The Journey Home
What is devotion if not the blessed union of love and longing. For your embrace I have pined so long. The gentle touch of your hand calls to me. This fusion of haunting need and bittersweet memory has grown stronger throughout the years. Each night is an eternity of wanting. Its torturous melody fills my senses and taunts me with what could be.
Everytime you left me, love returned you to my side. Everytime I have wandered, you always found me. As if your heartbeat echoed in mine, your breath fed my breath, your laughter filled my own.
So I come to this place once more. This place that I watched you fade. So many years have passed, so many battles have been won and lost yet through them all I have felt you. Through them all, I kept your vision alive. I nurtured it and as you once taught an eager, unrelenting child, I have done the same to others. You taught me and I hope that I imparted your story with truth. Now, my legs are weak with years and another stands for all that we once fought for.
Each step brings me closer to you. The faith that you will be waiting beckons to me. Yet, I must confess that there is a part of me that trembles with the unspoken doubt, the fear that you may not remember me. That your peace has removed the bond we once shared. A bond that was unbreakable.
The rocks slip beneath my weary feet. My hands, gnarled from age, ache with the cold. I grip tightly, no matter how my heart strains with the effort. I must keep climbing, further, further, further along the misty paths. I cling to my knowledge of you, the recollections, the laughter. That first meeting on the day you stepped from my imagination and filled the world with vivid colour. My youthful awe makes me blush even now. An innocent, clueless child who could not be parted from you. I knew then that you were more than a hero, more than a warrior but a woman. I learned the true meaning of that word from the steely blue. Eyes that cut sharper than blades, yet more wounded than any hapless victim you protected.
That first meeting to that last faded glory is replayed and renewed in every throbbing pulse of my faltering heart. The air is so much thinner. My breath escapes me. I can but crawl on as my eyes dim and I fear I will not make it.
I hear your voice so clear that my tears burst forth in shuddering sobs. The relief of that sound, the hope in its deep tone.
I open my mouth to speak but I have no more strength to form words. I reach out for the sound, desperate, grasping. I need to reach, I have to reach... The dust spews up into my face as I collapse onto the hard ground. I have to...
"Gabrielle, is this is your way of making a dramatic entrance?"
I feel a strong, warm hand on my arm and lift my head. Your hand, your arm, you. "Xena?"
"No, it's Spartacus. Who else would it be?" Your eyes dance with the light I've yearned to see again. "I see you brought your scrolls. Once a bard, always a bard."
I look down. I am holding a scroll, my thoughts flowing onto the page effortless. Our story. Is this real? You are silhouette against the sunlight and I search, anxious to see your face. There, there is the flowing dark hair, the eyes, how I have missed them so.
"Do you have to gawp at me like that? People are gonna talk."
I blink to clear the tears and raise my hands to wipe them away. No more lines, no more age spots, no withered aching fingers. No, they are young, strong, alive. "I don't..."
I throw myself into your arms. Your warmth, your soft skin, your heartbeat steady and strong in my ear.
"Okay, I think someone has had enough. Who left you with the wine?" Your words are dry but your embrace is welcoming.
"I thought I'd never see you again." I am that awestruck young child once more.
Your finger pulls my chin up gentle, familiar. Your eyes open and twinkling with sunlight. "What took you so long?"
"I had to carry on. I had to fight, to show others to--"
You place your finger on my lips. "I meant the mountain. Talk about out of shape."
"I'm 108, Xena."
You shrug. Always that nonchalant shrug. "Yeah well, you could have hurried up. I think you just like making me wait. You do it on purpose."
I feel that familiar need to smack you on the nose with my stick. "Do not. Like you could have made it up there any faster."
"I didn't have to. I was already there." You fold your arms. Your nod and pursed lips self-satisfied. "Duh."
Arrogant, irritating and utterly adorable.
"Did you just duh me?" I put my hands on my hips. "I just climbed up a mountain to join you, without a guide, and all you can say is duh?"
"Let me think." Your finger curls over your chin as you make a show of it. "Yep, duh."
There were many years I spent envisioning this moment. None of them had contained that. "Do you want me to climb back down--"
The grip on my arms stops me. As if I could ever leave you. Still, your voice is desperate, it's pleading tone echoing. "Please... stay." You study my face, your intensity etched on your brow. "I... well..."
I raise my eyebrows.
You sigh, seeing the smile on my lips. "Yeah, yeah. So I might have missed you." You stroll towards green swaying fields as I pick up my scrolls and follow. The sun warming my skin and my soul.
"Don't hold back or anything, will you?" I mutter as I reach your side. Side by side, just as we did back then, lost in bickering.
"Hey, I came to meet you didn't I?" It's a good thing I know your heart but it doesn't prevent me punching your arm in response.
"So did I make it to the top?" I cannot see the mountain now. I can see nothing but sheer fields of beauty, nature's masterpiece swaying in a gentle breeze.
"With a little help from me you did." You smile down at me with unmasked joy. It's not the first time I have seen such pride, such adoration, yet it feels that way.
Your smile is self-assured and I know what is coming.
"I have many skills."
How I have missed that line. Still, I'm not going to let you know that, just yet. Instead I look up to the sun, to the endless deep blue sky, shielding my eyes from the glare. "Well that took you... what... less than a minute?" I shake my head at you. "That's a record, even for you."
You shrug, grasping a stem of green and twiddling it in your fingers. "I've been waiting a lifetime. Give me a break."
You keep walking as I hear my own laughter rumbling from deep inside. I hurry to catch up to you and bump your hip. "Me too."
You slide your arm over my shoulder as you grin down at me. "Good. Let's go home."
I wrap my arm around your waist. Your presence is more of a treasure to me than words alone could reveal. Who needs a scroll when I have the real thing? "I already am."
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