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

Part 4

A Xena: Warrior Princess / Being Erica Crossover

By Arianwen P. F. Everett

As Ares watched Minthe and Aphrodite walk away together, he felt accomplished. He'd finally banished one of his sister's earliest demons and made up for his own mistakes in the matter. Truthfully, this probably wouldn't change much. Minthe's parents didn't spend much time around mortals and Minthe was a bit hesitant around some of the more boisterous gods as well. She was a wallflower and thus would be unlikely to make a name for herself once mortals arrived on the scene. Though this would likely be a private victory for him and his younger sister, it was a victory they could both be proud of.

"She wasn't supposed to survive, was she?" Athena asked curiously, breaking into Ares' revelry and immediately putting him on alert.

"I don't know what you mean," Ares replied as he sent away his sword, dumping it under an ice sheet on the land mass that would one day be called Greenland. Let his sister find it there if she were that determined to bust him.

"You outfight me. You discuss things that don't exist as if they do exist. You carry weapons made of metals I've never even seen before. You best a titan on your own.. excuse me.. with Aphrodite's help. As you so kindly pointed out this morning, I'm the Goddess of Wisdom. One or two of these things, I could overlook, but all together they point to you being someone other than yourself. The fact that you could find your way around the caves and knew enough about the situation to construct a plan that tells me that you're still Ares, just not the Ares I know. So either you're from an alternate dimension, or you're from the future. I'm guessing the latter, since you and Dite have been using the past tense a bit more than usual today," Athena detailed for her brother, ticking off the reasons she'd come to her conclusion.

"Assuming you're right, what proof do you have for Father?" Ares replied, challenging his sister to show her cards.

"Who says I'm telling Father?" Athena retorted, smiling at her brother's carefully hidden confusion.

"Experience," Ares returned, not trusting his big sister. She could be drawing him out, trying to get him to give himself up so that when she did tell Zeus, she'd have his own words to use against him.

Athena sighed, knowing she wasn't going to get a confirmation of her suspicions from him, even if he was from the future. Whatever had transpired between them over the course of their futures had left her brother weary of trusting her, and Athena had to admit that hurt. Looking Ares in the eyes, chose her next words carefully. "I'm sorry for whatever will make you see me as the enemy. I know I'm.. overly-confident.. at times and am likely to blame for some of it. You've obviously matured for the better if you can save a child's life at the risk of your own safety and have the discretion to preserve the bigger picture. I just want you to know I am proud of what you did today, and I hope that this change is indicative of the the god you've managed to become."

Ares was floored by Athena's statement. He'd never thought she'd admit any fault in herself, much less claim to be proud of him for anything. He now understood that both had been too proud to say what they truly meant over the centuries and that had obviously bred some of the distrust that had led to their final conflict during the Twilight. She hadn't known him well enough to see his love for Xena was more than a temper tantrum and he'd simply assumed that she wouldn't care if she had acknowledged the depth of his feeling. Now, near the beginning of their relationship, when they were pretty much still kids, the layers were stripped away and truth could be spoken. He knew it couldn't last, that the nature of their godhoods demanded conflict between them, but in this moment he could be honest with her. "That means a lot to me. I wish I could say more, but I'm not sure how long I'll be able to say it, for reasons you've doubtlessly already figured out. However.. I want you to know that I love you, for all the times I'll be too.. overly-confident to say it. That never alters, no matter how much it may seem to on the surface."

"I'll try to remember that, although I doubt you'll make it easy for me," Athena responded, overwhelmed by the depth of emotion that her younger brother was sending her way. She loved him too, but no matter how much she wanted to, something inside her refused to say it, so she fell back on humor, fighting to keep any mocking from her voice. She didn't want to ruin good will between them.

"No, can't say that I will," Ares returned, smiling back with understanding.

"How about we get our fair share of broth in honor of a job well done?" Athena asked rhetorically as she looped her arm with her brother's and guided him towards the small enclave Rhea used for a dining room.

Feeling a small shiver go through him, the God of War experienced a deep wave of loss, but held it together for his sister's sake. Having experienced it three times already, Ares knew Dr. Naadiah was pulling him back to 2001. Unable to think of anything profound to say in the final seconds they'd have together, Ares could only bring himself to nod and play along in an effort to smooth the way for his younger self's return. "Sure. Some warm ambrosia broth sounds good after the day I've had."

Closing his eyes as the world shifted around him, Ares held back the well of disappointment and sorrow that threatened to flood through him. He was a creature of rage and fire, yet right now he was struggling to feel anything but loss.

Once he felt the soft leather of Dr. Naadiah's office chair beneath the palms of his hands, he took a deep, cleansing breath, but refused to open his eyes. He didn't yet have control, and a God of War in the grips of an emotional upheaval of this magnitude was a dangerous thing. Fearing his therapist might make the wrong move and get herself killed, Ares raised a hand that glowed blue with raw power. "Don't come near me! Please, just stay back for a moment. I don't want to harm you!"

Staying put, Dr. Naadiah merely watched the God of War as he fought for control. It was an awe inspiring thing to behold, and she finally understood why the ancient peoples of the Earth saw these people as greater than themselves. It was like having a nuclear reactor sitting behind her desk, though technically Ares could cause far greater damage, which was why the therapist stayed so still.

Daring to glance over at the Goddess of Love, Naadiah could see that she too was observing her brother intently, but her hands were poised on an armrest, as if she was preparing to intervene if Ares lost the battle with his own emotions. Now Dr. Naadiah was glad she'd had the idea to send the two of them together, and had to wonder if she'd subconsciously known the danger to herself if Ares was pushed hard enough that he ended up in his current state. As her office held no true geographic location, the only at risk was herself, but hat didn't make the danger any less real. Every cell in her body was telling her that in the most primal, fight-or-flight level. She'd never been as frightened of a patient's reaction as she was at this moment, but that only made her less concerned for herself and more for Ares.

Finally, after a few moments of silent tension, the God of War blinked several times, gently bit his bottom lip, and slowly relaxed his fingers, as he exhaled deeply. His eyes shut as he took a few more deep breaths, then opened again and turned towards Dr. Naadiah. "I'm fine. I'm okay now. I apologize if I frightened you."

Moving to balance on the edge of her desk, as to be closer to her patient but not touch him or invade his personal space, Naadiah looked down into his eyes before speaking. "No need to apologize. This therapy can sometimes overwhelm. I get it, and I know the Twilight took a lot from you, not just temples and worshipers, but family, people you'd known all your life and in some cases, as with Athena, loved dearly. This isn't something we can cover in a single session, but we'll get there, little by little. I promise."

"I.. this session, this regret, wasn't supposed to be about Athena. I mean, I know I still have issues with her. I've known that a long time, but this was supposed to be about Aphrodite and Minthe. I wanted to save Minthe for Dite, to turn a terrible memory into something easier to live with. I wanted to succeed where I failed the first time," Ares explained, trying to express where his mind was and where he was stuck.

"Oh Ar, you didn't fail! You were a kid! I was a kid! Oceanus.. and Thanatos were just jerks who had no problem targeting little girls! No wonder they couldn't get laid," Aphrodite grumbled, hating the Titans that had made their childhoods so full of fear and uncertainty more now than ever. Back then it was just scary, but now she saw that she'd had something stolen from her, as had her siblings. Ares was just one of the few still alive who shared the scars.

"You both grew up on a war zone, and as the God of War, you of all people should understand what that means, what it does to a child in that situation. You blame yourself because its easier than admitting that what happened to Minthe could have happened to Aphrodite, or yourself.. or Athena," Dr. Naadiah pressed on, needing her patient to see how little power he'd actually had.

Anger shot through Ares and Aphrodite moved to stand between the therapist and her brother. "And I guess you want me to feel guilty about that. I'm the God of War, Athena was the Goddess of Warfare. We're the monsters, right? We deserved all.."

"She didn't say that Ar, so back off!" Aphrodite shouted, bringing the palms of her hands up to ensure her brother made no move against Dr. Naadiah.

"I never said you were a monster, or that any child deserved to grow up in the middle of a war. If I had, I would be the monster. You're the God of War; you've made it very clear that you were born that way and had no choice in the matter, so I don't blame you. I only acknowledge what you went through and how it impacted you," Dr. Naadiah defended, wanting her patient to understand that she could sympathize with him without blaming himself for the burdens he was born with.

"Bro, I was wrong to blame you for Minthe's death when we were younger. I blamed myself for not being a warrior like you and Thenie, but now I understand that I couldn't have done anything to save her and it wasn't my fault. The god you are today saved Minthe; the god you were then couldn't. We both did the best we could, then and now," Aphrodite summed up, cracking a small smile of gratitude for Dr. Naadiah. Her therapy might be unorthodox, but in a single session, Aphrodite had been unburdened of guilt she'd carried with her for centuries.

Still, Ares needed this far more than she did, as he'd been twisted far worse than she ever was. Her godhood had made her beloved and there had always been gods and mortals there to help her through. Dr. Naadiah was one of the few people that had ever been on his team, and she was genuinely grateful.

"Your sister is right. You saved Minthe when you could. The rest was out of your control," Dr. Naadiah concluded. Because Ares was the God of War, mortals had frequently blamed him for everything that happened in war. Yet Naadiah had come to see that while Ares could set the stage, assist those who promulgated wars, and even amp up the combatants emotionally, he was not all powerful, and thus not all to blame. His family had needed a scapegoat here and they'd chosen an innocent boy, burdening him unreasonably as mortals would do for thousands of years to come.

Ares desperately needed to learn how to determine what was his fault and what wasn't. Naadiah could see quite clearly that many of his regrets stemmed from that inability, including most of those involving Athena. But those they'd deal with in due time.

Ares sighed, not sure he could forgive himself. He knew what they were saying made sense. He understood the impacts of war for children on a primal level, but that part of him that needed to protect his family and had watched his little sister cry herself to sleep for weeks after Minthe's death wouldn't let him completely buy Dr. Naadiah's argument. It had given him food for thought, but he wasn't ready to completely let go. "Maybe. At least Athena was proud of me. She told me when you and Minthe went to get your broth. I'd forgotten that we'd once been able to talk like that."

"What did I tell you? Athena's puppy dog right here," Aphrodite smugly exclaimed, rolling her eyes. Growing up she'd never sought Athena's attention. They were just on two completely separate wavelengths and always had been. She'd loved her, and occasionally they connected as sisters, but ultimately they were just too different to be close. She'd always wished that could be different, but in the end had accepted the distance.

"I was not her puppy dog! I respected her, okay?! She was my big sister and a kick*ss warrior! I sought to be like her back then, and I wanted to be acknowledged for it. I finally got that, albeit centuries too late to do anything about it, but at least she saw the person I'd become and approved," Ares returned, refusing to have his sister or his therapist spoil the praise he'd been holding his breath for nearly his entire life to gain.

"Whoa! Wait! You told her about therapy?! How could you do that, and how did you get her not to tell Daddy?!" Aphrodite gaped, completely undone by this information.

"No, I never told her about therapy. She figured out that we were from the future, and she didn't tell Father as a peace offering. She didn't have any evidence anyway, and I refused to definitively confirm her suspicions, but she knew and was pleased by how I turned out," Ares boasted, still touched beyond words by the sentiment.

"Hello! Warrior Babe is back! What if we make it home and Thenie's there?! What if she finds out Xena has been reincarnated and you're still chasing her?! She'll go bonkers!" Aphrodite retorted, not understanding how Ares couldn't see the potential repercussions.

"She's not back. I know she's not back. We both lost the ability to talk openly to each other ages ago, and by the time Father died and Eve was in the picture, things were beyond repair. I know she's still gone, but at least I had the chance to hear her say she was proud of me," Ares finished with resignation. He knew he'd continue to feel his elder sister's absence profoundly, but now he had a memory of her worth cherishing. He still remembered the way they'd torn into each other during the Twilight, but this new remembrance was just as real to him, and the pain was somehow lessened by it.

"Well I sure hope you're right. She'd be only slightly less pleased to see me as she would to see you and Warrior Babe again," Aphrodite shivered, imagining all the horrible things her long-dead sister might do to her if she showed up on Olympus and found the petite redhead on Zeus' throne.

"On the off chance you're right, I'll protect you. Besides, we did the mortal thing for over a year and it turned out fine. We could do it again if we had to," Ares responded, hoping to calm his younger sister. He knew in his heart that Athena was still dead. Minthe he had no clue about, but by the time the Twilight happened, they were too set in their ways for any other outcome. As bad as it would be for him to have her alive again and remembering his betrayal, a part of his still wished he wasn't so certain that there was nothing to worry about. Yet he was just that certain.

"Fine? You call that ramshackled lifestyle fine?! I'd rather be dead than do that again! No offense, Dr. Naadiah, but really, you mortals have a tough time of things," Aphrodite insisted, not wanting to offend the human who'd been so nice to her, but unwilling to lie to make her feel better either. She doubted the therapist would want that anyway.

"No offense taken, and you're right, life's never easy when you've been born into such a fragile container. Yet it's what I was meant to be. I couldn't be anything else, nor would I want to," Dr. Naadiah replied, completely unoffended. She understood Aphrodite's perspective, and was glad that the Goddess of Love was so content in her own skin, in her own time.

"That's very cool of you to say, Doc, and I thank you for letting me tag along. However, I have a spa appointment in a little over an hour and I want to do a pre-exfoliation, before I show, so I'm gonna to need to take off," Aphrodite explained as a way of bowing out of whatever came next. Every word out of the therapist's mouth reaffirmed the Love Goddess' previous opinion that Ares was in good hands. However Aphrodite understood that she was a third wheel here and both doctor and patient needed time to dissect what had just gone down this session. If Dr. Naadiah wanted her to say, she'd speak up. If not, the woman would understand that Ares' sister had gotten what she'd came for and was entrusting the God of War to the therapist's care with her full support.

"Then I wish you a good treatment. It was an honor to meet you," Dr. Naadiah replied diplomatically, hearing the Goddess of Love's intentions loud and clear. She'd won the goddess's favor and was now being granted permission to return to her usual routine.

"Duh, of course it was!" Aphrodite quipped as she disappeared in her long practiced sparkly exit.

Ares rolled his eyes and gave his therapist a long suffering glance before taking his seat again. "I apologize for my sister."

"Just be grateful you've never met my two brothers," Dr. Naadiah responded with a chuckle, pulling back her office chair and rejoining her patient. Siblings.. what more was there to say?