copyright 1996 by simahoyo, except for characters belonging to Universal Pictures and Rennaissance.

Xena sat on a log at the edge of the circle of light from the campfire, sharpening her sword. The, 'zing", of metal against stone comforted her, as her hands worked automatically after many year's experience. Right edge upstroke, left edge down stroke. Each long stroke building an edge which would cut through skin, muscle and even bone. Xena tensed. Someone was coming and it wasn't Gabrielle.

Gabrielle had been in one of her silent, secretive moods and was rolled in a blanket pretending to sleep. The shape coming towards her was an old woman with deep, liquid, brown/black eyes, a sharp face and grey hair. She was wearing a long skirt with bright colors shaped into intricate diamonds and triangles, a rounded cape and an impossible number of beads around her neck. Xena relaxed. She was only her spirit guide.

"Hello Grandmother.", said Xena.

"Hello yourself." said Grandmother Spirit.

Xena moved over on the log and waited for her spirit guide to sit down.

"How's your bones?" asked Xena.

"Fine. How's your heart?", asked Grandmother Spirit.

Xena thought about it. She leaned into her sword sharpening again.

"I haven't found peace yet. I wonder if I ever will.", said Xena.

"You found me, didn't you?", asked Grandmother Spirit.

"Yes. I found you. And I found Gabrielle. You sent her to me, didn't you?", asked Xena.

"Your heart did. You got a good heart.", said Grandmother Spirit.

"I didn't always.", said Xena.

"Sure you did. You just fell off the road for a while. You listen to your heart and you'll be okay.", said Grandmother Spirit.

"Uh huh.", said Xena.

"Uh huh.", said Grandmother Spirit, then she laughed.

Xena smiled big now, enjoying the joke.

"I musta broke something when I fell.", she said.

"You be real careful. That little girl, she needs your help.", said Grandmother Spirit.

"She won't let me.", said Xena. "Every time I speak from my heart, she hits me with a volley of words."

"She knows that words are things. She's a good warrior. You listen how she uses her weapons. Think about how to fight back. Then you'll be able to help her.", said Grandmother Spirit.

Xena thought for a long time. Ideas were beginning to flow.

"Thank you, Grandmother.", said Xena.

And the vision was gone.*


Xena put her sharpening tools away after testing her blade. She sheathed her sword, unstrapped the scabbard, and slipped out of her armor. Wearing just a chiton, she took to sheathed sword to her bedroll, put it within easy reach, and climbed in to her blankets. Gabrielle had her back to Xena. Xena knew she was awake. Sometimes actions paid off best. Xena reached over and hugged Gabrielle. Gabrielle turned to face her, pretending she was just waking up.

"Hi.", she said.

"Hi. I still can't sleep, so being such a good friend and all, I decided to wake you up for company.", said Xena.

"Thanks tons.", sniffed Gabrielle. But she snuggled closer to Xena. Xena gave her a quick kiss, then put an arm around her.

"Tell me a story.", said Gabrielle.

It was a standing joke between them, since Xena was no storyteller, but Xena remembered how words were things and took the challenge.

"Okay, this is about how my father left and what I did after that.", said Xena. "I was about five. Mother had three kids in as many years, and I guess it was too much for my father. He wasn't big on responsibility, I guess. So I watched him ride down the road that last time and somehow I knew this was different. Somehow I knew he was leaving the road and I'd never see him again."

"When he didn't come back, the other kids were so cruel. They said he left because of me. That he didn't love me because I was bad. I got mad and shoved one of them. He shoved me back, so I hit him. We got into a fight and I sent him home with a split lip and a broken tooth. That was the beginning of my career as village bully. I picked on all the kids, bigger, smaller, same made no difference to me. I finally settled down when Mother made me go to work for her at the inn, but I still made a great bouncer.", said Xena. "Your turn."

"What do you mean, my turn?", said Gabrielle.

("Good parry.", thought Xena "Now what?")

"What kind of kid were you?", asked Xena.

("Thrust.", she thought.)

"You don't want to hear this, it's boring.", said Gabrielle.

("As she deflects the blade.", thought Xena.)

"Everything about you fascinates me.", said Xena.

("She's backed against the wall.", thought Xena.)

"Okay, I was a real nerd. I read every weird scroll I could get my hands on. I pestered every wandering storyteller who came near Potedia. Then this old declamation teacher retired to my village. I was at his house every single day, begging him to teach me."

"The other kids couldn't stand me. My own sister lead the bullies who beat me up once a week."

Gabrielle was glaring at Xena, remembering.

"On behalf of us former bullies, I'm sorry.", said Xena.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I learned to attack with words. The other kids would start after me and I'd call them, 'mentally deranged, microscopic minded, sons of gryphons.'", said Gabrielle.

"Mentally deranged, microscopic what?", asked Xena.

"Microscopic minded sons of gryphons." said Gabrielle. "That shut them up."

"It sure would have stopped me.", said Xena.

"I was so lonely. Then Daddy wanted me to marry Perdicas. I didn't want to, but I thought maybe if I was married I wouldn't be so lonely. Maybe my children would love me.", she said.

"I love you.", said Xena.

Gabrielle was absolutely silent. She looked at Xena, fear in her eyes. Xena stroked her cheek, then ran her thumb across Gabrielle's lips.

"Enough mushy stuff. Let's do it.", said Gabrielle.

("She's backing me down", thought Xena)

"Nope.", said Xena. "Not until you say it."

("Lunge", thought Xena.

"Say what?", said Gabrielle, all innocence.

("Gods, she's knocked my sword out of my hand., thought Xena.)

"How do you feel about me?", said Xena.

"I care for you.", said Gabrielle.

Xena took her face in both hands.

"And...?", said Xena.

"I'd follow you to Charon's Ferry.", said Gabrielle.

"Meaning?", asked Xena.

Gabrielle struggled to look away, but blue eyes bored into hers. Fire leapt from green eyes. Gabrielle was silent.

"Gods, she's stubborn.", thought Xena. "If I asked her if she loves me, she'll just say,' yes.'"

"Gabrielle, I want to hear you say the words. Please. It's just three short words. Can you do it, or are you going to hurt my heart again?", asked Xena.

"I never meant to...I...I (her voice dropped to a tiny whisper) love you.", she said.

And Xena held her close. She'd had hand to hand combat with Gabrielle's weapons and Xena had won. Actually they both had won. Grandmother Spirit gave good advise.

* spirit guides can be from any culture or time period. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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