By: Candace Chellew
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures.
No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
Lyrics from "World Leader Pretend" by REM. Copyright 1988.
I sit at my table and wage war on myself
Xena stared deeply into her glass of port. Not noticing the bustling of the tavern around her consumed instead by her own thoughts. She winced as memories came and went. The battle inside her was raging. She fired volley after volley back and forth between her torn emotions. Her aim was improving with each fresh attack. The battleground of her mind was quickly becoming a scorched landscape, awash in pain and port.
She regarded the wall before her. It was massive, well laid and beautiful. She had spent a lifetime building that wall, making sure the bricks and mortar were perfect. Inside, it housed her heart. There it remained, safe from unpleasant emotion. Despite numerous attacks, the wall stood a testament to Xena's fierce resolve to defend it at all costs. The wall was holding up, but her heart was not looking well these days.
She thought about home, but she could never go back. The villagers she saved had made sure of that. The people of her hometown had laid the first brick in the wall. The bricks afterward came more easily. With each village the wall grew larger, stronger. Her army had taken riches and other things from the villagers, Xena molded each conquest into bricks and used them to build the fortress that now protected her heart.
It seems like it's all for nothing
I know the barricades, and
I know the mortar in the wall breaks
Xena caught an odd sight out of the corner of her eye. She cocked her head and examined the wall closely. Running her hand over the rough surface she felt a crack. When did that happen? After battling Draco in Amphipolis? Maybe. Or maybe it was the sweet strength of Hercules that struck the first blow against the wall.
No, it had definitely been the appearance of Gabrielle that made her heart strain against its well-constructed prison. After she so brutally saved Gabrielle's life in Potedeia, Gabrielle eloquently returned the favor in Amphipolis. Hercules may have unchained her heart, but it was Gabrielle who taught it how to live again. The thought made Xena grab for her glass and drink deeply.
A new crack appeared.
I recognize the weapons, I've used them well
I've a rich understanding of my finest defenses
Xena ran a loving hand over the coolness of the wall. Why tear it down now? It is masterfully constructed. The wall has protected me from death. It has protected me from my sins. It has protected me from myself for so long. The weapons I used to defend it are still here: not the sword at my back, but the sword deep in my heart that strikes at anyone who dares to come near. Have my body, fine, but steer clear of the heart. The signs are clear.
Gabrielle has ignored the signs, done battle with my heart. Her innocent persistence is her finest weapon, and she uses it against me skillfully. She's winning, and I feel it. I don't like it. I have struck back. She's made it easy for me at times. It was so easy to hate her after the death of Solon. So easy to hurt her, so easy to kill her. All the bricks she had removed were easily replaced. The wall is strong. The wall is alive.
Gabrielle has won a few battles against my wall, but she will never win the war. I've let her in further than anyone else, but the wall is too strong for her destroy completely. She can learn skill after skill, but my defenses are stronger than any attack she could launch. She'll never defeat the wall.
I proclaim that claims are left unstated
I demand a rematch
I decree a stalemate
I divine my deeper motives
In Illusia I learned that I truly love Gabrielle. She is my strength. I've done things I never thought possible because she was there. I told her that as the Persian army was approaching, but I'm not sure she appreciates just how close I was to showing her my heart that day. She can't know how far inside the wall she was then. She has almost conquered me. But the wall that has turned away so many has won again.
We are at a stalemate. I see her in pain, but I can't help her. I can barely help myself. I can't say the things I want to say to her. I know we must deal with the implications of what has happened between us, but I cannot. My claims are left unstated. Gabrielle must deal with her own pain. I can't share my pain openly, but I'll still be here when she's done.
My motives for being distant are not evil. It's not that I don't want to work through the pain with Gabrielle, it's that the wall prevents me from being there for her. She must make her own decisions. I help the only way I know how ... I led her to the temple so she could begin to work through her painful memories.
Thank the Gods, she decided she could live with it. She decided that a life with me was more important, no matter what the cost to her. Her selflessness is amazing. She doesn't know how much I love ... that.
I recognize the weapons.
I've practiced them well, I fitted them myself
A glint of sunlight on metal caught Xena's eye. She saw before her, an army's supply of swords, maces and shields. She ran a loving hand down the blade of her sword.
What beautiful weapons, she marveled.
I sharpen and polish them everyday. I practice them with abandon. I am an expert at defending the deepest reaches of my heart. Why stop now?
The old ways work best. The weapons I've used to defend the wall are in working order. I have yet to store away these weapons. They've served me so well for so long. I made them for myself. No one knows how to use these weapons like I do. The wall is under siege, Xena. Defend the wall.
The warrior squared her shoulders, raised her sword and planted herself before the wall. These emotional raiders will not get through. The wall will not be moved.
It's amazing what devices you can sympathize, empathize
This is my mistake, let me make it good.
All those years spent fighting, for what? The cause started out as noble: save my home. It turned quickly into a bloodlust for the battle, for the win, for the spoils of war. When did it go out of control? When did it cease to become a necessity and start to become a pleasure to kill and conquer?
I've been wrong all along. I've made horrible mistakes. I've taken innocent lives. I've committed sins that I can never atone for. All the apologies in the world won't make it right. All my work for the greater good now does nothing to redeem my blackened and tattered soul.
A tear rolled from the warrior's eye into her now empty glass of port.
Xena wiped the tear and bellowed, "Barkeep! Another port, now!"
The barkeep was quick and obedient.
She eyed the warrior before her, standing now to defend the wall. I understand her reticence to let it go. I sympathize, empathize with that steely-eyed fighter. She is me -- I am her. We stand face to face, deciding the fate of the wall.
I've spent my entire life defending this wall. I want to stop building it, but what do I do with the wall that's here now? I've tried to let people beyond the wall ... Hercules, Gabrielle. They've both tried to tear it down. I want them to tear down the defense. Gabrielle has taken out more bricks than anyone. She's shown me how it could be without my wall. But, it's been there too long. There are parts of the wall I will not let her near, much less let her demolish.
I raised the wall and I will be the one to knock it down
Sweet realization emerged in Xena as the fresh port washed through her system.
This is my world, and
I am world leader pretend
This is my life
This is my time
I have been given the freedom to do as I see fit
It's high time I razed the walls that I've constructed
I'm the one with the power here. This is my wall. I built it. I know every nook and cranny of this wall. I know all the secret passageways. I have the freedom to do as I see fit. I can keep the wall, and this horrible pain that it's causing me ... or I can raze it right here and now.
I have the freedom. I've had it all along. I am queen of this castle.
Xena surveyed the weapons before her. She had only thought to use them in defense of the wall. All along she defended the wall against people she believed were her enemies. Now it was clear -- the wall had been the enemy all along.
The warrior standing guard before the wall let out a loud, anguished cry before vanishing.
She regarded the weapons with new eyes. They can easily be used to break down the wall! I know my weapons well. They are sharp and accurate in the hands of this warrior.
Xena took a swing at the wall. More cracks appeared.
Xena smiled into her glass like a child with a secret. For a moment she felt a glimmer of hope, of joy. The wall was crumbling.
The fear that gripped her at that moment was one that she had not felt since she first picked up a sword in Amphipolis. Oh Gods! The wall is falling, and I'm not prepared for what comes next! Where is my strength to come from now? Where shall my heart live if I don't have my fortress?
Reach out for me, hold me tight, hold that memory
She saw the face of her beloved Gabrielle. Is she strong enough to support me? Is she the rock I can build the new Xena upon? She's grown so much during these past few years. She's faced her own demons and mine as well. Is she willing to be my foundation? What was it that she said as she lay dying while the Persians surrounded us? She told me we have a "life together."
"A life together." Gods, Xena, the answer has been with you all along. Gabrielle is willing to build a life with you.
You fill in the mortar
You fill in the harmony
She's what I've been missing. She's the one who fills in the missing pieces in my heart. With Gabrielle, my heart has a new place.
Xena began her work in earnest, using the weapons she held so dear to destroy the wall that kept her heart in isolation.
The wall must come down.
She must erect in its place a home ... with Gabrielle.
I raised the wall and I 'm the only one
I will be the one to knock it down
Note: The barkeep was not harmed during production of this fanfic, but his underwear could use a good wash.
Return to The Bard's Corner