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It seemed like just another ordinary night as the wind blew gently against the trees. Leaves fell quietly as the moon spot lighted them from time to time. Xena and Gabrielle sat beside their campfire trying to stay warm on this fall night. Gabrielle was cleaning some fish that she had caught earlier in the evening as Xena sharpened her sword. They both felt a little uneasy and the silence among them was uncomfortable. Finally Gabrielle spoke.
"Xena, there is something that has been on my mind and I think I need to talk with you about it."
Xena placed her sword inside her sheath and sat with her full attention towards Gabrielle. "Is there something wrong?"
"Do you remember when I was wounded at the temple and you brought me back to life?"
"How could I forget?"
Well, there is something that I never told you about that experience. When I came back I was a little fuzzy, not to mention in quite a lot of pain from my wound, but I have had time to think about it every day since and there is something that I don't understand."
"What is it Gabrielle?"
"When I was on the other side I saw people who I had cared for deeply that had passed over. Some of my friends were there, my grandparents, Perdicus... yet I was drawn to this one woman imparticularly. She stood out from all the rest, not by her appearance, but more so from a deep glow within her. I could hear you calling my name. You were crying and you wanted me to return, yet I felt compelled to approach this woman first."
"Who was she Gabrielle? Did you recognize her?"
"I walked over to her and she motioned for me to sit beside her on a long flat rock. I did so. The rock was unlike any that we have here. It was the deepest shade of silver I had ever seen, and it was soft as I sat down upon it...as if it were welcoming me."
"She called me by name and said that she had been watching me. I asked her for her name and she simply replied that it was not important what I call her as she was always with me."
"I tried to look through this woman , trying to recall any memories I might have had of her, but none came. Again she told me that she had been with me and that she was proud of the many things I had accomplished in my life."
Xena looked into my eyes and I felt a slight twinge inside me as I remembered what she told me next.
Gabrielle continued, "She reached for my hand and held it out in front of me. She told me to focus at my palm. When I did so I saw images of you back at the temple trying to revive my body. This immediately made me pull away from this stranger and try to return to you but she held me there and told me to look into her eyes."
"She said that she knew my heart and that there were some things left undone that needed to be attended to or else I would never be truly happy. When I asked her if she could explain further she again showed me the image of you back at the temple. With a final squeeze of my hand she sent me away saying this,'Follow your heart and know what you must do'. With that I was sent whirling ,for what seemed like eternity, and awoke to find you standing over me."
Xena continued to listen as Gabrielle got up and put the fish she had been cleaning on the fire to cook.
"Xena, I have been going over this in my mind ever since that day and I just continue to get an ill feeling in my stomach when I do. Whatever it is that I have to do is directly related with you."
Xena felt a chill go down her spine yet tried to keep a still face, wondering what her friend was going to say next.
"Do you have any idea what this woman was saying to you?"
"Not yet... that's why I decided to tell you, so that maybe you could help me figure it out."
"Gabrielle, did she say anything else? Anything that may have been a clue for you to follow?
"Not that I can remember. I guess I'll have to wait until something triggers another memory."
Gabrielle moved her hand toward Xena and placed it on her shoulder. Xena responded by giving her hand a small squeeze and looked into Gabrielle's eyes. Tears were falling from the corners and xena's heart began to hurt. What was her friend feeling that was causing her so much pain? There must be something she wasn't telling her. Something that she didn't think Xena could handle. All she could do was embrace her friend, and hold her until her tears stopped coming. They sat that way until the fish began to blacken and Gabrielle had begun to fall asleep.
When Gabrielle had finally awoke, two hours had passed. Xena had saved some fish for her and handed it to her in a make shift plate they had found on their journeys.
"Thank you for dinner... I guess I must have fallen asleep."
"Yup, better eat it soon before it gets too cold."
Gabrielle sat up and began to eat. Xena tried to stay busy with the dinner clean up. She didn't know how to help Gabrielle. She didn't know what to say. She needed more time to think.
I'm going down to the river to take a swim. I'll be back soon." With that Xena walked out of sight. Gabrielle finished her food and rolled out the bed gear. It was going to be a long night.
Xena stripped down to just her shift and dove into the water before completely realizing how cold it was. She came up quick gasping for air that her lungs were in quick need of. Maybe the cold water would help her clear her head. She thought back to the day at the temple when gabrielle died. She thought she had lost her friend, her companion whom she had grown so fond of. The pain was too overwhelming and she dove to the bottom of the river. Trying to stay underwater for as long as possible, Xena felt her self becoming lightheaded and surfaced. She turned around quickly and saw the shape of a woman sitting on the banks of the river. Was her head playing tricks on her from the lack of oxygen or were her senses correct?
"Gabrielle, is that you?" She waited and heard no reply. She couldn't make out the features because of the darkness yet she knew somehow that she was a woman. Finally a very calm voice said,"Do not fear me Xena. I am the one your friend spoke of earlier."
"What do you want of me?" Xena became defensive in spite of her gently voice and swam to the bank where the woman sat on a tree limb slightly hovering the water.
"I come only to be of help, please..... come closer."
Xena climbed up out of the water and put her shirt on before walking over to the figure on the limb.
"Sit down my child, I only wish to speak with you. I know of your compassion for Gabrielle and I trust you with her life."
"She means more than you'll ever know. Are you a god? Why are you here tonight?"
"Gabrielle is very dear to me Xena and I know she is confused about our last meeting."
"Last meeting? Have there been others?"
"That's not for you to worry about right now. I come to give you something that may help her to understand what she is called to do. Gabrielle is young and innocent and knows nothing of what is expected of her. She must come to her understanding on her own. This is Very important."
"I give you this charm. Give it to gabrielle and tell her that she is to look for the other half. When she finds it, she will know in her heart what she is to do."
Xena reached out for the charm and studied it . "Where should....." Xena looked up and the woman was gone.
Xena studied the charm once more. It was shiny..appeared to be silver. It was half of a pattern Xena could recognize. She held it in her hand tightly as she began to make her way back to camp.
Gabrielle was writing in her journal when Xena arrived. Xena sat next to her on the bed roll and opened her hand. Gabrielle stared at the piece of metal but did not understand what it was.
"What is that Xena? Where did you find it?"
"Gabrielle, sit back... I'm going to try to explain what happened to me while I was at the river, though I do not understand it fully myself."
When Xena was done telling her about the course of events that had just happened, Gabrielle took the charm out of Xena's hand and looked at it carefully.
"Do you recognize this Gabrielle?"
"No, I've never seen anything like it before. Wait... It's the same shade of silver as that rock was that I told you of earlier. I wonder what it means?"
I'm not sure of that myself, but the woman..spirit...whatever, told me that when you found the other half that you would know what to do. She said that she trusted me with your life which may indicate that there will be trouble awaiting us."
"Oh Xena, I'm so happy that she sees us figuring this out together. I didn't know if I was suppose to leave you and go out on my own to find the answer. When I kept seeing your image back at the temple, I could feel your pain. I thought that maybe I would cause you more pain if I stayed with you. I hoped deep in my heart that I was wrong..."
"Is that why you were crying before? Were you thinking about leaving me?"
Xena pulled her knees into herself and turned away so Gabrielle wouldn't see the pain in her eyes.
"Xena, please don't turn away. Don't you know it would hurt me too if I had to go?"
"You've left before Gabrielle. You just up and went off to the Academy.. and you left to marry Perdicus..."
Xena realized that what she had been thinking about for months, she had just blurted out in anger. "I didn't mean to..."
"Xena ..." Gabrielle didn't know what to say to her friend. She too had been thinking about the times she had left Xena in the past. So many thoughts and feelings were running through her head.
Xena turned over on her side and tried not to let the tears welling up in her eyes drop. "Why don't we just get some rest. We'll talk more in the morning".
"Gabrielle knew when and when not to push Xena and this was definitely Not one of those times to push.
Both awoke early the next morning and started to break camp. They said little over breakfast as Xena kept hearing the words of the stranger,'She must come to her understanding on her own'.
Xena got Argo ready and climbed into the saddle. Gabrielle walked along side in silence until she spoke, startling the warrior...
"Xena, I've been thinking about this charm all night and about where we are suppose to look for the other half. I just remembered something I had been writing in my journal when you went for your swim. Now that I look back on it, I think it may be some sort of clue. Let me get my journal out and show you."
Gabrielle reached inside of her bag that was strapped on to Argo and got out her journal. She flipped through many pages before coming to this one which read, " I know not where to turn, though the valley may be long and wide, a lesson I must learn. Be it to the hills or to the coast, look to the one you love the most."
"Look to the one you love the most! You know how I love the coast.. maybe we should head that way to look for the other half of the charm. What do you think?"
"It's your heart that must know the way.... whatever you think Gabrielle."
"Okay, let's move east then. Seems like we're in for quite a day of long travel... do you mind if I ride with you?"
Xena reached her arm out for Gabrielle who hoisted herself up in back of Xena. They traveled for most of the day and stopped to make camp among a clearing at night fall.
"Nice to be on land again", said Gabrielle as she hopped down.
Xena laughed to herself as she knew how much gabrielle dislike riding Argo. Camp was set up in the usual fashion and Xena went out hoping to find something for dinner. Gabrielle got the fire going just in time to see Xena coming back through the woods with a rabbit, skinned and ready for cooking. Gabrielle put a pot of water on and picked some wild herbs for tea. Dinner was cooked in no time and after they were filled to their content, they sat around the fire savoring the tea that had just boiled.
"Xena, where do you think we should look when we get to the coast? Maybe we will get more clues along the way?"
"I don't know...your in charge of this expedition- and don't get too used to the idea. Things go right back to normal once we've figured this all out. Can't have my reputation blemished as I'm seen following a bard around."
They both laughed heartily for the first time in days, and it felt good.
"We should get to the coast by mid day tomorrow if we turn in now and get some rest. Throw some more wood on the fire- it looks like we're in for a cold one."
Xena unrolled her bed roll and settled in for the night. Gabrielle lay beside her wondering what the following day might bring.
Camp packed up, they were on their way by early morning. They were making good time and the path was nearly clear the whole way. As they came nearer to the coast Gabrielle spotted an odd looking cave. "Let's explore over there Xena, maybe we'll find something?"
As they reached the entrance of the cave, gabrielle noticed a long silver rock just above the clearing, reminding her of the one she saw on the other side. "Maybe we're onto something here..."
Xena took her sword out of the sheath and walked in front of Gabrielle into the cave. "Stay behind me and get your staff just in case we run into trouble." The cave looked like any ordinary cave- except for a pool of water near the center. The two walked over to it and were amazed when they saw their reflections. They were standing about a foot away from each other yet their reflections were seen as one. "Maybe this is a sign that we are near the other half of the charm." Gabrielle searched the shallow pool with her hand but found nothing.
"Stay here Gabrielle, I am going around the back to make sure it's safe . I'll be back." Gabrielle stayed near the pool of water looking at her reflection again. This time only half of her reflection showed up- the other half was missing. "Maybe this is a sign" she said to herself while studying the pool. "I don't understand, what is it I'm suppose to do here?"
Just as she was about to turn away, she saw the reflection of the stranger in the pool. "Why do you search so hard and not look for the obvious?"
Just as quickly as she had appeared, she had again vanished. Xena returned and Gabrielle proceeded to tell her about the vision.
"Did you understand what she was telling you?" Xena hoped that her friend was starting to understand.
"I still don't know where the other half of this charm is. Let's keep traveling Xena. Maybe we'll come across something else..."
Xena watched as Gabrielle walked out of the cave. She stayed behind for just a moment to look into the pool again when the stranger's reflection appeared once more. "Xena, I know you know the answer. I feel it in your heart. You are a good soul.. don't ever forget that. Gabrielle has to figure this out on her own. Be strong and have faith in your friend." Again the reflection vanished and Xena walked out of the cave saying nothing to Gabrielle.
They rode for the rest of the day but came across nothing out of the usual. They were riding down a hill towards th coast when Argo stepped into a hole and fell. Xena and Gabrielle were not hurt in the fall, but Argo was sore and needed to rest so they made camp early and set up in a clearing of trees.
After tending to Argo and making sure he was comfortable, Xena set out for a walk. "I'll go check the surrounding area and see if I can't find us dinner".
"Gabrielle sat at the camp site and for the first time since she had crossed over felt utterly alone. She took out her journal thinking if she wrote down her thoughts she may be able to understand them better. Just as she was getting her journal out she heard a noise in the tree above her.
Maybe it was just the wind, she thought to herself, feeling a little on edge. She sat down on a blanket and opened up her journal. She wrote the question that had been on her mind since the meeting with the stranger... 'What will make me truly happy?'
Just as she was about to start writing, a bird in the tree above her flew away knocking a small nest down to the ground in front of her. She looked inside the nest and saw two unborn eggs- one with a crack down the outer layer. Instinctively she picked up the cracked egg and held it carefully in her hands, hoping to protect it. As she did this she heard the womans' voice coming from the tree above her,"You know how to help others, comfort others, love others- That's what your doing with the egg you just picked up. But who will take care of the other egg... the whole egg?"
As she looked up to see where the voice was coming from, it vanished...along with the eggs and the nest.
Gabrielle was getting upset and frustrated. She began writing in her journal... "What would you have me do? You keep coming and giving me vague clues on how to find happiness. I don't even know where I'm suppose to look. Where is the other half of the charm and how will I know what to do with it? How will that answer all my questions? I feel so alone. Yes I reach out to people.. I've always done that. I picked up the cracked egg because that is who I am. I've always taken care of people, my family, my friends, Xena... Who will take care of the whole egg? What does that mean? I can see where Xena might represent the cracked egg. She needs someone to hold her, protect her. Am I the whole egg? "Who will take care of the whole egg?" What does that mean? Xena takes care of me- we're best of friends.
Just then Xena walked in to camp with three fish. Gabrielle quickly put her journal away and walked over to help Xena prepare dinner. "How's everything going back here?"
"Oh, fine... I've just been trying to get my thoughts in order. Those fish look great. Why don't I clean them while you take a rest. I've laid out the bed rolls on some soft grass under the tree."
"That sounds wonderful... thanks Gabrielle."
Gabrielle made dinner and let Xena sleep for awhile. She looked so tense sleeping, her muscles twitching. Suddenly Xena started to talk in her sleep. It sounded like she was weeping. Gabrielle went over and sat down next to her, being careful not to wake the warrior suddenly. If she'd learned one thing on all their adventures it was not to startle Xena.
Xena began to sob again and Gabrielle held her close to her. She thought again to the cracked egg as she looked at Xena. She was caring for her like she had always done. Why was she crying? What could be hurting her so much inside? What can I do to ease your pain?
Xena suddenly woke up and found that she was lying with her head in Gabrielle's lap. "What happened?"
"You had a bad dream, it's okay... I'm here." With that Gabrielle stroked her fingers through Xena's hair." Xena wondered if she were still dreaming.
"Thank you for comforting me Gabrielle."
"You know I'm always here for you- always."
"I know." Xena looked at the ground to hide the tears that were again forming. She thought to herself... If she only knew how much I needed her. If she knew what her touch does to me. Gabrielle, I hope you figure this out soon because it's hurting me too much not to have you completely in my life.
Gabrielle felt her companion's tears rolling into her lap and she kissed her head. Xena was ready to tell her how much she needed her when the woman's voice rang through her head again. 'She must come to her understanding on her own. Be strong and have faith in your friend." Xena simply lay there allowing Gabrielle to hold her until the fish were ready to eat. Begrudgingly they both got up and saved their catch before the fire had devoured it.
It was very cold out that night and both bed rolls were pulled in close together so they could keep warmer. Gabrielle couldn't stop thinking about the day's events. What would make her truly happy? She thought she was happy...being with Xena, traveling around with the woman she loved. Was Xena happy? She honestly couldn't answer that question. She had never asked the warrior. Maybe she should, she thought...
Gabrielle rolled over and faced Xena. The blankets were pulled up over them both to ward off the cold. "Xena, are you truly happy traveling around with me? Am I keeping you from doing anything you want to do?
Xena didn't know how to truthfully answer this question. "Yes, I am very happy with you Gabrielle, and yes you are keeping me from doing something I've always wanted to do.
Gabrielle was shocked at her answer and just stared at her with a blank face. "Xena, I would never want to hold you back from anything or anyone. I want you to be happy. My happiness comes from your happiness." Those words echoed in her head again, 'my happiness comes from your happiness.' Could that be the answer I've been looking for?
"Xena, I think I'm starting to understand." Xena's heart started to pound hard in hopes that maybe she had gotten her answer.
"Gabrielle, I can't give you your answer. It has to come from you. What is your heart telling you.?"
"My heart tells me that I have never been happier in my life than I am right here with you. I feel alone when your not with me and I long to lie down next to you after a day of traveling together. My heart tells me that I need to let you take care of me also. I didn't understand my capacity for love I have for you, or the love you have for me. Xena... let me see your arm."
Gabrielle lifted Xena's shirt up and looked for a scar that she had seen many times when they were swimming. "where is that..." Gabrielle took the silver coin out of her bed roll and placed it side by side to the scar on Xena's arm. They were a perfect match.
"Xena.. why didn't you tell me? It's been right in front of me the whole time. It's you that can make me truly happy. I understand now and I think I always have. But you need to be happy also. What am I stopping you from doing?"
"With that Xena rolled over and kissed Gabrielle on the lips- very tenderly, very lightly. "That is what I have wanted to do since I can remember being with you. I want you to be not only my friend, but my partner, my lover. I have wanted you every night that we sleep under these stars. I've wanted to hold you everything I can get you to ride with me on Argo. You are what makes me happy Gabrielle."
Gabrielle moved closer and kissed Xena with a kiss that nearly stopped her heart. "Xena, I love you. I always have loved you, I just didn't realize how much. I'll be with you tonight.. I'll be with you always..."
As they lay together under the stars exploring each other's bodies and feeling whole, they looked up and saw an image of a woman high above them in the horizon smiling.
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