PART VII: EPILOGUE
Xena and Gabrielle had returned to the peaceful clearing where they had camped that first night after leaving Appolonia, a lifetime ago. They each had journeyed far, each discovering that they were stronger together than apart, each forced to deal with the darkness in her own way.
Gabrielle could still feel the remnants of the rage and anger that had nearly overwhelmed her and knew she had been forever changed by the experience. But Gabrielle had forced herself to draw on the dark side she now knew could exist, using it to give her strength and power over her own life, her own destiny. Gabrielle also felt something else; a feeling she had never known with such intensity before. The love she shared with Xena. She as yet did not know what form that love might take, only of its reality.
Xena for her part, had quelled the voices of hate and fury, for the time being. Her barriers became sronger everyday as she learned to cope with the raw power of those feelings, Gabrielle's love giving her the courage to face each day.
They had spent nearly a week in that serene setting after delivering Antonius back to his people for whatever sentence they saw fit to give him. He had been a callous and uncaring ruler after the death of his son, and the two women had felt that he would receive justice, that had been enough.
"I don't think I ever thanked you for what you did for me. Thank you." Gabrielle said.
"You're welcome, Gabrielle. How are you feeling?" Xena asked, looking for reassurance.
"I can still feel it, the darkness, but it's like the memory of a dream. I know it's there, but I can't really touch it." Gabrielle laughed. "I'm not making any sense, am I?"
"No actually, I do understand. You will always feel that part of yourself, Gabrielle. It's up to you what you do with it. Now you know what you are capable of, the depths to which you may fall. It can be a strength or a weakness, the choice is yours." Xena told her.
"I know. I just hope I never have to see that side of myself again." Gabrielle replied, a shudder passing through her.
"It's a part of you. A part you are going to have to learn to live with." Xena said
"Like you do." Gabrielle said simply.
"Yeah." Xena said, smiling at the storyteller. "Get some sleep, Gabrielle. We're leaving in the morning."
"G'night, Xena." Gabrielle said as she lay back on her bedroll.
Gabrielle curled into her blanket and felt Xena draw closer to her, preparing for sleep. They had slept this way ever since the temple, each seeking solace in the embrace of the other, needing the physical contact. Xena placed her arm around Gabrielle's waist and pulled her close. "I love you." she said simply.
"I love you, too." Gabrielle replied, sleep drawing her into Morpheus' realm, free once more to dream of love and peace.
I would like to dedicate this story to my husband, who helped to pull me out of my own darkness and into the light with his love, acceptance, and understanding. I love you, Robert.