The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are so well copyrighted I bet I don't even have to write this disclaimer. But I will, because intellectual property rights are really important and these guys totally deserve 'em. I wouldn't knowingly infringe on them, ever. This is an uber-romp, so I've got the copyright to anything that's copyrightable here.
If you are under 18 or otherwise unable to participate for whatever reason, find some other site worthy of your time.
Beyond here there be dragons, less than pretty language, and malevolent prose. People of the same sex get frisky with other people of the same sex. Alcohol happens. Some violence happens, but it's not too graphic. And there's a lot of made up stuff that I didn't have time to research - that's why I'm calling it fiction.
Thanks to the finest beta reader a part-time bard could ask for. She's a rockin' beta gal. And thanks to anyone, anywhere who's had anything to do with getting and keeping the show on the air. It's been a hoot.
Cooking On High
by Creme Brulee
It couldnt be all bad, could it? She wasnt sure. While there might have been one, maybe just one damn piece of food at this table that wasnt vegan or industrial whole wheat, or super unsaturated out of any flavor whatsoever, she couldnt find it. She gave up and poured herself another cup of tea.
Why had she come to this party anyway? Oh yeah, Louisa Millet would be here, right. And that meant that she had to be here to grease the wheels of democracy and get that damn zoning bill to pass in her favor. Why of all people did Louisa have to be the Chair of the Zoning committee? She was a die hard dieter and macrobiotic fanatic, thin as a rail with the personality to match. Ugh. And if the mousey woman looked over here again with that sappish expression she was gonna lose it. There was only so much she could do in the name of the business... okay, so shed done worse, but this was making her skin crawl. She mustered all of her reserves and headed over to the latest victim of her ambition and considerable charm...Yo, Louisa.
With a start and a cough Louisa Millet turned to see who had slapped her on the back while shed been swallowing a piece of blanched broccoli dipped in tofu spread. French, hi! she squeaked. She wiped her fingers hastily on the crumbled napkin shed been using as a plate. She grabbed Frenchs hand and shook it a few times before she realized that she hadnt really cleaned any of the spread off. Oops, sorry.
No problem. I cant get enough of that stuff myself. French oozed a little more charm while thinking, Smooth, Louisa. Couldnt you drool on me instead. She wondered briefly if it wasnt the same difference for a macrobiotic fundamentalist. Freaks, the lot of them.
The talk with Louisa was grueling, but productive. From the looks of it she wasnt the only one courting the bland hostess. Louisas influential vote on this bill was probably her first and only shot at notoriety. She had seized this opportunity to coerce every person indebted to her, or effected by the bill in any way, to come to an afternoon luncheon. This meant a gathering of odd bedfellows, literally speaking, since French had slept with several of them.
Shed cringed when shed turned a corner and run into Monica Brastlet, an old friend of Louisas from high school. And a complicated one night stand for French, several summers ago. This was not a comfortable moment. Luckily French was rarely effected by other peoples discomfort. Okay, so maybe she thrived on it, whatever.
She walked over to chat with Bernie Glek. He was locked in a perpetual pining pattern for Louisa, the sap. No one had the heart to tell Bernie that he didnt stand a chance with her. But that didnt mean Louisa didnt have uses for him. He was actually a nice guy who owned a moderately sized fishing fleet and talked about little else. Strangely though, his enthusiasm for his subject was contagious, and everyone enjoyed chatting with him.
French talked fish and tides for a while with Bernie. He was small, gestured with his hands as he spoke and kept giving her excited looks as he described the oncoming seasons prospects. But every now and again his eyes would wander the room and settle on Louisa. He would exhale a small, wistful sigh and a hopeful expression would cross his face. Go figure.
Louisa was busy flittering around talking to her guests. She zeroed in on a small unlikely grouping that included Sylvia and Nathan Cummings, owners of Barrett Yachts; Jason Pierce, a junior clerk from the town hall; and Dede Foster, the local florist. Sylvia and Nathan were birds of a particularly conservative feather, decked out in the usual weekend WASP plumage, matching tennis outfits. They looked totally disinterested in their present company, sporting smiles that had gone stale moments after theyd arrived. Jason was wearing his crumpled version of geek chic, pocket protector and all. He was totally oblivious to the fact that the Barrets could care less about processing a 64-1070 building permit, even if it was exceptionally beautiful in its bureaucratic complexity. And Dede Foster was her usual glum self, wearing what she considered an artful black getup, complete with a small black fez.
French noted several other incongruous groupings around the room. It was as though Louisa had gone out of her way to bring a group of people together who otherwise made a point of not knowing each other. And it wasnt like she was the hostess of the hour, a social magnet, drawing interesting people to herself and creating a buzz. She was conspicuously lacking in buzz type energy. One might go so far as to say shed kill any buzz that strayed into her immediate vicinity. And yet this diverse crowd had overcome their innate social inhibitions and petty snobberies to appease their hostess. French was reasonably sure they werent here for the buffet.
Shed had to stifle a groan and a muted curse when she saw Mitchell Redmond come in with his cronies. What an unlikely visage in the restricted confines of Louisas colonial style, country kitsch decorated home. Mitchell was sophisticated cool to the core. Standing over six feet, wearing tailored slacks and a crisply ironed dress shirt, he carried himself with the confidence of a man who wields great power. And he did, social and otherwise. Which made his presence here notable if not completely unexpected. But French could care less why he was here, she was too busy walking through various rooms of Louisas warren of a house, looking for another way to leave it.
She exited via the back door, over the rear picket fence, down the alley that ran adjacent to the property, and out onto the next street a block away. Freedom at last. She turned left, heading down Portman Hill toward friendlier territory and away from her final social obligation of the day. Socializing had always been a complex, strategic enterprise for French. And it would only get more complicated now.
As she walked, she considered her conversation with Louisa. French had almost choked on her tea at the proposal the mousy woman had made, with no subtlety and less grace: a favorable vote in exchange for sex. Always keep your eye on the unassuming ones... she should have expected it.
Not unaccustomed to overtures of this kind, French rallied easily. She negotiated with her ace in the hole. A reservation at The Meadow, an exclusive macrobiotic restaurant. You wouldnt think there could be such a thing. It was a small establishment with a select clientele. The likelihood of getting a reservation if you werent a proffered patron was slim to nonexistent. And French had a reservation for two Saturday night.
It was a feat to have gotten it. People had paid huge sums of money and courted every chic social acquaintance they had, trying to get in. The way French saw it, it always helped to keep in touch with old friends. Okay, that was a stretch, it helped to know who was sleeping with whom and whom else they didnt want to find out. Louisa had agreed so fast and at such a high pitch that Frenchs ears were still ringing. French couldnt make up her mind if she was relieved or slightly offended, having never been passed up for tasteless food before.
Oh goodie, another new experience. This was getting on her nerves. Things had been so much simpler in the past.
She continued walking through the residential section of town. Comstock was a quirky place. A New England tourist town that had two seasons. One that mattered, and one that didnt. During the one that mattered, the summer, French had found that it was more like a medieval fiefdom than a town in modern America. Rather than finding the right palm to grease, it was a matter of locating the right ring to kiss. During the summer the town was a bizarre mix of the very rich, and everyone else. Perhaps the fact that Comstock was one of only three towns on a relatively small island, served to magnify the disproportionate influence of the wealthier residents.
They arrived each Summer like a fine and rare flock of migratory birds, colorful and extravagant in their luxury cars, yachts, and couture clothes. Their money poured down on the small islands towns, welcomed like rain after a long drought, and as a result - they owned the place. No matter if you lived, worked and voted here your whole life - they owned it. It was smart to know that, and wise to accept it and get on with the finer points of living. As most did. After all, the place looked nice, was kept clean and relatively quiet and of course if the Redmonds youngest son happened to crash his new Jag into your front yard, killing your dog, well...boys will be boys... best to accept it.
Comstock was only a tourist attraction for a few months a year, while the weather was fine. Come fall, when the season turned and the weather chilled, everything of interest got up off that island and went. Leaving the hearty island year rounders to weather the off season in their traditionally grumpy, New England manner. And as French saw it, they were welcome to it. She guessed that they werent hearty by choice, not being able to afford to leave the bleak Winter climate at will. And their less than pleasant attitudes toward their summer neighbors was more a question of sour grapes than regional attitude.
Her pace increased as she neared her destination. Her prize, her sanctuary, her restaurant. One review had described it as, An intimate dining experience at the waters edge, blending a light and elegant atmosphere with a deadly serious respect for the palate. Damn straight, and French had really liked the deadly part. She was the reputedly ruthless and obsessive chef/owner of Bachanal.
Continued in Chapter 2.