The characters belong to MCA/Universal and were used without permission. No copyright infringement was intended and no money was made.
This story contains explicit descriptions of male/male sexual relations.
You can find more stories by Cyrene at Hercules After Dark
Xena sat by the campfire sharpening her sword. It didn't really need sharpening, but it gave her something to do. Gabrielle had left a week ago to visit her family and friends. She asked Xena to go with her, but Xena was feeling restless and declined the offer. They made plans to rendezvous the day after tomorrow. Now Xena was here camping not far from a small village she passed through that afternoon. She helped a few of the men from the village rout a small group of bandits that was plaguing the area. One of the men caught her eye. The interest seemed to be mutual. Maybe she would slip into the village for a visit. "I can't believe I'm thinking this," Xena muttered to herself. Suddenly she was on her feet, sword at the ready. Seeing no one behind her, she reflected back on what had alerted her. Xena lowered her sword. "Ares, show yourself. I know you're here."
Ares appeared a few feet in front of her. "Xena." He stepped up to her.
"What do you want, Ares?" she demanded. "Don't you ever get tired causing trouble?"
"I'm not here to fight with you," Ares stated.
"Then why are you here?" Xena narrowed her eyes as she suddenly noticed how he was looking at her. He almost looked vulnerable. He reached up and stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers. It was a gentle touch and it sent shivers through her as she stared into his deep brown eyes. She saw the longing there.
"I want to lay with you tonight," he simply said. His voice was low and husky.
Xena stared at him incredulously. "No way!" she snapped as she turned her back to him. "I can't believe you have the nerve to ask me!"
Ares put his hands on her shoulders and whispered in her ear. "You know you want me. I'm in your blood as you're in mine." He softly stroked her arms.
Xena felt herself melting at his touch. She knew it would be good with him. No mortal would ever be able to evoke the physical response that Ares would. She shook her head. What was she thinking? His arms had closed around her and he was nuzzling her neck. The warm length of his body was pressing into hers overloading every sense. The sheer magnificence of him, the seductive sound of his voice, his touch, and his scent were all unleashing a flood of desire in her.
Xena pushed his arms away to free herself and turned to face him. "The answer is no, Ares. Leave me alone."
Ares looked at her. She was beautiful, his warrior princess, so full of fire! He took her face in his hands and kissed her. A gentle, probing kiss only hinting of the passion that lay behind it. He could feel her resistance weakening, but knew how strong-willed she was. "Please, Xena. Do this for me."
"Ares, what are you up to? You must have some plan afoot!"
"No. No plan. I saw you here all alone, your annoying little sidekick off somewhere, and thought you might like some company."
Xena studied him. He was acting different. Could he actually be feeling lonely? His offer was very tempting, but he must be up to something.
"Xena, please. Just one night of passion. No strings attached. I give you my word."
Xena snickered at that. "Like I can trust your word on anything."
"I have never lied to you, Xena. I admit at times I may have bent the truth a little, but I promise you there is no plan." He brushed her hair back over her shoulders. He could feel her shiver at his touch. "Just until daybreak."
She turned her back to him trying to break his strengthening hold on her senses. She was fighting her own internal battle now. Ares wrapped his arms around her again and pulled her against him. She could feel his hardness and she shivered again as he gently nibbled her ear. She made the mistake of closing her eyes and leaning her head against him. When she opened her eyes a moment later, the campsite was gone. "Ar-es," she growled. They were in a room lit by a fire in a small hearth. A large bed was covered with soft furs. A small table held goblets of wine.
"Xena, you know you want me as much as I want you. Why deny yourself?" He sounded almost hurt.
"Gabrielle! You've done something to Gabrielle!"
"You are so distrustful!" Ares waved his arm and Gabrielle shimmered in the air before her. She was sitting by a fire happily chatting away with a group of people. "She's no doubt telling of your exploits," he added mockingly.
Ares made a sour face. He waved his hand again and Xena saw Hercules and Iolaus asleep by a campfire. "And here's your mother and your horse. Anyone else?" He sounded irritated. "How can I make you believe I just want a night with you? A truce if you will."
He sounded so vulnerable, Xena found herself believing him. He actually was lonely. She softened a bit. "What brought this on?"
"I told you. I miss you and I thought you might like some company. Would you like some wine?"
He sounded so hopeful that Xena had to suppress a smile. "Yes, I'll have some wine." She sat on the edge of the bed and took the cup from him.
"Wouldn't you feel more comfortable without your armor on?" he casually asked. "I'm going to get more comfortable if that's all right with you." Without waiting for her answer, he removed his sword, then his vest. "That's better." He sat next to Xena. He brushed her hair back exposing her neck. He leaned forward to nuzzle, when Xena asked, "Aren't you having any wine?" Ares sighed then made a beckoning motion. The other wine goblet floated into his hand. "To you, my beauty." He raised his cup in a toast, then drained it. He tossed it aside and leaned towards her once again.
"Not too eager, are we?" she mocked, eyeing his prominent bulge. "May I get more comfortable?" Xena stood and put her cup back on the table, then turned to face Ares. As she started to unbuckle her armor, she knew she had his complete attention. Xena took her time starting with her boots and legs, working her way up until she stood only in the shift she wore beneath her armor. She let one strap accidentally slip off her shoulder. His eyes never left her as she undressed, his hunger undisguised.
"You are beautiful," he managed in a husky voice. "You take my breath away."
Xena was thinking the same thing about Ares, but wasn't going to voice it. He was magnificent! His handsome face and well-muscled torso had her breath catching in her throat too. She looked at the bottom half and raised an eyebrow.
"Would you undo my boots?" He was leaning back on his hands, his pants barely containing his straining member.
Xena raised both eyebrows, but swallowed her retort. She'd play his game and give him this point. She knelt down to undo his boots. She heard his sharp intake of breath as he ogled the ample cleavage showing from that angle. Knowing how badly he wanted her sent a jolt of excitement through her causing her nipples to harden.
Ares drank in the sight of her sweet breasts and protruding nipples. By all the gods on Olympus, he wanted her! As she removed his boots, he grasped her by the arms and pulled her on top of himself as he laid back. He dispensed with his pants and her shift with a thought and felt her warm softness against him. He grasped her head as his lips found hers. He closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around her as she returned his kiss.
Xena gave in to the warm comfort of his body and the sweet feeling of his hard staff against her. His chest hair was tickling her nipples and exciting her. His kiss was gentle but demanding. She heard him groaning in his throat and knew how badly he craved release. Xena slid down his body to position herself between his legs. He was staring at her, not quite believing his good fortune.
When he had felt her move, Ares opened his eyes, fearing she had changed her mind. When he realized her intention, he propped himself up on the pillows so he could watch her. He held his breath when she leaned forward to lick the tip of his shaft. He groaned and grasped her head as the sweet shock of pure pleasure coursed through his body. "Oh, Xena!" was all he could utter. She pulled his hands away and proceeded to slowly lick his shaft from bottom to top until she had licked every spot. Ares was using every fiber of self-control he possessed and then some to hold back. The sheer pleasure of her tongue had him moaning and writhing like no one else could ever. Finally, mercifully, she took the tip of his penis into her mouth and gently suckled. He knew he was about to lose it.
Xena knew she was torturing him, and she was thoroughly enjoying it. Of course he would get even, but she was looking forward to that too! When she knew he absolutely couldn't hold back any longer, she slid her lips down his shaft taking as much of him as she could into her mouth. She quickly slid her lips up and down his length a few times and then he was holding her head and shooting his seed down her throat.
What a sweet release! Ares thought he would never stop coming. He couldn't remember an orgasm that intense. He reached down to pull her up next to him. "That felt so good. How I've wanted you!" He kissed her lips, then was kissing a trail down to her nipple. He lightly bit and suckled one while his fingers teased the other.
Xena was moaning and arching her back as Ares played with her breasts. Each touch and nibble sent shivers through her. Safely in his hideaway she could completely let her guard down and fully enjoy the pleasure he was giving her. She didn't have to worry about a surprise attack from some enemy or warlord wannabe. Ares hand was roaming lower as he nibbled at her other breast. He certainly knew what he was doing! His fingers reached her curls and she parted her legs. His middle finger slipped into her crevice and he massaged her clitoris. She couldn't help gasping and thrusting her hips up. He slid his finger lower and into her, pulling almost all the way out before ramming back in. His thumb crept up to continue his assault on her pleasure spot. He continued to slowly finger her until Xena thought she would die from desire. "Ares, please. Please!"
Ares smiled. He loved it when his partners begged him for release, but to hear Xena was a rush. He rubbed faster and soon she was clutching his hand as her muscles contracted around his finger.
Xena watched as Ares withdrew his finger and put it in his mouth sucking her juices from it. "You taste delicious!" he announced. He was the most sensuous person she had ever known. Just watching him enjoy her taste was getting her aroused again.
"Well, now that we've taken the edge off, what's your pleasure? I'm at your command." Ares played with her hair while he waited for her answer.
"You've used your finger, now you can use your tongue. We'll work our way up to bigger things," she declared, giving a meaningful glance downward. She pushed him down on his back and straddled his face. Xena grasped the headboard and lowered herself onto his waiting tongue. She felt his strong hands on her waist as he held her where he wanted her. She felt his tongue run up and down the length of her slit from her anus to the top. He was varying the pressure and speed, concentrating on first one spot then another. When he started flicking his tongue across her anus, she couldn't stop moaning. It felt so exquisite. Then she felt him lapping his way forward. She almost came when he paused to lightly suckle her clitoris, but he wouldn't let her. Then he was taking her with his tongue, shoving it into her, slowly fucking her.
Ares wanted to draw out her pleasure as long as he could. Whenever he sensed she was about to come, he would move on. He wanted to make sure she remembered this night for a long time. He was rubbing his face into her, picking up her juice on his beard and mustache. He loved the smell of her. He was hard and ready, but wanted to complete her pleasure first. He started licking faster, launching an all out assault on her swollen clitoris. It wasn't long until he heard her cry out his name as she ground herself onto his face.
Xena was still shaking when Ares lowered her onto her back. Then he was between her legs positioning himself. His face was so full of lust and longing for her that she held out her arms to welcome him. She gasped with pleasure as he entered her.
Ares couldn't suppress his own gasp of pleasure when he thrust into her. He was leaning on his forearms so he could watch her face as he had her. "I'm so glad you said yes," he whispered. Then he was kissing her, claiming her mouth with his tongue.
Xena could feel the slow pleasure building up as Ares languidly thrust in and out. She knew he was trying to hold back, trying to make it last. It felt good but as her orgasm neared, she grabbed his ass to urge him to go faster.
Ares was in no hurry; this felt so good he could do it for the rest of his immortal life. When Xena grabbed his cheeks to urge him on, he gave in and thrusted harder and faster. Xena had her arms and legs wrapped around him as he pounded into her. All too soon she was bucking beneath him. As her muscles squeezed him, he couldn't hold back and he erupted into her.
Xena lay in his arms resting her head on his chest and listening to his heart. It was hard to believe that the God of War could have any gentleness in him. He usually managed to keep it well hidden. She had no doubt that their next encounter would be another all out brawl or some scheme to turn her back to his path. For now it was nice to have this moment, this truce as he called it.
Ares was also enjoying this time. He was sated for the moment and was happy to have his warrior princess in his arms. Xena was asleep against his chest, a contented look on her face. She was probably dreaming about kicking his ass. Nobody appreciated him.
Xena awoke to Ares nuzzling her neck. The room was faintly lit by the glow from the embers. "I see you're ready for action," she drawled. "I think I might be up for a ride."
"I was counting on it." Ares piled the pillows to prop himself up almost sitting. Xena straddled his hips and slowly lowered herself to his waiting member. She only allowed the tip to enter then she stopped. She gave him a taunting look and said, "then again, maybe not."
Ares shot her a look of warning, then smiled as her challenge sunk in. "Now, Xena, I think you are."
His hands were sliding up the outside of her legs and his one thumb found her secret spot while his other hand reached around to finger her anus. Xena closed her eyes as his delicious stimulation caused the pleasure to radiate through her body. She grasped the headboard and slammed herself onto his pelvis, crying out with pleasure as she felt his rod impale her. Then she was riding him with abandon, grazing his fingers on each downward thrust. She bounced on him faster and harder until she was riding that wave of release.
When Ares felt her coming, he gave in to his own pleasure and let his juices mix with hers to coat his shaft. Xena lay on his chest and kissed him. Ares wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tight. She slept there, his spent member still inside her.
When Xena woke up she felt the sun warming her. She opened her eyes to find Ares studying her face. "You said you were bringing me back at daybreak!"
"You were sleeping so peacefully, I didn't want to disturb you. If you want to go now, I'll take you. Or I could offer you something to eat first." He indicated a table by the hearth spread with fruit, cheese, and bread. Ares couldn't help reaching out to stroke her cheek, his eyes betraying residual longing.
Xena knew Ares would take her back if she asked, but his eyes were pleading with her to stay longer. She had never seen him quite like this before. Well, it wouldn't hurt to stay for breakfast. She didn't have anything at her campsite and this would save her the trouble. "Breakfast sounds good." Ares looked relieved and he produced her shift and his pants.
"If you're not in a hurry to return, I thought maybe we could have a shooting contest. To see if you've improved any."
Xena gave him a steely gaze. He was absently picking apart a piece of bread. "Well, Ares, it's not easy to improve perfection."
Ares chuckled. Xena was pretty much perfect. "So you accept my challenge?"
"What do I get if I win?"
Ares studied her. What would she enjoy most? The old Xena would have been easy. A new weapon, some new warriors. Now? She'd probably wish him to Tartarus and hope for world peace. Peace? Maybe a chance for peace.
Xena watched bits of emotion flicker across his face -- puzzlement as he pondered her question, amusement as he discarded possible answers, finally satisfaction as he thought of something. She wondered what he would offer.
"The kingdoms of Ithaki and Lefkada are close to declaring war. One of my new warlords, Belen, is going to help them along by attacking some villages today and pointing the blame to one side or the other. If you win, I will call off Belen."
Xena's eyes widened. For Ares to offer to call off anything was incredible. "If Belen goes away, what happens to Ithaki and Lefkada?"
Ares shrugged. "If they work out their petty differences, they will make a treaty. If they don't, they will fight even without Belen's help. I will not change that."
Xena had been to Ithaki and Lefkada. From what she remembered, both rulers were just. Without Ares' interference they had an excellent chance of avoiding a war. His next words penetrated her thoughts.
"If I win, I want the rest of today and tonight with you."
Xena looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "You make it hard to refuse, but how could I lay here with you knowing that Belen was murdering innocent men, women, and children?"
"So you're admitting I'll win?" He couldn't hide his amusement. He enjoyed this verbal fencing with her and the steely looks she gave him.
"No, just acknowledging that there is the slightest of possibilities. Then again, I could just leave now."
"Even if I took you back to your campsite right now, you would never make it. The only way for you to stop Belen is through me. I will concede your point though. You would not be any fun if you were brooding about a bunch of peasants." He saw he had her full attention. "So, I will modify my offer a bit. Even if I win, I will hold Belen back a full day after you return to give you a sporting chance."
"Done." Xena knew this was very generous for Ares. She also knew Ares would keep his word this time because she sensed he wanted this time to be a special memory for both of them.
When they dressed, he led her out to a field. He produced several bows and an ample supply of arrows. Ares took a bow and shot several arrows in rapid succession. The lead one hit the center of a tree and the following arrows each split the preceding one. Ares handed the bow to Xena. "Let's see if you're still as sharp as you used to be."
"Is that the best you can do?" Xena mocked him. She brushed him aside, notched two arrows together, and let them fly. She rapidly followed these with two more, then another two. The lead arrows hit the tree together, each to be split simultaneously by the following arrows. They spent the next hour trying to best each other. They had to conclude that they seemed to be evenly matched when Ares didn't use his godly powers.
Ares turned to her. "We didn't consider a tie. Would you care to move on to swords?" He loved a good fight and Xena was the only full mortal that could really give it to him.
Xena gave him a side-glance and walked a few paces away without answering. She suddenly spun, her sword slicing through the air straight for Ares' midsection. He yelped and jumped back pulling his sword at the same time. The peaceful woods rang with the sound of clanging metal and war cries. They managed to cover the whole field with their jumps, spins, kicks, and thrusts, sometimes using the trees to run up and ricochet off. Ares knew he could win this one just from sheer stamina. Xena could go a long time, but she was only a mortal and had to tire eventually. He just had to watch for her tricks.
Xena was beginning to regret the contest. She was beginning to tire, when suddenly she saw an opening. She thrust in, only to discover Ares' trick. At the last possible second, he spun and grabbed her sword arm before she could react. At the same time he hooked her feet, landing her flat on her back. Ares was instantly on top of her pinning her down. Keeping clear of any possible head butts, Ares haughtily said, "I win!"
Xena couldn't move at all. Ares was covering her completely. She finally stopped struggling and had to concede defeat. She defiantly stared at him and knew he was aroused. Ares was looking at her with a mixture of amusement and admiration. When she stopped struggling, he slowly lowered his face to hers. He stopped short of kissing her, searching her face for a sign of readiness. When she lifted her chin toward him, his lips completed their descent, gently meeting hers. They were on the soft grass beneath the tree full of arrows. Ares removed their clothes with a gesture not breaking their kiss.
They lay in each other's arms, parrying with their tongues. Finally Ares had enough and licked his way down between her breasts, over her flat stomach, and into her mound. He made noises of pleasure as he feasted.
Xena pushed thoughts of Belen out of her mind. There was nothing she could do until tomorrow. She would have to deal with him then. In the meantime, Ares' persistent licking was quickly bringing her to the brink again. She dug her fingers into his hair and gently pulled until he climbed up on her. She greedily licked his lips, then licked down his chin to his neck, then up the side to his ear.
Ares was pleased with Xena's enthusiasm and was enjoying the pleasant tickling she was causing. When she pushed against his shoulders, he pushed up to rest on his hands. She then proceeded to lick his nipples, which sent shock waves of pleasure straight to his rod, which hardened even more. He wanted her now! Ares lowered himself back onto his forearms and caught her mouth with his. He lifted his hips to better position himself and Xena raised hers to meet him. He thrust into her and moaned when her warm sheath enveloped his sword. Each thrust was more exquisite than the last and as he found his rhythm, Xena wrapped herself around him. When he heard her sweet cries of release, he tried desperately to control himself. He didn't want this to end. Ares stilled himself to let the moment pass, then began slowly again. Xena was kissing and licking his face and her hands roamed his back and buttocks. She was trying to pull him deeper into her and he was happy to oblige. This time when he got close, he couldn't stop himself and he pounded away finally spraying his seed inside her.
After they rested, Ares took her to a stream where they played and bathe each other. Afterwards they lay on the soft grass and let the warm sun dry them. "That cloud looks like a bird," Xena announced as she pointed.
Ares grunted. "It looks more like the tip of a spear to me."
"Does everything look like a weapon to you?" Xena challenged.
"Naw. That cloud over there looks like Hades' helmet."
"I think it looks like a turtle," Xena answered.
"Yeah, well sometimes Hades like to wear a turtle on his head."
Xena couldn't help laughing at the thought. Hades wasn't exactly the fun loving sort. Between giggles, Xena managed to point out a cloud that looked like a boat. Just then a large, shapeless cloud floated past.
"That one looks like you," Ares stated. Xena looked at him as if the Furies had just driven him mad.
"It does! See the hair flowing back?" He gestured with his finger and part of the cloud flowed backward in long strands. "See? There's your nose and mouth." Ares continued to manipulate the cloud until it was a reasonable likeness of Xena.
"Very good, Ares. I'm glad to see you know how to finger paint!"
Ares chuckled. "Come closer and I'll show you what else my fingers can do!"
The rest of the afternoon passed in playful frolicking mixed with lusty bouts of sex, each one forgetting the battles of day-to-day life. When Helios was leaving the sky, Ares brought her back to the room. The table was covered with food: roast rabbit, venison stew, various fruits and vegetables, honey, wine, and ale. "You're not going to try and get me drunk, are you?" Xena dryly inquired.
Ares laughed. "You'd probably just fall asleep." He gestured to the table. "Shall we?" Ares sat close to Xena on the bench.
Xena put a piece of rabbit on her plate, which she broke into bite size pieces. Picking one up, she offered it to Ares. He seemed surprised by her offer, but eagerly took the morsel with his mouth. He caught her wrist and held her fingers to his lips. One by one he sucked them clean as he stared into her eyes. This was sending shocks of pleasure through her body. Xena could feel the tension mounting in her lower regions. Now he was offering her a morsel. Xena mimicked Ares' performance and started licking his palm when she finished his fingers. His sharp intake of breath told her that he was enjoying this as much as she was. They continued to feed and tease each other until the tension was palpable. Xena broke the silence. "Well, this has left me feeling… thirsty!" She laughed at the look on his face, but he quickly joined her laughter.
Ares poured two cups of ale and offered one to Xena. She drained it in a gulp, then got up to stand behind him. She placed her hands on his shoulders and started a slow massage, working her way to his neck. Leaning his head back so he could look up at her, Ares asked, "Why don't we move this to the bed?"
"I thought you'd never ask."
Ares stood and burying his fingers in her hair, pulled her close for a kiss. Somewhere in that kiss he shed their clothes and lifting Xena, carried her to his bed. They lay together toe to head and slowly licked their way up each other's legs. As they got close, Ares pulled Xena on top of him and licked her mound. He could feel her tongue on his shaft and savored the delicious sensation. When he felt her mouth close around him, he groaned. It felt so good and knowing it was Xena giving him such pleasure magnified it beyond measure. When he felt her stiffen against him and her juices on his face, he gave in to his own pleasure.
Xena heard Ares call her name as he lost himself to his pleasure. She felt a sense of satisfaction that she was able give him as much enjoyment as he was giving her. She slid off him so he could join her on the pillows. He pulled her against him hugging her tightly. Who would have thought that the God of War would like to cuddle so much? At their next encounter she would probably be hard pressed to remember this part of Ares existed, but right now she felt warm and safe and comfortable.
The howl of a wolf woke Xena. For a moment she was disoriented, but quickly remembered where she was. She was still in Ares' arms and she realized with a start that he was sleeping. He must have gotten bored just lying there while she slept. Well, it was her turn to wake him! She slowly slid her hand down across his abdomen and found his member. She felt him hardening as she played with him. She slowly stroked him to full hardness then gently disengaged herself and slid down.
Ares woke to find himself in Xena's mouth. So it wasn't a dream. "Mmmm… what a nice way to wake up!" Those delicious sparks of pleasure were coursing through his body slowly converging in one place as his tension built. Her playful tongue and lips were teasing him to new heights until he couldn't hold back any longer. Ares grasped Xena's head and thrust into her mouth as his orgasm overtook him.
"That deserves a special payback!" Ares had Xena lay back and he straddled her hips. He then produced two mittens covered with soft fur on the outside. Starting at her neck and shoulders, he gently stroked her, stopping short of her breasts. He went down the outsides of her arms, then back up the insides. He stroked the upper part of her chest, then circled down her sides to her stomach.
Xena was enjoying the gentle tickling and as Ares continued to stroke her, she could feel that delicious sensation gathering in her core. She arched her breasts, her nipples begging to be stroked. Finally Ares obliged and massaged her breasts, stopping now and then to rub her nipples between his fur-clad fingers. Xena heard herself moaning and felt her hips trying to thrust up, but Ares was still straddling her. Finally he moved between her legs and started massaging her feet. He was slowing creeping up her legs, the soft fur setting every nerve ending on fire. Xena wanted Ares to go faster, but she knew he wouldn't. She felt like she would burst when he finally reached the top of her legs.
Ares cupped her mound with one hand and rubbed up and down causing her to arch upward into his hand. He was really enjoying this. He shed one of his mittens and spread her lips with his fingers so he could reach her most sensitive place. He drew the edge of the fur mitten along her crevice causing her to cry out. Ares continued to tease her unmercifully until he knew she couldn't last any longer. He rubbed his furry thumb against her clitoris sending her into spasms of pleasure. He tossed aside the mitten and moved over her. Suddenly his shaft was caught in her grasp. He was startled for a moment, then smiled when he felt the fur mitten on her hand. She put her other hand on his chest and pushed him onto his back.
Xena's skin was still tingling with pleasure as she pushed Ares down. She straddled his legs and stroked his shaft with the fur mitten. Each time she neared the top, she ran her thumb over the tip causing him to gasp. Soon he was moaning. When the tip was glistening with moisture, Ares grabbed her arms and just about threw her down on her back. He was between her legs in an instant and plunging into her depths. Xena reached around with the mitten and played with his anus, pushing his frenzied thrusting to the limits. Xena felt herself being overtaken by a shuddering climax, then felt Ares spurting inside her.
Ares returned Xena to her campsite at daybreak as promised. He gave her one last kiss then was gone. Xena whistled for Argo and quickly gathered her things. She took off at a gallop to pickup the road to Ithaki and Lefkada. She stopped at the rendezvous spot and was relieved to see Gabrielle already there. Pulling Gabrielle up behind her, Xena took off at a brisk pace. They stopped to rest only after Argo was noticeably tired. Xena told Gabrielle where they were going and what they had to do. She didn't mention Ares. As soon as Argo was able, they mounted up and Xena slowed the pace a little hoping to cover more ground before they had to stop again. Ares had told her to take the southern road. He wouldn't explain except to say it might save her some time. Now as they approached the decision point, Xena wrestled with her choice. After what they had just shared, would Ares ruin it by delaying her with some trap or detour? But he was the God of War and Ares liked to win whatever the cost. As she paused at the fork in the road, Xena wanted to take the more familiar northern route. Xena forced her mind to be still. Her feelings were telling her to take the southern route as Ares said. Could she trust him this time?
The southern route had a slight downward slope and Xena urged Argo into a gallop. As they rounded a bend, Xena barely missed running over Hercules and Iolaus, who were traveling the opposite direction. "Hercules! Iolaus! Are you all right?"
"Where are you off to in such a hurry?" Iolaus asked. "Hey, Gabrielle, you're looking good!"
"We have to stop a warlord named Belen from attacking the villages near Ithaki and Lefkada. If we don't, it will be an all-out war. We could use your help," Xena finished.
Hercules and Iolaus looked at each other and shrugged. "Well," said Hercules, "we'd love to help, but you see, we…"
"We've been there, done that!" Iolaus finished for him. Then they both looked at each other and laughed.
"Sorry! If we knew you were coming, we would have saved a few for you," Hercules added. They both laughed again.
"Let me get this straight. You two already took care of Belen and his men? Ithaki and Lefkada are safe?"
"Belen and his men were history yesterday. We were there when Ithaki and Lefkada signed the treaty this morning," Iolaus replied. "Is something wrong?"
"No! No, I'm relieved to hear the good news. I was afraid I wouldn't be in time."
Iolaus laughed. "Well you weren't! We beat you too it!"
They all laughed then -- Xena and Gabrielle with relief, and all of them with the joy of old friends meeting. Xena and Gabrielle dismounted and started back with Hercules and Iolaus. As they passed through a small wooded area, Xena stopped a moment to adjust Argo's straps. As the others passed out of sight behind some trees, she felt his presence. When she looked up, he was leaning against a tree, arms crossed, watching her. "Thank you, I think," she said.
"You think?" Ares raised his eyebrows. "You cut me to the quick!"
Xena walked up to him only inches from his face. "The whole time I was with you, Hercules and Iolaus were taking care of Belen!" she accused him.
"I never said you were the only one who could stop him. I said that you could only stop him through me, which was true. You never asked about my mongrel half-brother." His look dared her to try and contradict him. "Besides, you were indirectly responsible. I was so busy with you, I left poor Belen to his own devices."
Xena had to smile at that. "When you put it like that, I guess I owe you a definite thank you."
"You're definitely welcome," Ares replied. "I enjoyed our time together."
"Xena? Is everything OK?" They heard Iolaus back-tracking down the path. Ares took her hand and kissed it, then he was gone. Xena started up the path to assure her friends that everything was just fine.