A Destiny Denied
Xena looked across the fire at her friend.
"The answer is yes, Xena. I'm going to marry Perdicus."
The warrior stopped walking, stunned into total silence. She felt all the blood drain from her face, her heart, her very soul; felt herself wading thru it...thick as molasses, dark in colour, scent rich in self loathing.
She didn't know how they'd managed to get back to Potedeia; amazed that she could even function let alone think in any rational form.
So many thoughts rolled around in her head as she watched her bard run to...him. Yes, damnit! HER bard! HER friend, HER....what? Xena tried to focus on just why the next words wouldn't come to her. She felt uncomfortable; the feelings long denied bubbled to the surface and she pushed them back down, scarcely recognizing them for what they were.
Watching Gabrielle so happy should have made her happy, too. Seeing them together, the dreams her bard had had for so long - someone to share her life with, someone to love - should have filled her with joy but instead filled her with unbearable sorrow.
Most of her life had been spent suppressing her true feelings, denying their very existance. Most people thought of Xena: Warrior Princess as being a cold and unyielding individual; incapable of love, friendship..even honour. Some felt her only reason for living was so that she could somehow convince the God of the Underworld that her deeds should outweigh her sins. No other reason. No feelings of true repentance; just juggling the books, so to speak. Little did they know there was a fountian of emotion roiling just below the surface, waiting to be tapped.
Her past had been steeped in passion and battle lust. She revelled in them both, letting them take her to untold areas of depravity. She cringed even thinking about it now. Seeing the angelic look on Gabrielle's face, knowing that the woman idolized her; what would she think if she knew?
Gabrielle's love had shown her there was more to her emotions than just lust. It seemed like so long ago when all the warrior wanted to do was hide herself from the real world; tamp down any wants, needs and desires and lose herself in the cold endless search for redemption. Now, however, with Gabrielle in her life, the warrior felt the first embers of....a need to be accepted, a need for...something more in her life.
Gabrielle went off and began her preparations for the wedding that would take place the next day. Xena watched her go, the contents of her stomach feeling like molten lead. Joxer sat near by, watching the warrior consume tankard after tankard of port; at first her contenance taking on the look of someone betrayed and then finally just the blank look of someone lost in a sea of pain.
The play of emotions ran quickly over Xena's face and the man realized that this was the first and only time he'd ever seen her look so...vulnerable. He wondered if anyone else could see it; if Xena herself was aware that she was so readable. At least to him. Not that he'd ever mention it; he happened to like his head firmly on his shoulders, thank you.
Joxer waited until the woman was totally intoxicated - her head drooping, eyes glazed over - before he suggested helping her to a room. He'd been prepared for a round of verbal abuse and was left speechless when the woman reached over and patted his shoulder, telling him he was a good friend.
When they'd finally made it to the top of the stairs, Joxer turned and glared at the few foolish enough to make suggestive comments.
"Any one of you ever lost a friend? A best friend? Even a fierce warrior like Xena has a heart."
They must have seen some truth in the statement, a brief yet painful peek into the woman's saddened heart because they suddenly found interesting things to look at, shame written on their faces. Suddenly the pub fell silent.
Xena fell back on the palette, not even noticing when Joxer removed her boots and greaves. He placed a blanket on her and tenderly tucked the woman in. Just as he was leaving, he heard the warrior murmur. Leaning in close, he heard, "I love you, my bard. I'm sorry I never told you. I'm sorry it's too late...I'm sorry."
Feeling as if he'd witnessed something profound, he stumbled out of the room and bought a large tankard of ale. It was one thing to face his own unrequited love; it was quite another to know that someone like Xena...someone so very strong and self assured, could be in love with the bard as well. He decided it was far too much information and quickly quaffed his ale, ordering a second.
Xena rolled over and felt around for her friend as she always did each morning at dawn. Her hands found purchase and she pulled Gabrielle closer, snuggling into the back of her neck. Gabrielle murmurred softly and leaned back into the warrior.
Xena felt a stirring in her loins and her hands began to gently caress the bard's arms. Sometimes these feelings welled up inside of her, lingering images playing across her subconscious. Xena had always put them down to the vivid after effects of her passionate dreams.
For some reason, however, instead of pushing the feelings down, denying them existance in the real world, Xena let them have full rein. She felt the waves of desire overwhelm her, letting her hands go to previously forbidden areas.
Cupping the woman's smooth and silky breasts, Xena felt as if she hadn't experienced anything so moving, so...right...before. The bard snuffled in her slumber, seemingly unaware of the warrior's amorous attentions.
Xena found she couldn't stop, couldn't control her surroundings, her behavior. She felt the first feelings of panic as the scene played out before her. She seemed both a willing participant and a mere observer; in both cases trapped and unable to stop what was going on.
Xena watched as she rolled her friend over and began to place small kisses on the woman's jaw line. She felt both desire and fear as Gabrielle's bodice was unlaced, revealing the firm and full swell of her breasts. She watched as her own mouth trailed kisses down and then encircled the pert flesh of one rosey nipple.
It was wrong! It couldn't be happening! Xena clenched her fists, wanting to somehow beat this wanton side of herself back into submission.
And then Gabrielle opened her eyes, a gasp issuing from her throat as she finally awoke to her surroundings and what was happening. Xena felt the bard begin to struggle beneath her and pushed firmly down, pinning the woman to the bedroll, continuing her attack on the flesh before her.
When Gabrielle began to protest, Xena covered her mouth with a rough hand. When this proved to be insufficient, she left off her feasting and brutally shoved her tongue into the bard's sweet and innocent mouth.
Tears began to roll down Xena's face as she watched in horror. Her heart broke as she witnessed her friend being raped by her very hand. She tried with every bit of strength in her body to free herself from the unseen bondage she felt herself experiencing.
She pushed against the walls surrounding her; shook the bars of the prison she found herself in and railed against the accusing looks from the faceless witnesses around her.
With a start, Xena jumped to her feet, assuming a defensive stance, breast dagger in her shaking hands. She looked wildly about the room, her heart pounding alarmingly in her chest.
"Oh gods....oh gods..." The woman suddenly collapsed on the bed once more and cried bitter tears into the pillow. Just a nightmare!
Everything was becoming clear to her. All the time they had spent together, she had been lusting for her friend! The feelings she had suppressed for Gabrielle were those of love! Unrequited and unfulfilling love! How could she?
The images of rape played over and over in her mind, making her physically sick. Oh how she wanted to tell Gabrielle of her true feelings. But the knowledge that the beast within her might come out and somehow make these visions come true was too horrible to contemplate.
Xena sat by the window and watched as the sky turned pink and witnessed the birth of a brand new day. She wore her feelings of self loathing like a hair shirt; they were to be endured, faced, and worn as just punishment. How could she ever face her friend again?
As she stood by the priest and watched the service conclude, Xena put on a brave face and smiled as Gabrielle kissed her new husband. Her heart broke into a million pieces when the bard told her they'd always be friends. And then she lied as she told Gabrielle that nothing would be changed between them, that she'd probably be sick and tired of the warrior's visits before too long.
And when she felt the bard embrace her, leaning in for a kiss, her very soul froze with indecision. She knew that she'd never see her friend again. Knew without a doubt that her heart would break were she to stay and watch the bard's happiness blossom.
Should she somehow convey her true feelings? Or should she walk quickly from the temple and run as fast as she could towards....oblivion? Just what would her future be without her best friend, the woman she finally acknowledged was the love of her life?
Suddenly and with total clarity Xena saw her future. It was bleak and cold, the pain never ending. It was too horrible to envision but certainly preferable to the images that still seemed to be emblazened on the surface of her very soul.
She stood near the altar and watched the newly weds leave the temple and wondered about the strange look on Joxer's face. She could see it was very hard for him to realize that the love he had for the bard would never be realized. In that respect, they had a lot in common at that very moment. She suddenly had such insight on what made Joxer tick that she could almost feel it as a physical blow. All teasing aside, the man was an honourable one. He had moments of lucidity, allowing him to act as bravely and unselfishly as any great warrior. And she felt shame at her past behavior.
Just one more reason to leave them all behind. She dropped the flowers reluctantly over at the barn and readied her horse. She had one last thing to take care of. It was her destiny to rid the world of Callisto. She knew that instinctively. She had destroyed the child that had become a monster, their destiny entwined like the choking vines of some mutant plant. This was one loose thread she was determined to snip before she made that last trip on Charron's boat. And that would come soon enough.
She had no delusions as to the outcome of her battle with Callisto. The woman seemed to possess every skill she herself did. She'd fight to her best abilities but if somehow the psychotic warrior was able to find an opening, a chink in her defences, well that would be alright, too. She'd go down fighting, sword in hand and face her judgement bravely.
Xena tried to square her shoulders as she felt a small tear roll down her cheek. She had to get a hold of herself; ready herself for battle. It took all of her will not to look back, to capture one last look at the woman who become the most important thing in her life.
As Xena left the village she failed to see the deeply pained look on the bard's face. Gabrielle felt her lower lip tremble as she watched the warrior ride out of her life. She'd felt Xena pull away, knowing instinctively in her heart they'd never see each other again. Such a feeling of loss washed over the bard. She was embraced from behind and swallowed back her tears. Her blossoming unspoken feelings once more denied, she turned and put on a brave smile, determined to face her future without regret, knowing it was impossible even as the thought entered her brain.
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