Revenge of the Hawk (a la O. Henry)

The Further Adventures of Billie Chick and Her Friends

by Cassandra and Bik

Copyright notice: Even though we may believe that this should mean that everyone has the right to copy anything they want, other legalistic types disagree. And they have more money than we do. (Maybe the two things are connected.) The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renaissance Pictures, StudiosUSA and whatever manifestation they have assumed this season. All other characters and the story belong to the authors; and we love all our children.

Disclaimers: Mild hints at subtext in the Xena/Gabrielle vignettes before and after the main story. Otherwise nothing. If you want lots of subtext, you ain't gonna find it here.

This Fable continues the action begun in Gabrielle's Fables 5: The Rabbit and the Hawk. In order to understand this story, it would be a good idea to read the earlier Fable. Also there are occasional references to things that happened in earlier Fables. It is not necessary to read them to enjoy this one, but the authors will be really happy if you do.

Any comments, feedback, praise, constructive criticism may be sent to

The dark-haired warrior was muttering to herself while she vigorously sharpened her sword. "Name that scroll! How can I name a scroll if she won't tell me any names? What a dumb game. And she never leaves her scroll bag where I can get at it when she isn't around. And what did she mean by paybacks are a bitch; I never made her play unfair games." At this point the whetstone went flying out of her hand and landed several feet away.

The sort-of-blonde bard looked up from where she was sitting by the fire. She had been pretending to write another scroll, but had really been listening to her partner's muttered comments.

"Is there something bothering you, Xena? You don't usually drop things," she asked sweetly. She was really enjoying getting the better of the warrior princess, even if it was only a guessing game.

"No, I'm fine." Xena tried a smile but gave up, knowing it wouldn't fool Gabrielle after all the time they had been together. "I couldn't get a good grip; my hands must be cold."

"Why don't you come over here by the fire? I'm finished writing for tonight anyway," Gabrielle said and put the scroll in her carrying bag.

Xena put her sword in its scabbard and walked over and sat down next to Gabrielle. They sat quietly for a few minutes.

Then Gabrielle started rubbing her arms. "You know, it is getting colder. Maybe we should start thinking about going somewhere warmer for the winter."

Xena moved several inches closer, "Do you have any place in particular in mind?" she whispered into her ear.

"Actually I was thinking about Egypt," the blonde said brightly. "You remember Cleopatra said we would be welcome. Maybe we should take her up on her offer."

The reformed warlord leaned over and whispered in her ear again. "Until then, I know another way for us to stay warm."


Revenge. It has such a sweet sound to it, the hawk thought to himself. He was perched on a boulder, surveying the countryside. He was looking for a bear and a horse. And a limping rabbit and a talkative yellow chick. When he caught up with them, he planned on making the rest of their short lives extremely painful. No one ever made a fool of him and got away with it.

At first he hadn't realized what had happened. When the bear and horse didn't come back, he just thought they were slow or clumsy. So many of his helpers were, but they were usually the most intimidated by him, too. But as the minutes piled up, he started to worry. Maybe he shouldn't have told them where his stash of loot was. He was confident they were too afraid to double cross him, but maybe they were so afraid - the bear especially - that they had just taken off.

The hawk had reassured himself with the thought that they had got lost. He went to check on them. When he got to his headquarters, the first thing he saw was that his cart horse and wagon were gone. 'Maybe the dumb horse just wandered off looking for grass to eat,' he thought. Then he saw that the board covering the entrance to his storeroom was pushed aside. He dashed madly into the opening. He was numb. All he could do for several minutes was stare blankly at the scene of devastation. There were a few sacks and baskets of food left, and some apples and nuts loose on the floor.

That was when he fully realized that the best con artist in the business had been conned. 'That chicken and rabbit must have been in on it, too,' the part of his brain that was still functioning told him. 'And they took my horse and cart to steal MY treasure!' He angrily kicked an apple that was rolling toward him. Then he had to spend several minutes hopping on one foot and holding the other until the pain went away.

Nothing like this had ever happened to him before, not even when he was young and just starting on his extremely successful career of separating the gullible from their goods. Now he had become one of the gullible! All he could think of was getting revenge before anybody found out that he, the great Hawk, had been made a fool of. He wondered who was the mastermind. Thinking of the four creatures he knew were involed, none of them seemed bright enough or brave enough to try a con on him. There must be someone else behind the scenes, directing activities. That was the creature who was the biggest threat to his empire and who had to be eliminated quickly.

Once the hawk had calmed down and started thinking, he figured they couldn't have that much of a headstart on him. He was sure to find them soon, and then he would teach them a lesson. He smiled evilly as he thought of different ways to make them suffer. He left his looted storeroom.


Aquila, the former free-range chicken, was going over the events of the last week in her head. The several days they had spent with Joleo and his family had not been merely visiting, although she didn't tell Billie this. She thought it would be a good idea for them to lay low for a while and let the hawk lose their trail. She just hoped it had worked.

She told the jersey rabbit, Hoplea, to stay out of sight, too, once he got his loot-laden wagon home. Creatures like the hawk can't afford to let anybody get the better of them, and the wily warrior chicken knew he would be looking for the ones who had humiliated him. She was thinking out different plans to meet the hawk on her terms and stop him once and for all.

With all of this occupying her mind, she had been even more quiet than usual this morning. Not that Billie noticed. When other folks were quiet, that just gave the young chick more of a chance to talk non-stop. Even though she had been travelling with the dark, moody warrior for a while now, her enthusiasm for life and eagerness to see what was around the next corner was as fresh as ever.

Ergo had noticed Aquila's thoughtful expression, though. While Billie had hopped to the side of the road to sniff at a flower she hadn't seen before, the pale yellow mare leaned down to ask their leader what she was thinking about. Aquila made sure that Billie was fully engrossed in her botanical study before answering.

"I'm thinking about the hawk, or da hawk as Hoplea kept calling him, and how we need to put him out of business permanently," she said.

Ergo nodded, "Billie thinks it's all over, but creatures like that never give up until they get even."

"I know all about revenge," Aquila said bitterly. "You think you'll feel better or whole or something. Then when you get your revenge, you're more empty than before."

Ergo gently nuzzled the black feathered chicken, who reached out a wing and patted her head. Just as the touchy-feely moment might have got out of hand, Billie ran over to them.

"Hey, do you know what that flower is called I've never seen one like it before not even in the meadow when we first saw Joleo and there were so many flowers I couldn't count them all it sure was a lucky thing for him we were there and saw him in that cage and rescued him so he could go back to his family because they're awfully nice folks and I don't know why everybody is so afraid of bears just because they're big and growl sometimes until they get to know you except Falstaff who is friendly to everybody but he wants to sell you stuff you don't really need so I don't know if that counts as friendly and why didn't he want to travel with us I didn't understand what he meant about not wanting to go where there was sure to be trouble we never cause any trouble!" Billie paused and looked expectantly at her friends.

Aquila and Ergo were both laughing by the time Billie had to pause for breath. Aquila looked at the flower her chatty friend had been sniffing. "It's a pink flower; why not call it Pink?"

Billie gave her an exasperated look. "You have no imagination I can't just call a flower that pretty by its color it needs an impressive name so everybody will know how important it is let me think a minute."

All three of the companions were momentarily quiet as they continued down the road.

It was getting toward sunset. Aquila and Billie had been riding on Ergo for the last hour or so. The motion of the ambling horse had put Billie to sleep, leaning back against her dark-feathered friend. And Aquila had her wings around the young chick to keep her from falling off. Ergo smelled water and was heading for what she hoped was a nice, cool stream where they could camp for the night.

As she came to the top of a hill, she stopped in her tracks. At the foot of the hill were a dozen or more tents scattered along a river. "Aquila, look at this. What do you suppose it is?" she asked.

Aquila stood up straight, joggling Billie who blinked several times as she woke up and stretched.

"What is it ... where are we ... is it dinner time yet?" the yellow chicken asked through a yawn. She stood up, too, to see over Ergo's head. "Who are all those people and why are they all wearing long robes? I've never seen so many tents all in one place and the wagons and horses and other animals is it a fair like we saw in that town are there any magicians I wonder and what are those funny looking two-wheeled cart things?"

"Those are chariots; they're mostly used by soldiers," Aquila answered absently. She was busy assessing the situation. She figured as long as the three of them didn't get too close, there shouldn't be any problem. She hadn't figured on Billie's curiosity, although she should have known better by now.

Billie was bouncing up and down and in danger of falling off Ergo's back in her excitement. "Is it an army ... I've never seen an army before are they all like that and are those robes they're wearing their uniform I'd think it would be hard to fight in them I'd be tripping over my feet all the time what are they doing here and how do those chariot thingies work?" She tried to turn around to look at Aquila, the warrior chicken who could answer all her questions, but was frustrated in the attempt because Aquila had hold of her shoulders to keep her from falling off.

The moody chicken was smiling at Billie's eagerness. She was realizing that they were going to have to find out all about the people at the camp before the curious chick would let them continue. "No, it's not an army. I can't tell what they are or why they're here. Ergo, angle over to the left and get into those trees upstream of the camp. Maybe we can find out what's going on, and then Billie will let us get some sleep tonight." She playfully tapped the top of Billie's head.

Ergo nodded and started walking. She was thirsty and had been getting impatient to get to the river. She thought to herself, 'I hope we can satisfy Billie's curiosity without too much trouble. We'll never hear the end of it until we do; not that we'll ever hear the end of it anyway.' She chuckled quietly.

Billie and Aquila looked at each other when they heard the quiet horse laugh. "What's the joke?" Billie asked, stroking Ergo's mane.

The farm horse looked at her for a second, "Oh, nothing; just a thought that popped into my head."

Ergo was pacing back and forth behind a screen of trees. 'They've been gone a long time,' she thought to herself. 'It's not that I'm worried; Aquila can handle whatever situation Billie gets them into. I just wish I knew what was happening.' She stopped her pacing and listened for a minute. 'Well, I don't hear anything so I guess those people don't know they have two extra chickens in their camp.'

When our three heroes had gotten into cover upstream of the tent village, it was decided (by Aquila, of course) that Ergo would stay there. A horse is a little hard to overlook and Aquila didn't want to take any chance of the people trying to catch her and keep her. Billie agreed and said that it would be easy for two chickens - even one with a sharp ring attached to a belt at her waist - to get into the camp and find out why they were there. Being outvoted, Ergo reluctantly gave in.

But now she wished she were closer and could at least see what was going on. If they did get into trouble, they just might need a big horse to come to the rescue! Suddenly her ears pricked up. She heard a noise, but since it came from farther back in the trees she was more curious than worried. Giving one last look in the direction of the tents, she went to investigate.

She had gone about thirty feet when she came upon a squirrel lying on the ground. The gentle horse bent to look at him; he didn't appear to be hurt - the leaves had cushioned his fall. However, his breathing was rapid, almost panting, and he had a wide-eyed, blank stare. Ergo looked up at the trees and wondered what could make a squirrel fall; she had always admired how sure-footed they seemed.

When she looked back down, she gave a start. Aquila was standing next to her. The black-feathered chicken had come up in her usual stealthy style. Billie hopped over a second later, smiling. Ergo realized that Aquila must have been teaching the young chick how to move quietly and sneak up on folks.

"Did we startle you, Ergo? Aquila figured that if we were going to sneak around camps and spy and stuff I needed to learn how to move quietly and not talk but I told her when we first met that I would be quiet whenever she asked me to and I was and you didn't know we were back, did you, until you saw us ... who's that?" She pointed to the hyperventilating squirrel.

Ergo smiled at her friend, "Yes, Billie, you startled me; I didn't hear you at all. About the squirrel, I found him just before you got back. He must have fallen out of a tree."

Aquila was examining the squirrel to see if he was hurt. When his eyes wandered to the dark chicken, he gave a small yelp and started panting even faster. Billie came over quickly. "What did you do?" she asked.

"Nothing," Aquila answered defensively. "I was checking to see if he was hurt. As fas as I can see the only thing wrong with him is he's scared."

Billie sat down next to him and started patting his back. "Take it easy we won't hurt you and we won't let anybody else hurt you either so calm down you're safe now and we can help you if you're in trouble because that's what we do we help folks and make things right."

Aquila looked at them for a minute, with no expression on her face. Sometimes she wondered why she even tried when her efforts to help were usually misinterpreted as threats. She sighed as she listened to Billie talking soothingly to the squirrel. Then she nodded to Ergo and led the horse several feet away so they could talk without disturbing the others.

Ergo asked, "So what did you find out?"

"It's nothing for us to worry about. They're from north Africa somewhere, and they came to this area looking for hunting birds, you know, like falcons. Apparently their king heard there are lots of that kind of bird here and sent them to bring him back some. We'll stay here tonight and move on tomorrow."

The pale gold horse nodded. "It's a good thing they aren't looking for warrior chickens," she whinnied softly.

Aquila gave her a look for a few seconds before breaking down and smiling.

"Hey, guys," Billie called, "I think the squirrel's calmed down enough to tell us what's wrong I told him we're here to help him and he shouldn't be afraid of us - of any of us - because we won't hurt him or scare him even when we don't mean to." By this time Ergo and Aquila had walked over.

The squirrel was sitting up and breathing more normally; he didn't look quite so scared, either.

The yellow chick smiled at him, "My name is Billie, and these are Ergo and Aquila; what's your name?"

The squirrel gave a small smile; he was surprised he could even do that much. "My name's Bastio. Thanks for calming me down, but I've always been high-strung, and I get like that sometimes. And I'm sorry I yelled when I saw the dark chicken; I thought it was someone else for a minute."

Aquila looked confused; nobody had ever apologized to her before. "That's okay," she muttered.

Bastio shifted a little. "Sorry, but I got this stabbing pain in my side from all the running I've done the last week. It'll go away if I can rest a while."

"Why have you been running?" Bilie's need to know everything about everyone she met was at full strength. Besides she hadn't had an adventure in several days and figured it was about time for one.

The squirrel looked around nervously; since these folks had been so nice to him, he guessed he would have to come clean with them. Besides he had decided to change careers anyway after his last experience. "Well, about a week ago some coworkers and I had gone to report to my former boss, he's former now anyway. We must have caught him at a bad time because he just yelled at us before we had a chance to say anything. He said he was closing down for a while and he'd let us know when he needed us again. When one of us asked about our cut of the take, he got a really mean look and attacked us. We all took off as fast as we could to get away." Bastio had to pause to keep from panting again.

"I had been thinking about quitting and figured this would be a good time to get as far away from the Hawk as I could." When he mentioned the name of his former boss, the three companions looked at each other.

Aquila said to him, "Are you sure he's your former boss?"

Bastio looked at her, then at the others. Something had changed their friendly looks, but he wasn't sure what it was. "I hope I never hear of him again," he said emphatically.

Billie touched his arm; she believed him. "Is that why you've been running so hard?"

"No. For the first couple of days I thought I was doing okay. Then I saw the Hawk circling, looking for something or someone. I tried to hide, but it seemed that no matter where I went, the Hawk always showed up. I couldn't figure out why he would be following me; he couldn't know I had quit since I hadn't bothered to tell him."

Billie was looking at the sky. "Is he still following you?" she asked a little apprehensively. She had thought that they had seen the last of da hawk, as she would always think of him, and it was a rude awakening to realize that he was after them. Of course, any time she had to get up in the morning was a rude awakening for the little chick.

"I haven't seen him since early yesterday," Bastio said. "But I was still so scared, I couldn't stop running until I collapsed. Thanks again for helping me."

Billie patted his shoulder. "That's okay; we're always glad to help folks. You can stay with us tonight. We were going to make camp here and we like having guests."

Ergo and Aquila left Billie to make their "guest" feel welcome. They both had a lot to think about. Ever since Bastio had mentioned the hawk's name, Ergo had been keeping an eye on the sky. Since she had actually met the hawk, she knew he was dangerous and didn't want to be surprised by him.

Aquila was turning over in her head different ideas on how to defeat the hawk now that she knew he was in the area.

The next morning they were awakened by the noise coming from the camp downstream. It seemed that all the people there were early risers, much to Billie's dismay. She may have been a chicken but she never could understand all that getting up at dawn stuff that others liked so much. She was moving around slowly and bumping into things - because her eyes weren't really open yet, when strong wings grabbed hold of her and sat her down.

"Sit there," she heard a voice above her say. "I'll get you some breakfast."

Billie smiled gratefully. She managed to get her eyes open enough to see what was going on in their camp. Ergo was grazing on grass by the river; Bastio, the squirrel, was eating the rest of the acorns he had gathered the night before; and Aquila was getting out some grain for them. Billie sighed and closed her eyes again. She always liked waking up slowly in the morning.

After everyone had eaten, Bastio looked at his rescuers. "Thanks again for calming me down. I'll be alright now so long as I don't run into Him again."

"Are you leaving?" Billie was surprised. The eager chick was looking forward to another adventure, and if the squirrel left, who would they help?

Bastio was already looking up into the trees, looking for a good route. He nodded. "I think it's time I settled down. I wanted to see the world, and did I see more than I bargained for! All I want now is a quiet life." He smiled at them one more time and jumped up into the nearest tree, and was out of sight in a few seconds.

"Don't fall," Ergo called after him. She couldn't help smiling as she thought of some of the characters they had met - bears that get lost in the woods and squirrels that fall out of trees.

All this time the warrior chicken had been sitting a little away from the others, scratching symbols in the dirt with a stick.

"So what's the plan, Aquila?" Billie looked confidently at her brooding friend. "How are we going to put that hawk out of business for good so he can't cheat folks and scare poor squirrels you always come up with good plans what do you want us to do?"

Ergo snorted. "Not exactly a poor squirrel. He helped the hawk con folks, and he only quit because he was too afraid to stay. I just hope he's scared enough to do honest work from now on."

The warrior chicken looked up when she heard her name. "I have an idea," she said slowly. "We need to lure the hawk here."

"What!" Billie squawked. "Why do we want to do that and how would we do it anyway?" Now she understood why Bastio was breathing so fast.

"It's all part of the plan," Aquila said soothingly. "The hawk is looking for us, well for you two, so we should be able to get him here without much trouble." She smiled at them benignly.

All Ergo and Billie could do was give each other a silent look.

The black-feathered chicken explained her idea more fully. "I thought that if we got that hawk here, we could introduce him to the people over there by the river. You're always wanting me to be more sociable, Billie. This is my chance. That's my idea; how do you like it?"

When the other two realized what their leader was proposing, they both laughed.

Billie started talking, "That's a great idea and it's just what that conning bird deserves but how are you going to get him here I know he's looking for us but he doesn't know we're here we can't just stand around in the open hoping he'll see us and how will those people catch him it must be hard catching hawks they fly so fast ..."

Aquila put a wing on Billie's mouth to stop the flow. She knew from experience that her little companion could go on almost indefinitely. "He doesn't know I was involved in duping him so I will find him and tell him you two are hiding out in these woods. That should get him here in a hurry."

Ergo raised one eyebrow, "You?" was all she said.

"Will he believe you," Billie asked eagerly. "What if he knows about your reputation like some of the other folks we've met maybe he won't trust you."

"Oh, I'm counting on him knowing my reputation," she replied quietly as she patted the weapon at her waist.


The Hawk was frustrated. He had been searching for the gang that had robbed him - of his loot and his pride - and had not found even a hint of them in over a week. 'They must be hiding,' he thought to himself. 'There's no way I wouldn't have found them by now otherwise. And I shouldn't have let myself get distracted by scaring that dumb squirrel, but it was fun watching him running faster and faster to get away.' He smiled as he thought of his former employee dashing through the trees.

"For someone who has had all his goods taken from under his nose, you look pretty happy."

The Hawk spun around when he heard a voice behind him. Leaning casually against a tree was a black-feathered chicken, her wings crossed over her chest. They just stared at each other for several moments, each assessing the other's potential threat. The Hawk was the first to speak.

"I don't know what you're talking about; nobody's taken anything from me. Who are you?"

Aquila continued her casually menacing pose. "Most folks call me that damned free-range chicken." She paused when she saw the hawk's eyes narrow in recognition. "I may be able to help you ... if the price is right."

Figuring that attack is the best defense, the Hawk sneered, "I don't need any help, especially not from any puffed-up, has-been chicken."

Except for moving one wing to rest on her sharp ring, Aquila showed no reaction. "Sticks and stones. You need my help more than I need yours. I know where two of the folks who conned you are. If you agree to my terms, I'll take you to them." Then she yawned to show she didn't care whether he agreed or not.

The Hawk had hoped that nobody else would ever find out about his disgrace. And now this chicken knew all about it and was threatening him. But maybe she was bluffing; that was one of his favorite tactics. He had to find out how much she really knew. "What con are you talking about?" he asked indifferently.

The former free-range chicken rolled her eyes. "I happened to overhear a chicken and a horse talking about how much they had got from their last con job. Well, the little chicken was doing most of the talking. And they laughed, especially the horse, when they imagined the look on some hawk's face when he found out what had happened to him."

While she had been talking, the Hawk had been getting redder, from both embarrassment and anger. All he could do for several seconds was stutter; he finally managed to say, "They laughed?"

Aquila smirked. "Yeah. When they said it was a hawk they took, I knew it had to be you. It is funny, you have to admit. The great con artist being conned out of all his goods. So do you want to hear my terms?"

The Hawk took a deep breath to calm down. "Alright, what do you want?"

Aquila straightened up. "I want us to go into business together, a partnership. With the two of us working together, we should be able to really clean up. And no one will dare challenge us. That ought to appeal to you." Rubbing it in a little.

The Hawk stared at her expressionlessly, but his brain was whirring away rapidly. He didn't like partners, mostly because he didn't like splitting his profits. But he really wanted to find the folks who had cheated him, and so far he had not had much luck finding them on his own. He looked closer at the free-range chicken. What he saw he liked. She looked intimidating and tough but not business smart; she would be useful in helping to build up his organization again. Then once he had things going his way, he would get rid of her. That won't be a problem, he thought.

Aquila looked up at the sun. "Make up your mind. Just before I left to find you I heard them say they would be leaving tomorrow to meet up with some friends."

When the Hawk heard this, he realized he could get the whole gang at one time. "Okay. We're partners. Now take me to those two."

Aquila nodded and started walking toward the river where she had left her friends.

Meanwhile, Ergo and Billie were anxiously waiting for Aquila to return. The former farm horse was slowing walking in circles around their campsite. The chatty chick couldn't sit still, but kept hopping aimlessly.

"Why is it taking so long shouldn't she be back by now maybe something went wrong and she needs our help and how will she get that mean hawk to come here with her since she helps folks now and is good he won't believe she wants to work with him we should go and see if she's alright come on, Ergo."

Ergo stopped her pacing. "Where do you think you're going? You know we need to stay here. Aquila can take care of herself, and she knows exactly what she is doing. We would only be in her way."

Billie looked at Ergo. The big horse looked so calm. "I guess you're right. Aquila is pretty resourceful. I just wish she would get back." The yellow chick sat down and tried to relax a little.

Suddenly they heard a commotion coming from the camp by the river.

Aquila and the hawk walked in silence. The Hawk was thinking about how close he was to his revenge. Then, once he had his organization in place, he would get rid of his business "partner" permanently. He smiled at the thought.

The warrior chicken was thinking about how easily she had slipped back into her unreformed ways. It made her realize how big an influence Billie had been on her. She found that she wanted to live up to Billie's opinion of her. And to her surprise she found that she liked who she had become.

They were getting close to the river and the woods now. Aquila stopped. "They're down that path about a hundred feet," she said. "I'll wait here if you want to take care of them." She knew she was safe saying this.

The Hawk looked into the woods. "If they are meeting their friends tomorrow, why don't we follow them and get all of them at once? Then I can see what kind of a partner you'll make." He turned to look at Aquila.

She shrugged. "Fine with me," she said. "It's getting late, and I'm hungry. We can camp here and follow them in the morning. I'll go find something to eat." She walked off.

Now that she wasn't looking, the Hawk glared at her. When he had done that long enough, he realized that he was hungry, too. He looked around for some suitable hawk food. His keen eyes spotted a pigeon on the ground just beyond some tents.


The next morning Aquila, Billie, and Ergo were getting ready to leave. As they walked out of the woods they looked toward the camp. Outside the biggest tent was a cage with a hooded hawk in it.

"I hope that's the last we see of him," Ergo said.

Billie nodded. "Me too. What will happen to him now ... he won't be able to hurt more folks will he ... where will those people take him?" It was still early so she wasn't up to full talking strength yet.

"They'll take him back to their homeland and train him to hunt. That's why they came here."

"Where are they from; you never told me," Ergo asked.

Aquila answered, "Egypt."

Ergo started to laugh. "Isn't that where the pyramids are?"

"Yes." Aquila was smiling, too.

Billie joined in the laughter, for once having nothing to add.

Later that morning, Ergo interrupted Billie to ask, "By the way, did you ever think of a name for that flower?"

Billie had forgotten about their earlier conversation; so much had happened in the last day. "No, I haven't and Aquila won't be any help wanting to call it Pink just because that's its color she needs more imagination."

Aquila smiled at this.

"Why not call it nooshka," Ergo said.

Billie thought a minute. "I like it."


Gabrielle and Xena were sitting on the banks of the Nile, their bare feet slowly stirring the water beneath them. They had been in Egypt for several days, and the warmth of the sun and the calm river had relaxed them both. Xena had even forgotten, for the moment anyway, about trying to come up with the names of her partner's scrolls. She looked at the still figure next to her.

"The sun is making your hair lighter," she remarked. "If we stay here long enough, there won't be any doubt about your hair color."

It was several seconds before Gabrielle responded. She had turned her brain off to better enjoy the scenery and the quiet time with Xena. She smiled. "Don't worry; I won't let that happen. I like to keep people guessing."

That reminded Xena of their guessing games, and she frowned. Then she oh-so-casually looked around to see where Gabrielle had put her scroll bag. She thought to herself, 'Maybe I can offer to carry her bag for her; she's just relaxed enough she might fall for it. It's worth a try anyway.'

The soon-to-be-blonder bard was thoroughly enjoying their time in Egypt. She could feel her energy and her spirit being renewed with every day they spent there. And if only they could manage to avoid any complications - or fun as Xena insisted on calling their adventures - they would both be better off for this vacation. Gabrielle turned to her companion and caught her looking at her carrying bag.

She grinned. "Xena, we haven't done this in a while." She leaned over and whispered in the dark warrior's ear, "Who are you; let me guess."


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