Title: In the Light of the Full Moon Author: Smenzer Rating: PG Pairing: Ares/Gabrielle Archive: Yes, please. Let me know if you take it, OK? Teaser: Old Ares Had a Farm with werewolves!!!! Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to Studios USA or Whoever owns the Rights to Xena: Warrior Princess. This is just for fun. No money is being made.

"And so they were never seen again and even today no one knows what has happened to the poor couple. But some claim to have seen their ghosts strolling the woods at night, still searching for their missing heads." Gabrielle finished the story and was careful to keep her face straight. She leaned back against the log behind her and breathed in the cool night air. It was autumn already and the trees around them were dressed in brilliant reds, oranges and yellows, with still hints of green in places but now the trees were cloaked in darkness. The cheery campfire crackled and she stretched her legs out in front of her for a bit of extra warmth. It was getting chilly and soon they would have to go in for the night. It was the rare peaceful moments like these that made it all worthwhile. She looked at her two audience members, waiting to see what they thought of the spooky story.

"Oh, please!" Ares said as he rolled his eyes. "Do you expect me to believe that? There are no such things as ghost!"

"Some people are saying that about the Gods now, you know." Xena replied with a grin as she glanced at the ex God of War. "That they never really existed. I don't see how you can say ghosts don't exist when you were a God for so long. Surely you've seen lots of things."

"Well, the Gods were real until you killed most of them." Ares muttered. He hated being mortal and the idea of hiding out on this sorry excuse for a farm. But he really didn't blame Xena for killing most of his siblings and other relatives. His dark eyes shifted back to Gabrielle. "But that doesn't mean that I believe that story."

"Didn't it scare you?" Gabrielle asked, curious. She had never really spent much time with Ares before and she was looking forward to it. She wanted to see how her bardly talents would affect him. It was becoming clear though that he was already a skeptic. It would take a lot more than just a simple ghost story to scare him!

"No." Ares answered. "Was it supposed to?"

"Yes!" Gabrielle cried with excitement. "You're supposed to take in the whole thing. Look at the dark woods out there. Why, anything could be lurking in there: a crazed maniac with a big ax, a ghost or some scary monster! Even the farm house looks scary. Just look at it!"

Ares glanced towards the farmhouse that had once belonged to Xena's grandmother. The door had fallen off, the porch was sagging, a large section of roof had rotted and there were gaps between the boards that made up the house. The slowing rising moon made the house's condition all too obvious, it's silver light showing the years of abandonment. "Now that is scary. I'm afraid the place will collapse on me if I go inside."

"That isn't what I meant!" Gabrielle said. "Just thing, there could be something in there right now, waiting."

"We already kicked out all the rats." Ares replied as his dark gaze returned to Gabrielle. "And as for monsters, my do-gooder half brother made them all extinct."

"He's not getting it." Xena interrupted as she shifted on the cool ground. "Why don't you tell another one? Tell him that one about the moon."

"Oh, am I supposed to cringe in fear just because the moon is out?" Ares said sarcastically. "Sorry Xena, but it doesn't frighten me."

"But it will." Xena grinned, the flickering firelight giving her face odd angles and even darker shadows. Her eyes glinted red for a second, as if they were glowing from within with intense heat, then darkened. She turned her attention back to Gabrielle. "Now be quite and listen to the story."

"Not too long ago there had been a woman who sought power." Gabrielle began the story, talking in the clear voice the bards used. These days she was more a warrior than a bard, but she still loved telling stories. "She had long black hair and intense eyes. Some even say she once lived in these parts. She traveled far in her search and learned many things. She mastered the sword and even men admitted she had great skill. Still she was not satisfied, for her greed for power was intense. She traveled far from the lands of Greece to a great mass of land. There she started to hear rumors of mortal men that had the powers of a God! Deciding to seek these men out, she began her search. She didn't know if the rumors were true or not, but if they were it would mean great power for her."

Gabrielle paused for a moment to drink water from her skin, her eyes darting to Ares' slouched shape across the fire. He seemed rather bored with the story. Placing the water skin next to her, Gabrielle continued the tale.

"The trail she followed turned out to be a bloody one. This didn't bother the woman because she had killed many herself. At every isolated village she stopped at, the townspeople whispered in fear of the beasts that stalked them at night, the beasts that once used to be human! The woman listened to the stories with interest, all the time dreaming the power of shapeshifting would soon be hers! Then one day when she was riding her horse across a green valley, three men on horseback approached her. They wore dark cloaks with hoods that covered their faces. She could tell right away that these three were not ordinary men, for they had a sense of power about them. The leader of the men spoke and told her that they were the ones she sought, the shapeshifters. They offered to share their powers with her, but first she must forsake her Gods. The woman laughed and quickly agreed, for the Gods had done nothing for her and the one that did, she had already taken everything she could from him."

Once again Gabrielle paused for a drink and glanced toward Ares. Now he was sitting up and seemed to be paying attention. Capping the waterskin, Gabrielle quickly continued.

"She rode with them until they reached a hut deep in the woods. Leaving the horses, the woman followed them inside. They explained that they belonged to a witch's coven, although they were not witches nor were they the male version of a witch. Instead a witch had invented a magic potion and it was this potion that gave them the power to change into wolves. They introduced her to the witch that lived there, the one that had invented the potion. No one is sure exactly what had happened inside the witch's hut once the meeting started. Most believe that while the witch chanted, the three men and the woman removed their clothing and rubbed the magic potion on their bodies. Soon after, they began to change. Their faces grew into long snouts, their mouths filled with sharp teeth. Their fingers grew longer and more bony, the tips ending in razor sharp claws. And dense fur sprouted from their skin and covered them as thickly as any dog. Howling, the four beasts raced from the hut in the woods through the dark trees until they reached a nearby town. Insane with an unnatural hunger, they killed several villagers with only the full moon as a witness."

Gabrielle could see she had Ares' full attention now, the ex-God was leaning forward to hear more.

"It is said the woman ran with the witch's coven for many months. The law was after them for the murders of countless townsfolk and one day one of the men got caught. After a trial, where he was declared a werewolf, he was hung. The woman, being more clever than the men, soon realized she no longer needed the witch or her magic potion. The enchanted liquid had seeped into her pores and had permanently changed her into a beast of the night. All she needed now to transform was a full moon in the sky and that came often enough. Taking her horse, she abandoned the others to their fate and headed back towards her homeland. On the way, she discovered many other things. It is said that her wounds heal extra quickly and that only silver to the heart can kill her. The beast also gave her extra strength, intelligence and cunning. She grew more bloodthirsty and savage, writing her name across the land in blood. Then she just disappeared, the bloody trail vanishing. Some say she is still out there today, the beast inside her just waiting to gain free reign again. Others say that her bloody trail never stopped, that she just grew smarter and wiser, now hiding her victims. But they all agree on one thing: getting scratched or bit by a werewolf will turn you into a werewolf. So on a night like tonight, with a full moon riding high in the sky, you best lock your windows and doors for you never know who and where the woman with the thirst of a wolf is."

Ares glanced up at the full moon. The celestial body was full and round with a glowing halo around it. As the God of War, he had seen many warriors that was bloodthirsty but this story of a shapechanging human was new to him. "So you're saying some mortals can actually change into a wolf?"

"That's what the story says." Gabrielle smiled at him. She could see her story had affected Ares! The trees rattled as a strong wind passed through their branches, knocking leaves to the cold earth. A cloud passed over the moon and the night grew darker. Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howled, it's mournful cry clear in the cold air. "Maybe that's her now, hunting for fresh prey."

Ares shivered.

"Come on, let's go in for the night." Gabrielle laughed as she got to her feet. Holding out her hand to Ares, she helped him up and they headed for the house. After Xena doused the fire with a pot of water, she followed them. Once in the bedroom the three were forced to share, Gabrielle smirked when she noticed Ares checking to make sure the window was locked! "Ares, you really don't believe in werewolves, do you? Besides, that frame is half rotten. It'll be a miracle if it can hold the bugs out!"

"Of course I don't believe that story." Ares replied as he peered into the darkness outside. "But don't forget their are some warlords after me. It pays to be careful."

"Of course." Gabrielle said as she crawled into bed. A moment later Ares joined her. She saw Xena give him the cold shoulder and he sighed, rolling onto his back. Snuggling against his arm, Gabrielle fell asleep.

*****

Ares wearily opened his eyes and stared groggily around the bedroom. It was still night and a bright shaft of moonlight shone across the bed. The light revealed that except for himself, the bed was empty. Sitting up, Ares glanced quickly around the room. "Xena? Gabrielle? Where are you?"

Rubbing at his eyes, Ares tried to remember what had awakened him. Had it been a sound? Crawling out of bed, Ares moved to the window and peered out. The night was silent, the tall grass swaying with the wind. Then, without warning, a hideous face shoved itself against the aged glass of the window. The creature had red glowing eyes, a beast-like snout and dozens of gleaming white teeth. The teeth ended in sharp points. The entire face was covered in a thick mat of hair.

"Aahhhhhh!" Ares screamed and threw himself away from the window. He crashed against the edge of the bed and tumbled to the floor. Landing on his back, his eyes flew to the window. The thing was still there, its jaws snapping as white spit flew from its mouth. It raised both hands and placed them on the glass.

Ares thought of his sword on the dresser, but he was too terrified to move! Yet, if he didn't do something soon, the creature might break the glass at any minute! And where was Xena and Gabrielle?

SCREEEAAAAACH!

The creature's claws slid down the glass, making the worst sound Ares had ever heard. It looked in at him a moment more, then was gone.

Ares' heart beat like crazy in his chest. This was the first real dose of terror he had received as a mortal and it had left him weak like a rag. "What the heck was that thing? No wonder this place was deserted for years, with something like that running loose!"

Forcing himself to his feet, Ares gripped his sword and carefully moved to the window. Unless it was hiding directly beneath the window, it was gone. Of course, that just meant it could have gone anywhere, even inside the house. With the condition the house was in, it would be too easy for it to gain entry. "I better go see where Xena and Gabrielle are. If that thing got them..."

Ares turned around and headed for the bedroom door. Reaching the closed door, he grabbed the knob and twisted. Nothing. Sticking his sword under his arm, Ares gripped the doorknob with both hands. The door rattled and shook in its frame, but refused to open. "Oh, this is just great! There's some monster on the loose and I'm stuck in here due to some lousy door! Maybe I can bust it down. Everything else is old and rotten it seems..."

Putting his sword down, he walked to the other side of the room. He needed a good running start to knock the swelled wood of the door loose from the frame. "If only I had my powers! I could have been out of here already!"

A glowing orb of light appeared near the ceiling. It slowly floated downward and hovered at chest height. The light began to expand, growing larger with every passing second.

"Now what?" Ares watched it with apprehension and quickly picked up his sword again. The former God had no idea what this new thing was, but it was now between him and the door. Soon the light began to take on the shape of a man wearing armor. Very familiar armor, in fact. There was no mistaking the odd-shaped helmet or the circular shield on the warrior's chest, the twin strips of chainmail covering the shoulders. The ghost, if that's what it was, glanced down towards the floor.

"Uh oh." The ghost said, when he realized he was standing in midair. Then he crashed to the floor with a loud rattling sound. The rattling reminded Ares more of pots and pans clanging in a kitchen then the sound real armor made. The helmet flew off the ghost's head and rolled across the floor towards Ares' boots. The ghost picked himself up, dusting off his clothes. His entire body was partly transparent and glowed with a white light, yet the door could be seen behind him. The ghost looked up, seeming to spot Ares for the first time. "Oh. Hi."

"Joxer?" Ares asked, shocked. "But you're dead."

"Well, I sort of snuck out." Joxer the ghost said. He walked towards Ares to get his helm back.

Ares glanced down. The helmet had come to a stop in the same place he was standing. He could see his boots right through the helmet. Letting out a little shriek, Ares leaped backward.

"Oh, don't tell me you're scared of ghosts!" Joxer said as he retrieved his metal hat and placed it back on his head. "I mean, after being a God for so long you should be used to all sorts of things!"

"There are no such things as ghosts." Ares stated, but now he wasn't so sure. Joxer certainly looked like a ghost. "And I'm not scared. I would like to stay and chat, but there's some creature out there. I need to find Xena and Gabrielle."

"Either you're very brave or even more stupid than I was!" Joxer laughed. "Even I wouldn't travel with those two when a full moon was coming! Stay in the room, Ares. Or you'll be sorry!"

With his message delivered, Joxer vanished.

Ares stood where he was for a moment, confused. Why had Joxer told him to stay in the room? That is, if that HAD been Joxer. Ares had his doubts. Anyway, finding his two friends at the moment was more important than the cryptic message from a ghost. Tossing his sword onto the bed, Ares raced right at the door. Just before he hit it, the door flew open to reveal Gabrielle. He tried to skid to a halt at the last minute, but wasn't successful. The two went down in a tangle of arms and legs.

"Really, Ares! I had no idea you liked me this much!" Gabrielle laughed as she tried to shove his heavy body off hers. His hairy chest scratched against her skin, tickling her. She shoved at him harder. "Come on, get off!"

"Sorry. The door didn't want to open." Ares got to his feet and pulled Gabrielle up. "Are you all right? Did you see that creature? Where's Xena?"

"What creature?" Gabrielle asked as she walked past Ares back into the bedroom. "We were outside. You know, a nature call. Xena thought it would be better to go outside since we didn't clean the bathroom in here yet. In case you forgot, it's a real disaster with the roof on the floor."

Ares watched her climb back into bed, then glanced back towards the now open bedroom door.

"Don't worry, Ares! I promise Xena will belong now any minute." Gabrielle assured him as she stretched out on the bed. She rolled over on her side, one arm holding her head up. "So what kind of creature did you see?"

"It was looking in the window at me, covered with hair and a snout of sharp teeth." Ares shivered, his eyes drifting towards the window. Somehow he couldn't bring himself to tell her about Joxer. He half didn't believe it himself. Besides, he knew how close the two were. No need to upset her if he didn't have to. No, that monster was the important thing.

"What's going on?" Xena asked as she appeared in the doorway with a glass of water. "Why aren't you in bed?"

"Ares thinks he saw the werewolf from my story!" Gabrielle grinned, then she grew more serious. She reached forward and gripped his hand, pulling lightly. "I'm sorry if I gave you nightmares. It was only a story. You dreamed it and thought it was real. That's all. Xena and I were just outside and there was nothing out there but mosquitos. Now come to bed."

"It wasn't a dream." Ares told her. "I remember waking up and finding you two were gone. Then I saw it at the window."

Xena patted him on the back. "You woke up, saw we were gone. Then you drifted back to sleep without realizing it. Happens all the time. That's when you saw it. Gabrielle is a very good bard. Even you're not immune to that. Now get some sleep. We're going to do lots of work tomorrow."

Ares allowed himself to be pulled back into the bed. But he knew what he saw hadn't been a dream. The werewolf had been real.

***