In an affectionate homage to ubers, in time for April Fools, we give you the Anti-Uber.
This and several other comedies were written as a counterpoint to our main focus, a long, very serious Conqueror piece. We really do still love the characters enough to do something other than satirize them.
As Good As It Gets
By Kamouraskan and Lariel
All the characters belong to RenPics and Studios USA. No profit is gained by this. At all. To Anyone. Especially the readers and authors of it.
With thanks to all at the Bardic Circle, Tavern Wall and in particular Julia, Laura and Jess
Threats and other mail may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The short, cute archetype approached the door, and hesitated before entering. She patted down her smart if somewhat conservative charcoal grey business suit, smoothed her short blonde hair and took a deep breath before placing small and slightly shaking fingers on the door handle. Shrugging, she thrust her chin out and twisted the handle, trying to mask her unaccountable nervousness, and cautiously entered the cavernous space.
The room was charged with energy. Most of it seemed to radiate from the lean, dark figure who dominated the space. For a moment, the force of her personality was so visceral that Gabrielle had to step back a moment to gain perspective. The black Armani suit only served to enhance the raw power that was sending Gabrielles mind into a whirling maelstrom of sensation and emotion.
"Dammit Jack," the charismatic, power charged woman was shouting into a head set phone, "if those documents arent signed properly, Heads Will Roll!" Gabrielle jumped back in shock at the words. "And..." the tone became one of velvet menace, "you do know I mean that literally, dont you?" Another silken pause. "Good."
Suddenly, Gabrielle found herself raked by the laser blue of the older womans eyes. "Who are you?" the vision in black demanded imperiously, as she shuffled papers and unpacked a FedEx box.
It took some doing, but Gabrielle dug deep into her core of well hidden strength and responded feistily, "I want to talk to whoever is in charge of the mail room. This is the mailroom, isnt it?" She wasnt going to let a tall, gorgeous woman oozing power and danger get her off on the wrong foot. I bet she looks fabulous in leather, she thought dreamily, as her green eyes flashed a fiery challenge to the mailroom manager.
The muscles of the sculptured jaw moved, and her steely azure eyes narrowed slightly before she spat out her reply. "THIS," and an arm swung about to encompass the room and beyond, "is Office Services. The nerve centre of this company. Not...," the full, luscious mouth turned disdainful. " The Mailroom."
Gabrielle refused to be cowed. "This is the room where mail is sorted though, right?" she said, almost cheekily.
Once again she was trapped by those piercing pale eyes. "What do you really want? Who sent you?"
The blonde stuttered uncharacteristically under the intense scrutiny. "I...Im..."
A heavy, swarthy man quickly stepped forward, sensing the increasing tension as it crackled around the two women. He smiled reassuringly at her. "Forgive Xena, she is not alwayz the most welcoming of peoples." There was a strong hint of an accent. "I am Borias Aberzzyxjhan. Zis is my associate, Xeena Amphipolos. Vhat can ve do for such a charming young lady?"
Gabrielle blushed. "Im Gabrielle. Gabrielle Potadaian."
"Ahhhh," smiled Borias. "Greek?"
"No thank you," Gabrielle declined politely. "Ive just had lunch."
Borias turned to his glowering partner. "You see, Xena. She is juzt an innozent. She is only here to do her job, that iz correct?"
"Yes. Im just here to verify your employee statistics. Check youve processed your paperwork correctly, filled in your employee insurance disclaimers and so on..."
"G. Potadaian?" The swarthy expression lightened slightly as a gleam of recognition crossed his unshaven face. "Borias extends the zincerest velcome to the assistant to the manager of Regional Personnel."
Xena pushed her way forward. "Personnel? Youre from Personnel?" Gabrielle knew how a deer might feel when appraised by a hungry, power dressing lion.
Borias was beside her in an instant. "No Xena. NO! I forbid it. Not zat plan again. I told you, ve can negotiate vith zem..."
Xena ignored him and pulled down a roll from the OHP stand. It was the company structure, meticulously laid out in flow chart format. Some of the boxes had been scratched out with what looked like a letter opener. She pulled Gabrielle harshly over to it. "Show me. Show me where you are."
Gabrielle tried to control the trembling in her finger as she pointed to the box that represented her position. "There."
Xena smiled. Borias glared at her and the two went to the far end of the room. From her position Gabrielle could only hear the warm buzz of the male demurring and the occasional bellow from Xena, "Damn it, that isnt what you said when we took the ReproGraphics department and I handed it to you on a platter..."
Gabrielle took the time alone to wander around the room, glancing ever so casually into each office. She paused in the doorway of a tiny but curiously plush one; tapestries of ancient warriors sweeping across battlefields covered the walls, a bowl of untouched fruit lay at the centre of the table, competing for space with the computer rig, lap top, Playstation and a Fisher Price Activity Centre. "This must be her office", she thought, and a voice inside her asked how she knew. She noticed a half-eaten mouldy sandwich, possibly peanut butter, on the desk. "She needs someone to look after her." She wondered for a moment what it would be like to be that person, needed...wanted...
In the corner, Xena continued to rant. "But I need it as a buffer zone!" Pacing restlessly, her mane of raven hair scattered over one shoulder and streamed out behind her.
"Zis isnt about buffer zones, Xena! Its more about power viz you now, its the conqvest you love!"
"Yes, I do love it." She stopped suddenly in front of Borias, her eyes gleaming. "Pursuing the enemy. Breaking down his defences. Cutting off his only path of retreat. And then closing for the kill. And once you did too!" She shook her fist at him.
There was a shushing sound from Borias as both of them seemed to remember Gabrielle was still in the room. They whispered again, their eyes flitting frequently to Gabrielle. After a few brief moments, the dark woman stalked over to where she was standing.
"Alright, Ms. Potadaian. What did you say you were here for? Employee stats? Why? And why now??"
Again Gabrielle had to fight to maintain her composure under the fierce scrutiny of the azure orbs. "Well, its a new Personnel policy, you should have gotten the memo. Im going section by section..."
"So this is nothing... personal?" The last word was drawn out and Gabrielle felt her skin prickle warmly as it was pronounced.
"No, no. Though I did notice," she referred to her file folder, " You have several people who were brought in through irregular hiring procedures. For example there was a Doofus, first name Joxer...?"
Xena leaned back casually against a filing cabinet which was bursting with old envelopes and packing tape. "Yes. What about him?"
"I see that he hasnt been paid for over a year."
Xena shrugged. "We take his breakages out of his salary. What else?"
Gabrielles green eyes grew warm with concern. "Hes had no salary? But how does he live?"
"His brother Jett helps him out. Hes a debt collector; a natural from what Ive heard - 100% success rate...go figure...."
Gabrielle cleared her throat, while consulting her file again. "Then theres his wife, Meg? Theres a note that shes your sister, but your medical file..."
Xena interrupted her sharply. "Were not sisters. I dont know how that rumour started. We just look exactly alike, thats all."
"I see. Pure coincidence. Got it. Well, really all I have to do is have these forms passed out, and Ill get out of your way..." She held out a flimsy form, which Xena regarded thoughtfully.
"You arent in my way." The brunette was standing now, looming at least a head taller than the smaller blonde and right in her personal space. She reached over and delicately plucked the paperwork from the trembling fingers of the Personnel Assistant. Gabrielle blinked uncertainly as she pondered the many meanings in Xenas words. Her hopes of continuing the conversation with this fascinating woman were dashed when Xena dismissed her with a curt, "Talk to my assistant Darphus, hell get you started." The dark woman started to leave, but at the last moment turned to say cryptically over her shoulder, "But dont trust him. Always remember that."
Gabrielle breathed a sigh of relief when she returned to her office. Like her it was small, and filled with signs of her distinct personality - pictures of her pet dogs adorned the walls, posters of pseudo-religious sayings were plastered on the back of her door and a couple of battered old Care Bears sat propped against her computer. She dropped herself into her tan swivel chair and tried to make sense of what she had seen downstairs. She felt drawn, somehow, to the woman in the mailroom - a woman who seemed to ooze danger and power...and yet, deep down inside, Gabrielle knew that there was a vulnerability there, a soul aching to find its other half; a heart longing to feel love...
Her thoughts were broken by the unexpected chirruping that was the indicator that her Jiminy Cricket telephone was calling for her.
It was her boss, his dulcet tones carrying through the wire.
"Yes, Mr Thompson?"
"So, dear, did you find your visit to our little madhouse illuminating?"
"Yes sir. You were right. Theyre all whackos down there."
"Good. You can see how important it would be to find some way to get around their contracts and find just cause... For the greater good of the company, of course."
Gabrielle nodded to herself. "Of course. For the company. But you promised theyd be reassigned, that they wouldnt be left without jobs."
"Yes I did, didnt I... ?" There was a meaningless pause. "I also agreed to hire your fiancé Perdicus. In fact Im going to have him assigned there. That should give the two of you a chance to spend more time together. I thought youd appreciate that."
"Yes, sir." But as she disconnected and reattached the grasshoppers head, in her mind she was wondering, "have I made a terrible mistake? What was it about that woman?"
Gabrielle stood waiting by Xenas office door as she argued with someone on the phone. This was personal - she could tell by the delicate way the phone was slammed down.
Xena caught the questioning look as she hung up the phone. "My younger brother," she said in answer to the unspoken query. "Hes off to make a drug deal on the bad side of town. Some gang lord wants to meet him in an abandoned warehouse. Ive got this bad feeling about it," Xena muttered, foreshadowingly. "Anyway, what were you saying?"
Gabrielles eyes grew wide in disbelief. "Arent you worried about him? I wouldnt want you to regret not helping him."
"Naw. Hes got my kid Solon working lookout, it should be okay. Go on, you were saying?"
"About the appraisals for your people this year - I have a few questions..." She shuffled through the sheaf of thick papers she held in her arms. "...especially about your promotability assessment for Mr Darphus..."
"You came all the way down here just to talk about my...subordinates..." A knowing smile grazed the upper lips of the Mailroom Manager.
"Well, it is company policy."
"It never happened last year."
"Thats because you put sharpened stakes around your doorway and poured hot baby oil on Mr Thompson last year," countered Gabrielle.
There was a beeping sound from the computer. A fierce look came over the older womans face as she scanned the readout. "Damn those idiots! Someone overloaded the bandwidth and all of the lines carrying the east coast shipping are down!" Frozen in horror at the financial ramifications, they stared at each other before snapping into action.
Xena moved to her computer and began typing furiously. Gabrielle followed, mesmerised by the strength of the womans focus and stared awestruck over her shoulder as one set of fingers danced across the keyboard and the other fondled the mouse with expert authority. She tried to keep quiet, but finally couldnt help becoming involved. "Xena!" she blurted. "The black ten on the red Jack!"
Both women were startled from their concentration when Darphus burst in and thrust an accusing finger at Gabrielle. "Xena. Youve been weak again! This woman isnt just from Personnel. Shes a spy working to fire us all!"
Ice chips instead of eyes turned to Gabrielle. "I don't know if you pray to the gods, but if you don't, now would be a great time to start."
"Which gods do you think would be best?" Gabrielle pulled out the crucifix from around her neck with one hand, a picture of Krishnu with the other and brandished a plastic model of the Starship Enterprise, just for good measure.
"Your gods wont save you now!" yelled Xena, as she lunged at the hapless Personnel manager. Gabrielle staggered, caught off balance, and stumbled into Xenas arms.
Their breath caught, their eyes locked. "Oh, Xena " breathed Gabrielle, assailed by indescribable thoughts. "The leather trim on this jacket is wonderful. Whered you get it?" She leaned in closer, and breathed in a heady mix of spice, musk, and smoke that assaulted her senses and dredged up long forgotten archetypal memories of warriors, leather, whips and large horses.
"The Gap," husked Xena, equally trapped by past life memories that flickered behind her glazed eyes. "I feel like weve met before, somehow "
"Last years Christmas party. You did a striptease on the dinner table, slipped on the black forest gateaux and ended up face down in my lap, mumbling something about Amazon sweat huts "
"Dont worry. It was worth the $50. So, you were saying something about me betraying you?"
"Was I? I forget now "
"So, Mr Perdicus Potadiaien..."
Perdy smiled eagerly. Dressed in his best suit and with his hair slicked back, he looked freshly scrubbed and clean around the ears and was out to please his new boss, because that way he would make Gabrielle happy and finally get a chance to get past first base with her. They had been engaged for four years, after all.
"Yes, Ms Amphipolis," he chirped in return.
"Call me Ms Amphipolis," Xena said smoothly. "I run a tight ship, no slacking and none of this equal opportunities Personnel crap that the others insist on." She paused, staring into the distance. "This is MY department and I run it my way. Theres a few things to remember if youre gonna succeed in the cutthroat world of reprographics, Mr Potadiaien and lets just get this straight - when I say cutthroat, I mean it." She reached into her desk drawer, and pulled out a sheaf of papers. "Memorise these."
"What are they?"
"Instructions on how to operate all of the photocopiers. Prove yourself trustworthy, and Ill let you use the colour one."
"Wow," he spluttered, unaccountably impressed with the electrifying woman who filled him with feelings of desire and worthlessness.
"I dont let just anyone get their hands on my equipment," she finished, and sent him off to Darphus with an imperious wave.
Perdicus had achieved a fine sweat over his upper body from carrying the shipping in and out of the building. Right from the start he had noticed the tall, somewhat grungy gentleman that was his supervisor. Did he know him from somewhere? There was something familiar in the shock of hair, that scar, and the peculiar grin. He found himself making excuses to be near him, and he was confused as to why.
So far their only conversation had consisted of reporting in.
"Perdicus Potadaien? You any relation to Gabrielle Potadaiain?" the swarthily handsome man had growled.
"No," Perdicus had responded. "She spells it with an a."
But as the day had worn on, he found his thoughts of Gabrielle became less than clear, and he realised that he was not alone in a strange obsessive contemplation. Several times he had cautiously raised his eyes to see the other man staring at him before blushing, and turning away.
Lunch break arrived, and to their mutual embarrassment they were alone, and both seemed to realise that they had been acutely aware of each other all morning. Perdicus felt himself drawn to this strange and cruel man, as though only he could see the buried pain that lay beneath the earthy exterior. To his shock, he discovered he had somehow moved right next to him and he was gently tracing the hideous facial scar with his fingertip, following its graceful curving from eye to chin. "Does it hurt?" he asked softly.
"No," muttered Darphus almost to himself. "Not now. Not when you touch it."
"Am I imagining this?" Perdicus whispered.
"No," croaked the other.
"Can you feel it? Almost as if were getting a second chance? As though we were supposed to meet long ago, but some fate or chance kept us apart?"
"Yes, oh yes," stuttered Darphus, and their lips were touching and neither knew anything more.
"So, Ms Potadiaian is moving her people into position, Borias..."
"Ahh, Zeena - I haf told you beforrre...zees girl iz an innocent."
"And how do you explain this?" Angrily, she slammed a sheaf of papers onto her already overfilled desk, scattering executive toys everywhere. The top one was the application form of her newest employee. "I didnt notice any link at first - why would I? But when I checked Perdicus Potadaiens application, I noticed Ms Potadiaians name was listed as a reference. Coincidence? I dont think so!"
"Zeena, didnt you notice ze surname...?"
"They even have the same surname for christsakes! Why didnt I notice before? Im losing my edge! Ive been fooled by that innocent little blonde, I let her into my office, my heart..."
"Well no, not really. Just my filing cabinet. But I was starting to trust her." A faraway look crept into her eyes. "I let her into places where nobodys been for years..."
"Really, Zeena? Like where?" Borias eyes glazed over, as he remembered the last time hed been allowed into Xenas forbidden places.
"I showed her how to get free coffee out of the Klix machines. And how does she repay me? With treachery, and deceit, and cutting my headcount! Gimme her home address. Well see how sweet this Gabrielle really is."
The apartment listed on the form was a small but sunshiny place, even on the deserted streets. Trying to quell her rage, Xena moved purposefully towards the door when she saw it was already open. She heard angry voices coming through the open window of the seventh floor, and slipped inside soundlessly. There, when she eventually got there, on the sofa was Gabrielle, looking terrified and surrounded by two men, both of whom were immaculately dressed in ties and suits. They were pointing sheets of paper at her with wild intensity, and using a lot of big words.
Sizing up the situation immediately, Xena merely coughed, and was gratified by the alarmed expressions of the men as they turned and saw her. Any hope that this might become a fight disappeared as quickly as the men.
"Xena!" one cried in petrified recognition. They faced one another, one saying in a Kiwi-ish way, "Shes too much for us!"
"Lets get out of here!"
Despite her anger towards Gabrielle, Xena was drawn to the shivering woman and let them escape. "Bloody Jehovahs," she mumbled as she tore the issues of Watchtower out of the girls shaking and lifeless hands.
Gabrielles verdant orbs seemed frozen in terror, and she looked at the place where the papers had been. "Xena, why didnt anyone tell me the world was going to end soon? Why?"
Xena looked down sternly, wondering where to begin this lecture, but found herself stuttering into silence. She found herself lost in a sea of grateful green. Unable to resist the mesmeric pull of those eyes, she took an involuntary step forward, and felt her pulse race. Suddenly, unaccountably, she was horny as a hog in heat.
"Gabrielle... are you sure?"
The only response was a simple nod. They stared deeply into each others eyes for several long moments. Slowly, they began to move together. "Yes," Gabrielle whispered. "I need it. And I need you to give it to me."
"Oh Gabrielle, youre so wet!"
"I know. Thats why I need it."
"You should be better prepared for British weather."
"I thought we were in Florida." They suddenly became aware of the cobbled streets and murky grey skies which lay beyond her apartment doorstep. "Please Xena! Just give me the umbrella before I get soaked through," the honey blonde complained as they ran for the shelter of the bar.
Once inside, they shucked their coats and made for the barperson. Gabrielle looked about, marvelling. "I didnt even know that there was a girls only bar in this town. Is Nubbins the name of the owners cat?"
"I always thought it was a pussy name, yeah," Xena smirked knowingly, feeling strangely protective of the innocent and yet voluptuous blonde.
Three hours later, and many beers as well, Gabrielle was finding out what Xena meant when she said she needed to talk. Somehow, the normally taciturn dark woman felt compelled to unburden herself to this girl.
"He was just another rep for Fed Express, I thought. But there was something; a charisma, or maybe it was just the way he seemed to know he was moving up. I saw that, and I thought I could use it. I wined and dined and seduced him, but somewhere along the way, I fell in love with him." Her azure spheres of vision gazed into the far off distance. "Or maybe just in love with all we would do together. We were going to conquer the world..." Staring away from Gabrielle, she asked the wall heatedly, "What happened to those plans for us?"
She stared dreamily into space.
"Then one day he announced that he didnt need me. He used my plans and my people to get a contract to outsource, and left me with nothing! He left me for dead." She paused and spoke with a painful mixture of regret and venom. "That night, a new Xena was born..."
Her cellphone rang, interrupting her. "Office Services...oh? Yes... we did, I see, then... alright, kill them all," she said, absently.
Gabrielle seized the moment to interrupt. "Xena, thats what I have to tell you. Mr. Caesar has changed. Hes offered the company a fantastic price on courier deliveries. The company wants to fire everyone, and they asked me to find a way to break your contracts."
"I knew it!" Ire crept into the vivid cerulean eyes, and she was gripped by an unexplainable fury and a need to drag bards behind horses. She paused, gazing into the soft green orbs which captured her own, and felt her anger melt away. "So what changed your mind?"
"You did. Something about you, as if Ive known you for a dozen lifetimes, and I knew I couldnt do it. In fact, now that we know each other better, I was hoping we could become best friends. In a romantic friendship kind of way."
"A really intense romantic friendship?"
"Sure. Maybe we could move in together? Theres a U-Haul I could lay my hands on "
This was almost too quick for even Xena. Almost. "But its only our first date! Arent there rules?"
"Thats not counting when we met. In your office, remember?"
"Oh, thats right. What about Perdicus?"
"Oh, I dont know whats come over him. He spends all his time oiling his body and working out at Mr. Darphus gym now." Gabrielle dismissed her former fiancée with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Forget about him. He never really had a romantic friendship with me."
"You mean, youve never ?" Xena paused, pregnantly.
With a furrowed brow, Xena sat lost deep in thought for a second. "Alright. Ill work with you, but first we need a plan. How many sharpened stakes can you supply?"
Gabrielle shocked them both by slamming a hand onto the table. "No! I think if we work together, we can find a way without anyone having to die."
Grudgingly, again Xena found herself agreeing. "Okay, but I dont think you really have the right take on office politics."
"People! I have some good news and some bad news." The Reprographics Manager surveyed her little band of rag-tag men with pride. Shed taken raw recruits, and knocked them into a formidable fighting team using only the force of her personality and above inflation pay rises. "The bad news is that somehow the company discovered all the infractions you people have committed, and you are all being fired for gross misconduct. The good news is that Ive been promoted!"
Darphus scar shone an angry red. "In other words, there is no good news."
"What do you mean? A promotion is usually thought of as good news," she countered.
"Youve grown weak, Xena. Youve betrayed your own men." Hed been waiting for this moment for years, ever since shed marked him down on his annual record. That had cost him a promotion, and hed vowed that one day, he would wrest control of the mailroom from her and make her beg for her own job. "Youre not fit to lead us!"
Somewhat disappointed that Darphus wasnt pleased with her advancement, Xena was stunned into patiently explaining. "Well, I didnt plan to. I have a whole new team waiting on the forty-second floor. Executive level type team people."
"I always said giving women top jobs was a bad idea! I can deliver cost efficiency savings that you only dreamed of! Beg for your job, Xena beg me!"
"What part of Im leaving didnt you get?"
Silent until now, Borias stepped forward, his heavy fur cloak swirling around his legs. He motioned to the other workers until they began to circle her, their snarling anger becoming more evident with each step. " So Zeena! What will you do now? Im sure you haf some incredibly complex plan to evade juztiz vonce more! Powerful friends are on zere vay to rescue you, no doubt!"
"Youre damn right I have a plan!" Xena snarled, and then pointed behind them. "Look, there!" They all turned for only a second before Borias howled, "Curse you, Zeena! Eet vas a trick! Get her!"
With howls of incandescent rage, the newly redundant mailmen and photocopier operatives descended on their former leader, beating her with their redundancy letters and resumes. Battered, bloody and with newsprint all over her hair, Xena staggered through the gauntlet and emerged through the other side exhausted, proud and yet somehow humbled. Without a backward glance, she left the office that had been her home for the last ten winters.
Ill be back she thought. On Monday in fact. And shed have a much bigger office. Maybe even with a Personal Assistant.
Xena and Gabrielle stood in the doorway of Caesars office, waiting nervously to put their Plan into play. To their shock, seated at the desk was a slim blonde woman with intense brown eyes.
She was on the speakerphone while skipping around the office. "Tell the mayor " she was crooning, " he has five minutes to comply."
A secretary squeezed passed them to ask, "Would you like some tea, Ms Callisto?"
"Oh, yes please," the woman responded gaily and continued to purr towards the phone mic, "... make that six minutes..." Then she stopped rubbing her hands together to smile devilishly at them and say, "so. How did it feel to be working for me, Xena?" She began to laugh hysterically to the pairs amazement.
"Wheres Caesar? Who are you?" demanded Gabrielle.
The woman draped herself over and into a chair, and smiled. "Caesar? He had a small problem with the board of directors. Hes gone." And she drew a finger across her throat, and then made several stabbing motions.
"Gone? Where?" Gabrielle gasped.
"I think hes in Brighton. Hes opened a small stand called Veni, Vidi, I bought the T-Shirt."
"I told you we were in England," Xena snarled. "So what does that mean? You cant fire us. We have contracts! Employment ones!"
"I cant fire Gabrielle, she works for Head Office. But you, my dear " She made a slashing motion against her neck, and pantomimed a gory death, " are gone. Thanks to your little friend there. Youve applied for Statutory four months Marriage Leave. Or hasnt dear sweet Gabrielle told you?" She began to laugh maniacally.
Xena staggered backwards, staring accusingly at Gabrielle. "Leave? But you told me "
Callisto returned to the phone. "Mayor, sign the delivery schedule or we will have to start throwing out hostages! From the top floors this time."
"How could you betray me?" Xena demanded, pointing at her new boss. "This place is perfect for me!"
Gabrielle pulled Xena to her. "I told you all about it. You just never listen, you big silly."
"You mean, like this being England?"
"But four months?" The closeness of Gabrielle was once more befuddling Xenas anger.
"We need time to get to know each other!" Gabrielle enthused while hugging the dark woman even more tightly.
"But what kind of marriage would it be? I mean, two women youre not fabulously wealthy are you?"
"No, not this time. But remember when I told you about my old Pastor, Father Bob?"
Despite Xenas blank look she continued. "Well, he moved to England too, and hes now Archbishop of Canterbury!"
"Does that mean he can marry us?"
"That means he can marry the Pope!"
"Can he do us at the same time?"
Behind them Callisto continued her negotiations. "What? We have to provide our own drivers? Look out the window, mayor. See that figure dangling? Any guesses who it is?"
She cupped the phone to her chin and said. "Hurry back, Xena, I know youll fit in perfectly here."
Xena stuck out her hand, ignoring the worried look in Gabrielles green eyes, and said, "Howd you like to be a bridesmaid?"
"Bitchin! Ive always wanted to wear leather to a wedding!"
Gabrielle drove her Lexus home with her usual cautious care. She found her mind drifting back to their wedding at Canterbury Cathedral. They had been so lucky to be able to reserve it, and the half price coupons had left them plenty of money for the honeymoon! But even so, she had not had the hoped for reconciliation with her parents. "Damn them," she thought angrily, "They still think being a vegetarian is a matter of choice. Why cant they just accept me the way I am?" Without family members, and Xena having antagonised everyone, it was certainly lucky that all her woodland animal friends had shown up to fill the pews.
The three month honeymoon had been fabulous. She and Xena had crossed North America, helping people and taking unusual jobs. Her favourite had been the stripping, but Xena had preferred working for the FBI and Gabrielle had helped by being an important witness. But now Xena was stuck at home while Gabrielle went off to work, and there had been problems.
She turned into their pleasant suburban street, the fifth one acquired through the Witness Protection Scheme, and admired the yards and hedges of their neighbours. As usual, there had been some early differences with the neighbours, but she noted with her usual sunny optimism that flowers were now growing in many of the once burnt out areas.
Gabrielle slowed down as she approached the house and groaned as she saw the plumbing truck in her driveway. She jumped out of the vehicle and desperately searched for her keys. As she moved to open the door, she heard a grovelling sound from the other side. "Please let me go, I wont charge you anything, please, just "
Once the door was unlocked and opened, an overweight man with a toolbox pressed past her, running as though the devil were at his heels.
Xena appeared. "Hey, honeybunch. We got the boiler fixed!"
Gabrielle put her briefcase down. "Xena! What did we say about terrorising appliance repairmen?"
"Damn it, Gab! I tried to stick to that rule, but the mailman wouldnt fall for the trap I set. And that fool of a plumber brought it on himself. Claimed he had to go to the shop to get tools. Tools! I showed him. All we needed were Popsicle sticks and some duct tape. It works fine."
It was time, Gabrielle thought. Time to have THAT conversation. She took a deep breath. "This isnt enough for you, is it?" she asked
Xena paused, and then shrugged. "No. I feel so powerless here. I cant wait to go back to work."
Gabrielles face fell. She hesitated, and took a deep breath before saying, "Xena, please dont get angry, but I like being the one who brings home the pay cheque, and I dont think working for Callisto would be for the Greater Good at all. So..." She smiled, winsomely. "You know that throwing up youve been doing in the mornings lately?"
"I know breakfast isnt one of my specialities."
"No, Xena, its not the double helpings of fried bread. Youre youre pregnant. And the company allows for three and half years standard maternity leave," she finished, all in a rush.
Xena was aghast. "But how? We havent slept together yet!"
Gabrielle blushed. " You knew this was a romantic friendship. Oh," she presented a bouquet with a flourish. "I brought you flowers!"
Xenas statement hardened as did her expression. "Never mind that. What were you about to say about my sickness in the mornings?"
Gabrielles smile grew even more winsome. "Do you remember when I drugged you a few months back?"
"I thought that was to discourage me from getting too ." Xena made some vague movements with her hands.
Gabrielle reddened again and quickly interjected, "Well it was, but remember that I bought that turkey baster about the same time?"
Rosy fingers of dawning realisation passed over Xenas face. "Oh, Gab! You didnt? But whose ?"
Overcome with emotion and wanting to keep Xenas hands immobile, Gabrielle moved forward in a crushing hug. "Ours, friend. I extracted some eggs from myself and took them to the chemists."
"You mean you had them turned into sperm like I just read in the news?"
Gabrielle swallowed. "Do you mind terribly? It means that we can have a child that would be truly ours."
"Well, we couldve just bought a dog, and you know you should have asked," grumbled Xena. "But Gabrielle, how will that fill my time?"
Gabrielle was about to make some suggestions when Xena threw up her hands in a momentary epiphany. "Wait, I know! I could be a soccer mom, or a coach."
"Football Xena. This is England."
"I can be running the Home and School Association in a matter of years!" A calculating, power crazed gleam crept into her eye, as Xena saw herself massing her troupes, setting strategy, talking tactics and bringing utter defeat to her Little League enemies. " We could have nine kids, and make our own team! I could have my own office. With maps in it! And think what I could do with the Neighbourhood Watch!"
Gabrielle stepped back in horror. "Xena, remember the treaty with the neighbours. Think of the dead. Cant we please try to keep this house?"
"Dont worry, Gabrielle. This time Ill make sure weve got a buffer zone. But what will I do until then? Though I did notice that the church needs help at the bake sale."
"So. Think about it. If enough money is raised, someone will have to be on the financial advisory committee. And once you have their purse strings, their balls are ."
In desperation Gabrielle interrupted. "Xena, I think you need a calmer hobby. Youre pregnant, remember? Carrying our daughter."
"Shes a girl? Think shell take after us?"
Gabrielle sighed with a growing sense of helplessness. "Not if we keep changing our address. And probably then with a pack of dogs and carrying a loaded gun."
"Youre right! We can make a game of it!"
"No Xena!" The blondes redheaded anger once again caught Xena by surprise. "I hoped a child would help you to stop and smell the roses, but all you see it as, is another chance to begin your empire building again. What are we going to do with you? Where can someone with your obsessions ever be happy? Youre violent, deceptive, paranoid, thickheaded, and I only say that because youre my best friend."
Xenas cerulean eyes gleamed even more. "Gabrielle! Thats it! Do you realise that youve named the central qualities of most of the dominant political figures of the last thirty years?"
Now in a complete panic, Gabrielle was trying to remember where shed hidden the various drugs shed used on the honeymoon. Lithium, Prozac but those were all unusable on a pregnant woman! What have I done? she thought. "Xena, theres got to be some way to channel this desire, redirect your passion and focus "
Xena nodded expectantly. "There is, Gabrielle. Think. All those Déjà vu feelings youve had, of us sharing past lives. There must be one that at least hints at the solution!" Xena wiggled her eyebrows lasciviously.
A light dawned in the jade eyes. Gabrielle pumped her fist once and said, "you wait here. Ill be right back!"
Xena lay back in her chair, an expectant smirk in her face. What would they start with? The bathing together? Backrubs? Or grab some skins and pitch a fire outdoors? Finally use all those home massagers that had piled up while Gabrielle would only use the toothbrush attachment? "This could be the end of a beautiful romantic friendship" she sighed happily.
Meanwhile in the garage Gabrielle rummaged through the lawn tools enthusiastically. "One pitch fork to the head coming up!"