The Fifth Amendment

Part 4

by Mezzo and godconnie

See Part 1 for disclaimers.

"What's Fifth-usia?" asked the Survivor producer, focusing on the task at hand. He decided to worry about Probst later.

"Fifth-usia is a song and dance world they created just for Tahhhpert, Xena and GabrielleÉand me. The goddesses sent us there in our sleep. They're making people learn lessonsÉand fixing something. When they're done, everyone: Gabrielle, Xener and Tahhhpert will all leave and I can get back to trying to win the Survivor contest. That was the pact," replied Soozin dreamily.

"Ahhh," said Burnett as he remembered his conversation with Gabrielle. Things were falling in place.

"Have Xena and Gabrielle learned their lesson yet?"

"Yah. They learned their lesson right away. But Tahhhpert's the hold-up now."


"Tahhhpert has to learn a lesson as wellÉand be tortured. I was supposed to help but he's just so stoopid that I left. Besides that place was really creeping me out. I had to sing and dance and," -sigh- "Kelly wasn't around."

Burnett didn't know which was worse: Soozin singing and dancing or the thought of Kelly and Soozin together. The producer shuddered.

"What lesson is TahhhpertÉerÉTapert supposed to learn?" queried Burnett.

"Tahhhhpert must realize that Xena and Gabrielle are in love. He has to fix the problems he created in the fifth season of Xena: Warrior Princess," responded Soozin serenely.

"Good LORD!" exclaimed Burnett. "He'll never figure that out." The producer panicked. "Survivor is ruined!!!"

The Survivor Techno Geeks looked at each other worriedly. They had never seen their boss lose control like this.

"There has to be a way out of thisÉ" Burnett's mind ran around like a rat in a complicated maze.

"Oh, for heaven's sakes," squealed the rat from Soozin's hair. "Get rid of Xena and Gabrielle and the Island Goddesses will go."

"Yessssss. But how to do that?" said Burnett rhetorically.

"I don't know. You're supposed to be the 'power that be,'" the rat exclaimed.

A happy grin slowly spread across the producer's face. He called over a Survivor technician and whispered in her ear. The woman nodded and ran out of the control room.

"We need to get Xena and Gabrielle out of the way," said Burnett. "We're going to take on the Island Goddesses to save Survivor."

"That's brilliant, boss!" exclaimed one of the geeks.

The rat sighed. "I never get the credit I deserve."

But one of the Techno Geeks blanched at Burnett's words. He remembered full well the snow in the control room and the fear at the sound of the strange laughter.

"Sir, how can we possibly defeat the Island Goddesses?" the geek whimpered. "They seem to have immense power. We all saw what they did with Rich and the snow. Their technology must be amazing!" he finished in awe.

"It's not technology. It's love," noted the pony-tailed Techno Geek, who had dabbled in a bit of Janice and Mel fanfic in the past. "Their love of the show Xena: Warrior Princess has given them access to immense power. Love conquers all."

"Don't be silly, mate," said Burnett. "Money and power conquers allÉand I've got tons of both."

The Survivor technician ran back into the control room waving a map above her head.

"I've found them, sir. I've found the Island Goddesses," she said triumphantly. She laid the map out on a large table. "I don't know why we didn't see this before! Here. In the Forbidden Caves. There's a huge energy level showing on our sensors. It's like nothing I've ever seen. It has to be them."

"Eeeeexxxccceelllleeent," whispered Burnett, losing his cheery demeanor for a moment. "And you did that so quickly!"

"It gets better, sir," the technician indicated different areas on the map. "There are fluctuations in their power grid hereÉand here."

"What does that mean?" queried Burnett.

"It means their power source is taxing out and weakening."

"So we can wait them out and they'll just self-destruct?" said the producer hopefully.

"Yes, sir. Although their power won't collapse for weeks, maybe even months."

Burnett punched his fist into his hand. "We don't HAVE weeks or months. They'll ruin the show!"

"But, boss, we can use this information to identify the neutron and positron make-up of their energy. We may be able to use that to our advantage."

"Yesssss," said Burnett gleefully embracing his 'get out of Island Goddess jail free' card.

He turned to address his brigade of Techno Geeks. "The Island Goddess' power is weakening. And what better way to help them self-destruct than to arrange a meeting between the 'goddesses' and Xena and Gabrielle?"

Burnett turned to look at the screen and smiled, "Those manipulative she-gods may have started all this. But I'm going to finish it. We'll see who is the 'higher power.'"

"Yeah, what's stronger: love or backstabbing, self-centered, money-grubbing producer greed," grumbled the pony-tailed techno geek.

"Thanks, mate," said Burnett. "I'm glad you've come 'round to the Survivor Way."

"Keeeelllllyyyy," interrupted Soozin.

"Is she still here?" asked Burnett. He motioned to the guards. "Give her a shot to make her forget this interaction and get her back to the Survivors. The guards nodded and dragged the slumbering truck driver from the room.

"You!" Burnett pointed at a technician. "Call up Survivor Techno Brigade 1 and have them meet me at the Techno Command Center."

Burnett strode toward a small, non-descript door. The Survivor producer stopped to take one look back to the control room screen that was now displaying a shot of the sleeping Gabrielle. He sighed heavily. He was loathe to give up having such an incredibly gorgeous creature on his show.

"But it's for the greater good, love," smiled Burnett, rubbing his hands together expectantly. "The greater-reality show-line-my-pockets-with-millions-of-dollars-good."

The producer disappeared through the door. A sign on the door read Special Survivor Techno Gadget Services.


Back in Fifth-usia, Tapert was still struggling to pull the knife out of the tree when Colleen materialized out of thin air behind the executive.

"Whooooaaaah, bad tripÉor good trip?!" exclaimed the co-ed. Tapert yelped and spun around.

"Oh, it's you," he said with a look of obvious relief on his face. Then he frowned.

"What, they couldn't have sent Gretchen? She's uglier than me. I'd be safe with her around. Or better yet, why couldn't they send some good-looking straight men? I bet they could get me off this island and out of this nightmare," the executive crabbed.

Colleen decided to ignore the executive's hormonal-driven outburst.

"Mr. TÉwhere are we?" asked the adorable brunette, looking around her.

Tapert sighed and whispered. "Fifth-usia."

"FifthÉ" began the co-ed loudly when Tapert clamped his hand over Colleen's mouth.

"Shhh. Don't say it too loud," the executive said furtively. "You might get them singing again," Tapert shuddered.

Colleen giggled. "Fifth-usia," she whispered. "Is that some clever pun on Illusia from third season's The Bitter Suite episode?"

"I wouldn't call it clever," muttered Tapert as he once more tried to remove the knife from the tree with no success.

Colleen reached over and grabbed the handle of the knife and pulled it free.

"Like buttah," said the adorable Survivor.

"What is this...pick on Tapert week or something?" whined the pregnant executive.

"'s more like you need to learn a lesson." said Colleen.

"What lesson? I haven't learned anything yet on this stupid island or in this stupid dream," Tapert bitched.

"You do seem kind of slow on the uptake," murmured Colleen. "Maybe out and out fan-delivered cathartic revenge is the only answer."

"Fans? Are there fans here as well?" whispered a frightened Tapert.

Colleen winked and Tapert and smiled. "The fans are everywhere, T-Man."

The co-ed was distracted as she noticed a piece of paper on the end of the knife. Colleen pulled the paper off and unrolled it. An amorphous cloud of purple slowly wafted up from the paper and floated over to a nearby clearing. The purple mass grew larger, nearly the size of a small house, and began to whirl and spin for awhile before dissipating, leaving behind a completely equipped sound stage. There were guitars, basses, keyboards, mikes, monitors, Marshall stacks, stage lights and even fog machines.

Colleen looked at the stage, her eyes wide with wonder.

"What are youse guys up to now?" she whispered.

"Is there anything else on the paper?" interrupted Tapert who didn't seem at all perplexed by the sudden appearance of a fully equipped sound stage.

Colleen looked down to see words on the paper. She read aloud:

Fifth Season saw our grrrls torn asunder
Each episode filled with more and more blunders
No love and no joy
Just week after week of boy toys
But where is the creativity and entertainment, the truth, oh executive Tapert?
Do you have the guts to find red-headed squirt?
With the real Xena do you have any true clout?
We dare you to join this musical bout
Fifth-usia's Battle of the Bands!
Who does she love and care for the least?
Boys...girls....with your twisted sense of 'drama,' maybe even beasts?
We'll pick our hero, and you pick yours
But the warrior princess, she decides
Upon her judgement, this fan fic and your freedom rides.

"This is my chance!" Tapert said excitedly to Colleen. "I just need to prove my fifth-season creative superiority in song and possibly interpretive dance. Did you see Lyre, Lyre Hearts on Fire...."

"You mean the episode where Gabrielle, after four years of showing absolutely no romantic interest in Joxer unless under a spell, was suddenly jealous of Joxer's Amazon biker chickÉthe episode where a pregnant Xena rapped...and badly...that 'classic' episode?" asked Colleen.

"Lyre, Lyre was a stroke of creative geniusÉ my creative genius. I'm a shoe-in to win this," replied the executive testily.

Tapert raised his fist into the air. "I accept your challenge of the Fifth-usia Battle of the Bands!"

And suddenly, a wide-awake and unhappy Xena appeared. The warrior looked around.

"Good grief, I hope she didn't hear me dissin' her rap abilities," said a startled Colleen.

"OK, now I'm MAD!" Xena yelled. "You Island Goddesses better get your fan fic asses out here and now," the talk, dark and deadly brunette roared into the skies.

Xena whirled around looking for signs of the goddesses. Her hand moved to her back, unsheathing her sword.

"Take it easy there, Warrior Princess," said Colleen. Xena spun around, her eyes widening as she saw the co-ed and Tapert.

Colleen held her hands up in surrender. "Check the phallic symbol, OK?"

Xena glared at the girl, but put her sword away. Tapert stepped forward, a look of adoration and hope on his face.

"Hi, Xena," he said shyly. "How are you?"

Xena's back stiffened. She felt a sudden urge to squash the executive like a bug. She didn't have time for this man and his delusions right now...which were prominently displayed on the shirt he was wearing that still read Xena's Love Child On Board. But last time she had seen Tapert, he had been with Gabrielle and Xena didn't see the bard anywhere near.

"Where's Gabrielle?" the dark brunette asked worriedly, her frustration with the Island Goddesses moved to the back warrior burner.

Tapert rolled his eyes and threw his hands up in the air. "Gabrielle, Gabrielle, Gabrielle!" he complained.

"Now you're getting it, Mr. T!" smiled Colleen. "Maybe we can avoid this Battle of the Bands with the right attitude."

"Where. Is. Gabrielle," the warrior asked the executive pointedly, blue eyes narrowing dangerously, a long, strong, itchy finger now on her chakram latch.

The executive gulped. "I..she...I don't know. She was watching me, being all goody-two-shoes. I fell asleep and woke up here. I haven't seen her since I got to this place," the executive finished in a worried rush, eyeing Xena warily.

The warrior mulled over kicking Tapert around just for the fun of it. But he was pregnant. Xena sighed. Her Gab Radar told her that her bard was safe and that, indeed, none of them were in imminent least not from physical harm. Although Xena was beginning to believe that the Island Goddesses were trying to frustrate her to death.

Tall, dark and deadly strode over to the brunette Survivor, who always seemed ready with the answers.

"Colleen, what's going on?"

"We're in Fifth-usia," the co-ed said cheerfully. Xena frowned, trying to understand the strange word.

"It's like Illusia," clarified Colleen.

"I don't hear any music," said Xena testily.

"Oh, I've heard it. I've already suffered through one song and a badly-rhymed challenge," said Tapert, absently rubbing his stomach. "Man, this kid is kicking like a soccer player."

"There's gonna be a Battle of the Bands...and you're the judge," added Colleen.

"Why am I the judge?!" said an exasperated warrior.

"Cause the 'Island Goddesses,'" Tapert drew quotes in the air and rolled his eyes, "won't listen to me. This gives me a chance to prove to themÉand you, XenaÉthat you and Gabrielle are just friends."

"Gabrielle and I are just friends?!" exclaimed Xena. "Are you nuts, Tapert?" She looked to the skies in an attempt to communicate with the Island Goddesses. "Why don't you just ask me?"

"I don't think it's you who needs the convincing," bubbled Colleen, darting her eyes at Tapert. "Besides, he fell asleep and woke up here, and so did we. This must be some sort of dream place and we're probably stuck until the Island Goddesses wake us up."

The magical piece of paper in the co-ed's hands began buzzing loudly as a flurry of small, red lights lit up the edges of the paper.

"Our table's ready," giggled the sweet brunette. Colleen noticed Xena and Tapert staring at her strangely.

"Um, sorry. New words on the paper here. It says, Mr. T., that you're supposed to think of who you want to champion your cause in the Battle of the Bands. Who is your Chosen One?"

"That's so easy," said Tapert, who squinched his eyes tightly, the tip of his tongue sticking out as he concentrated.

There was a large flash of light. Xena, Tapert and Colleen blinked furiously at the brightness. They then turned toward where the light had flashed to see three figures in the distance riding toward them on what appeared to be a giant seashell.

"Right on time," smiled Tapert.

Colleen looked to the skies "Youse guys sure like fancy entrances."

"Who now?" growled the Warrior Princess.

"It's a surprise that's going to help me win the Battle of the Bands," said the television executive proudly. "You'll see, Xena. You'll see the truth and then we can all get off this island and I can get back to producing the sixth season of Xena: Warrior Princess. And, um, by the way, you and I need to discuss this baby and child support."

"That is not my baby," Xena said angrily.

"Rob Tapert is not her lover," burst Colleen into song with complete orchestral back-up as she began dancing.

Xena was startled, not so much by the words and music as by the brunette's dance moves. It seemed as if the Survivor was gliding backwards while she danced. The ground underneath Colleen's feet lit up with small squares of bright, white light as she moved.

"He's just a guy...who says that Xena's the one..." Colleen stopped, thrust a hip out and pointed at Xena. "But that babe is not her child..." A choir of violins flurried down a scale.

"That's the worst pre-plastic-surgery-Michael-Jackson impersonation I've ever seen," sniffed Tapert.

Colleen shrugged. "Sorry. Don't know what came over me. I guess it was meant to break the tension...or act as some kind of bizarre segue..."

The trio heard a low rumbling coming from the ground. They turned to see that the flying sea-shell was approaching fast. Too fast. Xena grabbed hold of Tapert and Colleen and was about to leap out of the way when the sea-shell came to a sudden halt. There were yelps of surprise as the three figures were vaulted head over heels off the sea-shell and rolled to a painful stop in a pile of arms, legs, and luscious butts.

"Hey! No fair damaging my Chosen One," crabbed Tapert.

The pile of humans disentangled and picked themselves off the ground, brushing the dirt from their clothes. The stage lights flickered on.

Xena's eyes widened in recognition. She turned her back on the trio and attempted to shield her face. Colleen noticed the warrior's sudden discomfort.

"You're not very good at being nonchalant," laughed the Survivor. Xena scowled.

"Just what the genius television executive ordered: Borias, AntonyÉand Ares!" exclaimed a very happy Tapert. "Good looking, straight menÉI am SO winning this contest."

"We're here for the Battle of the Bands, dude," said Antony whose pretty-boy brown eyes betrayed a Keanu Reeves-like vacuousness.

"We're here to win the Battle of the Bands," interrupted Ares who wasn't exactly sure how he got here or how he even knew about the Battle of the Bands. But it looked like it would involve some face time with Xena. He looked around and grinned. Bonus, the irritating blonde is nowhere in sight.

Tapert rushed on-stage as quickly as his swollen stomach would allow, shaking each man's hand.

"I'm so glad you're here," he exclaimed. "I've got a great idea for a song. I mean, in order to win we've gotta have the best songs that will woo Xena backÉnot that she really ever left because she's straight, after all.

"Vhat is wrrrrrong vit yourrr stomaaach," Borias interrupted in his Rocky and Bullwinkle fake Russian drawl.

"Moose and squirrel," giggled Colleen.

"What's it look like? I'm pregnant," replied Tapert, pointing to his wordy t-shirt.

"Dude, when's that muffin gonna pop?" asked Antony who was not the brightest bulb in the Xena Boy Toy constellation.

"Let's back up here," Ares snorted at the Roman's question. "How can you even BE pregnant. You're a guy."

Tapert sighed. "Look. Hot, naked sex. With Xena..."

"We didn't have sex!!" interrupted Xena from off-stage.

The three stud muffins noticed the frustrated, dark warrior. They all began flexing and winking at Xena in an attempt to get her attention.

Tapert actually had the audacity to ignore the Warrior Princess as he continued. "...Magical island... Island Goddesses.... yadda-yadda-yaddaÉ. pregnant."

"Goddesses?" Ares ears perked up mid bicep curl.

"Ahhh, it vas Xeeenah," said Borias. "Figures."

"I knew she had some cajones on her...but, like, wow," said Antony.

My interactions with Xena have a tendency to be strange, but something even weirder than usual is happening here, thought Ares who wondered if these Island Goddesses knew where there was some ambrosia. Being mortal sucks. Since losing my godhood, I've actually had to lift things and run in order to keep this magnificent body in shape.

Impatiently, Tapert attempted to get the he-studs back on track.

"I'm a television executive producer of a famous, culturally significant and money-making television show," he began imperiously.

"Is that important?" asked Antony, his head cocked to the side like a cute puppy.

"Of course it is. I'm powerful. Talented. Creative. I brought you all here to this place as my Chosen One to help me win the Battle of the Bands. We have to prove to the fans, the Island everyone...that Xena's straight...that she likes guys and that the fifth season was the best season ever."

"Fifth season?" asked Ares.

"Um...for Antony, it covers the time that he and Xena met. For you, Ares, it's the time between Xena's pregnancy and the twilight of the Olympian godsÉabout 26 years," Tapert patiently explained.

Antony gazed at Tapert blankly. He couldn't even muster up enough thought to be confused by the odd timeline.

"Wellll, I can't say that was the most fun I've ever had," deadpanned Ares. "How 'bout you, Antony?"

"How do you think Xena got this guy pregnant," smiled Antony, doing his best dumb blonde impersonation.

"It was a great time, Ares! You got to kiss Xena...a lot," pointed out Tapert.

"That's true," nodded Ares.

Tapert smiled and clapped Antony and Ares on their gigantic, muscular, studly shoulders. "Now let's get to it, whaddaya say?"

The handsome trio looked at each other.

"It cahhhn't hurrt, I suppose," shrugged Borias.

"Could be fun," said Antony who was hoping for a chance to get close to Xena again.

Ares was unhappy with the situation, but he decided he would play along with this Battle of the BandsÉfor now. The dark stud nodded his agreement.

The men huddled with their newfound, red-haired friend.

Colleen rolled her eyes. "Tapert's planning his own doom and he doesn't even know it," she said to Xena.

"All of this is the work of the Island Goddesses and they are on my very last nerve," began Xena angrily. She paused, calmed herself and sighed. "But until they show themselves, we're stuck. If we could just find them."

"It might not be so bad, maybe we'll hear some good music," said the co-ed. "Try to relax."

"'Relax' is not in my vocabulary. I'm a woman of action, Colleen," said Xena edgily.

"You could actively heckle the band," smiled the Survivor.

Xena still couldn't quite believe her eyes at seeing this particular group of men on stage.

"If Gabrielle were to see this band I'd be one lonely Warrior Princess," said Xena.

"Well, Murphy's Law and Fan Fiction Writing 101 dictate that Gabrielle will show up at the most inopportune moment," shrugged the co-ed.

"I don't know how much more 'inopportune' it can get than Borias, Anthony and Ares all on one stage," replied Xena.

I'm sure the Island Goddesses will think of something, thought Colleen, glancing about for a sign of the beautiful women.

Colleen and Xena were distracted by Tapert who was showing dance moves to the bicep-bulging testosterone trilogy. Colleen giggled as the executive managed to do a fairly good job dancing despite his state of extreme pregnancy.

"Who would've figured Tapert for having any kind of rhythm," murmured the co-ed to Xena. Despite the uncomfortable situation, the Warrior Princess managed to crack a smile at Colleen's comment.

Tapert finished his consultation with the studly threesome and stepped off-stage. He looked to the skies.

"OKÉumÉhit itÉI guess."

A disco groove with a gospel inflection began to play from the stage speakers. The handsome trio stepped to the microphones and began to bump and grind to the music.

And the boy band from hell began to sing.

It's Raining Men V
(to, oddly enough, It's Raining Men)

Hi-Hi! We're the Xena Boys - ah-huh
And have we got news for you - You better listen!
Get ready, all you subtext fans
Xena left her umbrella at home -Alright-

Heterosex's rising
grrrrl love and subtext's a no-show
According to fifth season
Straight sex's the way to go

Cos Xena ain't no dyke-con
She's just Gab's goo-ood friend
You just boot their love to the curb
It's gonna start raining men.

It's Raining Men!
Heterosex-jah! Xena's no dyke! She likes men!
Who needs true love?!
When You've Got Us! You Just Need Good Looks. And a Man!

Xena and Colleen simply stared, jaws on the floor, eyes wide in horror.

"Yeah, babies, swing it!" hooted Tapert from off-stage.

The song's hypnotic, funk-a-move beat began to take the red-haired executive over. He boogied back on-stage and began singing into the mike along-side Borias. During the bridge, Tapert pulled a Donna Summers from Last Dance, shoving Borias out of the way and grabbing the microphone. The surprised former warlord tripped and fell on his assÉpromptly disintegrating in a cloud of glitter.

Antony's eyebrows shot up towards the sky.

"Dude...where'd ya go?" he asked, whirling around and around in a circle like a dog chasing his tail as he tried to locate Borias.

Ares eyes' lit up like a light bulb was shining above his evil light bulb...and the former God of War smiled.

Xena breathed a sigh of relief. "They're not real," she thought.

The pregnant executive didn't seem to notice Borias' disappearing act as he waddled downstage and launched into a full-throttle, solo verse of It's Raining Men V.

(Tapert's verse)
Xena's all straight you know
I made it so fifth season
I gave her all boy toysÉ
and rewrote Gabby yet again
I taught every writer
To recast their love
Cause I'm such a TV genius
And these guys have penises

It's Raining Men! ....

The song ended with one last, rousing chorus and a gospel-styled "amen." Tapert threw his hand in the air to give the remaining boy band members a high five. Antony gave the executive an excited slap on the hand, followed by a slap on Tapert's round, plump, executive butt.

Tapert scowled at the Roman. "Antony. I don't swing that way...and neither do you!"

"How do YOU know," flirted Antony.

"Because I created you as one of Xena's boy toys for the fifth season of Xena: Warrior Princess. We needed to prove to the audience that Lucy was still sexy as hell after her pregnancy. So we had Xena roll around naked on the floor like a harlot for your pleasure."

Antony smiled at the memory. "Yeah. That sure was nice. Could you have her do that again?"

The brief conversation between the executive and Antony had not gone unnoticed by Ares who tucked away the information for future use. This red-haired, pregnant he-creature might actually have some power. Maybe he would know where some ambrosia is, mused Ares.

The former God of War noticed Tapert looking at him and smiled. Ares held his hand in the air to give the red-haired executive a high five. As Tapert closed in for the hand slap, the dark stud moved his hand to smooth his hair, leaving the pregnant producer's mitt flailing in the air.

"Psych," laughed Ares, who decided it was time to abandon this group approach to the Battle of the Bands and go solo.

"I'm here to win you back, Xena!" roared Ares, grabbing onto the microphone. "It's you and me, babe. I've proven my love. Look at all I've done for you...

"Like what, dude?" said Antony who was busy shaking his bon-bon to a tune in his head that no one else could hear.

"Like protecting Eve..."

"And boinking Livia," smiled Antony, craning his neck around to look at his ass. "Pretty," said Antony to his glorious butt.

Ares glared at the Roman.

"That's it," Xena growled as she stalked toward the stage. Colleen grabbed Xena's arm, fully aware she was taking her own life into her hands.

"You might want to let them have their say," cautioned the Survivor. "This whole Fifth-usia thing is obviously for Tapert's benefit anyway. Given enough time and rope these guys are gonna hang Tapert with it...metaphorically speaking. And then maybe we can all get out of here."

Colleen looked over at Tapert to see if anything was registering. The pregnant executive looked back at her, eyes glazed over with adoration for his Chosen One.

"Aren't they great?" he sighed dreamily.

Xena halted her charge on the stage. The Survivor had been helpful and kind to her and Gabrielle. She did seem to know what was going on and had been a useful ally. Xena curtly nodded her head in agreement.

"But I smell a rat," she said, narrowing her eyes at Ares.

As if on cue, three more refugee rodents from Soozin's hair tumbled out of the underbrush, dashing in front of an amazed Tapert as they headed for the stage. They scrambed up to a trio of tiny microphones conveniently placed downstage.

"Just when I thought it couldn't get any weirder," whispered Tapert.

Back on-stage, Antony decided it was time to head Ares off at the Makin' Whoppee Pass and made his own move for Xena.

"Dude, she belongs to me," he yelled at Ares. "You used the whole Eve and Twilight of the Gods thing to try and force her into giving you sex."

Ares rolled his eyes, tired of Antony's interruptions.

"Well, come on, what's really important here?" argued the studly former God of War. "All my past actions of betrayal, hate, persecution, attempted murderÉoh, let's face it, the evils I've visited upon Xena goes on foreverÉor is what's most important the fact that I'm built like a Mack truck and sexy as hell despite my jug-like ears?!"

"That you're sexy as hell, of course...and straight," piped up Tapert. "That other stuff doesn't matter. Despite all the times you tried to kill and destroy Xena and GabrielleÉyou're really just a sweet, cuddly, bad boy and you just need Xena's love to prove it. And all those evil things you've were just trying to get Xena's attention. You were just showing her how much you really loved her."

"Uh..." Ares began. He stopped and frowned at Tapert's reasoning as a thought for something other than himself clouded his mind for a second. He shook his head and the moment passed.

"Yeah, what he said. Besides, I gave up my godhood for her! That proves how much I love her and that I'm a good guy now," Ares played his trump card.

"Pfft," snorted Antony. "You got Gabrielle and Eve killed and then you saved them in a last-ditch effort to get down Xena's leathers and to save your own ass. Besides, how come you didn't lose your godhood when you brought those farmers back to life? You know, the ones that you killed and then tried to frame Xena for their deaths. 'Until next time, Xena,'" mimicked Antony.

Tapert rolled his eyes. "Do they have to point out every continuity error I've ever made?"

"I don't think they've got enough time for that, even in this long of a fan fiction," replied Colleen.

The Roman soldier turned his attention back to the Warrior Princess.

"Come on, Xena," Antony pleaded. "Remember that night under the stars in Egypt? All that sexy rolling around in the sand? Baby, you know I'm the one who loves you. I'm the one you should be with."

"And what did you get from Xena, huh, Antony?" queried Ares, not to be outdone by rationale. The former member of Mount Olympus began to count off on his fingers. "No Cleopatra. No Egypt. No fleet of ships. No sexÉ"

"No sex...look who's talking," Antony shot back.

Ares narrowed his eyes and continued. "....Deceived. Oh, and let's not forgetÉshe KILLED you!"

"That's not what happened...." Xena began from off-stage. She stopped and looked to Colleen. "That was what happened. I thought Tapert was the one supposed to be learning the lesson here," she said miserably.

Antony's pretty boy brain suffered a meltdown with the introduction of a second thought. The beautiful Roman's eyes glazed over for a moment while the one train of thought his brain could handle got back on-track. Antony re-focused on Ares.

"Yeah, well, I heard about what she did to you in Amphipolis, tricking you by promising sex. Seems like she treated both of us the same, dude," said Antony, his brown eyes filling up with tears. "She fought us with sex! Whatever happened to old-fashioned weapons like strategy and swords and stuff?"

"Oh, Xena using her brain to defeat enemies was just getting oldÉand it wasn't sexy," explained Tapert patiently.

"Sex as a weapon...that's my girl," winked Ares to Xena. "But the real heart of the matter is that we all know Xena likes her boys bad."

"Maybe it's what I like...but it's not who I love," snarled Xena.

"I'm a bad boy, too, Xena," pleaded Antony, tears filling his eyes.

Ares walked over to the weeping Roman. "You're nothing but a cry baby," said Ares who planted one foot behind Antony, shoving him to the ground. The Roman's face held a look of complete, surfer boy surprise as his ass hit the stage floor and he blasted into a million bits of glitter.

Ares turned back upstage, brushing pretty-boy glitter off his chest.

"And we all know I'm the baddest boy on the block."

The leather-clad stud swaggered to the mike as another song introduction began. The rats began to jump up and down excitedly as they were the only ones left to sing back-up.

"We get to sing back-up for Ares! It's" began the first rat.

"Ironic?" asked the second rat.

"Appropriate," said the third as all three rats nodded their heads in agreement.

"I heard that," Tapert yelled at the furry fiends. He glanced around to gauge the other's reactions, who seemed not to notice the rats. "I think."

(to Aretha Franklin's version of Respect)
(words in parentheses are sung by the Rat Trio)

What you want
Baby I don't care
What I want
Is all that matters
What I'm doin'
Is a whole lotta stalkin' wherever you are (Just a whole lot)
Hey Xena (just a whole lot) when you get home
(just a whole lot) Princess (just a whole lot)

Always gonna do you wrong, no matter what
I'll protect your baby (ooh) just gimme your womb (ooh)
All I'm askin' (ooh)
Is for a lotta sex for my troubles (yeah, a lot of sex!)
Xena (just a lot of it) a lotta sex (but we'll call it love)
Yeah (just a lot of sex)

I've? gone and shown you all my obssession
And all I'm askin' in return Xena
Is you give me your sex
Anywhere, babe (just a, just a, just a, just a)
Yeah Xena (just a, just a, just a, just a)
When you go to sleep (he'll invade your dreams)
Yeah (yeah a lot of sex)

Oooo, your sex is (ooh)
Sweeter than honey (ooh)
Or at least
That's what I'm hopin' Xena
That's what I'm hopin' Xena
All I want you to do (ooh) for me
Is give it to me when you get home (sta, sta, sta, sta)
Yeah, Xena (sta, sta, sta, sta)
I'll whip it to you (stalkin', that's what I'm talking)
When you get home, now (but we'll call it love)

Find out what it means to you
But I'llÉcall it love!

"Enough!" roared Xena, and the song and Ares came to a screeching halt.

"How could he do that to one of the coolest songs ever?" asked Colleen sadly.

"Awww, he was just getting started," said Tapert. The executive smiled at Colleen. "That was really good."

"Mr. T., did you hear his words?" exclaimed the co-ed.

"Words, shmurds," the executive replied. "Did you see his MOVES? That guy can dance...and he's good-lookin. We'll win for sure now."

"DudeÉwill you ever get it? I mean, this fan fic won't end until you GET it," the sweet and cuddly Colleen said with not a small amount of exasperation in her voice.

Ares smiled and leapt off the stage, executing one somersault in the air and landing in front of Xena.

"It's not enough, Xena. It's never enough," he said softly. He placed his hands on the Warrior Princess' hips.

"See, look what Xena is letting Ares do," pointed out Tapert to Colleen.

Xena pulled back her mighty warrior fist and crashed it into Ares' face. He doubled over and she brought her knee up hard into his chin. The former God of War flew backwards nearly a hundred feet, landing on his gorgeous, sumptuous, tight as rockÉbut not tight as a ROCÉbuns.

"She just kicked his ass," Colleen said.

"Yes, but she kicked his ass with love in her heart," smiled the oblivious Tapert.

Xena looked to where Ares had landed, her blue eyes widening in shock as she had expected him to evaporate like Borias and Antony.

"Yeah," said Ares rubbing his painfully throbbing nose. He shook his head and got up. "I'm the real thing, babyÉ" he held his arms out. "Énow come to Papa."

Xena turned from the former God of War and stalked away.

"OK. Poor choice of words," said Ares as he scurried ahead of the warrior, coming to a stop in front of her. The Warrior Princess halted, glaring.

"Get out of my way," Xena said evenly.

"Come on, Xena. It's you and me. It always has been...You know that I love you," Ares said.

"You and me?" Xena laughed. "Ares, as a villain you were at least interesting. But as a lovesick, former god dogging my every're just pathetic and peurile."

"You sure make this love crap difficult," Ares said angrily.

"Xena said Ares was interesting," Tapert said proudly. Colleen rolled her eyes.

The Warrior Princess stopped to re-assess the situation. Hitting the former God of War wasn't working...though it certainly felt good. A change of strategy was needed. She decided to try and reason with the stalker.

"Don't you see what's been happening, Ares? YouÉmeÉGabrielleÉ"

The muscle-bound stud snorted derisively at the mention of the irritating blonde. The really hot, spank-me gorgeous, irritating blondeÉ Ares drifted off in thought for a moment only to find himself dragged back by Xena's angry words.

"ÉWe've all done things and acted in ways lately that just aren't us. Don't you even wonder why you'reÉ" Xena looked around at the stage and Colleen and Tapert in exasperationÉ "here!? Don't you wonder why after all these years of trying to destroy me that you suddenly decided you were in love with me?"

"Hate is just another word for love," said Tapert airily.

Ares was torn between actually considering Xena's argument and trying to think of a biting, viscious comeback to prove his love when he noticed a shimmering in the air over Xena's shoulder. The shimmering was taking the form of a person. He couldn't make out who it could be but odds were....

A man who grabbed opportunities when they presented themselves, Ares smiled, reached over and trailed his fingers down Xena's arm. Then using both of his large, studly hands, he took hold of Xena's waist, pulling her close to his hips.

Gabrielle had fully materialized. She didn't even have a moment to ascertain where she was. All she saw was Xena and Ares in what seemed to be an extremely intimate clinch. But from her vantage, she could not see Xena's icy glare directed at Ares.

"Murphy's Law," said Colleen sadly. She looked to the skies accusingly. "I don't think this is very nice, youse guys."

As Xena had been focused upon reasoning with Ares, her Gab Radar was compromised. But now it went off like a clanging dinner bell. The warrior whirled to see the bard staring at her and Ares. The former God of War smirked.

"Ares," growled the bard. She began striding purposefully toward the dark stud, picking up a head of steam and anger as she broke into a run.

Ares' eyes widened in fearÉand lust. The bard looked so beautiful coming toward him, all pumping thighs and swaying hips. He knew he should run because, well, he was mortal now and Gabrielle could kick his ass.

"But Gods on Mount Olympus she looks so HOT," thought the former God of War who was frozen on the spot like a refugee from The Man Show caught in the headlights of an oncoming Playboy Bunny.

"Help me," he finally managed to squeak to Xena, who stood beside him.

Xena's eyes were just as wide as the former God of War's and she wasn't sure who was about to get their ass kicked: her, Ares...or both of them at the same time.

"You're on your own," she gulped. And the Warrior Princess took a long, warrior-sized step sideways just as a furious ball of blonde bard barreled into Ares.

Tapert observed Gabrielle's appearance with irritation. He didn't need her presence to mess things up...he was so close to winning. But wow, she sure does look sexy running, mused the executive.

Hmmm, he thought, If we put Renee in an even skimpier outfit and had her running with explosions going off in the background. Yeah, that might work. Now all I need is a plot to go with the visual.

Tapert shook himself from his idea-borrowing reverie as Gabrielle tackled Ares and began to open a can of Grecian whoop-ass on him.

There was a flurry of fists and punches, all delivered by Gabrielle, followed quickly by sounds of pain and grunts...all served up by Ares.

Tapert ran over to Xena.

"You're the hero. Do something! She's damaging what's left of my Chosen One!"

Xena and Tapert heard a particularly loud howl and looked up to see Ares tumbling through the air above them. They watched him fly over their heads in a beautiful arc, landing with a thud in the tall jungle grass.

Xena looked at Ares curiously. "Ah, he's not even bleeding yet..." she said to Tapert. Then she squinted, taking a closer look. "Well, not much."

Ares lay on the ground, groggily shaking his head.

"You know what, Ares," said Gabrielle. "I've tried. I've tried so hard. I've put up with so much from you. And I thought I could rise above it all. But I just can't."

"Couldn't you pretty please try again?" whimpered Ares.

"Don't think so, buddy. You've gotten away with far too much already and it stops now."

The Bard began to close in on the former God of War once again.

"MommyÉI want my mommy," he began to cry.

Tapert swung his large, pregnant stomach--which was not unlike turning the Titanic around to try and miss the iceberg--and began running.

"It's a Battle of the Bands...not Battle of the Fists," yelled Tapert, hastily placing himself between the bard and his fallen vanguard of all that was hallowed and straight.

Gabrielle stopped her charge on Ares, breathing deeply. She didn't want to harm the pregnant executive. Well, part of her did, but it would be the wrong thing to do. And then his words registered.

"Battle of the Bands?" Gabrielle asked Tapert.

"Thank God," Ares croaked, "er, gods, I meant," glad the bard's attention was diverted for a moment. He scrambled up off the ground, scurrying over to stand behind Tapert for protection.

Gabrielle looked around, noticing the unusual color of the sky and trees for the first time. She saw the stage, full of strange contraptions and things that appeared to look like musical instruments.

"Where are we?" she asked no one in particular.

"Fifth-usia," bubbled Colleen.

The co-ed beat the bard to her next question. "It's like Illusia," she added. "Only it's about this past year of your life."

"Twenty-six years," corrected Tapert impatiently. "The fifth season covers 26 years."

"A Battle of the Bands in Fifth-usia," said Gabrielle in astonishment. "What are we battling for?"

"We're battling for Xena," said Tapert. "And so far, the guys are winning."

"The guys?" asked Gabrielle.

"Yeah," Tapert smiled smugly. "Borias, Antony and Ares. You remember Antony, don't you Gabrielle? He's that guy Xena was making out with in the desert when you all were in Egypt."

"What?!" exclaimed Ares who had stepped from behind Colleen. The former God of War smiled wickedly. "Oooh, you're in trouble now, Warrior Princess."

Furious, green eyes turned to Xena.

A huge boulder screamed out of the sky. Tapert looked up and managed to move out of the way just in time as the boulder crashed next to him.

"Ha. Guess the Island Goddesses didn't like me ratting Xena out there," said the executive.

Colleen walked over, glaring at the executive. "That wasn't nice, Mr. T."

"Well, all's fair in sex and rock 'n roll," retorted a giddy Tapert, sure he was near winning the contest.

Gabrielle ignored everyone and everything but Xena.

"Is this true?" she asked.

"I had to. It was part of the plan," explained a distraught Xena who had hoped never to have this particular discussion with her soulmate.

The bard's breath hitched but she grabbed onto her anger to keep the tears at bay.

"Gabrielle," Xena began desperately. "This is all the work of the Island Goddesses..."

She cut the warrior off. "Has everything this past year been the work of the Island Goddesses?"

"Twenty-six years!" howled Tapert. "Why is that so difficult for people to get?"

Xena looked from her upset and furious lover to her smirking stalker to the sputtering Tapert.

"That's it!" the frustrated warrior yelled to the skies. "This battle is OVER!"

"Hey, no fair! You can't make any decision until both bands play!" whined the executive.

Xena turned to give the executive a piece of her mind...or fist, she wasn't sure which. Ares decided to crab at Xena and Tapert launched into a hormonal bitch fest at them all. There was a brief cacophony of noise. The bard took a breath and searched for inner peace. She tried to find patience, love and understandingÉbut it was like trying to find a song written by Melissa Etheridge without at least four clichŽs and the words fire and desire in the lyrics.

"Quiet!" roared the bard. Xena and Tapert stopped short, eyes wide. Ares began to shake in fear.

"I don't understand exactly everything that's going on here or why, but I DO have some things I want to say," the bard said, a beautiful, angry blush rising in her cheeks, the tears forgotten.

"Gabrielle, I swear nothing happenedÉ" began the Warrior Princess.

"When, Xena? Just now with Ares or back in Egypt with Antony?"

"Please," Xena tried again.

"Don't!" the bard said with quiet fury. "I've had enough of being understanding. Of being nice. Of being quiet. Of being pushed to the back as if I'm some sort of wimpy, pathetic, good little understandingÉ"

"Sidekick," interrupted Tapert. "Understanding sidekick. That's your role."

Gabrielle threw him a murderous glance.

"Baby!" he yelped, pulling on his t-shirt and taking an instictive step back.

"Gabrielle, you know that we've been manipulated..."

"Maybe, Xena. But we have free will and we can decide how we act. How am I supposed to feel about all this...about Antony?"

"It's not like I had sex with Antony...or Ares for that matter," exclaimed Xena, looking to somehow salvage the incredible mess she found herself in.

"Don't pull that with me, Warrior Princess," the blonde Amazon dangerously. "How would you like it if I rolled around in the sand with Lin Qi like you did with AntonyÉeven if it was part of a 'plan?'"

Xena closed her eyes at the unwanted visions of the bard in anyone's arms but hers.

"What if you found Najara touching me like I just saw Ares touching you?" the bard pressed.

"That would be kind of sexy," said Ares.

"Shut up!" Xena and Gabrielle yelled at the former God of War.

"Zeush, they're so crabby," muttered Ares.

"Put yourself in my place and answer the question, Xena. I'd like to know," said Gabrielle who was, if possible, becoming even angrier.

"I'd kick hisÉor herÉass," said Xena quietly.

The Warrior Princess rushed on, desperate. "Gabrielle, we talked about all this and you said everything was all right. I thought this was all behind us."

Tapert leaned over to Colleen. "Blah, blah, blah. This just proves my point that Xena's straight. Lesbians love to 'process' things by talking them to death."

Colleen looked at Tapert, dumbfounded.

"What? Liz Friedman told me so," said an indigant Tapert. "Now, look, Gabrielle's yakkin' a mile a minute and Xena's the one who doesn't want to talk. So who's the true Lesbian here, I ask you."

For the first time in her life, the co-ed seriously entertained a murderous thought.

"I thought it was behind us, too, Xena," continued Gabrielle. "Until I saw you in Ares' arms...yet again. On top of that I get to find out about Antony from someone I barely know," said Gabrielle. "There is a 'we' here, Xena. You and me. Us. You have to decide. It's all of us or nothing. Because I'm at the absolute end of what I can or will take."

Xena had never seen Gabrielle this angry and at the bard's last words, the blood drained from the warrior's face, leaving her ashen and shaken to her core.

Gabrielle turned from Xena and walked away.

Tears formed in Xena's eyes. This can't be happening, she thought numbly.

The bard paused and then shook her head as if fighting with something internally. Then she squared her gorgeous, broad, muscular shoulders and spoke to the skies.

"I want to be in the competition. I want to battle for Xena."

Xena's legs turned to rubber as a wave of relief washed over her and the Warrior Princess was barely able to keep from collapsing to the ground.

"You?!" laughed Tapert. "You can't even sing."

"Gabrielle, you don't have to do this," said Xena. "You know that you're the onlyÉ"

"You. Listen," Gabrielle said with quiet rage. The warrior closed her mouth abruptly.

The bard headed toward the stage. Xena and Colleen followed with Tapert scurrying after. Ares threw up his hands in disgust and trudged after the group.

At a hundred yards or so from the stage, Gabrielle began running, launching herself into the air and performing three perfect somersaults. She landed on the stage and turned to face the small audience.

For Gabrielle, long-suppressed feelings of the past years began to surface. She tried to keep them down, but the emotions tightened her chest painfully. The bard had a sudden urge to scream, kick, yell...something. She looked over to Ares, considering kicking him around a little more.

Ares noted the look in Gabrielle's eyes and stepped quickly behind Colleen for protection.

"She wouldn't kick my ass if I were a god," grumbled the dark stud.

"Yeah, she would," snorted Colleen.

"OK, Island Goddesses..." the Amazon's emerald green eyes bore into Xena. The Warrior Princess raised her chin and stared back, heart in her throat. Gabrielle growled, "I need back-up. Your choice."

There was a sudden thunderclap power chord. Everyone but the bard and Xena flinched at the sound. In the distance, two glowing balls sped toward the stage and the blonde warrior.

"Hey, maybe that's Naima and the Archangel Michael," said Tapert.

"Great, a major clash of religious philosophies in the middle of a musical. Just what we need," sighed Colleen.

As the orbs got closer, it became apparent that they were horses with riders, both trailing a stream of bright orange and red fire.

The flying horses landed softly, unaffected and yet engulfed by flames. They stood behind Gabrielle like fiery sentinels, back lighting the Amazon Queen to gorgeous effect but singeing not one hair on her beautiful body. Two women vaulted from the horses and onto the stage. One was a wild-haired blonde with big, pink, pouty lips and the second was a sassy-looking, auburn-haired woman with fierce, iceblue eyes.

Colleen gasped from off-stage. She pointed and began screaming like a 13-year-old white girl at an 'N Sync concert with lots of money to spend.

"It's Courtney Love from Hole and Shirley Manson from Garbage!" the co-ed screamed. She fell to her knees, bowing and chanting, "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!"

The Survivor tugged on Tapert's t-shirt. "Bow, infidel, bow!"

"Oh, please, like they can do better than Ares," snorted Tapert who wasn't about to bow. "Look who they've got singing for them!"

"Goddess," said Love reverently to Gabrielle. "We heard you needed back-up," she eyed the small crowd of onlookers angrily.

"I think that blonde chick wants to kick my ass," a frightened Ares gulped.

"Which blonde?" asked Colleen innocently, who wasn't yet sure if she could stand in the presence of the High Priestesses of Rock-n-Roll.

"Not just your ass," growled Love with a pointed look at Xena and Tapert.

The executive thrust his stomach out, hoping being pregnant would once again save him.

The Warrior Princess took no notice of the rockers. The only thing in her world right now was one pissed off, feral, blonde Amazon Queen.

Love and Manson strode over to the Marshall stacks, unrolling the electrical power cords and stabbing them into their guitars.

"Goddess, if I may," began Manson.

Gabrielle took her attention off Xena for a moment, stopping Manson.

"That's the second time you two have said that. I'm not a Goddess. I'm just Gabrielle."

"You're Gabrielle, Bard of Potedaia. Your poems and scrolls have influenced the greatest song writers and lyricists over the millennia: Van Hildeberg, Goethe, Mozart, Wolf, Gershwin, Dylan, McLachlan and many, many more. You are a true goddess of lyrics. And we're here as your Bad Ass Bard Back-Up Band," explained Manson.

Gabrielle blushedÉbeautifully of course.

"GoddeÉerÉGabrielle," smiled Manson. "Let us know when you're ready."

Gabrielle approached the mike.

"Let's do it," the bard rumbled.

Tapert's eyes widened as an idea hit his brain. He looked over at Colleen and laughed with delirious, evil gusto. "Renee can't sing! Winner's Circle and L.A.Éhere I come."

Manson and Love launched into a fast-driven chord pattern. The ferocity of the sound reached the place in Gabrielle where her pain and anger lay waiting for release. The emotions came in a rush. She began to nod to the beat the rockers had set forth and let it take over her entire body. Gabrielle grabbed the microphone and began to sing with all her heart, her love, her soul, her passion.

Take All of Us
(Violet by Hole)
And we slept as one under the stars
And all the heavens shone for you and I
You know that we are one
(and here Gabrielle stared at Ares) And you know that "no" means "no."
(the Bard returned her attention to Xena) He won't last a day
You and I forever
He won't last 10 minutes ("Hey!" yelled an indignant Ares from off-stage.)
We are forever
Always here, loving you
No one else, you alone
You are all that I want
We are each other's heart and soul
Go on take all of us, take all of us
I want you to
Go on take all of us, Take all of us
You want it too

I don't know where your head's at
Lately you confuse me, confuse you
But I'm the one who knows your soul
Ours above and ours below
They won't last a day
We are forever

...(Xena was aware that some of the words were now repeating, but Gabrielle's passion continued unabated...unsated. Xena could barely breathe as Gabrielle poured everything out in song. The Warrior Princess slowly became aware of the words once again.)

You told me from the start
Just how this would end
But I'll get what I want
and that's our love again
Go on take all of us, Take all of us
I dare you to
Go on take all of us, Take all of us

The song ended with Love and Manson's ringing guitars and the bard's last notes raging through the small crowd of onlookers.

"Wow. That was some incredible singing," roared Ares, his index finger and pinky waving in the air, head bobbing as he momentarily forgot his painful run-in with the blonde warrior.

Tapert gulped. "How? She! But...but, Renee can't sing."

"T-Dude, that's not Renee O'Connor, that's Gabrielle," said Colleen who held up a lighter in each hand, flicking them on and screaming at the stage. "Awesome, Gabrielle! You rock ass!!"

Manson launched into a slow, haunting guitar groove. Love snarled happily and joined in. Gabrielle vaulted off the stage and walked over to Xena. She took the warrior by her curvy hips. The Warrior Princess gave herself completely over to the blonde's hands as they began to move to the Bad Ass Bards' sultry rhythm. The Amazon began singing to Xena.

(#1 Crush by Garbage]
I would die for you
I have died for you
Lately, dying just to feel you by my side
To know that you're mine

(Gabrielle gently swung her hips into Xena's, challenging her and reminding her of how perfectly they fit together. There were few things in the world that could bring the warrior to her knees, but this was definitely one of them. The bard communicated her love for Xena with her body and with her words as she continued to sing softly and urgently.)

I will cry for you
I have cried for you
I will wash away your pain with all my tears
And drown your guilt

I have prayed for you
You have prayed for me
I have given my soul for something pure and true
Something like us

See your face every place that I walk in
Hear your voice every time that I am talking
You do believe in me
And I will never be ignored

I have burned for you
Felt pain for you
I will twist the knife and bleed my aching heart
And tear it apart
I will lie for you
Beg and steal for you
I will crawl on hands and knees until you see
You're just like me

Violate all the love that I'm missing
Throw away all the pain that I'm living
You will believe in me
And I can never be ignored

I have died for you
I have killed for you
I suffer for you
I've done time for you
I will wait for you
I'd make room for you
I'd sail ships for you
To be close to you
To be part of you
'Cause I believe in you
I believe in you
I would die for you

The song ended quietly, Manson and Love holding and adding vibrato to the last, shimmering note.

"Did you hear me?" said Gabrielle to Xena as the song ended and their danced stopped.

"Yes," whispered Xena.

The scene froze and godconnie and Mezzo stepped out from behind a small hill.

"Whewsh," said Mezzo, pulling out a cigarette and lighting up. She offered a cigarette and light to godconnie and they both puffed away.

"Do either of us smoke?" asked godconnie nonchalantly.

"We do after that dance," said Mezzo. The fan fic goddess puffed some more and wiped the sweat off their collectively beautiful brows.

"Not helping," Mezzo remarked.

godconnie rolled her eyes, pulled out her notebook and began writing. First, and most importantly (as godconnie is a choc-o-holic), her smoking, ashy cigarette turned into a chocolate one. She munched happily and lustily as she scribbled more. A large pond appeared.

Mezzo looked at gc questioning. "Ice cold," smiled godconnie.

"Thanks! That ought to do the trick." Mezzo hopped up and dove headfirst into the pond, disappearing under the water. The surface of the pond immediately began boiling and steam rolled off the water in misty waves.

godconnie serenely nibbled on her chocolate and waited. But there was no sign of Mezzo. After a few minutes and still no sign of the green-eyed beauty, godconnie began to worry. Suddenly, Mezzo surfaced.

"Still not working," she gasped, out of breath as steam continued to billow from the pond.

godconnie rolled her eyes and began scribbling again. Ares' shirt ripped open, flying off to expose his large, manly he-breasts.

Mezzo screamed in high, holy terror.

"That was HARSH!" she squealed at godconnie.

"Did it work?" gc raised an eyebrow in question.

"Like all of the North Pole at once," replied Mezzo.

"Well, back to it, then," said godconnie.

"You know, we've tried just about everything and we're not getting through to Tapert," Mezzo said to to her comrade. "Torture, hormones, bad dreamsÉ."

"Yeah. I think there's only one thing left we can do," started godconnie

"Show him who the daddy is," finished Mezzo.

The fan fic goddesses began walking toward a nearby hill that was a few yards past where Tapert and Ares were standing in a frozen, eyes wide open, tableau.

"I don't know why you dislike his manly boobies so," said godconnie. "I think his titties are nice."

The Island Goddesses brushed past the two men. gc reached over and gave Ares' studly butt a playful, yet deliciously lingering, squeeze.

"Yeah, if you like mushy, veiny, hairy, he-man titties, I guess so," mused Mezzo, raising an eyebrow at seeing her fellow goddess cop a feel. "But he does have fabulous arms. You know, the kind that could just wrap around you andÉ"

The fan fic goddesses disappeared behind the hill and the scene resumed.

Love and Manson glanced about, confused for a moment. "Did something just happen and we missed it?" asked Manson. Love shrugged. The rock-n-roll high priestesses noticed Xena and Gabrielle were still standing, staring into each other's eyes. Love and Manson smiled at each other.

"Our work here is done," said Love. "Now I gotta get back and kick some record-executive ass."

And with that, the two women climbed onto their horses and rode off into the sky.

Hmmm, thought Tapert looking after them. Flying horses. I should use that sometime.

Ares, meanwhile, stood perfectly still, his eyes popping and mouth agape at the dance Xena and Gabrielle had just shared.

"That," squawked the dark stud.

"That was love," sighed Colleen, staring at the bard and the Warrior Princess.

"Love? Are you nutsÉthey're not in love, they're just friends!" yelled a thoroughly exasperated, eternally clueless Tapert.

But the pregnant executive had to admit that the dance was hot and he tucked it away for future use. But I'll have to change the scene a little, he thought. That way people won't know I, um, borrowed it.

"How come she didn't react that way to my song?" queried Ares, truly perplexed by the Warrior Princess' actions.

"Face it, Ares," said the doe-eyed co-ed. "When it comes to real, true, drop you to your knees're just half of Milli Vanilli in a Courtney Love world."

"I'm not following you," said Ares. "And I think I've just been insulted."

The former God of War felt a breeze. He looked down. "OK. Where's my shirt?" And then a strange, happy grin crossed the handsome mortal's face. "And why does my butt-cheek feel so warm and tingly?"

Colleen giggled. "The Island Goddesses have been here," she said, eyeing Ares with not a small amount of adorable lust.

"That's a good look on you, Ares," said Tapert finally noticing the dark stud's naked chest. "I should have you run around shirtless next season as much as possible."

All of this passed unnoticed by Xena and Gabrielle, still standing close and enjoying the afterglow of their recent sultry groove.

"Gabrielle, you were so angryÉ" began Xena.

"I was. And then I remembered something Aphrodite said about what's going on here," said the bard softly.

"What's that?" asked Xena.

"To remember what's most important to me..."

"It's still me?" the warrior whispered, her voice wavering with equal parts hope and fear.

"Always," the bard smiled into Xena's relief-filled eyes. She raised her mouth up for a kiss.

The executive launched himself at the steamy dynamic duo.

"You know what would be really hot?" said Tapert as he squeezed his pregnant belly in between Xena and Gabrielle, thwarting their kiss. The two stepped back from each other, giving Tapert and his enormously pregnant stomach room. "If we stuck a guy in the middle of this dance. Then you get the hotness of two women dancing, but people will still think they're straight. Damn, I'm good," said the red-haired executive.

Tapert looked around at the group expectantly. "So, who won?" he asked Xena excitedly. "Me, right? Yeah. I thought so."

Xena smiled at the bard. "Gabrielle's the winner, Tapert. Always has been. Always will be."

"What?!" screeched Tapert. "Of all the...Why I oughtta," he sputtered. The redhead shuffled around in a circle in frustration, trying to decide what to do when he suddenly ran back to the stage. The pregnant executive attempted to climb up the front of the stage, but after three failed attempts he ran to the side and climbed the steps. From his semi-lofty height, Tapert grabbed the mike and promptly launched into a rant about the unfairness of it all.

Colleen sighed and rolled her eyes. "Will this ever end?" she said quietly.

Gabrielle chuckled. "I guess we ought to let him have his say."

"Do we have a choice?" snorted Xena as Tapert continued his rant.

After a few attentive moments, even Gabrielle was unable to focus on the executive's monotonous ranting. The bard was half listening when she caught a strange glowing out of the corner of her eye. She flicked her eyes over, turning her head slightly and saw a light shining from deep in the jungle. She looked over to Xena, catching her attention. The bard cut her eyes in the direction of the light. The warrior raised a beautiful, dark eyebrow in response. Gabrielle again cut her eyes to the side, ever so slightly nodding her head in the direction of the light, covering the movement by pretending to absently rub her chin. The bard then glanced surreptitiously around at her companions. Everyone had a glazed look in their eyes, even Colleen. Gabrielle quietly set off into the undergrowth to investigate the strange glowing.

And Tapert ranted on. He was now up to accusing the Island Goddesses of setting him up.

"Duh," said Colleen, who managed to tune in for a moment before checking out once again as the deluded TV mogul launched into touting the brilliance of the Fifth Season.

Xena broke into a huge, wide, happy grin at Gabrielle's eye-footsie. She glanced quickly about, squelching her smile as she didn't want to attract attention. The warrior waited a few moments after Gabrielle disappeared into the undergrowth and quietly melted away from Tapert's hostages. A few yards away from the stage, she broke into another enormous, ear-to-ear grin.

Oh, yeah, Warrior Princess is about to get lucky, she thought happily.

She and the bard had been unable to spend any quality time alone without interruption since they got to the island save for their brief stay on the boatÉ and Xena had gotten the distinct impression someone had been watching them. The warrior was getting testy due to their lack of mutual affection. Xena began unhooking her armor, thinking of the bard's many luscious curves.

Colleen was musing on her place in the Survivor competition and paying no attention whatsoever to Tapert when out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the Warrior Princess slip away. Colleen looked over to see Ares' eyes glazed over. The co-ed decided to take advantage of his distraction and headed into the undergrowth after the Warrior Princess.

Xena, breastplate hanging in her hand and a happy, goofy grin plastered on her face, quietly traveled the jungle where she quickly came upon Gabrielle in a small clearing.

"Xena, what's going on?" whispered Gabrielle, eyeing the unusually happy warrior and her lack of armor.

"Make-up sex, right?" said Xena, blue eyes twinkling.

Gabrielle chuckled and shook her head.

"I'm not going to get lucky," whimpered Xena.

"Baby, you got lucky the first day you met me," teased the bard. She became serious at the warrior's unhappy face. "And I got lucky the first day I met you."

Xena and Gabrielle heard movement in the bushes. They turned to see Colleen part the undergrowth and step through.

"What's going on, guys?" asked the co-ed.

Xena dejectedly put her armor back on. "Nothing, apparently," she sighed.

"I saw something over here. A light. I thought we should check it out," said Gabrielle, smiling at her dark warrior.

The Warrior Princess noticed the light for the first time. Strangely enough, it seemed to be coming from mid-air between a tree and a bush.

"What is it?" murmured Xena.

Colleen took the index finger on each of her hands and thrust them up over her own ears, making them look pointed. She furrowed her brow and proclaimed, "It looks like a tear in the space-time fan fiction continuum, Captain."

Xena and Gabrielle glanced at each other, then back at Colleen. The co-ed smiled.

"Ooops, wrong cult TV show. What I meant looks like it might be a way out."

The threesome walked over to the rip. It was glowing around its edges and seemed to be oozing lavender light. They approached cautiously and peered in. Through the rip, Xena and Gabrielle saw the green lands of their homeland, Greece. It was twilight and Argo II was standing near a tree hunting for apples. Dozens of apple cores littered the ground at the mare's hooves.

"Gabrielle, that's where we left Argo right before we ended up here," said Xena quietly. "There's our gear and food."

"Let's break this situation down a bit," mused Gabrielle. "The Island Goddesses, who may or may not be goddesses..."

"Oh, trust me, they're goddesses," smiled Colleen. "Roooowwwwrrrrr," she winked and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.

Gabrielle and Xena exchanged amused glances as the bard continued.

"So. The goddesses bring Xena and me Tapert...and Aphrodite as well."

"And Joxer's still out there somewhere," added Colleen.

Xena and Gabrielle looked at Colleen blankly. Crickets chirped. A slight wind rustled the tall, jungle grass. A lion roared lazily in the distance. The cicadas began twittering loudly from the trees.

"Oh. Oh, yeah, Joxer," the bard said finally. She continued. "Then they create a dreamworld within the island that they not only bring us to, but they also bring Ares, Antony and Borias," the bard stopped and gasped, turning to Xena. "They must be real goddesses. They have control over other gods and goddesses and are even able to bring dead people back to life!"

"It's a fan fiction," shrugged Colleen. "They can make anything happen just by writing it."

Gabrielle turned to the co-ed. "We're real, Colleen. Xena and I are not fiction," she said passionately. The Amazon closed her eyes and shook her head. "Whatever's going on, the bottom line is they have to be expending enormous power to accomplish all of this. And maybe the rip has appeared because they've taxed their power."

"You mean it's falling apart at the seams?" said Xena, getting to the condensed version of the bottom line.

"Could be," whispered Gabrielle. "And with their attention on Fifth-usia and Tapert, this may be our chance to go home."

"We need to be careful," cautioned Xena. "It looks like home, but we don't know what will happen if we actually step through."

Gabrielle nodded in agreement.

Back at the stage, Tapert's rant trailed off as he noticed he had only one member left in the audience.

"Did anyone hear what I was saying?" yelled the frustrated executive.

"What? Huh? Um, no, I've been thinking," said Ares distractedly.

"Please don't. You're not supposed to're just supposed to stand around and look pretty," said an irritated Tapert. "Now where're Xena and Gabrielle...and Colleen?"

"What's been going on this past year?" asked Ares rhetorically, ignoring Tapert's remark. "I mean, Xena and I had a complex, dark, deep relationship in the early days. It was about power over one dark temptation against her struggle for good. The fate of individuals and even the world often rested upon that relationship. And then all of a sudden it was about sex," frowned Ares. "I mean, I've claimed to love Xena, but all I've done is bring herÉand myselfÉmisery and pain. And for what, a chance at an orgasm or two?"

"UmmÉduh," replied Tapert. "No doubt the Island Goddesses are putting these thoughts in that pretty head of yours...or Steven Sears," the executive glanced around. "Did you see a bear or a hummingbird around here?"

"I mean, let's face it," continued Ares. "I may want to boink Xena, sure. I want her to lead my armiesÉrule the world and all that. But I don't want any kind of ball and chain," and here the dark stud mimicked a female voice... "'Why can't you be goooood and help people?'" he dropped his voice to its normal register. "For Elysian Fields' sakes, I'm Ares, God of War!"

He began to feel a strange, tingly sensation in his hands. Ares looked down and, for a second, thought he saw a crackling of blue on his hands.

"You were Ares, God of WarÉnow you're just Ares, mortal stud," said Tapert. "See, I took your powers away because I wanted to prove that you loved XenaÉand I thought it would be dramatically interesting."

Ares' mouth stood wide open in utter shock.

Could this red-haired creature be telling the truth? thought Ares. Earlier he claimed he made Antony. The Island Goddesses created this entire Fifth-usia world for the pregnant man's benefit. He must be a being, maybe even a deity, of enormous power and importance. What if Tapert has some kind of control over my world, my life? What if it wasn't Eve who brought about the destruction of the Greek gods, but this 'executive producer?'

The dark stud turned his attention back to Tapert.

"So. You had something to do with my god-lessness?" he said out loud, his anger beginning to rise.

"I created you. I rule you," replied Tapert, oblivious to Ares' increasing agitation.

"Rule me, do you?" said a disbelieving Ares. "No one rules Ares."

"Oh, please, you've been ruled by your penis since Xena got pregnant with Eve. Your character does what I tell it to because I'm..." and here Tapert paused, put his hands on his hips, and threw back his shoulders as his hair blew proudly in the wind. "...the executive producer of Xena: Warrior Princess."

Ares ignored the producer's insult. He was curious about how worshipful Tapert's voice became when he said the words 'executive producer.'

"Is an executive producer more powerful than a god?" asked Ares.

"Yes. Yes it is," Tapert searched for a way to express his role with Xena: Warrior Princess in terms that Ares could understand. He hit upon an idea, shortly to become the making of his doom.

"Everything that happens to Xena and her world, including what happens to the Greek, Hindu, Roman Gods and the God of LightÉeven DahokÉhappens because I make it so. That twilight of the gods thing? Me. The rise of the God of Light and Eve's birth? Me again. Dahok's attempt to take over the world? Yup. Me. I'm the power that be," Tapert said.

Ares had a sudden, Greek god version of an epiphany. And he was not happy. So THIS was why life had become such a living Tartarus! This executive producer creature had been manipulating him. Why he, Ares, had gone from a god of war to a lovesick stalkerÉto a mere mortal.

Ares felt an intense heat in his hands. He looked down to see blue, crackling fire surrounding his fingers and swirling over his palms. A look of amazement...and hope...crossed his handsome face. Ares pointed his finger at one of the guitars on stage near Tapert. A blue bolt of flame cracked in the air. The guitar exploded.

Tapert gulped.

Ares smiled.

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," Ares said, his voice low and dangerous.

"My what?" gasped Tapert.

"Power. What did you think I was gonna show you? Now, show me how much power you have. Let's duke it out, mano oh mano, I dare you," said the confident dark stud.

Back at the space-time fan fiction continuum rip, Argo II noticed Xena. The mare trotted to the glowing hole and peered in at her owner. She spied Gabrielle and whinnied indignantly.

Gabrielle sighed. "Argo II hates me almost as much as Argo I did."

"No, she doesn't, Gabrielle," Xena assured the bard. The Warrior Princess turned to the mare and smiled. "Hey, girl, I've missed you."

Suddenly there was a large cracking sound and what seemed like a small explosion. Xena, Gabrielle and Colleen all whirled in the direction of the stage. As their backs were turned, an impatient Argo II stepped through the rip in Fifth-usia. She came up behind the Warrior Princess, nudging her hip and looking for treats.

The women's attention was distracted from the stage by the sight of Argo on their side of the rip. Xena gasped, quickly checking the blonde mare over.

"She's fine," whispered Xena, chuckling and patting Argo. She looked to the bard excitedly. "This is definitely the way home, Gabrielle. We just have to step through."

Argo trotted over to Colleen and began nudging the co-ed.

"Tart," muttered Gabrielle to Argo. The mare looked back over her shoulder and snorted at the blonde.

Colleen giggled, patting Argo's broad forehead.

Back at the Battle of the Bands stage, Tapert and Ares continued their war of words.

"You better be nice to me or I'll...." began Tapert in a desperate attempt to regain control of the situation.

"You'll what?" purred Ares, the blue energy crackling through his hands.

"Or I'll...leave you mortal for another half a season...yeah, that's what I'll do!"

Ares flung his hand out, shooting a blue flame at the pregnant executive producer. It missed Tapert by an inch. The executive began to scream...loudly.

Meanwhile, Xena was giving the rip another look-over. She carefully extended her hand past the rip.

"Xena, be careful!" cautioned Gabrielle.

She pulled her hand back. "Look, everything's fine," Xena assured a relieved bard. "Gabrielle, we should get going," she said.

"Let's do it," smiled Gabrielle.

The Warrior Princess paused, a frown on her face.

"But what if it's just another world ruled by the Island Goddesses," she asked.

"It can't be any worse than being trapped here with Tapert and Ares," the bard noted. "Besides, we can come right back through if there's a problem."

It was Xena's turn to nod in agreement.

The bard and the warrior turned to Colleen to say their good-byes when another louder explosion startled the three women. This explosion was accompanied by a burst of blue light and a loud, piercing scream.

"Not now," groaned Xena.

Gabrielle sighed and gave the warrior a lop-sided, bittersweet grin.

"Someone's in trouble. Probably Tapert. We've got to help," the bard said. "The greater good and all. This rip will be here for awhileÉI hope."

Xena clenched her jaw in agitation. She turned, patting Argo and pushing the mare back toward the opening. She shrugged to Gabrielle. "Just in case. No sense that she has to be trapped here with us."

Xena spoke to Argo. "Go on home, girl. We'll be there soon, I promise," she said softly.

Argo whinnied, but stepped through the rip and wandered back to the tree, hunting for apples.

Xena turned to Gabrielle. "You know, you shouldÉ" began the warrior.

"Don't you dare even think about trying to send me back without you," growled the bard.

"OK, OK," said Xena.

The warrior took one last glance at their way home and then turned to Gabrielle and Colleen. "Let's go."

They headed toward the stage area when the threesome heard a strange gurgling. They looked over their shoulders to see the time space rip close.

"Looks like the Island Goddesses figured out what we were up to," smiled Xena wryly.

Another blue flash of light exploded, followed by another scream. The dynamic duo and the brunette Survivor took off running for the stage. Crashing through the underbrush, Xena called out to Gabrielle.

"You know, this greater good stuff is a pain. Next time we need to choose between the greater good and us...let's choose us," the warrior smiled.

Back at the stage, Ares had just finished throwing a particularly spectacular blue bolt of energy just for the Tartarus of it...because boys, even god-boys, love to play with their toys.

"I'm back!" he roared, flexing his fabulous biceps and howling to the skies. He looked at Tapert. "And you're toast, you pathetic excuse for a god."

"I'm pregnant!" squealed Tapert, once again pointing to his stomach. But he knew that the ass-kicking he had managed to avoid so far had finally arrived.

"And I'm a villainous godÉlike you, apparently. So what do I care?" grinned Ares who threw a flame of blue at Tapert. "Let's see who's the real 'power that be.'"

The red-haired executive turned and ran for his life.

"Come on, you big baby, show me what you got!"

"I'm a producer, not a fighter," yelled Tapert over his shoulder as he desperately tried to avoid the God of War's energy bolts.

"And another thing 'executive producer,'" continued Ares. "Éno oneÉ" -ZAP- "...but NO ONEÉ" -ZAP- "...messes with Ares, God of War!"

The executive was zig zagging across the meadow, leaping like a pregnant gazelle.

"Where's my hero when I need her?" he cried desperately. Tapert looked ahead and began running for the safest place he could think of: the jungle undergrowth.

Gabrielle, Xena and Colleen arrived at the stage to see Ares' display of pyrotechnics. The warrior and the bard exchanged worried glances. Gabrielle turned to Colleen.

"Stay here and out of sight," she ordered the co-ed. Colleen nodded, eyes wide, and stepped behind some bushes.

Ares pulled his arm back, muscles bulging as a large, blue ball of energy appeared on his hand. Xena somersaulted into the air, while Gabrielle ran at gorgeous, full Amazon sprint into the melee.

Ares unleashed his fireball. Gabrielle's eyes widened, glancing at Tapert. It was headed directly for the fleeing executive's butt.

In one fluid movement, Gabrielle unsheathed her sais and launched herself into the air flinging a sai toward the streaking ball of energy. The bolt crashed off the blonde's deadly weapon, ricocheted and slammed into a tree, disintegrating it into a pile of ash.

"Sonofabacchae," grunted the Amazon, climbing off the ground and retrieving her sai from the ash. "Why isn't his aim as bad as the other Olympian gods?"

Ares growled at the bard's interference and flung another long, blue lightening bolt of energy at Tapert. Xena swung her sword like a baseball bat, returning the bolt to Ares. His eyes widened and he hit the ground, ducking the flame as it screamed over his head and hit the stage, destroying the entire structure.

Xena and Gabrielle's quick reflexes gave the pregnant executive some valuable time and he disappeared, screaming at the top of his lungs, into the jungle undergrowth.

Xena grinned at the bard. "Goddess, she's hot when she's all action," the Warrior Princess thought not for the first nor last time.

Gabrielle smiled back, raising a knowing, lascivious, eyebrow.

Xena blushed.

Ares rolled his eyes.

"Enough with the sexual innuendo," he said disgustedly.

"What? You just now got it?" snorted the blonde.

Ares glared at Gabrielle and began to stride toward the spot where Tapert had disappeared into the jungle.

The dynamic duo stepped toward each other, blocking Ares from the red-haired executive's path of escape. Xena drew her sword as the blonde warrior twirled her sais, both ready to do battle with their old nemesis.

"Leave Tapert alone," growled Gabrielle.

"Or what, you'll kick my ass some more," retorted Ares. He held a sculpted hand out, summoning a large ball of energy. "Bring it on!"

"It's buh-rough-ten," yelled Colleen, stepping out from behind the safety of the bushes.

Ares, Xena and Gabrielle stopped and stared at the Survivor.

"Oh, you'd have to see the movie to get that one," smiled the co-ed. "Or at least the commercial."

"Hey. She really is cute," said Ares to no one in particular, grinning at Colleen.

The God of War turned his attention back to Xena and Gabrielle. He cocked his head and smiled.

"You know what? I'm just feeling real good right now," he flung both arms out as two blue balls of energy began swirling. Xena and Gabrielle stepped into battle stance, unsure of what the dark stud planned.

Ares raised his hands over his head, twirling the balls on his index fingers.

"Tapert made my life a living Tartarus, but you know what? I think it's only 'cuz I let him. Free will and all," said an unusually philosophical Ares. "Tapert's not 'all that and a bag of potatoes' or he would have stopped me. So, obviously, he's not a god. He worked some kind of mojo on me, I'll grant you that. But he's not worth the time and effort it would take to catch and kill him."

Xena and Gabrielle looked at the spinning balls.

"Does this mean you're a god again?" said a curious Xena.

"Looks like," grinned Ares. He shook his hands out, causing the balls of energy to disappear and leered at the Warrior Princess. "Why? Does it turn you on?"

Gabrielle growled. Ares, despite his returned godhood, had a momentary attack of mortal terror.

"Nothing about you turns me on, Ares," said Xena.

An idea occurred to the warrior. She hated what she was thinking, but she was desperate. Maybe the God of War could create another rip in Fifth-usia.

"Ares, you've got your powers back. You could help us get home."

Ares threw back his head and laughed. "Oh, I'm not feeling that good. Besides, you'll find a way out. You always do."

The God of War winked. "See ya."

Ares drew himself up to his full six-plus feet and concentrated his powers, attempting to dematerialize. Nothing happened. He looked around, a little shocked and embarrassed.

"Having a little god-impotency there, dude?" smiled Colleen.

"Never," he said confidently to the co-ed, his plump, gorgeous lips wrapping around the word suggestively.

Part 5

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