Author: Cyrene
Story Title: Bad Boy
Characters: Ares & f (Nika), Ares/Joxer, Strife & f (Nika)
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Zeus punishes Ares and it splashes onto everyone. Sequel to The Path Not Taken, Rules and Debts.
This rating is for explicit m/f and implied m/m sex.

Ares, Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer, Aphrodite, Cupid, and Strife belong to Universal Studios and Pacific Renaissance. No copyright infringement is intended. The author is just letting them have some fun.

NC17 -- This story contains scenes of graphic sex between a man and a woman. There are also slashy elements. If you are under 18 or if this is illegal where you live, please go away.

This story follows Debts, but can be read without it.

You can also find stories by Cyrene at Hercules After Dark

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Bad Boy
by Cyrene

Day 1

Ares stood before the Olympians and listened to Zeus rage. The last time Ares had seen Zeus this angry was the time Hera had led some of the gods in a revolt and bound Zeus to his own couch. She had paid for that! Now Ares was going to pay. This was all Hercules' fault, the bastard! If only he would have the decency to just die by himself. He didn't, so Ares only tried to help him along. "I would have succeeded this time too," Ares reflected to himself, "but for that bitch, Athena." She had warned Zeus in time to save him.

Ares tried not to look defiant, but the best he could do was look sulky. He was only half-listening, but perked up when he sensed Zeus winding down. "Here it comes," he thought.

"Your little scheme was low even for you, Ares," Zeus thundered.

"Yadda, yadda, yadda… get on with it already," Ares mentally coached.

"I am stripping you of your powers for the period of a week. I have a good mind to plop you in front of your brother, but he's too good-hearted to take proper advantage of the situation. So I'll just drop you outside Tripolis."

Ares tried to keep the sudden stab of fear from reaching his handsome face. Doing his best to appear bored, he tried to change his father's mind. "I have several large wars in progress right now. If I'm not here to keep things in balance…" He left the implications unsaid.

Zeus was unimpressed. "Strife and Discord can handle things for a short term. If a more permanent solution is required, I'll deal with it!"

"Whoa! Permanent solution? His father was pissed!" Ares forced his attention back to Zeus.

"…and if anyone helps Ares, they can share his punishment!" Zeus roared. He turned his angry gaze to his son. "Now go!"

Ares felt himself tumbling then landing hard. "Ouch!" Ares slowly got to his feet and dusted himself off. His black leather was gone and he was dressed as a peasant. His father had no fashion sense, but at least he had a sword. Ares drew it for a look. "Great! It's not even made by Hephaestus!" Ares looked around. He was alone. He had to find someplace to lay low until he got his powers back. Zeus had dropped him right in the middle of one of his own plots. He had three warlords in the area all vying to be top dog. He had used and insulted all three. If any of them caught him without his powers… he shuddered at the thought.

Ares climbed the nearest hill to get his bearings. When he realized where he was, a smile crept across his face. Maybe Zeus wasn't as sharp as he thought! Aphrodite had a temple not far from here that he could reach by nightfall. He would just hideout there and help himself to the offerings. Still smiling to himself, Ares set off.

Ares made it to the temple by late afternoon. He watched from the woods until he was sure it was empty, then he strode through the front door. He was pleased to see some offerings on the altar. He would help himself later. Aphrodite would never miss them. Ares made a thorough check of the building. It was a small temple, just the one altar room and some partitions forming storage areas. It did not have a full-time priest, so he would be alone. He would make a place in one of the niches to sleep and conceal himself if anyone came. Satisfied with his inspection, Ares rummaged through the offerings. It was mostly fruit, but he found some bread and cheese too. Someone was even thoughtful enough to leave a skin full of wine.

Even without his powers, Ares was formidable. He had many lifetimes of experience in battle and he still had perfectly tuned muscles and reflexes. However, he had not quite adjusted yet to the fact that he couldn't just vanish when danger threatened. This caused a slight delay in his reaction to the small rustle behind him. The blow grazed the side of his head causing a burst of pain. With a roar, he spun, sword in hand. His attacker was the same size as Ares and also powerfully built. Ares knew he would defeat him, it would just take a little longer than usual. Then he heard the accomplice behind him. Dodging to the side, Ares maneuvered to face both of them. The second man was slightly smaller, but also muscular.

Alkar, the first man, growled menacingly, "Give us your money and maybe we'll let you live!" His partner, Braz, snickered.

Ares took the appearance of an accomplice in stride. He'd still kick both their asses. Then he heard the third one. Now this was going to be a problem unless they were stupid enough to charge one at a time. They weren't.

Aphrodite was with Cupid when the crashing and trashing in her temple brought them hurrying. They appeared, invisible to mortal eyes, in time to see Ares too busy with two attackers to be able to respond to Alkar about to hit him over the head with a large vase.

"Cupid! Do something!" Aphrodite squeaked. So Cupid instinctively raised his bow and shot. Ares managed to take out his two attackers with one spin kick that caught both of their faces. His momentum brought him face to face with Alkar just as Cupid's arrow hit Alkar. Ares' surprise at seeing Aphrodite and Cupid and Alkar's dazed look halted his fist.

Alkar dropped the vase. "I love you! I want you!" He reached for Ares. Suddenly a cracking boom of thunder shook the temple. Alkar's look of love was instantly replaced by one of fright and he and his recovering accomplices darted out the door.

Zeus materialized in a blinding light, which meant he was more than a little angry. "So! You chose to defy me!" He glared at Aphrodite and Cupid. "Now join him!" He vanished without even looking at Ares. Cupid's bow vanished along with his wings and he ended up dressed much as Ares. Aphrodite now had a peasant's dress and a basket of fruit.

"Way to go, Mom!" Cupid spat out.

"He was going to hurt Ares!" She didn't look very happy. Aphrodite glanced at the basket then looked at the ceiling and shouted, "And I hate fruit!"

Ares looked at the two of them and started laughing. He couldn't stop. He was grateful they helped him, but this was too funny.

"Ha, ha! Very funny!"

"Ar-es," Aphrodite's voice was a warning growl. "This isn't funny and those toads are liable to be back any minute!"

This brought a smirk to Cupid's face. "Well Ares won't have anything to worry about because Alkar luh-uvs him!"

That thought sobered Ares. "You're right as always. Time to go!" He tossed the wineskin to Cupid and stuffed some of the offerings into a sack someone had left. "Coming?" he called over his shoulder as he headed for the door.

Night 1/Day 2

Cupid angrily turned to Aphrodite. "This is all your fault!"

They were in the woods a few miles from the temple. It was too dark to continue and Ares wouldn't let them light a fire. Not without knowing exactly where they were and who might be nearby.

"Will the two of you knock it off? With all the noise you're making, anyone in the area won't need a fire to find us." Ares thought how much easier this would be alone. He was used to being on battlefields without all the luxuries that Aphrodite and Cupid so sorely missed. They hadn't stopped complaining once. Ares briefly entertained the thought of just leaving them there, and if it were anyone else he would have. But he had a special bond with Aphrodite and Cupid had done him some favors. Ares reminisced about the time he spotted a peasant girl in the woods. She was exquisite. When he appeared to her, she was frightened and tried to run away. He easily caught her and tried to calm her fears to no avail. Cupid happened by and at his request grazed her with one of his arrows. They spent the afternoon in lust. He could still feel her tongue on him. She couldn't get enough. He pleasured himself with her until she finally fell into an exhausted sleep. He left her then, but she was constantly in his temple crying for him to come to her. He did a few times and laid her on his altar. He finally had to make her forget that he was the first one she saw after Cupid's arrow. She was now married to the shepherd that happened to be passing the temple when she emerged.

The low snoring sounds brought him back to the present. Cupid and Aphrodite had finally settled down and were sleeping, neither even considering they might need a lookout. Nope, they were babes in the woods. He couldn't leave them alone; they'd never make it. Speaking of which, he needed a plan or none of them were going to make it. Ares leaned his head back on the tree he was sitting against. Suddenly, Cupid was shaking him awake. "Your new boyfriend is heading up the path this way."

"Damn! How could I have fallen asleep?" It was daylight, but still that early morning gray. They grabbed their few belongings and Ares motioned them into the tall grass. He held it open as they passed through then closed it behind them so they wouldn't leave a trail. They held their collective breath as Alkar, Braz, and Talos entered the small clearing.

"Looks like they were here. It's hard to see which way they went though. Alkar, maybe you should give it up," Talos shrugged.

"Never!" Alkar snarled at him. "I won't rest until I'm holding him in my arms. I can't stop thinking about all the things I'm going to do with him," he finished dreamily.

"Oh, great! It's not enough I have three warlords to worry about. Now this!" Ares grumbled to himself. "I should just kill him and get it over with." He was reaching for his sword when Braz called to his friends. "It looks like they may have gone this way!" The three went hurrying into the woods.

"Now's our chance. Luckily they're going the opposite direction we want to go." Ares led them through the trees.

"Exactly where are we going?" Aphrodite demanded.

"There's a road heading away from Tripolis on the other side of these woods. We'll make much better time. If anyone comes we can duck off the road. Once we put enough distance between us and Tripolis, we'll be home free."

It was late morning by the time Ares led them from the woods, Cupid and Aphrodite's constant barrage still echoing in his ears. The road skirted the edge of the woods opening into fields on the other side. "This way," Ares indicated.

They had only been walking a short time when they heard whistling or what was supposed to be whistling coming toward them. They ducked into the brush just as a lone traveler clanged his way into their sight.

"Joxer?" Ares was so surprised he said the name out loud.

Joxer almost tripped himself as he spun around to face Ares emerging from the woods. "Ares?" he tentatively said. "I mean it is you isn't it? Where's the leather?"

Aphrodite's giggle made him turn to see her and Cupid emerge from their hiding places. "Hi, Stud Muffin."

"Aphrodite? Uh, nice outfit…I think." Joxer looked at Cupid with a questioning look.

"This is my baby -- Cupid," Aphrodite introduced.

"Cupid? Wait a minute. I thought you had wings," Joxer announced suspiciously. "And where's your bow?" he concluded, crossing his arms.

"We don't have time for this," Ares snarled. Grabbing Joxer by the front of his shirt, Ares pulled Joxer's face close to his own. "Now listen good. I want you to go find Xena and tell her I need her here right away. There's some hills a couple of miles down the road. We'll be in the woods there. And not a word to anyone else! Now move!" Ares gave him a shove.

"What's going on? Why don't you just pop in and tell her yourself? Why do you need me?"

Ares took a step towards him when Aphrodite stepped between them. Stepping to Joxer, she ran her fingers up his arm. "Now, Joxer, I really need you to do me this favor. You will, won't you?" She kissed his cheek.

"Sure! Sure! I'll be happy to do anything for you! But I don't understand what's going on. Wa--ait, you're not doing it because you can't!"

"Well, duh," commented Cupid. He shook his head.

"You don't have any powers! You need me!" Joxer launched into his song. "Joxer the migh-ty…" He abruptly ended when Ares' hand closed around his throat.

"If you breathe a word of this to anyone except Xena, I'll cut you in two! And you can be certain that I don't need my powers for that!" Ares hissed. He shook Joxer and let go. Joxer stumbled back a few steps holding his throat.

"Okay! Okay! I get the picture! I'm supposed to meet her and Gabrielle in the next village. I'll be there by nightfall. But I should warn you that the last time I heard her mention you it wasn't very flattering!" He turned and hurried down the path before Ares could respond. He heard Aphrodite call after him.

"Don't forget about me, Stud Muffin!"

Day 2/Night 2

Ares surveyed the site he picked. "This should do for now. It's sheltered enough that we can have a fire and there's a stream through there. I hope Xena brings some wine."

"If she comes. You're not her favorite person," Cupid muttered.

"She'll come. She's devoted to me even if she's not consciously aware of it," Ares stated smugly.

"Uh-huh. Whatever you say."

Ares just glared at him. "The two of you can make yourselves useful and gather some firewood. I'm going to scout around a bit." Ares turned and headed toward the stream. He hoped Xena would get there soon. Not long after Joxer left they had to hide from a scouting party sent by one of the warlords. They overheard them say his army would be moving closer over the next few days. It was going to be much harder to slip through when they were moving and not staying in one place. Ares knew he'd like his chances much better with Xena by his side.


When he arrived, Joxer was happy to see Xena and Gabrielle already at the inn eating dinner. They usually shared their meals with him since he never had much money.

"Joxer! Hope you don't mind that we started without you, but we missed lunch today," Gabrielle greeted him.

"Hi, Gabby. Xena." Joxer sat down and dished some stew onto his plate. In between bites he spoke to Xena. "I was asked to give you a message, but you have to promise me you won't get mad. I'm only the messenger!"

Xena rolled her eyes and looked at Joxer. "Okay, Joxer, I promise I won't get mad. Let's start with who the message is from."

Joxer looked nervously from Xena to Gabrielle then back to Xena. "Ares."

"What?" Xena spat out.

Joxer moved back a bit. "You promised you wouldn't get mad!"

Xena took a deep breath and said, "Okay, I'm not mad. What's the message?"

Joxer looked around to make sure no one was paying any attention to him. "He said he needs your help and wants you to come right away. He's in the woods a half-day down the road."

"He's in the woods?" Gabrielle shook her head slightly as if she weren't sure she heard correctly. "Why would he be in the woods? Are you sure you have the message straight?"

Joxer lowered his voice to a whisper. "He lost his powers."

They both stared at him. Xena finally spoke. "You're telling me he lost his powers? He's mortal now?" Joxer shook his head yes. Xena gave a short bark of a laugh. "Serves him right. He deserves whatever he gets!"

"Um, there's something else you should know," Joxer volunteered. "Aphrodite and Cupid are with him."

Gabrielle's eyes widened and Xena snorted on the mouthful of ale she was about to swallow. "What?"

"None of them have their powers. Aphrodite asked me not to forget about her. So even if you don't want to help, I'm going back. Of course Ares might follow through on his threat to cut me in two if I don't bring you…" Joxer trailed off.

"Aphrodite and Cupid are with him? How could this have happened?" Gabrielle questioned.

"They must have done something to really piss off Zeus or they wouldn't be in this mess. All right, Joxer, we'll go with you. We'll leave first thing in the morning. Knowing those three they're probably walking in circles bumping into each other." Xena finished her ale while Joxer finished the stew, then Xena sent Joxer and Gabrielle to buy supplies while she nosed around.

Xena overheard enough to quickly surmise what had Ares so worried that he risked sending for her. So while one part of her found this highly amusing, she understood the terrible consequences if they were caught by one of these warlords without their powers. She was sorely tempted to hand Ares over herself, but she couldn't do something that awful even to Ares. Besides, Gabrielle wouldn't let her. Xena was also highly curious as to what Aphrodite and Cupid could have done. Ares was always causing trouble so that part was understandable. She hurried back to the inn.


While Joxer was hurrying to deliver his message and Ares scouted the area, Aphrodite sank onto a log. "Cupid, what are we going to do? I'm really not good at this mortal thing. How am I going to last a whole week? How could Zeus do this?" She was near to tears.

Cupid sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulder. "This mortal stuff does suck, doesn't it? I don't know how they survive!"

"I hope Ares brings something to eat. All we have left is some fruit."

"We should get some firewood." Cupid got up. "If Ares comes back and finds us just sitting around, he's liable to have us for dinner!"


Satisfied that they were safe for the moment, Ares turned his attention to his rumbling stomach. "This mortal stuff really sucks," he complained to himself. "Zeus really knows how to break balls. And all for that mongrel, Hercules!" A sudden movement in the brush caught his attention. A rabbit was nibbling on some clover. Ares froze and watched as it hopped closer. In a flash, Ares sword was in his hand lopping off the unaware head. "At least I'm eating tonight!" Then the thought of listening to Cupid and Aphrodite made him stay until he had several more.

He made his way back to the campsite and was surprised to find a supply of firewood. Cupid had even taken the empty wineskin to the stream to fill. "Maybe they're getting the hang of this," Ares mused. Aphrodite jumped when Ares dumped the headless rabbits next to her seat. She took one look and was on her feet.

"Ick! Get those things away from me!"

"Those things are dinner. Unless of course you'd like fruit."

"Mom, get a grip!" Cupid pulled a few sturdy sticks from the woodpile to use as spits. "They don't have ambrosia down here."

"Fine! Let me know when they're cooked! I can't stand raw meat!"

Ares and Cupid both turned to look at her, eyebrows raised, smirks evident.

"Raw, dead meat! And you two can go soak your heads!" Aphrodite huffed.

"Speaking of which," Ares looked at the two of them, "I'm not used to going this long without…"

"Forget it, Ar! I'm too bummed out to even think about that!" Aphrodite sank back onto her log, a safe distance from the rabbits.

"Uh-uh," Cupid shook his head no. "Don't look at me! Not while I'm mortal. You play too rough."

Ares wasn't happy. He was stronger and could make one of them go along, but there'd be hell to pay later. God or no god, it was a way bad move to get the love gods pissed unless you liked lusting after goats or worse.


"Xena, what are we going to do?" Gabrielle asked from her blanket.

"I don't know. We'll find them first, then decide. The only real concern I have is all these warlords in the area. Otherwise I wouldn't bother. Get some sleep. I want to get an early start."


"Ares, what are we going to do?" Aphrodite asked again.

"Stay put unless we have to move. We have everything we need right here."

"Everything except our powers," she mumbled.

Day 3/Night 3

"Xena, this is the place I saw them," Joxer indicated.

"Okay, I'm going on ahead to find them. You two follow with the supplies and watch out for scouts." Xena set off in the direction she thought Ares would have taken. She heard them bickering before she saw them.

"Good thing for you I'm on your side!"

Cupid, Aphrodite, and Ares turned as one to see her leaning against a tree. "Xena! I knew you'd come!" Ares walked towards her.

"I came for them, not you. The world can do without war, but I think it needs all the love it can get."

Ares leaned forward to whisper in her ear. "Say what you want. I know you came for me!"

Xena just gave him a steely gaze. "So, what happened and for how long?"

"Humph! If Ares hadn't…" Aphrodite started.

"Never mind all that!" Ares snapped. "We have four more days after this. Then all will be back as it should."

"You I can understand. But what did Cupid and Aphrodite do?"

"Only saved him from some goons. Zeus said if anyone helped him, well…" Aphrodite shrugged.

"Well here we are!" Cupid chimed in.

"Four days, huh? This spot seems secluded enough, but with all the scouting parties roaming around… We'll have to be ready to move at any time." Xena thought aloud.

Ares looked around. "Wait. Where's that pesky sidekick of yours? Did you finally wise up and lose her?"

"Gabrielle and Joxer are following."

"You brought Joxer with you?!?" Ares sputtered.

"Would you rather have him back in the village unsupervised?"

"Good point," Ares conceded.

"I'm going to get Gabrielle and Joxer. They should be close by now. You can gather more firewood while you're waiting." Xena disappeared into the woods.

"Why didn't you tell her what you did?" taunted Aphrodite.

"Oh, sure! Go ahead and tell her and see if she stays to help," Ares countered.

"He's right, Mom, Xena and Hercules have a thing. If she finds out what Ares was planning…" Cupid shrugged. "Let's get the wood."

"I hate getting wood!" Aphrodite griped.

When Xena returned, Gabrielle took charge of the camp and soon had Joxer and Cupid fetching water while she took Aphrodite to gather edible roots for a stew. Xena and Ares scouted while picking up some small game for dinner. They were gathered around the fire for supper when Cupid told them about Alkar, Braz, and Talos.

"That gives this story a nice touch of humor," Gabrielle remarked. When she saw the murderous look on Ares' face, she quickly followed up with, "On the other hand, humor is highly overrated, don't you think?" She turned her attention to the stew.

The look stopped Joxer in mid-guffaw. He turned to Gabrielle. "That smells great! Is it almost ready?"

Ares turned his look to Xena. "What are you smirking about?" he growled.

"You. This is getting better and better!"

"I am not finding it amusing!" He snapped.

"Um, dinner is ready. Anyone hungry?" Gabrielle interjected.

As Gabrielle passed out the bowls of stew, Joxer managed to trip and dump the contents of his bowl into Ares' lap.

"You idiot!" Ares snarled. "That does it!" He put his face right up to Joxer. "When I get my powers back, you are number one on my list!" He stomped off to the stream to clean up.

Joxer gulped and chided himself. "Great! What else can go wrong?"

"Oh, don't listen to him. He's not taking this mortal thing too well. He's been getting crankier by the hour!" Aphrodite patted him on the shoulder.

Joxer gave her one of his goofy grins. "Oh, I'm not worried. I know he doesn't mean it." When Aphrodite turned away, Joxer gulped again. "Yeah, and I'm sure Tartarus is going to freeze over too!"

"Nothing a good lay wouldn't fix," Cupid muttered. He glanced at Xena.

"Don't even try to go there!"

The look on Xena's face caused Cupid to shrug. "Just giving my opinion."

"I'll take the first watch," Xena announced. She turned at Ares' approach. "Ares, I'll wake you for the second watch."

"I should be dry by then!" Ares shot at Joxer.

Xena ignored Ares. "Cupid can be third."

"What about me?" Joxer asked.

Ares glared at him again, but before he could respond, Xena answered. "There will be plenty of turns, Joxer. Tonight, the rest of you get some sleep."

Day 4/Night 4

"We have company!" Cupid hurried into the camp just as it was getting light.

"How many?" Xena was on her feet and ready. Everyone else scrambled to their feet, grabbing their weapons.

"Only three -- Ares' friends." Cupid smirked.

Just then Alkar, Braz, and Talos entered the small clearing. "There he is!" Alkar's delighted shout sounded.

"That does it! I'm getting rid of him once and for all!" Ares snarled. Before he could step forward, Xena's hand on his chest stopped him.

"Let me handle this," Xena ordered. She stepped forward to meet the trio.

"What do you want?" She drilled her eyes into Alkar.

"I have no quarrel with you. I just came for him." As he indicated Ares he couldn't keep a dreamy grin off his face.

"Yeah? Well he's taken. By me." She stepped forward menacingly. "So get lost!"

Alkar's face got ugly. "Well I'm not leaving without him!"

Xena looked thoughtful. "You look like an intelligent man, so I'll give you some advice. Come back in a week. I usually get tired of them by then. That way you won't have to die -- any of you." She included Braz and Talos in her look.

"A week! I can't wait a week!"

Braz started pulling him back. "Look, Alkar. I don't feel like losing any body parts over this obsession of yours. She said you can have him in a week." He looked at Xena for confirmation.

Xena raised an eyebrow. "I give you my word. You can have him in a week if you still want him."

Seeing he was outnumbered and alone, Alkar mournfully agreed. Talos and Braz hurriedly bundled him off. As they disappeared from sight, Cupid let out a pent-up snort of laughter and Aphrodite collapsed in giggles. Gabrielle was desperately trying to hide a smile. Joxer just looked at the ground and shuffled the dirt. He was already on Ares' list.

Ares was fit to be tied. "What do you mean haggling over me like a piece of meat?"

"Oh, relax. It worked didn't it? In a few more days Cupid can remove the spell."

"Humph." Ares let go of his anger and leaned forward to whisper in Xena's ear. "Did you mean the part about me belonging to you for the week?" He leaned back and raised his eyebrows to her.

Xena gave him "the look" and brushed past him. "Don't hold your breath."


"Joxer, you've been awfully quiet today. Is anything wrong?" Gabrielle and Joxer were watching the road from the top of a hill.

"Nothing anybody can help me with," he said bitterly. He kicked the dirt and almost knocked himself flat.

"I'll help you! You know I will. Just tell me what's wrong."

"When this is all over, I'm dead meat! Ares has it in for me."

"Joxer, I think you're over reacting."

"Oh, yeah, that's easy for you to say! You're not on top of the God of War's hit list!"

Just then Cupid and Aphrodite came to relieve them. "Xena wants you back at camp."

"Thanks. Everything's been quiet here." Gabrielle and Joxer made their way back. "Joxer, Ares will probably forget all about this by the time he gets his powers back."

"Yeah, sure. You're probably right." Joxer withdrew once more.


"Xena, I need to talk to you. Now." Gabrielle pulled her away from where she and Ares were plotting. "It's Joxer. He's absolutely terrified about Ares' threat. You know, about being on the top of his list and all."

Xena glanced over and saw Ares scowling while Joxer gave Ares a wide berth.

"I'll take care of it. Tell Joxer to go catch some fish for dinner." Once Joxer was gone, Xena turned to Ares. "I want you to tell Joxer that he's not on your list anymore."

Ares gave her a bored look.

"I mean it, Ares. If you don't reassure him and lay off my friends, then we are out of here. And I will personally tell every warlord I meet exactly where to find you!"

Ares knew by her steel-edged tone that she meant every word.

"What do you see in that loser? Gabrielle, I can half understand. Joxer?" he shrugged.

"Joxer is loyal and brave and he's a friend. Now are you going to lay off or not?"

"All right, Xena, fine. I'll do it. For you."

"Don't make it obvious that you talked to me. Make it sound sincere. Why don't you go help him catch dinner?" She smiled sweetly at him. Ares scowled again, then ambled off after Joxer.

"Think he'll do it?" Gabrielle asked Xena.

"We'll find out soon enough."


"What are you doing?"

Joxer jumped at the familiar, deep voice. He had to take a deep breath to calm himself enough to answer. "I'm putting bait on this fishing line." He glanced sideways at Ares to see if his life was in any immediate danger.

"Fishing lines are for wimps! Let me show you how a real man catches fish!"

Joxer turned to watch as Ares removed his shirt, then his boots. Joxer couldn't keep the admiration from his face. Ares had one beautiful body. There was a whole lot of muscles crammed into a tight skin. Ares caught his look and smiled smugly. He then waded into the stream. He stood silently waiting, then grabbed. He pulled out a fish and tossed it on the bank.

"See? No muss or fuss and no line!"

"I asked Xena to show me once, but then someone came looking for help and she had to leave." Joxer gave a small shrug and fumbled with the line in his hands.

"I can't believe I'm going to do this!" Ares thought as he took a deep breath. "Well, if you get in here, I'll show you how."

Joxer's head snapped up. He took a quick look around to make sure Ares was addressing him. "You want to show me?!?" When Ares gave him a "duh" look, Joxer added, "I mean thanks, I would really like that. Boy, will that surprise Xena!"

Ares just rolled his eyes. He watched as Joxer stripped down to his pants. Joxer didn't look half-bad without his ridiculous armor. "I must be desperate if Joxer is looking good to me! When I get my powers back, the first thing I'm going to do is lay every priestess I've got. And that's just for starters!" Ares watched Joxer move towards him. "Maybe I'll make Joxer blow me before we go back. No, if Xena finds out she'll take off and I need her."

"Ares?" Joxer's voice sounded tentative. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

Ares turned his attention back to the task at hand. "Just thinking that maybe you do have potential after all." He gave Joxer a small smile. "Now. The whole secret is being quiet. Keep the sun behind you. When a fish stops in your shadow, grab it. When you're first starting, it's probably easier to bend forward and hold your hands in the water. You'll be that much closer to the fish." Ares watched as Joxer positioned himself. Ares leaned back a little. "Nice ass. Yes, there may be some potential here." Joxer made a sudden grab and almost fell headfirst into the water. Ares grabbed him by the waist of his pants and steadied him. "What was that?"

"I saw a fish."

"Wait. You have to wait until it's right there. Don't get impatient and grab at things out of reach. Now try again."

"Okay." Joxer hunched over again.

Ares checked him out once more. His fingers still felt warm from touching Joxer's back. He was idly daydreaming about Joxer on all fours, ass pointed up, and legs spread when Joxer's shout of triumph brought him back to the present. "I've got one!"

He was so excited, Ares had to smile. "Don't drop it."

Joxer managed to throw it onto the bank without losing it. "I really did it!" He turned to Ares, suddenly self-conscience. He looked down at the water. "Uh, thanks for showing me."

"So, catch some more! We got a bunch of hungry mortals, and two fish aren't going to do it."

"Right!" He grinned.

Ares turned his attention back to the water and soon they had a pile of fish. They used Joxer's line to tie them together, then sat on the bank to dry off. "Might as well get this over with," Ares decided. "Joxer, I've decided to take you off my list." He was watching Joxer as he said it and he could actually see the relief flooding through him. "Hmmm, for how terrified he must have been, he held it in pretty well. Maybe Xena is right about him."

"Thanks. I'll be sure to be more careful."

Xena sat sharpening her sword while Gabrielle wrote on one of her scrolls. Xena nudged Gabrielle when she saw Ares and Joxer emerging from the trees. Joxer was blabbing a mile a minute and Ares had a pained look on his face. Xena and Gabrielle hid their amusement and tried not to notice.

"Look at all the fish we caught! And without a line!" Joxer gushed.

"Looks like a real feast!" Gabrielle enthused.

Xena couldn't hide the amusement from her face as she looked at Ares. She really was trying to keep her smile suppressed, but the corners of her mouth just wouldn't stay down. Ares just gave her a "you owe me big" look. "Well you two did so well, maybe you can do it again tomorrow!" With Joxer behind him, Ares' look turned to murder. Xena quickly ducked her head back down to her sword.


Ares lay on his blanket looking at the stars. He had a bad feeling their luck wasn't going to hold. He wondered what Strife and Discord were up to. Probably screwing up all his carefully laid plans.

Day 5/Night 5

Nika entered the temple and went into the throne room. Something was wrong. She could feel it. She wasn't sure how she knew, she just knew. She idly rummaged through the offerings, but her mind wasn't on the task.

"Yo, priestess! Come over here and worship me!"

Nika spun around to see a caricature of Ares siting on the throne rubbing his crotch suggestively.

"Well, I'm waiting!"

Nika was so shocked she was speechless. Finally her brain started seeing the details her eyes were showing her. A skinny, pasty body clad in black leather and lots of pins. As the shock receded, anger flooded in.

"You better not let Ares find you in his chair!"

His expression changed to a scowl. "Yeah, well Ares ain't here and I am!"

"Who are you?" Nika was getting an icy feeling in her stomach.

"Name's Strife. Ares is out and I'm large and in charge!" He stepped down and walked up to Nika. "And you are going to get with the program!" He grabbed her arms and pulled her against him.

"I don't understand! Where's Ares?" Nika tried to push him away.

"He's on punishment and while he's away, I'm the one you need to worry about pleasing!" He leaned forward to kiss her.

Nika turned her face away. "You can't touch me! I belong to Ares!"

"Like I said, he's not here." He forced one of her hands to rub his hard-on.

"I don't care where he is. I know all about Zeus' rule."

Strife's face became angry. "What about Zeus' rule?"

"Ares told me all the gods agreed that they wouldn't touch any mortal that wore another god's mark. I was marked as a priestess of Ares so you can't force me!"

"I'm soooo scared! Ares doesn't have his powers so he can't stop me!"

Nika froze in shock. "He doesn't have his powers?"

"That's right. So you better start putting out before I get mad." He started bending her back over the altar, rubbing his crotch into hers.

Nika was starting to panic. She didn't want anyone touching her except Ares, whether he had his powers or not. "Great Father, Zeus, please hear me!" Nika screamed as loud as she could.

Startled, Strife backed off a little. "What do you think you're doing?" He glanced nervously around while he tried to cover her mouth.

Nika squirmed and twisted and screamed again, "Zeus, please help me!"

Strife finally got his hand over her mouth. "If Zeus catches me at this…" Strife didn't even want to think about the consequences. "Stop shouting! I'm going to let go. Just stop!" When she nodded her head, he let her go and backed off. "It figures! Ares had to tell her about that rule. If he hadn't, I'd be fucking her silly right now!"

Nika looked at him warily. "At least he's still afraid of Zeus!"

"There's no need to mention this little misunderstanding to anyone, right? I mean I thought you liked to resist, ya know? Uncle Ares usually likes it rough."

"I suppose I could forget all about it if…" Nika looked him in the eye, "if you tell me where Ares is."

"Easy. He's holed up in the woods near Tripolis." At her puzzled look, he smirked and taunted, "That's about a six days ride for you mortals."

"You could take me there," Nika decided.

"Right, so's you can blab to him."

"I promise not to tell him about this if you take me to him." When Strife hesitated, Nika looked up towards the ceiling and whispered, "Ze-us."

"All right!" Strife grabbed her by the hand.

Nika felt a flash of dizziness, then she stumbled and fell. She was on a road in the middle of nowhere.

"Great! I'm in the middle of who-knows-where and I don't see Ares. Strife, you stink! Well, I should have a better view from that hill."

Gabrielle nudged Cupid. "Hey! Where did she come from?" She pointed to Nika making her way towards them.

"Beats me. She wasn't there a minute ago. She doesn't look armed. She looks more lost and out of place than anything."

"We better find out who she is and what she's doing here." They ducked behind a group of boulders.

"I hope I find Ares soon. I don't even have a water skin with me. Damn you, Strife!" Nika finally huffed her way to the top. She was looking back the way she came when she heard a sound behind her. Spinning around expecting to see Ares, her happy look faded into fear when she saw a young woman with a mean looking staff at the ready. Nika started backing up when she bumped into something. That something grabbed her arms. "Ar-?" she stopped herself from saying his name. This was not Ares.

"Don't be afraid. We're not going to hurt you," Gabrielle tried to reassure Nika. "Who are you and where did you come from? There wasn't anyone on the road a moment ago. All of a sudden you were just there."

"I… I was looking for someone," Nika volunteered.

"You started to say someone's name. Who are you looking for?"

"Uh," Nika wasn't sure what to say. She didn't want anyone to know Ares had lost his powers and she had no idea who these people were. They could be enemies. "It's not important. I'm sure I'll find him."

"You're out her alone, no supplies, and not dressed for travel. Maybe you should come with us." At Nika's panicked look, Gabrielle added, "You can at least have something to eat." Nika seemed to be considering her suggestion.

"I'm sure I've seen this one before. Now where was it?" Cupid was so deep in thought he didn't hear Gabrielle the first time.

"Cupid? You can let her go. Are you okay?"

Cupid turned Nika to face him and stared at her. Suddenly comprehension flooded his face. He pulled up the short sleeve of Nika's dress to expose Ares' mark on her arm. "I was right! You're the priestess from Ares' new temple!" he sounded triumphant.

Nika pulled away from him and started backing away from the two of them. She was getting ready to bolt, when Gabrielle got the picture. "Of course! You're looking for Ares. He's back in camp. I'll take you. But how did you get here?"

"Strife brought me."

"Strife? Oh, this can't be good. Come on, we don't have any time to waste!" Cupid grabbed Nika's elbow and urged her forward.

They arrived in camp just as the others were gathering to eat lunch. Ares glanced up, did a double take, and was on his feet. "Nika! What are you doing here?"

Nika hesitated. He didn't sound happy. Then he opened his arms and she ran to him. "I was so worried! I just knew something was wrong. And then Strife said…"

"Strife!?! When did you see Strife?" Ares' voice had a dangerous edge to it.

"Uh, he came to the temple."

Ares face contorted and he stepped away from Nika. "I knew it!" he raged. "I knew he was up to no good!"

Gabrielle saw the others' puzzled looks and explained, "She was suddenly on the road. We never saw her coming." She shrugged.

Ares turned back to Nika. "Exactly how did you get here?"

"Strife brought me." She was afraid to meet his eyes.

"Strife brought you. Why did Strife bring you?"

Nika straightened up and tried to look in charge. "I asked him to."

Ares snorted. "Strife doesn't do anything he's asked to do. Not without a pretty big lever." Ares looked at her with a touch of admiration. What could she have used against Strife? Suddenly he thought of something and didn't like where it was going. His look turned to one of fury. He took her arm and pulled her away from the others. "What did he do to you?" he hissed.

Nika looked him right in the eye. "Nothing. He did nothing."

Ares bit his lower lip. "Fine. Don't say anything. That's obviously part of the agreement. I will figure it out though." He looked at Nika thoughtfully, then he leaned forward and whispered in her ear. "If I ever find out you lied to me…" he left the threat unspoken.

Nika's face mirrored shock and hurt at the same time. "I would never betray you! How could you think I would?"

Ares was livid at the thought that Strife might have lain with her, but her reaction seemed to be genuine. And Nika never lied. To anyone. He cupped her chin in his hand. "I believe you." He pulled her to him in a tight embrace. "I'm glad to see you, but it was very foolish to come. You're in mortal danger here." He let her go and turned to look at Xena. "Strife will have told everyone where we are by now. We better get moving."

"I'll go scout further out and try to see from what direction and how many are coming. We may still be able to slip through. While I'm gone, move camp to the hilltop. It'll be easier to defend in case we have to stay. We just have to hold out until you get your powers back." Then Xena was gone.

Ares grabbed the water skins and announced that he and Nika would get the water. He then grabbed her hand and pulled her into the woods. When they were almost to the stream, Ares dropped the water skins and pulled Nika against him. His kiss was frenzied, and he was trying to undress her at the same time. This was so much easier when he had his powers!

Nika was a bit startled by his intensity and quickly surmised the situation. Pulling her lips from his, she slipped her tunic off her shoulders and let it drop to the ground. She then helped him out of his clothes. He pulled her down onto the pile of their clothes and licked her breasts. Nika loved the delicious feelings this always produced and pulled his face closer so she could push the nipple into his mouth. Ares made growling sounds in his throat as he suckled her. Nika was moaning now as the sweet feelings coursed through her body and centered between her legs. She guided one of his hands there and his fingers were soon rubbing and playing in her wetness. Nika was growing as frenzied as Ares. "Please lick me!" she begged him.

Ares was happy to bury his face in her mound and taste her. It didn't take much licking before she was shuddering and Ares wasted no time climbing on her and plunging his aching cock into her. Oh, that sweet, tight warmth! Ares tried to make it last, but his frantic thrusting soon had him exploding into her. They lay a few minutes, catching their breaths, then reluctantly pulled their clothes back on. "Later," he promised. When they arrived at the new campsite, no one mentioned their slightly disheveled appearance. Nika stayed close to Ares, as though afraid he might suddenly be gone.

When Xena returned, she gave her scouting report. "Well, we have three groups all converging on this spot. I don't see anyway to slip through, but I did attack some scouts from two of the groups and left weapons to point to each other. If they start bickering amongst themselves, we'll buy some time. While we wait, I suggest we set what traps we can."

Xena sent Gabrielle and Nika with Ares while she took the others. They worked through the afternoon and Xena once again mounted Argo to check on the warlords' advance. She returned to announce that the warlords were settling in for the night but would probably arrive by midday.

"Xena," Ares pulled her aside. "Promise me you'll get Nika away safely in case… you know, if…"

"She chose to come here."

"She doesn't understand what they'll do to her when they see my mark on her! You'll have to cut it off. Then see her settled some place where no one will know her. Promise me!"

Xena bit back her retort when she saw the concern in his eyes. Was it possible he actually cared for someone beside himself? "Ares, I don't know if any of us will get out of here, but I will do what I can."

As darkness settled, Xena sent Cupid to take the first watch while she settled next to Gabrielle. She didn't know what the morrow would bring and she wanted to spend time with her soul friend. Joxer and Aphrodite lay near each other, each lost in their own reflections. Ares took his blanket as far from the others as he deemed safe and settled down to explore Nika's body once more. He licked every crevice and greedily fed on her nectar. Nika took her turn exploring and also drank greedily. After resting briefly, they continued to tease and explore, finally coming together in that ultimate union. They couldn't completely suppress the gentle sounds of their lovemaking, but the others diplomatically ignored it. After some time, the soft sounds of sleep were heard. Xena decided not to wake Ares for a turn at watch. Let him have this night to remember; he might need it to sustain himself if the worst came to pass.

Day 6

They just finished breakfast when the air shimmered in front of them and a body materialized.

"Hermes!" exclaimed Cupid. "What are you doing here?"

"Zeus sent me for you and Aphrodite."

"I don't understand. We're supposed to be here until tomorrow."

"Well, just between you and me, he's got his eye on this pretty little honey and he wants you to do your arrow thing and your mom to distract Hera." He gave a broad wink.

"So we're getting our powers back?"

As Hermes nodded, they felt the power rush through them. "Let's go! Love waits for no man… or god!"

Aphrodite and Cupid looked apologetically at Ares, then Cupid shrugged and they vanished with Hermes. As Ares stood looking at the spot where they had stood, Xena came over and put her hand on his shoulder.

"This gives us a new option." At his puzzled look, she said, "With Aphrodite gone, we can try to get Gabrielle and Nika out on Argo. If you, Joxer, and I can create enough confusion, they may be able to charge through. I'd feel better with them out of harm's way."

"I'm not leaving you!" Gabrielle stomped over.

"Gabrielle, we have three armies coming. I'll be able to concentrate better if I know you're safe. Ares and I have some tricks we can use."

"Oh, and what about Joxer?"

"Joxer will fight with us."

Joxer stepped forward. "Gabrielle, I would feel better too if I know you're out of harm's way. Please."

"Well, I can't ride well enough for this, so we'll have to stay." Gabrielle crossed her arms and stared at them.

"Nika can ride. Gabrielle can just hold on to her." Ares quiet voice cut through.

"I want to stay with you!" Nika protested.

"You are here to obey me and I said you're going!" Ares' tone left no room for arguing. He turned and went to the edge of the hill where he could see two of the warlords advancing. "They'll be here soon."

"Gabrielle, will you help me cut a staff? I'm not very good yet, but I've been practicing everyday. I'd feel better if I had one to hold."

"Sure, Nika, I'll help you." They went to a group of saplings that were spreading up the hill and using a small hatchet from Gabrielle's pack cut one. As they stripped the branches, Gabrielle couldn't help asking, "Nika, what do you see in him? He's a blood thirsty monster!"

Nika turned to her. "He has always been good to me. He spared my village and since we built a temple for him, we have prospered and..." she trailed off and looked away.

"You love him, don't you?"

Nika didn't look at her, but spoke softly to the ground, "Yes."

"Well, I'll never understand it, but it sounds like you have good reasons." Gabrielle looked at Ares talking to Xena and Joxer. He was gesturing with his hands. "He does seem to be showing a softer side." She shook her head. "I can't believe I said that!"

"Gabrielle, I don't want to leave."

Gabrielle looked at her. "Neither do I, but I understand Xena's point." They rejoined the others.

"You two are leaving. As soon as the attack starts, we'll concentrate on clearing a path down this slope. It's the least steep, so you can gallop through. Don't stop and don't come back. You shouldn't have a problem, Ares is the prize they're after." Before Gabrielle could voice her objections, Xena continued is a gentler tone. "Gabrielle, I really need you to do this for me. Don't worry, I'll find you when it's over."

Nika was weeping softly in Ares' arms. He was murmuring to her. "Nika, I will not discuss it. I couldn't bear to watch them use you. As Xena said, I'll find you when it's over."

Joxer came hurrying back from the clump of boulders where Gabrielle and Cupid first met Nika. "It's starting."

Ares helped Nika onto Argo, then Gabrielle. Xena spoke to Argo and gave her a final pat. "Be ready to go." Xena and Ares let loose the rock slide they had prepared and as the group of soldiers scattered, Argo thundered down the hill. They were almost through the lines, when in front of them rose a large group of soldiers from the grass.

"How did they get there?" Xena cursed.

"Strife is helping them."

Xena let out a high pitched whistle to call Argo back. "Come on! We've got to scatter them again so they can get back!" The unlikely trio raced to help Nika and Gabrielle fight their way back but before they could be of much help, Nika and Gabrielle barged through, staffs swinging and screaming at the tops of their lungs.

Ares had to stop for the briefest of moments and admire the sight. He shouted to Xena, "They look like two harpies flying out of Tartarus!" Argo blazed past them and Xena, Joxer, and Ares scrambled to the hilltop after them. They made it just as soldiers from the other two warlords clambered up the steeper side of the hill. They formed a circle in the middle facing out to their enemies. Ares maneuvered Nika to his left side to stand between himself and Xena, while Gabrielle took position between Xena and Joxer.

Nika managed to ward off a few soldiers, but was no where experienced enough for a battle of this magnitude. The only thing that kept her from becoming completely paralyzed with fear was her fear for Ares. That gave her the energy to keep swinging.

Xena wasn't sure how long they could hold out. For every soldier they dropped, three more seemed to swarm onto the hilltop. Joxer was managing to hold up his end with some assistance from Gabrielle, but he and Nika were starting to get pushed back. Xena and Ares' swords were slick with blood and the bodies were starting to get in the way.

Nika just managed to get her staff in front of her to block a sword slicing towards her, when her staff snapped and she fell to her knees. Just before the sword could reach her, Ares' backward swing sent her attacker to Hades. "Grab a sword!" She heard Ares shouting at her, urging her to move. She grabbed a sword from the ground and looked up to see Ares dispatch another soldier in front of her. He turned back to his original direction and fought on, but he was nearly overwhelmed trying to fight on two fronts. She had to move!

Suddenly, everything slowed down for Nika and the battle sounds muted. She seemed to be moving in slow motion. A soldier was thrusting his arm forward to stab the center of Ares' back while he fought off three attackers in front of him. Nika thrust upward with all her strength and saw the blood spurt. The blade hitting the soldier's spine jarred her back into real time. She let go of the sword and looked at the blood on her hands. Then all of Tartarus seemed to break loose. The air crackled and everyone was screaming at once. Gabrielle, Joxer, and Xena were all crouching down beside her. She had just turned her shocked face to look at them when the noise stopped and she heard Ares shouting, "…and you better not stop running, you maggots!" She looked around at the hilltop littered with bodies, then saw a familiar pair of black boots. Her eyes traveled up over the tight black leather to see Ares studying her. Her blood-covered hands were still frozen in front of her and all she could say was, "I killed him. I killed him."

Ares crouched down in front of her and took her chin in his hand. Pulling her face to look at him, he said, "He's not dead, Nika. Do you hear me? I said he's not dead." Ares got up and drew his sword and he walked over to the soldier Nika had stabbed. He plunged his sword into him, then announced, "Now, he's dead. You see, Nika? You didn't kill him, I did." He sheathed his sword as Gabrielle helped Nika up. She was still in shock. Ares looked at Xena. "I have to go rein in Strife and Discord. I'll be back as soon as I can." He looked at Nika with concern as he vanished.

"Let's go to the stream and clean up. We can setup camp there." She whistled for Argo.

"You ladies go ahead. I'll take care of Argo and salvage what supplies I can," Joxer offered. He grabbed a water skin and ripped a piece of cloth from one of the bodies. He offered it to Gabrielle and she helped Nika wipe her hands.

"They feel so sticky." Nika sounded dazed. "Why do they feel so sticky?" She felt as though she was somehow separated from herself.

"Come on, Nika. Let's go to the stream now." Gabrielle started to lead her away.

Nika started walking when suddenly her mind and body seemed to snap together again. She stopped and looked around herself. "It really happened. I really stabbed someone. Ares said that I didn't kill him, he did, but did he really or did he just say that? Even if he finished him, wouldn't he have died anyway?" Nika started to walk to the soldier she had wounded.

"Nika, where are you going? The stream is this way." Gabrielle was worried about her.

"I want to see him." She stood looking at the face, peaceful in repose, and tried to ignore the wounds. It was easy to tell which one the God of War had inflicted. The others came to stand by her. "Even if Ares' didn't finish him, he would have died anyway, wouldn't he." It was a statement more than a question. "I'm the one who killed him."

"Why did you stab him, Nika?" Xena's voice was low and neutral.

Nika spun to face Xena. "He was going to kill Ares!" She shook as she again felt the fright of that moment and saw it play again before her eyes. "He was going to kill him!"

Gabrielle pulled her into a hug and Nika collapsed against her sobbing. "Nika, it's okay, you did what you had to."

"Come on, let's get out of here." Xena and Gabrielle each took one of Nika's arms and led her to the stream.


They were lounging on the bank, drying, when they heard Joxer crashing through the undergrowth. "I'm here!" he needlessly announced.

"It's a good thing Ares chased everyone off!" Gabrielle giggled.

"I'm going to head upstream a little to bathe."

"I'll have dinner ready when you get back," Gabrielle called to him. They moved to get dressed and Nika offered to gather wood. She went about mechanically, focusing on each stick in turn.

Gabrielle looked up at Nika's approach. "Nika, I want to tell you something that Xena told me and she knows about these things. She explained to me that everyone, be they a warrior or not, goes through this the first time. It's not something you ever completely get over, but you will learn to live with it. It wasn't a cold calculated act on your part. You were doing it to save another life. Ares would have died if you didn't stop that soldier. You can't keep punishing yourself."

"My head knows you're right, but I still feel terrible. That sounds pretty ridiculous for a priestess of the God of War." She tried to smile.

"You seem to be such a gentle person. How did you ever come to serve Ares?"

Nika sighed, "It's a long story." She told Gabrielle as she helped her prepare supper.

"That's a pretty amazing story and if I was hearing it from anyone else, I wouldn't believe it!"

They were all gathered around the fire finishing the stew Gabrielle and Nika had made and discussing their travel plans for the following morning.

"Nika." They all started at Ares' voice. He went to Nika and sat beside her giving her a searching look. When she looked down, he sought the others' eyes, his question unspoken. They all gave slight shrugs.

"I'll be all right. I just need time for the numbness to wear off." Nika's voice was low but sounded firmer than it had. She looked at Ares as if seeing him for the first time. "This is war. This is what he is all about. I can't pretend it doesn't exist any longer. But I do love him. And I definitely can't help my reaction when he's near me!" She had to smile to herself at that. "No matter what happens, I'll be here for him." Clarifying this in her own mind gave Nika some measure of peace. She gave him a small smile. "I'll be all right." The sun was just starting to set and slanted into their campsite. It made everything glow and seemed to be a sign that everything would be all right.

Joxer took this opportunity to ask the question they all had. "Can somebody please tell me exactly what happened? I thought you weren't supposed to get your powers back until tomorrow. Not that I'm complaining, of course!" Joxer amended.

"I can answer that." They all turned to see Cupid appearing before them. "Zeus wanted Mom to distract Hera, but she kept asking Zeus how could she give her task the proper attention it required when she couldn't stop worrying about Ares. Plus the fact that I used an extra potent arrow on the subject at hand. She was making such a racket calling for Zeus that he had to get rid of Hera quickly before she heard."

"So Zeus restored Ares' powers so Aphrodite would get Hera out of the way before she heard all the noise," Xena finished.

"Hey, love conquers all!" Cupid grinned.

"Well, the timing was a little close for my taste, but we owe you one!" Gabrielle smiled.

"And you owe me big time!" Cupid shot at Ares.

"Don't worry, you'll get yours," Ares drawled, "when I'm ready."

Cupid smirked. "Later!" He gave a little salute and vanished.

Ares stood and reached out for Nika's hand. "It's time to put you back where you belong."

Nika stood. "I just want to say goodbye." She gave Gabrielle a big hug and whispered, "Thanks for everything. I hope we meet again someday."

"Take care of yourself." Gabrielle hugged her back.

Nika gave Xena a quick hug and thanked her for helping. She gave Joxer a quick peck on the cheek. She turned back to Ares and took his outstretched hand. Just then Ares seemed to remember something. He spun and pointed at Joxer. "You!" Ares' voice was like the crack of a whip.

Joxer gave a slight jump and gulped. "Great! He lied about taking me off his list! This is it! The end of Joxer, the Mighty!" He stared at Ares with wide eyes waiting for the bolt of energy that would shoot him to Hades.

"Don't go leaving any fish in my temple!" Then he threw back his head and laughed. They heard the echo even after he was gone. Xena and Gabrielle tried to hide their smiles as they laid out their blankets.

Night 6

They materialized in Ares' bedroom back in the temple. Nika felt their clothes vanish as Ares held her tight in a probing kiss. She loved the feel of his skin against hers and the hardness throbbing against her.

Ares ran his hands down her back and rubbed her ass. Nika had her arms wrapped tightly around his neck as though afraid to let go. Ares lifted her and laid her on the bed. He parted her legs and licked and nibbled until she cried out. Moving up, he thrust into her and soon had her shuddering again. Then he gave in to the overwhelming feelings of pleasure and pumped his seed into her.

Nika was feeling safe and warm snuggling in Ares' arms when his words startled her.

"You do know that you are one of my warriors now, don't you?"

"What do you mean?"

As she snuggled a little closer to him, he tightened his arms around her and his warm, deep voice surrounded her. "Nika, you fought and spilled blood for me today. I know you didn't want to, but it still makes you one of my warriors. You did me proud today and I won't forget it."

"No, I didn't want to, but looking back, I know I had no choice. I couldn't go on without you."

Ares chuckled. "Well you're back in my bed where you belong, and Strife will have a long painful time to reflect on the folly of his ways."

Continue on to the sequel Bad Girl

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