Changes of Heart: Decisions
By CN Winters
See Part One for Disclaimers. Email the author at email@example.com
Xena, Eve, Hercules and Ares all meandered slowly up to the tree. It was a beautiful sight Golden bark and leaves that bared silver fruit shaped like ovals. Ares lead the way and wrapped his fingers around the immortal food that was his for the taking. A few moments passed but he still hadnt pulled the fruit from the tree.
"Is there a problem?" Xena asked getting a bit perturbed as she waited impatiently for the former god to collect the prize they had sought.
Ares let go of the fruit and turned around. "As a God you wouldnt give me the time of day but as a mortal . . . Youve helped me far greater than my expectations Xena. . . . I love you . . . but I know if I eat this and become immortal Ill never have the chance to win your love. As a mortal man I think I have that chance . . . I dont think I can do this. Id rather risk death and have a chance at winning your favor than to walk alone forever."
The circle stood in stunned silence for a moment.
"Excuse me?!" Xena exclaimed. "We traveled all the way up here. I broke my arm trying to get here. And NOW you decide you dont want to be immortal?! Please tell me he didnt just say that?" Xena added rhetorically to Herc, as she began to pace.
"I dont think I can do it," Ares mumbled sincerely.
"Ohhh," Xena growled in frustration.
"Look," Eve offered going over to the tree and plucking an oval. "Here," she said tossing it to the former god. "Dont eat it now. Take it with you and if you decide to change your mind and become immortal you can eat it whenever you please. Okay?"
Shed only known her mother for the course of a few months but in that time Eve knew when Xena began to reach her breaking point. By the speed of Xenas pacing, Eve knew that point was close at hand. Perhaps offering a solution to both of them was the key to keeping the peace.
"Im gonna kill him," Xena mumbled repeatedly as she walked back and forth.
Herc stopped her on one of her passes by him, "No youre not," he told her as diplomatically as possible. "I think Eve has a wonderful idea. Take the fruit," Herc told Ares, "and if the time comes that you change your mind its all yours, okay?"
Ares walked over and faced Xena. "Im sorry," he told her sincerely. "I appreciate what youve done for me here . . . what all of you have done . . . but if I thought there was no way at all that I could win your hand Id eat this in a minute . . . But I know that somewhere deep down inside, you love me too Xena."
Oh for crying out loud . . . why me? Xena wondered silently as she pinched the bridge of her nose, hoping to release the dull throb that was beginning from her frustration. Patience, Xena. Focus. Have patience.
"Ares . . . Thanks. . . but no thanks. Im not going to love you the way you want me too. That is never going to happen because I found my true love . . . Grant it, what I had with you was special. There will always be this bond I have with you. But thats not the course I want to take on my lifes journey. Gabrielle is the one I want to travel with in this life and the next and the next and the next. I swear by any god or goddess you name I will search until I find her, in this life and all others. I love you too Ares. Youve helped me when no one else would but youll never be my soulmate, never. And thats what you need to find to really understand love. . . Im sorry I cant be the one. I would but . . . Im already taken," Xena grinned bittersweetly and kissed Ares on his cheek. She took the fruit from his hand and placed it in his saddlebag. "Now lets find a way off of this rock."
"Maybe you can call on your one God to help you," Ares playfully jabbed.
"I think the one God helps those that help themselves," Xena countered with a grin as she considered a way down the mountain. Hey! I got it! "But we might still have some help from Olympus." Xena turned and faced the valley below taking a deep breath. "Aphrooooditeeeeee!" she yelled as loud as she could.
A glittering shower appeared as the Goddess of Love materialized.
"You rang?" she replied with a teasing grin.
"Yes I did. Do you think theres anyway you could . . . you know . . . do your goddess thing and get us outta here?" Xena asked, unsure of how Dite would respond.
Dite looked to Herc first who gave a guilty shrug. "So you got up here but now you cant get down huh? Bummer babe," she responded as she started to fade away.
"Hold on!" Herc called, making her come back to her solid form again. "Look I know that Ares and Xena arent your favorite folks in the world," Herc began. "But Id really appreciate it if youd lend us a hand . . . so please . . . will you help us?"
Dite crossed her arms in defiance and looked at the group around her. "She killed my husband," Dite said pointing to Xena. "All because of that little brat, whom Ares swore to take care of," she added pitching a thumb to Eve and Ares. ". . . Ill get you off the mountain Herc but the rest of them-."
"No. All of us," Herc insisted. "I cant leave them here."
Dite let out a deep sigh. "If I do this you owe me big time, got it?"
"Always," Herc answered, extending his hand in a deal. As soon as they locked palms both of them they disappeared. Seconds later Dite was back.
"Her," Xena and Ares said in harmony as they both pointed to Eve. The warrior and former god shared a grin for thinking the same thing as Dite and Eve disappeared.
A few seconds later Dite returned. "Next!" she said impatiently.
"Ladies first," Ares replied to the two women.
"How gallant," Dite snickered. With that Dite and Xena were gone and Ares stood alone on the hill.
Seconds later, Dite appeared. "Looks like its just you and me Bro," she replied as she returned.
"Yeah it looks that way," Ares answered. When he didnt give a sarcastic reply Dite looked deeper and could see his heartbreak.
"Ares," she began, "Its all for the best. Xenas right about this . . . Shes not the one for you."
Ares gave a light chuckle in spite of his dark mood. "So tell me ever powerful goddess of love . . . Will the ex-god of war ever find love?"
"Most definitely," she grinned. "But its gonna take time so hang onto that fruit. Ya might need it," she answered giving him a chuck on the shoulder. "Come on, lets get you somewhere safe, okay?"
Ares nodded and with that they vanished from the hill.
Herc, Eve and Xena all looked around at their surroundings, trying to place the town they were standing in when Dite returned alone.
"Wheres Ares?" Eve asked.
"I sent him on another path," Dite answered. "Your path is here," she told Xena and Eve.
"And just where is here?" Xena asked.
"About three towns from Athens, in a tiny town called Aterrus," Dite answered.
"Athens?" Xena asked. "I have to get to Potiedaia," she stressed.
"Look," Dite replied. "Theres a big bad warlord on the way here and these folks need your help. It would be WISE, hint hint, to stick AROUND," she added.
"No," Xena answered, with the bard being the only thing on her mind. "Everything else came first before Gabrielle and this time Im putting her front and center. I cant stay here."
Dite sighed. "Are all warriors this thickheaded?" she asked Herc. Herc just chuckled. "Listen babe," Dite began. "Ive heard your thoughts. Ive listened to your conversations and I can see your ready and rarin to get your bard back so trust me . . . hang out here, take in the sights, go easy on the mead . . . Poteidaia is not the place you want to be right now. Get it?" Realization washed over Xenas face and she started to look around the town. "Relax . . . shes not here. Not yet anyway so just chill."
"Thank you," Xena said sincerely.
"Dont thank me yet," Dite said. "Im just setting up locale. The events to follow will all be your doing so you better make damn sure you make the right choices. Gabrielle isnt mad anymore so that means one of two things shell move on with someone new or shell consider trying to build a life with you again . . . This is your moment of truth warrior princess so dont blow it."
Xena nodded self-assured in the fact she could do the right thing and she couldnt hold back her grin at the prospect of seeing Gabrielle again. Im going to see her again! She thought excited. She missed her so much and the ache returned stronger than ever. A moment later, however, a butterfly feeling grabbed her stomach and a nervous nature took over despite her joy. Oh Lord Im going to see her again. What am I going to do? What am I going to say-
"Well little bro what do you think?" Dite said to Herc halting Xenas worried mind long enough to hear their conversations. "Time to get you back to that hunky blonde in the cottage?"
Herc chuckled. "Sure as long as you think Xena can handle things here."
"Who? The warrior princess?" Dite teased. "Oh yeah . . . this little pissant wont be a problem. Shes a big gal - she can handle it. Now well get to see if its true if she can fight with one hand tied behind her back," Dite remarked, pointing to Xenas arm.
"Very funny," Xena grinned.
Dite winked and put her arm around Herc. "Kudos chicky babies. Were outta here," she said snapping her fingers.
"Good luck Xena," Herc told her as they began to vanish. Xena knew that Herc wished her well in the upcoming battle but these well wishes meant something deeper her relationship with Gabrielle.
"Thanks for everything Hercules," she told him sincerely before he was out of sight.
Once alone Eve and Xena looked around them. "So now what?" Eve asked.
"Well," Xena said putting her arm around her daughters shoulder, walking deeper into town. "We hang out here, take in the sights, go easy on the mead," Xena grinned.
"And we wait for her," Eve added.
"Yes," Xena agreed. "We wait for her."
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