Authoress' Note: This story begins in 2001, but after the events of 'Soul Possession'.
P.S. While you have to be familiar with Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess to read this story, you don't need as much background on 'Being Erica' to follow along. In that series, Erica Strange, a 31-year-old woman living in Toronto in 2009, undergoes the same time travel therapy featured in this story, in order to learn from her regrets over her past choices. While Erica's doctor is Dr. Tom, the therapist featured in 'Being Ares', Dr. Naadiah, appeared in a handful of 'Being Erica' episodes and was once Dr. Tom's therapist and his mentor during the series. In short, 'Being Erica' lends its premise and a few of its characters, but this is first and foremost a Hercules: The Legendary Journeys / Xena: Warrior Princess fanfic.
Being Ares: Ares and Aphrodite's Excellent Adventure
A Xena: Warrior Princess / Being Erica Crossover
By Arianwen P. F. Everett
Dr. Naadiah nearly jumped out of her skin upon arriving in her office. Seated behind her desk and examining a photograph of Shanly and herself at last weekend's jazz festival on Toronto Island was Ares' sister, Aphrodite, the one and only Goddess of Love. She had no idea how the woman.. goddess had gotten here, but that she wasn't supposed to have access was an understatement. As soon as Naadiah dealt with whatever the Love Goddess wanted, she'd have to contact Arthur immediately.
Before Naadiah could say a word, the blonde looked up at her and smiled brightly, completely ignorant of having invaded her office space. "You two look so cute together! My son does some awesome work, huh?"
"Your son? Oh , Cupid. You're Aphrodite and your son is Cupid, right. I get it. I get it. What I don't completely get is why you're in my office or how you even found it in the first place," Naadiah responded, heaving a sigh of relief now that she was beginning to understand the situation a bit better. Though she didn't really know much about Aphrodite, Ares spoke fondly about her. She seemed to be his favorite relative and looked out for him, which was probably why she was here. As a goddess, finding the place would be easy, so long as she knew what she was looking for. The fact that she did was the real issue. Ares needed this space to be private, so unless he'd already decided to trust his sister with the details of his therapy, there was a security breech to be dealt with.
"Duh. Ar gave me the 411 on your therapy sessions and I'm paying you a visit to ensure you're on the up and up. You've probably figured out by now that there are a lot of people, other gods mostly, who'd love to use what you know to cause my Bro pain, and I felt I needed to educate you on the consequences of helping them; Warrior Babe has nothing on me if you hurt the Studmuffin of War," Aphrodite explained, hooking Naadiah's desk photo frame over one pristinely manicured finger, while attempting to look as menacing as possible. She knew Ar was right; she had zero skill when it came to intimidation, but she had to at least try for his sake.
"I would never betray the confidence of any of my patients. However, I'm surprised Ares told you about what we do here," Dr. Naadiah stated, curious as to how much Ares had told Aphrodite. She didn't want to reveal any more than he had and she'd been warned that gods could be slippery when they desired information.
"Oh the time travel thing, well yeah, Ar was reluctant to spill, but then he needed me as back up to protect you and your boss when you went to see Herc last week. He trusted Grinhilda would do everything in her power to pay back her debt to him, but Warrior Babe is super fast and Grin has never been able to take her before. If Xena and Baby Bro were that determined to get info out of you two, a Valkyrie would be no match for them. I may not be a fighter, but I can teleport mortals to safety and undo Warrior Babe's pinch thingy. You don't live thousands of years and survive the Twilight without picking something up. So, about this time travel therapy; tell me ALL about it," Aphrodite insisted, taking the chair Naadiah's patients usually sat in, while making it clear with her tone that she had no intention of leaving until she understood the subject forwards and backwards.
As Naadiah joined the Goddess of Love across her desk, she got an idea and re-buttoned a stray button on her maroon duster before speaking again. "How about I show you rather than tell you. I can bring Ares here to work on a regret, and if he agrees, you can go with him and witness the process for yourself."
"You'd do that? Seriously?" Aphrodite responded, taken aback by the offer. From what Ares had told her, this therapy was usually hush hush and and the doctor steered things, not the patient. His being a god who understood the mechanics of it all was the only reason these therapists were cool with his revealing his participation. Unlike most mortals, the people in Ares' life wouldn't freak or run to the press.
"Seriously. Ares is my patient, but he's your brother and he obviously trusts you enough to share the details of his therapy with you; I have no problem doing the same, provided Ares consents to your tagging along," Naadiah reaffirmed, gesturing to where Ares had just appeared at her door.
"Hey Doc. What's she doing here?" Ares greeted Naadiah, merely curious as to why Aphrodite was in his therapists office and taking up his seat. He had confidence in both of these women, so seeing them together didn't raise any alarm bells.
"Your sister stopped by to ensure I was working in your best interests and if you're amenable, I've offered her the opportunity to go back with you on one of your regrets in order to quell any doubts she may still have," Dr. Naadiah explained, letting Ares know that the ball was in his court. If he didn't want Aphrodite to go, then Naadiah wouldn't push the subject.
"When would we be going back to?" Ares asked, trying to figure out which regret Dr. Naadiah intended him to relive. Several involved Aphrodite in some fashion, usually hanging out with Xena, Blondie, and the fool.
Pulling Ares' list of regrets from the bottom drawer of her desk, Dr. Naadiah perused it for a minute before landing on the final page. "How about regret number 43, Minthe?"
"Minthe? Oh, Ar, I can't believe you still remember her, much less that she made your list," Aphrodite sighed in heartfelt surprise, standing with an intent to hug her brother. As usual, he lifted a hand to stop her approach.
"What happened.. look, I know you forgave me, but it was my fault that she died, my fault that you had to watch her die. I was your big brother; it was my job to protect you. Oceanus would never have gotten hold of her if I'd been more focused, more alert. If I could go back.. when we go back.. I'm gonna be the God of War I was meant to be and make that soppy sh*t regret Gaea ever popped him out!"
Suddenly a second chair appeared on the patients' side of the desk and both gods took their cue to sit. They'd pretty much forgotten Naadiah was still in the room, preoccupied by both of their regrets. "Sorry to interrupt folks, but if I'm going to send you two back, I need to know what happened the first time."
Realizing what his doctor was after, Ares obediently began explaining. "Right. Right, the process. Alright, Minthe was.."
"She was my best friend, my first friend, really. Her dad was Lachrymose, God of Despair, and her mom was Anthousai, a wood nymph he'd managed to score some pity sex from. Anyway, they both sided with our parents against Grandpa Chronos, so Minthe was sent away with Ar and I for protection while the adults were off fighting," Aphrodite detailed, cutting off her brother and settling into the leather chair for a good therapeutic experience. She knew the power of therapy and as she'd told Dr. Naadiah, she wanted to understand the whole process.
"And how old were all of you at the time?" Dr. Naadiah asked, making sure to direct her question to Ares. While Aphrodite was free to come along, this was still his regret and his therapy.
"Dite and Minthe were about seven or eight. I was thirteen.. although I had to have been close to fourteen as it was only a season later when Zeus sent me on my first scouting mission with Athena," Ares replied, remembering his early training in reconnaissance. Though tinged with a bittersweet flavor now, these were still happy memories.
"You enjoyed scouting with Athena?" Dr. Naadiah asked, noticing the small smile that had graced her patient's lips at the memory.
"Hah! He was her dutiful puppy-dog back then, all puffed up and important about going to war. 'Athena taught me how to lay a false trail. Athena taught me how to detect an ambush in marshy terrain.' You couldn't shut him up!" Aphrodite bellowed with glee, completely unable to control her laughter.
"Hell of a lot more entertaining than marrying off dollies and mooning over Apollo! By the gods I still can't believe you were ever into that creep!" Ares shot back, rolling his eyes at his sister's foolish childhood crush.
"Ex-squeeze me, I was eight years old, and I barely knew him! How was I supposed to know he'd turn out to be such a colossal jerk!" Aphrodite defended herself, refusing to take such revisionist history from her big brother.
"Okay, okay, I get it. You were both very young," Dr. Naadiah summarized, eager to pull her two patients out of their bout of sibling rivalry. Having two brothers herself, she knew these arguments could pop up out of nowhere and take hours to reach a stalemate, irregardless of what else needed to be accomplished that day.
"Yeah, young and overconfident, which is where Minthe comes in. Zeus and Hera had left us all with Rhea, and we kind of tricked her into playing hide-and-go-seek," Ares admitted, ashamed at having taken advantage of his grandmother's desire to immerse herself in her family members' lives. How many times had she thrown herself into their problems and their schemes, only to be the one left holding the bag? How many sacrifices had she made for her husband, then her son, then her grandchildren, only to have them shoved it all back in her face. At least he'd actually done some terrible things to Xena for her to manipulate and deceive him. Rhea's only crime had been caring too much, and for that she'd sentenced herself to an eternity of unconsciousness.
"Only we didn't hide; we slipped out of the cave the four of us had been holed up in and took off for the beach. Minthe had never seen the ocean before and I wanted to show it to her. Ar just came along for our protection; if he hadn't, I wouldn't be sitting here right now. It wasn't Ar's fault, Dr. Naadiah; it was mine. Minthe died because of me. This time around, I'm going to be a better friend and stay put. Minthe might be disappointed, but at least she'll be alive," Aphrodite confessed, feeling her own long suppressed guilt surge to the surface.
Seeing Ares about to protest, Dr. Naadiah raised her hand the way she'd seen Ares do when his sister had tried to hug him earlier and took a moment to absorb both of the melancholy gods before her. "It appears you both have some work to do, and I wish you luck."
Feeling the chill begin to surround him, Ares turned to his sister to warn her. "And away we go!"
The millisecond the warping around them ceased, Ares dropped and rolled sideways, instinct taking over as a staff whooshed passed his head, only to slam into his gut before he could right himself. His mistake had been to look up to see who he'd been fighting. He should have known and he should have prepared to see her again. He had been, but this was sooner than he'd expected.
"Am I that much better or are you just getting worse, Brother?" a nineteen-year-old Athena crowed rhetorically, as she continued her assault, slamming her staff against Ares' windpipe and pinning him to the cave wall.
Remembering their last major sparing session in Amphipolis, Ares unleashed all his power into pushing back against her staff, sending Athena careening into the opposite wall with a thud, before taking a few deep breaths to ready himself for her next assault. Still, that hard sound of his elder sister's head hitting rock had felt amazingly satisfying. "I don't know, Sis. You're supposed to be the Goddess of Wisdom. You tell me."
Smirking back, the young Athena attempted a swipe at Ares' groin, only to have her staff's momentum used against her. Her brother then brought his own weapon upward, popping it from her hands and sending it flying across the cave. Stunned at being disarmed so quickly, Athena retrieved her weapon and just stood there, examining her younger brother. "Where did you learn that?"
"Egypt," Ares quipped, knowing full well the first pharaohs wouldn't exist for centuries. At later points in her life, Athena would earn her father's respect as a warrior, but for now she was just his energetic daughter who was good with weapons. As a result, Ares could mouth off hints to his being from the future that would confuse Athena, but no matter what she told their parents, even if she managed to gather proof, she'd pretty much be ignored. Watching Athena's confusion play across her usually smug face, Ares found himself looking forward to exploiting that for all it was worth, and it was only a tug on his right shoulder that pulled him away from his revenge fantasies.
Looking down, Ares nearly wet himself when he saw Aphrodite. While he suspected he was in his younger body, as Athena hadn't seemed as petite as she eventually would when he reached his full height, seeing his younger sister sealed that deal. "Dite, look at you! Oh man, I wish I had a camera!"
"What's a camera? What's an Egypt? What's going on here?!" Athena shouted, forcing herself between her two younger siblings and demanding their attention. Whatever was they were up to, Ares was using fighting techniques she'd never even seen before but wanted to learn, and Aphrodite had purposely come to watch the fight and talk with Ares when she was usually off playing with Minthe or their grandmother, and couldn't care less about the war or her older siblings for that matter. Now the two of them were communicating in some bizarre code and mocking her. That could not be tolerated. She was the first born and she needed to regain control.
"Sucks to be out of the loop, doesn't it?" Aphrodite joined in the taunting, now realizing what Ares had already figured out. They were going to decimate their stuck up older sister while they were here! It was like a cosmic freebie for all the self-satisfied commentary they'd had to put up with over the centuries. Payback was a b*tch, after all.
"Alright, if neither of you are going to take things seriously, I might as well head out early," Athena stated with frustrated resignation. Whatever her siblings had planned she didn't have time for it; she had work to do. Their family was at war and she couldn't allow herself to be dragged into one of Ares' and Aphrodite's pranks at the moment. She'd figure out what was going on, she always did, but now was not the time.
As the teenaged Athena flashed away to her business, Ares and Aphrodite totally lost it, doubling over in laughter at their sister's confusion. Yet after a few moments, their humor bled into the dirt beneath their feet, as both remembered that this wasn't their time and Athena was already dead. They might make new memories with her here, but she'd never learn from those memories as they would. They might tease her in these past moments, but she'd never get the joke, ever. Though Ares had dealt with this before, when he'd been lectured about his love for Xena by Zeus and Hera the first time Dr. Naadiah had sent him back, he'd had a far warmer relationship with his big sister, and he instinctively knew that returning to her long vacant rooms on Olympus would bring all the grief he'd experienced over the centuries since the Twilight had claimed her rushing back when next he saw 2001. There was no staying here for either of them, and they'd have to say good bye to Athena again sooner or later. No, there was nothing to laugh about, only one more hard lesson to learn from.
Seeing Aphrodite was on the same page in her understanding, and that her tears were already flowing at a brisk pace over the prospect of their imminent loss, Ares placed a comforting hand on her small shoulder. "They call it therapy because it's hard work."
"When did you get so wise, Bro?" Aphrodite quipped, before attempting to reach down into her bra for a tissue, and.. expelling the most ear piercing scream Ares had heard from her in centuries.
All of a sudden Rhea came running out of the other cavern. "What's going on? What's happening?"
"My chest.. it's.. FLAT!" Aphrodite whined as she realized she was in her prepubescent body and thus, completely unendowed.
"Ares! Stop teasing your sister! In your father's name, the two of you scared me witless!" Rhea scolded as she rolled her eyes at her grandchildren. She'd raced through the caves, imaging her husband crushing them beneath his meaty fist, only to find his grandson had teased his little sister into hysterics over her lack of development. No matter how many children and grandchildren Rhea raised, they all started out such feral little creatures that Rhea sometimes wondered how they'd ever manage to function. They usually did, but at times like this, she had her doubts.
"I didn't do anything! She just looked down at herself and started screaming! I swear, Nana!" Ares reacted defensively. It wasn't that he was shocked that Rhea would assume he'd tormented Aphrodite. Admittedly, he sometimes had, well into the future.. really, all the way up to 2001. No, what was getting to him was that Aphrodite hadn't come to his defense and clarified the situation. Unlike his other siblings, she'd rarely taken any joy in seeing him accused of something he'd had no part in.
"Well be more careful, regardless. You scared poor Minthe half to death and she ran off into the lower levels. Now I have to go track her down. I swear, sometimes I wish I'd never married Chronos in the first place. My life would be far simpler if I'd remained a virgin," Rhea muttered under her breath as she turned to leave.
Realizing Aphrodite would inevitably respond to that statement in a way unbefitting an eight-year-old, Ares clamped his hand over her mouth until their grandmother had left the cave he and Athena had been sparing in. His older sister might not be completely trustworthy in Zeus' current estimation, but his own mother certainly was, and if she found out that her grandchildren had been replaced by their counterparts nearly forty thousand years into the future, that would be very, very bad for both of them.
However, it appeared that they'd already caused a change to the fate they both regretted. According to Rhea, Minthe had fled into the lower caves at Aphrodite's shriek. If so, then they'd be going deeper into the Earth, rather than towards the ocean this time. Over the decades they'd retreated here while the War of the Titans had raged, all of Zeus and Hera's children who were old enough to remember the fight had learned the entire system like the back of their hand. It had been their protection and their playground. Ares had to hope that millennia of distance hadn't dulled their memories. If they got lost, there was a good chance it could take years to find their way out, and Ares' seriously doubted Dr. Naadiah would wait that long. He and Dite had come here for a purpose, to save Minthe and wash that stain of guilt from both their souls. If Dr. Naadiah pulled them out before they even got a chance to try because they'd been stupid enough to get lost in a honeycomb of tunnels, that lost opportunity would continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives.
"Minthe ran into the tunnels. If we're going to save her, we should probably head in as well." Aphrodite stated, resolved to trek through the dirty, infested caverns of her youth to save her first friend. With a flash, she'd adorned her child body with twenty-first century spelunking gear, causing Ares to roll his eyes but follow suit. They could always change back once they found the girl, so there was little risk of getting caught, and they'd move faster this way.
Nodding with understanding, Ares shimmied his way into a small crack they both knew led down to one of the major junctures in the system. Several tunnels met there and considering where Rhea's rooms were, it was a good bed Minthe would end up there in the next day or so. Once she'd made her own way through the crack, Aphrodite gave her big brother a reassuring smile, and the two continued down into the darkness.