Guilty Conscience

By the Mighty Lu Bu

Xena awoke drenched in sweat but she did not rise up from her position because she felt the bard's arms around her and didn't wish to wake her. It was that dream again. Xena paused for a moment, and then focusing on controlling her heart, she was able to slow it down again. With her breathing slowed and her heart no longer racing, she closed her eyes again. She was glad she didn't disturb her bard.

What she didn't know was that Gabrielle wasn't asleep. Gabrielle hadn't been asleep for at least an hour; she'd felt her warrior's heart race, and unknown to Xena, heard her screams. Xena always had troubles with sleeping, but it had been very intense this last week. Gabrielle had to wonder if it had anything to do with what happened a few days ago….

8

A few days ago

"Xena… it wasn't your fault…"

"She's dead isn't she? Wasn't it my sword?"

Gabrielle drew breath considering very carefully her next words, the funeral pyre behind her burned with the light reflecting off of the warriors blue eyes, "She was armed, she was resisting, and she made the choice…"

Xena shouted, "She was a child!"

8

The present

Xena was asleep again as the bard gently tried to wrap the warrior with her love, as well as her arms. It had been hard for both since it happened. The warrior did manage to make it through the night without waking up again, thought next morning was not so easy.

Xena walked a little slower than the bard was used too, her eyes colder, but not dark, but rather they seemed in despair instead. Gabrielle stated, "Xena where are we going today?"

Xena paused for a moment, as if to answer, but then choose not to as she took Argo's reigns and headed out for a stroll. Gabrielle was worried about Xena, but it seemed there was nothing she could about it.

8

A few days ago.

Xena and Gabrielle approached a wagon, hearing the noise of battle the warrior pulled out her sword and charged forward. The noise was coming from a wagon that was surrounded by several bandits. Xena's eyes quickly noted a man and a woman on that wagon huddling in fear as the robbers laughed at them, stabbing at them in a taunting manner.

Xena was off before Gabrielle could even finish talking. Catching up with what happen Gabrielle quickly charged after her.

Xena shouting her war cry landed among the bandits as she turned her sword around, disarming an attacker. She twisted her body sending a kick the warriors head knocking him over. Xena then dodged a stab, twisting around; she knocked the bandit to the ground.

Gabrielle arrived, she quickly avoided a slash aim high at her, smashing the attacker in the stomach once and then with a quick swing she uppercuts him, knocking him to the ground. Gabrielle side steps another attacker then tripped him with her staff.

Xena now surrounded by two of them, avoids both swords, working her way behind one she smash the bandit in the back of the head, sending the body to the grass below.

The last one charged at Xena with a quick twist of her wrist the attacker was down to the ground. Xena quickly went to tend the man and woman on the wagon asking, "Are you alright?"

The man nodded, "Thanks stranger."

But Gabrielle's eyes were behind Xena as she watched a bandit get to his feet aiming his sword at Xena, Gabrielle shouted, "Xena!"

On instinct Xena twisted back and stabbed the warrior through the chest. Xena removed the sword as the warrior fell to the ground, helmet falling off revealing that it was a woman. The other bandits scurried away in fear as Xena stood there in shock at what she saw…

8

The present

Gabrielle waited for about two hours for Xena to return. Gabrielle was intensely worried about her. Xena had been really suffering the last few days. There was no way Xena could have known that the attacker was so young. Xena only acted, but it wasn't enough for the warrior. She made the mistake, she should have been better; at least that's what Gabrielle knew that Xena was telling herself. Gabrielle wanted to find the best way to be there for Xena, to help her find her way. But Xena seemed so… lost.

Finally Xena returned to the camp as Gabrielle stepped up, "Xena…"

"I don't really want to talk right now?"

Gabrielle replied softly, "But you should."

Xena snorted, "I won't."

8

A few days ago

Gabrielle approached Xena to see what it was that had Xena froze in place. Gabrielle's eyes aimed downward at the dead woman before her. Only it wasn't a woman…

Gabrielle said, "She… she must be about 13."

Xena paused for a moment, "I've… I've killed a child."

Gabrielle tried to argue, "No Xena, she was going to kill…"

Xena interjected, "No… I killed her. I could have avoided it."

"Xena..."

Xena held up her finger, "No, don't say it…"

Xena's mind was flooded with guilt and regret. She looked at the bloody sword in hand, dropping it onto the ground. Xena's eyes watered. Gabrielle reached up hugging the warrior, "Xena…"

8

The present

Xena and Gabrielle were quiet must of the day. Xena just really didn't want to talk at all. She seemed gone, out of place, lifeless. It held to be true for the rest of the day as night came again. Without speaking a single word Xena went to sleep as Gabrielle scooted in behind her.

Gabrielle couldn't sleep just quite yet, her thoughts and worries were directed at Xena. Xena seemed so lost, and Gabrielle felt that there was nothing she could do.

8

Xena was in the middle of a village, a smile graced her face as she pulled out her sword. A dark haired 13 year old girl approached her. Xena said, "I know you…"

"Yes, you killed me!"

Xena shouted, "I shall kill you again!"

Xena stabbed her through the chest and laughed as the blood shot up. Then she turned around, another girl, but it wasn't really another girl. It was the same child Xena had killed. Xena slashed the girl's throat with her sword killing her.

Xena turned yet another direction as she saw three more girls approach her. They each were the same child that Xena had killed a few days ago. Xena shouted her war cry as she stabbed each one of them with her sword. Xena's eyes caught her surroundings. Dozens, no not dozens, hundreds of little girls surrounded her; each one looked exactly like the same girl that she had killed a few days before.

"You will never forget us Xena… You will never forget your victim!"

Xena screamed.

8

Xena awoke jumping to her feet. Gabrielle in shock was awake behind her. Xena locked eyes with Gabrielle once. Gabrielle knew instantly what was about to happen as she shouted, "Don't!"

But it was too late Xena took off running deep into the woods. Gabrielle was quick to give chase but she knew that she would not be able to catch the warrior. Gabrielle would just have to hope Xena would stop somewhere.

Xena screamed as she charged through the trees. All she wanted was to get away. To get away from the pain, the hurt… the truth. Xena had made an awful mistake and a child was dead for it. It was the truth that Xena couldn't face. Only a monster would murder children, she should have known that she would never be able to escape her past, and just as she thought she might, she had a knew mistake to be made.

Xena had only one thought she suddenly stopped. There would be no mistakes if she was dead. Xena unsheathed her sword and aimed it at herself. She prepared to end it, once and for all. No more victims, no more dead children. Then suddenly a voice cried, "Stop!"

Xena did not look behind her but she knew it was Gabrielle, but Xena just didn't want to face her.

Gabrielle stepped forward, "What are you doing?"

Xena scoffed, "What does it look like?"

"It looks like you're about to kill yourself."

"Maybe I am."

Gabrielle shook her head, "You can't do this?"

"Can't I? That's just it isn't. I can and will kill whoever I please, an innocent child if one appears, nothing seems to stop it, but at least this way there won't be anymore victims."

"No victims? What about me? You think I'm not going to hurt if you do it?"

Xena had no reply.

Gabrielle continued, "You call that child innocent? Maybe Xena you're not facing the truth…"

"And that is?"

"That the young girl you killed wasn't innocent, she was a murderer Xena. If she could, she would have killed you, she would have killed me, those two people on the wagon. You stopped a murderer, not a child."

Xena wavered just a little but maintained the angle of the sword.

"You know Xena, you're being a little selfish, here you are thinking of yourself and how you can't bear the pain, but did you once consider my pain should you have killed yourself, did you once think about how I would suffer for you, mourn for you?"

Xena replied, "But… it's…" Xena dropped her sword.

Gabrielle ran up to Xena kicking the blade away, "I know it's hard Xena. Killing someone that young even in self-defense shouldn't be easy. But we are going to get through this."

Xena paused, "Why does that feel like an order?"

"Because it is one, you are going to share your pain with me and together we are going to get through this."

Xena stared for a moment at the bards emerald eyes, "I love you Gabrielle."

Xena and Gabrielle pulled into a tight hug as Gabrielle softly whispered into her ear, "I love you too…"