by Joseph Anderson

Xena, Gabrielle and Callisto belong to Renassance Pictures and MCA/Universal. No copyright infringement is intended with this fanfic which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must contain all notices of copyight.

Sequel to Wild Thing.

The dark woman stopped the golden mare and looked carefully around her in the woods one more time.

"Xena, what is it?" the short haired blonde on foot asked. "You've been acting like this all day. Is someone out there?"

"Something's out there watching us, Gabrielle. But it's not a person."

Gabrielle grimaced. "Great. Ares again or Aphrodite?"

Xena shook her head. "I can feel Ares...so it's not him. And Aphrodite wouldn't make me nervous like this. Argo can feel it too. Haven't you noticed how skittish she is?"

Gabrielle shrugged. "Not really, but then she's your horse after all. She barely tolerates me."

"That's not true! When was the last time she intentionally left something for you to step in?"

"Yesterday, Xena."

"Oh...sorry about that, Gabrielle."

There was a quick movement in the forest and Argo reared up in fear. After Xena calmed her she said, "Answers that question."

"What, I missed it," the blonde in the yellow sari said.

"It was a leopard. A pretty ballsy leopard but just a leopard. Maybe it killed a horse once or scavenged some bodies after a battle or something."

Gabrielle exclaimed, "Eeeewww! You mean food! A leopard wants to eat us?"

Xena smiled. "Yeah, but don't worry. No leopard is gonna attack us. It just got lucky once and is hoping he will again."

The blonde was looking apprehensively around. "If you say so, Xena...." She glanced up and saw a hawk far above. "Oh look. Gods, it's beautiful! Xena? Xena?" She looked at her friend who was frowning up at the bird then looked around the forest again.

"Get up behind me, Gabrielle. We're getting out of here."

"Oh, Xena, I don't really feel like.... HEY!" Xena had roughly grabbed her up and had her over her saddle in front of her. She started galloping, looking back occasionally. "Xena!" Gabrielle said furiously then, "Uh oh..." Running on the trail behind them was a leopard, then it was joined by first one wolf, then three others.

"Dammit!" Xena cursed. Gabrielle looked from her awkward position and saw a large stag just standing in the middle of the path...and it wasn't moving out of the way. Argo came to a stop and Xena and Gabrielle both went flying.

Xena was instantly up with her sword but the leopard and wolves weren't attacking. They were just watching. Then a familiar figure came sauntering out of the woods. She squatted down a second to pet the leopard and allowed the largest wolf to lick her face.

"Oh, Xeeenaa! So good to see you!" Callisto said with a smile as she rose. She held a hand out and the hawk landed on it. Callisto said something quietly to the bird and it flew off again.

Xena studied her, trying to figure out what was going on. Her old enemy was dressed differently, in simple brown fighting leathers that were designed to leave her right breast bare. She was also carrying a bow and wore a quiver of arrows.

"What d'ya have to do with Artemis?" Xena said levelly.

Gabrielle looked with surprise at Xena then back at Callisto who had a pouty expression.

"Ya'know, I'm not sure yet. She gave me this," Callisto tapped her chest and Xena and Gabrielle both saw a small crescent scar, "and these," Callisto indicated the bow and the animals.

"You're the favorite of Artemis? You?" Gabrielle said.

Callisto nodded. "Looks like it." She reached up to squeeze her bare breast. "Just seemed the thing to do to get my outfit changed. I always follow my instincts."

"It's very becoming," Gabrielle said honestly and received an exasperated look from Xena.

"Thank you. Get's kinda cold sometimes but I like the way it feels mostly. I'd like to just go topless but one step at a time." Callisto said.

"I feel the same. I'd like to be naked all the time, if I could," Gabrielle said with understanding. "I wish it wasn't so sexual."

"That's a good look for you too," Callisto said indicating Gabrielle's sari and tatoos.

Xena broke in angrily, "If you two will get back to business....so are you gonna sick your cats and dogs on us? Why are you waiting?"

Callisto lazily drew her sword, studied it and resheathed it. She smiled. "Like I said, I follow my instincts. I was gonna do that...but now I'm not sure." She pouted again. "There's the whole matter of YOU." She pointed at Gabrielle.

"Why?" Gabrielle said.

Xena answered, "You're queen of the Greek Amazons. Artemis is their patron goddess."

Callisto nodded. "I told her I won't do what she says....but Ares told me whatever I do will be what she wants. That I can't help it. Just like you used to be. I hate that. I HATE THAT!"

Gabrielle said, "So...what....I don't understand."

Xena smiled. "If Callisto kills you, she'll be doing Artemis's dirty work." She turned back to her enemy, "And you just can't stand the thought of that can you?"

"Yeah, Xena...very funny. I don't want to kill you just so Artemis can install a new queen she's probably been grooming," Callisto sounded aggrieved. "I'm no assassin. I'm in it for the love of the game."

Xena grinned and said, "But by not hurting her, you're probably doing what she wants too. I were you I'd kill her."

Gabrielle said, "Uh, Xena...I don't think that's such a good..."

"Don't interrupt, Gabrielle," Xena snapped.

"Yeah, stay out of this," Callisto said. "This is between me and Xena. Why would you kill her?"

"Artemis knows you hate me and want to kill Gabrielle to get at me. So she gives you power over animals and whatever else. But she also knows how contrary you are."

Callisto said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. We can do that for the next hundred years. She really wants me to protect Gabrielle so instead I should kill her. But then she would anticipate me thinking that too."

Gabrielle spoke up, "Excuse me, but this DOES concern me since it's my life you're discussing the merits of taking or not."

Both warriors looked annoyed but nodded.

The small blonde took a breath and said, "I don't want to play games. Xena is obviously using reverse psychology on you."

"I know that..." Callisto said, but stopped at a hand gesture from Gabrielle.

"Killing me would be wrong. All killing, all violence of any kind is wrong. That's why you shouldn't do it. I thought that anyway but since returning from India I know it is the only True Way. Look inside yourself, Callisto, and do what the spark of good that's in you tells you to do. By following that light in yourself you can find true peace and trancendence. You can be the person you were always meant to be!" Gabrielle had been speaking earnestly. Now she stopped and looked expectantly at Callisto and Xena.

"Like I said, Xena. We can play 'Artemis knows I know she knows' for a hundred years," Callisto said.

Xena arched her eyebrow and assumed a look of mock sympathy.

Gabrielle exploded, "Did you two hear a word I said?"

Callisto said, "There are other reasons for killing her though, Xena. Making her shut up for one."

"Well?" Gabrielle said after a long pause. "Aren't you gonna defend me?" She was speaking to Xena.

The big dark woman said, "Uh, yeah. No, Callisto, Gabrielle is my light...has wisdom beyond her years and stuff. I never get tired of hearing her going on endlessly saying the same things over and over and over."

The bard said acidly, "Xena...if you don't want to hear my opinions why don't you just say something? Don't keep it all bottled up for it to come out at a bad time. Like now, for instance."

"What? I defended you! You are the light in my darkness...my soulmate...and all that other junk. Your droning voice keeps me from giving in to my inner darkness. It's almost as if my old evil self is actually put to sleep by you! That is such an enormous help to me, Gabrielle!"

"Well, pooh! This is even worse!" Callisto moaned. "Now I can't even be sure I wouldn't really be doing YOU a favor if I killed her. Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!" She looked angrily at the two women, turned and disappeared into the woods followed by the animals.

Gabrielle looked after her then up at her friend. "By the gods, Xena, that amazed even me. You are so good at that. Saying those awful things. You always know exactly how to handle Callisto."

"Thanks, Gabrielle. Let's get out of these woods before she figures it out and sends every animal in it after us."

"Okay, Xena. You know, that got me thinking again about the goodness in everyone. I meant what I said to Callisto, and I really believe she can change...you did...and now she's serving Artemis who certainly is an improvement on Ares...."

As the voice of her friend went on and on and on Xena felt the demonic rage and evil that was always laying in wait in her recede. She could almost hear a yawn in her head. Xena found her own eyelids starting to droop at the monontonous drone but then caught herself and said, "You're absolutely right, Gabrielle. I love you...I'll never leave you."

Gabrielle looked up with teary eyes, "I love you too! That reminds me of something Eli said to me...."

The End