Disclaimer: Sadly….I own nothing….I wish I did though. Everything belongs to Studio USA and Renaissance Pictures.
Xena took a good look at the repugnant, obsidian sky, exhaling sharply as if wanting to thaw the frigid, unexplainable tension crawling up from her chest to her throat. It was a rather cold, obscure night, no stars, no moon, no nothing. Only a freezing, cutting wind was hissing in her ears, lashing her face as she left the quasi comfort and warmth of the camp, where the flames of a rather impressive fire were still dancing on the ceaseless rhythm imposed by those noisy gusts, but she paid no mind to it.
She kinda enjoyed the sensation, silently hoping that the icy air would also manage to freeze if not that unable to ignore rain of remorse washing over her soul more than ever lately, at least those ranting thoughts that had the nerve-racking habit of keeping her awake at night.
With the sloppy gesture of a person having a thousand and one techy problems and worries pumping through their veins, she finally sat down on a piece of fallen trunk, doing her best to avoid that ever so common gesture of each and every desperate mortal-of burring her head into her palms as if seeking refuge, vainly refusing to face the music. Consequently, she lifted it towards the inky blanket covering the countless army of stars instead, and just gazed blankly in the direction where she knew the Northern Star was undisturbedly shining somewhere beneath that ugly, thick wool blanket that was maliciously hiding it from sight.
"A dinar for your thoughts…." a very familiar voice suddenly echoed from somewhere to her right, breaking the deadly silence and the whirl of thoughts playing tag inside her mind.
She didn't turn her head though, as if knowing that if she did, in that dim obscurity she would only see the perfect shape of his dark silhouette and the faint flicker of his ember like eyes ,all the rest of those tempting details that would flawlessly captivate her attention each time he was near remaining concealed just like the moon and the stars.
She did reply though, adding a distant, bitter smile to her line, wrongly assuming that given the lack of light, the God should certainly miss her discouraged expression.
The truth is that Ares knew her so well that it was no need to see her face in order to know that something was not right. The tone of her voice, the tension or the distress coming from their bond, her body posture, the level of causticity of her usually wisely chosen words…there were endless ways in which he could say all about her mood without even looking at her.
This time it was mostly about the distinct sadness coming from her voice…..
"Lucky me! That means that till morning I will be the richest woman in Greece…."
"And I my dear, will be the poorest God on Olympus…..I can already picture myself asking Zeus for loans in order to finance my wars …." he answered jokingly, trying to lighten up the mood.
"Gee Ares, I was under the impression that Gods were above these basic human needs and that some" pesky mortals "as you like to call them, usually take care of these insignificant details for you " the Warrior Princess retorted, finally gazing his way the instant she sensed him approaching, thus closing in the distance between them.
Seconds later, he was standing in front of her, lightly brushing her hair with the tip of his fingers, barely a caress but enough to draw her attention.
"Anyway…..getting to find out what's going out in this pretty little head of yours it's worth each and every dime…" he whispered in a rather subtle attempt to get her to open up to him.
" Trust me, you don't want to know…." came the brief but concise response.
Before she knew it, the War God had already sat down on the grass in front of her, his hands sliding up her thighs underneath her skirt in what was meant to be a rather affectionate embrace than some sort of sexual hint, keeping them there and bending to place a soft kiss on her knee, inches above the edge of her long leather boot.
She was silent. Despite the God's rather gutty gesture she didn't vociferate any protest. He on the other hand was rather surprised . He did expect at least a smart retort if not a punch in the nose…..
One brief glance at his baffled expression and, as if reading his mind she decided to meet his expectations after all, and tip toe around the subject some more , stalling a bit while hoping that he would just drop it…..
" Can't you just help yourself for once? Do you really have to touch me each time you see me? " she questioned, her palms pressing slightly over his own , as an almost imperceptible, but genuine smile this time, flourished on her velvety lips, without as much as realizing it.
"Call it a bad habit if you will, but no…..it's a must.." Ares answered shaking his head, his own lips curving visibly the instant he noticed her unconscious reaction.
"So….." he continued, gazing at her expectantly.
She just arched an eyebrow, as if she had no clue about what he meant.
"Come on Xe, just talk to me….maybe I can help"
"Since when is the term even part of your vocabulary?" she replied nonchalantly, making complete abstraction of the countless times in which he did was there for her when she needed someone by her side.
"I'm serious…." he insisted cupping her chin.
"And "Serious" is your middle name lately, right?"
"Do we really have to do this?! " he exclaimed doing his best not to snap at her, irritated by that eternal stubbornness of hers. When it came to his Princes it was a one way street: he was either patient- till Tartarus and back- or they would fight like crazy, till one of them got tired of the useless activity and gave up. Out of courtesy, it was him most of the time- there were exceptions of course, mostly when she was not in the mood and she wanted to get it done with.
"Not necessarily. You could always leave me alone and mind your own business, I'm sure you have more interesting things to do- some village squabbles to oversee or something, that grating on my nerves , snooping around for the latest gossip"
" Will you cut the crap already and tell me what's up with you? You're like this for a couple of days….."
"So you're spying on me now?" she broke out, annoyed by his statement, as if she hadn't knew that watching her had turned for the War God in some kind of hobby since the first day he met her.
"I was not spying on you I was keeping an eye on you, ok?" he replied calmly, grinning like Cheshire cat.
"That pretty much equals "spying", in my part of the world, Ares." Xena bit back, still not at all thrilled by the idea of being under the God's surveillance 24/7.
"You say Minotaur I say Mynotaur….Whatever…..It doesn't change the fact that you're sad and I don't like to see you like this, ok?"
For a few seconds it was silence again, with a pensive Warrior Princess seriously considering to serve him a stingy enough reply regarding his lame, ridiculous mushiness and with a rather impatient War God silently praying that she would just open up to him and tell him what was on her mind. He was indeed worried.
"It's about Gabrielle….." she finally stated above a whisper.
"What about it?" Ares questioned rolling his eyes. " Did she die or something? Last time I checked she was still breathing and chatting with a tree."
Xena just gave him a murderous stare hearing the void, impersonal pronoun he had use to refer to the Bard and, pushing him back with a strong enough shove, she got up to leave.
"Wait wait wait! " the God exclaimed, rushing after her. "Princess hold on, I was just kidding. Bad joke, I get it, I'm sorry, ok?"
"Ares just forget it, it would have been a waste of time anyway" she replied, refusing to stop.
"Xe please…..I 've just told you I'm sorry ok? I shouldn't have said that, it was stupid…. Come on, Sweet…." He added grabbing her hand to keep her in place, and before she got the chance to protest he had already wrapped his arms tight around her.
"What's up with Blondie?" he murmured against her ear.
After another long pause she answered, on such a broken tone that she herself was surprised by the way it sounded.
"She told me something a few days ago….I can't seem to get it out of my head…" she trailed off gazing towards the cloudy sky, looking for some beam of light…
Ares just listened in silence as if fearing that if he spoke she'd change her mind and she'd stop telling him the rest of the story.
"There was this fight…We were helping the Amazons….."
"Yeah…..it got a little out of hand…pretty messy…..When it was over she said that with each battle she looses more of herself…..I….uh…..I can't stop thinking about it….."
"You're blaming yourself….." the War God stated, placing a light kiss on her hair.
"How can I not, Ares….?." she said, breaking free from his embrace and walking a few steps away from him…" It's because of me that she's feeling the way she does in the first place…If it hadn't been for me…"
"If it hadn't been for you she would have been the wife of some lousy villager, raising a couple of kids, milking cows in the morning and living the rest of her life feeling that she didn't belong there, that she would have been capable of so much more….." Ares cut in, closing in the distance between them and turning her around to face him.
" Plus as I recall she was the one that insisted to come with you not the other way around….?'
" Come on Ares, that's hardly an excuse! I could have said no…I should have known better…..It's not like I haven't seen from the very beginning that she's not meant to be a warrior…."
"What are you talking about? You did one heck of a job with her! She's a skilled fighter, and though you hate admitting it, it's in her blood….She's amongst the best you've ever trained…"
"I wasn't talking about that Ares and you know it. It's about her soul…..It's like every single kill leaves an inerasable mark on her heart… She should have been a Bard, writing plays in Athens, studying at the Academy…..Instead, her hands are stained with blood, she has nightmares every night, she even stopped writing for quite some time now…..She said that she can't find that inner peace any more, that she doesn't feel it anymore….."
"It's part of growing up Xena, of becoming a good fighter. She'll get over it, I guarantee it. As for her soul, warriors have no soul. We both know that. Not on the battlefield anyway. Her conflict is all about becoming immune to the idea of taking lives…..It doesn't shake her up as much as it did in the beginning and the mere thought terrifies her…..She's probably just afraid that she'd wake up one day with no humanity left inside her…..You've been there too, remember?"
"Ares she's not like us….."
"No she's not…But she's not what you'd want her to be either, Xena…not any more and stop feeling guilty about it cause it's only tearing you apart for nothing. She'll get over it I promise you…..Plus….Trust me when I tell you that her destiny wouldn't have been exactly the one you daydrimingly like to picture, ok? She would have become Ghurkan's personnal slave ….if she had survived Laslar's invasion of Potidea or Draco's, that is, and as you very well had the chance to see for yourself , neither of those men are the fairy tell Prince incarnated , you more than know what would have happened if any of those scums would have gotten their hands on her….."
It was visible enough that the God's words were like a rather unpleasant, rough shake to reality.
"This doesn't change the way she feels though…..I wish I knew how to help her….somehow…..It's like I don't know what to say…And all that pain, that know uncertainty…..I still remember them so vividly as if it was only yesterday when..."
"Just be there for her….That should do it"
The Warrior Princess offered him a warm smile, the memory of a very sweet, patient and caring War God never leaving her side during those long tormenting nights in which her conscience used to turn against her, threatening to break her down came to her mind….
He just gazed at her wistfully, wondering how in the world could this woman hold so much power over him. It was enough to see a shade of sadness passing on the surface of those bright beryl moons of hers to cause him unbearable heartaches….The mere concept was beyond him, and still, contemplating that surreal, one of a kind smile, he couldn't help tightening his hold on her…..She didn't call him possessive and obsessed for nothing after all.
A bit out of character, Xena batted her eyelashes coquettishly.
"Are you flirting with me Warrior Princess?" Ares asked, chuckling softly.
"Maybe…." she answered , biting her lower lip.
It all it took for the God to crush her lips with her own. How could he say no to such a direct invitation from the Princess of his dreams.
When their kiss broke he just cupped her face in his hands and gave her a long look before murmuring lowly as if he was revealing her the most important secret in the universe.
"You know….if you keep looking at me like that I might just force a goblet of ambrosia down your throat whether you like it or not….."
"What ever for?!" she exclaimed chuckling playfully.
"You….me…forever….the usual." he explained in a thick voice, softly caressing her lips with his thumb.
"You did mean it when you said that you'd never give up on me didn't you?" she asked, her smile widening even more.
"You have no idea….So….uh…..how about that one in a billion chance? Any progress?"
"It could take awhile…but you're getting there…." she replied losing herself under the hypnotizing effect of his dark gorgeous eyes and of his unbelievably silky caress.
"Well Sweet, I do have eternity…..no rush….." he uttered smiling, but the Warrior Princess could easily detect a note of anguish in his tone, which he unsuccessfully attempted to hide behind that skillfully phrased line.
He had forever…..her on the other hand, she only had a short span of time and puff! It was over….One didn't have to be a genius to tell that he was horrified about loosing her.
"Well, you're a big boy. I bet you'd figure out a tricky enough way to have me drink it….Gabrielle does leave to Potidea tomorrow to visit her niece…..you could invite me to dinner…."
Ares watched her in disbelief for almost a whole minute…..Did he hear that correctly? Did she say what he thought she did? Was she asking him to make her immortal? No...he was probably losing his mind...She did have that effect on him ...
"Uh…..sure…...just call when you're ready…." he managed to mumble somehow.
"Fine….See you tomorrow then…." Xena replied brushing his lips with her own before turning around to head back to camp.
She instantly turned her head at the sound of her voice, without actually replying, but arching an eyebrow questioningly.
"Not ok, but better, yes."
"Good…By the way…." he added while their gaze where still locked, waving a hand towards the sky and making the clouds vanish gradually in less than a minute as if they hadn't even been there in the first place, revealing a splendid moon and countless legions of stars "I know how much you love starry nights, so… enjoy the view...Sleep tight, Princess"
"Thank you" she answered, still amazed about what had just happened and moreover , about how well her God knew her….Her eyes said something else too though. As always, he was able to read in between the lines perfectly...
"Love you back…." he answered aloud, winking at her sheepishly, his face shining with bliss before he dematerialized back on Olympus….
He was happy….for the first time in years he was truly happy again….His Princess...he had finally gotten somewhere with her...…This time he refused to let her slip through his fingers.