Disclaimers: See Part 1 for disclaimers
Constructive criticism is always welcome and can be sent to Protek.
The faint sounds of rain hitting the window brought Xena to wakefulness. She took a glance at the window and saw the pale shades of gray. Rickie was still sleeping in her most favorite position: cuddled comfortably against the dark woman. Xena grinned when she thought about last night. When the warrior had finished her story and they had gone to bed, the younger woman had asked if Xena would hold her, just in case. Like she needed to ask! Moment later, they had found themselves caressing every inch of each other's body. Afterwards, the warrior had let her eyes rest on the peacefully sleeping woman.
Xena slipped quietly out of the bed. Rickie moaned for a while to protest the loss of the warm embrace but she drifted back to sleep. Xena put her silky bathrobe on and headed down the stairs. She put the coffeemaker on and went to bathroom. There she took a moment to view her image from the mirror. Her body was still in the pristine condition that it had been over two thousand years ago. It isn't the years - and it isn't the mileage either. She smiled condescendingly at the thought as she turned the shower on.
When Xena returned to the kitchen drying her hair, she found Rickie wearing one of the warrior's oversized T-shirts and reading the morning newspaper that she had fetched from the door. The high octave voice of Sting filled the room as the local station played The Police's 'Synchronicity II'. The lyrics were quite appropriate for the rainy morning to Xena's opinion.
"Good morning, Warrior-mine." The younger woman took her eyes of the paper and smiled. "Did you sleep well?"
"Like a baby," Xena answered. "How about you?"
"Surprisingly well." Rickie took a sip from her coffee. "Even after the story you told me." She grinned teasingly.
"Well, you were fairly warned." The warrior grinned back.
"I guess it was the aftercare that did the trick." Another meaningful grin.
"Always a pleasure to be at your service, Dreamer," Xena said. "And in my opinion, the favor was at least equally returned."
"Can't wait to get to hear the rest of the story," Rickie said as she took a refill from the coffee machine.
"That'll have to wait until the evening." Xena took a mug from the cupboard and filled it with the dark hot beverage. "We got work to do." She opened the newspaper. "Anything special in here?"
"There was a story about the yesterday's murder. They are boasting about a serial killer that is half vampire, half Jack the Ripper." Rickie stood up and headed for the shower.
The warrior snorted approvingly to that remark. "That's a new one."
It was almost midday when Holt came by. He had a folder full of documents with him. "Here's what I've gathered up so far." He handed the folder to the warrior. "Can you take copies and return the originals to me?"
"Sure," Xena replied as she opened the folder and flipped through the pages. "So, where from do you know this Calista Leighton character?" She asked the detective.
"We go back a couple of years. She has been consulting me with murder cases. For this particular case, the FBI actually assigned her to work with me so she spends most of the time at the station." Holt sat down on the offered chair at the kitchen table.
Xena lifted her other eyebrow as she poured coffee in three mugs and handed the two to Emil and Rickie, who had now joined them. "You two must be working long hours together. How does Marjorie feel about that?" She asked meaningfully.
Holt wrinkled his forehead. "Pretty much the same way, she feels about my long office hours in general. Besides, Cal's a pro. She don't mix business with pleasure." Holt paused for a moment then grinned. "You should see the profile she's made about you, or should I say the 'Headhunter'," he shot back.
"There's a psychological profile about Xena?" Rickie asked enthusiastically. "Spill it out! I want to hear all the details," she urged the officer.
Holt gave an impish grin to the young woman. "Well, the file is too long to tell it all, but in general, the 'Headhunter' is suffering from some kind of inferiority complex, which is probably caused by some traumatic childhood experience. The beheading of the victims is the 'Headhunter's' way to compensate that feeling of inferiority."
"I'm starting to have second thoughts about her professional skills," Xena frowned as she watched Rickie bursting into laughter and falling off from her chair.
"Now, Xena. You really should give the woman some credit. She has gone through all that trouble trying to figure out your character," the young woman managed to say between her hysterical giggling. "Jesus! This is just too rich!"
"Hey, I can't help it if there are some hotshots in the world that want a piece of me," Xena said defensively. "I would be more than willing to give that up."
"Well, I gotta be heading back. Thanks for the coffee." Holt emptied his mug and stood up. "I'll let myself out."
"I'll look into those papers and bring them back to you tomorrow," the warrior said to him.
"See you then." Holt waved his hand and stepped into the elevator.
"Ouch! My stomach hurts," Rickie panted as she finally stood up.
"You really shouldn't laugh so much." Xena smiled smugly to her lover.
"Sorry, I just couldn't help it. But it's good to know that I'm perfectly safe with you." Rickie smiled sheepishly.
"Why so?" The warrior asked the honey haired woman who had slowly started to back away.
"Because I'm four inches shorter than you." Rickie run to the stairs when she saw the expression on the darker woman's face.
"Why you " With one jump Xena was on the oaken dinner table. From there, her trained thighs and calves sent her up to the wooden banister that edged the sleeping loft. With a swing she was over the banister, just in time to catch the running woman.
"Hey, that's not fair, you took a shortcut," Rickie retorted when she found herself in tight embrace.
"You've gotta finish what you've started." Xena gave a feral smile to her lover.
"Well, now you've got me," Rickie smiled back. "What are you going to do with me?"
"Oh, I've got a couple of ideas." The warrior took the younger woman's cheek between her fingers.
"Only a couple?" Rickie feigned disappointment.
"I guess, I'll have to improvise the rest." Xena placed a kiss on Rickie's lips, took her on her arms and carried her to bed.
Xena took her eyes off from the papers and arched her back. She had spent the whole afternoon studying the documents that Holt had given her. She rubbed her eyes that were sore from the reading. She might be immortal but that sure didn't help with migraine. She rubbed the side of her other palm with her fingers and the throbbing eased a bit.
By now, Xena was ready to give up. The only conclusion that she had been able to make was that she was dealing with a serial killer but she already knew that. She went through all the facts in her head once more. All the victims were young women about twenty years of age. They all were runaways or street kids. The MO was the same and all the bodies were found in the same area. The blood that was found from each of the victim's mouth, was of same type. Better give it a rest, Xe or otherwise you'll end up howling the moon or something.
Xena began to organize the papers in a neat pile when she heard the elevator activating. She turned her attention to the upcoming elevator and was delighted to see Rickie stepping into the office. The young woman was carrying plastic bags in her both hands. An appetizing scent from one of the bags reached the warrior's nose.
"Hi ya," Xena said to Rickie as she put her bags on the floor and came to give a kiss to the warrior.
"Hi yourself," the younger woman replied. "Have you been working all afternoon?" She took a glance at the pile of papers on the desk.
"Pretty much," Xena sighed. "Did you find anything special at the mall?"
"You could say that I found something." Rickie gave an impish grin to the warrior. "But you'll have to wait until we get to bed before you'll get to see it."
"Mmm, sounds interesting," Xena remarked with a husky tone. "Can't wait to get there."
"Not so fast," Rickie said. "Let's eat first and besides, there's a catch." Another impish grin.
"And what might that be?" Xena asked curiously.
"You'll have to tell, how you got out of Dracula's hands."
The warrior pretended considering her options for a while before giving an answer. "Deal."
"Okay then," Rickie said as she picked her bags. "I hope you like Kung Pao."
"I'm so hungry that I could eat a horse," Xena replied as she followed the younger woman to the kitchen.
"Well, what do you think?" Rickie asked when she came up to the sleeping loft. She was wearing a sleeveless nightgown. The crimson, silky fabric followed the younger woman's forms neatly all the way down.
"It's stunning." Xena caught her breath.
"I'm glad that you like it." Rickie walked slowly, swinging her hip sensually, to bed and set herself next to the immortal woman.
Xena let her fingers slide on the smooth fabric. "You're stunning," she added. "That's one of the reasons I love you so much." She curled some golden hair between her fingers.
"It's your turn to fill your end of the bargain." Rickie put two fingers on the warrior's lips. "Then we can get to the dessert."
"All right " Xena said with a very low tone.
Targoviste, Wallachia, 1458
Xena opened her eyes. A thick fog surrounded her. She was floating just above her own impaled body which was in a grotesque posture at the end of the wooden stake. Some invisible force tried to pull her spirit away from the body but an equally matching force anchored her to it.
Someone appeared from the fog. Xena recognized the athletic form and figures of Hercules. She tried to call the man but not one sound came out of her mouth. Hercules stopped to glance at the impaled body. He stood there for a moment and sighed. "Oh, Xena. You had so much potential and still, you decided to play this petty game of yours. Look, where it has taken you."
Hey, how about letting me down, instead of judging my actions. Xena tried to say. The hero shook his head and walked away.
For a while it was quiet, then another figure came out the mist. This time it was Ulysses. The king of Ithaca gave a sympathetic look to her body. "It's a pity, Xena. I could have given you everything, but you turned me down."
The warrior didn't even bother to answer. Ulysses disappeared back into the mist.
Time passed by. Every now and then, some person that Xena had sometimes met, came to look the bruised body and made some pitying remark before fading away. The warrior had chosen to ignore the play that was going on underneath her because it obviously didn't seem to have an end. The next person to arrive got her full attention, however.
It was Solon. The sight of her son made Xena try to get back into her body so that she could have reached out for him, but she failed. The young boy glanced at the body and Xena could see a tear run down on his face. "Mother, why did you leave me?" This simple question from the innocent child made Xena scream in her mind. Nooo! Don't say that! I never wanted to leave you, but I had no choice.
An elderly woman appeared on the boy's side. "I am very disappointed at you, daughter. You had responsibilities but instead you chose to travel all around the world fighting people for various reasons," Cyrene, Xena's mother, said disapprovingly. She took Solon's hand and they both vanished.
Xena was in agony. More people came. They all questioned her choices in life. That hurt more than any kind of physical torment could ever hurt. She wanted to run away but she couldn't. Why can't you leave me alone?
Next, it was Ares' turn to pay a visit. The god of war smiled arrogantly at Xena's body. "I hate to see you like this, Xena. I had such great plans for you. The world was at your hands, but no, you had to hang out with that irritating bard." Ares turned away.
Right after Ares came Callisto. The blond warrior sniggered madly. "Oh, I've waited an eternity for this, but seeing you at the end of a stake makes it worthwhile." She circled the body with an insane look in her eyes. "It's a shame, though, that it couldn't be me who took your sorry life, but I guess this'll have to do."
Xena knew that she couldn't take this much longer as she watched the mad woman to go away. The appearance of the next visitor didn't offer any consolation.
This time it was Xena herself, in her warlord armor. The warlord looked closely at her abused mirror image and gave an approving grin. "That's an interesting way of torture. Now, why didn't I think of that?" She asked herself.
Because even you weren't that inhuman and you knew it! Xena shouted, knowing that her words were left unheard.
"Well, can't do much about it anymore, can I," the warlord sighed and disappeared.
Then, came the one person that Xena had waited and feared to come. When she saw the honey haired woman in forest green top and brown skirt to appear, her heart broke. No, Gabrielle, not you too.
Gabrielle took her time to gaze at the body and suddenly, she fell on her knees and burst into tears. "Oh, Xena! What have I done?" She reached her hand for the limp body. "I never wanted you to suffer like this. If I had known that this was to be the price of your resurrection, I would have never done it. Can you ever forgive my selfish craving to be with you, not to let you go?"
Gabrielle, every moment I got to spend with you is worth the pain. Xena smiled at her. I love you, my bard.
And, as if she could have heard Xena's thoughts, Gabrielle said, "I love you, Xena."
At that moment, Xena felt her spirit being drawn back to her body.
Xena was in a semi-conscious state. She could sense that there were people nearby. The frantic words that were exchanged, confirmed that.
"This is mad, Gregor. If we get caught, we'll share her fate." A young man's voice spoke very nervously.
"This woman saved my daughter from a destiny even worse than this." Older man, with a firm tone. "She deserves at least a decent burial and I'm going to do this with or without you."
"All right, but let's be quick about it. Help me put her on the ground."
Xena could feel that she was lifted with the stake that so savagely pierced her and set lying on the ground.
"Hold her while I remove the stake." She could hear the older man say.
Slowly, the wooden stake that had been pushed inside her for an eternity ago, let go. That reopened the wounds that her immortality factor had already cured and the flashes of pain made her whine.
"My, god! She's still alive! How can anyone possibly withstand this kind of torment?" The younger man's voice was amazed.
"Never mind that now, Ion! We got to get her into the cart and be on our way."
Xena could feel that she was lifted again and set on something hard. Then she mercifully slipped into unconsciousness.
Xena opened her eyes. She was lying in small bed in a dim room. She could vaguely see the form of a young woman that was doing something at the other side of the room.
"Where am I?" Xena managed to croak.
"Oh, you're awake!" The girl came to her. "Try not to talk. You're in my home. You have been here for four days, now."
"My father and my uncle got you here. It's a miracle that you are still alive. You have lost a lot of blood." The girl poured some milk in a mug. "Do you think that you'll be able to drink?"
The warrior lifted her head a bit to accept the liquid. The cool water burned her sore throat and made her cough.
"I think that's enough for now." The girl removed the mug from the warrior's lips. "Try to get some rest."
Xena closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep
When Xena woke up again, she was feeling a lot better this time. She set herself in a half sitting position. Her organs were still quite sore but she could handle it. The door opened and an elderly man stepped inside. He smiled warmly when he saw that she was awake.
"Hello, there. I'm glad to see that you're starting to feel better," the man said to the raven haired woman.
"I'll live." Xena said with a croaky voice.
"My name is Gregor," he introduced himself..
"Xena," the warrior replied briefly.
"That was my daughter, Katja, who you saved from that soldier. For that, I will always be in debt to you, Xena."
"Well, you pulled that stake off, so I guess that makes us even." Xena managed to smile.
"You can consider yourself a lucky one," Gregor said. "No one has ever survived an impaling." He became a bit hesitant.
"I'm not a witch if that's what you're thinking," Xena assured him.
"I'm sorry." The man blushed. "Besides, it wouldn't really matter, when you saved Katja. Thank you for that."
"Aren't you endangering yourselves by keeping me here?" Xena asked.
"This cabin is outside the city. A few people know of it's existence," Gregor answered. "Of course you can't stay here forever. You'll have to get out from Wallachia."
"Not quite yet." The blue eyes narrowed. "Not while I have a score to settle with that prince of yours."
The old man looked at her sympathetically. "I can see that you are a warrior in heart, and that your pride as a warrior has been hurt. But attacking him now, when you're not fully recovered and you're driven by your anger, would be foolish."
"But don't you want to get free from his terror?" Xena asked. "Next time, it might be you or your daughter, who is at the end of that stake."
"I wouldn't hope nothing more than to see Vlad Dracula pay for his cruelties, but a foolhardy attack against his army wouldn't be brave. It would be a suicide."
Even if she hated to admit it, Xena knew that the man was right. She sighed deep as a sign of yielding.
"Don't be disappointed," Gregor said. "You lived to confront him again some day and when you do, it will be on your terms."
"I suppose that you're right," the warrior finally said.
"Oh, I almost forgot. We managed to find your horse." Gregor said suddenly.
"How is she?" Xena asked.
"She's just fine. We found her from the forest near the place where you fought that soldier," Gregor answered.
"Thanks for taking care of her." Xena smiled.
"You're very welcome. But what am I thinking? You must be starving," the old man slapped his forehead.
Xena grinned when her stomach responded with a deep growl. "I suppose that answers your question."
"I'll have Katja to bring you some soup shortly." Gregor hurried outside.
"Thank you for everything," Xena said as she mounted her horse.
"Thank you, Xena and travel safely," Gregor replied.
"I will." The warrior turned to give last look to the old man and his daughter. "Take care."
It had taken almost a week for Xena to heal before she could travel. It would take her at least another week to get fully recovered. Right now, she couldn't wait to get to Melos.
"Good bye, Xena," Katja said as the warrior spurred her horse to a gallop.
As the small cabin disappeared from sight, Xena thought about the ruthless regent of Wallachia. She had no intention to let Dracula get off the hook. She would wait for the right moment and then she would get her revenge. You just wait.
" so I made it to Melos without any bigger incidents." Xena ended her story.
"Did you ever meet Dracula again?" Rickie asked.
"Not until many years later, but that's another story." The warrior gave an impish grin to her. "Now, do I get my reward?"
"Yess, Xena." Rickie kissed the warrior. "Yes you do."