The Wall
by hobbes
Originally post April of 97 at the Universal Net forum

Disclaimer and Warnings: The story belongs to me, the characters from X:WP belong to the nice people of MCA/Universal.

There is a scene that involves the death of children. If this would disturb you, please, do not read any further.

Gabrielle watched in puzzlement. Xena lifted a stone and added it to a large wall that was nearly completed. She added mortar to bind it and turned slowly to reach for another stone. Gabrielle spoke to her, calling out her name, but her friend didn't seem to hear her. Gabrielle heard the gravelly thump of another stone put in place. She worked in eerie silence, without any change in speed. Lift stone, put in place, mortar. Over and over, she repeated this process. Gabrielle saw the wall get higher and higher, eventually, blocking her view of Xena.


The young woman woke with a start, disturbed by her dream. It hadn't been a frightening dream in terms of violence--just unsettling. It was still dark, and the night sounds were muted by the thick fog that surrounded them. The misty air was chilly, and she snuggled back under the covers of her bedroll. The stillness of the evening was spooky, and her eyes darted around her, imagination running wild. Anything could be out there--just a few feet away for all she knew. Waiting.

Gabrielle looked towards Xena, asleep on the other side of the low burning fire, her shape almost in visible in the mist. A night owl hooted in the distance, causing the bard to jump. She considered pulling her bedroll next to Xena, but dismissed it as being childish. She was too old to need being coddled. There was nothing to be frightened of. *Go back to sleep, you ninny!* She laid back down and closed her eyes. She tried to slow her breathing, only to jump again when an odd echo broke the silence. The bard bolted upright again, and listened. The sound came again, and she relaxed. An animal--maybe an elk.

Once again, she tried to relax and fall sleep. But over and over, every little sound woke her.

"Gabrielle?" Xena's voice came out of the blue. "What's the problem? Can't sleep?"

Gabrielle sighed. "No, I had a dream that woke me. Nothing scary, but I can't get back to sleep. I'm sorry I woke you."

Xena didn't answer, but Gabrielle saw her get up and drag her bedroll over next to her. She spread it out and climbed back in. "Now go back to sleep, Gabrielle. I'm here."

She closed her eyes and slept, listening to the sound of her friend's breathing.
"Come on, Gabrielle. Wake up! We can't stay here all day. Up and at 'em!"

"Uhhhhh. I don't want to. Can't I sleep just a little more?" she asked as she reclosed her eyes.

"No! Don't you fall asleep on me again! This is the third time I've nudged you. Next time I yank the covers from out and under you," Xena threatened.

"You are a cold and heartless friend," she complained.

"That's right." Gabrielle jumped. Xena had spoken not an inch from her ear. Xena's voice said it wouldn't tolerate any more delays. The girl pushed back her covers and climbed to her feet. She collected her things and packed them into her bags. The morning air was still cold, so she grabbed a heavy woolen shirt and put it on over her shoulders.

"There's some hot tea by the fire--and some bread. Hurry and get it while it's still warm. I'll pack the rest," Xena offered. Gabrielle smiled her thanks, and helped herself. She tasted the tea, trying to decipher it's ingredients. *Mint, rose hips, maybe a hint of honey.* It had been a mild game of theirs. Tea seemed to be the only thing Xena was good at making. It was never the same twice in a row because she liked variety. Gabrielle told Xena her guess.

"Um hm. But there's some raspberry in there too."

"Where did you get the honey? I didn't see you buy any at the last village."

"I found a hive yesterday. I didn't think the bees would mind if I took just a little."

"So that's why you were sucking your finger. Bee got you," she said playfully.

Xena ignored her as she finished tightening Argo's cinch.

"Come on. If we hurry, we can make Aronea by high day," Xena told her.

"I hope your friend is still there. I'd hate to see you disappointed."

"Me, too. But she's not the kind to move around. So I think Jolese should still be there. I think you'll like her. She's a little shy, but if I know you, you'll be her best friend before nightfall. Her husband is a huge bear, but he's so sweet on her, it's touching. I always thought they were an odd couple, but they get along so well, it seems like they've always been together."

"How long have they been married?" Gabrielle asked.

"About a two and a half years. She met Kanther at a spring festival. He scared her to death at first. It took weeks for him to convince her to just come out of her house and speak with him!" Xena said with a smile.

"And you met her when you passed through Aronea."

" Mm hm. I was on my way back from meeting one of my scouts when I passed through. I was going to come back that way and raid Aronea, but it seemed so ...peaceful, I couldn't do it. I decided to bypass it. Jolese saw me staring at the town and walked right up to me. The other villagers knew who I was and hid. The shyest girl in the village stood right in my face and told me to leave her home alone. I had to admire her. So I said OK and started to leave. She must have thought I was playing with her. It took some time to convince her I was sincere."

"And she told you to come see her if you ever gave up your violent life," Gabrielle continued for her.

"Yep. I haven't given it all up, but I think she can live with that."

"I have a feeling if she didn't like it, she'd say so."

"Probably. Let's get moving."


The two friends looked down on the village of Aronea with pleasure. The setting was as peaceful as Xena had described. Most of the buildings were stone enforced, and surrounded by graceful trees and gardens. A community well sat in the center, a gathering place for the locals. Children played and laughed among the visiting , but under the watchful eyes of their parents. Merchants displayed their wares, as buyers haggled good-naturedly over the prices. The village almost sparkled with tranquility. Gabrielle understood Xena's reluctance to destroy such a place.

"It's beautiful. Like a place of legend," Gabrielle said softly.

"It is, isn't it? If I ever had to stop and settle down, this is the place I'd come to."

They followed the path down the hillside, anxious to find Xena's friend.


Xena walked up to a small house not far from the well. It was a cozy and welcoming building, with flowers planted all around with wind chimes tinkling gently in the breeze. She tied Argo to a pole that held a lantern, and went to the door. She paused, almost nervously, before she knocked. She waited until the door opened and took a step backwards.

Gabrielle gasped as one of the largest men she had ever seen rushed out of the house to grab Xena. He lifted her into the air, spinning her around as though she weighed no more than a child. He easily stood a head taller than her friend, and his arms were as large as most men's thighs. A shock of red hair curled around his shoulders.

"Xena! By Zeus' foot! I can't believe it's you!" he said as he lowered her. He kept his arms wrapped around her as he turned to shout into the house.

"Jolese! Hurry! We have visitors!", he bellowed. A tiny woman with dark hair came to the door, wiping her hands on a cloth. She looked at Xena and gasped in surprise.

"Xena! I don't believe this! And who is this?" she said after spotting Gabrielle.

"This is my closest friend, Gabrielle. Gabrielle, meet Jolese and Kanther," she said with a big sappy smile. Everyone exchanged hellos and entered the house.

Jolese offered them a meal, which they happily accepted. They sat around the table, anxious to catch up on each other's lives.

"So, you gave up the warlord life---for good? " Jolese asked.

"Yes. There's no way I could ever go back, not even save my own life," Xena vowed.

"Like I'd ever let you!" Gabrielle piped in. She grinned at her friend and patted her arm.

"She sounds just like my Jolese. Bossy," he said tongue-in-cheek.

"Actually, that's one of the first things that came to my mind when I met her. Gabrielle was defying a warrior that was trying to take the girls in her village as slaves. She didn't stand a chance, but it didn't slow her down," Xena said with true admiration. Gabrielle blushed, not used to compliments from Xena.

"A little spitfire when she's riled, huh?" said Kanther, "You'd better toe the line then, Xena. She might knock you alongside the head if you get her angry."

Xena and Gabrielle laughed. "She already has," Xena told him.

"Oh, this I gotta hear! Tell me all about it, little one."


Jolese was so excited, she couldn't sleep. Everyone else had gone to bed, but she still paced the house. She took a cup and filled it with wine, hoping to relax. She sat down at the table, attempting to settle down. She thought about the ex-warlord.

She couldn't believe the differences in Xena's personality. Oh, she knew deep down that she was a good person. Her mercy of the past proved that--but now Xena seemed so much more open. There were still barriers to be sure, but she seemed more capable of showing her heart than ever before. To think, it all started because of a child. A tear slid down Jolese's face.

The pain of remembering her own childless state came back to her. It didn't seem fair that she and Kanther had no children. They had so much love to give. She drained her cup, and went to bed.


Gabrielle woke and wasn't surprised to find Xena gone. The bard got up and washed before dressing. She walked quietly out of the small room into the main part of the house, not wanting to wake anyone if they were still asleep. She found no one there, but it was still rather early. She went outside. She found Xena sitting cross-legged facing the sun, her eyes closed as though in prayer.

Her face was serene, relaxed as though asleep, her breathing deep and regular. Gabrielle rarely saw her meditating, and wondered what went through her mind when she did this. Xena had tried to teach her, but her mind was too active to keep it up. Xena had told her the idea was not to think, but with Gabrielle, that was like telling water not to flow downstream. Gabrielle sat near her, and attempted to try again.

She closed her eyes and tried to control the rhythm of her breathing. She did this for quite some time, and her mind drifted during the peaceful morning sunrise.


Xena allowed herself to awaken, slowly changing her breathing and flexed her muscles one by one as she sat on the cool ground. She opened her eyes and took a deep breath. She was surprised to see Gabrielle, apparently successfully meditating--or asleep. Usually, if someone came near her, Xena was instantly aware of it. But not this time. Her trust of Gabrielle rendered her unaware. She was no threat, so she was invisible to her.

*Good thing Gabrielle isn't a practical joker. I could have wakened with my face painted red and my hair in knots for all I would have known," she laughed to herself. A grin appeared on her face. * I wonder...* She touched her friend's arm, testing for a reaction. Not a quiver. She went to animal pen behind Kanther's house and retrieved a sleepy baby pig. She gently placed it on Gabrielle's lap and waited.


Gabrielle slowly came out of it. She sensed a movement against her legs and opened her eyes. She looked down and looked into the eyes of a pig. It looked at her as if to say 'You don't look like my mother!' as it wiggled, trying to escape. She didn't know where it came from, but she couldn't let it run away. It had to belong to someone. She grabbed hold if it, and it squealed in protest. Suddenly, Gabrielle heard the familiar husky laugh of her friend. She turned and saw Xena smiling with glee.

"You did this didn't you?" she accused.

"Yep. I couldn't resist. How'd you like my surprise?" she asked as she took the pig from her.

"Remembering the words: 'Revenge is sweet' " she quoted with an implied promise.


Gabrielle cleaned up and then offered to help Jolese with the morning meal. Xena was helping Kanther with his chores.

"How many slices should I cut?" she asked while holding the knife over the loaf.

"More like twelve to fifteen. Kanther is a big eater," she said boastfully.

"I noticed. I thought I could put away food! He's amazing. If he eats like that all the time, you have your hands full just cooking!" she said with a mixture of awe and sympathy.

"Not really, I just cook in bigger pots," she said with a shy smile. She had quickly warmed to the young bard and spoke more freely. "Luckily for us, he's a good provider. He's a potter, and we raise a few animals. We also have a garden in back. We get along."

"I already met one of your animals." She explained about Xena's little trick.

Jolese laughed and they discussed ways Gabrielle could get even. They were giggling like conspiring children when Xena and Kanther walked in.

"What's so funny?" he asked.

"Nothing. Just talking about...housework," Gabrielle said with a forced straight face. Laughter threatened to bubble out. She quickly turned her back to hide her smile. Kanther and Xena stared for a moment, and sat at the table, deciding they really didn't want to know.


They were almost finished eating when heavy pounding at the door made them jump. Kanther rushed to his feet and opened the door. A young boy was there, panting hard.

"Quick_ Kanther, we need your _help! Doren _and the others are trapped!" he said between gasps.

"Where? What happened?" he asked.

"Greenrocks Gorge. Rockslide. They were in the old quarry cave and the roof caved in. Everybody is going there to help dig them out."

"I'll get my tools. I'll be there shortly." The boy took off to the next house.

"We'll help," said Gabrielle.


They followed Kanther for almost a mile through the thick forrest, carrying heavy tools and ropes. No one wasted time on talk, only concerned about reaching the gorge as quickly as possible.

Kanther felt the weight of guilt on his shoulders. The old cave was his original site for his clay diggings. It had tapered off to plain dirt, and he had never taken the time to fill it in. The cave wasn't very large, and anyone trapped inside could very well suffocate before being dug out. If this happened, he didn't know if he could live with the guilt of causing the death of those children.

They arrived at the gorge, and Kanther led them down a narrow path along the steep incline. The path was well used, but could still be dangerous if they weren't careful. Xena could hear the frantic voices of people as they neared the bottom. The four of them joined the others that had made it there ahead of them

Xena and Kanther took the digging tools and pitched in to dig out the loose soil and rocks into waiting buckets, which in turn were carried away by waiting people to be dumped elsewhere. The work was exhausting, but they refused to slow down or rest. Children's lives were at stake. The larger stones had to be pulled and hauled with ropes and manpower, because there was no room for draft horses. They kept digging, dread hanging heavy in the air. There was so much to remove, and time was at a premium. For all they knew, the children had died from the lack of air by now. Hope was running out.
They dug finally dug their way through, and all their hopes were crushed. The children were dead, the lack of air had killed them. Their corpses tangled together in death. Parents wailed in grief as they removed the cold bodies of their children. They held the lifeless children in their arms, rocking from the unbearable pain, and the villagers joined in their sorrow. People clung to each other in pain, unable to bear their loss alone. Gabrielle leaned into Xena who stiffened at her touch. Gabrielle looked at her, unable to understand her friend's cold and unyielding face.

Xena stood rigidly, the memories of her past crashing in on her. The sounds of weeping had triggered old guilts. How many people had grieved in this manner from the aftermath of her raids? How many parents and children had felt the soul-tearing grief from the deaths of her actions?

She pulled away from Gabrielle and walked away, leaving her friend behind in confusion. She wasn't the only one that had fled from the scene. Kanther had also left.


Kanther rushed away from the disaster scene, unable to bear the sight of his friends grieving over their lost children. It was his fault for not filling the abandoned digging site, and because of his negligence, four children lie dead in their parents arms. Tears of grief and guilt poured down his face as he collapsed in a pile at the bottom of a large tree. He wept into his hands, his own pain too great to endure. He could never forgive himself. Suddenly, a hand touched his shoulder. His head snapped up, and saw Xena through tear-filled eyes. He turned away, not wanting her to have to look at him.

"Kanther? Why are you out here? Shouldn't you be with the others and Jolese? She must surely need your courage right now."

"The last thing they want right now is my presence, Xena. I'm the one that killed those children! Me! Jolese would be better off leaving me and finding a new man, anyway."

"What are you talking about. *You* killed the children? How?"

He explained it to her, asking for no understanding, making no excuses. Her admiration for this gentle giant grew as he spoke.

"Kanther. I want you to listen to me--and listen carefully. Yes, you should have filled that cave sooner, but the Fates had written their destiny. They had played in the wrong place at the wrong time, and nothing can change that. It's hard enough to live with guilt for actions and inactions of the past--don't destroy yourself for this. You are a good man. It will take a long time, but the pain will pass. I promise."

He stared at her and asked her a hard-hitting question.

"Have you ever forgiven yourself for your past Xena?"

"No. I haven't. But my actions were deliberate--yours weren't."

"But that doesn't make me feel any better."

"I know my friend. I know. Let's go home."


Jolese ran to her husband as he entered their home.

"Where have you been? And why did you leave? I've been so worried!" she said in a rush.

He shook his head. "My Love, I need to be alone for a while. I'll go lay down for a while." He turned from her and left for their bedroom. She started to reach for him, and Xena reached out her hand and stopped her. She shook her head.

After Kanther had shut the door, she explained.

"He feels guilty for the deaths of those children, because he didn't refill the cave."

"But that's foolish. He couldn't have known something like this would happen! I need to speak to him."

"No! Jolese, let him be alone for a while. Then talk to him. Right now, he's unwilling to listen," she advised. Jolese nodded her head reluctantly, and sat down.

"Xena? Could I talk to you?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena looked at her friend, with the freshly resurfaced guilt still haunting her, and her defenses up. Gabrielle saw no sign of the warm and vibrant woman she had shared the last month with. This was the cold Warrior Princess that she had first met. For reasons unknown, all her work had been destroyed. She motioned Xena to the back room they had been sharing.

"What's wrong, Xena? I know you're upset over the deaths of those children, but I can't understand why you've retreated. Talk to me."

"I can't"

"You mean you won't. You're shutting me out. I'd rather you kill me than do that to me."

Xena's head snapped up

"Don't ever say that again, Gabrielle!" Xena said in panic. She pulled her friend to her for a quick embrace and fled the room.


Gabrielle was still waiting for Xena's return. The sun had set, and she still hadn't come back, but Gabrielle felt she would soon. She decided to do something constructive. The younger woman took water and set it to heat for a bath. She had already taken hers, but Xena hadn't. The warrior was still dressed in the sweat-soaked clothing she had worn that morning. Maybe a hot bath and warm meal would help. She reheated the stew that no one could seem to eat that evening, and put together a light meal of ham and fruit. She sensed her friends presence.

Turning around, she saw Xena standing in the shadows. Realizing she had been seen, Xena stepped into the light. She didn't say anything, feeling too tired and confused at the momentto even try. Her head ached from all the thinking she had done, yet she didn't feel any better.

Gabrielle for once didn't speak, instead, she led her to their room. She then retrieved the pails and filled the waiting tub. She helped Xena undress and left the room to get the meal she had prepared. She returned and handed Xena the bowl and spoon.

The look on her face said she wouldn't be argued with, so Xena took it and ate slowly, not looking at Gabrielle. After she finished, Xena handed the empty bowl to her and took the plate, eating it's contents with more enthusiasm, not ready to admit it made her feel better. She took a cup of wine that sat next to the tub and sipped at it, leaning back with a sigh..

"Ready to talk?" Gabrielle asked in a flat tone.

"Not yet."




Xena lifted a stone and added it to a large wall that was nearly completed. She added mortar to bind it and turned slowly to reach for another stone.Gabrielle spoke to her, calling out her name, but her friend didn't seem to hear her . Gabrielle heard the gravelly thump of another stone put in place. She worked in eerie silence, without any change in speed. Lift stone, put in place, mortar. Over and over, she repeated this process. Gabrielle saw the wall get higher and higher, eventually, blocking her view of Xena.

Gabrielle opened her eyes. The dream had come again, but this time she knew it's meaning. Xena's unwillingness to talk, and ease her burden was the wall. She was trying to keep her past and pain locked up, even if it meant shutting her out. Gabrielle made a vow to herself to start the demolition tomorrow.


Xena was nowhere to be found. Gabrielle searched the village and surrounding area, but didn't find as so much as a footprint. Xena didn't want to be found. Argo was still in Kanther's fenced yard, so she couldn't have gone too far. She stood with hands on hips, glaring out at the woods with a determined gleam. *Where would I hide if I were Xena?* She scanned the terrain and spotted an area that was higher than the rest of the forrest. *High ground.* She grabbed her staff and headed for it


Xena sat on the edge of a large boulder, staring at nothing, lost in her own inner turmoil. She knew she was a coward, but it she didn't care. She just couldn't face her friend's pity and questions right now. Gabrielle was mule-stubborn, and she wouldn't be happy unless she tore her soul in two to get her answers. Gabrielle only knew bits and pieces of her past, blissfully unaware of her dark side, the cold-hearted creature that once consumed her. Her friend had told her that she knew of it, but never had seen it firsthand. She couldn't possibly understand. No one should be asked to endure that.

It was bad enough Gabrielle has been exposed to danger and hardship for the sake of friendship, she didn't want to her to bear the weight of her past. Once seen, it could never be forgotten--or forgiven. * Maybe this has gone on long enough. I should just take her back to her family before she's corrupted beyond repair. Gabrielle is still the sweet girl they knew, just a little more experienced with the world.* Xena nodded to herself, her mind made up.


Gabrielle spotted her up on a ledge on top of a large rock, and headed for her. As far as she could tell, there was only one way up--or down. Xena wasn't going to get away this time. She approached her as quietly as she could, not wanting to alert her too soon.

She was about a twenty paces away when Xena spun around and saw her. Her face made Gabrielle shudder. Her eyes were as cold as winter and just as inviting. She was not happy to be found.

"What are you doing? I thought you'd take the hint. I wanted to be left alone!" she hissed.

Gabrielle stiffened at the harsh words, but wouldn't make excuses. They needed to talk.

"So you could sulk in peace?" she accused.

Xena walked past her, turning her back to her, rejection her intent. She wanted Gabrielle so mad, that she'd gladly return home. She didn't like the silent treatment at all. Gabrielle followed, never more than a pace behind her the entire way down the hillside.

Xena's attitude confused her, but she wasn't ready to give up. This was too important. She decided to speak to Xena anyway. It wasn't like she could close her ears.

"I had a dream last night, one that has been repeating itself. I see you building a wall. It gets higher and higher. And during my dream, I try to talk to you, but you refuse to listen Does this seem at all familiar to you?" Gabrielle saw Xena falter slightly before she continued.

"After seeing you freeze up yesterday when those children were found dead, I knew what it meant. For some reason I don't understand yet, you want to close away all your past away from everyone. Like that would make it go away," she said.

"What do you know about anything! All your life, you've been sheltered from the world and it's ugliness--from me! You..." she broke her silence unwillingly.

"I what? Don't know that it's really yourself that you're hiding from? That you want to hide from me? Xena, this is not the answer. You did terrible things in your past--things that you're ashamed of. But that's all over with."

Xena remained silent for several minutes before she spoke. "I want you to go home. Make a life for yourself--and forget about the Warrior Princess. You'll be better off."

"I might consider it--on one condition," Gabrielle said almost in a whisper.

"And what's that?" Xena asked.

"If you can forgive yourself for your past."

"Forgive myself? Why don't you ask me for something simple--like conquering Mount Olympus?" she said with a humorless laugh.

"This isn't a joke, Xena." She grabbed her friend's elbow, " I don't know exactly is going through that head of yours, but I can take an educated guess. Something about yesterday reminded you of something horrible you've done. All your old guilts came back in full force, and you erected those damned walls again! You have got to forgive yourself! I bet you haven't even shed a tear for those children. Have you?" she said, demanding an answer. Xena pulled her arm away from Gabrielle with a rough jerk, but her friend was persistent. She spun Xena around to face her.

"Damn it, Xena. Let it out!"

Xena stiffened her mouth, unwilling to find release that she didn't feel she deserved. This was the last straw for Gabrielle. She removed her hand away from Xena's arm and suddenly lifted it in an arch , connecting with Xena's face. The slap was so powerful that Xena was knocked to the ground in surprise. She looked up at the bard in shock. She stared at her for a long moment, then lowered her head and sobbed.

Gabrielle was instantly next to her, and gathered her in her arms. Xena's body was racked by her crying, unable to hold it back any longer. She buried herself into Gabrielle's shoulder, needing an anchor to hold onto. Her tears seemed endless, her grief and pain unbearable. Everything came crashing down on her, her world crumbled. The only thing she had left was the friendship and love she had for this young girl who accepted her for what she was.


Gabrielle sat outside, staring up at the night sky. Xena had gone to bed early, exhausted from her ordeal. She had refused to eat, and only wanted to escape into Morphius' arms for awhile. Gabrielle thought it was for the best. Xena's emotions were too fragile at the moment and couldn't take any more. In some ways, Gabrielle feared for Xena's sanity.

*How could someone live with that much self-loathing for so long?* she wondered.

"A copper for your thought," Jolese said. She smiled wearily at Gabrielle and sat down beside her.

Gabrielle sighed, almost too tired to think anymore.

"I was thinking about Xena and her self-image."

"I know what you mean. She's the same as Kanther right now."

Gabrielle felt guilty instantly. She had forgotten all about him.

"How's he doing?" she asked with concern.

"Not much better than Xena I bet. He blames himself for their deaths, and Xena is torn over something I can't fathom," asking indirectly about her.

"Their deaths resurfaced some dark moments from her past. Memories that haunt her. She won't talk about it. Xena frustrates me sometimes. I can only get so close, then..."

"She pulls away? That's not so surprising. I was thrown for a loop at our first meeting. Instead of killing me for my insolence, she befriended me. A warlord with a soft spot! Can you imagine my shock? I couldn't get lot of personal information out of her, but I had the feeling that her warlord days were coming to an end. She looked so soul-worn, like she did today."

"But when will it end? She can't continue like this. For a while, I thought I had broken through. She was playful and warm..." Gabrielle stopped in embarrassment, feeling like she was betraying Xena somehow.

"Don't worry. I won't tell. But how did you do it? She can be as skittish as a wild horse when it comes to revealing anything," Jolese asked in admiration.

"Pure stubbornness. I don't give up easily--not when it's important to me. I constantly pick away at her, putting the pieces together as we go. Sooner or later, I'll have the whole picture. Today, I think I hit a little too close. She tried to convince me to return home. She's running scared."

"That's not all you're hitting. I saw that hand print on her face. You don't seem the type to resort to violence," she commented. Gabrielle blushed. She almost regretted that, but it had been necessary.

"Don't worry, Gabrielle, I won't push you on that. Just be careful, she could have just as easily exploded on you over that.You're lucky that she cares and respects you--or she would have," Jolese warned.

"Respects me? I'm not so sure of that. All too often, she treats me like a kid," she complained.

Jolese laughed. "But that's her way of keeping a distance between you Gabrielle," she smiled at the bard's incredulous expression, " I may be quiet, but I have two good eyes. She sees you as someone to admire. I could see it on her face as you talked yesterday. Give yourself a little credit--and Xena some patience. She'll come around eventually. Give her more time. What she needs is someone to believe in her, like you." Jolese got up, gave her a squeeze on the shoulder, and left the young woman to think.


Xena opened her eyes and was surprise to find that it was late in the morning. She had never slept this late before, except when ill. She dressed and left the room. She saw Jolese washing the morning meal dishes.

"Good Morning, Xena," she said with a soft smile, "You look a little more rested. Feel better?"

"Hmm," she answered distractedly. She was looking for Gabrielle.

"She's with Kanther. She's trying to talk some sense into that thick skull of his, too."

"What are you doing--reading minds now?" Xena said without malice.

"No, just reading you like a scroll." Xena immediately masked her face.

"Oops, me and my big mouth. Gabrielle won't appreciate me sending you further into your shell."

"I think you and Gabrielle talk too much." This time her voice showed strain.

"And you won't talk at all. All you're doing with your silence is hurting her. Talk to her---it won't kill you!"

"No, but it might drive her away," voicing her fear.

"Now listen here! Gabrielle is a strong and capable young woman. She isn't going to wither into nothing at a little ugliness. She can handle it."

"That's just it. I don't want her to 'handle' it. She has a bright and shining spirit that shouldn't be tarnished by the evil of my past. It's bad enough I worry constantly about her safety. There's too many people who would use her to get to me. She'd be better off going back home, where she'd be safe."

"Safe," she said with contempt, "What an insipid little word. Why don't you just wrap her in cloth and lock her up in a dungeon--then hire a bunch of guards to protect her."

"That's ridiculous."

"That's right, and so is your concern. No matter where she is, you'll worry about her. Raiders could attack her village, plague could wipe out her people, ..."

"That's enough! I get the point. But it doesn't change the fact that she doesn't belong with me. She should get married and settle down, have children--she's so good with them..." she said wistfully.

"She's the nurturing type. But be honest with yourself. Do you really think she would be happy with some farm boy after getting a taste of adventure?"

"No," Xena said softly.

"Then why are you trying to push her away?"

Xena didn't answer immediately. She turned away, not wanting to look her friend in the eyes when she said it.

"Because, if I saw her die, it would destroy my soul forever."

Outside the open window, stood a silently weeping Gabrielle.


This time it was Xena searching for Gabrielle. She had left Kanther earlier that morning with the message she needed time to think. She hadn't returned, and nightfall was approaching fast. She circled the village, hoping for a sign. After making a careful sweep, she found a footprint. She followed her trail.

She found her by a brook, her arms wrapped around her knees. A look of such sadness was etched on her face. Xena felt the guilt of that as well. She hadn't been fair to her, but couldn't bring herself to explain her feelings. This just ran too deep, and the scars too far embedded to heal. All she could do for her was to let her go.

She walked in front of Gabrielle and stood there until her friend looked up. She offered her hand. Gabrielle looked at as though she didn't know what it was then looked away. Xena dropped her hand to her side. She knelt in front of her.

"Gabrielle? What's wrong? Talk to me."

She raised her head to meet her eyes. " Like you talk to me?" she said, her voice a whisper.

Xena had the good grace to look guilty. She sat down next to her, realizing Gabrielle was right, but unsure how to explain herself.

"Gabrielle...I don't have the words. I'm a warrior--not a bard. "

"You don't have to. I was by the window this morning. I heard every word. I came out here to think about what you said," she confessed.

Xena's emotions were sent reeling. She felt as though she was suddenly falling, unable to help herself. *She heard everything!*

Gabrielle watched as shock and dismay swept across her face, understanding her feelings. Xena had confessed something she considered terrible--something be buried sight unseen, and the one person she wished to hide her heart from had heard and knew it all. There was no place to hide.

"Why does the thought of my death scare you so much, Xena? I know I'm scared about you--but I decided long ago not to worry about what might happen. Worrying about what the Fates have already written is a waste of time and only eats at our minds."

"Maybe because you're too much like my younger brother. An idealist. His ideals got him killed."

"He died fighting for what was right--not for being a dreamer. I bet he didn't bemoan his death when he reached the other side. I bet he considered it a just cause, and thought himself lucky that his death wasn't wasted," said Gabrielle.

Xena thought about it and smiled warmly. "You're probably right," her smile faded, "But it doesn't change the fact that I'm scared for you. I expect to die in battle, but if you're with me, then chances are that you may die also," Xena said as she tried to hold back the tears that threatened to spill out.

"Then we'll go to the other side together. That's not something I would regret. Every day that we're together is a blessing to me. Don't ask me to leave you. It would hurt too much."

The tears couldn't be held back any longer. They fell down her face. Gabrielle knew she had won the battle for now. She brushed away the salty trails with her fingertips cherishing their message.

************************** Conclusion *************************

Gabrielle had watched Xena that evening, pouring into the air a hauntingly beautiful song of sorrow and loss for the children of Aronea. Her heartfelt words had eased the pain of the families and those who grieved for them. She had spoken to Kanther, and with the help of his fellow villagers, found a little peace with his guilt.

Gabrielle walked over to Xena, who stood by the fire, looking into the flames for comfort.

"Xena? Are you alright?", she asked with concern.

"Yes. I'm fine. It's just been a long day for everyone, I'm a little tired is all."

"OK. Xena..." she paused, "I have something for you. You had given so much of yourself to the people here, and I had to write this..." She pulled a scroll from behind her and handed it to Xena. She smiled and unrolled the parchment. She read it aloud:

The Singing Warrior

Gabrielle speaks:
The greatest sound on my life , and ear.
A sound gods listen to, listening clear.
A sound birds listen to, jealously dear.
A sound you can see, around quiet streams,
Around powerful dreams, and silk moonbeams,
When my warrior sings!

Standing trance like when sound, wraps delight.
An illness, you's guess, that truly goes best,
with wine.
Relief from the day, my scrolls packed away.
I open my ears, cradled from fear.
Oh what I hear, nourishes flowers, & waves in the sea.
Ah, my warrior sings.

Stop! Blood spills onto the floor, eyes frozen!
Fear shines directly, with terror collecting,
peace ripped darkly, stomping our love starkly,
in the dirt!
Dying stars! Dying dreams! before me, appear.
Fear! Terror's list I'm on. Senses betray my eyes,
but not my ears!
Oh my warrior sings!

Xena speaks:
My fascination, awakes peaceful manifestation.
A sound of reputation, sounds of retribution.
A song my heart thought it would never hear.
Wishes I have, songs I can sing, music in vein.
Cries out to the world of fear!
The warrior sings!

Xena's voice broke, unable to contain her feelings, she pulled Gabrielle to her, and held her close.


Special Thanks to astrogrl for allowing me to use her poem (It was wonderful!!!)

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