I disclaim everything. I disavow that this is funny. I claim no legal or artistic connection to it whatsoever. If you've never seen fabulous British sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous, I can pretty much guarantee that this will make no sense. I can even posit a claim to senselessness even for avid viewers of both Xena and Ab Fab.
WHEELS ON FIRE
an Absolutely Fabulous Xena story
Picture this: the office of a very important multinational corporation. To one side is a stunningly luscious slate blue leather couch, a short mahogany table piled with colorful scrolls and a variety of ashtrays, to the other a small tin desk with many dings in it and straight-backed chair. Through the doorway, between swaying columns of clanking beads, come two women. One of them, the taller one, sports hot pink leathers, lime green gauntlets, and a plush teal feather boa. The other is in what might be a revealing Amazon outfit but any exposed flesh is covered by a full-length creamy white coat. She has a bottle in hand.
"Smoke, Darling?" The tall one knelt by the table and pulled a pouch from her waistband.
"No, no, Dear. I'll just keep to my libation, this lovely chilled nectar of decayed grape, Darling. We have Bacchus to thank for more than one thing." The shorter on draped herself on the couch and raised her fingertips to a treasured scar on her neck. Then, she covered her forehead dramatically with the back of her hand.
"Good, good. Mind if I?" The tall one ignored her friend's theatrical display and tore a bit of parchment from a nearby fashion scroll. She put a pinch of something green and leafy from the pouch in it, then rolled it up, licked the edge, and finally smoothed the seam with her thumb, giving one end a bit of a twist. From the pouch also came a flint which she used to spark a flame to light the end of her smoke. After a deep breath which she held for a moment, she slowly, slowly exhaled. "Oh that's good wacky backy, Darling."
The shorter one held her bottle in mock salute, uncovered her face just long enough to chug down several swallows, and replied, "Jolly good, Darling."
Bursting through the bead curtain came the secretary of the very important multinational corporation. She wore a flowered chiton covered by outlandish bits of pitted tin. As she entered, she sang.
"I'm Bubbles the Mighty,
Taking notes and singing songs,
Vamping while Edxena's gone."
"Oh, there you are." Bubble's voice reminded one of a pixie. In heat.
"Bubbles, Dear," said the tall one, whom we've now figured out is Edxena, "Be a duck and bring Gabby an ashtray."
"I'm not smoking today," said Gabby.
"Like ruddy not. What was that hanging from your lips when you woke up this morning? Misplaced hemorrhoids?" Edxena laughed. Then she took another long drag from her flaming piece of parchment.
"That was this morning, not today." Gabby sniffed the air. Quickly, she sat up and bore her gaze at her friend. "Edxena! You used my scrolls!"
"Just a tiny bit, Sweetie. I know not to use the bits with writing on them."
Their train of thought was interrupted by a frenzy taking place across the room at the small, pitted tin desk. "Oh, oh, oh!" Bubbles madly searched through a pile of scrolls. She started tossing scrolls over her shoulder in an effort to get at what lay beneath them. "I forgot. I got a message for you. Very important."
Edxena rose, her lanky frame towering over the gormless secretary. "Try to remember what it was, Dear. Slow down, take it a step at a time. Think happy thoughts."
"Yes. I remember now." Bubble closed her eyes and curled her fingers into tight fists. "We arrived early because we had three sheets to the wind." She popped open her eyes and smiled. "Yes, that's it."
"Who is it from, Darling?" Edxena asked.
"Someone who knows what's important in life," said Gabby. "Three sheets to the wind. My kind of people." She took another swig, then reached over, tore a scrap of parchment from a scroll on the table, and rolled herself a fag.
Edxena tossed the flint to Gabby before turning her attention back to Bubbles. "Who has arrived early, Darling? Someone spectacularly rich?"
"Fabulously wealthy?" added Gabby.
Bubbled scrunched her bow. "I think so..."
"Come on, Darling. Let's have it out now." Edxena tapped the tin plate Bubbles wore over her breast.
"Virgil?" Gabby spit out the last swig she'd taken. "I'll bet this is Cinnamon's doing. I can't believe he's back again."
"Not after the flogging you gave him last time, Darling." Edxena smiled at Gabby. "You slapped him upside his hairy chest."
"I did, didn't I." She grinned and sipped at her rapidly diminishing potable.
"No, it's not Virgil." Bubbles shrugged and put her hands on her hips. "Though he's not so bad, ya know. Just another chip off the ol' block."
"Never mind his daddy, Bubbles." Edxena tapped her secretary's tin plate again, this time with more force. "Who has arrived early?"
"Not Virgo. Something to do with sailing."
Edxena got into her rhythm. "A water sign? Cancer?"
"Leo." Bubbles jumped up and down which caused quite racket what with all the tin bits she was wearing clanging and banging against each other. "That's it: Leo."
Gabby plunked her now empty bottle down on the table. "I don't know any Leo, Darling, do you?"
Edxena thought for a moment, a dangerous task, and shook her head. "Nope. Never met a Leo. Names, names, names. Who is a Leo?"
"Not Leo." Bubbles shuffled behind her desk and started picking up the scrolls she had thrown about. "Sounds like Leo, though."
Edxena put a hand to her heart. "Oh, Gabby, Darling, Oh, Dear. It can't be. No." She threw her head back and wailed, "Cleopatra is here!"
Gabby bolted up, then collapsed a bit as her legs buckled, then righted herself and said, "Gods, Darling. Nothing is ready. What are we going to do?"
Bubbles waved. "Over here, over here! Look, Eddie, I've got the papers that say everything was ordered and all of the goods are delivered and in the warehouse."
"Oh, Bubbles, how peachy of you. How marvelously scrummy." Edxena pulled at the boa about her neck. "Now, I really must prepare. A new outfit is in order, don't you think, Darling?"
Gabby waddled over and put her arm around Edxena. "But first, some white powder..."
Here we are at the next scene. No longer are we at Edxena's office at the very important multinational corporation. Now, we are in her domestic setting: likewise opulent, and betraying the shadowed past of these two women co-stars. Here, a staircase descends into a modern kitchen. The countertops are cut from enormous slabs of granite mined from the crags of Mount Olympus. A carved display case holds a wide assortment of knives, some much too large for any sort of culinary activity. In an opulent display of their wealth, they have their own well right inside the kitchen, easing the work load of the poor, young, mousy thing seated at the table, for when Edxena and Gabby require their bath this poor, young, mousy thing must collect water from the well, bucket by bucket, heat it over the ever-burning fire (for which she must collect wood), and schlep up the heated water, bucket by bucket, to the bathing chamber upstairs. The poor, young, mousy thing who is a bit too thin and a source of great consternation in the household, wears a loose, drab, dull chiton, and likes to put her head in the scrolls of Alexandria's great library whenever she gets a chance.
"Cinnamon, Darling, up, up, you must help us." Edxena tripped over her plaid high-heel boots and feel uncoordinatedly onto a chair at the table. She breathed heavily, out of breath from a wild journey home.
"What, mother? Coming downstairs gets you winded now, does it? So much for the legend." Cinnamon didn't look up, but rather unfurled her scroll a bit more and feigned intense concentration.
Edxena gasped for air. "I was at... my office, Darling." Wheeze, wheeze. "Had to... hurry."
"Right, you're out of breath because you walked across the road and down the stairs." Cinnamon continued with her reading.
Gabby, who had been rummaging in cupboards above the well, set a new bottle on the table and joined them. "You shouldn't tease your mother, Cinny. She's led a life of danger."
"The passion, Darling," Edxena added. "Don't forget the passion."
"Never, my luvvly-jubby Darling." Gabby uncorked the bottle, passed it under her nose, and then put a little her tongue. She held it there a moment, carefully trying to gauge its vintage, before swooping it back into her mouth with a great deal of air, and coughing after the whole affair.
"You'll get the hang of that, Sweetie. Sally just says you need to practice."
"If I have to practice on his swig, it's going to kill me." She took a full-sized swallow. "Tasting, he calls it." She wiggled one brow. "Now, there's another kind of tasting I prefer, Darling."
"Kiss, kiss," Edxena said as she leaned toward Gabby but not nearly far enough to actually plant a kiss on the little one's lips.
Gabby air-kissed back. "Cinnamon, Dear, what are you reading now?"
Cinnamon threw the scroll down. "Why do you call me that stupid, stupid name?"
Her mother laughed. "To get your attention, Sweetie."
"It's not my name."
Gabby added, "Cinnamon is a good name, Cinny. Cinny, Cin, Cin."
"It's not my name. My name is Eve."
"Or Livia-bugger." Edxena snorted.
"No, just Eve." The poor, young, mousy thing sighed. "You gave it to me, Mother."
"Oh hardly. That was because Hercules was there and I couldn't call you Livia-bugger in front of him. You came into your own, though Darling. Caesar Pleaser, on the job with the Emperor of Rome, you, Darling. Rut rut with a slave or two when you're bored."
Tears welled in Cinnamon's eyes. "How could you say such things? We all agreed not to bring up our pasts anymore."
"Except for mine!" chimed in Gabby.
"You're making up for it now, Darling." Edxena reached across the table and patted her friend's hand. "Miss Goody Two-Boots." Turning to her daughter she explained, "We call you Cinnamon because..."
"Because cinnamon is bloody expensive!" Gabby swigged her brew. "And that makes it fabulous!"
Cinnamon wailed. She buried her head in her hands, sobbing.
"No, no." Edxena patted her daughter's hand. "We call you Cinnamon because... Wait a minute... You're right, Patsy, it's the most expensive spice in the world. We could have called you Ginger, but that's too ordinary, too right-off-the-street. And you're such a nice, nice, spice girl. Nice nice. Spice."
Gabby rewound Edxena's monologue and passed it through her head a second time. "Did you just call me Patsy again. Why Xena..."
"No!" The evil warlord of Edxena's past broke through her dizzy fashion-haze. "Don't you call me that."
Cinnamon interrupted her sobbing wailing just long enough to say, "But it is your name! Xena: Warrior Princess." She went back to her wailing and added some whining.
"That is a name from my past. I have been redeemed and I will have nothing of that Whore of Amphipolis mentioned in this house. You hear me!" Edxena softened a bit. "Now we use my whole name, my real name, the one that came from Cyrene, my mother, your gramm..."
"Xena, Xena, Xena..." Gabby chuckled between rhythmic chants of the name. "Don't worry about it Darling. Your past is why we live the rococo life we do now."
"Plunder." Cinnamon sobbed. "I eat from your plunder."
Edxena corrected her daughter. "Investments, Darling. Just honest investments from the earth itself."
"And illegal alimony!"
"Oh Sweetie, those husbands of ours owe us." Edxena unwrapped the boa from around her neck.
"But you even collect from Hrothgar. You never married him."
She tossed the boa on the floor, but it caught on the back of her chair, so she wrestled with it, tore it in two, and then dumped it all on the floor. "That was close with Hrothgar. Too close."
Gabby added, "Too much pig, Darling. And I'm not a patsy."
"And you!" Cinnamon pointed at Gabby. "You still demand payment from Perdicus' family, and he's dead."
"Well, at least I really married him. Besides, I never had the heart to tell his family he died."
Edxena laughed. "Oh, you had the heart, Darling. I wouldn't let you. Not when we found out he was second cousin to Alexander the Great and heir to the richest kingdom in Macedonia!"
"Hail, Alexander!" the two shouted simultaneously.
"And what about Ares, mother. Was he your father, your husband, your lover...?"
Edxena sneered. "He was my mortal enemy."
"Well, mortal for only a short time. You gave him back his godhood twice, Darling."
"Yes." Edxena laughed. "It was the only way to get access to the fortunes of Olympia."
"That's it." Cinnamon composed herself and stood, planting her fists on the table. "I'm not having anymore of your warlord plunder. I'm going to lead the ascetic life from now on."
Edxena's head wobbled. She looked at her daughter, then to Gabby, then back at Cinny, and again to Gabby. Her head wobbled some more.
Gabby filled her in. "Ascetic, Darling. It's means she'll do without. You know, self-denial and all that. Spiritual discipline."
"Oh is that all? Fine, fine, but do it somewhere else, Darling. We have big plans to make, Gabby and I. Big, big plans."
Here we are at the next scene. No longer are we in Edxena's splendidly appointed kitchen, but rather at the doors of an outlandishly popular nightclub, Kitty Chow. Everyone who is anyone frequents this joint for a bender. Two tall buff women, scantily clad, feathers hanging from the sides of their official Kitty Chow Bouncer headbands (replicas of which are available in the Official Kitty Chow Gift Shop), guard the door. Edxena and Gabby have just shown up and are flustered at the length of the line waiting to get in.
Edxena tried bumping the person in front of her, in a rude attempt to get her to move forward, thus hastening their entrance to the outlandishly popular nightclub, Kitty Chow. To our hero's consternation, the person in front turned around, extended her claws, and hissed. "Don't do that."
"Don't do what, Darling?" Edxena examined her own nails to see if they could be considered claws. 'Blunt ones,' she thought to herself. 'Well worn. Oft employed. Filed down by repeated use. Certainly not gnawed.'
"Look, bitch," the woman said as she placed her hands on Edxena's shoulders and pushed back, "no one touches me. You got that?"
Gabby snickered. This was woman was all claw and no bite. She had no taste in material (not a swatch of leather on her), color coordination (drab brown and blah brown? This is what she wears out at night?), and no idea what to do with her long, straight, dull, and likely fake blonde hair. "Yes, Sweetie, I'm sure that no one touches you."
The woman took a step toward Gabby, fingers poised for attack. "Come again."
When faced with those claws up front and personal, they looked... effective. Gabby swallowed hard. She was in no mood to tackle this dangerous woman out here, before they even got into the outlandishly popular nightclub, Kitty Chow, no bottle in her hand. "I said... I said, I'll see that no one touches you."
"Yes," the woman said, a smile spreading on her soft lips. "You'll see to that."
Edxena slumped into Gabby. "Thank you, Darling," she whispered.
The line inched forward. Edxena began to sweat. "Gods, I'll stain this silk."
Gabby patted Edxena's butt. "That's it. I am going to get us in."
"No, Darling. I'll do it. This is my party for my client so I'll take care of it."
Gabby crossed her arms and watched Edxena wend her way through the line, tripping now and then, until she stood by one of the scantily clad tall buff women. The guard's left bosom was much larger than her right, not that a size differential was so unusual, just the rapacious amount of the variance, and her scanty top was clearly sized for Teeny Miss Right. When she leaned down to hear Edxena talk over the crowd noise (for she was indeed very tall), Jumbo Miss Left spilled over the top of its fabric casing and smashed directly into Edxena's nose.
Gabby's eyes narrowed. How would Edxena react? Would she claim it as her own (for it had encroached her personal space)? Would she return it to its owner unharmed? Would she commit an act of betrayal so heinous, perhaps even with her tongue, that it would cause Gabby to miraculously fly over the entire restless line of women waiting to get into the outlandishly popular nightclub, Kitty Chow, in order to wrest Edxena from the clutches of the clumsy guard?
To Gabby's utter astonishment, Edxena turned away to sneeze, which was incorrectly but quite fortunately interpreted by the guard as a demure moment of care and concern. The next thing she knew, Gabby was waved up to the front of the line by the guard who bowed to her and said, "Right this way, My Queen."
"Got that right," Gabby said as she swept past the guards and into a heaving mob of thumping, dancing, full-breasted women. "Kitty Chow!" She lunged forward with that battle cry just in time to nab a bottle of something yeasty and fermented from a passing rat-arsed wobbler. The cold liquid soothed her throat and neutralized the last shred of decency she had.
Just then, a young, pert girl--at least she appeared pert to Gabby's eye level--came running by. Gabby pulled her in. "You're a fit one. Want to dance?"
The girl rolled her eyes. "Things aren't that bad!"
Edxena spat at the girl as she jogged out of the room. "Don't you ever speak to my friend like that again!" By the second or third word of her toothless threat, the band started playing and her warning was swallowed by a cacophony of lutes, kitharas, flutes, tambourines, and drums, all playing in the vicinity of a communal beat. She felt Gabby snake an arm around her waist .
"Thank you, Darling."
"Stick by me always, always?"
"Always, always. Even in the bowels of Kitty Chow, I will never leave you, Gabby."
"Well then, let's party!"
They waggled their hips, Gabby's less than fab abs gave her the weight to match Xena's shimmies and shakes. Every few phrases of music, they paused for swigs from Gabby's pilfered bottle.
"Glad to see you're having a good time," a tall, elegantly delicious woman, hair in tiny braids dangling about her face, draped in geometrically patterned silks, surrounded by an entourage of beautiful women said.
"Oh, Cleopatra!" Edxena shuffled up to her. "I was just looking for you."
"Yes, I can see that." She turned on her heels and began to stride away from them.
Cleopatra stopped. She did not turn around.
"We came here to see you, Darling, really. You know, party down, have a do." Edxena pulled her companion with her as she moved in front of Cleopatra. "You remember Gabby, don't you?"
Gabby felt her insides coming unglued as Cleopatra's eyes slid up and down the length of her body. Six times.
"What happened to your abs?"
"My...?" Gabby quickly covered her midriff with her hands. "Oh, that. Yes, well, we were in better shape on the road, you know."
"You should work out."
"Oh, we used to," Edxena cut in, "but poor Gabby kept getting staff infections. You should see the her skin on her hands. All that work with the rod, you know."
Cleopatra's eyes twinkled. "Whose skin on her hands?"
The entourage laughed uproariously and suddenly fell silent at a small signal from Cleopatra's pinkie. "Come, there going to have Air Kithara and Kara-Ono singing competitions. I've entered you both." As a single unit, Cleopatra and her entourage moved toward their private tables.
Gabby snatched Edxena by the scruff of her neck. "I am not singing in front of these people."
"Oh, have some white powder and chase it with a few more of those bottles, you won't mind a bit."4.
Here we are at the last scene. After an evening with Cleopatra, her entourage, and the none-too-saccharine bouncers at the outlandishly popular nightclub, Kitty Chow, we now return once again to Edxena's modern kitchen with countertops cut from enormous slabs of Olympian granite, the carved knife display, and an indoor well. Faint sounds from upstairs, the distant thumps and bumps of morning ablutions, filter down to the modern kitchen.
Edxena opened one eye, let it wander about, and, finding no imminent danger, she closed it again. That was born of pure instinct. Then, through the fog in her brain, she took notice of a heavy weight on top of her and an unusual hardness beneath her: one of the enormous slabs of Olympian granite. "Sweetie, Darling." Edxena poked the semi-comatose woman lying on top of her. "We passed out on the bleeding kitchen counter. Not comfy. Not comfy."
"I'm comfy." Gabby squirmed about and buried her face in Edxena's bosom, scrunching up into a soft headrest the feather boa that Edxena had worn the night before.
"Up, up, Sweetie." Edxena tried to shift Gabby off of her so she could slide out to freedom. But Gabby, the consummate burrower, was unwilling to relinquish her pillow.
Edxena recognized her daughter's anguished screech and gait scuttling down the stairs. "Oh, Cin," growled Edxena. "Can you keep it down? Can't you see that Gabby is sleeping."
"In the kitchen? You two couldn't even get to your bed last night?" Cinny came round and faced her peckered mother. "I have friends coming over." One stiff finger pointed up the stairs. "Please get up and go to bed."
"Get up *and* go to bed?" Gabby smacked her lips and mumbled. "Can't do both. If you get up, you get out of bed. If you go to bed, you don't get up."
"Yes, Dear." Edxena stroked Gabby's hair, getting her rings caught in a mat. She flicked her wrist a few times to free her hand, and then continued petting the woman back to sleep. In a harsh whisper she hissed at Cinny, "Be quiet. You know how hard it is for Gabby to get her beauty sleep."
"Now that's a oxymoron as far as she goes."
"An oxymo...?" Edxena felt her temples pound in a combo hangover and Cinnamon-overload. "Did you just call her a moron? You're the moron. You're mold grown from the scum of Salmoneous' empty wine vats."
Cinny looked about the kitchen. "What did you do in here last night?" There were piles of bright yellow clothes, some torn to shreds, and bits of tin covering a good portion of the floor. "I spent all evening cleaning this place, and look... look what happens when you come home!"
Edxena waved her hand dismissively. "It's Bubbles' fault, Dear."
Cinny rolled her eyes. "Right. Bubble did this. You had nothing to do with it."
"Well, she ordered it."
Cinnamon pulled the bucket up from the well and started the arduous process of making the morning tea. "What do you mean she ordered it? Did she tell you to do it?"
"No, Darling. Cleopatra." Edxena waved her hand again as if the gesture sufficed as an explanation. Her headache took on gargantuan proportions. "Bubbles ordered. Warehouse."
"Bubbles ordered a warehouse?" Cinny shrugged. "I didn't know she had it in her."
"No, Sweetie. Cleopatra. Outfitting her army, you know, their new getup, guise, battle fatigues. Bubbles ordered... this."
Cinnamon looked at the rags tossed around the room. "She wanted them all to look like her? And in bright yellow?"
"I know. It will clash with their scabbards."
Cinnamon plodded over and stood by her mother's head, looking down at her pitifully bloated face. "You drank too much again. And you were fighting."
Edxena opened both eyes so she could narrow them at her rude daughter. "Pot calling the kettle black, Darling?"
"I haven't had anything to drink in years. And I no longer fight. You know that."
Edxena crinkled her face up. "Not since Eli."
Another mumble rose from sleepy Gabby, "Eli's coming, hide your heart, Dear."
"Oh, you both stop that." She shook her index finger at Edxena. "You introduced us. You pushed me, Mother. You told me that even if you've done something really bad-- you can find comfort and love."
"One of my mistakes."
For a moment, it looked like Cinnamon would wrap her fingers around her mother's throat. Then she controlled herself and stepped back. "I have friends coming to meditate this morning. Perhaps you'll be kind enough to leave us alone."
"Friends coming to meditate," Edxena repeated in a sing-song twang. "Friends coming to meditate. Well, you can meditate on this, Darling..."
"Shh, honey. Me sleepy-by." Gabby gurgled. "Zug-zug."
Edxena waggled her brow. Perhaps it would cure her headache. "Out," Edxena ordered Cinny.
"Only if you promise not to interrupt my meditation circle."
Eddie's lip twitched. "Fine." She watched Cinnamon disappear up the stairs. "Okay, Darling," she said, turning her attention back to Gabby. "Zug-zug time."
Gabby started to sit up, then slammed back down into Xena's bosom. "Oh gods. My head."
"A few too many of those Fountains of Strength, eh?"
"Cleopatra drank six of them. My gods, that woman can hold her liquor."
"Too bad she can't hold her temper."
Gabby moaned. "The outfits. An army of Bubbles. I would have had a tantrum, too, Darling."
"Yes, the seams will never hold in battle." Edxena finally coaxed Gabby off of her. She slipped her feet over the edge and hunted for the ground. "Did someone raise these blasted counters?" Finally, her toes connected with floor, and she did her best to stand up, which involved a lot of hanging onto the table and waiting for the dizzy spell to pass.
She picked up a bit of discarded tin and looked at her fractured reflection. "She got me good."
"Cleopatra has a mean right hook." Gabby sat up very slowly. "Let me see your face, Darling." Edxena turned towards her. Gabby screamed. "By the gods, Xena."
"Is it that bad?" Edxena snuggled up to the piece of tin in an effort to see her black eye in greater detail. The next thing she knew, a bit of cold, raw meat had been slapped over her face. "What the?"
"It'll help the swelling, Darling. Just leave it for now."
"It smells disgusting." Edxena flopped into one of the chairs with her feet splayed out straight in front of her and her arms sagging out to the side. "What are we going to do?"
Gabby turned to pour herself a mug of tea. "We, Darling?" She felt the raw meat impact her back.
Gabby calmly picked up the slab and deposited it back on Edxena's face. "I don't think that Cleopatra will ever be ordering from your very important multinational corporation again. She was on the warpath last night."
"We've just got to talk to her, you know." She flailed about with her arms until she latched onto Gabby. "Make her see her army in a whole new light."
"The yellow of the sun, Sweetie?" Gabby removed Xena's hand from her left breast. "That one's a bit sore, Darling."
"Oh, sorry." Edxena clasped Gabby's hand instead. "Okay, all we need to do it get past those damnable guards and talk to her. Then we can pitch another line of warrior-duds."
"Those bills piling up on you?" Gabby sighed. "I guess we shouldn't have gone all the way to Tibet just to ski."
"I can handle them." She paused. "I think."
Edxena made a tiny noise, one so rare and so out of character that Gabby had trouble recognizing it. She repeated the sound, this time with a lurch in the shoulders, then another. "Xena, Darling, are you crying?"
Edxena wailed. She tossed her head to and fro, sending the slab of raw meat sailing across the room and into the well. "We're broke!"
Gabby, flustered, alternated between not wanting to disturb this rare moment of honest emotion, and calming the distraught woman's delirium. "Darling, Sweetie, it's going to be all right."
"No it's no...ot." The uncontrolled sobs made her put extra syllables in words. "We're bro...oke."
"Now, you listen to me," Gabby said forcefully. Even though the moment of unbridled emotion was good for Edxena, Gabby had tired of it already. "Cleopatra has the biggest army in the known world. She needs new fashions for her troops. She's got to come to you for that, Darling."
Edxena's sobbing slowed.
Gabby kept going. "I mean, really, where else can she go? No one provides the one-stop shopping you do. Fabrics, patterns, accessories, accouterment..."
Edxena sniffled a bit and wiped the back of her hand across her eyes.
"Cleopatra will come around. You'll see. She has to buy from you because there is no one else who provides such quick turn-around, excellent product, and customer service."
"Yes, Gabby, Darling. You're right." She took a deep breath, apparently recovered from her fit of unconscionable weakness. "Whatever would I do without you?"
"Let's not find out, Darling. You're my family."
Edxena rose from her chair. "Unlike that scum-bag of a daughter. Oh why did we have to wake up from that cold freeze while she was still alive?"
"You'll have to ask Ares about that one, Darling."
"Ares." Edxena felt her blood-pressure rising. "Skirt chasing wolf..."
Gabby realized her error in bringing him up. "Come, now, Darling. Let's go upstairs and freshen up."
Edxena smiled. "Let's go upstairs and make our presence known to Cin's friends." She returned to her more usual derisive canter. "They're up there meditating."
Gabby slipped her hand under Edxena's elbow. "That's right, Dear. We'll make fun of all those peace-loving gadflies. No need to concern ourselves with what they think of us."
"Oh, let's." They started to make their way up the stairs, slowly, approaching each step as a monumental task. "We don't need to worry about pissing them off. They aren't going to ask me to be outfitting the biggest army in the known world."
Their bodies creaked as they ascended the stairs. At last, on the landing, they stopped and held each other up, catching their breaths. From the next room came soft chanting and the shallow scent of lavender. Gabby giggled.
Together, they lurched toward the door, then plowed through into the meditation circle.
There, in the play of a nightmare broadcast in living color, sat Cleopatra, legs crossed, hands on knees, palms raised, chanting along with Cinnamon. "I forsake the ways of violence. I forsake my army. I live now for Eli and the love that he brings us all."
Edxena fell faint to the floor.
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