All Xena: Warrior Princess Characters do not belong to me. This story is for entertainment purposes only.

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"Xena, are you even listening to me?"

"Yes," came the automatic reply the bard had heard at least a million times before.

"So, you're ok with me going to see Lila for her birthday?"

" Of course I am Gabrielle, why shouldn't I be?."

"Are you sure you don't want to come?" The petite blonde asked, silently wishing her friend would accompany her to Potidea for once.

"Yeah I'm sure, it's a family thing, you should all be together. You just go have fun," said the Warrior, putting a reassuring hand on her friends shoulder.

"You are also part of my family so…."

"Thanks….But you know what I mean" the Xena answered, feigning a smile.

Gabrielle cast a long gaze at her friend. She was well aware of the fact that Xena wasn't exactly on her family's list of favourite people, so she pretty much figured that the Warrior was in fact doing her best not to ruin anything, thus leaving her to go alone, avoiding some very useless conversations that she knew her father would most certainly open up. She was supposed to be back in about a week anyway.

"Well, I'll be off then," she finally said, hugging her tight and, still trying to hide her disappointment, Gabrielle mounted the horse Xena had 'hired' for her to make the trip.

"…..See you later Gabrielle….. Have fun. And don't get too drunk, ok?" the warrior called out to her friend.

Suddenly, a male voice cut through the air making her flinch in surprise.

"Great advice, Warrior Princess."

Spinning around she instantly narrowed her eyes at the God standing before her.

"Ares..."

"Why don't we skip the introductions…..? I think we both know who each other is," he jokingly mocked before continuing. "So… the Olympian Ball's on this week. Same 5 days, shall we go?"

He offered his arm but all he got in exchange was a glare to match Medusa's..

"What in Gaia's sacred name makes you think that I'm actually planning on going anywhere with you?"

"Oh come on Xena….. I'm not gonna bite if you don't want me to…." he retorted grinning widely.

The Warrior Princess couldn't help laughing in his face,

"Not gonna bite? Ha that's rich. After all the crap you've given me recently I highly doubt that."

"I would never really hurt you and you know it so cut the crap. Plus, you have to go because you're my Chosen!"

"I'm not going," she barked at him stubbornly.

Seeing her reaction Ares smiled proudly. It was one of the reasons he liked her so much.

"Come on, Xe, it won't be so bad…..You used to like this type of get-togethers…And it will get your mind off Gabrielle and her family," he said walking towards her, almost touching her hand. "I know how much that's bothering you..."

Xena's eyes widened then she lashed out angrily, " Just get out of here and leave me alone already, you soulless bastard!"

Ahhh, one of her favourite names to call him. Probably on top on the endless list. Still, Ares put up his hands:

"Woah! I was just trying to help..."

"No you weren't. You were trying to manipulate me into coming with you! Your favourite way of doing things…"

"Manipulate" is such a harsh term Princess….Let's say I was trying to "convince" you."

"I think I'll stick with my first option" she snarled.

"Well anyway, did it work?" he asked cockily.

By now she was glaring daggers at him. A few seconds later, he carefully took a step forward so there was hardly any space at all between them.

"I swear it on the head of Zeus, if you try anything on me while I'm with you, I'll..."

"I dare you," he replied as he transported them to the Halls of War.

She stepped out the blue light to find herself in the arms of Ares in his domain.

Instinctively, she pulled out from his embrace, slightly confused. She still couldn't believe that she was in the middle of threatening him but he just transported her here anyway.

"You knew you were coming anyway" a voice said in her head. "You were just making a drama out of it. You can't keep denying him..."

"So, you were saying?" he said with a devilish grin and as much as Xena wanted to wipe it straight off his face, she couldn't deny the little butterflies that fluttered round in her stomach whenever he did it.

"Doesn't matter..." she grumbled, barely audibly.

Ares frowned a little, usually his Xena would have carried on.

"Oh well" he said to himself "She's here with you now, isn't she?

He then watched her saunter off to the black dining table dominating the room and pop a grape into her mouth.

Xena paid him no mind though, she was too busy gazing all over the room- nothing had changed since the last time she was there: the same two black couches parallel to the table, a fireplace, heavy velvet curtains, a huge armoire and multiple doors and hallways leading around his castle gave the impression of a sombre but classy place.

He walked over to her, made two goblets appear and poured them a drink. He handed one to Xena and frowned a bit when he noticed her glancing at it without making the slightest move to take it.

He pulled a seat out for her and gestured for her to sit down. She did.

They sat in silence until Xena spoke:

"So what is it this year? High Priestess duties, relaxation, competitions?"

The God of War glanced at his wine before answering:

"A little bit of everything…... There is something new though….Hera came up with the crazy idea of locking all Gods in the same room with their Chosen for one day….."

"What?!"

"Yeah I know, right?"

"Why?"

"Bonding….She seems to think it would strengthen our relationship with our Chosen….."

"Well, lucky we don't have a relationship then," she said, but as she uttered the words there was a stab of what... pain?

Ares flinched; she still had no idea...

"Ahem, yeah. Well….I should give you some space before the opening ceremony tonight….and uh….tonight is also the bath," he said now with not too much emotion.

Xena caught his uncomfortable hesitation but said nothing.

"The bath….right…well….I better go get ready…"

With that she promptly got up and walked towards one of the doors down the other end of the table. She opened it and waited for Ares. He hastily got and up caught up to her. She walked into his bedchamber. Massive bed, all black, the usual. They kept walking to a door on the other side, Xena's room. Nothing had changed there either.

"Dresses are in the second draw," the God's voice broke the silence.

Xena turned to look at him, confusions written all over face.

"Good to have you back Xena," he said simply, pretty much answering her question.

She looked like she wanted to speak but said nothing so the God vanished…She was nervous…