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Spoilers for "Ides of March"
"Nooo!" The strangled cry filled the woods, echoing off the rock walls along the river. He sat up, clutching the worn blanket to him. Exhaustion, regret, and sorrow wove a weary expression on the man's face. He arranged himself into a seated position by the low burning embers of the campfire and slowly stirred it back to life. Back to life. They were gone.
The news had traveled quickly; the great warrior princess brought down by the Roman, his triumph short lived with his death following so quickly afterward. And another amazon queen walked the road to the Land of the Dead. He hung his head and fought back the tears; tears that were so often near the surface. He couldn't understand how he could feel numb, and yet at the same time, be so consumed with grief. A battle was being waged within him that he felt helpless to control. But somehow he had managed to make it this far.
The mountains loomed in the distance. He would be there tomorrow. He had to see the place where they had died. Died. His mind still tripped over that word. His life was filled with death lately. He had struggled with his dreams of being a warrior, but with the events of the past few months, his dreams were filled with the reality of death, not its false glory. He sat quietly alone by the fire. The warmth it gave off barely kept the chill away, and did nothing for the cold gripping his heart.
The sun slowly began its journey through the sky. Its fiery glow creeping up over the tops of the trees. He would resume his own journey soon; a journey filled with mourning. He ate quickly; chewed methodically. The food he had gathered did nothing more than sustain him. After killing__ after killing the warlord, he had been depressed, withdrawn. He'd been able to work through enough of the anguish so that he could go on with his life. The man's ghost still haunted him, but he had found a way to manage his guilt. He'd never be able to forget, he didn't think he should, but he could go on. But this.
They were his friends. People who have many friends would not understand the importance of those four words. They were his friends. One had trusted him, encouraged him. The other had been his light. They'd made him a better man. Now what would he do? Who could he be? His whole identity seemed to be wrapped up in their friendship; their lives intertwined. They could exist without him, but could he without them?
He began to see the remains of the Roman encampment: brush flattened by untold numbers of boots; debris scattered sporadically along what was once a minor trail; crosses left standing as a warning to others that would dare stand in the way of conquest.
He was weakened by the sight. He lowered himself onto the nearest rock. He seemed so heavy lately. Gone was the man who stumbled through life. When his heart was light, so were his feet. Now every step was deadened, like everything around him.
Now that he was so close to his destination, he hesitated taking the final steps. He could return to the tavern. There could be more to their relationship than a laugh and a good time. Maybe he should turn around and make believe none of this had happened.
He could... There could... Maybe... He didn't want to become that person again; the one that was oblivious to everything that happened around him. He didn't want to trip through life pretending that he had no feelings, hoping that one day he'd wake up the man he wanted to be, praying that that would make everything all right. He wanted to be the man that the warrior had seen in him. He wanted to be the man that an amazon queen with the heart of a bard could love. That man was a part of him, he could feel it. They had all been trying to win the same battle, the hardest, cruelest battle that can ever be fought; finding the person that lives inside of you and bringing that true self forward.
He brought his hands to his face and held them there, lowering his head against them. He had held the tears back for so long that they would no longer come. His head ached. His back ached. His soul ached. He'd never be able to make believe this hadn't happened. It'd be easier for him to make believe a severed limb was still a part of him. Some people did that; felt what was physically no longer there. Maybe he could do that with his friends; will them to be a part of him still.
He raised his head and with a heavy sigh pushed himself up off the rock. Turning to finish his journey, he nearly fell at the sight before him. He opened and closed his mouth, unable to speak.
Their voices were a beautiful duet.
He found his voice somewhere in the confusion of astonishment, disbelief, and joy. "But... You're... I mean... How?" The words rushed out of him taking with them his grief.
"The reports of our deaths are greatly exaggerated," Xena stated flatly. The two women exchanged a meaningful look before walking down the path.
The battle continues...
Xena: Warrior Princess is ©MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures.
Xena's quip: Mark Twain, 1897
©1999 Raye - This story is not to be sold/used for profit. Copies must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
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