The smile that lit his face at his mother's words and caress, however brief, was dispelled as soon as he heard that familiar voice calling his name. She sounded as though she needed him, and he had promised to heed her every summons. "She is calling me," he said, as he pushed off the ground to his feet, forgetting he was still only half-dressed. He tilted his head as if to hear her better and to judge whether or not she was in danger.
"Then you should go to her," Hera told him, her smile amused but proud of the quickness with which he chose to honor his promise made to his mortal love. She paused, raising her hand to touch his cheek gently. "You were made for greatness, my son. You will find it." With one last nod, she faded from view, returning to her own place on Mount Olympus and to her husband's side, leaving their eldest son alone in the heavy gloom of his Amazon forest.
But he did not stay there for long. As soon as his mother disappeared to make her return to Olympus, Ares followed his heart, answering the call from his beloved, whom he had promised to protect and never to abandon. In the space of a heartbeat, he had left the rainforest behind and was on his way back to Ayden's side.
The room he found himself in was dark, scant light allowed in via the cracks in the blinds that covered the window. It was nothing special, a guest room in a motel outside Salt Lake City, the first stop on the journey back to Sioux Falls. The king bed was shared by the indistinct lumps that made up siblings, a brother and sister, lying back to back on top of the covers, as was their habit. But the sofa was where his attention was drawn, to the thrash of slender limbs caught in a cheap blanket as Ayden dreamed, tears escaping to wet her cheeks as she called for him again, responding to some nightmare that would not relent.
He found her easily enough, recognizing her form and her voice, even in the darkness, and went to her, his heart aching at the anguish with which she called his name, as though he were dead or dying. He knelt down beside her, touching her cheek with gentle fingertips, his voice softly beckoning her from the brink of her nightmares. "Ayden, beloved, wake up. You are only dreaming."
Whether it was his touch or his voice that roused her, she came awake with a start, green eyes snapping wide in the darkness as she gasped, made just a little bit wild by whatever had been haunting her dreams. In the brief moments it took for her shake off her nightmare, she was tense, shocked to be awakened at all, only to recognize him and lurch up from the pillow, pressing herself into his arms with a quiet sob of relief. "Oh, thank god," she whispered, clutching tightly to him in the darkness, unaware of Hope's eyes on them from where the younger girl lay. "You were dead, and I couldn't do anything ... she killed you ..."
"Shh," he whispered, holding her close and stroking her hair, his voice soft and soothing. "It's all right. I'm here. It was only a dream." Though with Ayden, there was no such thing. Her dreams were not just random dreams, but visions, warnings of a possible future. Ares knew they were both a gift and a curse, and though the dreams themselves couldn't physically hurt her, they were just as troubling as though they were real.
Perhaps it was only a dream this time, perhaps it was the aftermath of shock and pain and fright from a hunt that had almost claimed her life, or perhaps it was the new intensity of foresight his mother had warned him of only an hour before. Whatever had caused her distress, it did not seem to want to abate, leaving her trembling and sobbing in his arms, fighting to be quiet for the sake of the pair she still believed to be sleeping so close by, clinging to the one person who could reassure her that everything was well. Ayden had cried like this before, of course, but never with anyone there to comfort her. Ares had found a place no other had taken, the role of comforter and protector against her own fears in the dark of the night.
It was a role he was not accustomed to and was not very familiar with. Even as a father, his children had mostly been raised by their mothers and it had been them who had done most of the comforting and consoling. He was not, however, unfeeling or dispassionate, and his heart went out to her, wishing to comfort her and soothe her as best he could. It troubled him that she worried over him, that she had dreamed of his death, not because he was afraid of dying, but because he didn't want to cause her any pain. He held her for a long time, for as long as it would take for her tears to subside, whispering quietly, rocking her to and fro, stroking her hair, brushing soft kisses against her brow. He wondered where Gabriel was and whether or not he was watching over her, as he had promised, but then, maybe his mother was right - this was Ares' place now, not Gabriel's any longer.
Slowly, very slowly, she calmed in his arms, her trembling ebbing away until she was still in the circle of his embrace, breathing in and out with a steady flow. The dream had been vivid, but lacking the sense of dislocation and stark reality she knew from her visions, reassuring her in a way that it had been just a dream. Reluctantly, she lifted her head, brushing roughly at the tears that lingered on her cheeks. "I'm sorry," she whispered to him in the gloom. "It's just a nightmare, it's nothing to worry about. I'm just being stupid."
"You have nothing to apologize for," he reassured her in as quiet a voice as he could muster, which was saying something for a man who was not accustomed to being quiet. He took her face in his hands, smoothing his thumbs against her cheeks to wipe away her tears as he gazed into her eyes, his immortal heart swelling with a tenderness he had not felt for over two thousand years. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked quietly.
"Would it help if I did?" she asked him in return, genuinely wanting to know the answer. Guilt was beginning to rise in her gaze as she realised that she had called him unconsciously once again, from whatever he had been doing, and there had been no real need to do it; worse, that her nephew and niece, quiet as they were, had to be awake and listening to every word spoken. "It wasn't a vision. It was just a nightmare." But clearly, it hadn't been just a nightmare to her.
"I don't know," he replied with an uncertain frown. Though he was immortal, he, too, had to eat and sleep, just as any human, though to a lesser degree. He, too, had dreams and nightmares, but he was no seer and had never experienced any visions or portents that warned of future danger. "If you wish, I will stay," he told her, pushing her hair back from her face. He glanced briefly to the siblings who were either asleep or pretending to be asleep nearby. "Or we can go somewhere else, if you prefer," he added, in a hushed voice.
"Someplace else," she nodded, the words escaping almost the moment he offered that change of location. "I don't care where, I just ... I want to be near you tonight. If you're not busy with something else. I know you've got better things to do than stop me from having a panic attack."
He pressed a finger to her lips to silence her before she could talk herself completely out of spending the night with him. "Shh, we can go anywhere you like," he whispered. She didn't really have to drive back to Sioux Falls with Hope and Sam; he could take her there himself, so long as she trusted the siblings with her car. He glanced over at the supposedly sleeping duo, sensing that they weren't really sleeping at all and wondering if he should say something before they left.
Ayden followed his glance over to the bed, better able to spot the glimmer of light on Hope's open eyes and know they wouldn't be worried over her unless she did not come back at all. Her fingers gripped Ares' bare arm as she raised her tearful eyes to his once again, swallowing before she spoke. "I just want to be with you," she confessed in a low murmur, given courage by the darkness and the lingering distress of her nightmare. "But I need to be in Sioux Falls in a couple of days. Is-is that possible?"
"I can take you anywhere you want to go, Ayden," he repeated, assuring her that she could indeed be in Sioux Falls in a few days, even he took her away with him tonight. But not to the Amazon, no. He had another place in mind, a place he had not visited in a very long time.
"Just go," Hope's voice broke into Ayden's silence. "We'll see you back at the Yard in a coupla days."
The older woman blushed in the darkness, unconsciously inching closer to Ares as she was given the blessing to leave her niece and nephew, who had been watching her struggle with the aftermath of their successful hunt for a full day already. They knew she needed a little peace, the kind of peace only this particular Olympian could give her, so she had no cause for concern. "All right," she whispered, holding Ares' gaze. "Let's go."
Sam either continued to pretend to be asleep or really was asleep, letting Ayden decide for herself and letting Hope reassure her that they understood. As much as he respected Ayden, this was not the same Ayden he'd known back home in the future, and like Hope, he knew she needed this time alone with Ares to work things out for herself. As for Ares, once he had Ayden's leave, he didn't waste any time. With a single touch of fingertips against her cheek, he willed them away, and they disappeared from the motel room, as if they'd never been there at all.
[size=9]((Looks like big momma Olympian is keeping a watchful eye, don't it? Many thanks to Ares' player for this scene!))[/size]