was a very hard story for me to write because the end of the show affected
me so deeply. I wasn't going to write anything about FIN. I wrote a couple
of poems and that was going to be it. Then I read Shirley MacLaine's account
of her trek on the Camino and all through it Gabrielle kept popping into
my mind. So I need to thank Miss MacLaine for brining me the knowledge
of that ancient line of energy in the ground that inspired this tale. I
make no claim on any of the Characters in this story they belong to Renaissance
Pictures I'm only borrowing them for a bit. I would like to thank Lucy
Lawless and Renee O'Connor for their wonderful performances that have inspired
all my writings in the Xenaverse. Please enjoy J
Aphrodite was watching from a Godly perch as an uncomfortable Warrior Princess watched her soulmate fight the fire of the library of Alexandria. Xena paced in her space in Limbo wanting to jump in there so badly she could taste it. The frustrated Warrior knew she couldn't do a thing the only thing she could touch in the human world was Gabrielle and right now her friend didn't need her distracting presence.
Gabrielle was among many others fighting to save the beloved library. The bard's eyes were full of tears as she helped the water brigade douse the building to no avail. All the knowledge of the known world was housed in that building of learning. And as she had learned when she had initially tried to enter the building that all the knowledge was in the center and that part of the building was in rubble and already destroyed. The other half had tumbled into the sea; all she could hope for was that they could salvage some of the scrolls after the fire was put out.
Xena had tears as she watched from Limbo too. She knew that her beloved Bard's scrolls were amongst those destroyed. Gabrielle had made special copies and gave them to Cleopatra when they met her many years before. Then when the Queen of the Nile was killed Xena had added several of her new ones as well. She shook her head as she realized that all that work was gone. She wanted to smash something but knew it would make little difference to her personal torment.
She paced and watched her soulmate in pure frustration. She wanted to help too. "Being a ghost really sucks, " She said to herself as she paced and watched gnashing her teeth.
"You know Warrior Babe, you have done some really stupid things but this has really got to take the cake", Said the angry goddess as she suddenly appeared in front of the agitated warrior. Xena looked into Aphrodite's eyes and turned away, "I don't know what your talking about, I had to save those good souls."
"Yeah they needed to be avenged but not by you. You were a victim of who owed them. That sweet faced little girl was the greatest user in human memory. Did you ever think, oh Wise Warrior, that if she hadn't used you to kill her father that monster would never of have existed. Then she used you again and all those people died. Then you dumb-dumb soft hearted idiot, let her soul go free and clear while you sacrificed yourself, when it should be her in this state of limbo not you. You should be with the person who needs you most in the world!" She yelled pointing to Gabrielle, "Your Soulmate!"
Xena bristled at being yelled at by the diminutive Goddess but she had a lot of time on her hands to think and she knew in her heart that Aphrodite was right. She turned and walked closer toward Gabrielle tears were pouring from her eyes; "I know that."
Aphrodite was now next to her, She gently put her hand on her arm and said softly, "You have to correct this, Xena."
Xena turned and faced the Goddess, "How? After 24 hours my choice is gone and it has been a couple of weeks. Its hopeless."
"That doesn't sound like you Xena, there is always a way."
"Well if there is I can't think of it, I have wracked my brain to figure out a way to bring us together and I can't think of damn thing." Said a frustrated warrior as she brushed the arm off her shoulder and began to pace again.
"Well think of something because you and Gabrielle need each other!" Said the angry Goddess and she was gone in flash and some sparkles.
"Don't you think I know that!!!"
*** *** *** ***
Gabrielle was lying face down on her bed and Xena was easing the muscle strain on her back by giving her a massage. Gabrielle's eyes were closed and she was enjoying her soulmate's gentle touch.
"I am so grateful that you can still touch me, Xena."
"So am I, " Whispered Xena. Xena was full of painful emotion tonight after the fight with Aphrodite. She was going to keep it to herself though her soulmate didn't need that added to her list of worries.
"Xena, What's wrong?"
"Nothing…" Gabrielle suddenly reached out and stopped the hands gently going down her back. She turned herself within the circle of Xena's arms and faced the tear filled blue eyes.
"Don't you think I know you? I know your voice and your emotions. I can tell when your upset. What is wrong, Damn it!"
Xena pulled away and crossed the room her head was bent and her shoulders were slumped in despair. She looked out the window of Gabrielle's room and said quietly, "Being a shadow is not very pleasant."
"Then come back to me?"
Gabrielle suddenly sat up excited, "You mean you will consider it?"
Xena nodded her head; "I am now torn into little pieces Gabrielle. I miss you. I miss really being with you fully. I miss all the advantages of being alive. I need you as much as you need me. Also…Um…well Aphrodite and I had a confrontation…"
"Yes, She showed up the day after we came to Egypt. We have been fighting about my obligations from what happened in Japan and she finally convinced me today that I am idiot!" She yelled and turned slamming her hand down toward a table beside the window only to have her hand go right through it. "I can't even have a damn temper tantrum! I hate this!! She's right. You were right. I was self sacrificing numb skull!" She turned toward her crying sympathetic love and said, "Gabrielle, I don't know what to do."
Gabrielle ran across the room and embraced the crying ghost. She rubbed her back and comforted her the best she could. "We'll think of something, Xena. I promise you. I love you so."
Xena was hugging Gabrielle desperately to her crying and kissing her cheek and the crown of her head; "I love you too with all my heart. You are the only thing that is anchoring me to the living with out you in my life I would have left this world long before Japan."
*** *** *** ***
Aphrodite walked into the imperial rooms of the Goddess Isis and called, "Hey big Momma, Where are you?"
"When are you ever going to grow up, Aphrodite?"
"Ten minutes after never," Answered the young Goddess with a smirk.
"What do you want?"
Aphrodite suddenly dropped the act and became very serious, "I need your help."
Sensing that the young Goddess's mood had shifted she asked quietly, "How?"
"Are you aware of what happened to my friends Gabrielle and Xena in Japan?
"Yes, I have known all since they entered my domain."
"Isis, you were able to resurrect yourself and your husband Ra. Is there anyway you can help me to do the same for Xena?"
"I can not help a mortal the same way I helped my husband and I but there may be a way," Said the older Goddess with a sudden smile.
"Would Gabrielle do something very difficult to bring her love back? Would she be willing to risk her life?"
"I know her very well and I know how she feels about Xena I would say definitely. Yes, she would risk anything to be with Xena again."
"Ok Aphrodite, This is what she needs to do."
*** *** *** ***
The bard was fast asleep in Xena's arms; Xena was gently running her fingers through the short blonde hair. She had the look of woman desperately trying to think of some kind of plan.
Aphrodite appeared kneeling beside the bed, she smiled up at Xena and whispered, "I have come up with a plan, Warrior."
Xena looked at the Goddess through tear-filled eyes and whispered back, "Aphrodite, this is not a game."
"I know that. I do love that sleeping mortal in your loving arms. Believe it or not, even though you are a pain in the ass I love you too. Xena, Don't you think I want to help my two best friends? Don't you think I want you alive again? Don't you think I miss you?" Whispered the Goddess harshly through gritted teeth. She had tears in her eyes and Xena realized that the Goddess meant every word she just said.
Xena smiled sadly and nodded, " I know you do. I love you too. We both do. I know that your fighting this fight because we are your friends I just feel so damn helpless, Aphrodite."
"I know but I have plan that will put you where you belong, Right by sweet peas side and that will make us all happy."
Xena sniffled and looked down into the peacefully sleeping face of her soulmate. "I hope you do because I don't how much longer either of us can take this."
"You'll see, ok wake up sleeping beauty so we can return you to the land of the living."
Xena looked confused, "What the hell are you talking about, you haven't told me anything. I don't want to get her hopes up."
Aphrodite looked at Xena with hopeful eyes and said, "I have plan, Xena."
Xena's eyes met the Goddess's and suddenly for the first time since this nightmare had begun she felt a tiny glimmer of hope.
*** *** *** *** ***
Gabrielle had everything packed and after she left her room she picked some flowers as an offering to Isis per Aphrodite's instructions. She had a long talk with Xena and Aphrodite and she had some hope that maybe Xena might be by her side again with the Egyptian Goddess's help.
She entered the beautiful temple for the Goddess Isis and placed her offering on the altar. She stood there looking around with agitated green eyes.
"Good morning Battling Bard." Said the Goddess with a sympathetic look.
Gabrielle turned around slowly and looked up at the tall beautiful Egyptian. "Isis."
"Have a seat, Gabrielle. This journey you are about to take will offer you many choices along the way. You will be a different person at the end of it. If this works you will know through the enlightenment of the Camino how to be reunited in life with your soulmate."
Gabrielle was sitting on a bench listening to every word carefully at the end she said quietly, "I understand."
Isis smiled and nodded, "You must be willing to die…"
"Wait!" Cried a familiar voice. Suddenly Xena was there, "Aphrodite said nothing to me about having to be willing to die when we discussed the Camino."
Isis smiled sympathetically at the ghostly warrior; "It is part of the journey, Warrior. The pilgrims must be willing to risk all in order to receive the enlightenment that they seek…"
"No…." Xena said again stepping between the Goddess and the bard.
Gabrielle looked up at Xena and gently put her hand on her arm, "Xena, Its my choice. Isis I am willing to…"
"No, Please Gabrielle…"
"Xena, we will be together one way or another…"
"So be it, " Said Isis raising her hand and Gabrielle was gone.
"Shh, Xena all will be well I need to speak to you before you join her…"
"Where is she, Isis?"
"She is in place to prepare for her journey in an area of Gaul called, Saint Jean Pied de Port. She will be there a couple of days to prepare. Aphrodite is with her she is fine."
"Yes, I know. I will send you but we need to talk just for a few minutes."
"As a ghost you are so very limited. You may offer advice and comfort her when she needs it but that is all. Warrior, every pilgrim has a guide and you will be Gabrielle's. This journey will be as hard on you as it will be on her. All you will be able to do is watch and that will be a true trial for you. I just wanted you to know that being her guide is very important. You are grounding her to her truth. I know it is your wish to do this but I also know that at times you will wish you could just step in and you won't be able to. I want this to be your choice too."
"I have to be with her, Isis. I don't care about myself I promised I will never leave her and I mean it. I love her."
Isis nodded, she met the piercing blue eyes of the warrior with ancient warm kind ones of a Goddess and said, "So be it." Xena spirit was transported to be by her soul mates side.
"May you both find all that you seek."
*** *** *** ***
Aphrodite was preparing the girl's tent when Gabrielle appeared. She looked up and winked at the confused looking blonde, "Enjoy this small bit of privacy while it lasts, Sweet Pea, because once your trek begins you won't have another minute of it till the end of your journey."
Gabrielle looked around the tent and shook her head at the Goddess, "This is very nice, Aphrodite. Um… Where are we?"
"Where is Xena? I don't feel her here?" Said Gabrielle sounding a bit worried.
"Oh don't worry, Sweetie she'll be here soon. Big Mama wanted a private word with her…"
"Isis, She's a very ancient Goddess. She is way older then the Olympians. That's why I went to her she's always helped me when I needed it. I knew she could help us this time."
Gabrielle put her bag down on a low table and sat on a low divan. "I still don't see how walking this ancient line in the earth is going to help us."
Aphrodite made herself comfortable on the bed, "Neither do I really. I do trust Isis though and if she says that it will help you it will. A long time ago She and her husband Ra fought another God and Ra was dead and she was all but dead and she resurrected her husband and brought herself back to full health. She actually became pregnant from it all. She knows what she's doing. She is the mother of all of us both Humans and Gods. If she says that mother earth will bring you two back together then you can believe she will."
Xena suddenly appeared in the middle of the tent. Gabrielle was very relieved to see her warrior. Xena looked very shook up and as soon as she saw Gabrielle she ran to her tears falling from her eyes. She engulfed the smaller woman in a bear hug as she cried out, "Ohhh, I thought I lost you!"
"Never," Said Gabrielle as she returned the hug tightly greatly relieved to have her warrior back by her side.
"Scuse me!" Said the Goddess with her hands on her hips sitting up on the edge of the bed, The two girls looked toward her, "No greetings for me?"
Xena turned fully toward the Goddess but she kept her arm around her soul mates shoulders not willing to let her go. "Yes, Why the hell didn't you tell me that there is even a chance that my bard could die on this trek?"
Aphrodite shrugged and leaned back against the pile of pillows that appeared behind her. "Because I know you oh mighty warrior you never would have approved. I also knew that once Gabrielle was committed you would go along. Besides Isis told me all the dangers and it will be a walk in the park for Gabby."
Blue eyes blazed, "And they are?"
"Well let's see, She has to face the elements, bandits, dangerous cliffs, twists and turns that could get the pilgrim lost. Now come on, that's every day normal life for you two. The only really danger I see is Gabby's well known stuborn streak and not listening to her guide and since your her guide and she loves you I wasn't worried about that either…"
Hey, I'm not stubborn!" Bristled Gabrielle at what the Goddess said then realizing what the last part of the statement was she looked up at Xena, "Your my Guide?"
Xena was deep in thought she absent-mindedly nodded her head.
"She sure is; that's why Isis wanted to talk to her. Oh, She told me the path would offer you a few things for sure. A walking stick but you are only to accept the special one, what ever that means. And you will be offered sex…"
"What!?!" Said Xena now she stood apart from Gabrielle and walked threateningly toward the Goddess with lightning bolts coming out of her ice blue eyes.
"Ease up, Warrior. Everyone is offered a chance at some sex most of the time it's a real person but sometimes its not. This is a test of your sense of self that's where you will come in as her guide. She has to make choices on this path and the choices that you make are important. The ultimate test for you two will be getting Mother Earth to reunite Xena and her life force. That will be a test too."
Gabrielle had moved next to the warrior she was gently stroking her back trying to get her to calm down, " What kind of test, Aphrodite?"
"I don't have any idea. Isis says the Great Mother tests each person according to their needs. So it will all be based on you Gabby."
"I don't like any of this!" Yelled Xena breaking away gently from Gabrielle and crossing to look out the small window in the tent.
"Well Warrior, You are on this path too and you can't leave it. Don't you want to come back?"
"Of course I do!!!" Yelled Xena at the top her lungs. She reached for a lamp to throw it, when her hand went right through it she growled and stormed out of the tent.
The Goddess face reflected only sympathy for the angry warrior. She and Gabrielle looked at each other. "She has got to calm down, Gabby. She will never be able to guide you if she doesn't focus on the trail…"
"She will Aphrodite," Said Gabrielle her eyes never leaving her angry soul mate as she stomped around the camp unseen by the other pilgrims. "If there is one thing my Xena can do its focus."
*** *** *** ***
Gabrielle had been on the trail of the Camino with the other pilgrims for about an hour. She watched the other pilgrims with anxious eyes as they picked up and put down sticks to find their special walking stick. She hadn't seen even one that she wanted to look at. None of them called to her.
"Calm down, When its time the right one will call to you, " Said Xena as she suddenly appeared walking by her side at the same pace.
"Why did take you so long to come to me?" Asked Gabrielle more then a little upset.
"Sweetheart, I'm suppose to be your guide. I am not supposed to tell you what to do. You are quite capable of making those choices all by yourself."
"I know that….I….Well, I would have liked your company that's all." She admitted sheepishly looking closely at the ground in front of her.
"I was with you the whole time I am always with you, you know that." Gabrielle looked up to meet sympathetic blue eyes.
Gabrielle nodded and smiled slightly. She kept her pace walking and said quietly, "Everyone else seems to be finding plenty of possibilities, Xena."
"From what Isis told me this is your trail. All yours. Stop comparing your journey with the others because it isn't going to be like anyone else's. It is one of the tests your going to have to face."
Gabrielle nodded again. They silently walked along the trail when Gabrielle said, "Can you stay with me for a while?"
"Gabrielle, There is no reason to thank me. I love you, and as far as I'm concerned I would willingly walk with you forever." Said the Warrior reaching out to take her soul mates hand.
Gabrielle looked down at their entwined hands and smiled up into the beautiful blue eyes she loved most in the universe. "I do know all that too. I guess this trail has me on edge."
"Well don't be. It's cakewalk just like Aphrodite said we have faced worse then this a thousand times before. Just concentrate on yourself and don't worry about what the others do. I know you can do this."
"Ok, I will," She kept Xena's hand firmly in her own and focused her mind only on the path. She opened her heart and allowed it to be her guide. Xena felt her heart break everytime Gabrielle doubted herself like this and she was very proud when she pulled herself up and allowed her natural confidence to guide her. She looked at the other pilgrims and saw the same look of uncertainly and concentration as they followed this strange ancient line in the earth.
Gabrielle suddenly stopped, "Xena look, " She said pointing to a long stick that had snapped off a young tree that had fallen on to the path. They walked over and she slowly picked it up. Tears suddenly sprung to her eyes as she carefully examined the stick.
Xena was very puzzled she had no idea why Gabrielle had suddenly become so emotional over this stick. She understood that this was going to be her walking stick but why was she so sad? "Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle looked up into confused blue eyes and said, "It reminds me of the staff that Ephiny gave me all those years ago. My first fighting staff when I become an Amazon it was handed down to her from her mother she was so proud of that she decided to pass on the legacy to me a complete stranger. It meant so much to me, Xena. All the things that you, Ephiny and Epinon taught me. All the practice so I could develop my own style and add my own tricks…And then…then we went to India and that demon burned my beloved staff when I was trying to protect you. I followed Eli and I…I …threw my beloved staff into the Ganges. It was like I put my childhood behind me as well as all the violence…"The tears became sobs as Gabrielle leaned on the stick and remembered her past.
Xena enfolded her arms around her and held her tight. She was suddenly hit by a flood of feelings about Gabrielle's staff and what it meant to her. She remembered with fondness the many sparring lessons that she taught Gabrielle the art of defense. She remembered her pride as she watched her become better and better at it. She also remembers her own sense of loss as she watched the beloved weapon float down the river. She remembered her own fear that she would lose her best friend and the love of her life because they were going down different paths.
Slowly Gabrielle came back to herself and met tear-filled blue eyes and saw the pain of loss reflected plainly in those expressive eyes. "You miss it too?"
Xena nodded and whispered hoarsely, "Yes I do."
"Funny, that a piece of wood meant so much to both of us. Why is this piece of wood reflecting all that pain and love back to us? How does the path read our hearts so well?"
"I don't know, I guess that why we have to keep following it, huh?" replied Xena with a slight smile.
"Yep, I guess it is," Said Gabrielle with the staff in one hand and the Warriors hand in the other.
*** *** *** ***
Gabrielle was now only a few candle marks walk from the settlement for the night and suddenly Xena was by her side again quietly saying, "Gabrielle…"
"I know, three of them hidden in that grove just off to the side of the path."
"Um..Do you want…"
"It's my path, remember Xena? I will take each test as is my due."
Xena nodded and vanished, She appeared in her part of limbo. She paced as she watched the small blonde make her way to where the bandits were waiting for her. She stood still as a statue when she saw the bandits appear except for her hands that were curled into tight fists and she growled deeply in her throat.
Gabrielle tried to talk to them first but they laughed at her since she was dressed like the other pilgrims she didn't seem to pose any threat to them. She could see that they had misjudged her sweet face and size Xena smiled slightly as Gabrielle shrugged and fought all three effortlessly with her staff. Xena's smile grew wider lighting her eyes with pure pride.
"She was always good with that thing," Said Aphrodite who had suddenly appeared by the warrior's side.
"Yes, she always was, " Said Xena sadly biting her lower lip.
"Where are her sais?"
Xena looked at the Goddess and smirked, "Still strapped to her boots under the pilgrim's robes. She doesn't really need them for those three thugs. She is way to brilliant and experienced for them."
"Thanks to you and your training."
Xena turned away and pace the space with agitation, "Yes, thanks to good ole' me" She said sarcastically.
"Come on, Xena I do know you pretty well. What's wrong?" Asked Aphrodite grabbing the Warrior's arm to stop her pacing.
Xena pulled away, "Why does everyone suddenly know me so damn well?"
"I am your friend," Said the Goddess hurt by the obvious anger in the dark woman's voice.
"If she had stayed safely home she would never have taken up the staff and then the sword! I ruined her life!" Xena was now in tears her pacing becoming more frantic.
"That hunk of wood is bringing up all sorts of unpleasant memories for you isn't it?"
Aphrodite held the crying woman in her arms and gently stroked her hair as she explained quietly, "You know that she is your soul mate. You have been given proof of this by the fates and that bitch Alti. Stop brow beating yourself because Gabrielle is where she is suppose to be. You know that she chose this life and she chose you. Now you need to get where your suppose to be…"
"I know that. Don't you think I want that? I'm just…I don't…I can't…"
"Yes you can! Now go out there and guide your soul mate to your reunion. Come on. Be brave warrior."
Xena looked at the Goddess and smiled slightly, "Yes Ma'am." Xena disappeared.
Aphrodite looked at the trail and smiled when she saw the warrior walking quietly by the bard hand in hand. "Good girl," Said the Goddess and she disappeared.
*** *** *** ***
Xena was in her space in limbo her eyes were bright red from crying. She was pacing and her hands were curled into fists. She watched from a distance as Gabrielle allowed a strange young woman to flirt with her and she flirted back. This serving girl was real and she was young, beautiful and alive. It was tearing Xena apart to watch it. She screamed, "I can't stand this!!!"
She disappeared and reappeared unseen in the pilgrim's campsite. She went to Gabrielle's bedroll and lay down she breathed in Gabrielle's scent from the pillow. It made her feel closer to her bard. She snuggled into the pillow crying quietly to herself. Slowly she fell into an exhausted sleep.
Gabrielle turned the young girl down she was flattered but she followed her heart as well as her head and politely declined the invitation to share her room. When she came back to camp she found the warrior fast asleep in her bedroll. She could tell by the beloved face streaked with tears that the woman had been crying for hours. It broke her heart to think that Xena had seen that display and that it had hurt her so. She sat down beside her and gently touched her cheek. Blue eyes blinked open and looked terribly embarrassed to be found in this position.
"Shhh, its ok. Come here, "Said Gabrielle gathering the woman in her arms. She knew that the other pilgrim's saw that she was talking to herself and grabbing air but she didn't care she had to comfort her love.
"I'm not suppose to influence you. I better go…"
"Why?" Asked Gabrielle pulling back and felt sick when she saw the fresh tears falling down pale cheeks.
"Um…Isn't that girl….Uh…"
Gabrielle saw exactly where this was going and shook her head, "I made that choice a long time ago, Xena. I turned her down flat. There is only one person I want to lie down with and I'm holding her in my arms."
"But I'm dead Gabrielle."
"I hope not for too much longer. The only good thing is I can do this, " Gabrielle kissed Xena gently on the cheek. "And this," Then she loving kissed each salty eye and her nose giving it a little lick. "And most wonderful of all this, "She gave her warrior a deep passionate kiss on the surprised woman's mouth that Xena couldn't help but respond to. They both explored and moaned enjoying the kiss till their breath just ran out.
Xena pulled back and pushed some hair out of Gabrielle's eyes and with a lopsided grin said, "Yes I am most grateful that there is that. You do know that the other pilgrims saw all that, don't you love?"
Gabrielle smiled and shrugged, "So go let them find their own guide, Your all mine." She said as she kissed the warrior again throwing the blanket over them both to keep prying eyes away from the other activities that would follow the passionate kiss.
*** *** *** ***
Gabrielle was on the third day of her pilgrimage. She could feel her Warrior's presence but she knew that Xena was keeping her distance because the choices she made on this trail must be her own. She was enjoying the beauty of the countryside and was walking slowly along when she stopped suddenly panicked when she realized that she was all alone and on the top of a cliff.
"Oh my Gods, I'm lost!" She said out loud deep in the sudden panic. She looked frantically around for a signpost or person who might point her the right direction. She looked down from the top of the cliff and said, "I could have walked right off the edge because I was paying no attention. What is wrong with me?"
"Stop that, Gabrielle. This is a test. There is nothing wrong with you, " Said Xena appearing next to her.
Gabrielle looked at her with fearful anger glittering in her green eyes, "Where the hell were you? Why didn't you warn me? I was so close to the edge of this cliff I could have fallen off!" She yelled at the Warrior as mad as hell.
Xena looked at her bard with her hands on her hips and her head tilted to one side she shook her head and said, "I was right by your side as always. I was watching you daydreaming instead of paying attention to the trail. I think this is rather easy trail to pick up so why are you so worried? Come on, Gabrielle you can see this a test. You were distracted on purpose. There was a reason for it so now you have to follow through and figure out what that reason is. I'll be waiting for you at the end of the test." Then she was gone.
"Easy!? Distracted!?" Yelled Gabrielle at the warrior. "Xena wait!!" She could hear the panic in her voice as it came back to her. She closed her eyes and shook her head. She looked around and saw a log that had fallen from a huge tree a few feet from her so she slowly walked over and sat down trying to get a hold of her emotions. "What the hell is wrong with me? Xena is right this is a very easy and clear trail compared to some that we've been on. So why am I suddenly so panicked?" She stood up and looked around her breathing deeply. Then she sat back down so she could make sense of her jumbled thoughts.
"Ok Gabrielle, What distracted you? What was I thinking of before I got off the trail?" She was still thinking out loud it had always been easier for her to figure out her thoughts if she could actually hear them in her own ears. "Well I was thinking of how beautiful and different the countryside is here from home. That led me to thoughts of home and my childhood." She said with a slight smirk. "I used to get out of chores by disappearing into the countryside much to the displeasure of my mother and sister. "
She laughed at their expressions as she came home filthy but happy and thought about what she used to daydream about while she was trudging through the fields. "I use to dream about being swept off my feet by a brave warrior who would show me the world and fall madly in love with me…I…Oh?" Gabrielle was stunned by what she just said. She got up and looked down the cliff again and shook her head in wonder.
Then she started down the hill to get back on the trail; "I did get that. I was swept off my feet and all my dreams came true. I really got more then I ever dreamt of. I became more then I or anyone else ever thought I could. All because someone I loved and respected believed in me. Damn I was lucky…" She stopped again, she was at the bottom of the hill, the view of the trail and the next settlement was before her.
"Thank you, Xena," She called out toward the sky. "Thank you for always believing in me."
"Your welcome, My Love. It was all mutual you know." Said Xena suddenly appearing again by her side. She gestured that Gabrielle keep walking so she did. The warrior kept pace as she walked by her side smiling at Gabrielle she said, "I knew you could easily figure that little puzzle out."
"Thank you….And thank you for always believing in me even when I couldn't believe in myself."
"It is my pleasure."
"Xena, What did you mean by mutual?"
Xena put a loving arm around her shoulders, Now that Gabrielle had passed today's test Xena knew she could stay with her till she reached the settlement.
"When we met I did see something special in you. I didn't know what it was but it scared the hell out of me. I was on my new path but I was so confused and scared. I had turned down Hercules' help because I felt I had to do this on my own. I had been trying but seeing all the horrible things I had done as I rode through the countryside made me realize what a long hard path I was on. I was already at the end of my rope. I buried my weapons and armor and I was ready to crawl into a hole and die." She looked out into the distant fields and sighed remembering just how desperate she was on that day.
They had stopped walking and they stood silently side by side. She looked down into loving but confused green eyes and she kissed her cheek. She saw a rock formation near by so she led her love to it and they both sat down.
She took a deep breath and continued with her side of the tale of their first meeting it was the first time she really expressed it all even to herself. "Then I saw you standing up to a thug who would have whipped you and then cut off your head as an example to the others. I knew at first sight that I had to save you. I felt something for you then but I couldn't have known what it was I wasn't capable of understanding any of the feelings that this new life offered me. I knew at the time part of it was seeing myself 10 years before standing up to Cortese. Except when I did that I had my little brother backing me up. So I did what I had to do…Then you brave little nut, you followed me even after I warned you not to. You saved me from my own village and you helped me in that fight with Draco. I warned you off again. I knew that if you did what you wanted to do life would change for you. I just couldn't see you as a warrior, you were everything I no longer was and I wanted you to stay that way. Still you followed me and I knew when I felt you near my camp that when you walked into it I wouldn't have the strength to send you away for the third time. I knew that there was something in you I wanted…needed….it wasn't…..Well I didn't know for a long time what that was…"
Gabrielle looked into Xena's eyes with a deep need; She always wanted to know what she had seen in her. "What was it, Xena? I was invisible to everyone else I knew for my whole life what did you see in me? You didn't know me but you were the only one that ever saw anything in me."
Xena embraced the smaller woman tight against her body, "Love. I didn't realize it then. Deep down it was there from the beginning. At the time I knew I cared for you….I knew there was something in your eyes…I just didn't have anyway to understand the feelings looking into your eyes evoked in me. I wasn't capable of understanding love yet. You taught me that too."
"When did you know that you loved me?"
"I knew I loved you after the time Morpheus kidnapped you. But…I guess I realized I was in love with you when I almost lost you in the Thellosian Healing Temple." Tears were now pouring from the blue eyes as she remembered her feelings of loss and dread. Gabrielle reached up and gently dried her eyes.
She smiled and shook her head; "I could feel that you loved me then. I didn't know how I felt till…well till my wedding night…"
"Your wedding night?"
"Yes, I knew I loved you but I didn't realize I was in love with you till…when Perdicus and I…Xena all I could think of that night was you. I knew I didn't love Perdicus as a husband when we made love. I felt nothing but uncomfortable. He was so sweet and gentle. He was understanding and kind. I felt so bad. I felt there had to be something wrong with me because you never saw someone go so out of there way to make another person feel good as he did. All I could see were your beautiful eyes and your tender smile and I knew that Perdicus deserved more. I wanted out of the marriage. I think my rage against Calisto when she killed him was anger at myself for not loving him enough…"
"Oh Gabrielle," Xena was crying and she hugged her even tighter against her trying to pour all the love she felt to her bard through the contact.
Gabrielle didn't need that she knew how much Xena loved her she pulled back and dried the tears again and kissed her eyes and the crown of her head, "Shhh, I'm fine now. You saved me from that rage. You saved me from the destruction it could of caused to my soul. You have always been there for me. This time I am going to save you. I've made a pledge to myself I am going to bring you back to me, My love. I am determined." There was a glint in the green eyes that the warrior was very familiar with.
Xena smiled and nodded, "I know you will. I have faith in you."
"I have faith in us," Said Gabrielle as she kissed her Warrior with all the love and passion that she would use to bring her back into the world of the living.
*** *** ***
Gabrielle woke up from a deep sleep in a cold sweat. She couldn't quite catch her breath. She sat up and with a shaky hand she reached out for some water. She sipped some down greedily and tried to bring her breathing back to normal. She felt the warrior before she saw her. Long loving arms embraced her from behind gently caressing the blonde's stomach in a sweetly comforting way.
Gabrielle put the water down leaned back into the comforting arms, "Sorry…I…don't…"
"Shh, Why are you apologizing for having a nightmare?" Asked Xena quietly.
Gabrielle sighed and shrugged her shoulders, "I don't know why…I just…it shook me up…"
Xena hugged the smaller woman even closer to her and whispered in her ear, "The Camino will keep showing you the past and the future till you realize who you are now. Which was it?"
"The past…I dreamt of…of all the times…" She sobbed and turned with in the warm arms of her warrior till she faced her and put her head on the tall woman's shoulder. Xena gently adjusted her love till she was comfortably nestled in her lap.
"All the times?" Xena prompted gently while stroking the soft hair against her chest.
"That you died…I…kept not being able to be there…to help you…to save you." She sobbed and put her face in the crook of Xena's neck. "You kept leaving me…I was….left….alone."
Xena felt her eyes sting as they filled with tears, Being a ghost doesn't protect you from pain does it?She thought as she tried to calm herself down for her loves sake. "Oh Gabrielle."
Gabrielle nuzzled the warriors long swan like neck feeling comfort in just being held and petted. She could feel the waves of love coming from the warrior, she could also feel her compassion and it was like a balm to her open wounds.
She took a deep breath and went on with the nightmare, "I kept trying to reach you, to stop whatever was happening. Then I saw the results of each experience. I realized I grew up every time. I learned that even though I was alone I had grown from being without you. I saw that I was a competent and an intelligent person. I also got to see how happy and relieved I was every time you returned to me. I never accepted that it was because of my own sense of learning that I grew up each time I always thought it was through your help and guidance. Xena I finally realized it was because of me…Do you think that's right?"
Xena smiled and kissed her on the cheek, "Yes, I think that this was one of your most important lessons from this trail. You needed to see that though we love each other you are ultimately responsible for yourself."
Gabrielle looked worried; "Do you think this means it will not help me?"
"No Sweetheart, It means that you should see what I have known for a long time. You are your own person. You don't need me or anyone to help you. You are quite capable of helping yourself."
Gabrielle looked up into beautiful warm blue eyes and not only saw the love she knew would be reflected there but also respect and admiration. That astonished her and her lips trembled as she asked, "Really?"
Xena shook her head at the wonder in those beloved sea green eyes and kissed her deeply making Gabrielle almost forget what she had asked the warrior. Then when they parted Xena cupped both cheeks in her hands looked deeply into her eyes and said simply, "Really."
Gabrielle smiled and blushed as she asked quietly, "Do you know how much I love you?"
"Yes, because I love you just as much," Then Xena brought Gabrielle's lips back to her and kissed her so intensely that her toes curled. Gabrielle reached out with one hand and covered her head with the blanket she wanted to concentrate on her warrior and forget for a little while that she was in a settlement surrounded by strangers.
Aphrodite appeared and put a tent around them then she blew them a kiss and whispered with a great big smile on her pretty face, "Have fun you two."
*** *** *** ***
Xena woke up first, she was firmly held within Gabrielle's loving arms. Her eyes followed the lines of a bright pink tent that surrounded them. Slightly surprised she smiled and shook her head.
"Aphrodite?" She whispered.
"You called?" Asked the blonde Goddess with a smirk on her face.
Xena's smile widened and she mouth the words, "Thank you."
"You can speak normally I fixed it so we won't wake sweet pea and it's was a pleasure to assist you to have a tiny bit of privacy," She said with a wink.
Xena looked down at the peacefully sleeping woman who was nestled against her, the beloved head resting on the warrior's shoulder. "Is she okay?" Asked a worried Xena in a normal voice.
"Of course I just thought she needed a full nights sleep and so I provided you with a little privacy for last night."
Xena gently brushed some hair out of the lovely young woman's eyes and sighed as she looked at her loves peaceful face. "Is all the pain she is going through worth this? This trail seems to be bringing up every painful memory my beloved has ever gone through. I can't stand to watch the torment, all I want is for her to be happy."
"Xena, she won't be happy till your back where you belong. She is a strong woman and she wants this. This is her decision not yours."
"I know that," Said the unhappy woman her head dropping till she was nuzzling the top of the sleeping woman's head.
Aphrodite sat down in mid-air and shook her head at the warrior, "Xena, you are the bravest woman I know and you taught that little one everything and you taught her well. Isis did tell me something to tell you when the time was right and I think that time is now."
"What's that?" asked the warrior quietly.
"Move forward with courage."
"What the hell does that mean?"
Aphrodite shrugged her shoulders and said, "I don't know but Isis said that you and Gabrielle will. See ya," And she was gone in a puff of pink smoke.
"Hey you forgot your tent!" Called Xena.
"Mmm?" Mumbled Gabrielle sleepily.
She also took the spell off with out telling me, Gee thanks old friend, Thoughtthe warrior as she kissed her love gently on the cheek.
"Who were you talking to?" Asked Gabrielle in a sleepy voice.
"Aphrodite, take a look around us."
Sleepy green eyes blinked open and widened in surprise, "Why did she do this? What must the other pilgrims think?"
"Who cares what they think…Gabrielle this is your journey. Only yours…we'll do what ever you want to do." Xena looked off into space for a minute; "I hate to see you suffer all the pain you are…If you want to stop…"
"NO!" Yelled Gabrielle sitting up straight almost knocking Xena on to the floor she was so unprepared for the violent reaction. Gabrielle grabbed her and pulled her back to her. She took a breath and looked deeply into Xena's concerned eyes.
"I can't and won't stop. I can deal with all this pain. I can. I will suffer anything to get you back. I have to keep going…I know we will win this. I will have you fully back, I know it."
Xena nodded and looked down, "Ok…I understand" Then she shook her head and muttered to herself, "Move forward with courage" She finally understood what it meant.
"Apparently, Isis told Aphrodite that when the time was right to hear it to tell us to move forward with courage. I know what that means now. It's your courage. It's all up to you. You have done that. You grabbed onto this trail with those two strong hands and won't let go." She picked up the hands and brought each gently to her lips kissing them on the palm with such gentleness it broke Gabrielle's heart. "I am so proud of you."
Gabrielle had tears pour down her cheeks she brought Xena closer and hugged her whispering hoarsely into her ear, "You don't know what that means to me. Thank you, Xena."
Xena backed up slightly so she could look into the teary green eyes. She shook her head and her eyes showed confusion as she said, "Gabrielle, I have always been proud of you."
Gabrielle reached out and caressed the warrior's cheek; "I know that. It's just that this time I actually feel it. Before they were just words to me but this time I can feel in my heart that you mean every word."
Xena hugged Gabrielle tightly enjoying the warmth of the return on the hug she was receiving from her beloved. She pulled back and wiped the tears from her eyes as she said gently, "I always meant it. I am proud of you and I have been for a long, long time. Its not just my love for you talking I think you are an incredible woman."
"Thank you. I love you."
"I love you too," They kissed deeply with all the love they had for each other. When they pulled back Xena looked at the tent, "What the hell are we going to do with this pink tent?"
Gabrielle laughed accepting the change of subject with grace. She shrugged her shoulders and looked at it with amusement. "I don't know. She couldn't have made it more conspicuous could she?"
"Hey, I resent that!" Said the Goddess suddenly appearing in the center of the tent with a major pout on her pretty face.
"You mean you resemble that?" Replied Xena with a smirk. "Ok, Can you please get rid of it? Gabrielle needs to get on the trail and she can't carry this thing on her back."
"Gee, Thanks for all the gratitude!" And in puff of angry pink smoke she and the tent were gone.
They were alone in the settlement much to their relief. Gabrielle got up and packed her things "We are grateful Aphrodite, it's just that was …well kind of…"
"Strange, "Supplied Xena.
They smiled at each other and shook their heads. Gabrielle picked up her pack and put it over her shoulder.
The Goddess suddenly appeared in front of them "What was strange?"
"A pink tent." Said Gabrielle gently.
"I like pink, "Replied the Goddess with a pout.
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other and burst out laughing. When they caught their breath they said, "We know, " At the exact same time and doubled over with laughter in reaction to it.
"Hey, Thanks for making fun of me, Friends!" Said an angry Aphrodite as she disappeared again
They both sobered and looked at each other with a deep understanding of their friend's antics, "We are your friends and we are grateful. Thanks for caring." Said Gabrielle as she started down the trail again. Xena walked by her side as the sound of Aphrodite's laughter floated down to them.
"Your welcome, Sweet pea."
*** *** *** ***
Gabrielle was on the trail alone again because it was a new day and Xena was giving her space so she could go through today's test with out the warrior's influence. Xena was in her space in limbo pacing nervously. She felt more then a little nervous because her instincts were screaming at her that today would be the hardest day her love would face on the trail. She paced and kept vigil as Gabrielle calmly walked the trail with the other pilgrims.
Suddenly Gabrielle stiffened; She stopped and looked about her wildly as she ran off the path toward the forest surrounding her.
"What the hell!?!" Xena yelled and was about to follow her scared partner when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"She thinks that she is being chased by a pack of wild dogs," Xena turned sharply as she faced the Goddess Isis with cold angry blue eyes.
"Why would she think that?"
Isis shrugged, "It is an illusion created by an enemy…"
Isis calm eyes met blazing blue ones as she said, "Akime."
"What!" Xena screamed as she turned to watch the frightened woman run through the woods. Xena was about to chase after her in order to help her when the Goddess' grip tightened on her arm.
"Xena wait! Gabrielle has to deal with her on her own. Akime has a great fear of your soulmate."
"Why?" Xena asked her voice full of anger at the Goddess and fear for her beloved. She tried to pull away so she could help but the Goddess' grip was too firm.
"Because she knows that if Gabrielle succeeds in this quest she will have to take your place. She will have to leave being a freed spirit and be doomed to walk the earth alone. You sacrificed yourself but you have people who love you. Your spirit is not deserted or alone. You are shackled and you can't leave the Earth but you don't want to. You want to be with your soulmate. Who loves Akime? Who would do for her what your Gabrielle is now doing for you? She will be invisible and that is the worse torment any soul can suffer."
Xena closed her eyes and nodded her head. She slowly opened her eyes again and met Isis's gaze steadily as she said quietly, " I have to help…"
"Wait and watch, Xena. You may just be surprised. " She gently turned the warrior so she watched what was happening in the living world. She saw that Gabrielle suddenly stopped and looked around her suspiciously. Xena could see that Gabrielle had realized that someone was playing mind games with her reality. She tensed as the dogs came closer but she didn't move she bravely waited to see if her theory was correct.
Suddenly the sound of the pack of dogs stopped and she was face to face with her real enemy. Akime suddenly appeared with a kata' in her hands.
"Akime, I thought so." She said as she pulled out her sais her face was a mask of calm but Xena could see the anger in the glittering green eyes.
"Gabrielle," Replied Akime calmly as she bowed at her opponent. "How did you know that the dogs weren't real?"
Gabrielle smirked smugly as she watched the woman warily, "The sounds of the dogs never varied. It was suppose to be a pack of dogs and yet it was the same barks over and over again. Even as I went up and down that hill over there the sound never changed. I suddenly realized it was an illusion I was running from."
"And how do you know that I am not an illusion?"
"Because this whole mess is your fault. If it weren't for you Xena would be alive and well. You are the greatest user I have heard of, do you know that? Your very clever you reached for that sweetness that was buried inside Xena's hurt and then manipulated her with it. First you conned her into taking you to your father and killed him creating that horrible monster that Xena just fought. You conned her into killing you breaking her heart and clouding that brilliant mind with grief. Then came the cruelest and most evil thing you did, you told her to take your ashes somewhere you knew that the people would never accept you at. You caused her to kill innocents she would never of touched because she was protecting you and keeping a promise that you knew she would never break. You caused this to her soul and bound her to a promise that should never have been asked if you cared for her at all. You didn't did you? You have the sweet face of innocence but you have the cruelest soul I have ever had the misfortune to meet. I am here to correct this injustice."
"How? I am spirit, you can't do anything to me."
"The Camino can or you wouldn't even be here. You certainly wouldn't be threatening me with that weapon."
Akime's face suddenly changed to a mask of pure rage as she attacked the living woman. Gabrielle easily blocked the attack with her sais pleased that she could protect herself given that she was fighting a spirit. Akime gave her an opening and Gabrielle took it attempting to make a strike against her fighting hand so she could end this quickly but the blow went right through the smaller woman's arm. Akime smiled viscously and attacked Gabrielle again as she realized her advantage over the living woman.
Suddenly a sword appeared to block what would have been a fatal blow of the kata'. Xena blocked the attack with such force the smaller woman found herself on the ground before the angry warrior. Xena put herself between the attacker and her soulmate.
"No my love, This time I can do something. In fact it's my duty to do something. I am not only your champion I am a ghost. I can stop her and I am going to do just that…"
"Oh Xena please, you don't want to hurt me do you? " Asked the frightened innocent looking woman on the ground.
Xena's lips suddenly curved into a grim line as she replied angrily, "Don't even think of trying to convince me that you're a sweet innocent anymore. I will not allow you to insult my intelligence. I am not falling for it especially when you are trying to destroy my soulmate."
"I am only protecting myself, Xena. She is trying to destroy me…"
"No, you did that a long time ago. You destroyed yourself. This whole disaster is your fault. Your blind hatred did that. It's at an end though…"Xena's eyes were focused on the eyes she had once loved and but that she now despised. She circled her opponent warily in a dance of equal warriors. The true samurai came out of the smaller woman she was very effective in her movements and Xena silently berated herself for falling for the pretty woman's manipulations. If she had been a sweet faced man this would never of happened,She thought grimly to herself. Xena was a superior warrior in every sense of the word easily blocked every attempt against her.
Xena saw her opening and struck such a hard blow that kata' flew out of Akime's hand and disappeared. Akime bowed her head as sign of her failure and pulled down her Kimono so Xena would be able to see her neck.
"Ok Warrior you win strike the final blow…"
"What do you mean no you know that…"
"I mean no. I will not fall for that again. Isis told me all I have to do is gently touch my sword against your shoulder and your free spirit will be shackled. Goodbye Akime," She said quietly as she touched her shoulder. Suddenly the other spirit seemed to burst into flame. Flames were all around Xena she smiled and walked right toward it.
"NO!!!!!!!!" Screamed Gabrielle terrified.
"Shhh, Little one. Be calm. Wait, " Said the sweet calming voice of Aphrodite. The goddess was holding the struggling Amazon back. They both watched silently as Xena was about to walk into a block of flame she stopped and turned to look at her bard with a face of pure love gently blowing her a kiss and then she disappeared into the wall of fire. As soon as she was gone the fire disappeared.
Gabrielle completely broke down, she threw herself into Aphrodite's arms and sobbed saying, "I have lost her forever now…"
"No little one, You now have her back. Look." Said the Goddess pointing in the opposite direction Gabrielle looked and she could hardly breathe. There was Xena walking toward them.
"Just go to her…go on" Aphrodite gently pushed the smaller woman and Gabrielle needed no further instruction from the Goddess she ran to her warrior. She jumped into the outstretched arms and hugged and kissed the taller woman. Xena brought her love as tight against her body as she could kissing her back and delighting in the wonderful scent and touch of her love.
"Are you…Are you….?" Stuttered Gabrielle.
"I'm all here again. Look, "Said Xena with a huge grin as she took the chakram from Gabrielle's back pack threw it in the air and caught it on her hip. "I guess we'll have to take turns sharing this now, hmm?"
Gabrielle laughed and kissed her cheek as Xena nuzzled her neck, "No, its all yours, Xena. Oh Xena your home. Your really home."
Xena kissed Gabrielle deeply with all her love and then gently put her on her feet. "Thanks to you my love. Thanks entirely to you."
*** *** *** ****
They had finished the Camino and now were sitting side by side in front of fire in their own camp all alone.
"So where would you like to go now that I'm back?"
Gabrielle was leaning against Xena's shoulder she looked up into the patiently waiting face and shrugged. "I don't care where we go as long as we're together. Where would you like to go? Would like to go back to Egypt or home?"
Xena brought her love into her lap and kissed the top of her head. "I'd like to go to Egypt. Would you like that?"
Gabrielle nuzzled the warm neck she was leaning against and said quietly, "I liked it there. Um…Xena…Are you ….?"
Xena pulled back so she could look into the confused green eyes," Am I what, Sweetheart?"
"Are your glad your back?"
"I mean you had to shackle Akime and…"
"She did that to herself. I was the instrument but she caused her own destruction. I don't regret it. She tried to take me away from where I belonged so she could be free. I was meant to be with you. I missed you. Even when I was with you I missed you cause I couldn't do this…" She smiled saucily as she reached out peeled a grape and popped it into her loves mouth. The effect of the playful gesture was that Gabrielle smiled delightfully which was all Xena wanted for her love. That she'd be happy. Always. "I missed all the things we did together. Cooking, cleaning, bathing, unpacking camp and packing up camp. Eating and feeding you. I missed all the things you take for granted when your alive. I would have been ok being only a spirit but I think that would of destroyed you and therefore it would have destroyed me. I think we need to be fully and completely together. Forever."
"I like the sound of that." Said Gabrielle quietly.
They were quiet for a while just enjoying each others presence when Gabrielle suddenly looked up and said, "Thank you Aphrodite."
Xena smiled and kissed her bard then she looked up and said, "Yeah thanks Aphrodite. You are a really good friend."
"Hey I was just glad to help, "Said the goddess floating above the fire with a smirk. "You do know that I love you guys don't you?"
Xena looked up at the Goddess and then down at the smiling green eyes beside her. She hugged her love even closer and said, "We love you too. Very much."
"I know that. Ok you two get some sleep. I don't think Xena had any as a spirit and Gabrielle could use some. See ya!" She was gone again.
"You know when she has a good idea she has a really good idea, "Said Xena as she picked up the smaller woman and carried her to their bedroll.
"I think she meant to actually sleep, Xena"