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The sun was blistering hot overhead as the travelers made their way into the town. The village was brimming with too much activity for it’s small size. Market stands lined the streets and voices meshed together into a high buzz of background noise, occasionally pierced by one or two shouts of those wanting to be heard.

Bodies were gathered close, making the intense heat of the day even worse. Pushing their way through, they managed to get to the other side of the market and into one of the better inns of the town.

Inside it was much cooler, for the inn sported windows located exactly where the only breeze that could be felt blew. The companions walked into the relatively empty room and took up on of the bigger tables.

Xena and Gabrielle went to the bar to order ale and food for all of them and to get them rooms for the night.

Hercules and Iolaus settled gratefully on the comfortable chairs, while Joxer peeled off his helmet and put it inside the bag with the rest of his armor. He had taken it off during the long walk, because the metal burned his skin, but he kept the helmet on to protect his head.

Ares stood uncertain somewhere between the door and the table, not entirely sure if he’d be welcomed to sit with the rest of the group.

Finally, Hercules looked up and sighed in disgust.

”Sit down, Ares. I promise the chair won’t bite.”

“Very funny, little brother. I wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for you and your cronies.”

“How many times do we have to tell you that it wasn’t our fault you left your sword lying around again?” Iolaus interjected. “If you just took better care of it, it wouldn’t have happened.”

“Oh, and who was it who forced it out of my hand in the first place? It’s your fault that psycho has my sword and is wielding it’s power.”

Xena interrupted the discussion and threw a key at Hercules and Ares each.

“Gabrielle and I have one room. Herc, you’re with Iolaus, and Ares, you’re with Joxer.” Her voice was hard and cold.

Gabrielle was shooting daggers at Ares, like she’d been doing since she’d learned Ares would be traveling with them until they found this Graegis character.

Joxer decided to get out of there while he could and asked Ares for the key to their room.

“I’m gonna go see if I can eat in the room. Night, guys,” he said as he headed for the bar, with his bag thrown over his shoulder.

Ares looked at the faces of his other traveling companions and decided to skip off to his room too. A devoted follower was better than four enraged heroes any day, even if that follower was Joxer.

~*~*~*~*~*~

“What are you gonna do to Graegis when you get your sword back? Are you gonna kill him?”

“He’s gonna wish that’s all I’ll do to him. What sane person would bring down the wrath of the god of war on themselves by stealing his sword? He needs to be set as an example.”

“To not cross you?” Joxer asked.

“That’s right,” Ares said as he pulled off another chunk of bread and dipped it on the soup. They’d been eating the surprisingly good food in their room, and keeping a pretty light conversation going.

“Did you loose all of your powers?”

“No, not all of them. I’m still immortal. But I can’t manipulate the elements.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s what lets me or other things disappear or appear. What allows me to read thoughts and push feelings and desires. Right now, I’m just like any other immortal.”

“Push them how? Is that how you make people make war?”

Ares scoffed. “I hardly have to *make* people make war. Humans are creatures of conflicts and development. I simply push those conflicts, that human rage and anger, the desire to defend and kill into a productive war or battle.”

“Productive?” Joxer mumbled in between bites.

Ares sighed. “Say there’s a conflict between two kingdoms, both kings want a neutral piece of land for themselves. Now, if a battle is instigated, then the kingdoms are in more need for food, water and weapons. The farmers employ more hands to get food faster. Someone envisions that if they made a bigger aqueduct there would be more water flowing into the farmlands, the kingdom and the camping grounds. While they’re preparing for war, they learn a new way to reinforce the walls, to protect their men better. The war or battle would last a short time, but the new inventions would benefit the kingdom for ages. And the deaths would control the overpopulation, like what we saw coming into this town.”

“Wow... I never knew there was so much to this war thing.”

“I don’t instigate wars, I control them, make them happen when they best profit. It’s my nature.”

“That’s good.”

A long silence settled over the two men while they finished dinner.

The room had only one bed, but it was big enough for three, so Ares laid back with his arms behind his head and his legs crossed at the ankles. Joxer took their plates and settled them outside the door, where the maid said she’d pick them up.

Walking back to the bed he sat down and took of his boots.

“Why do you still pray to me, Joxer?”

“What? Why do you ask?”

“You’ve traveled with Xena for a long time. I know what she tells you of me. You’ve seen me as a mortal. Why do you still pray for me... as sincerely as you do?”

“I... I don’t know. You’re my god I guess. I was dedicated to you on my birth...”

“So were your brothers. Jett doesn’t believe in praying anymore and Jace has found other gods who suit him better. Why haven’t you?”

“Because I’m a warrior. Maybe because I still believe in you.”

“Why don’t you ask me for anything?”

“I... I’m not your follower for what you can do for me, but for what I can do for you.” Joxer turned so he was facing Ares still sitting up, one leg on the floor, one bent in front of him.

Ares sat up, ending with his face mere inches from Joxer’s. He held onto Joxer’s shoulder when the mortal tried to lean back. “Because you love me?”

“huh?”

“Do you love me? ‘Dite says you do. I wanna hear it from you.”

Joxer couldn’t see or think straight, being so close to Ares.

“yes... i do,” he whispered.

Ares leaned forward and captured Joxer’s lips with his own. One hand snaked upwards to tangle in Joxer’s hair and to pull him closer to Ares.

The kiss went on for long minutes until they had to part for air.

“I want you,” Ares panted in his ear.

“You have me... you’ve always had me...”

Ares pushed Joxer flat on the bed and started pulling off his shirt, grateful that he had already shed his ‘armor’. He then tackled Joxer’s pants, pulling them and the loincloth off at the same time. Fervently wishing he had his sword and his powers, he got off Joxer to pull off his own clothes.

Practically pouncing back on Joxer, he covered the pale body underneath him, the contrast of the color of Joxer’s skin and his bronze, sun burned one turning him on even more.

He knew they wouldn’t last long as their heated erections slid against the other. Starting a slow rocking rhythm, it soon escalated into fervent thrusting. Their groans and grunts were muffled behind their interlocked lips.

Pulling away from Joxer’s lips, Ares bit into Joxer’s shoulder as he climaxed and a few thrusts later, Joxer muffled his shout of completion behind his hand.

Ares had enough sense of mind to not collapse completely on top of Joxer, so he shifted to the side, letting half of his body rest on the bed.

“Gods... that was... gods...” Joxer panted.

“I hear you... go to sleep, now.”

“’kay...”

~*~*~*~*~*~

Downstairs, Hercules had heard of the whereabouts of Graegis. The man was somewhere in town, but not for very long. The four heroes went upstairs to fetch Ares and Joxer, only to find them lying in bed asleep, their previous actions very obvious.

“What in Tartarus?!” Four voices chorused as one.

Ares jumped up from the bed, but Joxer kept on sleeping peacefully, as if four enraged heroes hadn’t just walked in on him.

Hercules grabbed Ares by the neck and pushed him against the wall. Xena walked over to them and growled in Ares’ face.

“What did you do to him?”

Ares looked on calmly at them, and rolled his eyes.

“I didn’t do anything *to* him. *We* made love.”

“That’s ridiculous Ares,” Hercules sneered at him. “You don’t know what love is.”

Gabrielle had been holding her staff tightly, and was turning green in disgust. “That’s so sick...”

Iolaus was the only one who heard the truth in Ares’ statement, and a quick look at Joxer proved that he wasn’t forced into anything. He picked up the blanket on the bed and covered Joxer and he shook the warrior awake.

“Joxer? Joxer, wake up.”

Yawning mightily, Joxer blinked a couple of times, before really coming awake.

“Iolaus?” he said as he looked at the blonde hunter. He slowly took in the fact that the rest of his friends were in the room with him. Suddenly remembering what he had done before he fell asleep, he hurriedly asked, “Ares? Where’s Ares? Is he okay?”

His voice drifted from behind Hercules back, “I’m fine.”

“Joxer, are you okay? Did he do anything to you?” Xena asked.

“Okay? Yeah, I’m okay. What’s going on guys? What happened?”

“They seem to be in the misconception that I raped you, Joxer,” Ares’ voice called out again.

Joxer got up from bed immediately and pulled Hercules off Ares, while clutching the blanket around him. Standing in front of Ares, Joxer stared in disbelief at his companions.

“Rape me?! Are you guys nuts? Of course he didn’t rape me. We had sex... we made love.”

A loud gagging sound could be heard as Gabrielle fought the desire to throw up. She was greener than she’d ever been, even out on the sea. Faint mutters along the lines of ‘that’s disgusting’ were coming from her.

Still not convinced, Hercules and Xena stared at the war god.

“What did you do to Joxer, Ares?”

“He’s obviously under some sort of curse.”

Ares laughed then. “You morons, I don’t have any powers! I don’t have my sword. I couldn’t have cursed Joxer, not that I want to.”

A blue crackle of energy distracted all of them, as another god entered the room.

“Hey Unc! I heard ya’ were looking’ for this,” Strife said as he threw the sword of war at his uncle, who deftly caught in his hand.

White light surrounded Ares as he received his powers back, and he cracked his neck and stretched. “Oh, that feels good!”

“What should I do with this scum?” Strife asked, referring to Greagis, who was cowering at his feet.

“Leave him in the dungeons for now. The Counsel will decide his fate. And thanks nephew, I knew you’d come through for me.”

Strife giggled and left the room.

Ares tested his powers and he was suddenly dressed again, as was Joxer. But Joxer’s clothes were different. Now he wore supple brown leather pants, a white cotton shirt, a matching brown leather vest and boots, and two jeweled gauntlets.

As Joxer stood admiring his new attire, Ares spoke.

“Well, I’ll be taking my leave now. It seems I no longer need of your mediocre services, little brother.” Turning to Joxer, he lifted his chin with a gentle hand. “Wanna join me, Jox?”

Grinning from ear to ear, Joxer nodded in agreement.

Ares pulled Joxer close to him, and before they left, he once again noticed Gabrielle trying not to vomit. Grinning mischievously, he called out.

“Oh, and Gabrielle, don’t keep from throwing up for our sake. Go ahead,” he said, exerting a curse over her. It was good punishment for all four of them, to have one of their companions constantly puking.

“Let’s blow this joint, babe,” Ares whispered to Joxer as Gabrielle ran from the room, with her hand clamped tightly over her mouth, trying to get to the outhouse in time. As they disappeared they heard the sounds of the bard throwing up in the hall.

The End!