Disclaimer: Xena and Gabrielle do not belong to me. I just take them out to play with from time to time. No copyright infringement is intended and they have been returned unharmed. The story contains mild subtext, in fact it largely remains subtext, but they act as the couple we all know they are. Hope you enjoy this light-hearted salute to Halloween. Take a minute to let me know at maryeic@aol.com.



“Are we dead…again?” Gabrielle asked peering through the cloud of dust that engulfed them. The sound of the explosion still rang in her ears.

Xena brushed ashes from her hair with both hands and cursed. “No. Dead would be better than the way I feel right now.” She coughed out a mouthful of dust and leaned over the prostrate bard to rip her chakram from a pile of rocks.

Gabrielle admired the warrior’s ability to move, convinced moving was something she couldn’t do at the moment. Every bone in her body felt as though it had been shattered and her muscles ached. The collapse of the temple wall had caught them by surprise and tumbled them to the sodden ground along with several tons of rock and gravel.

“I hate that thing.” Xena muttered climbing slowly to her feet and testing body parts she expected to need when resuming the hunt. Her boots sagged and her armor had lost the buckles at one shoulder leaving her breastplate hanging at a useless angle. There was a rip down the side of her leathers and one armored sleeve was completely missing.

Taking stock of the warrior’s disheveled appearance, Gabrielle made the unfortunate decision to laugh.

“Dead can be arranged, you know.” Xena snapped, an eyebrow arched in warning.

“Oh, I know. I know.” Gabrielle reined in the chuckles. “Been there, done that once or twice.” She stood up on shaky legs. “You on the other hand have patented the death experience.” She straightened the tattered brown fabric barely covering her bosom and sighed when she saw the rag that was once her favorite skirt.  Surprisingly neither ankle seemed damaged.

“You look like Hell yourself!” Xena observed with a slight smile.

“Thank you.” Gabrielle snarked. “It’s my natural fashion sense showing.”

“So is your cute little butt.” Xena noted turning her head to scour the rock pile they were standing in for her missing sword.

“Here.” The bard handed her the weapon which had somehow landed beneath her in the tumbling collapse.

Xena took it and examined the edge. “Well, that explains what happened to your skirt. The edge is only sharp enough to pierce wool.”  She slipped the weapon into the sheath on her back. “Looks like my sword saved your ass again.” She chuckled.

They made their way through the rubble to a pond that had once been the jewel of the temple grounds.  The bard started scooping handfuls of water to rinse the dust off her face. The warrior dove into the pond and submerged her lanky body. Surfacing, she swung an arm and sent a wave of water over Gabrielle.

“Come on.” Xena said climbing out of the pond dripping profusely. “Don’t dawdle. I want to catch that thing before nightfall.”

‘That thing’ sat perched on a remaining temple wall watching the two women struggle with the after effects of what he had done.  A few seconds later and the wall would have fulfilled his purpose, but he had been impatient and the women had not been deterred. Pulling back thin lips, the thing flicked its long, forked tongue. He enjoyed the game, but he had just this one day to accomplish mischief and the two women had consumed too much of his time already.  He lifted his head and sniffed for any indication that his prey was ready to surrender. Then he read the determination on the dark-haired woman’s face and knew they were in no mood to abandon the game. He dug his claws into the temple wall and scurried down the rough stones then scampered into the forest.

Gabrielle stumbled behind the warrior and shivered as a slight breeze chilled her wet skin. Xena trudged on toward the forest confident the thing had sought refuge there. She had gotten only one good look at it; at the beginning when the creature had swooped out of a tree and confronted the women. It was small, about three feet high with a huge head and muscular limbs. She had nearly bisected it with her sword, but the thing proved exceptionally quick. She wanted another shot at it.

“I’m sure the creature was asking us a question.” Gabrielle said, her thoughts about that initial confrontation diverging from the warrior’s.

Xena stopped abruptly and put her hands on her hips as she turned and cocked her head. “Like what? Directions to Athens?”

Gabrielle shrugged. “I didn’t say I knew what it was asking. It just seemed like it was asking a question and all of a sudden you were swinging a sword at it.”

The warrior shook her head. “It had claws and fangs, Gabrielle. Was I supposed to wait until it took a chunk out of one of us?”

Gabrielle brushed an errant strand of hair from the side of her face. “Well, you didn’t need to attack it. You need to work on your people skills, warrior princess.”

“It isn’t a people…ah, person.” Xena’s voice was a touch too loud conveying the depth of her frustration.

Gabrielle folded her arms across her chest and smirked. “You just don’t like losing.”

The warrior set her shoulders erect and glowered. “I haven’t lost.”

“Yet.” The bard added softly.

In a nearby tree, the thing nattered excitedly as it listened to the women talking. He didn’t like the tall one; she was scary. But the small woman held his interest. She was pretty and softer spoken. She was the one he needed to get alone before the sun went down. If he did, Ares might give him more time to play among the humans this year. The thing had always wondered what it would be like to see a dawn. In the millennium of its existence, it had never seen the sun rise. Maybe this year, the creature dared to hope, its indigo eyes staring wistfully at the eastern sky. The sound of the women moving on into the forest brought the thing back to the game and he leapt along high branches waiting for another chance to engage.

Gabrielle leaned against a tree and blew out a weary breath. It was getting late and she was bored with the chase. Xena settled next to her and fiddled with a broken buckle.

“This is a strange place, Xena.” The bard reflected her eyes roaming the dark shapes of the forest. “The people and customs are so difficult to understand. It’s hard to believe we are still in Greece.”

“Not to mention the weird creatures.” Sensing a presence, Xena lifted her face and searched the top of nearby trees. Whatever that thing was, her ability to sense it was minimal.  It had surprised her that morning and again when the temple wall had exploded. She concentrated on the tiny vibrations in the air looking for any indication that it was near.

The pair rested for a while tending to their clothes and the scores of scrapes their bodies had sustained from the collapsing wall. Gabrielle stitched up her skirt and blouse while Xena jury rigged her armor and boots then set to sharpening her sword.

“We should look for a village before it starts to get dark.” The bard suggested, her body pleading to rest a while longer.

Xena’s attention was focused on a tingling sensation skittering down her spine.  She stood and twirled the sword in her hand.

“What is it?” Gabrielle asked staring wide-eyed at the warrior.

“Stay here.”

Xena jogged off through the trees letting her senses guide her. The thing was nearby; she could feel it watching. It gave off a wave of curiosity more than menace, but Xena didn’t trust the accuracy of what she was sensing. She made her way slowly through the trees pausing often to get her bearings.  She considered honoring Gabrielle’s suggestion when she found the creature. If it didn’t attack, she would let it be; but she would not permit the creature to pursue them any further.

Gabrielle sat at the base of a large tree to run a brush through her hair while she waited for her partner. A furry paw inched down the tree from above. Entwining itself in blonde hair, the paw pulled the startled bard to her feet while a second paw clamped firmly over her mouth. A small, fat body dropped to the ground in front of her.  Keeping the woman in his grasp, the creature began nattering in a language the bard had never heard before.

The sound of a chakram whooshed through the air and the silver ring embedded itself in the tree just above the bard’s half brushed blonde hair. Xena thudded to the ground behind the creature and winked at the bard.

“Just took a little off the top, Gabrielle.” She smiled.

The bard ran her fingers through her hair and grimaced. Strands of severed blonde hair floated down before her eyes.  “Xena!” she stammered.

The thing released its hold on the smaller woman and raced to her side like a frightened bear cub. Furry paws clutched the shredded fabric of her skirt and it began nattering again with its large head bobbing up and down.

Xena stepped cautiously forward, sword raised and a stern look in her eyes. The thing shrieked.

“Well, I can understand that.” Gabrielle put her hand gently on the creature’s head and scratched between two floppy ears. “Did the big bad warrior princess scare you, little thing?”

“Did…I…scared…it!” the warrior repeated incredulously. “You were the one quaking in your boots, Gabrielle. It was about to make an afternoon snack of you. I couldn’t let that happen. There are parts of your luscious little body that I am exceptionally fond of.”

Gabrielle rolled her eyes and a faint blush traveled up from her neck. Xena sheathed her sword and considering recovering her chakram from above the bard’s head, but didn’t dare step closer to the unpredictable creature cringing beside her partner.

“Okay, what do we do now?” she asked drawing her mouth into a smirk.

The creature had begun to make a purring sound. Gabrielle inched herself from the creature’s death grip and knelt down to speak to it face to face.  The thing appeared to smile although given the distorted features that composed its odd face, the bard wasn’t sure. It leaned forward and sniffed her then stuck out a long purple tongue and shook its head from side to side. Xena laughed out loud.

“He might be changing his mind about eating you.” The warrior snickered. “I don’t think it likes aroma de bard.”

Gabrielle stood up and shook a finger at her partner. “Don’t assume you smell any better, Xena. I can whiff the warrior sweat from here.”

Xena lifted her arm and checked out the source.  Coughing at the odor she detected, she shuffled her feet and crossed her arms across her chest. “It’s been a hard day.” She said defensively.  “And you still haven’t suggested what we do with that thing.”

Gabrielle bit her lip. “I don’t suppose we can just send it on its way.”

The creature hopped up and down excitedly at the suggestion. The two women locked eyes equally astonished at the thing’s reaction. The creature began an elaborate pantomime pointing at the sun then extending its long, hairy arms in supplication. It repeated the gesture over and over while Gabrielle scratched her head and Xena stared in confusion. The warrior pointed to the sun then extended her arms mimicking what the creature was doing.

It stopped and issued a string of nattering that was easier to understand.

“Well, that was cussing if I’ve ever heart it.” Gabrielle arched her eyebrows. “And I think it understands what we are saying.”

The creature nodded.

“Evidently.” Xena frowned. “But it sucks at charades.”

The creature frog hopped to a tree and performed the same pointing-supplicating gestures to it. Then is reached over and ripped a handful of leaves from the tree. Nattering again, the thing turned and stared at the two women.

Xena shifted her weight between her feet and shook her dark mane. “It’s not getting close enough to rip anything off of me.” She pronounced firmly.

Gabrielle squinted at the creature who was looking at her and purring again. “It wants us to give it something.”  She turned and smiled at Xena. “Go on, give it something.”

“Like what?”

“How about that little knife you keep there.” Gabrielle poked the warrior’s armor right between her breasts.

Xena squirmed to the side. “Hey. Watch it.” She straightened her back indignantly and added. “Why do you want to arm the little bastard anyway?  You give it something.  Give it your hairbrush.”

Gabrielle clutched the specified item to her own chest. “No.” she looked at the creature. “It does need a good grooming, but not with my only brush.”

The creature stopped its purring and began kicking up dust with its large furry feet. Making a gesture like it was tearing paws full of hair from its head, it issued a nattering barrage of frustration.

Xena yanked a small leafy branch off a nearby tree and dangled it toward the creature. He swatted the branch away and growled exposing long yellow teeth. Xena stepped back, her hand on the hilt of her sword. “You have any food left?” she inquired of the bard.

“No.” Gabrielle said guiltily. “I finished off the last of it before the wall fell on us. Besides, there wasn’t much. You haven’t gone hunting today.”

Xena frowned. “Been a little busy, Gabrielle. You know, trying to keep us from getting killed and all.”

“There’s always some excuse.” Gabrielle sneered.  “Maybe if you go catch a rabbit we can feed this thing.”

Tossing her arms in frustration, Xena pursed her lips. “You don’t even know if it’s hungry.”

“It looks hungry to me.” Gabrielle cocked her head.

“It looks like it thinks we are idiots.” The creature made an unmistakable nodding gesture. Xena retrieved her chakram and shook it at the creature before setting it in the clip at her hip. “If we just ignore it maybe it will give up and go find someone else to pester.”

With that the creature growled and began racing around a tree trunk stopping intermittently to bang its head against the bark. After a few minutes, the thing fell backwards to the ground and stared at the sun that was sinking lower in the western sky. Gabrielle stepped haltingly to where it lay and leaned down to see if it was breathing, assuming it breathed at all.

The creature opened its feral eyes and moaned. The blonde leaned closer. Suddenly her head was caught between two furry paws and the creature pulled her face down until their noses touched. He waggled his head back and forth then released her. Gabrielle jumped to her feet, her hands frantically wiping her face.

“That was touching.” Xena said settling on a large rock to watch the proceedings. “You developing a thing for the thing?”

Gabrielle rubbed her face. “Ew. Its nose is wet.”

The warrior chuckled. “Maybe now the damn thing will leave us alone. Evidently all it wanted was a little affection. Good job there, Gabrielle.”

The creature jumped to its feet and scuttled over to the warrior woman. It lay down on the ground at her feet and wriggled. Xena looked at Gabrielle, her blue eyes filled with apprehension.

“Your turn.” The bard said still wiping at her face. “Go ahead, it’s not that bad. Really.”

“Uh-huh.” The warrior muttered. “I can see that. No way!  I’m not into small, dark, hairy things. I prefer small, blonde…”

“Xena. For Hera’s sake. Just rub noses with the little beastie and then we can be done with this.”

Xena stood up and walked away. The creature hopped to its feet and raced in front of the warrior. It wrapped its arms around itself in a hugging gesture and pursed its thin lips. Then it crouched and raised its arm menacingly. Xena put her hand reflexively on her chakram. The creature sprang at her landing on her breastplate and began pulling at her long, dark hair.

Xena tried to wrestle the little beast away but it embedded its claws deep into her hair and stared angrily into her eyes. Gabrielle stood stunned, her jaw dropped and her eyes opened wide. “By the gods!”

Xena grabbed the creature by its neck and squeezed. It reacted by pulling harder on her hair. Its legs were curled around her waist and try as she might, the warrior could not pull the creature off of her.  The thing widened its eyes and waggled what could be described as shaggy eyebrows, then inch by inch it moved it muzzle toward the warrior’s nose. Closing the distance between them, the creature moved its head from side to side leaving a residue on the warrior’s nose. Then it released her and skittered down her body.

Xena could hear the bard laughing. She wiped the unpleasant moisture from her face and resisted the urge to run her sword through the thing as it bounced excitedly. It hopped to Gabrielle nattering and pointing at the setting sun.

The air crackled and Ares strolled into view.  “Hello, Xena. That’s a new look for you isn’t it? I’m guessing that’s a Hallows Eve costume. Punk warrior, right?”

He folded his arms and stared at her taking in the pieced together armor and tattered leather. He turned his hand to one side and her clothing was suddenly restored to pristine condition. “That’s better. Consider that my treat for the occasion.”

Xena pointed at the creature peering from behind Gabrielle. “And that thing is no doubt your trick.”

“Hey!” Gabrielle exclaimed pointing out her own shabby clothes.

“Oh, yeah.” Without giving the bard a look, the god of war twirled his hand and Gabrielle was suddenly clothed in a long shapeless frock from neck to foot.

“Thanks a bunch.” She sneered trying to gather the yards of fabric into something wearable.

Xena gave him a withering glare. “Be nice, Ares.”

He restored the bard to her normal attire and shrugged. “Everyone happy now?”

The warrior gave him a crooked half smile. “We will be just as soon as you take your pet and vanish.”

Ares nodded at the creature tucked partly behind the bard.

“I’ll be damned.” The god of war said with a smile. “The little bugger did it. Maybe it does pay to send a child to do a man’s work. Come here, boy.”

The creature jumped in the air and summersaulted with joy as it ran to Ares.

 “This thing is a child?” Gabrielle asked somewhat alarmed at the information.

Ares chuckled. “Well, it is 1462 years old. So I guess it depends on your definition of child.” He cuffed the creature lightly on the side of its head. “But if he ever wants to be an adult, he needs to follow instructions which do not include dropping a stone wall on people. That is not a sanctioned trick, Dingbat.”

The creature licked its dark face with its enormous tongue and started to pant. It wanted its prize. It wanted to see a sunrise.

“But since we only bring him out of hibernation one day a year, Dingbat here is actually only about…”

“Four years old.” Xena quickly calculated. “Is he yours?” she asked arching an insinuating eyebrow.

“You cut me to the quick.” Ares feigned insult. “I don’t do interspecies, Xena. Other than humans of course.  Gods, humans. I have my standards. Hence my continued interest in you.” He winked.

Xena narrowed her eyes. “Must be why you get so little action. Take my advice, Ares. Broaden you field of interest.”

Ares glanced at the smirking Gabrielle.  

Summoning his throne with a snap of his fingers, the god of war sat down and began drumming his fingers. Gabrielle lowered her head and studied the creature. He was covered with dark fur and had large indigo eyes. His arms were nearly double the length of his legs and he had enormous clawed paws and feet. There was something innocently childlike about him, she admitted. He started nattering again and the bard looked to Ares for a translation.

“I have no idea.” The god of war shrugged. “No one does. They understand our language but no one has ever been able to decipher theirs. This little guy was given to me decades ago, spoils of some war I barely remember. He’s sort of a pet. You know ‘fetch dingbat’ and all that.  Only he always wants a reward.  I let him loose every Hallows Eve to trick or treat. This year I sent him to see if he could get a treat from the two of you.”

“Why?” Gabrielle asked.

“Because he’s all brawn and no brain.” Ares quipped. “I thought Xena might enjoy the challenge.”

“Uh-huh.” Xena didn’t believe a word of it. “You thought I would eliminate the little problem for you.”

Ares slung a leg over the arm of his large chair. “Well, why not. It’s Hallows Eve. You two are out here in this, pardon the expression, god forsaken place missing all the fun back home. And frankly I’ve grown tired of tending to the little guy. He sheds like crazy and that gibberish drives one mad after a few decades.

Gabrielle smirked. “You are such a bastard, Ares.”

Ares pounded his fist on the chair. “You really are the most irritating mortal I know.”  He stood up and stepped in front of her, pushing the creature to one side. “I should leave the thing with you for a while. How would you like that?”

Gabrielle let a grin spread slowly across her face. “If you could, I have no doubt that you would, Ares. What’s really going on here?”

Ares snapped his fingers and his thrown instantly returned to Olympus. He folded his muscled arms and flashed a sheepish smile. “Can’t give him away. He’s got some sort of spell on him. He has to be won in war. Xena wouldn’t have been able to kill him. I’ve tried a few hundred times.”

“But if Xena defeated him, she’d own him. That’s it, isn’t it?” Gabrielle stared down at the creature who stood purring beside her.

“It’s a failsafe of sorts. This species has a magical defense. They never really lose. Defeat them and you become responsible for them for the rest of your life.” Ares sighed. “And that’s a very long time for a god.”

Xena laughed. “Congratulations. You finally got what you deserved.”

Ares mumbled something about wishing the magical trait could be visited upon humans, say Xena for instance. The warrior pointed out that he had yet to actually defeat her.  Ares sighed and admitted he had promised the creature a reward for attacking them. The thing wanted to see a sunrise before being returned to hibernation. Gabrielle petted the creature who nattered and cooed at her while the others argued.

“I hope you get to see the sunrise.” She told the furry little child. “And maybe we will see each other again next Hallows Eve.”

Ares gathered the creature in his arm and prepared to snap his fingers. Xena returned the creature’s wave and watched them flash out of sight. She put an arm around the bard’s shoulders and they both looked at the setting sun.

“Time to make camp. I’ll go get us something to cook.” Xena gave the bard a squeeze. “You were right, Gabrielle. That thing was asking us for something. It was just a child out trick or treating.”

“Can’t say I enjoyed the trick he did when he dropped a wall on us.” Gabrielle leaned her head against the warrior’s shoulder. “Come to think of it, I didn’t much enjoy the treat he gave us with that cold, wet nose either.”

“He just wanted affection.” Xena pointed out. She pulled the bard into a full bodied hug. “I wouldn’t mind getting some affection myself. My nose is warm and dry, but I recommend the lips.”

After a cleansing swim in a nearby lake, they dined on wild hen stew. The warrior patted her full stomach and leaned her back against the stump of an ancient tree. “Do you think Ares will grant the thing its reward?”

Gabrielle sat beside her leaning her head on the warrior’s shoulder. “Hard to say. Ares is such a jerk. I hope he does. I don’t think the little guy ever wanted to hurt us. And it did apologize.”

“When? I must have missed that.” Xena said her long finger gently stroking the bard’s temple.

“When it kissed us. I got the distinct impression it was being affectionate.”

Xena pulled the bard into her lap and gave her a sexy grin. “That was not my idea of a kiss, Gabrielle. A kiss is…”

Gabrielle wove her fingers into long black tresses and pulled the warrior’s lips against her own. Their mouths pressed together, greedily devouring lips and tongues and sending waves of heat surging to their cores.

“That’s a kiss.” Xena said coming up for air. Gabrielle’s sparkling green eyes crinkled in agreement.

They spent the remainder of Hallows Eve treating each other in the way lovers are want to do. Finally falling asleep blissfully entwined, they awoke to the sight of a rising sun and smiled at the distant symphony of joyous nattering that accompanied it.


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