DISCLAIMER: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle and other recognizable figures and their backstories belong to Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. Historical figures belong to themselves. No infringement intended - no profit made.
NOTE: As always, THANKS to the big kids (Steph and Oz) for letting me build castles in their sandbox.
GREAT CAESAR'S GHOST
"Why don't you and I work together?" she asked.
"So, you want to help me conquer the world?"
The very suggestion amused me.
I told her I had a destiny. In her arrogance, she actually thought that she might have a share in it.
She was a pirate. Nothing more than a common thief upon the high seas. She'd had the audacity to kidnap me. Once my ransom was paid, did she really believe we would be allies?
She soon learned her place - amongst my conquered. Oh, how she railed against it. Even from the height of the cross, she spat her vehemence at me.
As I walked away, down the beach lined with crosses upon which I'd had her and her pirate crew crucified, I turned my mind towards the future and more pressing matters. I regulated her to where she belonged; in my past as just another footnote in my history.
The past refused to stay buried. Time after time, I found Xena in my present. In Britannia, allied with Boadicea. In my beloved Rome as her foul girlfriend delivered Crassus to the executioner's blade. Even in the remote reaches of the Amazon forest, leading those half-naked savages against my legions. She was a constant thorn in my side.
One that I longed to have removed. It was the shade Callisto that appeared to me, claiming that she was the one that would deliver my destiny to me. I thought she meant to deliver Xena's head along with it. I got six of them. All imposters. The mercenaries who thought they could deceive me out of the bounty promised for her head soon found theirs parted from their shoulders. Callisto advised me that instead of worrying about attacking my enemy directly, I should instead concentrate my efforts on her weakness...Gabrielle.
It was brilliant. I needed Xena distracted, her attention away from Rome so that I could declare myself Emperor. What better way than to send her to a remote, snow-covered mountain outpost on a mission to save her girlfriend? And, what better distraction than to crucify her, the way I had once crucified Xena?
My plan worked. Xena was out of Rome. As far out of Rome as I could get her. My path was clear. There would be no opposition. I smoothed out my white robes, placed the golden laurels upon my head and prepared to make my announcement to the Senate.
"It's ironic, isn't it?" I asked the Fates. "How a single misstep can change the entire path of one's destiny? Had I not betrayed Xena, I'd be ruling Rome. Instead, I get stabbed in the back by my good friend Brutus while she rides off into the sunset with her girlfriend."
"You can not change your fate - "
" - once it has been chosen - "
" - unchain us now and accept your destiny."
The Fates really do speak like that, you know. One after the other. Atropos. Lachesis. Clotho. It takes three of them to finish one sentence. It can by very annoying.
And, who were they to speak to me of destiny? I had a destiny. And, this was not it. Standing there, in front of the Fates, my golden laurels still upon my head, my once pristine white robes stained with blood from my mortal wounds, I proceeded to tell them of my destiny.
It was a destiny that could not be stopped, not even by Death. I was clever enough to escape the Underworld. Smart enough to chain the Fates, lest they attempt to thwart me. I savored their fear as I pulled the scissors from inside the robes of Atropos.
I found precisely the moment I was searching for in a single life's thread. And snipped it. I let one end fall to the ground, a thing to be discarded. The other, I carefully fed into the loom.
"Tampering with the loom will alter the very fabric of life - "
" - changing not only your destiny - "
" - but that of countless others."
Their warning came too late. Not that I would have heeded it, even if it had reached my ears sooner. This was, after all, my plan. The thread was weaved into the loom, intersecting, merging with other threads. I watched in fascination as it unerringly sped towards the thread representing my life.
I left the Fates chained so that they could not mind the loom. I created a world full of chaos and confusion.
A world in which I ruled.
At last, I was Emperor. Xena, my Empress.
I was at the height of my power. Lao Ma had sent emissaries with an offer of alliance. I had her emissaries killed and set my sights on conquering the kingdom of Chin. Brutus warned that Lao Ma would send assassins.
"I know how to deal with assassins," I said.
Shortly thereafter, I killed my dear friend Brutus. The look of confusion on his face was almost comical. Until I remembered that this Brutus had no knowledge of his betrayal. Because in this world, that hadn't happened. Only I had memory of what had passed before I corrected the course of our life threads upon the loom.
Until Alti, High-Priestess of Rome, showed Xena visions of her former life. And ruined all my plans.
"You tampered with the Fates and their loom," she accused me.
Xena always was a clever girl. There was no point in denying it.
Too late, I realized the intricacy of fate. My teachers had preached of it during my lessons in philosophy. There was that mandate that dictated that no matter what road you follow, ultimately your fate is going to be the same.
No matter what life, I would always betray Xena. Xena and Gabrielle would always find each other and recognize their love for one another. I would always be fated to die by an unexpected hand.
Such was the irony of my life. I thought I had conquered my fate by killing Brutus. Then, came this lifetime's trusted person that I didn't expect - or suspect.
Until at the height of our passion when Alti pulled a dagger from beneath the bedsheets and repeatedly stabbed me. At the precise moment Xena was being crucified.
It wasn't finished, though. Xena had somehow gotten to the playwright and told her of what I had done. Someone helped to spirit her out of Rome. Otherwise, I'm certain she never would have made it past my loyal guards.
Gabrielle found the Temple of the Fates. She made her way past the chained figures of child, woman and crone and approached the loom with a torch.
"No - "
" - Burning the loom - "
" - will destroy everything - "
The Fates themselves gave the irritating blonde the answer. She threw the burning torch at the loom. The threads of life fueled the fire, setting the wooden loom aflame.
The loom was destroyed. Along with the world I'd created.
Once again, I was dead. And Xena had her happy ending.
I became aware of someone standing by my side, so close our shoulders were very nearly touching. He was at one time both a friend and a mortal enemy. As was the way with most of my former acquaintances.
"I knew you'd be here."
My gaze remained riveted on the two women, slumbering, limbs entangled, blissfully unaware of our presence.
"Come along," Pompey prodded. "It's time."
I sighed heavily.
There was movement on the bed. A rustling of the covers. She sat up, the sheet pooling about her waist and hips. Ebony tresses fell about her shoulders. Her hair was long, but not long enough to cover her breasts. Beside me, I heard Pompey's indrawn breath. Blue eyes darted about, scouring the grainy darkness of predawn shadows. I fought the urge to take a step back. A hand drifted towards the nightstand, fingers finding and closing about the grip of a gun.
Beside her, there was incoherent murmuring from the still mostly slumbering blonde. She reached out, a heavy limb landing awkwardly upon her partner's torso. A hand stroked down her arm, across her breast and lower, with a familiar touch that was both soothing and intimately arousing.
Sharp eyes cast one last glance about the bedchamber, unerringly landing on my hiding place. The look she gave me was so piercing that I knew for certain she could sense me. Was it possible that she could see me, as well? She always did have many skills.
I breathed easier as she at last averted her gaze. The gun was replaced on the nightstand. She turned, taking the blonde in her arms, placing a kiss against her temple. Then, she was kissing her eyes, her nose, her lips. The blonde responded, her arms circling about her lover's neck. There were sipping kisses. Then, deeper ones. The kind you can hear and know exactly what's happening, even if you can't see.
But, I could see. I could see the sheet being pulled down, the blonde's bountiful breasts being exposed, the nipples tightening as the chill air caressed them just seconds before her lover's mouth did. The sheet slid lower, the material moving in rhythm, mirroring the movements created beneath it by a powerful hand and forearm. Then, the blonde was fully awake, her body arching up off the bed and I heard another distinctively moist sound that wasn't caused by kissing.
I averted my eyes, refusing to bear witness to this.
"Are you ready?"
My abrupt question clearly startled Pompey. Was it my imagination, or did he jump just a bit? My gaze landed on the mottled bruising and dried blood that encircled the circumference of his neck like a noose. It was then that I recalled precisely why any sudden movement had a way of unnerving him these days.
"If you think you can tear yourself away." Pompey smirked, recovering nicely. "Table's set. We're all waiting for you."
"And, Brutus?" I asked, unable to keep the contempt from my voice. "Is Brutus waiting, too?"
I tried not to roll my eyes. And, apparently, failed miserably.
"You know, maybe you should think about speaking with someone."
I bristled. "You mean a therapist?"
"I tried one once." Pompey shrugged. "Might help you let go, put things in perspective."
"I have things, as you call them, in perspective."
"Mm. Cause you know, some might say you're obsessed."
Pompey's attention was divided, his gaze still clearly fixated on the bed's inhabitants. I stepped in front of him, as if that would be any benefit in distracting him. A passionate moan resonated from behind me and he brought the heel of his hand to his mouth, biting it in response.
I let out an exasperated sigh. Some things never change. Pompey the Magnus always was an uncouth bastard.
The room seemed suddenly much lighter. I stole a glance towards the double glass doors. The sun was edging its way over the horizon, the first orange-yellow rays touching the ground, stealing their way towards the veranda and the balcony doors. Soon, they would dispel all of night's shades.
"Come on," I said, grabbing a leering Pompey by the arm and steering him away. "Let's go."
"Okay, okay." Pompey shrugged off my grip. His shin greaves creaked as he walked across the room. "Just do me a favor and don't plunge your knife into Brutus' chest this time?"
"It's not as though it hurts him. And, it makes me feel better." I clasped my hands behind my back and gave Pompey my most imperial look. "Besides, I owe him at least ten more of those."
Pompey stared at my formerly pristine white, now blood drenched robes. When it happened, I clearly felt every thrust of every blade. With Brutus'...my dear friend Brutus...it was a thrust and a twist. Both literally and metaphorically. Now, after all this time, I could no longer say for certain whose dagger I felt first. Only that Brutus' was the last - and the one that continued to pain me the most.
A frown marred Pompey's features. "Again, this is why our friends think you're obsessed."
"I'm not obsessed. And, I have no friends."
"Of those two statements, I think only the latter is truth. At least promise to try to behave civilly tonight. After last time, I thought I'd never find anyone to play with us again."
"That depends. Is that droll barbarian sitting in?"
"He's a Hun," Pompey corrected. "Don't worry; Attila's out. Found someone new. His accent's a bit difficult to understand, but he seems like a nice guy. Name's Adolf."
"Can't be any worse that that Napoleon fellow." Something about that short Frenchman rubbed me the wrong way. Besides his atrocious accent. "Keep an eye on him," I warned, "I'm sure he's cheating."
That got Pompey's attention. He stopped in his tracks, turned and leveled a look at me. "You think?" he asked, both eyebrows going up.
I nodded. "Can you think of another reason for him to keep that hand inside his shirt? He's pocketing cards, I tell you."
"Huh. I thought maybe you'd stabbed him and he was trying to hold his guts in place." Pompey's laughter resonated in the air behind him as he walked through the bedroom door.
I fumed. Another Brutus and the Senate joke.
I gave serious thought to not going with Pompey.
I stole another look at the bed and the two lovers contained within. It wasn't fair. I had a destiny. She had done this to me. I knew it. Even as the daggers were plunged deep and I fell, I knew she had somehow orchestrated it. She had whispered in Brutus' ear, planted the seed of doubt. It was her fault.
My only satisfaction was in that no one else knew. Her name had been erased by the sands of time. History, though, history remembered me for the great deeds I had done. Even as it remembered Brutus for the traitor he was.
I wondered, Does she yet remember me? I've heard the phrase 'The dead can hear our thoughts'. It seemed centuries since I'd heard hers.
It was time she was reminded. I took a step towards the bed. Already, sunlight was streaming in the double glass doors, stealing across the floor and upon the mattress. It had been ages since I'd seen her in the daylight. Her ebony hair shone brilliantly. Her eyes were the brightest blue; clearer than the sky I remembered. She was just as breathtakingly magnificent as she'd ever been.
It suddenly crossed my mind to wonder how long I could stay. I'd never tried lingering past dawn before. I wasn't even sure if it was possible. Already, I felt something tugging at me, pulling me back. Something considerably stronger than Pompey's foul breath.
If I was going to resist, now was the time for action. I boldly stepped into the light. It felt - wrong. The sun hurt my eyes, blinding me. I looked down. I held my hand before my eyes.
Startled, I jerked my hand away; looked down at the rest of my body. I was fading. Everywhere the sun touched, I was disappearing from view.
I took a reflexive step back. The cool shadows soothed me. Thankfully, my disappearing body parts reappeared.
"You coming?" Pompey asked, materializing just his head and upper body through the surface of the door.
I couldn't help myself. I gave them one last look. Damn. I sighed heavily. Maybe Pompey was right. Maybe I was obsessed.
No, I told myself. It wasn't obsession. It was destiny. Clasping my hands behind my back, holding my head high, I regally passed through the solid oak door. There was a shimmering effect as my non-corporeal form passed through the thick wood-grained surface and out the other side.
There would be other nights, I reminded myself. Besides, somewhere in the Underworld, there was a poker game that awaited the presence of one Julius Caesar.
The brunette was on her knees, poised between her lover's legs. Her attention, though, was most definitely not on the source of her partner's copious amounts of moisture.
"Hey, you okay?" The blonde asked. She'd been very much enjoying the administrations of her lover; this close to a mind-blowing orgasm, when everything had just...stopped.
Her gaze was transfixed on the closed bedroom door. She felt herself being nudged. "Huh?"
"Are you okay? Because - " she made a gesture towards her still writhing body " - so close to the edge here."
"What? Oh, sorry." Blue eyes went to the door again. She blinked and rapidly shook her head. "For a moment, I thought I saw someone there. Eyes must've been playing tricks on me."
"You sure?" Concerned, the blonde propped herself up on her elbows. "You seem distracted. Something on your mind?"
"All my focus, my love, is on you." Pushing her lover back down, she placed several moist kisses upon her soft mound before reassuring, "You're the only one I'm thinking of."
Both women tensed as they thought they heard the echoing of disembodied laughter.