Same Song, Different Lyrics

By joan the english chick
Part 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

This is a new Uber, in a somewhat different tone than my previous. I hope you enjoy it.

Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, and any other characters you recognize are property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance, and are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is property of the author, namely me, and may not be reproduced, retransmitted, or posted anywhere without my expressed permission.
Rating: This chapter is rated PG13 for some mildly offensive language.
Spoilers: None
Special Disclaimer: Certain real people appear in this story. I normally don't like to use real people (other than people I personally know) in fanfic because, in my opinion, it crosses a boundary between fiction and reality that is best left alone. However, for this story it was necessary. The names are used purely for narrative purposes, and since I have no way of knowing what these people are actually like, no resemblance between their real personalities and the personalities of the characters herein is intended. I apologize in advance to them for the use of their likenesses. (However, Melissa Etheridge really is a Gemini.)
Xenite Disclaimer for Part One: Gabrielle's attire was not criticized, except in the most loving and affectionate of ways, in the production of this fanfic.

"Sure thing, Melissa. I'll be there. Yeah, I can't wait ... Okay. Bye." Ella Emerald hung up the phone and gave a shriek of excitement.

"What?" Her sister Lilah appeared from the front hallway, holding a handful of newspaper, to find Ella dancing around the living room like a hyperactive child. "What happened?"

Ella pointed at the phone and stammered incoherently for a moment before uttering, "Melissa Etheridge!" Her sister stared at her for a moment, then realized that was all she had to say.

"That's nice," she said. "So, do you want the Herald or the Times?"

"Lie, didn't you hear me? That was *Melissa Etheridge* on the phone!" Ella exclaimed breathlessly.

"Yeah, I heard you. So? You talked to her at the Grammys, didn't you?"

"That's *different*! Everyone talks to everyone at the Grammys! But today she actually called me -- Melissa Etheridge actually picked up the phone and called ME!" Ella bounced up and down exuberantly.

"So what did she say?" Lilah asked, thumbing through the newspapers..

"She wants me to do Lilith Fair next year!"

That got Lilah's attention. She looked up, her mouth opening. "What?"

"Lilith Fair! Can you believe it? Melissa, Sheryl Crow, Paula Cole, the Indigo Girls ... and ... and me!!" Ella's head spun. "Melissa wants me to fly out to L.A. for a planning meeting tomorrow. Oh my God!" She went white. "What will I wear??" She turned and dashed for her bedroom.

"The Times reviewed your concert," Lilah said, following her more slowly. "Wanna hear it?"

"Okay," said Ella, her voice muffled from inside her closet.

Lilah cleared her throat. "'Rising star Ella Emerald gave a sparkling performance at the Coliseum last night, dazzling audience members with music worth her weight in the gem from which she takes her stage name, and proving for the benefit of any remaining skeptics that she is suited for the rarefied world of popular folk music. Shedding the awkward disingenuity of her previous live appearances, Emerald (real name Gabrielle Reilly) delivered a program that was at once mellow and heartfelt, captivating and entertaining. In the first set, a medley of hits from her enormously successful first album, "Love Dreams," melded seamlessly with newer material as well as a few older, traditional airs whose time-honored simplicity lent the performer an almost Amazonian grace...' Amazonian? What does that mean?" Lilah interrupted herself. "They're comparing you to a river?"

"Not a river, silly. They're probably talking about the ancient Greek warrior women. You know, Amazons?" Ella emerged from the closet and tossed an armful of clothing on the bed. "I hope this is enough."

"What, you mean the ones who cut off their breasts? That doesn't seem very flattering," her sister said dubiously. She picked up a blouse. "Oh, Ella, you're *not* going to wear this? It's so ugly!"

"It is not!" Ella grabbed the blouse defensively. "Green is my signature color. It matches my eyes."

"No, it doesn't. Not that shade of green. It's positively bilious." Lilah snatched it back. "No way I'm letting you wear this to meet Melissa Etheridge."

"Bilious? Is that a word? I don't think that's really a real word, bilious," Ella teased, pulling her small suitcase from under the bed. "Admit it, you made it up."

"I did not," Lilah said absently, glancing out the window. "Don't look now, but here comes That Nice Boy."

"Oh God," Ella groaned, following her sister's gaze to the front step. "What's *he* doing here? He's always dropping in on me. Why can't he leave me alone?"

"He's probably trying to impress you with his charm and sophistication," Lilah teased, following her sister out of the bedroom.

"He'd have to find some first," Ella groused over her shoulder. She flung the door open and tried to smile politely. "Why, hello, Peter. What a surprise."

"Afternoon, Gabby," the young man said, oozing past her and into the living room. "Hiya Lilah. How's tricks?"

"Hmf!" Lilah snorted, closing the front door more loudly than necessary.

"Is there something you needed?" Ella asked, trying not to grit her teeth. Their parents had raised them to be polite.

"Oh yeah, almost forgot," said Peter, flopping down on the couch and opening the Tribune to the sports section. "There's a dance at the auto workers' union tomorrow night. Pick you up at seven?"

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Ella said, pulling the corners of her mouth down and forcing artificial apology into her voice. "I won't be around tomorrow. I have to fly to L.A."

"L.A.?" He looked up in surprise. "What on earth for?"

Ella drew herself up and announced firmly, "I'm going to do Lilith Fair next year."

"Lilith-" Peter's forehead creased in puzzlement. "What, you mean the dykefest? What'd you wanna do that for, hang out with a buncha lezzies?"

"Peter!" Ella exclaimed in outrage. Lilah came storming in from the kitchen, hands on hips.

"Peter Trammel, I cannot BELIEVE I heard you say that," she thundered. Peter looked mildly bemused.

"What? What'd I say?"

"Out!" Ella ordered, pointing at the door, Protesting weakly, Peter got up and was herded out by the two indignant women.

"What a buffoon," Ella complained when he was finally gone. "I always knew he was a jerk, but these homophobic tendencies are news to me."

"Hmf, I'm not at all surprised," Lilah sniffed. "I could never understand why Mom liked him so much. I always hated him, you know."

"And I hate how he still calls me Gabby. Everyone else stopped calling me that when I was twelve. I can't believe I almost married that jerk," Ella shuddered. "Ugh! Next time we talk to Mom, remind me to tell her to stop sending him over here."

"Yeah, if she likes him so much, *she* can marry him."

"I mean, anyway, half the artists in Lilith Fair are straight," Ella added. "Paula Cole has a boyfriend, you know."

"Don't take it personally," Lilah advised her gently. "He doesn't even know, you know?"

"Maybe I should tell him," Ella grumbled. "At least it would probably make him leave me alone."

"Yeah, but then he'd tell Mom, and then where would you be?"

Ella grimaced. "Good point."

"Come on, forget about him," Lilah said, pulling her toward the bedroom. "You have to finish packing, and we need to call the travel agent."

Early the next afternoon, Ella emerged from the belly of an airplane with her weekend bag over her shoulder, blinking rapidly in the bright sunshine of California and trying to appear alert and perky despite several hours spent in a padded chair. She looked around, feeling a little lost, and was relieved to see a tuxedoed man holding a sign with her name on it.

"Thank goodness," she exclaimed heartily, walking up to him. "I would never have known where to go."

"This way, please, Ms. Emerald," the man said formally, and turned, indicating with a sweep of his arm the direction he wanted to go. Raising her eyebrows, Ella started walking again, and he fell in behind her.

The limousine that Melissa Etheridge had sent was larger than any Ella had ever seen, let alone set foot in. She sat, feeling dwarfed by the buttery leather seats, admiring the fully stocked bar and trying to picture a hot tub in the floor of the vehicle. It wasn't too hard a stretch of the imagination. Finally she pressed the button to activate the intercom.

"Um ... is all this really necessary, just for me?" she ventured. The driver glanced at her in his rear-view mirror as he navigated the streets of Los Angeles.

"It's only that Ms. Badu's flight was delayed," he replied, his voice tinny through the speaker. Ella's eyes widened.

"Erykah Badu?"

"That's right, ma'am."

"Wow ... I love her," Ella breathed. "Um, thanks," she added belatedly, and shook her head at herself when she saw the driver's small smile. She switched the intercom off.

"Come on, time to be cool, Ella," she told herself. She closed her eyes and remembered her sister's final words as she boarded the plane.

"Try to remember you're not just a starry-eyed fangirl any more, Ella," Lilah had said. "You're a star now, just like them. Don't do anything to embarrass me, okay?"

"Okay," Ella said aloud now, and laughed, shaking her head again. Well, at least she still had the ability to laugh at herself. That was important, right?

"The Beverly Hilton," the driver announced, pulling to a stop. He got out and opened the door nearest Ella. Taking a deep breath, she tried to fill herself with cool sophistication as she stepped -- or rather climbed -- out of the limo.

"Thank you," she said to the driver, taking her bag from him, and wondering wildly if she was supposed to tip him. He nodded and touched his cap.

"Ella!" called a voice, and then salvation arrived, in the form of the smiling Melissa Etheridge, who bustled toward the car with her arms out. "So great to see you! So glad you could come!"

"Melissa!" Ella gave the other woman a quick hug and whispered, "Do I tip the driver?"

"Oh!" Melissa laughed cheerfully and pulled a bill from her jeans pocket. "Here ya go!"

"Thank you, ma'am," the driver said blandly. Ella gave him an apologetic look as Melissa hurried her inside.

"We've been lucky, a very low profile so far," Melissa explained. "But I'm sure the press will be showing up any time now, so let's get you into your room, okay? And you have plenty of time to shower and rest or get something to eat, whatever, the meeting isn't going to start for another hour, hour and a half. We might even wait for Erykah, I'm not sure, haven't decided yet. Okay?"

"Um, sure, that's great," Ella agreed, her head spinning again.

"Great, now listen, I know this isn't ideal but it's the best we could do." Melissa paused, growing serious. "We're on a sort of limited budget here, so we kind of had to double up on the rooms. I hope you don't mind sharing. It'll probably be even more crowded on the tour, the way things are shaping up."

"That's fine, I don't mind at all," Ella said firmly, summoning courage. "I can room with just about anyone. I'm a Leo, you know."

"Are you? I would have thought so!" Melissa grinned. "I'm a Gemini. It explains a lot, doesn't it? Anyway," she went on, returning to business, "we've put you with Zina. I'm sure it'll be just fine. She's a Leo too. You two will be getting along like old friends in no time."

"Zina Battler?" Ella asked dubiously.

"Yes! You know her work, right?"

"Um ... isn't she a little, I don't know, *rough*? I mean, she doesn't really fit in with our music, you know?" Ella ventured. Melissa beamed.

"Oh, Zina's giving up all that heavy-metal headbanger stuff, you know? She's turning her attention to folk music, sort of a Tori Amos/Alanis type sound. It's really great, wait'll you hear some of her new stuff ... you're gonna love it, Ella."


"Yes!" Melissa oozed sincerity. "She says she wants to get into a more mellow place, find out what her music is really all about, you know?"

"This from the woman who wrote 'I Killed Daddy'?" Ella asked skeptically. Melissa laughed brightly.

"Well, we can all change, can't we? Anyway, she's not here yet, so why don't I just have someone take you up to your room, and as soon as you've relaxed a little bit, we'll see about getting you some lunch or whatever you want. Do you eat meat?"

"Um, yes," Ella admitted, allowing herself to be herded toward the elevators.

"Hey, that's fine, nothing wrong with that, I'm sure the kitchen will do you a burger or whatever. This is Kelly, our assistant, Kelly, this is Ella Emerald!"

"Nice to meet you," Ella said politely. Kelly, who was extremely short and bald, nodded briskly.

"Nice to meetcha, you're on sixteen. Get your bag?"

"Oh, no, I've got it, thanks."

"I'll just see you later then, okay? So happy you're here!" Melissa exclaimed, then turned and bustled off. Still a little dazzled, Ella stepped into the elevator and watched with a weary fascination as the numbers lit up in turn.

"Here we go, sixteen," Kelly said when they had arrived. "Here's your room, here's the key, need anything, press O for operator, okay? Getcha anything now?"

"No, I'm fine, thanks," Ella said automatically, and watched the smaller woman go.

At last the door closed and she was alone in an incredibly ornate hotel room, many miles from home. She dumped her bag on one bed and flopped down next to it, staring at the other bed and wondering, not without apprehension, what her roommate was really like underneath all the leather, shouting, and strobe lights. Well, she would find out soon enough. For now, she would just lie down and close her eyes for five minutes....

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joan the english chick
Last updated 8 October 1998