Author: Paladin Steelbreaker

Title: The Heart Of A Warrior

Copyright: January 2005

Rating: PG-13, Just to be safe.

Spoilers: Only for "Cries from the Heart" and "Searching For A Heart Of Gold" and "Soaking A Wounded Heart In Alcohol"

Keywords: Sydney and Nigel

Summary: Sydney have a nasty bout with the greeneyed monster, Nigel gets immensely ticked off, and Sydney cries on the front steps. Is it the end of an era or is it the beginning of a new?

Legalese: All characters except those noted below with their respective rights, properties and copyrights are the property of their respective creators, authors, owners, producers and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety, and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains.

Author's Note: I want to warn all readers. I am taking Sydney and Nigel far out of character here. But my muse wanted it this way. So sue her not me.

Author's Note: I want to thank my trusted Beta reader Red Dragons Order. Without her, this story would not been anywhere near as good as it is. If there still are faults, they are all mine.

Author's Note: And for those of you who recognises the blonde girl (hehe). Don't worry, this will remain a Relic Hunter Series. Later on, in another story, there will be another, slightly bigger crossover, but I have no immediate plans of going further with this one.

Dedications: I would like to dedicate this story, how ever amateurish, to all those fanfic writers out there who has fed my imagination over the past six or seven years.

Especially I will mention Tim Knight – May he rest in peace

If you want to comment on my story.(please, please, PLEASE!!) Compliments, or fire spitting criticism, you are welcome to mail me at this address: pal-o-loonline.no

And now finally on with the story:

The Heart Of A Warrior

"Hit me again," the young man said to the bartender.

Jim, the bartender, looked at his customer. He really looked like he had taken a walk through hell. His face was blackened and bruised, and his left hand was bandaged. Jim shook his head, what the hell had happened to this guy? Against his better judgement, he served the man another round of what he had been steadily drinking for the last hour. He lifted the glass and swallowed the double whiskey in one swig.

Instantly his eyes lost focus, as he tipped of the bar chair and fell ungraciously to the floor. Jim was about to help him, when there was movement from the deepest corner of the bar.

"I will take care of him," a small blonde woman in her late teens said. Then she bent down, amazingly effortlessly lifted the guy, and slung him over her shoulder. She left, leaving behind a worried bartender. He had been worried, the minute she set foot in his bar. There was something dangerous over her. He didn't know what, but something it was. He wondered if she was one of those mutants the rumours had been going on about. Anyway she gave him the wiggins.

Outside As she left the bar, the young woman wondered what the hell she was doing. As if she wasn't in enough trouble by herself, she had to go soft on some bloody drunk bugger. What the hell was wrong with her?

But something had told her to do it. She had been watching him from the moment he came inn. There was just something about him. A feeling that she would come to know him. It wasn't that she was attracted to him, although he probably was really cute under all those bruises. No, she was a one-man woman, and her beloved was in Hell. By her hand!

The pain jolted through her, until she had to stop and steady herself to the wall of a house. Then she straightened up and went for her crummy one room apartment. She pulled of his jacket and shoes, and laid him on her bed. Then she grabbed her only extra blanket and curled down in her only chair.

Small apartment

A block away from the bar

Nigel woke up with a splitting headache, and no idea where he was. He knew he was in a bed, but it sure as hell wasn't at home.

"Well, well, isn't it nice to wake up, mister?"

The unmistakably feminine voice sent jolts of panic through his fogged brain. Oh God, what had he done?! he wondered as he frantically pulled the blanket up to his ears. This strange woman let out a short laughter. It was a sound tainted with sadness.

"Relax," she said. "You are fully clothed and you didn't do any unspeakably stupid mistakes. That is, unless you count drinking your self into oblivion."

With embarrassment painting his face red, he sat up and found that he was in fact dressed. "Uh, sorry miss. But why am I here? I cannot remember a thing."

"You fainted after your last drink. I didn't know where you lived, so I carried you home. So, what happened to you," she said changing the topic, and gesturing towards his broken appearance.

He was silent for a while, then he shocked himself with opening up to this strange teenage woman. Yes, woman. This was not a girl. Her eyes held and experienced wisdom that was far beyond her years. Making him wonder what horrible things had happened to her, to kill the light he for some reason was sure had used to light up her eyes.

He told her of his job as Sydney Fox's assistant. He told about going on relic hunts with her. He told of his feeling of inadequacy when it came to anything physical. Making him more of a hindering than useful ally on their hunts.

Knowledge-wise he was fully equal to Sydney, but he had always been a bookworm, and never done any athletic things for fun. Finally he again shocked himself by telling her his best kept secret. That he was head over heels in love with Sydney. Finished with his story, the silence sank over them for a long while.

Then she exploded in energy, as she stood up and started furiously walking back and forth. Making the small room even more cramped. Suddenly she stopped, and ran her fingers through her long blonde hair in a frustrated motion.

"I can't believe what I am going to say. But it is no use denying it. This is why I felt I had to take care of you last night. This is why I had a foreboding that we would come to know each other. This is destiny working, and it wont be denied. I am to be your teacher."

"My teacher? What do you mean?" He said, half wondering if he had come into the hands of a Nutcase.

She looked at him with eyes that suddenly were sharp as shards of flint. "I mean, I will teach you the art of self defence. Then we are going to get you started on weapons. Sword fighting, Philippine Stick fighting, archery, gunmanship, you name it. But first we need to get you into better shape."

He stared at her, his mouth open in shock. He just limply followed her as she dragged him with her out the door for their first run.

Five months later

Sydney was furiously walking back and forth like a trapped tiger. Making her office feel even smaller than it was. To say that she was not in a good mood would be the understatement of the millennia. Sydney Fox, renowned history professor and famous Relic Hunter, was absolutely fuming as she stopped by the window. She looked at the University Park, but she did not recognize its beauty. The only thing she noticed was THEM! Nigel and that blonde little whore!

She watched the same scene that she had seen each day for the last five months. She watched as they came walking down the path and stopped in a secluded area where they couldn't be seen by most people. The only way people could see them, was if they stood in the exact same line of sight as Sydney did now. Nigel's hair was slick from sweat and his clothes was slightly ruffled. Leaving little doubt as to the nature of what had happened. And the last doubt was gone, when he handed her the money.

For the last five months Sydney had seen this going on, and now there were rumours going around at the University. Rumours about Nigel's inappropriate behaviour. Rumours that he was fraternizing with an underage prostitute. Sydney had tried to come up with another explanation, but finally she had to face the fact, that she really hadn't known Nigel at all. He wasn't at all the innocent kind and considerate person she had thought she knew, and secretly adored. With a last glance at them, she grabbed her jacket and stormed through the corridors. It was time to do something!

As she neared the area she tried to calm down a bit. It wouldn't do to be suspended because of excessive violence. As she came into their view, she opened her mouth to speak out, but the blond bitch beat her to it. With an annoyingly kind voice she said:

"There you are. I was wondering how long it would take you to work up the guts to face us, as you have been watching us every day for the last five months. What is actually your problem?"

Sydney stared at her in incredulity. "What is my problem?! I'll tell you what my problem is. I thought I knew Nigel. Well yeah, I didn't. The Nigel I thought I knew would never buy sexual favours from a girl that couldn't be more than 17."

Sydney watched as both of their eyes grew big, and then she was shocked as the blonde bitch started to laugh uncontrollably. Actually laughing so hard that she fell off the fallen tree trunk she was sitting on.

"Oh God, Nigel," she said as she sat up again. "She thinks we are having sex in the forest!" She looked over to Nigel who had turned beet red and started stammering like a fool before he jumped to his feet and left. The girl watched him leave, a soft smile on her lips.

"He is so amazingly innocent," she said. "He doesn't know how attractive he is. He will make a woman very happy some day". Looking at Sydney she shook her head, her eyes suddenly sad. "So you thought I was a prostitute? Well, have I fallen deep. But I'm not that deep," she said.

"But- but, I saw the money exchange," Sydney stuttered.

"Oh, so you did? Well he insists to pay me for something else. I'll tell you something, miss Fox. Nigel has the deepest respect for you. And he secretly has enjoyed being with you on your relic hunts, but he always felt poorly inadequate. He always felt that he was more of a hindering, than of any use in your adventures. I have tried to do something about that. You see, for the last five months I have been his fitness and martial arts instructor. I have taught him everything I know. I have taught him swordsmanship with different types of swords. I have taught him gunmanship from a small Derringer 22 calibre, up until and including a Strella Antitank Missile. To say it shortly, Nigel might now be one of the deadliest people in the world.

Something he is oblivious to. That man has a serious self-esteem problem, and over the last five months, he has told me bits and pieces of the reason, until I now think that I have the gist of it. I am sorry to say it Miss Fox, but it's partially because of you. It hurts his frail male ego that he always is the one protected by you whenever you two are out on an adventure. You also have a tendency to joke about his failings. Nigel knows that you do it to make him feel better, still it hurts. But most of all it is his disastrous family situation, which has troubled him. His father never accepted him as a full worthy Bailey, since Nigel chose the career he did, instead of going into some sort of business. And then there is the case with his older brother, who has always been condescendingly and mean towards him. I suspect there is more, but he doesn't talk much about those things.

My work here is done. I have done what I could for him. Now it is up to you as his friend. Talk with him. I know you are going to call me a nutcase now, but it can't be helped. I have been having dreams of the future. A great ancient evil is coming, and you two are at the centre of it. I am not sure what it is, but I suspect it has something to do with a relic. It is crucial that you two deal with the problems between you. Or else we might all be damned." With that the girl stood up and left.

"Hey, girl! Stop a minute! You can't just come here and say things like that. Who are you…?" The girl didn't answer; she just kept on going, until Sydney lost sight of her amongst the trees. Sydney stood there for a minute, before she turned around and ran back to the school. She had to talk to Nigel.

She found him at the office in the process of furiously clearing out his desk. "Nigel, I am sorry, please stop. I am sorry!"

He looked up at her with such rage that she took a step back.

"No! I am done here, finished, finito. Capiche? You, you, thought I, you though I was having…" He threw a picture of them at her. "Here, you have it, I do not want it!" He stormed past her, and out in the hall.

"Nigel, please, just listen?"

"NO WAY!" He shouted now. "I have listened to my last words from you. You will have to get yourself a new TA, because I have had it. Goodbye."

She stood there on the front steps, and watched how he drove away with screaming tires. She didn't see the shocked looks from both students and teachers. She didn't notice the tears streaming down her face, or the low whimper that rose from her throat. All she knew was that at this moment her life was gone. It had left in a beat up old Golf.

She didn't know how long she stood there before she felt a gentle hand squeeze her shoulder.

"Her you go," Claudia said and handed her a handkerchief. Then she led her to the cafeteria.

"So, I am guessing you told Nigel about the rumours, huh?" Sydney just nodded. Then after a while, she told the whole thing.

"You love him don't you?" The question was asked quietly. Sydney looked up at the normally so flimsy secretary. Claudia was for once totally serious, but a strange little smile lifted a corner of her mouth. "I knew it. You love him."

All Sydney could do was to nod to the stated fact. "I have loved him for close to a year and a half now."

"And you never said anything?"

"What would be the use? There can never be anything except a working relationship between us anyway. There is a strict non-fraternisation rule on campus."

"So why haven't you done anything about your feelings?"

"I just told you," Sydney said, irritated.

"Yeah, yeah, I heard you, the rules. That is what I call, making it like an ostrich. You are sticking your head into the sand. Just since I started working here, there have been at least five relationships between fellow members of the staff. And two of them are still going strong. The principal knows this and is okay with it. What the rules say is that such a relationship is, in no shape or form, allowed to have a negative effect on the working relationship. But what people do in their private time is their own business. So now, you get outta here, and go get Nigel. I will tell the principal that you are sick." When Sydney didn't immediately do as she was told, Claudia, with surprising strength, hauled the fairly larger woman onto her feet and pushed her towards the door.

"Go!"

Seconds later students again stopped up and watched how their favourite professor stormed down the front steps, three at a time before, for the second time that day, the sound of screaming tires was heard.

Approaching Nigel's neighbourhoood

Nigel just wished for the earth to open up and swallow him. If it was possible to die from embarrassment, then he was sure to drop dead any minute now. A prostitute! Sydney thought that he bought sexual favours from a underage prostitute!

Nigel felt bile rise in his throat, as embarrassment mixed with anger and hurt. After working together for over two years, Sydney still thought so little of him that she thought that he could do something so sordid, so wrong!

A frantic car horn brought him out of his thoughts just in time to avoid a frontal collision against a buss. Shaken he carefully drove back to his apartment. It felt as if his heart had been torn out. He had to do something, or he was going to go completely around the bend. The pain was just too much. So he did what had become a habit the last half year, when he was troubled. He changed into a pair of sweat pants, and a T-shirt, and started running around the block.

An hour later, and a good deal calmer, he was nearing his apartment, when he saw her. She was sitting on the front steps. He was about to turn around again, when he noticed the tears running steadily down her cheeks, as she seemed to stare into nothing. It was something so hopeless and fragile about her as she just sat there. It was as if she had just given up, and was sitting there, waiting to die.

And he couldn't, he couldn't walk away. Instead he sat down by her side, and despite still being angry with her, he placed his arm comfortingly on her shoulders. She jumped slightly, but then she just leaned into him and started crying in earnest. Shocked he hugged her and rocked her gently. What had happened to her? Where was the strong and independent Sydney Fox, renowned history professor, relic hunter and daredevil?

After a while, her crying lessened, and he helped her up the stairs and into his apartment. He made them some tea, and went back into the living room. She was sitting on his sofa, in the exact same position she had sat down in, ten minutes ago. She accepted the mug and took a sip, before she started to play nervously with it. And all the time, this awful silence! Then she seemed to make a decision, as she looked across the table to him.

"I am sorry, Nigel. I am sorry for thinking that you of all people could be capable of doing something like that."

It was silent for a while. Then he looked at her. "How could you, Sydney? You have known me for two and a half years now, in which we have gone through just about every horrible situation possible. You know I am a coward. Especially when it comes to women. You know that whenever a woman shows interest in me, I get all nervous. And what is more, I thought you knew that I had more decency than that. I mean, I pride myself in being a civilised person. And civilised people do not go around buying sexual favours, at least not in my book. It's seedy, and degrading, and it is just plainly and simply wrong!" While he spoke, he stood up and paced the floor.

"I know," she said, her voice barely a whisper. "But you have to know. I have seen you paying her for the last five months, and the rumours have been fleeting around campus for almost as long."

"Rumours?!" He looked alarmed now.

She nodded. "Yes, the campus has been practically buzzing with rumours about you and that girl. Everything, from the more innocent versions, that she is your sister that you are helping financially, or to the ones about you buying sexual favours from an underage prostitute. At first I laughed about the rumours, even though I could see your money exchange. But I knew she wasn't related to you, and then I started noticing the way you were sweaty, and your clothes were rumpled. And over the months, the gnawing suspicion ate at me. Could it be true?" She lifted her hands when she saw his angry face. "Please, let me speak out."

He nodded tersely, and sat down. She was quiet for a long time obviously struggling to speak. She pulled her knees up, and locked her arms around them, slightly rocking back and forth. "My love-life has always been a disaster."

"You are kidding, are you not?" He was totally flabbergasted. "You, who can pick and choose whomever you want?"

She let out a bitter laughter. "And I certainly know how to pick them. With one exception every man I have ever cared for have ended up hurting me, until I now have a really hard time trusting men. I just know deep down that, sooner or later, if I don't watch out, they are going to hurt me.

For years now, I have guarded my heart. Oh yeah, I have had lovers. Lots of them!" She blushed in shame, thinking back to all those men. "Let me tell you, sex without feelings can be good, it can be darned good. But afterwards you are always left with a bitter taste, hollowness, a feeling of lack of meaning, which leaves you feeling even more empty and alone than before. Still, that was far more preferable than the alternative: to feel. So I hardened my heart, and always hid it away. I was beginning to think that I had succeeded, that I had purged myself of human emotions.

But then two and a half year ago everything changed. My TA had just had a nervous breakdown, after a relic hunt that almost went bad. He quit, calling me an insane and bitchy adrenaline junkie." She let out a weak smile. "Well, this was nothing new. At that time I wore out at least one or two TA's a year. And I don't think it was the relic hunts that were the worst, because they were quite fewer then. You are by far, the person that has been with me on the most hunts. No, I think it was my distrust and generally bitchy behaviour that drove them away.

Well, anyway I advertised for a new TA. But my reputation was now such that in three weeks, not one person applied for the job. Then you came, and I hired you on the spot. I didn't know why but there was something about you that just made it impossible not to trust you. There you stood, blushing in the auditorium, and there wasn't a trace of betrayal in those eyes of yours. What's more, you were more than qualified for the job. I read your Curriculum Vitae, and was impressed. With your qualifications, you could have been a professor yourself. I just couldn't afford not to hire you. And from day one, you continued to sneak under my defences. You became my first male friend since Siggurd.

But then about a year and a half ago, what never should have happened did. I started to feel. If you only knew how handsome you are. I fought it tooth and nail all the way, but it didn't matter. Bit by bit you tore down the walls around my heart. Yeah, I know it sounds cheesy. Nevertheless, it is the truth. And shortly before our trip to Norway, I finally had to admit to my self that I had lost the fight. I was in love with you, and had been for a long time."

"What!"

"Yes, you heard right. I have been in love with you for close to a year and a half now. And when these rumours about you and that girl started, I didn't believe in them. But then my old insecurities made the better off me. You were a man, and therefore you were bound to hurt me. I know, it's unfair to you, but that is just the way it was. Adding to that I was insanely jealous. I am sorry, more sorry than you can ever imagine." She stopped talking, and looked at him with red-rimmed eyes.

Nigel groaned in frustration. "Why did you not say something?"

She shook her head. "I was scared, just plain and simple scared. So I hid behind the campus rules and every excuse I could find."

He ran his hands through his hair again. At this rate he soon wouldn't have any hair left, he thought in almost amusement. "Well, you should have told me anyhow, because I love you too, and it has been hell, trying to hide it to you."

"You love me?" Her voice quivered with emotions.

He nodded. "Yes, I do. I suspect that, on one level or another, I have loved you almost from the start. I have certainly been attracted to you from the beginning."

The silence enshrouding them was less uncomfortable this time. Both of them felt relieved, to have revealed the secret they had been carrying around for so long.

"So Syd, you love me, and I love you; what are we going to do about all this? I mean, I am still a bit miffed that you though that I would do such a thing. And then there is the fact about the campus rules. And can you ever trust me?"

"Yeah, what are we gonna do?" Her voice was stronger now, more like her usual confident one. Except it had a softness he had never heard before. And he saw a light in her eyes which he didn't recognize. The same cautious light that probably lit up his own eyes now.

"I know one thing for certain, Nige. I cannot imagine a future without you as my friend. Have I ruined that?"

He shook his head. "No, Sydney. We have been through too much together. I will be your friend until the day I die. I might get pissed of at you now and then, but I'll always be your friend."

She released a breath she didn't realise she had been holding. "Good! Nigel, I know it is much to ask for, but would you consider continue being my TA? Please!!"

In answer he went over to the fireplace, and from the shelf he took up an envelope. "I wrote this after our last relic hunt, Sydney. It is a letter of resignation. I never got myself to send it, and now it will never be sent." With that he lit it and threw it in the fireplace. "I'll be your TA for as long as you want me to, or until the school board fires us."

"Of that you need not worry. It seems like we both have been hiding in vain behind the campus rules. According to Claudia, we are allowed to have a relationship, as long as it doesn't interfere with our work, and I highly doubt that they will fire us because of today. We normally do a much too good job for that."

Her eyes lost the cautious light, and she sighed tiredly. "Speaking of relationship. Please lets take this slow. And I mean really slow, 'cause this scares the living daylights out of me. 12 years of fears and insecurities are not removed in an instant."

Nigel moved over to her, and gave her a hug. "We take this as slow as you want. In fact, I cannot figure why you would be interested in a guy like me at all."

She shook her head, and smiled. "Any woman would be lucky to get you. You have it all, brains, looks, and a lovely personality. We have to do something about that self-esteem problem of yours. I'll make you a deal. I'll help you with it, if you help me with mine."

He smiled back. "Deal! Now, let us get out of here. I am famished. I know this little restaurant that serves the most delicious traditional American food, just down the road. It's my treat."

For the first time that day she let out a laugh. Sweet Nigel. He was never angry for a long time, and she thanked the stars for that. Maybe, just maybe, this could work. At least she silently promised herself that she would do anything in her power to make it work. Siggurd was right. It was about time for her to take a chance again, she thought as she followed him out.

The end – For now