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PASSOVER OF FORGIVENESS

by JT chispas@ni.net

DISCLAIMERS:

STANDARD DISCLAIMER - Some of the characters belong to Universal, and Renaissance Pictures, and whoever else has a stake in Xena:Warrior Princess. The remaining characters, as well as most of the story is taken from Exodus and the Gospel of John. This is written just in fun, and no copyright infringement was intended.

SUBTEXT DISCLAIMER:

This story is based on the premise of two women very much in love with each other. While there are no graphic scenes involved, the theme runs through the story. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

 

ON ROAD

"Xena, this isnít like you. Iíve never known you to set out on such a journey without some kind of plan. You know, people to save, bad guys to beat up."

"I know," came the subdued reply, "I canít explain it either. I just know Iím supposed to go into Jerusalem. Now."

"But why Jerusalem?" the bard continued.

"Iím not sure. I think it has to do with meeting someone there. Believe me, this is as much a puzzle for me as for you. It just somehow seems part of my Destiny."

"Well, with it being one of their special feast days, your chances of meeting someone are certainly good!"

"What do you mean?" the warrior princess asked. She knew that this kind of question could easily lead into a long saga, but welcomed the story as a distraction from the nagging sense of the unknown.

"Itís a long story," her friend cautioned, looking for the signal to continue. At the imperceptible nod and slight grin, Gabrielle began. "The people of the One God had been living (if you could call it that) in Egypt under Pharaoh when their God sent a deliverer named Moses. He wasnít a mighty warrior, but his God helped him (not like our indifferent pantheon). Anyway, Pharaoh would decide to free Mosesí people and then would change his mind again. During this time, many plagues struck Egypt: rivers turned to blood, locusts swarmed the land, flies as thick as ....well, as thick as flies. Hail. Boils. Even frogs and lice! Each time Pharaoh would refuse to release them. The final plague was to be the slaughter of the firstborn. The One God instructed Moses to tell his people to slaughter a lamb, placing its blood on the two side posts of the door and on the upper door post. That night they were to roast the lamb and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They were to eat quickly, standing up, with their shoes on and their staff in hand. They did as they were told and sure enough, that night Death came through, taking all the firstborn, but passing over the homes that had been stained with the lambís blood. So from then until now they keep the feast of the Passover because God passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt and smote the Egyptians. "

"Smote???"

"OK, so I got a little carried away. So, to make a long story short..."

"Too late," her friend interrupted with a grin.

"As I was saying....Moses finally led the people out of Egypt with Pharaohís army in hot pursuit. They pulled up short at the edge of the Red Sea, Moses struck the shore with his staff and the waters parted, letting the children of Israel cross on dry land. When the chariots and army followed, Moses struck the bank on the other side and the waters returned, wiping out the entire army of Pharaoh."

"OK, enough for a while. Thanks for the history lesson. At least I have some kind of idea what to expect in Jerusalem." Then looking around, "Letís set up camp here. You roll out our bedding and Iíll go grab some fish from that stream."

Gabrielle was relieved that dinner would be soon. Day-old nutbread only lasts so long and her stomach was beginning to grumble. She arranged their bedding as always, Xenaís closest to the trail, her own bed as close to Xena as she felt she could get away with. As the warrior-fisherwoman approached with a good catch, Gabrielle was tending a small fire which she had started, much to her delight. Xena dropped the fish, eyed the bedding and went over to pull the two rolls closer together. Catching Gabrielleís eye, she muttered, "Itís easier to protect you if you are a little closer." Then, to herself, "Dammit. Why does she always catch me at this?"

After a good meal, the pair snuggled into their bedding. Unable to resist the opportunity to tease her friend, Gabrielle eyed the proximity of their blankets and said, "For protection, huh?" "Go to sleep, Gabrielle," came the soft reply. After a long dayís journey and a nice hot plate of fish, the blond was soon sleeping soundly, leaving her friend alone with her thoughts. "By the gods, this feels so natural, so comfortable. I have never felt so much..." her mind struggled for the word, "...peace? Is that it? This woman knows the worst of my past and believes in me so much that she has risked her life. And knowing my past, and what I am still capable of, she loves me. Athena? Cupid? Ecstasy? Whoever is responsible for this, thank you." Then realizing she had formed some type of prayer to the gods, she shook her head and fell asleep thinking, "This must be something special. Iím not usually on speaking terms with any of the crowd at Olympus except Ares and those arenít often pleasant conversations!"

Xena was up before sunrise, as usual. As morning broke, she shook Gabrielle and said, "Rise and let us go up unto Jerusalem!"

Gabrielle began what had become her usual response to Xenaís usual greeting "Iíll rise, but I refuse to shi.......Unto???"

"Yeah, I donít know what got into me. Must be something in the air."

They quickly broke camp, packed their gear and began a silent journey towards the city. Gabrielle broke the silence first (no surprise), "You seem pensive today".

"No, just thinking."

"Xena, pensive means thinkin..."

"I know what it means, silly. Just trying out your brand of humor."

"Oh. Did you want to hear another story?"

"Not right now, weíll be entering the city soon and I want to be able to pay attention to this...this feeling I have."

"Feeling?" Gabrielle feigned incredulity.

"Donít start!" Her friend warned with a twinkle in her eye.

IN TOWN

Almost immediately upon entering the city gates, Xena was overwhelmed by the busyness of the crowd. People were shopping, animals were making all kinds of noise, groups were talking excitedly. Attentive to every movement, she overheard snippets of conversations: "Do you think heíll show up here?" "He has to if he is a true Jew. No one would miss Passover in Jerusalem!" "But we left him at home." "If he does come you know the Pharisees will not miss an opportunity to discredit him...or worse!" Just as she was about to ask of whom they spoke, a soft but firm voice called, "Xena."

She whirled around to look into the clearest, kindest yet most troubling eyes sheíd ever seen. Struggling to gain her composure she spoke, "Y..Yes, Iím Xena."

"I know. I have wanted to meet you. My Father has seen your works and is pleased with your zeal..."

Before he could finish she interrupted, "Your father? Who is your father?" Her mind raced frantically. "This must be it. This is the beginning of my Destiny. I know, I donít know how I know, but I know this is the one Iím supposed to meet. I canít believe it would be so easy. He seems so familiar, yet I know Iíve never met him..."

This time her thoughts were interrupted by this stranger. "My Father and your Father are the same..." He began with a slight grin, knowing he would be interrupted again.

"Ares?! Itís not possible. You are so kind and gentle." Then to herself, "How can I be saying that. I donít even know the man." Yet she sensed her words were true.

"No, not Ares," he laughed. "My Father is the One True God. You Greeks as well as the Romans have your whole panoply of gods, but My Father is the One God, the I AM, the holy one of Israel. Forgive me if I got carried away there."

"You donít know about carried away until youíve heard one of my friendís tales," Xena replied giving Gabrielle an affectionate nudge.

Gabrielle interrupted quickly, "If your Father is the Ďholy one of Israelí, then he must have been the God of Moses....and the Passover today....it all makes sense!!í

Exasperated, Xena looked at her. "What do you mean, ĎIt all makes senseí?" This man here tells me that we share the same father, you tie it to an ancient myth and a feast going on here and say it all makes sense?!?" Then, to the stranger, "What is your name?"

"Jesus. Son of Mary and Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth."

"I thought you said your father was the One God, now youíre saying you are a simple carpenterís son? If I came all this way just to play guess the family tree...."

"No, Xena. You came here for the one thing you need."

"What would that be?" she asked with a mixture of curiosity, longing and skepticism.

"Forgiveness." The single word struck hope and terror at once.

"Ooooh no. You may know my name, but you obviously havenít heard my stories. I only hope that I can live long enough to do enough good deeds to somehow overcome my past and escape Tartarus. I canít begin to hope for forgiveness until then."

Gabrielle spoke up, "Xena, you can always go back to the temple of Apollo. You know the legend of the urn." Although she understood, the bardís heart ached as she watched Xena looking on from the doorway while she and that reformed juvenile delinquent, Tara received the blessing from Apolloís priest.

Before Xena could respond to her, Jesus spoke again. "The forgiveness of which I speak comes from the one who knows you best, who does know every evil, murderous deed you committed, every hidden thought of treachery, hatred and deceit. One who knows you as only your True Father can."

"Heís right!" A new voice spoke up. "I was sitting under a fig tree one day, minding my own business, nowhere near this man. Later, he announced to the crowd that he had Ďseení me and that in me was no guile."

"Yeah, but who wouldnít want to cop to a compliment like that?"

"What about me?" a womanís voice broke in. I was drawing water at our well one day at noon and this man came and asked for a drink. He began to talk to me, kindly and as he spoke he told me that I had had five husbands and was not married to the man I was living with. I believed then that he was a prophet; I know now that he is the son of the One God."

Xena thought to herself, "Yeah, I know how those small village rumors can spread." Then, feeling a surge in cynicism, she challenged, "OK. So tell me something that only my True Father could know."

"I could tell you about any of the adventures Ėboth good and badóthat youíve had in your journey. But since Iolaus had told you of your son, Solan, you would simply think Iíd found the stone of the gods to transport me through time. No, I will speak of only what your deepest heart knows. This love you have for your friend," he turned and smiled fondly at Gabrielle whose whole being warmed in response, "is natural, comfortable and brings you a peace you couldnít even name. The fact that she knows your past and what you are still capable of and still loves you evokes uncommon prayers of thanksgiving to your lesser gods."

The two friends stared at each other, dumbfounded. Gabrielle spoke first (would anyone expect anything else?) "You hold those feelings in your heart?"

Still stunned, Xena nodded mutely, eyes glistening, then simply embraced her friend, first to steady herself, then with affection suitably restrained for the crowd which was now cheering and calling, "Now do you believe him?" "See, we told you he was the son of the one God."

Turning back to Jesus, she saw him smiling broadly, knowing as always, his words had hit their mark.

"Jesus, this is a lot for me to digest right now. Iím still not sure about you or about forgiveness, but I would like to stay in town for a few days and see how this plays out."

His smile clouded a bit, as if a painful memory crept in, then he put his arm around her shoulder, gazed into her eyes and said, "If you stay in town a little beyond Passover you will have all your answers about my Father and about forgiveness."

One of the religious leaders spoke up and chastised, "Jesus! Talking with Gentile dogs again. And women at that. And at Passover! How do you expect to be recognized as rabbi if you continue to flaunt the ways of our fathers."

Smiling, Jesus replied, "Saul, my friend, you have so much to learn about the ways of our Father."

As the conversation between Jesus and Xena took place, Gabrielle had noticed a young man sitting on a stone wall scribbling madly as the scene unfolded. Walking up to him she introduced herself, "Hi. Iím Gabrielle. Couldnít help but notice you seem to be writing all this down. Are you a bard, too?"

"A bard? No, Iím just a fisherman, or I was until Jesus called me one day to leave my nets and follow him. There have been so many miraculous things happening these past several years, that Iíve been keeping these diaries. I think they will be important some day. Oh. Excuse my rudeness. My name is John, son of Zebedee and thatís my brother James over there. I already had the story about Nathaniel and the fig tree and the Samaritan woman with five husbands, but this is a great story, too. How Jesus told Xena, Warrior Princess about the love in her heart for her best friend. Guess thatís you, huh? Jesus and I have a special relationship, too. Not exactly like yours with Xena, but I am known as the beloved disciple. All I know is that all the good he has done and all the love and forgiveness that he brings to those not in the "inner circles" of our religion makes me want to be with him, to die for him if necessary."

"Wow. I thought I was a talker! I know how you feel. Our journeys take us into many dangerous situations and each of us has had opportunities to either try to save ourselves or to stay and help the other, even if it meant death. Until today, we felt our relationship was a little unusual. But having Jesus speak to her that way just makes it seem right."

"You know, Iíve got an idea..." John began tentatively. "Talk about unusual.....tonight is our Passover supper. I know you and Xena arenít Jews, but Jesus always said that those that arenít against us are for us..."

Gabrielle interrupted "Xena says that too! Donít we have a lot in common?"

"Yes, which brings me to my idea," John persisted patiently. "Why donít the two of you join us tonight. That way Xena can hear otherís stories, she and Jesus can have some time to talk and you and I can exchange tales about our two friends."

"That sounds great! But wonít there be a problem with your religious leaders? I thought they were kind of strict about Greeks mixing with Jewsóespecially at holy days."

"You sure know a lot about us, but no, I donít think it will be a problem." Chuckling, John continued, "I donít really expect a lot of Ďreligiousí leaders at our dinner. Jesus likes to mix with the people, you know, tax collectors, harlots, sinners. Oh, no offense," he interjected with embarrassment.

Laughing Gabrielle replied, "None taken. Frankly, Iíd rather be in that group than with the pompous, self-righteous..."

"OK, you made your point. See you at dinner, then." John gave directions to the upper room and the new friends parted to find their companions.

"Xena, you wonít believe..."

"Gabrielle, guess what..."

"You first."

"No, you first".

"Well, this is a first," Gabrielle began. "Iíve never seen you so animated (well, there was that one cartoon feature with Herc, but I digress). Since Iím always the first one to Ďbreak the silenceí, you go."

Oblivious to Gabrielleís pun, Xena spoke, words tumbling out after each other. "After you left and went to speak to that guy writing stuff down, guess heís a bard, huh, now Iíve got two people writing stories about me. Anyway, after you left, Jesus and I talked a little longer and he invited us to their Passover dinner tonight. Do you know what a big deal that is? I mean, weíre not even Jews or anything. And weíre going as his special guests. I donít know why Iím so excited about this, but I know it has something to do with why Iím here. Well, what was your big news?"

For one of the few times she could remember, Gabrielle found herself speechless. She wanted to grab Xena by the shoulders and say "What have you done with my friend?" Regaining her composure, she told Xena of her conversation with John, ending with his invitation to dinner.

"Well, weíd better hurry," Xena said, "we have to be inside by sundown".

AT TABLE

They found the place as John and Jesus had described and upon entering were greeted warmly by all. John provided introductions all around: Andrew and his brother Peter, Philip, James (Johnís brother), Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew (a tax collector), James (nicknamed the Lesser), Simon the Zealot, Judas the brother of James and Judas Iscariot (the groupís treasurer). These along with John comprised the group known as "The Twelve".

After introductions, Xena whispered to Gabrielle, "I donít know what it is, but thereís something about Iscariot that bothers me. He reminds me of someone whoíd sell their own mother if there was profit in it."

"How can you say that? You see how Jesus is, certainly he would know something like that."

"Maybe, but Iím going to keep my eye on him, just the same."

As this morning, the warrior princess heard the soft voice call, "Xena".

Turning around she sputtered, "Jesus, you have a way of surprising people."

Smiling, he replied, "Yes, Iíve been told that before." Turning serious he said, "Your instincts are not incorrect, but you have to let the future unfold on its own. This is part of your destiny, too. The others do not know, but I will encourage Judas to the betrayal for which he was born."

"But why? Iíve heard people in town today call you the Messiah, the King of the Jews. What kind of king encourages his own betrayal? One quick jab of my fingers to his windpipe..."

"Yes, and you can cut off the flow of blood to his brain and heíll be dead in thirty seconds. I know. And youíre right. I am to rule a great kingdom. On one hand my kingdom already existsóin hearts like yours and Gabrielleís and in the good people in this room. On the other hand, my kingdom has not yet comeóit is not of this world. In fact, I taught my disciples to pray to my Father that his, and my, kingdom would come. I know this sounds confusing, but please trust me. Thatís all I really want is your trust."

His imploring eyes moved her to the depths of her soul. Not wanting to betray the effect of his words, she gave him a knowing grin and said, "Oh, I understand. You have a plan, right?"

Catching her humor, he smiled warmly and nodded, "My Father has a plan and it will be done. Now, letís get back to dinner."

Just then, Xena noticed Judas slipping out the back. Hand on her chakram she bolted for the door, only to look over her shoulder and catch Jesus shake his head imperceptibly. A quick double-take to the door, she sighed deeply and returned to the room. "Iíd just like to know where heís going," she murmured under her breath.

Gabrielle bounded up and said brightly, "If youíre worried about Judas, donít be. I heard some of the guys say he just went to get more wine for the feast or else to give some money to the poor."

"I wish I could believe you, Gabrielle, but I think heís up to something."

The rest of the evening was spent with various ones recounting stories of healings, miracles and times when Jesus put the religious rulers in their place with scathing parables and thinly veiled insults. Jesus spoke at length, talking about what sounded like his imminent departure from them. He told them about love and about going to a place which he will prepare for them to join him. When Philip asked to see Jesusí Father, Jesus seemed very sad and told him, "Have I been with you this long and you donít know? The Father and I are one."

Gabrielle, startled at this, glanced at Xena who had a look of knowing peace on her face. If she didnít look so serene, it would have definitely been one of her famous, "Told ya" looks.

As he spoke about his departure, Peter (a passionate man) jumped to his feet and vowed to lay down his life for Jesus. Xena whispered to Gabrielle, "Now thatís a man Iíd want on my side". Just then, Jesus was predicting Peterís denial.

Jesus spoke at great lengthóalmost as if giving them instructions to carry on and encouragement to strengthen them for whatever the next days held. The group at dinner seemed a bit confused at his intensity, but listened. John was writing furiously, with Gabrielle filling in pieces he had missed.

THE GARDEN

After a long prayer, Jesus led the group to a small garden. Just then a mob appeared with lanterns, torches and weapons, led by none other than Judas, the betrayer. With a quick, assuring nod to his friends, Jesus rose and asked what they wanted. The mob answered, "Jesus of Nazareth". Jesus replied, "You know I am he". At this, some of them fell back. He repeated, "What do you want?" They answered again, "Jesus of Nazareth". A second time he said, "I told you, I am he."

At that, Xena and Peter rose together, swords in hand, standing back to back. With one quick swipe, Peter took the ear of the high priestís servant, Malchus. As Xena had been eyeing the traitor, Jesus quickly stepped in, restored the ear to the shaking servant and said, "Put up your swords." And with an eye to Xena, he continued, "I will follow my Fatherís plan and drink from his cup." At that, the mob led him off.

THE TRIAL

Some of the group followed to the high priestís house, but when identified as his disciples, fled. Even Peter. Xena was disappointed in her fellow warrior, but she remembered that Jesus had predicted his cowardice and had still embraced him warmly at dinner. And she had seen Jesus look at Peter as the rooster crowed. Such love in his eyes. And something else. "Forgiveness," she thought, "for cowardice? For betrayal?"

The days that followed were a blur. His friends were numb with shock, trying to make sense of Johnís and Gabrielleís records of the dinner and Jesusí last words before his arrest. Not many wanted to venture out into the city for fear of their own safety as well as for fear of what news they might hear. Word came from different ones about his meeting with the priests, with Pilate.

Knowing that it was Roman custom to release prisoners at the Passover, many of his followers gathered in the courtyard with throngs of the city. Pilate seemed unconvinced of his crimes and tried to offer him as the Passover release. Before the followers could speak, the crowd began asking for Barabbas, a common robber. In fact, Xena recognized some of those demanding the loudest as people who had been singing Jesusí praises the previous day.

Suddenly, the cries for Barabbas turned into chants of "Crucify him". Xenaís stomach turned in revulsion at the memory of her own crucifixion at the hand of the Romans. Knowing this man to be the purest source of love and kindness, she shuddered at the thought of his facing such a death. Then she heard, almost as if spoken aloud, "My Father has a plan."

"Well, he better hurry up and act" she responded aloud.

Gabrielle turned to her with a puzzled look. "Who, Xena?"

Realizing she had spoken, Xena replied, "Nothing, Gabrielle. Just talking with a friend."

Gabrielle followed Xenaís gaze to the place where they were flogging Jesus, then buried her face in her friendís shoulder. Xenaís arm circled the bard, holding her close as she continued to watch. Somehow she felt that she needed to be present to the unfolding of all these events, no matter how painful.

To the demands for crucifixion, Pilate asked, "Shall I crucify your King?" Xena remembered Jesusí words about his kingdom as the people shouted, "We have no king but Caesar". Bile rose in her throat. "How dare they compare this man to the animal that is Caesar?" "Remember, my Father has a plan."

THE CROSS

The crucifixion came quickly. Jesus cross bore the title "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Many of the men hung back in the crowd, but at the foot of the cross, stood Jesusí mother, Mary, her sister Elizabeth, Mary, the wife of Cleophas and Mary Magdalene. John, Jesusí closest friend stood next to Mary as Jesus gave them to each other as family. Xena and Gabrielle were standing behind Mary Magdalene and John, Gabrielle trying to comfort the beloved disciple.

"So this is your plan?" thought Xena in rage. "To let your son, a perfect man, be tortured and killed at the hands of these animals?"

Intruding on her thoughts was Jesusí cry of anguish. Looking up, she saw his forehead shredded by thorns, a beard caked and matted with blood, a body bruised and beaten, hanging limply from wrists which had been cruelly nailed to the wood. But his eyes had the same clear, loving gaze sheíd seen so few hours ago in the midst of the city. Locking eyes, peering into her heart, he spoke, "Father forgive them, for they donít know what they are doing." She heard the thought completed in her head, "But we know you have a plan."

"Forgive. THEM? How could he. But if this man, this son of the One God can forgive these murderous cowards, maybe, just maybe..."

Her thoughts were interrupted again. Mary Magdalene turned to her, "Can you help us? We need to anoint him and place him in the tomb before sundown." Xena looked into the womanís face. Obviously someone who had been around the square a few times. But just as obviously, someone who had a calmness about her even in the midst of the agony sheíd just witnessed. A fleeting thought, "Why does everything have to be by sundown with these people?" then Xena took Magdaleneís arm with a gentle, reassuring squeeze and said, "Of course weíll help you. Tell us what to do."

Magdalene helped the women wrap Jesusí body in linen, mixing the spices of myrrh and aloes as was their custom. She tended the lifeless body so carefully and tenderly that Xena commented, "You loved him very much."

Looking up with glistening eyes, the woman responded simply, "He showed me forgiveness for all my past."

"Forgiveness." The word didnít pass Xenaís lips, but sank deep into her soul.

After they laid the body in the tomb, they returned to the upper room where they found the men in various stages of grief and confusion.

The next days were filled with anguished questioning. As expected, Peter was full of self-recrimination at having denied Jesus. His guilt fueled an anger against the Jews and the Romans that bordered on maniacal. Xena pulled him aside and spoke softly to him, "Peter, you know what he said. Live by the sword, die by the sword."

"Fine one you are to talk about swords, warrior princess."

"Believe me, I understand what you are feeling. I know what it is to not be able to live up to promises made in the heat of emotion. But Iíve seen and heard so much these past few days about forgiveness, that I have to think he would not want you to be planning to satisfy your guilt and grief with otherís blood."

"I know," the ruddy fisherman replied. "I just feel so lost. It wasnít supposed to end like this. He said he had a plan."

"If this is the same God that took care of Moses and the Israelites during the first Passover, I have to believe he does have a plan."

Astonished, Peter answered, "How do you know about Moses?"

Looking fondly at her bard, "You arenít the only ones with storytellers, you know."

Gabrielle was sitting close to John, listening to him pour out his heart. Hoping to comfort him, she suggested, "You know, it might be helpful to everyone for you to read from your journal of the last supper you had with Jesus. He said some very encouraging things, and some of the confusing things he said may make sense now."

As John reached for his parchments, the door to the upper room burst open and Mary Magdalene rushed in glowing like the sun. Words tumbled out of her mouth, "The stone has been removed. They have taken Jesus away and we donít know where they laid him. Heís gone. Itís empty!"

Peter and John exchanged glances, Peter fearing the Romans had hidden the body, John hoping for a miracle. The two raced to the sepulcher. Although John reached the mouth of the tomb first, he stopped short. Peter entering first saw the linen clothes folded neatly with the face cloth wrapped in a place by itself. Peter thought to himself, "No Roman guard would take care to remove and fold these death linens." His musings were interrupted as John rushed in, looked around and believed the miracle.

The two quickly returned to their homes, but the women who had followed closely behind remained. Magdalene was weeping because she still believed someone had come and taken the body away. A familiar figure asked her, "Why are you crying, whom do you seek?" Not looking up, she assumed she was talking to the caretaker and said, "Sir, if you took him, please tell me where you laid him."

Xena, watching from a distance heard him speak in that same soft, firm voice, "Mary."

Magdalene raised her eyes and exclaimed, "Master!"

Jesus turned, caught Xenaís eye and mouthed, "I told you my Father had a plan!"

Racing back to the disciples, Magdalene related the whole story. As they sat locked in the upper room for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, "Peace be with all of you." He showed them his hands and his side, even encouraging Thomas to thrust his fist in the nail marks.

"Because I am here you can believe all I told you. Believe in love and in peace, and yes," looking knowingly at the warrior princess, "in forgiveness."

The two friends stayed on for a few days but soon set out again.

"Well, my bard, you have quite a story to write about now."

"Donít I know it? This is better than the Greek dramas: betrayal, denial, crucifixion and miraculous healings....remember Malchusí ear? And resurrections..." This time Xena interrupted, "and forgiveness."

Gabrielle stopped short and looked at her friend. Then grinning broadly, she embraced her, pulled her close and whispered gently in her ear, "Yes, my love. And forgiveness."


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