Make A Wish
Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and Xena's trusty horse Argo are the sole property of MCA/Universal. No profits gained, no infringement, no offense is intended. I had a little time on my hands during the LONG and may I add, torturous re-run weeks. Hey, it was better than booking myself into the local Casa de los Wackos!
A Teensy-weensy warning: This story, although not terribly graphic, contains scenes of an intimate and questionable nature between cool persons of the same sex. If this is illegal in your state or you are under 18, run screaming for the hills!
This is my first try at fanfic and like any unpolished creator, I'd love to know what you think. Send feedback to: AHladis@aol.com
All you impudent folk out there who waste time sending prank e-mails will be sent straight to Tartarus! I have good connections in low places.
"How is she doctor?"
Dr. Laurence made like he was studying a chart. He hated these grim talks with parents of terminal patients.
"Jenny has not been responding to treatment Mrs. Brooks. And as you know the tumor is quite inoperable."
"So you're saying my daughter is going to die?" she said calmly.
"Of course if you'd like a second opinion..."
This flat statement always worked in getting the message across. Rarely did he have to explain further unless it was one of those foreign monkey's too dumb to understand English.
What Mrs. Edna Brooks would've liked however, was to have slugged this rude man to the ground.
"I see. How long does she have?"
"That's hard to say. If the tumor continues growing inside her brain as fast as it has, usually 2-6 months is average, possibly sooner," he said emotionlessly, "Now then, if there's nothing else?"
She understood plain enough and shook her head no. Dr. Laurence turned on his heels, walking briskly out of Jenny's room.
'A second opinion,' he said.
Edna had lost count of how many opinions she's gotten over the past year. All being the same: grave.
Jenny lay quietly on the hospital bed pumped up with enough drugs to keep her sleeping for a while. Edna sat near the sick bed taking the young woman's hand waiting for her to wake. She had promised herself that she'd be strong for Jenny when the time came. But for now she allowed herself the luxury of mourning her only child.
The sun was shining brightly through the blinds casting horizontal bands across Jenny's face. The young girl opened her expressive brown eyes trying to bring objects around the room into focus. Every day it got a little harder to do this simple thing, though Jenny was kind of used to the inconvenience of losing her eyesight. Slowly her mother came into view, sitting on the guest chair, very near but half-asleep.
"What a dream."
Mrs. Brooks stirred, then sat up smiling to greet Jenny.
"Hey kiddo, how're you feeling?"
"Mmmmmm...heavy, heavy as lead. Get the number of that truck."
Edna smiled broadly at her daughter knowing the old familiar catch phrase Jenny always used when she felt lousy.
"What was it about?"
Her daughter carefully propped herself up a bit on the pillow.
"All sorts of weird people and other what not's. Quite fantastic."
"Pleasantly fantastic I hope."
"Oh most definitely. Color, stereophonic sound, the works."
Jenny smiled to herself. Mrs. Brooks could guess easily what she meant by "the works."
"All kinds of carrying's on I'll bet."
"Naturally. I, of course, remained the center of attention."
Both of them laughed. Then Jenny got serious.
"I'm done for aren't I mom?" she said matter-of-factly. Edna Brooks exploded in anger.
"I don't ever want to hear that kind of crap talk from you! You're going to get well again, understand me?"
"Sure thing mom." she saluted her mother.
"And don't you forget it either, wise ass."
She caressed Jenny's cheek delicately with the back of her hand. No matter how rigidly she wanted to believe those words, she knew the truth: Jenny was going to die. Seeing her weakening each day tore at Edna's heart. Her only daughter was disappearing by inches. All of Jenny's lovely blond hair gone, almost a dim memory. Only a dark blue "Yankee's" baseball hat covered her head now. Her once robust body a thin shell of its former strength. Jenny's wonderful wit and courage remained relatively intact, although lately it started to show the first signs of wear.
"I'd like to go home," she said like an order, not a request, "We can get a nurse in to take care of the rest."
"Jenny, I don't think it's the wisest..."
"I can't stand hospital's mom! I've been in so many, I'm tired. I just want to be, I don't know, private for a change."
Edna didn't fight her. It was the best thing all around.
"Okay kid have it your own way. I'll go to the front desk to arrange things. Try to relax while I'm gone."
She closed the blinds then leaned over to kiss her daughter. Jenny closed her eyes and nodded. Sleeping was all she seemed to be doing lately. Soon her body gave up its resistance, embracing sleep one more time; dreaming of strange lands long forgotten.
Part 2: Intensely Blue
Thick massive clouds swirled about. Every which way Jenny turned she was surrounded in billowing whiteness.
"Okay, what's going on here? We can dispense with the dramatic 'she's dreaming' sequence can't we?"
The mists parted suddenly giving way to a fresh green meadow.
"Ahhh! Now that's more like it! How lovely. Gee, I almost expect Julie Andrews to start singing."
She walked a short way through the soft grass then dropped down onto her stomach and rolled over face up. The day was warm, a slight breeze pleasantly passed over her firm body. Putting an arm behind her head she felt something extraordinary there.
"Oh my God! I've got my hair back!"
Jenny jumped up threading her fingers through a mass of long blond tresses.
"Hmmmm, not exactly the same color, but it'll do nicely. Oh yeah, very nicely!"
Then she noticed how she was dressed. She had on a short sleeve white muslin shirt covered over with a loose fitting dark leather tunic that came to her waist, below it an olive green skirt to her knees. Completing the outfit a pair of brown leather boots laced to the shins and a small knife in a leather sheath attached to her belt.
"I guess I'm Maid Maryanne today. Okay, I'll go along with it."
Shrugging her shoulders she continued walking on. The sky was bluer than any she'd ever seen. Everything fairly burst with loveliness. Birds flew overhead, chirping sweetly as they passed by, wildflowers grew here and there.
"This is the best I've thought up by far. No people! I love it."
She gathered up a few flowers while she traveled then spotted a particularly colorful bunch just at the edge of a narrow road that cut abruptly through the grasslands.
Jenny kneeled down to pick some of the bright yellow buds. Just as she was about to stand, two big horse hooves loomed in front of her attached to sinewy golden legs. Her eyes followed up the animal's body till she found herself staring at an amazing sight:
A tall woman with long dark hair sat astride this snorting beast; brass armor breastplates gleaming over a dark leather bodice in the sun. She was absolutely breathtaking! Beautiful blue water eyes had locked onto her own slightly unnerved brown ones.
"Wow! Forget Julie Andrews!" Jenny chirped brightly.
"Do you travel alone?" this woman asked in a rather gruff manner.
"Well...um...yes, I'm alone."
"It's not safe for a young woman to wander on the road alone. Where are you bound?"
'This one could win a stone-face contest.'
Jenny didn't like all these questions, even though they came from such an attractive, yet gloomy person.
"Why do you ask so many questions? You know, I'd bet that if you smiled you'd actually be charming. Take my advice and try it sometime. Ta-ta!."
Jenny turned her back on the stranger purposely and headed down the road. Thundering hooves came from behind. The horse ran past her a bit, then veered around causing rider and beast to force the lone traveler to stop in her tracks.
Jenny stood her ground unruffled by the brutish action. What she did find interesting was the look of crimson fury on this woman's face. Captivating.
"Young woman," the rider bellowed out to Jenny, "have you taken leave of your senses?! I said it was unsafe to travel alone."
Crossing her arms in front of her, Jenny blandly examined this bold creature carefully.
"And you also asked me where I was going. I can't see that either is any of your business. After all, we haven't been properly introduced. Didn't anyone ever teach you manners, or does that get-up tend to impress people instead?"
The dark woman fairly shook with rage, but was containing it well. She hopped off her horse then took a couple of strides towards Jenny. She reached behind her head drawing a sword out of its hidden sheath.
"If you were a man, I'd have split you in two by now," she said between clenched teeth and twirling the tip of the blade in small slow circles.
"How lucky that I'm not. Saaaay, nice knife. Can you make Julienne fries with it?"
For some reason Jenny just felt like teasing this woman. The angrier she got, Jenny noticed, the lovelier she became. She felt no sense of danger, all this wasn't real anyway.
"Do you know who I am?" the blue-eyed beauty said coldly.
"No, but one might inquire 'what are you'."
"I am Xena." she nearly stammered out.
"Cool handle! My name is Jennifer Brooks, Jenny for short."
Smiling she walked up to the Xena person to shake her hand. Seeing the right one occupying the hilt of a sword she went for the left one; taking it she shook it good-naturedly.
"Glad to meet you Xena."
Xena stayed in Jenny's friendly hold for a bewildered moment then grabbed her hand back from the lunatic girl.
"Are you out of your mind?" her eyes flashed blue lightning.
"Let me see....no I don't think so."
Xena put up her sword deciding that Jenny must be a local village idiot.
"You're from around here then?" she said in a grim tone sheathing the blade with one quick stroke.
"Actually, I don't know where 'here' is. I'm from New York City. All this is just Greek to me."
Xena narrowed her eyes at Jenny.
"This is the road to Amazon territory. And I don't think they will find you amusing.
The Amazon nation is in the middle of a dispute so I suggest that you go back to the town you came from."
"Real Amazon's? You're kidding! Are you one?"
"No, but my friend-no I'm not an Amazon."
Jenny thought she caught a glimpse of sorrow on Xena's face, in a flash it was gone.
"Oh, I see," she said calmly placing a sympathetic hand on the tall woman's arm, "I'm sorry."
Xena pulled away, feeling as though this odd girl snooped into her most intimate thoughts.
"Don't do that!"
"Which, be empathetic or touching you?"
"Lady, what is your problem?"
"You'd better watch what you say to me." Xena's eyes turned mean as she glared menacingly at Jenny.
"I'm not afraid of you."
The defiant look on Jenny's face reminded Xena of the friend she had so recently lost. And wasn't that the reason she stopped in the middle of the road? Was it merely to engage her in conversation? Maybe it was the long blond hair that shined in the sunlight. Or maybe, just maybe the overwhelming need to hear someone talk amusingly again kept the plan of killing herself at bay for just a little longer. Her good intentions of warning this crazy girl of the dangers in traveling alone failed miserably. Xena was starting to crumble emotionally, she knew it-something she promised someone she'd never do...
Without another word Xena leaped onto her horse then galloped down the road at a good pace.
"Well, what eccentric behavior."
During their brief exchange, Jenny became sort of curious about that dour creature and decided to see where she was going in such a hurry. It wasn't the smartest thing to do, after all, Xena did show herself to be rather short tempered and threatening. Somehow Jenny didn't quite buy the hard-as -nails act.
Following in the direction Xena went, Jenny walked down the road till she came to a slight rise. She couldn't see the horse running in the distance, so that meant Xena must've turned off the road somewhere. Jenny tracked the horse's hoof prints in the dirt for a bit and spotted them trailing to the right shoulder then into a thick forest of trees.
'I'm not going too far in here. I may be curious, but I'm not stupid,' Jenny thought as she tried to avoid some treacherous undergrowth's along the way.
A small clearing appeared ahead. She heard footsteps pacing up and down on dry leaves. Carefully, and cautiously, Jenny crept as close to the source of the sound as possible without being discovered. She laid down flat in-between a grouping of high bushes with large heavy leaves on them.
Jenny had a clear view of Xena marching back and forth talking to herself.
"I've tried to honor my promise," she said as she stopped pacing and began removing her scabbard and armor, "How can I bear this life without you, my soul?"
Then she let out a blood-curdling wail. Unsheathing her sword Xena fell to her knees. Violently she stabbed it into the ground, over and over, screaming out into the void, "GAB-RI-ELLE!"
Jenny watched in awe as this poor woman tried to purge whatever demons that tortured her.
"I WANT TO DIE TOO!" she yelled out in anguish.
Xena threw herself down on the ground burying her face in her arms, sobbing uncontrollably.
Jenny's heart broke at the sight; she had an overwhelming urge to comfort Xena, to hold her. Feeling her own eyes mist over, she quietly crept up to where Xena was heaped on the ground. Kneeling down, Jenny laid a sympathetic hand on the back of her head.
In an instant, Xena had turned, grabbed a very startled Jenny and tossed her into the air. She landed with a thud a few feet away groaning in pain. Just as fast Xena was upon her holding the point of her sword at the intruder's throat.
"Jesus Christ!" Jenny moaned rubbing her neck, "That's some greeting."
"YOU?!" Xena rasped angrily.
"Yeah, it's me. Bad idea huh?"
"WHY ARE YOU HERE?!!"
"Well okay it's this way-I wanted to check out the hot spots where all those abrupt people like you go for a few laugh's. I've already guessed this isn't one of 'em."
Jenny tried to stand, but Xena kept the blade trained on her preventing it.
"LISTEN TO ME CAREFULLY FOOL, I DON'T LIKE TO BE SPIED ON. I'LL KILL YOU NEXT TIME, UNDERSTAND?"
Xena had lowered her weapon during the loud tirade, yelling right into Jenny's face with tears still glistening in her distressed blue eyes.
"All this 'cause I found you crying? Lady, you are twisted. I'm out of here."
Jenny stood up, brushing herself off angrily. With a light toss of her long blond hair she started to leave, then on second thought she turned around and walked back.
"Look, I didn't mean to embarrass you okay? When I saw you so upset it struck a nerve. All I wanted to do was to make you feel...not alone," Then a single unrelated sentence escaped from her lips as easily as if it belonged there in that moment,
"Wish for me."
Jenny began walking away; she heard a strained voice that made her stop in her tracks.
"What? What did you say?" Xena ran to Jenny taking her by the arms roughly,
"Repeat what you just said!"
"What, that whole thing again?" an alarmed Jenny asked.
"That last part, what was it?" Xena's plea grew more frantic.
"You mean when I said 'wish for me'? I thought it sounded a bit odd too, but then
These last words got smothered against Xena's chest. She had pulled Jenny so passionately into her arms they both fell backwards on top of each other. Righting herself again Xena took the girl's puzzled face between her hands and tenderly
"Come back to me Gabrielle."
Tears flowed from her incredibly beautiful eyes, down to her trembling chin. Jenny didn't know what to make of Xena's bizarre behavior. She went along with it just to humor her, there was no telling what she'd do next.
"Shouldn't we try to calm down a little?" Jenny eased Xena's hands away, still nervously holding onto them tightly in front of her, "Could you please explain to me exactly what is going on?"
Xena said nothing she just sat quietly waiting. Jenny reached up and wiped at Xena's tears in a way that surprised herself. It was intimate, delicate, like she had done this many times before. As a matter of fact, this whole episode played out in what seemed to be a carefully arranged scenario. Progressively, something had been taking control of her body. Jenny felt driven to say things to this woman that were unfamiliar.
"Shall I hold you in these arms once more?" she heard herself say in a voice not like her own.
"...and whisper to my one so dear," Xena answered softly.
"...of the things that she didn't know," Jenny continued.
"...which will now become quite crystal clear," Xena added, her voice choking off.
Leave it to the little balladeer to use this particular poem, the one Xena liked best, to announce her presence to the dark beauty.
"By the God's, is it really you?"
Jenny's lips smiled sweetly. Covering her streaming eyes, Xena turned her face away. Jenny gathered Xena into her arms, rocking her gently back and forth like one would a child.
"It's all right...hush now, I'm here."
Jenny's weird feeling continued to fascinate her. It wasn't intrusive or aggressive at all, but kind. It felt like this 'entity' shared itself completely and in turn borrowed Jenny's essence. Jenny just sat back inside her mind and watched the events unfold before her.
She wiped at the hard tears Xena shed then placed a small kiss upon each eye, with an added kiss to her reddened nose. She lifted Xena's chin and bent forward to softly kiss her lips, lingering there only for a moment.
They looked lovingly into each other's eyes, at least that's what Jenny sensed. Xena drank her wholly into those hypnotic blue eyes of hers; most of the tears quieted.
"Gabrielle, I never meant for it to happen."
There was that name again. It must be the entity's name.
"No Xena, you were not responsible."
"If you hadn't turned back to warn me of the trap you'd still be alive.
"There was no choice for me. It was just my time to go. I heard the keeper of the gates calling my name."
Xena straightened up a bit, attempting to gain more control over her ragged emotions.
"I've been sent to this body because you're suffering so. Remember Xena when I was dying in your arms I said: 'Make a wish, I'll be there?' I'm here."
"This is a dream."
The Gabrielle spirit reached up and moved a few stray strands of hair from the warrior's troubled brow. Xena suddenly felt awkward, realizing that she was sharing private thoughts to a stranger's face and self-consciously pulled away.
"Did you have to use this girl's body? She drives me insane with her constant badgering."
"Oh Xena! I think she's rather sweet. Be patient with her. Honestly, she really likes you, deep down."
Gabrielle laughed merrily, as Xena, not finding this funny, arched an eyebrow at her.
"You would find the humor in this."
The poet's spirit put her arms around Xena drawing her into a close hug.
"I've missed you so much," she said smiling.
Gabrielle pulled back a bit from Xena to look into her eyes.
"I must go now. I will be back...soon."
"When are you coming back, you just got here."
"Soon Xena ."
"Gabrielle? Gabrielle don't go, please don't go!"
Xena shook Jenny by her shoulders fervently. A noticeable change flowed across Jenny's features.
"Hey, take it easy lady! Elvis has left the building!"
That annoying Jenny was back. Xena sadly dropped her hands from the girl.
"Geez, you're a gentle little thing aren't ya?" she said rubbing a sore shoulder.
Xena stared at this absurd woman wondering if she was a punishment or reward.
More the former Xena concluded.
"I can be, when it's called for."
Xena buckled on her armor again, then sheathed the sword into its scabbard in one fluid motion.
"Is that what you call an apology?," Jenny said standing up, "Damn my head aches. You're friend leaves quite an impression."
Jenny felt dizzy momentarily, swaying slightly she blacked out. Xena jumped to her side to catch her before she fell. Lifting Jenny into her arms, Xena carried her from the woods into the afternoon sunshine.
She laid her down against an old fallen tree at the edge of the dusty road and went to get Argo. Xena returned immediately to Jenny's side. Kneeling beside her she poured out a little of the water she got from the saddle bag into her hand then began smoothing it over Jenny's pale face.
"Young woman?" no response. Xena paused for a second,
Someone was giving her arm a shake.
She opened her eyes trying to bring the cloudy images into focus.
"Mom?" Jenny said groggily.
"Yes dear, it's me. Everything's arranged. We can leave as soon as I get your gear packed."
Jenny brought her hand tentatively to the top of her head. There sat the Yankee's cap glued to the old dome as usual.
'Damn, it was so real.'
"Honey are you all right?" Edna had been quietly observing her daughter's movements.
"Yeah, just overtired I guess."
"You have such a look on your face. Like you lost your best friend."
"Could you sit with me before we go?"
Edna dropped what she was doing and sat beside Jenny, worried.
"There's a mean gale blowing in from the east."
Without a second to spare Edna took her daughter into her arms, holding her tight.
Jenny's mind wandered idly as blobs of scenery rushed by the car window. She assumed all along that it was only a dream. Still, Jenny began to like where she was and those silly made-up characters.
'That Xena babe. She looked sorta' like Betty Page...with armor on. Betty Page...Warrior Goddess.'
She chuckled to herself. Edna looked over at her.
"What's so funny kiddo?"
"Just amusing myself mom. I was thinking about the unusual woman in my dream."
"Yeah," Jenny said lecherously. Edna gave her a side-glance.
"Tell me all about it."
"I found myself in this strange land, green meadows, colorful wild flowers everywhere, cloudless sky, no people except for a moody woman with this huge chip on her shoulder. God she was awesome. Leather clad, big ice blue eyes, long black hair, riding a warhorse. Noble bearing, but very dangerous. Can you believe I taunted and teased her relentlessly? At one point I think she wanted to kill me."
"You liked her then I take it?" Edna smiled broadly keeping her eyes on the road.
"Sure did. I kind of stood up to her too. Then she took off down the road on her horse. I tracked her footprints to a forest clearing, finding her crazed and crying. Turns out she lost someone dear to her.
Now here's where things got fascinating: this dear one is another woman who takes possession of my body. While they are briefly and may I add poignantly reunited, I'm inside my own head having to experience everything the spirit girl feels. It got pretty embarrassing at times," Jenny's thoughts drifted off for a moment, "Xena's lips were so soft; they trembled at the lightest touch."
"Xena? What kind of a name is that?"
"I don't know. I must've read it somewhere. Anyway, the ghost leaves me and there I am wisecracking at Xena again. That's about it, then I heard you calling my name."
"Sounds like my timing was lousy."
"Forget it. I'll think up a better fantasy tonight."
Jenny really didn't believe she'd ever dream like that a second time. She turned her attention to the road again.
"How long till we get home?"
"Not for another two hours at least, if we don't hit any traffic that is."
"Okay. I'll get in a few winks then."
Jenny laid her head back onto the seat rest and soon fell asleep.
A steady hand pressed against her cheek, then it caressed her forehead with cool water.
"Jenny?" the voice was soothing.
"Are you all right?" the voice was a little edgy.
Jenny slowly opened her eyes immediately focusing on the incredible beauty of the frowning woman crouched over her.
"Oh my God! It's you again!"
"Well, thanks...I think." Xena said flatly.
Jenny could hardly believe her eyes. She had returned to the mythical land, just where she left off. The urge to kiss Xena was terribly strong, so Jenny proceeded to lock both her hands behind Xena's neck drawing her into a generous kiss.
Xena's surprised exclamation hushed against Jenny's exuberant lips. She let her go with equal speed, stood up then hopped about in the road. Xena sat back on her heels momentarily stunned by the kiss that still warmed her lips.
"Isn't this the most beautiful day you've ever seen?"
The warrior calmly collected her equilibrium. She stood up and carefully eyed this girl who just seemed to get stranger and stranger.
"I think you need to rest for a while, young woman before you pass out again."
"Don't be such a spoilsport, wasn't it 'Jenny' a few minutes ago?"
"Very well then Jenny I---"
"You said it so gently before. Frankly, I didn't think you had it in you."
"You know nothing of me, and I wish you'd stop taunting me at every turn."
Xena felt utterly exasperated in trying to deal with the girl. What choice did she have? Gabrielle inhabited this person for a reason, she was sure of that, but how to tolerate her, that became the challenge.
Jenny continued to prance around, picking up a few flowers, and of course letting flow her special brand of banter.
"Have a look at these Xena. Aren't they delightful? It's exactly your eye color."
Jenny held one of the pale blue flowers next to Xena's cheek to compare.
"Yes, a very good match indeed, but your color is so much more....enchanting. It's a shame you waste them in frowning most of the time."
She stepped away from Xena idly putting the flowers up to her nose and inhaling deeply. Peeking up from the petals she caught Xena staring at her, Jenny smiled and Xena turned red.
"We should be going."
"Hold on, what's this 'we' stuff? Don't I have a choice here? Really my dear, you are not the most pleasant of people to be around."
Xena's eyes lowered to the ground. Her voice had taken on a pained tone.
"I ask you humbly Jenny. Would you please come with me?"
She raised her eyes; Jenny could see the desperation there.
"Yes," Jenny said reaching out to touch Xena's shoulder, but Xena moved away to leap upon Argo's back.
"Have you ever ridden a horse?" Xena asked from atop Argo.
"Is that an invitation?"
Xena glared down at her. Jenny let up on the teasing.
"I used to ride quite a bit before I got sick. I've never been two on a horse, can he hold us both?"
"She can, yes. Give me your hand."
"Oh, there's no need for that!"
Jenny trotted a few paces behind Argo and with all her might, ran at top speed hand springing neatly in back of Xena. She wrapped her arms snugly around the warrior's waist.
"It's okay to hold on to you I take it?"
Xena rolled her eyes then urged Argo into a slow run.
"Where are we going anyway?"
Xena wasn't even sure of that herself, but she had to find answers this girl couldn't possibly come up with. She had to lead them to shelter until Gabrielle came back.
'But when, when?' Xena asked herself.
Part 3: Native soil
Blaring horns brought Jenny back to the modern world.
"Stupid idiots! I don't believe this!"
Edna slapped the steering wheel in disgust.
"What's going on?" Jenny said trying to uncloud her eyes.
"They're all rubber necking up there. Can't they just drive by an accident for once and let the cops do their job?"
"Don't sweat it mom, you know how it is. They want to see blood and body parts."
Jenny settled deeper into the car seat giving up on her slow to focus eyes. Edna huffed quietly to herself, then switched topics.
"The woman at the hospital said they where sending down a nurse in a few days."
"Jesus Christ I hope she doesn't crack any mirrors."
"Really Jenny, that's so shallow of you."
"Oh yeah? Did you take a good look at that chick who nursed me the last time? Eeeccch. And a bedside manner to match."
"Come on, she wasn't so bad. She was very...efficient."
"Like a Nazi."
"Well, she's just supposed to do her job, not provide eye candy for you."
"Both would be nice."
"You're impossible," Edna said pulling Jenny's Yankee cap playfully down over her eyes.
Eventually the traffic eased by the minor three-car accident and the ride home soon came to an end. Edna took out Jenny's little suitcase from the trunk, then came around to open the passenger side door.
"Mom, I'm afraid you'll have to help me inside. I can hardly see past my nose."
"Okay honey, let me bring the case in first and I'll come back for you."
Edna always tried to sound casual about Jenny's temporary losses of sight. The torrents of anxiety that went on inside her well...that was another story. Quietly she checked her watch estimating the time when Jenny woke up in the car to now. About forty-five minutes.
'It's getting worse.'
Edna walked back to the car quickly. She couldn't help noticing how small her daughter looked sitting there and pushed down the urge to cry.
"Well now, what's it to be: carried in, or supported."
"Supported is fine. I can make it."
Jenny held onto the top of the open car door pulling herself up into a standing position. Edna held her around her waist while Jenny put an arm around her mother's shoulder. Edna kicked the door shut with her foot and unsteadily they made their way up the walk to the open front door.
"Hey, this reminds me of my high school days. Remember when you picked me up at Shepherd's cafeteria at two in the morning?"
"Yes. I wanted to kill you."
"I guess I was pretty blotto."
"And really heavy too I might add."
"Yeah, I was the Queen of sports. Look at me now, what a wreck."
Edna didn't answer as she brought Jenny into the living room gently letting her down on the couch.
"How's the eyes?"
"Foggy," sensing the worried sound in Edna's voice, "It'll clear in a few minutes."
"Would you like something to eat?"
"No, I'm kind of woozy from the trip."
"How about some tea?"
"Okay, tea is good. Make one for yourself so we can chat."
Edna disappeared into the kitchen and soon returned with the tea. She found Jenny leafing through a TV guide on her lap.
Letting out a silent sigh of relief Edna placed the tray on the low coffee table.
"Anything good on?" she said handing a hot mug to Jenny.
"Nah, same old crapola," she tossed the guide on the table, "I'll file a personal protest in the morning."
Edna laughed then sipped at her tea.
"Mom, I had that dream again."
"Oh, the dream with, wait a minute don't tell me...Xena, Right?"
"Yeah, right where it left off. I mean right on the beat."
"Hmmmmm, you and this Xena must be quite an item."
"No, she's too...melancholy for me. Lord knows I tried to make her laugh, but she only gets mad. Her loss has been too much of a heavy number for her."
"Maybe you should be more tender in your dream. Touch her more when you talk to her. And try not to tease the poor woman. Speak gently as to a wounded animal. She'll come around, just you wait."
"I don't know mom, this is one tough cookie."
"No one's that tough. It's only a facade."
Edna almost started to say that she'd like to meet Xena one day and realized they were talking about a fictitious character. It didn't matter, whatever kept Jenny animated was a good thing. She suddenly had a faraway expression on her face.
"I wish all of it was real mom. When I'm in that land I'm healthy and strong..." Jenny's voice trailed off, "...Well," she looked up at her mother, "I guess I'm just a sucker for a pretty face and lush horizons."
Edna took a long sip from her mug, then brought up another subject.
"I ran into Terry last week at the market," Jenny sank into the couch setting her jaw, "she asked about you."
"That's nice. How'd she look?"
"Concerned. Honey, she wants to see you. She said she's moving out to LA"
"All the better. I don't want to see her."
"She said to tell you she loves you."
"Then she loves someone who's dead."
"Face it mom, I'm dying. I have to, why can't you?"
"I told you not to talk like that! You've got to believe in life and living. We'll get through this thing together."
Jenny smiled weakly.
"I'll try, 'but the fates have other plans for me'," she finished in her head.
Jenny sat out on the porch swing that evening, creaking back and forth with her eyes closed listening to the purr of the crickets. She didn't hear the footfalls coming briskly up the walk. The young woman came to the three short steps leading to the front door and sat down lazily across them.
"Fine night, isn't it?"
Jenny almost fell off the swing.
"Shit! Are you trying to give me a heart attack?"
"Hey, my name's not shit."
"Mom called you didn't she?"
"No. I saw her last week, did she tell you?"
"Yes, she gave me your message too."
"Not impressed eh?"
"I've seen LA Terry, what do you want?"
"I was just passing by, thought I'd call on Edna."
"She's inside reading, I'm sure you won't be disturbing her."
"There's no rush, seeing that you're here. Maybe I'll talk to you for a while."
"I don't feel much like talking."
Terry got up, sauntered over to the swing and crouched in front of Jenny.
"If I sit here quietly will you let me stay?"
Jenny didn't answer, so Terry turned around, sat down and leaned herself against the swing support. Jenny stared at the back of Terry's blond head for a long time.
She reached for Terry's hair, weaving her fingers through a few strands.
"I've forgotten how pretty your hair is."
Terry leaned into the gentle hand, letting Jenny's fingers travel across her cheek. Terry turned her face planting a kiss in Jenny's palm. Slowly she got up to sit next to Jenny on the swing. Terry then kissed her on the mouth, her own lips very unsteady.
Jenny halted the passionate advance.
"I'm so damn weak. I can't make love like I used to."
"That's okay Jenn," her eyes shimmered in the low porch light, but Jenny could barely make them out, "Being here with you is enough."
"Is it? Look at me, I'm on my last leg hon. It's not fair to put you through this ordeal. I thought we settled that."
"For once let me decide what's good for me."
Terry pulled Jenny into her arms. Jenny touched Terry's cheek feeling dampness.
"Sentimental slob," she said smiling, keeping her hand there.
"The same to you."
They both sat quietly listening to each other's breathing. Comforted by the loving embrace Jenny soon drifted off into a deep sleep. Terry carefully lifted Jenny into her arms, carrying the sleeping woman up the stairs to her bedroom. She laid Jenny onto the bed and after tucking her in lightly kissed her.
"I'll always love you Jenn, good-bye," she whispered and left the room closing the door behind her.
The sensation of flying caused Jenny to shudder.
"Are you all right back there?" Xena called over her shoulder.
Jenny's eyes snapped open. The wind whistling past her ears was almost deafening, Jenny didn't hear what Xena said and suddenly held onto the warrior woman for dear life. During the journey Xena had felt Jenny's head push against her back once in a while, not an unpleasant thing, Xena noted. It was almost like Gabrielle riding with her again. She jigged back on the reins, Argo slowed to a walk.
"We ought to find shelter in a cave. I don't like the look of those clouds in the distance."
Jenny glanced up at the sky and indeed the weather did seem threatening.
"Whatever floats your boat."
Xena didn't understand half the things this woman blathered about, but guessed she was pleased at her suggestion.
Meanwhile, Jenny was just trying to make sense of these time warps she seemed to be trapped in. One minute she was in Terry's company, the next she had her arms around Xena in 'ancient wherever'.
'Trust and just go with it,' a faint voice from close by said.
"We have to get there on foot, through here. It's rough terrain, so be careful."
Xena dismounted, then Jenny jumped off gracefully onto the dirt road. More dense forest; not one of her favorite things.
"After you toots," Jenny said pointing an arm in the forest's direction and bowing slightly.
Xena walked past her into the greenery leading Agro close behind with Jenny reluctantly bringing up the rear. Xena wasn't kidding about the treacherous path they took. Jenny snagged her boot twice in the low interlocking vines that appeared to be growing everywhere.
"This sucks big time," she mumbled under her breath.
"If that means you hate the undergrowth, I agree," Xena smiled over at Jenny.
"Wow! Do you know how delightful you look when you smile?"
"I've heard rumors," Xena kept smiling.
"I'll bet. Hey, did you just make a joke?"
Xena didn't have time to reply, Jenny tripped over an exposed root and fell flat on her face. She lay very still where she landed. Xena ran to Jenny, turning her over into her arms. Jenny slowly looked up into Xena's worried eyes.
"You're not thinking of kissing me, are you?" Jenny beamed.
Xena all flustered and blushing, let go of her unceremoniously. Jenny propped herself up on an elbow.
"Let me know when you want to," she said winking at Xena.
"Come on, let's get going," her face stayed quite red as she stalked off to pick up Argo's reins, "We've still got a lot of ground to cover."
After about a mile of exhausting travel they finally reached the cave. Jenny peeked inside.
"Get some firewood and lots of it. If it's a bad storm we may need it."
"Okey, dokey," Jenny saluted Xena smartly, then went off to find the wood supply.
Xena removed Argo's saddlebags and saddle, then carried them into the cave. She untied the bedroll laying it near where the fire will be. The cave was amazingly clean and dry, a little circle of burnt hearthstones sat end to end on the ground. Xena couldn't remember the last time she stayed here. Probably when she was hiding out with some members of her troops after a raid.
There were no memories of Gabrielle here, something Xena felt very relieved of.
Jenny heard a rustling in the bushes right in front of her. Carefully she pulled out her knife and waited. Presently a large rabbit ambled out to clean itself. Quick as a flash Jenny aimed and threw her knife which found it's target. She withdrew the weapon from its victim and stood very still. Another rabbit came out to see what that funny odor was. It also met the same fate. Then another, and one more. Four big rabbits in all.
"If a storm is coming at least we won't starve."
She took off her belt tying the rabbits securely in it then Jenny went to where she left the bundle of twigs. Managing to carry the two loads she hurried back to the camp all excited with her good fortune.
Xena was outside getting the bigger logs, hauling them inside their camp. Jenny ran into the cave with her bundles, dumping the twigs in a corner, then laying the tied up rabbits onto the largest hearthstone. Xena looked 'round and could hardly believe her eyes.
"I'm going out for more wood, I'll be back in a jiffy."
Jenny raced out again before Xena could ask her how she did it. She untied the animals and was quite impressed with the way the girl got them. One clean strike to the neck, they never knew what hit them.
Jenny, in the meantime, busily picked up any loose twigs or sizable pieces of wood she could find. She came upon a little stream where she washed her face and hands then looked down at her reflection in the water.
"You're no raving beauty my dear, but you're no slouch either."
Jenny picked up the armful of wood pieces and quickly headed for the campsite again. She slipped into the cave dropping her burden in the corner with the rest of the pile.
"Do you have any spare water bags? I found a stream back there so I thought I'd go fill them if you have some."
"There's a half empty one here and a couple in the saddle bags."
Jenny rummaged around in the saddlebags first, coming up with three empty water bags. She looped the half-full bag over her shoulder and stood quietly watching Xena slicing the fresh meat. Xena looked up from her task.
"Don't worry, I'm just resting for a minute. All this running around has got me
"If you're tired I could----"
"No, no, I've got it covered."
Jenny zoomed out of the cave again. She trotted to the gently rushing water and dipped all the water bags in until they where all full to the brim.
How peaceful everything was here. So tranquil, no worries, at least none Jenny knew about. She felt at home, one with the heavy sweet air of the forest.
'I want this to be the last thought I have before I die.'
She closed her eyes, burning the images all around her into her brain, yes even Xena's image; lovely, taciturn Xena she wanted to remember at the last. When she returned to her modern world, as crazy as it still sounded to her, she knew she'd be coming back here.
Jenny lifted the bloated water bags over her shoulders and headed for the cave for the last time that day.
Xena finished cutting up all of the meat, now she was in the middle of starting the fire up. Jenny waddled in with her load and plopped down next to Xena exhausted.
"I am plain tuckered out. City dwelling has ruined me. I haven't done this much in years."
"Where did you learn to hunt?"
"Oh that? The girl scouts, at least my troop. We liked to think we were a bunch of tough chicks. I suppose by your standards we'd probably seem rather ridiculous in comparison."
"I'm not sure what you're talking about," she busily rubbed two sticks together without looking up.
"Well you see, where I come from young girls can join a group that teaches them survival tactics in the woods like what we're doing now. They're called girl scouts."
"What is a 'tough chick'?" Xena ignited a few dry leaves and thin twigs, still keeping her eyes on her work.
"A tough chick is a woman who's proven her mettle by surviving terrible ordeals. Someone like you, I guess."
Jenny fed a few loose twigs onto the slowly growing blaze a little at a time.
"You handle things well, for such a strange girl."
"Thank you kindly mam. Right back at ya."
"I return the compliment."
Jenny got up and carried the water over to a cooler place against one of the cave walls. She returned to the same spot next to Xena.
"I'm going down to the stream to water Argo. I'll be back," Xena said jumping up and taking the rabbit skins with her.
Jenny watched her quickly walk out of the cave. Obviously, Xena trusted Jenny with taking care of the campfire. No problem, she got it up and going strong in no time then skewered some pieces of meat letting them cook slowly in front of the golden fire. This little meal was going to taste great after such a long day. Jenny inspected the sleeping arrangements.
'Hmmmmm...only three blankets.'
A few thoughts raced through her head and they soon faded away.
'Like she'd ever let me get near her,' she smiled to herself.
Jenny got up to get some lager pieces of wood from the stockpile in the corner of the cave. She brought them over to the campfire tossing a couple of them into the rising flames.
"That should just about do it," she said softly.
She turned the chunks of meat then settled herself comfortably across one of the blankets. Jenny closed her eyes, a feeling of release flooded over her body and soon she was fast asleep.
It had started to rain lightly outside by the time Xena returned. She walked Argo in towards the back of the cave then removed her bridle.
Xena unfolded the wet skins she just cleaned at the stream and laid them flat on a few scattered stones.
Jenny stirred a bit in her sleep, catching Xena's attention. Xena walked over and stared down at her peacefully sleeping form. It seemed such a long time since she was forced into another's company. Xena wasn't sure whether she liked this girl or not. Jenny: so exasperating, and yet she had a certain quality about her.
The campfire blazed nicely, the rabbit pieces were nearly done, she knew Jenny was a capable person and could take care of herself.
The dominant thoughts on her mind though were of Gabrielle. Xena sat a short distance from her on the only blanket that wasn't tucked neatly under Jenny. Gabrielle had been killed. The terrible memory haunted Xena day and night. She tried as hard as she could not to remember holding Gabrielle in her arms as she died. Xena heard her fading voice saying:
'Make a wish Xena, I'll be there.'
"She stroked my face and then she was gone," Xena said, not realizing she said it out loud.
"What...?" Jenny asked in a groggy tone.
Xena quickly wiped her eyes at the sound of Jenny's question.
"I said you should look to the food, it might burn."
Jenny sat up; she turned the meat on other side.
"You know, that's not what I thought you said."
Xena made like she was importantly occupied in sharpening her sword.
"It sounded like you said something with 'dead' in it."
"I'll get more wood, the fire looks too low."
As soon as Xena made a move to get up, Jenny's hand fell upon her forearm stopping her. That same feeling of a gentle soul came over Jenny all at once, taking her place. Jenny automatically stepped back and allowed the guest full freedom to control her body.
Xena whipped her head around. What Xena saw was a fluid sweep across Jenny's features that strained to become someone else. Someone Xena knew.
"Xena," the face smiled serenely up at her.
Jenny moved close in a familiar way, even the voice was different.
"Gabrielle?" Xena asked warily.
"Yes, it's me."
She brushed the back of her hand lightly against Xena's cheek. The warrior woman froze at the touch for an instant, then calmed herself.
"I've been thinking of you," Xena averted her eyes.
"I know, I heard everything. Xena," Gabrielle said softly, tilting Xena's chin up, "it's not right to want to kill yourself."
Xena looked piercingly into Gabrielle's eyes, her own eyes swimming with tears.
"It hurts too much to live without you."
"You have to finish the journey you started. People need your help."
"Then they'll have to find another!"
Xena got up and marched out into the rain. Gabrielle followed her friend outside. She went a little way and found Xena sitting under a tree, her knees drawn up to her body. Gabrielle sat next to Xena quietly slipping an arm around her.
"I'm sorry Gabrielle. I'm sorry for...everything."
"There's no reason for an apology."
"Yes there is. I dragged you all over the countryside into one danger after another, and then the one too many that got you killed."
"I knew the risk. I was willing to sacrifice myself for you. I have no regrets and I'd do it again if it meant that I could keep you safe."
"All that for a used up, burnt out warrior who hardly gave you a second glance. Did you know that I wanted to get rid of you countless times?"
"I knew. I also knew that you loved me."
Gabrielle pulled Xena closer to her.
"I wish I had told you," Xena rested her head on Gabrielle's shoulder.
"You did, don't you remember? It was when you brought me back to life. I saw your face, you had been crying over me and I never forgot it. But you made it so hard to show how much I loved you. That stoic side of yours usually won out. Believe me Xena, I was content to just lie next to you knowing you would take me in your arms sometimes in your sleep..."
"Please, no more. You're breaking my heart."
Tears intermingled with the raindrops that splattered across Xena's pained features. Gabrielle cupped Xena's face in her hands.
"Gods, I loved you, so much."
Gabrielle kissed her lips tenderly, then softly kissed her way down Xena's neck.
"Will you stay this time?" Xena interrupted quietly.
"I can't. Jenny's body weakens each time I take control of it. She's a very brave girl to do this for us. I talked to her while she slept."
"She knows what's going on?" Xena said sharply.
"Yes and she wants to help as much as she can. Jenny used a strange phrase, she said it was 'cool'."
Gabrielle looked puzzled.
"I don't understand her either," Xena paused, "Gabrielle, why did Hades let you come back? I'm not on the best of terms with him, and I know how reluctant he is when it comes to releasing one of his precious souls."
"It's not Hades. His wife Persephone granted it. She said she understood what it was like to lose someone dear."
"How long has she given your soul to wander on earth?"
"I'm not sure. Hades has no idea of what's going on. It's much harder for him to find me this way when he notices that I'm gone."
"He'll punish the both of you severely if he does."
"Xena, I'm not afraid. Come on, let's go back to the cave"
"You should be afraid. Hades can be very cruel and unforgiving."
Gabrielle shrugged as she stood up.
"Persephone has made a plan, if it doesn't work who knows, maybe I'll be able to talk my way out of it."
Gabrielle laughed a little while they headed hand in hand back to camp.
"You were always good at that," Xena smiled sadly, "What's the plan?"
"We have to get to the temple of Hecate. It's near the lake of Avernus in a shadowy
grove dedicated to her."
"Yes, I know the place. We'll be wandering through a very dangerous region; Caesar's dominion, we've got to be careful."
"I have faith Xena. If you can't get us safely through, nobody can."
"I hope you're right Gabrielle. What happens once we get there?"
"I come out again calling for an audience with Hecate. Persephone has made me memorize a special incantation."
"And that's all?"
"As far as I know. Persephone said it would be something special, she wouldn't tell me what."
"The God's so love their little secrets."
"I think the proper word is 'caprices'."
"You're the bard not I."
When they arrived back in the cave the both of them were soaking wet. Xena removed her heavy armor plates the leather bodice, leaving on her slightly damp rough undergarment. Gabrielle took off her wet boots and skirt; her long white muslin blouse served as a nightshirt.
"Xena..." Gabrielle took Xena's hand.
"You have to go, I know."
"I've already stayed too long. I won't be able to return until we reach the temple. It's safer for all of us this way. Hades is sure to keep a vigilant eye on you."
"Can I hold you one last time before you go?"
Gabrielle crept onto Xena's lap, engulfing her in a warm embrace. She held Gabrielle close, burying her lips in the sweet smelling blond hair.
"Good journey Xena," Gabrielle whispered, looking up into Xena's face. She smiled and nodded back at the young woman.
Lengthening shadows passed over Jenny's eyes. She grabbed violently at her head as a huge surge of pain ripped through her brain. She didn't cry out she simply said:
"Whatever you do lady, don't let me go now. I'm feeling...a little light...headed..."
Jenny fainted in Xena's arms. She held the girl tight to her chest.
"I won't let you go, silly girl." Xena cradled Jenny's head, gently caressing her cheek, waiting patiently for her to wake from the spell.
Part 4: Attendant
The room was dark, darker than usual. Jenny wasn't even sure if her eyes were open or closed. She touched her eyeball and winced.
'You're eyes are open kiddo, and there's someone else in here.' she thought quietly.
"Mom?" no answer, "Terry?"
Jenny reached out in front of her, she felt a pulling on her arm.
"You'll disconnect yourself!"
The voice was female; firm yet soft-spoken. Jenny settled her head back on the pillow, trying to relax the urge to panic. Cool fingers fiddled with the needle taped to her forearm.
"Well? Am I back in the hospital?"
"No, you are still home in New York City."
It sounded somewhat icy the way this woman answered her question. Jenny plodded on.
"Who are you?" She managed to keep her voice fairly steady.
"I am your nurse, B.L. Goldsmith."
Jenny heard her fussing around with things in the room.
"What does the 'B.L' stand for? Big Lisa? Bad Listener?"
"Goldsmith will suffice," she said in a dull manner holding Jenny's eye open. A clicking noise followed, then she did the same to the other eye, "Can you see at all?" the nurse asked blandly.
"Nope. If I could see would you be considered reasonably attractive?" Jenny smiled.
"I don't think that is relevant."
"Ha! That's right, keep it a mystery. How long have I been here?"
"I was assigned two days ago. You were in a semi-conscious state for that time."
"I've been out of it for two days?" 'Mom must be a basket case,' she thought, "When you're finished messing about could you call my mother in...p-l-e-a-s-e?"
Jenny purposely stretched out that last word. B.L didn't respond to her sarcasm, she only exited through the bedroom door in a huff.
'No sense of humor,' Jenny mused.
Some minutes later she heard excited footsteps running up the stairs, then her door swinging wide.
"Hey kid, glad to have you back again!"
Edna put her arms around her daughter giving her an anxious hug. She looked into Jenny's face. The eyes wandered aimlessly, zeroing in on nothing. Edna's breath caught in her throat for a second.
"You can't see me, can you?"
Her mother's nervousness wasn't lost on Jenny. She tried to sound casual, changing the subject.
"No, but I'm glad nursey let you come up. She's a regular laugh riot isn't she? Why do they always have to make 'em so grim?"
Edna stared blankly at Jenny. Obviously, Jenny didn't want to discuss her blindness. Perhaps it was better not to.
"I don't know honey. I doubt if they started out being grim. Maybe it's the job that changed them," she smoothed her hand lightly across Jenny's forehead, "At least Nurse Goldsmith is a pretty one," Edna paused, "God, listen to me! I'm starting to sound just as superficial as you do."
"I always knew you had potential mom." Jenny giggled meanly, Edna echoed her merriment.
"Between you and me, I actually got floored by her looks. I thought she was some Avon lady offering me a makeover," A loud blast of laughter escaped Edna's lips,
"When she told me she was your nurse I almost died trying to keep a straight face. I asked, 'Are you sure you're a nurse?' and she replied in a rather dry tone, (mimicking B.L) 'Of course I am. Didn't you request one?' The poor woman must've thought I was nutty."
They both dissolved in hysterics. Jenny managed to squeeze out a few more words.
"Did you mention the 'extra duties' she'd have to perform?"
"No, but I'm sure she'll carry them out efficiently."
The laughter died down to a light snickering as nurse Goldsmith walked back in to change Jenny's bedding. Edna noticed B.L. glaring at them impatiently.
"I think your nurse wants some time alone with you," Edna kissed Jenny, "I'll come back later. Be good."
"Scout's honor," Jenny placed two fingers up to her forehead in a scout salute. Edna left, closing the door behind her. "Ah, alone at last!" Jenny rubbed her hands together smiling.
Without a word, B.L carefully turned Jenny on her side folding the old sheet up to her body, draping a fresh one next to it, then tilting Jenny back down on the clean half. Nurse Goldsmith finished up her task by tucking the loose ends under the mattress.
"Your bedside manner sure needs improvement," Jenny sensed B.L's head was near by. "Let me see something," she took hold of Nurse Goldsmith's shocked face between her hands.
Jenny gingerly slid her fingers over B.L's features.
"What are you doing? Let me go."
Although upset by the sudden show of familiarity, B.L didn't make much of an effort to get away from Jenny's weak grasp.
"Please bear with me a minute. I'm trying to see your face with my hands."
Jenny moved shy fingers lightly down Nurse Goldsmith's cheeks to her mouth.
"Honestly, I still have no clue what you look like. I've seen this done in so many movies, thought I'd give it a whirl," Jenny released her quarry, "You're not offended, are you?"
B.L Goldsmith sputtered out an unconvincing, "No."
Jenny felt around the perimeter of the mattress for the nurse's hand. She found it was cold to the touch.
"I don't mean to be annoying. It's just a reflex action."
Jenny lightly squeezed the cold hand, and for a moment she thought she felt it squeeze back. B.L slipped away from Jenny's hold continuing her duties in silence.
"What do you do for laughs B.L? Something tells me that under the cool exterior beats the heart of a wild woman."
"My private life is not your concern."
"Hmmmmm. Nobody special waiting up for you huh? Too bad, too bad. Mom says you're very pretty. If that's true you shouldn't have any trouble finding a significant other. Or is your personality the problem?"
B.L greeted this unwelcome probing with an exasperated sigh.
'B.L is almost as bitter sounding as Xena.'
The similarities between these two women in such differing worlds was amazing. It made her wonder which was the real time zone; modern or mythical. Did it matter? Jenny got an equal kick out of bothering the hell out of Nurse Goldsmith too.
"Be a sport B.L. Fess up. Don't make the patient beg."
"It is none of your business. I have duties to perform."
"By all means. Don't let me keep you."
Nurse Goldsmith changed the interveinous bag, carefully adjusting the drip rate through the clear plastic tubing. She checked her watch noting that it was nearly time for Jenny to eat.
"I'm going to get you lunch."
"I'll be right here waiting."
B.L left, leaving the door partially open. Jenny could hear her hurrying all the way down the stairs.
She hated B.L walking out so suddenly, leaving her alone in the dark. Some tears threatened to storm the battlements, but Jenny was determined to fight them back. She didn't want this frosty creature to catch her in a weak moment.
'The nurse won't notice. What am I so worried about?'
Obviously, B.L had lost her sense of humor and humanity a long time ago. Jenny tried to flip over onto her stomach.
More than anything, Jenny wanted dearly to rip the needle out of her arm and be free. No, she couldn't do it. Sinking back on her bed, Jenny's tears came tumbling down. She hated losing the usual control she had over her emotions. Lately, nothing seemed to work for very long.
Noiseless footsteps neared her bed; B.L had entered the room unheard.
"I've brought you your lunch,"
B.L's voice sounded a little different; not quite as mono -tone, a hint of kindness softening the edges.
"Thanks," she answered tearfully, wiping at her damp eyes after sitting up. B.L slid a tray of food across her lap,
"It smells good."
Jenny felt around the tray looking for a spoon. Nurse Goldsmith picked it up for her.
"Here, let me help you."
Those words were gently said. She didn't argue, she just allowed the nurse to feed her. B.L measured out a spoonful of soup, lifting it carefully to Jenny's mouth.
Jenny parted her lips to receive the spoon. B.L slipped it into her waiting mouth, then repeated the motion a few more times.
"Mmmm. Not bad. Did you make it?"
"Yes. There's more here if you want it."
"No, this is fine. I'm really not hungry."
B.L fed her some more soup until the bowl was finished.
"Let me get this out of your way."
She removed the tray and was about to take it back to the kitchen.
"Hey, can't you stay for a while?"
B.L was surprised to hear this.
"If you like."
She put the tray on the side table and sat in the guest chair next to it. Jenny sensed Nurse Goldsmith's discomfort. It stayed quiet between them for some time.
"What's it doing outside?" Jenny asked finally breaking the silence.
"It rained this morning. It's sunny now." B.L felt so awkward when it came to small talk.
"You should go out to see your friends. It would be a shame to waste a nice day cooped up in here all afternoon."
"I'm on duty. I am on call for as long as I'm needed."
B.L didn't mean to say that. It sounded as if she was only waiting for Jenny to die. She shot a nervous look in her direction. Jenny wasn't affected.
"Don't you have any friends B.L?"
"What is your point?"
"You seem like you need one desperately."
"I think you should get some rest. You needn't worry about me."
"It's hard to talk far away. Could you sit a bit closer?"
B.L reluctantly moved her chair next to Jenny's bed.
"Okay, how's this?"
Jenny laid on her side facing B.L.
"Will you stay with me until I fall asleep? The dark is kind of scary."
"I'll stay with you."
B.L fought an impulse to take Jenny's hand. Instead, she cleared her throat.
"Before I drift off, could you tell me something?" asked Jenny.
"Go on," said B.L suspiciously.
"What do you look like? Before you start protesting, I know how modest you are, just give me the color schemes, okay?"
"Very well then, if it means that much to you. My hair is red, my eyes are blue. I'm medium height, average weight for my age. Anything else?"
"Is that dark red hair?"
"Are your eyes a dark blue?"
"No, light blue."
"It's not how I pictured you. Still, you must be rather striking."
"I thought you were going to sleep."
Jenny exploded with laughter. The flustered sound in B.L's voice struck Jenny as terribly funny. She could hear the annoyed woman rise up to leave. Jenny flayed out by chance catching B.L by the arm, stopping her from going.
"Please don't go. I promise I'll shut up."
B.L sat back down. She wanted to get out of that room so bad she could taste it. There was something about this girl that reached deep into her soul, and B.L didn't like it. She felt herself starting to care; that had to be dealt with immediately before...before what? Jenny's hand remained on B.L's arm. She looked down at the thin bony fingers gripping her lightly.
Sadness overwhelmed every thought; B.L did care. She placed her hand over Jenny's, enclosing it in its sincerity.
"Hey," Jenny whispered, "what the heck does 'B.L' stand for anyway?"
"Binnie Lynne," she answered dryly.
Jenny closed her eyes.
"Geez, I need time to process that one." A wide smile graced her lips. Nurse Goldsmith sighed quietly wondering what the process would yield exactly.
Roaring thunder cut short the musings of that humorous 'Binnie Lynne' Goldsmith name. Jenny didn't mind though; she was tucked pleasantly in a loving embrace that seemed to get tighter with each thunderclap.
Opening her eyes, Jenny found Xena's arms locked around her. Another time shift to obscure world. She felt as if she had only blinked a moment ago: snap, her surroundings changed. It wrecked havoc on Jenny's adjusting skills.
Another loud blast reverberated through the dimly lit chamber followed by bright flashes of lightening. Xena hid her face against Jenny's shoulder, cringing every time a particularly earsplitting boom rocked the evening sky.
Jenny adored thunderstorms. The sheer power of them had always excited her even as a child. Her mother lost count at how many times she had to pull her little girl indoors out of danger, and delighted in telling the story to friends over the years.
She peered curiously at her petrified companion. Jenny was at a loss, this couldn't be Xena.
"Um...Xena, are you okay?" she asked softly.
Jenny pet the silky black tresses in long smooth strokes. Sighing, Xena welcomed the delicate fondling of her hair. She tried to relax into the caresses, only to be foiled by another enormous crash of thunder.
"Gods, how I hate thunderstorms!"
Argo snorted in quiet agreement. The horse seemed to be coping better than it's owner.
"I love 'em."
"It figures," Xena said, voice shaky and in a higher octave.
"Just one of my many delightful qualities. I thought for sure you'd be...I don't know, a bit more...fearless?"
A Rumbling blast slammed across the cave walls. Xena began to tremble uncontrollably. Jenny wrapped her arms around Xena's shaking body, trying to calm the convulsive tremors.
"Everything's going to be fine, don't worry I'm here."
Jenny planted a reassuring kiss on Xena's shivering brow.
"I'm m-m-making an awful f-f-fool out of m-m-myself."
"Not at all."
"Y-You're really enjoying t-t-this aren't y-y-y-you?"
Jenny remained composed, pushing aside some hair that had fallen into Xena's eyes.
'Such a majestic face she has,' a small voice chimed in her head, 'so beautiful.'
Dazzling flashes of lightning brightened the cave, moments later a gigantic thunderclap ripped through the angry heavens. Xena's eyes widened with terror; she wanted to scream, but held it down. Instead she clung on to Jenny for dear life.
"How about an amusing story to pass the time?"
"Any-th-th-thing!" Xena said grasping Jenny tighter.
"Okay...now let me see...Ah! Here's a good one, it's called 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears...'
"Once upon a time there lived in the middle of a forest three bears: Daddy Bear, Mama Bear, and little baby bear..."
Jenny related the old bedtime story to Xena, trying to make it as funny as she could. When Jenny did baby bear's voice she made him sound so squeaky that Xena forgot herself and laughed.
"....so Goldilocks ran as fast as her short legs would carry her all the way back home vowing never to run away ever, ever again.
"Well? What did ya think?"
No answer; Xena had fallen sound asleep. The storm stopped being loud ages ago, now it was just raining outside. Jenny reached over her sleeping cave mate to the campfire getting a couple of dry pieces of rabbit. They were a bit tough but tasty all the same.
Xena moved a little, nestling her face further into the crook of Jenny's neck, one lithe arm thrown limply across her body. Xena's warm relaxed breath wafted against Jenny's flesh causing raised goose bumps. She tried to keep her thoughts pure as the driven snow to no avail. Tingles ran up and down Jenny's spine in tune to Xena's breathing rhythm. Suddenly, the feel of soft lips timidly trembled against heightened nerve endings.
"Gabrielle, I love you so much," Xena whispered tenderly.
She was acting out a dream, and smiled delightfully in her sleep.
"Kiss me like you used to?"
Jenny had to put a stop to this before it got out of hand.
"Xena? Xena wake up, it's Jenny."
She shook her gently.
"Ummmmmm...you smell so nice Gabrielle."
"Its Jenny, come on wake up."
Xena opened her eyes, the smile leaving her lips as reality took over. She drew away from Jenny looking very upset. Crimson spread across her face rapidly, not in anger but in embarrassment.
"Sorry," she stammered out quickly, moving her bedroll a few feet from Jenny's side.
"Quite all right. No harm done. Feeling better I take it?"
Jenny didn't make eye contact, she spoke indifferently while straightening out her blankets.
"Yes." Xena paused a moment, "Thank you for...the story." She half smiled.
"You're welcome," Jenny smiled back.
Xena placed a few pieces of wood on the campfire. Soon it perked up to a fine blaze of warmth. Part of her deeply resented the fact that Jenny found out about one of her weaknesses. It embarrassed Xena more than anything else. She stared at Jenny as she was thinking of 'baby bear' in the silly story.
Jenny did a double take at Xena's quizzical blue eyes that were boring deep holes into her face.
"What?" Jenny smiled self-consciously.
Xena swiftly removed her gaze from the bemused face.
"We'll be setting out for Hecate's temple in the morning," Xena said dryly.
"I understand that's deep inside the Roman Empire."
"Of course. You must've overheard Gabrielle and I discussing it," Xena shot Jenny an agitated look.
"Well...sort of. I don't like to eavesdrop when the two of you are...talking."
"We have a long and perilous journey ahead. Sleep is the most important concern right now."
With that she laid down on the thin blanket turning away from Jenny in the dimly lit cave. Jenny glanced down at Xena's remarkable form. Only a short time ago this lovely woman was in her arms allowing herself to be comforted, now she had reverted back to impassive mode.
'I wonder how Gabrielle could stand her. This woman is impossible.'
Jenny migrated off to her bedding. A small ripple of sadness gripped at her heart for a second. As she laid under the covers she wondered if it was her own host emotions or a shared one from Gabrielle.
Make A Wish
Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and Argo are the sole property of MCA/ UNIVERSAL. No infringement upon the sacred series, no affront intended, no moneys have crossed my palm! More time had I. This conclusion to the first part of my offering is the result.
Caution: Yet more scenes of an intimate, but not so graphic, nature between persons of the same sex. If this is illegal in your burg or you are under 18, Scoot! Shoo!
Feedback? Questions? E-mail me at: Ahladis@aol.com
Part 5: The grand tour
B.L lingered a lot longer in Jenny's room than she originally planned. Watching her patient fall asleep wasn't as bad as she thought. No one ever requested her to stay with them before. Jenny did. B.L knew her personality was on the cold side. Jenny clearly cared less.
Edna glided in a short time later to check on her daughter. Discovering the nurse sitting next to Jenny's bed surprised her.
"Well! Hello there."
"Mrs. Brooks," Nurse Goldsmith said nodding acknowledgment.
"I had hoped she'd be awake for a while. How long has Jenny been asleep?"
B.L looked at her watch.
"Nearly an hour."
"You must've stayed till she dozed off."
"That was awfully nice of you Miss Goldsmith," Edna stopped talking for a few moments seeing the uncomfortable attitude B.L showed at hearing her thanks, "I know Jenny can be a handful. Don't pay any attention to her unsubtle remarks. The joking keeps up her spirits. She hasn't offended you, has she?"
B.L's thoughts floated to Jenny's slim fingers running over her face. That hadn't really bothered her. It simply shocked her a bit, that's all. She couldn't remember the last time anyone tried touching her so casually.
"I'm glad to hear it. Wouldn't you like to take a break? I could make some tea and bring it up."
Nurse Goldsmith found it difficult adjusting to the over friendliness of Jenny and her mother. For the two days prior to Jenny's declining state, Mrs. Brooks bent over backwards to make B.L's stay a homey one. Edna's easygoing chitchat almost made her feel like a member of the family. Definitely a foreign sensation.
"That's not necessary, I can make---"
"It's no trouble at all. I'll be back in a jiffy."
Edna dashed out of the room before the nurse could decline the offer. B.L refocused her attention on Jenny. She slept soundly, her chest rising and falling without a hint of distress.
'Just a matter of time,' she thought pensively.
Nurses have had to deal with death for ages. It was just another piece of her vocation puzzle. There is no room for sentimentality.
'No. That is a waste of time.'
Another case always followed. No emotional ties. It was better this way.
Edna stood quietly holding a tray at the open door observing B.L's demeanor. She sat motionless, staring down at Jenny, concern invading every inch of her face. Edna could hardly believe her eyes. This woman, this icy fragment of finely chiseled marble, actually displayed a compassionate side. It seemed a shame to break up the moment.
Mrs. Brooks smiled and backed out slowly; waiting outside to give B.L the privacy she needed.
Jenny didn't know how long she lay there staring up at the irregular cave ceiling. She must've counted the hundreds of craggy bumps for hours. As hard as she tried Jenny just couldn't make herself sleep.
'A bit over stimulated, no doubt!' she voiced under her breath.
She kicked off her blanket opting instead for the outdoors then this torture. Through thick greened woodland daylight appeared, slowly brightening with each passing minute. Jenny walked a little way from her cheerless shelter and all it contained, to where the short clearing immediately ended. Whichever direction she looked, there was nothing but trees, trees and more trees.
Xena would be awake soon. Then they'd be Hecate bound. Terrific.
'Hecate's sacred grove might as well be on the other side of the moon,' Jenny thought to herself, 'and I'm stuck wandering about with Miss Congeniality.'
She wondered how long her stay in this zoned-out place would last this time. Strange that she didn't feel in the least bit tired. Jenny felt great physically. Emotionally? One big jumble.
Sunshine started peeking through the trees with a little more intensity. A few birds here and there warbled their daytime tunes. The air was heavy with the moist odor of saturated freshness....
"We'll be on our way----"
"AAAAAAAHHH!!!" Jenny almost jumped 10 feet in the air.
"What is the matter with you?" Xena said unruffled, fastening on her complicated gear.
"MY GOD!" Jenny held a hand to her heart, breathing hard, "Don't sneak up on me like that!"
"Pack up the blankets, I'll do the rest."
Xena went back inside the cave to collect their things. Jenny followed her in.
"And a good, good morning to you too Xena dear."
Xena totally ignored Jenny's sarcastic jab. As a matter of fact, she said very little while she loaded up Argo. Xena was on an important mission. Nothing else mattered.
Edna heard B.L rise from her chair and move across the room. She could walk in now that the quietly intense episode was over.
"Here we are. I don't know how you take your tea, so I brought all the fixings,"
Edna announced cheerfully, setting her tray down on a small folding table.
B.L poured herself some tea, while Edna went over to Jenny. She brushed a hand gently across her cheek. Her skin was cool, ashen in color. Jenny's eye sockets were deeply sunken in. Dark shadows ringed around them.
Her daughter looked awful. As bad as anyone terminal could. Mrs. Brooks didn't give a damn. This was her baby, her dear little girl. As long as Jenny breathed she was still her child, and even after that as well.
Edna turned to find B.L studying her from over a teacup. Nurse Goldsmith quickly looked away.
"You like my Jenny, don't you?" Edna said smiling, with a hint of sadness there.
B.L picked up the large teapot and poured herself another cup without answering. She then poured a cup for Edna.
"Milk?" B.L asked holding up the cow shaped creamer.
Jenny folded the blankets as small as she could get them. She then proceeded to tie the bundle to the horse's saddlebag; just the way Xena showed her. Nothing else to do than to wait for Xena to return from fetching more water.
Jenny pushed at the warm campfire ashes with a long twig. A few moments from the night before flashed across her eyes. Xena gripping onto her during the storm, Jenny making her laugh. Xena almost seemed...likable(?).
"As brief as that was," she said aloud, tossing the twig over her shoulder. It landed at Xena's feet.
"We have to make our way to the sea. Ready?" Xena inquired grimly, taking Argo's reins.
"As I'll ever be. Lead the way, General Sherman!"
Xena scowled for a second then decided not to ask what foolishness Jenny was talking about.
They made their way southwest through that dreadful maze of serpentine shrubs and exposed tree roots. It seemed even more tedious to Jenny than the last time, especially since her traveling companion acted rather distant most of the way.
"Hey Xena, how much longer do I have to take this?"
"We are headed in a different direction. Naturally this forest would appear lengthy."
"I'm not talking about our wee stroll through Jurassic Park. I'm talking about you being so damn quiet. It's driving me nuts."
Xena stopped walking and turned to face the thorn in her side.
"At last! I am the one tormenting you. The God's must like me today!" Xena threw up her hands in frustration then steadied her sudden little eruption, "When I need to talk, I will. I must stay focused on the problems we may or may not encounter during this journey."
"Why keep the fun stuff to yourself? Maybe I'd like to know what we're in for."
"If I tell you, you might change you're mind about going," Xena kneeled down briefly to check on one of Argo's back legs.
"Honestly Xena, do I look like the 'squeamish' type? I told you and your friend inside me that I'm into this thing for the long haul."
Xena stood and walked up to Jenny.
"It is quite possible that neither one of us will make it to Hecate's shrine alive," her beautiful eyes that matched the sky were deadly serious.
"Bummer. Those are some pretty crummy odds," Xena started turning away when Jenny took her hand, "--but, I'd be facing worse things in my hometown than all of Caesar's troops put together."
Jenny placed her other hand over Xena's and smiled. Xena stared down at her enclosed hand, then into Jenny's eyes.
"There is a point of no return. Before we reach it, I will warn you."
"I think I already passed that when we met."
Xena removed her hand from Jenny's friendly grasp. She picked up Argo's reins and headed once again into the emerald obstacle course. Jenny followed close behind trying to keep her footing in the ever-increasing challenge of the underbrush.
"Yes please, just a drop," Edna said smiling.
She was used to B.L not wanting to answer personal questions, though it didn't stop Edna from asking them. B.L handed out the hot cup of tea then glanced at her watch.
To Mrs. Brooks, Nurse Goldsmith seemed a peculiarity, like something you'd find at an old-fashioned sideshow. She didn't smile, and, on the whole, she wasn't very sociable. The woman walked the earth as a lovely empty shell. Edna really felt sorry for her.
'The poor dear must be half starved for affection," she hypothesized quietly.
Edna didn't believe in shilly-shallying around when it came to expressing one's emotions and perhaps expected too much from those that couldn't. She thought that simple kindness would win over the coldest of hearts.
B.L saw to Jenny's i-v and was now resting with her tea in the other chair that stood at a more discreet distance.
"How does she look to you?"
Edna knew the answer; she wanted to hear it from the nurse.
"Mrs. Brooks, I am not a Doctor," B.L said impatiently.
"Yes, I feel the same way," Edna didn't acknowledge the tone, only what lay underneath, "I don't kid myself my dear, I know Jenny's condition is bad. It's just that I feel so damn useless."
"All you can do for her now is love her," B.L answered silently to herself. She took a long sip from her cup and sat staring in Jenny's direction.
Mrs. Brooks returned to her daughter's side. She sat by her bed watching Jenny's smoothly serene breaths. There suddenly appeared a thin smile turning up the corners of her mouth.
"At least her dreams are pleasant," Edna said quietly.
Jenny lagged behind a bit. Being completely exhausted she could barely keep up with the seemingly never tired Xena. Stupidly she raised her wrist to eye level out of habit to read the time. Clearly, digital watches hadn't been invented yet. It gave her faltering feet a good reason to skid out from under her. She flopped forward rapping her head hard on the ground. Like the day before, Jenny laid sprawled out and motionless.
Xena heard the upset and quickly came to her aide.
"Are you all right?" she said stooping down next to her.
Xena turned Jenny over carefully. This time there was no smart comeback to irritate the grim warrior. Jenny was out cold; a small cut trickled blood just above her eyebrow. Xena ran to get a water skin and immediately began bathing the injury. She sat uneasily dabbing the young girl's head that rested in her lap.
'Ridiculous child' she thought to herself, 'Why were you chosen to help me?'
Xena patted her cheek gently, trying to wake her.
Jenny's eyes fluttered open adjusting their blurry view on the beautiful woman hovering above her. Then she winced in pain.
"Damn!" she said rubbing her head.
"Just what were you doing?" Xena asked rather bluntly.
"Oh nothing really," Jenny, attempted to rise, "I suddenly decided to launch into my tap dance routine. Obviously, I messed up on the 'buck and wing'."
Xena had a mystified look on her face.
"Trying to interpret your speech pattern is like wading through neck deep quick- sand."
Jenny's unexpected airy laughter irked her crony.
"Now that we've thoroughly amused each other, I would like to continue on," Xena said angrily, "You'll have to go the rest of the way on horseback."
"Ya see? I knew you liked me a little," Jenny said, still laughing. Xena fumed inside, but said nothing.
Jenny didn't quibble about riding. She let Xena help her into the saddle and off they went once again. What a wonderful view! Jenny only rode for a short time, tucked behind Xena. Up front was the best place by far. Well...she did have to duck every once in awhile. No matter, it was better than walking through twisted shrubbery.
Xena hopped over each barrier in her way with graceful ease. How Jenny admired this stolid being. There wasn't any hardship she wouldn't face for her friend, Gabrielle. Speaking of which, Jenny hadn't heard or felt Gabrielle's presence since her last blackout.
'Gabrielle must be lodged deep inside my subconscious. I hope she isn't poking her poetic nose into my private folders."
An almost imperceptible reply piped up inside her thoughts:
'No Jenny dear, I would never do that."
Just as instantly, it vanished.
"We're nearly out of the forest. See up ahead? The trees are thinning out."
Xena's relieved excitement mirrored her own. They seemed to have wandered aimlessly for hours. Her warrior comrade, evidently, knew where she was going.
"Thank God! I've never hated anything as much as this death trap."
Xena helped Jenny down making sure she was hidden away from sight before leaving.
"I'm going to survey the area up there. Stay here quietly till I come back."
"Xena?" Jenny called softly.
"Be careful. Okay?"
Xena nodded, then advanced slowly through dense wood. Upon reaching the narrow opening, she immediately heard voices in the distance raised in argument. Dropping down, she crawled closer to the racket. Louder grew the men's shouts as Xena crept across the ground. Cautiously, she raised her head...
In the meantime, Jenny stretched back and closed her eyes for a moment. Sleep soon washed over her.
Part 6: Somewhat Indisposed
"Mom?" She waited in silence, "Please, can anyone hear me?"
Jenny woke up in the middle of the night, weak and terrified to be thrown into darkness again. She slipped off her bed accidentally knocking over the i-v stand sending it crashing to the floor.
"Don't move, let me help you!" B.L shouted in alarm.
Nurse Goldsmith had rushed to Jenny's room flipping on the strong overhead light. She found Jenny in a highly agitated state standing weakly with the i-v tubing stretched as far as it could go. Carefully, B.L lifted the fallen stand and then helped Jenny back into bed. She checked to see if the needle pulled out during the incident. No, everything looked fine.
"Panicking is hardly a solution," B.L said calmly sliding Jenny's blankets under her. She glanced down at her patient not really expecting a reply.
"Any snappy suggestions?" Jenny's eyes blankly strayed in the direction of B.L's voice; there was definitely a touchy tone to her question.
"You've got to save your strength. Wasting it with impulsive outbursts retards the recovery process. I presume you wish to recover?"
"Oh please! Who're you kidding? Spare me the standard litany Binnie Lynne, I'm not in the mood," She paused feeling a little sicker than usual, then sent another dart at B.L, "But if it makes you sleep better at night, more power to you."
She was a little taken aback by Jenny's flare-up.
"My welfare isn't at issue here."
Jenny heard the irritation in B.L's voice.
"Listen...I'm sorry. I know you're only trying to do your job. Let's talk about something else, what do you say?"
B.L exhaled through her nose.
"I'll take that as a 'yes'. Bring over a chair," Jenny's temples throbbed.
The nurse pulled one up close to Jenny's bed, semi-ready to return the Ping-Pong balls that were sure to be served at her head. Jenny's hand fell easily upon B.L's arm.
"Do you believe in the significance of dreams B.L? Or are you a die-hard scientific kind of a gal?"
"Some people attach a certain amount of weight to them. I don't subscribe to that school of thought. Dreams are merely the subconscious mind taking over the body during a state of repose."
"Are you always so clinical in everything, or is this an act?"
"I am simply being realistic. Dreams do not control one's life."
"You'd think otherwise if you could see where I've been these last few days. My dreams lately are as real as....well...as real as we are right now."
"Have they unsettled you, these images?"
"Yes and no. It's one of those things you hear a lot of lately. I've been having serial dreams."
"Are they nightmares?"
"Not exactly. Whenever I re-enter that world I'm on an unbelievable journey with a fascinating individual. Most of the time it's anxiety provoking on many fronts. The situation is just too complicated to explain in any detail. Don't your dreams ever make you feel a bit troubled?"
"I've usually forgotten them when I wake," B.L hesitated for a moment, "Whether I remember or not, dreams do not influence my life, they don't affect me in the least." B.L answered flatly.
"You must be a real cut-up at parties. Sheesh!"
B.L answered with another sigh.
"I'd bet anything that you operate on little or no merriment in your life," Jenny waited, then continued, "It must be a real challenge being saddled with that light-hearted name of yours. Why not ease up a little on the murk? One might enjoy your company more."
Jenny's hand still rested lightly on her arm. She hadn't removed it and B.L didn't pull away.
"It plainly amuses you to probe and make sport of me. I suppose I court that response because of the way I am. I'm not good at the art of clever conversation, yet you insist on engaging me in it. Do you do this because I'm at a disadvantage?"
"I've annoyed you again."
Jenny surmised correctly, once more, she made a pest of herself. B.L glanced fleetingly at the small hand lightly grasping her arm. It had lain there so gently; she accepted the naturalness of the gesture permissible.
Jenny reassuringly patted her.
"You've been a real sport putting up with my nonsense," Jenny searched around for B.L's hand, "And here I am, forgetting how sweet you were to me yesterday
afternoon," Jenny found her target then held onto it tight, which wasn't very tight at all, "Thank you for...everything."
The warm smile on Jenny's lusterless face proved too much for B.L's reserve. An age-old sensation beat at her diaphragm then burned its way agonizingly up into her throat strangling B.L for an instant. It climbed ominously through her brain and rested just behind her cold blue eyes.
"There's no need to thank me," she heard herself say, studying the fragile hand holding hers.
For a second B.L thought the unwelcome feeling was a false alarm. Then the miniature dam shook at its foundation. What had been barricaded for so many years burst apart with one heart-rending look from this young woman.
Tears assembled quickly, maddeningly opposing her steely authority.
"What's the matter?" Jenny felt her solemn attendant tense up.
"I'm a little tired."
B.L tried slipping out of Jenny's grasp.
"Hey, something is wrong. You suddenly sound funny."
Jenny wouldn't let her hand go. B.L was desperate to get away.
"I must have a slight cold, it's nothing. I just need to take an aspirin."
Before she could stop her, Jenny reached out to touch B.L's forehead, a natural response to check for a fever. She missed and caught the side of her face instead.
"Geez, sorry, I'm such a klutz lately...,"
Jenny stumbled on the real trouble. B.L was more than upset; there were tears?
"That must be some cold," Her wet cheek twitched beneath Jenny's fingers.
"I will regain control...momentarily."
And she made a great effort to do just that but lost the battle at every turn. Jenny inched closer to B.L sliding an arm gingerly around her.
"What are you doing?" said B.L in a shaky voice.
"I'm making an attempt to comfort you. It would be a lot easier if I could see. How about trying to cooperate a little? This is getting pretty difficult without your help."
She let Jenny pull her into a generous embrace. At first B.L felt rather foolish allowing an extremely ill patient to console her. After all, she was the healthy one acting so completely unprofessional!
"There. See, it's not so bad now is it?"
Jenny's words, though kindly, stabbed at B.L's heart. This unfortunate girl was trying to help her through a silly moment of emotional feebleness. A gush of tears poured out of Nurse Goldsmith's eyes, shallow breaths gave way to a wave of sobs. Jenny held her till she quieted down, and a while after that.
Then the door slowly swung open.
"Oh dear! I'm sorry--"
B.L leaped out of Jenny's arms and rushed quickly passed Mrs. Brooks and out of the room.
"I heard voices, so I thought it was okay to come in," Edna said slightly perplexed.
"Don't worry about it mom."
"What's the matter with her?" She walked slowly to Jenny's side.
"She's having a bad day."
"Well, I suppose the poor dear is tired out. She looked dreadful."
"I think I made her cry. I didn't mean to."
"Really? I never thought it could be possible. Nurse Goldsmith is so...she's....I can't think of a good enough word to describe her!"
"Yes, that's it exactly! I'm sorry to say it's been difficult to be friendly. She's so serious about everything."
"B.L doesn't know how to say good-bye. I worry about the both of you having to look after me. "
Edna hated Jenny's fatalistic moods. They seemed to be circling her all the time now. She chose not to cite her for it.
"How come you're up?"
"Xena went to scout out the open terrain. I fell asleep, *POOF* I'm back here in all my pathetic glory."
Jenny didn't want to tell her mother the whole truth about how scared she was and the terrible fatigue still plaguing her.
"Ahhh, the dream woman. Have you taken my advice on how to treat her?"
"Yeah, fat lot it does me. Xena is only interested in the safety of her little buddy stationed inside my body. Once we get to our destination I have no idea what will happen."
"You're still on that trip with her?"
"Funny isn't it? I also found out she has a phobia. I'm sure she hates that I know that about her. She avoids me more than ever now."
"Just try not to make fun of her too much. I know how you can get carried away kiddo."
Jenny felt a greater aching in her head.
"Mom? She said in a weary tone.
"Yes dear?" Edna took Jenny's hand.
"Promise you won't get pissed off with me, okay?"
"Must I?" Jenny nodded, "Fine. What is it?"
"I want to let go."
Pissed off? She saw the certainty on her daughter's face. It frightened Edna horribly; a sense of dreadful urgency squeezed her insides. Jenny's ache magnified.
"Honey, you don't mean that? What's hurting you? I'll get you to a hospital---"
Jenny gripped at her mother's hand weakly.
"I'm so worn out mom. I love you to pieces, but I can't go on this way."
"This is crazy! You're sounding like some stupid soap-opera!"
"Yeah, you're probably right," she said very softly, "I think I heard it on 'All My Children'. Sometimes those corny lines come in handy," Jenny smiled.
"Always the smart-ass, aren't you!"
Jenny massaged the right side of her head; a tingling sensation flowed down her body.
"Hey, I never leave home without it," she paused, "Mom...I don't feel right..."
A glassy look appeared in her eyes, and she tried to smile again. Edna grabbed the phone off its cradle and started to dial 911.
"I'm calling for an ambulance. Hang on sweetie!"
She never felt so tired in her life. Every inch of her body seemed to get heavier and heavier. The numbness in her face made it hard to talk.
"Where are you mom? B.L?......Gee, I hope I have...enough...brownie points to bribe St. Peter...." her voice, barely a whisper, trailed off.
"Jenny, you can't give up. Not now dammit!"
Jenny's head felt like it was going to explode. Bright streaks of light scratched across her eyes. For a split second Jenny saw her alarmed mother's face then sank into velvety blackness.
"Jenny, wake up!" Xena's forced words rang in her ears.
"Hmmmm? St. Peter? Oh.... hi honey. I took the long way around, I hope I didn't
keep you waiting." Jenny hazily answered. Xena raised an eyebrow.
"It's about time. Didn't you get enough sleep in the cave last night?"
"Umm, nope. I was too busy counting bumps," she said stretching.
"Never mind. How's the outside looking?"
"There were some drunken men arguing in the road. Harmless enough. They're gone now."
"Great! So we can get out of here, right?" Jenny said starting to get up.
"Not so fast. It's nearly dusk, we'll start out early in the morning."
"Super! I get to stay a night in purgatory. I can't wait!"
Xena unloaded a few things, then took off Argo's saddle.
"We won't be able to build a fire. The underbrush is too dense," Xena handed Jenny a large piece of dry rabbit.
"Even better. For a minute there I thought we'd really be roughing it."
Xena unfolded the blankets and laid them side by side on the flattest area she could find. Jenny sat on one, mournfully chewing her dinner. The prospect of spending a night in the ugly dark woods filled her with dread. Xena glanced at Jenny; a rare amused expression graced her features.
"You're not afraid, are you?"
"Ha! Me? Not in the least!"
"Very good. Then there's no reason to have our blankets so close together. I see that you have things well in hand."
Xena proceeded to drag her bedding a short ways off. Jenny wanted to kill her. She knew Xena was playing and she didn't like it.
"Thanks a lot. I suppose this is my queue to beg you not to move so far away?"
Xena smiled, waiting calmly with her head tilted to one side.
"My, how funny we are today," Jenny smiled back, "Okay, you asked for it," she folded her hands in prayer, "Pretty please don't leave me in the dark all alone, oh wonderful, most beautiful warrior-type lady?"
Xena's smile melted away. Her grim determined manner took its place.
"It'll be dark soon," Xena said bringing her blanket back over, "We might as well settle in. I'd like to get started before the morning breaks."
She quickly took off her fighting garb then laid down on the thin woolen weave. Xena didn't waste any time turning away with her back to Jenny.
There she was, left to her own devices. Nobody she knew ever switched moods as fast as Xena did. It'd been kind of nice seeing Xena relax her glum side for a few minutes. Now it was like old times; the sad Xena resurfaced.
'She must be thinking about Gabrielle.'
Jenny stared at her motionless comrade while overhead drab evening clouds gathered one by one in the sky. Crickets peeped back and forth to each other, a low rustling of creatures found their way to homes burrowed in the ground, a grunt sounded in the distance.
'Did I just hear a frog?'
Jenny maneuvered a little closer to Xena. She spread the extra blanket around herself then placed the other half onto her dour travel pal. Ever so gently, she leaned her head against Xena, comforted from all the repulsive crawling things and the darkness. Jenny only wished that she could somehow force Gabrielle out again to ease Xena's infinite loneliness---as well as her own.
Edna was near hysterics just before B.L burst into the room. She ran over to Jenny, opened an eye, shined a pen light into it and repeated the procedure for the other eye.
"GOD! MY GOD IS SHE DEAD??!!"
"Mrs. Brooks, you need to calm down. It isn't helping matters to lose control."
Edna always thought that when the time came for Jenny to pass on, she'd be well prepared for it. No, she was like everyone else.
B.L checked Jenny's pulse then grabbed the phone from Edna's hand.
"Mrs. Brooks, I'm perfectly able to hear. You must stop shouting. Jenny isn't dead, she has lapsed into a coma."
"WE'VE GOT TO CALL AN AMBULANCE! WE'VE GOT TO GET HER TO THE HOSPITAL!"
B.L gripped Edna by her shoulders.
"Please try to listen to me. Jenny cannot be moved. I'm going to elevate her head a little, and then I'm going to call Dr. Newurth. Nothing can be done until a doctor sees her."
Doctor Newurth was the very first specialist to see Jenny.
Edna composed herself and stayed out of Nurse Goldsmith's way. B.L gently raised Jenny's head making sure it was propped up correctly so it wouldn't fall over to the side.
"Please, can't I help in any way?" Asked Edna, nervously wringing her hands.
"Yes. Bring me a bowl of ice water and a washcloth."
B.L really did need those things, but it was easier if Mrs. Brooks stayed out of the room while she called the doctor.
Edna raced downstairs to the kitchen. Closets flew open; ice and cold water tumbled into a large blue mixing bowl. She grabbed a washcloth then ran upstairs. Just as she entered Jenny's room, B.L was hanging up the telephone.
"Dr. Newurth will be here shortly," she said taking the items from Edna.
B.L placed the bowl of ice water on a table, dipping in and wringing out the washcloth then folding it length-wise.
The happy little cartoon chicks covering the cloth caught B.L's attention. She stared at them then looked over at Edna, and then stared at the comical print on the washcloth again.
"Sorry, that's all I could find," Edna said peevishly.
B.L suddenly lit up! A lovely smile splashed across her normally stern face. As she pressed the way-too-cheery cloth lightly to Jenny's head she started to laugh. Edna walked over suspiciously.
"Is everything all right?"
B.L continued laughing while she held the cloth neatly in place. Mrs. Brooks knew it had nothing to do with idiotic cartoon chicks. It was the incredible irony of it all. When she quieted down some tears glittered in her eyes, just enough so that Edna noticed.
"You've answered my question you know," Edna said, half-smiling.
"You do like my Jenny, very very much indeed."
B.L timidly reached for one of Jenny's limp hands and enclosed it in hers.
Part 7: Portage Pilot
Jenny slept soundly. Yet she never left Xena's side, not for her bedroom in her own time-line, that's for sure. Why didn't she wake up in her bed?
Jenny had a mild little dream about extremely cold ice cream. Was it the evening, or was it coming on early morning? Jenny had no idea. The pitch black of the forest unnerved her. It reminded Jenny of what waited for her back home: illness...death?
'I don't want to go home, but how can I stay here? What am I going to do?'
Being given no real choice in the matter made things worse. Big self-pitying tears rolled down her face. She wallowed in this weird dilemma, alone and unhappy for quite a while.
Two strong arms appeared seemingly out of nowhere surrounding her in a snug embrace. Jenny half expected Xena to start saying things in her sleep again. Instead, a gentle hand pet at her hair uncertainly.
"Shhhhh, calm down now. Nothing's going to hurt you," came the familiar voice whispering very close to her ear, "I'm here."
Held fast to the other woman's body, Jenny could hardly move.
'Can Xena actually be awake?'
Only the continued soft caressing of her hair made it so. It didn't make any difference that Xena got the cause of her upset wrong, Jenny needed the closeness bad. The fact that Xena understood what is was like to be in turmoil, given all she's had to bear, this wounded person could still reach out to another. It made Jenny feel welcome for the first time to this extraordinary land and to its most conspicuous resident.
Lying curled up in Xena's arms, Jenny allowed herself to drift dreamily into the sheltering warmth of her tenderness.
A few oddly colored birds flitted to and fro above the slumbering pair, twittering excitably to one another. Xena was first to wake. She watched Jenny sleeping in her arms then smiled to herself.
'She's not so bad...when she's quiet.'
But time was wasting in idle thought. The sky had already started to brighten up.
"Jenny, it's time to go," Xena said sitting up with Jenny still in her arms.
"Why are people always waking me up?" she answered opening her eyes a little,
"Hi there," she said sleepily staring into Xena's placid face, "What's up?"
"You're not, obviously. Come on, I thought you couldn't wait to get out of these woods."
"True, but that was before," Jenny's wide grin surprised Xena.
"Before I realized the woods aren't so scary after all," Jenny winked at Xena.
"Must you always be so...so...?"
"Witty?" Jenny offered.
"That is not the word I wanted to use."
Jenny folded up the blankets once again and stood by while Xena saddled Argo. Something a short distance away caught her attention. A bunch of mushrooms grew in a neat patch under a decayed tree root.
"Hey look, mushrooms!"
Jenny dashed over to the nice little clump of her favorite treats. She gathered up as many as she could then emptied them into the saddlebag. Jenny brushed off one of them and handed it to an unimpressed Xena.
"Go on, try it," Jenny said popping a whole one into her mouth.
Xena took a dainty bite and made a face.
"I guess it's an acquired taste," Jenny said in a posh English accent.
Xena shook her head and packed away the blankets.
It didn't take long to leave the confines of the oppressive forest. They had only been about thirty yards from the outside world. As soon as Xena made sure it was safe, away they went down the road, Jenny riding, Xena walking warily ahead.
"Ah, the open road. What a pleasure to be outside again! Freedom! Fresh breezes! Excellent company! What more can a girl from Brooklyn ask for?"
"I thought you said you were from New York City," Xena said blandly without turning around.
"I'll have you know, Brooklyn is in New Yawk. Some might go as far to say that it IS
"I see. So you're from one of the larger villages of the main city."
"Umm...yeah, you could say that."
"And I suppose you entertained people there too?"
"Tell me, are village idiot's well paid for their service's?"
Xena turned around briefly to catch Jenny's reaction to her question. Jenny wasn't quite sure if she had just been insulted.
"It's up to you Mrs. Brooks. We can set up life support right here for Jenny. Moving her to a hospital really wouldn't make a difference."
"What is the possibility that she might regain consciousness?"
Dr. Glen Newurth exchanged a quick glance with B.L.
"The odds aren't good. I'm sorry Mrs. Brooks," he laid a sympathetic hand on her shoulder, "Jenny's life signs are weakening. Wouldn't you like to make her comfort- able at home?"
Those last words played over and over in Edna's head. Jenny had wished to die at home. She said so many times. Going against her wishes now would be pointless.
"Very well doctor, make the necessary arrangements. Jenny will remain here."
"Miss Goldsmith is to be retained?" Edna nodded, "Good. B.L is quite a capable nurse, you are very lucky to have her."
Edna smiled over at B.L but she was engrossed in getting the room cleared of unnecessary items. Life support machines do take up space.
Xena and Jenny were traveling a long time on that deserted, dusty road. After miles of wild flowers and rolling hills, the excitement of 'the open road' became rather mundane. Argo's steady gait turned up the loose dirt forming a little cloud behind them. Xena stopped near a narrow stone sign covered with writing Jenny couldn't make out. It was a good a place as any for a water break.
"What's all that mumbo-jumbo mean?" Jenny said pointing at the sign.
"It says that a seaport named Olympia is the next town. How is your injury?" Xena gave a waterbag to Jenny.
Jenny touched the cut above her eye.
"Fine, it doesn't hurt," Jenny took a few sips of water and handed the bag back to Xena, "How much further?"
"Not that far. I spotted seagulls in the distance," she took a long sip.
"The sea...groovy. What happens once we get to it?"
"We go on it," Xena hung the water bag's handle around the saddle horn.
"Forget I asked."
An ugly thick white tube hung out of Jenny's mouth. Part of it was taped in place against her jaw then looped next to her bed. A soft 'whooshing' noise came on in two-second intervals and a steady beep sounded in the background.
Edna moved a wisp of hair out of Jenny's eyes.
"That's better," she smiled down at her daughter, petting her face, "Hey kiddo, sorry about the 'Yankee's hat. They wouldn't let me put it on you."
Edna turned her attention to B.L.
"What time is it?" Mrs. Brooks asked in an excited tone.
"It is almost four o'clock."
Edna ran over to Jenny's stereo system and turned on the radio.
".....Okay folks, here is a special request from Edna Brooks to her daughter Jenny." a cheerful voice announced, "Saddle up pilgrim," said the DJ imitating John Wayne, "We're-a-doin' the cow-cow boogie!"
B.L watched Edna closely.
"It was one of her favorite silly songs, maybe she'll hear it." Edna said, turning up the volume a bit.
The beeps seemed to pick up speed for a moment, then settled back into their usual rhythm.
Clumpity, clump, clumpity clump. Argo was making a pretty good walking beat. Jenny decided to break up the monotony, in her own special way.
She took a deep breath and started to sing to herself....
"Out on the plains down in Santa Fe
I met a cowboy ridin' the range one daaaay
and as he galloped along
I heard him singin' the most peculiar cow-boy-song!
It was a ditty
he learned in the City:
Xena slowed down.
"...Get a-long, get hep little doggies!
---you'd better be on your way!
Get a-long, get hep little doggies!
As he strutted on down
the old fairway,
Singin' the cow-cow boogie
--- in the strangest way:
Xena ran ahead a bit.
"...He sang a cow-boy-song
it's just too much
he's got a knocked-out western accent
--- with a Harlem touch!
He was raised on locoweed
he's what you call a swing half breed..."
Xena came barreling down the road at top speed toward Jenny.
"...Singin' the cow-cow boogie
--in the strangest waaay!
"Hmmmm, I'm sure I left out a line or twoo--OOOF---"
Xena flew forward. Cupping her hand over Jenny's mouth she yanked her rudely off Argo.
"Soldiers are coming!" she whispered harshly.
Barely managing to pull all three of them into the bushes in time, a small garrison of soldiers came into view from the top of the next hill. They were the most frightening and remarkable sight Jenny had ever seen. Xena pulled her flat down just as the troop was about to pass by. Noisily their shiny armor clanged and clattered quite near, then disappeared again over the next hill.
"Wow!" Jenny sighed, "What a History lesson!"
"The less we see of that, the better. We can't take Argo any further."
She unfastened and removed Argo's saddle.
"Will she be okay out here all alone?"
"There's plenty of grass to eat and she'll find water," Jenny looked skeptical, "I've done this many times before. I know what I'm doing."
"You're not expecting to come back from our little crusade, are you?"
"I don't want Roman soldiers to happen upon her hoof prints," she said burying the saddle under thick brush.
Xena quietly packed up two bundles for the trip. They were to carry two water supplies apiece as well.
This sudden light travel and Xena's casual brush-off of her question had Jenny worried. She never considered failure to be an option in her dream world. Letting their only means of escape go to frolic in the woods seemed like a terrible idea. Jenny kept the opinion to herself even though it gnawed at her. Xena had switched into an encore of determined mode; Jenny wasn't about to start splitting hairs.
"We'll be back for you girl," Xena said petting Argo's long neck and urging her to leave.
She said this loud enough for Jenny to hear. Was it for her benefit? Was Xena trying to convince Jenny or herself that they would return?
Travel from here on out was slow and methodical. Xena said very little wanting only to give her full attention to any perils ahead of them. Jenny stayed fairly quiet herself, observing Xena's guarded actions caused her to be more on the serious side.
"Listen..." Xena said pausing in the road.
Jenny strained to hear something but all she heard was an occasional birdcall.
"I don't hear anything."
Xena turned to Jenny, her amazing blue eyes blazing.
"It's the sea!"
Late into the night, a series of even beeps and artificially pumping oxygen were the only things that broke the silence. Edna sat upright but slumped over a little in deep sleep. B.L's chair rested next to Jenny's bed on the opposite side.
This was the part of her job that she hated: The deathwatch. More so because this time things had taken a sharp detour that B.L never expected. She loved Jenny.
It didn't make sense, these feelings she had for her patient. B.L found it difficult to fend off such inappropriate thoughts.
'I must be insane. The woman is dying... it is as if I'm dying with her.'
B.L's existence in her own little gray world was all she knew. Nothing could touch her there. Then she meets this playful, totally exasperating person and her whole empty life magnifies to unbearable proportions.
She leaned over and planted a kiss on Jenny's bloodless cheek. B.L wanted to scream and shake her. She wanted to beg Jenny not to die. What good would that do? It almost seemed that some cruel joke had been played on the both of them.
But wait a minute! B.L gave no thought to one critical point. There was no way of knowing if Jenny ever felt the same way about her.
She closed her eyes.
They stayed huddled behind an old storage house, sandwiched between a bale of something very rancid and a large pile of broken wagon wheels. A bit beyond that stood a long dock.
"So this is Olympia. Tell me we're moving along soon," Jenny said holding a hand over her nose.
"We have to wait until it gets a little darker. If there's a sentry on duty I can deal with him easier."
"What are you planning on doing?"
"There is a small sailing craft moored at the end of that dock. With a little luck we can take it and be far away before anyone notices that it's gone."
Xena reached into the saddlebag and took out the last two pieces of dry meat.
"Here, you're going to need it," she said handing the food to Jenny.
Jenny watched Xena eating with extreme interest.
"How can you eat with that stench in the air?"
Xena calmly gazed into Jenny's eyes.
"You learn to do a lot of things...on a battlefield."
Jenny swallowed hard in her throat.
"If its all the same to you," she said wrinkling her nose, "I think maybe I'll leave this for later, eeeech."
Xena leisurely finished her meal then took a sip of water.
"We have to make our supplies last. I doubt if there's anything useful stored on that boat."
"I know diddly squat about boats."
Xena gave her 'speak in a language I can understand' look.
"I don't know a thing about boats," Jenny translated.
"Can you swim?"
"Good. Drowning wouldn't be pleasant."
"Why am I not comforted by that remark?"
"Don't worry, I'll teach you all you'll need to know."
"Where'd you learn how to sail a boat?"
Xena calmly gazed into Jenny's eye's again.
"You learn to do a lot of things...when you're a galley slave."
"Hmmmm, there's definitely a familiar train of thought here."
Xena peeked over the mountain of wheels and quickly kneeled down.
"It's time. Stay here," Xena climbed swiftly over the debris and left in a flash.
Time passed slowly. The splish-splash of water lapping onto the pilings pacified Jenny's stressed nerves somewhat. She knew Xena would be just fine, but waiting for her to come back was awful.
'I wish she'd hurry up! I don't know how much more of this I can stand.'
At least the wind shifted so that the terrible odor wasn't quite as bad.
'Thank goodness for God's little mercies!'
She leaned against the old building and tried to relax. Jenny's mind was filled with what she had to face in her world as well as this imaginary one. She missed B.L and mom, but not enough to want to go back there. Once again Jenny wondered why she wasn't returning to her time zone. Just yesterday she was in her bed at home feeling horrible. She started fiddling with her hair, then looked down at herself; the picture of health.
'It's taking Xena an awfully long time to knock-out a couple of guards.'
Jenny anxiously gathered their belongings and made her way around the stack of wooden wheels. She heard something rattle nearby. Xena came running up to Jenny from out of nowhere.
"I thought I told you to wait?" she said angrily.
"I got worried, so sue me!"
"Come on, we must hurry!" Xena said grabbing a bundle from Jenny.
They both raced down to the dock. The small sailboat, as Xena said, rocked quietly against the heavy planking at the end of it. Xena helped Jenny aboard first, quickly untying the boat, then jumped in after her.
"Sit here and hold the tiller steady!" she said pointing to a horizontal rail.
Jenny did as she was told. She held the smooth wooden arm still while Xena pushed them away from the dock. Dashing to the mast, Xena started tugging on a rope to raise the sail. The little boat floated them swiftly away from the pier and further out to sea. Climbing up the pole, she fiddled with more ropes.
"Pull the tiller to the right," barked Xena from the top of the mast, "slowly!"
Jenny eased the lever carefully to the right, the boat moved left.
"Hold our course!"
Xena climbed down and secured the end of the boom rope to an iron ring. A brisk wind caught the sails; they fluttered then billowed out. Now the boat really sped through the waves.
"My God! I LOVE THIS!!!"
Xena smiled at her excited shipmate.
"If the wind picks up speed, we'll arrive at Charybdis by tomorrow afternoon. Hecate's grove isn't too far from it."
"I like the sound of that already."
Jenny spoke those words, but she didn't really mean them.
"I'll take over from here," Xena said placing her hands on Jenny's, "You need to rest."
"How can I sleep now? I'm too crazed to sleep!"
Jenny reluctantly gave Xena the helm.
"It's easy, just lay down and close your eyes."
"Okay, but I'm not tired."
Jenny fluffed up a thick tarp left laying open on the deck. She stretched herself across it and glanced over at Xena. The strained look on her face concerned Jenny, she hadn't noticed it before.
"I'm still here."
"How long do you suppose 'til those guards wake up?"
"You mean they won't for a while?"
"I mean they won't wake because I had to eliminate all three of them."
Jenny tried to think of something to say, but for once she couldn't. Xena focused her eyes on the miles of black silky water ahead. Anything to forget the images of those three slaughtered men back at port.
Part 8: The Languid String
Edna woke up with a start. No it hadn't been some terrible nightmare. Jenny lay very still in her bed, the same sickening gray pallor covered her face. The nurse sat half-awake in a guest chair next to her.
Eyes rimmed in red and bloodshot, B.L gave a pretty good impression of being ill herself.
"Have you been up all this time?"
B.L nearly jumped out of her skin. Her attention was so fixed on Jenny she didn't realize Mrs. Brooks had awakened.
"I'm sorry my dear, I didn't mean to scare you," said Edna rising, then moving closer to nurse Goldsmith.
"Quite all right," said B.L straightening herself in the chair.
"No change I see."
Edna moved a bit nearer, attempting to chat up B.L.
"Nurse Goldsmith, do you have family? Friends?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, in all the time you've been here I've never seen you use the telephone for personal calls."
"I haven't made any personal calls. Nor do I expect to."
"It is a bit curious."
B.L tried to contain her dislike at being probed. In her heart she knew Mrs. Brooks meant no harm. She seemed more interested than nosy.
"Is there a reason for your question?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact I do have a reason," she said smiling, "I want you to feel free to talk to me about anything, my dear. You've been looking as though you need a friend. I'd like to be your friend, if you'll let me."
Edna extended her hand out to B.L to shake. It was obvious where Jenny got most of her more agreeable attributes. Between the two of these woman, B.L never felt so much at a loss, nor so warmly received--anywhere. Her duties were all anyone ever expected of her.
She put her hand in Edna's.
"Thank you," B.L said quietly, "I think I'd like that."
"Good," she said readily shaking B.L's hand, "I really hope you take me up on it. I know Jenny would've wanted the same thing."
B.L let go of Edna's hand and looked into her amiable brown eyes. It wasn't only good manners that prompted Mrs. Brooks to offer an ear to bend. It was genuine kindness Edna wanted to share.
B.L turned away, once again starting to lose her iron command over frayed emotions. Edna put a hand on B.L's shoulder, squeezing it a little to let her know it was okay to cry if she wanted to.
"Mrs. Brooks..." B.L started to say.
"I wish... I wish Jenny would come back. I do indeed---for your sake, I mean."
Edna gently took B.L into her arms. The downcast woman showed no resistance.
"She can't honey. Maybe Jenny's in that imaginary land she always talked about. I hope it's better than this," Edna paused, "Ha, listen to me rattling on so calmly! I'm the one who went nuts yesterday morning. You kept such a cool head. Impressive."
"You're her mother. You love Jenny, it is to be expected," B.L said tearfully into Edna's sleeve.
"And what about you? Your feelings, right now, don't count I suppose?"
Nurse Goldsmith didn't give Edna's inquiry much thought.
"Oh for God's sake woman!" Edna said pulling back to look into her eyes, "You couldn't be more off base," Mrs. Brooks wiped at B.L's tears, "Of course they matter! You're flesh and blood like the rest of us honey," B.L leaned her head on Edna again, "What started out as just another job, isn't one anymore, is it?"
B.L tightened her hold on Mrs. Brooks.
"Sometimes I think I can hear her saying something to irritate me. Jenny delighted in doing that," B.L smiled a little, "Then she'd turn around and be so...."
Nurse Goldsmith was unable to finish her sentence coherently.
A hard splash of water onto the deck woke Jenny unceremoniously. She glared up at Xena through wet strands of hair.
"Sorry about that. It's been rough sea for hours. I don't think a storm is coming."
"You have no idea how happy that makes me," Jenny said pushing back her soaked locks.
The sky appeared rather overcast, but Jenny could make out a thin sliver of land to their right.
"Say, we have come far! Is that land?" Jenny asked excitedly.
"Yes, it's Hesperia. We'll be reaching Charybdis soon."
"Umm, that story about the whirlpool and its monster is just a myth, isn't it? Heh, heh, heh?"
"You've heard of them, have you?" Xena delayed answering for effect, "It's not true," Jenny sighed with relief, "Only when there's a raging storm does the pass prove to be treacherous. Sailors tend to invent tales to scare superstitious competitors away from pirated vessels."
Jenny got up and stood holding onto the ship's mast. The stiff wind blew through her hair, her sleeves flapped in the breeze. Their small craft cut cleanly into each wake like a blade. Speeding along at such a great rate made Jenny feel so alive.
"Wouldn't you like me to steer for a while? You look really frazzled."
"No, the high waves are too precarious for you to handle."
"Okay then, at least let me cover you with something."
Xena was shivering terribly from the constant spray of seawater and the cool wind. Jenny unfolded a blanket then put it around Xena's shoulders.
"Damn! Your skin is ice cold! Don't you ever ask for help? What're you trying to do? Kill yourself?"
Those were the kind of questions that had no ready answers. Jenny rubbed Xena's frozen arms gently until they were warmed up enough to her satisfaction.
"There. Next time, wake me if you need something!"
"Thank you, mother," Xena smirked.
"Laugh all you want to lady. Somebody's got to look after you. Lord knows you won't!"
Jenny briefly touched Xena's hand, then quickly went about the business of finding something to eat. Rummaging through the one saddlebag, all they had were three handfuls of mushrooms and that one piece of very hard dry meat from the night before. The water supply fared better. A whole barrel full of it sat tied to a corner of the deck.
"Eat," Jenny said passing the meat to Xena.
She gratefully ate it while Jenny popped a few mushrooms into her mouth.
"How can you stand those disgusting bits of mold?"
"Mmmmm, food of the God's!" Jenny neatly chewed on the soft white cap.
"That's a matter of opinion."
The landmass loomed ever nearer. Pockets of greenery along its coast came into view. Jenny loved this little adventure. All too soon it would come to an end. As she looked out at sea, she experienced a vague feeling of unreality. This was new. Even though intellectually Jenny knew from the beginning she had to be dreaming, everything seemed incredibly real--up till now.
'Strange that it should change today,' she said to herself.
"What are you thinking about?" Xena asked casually.
"Oh, this and that, nothing important," Jenny lied.
"You seem troubled."
"Hey," she said changing the subject, "Do you know what some smarty-pants poet is going ta say about a city in Hesperia many years from now?" Jenny asked animatedly.
"I can't begin to guess," said Xena eyeing Jenny skeptically.
"See Rome and die! Cute huh?"
"I don't understand. Why would I die?"
"It's like this: Rome is so gorgeous that it'll bowl you over. Get it?"
"Let's skip that. Has anyone mentioned anything about, 'The beauty that is Venice, the glory that is Rome'?"
"Ah, are you referring to the Venetians? Great fighters. Bad tempered losers."
"Oh boy," Jenny rolled her eyes.
Weathered houses dotted the shoreline of the widening landscape. If anyone spotted them, Jenny supposed they looked like any other fishing vessel on the sea and would probably be ignored. Xena didn't seem concerned.
"You know something, even though it's far away from here I always wanted to see Venice. Maybe I will before it sinks."
"And would that be an occasion to die as well?" Xena asked smiling.
"Geez, I hope not. I'd never get the chance to do what I've dreamed of doing my whole life!"
"And what might that be?" Xena asked and just as quickly regretted asking.
"To have a blast on the Grand Canal. I want to waltz in Venice!"
Jenny began to recite in an exaggerated style:
'Waltzing in Venice with you
isn't so easy to do.
If you should take one more step then you oughta,
you will be doing the waltz on the watta.
Oh what joy could ever compare
with waltzing in Venice with care?
What a thrill when the waltz is a fast one
Knowing each step may well be your last one!
Both leading in Venice,
Intriguing in menace
--is waltzing in Venice with you!"
Xena sighed deeply.
"You are the most peculiar person I've ever met in my life."
"The customer's always right'!" Jenny said shrugging her shoulders.
"Very, very strange," Xena said pulling the lever to the left.
Now they were sailing very close to the huge body of land jutting out into the ocean.
Jenny sat on the other side of the tiller, helping Xena to steer. The waves had calmed down somewhat as the boat rounded into an enormous bend up ahead.
"Damn, I feel so tiny! It's beautiful!"
Charybdis cut through the vaulted cliffs on either side of their dwarfed sailboat. The loud roaring noise within, gave these intimidating surroundings a surreal effect.
"This is where Ulysses and his men were almost swallowed up by the whirlpool," Xena said as she untied and swiveled the boom to the left.
"Do you know any other quaint stories like that?"
"Okay then, tell me about Hecate."
"She is a deity who haunts graveyards and crossroads. Hecate has mysterious power over life and death. Medea, daughter of King Aetus, was her most powerful high priestess."
"Oh, isn't she the chick who married King Jason and then bumped off their kids?"
"The same. Legend has it that she offended Hecate by abandoning her for Jason. Medea's children were the price."
"This Hecate sounds like a real winner. Are we sure we want to see her?"
"The tales depicting her as evil are numerous. There's only one way to find out if they are true."
"Call her up on the telephone?"
Xena narrowed a steely gaze at Jenny.
"We must meet with Hecate face to face."
Fortune had been on their side. So far. Hades apparently overlooked Gabrielle's absence, Xena kept most of her old ghosts at bay, and Jenny....well, Jenny was busy being Jenny.
A massive rolling wave came from behind and tossed their craft out of the chasm into open sea. Xena steered them once again as close to land as possible. The boat hugged the coastline in a swift straight path to Avernus. Jenny wondered whether she should suggest that they rest or just leave it alone.
B.L picked up a silver-framed photograph of Jenny and another woman laying face down on a small desk. They were both smiling and obviously were familiar with one another.
"Quite attractive," B.L remarked flatly.
"Yes," Edna said as she joined B.L to look at the picture, "Jenny was very active in sports. She was so beautiful until...," her thoughts wandered off.
"Who is the girl with her?"
"That's Terry. They were together for a number of years. They fought all the time, I'm not sure over what, so the relationship ended."
"Is she aware of Jenny's illness?" B.L said handing the picture to Edna.
"Yes, but Jenny sent her away. Terry's in Los Angeles now. She as good as paid for her fare."
Edna placed the framed photo in an upright position on the desk.
"I don't understand," B.L had a puzzled look on her face.
"Jenny thought that Terry only wanted to stick around because of her illness. In the end Terry respected Jenny's last request. They said their good-bye's and that was it."
"This was more than simple friendship."
"Yes. They were a couple," Edna said matter-of-factly.
B.L moved off to check on Jenny's machines and their connections.
"We must get to our destination before nightfall. Hecate isn't approachable in the daylight hours."
"But Xena, you haven't slept for almost a day and a half. Wouldn't it be a good idea to rest for two hours?"
"I can't rest. Not when we are so close."
Xena had that desperate look on her face. Short of death there wasn't anything that would stop her. Ever since Xena heard the sounds of the ocean, she became hell-bent on getting to Hecate's grove.
"You just look so awfully tired. I'm worried about you."
Jenny touched Xena's hand. Xena smiled darkly.
"Have you ever loved someone so much that they feel like a part of you?"
"I thought I had, at one time, with Terry. We loved each other, but our personalities clashed. It became impossible for the both of us to breathe the same air."
"That is not so with Gabrielle and me. It's a bond that I can't describe. She's my reason for living, she means everything to me."
"Wow, that's a heavy number. I guess I haven't met my reason for living yet."
"Now you understand why I can't stop, not even to eat."
The sun dropped low on the western horizon setting the sky ablaze in bright orange and red. Xena instructed Jenny to steer the boat towards land while she climbed the mast to lower the sail. Gradually they drifted onto a sandbar bringing an end to the long voyage from Olympia.
Jenny got out first as Xena passed the bundles to her and carefully climbed out of the boat as well. They walked somewhat unsteadily up to the shore until their legs adjusted to firm ground.
The view was none too pretty. All the trees looked dead in the direction they were going. Xena took Jenny by the arm halting her in mid-stride.
"Jenny, our journey is nearly at an end. I want to tell you something....this is harder for me then I thought," Jenny waited patiently for Xena to continue, "I don't know what is going to happen in this place, all I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart."
'Mine too,' said the soft voice in Jenny's head.
Jenny graciously smiled at Xena then leaned over and kissed her cheek.
"I believe there's someone here who wants to say hello," she closed her eyes.
Jenny stepped far back into her mind granting the long awaiting passenger full access to her body. A stir of facial expressions spread across Jenny's face. When Gabrielle opened her eyes she saw Xena standing in front of her.
"Xena!" she said throwing her arms about the woman she loved more than life itself.
They embraced for a long time without saying a word. Xena was the one to bring them back to the task at hand.
"Hecate's grove is just through those trees. Come, let's go speak to her."
Hand in hand Xena and Gabrielle walked into the quickly darkening woods in search of the gloomy sacred clearing dedicated to the goddess of the night.
Lake Avernus: A vaporous circular body of water filling an extinct volcano crater. High banks surrounded this desolate pool while Mt. Vesuvius, black and ominous in the background, cast a long shadow over the water.
The grove had long since overgrown with low hanging vines. Only a partially visible statue of the goddess sat somberly waiting for followers to bring tribute.
"We have arrived," said Xena solemnly.
Gabrielle nodded to Xena to start the ceremony. Xena ignited a thick branch then jammed the other end into the soft earth. Gabrielle walked up to the sacred sculpture and held her hands up in front of her.
"Great Hecate, daughter of Tartarus!
Great Hecate! Hear me!
I am sent by Persephone,
to humbly request an
audience with you!"
The crater rocked with a thunderous explosion. All at once, a woman draped in mourning garb carrying a beautiful golden torch burst from the ink colored liquid. She stepped onto the embankment sweeping her torch in long strokes. The effect was one of searching for the presumptuous human who dared to speak her name.
"Who summons me? Speak mortal!"
She towered haughtily over the duo, gazing coldly down at the smaller of the two.
"My name is Gabrielle and---"
"So!" Hecate interrupted, "You are the youth whom Persephone dotes on! She has informed me of your plight," she turned her attention to Xena, "You! Come forth warrior!"
Xena took a step into the bright light cast from Hecate's torch.
"You have kept us well engaged in our toil for many a year. Dare you ask a favor of me bearing arms to my shrine?"
Xena kneeled down, drew her sword and laid it on the ground before her.
"This metal has taken life, yes, and saved many others. Yet it had not the power to save the one life I held so dear: Gabrielle's," Xena looked into Hecate's grim face, "Have you the power to bring her back to me?"
"NO! I will not bring her back to you, insolent creature! I shall bring Gabrielle back to herself."
Hecate pointed her torch at the earth. A blinding bolt of white-hot light shot straight down and formed itself into the shape of a woman.
"It's me!" Gabrielle gasped in amazement.
"Not so. It is an empty shell waiting for an occupant. Prepare!"
With that she aimed her torch at Gabrielle. There appeared a glowing mass being drawn from Jenny's body. It molded into a ball suspended in mid-air. Jenny fell lifeless to the ground.
Xena screamed, rushing forward to catch her friend. She gently cradled Jenny in her arms.
"JENNY?" Xena screamed again, patting her face gently.
Hecate guided the ball of energy into the inanimate body lying on the ground. It quivered and squirmed for a moment. Gabrielle opened her eyes to find Xena
hysterically trying to revive Jenny. She immediately ran to her aide.
Gabrielle took Jenny from Xena.
"Oh Jenny," she said tearfully to the mute face, "What have I done?"
Her body started to slowly shrink from its former healthy robustness. Globs of golden hair fell out into Gabrielle's hand. Xena held onto the both of them tight, tears gathering in her eyes.
"Why is this happening?"
Part 9: The Graces
An overpowering urge to gag gripped the back of Jenny's throat. Shadowy images of her bedroom came into view a little at a time. She tried to talk, but something was wedged firmly down her esophagus. Jenny couldn't move, it felt as if her whole body had become paralyzed. She kept hearing a constant noise.
Jenny's mind wandered in and out of consciousness. She had no idea where she was, part of her didn't care, the rest of her tried to hang onto a fragile sense of reality. Confused memories clashed with dreams.
'Great Hecate....Goddess of night....remove the colors from our sight...red is gray and yellow is white, but we decide which is right...and which is illusion...'
"Please tell us why she's dying!" Gabrielle called to Hecate.
"This useless girl is the price I demand."
"What?? Persephone said nothing of this to me. She said you owed her a service. Jenny carried me here inside her. She doesn't deserve death for helping us!"
"SILENCE!" the goddess's booming voice shouted, "Very well, the girl will have life once more, if you are willing to give up yours."
Gabrielle started to get up. Xena grabbed her arm.
"Take my life monster! It's of no use to me without my friends."
Xena stood quickly, her teary blue eyes defiantly glaring at the angry goddess.
"BOLD MORTAL, YOU HAVE SEALED YOUR FATE!!"
She raised her torch to strike the upstart. Xena didn't flinch a muscle, she remained rooted to the spot. Gabrielle laid Jenny down and stood by her friend.
"Take all of us, Goddess. At least we'll spend eternity together, that much you have no control over."
Hecate lowered her fiery torch, instantly it cooled to a blue-green shimmer. An almost benevolent expression appeared on her face.
"Noble mortals, you have been deemed worthy of all consideration I can bestow. Persephone has instructed me to assist you in any way I can."
"The Gods and their little secrets--"
"--Caprices," corrected Gabrielle.
"Yes," Xena said smiling at her dear friend, "caprices. You don't care what you put us through as long as you can make us suffer. One day we won't need you Gods. Who will you torture then?"
"Probably each other," Gabrielle offered.
Xena walked back to where she left Jenny. A terrible deathly change had come over her. Thin and pale, Jenny laid very still in a heap. Xena lifted the crumpled body up into her arms then carried it to the waiting goddess.
"If you are truly a Goddess of her word you will help this girl," Xena said insistently.
"Please Great Hecate. Don't let her die," Gabrielle begged."
"I am at your command."
Hecate held her arms out at their sides. All four vanished instantly.
B.L was left alone to tend Jenny while Mrs. Brooks was out grocery shopping. She walked up the long staircase that led to Jenny's room with another tray of ice water and a hand towel. The daily ritual of taking care of Jenny had really taken a toll on B.L's sanity. Seeing her slip away by the hour kept B.L in a constant state of anxiety. Edna seemed to have resigned herself to her daughter's condition and was doing quite well under the circumstances.
She entered the room quietly. Jenny's eyes where slightly open. B.L dropped the tray she was holding and ran to her bed. For an awful moment B.L thought that Jenny had died. She hadn't. The beeps were sounding in the background, very weak, but it was music to B.L's ears. She nervously caressed Jenny's emaciated cheek. Jenny shifted her gaze slowly to her nurse's face, a feeble smile played around her mouth.
"Jenny?" B.L said, her voice trembling badly, "Can you see me?"
Jenny winked up at her.
"My God!" Tears filled B.L's eyes.
She picked up Jenny's hand then placed it against her wet cheek. This tiny thing she held was so cold and frail, yet it still managed to squeeze hers back.
The beeps started to grow weaker, Jenny's irresistible essence drained little by little out of her body.
"No...please," she took Jenny's face between her hands, "Jenny...don't go, I love you."
B.L watched as her patient with the maddeningly exasperating personality gently passed away. One long agonizing beep rang harshly from the device monitoring Jenny's pulse.
Nurse Goldsmith, the consummate professional, got up and turned off the machines. She then removed the long tube from Jenny's throat and straightened up the room. Finally when pulling the covers up to the young woman's chin, B.L fell across her body sobbing bitterly.
An elliptical porthole silently opened up in a corner of Jenny's bedroom. Three figures, unseen, unexpectedly found themselves in a strange chamber crowded with metal boxes and weird looking furniture.
Xena arrived empty armed, which startled her briefly until she caught sight of one of the two woman's faces in the room.
"Where are we?" Gabrielle asked as she walked around.
"We are many years into the future. This is the girl's homeland."
"Can they see us?" Xena inquired softly.
"No. I have seen to that."
"She must be someone important to Jenny," Gabrielle said, touching the other woman's shoulder.
B.L raised herself slowly from Jenny and wiped at her eyes.
"She looks a lot like you Xena!"
Xena moved closer to the woman. She did look like her. Xena turned to face the goddess.
"Hecate, why was Jenny chosen to carry Gabrielle's spirit?"
"You are their past lives rejoining each other. This girl possessed a means to your friend's transport. Simply put, Jenny is a Gabrielle of the future. In this world it is referred to as 'Reincarnation."
"An interesting concept. I like it. So basically you're saying that none of us really dies and we get to live again in another person's body," said Gabrielle examining a few objects in the room.
"Yes, though you would have to wait. Many generations may pass before you reappear."
"How many times will Gabrielle and I meet again?"
"In all---twenty seven."
"Which one is the happiest?"
"Gabrielle, I think we should leave the unknown to fate."
"Sadly that is not a thought shared with this time line. They shall become so obsessed with immortality that a great number of impostors posing as seers into the past and future will empty many a purse in their wake."
"Ah! So the prophets will make profits!" Gabrielle said merrily.
Hecate and Xena frowned at her.
"Did I just say that? Forget I said anything."
"What of Hades? Has he discovered Gabrielle's absence?"
"Hades had become greedy. Gabrielle was only meant to be wounded, not killed. Persephone has informed Zeus of his actions. You'll not hear from him until your allotted time comes."
"And Jenny, was she meant to die in her world?"
"No. Her illness was created to aid another. This other mortal is you warrior, in the future. Now, I must finish what I have come here to do."
Without allowing her to take in this information, Hecate quickly stepped passed Xena and briefly placed a hand over Jenny's head.
"Our work is done. It is time to depart from this world to ours."
Hecate was about to spread her arms wide when Gabrielle suddenly spoke up.
"Just a second, I'll be right back." She ran over to Jenny.
"Thank you Jenny, we'll never forget you," Gabrielle kissed her cheek, then ran back to Xena, "Okay, everything's cool, let's go."
Xena had an 'oh no' expression on her face. As Gabrielle put her arms lovingly around Xena they vanished.
B.L sat quietly clutching Jenny's baseball cap for a long while. She was unable to do much of anything else. Her entire being was so overcome with grief she could hardly move.
'Come on, pull yourself together! Some stranger shows you a little comfort and you lose your equilibrium when she dies? This isn't you!'
It was no use. She covered her face with her hands and cried some more.
"Hey! What does a dame have to do to get a little service around here?"
Afraid to look up, B.L stayed in her chair terrified that some horrible apparition of her twisted mind had shown up.
"Go away! You are not real!"
"Woman are soooo fickle. One minute they're tellin' you they love you, the next they're throwin' you out!"
B.L peeked through her fingers. Her hands fell away from her face and her mouth dropped open. There was Jenny sitting up in her bed! Not a pale sickly Jenny, but the Jenny she saw in the photograph!
B.L gradually got to her feet, then slowly walked over to where the ghost sat. She reached out with her shaking hand and poked Jenny's arm. It was real.
The room started to spin, that's the last thing she remembered.
Dumped in the middle of the road, their meager belongings resting nearby, Xena and Gabrielle looked around, then at each other.
"She could've left us a little closer to home. Look at that sign, it's two days away!"
"Remember what I've always said about the Gods Gabrielle. They still want to play with us a while longer," Xena said picking up one of the bundles.
"I'd gladly entertain them Xena, as long as I'm by your side."
"Whatever floats your boat! Come on, I'll race you to find Argo!"
With that Xena ran laughing into the ugly dark forest. Gabrielle quickly picked up the rest of their things and ran after her.
"Hey! Wait for me!"
B.L found herself on the floor being fanned nervously by Jenny.
"This isn't exactly my forte' lady. I'm a little rusty at first aid."
"Oh God! I wasn't crazy, it really is you!"
B.L sat up and peered at Jenny closely. She touched her long blond hair, petting it here and there in amazement.
"I don't understand any of this. I must be dreaming," her eyes welled up with tears.
"I've received a second chance at life Binnie Lynne. Share it with me."
B.L threw her arms around Jenny bringing her into a gentle kiss that deepened with each passing moment.
Slowly the door swung open.
"B.L do you suppose that----" Edna stopped in frozen shock.
"Hiya mom! What's for dinner?"
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