By Delenn
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Chapter One

"…And then Xena killed Callisto. Well, what do you think? Xena, are you listening?"

Xena looked down at Gabrielle from her horse, Argo, and replied "Huh... oh yeah, I heard every word you said."

Gabrielle looked skeptical and whined "Xena, truthfully!"

Xena truthfully stated "The minute I knew which story you were telling I stopped listening, I was there, besides you've told me that story a hundred times!"

Gabrielle said, a little mad at Xena, "Fine, if that's how you feel I'll tell a story of Hercules instead. Iolaus has told me lots of Hercules' adventures, I think you’re in this one too!"

It took Xena only a second to realize that this couldn't be one of her most charming stories if it was with Hercules and Gabrielle hadn't been there, then she asked. "Gabrielle why don't we take a break and have lunch, okay?"

Gabrielle nodded and enthusiastically said, "Great, I'm famished!"

Xena dismounted Argo and led her to a clearing with a lake near by. When Gabrielle and Xena had finished eating Xena said "I'm going for a swim, will you pack up?"

Gabrielle answered sarcastically "Yes, whatever you say your majesty."

Xena shot Gabrielle a threatening look before leaving.

While Xena was swimming she started thinking ‘Gods I can't believe Gabrielle is so boring, I mean how can she tell stories so many times? Better not answer that Xena, she is your friend! Like hell, she hasn't done one friendly thing in months, I mean Gabrielle could have at least done as she promised and not left the campsite last time I had to go 'explain' my point of view to Ares, but no, she just had to leave, then to top the day off Gabrielle let Callisto capture her!! Then I had to go fight Callisto, and rescue her, when Gabrielle should have been able to avoid being captured in the first place! Oh and did Gabrielle really have to decide to take on those peasants for the first actual fight in which she did anything, sure she 'thought' that they were raiders, that were 'pretending' to be peasants!! Don't even think about the time she........no don't even think about that! Gabrielle is certain that you will rescue her, or else she wouldn't get captured in the first place. Some reason to stay good!! That's it I can't fool myself anymore, there's only one thing for me to do.’ Her mind made up, Xena swam to the shore, got dressed, and left the beach.

Gabrielle saw Xena walk through the campsite, she was sure that Xena would sit down, but Xena didn't. Gabrielle, seeing that Xena was leaving, asked "Xena, wait. Where are you going?"

Xena stopped dead in her tracks, but didn't say anything ‘Let the blond figure it out for once!’.

Gabrielle smiled and started packing her stuff, "It doesn't matter where we are going. Are you ready, or do you want to pack up first?"

Xena abruptly turned around and yelled, "You are NOT going anywhere, I am going to see Ares."

Gabrielle gasped then asked "Why ever would you want to go there?"

Xena, who was getting really angry by now, a side affect of a year traveling around with Gabrielle’s constant chatter, said raising her voice slightly. "Because I feel like it."

Gabrielle said, "YOU are NOT going anywhere, you're not thinking straight, Xena, I'll take you to a healer!"

Xena was steaming by now, she said, keeping her voice perfectly even. "YOU do NOT tell ME what to do!! I can make my OWN decisions, thank you. NOW here's a suggestion, why don't you stop giving me orders and leave?" The last part was more of an order, then a question.

Gabrielle was shocked as she said, "FINE I will, call me when you get tired of playing the 'good' little priestess"

Xena looked like she was going to kill Gabrielle, but just said "Oh, I'm not going to be a 'good' anything, I'm going to be a VERY bad girl as a matter of fact."

Gabrielle gave a disgusted look. She knew what Xena meant! Visions of Xena and Ares together ran through her mind and she almost gagged.

Xena continued, riding herself of pent up anger towards Gabrielle. "Now go away, I have more important things to do with my time then talk to a simple peasant girl."

Gabrielle looked furious as she screamed "TAKE THAT BACK, XENA!!!!"

Xena said simply "No."

Gabrielle said, her voice still raised and her face red from yelling. "Yes, TAKE that BACK!"

Xena didn't say anything she just packed up her stuff, brushed Argo, then she left without so much as a ‘goodbye’. Gabrielle couldn't believe that Xena had just left after calling her a 'peasant girl.' She was starting to wonder if Xena had really meant what she said. Gabrielle convinced herself that she was just being silly, and that Xena would never do that. Then she got ready to go find Cyrene, she needed to talk to someone about Xena!

Xena walked into the inner part of the temple, where two priestesses immediately stopped her. The first one stated "Only priestesses of this temple may come in here, now, leave!"

Xena made no motion of leaving, so the second priestess said, "You heard Maryll, leave."

Xena smiled ever so slightly, she had always wanted to smack priestesses around and now she had her chance, she challenged "No, you want me to leave? Make me...."

Maryll never noticed the deadly timber to Xena's voice. She said "Fine, have it your way. Sonya don't ya get inta this fight, n’ matter what."

Sonya nodded. Xena and Maryll drew their swords, Xena decided that she would make this fight quick and flipped over Maryll, completely surprising the priestess with a kick to the back of the head that sent her flying forward, and straight into a wall. Xena was about to close in on her, when Ares appeared and asked "You didn't just come here to fight them, did you? I would hate to see all that ‘energy’ wasted on a priestess, when her master could more then wear you down" His tone was even. But his eyes held a feral gleam to them.

Xena sheathed her sword, then said grinning slyly. "Now why would I do that when I can find all the 'exercise' I need dealing with you?"

Ares was about to say something when Maryll jumped into the conversation, having recovered from her meeting with the wall. "Blaspheme! Someone like ya shouldn’t even think things like that!"

Xena ignored the priestess and commented to Ares, "You don’t train them like you used to, this one was easy to take."

Maryll interrupted, slightly insulted, and even more insulted for her master. "A word a advice, leave before ya can't!"

Ares said, turning to Maryll and crossing his arms his stare changing to something deadly and menacing. "I've had about enough of that, Maryll, you do not speak for me. Now, what were you saying, my dear?"

Xena pouted, she was going to delay what she had to say and play for a little bit. "What took you so long? I thought you weren't coming. I would hate to waste all this pent up energy?" she said erotically running her tongue over the white of her teeth.

Ares recognized what Xena had said for what it was, and ordered "Both of you leave, and make sure nobody bothers me and Xena." He was really going to enjoy this.

Once the priestess' had left, Xena said, walking up to Ares and circling him, brushing against him ever so slightly to show she wasn’t playing. "I have decided that the little fight you and I had before I turned 'good' was silly, and I don't want it to keep us apart any longer. Ares, God of War, I renew my vow...." She trailed off, waiting for his response.

Ares smiled ever so slightly and asked, toying with her in return. "What weapon would you like to start with?"

Xena mused for a second "Let's see," she twirled a length of hair around her finger "I don't need any help with swords, my chakram, or my whip, I have daggers pretty much mastered, so what does that leave that we didn't already work on?" she looked at him her intent obvious. "Got any ideas?"

Ares still wasn't sure about why Xena was acting the way she was. To say the least he was a bit skeptical, this could very easily be a plan of Xena’s. But he didn't want to pass this opportunity up, so he would move cautiously. Ares stated, "We can work later, you have always been the best at weapons, I suggest that you go prepare your army, they will be waiting for you near Amphipolis." He kept his gazed fixed on her face for any telling signs as to her motives.

Xena stopped in front of him and gazed into the god’s eyes for a moment. Deciding she didn’t want to give up her control just yet she simply gave him a quick kiss then left, bounding out of the temple acting like one of Aphrodite's moronic followers. He shook his head at the mental picture of 'his' Xena in some of the flimsy, almost transparent costumes his ditzy sister conjured up. Mental picture after mental picture appeared in his mind of Xena dressed like his sister. "Damn I need a cold bath!" he muttered.

Gabrielle watched the warrior from her spot, Xena was definitely going somewhere. Gabrielle wondered if Xena knew that she was there. Xena stated "You can either leave or come out, because I know that you are there,"

Gabrielle came out of her hiding spot and walked down to where Xena was sitting, she sat down next to Xena, and asked "That was a silly fight, huh?"

Xena asked, trying her best to look innocent. "Was there a fight?"

Gabrielle smiled good naturedly and said "Not that I remember, so where are you headed?"

Xena said "Amphipolis, want to come with me? Mother will be less nervous if you are there...."

Gabrielle said, ignoring the thought of WHAT would make Cyrene nervous. "Sure! I would love to come, actually that was where I was headed anyway. So where did you go while we had that parting of ways?"

Xena said, wondering at Gabrielle’s motives suddenly. "I told you before I left.... Wait a minute, why were you heading to Amphipolis?"

Gabrielle blushed and covered "I...uh I thought that you were like joining Ares or something, so I was going to talk to your mother, to see if she would know what to do...."

Xena shrugged "Oh, well that's irrelevant because I'm not joining Ares. Are you ready to go? I have to be in Amphipolis as soon as possible."

Gabrielle smiled "Sure, I'm so glad that we are not fighting!!"

Xena smiled and said "Yeah, me too, it makes life a lot easer."

Gabrielle asked "Xena, before we go, were you tempted to do the wrong thing while I was away?"

Xena frowned and said "I did do the wrong thing, and now I'm going to have to figure out how to fix it. It'll be okay though, let's go!"

The next morning Xena decided to go for another swim, seeing as they were near a good swimming spot. Xena took off her armor and leathers, leaving on only her shift and underwear, she waded into the water. After swimming for a few minutes Xena got out and lay down on the bank in the sun to dry off. As she was lying there she felt that familiar tingling sensation. Deciding to play a little bit she smiled evilly. Xena stretched out. Running her towel over her full chest. Letting her toweled hands splay across her ripcord stomach. Lifting a leg she ran over the silky smoothness of her thigh, down her calf stopping for a moment to wiggle her raised foot. Then she slowly put one leg down. Lifting the other leg slowly. After Xena was dry, and realizing that she had his complete attention, she abruptly asked "Were you planning on saying anything, or just lurking there watching the show?"

Ares appeared his face seemed somewhat flushed and his words were clipped but he managed to say, "I was wondering if you knew that I was here, is that why you got out of the water so quickly?" Ares, it was obvious, was trying to retain control over himself and his raging desire. To himself he thought 'Damn she knows just how to get to me'

Xena started getting dressed, while calmly saying "The water is freezing, and, if you don't stop giving me that look, I'm going to throw you in the there," eying him up and down, she added "It appears, my dear Ares, that you may need a cold dunking"

Ares groaned knowing she now knew just how affected he was by her display. He stiffly replied, "You wouldn't! I just came to see why you are bringing the blond with you?"

Xena smiled arching her eyebrow and said "Are you sure that is ALL you are doing here? In that case, I'll tell you, I wanted to have some help in calming my mother down, she has always been jumpy about armies near her home. And.. You better not be questioning where my loyalties lie, Gabrielle has out lived her purpose after she helps me with mother." Xena's anger was rising. But she still felt that urge to make the god squirm, so in her most seductive voice she purred, "Now, tell me why did you really come here? Do you really want me to believe that all you wanted is to check on my loyalties? Or.. Maybe there is something else you wanted to 'check' out."

Ares nodded quickly, ignoring her last statement. "I wanted to see how my ‘Chosen’ was doing with her battle plans, who are you going to attack first?" to himself he muttered 'Oh gods she's going to drive me completely over the edge. In all the millennia I've lived I have never felt like this.'

Xena knew she was getting to him, but opted to say only "I need to get my reputation back to what it was 3 years ago, so first I'm going to find your dear half brother and slaughter him for leading me astray from you, then we hit Corinth!" She laughed evilly and added "Again."

Gaining some control back and leveling his gaze at her eyes; he could see that fire and rage. Ares said, "Good plan, my dear, but you do know that I'm not allowed to kill Hercules, right?"

Xena rolled her eyes, she had finished getting dressed, and was now putting on her armor, then said, "When have you ever been able to control what I do? Besides, I'm not going to kill Hercules; I'm just going to torture him a bit. I haven't been to Olympus in a long time, do you want to take me for a.... uh....visit? It’s said all work and no play is bad...." her eyes raked his body once more. 'Gods he's got some control. But I'll make him crack.' She mused to herself.

This was too much. His heart desires were being laid out for him like a roast pig at harvest time. And he was certainly not going to miss out on the feast. He smiled a devilish grin, and then asked "Ready?"

Xena nodded, walked over to Ares, and briefly kissed him... "I'm ready when you are handsome." And she wrapped her hands in his hair bringing his mouth back to hers and plundering its inner depths. Ares groaned as they vanished in a shower of blue sparkles.

In his chambers on Olympus Ares relaxed in the luxuriousness of the feather bed. His Warrior Princess stretched out beside him. Her hair spread out on the pillow as she slept. He thought back to their fun, and sighed. It had been wonderful. She is wonderful. They weren't in his chambers more then a few minutes when her purring and petting and grinding had driven him over the edge. He had carried her here to the bed and of course returned the favor. Then spent the last several hours making exquisite love to her body. He was getting hot again just remembering. He had nipped and caressed with hands and mouth every inch of her delicious body. There were no places on her form that he didn't know intimately. And oh what she had done to him. Matching his enthusiasm stroke for stroke. But alas as she stirred next to him he knew she would leave soon.

Xena felt Ares shifting on the bed, lifted her head off his chest and said "I have to go, it must be late morning by now, Gabrielle will be up soon...."

Ares gazed down at her and stated "It's already afternoon. I don't know why you even bother about the irritating blond?"

Xena got up and started getting dressed while she tried to explain to him "I told you already, I like my mother, and the last time I lead an army she wouldn't forgive me for years. Besides Gabrielle has been my best friend for two years. Will you take me back now?"

Ares although disappointed simply nodded, then he disappeared, and reappeared next to Xena dressed in his trademark black leather....

Gabrielle woke up to hear people laughing near by; she got up and followed the sound.

Three girls that looked to be in their teens were talking. Cecilia asked, "So, Joan, I hear that you have a new friend, will you introduce me to her?"

Joan shook her head and asked, "You are kidding, right? Since when have I ever hung around with anybody other then the two of you?"

Ivaia blushed and said "I think you heard wrong, I have a new friend, her name is Samantha, and she is very shy."

Joan was about to say something, when Gabrielle walked over, having listened to their conversation, and said "Hi girls, mind if I join your little chit chat? My name is Gabrielle,"

Everyone said "Hi," then Joan added, "I'm Joan, this is Cecilia, and Ivaia."

Gabrielle grinned and said "Nice to meet all of you. So, where are you from?"

Ivaia smiled "Nice to meet you too. We are from Amphipolis, where are you headed, Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle giggled lightly, glad to be talking to the girls. "Well, actually that's where I'm going! You see my friend is from Amphipolis and we were passing by and decided to stop in so she could see her mother."

Cecilia asked, thinking of all the older women in the town, "Who is your friend, and what is her mother's name? Maybe we know her mother...."

Gabrielle was about to reply when Xena walked over and asked, leaving out the part about where she had been for the past few hours. "Is this a private party? I was wondering where you were, Gabrielle, when I got back from the lake and you weren't in camp. Then I heard voices and figured you had found some people to talk to. You haven't been telling stories about me again have you, Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle gestured to Xena and said "Everyone this would be my friend, Xena. Xena this is Cecilia, Joan, and Ivaia."

The girls looked the strange woman over.

Joan was thinking ‘Wow, she's from here? I've sure never heard on her.’

Cecilia was thinking ‘Xena, she looks like a warrior or something, and wow she is beautiful, although that leather gives her a tough look, the flushed cheeks and blue eyes really change that though.’

And Ivaia was thinking ‘Oh, my, I bet it's her, Cyrene's daughter Xena, I never thought I would meet her, mom talk's about her so much, I can tell she misses her. I wonder why mom never told me that Xena was a warrior, or at least that she dress's like one!’

Gabrielle said quickly, not wanting a rehash of the fight a few days before. "Xena, I haven't told any stories about you, promise. You look pumped, what happened, was there a fight?"

Cecilia added her own observations, never guessing the reason for them. "Yeah, your face is all flushed, and your eyes are sparkling..."

Xena gasped, blushed ever so slightly, then said "Oh, gods, really? Umm.. I must have done too much swimming, that water was freezing," In her head a little voice said ‘See, that’s what you get for being a ‘bad’ girl.’ Xena retorted to that nice little voice ‘Yeah, well good girls never had such a good reason to have a flushed face. Where did that damn, ‘nice’ voice come from, I thought I had done enough things to permanently kill it already. Oh well, not like I listen to it anyway.’

Gabrielle said "You should be more careful, I was worried about you when I woke up and you weren't in camp!” she added, whining ever so slightly, “These girls are from Amphipolis, maybe we could travel with them?"

Ivaia nodded and said, hoping she didn’t sound to enthusiastic, "Yeah, we would really like that, if it's okay with you?"

Xena nodded and said, glad for a change of subject. "I don't feel like arguing with the four of you, so let's go, I want to see my mother tonight."

Gabrielle, Joan, and Cecilia were talking and therefore out of hearing distance of Xena, who was riding Argo ahead of them, and Ivaia who was walking next to her. Ivaia asked. "Xena, would your mother be Cyrene?"

Xena, who hadn't said anything since the group started traveling, said in a flat voice "Yes, why?"

Ivaia decided that now would be a good time to introduce herself stated, "I am Ivaia, and I am Cyrene's youngest daughter, nice to meet you, sister."

Xena turned to face the young woman, and after looking her over asked "Have you heard any rumors of an army near Amphipolis?" to herself she thought 'This is definitely becoming one strange week.'

Ivaia frowned, Xena hadn't seemed to acknowledge her at all, then asked "Xena, did you hear me?"

Xena said simply "I thought you had died, or something, you weren't at home when I last came."

Ivaia, who thought that Xena sounded like she could care less, said, "You didn't even ask what had happened to me? I was visiting with my friend Leala in the next town. You don't even care, do you?"

Xena turned away from the young woman as she said coolly "The only family members that I ever cared a damn about were my dad, and Lycues. And they are dead."

Ivaia gasped and the words tumbled out of her mouth before she even had time to think about them. "What about me?"

Xena turned to the young woman and said with a cold voice and hard uncaring eyes "You are only my half sister, a product of a fling, since you were born I have cared less about you, or mother. You see; you were born for the quiet village girl life, actually it worked out very well for me, because I was born for war."

Ivaia cried at that, she managed to say through sobs "You are an uncaring, unfeeling woman!"

Xena shrugged and said "Whatever you say, sweetheart, I'm here to talk to mother, and that's it."

Ivaia gritted her teeth and said, proving that she had more gull then the thought. "So, you're a warrior, yeah, right, I remember now, that's why I don't remember you, you left to be a warrior wannabe when I was 7."

Xena completely ignored Ivaia as she heard a rustling in the bushes. She looked back to insure that Gabrielle was far enough away not to hear her, flipped off Argo, landed in front of a scout party, and asked "Who are you, where are you from, what are your orders?"

The shocked man said "I am Tearris from the army stationed next to Amphipolis, I have been ordered to capture anyone coming or leaving the town..."

Xena cursed for a second then said, "I am Xena, that is my army, and you are going to go and tell them that I'm here and they stop fooling around and start training tomorrow. Now, GO!"

Ivaia gasped and hid behind Argo in fear of the strange men. Tearris said "Sure lady, I have strict orders though,"

Xena's eye's flashed, and before Tearris knew what was happening, Xena had flipped him over and was holding him at sword point. Xena said "Now, Tearris, you are going to let my friends and I into Amphipolis, then you are going to go and tell MY army that I am here, okay?"

Tearris nodded and ran away closely followed by the rest of the men. A horrified Ivaia came out from behind Argo and said "Gods, Xena, he was a mean man, imagine not letting me into my hometown!"

Xena said quickly, more concerned about why her army wasn’t expecting her then Ivaia’s worries. "He was easy to beat, speaking of gods that whole thing was set up by one."

Ivaia continued, assuming that Xena hadn’t understood her point… It was wrong for a woman to beat up a man! "But he was a man!"

Xena stated, still ignoring her half-sister "No, the minute he called me a lady he was a dead man."

Ivaia persisted "But, Xena, Tearris was a MAN!!"

Xena smiled and said, "You're right, men are so easy to control, us women can always get our way when dealing with a man."

Ivaia sighed, exasperated, and then said "Look, I'm going to go talk to Joan,"

Xena called back, briefly pausing to consider weather Ivaia was better company then Gabrielle. "Gabrielle, care to trade places with Ivaia?"

Gabrielle stopped talking and came running up beside Argo, she said, "Go ahead Ivaia, or should I say behind! Joan, and Cecilia are waiting for you!"

Ivaia nodded and fell back to the pace of her friends. Gabrielle noticing Xena's hard look said "You were in such a good mood this morning, what happened?"

Xena flushed slightly at the memory of the morning; quickly she shook off the memory and stated, still facing forward "Ivaia is my half sister."

Gabrielle was shocked about this revelation as to be silent for a moment, digesting this distressing news… Gabrielle thought ‘Xena NEVER tells me anything!’ composing her wits she said "Your sister, why didn't you tell me that you had a sister,” after a second she wined “Xena?"

Xena said, only slightly paying attention to the annoying bard, "Half sister actually,” hearing a frustrated sigh on behalf of the bard she added, if only to get some peace. “And I thought she was dead."

Gabrielle frowned said "You don't sound like a normal loving sister," thinking of her own loving relationship with her sister, Lila.

Xena shrugged and stated, glad to cut off more questions. "Here we are, I am going to check up on some things, you and the girls go to my mother's."

Gabrielle nodded and fell back to ask everyone if that was okay.

Xena rode up the outskirts of the army encampment and was confronted by the guard on duty. The guard quickly asked, eyeing the warrior princess up and down. “What are ya doing here lady?”

Xena rolled her eyes, resisting the urge to punch him out immediately, and surveyed the set up of the army; it wasn’t bad, but certainly didn’t meet her standards, the commanders tent was much to visible and the whole place was to bunched up. “I’m your new commander, why do you think I’m here?”

The guard scratched his chin, obviously confused. “But we already have a commander,” as an afterthought he added, as Xena stared him down from atop her mount. “M’lady.”

Xena yelled, her anger at this whole situation quickly coming to a head. "What do you mean, there’s someone in charge already?"

The guard said quickly, "Look lady, when we got here there was a warrior, Malici, he knew the terrain and is a good fighter and planner, so he's in charge...."

Xena smiled, controlling her voice to a sickeningly sweet tone and said, "You don't have to call me a Lady…”

The guard shrugged “Lady sir Malici is busy now, maybe he’ll have time for pretty visitors later.”

Xena kept her voice in the same tone as she considered her options. “All right, I'll come back in about an hour, can I see sir Malici then, if it's not to much trouble?"

The guard smiled, barely even noticing the abrupt change in Xena’s attitude, and said " 'Course not lady.”

As Xena started to turn her horse he quickly added, not wanting to lose one moment of time with this beauty. “I'll be waiting to escort you to sir Malici's tent when you get back."

Xena smiled again, though a coldness stayed in her eyes, “Of course.”

Satisfied that the guard would be no trouble at all Xena turned Argo around, and left...

There was a commotion at the door of the tavern and Cyrene looked up to see her daughter enter with her friends and… Cyrene nearly dropped the platter she was carrying; quickly setting it down Cyrene exclaimed “Gabrielle!”

All four women at the door looked up and came rushing to the tavern owner. Gabrielle embraced her in a hug, having gotten along well with Xena’s mother before. “Cyrene, hi!”

Cyrene released herself from Gabrielle’s grasp and asked quickly “Where’s Xena?”

Cecilia this time explained, “Xena has something to do she said… she’ll be here soon I’d think.”

Cyrene smiled at Cecilia “Thank you dear, go on now sit yourselves down! Ivaia, Joan, that means you dears!”

Cecilia, Joan and Ivaia sat down at an empty table, glad that the tavern wasn’t busy this time of the day.

Gabrielle asked of Cyrene, before she had a chance to run off “Aren’t you going to sit and talk with us? I have so many stories to tell you!”

Cyrene picked up her discarded tray and said, “You get on and sit down… I have customers to serve,” seeing the young bards disappointed look she added, more gently. “I promise to sit down and hear all your stories later. But for now people are waiting, so either help or sit.”

Gabrielle, dreading any type of work quickly went to sit with the three friends. Only barely muttering as an excuse “I’d probably spill everything… I better let you back to work Cyrene.”

Cecilia stayed mostly out of the conversation; she had hoped that when Gabrielle showed up she wouldn’t have to watch Ivaia and Joan anymore. But her hopes were in vain, as Cyrene insisted that she stay, obviously not realizing how bored Cecilia was. Thinking of an escape route she interrupted the excited chatter “Does anyone want something to drink?”

Joan and Ivaia continued to chatter about nothing, like friends are prone to do, but Gabrielle broke away from the conversation and ordered somewhat haughtily. “You can get us all waters.”

Cecilia, who had taken an immediate dislike of the bard, ignored her tone and gladly escaped to find mugs of water for them all… hoping that Cyrene would perhaps let her help out around the tavern, anything was better then babysitting.

Joan suddenly exclaimed, “Gabrielle, you said you were a bard? Tell us some of your stories, would you?”

Ivaia nodded, still annoyed about her sister. “Yes, that would be nice,”

Gabrielle’s smile lit up her whole face “Ok, well, there’s a few neat ones… You guys are into adventure stuff right? Ok, so…”

Xena walked right past the priestess' and straight into the temple's main room, where they muttered angry threats at her for intruding. Xena called loudly "ARES!"

A second later Ares appeared to find Xena looking fairly upset. He asked "What’s wrong, my dear?"

Xena flashed a triumphant grin toward the cowering priestess' and pouted slightly "Ares, someone has taken my army, his name is Malici, and he is pretending to be the leader of my army!"

Ares was relieved, though he tried not to let it show; he had been worried that something serious had happened, or that she was going to lash into him over the previous evenings doings. He shrugged, unsure as to what she expected of him. "I'm sorry, Xena, I haven't checked in on that part of your army lately, what would you like me to do?"

Xena smiled mischievously, knowing that Ares would do whatever she asked and said. "You are coming with me, I want to watch you yell at Malici. Oh and don't forget to bring Argo," she spun and marched out of the temple.

Ares smiled at her obvious love for her mare and waved his hand causing the three of them to disappear.

Xena yawned, this warlord wannabe was starting to bug her, and Ares was this close to turning him into a pile of dust. Malici whined pitifully, "But, Lord Ares, she is a WOMAN!!"

Ares thought to himself, 'And what a woman she is'. He was as bored with Malici as Xena appeared to be and he was angry at the pathetic warlords lack of respect ‘He should do whatever I say, no questions asked!’

Xena scowled at Malici and said "What is that supposed to mean? I can kill you in a heartbeat,” brandishing her sword and sneering evilly at Malici she stated, "you know, actually he's…" she pointed to Ares. "About the only one who can give me a decent workout so you would be no problem at all."

Standing there next to her Ares chuckled; that was his princess, so fiery, so determined and so willing to plunge her sword into her prey. 'Damn she's getting me bothered again, she better finish this guy off quickly.' he thought to himself.

Malici laughed thinking ‘Sure she’s a pretty thing, but everyone knows women don’t make good warriors…’ still laughing he said. "You think that? Look lady, I don't have time for women that think they are warriors, even if by some miracle you have managed to convince the god of war that you are.” His tone made very clear how he suspected this had been achieved. “It's stupid and you are just fooling yourself--"

Ares scoffed "Oh boy, big mistake!" now more interested in seeing what Xena would do to this guy then anything else.

Before Malici could even finish his tirade Xena drew her sword and chopped his head off, blood spurted everywhere. Ares carefully avoided getting covered in blood and immediately left to check on some war half muttering an excuse.

Xena frowned, she was completely soaked in blood and said "Great, now I'm going to have to go home and have a bath!"

Angry that Ares just vanished to check on some war, and that he had avoided getting to much blood on him. "You Coward!" she yelled into the air.

Cyrene pulled Ivaia aside from her friends who were talking, Cecilia was still there under much complaint, and asked "Honey, did you get a chance to talk to Xena?"

Ivaia answered quickly, avoiding her mothers questioning stare "Yes, mommy, I did,"

Cyrene asked, excited that her two daughters had been reunited "What did Xena say?"

Ivaia said "Xena didn't seem to like me much, she said 'I thought you had died or something, you weren't at home when I last came. The only family members that I ever cared about were my dad, and Lycues, they are dead.'”

Cyrene sighed distressed at this news “Oh, honey…” but she wasn’t really sympathetic to Ivaia.

Ivaia continued. “And when I confronted her about me she said 'you are only my half sister, a product of a fling, since you were born I have cared less about you, or mother. You see; you were born for the quiet village girl life, actually it worked out very well for me, because I was born for war'”

Ivaia paused a moment to collect her scattered nerves, she hadn’t expected her sister to be so cold it was still a shock. “Then when I told Xena how mean that was she said ‘whatever you say sweetheart, I'm here to talk to mother, and that's it' I really don't know what I said or did, but I really, really don't think Xena likes me!"

Cyrene frowned, then it occurred to her that this could be Ivaia’s fault, Xena couldn’t really be like that, not to her own sister. This thought in her head Cyrene asked, "You didn't provoke her in anyway?"

Ivaia guiltily said, still avoiding her mother’s gaze "Uh, I might have..."

Cyrene stated, tilting Ivaia’s head so she was forced to look at her, "That explains it then. Xena is a good girl if you can get past all those defenses that is what she was doing, defending herself!"

Cyrene head another noise at the door as the few remaining patrons left quickly, she looked past Ivaia and said happily. "Xena, honey, sit down, have something to eat. I'm so glad you're here, there is this warlord wannabe who has taken control of an army that was marching through, and has settled them here!!"

Xena smiled at her oblivious mother as she sat down and said "No need to worry mother, I have already taken care of Malici."

Gabrielle smiled as she heard that and said; breaking off the story she was telling Joan abruptly. "I suppose the army will leave here now that their leader is gone,"

Cyrene nodded, Cecilia looked vaguely interested for the first time that day and Xena simply said "Not for long,” she waited a moment until questioning looks appeared on the friends faces, “this is an army of Ares..."

Xena heard several sharp intakes of breath at this, Gabrielle looked stunned, and Cecilia said “I best be going, mam will be worried about me… and I had better tell her this.”

Xena nodded to Cecilia and turned to the stairs. "Gabrielle, I want to talk to you, let's go to my room."

Once they got to Xena's room Gabrielle asked, always questioning. "What is it?"

Xena said, knowing that Gabrielle’s curiousness would get the better of her common sense. "I have something to tell you, but I want you to promise me, Gabrielle, that you will help me and stand by me…"

Gabrielle was startled, but still said an old oath that she had been taught from the time she could talk. "I promise, on my family's life."

Xena tried not to smile, this was turning out better then she could have planned, she said. "Good, now that Army we were talking about… well, it's not really Ares' not anymore. It's mine.” Xena paused, uncertain how Gabrielle would react, when no sound came from the bard she continued. “Ares sent them here so I could take command and have Amphipolis for a base. I need you to talk to my mother, calm her down.” As an afterthought she added “I still want to be friends, and I'm not going to turn into some monster, so don't worry, I will be fair and the world will be ruled in peace." The last part was recited from memory from her warlord days. It was like reciting lines, she had learned it in order to keep the simpler villagers calm. Nobody with any intelligence could believe such an outrageous proposition.

Gabrielle swallowed her retort, she had promised to be supportive. And a world ruled in peace did sound like a wonderful thing; surely Xena was one of the few people who could pull it off. She believed Xena wholeheartedly. Gabrielle forced smile, and asked, "Are you going to stay in Amphipolis?"

Xena nodded "I will be here mostly, for training, but I have to secure your hometown, and Corinth, then I'll go on the move with my army."

Gabrielle said, suddenly remembering who had given Xena this army, a troubling thought… "It will be a change.... are you planning on keeping in touch with Ares?"

Xena almost burst out laughing, then said controlling herself. "Gabrielle, sweetheart, Ares gave me the army, of course I have to keep in touch with him, probably daily..." her gazed traveled the room. Oh she would definitely keep in 'touch' with Ares.

Gabrielle shrugged, thinking ‘If I’m here to support Xena I’m sure she won’t give into Ares…’ out loud she ventured "Oh. What do you want me to talk to your mother about?"

Xena answered lazily "We have plenty of time to talk about that, I'm not going to tell her for a week or two yet. If I go somewhere, will you cover for me? I have lots to do."

Gabrielle, glad to obey even the most stupid requests as long as she could talk, said "Sure, Xena, whatever you want!"

Cyrene was sitting in the kitchen, talking to Ivaia and her friends when Xena came in. Xena said cautiously, her mother had always been good at catching her lying, "Mum, I am going to check up on that army, okay? I'll see you later. Ivaia, do you want to come with me?"

Ivaia asked uncertainly, Xena was being way to nice, and Gabrielle looked to pale. "Is that okay, mommy?"

Cyrene smiled and gestured towards the door, Xena smiled as well and followed Ivaia out the door.

Ivaia asked cautiously, not believing her sister had any good intentions. "Xena, why do you want me to come with you?"

Xena turned to face Ivaia and asked sweetly "What's wrong, don't you want to spend some time with me?" To herself she muttered ‘Damn,’ she felt that telltale tingle once again. "Ares, what do you want?" Her voice held a hard edge to it.

Ares appeared and teased "What's wrong, Xena, I thought you would be happy to see me?" His voice hinting at exactly why he thought that she would be happy.

Xena laughed almost purring when she spoke "Of course I'm happy to see you, it's just… well… I wasn't planning on introducing you to any of my family after the last time!” thinking over her options she asked, “Can you stay, or is this a business visit?"

Ares shrugged and said, knowing that she wouldn’t deny him, "Well, I was planning to stay, but if it's a problem I'll go check up on some wars...."

Xena weighed her options once again, she had no intention of denying either herself or the war god, but then there was Ivaia to deal with. "Ivaia, this is Ares, God of War. Ares, this is Ivaia, my sister."

Ares nodded to Ivaia, giving her the once over and quickly deciding she wasn’t worth a fight, "Xena, my dear, does ‘she’ have to stay?"

Ivaia still a bit stunned that Xena was talking to a god - a powerful god - like it was an everyday occurrence, said hoping she didn’t sound to pathetic "Um... nice... to... meet.... you.” She paused a minute to assure that she had been heard, then continued. “Xena can you help me find a flower I lost?"

Ares was about to say something uncomplimentary about Ivaia, but Xena cut him off by saying "Of course, Ivaia. Ares you stay here, we'll be back soon."

As soon as she was sure that they were out of earshot Ivaia demanded, "Xena, I know that you like being different, but do you happen to realize that you were just telling a GOD what to do?"

Xena laughed out loud "What? Oh, Ares…" She mocked, knowing that he was listening "He is harmless to me. Sure he has a bad temper, but I can calm him down.” Then, to make sure that Ares wasn’t to mad at her, “Just be glad that it's Ares here and not Athena, she is a real bitch."

Ivaia gasped, putting her hand over her mouth, fear in her features. Her voice shook slightly as though she feared the gods wrath even as she spoke. "Xena, these are gods that you are talking about, if they feel like it then you will be killed without a second thought!" She thought to herself ‘Maybe Xena just doesn’t grasp the concept. Mommy always says how she wished she had raised them all better. Xena must just not understand the gravity of speaking about gods like that!’

Xena nonchalantly asked, "Oh, is that all that you are worried about? Well, I'm Ares' chosen, and it's against the law for one god to kill another's chosen." She smiled wistfully "You done talking yet? I have some things to ‘discuss’ with Ares, you don't mind if we cut this sister bonding thing short, do you?"

Ivaia smiled shakily, hoping that the gods would at least leave her alone, even if they still struck down her older sister. "No, it's alright,” searching hastily for an excuse she added, “I'd rather help mother anyway..."

Without another word Xena grabbed her sister by the arm and drug her back to where Ares was standing. When she got there Xena stated, "Ares, Ivaia wants to go back to my mother's, send her there."

Ares was impatient from waiting, and still somewhat cross that she was talking about him like that to her sister, "You know Xena, I don't HAVE to do what you say." He crossed his arms over his wide chest, in an intimidating manor.

Xena smiled, ran her tongue over her upper lip, and said "Fine, Ivaia can stay here with us then,"

Ares muttered some select curses, then waved his hand, and Ivaia disappeared. Xena got a positively evil look on her face as she said, "Now, what did you come to see me for oh big bad God of War?" it was all to clear that she already knew.

Ares grinned devilishly and said, "Now, I think you know why I came to see you." He stepped close to her putting one hand behind her head and savagely bringing their lips together. Xena moaned and molded herself to his lean hard body.

Back in Amphipolis Ivaia asked Cyrene, with an attempt at indifference "Mommy, did you know that Xena knows gods?"

Cyrene answered harshly, hardly paying Ivaia any heed. "Don’t swear! Well, Xena used to, I think. Some of them still bug her now though. Have you been listening to stories about your sister?"

Ivaia said quickly, somehow knowing that her mother would never believe her. "No, but when we were out walking, The God of War showed up, and Xena acted like it was no big deal. They were talking like friends or something. When I asked Xena to be careful she said that she was Ares' chosen and that no god could hurt her because of that."

Cyrene turned and roughly shook her daughter, momentarily forgetting that she never had treated Ivaia like her other children. "She said that? That's ridiculous; Xena would never say something like that. You shouldn't lie to me like that,"

Releasing her daughter Cyrene went back to the kitchen to cook. She scolded herself for shaking Ivaia, it was the best way to get information from children, but look at how Xena, for example, had turned out! Besides she had promised herself to raise Ivaia right. Cyrene abandoned the thought quickly though, because she didn’t like upsetting thoughts.

Ivaia was in shock; Cyrene never shook her, unsure what to do and not understanding the way her mother was acting Ivaia just stood where she had been left.

Xena allowed the kiss to go on for a few minutes. Squirming in Ares’ grasp as the hot delicious sensations started coursing through her body. ‘I have to stop this somehow!’ her mind screamed. It was getting late, she couldn’t do this again, she had to get home. So Xena put her hands on Ares’ hard muscular chest and pushed away looking up into his eyes she smiled and said flippantly, hoping desperately that he wouldn’t notice her rapid breathing. "I have to go now, say hi to 'Dite for me, would you?"

Ares said easily, ignoring his body’s response to the woman still somewhat in his arms. "Alright, I still can't believe that you got the blond to cover for you! Ready to go now?"

Xena smiled weakly, he had noticed, as she knew he would. "I had Gabrielle promise, a sneaky trick, but I needed her help. Yeah, I'm ready."

Ares pulled Xena back into his embrace and kissed her lightly, not willing to let her escape so effortlessly, then they disappeared.

Xena walked into her room, cheeks still flushed from her last ‘good-bye’ kiss with Ares, she quickly shooed her mind away from that thought as she reminded herself that she had work to do. Xena was startled to find Gabrielle sitting on her bed, obviously waiting for her.

Gabrielle said simply, in her quest for answers from Xena not noticing the actual answer. "Your face is all flushed again, what have you been doing?” As an added threat and plea Gabrielle continued. “I promise I won't tell anyone, but if I am going to cover for you, I need to know what you are really doing!"

Xena blushed a light pink, which was very incriminating because Xena didn’t usually blush. "Well... I was... umm.... visiting with Ares"

Gabrielle let out a sound that could almost be classed as a growl "XENA!!!?"

Xena frowned slightly, for once wishing the bard picked up on things quicker and said "Uh.... you know what I mean...."

As the realization hit Gabrielle she made a disgusted face, visions passing -unbidden - through her head. "Xena! How could you do that with Ares?"

Xena shrugged and said, her intent now to embarrass her friend, "Ares is good. And I need some release now and then, Gabrielle." Her words came out slightly sharper then she had intended. "Now that you know where I was, and what I was doing, are you going to ask more questions, or leave?"

Gabrielle made another disgusted face and said, "Next time, I won't even ask!! I am going to talk to Ivaia,” in a vague attempt to stay in Xena’s good graces for the sake of her family she added, “I really think that she tells Cyrene everything that she hears."

Xena smiled slightly, seeing that her deception about Gabrielle’s family had worked very well and said. "You go and get her to stop doing that, would you Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle replied quickly, preparing herself to do Xena’s bidding. "Sure," then she left.

Xena sat in her room thinking ‘Ivaia does seem to be a problem, little brat, telling mum everything that I say! If Ivaia always tells what I say to mum, then I should give her something really interesting to say. Mum was wrong about me; I really am a very bad girl! And why not I've got the badest of the bad boys turning flips with desire.’ Xena laughed to herself, then went to tell Gabrielle to forget about Ivaia.

Chapter Two

Three weeks later

Xena smiled, this was perfect, Ivaia was within hearing distance, and Gabrielle was willing to go along with the plan. Gabrielle asked quickly, attempting to pretend she was telling a story. "Xena, have you really been spending all that time with Ares?"

Xena answered, making sure she didn’t sound rushed. "Sometimes I go and check up on my army, but mostly I go and see Ares. We practice all types of maneuvers. Ares is having some more weapons made just for my army, isn't that sweet? We do other stuff though, like talking, and starting wars, and well... you know what I mean. Of course sometimes I visit Aphrodite, she's nice most of the time, that is unless Bliss is there, he's always breaking things and driving Aphrodite crazy!"

Gabrielle stopped faking being interested and started listening for real. "What else do you do on Mt. Olympus?"

Xena said, with a slight shrug of her shoulders, "I mostly just visit with Aphrodite, Ares, Hera, and Hermes, they are fun most of the time. Of course there are times when I see Athena, Discord, Strife, or Zeus, those are the worst days, those gods are rather insane."

Gabrielle and Xena heard a sharp intake of breath, then someone running away. Xena smiled triumphantly and said, "We'll wait five minutes, then go back home,"

Gabrielle nodded and smiled, this was the first trick that she had ever played on anyone, and despite herself she felt pretty good about it. ‘Maybe Xena has a small point about being a 'bad girl'.’ Was Gabrielle’s last thought before they turned to head back to Cyrene’s.

Cyrene looked at Ivaia wide eyed and disbelieving. "She said what?"

Ivaia answered "Xena said..."

Cyrene interrupted, not really wanting to hear such outrageousness again, "You're kidding, right?"

Ivaia shook her head ‘no’. Just then Cyrene saw Xena and Gabrielle come in, and asked quickly, wanting an answer so she didn’t have to fret. "Xena, honey, your sister said that she heard you and Gabrielle talking about some things a few minutes ago, is what Ivaia says true?"

Xena smiled innocently and asked "Whatever do you mean, mum? I was discussing weather to change my room, or not… Actually I want to talk to you about it too, mum."

Gabrielle smiled as prettily as she could and nodded, hoping Cyrene wouldn’t see her for the fake she felt like.

Cyrene smiled, she trusted Gabrielle if not her daughters, and said. "I knew that couldn't be true. Xena you do whatever you want to with your room, after all it IS your room.” Turning to Ivaia she rebuked her youngest daughter, “As for you young lady, I am very, VERY, disappointed. You have never lied to me before! I just wish I knew what brought it on!"

Ivaia complained quietly, as good girls never raised their voices, "But, mommy, I didn't..."

Cyrene frowned sternly "Don't you ‘but mommy' me! Now go to your room, we will discuss this later!"

Ivaia nodded, the tears in her eyes threatening to over flow, and then she fled to her room.

Xena shakily sat down in her room, traveling in the aether as much as she had been lately made her slightly dizzy. Ares appeared seconds after Xena and, seeing her; he frowned and asked, "Are you okay, princess?"

Xena nodded, careful not to admit weakness, "I'm just a little dizzy from all the aether traveling, that's all. Why didn't you tell me, before we left Olympus, that you wanted me to lead the largest army in history, and why are they scattered all over the place?"

Ares leaned against a wall, with his arms crossed over his powerfully built chest. He nonchalantly shrugged and said "Because, Xena, they are waiting for you to finish playing around here, just tell your mother, then we can start the real training."

Xena stated angry that Ares was trying to push her into this, granted the whole thing had been her idea, but still. "I'll tell my mother, when I'm ready, you can just wait. Now that I know where my armies are, and who their commanders are, I am in no hurry. See you AFTER I finish 'playing around' here, bye, bye."

Ares was also angry by now. She had played with him for weeks, at first giving in, then driving him insane with want and always pulling back. He didn't know how much more he could take but he didn’t want to force her into anything. Ares finally managed to gruffly say, "Fine, when you are done here you can start your armies training, until then we have no more business to discuss."

Xena smiled as Ares prepared to leave; she was in complete control, a position that she loved to be in. Especially when it concerned the now very frustrated God of War. Xena smiled and said to herself "The army here is trained well enough, they know better then to disobey me, a couple of hard examples took care of that, and they are sure a big enough part of my army to easily take Corinth - again - this should be fun!"

She laughed as the God of War suppressed a smirk and disappeared.

Xena, Destroyer of Nations took Corinth 'for Ares' two weeks later, while Hercules was away. Hercules was now planning

revenge; he had the perfect idea, but first he had to be sure that Xena really was bad again, and not being used.

Xena woke up and looked around, she didn't recognize anything, she was in a strange room, chained to the bed, and nobody else was around ‘Damn,’

On closer inspection the room was decorated in a homely fashion, it almost looked like... ‘Damn... Damn... Damn! It can't be, oh gods, it is!’

Xena frowned and leaned back, still thinking ‘I wonder, should I call Ares? I mean it's not my fault that I've been stuck in his stupid feud with Hercules. No, no, I am Xena, the Warrior Princess, the Destroyer of Nations! I do not need help from anyone. Now, let's see, how to escape? I can get out of these chains fairly easily, wonder why Hercules wasn't more thorough? There, that's better, now let's see about that door....’

Walking over to the door, Xena turned the handle, silently noting ‘Locked, nothing is easy, is it?’

Xena kicked open the door, stopping it before it hit the wall with her fast reflexes. Xena then snuck out of the house, which was easy seeing as everyone was asleep, and she was careful not to wake anyone.

Xena looked in the stables for Argo, who she got ready to go, and then she headed towards Amphipolis.

Xena arrived back at Amphipolis mid morning to a light drizzle; Hercules had put her in her friend's house, which was in the town next to Amphipolis.

However easy as the escape had been, Xena was still in a rotten mood, several raiding parties that felt it was their duty to 'help' a woman that was traveling alone had not helped her mood.

As a matter of fact by the time Xena reached Amphipolis she was so mad, that it was dangerous to be in her line of sight.

Xena walked into her mother's tavern wet and unhappy. When she walked in Ivaia scowled at her from across the room, which worsened Xena's mood still. Gabrielle gave her a disapproving look, assuming that Xena had spent the time that she was gone training her army or something equally unappealing. Cyrene went back to her work as she absently asked. "How was your day honey?"


Cyrene looked up at the pacing warrior, who was steaming. Cyrene tried to be calm, not liking people upset in her vicinity, and being as reassuring as she could Cyrene said "I'm sorry that you had a bad day, honey, but try not to worry, everything will work out."

Xena mumbled something; all they caught of barely audible statement was "Sorry you had a bad.... honey, my a.... what... they think I am a... child?"

Xena continued mumbling similar statements as she marched away, throwing everything that she passed across the room, Xena continued up the stairs and into her room with the same actions.

Xena in an attempt to cool off her temper was sitting on her bed focusing on all the nice things Gabrielle, and her mother had done for her. Xena had taken off her armor and her leathers to let them dry, and was in only her shift. She said to herself "Gabrielle didn't even check to see if I was alright, neither did mum, and Ivaia is not even mentionable!"

Ares appeared reclining on the bed behind her and said smoothly "You know Xena, you really shouldn't bottle up that anger, let it out…" To himself he thought ‘Oh please let it out,’ and he smiled wickedly.

Xena looked up, her eyes a mix of disbelieving and playing, "Excuse me?"

Ares repeated in the same sexy tone "You should let that anger out..."

Xena shook her head in a laughing manner "Oh that is rich Ares. You really have some nerve to try that line on me now, what in Tartarus do you want anyway? I renewed my vow, we have rekindled our relationship, I'm leading your army, and Hercules is going to get some very nasty surprises in the near future."

Ares frowned, Xena was madder then Tartarus on a very bad day, and she was going to direct that anger at anyone that came near her, he really didn’t want to be that someone. "Xena, sweet, I was only suggesting that you relax some. You’re right, I have everything that I want, you.” He paused to let his words calm her and then continued, “Now, what I meant was you should let that anger out...let me finish.... and seeing as randomly lashing out at people isn't going to do that, I thought that you could come to Mt. Olympus and… Well you know there are other ways to release all the tension that's been built up."

Xena took a deep breath, his smooth, rich voice calming her almost immediately. She focused on what Ares had said and answered, "You're right, I need to let out this pent up energy, let's go,"

Ares smiled, he was pleased with himself now. Maybe finally he would be able to release his tension too. With that thought he, took Xena's hand and they disappeared.

Ivaia reconsidered her thoughts of revenge on Xena, she had just thrown most of the downstairs furniture and broken about twenty things, in the span of walking up the stairs! Ivaia, Gabrielle, and Cyrene were still trying to clean up the mess after thirty minutes. Xena had caused the mess itself in only three minutes.

Cyrene frowned as she saw her favorite Vase smashed into a million pieces, "I am going to have a little talk with Xena. I won't have this happening in my house, again."

Gabrielle did not know that Xena had left, so she didn't try to stop Cyrene, as her promise would have required her to.

A few minutes after Cyrene had gone up the stairs Gabrielle and Ivaia heard a scream; they raced up the stairs and asked, "What's wrong?"

Cyrene looked around Xena's room, and then slowly backed out. Ivaia repeated their question "What's wrong, mommy?"

Cyrene turned around; she looked quite distraught, as she said, "Xena's not in her room..."

Ivaia giggled and said, hoping that Xena was hiding and would get in trouble "That's ridiculous, mommy, where else could Xena be?"

Gabrielle twirled a lock of her hair nervously; she wondered ‘How am I going to calm everyone down?’ deciding the best action was an excuse she said, "Maybe Xena left to try to calm down?"

Ivaia looked at Gabrielle as if she was stupid, then said "Yeah? Then why would Xena sneak out?"

Gabrielle made a face at Ivaia, which was returned, then said to Cyrene "For as long as I have known Xena, she has liked to go out by herself when she's mad. Xena probably snuck out so we wouldn't bother her..."

Cyrene frowned but accepted this, as she did not like the idea of worrying about where her eldest daughter was.

About an hour or so later, Xena came down the stairs from her room, the only person that was in the tavern was Gabrielle, and said "Gabrielle, I'm going for a little... trip. I was wondering if you could tell mother that I had to go see a friend... say... Illy?"

Gabrielle scowled, having outgrown the idea that Xena was just going through a phase, and said. "You just told her, Xena!"

Xena gasped as Cyrene and Ivaia popped up from behind the bar. Ivaia was grinning from ear to ear, but Cyrene just ran over to Xena and said "What's wrong, honey. Why are you sneaking out? Gabrielle told me that you have been sneaking out a lot lately,"

Xena turned to Gabrielle an evil smile crossing her face. She took a deep breath before saying "Really? And if I was sneaking out to go somewhere, don't you think that I could do that without anyone knowing? So I told Gabrielle I was going for a walk, or trip, and I went. That hardly counts as sneaking out, right, mum?"

Xena changed her smile to a completely innocent one, then turned away from Gabrielle and looked at Cyrene with pleading eyes. Cyrene smiled at Xena and said "Of course you could, honey, and you're right, that doesn't count as sneaking out, but where were you just now?"

Xena thought a second, and then said, the excuse coming to her effortlessly "Oh, well, I felt bad about the whole mess, and I decided to go for a walk to try to cool down."

Cyrene said a smile gracing her lips now that everything could be considered fine. "And do you feel better now, honey? You look better,"

Xena nodded, thinking to herself 'Oh I feel MUCH better now…' then to Cyrene she said "I'm sorry I messed up the place, if you want I'll help you fix everything?"

Cyrene said in a decided tone, which left no room for arguments, "You will do no such thing, Xena. Now, go up to your room, and get some rest, AND no sneaking out!"

Xena said, "Yes, mum." And did as she was told, glad to have adverted disaster.

Gabrielle stomped around in her room, ‘This is awful, Xena knows I purposely told on her, and Cyrene proved to be as weak as water!’

Sitting down on her bed with a large sigh the bard continued her thoughts out loud. "This is not good, no, not good at all! I'll have to side with someone else that agrees with me. The only person who that could be is Ivaia, and she can't help at all, oh well.”

Gabrielle paused to breathe and then said “Maybe Xena won't be too mad, after all I HAD to tell for her own good." She then went downstairs to help Ivaia, and Cyrene with dinner.

Xena had to stifle a laugh; she hadn't done anything bad within risk of being caught by her mother in years. Suddenly Ivaia called up in a strange singsong voice, "Xe-na, yo-u have a vi-si-tor, hurry down sis-ter"

Xena frowned "Great, I have to go downstairs and Ivaia is acting strange!"

Ares groaned and nibbled on Xena’s ear, "Let's go to Olympus, forget about some visitor..."

Xena pushed Ares away, and said, "No, I have to go down and see who it is or else someone will come up to see where I've been, and I'll get into trouble again. We can go to Olympus later I promise." She smiled sweetly.

Ares knew he could deny her nothing, but he could still joke with her. “Who would have thought, the mighty Destroyer of Nations, being held by her mothers rules!”

Xena got up with a huff, trying not to laugh, so he followed Xena around her room a couple of times, trying to distract her.

Finally Xena gave him a serious look that said 'stop playing around, I mean it!' then Ares stopped, collected the various scrolls that had their war plans on them and disappeared in flashes of blue light.

Xena sighed; they had been in the middle of a very important war plan and she didn't appreciate being called away from it. 'Better go, and see who's here,' Xena thought, then she went downstairs.

Gabrielle felt like squealing like a baby, she was so happy, Hercules was the first sane person she'd met that could actually help her with Xena, and he was handsome too!!

Cyrene smiled politely; she felt that this was a man that you were always polite around. He was extremely nice, commenting kindly about her house, and offering to help with anything she wanted, all in all, Cyrene had been more then pleased when she found out that Hercules was there to see Xena!

Ivaia felt like she was in a dream, this Hercules was sooo dreamy; Ivaia hardly dared believe that he was really there. Of course he was there to see Xena, Ivaia wilted a bit at that, she was starting to get extremely jealous of Xena.

Hercules watched Xena walk down the stairs; she had a graceful air, as always, but looked like she hadn't a care in the world.

Xena put her hand over her mouth to cover a yawn, as she coolly descended the stairs. Xena hadn't been sure of who was there, and had wanted appear as if it didn't matter, because it REALLY didn't matter to her.

Hercules smiled warmly and walked over to Xena, to give her a hug, he really wanted to do much more then just hug her, but Xena had always been upset easily when there were to many people around.

Xena sidestepped Hercules, as if a hug from him would be a death warrant, and casually said "Hercules, nice to see you again. Whatever are you doing here?"

Hercules smiled even more, Xena was really fit to be a queen, rather then a warrior.

Cyrene looked sternly at her daughter, silently begging her to be more polite.

Hercules didn't want Xena to get into trouble, so he immediately said "It's great to see you again, Xena, I was beginning to think that we'd never meet again!"

Xena smiled as sweetly as she could, "That would have been wonderful, Hercules, but as you can see the plan went somewhat wrong."

Hercules frowned "Please, call me Herc, like you used too. And it wasn’t a plan, Xena, it was a cruel twist of fate, so I decided to make my own fate, and come and see you for a visit."

Xena laughed cruelly, "Like I used too? Hercules, we've only seen each other a couple of times.” Dismissing him she turned to the women in the room, “Mum, Gabrielle, Ivaia, why don't you get Hercules some tea, and snacks? I'd help, but, as you know mum, I'm no good in the kitchen."

The last part wasn’t entirely true, Xena could cook if she wanted to but she had just never felt inclined to do mundane things such as housework. It was easier to pretend that she couldn’t cook.

Cyrene blushed, and said "Of course, why didn't I think of it sooner? You must be famished, Herc, why don't you sit down here, we'll be back as soon as we can. Come along Gabby, Ivaia, let's go fix something to eat!"

When they had left, Xena said, annoyance creeping into her voice. "Drop the 'I'm visiting a friend' act and tell me why you really came to see me? Was it to check up on me, to see if the rumors were true? Or did you come because you're afraid Ares has done something to me?"

Hercules frowned again, Xena wasn't being nice at all, "Xena, I came to.... well.... there have been certain rumors that you are leading an army again, that you've joined... Ares!" he spat his brother’s name out.

Xena smiled, but her eyes remained like stone, as she said "Oh, that, well, to answer your questions. Ares did not do anything to me. I don't need you checking up on me. I am feeling great. Yes it's my army, got a problem with that?" Her tone broached no debate.

Hercules said quickly trying to appease the warrior in front of him. "Umm... no, Xena I don't have a problem with that. But if you don't mind me asking, why are you leading an army again?"

Xena snarled, "Because I feel like it."

Hercules thought a second then said "But how can you just have an army waiting for you when you feel like leading it?"

Xena laughed slightly “I have friends in high places…”

Hercules looked confused “What?”

Xena looked bored with the conversation, and stated "I'm leaving, I have an.... umm.... important business appointment that I'm late for."

Hercules pleaded, not wanting the beautiful warrior to leave just yet. "Xena, please, just stay for a second longer..."

Xena rolled her eyes, anger flashing in blue orbs. "Fine!"

Hercules smiled "Good. Now, just for the sake of asking, have you joined Ares?"

Xena said, finally sick of that question. "No I didn't join Ares, why does everyone keep asking that anyway? No, I didn't join Ares, for your information I have REJOINED him."

Hercules said "Xena-------"

Herc couldn't get the rest out. His features displayed all the shock that his massive body was feeling.

Xena continued as though she had not been interrupted. "Yes it's really me. Oh I forgot, you really shouldn't have come here, I'm on Ares' side, and you are his biggest enemy. Say hi to your wife for me, Herc, I'm sure she'll be glad to see you, and hear about all the girlfriends you've had since she died. "

Xena had carefully pulled out her boot dagger while she was talking, and now threw it at Hercules' neck. It hit it's mark with a 'thud' Hercules wasn't quite dead, but he would be in a matter of minutes, and in the meantime he couldn't do anything.

Xena shrugged her shoulders "Like I said, I'm late for an appointment, I don't like being late."

Xena turned to leave, the sunlight streaming in from the window making her golden skin gleam.





The End

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