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REGRETTED: PART 2
by noelle I make no claim to Xena, Gabrielle, Lila, Aries, Hades, or any other characters on the show. They belong solely to the creators of Xena: Warrior Princess. I only own Jak. This story is a part 2 of 2, so if you are interested in reading it, I suggest that you read Regretted: Part 1 first. There is some violence in this story, and some of the themes may be slightly disturbing.
I make no claim to Xena, Gabrielle, Lila, Aries, Hades, or any other characters on the show. They belong solely to the creators of Xena: Warrior Princess. I only own Jak.
This story is a part 2 of 2, so if you are interested in reading it, I suggest that you read Regretted: Part 1 first.
There is some violence in this story, and some of the themes may be slightly disturbing.
"Watching you sleep?" Gabrielle exclaimed.
"Yes," Xena said. "And I know it was him."
Gabrielle shook her head.
"Maybe you were dreaming. . ."
"Gabrielle," Xena began in a threatening tone, "I think I can tell a dream from reality."
Gabrielle shrugged, and reclined against the log. Sheís just damaged, thatís all. Her emotions are clouding her mind. Gabrielle shook the thoughts from her mind. What am saying? This is Xena weíre talking about here. She abandoned her initial skepticism and indulged Xena.
"So what happened?" she asked.
"Nothing," Xena said. "I woke up----I was half-asleep---I saw him there, watching me, and then he got up and left."
"Left? Just like that?"
Gabrielle dismissed the thought, shaking her head in disapproval.
"First of all," Gabrielle began, in an all-knowing tone, "Jak is dead. How would he even be able to appear before you unless it was through a dream?"
"It wasnít a dream," Xena said firmly, "and Iíve got a pretty good idea of whoís behind this."
For over two minutes, she had sensed an overwhelming presence in the clearing. Something most familiar, but most dreaded. The heavy hand on her shoulder was no surprise, but it startled Gabrielle.
"Zeus!" Gabrielle said, looking over Aries. "You scared me!"
"Pity," he said in mock sympathy.
He turned to Xena, his hand still on her shoulder. She regarded the heavy-set man clad in dark leather with little interest.
"Charming story," he said. "Loved the ending. So much like you Xena."
"You mean, so much like the old Xena," Gabrielle broke in.
"No," Aries said, "so much like Xena."
He let a curious hand stray into her mass of dark hair, fingers intertwining in the long, wild strands. She shook his hand off roughly.
"What do you want?"
Aries could feel her icy glare even though she wasnít looking at him. He felt her azure penetration in him, and he relished the feeling.
"I love when you hate," he said carelessly, and resumed his exploration of her mane.
She snatched his hand, and crumpled his fingers. He winced a little at the pain, but still managed to maintain his masculinity. When she had finished, he lifted his hand eye-level and flexed, smiling at her work. Yes, it hurt, even for the God of War.
"Why are you here?" she asked coldly.
He shook out his hand.
"The thing is, Xena," Aries addressed her, beginning to pace in front of her.
He played with her sword lying idly against a tree; testing the hilt, teasing the blade. He smiled a little to himself.
"The thing is, Xena. . ." he began again, ". . . .I missed you. . .and I thought that I might just pay you a visit."
"Really? Iím touched. Cut to the chase."
"I wouldnít be hasty with me, Xena," he warned. "I bring valuable news."
Xena raised an eyebrow, but her expression was uninterested.
"Oh? Whatís that?"
"Well it seems your ex---Jak is his name?" Aries went on. "Well, somebodyís given him a body back, and heís out to get you."
"Would that somebody be you?" Xena asked, disgust underlining the nonchalant tone.
"Actually, no, Xena," Aries said. "Thereís no clue as to who had the honor, but I can assure you, it wasnít me."
"Am I supposed to believe that?" Xena questioned.
"Believe what you will," Aries said, "but Iím telling the truth when I say I had nothing to do with it."
"Then who did?" Gabrielle demanded.
Aries glared at the young blonde.
"Werenít you listening? I already said I donít know," Aries snapped.
His eyes returned to Xena.
"Last I saw him, he was preparing an army," Aries told her. "A large army, I might add."
Her eyes turned to her boots. She seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. Her eyes lifted.
"Do you have any other information?" she asked quietly.
He opened his arms wide.
"Wish I did."
She studied his sincere expression distrustfully. She gave him a doubtful glance, and then stepped forward, lessening the distance between them, and forcing him into a corner with his back facing the tree.
"Why are you taking such an interest in this?" she asked suspiciously.
"Weíve always been on the outs, Xena," he said, "ever since your little transformation from evil to good. Doesnít mean I donít still care for you, Xena. I know the old Xenaís in there, crying to get out. . .and someday she will. You and I both know that."
Xena shook her head.
"Youíre wrong, Aries," Gabrielle cut in. "Xenaís changed, and thereís nothing you can do about it."
Aries flashed her an intense glare.
"Stay out of this," Aries warned. "This is between me, and Xena."
He looked Xena over carefully, before he vanished.
"Xena, I donít understand his motives. What could he possibly---"
"I donít know, Gabrielle," Xena interrupted. She looked grimly to her sword resting against the tree. "I donít know."
Xena drew the covers up to her neck, and nestled into the warm sheets. Her chakrum rested beside her, a comforting reminder that she had control of the situation at all times. Gabrielle settled in next to her, snuggling close to the tired warrior princess. Xena closed her eyes lightly, finding the warmth of her friend solacing. She heard Gabrielle fall into a steady breathing pattern, a comforting rhythm that teased Xena with the notion of sleep. She tried to find sleep, but none came to her. Gabrielle must have sensed this, and she broke the silence with a question.
"Xena?" Gabrielle asked.
"Are you still worried about Jak?" she asked softly.
"Yes," she said, "and other things."
"What other things?"
Xena opened her eyes.
"I donít know," she said. "The army, and everything else. Iím not really in the mood to talk about it."
"I understand," Gabrielle said.
Silence fell over them for a while. Xenaís eyes remained open, staring blankly into the dark brush beside them. A faint wind sifted through the brush, rustling through the dry leaves, and prompting the ferns to wave with the breeze. Xena looked deeper into the forest, but all she saw was pitch black. She closed her eyes, and even though her eyelids were the same jet black, the action felt unnatural and foreign. She reopened her eyes, and settled her gaze into the heart of the forest.
"Mmmmm?" Gabrielle replied sleepily.
Xena bit her lip.
"Do you----do you hate me?" she asked, "for what I did to Jak, I mean."
Gabrielle wrapped a consoling arm around Xena. She turned the warrior princess so she could face her, and give her an honest reply. Xena searched her eyes. Gabrielle smiled warmly.
"No," she replied. "I could never hate you. I admit I donít like your past, but itís not the part of your life I can change. Itís all behind you."
Xena smiled, relieved. She ruffled Gabrielleís hair fondly, and kissed her lightly on the cheek. Gabrielle hugged her close, and kissed her in return.
"I love you," Gabrielle said.
"I love you, too," Xena whispered.
They turned opposite each other. Xena hugged the sheets tighter to herself, and permitted her eyes to close.
Xenaís eyes opened instinctively.
"Go to bed, Gabrielle," she said. "We can worry about everything tomorrow."
She felt the words lingering in Gabrielleís mind. Gabrielle shifted, unsatisfied with the answer. She ignored Xenaís request, and rose the question weighing in her mind.
"Are we still going to Potedia?" she asked hopefully.
"Yeah. Weíre still going," Xena answered.
Xena heard the last rustlings of her friend beside her, and slowly the heavy breathing became a deep snoring. Oddly, the snoring was a comfort to her, and she found often that she couldnít get to sleep unless she had that roaring accompaniment. She closed her eyes for the last time, and fell into a light sleep.
Xena awoke. Her eyes searched the darkness. She didnít budge; barely breathed. A shadow moved swiftly across the camp and into the brush. Her eyes followed it out of the camp, and she sat up.
"Jak!" she called. "I know itís you! Come back!"
Gabrielle moaned softly beneath her, her sleep disturbed by the sudden noise. Xena peered through the dark forest, looking for a sign of the intruder, but he was gone. She heard only the distant rustling of footsteps through the dry leaves. She sighed, and fell back against the ground.
Xena caught the scent of a well-cooked breakfast. She squinted against the morning sun, stretching her arms in either direction, and gave a cavernous yawn. Groggily, she sat up, and observed the tidied camp area. Gabrielle was squatting before the fire, tending to breakfast, wide awake and happily preparing herself for the day ahead. Noticing Xena, she smiled brightly.
"I canít wait to see Lila!" she exclaimed.
"Well, youíll get to see her today," she said, yawning in between.
Xena rose slowly to her feet, staggering over to her armor.
"I made breakfast," Gabrielle said perkily.
"Thatís great," Xena said. "When can we eat it?"
"Should be ready in a couple minutes," she answered. She studied Xena. "Seems like you slept well."
"Sort of," the warrior answered.
"What do you mean sort of?" Gabrielle snorted. "I woke up an hour ago, and you were still sleeping like a baby."
"At least I donít snore," Xena teased.
"Hey, thatís not my fault!" Gabrielle objected.
"Whoís fault is it then?" she asked playfully.
Xena lifted her armor, and pulled it over her head. She fastened the armor tightly around her, nudged the breastplates up a little, and tugged on her leather skirts. She turned to her companion, smiling. Gabrielle sulked behind the fire.
"You always have to bring up the snoring," she said sorely.
"Aw," Xena said in mock-sympathy, "itís just one of those little quirks I love about you."
"Quirks," Gabrielle mumbled in return.
Xena patted her affectionately on the shoulder as she passed by. She grabbed her sword which was leaning against a nearby tree, inspected the blade and then sheathed it. Then she stooped over and picked up her chakrum, placing it in its normal position at her hip. She smiled as the ambrosial aroma of breakfast teased her nostrils.
"Whenís that gonna be ready?" she asked hopefully.
"Soon," Gabrielle replied.
Gabrielle flipped over the flat, round cakes. It was a new recipe, one sheíd devised herself. She was thinking of naming it after herself, if it came out good of course. She peeled the cakes off the frying pan, and onto wooden dishes. She tasted a little portion of it, quickly without Xena knowing, and smiled. It was good.
"Come here," Gabrielle said, her mouth full. "Itís ready."
Xena dropped what she was doing, and came over quickly. She took the plate from Gabrielleís extended hands, and sat cross-legged beside her.
"It smells great," Xena commented.
She took an enormous bite from the cake. It tasted all right.
"What do you call it?" she asked, munching on the cake.
"I donít know, yet," Gabrielle said. "I was thinking about Ďthe Gabrielleí, but it doesnít seem to fit very well."
She observed the flat cake on her plate.
"I donít know," she repeated, "maybe Ďflatcakeí. . .or Ďcake from a paní. . .or pancake."
"Whatever it is," Xena said, "itís good."
"Thanks," Gabrielle said proudly.
They grew quiet for a moment. Xena finished her cake, and her eyes lifted.
"He came again," Xena said.
"What did he do?" Gabrielle asked, setting her pancake aside.
"Nothing," Xena said. "He was here, and then he left."
"Thatís creepy," she said.
Xena turned to roll her bedding into a tight, compact barrel which she could strap to Argo. She tied the blankets together with a short piece of rope, pulling the knot tightly together.
"Weíre still going to Potedia, right?" Gabrielle asked, eagerly.
Gabrielle smothered her excitement, but she couldnít help letting a grin steal across her face. It was rare when she saw her sister, and when she did, the visits were short. They were always on the move because Xena was so restless, and it seemed they always had something else to do, somewhere else to be, someone else to save. Even now, they would have to deal with Jak eventually. Gabrielle sighed with this thought, but reminded herself of the gravity of the situation. They would have to deal with him, sooner or later.
When they pulled into Potedia, the sun was at high noon, blazing down on them from above. The town was quiet, even the marketplace was barren. Still, Gabrielle regarded her hometown with the same, loving gaze. Comfort settled over her as she passed by the familiar shops and houses of people she knew and remembered well. She turned to Xena who sat high up on Argo, seeming troubled by something. Xena felt the bardís eyes on her, and looked down at her, flashing a brief smile. Somehow, Gabrielle felt consolation in this, and returned to surveying the beautiful village of Potedia.
"There!" She pointed, excitedly to her old house.
She ran for it, Xena following slowly behind. She flung the door open and ran inside the house. Xena dismounted Argo, and tied his reins to a post outside the house. Inside, she could hear the excited dialogue between Gabrielle and her sister. Soon enough, the two sisters bumbled out of the door, giggling wildly, nearly smacking into Xena. Xena stepped back, a small smile on her lips. Lilaís giggles ended in seriousness as she sighted Xena.
"Hello, Xena," Lila said.
"Hello," Xena replied.
"Nice of you to come," she said. "I know youíre. . .busy often."
"Yeah," Xena said.
There was an uncomfortable moment in which all eyes grazed the ground. Xena smiled warmly, observing the two sisters.
"Iíll leave you two alone," she said. "To catch up."
Xena patted Argo lightly as she passed by him, and headed into the center of town. Gabrielle watched her go regretfully, but smiled as she felt her sisterís hand on her shoulder.
"Iíve got so much to tell you," Gabrielle said, turning to her sister. "But first: you. Howís everything been?"
"Great," Lila said. "Everythingís been absolutely wonderful. Zeus, I havenít seen you since you and Meleager. . ."
"Yeah," Gabrielle said, "we know that story."
"So what have you been doing with yourself?" Lila asked, adding, "Staying out of trouble I hope."
It was Gabrielleís turn to smile.
"Not quite," she said, "Xena and I----"
She stopped as her sister flinched at the name. Lilaís eyes lifted, realizing Gabrielle had sensed her feelings towards Xena.
"Iím sorry," Lila apologized. "Itís just. . .well, some people think its Xenaís fault. . .that you left, I mean."
Her eyes skimmed the ground as she waited for Gabrielleís reply.
"Well, itís not," Gabrielle said indignantly. "I left because I wanted to. Thereís so much good out there to do. . .helping
people, solving problems. Thatís what me and Xena do and I wouldnít have it any other way."
Lila nodded, but her eyes betrayed her. She didnít understand. She would never understand.
"Anyway," Lila said, changing the subject, "maybe you could tell a couple of your stories. . .about your travels, I mean. And the scroll-writing your wrote me about in your letter."
"Yeah," Gabrielle said warmly. "Iíd love to."
The two sisters retreated into the house, Gabrielle excitedly spinning off a tale about Xena and Odysseus. Lila laughed lightly, intrigued not only by her sisterís tales, but simply by her sisterís presence. It was good to be home again.
Xena stared out at the dwindling marketplace. There was something bothering her, an unsettling feeling in her stomach that was rising slowly to her throat. A sudden paranoia crept over her, and she spun around quickly. No one was behind her. The people around her in the marketplace were surprised at the sudden movement, and crowded away from her. She turned and met their fearful eyes. Her lips opened slightly, an explanation hovering at the tip of her tongue, but she didnít bother. It was just as well if she simply walked away.
She started down the road back towards Gabrielleís former home. A flash of movement to her left startled her, and she jumped to her guard. A man leapt out at her, tackling her to the ground. She rolled out of his grip, and sprung to her feet, drawing her sword.
"Retyius," Xena whispered, stunned.
"Thatís right, Xena," he said, getting to his feet. "Didnít think Iíd come back for you, did you?"
He stepped towards her, his sword poised for attack.
"Deliver a message, huh?" he said, sneering. "Youíre a morbid and disgusting creature! You donít deserve to live!"
He lifted his sword, and brought it down on her. She met his sword with her own with a clanging sound heard over the entire market. The people turned to watch, their faces intent on the brooding fight.
Xena kicked Retyius backwards, and he fell, sprawling to the ground. He scrambled to his feet, and regained his balance, quickly coming at her with another attack from the side. She ducked the blow, and delivered a swift kick to his gut. He stepped back, clutching his stomach.
"Bet youíre surpised," he said, moving further back. "Didnít expect to see me anytime soon? Well you wouldíve in Tartarus! Thatís where you belong, Xena-----in Tartarus!"
Xena noticed Gabrielle and Lila running down the hill towards her, apparently drawn by the noise. They slowed as they neared the fight, watching from the outskirts. Gabrielle threatened that she might join the fight, but Lila grasped her arm, and pulled her back.
"Who did this?" Xena demanded. "Who gave you your life back?"
"Ah," Retyius said, a wicked grin on his face, "youíd like to know that, wouldnít you? Figure that bastard boyfriend of yours is here for the same reason I am. Well, Xena, heís pretty pissed off, too, but he has more patience than me."
Retyius swung his sword at her, and she blocked it, holding him back with her utmost strength.
"Me," he went on, "I couldnít wait. I thought, why wait for the stupid shit to make up his mind? Iíll get the bitch myself."
He jerked his sword back, and thrust it forward. She moved quickly, and regained her guard.
"But that guy----Jak----he knows how to handle an army," Retyius said. "You gotta give the bastard that much. I havenít seen that much skill since I traveled with Borias."
"Shut up," Xena said harshly, sweeping Retyiusí feet out from beneath him. "You talk too much."
Retyius hit the ground hard, his breath leaving him. He rolled to his side in pain, and waited for the final blow. Xena stood over him, ominously staring down at him.
"I canít kill a man while heís down," she said, "but when I sort this out, you will go back to Tartarus where you belong."
Retyius sneered, and spat in her direction.
"Why donít you just kill me, Xena? Save yourself the trouble."
Xena said nothing, but walked away. Retyius cumbersomely scrambled to his feet and ran from the marketplace. The customers cleared a wide path for him, putting as much distance from the soldier as they could.
Gabrielle shook Lilaís grip from her, and ran up to Xena, a thousand questions in her eyes.
"Who was that?" she asked.
"Retyius," Xena spat more than said.
"The man you. . ." Gabrielle cringed at the thought.
"Yeah," she said. "Thatís about right."
"But heís dead----" Gabrielle stopped herself in mid-sentence. "Oh."
"Gabrielle," Lila interrupted behind them.
Her voice was weak. Gabrielle turned.
"What?" Gabrielle asked, catching her expression.
"These people are dead."
"Yes. Iím sure they are," Lila said. "I remember them. . .a long time ago. They used to live in Potedia. . .townfolk. I knew some of them. . .saw them everyday. Theyíre dead."
"Dead?" Gabrielleís voice echoed, barely a squeak.
She looked back at the marketplace in confusion. She frowned.
"Lilaís right," Gabrielle said. "I remember some of those people from when I was a kid. . .but theyíre dead now. . .at least, I thought."
"Yes," Lila said. "Thereís Old Man Tresus. . .and Tyrus, that petty swindler. . .and Ms. Weila, poor old widow. . ."
Gabrielle nodded. She looked to Xena.
"Aries wasnít kidding," Xena broke in. "Iíve got to do something about this."
"Like what?" Gabrielle asked, still nervously eyeing the marketplace.
Xena began saddling up Argo.
"Go to the source of the problem," she said.
Gabrielleís breath stopped.
"To the Underworld?" she asked.
Gabrielle sighed and turned, kicking a small rock several feet ahead with her foot.
"Great," Gabrielle said sarcastically. "My trip to Potedia ruined."
"Oh, no," Xena said, testing the saddle with her weight, "you donít have to go at all. You can stay here. Iíll go."
Gabrielle showed no sign of protest, but her eyes were troubled.
"Youíre going alone?" she asked softly.
"Iím going," Xena clarified, "whether its alone or not. Iíve been there before. . .for Marcus, remember?"
"I know, but I canít let you do it," Gabrielle said. "You donít know what itís like down there. . .the legends say----"
"Yeah, yeah," Xena said, "I know the legends." She climbed onto Argo. "Thatís what they are----legends."
Xena looked down on her worried sidekick. She managed a faint smile.
"Iíll be back before you know it," Xena said in a comforting tone. "You wonít even miss me." She stroked the young girlís hair, dotingly. "Enjoy your sister while your here. . .you donít get to see her that often."
"We do have a lot to catch up on," Gabrielle said, "The Horde, and Seacrops, and the beauty pageant, and Chin,
and. . .Hope."
She said the name vaguely, remorse lining the soft title, but not quite hiding the violence behind it. It was a name that had caused so much pain, and even now it hurt. Gabrielle eventually managed to meet the warriorís eyes, and share a tacit smile between them.
"I should go," Xena said. "Iíve got work to do."
Gabrielle nodded faintly.
"Bye, Xena," she said. "Iíll miss you. . .be careful."
Xena paused to look fondly on the bard, and then gave Argo a small kick to his flank. He trotted swiftly away from the village, stopping only once, sensing a small hesitation from his master, but then started up again as quickly as before.
Gabrielle turned to Lila, who was still in shock.
"Letís go," she said.
Lila readily agreed, and the two sisters headed home.
The air was starting to get cooler. Xena dismounted Argo, and rummaged through her belongings. A fur coat was hidden away in one of them, she was sure. She shivered as a cold breeze sifted through her. Discouraged, she remounted Argo. Sheíd have to endure the sudden drop in temperature, because her coat was nowhere to be found.
She started the horse at a slow trot again, her azure eyes fixing coldly on the road ahead. Now, not only the temperature troubled her, but an overwhelming presence. She stopped the horse.
"Aries," she said, "show yourself."
Sure enough, the god was right behind her. He sauntered past her horse, arms folded, and faced her.
"You donít still believe I had a hand in this, do you?" he asked, frowning.
"I think you had everything to do with it," Xena said. "Itís your style, bringing up my past to haunt me."
"Iím flattered you think so. . .highly of me, but really, Xena," Aries said, seriously, "I had nothing to do with it."
She made no response, but gave him a chilling, irrefutable glare.
"All right," Aries said. "So you donít believe me. Tell you what, let me do you a favor----to prove Iím on your side."
"I donít need any favors," Xena said bluntly, and urged Argo to move forward.
"Wait," Aries said sternly.
The horse stopped. Xena gave him a slice of her attention, but didnít make any effort to turn around and face him. Aries paced up beside her, his overbearing, but virile scent invading her nostrils. She cringed at the smell. Even if the aroma appealed to Xena, it was one she associated with her past, and it prompted an unsettling feeling in her stomach. She waited impatiently for Aries to speak.
"I can save you a lot of time," Aries said, "and effort. I donít imagine you want to leave your precious Gabrielle back in that village, with Jak running on the loose. . .heís pretty angry, you know, and if he finds out sheís a friend of yours-----"
"I know," Xena said evenly. "So whatís your offer?" Her eyes narrowed. "And what do I have to do?"
Aries smiled at her sudden interest.
"Instead of you having to cross the whole of Greece to reach the Underworld entrance," he began, "I can zap you down there in a matter of seconds. . .and when youíre ready, Iíll zap you back up. Iím a god, you know----I have the power to do that."
"So Iíve heard," Xena said. "Whatís the catch?"
Aries stepped back and raised his hands as a sign of vulnerability.
"Nothing," he said. "No catch. I just want you to hear me when I say I had nothing to do with this."
"Thatís all?" Xena inquired, raising a skeptical eyebrow.
"Only keep this in mind," he said, lifting a lone finger. "Keep this favor that Iíll do for you in mind, so maybe when I ask you for something, you might help me out."
"Oh, I think Iíve helped you out more than enough," Xena said. "What about that time you lost your godhood when I was in Callistoís body? Who got it back?"
"And who gave you your body back?" Aries countered.
Xena held his challenging gaze, and then broke it with a faint smile.
"I accept your offer," she said. "As long as there is no catch."
"No catch," Aries assured her, and zapped her into the Underworld.