Disclaimer : Some of the characters in this story are copyright MCA/Universal/RenPic, others aren't. The story is mine. Except the bits which aren't.
Warnings : This is not a story, it is a collection of thoughts about a relationship undergoing a test of its strength. There's a bit of angst in here, or so I'm told.
Bard's Boring Bits : This piece of work would not have happened, and would not be as good as it is, without the invaluable help of my beta readers. Take a bow Incognotter, Ann Dancer and Pam Salerno. You guys know what I'm trying write, even if I don't.
Special mentions to Cindy and Titan for the treacle.
"Hi" to Laura, my original stalker, and an anonymous hi to my new stalker who if I identify is under threat of severe nastiness from Laura.
"Hi" to everyone I've said "hi" to previously, and everyone I haven't.
"Hi" to everyone I forgot to say "hi" to.
"Hi" to everyone not covered by the previous "hi"s.
Murphy, I'm still naked!
Historian's Note : This takes place around the Season Three Rift. It features some familiar scenes, and my version of Bitter Suite (without the singing).
Note : There is no note.
by Claire Withercross
If love exists between two people, it is beautiful. However, beauty is not often appreciated by those who cannot see it. More often than not it is destroyed by them.
Sometimes the people who cannot see it are the ones in love.
And the biggest cause of beauty's destruction is silence.
Part 1 : Afraid Of Sunlight
i - Afraid of Sunrise
There was movement in the dark. An amorphous shape rose from the ground, found a form that it appeared comfortable with and started to move. It moved silently and surely towards the woman sleeping by the dying remains of the fire. Faint embers picked out highlights in its eyes as it drew near the blonde hair poking out from the bedroll. It paused as if to smooth the sleep messed tresses, then moved on to crouch by the red glow of the fire.
Showers of sparks rose from the fire and smoke drifted across the campsite obscuring the shape and the sleeping figure. As the smoke cleared, flames burst into life and the shape revealed itself to be a leather clad warrior. She stirred the fire and hung a pot over it.
While her breakfast warmed up, she sharpened her sword. A bird call caught her attention and she shifted her attention to the faint glow in the eastern sky.
The warrior stood and faced the sunrise.
A morning mist clings low over the fields as I shut my eyes and soak up the first rays of the newly risen sun. I love this time of day. It's an in-between time. A time when sleep is over and living is yet to be done for the day. Gabrielle is still asleep. She's a late sleeper, and a heavy one. I want to wake her, to show her the beauty of the dawn, but by the time I'd get her awake the moment would be over.
I watch her sleep. She lies on her back, both arms tucked under the blanket holding it up to her chin. She looks cold. I cover her with my discarded blanket and she seems to react to it. She seems to relax. Maybe it's her dream she's reacting to. I envy her ability to be completely at ease in sleep. I never sleep deeply or for long. Too many years trained to leap awake and defend myself. Maybe I've never had anyone I could trust like she thinks she can trust me. To guard me while I sleep.
But today I have a terrible feeling of foreboding, and I wish the sun wouldn't rise, so whatever bad thing is approaching won't arrive.
I had the dream again last night.
I can't recall exactly what happens in it. I only know I wake up with the dread knowledge that something awful is going to happen to Gabrielle... to us.
Every time I wake with that feeling I say to myself that I'll leave her. But I can't leave her sleeping unguarded. Even if there is no immediate danger. And when she wakes... when she wakes and looks at me through those half closed, sleep filled green eyes asking what's for breakfast, I forget all about it and neglect to mention it.
"How do we now come to be
Afraid of sunlight"
Afraid Of Sunrise - Hogarth/Helmer
ii - Out Of This World
The harbour was a focus for communication and was bustling with people trading. If one was to listen, one would hear several languages being spoken, yet the global language of trade was understood by all. Unlike the language of love.
Two women found their way through the crowd and stopped near a ship. They held a short, intense conversation, then embraced. The taller one placed a kiss on the top of the head of the smaller one.
As the tall one moved away, the shorter one stared after her. Her face a mix of love and loathing. She didn't want to be left behind, she didn't want her companion to go.
She thought what she should have said.
I feel betrayed. You obviously need my help but you deny me the opportunity to give it. What have I done to deserve this mistrust? Have I done something to upset you? I know I'm too sensitive sometimes, but that is my nature. Is it your true nature to be insensitive? I can't believe that. I've seen your sensitive side, and it comes naturally to you. Why do you now turn me away when it hurts you to do so?
This isn't the first time you've left me alone. Left me worrying if I'll ever see you again. But this is the first time I've felt you couldn't trust me to come with you. It's as if you're stopping me from loving you.
Why do you stop me from loving you? Why do you stop me from being with you in your time of need?
My only reason for living is to love you.
"I know the pain of too much tenderness
Wondering when or if you'll come back again
Wanting to live for you
And being banned from giving"
Out of This World - Hogarth/Helmer
iii - Afraid Of Sunlight
Snow attempted to obscure the dark figure, but failed. Her anguish and grief created a shield that nothing could penetrate. Nothing could get in, or out. The pain she felt rebounded inwards, multiplying its effect. Something had to give.
The cry split the air. No human beings were around to hear the lament. It would have frozen their blood more effectively than the snow.
Nothing is important anymore. My life has been torn apart. I have lost my son and my best friend in a single act of betrayal. My son, who was killed because I was his mother. My best friend, whose lies and deceit brought about the death of my son. My friend, my love, my saviour, who I'd always thought was incapable of such duplicity.
It is not betrayal that hurts, I've been betrayed in the past, but the perpetrator of it. The innocent young woman who played me for a fool. She seduced me with that guileless facade, broke down my defences and made me lay bare all the feelings that I'd kept hidden all my life. She destroyed the powerful warrior I used to be and then, when I was most vulnerable, she lied to me.
If I only do one more thing in this life, it will be to see that treacherous bitch die.
"Been in pain for so long
I can't even say what hurts anymore
I will leave you alone
I will deny
I will leave you to bleed
I will leave you with your life
So how do we now come to be
Afraid of sunlight"
Afraid of Sunlight - Hogarth/Helmer
Part 2 : The Silent Whales Of Lunar Sea
It seemed impossible that this rift could exist between them. They had been so close, but the gap had opened a little bit at a time. Each trying to come to terms with their feelings for each other, they had fallen into silence for fear that speaking the truth would destroy the fragile understanding between them. But all it had done was break the bond and shatter their relationship.
Their hearts screamed, but their hate took control. Each feeling betrayed by the other, yet oblivious to their own part in the disaster.
Their friends were helpless to stop them. They, too, were torn by the break up. Why couldn't the two of them see what they were doing to each other.
They came together, not for talk and reconciliation, but for confrontation and death.
Part 3 : Misplaced Rendezvous
The warrior stood on the cliff, the bard held aloft. The outcome was inevitable. Together in life, together in death.
They were falling.
Two bodies, falling. Two minds, falling. Two hearts, falling. Two souls, falling. Two lives, falling. One love.
As the bodies hit the waves at the foot of the cliff a force conspired to save them. Save their minds, save their souls, save their lives.
Save their love.
The two bodies floated on the water. The two minds floated... somewhere.
Their minds heard thoughts not their own.
Their thoughts played in minds not their own.
Their hearts spoke the things their mouths were afraid to.
(Where are we?)
I don't know. Leave me alone.
Don't what? You killed my son. You deserve to die.
(My daughter killed him.)
You could have prevented it.
(How was I to know?)
I told you she was evil.
(I killed her for you.)
You should have done it sooner.
(It was Callisto's revenge against you. My daughter was her weapon. It is not my fault.)
It never is.
(And it's never your fault.)
Not this time.
(Don't you know that I love you?)
(Don't you know that you love me?)
(Then why do you hate me?)
You betrayed me.
(You lied to me.)
I lied to you because I thought I could protect you.
(I betrayed you because I thought I could protect you.)
You! Protect me. I don't need your protection.
(To me, you're not the Destroyer of Nations, fearsome, ruthless warlord. To me, you're Xena, a woman with feelings. Feelings that you don't know how to handle. You know how to use a sword, but you don't know how to use the deadliest weapon in your arsenal. Love.)
You did a good job of hurting me with your love. I trusted you more than anyone else I've ever known. And you killed me with your treachery.
(I've never claimed to be infallible.)
We both failed.
(We only fail if we give up.)
(Just like that? As if none of it mattered?)
We can't go on, you saw to that.
You killed my son. You killed our love. I lost everything because of you... I lost you.
(Don't blame me because you lost everything you loved. It was never my intention to hurt you, and I'm not accepting all the blame for this mess.)
...Maybe we're both to blame.
(That doesn't mean our love is over.)
What else can it mean?
(We can go on. We can move beyond this.)
(Please, don't let our love die.)
I can't live with myself. I can't live with hating you.
(Don't say you can't love me after what I did to you. Please don't destroy what we have. There is so little beauty in this world, and what we have is beautiful. This might be a hard thing for you to do, it's hard for me to ask you to do it, but give our love another chance. It's not the only thing in our lives, but it's the most important thing. At least it is in mine. )
I can't let myself love you again, because I can't take the pain.
(Pain? Does it hurt so much to love me?)
No. Loving you was the easiest thing I've ever done.
(Then take the easy option.)
Do you find it easy to love me?
(Yes... No... But it's worth it. Love is worth it. You are worth it.)
I always thought something was wrong that you would want to follow me. That anyone would want to be with me made no sense. I don't understand what you saw in me. What made someone so good want to be with someone so evil? Didn't you know that loving me would kill you?
(I looked into your eyes, after that I didn't care. I didn't care if I lived or died. Only that I had to love you.)
You gave me your heart and I took it to a place where it won't survive.
(Before I met you I didn't have a heart to give. My heart is yours, do with it what you wish. Only, I have your heart, you gave it to me, remember?)
(Do you want it back?)
...No. I want you back.
(Do you mean that?)
I remember the moment we parted at Solan's funeral. I see it over and over again. I didn't say good-bye, I made no attempt to acknowledge the severing of our relationship. Can you forgive that? Can you forgive me?
(Yes. Can you forgive me?)
Part 4 : A Few Words For The Dead
Smoke lazily curled up from the fire. They, the warrior and bard, sat in silence, perhaps remembering another fire not so long ago.
They both reached for a stick to add to the fire at the same time. As their fingers brushed each other they pulled away as if burnt. A look passed between them and they smiled shyly before looking away.
The warrior took a deep breath and started to whistle tunelessly.
The bard sighed and took this as a signal to put the stick on the fire. She picked up a scroll and started to write. After a few words she stopped and looked over at the warrior, who was busy examining her fingernails. A sideways glance from the warrior sent the bard's eyes back to her scroll.
The warrior watched the bard writing in her scroll. She surreptitiously tilted her head to see what the bard was writing and saw her name, but looked away quickly when it seemed the bard was going to look in her direction.
The bard caught movement out of the corner of her eye and saw the warrior move to her pack and retrieve her weapons and sharpening stone.
It was a familiar and comforting scene: the bard writing, the warrior tending her hardware. The bard found it hard to believe that moments such as these had come so close to being a thing of the past. She felt something needed to be said.
At the familiar intake of breath that signalled that the bard was about to speak, the warrior looked over at her.
At the inquiring look from the warrior the bard found that words had deserted her. She flashed a quick, wry smile and averted her gaze.
Only the crackling of the fire, the scratching of quill on parchment and stone on metal held back the deafening silence.
The bard couldn't help but look at the warrior, if only to remind herself she was still there. The warrior's face was concentrated in thought.
The bard knew exactly what the warrior was thinking.
I came so close to losing everything I loved through my own arrogance. I should have learnt by now that not everyone... that Gabrielle... doesn't think the same way I do. That what I perceive to be a betrayal, she sees as an attempt to save me. That what I see as a monster, she sees as a daughter.
That what other people see as a monster, she sees as me.
We are different, we think differently, we act differently.
She is the light that guides me, I am the darkness that can only hurt her.
I can only fight and hurt.
"Or you could love," Gabrielle says to me. "Lie down, look at the sky, look at the clouds, look at the stars, look at the world. Why waste your life doing anything else?
"There is no need to fight. You already have everything you need right here.
"You can love."
"Everybody knows we live in a world where they
give bad names to beautiful things
Everybody knows we live in a world where we
don't give beautiful things a second glance
Heaven only knows we live in a world where
what we call beautiful is just something on sale
People laughing behind their hands as the
fragile and the sensitive are given no chance
We don't have to live in a world where we give
bad names to beautiful things
We should live in a beautiful world
We should give beautiful a second chance"
Beautiful - Hogarth
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