Title: In Pursuit of Happiness
Genre: Romance / Angst
Rating: T
Pairing: Ares x Xena
Spoilers: End of series
Summary: I'm you're biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me…
Word Count: 6,068
Warnings: N/A

Disclaimer: Not mine. Summary is from a Lady Gaga song.

A/N: Set up like Piers Anthony's Geodyssey series.

The first time he finds her again they are far from Greece. It has been several hundred years and the waiting has been torture. He has missed her so much, missed her spirit, missed their battles, missed her sense of duty and honor. He had missed her. He had not missed the blonde girl that always followed her around, making her choose a life without him. But they were only mortals, there would always be other versions of her soul to try again with.

And though almost two hundred years have passed, he knows her soul as intrinsically as he knows his own face. The people of this era do not know him as himself, but it is not hard to become someone they do know. Tyr is as much an old god of war as Ares is himself. As long as mortals respect him, it makes little difference what they call him.

The Vikings lay tribute at his temple – weapons and rams, ships and treasures – just like in the old days. But here there are many women warriors. The women are tall and strong and violently beautiful. It is because of them he is here at all – they all remind him of his warrior princess. But he knows they are not. They come and plait his temple with gifts, but they do not see him there, at the top of the stairs. They cannot see him there.

Until one day, a woman placing offerings at the steps of his temple, tilts her eyes up in a quick and sure-sighted glance, gaze burning into the shadows where he stands, and Ares feels his breath whoosh out of him like it hadn't for two hundred years.

It is her.

When he steps from the darkness of the temple, sliding into visibility for the rest of the worshippers, the dozens of people before him drop to their knees, but he pays them no mind. He only has eyes for her. She, unlike the others, did not avert her eyes when she knelt, but is instead staring up at him, watching him with the quizzical gaze of a bird. The man beside her reaches out blindly without lifting his head and yanks on her sleeve, muttering at her under his breath.

"Who are you?" It is a silly question. He, of course, knows who she is better than even she does. But he does not know who she is now.

"My Lord," the man beside her stammers. "The great family of our Earl bring you our dearest sister – trained from birth to be given to you as an offering."

She is frowning, defiant, clearly not at peace with this plan.

"And your name, woman?"

There is a pause, and her answer sits in her mouth like cotton. "Aslaug."

A thrill shoots down his spine, a shiver that has nothing to do with cold and everything to do with lust. Aslaug. God's wife. His wife.

When he reaches the bottom of the stairs, to the surprise of everyone he drops to his haunches in front of her. Her eyes are wide with surprise – blue in this lifetime, framed with layers of dirty blonde hair – and her mouth falls open. "You may call me Tyr – or in another lifetime I was Ares." There is a pause as he allows her to take that in. "But, if it would please you, it would please me greatly to hear you call me husband." And he holds out a hand for her to take.

He wants to crow with pleasure when she does.

This lifetime she is his.

Another two centuries pass, and he has to wonder if this is Hades playing a prank on the lovesick god of war, making Ares chase her spirit across time and place, across countries and continents. Or maybe he is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Either way, it has been long enough when he finds her again that he is only mildly annoyed that she is a man.

She is a dark-haired German man, tall for that time, broad-shouldered, with a head of dark curls and alert grey eyes that turn many ladies heads. And one god. For as petty as people may think him, Ares knows that soul, and he doesn't care what shell it is in, he wants it. So he follows where she leads him.

And he is sorry for it.

She is a soldier, of course, a commander under King Henry IV. But she is aggravated with her king, with the blinding, driving need he has to be the Holy Roman Emperor. And she has commanded many battles for him, won and lost them, but this one is taking a toll.

Her troops, and the King's, are camped outside Rome, on one side of Leonine Wall, while the citizens and followers of Pope Gregory VII are on the other. They are waiting them out. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Months go by. Men are dying from starvation, dehydration, malnutrition, plague, fever, exhaustion. None of them are dying warrior's deaths.

But the worst is that, in these moments, Ares can see the Xena who used to help villagers recover from raiders, the Xena who helped children and rescued people from fires. Because here she is sharing her meager rations with others, she is giving away her much needed water, she is sleeping without a blanket so that her men won't be cold. She is a remarkable leader.

But that is killing her.

"James." Ares looks up from polishing her armor at the sound of her name. The king in in the doorway of the tent, staring at his commander in admonishment. Ares refuses to kneel, even though he is playing the part of squire simply to be near her, but the king doesn't even notice him there and so says nothing. "You should eat."

"The men should eat." Ares is still not used to the deep timbre of her voice, the Adam's apple bobbing as she swallows.

"You are more important than a mere soldier, James."

"Your Highness, I most respectfully beg to differ."

In an un-kingly gesture, Henry rolls his eyes. "Have it your way, but tomorrow we will end this battle."

When he leaves, she turns to Ares, eyes bright and unashamed. "Are you hungry, boy?"

Yes, for you. "The king says you need to eat."

She laughs, loud and carefree, head thrown back, hair tousled and wild. "Little eavesdropper, you." She smiles at him broadly, but there is a tinge of sadness in it. "It's alright, you can eat. I might not need it after tomorrow." The smile fades completely. "In fact, I'm fairly certain that I won't."

And she was right. Because exhausted and underfed, she falls, an arrow piercing her breastplate. Ares feels his heart stop, and drops his own shield to reach her side. He doesn't care if people see the lowly squire defeating opponent after opponent. He needs to get to her. He can save her –

But her breathing is already labored, her eyes already glassy, though they focus on him with pinpoint accuracy when he settles himself beside her. They are wide, but not frightened. She reaches up to press on dirty palm to his cheek and he mirrors the motion, startled anew at the stubble under his palm.

"I feel I've know you for far longer than I have, boy." The statement is labored and harsh. Behind them there are cheers of victory from other men, and the sound makes her tilt her lips in a smile. Ares brushes a thumb against the movement without thinking, but she doesn't notice. "Victory."

And then she is gone.

That lifetime was not enough. He could not survive two hundred years off of that. And maybe someone took pity on the raging of a lonely man, because, for once, she is reborn immediately. Ares does not find her until she is barely a teen, but that is fine. She is too young for him, but that is fine as well. Seeing her alive is enough.

In this lifetime she is filled with holy fire. There is a great sense of irony there, that in her last lifetime she was invading the Holiest city on earth, and in this lifetime she is going to war for them. When the Crusades begin, she is thirteen and her older brothers and her father leave to fight for the papal city. Her mother is beside herself with worry, but his little warrior is filled with the desire to join them.

He watches her train, by herself or with village boys. It feels like a window to the past has opened. But this time, when she is sixteen and a beautiful juxtapose of looks and lethality, he contrives to meet her, to help her, to fight alongside her as he as always wished.

They meet and they get along and he helps her disguise herself as a young man and they join the Crusades together. It is glorious. Her eyes are lit with the zeal and emotion of battle – she thinks it is a holy calling, but he knows it is so much more than that. This is in her very soul, her spirit, the stardust that created her was a star's heart and it burns in her veins and her skin and her heart. This thrill of battle is what made her.

There is a siege at Jerusalem and Ares is not surprised to see her hoarding food and water, see her quickly become the center of talk as she comes up with ideas to retrieve wood and build ladders, a means to shorten the siege. Sometimes a past life will leave impressions, and though she doesn't know why she knows these things, she knows she is right.

"You are very wise, child."

They both look up. She had been outlining a map in the sand, her eyes shining in the firelight, her cheeks brushed with heat, so young that he knew this would be the first person to ever tell her she was beautiful, so perfect. But the person standing there makes a leaden stone drop in Ares' stomach. Gabrielle is a man in this lifetime, but still familiar. Taller, more masculine, but still graceful. Blond-haired and blue eyed. Still the same condescending smile on that mouth, a peaceful mouth on a warrior's body.

"I – thank you." She is flustered and, Ares is perturbed to note, blushing. Please, not this again…

But that is how it goes sometimes. So familiar, watching them find each other. Watching her fall under the spell of goodness and light again. Nauseating.

He is absolutely determined to have her the next time they meet. Man or woman, maiden or crone, he does not care. It has been too many lifetimes, too many centuries since they were wed, since he joined their souls together. Luck is with him, because not only is she a woman, but there are no other reincarnates to be seen. It is just the two of them.

He is called Kyzaghan, another version of a god of war, in his element once again. Though it is almost of an age where people do not really believe he is a god, simply god-touched, but that is fine. He merely needs to prove his worth, and he does that in spades. Temujin has been an amazing protégée, capable on conquering the world should he choose. And he chooses China. And a new name: Genghis Khan.

They are the Khan's tent when they hear the rattle of water cups being carried in. Ares glances up, and immediately freezes in recognition.

"Ah, Koke, we thank you for the refreshments." She bows and exits, but Ares says nothing, too shocked at her sudden presence. He hears a chuckle. "She is something isn't she? The daughter of one of my generals, just arrived a few nights ago and the entire camp is already in a stir."

He feels a frisson of jealousy. They will not touch her now that he knows she is here. Beauty or not they will stay away from what is his.

The invasion of China goes as smoothly as can be expected of a war. They travel, conquer a city, travel again. The entire way, Ares edges himself closer and closer to her, making sure to stake his claim, to let the other soldiers know she is not for them. Her deep brown skin, her ebony hair, those unusual sky-blue eyes again, so dazzling in her dark face this life – none of it is for them.

She is unused to such focused attention, still a young woman, and Ares has never been one for the more romantic aspects of wooing. But he knows her. Better than these men. Better than the Khan. Better than her father. And so, slowly, he perseveres. She graces him with shy smiles, side-eyes glances, soft brushes of her fingers against his palm and he is lost, just like always.

When they begin their next battle, their final conquest before moving on to Asia proper, Ares is at home in his element of battle – there is a sense of calmness of rightness of clanging shields and dodging axes and swinging swords – the only thing missing is –


It takes him a long moment to remember his name her and when he turns he feels his heart still. She is there, amidst the carnage and the battle, wearing her brother's warrior garb, astride his own dark bay stallion. Even from here he can see the blue of her eyes.

As he watches, a man lunges for her, but she kicks him in the face with the heel of her boot and he goes down. While she is watching the attacker another man comes from her other side and her horse snaps at the man with lethal teeth. But she has little training in this life, he has had no time to teach her while they have been on campaign – he begins to wade through the battle to reach her, swinging his blade with lethal abandon, caring little at the damage his god powers are causing. He must reach her.

He is almost to her when an arrow glances off the rump of her mount, startling the beast forward in a sea of hooves and movement. She is unseated by the abrupt motion and he sees her start to fall. Too far away to reach her as a man, so he disappears –

- and reappears before in, catching her, wrapping her in strong arms, and pulling her tightly to him.

"But how – " she is shocked and confused. "You were – "

He cannot answer, cannot speak, his hands are roaming down her body looking for injury, needing to verify her safety. She is fine. She's fine. He keeps telling himself that. She starts to pull away, to look around, no doubt wondering by no one is attacking them, why arrows are passing them by, but he is still shaking with the adrenaline of having almost lost her, so he pulls her back, slants his mouth over hers and tries to drink her in.

She is frozen in surprise for only a moment, but then she relaxes into him, her mouth opening under his so sweetly that he almost purrs in pleasure. Her hands fist in his hair, nails scraping down his scalp, but his cannot stay idle. They continue to roam, but not they do no seek out injuries, but instead touch simply to touch. The flare of hips, the curve of buttocks, long and lean torso, soft breasts, the curve of throat.

He groans, wrenching his mouth away and leaning his forehead against hers, panting harshly into her mouth. She is staring at him, eyes hazy with lust, lips swollen and wet. He arches against her in need.

"Don't you ever," he says, "do that again, woman."

He finds her again twice between then and the next great war she fights in, but both those lifetimes are swift and short and terrible. In both she is in love with others.

In one, she and the bard are both women, in a play eerily similar to her first lifetime. But the glorious city of London they are living in as seamstresses, burns to the ground, and it is only after days of searching through the rubble that he finds her charred remains, his tears tossing up puffs of ashes as they fall.

Then in her next lifetime she is in Lisbon and is a man again, married to a petite young woman whose soul Ares does not know, with several children. But there is an earthquake, and Ares is too late to save her. He never finds her amid the ruins.

It is too much for him, watching her die, being too weak, too slow, too late to save her, and he retreats into himself, returning to Mount Olympus like he hadn't done for centuries upon centuries. His brothers and his sisters try to ply him with things to do. His parents threaten him. But nothing helps. He is morose, despondent. His chest aches. There is a hole that only she can fill and he spends his entire life chasing after brief glimpses of happiness, always running after her no matter what he does.

He does not want to see Hades when he comes to visit, does not want to hear another speech about reincarnation and the cycle of life and death. He does not care.

But Persephone, sweet Persephone, when she comes he cannot turn her away, she is too pure, too kind, too innocent, even the god of war cannot dismiss her.

"Ares, I thought you might like to know," she says without preamble, sitting across from him as he drinks glass after glass of wine. "I met your charming little warrior again."

Of their own accord, his eyes lift.

Persephone reaches out to pull glass and bottle beyond his reach as she continues, "She had been a general, in the new colonies, helped them to win their freedom."

"Then she's – "

"Dead, yes." He cringed at the bluntness, turning away in pain as he remembered other deaths. "But not from the war. She lived many, many years." She was studying Ares intently. "But she never married." His eyes rose again. "She seemed very sad and when I asked her why do you know what she said?" He was silent, but Persephone could see the hope in his eyes, hope that he probably didn't even know was there. "She said she felt her life was always missing something, someone, and she didn't think it's be fair to marry someone else, when she was looking for them."

Something cracked within him.

She smiled at him softly. "Soulmates are sometimes relative things, dear. I see a lot of them when I rule with my husband. Your soul and hers were forged from the same star, I believe this, as, I think, do you. But stars are large, there are many souls out there like hers and like yours. Each slightly different, but noticeably the same. You must do you best in each lifetime to be the piece of her soul that she lacks, so make the pieces fit. Otherwise there are others who will do it." She pat him on the hand fondly, before bidding him farewell, leaving him to his thoughts.

A hand fisted on the table in defiance. He would be ready the next lifetime they met.

It is 1861 and Ares is still not used to guns. They are too loud, too messy, too easy to use to be true warrior's weapons. There is no skill involved. But the bullets are deadly and they are flying through the air as thick as bees. Only immortality is saving him now.

It was another hundred years after speaking with the goddess of spring that he found her again. Two lifetimes in a row as a man, but maybe because she did not fulfill her destiny last time, she was here to do it again. Same America, different war. He wondered if she felt déjà vu every day at the sheer irony of it, the nostalgia.

When war broke out amongst the colonies, he was far across the sea, but he could always sense war, and he knew, he knew that's where she would be. But he could not find her – he searched Union camp after Union camp until he had searched them all, but found nothing. With a sense of wrongness, he searched the Confederate camps as well. But, thankfully, still nothing. Her soul was never that different. He knew he would not find her there. But as he was leaving Atlanta, a young boy ran headfirst into him, bouncing off Ares' when he crashed into the immovable wall of his chest. At the contact, Ares felt a shock, and looked down in gleeful expectation.

A man, but Ares could see immediately why she was not in any of the Union camps. She was a slave, but, judging by the defiant and hellfire gleam in those chocolate eyes, she was not pleased about it. Though, who would be?

She was still staring at him boldly, as if daring him to say something, waiting for him to raise a hand against her or beat her. With a start, he realized he was still wearing the Confederate uniform he'd donned to search her out in and realized she thought he was going to punish her for running into him.

Instead, he held out a hand. When she didn't move, he arched one brow tauntingly, and, with a flare of anger, she grabbed it and he pulled her to her feet. Though young, she was a tall young man, broad from hard work, and though she clearly had expected Ares to let her go when she was upright, he pulled her close, chest-to-chest. When she would have yanked away, Ares clapped a hand on her shoulder, keeping her in place. As he leaned down to whisper in her ear, he felt her tense. "Don't worry, kid, I'm with the Union." He pulled back just enough so that she could see his face. "Wanna get out of this place?" And he gave a slow, smile.

Her eyes widened, she was tensed almost to the point of snapping, her hand still gripping his tight enough to crack tendons. Ares could see the wheels turning, see her weighing pros against cons. She could leave and maybe fall into a trap and be killed. Or she could stay and be a slave for sure. Might as well take the maybe.

Lips widened in a blinding grin. "I hear they'll let us fight in the war up there."

Ares relaxed, a god sure of his power, a man sure of his thrall. "Kid, up there they'll let you do anything you want." And for some compelling reason, he gave roguish wink.

Her next lifetime she was oppressed, as well, but Ares found her far sooner. A young Lakota girl – tall and sinewy, coal hair falling in ribbons to her waist, her eyes the same tawny golden as a hawk's eyes. They called her Waŋblí – Golden Eagle. She was beautiful. He had had been a Calvary man in this era, thinking to find her in a skirmish on one side or the other. But he found her living peacefully amongst the Lakota and, without delay, he left the military and had been living in her village ever since. That had been many years ago, and he was still as enthralled by her now as he had been the first time she saw her.

He'd left his horse on the top of a small rise and scrambled down to a nearby brook to retrieve some water for the beast, when a soft singing caught his attention. He couldn't understand the words and, thinking to maybe find a camp of these savages he's been hearing so much about, he pulled aside a branch and stepped out boldly –

Only to stumble ungracefully to a halt at the sight that met him.

It was her, that much he knew. He knew that the second those golden eyes lifted and met his, sending a tingle all the way to his toes. But it wasn't his eyes he was focused on. She was bathing. So she was beautifully, gloriously, enticingly naked.

His mouth dropped open in a soft moan and he took a step forward before he forced himself to stop. She was speaking to him, but he didn't understand. Or did he? Could he speak Lakota? He didn't know – his eyes were zeroed in on a bead of water as it trailed down her collarbone, down the valley between her breasts, wound its way down a flat stomach, before sliding into the water that hid her from the waist down. But the water was very clear.

He swallowed harshly.

The people of her village called him Paytah – "fire." He assumed because of his warrior spirit. But when he had learned enough of their language to understand, the men guffawed at him and told him it was because he burned for Golden Eagle like a fire, so much that they were surprised smoke did not pour from his ears. Ares was too old to blush, but it was a close call.

It was a life unlike any he could have imagined for her. Peaceful, tranquil, the life she might have had if her farm had never been attacked by warlords. She laughed freely here, smiled often, made jokes and teased.

And she loved him. He could live this life with her. He could choose this mortal life.

But late in December in 1890 the Calvary he himself had once been a part of marched into their camp and demanded their weapons. Their bows and arrows, their rifles they had bought with their own, earned money. In the middle of the exchange, one of the Lakota rifles went off accidentally, and that was all the excuse needed to gun everyone down.

Ares was retrieving his own bow from their tent when the shots began to ring out. Knowing many of the tribespeople were unarmed he ran out, right as Golden Eagle was running in. He caught her reflexively, but that did not stop the men behind her from continuing to shoot. He felt bullets pierce through her and into him, but he felt it with detachment. Her eyes were wide and terrified on his. They were looking at him when the light faded from them.

For the first time, Ares cursed his own immortality.

The palace was a glittering jewel in the heart of Russia – a citadel fit for the gods of Mount Olympus. Opulent and splendored, golden and shining. But the people of Russia were starving and poor and freezing, so Ares knew for certain he would find her this lifetime rising up against the royal house.

He marched into the palace with conviction, knowing he would find her in the face of some soldier. So he was not paying attention when the Romanovs were lined up against the cellar wall, he was not paying attention as his commander told them to line up opposite and take aim.

He was paying attention the moment he looked down the barrel of his gun and met the wide-eyed gaze of the youngest Romanov daughter, terrified but defiant.


He only had seconds to make his move, but the soldiers were all staring dead-eyed at the Romanovs, who were all crying and holding hands bravely, even the young boy. Ares flicked a finger and when the hundreds of bullets flew through the air, they all missed Anastasia. When she fell forward in the tumble of movement from her sisters crashing forward, he caught her. "Play dead," he hissed harshly, and dropped her.

Thankfully, in all her lifetimes, she retained her intelligence, so she hit the floor with a thud and did not move. Ares made sure he was the one who carried her from the building, that her body was placed in his car for transport. After that it, was nothing to call to his fellow Olympian Artemis. The god of war does not ask for favors, but luckily Artemis knew what he wanted without asking. She took Anastasia's place, let the soldiers pour kerosene on her body, let them throw her in a grave and light it. She would be fine.

But Ares could not parade around with the Romanov princess. So he made a choice. It killed him to make it, but he would rather see her alive and happy than live a life on the run or be killed the moment he was not looking.

So he brought her to her grandmother, swore the old woman to secrecy, and let the death of Anastasia fade history and rumor.

The sky was raining fireballs and he couldn't find her. He had thought another World War would be exciting, but the new weapons made fighting ridiculous. You could kill men from hundreds of miles away. There was no honor in that. No skill. It was all a weapons show. Who had the best. Who had the biggest. It was not like the old days.

In the old days, when fire rained from the sky it was Zeus throwing a tantrum. Now it was kamikaze pilots. Ares dove to the ground as another explosion rocked the ground, the ship he was on was tossing in the swell. He heard the piercing scream of another falling plane and didn't bother to look, just vanished and reappeared on the dock, running from the blast behind him even as he materialized.

He didn't have time for this. He had to find her.

Anna was a communications officer in the Navy and if there was anything Ares knew about her, whether it was her place or not, she was going to try and be out in the melee.


Speak of the devil…

"Where do you think you're going, soldier?"

Her head shot up at his voice, noted his irritatingly raised eyebrow and she flushed. "Sir! I can help more out there!" Even as she said it another explosion sent up debris. He grabbed her by the arm to keep her from running after it. "Let me go, Commander!"

"Request denied, soldier!" She snapped to attention at his harshly barked command, and he sighed. He didn't want her to mindlessly follow orders, that wasn't by he loved her. But today's battles weren't like they were when they had first met. They were messy and unorganized. There was too much technology in war now. "We – I – " he corrected, seeing her head snap up at the sound, "need you here, monitoring their radios, finding out what they're going to do next. Getting help down here for the wounded."

She stared at him defiantly for one long moment, before nodding in resignation. He felt his chest swell with pride at her selflessness. He would never leave the battle to help people. She would gladly do anything she had to. Not caring who was watching, he kissed her swiftly, tongue sweeping into her startled mouth, hands cupping her face for one brief moment.

"You're dismissed, soldier," he said with a cheeky smirk, a devil oozing charm as he makes a woman speechless, and then he ran off into the fray.

He took back everything he ever said in the 40's about there being too much technology. Now there was too much technology. In the middle years of the 21st century, mortals had perfected space travel, and there was nothing more terrifying than hurling through space at faster than the speed of light, shooting lasers from a ship made of flimsy metal. Immortality was one thing, but Ares didn't know if even he could survive the vacuum of space, the heat of a sun if his ship crashed into one.

"This is awesome!"

He rolled his eyes, a trait he'd picked up in the late 1980s, at her crow of excitement from the ship somewhere to the left of him. He could see her face on his view screen – she was vibrant and glowing with glee, her ship flying through the air like a fish cutting through water. First right side up, then upside down, then doing barrel rolls – it was making him sick just watching.

"Can you stop the theatrics now, this isn't a circus!"

"What's a circus?"

Oh, sweet Zeus, save him from mortals…

"Watch out!"

With a jerk, he veered to the right, narrowly avoiding a collision with an incoming cruiser. I loathe the future… With a frown, he spun the ship in a tight circle, shooting the enemy vessel quickly before it could turn and fire on him. What's wrong with solid ground? He spun back around and sped up to catch up with her. What was wrong with swords and arrows? Even guns?

The space age had been speeding up, showing no signs of stopping, and when the Royal Order Air Force had been founded, Ares felt, with a sick sense of dread, that that was where he would eventually find her.

And find her he did.

Zelda was as fierce as the meaning of her name. With hair like fire and eyes like pools of absinthe, she was as different in looks from her original incarnation as he was to Hermes. But that fire was still there. That thrill. There were no horses to ride in space, but she could steer a starship as easy as breathing. She was at home out here in the stars – in the universe, it was like coming home for her.

And for him, always, not matter what, he followed her.

He had taken Persephone's words to heart and he made himself what she lacked. Voice of reason in this lifetime. But maybe a sense of adventure in another. A feeling of coming home in a different one. He steered her away from those souls he remembered, made her see only him. What did it matter that he altered the course of her life a little, if it made her happy. She would have followed that little bard's soul to college if he hadn't 'accidentally' dropped the ROAR pamphlet on her desk. She would have thought she was happy there learning history and mythology, but she wouldn't have been.

He looked at the view screen and watched her flashing eyes, her wide smile, her glowing cheeks. She would not have been this. She met his eyes on screen and winked at him, making his heart swell. He could not spend more lifetimes without her.

"Oh, shit."

At her softly muttered expletive, he looked up, and blanched. The biggest ship he'd ever seen was in front of them, making their cruisers coast to a halt in the deadness of space. There were a lot of guns on that ship.


When she cursed again, he glanced down at her image. "Hey… hey!" Ares repeated when she didn't look at him the first time. "Are we in this together?"

She sucked in a breath, then smiled sadly, resigned. "Until the very end," she answered.

As they turned their tiny cruisers to face their foe, Ares sent out one thought into the universe, wondering if Mount Olympus was too far away, wondering (not for the first time), if there were gods only on Earth. Zeus, father – if you can hear me – I'm done with this. Let me go with her this time, every time…

And across the universe, across the stars and planets and the very bleakest regions of space between them, Ares felt his father's answer, and knew that this time, he would go with her, his warrior woman. And the next time they met, he would be just a man.

But he knew that, as a man, he could find her, and they could live together, every lifetime, forever.

In happiness.