By Melissa
I know he is there.  I can tell from the way she stiffens under my lips, how she is suddenly more interested in the woods around us than what I'm doing to her body.  I let her look around but I know she won't see him, and without the visual reality to fuel her anger she falls quickly back into the pleasurable sensations that I pull from her.  She is so beautiful when she is like this.  When she lets go of the control and releases herself into my loving care.

In this thing, above all others, I completely understand him -- god and mortal on an even footing.  Each of us would do anything for her, anything to see that too rare smile that lights up her whole face.  The one that reaches her eyes.  She has not smiled enough in her life.  I am determined to see that she smiles more in her future.

But I understand his pain and the reason he is here tonight.  He lost her completely that day in the temple when I died, but he can't stay away.  So tonight I do this for him as much as I do it for her.  I pray that if she knew, she would understand why I do it.

I shift my body so he has an unobstructed view of her in the firelight. There is a sound like a quiet moan that fills the small glade where we have set up our camp.  It could be just the wind through the trees but I know better.

She is ready, her body stretched taunt beneath me, waiting for me to push her over the edge.  I flick my eyes upwards and meet his.  There is so much want and need hiding within those eyes that I almost feel sorry for him, but he would not thank me for my pity.  He is a god and doesn't need the pity of a mortal.  But he does need her and since I can't ever repay him for bringing me back to her, I give him this gift instead, the closest I can get to giving him her.

I reached for the wooden toy I'd picked up in Aphrodite's Temple the month before.  It's a simple wooden shaft, carved and sanded smooth, the same length as my open hand, its width easily circled by my fingers.  The toy was one I'd wanted to use on her but I was waiting for a special occasion. Tonight, with our audience of one sitting invisible just inside the firelight, that special occasion has arrived.

I hold it up in the firelight.  For his benefit really since hers have long since closed in pleasure and she does not see.  But he does.  I see his eyes widen in surprise.  I like being able to surprise him -- arrogant bastard.  An yet even after everything, I've developed a certain fondness for him, that even I can't explain.

He leans forward suddenly from the boulder on which he sits, staring at the wooden shaft in my hand and I hear the thought in my head from him, *Not good enough for her.*

He has never spoken before on these nights and now it is my turn to be surprised.  But even that doesn't match my amazement as the wood grows warm between my fingers and changes.  Its length grows, as does its width, until my fingers can no longer meet around its girth.  The unadorned smoothness of the shaft has been replaced by intricate carving.  I can feel ridges and thick veins beneath my fingertips culminating in a thick mushroom shaped head.

He leans back satisfied at the transformation and I flick my eyes down his nude body and realize from what model my newly modified toy was taken.  He catches my glance and grins mockingly at me, knowing that I can't say anything, or else give us both away.

I'm not sure what perverse humor makes me do what I do.  Maybe I'VE spent to much time with him, and with her, because the little girl from Potedia would have never have done what I did next.  Lifting the carved wooden cock to my lips I run my tongue around the head, wetting and warming the cool wood within my own hot mouth.  When I see him jerk in response to my movements I know I have won this little skirmish.

Then Xena is shifting beneath me and I drop my eyes from his to focus my attention back to her.  Bending back down I run my tongue around her navel, dipping in briefly just to hear her moan.  I'VE discovered that there is very little I won't do to pull that sound from her.

Licking my way downward I shift lower between Xena's spread thighs until I reach my goal, making sure that my hair slides across her body.   She once mentioned that she liked the way it tickled.  The smell of her heavenly and I can't resist the urge to dip my tongue in for a quick taste.  Her hips move restlessly beneath my tongue and I know she is close.  Seeing Ares out of the corner of my eye, his hand wrapped firmly about his erect cock, I know he is close as well.  Smiling wickedly, I use my tongue to spread open her folds.  It is time to put them both out of their misery.

Bringing the wooden cock up I run it along Xena's thigh just to let her know something is there.  I learned the hard way that while I like surprises, she doesn't.  Drawing abstract patterns I trace it up her leg until I am just barely brushing her.  Pushing slightly I rub it against her clit and I hear her start to call my name but it turns into a low moan as I slide the shaft smoothly into her.  Hearing an answering moan from across the clearing I wonder if he can somehow feel sensations through the cock I hold in my hand.  Flicking my tongue hard against Xena's erect clit, I pump the shaft in strong even strokes in and out of her, and decide that it really doesn't matter.

Lying next to her, I can tell she is almost asleep but there is one more thing I must do before I close my eyes for the evening.

Sliding out from under the blankets I set up.  Xena blinks sleepily and reaches for me.  Softly I whisper, "Sssshhh,  I'm just going down to the lake to wash off.  I'll be back in a minute."

She smiles *that* smile and says, "Hurry back, Gabrielle."

She doesn't have to worry about that.

At the lake he appears again, just as knew he would.  We standing silently, staring at each other for a minute, then he sighs.

"Thank you."

It is said in a voice so low that I almost don't hear it.  I have seen some unbelievable things in my time with Xena but I'VE had witnesses to those things to back me up and I tell those tales as a bard.  I have also seen something that I can't tell, even to Xena because he has bound me to silence with magic.

"You did what you had to do, Ares."

"And I have paid the price for that doing."

I shake my head, for we have been around this argument before.  "You couldn't let Xena die any more that I could and so chose me to take her place, knowing that I would so willingly.  Ares, Hope had to die."

I don't think he is listening to me but I try again.  "If Xena had killed her then she would have died forever.  The Fates would have snipped her life thread.  I made a willing sacrifice when it wasn't my time.  My life you could give back to me.  Let me tell Xena that.  Let me tell her that you brought me back, not Zeus.  Let me tell the world about how you saved the gods, and us, and everyone, from Dahok and my daughter."

"No."  He says the word with absolute finality, his eyes hard.  "To get close enough I had to play the traitor.  That is what everyone believes. They aren't going to change their minds for the words of a mortal bard."

"But she truly hates you now," I say softly.

"I am the God of War.  I can live with hate."  But as he disappears, I see his eyes and I know that one night in the future, when I make love to Xena, he will appear again.  She will never see, never know he is there, but I will.