When Souls Collide
by Mikki Hibbens
© 1996

Disclaimers: Though the story is mine, the characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the sole property of Renaissance Pictures and Universal/MCA. They just came visiting for a short time and have already returned to R.P. and U.S. No copyright infringement is intended.

This is my first attempt at writing fanfic. It came to me almost full blown one night (after seeing the episode 'Destiny') as I was contemplating why a troubled, dour, loner of an ex-warlord would allow such an innocent as Gabrielle into her life without putting up more of a fight.

All comments are appreciated but please be kind. I'm still new at this. I can be reached at mikkis@mediaone.net

The dark haired figure lay quietly concealed in the branches of the tree gazing in amusement on the scene below. A small child of about 6 or 7 stood under the tree telling story after story in her childish treble to an audience of stick people she had arranged around her. She was so animated in her storytelling, sometimes acting out whole scenes, at other times just using different voices to illustrate the characters, that the hidden audience of one had all it could do to keep from bursting out in laughter and spoiling the enchantment.

‘It has to be an enchantment’ the figure thought to itself, ‘otherwise I’d be attending to business and looking for that boar wounded in the hunt earlier, instead of lying here listening to a bunch of children’s stories told by a six year old. She has talent though, I have to give her that. Maybe I should keep an eye on her and hire her as a bard when she’s old enough. She could travel with my army and record my victories in full bardic detail. Hmm, I like that. By the time she’s old enough to travel with me, I and my army will be strong and feared enough to march on Rome, itself. When I defeat the “Great Caesar” in his own city he’ll see then what a bumbling fool he was to betray me. That will be a debt I’ll rejoice in repaying.’

So absorbed was the child in her storytelling, that she didn’t notice the growing sounds of something approaching through the surrounding brush until the sound of an angry snort caused her to look to the edge of the little clearing surrounding the tree. What she saw made her gasp in fright. A huge wild boar stood not15 feet from her, the broken shafts of two arrows still sticking out of it’s shoulder and back. The wounded, enraged animal was looking right at her and pawing the ground, readying itself for the attack. Having been warned by her father many times about the dangerous wild boar that roamed the forest near their small town, the child knew, even at six, that she was looking at her own death, especially as this one was wounded into the bargain. She was terrified yet something in her would not let her succumb to the fear so she stood there as tall and proud as her six years would allow facing the boar hoping against hope that the gods would make the animal just disappear. It was not to be.

The boar, acting on some internal sensor suddenly tossed it’s head and charged the child, intending to take out all it’s rage and pain on the helpless creature in front of it. At the last moment, however, before it’s deadly tusks could tear into the child’s soft flesh, a pair of strong arms shot out of the branches above the girl, grabbed her by the neck of her shift and swung her back up into the branches, out of harms way. The boar was still puzzling over the disappearance of it’s prey when the arms reappeared holding a sword which pierced the animal’s skull and pinned it to the ground.

A moment later, the figure of a tall dark haired woman clad in leather and armor dropped silently to the ground and began to inspect the carcass. She was breathtakingly beautiful with deep blue eyes, long, dark auburn hair, and sun-bronzed skin. Her figure was lean and well muscled, in perfect proportion to her six feet + of height and the ease with which she now pulled the sword free from the dead boar bespoke the power that frame contained and her absolute knowledge of the military arts.

After wiping her sword on the animal’s hide then sheathing it, she turned back to the tree and held her arms up to the branch from which she had just dropped.

“Come on, kid,” the warrior said in a voice that surprised the child. It was deeper than any female’s voice she had ever heard in her short life with an underlying musical quality to it that made it sound almost gentle. For some reason, the child was reminded of the small piece of cloth, called velvet, that her mother used to wrap her cloak broach in. “It’s safe. You can come down now. I’ll catch ya.”

Listening to that lovely voice and looking into those blue eyes, the child knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this tall stranger would never harm her. With a confidence born of utter and complete trust, the child dropped fearlessly into the waiting arms. As the warrior’s arms tightened around the small body, holding it safe and secure, the child felt a sudden uprush of feeling that her six-year old mind could not put a name to. All she knew was that she felt safer and more at home than she ever had before. Throwing her arms around the woman’s neck, she hugged the warrior tightly as if her life depended on it.

The tall woman, surprised at the child’s sudden show of affection, had to fight hard to overcome her body’s desire to recoil from the physical touch and fling the small body from her. ‘This is just a child who’s scared and needs comforting. She doesn’t know any better,’ the warrior thought to herself as she forced herself to put her arms around the child. ‘She hasn’t learned yet that love is just a cruel fantasy that brings nothing but pain.’

Although barely 20 herself, the young woman had learned, through bitter experience, that love and friendship, sooner or later, led to nothing but loss and betrayal. This lesson had been burned into her soul until she no longer allowed anything to touch her, physically or emotionally. The only thing she felt anymore, was the anger that drove her and the thrill of the battle that released that anger. She had become as cold and dangerous as the weapons she wielded with such strength and deadly skill.

Yet something, some small spark of humanity, still smoldered behind those thick, impenetrable walls she had erected around her wounded heart. For as she folded her arms around the small shivering body of the child, she felt a shudder deep within herself as if her heart, which she had long thought dead, was beginning to beat again. It was just a single beat, not enough to alarm the warrior. Still, her soul, chained in it’s own dark, cold dungeon, rejoiced at this small sign that all was not lost. It now knew that sooner or later, something would happen that would fan that small spark of life into a raging inferno thus freeing her heart and soul from the darkness that had held them prisoner for so long. Sending a silent prayer of thanks to the gods, the warrior’s soul vowed to keep that small ember safe from the evil dark that surrounded it.

The warrior, unaware that she still had a soul, let alone that it was even now subtly influencing her actions, spoke softly to the child in her arms trying to calm the girl’s fears while her strong hands, moving instinctively, gently stroked the soft, reddish-gold hair.

“Ssh, little one. It’s alright. Everything’s gonna to be alright.” As the tall woman felt the small arms loosen their hold on her neck, she moved over to a tree stump and sat down, placing the little girl on her lap. “You’re safe now, the boar’s dead. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

The child leaned back slightly to look into the face of the woman who held her so comfortingly. “I’m not scared,” she said with a defiant glint in her sea-green eyes as she placed her palm against the warrior’s cheek. “I like you,” she continued, her young voice full of a childish certainty that her opinion was the only one that mattered. “You have pretty eyes.”

The warrior, caught off guard by the girl’s pronouncement, struggled to keep a straight face as she stammered out a quick reply. “Ah, well, thank you. I...uh... like you too. What’s your name?”

“Bree. It used to be Gabby but I didn’t like it so I made Mama and Papa change it. Now I’m Bree. I like that better.”

During this astonishing statement, the child had become engrossed with the warrior’s long hair and was now contentedly weaving a lock of it into a thin braid. When she finished, she pulled a string out of her pocket and wrapped it around the end of the braid, tying the ends securely. Leaning back slightly on the women’s lap she placed her hands on her small hips and studied her handiwork carefully. The warrior almost lost it completely when, after cocking her head from side to side to check the different angles, the child nodded her head in satisfaction of a job well done. “There. That’s nicer, don’t you think?”

The poor woman could only smile sheepishly and nod her head, afraid she would break out laughing if she tried to speak. The usually cold and aloof warrior was surprised to find that, for the first time in more years than she cared to count, she actually felt comfortable and at ease in the company of another human being. Somehow, without her being aware of it, this precocious pixie of a child had wormed her way into a corner of the woman’s heart and set up residence there. The realization frightened the warrior and she decided it was time to put an end to this pleasant little interlude. “It’s getting late. Don’t you think you should be getting home before your Mama and Papa start worrying about you?”

“Nah, it’s not that late. Besides, I wanted you to tell me a story.”

“ I’m sorry but I don’t have time to tell you a story today. I have chores waiting for me at home and a long walk ahead of me before I get there. I have to start soon if I want to be home by dark.” Knowing all children understood the concept of chores, she hoped this would put an end to the girl’s protests. Unfortunately, she hadn’t counted on the child’s tenacious spirit.

“But I don’t even know your name,” Bree said plaintively, tears starting to well up in her sea-green eyes. “You’re my friend and friends always tell each other their names. I told you mine.” Emphasizing her words with a little bounce, she caused a tear to dislodge from her lashes and trickle down her cheek, melting the warrior’s heart even more.

The woman adopted her best ‘stern warrior’ demeanor, which wasn’t easy with that adorable little face staring up at her. “Alright, I’ll tell you my name but you have to promise me you’ll go straight home afterwards and no fooling around on the way. You promise?”

“I promise. You gotta tell me your name now.”

“It’s Xena,” the warrior said softly as if she was divulging a great secret. In a way she was since most people were learning to fear that name, and the person who bore it, with every ounce of their being. Because of this, Xena knew that if word got out that she had been seen in this small valley, there would most likely be widespread panic in the villages and this innocent child that called her friend would be caught in the middle of a hurricane. In order to prevent this the warrior called upon a special skill that had been taught her by the healer, Nickleo. Looking deeply into the child’s eyes, she spoke in a low, soft voice. As the child’s eyes took on a glazed look Xena finished speaking and set the girl back on her feet. Then, after climbing back into the tree, she snapped her fingers and watched as Bree blinked a few times than scampered off towards her home.

When the girl was gone Xena dropped from the tree, slung the boar’s carcass across her shoulders, and began her long trek back to where her army was camped. At the edge of the clearing she looked back to where her new friend had disappeared. “I wish I could’ve let you remember me but it’s just too dangerous. But we’ll meet again someday, Bree. I promise,” she said softly before she, too, disappeared into the forest.

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