Disclaimer one: The characters of Xena are the property of Universal, USA Pictures, and who ever else owns them. Just borrowing them folks for my own amusement.

Disclaimer two: Subtext abound in this one. A little kissing, a little touching, and some romance. Things like that. There's some humor, and some intimidation. It is Xena after all.

This is sort of a combo uber/classic Xena story, using original characters as well as Xena and Gabrielle themselves. It is a twisted kind of Halloween story with hints dropped from early season episodes as well as the latter ones.

Dedications: To Sloane Ėfeel better soon and to those fans that keep me going. Can't leave out God now can we? Thanks for everything.

Now, on with it!

Masks: A Halloween Tale

Copyright © Minerva 2000


Chapter I

If ancient Druid priests or whatever legendary forces that were capable of banishing and bargaining with the elements of evil and mischief existed still, in their arrogance they would have boasted on the perfection of the night that they picked to release and appease these elements.

Deep in Indiana farm country that night had come to fruition, Halloween. The wind was brisk, blowing crunchy, pale colored leaves across the roads and fields. The sound of the whisk and scratch of the dry foliage was like a whisper on the semi quiet night. In the far distance, excited utterances from bright-eyed children could be heard along with the occasional car with blaring music, getting louder then quieter with the Doppler effect.

In the cornfields that lined many a road here, the stalks stood high, proud, and more than a little menacing. With the dim light of the moon reflecting on their dry surface, eerie shadows were cast, giving them the appearance of frozen sentinels just waiting to be activated at the right moment. It was indeed the perfect night for them.

On the paved streets, sidewalks and some dirt ones, children and teens walked and ran. Some were covered from head to foot with elaborate costumes of their favorite cartoon, superhero, or scary monster. Still, there were others who only wore masks. They all hid behind them (masks) pretending to be strong, funny, clever or courageous. For just one night, kids could become whom they wanted, but sometimes it was the same for adults.

Karen wasnít any different.

"I canít believe Iím doing this!" Karen said aloud as she used the tiny brush to apply a large amount of blush to sculpted cheekbones. "I donít even like the freakiní show." She stared down at the two 8 x 10 glossies that she was using for direction and had to admit, "I do look a lot like her."

Now finished with the red-tinged little brush, she threw it back down on the seldom used make-up table. Pale blue widened at what they saw. Unbelieving eyes started with her hair that had been brushed to a glossy, ebony shine and hung in sexy disarray across her shoulders and down her back. The eyes were next. They looked bigger, lighter, and more expressive with the use of strategically placed and colored eye shadow. High cheekbones had become model like in their allure and reminded her of chiseled granite.

Next, she came to her mouth. She gaped in awe at the full lines of it encased in a swatch of red. Karen raised her fingers to it, feeling the soft moistness. "I never knew," she said to no one in particular. Stepping back a little, she finally eyed the costume. It was an amazing replica. From the start when she had decided to go with this one, Karen decided that it actually had to look authentic, no plastic. The dark leather battle dress hugged her figure and flared out at the tops of her thighs, but that wasnít the most appealing part, not to her anyway.

It was the armor.

The breast plate could have been heavier but she made sure it was comprised of a lighter metal. Still, it hugged her torso, pushing full breasts up in demure fashion. The swirling designs glinted off the bedroom light, but the combination of it all tinted her usually olive skin a tad darker. Her eyes roved over the rest of the armor and adornments. The arm and leg bracers brought attention to slight musculature, flattering it and making it more than it actually was. But, it was the round, safely dulled, silver metal disk attached to a string on her waist along with the imitation sword sticking out from the scabbard in the back that made her breath catch. One word, powerful, and she felt it big time.

Her five foot nine inch frame somehow seemed taller more intimidating. She shook her head, knowing that she was wrong. It wasnít just power. It was a mixture of things: sensuality, strength, and passion. She felt it all bubbling under the surface like an awakened fire. "Whoa, if this is what she feels when she puts this thing on, I would never want the show cancelled."

Karen looked down at the slim, black out of place Timex on her wrist. It was almost time and nervous butterflies assaulted her stomach. For years, patron after patron, friend after friend, co-worker after co-worker had been partial to the phrase, "My God! Do you know who you look like? That woman with the round killing thingy and the yell. Xena! Yeah, her!" And for the last six years, she had smiled shyly, resisted from rolling her eyes, and thanked them for the comparison.

The brunette turned and headed back toward the bed. Unsure eyes raked over the discarded cardigan, turtleneck, and khakis. The bright red glasses case was there too, holding her customary frames that she traded for irritating contacts. What she had on now was so far reaching from her regular wardrobe that she felt almost naked, somewhat like Eve covered in only strategically placed leaves.

Quiet and shy by nature, Karen knew she would never wear something like this anyway. She barely ever even wore skirts, sticking to khakis, slacks, sweaters and cardigans. She cocked her head to the side and thought, ĎGuess it has to do with what I do. Isnít there a saying about that? I wonder do all librarians dress the same way?í Remembering the ankle length skirts and tight gray bun of the senior librarian, Karen commented, "Yeah, I guess so."

She glanced down at her watch again and hurried to the closet, trying to decide whether to grab a jacket. The librarian looked down at herself while she leafed through her wardrobe. "No, it would ruin it." She blew out a nervous breath and stared at the door leading to the living room. In a few minutes, she would have to go out there. Betty would see her, Bettyís girl friend would see her. Everybody at the party would see her. The butterflies fluttered full blast. She rubbed her stomach in comfort. "Donít know what possessed me to accept the invitation in the first place. I donít go to parties."

It was true. Books were her passion. Her nose was either deep in one or at a coffee shop hoping to get into one. Parties, dating, hanging out was something that she didnít do. ĎWhat women talk about the classics or any book or world interest these days anyway? From what Iíve seen, everyone is so shallow nowadays. Itís not worth the effort anymore,í Karen thought to herself. Her mind shifted and wrapped around the true reason for this get up and the party. Betty. It was the humor and insult in her voice that did it. "Why ask her Jenn? Sheís not gonna go anyway. She never does. Sheís gonna get sucked into one of those damned books one day." Then, she had turned to her with eyes quietly mocking, "Right, Karen?"

For some reason, anger bubbled up making her indignant, and Karen had replied through clenched teeth, "Oh, Iíll go, and I've got just the costume."

Having been roommates for years, there was still no love loss between them. Karen went to work, came home, and rarely went out, while Betty was always gone. It worked out perfectly until now.

íNow, here I am, and thereís really no way I can get out of it without losing face.í The brunette squelched the butterflies and felt herself rise to the challenge. Her hopes rose for the fun factor, but she stiffened her shoulders vowing not to take crap from Betty or anyone tonight. "Maybe it is the costume," she paused, "Yeah, I can do this." Hearing another door open and close, Karen took one last quick look in the mirror. Satisfied, she made her way to the door, feeling newfound confidence and a host of other emotions course through her.

Karen felt two sets of eyes on her one brown the other gray. She smirked and turned her head toward them. "Yesss?" Her voice was a throaty purr.

Bettyís eyes widened unbelievably, but her voice still dripped with sarcasm, "Well, well, well, our little librarian struts her stuff as Xena, huh? Maybe some of what sheís got will rub off on you. We can only hope." Sitting not far from her lover, Jennifer snickered.

Karen did what felt right at the moment. Walking closer, she leaned over the reclining form of her roommate, placing her hands on the arms for support. Her eyes squinted until they radiated blue fire and a slow, sensual, and completely disarming smile covered her face. "How do you know she already hasnít?"

The brunette asked in a husky whisper. Brown eyes widened more and Betty leaned back in the chair in an attempt to get away.

Oh yeah, Iím loving this costume.

In dramatic fashion, Karen adjusted her breastplate with a shrug of her shoulders and looked from one woman to the other. With a perfectly arched eyebrow, the librarian asked, "You two coming or are you going to stare all day. Didnít ya mother teach you that itís not nice?" Not waiting for their response, but somehow knowing they would get up and follow, Karen pivoted and made her way out the front door in route to Bettyís car.

Once outside, Karen took a deep breath. She could smell it on the wind. It was going to be a night to remember.

Chapter II


She was going to be late.

Double shit.

She was always late, so what difference does one more time make.

Shawn looked into the mirror as a crooked smirk lifted one side of her mouth and made deep green eyes twinkle merrily.

"None," she said aloud in the empty bedroom.

The smirk transformed into a full-fledged smile as the petite blonde took in her reflection in the floor length mirror. "Okay, okay, I do look like her. Not just a little but a lot. I should know that by now." She rolled her eyes. "And I have to admit that it isnít being an archeology major with an obsession for Amazons that drove me to create this costume. Itís my obsession with the show that did it."

She moved to the side, seeing the reflection of the TV in the mirror. Shawnís VCR/TV combo was playing the season six premiere of Xena that she had missed while out in the field. She chuckled upon seeing Gabrielle being almost mauled by Ares. Yep, I got it bad, but gotta love that Missy Goodís sense of humor.

"Okay, maybe obsession isnít strong enough a word." Dark green eyes scanned the bedroom, seeing what was almost a ream of paper by her bed where she had printed and read fan fiction on the fly, the extra large posters, and envisioning the t-shirts hanging in the closet not far away. Slim but muscular shoulders shrugged. "Oh well, to each her own."

She took a step back to get the full impact. The gritty work on all those field trips coupled with working out had really paid off. Sleek muscle lined her shoulders, arms, abs, and legs. The chubby frumpiness, as some had seen it anyway, of a few years ago was finally gone. Shawn smirked again at the outfit. It wasnít right chronologically, but she held a certain nostalgia for past seasons when Gabrielle was. . .Gabrielle. The tight green top didnít do a thing for her color wise, but she grabbed the long hooded, dark brown cloak and draped it around herself. "Oh yeah, that works."

The low cut of the green top revealed ample cleavage just as much as it showed the play of firm stomach muscles with each movement. The short, dusky brown skirt swayed with each movement of her hips. She pivoted from left to right to get a better look, seeing the strong definition of rock hard thighs.

The only thing that was accurate for this seasonís Gabrielle was the hair, and that had been an accident. After a bad cut, it just. . . grew that way. Her eyes moved downward, and she chuckled at the reddish-brown boots. ĎPerfect,í Shawn whispered to herself. Suddenly remembering the last mauling she took at XenaCon, the blonde student vowed to get rid of the costume after tonight to reduce the temptation of wearing it there.

Shawn stared at her reflection in thoughtful repose. Why am I going to this again? Oh yeah, the dare. She wasnít even going to pretend that it was an innocent dare. It was simply made as a challenge. Forever wary and naturally untrusting, the blondeís circle of friends consisted of two women she had known since Freshman year. It wasnít that she didnít like people. They just irritated her. She didnít want a partner in class or a roommate in her apartment. Even when people seemed okay at first, given time they became that way. . .irritating.

Crowds, parties, or anywhere where there was a large group were the worst because irritating people moved in flocks. She was sure of it. Even girlfriends were few and far between as were phone calls from doting parents. They all became. . .yeah, irritating. Emily and Leah were the only ones she trusted to reveal to, open a little to and laugh a little with. They were the only ones who didnít disappoint her like her parentís, girlfriends, or roommates did. They never doubted her or expected more than she could give until now with this infernal dare.

It seemed as though over time they had fallen in love with each other. Shawn knew that didnít bother her. Not all, but the fact that they left Saturday for a romantic week in. . . Shawn snorted, Michigan, bothered her. She was to be alone for a whole week. The blonde had pouted and almost begged for a phone number, but unfortunately, she had to promise to only use it as an emergency. Shawn snorted again, remembering the list they had left that included blood shed, fire and flood. A whole week without calling one or both of them up at any hour to chat, laugh or ease her mind away from graduation jitters, which was a couple months away in December, was going to be torturous. She needed them now, especially with stressful midterms and evaluations coming up.

They told her it would pass in no time, but instead of acquiescing, she moved to begging. Thatís where the dare came in. Dependent they had called her and dared her to make another friend outside their little circle. "We need time for ourselves. Branch out and make new friends. Weíre not gonna always be here. Go out and meet people. The best place to do it is a party. Thereís going to be a big one on Halloween at a club you never go to, The Breaks. Just try because those late night phone calls need to stop," Emily had said. Leah stood beside her girlfriend only nodding.

It really wasnít much as a dare goes, but the blonde took it as one. Besides, her theory could be wrong since the two people she trusted had become. . .irritating, doing a complete turnaround. So, the reverse could be true. Maybe not everyone was all bad. Shawn glanced in the mirror once more feeling her eagerness to meet new people grow. "Whoa, thatís new."

She peered over her shoulder at the TV. "Itís got to be the costume because that was almost too Gabrielle like." Clamping down nervousness, the blonde performed last minute adjustments by straightening her skirt and combing fingers through shaggy bangs. "Okay, time to go." The lack of reply from the empty room was almost deafening. She swallowed the loneliness and walked briskly for the door.

Chapter III

Stretching to her full height, Karen studied the building before her. 'So this is today's gay club.' The music throbbed and she could see the windows rattling on other properties near by. 'Interesting,' she thought. It was small and out of the way. In fact any perspective patron had to park down the street and walk a ways to find it. It looked to be a two story brick building, non-descript except for the artistic graffiti winding around, composed of dancing woman and men, and large logo painted on the front. The brunette continued to observe until she heard quick footsteps and labored breathing not far behind her. She smacked her lips then smirked. If I'd known I would get this reaction, I would have gotten this costume a long time ago. A few seconds later, Betty and Jennifer appeared beside her. A rather irate Betty was the first to speak, "Hey! Why did you run and what was that flip thingy you did!?"

Dark brows drew together. What was that flip she did? I haven't done gymnastics in years. What made me even want to try? It had to be the costume because it certainly wasn't the boots. Karen's head jerked downward when cool fingers wrapped around her arm. "I'm talking to you, Karen!"

The librarian snatched her arm away, and finally decided to comment. Her eyes slitted and glittered like two chips of ice under the harsh, fake light. She almost smiled when the women took a step back. Her voice was low, throaty, "It's my body right?"

They didn't say anything.

"I said, RIGHT?!"

"Uh, yeah," came the tremulous reply.

"And I do what I want with it. Right?"

Heads nodded, "Uh-huh."

"Good then we understand each other, so let's go in already."

There was a simultaneous chorus of, "Okay."

Inside, Karen cringed. What the hell has gotten in to me? I don't feel feverish or anything. This is just a little bit too weird. Unable to come up with an answer, the librarian decided to just go with the flow.

The doors were opened by the doorman dressed as the pink energizer bunny, and the three women entered another world after getting past the foyer. The music was louder, and the lights were dimmed with colorful strobes giving the appearance of the dancing, grinding patrons moving in slow motion. The sound of mumbled voices and clinking glasses were barely heard over the throbbing base, but somehow, Karen heard them. Oh God, this is getting too strange. Did somebody slip me something earlier because I've got to be having hallucinations. Must have been some mood altering drug.

The brunette turned her head suspiciously toward Betty. I wouldn't put it past her to have slipped something in my tea earlier today that. . .skank! She had the sudden urge to pinch the smaller woman on the neck right near the jugular. Then, the feeling was gone as quick as it came.

She stopped abruptly and glared behind her as the dufus duo smashed into her. "Will you get off me and go do. . .something!" She almost screamed over the music. Like something out of vaudeville they bumped into each other in their haste to get away. The brunette rolled her eyes, but had the chance to spy an empty booth in the back, which would give her a view of the whole club. Grabbing a beer off a waitress' tray and giving her a dazzling smile and wink in apology, Karen made her way to the empty seats. Argh, look at me! I don't drink and I surely don't flirt! This is driving me crazy!

Despite what she was thinking, her body was doing the opposite. Sitting down with a quiet thump, she drank half the beer down and gave a dramatic, 'Ahhh,' as it slid down her throat. Now that her thirst was quenched, the librarian leaned back and cased the room full of moving bodies in various costumes.


Shawn slammed the door to the cab and threw the money through the passenger side window. "You're one sick fuck, buddy! Fifty bucks will never get you that!" She screamed. The blonde huffed and pulled the cloak all the way around her to ward off the late fall chill. What is wrong with people these days. They're down right perverted. Why in the old days. . . Shawn paused and scrunched her brow in confusion. "What and when the hell were the old days? I'm only 22 for goodness sakes!"

Deep green eyes peered up at the tall building and hands covered ears assaulted by loud music. Ugh, does it have to be that loud? A pan flute solo would be better. The blonde threw up her hands in exasperation. Something was going on. She didn't know what, but it was definitely something. Pan flute? She shook her head and got at the end of the six person line.

Her eyes widened when the doorman in pink bunny suit waved her forward. She smiled sweetly at him, but the smile stopped mid flight when a story involving rabbits, foxes, and wolves flittered through her head. Oh geez, this is getting curiouser and curiouser, and I need a drink. Shawn waved in appreciation at the pink bunny and made her way in to pay the fifteen dollar cover charge. "Oh yeah, way too loud in here," she whispered to herself.

Once inside, she headed straight for the bar lined with the Scream killer, Dolly Pardon, who she assumed was Whitney Houston and Barbara Streisand and ordered a whiskey sour. From the corners of her eyes, she studied the bar. Let's see. Drag queen, drag queen, drag queen. Are there any women here? She started closer at Dolly Pardon, who happened to be sitting right next to her, and after a few seconds spotted padding sticking out of the dress and an Adam's apple. The blonde smiled at the queen when she got caught staring. She leaned over toward him. "You know. You almost had me fooled. You look very good."

Dolly smiled revealing almost perfect teeth, "Honey please. When you sat down, I could have sworn Gabrielle, Renee, or whatever her name is had decided to finally come out! You're the one who looks good!" They glanced at each other and chuckled. "I've never seen you before, and I think I would remember." His voice was musical with a southern twang.

Shawn shrugged, "Eh, it's my first time in here. Just looking for a little fun."

"Well, sugar, you found it. Let me be the first to welcome you here because with you looking like that somebody's gonna come snatch you. No pun intended. The next drink is on me."

Well, this making friends thing may not be so hard after all. He seems sweet. "Thanks, you're a sweetheart." She swallowed down the rest of the whiskey and motioned the bartender for more. Turning back to her new friend, words spilled from her mouth before she had time to think about them. "You know, I was at a pageant once. It was for women only, but there was this one queen that put the rest of them to shame. . ." Nuh-uh, that's it no more drinks for me. I've never been to a frippin' beauty pageant!

Dolly grabbed her arm. "Something wrong, sugar? You look kind of pale. Don't know how I could tell under all these flashing lights but you just like kinda strange. Lost like."

Shawn shook her head to clear it. "No, no I'm okay. Just had a weird thought is all. The name's Shawn by the way. What's yours?"

Dolly reared back and threw his hand up to his chest. "Get outta here! My name's Shon too, but I spell it with an 'on.' See, we were meant to meet. The next round is on you." They both laughed again.

Don't know what's going on. I've never been able to just sit and talk to someone, least of all a stranger. How did I become so trusting in a few hours? I even told him my name! She downed the second drink as she glanced around the dance floor and skimmed the booths.

Shon touched her arm to get her attention again. He leaned in, "You'd better watch out sweetie. Breeder with a leer coming right behind you."

Shawn looked at him wide-eyed, "You're kidding?! In a gay bar?" His reply was putting a finger to his lips and shaking his head.

Shawn tensed, preparing herself for the worst. She turned to the left to see a man with brown hair slicked to his skull now siting in the seat. He turned to her giving what she was sure was his version of a debonair grin. It came out goofy. He had thin lips and big brown eyes that reminded her of a hound puppy. Puppy guy leaned forward. His fake deep voice was just as trite as his smile. "Hey, you're new and as fine as you can be. Why don't we go and dance so I can get medieval on that ass and show you what you've been missing."

Shawn blinked, swung around to peer at Shon and blinked again. The laughter that ensued was violent and bursting. Unable to help herself, the blonde had to look at the guy again. She smacked her lips, leaned forward and screamed loud enough for him to hear, "Get lost!"

His features turned red and his face scrunched in anger. "Fuck you! I'm tired of you fag bitches thinking you're better than everybody. I'm gonna teach your ass." Puppy guy grabbed her arm in a vice like grip. Shawn glared at him indignantly and tried to wrench away. With a cry, she beckoned Dolly to help but he had scooted further away. Some friend! She pulled on her arm again with no success, but the other went flying back with her efforts, sweeping glasses off the counter to the floor. "Let me go!" Despite her cry for help, neither Whitney, the Scream guy, Dolly or Barbara came to her rescue. Neither did a bouncer. Oh, this is just great! Thanks a lot Emily! I wonder would this count as an emergency!


Astute pale blue eyes continued to scan the room as she sipped on her second beer. For some reason, she expected more excitement. The only thing she had gotten so far were pleas for autographs of all things and requests from the queens and women alike to dance. An errant hand ran down her torso to her hip where it touched cool metal. Having nothing else to do, Karen untied it from its catch and began to twirl it with deft fingers. I wonder if I throw it toward that pole would it bounce off and hit that chair over there. Blue eyes looked around cautiously. Oh, what am I doing? This thing isn't real, and I don't know the first thing about throwing it.

She put her beer down in disgust and decided that it would be her last for tonight. Karen rolled her eyes skyward as an amorous couple on the move took a moment to kiss and grind in front of her table. She suddenly wished she had to skill to use the round thingy. Once they moved out the way, the strobbing lights outlined activity at the bar. The librarian squinted her eyes and looked again. Someone smaller who looked to be a woman seemed to be in trouble. From the looks of it, no one was interested in helping. A surge of adrenaline pumped through her, making the brunette jump in surprise. The urge to pummel was back and stronger than ever. Maybe if I just take a closer look.

Rising, Karen move stealthily across the dance floor. Dancing bodies wriggled out of her way as if some magic force field surrounded her. More than a little close, she continued to move forward until she was a few feet from the bar. Her heart stopped in her chest as she took in the petite woman. It couldn't be. The flashing lights outlined the brief top, flowing cloak, and short skirt. The violent urge was screaming at her to act. By then, people on the dance floor near the ruckus had stopped dancing to look.

Karen ignored them. She was focused on the gritty determination outlined in the small woman's face. Without even a second thought, the librarian walked up behind the man holding the other woman hostage and tapped on his shoulder. He turned ready to scowl, but blinked incomprehensibly as a rather large fist moved in what seemed like slow motion toward his face. Karen had pulled her arm way back, intending for the punch to hurt and incapacitate.

When it connected, she felt the hardness of the man's nose bone fracture and crunch under the onslaught. There were several gasps and loud murmurs as the man went down like he was wearing a lead suit. Feeling an excited smirk forming, Karen let it come. She bent down slightly to look at the injured man. He was still conscious but writhing. She grabbed a cup of ice off the counter and poured it on his face. Don't want that to swell too bad, she thought.

Still smirking, Karen spied a pair of leather looking boots around the sprawled man. She followed the footwear up short muscular legs encased in a brief brown skirt. Her eyes went further taking in the sight of tight, toned abs and a bicep flexed as the woman stood with her hand on her waist. Not wanting to miss anything, Karen paused at the woman's ample chest, pushed up by the brief top. 'Woooo,' she said to herself as she finally met smirking lips and shining eyes. The smirk was infectious and Karen found herself grinning back.

Shawn studied the tall woman in front of her and figured that the night couldn't get any stranger. Still, it just did. All five foot five of her stood there looking at a bonafide Xena look alike. She had everything: the legs that went on forever, long, strong arms, long dark hair, chiseled features, and leather and armor costume complete with weapons. 'But, is it all there? What about the eyes?' She asked herself. 'Can't tell the color. But hell, look what she just did. Saved my butt with one punch.' A crooked smirk formed on her lips before she could stop it, and when unknown color eyes met her own, Shawn felt the smirk widen as they stared goofily at each other.

Galvanized into action, Karen moved forward to make sure the woman was okay, and to satisfy her curiosity. Her eyes widened in surprise as she almost tripped on the still reclining man. Righting herself as quickly as possible, Karen reached out a hand to grasp the other woman's shoulder in support. "Um, you alright?" She asked loudly over the music.

Ohh, the voice is good. "Uh, yeah. Thanks, I think."

A paralyzing thought entered Karen's head. "He wasn't your boyfriend or anything was he? I'm sorry if. . ."

Shawn held up a hand and shook her head. "No, hell, no. Just some guy who wouldn't leave me alone. Thanks so much for helping. I can't believe all these people just stood here and watched."

"Well, I almost didn't see you. I just happened to look across the dance floor from where I was sitting, and the rest. . .well, you know."

This woman was sitting! That's sacrilegious. I've got to know who she is."Thanks again. I'm Shawn." The librarian held out a hand and waited for the petite woman to return the favor. She did. "And if you say your name is Xena, that would just complete one weird night for me." Their hands held as their gazes locked.

Karen laughed completely ignoring the crowd as they went back to the dance floor. "No, the name's Karen, and I usually don't do this type of thing. I don't know what got into me." And I usually don't chat up people I just met, but there's something about her.

The blonde nodded, "This isn't my usual scene either. I usually stick to campus." Okay, why am I telling her all this. . . The thought was incomplete as pain exploded from her free arm suddenly twisted around her back. Shawn looked up to see the same thing happening to Karen. Bouncers. A little too late. She looked around on the floor for puppy guy, but he had apparently slunk away while they were occupied. "Hey, damn it ease up! We're not the bad guys here! He attacked me. Ask her!"

Shawn pointed toward the brunette with her chin as the were hurried out of the club. Green eyes widened when she thought that she had picked up the sound of a growl. Now that they were near the entrance, a more natural white light illuminated them. Shawn turned to see Karen's face etched in granite and eyes glinting a steely blue. She heard the sound again, and it was definitely a growl. Oh man, here we go!

The blonde bard look alike watched in awe as a long arm swung allowing an elbow to connect with the bouncer's stomach. He gave an 'oof' and let the brunette go. "I will leave my way. You got that!" The bouncer, busy holding his stomach, didn't reply, but it was obvious that Karen wanted one. She grabbed his left ear and lifted his body to an upright position. "I said, you got that!"

"Yeah, yeah," he cried, "just let me go." She did just that and turned, reaching out a hand to her new friend. The bouncer probably in the same awe as the blonde released her when the fireworks started.

Shawn stared at the long fingered hand, and for some reason she trusted. Right then and there in a fraction of a second, she trusted and took the offered hand.

Running out the club, they didn't stop until the end of the block. After a few seconds, they turned to each other slightly winded. "Whoa, that was. . ."

"I know," Karen interrupted. "I just couldn't help myself, and I've never hit another soul in my life!"

"I can relate," Shawn added, "I've done and said things tonight that I would never do normally." Like what I'm about to say, don't leave.

I need to know what drawing me too her. Why the overwhelming need to protect her? I have to know. . . her. "You want to let it get stranger? There's a coffee house not far from here."

Oooh, yes, yes, yes! Her gut was screaming to get to know this woman. After all, she seemed to be under the same spell. "Okay, Karen. I'd like that. Lead away."

Chapter IV

Unable to help it, Shawn found herself gazing frankly across the table at the brunette, and where their thighs touched under the small table, electricity wound its way upward. Both hands held the coffee cup and she blew at the steam. "You know, your night could not have been any stranger than mine. I don't go to places like that. This shop is probably more my style, especially this time of night when it's less crowded.

"I know what you mean. I'm the same way, but I went to the club as sort of a challenge. Didn't know it would turn out this way. Atleast a good thing came out of it, you." Oh my gosh, am I flirting!? Legs brushed again, and Karen almost jumped at the satiny feel.

Feeling an uncharacteristic blush surfacing, Shawn tore her eyes away before looking back a minute later and adding, "Fate is screwy. What are the chances we'd meet like this? I mean look at you. The resemblance is uncanny! What on earth made you go with that costume?"

Karen shrugged, "Guess every since the show came on people have been telling me that I look like her, so I thought I would ham it up a little."

"Well, good job. You a fan of the show?

"Is that going to count against me?" Karen asked with a small smile. Yeah, it's definitely flirting. When she got a shake of the blonde head and a grin in return, the librarian went on. "Then actually, no I'm not, but I am fascinated by the time. I love Greek and Roman mythology. I work at the city library so I can have my fill of it anytime I want."

Emily could have been right after all. How could I have known with as freaky as the night started out that it would end up like this with someone I actually like for once. "You're kidding right? I love the stuff, and it's one of my concentrations in my major, archeology. There's so much we don't know about it. I would love to find my own actual evidence of the amazons."

"I agree. Some books differ and some only tell part of what another one does. I'm sure other races and cultures existed that we know nothing about." Feeling refreshed, Karen threw her head back and chuckled. "God, I can't believe that I've met someone who actually likes to talk about this stuff."

"I know what you mean. My friends sort of abandoned me for the week, and even this stuff doesn't interest them when they're around."

Pale blue eyes sparkled. "I guess we're lucky then, huh? Despite the weird night."

Adding to the list of things she would never do, Shawn sat her cup down and reached across the table to curl her fingers around Karen's hand. "I think we are. Very much so. You know, I have to be honest with you. I really don't want this night to end. I've enjoyed talking to you, and you did rescue me and all in true Xena fashion."

Karen chuckled, "Yeah, I think she would be proud, and I have to say I agree with you. Don't want it to end either."

"Um, then can you stay? Talk a little while longer?"

Karen nodded, but her head stopped mid motion when she looked up at the clock. It can't be 6 o'clock in the morning. It can't be. I was at the club that long? We've talked that long? Damn it! Pale eyes held an apology before she opened her mouth. "I really want to but I have to get home and get ready for work. We're doing inventory and I have to open the library." The hurt look in green eyes caused a fine sliver of pain.

Primed to take her hand away, Shawn leaned back. "I understand." This was just a fluke thing. Should have known something like this wouldn't happen to me. She tore her gaze away before getting more lost in incandescent blue.

I have to do something. Karen grabbed her companion's hand, engulfing it in her own. She rubbed the soft palm with her thumb in an attempt to sooth. "No, listen. I really do have to go to work, but I want to give you my number. Can I see you again?" Her heart fluttered at the bright, joyous look in deep green eyes.

Shawn blew out a relieved breath. "Um, yeah. I'd really like that." She looked around the table. "But, I don't have paper or anything to write with."

The brunette picked up a clean napkin. Holding up a finger, she signified that she wanted to blonde wait. Karen jumped up and went to the counter and returned a few seconds later with a pen. "Here you go. I have a roommate, but it may not be for much longer. I have my own line anyway. I get off at five." She looked up at the clock again. "I really have to go, but you're going to call me right?" Pale blue stared down into green as she got up from the chair.

"Yes. Is 5:30 okay?"

"I'll be home at 5:15." She squeezed the small hand she was holding and with a long stare that spoke of promises and patience, Karen was out the door.

Chapter V

Karen was sure that she had been looking at the same section of the log for the past two hours. It was no good. She was tired and her mind kept straying to the blonde green-eyed bard double. She glanced up at the clock. It was barely 9 o'clock and the library had only been open for an hour. It was going to be a long, very long day. She pushed her glasses back up on her nose and smoothed her hair back. Once she got home, the librarian didn't have much time to do anything except throw on clothes, take out uncomfortable contacts, and slip ebony strands into a thick rubber band, making a neat pony tail.

Once out of the costume, Karen felt almost disappointed. The confidence and sureness were still there but not to the degree that it was. Although things looked up. While making a mad dash for the door, she bumped into Betty, and before she could even open her mouth, the shorter woman mumbled, "Uh, I'm moving out." Feeling that nothing needed to be said, Karen only smiled, slowly, widely and pushed her way out the door. The brunette looked up at the clock again then down at her watch. Only five minutes had passed. Maybe I should have given her my work number too. We could have gone out to lunch or something. She sighed and looked back at the same line in the log book that she was sure she had been looking at for hours.


Shawn ran a nervous hand through her hair. What am I doing here? I know, I know. I just couldn't stay away, 5 o'clock is a long way away. "I hope she doesnít mind my coming here," she said into the blistering wind, "but I don't think I read her wrong. She feels something too." Shawn pulled the ends of her leather bomber together and fastened it over the long sleeve white shirt and brown khakis. She should have been in bed, but her mind and body was a mixture of tiredness and giddiness. It didn't mix well leaving her anxious to see the brunette again. At least, I did go home to get a shower and get out of that costume. I sort of miss it now. I felt like a different person. When the blonde had removed the outfit, she expected the old feelings of cynicism to return, but they didn't. Something else bloomed in its place, hope.

Shawn pulled the door opened and stepped into the heated building. After asking for Karen, she got directions to the back stacks. Bobbing and weaving, Shawn finally got to where she thought she was going. The sound of shifting papers alerted her to a presence in the next isle. Deciding to go for it, she walked boldly into the next isle and cleared her throat as she got closer. The brunette turned and fumbled several books in her hands. Is that her? She looks so different, but I imagine I do too. She's still beautiful though

Wide blue eyes looked up. 'Wha. . .what are you doing here? I mean. . . I didn't expect you. . ."

Shawn squatted, moving herself down to the librarian's level. Peering into crystal blue, she added, "I know, but I had to. You don't mind do you?" Her voice. It's softer somehow, more demure.

Swallowed and feeling captured by the intensity in the jade green eyes, Karen answered softly, "No, I don't. I couldn't stop thinking about you anyway." The brunette smiled seeing the blush she had come accustomed too last night.

Feeling nervous, the blonde wrung her hands. "Are you always this honest, Karen?"

"Uh, I try to be, but I don't see the point in lying to you." God, look at her. She's so intense with the way she carries herself, the way she looks.

Knowing she was being scrutinized, Shawn asked quietly, "Do you like what you see?" Her voice was hesitant.

Karen bit her lip, trying to control nervous flutters. "Do you?"

Shawn reached out with her hand, using fingertips to trace over high cheekbones and delicate lips. "Most definitely," was her husky reply.

The librarian felt her breath catch at the timbre of the other woman's voice. She opened her mouth to speak, but gentle fingers found their way inside instead. A talented thumb caressed the moist inside of the brunette's bottom lip. Fire lanced up her back and pooled between her legs, and the look of concentration on the blonde's face was her undoing. A small whimper escaped. "I guess you do." Shawn answered for her.

Letting emotion take her where it hadn't before, she leaned in to lips that beckoned and covered them, finger and all in a crushing kiss. Karen's whimper was louder this time, and she returned the kiss whole-heartedly. The misplaced thumb opened her mouth wider allowing a larger expanse of tongue to enter and spear deep. They swallowed mutual cries of enjoyment. There among the smell of old paper, leather and dust, the kiss went on and on until the breathing factor took precedence. They pulled away reluctantly, slowly and gazed at each other devouring through their eyes what they wanted with their hands.

Shawn cleared her throat, "Um, are you free for lunch soon?"

Karen smiled then nodded before speaking, "Yeah. Free for dinner and coffee too."

The blonde tweaked her nose in response and chuckled. "Good. You know, I never did catch your last name what did the P stand for on the napkin?"

"Oh, sorry. It's Pappas. What's yours?"

"You're kidding. That's the strangest thing I've ever heard! Mine is Covington."

What's so strange about that?"

"Well, there's this Xena episode. . ."


Invisible to the human eye, but walking through the stacks were two forms. "So Xena? How did you get Michael to let us stay an extra day?"

The warrior chuckled, "I just asked nicely."

The bard stopped, looked at her lover through squinted eyes, and murmured in an exasperated voice, "Xe-na! I told you that you can't keep doing that. That smiles scares people. All kinds of people!"

"Yeah, yeah, but it doesn't bother you."

"That's not the point and you know it. Anyway, do you think they'll ever figure it out? They weren't exactly acting like themselves. I knew you couldn't keep yourself under control!"

Xena raised a dark brow and looked down at the bard indulgently, "Gabrielle, if you had ever learned to stay out of trouble I would have been able to keep quiet! Anyway, we technically don't exist now did we, so it's not that big a deal. They wouldn't believe a TV show possessed them."

Not the lease bit phased by the raised voice, the bard gave as good as she got. "Oh come on, you know that you enjoy the save the helpless maiden bit. If you had given me a minute I would have taken care of him myself."

"Sure, sure, you say that now."

"Okay, okay! I just have one more question. How did we get down. . you know from up there and why now?" She pointed and looked up.

"It's called Halloween, Gabrielle. Spirits are allowed to roam the earth free without question once a year at this time. Besides, those two were ready. I don't understand how someone could live in the same small town and never meet."

The bard stopped again, "Xena! You mean we could have been coming down here all this time and you didn't tell me?!'

Beginning to feel a little wary because of the red flush forming on her lover's face, Xena started walking again, quickly. "Well. . .yeah.

Knowing the warrior's tricks, Gabrielle sped up too. "I'm going to hurt you."

With a chuckle, the warrior was off with the bard right on her heals. I won't run that fast. I like it when she catches me.

Happy Halloween Everyone. Expect another story in the new Holiday Tales come Thanksgiving. Hope you enjoyed my little story. Let me know by dropping a line at Minerva

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