"How are you feeling?"
"Tired. A little shaky. And hungry. In fact, I'm starved."
Gabrielle went to the door of the hut.
"Can anyone find something for Xena to eat? I'd appreciate it."
As she went back inside, there was a flurry of activity. Everyone was scrambling to find food worthy of the companion of Queen Gabrielle.
"I suppose you're wondering what happened."
"It was a curse. We were told that Alara had one of her sister Amazons wish that you and Buffy would fight to the death. She said something about 'it would be so,' and then she vanished, just like the gods do. It was all we could do to keep you two from killing each other."
"So how did you do it?"
"I called Ares. And when he got here, I told him you and Buffy had been cursed. So he hit the both of you with energy orbs, knocked both of you unconscious and removed the curse. And then he had Aesclepius heal you."
"And what did he want in return? Some big favor, no doubt."
"Of course. But there's more."
"I can't wait."
Gabrielle took a breath, knowing Xena wasn't going to like what was coming.
"I talked Ares into sending Buffy home, but it will cost you another favor."
"Well, that's just what I wanted to hear."
"I know. And I’m sorry, but she doesn't belong here."
"I know. And don't worry about Ares. I'm sure I can work around anything he asks for. Did Aesclepius heal up Buffy, too?"
"No. I asked him but he was too angry at Ares for making him heal you. Ares sent her back just like she was, all beaten up. I only hope her healing powers kept her from dying. I just wish there was some way I could let her know what happened to her, and how she got back."
"What about sending her a message in one of your scrolls? That's how she found out about us."
"You're right! That's a great idea! I just wish I knew which ones they read, so I'd know for sure which one to use. The trouble is, she never said."
"Actually, she did mention one of them before we got here. I think you were asleep at the time. It was the one where Hercules and I freed Prometheus. Just add it to the bottom of that one."
"Okay, now I've told you MY story, so what happened here?"
"Well, after you left all your stuff, Giles hypnotized me so I'd remember the spell. And I wrote it down but I couldn't read it, I forgot how. So Anya called Halfrek, her vengeance friend, who read it over and found that D'Hoffryn had changed the last line. And when we told her where you went and who you wanted to find, she remembered that she was there!"
"I don't remember any Vengeance Demon."
"But that's just it, she wasn't one at first. But she said after listening to you talking about D'Hoffryn, somehow she found him and convinced him to turn her into one. And SHE was the one who put the spell on you two!"
"Who was it?"
"The one that gave the order for the arrow to be shot at you."
"Alara. Her name was Alara. I knew there was something about her I didn't trust. But why? What did we ever do to her?"
"She just didn't like you, none of you, I guess. She said after you two started fighting, she lost interest and left for Rome."
"So what else don't I know?"
"That's just about it. Halfrek translated the spell, but it was no good since it had to be spoken in the pre-proto-Sumerian. We wanted to go back to find you, but we had no way to do it. So I guess we'll never know how you got back."
Buffy thought for a minute.
"You know, I mentioned to Gabrielle that she should add more details to her stories. Maybe she wrote something about it in one of the ones you and Tara haven't read yet."
A week later Buffy was sitting at the kitchen counter, trying to decide which bills should be paid first, the second, and so on. Dawn was at school, Xander was at the construction work site, and Anya was at the Magic box with Giles.
Willow and Tara were in class at UCSD, until they burst into the kitchen.
"We found it!" Willow exclaimed.
"The answer! How you were sent back to us!"
"Yeah," Tara said. "We went through all the scrolls we hadn't read yet, but there was nothing there. So we went back to the first ones. And there it was!"
"It was at the very bottom of the one about Xena and Hercules freeing Prometheus," Willow continued. "We kind of ignored it the first time because it was so faded."
"It was written with a different kind of ink, but after putting it under ultraviolet light we could make it out."
"What did it say?"
"Well, basically it said, 'the killer of the Bacchae was returned home with no curse by Ares the God of War.' So apparently Ares changed his mind, removed the spell and sent you back here."
"Hmm, a curse, huh? Well I guess that's as good a description of the spell as any. I wonder why Ares changed his mind. I just hope Xena was okay. It's too bad we really never got to know each other."
"Yeah," Willow echoed. "If you two ever got together -- talk about a kick-ass ass-kicking team!"
Buffy was silent for a few seconds, then she said, "Willow, you still have that translation don't you?"
"Yeah, a copy. Giles took the original. I understand he's really made a name for himself with the language scholars. Not only with the spell, but with the actual translation. Why?"
"I was just wondering if there was some way you could figure out how to make it work."
"Why? NO! You're not thinking about going back again! Are you?"
"I was thinking about it. I never got to see the Colosseum, or the Parthenon, or any of the other great ruins while they were new. I'd like to return Gabrielle's clothes to her. And I'd like to think that if Xena and I could start over we could be friends."