Disclaimer: still don't own them
When Xena awoke the next morning, Ares was already gone, or so the Warrior Princess suspected, since she couldn't feel his presence, nor did she see him. She was mistaken however, because he was still with her, hidden just far enough in the ether that she couldn't' sense him. He could and would do this to her as a joke first thing in the morning sometimes.
After finishing her breakfast and storing her bed roll, Xena mounted her mare and asked her, "Are you ready to see where I grew up, girl? I don't know if I'm ready for this or what type of reception I will be getting." This really was not something she was looking forward to. But if this was what it took to make up for that stupid decision she had made with her half-brother-in-law, then so be it, besides it couldn't be any worse than when they had gone to tell Cyrene about their engagement, could it?
The closer she got to Amphipolis, the more nervous the Warrior Princess became. As she reached the outskirts of what used to be her home, she pulled the golden mare to a halt as her nerves finally got the better of her. "I really don't' think I can do this, Argo." As she said this, Xena heard the very voice she was dreading.
"What are you doing back here? Did that conniving husband of yours find a better wife? Someone who was going to remain faithful to him, perhaps? This is no longer your home! Get out of here! "Cyrene said, looking up from her spot in the communal garden at the edge of town, throwing a stone that left a deep gash on the Princess of War's arm.
"I came here to try and make amends with you, and to come and visit Lyceus's tomb. Why do you assume that Ares and I are no longer together? We have never been happier than we are right now." Xena lied to her mother. Even though they had never been close, the words coming from her mother's mouth shocked and hurt her more than anything she had heard before.
"If that's true, then why are bards singing tales of how you and the great hero Hercules defeated the army of Ares, and that you are now engaged to the hero? And it will be a cold day in Tartarus before you will be allowed in that mausoleum!" Cyrene spat at her daughter.
"That army had gone rogue, and it just so happened that this one time Hercules and I had a common goal. As far as me being engaged to him, I refuse to dishonor the vows I made to my chosen god, husband, and heir to Olympus, but I will say that couldn't be further from the truth! You should also know that bards will twist their tales in numerous ways in order to earn coin, so don't believe everything you hear!" Xena spat, storming away from her mother, and mounting Argo. Gods I can't do this! There is no way she and I can ever have a positive relationship, she refuses to accept who I am, or my relationship with Ares!" she thought as she urged Argo away from the place where, ever since her younger brother had been killed, she had nothing but bad memories. What was Aer thinking by making me try and reestablish our relationship?
"Run away Xena! That's all you ever do when things get difficult, or don't go the way you want!" Cyrene's voice called out after her estranged daughter.
Are you a warrior princess or not? A voice whispered in her head. You defied the odds and won the Battle of Kalamai! This may be a battle of words, but it is no less important than that battle that you won with your sword!
Turning around to face Cyrene, Xena spat "You're wrong Cyrene. I'm done running. I haven't run from anything since before Lyceus died. The only running I do now, is chasing after people who either anger me or defy me. And I will have you know that anyone who dares to attempt either of those things, quickly regrets it. You are lucky that Ares does not strike you down where you stand for accusing me of breaking my vows to him, and with his mortal enemy no less! You obviously have a death wish woman.
One would think that you would be honored that one of the twelve major Olympian gods, and the Heir to Olympus no less, chose your one daughter to be his wife and his one and only chosen, the one the Fates foretold would become his Enyo, his better half. But no! not the woman who gave birth to me! No, she would never humble herself and admit that all those years ago she was wrong when she called me, The Warrior Princess of Kalamai and wife of Ares, God of War, a whore! Do you know what other name, I was called while leading my husband's armies, mother? " The warrior princess yelled at the woman who had given her birth, sneering as she said mother. "You don't deserve the honor of being addressed as my mother after the way you have besmirched my name these last ten years! I was called the Gods' Favorite. Would you like to know why I was given that name? it is because I am the one mortal that all of the twelve would do anything for, including turning a blind eye and refusing to allow the Furies or Nemesis to torment me if anything were to happen to you, or if I were to kill or or you to be killed. So you see Cyrene, I will indeed be walking inside these gates and visiting my dearly departed brother whether you like it or not, because I don't' think you want this town to face the wrath of any of the Olympians if I were to tell them you denied me this one thing." She said with a snarl as she stalked past the amazed woman and over to the family mausoleum.
As Xena entered the mausoleum and made her way to the stone coffin holding the body of her beloved younger brother, she couldn't help a sad sigh escaping her. "Oh, Ly…. I'm so sorry it's been so long since I last visited. You know mother and I never got along, and unfortunately it only got worse after you died. But in some ways my life has also gotten much better." She said, a small smile gracing her face as she pictured the expression on her beloved brother's face when he heard the next piece of news. "Your sister is the wife of one of the twelve of Olympus. And not just any one of the twelve, but Ares, the God of War and Heir to Olympus. I know, I was shocked too! But apparently, he has been searching for me for eternity, since the Fates foretold our union. It's been an amazing ten years with him Ly. At least it was until I went and screwed everything up with his mongrel half-brother, Jercules. Gods, why did I have to succumb to that idiot's charms? If I hadn't, I'd still be living in my home in the mountains of Macedonia, in the most beautiful fortress you've ever seen, and views I can't do justice by describing using words. Instead I am forbidden from returning for several years, and am forced to steal moments with my husband and help reign in, and potentially kill, the warlords who are no longer following the moral code Aer has for all his warriors. I have to leave now, but I will be back, and it won't be ten years between visits this time, I promise." The Warrior Princess said placing a small kiss where her brother's forehead would have been, wiping a few stray tears from her face. Other than Aer, Lyceus was the only one who ever understood me, and I could talk over my troubles with. He would have loved getting know the gods, and would have given me all kinds of grief over being the wife and only chosen of the God of War. Xena couldn't help thinking with a small chuckle..
As she left the mausoleum, she saw Cyrene heading toward the tavern.
"I will be stopping by from time to time to visit my brother, and to make sure you have not spread any more lies about me. I look forward to our next meeting." Saying this, Xena made her way to where she had left Argo grazing. "Ready to leave this place, girl? I've had enough 'family' time for now." Mounting her horse, they headed for their next adventure, both happy to be away from that place that had few happy memories for future ruler of Olympus.
After several miles' worth of riding Xena felt my presence beside her. Pulling Argo to a stop, Xena was shocked to see me astride Enyalius, his blood bay coat glistening in the sunlight. Upon seeing her friend, and constant companion, Argo nickered a flirty greeting, making Xena and me chuckle. "I'm proud of you, Xe. I half expected you to run her through with your sword when she started accusing you of those things. I was tempted to have Zeus strike her down when I saw you getting ready to leave. No one talks to my wife and Princess like that and gets away with it without a punishment!" I said angrily.
"Believe me, she did get punished. She finally realized that she can't intimidate me anymore, nor can she deny me the right to visit my brother or family mausoleum. Gods I can't believe I finally stood up to her! After all the years she spent belittling me, and asking why I couldn't be more ladylike, and why didn't I settle down with some nice farmer in Amphipolis?" she said this last line in perfect imitation of Cyrene. I couldn't help chuckling at how much she sounded like that harpy. Then I frowned at the thought of anyone else being her husband.
"You wouldn't have been happy as the wife of mere villagers. You were destined to be mine, as I was destined to be yours." dismounting, I helped her dismount, then pulled her close, knowing just how emotionally drained she was after dealing with that woman, and visiting her brother. "You were always meant to be more than a farmer or tavern owner, Princess. Now relax and lets just enjoy the trails on Argo and Enyalius, like we used to, hmm?" I said, stroking her hair soothingly as I felt her arms tighten around me.
"Or we could enjoy the scenery, have a late lunch together, and then enjoy a nice long ride together…" she said in a wheedling tone, as her stomach growled loudly at the suggestion of food.
Chuckling quietly to myself, I asked, "Do you mean to tell me that you failed to eat this morning Xe? You know the risks to warriors who don't take care of themselves properly!" I said in a slightly aggravated tone. "A warrior can't fight a decent battle on an empty stomach. How many cities did you conquer because you ruined their food supplies during long sieges?" I reminded her.
Hanging her head in shame, we had had this conversation countless times before, with me threatening to use godly tricks to hold her down unless she agreed to eat before a battle, my wife mumbled "I know I should have eaten more this morning, but with all the nerves I just couldn't' swallow more than that lone roll." A note of stubbornness filled her voice as she added, "I did try, because I could hear you saying 'a warrior can't fight a decent battle on an empty stomach.'" I said the line along with her with a smirk. It was the first rule any soldier who agreed to serve me learned. "But at least I ate something! And I'm asking for food, and admitting I didn't eat as well as I should have, without you threatening me with those godly tricks, so we are at least making progress on that front!" She finished with a broad smile, knowing that she had gotten her way yet again.