Looks Can Be Decieving
Disclaimer: All characters from the show Xena: Warrior Princess belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended.
Summery: Book 2 of the Argo Tails Series. The events of "Intimate Stranger" as told from Argo's point of view.
It was very dark that night. Xena, Gabrielle and I were walking along a path in the forest. Gabrielle was leading me by my reigns. Everything seemed normal, but I could tell that something was not right. Something didn't feel right.
Gabrielle and Xena had been through a lot with Callisto and now there was something very different about them. Well, different about Xena, anyway. I couldn't tell quite what it was, but I could feel it. I was agitated that night and Gabrielle knew it. I kept neighing. I wanted to tell her something didn't feel right, but after all, I'm just a horse and I couldn't tell her with words. So I had to find other ways of getting her attention.
"Come on. Come on, girl." I neighed louder. Gabrielle looked at me. She seemed worried. "What's the matter, girl?"
She looked over at Xena who was walking next to her. Gabrielle had a troubled look on her face. "Something's wrong with Argo."
"Yes, something's wrong. You just don't seem to understand."
"I think you should take her reins."
"No, no, you hold her--she's picking up on my feelings."
Something about Xena's voice was different. I could tell. It was something small, something very small.
"She was like this the last time I went up against Callisto."
"Nope. Not that."
Xena and Gabrielle stopped and I looked at them. Xena seemed fine, on the outside, at least. She looked the same, sounded the same, even smelled the same. But something about her was different and I wished I could understand what. Gabrielle didn't seem to think there was anything different about Xena. After all, Xena was her best friend; I'd think she'd be able to see if something was wrong. But she didn't.
When the sun rose, the three of us headed into a patch of forest when we stopped. Everything was working out like it normally did, but while I stood behind Xena and Gabrielle, waiting for what would happen next, I saw them talking and Xena trying to get Gabrielle to learn to kill Callisto. And that's when I noticed something. Xena seemed crazy. She'd never, ever, get Gabrielle to kill someone. I watched them as Xena forced Gabrielle to pretend that Xena was Callisto and then pretend to kill her. I saw rage in Gabrielle's eyes, something I'd never seen in her before. But what I saw in Xena--that was different. There was a glint in her eyes, a spark of fire or insanity. I couldn't outright tell what it was.
After I saw Xena leave, I looked at Gabrielle who soon turned back to me. She walked over and undid the saddle from my back and tied my reigns to a tree. I whinnied quietly at her and she looked at me.
"I don't understand what's gotten into Xena. She's...she's different somehow."
"I know. That's the same thing I've been thinking."
"She wants me to kill Callisto...but I don't know if I can do that. I don't know if I can kill, even someone like Callisto."
Gabrielle turned away and walked over to her staff that was sticking up from the ground. It now had a sharp, pointy thing on the end of it. It could be used to kill, if Gabrielle wanted to use it in that way.
Xena soon came back. Gabrielle was practicing with her staff but she seemed uncertain about the whole thing. Xena grabbed a water bag hanging from the tree and drank from it. Gabrielle looked at her.
"Who was following us?"
"Oh, just one of Theodorus' men. Don't worry; I scared him off. We have to get moving." Xena had a smirk on her face that was just disturbing.
"Right--I'll get Argo." Gabrielle said, looking back at me.
"No--no, Argo has to stay here. She hasn't been herself. I don't want her getting hurt because of me."
"Haven't been myself? I'm not the one acting weird like I were...someone else entirely."
That's when it hit me. Xena was acting weird because she wasn't Xena. I didn't know how that was possible, but she couldn't have been Xena.
"Are you sure? I mean, she's been a little skittish. I just--"
"Gabrielle, let's get moving along. I have to get Argo's bridle off and, and--hide the saddle. You go on. I'll catch up."
Gabrielle was a little hesitant, I could tell, but finally she walked off. I was a little nervous about being alone with Xena. I knew it wasn't her, but I didn't have any kind of explanation for why it wasn't her. I just knew it wasn't.
Once Gabrielle was gone, Xena turn around to look at me. Oh, the look in her eyes was definitely not Xena. She was crazy, I was sure of it. She started to slowly walk toward me, something that made me very uncomfortable; that's for sure.
"You can't figure it out, can you? I look like Xena; I even smell like Xena. But, something tells you I'm not."
"Oh, I've figured out something, all right. I know you're not Xena. I can't explain how or why, but you aren't Xena. I'm not as stupid as you think."
I saw her grin wildly and that's when I realized--I was looking at Callisto. Yeah, it was Callisto. I saw that crazy look in Callisto's eyes before. Somehow, Callisto was in Xena's body--and it really frightened me. Callisto was a psycho; I had no idea what she planned to do.
Then, she splashed water in my face.
"Not only are you cruel to people, you like hurting animals as well. You're insane."
"Poor, dumb animal.
"I am not dumb! I'm probably smarter than you'll ever be."
"You don't know what's going on. You don't know whether to run or stay."
I pulled as hard as I could at the reigns that held me to the tree, but it was no use. I was trapped, alone with a crazy woman who happened to look like Xena. I saw her grab the sword from her back and I clearly understood her intentions. I was afraid for my life. I knew she could kill me if she wanted to.
"Gabrielle, where are you? Come back! She's going to hurt me!"
As much as I struggled, I couldn't get free from that tree. Gabrielle was gone and I knew I wasn't going to see her again, perhaps never see her again. Callisto raised her sword.
"Well--you should've run."
With a terrible screech, she sliced the sword across my side. I had never felt such pain before. My legs became weak and in a moment, I fell to the ground. I didn't know what would happen to me. I knew I was going to die. As I lied on the ground, I saw Callisto walk away, a satisfied smirk on her face. How I hated that Callisto.
I don't know how long I lied there. Time didn't seem to mean much to me. All I knew was that I was hurt, very hurt. My side was bleeding tremendously. I wished someone would come along. Anyone. I didn't care whom. Well, as long as it wasn't Callisto.
When I had nearly given up all hope, I heard the sound of foot steps in the forest.
"Gabrielle! Gabrielle, is that you?"
I hoped with all my heart that it was. I was getting weak; I didn't know how long I'd be able to last. I whinnied, hoping someone would hear me. Then I saw Callisto coming toward me. Well, Callisto's body anyway. I knew it couldn't actually be 'Callisto' since she was in Xena's body. She seemed very worried and she ran up to me, sad and dismayed.
"It's gonna be okay, girl, it is."
Her voice was soothing. She slowly rubbed my nose and her touch was warm and gentle. I whinnied softly.
"Xena. It's you, Xena. I'm so glad to see you."
I knew she was Xena. Xena had found me and had come to help me.
"I'm so sorry."
I knew it pained her to see me like this. She cared for me a lot.
"What did she do to you?"
She began to inspect my wound and I winced from the pain, but I knew she would help me. She wasn't going to let me die.
"Hold still--hold still. Easy, girl. Okay. It's okay. I know what she was trying to do. But, it's not gonna work."
"I'm glad you're here, Xena."
She bent over and kissed my nose, then stood up. I didn't see her for a moment, but I knew she had gone to find something that would help me.
I heard the sound of another horse galloping up and someone dismounting nearby. I didn't know who it was. When I looked up, as much as I could anyway, I saw Joxer standing a few paces in front of me. He seemed determined and his sword was drawn.
Xena turned around, holding some leaves in her hand and she stopped when she saw Joxer.
"Stay back; I mean it. That's Xena's horse. And I don't know what you did to her, but I'm not gonna give you the chance to finish the job," he said sternly.
I couldn't believe that he was trying to stand up for me--me, a horse. Well, I've got to give him credit for trying to be brave, that's for sure.
Xena blew past him, knocking him on his back and ran up beside me. She knelt down.
"Okay, girl--this is gonna hurt a bit. But I have to--put this against your--lung."
And she was right--it did hurt--a lot. I knew she was taking care of me, though. I could see Joxer continuing to try to stop Xena, whom he thought was Callisto. I can't blame him. Xena was in Callisto's body. Finally, Xena was able to convince Joxer that she was indeed Xena. Joxer knelt down next to Xena and they both looked at me.
"So did--did you, I mean--Callisto--whoever--try to kill Argo?"
"No--she knew it would be more painful if I had to put Argo down. But I know a few things she doesn't. Argo won't die. Thank you--for trying to protect her. Only someone with a brave heart would stand up to Callisto for a horse."
And he was brave, I could tell. I was glad he tried to do that for me. Xena finished putting the medicine on my wound and the she looked at me.
"I'm sorry I have to do this, Argo, but you're going to have to stay here. I have to go after Callisto. I'll be back when I'm finished with her. You should be better by then."
Xena and Joxer stood up and then walked off, leading another horse with them.
I had no idea how long I'd be lying there. I knew I was too sick to stand and besides, my side hurt too much. I lied there, waiting for Xena to come back.
Night soon fell. I had been lying there nearly all day. When I heard footsteps approaching, I saw Xena, still in Callisto's body, Gabrielle, and Joxer approaching. Xena walked up to me and petted my head.
"How you feeling, girl?"
I looked at her and tried to stand. I got to my feet and surprisingly, I felt a lot better.
"See? You're gonna be just fine."
"Yeah, thanks to you."
Xena stroked my mane and I nuzzled against her.
That night, I was standing next to a tree, watching Xena and Gabrielle. Joxer walked up to me and I looked at him. He rubbed my nose.
"You'll be okay, Argo."
I grunted in appreciation.
"No, no--don't bother thanking me. I was just risking my life for you, is all. You know--when Xena was Callisto--I mean--when Callisto was Xena."
"Joxer," Xena said, walking up next to him.
She started to rub my nose and looked at Joxer.
"Again, I want to thank you for protecting Argo. You were very heroic."
"Yes, you were, Joxer. You really were."
I looked at Xena and she smiled. I was so glad to be back with her again, even if she was in Callisto's body. Blonde or not, she's still Xena inside. Not every horse gets to spend their time with a person like Xena. She's more than I could have ever dreamed of. She's very important to me and I know she feels the same way about me. We're a team. She, Gabrielle and I were a team and I hoped it would always stay that way.