Poodle In The Dell

By Katrinna Pint

Disclaimer: As always, Xena is owned by Universal/MCA. Use in this story is not meant to infringe on licensing and or use. This is strictly for entertainment purposes only on a non profit basis.

This story is child safe. No swearing & no nudity (unless you consider critters naturally nude!) There is some violence, but since we're talking about Xena here, you should expect a little rump kicking!

****************

Xena's tongue lolled happily as she stuck her head out the car window, letting the fresh country air flap her ears in the wind. Now this is living! she thought with exhilaration.

She watched the pasture land zooming by with all kinds of animals in them. Wow, she thought, what great smells! Gabbi kept trying to horn in beside her, but Xena really didn't feel like moving.

"Come on, Xena! Move over!"

Gabbi's nose nudged Xena's shoulder, and finally she took the hint and scooted slightly to the side. Gabbi happily popped her head out the window as well, taking in the idyllic scenes whizzing by.

"Girls! Not so far out!" Tall lady said from the front seat, but Xena and Gabbi ignored her. This was more fun than they'd had in a long time!

Gabbi's cheeks rippled back up over her teeth and her eyelids felt like they were being pulled to the back of her head. It was GREAT! The car started slowing down, and the feel of flying disappeared. Without it, it was just another car ride, so they ducked back into the vehicle, sitting complacently on the leather seats.

"This place is so cool!" Gabbi said. "Where are we anyway?"

Xena fondly looked down at her furry, tan colored companion and answered, "I think we're going to a farm. I heard tall lady talking on the phone the other night, and she mentioned something about coming to the farm for a visit."

"I remember farms, and they never smelled like this."

"It's our dog senses. Makes everything more intense."

Gabbi propped her front feet against the seat in front of them and watched as they stopped in front of a big, red barn. Just to the side of that was an old fashioned ranch house with a wrap around porch.

Tall lady opened the car door, and both girls raced out as fast as they could. The birds in the trees overhead were chirping while the cows in the pasture contentedly mooed in the late day sun. Xena and Gabbi ran to the nearest fence, taking it all in and barking their hello's to the animals kept inside.

On the porch, two people came outside and hugged tall lady joyfully. Gabbi's eyes were caught first on the three people, then shifted to a squirrel beneath the tree, crunching on an acorn.

"XENA, LOOK!" she shouted and sped across the dusty yard. Xena turned and watched her friend. Where does she get that much energy? she thought.

Tall lady was now standing on the porch, ready to go inside, when she called, "Gabbi! Xena! Come here girls!"

Xena trotted over while Gabbi barked at the squirrel hurriedly climbing the tree.

"Let's go, kiddo." she yipped to the younger dog, then walked in the house with her best friend by her side.

**********

After eating a sumptuous meal of steak bones and left-over mashed potatoes, Xena and Gabbi slept the night away on a comfy rug tossed in front of crackling fire. Gabbi curled up, her little head resting on her paws and drifted to sleep, while Xena thought of all the times they had shared a similar campfire. Never one to dwell too much on past incarnations, Xena fell asleep as well.

They both woke early as the rooster was crowing the arrival of a new day. Tall lady was still asleep, but the chubby guy in the overalls was nice enough to let them outdoors. They did their morning duties, then decided to investigate the barn they noticed yesterday.

Inside they found lots of boring tools, some interesting leather bridles that looked like they would make good chew toys, and a big loft filled with hay. The horse stalls were all empty, so they quickly left to find more interesting places. They entered the barn yard, where the pigpens, chicken coops, and corrals all started.

The two dogs sniffed at the pigs wallowing in the mud, but after catching a mouth full of slop, decided against getting too friendly. They found the chicken coop next. Two dozen hens cackled atop a row of nests inside. Xena poked her head through the doorway, then let Gabbi look her fill.

"Isn't it a little late for them to be sleeping?" Gabbi asked in an evil tone as she crept forward on all fours.

"Gabbi," Xena scolded, "that's not a nice thing to do."

"But a lot of fun!"

Gabbi dashed into the henhouse before Xena could stop her, barking loudly and with great relish. The hens squawked, startled from their rest and flapped their wings in a frenzy. Xena shook her head and sat next to the door as the flock of chickens departed their shelter in a flurry of falling feathers and skinny legs.

When Gabbi finally came out, she was covered in white and brown feathers, sticking out of her fur like an amazon mask in need of repair.

"Happy now?" Xena asked.

"I still didn't catch one." she woofed, and took off after the fleeing birds.

With resolution, Xena chased after her small friend. "If you're going to catch one, then do it right!"

She ran past Gabbi and caught up with the terrified birds. Xena pounced and a young chicken screeched loudly as Xena brought it to the ground. She didn't hurt it, simply gripping it firmly with her teeth and pinning it's wings with her legs. Gabbi slid to a stop next to her.

"YES! You caught one!"

Grumbling around a mouth full of feathers, Xena replied, "Now what do I do with it?"

Gabbi sniffed the subdued poultry for a moment, saw the terror in it's birdie face, and relented. "Oh, let it go. It's more fun to chase them anyway."

Gladly, Xena released it, watching as it ran over to it's friends huddled against an outbuilding. It looked over at the two dogs and shook it's feathers out, gaining courage now that it was far away from it's attackers.

Xena looked around and decided the pasture was the next best place to go. She drifted over to the fence and climbed through the railing, waiting for Gabbi to catch up to her. Together, they observed the many cattle that were grazing on the lush green grass spread verdantly before them. Several newborn calves frolicked happily amidst their watchful parents, while others lay in the shade of the trees and chewed their cud.

Gabbi couldn't quite understand what they were chewing though. "Why do they do that?" she asked Xena curiously.

"They're rechewing the grass they ate."

"EWWW! Yuk!" Gabbi exclaimed, her little face twisting up like she just bit into a lemon. Xena laughed. As her humor was starting to subside, a white and tan colored calf bounded over to them on shaky legs. When it stopped, the poor little animals unstable balance disappeared. Gabbi found herself nose to nose with the creature, and Xena started laughing all over again. Gabbi glared at her hysterical friend, but concentrated on putting distance between her and the bovine nostrils.

"Hiya!" a high pitched voice emerged from the calf's mouth as it struggled to it's feet. Once it was standing, it leaned over until it was able to look at the smaller dogs more at their level. "Yer new around here, aren't ya?"

Xena had calmed down and now smiled at the youngster. "We're here for a short visit. I'm Xena, and the one that was in your face was Gabbi."

"I'm Moxer! What kind of animals are ya? Ya kinda look like the sheep before they get their fluffy stuff all cut off."

"We're not sheep!" Gabbi barked.

Xena ignored Gabbi's angry outburst. She could kind of understand her dismay. Sheep had a tendency to be pretty braindead, or so she had heard. "We're dogs. A breed called a poodle. "She calmly answered. Being polite to the young baby, she asked, "And what are you?"

The little calf laughed. "Yer silly! I'm a cow, of course!" Xena had known that, but knew how to handle young ones.

"You wanna see the field? I can show you around!" The little guy was anxious to please his new friends, and he was too rambunctious to wait for long. "Come on!"

Gabbi was still a little miffed, but followed behind Xena as Moxer lead them around the field to all his favorite spots. He showed them the patch of sweet grass that was his favorite, then took them over to the dead tree that all the cattle used as a scratching post. But his last stop was the one that intrigued the two dogs the most.

"This is the watering hole. We come here to get a drink. Are ya thirsty?" He asked.

"No, but I am awfully hot." Xena said with longing as she gazed at the water.

"Me too." Gabbi agreed. "Moxer, does anyone ever use the watering hole for a swim?"

"Not really. When we get too hot, we lay in the shade for awhile."

Xena knew that a little shade wouldn't do it for her. She and Gabbi shared a private look, then leapt feet first from the bank into the cool water. It smelled from all the animals that drank from it and was pretty muddy, but Xena and Gabbi didn't care.

They dogpaddled around for a few minutes, swimming after a few ducks that dared get too close. When they got out, there was not one part of them not covered in muck.

*****************

As the sun set along the horizon, Xena and Gabbi were as happy as two pups could be. They had spent the day frolicking in the fields with little Moxer as company. He finally had to go when his mother mooed that dinner was ready. Since he had spent the day in vigorous play, he didn't complain.

"I'm getting kinda hungry." Gabbi said as she walked at Xena's side.

"Me too. Let's see if they saved something for us like last night."

Anxiously, they ran back to the ranch house, where delicious smells were coming from, particularly the kitchen. They followed the porchlight to the back door, where they scratched loudly, asking for entrance.

"Mmmm! Is that pork chops I smell?"

"It sure smells like it." Xena answered. Her stomach was starting to growl. "Where are they?" She scratched again, and finally gained the attention of tall lady, who was just sitting down to eat.

As she opened the door, Xena and Gabbi prepared to charge in when the opening was wide enough, but her shriek stopped them cold.

"Eeeeeek! What have you girls been into?"

Xena and Gabbi looked at each other, but they didn't see anything more than a little mud. Their sensitive nostrils knew they smelled like the barnyard, but since everything here smelled like that, they didn't think it was a problem.

"DAD! The girls smell like cow flop! Did you leave them out all day?"

A voice from far back in the room answered, "Aww, hon, they needed to go out this morning."

"You left them out all day?!"

"Didn't think it would hurt them any."

Mistress tall lady threw up her hands. Her face squished into a grimace as she once again detected the odor coming from her pets. "Tommy, would you do me a favor and take them out to the barn for tonight? I'll have to give them a bath first thing tomorrow."

At the dread word "bath", Xena and Gabbi flinched back. That's certainly not what they expected to hear tonight.

A chair scraped and Tommy walked out the door, taking both dogs by their collars and walking them to the barn. "Come on, you two. If you're going to smell like the critters, you can sleep with them."

Tommy opened the barn door and pushed them inside. The door slammed shut with a loud bang.

***************

Xena and Gabbi found a clean pile of hay and curled up for the night. Both dogs were hungry after their long day, and felt somewhat wronged by their angry owner.

"It's not like we did it on purpose." Gabbi griped, shifting marginally on the straw bed that poked and prodded her underbelly.

"I know. But we should have known that we'd end up all smelly."

"I guess."

Xena got up and moved over next to Gabbi. She curled her body around the squirming pooch, and felt her settle down with the added warmth and comfort.

"We've gone without food before. It won't kill us."

"Yeah, but it sure is unpleasant." Gabbi grumbled one more time. Xena sighed and laid her head down to sleep.

A few minutes later, though, they were disturbed by the sound of the door being opened again. A bright light preceded the figure of a tall woman who held something in her hands.

"Girls? Girls? Come her babies! I didn't mean for you not to eat. I brought your dinner out with me."

Gabbi and Xena didn't hesitate. They shot up off the hay and ran anxiously for their evening meal. No matter what either one of them said, they would rather have a full tummy anytime over an empty one.

***************

Replete with another night's leftovers, Xena and Gabbi were ready to hit the hay. Until a familiar whinny gained their attention. Xena jumped atop a stack of barrels next to a stall, and looked over the doorway. Standing inside was a familiar palomino with dark eyes.

"Xena, it's been a long time."

"Argo!" Xena exclaimed happily. She turned and looked down at Gabbi. "I can hardly believe it! Come up here!"

Gabbi used the same barrels and with a little help from Xena, stood atop a narrow shelf next to the gate so she could look as well.

"Gabrielle, it's been a long time."

"I'm called Gabbi now. And since I know you never liked me..."

"That's not true. It's not that I didn't like you. It was mainly your coloring that bothered me."

"What?" Gabbi's furry brow wrinkled. "You mean to tell me that you had a problem with my being blonde?"

Argo stomped the floor with her hoof & nodded. "I thought there was only enough room for one blonde in Xena's life. I hoped that I'd bother you enough to get rid of you. But that didn't happen."

Xena started chuckling, but the longer she looked at Gabbi's incredulous face, the more tickled she got, until she nearly fell off her pedestal. Her yips turned into howls of laughter as she thought about all the times Argo had tossed her friend on her tush.

"It's not that funny." Gabbi grouched.

"I learned to live with you being around. Which reminds me... What happened to you two anyway? You sent me off with the dumb one and I never saw you again."

Xena stopped laughing at the serious note in Argo's whinny. "That wasn't meant to happen, you know."

"I figured that much."

Gabbi explained how their plan had backfired when Ares had interfered, and about how they awakened well into the future.

"I knew it had to be something. The dumb one was ok, but I knew Xena wouldn't abandon me to him on a permanent basis."

In the distance, a high pitched moo echoed across the field, a familiar sound considering they had spent all day listening to it.

"That's Moxer." Gabbi said as she cocked her head to listen to the sound.

"Speak of the idiot." Argo mumbled.

"Sounds like he's in trouble." Xena heard the frantic note in his voice, even from a distance. "We've got to get out of here."

"I think I can arrange that." Argo turned her back to the stall doors and stretched her legs out, saying, "You might want to get out of the way."

Xena and Gabbi had just cleared the area when she gave a powerful kick with both legs to the wooden structure. The doors flew open and banged against the adjoining walls. Argo pranced out of the stall proudly and headed for the closed barn doors. Another impressive kick opened one side enough for her to fit through.

"You need a lift?" she asked as she stood outside.

Grabbing a bridle off the wall with her teeth, Xena wrapped the leather around her neck and ran for the door. Gabbi followed behind her, asking, "How do you plan on riding to the rescue? We don't exactly have the right number of legs to pull it off."

"My balance is pretty good. How about yours?" Without further comment, Xena chanted her battle bark and flipped out the opening and onto Argo's back, landing on all fours and balancing precariously.

Gabbi wasn't so sure and elected to stay with all four feet on the ground. She ran at a sprint behind the galloping Argo, never knowing that Xena, ever confident and daring, was thinking this wasn't one of her best ideas.

****************

Xena had heard of cattle rustling, but had thought it had gone the way of the wild west. But what she saw in front of her as she rode closer put that theory in doubt.

Half a dozen men were lit by the fiendish glow of pickup truck lights. They were holding a long stick in their hands and touching the cattle as they ran pass. The cows, in response jumped and headed in the opposite direction, right into a long, flatbed trailer where they were trapped.

Moxer was running around in circles, hopelessly trying to decide between trying to protect his mother or hiding behind her. Suddenly, she was pushed behind the metal bars of the pen, separating her and Moxer with a wall of unpenetrable steel. Moxer let out a wail scampered about helplessly.

One of the men hollered, "Jake! Zap that little one over there before he gets all these beeves riled up!"

Xena saw the man head for the defenseless, little calf and had to take action. Once again, her war woofs resounded, distracting the busy bovine persecutors, and giving her the advantage of surprise for her attack.

"What the..." the men exclaimed as they turned to see the animals charging down on them.

Xena catapulted off Argo's back, knocking down two of her apponents in one blow. Gabbi brought up the rear, leaping and snarling at the hands of the man headed for Moxer. Argo didn't stand idle either, lashing out with her hooves with deadly accuracy.

A man in a black Stetson cowboy hat was struggling to push away the black poodle, who was angrily snarling. "Get away from me you mutt!" he screamed and swung his fist at her again.

Xena tucked her legs in and flipped over his head. Her legs uncurled when she descended towards his back, thrusting him into another of his cohorts. Their heads collided in what was sure to make spots appear before their eyes, and they fell to the ground in a heap.

Xena unwound the leather around her neck and snapped it, whip-like, at the men approaching her. She whirled it around her head, slapping it against thighs, arms and chests. The makeshift whip was everything she could have hoped for, and flicked it with appreciation at the bodyparts the unsuspecting rustlers exposed. Thank the gods for strong teeth and bones, she mentally thought, hearing the yelp that followed the the loud crack.

Meanwhile, Gabbi was ducking and leaping around a funny black stick her apponent kept wielding. She remembered enough about her days using a staff to know not to let it connect with her. Unless...

Gabbi saw her opportunity and snatched the metal object out of his hand. Held tightly between her canines, Gabbi turned it on the larger man, smacking him in the ankles ferociously. What she didn't expect was for him to fall to the ground, shaking like a leaf in a windstorm. Gabbi looked down at the tip with new respect and hustled with glee to the next victim.

Together, the terrific trio vanquished the marauders with little difficulty, leaving the six men laying on the ground and groaning, if they were still conscious.

Xena arrived at the latched gate first and pawed at the closed door. The lock wouldn't give, so Xena had Argo work her special talents as a keymaster once again. Before long, the remainder of the cattle were reunited with the few who had not yet been rounded up.

Moxer's mother was the first out, and ran to her son as quickly as she possibly could. Moxer, of course, pretended like he hadn't turned tail and ran as quickly as his hooves could carry him.

"Didya see me Momma? I distracted them bad guys long enough for Xena to help me out. I was comin' ta get ya when this big guy, no... it was 3 big guys jumped out at me!"

Moxer's mom rolled her eyes. Xena and Gabbi smiled, remembering more than a few times when they had heard the exact same thing.

"Let's go get someone from the house to take care of these guys." Xena said as she walked back the way she had come. On foot.

Gabbi noticed Xena didn't ask for a ride this time and asked, "So, exactly how good is your balance?"

Xena gave her the look but remained silent, not about to admit anything. Gabbi smirked, her pink tongue lolling out of the corner of her mouth, until Moxer trotted by. He was following his mother and happily singing...

"I'm Moxer the Mighty, I roam through the countryside..."

Gabbi howled, "Oh NO! Not that! Anything but THAT!"

************

The next day, Xena & Gabbi reluctantly submitted to getting clean before they headed home, but not without plenty of splashing on their part.

The family had been highly appreciative of the dogs interference in the cattle theft, cuddling & playing with them despite their wet fur, as they dried before a toasty fire.

When they were dried and tall lady was ready to go, Xena and Gabbi ran over to the paddock where both Argo and Moxer were grazing. Argo saw them, and came over to the fence to meet them.

She leaned her head over the rail and asked, "You're not really going to leave me here with him again, are you?" With a toss of her head, she indicated Moxer recounting for the upteenth time his exaggerated role in the recovery.

This morning, he was wearing a tarnished metal bell around his neck that looked a little squashed and round. It hung down in front of him like a piece of armor that had been beaten flat by a hammer and a twisted imagination.

"There's no helping it this time, old friend. We're not exactly in a position to be taking someone home with us."

Eyeing their short stature and four feet, Argo said, "I see your point. Will you come back for a visit, at least?"

"We can't promise anything. But I'm sure tall lady will want to come see her family again. And if she does, we'll be with her."

"Good enough."

Gabbi looked up at the horse towering what seemed miles above her. "No hard feelings? I mean, you're not still jealous of me being with Xena, are you?"

"No. I'm ok with it now. I've been with her lots of times since then. And you weren't there several times. I guess you could say we're even, at least for awhile."

"Gee, thanks."

When tall lady called, both Xena and Gabbi ran over to the open car door. Their adventure on the farm had been fun, but they would be happy to get back to their bone stash at home.

Moxer saw them leaving and ran along the fence line down the driveway, mooing his goodbye to his canine friends. Xena and Gabbi popped their heads out the window just in time to see his feet tangle up with his new bell and send him sprawling across the ground.

"I swear. He's even more clumsy with four feet than he was with two."

"Yeah, but at least now we don't have to worry about him showing up every time we turn around."

"Good point." Gabbi said, and they both laughed.

Mutually, they bid the young cow a fond farewell as he struggled to his feet.

When they had disappeared over the horizon, Moxer ran to his mother and asked, "Can we go visit them, Momma? Please, Momma? We can go right now!"

The End