Disclaimers: 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.
Part 1: A fine mess
"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 monkeys'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-nots. 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 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 whispered:
"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."
"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 the 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 beat."
"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 similarity 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 intravenous 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 monotone, 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 lay 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 lay under the covers she wondered if it was her own host emotions or a shared one from Gabrielle.
Continued in Part 2.