by Godot

Disclaimer: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess are owned by MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures, bless them. No copyright infringement is intended.

Demetrios of Trikkala came by his nickname honestly. Jinx was what his family had called him from a very early age and the name stuck. For young Demetrios had only bad luck and it always seemed to be aimed at himself. There wasn't a lap he couldn't fall off or a table he couldn't bump into or a poisonous bit of root he wouldn't eat. His parents came to wonder if baby Jinx would make it out of childhood.

It was a wonder anyone would associate with Jinx, but he never lacked for friends. The children soon learned that bad luck for Demetrios was good luck for them. He lost at every game he played and when Jinx lost, they won. When they raced he had the uncanny ability to find the only hole in the playing field and trip over it. They never got a bruise, a cut, or a hurt while he was around. Sharp sticks, loose stones, tree roots inevitably found their way to Jinx instead of to his companions. His friends had a ongoing bet on how old Jinx would be when he finally accidentally killed himself.

But Jinx had a exuberance for life that defied mere luck. He shrugged off the minor annoyances and the petty hurts, never wavering in his belief that one day his luck would change. So at the age of seventeen he left his friends and family to find his good fortune which he was sure existed somewhere in the world. All he had to do was find it.

As luck would have it the first thing he found was a warlord pressing local men into his service. Bercilius had a particularly effective method of persuading men to join his army. Join or die, so most joined. He also had an effective means of punishing deserters. If caught, he would skin them alive and, being the type of man who enjoyed such things, he made a special effort to chase down those who tried to leave his army. The stories alone were enough to keep his men in line. So when Jinx was conscripted, he viewed it as just more evidence of his bad luck and took it in stride, still convinced his good fortune was just around the corner.

Killing and looting were not first nature to Jinx. The first few months he managed to look busy without doing much damage, except to himself. Soldiering is not an occupation suited to luckless men. Arrows meant for his companions always seemed to find their way to him and blows meant for the fellow beside him seemed to land on his body. He soon found himself doing more dodging than fighting and it wasn't long before the others noticed this particular trait and began drawing lots to see who would get the privilege of fighting along side him. His companions came to wonder why Demetrios hadn't died long ago.

On that sunny afternoon when their scouting party of thirteen men entered a small village and demanded food and money it was like any other afternoon spent pillaging and looting. Until a loud undulating war cry crescendoed through the air and four men lay dying before the others could even take a breath.

Jinx watched in mesmerized wonder from a distant doorway as the raven-haired beauty cut a swath through the soldiers as a sickle through wheat, a feral chuckle greeting every death. Horrified he watched as she plunged her sword into another of his friends, then flung her chakrum and he watched it bounce off a rock, a cooking pot, two posts and slice three soldiers' throats before returning to her. Rousing himself, young Jinx remembered his duty and with a determined yell ran into the melee, sword raised. Only to have his nose meet the end of her elbow.

By the time he shook off the stupor and rose to fight again he found that he was the only one left standing. He saw the fist coming toward his jaw and while the words "Oh, shit," were formed in his brain they never made it to his lips. He found himself flat on his back once again, a sword digging its point into his throat.

And young Jinx found his luck going from bad to worse. Through all the trials of his eighteen years, the lad had never believed he was going to die. But he believed it now, looking up into intense icy blue eyes. Eyes lost in bloodlust and wanting his life so bad even he could feel it through his terror.

"Please," he whispered, tears forming in his eyes. The beautiful warrior blinked and Jinx saw sanity return. But no warmth. Stone faced she studied him for a few moments before finally saying, "You need a new line of work. Go home."

If the point of her sword had not been planted so firmly against his throat, young Jinx would have nodded enthusiastically. As it was he could only whisper, "Yes, I'll do that. Thank you." The sword returned to its sheath and Jinx scrambled to his feet and began to run, not daring to look back for fear the tall beauty would change her mind.

As soon as he was safely on his way back home, Jinx began to thank every god and goddess he could think of for sparing his life. Those he couldn't name he described in general terms, until he was pretty sure he had thanked every deity known to his people.

A few weeks later Jinx learned that his life had been saved once more when news filtered back of a battle that had decimated his warlord's army and now Bercilius was too busy defending himself in Tartarus to worry about deserters. And Jinx stopped trying to find his good fortune. He found that with a lot of hard work, luck was never much a factor in his newly discovered life.

Time passed and Demetrios had become a moderately successful horse trader in his home town when he happened to take his young son Korin to see the famous bard Gabrielle perform. Korin listened with wide-eyed wonder as the bard told story after story about monsters and giants and Titans, but his favorite was about a toy maker named Senticles. Although he pretended nonchalance in front of his son, Demetrios was no less engrossed. Until he looked around and spotted his nightmare in the back of the room sipping her wine with studied indifference.

He froze, his wine dribbling down the front of his shirt. The raven hair was tinged with gray but the face he would never forget and he fought the overwhelming urge to grab his son and flee to safety. But he knew better than to run from a predator. She would rip out his throat before he reached the door. Setting his cup down with a shaking hand, he forced his attention back to the bard.

Presently Gabrielle called it a night, much to the disappointment of the crowd. Demetrios watched as she wound her way through the audience chatting and accepting their accolades. Astonished, he watched her stoop to kiss the warrior woman before sitting on the bench beside her and reaching for the cup of wine. Instead of crushing the hand of the bard as he expected, the warrior's stoic face dissolved into warmth and affection.

As the two were talking, or more accurately Gabrielle was talking and her companion was listening, a man approached their table and began to loudly and enthusiastically proclaim his undying devotion to the bard and her art, while all the time leaning closer and grabbing her arm. While the others looked on in amusement, Jinx felt a growing anxiety. The look on the warrior's face was one he had seen in all his worst dreams over the years and he knew with certainty that the man was soon going to be in a world of hurt. But then he saw Gabrielle lay a hand across the warrior's lap and the fury in the icy blue eyes died. Relaxed, but still watchful, the warrior returned to her wine. Gabrielle spoke with the man for a few moments and then sent him away with a smile.

And Demetrios felt a suspicion begin to grow and take root. When Korin asked his father if they could go talk to the bard, he readily, if somewhat nervously acquiesced. All he had to lose was his life and that, most agreed, should have been lost long ago. Korin bolted to the bard's table with the eager abandon only a five-year-old could muster and immediately launched into a dissertation of his favorite stories. The pair watched in amusement as he acted out his lesson.

Demetrios approached the table with a little more decorum apologizing for his son's intrusion. The sky blue eyes surveyed him coolly. "Found a new line of work, I see. This one seems to suit you better."

His heart stopped for a few moments, then he grinned weakly. "Much better." He introduced himself and his son and sat immediately when she pointed to the bench across from them. Korin breathlessly asked the bard about Amazons, the necklace she wearing, her staff and hardly waited for an answer before launching a new question. Gabrielle laughed and he hopped up when she patted the bench between her and her companion. To his father's horror the lad reached for the warrior's chakrum. Catching his hand, the warrior said simply, "no." It was enough. Young Korin immediately withdrew his hand and turned back to the bard.

"Easy Xena, it does look like a plaything, you know," the bard said.

His heart stopped again. "Xena? Destroyer of Nations? That Xena?" His voice rose an octave or two.

Xena nodded and raised an eyebrow. "Is there a problem?" she asked.

"No, no," Demetrios assured her. Except he really wanted to know why, with all his rotten luck, she hadn't killed him that day. And he thought he would know if he had the answer to one little question. "So, how long have you two been together?" he asked casually.

Gabrielle looked up from her conversation with Korin. "Oh, nine or ten years now, isn't it Xena?"

Demetrios thought of all the time he had wasted sacrificing to the gods in gratitude for sparing his life. For now he was certain it was no god that stayed the warrior's hand that fateful day, but the ministrations of a gentle bard who could turn the warrior's cold countenance to warmth with a look, and quell her murderous intent with a touch.

Korin pulled out a small pouch and proceeded to show his treasures to Gabrielle. A smooth stone, a piece of bone, a wad of horse hair were dropped on the table.

Still mindful of the warrior's watchful gaze Jinx reached over and gently touched Gabrielle's arm. "I want to thank you..." he began.

She looked up and smiled. "I'm glad you liked the stories," she said before becoming distracted by a beetle the size of the little boy's hand.

Jinx shook his head. "No...well, yes. The stories were great. But I really wanted to thank you for saving my life."

Gabrielle looked up again in surprise. "You must be mistaken. We've never met before..." And once again became distracted by something alive trying to crawl out of the pouch.

"No," said Jinx softly. He glanced at the warrior and saw she understood his meaning. She nodded then reached over Korin and gently brushed a stray strand of golden hair out of the bard's face and touched her cheek with callused fingertips. Jinx watched as Gabrielle absently leaned into the touch, her concentration still fixed on the long spindly legs poking out of the pouch.

"Yes," said Xena smiling, "she's saved many lives."

"Korin, pack up your things, it's time for you to go to bed," his father ordered.

"But, papa," the boy protested, "I haven't shown them Hercules."

"Hercules?" Xena's eyebrow raised.

"My spider," the lad proudly proclaimed. His attention being on Xena, he didn't see Gabrielle jerk back from the pouch, a look of dismay on her face.

Jinx saw it though and knew their welcome had just run out. Hastily he gathered his son and his belongings, bid the two women a thankful farewell and made a beeline for the door.

"Did you have a good time Korin?"

"Oh, yes papa. They're nice, aren't they? Xena scared me at first, but she's not so bad."

Demetrios wasn't convinced of that, but simply said, "They're good people Korin." He glanced back as they walked out the door and saw Xena slap the table with her hand.

"Korin, where's Hercules?"

"I wanted to give Gabrielle something so I left him. Think she'll be surprised?"

Hand in hand, they walked out into the warm starry night. "Oh yeah, but not as surprised as Hercules," his father replied ruefully. And for the first time in his life Demetrios of Trikkala, forever known in his world as Jinx, was certain he was the luckiest man alive.


Jan, 1998

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