DISCLAIMER: All characters from Xena: Warrior Princess are property of StudiosUSA and probably many other people who aren't us. This is an alternative fan fiction--Gabrielle and Xena are in love with no apologies.
Survivor is property of CBS and Mark Burnett. We have borrowed characters, both fictional and real. (and honestly, are any of the characters from Survivor 'real?' or are they figments of Mark Burnett and his editor's imagination?) from these television shows and, because this is a parody, we may not have always treated them kindly, but we truly wish no one involved any harm. This is a non-profit piece of fiction.
P.S. Mark Burnett may have been born in England, but he is an Aussie in this story. If that offends him... Sorry, mate.
Thanks to everyone at the Tavern Wall for their inspiration. Thanks to Nance, Tino and Elka for beta reading.
Our story takes place during the summer of the year 2000. The much-despised fifth season of the television show, Xena: Warrior Princess, has just ended while the first season of the much anticipated television show, Survivor, has hit high gear. (Click here for cast bios.)
Greg, the wandering waif, was now a memory, voted off of the island by a majority of his castmates the night before. College student Colleen was picking up some driftwood for the fire. Rudy, the gruff but surly senior citizen, and Rich, the openly gay corporate trainer, were discussing the state of queers in America while they rubbed lotion on each others backs. Truck driver Soozin was flexing her mighty shoulders while emotionally charged mother of two, Jenna, angled her butt for the camera.
Gotta practice for my Playboy shoot, thought Jenna. After all, it got her on the cover of Time.
Colleen may have the lips, she mused, but I've got the...well, OK, Colleen even has the assÉand those dreamy eyes... Strange, loud noises pulled Jenna from her back-seat-of-the-Suzuki reverie.
She and the other Survivors heard screaming from all around them. No, it was more like hollering, really and it seemed to be coming from above them.
Soozin looked up at the clear, blue, tropical sky.
"Looks like something's fahhhhllin from up there, eh?" commented the truck driver to no one in particular.
"Probably a bunch o' queers," groused Rudy, his weathered skin soft and supple from Rich's gentle kneading.
Jenna's upper lip trembled. Attention was being drawn away from her. She burst into tears. "My babies, my babies, I miss them so!"
The camera guy trained his lens on two figures hurtling toward the island at a frightening speed. There was a large thud. Jenna flinched and cried some more. Soozin continued to squint. Richard took his shorts off.
The cameraman ignored Jenna's plea for attention, since it didn't involve her butt, and trained his camera on two figures hurtling from the sky at a frightening speed. The figures hit the island with a large, dusty thud. Jenna flinched and cried some more. Soozin squinted at the vision before them. Richard took his shorts off.
"NOOOOO!" screamed the Survivors in unison. Rich scowled but pulled his shorts back on.
Two people lay on the beach, a plume of dust rising up around them from the impact of their fall, thankfully shielding the newcomers from Richard's brief attempt at nudity. One was a small, compact blonde, the other a tall, black-haired woman.
Or maybe a drag queen, mused Richard, eyeing the brunette's striking and flashy copper armor as he slinked up to the blonde.
"What's your name, stranger?" Rich said as he pulled the fair-haired sky-faller up out of the sand. The corpulent consultant began brushing the coarse soil off the stranger's butt. Hmmmm. Firm as rock, thought Rich who had been on the island with a bunch of mostly straight folks for waaaay too long.
The flaxen-haired foreigner, still reeling from the concussive impact, was too stunned to respond to Rich's invasive behavior.
He spun the stranger around quickly, brushing sand off the blonde's chest. Oooh, and his breasts are almost as big as my manly he-breasts! What a catch! he thought excitedly.
Rich decided it was time for his infamous victory dance.
"Don't look!" warned the rest of the Survivors in terrified unison, as they shielded their eyes from his calamitous choreography.
"All right, fine then," said Rich stopping mid jiggle. "I'll wait until later," he winked at the recovering blonde.
The raven-haired woman had risen slowly, shaking her head in an attempt to get her bearings. She had no idea what had just happened to her but she was absolutely certain that she wanted to disembowel the man who had been pawing her partner.
The utterly confused and irritated blonde looked to her dark companion. "Where are we, Xena?"
"Of course! It's Xena and Gabrielle!" said adorable Colleen. "The Warrior Princess and the Battling Bard! Wow, like, we must be in the middle of a fan fiction! Cool!"
"You mean dem dere lesbians from dat dere lesbian TV show?!" said Rudy. "Dat show's a pain in my ass." He stood still, glaring at Xena and Gabrielle with his steely gray, eagle eyes.
Soozin pulled her Bowie knife out and began combing the rats' nest that was her hair. Four rats hit the ground, scampering frantically down the beachline.
"Soylent green! Soylent green!" they screamed in little rat voices.
"Am I the only one who heard that obscure movie reference?" asked the less-than-intellectual med student, Sean.
With self-preservation foremost in her mind, Soozin eyed Xena.
"Listen, I'm the butchest gal on the island even if I haven't ever won an immunity or reward challenge. And there ain't room here for the two of us."
The Warrior Princess gazed at Soozin with a fierceness that would cause a septuagenarian Navy Seal to soil his Depends undergarments if it were directed at him.
"Aw hell," croaked Rudy, glad he had his Depends on just in case, "I ain't gonna stand here 'n' watch a pissin' contest 'tween dese two dykes! I'm goin' back to da kitchen ta cook some more rice!" Limping back to camp, he grumbled over his shoulder, "And dere ain't enough ta feed dese two broads, so dey gotta fend fer demselves!"
"Ya, that's right, Xener! There ain't no room for you an' Blondie at the Rattana Inn! And there ain't no room in the alliance neither!" Soozin sucked in her gut and thrust out her A-cups in beautiful backwoods defiance.
Sean's eyebrows arched slightly skyward as if the Oompa Loompa's in his head had actually pushed the START button on his brain. "Alliance? What alliance?"
"Paging Dr. Dickweed!" Colleen said mockingly. "They're picking us off, one by one!"
"Who are THEY, Colleen Sean asked, making a mental note that Colleen's name began with a 'k.'
Colleen gestured wildly toward Soozin, Rich, Kelly, and Rudy. "Them,
Medicine Man Handler!"
"Naw..." drawled Sean.
"That's not what Soozin said anyway," chirped the street-wise Kelly. "She said there was no room for Xena and Gabrielle in THE LIONS. 'Cause THE LIONS have already been fed."
Sean looked cockily at Colleen. "See!" he said. "There's no alliance!"
"Sean..." Colleen sighed. "Never mind. You probably don't even know what 'alliance' means in the first place."
Gabrielle laughed, turning to Xena. "I get it! I get it! This is another one of Ares' tests! He put us on this island with these morons to see if we'll snap."
She then directed her words toward Soozin. "Well, it's not going to work, God of War!" The bard grabbed Soozin by her mass of unruly curls and yankedÉhard. "Come on out, Ares. I know you're in there!"
"Ow!" Soozin yelped as she pulled away from Gabrielle. Another large rat tumbled from her tresses.
"Get your hands off me, you damn dirty apes!" the rodent cried as he scurried away.
"You seriously didn't hear that rat say anything?" Sean queried.
I'd eat another rat," thought Jenna, If it meant I'd get a 15-second-prime-spot on Entertainment Tonight.
Xena cleared her throat. The Survivor cast froze with fear.
"First of all," she spoke to her pissed off partner. "Ares is mortal now, so I hardly think he has anything to do with this."
"I wouldn't put anything past that manipulative bastard," the Amazon grumbled.
"Gabrielle..." Xena said softly. "My skin is crawling in a different kind of way. Not in the Ares kind of way."
"He's still a sonofabacchae."
"I'll grant you that." Xena smiled, causing Gabrielle to relax a bit.
"Then how do you explain this, Xena?" The bard asked sincerely.
Xena turned her attention to the motley crew surrounding them. "Could one of you tell us where we are?"
"The mighty Warrior Princess is lost!" scoffed Soozin who walked over to Kelly. "I guess she ain't all that!"
The trucker and the river guide/fugitive chuckled like jaded cheerleaders from Satan's School for Girls. As the two allies/enemies laughed, Gabrielle noticed Kelly's silver stud.
"What's that on your tongue?" she asked innocently.
"What?" Kelly paused. "You mean this?" She stuck out her tongue and wiggled it suggestively.
"Ya!" Soozin chortled. "I'll bet ol' Gabrielle'd like a piece o' that!"
Kelly rolled her tongue again. "They don't call her Wigglesworth for
nothin', ya know!" Soozin said proudly, hopefully.
Gabrielle crinkled her nose in disgust as Soozin and Kelly embraced in purely platonic, evil glee.
"Just ignore them, Gabe." Rich comforted. "I know exactly what a pretty young stud like you needs..." Just then, bells began to ring as two neon arrows magically appeared in the air and pointed at Rich's crotch. The mirage disappeared as one pissed off Warrior Princess strode over and slammed the pinch on Rich. The chubby chump fell to his knees and gasped for air.
"I've just cut off the flow of blood to your brain," warned Xena.
"Awesome!" Colleen squealed with delight. "Rich is gonna die!"
"Hey! I'm a brain surgeon!" Sean announced. "Maybe I can help!"
A passing rat gasped in disbelief and terror at the thought.
Xena placed her mouth just inches from Richard's ear. "Tell me where we are or you'll be dead in 30 seconds."
Colleen did her own funky version of the victory dance. "Go Xena! Go Xena!" she chanted repeatedly to herself.
A solitary bead of sweat rolled from Rich's temple, down his neck and over his jiggling he-breasts. "Okay! I'll tell you! Just fix it so there's feeling in my groin area again!"
"Xena, maybe you should let him go," Gabrielle said, speaking gently to the warrior. "He's obviously clueless."
Xena released the pinch with a growl.
"Darn. Fun's over," sighed cuddly Colleen.
"Gabe," sniffled Rich, "You love me, you really love me!"
Xena snorted and hoisted chubuwubba Rich from the ground. "Tell me where we are!" she threatened, shaking the consultant like a rag doll.
"You're on an island with us, the remaining Survivors. We're playing a game and whomever's the last person left on the island wins lots of money," gasped Richard.
Just then the Survivors, Xena and Gabrielle heard more hollering from the sky. They looked up to see two more figures plummeting to earth.
"We need a new way to have people enter the scene," mused Colleen as the two bodies crashed into the beach.
"It's....Joxer?" queried Gabrielle, recognizing one of the figures.
"I thought they fahhnally killed him off," said Soozin.
"Gab!" Joxer exclaimed, dusting the sand off his pants.
"Who's Joxer?" said Jenna, eyeing the oddly dressed man warily.
"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh," Joxer began to sing, "I'm Joxer the Mighty...."
"Noooooooo!" screamed Xena and Gabrielle together, causing a gaggle of birds to leave their perches in the trees and the poisonous snakes to stream lemming-like into the ocean.
Joxer stopped his singing as his eyes found Jenna. The bumbling warrior wannabe ambled up to her. "Joxer the Mighty," he took her hand in his. "At your service." Jenna managed to remove her trembling, weathered paw before his slippery lips reached her strangely discolored skin.
The second man who fell from the sky groggily climbed off the ground. He was tall and dressed in khaki with a fishing cap topping his unruly, red hair. The man looked around in confusion until his eyes rested upon Xena.
"Lucy!" he said to Xena. "What's going on?"
"Double kewl, it's Rob Tapert, executive producer of Xena: Warrior Princess," laughed Colleen. "The power that beeeee."
A concerned Rob ran over to the Warrior Princess. "Are you all right, honey?"
"Honey?" Gabrielle questioned.
"Do I know you?" Xena asked Tapert.
"Very funny," he smiled and leaned over to give her an affectionate peck on the cheek.
As Gabrielle reached down for her deadly sais, Xena halted Tapert with one powerful hand to his shoulder. "Are you suicidal?"
"Aw, don't tell me Ren's method acting is rubbing off on you!" he whined.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, but if you ever get that close to me again, my friend," she nodded to Gabrielle, "Will be rubbing your blood off of her weapon... Got it, Red?"
Rob blanched at Lucy's harsh words. She had a look in her eyes that he had never seen before. It was almost as if she believed what she was saying. He gulped down his fear. Lucy must have hit her head in the fall, he thought to himself. Better play along. Out loud, he said, "Uh, yeah... Sorry... Xena."
Quirky Colleen hopped over to the rusty-haired television exec. "Mr. T! Dude! Can I call you Mr. T?!"
Tapert raised an appreciative eyebrow after giving the young co-ed a quick once-over, hoping that his wife hadn't noticed. She'd make a great scantily clad, dancing-under-the-waterfall Amazon, he sighed inwardly.
Colleen waved her hand in front of Tapert's glazed eyes. "T-Dude, back on track. Listen, "I think we're in the middle of a fanfic story. You know, like on the Internet," she informed.
"The Internet?!" the executive roared. "Those hardcore nutballs are a pain in my ass!"
Colleen scrunched up her nose and looked deeply into his eyes. "Rudy?" she asked, unsure.
Gabrielle, overhearing the man's outburst, approached the two of them. "Ares?" she prodded Tapert's chest with the tip of a sai.
"Stop it, Renee! That tickles!" he giggled. She jabbed him hard. "Ouch!" he flinched. "What has gotten into you?"
"Dude..." Colleen interjected. "Don't go all Sean on us! It's like I'm trying to tell you... That's not Renee. That's Gabrielle!"
"ReneÉ Gabriel..." A gender-confused Rich mused dreamily. "A pansy by any other name would still smell as sweet." The consultant batted his long, luxurious eyebrows at the seething Bard.
"I don't like this Tapert guy, Xena!" Gabrielle informed her companion. "I'm getting a really bad vibe from him."
"Yeah, well, you should have been stuck in that time vortex thingy with him," Joxer motioned to the sky from whence he came. "Talk about too close for comfort! I hope that was a banana in your pocket!" He smirked at Mr. T.
"I'll have you to know that it's a Pocket Fisherman! Thank you very much!" the redhead said defensively.
"Oooh... No way! Ya got a fishin' pole on ya's somewheres?" drawled Soozin. "Does that mean ya know how ta fish?"
Rich gave a frightened, inward squeal at this news. He was the fisher on the island...it was what made him King of the Alliance--that and his pact with the Island Devil-God (aka Mark Burnett). This Tapert guy was cutting in on his territory. Time for him to go, plotted the fiendish consultant.
"I love fishing!" Tapert proclaimed. "Right, hon..." he stopped when he noticed that Xena was busy removing a stray eyelash from Gabrielle's cheek. There was a gentleness in the warrior's touch that he could not stand to witness.
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?! I TOLD YOU, NO MORE TOUCHING!!!"
In a flash, Xena reached out and grabbed him by the throat. "Is it okay if I touch this?!" she said with deadly calmness.
Sean turned to a nearby camera and said, "I think this Xena lady is a real nice girl. I'm glad her name starts with a 'Z'. That puts her at the....uh.......end of the alphabet, right?" Sean gave a goofy smile. "That'll give me more time to get to know her and talk her into sleeping with me before I vote her off the island."
A passing rat shook its head at Sean, "Damn stupid ape."
"Could you..." *wheeze* "...maybe just..." *wheeze* "...loosen your grip?" squeaked Tapert.
"Xena..." Gabrielle started.
"I know! I know!" the warrior released her grasp on the crimson faced man. "Killing him won't help us figure out what's going on."
"Actually," the Amazon stated matter-of-factly. "I was going to suggest that you squeeze harder."
A confused Xena furrowed her brow in disbelief. The petite blonde powerhouse paused for dramatic effect then broke into an ornery smile.
"Gab - ri- elle..." Xena warned affectionately, resting her hand on the bard's shoulder. Tapert's heart leapt to his throat at the sight of such intimacy, but he wisely kept his disapproving comments to himself. For now.
"Grub's on!" the grizzled ex-sailor, Rudy, bellowed from camp.
Gervase, who had been sleeping soundly in his hammock for 26 straight hours, arose and mumbled, "I'm not eating any more bugs, man!"
"That ain't what I said!" bitched Rudy. "Ya lazy bastard!" he grumbled under his breath.
Back at the beach, Soozin studied her two new rivals. "I hate to break up your little lovefest," she said as Xena squeezed Gabrielle's shoulder, then removed her hand. "But the gang's gotta go have their daily portion of rice or somethin'." She looked at the other survivors. "Let's go, guys! Gervase is probably trying to sweet talk the old man into dividin' up our portions!"
"Nooooooooooo!!!!!!!!" Richard bellowed and ran in slow motion, loose belly skin bouncing in time to the theme from Chariots of Fire, which inexplicably filled the air and then faded away as he left their sight.
"I think I heard one time that rice is brain food..." Sean told Soo as they headed toward camp with Kelly. "I didn't even know that brains could eat!"
"He did not just say that, did he?" a remaining hair rat murmured in Soozin's ear, causing the truck driver to chuckle to herself.
A teary-eyed Jenna apologized to the newcomers. "I'm so sorry. They're all so mean," she hiccupped back a sob. "I could share my rice with you if you'd like."
"That's very kind of you," said Xena. "But you look like you need the rice more than we do. Go on."
A solitary tear rolled down Jenna's cheek as she lowered her head and set out for her meal.
"Don't mind Jenna." Colleen informed them. "She's just real emotional and stuff."
"I guess I'll have to have a talk with her later," sighed the warrior.
"Why you?" asked the bard.
"Because I do the sensitive chats." Xena replied.
"Oh yeah..." Gabrielle thought about this for a moment. "When exactly did that happen, Xena? I mean, I used to be the sensitive one."
"Yes, but then you became a killing machine, remember? Someone had to fill the void..."
"But I only started killing to protect you and our baby..."
Tapert cleared his throat. He could stay quiet no longer. "Xena's baby," he corrected.
"Excuse me?" asked the surprised bard.
"The baby was Xena's, not yours." Tapert explained. "There's no sharing of the babies."
"Ay yi yi!" Colleen knew where this was going.
"You see, Gabrielle," Tapert continued. "Hope, the evil harbinger of darkness, was your daughter. Xena never laid claim to her, nor should she. Hope has nothing to do with her and everything to do with you, the disposable sidekick. Xena is the hero. Her daughter, Eve, is the bringer of peace and light. You have no right to consider Eve your child."
As the word child left Tapert's lips, the island surroundings came to a grinding halt. Time stood still. All living things ceased to move. Well, all living things except Colleen and the paunch around Rich's gut.
"Whoa!!!" Colleen said as she studied the still world around her. "Don't eat the brown rice, man..." She giggled when she saw a dolphin caught in mid-air over the motionless ocean.
"What are you laughing at, little girl?" said a harsh female voice from behind.
Colleen whirled around only to find herself face to face with the evil shamaness known as Alti.
"My..." The hag caressed the startled castaway's soft, supple cheek. "Aren't you a pretty one?"
"Wha... What are you doing here?" stammered Colleen.
Alti's eyes roamed down to Colleen's perky breasts. She pursed her lips in naughty contemplation. "Let's just say that I'm here to insure that you..." her raccoon eyes met big doe eyes. "...don't let Tapert get the upper hand here."
"Wh... Wh... Why do you care about Tapert?"
"Because he tried to do away with all lesbian innuendo in the Fifth Season and what is Alti without lesbian innuendo?"
"A merciless shrew?" Colleen gulped, awaiting her punishment.
Alti reared her head backwards and let out a thunderous laugh.
"Goodness, you're a charmer! Have you ever considered being an apprentice?"
"An apprentice? To what?"
"Oh, I don't know... Maybe to a tall, dark, handsome shamaness?"
"Uh... heh-heh," Colleen inched away from the imposing woman. "I'm real flattered and all, but I'm thinkin' I'm gonna be pretty busy for awhile after getting off of this island. Gotta play the part of America's Sweetheart for a month or two and then make a couple walk-on appearances on some cheesy sitcoms; maybe get a job with MTV; pose for a couple magazines... I got a lot on my plate right now. Thanks for asking, though."
Alti scowled as only Alti could. "Very well then. Back to the problem at hand." Looking around at the statue-like forms of Xena, Gabrielle, Tapert and Joxer, she said, "You have one hour to make things right."
"An hour?!" yelped Colleen. "I don't even..." She looked back and forth between the smirking Tapert and the clenched teeth of Gabrielle. "Um... Could you do me a favor? Could you make the water move again? Please?"
"If you insist." Alti flicked her wrist and the ocean came to life.
Colleen wrapped her arms around Tapert's chest and dragged him to a nearby raft where she rested his stiff, freckled body. After pulling the raft to sea, she hopped on and paddled to a remote, and strangely alive, part of the island. It took some effort, but the sweaty sweetie managed to get Tapert into a deep, dark cave. Paddling furiously, she made it back to the main island, hoping she'd be able to bargain for more time. To her surprise, Rattana was still frozen.
Alti's lips curled in devilish pleasure as her eagle eyes spied a droplet of sea water trickling down the young woman's abdomen.
"Tapert's outta the way," called a breathless Colleen. "What do I do with these two?" she pointed at Xena, whose right hand was just inches away from her sword, and Gabrielle, who seemed ready to explode. Alti slinked toward Colleen ever so slowly. "Come on!" yelled Colleen. "I'm runnin' outta time!"
At that moment, Alti split into two halves. Each half morphed into a stunning woman. Colleen was nearly blinded by their radiance.
"Don't worry about them," said the dark-eyed vision known as godconnie. "We'll fix it."
"I don't see how we possibly can," grumbled the green-eyed (Or were they gold?) vixen called Mezzo.
"Would you just relax?" warned godconnie.
"How can I relax when you're adding serious tension to what's supposed to be a lighthearted romantic tale?" asked Mezzo. She had a good point.
"Well, I guess that's what you get when you let me have too much time to think!"
"Waitaminnit! Waitaminnit!" said an excited Colleen. "Are the two of youse island goddesses?"
"Yes," said Mezzo.
"No," said godconnie at the same moment. Mezzo gave godconnie *the look.* But what a gorgeous look it was! "I mean... Yes and no." godconnie tried to explain. "We're writing this story."
Mezzo rolled her eyes and sighed deeply.
"You mean I was right?" the co-ed asked.
"Yes, you're a very clever girl, Colleen." godconnie replied. "At least in this story," thought the writer-cum-island goddess.
"This really is a piece of fan fiction?" laughed Colleen.
"A piece of fan fiction gone awry," quipped Mezzo.
"Everything is fine," godconnie assured Mezzo. Again.
"gc!" Mezzo blurted. "You didn't even know where to go with the Tapert thing! You had him intimidate our beloved bard and then instead of resolving it well or, better yet, just deleting the entire section, you resorted to a tired old 'let's freeze time and make things different clich! It's lame, I tell you! Lame!"
"But I can make it work! Just give me a chance!" gc did her best sad puppy dog impersonation.
"Aw... Come on..." Colleen begged Mezzo. "Give her a chance."
"Ugh." Mezzo was not impressed. "Fine. Do it."
"Whee!" gc beamed.
Mezzo closed her eyes as if to meditate. "Gaia, help me."
godconnie walked over to the frozen bard. She leaned her luscious lips close to Gabrielle's inviting earlobe. "Rob Tapert does not know what he's talking about," the fanfic writer whispered soothingly. "When Ares put you and Xena into the same body to fight Mavican, you were both forever changed. Once you were returned to your separate bodies, you possessed the fierceness and the focus that you'd long been lacking while Xena possessed a newfound gentleness and humility. Each of you left a little piece of yourself in the other. Eve has as much of you in her as she does Xena. She is your daughter. And remember..." gc said affectionately, "...Xena loves you."
Tears streamed down Colleen's face. "Omigod. I am so turning into Jenna right now!"
Mezzo coughed and turned away so that the others wouldn't see her wipe a wee tear from her eye. Turning back, she saw godconnie standing on her tiptoes, whispering to the Warrior Princess. Mezzo resumed a look of skepticism as godconnie skipped happily back toward her.
"All better now!" godconnie said with confidence.
"What did you say to Xena?" asked Mezzo.
"Yes, it does."
"No..." godconnie winked at the now cheerful Colleen, "It doesn't."
And with a snap of her long, magnificent fingers, she and Mezzo disappeared into thin air as the still part of the island and all of the campsite's inhabitants came back to life.
Gabrielle breathed a huge sigh of relief as if a monolithic burden had been removed from her shoulders. She looked to Xena and smiled. The bard hadn't felt this free, this happy in so very long.
Xena drew her sword and searched for Tapert. Joxer tripped over a grain of sand and fell flat on his face. He was knocked unconscious.
"Where did he go?" Gabrielle wondered about Tapert.
"I don't know," replied Xena as she turned around slowly, sword at the ready.
"He's gone," offered Colleen.
"Gone?" questioned the bard.
"Yeah, um..." Colleen decided to take the path of least resistance. "The island goddesses came and took him away."
"The island goddesses?" asked Xena as she sheathed her sword.
"Yeah. They thought he was being too destructive and disrespectful, so they zapped him outta here."
The warrior fixed the co-ed with an icy stare. "And how is it that you saw these goddesses and we didn't?"
Colleen trembled internally but remained calm on the surface. "I see dead people," she breathed in her best Haley Joel Osment voice.
"Excuse me?" Xena took a step closer.
"Um... Uh..." Colleen got an idea and smiled her most adorable Drew Barrymore-like smile. "Just between you and me, Xena, the island goddesses have sorta got the hots for me so they let me see what they're doing from time to time. Trying to impress me and all."
"Ugh." Xena snarled in disgust. "Gods!"
"These two ain't so bad, they're actually kind of cute..."
"Colleen!" Jenna screeched from camp. "Rudy's gonna give your rice away!"
Colleen rolled her eyes. "I'll be right there!" she yelled back. "Are youse guys gonna be okay?" she asked the dynamic duo.
"We'll be fine," said Xena.
"Kewl. I gotta motor if I wanna make that rice!" she walked backwards nearly all the way to camp, hoping that things truly were going to be fine.
Xena's face now had that woman-on-a-mission look. "We're getting out of here, Gabrielle." The bard nodded in agreement and followed her beloved.
Joxer raised his dazed head only to find crustaceans attached to his nose and both ears.
"Sand crabs!" he cried out.
Xena and Gabrielle continued down the beach; Joxer's howls of agony becoming less earsplitting the farther they went.
The castaways inhaled their rice in record time. Not even the usually deliberate Rich took a moment to savor the extra spoonful they all received due to Greg's departure from the island the night before. No, the corporate trainer was too busy formulating a plan. Stranger things than normal had been happening all day and something in his massive gut told him that Colleen was the key. For the first time in weeks, he noticed that her attention had stayed focused for more than a few seconds.
In fact, he mused. She's downright contemplative... His train of thought was stalled when Colleen stood.
"I'm gonna take a walk," she announced and headed in the same direction that Xena and Gabrielle had gone.
"Hey! Wait up!" Rich yelled. "I could use a walk!" He jogged to catch up with the startled co-ed.
"He could use more than a walk!" Rudy said to the remaining survivors. "I didn't think dem queers liked fatties!" He thought for a moment. "Course, he ain't never mentioned no boyfriend... Maybe dat's why he wants da million. Buy himself one o' dem cabana boys or somethin'."
"I remember when I was a cabana boy..." Sean waxed poetic until he saw the raised eyebrows of his mates. "Oops. Did I say that out loud?"
"Ya, Sean." Soozin answered.
"I just did it for a couple summers to raise money for med school," he giggled nervously. "Not because I'm gay or anything..."
"Yeah, and I bit my ex-husband's nose because I'm a cannibal!" Kelly's words dripped with sarcasm. "Not because I'm a psycho bitch!" Soozin and Rudy roared with laughter. Gervase nearly woke from his after dinner nap.
"I don't think..." *sob* "...it's very nice..." *sob* "...to make fun of people!" Jenna cried.
"And I..." *fake sob* "...don't think..." *fake sob* "...it's possible..." *fake sob* "...that you are such a pussy! Knock off the tears, Little Miss Cry Baby!" screeched Soozin.
The others howled as Jenna burst into tears. Again.
"That's what the slut gets for not sleeping with me!" thought Sean.
Back at the beach, Rich decided the best way to get the information he wanted was to pretend like he already knew what was going on.
"Some day, huh, Colls?" he said casually.
"Yeah." Colleen replied coolly.
"I mean, I can't believe the way those folks were sent here. Falling out of the sky and all." He smiled. "I wonder which island god they pissed off?" Colleen's eyes widened. "I'm getting close to something," thought Rich. Colleen wanted him to go away.
"I really gotta pee, Rich."
You crafty little minx! he thought. "By all means... I'll wait right here," he assured her.
Colleen warily made her way into the jungle. Though a large man, Rich was quite stealthy. He managed to follow the careful co-ed without getting caught. When Colleen reached a clearing where she was sure she was safe, she tried to summon Mezzo and godconnie.
"Hey, youse guys," she said looking up, half expecting the breathtaking women to swoop down from the heavens on the backs of winged horses. "I need to talk to you about something."
Both she and Rich waited with bated breath. Nothing happened.
"If you can hear me, give me a sign." She hoped this would work.
Suddenly, it started to snow in the clearing. Rich began to fume as Colleen giggled and caught a snowflake on her tongue. The snow stopped as quickly as it had begun.
"I guess that means you're listening, huh?" She turned around once, checking to see if she was still alone. Rich remained hidden behind a very large bush. "Okay... I don't know exactly why youse guys are here. I mean, you've gotta be doing this for a reason, right?" She paused, waiting for an answer that never came. "Well, I'm here to tell ya that Rich might figure out how to screw things up. He's very smart and he may be the spawn of Satan, I'm not sure. And even though you seem to be in control, you really need to keep an eye on him. Maybe you could just freeze him until this is over."
"LIKE HELL!!!" Richard roared as he stood and pointed a shaking finger at Colleen who squealed in horror and ran back toward camp. Rich's body vibrated with greed-induced rage and adrenaline.
"I'll get to the bottom of this right now!" he vowed to himself and took off running deeper into the jungle. The earth shook with his every step. A mile away, the warrior and the bard felt the tremors.
"Did you feel that, Xena?" Gabrielle asked as she studied the fishing net she had found on the beach.
"I did." Xena replied as she put the finishing touches on the raft they had been building. The earth shook again.
"Earthquake?" asked the bard.
"Try again," the warrior said playfully. There was another tremor.
"Volcano?" Gabrielle said, unsure. "No..." She held up her hand and closed her eyes. Another tremor. "Fat man running?" she asked, opening one eye.
"That's my girl!" smiled Xena.
"Am I your girl?" asked Gabrielle.
Just then, the relative silence of the island was shattered by a thunderous scream.
"Fat man angry?" laughed Gabrielle.
"Indeed." Xena agreed. "Perhaps we should take that as a sign to leave?"
"Where are we headed?" the bard asked as she tossed the fishing net to the ground and helped Xena place their raft in the water.
"There's a ship circling this island. We'll row out to it and ask if they'll take us to the mainland."
"What if it's a pirate ship?" The two women began paddling away from the island.
"Then we'll kick their butts, sail back to the mainland and turn them over to the proper authorities." Xena declared.
"Sounds like a plan to me," agreed Gabrielle.
Richard had come to a stony mountainside. He searched frantically for the electronic keypad that he knew was hidden somewhere under a piece of faux rock.
Deep inside the mountain, Mark Burnett, executive producer of the television show, Survivor, lounged in his luxury suite which overlooked the high-tech facility where a staff of twenty men and women monitored the castaways' every move. Burnett had decided to watch a highlight reel of Jenna's infamous butt angling, but his anticipation was thwarted by the sound of an alarm in the room below.
"What's going on down here?" Burnett asked as he stepped out of the elevator and into the control room.
"Our monitors show two figures on a raft. It looks as though they're trying to make it to Probst's yacht," replied a young man who stared nervously at the screen before him.
"Holy Hades!" Burnett barked as he studied the screen as well. "We need a storm with strong winds in sector 27A, pronto!"
"Yes, sir!" shouted another crewman as buttons were pushed and levers were pulled.
The sky opened over the bard and the warrior. Lightning. Thunder. Rain. High winds. Xena looked over her shoulder and saw a large wave coming right at them.
"Get ready, Gabrielle!" she yelled over the din. The blonde turned just in time to see the wave hit them. The raft overturned, throwing the two women into the sea and hitting Xena in the side of the head, rendering her unconscious. Gabrielle struggled to stay above the surface.
"Xena?!" she screamed as she spun around in the churning water. "Xena!!!" The bard filled her lungs with air and dove under the water. It took a couple seconds for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, but she soon spied the sinking warrior. The mighty Amazon Queen wrapped a muscular arm around her partner and propelled both of them to the surface with her powerful legs. Gabrielle knew that making it back to shore was going to be the most daunting task she had ever faced but she was determined to succeed.
The wind had picked up considerably around the island. Back at the mountain, Richard had to shield himself from flying jungle debris. Finally, he managed to find the hidden keypad that would allow him to enter Mark Burnett's secret facility. He punched the code number assigned him, 666, and a slab of rock slid to the side, revealing an opening. Rich entered and the slab closed behind him.
Two miles away, Rob Tapert stood perfectly still in a pitch-black cavern. He'd been standing there, paralyzed by fear and confusion, for nearly two hours. The events of the day had been very perplexing and now he found himself in the dark. Literally.
This is just like the time back in Detroit when Campbell and I built our own sensory deprivation tank after getting hammered and watching Ken Russell's Altered States, thought Tapert. My God! What if the past 20 years have all been an illusion? Have I been hallucinating? What if I'm still lying in that tank? What if I'm not a television mini-mogul? What if I'm not married to a luscious Kiwi actress? What if I'm still a stock boy at the A & P?!!! He began to sweat profusely.
A bolt of lightning cut across the stormy sky outside. Tapert let out a terrified scream as the light allowed him a fleeting glimpse of a naked figure huddled a few feet away. An equally high-pitched male scream matched his. Intermittent flashes of light afforded them the chance to recognize each other as human.
"Who... Who are you?" questioned Tapert nervously.
"I found this place first!" shouted the naked, muscular man. "Who are you?!!!"
"My name is Rob Tapert. Executive producer of Xena: Warrior Princess and Cleopatra 2525."
"No way, dude! Those babe's are hot!" came the more relaxed reply.
"So you've actually heard of the shows?" Tapert was relieved. He wasn't hallucinating.
"Sure... Too bad those two on Xena are lesbians... Not that I wouldn't mind seeing some hot girl on girl action..." the stranger said wistfully.
"They are not lesbians!" roared Tapert. "Why does everyone think that?"
"Maybe because they're always hugging each other and taking baths together and giving each other backrubs and sleeping next to each other and saying 'I love you, Xena...'"
"People did that in ancient Greece! It doesn't mean anything!"
"How come Hercules and his little buddy never did those things then?"
"What are you? Gay?" asked Tapert.
"HELL NO!" the stranger yelled and stood defiantly in the dark.
Another bolt of lightning lit the cave for a split second. Both men screamed like schoolgirls when they realized that one of them was completely nude.
"Is there a reason why you're naked?" asked Rob.
"Um..." The stranger cleared his throat. "It's a long story..."
Mark Burnett and his crew watched the compact but powerful blonde fight the elements as she brought her unconscious companion back towards shore.
"She's magnificent!" sighed an awestruck technician.
"Yes, she is," agreed Burnett.
"Who are they?" asked one of the visiting CBS execs. "I don't recall discussing the addition of new castaways."
"Uh..." Burnett didn't want to look like he had no idea what was going on. "It's a surprise," he lied.
"A surprise?" the exec asked. "Can we afford surprises?"
At that, a seething Richard burst into the control room.
"You backstabbing bitch!!!" Rich pointed at Burnett. "What are you and Colleen up to?!!!"
"Excuse me?" Burnett was confused.
"I saw her talking to you! I saw the snow in the jungle!" fumed Rich.
"What are you talking about?"
"You know damn well what I'm talking about, Burnett! You and that sweet little piece of ass are making me out to look like a fool!" Richard was beet-red from his face to his protruding gut.
"Calm down, Richard," Burnett said softly. "Have a seat. Please." He motioned to a nearby chair. Rich was hesitant, but suddenly realized how exhausted he was, so he decided to sit. Mark circled around behind him and began massaging his sweat-covered shoulders. Rich let out a low moan. "You like that, don't you?" Burnett whispered.
"Mmm-hmm..." Rich groaned and closed his eyes.
"Now, calmly, Richard..." Burnett caught the eye of the facility's doctor and motioned with his head toward the emergency medical kit. The doctor walked nonchalantly to the kit and opened it. "...tell us what happened."
"First," Rich sighed, "These people fell from the sky..."
"From the sky?" Mark asked while nodding no at the doctor who was holding up a small bottle of baby oil. "Were they wearing parachutes?"
"No, they just fell from the sky. Ker-platt!!!"
"Okay..." Burnett watched the woman rummage through the kit. "Then what?"
"Then one of them disappeared..." Rich continued.
"Disappeared? Like, how?"
"One minute he was there and the next he wasn't!" Rich began to get annoyed again.
"Just relax..."Burnett said as he began to massage Rich's temples. "You're so tense..." The doctor held up a tube of K-Y jelly. Burnett rolled his eyes. He silently mouthed the word, tranquilizer, to her. She pulled out a CD called Frank & Liza. Burnett gasped internally. How did that get in there? he wondered. The woman raised a questioning eyebrow. Mark shook his head and then did a little charade sleepy thing and, once again, mouthed the word, tranquilizer, but more slowly this time. The doctor nodded affirmatively and continued to rummage.
"Colleen was acting all funny," Rich continued. "You know, as if she were actually thinking. I decided to follow her into the jungle. She spoke to the sky and asked for a sign. It started to snow..." He began to sob. "Why hast thou forsaken me?"
"Richard." Burnett came around to face him. "Sweetheart. You have to believe me when I say that I would never forsake you." The doctor slowly made her way around to stand behind Rich.
"You promised that I would win if I gave you a great TV villain," the weeping man reminded him.
"I did. And you have. My promise still stands." Burnett assured him.
"Then why are you collaborating with Colleen?"
"Honey, I think you've been out in the heat too long..." Burnett nodded to the doctor who quickly injected the tranquilizer into Rich's neck.
"What the...?!!!" Rich yelled as he grabbed his neck. "Why, Mark? Why?" he tried to stand but was too woozy. Mark and the doctor caught him under his flabby arms and gently placed him on the floor.
"Don't worry, Richie, things will work out for you." Burnett smiled affectionately. "Now, you must rest..."
Against his better judgment, Richard lost consciousness. Burnett waited until he was sure that Rich could no longer hear what was being said. "Put a tracking implant in him, then dump him in the jungle," he ordered the doctor.
"What is going on here, Burnett?" the exec asked as five husky crewmembers struggled to move Richard's prone body to the examination room.
"Obviously, Mr. Hatch is suffering from heat exhaustion. We'll rehydrate him, set him up with a tracking device so we can monitor his movement, and put him back on the island. He won't remember any of this." Burnett, who was unsure himself, assured the man.
"I don't know about this," grumbled the exec. "New additions to the cast, people trying to escape, the most together person on the island raving like a lunatic about snow in the jungle, and I've heard that one of the ex-castaways is missing from the resort..."
"Everything is under control..." Burnett was cut off as the room was filled with melodious laughter. The unmistakably female voices were more hypnotic than those of the sirens, though only the female crew seemed enchanted. The men, on the other hand, all shook with instinctual dread. As the voices faded, it began to snow in the control room.
"What the hell is going on here?!" demanded the exec.
"It must be a malfunction of some sort!" yelled Burnett, who was close to exposing his own panic.
"We can't find any malfunctions," said the woman who operated the main computer.
The snow stopped. Faint laughter was heard for a few seconds.
"See..." Burnett pretended to regain his composure. "...all better now." The last remaining snowflake landed on the tip of his nose and melted.
Two miles south of Burnett's compound, Rob Tapert sat in quiet contemplation as his newfound companion related his tale of woe.
"Man, I didn't even say those chicks were like cows! It was Gervase! And he's probably still swinging his lazy ass in some comfortable hammock while I sit here... naked... in a cold, dark cave!"
"I'm still not clear on how you got here, Joel," said a sympathetic Tapert. "Then again, I'm not clear on how I got here..."
"I heard heavy breathing and something being dragged in here earlier. I assumed an animal had brought in its kill. That's why I hid." Joel explained. "Obviously, what I heard was someone bringing you here."
"But you don't know who?"
"No. It was too dark and I was...scared," he said, embarrassed.
"Maybe it was the same person that brought you," offered Tapert.
"You've been to the resort?" Fear began to creep into Joel's voice.
"Resort?" asked Tapert.
"That's where they attacked me," Joel said hesitantly.
"The... women..." whispered Joel. "The ones who thought I called them cows," he took a deep breath. "They waited until nightfall. We were at the resort bar. Each one of them, Sonja, Ramona, Stacey..." The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he said the next name. "Gretchen..." He gulped down his terror. "They kept buying me drinks. They acted as if nothing had ever happened on the beach. I thought they were being really good sports. But then..." He paused for what seemed like an eternity to the action-packed mentality of Tapert. "Someone must have drugged me. Knocked me out. Next thing I know, I wake up here, without clothes, without anything..." Tears rolled down his cheeks.
"How long ago was this?"
"A week, at least..."
"And you've stayed here the entire time?" Tapert couldn't comprehend such inaction.
"No..." Joel admitted. "A few days ago, I found my way back to the camp where my former castmates were still competing... I was going to ask them for a pair of shorts and then head back to the resort, but..." he drifted off into his thoughts.
"But?" Tapert prodded.
"I ran into Soozin and Kelly first. They chased after me with rope and a fillet knife..." He paused. "They threatened to decapitate Little Joel." He took a deep breath and began to cry again.
The castaways remaining at the camp had taken refuge from the storm under their makeshift hut. Being products of pampered 20th Century American society, none of them had the ability to build a decent dwelling, hence, they were as soaked as they would have been had they faced the elements unsheltered. Soozin, ever alert, spied two forms emerging from the tumultuous sea; one dragging the other.
"Well, I'll be!" Soozin said to Colleen. "Looks like the Warrior Princess is dead. Again."
"No!" Colleen yelped and headed toward her newfound friends.
Tears mixed with raindrops and streamed down Jenna's face. "You're such a... a... a... b-word, Soozin!" And with that, she ran to accompany Colleen.
"Ouch," Kelly said sarcastically as she sidled up to Soo. "I guess she told you."
"Yah, sure, you betcha." Soo said flatly.
The storm receded as Colleen and Jenna reached the determined bard and the unconscious warrior.
"Can we help?" asked Colleen.
"I have to get some air into her lungs," stated the calm Amazon Queen. Gabrielle began performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her partner as the young beach bums watched in amazement. Two hundred yards away, just as it had done to hundreds of thousands of subtexters around the world, the red-hot chemistry between Gabrielle and Xena began to work its magic on Kelly and Soo.
"Good Lord," gulped Soozin as the bard's lips met those of the warrior. "How hot would that be if they were both awake?"
No such question crossed Kelly's mind, but only because her libido had blocked the passage of thoughts to her brainÉa hormonal version of Xena's pinch, if you will. Her body temperature shot up five degrees and her heart began to race. In the distance, Xena sputtered back to life as Gabrielle gently cradled her in her arms.
Kelly and Soo's attention turned slowly toward each other. Their eyes met in that dreamy place between arousal and release. Kelly's mouth opened slightly in sweet anticipation. The newly returned sun reflected off her tongue stud and pierced the tiny un-Grinch-like part of Soozin's heart. Soo began to melt.
"Damn disgusting dykes!" Rudy growled in the direction of the gorgeous Greeks. "Get a room!" he yelled even louder.
Not surprisingly, Rudy's rough comments had the same effect on Kelly and Soo as the rain had on their campfire. The flame was quickly extinguished. Both women began to boil inwardly; equally horrified by their attraction to each other and pissed at the old man for ruining the moment. Kelly realized she had to save face immediately. She glared at Soo.
"Rat!" retorted Soo.
A small rodent peeked out between her dishwater blonde tresses.
Soozin grabbed the unlucky varmint and wailed it directly at Sean's crotch.
"Oof!" the doctor doubled over in pain; his face landing precariously close to the still sleeping Gervase's groin.
"What the fu...?!!!" Gervase exclaimed as he lit out of his soggy hammock, sending Sean to the ground. "How many times do I have to tell you and Rich that I don't swing that way?!!!" he trumpeted.
"Sorry," croaked Sean.
"Hey, who are the new babes?" Gervase asked as he noticed the two strangers returning to camp with Jenna and Colleen.
"Are there any dry blankets?" Jenna asked the uncaring onlookers. "We have to get Xena warm."
"I'll start a fire!" Colleen offered.
"That'll be the day!" Rudy scoffed as the co-ed set out to do something she'd not accomplished once while on the island despite numerous giggle- and groan-filled attempts.
Gabrielle settled her groggy love on a log facing the soon-to-be fire and began checking Xena's pulse and pupils for any irregularities. Jenna found a dry blanket in a crate and wrapped it around the shivering warrior.
"Thanks," smiled the appreciative bard. She noticed that Colleen was clumsily trying to ignite water-soaked wood. "Why don't you sit here with Xena while I start the fire?"
"Huh?" Colleen paused then caught on. "Okay." She plopped down happily beside the warrior who immediately took her aching head in her hands. "Oops! Sorry! No more bouncing. Promise."
Jenna positioned herself on the other side of Xena and gently massaged her back as Gabrielle set out to find some dry firewood.
"They're so pathetic," Kelly said disgustedly.
"They're in that 'I'll-do-anything-for-the-warrior-princess-haze." Soozin explained.
Kelly was impressed with Soo's command of the English language. "That's pretty funny."
"Yah, I just made it up."
"Liar!" said the recovered rat as he scurried out from under Sean.
"I'm just a little uncomfortable with this, Joel," Tapert confessed.
"I knew you'd be a boxers man! Briefs are too constricting."
"I agree," Rob said as he stepped out of his skivvies. "Although I always keep a pair of Speedos handy in case Lucy wants to re-enact her Muriel's Wedding fantasy." He tossed his boxers to Joel and quickly put his pants back on.
Muriel's Wedding? Joel asked as he caught Tapert's donated underwear.
"Yes," Tapert went into full film geek mode. "It's a quirky little Australian film about a young misfit girl who finds solace in Abba songs and marries a South African swimmer."
"I saw that." Joel slipped into the first piece of clothing he'd worn in a week. "Didn't Muriel leave her husband and run off with her girlfriend in the end?" Tapert grew very quiet.
"Sonofabitch," Rob finally spoke. "I have to get back to camp!"
Even though they would never admit it, the crackling fire that Gabrielle had built was a warm welcome to everyone at the camp. The bard was not very happy about being stuck with such the inhospitable people, but she knew it would be best for Xena to rest after suffering such a serious head injury. The castaways had been smart enough to give them their distance while she tried to comfort her companion and she was thankful for that. She felt an internal rumbling, but since she was holding Xena so close to her, she couldn't tell whose stomach was begging for food.
Who am I kidding? she thought. It's always my stomach.
"You should find something to eat," Xena said quietly. The bard smiled.
"How do you do that?"
"Do what?" asked Xena.
"Read my mind."
"It had nothing to do with your mind, Gabrielle. It was your gurgling gut." This caused the bard to chuckle quietly. "Go find some food."
"I don't want to leave you here alone," Gabrielle whispered.
"I'll be all right. Just tell those two cute girls to keep me company."
"Oh, that makes me feel even better!" Gabrielle joked. Xena managed an impish grin.
"Would you go if I told you that I was hungry too?"
"You know I would."
"Then go." Xena urged. "I expect you to return with a 10-course meal."
"I don't think you could keep that much food down," the bard said seriously.
"No, but wouldn't it be fun to see the reactions of these idiots if the great Warrior Princess were to hurl all over the place?"
"Xena..." Gabrielle shook her head. "Sometimes you can be so crude."
"But you love me anyway."
"That I do," she smiled.
Barely a word was spoken as Joel led Tapert back toward the Survivor camp. Joel's entire being was focused on his surroundings. He would not allow any of his female castmates to get near him again.
"They're all crazy," he thought to himself. "Maybe they suffer from Mad Cow Disease," he chuckled internally at his own wit.
Tapert's thoughts, on the other hand, were not amusing him in the least. He kept replaying a recent script read-through where both Lucy and Renee complained that a Fifth Season episode where Xena fell in love with yet another bad boy was in total contradiction to the relationship that had blossomed between their two characters over the years. At the time, he shrugged it off as just a couple actors grasping desperately for some silly character and plot consistency, but now he wasn't so sure.
Despite the fact that she was loathe to leave Xena in the company of the mostly unfriendly castaways, Gabrielle relished the idea of being alone with her thoughts. Walking endless miles had always afforded her the opportunity to meditate on whatever problem was at hand. She hoped that she would be able to make some sense of their present situation as she searched for food.
Could Ares have somehow regained his godhood? she mused to herself. Maybe he found some ambrosia and ate it. Maybe he didn't really lose his immortality when he saved Eve and me...
The thought of owing her life to the God of War made Gabrielle's stomach churn. After all he's put us through, to have to give thanks to him is just...ugh... She cringed and spoke out loud. "You can do it, Gabrielle. You are above hatred and jealousy. You can thank him. You can forgive him and thank him..." She sighed inwardly. "...and if he's really mortal, maybe you can kick his ass!" She chuckled at her own silliness.
If it isn't Ares, maybe it's the Furies. They could have sent us here in order to keep us out of their hair... This made sense to her, but something didn't feel quite right. She began to rehash the day's events. She and Xena had been on their way to meet up again with Eve. It seemed like an average, quiet day when, suddenly, she found herself falling to this godsforsaken island.
It happened so quickly, she thought. And then... Something had stuck out. And then Colleen said something about a fan fiction... Gabrielle mulled this over.
Aphrodite! Yes, that might be it! Aphrodite had once put a spell on one of Gabrielle's scrolls; whatever was written on the scroll came true.
"Aphrodite!" she yelled. "Aphrodite! Is this your doing?" The bard waited for an answer. "Come on, Aphrodite. Show yourself."
At that, the divine deity came plunging from the heavens. Gabrielle winced as her friend from Olympus hit the ground with tremendous force.
"Aphrodite! Are you okay?" the concerned bard ran to help the Goddess of Love.
"Oof!" Aphrodite sputtered and struggled to her feet.
"Are you okay?" Gabrielle asked again.
"Arrrrrrrrgh!" Aphrodite yelled and pointed at the sky. "That is so not cool, you two!"
Gabrielle looked up and saw nothing but clouds. "Who are you talking to?"
"What?" the goddess asked, distracted by her own unkempt appearance. "Look at my robe!" she whined as she lifted the torn garment for the bard to see. Her gaze returned to the heavens. "You're lucky I can fix this!" She nodded her head and magically transformed her soiled apparel into a pristine new outfit. "Now that's more like it!"
"Who were you talking to, Aphrodite?"
"Pink really is my color, don't you think?" The self-absorbed goddess twirled in delight.
"Who sent you here?"
"Although..." Aphrodite stopped to consider, "I can pretty much make any color work. You, on the other hand, look so much better in this little red number." She pointed at the bard's ensemble. "That old bilious green sports bra was so 40 years ago."
"I mean, what were you thinking, anyway? A green top with a brown skirt? Come on!"
"And what's with the growing of the hair? You were such an adorable baby butch with the really short 'do.'"
"Aphrodite!" Gabrielle barked.
"Whoa there, Gabster! What is your damage?"
"My damage?" the bard repeated incredulously. "Let's see..." She began to tick off in quick succession. "Xena and I, not to mention you and a few others, were cast down from the heavens - and how we even got in the heavens is still up in the air - no pun intended - to this island that is populated with mostly nasty folk who claim they're playing some kind of survival game. There's a man who keeps calling Xena by a different name and making goo-goo eyes at her, but he was whisked away by the island goddesses whom only one person claims to have seen. There's another man who keeps calling me Gabe; Xena's already put the pinch on him once. And when she and I tried to leave here we were stopped by a freak ocean storm that would have made Poseidon proud in its timing and intensity. Xena was nearly killed and Joxer, or the ghost of Joxer, is roaming around here somewhere..." Gabrielle paused to take a breath. "Is that enough damage for you?"
Aphrodite's eyes moved slightly skyward. "You brought Joxer here?" she whispered, her perfect brow wrinkled in perfect confusion.
"Who are you talking to?!" Gabrielle insisted.
"Umm..." The goddess giggled. "I dunno! I'm a ditzy blonde, remember? It's what ditzy blondes do!"
"No, no, no..." Gabrielle grabbed the goddess by the elbow as she tried to turn away. "You're not playing that game with me. I know better. Now tell me what's going on."
Aphrodite sighed. "All I can tell you is that this was not my idea." She shook her head in exaggerated disgust. "I mean, Joxer? Hello? Dead man walking even when he was alive! Ick!"
"No problemo!" The goddess smiled, the buffoon already forgotten.
"Can you tell me who is behind all of this, Aphrodite?"
"I'm sorry. I promised..." The goddess stopped mid-sentence. "I mean, what makes you think there's someone behind this? Stranger things have happened to you and Xena."
"There are people following us around with black boxes on their shoulders and carrying sticks with phallic-type things attached," whispered the agitated bard.
Aphrodite snickered. "Oh, those are just cameras and microphones. Pay them no mind. They won't hurt you."
"Cameras and...What?" Gabrielle was getting more confused.
"They're devices used to collect images and sounds which will then be projected through the air to receptive boxes known as televisions. People will be able to watch the island's proceedings in the luxury of their own homes." Explained the goddess, matter-of-factly. "The concept has revolutionized human communication."
Gabrielle touched her friend's forehead with the back of her hand. "Are you feeling all right?"
"I'm fine, Cutie," she said, playfully swatting the bard's hand away. "You just need to concentrate on that which is most important to you."
"That which is most important to me?"
"Yeah. Ring any tall, dark, warrior bells?"
"Is something going to happen to Xena?" asked the concerned bard.
"That..." shrugged Aphrodite, "...is entirely up to you, Sweetcheeks." The goddess winked mischievously and disappeared in an explosion of pink and white hearts.
"But..." Gabrielle turned in a circular motion, realizing she wasn't going to get any more information from the devilishly cryptic Olympian. She groaned loudly and set out to find a suitable meal for her ailing companion.
Joel insisted that they stop about 500 yards away from camp. He had no intention of getting closer.
"This is it."
"Are you coming with me?" Tapert asked.
"No way, dude." Joel said nervously. "I can find my way back to the resort from here."
"Well, I wish you the best of luck," the TV exec extended his hand.
"You too, man." Joel shook Tapert's hand. "I'll return your skivvies as soon as this ordeal is over."
"Keep 'em," Tapert replied sincerely.
"Wow." Nothing more need be said. The bonding now come full circle.
With a pat to his newfound buddy's back, Joel headed back into the jungle. Rob took a deep breath and set his sights on the camp before him. Soozin was the first to notice the red-headed stranger walking toward them.
"Here comes your boyfriend, Xena," she taunted.
The warrior lifted her tired eyes to see the approaching man and sighed.
How did he find his way back here? Colleen asked herself.
"Who da hell is he, anyway?" Rudy questioned.
"His name is Tapert. He thinks he's married to Xena." Colleen offered.
"What?" Xena asked disgustedly.
"It's hard to explain," said the compromised co-ed. "His wife looks exactly like you. He thinks you're her."
"Meg isn't going to show up, is she?" the warrior worried. "I'm really not in the mood for her antics right now..."
"Gods, I hope not," replied Colleen. "She's even more annoying than Sean."
"I heard that, Cool-een!" he winked and smiled his best studly smile, furiously wiggling his eyebrows in what he thought was a seductive manner.
"Or maybe not..." Colleen decided.
By now, Tapert was just a few feet away.
The producer/director neared the woman he thought he loved. "Lucy?!" Concern evident in Tapert's voice as he realized the dark woman was seriously wounded. "Are you okay?" he asked tenderly as he kneeled down before her.
"I'm fine," she assured him, not wanting to cause any unnecessary disturbances in her woozy state.
"You're hurt..." he raised his hand to her face but stopped when she moved back a bit. "You need medical assistance."
"I'm fine," she said more resolutely. Rob placed his hand on the warrior's knee. Her face automatically transformed into a fierce snarl. Tapert quickly removed his hand.
"Why don't you sit over here, Mr. T?" Colleen patted the open space on the log next to her. He reluctantly acquiesced and took a seat beside the spunky student.
"We really need to get Lucy to a doctor," Tapert whispered.
"Trust me, Mr. T," Colleen whispered back, "That isn't Lucy."
Joel quickly yet quietly made his way through the island underbrush. Faint rattling sounds caused him to hesitate in an attempt to get a better fix on where the noise was coming from. He realized it was advancing from behind. He deftly scurried up into a nearby tree and held his breath. A decidedly male voice rang out.
"Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!" Joxer moaned as he swung around just beneath Joel's hiding place.
The ex-castaway noticed a small snapping turtle hanging from the bumbling man's right index finger.
"Get off!" Joxer yelled as he propelled the turtle against Joel's tree. The force of the blow was so hard that not only did the turtle let go of Joxer's finger, Joel was knocked from his perch, toppling onto the hapless warrior wannabe.
After a moment of utter confusion, the startled men disentangled themselves as quickly as possible and jumped to their feet. Both eyed each other warily. Being an affable fellow, Joxer decided to break the ice. He raised his hand rapidly, causing the antsy Joel to spring backwards. Joxer studied his own hand with a creased brow, wondering if he'd finally achieved the terrifying status he had always desired.
"Fear not, kind and nearly naked friend," his voice boomed with bravado. "I come in peace." He grinned almost as goofily as Sean and extended his hand again.
"Sorry, dude," Joel took the offered paw, "I'm just a little jumpy."
"No need to explain," Joxer assured. "I know how intimidating it can be for a mere peasant to come face to face with such a fearsome warrior as I!"
Joel paused then began to laugh. "That's pretty funny!" he slapped Joxer on the arm, causing the deluded Greek to stumble into the nearby tree.
"Ow!" Joxer howled after his nose collided with the rough bark. "I hate it when that happens!"
In the distance, a bird cawed. Convinced that it was Soozin or Kelly, Joel began to sweat profusely.
"Oh God..." he breathed.
"Who?" inquired Joxer.
"The women!" Joel cried. "I have to get out of here!"
Joxer was amused. "Don't tell me you're afraid of some silly women!" he scoffed.
"You don't understand," Joel said in hushed tones, "These women are crazy."
Joxer bellowed loudly, causing Joel to cower behind a bush. "Aren't they all?" He laughed again. "Women. Can't live with 'em. Can't chain 'em in the yard. That's what I always say." He puffed out his chest in a ridiculously macho manner. "Trouble is, these days, women have forgotten their place. It's up to men like us to remind them. Heh-heh."
His rubbery face stretched into a self-satisfied smile. On cue, a circling female seagull relieved herself overhead and the earthbound substance landed directly on Joxer's homemade armor.
"Hey!" he yelled as he looked up just as the gull let go another round. This time, the expertly directed dung landed just below his left eye. "Why I oughtta!" he threatened the feathered fiend with his fist.
"This guy is a bigger idiot than me and Gervase combined," thought Joel. "He'd make for a great diversion if I were to run into the Mad Cow Club again."
"That is just..." Joxer cringed and wiped the feces from his face, "...not right!" He pointed skyward again. "You'll rue the day you messed with Joxer the Mighty!"
The feisty fowl swooped viciously at his head, missing it by a fraction of an inch as Joxer lunged for the ground. While the angry gull returned to her lofty heights, the bungling simpleton crawled behind Joel and his protective bush.
"M...m...mommy?" he whimpered.
Joel could feel his companion trembling like a Chihuahua on crack.
This might be fun, he mused.
"Uh, Joxer?" he asked, hiding an evil grin. "How would you like to accompany me to a nice, comfy resort filled with hot tubs and beautiful, single women?"
Gabrielle approached the campsite with mild trepidation. She noticed that the red-headed stranger had returned to the fold and she was unsure of how to deal with that. She and Xena had met thousands of people on their journeys and she was usually very good at remembering faces and names, but this man who seemed to believe that he knew them - who seemed to know intimate details about their lives - didn't look the least bit familiar. For some reason though, he made her skin crawl.
I wonder if this is how Xena feels whenever Ares is around, she pondered to herself as she neared the firelit camp. Maybe this man is some sort of evil deity cast down from the Heavens...she considered. What did Colleen call him? An executive producer? I wonder what that means?
"Oh! My! God!" Jenna's excited yelp broke Gabrielle's concentration. "Is that net really filled with fish?" she cried, literally, as the bountiful bard neared camp.
"Yes," Gabrielle beamed, momentarily proud of her accomplishment.
"Wow! Who knew gay guys could fish so well?" said Sean.
"Dat ain't no guy, you putz!" Rudy barked. "Dat dere is a dyke!"
"She is not a dyke, godammit!" Tapert squealed. "What is wrong with you people? They are JUST GOOD FRIENDS!!!"
"Have you ever actually seen that show?" Soo asked Rob.
"I am that show!" he barked.
"Sounds like somebody's got a superiority complex," she announced.
"Maybe you want I should kick your high-falutin' ass..."
"Who are you?" Tapert challenged in a manly fashion.
"I am this show!" Soo mocked him. In a manly fashion.
"Could you guys just stop fighting?" Jenna wept. "Life is too short to be so angry." Colleen put a supportive arm around Jenna's shoulder.
"Besides," the tearful Survivor took a deep breath, "I'm hungry and if we're nice, Gabrielle might share her catch."
"Of course, I'll share with you, Jenna," the kind-hearted bard assured her. "I'll share with all of you." She eyed Tapert warily. "Even you, I suppose."
"I can catch my own fish," he said defensively. He then realized that it was probably too dark to find any food now. "However, since you're offering in a peaceful manner, it would be rude of me to decline."
Gabrielle grunted quietly to herself. "How civilized," she said sarcastically as she approached her mate. Xena smiled sympathetically. The bard's mood lightened considerably at the sight. "How are you feeling, Xena?" She ran her fingers gently through the warrior's dark hair.
Tapert's lip twitched automatically. It's not all about the relationship! It's NOT! he chanted internally.
"I'm much better, thank you," Xena assured her.
"Colleen and Jenna took good care of you?" the bard asked as she sat next to her partner.
"I didn't even notice they were here, Gabrielle." Xena responded.
"Good answer!" the Amazon teased.
"I thought you'd like that one."
"Xena," Gabrielle relayed quietly, "I spoke to Aphrodite while I was gone. I think someone has sent us here on purpose. Aphrodite knows something but she's in one of her cryptic moods."
"Aphrodite has cryptic moods?" asked the surprised warrior.
"Well, they're nothing compared to yours, but she has her playful moments."
"I'll bet." Xena smiled wryly.
"Oh yeah, you're feeling better," the bard grinned.
"Why do you think we were sent here, Gabrielle?"
"I don't know." She answered honestly. "At first, I thought that Ares may have regained his godhood and was messing with us..."
"I suppose that's a possibility..." Xena agreed.
"But then I also thought it might be the Furies." The Amazon explained. "With you out of the way, they would be free to wreak all kinds of havoc on the world."
"Hercules might have something to say about that, you know."
"Not if he's trapped somewhere else."
"But Colleen's words have been haunting me ever since we got here..."
"Colleen?" Xena seemed amused. "Come on, Gabrielle, she's a sweet kid, but how much do you really think is going on inside that head?"
"Xena!" Gabrielle chastised. "You of all people should know not to judge a scroll by its parchment!"
"You're right," the warrior admitted. "After all, my first impression of you was of a relentless little chatterbox who would surely drive me mad..."
Gabrielle raised an eyebrow and waited for the rest.
"Take me with you! Teach me everything you know!" Xena said in a high, girlish voice. "I have the gift of prophecy!" She began to laugh but realized that Gabrielle wasn't smiling. Xena cleared her throat. "I have a head injury, remember?"
The bard paused just long enough to make the warrior nervous. Xena bowed her head in hopes of being quickly forgiven.
"As I was saying..." Gabrielle continued. "When we first arrived here, Colleen mentioned that we must be in the middle of a piece of fan fiction."
"And..." drawled the bard, "What if she's right? What if someone is manipulating us with the help of some enchanted parchment?"
"Like the time Aphrodite put a spell on your scroll and I ended up fishing uncontrollably for days?" asked Xena.
"I have to admit that this day does have that same kind of constrictive feel." The warrior took in her surroundings then set her gaze back upon Gabrielle. "Do you think Aphrodite is behind this?"
"That's just it," the bard explained, "She seemed to know something, but I don't think she's in control."
"Who then?" The warrior followed Gabrielle's eyes to Rob Tapert. "Him?" she asked unbelieving.
"Remember how he insisted that Eve wasn't my daughter?" Gabrielle reminded her. "And he keeps telling everyone that you and I are just friends and implies that you and he have something going on..."
"I can explain that last part, Gabrielle," interrupted Xena.
Gabrielle's breath caught. "No, Xena." She shook her head in an attempt to block any visions of Xena and Tapert in untoward sexual positions.
"You did not have a thing with that man in your sordid past."
"Even my standards were higher than that, Gabrielle," the warrior assured her. "The thing is, his wife looks just like me. He thought I was her."
"That's why he calls you Lucy..." realized the bard.
"But he knows a lot about us." Gabrielle added. "And Eve."
"Actually, Gabrielle, they all seem to know about us."
Gabrielle looked over at the group of misfits who were now huddled around Rudy as he prepared the fish that she had caught.
"Your exploits have always been legendary, Xena," stated the bard.
"Maybe the stories have reached as far as this island during our 25 year absence."
"Possibly," acknowledged Xena. "But this seems like more than 25 years into the future." She nodded toward Jenna. "For instance, her bathing suit is not made of natural fibers."
"Excuse me?" questioned the bard.
"I only noticed because it was important." Xena sighed inwardly as Gabrielle's eyebrow arched yet again. "A true warrior absorbs all pertinent information," she offered in her own defense.
"You could have just mentioned the people following us around with the little black boxes..."
Xena looked sheepishly at the nearby camera operator who shrugged and waved to her. "Oh yeah..."
"Aphrodite said that those boxes collect images and transmit them to people's homes."
"Surely that was her invention," laughed Xena. "What better way to force people to worship her than to project her image into their homes? Gotta love the ingenuity of the Goddess of Love."
"But Xena," Gabrielle reminded. "These boxes are collecting our image, not Aphrodite's."
"Maybe it's a new form of storytelling..." Xena said casually. "Like having a play performed right in your own home."
"You see!" the bard exclaimed. "It keeps coming back to stories!"
"Okay," Xena yielded to her companion's theory. "But if Big Red there," she motioned toward Tapert. "Is writing our 'story,' why does he continually keep putting himself in danger? I mean, if you or I don't kill him, Soozin will."
"You have a point," conceded Gabrielle.
"Of course," the warrior concluded. "Perhaps the manipulator of our story wants us to confront this man."
"To show him that he's misguided in his perception of us?"
"Could be," agreed Xena. "Then again, what does his perception of us matter in the long run?"
"That's a good question."
"Hey guys!" Colleen chirped as she approached them. "Am I interrupting anything?"
"Actually," Gabrielle said, "You're just the person I'd like to talk to."
"Coolness!" The co-ed plopped down on the sand in front of them. "What's up?"
"What do you know about that red-headed fellow?"
"Who? Mr. Tapert?"
"Uh..." Colleen looked skyward for a second. "He's a guy..."
"What was that?!" Gabrielle interrupted.
"What was what?"
"You looked up. Like you were waiting for something to happen."
"What?" Colleen laughed uncomfortably. "Naw... I didn't do that."
"No, I saw it too," the warrior chimed in.
"W...w...w..." stuttered the frightened girl. "Why would I look to the sky for something to happen?"
"What's going on here, Colleen?" the bard asked sincerely.
The cutest castaway scrunched up her shoulders and nose in a great moral dilemma. It only took her half a second to decide if she were more afraid of the repercussions she would suffer from the luscious lovelies acting as puppeteers, Mezzo and godconnie, or from Xena, the deadly Warrior Princess.
"Just between the three of us..." Colleen whispered, "...there's a lot of crazy shit happening today." She checked over her shoulder to see if anyone was sneaking up on them. "Mr. T is the executive producer of a television show about... About the two of you."
"A television show?" asked Xena.
"Yes, we're on a television show right now, actually." Colleen nodded at the nearest camera. "Well, kinda..."
"Just like Aphrodite said," the bard pointed out.
"How can there be a show about us?" Xena questioned. "This is the first time we've ever had people following us around with those devices."
"Well, it's more complicated than that." Colleen replied. "Mr. T really does produce a show about your adventures. His wife, Lucy Lawless, portrays Xena, while the delectable Renee O'Connor plays Gabrielle. But this isn't one of his episodes. This is something altogether different."
"What is it?" Gabrielle insisted.
"It's a written story that combines fact and fantasy. It gives fictional characters like the two of you a substantive voice while placing real, live human beings, like us contestants, in fabricated situations; making us say and do things that we would probably never do in reality." Colleen spoke in less than a whisper now. "In fact, I'm not half as knowledgeable about XWP in real life as I am in this story."
"XWP?" asked Gabrielle.
"Xena: Warrior Princess," explained Colleen. "The television show that Mr. T produces."
"The show that's about us..." Xena was striving to understand Colleen's gibberish.
"But this is not that show," said the warrior. "This is a story, written by..."
"The goddesses." Colleen quickly replied, afraid that the two fair maidens might appear at any moment.
"The same goddesses that made Mr. Tapert disappear earlier today?" asked Xena.
"One and the same."
"Why would they do such a thing?" the raven-haired beauty demanded.
"I honestly don't know."
"So..." Gabrielle broke in. "You're implying that this isn't reality?"
Colleen giggled. "It's total fiction."
"And we aren't real?" Gabrielle stated.
"Not even when we aren't part of this so-called story?"
"Not even then," Colleen confessed.
"We're just fictional characters from a... television show?"
"That's the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard!" Gabrielle yelled louder than she intended.
"Aw... Colleen's full of b.s., Miss Queen o'the Amazons!" offered Soozin from the mob, which had now gathered around the fire in order to watch the much-venerated frying of the fish. "In one ear and out the other, if ya know what I mean."
"Can you hear this, Soo?" Colleen pointed her middle finger toward the ground. "No? Well, let me turn it up for you!" She flipped the truck driver the bird.
"Yeah, that's original!" Soo dismissed the steaming student with a wave of her hand.
"Gods, she is so annoying!" Colleen said to no one in particular.
"You see..." Gabrielle said triumphantly. "This proves that we're not just characters in a story. I mean, what kind of bard would take the time to focus on a silly spat between two side characters? Especially when the plot was just beginning to thicken?"
Colleen shrugged. "I never said they were good writers. Besides, what makes you think we're the side characters?"
"Oh please!" the bard chortled. "The most boring day of our lives is one hundred times more interesting than anything the lot of you has done in the time we've been here."
The stunned co-ed looked to the warrior. "Is she always this sassy?"
Xena began to answer but noticed the bard's cocked eyebrow. It's safer to keep your mouth shut, Xena, she silently instructed herself.
"There is no way a bard could pull off such a convoluted and confusing story! It's just ridiculous!" The Amazon was on a roll. "This has definitely got to be the work of Ares! Only he would think up something this stupid!"
"I really don't think Ares has..." Colleen was cut off mid-sentence.
"I mean, only an idiot would tell their characters that they were just pawns in a story. That's literally begging for a revolt!"
"Only if the characters were written to revolt, Gabrielle," Xena said innocently.
The bard was boiling now. "So you believe what she's saying, Xena? You believe that we are fictional characters? That we don't have free will?"
"Hey, you were the one that suggested we were being manipulated by an enchanted scroll," the warrior pointed out.
"But this is so much more than that!" The bard made a gesture toward Colleen. "She's saying that we don't exist on any plane of reality!"
"Well, we do tend to find ourselves in the most outrageous situations..." Xena said matter-of-factly. "How many times have we died and come back now?"
"Xena! Listen to yourself! We are real! Flesh and blood, living, breathing human beings!" The veins on Gabrielle's forehead were threatening to burst. "This is a trick and I'm going to get to the bottom of it!"
"Calm down, Gabrielle," her worried partner warned.
"I'm so sorry," added the concerned co-ed. "I never would have told you this if I'd known it would upset you this much."
"Upset me?!" Gabrielle raged. "You tell me that I'm not real, that all of the pain I've endured over these past few years has been a figment of someone else's imagination, and expect me to accept it without question?"
"I just didn't think..." Colleen's voice trailed off in remorse.
"No, you didn't think!"
"Gabrielle," Xena said firmly. "You're going to cause yourself to have a stroke."
"That would require me to be real, Xena," the bard replied, regaining a bit of composure.
"You are real, love," the warrior assured her. "You're real to me and that's all that matters."
"Xena..." Gabrielle relented.
"It's all right." The stoic brunette pulled the shaken blonde to her.
Gabrielle relaxed as soon as she felt the warrior's heart beating almost as fast as hers. Colleen crawled quickly but quietly away from the two soulmates. "We'll get through this," Xena assured her. "We always do."
"Yeah," the bard murmured quietly.