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The Bride of Caesar
by
Teris Xenite

The sun was shining on the snow and Xena lie there in the prison cell that she and Gabrielle shared. There was no way out of this short of asking for help. She looked over at Gabrielle's sleeping form above her. If that's what I've got to do to keep you safe love then that's just what I'll have to do. Even if you never forgive me. A voice deep inside her cried at the thought of Gabrielle not forgiving her. I'm just going to have to do this and pray that she'll forgive me.

She took a deep breath and whispered the one name that she had sworn that she would never again speak. "Ares, please help me." A mere seconds later a bright ball of light burst into the cell.

"Now was that so hard princess?" he said as he knelt over her with a smirk. He quietly moved Gabrielle from her position over the warrior. Sadly there isn't much I can do to help you out of this situation, but I'll see what I can do." With that he disappeared from her side.


On Mt. Olympus Aphrodite turned to greet Ares who had just walked into her gardens. "Hey Ar, wuz up? In the mood for a roll in the hay or did something else bring you to my hacienda?"

"Well as good as a roll in the hay sounds there's something else on my mind right now."

She saw the half smirk half smile that was reserved for only one person. "Let me guess it has something to do with Xena doesn't it."

"Sis you know me so well. It involves some payback for Caesar too." Ares smiled as the rage and indignation began to show on her face.

"I've been meaning to pay him back ever since he denied me. Can you imagine a man finding battle plans more interesting than me."

"Now Sis you know that I can't, but I've found the perfect way to make him pay."

"Lets hear it."

"Simple, make him fall flat on his ass for the one woman who will never forgive him."

"And who exactly would that be? He's rich, he's powerful that'll cause most women to forgive a lot of things."

"Even attempting to crucify them and repeatedly trying to kill one of her best friends?"

"Ar, there isn't anything that would make a woman forgive that."

"Especially since the woman is Xena."

"He did that to your precious Xena and he's still breathing. You suprise me bro."

"Why do you say that?" he said looking around nervously. "Surely she couldn't know," he thought," I've tried so hard to keep it hidden."

"I mean that it's pretty obvious that you love the chick bro. I mean its pretty obvious. I saw what you did to Hades for condemning her to Tartarus."

"And your point would be?"

"I'm just a little curious as to why you want me to make another man fall in love with her."

"Because if you don't she's going to die and there'll be nothing that I can do about it."

"That's ridiculous, of course you can do something about it! If your stubborn, pigheaded male pride won't let you save the woman you love…."

"My pride has nothing to do with this Sis. He's involved."

At the mention of his name Aphrodite paled and went silent."By he you mean him don't you?"

"I know its dangerous, but Aphrodite I'm begging you please?" On the last part of the phrase he fell to his knees in front of her.

"All right already I'll help you, get up though this is embarrassing."

"Thank you so much, I won't forget this."

"Yes you will." She brought her finger up to her lips in a nervous habit and said off handedly, "It won't take much he already wants her."

"Yes I know, the man has some very interesting dreams." He replied his anger at Caesar for thinking about his princess that way was very evident.

Aphrodite held up her hands and said "Hey bro! Chill you look like you want to strangle somebody. I didn't have anything to do with it. If you want to throttle someone I suggest you go have a little prenuptial talk with the groom."

"Actually I think that a talk with the bride would do me more good."

Ares popped into the cell to find his beloved princess in a troubled, painful sleep. He had always wanted her to accept his help, but he had never wanted to see her this way. He hadn't wanted to see her broken or defeated. He lay a hand on her forehead and broadcast healing rays into her sleeping form. Her injuries began to heal and he smiled as the lines of pain and stress faded from her beautiful face.

He sat watching her sleep, and gathered his courage up. He moved over to her and cradled her head in his lap and stroked her hair. "I'm so sorry Xena, it was never supposed to be this way. I just wanted to love you."

Xena's eyes slowly opened to look into Ares' face. For the first time in what seemed like an eternity there was no pain to greet her when she woke. When she found her back completely healed she knew that Ares was responsible. She saw him sitting there as she forced her eyes to focus in the darkness.

"Why Ares?" He knew that she meant 'why' had he healed her, but he couldn't help fearing that one day she would look to him and ask why he had betrayed her in this way.
"Consider it a wedding present of sorts…."
"Wedding present???"
"Aphrodite is staging a wedding to stop your crucifixion."
"How is that going to help?"
"Well they can hardly execute you when you're marring the imperial emperor, now can they?"

She swallowed resigning herself to her fate and biting back any pleas for other terms. Her eyes told another story though, and they seemed to scream to him 'please anything but that'. Only the knowledge that it would be her life and his godhood should he not hold to his word kept him from granting her silent plea.

"I'm sorry my Princess, but this is the only way. It's this or the cross."
"Well when you put it that way I don't really have much choice do I?"
"I promise you it's only a temporary solution…I'll find another way to spare you I swear it."

"I was prepared to accept any terms when I called you, this isn't any worse than what I expected." She looked over at Gabrielle and smiled ruefully. "You know, I could have dealt with being defeated, but I couldn't stand dying with the knowledge that I was taking her with me."

"What is it about her that makes you love her so much?"
"She is the only person to ever know me completely and still love me."

He looked at her in mute shock. Could it be that after all this time she still didn't know how he felt about her? But then how could she? He'd never told her and had done very little to show her that he loved her. He opened his mouth to speak but she quickly silenced him.

"Don't say it Ares. I know you believe it, but just don't say it. I won't let myself be hurt like that again. You may think that you love me, I even believed it was true for awhile, but now I know that you don't. You may love what I represent to you, or the person that you want me to be but you don't love me, not really. Deep down in your heart you know it's true, you don't love me, you never have loved me and you never will ."

"You'd be suprised at how long never is Princess, and the things that can change in forever…." He brought a hand up to caress her cheek and pressed his lips to her forehead. "Believe what you will about me Princess, but I've never lied to you. I do have feelings for you, and I never wanted things to be this way. That I swear to you."

He disappeared and left her to think about what he'd said in the erie silence. Could it be? Could Ares truly love her?

Ares popped into the cell to find his beloved princess in a troubled, painful sleep. He had always wanted her to accept his help, but he had never wanted to see her this way. He hadn't wanted to see her broken or defeated. He lay a hand on her forehead and broadcast healing rays into her sleeping form. Her injuries began to heal and he smiled as the lines of pain and stress faded from her beautiful face.

He sat watching her sleep, and gathered his courage up. He moved over to her and cradled her head in his lap and stroked her hair. "I'm so sorry Xena, it was never supposed to be this way. I just wanted to love you."

Xena's eyes slowly opened to look into Ares' face. For the first time in what seemed like an eternity there was no pain to greet her when she woke. When she found her back completely healed she knew that Ares was responsible. She saw him sitting there as she forced her eyes to focus in the darkness.

"Why Ares?" He knew that she meant 'why' had he healed her, but he couldn't help fearing that one day she would look to him and ask why he had betrayed her in this way.
"Consider it a wedding present of sorts…."
"Wedding present???"
"Aphrodite is staging a wedding to stop your crucifixion."
"How is that going to help?"
"Well they can hardly execute you when you're marring the imperial emperor, now can they?"

She swallowed resigning herself to her fate and biting back any pleas for other terms. Her eyes told another story though, and they seemed to scream to him 'please anything but that'. Only the knowledge that it would be her life and his godhood should he not hold to his word kept him from granting her silent plea.

"I'm sorry my Princess, but this is the only way. It's this or the cross."
"Well when you put it that way I don't really have much choice do I?"
"I promise you it's only a temporary solution…I'll find another way to spare you I swear it."

"I was prepared to accept any terms when I called you, this isn't any worse than what I expected." She looked over at Gabrielle and smiled ruefully. "You know, I could have dealt with being defeated, but I couldn't stand dying with the knowledge that I was taking her with me."

"What is it about her that makes you love her so much?"
"She is the only person to ever know me completely and still love me."

He looked at her in mute shock. Could it be that after all this time she still didn't know how he felt about her? But then how could she? He'd never told her and had done very little to show her that he loved her. He opened his mouth to speak but she quickly silenced him.

"Don't say it Ares. I know you believe it, but just don't say it. I won't let myself be hurt like that again. You may think that you love me, I even believed it was true for awhile, but now I know that you don't. You may love what I represent to you, or the person that you want me to be but you don't love me, not really. Deep down in your heart you know it's true, you don't love me, you never have loved me and you never will ."

"You'd be suprised at how long never is Princess, and the things that can change in forever…." He brought a hand up to caress her cheek and pressed his lips to her forehead. "Believe what you will about me Princess, but I've never lied to you. I do have feelings for you, and I never wanted things to be this way. That I swear to you."

He disappeared and left her to think about what he'd said in the erie silence. Could it be? Could Ares truly love her?

"What are we going to do now Xena?"

"For now we wait, then we do our best to find a way out."

"You say then like there is something that you know is going to happen."

"I do…." Before she could say anymore guards tromped into the cell. They picked up Gabrielle and began carrying her out of the cell.

"What's going on?" Gabrielle asked outraged at being forced from Xena's side. If she had to die these roman pigs could at least let her die at her best friends side.

"You are to be separated, by Caesar's orders. He says it will help keep her in line."

Gabrielle was dragged out of the cell before they could say another word to each other. So it's begun. Xena thought, I wonder how long it will take for Caesar to show up?" The thought of Caesar touching her made her sick to her stomach, but she reminded herself there was no other way.

"Relax Xena I don't think that my big bro's gonna let it come to that…"

"Aphrodite? What are you doing here?"

"Well like duh…Matchmaking….You have no idea how much Ar sulks when you're mad at him."

"Ares sulks?"

"Yep, and he pouts something fierce every time you turn down his offer to join him."

"Well I'm sure you can understand why?"

"The whole you're good now and he's still evil thing?"

"Yeah.."

"Come on Xe, haven't you ever heard that the love of a good woman can turn a man around?"

"Yes, but I never believed it."

"Well it's true, and I can tell you for a fact he's in love with ya Warrior Babe."

"Really? And however could you tell? The attempts to kill me, drive me insane or turn me into a raving monster? What was your first clue?"

"Ok, ok I'll admit that his methods are all wrong, but he really does love you."

"And this is how he shows his love? By marring me off to a man that I despise?"

Aphrodite had no answer for that, and then she looked sadly at Xena. "Xena, he had no choice."

Just then the sound of heavy foot steps in the hallway and the announcement of 'Hail Caesar' interrupted the conversation. "Well Xe I gotta blow, wouldn't be good for the dude to figure out that I'm behind this." She snapped her fingers and disappeared in a flash of pink light and a shower of rose petals.

"You know I'm really starting to hate those exits of yours…" She muttered in the direction that Aphrodite had disappeared. She rolled her eyes and tried to steel herself for the inevitable taunting and leers from Caesar. No matter how much she tried to deny it, she had loved him once and the memory of his betrayal still stung her pride and heart.

Just as the door opened she felt and warm hand clasp her shoulder, and a soft and familiar voice whispering in her ear. "It'll be all right Xena…I swear to you it will. Don't worry, no matter what's happened with us in the past I'm here for you now, and I swear I'll never leave you again…"

She looked to her back half expecting to see his solid form there reassuringly, but her gaze was met with only empty air. I must be losing my mind…Now I'm hearing his voice…Great what next? Her thoughts were interrupted by the deep timber of Ares' voice.

"No Xena, I'm here…I'm speaking inside your mind so that Caesar won't know I'm here."

Xena's eyes widened as she realized that not only was Ares really there but that he was inside her head and thoughts as well. "How long have you been able to do that!! And why in Tartaus didn't you let me know that you could read my thoughts?"

"Because under normal circumstances I can't see you welcoming this type of conversation with me."

"And your point would be? What makes you think that I want you inside my head now?"

"Because I can feel what you're feeling Xena," The ghostly feel of his hand at the small of her back left her hard pressed to convince herself that he wasn't really physically there. "I can feel it all Xena, the sadness, the rage, and even the fear…"

"I'm not afraid!!"

"Relax Princess, if I were where you are right now I'd be shaking in my boots and we both know it. You've seen me as a mortal remember?"

"How could I forget? You were actually tolerable for a few hours…"

"Now Xena….I'm wounded, truly I am….But given the situation I'll just forget that you said that."

"What do you want Ares?" A pair of strong hands began massaging her neck where the tension of the last few days had gathered.

"I know this is going to be very hard for you…I thought that you could use some comfort."

"What makes you think that you'll be able to comfort me?"

"Because Xena, I've known you at your worst. I've seen you at your weakest point. I was there the day that you lost your brother, I was there when Caesar betrayed you, I was there with you when you cried over losing Borias and leaving your child behind.

With Gabrielle, your Mother, Hercules, you have to worry that they'll find out something from your past that will make them turn away from you. But with me…"

A gentle hand cupped her cheek. "With me Princess that's not a threat, I've been there with you through it all, and nothing can make me turn away from you. You may never believe it, but I do care for you Xena, very deeply."

As his lips pressed to hers the door opened and Caesar strutted in like the arrogant son of a bachhe that he truly was. He open his mouth to speak and Xena felt a soft cocoon of warmth surrounding her making her feel safe, protected, and loved. For the first time in years she took comfort in the bond that she shared with Ares, and she felt his presence grow stronger in return.

"Don't worry Xena, I'm right here with you, everything will be fine."

"Well Xena I told you the last time we were in jail together that the finery of Rome flattered you, but even in this…" He made a derisive gesture with his hand to indicate the ragged dirty shift she wore. "You're still the most beautiful woman that I've ever seen. A woman befitting of Rome….A woman worthy of becoming an empress."

He stepped closer to her invading her personal space, making her struggle to keep a firm reign on her temper lest she use one of the many ways she knew to kill him from this position. "And what makes you think that I'll accept your offer instead of killing you where you stand?"

"Simple Xena…I have your little friend." He stepped closer to her and if Ares had of been visible to him he would have witnessed the God of War rolling his eyes at his stupidity. You really do like living on the edge don't you Caesar? I wonder what it feels like, knowing that if you make one wrong move, that you'll die?

"Besides Xena…If even if you won't admit it now, you've always wanted power, and I can be your ticket to that."

"Last time I checked I was the one with the words Destroyer of Nations after my name. I seem to have done pretty well in the power department all by myself."

"Really Xena, how many times is it now that the Destroyer of Nations has been dragged before half-starved, mangy dirt grubbers and had to answer to their justice? How many times have you been willing to sacrifice yourself on this foolish quest for redemption? To die for people who'd likely spit on your grave? You're meant for greater things Xena…meant to bend the world to your will"

"And you've just figured this out now? Forgive me if I'm not thrilled."

"I can give you the world!"

"I had the world ready for the taking. I gave it up…I don't want power anymore."

"You expect me to believe that you could hold the world in your hands, know what it's like to posses everything you see and then suddenly not want that feeling anymore? I'm not some wet behind the ears kid who's going to believe falling for that bard changed you that much.

She may have trained the lion within you, Xena. She may have led it to a cage and locked to the door. She may have made you believe that all you want is peace….and redemption. But deep inside Xena that lion is still there. No matter how many villages you defend you will still be the Destroyer of Nations."

"That isn't true. I've changed…."

"Well somehow I doubt that, but whether you have or haven't changed is of no consequence. You will be the new empress of Rome, or you and your little friend will die and I'll burn Amphipolis to the ground."

"Well since you put it that way it doesn't look like I have much of a choice, does it? You know that I'll never love you."

"You loved me once, you will again." He pressed his lips to hers in a soft noninvasive way and then turned away and left the cell. Xena listened until the sound of his boots on the stones faded into nothingness.

"Never. No matter what you do, I will never love you."

"Never is a long time Xena….You loved him once, are you sure that you wouldn't be happy with him? That you don't want the things, the power that he can offer you?"

"Do you think that I could forgive betrayal so easily? Sorry Ares I don't work that way."

"But you forgave blondie…she betrayed you….Why not him? Or me?"

"Gabrielle is different….and how did we get on to you anyway?"

"I was hoping….thinking……Oh never mind." Ares rolled his eyes and left in a column of fire, but before he was gone completely a ghostly hand wiped the tears from Xena's cheek. "It was too much to hope for anyway."

High atop Mt. Olympus Ares sulked in his throne room. Casting his gaze over his reflecting pool he viewed the mortal that held his heart. She was his joy in battle and at times like this his tears. Oh Xena, is it too much to hope that maybe one day you might forgive me? Maybe even love me? Another look at said forlorn mortal, and he decided that it was. No matter what the fates had promised…she was never to be his.