Disclaimer: nope stilldon't own anything
As soon as I exited the ether, I partially understood why my princess was so angry. Not only did she have to deal with Aphrodite for a prolonged period of time, which was a difficult thing even when someone had not just experienced a major lifestyle change and been banned from one's home, but she had to deal with the irritating wannabe bard she had rescued in Potedia. Oddly enough my ditzy sister and the wannabe bard seemed to have hit it off and formed a quick friendship. Seeing Xena, with a scowl on her face, over by Argo and Enyalius, I quickly exited the ether, and managed to forgo the light show, and mask my entrance so that only my wife knew I had returned, I quickly made my way to the horses, and wrapping an arm around her waist, asked
"Besides recent events, what has you so angry, Princess?"
"The fact that not only did your ditzy blonde sister have to join us, uninvited I might add, but that irritating peasant girl managed to join us, too. Gods I want them to go away. I really can't deal with them right now, not after the day I've had. Can you make the peasant girl appear at the Bard Academy? I really just want her gone from here. And get Dite to go back to Olympus. Or even better, get Dite to accompany her to Athens, I just don't want to deal with them, tonight."
Even in the near darkness I could see how on edge she was. "I will see what I can do, Xe." I could tell there was more to it than the appearance of the two annoying blondes, and hopefully I could get her to tell me what else was bothering her once the two uninvited visitors left. With that in mind I made my way across the clearing to where my favorite sister was busily getting acquainted with the wannabe bard.
"DIte, may I ask a favor, without sounding too rude? Xe and I really need some time with just the two of us, especially given recent events." I said, knowing if there was a surefire way to get my sister to disappear and potentially take our other "guest" with her, it was to play the romantic alone time card. Sometimes playing up the romance aspect, especially with the goddess of love, worked wonders.
"Oh! Of course, Aer! How thoughtless of me. I'll take Gabrielle here to one of my temples in Athens and see what can be done about getting her into the academy tomorrow. 'Thena totally owes me a couple of favors, you know." She whispered to me with a wink. "Enjoy your evening together. If anyone can cheer up the Princess of War and co-defender of Olympus, it's you, Stud Muffin. Come on Gabrielle, I've some stuff you might find interesting in one of my temples." Dite said, taking Gabrielle's hand and disappearing.
Upon seeing the two women disappear, Xena left the two horses and joined me next to the fire. Looking up at the stars, I heard her mutter, "the warriors are still guarding their child." By Zeus and Hera! How could I have forgotten, what today is! Some husband and father I am! Tomorrow marked what would have been the tenth birthday of our son, Solan. He was born during our first year of marriage, and to commemorate his birth, Zeus, the doting grandfather, had created a new trio of constellations. The two warriors, to signify my wife and I, and Auriga for our son, unfortunately during his sixth month of life, we came in to find him not breathing. When we rushed him to Apollo and Athena, they told us it was beyond their powers to heal him. That this type of passing sometimes happened in babies, even demi-gods. Other than the anniversary of her brother's death, this was the hardest day for the two of us.
"Come here, my beautiful princess." I whispered to her, opening my arms to her. Turning around in my arms she rested her head against my chest and placed a kiss above my heart. "I can't believe tomorrow marks ten years. It doesn't seem like it has been that long." She said quietly.
"It really still feels like yesterday when I watched you with him and felt complete. He was truly the most beautiful baby, Xe. If I could make the pain easier on both of us I would in a heartbeat." I said giving her a loving kiss on her lips. "How are you really doing after your "visit" with your mother? I can't believe you didn't let me at least form a fireball while I was defending you." I couldn't help grumbling. "I also noticed you didn't tell her about the fact that she had a grandson."
"I was tempted to let you, believe it or not." She said with a chuckle as we lay beneath our constellation. "However, I figured that wasn't exactly the best way to attempt to get back on her good side. Still I can't believe she called her own daughter those names. I thought she was better than that. I guess the pain from losing Ly and my part in it are still too fresh. After the way she treated me and the names she called me, I didn't feel she deserved to know that part of my past." She yawned as she said this.
"Go to sleep Princess. There will be no warlords or errands for my siblings tomorrow. Just time spent with your husband, and a small surprise." I said pulling her close and started to card my hand through her raven tresses in a soothing manner, and with a thought making the covers of our bedrolls cover us as her eyes drifted closed and she travelled to my brother's realm.
When she awoke the next morning, I could tell Xena was curious as to what my surprise was. Sensing she was awake I made breakfast appear. "Enjoy, Princess." I said with a smile. "As soon as you finish this we will go enjoy your surprise."
As soon as Xena finished eating, I changed our clothes with a thought. My wife was wearing a nice thigh length red dress with black ankle high boots, while I was in a slightly dressier version of my usual attire. Upon seeing her clothing, I received a questioning look. "All will be explained in time, Princess." I said with a small chuckle. Taking her hand, we disappeared into the ether, only to reappear at the entrance to the Elysian Fields.
"I thought you might want to visit with our son, it is tradition on this day is it not?" I said with a smile.
"I can't thank you enough for this Ares! I truly don't deserve you." My wife said after giving me a kiss.
"It is my pleasure, Sweet. Now come on, let's go see Solan!" I said pulling her along the path we both knew only too well, I'm sad to say. However on this solemn day I had one other surprise set up for our visit, one that I hoped she would enjoy just as much as seeing our son.
Nearing the area I knew we would find the two spirits, I heard my wife gasp. "It can't be. Lyceus?!" Dropping my hand she ran to her younger brother, who had turned upon hearing his name, and quickly enfolded his beloved sister in his arms.
"Xena! How are you? I have missed you! You look amazing, are you really married to the God of War? Before you answer my questions, I think there is someone who wants to say hello." Saying this my brother-in-law hands her the baby who had been sitting next to him. "Say hi to your mom, Solan."
"Oh my sweet baby, how I have missed you! I'm doing better, Ly. Yes, I am indeed married to Ares, come join the party Aer!" she said turning to me with a smile.
"Nice to meet you Lyceus. How are you liking things in my uncle's realm?" I said, wanting to make sure he had no complaints that I would need to bring to Hades' attention.
"Likewise, Lord Ares." He said with a bow. "I have no complaints, other than not being able to be among the living with my sister, which unfortunately nothing can be done about." The young man said with a sad smile. "I'm just glad to know she is not alone, even if I am disappointed and angry beyond words at what our mother said to her yesterday. You know that you more than anyone has the right to come and visit my tomb, right sis?" Lyceus said imploringly to Xena. "How did you manage to become the wife to the God of War, and how in Tartarus did he manage to get you in a dress?!"
"None of that! We are family!" I said with a laugh. "I'm glad to hear that things are to your liking. As far as how we ended up together, I'm sorry to say, was due in large part to the events of the day you died." I said softly. "After your mother, brother, and the other citizens of Amphipolis banished your sister, she came to my temple bruised and close to shock begging to be trained by your truly. When I first saw Xe, I was impressed by her skills, of course there were areas that I felt she needed to improve upon. Which led to many arguments, I must say you have one stubborn sister!" I said with a chuckle, which earned me a smack from my wife, and sent Lyceus into gales of laughter.
"If you think she's bad now, you should have seen her when we were kids and Toris tried to tell her what to do! I'll never forget the time she sent him into the river behind mom's tavern, when he made some comment about her washing and hanging the linens, which our mother had assigned as his task for the day, because it was women's work rather than men's work!" the young man said through his laughter, which also caused Xena to start laughing at the memory.
Seeing my wife so happy and carefree, I couldn't help smiling as I continued, "Anyway, as I trained her, we would talk about the events that lead to her banishment, and I discovered that I had found a kindred spirit. Someone who loved and had the possibility to be as skilled in warfare as myself. After an especially good day of training, I brought up the option of her becoming my chosen. Unbeknownst to Xena at the time, she was to become my first, and only, chosen.
On the rare occasions that a god chooses to have only one chosen, like Cupid and Psyche, they also create a love match, and have the option of being bonded for eternity, thus making the mortal a god/goddess and having their life threads merged in the Fates' loom. The only thing your sister has not done is accepting her role as a goddess. She does not yet want that amount of power, feeling she is not yet capable of controlling it, and instead having the power control her. As far as her being in a dress, as the years have passed, she has seen the benefit of wearing a dress and using one's beauty to one's advantage and has actually gotten to the point where she actually enjoys wearing them now." I said with a chuckle.
"Hey dresses can be functional as well as making one look pretty! I can't tell you the number of times I have used dresses to help me finalize an alliance! Remember Thermopolae?" my wife piped up, deciding to rejoin the conversation. Looking at her with our child in her arms, I couldn't help thinking I would like a second chance at being a parent to a child with her. I wonder if she might be willing to have a second child? She looks so happy, holding Solan. Once we get back from visiting Ly and Solan, I 'll ask her. She was so happy those six months he was with us." Content to just watch my wife enjoy the time with her brother and son, I relaxed back against one of the trees that covered the benches we were sitting on.
Several hours later I said, "Unfortunately Princess, we need to go back to the mortal plane, and leave Lyceus and Solan to enjoy the Elysian Fields. We will come back and visit them again besides I have one more surprise for you." I said with a sad smile, as I kissed my son's forehead, and clasped my brother-in-law's forearm in the traditional greeting and farewell of a fellow warrior and comrade in arms.
"Ok, Aer. Ly, I can't wait to see you again. Please keep an eye on your nephew." Xena said wiping a tear from her eye, while she hugged both her brother and son while giving our son a tearful kiss on his head. "Mom and Dad love you more than life my Solan, our little bit of light in a world of darkness and bloodshed."
"You don't even have to ask, Xe. Go enjoy your evening with your husband." He said in a tone that only a loving brother could have gotten away with.
"Why you little….." Xena said as she jokingly smacked his chest with a sad chuckle. "Until next time Ly. I love you." She said walking to join me. "Thank you so much, I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me that you did this for me."
As we disappeared in the aether to our final destination, I just hugged her close, glad to have seen her smile and laugh again. Upon reaching our destination, I heard her gasp.
"But you said, we wouldn't be returning here for six years…."
"I felt you earned a reprieve, given how willingly you have held up your side of the bargain. Also I had a question I wanted to pose to you, especially after seeing you with Solan." I said as we walked into our bedroom. What can I say, gods are allowed to change their minds, and I'm a softy when it comes to my wife. "What would you say if I were to ask you about having another child? We were so happy those six months he was with us. I'd like to give that a second try."
"Are you serious? After my recent actions, you're willing to have another go at being a true family? Of course, I would love to have your child, again. But what will this mean for my punishment?" My princess asked in a shocked voice.
"We will suspend your punishment for the nine months of your pregnancy and the months that you will be nursing our child around the clock, then we will renew your punishment, with a few changes that will be determined once you renew your deeds." I said giving her a kiss as I led her to our bed, making our clothes vanish in the process.