BETWEEN THE LINES
(or what happened between the episodes)
For Disclaimers, see "Looking for Trouble"
A Time to Kill
(post "Remember Nothing")
G: "I reminded you of your friend."
X: "No, you are my friend."
Lyceus: "Don't fight destiny!"
G: "Here's your sweet thing."
X: "Goodbye, Lyceus."
- Remember Nothing
I have never longed more for the sweet smoke of the poppies in Chin. Not so much because it would clear my head, because it wouldn't. It would simply help me escape for a while into oblivious nothingness, and nothingness sounds pretty damned good right now. The only thing keeping me from galloping north in search of the drugs is the bundle of optimistic innocence that is walking along beside me right now, completely unaware of my own racing brain.
She is talking, telling me a story about the three Fates. I hope my subconscious absorbs enough to answer intelligently if she stops and questions me. What I told her was true, leaving that temple, I truly had never been more myself. And for the first time in ten long winters, being myself was a very good thing.
What I saw in that alternate life, that's what has my brain spinning. I can't quite wrap my thoughts around the concept that the world is a much better place because I took up the sword. Nor can I begin to fathom that Gabrielle would be a bitter, vengeful, untrusting slave who has given up on life. I saw those eyes. They were hers, and yet they weren't. There was no light there. No joy. No hope. Mostly, they were just dead. Did the path I chose so long ago really make that much difference in one person's life?
Was it all for this? Was I fated to get half my village killed, lose my brother, give up my son, alienate my mother, steal from scores of innocent people, murder hundreds of others, and travel halfway round the world, all so I would end up in a clearing outside Potadeia at precisely the right moment to meet and save my best friend from a life of slavery?
Was I fated to sacrifice my soul in order to save Gabrielle's?
I'm not complaining about that. I made the choices I did back then, and only recently came to regret them. I've spent the better part of a year beating myself up, trying to atone for everything I've done. Now, I'm at a loss. Where do I go from here? Do I just live my life and not worry about paying for my sins, or do I keep fighting for that measure of peace that is always, always, just out of my reach?
The thing is, outside that temple, for one shining moment, I felt that peace. My life finally made some sense.
Right before it came crashing down around me again. I think it's been a little too much all at once. Seeing Solon, and being unable to tell him who I am. Seeing what Lyceus would have become had he lived, and feeling how proud I was to have him for a brother. Understanding that choosing one path would mean my brother's death, while choosing the other would mean my mother's death and the death of Gabrielle's innocence.
I realized that if I am her protector, if I am the guardian of her soul, then where does that leave a place for any of the things I've been feeling? I've been selfish, and I let things go too far. I came very close to taking the innocence I am fated to protect.
Even now, I watch her, and all those feelings and emotions come bubbling up. I feel so much with her, after so many years of feeling nothing but rage and sadness. Maybe the path I've chosen has given her life, but it can't begin to compare to the life she's given me.
It's so strange, thinking of all the lives I've taken, innocent and not-so-innocent. Sure, I've also saved some lives by taking others. But watching Gabrielle gleefully take a life, and what I had to do to stop that - it's the kill I've been most sure of. The one I'll never regret.
Maybe this is exactly what I'm supposed to do - wander around, helping people, and watching over a young girl from Potadeia, as she grows to be a most beautiful woman. Some things are so very clear now, while others are more confusing than ever.
I may wake up tomorrow as confused as Hades all over again, but the one thing I'm sure of now is that she and I were fated to be together at least for a time. I helped to give her life, she helped to give me purpose. It's all so very strange, isn't it?
I can never tell her what happened in that temple. I can never, ever do that to her. I have a feeling that in the grand scheme of things, her life is going to count for a lot more than mine. She has so much to give the world. Me, I'm just a beat-up ex-warlord along for the journey.
Next in the BTL series - "Enemies, Friends & Assorted Would-Be Lovers" (post Giant Killer)