Title: Love Rediscovered
Author: Susan Anthony (LdyGossamer@aol.com)
Pairing: Ares/Joxer UST, pre-slash Ares/Xander
Archive: Twisting the Hellmouth, Beyond Canon, my site at http://www.geocities.com/area51/keep/8613/artists.html, anyone else, just ask
Category: Crossover, AU, Drama, pre-slash
Summary: Ares finds his lost love in an unexpected and dangerous place
Feedback: Very welcome.
Notes: This story is from Bigbucks' Plot Adoption Agency. The plot request will be listed at the end of the story.
Warnings: M/M relationship implied, pays absolutely no attention to canon.
Disclaimer: The Boyz aren't mine. More's the pity. This story is for the pleasure of the readers only. I don't make a thing.
Eris, Greek Goddess of Discord, watched quietly as her brother sat on his throne and mourned. The War Temple was completely silent on this day as it was every year on this date. No gods or goddesses coming or going, asking for favors. No new age Warlords crying out for Ares' attention. If you were divine or in Ares' service you knew not to bother the War God today.
The dark-haired goddess watched Ares with an intense compassion none of her worshipers would ever guess she was capable of. But she had watched her brother torture himself with this ritual for far too long.
He would sit on his throne holding an oddly shaped helmet with the tenderness one might equate with a newborn. His fingers had long ago worn the rim of the helmet smooth and the odd color of the metal had faded. But Ares still regarded it as his most prized possession.
She understood the tragedy of loss. She had lost some treasured lovers in her long lifetime but at least she had offered her greatest love Immortality. Jett had stayed by her side even when it appeared it might be best for him to go. Two thousand years and thrice that many fights later and Eris regretted nothing about choosing her Consort.
But Ares hadn't offered his beloved Immortality, hadn't even told the man he was loved. The time never seemed right, the "right moment" never came and then Joxer was dead and the Twilight came, cutting off any access to Hades' realm and possible visits.
And so every year Ares mourned the lover he'd never approached and the Goddess of Love along with most of her House transported themselves as far away from Olympus and the Halls of War as it was possible to get.
But if Eris had her way, this would be the last time her twin mourned his loss.
"Ares?" Her voice echoed in the silent hall but her brother didn't respond. With a sigh, she moved from the shadows towards the throne. "Ares, listen up!" she snapped in a harsh tone, hoping to get his attention.
"Go away, Eris," he said in a tired tone. His eyes didn't waver from the helmet as his fingers traced over the metal.
"Tartarus, Ares! You *know* he's out there somewhere. Hades released him and Jace when he woke from the Twilight."
And hadn't that fact nearly gotten the newly accessible Lord of the Dead permanently slaughtered? Jett had been right there with Ares, ready to bash the elder God's brain in.
"Why aren't you looking for him?"
Ares glanced up. His dark eyes were almost too painful for Eris to look into but she held his gaze.
"There are billions of souls down there now, Eris," he finally replied. "Where would I even begin to look?"
Eris took a deep breath and stepped up to the throne.
There was a moment's silence before Ares looked up at her with a hope she'd long thought lost to her twin.
"What did you say?" he asked, his voice low and hoarse. Eris slowly smiled and then gestured. A large mirror appeared before the God of War.
"Sunnydale, California, brother," she stated as an image appeared in the mirror of a schoolyard full of children of perhaps five or six years of age. There were at least thirty children running, playing and screaming in the small playground but the dark God's focus immediately narrowed down to one small boy who was helping a little, red-haired girl up from the ground. She smiled at him as he dusted off her jumper and he gave her a very familiar grin.
"Joxer." The name was breathed out slowly and with a deep reverence.
"Xander," Eris said gently. Ares glanced at her with a vaguely curious expression. "He's called Xander now," his sister repeated. "Short for Alexander."
"Alexander." Ares almost caressed the word as he watched the boy begin rubbing the back of his neck and start looking around. The god's eyebrows lifted. "He knows we're watching," he murmured.
"He's very sensitive," Discord noted. "He always seemed to know when I was around. He became very fidgety."
"Joxer was like that too," Ares said softly as he watched the little boy playing with his friend. After another few minutes of fidgeting, Xander turned and looked directly at the mirror before his gaze wandered around, looking for whomever was watching him. Ares smiled for a moment before his eyes narrowed as he got a good look at the little boy's face. "Where did he get that bruise on his chin?" he asked in the deadly tone Eris was very familiar with.
Eris crossed her arms. "He told his teacher yesterday that he ran into a door," she said in a flat tone.
"A door?" Ares' tone was one of disbelief and Eris nodded shortly.
"Xander learned early how to cover for the bruises he gets at home," she continued, her own eyes going to the little boy who was her twin's soul mate. "His father takes his anger out on his son. His birth mother took off not long after he was born and the woman his father married after that isn't much better."
Her brother's expression turned black as he watched the little boy and his red-haired playmate. Xander's eyes still searched the playground but he devoted most of his attention to his friend and they were soon giggling together as he pushed her on a swing. Eris' dark mood lifted almost immediately as she watched them playing. She considered fondly what Ares was probably planning for the boy's malicious parents.
There was silence for a long while as Ares watched Xander and his red-haired friend, Willow. His long fingers absently caressed the metal helmet he held before he turned back to his sister.
"How long have you known?" came the quiet question.
"A month perhaps," she replied. "I wanted to be certain it was him before I told you. I didn't want to give you false hope but when I stumbled onto the boy during work, I was almost certain it was him."
"During work?" Ares asked absently studying the little boy in the mirror. Xander and Willow were now reluctantly following the other children back into their school. He was still rubbing the back of his neck.
Eris took another deep breath. "Sunnydale sits on an active Hellmouth. There is always something going on there."
Her twin slowly turned to look at her, an expression of absolute horror on his face.
"A *Hellmouth*?" he shouted as he sprang up from his throne and pushed the mirror out of his way. "Why the Tartarus haven't you pulled him out of there?"
"I tried," Eris stated calmly. "But defending the Hellmouth is his destiny. The freaky Fates appeared and pretty much told me to bugger off because Xander had to be in Sunnydale until the Hellmouth there closes."
Ares actually sputtered for a moment before he transitioned into full rant mode, pacing the length of his hall and exercising some of his favorite invectives before coming up with some entirely new ones. Finally, when he wound down a bit, Eris stepped in front of him.
"Ares, he can't leave," she began and her brother scowled darkly. "But no one said he has to be there alone."
The God of War blinked at her for a moment before he smiled, a truly wicked expression that his sister was delighted to see. He reached out to grip her shoulders warmly.
"What can I repay you with for this gift?" he asked sincerely and Eris just smirked.
"You gave me Jett," she said. "You got Hades to release my little Erin before the Twilight came. You owe me nothing." Then she grinned. "But a new set of Hephaistian daggers is always welcome."
"Done!" Ares vowed before he strode back to his throne. He stopped for a moment and considered the metal helmet he still held in his hand. With a final caress to the metal, he sent it back to its place of honor in his private rooms. Then he settled onto his throne again and thoughtfully studied the mirror before he nodded.
Then he leaned back and smiled.
"'Dite! I need you!" he called far more loudly than he usually did as he thought the goddess was likely to be on the moon for all he knew. She appeared in a very startled pink flash along with her husband, Hephaistos, the maimed God of the Forge.
"Ares?" she asked curious and worried. She knew what this day was and the fact that Ares was lounging on his throne with a familiar smirk was cautiously hopeful. She hadn't seen that smirk in...a very long time.
"Aphrodite, Hephaistos," he greeted them and then motioned for 'Dite to come closer. With a nod, he gestured in the mirror. Warily she moved forward, glancing sideways at Eris, who now slouched against the side of her twin's throne with a matching smirk.
With a curious gaze she looked into Ares' mirror and blinked. Then she gasped and clapped her hands before she jumped forward to hug Ares tightly.
"Joxie!" she squealed. "You found him!" Suddenly she scowled at him, her most ferocious look. Even Eris was impressed. "You'd better not even *consider* losing him again, Ares!" she snapped.
"No," Ares stated very seriously. "But I'm going to need a favor." Aphrodite was going to agree right away but the War God held up his hand. "It's a large favor, 'Dite."
The Love Goddess perched her hands on her hips and pouted even as her quiet husband moved to stand behind her, his hands on her soft shoulders. The pair exchanged a long look and then both turned their eyes back to the War God.
"We'll do anything for you, Ares," Hephaistos stated with a simple sincerity in his deep voice. "You know that."
"Whatever you need, Ares," Aphrodite echoed her husband firmly.
"Remember you said that, blondie," Eris said with a chuckle. Aphrodite gave her a worried look but then determination flashed over her features.
Ares just smiled at her.
Xander sat quietly on Willow's couch and tried not to fidget. He felt like he was being watched again but as always, when he looked there was no one around but himself and Willow. And Willow didn't hide that she was watching him. She sat right beside him and stared, a worried expression on her little face.
"Are you sure you don't wanna cry?" she asked again and he just nodded.
And he didn't want to cry. When the nice lady came to his classroom three days ago and pulled him out to tell him he wouldn't be going home that day, all he felt was relief.
When he found out he wasn't ever going back home because his parents had died, he wasn't sure what to think but he definitely wasn't sorry he would never see them again. He was happy to stay with Willow. Her parents were much nicer and quieter than his parents were. When he was at her house, he didn't have to worry about being too loud or eating too much or dropping something and making Daddy punish him.
"Are you worried?" Willow suddenly asked.
Xander thought about that for a moment. "Nope." He wasn't worried at all. Somehow, he knew things were about to get much better.
"What if they're mean?" she asked in a tone that said 'like his parents were' but Xander didn't worry.
"They'll be nice." His tone was very confident for a five-year-old and Willow twisted her fingers together.
"How do you know?"
Xander chewed his lip for a moment. "Well, Aunt Venus is my *real* Mommy's sister. Not like the bad Mom. I bet she's really nice."
Willow nodded slowly and allowed that it might be so.
"Well, if they're *not* nice, I bet Mommy would let you stay here," she said softly and he smiled at her, his best friend.
"Thanks, Willow," he replied just as the doorbell rang. Both children stiffened as Mrs. Rosenberg walked past the living room. She glanced quickly at Xander and smiled reassuringly before she moved out of sight to open the front door.
The children glanced at each other for a long moment and Xander reached out to hold Willow's hand. Then he stood and pulled his friend up as well and moved close beside her. He hadn't lied when he said he wasn't worried but he knew Willow was.
Then Willow's mother came into the living room with the new arrivals and Xander could only stare wide-eyed at the blond woman coming towards him. She was tall and beautiful and had the most wonderful blond hair the boy had ever seen. When she knelt in front of him, he reached out and almost touched one of the soft-looking curls that cascaded over her shoulder before he snatched his hand back with a worried look.
The woman just smiled. "It's all right sweetie," she said softly as she reached up and snagged a curl, which she used to tickle his nose with. "I'm your Aunt Venus."
Xander blinked. "You're beautiful," he blurted and then blushed bashfully. "I mean, I'm Xander. And this is Willow, my best friend."
"Thank you, Xander," Venus said in a warm voice before she smiled at the still suspicious looking Willow. "And it's nice to meet you, Willow. I hope you will come to visit Xander often. I have a house that isn't too far from here and you're always welcome to come over."
Willow's eyes lit up and she beamed. "Really?"
"Really, Aunt Venus?" Xander echoed in a surprised tone. "You wouldn't mind? We'd be very quiet."
An expression flashed through his aunt's deep blue eyes and was gone before he could understand it. But Venus just leaned forward and took their hands in hers.
"Of course, I won't mind. And you can make all the noise you want." The blond lowered her voice. "Besides, my Aunt Hestia makes the *best* sugar cookies and well, I just can't eat them *all* by myself."
Xander was about to crow with happiness when another figure stepped forward and towered over his Aunt. He was tall and rather stern looking and for a moment, Xander almost cringed away. But then the man smiled very gently down at him and after a moment, Xander smiled tentatively back.
Venus followed his gaze and smiled as she slowly stood.
"And this is my husband, Henry," she said as she wrapped her arm around his elbow.
"What happened to your leg?" Willow asked with the bluntness of the very young, her eyes looking over the cane he leaned heavily on.
Again, Xander saw expressions he didn't understand flicker across his uncle's face before the man just sighed.
"I fell down a very long time ago." His tone was sad as he glanced at his wife who just leaned her head against his shoulder.
"I hope it don't hurt anymore," Xander said quietly as he looked up at the very tall man and met a pair of warm eyes. The pained look on Uncle Henry's face fell away and he smiled again.
"No, Xander, it doesn't hurt anymore," he said before he turned and looked behind him. "There's one more person you need to meet."
Then another figure walked around Venus to stand in front of Xander. He was a boy a little taller than Xander with dark, wavy hair, dark eyes and a somber expression. Xander stared at him for a long moment, having the oddest sense that he knew this boy from somewhere but at the same time, he knew he'd never met him before in his life.
The two little boys sized each other up for a long minute before Xander finally gave the new arrival a shy smile.
"I'm Xander," he said and then glanced at his red-haired shadow. "And this is Willow."
"My name's Jesse," the boy said, as he looked the pair of them over. His somber expression melted into quite a wicked, little grin. "We're going to have loads of fun, I just know it!"
The plot was "Love Rediscovered" -- In the shadows Eris watches her brother Ares (of the Xena 'verse) break down sobbing over the strange hat/helmet that had finally been worn out from centuries of touching and fondling. Knowing that Ares had finally admitted his regret for never approaching/telling the mortal he loved that he loved him, she could finally help the brother she loved. Going out she went looking for the reincarnated Joxer...and found...Xander. Now she just has to get the two together.
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