornly near a collection of garbage. Quickly tipping it to one side, she brought one foot down to snap off a chair leg. Xena picked up the splintered piece of wood, turned toward the approaching vampire, and hurled it at him like a dagger. It connected solidly, hitting him right in the heart. He stared at her in shock, his mouth a perfect 'o,' before bursting into a cloud of dust and ash.
Her time reading the tabloids had paid off. It wasn't the first time she'd heard about various nocturnal baddies stalking the streets. Dealing with them wasn't particularly different than dealing with any other villain. Xena grinned, brushing her hands together in satisfaction. Here was something she could kill.
Turning back toward the sedan, she saw that the woman had vanished. The car alarm still blared, its owner nowhere to be seen. “That's rude,” Xena mumbled, referring to the woman. She'd taken off without even showing her gratitude. “Times really have changed,” she sighed.
Xena entered the alley once more to make her way back toward her own car. She hadn't felt so alive since…well, it was the first time since waking up in the twenty-first century, that was sure. Had Ares truly meant for her to go after creatures like this one? They weren't human, and no one was going to miss any of them once they were gone. Xena shrugged. Worked for her.
* * *
Back in the parking lot, the car alarm showed no sign of abating. The flashing lights fell upon the brick wall of an apartment building next door, first illuminating the dusty red stone and then plunging it into darkness once again. A speck of light appeared in the wall, its blue shine contrasting with the faded yellow of the car's headlights. It widened, growing steadily in the shape of a circle. Soon the car gleamed under the blue glare. The circle swirled in a clockwise motion, swirling like a whirlpool against the wall. With a burst of light, a figure leapt out of the pool and landed lightly on the concrete.
The woman gazed around herself, frowning slightly. When the car's light blazed across her face, she held up one arm to shield her eyes. With a scowl, she reached behind herself to unsheathe the sword strapped to her back. Approaching the vehicle, she swung the weapon several times, shattering the headlights. The yellow glare sputtered, then died. Smiling in satisfaction, the woman returned the sword to its proper place.
She began walking toward the street, a curious sight wearing a black leather bodice and studded skirt, her bare midriff stretching tautly between them. Her blonde hair streamed behind her in the faint breeze. She was met by curious gazes as she approached a busy intersection. But the people earned little attention. She was busy eyeing the quickly moving cars and dazzling lights that pierced the darkness of night.
“Hm,” she murmured as she watched a young man strike an elderly woman over the head and make off with her purse. “You were right, Ares. This place does have possibilities.”