Stranger in the Mirror
Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and any other characters featured in the actual TV series are copyrighted to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures while the rest of the story and other characters are my own.
I am deaf.
And yet my vision has never been so sharp. So crisp and clear. There is the startlingly blue the sky overhead, mirrored in the crystal clear waters of the lake lapping against the nearby shore. From the corner of my eye, I can see a hawk gliding slowly on the breezes blowing down from the northern mountains. I am not deceived by his lazy swoops and circles. For like me, he too is on the hunt.
In this quiet world of my own making, there is no peace. Only the bloodless beating of my own heart, drumming out a tempo that I find myself moving to. I pace the breaths I take along with it, and match my movements in time: the thrust of a heel, the jab of an elbow, the slice of a blade.
A silent dance, in which one by one, I watch my partners fall.
Yet, although I am deaf, my other senses have not failed me. The sickly sweet, coppery scent of spilled blood is all around me, so thick I can almost taste it, and it only incites me more. It means I am that much closer to my goal. There is the cold metal of a sword in my hand; it is not mine, rather, I conveniently borrowed it from one of my victims. Hell not complain, I think. I feel the earth firmly beneath my feet as I cut and parry my way through these butchers who would take Eve away from Xena and I.
How many of them are there? Five men? Ten? It matters not. For even if there were ten times ten, I would stand here just the same. I am a warrior, you see, and this is the way I have chosen in this life.
I feel the heat of the afternoon sun on my back, and I spin to my left, sensing the man there with his mace, well before I even see it, and him. My body comes alive, coiled for action like a taut bowstring just before it is released. Effortlessly, I relieve him of his head. I swallow the horror of his blood spattering upon me, instead embracing it as the fuel that powers me on.
It is so wrong that a young baby should have to see this, and my only comfort is that she is safe, secure, in the arms of my best friend. I smile a bit, at that understatement, just as another attacker approaches me head-on, a jagged-edged dagger in his hand. I can see the confused expression on his face; flustered, quizzical, and I realize he must have seen my smile. I drop the bloody sword I hold and lunge for the knife. With a grunt, I twist his arm and the knife around, driving forward, pushing him down onto the ground with the dagger now buried in his chest.
Eve is good.
Xena knew that from the start, and she convinced me of it too, despite my worries at how the gods taunt us and toy with us as though we were their puppets on a string. No, she is the gift that heals us both.
Still, I could have wished for better things for this baby; that she not be born into the middle of a virtual war zone, for one, but this is nothing new for the children we each have borne before into this world: Solon, Hope. Back then, I thought what a sick pathetic joke it was, a joke on me, that I ever thought I could be a real mother. Now, Xena and I both know what it is like to give birth to an unearthly child.
But what a difference there is, between then, and now.
Who would have thought that the two of us, now made three, would ever have survived passing through a dark curtain of violence and death, only to arrive at this glorious place of rebirth and life? Its like weve been given another chance with this miracle child.
This time, I plan to get it right.
Yes, I would be willing to fight the host of the Olympian gods themselves, all to keep one small, innocent child safe.
Our baby, a secret part of me believes, with all my heart. For I would have given anything if the woman who now waits for me and I could have somehow defied the odds and been the spark that brought this child into this world together. In a sense, we did, I think.
Eve is with her now. I insisted that she watch her, guard her, and keep her safe, while I went to work. Took care of business. And it is a business for me now, as I methodically go about my chosen vocation.
I pick up another discarded sword, and turn it upon the remaining attackers. With each bite of metal into flesh, with every shriek and groan of their deaths, I hate myself just a little bit more. I tell myself that I try not to kill, for I know how much a part of Xena worries that this warriors path I have chosen will lead me far from the Elysian fields. But after what Ive seen these past few years, Im not so sure all that even matters. One thing I know for certain: there is no place for a bard in this twilight of the gods.
I feel the blood coursing through my veins now, hot, surging. Focus.
The birth of this child has given me a new purpose in life, that is true, one I could never have imagined for myself. And she she says she still sees the goodness in my heart. But I cant help remember all the times that I have hurt her. Times I never intended to, and those cold, cruel times when I did.
How we both have changed, since we first began to travel together. How the day came when we finally were able to admit to each other that we were, against all logical odds, friends. How our souls were then torn apart, only to find a way back to one another again.
She let me make mistakes, knowing I would learn. But my passion blinded me at times, and more than once it nearly got us killed. Ive got to control that more now, and for Eves sake Ive got to try. I know shes forgiven me for it for all of it. I can see it in her eyes, in her simple gestures, in the things she doesnt need to say. But can I ever forgive myself?
She believes in me, and I in her. Maybe just maybe, that will be enough.
My arms are beginning to feel the strain of this battle, and I lift the sword high above my head, one last time. I bring it down upon my final opponent, reveling in the burst of power and satisfaction that cascades through me as I do so.
At last, it is finished.
We have survived this, to see through another day.
I discard the bloody sword, and fall to my knees, gasping, at the edge of the lake. I squeeze my eyes shut, feeling slightly nauseous as the thundering silence in my head begins to abate. And with every laboring breath I take, my hearing gradually returns. I hear the faint moans of some of my victims, a shrill cry as the hawk seizes a smaller bird out of the air in mid-flight, and the crunching footsteps of my companion as she draws close.
I feel her hand rest upon my back and I open my eyes, gazing down into the water. I see two faces reflected there, two forces; one dark and one light. I see the clots of blood dripping down my face. It is fitting, warrior that I am.
"Are you okay, Gabrielle?"
I hear the worry in her voice, see it in the blue eyes flashing at me from the lake. I lift my head from the image of the woman Ive become, and turn to look at her, and at the baby she holds in her arms. I smile, just a little, knowing that their eyes see only the best in me.
"Yeah," I say, briskly washing off my arms. I cup some of the water into my hands and splash it on my face. "Lets get out of here before some of their friends decide to show up."
Quietly, she helps me to my feet. I retrieve my sais and we mount up, continuing our journey down the road towards Amphipolis. I spare a glance behind me, regarding the carnage I have left in my wake, and I know that another little part of me has died, this day.
But so what? I consider, hearing Eve gurgle contentedly in her mothers arms.
So much more has been reborn.
I know not what the future may bring, nor what the gods and the fates hold in store for us. But we are a family, Xena, Eve, and I. Now, more than ever.
I will do what I must to protect them. Us. Even if it means losing myself. Nothing will stop me.
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