In the alternate life the Fates rewarded Xena during the early second season episode REMEMBER NOTHING, someone else gets the chance to experience life without a Warrior Princess and to change her destiny.
"Gabrielle, you don't know what it's like to take a life, let alone cause the death of someone you love. The gods grant you never do." – Xena to Gabrielle at the beginning of REMEMBER NOTHING
Wish I could get that woman out of my head. Unsettling. Hard enough scrubbing the floor with one hand, keeping Mezentius' paws off me with the other. His "sweet thing." My name, far as he's concerned. Not that it matters. A slave's a slave. The less noticeable the better. And mindless. Distractions can lead to a boot in the butt.
It was easier when I was younger. They didn't want you under foot. Would leave you alone for hours doing some drudgework or another. I could sneak off once in awhile. Maybe sit under a tree imagining how it was before. When I had a mother and father. A little sister. I think we were what people call "happy." My mouth would twitch, like it almost remembered how to smile. Until something hit me – usually a calloused palm – and I'd come to my senses. Look around and notice I didn't have much left to smile about anymore.
Couldn't wait to be old enough to make things different. Do all that stuff you dream of as a kid. Turning the tables on a bully. Beating him with his own whip. Discovering you had the blood of a god or king in your veins, and everyone would bow to your wishes. If not that, stealing a horse and riding off like Hades. I grew up all right. So nicely he keeps his eye on me no matter how ugly I try to be. A spoil of conquest to brag about. Put on display. Touch. Benefits reserved for his Sweet Thing. Yeah, worth my spit in his wine or when I let the dogs lick his bread. Small payback maybe, but enough to make my mouth twitch.
That's what counts, right? Accepting your lot? Making the best of it? Being satisfied you survived another day? I've got a roof over my head. Regular meals. Simple rules to direct who I am, where I go. What's the point of complaining? Of thinking or feeling or dreaming about what isn't, when all you have to show for it are lash marks? Last thing I needed was some clueless woman nearly getting me punished anyway. Staring at me in the supply store like she'd seen a ghost. Like I was somebody she knew and expected to know her.
Flustered me so, I bumped into a guard. Shocked me even more when she stopped him from beating me, grabbing his hand with strength to match. Strange. Very strange. Can't figure what to make of her. She appears the same as others I've come across. "Respectable," with some standing in town. Attractive, well groomed. The softness and innocence of someone sheltered. Deferring to her fiancé when he came to her rescue. But when she took on that guard …. I could swear I saw something different in her eyes. Indignation? Rebellion? Anger?
She wasn't afraid, that's for sure. Because of her position? Knowing she had the protection of her man? He said she considered buying me and didn't want damaged goods. Still doesn't explain why she looked at me like that. What she saw to make such a fuss. Deciding it her business to cross the line from her world, throwing mine off kilter. No, something not quite right about her. Definitely unsettling, even if my situation might not mean spit to someone privileged like her.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. Damned curiosity simply refuses to behave. No bruises this time though. Nuh uh. Suspension. In a cage barely big enough for a small animal. I'd laugh except those chained skeletons over there beat me to it. Mocking my new "place." Foretelling the tomorrow I deserve for today's flight of fancy. Guess I should be thankful I do have live company to spend the night with. That woman – Xena – and her brother Lyceus. So determined to free me, ended up hanging from the ceiling just the same.
If only I'd stuck with my old instincts. Resisted her nonsense as I did when she first popped up at Mezentius' castle, snatching me away from my work. Her talk about me not knowing myself was bad enough. Arguing I had fight in me beyond what had already failed. Even worse, she planned to break me out, completely ignoring the dozen of guards milling about Mezentius' kitchen. Tons of questions held me back. How did she get in? Know my name? Was she a spy? Setting a trap? A crazy person allowed to roam about as harmless?
Everything happened so fast! One minute I'm struggling to tear myself from her grasp, as I'd tried with those slavers dragging me from my parents. The next, I'm in a haze, going along with her craziness. Fending off guards with a broom. Propelling up through a hole in the roof. My sorry life's flashing in front of me, but instead of Tartarus, I land on hay in a wagon outside. She drops from the sky beside me, and we're rolling away from the castle. My heart was pounding so! Not sure if it was from fear of leaving what I knew behind or of the mystery I was heading into.
What in Tartarus possessed her to hide me in her home? Treat me as an honored guest? Not just a guest. A … friend. Said I reminded her of her best friend, no less. Somebody "full of wonder and stories." Supposedly pure and brave. Sunny disposition. I told her that wasn't me. As if. Closest I come is sabotage or sticking my nose where it shouldn't be. Surely she knew lots of better folks, could pick any she wanted. Why so desperate to seek her ideal in a bitter lump of clay formed by the worst of the worst?
And what about me? The queen of "never trust what's too good to be true." Yet there I stood, caressing a beautiful dress that had been her mother's. Slipping into its softness, into the soothing warmth around me. Into considering maybe it suited me more than the coarseness I'd gotten used to like my own skin. Gazing into her brother's eyes, seeing them mirror the same as hers – a "sweet thing" from some other existence. Desirable as a human being. Worth knowing. Loving. Able to love back.
Stupid, but yeah, I wanted to believe. Dared picture myself belonging there. Didn't matter whether I could afford it same as them. Whether they had any idea how it was to be hard as the hands and hearts I'd suffered under. That they could take finery or freedom and faith for granted. Be lucky enough to know people as perfect as Xena imagined me. Somehow it made their conviction more genuine. What they saw … pure. What I saw, real. When I finally stopped holding my breath, I gulped in air fresh and clean, the scent of home and wild flowers. A girl ready to dance until the sun came up.
Illusion. Delusion. Whatever, that picture haunts me along with those other prisoners' bones. I feel like I'm in mourning. My eyes – dry for so long – remembering how to shed tears. I tell myself I'm sorry Xena and Lyceus butted in. That they tried to make me in their image, yet let those guards drag me back to what the Fates planned all along. But a part of me enjoyed this brief escape. Takes it as a victory of sorts. If Mezentius lets me live, I'll have my own "sweet thing"– a secret place inside to hold the perfect friend.
Too bad for Xena and Lyceus though. Seems they'll share my fate. He still believes otherwise. Maybe more naïve or brave than Xena. He resisted the men who brought us here. According to Mezentius, even led a rebellion once. Xena with him. I've seen her defend herself. Like Lyceus, is willing to die for her ideals. Unlike him, not willing to kill. Could be she's more like me after all. Accepts you can only go so far, that fighting back won't change what was meant to be.
Boy, was I wrong. Escaping in your head isn't nearly as satisfying as doing it physically. I'd been numb to that, until Lyceus and Xena. Thanks to them and her fiancé, we broke out of those cages. The three of them are battling Mezentius' goons and a roomful of his cronies. Xena's amazing – kicking, punching, flying through the air better than anyone I've seen. Grinning like she actually prefers it to being neat and polite.
I don't understand why she still refuses to use a weapon, as if things wouldn't be better with one less warlord. Or that this little skirmish'll scare these dirt bags away and keep others from replacing them. I thought she was against slavery. Is she doing all this just for me? Even if we survive, what then? They'll take me in, and we'll live happily together ever after? Well, now I've tasted freedom, I agree with Lyceus. Do whatever it takes to avoid helplessness or subjugation to animals who'd make one of me.
Mezentius. He's noticed me. Is heading this way with the look of a man determined not to lose his "sweet thing." What draws my attention more is a sword lying at my feet. Everything else has become a blur. All I hear is my breath quickening and Xena, shouting my name. My real name.
She's warning me about Mezentius. She needn't worry. I've picked up the sword. Holding it sends shivers through me, sparking flashes in my mind of a good life stolen, the ghost of a sorry existence, the possibility of an illusion come true. Everything ending and beginning in this one moment. I commit to making it mine.
"Here's your Sweet Thing."
Oh, the look on his face! Worth every ounce of me I put in the thrust. Surprising how easy the blade guts him – this pig who's ruled me like a god. The rush of long-stored rage surges through my veins as the blood drains from his. I study my weapon's red-stained surface – proof of the power within to change myself. My world. And do it again if I have to.
Guess the Fates finally smiled on me in the form of a strange woman who couldn't leave well enough alone. Sure, I ridiculed her belief in the impossible, her faith something better could prevail. Figured the hope, trust and confidence she babbled about were too late for me. Resented her for sucking me into it. But she was right. Gave me another chance. I see the light now. Not sure it's the same she saw in me or would make me more the friend she imagined. What's settled is I killed Mezentius and have never felt so alive. Mmm. If only Xena knew what she was missing. Revenge truly is a sweet thing.
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