STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. Mulder, Scully and all other characters from The X-Files belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and Fox. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

NOTE: All works remain the copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.

VIOLENCE: Yes there’s violence, but not much. OK, some people get stomped, but they deserved it.

SUBTEXT: If you blink, you’ll miss it. However, it you don’t blink, see it and find it disturbing, run do not walk to the nearest bar of chocolate for comfort; then read something else.

Comments are welcome. You can email them to me at XWPNutcase@aol.com

 

Kansas?

By Ilsa
XWPNutcase@aol.com

 

Xena awoke as the sun was rising. Rays of light filtered through the trees, momentarily blinding her. She raised an arm to shield her eyes from the glare. The Warrior heard a faint stirring and turned to her left. Gabrielle was lying on the blanket beside her. She had casually thrown her right arm over her head and her left arm over her eyes protecting them from the sun. Her lips were slightly parted and a small murmur escaped as her chest rose and fell with her breathing. Xena never tired of watching the unsuspecting Bard sleep; she looked so beautiful and so innocent that the Warrior was always overwhelmed by the intensity of her feelings. She indulged herself and gazed at Gabrielle longer than usual before reluctantly rousing herself to head off in search of breakfast.

By the time the Warrior returned with her catch, Gabrielle was up and dressed. She had built a fire, put away their blankets and was giving Argo an apple when Xena tossed the cleaned fish into the waiting frying pan.

"Morning," said the Warrior Princess.

"Ouch," answered Gabrielle as Argo nipped her hand in search of another apple. "Argo, you’re so impatient," muttered the Bard as she picked another apple out of the saddlebag and fed it to the horse.

The smell of frying fish permeated the area. Gabrielle attempted to tidy camp, anticipating a quick departure after breakfast, but was distracted by the aroma. She finally gave up and sat in front of the fire waiting for her breakfast to finish cooking.

"So what’s our plan?," asked Gabrielle as she hungrily tore into her piece of fish..

"We have to get to Piedmont as soon as possible. If the Horde are heading in that direction the town will need our help," replied Xena.

"Are we going to try and fight them again?, asked Gabrielle between bites."

"We have no choice. From what we’ve heard, reasoning with them is not an option," said Xena.. "Last time we stumbled upon them and were caught off guard. This time I want to be prepared."

****************

After breaking camp, Xena and Gabrielle were on the road to Athens. Although the sun was low in the sky it beat unmercifully on the travelers. The day was going to be a scorcher. Traveling in this heat was going to be difficult but Xena knew they needed to reach their destination with minimal delays.

Gabrielle was walking beside Xena singing the Joxer the Mighty song when the Warrior gave her a sidewards kick. "Hey, what was that for?," asked the indignant Bard.

"You know I hate that song, and so do you. Why do you keep singing it?," asked an annoyed Xena.

"I used to hate it, but its growing on me," Gabrielle replied sheepishly.

Just as Xena opened her mouth to reply, a flash of white light appeared behind a dense grove of trees, followed immediately by a thundering roar. Xena slapped Gabrielle’s shoulder in an effort to halt the younger woman, who said in an annoyed voice, "I’ve asked you not to do that!"

Xena ignored the Bard’s protests and said, "What in Hades was that?"

She dropped Argo’s reigns and with a quick, "stay here girl," took off towards a thick grouping of trees, pursued by Gabrielle. Xena was convinced that the light and sound originated in the clearing beyond the trees. The women ran through dense underbrush, trying not to get their feet caught in the thicket. The Warrior pushed aside branches with both hands, holding them long enough for Gabrielle to grab. The canopy of trees was so thick that minimal light filtered through, making visibility hazardous. However, Xena could discern a small glimmer of light approaching, which meant the clearing was near. She reached for the last branch and pushing it aside burst into a field, followed closely by Gabrielle. Both women stopped suddenly as their eyes adjusted to the sudden glare. They kept their ground and starred in amazement.

Before them stood a man and a woman wearing strange clothes and bewildered expressions. They stood in front of a contraption neither Xena nor Gabrielle could identify. Xena immediately grabbed her sword and assumed a defensive stance. At the same time, the couple reached into their cloaks and pulled out odd looking weapons which they pointed at the Warrior.

"Its all right, we’re not going to hurt you," said Gabrielle in a hurried voice. "Did you hear that thunder? Zeus must be battling an army."

"Zeus?, asked the woman, who looked quizzically at her companion.

"Scully I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore," replied the man.

"Kansas?," asked an equally perplexed Gabrielle looking at Xena who shrugged and said, ‘Maybe its near Rome."

The man and woman lowered their weapons as did Xena and for the first time each group sized up the other. Xena and Gabrielle stared at the couple but could not identify their place of origin. Neither could they identify the couple’s clothing. Both the man and the woman, who was shorter by a foot, had on leg coverings, shirts, tunics that buttoned across their chests, and some sort of cloak with a belt that dangled at their sides. They wore neither boots nor regular sandals, but some kind of closed sandal with laces; the woman’s had a two inch heel. Xena and Gabrielle were amazed that so much clothing would be worn in such heat.

Mulder and Scully stared back in equal amazement at the two women. The younger woman, who was leaning on a pole, was dressed in what looked like a green sportsbra, a rust colored wrap skirt and red boots. "She has the most amazing abs,’ Scully muttered.

"Who’s looking at her abs?," replied Mulder.

Then both turned their attention towards the more intimidating woman. She was dressed in a leather bustier outfit, which appeared to be one piece, leather boots and leather armbands. She carried a scabbard which housed the large sword she held at her side.

Sizing up both women, Mulder remarked, "I think they starred in a video I just rented."

Both women looked puzzled as Gabrielle asked, "What’s a video?"

Mulder opened his mouth to answer, but Scully cut him off, "Its not important," she replied with a sidelong glance at her partner. "What is important is our location. Can either of you tell us where we are?"

Gabrielle and Xena exchanged bemused looks as Gabrielle answered, "You don’t know where you are? All right, I’ll play along; you’re on the road that eventually leads to Athens. Its about a five day walk. How many dinars do I win for answering correctly?"

"Dinars?" asked Mulder. "I know I’m going to hate myself for asking, but what year is this?"

"What’s a year?, " asked Gabrielle.

"How do you tell the passing of time?," asked Scully.

"By the changing of the seasons, of course," replied a laughing Gabrielle.

"Of course, by the seasons. What’s wrong with you Scully?" asked Mulder in mock seriousness.

Xena’s patience finally wore out and she said in an exasperated tone, "What is going on and what’s that thing behind you? Obviously you’re not from around here ..."

"What was your first clue?" asked Mulder sarcastically.

Xena ignored him and continued, "Your dress is odd, your weapons are even stranger and you’re using words we’ve never heard before ... and she’s a bard," said the Warrior wagging her right thumb at Gabrielle.

"A bard? What’s a bard?" asked Scully. "Oh you mean a writer. Good, you’re obviously the one we should speak with."

"Me?," asked an amazed Gabrielle. "Xena is the one everyone speaks with. I’m just the sidekick."

"Your name is Xena?," asked an incredulous Mulder.

"Yeah. You got a problem with that."

"Me? No, not at all. And you are?"

"Gabrielle."

"I’m Mulder and this is Scully."

"Fine, now that the introductions are over, answer my question. What is going on?" asked Xena.

"We’ll be happy to answer your questions, but first we need to get our bearings. Let me see if I can pinpoint our time and location," said Mulder. "Gabrielle mentioned Zeus. Do you still worship gods in this culture? The Olympian Gods?

"Of course, what other gods are there?" asked an impatient Xena. "You don’t mean Dahak do you? Are you followers of Dahak?, she asked suspiciously assuming a defensive posture again.

"No," replied Scully instantly throwing up her hands in a gesture of supplication, "no we’re not. We don’t even know what a Dahak is? I told you we should be speaking to the Bard," she said under her breath to Mulder.

Gabrielle said, stepping forward and placing a hand on Xena’s arm, "Let’s try and discuss this calmly so we can determine what’s going on. Ask us whatever you want and we’ll answer as best we can, without drawing our weapons," she said staring pointedly at Xena, who reluctantly returned her sword to its holder. "Now I don’t know about anyone else, but this heat is starting to get to me. Why don’t we sit in the shade and continue our discussion?" Gabrielle looked from one to another and after receiving everyone’s assent, they walked towards a shaded area at the end of the clearing.

Mulder followed Scully and said, "you don’t think we’ll get a ticket for parking the Time Machine there, do you?" Gabrielle was following the pair and turning back towards Xena mouthed the words, "Time Machine?" Xena shrugged her incomprehension.

Mulder and Scully were beginning to perspire so they removed their raincoats and suit jackets before sitting down on the log opposite the two women.

Mulder began rolling up his shirt sleeves, at the same time saying, "OK to summarize, we are in Greece, in a pre-Christian society, in God knows what year, whose citizens worship the original Pantheon of Gods, on a road leading to Athens, in the company of a biker babe and her buff sidekick."

Scully looked askance at Mulder, then turned her attention to the women sitting in front of her and asked, "What do you two do in this society?"

"Xena was a warlord who used to destroy villages and wreak havoc, but has since reformed. Now we travel from place to place helping whenever we’re needed. I also record our adventures in the Xena Scrolls."

"I see," replied Scully.

Mulder looked at his partner in surprise. "I must say Scully you’re handling this remarkably well. I would have expected a little more skepticism."

"Actually, Mulder I don’t believe any of this is real. Its just a bad dream from which I’ll soon awaken. But until that happens, I’m willing to go along and see where my subconscious takes me. Since this is my dream, I would have expected scantily clad men, not women, but since you’re in it, I can see why its the latter," she replied.

"Scully this is not a dream ...." began Mulder before he was cut off.

"All right, all right," said an annoyed Xena. "You two are worse than Gabrielle and me. Now its your turn to answer our questions. Who are you? Where did you come from? What’s that thing over there? And why is she dressed like you?"

Mulder and Scully exchanged glances, then Scully said, "Its my dream, let me explain." She cleared her throat and began, "This is a little difficult to explain and it might seem incredible but ... "

"We’re time travelers," cut in Mulder as Scully rolled her eyes.

"Time travelers?," asked Xena, "what in Hades are time travelers?"

"Time travelers are just what the name implies," said Mulder, "people who travel through time. Actually we’re from the future."

"The future?" asked Gabrielle incredulously. She leaned towards Xena and said, "The Furies must have paid these two a visit right before we arrived. Maybe that was the bright light we saw," she said excitedly.

"A bright light doesn’t accompany a visit from the Furies, you know that," said Xena. "But I do think they were visited by the Furies at some point." Both women turned back towards Mulder and Scully and smiled at them indulgently.

"I know this sounds crazy. And if it hadn’t happened to me I wouldn’t have believed it possible. But it is. Now before you dismiss us as complete lunatics, let me finish. Scully and I are from the 20th century." Xena and Gabrielle began to protest, but Mulder held up his hand to silence them and continued, "We work for a government agency called the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in Washington DC, which is the capital of the United States. The United States is country that you haven’t heard of, because it hasn’t been discovered yet. But that’s besides the point. Friends of ours called the Lone Gunmen ..."

"Friends of yours Mulder, not mine," clarified Scully.

Mulder ignored her and continued, "... built a model of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine. Wells was a 19th century author who wrote a book about time travel and described the time machine in the book. Langley a member of The Lone Gunmen, pilfered some classified files from the CIA and the military and somehow made a workable time machine using Wells’ model and the stolen information. Langley claims he was able to manipulate the time/space continuum, but I swear he picked up that lingo from an old Star Trek episode. Anyway, Scully and I were disagreeing on where to travel to when Scully hit the button and it sent us here like proverbial e-mail," Mulder concluded. "Any questions?"

Xena and Gabrielle sat in stunned silence with mouths agape. They looked from Mulder to Scully hoping something in their expressions would help explain this preposterous story. But nothing was forthcoming. The agents just sat and stared back.

Scully stood up and breaking the silence said, "This might add a little more credence to what I’m sure sounds absurd." Mulder, Xena and Gabrielle watched as Scully walked away from the group and positioned herself about 30 paces from a nearby tree. She stood with the sun at her back which surrounded her like a halo. She removed her gun from the holster behind her back. Sunlight glinted off the metal creating a prismatic effect. Standing with her feet planted firmly, she raised her arms so her left hand cupped the bottom of her right and emptied a clip into the tree.

Xena and Gabrielle jumped to their feet at the sound of the first explosion. Xena instinctively clasped Gabrielle to her protectively, wrapping one arm around her friend’s shoulders while the other shielded her head. The Bard buried her face in the crook of the Warrior’s neck and cupped her hands to her ears in an effort to drown out the sounds of the shots. As suddenly as the deafening noise started, it stopped. The silence that hung over the forest was as loud as the noise that preceded it. Xena slowly released her friend and walked over to the tree with Mulder, who said, "Nice grouping," as he gazed at the hole Scully shot out of the tree.

Gabrielle looked at Scully and asked in a shaky voice, "what in Hades was that?"

"That is the effect of a gun. This particular model is a Smith and Wesson 1056, a modern twentieth century weapon. Here I’ll show you how it works." Scully pulled out another clip from her pants pocket and popped out a bullet, then returned the clip to her pocket. She placed her gun in its holster and walked over to the log where her coat lay. Picking up her raincoat, she dug into the left hand pocket and pulled out her keychain which held a Swiss army knife. Gabrielle kept her distance as the agent laid her coat down and walked back to where Xena and Mulder were standing. Scully pulled a small blade from the knife and used it to remove the cap of the bullet. She held it towards Xena, who took a step backwards and glanced warily at Scully.

"This can’t hurt you. I want to explain what you just witnessed."

Xena moved closer to Scully and was joined by Gabrielle who stood off to the Warrior’s left. Scully poured a small amount of black granules into her hand and continued, "this black substance is gunpowder, its a mixture of potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulfur. The gunpowder is housed in this cartridge," she said as she put the cap back on the bullet. She removed her gun, pulled back the trigger and pointed to it saying, "This is the firing pin, it hits the primer, which is this round metal piece in the center of the bullet, which in turn ignites the gunpowder. The gunpowder then forces the bullet through the barrel of the weapon into whatever object you’re pointing at, or not pointing at, as the case may be."

Xena reached out tentatively to touch the gun, which Scully proffered. "Xena don’t touch it!" yelled Gabrielle.

"Its all right," said Scully. "There are no more rounds in the clip. She can’t get hurt." Gabrielle didn’t seem reassured but said nothing further. Xena held the gun the way Scully had and pointed it at the same tree. She turned towards Gabrielle and said, "As farfetched as their story sounds, maybe they are telling the truth. We have no weapons even remotely similar to this, this ... what did you call it?" she asked.

"Gun," said Mulder and Scully in unison.

"Right, gun. Even Hephaestus couldn’t make anything with this kind of fire power. She smiled grimly and turning towards Gabrielle said, "With these weapons we could easily defeat the Horde."

*****************************

Xena finished explaining their prior skirmish with the Horde. "They’re practically invincible. Granted we succeeded once, but they may have a new leader who could best me in a fight. And a one-on-one fight is no longer an option; they’ve gone back to fighting as a group. Don’t you see, with these weapons we could beat them decisively and maybe they’ll take the hint and not return. You have to help us, you can’t let an entire village be massacred."

The sun was setting behind Xena as she spoke; vivid reds and golds were splashed across the sky in uneven lines that dissected each other. The foursome were sitting on the logs they occupied earlier. Only this time, Gabrielle sat next to Mulder opposite Xena and Scully. Gabrielle stared at the sky behind the Warrior contemplating the colors and patterns of the sunset.

" ... isn’t that right Gabrielle?," asked an annoyed Xena who was starring at her friend aware that the Bard was setting the stage for a future scroll.

"Yes, r-right," stammered Gabrielle who looked sheepishly at Xena knowing she had been discovered daydreaming.

"I said, they can’t let an entire village be massacred," Xena reiterated.

"That’s right. How will you be able to live with yourselves in this world or whatever world you come from?," asked the Bard.

Mulder and Scully shifted uncomfortably. Mulder looked at his partner, then at the two women and said, "We have to discuss this privately. We’ll be right back." He stood up and pulling Scully to her feet, guided her to the other side of the clearing.

Xena was worried about the traveling time they had lost. Deep furrows lined her brow as she calculated how much time they’d wasted and how long it would take to make it to Piedmont with the delay.

"Do you think they’ll help us?," asked Gabrielle.

"I don’t know. What’s your feeling about them?"

"Well I didn’t think it was possible, but there’s actually someone who smiles less than you do," Gabrielle said jokingly. "Scully is extremely serious. On the other hand, Mulder doesn’t seem to take anything seriously. He’s very strange," concluded Gabrielle.

"This whole situation is strange. But it looks like we have our answer. Here they come."

Both women stood up as the agents approached. Neither could read the looks on the visitors faces.

Scully looked at Mulder, who said, "We’ve decided to help you. Scully is concerned that we’re violating some sort of prime directive, but since we don’t work for Starfleet, the point is moot. However, after much soul searching, and because Scully is still convinced this is a dream and wants to witness its conclusion, we’ll help you fight the Horde."

Xena and Gabrielle let out breaths neither realized they were holding. "Thank you," said Xena. "We’ll start for Piedmont immediately. Bring whatever you’re going to need from that contraption of yours and lets get started. Gabrielle grab your gear." Xena whistled and Argo trotted into the clearing barely missing Mulder who jumped out of the way.

"Where did that come from?," he asked in a startled voice.

"Don’t tell me you don’t know what a horse is? I can’t believe they don’t have them in the 20th century," said an incredulous Xena.

"Of course they have horses in the 20th century. I meant where was she hiding. She’s a little too big to fit behind a bush."

"I had her wait in the clearing beyond until I could determine if there was any danger. If there was a battle raging, I didn’t want her to get hurt. Are we ready?," Xena asked looking from Gabrielle to the agents. Gabrielle nodded in the affirmative for the group. They were about to leave when Mulder asked, "What about the time machine? We can’t just leave it here. Suppose someone comes along and starts to dismantle it for parts?"

"I don’t think there’s a ring trafficking in stolen time machine parts Mulder," said Scully.

"All someone has to do is hit it with a stick or sword and they could damage it. If we want to get home, it has to be hidden."

"Fine, anything to get going," said an irritated Xena. She walked around the perimeter of the clearing where the time machine stood. She noticed a bare spot in the trees behind some rocks. She walked over to Argo and removed a rope from her saddlebag. She tied one end around Argo’s saddlehorn and the other around the grill of the time machine. "Get behind this thing to help push" she said to Mulder and Scully. "Gabrielle come over here and lead Argo towards that break in the trees. I think there’s enough room on the other side for both of you to fit through."

"Right," said Gabrielle as she grabbed Argo’s reigns. Xena joined Mulder and Scully. "Now," she said.

Gabrielle tugged lightly on the war-horse’s reigns. "Push," said Xena. She and the agents leaned into the machine which started to move slowly. The opening was only about 20 feet from where the machine originally landed, but moving it over rock and brush was no easy task. All three "movers" were sweating by the time Gabrielle said "Whoa, Argo. Is this all right?" Xena looked up as Mulder and Scully slid to the ground behind the machine. "Fine, we’ll cover it up with some branches. No one will see it." Xena went to the nearest tree and removing her sword from its scabbard began cutting down branches as Gabrielle untied both Argo and the time machine. The two agents were still sitting where Xena left them, panting and sweating profusely as Gabrielle started collecting the branches.

"Come on," she said, "Start covering the time machine." Scully didn’t seem to comprehend what Gabrielle was saying. Mulder got to his feet and putting out a hand to help Scully up, said, "When we get back home I’m going to start lifting weights." Scully still hadn’t caught her breath and could only nod in agreement. The Warrior and her Sidekick carried a bunch of branches and began arranging them around the time machine. "You two need to work out more," said the Bard as she passed the panting couple. Within minutes the machine was camouflaged to everyone’s satisfaction and the group set off for Piedmont.

*******************

The agents left their raincoats and suit jackets in the time machine, but were still bothered by the heat. Sweat was dripping from Mulder’s face and his shirt was glued to his back and chest by perspiration. It looked like someone held him by the ankles and dipped him head first into a river. He removed his shirt and said to Xena, "I don’t suppose you have sunblock in your saddlebag?" She looked at his chest and abdomen and said matter of factly, "Gabrielle has more muscles than you." Mulder put his shirt back on.

Gabrielle and Scully followed a few paces behind. The agent turned towards the Bard and asked, "You said everyone consults Xena? Why? You seem to be as bright and talented as she." Before Gabrielle could answer, Scully asked, "Doesn’t it bother you that she gets all the attention?"

"Sometimes. However, someone had to fill the role of sidekick." She turned away from Scully and said wistfully, "I have wondered what it would be like if the Fates had cast me as the Warrior instead of the sidekick, but they seemed to have had something else in mind. Turning back to the agent, she said, "What about you? Everything you said about me and Xena could apply to you and Mulder."

"You’re right, our situation is similar. However, unlike you and Xena, Mulder and I started out as equals, even though Mulder manages to take the lead and command most of the attention." "But," she said with a smile, "I have an Emmy and he doesn’t, so I guess it all works out."

"What’s an Emmy?"

********************

The group stopped to make camp for the night. They were only twenty miles from Piedmont but the agents couldn’t go on. Xena felt they could spend the night and then get an early start since an escaping villager said there were no reports of Horde attacks. Xena couldn’t imagine how Mulder and Scully survived in their world. They couldn’t walk more than a few kilometers without complaining. And the ruckus that ensued when Xena handed Scully some leaves and pointed her towards the bush must have been heard as far away as Chin. Xena surveyed camp and, except for Gabrielle, was dismayed with her "troops." Scully had given up those bizarre sandals after Xena popped a fifth blister. She finally agreed to wear Gabrielle’s old red boots. Xena had to improvise to keep the boot together but managed with a needle and some heavy thread. It wouldn’t hold if she had to run or do any fighting but at least she could walk without limping. Mulder had taken his shirt off after Xena’s unkind comment and was now feeling the effects of first degree sunburn. Gabrielle mixed up a poultice and was applying it to his back, chest and arms as he moaned in pain.

Xena sat in front of the fire running a cloth up and down the blade of her sword contemplating their chances against the Horde with the agents in tow. With the exception of the guns they carried, she felt the agents were a liability. She couldn’t even trust them to fill their waterskins; she was afraid they’d get lost. Once Xena found this spot she and Gabrielle immediately began setting up camp. Gabrielle headed into the woods in search of firewood while Xena walked the perimeter making sure it was secure, noting every ingress into camp by potential intruders. Mulder and Scully on the other hand immediately sat down on the ground in the middle of camp and didn’t move. They watched wordlessly as the Warrior and the Bard completed their tasks. Gabrielle returned with an armful of kindling and built the fire close to them.

Once the fire blazed and crackled Mulder suggested they think about dinner. Xena was about to tell him what he could do with his suggestion when Gabrielle, noting her expression, cut in quickly with, "We have cheese, bread and apples for dinner. Its too late to hunt."

Upon hearing the word apples, Argo neighed and shook her head from side-to-side. The Bard turned towards the war-horse and replied, "Don’t worry girl there’s plenty for you." Argo seemed satisfied with her answer and walked off towards some grass to start grazing.

Gabrielle turned her attention back to Mulder, who said, "That horse must be Mr. Ed’s ancestor." Gabrielle assumed it was another 20th century reference and ignored it, saying, "There’s a stream nearby so we can fish in the morning."

"Fish for breakfast? You’ve got to be kidding," said Scully. "Dream or no dream, I am not eating fish for breakfast," she said emphatically.

"What do you usually have for breakfast?," asked a perplexed Gabrielle.

"Bagels."

Gabrielle opened her mouth to speak when Mulder held up his hand and said resignedly, "I know, what’s a bagel. I’m too tired to explain but let’s just say its not fish." Turning towards his partner, he said, "Look Scully lets discuss this in the morning and just enjoy our bread and cheese tonight, OK?" Scully was about to reply, but seemed to think better of it and said nothing.

The agents watched as Gabrielle walked over to where her bag lay. She opened it and removed bread, cheese and a knife. She also retrieved a waterskin. She returned to the fire, sat down and began breaking off pieces of bread which she handed to Mulder and Scully. She took the knife and cut off chunks of cheese which she also distributed.

Xena joined the group after returning her newly cleaned sword to its scabbard. She leaned it against the saddlebags then joined the others by the fire. She sat next to Gabrielle who handed her her share of food.

It was getting late so after cleanup Gabrielle immediately retrieved their blankets and spread two before the fire. That’s when she realized they only had three; someone was going to have to double up. She wasn’t sure about Mulder’s and Scully’s relationship. They were obviously close from the friendly banter they constantly engaged in and there were moments when she felt they were going to implode as the tension between them escalated. However, she didn’t know how far they had gone or were preparing to go. Either way, she’d let them decide. She cleared her throat which got everyone’s attention. They looked at her expectantly as she said, "We only have three blankets." Addressing Scully, she asked, "Do you and Mulder want to share?"

Scully shifted uncomfortably but Mulder seemed amused at the prospect and said, "How about it Scully? Should we go where no agents have gone before?" Scully seemed at a loss for words and just starred at her partner. After a few seconds, which seemed like an eternity to everyone present, Xena grabbed the blanket from Gabrielle and said, "Gabrielle and I will double up. Scully, you and Mulder can have your own blankets." Scully seemed relieved while Mulder seemed immensely disappointed.

Xena awoke the next morning as the sun began to rise. She lifted her head and could see a pale red glow above the tree tops, as if a fire raged in the distance. She tried to move her left arm but it was pinned down by Gabrielle. The Bard’s head was nestled in between Xena’s shoulder and chin and her left arm was lying across the Warrior’s stomach. Xena closed her eyes and inhaled the musty scent of sweat and earth that clung to the younger woman’s hair. She lifted the Bard’s head with her right hand and pulled her dead arm out from under the younger woman. Gently laying Gabrielle’s head on the blanket, she rolled to her right and slid her body out from under the younger woman’s arm without disturbing her. She jumped noiselessly to her feet and shook her arm in an attempt to get the blood circulating.

Xena’s attention was drawn from her tingling arm to the couple lying on the opposite side of the extinguished fire. Although the agents had positioned their blankets next to each other, when they laid down they were a foot apart. Scully, however, had moved from her original spot. Now her head was on Mulder’s chest and his arms enfolded her in an embrace.

Xena stood gazing down at the couple, a frown creased her brow. "This isn’t good, " she mused. A heavy sigh followed by a loud moan indicated that Gabrielle was awake and ready to greet the day. Xena turned towards the Bard who was now sitting upright rubbing both eyes with the palms of her hands.

"Sleep well?," the Warrior asked.

"Fine thanks," came the reply following a stifled yawn.

"I’m not surprised."

The Warrior leaned over and offered her hand to the Bard, who was pulled to her feet. "Take a look over there," said Xena, nodding at the agents on the opposite side of the fire.

"Don’t they make a lovely couple?," asked a smiling Gabrielle.

"Charming. How do you think he’s going to react when he discovers she crawled onto his blanket?"

"How do you know he didn’t pull her onto it?"

"If he did, she sleeps sounder than you, and that’s impossible."

"Funny," said Gabrielle with a smirk. "Getting back to your question, I don’t think he’s going to let her forget it."

"Exactly. I need them to be focused on the task at hand, not acting like two adolescents."

"What do you suggest we do?"

"Wake her as carefully as possible and get her off him."

"OK, go ahead."

"Me? I’m not good at that kind of thing. You do it."

"Oh no. What if she’s one of those people who lash out when they’re awakened? I could end up with a couple of black eyes or worse," said Gabrielle, her voice rising.

"What are you talking about? You have had worse!," said Xena in an equally loud voice.

As Gabrielle opened her mouth to retaliate, she heard a sleepy voice ask, "What are you two arguing about?" Both she and Xena turned in time to see Scully open her eyes and try to sit up. Her attempt was thwarted by Mulder’s embrace. It took her a few seconds to realize where she was, and with whom, before yelling, "Oh God!" and forcefully disengaging herself from her partner’s grasp. Her outburst woke Mulder, who said in a disoriented voice, "Scully, wh-what’s the matter?" He was on his feet in a moment staring down at his partner who had scrambled back onto her blanket.

"Nothing. A snake slithered onto my blanket. My scream must have frightened it off."

"What?" asked a confused Mulder, looking from his partner to Gabrielle.

"How about breakfast?" asked Gabrielle trying to suppress a grin.

"What?"

*************************************

Xena’s "army" was on their way some candlemarks later. Breakfast had not gone well. Xena and Gabrielle went down to the stream to catch some fish leaving Mulder and Scully in charge of preparing the fire. The Warrior and the Bard returned to camp in time to see Mulder drop the hot skillet onto the burning logs and yell "SHIII..." before turning away and frantically waving his burned hand up and down. At the same time, Scully was stomping on a blanket which caught fire when a large glowing ember landed on it after it was scattered by the force of the frying pan. With damage control established, Gabrielle got down to the business of cooking breakfast. Scully attempted a bite of the fish but after turning green, dropped the fish back into the frying pan and ran off into the woods. Mulder, on the other hand, had no problem with fish for breakfast and enjoyed his and Scully’s. Gabrielle gave Scully what little bread remained and gradually her green color faded to ashen. The Bard reapplied the poultice to Mulder’s sunburn and also to his hand. Finally breaking camp, the group departed.

They made good time and were a few kilometers from Piedmont when Xena halted their progress. She was in the lead walking Argo; Mulder and Scully followed a few paces behind with Gabrielle covering their flank. Xena mounted and said, "I’m going to ride up ahead and see if there’s any sign of the Horde. Its strange that we haven’t come across a scouting party."

"Maybe they’re coming from the opposite direction," said Gabrielle, who now stood next to the war-horse looking up at her companion.

"Maybe," agreed Xena. "Gabrielle, I want you to stay here. If an advance party shows up, I don’t want you to try and fight. Let Mulder and Scully use their weapons to defend you. It will be the only chance you have to survive an attack." Make sure you all stay together," Xena said addressing herself to the agents, "Don’t wander off on your own, its easy to get lost in these woods and divided you’re all vulnerable. Understand?"

Everyone nodded. Xena smiled reassuringly at Gabrielle, who said, "be careful," then she tugged on Argo’s reigns and galloped down the road.

"I don’t suppose there’s a Starbuck’s nearby?," asked Mulder.

Gabrielle followed Scully’s habit of ignoring Mulder whenever something sarcastic escaped his lips. Moving past him she said, "Let’s get off the main road. We can hide behind those bushes. We’ll be able to see whoever approaches, but they won’t be able to see us." She led the way and then sat down behind a shrub. Mulder sat next to her and Scully sat to his left. They stared at the road and waited.

Xena searched the woods for signs of activity as she rode towards Piedmont. The sun was starting to set and the area was quiet; eerily so. She knew the Horde trick of camouflaging themselves to blend in with trees or bushes but she detected nothing. If the Horde weren’t here, sentries from the town should be. Then she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. She tugged Argo’s reigns to the left as a man hurled himself at her from a nearby branch. The Warrior’s split second timing prevented the man from knocking her off her horse. Instead he landed with a thud on the ground. In an instant, Xena dismounted and was standing in front of the prone man, sword pointed at his head.

"Who are you?"

"My name is Galen."

"Why did you try to attack me?"

"I’m supposed to stop everyone but the Warrior Princess from entering Piedmont."

"Really? Do you have a description of the Warrior Princess?," asked Xena as she lowered her sword and extended her hand to help Galen to his feet.

"Of course," he said as he stood facing her. "She’s blond, carries a sword and always travels with a dark haired companion who carries a staff. Or is it the other way around?"

"Its the other way round, sort of," said Xena with a crooked smile. "I’m Xena and I carry the sword," she said resting the tip of the blade on his chin. My companion is blond and carries a staff. Got it?"

"Y-yes. Where is your companion?"

"She’s not far. I came ahead to check things out." Xena put away her sword and picked up Argo’s reigns. "Has there been any sign of the Horde?"

"Not yet. But we did receive word that they’ve laid waste to a nearby village."

"OK, let’s go. I want to speak to whoever’s in charge."

*******************************

Gabrielle was concerned about Xena. It was late in the evening and the Warrior Princess had not returned. Mulder was sitting up against a tree, fighting to keep his eyes open, while Scully was asleep with her head on his shoulder. Gabrielle reached over to get her waterskin and noticed it shaking, the movement barely noticeable in the darkness. Her hand was poised above it when she felt the ground under her vibrate. Someone was approaching on horseback.

She stayed where she was until she saw the horse, and its rider, then stepped onto the main road. Xena brought Argo to a full stop in front of the Bard and said, "The area up ahead is clear. You were right, the Horde is advancing from the other direction. A report reached Piedmont that the Horde sacked a town about a half day’s journey from here. If they push on through the night they could be here before morning. Hopefully, we’ll have enough time to get ready. Where are Mulder and Scully?"

Before Gabrielle had time to answer, Mulder appeared followed by a yawning Scully. "What’s up?," asked the agent.

"The Horde are preceding faster than anticipated; we only have a few hours to fortify the village."

************************

A short time later, the foursome was billeted in a storage shed next to the livery stable. Xena would have preferred the stable, it was bigger and the hay provided additional bedding, although she doubted anyone would sleep tonight. But Scully balked at the close proximity of aromatic horses, so they chose this location instead. Since the shed was upwind, the room smelled not of horses but of must and mildew. Piled around the storehouse were boxes of reserves in case the village was attacked. There were blankets, oil and first aid supplies. The shack also had a stock of dried fruits, cured beef and barrels of water. There were swords, knives, and bows and arrows scattered in between the food reserves. The dirt floor was wet in spots, which meant there were leaks in the roof, however, none of the supplies appeared to be water damaged. Xena had a map of the surrounding area spread out on a dry area of the floor. Mulder was seated on her right, Gabrielle on her left, Scully opposite. Xena was pointing to the road leading into Piedmont with a piece of bread.

"The last report placed the Horde on this road advancing towards us." She took a bite of bread and continued, "Fortunately, the wall surrounding Piedmont will be somewhat of a deterrent. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a catwalk, so we won’t be able to station archers around the perimeter."

"I’m still not clear on one point. Why wasn’t the entire town evacuated? Why only women and children?," asked Scully.

"Because it took the townspeople a year to rebuild Piedmont after Zargreus’s rampage. That’s why they constructed the wall; they didn’t want to have to rebuild again. And most of them won’t be able to, they’ll be wiped out."

"So losing their lives is better than losing their businesses?"

"Of course not. People will die, but that’s the price they’re willing to pay. You don’t understand what life is like here, sometimes you have to take a stand."

"If the Horde is the scourge you say, it seems to me they’re standing against the wrong people."

"On the contrary, this time the Horde are up against the wrong people," Xena said, popping the remainder of the bread into her mouth. After swallowing, she continued, "We have to come up with some kind of makeshift scaffolding for you to fire from." She looked from Scully to Mulder then back at the map. "Obviously they’ll try to surround us. Fortunately, we only have to defend three sides since the fourth side is this mountain," she said indicating the range on the map. "Since it’s sheer-faced, we won’t have to worry about anyone trying to climb up; there’s no way anyone can get a foothold. And all the trees have been removed, they can’t come in that way either. So, that side is secure."

Pointing to the wall’s entrance Xena continued, "We’ll put the platform here which will enable you to fire in every direction. We’ll station archers here," she said, pointing to the main square. "Ten facing each wall. They’ll be replaced if and when they fall. We’ll keep a group in reserve for hand-to-hand combat should the Horde make it over the wall. Caspian, the village elder, is collecting all the bottles they can spare for incendiary devices."

"What about guards?," asked Mulder.

"I’ve posted two men in trees on either side of the road leading into town. Each has a white dove that he’ll release when the Horde are in sight. Sentries will be posted once the platform is built to watch for the signal."

"Is there anything you want us to do?," asked Scully

"No, just rest up. I want you both focused." And out of the way, thought Xena. "Gabrielle and I will oversee the remainder of the preparations."

With Mulder and Scully tucked safely at the back of the shed, Xena and Gabrielle got down to work. Some of the villagers had positioned two wagons in the middle of the compound to be used as a barrier from which the archers would fire. It would provide limited protection, but it was better than having them completely exposed. The Bard was tearing cloth into strips to use as wicks for the bombs Xena was making. The Warrior had ten small water jugs filled with oil. Once her companion finished, the strips would be placed into the jugs and then set afire at the appropriate time.

Torches blazed in the middle of town as every available man helped build the scaffolding that would hold first the sentries, then the agents. The town had ample lumber from the trees that had been cut down and planks were being removed from carts and barns to use as the platform upon which the agents would stand.

Dawn was breaking when the sentry, who had just climbed onto the framework, saw a dove breaking through the canopy of leaves, flying towards the sky. He yelled to his comrade who ran towards the storehouse to notify the Warrior Princess.

Xena was tearing old sheets into strips when she heard the sentry cry out. She dropped the sheet and yelled, "Gabrielle its time!" Gabrielle who had been resting in the opposite corner, was instantly on her feet. She picked up her staff which was lying on the floor next to her bedroll and ran towards Xena. Mulder and Scully also got to their feet when they heard Xena shout. They removed their guns from their holsters, checked their weapons, and met Xena at the door. As the Warrior opened the door, she dragged in the messenger who had just grasped the outer handle. He stumbled in and fell at Xena’s feet. "The Horde are advancing," he said to the dirt floor as Xena stepped over him. "I know," she said before running into the courtyard, followed by Gabrielle, Scully and Mulder. The messenger got to his feet and followed Mulder through the door.

Xena noticed that the air in the compound was still despite the frenzied activity. Her senses were heightened by the imminent battle. It appeared to the Warrior that everyone around her was moving in slow motion. Archers moved deliberately towards the center of the compound as if their feet were laden with invisible weights. Mulder and Scully were climbing slowly up the scaffolding, mimicking a race by two tortoises. Gabrielle was running sluggishly back towards the shed blond hair languidly moving from side to side. The sky around the encampment was a pale pink, which along with everything else, slowly darkened as the sun ascended. Xena instinctively knew, rather than heard, a soldier’s warning that a Horde scout had been spotted. Instantaneously, everything was back to normal speed.

"Gabrielle," the Warrior yelled as she ran towards her companion. "I’ll take those," she said, gently relieving the Bard of two makeshift bombs. "Go warn the archers about the explosions from the guns. The noise will frighten them more than the Horde."

"Right."

Gabrielle made her way to where the archers huddled readying their bows. Xena couldn’t hear what the Bard said over the chaos of the camp. "You," she said grabbing a passing villager, "Go to the storage shed. You’ll see bottles like these on a table. Bring as many as you can carry, but be careful; we can’t afford to lose any. Go." He was off before the Warrior finished speaking.

"Here they come!," yelled Scully. "I think these guys were in a video I just rented," she yelled to her partner, who feigned a look of mock horror either at the Horde or her choice of video.

"Don’t fire yet," yelled Xena as she scrambled up the scaffolding carefully holding the two bottles. Scully moved to her left to make room for the Warrior. A front line of about twenty warriors broke through the trees and headed towards the wall screaming incoherently. There was a cluster of six men to Xena’s right. She lit the cloth and threw the bottle into the middle of the group. The bottle exploded upon impact scattering oil and fire. All six were set ablaze. However, this did not deter the rest of the group from progressing. Xena ignited the second bottle and hurled it towards another group of men. This time four men were engulfed. Still they advanced.

"I need more bottles," the Warrior screamed as she ducked Horde axes whizzing passed her head. The man Xena sent to the storehouse returned carrying five bottles in his arms. Mulder climbed down the scaffolding and returned with the jugs, handing Xena two. A second wave of Horde soldiers emerged from the trees. The Warrior lit both rags and sent the bottles flying, one after the other, to meet the advancing army. Approximately fifteen men were burned or incapacitated. Another large group of men approached the wall. "Now," shouted the Warrior to Mulder and Scully. The agents let loose with a barrage of gunfire. The explosions stopped the Horde in their tracks. They looked at their fallen comrades, then at the sky. The group dropped to their knees in supplication.

"Maybe they think one of their gods is responsible for the explosions," said Xena. "If they have gods," she added.

One man was looking around. He didn’t seemed convinced that the explosions were divine intervention. He spied Mulder and shouted something unintelligible to his associates, spurring them on. They continued moving forward. The agents resumed firing. Each expelled six shots killing eight and seriously wounding four. The remaining warriors retreated to the forest for cover.

Xena turned towards the center of the compound and yelled, "They’re retreating." Screams of triumph rang out as fists were raised in the air. "Save the celebration for later. They’ll be back; they’re just regrouping. And wondering what in Hades hit them," she said smiling at Mulder and Scully.

Xena did a forward flip off the platform landing on her feet in front of Gabrielle. "Any casualties?" she asked.

"Nothing serious. An elder was hit in the leg by an ax as he ran for cover."

"Good. I’m sure they’re going to try a frontal assault to draw our attention away from a side assault, which is where they’ll think we’re vulnerable" She walked towards the center of town and said loudly, "Stay alert. They’ll attack again, this time from all sides, so be prepared." She patted Gabrielle’s shoulder and said, "So far, so good," before walking towards the storeroom.

********************

"They’re baaaaaaaack," yelled Mulder.

Xena ran to the archers who stood back-to-back, bows at the ready and yelled, "Don’t take your eyes off your sides of the wall." Xena grabbed Gabrielle’s arm as the Bard ran passed her. "Gabrielle do you have a supply of arrows? I don’t want the men fumbling for them; I want them to shoot continuously."

"Our entire reserve is in the wagons. I’ll supply everyone as soon as they run out."

"Good. Make sure you take cover." The Bard patted Xena’s arm and smiled reassuringly saying, "Don’t worry about me; I’ll be fine." Xena covered her friend’s hand with her own and smiled in return. The Warrior watched as Gabrielle made her way towards the wagons. Once she was safely settled, Xena ran and did a forward flip onto the platform.

"How do you do that?," asked an amazed Mulder.

"I have many skills."

"I bet you do."

"I hate to interrupt this scintillating exchange," said Scully over the roar of the screaming war party, "but I think the Horde recruited reinforcements,"

"Xena I think you miscalculated," said Mulder. "It looks like they’re sending the entire army on a frontal assault."

Before Xena could respond, they heard the whiz of an arrow as it flew through the air, then a thud when it made contact with a body. The group on the platform turned in unison as a Horde soldier fell over the wall and landed on the ground, pushing the shaft of the arrow deeper into his torso.

"Now that must hurt," deadpanned Mulder.

Xena felt the air around the platform change and reached in front of Scully’s face in time to grasp the handle of a Horde ax, stopping it within an inch of the agent’s forehead.

"Thanks," said Scully in a shaky voice.

"Anytime."

Xena ignited two wicks and sent the bombs flying towards two groups of soldiers. Each fireball caught at least ten men effectively eliminating them. The agents began shooting, inflicting more damage than the bombs. Xena turned and saw a Horde ax hit an archer in the chest. He fell backwards into another archer, grounding the man’s arrow and pinning him to the wagon. Gabrielle jumped to her feet and yelled something which Xena could not hear. The Bard must have instructed the archers to keep their positions because they kept firing. Gabrielle made her way to the dead man, pulled the ax out of his chest and threw it into the wagon. She grabbing his arms and pulled him onto her back, using it as leverage to move the inert man. She dragged him out from between the wagons and was about to let go but must have heard Xena scream, "Gabrielle get down," because she dropped to her knees. The Bard was trying to keep from falling forward as the weight of the archer bore down on her when a Horde ax bounced off the back of the dead man. Gabrielle struggled, but managed to push the deadweight off her. Staying low, she moved back to the wagons.

Relieved that her friend was safe, Xena turned her attention back to the Horde. She ignited two rags and threw the incendiary devices at a large group of men. The front man saw the bomb coming and called out a warning, so damage was minimal. Xena spotted another group, lit the wick and hurled it at the advancing party.

Mulder yelled over the cacophony of gunfire, explosions, war yells and screams, "This is my last clip."

"What does that mean?," shouted Xena.

"It means after this, I’m out of bullets."

"What about you?"

"I have one clip left. I’m a more economical shot," yelled Scully.

"Don’t worry, since this is Scully’s dream, she should be able to come up with a fresh supply of ammo. Right Scully?"

"This is NOT a dream," yelled Xena as she dodged an ax that narrowly missed her shoulder.

"No kidding," replied Mulder.

"They’re coming over the right wall!," yelled a disembodied voice. Xena and the agents turned as two men, axes held in their teeth, pulled themselves up over the wall. Since they needed their hands to balance themselves, they had no chance to throw their weapons. Conversely, the archers had clear shots and quickly dispatched both men.

"Scully I want you to concentrate on the side walls. Shoot whoever appears."

"I’m on it."

"Mulder don’t fire until I tell you. There are only a few men heading towards us. They’ve probably deployed the rest to the side walls. I’m going to get a bow and take care of the few stragglers coming our way." Xena did a forward flip off the platform. The minute her feet hit the ground, she broke into a run.

Simultaneously six men ascended the top of the side wall on ropes. Three were able to throw their axes at the running Warrior, before they were shot by Scully. The other three were killed by arrows, but not before two archers were felled by Horde axes. Xena reached the wagons and in one fluid motion grabbed a bow and some arrows, then spun around and ran back towards the scaffolding. She did a forward flip onto the platform and crouched down as axes flew over her head.

"What took you so long?," asked Mulder sarcastically.

Xena handed the arrows to Mulder and said, "Feed them to me as I shoot." She slowly raised her head above the wall. Three axes hit the top of the wall and bounced off. The Warrior held the shaft of an arrow against the bow and raised herself slightly so her eyes peered over the wall. She jumped to her feet and released the arrow hitting an advancing enemy. The minute she expelled the arrow she put her hand out for another. Mulder had an arrow waiting and handed it to Xena wordlessly. The Warrior set up, turned right as an ax flew passed her and shot another man. She continued to weave from side-to-side dodging axes until all her arrows were expended and not one man was left standing.

While Xena was busy with the Horde’s frontal assault, Scully was busy picking off warriors that appeared above the walls. The ones the agent missed, were easily dispatched by the archers.

Xena turned around, arrow at the ready, when Mulder stood up and grasped the Warrior’s arm. "Do you hear that?" he asked.

"What?" asked Xena.

"The shouting has stopped."

The Warrior listened and realized the agent was right. Except for a few moans, there wasn’t a sound. The chaos of a few seconds ago had been replaced by silence. Nothing moved or stirred, everyone in camp was listening to the quiet.

Xena flipped off the platform and ran towards the left wall.

"I have to learn how to do that," said Mulder.

She unfurled her whip and swung it up towards the top of the wall. It wrapped itself around a broken spike. Xena grabbed the whip with both hands and began walking up the wall.

Gabrielle emerged from between the wagons and watched silently as Xena ascended.

The Warrior was crouching horizontally, both feet planted near the top of the wall. She raised herself slightly and peered over the wall. At least thirty Horde soldiers lay dead or dying on the ground. No one else was in sight. She scrambled down the wall, snapped her whip so it disengaged from the spike, and ran towards the opposite wall. She repeated the same action. Again, she saw only the dead and dying.

Back on the ground, she said, "They’re gone. And I don’t think they’ll be back."

Screams of joy echoed throughout camp. Mulder and Scully climbed down from their perch and were engulfed by well-wishers who patted them on the back and grasped their arms in thanks. Gabrielle ran to Xena and embraced the Warrior, who returned her friend’s hug. Someone yelled, "Xena! Xena! Xena!" Soon the camp reverberated with the sound of the Warrior’s name. Xena released Gabrielle and walked to the middle of camp holding her hands in the air in an attempt to silence the shouts. Once quiet was restored, she pointed to the agents and said, "Mulder and Scully are the ones who deserve your thanks. Without them we would not have been able to defeat the Horde." Xena extended her arm in thanks to Scully, then to Mulder. Gabrielle embraced them both. Then they were all surrounded by the exuberant villagers.

********************

The foursome spent an extra day at Piedmont caught up in the town’s victory celebration. Xena attempted to teach Mulder her forward flip. Gabrielle even used her "Xena doll" to demonstrate, but to no avail. Mulder ran, jumped, flipped over Gabrielle’s staff and landed with a thud on his back, breaking his right shoulder. Xena set it, causing Mulder to let out what Scully referred to as his girlie scream. Xena thought she heard him whimpering during the night, but couldn’t be sure.

After a warm send-off by the townspeople, the group was on their way. They made good time and were back in the clearing shortly after midnight. The time machine was where they’d left it, and to Mulder’s relief, no one had dismantled it. With Argo’s help, they returned the machine to its original spot.

"Are you sure you can get home in this contraption?," asked Gabrielle.

"We’ll know soon enough if we can’t," replied Mulder.

"Thanks again for your help. I don’t know what we would have done if you two hadn’t found your way here," said Xena.

"We were glad to help all things considered," he said rubbing his sore shoulder.

"This has been one helluva dream," muttered Scully. "Gabrielle, remember the Emmy. You still have a shot at stardom. Or should I say warriordom. Xena it has been ... interesting."

Xena looked quizzically from Scully to Gabrielle and said, "Safe home Scully. You too Mulder."

Xena embraced the smaller agent and slapped Mulder on the back causing him to clench his teeth and grimace in pain. "Sorry," she said insincerely.

Gabrielle hugged both agents and then stepped back as they climbed into the Time Machine.

"Ready?," asked Scully.

"Home James," replied Mulder.

Scully set a dial, pushed a button and threw a switch. A thunderous roar shook the earth as the Time Machine began to vibrate. Lights flashed and smoke billowed from a pipe at the back. Xena and Gabrielle took a few steps back as the noise grew louder. The agents appeared to be engulfed by an opaque haze. The last thing the Warrior heard was Scully saying "Mulder, I thought you said home. What do you mean you want to go to outer ...." before all was quiet and the machine and the agents were gone.

***********************

"So, what do you think?," asked Xena from across their campfire. It had taken her so long to tell her tale that the fire had gone out.

Gabrielle sat in stunned silence. She didn’t know what to say. She looked curiously at her companion for a few seconds before replying. "Xena, I’ve been invited to open this year’s competition at the Academy of the Performing Bards, and this is the story you want me to tell?"

"Isn’t it great? I dreamt it last night."

"You dreamt this story?"

"Actually it was more like a vision than a dream; like I was glimpsing the future."

"I see."

"Now I realize its not your style, but ...."

"But this is fiction. You know I don’t do fiction well. Remember what happened the last time I wrote a fictitious story? Ares lost his godhood, Aphrodite developed hygiene problems and you saw more of Greece than a gypsy caravan."

"But this is different. You didn’t write it. Its already written, in a way. All you’re doing is re-telling it."

"Xena, the first rule of storytelling is to discuss what you know. The second is to make it believable. FBI agents? The United States? Weapons that put holes in people? Women who dress like men? Its just too far-fetched," Gabrielle said patting the Warrior’s knee. "In the future, leave the Barding to me," she said as she got up and walked towards the clearing to gather more firewood. "Time Machine," she said chuckling and shaking her head.

The End.

 


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