In This Life Or The Next Title: In This Life Or The Next
Author: Amy Fortuna
Rating: PG-13
Archive: Please ask.
Fandom: Gladiator, no pairings
Warnings: Canon character death.
Summary: The last fight from Maximus' point of view.
Notes: Just to celebrate the Oscars. Written to the second Gladiator soundtrack.

****

The dust is heavy in my hands. I brush it off, the white sand clinging to my fingers. I have done this in every fight, since I was a child scuffling with children. Then it was play; now it is death, for me or him.

I will say it even to myself, for it must be obvious to the rest of the Roman world. I am dying. It has been a long slow death, and almost I welcome the approaching shadows, desire deeply to open that door.

But not yet. There is something I must do. Commodus cannot be allowed to live.

"I am father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will have my vengeance in this life or the next."

It is vengeance that drives me. I make no secret of it. Yet it is also love. I would not see Lucilla, who I was once deeply in love with, wither and die under the shadow of this despot boy-tyrant. Nor would I see Lucius grow up to be the same kind of man that his uncle is.

I move forward slowly, as though I were swimming through the air. I sometimes cannot see what is before my eyes. My body does not obey me.

Almost I fear that I will fail in this last greatest task. But it is that fear which spurs me onward, that drives me to focus in on the face of the man (no trace of Emperor remains about him except in his rich garments), the man who slaughtered my family, killed my servant, and would condemn the lady I loved once to a life of hideous depravity.

No! I will fight to keep safe that land I love. Rome is larger than one man's vicious plans. I will fight, to keep safe the dreams of unborn children, that they may have a pleasant home to grow up in.

"Three weeks from now I will be harvesting my crops..." I had said back before all of this began, when life still looked sweet.

"Imagine where you will be!" I never imagined I would be be here, but I am glad that it is me that must fight for my country, not another.

"And it will be so. For what we do in life echoes in eternity." It must. The ages will not forget me. That is my comfort.

"Hold the line," I whisper to myself, as if in a dream. I see my horse flying over the forest of Germania in that last rush, through fire and sword and direst danger.

As though I am living my dream, the small knife treacherously hidden in the folds of Commodus' garments slides from his hand into mine, and I hold him in my grasp, firm, as the life ebbs from his body.

I feel nothing except a sense that it is finished, over with, done, and the world is safe. I am fading fast. I shove his corpse to the ground, and reach out my hand to the long awaited door.

"If you find yourself alone, walking in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be afraid, for you are in Elysium, and you are already dead!"

I have accomplished what I came to do in this life, and now I may forever enjoy the next.

I smile, faintly, and step through the door.

END