A Warriors Heart
by L. J. Burchell
Disclaimers: Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renaissance Pictures and no copyright infringement is intended. This is a work of alternative fiction. Nothing graphic, but if this isn't your cup of tea, feel free to check out the general fiction section. There are alot of good stories there. This is my first attempt at fan fiction, and I would love to get some feedback. Just click on my name above and you'll be all set to let me know what you think. Thanks!
I could only hear quietness, beautiful stillness, as Argo made his way along the wooded pathway. The only sound being an occasional snapping twig beneath his hooves.
The sun was shining, streaming through the branches and I could feel its warmth on my face. My eyes were closed now as thoughts filled my mind.
This was a perfect day, simply because,
We were together.
It had been this way now for the past year or so and I couldnít think of it being any different ever again. There had been many times I thought she would leave me when the warrior within would surge to the surface showing an ugly side of myself which I could not always suppress. I know this side of me frightens her but she also knows I would protect her with my life. When I think of not being with her or anyone hurting her a feeling of desperation emerges and I canít bare it, nothing in Heaven or hell could stop me in the pursuit of her safety.
As we journeyed Gabrielle was sitting behind me with her hands wrapped around my waist and her head resting on my shoulders as she slept. The afternoon was drawing on and we were making our way to camp for the night. My bard had recited many tales on our way, and growing weary had drifted into sleep.
Has she any idea how she makes me feel? I thought, lost for a second as I felt my head reeling at the sensation of her breath across my shoulder and the touch of her hands tightly wrapped around me for support. How I wished at that moment they were there for far more, an expression of our deep affection for one another. But I knew this could not be. I had grown to love her over our past year together not noticing when friendship turned into some thing far deeper and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. When exactly I began to feel this way I couldnít say but I know now, as surely as day follows night that I love her. If only these feelings were returned, feelings I never knew possible myself.
Gabrielle had turned my life around, shown me love, understanding, taken a hopeless, ruthless warrior and made her understand she could change, to fight for the greater good and learn to forgive herself for her past mistakes. How could I ask for anything more than her companionship which she gave freely? I mustnít let my feelings show but how long I can keep up the pretence I donít know. I only know this, I must stay in control at all cost, she must never know.
I found a perfect place for camp just at the edge of the woods under a cliff face on slightly raised ground. It was secluded, a good vantage point, comfortable but most of all safe.
I felt as ever an overwhelming urge to protect my Gabrielle from whatever lay beyond.
I gently nudged her to wake up and then wished I hadnít for now my time to daydream was over and reality to begin.
We both assumed our normal roles of setting up camp, building a fire, catching something to cook for tea and choosing the best spot to lay our bedrolls. It was usual for us to sleep on opposite sides of the fire, apart but yet strangely held together by the bond between us that had developed. Only occasionally did we sleep together if the risk of attack was great. Oh how sometimes I wished this were more and as often as I dared I was even guilty of manufacturing a greater risk for the absolute pleasure of having Gabrielle sleep next to me. Sometimes during the night I would awaken and find her arms wrapped around my waist as if caressing a waiting lover and then drift off to sleep and awake again in the morning to find them still there, contented and secure in my protection. If she only knew how she made me feel I believe I would lose her forever.
We exchange pleasantries after the journey and she notices something isnít quite right; sheís so astute nothing gets past her inquisitive mind. I know she wonít believe me but I tell her I am fine anyway and go to catch some dinner. She seems to have a sense of me that no other ever had, even to think my thoughts before me and yet I have hidden deep inside feelings she can never be allowed to reach.
When I return the fire is ready and she prepares the rabbit I have caught. I just canít seem to escape these feelings in my head today and the sight of Gabrielle doing just anything, simply being around is getting hard to take. I watch her skin the rabbit and wash it, how cleverly her fingers work to expose the flesh within.
I must have been miles away for when she turned and spoke I nearly fell off the log where I was sitting.
"Now thatís enough, what on earth is it? I know that something is bothering you, come on Xena you know you can tell me anything."
"No Gabrielle Iím fine you just startled me thatís all" she knew I was lying but knew better from my tone than to question me any further. She just smiled and without words expressed to me she would be there when I needed her and I could only wish this were true.
My mind was screaming inside my head, where is she now when I need her so badly, wanting to hold her tightly and never let go? Where is she when I need to open up and talk so tenderly, something I could never do with anyone else?
I have to fight hard now to gain reality again and yet harbour the thought could it ever be the same for her as for me?
Our usual carefree banter wasnít there today, I couldnít be anything else but silent, afraid I would say something stupid, while inside myself I was desperate, needing to shout out to the world how I felt. The tension in the air was mounting and I was glad when the crackling sound of the rabbit on the spit announced its readiness.
We ate in silence.
How ridiculous this was becoming, the woman I loved and I couldnít even manage a word to her. I take a deep breath and carefully compliment her on the meal, relieved to break the silence and better than nothing I thought but was greeted with a barrage of apology for something, she didnít know what but that didnít stop her. Whenever I was silent she took it on herself that she was responsible in some way and of course I had to suffer mountains of apologies.
"Gabrielle stop, you havenít done anything, I just need to think thatís all. Donít apologise anymore. Thereís nothing wrong just relax". "But Xena youíve hardly spoken at all all day somethingís bothering you, canít you share it with me? I might be able to help". "No Gabrielle you canít help, itís something I have to sort out myself, and Iíll be fine, honest". Now I knew I had hurt her because we never kept secrets from one another. She withdrew leaving her meal uneaten and I knew my heaviness of heart was shared.
Why wonít she share her thoughts with me? It seems as though she canít even bear being around me today. I feel so alone and empty when she shuts me out almost like Iím missing a part of my soul, if that were possible.
Doesnít she realise how much she means to me, how I long to be like her, so strong and yet so gentle too. I wonder whether sheís thinking of sending me away again afraid this new life isnít what I need. How can I make her see I am exactly where I want to be? Each day I learn more, see more, experience more of life and all this made possible because of Xena. Since the day I ran away form home to join her on her quest Iíve known my destiny was to be with her, how many times I have told her this but still sheís unsure. I realise sheís watching me again and so I decide to go and bathe. I am gone for a long while and half expect her to be following me. Usually she does, keeping her distance so she thinks I donít notice, while she silently watches over me. I know when sheís there I sense her presence; I donít need to see her.
When I return she hasnít moved or eaten her meal either. She just stares into the fire as if compelled by the flames to do nothing else while a lifetime of thoughts go through her mind. I sit opposite and begin to brush through my hair strand by strand allowing the warm air to dry it.
I watch her, not staring but still seeing enough to glimpse the firelight dance on her slightly damp frame and intensify the redness of her beautiful long hair, each stroke sending layer upon layer cascading down. Her beauty to me was untouched by anything I had ever known, her once youthful body had matured into a sensuous woman with whom I longed to share my life, my everything. As I watched without realising it, tears began to run from my eyes, overflowing from the intense feelings in my soul. I was unable to stop the flow, a mighty warrior as I am, my willpower spent. I loved her so much.
As I sat, I was watching her too and the moment I saw the tears I couldnít be apart from her any longer. I understood instantly their meaning, their sadness, their longing, explaining to me the questions I had never found courage to ask. The reasons why I longed to be like her, why I wanted to travel with her became clear. No longer just out of inquisitiveness and wonder, not out of defiance in leaving a family who had my life mapped out for me, not even the thrill to say I was the side kick of Xena the warrior princess, all this was true but so, so much moreÖ. because I loved her. Could she feel the same and is this why she has withdrawn from me? Is she giving me the chance to leave now before what she fears comes true; I will reject her?
I move around and settle close to her. I get no resistance and I know there wonít be, if sheís allowed me this close when her defences are down she wants me there, even needs me.
I reach out towards her face, as I touch her I feel my body tremble, filling with new sensations. I cup her cheek in my hand and gently so carefully wipe away a tear. I lift her chin so I can look into her eyes and she begins to mouth a word but I press her lips closed with my finger and whisper, "Donít say sorry"
Iím startled again by the way she connects to my thoughts. Does she sense how I feel? Could this be true? Oh how I wish it were but sheís just concerned. I canít even hope it were otherwise, Iím too frightened of losing her.
I sense whatís going on in her mind and before Iíve even thought what Iím doing I lean forward and gently brush my lips against hers and then upward to kiss away her tears. I draw away and look deep into her eyes "Does she understand I want her too? Can she accept I love her?
The next few moments felt like forever, both of us still, silent and then suddenly she was gone. I couldnít follow she moved too fast too skilfully.
I was alone.
I had to get away, I had almost reached the point of no return when something inside me screamed "No", and I ran as if escaping an oncoming horde. The tears were flowing faster now and uncontrollable sobbing took the place of silence." Why had I run? What was I afraid of? These were questions I couldnít answer, at least not for the moment. I had never before felt so vulnerable, a side of me hidden to all except Gabrielle. My head was spinning and I fell to the ground in a daze. Thoughts raced around and around in my head none of which I could understand. I had been there for what seemed like hours before my thoughts finally steadied and became clear. I knew now that the dream I had wished for, secretly longed for had become real.
My Gabrielle loved me too!
I lay by the fireside wishing I had been so much more careful. I had learnt that Xena found it hard to receive praise from anyone or that any good could come from her, let alone accept what I considered had been an outright declaration of love.
Only I knew just how deep her wounds ran from her past and that only time and love would heal them slowly. I should have waited, taken time, gradually let her know I loved her deeply. Had I pushed her so far away, so quickly and lost her? I hurt so much I couldnít cry, my whole being wracked with pain, abandoned, empty, I simply lat there until I drifted into sleep.
Dawn was about to break and I had been awake all night sitting at the edge of the camp watching Gabrielle as she slept restlessly, talking in her sleep as she often did I learnt the content of her dreams and her heart. Her beauty to me now was more radiant than ever and I needed her love, my fear was gone and I was ready to accept her into my inmost self and not be afraid for her to see me in my completeness. I made my way over to her and sat beside her, I lifted my hand and reached toward her, I hesitated slightly before I gently began to trace the outline of her face and run my fingers through the same hair that I had only dreamed of doing as it shone in the firelight earlier that evening. She began to stir and turned to see me looking lovingly down at her. My hand cupped her face now and this time she allowed me to speak. Leaning closer I softly whispered, "Gabrielle Iím sorry, I love you too"
I was instantly awake as if sleep had never touched me and I quickly stretched out my arms to hold Xena tightly fearing she may leave again. This time she responded and held me just as tight. I nestled into her neck and whispered earnestly" Xena, I love you so much, I just didnít realise until I thought I was losing you. Please donít leave me again I couldnít bear it." She drew back and looked at me with eyes that pierced into my very soul as soft and more loving than I had ever known, searching every part of my existence and then she gently pressed her lips to mine. Meaning and joy flooded through me and now I could cry. The missing piece of my soul was no longer lost and the feeling of emptiness gone. Joined with my love, my life, I felt a completeness I had never known before and I knew now that the heart of this warrior was mine, forever.
L. J. Burchell. 01/04/00
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