Xena: Young Warrior - Love Thy Neighbour

by Hamutal

General Copyright/Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way.

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Note: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.


"That was really lame, Toris," said the voice of fifteen-year-old Peleus. "You throw like a girl." Toris bit his upper lip. He was sick and tired of being put down by that thug, Peleus, but he also knew there was nothing much he could do about it. "In fact," Peleus added with a triumphant tone, "I bet your little sister can do better than you." Oh, no, a voice awoke inside Toris, not again.

"Hey, Xena," Peleus called to the tall raven-haired girl who was playing "territories" with her other brother not very far from them. "What is it, Peleus?" Xena answered with a distinct tone of contempt. She knew in her heart that Peleus was nothing but bad news yet she couldn't help being curious as to what he called her for. "Come here," hollered Peleus. "I wanna ask you something." Xena looked at Peleus, then at Lyceus and back at Peleus. "I'll be right back," she said to her younger brother. Lyceus watched his sister's back as she turned away from him and approached the crowd of boys that stood there waiting for her. Toris also watched his sister, with a very tensed expression on his face.

"I was wondering," Peleus inquired with a smirk, "if you could get this dirt-filled leather bag to the other side without us tackling you." Xena contemplated for a short moment. She knew she should probably decline, but she was never one to resist a good challenge, especially one of Peleus's. "Why not?" her mouth curved into a frisky smile. "Let's see what you're worth," Peleus raised his eyebrows as he was eyeing the girl. Toris's eyes were looking for his sister's. More than anything in the world he wanted her not to do it. But her eyes were otherwise engaged. They were set on the playing field, estimating, evaluating. "Ready?" Peleus yelled at her. "Always," lightening sparked in the enchanting blue eyes of the girl. The leather bag was thrown to her. She caught it quite easily, not losing track of the boys for a minute. When they were almost close enough to touch her she suddenly jumped to the left, then quickly rolled to the right, then rose to her feet and started running as fast as she could. The boys were taken by surprise. They tried to chase her but it was too late. Xena had already landed on the other side, forcefully throwing the bag on the ground. The boys got there right after her, breathing heavily and scarcely holding their bodies straight. "Where did you learn how to do that?" Peleus inquired, and Xena couldn't help enjoying the sense of admiration in his voice. She knew she rightfully earned it. "Nowhere," she replied with a secretive smile. The boys kept huddling around her, asking questions. Xena loved the attention. She knew she was good. She didn't even notice Toris walking away.

"Xena," Cyrene had to shake her head when she saw her daughter come in. "You tore your dress again." "It's not my fault," Xena shrugged. "Why do they have to make them so long and tight anyway?" she complained. "I can hardly move in those things," she added with a final twist of her nose. Cyrene had to stifle a laugh. She resented the way her daughter always made her laugh when she was trying to scold her. "Very funny," she finally said. "Now go wash up and set the table." Xena tilted her head and looked at her mother. "It's Toris's turn tonight," she said seriously. "I set the table last night." Cyrene sighed. "Okay then. Where is your brother?" Xena looked surprised. "You mean he's not here?" she asked. "No. I thought you kids were all together," Cyrene said. "We were," Xena muttered. "I guess he left." Cyrene inspected Xena closely "Did anything happen?" she asked her daughter. "No. Nothing happened," Xena quickly answered, but she didn't sound so sure anymore. Silently she went to the other room to wash and change and came back to set the table. Lyceus came inside with a fresh bucket of water from the well and Xena poured it into the wooden goblets.

Right then Toris came in and gave his sister a very spiteful look. "Where were you, Toris?" his mother asked gently. "Why don't you ask her?" Toris answered bitterly, pointing at his sister. Cyrene raised her eyebrows as she was looking at her daughter. "You said you didn't know where your brother was," she said in a deeply bothered tone. "I didn't. Really. He didn't tell me where he was going," Xena immediately defended herself. "So where were you then?" Cyrene turned again to her eldest, detecting a deeply bothered expression on his face. "What's the matter? Tell me what's wrong!" she inquired. "Her," Toris quickly responded. "She's what's wrong! She always is!" he uttered, his face red with effort to control himself. "Toris!" Cyrene sounded distraught. "What has come over you? I want you to apologize to your sister right now." "Never," Toris spouted. "I hate her! I wish you never had her." "That's enough!" Cyrene said firmly. "I suggest you go outside and come back after you've cooled down." Toris looked at his sister poisonously, then turned and rushed out of the hut, without a word. Cyrene turned to Xena. "What did you do this time, Xena?" she asked her daughter impatiently. "Nothing, mom, I swear," the girl pleaded. "I didn't do anything." Cyrene examined her daughter's face carefully. She knew her well enough to be able to tell when she was lying, and watching her now she knew it wasn't the case. "Okay then," Cyrene rigidly said. "Put the food on the table and call Lyceus already. It's getting late. I'll be back in a minute."

"Go away," Toris yelled at the approaching silhouette of his mother. He was sitting on the ground, stoning the nearest tree. "I can see you're angry and upset," Cyrene said as softly as she could. "Can you please tell me why?" Toris did not answer. "What happened today?" Cyrene continued asking. Toris fought himself for a brief moment and then answered quietly "She always does it, mom. Why does she always do it?" So she did do something after all, Cyrene thought. Why am I not surprised? "What did she do, Toris?" she asked cautiously. Toris was too embarrassed to tell his mother about how he was humiliated by Peleus and his friends, but finally he let it out. He told her everything. Not only that time, but other times too. "Why does she have to be that way, mom?" Toris finally asked, his voice cracking. "Why can't she be like all the other girls?" Cyrene smiled at her son. "Xena is Xena," she said to him while reaching for his hair. Toris avoided her touch. "She is not like other girls. She can't help it any more than you can help being you. That's just the way she is," she explained, not too convincingly. Toris rose to his feet. "Well, I wish she was different," he concluded sadly as he began walking back towards the hut. Cyrene felt sorry for him, and for Xena and for herself. It had never been easy for her and although Cyrene was never one to complain, sometimes she wished her life could be a little less complicated.

When she entered the hut Xena was already very much into the act of eating. "Xena," Cyrene's voice was alarming. "What?" said the girl with her mouth completely full. "I was hungry." Cyrene eyed her daughter. "Really, Xena," she scolded her. "One would think you were raised by bacchaes. Where are your table manners?" Xena rolled her eyes. She really saw no point in those phony manners. When she was hungry she was hungry, that was all there was to it. Reluctantly she put the food down and waited for her mother to sit down. Cyrene sat to the table and began eating. While doing so she constantly moved her eyes between her two eldest children. Toris was clutching his jaws tightly, taking strong, angry bites of his food. Xena was sitting right next to him, eating peacefully and enjoyably. She had no idea it was she who was making her brother so miserable. Cyrene knew she had to intervene somehow, but she had no idea how.

The next morning, Cyrene halted her daughter as she was getting ready to rage outside. "Where are you going?" Cyrene asked. "Out," was the girl's abrupt and rather surprised answer. "I don't want you to hang around Peleus and his friends," Cyrene said in a warning tone. Xena turned around sharply. "Why not?" she asked and immediately added "You let Toris hang out with them." "There's a difference," Cyrene answered. "For one thing he's older than you." "Not by much," Xena noted, and Cyrene immediately knew that bringing up the age difference was a mistake. The real difference between the two had nothing to do with age. "What is the other reason?" the girl asked suspiciously. Cyrene hesitated. She couldn't find any appropriate way of saying what she had to say to her daughter. Xena didn't take long. "It's because I'm a girl, isn't it?" she blurted out. "I didn't say that," Cyrene objected. "You didn't have to," Xena replied furiously. "I can't believe you! I can take care of myself better than any boy and you know it!" "Yes, I do," Cyrene replied quietly. That's exactly the problem, she thought to herself. "So what is it then?" Xena felt shaky. She hated not knowing what her mother was thinking. Cyrene took a moment to reflect. She had been meaning to talk to her daughter for a long time, even before the last incident with Toris. In the past few months she had witnessed her daughter become wilder and more uncontrollable than ever, and she felt completely helpless in the face of those changes. Cyrene had never believed in physical punishments and words didn't seem to get through to the girl anymore. It was like she didn't even listen. Still, Cyrene felt she had to give it a try.

"I think you should find new friends," she finally said. Xena's eyes darkened instantly, but her mother did not notice. "What about Maiandra and Iris?" Cyrene asked. "I haven't seen them around here lately." Xena threw a disbelieving look in the direction of her mother. "Them? You must be joking. They're totally boring. All they ever do is sit around and talk about their new dresses and the tapestries they've made and that sort of things. They never do anything interesting." Cyrene nodded sympathetically. "What about other kids?" she asked. "What other kids, mom?" Xena's voice began rising with frustration. "There are hardly any kids my age in Amphipolis. You know that." Cyrene knew indeed. She thought in silence for a minute and then asked. "What about the new kid? What's his name…Xandra's son." Xena eyed her mother, shocked. "Him? He's a total wimp." Cyrene's eyebrows rose. "What makes you say that?" she asked curiously. "He's such a wishy-washy. I bet you Lyceus can take him on with his right hand tied behind his back, and he's much younger than him, too," Xena explained proudly. She knew her little brother was very good and she also knew she had a lot to do with it. "Really, Xena," her mother's disappointed tone immediately erased the proud expression from her face. "You know better than that. There's much more to a person than his fighting skills. I don't like the way you judge people, writing them off so quickly without even getting to know them properly. You've never even given the poor boy a chance." Xena kept silent. She knew her mother was right. "That boy had a very rough year," Cyrene continued. "Not only was his father killed, but he also had to move here, where he doesn't know anybody. Now I would like to think that you are a little more compassionate than what you've just shown me." Xena lowered her eyes. She knew that Xandra and her son came to Amphipolis to live with Xandra's mother, but she didn't know that the boy's father had been killed. She assumed he just left, like her father did.

"Okay," Xena finally murmured, shaking her head agitatedly. "I promise I'll try to be nicer to him." Cyrene smiled. "That's all I'm asking," she said. "I still think he's weird," Xena whispered to herself as she was making her way out. "Why is that?" her mother had to ask and Xena turned around. "He's always staring at Lyceus and me," she answered. Cyrene laughed. "I'm sure it's not Lyceus he's interested in," she teased her daughter. It took Xena a brief second to catch on. "Gross, mom," she spouted as she ran outside.

She was on her way to the forest when she ran into Peleus. She meant to keep going, but something stopped her. She turned around. The boy stood there with his arms folded on his chest. "Where are you going?" he smirked. "Playing with your baby brother again?" "None of your business," Xena fisted her hands and started walking towards the forest once more. "Wait," the boy yelled. She turned around surprised. "What do you want?" she asked, half agitated, half excited. "What'd you say - you and me, a race to the river?" the boy answered, his eyes widening with a mysterious glow. Xena hesitated. The river was right down the hill. Racing to it was dangerous. Her mother had warned her many times against it, reminding her of the boy who drowned there just a few years before. Still, she took off her shawl and her shoes and approached Peleus. His eyes smiled victoriously. They stood all wound up and ready and then Peleus yelled "now" and they began running. They ran very closely together until they got to the edge of the hill. Peleus slowed down but Xena showed no intention of doing so. On the very last moment, Peleus lay flat and forcefully pulled Xena to the ground with him. Both their hearts beat very fast. Xena rolled over and looked at Peleus. "I won," she said smilingly. "You're crazy" Peleus shook his head, but Xena could tell he was impressed. They lay on the ground for a few more seconds, trying to catch their breaths, when suddenly Peleus noted smugly "Oh, look what we've got here." "What?" Xena looked around thoroughly, but couldn't see anything of interest. "I don't see anything." "Not there, stupid," he said and Xena felt a lump in her throat. "Over there." Xena looked at the direction to which Peleus was pointing. She still didn't see anything, but then she suddenly realized what it was that Peleus was trying to show her. On the river bank stood the new boy, helping his grandmother hang wet clothing on a stretched out wire. Xena immediately turned to Peleus. "What did you show me that for?" she asked, both confused and worried. "I thought you might like to know how your sweetheart spends his days," Peleus said maliciously. "What are you talking about?" Xena quickly uttered, her face becoming flushed. "I don't even know this boy." Peleus laughed. "The word is he's got the hots for you," he told her. Xena rose to her feet angrily. "You shouldn't believe all you hear, Peleus," Xena spit out the words. Peleus shook his head and laughed. "Don't tell me you haven't noticed how he follows you around like a lovesick puppy," he continued. Now Xena completely lost the last remains of her patience. "And what if he does?" she asked. "It's his problem, not mine," she stated boldly, as she turned away from Peleus, but in her heart she was furious. Why did that stupid boy have to mess up everything? "Be careful," Peleus called after her mockingly, and Xena pretended not to hear, but her ears were perfectly attuned. "Or you'll end up a wimp like him."

It was a few days later. The sun was already beginning to set, but Xena and Lyceus were too busy to notice. They were deep inside the forest, holding a mock sword fight, using long pine branches for weapons, yelling and laughing as they were practicing new moves on each other. Xena had just cleverly tripped her brother and was standing over his body, the spiked branch in her hand, when she was startled by a slight sound. That distraction gave Lycues the chance he needed to recuperate and stand up. He was just about to attack his sister when she turned to him and gagged his mouth with her hand. "What is it?" he whispered when she released him. "Didn't you hear something?" Xena asked worriedly. "Like what?" Lyceus had absolutely no idea what his sister was talking about. "Like this," Xena replied and that time Lyceus could hear it as well. "I think there's somebody out there," Xena said. Lyceus shook his head. "I don't think so. No one ever comes here except you and me," he said. "It's probably just a deer." Still Xena was unquiet. She signaled to her brother to take his branch and follow her deeper into the woods.

What happened next occurred so quickly that Lyceus could hardly keep track. He saw his sister taking the most impressive jump he had ever seen, a quick swing of the branch in her hand, then a thump and a shriek. He rushed over to see his sister gathering upon the body of a slim, baffled boy of fourteen, holding the pointed branch just closely above his heart. At her brother's arrival, Xena lifted the branch, but she was still standing over the boy, with an alarming expression on her face. "What are you doing here?" she interrogated. "I saw you two walking in this direction and I was just wondering what's in here," the boy said defensively. Xena looked at her brother. Lyceus nodded. He saw no reason not to believe the boy. "So do you come here often?" the boy asked. Xena's face was getting red. "It's none of your business," she answered angrily. The boy moved his eyes to Lyceus. Lyceus couldn't figure his sister's reaction. What's the big deal? He thought to himself. "Yes," he answered the boy's question, and immediately felt a pointed look coming from his sister's direction. Lyceus ignored it and helped the boy up. "I'm Lyceus," Lyceus introduced himself. "And this grouch here is my sister Xena." Xena turned her back on them, emphatically. "I'm Maphias," she heard the boy answer. There was a short silence and then Maphias said "You're really good. Where did you learn to fight like that?" Xena turned around. "Wouldn't you like to know?" she said with a sneer. Lyceus smiled at Maphias, then dragged his sister aside and whispered "What's with you today? He is just trying to be nice." Xena was not happy. "He was spying on us, in case you forgot," she reminded her brother. "I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it. He was just curious," Lyceus argued. "You know what's the problem with you?" Xena asked her brother, waving her forefinger at him. "You always think the best of people. You know absolutely nothing about this boy." "Neither do you," Lyceus quickly responded. "At least give him a chance." "You sound just like mom," she muttered as she started walking towards Maphias. They want me to give him a chance? She thought bitterly. I'll give him a chance.

"So you want to learn to fight like us?" Xena asked Maphias. The boy nodded enthusiastically, but Lyceus was troubled. That was too easy, he thought to himself. She must be up to something. "Okay, but first you have to show us what you know," the girl continued. Maphias wasn't sure what was required of him. "Here," Xena said as she threw Lyceus's branch at Maphias. "Let's get started." Maphias had hardly any prior experience in fighting, and none of it involved branches, but he felt it was too late to say anything. He would just have to do his best. He picked up the branch and kept his eyes on Xena. Two short blows and the boy was on the ground, Xena's knee on his chest, and the spiked branch alarmingly close to his face. She helped him up with a triumphant smile, then asked "wanna try again?" He knew he could back out, but that would mean the end of everything, the end of any chance he had to make friends with those two, especially with the girl. He had to earn her respect. He didn't answer but grabbed his branch and nodded. "Good," the smile on Xena's face scared Lyceus. "Xena, it's getting late," he urged his sister. "Mom will be angry." "A few more minutes won't kill anybody," Xena answered, not even acknowledging her brother with a glance. Her eyes were completely focused on Maphias. "Are you ready?" she asked him teasingly. The boy nodded again. He tried his hardest to be guarded and ready for everything, to concentrate on Xena's moves and not let her out of his sight, but instead he was thrown to the ground again, unable to explain how it had happened to him. Xena's smile was cocky when she challenged him for a third round. Maphias had a feeling of great gravity. He knew he had one last chance and that everything was riding on his performance at it. He didn't even nod, just rose up and grabbed the branch. He didn't wait for Xena to move, but ran towards her himself, his branch right in front of him. Xena quickly disarmed him with a strike of her branch. He was just starting to bend over and pick up his branch when he felt a sharp pain and fell down, clutching his face with both hands.

Never in his life did Lyceus see so much blood. He looked at his sister and saw her face turning to marble white. He had never seen her looking like that before. She dropped her branch, fell to her knees and tried to role Maphias towards her. "Maphias?" her voice raised to unbelievable heights. The boy did not answer. Please, Zeus, the girl thought. I promise I'll be good. Please, just let him be all right. Carefully Xena moved the boy's hands from his face and looked closely. She was relieved to find out that the blood came from the boy's forehead and not his eye. "Are you alright?" she asked fearfully. "I think so," the boy answered hesitantly. Xena's face was regaining its natural color. "Well, you look awful," she noted. She looked around her, then asked her brother to pick up her shawl and the water skin from the ground and bring it to her. Lyceus did as Xena had asked. Xena took the two items from his hands, opened the water skin and poured some water on the shawl. Then she started washing Maphias's wound. Maphias looked at the long fingers of the girl as they were moving in front of his eyes. Her touch was very gentle, nothing like what he had expected from such a ferocious girl. The wound did not look as scary once it was clean. Xena finished tying the wet cloth around Mapihas's forehead and got up. "Let's go home," she said to her brother. Lyceus turned to her with disbelief written all over his face. "Aren't you even gonna tell him you're sorry?" he asked his sister. Xena looked at her feet. "Well, he would have been just fine if only he didn't bend t…" she started and Lyceus interrupted. "I can't believe you, Xena," he uttered and walked towards Maphias. If there was something Xena could not stand it was her brother being disappointed in her. "Okay, okay," she called after her brother, then hurried and caught up with the two boys. "I'm sorry about that," she said, pointing to Maphias's forehead. "I didn't mean to make you bleed and everything." Her apology was very awkward, but Maphias seemed happy with it. "I know you didn't," he said, and instead of feeling reassured, Xena only became angrier. How dare he talk as if he knew me? She thought to herself. Still, she kept silent. She didn't want Lyceus to get all worked up again.

When Xena and Lyceus got home, Maphias still with them, their mother was gone. "Where's mom?" Xena questioned her older brother, who was sitting at the dinner table alone. "Mom's at the inn. Melina's baby is sick again." Toris replied and immediately turned to look at Maphias. "Who's that?" he asked, pointing at the boy. "And what in tartarus happened to him?" "Xena happened," Lyceus quickly answered. "Figures," Toris remarked and then turned to look at his sister again. "Mom asked me to tell you to go help her at the inn," he informed her. "Now?" Xena protested. "I haven't eaten yet. I'm starving." "You're always starving" Toris noted with a mocking smile. Xena was about to respond to Toris's last remark when Lyceus stepped between them. "Come on, I'll go with you," he kindly offered. "I would just change that dress if I were you," Toris added, gloating. "Mom will kill you if she sees you tore yet another one." Xena looked at her dress and sighed, then disappeared to the other room, leaving the boys to themselves. Maphias looked around him. It was the first time since he got to the village that he was in anybody's home but his grandmother's. Amphipolis was very different from his home village. Even the smell, and the air. "So how do you like it here?" Lyceus asked, almost as if he was reading his mind. Maphias was startled. "Do you like Amphipolis?" Lyceus continued. "I don't know," the boy admitted. "My mom always said I'd love it. She always told me stories about her childhood and how much she loved growing up here. But I don't know. It just doesn't feel like home to me." "It will," Lyceus said empathetically. "Just give it time." Right then Xena emerged from the other room, all dressed to go. "What were you talking about?" she asked curiously. "They weren't talking about you, if that's what you were thinking," Toris answered teasingly and Xena had to stop herself from slugging him. "I wasn't," she replied, annoyed. "Now let's go already."

"Aren't you a sight for sore eyes," Cyrene welcomed her daughter as she entered the inn. Xena smiled. She actually liked helping at the inn. "Is that Lyceus with you?" Cyrene asked as she heard her youngest son's voice from outside. The boy stepped in, with Maphias closely following him. "You're Xandra's son, aren't you?" Cyrene said as she saw the boy. "I could tell right away. You look just like her, the same mouth and eyes. She was quite a wild one, your mother." Cyrene's reminiscence made both boys stifle a snicker. "I didn't realize you knew each other," Cyrene said to her son. "We didn't," Lyceus said. "We just met." "Mom," Xena called from behind the counter. "Can you come here a minute?" Cyrene looked at her daughter and then back at the boys. "Well, help yourselves," she said. "There's plenty of food and you two must be starving." Maphias looked at Lyceus hesitantly, then followed him. Only on her way to the counter did it hit Cyrene. "Isn't it your shawl on that boy's head?" she asked her daughter. Xena bit her lip. There was no way out of that one. "Yes, it is," she answered, expecting the worst. "Do you care to tell me how it got there?" Cyrene kept asking, her voice becoming more irritated with every syllable. Xena closed her eyes and readied herself, but before she had a chance to open her mouth she heard Maphias's voice. "I fell down and cut myself. Your daughter nursed my wound," he said plainly. "Well, then," her mother sounded both surprised and pleased. "Good work, Xena." Xena was so happy to hear her mother condone her for once that she didn't even have time to worry about Maphias's motives. She just concentrated on helping her mother and grabbing some food before the noise in her stomach became too loud.

The next day, Xena speedily finished all her chores and ran to the forest to meet her brother, only to find him already with company. "What is he doing here?" she released a loud whisper as she was dragging Lyceus away from Maphias. "I invited him," was Lyceus's simple answer. "What did you do that for?" Xena inquired angrily. "No special reason. I just thought it could be fun," the boy answered. "Well, I don't share your opinion. I really don't see why he has to follow us around everywhere we go," Xena complained. "I can't believe how ungrateful you are," Lyceus said. "He did save your butt last night at the inn, in case you don't remember." Xena did remember. In fact, she had more time to think about it on the way home from the inn. "It still doesn't mean he has to be with us all the time," she reasoned. "Well, I like him," Lyceus exclaimed. "And I want him to be here." It was obvious to Xena that Lyceus felt very strongly about the matter or he wouldn't have argued with her the way he did. She still did not like it, but she decided to endure Maphias's presence for her brother's sake.

As much as Xena hated to admit it, she shortly grew to like Maphias. It was true that he was not the greatest fighter, but he compensated for it with his amusing tales and his extensive knowledge of history. Soon enough, the children invented their own special game. Maphias would give a detailed account of a famous battle and Xena and Lyceus would act it out. It was a new experience for all three of them, and they enjoyed it and each other's company very much.

A few days later, on their way to another busy day in the woods, the children ran into Peleus and his gang. "Hey, Xena," Peleus looked as arrogant as ever, circling the threesome. "How about you lose these dorks and come dart with us? I bet you can't hit that tree over there," he declared while he was pointing to an olive tree in a distance. Xena looked at Peleus, then at Maphias and Lyceus and then back at Peleus. "No, thanks," she answered with a stern voice, looking Peleus straight in the eyes. "I have better things to do with my time."

As she turned away, her hair impressively falling on her back, Peleus shook his head and smiled widely. "We'll just see about that, Xena," he said confidently. "We'll just wait and see."

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