Peruvian Encounter

Part 4

By Anne Azel

Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended. My thanks to the readers who have been so kind in showing their appreciation of these stories. You are a great bunch! Special thanks to Lisa and Inga who are my patient beta readers.

Warning: This story is alternative fiction, please do not read on if you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp.

Sometime later, they joined the men at the base on the observatory stairs. Sak noted that the two women were beaming and Robin now wore a gold band on the third finger of her left hand. Joey led them across the flat ceremonial grounds and over to the workers' and artisans' homes. She pointed out to them the various clever methods that the Incas had used to secure the thatched roofs to the stone gables.

On one house, stone rings carved along the top of each peak allowed poles to be run from end to end. On another, round knobs of stone stuck out so that roofing poles could be tied to them. "We know from the size of the gardens that about five hundred people lived here. There were gardeners, artisans, religious leaders, affluent and poor, leaders and labourers, but where are their bodies? Did the Incas work at these outposts for only short periods of time and then return to the bigger settlements?"

"That would explain the small graveyard but not who was found there," observed Robin, as she switched tapes.


"Maybe it was only at the end, when the Inca sent his women here, that it became a permanent community," suggested Sak.

"Or they haven't found the warriors' graveyard yet," put in Luc, "Maybe it slid into the river valley."

"What's that place up there?" asked Perkins, pointing to more Inca ruins high on the next peak.

"That's Huayna Picchu. It was probably a look out fort although some scholars think it might have been a religious retreat for the priests," explained Joey.

"This isn't isolated enough!" scoffed Luc, and the others laughed.

"So are you guys game for a hike up to Huayna Picchu?" asked Joey.

"I could do with some exercise," commented Sak and they headed off.

It was a steep and high climb that took them well over an hour. Joey used the opportunity to hold onto her lover's hand. The view from the top was worth it. They looked down on the peak of Machu Picchu, patterned with the ruins of the famous Inca site. Beyond was the Urybamba River valley surrounded by green velvet pinnacles rooted in mist.

Joey stood behind Robin, her hands on the smaller woman's shoulders, both of them memorizing the place where they had become one. Later, Robin filmed as Joey explained. "This is the Urybamba river valley. That way, the pass runs down to tributaries that lead to the Amazon River. This way the river winds across the high Andes and broadens out into the Sacred Valley of the Kings near Ollantaytambo. The Ollantaytambo valley was a huge, fertile flood plain that provided much of the food supply to Cuzco."

"Here comes the train up the pass," Sak pointed, "I think, Ambassador, for security reasons, it would be a good idea for us to make our way back before the tourists start arriving up here."

Joey nodded and carefully they side-stepped and slid down the near vertical path back to Machu Picchu and picked up a taxi bus to take them down the corkscrew, single lane path to Vilcanota. Sitting side by side, Joey held Robin's hand as they lifted off and flew above the peaks back to Cuzco.

That night, they had a quiet dinner together by candlelight on the roof top patio. The rusty, red tiled roofs of the city spread out below them and Robin and Joey counted how many roof offerings for the sky god they could find.

"Joey, do you believe in God?" Robin asked, suddenly aware that there was so much about her partner that she was yet to discover.

"Yes, although not fanatically so. It seems to me that religion is a guide book for living a decent and moral life. I don't think a God would really split hairs about religious law and ceremonies. When you remove all the trappings, all faiths have basically the same message. My father was raised Roman Catholic, although he does not practice his faith. My mother is a Baptist and she goes faithfully to church each week. When I was young, the two of us used to sing in the church choir together. I still go with mom when I'm home. What about you?"

Robin shook her head. "My parents never practised a religion, and I was never taught anything about the Bible. I know Jesus was supposed to have been born at Christmas but that is about it. I guess I believe there is some sort of Being watching over the universe. I don't know. I liked that you took me somewhere special to ask me to be your partner. It felt right."

For a minute, they sat in silence watching the sun set behind the hills and the stars slowly come out. "I play the piano. Do you play anything?" Robin asked.

Joey laughed. "Am I getting the third degree?"

Robin blushed. "Come on, old closed mouth. I'm your partner now. It comes under The Right To Know Act."

Joey smiled. "Okay, I can play a flute, pretty well. I learned in school. And I play the piano very well. Good enough to have been a concert pianist."

"Oh, YOU would!" moaned Robin, in mock frustration.

"Well, YOU asked!" defended Joey, with a laugh. "How well do you play?"

"Hey, I played professionally!" bragged Robin.

Joey's eyes opened wide. "Yeah?!"

Robin giggled, "Well, in my parents' tavern. I only play by ear, mostly jazz and blues."

"Hey, I love jazz!"

"Me too!"

Joey looked at her lover. "Tell me about your family, Robin."

Robin frowned. "There is not much to tell. I'm an only child. I grew up in the back three rooms of a run down working class tavern. My parents saw to my material needs. I always got fed, and there was always money for clothes and treats and things. I went to the local public and high schools. In my spare time, right from when I was a little girl, I worked in the tavern; washing glasses, sweeping up, playing the piano and so on. I think my parents saw me as live in help, if they saw me at all.

"I can't blame them for the mess I made of my life. I started dating a senior. All the girls thought it was wonderful because I was just a junior dating this older man. We ran away together. I guess I was looking for someone to love me. He dumped me on a street corner after about six months. I learned to survive," she finished, unwilling to talk about those years when she had hit rock bottom. "I begged and stole. I'd probably have ended up as a prostitute and a drug addict if I hadn't met you," she added honestly.

"I can blame them!" snarled Joey, protectively. "You were looking for the love and emotional security that every child should have from a parent!" Robin reached out and rubbed Joey's hand, thankful that she now had Joey to provide those needs in her life.

"Didn't your family look for you?" Joey asked gently, capturing Robin's hand in her own for a second.

"Not that I know." Robin looked up at the darkening sky. "Joey, what will happen with your parents? You seem to have such a good relationship with them. I don't want to mess that up."

Joey looked sad. "It might just do that, Robin. I won't lie to them, and I don't know how they will handle it. My mother is pretty broad minded but she is a practising Christian and might see our relationship as sinful. I don't ever remember her expressing an opinion one way or the other. My dad is easy going but he is very conservative and he can get his back up about things. I just don't know. I do know though that you come first. I hope they don't put me in a position to have to make a decision."

Joey reached over and took Robin's hand. "I love you. I don't care about your past or your family. I have always believed in you. That is all that matters."

"I don't ever want to embarrass you, Joey," fretted Robin.

"You couldn't, love," Joey smiled.

Joey woke to the sight of two naked bodies wrapped together in a tangle of sheets. They were so completely different in every way, and yet they fit together as well as the stones of the Inca buildings. For a long time, she just lay there and let her eyes drift over the beautiful lines of her lover, memorizing ever freckle and curve. I want to come to know her so well that I can love her in the dark of night and see in my mind each part I caress as clearly as if there was light. How did I get so lucky as to find her again? You are my soulmate, the other half of me.

Joey bent down and gently nuzzled Robin's soft ear. "Mmmmm," came the sleepy response.

"Time to wake up, my love."

Robin rolled over and looked up at the lean, hard muscles in the face of the woman she loved. She smiled and her eyes danced with joy.

"What?" asked Joey, smiling in response.

"You're my partner, forever! Oh, Joey! I'm so happy!" exclaimed Robin, hugging her lover closely.

"Mmmm, me too!" responded Joey pulling the smaller woman up on top of her and kissing her neck.

Robin pulled back and sat up so she straddled her lover. Joey could feel Robin's desire, warm and moist against her abdomen. She reached up and caressed Robin's breasts, feeling the nipples harden at her touch. Robin groaned and bucked against Joey's hard body. Then she bent down and sucked one of Joey's nipples into her mouth. Need flooded like a storm surge through Joey's being. She hoped the men didn't mind waiting.

"So what was that about, yesterday?" asked Luc, as the three men enjoyed a big breakfast.

"What was what about?" evaded Sak, helping himself to another piece of toast to sop up his egg.

"What were they up to up in the observatory yesterday while we stood guard like a bunch of idiots," clarified Luc, pouring himself some more coffee and adding the hot water. Stupid way to make coffee. They could do with some American know how around here.

"I guess the Ambassador just needed some private time to talk to Robin. They'd had a bit of a scare the day before. I'm sure she wouldn't want anything in that documentary that would embarrass the United States," he responded. He wasn't going to tell Luc that the Ambassador had bought a ring when he was out with her the other day. He figured Tsakiris had made some sort of proposal up there yesterday, or whatever gays do. Robin was wearing the ring anyway, when they came back down.

"Hell, they sleep together, how much time do they need to talk," snarled Luc with disgust.

Sak looked up sharply. "You're out of line, Luc. We don't discuss the private lives of those we are assigned to protect. It's none of our damn business!" Which wasn't quite true, and they all knew it, but he liked both girls. He found their attraction to each other kind of embarrassing and just plain weird but it was their life, and he couldn't see why they shouldn't be allowed to be happy.

Luc face went white with anger and he would have responded if Perkins had not cut in. "There is no use us getting all in a twist about it. Face it, guys, we're just all a little frustrated that two beautiful women that we have spent a holiday with prefer each other's company to ours."

Sak snorted and laughed and Luc, realizing he almost said things that he would have regretted when the report came down, laughed along weakly too.

"You ever think about the two of them together? Makes me horny, I gotta tell you," Perkins confessed.

"I think I could handle the two of them, and make them see a better way," smirked Luc.

Sak sighed, feeling his age. "I think that Tsakiris would eat me alive, and spit me out as dog food. That's one hell of a woman. Can't figure how that little blond handles her but she seems to." He looked at his watch. "They seem to be late. We might as well use the opportunity to check the vehicles over. I'll stay here, you two go see to it."

"Yes, sir," responded Perkins and he and Luc drained their coffees and left. Stupid, young bucks, Sak thought, shaking his head.

They drove to the Cuzco airport and boarded a DC 10 heading back to Lima. Once they were settled and in the air, Robin turned to Joey. "I'll have to go back to the States and put this documentary together. That could take quite a while," she announced sadly.

Joey nodded. "Yeah, I realized that. It will take me some time here to hand over my position to a new Ambassador. It's going to be really hard."

"Yeah. No regrets, Joey?" Robin asked softly, needing to know that she wasn't pulling Joey from a life she loved.

"No. None," Joey said without hesitation. Then a worried frown crossed her face. "What about you?"

Robin smiled. "Well, one small regret," she confessed.

Joey's face hardened into an expressionless mask, and she went very still. "What?" she managed to get out between tight lips.

"That all the Arequipa chocolate has gone," giggled Robin, and the Ambassador threw her flight pillow at her.

They moved quickly through the airport, leaving Perkins behind to see to the luggage. In a single car, they drove back through Lima and swung up to the concrete and iron double gates of the embassy. Clearing security and getting their tags, Sak drove them through the concrete security pillars and pulled up in the main courtyard. He was damn glad that all had gone well, and he had the Ambassador back safely.

He and Luc got out of the car and opened the back doors for the ladies to get out. Robin and Luc came around and the four of them moved as a group to the door.

The leader watched through a window. Fear was generated by killing the enemy when an opportunity arose. Terror, the kind that grabs at the souls of rulers and brings governments down, was having the power to kill the enemy in the safety of their own homes.

The leader smiled and dropped his arm. Three gunmen with high powered rifles opened fire. The first bullet hit Joey in the arm. Robin hit her second as she dived to protect her lover. Two bullets passed through Robin's chest and into Joey before they hit the ground, lying in a spreading pool of their own blood.

Sak and Luc fired back, forming a wall in front of the two women. They both fell in the cross fire. The courtyard went strangely quiet and still. Four bodies were picked up by the security cameras lying motionless accept for the flapping of a green airplane tag on Robin's camera case.

Off in the distance, there was still firing as marines closed in on a nearby house taking out the terrorists. A siren wailed. People from the embassy rushed out to do what they could. The camera high on the security fence objectively filmed it all. The tape would be used later during the official enquiry.

Gunnul and Jamie sat together in the garden. "This is where we sat the first day you brought me here to meet Chrissy," Jamie observed.

"It was very hard," admitted Gunnul, smiling at Jamie as her capable, strong hands worked on massaging the muscles in Jamie's badly damaged leg. Jamie never complained, but Gunnul had learned to tell when her partner was in pain. She had carefully made massaging Jamie's leg part of their quiet time, when they would talk and laugh over the day's activities. Jamie relaxed then, and forgot the pain of her lameness.

"Yes, it was very hard but you made it work. I love you so much, Gunnul!" Jamie reached out and covered one of the strong, warm hands of her partner. Gunnul leaned forward and would have kissed those inviting lips if a scream had not come from the house.

"Allah save us! Allah we are in your hands!"

Gunnul looked at Jamie. "Go ahead! I'll catch up," Jamie said and Gunnul took off on a dead run for the house. Jamie strapped her brace on and swung her leg off the bench. Then she placed her crutch around her arm and hurried as quickly as she could to the house, trying not to let the frustration of her slow process get to her.

Following the wailing to the kitchen, she found Gunnul on the floor giving Chrissy CPR. "My God! Chrissy!" she gasped, her hand going to her mouth to stifle a scream. Her heart gave a painful spasm and beat wildly as the world faded and then cleared.

"Has an ambulance been called?" she demanded, as she awkwardly dropped down beside her daughter.

"Yes, Mrs. Dedeman, I have called. Oh Allah save us!"

"What happened?" Jamie managed to choke out, as she felt for a pulse on the small, limp wrist.

"The evil eye, Misses! She was standing there laughing, then she grabbed her chest and fell over.

Someone has been jealous of her beauty and has placed a curse on her! Allah protect our Chrissy!"

It had been a hellish ride, bathed in flashing red light and pulsating with the scream of the ambulance siren. Descending into the emergency bay, the doors had opened into a chaos of doctors, admission forms, and busy nurses. Once they had filled out all the forms, they had been ignored, unwanted spectators in a life and death struggle.

Now, almost a day later, they sat in stunned silence by Chrissy's bed. They had saved her - just, and just for a time. She clung to life with the help of a mechanical cat's cradle of wire and tubing that threaded its way from Chrissy to the life support systems and back. The doctors could find no reason. Chrissy was simply dying.

"General Dedeman?" Gunnul turned to see the doctor standing at the door. She squeezed Jamie's shoulder and walked out into the hall. "It is in Allah's hands, General. We have done all we can. The choice is yours. We can keep her here indefinitely...but you might want to take her home..." Gunnul nodded. The words just wouldn't come from her tight, sore throat.

The doctor looked uncomfortable. "I'll see to the arrangements for you," he stated and hurried away.

Gunnul turned and looked in at her family through eyes grey with sorrow. Swallowing down her tears, she walked back in to place her hand on Jamie's shoulder. "We are going to take Chrissy home now," she choked out. Jamie nodded and then fell into Gunnul's arms sobbing.

Nick Tsakiris picked up the two day old newspaper that sat on a scruffy metal table in a dingy waiting room. WARRIOR OF PEACE GUNNED DOWN was the headline. There was a fuzzy grey picture of his daughter taken two years ago in Stockholm. He read: "Ambassador Joanne Tsakiris of the American Embassy in Lima was gunned down this morning, outside the embassy, by three gunmen stationed in a nearby building. Ambassador Tsakiris is in critical condition at a private hospital in the city. A hospital spokesperson listed Tsakiris condition as grave and worsening.

"Two security officers were killed in the attack and a woman filming a documentary for the American Television Network was also critically wounded and is now listed as being in a serious but stable condition.

"Ambassador Tsakiris won world wide acclaim two years ago when she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in bringing a lasting peace to the bloody fighting in Central Africa. Tsakiris walked into the rebel camp alone and unarmed..."

Nick threw the paper back on the table. He knew what his daughter had done. He blinked back tears. They had traveled all night to be with their daughter perhaps in her last few hours. They had come straight to the hospital from the airport only to find that JoJo had been taken back down to surgery to try and locate and stop some internal bleeding.

He got up and stared out the window to the street below. His daughter had always been that special child who seemed prefect in every way; bright, caring, athletic, beautiful, she could have been anything she wanted! He would have liked her to take over his business interests, but what she wanted was to make the world a better place. Well, she had, and it might have cost her life.

He sighed. His wife, Beedee had chosen to wait by that woman's bed. She had been the cause of JoJo's one mistake, and now she was the cause of his daughter's shooting. If she hadn't been making that stupid documentary... He sighed, no that wasn't fair. She could have been shot at any function. Still he didn't see why his wife was concerned about her, it was JoJo they were here for.

Beatrice Tsakiris sat by Robin's bed watching the small figure labour to breathe. Captain Perkins, who had brought them to the hospital, had said that Robin had shielded her daughter with her body. Two bullets had ripped through her right lung and a third had grazed along her left arm, breaking it. Perkins had been drawn and deeply upset by what had happened. He had told Beedee, in a breaking voice, that both women were very special people.

The shock of her daughter's shooting was a knife in her own heart but she took some comfort in knowing that Robin had been with JoJo. She knew with Robin there her daughter would have been happy at last. She had known that JoJo loved the street child. That was obvious by the anguish she had gone through after Robin had been sent to jail. JoJo had been caught between her own love and her knowledge that Robin hadn't cared for her in return but had used and betrayed her.

JoJo had dated all through university and in the early years of her career, but there had never been anyone special. As soon as a relationship turned serious, JoJo would end it. Beedee didn't understand what her daughter saw in this little blond, but she knew the attraction was strong. She loved Nick Tsakiris, and they'd had a wonderful life together but she had always had a vague feeling that there should be more. She felt in her heart that whatever bond existed between JoJo and Robin, it was that very special something that was very rare

The nurse had told her that both women had been very agitated, Robin calling out in her sleep for Joey.

The doctor had finally ordered that they be put in the same room together, and then both women had seemed to relax. By the time she and her husband had arrived however, JoJo had been taken back down to surgery.

Oh, JoJo, you fight with everything you've got, you hear! And know if you can't hold on that Robin will be my daughter too. There is enough love in my heart for you both. Tears ran down Beedee's face. Why would anyone want to kill such a beautiful soul like her daughter's?!

"Joey?" asked a voice gasping with effort.

Beedee looked up into deep green eyes. A jolt ran through her. Those eyes! They stirred some powerful memory in her! Had she noticed the girl's eyes before? She didn't think so, but she was sure that she knew and loved those eyes. "No, it's Beedee, Robin. JoJo's mother."

"JoJo," smiled the weak woman, fighting to keep her eyes open. Then fear flashed across them. "Where is Joey?" she gasped getting agitated.

"Shhhh, girl," Beedee soothed, getting up and tucking Robin's sheets around her. "Joey's in surgery. She'll be back up here soon. You rest. Nick and I are going to take good care of you both." Robin nodded and closed her eyes drifting back to sleep.

Nick picked up the paper again, reading the headline for the thousandth time. "No use reading it again. It's not going to change none," Beedee stated, gently taking the newspaper out of her husband's hands and kissing him tenderly on the head. "Nurse said, JoJo's back in recovery now. They'll be bringing her up here in another hour or so."

Nick nodded, taking his wife's hands. "I just can't believe it," he choked.

Beedee slipped in beside her husband on the couch. "I know, Hon. I know." Then she approached the subject that she knew they had to discuss. "JoJo is in love with that woman, you know, Nick."

Tsakiris bristled. "No, she isn't!"

Beedee gave him a hug. "How well do you know our daughter?!" she asked with a smile of disbelief.

"I don't want her to be gay."

"Well, Hon, she is, and she seems to have found that little Robin of hers again. She's gotta know that we can come to accept Robin as part of our family, Nick, because if it comes to a choice she'll choose Robin, just like I chose you over daddy's objections."

Nick looked at his hands, the same way his daughter did when she was upset. "I don't know if I can do that."

"I promised God and JoJo that if anything happened...that Robin would be our daughter," Beedee said, as if that settled it.

Nick looked into his wife's eyes and took strength there like he always did. After awhile, he nodded. "Let's go see how the little one is doing," he got out, swallowing hard. Beedee smiled and hugged him close. That's why she loved this man. Together, they went back to the room to sit by Robin.

Sometime later, they wheeled Joanne Tsakiris back into the room. Nick barely recognized the pale, hollow cheeked face as his daughter's. Tubes and machinery were connected to her from all sides and she barely seemed to breathe under the green plastic oxygen mask.

"Joey?" called a voice from behind them as if JoJo's presence had reached into Robin's subconscious, as she slept restlessly.

"Shhh, Honey. Don't you worry, your Joey is here beside you now." She had barely got the words out when the beep of the heart monitor became a steady wail and the screen showed a straight line. Medical personnel came from all sides, pushing the Tsakirises out of the way. They stood against the wall by Robin's bed and watched in horror as the doctor used electric paddles to shock JoJo's heart back into use. Nothing. Another doctor did C.P.R. while the machine recharged.

"Oh baby, please, come on," cried Beedee holding onto Nick tightly. Joanne's body jumped again with the shock. The line didn't change. The doctor gave her a shot of adrenalin and continued C.P.R.

For the third time, they used the paddles. Nothing. He straightened up and turned off the machine.

Robin, who had been tossing in her sleep, moaned one long, desperate note that faded to nothing.

Joanne stood by a stone sarcophagus. The top was carved with beautiful interlocking patterns of tree leaves and feathers. It was her grave she knew, and now she was going to go away with the person she loved. She felt very happy and at peace.

Her eyes lifted from the grave, and turning, Joey smiled at her partner. A stranger smiled back. Joey frowned. The beautiful blond woman dressed in archaic clothes, shook her head and smiled again. In confusion, Joey looked back at the grave.

Joanne's parents stood in shocked silence, watching the nurse gently remove the I.V. from the still body that had once been their daughter. Robin thrashed around in her sleep, fighting to regain consciousness. Silent words formed on her lips, as she struggled through her own exhaustion to open her eyes.

"Joey! No! Come back to me!" Robin finally managed to cried out, turning blue around the lips with the strain as she struggled to sit up and reach for the woman she loved.

Nick Tsakiris gently wrapped her in his arms and lowered her to her bed. "Robin, we understand. We are here for you," he choked, the tears rolling down his face.

Joey's eyes flickered as the nurse removed the mask. "Robin?!" came a whisper of a voice.

"Doctor!" called the nurse, quickly placing the mask back in place, and switching the monitor on. A small, steady beat, waved across the screen.

"You stay with me, you promised," Robin whispered barely conscious.

"Okay," came the answer.

Joey sat up in bed, a frown of concentration on her face as she went through some of the embassy dispatches slowly. In the bed next to hers, Robin tried to open the wood puzzle that Nick had bought her in the market. "Your father only does this because he knows it bugs the hell out of me until I can do it!"

Joey laughed without looking up. "My father does it because you hug and kiss him every time he brings you a new toy. The man has got it bad!"

"He's nice," Robin said, "So is your mom. I...I didn't think they'd understand. I mean they must have hated what I did to you and then...."

Joey looked over. "I don't think it was easy for them, Robin. But they love me, and they were wonderful enough parents to see if they could accept you too. You won them over, of course," Joey shrugged as if that had been a given.

"I love you, over there," smiled Robin.

"I love you, over there," responded Joey with a smile and then turned back to her work. She was anxious to get everything in order so that she could return to the States with Robin, she still only had the strength to work a few hours each day. Suddenly, there was Robin beside her. "Hey, what are you doing? You are supposed to be in bed!"

"I needed a real kiss," argued Robin breathlessly.

"Mmmmm," me too," sighed Joey, as they kissed for the first time in their new life together.

Gunnul and Jamie had struggled through a living hell for over a week, expecting at any time that Chrissy's heart would simply stop forever. Gradually, there had been improvement. The two tired mothers dared to hope that their vibrant daughter might somehow give them a miracle. The doctors came and went. No one seemed to have any answers.

Gunnul paced her office in angry frustration. "There must be some other test you can give! Our daughter is trying to live! We must help her!" she snapped at the doctor, who stood by Jamie's chair, a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"So far the tests have not picked up anything. Her symptoms are very strange, more consistent with someone who has gone into shock from loss of blood."

Gunnul stopped her pacing in surprise, and Jamie looked up startled. "Well, is she bleeding inside?" Gunnul asked, her voice shaky with fear. Jamie struggled to her feet and limped heavily over to her lover, who hugged her close.

"No. We can find no trace of such trauma. It is, as I told you, nothing that we have seen before. It might be a new strain of virus that attacks the blood system. We have sent blood samples to London and to the States for analysis. We will just have to wait for the results. The crisis seems to be over at this time. Christine is very weak but stable. We will just have to see."

"Thank you, doctor, we do appreciate all you are doing," Jamie responded for them both, in her increasingly fluent Turkish.

The doctor smiled. "We will trust Allah to protect her until we can find an answer." He left leaving the two women to hold each other tight.

A tall, painfully thin child, with dark hair and deep green eyes, pushed her way weakly to where the tomb stood. Touching it, she once again felt its warmth. The cracks had almost disappeared now and the pattern of interlaced leaves and feathers could be seen much clearer than it ever had in the past.

She looked up to see a boy standing on the other side of the grave. He was barely visible and glowed with a pale golden light. "Is everything all right now in your world?" she asked, and the figure smiled and nodded. "I'm glad. I think it is okay, here too."

They stood there for the longest time looking at the grave. "Will I be as happy?" the small girl asked looking back at the figure that now wavered in and out of focus. Blue eyes met green. He nodded.

She smiled and nodded back. " Your spirit is already in someone, isn't it?" The boy nodded and grinned happily.

"Then I will wait for him," she stated confidently, knowing that someday she would meet someone very special and the loop would be completed. "I wish I could tell them," she said as she touched the grave,

"that if you die before your time you, will live again."

She looked up into eyes as blue and as old as the sky itself. "But we all know that, don't we? Because we are all part of the same love."

The boy smiled and nodded and slowly faded from sight. The little girl looked down at the grave. The names carved there now were Robin Bradley and Joanne Tsakiris. Then they changed, and changed again. A thousand different names but the same two souls. The last two names to appear and fade away, the little girl buried deep in her heart.

"Always," said the wind.

"Always," responded the earth's song.

"Gunnul!" came a scream of anguish, "She's gone!"

Gunnul dropped the medical report she was reading and charged out of her room and down the hall, fear filling her soul. Jamie wobbled to the door holding on to the frame for support. "She's not here!" Gunnul ran into the room. Relieved, at first, that Jamie hadn't meant that their daughter was dead. Then fear returned. She checked the bathroom, closet, balcony; Chrissy was too weak to be up.

"She's gone to the grave," Gunnul said in panic, "Meet me there," she instructed as she shot past Jamie and leapt down the stairs. Jamie found her crutch and followed as quickly as she could.

Her daughter was lying on top off the grave in the warmth of a golden beam of sunlight that broke through the foliage. Gunnul moved forward her hands shaking with fear. "Chrissy, Chrissy? Are you all right?"

Chrissy Dedeman woke from her dream and smiled. "Hi, mom. Everything is all right now. We don't have to worry!" Gunnul wrapped her special daughter in her arms, and carried her out of the garden. Half way down the path, she met a frantic Jamie who hugged her daughter as she lay in Gunnul's arms.

"It's okay, mommy. The ladies that were shot are going to be fine. The boy told me," explained Chrissy, in the same matter of fact way that Gunnul had.

Jamie stroked her daughter's hair. "What boy, Chrissy?" she asked.

"The one who guards the grave and called us all to help," explained the child. "He's gone now. I can walk," she said looking up at Gunnul.

Gunnul carefully put her daughter down. She did look stronger and less pale. The three of them walked slowly back to the patio. "Will we get to meet this boy?" Jamie asked gently. She and Gunnul had come to realize that the daughter they shared had a bond and awareness with the Host and Others that no one else seemed to possess.

Chrissy laughed. "Yes. Someday, I'll bring him home and introduce him to you," she said, a sparkle returning to her eyes. Gunnul looked at Jamie with confused and worried eyes. Jamie looked back, her eyes sparkling with happiness. Tonight in bed, Jamie would explain to Gunnul that she was going to have a very special son-in-law someday.

A golden leaf drifted and fell to rest on the grave. It was followed by another in dark brown. On the air there was gently scent of spice mixed with summer herbs. Love is eternal.

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