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I fear I do not know her anymore. She says she loves me but somehow the words ring as hollow as an empty barrel. They reverberate harshly through my aching heart. My sweet Gabrielle what has happened to you? To me? To us? Has your once unquestioning faith in me been at last ground into dust by the crushing weight of my black past? Maybe it has. There was a time when no matter how much evil you learned I had done you never tried to judge me. You always looked for the good in me. Now I find you more and more telling me how bad I was. I know how bad I was. The blood on my hands that cannot be seen but is nevertheless there, the blood that will never wash off, and the horrible dreams that visit me at night are reminders enough of my ten years of hate. The guilt and shame of what I did will always be a part of me.
I suppose your doubt was inevitable. My little naive girl from Poteidaia is no more. In her stead is a strong, confident young woman. Gabrielle, you have come so far in our time together. It has been like watching a beautiful rose slowly unfold from its bud and stretch its petals up toward the sun, its sweet smell of kindness enriching all who come near. I am so proud of you.
But something has changed. You betrayed me and I lied to you. I know in your heart you felt you were doing the right thing. You have always done so. But when you slapped me as I kneeled in front of you you might as well have plunged a dagger into my heart. The pain I felt then could not have possibly been more excruciating.
Oh gods! Am I forever fated just to begin to experience the joy of knowing what it is to trust someone, to love someone only to have them cruelly torn from me? It seems so. I had known love before but not like ours, Gabrielle. M'lila and Lao Ma were as lighthouse beacons on a black sea to me but you were like the noon day sun warming my once cold heart and lighting my once dark soul. I do not believe it. Do I just say were? Is it so? Is she not still my sun? I don't know. Oh, Gabrielle please forgive me but I don't know. I love you, Gabrielle. I always will. But, sadly, I sense the presence of a wall slowly, and I fear inexorably, rising between us. What will I do if that wall does indeed become impenetrable? Will I be strong enough to break it down? Will my stubborn pride even let me try? Will she try? I don't know.
My heart is breaking. Maybe she has outgrown me. In truth it has really all been an absurd charade. People see the big, strong, fierce warrior and the kind country girl together and they naturally assume it is the little one that is dependent but it is not so. Even Gabrielle and I play the game but, in our hearts, we both know I have always needed her much more than she needed me.
I sit by the fire and watch her sleep. She used to sleep so well but lately it seems she too is troubled. Is she now, for the first time in her young life, having to grapple with demons of her own? If so gods give her strength to do battle with them. She will need it. Or is it because she is, like me, worrying about where we are going?
I hate myself for lying to her. She does not deserve to be treated thus but I know it would be useless to try to explain to her why I could not let Lao Ma down. Even if I had wanted to. Yes, I paid my debt but I do not feel any better for it.
If there is one word that will forever be linked to me it is the word pain. I caused unimaginable suffering for so many others which, in turn, came to cause me almost unbearable pain. I say almost because up til now, despite the crushing guilt, I have been able to bear it. This is because of you, Gabrielle. I told you once you were a gift to me but that was such an inadequate thing to say. You know how stingy I am with words. How do I tell you that you are the reason that I am able to rise and face another day? You have been my redemption and the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt you. I might be able to bear the pain of my past life but if I thought I was the cause of pain for you it might be too much for me.
So I sit here and poke at the fire and I wonder. Was it unrealistic to think she would always remain the pure soul I fell in love with? Probably. Life is so hard. What do I do? Get on with life and try to act as though nothing has changed between us? No, that would not only be foolish but living a lie as well. Something has changed between us. There is a hole in the once perfect cloak of love that protected us. Can the hole be mended? I don't know. I don't know! What I do know is that I will try. It's all that I can do. I know it's not too late for us. It can't be. Oh sweet gods it must not be. Gabrielle, I love you more than life itself. I always have. I always will.
So sleep tonight, little one. As always I will watch over thee. As always I will defend thee to the death. Forever. May the gods grant you peace. Tomorrow we will try again.