Romancing The Poodle

By: Katlyn

Disclaimer: As always, the characters in this story, including Xena, Alti and any other character portrayed in the series Xena: Warrior Princess, are the sole property of MCA/Universal, and their use in this story is based only on a non-profit basis for the purpose of a fan written story only.

There is moderate curse words used in this story and some violence between animals. If this is distastfull for you, please turn back now.

I can't believe I'm doing this, Xena thought to herself, as she promenaded around the show ring inside the large convention center. At least a dozen other poodles of various sizes and colors surrounded her, prancing in the overly arrogant manner of the beautiful and snobbish. Every one sported a haircut and bouffant that took 3 hours and a lot of patience to accomplish.

I feel like a bad Elvis wig, Xena sourly thought as she followed the dog in front of her. The black fur on her head was combed into a super pouf that felt like it was 4 feet tall, and her shoulders felt so stiff it was a miracle she could walk!

Tall lady was holding her leash and walking beside her, looking for all the world like the most proud poodle owner of all time. She had come up with this brilliant idea after watching that West-something-or-other Dogshow on tv, and had been determined she was going to make me into the next champion.

Champion of what? Xena thought. I'd rather be at home chewing on a new pair of shoes.

The dogs all lined up again, and Xena took a moment to examine the competition. Her eyes moved down the line, quickly labeling each before she moved on. Too skinny. Too much hair. Long nose. No nose. She skipped quickly by one dog that looked like some weird mutant from the planet poodle, before her eyes came to a abrupt stop. Hello. He stood like a young warrior, not at all like the pedigreed purebred that she knew he had to be. His owner had shaved most of his body close, leaving only a few fuzzy rings around his joints and a huge lion's mane of hair from his head. The light shone on his silvery-black coat, and made the muscles underneath seem to ripple when he shifted. What a stud, she thought with appreciation.

"Xena! Straighten up! The judge is coming by." Tall lady took out a comb and flipped at her ears, making them even more poufy, if that was even possible. Xena looked at her out of the corner of her eye, but did as she was told.

When the judge walked by, she pointed to Xena and her owner, as well as several other dog teams, including the good looking stud she had noticed earlier. She stepped into the center of the ring after the first phase was done, prepared to follow the exact same course of events they had just gone through.

But after watching for a minute, Xena was scandalized. They are NOT going to feel up MY butt!

"So, how'd it go?" Gabbi asked that night as Xena walked into the hotel room they rented for their visit to the show.

"Awful. I've got to go back tomorrow."

Gabbi chuckled, and followed Xena to the couch. She jumped up and flopped onto it heavily, uncaring of the amount of space she took up.

"Hey, get off the furniture!"

The dogsitter that tall lady had hired to stay in the room with Gabbi jumped up off the bed and rushed towards them, flapping her arms in a shoo-ing motion. Xena and Gabbi gave her a look that said, "Do you really think that's going to move me?"

Fortunately, tall lady came in with moments to spare. "That's ok, Angela. I've got your money for you."

As Angela and tall lady were negotiating what Gabbi considered her ransom, Xena laid her head down and asked, "So, how did your day go?"

Tall lady screeched, "WAIT! I have to put your hair net on you!"

Xena rolled her eyes and impatiently waited as her owner dug around in her purse and finally pulled out a small ball of netting which she fitted over Xena's head and tucked her ears into.

"Will the nightmare ever end?" Gabbi teased, but Xena wasn't amused.

"How would you like to wear this thing all the time? Or better, have somebody you don't even know feel up your rear end like the vet does?"

"Eeeww! Really?"

"That and worse. It was like an all day long trip to the vet and groomer combined."

"By the gods, it's amazing you made it through alive!"

The next day, Xena was waiting in the staging area for the competition to begin, when a voice behind her startled her. "Hello, Xena."

She turned and glanced over her shoulder to find the silver poodle she had admired yesterday.

"Do I know you?"

He hesitated for a moment, then answered, "No, I guess not. I'm Markie." Xena remembered that the announcer had spouted a much longer title the day before, something like Marcus Arelius of Something. People were always giving poodles weird names. Just to make them sound fancier, Xena supposed.

"I saw you yesterday. We were in the competition together."

"Yes. Congradulations on your win."

"Thanks. It's really not that big of a deal."

"Yes it is. Those people are the best when it comes to knowing what to look for."

Marcus moved around to face Xena as she snorted and turned away. "It's a superficial display that's totally meaningless of what a poodle's really like."

Markie chuckled. "Sounds like you don't like this sort of thing. Why do you do it?"

"Because my mistress has been brainwashed by AKC." Xena said dryly. "So why are you back here today?"

"The agility trials are today. That's actually my speciality. Usually they hold them outdoors, but since it's raining so hard, they've moved the event inside."

Xena was intriged. It took a lot of strength and stamina to be good at the agility competition. "So, are you any good?" she joked.

"Without sounding like I'm bragging, I'm considered master."

Impressive. And still a stud. Xena knew she had plenty of time to kill until she went on, so she started to ask, "How difficult is it..."

A loud cry echoed in the building. Xena and Markie ran to the stadium and jumped up, looking over the barricade to see what's going on. A woman was standing near the judges stand, calling out, "Somebody's taken the ribbons!"

"Stop the competition!"

"What are we going to do?"

"We can't get anymore!"

Xena couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. Jeez, it's only a bunch of blue ribbon. I chew up ribbons on tall lady's clothing all the time. If they want some more, why don't they just go and get some?

"What's the big deal? It's just ribbon, after all."

Marcus gave her an amazed look. "You really are new at this, aren't you?"


"These just aren't your ordinary blue ribbons. These come directly from the American Kennel Club, and they're one of a kind. They're worth a lot of money for the people who bring us here."

Xena still didn't see it as being a problem, but didn't like the idea of mistress loosing out on something because someone else took it.

"Fine. Let's try and find them."

Markie jumped down from the barricade. "What changed your mind? I thought you said they weren't a big deal?"

"So I changed my mind. That's a girl's perrogative, you know."

"Yeah, right." he muttered as he headed to the stand where the ribbons had been taken from.

There weren't very many clues left around the judges' stand by the time they got there. Any evidence that might have been left behind had been destroyed or contaminated by the useless humans hanging around everywhere.

"Nothing. I can't even smell anything." Markie wove between the shifting sea of legs and came back to Xena's side. She had taken an elevated position on the row of seats above the voting box to watch the croud for anyone suspicious. Xena knew what a person who was guilt looked and smelled like, and could spot them at 50 feet.

"Here neither. It's like whoever took them just disappeared."

"So what now?" Markie asked.

Xena had a few ideas, but none of them really satisfied her. "We could start combing the hallways. We just might overhear something that might be useful."

Markie agreed and they headed down the hall, keeping their ears tuned to the smallest noise.

As it turns out, they didn't get their lead from the corridors, but from the dogs in the grooming room. All the gossip passing back and forth over the tables was about one dog, in particular.

"Did you hear about that Doberman?"

"Yes, isn't that awful?"

"My word. I'd be ashamed to call myself canine if I was that one."

Markie trotted over to one of the tables where his friend Razz was being brushed. If anybody knew the whole story, Razz did.

"So what's all the buzz about?"

"Hey man, you haven't heard? Some wacko doberman slipped it's collar and attacked one of the weiners." Both dogs knew he was talking about Dachshunds. No other dog could look like a hotdog on legs quite like a dachshund.

"Have they caught it yet?"

"No, man. Last anyone saw it was headed for the showring. The chat- miesters over there have been having a tizzy about how they feel their lives will be in danger if they go out there." He nodded towards the shih tzu's and pomeranian's sitting together under the blow dryers and brushes of the Pooch Perfectionist doing their fur. The little dogs were yipping in their normal gossipy manner, but this time it was about the danger in their midst.

On the other side of the room, Xena was walking among the other dobermans, listening in on their conversation. She too had heard about the mad dog escape, and was anxious to see what the others in it's ranks felt about it. Stepping behind one of the dog crates, she heard, "Altiri really did it this time, didn't she?"

"I don't know about you, but I'm sick and tired of her shenanigans. She gives our kind a bad name."

"That's no lie. There was no reason for her to attack that doxie. Sure, it was annoying all of us. But that's no excuse."

Alteri. Hmm, Xena wondered. Could it possibly be... no. It can't be.

She wandered around until she found the transport box that Altiri had come in. The smell drifting from inside put Xena on alert. The smell was eons old, one she only vagely remembered from days spent inside an Amazon hut, leaning over a firepit with a shamaness of pure evil.

Ateri must be the reincarnation of Alti. Well, well. Who would have thought. In Xena's time as the Warrior Princess, she had thought that Alti had died forever. But after learning through the ages of things beyond her imagination, she understood that a soul could never REALLY die.

Armed with the stench of evil she had picked up, Xena went to find Markie so they could go on the hunt for the one who was her arch-enemy.

“So this Alteri pooch is really some crazy pre-Mycenaean witch named Alti you used to fight back when you were human.”

“That’s pretty much it.”

Xena and Markie were sniffing the stairway to the rafters. The stench Alteri left behind skipped up to the next landing, and to the one after that.

“And how many times have you killed her?”

“Three or four at least.”

“I guess she doesn’t know when to give up.”

“That’s an understatement.”

They reached the top floor where the steel joists for the roof criscrossed one another in a jumbled maze. They followed the scent into the enclosed room, but it suddenly faded, until it was just the essence lingering before them. The floor also ended, opening onto the convention floor 4 stories below. The beams continued, spanning one way and another to support the tons of concrete that was the building.

“Now what?” Markie asked.

“I can still smell her. It’s really faint, but it leads that way.” Xena twitched her nose and headed for a beam to her left, a relatively short span of about twenty feet to another platform hidden in darkness.

“Let me go first, Xena. I do this stuff every day.”

“I can’t let you do that. You don’t know what Alti is like. You’re not prepared to tangle with her.”

“Maybe you’re right. HEY! There she is! Behind YOU!”

Xena whirled around, expecting to see Alti standing behind her. The space behind her was dark, and very... very... empty.

“Markie, NO!”

But it was too late. Deja vu made her dizzy as she watched Markie walk across the narrow beam. He was light footed and agile, spanning the distance in no time at all. Xena rushed after him, hoping to stop him before he made it to the other side.

Markie confidently walked the narrow path, unafraid of the steep drop below him. He was nearly to the other side when a face emerged from the darkness. It was a doberman, with slick, dark hair. But it was the eyes that arrested him.

They were cold, absolutely emotionless.

Xena saw the dog as well, but knew who was behind the deceptive facade. It was Alti, back and as bad as ever.

Gabbi's feelings of desperation grew stronger as she and the dogsitter entered the center where the dog show was being held. I hope I'm not too late, she thought to herself.

The lady holding her leash pulled back once again, trying to slow her down. But Gabbi figured she didn't need her anymore, she strained against the collar around her throat and found just the right angle.

She slipped out of the collar and ran for all she was worth, ignoring the silly woman behind her hollering, "Hey! Come back here!"

"I've got better things to do than wait for you, lady." Gabbi said, mostly for her own benefit, as she tried to pick up Xena's scent amongst the hundreds of other dogs at the show.

Xena was desperate. She took a running leap off the piling, all four feet flying through the air as she sailed over Markie's head to land just in front of him. Her war bark preceded her, fierce and domineering as it always was.

When she was safely standing on the lip once again, she saw that Altiri was now standing fully in the limited light, and her lips were pulled back in a vicious snarl.

"Xena. You're the last bitch I expected to see here."

"Actually, I was suprised to find you here as well, Alti. I thought I finished you off and cast your bones to the wind."

Alti smirked. "It's not my bones you should be worried about, dear pupil."

The fur on the back of Xena's neck stood up. "I'm not your pupil."

"Oh, but you could be! Just think of all the wonderful things I could teach you. Don't you realize, Xena? You're near the end of your incarnation cycle. You're at your most powerful. I can teach you so much! Think of it. Remember the things you learned when you and I worked together?"

Unwillingly, her mind recalled the time hundreds of years ago when she had followed Alti's direction. Yes, she had learned a lot. But the evil seed that had formed inside of her had mainly been by Alti's doing.

"If you're trying to convince me, forget it. I may be a poodle, but I'm not stupid."

Alti growled deep in her throat. "Too bad. I've so missed those intimate moments we used to share. I'm sure that's a decision you'll come to regret."

Alti attacked, her razor-like teeth gleaming white as they snapped at Xena's throat.

Xena dodged to the side, but her footing was unsteady on the slick surface, and her back legs slid out from underneath her and over the edge. She dangled by her front feet over a terrifying amount of space, with Alti standing over her.

"Now isn't this just too good to be true. The question is, should I rip your throat out or just push you over the edge?"

Xena looked out of the corner of her eye and saw Markie still standing where she had leapt over him. Their eyes locked, and for a moment, it was as if time had no meaning.

Then he was sprinting straight at Alti, catching her off guard and pushing her back onto the solid ground behind her. Alti rolled onto her feet, unafraid of the poodle standing over her with a snarl emitting from his mouth.

"Get out of my way."

"Stay away from her."

Alti's throaty voice scoffed, "What are you going to do to stop me? I'm more powerful than you could ever hope to be."

Markie fiercely replied, "I'll do whatever I need to do to stop you!"

They met in a clash of fur, claws and teeth. Bodies rolled across the floor as first one, and then another fought for domination. Although Alti was the more vicious of the two, Markie had determination on his side. He wasn't about to let the female he'd been searching decades for slip thru his paws again.

"Xena!" Gabbi had tracked Xena's distinct smell up the stairway. She spotted her friend dangling from one of the cross braces the moment she walked thru the door.

Gabbi gingerly walked to where Xena was stranded, crouching down to get as close as she could. "Can't you pull yourself back up?"

"If I could do that, would I be hanging out like mistress's pantyhose?"

Gabbi grinned sheepishly. "Sorry. This might hurt."

She leaned over and bit into Xena's neck, biting as hard as she could and pulling. Xena winced, but inched back onto solid footing. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were enjoying this."

Gabbi didn't say anything, but the slight snort of humor said it all. She kept pulling, but going was slow since Gabbi was only 14 pounds to Xena's nearly 50. "Pull harder will you? Markie is getting slaughtered over there."

It was true. Alti had gained the upper paw and was ravaging the gentler dog with malicious force. Xena had finally gained her feet again when she saw the damage Alti had wrought. "Get down stairs, Gabbi."

"But Xena, I can help!"

"Just DO IT!"

Xena sommersaulted into the midst of the battle with the intention of drawing Alti off the injured hound.

"Aren't we having fun now?" The sadistic canine cried as she savored the adrenaline rushing inside her. "Come on, Xena. Play with me!"

Gabbi watched as Xena and Alti moved away from the fallen poodle and out of the doorway on the other side. The dog lay unmoving, and she rushed over to see how she could help him.

"Hey, are you ok?"

Markie groaned and rolled over. "Yeah, I'll live. Where's Xena?"

"She and Alti just headed out the door."

"We've got to go after them." The pain in his side and neck was excruciating, but by force of will alone, he stood up and hobbled toward the door.

"Wait just a second. You're not in any condition to be getting in a dogfight. Give yourself a minute to recover, all right?"

But Markie was determined. He fixed his eyes on the doorway and headed straight to it. Gabbi sighed in exasperation and followed him, until she spotted a pile of pretty blue ribbons laying on the floor. Never one to overlook a possibly new toy, she picked them up to take with her. Never know when I can use them, she thought optimistically.

Xena and Alti tumbled down the stairs, a writhing ball of fur that slid from one landing to another while they tore at whatever they could reach. Xena felt teeth clamp down on her neck, and retaliated by forcing her claws into Alti's soft underbelly. Together, they careened out of control, hitting the railing hard & separating them painfully.

Alti tangled her legs in the metal poles, but Xena wasn't so lucky. She fell 10 feet onto a table cluttered with pet paraphenalia for sale in the vendors stalls surrounding her.

Alti crawled to the railing. She was inordinantly pleased with the sight of Xena laying sprawled below. "You're dead, Xena! And when I'm done with you, I'll finish off that puppy of yours that I left bleeding."

Xena wasn't about to let her get ahold of Markie again. She looked around and was amazed to see an ornamental frisbee inside a frame, one made of shiny metal and hollowed out so that only the outter lip remained. It looked exactly like her old chakram, and Xena reached for it eagerly.

At first, it didn't want to come out of the frame, but with a firm jerk, it came loose. The weight felt good in Xena's mouth. The edge wasn't terribly sharp, but it'll do.

Alti leapt over the railing, diving headlong towards her with feet outstreached. Xena leapt away, and landed firmly on all fours. The modified chakram was still clenched between her teeth and as soon as she gained her equilibrium, Xena whipped her head back and let go of the disk with a wolfing chant, watching it sail thru the air and smash the unsuspecting Alti against the studded collar around her neck.

She choked, feeling the air in her throat disappear with a sudden constriction. The chakram acted like it's predecessor and reflected off Alti's metal studs, reversing it's course back to Xena's waiting jaws. She snapped it out of the air effortlessly and flipped it up so it circled around her neck.

Markie and Gabbi had reached the bottom of the stairs in time to see the amazing feat. Gabbi was considering how great it was to see Xena back in her element again, and didn't pay attention to the stealthily approaching mad dog near her.

Xena, however, was aware of her movements, but was not able to get the chakram back into position. "Gabbi, get out of the way!"

"Too bad, Xena! I'm just going to have to take your girlfriend with me!" Alti had every intention of making a break for it with Gabbi as her hostage, however, she underestimated the injured dog standing at the smaller poodle's side.

Markie moved quickly, putting himself between the petite pooch and the angry doberman. He rolled over when Alti leapt towards them, thrusting out his paws and catapaulting her over both their heads into the canine containment area. This was where the dogs who were too aggressive were held until they were ready to be shown individually.

Alti landed amongst a circle of dogs unlike any other at the show that day. They weren't really show dogs at all, but an exhibition brought in by the local zoo to teach people about the dangers of wild dogs. These weren't just any wild mutts, however. This was one of the few feral packs of wolves still held in captivity.

Their eyes went wild at the smell of blood that Xena had drawn, and rushed in like the predators they were. "Remember us, Alti?"

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" the disabled doberman howled. It was Cyane and the other Amazons of the Steppe that she'd had a hand in murdering centuries before.

She didn't stand a chance. The wild wolves had waited many incarnations to serve justice for Alti's past actions, and they didn't hesitate to serve it.

Xena joined Gabbi and Markie. Being dogs, they didn't mind the sight of blood, and watched as the Amazon wolves laid into the domesticated dog with howls of enjoyment. But it wasn't a sight that they could stand for long. The humans around the area didn't dare enter the metal container. They knew when they saw a lost cause.

"Just as well." one human said. "It would have needed to be put down anyway."

Back in their second story hotel room, Xena limped out of the bathroom where she had thoroughly been swabbed by antiseptic by tall lady in the fear she would get an infection. I don't know why she bothers, Xena thought, annoyed but knowing it came from concern. She curled up on the bed with Gabbi, glad to lay down for the first time that day.

On the table across the room rested a blue ribbon and the frisbee chakram Xena had appropriated. The judges had been so happy to have the awards returned and the crazy canine out of their midst, they had gladly given over the prizes to show their appreciation.

Markie had garnered unexpected praise for his nimble actions, taking home a special award crowning him the most skillful dog of the agility competition. He was unable to enter the meet, but was given the points he would have earned and the praise of his worried owner.

Xena was, of course, happy to accept the chakram from the vendor she had taken it from. He had never seen a dog throw a frisbee by itself and catch it, and was just glad he had been there to see it.

"I don't know about these dog shows. If they're all like this one, I'm not sure I can keep up."

Gabbi's amusement was very vocal. She rolled with laughter, her puppy chuckles rolling her off the bed.

"Oh, pleeeeze! Xena, you could keep up with a greyhound!" The tv was on, and just as she said it, a commercial started rolling, talking about fares across the country. Gabbi couldn't stand it. She had a fit at her unintentional pun, and even Xena laughed at her silliness.

A bark echoed from outside their window, so Xena and Gabbi curtailed their humor to see who it was. Xena strolled out onto the balcony and found Markie sitting patiently below.

"I think I'll leave the two of you alone." Gabbi said and headed back into the room. She was secure enough in her relationship with Xena not to worry about her and Markie. No matter what happened, as each other's soul mate, they were bound to be together.

Xena smiled gratefully at her retreating friend, and propped her feet over the railing, leaning over and calling, "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be recovering right now?"

Markie looked up at the poodle of his dreams. "I'm leaving tomorrow. I don't know when I'll ever get to see you again."

"We might see each other at more dog shows."

"I don't think so. My master says he's thinking about retiring me from the circuit. If that's true, then I'll be on the other side of the country. And it's not like I can just hop on a plane and visit whenever I want."

He took a deep breath and continued. "Xena, I've been looking for you for a long time. In fact, it seems like forever. So I just wanted to let you know how much you mean to me, and that I'll never forget you, no matter what happens."

Xena was moved. She knew he was her beloved Marcus, and was heartbroken that they couldn't be together. "It seems we were destined to be apart."

"Then you didn't forget me."

"Never. I'd as soon loose a leg than forget you."

Markie smiled. "At least we have tonight."

"Yes, we do have that."

Unable to climb to his beloved's side, Markie settled for a unforgettable serenade in the moonlight, raising his voice in a high pitched song of love to the girl listening above. Together, they ignored the cries of "Shut UP!" and spent the evening gazing at one another with loving eyes that memorialized the moment. It's such a beautiful night, Xena sighed. A night meant for romance.

The End.