By Delenn
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Chapter One

The sight that met Melonco’s eyes when he reached the clearing stunned him more then anything else in his whole LIFE. There was his lord, fighting with some impudent WOMAN!! Just the thought of such a thing was blasphemous!

Xena flipped over Ares, landing gracefully behind him and swinging her sword at his legs, she said, "Please spare me, oh mighty God of War." Her mocking tone was obvious.

Ares chuckled, spinning around to meet her strike, steel clashing against steal as sparks flew. "I was just about to ask the same of you, my dear."

Xena seemed to glow in the noon sun; this was just what she needed to get her mind off of certain people. Her mind, however, was already drifting from the fight at hand, to more... fulfilling matters. Xena shook her head, to clear it, and growled in a threatening voice as she spun around to parry his blow "You wish, I don't save people."

Ares swung his powerful sword at Xena, who didn’t even flinch; his meaning evident as he asked, "Even me, when I could still be… Useful?"

Xena's eyes twinkled with mischief, she returned his attack with just as much power "Even you."

But Ares' comment had set Xena's mind wandering again and despite her best efforts to the contrary she found herself remembering just how ‘useful’ he could be.

Ares quickly took advantage of her lack of attention. He swung his sword quickly, forcing Xena to back up to stop the blow, and landing her right up against a tree. Ares seductively asked, "Are you sure?" His heart was racing with their close proximity, although he would be damned if he was going to show it!

Xena's heart began to beat faster and she knew it wasn’t from the battle. `DAMN!' she thought, but Xena merely said "Well... maybe you, but only if you prove worth my while...."

Ares grinned, and said "In that case...." He pinned Xena to the tree, his body against her own, he could feel her breath against his skin.

Xena could feel the rough bark digging into her back and cursed herself for not wearing her leathers. Her eyes quickly obtained a mischievous look though as she leaned a little to the side, drew her sword, and stabbed Ares in the gut.

Ares looked down, restoring some distance between them he grabbed Xena's hand and said "Ooh you're going to pay for that." He then took a few steps back, and then spun Xena clear across the garden.

Xena lost her grip on her sword and Ares, and went flying, her quick heartbeats giving way to a dizzy feeling. She groaned slightly as she steadied herself, stopping before she landed against a tree. “Bastard!”

Ares pulled out her sword, and threw it into a tree, stalking towards her with a determined look in his eyes. “Watch yourself, my dear…”

Xena shook her head gruffly at his comment though she mentally thought `At least he didn't throw me.' Xena licked her lips as she casually remarked “Or what? Ya gonna punish me?”

Melonco had been watching the scene silently from behind a garden wall, and was becoming worried. This was not right at all, that woman had just stabbed his lord. And it seemed from the way she was dressed that his lord had a rather strong interest in her, but the woman was pushing him away, that wouldn't do either. First things first, as a priest, he could not allow that woman to get away with stabbing his lord. Melonco threw his sword at the woman's neck.

Xena dropped and rolled out of the way of Melonco's sword, startled by the invasion of her senses. However the sword stopped inches from where Xena's neck would have been. Ares, standing tall and angry, made a beckoning motion with his hand and the sword returned to him. Xena got up, brushed off her short silk outfit, and turned her attention to Melonco. Xena asked, her voice cooler then before. "Ares, who just tried to stab me?"

Melonco was speechless; one did not speak to a god like that, he opened his mouth to speak but a barely heard grunt was all that came out.

Ares walked over to where Xena was standing. She was still a little disorientated from when Ares had sent her spinning across the clearing and welcomed him with her eyes. Ares nonchalantly tossed Melonco's sword, it landed in the tree next to Xena's sword. Ares drew his own sword, for the effect, not worried about a priest attacking him. Melonco was not sure exactly what he had done; he opted to say nothing just yet. Ares ignored Melonco and instead focused on Xena, he asked almost gently. "Are you all right, princess?"

Xena leaned her head on Ares' shoulder carelessly, sometimes it was better to show her ‘alliance’ with the God of War, she teased lightly "Well I would be if not for you spinning me across the garden clearing!"

Ares put an arm around Xena’s shoulders, surprised when she didn’t shrug him off. He gestured to Melonco with the point of his sword, "You better explain yourself, and quickly."

Melonco dropped to his knees, did a pathetic bow and said, still wondering at his crime. "My lord, I am sorry if I have upset you, I meant no harm...."

Ares cut him off impatiently "It looked like you meant my Xena some harm."

Melonco suddenly understood the gravity of his situation; everyone knew about Xena, she was a favorite and trying to hurt her almost certainly would cost him his life. Melonco said in a voice shaking "I didn't know who it was, lord, it was a mistake, it won't happen again!"

Xena kept her head on Ares’ shoulder, she was becoming bored rapidly and waited to see the punishment the priest would sufferer before they continued with their ‘game’.

Ares regarded the priest for a minute, trying to recall who he was, he could remember nothing about the man important, only that he was always scurrying around somewhere or other. Ares stated, "I'm afraid I can't take the chance that you might make the same mistake again."

Melonco now knew that he was definitely going to pay for his mistake as so many before him had. He managed to mutter a pathetic “But, my lord!”

Xena lifted one hand and waved to Melonco while grinning, her eyes glistening evilly. Ares created a blue lightening bolt in his hand and bounced it a few times before quickly tossing it… In seconds Melonco was no more then a splotch of scorched ground. “Where were we, my dear?” Came Ares’ confident voice.

Xena raised an amused and questioning eyebrow, she found it cute how overprotective Ares was. She carefully kept her amusement from showing as she spoke “My sword,”

Ares nodded and waited while she strode over to the tree where her sword was and pulled it out. With the clashing of swords they went back to their fight.

After searching the whole town over Ivaia was becoming worried, ‘Where in Tartarus can Xena be?’ she wondered half-heartedly hoping that the warrior princess would show up, if only to spite her little sister.

Gabrielle frowned as she reached the undeniable conclusion: Xena was ‘visiting’ with Ares again. Gabrielle carefully brought the possibility to Ivaia's attention. “Ivaia, do you think… that Xena could be… well… visiting Ares?”

Ivaia frowned, and asked, annoyance showing in her tone of voice. "Now what are we going to do? We have no idea where to go!"

Gabrielle thought for a second then suggested "Well, the only way to find a god is with the help of a god, right? We could try asking Aphrodite for help?"

Ivaia nodded, willing to do anything that might avoid her coming home without her older sister. Gabrielle called, hastily appealing to the goddess’s vanity. "Oh beautiful Goddess of Love, will you please come and help me if you can?"

Aphrodite appeared in a brilliant flash of pink light and said, flaunting her newly manicured nails. "Cool it, Blondie, you don't need to sugar coat everything with me!” she paused, finally registering the compliments, “Though thanks for the complements, cutie."

Ivaia bowed her head, in respect for the goddess standing before her, and asked hurriedly "Could you possibly tell me where my sister is?"

Aphrodite scrunched up her face, and said "Hon, like, you gotta give me a little more to go on. Who do you want me to find again?"

Ivaia said, hoping that Gabrielle’s idea would work, "My sister, Xena, could you please help us find her?"

Aphrodite smiled, "Oh you mean the warrior babe! Sure thing, like, totally not a problem, let's see...” she made a waving gesture with her hand and stared into space, as though she could see something. “There we go.... Ar is at one of his temples.... Whoa, you gals sure that you want to go get Xena?"

Gabrielle said under her breath "Good, you know her name!"

Ivaia elbowed Gabrielle in the arm, and said, "Yes, please, goddess. I have to go get my sister."

Aphrodite shook her head, "Whatever." waved her hand, and they all disappeared.

Ares wrapped his arms around Xena's waist, and said, "As much as I love fighting with you, Xena, there is a big battle headed this way."

Xena leaned her head on Ares' chest. She could tell that Ares was not at all happy about having to leave. She said, "Let Strife take care of this. You and I can go ‘relax’ somewhere else..."

Aphrodite appeared and said cautiously "Special delivery for the warrior babe!"

Ares rolled his eyes at his little sister. Xena didn't even move; Aphrodite could come back later as far as she was concerned. Ares said "Whatever it is, it can wait, go away `Dite."

Aphrodite said, annoyed at being brushed off, "HEY! Like chill, like, don't take out your deals on little ole' me!"

Aphrodite stepped to the side and continued "Xena, your sister has been looking for you, so I brought her and Gabby with me." Gabrielle and Ivaia came out from behind pillars.

Xena jerked away from Ares and yelled "Oh crap, `Dite! What in Tartarus made you do that?!!"

Aphrodite bit her lip, and asked, "Like how was I supposed to know that you didn't want to see them! Don't be such a bitch; I only brought Gabby and Ivaia, not Caesar!"

Ares laughed, then pulled Xena close to him and wrapped his arms around her securely, there was no way he was going to let Xena beat up his little sister, no matter how amusing it may be.

Xena complained, finding his grip ironclad "Ares! LET ME GO!"

Aphrodite snickered, but abruptly kept silent as Ares said "Enough, I will not have you two fighting. `Dite you can go now."

Aphrodite gave a skeptical look, so Ares added, "It’s not like you care if I hurt them…"

Aphrodite nodded, said "Like, I'm totally sorry `bout this Xena. Didn't mean to barge in here with relatives, Believe me I know how much that can stink! Later!" with that Aphrodite left.

Ares let go of Xena, who promptly kicked him in the stomach and said "Do NOT grab ME ever again!"

Ares said, his eyes glinting mischievously, "Whatever you say, Xe."

Xena smirked; she had forgotten how he loved when she fought him, and then turned to Ivaia and Gabrielle. Gabrielle just stood there, rather stunned. Ivaia said hurriedly, formality gladly taking over. "Xena, mommy sent me to find you. There are some family things she wants to discuss."

Xena whispered something to Ares then said, "Fine, let's go!"

Ares took Xena's hand. Xena grabbed Gabrielle's hand, and Gabrielle held onto Ivaia's hand. A second later they all disappeared.

Gabrielle and Ivaia immediately sat down on the couch, their legs felt very weak. Xena paid them no attention, she leaned up and, wrapping her arms around his neck, kissed Ares. When they broke the kiss she said "Thanks for bringing me home. We can continue our fight tomorrow?"

Ares smiled, "Fine… Xena." And left.

Xena turned to her mother and asked, "You were looking for me, mother?"

Cyrene decided to ignore what just happened, and said "Xena, Luke is coming home and I want your help telling Ivaia about him."

Xena said "No! Have you gone insane!? Why would I help you tell Ivaia about Luke?"

Cyrene said "You want to let me tell Ivaia how Luke comforted me after, and while, you, Toris, and Lycues were going through that `stage.' How nice he was after you left. How you got into a fight with him?"

Xena asked "Oh and I suppose you want me to tell her that Luke was a heavy drinker. That he beat up Toris until me and Lycues put a stop to it. How he practically threw me and Toris out of the house after Lycues was killed? How he is a no good son of a..."

Cyrene interrupted "I will not have you speaking about Luke like that. He is a kind decent man. He tried to keep you, Lycues, and Toris in order, so that you all would turn out into nice, good, kind people."

Xena's voice lowered accusingly "You killed Daddy, then started dating Luke. And you wanted to know why us kids were messed up! You tried to replace our FATHER with Luke! You let him have total control over us. You didn't care that he hated us, or that we missed our father!"

Tears streaked down Cyrene's face, as she said "I never thought that I would hear one of my OWN children speaking about me in such a manor!"

Gabrielle looked pleadingly at Ivaia to somehow stop this fight. Ivaia interrupted the fight by asking "I don't understand, who's Luke?"

Xena asked "Ivaia, do you remember your dad at all?"

Ivaia thought then said "No, he left when I was 7."

Xena said "You must have a very bad memory, my dad `left' when I was 8 and I remember him. Lucky you, your daddy's coming home. Luke is your father."

Cyrene explained "Iva, baby, your Daddy is coming home! Isn't that great? I'm sure that you will get along just wonderful!"

Ivaia stood there in shock. HER father, coming home! Xena was looking at Ivaia with a rather disgusted look on her face. Cyrene was staring at Ivaia with a almost child-like look of hope on her face. Suddenly Ivaia got defensive; she didn't put down Xena's father, and she wasn't going to stand for Xena putting down her father. Ivaia said "Stop it, Xena. You can't say bad things about MY father in MY presence."

Xena smiled sweetly and asked "What are you gonna do about it, little sister?"

Ivaia raged "It doesn't matter, damn it. Why must you always class requests as to who can back it up with force, and who can't?"

Xena said "Ivaia, I'm bored with this. If you want to think that your dad is some type of saint, then talk to her. If you want to know what he was really like ask me, otherwise don't mention him to me. I'm leaving."

Xena started to leave when Gabrielle stopped her "Where are you going?"

"Anywhere but here, I don't want to be around when Luke shows up."

Gabrielle played to Xena's sense of justice "But, Xena, if you leave before Luke shows up only people that are happy to see him will greet him. If you stay he'll know that you still don't like him."

Xena said "Fine, but don't expect me to be nice. When's Luke arriving, Mother?"

Cyrene said "He should be here any minute now."

Xena walked out of her mothers room, and went downstairs to wait for Luke. Everybody soon fallowed her.

Luke walked in the door and saw four people staring at him. Xena was sitting perched on a table, in the manor that was becoming her favorite much to Cyrene's distress. Cyrene was sitting on a chair next to Xena trying to convince her to sit properly. Earlier Cyrene had convinced Xena to take off her sword, Chakram, and armor. Gabrielle and Ivaia were chatting at the next table over. Luke recognized Xena, she didn't look very different then she had when she was 16 although she was even prettier. He also recognized Cyrene by her red hair that was in the exact same style as it had been when he left. Any doubts of who was Cyrene, and who was Xena were erased when Cyrene said "Luke's here, now sit down like a proper lady, Xena!"

Xena said "Mom, I am not a `proper lady' and I will not sit down like one, I don't care if Zeus is here!"

Luke's attention was on Xena, she looked absolutely stunning! Luke said "Always in trouble, Xena, shame, I would have thought that you had outgrown that stage by now. Have you married and settled down yet, Xena? Cyrene, my darling, how are you? And which of these other 2 charming lady's is my Daughter?"

Cyrene smiled sweetly and said "I'm doing alright, Luke, Xena just came home for a visit a couple of months ago!"

Gabrielle said "I'm Gabrielle, I'm Xena's friend. Very nice to meet you Luke."

Ivaia hesitantly said "Daddy?"

Luke said "There's my baby girl! Look at how you've grown, Ivaia!"

He then engulfed Ivaia in a big bear hug. Ivaia smiled "Hi, Daddy!"

Luke hugged Cyrene, shook hands with Gabrielle, then came to hug Xena. Xena gave Luke a look that could kill, one that she had been saving especially for him. Luke decided against the hug, for now, and asked "What's the matter, Xena? Can you still talk?"

Xena debated possible evil answers, and came up with the perfect one, one that would allow her more then one retort. "Did anyone else hear something?"

Luke said "Now Xena that's childish."

Xena smiled "Well look who's talking!"

Luke said "I didn't want to embarrass you in front of your friend, Xe, but...." He leaned over and hugged Xena, lifting her off the table, and moving her so that she was sitting on a chair. Xena gasped, this man had just done three things that she hated; He'd lifted her off the ground, he'd called her Xe, he'd hugged her. Xena said "Few rules, Luke; my name is Xena, use it. Don't touch me in anyway, and never EVER lift me off the ground."

Luke put his arm around Xena’s shoulders and said "Isn't she cute when she tries to be tough?"

Xena said "You don't know what you're taking about, Luke, better read up!"

Xena smiled cutely, then kneed Luke in the groin. Cyrene said "Xena, enough, Luke is like a father to you, so knock it off!"

Xena smiled "Sorry Luke, next time I'll use my sword."

Luke said in a high pitched voice "You still trying to be a warrior, Xena?"

Xena said "No, I already did that, talk to Cyrene, maybe you'll catch up a little bit. I'll be in my room if anyone wants me." then left.

Cyrene said "Oh dear, Luke, you know how sensitive Xena is! Sit down and talk to Ivaia while I get you some ice."

Ares appeared and asked "You okay, princess? I can kill Luke if you like."

Xena collapsed onto her bed and said "No, don't kill Luke, I just keep remembering my childhood, then when I was a teenager, and I just feel so lost."

Ares sat next to Xena, put an arm around her shoulder, and pulled her close to him. He said "It's okay, Xe, you're all grown up now, Luke has no control over your life."

Xena nodded slightly, and asked "Will you stay here with me? Just to talk, like we used to?"

Ares said "Of course, Xena." He really was worried about her.

Xena laughed "Me, a hardened warrior, chosen of the God of War, getting overly upset over my stepfather!"

Ares smiled "Yes well that’s not half as bad as me being upset over your stepfather."

Xena asked "Excuse me? Did I miss something?"

Ares said "Everyone has their weaknesses, and you're mine."

Xena smiled "That is so sweet." she laid her head on Ares' chest, she felt completely safe in his arms.

Luke said "Look at my baby, you're almost grown up! So tell me, Iva, do you have a boyfriend?"

Ivaia thought of Saulious and of how Xena had comforted her, where had Luke been then? Ivaia spat out "Like you care, you wouldn't know because you weren't around. I'm going to visit Joan, I'll be back in a few hours." and walked out the door.

Luke asked "This isn't my day, is it Cyrene?"

Cyrene said "Ivaia will get over it. It's Xena's reaction that worries me, you know how she is prone to take things much to personally. Maybe we should go talk to her? Ivaia will be fine when she gets back from her friends."

Luke said "That is probably a good idea, but I have to ask, anything I shouldn't do?"

Cyrene said "Well, don't call her Xe. Don't hug her. Don't do anything parenty. And try to be understanding, she's going through a very odd stage."

Luke said "Got it, Shall we go?"

Cyrene smiled, Luke was still the same understanding guy "Yep."

Xena yawned "I think I'm going to go to sleep. You can go if you want."

Ares asked "I don't have anything better to do. Of course watching `Dite and Athena go at it will be fun. That should last a few days more at least."

Xena asked "When you do go, will you bring me with you?"

Ares said "Of course, princess."

"Mmm...." Xena smiled contentedly and started to doze, she really was tired.

Cyrene and Luke knocked on Xena's door. Xena jumped up, startled, she quietly complained "Ares, make whoever it is, go away. I'm not in the mood for visitors." and curled back to her previous position.

Ares was considering what to do to whoever was outside Xena's door, when Luke walked in. Ares recognized him immediately, and wasn't thrilled, he hated Luke. Xena steadfastly refused to move. Luke simply gaped for a second, and was about to start screaming when Cyrene walked in and elbowed him to keep quiet. Ares gently shook Xena "Xe. Xe, common, get up. I know that you're awake."

For the effort Xena reached out and smacked him on the arm. Ares frowned, Xena could be so stubborn. "I'm going then, there's a war in Persia I have to deal with." And disappeared.

Xena still refused to move or say anything. Cyrene walked over and said in a loud voice "Xena, honey, get up."

For her effort Xena reached out and clasped her hand over Cyrene's mouth for a minute then removed her hand. Cyrene tried again "You're awake, so why not just get up, honey?"

Xena made no motion of moving let alone getting up. Gabrielle came in and asked "Is Xena awake?"

When Cyrene and Luke nodded Gabrielle said "I will deal with this. I'm going to tell a few stories. Xena, at anytime you may leave, but if you get up you admit that you are awake....." And she lunched into a story.

Xena, amazingly enough to Cyrene, didn't last half a minute. She got up and said "Oh shut up, Gabrielle! There is nothing more annoying on Zeus' green earth then you chattering away! Honestly, can't you people let me be?"

Luke, who had been quiet up until now, said "Just exactly what was that man doing in here with you?"

Xena said "Use your imagination. Not like that! First that was Ares, not just some guy, and second we were just talking."

Cyrene looked shocked, Xena couldn't believe how little Cyrene paid attention to things! Luke raged "In my house...."

Xena didn't let him finish "This isn't your house anymore, Luke. If mum wants me to leave, I'll leave. I take no orders from anyone, I don't even listen to you. So what do ya say, mum, want me to go?"

Cyrene said "You stay here, Xena, honey, I won't throw my daughter out of my house ever."

Xena shrugged "Whatever, you two work this out, I'm out of here. Where's Ivaia?"

Gabrielle said "Visiting Joan."

Xena smiled "For once the blond is useful, will wonders never cease!" and left.

Ivaia collapsed on Joan's bed and said "How could he have abandoned me? Am I that awful a kid?"

Joan was silent, it had taken her forever to get Ivaia to talk, and now she had no idea what to say. Xena said "No, sweetheart, you're not an awful kid, Luke's just a lousy parent."

Joan and Ivaia looked up to see Xena and Cecilia standing in the doorway. Cecilia said "The door was open, Joan. Ivaia, it's all right, you're a great kid, and if your dad can't see that, then it's his loss."

From downstairs Joan's mother called "Joan, Anna, Jane, Joanna, Angela! Get down here, now!"

Joan said " `Scuse me, momma's calling us older kids. Be back as soon as I can." and hurried away.

Xena asked "How many brothers and sisters does Joan have?"

Cecilia counted them off "Well there's; Anna, Angela, Ampy, Jane, Joanna, Else, Eithea, Ethyl, Edwin, Evodono, Devon, Dala, and of course Joan."

Xena shivered involuntarily, "13 kids, gods, I couldn't even deal with 1!"

Ivaia was interested in this tidbit of information from her sisters life that had slipped out. "You have a kid? I'm an aunt?"

Xena said "What? No way! I meant you. I was already 9 when you were born, Ivaia. Mum wanted me to stay home and baby sit you. After the first day she realized I was more likely to kill you then learn any mothering skills." To herself she thought `perfect, and don't mention anything else!'

Ivaia nodded "Are you sure that Daddy doesn't hate me?"

Cecilia said "Here, we'll both tell you, and when Joan gets back, she can tell you too. My real mother was a complete tyrant! She had rules, and believed certain things and if us kids didn't like it then to bad for us. She left when I was 12. I didn't hear from her for 2 years. When she finally wrote it was to tell us kids that she was deathly ill, and wasn't going to live long enough to come back home. She told us how much she loved us, and how she just hadn't known how to show it. She had left because she had realized one day just how much damage she could do by staying. After that I never doubted that my mother had loved me. My dad remarried the fallowing year, and now I have a loving and kind mam. You have to realize, Ivaia, that sometimes things appear one way and are really nothing like you think."

Xena smiled, "That's right. My dad left when I was 8. For years as I struggled to get along with mom, then Luke as well, I wondered why my dad had left. I had always been Daddy's girl, I got along great with my father. But I often thought that maybe he'd left because he didn't like me or some fools notion. After that I began to be mad at him for just leaving one day and never coming home. I recently found out, as I believe you know Ivaia, that my father never left, he was killed. It turned my whole opinion of my dad back to what it used to be, that he was a great man and loved me, my brothers, and mum. But I'm 27 now, my dad was killed when I was 8, that's 19 years when I thought one thing and it turned out to be another. The point is that if you love someone, you have to be open to different sides of the story."

Ivaia asked "So I should ask daddy why he left?"

Xena said "Yes, but remember his answer might not be what you want to hear."

Cecilia nodded "Want us to come with you?"

Ivaia said "No thank you, I have to do this on my own. I'm gonna go find Joan and talk to her some more, then go talk to my dad. You la.... women can go home now. Thank you for the advice."

Xena and Cecilia left, and Ivaia went to find Joan.

Cecilia asked "Do you want to go to the forest and talk?"

Xena said "Sure, as long as you're not like Gabrielle."

Cecilia looked shocked "Never!"

Xena smiled, and asked in that utterly mischievous voice "So what do ya want to talk about?"

Cecilia balked "That is positively amazing. How can you change how your voice sounds so easily?"

Xena laughed, then said in her regular voice "You don't know the half of it!"

Cecilia smiled "That's better, how long have you lead an army?"

Xena shrugged "Years, that teaches you valuable lessons in how to deal with problems, and how to avoid them. But some people are meant to be commanders, some aren't."

Cecilia asked "Do you think I'm meant to lead an army?"

Xena smiled "I'm not sure yet, remind me, I'll have to ask Ares for his opinion. However I am positive there is a warrior in you. I will have a wonderful time training you."

Cecilia asked "When will we start?"

Xena thought a minute, then said "How `bout tomorrow?"

Cecilia was bounding again "Great!!"

Xena shook her head, Cecilia was much to hyper.

Cecilia looked at the sky and said "I should probably head home, looks like it's going to rain, and mam `ll be worried if I stay out to long. I said I was just going out for a little bit to comfort a friend."

Xena nodded, and the women headed in different directions to their houses.

Xena walked in the door just as the first few rain drops started to fall. with in seconds it was a down pour. Gabrielle looked at Xena with a hurt expression on her face, but other then that ignored her. `Good,' Xena thought `I don't need her bothering me anyway.' Then Luke spotted Xena, and headed towards her. Xena frowned and prepared for the worst. Luke had to admit that, even angry, Xena was one beautiful woman. However his mind automatically reached a few other conclusions when he decided that. First of all if a woman was beautiful, and Xena was, then that woman was automatically his. It didn't matter that she was seeing someone, or that he was, that could all change. He walked up to Xena and smiled at her "I thought that maybe we should have a little talk, let's go up to your room." He offered her his hand.

Xena smacked the hand away. Cyrene gave her a stern look. Xena, still scowling, said "Fine, but be quick, I have an... uh... meeting to get to."

Luke smiled, and fallowed Xena to her room. Gabrielle looked to Cyrene and said "How did such a great woman like you, and a great guy like Luke, end up having such a bitch of a daughter?"

Cyrene shrugged "The gods only know."

Xena walked into her room and turned to Luke abruptly, she spat out "What is it?"

Luke smiled, leered at her, and said "Yes well, about this afternoon...."

Xena shivered, she recognized that look, and it scared her. She still felt like she wasn't in control when Luke was around. She thought `The abusive bastard, he'd better not try anything.' Luke took a deep breath and finished, his voice as gentle as it could be "I am sorry for getting overly upset at you. It's just that, well the thought of you being with such a brute angered me. You deserve so much better, Xena. You deserve someone like.... me."

Xena's eyes widened in shock, her mind reeled, she couldn't think, couldn't focus, only one thought existed in her mind `Did that son of a bitch just make a pass at me?' She couldn't for the life of her get this, he had some nerve, he was her mothers boyfriend for gods sake. Suddenly her breathing became heaver, her head started to spin, she felt extremely dizzy. Xena sat down on her bed to steady herself, took a moment to make sure her voice wouldn't crack, and said "Go to Tartarus."

Luke stared, what had he done wrong? "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

Xena screamed, she felt physically sick "GET OUT!! GET OUT OF MY ROOM RIGHT THIS MINUTE!" She took a deep breath trying to calm down, too late, her voice was shaking with the intensity of her rage.

Luke slowly started to back out of the room, as not to startle Xena. He figured she was upset for some reason, mistaking the quiver in her voice for sadness. Cyrene appeared at the door, she had heard yelling, and wondered what was the matter. Cyrene asked "Is everything okay?"

Xena turned to her mother, she realized that it just wasn't in her to tell her mother what a bastard Luke was, Cyrene obviously loved him, and it would break her heart. Xena smiled the biggest fake smile she could muster, and said "Everything is fine, mum, actually Luke was just leaving, we have reached an understanding."

Luke took Cyrene by the arm, and led her out of Xena's room. Xena laid back on her bed, closed her eyes, and tried not to think. She still didn't feel good. A few minutes later Gabrielle came in and asked "Are you okay?"

Xena didn't look up, she simply answered "No. No, I'm not okay at all, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle asked "Oh, is there anything I can do?"

Xena shook her head, her eyes still closed "No, there's nothing you can do. I just want to be left alone right now, okay?"

Gabrielle twisted a strand of hair nervously, and said rather uncertainly "Okay, if you want anything just... ah... just let me know." and left.

Xena took a few more calming breaths, commanded herself to go to sleep, and fell into an uneasy sleep. About two hours later Ivaia rushed in. Xena jumped up, Ivaia started rambling "Are you okay? You look white as a ghost! What happened? Gabrielle said you didn't look well. I just got here, I came to make sure you were okay first thing. I mean you helped me out so much...."

Xena's stern look cut her off. She briskly said "I'm fine. I just want to be left alone. Go back to whatever you're doing."

Ivaia said "But..... it's dinnertime, aren't you coming down for dinner?"

Xena laid back down, rolled to her side, so that her back was to Ivaia and said "No, just go, would you?"

Ivaia backed up slowly "If you need anything, just say....."

Xena said "Yes, Ivaia, go on now."

Ivaia left. Xena took a few more deep breaths, and started thinking `I can't just stay here. I can't mope, I have to do something productive. I'll go work on some training with my army, that will do.' She sat up very slowly, she still felt slightly nauseous, and her head was still spinning. When the world came completely back in focus Xena got up, and headed downstairs.

Everyone was just sitting down to dinner when Xena stalked down the stairs. Cyrene jumped up and said "Xena, honey, take off your weapons, and come sit down. Your dinner's getting cold."

Xena didn't look at her mother, she just said "No thank you, mum, I'm going out."

Cyrene gasped "But, honey, it's pouring out there, where's your coat? You're not going out like that are you?"

Xena shook off her mother's worries, she had to do this, "I'm fine, mother. Go back to dinner, I'll be back soon." and stalked out the door, her bad mood evident.

Cyrene was about to get up and go after Xena, but Luke placed a hand on her arm and, holding her fast, said "Let her be, Cyrene. Sit back down, Ivaia will get dinner tonight, I'm famished."

Ares sighed, there was nothing he would rather be doing right now then checking in on Xena, he had the feeling that something was wrong. Instead he was stuck listening to these idiots explaining there point of view to Ares. Derek, a king, said "Lord Ares, this..... BUFFOON.... has overstepped his bounds, revolt indeed. He must be punished."

The other man, Bemus, a priest, replied "I will not be judged by either of you. My Goddess Athena shall decide if any punishment is necessary, and carry it out."

Ares turned to the king "I will deal with this, Derek, go tell your troops that the war is off, then go home."

Derek hastily fallowed the orders he was given. Bemus was too sure of himself, having heard from his goddess that her plan had been a relative success, and said "I already explained, my goddess will take care of my punishment. Though I'm sure it will be nothing compared to what I did to your," he stopped for a minute to laugh, then finished "what I did to your girlfriend. I'm sure she's not going to be up for months, if she even survived."

Ares crossed his arms over his chest, to make sure Bemus didn't get any bright ideas, while he thought. He hadn't dealt with Bemus yet, mainly do to the fact that Xena didn't want to talk about it, and refused to give him a name. However the thought that a man had harmed his Xena and still was living had been in the back of his mind since he found out about the attack. He regarded Bemus for a minute, wondering at how stupid the man was, did he actually expect MERCY? Ares said "She did survive, as a matter of fact, and by the time I'm done with you will wish you had never ever heard of her."

He grabbed Bemus, lifted him off the ground, poor Bemus still had no idea what he was in for. Ares spent the rest of the night torturing Bemus.

Xena gathered her troops. By the time they were all roused from their game playing in their tents, and assembled, everyone was soaking wet. Xena's hair, which hung in soaked clumps, kept falling into her face. Argo was also soaked, but knew Xena better then to complain, it was obvious that her master was upset. Xena stated "We are going to do some training practice, it's time I turned you from a bunch of pathetic soldiers, into an army! You move as one, you think as one, before you do something you have to think of how it will affect the army as a whole. You are no longer individuals, after your own personal gain, you are a collective army, everything you do HAS to benefit the army. Now we start training!"

One amazingly brave, or amazingly foolish, soldier braved to complain "But it's pouring out here, if you haven't noticed!"

Xena dismounted Argo, and stalked over to the soldier that had complained. She stood a hairs breath away from him and shouted "Do you think that I am so dumb that I don't know that? I can see and feel that it is raining heavily. Armies have to go to battle in worse weather then this. I feel we should start training, I am this armies commander, do you have a problem with that?"

The soldier cowered and said quickly "No, me lady! No problem at all. Forgive my foolishness, me lady!"

Xena sighed, she really didn't feel good. "I will not tolerate anyone questioning my command." She spun and stabbed the soldier in the stomach, lessening the blood that came out, while still killing him quickly.

Xena ordered "Take away his body."

A soldier asked "What should I do with him, my lady?"

Xena frowned, why did she have to decide? "Oh I don't know," When the soldier didn't move she added "burn him, I don't care, just go."

When the soldier returned Xena said "Now let's began....."

Xena drilled her army through most of the night, and returned home early the next morning. She found Ivaia, and Cecilia curled up on the couch, in there nightgowns and robes, fast asleep. Xena smiled slightly, they must have been waiting for her. It had been raining all night, and Xena was so soaked that she had a sinking feeling that she would never be dry again. Several members of Xena's army had complained about being forced to train in the pouring rain, without being let get their coats. They had suffered the same punishment as the first man to complain. After that there had been no further complaints as the army realized that their commander had no intention of stopping training for ANY reason. Xena felt calmer, she always did after practicing with her sword. Knowing that they would be up soon anyway Xena decided to tell Cecilia and Ivaia that she was all right. "Cecilia, Ivaia, wake up."

Ivaia stirred first, she asked "Xena? Did you just get home?"

Xena smiled and offered "I could make you two breakfast if you want? I mean you did obviously stay up waiting for me."

Ivaia, who had heard Cyrene complain about how Xena couldn't cook the simplest things, realized that Xena was simply trying to be nice and said "No, no, it's quite all right, Xena. You go on up to your room, Dad will be up soon. Cecilia and me fell asleep quite early, I'm sorry to say, what time did you get home? Are you just coming home, or just going out?"

Xena, though glad not to have to cook, sidestepped Ivaia's questions and said "I think I hear Luke getting up, I'll be in my room if you want me, Ivaia."

Cecilia started to waken. Ivaia looked at Cecilia, then back to Xena, and said "Sister, wait! I'm about Cecilia's size, why don't you take her upstairs with you, and find her something to wear? And could you have someone bring me down my blue dress, you know with the ruffles, please?"

Xena shrugged "Sure, Ivaia, but maybe I'll get Gabrielle to help pick something out for Cecilia, that never has been my area of expertise."

Ivaia nodded, and bustled Cecilia up stairs with Xena. Cecilia, who had gotten very little sleep the last night, was only half awake, and fallowed Xena without really knowing where she was going.

Ares was relaxing on his throne, watching a few wars absently. Aphrodite appeared, in a flash of pink, and said "Hey, bro, you'll never guess what?!"

Ares asked "What happened, Dite? Have you finished with Athena so quickly? I was going to come and watch."

Aphrodite said "Well nothin' happened, yet, but I came up with the best idea! I'm gonna make that bitch, 'Thena, fall in love with someone she hates! What do ya think, Ar? As for the fight, Hera, for some like totally odd reason, made me and ‘Thena stop fighting, and right now ‘Thena’s trying to explain to Zeus why in the world she would beat up her little sister!”

Ares smiled indulgently at his sister, "Really? Well I imagine Athena looks worse from your fight. I think that is a great idea, Dite, but I have a less troublesome way to upset Athena."

Aphrodite's interest was peeked. "Yeah, thanks! Hey, Ar, what do ya mean?"

Ares explained "You know Athena's favorite priest, Bemus? Well it seems that he was the one who attacked Xena-"

Aphrodite cut him off by shrieking, and exclaiming "Ooh! I should've known it! I hope-"

Ares interrupted his excitable sister, and finished what he was saying. "The point is, I killed him. Now when Athena finds out...." he let the sentence linger, unfinished, for a moment.

Aphrodite jumped up and down for a few minutes, clapped, and said "Ooh, can I tell her? Please?!? Pretty please with, like, lots of sugar on top?!!!??"

Ares smiled at Aphrodite's enthusiasm, and everyone said she was nice! "Sure, just remember to be unhappy about the news when you tell her."

Aphrodite giggled "I will, thanks, Ar!" and disappeared.

Luke came down the stairs carrying Ivaia's dress, he was closely fallowed by Cyrene, Cecilia, and Gabrielle. Luke pulled Ivaia out of the kitchen, she was making breakfast, handed Ivaia her dress and said. "Get dressed in something decent, girl, and take your friend home." He was in a rather bad mood.

Ivaia hurried upstairs to change. Cecilia said "I think I'll head home now, Ivaia needn't take me home. Tell Xena I'll see her later, and I'll bring Iva's dress back too."

Luke didn't say anything, so Cyrene said "That's fine, Cecilia, thank you."

Cecilia nodded and left.

Xena was sitting in her room going over training plans in her head. She was rather pleased with herself, last nights training had been completely successful; nobody dared to question her now. Xena felt a tingle run down her spine, she smiled, and pulled herself out of her thoughts. Ares appeared a second later, "I have some good news, Xe,"

Xena asked "And just what type of good news is that?"

Ares smiled "I'm sure that you remember that priest of Athena's, Bemus? Well he was involved in that war I was checking on. Bemus let it slip that he had been the leader of your attackers.” Ares grinned evilly, “Needless to say, Bemus is no longer among the living..."

Xena couldn't help it, she smiled and kissed Ares. "I did have something planned, but I'm sure you had 'fun' with Bemus."

Ares pushed a lock of Xena's hair out of her face and just held her for a moment. "Mmm... I would have been happier if the whole thing had never happened, Princess. However, Dite is having a darling time rubbing it in Athena's face."

They both chuckled and stepped back. Xena noted "I must ask Dite to tell me EXACTLY how Athena looked when she herd the news."

Ares nodded in agreement, and was about to say something when Ivaia called "Xena, I can't find any of my hair clips, can I borrow one of yours?"

Xena shrugged, walked over to her dresser, and said "Sure, Ivaia, common in,"

Ares rolled his eyes, little sisters could be such a pain sometimes. Ivaia walked in, bit her lip to keep from saying anything, and collected the clip Xena handed her. "Thanks...." Then Ivaia left.

Ares looked upset, "Oh gods, Hera's looking for me!"

Xena joked "Ooh, what's the matter? The big bad God of War's scared of his mommy?"

Ares ignored Xena's comment "Sorry, Xe, I've got to go." and left.

Xena chuckled, she couldn't wait to hear about this. Luke called "You're mother and I are calling a meeting, Xena, Ivaia, get down here!"

Xena rolled her eyes and headed downstairs.

Luke said "I have an announcement to make and a few things to address. Cyrene and me are getting married!"

Xena pulled out her sword "Just kill me now, someone, anyone!"

Cyrene scolded "Don't exaggerate!"

Luke said "Now I would like to address a few problems. Gabrielle, you are not related to us, and should go to your own home. Xena, you are plenty old enough to get married and settle down. Ivaia, you're 18, you're old enough to start looking for a husband. Now that I'm the man of the house I---"

Xena interrupted "Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, and just how do you plan to go about that you idiot?" Xena then stalked off.

Cyrene started after Xena, but Luke stopped her. "You worry about breakfast, honey, I'll go talk to Xena." and headed up to Xena's room.

Luke knocked on the door to Xena's room. Xena called out "Come in, but make it quick,"

Luke walked into in Xena's room. "I know that my engagement to Cyrene must be upsetting to you..."

Xena spat "You bet it is."

Luke continued "I want you to know I am only doing this to remain close to you. I'll break off the engagement immediately to be with you. We're a perfect match, you and I."

Xena took a deep breath, controlled her voice, took out her sword, her eyes narrowed to slits as she growled "Sorry, I'm taken. Now maybe you should leave.... You have 5 seconds before I severely injure you. And don't EVER come back, if I ever see you again you won't live long enough to regret it. OUT!!!"

Luke quickly backed out of Xena's room. Once again the world started to spin, Xena’s mind reeled, she couldn’t breath, she couldn’t think, she couldn’t focus, and she was dizzy. At the point of tears Xena cried “Everyone in this whole damn world hates me! Maybe I could’ve been a nice person if somebody was willing to help me?" Xena was in tears by now.

Ares appeared, alarmed, and held Xena close to him, wrapping his arms around her and saying "Shhhh, it'll be okay, Xe. You know that's not true. Shhhh, it's okay now, I'll take care of everything."

Xena leaned her head on Ares' shoulder and continued to sob. She did however manage to say "It is true! Everyone hates me!"

Ares held Xena until she stopped crying. He just held her for a few minutes, then abruptly turned to face Cyrene, Ivaia, and Gabrielle, who had heard Xena crying and come to see what was the matter. He stated "You people are this close to being nothing but ashes right now! Though I don't think I should kill you till Xena has calmed down. I'll be back for you later. APHRODITE! GET DOWN HERE NOW!"

Aphrodite appeared and said "Woah! No need to yell, Ar! Like what is it?" Then upon seeing Xena she added "Oh, shit, Ar, what happened? Poor warrior babe! Just hang in there, Xena, everything ‘ll be fine!"

Ares gestured towards Cyrene, Ivaia, and Gabrielle, and said "I want you to deal with them. I can't stand seeing Xena cry. I swear, later, I will kill them!"

Aphrodite brushed a small lock of Xena's hair out of her face, and patted Ares on the arm, in a comforting manor. She said "I'll take care of these gals. Xena, don't you worry!"

Ares nodded to his sister, and he and Xena disappeared.

Aphrodite asked "Like why did you have to go and make the warrior babe cry? That was, like totally, low! Which one of you did it? I wanna know, like, NOW!"

Luke came in, “What is going on?” Then he saw Aphrodite, and couldn’t help leering, by the gods she was gorgeous. “Gods you are even more gorgeous then Xena. I can’t believe I wasted my time on her! Let alone Cyrene.”

Cyrene punched Luke “What did you just say??”

Luke thought ‘Oh shit, I forgot Cyrene was here!’ Aphrodite yelled “YOU! It was you! When did you get out of Tartarus? I thought the world was rid of you!”

Luke said “My lady, I have never been there.”

Aphrodite whined “Ahhh, shit, now I like totally have to tell ‘Pollo off, I like told him to get rid of you! I swear, if you like want to get something done right, you like totally have to do it yourself!!!”

Cyrene said “Wait a minute, this asshole over here is mine, get in line, lady!”

Aphrodite wrinkled her nose “It’s goddess, not lady, The Goddess of Luv if you like wanna be specific. And, like, fine, you can have him first. You know I‘m like totally sorry about him, but the fates like had a say in this one.”

Cut to Ares and Xena

Xena, said "It's true, everybody hates me! Nobody loves me!"

Ares took a deep breath, it was now or never, and said "That's not true, Xena, I love you."

Xena lifted her head off of Ares' shoulder and asked "You do?"

Ares said "Yes, I do, and I always have. It just took me awhile to realize that."

Xena, smiled and said "I love you too."

Then they kissed; not just a kiss of passion, but also of love and caring. When they broke the kiss Xena joked "Yes, I feel much better now!"

Ares smiled "I'm glad, my queen."


Aphrodite totally flipped out after her fight with Athena. She started dressing in all black, long, dresses with high necks and no sleeves, with buttons on the front. With this she would wear gloves that went up to her elbows. She pulled her hair back into a long braid and wore no jewelry. The only clue that it was still Aphrodite was that she still talked the same.

Xena and Ares moved to Mt. Olympus. Xena eventually started wearing the same type of battle dress in dark blue and maroon. Claiming that there was to much black around now that Aphrodite wore only black. Xena became the Goddess of War.

Cyrene finally got it into her head that Luke was no good, and dropped him like the bad habit he was. It was mainly finding out that he liked Xena and had a crush on Aphrodite that convinced her. Though she was still sad about the whole thing for a long time. She retired soon after Gabrielle got married and moved to Athens.

Gabrielle married a nice village man in Amphipolis and settled down there. She gave up on reforming Xena, and eventually excepted that Xena and Ares were in love and nothing she could say would change that. She and her husband took over Cyrene’s tavern when she retired.

Ivaia, reunited with Saulious, who had gone to Corinth to stay with his ill mother. But on their wedding day Ivaia refused to marry Saulious, in front of his whole family. Saulious was so upset, that when Ivaia said she loved him, but just couldn't get married, he told her that he never wanted to see her again, Ivaia was heartbroken, but soon Saulious repented and they moved to Corinth, near his family.

Cecilia lived by Xena's training, and, after marring a very rich king who had first met her in a battle. Became a rather successful queen; mainly because she knew how to settle army disputes.

Iolaus never forgave Xena for killing Hercules. He was even more upset when he found out that her and Ares were married, and that Xena was a goddess. His whereabouts are unknown.




The End

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