She hadn't realized at some point that he had transported them back to his temple.

Ares had simply placed Xena on his bed and stood at the foot of it, gaze never leaving her. Xena, however, though her glare may have been at his eye-level, somehow seemed to look strait through him, rather than at him.

Her baby blues were clouded over, seemingly hollow in emotion. Blank.

Her cheeks still red from the stains of her tears.

Ares had taken the only chance she had. The one thing Xena had thought she had still had control over—her own death.

I should be with Gabrielle right now.

Xena thought. Or maybe she should have been Tartarus with Hope.

Either way, she was never meant to be there. Breathing in and out... she may have been alive, but she wasn't there. Xena decided not to feel whatever tortures Ares would surely later deal her. He had only saved her for his own selfish desires, and since he had taken away her right to die, she would take away his right to her.

I won't give him any of me.

He could take what he wanted from her, physically, and she wouldn't fight him. But he would never really have her.

And so, as Ares stood in front of her, caught between whether or not to say something, Xena simply stared off at nothing at all. She suddenly started to hear him speak, but she could barley make out the words. It was not as if she cared to hear them.

"Xena!"

The God of War had suddenly screamed at her, shaking her by her shoulders. Xena did nothing.

"What, you think because you're little friend died we're done here? No. No. See, you defeated Hope. You killed Callisto. And I am the only one still standing. You still have me to answer to."

Xena said nothing. She didn't even give him the slightest hint that she could hear a single word he said.

In truth, it didn't matter anymore.

Ares POV:

He suddenly sneered, dragging her up from the bed by her bicep. She was easily moved before him, offering not a single sign of resistance. Ares moved both his hands moved to hold her in front of him.

"Oh, come on, Xe! You don't really think I'm stupid enough to know what's going on here?"

A few tears and she thought he would go soft on here? What, after she tried to kill herself? No. She needed to be taught that her life, essentially, wasn't hers to give away. He would prove it to her, one way or another.

When she did not reply again, he shoved her shoulder, roughly.

"Hm?"

He pressed, growling at the lack of response. When she did nothing, oncemore, he grasped the back of her head, pulling her into a searing kiss. He had hardly ever kissed her when she had been living at his temple. Kissing, at the time, seemed all to intimate for them. Ares had generally been avoiding the entire act, but at the moment, he wondered if he could get what he wanted from her by using them. If he could simply pull some emotion from her—anything—than he would have her.

But she did not react. Even as his lips fought against hers, and even as she parted them for him, she did not return the kiss. His lips molded against hers, his tongue dominated her mouth. But, as he noticed her lips had still not begun to move against his, he suddenly drew back, furious at her.

She was proving to be quite the challenge.

And then, his fury faded, a sinister smile replacing his frown. He knew how he could get her talking again. Or, rather, screaming.

Where once, he would have vanished her leathers and armor with a wave of his arm, Ares felt that the "old fashioned way" would better suit his intentions. Without warning, he tore her breastplate from her, sending the metal to the floor with a crash. It was then that he ripped the brown leather strap from her shoulder, tearing it down to reveal one of her breasts and most of the other one. Ares, between working on pulling the rest of her battle dress down and beginning tending to her left breast, looked back up to see her response.

She was still staring off blankly, but, if he looked closely, he could see a sheer, glistening, water, form at her eyes. He grinned at his work.

Of course. This had been the the key all along. He could have her as much as he wanted, but it wouldn't break her. No, he needed to play at her heartstrings, kiss her and worship her body until it broke her. Ares felt her shiver against him as he began a line of kisses trailing from her neck to the dip of her collar-bone.

"Beautiful."

He whispered under his breath, and, as he said the word, he heard a muffled sob break in her throat. Ares suddenly pulled back, leaving her leathers still hanging half-way off her body.

Xena was looking at him, truly looking at him, and tears threatened to fall from her eyes.

I've got you.

He had her right where he wanted her. There was only more thing he could say that would send her over the edge. He'd be damned if he stopped now.

"I lo—"

Her voice cut him off. Sharp, short, and trembling.

"Don't."

Ares looked at her. A tear threatened to escape her eye.

"Don't."

She repeated. The tear fell, beginning its descend down her cheek.

Ares looked at her. He could break her. He could say the words—whether or not they were true—and she would melt in his arms.

And she would hate you forever.

He reminded himself. Perhaps it didn't matter wether or not she hated him. For once in her life, she was finally listening to him, being the perfect little slave who didn't talk back or fight him in the slightest.

And he hated it. He hated how there was no fire burning in her eyes, hated how much this woman reminded him so much of the Chosen he was meant to bring the world to its knees with.

He had seen a glimpse of the Destroyer of Nations from her, too. And it wasn't what he wanted from her. In the past, perhaps he had thought it was, but seeing her with so much hatred... that wasn't his Xena. His Xena was strong. And bright. And...and...

The Warrior Princess.

Suddenly, Ares was thankful she had stopped him from saying the words. It was not because he doubted in the slightest they would not break her—it was precisely because they would—and because they would break him as well.

Ares disappeared into the aether, leaving a torn and tattered Xena in his chambers.

There was no flash of color as he left. He was simply gone.

Xena POV:

Three little words.

Three little words was all it would have taken to throw her over the edge.

And, despite herself, Xena was confused as to why Ares didn't say them. Surely such a lie wouldn't have affected him in the way it would her? So then why had he stopped? He had almost gotten what he wanted. Xena, though she hated herself for it, would have fallen to her knees at such a hurtful declaration.

She had lost so much already. What were three little words compared to that?

Xena watched, in confusion, as he had vanished into the aether. She allowed herself the moment to exhale a long, shaky, breath, before picking up herself leathers and trying to get them back over her chest. Luckily, they weren't too badly torn, and only the flesh af her side could be seen through the rip. Xena laid on the bed, closing her eyes.

She prayed she wouldn't relive all the death she had seen while she dreamt.

Xxxxxxxx

It was still daylight—though fading—by the time she awoke. A flash of something had pressed through her closed eyes, causing Xena to squint at the center of the room.

She saw who she expected. Ares stood there, a solemn look on his brow.

She wondered why he had taken off so suddenly. Not that she wasn't thankful he had.

Xena sat up, blinking. She gasped when she saw what stood beside Ares.

"Gabrielle."

Xena whispered under her breath.

There she was, in her white, stained, ascension dress. Ares held her upper arm. Her strawberry blonde hair was coated in a thin layer of dirt, while her eyes were bloodshot.

"Gabrielle."

Xena repeated, jumping from the bed. Something about Ares expression made her hault before she reached them. The War God stared at her, a dark look in his eye. Xena saw he had a dagger in his other hand.

She gasped, shaking her head and silently pleading him not to do it. The War God toyed with the dagger, before putting it to the blonde's throat.

"Please."

Xena begged in a harsh whisper. For a moment, nothing happened. It was an exchange between the three of them: Ares silently dared Xena. His expression said 'I'll do it. Don't think I won't.' Gabrielle, meanwhile, wore a look of pure fear. She didn't doubt he would do it, either. Xena simply kept her eyes upon him.

If you do this, there's no coming back from it.

Ares raised the dagger— and tossed Gabrielle at her feet. Xena gasped, catching the girl in an embrace. She raised a brow at Ares.

"Take her and go."

The War God stated. Xena looked at him rather confused, but then quickly pulled the bard to her feet, wrapping one of her arms around her shoulder. The two walked past Ares.

Xena didn't have the strength to look at him as they walked by.

Hey guys! Just wanted to let you all know that the next chapter should be the last one, and should wrap up everything in this story. As always, thankyou all so much for reading, and please be sure to review!!

Virtual hugs sent to all of you for making this story possible.

Stay tuned for the grand finale...