AresJoxerCupidStrife - Carrie


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

Title: Bonds of Friendship
Author: Carrie
Fandom: Xena/Herc
Pairing: None
Rating: G
Status: Complete
Series: Bond's Series
Archive: If you like it, you can have it. Just let me know.
Feedback: Sure. carriedemarchi@hotmail.com
Website:
Disclaimer: Not mine. =|
Notes: Cupid and Strife are in their teens, if it isn't obvious. Thanks to my beta, TW. =)
Summary: Cupid and Strife meet for the first time. Get to know each other. Strife has to leave.

~ Part 1 ~

Strife woke up and blinked his eyes. He laid in his bed and stared at the ceiling. He supposed he should get up now. He rolled over onto his side and slowly propped himself up so he was sitting up on the edge of his bed.

His bed. Barely even warm in the spot he had been laying. It's cold in his room. He could just heat it up but what's the point? He actually liked it the way it was. Cold and slightly clammy.

Damp and unpleasant, really. He sat and looked around his room. It wasn't that big of a room either; fairly small. Cold polished marble floors, cold rough textured walls, a few of the weapons his uncle had given him hung up haphazardly on them.

A room with a bath embedded into the floor was connected to the main part of his bedroom off to the right. With various cabinets and a large wardrobe to hold his few clothes and other personal things.

He pushed himself up off his bed and made his way towards the bathing chamber to relieve himself and to clean up. Warm water sometimes helped to cheer him up. So did cold water, but in different situations.

~

Out the door of Strife's bedroom there's the long hallway with doors to the other apartments in the temple. His uncle Ares' temple. Ares' room, a room for his mother, a guest room for visiting dignitaries and deities. And a few other rooms for... whoever else his uncle wanted in his house.

Strife shut his door behind him and walked down the corridor, past his mother's room and turned left down another hallway. There was the dining room to his right and the kitchen to his left. He turned into the kitchen.

It was empty and clean, with windows that showed the garden. No one on Olympus had any real need for a kitchen but, it wouldn't seem right to leave themselves without one in case they actually did need it one day.

"Strife?"

He heard someone, his uncle, call his title. He looked out one of the window's a bit longer before turning and making his way back through the kitchen and into the dining room.

Ares watched Strife enter the room and he frowned. The boy could at least do something with his hair; it was all wild and sticking up all over the place. After his sister had left her son with him to raise, Ares admitted he didn't have too much time for the boy.

"Would you like to sit down?" Ares asked, gesturing to a seat across the table from him. He was reclining slightly on the chair he was sitting on himself and was casually eating a small pastry.

Strife shook his head and walked to the window that was in this room. Before he got there he let his eyes stop and stare at a door that, quite obviously, hadn't been opened for a number of years. He wasn't allowed to go in there.

The only room he couldn't go into. Granted, he wasn't too welcome in his mother's bedroom either but at least he'd seen it. He turned his attention back to the window and looked out. He could see his mother's temple and one to his aunt Athena past the garden and stone walls that acted as a border of the property that belonged to his uncle.

Ares watched his nephew stare out the window, he had even seen him linger on the door to the side of the room. He knew his nephew wasn't the biggest talker and quite frankly neither was he. But he always made an attempt.

Strife turned from the window and looked at his uncle who had been watching him and was still watching him. He tilted his head a bit, almost curious to what, if anything, his uncle had to say to him this morning.

"I'll see you later?" Ares asked.

Strife gave a shy smile, "Yeah."

~ Part 2 ~

Strife stood outside his uncle's temple and took a deep breath. He didn't know why, but the intake of fresh air was refreshing at times. Of course, God's don't need to breathe at all though.

He then took a look around and saw nothing immediate to keep him on Olympus, so, he transported himself down to the mortal world. Materializing in Athens, near a place he was remembered being brought to once with his aunt Athena, he looked around for something to do.

Invisible to mortal eyes, of course, he could just walk among them normally like any other person. No one would recognize him, he was only young after all and had not made any such debut of himself in the world.

Causing mischief or strife as his title suggests was one of his first thoughts when he arrived in the street. He looked to his left and saw a market full of happy people doing some shopping or selling their wares

Up the other side of the street he saw the same thing, only a bit different. He chose to go that way. He approached a small group of children and teenagers, who were busy chatting and some were pulled away by their parents who were leaving.

A mother who had directed her little girl away from the group tagged along beside until she thought her mother believed she would follow, then she turned and ran back to the group to talk and have more fun.

He recieved a small spark of power from that and he smiled inwardly. He kept walking through the market and spied some more young people. Older than the others, they were supposed to be inside a small shop working but had skipped out were currently on their way to be intimate with each other from the looks of it.

While they went on their way Strife saw inside the shop the girl's father looking rather peeved at the departure of his helping hands. Well, they surely will be helping themselves soon enough, he thought to himself.

With that slightly larger spark of energy he recieved from their mischievious activities he also felt something else along with it; he felt like there was someone watching him.

He stopped and looked around the market. No one oddly out of place. Ah, there it was. A young looking boy with bronzed skin, shirtless, staring right at him. He didn't look directly back at him, he didn't want to startle the boy.

Just then a thought occured to him; how can the boy see him? Strife's mouth dropped open a bit and his head jerked towards the boy and immediately met his eyes. The boy's own eyes widened a bit before Strife blinked and he was gone.

~

Strife reappeared back on Olympus in front of his uncle's temple. Confronting the two, wide double doors to the entrance of the temple, Strife merely walked through them. Not bothering with anything unnecessary.

In the anteroom space of the temple, Strife stood and glanced at the six supporting pillars before him. He kept walking into the heart of it; Ares' throne room. A table with food's, weapons, and various other things to the left of him.

A statue of his uncle to the right, along with the door to the rest of the rooms in the building. Directly in the center of the room was the throne, behind it on the wall was a freize of one of his uncle's great and glorious war's.

He turned to the right and passed through the sitting room, which also half doubled as a library and study. Down through the hallway, stopping to decide whether a trip out to the garden would prove interesting, and straight into his room.

Strife sat down heavily on his bed. What a fun day he had. He knew he looked sarcastic and there was no one there to see it, so why did he even make the face? He let his muscles relax and looked blank once again.



~ Part 3 ~

Ares flashed into his sitting room and sat down, waiting for Strife. He began to read a book he had sitting beside him on a table and soon almost forgot about his little meeting with his nephew. When he remembered he realized that it was way past the time they would usually meet each other when Ares had time.

The God of War frowned slightly as he got up and walked to his nephew's bedroom. The door was shut and he slowly and quietly pushed it open. He saw Strife laying on his bed, awake. "Strife?"

Strife shifted his eyes from the ceiling to the doorway where his uncle was standing and lifted an arm up and let it plop back down onto the bed. Ares took that as an acknowledgement and an invitation into the room. He walked over to the bed and sat down.

"So," he started, "What's new?"

Strife continued looked at him, "Nothin'."

Ares thought for a moment, he thought at least he might get a bit of an answer. "Hmm, what did you do today?" he asked.

"Went to Athens."

"Listen, Strife, I know we don't talk much. And certainly not as much as when you were younger and needed more constant care. But, if you ever want to talk or anything, you can talk to me," Ares offered.

Strife looked slightly thankful and he attempted to smile, "Thanks, Unc."

Ares smiled and ruffled Strife's hair before getting up and walking back to the door. "Good night."

"Night," Strife said as the door shut and the sconces in the room dimmed.

~

He always knew he could talk to his uncle, but there was always the feeling that he had to ask for someones help. Like he wasn't good enough to figure it out or do it by himself. He felt stupid to ask questions helpful to himself.

It was his uncle's personality, too. It seemed to Strife that it just radiated superiority and that Ares would laugh at him if he asked a stupid question. Add to that Strife hardly ever knew how to word the questions, even if they were legitmate, to not sound stupid.

He made his way down the hall to the dining room, he knew his uncle wouldn't be there because he heard him leave and check in his room before he left earlier for something or other. He walked up to the door in the dining room and lifted a hand to it.

He brushed off some dust off it and traced his fingers over some writings and pictures. A bow and arrow, some symbols associated with the House of Love. Why would these be in the House of War?

Brushing more dust off, off of the rest of the words and stood back a step to read what it said. "Eros," Strife said outloud. He was a bit confused. Who is Eros? Was this another bedroom? His own name and title were inscribed on the door to his bedroom.

He squinted his eyes and tried to think. Thinking was always better for him out in the garden, around growing, living things. He took another two steps backwards keeping his eyes on the door before turning and making his way out to the garden.

~ Part 4 ~

Aphrodite sat invisible in her temple in Argos, she had been receiving some bad vibes from somewhere and had narrowed it down to her brother's Olympian temple. Tiny furrows on her forehead formed and she unconciously raised a hand to smooth them out and relax the muscles there.

Flashing out of her temple and up to Olympus she found her son studying some of her scrolls. "Cupie?" she called, "Whatcha doin'?"

Cupid kept his head downand continued what he was doing; sitting on a low sofa with several scrolls spread out and a few still rolled up with a small ribbon tied around them. "Just looking these over again, Mom," he answered.

She waved a hand and transported the scrolls back to their place in her library. Cupid looked up at her, "Why'd you do that?"

"Just wanna talk for a bit," she made her way over and sat down beside him. He turned slightly to face her, moving his wings out behind him more so they weren't cramped up against the back of the sofa.

He looked at her expectantly. "You know your father didn't really want you to leave his training as quickly as you did, or even be dedicated to Love instead of War. I've been getting some kinda sad vibes from there lately, so I was wondering if you could pop over there for a bit? See how he's doing?"

"Why can't you do it?" Cupid asked.

"Well," Aphrodite cleared her throat, "We're not on the best terms at the moment, he's still upset about you not spending anymore time with him. I don't know why he's so peeved though, he has Strife there now."

"Strife?"

"Your cousin? Aunt Eris' son. Duh, Cupie, I thought you knew."

~

Cupid flashed into his fathers throne room and looked around. He took a step to the left and then shook his head. It had been quite a while since his last time in the House of War that he almost forgot where he was going.

Moving to the right and into the lounge, he sent out his senses for his father. He didn't find his fathers signature, but what, or rather who, he did find interested him. He proceeded to walk down the corridor, looking to his fathers room and to the door on the opposite side of the hall.

Standing in front of the door he read inwardly what it said: God of Mischief. Cupid opened the door, half expecting it to creek or groan upon being disturbed. The feeling of such disuse he saw in the whole temple made him a bit nervous.

Just like the rest of the dark, cold, and slightly dusty temple, this room was the same. Except for the body laying asleep in the bed at the far end of the room. He walked quietly over to it and leaned over the figure and looked closely at him.

Strife could feel someone over him. It wasn't the same feel as his uncle, but something close to it. Not the secure feeling he gets when he received a hug from Ares, but a shy, unsure, but bold, feeling.

He opened his eyes and looked right into the face above him. Short, light to dirty blonde hair, bronzed skin, shirtless. Images from the previous day when he was in the market flooded into his mind. It was the same boy. How did he get into his room?

Cupid blinked and leaned back slightly when the supposedly sleeping dark hair boy opened his eyes and looked right at him. "I saw you in Athens," he commented.

Strife gave voice to his question, "How did you get in my room?"

"I'm Cupid, your cousin."

"Explains how you saw me in Athens," Strife deduced and sat up. Cupid leaned back farther and farther, as Strife advanced his body as he sat up, until he was standing straight up again.

"Can we go out to the garden?" Cupid asked, and added hurriedly, "It's making my feathers go funny; the air in here, it's kinda dank."

Just now noticing and leaning to the side a bit to get a better look behind Cupid, Strife commented, "You have wings."

Cupid nodded. Strife shrugged and got up from the bed and walked out into the hallway. "Aren't you coming?"

Cupid watched his cousin he had just met for the first time, well, technically second. At his question, Cupid stopped his mind from trailing off somewhere and began following his cousin out to the garden.



~ Part 5 ~

"I haven't been in here for a few years," Cupid commented. They approached the dining room and the kitchen on their way to the garden. Cupid was glancing around, trying to take in his father's temple again and remember where everything was.

"Oh, man!" Cupid exclaimed and ran into the dining room and across it to the door on the far side. "My room," he said quietly and ran his fingers across his formal name ingraved on the door.

This got Strife's attention and he was watching Cupid. The excited, raised voice at the notice of the door didn't peak his attention as much as the statement after it, which he barely heard.

"Eros?" Strife questioned.

Cupid turned when his name was spoken, the look of confusion on his cousins face spurred his answer, "It's my given, formal name," Cupid explained.

He turned from his old room and moved back to where his cousin was in the hall leading to the garden. Cupid gestured to continue outside. And on the subject of names, "What's yours?"

"My what?"

"Your name?" Cupid prompted.

"Strife."

They walked down a path in the garden in single file, leading up to a bench under some trees, near a pond and some flowers. It really was much more peaceful and calmer here compared to inside the temple.

"That sounds more like a second name, too. Is it your given name?" Cupid asked, genuinely interested.

Strife noted Cupid's 'interest'. He hadn't had much contact with anyone else in his family to date and he pretty much shied away from it when he had the opportunity. He felt strangely at ease around Eros, or Cupid, as most people apparently called him.

"No," Strife kept on with his short and sweet answers.

"What is?" Cupid persisted.

"Erin."

"That's a Celtic name," Cupid said.

"And your's is Roman, what of it?" Strife asked, a bit defensive.

Sitting down on the bench, Cupid followed and noticed Strife slide himself over farther away from Cupid. //He's just shy,// Cupid thought.

"Dad works around or in Rome a lot," Cupid shrugged.

"Ares is your dad?" Strife asked.

"Yeah," Cupid answered, "Who's yours?"

"I dunno," Strife turned his head slightly more away from facing Cupid, "Some Celt God."

"Oh."

~

Strife sat across the table from Ares, eating his supper, like his uncle was also doing. Just like breathing, eating wasn't necessary either but, oh well, might as well do it. Actually Gods do need other foods besides ambrosia to sustain their basic bodily fuctions. But not much.

"I met your son today," Strife said, breaking the silence.

Ares looked up at Strife from his plate, "Cupid?"

"Yeah," Strife said, "That's his room?" he asked, nodding towards his left.

Ares swallowed what food he had in his mouth and looked to the door. He didn't want Strife going through anything Cupid had left there, so he had forbid him from going in the room. "Yeah."

They quickly slipped back into their silence and finished their meal.

~

Strife sat in his room on his bed. He spent most of his time here sitting alone or trying to think, or just the lack of any motivation to do anything else or having anything else to do. His thoughts always came out jumbled and mixed up, the garden helped, for some reason.

He vaguely remembered his mother's garden. Maybe he was born there? And felt some sort of connection with it? The soft blades of grass he had laid in when he was very young seemed more nurturing than Eris had been.

But now he was left with his uncle. Not a very attentive uncle anymore, but he was still there when he really needed him. On a physical level, yes. An emotional one? He just felt too confused to try and approach his uncle with something like that. He didn't think Ares was the best at tackling those subjects either.

Strife sighed and shoved himself up off his bed and made his way to the garden. He saw a pair of wings, his first thought was a swan. But no, it's his cousin. It was going to take some time to remember that he had wings. He'd never known anyone who had wings before. He liked them.

He walked up over to the pond where Cupid was sitting; where they were sitting the day before. He was waving his finger's around in the water. There were little fish in the pond that Strife liked to watch and occasionally splash his foot down in the water and make them swim away, startled. Maybe it was cruel but it was mischief.

Strife sat down on the bench quietly and watched his cousin. Cupid knew he was there, he glanced up at him in acknowledgement and kept playing around in the pond with the fish.

"What are you doing?" Strife asked quietly, not wanting to disturb anything.

"Making them attracted to each other. I can direct the 'love vibes', as Mom calls them, through my body. So, why not play with the fishes while I wait for you?" He smiled.

"Wait for me?" Strife asked. No one had ever really wanted to spend time with him. Ares did occasionally, he never didn't want him around, but he was busy a lot.

"Yeah," Cupid said, shaking his hand to rid a few drops of water from it, dropping into the pond and making ripples. "I thought you'd come back out here today."

"Why'd you think that?" He supposed he was an open book with someone that wasn't emotionally challenged at sharing their feelings. Cupid was a Love God after all.

"You seem to like it here," Cupid gestured at the garden at large.

Strife shrugged.

"I get my own temple when I'm twenty-five, I'm gonna make a big garden in it," He emphasized big with the spreading of his arms at their full length.

"Cool."

Cupid smiled at him. He liked his cousin, even if he was a bit shy.

~ Part 6 ~

"So, Cupie," 'Dite said as she materialized in the room, "Hows your Daddy?"

"I didn't see him," Cupid put down his bow he was fiddling with, it didn't quite fit his hand so he was planning on going to see Hephaestus about melding it a bit for him.

Aphrodite quirked her eyebrow. "What were you doing over there for so long then?"

"I spent the time with Erin."

"Erin? Strife? Wow, I haven't heard that name since he was just a baby."

"Yeah, I think I'll go back over there tomorrow to see him," Cupid said, "I don't think its Dad, although it's true I didn't see him. I think Strife is just sad."

"Really?" Aphrodite thought for a moment, "Well, I guess he doesn't, or hasn't ever had anyone around to do things with. Maybe he needs a friend?"

"I'd like to be that friend if he'd let me. I mean, we're close to the same age and no one else really has any connections to the House of War. He seems to like me too, so I'm gonna try."

"That's a good boy," 'Dite smiled at her son and winked before she flashed out of the room again. Just checking in, she'd leave this for her son to dabble in.

~

Cupid concentrated on his cousin, he was in his room, like usual. He flashed himself into Strife's room and looked around. "Erin?" he called.

Hearing his name, he stuck his head out from the bathing chamber. "Can you call me Strife? Erin kinda makes me uncomfortable."

"Oh, sure." Cupid had never thought about that before. He guessed it made sense, his mom even said she hadn't heard it for years, granted she wasn't around Strife that much in those years but neither was anyone else and a friendly nick name might seem more comfortable.

Cupid materialized a chair and sat down on it. He looked around his cousins room, it was a bit cleaner than last time. Maybe Strife had been doing something other than sit or lay on his bed. His attention was brought back to the back room of Strife's quarters in the temple from a thump of something dropping onto the floor. "What are you doing?"

"I'm changing," Strife replied.

Cupid made an 'oh' face and continued waiting. A few minutes later Strife came out wearing the same thing Cupid had seen him in every other day. "Nice change," Cupid commented and smiled

Strife made a slight sneer on his face and when he realized Cupid didn't actually mean it as an insult he attempted to smile but, as he always thought to discribe it, his smiles were always delayed. Lack of motivation to actually make the muscles move. Maybe he just didn't care.

"What do you wanna do today? Wanna go to a neat lake I found the other day?" Cupid asked.

"Sure," Strife answered. He'd been getting used to spending time with someone. Someone around his own age was nice too, Cupid was a bit older though. More mature since he'd already began his duties as a Love God almost full time.

~

Sitting down beside the lake Cupid had taken him to, Strife looked up at the trees and the rocks around him, the minor percent of sand in the beach of mostly pebbles or dirt. Were they close to the sea?

The sun was out. Strife had never much liked the sun, he prefered to stay inside and, well, sit in his room. He didn't know if he tanned or not. Cupid obviously did, and spent a lot of time out in the sun. His golden skin was the product of doing so.

His uncle Apollo was tanned, too. He remembered being taken to his temple when he was found with a broken leg when he was about five. With the slender, weak frame of his body it wasn't hard to break something when he fell. The only thing he remembered of the whole ordeal, besides being taken to Apollo, was where his foot landed on some spilt water and he slipped.

But it wasn't the water he remembered it was the position of a tiny crack in the floor that he remembered he stepped across in a certain angle. It had absolutely nothing to do with him falling, though. Why did little stupid unimportant things always stick in his head like that?

Because he had nothing big and important to care about? That he had to stick with stupid little things that, when it comes down to it, don't even matter at all. He should care about himself. He was important. Wasn't he? Should he care about himself?

He was pulled out of his self worth evaluation in his head by the ripples that began to form in the water he was staring at. Cupid had begun to skip small stones across the water.

"Hey," Cupid waved a hand in front of Strife's face, "Wanna talk about anything?"

Yes. Yes, he did want to talk. In even the short week and a few days he'd been spending with Cupid he felt like he could trust him. There was some kind of bond there that he couldn't put his finger on.

Strife shook his head. He didn't feel quite ready to talk yet. He used to babble out his feelings when he was little to a stuffed toy, and recalled crying his eyes out afterwards, during and for almost a day after each time he tried to let it out.



~ Part 7 ~

Cupid left Strife's room and Strife went to his bed. He sat on the edge and looked around his room. Maybe he should take Cupid's suggestion and add some more furniature in here. It was rather dull.

He started by reaching under his bed and pulling out everything from under it. A dagger, his stuffed toys, along with a few dust bunnies, and various other things of his childhood.

He sat up and looked to the corner, he pictured a cabinet with cross hatched doors on it and slowly it began to materialize. He gathered up his things and sorted them and set them out on a kind of display in the cabinet.

He stepped back and looked at his work. It was alright, he guessed. Nothing spectacular. He went back to his bed. There was still quite a bit of empty space in the room. He created a table and a couple chairs for near the cabinet.

He changed his mind and made a small bookshelf to house some scrolls of his he had previous put in the cabinet. A long couch for along the other wall, he duplicated some tapestries he liked and had then hung up to be filler, basically, for the bare spots on the walls.

"That's enough for now," he said. He laid back on his bed and pulled his sheets over himself. He felt a bit better now that it looked more filled up in his room. He never really liked having too many possessions, he liked the blank look of his room. The dusty parts of it could do with some cleaning and keeping it clean, though.

Black and white were good colors to stick to, maybe pick out some exotic things just to add some color to it. But really he liked to stick with basics. Any color and he thought it didn't look good at all. Picking colors that matched was hard. And they always looked like they clashed anyway.

~

Absent, pointless thoughts ran through Strife's head as he walked along side, or slightly behind, his cousin.

"Half the time I don't even notice that I'm *here*, ya know?" Strife blurted out, "Like alive or anything like that. The other day I was just sitting in the dining room with Ares and just staring off into nothingness, my eyes were unfocused, he even commented on that, not thinking about anything, my mind was just blank, and not feeling like I was alive."

Cupid had slowed almost to a stop in their walking and their positions were now reversed as he was slightly beside/behind his cousin. He wasn't expecting Strife to talk at all on the walk from his mother's garden back to his father's temple. Cupid just paid all his attention to Strife so he wouldn't get the feeling he wasn't listening or didn't care and let him continue his speech without interruption.

"...like I had no life, that I'm not really someone. Just something sitting here that someone else is controlling and making do this and that. Most of my life I've felt like that and its only occasionally that my eyes will come back into focus sometimes like that and I'll feel how fucking lost I am in life and that I'm so insignificant to the entire world or the universe."

Strife finished off another blurb of panicked explaination and stopped completely and looked at Cupid. A deep look of pleading and worry in his eyes. Cupid, not quite knowing what to do, took a step forward and wrapped his arms around Strife.

Strife felt his heart beat faster in his chest and instictively returned Cupid's hug. He went a bit further and squeezed onto Cupid, tight. Cupid noticed the strong hold Erin was holding onto him with and thought it might be the vulnerable openness of being outside and sharing such feelings. It was obvious it was the first time he'd ever spilt out anything like this.

Cupid sent soothing mental thoughts to his cousin and lightly kissed below his ear after Strife stuck his head against Cupid's neck.

Flashing out of the threatening area to a delicate mind, Cupid reappeared holding his cousin against himself in a hug, still. Guiding him down to Strife's own bed and sat him down. Strife didn't want to let go and he scooted himself closer to sit beside Cupid and keep his arms around him.

Cupid brought a hand up to Strife's neck and began to rub it and moving up to the back of his head. He got him calmed down and he slowly eased Strife's arms away from around his neck. Not that he minded having Strife hold onto him. It was comforting to himself, too.

He'd never had anyone to talk to about this stuff either. To be honest his mother was a bit too ditzy for any stuff like this, he thought. Of course he never had the thoughts like this that Strife had mentioned.

Strife's face was flushed red. It was very noticable on his pale skin. He had a few tear track's down one side of his face and he sniffled a bit. He held his head down like he was embarassed that he'd been crying.

Cupid brought a hand up beside his cousins face and Strife flinched slightly. Cupid frowned sympathetically and smoothed a hand across Strife's cheek, wiping a tear away and tilting his face up to look at him.

"Isn't it weird that sometimes when you cry the tears will only fall from one eye?"

Cupid looked at him and repeated what he had just said over in his head. His lips twitched and he cracked a small smile.

Strife pulled one side of his lips up into a smile and the other slowly followed. He let out a small jerky laugh. Cupid was glad Strife was cheering himself up. He knew one of them had the break the ice eventually. He was also glad that it had been Strife.

He didn't really want to push anything he thought Strife wasn't ready to talk about or anything. He could see the pain inside of Strife and it had practically screamed out at him.

Strife had calmed down considerably and was looking rather tired. Cupid watching him tilt himself over and lay down. Strife lifted his legs up onto the bed and Cupid immediately got up.

Strife tensed and propped his top half up on his arm and looked up at Cupid. "Don't leave!"

"I won't," Cupid said. Not realizing how his sudden action would have upset Strife before he did it.

Cupid actually had got up to make room for Strife's feet so he wasn't cramped. But the thought later occured to him that Strife would want to stay close to him. He needed comfort and safety right now and he felt obviously safe with Cupid.

~ Part 8 ~

Cupid had materialized a chair, silently, and had watched Erin slip into a quiet and peaceful sleep. He found it very calming and sweet to watch him sleep.

But he could only do that for so long before his mind started drifting into other thoughts. He'd rather leave them untouched for now. He started looking around the room. It didn't quite look the same as last time he had been in here.

He took another look at Strife. His mouth had slipped open a bit and there was a bit of saliva threatening to drip down. Cupid smiled. He got out of his chair and looked around.

It was a bit brighter all around. The colours of everything in the room had been brightened. Or at least had a more glossy type of colour to them. Not so dull. The curtains were pulled away from a window and tied neatly to the side. A dull light came through and made a nice golden shine on a few things it touched.

Cupid noted that the air was fresher in the room and it just looked a lot more cleaner. That was the main thing. It also seemed less empty. Cupid couldn't quite put his finger on it. Oh, Cupid thought when he looked around and stopped trying to look so hard at things.

Just what was plainly around him was all new. Instead of only a bed and a few miscelleneous things scattered around the room, it was neatly organized into a cupboard. Just normal things that he see's everyday he missed because they're so natural to him.

He guessed to Strife they were a bit new though. Just being used to blank empty spaces. He wondered why he did it. Clean, organized, brighter, happier. Of course Cupid wasn't disapproving of it all. It was a good thing to have a happier environment to be around.

It was obvious Erin didn't want to be hurting anymore. Reaching out to the closest thing to a friend he had. Cupid thought of himself as a friend to his cousin. As much as these two side of the family didn't really get along too well most of the time, it didn't seem too odd to him that him and the young God of Mischeif could get along.

Mischief did take part in a lot of Love's activities anyway. Strife just hadn't been out in the world or, as it seemed, charged with too many of the duties he was to take care of as the God of Mischief.

~

Cupid was back at the bed when he first heard Strife stir. He'd been sitting there waiting for Strife to come fully into conciousness. He watched the movement of his cousins eyes behind their lids before his eyes fluttered open slowly.

Strife sighed happily. Cupid was still there. He half expected to wake up and he wouldn't be there. At least not kneeling beside the bed watching him, maybe over looking through his things or something. Another reason he had kept everything hidden.

He sat up and crossed his legs, sitting on his bed. Cupid tentatively climbed onto the bed too. A look from Strife that said, 'Of course you can sit with me,' confirmed that he indeed could join him.

~

"...and I get nervous and... Scared, I guess. Like I don't know what I'm going to do or where I'm going to be doing it."

"Well, you'll move into things in your own time. It doesn't look like you're too educated in the duties of your godhood, yet. You should ask Dad about that or... "

"The only fucking emotion I've felt and, remembered feeling it, is pain. Emotional or physical. That's all it ever is. Sure, I can feel little things, like, the satisfaction of scratching an itch or something. Even scratching an itch, like... I don't even have to. Not just 'cause I'm a God."

Cupid didn't mind the interruption. He wanted Strife to talk, and he was. So, Cupid just sat and listened.

"Have you ever had a chain around your neck or your belly or something and a little hair got stuck in it and just *hurts* like a bitch for like one second before it moves?"

The question kind of threw Cupid off, he didn't know what Strife was talking about to start with. It seemed out of place of the whole conversation, except for the pain aspect of it. But, just like the rest of the conversation Strife wasn't really asking the question, just voicing it to keep himself steady in what he was talking about.

Cupid noticed that if his cousin didn't say the silly, odd, out of place little things when he thought of them, it would throw himself off of whatever he was talking about.

"Most of the time when something feels itchy or painful, I just sit and let it go away by itself. I mean, why not just do that? What's the point in scratching it or jumping or responding in any way?"

"Blah. I have no point. I'm just lost and have barely any direction in life. I dont know what will make me happy or if its even possible for me to be happy. I guess I do have a point; that I'm confused and lost and need help," Strife scoffed at himself, "if that's a point at all. If i am alive at all."

Cupid pulled him into another hug, "Erin, you are alive. You have a job to do, that's why you're here. You should fall into a good rhythm with your job, it's your nature."

Cupid let go of him slowly. He looked a bit happier. "No one's ever taught you, or taken you out and shown you what to do with your job?" Cupid rephrased his earlier question.



~ Part 9 ~

Strife laughed. This was fun. Cupid had taken him down to a town in the north of Greece, he forgot the name. Cupid was showing him how much fun he could really have with his job. It really was one of the more fun of them doled out. Of course they all had their place though.

Cupid had got Strife into doing silly little things which he soon realized he really enjoyed. Tieing peoples laces from their boots or shoes together. Pulling a grouchy, old soldiers pants down when he was trying to be menacing.

Throughout various other little jokes and pranks they did, Strife was having fun. Cupid didn't think he'd ever seen him smile so big. Like he was mad with power over the little annoyances that people had everyday.

"This is cool," Strife said. "Wish I thought of this a long time ago."

"Yeah," Cupid smiled.

~

"Dad?" Cupid called. He walked into the temple he sensed his father was in. He didn't see him anywhere so he'd gone back into the back rooms of the temple. He found his father in the small library in the back of the temple.

"Hey, Dad."

"Oh, hi, Cupid," he said and put down a scroll he was looking at, "What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you, duh." Ares was reminded who Cupid's mother was by the eye roll that followed that statement.

"Right."

Ares flashed them back to Olympus. He didn't really want to have a discussion which any one in the temple could hear if they happened upon them.

"So, what's up?"

"I wanted to ask you to do something," Cupid said. He didn't want to ask his father for anything, especially since Ares already thought that he should have stayed in the House of War with him instead of being a Love God.

So it made him think his father wouldn't think he was capable of doing things on his own yet. Another reason for him to have stayed with his father.

"Oh? And what would that be?" Ares asked.

"Uhm, I kinda wanted you to maybe, if you have the time, to teach Strife about his godhood? I don't think anyone's ever done that and it's time he knew how to handle and deal with things."

Ares looked at his son. He never thought they'd really get along well. Love and Mischief. It sure sounded good. And the more Ares thought about it the more he did notice how they have a lot in common. Juding from the little he's ever seen of both of them.

It was obvious now that Cupid knew Ares hadn't spent that much time with his nephew. Perhaps he should have *made* some time for him.

"Yes, I suppose I could do that," Ares said, "Thank you for bringing it to my attention, son."

Cupid nodded and flashed out of the room.

~

Strife did have fun today. When Cupid had taken him down to earth he didn't really think he would have a good time, but he was proved wrong. He had a lot of fun. He was glad he wasn't in such a depressed mood anymore. Of course he'd slip back into it occasionally. But it's hard to get out of those positions so quickly.

Materializing in his room he looked around and saw nothing to do there. Cupid had work to do so they had parted ways; Strife back to Olympus and Cupid to wherever he had his work to do. He thought he'd go out to the garden.

On his way there he felt his uncle return to his temple, he was sitting in the dining room. Since he was passing by there anyway Strife decided to stop in and say hi. He had been a lot cheerful even around his uncle lately. Strife liked being happier.

"Hey, Unc."

Ares was standing with his back to Strife as he looked at the door to his son's room. He turned when he was greeted by his nephew. "Strife," Ares acknowledged him. "How are you?"

"I'm ok." That was the best answer Ares had ever gotten out of him. This almost solidified his suspicions of Cupid being a very good influence to his cousin. By no means did Ares want to lose his nephew to the House of Love, but just glad that they were getting along and that Strife wasn't sitting, brooding in his room.

And, yes, he was aware that the brooding was an influence of his own handed over to Strife. His nephew often didn't see too much of him and half the time when he did, that's what he was doing.

"That's good," Ares said and gestured at a seat at the table. "Would you sit?"

The chair was pulled out from its place tucked under the table by Ares' will. It was still an invitation that could be declined, but Strife didn't want to be rude. He moved to the chair and sat down in it.

"Now," Ares said as he sat down in his own chair at the head of the table. "I've been planning out a schedule for you."

"What?" Strife asked.

~ Part 10 ~

Strife stood beside his uncle looking down at a battle that was winding down. The year Ares had spent teaching Strife how to use his powers had turned in his favor. He now had a right hand man. Beside's his sister of course, who hadn't really been sticking around for too long since she'd left her son in his care.

The God of Mischief now had full control over his power, had learned how to control the element's better, and had felt himself fit into place in his life. But not completely.

He still had his moments where he slipped into a terrible mood and locked himself in his room for a week at a time. But he was by no means the same God he was the previous year and a half ago. Adding his time spent with his cousin, six months, to the year with his uncle.

Cupid. He hadn't seen him more than three times during his training. He thought he missed him. Ares was spending time with him though and it was only the time's that he was left alone did he think about his cousin.

Maybe he just needed *someone* around? Maybe he didn't actually like Cupid, just wanted his company? Someone to be around, a presence so that he didn't feel so alone.

But now, with his training done with, he decided to go see his cousin. He waved to his uncle and flashed off of the hill top and back to Olympus. He made a quick stop in his room to see if anything had changed.

A bit of dust here and there simply because he wasn't keeping up with cleaning it. Other than that, nothing was any different. Oh, wait. Strife walked over to his bed, there was a small scroll rolled up and tied with a white and gold ribbon.

He picked it up. It was from Cupid. He unrolled it and prepared to read some big long note about something or other. "I miss you," Strife read aloud. "Cupid."

Wow. He didn't think he was that good of company in the little time he spent with the Love God. Of course they had their moments, they were very close, Strife remembered. He didn't have a very good memory, despite being a God.

But all the time they spent together he didn't really see any significant thing in the relationship that would be so bad that they were apart for a whole year. Strife's thoughts weren't going anywhere. He decided to just go see Cupid.

He located the space where his cousin was and flashed himself to him. Cupid picked an arrow out of the quiver laying on the floor beside him, laid is against his bow and took aim.

He missed the bulls-eye of his target by less than an inch. He'd been practising, obviously. Cupid squared his shoulders and looked at where his arrow had hit. He turned around and was about to pick up another arrow when he saw his cousin, "Strife!"

Strife smiled, he was getting better at that and he was sure Cupid noticed. He actually did have fun in his time with Ares. All the little mischeivous activities and whatnot. "Heya, Cupe."

Cupid saw the note in Strife's hand and stepped closer to his cousin. "I didn't know when I'd see you again so I wrote it down," he said darting his eyes down to the note, "I missed you."

~

"So, I'm gonna be spending time with any Gods and Goddess' that I'll be working with often," Strife explained, "I'll be away, or at least not have that much time, for a few years."

"That's cool," Cupid said. "So, when do you have to go?"

"Soon. Ares said I'm gonna be at home resting before I start. He's pretty much got it all planned out."

Cupid nodded. They had went to sit in the garden for a while before Strife had to get back to Ares and find out what he was to do. They didn't have too much to say, though. Just talk about things in general like what Strife had been doing, what Cupid had been doing.

Cupid was impressed at how much Strife had opened up. He wasn't so shy or defensive. He'd laugh at jokes and smile when he was amused. He didn't know if it was his doing or his father's though.

He didn't really know how much of a caring person Ares could be. He'd never spent much time with him. And with what he'd seen of Ares and Strife's relationship he didn't think it was *all* his father's work. He was happy Strife was in a better frame of mind though.

"It'll be mostly with this side of the family for the first few years, though. But ya know what's cool?"

"Huh?" Cupid had gotten caught up in his thoughts, but Strife didn't seem to mind, he just was smiling silly and looking at his cousin. "What?"

Strife giggled slightly. //Well, that's new,// Cupid thought.

"That when I'm done with most of this, I'll be shipped off to the Temple of Love for a while. All those mischievous acts that go along with yer job there, Cupie." Strife grinned and Cupid thought he sensed a lewd undertone in Strife's voice.

"Wow, really? And I suppose you won't be taggin' along with Mom, huh? Cool, that means you'd be with... with me?"

"Yep," Strife smiled for a minute before his face dropped. "Unc's callin' me. Gotta go."

Cupid's smile slowly faded, "Short visit." He commented.

"Yeah," Strife stood up. Cupid did the same and took a step towards his cousin. Strife lifted his arms and stopped them stiffly when he had the sudden thought that Cupid wouldn't return his hug.

Cupid saw the look in Strife's eyes when Cupid was a bit slow reaching back to hug and quickly pressed his body against Strife's and wrapped his arms around his back.

Strife stood tense for a minute before responding, putting his arms around Cupid's neck. They stayed like that for a minute, enjoying the comfort in each others embrace.

They separated and Cupid gave a small grin. Strife returned it and smiled as big as he could and flashed away. Cupid smiled and shook his head. "I guess I'll see him in a few years," Cupid said to himself before flashing out of the garden himself.

The End.


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