By Delenn
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Ivaia paced the room nervously, Cyrene still hadn't gotten over *sniffle* Xena killing Hercules, even if it was in self defense, and Gabrielle was off visiting her family, something about seeing if they were alright after some attack. Xena had just left, and seeing as Gabrielle was gone, Xena had told Ivaia to cover for her, with such a look of sisterly, and friendly, trust that Ivaia couldn't help but promise to cover for Xena in case Cyrene got home early or Xena got home late. Ivaia was still daydreaming when a noise caught her attention and snapped her out of her thoughts. An extremely handsome man walked into the Tavern, this was the first day they were open since Xena had come back.

The man walked over to Ivaia, who was by herself in the tavern, and said "Hello, I'm Saulious, I have a message for Xena, and who might you be?"

Ivaia felt like fainting, this man was the handsomest man she had ever seen, but recovered enough to say "Hi, I'm Ivaia, Xena's sister. Xena isn't here right now, but if you want, I could give her the message when she gets back?" Ivaia wondered if the words came out as stupid as they sounded.

Saulious smiled and said, "That would be great, thank you. Would I by chance be able get something to eat, before I go?" He raked a linger gaze up and down Ivaia.

Ivaia blushed; she had never served a customer on her own before, especially one so handsome. She managed not to stutter her words and said "Sure, what would you like, Saulious?"

Saulious replied "Anything's fine, miss Ivaia"

Ivaia's spirits soared; nobody had ever called her 'miss Ivaia' before!!!

Xena stifled a tear as she looked around the room. She knew that she was alone. Ares was nowhere to be seen. Oh how his leaving hurt her. "Damn" she muttered. Gathering her courage Xena managed to calmly get up and get ready to leave. "After all it's not a big deal that Ares isn't here, he has things to do, and I was asleep for quite some time." She tried to convince herself that his departure really didn't bother her that much. But instead her anger started to build. "He could have at least left some type of note though!" shaking her head "Oh, common, admit it, you're upset that Ares isn't still here... No I'm not... it's just that... well.... I would have liked him to still be here... that's what you get for being foolish, why should Ares stay here, if he has things to do” Xena thought to herself, then frowned, she was never this unsure of what she felt. Gods what was happening to her. She never got this emotional about anything or anyone. If people saw her now they'd think she was insane. Why was Ares affecting her so much? After Xena had finished getting dressed, and brushed her hair, she frowned again, if Ares didn't get there soon, she would be extremely late to get back home.

Xena had already tried calling Ares several times, and he hadn't come. She was starting to get worried now despite trying to convince herself that nothing could be wrong. "What if something has happened? Zeus could have Ares trapped somewhere, then what will I do?" she was loosing her mind talking to herself like this. But continued on anyway. It seemed to help her. "You will call 'Dite, or someone else you know, and have them take you back home, there's nothing more to it." Spinning around the room looking for any answer no matter how small. "But there is... what if he's hurt, and needs my help? That’s silly; Ares is the God of War, why would he need your help? He could be mortal, that would be just awful, but what if Zeus has Ares trapped somewhere, then I'd never see him again... so, what's wrong with that? It's not your problem. Right, I should call 'Dite now, or Cupid, maybe Artemis, one of them should be able to get me off of Olympus. I think I'll call Cupid, if there's some type of meeting then all the major Gods will be busy." Xena again wondered why her thoughts were so unsure, but decided that now was not the time to worry about it, and called "Cupid! Cupid, come here right now!" She sat weak kneed on the bed. Gods she needed to get a grip on things. This was not good.

A second later, a very agitated Cupid appeared and asked, "You bellowed oh mighty Warrior Princess? What is it? I'm busy"

Xena rolled her eyes and said "I need to get home, I'm already late!"

"So?" Cupid spat. What did she think that he would be at her beckon call like Uncle Ares was? For a mortal she had guts he'd give her that.

"So, you’re the person that gets to take me to my mother's" Xena calmly stated. More calmly then she felt that was for sure, not that Cupid intimidated her, just because she was not feeling very good at the moment.

"And why would I do that?" Cupid challenged.

Xena's tone was menacing, "Do you really want to know?"

Cupid wasn't stupid. He caught the tone of her voice, and said "Fine, but let's hurry, there's a big meeting, and I'm supposed to be helping Mom, and uncle Ares"

Xena stopped dead in her tracks and asked "What type of meeting? What are you helping Ares with?" she advanced within a hairs breath of Cupid.

Cupid didn't think this mortal needed to know everything so he simply shrugged "Oh, Zeus is really pissed at Ares. Apparently Ares didn't show for the meeting that Athena called, claiming that he was busy. Zeus wasn't happy, and went to see what was so important. When Zeus got back he was livid. No one can get the full story; Zeus is claiming that he doesn't have to say anything, because Ares is in trouble, not him. Athena is walking around very pleased with herself, and Ares won't say why Zeus is so mad. Well, I think he told mom, or maybe she just figured it out, but aside from her, no one knows what the big deal is." Suddenly seeming to notice Xena, and where they actually where. With shocked surprise Cupid asked, "Hey, what are you doing HERE?"

"I'm visiting" Xena replied nonchalantly.

"You were visiting Ares? HERE!" Cupid stammered. Taking in the fact that this was Ares’ bedroom on Mt. Olympus and most everyone was skinned alive if they set foot in this room, including him.

Xena rolled her eyes "Cupid, I'm his lead warlord, we have things to discuss. What difference does it make as to 'where' we conduct business"

Cupid looked suspicious, he was getting nervous being in here. "On Mt. Olympus?"

Xena threw up her hands. This wasn't getting her anywhere. "I like talking to your mom... she's okay if you get past her views on love. So Ares brings me here to talk to her sometimes. There you satisfied?" She hoped that that would distract him.

Cupid eased up a little bit and laughed "Yeah, Mom can even give ME a headache with all her drivel sometimes!"

Xena smiled, and Cupid frowned, he had thought that would get more then just a smile from someone who had listened to his mother! Xena suddenly looked bored. He could see why Uncle Ares was so drawn to this woman. She was so complicated. Cupid decided to let things drop for now and said, "Let's go.... like I said I have to get back soon."

Cupid tentatively held out his hand, not sure how Xena would react. Xena grabbed Cupid by his hair, and said in a sickeningly sweet voice "Let's go, I'm ready!" Laughing she added, "I'm used to this mode of transportation."

Cupid realized that this woman was not going to let him go until he took her where she wanted to go. Prudence being the best course of action they disappeared in a shower of gold.

Cupid and Xena appearing interrupted Ivaia and Saulious’ conversation. Xena was holding Cupid by the hair; she said, "Thanks for the ride Cupie!" Then let him go.

Cupid mumbled something "What in Tartarus... does she... she is doing? If she wasn't...uncle Ares'.... I would kill her!" All the others in the room heard was "Oh Gods!" and he was gone.

Xena chuckled a little "That was to easy, he's such a wimp!"

Ivaia was shocked and stammered "Sister?"

Xena looked around and found that she wasn't alone "That little brat!" she muttered under her breath. To Ivaia she asked "What do you want Ivaia? And who's he?" She stressed the HE part.

Saulious stood and said "I'm Saulious, ma'am"

Xena looked at Saulious, then gave a feral smile and said "Ma'am! MA'AM! Who in Tartarus do you think you are? No one call's me ma'am."

Ivaia saw Xena advancing on Saulious, she quickly said "Xena! He didn't mean it, it was an accident!"

"And why do you care so much?" Xena growled.

Ivaia thought fast "He has a message for you! You wouldn't want to kill him before you find out what he has to say, would you?" She breathed out a sigh of relief surely he was safe now?

Xena spun around and said "That's enough Ivaia. What's your message Saulious? And be quick about it. I don't have all day to stand here chatting."

Saulious stuttered "I-I-I Ha-ave a m-message fo-for Xena. A-Are yo-you h-her?" he was definitely intimidated by this Fierce woman warrior standing inches from him.

"I said what's your message, boy?" She shook her head in impatience.

"Your army is concerned as to why you're staying here, and not in the camp. And they would also like to know where you are when they send messengers to find you. Jayvone has issued you a challenge for command." Saulious rushed the words out. Stepping back a few paces when the message was delivered.

Xena scowled, and said in an very menacing voice "Why... I'm staying here is not MY armies concern, neither is where I choose to go. As for Jayvone's challenge, I'll take care of that PERSONALLY." There was no mistaking her implied actions. Xena was not having a good day, and somebody was going to lose they’re life as the result. And it was more then likely Jayvone. "Stay here, boy, I don't want to be followed by the likes of you." Turning toward Ivaia "Ivaia, sister, would you like to come with me?"

Ivaia backed up, shaking her head "N-N-No no, no! I have to stay here, mommy told me to stay here!!" Ivaia didn't want to admit it, but she was scared of Xena when she got like this.

"It wasn't a request." Xena took a step towards Ivaia. "Besides mother told 'me' to stay here, so you're not included. Saulious, guard the tavern."

Ivaia and Saulious nodded meekly to the strong woman's commands. Xena grabbed Ivaia by the arm, and they left.

It didn't take Xena long to reach the camp. Several guards were more then happy to point Jayvone out to her. There was no mistaking that Xena wasn't in a good mood this day. Xena walked directly to where one of the guards had pointed Jayvone out to her. Xena tapped Jayvone on the shoulder with her free hand. Jayvone spun around and sneered at Xena "Oh, it's only you. And who's this, your bastard kid?"

Ivaia hid behind Xena as soon as her arm was released; she may be young and relatively sheltered, but she knew an insult when she heard one, and she also knew that Xena didn’t take well to insults. Xena lifted up Jayvone by the throat. He could barely breath. And in that instant he knew he had made the biggest mistake of his life. Xena stared up at his bluing face. "Shut up you pig, I'm in no mood for games. You're coming with me. We're going to have some FUN." She was going to make him pay for her bad day.

Jayvone did his best to stare at Xena defiantly trying not to look foolish in front of the other men. Xena kicked Jayvone in the stomach, while letting go of his neck so that he dropped to the ground. "I don't like your tone of voice."

She then picked him up by the feet and proceeded to drag him to the middle of the army's camp. Ivaia followed meekly. Xena laughed to herself ‘He didn't even have a chance, it's such a shame when the young ones go bad!’ To the gathering crowd she said "Jayvone here made the mistake of challenging my command. I am going to use him as an example so that no one else makes the same mistake!"

Seeing Ivaia hiding behind her. Jayvone was really scared now. So scared of what Xena was going to do to him that he 'relieved' himself as she held him in front of the others. Xena gave a disgusted snort and dropped her captive headfirst to the ground. Stepping on his back so he couldn't move. Then Xena pulled Ivaia out from behind her and addressed the crowd. Oh how she loved the look of deathly fear in their eyes. She proceeded by saying. "This," she waved her arm in an arch encompassing all present. "everyone is my little sister, Ivaia. Take a good look at her face, because if anything happens to her I will personally kill every last one of you, got that?" at the nods of heads Xena smiled ferally, and said "Good. As for Jayvone here, after I'm done with him, his body is to be hung at the entrance to the camp as a reminder and warning."

Jayvone whimpered from under Xena's boot, this WOMAN was talking about him as though he was already dead! A very brave soldier ventured to ask "What are you going to do to him m'lady?"

Xena smiled a positively evil smile and said "I'm gonna kill him, and you all get to watch. Evodono, take Ivaia back to my mother's inn, I'm sure she doesn't want to watch me deal with Jayvone. It should take you exactly 10 minutes to get there and back, and if I find so much as a scratch on her, I'll skin you alive. We'll wait for Evodono to get back before I start on Jayvone." She twisted her boot into his back a little. To let him know she wasn't done.

Evodono and Ivaia made record time getting to the Tavern. Saulious jumped up as his friend Evodono pushed Ivaia through the door. Evodono said "Saul, hurry up! Xena is giving a demonstration using Jayvone, and wants everyone there."

Saulious frowned and asked "Evo, is Jay really in that much trouble?"

Evodono nodded "We had better hurry before Xena decides we're next."

Saulious turned to Ivaia, who looked like a scared deer, and said "Iva, it's okay....... umm.....Xena was just bluffing, she's to nice to kill Jay, she'll probably just give him a couple punches and let him go."

Ivaia didn't really believe what he said but nodded to Saul "Alright, Saul, be careful, Xena did look very upset."

Xena looked at the two men that were entering the circle "It's about time you got here! Jayvone any last words?"

Jayvone had been humiliated to the point of not caring anymore. This woman was making him the laughing stock of the camp. IF he was going to die, which he had no doubt, he wanted to at least die like a man. And not a cowardly dog. So he stood as tall as he could get, he was now standing next to Xena, and said "Go to Tartarus, Bitch!"

Xena laughed in a predatory manner, but gave him a chance to spare himself, and asked "Excuse me?"

Jayvone, was trying to act more confident, then he felt and didn't notice Xena's unforgiving look, he spat at Xena. "I said 'go to Tartarus, Bitch!' What's wrong, can't hear me? I'll say it again if you want."

"No, that's okay. I heard you, so did everyone here. If anyone asks any questions, this is proof that he provoked me." She scanned the crowd for anyone who would challenge what she was doing. There was no one. Xena retrieved her breast dagger and waved if threateningly at the crowd "If anyone goes to Jayvone's aid and interferes they'll be seeing the wrong end of this, understand!"

Murmurs of agreement went through the crowd. Xena walked Jayvone toward a practice archery set, spun him around and stepped back several paces, but she was still holding on to his arm. Gasps went up from the crowd. Jayvone's attention was directed at the crowd, he never saw Xena grab her chakram in her other hand and throw it. With deadly accuracy the chakram hit it's mark. Neatly severing Jayvone's head from his body. Xena caught her chakram and rehooked it, while saying "Jayvone didn't do anything that deserved a prolonged death. I can temper mercy with just punishment if I have to." as if that explained her actions.

Poor Evodono and Saulious were not faring so well. They had not experienced any big battles yet, and watching as they're commander killed one of they're friends without a second thought was turning they're stomachs. Xena meanwhile, had retrieved a stake for Jayvone's head. Xena then ordered Jayvone's head to be staked outside of camp, and his body to be hung upside down outside of camp perimeter. Xena was watching her men carry out her orders. She wouldn't leave the scene until her orders were completely followed. She was covered in blood, from head to toe. Her hair hung in bloody clumps, and her Armor was hardly visible from the blood covering it. Xena's entire body was completely covered in blood, the only part of Xena that was visible through the bloody covering were her eyes, shining from the icy blue pools was an evil twinkle in the otherwise hard eyes. Xena yawned and looked down at herself, she realized that she was covered in blood, and decided to go home and have a long bath.

Saulious and Evodono had hurried away from camp as soon as they could, and headed immediately to visit with Ivaia..... well actually Saulious had headed to see Ivaia and Evodono had followed, not wanting to be alone. Saulious said "I don't want you coming into camp again, Iva, you wouldn't like it, and there's no need."

Ivaia frowned, she hardly liked being given an order by a fellow 18 year old, but he was a man, and Ivaia had been taught to respect all the old rules. "But why, Saul? Nothing to horrible happened while I was with sister today."

Saulious pointed to the door. Ivaia looked where Saulious had pointed, and saw what she assumed to be her sister, although it was hard to tell seeing as Xena was covered with blood. Ivaia gasped and called "Mommy! Something's happened to Xena!! Xena, are you ok. What happened?" Ivaia rushed to her sister’s side.

Cyrene came rushing in, she had been planning on lecturing Xena for leaving the Inn in her sisters care. But the sight she beheld stopped her in tracks. Cyrene immediately worried for her daughter, she asked tentatively "Xena, honey, are you alright?"

Xena gave Evodono and Saulious such a bone chilling look that they immediately left. Almost falling over themselves in their haste to leave. When they were gone, Xena took off her boots, her weapons followed. Xena then took out her breast dagger, boot dagger, and laying them on the table where her other weapons lay. Standing there in her bloody leathers she asked. "Would you mind if I took a bath before I answer anything?"

Cyrene took a look at the weapons and assorted items by and on her table, took another look at her blood covered daughter, then said "Oh, my, honey, of course you can have a bath first! I'll draw you a bath, but before I go, are you alright?"

"I'm not physically hurt if that's what you mean. I'll say more later though, mum. Right now I just want to have that bath. OK." Xena's demeanor had changed. She was no longer a vicious Warrior. But a sympathetic daughter.

Cyrene nodded, and left to start a bath for her oldest daughter. Ivaia looked at her blood-covered sister, and tentatively asked "What's wrong?"

"What do you think is wrong? I'm covered in blood!" Xena halfheartedly laughed.

"It's not your blood.....is it?"

"No." Xena simply responded. She didn't know exactly 'What' to say to Ivaia.

"Please tell me what's wrong...... I know we aren't on the best of terms, but if I can help..... if you let me. I do love you sister, even if I don't particularly like what you've become, I do love you..." Ivaia stated with more conviction then she realized she possessed.

"You really wouldn't understand Ivaia. But I do thank you for the complement."

"What complement?" Ivaia questioned.

"About not being a nice. And not liking what I've become." Xena said.

Ivaia wasn't sure what Xena meant by that but continued pressing her for information. "Please tell me what's wrong, I won't tell a soul, and I'll give any advice that I can, I might be more help then you think...." Ivaia was hopeful.

Xena relented "You do realize that I am never going to change in many ways......I tried that once, and it just isn't going to happen. You know that, right?"

"I understand that you have to go your own way...... even if I don't agree or think it's right....." Ivaia stated. " You changed once. And were quite successful at what you were doing. Why..? She left the sentence unfinished.

"Tell me honestly, what do you think of me? What's your impression of me?" Xena demanded.

Ivaia stuttered she didn’t want to get Xena mad. "I... well... I think that you-you’re nice to your family... And your friends..."

Xena laughed "Sweetheart, I'm not going to be offended! I want to know your honest opinion...... I promise that I won't get mad at you."

"Well," Ivaia started, suddenly she realized that she *needed* to tell her sister exactly what she thought of her. "you have a mean streak.....actually, most of you is mean. You are a vicious, violent woman, like a hunter that doesn't care for her prey, in an evil sense. But I think that that's because of your life, you appear to have been emotionally hurt, so you bottle off your emotions. You're loyal, and you love your family dearly, no matter how well you get along with them. And you have a good heart, though you don't usually listen to it, when you do listen to it. And right now something is bothering you, something that you can't ignore...." Ivaia took a deep breath. And said finally " But I don't think you want to be this bad. I think you feel you have to for some reason?"

Xena stood there staring at her sister. She was a little shaken as to how astute Ivaia really was. Maybe she could talk to her little sister. Maybe Ivaia could offer her some insight. But her defenses rose up again, as they always did. Xena inhaled sharply trying to control her emotions. She looked right at Ivaia and said "Ivaia, I'm not going to comment precisely on what you said. Instead, I'm going to say that I need someone to listen to me, and not make harsh judgments by past experience. You are the only person that I can think of that fits that description right now, so for some odd reason I'm going to tell you what's wrong. However if you so much as breathe a word of what I say, I will kill you, family, or not."

Ivaia shivered but nodded. Xena continued "I've been spending most of my time away from here with Ares. When I woke up today he wasn't there, I wasn't really worried, I mean Ares has things to do he is the God of War after all. Normally when I call him he appears. Well this morning when I called, he didn't come. I've tried calling him most of today. I have this bad feeling that something's wrong, and I-I'm worried, what if something happened to him?" Xena's voice cracked a bit with emotion. "What would I do without him." The last statement was barely audible.

Ivaia said calmly "That's all your worried about? Just because you called and he didn't come is no call to worry. You said yourself that he has things to do."

"But Ares ALWAYS comes when I call him. Ares could be in the middle of the biggest war ever, and all he needed to do was stay and watch and he'd win.....and he would still come if I called." She was getting upset. And she drew in a deep breath. "Cupid said something about Zeus being mad at him. I hate to admit it, but I don't know what I'd do if something happened to Ares."

Ivaia's voice softened "Oh, I'm sorry. I understand now...... I mean I don't understand the god thing...... but I understand why you are worried. You are in Love with Ares." She rested her hand on Xena's shoulder. "I've never told anyone this before, but I was in love once.. He was killed by our brother Toris when he caught us fooling around in the stables. Toris thought I was in trouble." Ivaia sighed she was destined to be stuck in Amphipolis forever.

Xena suppressed the laugh that was threatening to escape and said "Toris, that jerk, I remember one time when he caught Ares and me. Gods Toris he had the worst timing, almost as bad as Gabrielle's! I didn't know that Toris ever came back home, when was this?"

"About 2 years ago. Exactly how old was I when Toris caught you?" Ivaia ventured to ask.

"Not going to tell you that one, you'd never believe me anyway!" Xena chuckled.

Ivaia noted the friendly tone of Xena's voice, and decided to take a chance. "Xena.... umm..... h-how old were you when you first.... well.... when.... you know?"

Xena felt the heat rising in her face. She had never spoken like this to anyone. Not even Gabrielle. She wasn't prepared for the embarrassing feeling that went through her. But she boldly answered "15. May I ask you a personal question, seeing as you just asked me one?"

"Seriously? You were so young!" Ivaia mulled over Xena's answer and said "Go ahead, what do you want to ask?"

"You are still a virgin, aren't you?" Xena choked the words out.

Ivaia blushed a deep red, and mumbled "Yes."

Just then Cyrene walked in, oblivious that her daughters were having a heart to heart talk, and said "Xena, honey, your bath's ready."

Xena nodded to her mother. She gave Ivaia a friendly smile, which looked almost silly, considering she was still covered in blood, and said "I'm off to have a bath. When I get back I'll help clean up, mum." To Ivaia she said serenely "We'll have a long talk later. Ok?" and she walked up the stairs to her waiting bath.

When Xena was gone, Cyrene turned to Ivaia and asked "What were you girls talking about?" trying not to sound alarmed. Although alarmed was exactly how she was feeling. Cyrene hated to admit it, but she wasn't about to let one daughter corrupt her other daughter.

"Nothing, mommy," Ivaia answered evasively.

"Now, I heard you two talking, so don't say 'nothing." Cyrene demanded.

"It was just girl stuff Mommy really, we had a nice sisterly chat." Ivaia tried reassuring her Mother.

"If you are sure that's all it was." Not sure whether to believe Ivaia or not. Cyrene chose the former and believed her youngest daughter. "Then sweetie I won't ask anymore. I'm glad you and Xena are getting along well enough to have a sisterly conversation."

Ivaia smiled a knowing smile, and watched her mother survey the room.

Three weeks later

"No, Saul, how can you go?" Ivaia wailed. " How can you leave like this?"

Saulious tried to be gentle for he cared about Ivaia. But he knew he had to leave "I have to go, Iva."

"At least tell me why?" she begged

"You wouldn't understand, and I don't want you worrying your pretty head about it. Now, this discussion is closed, or else I will be late!" Saulious was firm but gentle in his words to her.

"I wouldn't want you to be late on account of me, goodbye Saul." She sounded bitter. She regretted her tone immediately, and in a much softer voice she said "Take care Saulious.. I-I Looo.."

Before Ivaia could finish her sentence Saul was out the door with a last "Goodbye!"

Ivaia cried for her lost love, sure that Gabrielle, and Cyrene couldn't hear her, seeing as they were downstairs. While in her head Ivaia thoughts spun around. 'Why did he just leave? Doesn't Saulious love me too? How could he not even tell me why he was leaving? Will he come back..... ever?' She put her hands over her face and cried bitter tears. Suddenly Ivaia heard a soft knock on her door. She looked up to see Xena walk in. "Hey, how's it going? I heard you crying. What's wrong?" Xena tried to sound comforting, although it wasn't really something she was used to sounding. "What? AWFUL! How do you think I'm doing?" Ivaia sobbed anew. Xena didn't really know how to try to soothe her little sisters feelings. But after a short time Ivaia looked up into Xena's eyes and said "H-How did you hear what happened?"

Xena sat down next to her sister, and said in a calm voice, to be comforting "I heard you crying, and caught Saulious before he left. He just told me he had to go, but he didn't tell me why he was going. I think he'll be back. He seemed upset and confused. If he doesn't come back though, I can always track him down for you."

Ivaia smiled slightly at Xena's last comment. She had stopped crying enough to speak, but didn't have anything to say. Ivaia and Xena had actually been having a close sisterly relationship since Ivaia had pried into Xena's problems three weeks ago. Xena found Ivaia's advice refreshing. Ivaia was in many ways still a child, but she was smart, and had accepted Xena for a sister, letting all other matters drop. Of course Gabrielle was helping, but she was still having a hard time believing that Xena would really never change. And while Xena was still worried that Ares wasn't around, Gabrielle was thrilled. She viewed it as a chance to turn Xena good again. Ivaia and Gabrielle had patiently sat through Xena's temper tantrums, while ducking any objects being thrown their way. And had quietly sat while Xena talked to Aphrodite, at least they thought they were talking, neither was really sure that Xena knew what Aphrodite was saying! Xena was now mainly alternating from being extremely angry, too almost morbidly depressed. Gabrielle and Cyrene wanted to know what was wrong, but Xena wouldn't confide in them. Ivaia already knew, but wouldn't break Xena's confidence in her by tattling. Cyrene had been horrified the first time Xena had had a big fit. She had stomped around in the angriest of moods and refused to talk to anyone. After a short period of time though they all had gotten used to Xena's changing moods. Although Cyrene and Gabrielle still wanted to know what was wrong. They didn't press Xena for answers. Cyrene and Gabrielle knew, from past experience, Xena would have to tell them of her own accord.

One day shortly after her last tantrum. Xena had retreated to her room to think. She sought out Ivaia who was in the kitchen. Cyrene and Gabrielle were nowhere to be found. Ivaia was cleaning sugar peas for that nights dinner. Xena stood in the doorway a few moments summoning up her courage, then broke the silence by saying "Ivaia, I've decided to tell mother the truth today."

Ivaia looked up from what she doing, and said "Xena, are you sure? Why today?"

Xena's voice became its usual hard determined tone, no longer that rare comforting one. "Because there is a rather large battle today, and I'm most likely going to be gone for a couple days."

Ivaia nodded, got up and splashed her face with some cold water. Then smoothing out her dress, smiled and said "Let's go then, I think maybe me and Gabrielle should be there, we don't want mommy getting hurt!"

Xena laughed briefly, then headed to find Cyrene. Ivaia's and her arms linked together.

Cyrene as it turned out had no intention of being nice about the subject or calm, or quiet. Cyrene yelled "What in tartarus do you mean you have your own army? You better tell me EVERY Detail!"

Ivaia and Gabrielle winced at Cyrene's wording. Xena said stoically "You want to know everything? Well here's everything. I am leading my own army again, which was given to me by Ares. You don't know the vow I took when I first joined Ares, do you mother? It was 'I am yours, mind, soul, and body.' Ares was the only one I could turn to after Cortese attacked this village, and Lycues was killed. You were never there for me. You never gave a damn about what I was doing. I was the disappointment of your lifetime. I wasn't the perfect daughter that would stay at home and cook like you wanted me to be. Ares cared. He loved me for what I was, and for what I could be. I owe him more then I owe even you." Xena raged. " But you know what m-o-t-h-e-r. I don't give a damn about what you think any more. Go to tartarus!"

Gabrielle frowned, this conversation didn't seem to be getting any milder. Yep, language did run in families. Ivaia physically shook from what she had heard. Xena perched on a table, looking a little too sexy for Cyrene's likes. Shocked and hurt by what Xena had just said to her, Cyrene countered. "You get off of there child, and change into something decent! THIS MINUTE!"

Xena stayed where she was, and laughed sarcastically at Cyrene "Now you are trying to play loving Mommy. That's funny. Besides I'm expecting a message, so I'm not going anywhere. I have a big battle later, and I wish Ares was here......"

Cyrene muttered loud enough for Xena to hear her. "He's probably off 'visiting' one of his priestess Whores."

Xena had enough "You shut the hell up. I hear one word out of your mouth, and I'll make sure that you CAN'T talk. Now or E V E R."

Cyrene bellowed "Don't talk back to me, child of mine!"

Suddenly Xena lunged for her mother, Gabrielle and Ivaia were quick to react, which was they're downfall. Gabrielle grabbed Xena by the legs, and Ivaia grabbed Xena by the arms. Xena shoved Ivaia and Gabrielle off of her, then turned to face them. What they saw truly scared them. Xena didn't look just mad, she looked ready to KILL them. She had her hand resting on her chakram about to unhook it when the door to the tavern opened. The messenger arriving saved them. He handed Xena her message, then left in a hurry. Xena paused to read the note, then, without another look to the other three women, stalked out the door.

"KILL 'EM ALL!" Xena's cry sounded as the armies charged into battle. The quiet peaceful day was abruptly shattered. Xena lead her army into battle, noticing that Bemus, the commander of the other army, was not riding in front, rather at the back of his army. 'Coward.' Xena thought "Doesn't even have the guts to lead his men into battle!" As the battle progressed, it was quite clear that Xena's army was going to beat Bemus'. Suddenly Bemus turned his horse and bolted away from the battle. Xena's mind raced 'Should I go after that son of a banshee? Of course I should, no warrior should ever run, and no warrior should ever hide from a battle, especially a commander. Most importantly never a commander.' Xena looked toward where Bemus had gone and mused to herself 'What if It's a trap?' she thought for a minute then determined 'I'll just have to take that risk. No commander runs from battle and lives.' Xena turned her horse the way Bemus had gone, and went after him.

Xena's mind was racing as always, she was worried for her family, and for.....the other people of the village. But nonetheless, it wasn't surprising to Xena when she heard Bemus' men sneak up on her. It was a trap, a VERY good trap. Bemus must have realized that Xena would never let a commander that ran from a fight, without sounding the retreat, escape alive. He had played the part of a coward very well, knowing that it would make Xena even more angry and lead her into his trap. Yes this was a VERY, VERY, good trap. Xena quickly took in her surroundings, 20 men armed to the teeth surrounding her. Bemus had wanted to make sure that he got her, he wasn't a fool, he had brought out his best warriors, and a whole lot of them too. Xena's mind immediately focused of vital points of her situation 'They definitely are planning on killing me, no torture, they want the job done, I can see it by how they are looking at me. No trees in sight, but this is a small field with Rocky Mountains and thorn bushes surrounding it. That doesn't help any.' She noticed their size. 'Damn these guys are huge! They must be 7 feet tall each, and there's 50 of them! This is not good Xena, not good at all.' She thought to herself. Bemus finally spoke "Xena, Xena, Xena.... We had hoped it wouldn't come to this. We had hopes that you would stay on your path to good, that you would resist temptation. But alas it is no use and you must die. We are sorry, we never meant for this to happen, to you or my lady's brother."

Parts of Bemus' statement clicked in Xena's mind. She mentally tried to disseminate the situation. 'This isn't your normal psycho warlord, no something's different.' She mused 'We, he had said we. What's with the 'we'? Wait a minute, 'you or my lady's brother' Oh DAMN! This is not good at all' Xena thought. She figured the only sound approach was the direct approach. To Bemus she stated. "Seeing as you seem intent on killing me, mind if I ask a few questions?"

Bemus seemed a little disturbed to hear Xena speak, but he nodded. 'He definitely doesn't know me, actually I think I intimidate him.... good.' Xena thought, then said "First, you said 'we' and 'My lady' so that means you happen to know a goddess, care to enlighten me on who in my final hours?"

Bemus was getting extremely nervous. This Xena was very, very clever. His lady had warned him about her cleverness. He managed to say "We, is my Lady, Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and War. I am a head priest, and a trusted consort of my Lady's. I speak for my Lady." He sounded more confident then he felt. Even with his men surrounding the Warrior Princess.

Xena mentally noted 'That explains a lot about Bemus, he's a priest, Athena trusted him to go for the mission because priests are EXTREMELY loyal. Bemus has probably heard of me, but being never able to leave the temple, it's only stories he's heard. He has probably wondered about me for quite some time. That makes him easier to deal with.' Xena nodded to Bemus, and asked "And Athena's brother would be.. Ares? What did she do to him?"

Bemus smiled, although this Xena was a puzzle, he was not totally in the dark about what went on outside his world. Bemus said "Yes my Lady's brother Ares the God of War would be whom you speak of. I see that I have peaked your interest. My Lady has told me of your....... ahem..... liaison with Ares. My Lady saw that liaison and Ares as a threat, she wants his power for herself. He was beginning to be a problem. Neglecting his proper duties all for the sake of L.." Bemus stopped before he revealed too much. Then continued "And since you are so..... close.... with Ares you are also a problem, but not for long."

Xena felt fear and anger all at the same time. She exploded, all sense and reason fled her. This guy was on dangerous ground. "You, just tell me what in tartarus that bitch did to Ares!"

Bemus took an involuntary step back, but rebalanced "I would not normally take such abuse, but seeing as it's your last day alive I will tell you.."

Xena was getting madder by the minute, "Didn't I say to cut the small talk and just tell me? What has Athena done to, or with, Ares. And you better be quick about it. I'm loosing my patience and fast."

Bemus backed up some more from the sheer power that this woman exuded, power that she was used to, and that power showed even in her voice. "Well...... you see I wasn't exactly told...... What happened to him. Sorry but that's the way it is. All I know is that my Lady planned it to be something horrible." With that Bemus turned to leave the clearing with his parting words he said "Good Bye Xena, I'll leave you to 'play' with these boys. Men you have your orders."

Bemus then got his and Xena's horse and walked away. When Bemus was gone Athena's men started closing in on Xena. 'Damn, this is so not good! there's 20 of them, and I'm still focused on what that bitch did to Ares! And he took ARGO!!' Thought Xena. Soon it was very obvious that, as great of a warrior as Xena was, she could not handle 20 7ft tall men on her own. Taking the only escape route that was possible Xena backed up to one far end of the field and getting a running start, flipped over the thorn bushes, and ran into the relative safety of the forest. Although the men were too large, and untrained, to successfully follow Xena, one of them had managed to stab her in the lower stomach.

Traveling non-stop Xena managed to get back to her army before she lost too much blood. As Xena had expected her army had long since finished off Athena's army and were looking for they're commander. Evodono saw Xena first and called everyone's attention to her "Over here ! It's Xena!! And she's hurt! Bring the Medical supplies at once!"

Everyone came rushing towards Xena. Xena still had enough strength, despite the amount of blood she had lost, to bellow "BACK UP! That's better, now take me to my mother's and get a healer."

The men quickly did as ordered.

Four days later

Xena had been told to rest and that she would be All right before the healer had left. Cyrene had been VERY insistent to follow those instructions, knowing that Xena would try to get back to fighting again before it was safe for her to do so. Ivaia, Gabrielle, and Cyrene were now taking turns watching Xena to make sure she didn't try to get out of bed. Xena, who had been sleeping before, heard her mother come in. Cyrene asked "How are you feeling honey? Not to terrible I hope?"

Xena smiled weakly, truth be told she had lost way to much blood, and had been stabbed in a bad spot. Most people were surprised that Xena had even survived the ordeal. Xena replied "I'm feeling okay, mum, nothing I can't handle."

Cyrene nodded, she knew that her daughter was lying, she was always too modest about things like this. Cyrene was about to leave when Xena said "Mum, I'm sorry that I got mad at you. Thanks for being here for me now. It really means....." she didn't get a chance to finish.

Cyrene interrupted "Oh, baby, I know you are, I'm sorry too. You don't need to say anything else. Now I have to go, we can talk when you're better. I'll send Ivaia up you two can talk a bit if you like."

Xena smiled and nodded to her mother, and Cyrene left. A few minutes later Ivaia appeared and tentatively said "Hi Xena,"

Xena smiled at her sister "Hi Ivaia, what's been going on while I've been stuck in bed?"

Ivaia looked like she might have laughed if the situation didn't seem so serious to her. "Well," Ivaia began "it's only been four days, so not much. Evodono came to see how you were doing last night, we talked for a while. He told me some things about why Saul left, and asked me to tell you that he hopes you feel better soon. Mommy and Gabrielle seem to have forgiven you for everything, they act too much like mother hens. It wouldn't be good for you to worry about them being mad at you, mommy said, so they are not mad at you anymore! Xena, truthfully, what happened?"

Xena suddenly frowned, "I got caught by Athena in a trap. Actually it was a part of Athena's army, and one of her head priests.....not Athena."

Ivaia gasped "Why, what, how?"

Xena chuckled a little, then frowned as she said "Let's take this one question at a time. Athena and I are not on the.... best of terms. Never have been probably never will be. It's sort of a given seeing as Athena and Ares hate each other. And, well, you know how I feel about Ares. I'm still worried though about what Athena did to Ares. I think that maybe Ares and Athena have had some kind of a fight, and now Athena's trying to take it out on whoever she can. I also think that Athena may have gotten Zeus involved."

Ivaia mutely nodded, she didn't even pretend to understand the majority of what Xena was talking about. Xena's entire demeanor changed, and she asked "Now do you think that you could convince mother to let me get up?"

Ivaia asked "You don't want to talk about it, do you?"

Xena nodded, so Ivaia continued. "Okay, I'll talk to mommy then, but Xena I want you to try to relax, or else I'm going to have one hard time trying to talk mommy into letting you out of bed."

Xena smiled as she watched her sister go.

Two weeks later

Xena was downstairs relaxing, and watching the costumers come in and out. Ivaia had been told to stay with Xena, seeing as Cyrene would do almost anything to keep Ivaia from helping in the Tavern. Xena was feeling well enough to walk around, and kept complaining "You're being a mother hen, it's ridiculous, I'M FINE!"

To which Cyrene would respond "You need to REST! You've been stabbed for gods sakes!"

Xena gave up and said "I'm going back to bed." She threw up her hands in defeat.

Cyrene and Gabrielle nodded approvingly and Xena went back to her room.

Xena was sitting, on her bed, thinking about the last week when she felt the familiar tingle. Then there he was, standing so tall and handsome before her. His very essence demanding power. Xena jumped up and ran straight into Ares' open arms. Without so much as a word between them Ares claimed her lips in a brutal passionate kiss. Forcing her mouth to accept his entry with his tongue. He had to possess her. To know she was really there in his arms. Gods, he had missed his dark haired siren. It was several long minutes before he noticed that she had winced, slightly, in pain when he hugged her. Ares frowned "It's okay Xena, everything's going to be okay. What happened to you?"

Xena nodded and smiled. "Little present from one of Athena's priests," she told him.

Ares held her tight for a minute, He didn't want to let her go. He in truth wanted to spirit her away to his chambers on Mt. Olympus, there he could bind her to him like never before. But for now he was just glad to be holding Xena in his arms again. The feel of her lithe body already having an affect on him. Gathering his control the best he could with her so near, he then became focused on healing Xena's wound. Running his large callused hand gently over the wound. Feeling the heat, the pulsing blood invading the ravaged area trying to find that spot most vulnerable. He moved in silence. His ragged breath the only clue as to her affect on him. Xena smiled more, as she felt her stab wound heal under Ares' expert touch. He knew just where to put his hands to make her feel her best. He knew just how to turn and probe to give her the most exquisite feelings. Xena was flushed, she looked up into Ares' eyes, and whispered "I missed you so much."

Ares smiled. He liked the reaction he was having on her. He almost chuckled for it seemed that Xena looked as flustered as he felt. Gods but he was healing her wound. All he could manage to mutter was. "I missed you too. You should be fine now, do you feel better?"

Xena only nodded "Yeah, umm.. Thanks. I'm sure I'll be just fine now." She looked into his eyes holding his gaze to her. Oh Gods he was driving her insane over healing her wound. To herself she thought 'Get a hold of yourself Xena. He was healing your stab wound, for crying out loud.' They stood there together. Neither one willing or able to move to break the spell that was wrapping around them. After several long minutes it was Ares that spoke first. "I have something for you,"

She raised an eyebrow. Ares waved his hand and suddenly Xena was in a new battle dress and armor. The dress was black, and down to Xena's ankles. There was a slit on each side, that ran the length of her legs up to where her thigh met her hip. Seeing has she was prone to do flips there was a slit in the front and back just above Xena's knees. The intricate armor design was all done in silver. The heavier chest armor curved delicately around where each breast would rest. Highlighting the wears attributes no doubt. It was light in back and tapered down to a deep point just past her lower stomach. It was erotic, it was functional, and most of all it was from Ares. Xena leaned up and gave Ares a kiss. When they parted she whispered "I love the outfit."

Ares said "I'm glad you like princess. I had it designed especially for you." He could only look upon her with adoring eyes. Yet he said nothing more.

Xena was concerned. Ares was acting different. She ventured to ask "Are you okay?"

Ares said "Yes." He cleared his throat while also clearing his mind, before continuing "Artemis, Hera, Aphrodite, Persephone, and Cupid banned together to help me. Apparently Persephone and Artemis could tell that Zeus had banned with Athena."

Xena only nodded, she'd never met Zeus, but from what she'd heard from everybody he was always siding with one god over another. Summoning the courage to finally say how she felt. Xena said "I was so worried! Ares, I-I....." she stopped. Only to think to herself. 'I can't.. I don't know how he feels. I can't tell him yet, I just can't tell him that I *love* him. I need to know that he feels something for me other than just being a Warrior in his army. I was so scared when I thought something had happened to him, I've never felt like that before!' Xena choked back the tears that were threatening, and said "I'm glad that you're okay."

However that small pause, in the usually confident warrior, was not lost on Ares. He mused to himself. 'What was she going to say? Maybe she was going to tell me that she has real feelings for me, that she loves me. Oh Gods I know that is just my wishful thinking. But if only.. I love her, I always will but Xena will never love me. How could I possibly tell her I love her without her ridiculing me for my weakness.' He looked to Xena, and stated "It was really nothing. I was much more worried about you then me. Athena has a history of trying to take advantage of the situation by using anyone..... close to her enemies."

Xena regained some composure, 'After all he isn't acting different why should I? Why should I go out on a limb and tell him how I feel. He'd probably just scoff that I was weak. And he never had a place for a weak Warrior.' She said to Ares "I'm not really surprised, Athena always seemed the type of person that would do that." She scolded herself 'That sounded so stupid.'

Ares nodded, cleared his throat then said "I hear someone coming up, I better go." He really wanted nothing to do with going. He had long sense determined that any time he could spend in Xena's presence much less her arms was worth any price. Looking at Ares Xena could see that he really didn't want to go. A spark of hope formed in her heart. She had to start somewhere. To find out if what she felt for him he shared. So she did the only thing she could think of. Xena smiled evilly, pushing Ares so that he was sitting down said "You are not going anywhere! You've been gone so long, we have things to 'discuss'."

"Ooof" Ares sputtered caught off guard as Xena pushed him to the bed. He tried again "Xena I should go. I'll be back, I promise princess."

Xena's heart melted, she loved it when Ares called her that. "But..."

Ares gave Xena a warning look. "No my princess. We BOTH need a little time to think. I'll be back, I promise. Then we will talk. About many things." He said cryptically. Then brought her hand to his lips, he quickly kissed her hand before letting go and disappearing. Cecilia walked in just in time to see Ares disappear in a flash of brilliant blue light. Xena heard her and turned "Who are you?"

Cecilia blushed, she never had really had a chance to talk to Ivaia's sister. She decided to ignore the strange blue light she had seen, and said "I'm Ivaia's friend Cecilia, we met when you first got here, remember?"

Xena ignored Cecilia's question, she was in no mood now. She hadn't wanted Ares to leave. She curtly asked "What did you want, Cecilia?"

Cecilia hesitated but said "I came to visit with Ivaia, but she's in town, so I was wondering if you wanted to get to know each other better?"

Xena sighed thinking 'Ares told me he would come back and he's never lied to me really.' So taking a deep breath she said "I guess that would be all right. You seem nice enough. How old are you, Cecilia?"

Cecilia, bolstered by Xena's acceptance replied "I am 21. Ivaia said you were nine years older then her, so that makes you 27, right?"

Xena smiled, Cecilia was almost two years older then Gabrielle, and much more mature acting. "Yeah, I'm 27. What were you doing hanging around with 18 year old's, may I ask?"

Cecilia laughed "I was 'babysitting' them! My mom, and Joan's mom are good friends, and my mom makes me go with Joan everywhere. Actually I was pretty mad that I was stuck with babies, that's why I didn't say how old I was before, it was sooo embarrassing."

Xena nodded sympathetically. "That's how I feel with Gabrielle sometimes, like I'm watching out for her or something. Gabrielle just turned 20 a few weeks ago."

Cecilia smiled understandingly "Yeah, the age difference must be hard. Joan just turned 17, so I can relate. I talked to Gabrielle for a bit, she seems more likely to be Ivaia's friend then yours. Mind if I ask why she is traveling with you?"

Xena chuckled "You can ask, but I can't answer. I honestly have no idea why Gabrielle is traveling with me. All I know is that her family hates me, and most of the people I know hate Gabrielle."

Cecilia laughed "That was a mean thing to say about your friend.. I think I like you."

Xena looked Cecilia over again, and asked "Cecilia, do you by any chance like to use a sword?"

Cecilia blushed an incriminating red, and said "My mother is always bugging me about liking that type of stuff, she says girls shouldn't want to be warriors, they should want to be nice ladylike women. Take care of their husbands and family."

Xena grinned "Well Cecilia, we will just have to prove your mother wrong! My mum used to say the same things, she was wrong. Now I have some battle plans to go over, why don't you go 'visit' with Gabrielle and I'll see you in about an hour?"

Cecilia smiled so wide that she couldn't possible have smiled any wider, and left.

Ares' Fortress

Ares called "Aphrodite!"

A second later the Goddess of Love appeared and asked "What's up bro? Like you didn't get into another fight with Athena did you?"

Ares said "No, not yet anyway, that bitch is going to pay for this, however that is not why I called you. I want you to make sure that this fight between Athena and any noisy family does not interrupt me members."

'Dite complained "Whoa, slow down bro. First of all, like what did the bitch do now?"

"She had her men attack Xena.... MY XENA." he began to rage. Ares paced back and forth. "That idiot head priest of hers even stabbed Xena. It was all I could do to touch her to heal her."

'Dite let out a shriek "Is Xena okay? What happened? Where is she? Shouldn't you be with her? Oh gods. The poor Warrior babe.. " Dite trailed off her words seeing the look in Ares eyes.

"Xena's fine, I healed her wound." He bit out. Feeling like the walls were closing in on him.

"Wound! Like, no way, nobody gets away with harming your Xena. Ares, I'll like totally deal with that uptight bitch, Athena. You go back to the Warrior babe and take good care of her. Don't let nothing stand between her getting better. You hear me?" Aphrodite was rambling now.

Ares smiled "I know you mean well, 'Dite, but I can handle it."

Aphrodite looked firm "No, I don't want you getting in trouble. Daddy likes me, he would NEVER believe Athena over me. I am the Goddess of Love after all, the 'Ditzy' one. It would be an embarrassment for Athena to even say that I beat her up. Besides I like Xena, she's cool, I don't mind helping at all!"

With that said she disappeared in a flash of pink light. Ares shook his head, this would be interesting to see.

Xena felt Ares presence return. 'What's he doing back already?' Xena wondered, then turned and asked "Ares?"

A second later Ares appeared in a flash of blue light, and said. "I had to finish up some business on Olympus....It's all taken care of now though."

Xena smiled seductively. "So you've got some free time?"

"You could say that...." Ares smiled back. There was a definite twinkle in his eyes.

That was all the encouragement Xena needed. Xena got up and strolled over to Ares "We will just have to do something about that?” she said putting her hands on his chest. “I can think of a few ways that we could take up your time....”

Ares laughed. That predatory manor of Xena's was almost intoxicating as Dionysus’s wine. She was driving him wild. But more importantly to him for the moment was his thought 'I'm in control. I can’t even think otherwise. Keep yourself calm ole’ boy and things will go fine.' To Xena Ares said "well that all depends....what are you thinking about doing my dear?"

Xena purred "Oh I know! You can read my mind and know exactly what I'm thinking..."

Ares thought 'Oh Gods …. She better not be playing me again, I don't think I could take the head games anymore. Then taking a deep breath, to try to retain some control over the situation, he said "Oh I have a fair idea, my princess..."

Xena took a deep breath 'Oh I love it when he calls me 'His'. Gods, does he have any idea what he does to me? How he turns me inside out.’ She leaned in to kiss him, but pulled back at the last minute. She was going to take her time. She wanted to prolong the moment.

Ares groaned and thought 'What is she doing? Why did she stop...' He ground out "Xena...."

Xena looked up innocently, took a step back, and asked "What? You said you knew what I was thinking,” smiling devilishly “So let's go to the my army's base and see how everything is going!"

Ares rolled his eyes backwards groaning. ' Oh gods.. Not again! If I don't do something to stop her she's going to drag me to a crowded army camp. And make me play nice God of War, all the while I get turned inside out.’ Cursing under his breath ‘Damn you Xena, do you know exactly what you are doing to me? Well this time you aren’t going to get away with it.' Bolstering his resolve with a deep intake of breath Ares stepped forward, closing the space between the two. He noticed Xena's breathing to become more rapid. He leaned down took her face in his hands, and whispered “I don’t think so! For now you and I have no place to be but with each other” he lowered his mouth to hers kissing them passionately, hungrily tugging on her lip. He wrapped his arms around her. Then…In a flash of blue light, they were gone.

They reappeared in Ares Palace. Candles adorning the walls sprang to life. Giving off a faint glow. Ares finally broke the kiss and stepped away from Xena. Looking into her eyes he took a deep breath. “ This is where I want you my dear. In my palace as my Queen. Tonight we will be just for each other. Not for War. Not for anything but US.”

Xena sighed. Oh how she wanted this more then anything right now. But she didn’t know if she could just give up control. To allow him to gain any amount of control over her. By the gods she was getting flustered just thinking of it. Instead however, she shook her head stepped back a step and softly answered him “ Do you think that’s wise Ares?”

“Xena,” Ares said urgency clearly in his voice he pressed on “ I can’t tell you if it’s wise or not. All I know is that you are in my blood. You are a drug that I can’t seem to get enough of, nor do I want to by the way.” He cocked his eyebrow at her and smiled “You are more intoxicating then Dionysus’ wine. You have to know that you are twisting me in knots. And I want, no I need some relief from the agony those knots are creating. Relief…Xe that only you can bring.” He visibly shuddered “ Will you give me that Xena? Or will you keep twisting me about like a Childs toy?.” His eyes were pleading with her.

Xena was taken by surprise by his admission. She had never thought that the God of War could be brought down by ‘mortal’ desires. But here he stood, so tall, so proud, so handsome, so overwhelmingly exciting………. Her mind drifted to what could be. She had all the control now. And she knew it. He wouldn’t force himself on her. But she also knew that if she turned him down now, things could and would never be the same between them. She was at a crossroads. She knew what she wanted. But she wasn’t sure if she should want it. Looking into his eyes, she saw nothing but love, trust, and respect. She closed her eyes, sighing deeply. After a moment she reopened her eyes and whispered “Yes.”

Ares didn’t waste time. He wasn’t about to give her a reason to change her mind. His mouth claimed hers hungrily. His arms wrapped around her. Reveling in the contours of her willing body, pulling her excruciatingly tight against him . As Ares raised his hand to extinguish the torches, he subtly groaned “ Oh Xena….” The lights went out.

Hours later Xena walked into the kitchen for Cyrene’s tavern where she found Cecilia, Gabrielle, and Cyrene cooking. Xena walked in and said "You know I'd love to help you with dinner....but I've never been much for cooking..."

Gabrielle stopped in mid sentence, much to Cecilia's relief, when Xena had started talking. All she could do was stare at Xena for a few moments. Then Gabrielle asked in a shrill screech "By the Gods what on earth are you wearing?"

Xena joked sarcastically "What? I am dressed, aren’t I?" then looking down at her dress asked "What's the problem?"

Gabrielle looked stunned and horrified, not getting the joke, so Cyrene asked "The dress, honey, where did you get that dress?"

Xena again looked down, thinking 'What's they're problem.... haven’t they ever scene a woman in a dress before?’ Then it hit her. ‘Oh damn, THE DRESS....' Xena looked back up, and said "Oh, my new dress.... Don't you like it? You are always trying to get me to wear dresses."

Gabrielle said the first thing that popped into her head "But it's black, and the splits go up to high, and long, and well with silver armor? You can't seriously be considering wearing that in public," Then as she thought a bit more, added "besides, how will you do flips in that?"

Xena backed up a little, so that she didn't hit anyone, and giving her war cry "AYIYIYIYIYIYI" flipped onto the table.

Cyrene muttered "Luckily I moved the knives and vegetables..."

Xena gave a sweet smile and said "See...I can flip in this 'dress' I can do a lot of other things too...It's a dress just like you always want me to wear, and the absolutely perfect battle outfit."

Cecilia, although stunned by the flip that Xena just did, was still trying to hold back laughter, and thought. 'finally Gabrielle is speechless!' Gabrielle, was just plain stunned, and Cyrene was trying to think of something *nice* to say. Xena shrugged, and perched on the table, in the same manor that Cyrene had disliked before, only in her new outfit looking even better. Cyrene opened her mouth to scold Xena "Honey, you really shouldn't sit like that.."

A laugh escaped Cecilia's mouth before she could stop it. Cyrene looked harshly at Cecilia, and Xena, in response giggled, just a little, yes she definitely liked Cecilia. Cyrene was about to scold Xena too, when Ivaia walked in and asked "What in the world is going on? I leave for two hours, and you all look like you've seen a banshee!" Ivaia looked at Xena for an explanation first, Xena always appeared to be the cause of trouble.

Xena once again shrugged "I got a new dress..."

Ivaia looked to Gabrielle, who said "The question is *where* Xena got her new dress..."

Ivaia looked to Cecilia, who said "Don't look at me! I don't know anything!"

Ivaia finally looked to her mother for an explanation.. Suddenly something dons on Cyrene, and she asked "Xena, honey, is it really good for you to be doing flips in your current condition?"

Xena sighed, now she was in for it, might as well get it over with... "What condition, mum?"

Cyrene gave a look that said 'I'm trying not to embarrass you in front of Cecilia' then answered "Your stab wound, Xena, you were stabbed only a few weeks ago."

Xena waved a dismissing hand "Oh that, I'm fine."

Cyrene was starting to get worried, 'Xena is hiding something.... I wonder what? Oh no, maybe her wound reopened, the healer said that could happen if she put to much stress on it. Or maybe it just isn't getting better, and Xena doesn't want to admit that she's still hurt. My poor baby, I'll have to be harsh, it's for her own good.' Gabrielle and Ivaia held they're breath, Cecilia looked nervous, Xena really didn't seem to want to talk about this. Cyrene said "Xena, I know you won't all out lie to me. So I am asking you, yes or no, are you still hurt?"

Xena frowned 'Damn, Mom's getting good at this. Oh well I don't need to lie, I don't care what she thinks.' Xena took a deep breath, then said "No, I am no longer hurt, mother."

Now it was Cyrene's turn to frown, she was always way to naive, "How can you suddenly no longer be hurt?"

Xena said nothing, Cyrene warned her daughter "Xena...."

Xena said "You don't want to know."

Cyrene raged just a little "Tell me!"

Xena mumbled "Ares healed my wound. I'm fine now."

It was barely a whisper, but Cyrene heard Xena. Cyrene said "Oh dear gods...." Then fell into a dead faint.

Xena jumped off the table and went to help carry Cyrene to Cyrene's bed, mumbling something like "I told her she didn't want to know...I know what I'm talking about..."

Cyrene woke up to some very cold water being splashed on her face. As the world came into focus Cyrene saw Xena gently splashing the water on her face. Cyrene rubbed her eyes, stretched, and asked “What are you doing? Where am I?”

Xena smiled a little, quite relieved that Cyrene was all right, and replied “You’re in your room, mom. And I was waking you up, you’ve been out for long enough.”

Cyrene looked skeptical, “And exactly how long is long enough?”

“Four hours. Any longer and you might not have awoke, so I opted that it was better to face you grouchy from being awoke with cold water, rather then be dealing with everybody upset over your death!” This was said in a cheery manor, so as not to alarm Cyrene.

Cyrene accepted that Xena was joking, she always had had a strange sense of humor, and asked “Where are Ivaia, Cecilia, and Gabrielle?”

Xena felt almost bitter; her own mother didn’t care that she was there, Cyrene wanted to see anyone other then her. Xena calmed herself down, after all she was used to Cyrene being a little aloof. “They are downstairs. Gabrielle promised to tell everyone one of my amazing adventures of rescuing people from near death, if they would leave me alone so I could make sure that you were OK.”

Cyrene laughed, Xena was always modest, and asked “Could you send Gabby and Iva in? Please Xe, I think I’m awake enough now to have visitors.”

Xena’s face-hardened, she started for the door and said “Sure mom, not a problem.” Then just before she left the room, with her back still turned, Xena added “And don’t call me Xe. My name is Xena, use it.”

Cyrene frowned, Xena had always liked that nickname. When she was little Lycues had called her that, seeing as he was even younger then Xena and couldn’t talk very well, and it had stuck. Cyrene wondered if maybe she had offended Xena in some way. After going over the conversation she decided that that had not happened. Then Cyrene realized what it was. Xena had only ever let Lycues call her that, except on special occasions, and after he died Xena had not let anyone else ever call her Xe. Cyrene sighed, “What a horrible mother I am, I can’t even remember the simplest things not to mention. Oh well, Xena was always a difficult child. Very picky, never did the things a good little girl should. It’s not my fault, I’m a good mother, Xena is just a difficult child. I never had any problems with Lycues, or Ivaia, just Xena and Toris. Toris was to shy for a boy, and Xena was and is still more aggressive then a lady should be.” Her conscience eased Cyrene sat back and waited for her youngest child, and all around the child that she had raised the best. Probably because Toris, Xena, Arturis, and Lycues hadn’t influenced Ivaia. Lycues had been closest to Ivaia in age, only 8 years apart. And Toris had been the oldest, just over 12 years older then Ivaia. Now Toris and Lycues were dead, and Xena was the oldest, some example she was.

Ares was sitting on his throne looking in on a few small battles, when Cupid appeared. Ares was rather startled, Cupid never came to visit him, he was too much of a baby. Cupid looked around uncertainly, then asked “Uh.. Uncle, I thought that.... well that is.... I mean...”

Ares interrupted, already tired of having to put up with Cupid, where was ‘Dite when you needed her? “Spit it out Cupid, I’m busy.”

Cupid took a big breath, and said rather quickly, trying not to lose his nerve “I was wondering why Xena was here a few weeks ago. You know, when Zeus was mad at you?”

Ares raised an eyebrow and asked “How do you know that she was here?”

Cupid said “Well, she called me to take her home. Rather a pushy mortal I thought...”

Ares laughed, “Xena’s not just a mortal. So I’m assuming you took her home, like a good little God-ling, not that you had much choice once you were there.”

Cupid frowned “What do you mean?”

Ares rolled his eyes “Nothing. What do you want to know Cupid?”

Cupid was nervous, Ares could get mad with a single wrong word. “You see, I was wondering why you brought her to Mt. Olympus. You know Zeus doesn’t like when gods do that...”

Ares had stopped paying much attention, and distractedly answered “Zeus is in no position to bother anyone about bringing mortals to Olympus, and Xena is not an ordinary mortal. Why I bring Xena here is between me and her.”

Cupid whinnied “But you’re not supposed to bring any mortals to Mt. Olympus”

Ares said simply “Xena is my chosen, those rules don’t apply. Now go bother somebody else, Cupid, I’m busy.”

Cupid left in a huff.

Xena paced around her room for a few minutes before calling “ARES, get down here!”

Ares appeared across the room from Xena, being able to tell that she really wasn’t in a good mood. He asked “Is everything okay, Xe?”

Xena stopped pacing long enough to look Ares in the eyes, and what she saw there surprised her; she saw passion, concern, adoring, and most surprising of all.... Love. She smiled a little and said “Umm... yeah, everything’s fine. I was wondering if you wanted to have a fight? It has been weeks since I picked up a sword, I must be in dreadful fighting condition!”

Ares laughed, weapons were always the first thing on Xena’s mind after she got hurt. However he could still tell that ‘something’ was bothering Xena. “That’s all? I don’t think you’ll need much help then, my princess.”

Xena asked “Are you joking? Cyrene has literally had guards posted to keep watch over me so that I didn’t do anything stressful.”

Ares looked thoughtful; he really didn’t like Cyrene. She was Xena’s mother, but if it hadn’t been for that he would have turned the woman to a pile of ashes years ago. Suddenly Ares realized that this was the problem, Xena was mad at Cyrene. He carefully asked “Xe, are you sure that everything’s alright? Did you get into a fight with someone?”

Xena paced for a minute more, then answered “It’s not important, me and Cyrene just had a little problem.” Xena smiled then continued “My new battle dress caused some questions.”

Ares nodded, Xena didn’t want to talk, then said “Why don’t I take you somewhere, and we can work on a sword fight first?”

Xena smiled “Alright, but then let’s have a real fight, all weapons allowed!”

Ares took Xena’s hand and they disappeared.

“Ivaaaaiiiiiiaaaaa! Xeeeeeennnaaaaaaa!” Cyrene screamed.

In response Ivaia and Gabrielle came skidding in the door and asked “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?”

Cyrene paid them no attention, and instead asked “Ivaia, where is your sister?”

Ivaia shook her head in confusion, and asked “What? Why would I know where Xena is?”

Cyrene frowned “There is something that involves Ivaia and Xena that I need to tell you, and I thought Xena could help explain.”

Ivaia looked rather lost, and Gabrielle pouted. Cyrene took a few deep breaths and continued. “Ivaia, Luke has come home.”

Ivaia was now utterly lost and confused, she asked “Who?”

Cyrene rolled her eyes ever so slightly, and said “Luke, that’s who. Now stop gawking and go find Xena!”

Ivaia decided to focus only on her mothers order and, grabbing Gabrielle, left to find Xena.




The End

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