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The Dilemma

by Eimajj

This account follows the episode The Price and is dedicated to Lunacy. The characters belong to MCA/Universal and the story is mine.

Disclaimer: This story maybe best classified as a hurt/comfort story involving the characters Xena: Warrior Princess and Gabrielle. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to read something other than this story.

Gabrielle glanced over at her friend and then looked away again. Concern was etched in her face. The two friends had moved rapidly away from the Athenian army outpost with quick good byes and wishes for a save journey. They had barely stopped at the river bank to fill their water skins when Xena had struck north with a no nonsense pace. Her face an emotionless mask, she had marched on in stern silence. As the day far advanced, she showed no signs of stopping or wanting to rest.

Finally the young bard reached her limit and grabbed a strong hold of a muscular arm. "Xena, stop. We need to talk."

The warrior looked down at the bard with an exasperated stare, "The more distance we put between us and the horde, the safer we'll be. You don't really think that the fight I won over their leader will hold them for long, do you? They'll be back looking to kill or do worse, that I can promise you."

The bard looked up searchingly into her best friend's face and hoped "her Xena" would be there. "I don't think that is why you are moving so rapidly."

"Why, then Gabrielle?" the warrior replied coldly.

"You've got to face what happened back there; to you, to me and to us. I think you are trying not to."

Xena whirled away from the young bard and then her shoulders sagged. She slowly walked over to a fallen log and sat down and buried her head in her hands. Her long black hair cascaded over her face. Gabrielle followed and knelt down in front of the warrior and gently pulled her hands away. She looked deeply into troubled cobalt blue eyes and smiled encouragingly at the warrior.

"Gabrielle, I just haven't sorted all of this out for myself yet."

"I know. Maybe we can figure it out together. How about starting with what is troubling you right now?"

The warrior shook her head, confusion and doubt were clear in her eyes. "I don't know what to do anymore," she began slowly. "I thought I had the answers. I knew what the horde could do. I knew they were savages, not human, not like us. I knew that the only way to deal with savages is to kill them before they kill you. When we arrived at the Athenian fort, I knew what to do, how to motivate the men. I took command because I had to or we would have been annihilated. I did what it took to defeat the horde, to save our lives and yet somehow it was all wrong. I was wrong. I saw that in your face."

With a pleading look, Xena continued. "I don't want you to ever look at me the way you did back there. Not ever again! And yet, if I stop to think and worry about what your opinion is of my actions, I might fail to act. Gabrielle, that could cost you, me or some innocent person their life."

The emotional turmoil and long speech were wearing the warrior out and a haggard look crossed her face. Still never one to back down or run from a fight even with herself, Xena plodded on. "Action is all I know. I'm not good with words, never have been. They don't come and I'm never too sure what to say. Fighting is what I know how to do. I do it well and I like doing it. I admit that. Yet, you said we shouldn't fight. What should we have done when the horde attacked, let them kill us?"

Xena continued with a determined tone. "My warrior's code dictates that I will die with a sword in my hand and with my last breath taking as many of the enemy as I can with me."

Gabrielle returned with a determined look. "And my code dictates that I will die with a waterskin in my hand helping as many as I can and with my last breath giving love and forgiveness."

The warrior looked at the bard searchingly for a minute and then dropped her gaze. Which code was right? Could Gabrielle's way have led to survival for them all? Xena wondered if she could ever practice that code and forsake her own.

Her eyes started to mist. "I let out the beast within me. The darkness took over but I thought that was the price for survival. I could see from your look and loathing that was wrong and yet I don't know what I should have done instead." Xena looked fearfully at the bard. Would she leave now in disgust having seen the "real" Xena? Only the warrior really knew how much the Xena, commander of the fort, was the true Xena. The Xena Gabrielle chose to believe in was not the dominant force in the warrior's soul. Each day, the inner forces raged for control of the warrior's actions.

Gabrielle still held both of Xena's hands firmly. She looked carefully into her friend's face and replied, "You did what you thought you had to. You did save us from the horde. If you had not faced their leader and won, we would have all been killed. And yet...."

The green eyes of the bard took on a dreamy look, "Someday, maybe way in the future, men and women will live together without fighting. Just laws will govern the land and folks will live by them. People will live peacefully together side by side with no wars, no warlords and no hatred. Humans won't have to fight or kill each other anymore for there will be no reason to."

Gabrielle let go of the warrior's hands and stood up. She turned, took a step away, then turned back and pointed at her. "But that time is not now. The innocent people of the world must have someone like you to protect them from the cruel and savage. In order to do that, you will have to fight and you may have to kill. I just don't believe that you should kill. That's my dilemma."

The warrior stared at her friend a long minute, "What I did at the fort was wrong. I was as savage as the savages. Yet would we be alive now if I had acted differently?"

"Xena, we are alive now because you did act differently. You stopped reacting with fear, hatred and started acting with intelligence and understanding. Once you saw the horde as humans with codes of ethics, you found a way to defeat them and save us. That is the Xena I know and the one I love."

Xena could not let herself off so easily. "But the other Xena, the one who loves to fight, who loves the sound of battle and the cheers of her troops, she was in control. You feared and hated her."

"Yes," Gabrielle admitted. "She is in there with you all the time. I know that. We all have dark sides to our souls when anger, hatred and intolerance keep us from seeing the right path."

"No Gabrielle, not you."

"Yes, me too. Now who is putting whom on a pedestal? We must fight to do the right thing every day, that's what counts."

"So Gabrielle, is it wrong for me to kill? You said we shouldn't fight the horde and yet I don't see how we would have survived if we didn't. You do not kill human beings and I do. I always drew the line at murder in cold blood but now I'm not so sure. That's my dilemma."

"It is not wrong to protect others from harm. The world we live in forces you to fight and perhaps kill so people like me don't have to. This world is not ready for you to put down your code and take up mine. I just wanted you to see a different way of fighting than with your sword. Fight with your intelligence and understanding. But sometimes, its your sword that stands between death and survival. Just don't give in to the blinding hatred."

"My hatred and darkness make me a stronger warrior," Xena whispered.

"Perhaps stronger, but more easily defeated," Gabrielle countered.

"How will I know when I have gone too far over the edge and start to lose my humanity in the name of survival or protecting the innocent?"

"Oh, my warrior princess, that is where I come in. Its my job to remind you and show you when you have gone too far." Gabrielle smiled at her best friend.

Xena looked with concern at the young bard. Why would she choose to stay with her? "It sounds like a terrible, thankless job that will get you hurt and perhaps killed."

Gabrielle looked at her friend with soft eyes, "Its a labor of love."


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