See Part 1 for disclaimers.
"Just a minor set-back," said the God of War, but with far less confidence. "I haven't done this in awhile. Yeah. That's it. Must've lost my touch."
And the dark stud returned to focusing his powers on getting the hell out of this gods-forsaken 'Fifth-usia.' Veins began to pop out on Ares' neck and forehead as he concentrated on dematerializing. He even brought his arms into the act, thrusting them out in front of him and flexing them, his muscles and veins bulging, handsome face turning beet red.
Colleen giggled. "We're going to pump..." she clapped her hands together and pointed at Ares. "You up."
And still, nothing happened. Ares let go of his muscle bulging antics and took a deep gasp of breath, his normal color returning.
"Why can't I go?" he whined. "I hate this place. I want to get back home and wreak some havoc and destruction!"
The God of War looked to see Xena smirking at him. It was too much for his ego. Ares flung his hand up, creating another large ball of blue fire, angrily drawing his hand back to fling the ball and wipe the smile from her face forever. As he let go of the energy ball, it simply dissapeared with a small blip. Ares stood staring in shock.
"Looks like your return to godhood was short-lived," said Xena.
Ares drew his hand back again to summon the energy and noticed that the crackling fire around his hands was completely gone. He looked up at Xena, who was still smiling.
"I am SO going to kick your ass the old fashioned way," he threatened, heading toward Xena.
The Warrior Princess flung her head back, long, black hair whipping around her face as she and the bard readied themselves for battle.
"And I'm going to have fun mopping the ground with your face," she taunted.
Ares strode forward and suddenly found himself aloft in the air, arms pin-wheeling and legs kicking in surprise.
"Hey! Lemme down!" he yelped. "I'm Ares, God of War, you can't do this to me!"
The dark stud looked down and noticed that he was beginning to fade.
"No fair," he bellowed as he continued to kick and yell. But much to Ares' horror, he became more and more transparent. The former God of War finally gave in, sighing. "Well, at least I'm outta hereÉand I've still got my looks."
And Ares, returned once again to mortal stud-dom, simply disappeared.
Colleen smiled. "Well, you gotta give the Island Goddesses props for that one."
Meanwhile, Tapert had managed to run a good, long distance considering his pregnancy. He came upon the two previous tunnels he had passed when he first had awakened to find himself in Fifth-usia. Now there were three tunnels. Two of the escape routes were sealed with rock, and the previous signs were gone.
Is that a hint? wondered the desperate and confused executive.
The third tunnel had a sign and it read Island Goddess Compromise Tunnel.
Tapert ran through. An iron-gate slammed down behind him, closing off the tunnel from any retreat. Ahead of him was a sign that read Suckah and more green foliage and rolling meadows ahead.
Tapert heard noises behind him. Thinking Ares had found him, he squealed and kept running, ignoring the taunting signage and hoping for the best.
Back at the Battle of the Bands stage, Xena, Gabrielle and Colleen headed back to where they originally found the rip in hope of finding another way home.
"Xena, when we were here earlier, why do you think the Island Goddesses didn't immediately closed that rip up?" asked Gabrielle.
"Probably 'cuz they fell asleep during Tapert's rant back there," hypothesized Colleen.
"Or it took them awhile to come up with enough power to close the it," suggested Xena.
"We came very close to escaping," continued the bard. "And remember when we were out on the boat, why didn't they keep us from getting on the boat in the first place? Why let us get off-shore?"
"For a more exciting and action-filled plot?" interjected Colleen.
"Well, like Aphrodite and Ares, maybe they can't watch us every second," said Xena.
"Or maybe they're not goddesses after all..." began Gabrielle.
"Rrrroowwwrrr," interrupted Colleen. Gabrielle sighed.
"I don't know why I keep doing that," laughed the co-ed. "The goddesses must have some deep-seated insecurity to have me go on and on about how beautiful and powerful they are."
Xena shook her head and turned to the bard.
"Gabrielle, if they're not goddesses, how could they have created all this?"
"They obviously have a lot of power," replied Gabrielle. "But now we know there's a limit to their power."
"Oh, no, I don't think there's a limit to their power," smiled Colleen.
Xena turned to throw the co-ed an exasperated look. The warrior's eyebrows shot up in the air. Colleen was becoming lighter, more transparent.
The co-ed caught Xena's look of surprise. "Whoa, Hollow Girl," she exclaimed, noticing her own disappearing act.
Xena and Gabrielle looked down at their own bodies to see they were quickly disappearing as well.
"Here we go again," sighed Gabrielle.
"I wanna go home," said a frustrated Xena.
The threesome disappeared from Fifth-usia.
Xena was drifting. She felt so comfortable. "Ohhh," she thought happily. It felt like her head was on the softest of pillows. The Warrior Princess smiled as she slowly began to wake up from her deep, Island Goddesses-induced dream-scape. Blue eyes opened, looking into mischievous, brown eyes. Brown eyes? thought Xena groggily. She turned her head and noticed she was snuggled up against Colleen's breasts. The Warrior Princess jerked her head away from the co-ed's dreamy pillows and got up off the ground hastily.
"Um, you're not gonna tell Gabrielle about this, are you?" asked Xena.
"Not in this alternate reality or any other," chuckled Colleen. "I need to be alive if I want to be the last Survivor."
Colleen climbed off the ground and stretched.
"I hope youse guys are about to wrap this up," she yawned sleepily to the skies. "I gotta get back to my full-time job as America's Sweetheart."
"We need to get back to the camp," Xena said, deciding she would never understand Colleen's strange way with language. "My guess is that baby's about to be born and Gabrielle and Tapert may need our help."
Xena strode off in the direction of camp with Colleen following.
Gabrielle woke up slowly, as she was prone to do. She yawned and sat up, happy to be out of Fifth-usia. She sighed. Unfortunately, she was still on the island because she spied Tapert sleeping just where she had last seen him when the snowfall began. Gabrielle noticed the pregnant executive was still thrashing about in his sleep. Apparently the Island Goddesses had not yet brought him back from Fifth-usia. And then she noticed the executive's pregnant stomach begin to undulate.
"The baby," whispered the bard.
Back in Fifth-usia, Tapert stopped running, sure that he had finally lost Ares. The pregnant executive began to feel slight pangs in his stomach and across his back.
"I've gotten out of shape being a Hollywood mogul," he muttered to no one in particular. The pain began to subside and he leaned against a tree, panting to catch his breath. He saw a door to a large castle ahead.
"Hmmm, a castle on a tropical islandÉoh, well, stranger things have happened since I arrived here," Tapert said, rubbing his stomach. He staggered to the door, pushing it open and stepping inside.
Tapert looked around. How odd, it looks just like a barn on the inside, he thought. He turned to see a wagon, straw on the floor and hay bales scattered around the room. The pregnant executive was about to explore the castle further when he became aware of a presence behind him. Fear skittered up his spine.
"HelloÉTapert," came a husky voice filled with gleeful malice.
Tapert turned and let the breath out that he hadn't known he was holding. "Gee, ReneeÉI mean Gabrielle, you startled me!"
Gabrielle was standing before him dressed in her old BGSB. Her hair was long and blonde, her eyes blue.
"Hope," he said; his mouth suddenly hot and dry and he knew that all the Perrier in the world couldn't help him now.
Hope cocked her head and grinned. "I spring eternalÉTapert."
The pains were back and he clutched his stomach.
"Almost time," whispered Hope, circling him.
"Time?" said Tapert.
"Exactly how are we going to get that baby out of you?" she asked conspiratorially.
Tapert's eyes widened in surprise and not a small amount of terror. He hadn't even thought about how the baby might come out.
"Jesus," he panted. "Whoever came up with the idea of having me get pregnant didn't really think it through, now, did they?" The irony of the moment was, sadly, completely lost upon the red-haired, continuity-hating executive.
Hope laughed. Tapert was hit with sharp pains and he fell to his knees and doubled over.
"Help me, help me, please?" he gasped.
"Like you helped my mother when she was having me?" said Hope, her voice low and taunting.
"Why should I help her? She's just..." -gasp- "...the...sidekick. And you were just an evil demon."
"Half human, buddy," said Hope testily. "Too bad I couldn't have a shaft of light redeem me, though," she mused, watching the panting Tapert with an almost clinical interest.
"Livia is Xena's daughter. That makes a huge difference. She was destined for greatness and to be a spiritual leader of goodness."
"I'm sure the thousands of people she murdered and crucified will find that thought ever so comforting," replied Hope dryly.
"She was redeemed. It was a great storyline..." began Tapert.
"And so original...that whole bad girl redeemed, fighting her dark urges while protecting and helping the innocent. That's not something you've ever done before," Hope said derisively.
"I refuse to argue with a figment of my nightmare. I'm having a baby and it hurts!" squealed Tapert. "Help me!"
Hope came over and helped Tapert to a pile of hay that was near some barrels. She rolled the executive onto his back.
"OK, I'll help you. This should be fun...well, for me anyway," smiled the blonde goddess as she brusquely stuck a straw pillow under the pregnant executive's head.
"Better?" she queried.
"It hurts like hell!" Tapert muttered between clenched teeth.
"Tartarus, don't you mean?" said Hope.
"Hell, dammit, hell!" screamed the hormonal man.
The pains were coming hard and fast and Tapert felt sweat burning his eyes, blurring his vision. He wiped his face. A woman with a head of burnished bronze curls appeared behind Hope.
"Here. He can watch the flame," said Ephiny, placing a candle on the barrel beside Tapert's head.
She turned to Hope. "And you canÉ." She smiled as she handed Hope an impossibly large knife.
Ephiny turned back to Tapert. "Just breathe deep and focus on the candle," she said cheerily, winking at the executive. "And hope like hell your kid doesn't have hooves!"
Hope held the knife lovingly. She turned it right and left to catch the light from the candle and it gleamed wicked and sharp.
"No, no, no," cried Tapert.
"Baby's gotta come out somehow, Robbie," chuckled Hope. "It's either this," she held up the knife. "orÉ"
"Or what?" blubbered Tapert.
"Well, sweetie pie, you're a guy. What other orifice do you have?" Hope began to laugh with evil gusto. Ephiny joined her.
Suddenly a chorus of voices broke into a percussive chant. Tapert could hear a full orchestra playing fast and furious music peppered with Stravinsky-like rhythms.
"What the hell?!" screeched Tapert. Joseph LoDuca appeared from behind a hay bale.
"Hey, it's just me adding some atmosphere. You remember me, don't ya, Rob? I'm the only one on the show who's won an Emmy." LoDuca winked and disappeared, leaving the gape-mouthed executive staring after him in disbelief.
Tapert then heard an odd, skittering sound and turned his head to see a giant rat perched near the barrel eyeing him. It must have been at least four feet tall. And to its side was an even larger snake.
The pains in Tapert's stomach became excruciating until only one thought filled his mind.
"Pussssshhhhh!" screamed Tapert. "Pussshhh! I gotta pusssshhh!"
Hope and Ephiny laughed on. The music was reaching a loud, crashing crescendo and Tapert turned his head to see the snake devour the rat.
"Taaaahpiocaaahh, Taaahhhpert," it said as it slithered toward him.
And then the real horror began as the television executive felt pains begin in hisÉ "Oh. God."
Tapert bolted straight up screaming. "Noooooooo!"
He felt strong arms around him and heard low, soothing nonsensical noises that calmed him.
"It's ok now. You're safe," said a gentle voice.
A cool cloth was placed on his forehead. Tapert opened his eyes to see Gabrielle. He had just enough time to breathe a quick sigh of relief that the nightmare was overÉwhen the first real labor pain set in.
Xena and Colleen had managed to shake off the last vestiges of their goddess-induced sleep and were nearing the Survivor camp.
Colleen noticed that Xena was agitated and kept glancing around.
"What's wrong?" asked Colleen. "Are your spidey senses acting up again?"
"It's just so quiet. Too quiet," replied Xena.
"Yeah, not much action by Xena Warrior Princess standards, huh?" said the co-ed, kicking a small rock along the path.
"It has been awfully talkative around this place," the warrior said wryly.
"Well, writing action is difficult," said Colleen.
"Are we back to that again, Colleen?" Xena asked testily. "Even if this is a fan fiction, Gabrielle and I are real. We're justÉwe're just trapped here," she said angrily. "And we're going to find a way home."
Colleen didn't agree with Xena, but she wasn't about to argue, either.
The twosome passed a small, beautiful waterfall. They walked further on, past a group of green, lush bushes. Xena stopped, putting a finger to her lips and motioning the co-ed to silence.
Collen nodded her head, holding still and very happy that the warrior was distracted. The bush began to shake.
Xena snarled and reached into the foliage, dragging two kicking and squealing figures out by the collars of their raggedy t-shirts. The warrior lifted them into the air and began to shake them like rag dolls.
"Hands off, Warrior Princess!" howled Soozin.
Xena's eyes widened and she dropped a snarling Soozin and hissing Kelly to the ground.
Just then the rest of the Survivors approached the surprised quartet.
"There you two are," sniffled Jenna at Kelly and Soozin. "I was beginning to think you were trying to dump us!" she accused.
"We were, you big cry-baby," crabbed Kelly.
"What were you doing in the bushes?" asked Xena who wondered if the two might be plotting something with the Island Goddesses.
"What do you do with Blondie in the bushes?" retorted Soozin.
Xena raised an eyebrow.
"Soozin was getting her Wiglesworth?" asked a surprised Colleen.
"Hah. She was trying," snorted Kelly.
"That's not what you said back there when I offered myÉ" Soozin noticed everyone was listening. "When I offered my flower to you," she finished, a hurt look on her face.
Kelly grinned and wiggled her studded tongue at the truck driver.
"Can't touch this!" she teased.
Soozin dove for Kelly's throat. Xena stepped between the two.
"All right, all right, break it up you two love birds," said Xena.
"I hate you," seethed Soozin to Kelly.
"Liar," Kelly shot back.
"Yeah, you're right...for now," acknowledged the truck driver as she flung an arm around Kelly's shoulder.
Xena sighed heavily, rubbing her forehead in agitation. She didn't know how much more of these rag-tag Survivors she could take. Her warrior senses began to tingle.
"Thank the goddesses," the Warrior Princess muttered. She addressed the rest of the Survivors.
"Listen up, we need to get back to the camp and fast."
"What for?" whined Gervase.
"A baby's about to be born," said Colleen.
"A baby?" asked Sean. "Who's pregnant? Did I do it?"
"Tapert's pregnant. Don't you remember?" asked the brunette Survivor.
"That red-haired guy?" queried Sean.
"Yeah, Xena's booooyfriend," snarked Soozin. Xena threw the truck driver a glare.
"His name starts with a 'T,' so I haven't gotten to him yet," mused Sean, happy to know he couldn't possibly be the father.
Jenna rushed over and threw her arms around Xena.
"It's so beautiful," she sobbed. "He's having your baby."
"For Gaia's sake, he is not having my baby!" exclaimed Xena, quickly extricating herself from the bikini-wearing, blubbering mass of emotions. "Now come on!"
Xena strode off toward the camp without a look back. The rest of the Survivors fell in step behind her.
"You know, I'm pretty sure guys can't have babies," said Sean, the doctor, as they continued their trek.
Back at the camp, Gabrielle had made Tapert as comfortable as possible as she sat by his side, awaiting the baby's arrival.
"Are you sure I'm not still in Fifth-usia," Tapert groaned through gritted teeth as he was hit with another labor pain. "It still hurts!"
"You're having a baby. They, um, they hurt when they come out," said Gabrielle who wasn't sure where this baby was going to emerge since Tapert was a guy with guy parts...as far as she knew anyway.
Gabrielle heard voices and looked up with relief to see Xena and the rest of the Survivors approaching the camp.
Xena immediately went to Gabrielle's side to see how Tapert was doing.
"Can I help?" asked Colleen looking worried.
"Boil some water, we might need it," responded Xena.
Colleen nodded and set off to perform the task. The rest of the Survivors turned their heads to watch.
The co-ed poured water into two large cooking pots. She then took a pole and hooked it through the pots, kneeling down and putting her shoulders under the pole. The small burnette strained to stand up, wobbling a bit, and headed off toward the campfire to begin boiling the water.
"Looks like she's having trouble carrying that water," said Sean.
"We might outta help," said Rudy staring at the struggling co-ed.
"Naw, let's go see what's up with Tahhhpert," said Soozin.
"Finally! Something to do," said Gervase.
They trudged over to gather around the groaning executive and the dynamic duo.
The bard looked up at the circle of Survivors.
"Hey, you! Aren't you supposed to be a doctor?" she called out to Sean.
Sean whirled, looking behind him and trying to figure out to whom the bard was referring.
"Are you nuts?!" exclaimed Tapert. "I don't want him near me!"
"Gabrielle, I don't know if that's such a good idea," Xena said, surprised to be agreeing with the executive for once.
"He's a doctor. And even if he's a bad doctor, we're going to need all the help we can get," whispered Gabrielle to Xena.
"He couldn't tell a stethoscope from a chain saw!" Tapert managed to grunt as another labor pain hit.
"Hey," said Sean indignantly. "At least I know when the Wall of China was built. And there's no way that wall was around when Xena first met Lao Ma!"
The Survivors stared at him in disbelief. Sean gasped and clamped his hand over his mouth.
He shrugged and grinned. "So what? I watch the show once in awhile."
Gabrielle decided to try again. "Please help us. The baby's coming!"
Sean giggled and shrugged his shoulders and pulled on his shirt. "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies, Miz Gabrielle."
"Get over here!" growled Xena, knowing the bard was worried about the executive's safety.
Sean's eyes widened and he hopped over quickly. He didn't want to get his nose smashed again. The "doctor" plopped down on the ground, folding his legs under him.
"Well, I'll sit with you and observe since I obviously missed the day of doctor class where we talked about how men have babies," he said affably. "Then I'll know what to do next time I run into this situation."
As Sean sat down, Tapert began to sob. "You hate me, you really, really hate me!" he said to no one in particular.
There was sudden movement as if something was crawling underneath Tapert's skin. Lumps appeared on his stomach, rolling back and forth and scurrying up and down, distracting the executive from his sobbing jag.
"Wow. Altared States," sniffled Tapert looking down at the strange movements.
Another labor pain hit and the executive began to howl.
The bard and the Warrior Princess exchanged glances. They still had no idea how the baby was going to get out and the frantic movements from Tapert's stomach made them wonder if the baby might not be trapped.
Gabrielle turned to Xena and whispered. "You might need to help him like you helped Ephiny."
"I heard that!" yelled Tapert mid-howl and with super-human strength that generally only mothers in labor possess, the red-haired executive grabbed hold of Xena's copper armor, yanking the surprised warrior down until they met nose-to-nose.
"Druuuuuuugggggs!" he screamed into Xena's face, causing her hair to blow back as if hit by a gale of wind.
Gabrielle, completely nonplussed by Tapert's extreme emotions, quietly patted his forehead dry with a cool cloth. "It's OK. Everything's going to be OK," she soothed.
Xena uncurled the executive's fingers from her armor, releasing herself from his surprisingly strong grip. Tapert continued to moan, coming in and out of coherency.
"You're taking this all very calmly," Xena smiled at Gabrielle
"Well, it could be worse...like Zeus trying to kill us with a thunderbolt," replied Gabrielle, thinking of their daughter and glad Eve was safe and away from this crazy, mixed-up world they found themselves in.
"Xena, what about pressure points? Maybe they could help," asked the bard.
"I don't know, Gabrielle. We don't know where the baby's coming out. I'm afraid using them might actually harm the baby or Tapert."
"Who cares?!" cried Tapert who had managed a moment of coherency. "You're the daddy. Ease my pain!"
Xena's eyes narrowed. She chose to ignore the executive's claim on the baby's parentage. The warrior knew there was no way to reason with him right now.
"Do something!" he roared.
"All right," growled Xena as she executed a rapid set of finger punches into Tapert's chest and stomach.
"Not. Working," squealed Tapert as yet another labor pain rolled through his body and his stomach began to shudder.
Xena tried another series of pressure points.
"Now it's only blindingly painful instead of trapped in the bowels of hell painful," crabbed the ever-ungrateful executive. "You're supposed to get rid of the pain!"
Xena shrugged. "I'm afraid you'll have to go through this the old fashioned way," the dark warrior said to the sweating executive.
"Frickin' hell!" screeched Tapert. "This is a make-believe island with dreamscapes, fictional characters come to life, Island Goddesses, and all manner of bizarre and weird powers and they can't let me have a baby without pain?!?!"
"That would sort of negate the whole torture, vengeance and learn a lesson theme going on here," offered Colleen as she approached the executive, carefully setting down a pot of hot water next to Xena.
Tapert looked up and around with bleary, blood-shot eyes, noticing the rest of the surrounding Survivors for the first time.
"Grrrrreat. An audience in my time of torture," he said.
"Would ya look at dat?" grumbled Rudy. "Damn queers having damn babies now. They'll take over the world soon."
"That'sÉlikeÉan agenda, isn't it?" said Gervase.
Suddenly, a large, swirling blue circle began to appear at Tapert's belly button.
"Ow! Ow! Ow!" belly-ached the executive. "That kind of hurrrrts!"
"Sissy," muttered Soozin.
"Truck Driver!" yelled Tapert back, still angry that she had left him alone and defenseless in Fifth-usia.
"Why is this happening to me?" the executive sobbed as his blue hole began to grow. "I'm a powerful, creative, genius television executive producer. Why, oh, why, ohÉ"
"This guy is way clueless," sighed Colleen, shaking her head.
And then it was like the heavens opened and a chorus of television executives sang in four-part harmony. Tapert realized what was going on. The real reason for his trip to this island.
"Spin-off," he croaked. "I'm having a baby and it's Xena's baby because I'm telling myself--through this dream that somehow turned into a nightmare...probably because of mushrooms--what the spin-off from Xena: Warrior Princess should be. That's it! Even my dreams are creative, money-making genius," he laughed hysterically.
Xena and Gabrielle exchanged worried glances. The executive's ramblings were definitely becoming stranger.
The blue hole continued to expand, taking up nearly all of Tapert's mid-section. Something large and encased in a white, gooey substance began wriggling out of the hole.
"Ow, ow, frickin' owie!" howled Tapert.
"Man, that blue hole is like Mary Poppins' purse on acid or something," said Colleen.
"Well, I guess we know how the baby's coming out now," said a wide-eyed Sean.
Xena grabbed hold of the wriggling case that was like grabbing hold of a well-oiled lady mud wrestler.
"Having a problem there, Slick?" said the truck driver sarcastically.
Xena glared at Soozin as she finally managed to get a firm hold on the gooey casing and began gently easing it out of the hole in Tapert's stomach. In the process, white goo was getting all over the Warrior Princess' hands, making them slippery and her grip precarious. With a small, wicked smile, Xena flung each hand around, launching the goo into the air where it landed upon the Survivors.
"Ewwwww," complained Gervase.
"Get that damn queer juice offa me!" bellowed Rudy.
"Missed me, missed me now ya gottaÉ" began Soozin just as a spectacularly large glob of white goo hit her right between the eyes.
With her hands free of goo, Xena grabbed hold of the case again and continued gently working it out of Tapert's tidy blue hole. Gabrielle worked to keep a now yowling Tapert as calm as possible.
"I know it hurtsÉ" said Gabrielle.
"It doesn't hurt anymore, it's just frickin weird!!" screamed the executive.
The Warrior Princess gave one last tug and the gooey case came out with a final squelch.
Then Tapert's magical hole began to shrink until it simply closed up with a loud burp.
"Excuse you," said Sean.
"Thank God," cried a relieved Tapert who decided that a good faint was in order and proceeded to do just that.
Gabrielle and Xena were trying to open the casing as something frantically struggled to get out.
"Xena, the baby might suffocate if we don't get it out of there," whispered Gabrielle.
The duo could see what appeared to be the shape of hands and feetÉbut they were having no luck getting through the case.
"I don't want to use my chakram, Gabrielle, it might hurt the baby," said Xena.
Just then they noticed a protrusion in the white casing accompanied by a small, ripping noise. Something sharp popped out and began to saw through the thick, white goo. Xena and Gabrielle glanced at each other.
Tapert regained consciousness.
"Hey!" he called weakly to Colleen. "Hey, did you see that? I'm the first man in the history of the world to have a babyÉI should use that on the show. Where's my baby? Where's my little spin-off?" Tapert cooed. He looked to Colleen. "I hope I can wake up from this nightmare now. I wanna go fishing."
"This can't possibly get any stranger," whispered Gabrielle to Xena.
Just then there was a mewling sound from the case where a face had appeared in the rip. Impossibly beautiful eyes with long, dark eyelashes peered up at the Survivors and the dynamic duo.
"Awww, such pretty, piercing blue eyes!" exclaimed Colleen. She stopped and looked over at Xena questioningly.
"I'm not the only person in the universe with blue eyes, you know," scowled Xena.
The rip elongated and they could now see a mouth that proceeded to speak.
"Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's baby!" it said in a tiny, helium-inflected voice.
The crowd gasped. More of the baby's body appeared and it stepped from its gooey cocoon. There was complete and total silence.
"Ummm," said Gervase. "Are babies usually born with horns, tails, hooves, pitchforks, capable of speaking full sentences...and looking just like Rich?"
"It's likeÉa spawn of Rich," whispered a terrified Colleen. "Just tinier and more overtly demonic."
"He looks like a centaur," said Xena dryly. "I didn't know they had centaurs in this world."
"Well," said Gabrielle, giving Xena a sideways glance. "I guess this proves you're not the daddy."
Tapert began to scream like a girl. "No! No! Xena's the daddy! Take it back!" The executive scrambled up off the ground, backing away from the newborn hellchild.
"Daddy?" whimpered the DemonRichSpawn, tears in his big blue eyes.
"OK, this is officially the worst nightmare in the history of the universe," Tapert sobbed. He began slapping himself. "Wake up! Wake up!"
The executive threw himself at Xena. "If it wasn't you who gave me that baby, who was it?!"
"I'd think that would be kind of obvious since the baby looks exactly like Rich," said Colleen.
"Nooooo!" squealed Tapert. "It was Xena!!"
A startled Warrior Princess tried to hold onto the hysterical red-haired man, but he tore himself from her grasp and ran to the trees.
"Xena, we've got toÉ" began Gabrielle.
"I know," sighed Xena. "Help Tapert."
"I'm coming with you," declared Colleen.
"We need someone to stay and take care of the baby. Someone we can trust," said Gabrielle.
"I will," bubbled Jenna. Gabrielle looked uncertain at the Survivor's offer.
"Look, I know I'm goofy and emotionalÉbut I know how to take care of a child," said Jenna, her feelings hurt.
Xena smiled, putting her hands on Jenna's shoulders. "Thank you. We know the baby will be safe with you."
"It's a good thing I drink lots of water or I'd be mighty dehydrated by now," cried Jenna as the water works started. "Thank you," the bikini-clad Survivor headed over to the baby DemonRichSpawn.
"He's got a headstart, we need to move fast," said Xena as the threesome headed into the jungle after Tapert.
Still running, a horrified Tapert came upon a naked (as usual) Rich sitting on a log, quietly smashing walnuts between his thighs. The red-haired executive screeched to a halt. He remembered his night with Xena--or who he had thought was Xena--and he suddenly realized the terrible truth.
"Thighs...that could crush...walnuts," mewled the television executive, shaking his head back and forth.
Rich winked at Tapert. "Thanks for a fabulous eveningÉlover boy."
"No," blubbered Tapert. "That night under the stars. It was you?"
"Allll me, baby stud muffin," replied Rich.
Tapert backed up in terror, tripping over a log and falling to the ground. He couldn't take his eyes off the smirking Rich.
"But, youÉyou pretended to be Xena."
"Oh, please, Robbie! Anyone would have recognized it was me," laughed Rich. "I thought you just wanted me to play dress-upÉlike Butterfly M."
"That's not fair. It's not even nice," cried Tapert.
"Whatever. It served the plot," shrugged Rich. "Just remember, Rob, honeyÉyou're mine now," the corpulent Survivor added ominously.
Tapert began screaming again, scrambling up and running from Rich.
Rich sighed, stood up and brushed away the walnut crumbs, heading back toward the Survivor camp. "Well, if I can't have Gabe, I guess I'll have to settle for Tapert being my bitch momma for awhileÉugh."
Xena, Gabrielle and Colleen were running through the undergrowth as fast as possible. But Tapert's terror-induced run from the camp had given him amazing speed and strength and they were having a surprisingly difficult time catching up to the executive.
The bard and the warrior continued to track Tapert and as they moved quickly along, they crossed paths with Rich.
"We're looking for Tapert, have you seen him?" Xena asked.
"Yeah. He just ran by a little while ago. He seemed upset," said Rich, pretending to be worried.
Colleen looked at the portly Survivor distrustfully.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Rich asked, deepening his look of concern to throw the cuddly co-ed off.
"Which way did he go?" asked Gabrielle.
"He headed off between those trees over there," Rich pointed.
Xena narrowed her eyes. But even the warrior was unable to get past the years of consultant-honed fake sincerity.
"I don't trust him," said Colleen. "He's always trying to manipulate everything."
"Well, that's trueÉand you shouldn't trust me," said Rich. "But that's honestly the direction he headed. Listen. I want you all off the island. And I figure Tapert's the key to getting you out of here. And with you gone, I can get back to winning Survivor."
"What makes you think you'll win?" frowned Colleen.
"Nice guys and gals finish last," smiled Rich patiently.
"Not always," grumbled Colleen.
"Xena, it's going to be impossible to find him if we don't keep moving," interrupted Gabrielle.
The three women headed off into the direction Rich had indicated. The corpulent consultant had indeed been telling the truth.
"Have fun," he chortled as the beautiful trio ran out of earshot. "You'll find Tapert when the Island Goddesses are ready for you to." Rich turned and headed toward the Survivor camp.
Jenna was holding Mini-Me Rich in her arms.
"Oh, you're so cute...yes you are! Yes you are!" she cooed at the DemonRichSpawn. The child was trying desperately to squirm away.
"Back off, chick," the spawn spat, leaping out of her grasp. It turned and spied Rich trudging into camp.
"Daddy One!" it squealed in delight. Rich smiled and bent down, hugging the baby.
Jenna burst into tears. "A family reunited," she cried. "That's so sweet."
"Well, we're not completely reunited," said Rich, oozing more fake sincerity to get Jenna to work with him. "We need to find Daddy Two, don't we, honey?"
"Baby Rich has twooo daddies," cooed Jenna.
"Where's Daddy Two?" sniffled the DemonRichSpawn. "Doesn't he love me?"
"Oh, honey, I'm sure he loves you," said Jenna. She turned to Rich. "He needs his Daddy Two," she cried.
"Yes, he does, and we're going to go find him and be one, big happy family again," said Rich to Jenna. She nodded, tears streaming down her face.
Rich grasped Mini-Me's hand and began to walk away from camp.
"I think your Daddy's had juuussst enough time to get completely hysterical. Let's go find him and push him over the edge, shall we?" said Rich. "We've got a job to finish and I've got a contest to win."
Waving his pitchfork in the air, tail whipping back and forth like a cat, and hooves making tiny indentations in the ground, the offspring of a love that definitely dare not speak its nameÉand RichÉheaded into the jungle.
Meanwhile, Xena and Gabrielle, followed by Colleen, continued to track Tapert, but they were getting no closer to the executive.
"Who knew that guy could move so fast," said a frustrated Xena.
"You would have thought we would have found him by following his screams," said Gabrielle. "But I haven't heard a peep out of him for awhile now."
"Maybe the goddesses don't want you to find him yet," offered Colleen. "Between you and me, I don't think they're quite finished torturing him."
"Well, I'm finished having my chain yanked by these Island Goddesses," Xena said angrily.
The threesome heard a strange whirring noise in the distance accompanied by the murmuring of two deep voices.
Xena and Gabrielle crouched down, pulling Colleen down with them.
"I'm going to go check that out," whispered Xena. "Maybe it's something to do with the Island Goddessess."
"If it isn't, we're going to get that much further behind Tapert," noted Gabrielle. "Let me go after him while you check that out. Then you can catch up with me."
"I don't like splitting up, but I can't think of a better plan," said Xena. The bard nodded and the dark warrior slipped into the jungle undergrowth.
Gabrielle began to move when she noticed the co-ed behind her.
"No, I don't want you following me. Go hide over there, just in case," whispered the bard, pointing to a nearby bush.
"I'm beginning to feel like first-season Gabrielle," sighed Colleen as she took up reluctant residence in the green foliage.
Gabrielle stepped away from the co-ed and began to look around. Using her well-honed tracking knowledge, she could tell Tapert had already been through the clearing. She began looking for broken twigs and footprints to ascertain which direction he was headed. She found a path and began to follow it. Deeper into the undergrowth and further away from Xena and Colleen, the bard found a small swath of cloth. The blonde Amazon was checking it over for clues when a hand grabbed her shoulder from behind.
Meanwhile, Xena was closing in on the strange whirring noise. She peered through the undergrowth and saw two large, burly men in uniform on a chariot that seemed to be floating on air.
"I wonder when the Island Goddesses will show," said one of the men loudly, glancing about.
The Warrior Princess smiled at the mention of the Island Goddesses. That explained the floating chariot and these must be some of the goddesses' lackeys! She exploded from the undergrowth, delivering her patented I'm gonna kick your ass warrior cry.
The men whirled to see a dark-haired, leggy, charging warrior running directly at them. Their eyes widened in terror. One of the uniformed men finally found the presence of mind to grab for the controls of the hovercraft, but his fear made his hands clumsy and he found himself flailing about going nowhere.
"Get us out of here!" screamed the other man, unable to pry his eyes off the frighteningly beautiful warrior running his way.
Just as Xena came upon the chariot, the first man managed to find forward and spun away from her.
Xena began chasing the hovercraft, determined to get the men and certain they knew something of the Island Goddesses. The warrior put on a sudden burst of speed. She somersaulted into the air, defying all laws of gravity and physics, and landed on the hovercraft between the extremely surprised men.
"It takes a lot more than a speeding chariot to get rid of me, boys," smiled Xena.
The warrior then snarled, grabbing one of the men by his collar and flinging him off the machine. She looked ahead to see that she and the remaining guard were on a collision course with a giant tree. Grabbing hold of the second man, the warrior leapt from the hovercraft a split second before it crashed into the tree.
The Warrior Princess and the guard rolled a few feet. Xena leapt up off the ground. The guard looked groggily about just as the warrior punched his neck. He began to gulp for breath.
"You'll be deaÉ" began Xena.
"We were sent to make sure you were kept away from Gabrielle for a few minutes," the man gasped out in a frantic rush.
"You said something about the Island Goddesses back there," continued Xena.
"We were told to do that so you would follow us. It wasÉ" -gasp- "a trick. Burnett didn't think he could handle you and the blonde together," the man explained.
With a deep, throaty growl, Xena quickly released the neck pinch and then punched the man in the face, knocking him unconscious.
"Gabrielle," she whispered and began running.
As the hand took hold of the bard, her warrior instincts took over. The blonde Amazon spun, delivering a bone-rattling roundhouse kick to her assailant's chest who fell to the jungle floor on his back, gasping like a fish. Gabrielle shoved her boot onto the assailant's neck and looked down, snarling. Her eyes widened in surprised recognition.
It was Burnett. And near the prone man was what appeared to be a flying machine of some sort.
"What's going on," growled the bard, her foot to Burnett's throat.
"Help. Trying to helpÉyou," gasped the producer who waved a small, white piece of paper in his hand. "Island GoddessesÉnot much time."
Gabrielle took her boot off Burnett's neck and backed away warily. He climbed off the ground, brushing the dirt off his khakis and rubbing his neck. Gabrielle reached quickly to her boots and unsheathed her sais.
"Wow, that was truly amazing, mate," said Burnett, coughing, his eyes watering.
Gabrielle raised an eyebrow at the producer.
"Oh. Uh. Yes, of course. My crew has found incredibly intense isotope levels and high magnetic polarity at the middle of the island," Burnett said.
He noticed Gabrielle looking at him as if he were speaking English.
"I meanÉwe found the Island Goddesses' seat of power. Their Mount Olympus, if you will. This map shows you the way."
"How do you know about the goddesses?" asked Gabrielle suspiciously.
"Who doesn't know about them by now," said Burnett. "They're not exactly into covert behavior."
"Why do you want to help us find them?" asked Gabrielle, not sure whether she should trust the producer.
"Simple," smiled Burnett. "This is my island. I'm the power here. I want the Island Goddesses gone so I can produce my television series and make lots of money."
"That was simple," said Gabrielle.
"Now, we've been monitoring their hide-out and the energy levels are reaching critical mass and a meltdown is imminent," continued the producer.
Gabrielle squinted at Burnett.
The Aussie searched for a non-scientific explanation. "Um, they're about to lose their goddesshoods. And if that happens, you and Xena will be stuck here on this island...forever."
Grabielle gasped in shock.
Burnett didn't know if Xena and Gabrielle would be stuck if the Island Goddesses lost their power. He had just said that in an attempt to scare Gabrielle into going along with his plan.
"But they'll find out I have the map and stop us from finding them," Gabrielle interrupted the producer's sneaky train of thought.
"They don't know you have the map," said Burnett, reaching into his back pocket.
Gabrielle moved to launch a sai at the producer.
"Easy, easy," said Burnett, pulling out a small pen. The contraption was emitting a lavender, glowing light much like the light that had oozed from the fan fiction time rip.
"We were able to map their energy DNA. From that we constructed this device to interrupt the isotopic rayon periscopes," said Burnett.
Gabrielle squinted in confusion.
"Um, it's magicÉfrom the gods..."
"Which god," said a suspicious Gabrielle.
"Gadgetdite," replied Burnett hastily. "Basically, it hides you from the Island Goddesses' vision."
"Like Hades' helmet," said the bard.
It was Burnett's turn to squint.
"Hades. God of the UnderworldÉ"
Burnett looked at her blankly trying to access what little mythology he could remember. "Hades. God of the Underworld. That's like our hell," he mused.
"When Xena and I were in Tartarus, we could put on Hades' helmet of invisibility and none of the gods could see us," explained the bard.
"Yes. Yes! Just like Hades' helmet but with a bonus. They can't hear you, either," said Burnett. "However, we don't know how long this magic will last and you have to stand no further than ten feet away from the light."
"How do you know it works?" asked Gabrielle.
"Um, cause I say so?" tried Burnett.
The bard frowned.
"Actually, mate, we tested it. The Island Goddesses don't seem to like anything to do with Joxer," said Burnett
"Or Ares," interjected Gabrielle.
"Well, that makes sense. They seem to believe that you and Xena belong together. Anyway, we played a video of Joxer singing the Joxer the Mighty song over and over again. When the pen was on, nothing happened because they couldn't see or hear the video. But when we played the video away from the penÉor with the pen offÉinvariably a large rock would plummet from the sky and crush the television playing the video."
"That sounds like the Island Goddesses, all right," said Gabrielle dryly.
"Listen, this has been a nice conversation and all, but you've got to hurry if you want to get to the Island Goddesses," urged Burnett.
"I have to find Tapert first," said Gabrielle. "He's in trouble and he needs help."
Burnett looked at the bard in utter disbelief.
"You're kidding, right, mate? That man is responsible for the hell you've been through the past few years: literally and figuratively. Leave him to his just desserts, I say."
Gabrielle frowned. "We're not leaving without Tapert. He deserves to go home, too."
Burnett shook his head. "You really are a good person, aren't you? What a waste," he sighed. "All right. We made a few magic pens. I have a second one," he pulled another pen from his other back pocket "So that I can get back to the compound without the Island Goddesses finding out what I've been up to. I'll make a detour on the way back, find Tapert and get him to the Island Goddesses where you all can meet up."
"Agreed," said Gabrielle. Burnett stepped forward. The blonde warrior moved into attack position, wielding her lethal sais.
"I'm not trying anything. Honest, mate," said Burnett warily. He placed the map and the pen on the ground in front of Gabrielle. The Survivor producer backed away, palms facing the bard so that she would know he meant her no harm. He climbed onto the hovercraft.
"Good luck. I hope you find a way off my island and back home," he said. Burnett took off into the jungle as he muttered under his breath and out of Gabrielle's earshot. "Because if this doesn't work, I'm gonna blow up their little Island Goddess play pen."
Gabrielle waited until the producer was out of sight before picking up the map and the strange contraption Burnett left behind.
The bard knew the producer wasn't being completely truthful. She felt it in her bones. But she believed he wanted the Island Goddesses off the island. And she now had a map of their location, and possibly a magical tool.
"So, we're going to finally meet these Island Goddesses," she thought. Gabrielle hoped she and Xena were up to the taskÉor battle, if need be.
"I'm getting tired of duking it out with gods," sighed the bard. "This time we're gonna try talking."
Gabrielle held up the map and began to look it over when she heard a familiar warrior cry.
Xena and Colleen crashed into the clearing. Xena had her sword and chakram drawn, and was yelling her battle roar at the top of her lungs.
Gabrielle immediately unsheathed her sais, spinning around.
Xena and Colleen spun around the clearing as well. Warrior and bard faced each other. Collen's eyes darted back and forth between the blonde and the dark warrior. No one moved. Gabrielle was first to break the lethal, weapon-drawn silence.
"Um, what's up?" Gabrielle asked.
"I thought you were in danger," said a sheepish Xena, sheathing her sword and hitching her chakram. "But, obviously, you're just fine."
"Awww. You're so cute," smiled Gabrielle, scrunching her nose and smiling.
"Gaaabrielle," warned Xena. "You can't call me cute in front of people. It takes away from my warrior imageÉ Hey, what's that you got there?" Xena asked, pointing at the map and glowing pen.
The Amazon handed the map to the warrior and briefed her and Colleen on all that had happened with Burnett.
"Gabrielle, with their powers, the Island Goddesses could just hide the entrance to their Mount Olympus or keep us running in circles for hours," said Xena.
"This is true," the blonde acknowledged. "But we know from Fifth-usia that they can't possibly see everything all of the time. And with this magic weapon, they won't know what we're up to."
"If it works and Burnett isn't just jerking us around like everyone else on this island," interrupted the warrior.
"He definitely has his own agenda," acknowledged Gabrielle. "But I think that works in our favor as well, Xena. He wants us off the island and we want to get off the island. If we're careful, we've got a chance of finding the goddesses without them catching on."
"Then what?" asked Xena.
"Sensitive chat time," replied Gabrielle.
Xena and Colleen stared at Gabrielle in disbelief.
"Oh, no, it's viscious butt kicking time," exclaimed the Warrior Princess.
"What she said," added the co-ed.
Xena and Gabrielle looked at Colleen in shock.
"Well, it's obvious Tapert's never going to get it," shrugged Colleen. "So the goddessesÉas beautiful, gorgeous and fabulous as they areÉneed to just get over it."
"We've seen their power, you two," cajoled Gabrielle. "Let's try talking first, whaddaya say?"
"I don't want to!" said a very frustrated warrior. "We're never going to get home by talking."
"Xena, come on. We've been fighting gods for years now. Just this onceÉlet's talk. Please," said the bard, using her sweetest I'm gonna get what I want look. "Come on, you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar."
"Bees sting, Gabrielle. Try a different analogy," Xena said, folding her hands over her plentiful chest.
"OK, OK, you can attract moreÉflies with honey than vinegar," the bard tried again. "Talking is good, you know."
"Well, you can talk just about anyone into anything. Including Cyclops," smiled the warrior as she relented. "All right. We'll try it your way but if there's any back talk from these goddesses, it's butt-kickin' time."
"Sounds like a plan," smiled Gabrielle.
The three women gathered to look the map over. Xena committed most of it to memory. She thrust the map at Gabrielle.
"Here, you keep it," said Xena.
"What am I, a pack mule? You've got more room to store this than I do," declared Gabrielle.
"I do not!" exclaimed Xena.
Gabrielle looked at the warrior in exasperation. "Well, there's a great argument," muttered the bard. She snagged the map and began to fold itÉand foldÉand foldÉand fold.
"Hurry," said Xena, tapping her foot.
"Listen. I have to fold this up teeny tiny. There's barely enough room to breathe in this outfit, let alone store important parchments," said the bard. "And why do I always wear such small outfits?"
"Cause you look hot in them," offered Colleen.
Xena narrowed her eyes at the co-ed. Gabrielle blushed. Colleen rolled her eyes, and grabbed the map.
"She just called you cute and you lost an argument to her. Do you think I'm intimidated anymore?" queried the co-ed.
"See!" exclaimed Xena to Gabrielle.
"What?" said a mischievous bard.
"I'll put the map in my shorts pocket. I've got plenty of room," bubbled Colleen.
The threesome headed for the Island Goddesses' hide-out
Tapert, meanwhile, had been running for days it seemed. In reality, well, fan-fiction reality, it had only been about five minutes. But the executive was thirsty, tired and his belly button was sore. He was trying desperately not to think about Rich, the baby, or the Island Goddesses. He had to get away from it all and so he ran and ran until he simply collapsed on the jungle floor in exhaustion. Then he began crawling.
"Has to be a way out," the red-haired executive whimpered. "Has to be. I'm the power that be. The man with a plan. The dude with the...Hey, dude, where's my car," he giggled hysterically.
Tapert's head bumped into a hard object. He stopped and looked. He had bumped into a shoe. Tapert stared blankly and then looked up
"Hello, mate," said a big, burly man holding a glowing, lavender pen.
"Are you an Island Goddess come to torture me?" whispered Tapert.
"Do I look like a god-ess? Cause I'm not. But I am the most creative television producer known to mankind," replied Burnett.
"Nuh-uh. I am," chuckled Tapert deliriously.
Burnett frowned. He opened his mouth to argue, and then changed his mind. Now wasn't the time. And what do I care about what this no-talent American heathen producer thinks anyway? he thought.
The Survivor mastermind looked at his glowing lavender pen. The eerie light seemed to be less bright than when he had left Gabrielle. There wasn't much time and he needed to get Tapert on his way.
"Would you like to meet the Island Goddesses?" asked the Aussie, deciding to cut to the chase.
"I'd like to kick their asses!" yelled Tapert, climbing up off the ground. "But I don't know where they areÉor even who they are," he sniffled.
"I know where they are and I can help you," said Burnett.
"You'd help me?" whispered Tapert hopefully, clutching onto Burnett's shirt. "No one has wanted to help me since I got on this islandÉwell, maybe Gabrielle, but she doesn't count 'cause she's just the sidekick."
"Of course I'll help you, mate. We producers gotta stick together, right?" said Burnett, extricating his shirt from Tapert's sweaty grip.
"Yeah," the red-haired executve, wiping his tears away and smiling. "Yeah, we gotta stick together."
"Here's a map that will take you to the goddesses," Burnett pointed to a spot on the map. He then turned and pointed to some hills in the distance. "That's where they are. Can you find it from here?"
"That looks like two large breasts," exclaimed Tapert noticing the rolling hills for the first time. He snorted. "They would be holed up there."
Burnett brought Tapert back to the situation at hand. "Xena and Gabrielle are headed to the Island Goddesses hide-out. They have a pen just like this. When it's on, the goddesses can't see or hear you," explained Burnett.
A huge grin spread across Tapert's face as he took the offered pen. "Get out!" he exclaimed in disbelief.
"No, really, mate. It works. All you need to do is carry the pen, follow the map and meet up with Xena and Gabrielle. Easy as American baseball and apple pie." Burnett held the map out for Tapert.
The red-haired executive's eyes glazed over. "I'm saved! This pen will protect me from their song and dance madness!"
Tapert turned away from the offered map and began walking in the opposite direction of the breast hills.
"The Island Goddesses are in that direction," he called after the retreating Tapert.
"Yeah, I know," giggled the red-haired executive. "I'm going to go find a nice, quiet place on the island and just sit with this pen. They'll never find me now. No more torture for me!"
Burnett was stunned by Tapert's cowardice. "You don't want to hide from them! You want to rule them, mate!"
"No, trust me. I want to hide," said Tapert as he continued walking.
Burnett's steely producer mind scrambled. If Tapert didn't show up at the Island Goddesses hide-out, he knew Gabrielle would come looking for him. Burnett had to try a different approach with the red-haired executive.
"Time for a little tough producer love," muttered Burnett.
"So, you're gonna let the Island Goddesses win?" called out the Survivor producer. "Everyone will think the goddesses were right about everything, you know. That Season Five really was a pile of stinking poo. That you're a terrible producer with no creativityÉ"
"Yeah. That's about right," said Tapert serenely, stopping to stare at the glowing object in his hand. "Preeeeecccciiioussss," he gurgled, his eyes madly reflecting its lavender glow.
"Éand that Xena and Gabrielle are much, much more than friendsÉthey're hot, rolling around like weasels lovers."
Tapert stopped. His eyes lost their glaze and came into focus. He turned and snarled.
"That's going too farÉmate!"
Yeah, baby. That's my Tapert. Come on, now, thought Burnett. "So the Island Goddesses really are the Power that Be?" he said out loud. "They're the ones ruling the show?"
Tapert began to growl. "I'm the power that be! Me! I don't need no stinkin' Island Goddesses!"
"Then prove it," taunted Burnett. "Defeat the Island Goddesses."
Tapert's shoulders sagged. "I can't. They're too powerful."
Burnett's mind spun for a solution. Well, I'll just lieÉerÉedit this outcome to my liking just like I do on Survivor, he thought.
"Oh, but you can. This pen doesn't just hide you from the goddesses, it's also a weapon. It renders the Island Goddesses helpless and without any power. All you have to do is stand close to themÉand -zap- they're gone."
"I don't want to stand close to them," shuddered Tapert.
"Do you want to be the Power that Be again?" questioned Burnett.
"Yessssssss," said Tapert, looking at the pen with awe and hope.
"Well, you've got everything you need to do it with right there, mate. Now, take the map. Go find those Island Goddesses."
Tapert reached out with a shaky hand and plucked the map from Burnett. He began to read it over, looking up at the breast hills and back down. He looked unsure and afraid.
"You can do it, Tapert," urged Burnett. "Do it for all the producers all over the world who have ever been picked on by the fans."
"YeahÉ" said Tapert, his shoulders losing their sag.
"You're Rob Tapert, executive producer of Xena: Warrior Princess. You've got money, power and a really hot wifeÉ"
"Yes! Yes! Yes! I'm the Power that Beeeeeee!" screamed Tapert.
Burnett smiled. He climbed back onto his hovercraft.
"Good luck, mate," he said as he whizzed off into the jungle.
"Awww, jheeesh," complained Tapert, looking after the retreating Survivor producer. "Couldn't he have left me that little flying thingie? It'd make things easier. Man, I sure could use one of those around the set."
The red-haired executive sighed, looking at the round, luscious hills in the distance.
"Alllll right, then. Time to kick some Island Goddess booo-tay." And he set off for the hills.
Colleen, Gabrielle and Xena were fighting their way through the jungle when the Survivor brunette pulled out the map to check there whereabouts. She stopped, looked up and began to giggle.
The co-ed burst into song "The breasts are aliiiiiive with some deeeeep, deeeep cleeeeaavageÉ"
Gabrielle and Xena were now used to Colleen's odd musical outbursts and paid her no heed. They did look up and noticed two large, rolling, luscious green hills in the distance. Gabrielle walked over to check the map.
"That's the place, Xena. That's where the map says the Island Goddesses are. They do kind of look likeÉwell, you knowÉ"
"Figures," snickered Xena.
The threesome continued their trek toward the hills when Colleen stopped again. She turned to her friends.
"Listen, these Island Goddesses are really, really smart," began the cuddly co-ed.
"Yeah, yeah, and beautiful and 'rrrrooowwwrÉ'" said Gabrielle. "We know."
"I'm serious," smiled Colleen sadly. "Maybe they're not watching you right now, but when they try to and they can't find you, trust me, those phat chicks will know something's up."
Xena and Gabrielle exchanged worried glances.
"But I can throw them off your trail," said the co-ed excitedly.
"No. We won't have you endangering yourself," said Xena.
"I won't endanger myself. I swear. Besides, the Island Goddesses don't want to hurt anyone. I'm just going to distract them and keep them busy while you find them."
"How are you going to distract them?" said an unconvinced Gabrielle.
"By being cute," replied Colleen. "It works with them. Really."
"Gabrielle, she's right," said Xena quietly.
"Yeah, cute women seem to be the Island Goddesses' Achilles heel," mused Gabrielle.
"OK, then. It's a plan. I'm gonna head back to camp, throw them off the track and you two can find them and kick some buÉ" the co-ed glanced at Gabrielle. "Um, talk. You can talk to them," she finished hastily.
The bard smiled.
"Well, guess I better get going," the young woman said.
"Colleen, wait," began Gabrielle.
The Survivor held her head high and kept walking away from the bard.
"Colleen," said Gabrielle again, hurt by the co-ed's seeming indifference.
The sweet brunette stopped and whirled around. "I'm gonna miss youse guys," she cried, running up to the Warrior Princess and throwing her arms around the tall woman.
"Hey," said Xena, blushing when the co-ed finally let go.
"Play nice," warned Colleen to Xena.
The Survivor then turned to Gabrielle.
"That's an awfully emotional good-bye to people you don't think are real," said Gabrielle, a bittersweet smile on her face.
"Oh, you are real. As real as anything. And so is your love," Colleen said.
Tears sprang to Gabrielle's eyes. "Thank you," she whispered. The co-ed and the bard hugged fiercely.
"Go on, you two. I have a feeling there's not much time," said Colleen, tears in her eyes. She turned and fled back toward camp. When the co-ed thought she was far enough away from the pen's protective covering, she began to yell.
"Island Goddesses! Island Goddesses! Xena and Gabrielle are trying to escape!"
Xena snarled, unhitching her chakram. "She's ratting us out. I'm gonna have to knock her out."
Gabrielle took hold of the warrior's hand. "Wait," she said quietly.
Colleen continued to yell into the skies as she ran.
"They're heading to the south side of the island. They said they have a boat and they're going to sail away! They tied me up but I got away."
Xena breathed a sigh of relief and put her chakram away. The south side of the island was in the opposite direction of where they were headed.
"Clever," murmured Gabrielle.
"She's a good kid," said Xena.
Colleen threw a brief, small smile over her shoulder at Xena and Gabrielle before she disappeared from their view deeper into the jungle.
"Yeah, and cute," smiled the bard.
"Juuuuust kidding," said the bard.
"Yeah, well, she hugged me first," said Xena as the dynamic duo as they continued toward the breast hills.
Sprinting away from Xena and Gabrielle, Colleen hoped the ruse would work. If the Island Goddesses were listening, they would focus their powers on the south side of the island in an attempt to stop the dynamic duo. This would give Xena and Gabrielle enough time to find the goddesses' hide-out.
The comely co-ed was nervous. She understood that the Island Goddesses' wanted to make things right for Xena and Gabrielle. But for Colleen, it was no longer a fan fiction. It was real and she wanted her friends to be able to go home.
Besides, they think I'm cute. They'll forgive me, thought Colleen as she headed toward the south side of the island. I hope.
It suddenly occurred to Colleen that the Island Goddesses were likely to get to the south side of the island long before she could. They might even figure out what was going onÉbeing goddesses and all. She needed a distraction.
The Survivor shortly came upon a small, gently cascading waterfall. Purrrrrfect, she thought, grinning.
"Ooooh, I need a bath," Colleen said loudly. "A nice, naked, soothing bath."
The co-ed stripped down to her boxers and stepped beneath the waterfall, letting the water wash over her. She whipped her head back and forth, flinging water as adorably and sexily as she could. That ought to distract them for a bit, she thought. "Oh, the things I do for love," she sighed and giggled, which only made her appear even sexier.
Meanwhile, Xena and Gabrielle quickly reached the bottom of the breast hills. They stopped to check the map. Ahead of them was a large formation of rocks. Xena glanced down at the map Gabrielle was holding and then walked toward the rocks. There were no doors and no hidden passageway that the warrior could see.
"It's just the side of the hill," said Xena irritably. "But this is where the map points to."
Gabrielle stood about 30 yards away from Xena looking the map over again to see if they had gone the wrong direction at some point.
Xena sighed and leaned back against the rock. The warrior promptly fell backwards. Gabrielle turned to ask a question, only to see the warrior's eyes widen in shock as she disappeared into the rock.
"Xena!" screamed Gabrielle as she ran and dove after the warrior.
Gabrielle found herself falling and then she landed with a loud "Ooof!" For the distance she fell, the bard's landing was surprisingly soft. But her only thought was the Warrior Princess.
"Xena?" she whispered frantically.
"Yesssss," said the warrior from beneath the bard.
Gabrielle's eyes adjusted to the dark. She glanced down to see that Xena was the reason her landing had been so soft.
"Hey there, gorgeous," the bard said, looking into blue eyes and relieved to see her partner.
"Are you OK?" asked Gabrielle, suddenly realizing that she had landed on top of Xena fairly hard. "Did I hurt you?"
"No, no. Lovin' every minute of it," smiled Xena.
Gabrielle climbed up of her soulmate, extending a hand and helping the warrior up off the ground. The dynamic duo finally took a good look around them.
"Holy Fan Fic Cave," murmured Xena, not quite believing her eyes.
They were in what appeared to be a large, lavender-tinted cave. Nearly every inch of the cave walls and ceiling was plastered with thousands of pictures.
"All these paintings and drawings are of us, Xena," said a surprised Gabrielle.
"That's not quite true," the warrior said testily as she scanned their surroundings. "Almost all of the the drawings are of you. There are a few of you and me together, or AphroditeÉlook," she pointed. "There are even some of Callisto. But there are no paintings of justÉwell, of just me," Xena said. "I knew it. Those Island Goddesses don't like me," the warrior almost, but not quite, broke into a pout.
"Xena, the Island Goddesses do too like you," Gabrielle assured her lover. "Look at that giant painting over there. It's nearly as big as you are and in the same shape as you," the bard exclaimed. She walked over to the life-size Xena flicking her eyes back and forth between Xena the real thing and the picture.
"Could I bring her with us?" she grinned mischievously.
Xena smiled, blushing slightly. Another painting distracted the warrior. Gabrielle frowned.
"Xena, how did these pictures come to be? I don't remember sitting for them," said Gabrielle.
"Maybe an artist read your scrolls and was inspired," smiled Xena, looking at a beautiful picture of the bard on top a white steed.
The two continued to explore the cave, checking for any kind of clue as to where the Island Goddesses might be.
"What's this?" whispered the Warrior Princess, stopping in her tracks.
Gabrielle looked to see what had the warrior's stunned attention and gaped at the sight before her.
On a small, rocky ledge protruding from the cave were dozens of small, blonde and brunette figures. Some figures were about the size of Gabrielle's hand. Others were nearly twice that size.
"They're dollsÉbut they look just like us!" whispered Gabrielle. "Wow. This is almost as creepy as Meg's Tavern."
Xena began an immediate and thorough study of the figures. "They're much more accurate than that stick figure you made of me," she murmured.
"Hey, I had to make that one out of stuff just laying around," said Gabrielle indignantly.
"Well, I did like where you stored it," grinned Xena. "Wait a minute, Gabrielle, these dolls have weapons," noted a surprised Warrior Princess.
She picked up a tiny knife and stabbed her hand with it. The sword bent like the goo from a rubber tree, causing not even the slightest damage. Xena snorted. She then spied a tiny chakram. The dark warrior picked it up and flung it using her index finger and thumb, a happy grin on her face. The chakram bounced off a rock before it disappeared onto the dark floor of the cave.
"They don't work," frowned Xena and she moved onto one of the tall Gabrielle dolls.
The real Gabrielle, meanwhile, spied two other dolls. All of the other figures were posed holding their weapons, or standing on small pedestals. But she couldn't figure these two out. Their positions were so odd. The bard decided to take a closer look and suddenly clamped a hand over her mouth as a blush rushed up her cheeks.
Xena walked over, peering over the bard's shoulder. She smiled and raised a wicked eyebrow. "Well, at least someone's having fun."
Gabrielle scrunched her nose adorably, giving the warrior a playful shove with her shoulder.
"All these things must belong to the Island Goddesses," said Xena. "You know, I've heard of shamanesses who control people through the use of small dolls like this. Maybe it's how they've been controlling things around here."
"If that were true, wellÉ" Gabrielle nodded toward the XXX Xena and Gabrielle dolls. "And I don't see a doll in the likeness of Tapert."
"You've got a point," said the Warrior Princess.
"This is more like a shrine of some sort. It's almost as if they revere usÉeven worship us," mused Gabrielle. The blonde looked over to see Xena lifting up a long-haired Gabrielle figure's skirt and peering underneath.
Gabrielle cleared her throat.
"These dolls don't have all their parts," stated Xena matter-of-factly.
"Uh-huh. Um, Xena. The Island Goddesses," said Gabrielle, getting the rarely distracted Warrior Princess back on-track.
"Oh, yeah. Butt-kicking time."
"Sensitive chat time," reminded Gabrielle.
Xena scowled. "Well, whatever we do, we have to find them first."
"They have to be around here somewhere. Maybe there's another secret entranceÉif the map's correct and Burnett wasn't lying to us," said Gabrielle.
Xena and Gabrielle continued their sweep of the cave. They came to a stop in front of a large, ornate altar. It was carved out of rock with a tall pillar on either side. On the pillars were intricate carvings of swords, chakrams and sais. To the right of the altar stood two life-sized statues of women warriors. At the top of the temple and carved in stone were the words Xena and Gabrielle 4Ever.
At the middle of the altar they found a door with large chains hanging from it. The dynamic duo heaved on the chains with no luck. The door refused to budge. Xena took her sword and chakram and tried to hack through the chain, but it was too strong even for her mighty chakram. The Greek hotties tugged, prodded, poked and finally threw both of their considerable body strength into trying to open the door. It moved not even a millimeter.
"This has to be the entrance, but how does it open?" said a frustrated Xena.
The hairs on the back of Gabrielle's neck began to tingle.
"I can show you how to open that if you wantÉ"
Gabrielle whirled around. "Aphrodite!!" exclaimed a shocked bard.
"Yup, it's me, Sweet Pea. Come to save the dayÉyet again." Aphrodite glanced over to Xena. "Hey there tall, dark and stuck in a fan fiction."
"What do you know about all this fan fiction stuff?" said a cranky Warrior Princess.
"It's all about love," smiled the Goddess of Love.
"You knew about this all along, Aphrodite?!" exclaimed Gabrielle
"I should've known you had something to do with this," growled the warrior.
"Well, I've had very little to do with this, actually. But just wait until the sequel!" Aphrodite squealed with anticipation. "Anyway, I've come to help."
"Earlier when you 'popped' in, you didn't seem interested in helping us," challenged Gabrielle. "Why the sudden change?"
"The Island Goddesses have written us all so well and within character, that's why. It's in my character to help you two out, natch."
"So stop yakkin' and start helpin'," said Xena.
Aphrodite sighed and rolled her eyes. She walked over to the two warrior statues. Twirling one hand in the air, the Goddess of Love changed her look from pink and frothy to dark green and Army fatigue-y. Her hair was pulled back from her face in a tight pony-tail. She turned, spread her legs apart and clapsed her hands behind her back, addressing the warrior and the bard.
Xena and Gabrielle raised their eyebrows at this sexy, new, Goddess of Love look.
"Getting into the Island Goddess fan fiction inner sanctum is a two-person job," began Aphrodite tersely. "Each of you must grab the breast of one of these statues. Then you have to hold hands. THEN you have to recite a chant."
"You have got to be joking," said Xena.
"Does this outfit look like I'm joking, sister?" said Aphrodite, keeping to a brusque and terse demeanor. Then she grinned. "And, honestly, do you think the Island Goddesses would make it easy to get into their inner sanctum? Why, Mezzo and godconnie blush head to toe every time they have to grab those statues' breasts," said Aphrodite.
"godconnie and Mezzo?" asked Gabrielle.
"The names of the Island Goddesses are godconnie and Mezzo," said the Goddess of Love. "You didn't know that?!"
"WellÉno, we didn't," said Gabrielle sheepishly.
"Slipping a little, there, Warrior Princess," said Aphrodite to Xena.
"I'm gonna be slipping my boot into their butts when I find them," muttered Xena.
"I know the goddesses' actions may seem a bit extremeÉbut it's all for love," said Aphrodite, turning serious. "AnywayÉcome on. I'll show you how to get in," continued the Goddess of Love, who once again waved her hand in the air, returning to her usual pink, clingy, flowing gown.
Gabrielle and Xena reluctantly stepped up to the statues and placed a hand on each statue's breast and then clapsed each other's hands.
"This is just not right," muttered Gabrielle, blushing yet again. "I don't even know these women!"
"Now, repeat after meÉ" said Aphrodite. "One, two three, four, five six, seven, eight."
Xena and Gabrielle sighed and repeated the chant.
"Schlemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated," continued Aphrodite.
"What language is that?" exclaimed Gabrielle.
"I dunno, some ancient, sacred text, I think. The Island Goddesses always do this before they pass through. Now say it. Oh, and you have to do this little sacred dance and hop with it." Aphrodite demonstrated, bending her knees and hopping on the appropriate syllable.
"OK, maybe we should kick their asses," Gabrielle said through gritted teeth as she and Xena repeated the sacred text and did the sacred dance and hop.
The door remained stubbornly, obstinately closed.
"It's not working," exclaimed Xena.
"That's because you haven't sang the sacred goddess song yet," said Aphrodite.
"I'm sure you'll teach it to us," said Gabrielle dryly.
"No more singing!" howled Xena.
"We're going to have to change her title from Warrior Princess to Warrior Whiner," Aphrodite whispered to Gabrielle.
"I heard that," said Xena.
The goddess began teaching the dynamic duo the song.
"Do you think you've got it?" queried Aphrodite a few cacophonous moments later.
"Shouldn't the Goddess of Love's singing voice beÉwell, lovely?" said Xena to Gabrielle.
The Warrior Princess caught a glare and a flash of angry dimple from Aphrodite.
"I'm gonna ignore the diss, Warrior Sis. Now, did you get the song?" asked Aphrodite.
Xena and Gabrielle nodded.
"Well, go on. Sing it so you can get in there and go home," said the Goddess of Love.
"Can't you just send us home," asked an exasperated Xena.
"Too easyÉnot enough actionÉbecause," said the Goddess of Love evasively.
Gabrielle gave Aphrodite her best steely stare-down. Aphrodite crumpled.
"Aiiiight, Boo. For some reason, I have limited power around Mezzo and godconnie. I mean, I can move around and zap in and out, but I can't zap anyone else. However, I can zap body parts in and out," the goddess giggled. "Anyway, you're just going to have to get out of here the old fashioned Xena and Gabrielle kick ass and take names later way, 'kay? Now. Sing the song."
Xena and Gabrielle, still holding each other's hands and clasping the statues' breasts began to sing the song as Aphrodite taught them:
"Give us any chance, we'll take it
Give us any rule, we'll break it.
We're gonna make our dreams come true
And we'll do it our way, yes our way.
Make all our dreams come true
And do it our way, yes our way,
Make all our dreams come true
For all the fans."
As they sang the last words, the slab of rock at the center of the altar began to move up, revealing a cavernous hallway and a light in the distance.
"OK, that's where the goddesses spend most of their time," whispered Aphrodite. "Good luck."
"Thank you for your help, Aphrodite," said the bard. "But we really need to talk sometime about your part in all this."
"Jheesh, you can never just be grateful, can you? My part in all this, Sweet Pea, is love. It's all about love." Aphrodite smiled. "See ya soon." She gave a dramatic flourish with her hand and disappeared in a hail of pink and purple hearts.
Xena shook her head. "GodsÉand goddesses," she muttered.
The dynamic duo stepped through the door that then began to lower behind them.
"Xena, we need to be sure Tapert can get through," exclaimed Gabrielle.
"What for?!" exclaimed the Warrior Princess.
"If we get a chance at going home, I want to be sure he gets home as well," explained Gabrielle patiently.
Xena sighed, pulled her sword from her scabbard and ran over to the chains. With a mighty warrior heave, she shoved the sword into the chains, preventing the door from lowering any further. She headed back over to Gabrielle.
Tapert had stumbled to the base of the breast hills. But the trail indicated on the map dead-ended into the side of a hill. He began to walk up to it when he tripped over a small rock and fell head first through the secret entrance.
Rich and DemonRichSpawn watched from the jungle. Rich smiled at his fiendish offspring. "Shhhhooowwwtime." The consultant and the baby demon headed for the side of the hill after Tapert.
Back at the Island Goddesses' inner Sanctum Xena and Gabrielle walked through a long hall of rock and stalactites that led to a small opening. The dynamic duo climbed through separately.
"Wow, kind of a small entrance. Someone could get stuck in there," whispered Xena.
The bard and the warrior now found themselves in a larger cave. The walls were adorned with flaming torches. The light from the torches bounced off thousands of bright, sparkling crystal formations in the room.
Gabrielle looked around. Crumpled paper lay everywhere. She picked one up and noticed there were words on the paper.
"Xena, the words don't look like Greek, but I can understand them," murmured Gabrielle.
"Must be some kinda magical translatin' parchment thingie," replied Xena, checking out the smaller cave.
The wads of paper were in piles and seemed to form a trail toward an especially large group of nearly room-sized crystals.
Gabrielle read one of the papers. She cocked her head and then began quickly picking up and reading the other pieces of crumpled paper.
"Xena, there are words describing some of the things that's happened to us since we arrived on the islandÉbut it's just a little different. Like these were the words they decided not to use," whispered the bard excitedly.
The dynamic duo found themselves closer to the large formation of crystals and they could hear quiet, tapping noises. The bard and the Warrior Princess exchanged glances.
Gabrielle grinned. "In order to have fiction, someone has to write words. I wonder..."
The blonde bard stepped around the large group of crystal rocks and saw two gorgeous and voluptuous women sitting with what appeared to be machines in their laps. Their fingers were dancing along the top of the machines making quick, tapping noises. Falling from the machines into small, wicker baskets were dozens and dozens of papers. Every now and again, one or the other of the women would sigh and mutter, grab a paper as it fell, crumple it into a wad and throw it away from the baskets onto the floor.
The two beautiful women paused for a moment, as if sensing something. They looked up, spying Gabrielle, and gasped in gorgeous unison.
"They're not on the south side of the island," exclaimed a woman with dimples and brown eyes.
"Uhhh, pay no attention to those women," yelled the other woman in a deep voice. "I am the mighty and powerful Oz!" The women began typing again and suddenly, inexplicably, disappeared from sight.
But Gabrielle was onto the goddesses and she wasn't about to let go.
"godconnie! Mezzo! Show yourselves!" roared the mighty blonde.
There was no answer from the goddesses, but Gabrielle and Xena could still hear the strange, quick, tapping noises.
"Xena," whispered Gabrielle. "I'm going to try and draw them out. Be ready. We've got to move fast."
"I mean it!" the bard yelled. "Show yourselves! Right now or....or....." she struggled for something to grab their attention. It was obvious that the love she and Xena shared was important to the goddesses.
Gabrielle smiled. "Show yourselves or I'll go have sex with Joxer!"
Xena blanched in horror. "That's a bit drastic, don't you think?"
"Noooooooooo" screamed the two shocked yet stunning brunettes as they appeared before Xena and Gabrielle in a flash of rainbow colored streamers and confetti.
"Anything. Anything but that," pleaded Mezzo.
godconnie suddenly realized that in the horror of hearing Gabrielle's threat of a gross sexual act, the Island Goddesses had left their computers behind.
"Mezzo, it's a trick to get us away from our computers!" exclaimed godconnie. "We've got to get back and write our way out of this!"
Xena whipped her chakram out. "Can you write faster than I can fling this round killing thing?"
Mezzo and godconnie looked at each other, remembering the chakram toss from Motherhood.
"You get us off of this godsforsaken island now and I might let you live," threatened Xena.
"Xena," began Gabrielle, hoping to avoid a physical confrontation with the goddesses.
"Can we have a moment?" asked the goddess of all things Connie.
Mezzo and godconnie stepped away from Xena and Gabrielle. Xena brandished her chakram as a reminder in case they tried to get back to their machines. The two conferred in hushed tones, glancing back to Xena and Gabrielle every now and again. The goddesses nodded to each other and turned to the Bard and the Warrior Princess.
godconnie spoke first. "I'm sorry, we can't let you leave until everything's been put right."
"The Xena and Gabrielle relationship is more important than our own lives," added Mezzo.
"If we have but one life to give for our beloved show..." said godconnie.
"Then so be it," murmured Mezzo as both women sadly bowed their beautiful heads, awaiting their fate.
Gabrielle looked at Xena and whispered, "Sensitive chat time."
Xena tightened her lips into a thin line, but she put her chakram away.
The bard stepped forward, touching Mezzo lightly on the arm. godconnie barely caught her as Mezzo's legs buckled and threatened to collapse beneath her.
"All right. It's obvious this is of incredible importance to you," sighed Gabrielle.
"Not just to us. We're fighting for the greater good of hundreds of thousands of fans all over the world," said godconnie passionately.
"What do you want?" continued the bard, who appreciated the goddessess' struggle for the greater good. "Maybe we can work this out so youÉand the fansÉget what you all want, and we get to go home."
godconnie and Mezzo looked at each other.
"Well," said godconnie. "You two are soulmates. And you should be acting like soulmates."
"People believe in you and your love with all their hearts. That's been taken away and we want it back," added Mezzo.
"And what about Tapert?" inquired the bard.
"Well, many moons ago, Tapert wrote and produced stories on television of your love. They were beautiful stories of love, right and wrong and redemptionÉwith some inconsistencies," sighed Mezzo.
"And then suddenly this last year he wrote and produced stories that ruined your love and were morally bankrupt," continued godconnie. "We're showing him the error of his ways."
"In the most painful way possible," added Mezzo.
"I understand," said Gabrielle. She turned to Mezzo and then godconnie, looking each directly in the eyes. The Island Goddesses sighed, mesmerized.
"Xena and I had a long talk about what's happened to us lately. You have our promise, godconnie and Mezzo, it won't happen again."
"What she said," noted the Warrior Princess, hoping she was going to get to kick some Island Goddess ass sometime soon.
Mezzo and godconnie looked at each other and then at their favorite, most cherished duo.
"Well?" said Xena.
"We heard that conversation. But we need something, some act, to convince us of your sincerity," said godconnie warily.
"Yessss?" asked the Warrior Princess.
"A hot and heavy, open-mouthed kiss between the two of you would be sufficient," said Mezzo in a rush, wondering if she and godconnie would be able to get behind a rock before Xena started hurling the chakram.
"Is that all?!" exploded Xena. "We've been trying to do that for days! Everytime we got close it was like someone was keeping us apart!"
"That's so easy!" exclaimed Gabrielle.
Xena threw her chakram on the floor and reached for the hooks on her armor.
"A kiss!" squealed a blushing godconnie. "Not sex. What do you think we're writing here, an episode of Queer as Folk?!"
Xena halted her armor stripping, but kept her eyes firmly, lustily, passionately on the bard.
Mezzo threw her hands in the air. "Now look what you did. Thanks a lot, gc."
Xena and Gabrielle ignored the goddesses' bickering as they approached each other, blue eyes blazing into fiery green.
"How should we do this, Xena?" said a breathless Gabrielle, happy to have an intimate moment with her warrior. "Hard and fast, slow and passionate, sweet and tasty, long a....?"
"Hush yo mouf and kiss me," growled the Warrior Princess.
gc and Mezzo came to a bickering screeching halt to watch the long-awaited vision before them.
Gabrielle launched herself into Xena's arms. Jet black hair rained down over Gabrielle as Xena dug her fingers into beautifully thick, short, blonde hair. The bard's large, strong hands rubbed the Warrior's neck moving up to frame her face as the two shared the hottest, heaviest, most open-mouthed kiss in the history of the entire universe.
Mezzo and godconnie burst into tears and applause.
"Absolutely fabulous, darlings," sniffled Mezzo.
"I guess we'll have to vote them off the island," sobbed godconnie.
"Island?" murmured Xena dreamily, enjoying her closeness to the bard. "Oh. Island. Yeah."
Gabrielle noted Mezzo and godconnie looking at each other questioningly.
"What? What now?" said a dazed and perplexed bard. "We gave you the hot and heavy open-mouthed kiss. We want to go home now."
"Well, there was another part of our request," said Mezzo.
"There was?" asked godconnie, Gabrielle and Xena together. Mezzo raised an eyebrow at her partner in crime.
"Oh. Yeah! There was," stammered godconnie.
"We were kind of hoping," Mezzo said shyly "That we could get a kiss, too."
"It doesn't have to be too long or anything" said godconnie. Mezzo elbowed godconnie sharply in the side. "Ooof!"
"Sure, I can do that," smiled Xena.
"Ummm, not that I'd kick you out of bed for eating crackers or anything," said Mezzo to Xena. "Well, actually, I wouldÉbut we really want a kiss from Gabrielle."
Gabrielle crinkled her nose and raised her eyebrows at Xena.
"Anything for the cause," said the bard.
"I told you they didn't like me," muttered the warrior.
Gabrielle stepped up to godconnie, placing a brief yet exquisite kiss on her cheek.
The bard then stepped toward Mezzo as godconnie hit the floor in a swoon.
Gabrielle stood on her tiptoes to kiss Mezzo on her cheek. Mezzo began to wrap her arms around the bard when she heard a growl.
"Does the term 'redshirt' mean anything to you?" said the Warrior Princess with her trigger-happy finger on her chakram.
"Zoinks!" cried godconnie who clambered up off the floor. "Let's make like a bakery truck and haul buns outta here!"
"Ruh-roh!" agreed a delirious Mezzo.
The two headed for their machines and began tapping furiously.
"Nothing's happening," said an irritated Xena.
"We're getting to it, we promise," said godconnie. "Mezzo, our timing has to be..."
"Juuussttt right," finished Mezzo.
Suddenly Tapert ran into the cave brandishing the glowing lavender pen above his head.
"Why does everyone keep coming into our inner sanctum from that way?" murmured godconnie to Mezzo, barely looking up from her laptop. "Why didn't they use the shortcut? That way they wouldn't have to sing and hop and," godconnie blushed. "stuff."
"Aphrodite," growled Xena. The Goddess of Love, wisely, refused to appear.
"Aha! I've got you now you fan fic VAMPS!!" he screeched interrupting Mezzo's chance to replyÉthank god because she was tired of writing explanations.
He stopped and looked around. He leaned over to Xena. "Are those the Island Goddesses?"
"Yessss," replied Xena.
He ran over to goconnie and Mezzo, waving the pen in front of their faces. "Ha! Now you have no power!!"
Mezzo looked up irritably from her lap-top at Tapert. She licked her index finger and thumb, reached out and snuffed the light from the pen and returned to typing.
Tapert gasped in astonishment. He shook the pen, but the light was gone.
"No, no, no, no," cried the defeated executive. "They really are the power that be," he sobbed.
"What the?!" said Xena.
"Remember, we had to show Tapert the error of his ways," said Mezzo, not looking up from her furiously moving fingers.
"We had to bring him here because we've got to send you all back at the same time or we won't be able to get you back at all," added godconnie.
The cave began shaking and rocks began to tumble.
"Who made up that rule?!" exclaimed Gabrielle.
"The wizard," said godconnie.
"We're breaking up! We're breaking up!" yelled an alarmed Mezzo as more of the cave began to tumble down around them.
Tapert looked about him wildly and spied Xena.
"My hero," he whimpered, throwing himself into the warrior's arms. "Send me home, please, send me home. I've got a DemonRichSpawn for a child, no wife, no friends, no power! Everyone hates meÉplease, I just wanna go home!"
Xena pointed to Mezzo and godconnie. "Talk to them, Tapert, they're the powers that be in this universe."
"You can only go home if you promise to take care of the mess you made of the past year of our lives," said Gabrielle to Tapert.
"Actually, 26 yearsÉbut let's just call it the fifth season," said godconnie who continued tapping away at her lap-top.
"Season five only had a few missed opportunities," whined Tapert. "And it was all the subtexters' faults anyway. They didn't make the ratings go up during the fourth season," he sniffled. "Besides, I have to think about the 2-12-year-old children out there watching the show."
An enormous stalactite crashed to the floor, narrowly missing a chance to impale Tapert.
Suddenly, Richard and the DemonRichSpawn burst into the room, getting stuck in the cave doorway.
"You're mine, Tapert! You're going to have lots and lots of babies with me!" screamed the fearsome Rich.
The DemonRichSpawn cackled in glee. "Daddy, come home!"
Tapert's eyes bulged in fear. He threw himself down on his knees in front of godconnie and Mezzo. "OK! Anything! Just let me go homeÉpleeeeaaazze!"
Rich and the DemonRichSpawn struggled to get through the cave door. Suddenly an ominous trickling sound began, followed by more boulders falling caused by the wriggling of the gruesome twosome.
"godconnie, will that do?" yelled Mezzo, as she was pitched back and forth by the earthquake, doing her best "Bridge of the Enterprise" impersonation.
godconnie nodded to Mezzo. "Let's do it." And the two gorgeous goddesses began typing even faster.
To Gabrielle and Xena's eyes, it seemed Tapert simply disappeared in a tiny blip of light.
Tapert felt himself falling and suddenly opened his eyes with a snort and a grunt. He found himself alone and behind a set built to look like a small, Greek house.
He stood up shakily, brushing dirt and grime from his clothes.
"I'm home! Home!" Tapert whimpered. "I think."
The executive looked around. "What if this is just another chamber of horrors those Island Goddesses have cooked up for me?" Tears of frustration began to form in his eyes. "I don't think I can take another minute of those no-talent, harlots," he cried.
Tapert gasped and covered his mouth. "Oh dear god! What if they heard me?" he worried.
The executive looked to the skies and ducked his head, frightened that something was about to swoop down upon him and eat his brainsÉhis creative and brilliant brainsÉfor lunch. When nothing happened, Tapert breathed a small sigh of relief.
He gathered his wits about him and finally got up the nerve to peek out from behind the set. Actors and actresses were milling about. Stunt men, under the watchful eye of the stunt director, were warming up for a scene. Everything seemed normal. He decided to test the waters.
Tapert stepped out in front of the set and began walking hesitantly, hands in his pockets, knees wobbling, lips pursed and whistling Whenever I Feel Afraid from The King and I.
The stunt director spotted him and hurried over.
"Mr. Tapert, Mr. Tapert," the man called, catching up with the executive. He began to speak and then stopped, looking at Tapert strangely.
Rob returned the stunt director's look. "Maybe he's going to break into song and insult my creative decisions." The executive waited, eyes wide and wild.
"Mr. Tapert," said the stunt director, looking him up and down.
"Or maybe he just thinks I'm sexy," mused Tapert.
The stunt coordinator shrugged and continued. "We've got this scene coming up and we want Xena to use a new weapon in the fight sequence. But we're unsure about what weapon she should use."
The executive's mind was spinning faster than a stationary bicycle. He called me 'Mister' and was actually asking for advice...and for a decision. Could it be that I'm home after all?
"I think Xena should use...a machine gun." Tapert said out loud, eyeing the man warily. If he were still on the island, then surely the Island Goddesses would punish him for daring to assume he had any power and for flaunting such a gross historical inconsistency.
The stunt director blanched. "But, Mr. Tapert, guns weren't even invented when..."
The executive became braver and more confident. "A. Machine. Gun." Tapert said again, adding a little executive diva-ness to get his point across.
The stunt director gulped.
"Yessir, Mr. Tapert. Anything you want, sir," and he ran off.
The executive grinned. The stunt director had been appropriately subservient. Maybe he was free of those Island Goddesses after all.
Unless it's some sort of trick, he thought furtively. Maybe they're just giving me one nice thing to get me to feel comfortable and then they'll snap me like a twig!
Tapert turned to run back to the safety of the set when Lucy Lawless walked up to him, a plush bath robe thrown over her leather costume and dark glasses on her face. She pulled them off, exposing her baby blues.
"Hey, sweetie," she cooed to the executive, wrapping her arms around him and placing a seductive kiss on his lips.
Tapert stood very still, waiting for the neck pinch to cut the flow of blood off to his brain, killing him and putting him out of his fan fiction misery once and for all.
But Lucy simply hugged him tighter, nibbling on his ear.
"Yee-yee-yeee-yooowww!" exclaimed Tapert and other parts of his anatomy. "I really am home!"
Lawless pulled away, looking at him questioningly, a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
"Honey, you are not going to believe what happened to meÉ" said the executive excitedly. And then he stopped.
She really won't believe me. No one would, he thought. Tapert noticed his gorgeous wife looking at him expectantly. He laughed.
"Oh! It's just...I was going over some dialogue I'm writing for an upcoming episode," he said to cover his outburst.
"You know I don't want to hear about that stuff ahead of time," she smiled, absently, rubbing his tummy.
Just then, Renee O'Connor walked up. She was clothed in a blue robe that was open and exposing her gorgeous abs. Tapert flashed back to the island. He stepped away from Lawless abruptly.
"We weren't doing nothin'. Honest!" he cried, turning to run for his life.
Renee laughed and scrunched up her nose.
"Have you been eating mushrooms again?" she asked Tapert mischievously.
Tapert stopped mid-flee, looking back at Renee and Lucy.
Renee turned her attention to Lawless. "Ready for some action?"
"Hey!" yelled an indignant Tapert, thinking he was most definitely back on the island after all.
Renee looked at Tapert strangely. "Fight scene, Rob." she smiled.
"Oh. Ohhhhh. A fight scene," said Tapert as another huge grin made its way across his face.
Lawless chuckled, reaching over and patting the executive on his butt.
Tapert felt all toasty and warm, especially his butt. His wife wasn't acting like a crabby warrior and she wasn't flirting with GabrielleÉerÉRenee. People were paying attention to him and treating him as if he had power. Everything seemed normal. The executive producer of Xena Warrior Princess was incredibly, unbelievably relieved.
"It was really just a giant, awful dream after all," he thought. "The dream must have been the result of a momentary lapse in self-confidenceÉ combined with some bad mushrooms. And I didn't fall from the sky. I just fell asleep and woke up all disoriented."
"To hell with that damn island," he growled out loud. "It's back to business as usual."
"Sweetie, are you sure you're OK?" asked a concerned Lawless at her husband's sudden change in demeanor. "Maybe you've been working too hard."
He smiled. "I am right as rain. Just, you know, working on script lines again."
"Places!" yelled the director.
Renee smiled. "Catch you in a minute," she said to her co-star and headed toward the director.
Lucy gave Tapert a warm hug good-bye.
"That's my cue, baby. See you after work and, um, I like that t-shirt. We should see what we can do about that tonight," she gave him a lewdly flirtatious wink and headed off to do her scene.
Tapert cocked his head. He couldn't imagine what Lucy was talking about. "T-shirt?" He looked down to see that his shirt still read Xena's Love Child on Board.
"No, ohÉno," he whispered, horrified.
And then Tapert felt a hot white pain in his back. He spun around. No one was there. His forehead broke out in a sweat as he looked down to see the DemonRichSpawn stabbing his leg with a pitchfork.
"Aaaaiiiieeeee!" screamed Tapert, turning around and running toward the set crew and away from his demon offspring.
The crazed executive producer crashed into the center of the crew at full tilt, falling to the ground and then scrambling back up. Everyone stopped their activity, surprised by their normally quiet boss' sudden and strange behavior.
Tapert spun around. Everyone was staring at him.
God, I must look like a crazy man, he thought. The executive was frantically trying to come up with an excuse for his odd behavior when, to the back of the gathered crowd, Tapert spied the DemonRichSpawn. The creature was jumping up and down, brandishing its pitchfork and cackling.
"There!" he screamed, pointing. "Don't you see it? It's some sort of awful, horrible creation of the fans come to life!"
The crewmembers looked around, trying to find what Tapert was motioning toward. But they saw nothing.
"They want to destroy meÉor take over the worldÉwell, same thing," cried the executive. He was met with wary and worried glances from the crew. "No. See, you gotta understand. I was trapped on Survivor Island with Xena and Gabrielle. And there were these fans calling themselves 'Island Goddesses' and they were all torturing me and I had sex with XenaÉonly it turned out to be RichÉand I got pregnantÉand then I had a demon for a baby and, and then I thought I had escaped but now it's followed me here," the executive blubbered.
Head writer, R.J. Stewart observed Tapert's apparent breakdown with glee. Exxxccellent. Now I can rule the entire show. Me, me, me! he thought.
"Wow, he did get into some bad mushrooms," whispered O'Connor.
"It's the relationship, stupid," cackled the demon.
"The relationship?" sobbed Tapert.
"Sweetheart," said a concerned Lawless. "There's nothing there. It's just us."
"ButÉbutÉ" cried the executive as the demon offspring laughed maniacally.
"The relationship," the creature jumped up and down, punching its pitchfork into the ground, red sparks and fire flying from his tiny, baby demon hooves.
And Tapert, despite an ego the size of Montana, finally cracked like the Sahara Desert.
Tapert nodded his head, shifting from foot to foot like he was channeling Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man performance. He ran his hands through his wild, red hair, smoothing it down and taking some time to gather his thoughts.
How can I get out of this? he thought desperately. He had to please the goddesses and keep the crew from thinking he was completely insane. Am I insane? Tapert thought. Yes, you are quite insane, he answered himself. And, besides, R.J.'s just looking for a reason to take over.
Tapert hit upon an idea. It was a long shot, butÉ
"Got ya!" Tapert laughed raggedly, pointing at Lawless. He then tugged on his own T-shirt. "Just having a little fun with y'all."
And, luckily for the executive, his wife's odd-duck sense of humor kicked in and she began to laugh uproariously. After a moment of bewilderment, the rest of the crew joined in.
"Yeah, that was sooo funny, wasn't it?" said Tapert who had pulled himself back from the brink of insanity, but could see that the yawning abyss was still only a few feet away.
"But, seriously, I have something to tell you all about the showÉ"
The crowd quieted down, waiting expectantly. And Tapert decided it was time to take control.
"Season Six will be the return of the Xena and Gabrielle we all know and love!"
"What the fuh?" said a startled R.J. Stewart.
"R.J.!" ordered Tapert, pointing to the head writer. "We're going to have Xena save Gabrielle and Gabrielle save Xena. They're gonna bond, reaffirm their soulmate status. We're gonna find the love. Got it?"
"Oooooohkay," said Stewart. "But don't you think we should..."
"Now!" roared the executive producer of Xena: Warrior Princess.
Stewart's eyes widened in surprise. "Right, boss. I'll get right on it."
"No executive coup d'etat today, I guess," muttered Stewart as he headed off to find his lap-top.
"And Lucy!" Tapert turned to Lawless. "No more bad boys for Xena. Just one good girl: Gabrielle. And that 'no touching' gag rule I put into effect last year? It's lifted as of this moment!"
Lawless put her hands on her hips and smiled proudly at her husband. "It's about time, honey."
"Renee!" said an authoritative Tapert. O'Connor stepped forward from the crowd. "We're going to explore what Gabrielle's been going through. She's much more than a sidekick and we're going to start treating her with respect. She's Xena's soulmate. I mean, really, Xena: Warrior Princess is all about the reÉreÉ.." The executive stopped and then tried again. "It's all about the reÉrrreee" Tapert just couldn't quite spit it out. "I don't know if I can do it," he whispered.
"C'mon Rob, I know you can," urged O'Connor from the sidelines.
"Let's go home to the island! Daddy Rich is waiting!" cried the demon offspring gleefully.
"The Relationship! The Relationship! The Relationship!" screamed Tapert. "It's all about the relationship from now on!"
The cast and crew of Xena: Warrior Princess broke into wild applause and began to surge forward to congratulate the executive. Tapert found his hand grabbed and shaken and his backÉand even his buttÉpatted by ecstatic and happy crew members.
Wow, thought Tapert. Who knew? Even the crew loves the relationship.
Tapert looked to the back of the crowd, searching for his demon offspring. He felt a tugging on his t-shirt and looked down. It was there. Grinning up at him, eyes blue as the sky.
The creature winked at him.
"Remember. It's the RelationshipÉor I'll be baaaaack. Bye, byeÉDaddy!" and poof, the creature disappeared.
Tapert was so relieved that he promptly fainted.
Back in the Fan Fic Cave, as Gabrielle and Xena saw Tapert disappear, they felt the world shift under their feet. Once again, they were plummeting from the sky, yelling at the top of their lungs. But this time as the ground rushed to meet them, their speed slowed until they were floating gently down. Xena chuckled, reaching for Gabrielle's hand. The bard gave a sweet, husky coo of approval. The two soulmates landed softly in a large pile of furs beside a crackling fire on a cool, spring evening as the stars shown brightly above them. Argo II looked over and snorted.
"We're home," whispered Gabrielle.
"Home," replied Xena, looking to Gabrielle.
"Gabrielle," said a worried warrior. "Did you feel anything when you kissed Mezzo and godconnie?"
"I felt...something," Gabrielle said hesitantly.
"Something?!" yelped Xena. "Something?!"
Gabrielle laughed, enjoying Xena's discomfort. "Baby, nothing like I feel for you," relented the mischievous bard.
"That has to be one of our stranger adventures, but I think there was a lot to be learned," said Gabrielle, turning serious.
"Like?" said the warrior whose mind was nowhere near the island but all over Gabrielle.
Gabrielle knew where Xena's mind was and smiled. She cupped Xena's face in her large hands to get the warrior's full attention.
"Xena, I love you more than anything. I can't imagine my life without you. Promise me we'll be true to ourselves and stick together no matter whatÉpromise me, Xena," the bard said with an intensity and passion that rocked the warrior's world.
"I promise with everything I am," replied the warrior with a sincerity that made the bard feel safe, loved and home.
They looked into each other's eyes for a moment longer until Xena began to smile, giving the bard "that look."
"Ummm, Gabrielle," said Xena. "Are you sure Mezzo and godconnie aren't still writing our story because I feel the sudden urge to...."
"Hush yo mouf and kiss me, Warrior" interrupted Gabrielle.
And so they did...and puhhhhhhh-lenty more.
Back on Survivor Island, all returned to normal. Burnett was happy because Tapert, Xena, Gabrielle and the Island Goddesses finally disappeared, leaving him as the ultimate ruler of the island.
Colleen was able to refocus her attention on the competition. But she hoped everyone was safeÉeven Tapert. She also hoped the Island Goddesses weren't upset with her for helping Xena and Gabrielle find them.
The morning after her friends disappeared from the island, the co-ed was off by herself picking up some firewood when the first snowflake fell. She smiled, looking up to see the snow floating gently down on her face.
"Thank you," came a whisper from all around the Survivor, followed by beautiful, gorgeous, goddess laughter as the snow continued to fall. Colleen broke into a gigantic grin and headed back toward camp.