Author: A. X. Zanier
Title: Battle Scars
Rating: PG-13 (Language)
Disclaimer: I do not own The Invisible Man or the premise behind the show. Any additional characters or premises are mine.
Timeline: Starts off 2 weeks after Interlude and ends just before the events in OITC
Comments: Filler fic to cover the two months between the two stories.
Music: Precious Illusions by Alanis Morissette and Out There by Sister Hazel
A childhood idol to millions of boys, GI Joe, stating the obvious, grunted, "Knowing is half the battle."
In this case I think I'll go with another military man, Sgt. Shultz. "I know notink."
He stood there staring at the dark metal door before him, swaying slightly in his exhaustion, still not entirely sure why he'd come here instead of going home. Why he'd felt the need to be here instead of collapsing into his bed for the sleep he so richly deserved and his body desperately craved.
He adjusted his hold on the bag in his hand slightly to keep it from slipping from his fingers, shifted to press an aching hand on the buzzer and, until that moment, it didn't dawn on him that she might not be awake. That she was probably just as tired as he was and might have done nothing more than kick off her shoes and collapse on her bed to fall into a deep slumber.
The mere thought of sleep made his eyes want to drift shut and stay that way, but he forced them to remain open, wanting to talk to her more. When the door slid open, he straightened and pretended to be far more awake than he felt.
"Darien, shouldn't you be at home?" Alyx asked in concern. Not only had he gotten the crap beaten out of him again, but he'd also hit stage three and had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the Keep for his shot. In fact, it had been her who had beaten him up when he'd gone first after Bobby then her. She'd been as gentle as she could, but he was damn difficult to deal with when quicksilver mad and twice as stubborn.
She'd been forced to handcuff him and his comments about "liking it rough" had been more than enough to make her want to grind her teeth to dust, especially when he'd followed up his words by frosting and snapping the cuffs and making yet another attempt at raping her. Oh, he didn't see it that way, but his actions struck her far too hard and she'd reacted with a cold calculation that had shocked even Hobbes.
"Didn't wanna go home yet." He realized he was slurring his words and cleared his throat. He handed her the brown bag in his hand. "Peace offering." She took it from him a bit reluctantly it seemed to him. "Hobbes, uh ... filled me in on my ... my..." He groaned at himself, not able to even say the words.
"Lack of decorum?" Alyx supplied her tone flat.
"Yeah, that." His hand came up to rub the back of his head. "I ... can I come in?"
Alyx stepped aside and waved for him to enter. That's when the smell hit him, roast turkey, stuffing, gravy all mingled together and he stopped cold, suddenly feeling more awake. "Crap, today's Thanksgiving?"
Alyx moved past him and to the kitchen. "For about another two hours." She filled in for him. She wasn't surprised he'd forgotten. They'd been busy as hell for the last week and the Fish hadn't even made the slightest hint the day would be anything more than work.
They'd actually been working nonstop since early yesterday, the three of them chasing down leads, just one step behind the shipment of equipment they were trying to steal back from the smart-asses who'd stolen it from a government warehouse. They'd never been told what was in those crates just that they had to get it back and now. Took thirty-seven hours in the last two days to finally accomplish that task. Catnaps in Golda didn't do much for sleep recovery, even for her.
Based on the way Darien looked, it did him even less good. Add in the madness and it's less than enjoyable side effects and he was looking quite sorry right now.
"Did you even stop at home to change?"
"Umm, no?" He shuffled forward, noting the beautifully set table, unlit candles, folded napkins, dried flowers for a centerpiece, and two place settings. He came to rest, his elbows on the high counter that faced the steel I-beam that supported her heavy bag wondering idly if she had company coming over for the meal or if she'd been forced to cancel because of work.
She shook her head and opened the oven to baste the turkey breast that was nearly done. "I think you left some clothes here, go take a shower and we'll eat in about an hour."
Darien just stared at her in surprise for a long moment. "You don't have to do that. You've got company coming. And I just wanted to ... to apologize."
She wiped her hands off on a dishtowel and turned about to face him. He looked sad, upset, and exhausted. Felt that way as well, along with guilty. "Darien ..." She took a deep breath and moved to stand across from him, three feet of dark gray countertop separating them. "We'll talk, okay? After you feel a bit more human."
He nodded. Not quite sure what to say. She led the way to her bathroom and came out of her walk-in closet with an overnight bag he recognized and that he vaguely remembered leaving in her car about a week or so ago. "So that's where that went. I was wondering."
She held it out to him. "I meant to return it sooner, but work bit us on the ass and we've barely had time to breathe never mind deal with personal shit."
"Not entirely true." Darien disagreed softly, his hand ignoring the bag and coming up to cup her chin. He somehow managed to do nothing more than to lean his forehead lightly against hers, his hand sliding about to rest on the back of her neck. He damn well knew why'd taken that darker path of sexual play with her and he damn well knew Hobbes would pound his ass to a pulp if he ever found out about it. While Hobbes'd been talking to one of his Hobbes-net contacts in the pre-dawn hours this morning, his two partners had been trying to steam up Golda's windows in one rather heated and spontaneous make-out session.
She shivered at his soft-spoken words and touch. She was thankful he did nothing more, perhaps sensing she would not handle it well right now, even if he didn't understand the real reason why. "I know, that's part of why we need to talk." She sighed and then slipped away, placing the handle of the bag in his hand and leaving the room without even a backward glance.
Darien sighed heavily then carried the bag over to the counter, set it between the pair of sinks and unzipped it to dig through the contents. He'd packed it for an overnight mission that had gotten canceled at the last minute so it had a complete change of clothes as well as various other necessities including a toothbrush and his back up hair products. Not that what his hair looked like mattered a hell of a lot to her, or to himself right now.
While feeling a bit odd about stripping and showering here, at her place, he still did so. The two days worth of grime making his skin crawl now that he was really aware of it. He somehow kept his mind on the needs of the moment and, though he shivered at first, kept the water set far cooler than was his preference, but it was effective in not only waking him up, but cooling him off in other areas.
He'd just been so damned shocked at himself and at her response this morning. She'd quickly gone back to being solitary and distant around all of them, while at the same time far less angry and depressed since coming back. Instead of fighting what was going on she seemed to have just been going with the flow. Doing the work and taking those classes that the Official assigned her several mornings a week. Quite often she'd catch up with him and Hobbes during the afternoon and join in the fun of saving the free world from those who tried to hustle illegal parakeets to pet stores across the US.
The recovery job they'd just finished was the first big one they'd been on in a while and it had been surprisingly difficult. Some drunken fools with delusions of grandeur had broken onto the Navy base and into a warehouse and stolen the first thing they found, figuring they could make some fast cash with the local gangs or militant groups by selling the stuff sight unseen on the internet. There had indeed been interest by various groups, but there had been a far larger interest in getting the stuff back unopened and undamaged.
Though why on earth the Agency got the job, he had no idea, though he suspected the Official had just horned in on the recovery in the hopes of scoring some brownie points and extra cash for the coffers.
It was the events of early this morning that he kept going over and over in his mind, and it was those very same events that had triggered his less than gentlemanly behavior toward her later. Grabbing her bottle a shampoo her poured a small amount into his hand and got to work scrubbing his hair clean while he went over the memories.
It was weird, once he hit a certain point in the madness these days, and if she was around at the time, he went a little, okay a lot, weird. He could vaguely remember thinking that Hobbes was moving in on his territory and gone after him first so that he could have Alyx all to himself.
Then she'd dragged him off Hobbes and cuffed him, tried talking to him, though he still couldn't remember what she'd said and knew it didn't really matter. From there he'd headed straight for the deep end of the gutter and tossed out just about any and every slimly sexual comment he could think of and, once he'd broken the cuffs, had backed her into the nearest solid object, the stolen crates. He then proceeded to describe in graphic detail exactly what he wanted to do with her using those very same handcuffs he'd so recently freed himself from.
Alyx had then beaten the crap out of him.
Darien chuckled softly as he rinsed off the soap. Unless his mind was seriously jumbled, he'd deserved it. And, to give her credit, she hadn't hurt him that badly. Two punches and one kick and he'd been down and pretty much unaware of anything until he'd woken up in the Keep, madness-free and with an ice pack being held to his ribs by Claire. Though according to Hobbes and Claire he'd been fighting every step of the way.
Turning off the water he wrapped a towel about his waist and stepped over to the mirror to check out the already forming bruises. Two small circles swiftly shading over to purple and blue, delivered by her fists with a deadly accuracy that shouldn't have surprised him, yet still did. He suspected she'd held back when putting him down and hoped like hell the cold anger he seemed to recall seeing in her eyes had been a temporary reaction and not a permanent one.
Towel drying his hair he went over the ... the kiss they'd shared in the back of Golda. It'd been her turn to catch a nap – Hobbes' orders – and had curled up on the floor in back while they waited for Hobbes' contact to show and provide the next step on the path to the missing goods. Hobbes had ordered Darien to stay in the van when the guy finally showed and he hadn't argued, had just swallowed a yawn and nodded in acknowledgement.
Darien had been fighting the urge to doze off when Alyx had started muttering in her sleep and when he looked over at her saw a familiar sight as she seemed to be caught up in some dream, a nightmare at a guess. Concerned, he moved to her and crouched down beside her where she lay on the old blanket they kept around for those colder nights and long stakeouts. She'd found some jacket of Bobby's and rolled it up for a pillow.
He'd set a hand on her shoulder and shook her gently while calling her name, only to have her jerk awake with a hastily suppressed scream. Then she'd buried herself against him, quaking in reaction. Once he'd gotten her calmed down he'd found himself holding her face in his hands, wanting to ask if she was all right and had found himself kissing her.
And Alyx had done nothing to stop him.
Shaking his head at his reflection, he growled at himself and forced his thoughts elsewhere before an annoying and involuntary reaction occurred and parts of him began to vanish. Pulling the clothes out of the bag he began to dress, wanting to just forget it. Not the kiss, per se, that had been very enjoyable indeed. No, it was stupid gland suddenly butting in causing the moment to suddenly get very chilly. She'd laughed it off, but he'd seen the shock in her eyes. Not at his reaction, but at what they had done. What she had done.
He put the finishing touches on his hair, it wasn't perfect, but after the last couple of days and the lack of appropriate supplies he wasn't expecting a whole lot.
Stepping back out into the main apartment his stomach growled loudly at the scents that permeated the air, reminding him it had been quite a few hours since that hastily inhaled lunch. Alyx was standing at one of the windows looking out over the darkened water she could see over the roof of the building across the street.
"Thanks." It was the only thing Darien could think of to say. She was wearing a pair of dark gray slacks and long sleeved shirt that looked to be made of gray silk. It had an iridescent shine to it that picked up the subtle lighting of the room and reflected it back with golden hue.
She turned about and gave him a small smile trying to not react to the way he was dressed. Black jeans, white tee and that green zippered sweater she'd seen him wear a couple times before and always did wonderful things for his looks.
"Feel a bit better? You looked half dead when you arrived." She turned back to the view out the window as she spoke. As usual he was causing her massive amounts of confusion and warring emotions, leaving her not knowing what to say or how to react. She heard his sock clad feet cross the distance separating them, felt the warmth radiating from his body as he came to a stop a couple feet behind her. It was the sleepy emotions coming from him in quiet waves that struck the hardest. Worry that she was angry with him; concern, that she was feeling less than well; guilt, for what he had done earlier, want, need, passion, all tangled together and aimed at her.
"Much, though about twelve hours of sleep would be nice." His stomach rumbled again and Alyx snorted.
"I'd say part of you disagrees with what's first on the list of needs'." She glanced over her shoulder at him, surprised to see him looking awkward and almost shy in the low lighting of the room.
"Well, can ya blame me? It smells wonderful. How'd you get it ready so fast?" He stayed in place sensing she wouldn't appreciate him coming nearer yet.
She shrugged. "Been planning this for a week or so. Habit I guess. Can't remember the last time I didn't plan a huge dinner for today." She knew she sounded wistful, maybe even sad, but she had every right to be. Getting stuck working might have been the best thing for her as it kept her distracted and from wondering what was happening across the country.
"Oh. I guess I better head out then." He should have realized this wasn't just something she'd slapped together at the last minute.
"You don't need to go. I had planned on inviting you, but we were so damn busy..." she trailed off as she caught his reflection in the thick bubbly glass moving that final step closer to her, now mere inches away.
"Me? Why?" He'd wondered who the second place setting was for, but had figured she'd put it up to simply balance out the table or some other frilly Martha Stewart type thing he would never understand. Whatever etiquette and manners had been drilled into him by his mother had long since been worn away by reality and a life far harsher than the one she had ever hoped for him.
She turned about to face him. "Why not? I've no place to be and little interest in spending this supposed holiday alone. You are one of the few..." She shook her head. "Make that the only person who willingly and voluntarily spends time with me. Least I could do is cook you a decent meal." She pushed past him just seconds before a timer went off in the kitchen and when he followed, staying on the far side of the island counter again, he found her pulling rolls out of the oven.
The turkey breast lay on the cutting board waiting to be carved, the gravy in its boat, the stuffing and vegetables in bowls and the bottles of wine opened and awaiting the glasses it would be poured into. She slid the rolls off the baking sheet and into the basket, which she quickly covered with a deep red towel to keep the heat in. "Give me a hand moving the food over?"
"Sure." The kitchen was more than roomy enough to allow them to work without jostling each other and a few short minutes later the table was covered in the bounty the local grocery store had been so willing to provide for their feast. All that remained was the turkey and he was surprised when she handed the obviously sharp knife to him.
"You can manage to use that right?" she inquired when he just kind of stared at the carving knife in his hand. He just nodded and, after a moment to plan his attack, went to work. With a smile she made sure he didn't see she went to the table and poured the wine into the glasses and made a few minute adjustments to where things were placed. Making sure everything was in just the right spot was a duty, a requirement, and, she was learning, a habit that she didn't care much for anymore, but couldn't yet seem to break.
"Where do you want it?" Darien asked looking over the now crowded table with amusement.
"Uh, well..." she lifted the centerpiece out of the way. "Right there." As he set the platter of meat down, she set the decorations on the nearby counter. Going back to the table she waved at one of the chairs. "Sit, please."
Darien wanted to say something, anything to get her to open up, but couldn't think of a damn thing at the moment and settled into the nearest chair with a nod. Alyx poured the white wine he'd brought into the glasses and then sat across from him.
"Hell." she muttered and got to her feet to cross the room to her entertainment center. "Forgot the music." She sorted through a pile of and chose about six, all of which she loaded into the CD player. She played with the buttons for a moment and by the time she'd rejoined him at the table the classic Alice's Restaurant was pouring out of the speakers.
Darien froze for a second in surprised recognition of the song. "I haven't heard this in years."
"Me either. I wanted to start a new tradition or two." She waved at the food. "Eat before you pass out from hunger." She handed him the stuffing and eyed him until he spooned a generous amount on his plate.
"Satisfied?" he inquired as she continued to watch him.
"Not even close." she replied, as she lifted her glass and sipped at the wine, finding it pleasantly dry and slightly tart, she caught the look Darien shot her way and tried to hide the blush that suddenly colored her cheeks.
He set down the bowl and moved onto the next item until his plate was nearly overflowing with food. He made sure she had served herself as well and was relieved to see her plate nearly as full as his. They ate in silence for several minutes; both needing to refuel and both using it as an excuse for not beginning the discussion that they knew needed to happen between them.
He was sipping at the wine and debating seconds on the turkey, stuffing ... hell everything when he looked over at Alyx to see her watching him with a hint of a smile on her lips. Screwing up his courage he started at the logical place. "I'm sorry."
"I know." she said softly. She poured herself more of the wine noting that there was very little left in bottle. She drank down a fair amount and got to her feet to retrieve the second bottle from the kitchen. Darien was pouring the remainder of the first into his glass and looking anywhere but at her.
"What happened this morning wasn't planned, I want you to know that." He risked a glance up at her to find her standing there holding the bottle.
"None of this was planned; not by us anyway." Alyx all but sneered. She set the bottle down and rubbed a hand across her tired eyes. "Look, can we just forget it happened, please? Forget the whole damn day?"
Darien's heart sank to meet up with his stomach and chasing away any appetite he had left. He finished off the wine in his glass and poured more from the new bottle. That was not the direction he'd been hoping to take the conversation and after several minutes of silence and more drink he came to a decision. "What if I don't want to? What if I want to talk about what happened?"
"What's to talk about?" To cover her discomfort she picked up a few dishes and carried them to the kitchen in preparation of cleaning up from the meal she'd cooked and just gone and spoiled for him with her intentionally harsh attitude.
Darien got to his feet and followed her with a few more dishes, not about to let her run away now that he'd gotten this conversation started, however badly. "How about you, me, and the ... the."
"The make-out scene in Golda this morning?" She supplied bluntly and saw his jaw tighten as she turned to look at him over her shoulder. "Don't make it out to be anything more that it was."
He gaped at her as she returned to the table for another load and began to pack away the food without so much as a glance in his direction.
"So I take it I was not your knight in shining armor to whom you were giving your virtue after rescuing you from the nameless monsters that haunt your dreams." The sarcasm was so thick that fancy knife he'd used earlier would have snapped if used to try to slice it.
Alyx laughed dryly. "Knight in shining armor? What an ego. Almost as large as that hair." She regretted the words as soon as they leapt from her mouth, but wasn't about to take them back.
Darien knew that defensive tone of hers. "Methinks the lady doth protest too much." This time when she tried to walk past him he stepped in front of her, not allowing her to pass.
"Darien, there is nothing to talk about. It was a mistake and ... and ... and you're not listening to a word I'm saying, are you?" Alyx complained in irritation.
"Oh, I'm listening. I just don't believe you." Darien reached out and took one of her hands into his own. "And I doubt you do either."
She opened and closed her mouth several times, trying to protest, trying to deny, and finding herself unable to. "It doesn't change my stance on the matter."
Darien sighed. "I don't care how we met, Alyx, I'm just glad we did." He released her hand and stepped aside allowing her to go back to avoiding him for now.
She walked past him three times and finished clearing the table before saying anything. She knew he had no idea how hard this was on her, why she was so insistent about not getting involved, or why she had all but mauled him this morning and she wasn't about to tell him. Didn't want his pity, didn't want apologies, and didn't want to face his rejection once he knew the truth. Sure as hell didn't want to be hurt again.
"If you'll help me clean up, we'll talk. Okay?" she asked in a voice that was only shaking slightly. He was very upset with her right now and she needed, wanted to defuse it. "I can't promise anything."
Darien considered. "All right, just try not to shut me out." He watched as she turned away from him, quite plainly fighting with herself over this.
"I'm not sure I know how." she muttered softly and turned to dig out storage containers to put the leftovers in. Darien helped and when the time came volunteered to dry the dishes that didn't fit into the already stuffed and running dishwasher.
The CD had changed along the way and was now some classic Billy Joel, a live recording from the sound of it, and was surprised when he caught her moving to the beat and even catching her singing along a time or two. He didn't say a word though, she was finally relaxing a bit and that's what he needed for the upcoming discussion.
Once the dishes were done, the counters cleaned and the scent of coffee drifting through the apartment Darien set his hands on her shoulders and steered her to her living room and made her sit, turning deaf ears to every protest she made. He finally got her to hush by kissing her.
"Ah, hell. That is so not fair." she grumbled when he released her, causing him to chuckle softly. His hands still cupped her face and he was still close, his soft laughter making her want to melt in his arms. She leaned forward slightly her lips brushing against his. "Thought you wanted to talk?"
"Uh, yeah. I do." Settling back, to put some space between them and reduce the temptation she inevitably was for him. "Will you give me a chance? Give us a chance?" he blurted out, knowing that if he waited, tried to pretty it up, the words would become lost. Simple and direct was probably the best way to go with her anyway.
Alyx closed her eyes for a long moment. Such earnestness in his voice, such desperate hope and longing, and she was going to have shatter it and hope he wouldn't hate her for doing it. Knowing she needed to meet his eyes while answering she opened hers and faced those sadly sweet brown eyes of his. "Darien, I can't. I won't and you know my reasons why. Nothing has changed."
"Damn it, Alyx, I don't care about the fat man's involvement any more. Not sure I ever did." Darien took a deep breath to get back in some sort of control. Yelling at her would get him nothing but a swift invitation to leave.
"But I do. Don't you get it? He shredded my life to try and fix yours." Her tone was far more pleading than angry. "You may be willing to fall for his little game, but I'm not."
Darien rubbed his forehead certain he was getting a headache. "Look, forget the fat man, forget the Agency. What if we'd simply met? Bumped into each other at ... at ..." He didn't want to use the typical grocery store or newspaper stand with her. The CD changing again, this time to light jazz, gave him an idea. "At one of the outdoor concerts held at Balboa. Maybe you dropping your money paying for a drink and I pick it up for you." He could see that she was completely unconvinced of this scenario. "Work with me here, okay?"
After a moment of internal arguing Alyx nodded. "So you think we'd hit it off as two normal people?"
"Alyx, I think once we'd met, no matter how, no matter where, sparks would fly." He told her truthfully. "You gonna argue the point?"
She shook her head. She damn well knew her attraction to him had been immediate and had only grown stronger over the succeeding months.
"Then why not? Why be so stubborn just cause the Fish was the one to get us together?" Darien pressed the point home and saw her tense up for an instant, then relax, almost as if in defeat.
He was right and she damn well knew it. The Official and his plans, while still a valid reason to avoid a relationship with Darien, was not the main one any longer. It was facing stiff competition from her past and the skewed perspective on life that past had left her. While part of her wanted this, to be with him, with almost the same desperation she felt coming from him, the rest wanted no part of it. It would require giving up far too much and breaking some promises she'd made to herself. Promises that she still saw as the only way to protect herself and keep what was left of her heart in one broken and bruised piece. Yet, somehow, he made that pain, those wounds easier to bear and she found herself not wanting to admit it.
"All right." she whispered, her voice shaking slightly with the simple words. She wasn't quite sure where they'd come from, quite certain a decision was still a long internal argument away.
"What? What did you say?" Darien wasn't sure he'd heard her correctly, couldn't believe he'd talked her into it.
"I said all right' we'll give this a try, but I'll warn you now, I sincerely believe I'm not ready." The mixed emotions on his face made her reach out and gently stroke his stubble-roughened cheek. "I'll give you what I can, Darien, but I can't promise it'll be enough for you."
He pulled her close, their foreheads resting against one another. "Anything, Alyx. Anything I can get. It'll be more than I had yesterday. Hell, more than I had ten minutes ago."
But will that be enough?' she wanted to ask again, but was completely distracted by his lips finding their way to her ear and down the side of her neck. "Ah Dare." she muttered softly as he slid aside the collar of her shirt to graze his teeth on her collarbone.
"Problem?" he asked with his mouth still pressed gently against her skin. This was even better than this morning and a lot more comfortable than the floor of the van. He hadn't even realized they were lying down till just now and raised himself up on his arms to look at her, her hair loose and wild, her eyes drowsy with passion, her shirt open just enough to reveal the swell of her breast. He swallowed with difficulty and sat up, watching as she levered herself up onto her elbows. "Crap." he muttered softly, trying to keep the gland from participating this time and barely succeeding.
Alyx suddenly, and much to both their surprise, yawned. He'd been successful at getting her to relax; however, it had the side effect of making her body realized exactly how tired she was. "Sorry." she apologized, feeling embarrassed and hoped he wouldn't interpret the reaction the wrong way. A moment later he covered his own yawn with a hand.
"We need to sleep." Alyx straightened her shirt and sat up. "Do you want to crash here?" She offered with little hesitation.
"Nah, I'll make it home okay." He knew he was going to have to take it slow with her and was willing to wait. Besides he really did need the sleep more and she'd still be here come tomorrow. "No need to make Hobbesy all suspicious." The truth of that statement and all it implied suddenly sank in. "We're gonna hafta keep this quiet ain't we?"
"Yeah," she agreed. "But we can deal with that later. Give me a call when you wake up, okay?" She kissed him quickly and got up, heading to the kitchen to get him a cup of coffee for the drive home.
Darien fetched his shoes and bag of clothes from the bathroom and joined her a couple minutes later. "Thanks for the dinner, Alyx." He slung strap of the bag over one shoulder and took the travel mug from her, taking a sip from it as they walked to her door.
"You sure you want to drive? I can call you a cab." She didn't want him falling asleep at the wheel while driving across town.
"Nah, I'm quite sure I can think of things to keep me awake for fifteen minutes." He ran his fingers down the V of her shirt and toyed with the button holding it closed.
"You." She fought to hide the rush of heat that stained her cheeks and then sank lower as well, the warmth spreading through her stomach and between her thighs, making her want to talk him into staying and do anything but sleep. He did that chuckle again, the knowing one, and blinked lazily at her.
"G'night, Alyx." he said once across the threshold.
"Good night, Darien." She watched as he walked down the hall and to the huge service elevator. Even once he was out of sight, the rumble of the lift having died away she still stood there; misgivings already making her regret the decision she had made.