Stranger things – Director’s cut

by Ian Hayes

First published: November 2008

DISCLAIMER: Xena: Warrior Princess, its characters and back-story are copyright MCA/Universal, StudioUSA, and Renaissance Pictures.

This story incorporating those characters is copyright Ian Hayes.

VIOLENCE WARNING: A bit – nothing nasty though.


Feedback: Any comments always welcome to

Author’s note: This story started life as an idea for the Academy of Bard’s picture challenge, inspired by the photo of a mounted police officer. The ‘rools’ set a 1,000 word limit for entries and, as it got written, it sailed gaily well beyond that. Wielding a large hatchet, the first part of the story ended up on the cutting room floor to get it within the limit. This is the complete story as it oozed out of my fingers.

Two women meet under mundane, unsurprising circumstances. Uncommon events thrust them together into an oddly familiar situation. As they become acquainted coincidences shower them, some of which they notice, some they don’t. Is it all just the fickle hand of fate at work, or something more determined?

“Shit!” whispered the blonde to herself as her eyes, a brilliant green in the bright morning sunlight, swept up and down the busy street in the centre of Auckland. “Why do I always do this? Why didn’t I listen to the hotel receptionist and take a street map.” She frowned and looked left and right again hoping to recognise something that would help her get back to the hotel. She sighed, resigned to the fact that she was going to have to ask someone for directions. That’s when she heard the distinctive clacking of hooves walking on the road.

She waited until the mounted police officer drew level with her and then she stepped forward, lifting her hand. “Excuse me, officer.”

The officer stopped her horse and looked down into the open face below her, one eyebrow hiking up under the rim of her helmet. “Yes miss. Can I help you?”

The blonde blinked in surprise at the dazzling blue eyes looking at her and sucked in a breath to ask directions when she was interrupted by the police radio, fastened to the officer’s lapel, crackling into life. “All units. Assault in progress. Windlake Alleyway. Please respond.” She closed her mouth as the officer sat up straight and looked around, taking her bearings.

“Control, this is officer Ryan. I am fifty metres away but I am alone. Request backup.” The officer released the transmit button on her radio and smoothly dismounted. “I’m sorry, Miss. I have to go.” She said, quickly fastening her horse’s reins to a sign pole and turning to trot up the street.

Without consciously thinking about it, the blonde woman turned to follow, walking briskly in the officer’s wake. She reached the entrance to the alley and continued in without pausing. It was quite a narrow space and deserted apart from a couple of rubbish skips and several discarded boxes and other pieces of rubbish. She distantly realised why the officer had left her horse behind; in such a confined area it would have been more of a hindrance. Looking ahead, the scene twenty paces in front of her caused her heart to leap into her throat as she saw the police officer shielding a clearly petrified woman from three fairly large thugs, each brandishing a weapon of some kind. The officer was holding her nightstick defensively and trying to talk the men into standing down, although the blonde could see it was without much success even though the thugs had their backs to her.

Glancing around she spotted a metre length piece of two-by-two discarded on the ground and stooped to pick it up. Then she walked quietly up behind the men who were on the point of launching their attack on the officer. Without hesitation she whacked one across the side of the head, sidestepped as he dropped to the ground, smashed the stick onto the weapon-holding arm of the second thug causing a resounding crack as the bone gave way and then faced the third assailant as he turned, surprise in his eyes that rapidly turned to fury as he took in five and a half feet of stick-wielding woman. He yelled and charged, his own crowbar swinging towards the blonde’s head.

The police officer had only vaguely noticed the blonde’s approach, being somewhat focussed on the triple threat in front of her. Her focus altered though as the first two thugs were incapacitated and the third shifted his attention. Caught as she was on the back foot, she realised that she could not reach him before he reached her saviour. A loud cry of “No!” was all she was able to do before the impact.

The thug put his entire weight behind the swing anticipating the satisfying thud as his bar embedded itself in the irritating blonde’s head. Regrettably, for him, it never found its target. Instead, the woman parried the swing, sidestepped neatly, tripped the thug and smacked him hard on the back of his neck as he fell. His head bounced off the cobble of the alley surface and he lay still, groaning feebly.

- - -

It was some time later that the thugs had been carted off, under guard, to the hospital and statements had been taken.

“Thank you, Miss. We have everything we need for now. We’ll be in touch if we need anything else.” The kind-faced, male police officer said.

“You’re welcome officer.” Replied the blonde.

At that moment the mounted police officer walked over intending to speak to her blonde rescuer for almost the first time since the incident. As she approached, her male colleague turned and noticed her. “Hey, Zee, you okay?”

“Yeah!” she replied. “No worries, Mac.” Mac waved his arm and continued on his way. She was left alone facing the blonde and caught herself staring as she looked properly into the gentle face for the first time. She shook herself and spoke. “Ah, I just wanted to thank you again for…” Her face pulled an expression that was a combination of a grimace and a smile and she held out her hand. “Name’s Fran by the way.”

The blonde took the offered hand seeing her own swallowed up in the larger one. “I’m Gay.” She replied, with a gentle smile. The officer’s eyes’ widened in surprise and her jaw slackened slightly. The blonde’s lips parted in a dazzling smile as she watched the officer’s face. “I’m sorry, I just can’t resist doing that. My name is Gay, Gabrielle actually, but that’s such a mouthful, I always think.”

Fran’s eyes slitted as she took control of her expression again, but a small smile betrayed her true reaction as she made a single, exaggerated nod of understanding.

“That other guy called you Zee. Where does that come from… if you don’t mind me asking?” A small frown crossed Gay’s forehead.

Fran rolled her eyes. “Short version… I mentioned, ages ago to a bunch of the guys over a few beers, that I used to watch a TV programme called ‘Xena’. Unfortunately, a few of them had seen it as well and…” she waved her hands up and down in front of her, and then raised her eyebrows.

Gay scanned the tall, well-built frame in front of her and looked at the blue eyes six inches above her own and at the dark auburn hair above them. She nodded. “I used to watch that too, and I see what you mean.” The two women shared a chuckle.

The short silence was broken by the tall police officer. “What you did back there… that was pretty impressive.” Eyebrows hiked upwards again.

The blonde shrugged. “Texas State Kendo champion, a few years back.”

“Kendo? Isn’t that the martial art that uses… um…”

“Big sticks, yeah. Shinai actually.”

“Well, you certainly know how to use one. Glad you were on my side.” The blonde flushed slightly and looked down. Fran’s eyes glazed as she thought back to the earlier events. “That was pretty stupid of me actually. I should know better than to go into a situation like that, alone.” She mumbled in disgust, almost to herself.

Gay looked up into the glum face. “You weren’t alone. Besides, that lady was in trouble. What you did was good. You protected her.”

“I guess so.” Fran’s eyes cleared as the truth of the blonde’s words sunk home. After a moment, she snickered to herself. “Regular little Xena and Gabrielle we are, huh?” Her voice trailed off as she stared into the face in front of her, taking in the long, blonde locks. “Uh, you’re not from a town called Potidaea, are you?”

Gay snorted. “That would be just too weird. No, I’m from just outside Houston actually. You?”

“Born and bred around here. What are you doing over here? Vacation?”

“Partly, but I’m here mainly for the folk festival.”

“A fan?”

“Um, no, I’m a writer and singer.”

“Get outa here! A folk singer! You’re a bard.”

“Well, I suppose you could say that. Equally, I suppose I could call you a warrior.” The two laughed with each other, then fell silent, each lost in their own thoughts. Gay spoke quietly after several long moments. “Xena and Gabrielle… did you think they were…” she broke off, feeling a little embarrassed, wishing she hadn’t verbalised her thoughts.

“Too right! No question.” Fran’s instantaneous reply betrayed where her own thoughts had been. Silence fell again.

“You know that whole soulmates thing? You don’t suppose we…?” Gay whispered, shyly. Their eyes locked together in silent contemplation.

Fran took a deep breath and opened her mouth, then closed it again shaking her head. “Nah! If they had been real… Nice idea though.” She gave the blonde a crooked smile.

“Yeah, of course. What was I thinking? Sorry!” Gay smiled back.

The two were quiet again for several seconds, the silence just starting to get a little awkward. Fran cleared her throat. “Erm, would you like… I mean… oh bugger. Can I buy you lunch or something… by way of a thank you of course?” She added hastily, fidgeting uncomfortably and looking down.

Gay looked at her new friend affectionately and placed a small hand on the tall officer’s forearm causing her to glance back up into the warm, friendly, green eyes. “I would like that, very much… Xena.” She grinned.

Fran returned the grin. “Choice! Come on then… Gabrielle.” She said, draping her arm across the folk singer’s shoulders and turning them towards where her horse stood patiently at the roadside. “Argo awaits.”

The two women laughed heartily as they strolled off together.

- - -

Somewhere, on the ethereal plane, a high-pitched voice rang out. “YES! Am I just totally good, or what!”

The end.

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