General Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle & Argo all belong to Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit gained by this.
No sex, no violence but lots of mud, cabbages and everyday insanity.
Temora, Temora, Temora...she sorted out my terrible punctuation, added a few corker lines and - aw hell! Thanks mate! And to Taleweaver AND Lawlsfan, who spotted one crucial error - thank you both!
Hungry bard: You can feed me at Lariel_a@Hotmail.com
I was sitting in the corner of the Crocodile bar in the Grand Hotel on a baking hot day, watching tiny beads of water slip slowly down my perfectly chilled beer bottle, whilst quietly singing along to the blistering strains of an Eric Clapton, full-on blues classic. Generally just enjoying myself, minding my own business. You know how it is - just spending a nice, quiet Saturday afternoon. Quietly. Or so I thought.
Bars are a great place to people-watch, and that's my third favourite hobby. People watching is a great way to unwind, as is drinking ice cold Victoria Bitter on a boiling summer's Saturday, which is my second favourite hobby. So, to say I was as chilled as the beer is like saying the Pope's a bit religious.
And if that wasn't enough, I was people watching whilst drinking ice cold VB whilst knowing that I had the whole week booked as holiday from work. My day just couldn't be any more perfect.
The bead of moisture I'd been following had finished its winding journey and had plopped onto the soggy beer mat, so I emptied the bottle and ordered another. I remember the radiant smile that the bartender had given me. I think he fancied me, because I noticed him looking over a few times, and when I caught his eye, he blushed. It was kinda sweet, really - except he looked about twelve and he had this ginger fuzz all over his chin. But I smiled back anyway, and he nearly had a foaming fit right there in the bar - I'm not kidding! I don't normally get that reaction, so I was surprised. Until I saw where his eyes were glued.
It's not everyone who could walk into a busy town centre pub in a short leather dress, knee high boots and a breastplate, and carry it off the way she did. The gauntlets, flowing black hair and sword kinda...I dunno. Completed the ensemble?
Of course, the dress itself would've been enough to draw attention, but couple it with the fact that it was wrapped around a six foot, well toned body and...yeah, she sure was not your typical Saturday shopper. I figured there musta been some fancy dress party on, or maybe one of those strange conferences for some wacko TV programme...anyway, I tried hard not to catch her eye, 'cos frankly she looked like she'd be a little - well...strange, and quietly whispered to the boy barman, "Can I have my beer, please?" He was still clutching it in his hand, and I was worried it'd be warm by now.
Next thing I knew, she was standing right next to me. The wackos always end up near me. What can you do? I'm a magnet for them. I tried real hard to make myself invisible, and I think it worked, 'cos she just sorta growled at the barman, who nearly keeled over with excitement at his close proximity to that breastplate.
He handed me my beer and smiled, but his eyes stayed on her and I knew I'd lost him. Good job I hadn't been interested, really.
"What sort of beer would you like?" he asked, politely.
"Ale! Strong ale. This is a tavern, right?"
"Yes ma'am, I guess you could call it that. House bitters, lagers or we have a few real ales..."
"Real ale?" She leaned over the counter, and got right close and personal. "You mean the rest's fake?" Her eyes narrowed, and I marvelled at how squinty they got. "Isn't there a law against selling fake ale?" She started nudging her sword in a very meaningful way.
I'd got fed up by now, and in typical fashion - and against all common sense - I blundered my way into the conversation. My beer was warm, see. "Just give her a pint of beer for god's sake, or we could be here all night."
With hindsight, I probably should've just drunk my warm beer and slipped away into my normal, quiet, sane existence. But I didn't. If I had, I wouldn't be here now, telling you my story. Would I? You will print it, won't you? We kinda need the money...well, to pay our fines, for starters...oh, okay.
So anyway, there I was in the Crocodile bar, standing next to a woman who was waving a sword around. And do you know - it didn't look fake. Although I'm sure it was...I mean, who goes into a pub with a real sword? So, like I said - I butted in, and she half turned towards me and started giving me this really, really dirty 'who the hell do you think you are??' look.
Started, 'cos when she clapped eyes on me, her whole face lit up, causing me to back up a little - I thought she was gonna hug me or kiss me or something, but she didn't. She just said in kinda a quiet voice, "Gabrielle! I've been looking all over for you - where've you been? You didn't get into trouble again, did you?" and gave me this strange, half smile.
"I'm sorry, I think you might have mistaken me for someone else." I smiled politely, and turned away. I really, really didn't want to upset the sort of woman who could go out in public dressed like that. Gutsy, or raving. I couldn't help thinking it was the former, as she grabbed hold of my shoulders and clasped me to her chest.
"Gabrielle! What are you saying?"
"Uhh...I really think you have me confused with someone else. My name isn't Gabrielle."
"Have you been at the nutbread again?" She let me go and I could feel the imprint of her swirly breastplate on my cheek. I wavered under her intense scrutiny.
"No...of course not," I answered, lamely.
"Good!" She clapped me heavily on the back. "How about you sort us out a room here...I gotta go pee."
"Excuse me? You...you want me to get us a room?" I was completely lost.
"Sure! Unless you want to spend the night on the cold, hard ground again?" She grinned - probably at the shock on my face - levered herself upright, and disappeared off to the bathroom.
Now, call me crazy but I don't normally go sharing beds in hotels with strange and clearly insane women. I don't usually share beds with women, anyway. I stopped the barman, and finally managed to stutter, "Who...who the hell is that?"
"Oh, that's Paula Killian. Quite a nice girl, really, except that she thinks she's Xena." At my still confused (not to say slightly traumatised) look, he elaborated very kindly. "You know - Xena, off the telly? The warrior woman?"
"Who the hell is Xena?" My voice was getting squeakier. I think it was all the shock.
"Oh, you don't watch it? It's a TV programme about these women running
around half naked in ancient Greece, helping people and fighting and stuff."
"Oh. Oh...yeah..." I vaguely remember seeing a bit of the show - some tall, dark woman in armour riding round on a huge horse, with a little blonde thing running round after her. I thought it was a load of old rubbish, to tell the truth. A couple of people - particularly my boyfriend - had remarked on my similarity to the actress who plays the blonde sidekick. Pissed me off after a while. In fact, my boyfriend had been quite keen on it, until some vampire thing had come along. Kept nagging me to wear some awful green top he'd found somewhere. I remember holding the scrap of a thing up and discussing it with him.
"What the hell is this thing?"
"It's your very own BGSB, sweetie!" He was all over me like a bad fitting jacket. I knew he was up to something.
"C'mon, baby! Be my very own Gabrielle! Please...?"
"I'm not wearing this! It's tiny. It leaves nothing to the imagination!"
"Baby, it's not my imagination I want to be using..." His hands had started to move quicker, and I got real pissed off, real fast.
"You're using your imagination if you think I'm wearing this thing! Honestly, you'll be asking me to dress up like Princess Leia next..."
Well, do you know - the very next day, he'd turned up with a gold lame bikini and two raisin whirls, and we'd had one hell of a night. But I never did the Gabrielle thing for him. Uhh...you're not gonna print that last bit, are you? It's kinda personal - I wouldn't want people getting the wrong impression...
Well, all I needed was to have my perfect Saturday afternoon spoiled by some crazy lady who thought she was some superhero off the television, and I was her wimpy sidekick. For all I knew, she might insist I dressed up too, and if I wouldn't do it for Sean, then I sure as hell wouldn't be doing it for her!
My beer was almost untouched. It was my second favourite hobby...no, you asked me that before and I'm not telling you. But there was no contest - I was out of there, breathing sighs of relief and counting myself lucky that I'd got away so easily.
Shows you what I know.
Wednesday afternoon it was - I'd just come out of the coffee shop after spending the day wandering round the botanical gardens. I was just meandering through the rose gardens - I remember they were in full bloom at the time, and the scents were lovely - trying to find my way out and getting hopelessly lost, when I heard this crashing and "Yi-yi-yi-yi-YAH!!" yelling behind me. When I turned round - well, you know, I coulda died right there.
God knows how she'd found me, but all I could see was this woman sitting on top of the biggest, palest horse I'd ever seen, crashing through the flower beds, with the park attendants chasing after her. And galloping towards me, screaming her head off.
"Yi-yi-yi-YAH!! Gabrielle - there you are! I've been looking all over for you. C'mon, we've got to go. I'm being pursued by armed raiders who want to sell you into slavery!"
The park attendants got a bit annoyed at that, and waved their spades all the more. I, on the other hand, simply bolted through the rose garden, cut through the ornate display of herbs and dodged into the tropical greenhouse, figuring she wouldn't find me there.
I didn't really know her very well then.
I was hiding behind a huge palm tree, when all of a sudden I just knew there was someone behind me. God knows how she'd snuck up on me without me knowing, but she just tapped me on the arm, and then humped me across her shoulder.
"Don't worry, Gabrielle," she said, staggering around the cactus area. "I'll save you!" She sank to her knees as she tried to lift me. I'm quite chunky for my size.
"Look, it's you again isn't it? Paula is it...?"
"Xena," came the flat reply. "My name is XENA!" The tone was definitely a warning.
"Okay...Xena." I decided that humouring her could quite possibly save my life, if not my sanity. "I am not Gabrielle - I have no idea who she is, but I'm not her. There are no armed raiders here - just park attendants, and I'm not in any danger. I don't need saving."
"Of course you do, Gabrielle. Otherwise, where would be the dramatic purpose?"
"Look! I'm just trying to enjoy a quiet day out in the botanical gardens...now, if you'll just let me go..."
"Uh uh." She shook her head, and picked me up again. "We have to go - Argo's waiting outside. I'll just give her a whistle. She obeys my every command, you know." She stuck her fingers in her mouth, and tried to whistle, and tried again and I slipped off her shoulder while she was occupied. I was off like a shot through the last of the summer bedding, and I was just making good time in the Japanese bonsai garden when I heard hooves thundering behind me and a shaky, "Whoa, girl! Not so fast...oh crap! Where are the brakes on this thing??"
Next thing, 'Xena' was lying in a crumpled heap in front of me, squashing a beautiful Japanese maple and with her face in a peaceful water feature. I thought I'd better lift her head before she drowned in the yin-yang of it all.
"Are you alright?" I asked, carefully.
"Yes, I'm fine!" To my consternation, she sprang to her feet and proceeded to slap herself about the face, as if to prove it. "I'm a battle hardened warrior, you know! Feel no pain!"
Yeah, I'll bet you don't.. I thought. Natural pain killers pumping through you alright... Then, she was up, in the saddle and had me clasped in front of her before I even had a chance to draw breath. The park attendants had tracked her down - not difficult really, as she'd trampled a path through most of their prized exhibits - and were brandishing their pitchforks angrily.
"Ooops! An angry mob. C'mon Gabrielle! That band of raiders has shown up again. I'll just get down and deal with them in hand to hand combat." She made a few chopping motions with her hands, and went to jump down; I grabbed her as she was trying to swing her leg over the saddle.
"Are you mad? There's eight of them..."
"No problem for me. I am Xena, after all! Where's your staff, by the way?"
"They're all in the office working. What do they have to do with this?"
The horse started prancing nervously as the band of gesticulating attendants get closer. "No time for that, Gabrielle! We have to get going. Hi ho, Argo!" She jabbed the poor beast in the stomach, then bounced around frantically with a white knuckled grip on the saddle horn as the horse broke into a trot.
She couldn't ride. I just knew I was going to die.
"Oh my god! You can't ride!!"
"Nonsense!" she gasped, shifting her grip slightly and clinging on with her legs for dear life. "Argo's just a little skittish. She's not fully broken in yet. But don't worry, because only I can ride her. Up, up and away, Argo!"
And we were off. God knows where to, but we went anyway.
It's a miracle we both survived, really, but at least the horse had some common sense. She took us back to her stable, which was somewhere about five miles out into the country. The middle of nowhere, to be exact.
I'd been kidnapped by a mad woman, nearly killed on a huge horse, been chased through formerly prize winning botanical gardens, and was now abandoned miles from anywhere. I was as stiff as a board, and so was she.
Bloody hell, I thought. What do I do now?
Somehow, she'd managed to light a little fire, and I desperately tried to keep the weak little flames alight as she half heartedly rubbed down the horse with a handful of grass. She'd also gone hunting - leaving me with orders to "lay out the bedrolls, Gabrielle, just the way I like 'em!" - and had come back with a couple of potatoes and a cabbage she'd had away from the fields along the road.
"Game's scarce tonight," she'd offered, all red in the face.
"What the hell am I supposed to do with two potatoes and a cabbage? Can't we just get back on the horse and go home? I'll buy you a bucket of KFC if you'll just..."
"Just boil them up and make one of your usual stews, Gabrielle." That was when I knew I'd be spending the night out here. I was only wearing a sweater and a pair of shorts, too.
Well, I did what any sane, normal person would do. I set off down the road for the five mile walk into town, hoping I'd catch a ride on the way. Battle hardened warrior that she was, she stayed. Last I saw, she was trying to barbecue the cabbage on a stick over the dying fire.
She definitely wasn't all there.
Things got pretty quiet after that. I went back to work...usual boring stuff. Sean was still around then, so we hung out together but I knew that wasn't working. He kept wanting me to dye my hair red and call myself Maple or something. Kept going on about being a wiccan. Even had a girl all lined up he wanted me to kiss - well, I drew the line at that, so I binned him. Turned out to be the best thing I did, even though I couldn't enjoy my number one favourite hobby for a while.
Damn. I didn't mean...forget that, okay?
As I said, a couple of weeks went by until one night, I had to go grocery shopping after work.
I was piling chocolate biscuits into my trolley, when I felt a presence behind me. Yeah, it was her. "Jesus! How the hell do you DO that?" I gasped, white with shock.
She shoved me into the trolley, and started wheeling me up the crisps, nuts and snacks aisle.
"Gabrielle, we have to get going! Zagreas has formed another army to the South, and the people of Laurel have asked for our help! It's a desperate situation. They're just simple peasant farmers!"
"Laurel? You mean that place with the canning factory and the power plant? I'm not going there. It stinks!"
"Gabrielle, it's for the greater good! These people need our help!" She whirled the trolley round, clasped my startled face between her hands and stared soulfully into my eyes. "I can't do it without you, Gabrielle."
"Oh my god. You're kidnapping me again, aren't you?"
She just wheeled me up and down all the aisles and then tipped me out at the door. In front of everyone. Then like a recurring nightmare, I found myself back on that damned horse and jiggling along next to a green faced "warrior princess" as we trotted along the street.
I was mortified.
I was even more mortified when I heard my name being called. I turned round, and saw Sean running towards us. He grabbed the reins and thankfully pulled us to a stop - I swear, I was never more pleased to see an ex in my life. I even smiled at him.
I somehow managed to crawl off the horse, while Paula/Xena fumed silently behind me and spent the whole time trying to intimidate him with glares and scowls. He's a kickboxer though, so he doesn't intimidate easily.
"Baby! What are you doing on a horse? I never knew you could ride."
"Don't ask. Just get me away from here as quickly as possible without
HER noticing." Which woulda been kinda difficult, as her eyes had never
"Who is she? And why is she dressed as Xena?" His tone had become quite squeaky as he'd looked up to see the flowing black hair, proud stance and firm thighs. I can't tell you what he did when he clapped eyes on that breastplate, but it wasn't pretty.
"Never mind her - and stop looking at her like that! God, you have such a one track mind!"
"Only where you're concerned, baby! I missed ya, sweetie. Say you missed me too?"
"Ah, c'mon baby! We were good together - you know it!" He smiled that killer smile, and - well, goddamit! I'm not made of stone, y'know! "Give me another chance, baby! I promise there'll be no more Willow or Ripley costumes...'course, if you like the Xena one I won't say no...OW!! Aw, c'mon, baby! I missed you! I need you, baby! I just spend hours looking at your photo. I haven't eaten for weeks. Look at the weight I've lost!"
"I can't tell. You still look like the same fat headed, sex obsessed pig I broke up with."
"Baby! You know that's not true. I've changed - I have! Gimme another chance. You won't regret it!"
"Is that a smile? How about a little smile?....Just a little one...?"
"Don't push it, Sean."
"Okay. How about a kiss then?"
We snogged for a while. Oh, he was my boyfriend - don't look at me like that! Anyway, I heard a spluttering behind me and next thing I knew, I was dragged back onto the horse, and off we galloped, with both of us wildly swinging around in the saddle.
In between panicked breaths, 'Xena' gasped out, "Gabrielle! Just what did you think you were doing?" and gave me an extra squeeze as if to reinforce just how bad I'd been.
"Kissing my boyfriend!"
"JOXER is your BOYFRIEND??"
"Who the hell is Joxy??"
"Whoa, horsy!" She managed to bring the horse to a stop, then turned two baleful blue eyes my way. "And what about us?"
I kinda felt a bit dizzy by this stage. Kinda takes it out of you, being kidnapped. "Us? What?"
"Us? Me and you! You know...our 'special' friendship?"
"Look, will you just let me down? Kidnapping me once is bad enough, but...my boyfriend will be calling the police right now!"
"Gabrielle! How could you throw me over for that useless pile of horse shit? I'm Xena! The Warrior Princess!"
"No, you're not... you're just a woman who works in the fish and chip shop in town. I know all about you!"
"I'm Xena, I tell you! And WE were meant to be together!"
"What? Wait a minute...you don't really think..."
"Gabrielle! Baby! We're good together! You know we are!"
"Oh no. Oh please god no..."
"I need you, baby! I've changed - you know I have! I can't do it without you."
"No...no way...this is not happening..."
"And you know you love it when we You Know What!" Her eyebrows waggled.
"What?? NO! Are you trying to tell me you think we're lovers?" My voice broke the sound barrier.
"Three times last night, baby! Don't you remember?"
"No I bloody don't! I mean - no we bloody aren't!!"
Things couldn't get any worse, right? She was clearly delusional - I had spent last night tucked up in bed with a cup of cocoa and the latest Ruth Rendall. God knows what she'd been up to.
"You screamed," she said, slyly. "Last night. Hollered and shouted something chronic. I think it was your best yet."
It got worse. She started giving me a thorough run down on our alleged sexual exploits of the night before, and my ears near burned right off in embarrassment. The worrying thing was, she had me down to a tee. I am a right screamer. I even began to wonder if she had bite marks on her shoulder and scratches on her butt. She did have a hickie.
Eventually, we arrived at a field full of cabbages. I began to wonder whether a cabbage fetish was part of her insanity. Was it a medical condition? Maybe she took pills for this propensity for kidnapping blonde women and dumping them in cabbage fields. Maybe her doctor was writing a ground breaking thesis on her right now. I could make medical history!
I was getting to be as crazy as she was.
Anyway, we both slid off the huge beast, and stumbled around until we got the use of our legs back, but then the farmer chugged along in his little tractor and chased us out of his field. I had to drag her away; she was screaming at him and tossing a bright orange frisbee with the middle cut out.
"Gabrielle! What are you doing? That's Zagreas, the rotten warlord. I nearly had him then!"
She had us crouching in a muddy ditch, spying on the farmer as he wandered over the field, straightening out his crops. I'd really had enough by this stage; I was cold, tired, hungry and covered in mud and cabbage leaves. And to make matters worse, she kept 'accidentally' touching my breasts every time she spoke in that 'special' low voice. I was scared stiff she'd bring up the subject of bedrolls again, so I made a pre-emptive strike.
I decided the wisest thing to do would be to play along.
"Xena?" Her face just lit up, she was that pleased. I felt a little guilty. "I think Zagreeb..."
"Yeah...is done for the night. Look, he's putting his slippers on." We could see the farmer through his window, with a pipe sticking out of his mouth, and his feet up on the table as he guzzled a bottle of beer.
"Gabrielle, money grabbing blood sucking leeches like him never rest! And while there's thugs like him at large, neither will we! When a land in turmoil cries out for a hero - there I'll be! Xena: Warrior Princess, fighting for Truth, Justice and the American Way!"
"America hasn't been invented yet. This is ancient Rome, remember?"
"Whatever. Can we go home now? I'm cold, and hungry."
"I'll warm you up, and take your mind off food, Gabrielle!" Her eyes glittered and next thing I knew, I was seized in a bear hug and had the most thoroughest kissing ever. For a crazy madwoman, she sure knew what to do with her tongue.
Eventually, she let me go, then pulled a couple of cabbages out of the horse's saddlebags with a cheeky grin. "Time to make camp for the night, Gabrielle! And better put the bedrolls closer - tonight's gonna be good, sweetie!"
Oh shit. I was well stuffed now, and possibly in more ways than one. I had no idea where we were this time, and the main road was nowhere to be seen, so walking back to town wasn't an option. I was stuck. Maybe the farmer would help me?
I hesitated only a moment.
Next thing I remember was lying face down in a wet, muddy ditch with significant pounds of warrior wannabe on top of me.
And so began what was the worst night of my entire life.
Morning broke. I had already broken many times in the night; the strain of cooking cabbages over a tiny campfire whilst fending off amorous advances from a six foot madwoman had taken its toll, and I was a wreck. The final straw had been when I'd woken up from a fitful sleep, to find her nuzzling at my breast and poking me in the side.
"Look, will you just piss off! I keep telling you, I am NOT Gabrielle and I am NOT gay!"
"Aw, baby. I want to go Podedeia honey hunting!"
"WHAT??" I was appalled. Where on earth did she get these ideas from? "Where the hell do you get these ideas from?"
"Fanfiction. It's great."
"Oh for...you are NOT having any honey off me tonight! Got that?" She pawed me again, rather intimately, and gave me another head swimming snog and for a millisecond there, I kinda thought, "Podedeia honey hunting, eh? Well, why not..?" but luckily, common sense prevailed. Mine, of course. Hers had upped and left a long time ago.
And that was the pattern of the night. When morning came, I was shattered, starving, wide awake and shaking. She was snoring loudly, lying spread-eagled over my stomach, and I daren't move in case I woke her and she snogged me again. I was almost getting to like it.
It must've been about 6am when I heard the farmer's tractor going. He was pootling through his fields, and the noise woke her up. Yeah, she did snog me. Her version of breakfast, I suppose.
You seem more interested in this bit...no, we certainly didn't! My god! No, I'm TELLING you we didn't! I do get to approve this before it goes to print, right?
"C'mon, Gabrielle. Zagreas is on the move again. His army must be round here somewhere. We have to stop him!"
"He's just collecting his cabbages. Where's the harm in that?" I was so weary.
"Today, cabbages, tomorrow - people! He could turn to slavery next. We HAVE to stop him!"
"You've got a real thing about slavery, haven't you?" I began to wonder what kind of fanfiction she read.
"Well, it's wrong, Gabrielle! Wrong, I tell you. You don't know what it's like to be a slave. I'll wager you've never felt the hot sting of a lash on your back?"
"I know! That's because I saved you, before Draco had a chance to mar that beautiful, untouched, white skin and break that proud, pure spirit. I love you, Gabrielle!" She moved in closer.
"Now hold on...wait...mmmmfff!!! That's enough....pppfffttt!!"
"No time to satisfy your insatiable lust for me now, Gabrielle. We have to follow Zagreas. But I promise, sweetie, tonight I'll make you sit up and sing the Hallelujah Chorus!"
Goddamnit! How did she know??
I decided that it might be better to go along with her crazy plan, and follow the farmer. Maybe I could get to him first, and maybe he'd help me? My life had taken on a nightmarish quality, and to make matters worse, I was now absent without leave from work, and with no way of contacting anyone.
So I pursued that farmer up and down those fields with a zeal I didn't know I possessed. So much so, that I grabbed him, hauled him out of his tractor and said - somewhat wildly, I'll admit - "Help me! You've got to help me. I've been kidnapped by her, and she's making me stay out all night and do things!!"
He looked like was about to have a heart attack. I must've looked a right sight with my work suit as rumpled as hell, and covered in mud. Not to mention the woman in full battle dress who was bearing down on him, waving a sword and screaming "Yi-yi-yi-yi-YAH!" at the top of her considerable lungs.
But he recovered remarkably quickly.
"You two! You're the two bloody women who were trampling my fields yesterday!"
"Listen, you've got to help me! I'm being held against my will...I need to phone work or I'll lose my job...look, can you at least call the police for me?"
"I'll call the police all right you pair of bloody hooligans!"
'Xena' kinda took offence at this, and retaliated by throwing herself madly
and repeatedly against the side of the tractor, grunting and blowing like some
kind of puffer-fish in distress. "You! Evil mastermind!!" she howled,
dribbling. "Nobody will ever take my Gabrielle away from me! Not so's I
can't find her again, anyway!!" She swept me aside with a wave of her arm,
and tried to force her way into his little cab. "She'll never be yours!
She'd never fetch what you want on the open market anyway! She's USED GOODS!!!"
Shit. That had done it. He pulled out a shotgun, and started waving it round, then scarpered off to phone the police. "Xena" - crazy cow that she was - kept claiming she could catch the bullets with her teeth or something. I thought it was best not to stick around to discover the full extent of her superhero powers, but I did let her beat up the tractor for a while, until we saw the farmer coming back.
We scarpered too, with him pootling after us in his little dented - badly dented, by now - tractor, screaming obscenities and tooting his horn.
So much for my escape plan.
For the rest of the day, I tried to keep her mind and her hands occupied; otherwise, I found her hands occupied themselves with me. So - and yeah, I do kinda regret this now - I told her that I'd seen Zagreas' army over the hills, and there was just us and this field to stand between them and the defenceless village of Laurel.
Okay, so I might've hammed it up a little.
And she was off, plotting and planning; defence strategies, battle plans, secret traps and how to wear her hair, whilst packing me off with instructions to "...organise the people of Laurel into two groups - those who can fight, and those who can cook. No offence, Gabrielle, but your stews aren't up to their usual standard lately."
Nice. I was doing the best I could.
"...then, when you've done that, arrange the hospital tent. We'll need it - this is WAR, Gabrielle! I'm expecting significant casualties. Soak some strips of grubby rag and lay them pointlessly across dirty sticks of wood. It serves no useful purpose, but at least you'll feel as though you're doing something worthwhile, since you're a useless fighter."
Charming. Still, never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I set off across the field towards freedom, determined to walk my way to town even if it took me all week. I didn't get very far.
"Gabrielle! Where are you going?"
"Uhh...Laurel? To errr...arrange the hospital tent and cooks and things?"
"No time for that now! Come here and we'll work on your Amazon training." My escape plan promptly crumpled and burned and joined the growing pile of ash that was my hope of ever getting out of this place sane and in one piece. "Come here and tell me if you can spot any of my hidden traps."
It was kinda difficult to see them round all the gaping holes everywhere, until I realised that they were the secret traps. She looked very downcast when I pointed out every single one.
"Hmmmf! I see your training's coming along nicely. Okay - so what could
we do to disguise them more? 'Cos let's face it, if you've spotted them, so
could a blind cyclops with a lobotomy."
I managed to smile politely. "We could cover them with a false carpet of leaves and branches, like they do in the movies."
"Exactly what I was going to do! You go and collect the stuff, while I carry on planning our defensive tactics. Oh, how's that hospital tent coming?"
"Well, I'm kinda busy right now..."
"This is WAR, Gabrielle! No time for dithering! Get making those traps, arranging the hospital tent, sorting out the villagers into two groups whilst telling stories and being generally supportive and caring to everyone. Oh, and do it all sexily, but only so I can see it." She smiled lasciviously, and her eyes twinkled far too much for my liking.
I knew I had to get away, or I'd be in for another seriously disturbed night again. So I busied myself with collecting twigs and cabbage leaves, desperately trying to figure out a way out of this, while she weaved together the various bits of rubbish into covers for her man traps.
They looked completely crap. She was surveying them proudly when we were disturbed by a high pitched yelling from behind us; it was a farmer - a different one - trampling hurriedly across the fields. I immediately brightened, and so did she.
"Aha! It's the mayor of Laurel. No doubt, he's here to thank us for saving his village."
"Oy! You two! What the bloody hell are all these holes you've dug in my field?" The man was, for an instant, looking extremely irate. I say for an instant, 'cos that's how long we saw him for. He disappeared down the one reasonably well covered hole, and lay at the bottom, writhing in pain and cussing ripely.
"Oooo! My leg!! My leg's broken!"
I just knew we were in trouble now. "We have to get some help for him." I was petrified.
"Don't worry, Gabrielle. I'll just use the pinch to numb his pain, and set his broken bones. I'm an expert healer." She only made to jump down; I grabbed her and yanked her away.
"Are you mad? Listen to me...don't you get it? You've kidnapped me twice, dug up fields, destroyed the botanical gardens and now, to top off all that, gone and caused this guy to break his leg! C'mon - we're going!"
"Oh, I get it. You want me to give myself up, is that it? Stand trial for all my past wrongs. Perhaps you're right. I can't run from my evil past forever. Maybe it's time."
"Yes, something like that..." Distracted, I grabbed her arm and made to run.
"Cirra was an accident, you know."
"Cirra?" I asked absently, as I hauled her in the direction the farmer had come from.
"The fire. I didn't meant to start it."
"Arson?? Bloody hell!" I dropped her arm like I'd been scorched. "You mean I've been running round the countryside with an arsonist?"
"You say arson; I say sacking, pillaging and looting. It was WAR, Gabrielle! What do you expect?"
"I don't expect to be spending my Thursdays in a stinking cabbage field with a serial kidnapper and arsonist!" I kinda flipped a little, I have to admit. I carried on yanking her, and eventually we came to a little farmhouse. "Now we have to get an ambulance for that poor guy." I tapped on the front door, but was greeted by silence.
"But what about me?" she asked, sadly. Okay...okay! I'll admit it - I'm just a softy. I kinda felt a bit sorry for her. "You know I won't be able to cope, locked up. I couldn't do it on my own."
"I'm sure you won't be on your own for long. Not unless they put you in solitary," I tried, but she just gave me these big blue puppy dog eyes.
"But I'd miss you, Gabrielle."
"Hey, now don't you try that. You don't even know me."
"Maybe not, but we sure have had fun, huh?"
"Are you mad??" Then, faced with those puppy dog eyes again, I sighed and muttered, "Look who I'm asking..."
"C'mon, you know it's been fun. Tell me you didn't secretly love every moment of this?"
"Oh yeah." The last refuge of the desperate, I resorted to sarcasm. "I've just loved being covered in mud, sleeping in the freezing cold and eating burnt cabbages! And..."
"And?" She looked at me eagerly. "Having me kiss you? You really did like that?"
"No, not really," I admitted. "I'm really not gay, y'know. But I do think that it's time to stop this now. That poor man is hurt, and we need to get him some help. And you need to stop living in this fantasy world. I don't think it's doing you much good."
"I guess you could have a point." She looked really crestfallen, and I realised that I hadn't seen her look defeated or miserable the whole time I'd known her. Which wasn't long I know, but believe me - it felt longer. I knocked again on the door, and then pushed it open when there was no reply.
I phoned for an ambulance, and made us a cup of tea while we waited. We didn't wait long; soon, there was a squealing of brakes, and the next thing we knew, the house was surrounded by police, yelling at us through a loudspeaker.
"We know you're in there! Now just come out nice and easy, and we'll have a nice talk..."
I mean to say - a nice talk. Who were they kidding? I was absolutely terrified by all the noise and the flashing lights, and I hid underneath the table. Paula/Xena - well, she didn't really have the wits to be scared. She stood at the window, screaming, "You'll never take us alive, coppers!", while I yelled, "Yes they will! We're coming out! Don't shoot!" Even though they didn't have guns.
Moments later, we were thoroughly frisked, cuffed and gently guided into police cars, while an ambulance crew trotted off to find the poor farmer.
The list of charges was long. Criminal damage to property, causing a disturbance, theft (of the bloody cabbages and the horse), kidnapping, trespassing, breaking and entering (into the farmer's house) and causing bodily harm.
The judge had a right laugh at my expense when he read my statement. Still, at least mine was readable. Hers - well, let's not even go into that. She definitely lied about our alleged nocturnal activities.
No, I'm TELLING you we didn't! Why don't you believe me?
So we both have to pay our fines, and for all the damage. I'm unemployed now, and she needs all those sessions - they cost a fortune, you know. They won't let us out until we've got the money together...and she seems to have gotten it into her head that I'll be taking care of her.
They've put us in the same cell, and its driving me crazy. She keeps going on about Shark Island prison. But I must admit, she's a bit more normal now that she's been weaned off that fanfic stuff. I've promised her that if she behaves herself, at the end of every shrink session, I'll let her have the latest update to 'Tropical Storm'. It's working well, so far. Or at least, it was till she read 'The Joining'. If I could get my hands on these bloody bards...
So, when's this gonna be published? Excellent! Xena loves it when any of my stories hits the big time. Oh, did I say Xena? Heh. Sorry, I meant Paula, of course.
Anyway, I think visiting time's up. You will let me know when it's going to be in the paper, right? Xena says there's no such thing as bad publicity, and we could use the exposure. And the money. The cheque'll come to me, right? 'Cos she's not good with money...
Okay, well thanks for coming. So nice to speak to another bard. Thanks again.
Hey, Xena! Did you hear all that? How'd I do? Think they'll let us out of here now?
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