Title: Fortune Cookies
Archive: Yes, please. Let me know if you take it, OK?
Teaser: Ares secretly sells Gabrielle fortune cookies in an attempt to lead her to him
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to Studios USA or
Whoever owns the Rights to Xena: Warrior Princess.
Gabrielle entered the bakery, the tiny golden bell above the door ringing cheerfully. Wonderful aromas of fresh baked pastries, pies and bread filled the air and the bard breathed in deeply, closing her eyes in contentment. Xena had finally decided to stop in a town for a short time and had immediately headed into the sleaziest tavern the town had. Gabrielle, on the other hand, had a sweet tooth. Her mouth watered as she imagined tearing a big soft chunk off a loaf of bread. Fresh bread, too, not that stale and musty stuff she was forced to eat on the road all the time. The outer crust would be hard just the way she liked it and baked to that perfect shade of golden brown while the inside was oh so soft. Oh, and maybe they even had raisin bread! How wonderful that would taste! And if she saw another fish, she'd scream!
After enjoying the heavenly aroma for another few seconds, she allowed the outer door to close. Her boots thumped loudly on the shiny wooden floor as she approached the display case. For the moment, she was the only customer in the tiny bakery shop and she intended to take full advantage of that. Unlike the noisy taverns Xena preferred, no one would be jamming elbows into her ribs or stepping on her toes to get waited upon. No, here she could examine the entire bakery at her leisure. The bakery had an elaborate glass case around the cakes, pies and pastries, no doubt to keep children's fingers out of the food. The case was superbly clean, the glass shining so that she could see her own reflection. Behind the counter were long racks filled with fresh loaves of bread.
Gabrielle peered into the case, her stomach rumbling. So many choices! The blueberry and cherry pies looked scrumptious, as did the fat cream puffs dusted with powdered sugar. And those cinnamon rolls! The sign next to them said they were coated in a rich mixture of sweet cream cheese! Jelly donuts, turnovers, tarts… it was all here! She moved over to the next case and discovered it contained cakes of every variety. Unfortunately, they were a bit out of her price range. Reaching in her money pouch, Gabrielle dumped the coins into her open hand and quickly added it up. If she were lucky, she could buy some pastries as well as bread.
While Gabrielle was out in the front part of the bakery, the baker was in the back minding his oven. He had heard the bell jingling and intended to go out front in a few seconds, but first the rolls needed to be removed from the oven. Gripping the heavy tray with hands protected by big thick mitts, he placed the hot tray on a rack to cool. He turned, gasping in fright as he witnessed a strange flash of light that seemed to come from nowhere. Within moments the light coalesced into the shape of a tall man dressed in black leather, a long sword hanging at his hip. Terrified, the baker baked away. "W…Who are you?"
"I'm Ares." The man replied, a stern expression on his handsome face. A silver earring shaped like a sword glittered among his thick, dark wavy hair. He approached the baker in a confident swagger. "There's something I want you to do for me."
"The War God?" The baker's mouth drooped open, his eyes wide. The heat from the open oven was intense on his backside but at the moment he didn't care. There was a god in his bakery! But it wasn't a peaceful god; it was the bloodthirsty war god that warriors worshipped. What would Ares want with him?
"Yeah, that's me." Ares glanced around at the cooling bakery and then reached for a pouch on his belt. Taking it, he handed it to the frightened man. "Take this and give it to the blonde woman out in front, the one carrying the big pack of scrolls. You can't miss her. She has an Amazon staff, too. Make sure she takes the package."
His hand shaking, the baker accepted the brown leather pouch. Although he was a big man, the baker held the pouch as if it were a fragile baby bird. His heart thudded loudly within his chest and sweat formed upon his brow, sweat that had nothing to do with the heat from his oven. A thousand thoughts rolled through his mind and he was terrified the God would kill him afterwards, after he had delivered the package. But the thing that frightened him even more was what lay within the leather bag.
"Go ahead, look inside." Ares commented, waving a hand that glinted with a ruby red ring.
The baker stared at him, too terrified to move.
"I said look inside!" Ares cried, annoyed. Time was passing and he feared the bard might leave. If she did, then the perfect opportunity would be lost. So many lost chances…
Setting the pouch down onto his worktable, the baker gently opened the drawstrings and peered within. A puff of relief escaped from his body when he saw only cookies.
"Make them look like they came from your shop." Ares instructed.
Feeling slightly more at ease, the baker pulled one of his own little containers down and placed the cookies within. He glanced up for Ares approval and relaxed even more when the War God nodded. Carrying the cookies, the baker entered the shop where Gabrielle waited. He paused a moment to calm himself further and then spoke. "Yes? May I help you?"
"Everything looks so good!" Gabrielle said excitedly. "And it's been so long since I had any decent bakery. Traveling around with Xena may be exciting but the menu isn't that good. Usually it's fish, fish and more fish! It gets tiring after a while."
"Well, I assure you I don't have any fish here." The baker replied as he placed the cookies on the counter. "There's a special today that you might be interested in. You get a free container of cookies when you buy six pastries."
"Really? That's great!" Gabrielle couldn't believe the luck she was having. Free cookies! She peered into the case again at the delicious looking pastries. Hmmm, what should she choose? "I think I'll take two blueberry turnovers, two cream puffs and two cinnamon rolls with the cream cheese topping. That makes six pastries!"
The baker pulled out a box from behind the counter and placed the six pastries inside, then added the container of cookies. "Will there be anything else?"
"Do you have any raisin bread?" Gabrielle asked hopefully.
"Of course." He replied. "Baked fresh this morning."
"I'll take three loves! And two loves of the regular bread." Gabrielle stated.
A short time later Gabrielle strolled the dusty street of the tiny town, the package of bakery in her arms. She had decided to share her pastries with Xena, hoping the flavor would convince her friend to stay for a few days. If not, Gabrielle had decided she would go back and buy more pastries before they left. Spotting a grassy hill, Gabrielle settled down among the clover and opened her box. Deciding she should save the pastries for later, she pulled out one of the free cookies.
But what was this? There was some odd slip sticking out of the cookie! Peering into the container, Gabrielle saw all the cookies within were the same. "Why, it almost looks like a tiny piece of scroll cut very small! But why is it in my cookie?"
The bard snapped the cookie in half and the piece of parchment fell onto her lap. Nibbling on one half of the cookie, Gabrielle picked up the parchment. To her surprise, words were written on it. "You will meet the man of your dreams today."
Gabrielle chewed, thinking. "It's a fortune cookie!"
"But will I really meet the man of my dreams today?" the bard asked herself. Could it be possible the cookie was right? She reached for her pack and dug within until she found her hairbrush. Pulling the brush out, she brushed her golden hair until it shone. "No use taking chances. Who knows? The cookie may be right!"
Gabrielle chewed the second half of the cookie and stared up at the blue-sky overhead. Puffy little white clouds chased each other and played peek-a-boo with the sun. She leaned back in the grass and clover, staring upward. "But who is the man of my dreams? And how will I know him when I see him?"
Her blue eyes drifted to the container of cookies. Was it possible there was another clue in there among the sweets? Before she knew it, she reached and grabbed another one. Snapping it in half, she eagerly read the new message. "He will be tall, dark and handsome."
Munching on a cookie, she contemplated the new information. "So he'll have dark hair. I could go for that and handsome never hurts. And as for tall, well, most guys are taller than I am anyway."
She surveyed the town and eyed the men passing by. Truthfully, none of them were really handsome and she sighed. It was a nice dream but she seriously doubted if she'd actually find the man of her dreams here. Most of the men were probably already married and had families. Besides, they wouldn't share her interests and they wouldn't understand about her writing. The other lot was the kind that Xena favored; those rough, ugly warlords. Their idea of a good time was ransacking some poor village and then getting drunk until they puked. Defiantly not her type of guy at all! "So who does that leave?"
"Perhaps I need another clue." Gabrielle admitted as she reached into the cookie container. She opened another one at random and read the message. "He dresses in fine black leather."
Gabrielle blinked and reread the message again. "Black leather, huh? These clues are sure getting specific!"
Laughing, Gabrielle climbed to her feet. Picking up her box, she decided she would go look for Xena. Yes, she had better find her friend and eat the cream puffs before they spoiled. As far as she knew, cream was made from milk and milk spoiled. Well, she wasn't really too sure about cream puffs; the cream in them sure looked fluffy and she idly wondered how the baker got them that way. As she strolled the street, she kept both eyes peeled for any man wearing fine black leather. 'Of course, I'm not really looking for a man. No, I'm looking for Xena and if I just happen to find a guy like that, well, than I do."
But all the men she saw were wearing more common fabrics. Nor were they tall, dark and handsome. In fact, they were often baldheaded with big beer guts hanging over their pants like pregnant women! Others had various scars or they were blondes or too old. "Uggh! This isn't going to be easy!"
Setting her box down on a convenient stool outside the blacksmith's shop, she opened the box and pulled out another cookie. Snapping it in half and dumping the cookie bits back into the container, she eagerly read the new message. "Look inside the café for him."
Gabrielle stared at the message in shock. "I don't know what's more shocking; that this town has a café or that the message is so detailed! Why, it's like someone planned this thing in advance. But who?"
Picking up her box again, Gabrielle set off to find the café. She turned around a corner and spotted an outdoor eating-place with a few crude tables. Could that be the so-called café? Why, half the tables were crooked and sloped at crazy angles, one leg shorter than the other. Underneath one there was a huge puddle of water while seagulls hopped across another. A lone figure sat at the only occupied table, his back to her. Her heart sped up when she realized he had dark hair and was wearing black clothing. Could that be leather? She couldn't be sure from this distance but it could be. Gripping her box firmly with both hands, she set off to see who it was. She rounded the wooden picnic table, her heart pounding in her chest. He lifted his head from his drink and she saw it was…
"Ares! What are you doing here?" Gabrielle asked, surprised. She set the box on the table he sat at and glanced around. Besides the War God, no one else was in sight.
"Hello, Gabrielle." Ares said, a sparkle in his dark eyes. The sunlight reflected off his silver earring and the large silver gauntlets around his wrists. "I'm enjoying a cup of lemonade. What about you?"
Gabrielle waved a fistful of fortune cookie slips at him. "I'm looking for the man of my dreams! He's supposed to meet me at this café. But you'll scare him off!"
Ares laughed. "That's a good one, Gabrielle! So I'll scare him off, huh?"
"Of course you will! Why, with you here how could a guy compete?" Gabrielle's blue eyes widened and a hand flew to her mouth. She stared at the War God as if seeing him for the first time. She couldn't believe it, but Ares fit all the clues! He was tall, had dark hair, was handsome, he was in the café and he certainly was wearing black leather! "It couldn't be!"
"With me around, why would you want anyone else?" Ares asked innocently.
But the look in his eyes certainly wasn't innocent and Gabrielle shivered from its intensity. She had never felt such a sensation before from a man's gaze and it made her a bit nervous. Yet she wasn't entirely displeased either. Still, she was glad the table stood between them. If Ares could make her feel this way with a simple look, what would kissing him be like? But surely Ares couldn't possibly want her! Why, the idea was crazy! "Is this a joke, Ares? Did you send these to me somehow?"
"Yes, I made the fortune cookies Gabrielle. But it's no joke. Read the last cookie." Ares pointed at the box.
She pulled the cookie container out and just as Ares had said, there was a single intact cookie inside. Her heart thumping crazily, she snapped it in half. The message started to flutter down onto the table and Gabrielle snatched at it. Gripping it in shaking hands, she whispered it. "I love you, Gabrielle. Ares."
Gabrielle lifted her eyes to look at him. "You're serious?"
"Of course." He replied, a smile on his face. "I hope you can give me a chance to prove it to you. That's all I'm asking, Gabrielle, is a chance so you can get to know me."
The blonde bard gazed at him in wonderment. She had a god in love with her! Why, it was incredible! She had never dreamed it could be Ares. That would be too good to be true, as she had harbored a secret crush on him ever since she had accidentally turned him mortal with that enchanted scroll! She settled herself down at the rickety table across from him, their knees touching underneath. "Yes, Ares, I'll give you that chance!"