Anybody Listening?

by Harpy

Disclaimers: Universal and Renaissance Pictures own the copyright on the characters. I own the copyright on the story.

Feedback is welcome:

Snow makes a deafening noise in a silent world. But so few people take the time to listen. It can often go unheard, like the voice of the heart.

Gabrielle watched the snow sift gently through the trees, she thought she heard it making a soft sighing noise.

'It could be pretty,' she thought. 'If wasn't so cold and grey,' the fair-haired woman, sniffed and rubbed her reddened nose with the back of a fur mittened hand. She continued her walk, then froze.

Her prey was in sight. She matched her breathing to her cautious steps. She took aim.

'Careful,' she cautioned herself. 'Steady does it. Now!'

Xena was bent over picking up some wood when her senses alerted her. She straightened up, turned and caught the snowball that, if she had remained as she was, would have hit her smack on the butt.

"You're going to have to do better than that!" she called to her assailant.

Gabrielle stepped from the cover of the trees, and was immediately hit right in the middle of the forehead by her own snowball.

"That's how you do it," Xena laughed.

"Very funny," said Gabrielle, wiping the snow off her face.

Xena picked up the firewood and headed towards a nearby shack.

They had found the abandoned shack on the first night of snow, two days ago, and a foot high drift the next morning suggested they should stay until it clears.

The wood was added to a large pile in the corner.

"I think that should last us another couple of days," said the warrior.

Gabrielle ladled some broth into a couple of bowls and handed one to the warrior. "I used to love the snow when I was a child," she observed wistfully.

"There's a lot of it to love at the moment."

"And it doesn't look like stopping."

"I reckon it could take a couple of days to thaw after it stops and before we can leave this valley."

Gabrielle pulled an unhappy face as she looked around the dingy dwelling. The thought of spending anymore time in here was not pleasant, but it was better than being stuck outside. She sat down. "I'm bored. Do you want to hear a story?"

Xena shook her head. "Maybe later," she added on seeing the disappointed look on the bard's face.

The younger woman looked over at the warrior. She had met the warrior about six months ago and had been taken with the idea of becoming a warrior too, but her main talents lay in other directions. She wasn't a fighter, at least not yet. Xena had discouraged Gabrielle from picking up a weapon, but the bard had observed the warrior in action and picked up a few tips. Besides, she was now an Amazon Princess, she had to learn how to defend herself.

"Could you teach me some fighting moves with my staff?" Gabrielle enquired.

"Hmm?" Xena turned her attention from staring at the fire. "What did you say?"

Gabrielle repeated her request.

"There'll be plenty of time tomorrow. Why don't you write something?" Xena meant it to be encouraging, but it came across like an order. She found it hard sometimes to treat Gabrielle like a friend; she was used to being surrounded by soldiers and giving orders. Having a friend and engaging in conversation were skills that she'd neglected.

Gabrielle picked up a scroll and quill and started doodling.

"Can't think of anything to write?" asked Xena.

"No. I've used up all our adventures. I need something new."

"Then just write whatever comes to mind. What are you thinking at this moment?"

Gabrielle looked at the warrior. 'I'm thinking about you,' she thought. 'It is something I've done since I met you. You intrigue me.

'For someone who is strong and powerful, who exudes confidence in battle, you can be hesitant and nervous when it comes to emotional contact. I can see it in your eyes; the fear that you may connect. Or is it the fear of being hurt? Is that what happened in the past? Did you connect with someone and get hurt? Is that why you're afraid now?

'Even in a crowd you're alone. You put up a barrier between you and everyone else. It is as though you're an island, cut off from the land by shark infested seas. Sharks that you put there, and deliberately starve so that they attack anyone who dares to cross.

'I wonder sometimes if I'll ever know you. You're so natural at being a stranger, being mysterious. But if you don't want people to be interested in you, you wouldn't be those things. Is this some sort of silent plea on your part? By shunning contact you'll only attract those willing enough, brave enough, to face your defences. Attract those willing enough, brave enough, to handle your love.

'Then hear my plea. I've seen this island you've built to live on and I can't leave you there alone. I'm willing to cross those waters to reach you. But I'm not going to live there. I want you here with me, in the real world.

'I want to reach out to you. I believe you want me to.

'Help me reach your island.'

"Nothing," said Gabrielle. "I'm not thinking anything. Maybe I could write about your thoughts. What are you thinking?"

'I'm thinking about you,' thought the warrior. 'It is something I've done since I met you. You intrigue me.

'You came into my life like a new sun; bright, warming, illuminating. Something that couldn't be ignored. You made my past seem like it was lived in darkness.

'Before you came I believed I was free, but you have shown me true freedom. All those years were just the same; grey and dull. It wasn't until I met you that I felt alive. That I felt I had something to live for.

'I always believed I knew what beauty was, but you transcend that. Like beauty you are more than just skin deep. Your presence touches me in ways that make me feel wonderful and scared all at the same time. I have no word to describe you; there probably isn't one in any known language to do so.

'If you should choose to leave me tomorrow and I live to be a hundred, I'd never forget you. You are inside me, whether you know it or not. No one can take that away. No one can take you away.'

Gabrielle thought she saw something flash in the blue eyes of the warrior, and open her mouth to speak, but Xena remained silent.

"Well? What are you thinking?" she prompted.

"Nothing," said Xena, and turned to stare into the fire.

Outside, unheard by many, the snow sighed.

the end

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