The Mark of Strife
by Soul Spinner

Ares, son of Zeus, god of war, purred like a big house cat.  He had been feeling lonely, unloved, and depressed.  It had only been a few months since his nephew, Strife, had been killed by Callisto and he really missed the pale schemer.  So, he had naturally sought out the comfort of a good, hard fucking with one of his favorite lovers.

Ares shifted his head a bit and sighed in contentment as Iphicles ran long, sensuous fingers through his hair.  His head in the naked king of Corinth's lap, Ares enjoyed the gentle caresses.  He arched his back and turned to face the man who looked so much like himself.  Iphicles leaned down, his hands still entangled in Ares' dark locks, and kissed the dark god.  The delicate kiss quickly turned passionate.  When they finally
came up for air, both the king and the god had swollen lips and flushed faces.

"Please, Ares," Iphicles murmured.  He leaned forward again and nestled the gods neck, licking his jaw.  "Make love to me.  I want you to fuck me."

Ares chuckled slightly.  "Been awhile?"  Iphicles just growled and Ares decided to torment his paramour.  The war god swooped down and started to nibble his way down the king's chest.  Iphicles gasped as the rough, wet tongue found his sensitive nipples.  Ares snuck one hand around to Iphicles' back and the other to his thighs, rubbing the soft skin he found there.  By now, Iphicles was thrashing.

"Stop teasing!" he panted.  Ares finally lowered his head and licked around the head of Iphicles' long, hard cock.

Suddenly, Ares pulled back with an odd look on his face.  Iphicles whimpered with the loss of contact.  The look on the god's face turned to shock.  Glowing lights swirled around the war god and, with a crashing roar, he disappeared.  Iphicles stared in disbelief and then moaned.  He was so hard, it hurt.  When Ares didn't come back, the king sighed and stroked himself to completion.

Blair Sandburg shifted in the hard seat.  His partner, Jim, teased him about never being able to sit still but this time he had ample reason.  The damn seat was hard!  Blair shifted again and sighed.  He was still troubled by his near-death experience a couple of months ago.  In his guise as Shaman of Cascade, he was also having strange and ominous visions.  He kept seeing a tiger and a dragon carrying him off to some sort of ancient Greek temple.  Jim Ellison, his Sentinel, in the meantime was experiencing some strange sensory spikes.  He said there seemed to be odd lights and noises in the sky that only he could see and hear and Blair was worried.

Shifting in his seat again, Blair glanced around the mechanics shop where his truck was getting repaired.  He had started to stand up to find the mechanic again when he suddenly felt it.  In his head were a thousand half-heard whispers and fire burned along his nerve endings.  Blair glanced wildly about, trying to find the source of the feeling.  It seemed to be coming from a motorcycle rider with a black helmet obscuring his head who had just driven up to the shop.  The man took off his helmet and stared directly at Blair.  The guide stood up and started walking toward the man.  The heavily muscled blond pushed down his kickstand and dismounted.  He turned to go into the alley behind the repair shop and Blair felt compelled to follow.

Once in the alley and out of sight of anyone else, the stranger drew a big freakin' sword.  "I'm Richie Ryan.  Let's get it on."  Richie rotated the sword once and started to advance.

Blair backed up, waving his hands in front of him in a negative gesture.  "Whoa, whoa, fella!  So sorry to disturb you.  Carry on."

Richie stood up from his fighting pose.  "Huh?"

"Sorry dude.  I just got this weird feeling.  No problem here."  Blair turned to skedaddle outta there.

"Wait!" Richie yelled.  Blair glanced back and saw that the sword had magically disappeared.  The stranger looked strangely at Blair and said, "You don't know?"

"Know what, man?"

"That you're an immortal."  Blair stared at Richie blankly for a second and then let out a short bark of laughter.

"Yeah, right man."  He turned to go.  Suddenly, two feet of steel was protruding from his chest and Blair fell into darkness.

* * *

Blair woke up a short time later on the cold, hard concrete of the alleyway.  The man who had introduced himself as Richie Ryan was squatting next to him.  "Wha-?"

"Did you have a recent experience where you should have died--but didn't?"

"What?  How did you know?"  Blair sat up.  "What's going on?  What did you do to me?"

"I stuck a sword through your chest," Richie said matter-of-factly.

"That's impossible.  I'm still alive."

"Exactly.  You're an immortal.  Look down at your chest."  Blair did so with a sense of surrealism.  His shirt had a hole in it and was covered in blood.  "Let's go someplace a bit more comfortable and I'll explain everything."

Sandburg didn't remember going back into the shop and driving home with Richie following on his bike.  Back at the apartment he shared with Jim Ellison, Blair kept shaking his head while Richie sat on the couch sipping root beer.  "People who could live forever who go around chopping each others heads off to attain some sort of mystical Prize that no one knows the exact nature of?  That's - that's insane!"

"Yet you know it's true."

Blair sat down heavily and put his head in his hands.  Just then, Jim came through the door.  "Hey, chief, I - oh.  Who's your friend?"

"Jim Ellison, meet Richie Ryan."  Richie stood up and shook Jim's hand.

Jim turned back to Blair.  "When you didn't get back to the station, I got worried.  Captain Banks wants us to look into a homicide down on the wharf."

"You're a cop?"  Richie stared at Blair, bemused.

"Police consultant.  Look Jim, I - I need to think some things through right now."

"I need your help."  Jim took Blair's arm, steered him away from Richie, and lowered his voice.  "My senses are really whacked.  One the way over here, I thought I saw a pulsating pink rip in the sky."

"I can't help right now, Jim."

"But - "

"I just can't!" Blair yelled and then dropped back down onto the couch, dispirited.  "I'm sorry."  He put his head in his hands again.

Jim took out his cell phone and punched the autodial.  "Simon?  Listen, I can't go down to the wharf.  ------------  Well, get someone else to do it.  -------------------  No ----------------- no.  I can't Simon," he hung up.  "Okay.  What's going on?" he said gently.

"You tell him!" Blair flung a hand in Richie's direction.

"Umm . . . . All right . . . ."


"You say this friend of yours can teach Blair how to protect himself against other immortals?" Jim asked Richie.  All three of them were in Jim's truck with Richie's bike in the truck bed.  They were on the freeway from Cascade to Seacouver.

"Yeah.  MacLeod's the best.  If it wasn't for him, I'd either be in jail or truly dead by now."

"But I don't see why I have to learn how to use a sword.  I mean, can't I just abstain from this Game of yours?" Blair asked.

"It doesn't work that way," Richie replied grimly.

"I'd have to agree with Richie on this one, chief.  You might run into some other immortal that is intent on taking you head."  Blair just sighed.

"Turn off here," Richie pointed.  "The Dojo is just a few blocks away."

They pulled up outside of DeSalvo's Gym and went inside.  There were a few well muscled guys working out and sparring, but no one was in the office.  The trio got into the elevator and went up.  Halfway up, both Richie and Blair feel the presence of another immortal.  They opened the elevator gate and stepped out.  Richie called out, "Mac?"

"Nope," a tall, dark haired man stepped around the corner, lowering his sword, "just me."

"Uh, hi.  Jim Ellison, Blair Sandburg, this is Me-"

"Adam Pierson.  Pleased to meet you.  Anyone want a beer?"

"Where's MacLeod?" Richie asked.

"He's in Paris with Amanda at an antiques auction.  I'm watching over the place for him."

"Well - okay - "  Suddenly, Jim doubled over with a moan, covering his ears, obviously in pain.

"Jim!"  Blair grabbed him while Methos and Richie looked on in confusion.

"The noise . . ." the Sentinel groaned.

"Don't zone out on me Jim.  Remember our exercises.  Dial it down.  Focus!"

As Blair administered to Jim, Richie whispered to Methos, "I don't hear anything.  Do you hear anything?"  Methos just shook his head."What was it, Jim?" Blair asked when his partner had finally gotten his senses under control.

"It was like a clash between giants."

"I don't understand," Richie said.

Blair looked at Jim obliquely for permission before turning back to Richie and Methos.  "Jim is a Sentinel.  I am his Guide."  Methos nodded in understanding but Richie just looked more confused.

"What does that mean?"

Before Blair could reply, Methos said, "Sentinels are people who have extra-ordinary senses.  They are the protectors of their tribes.  A Guide is someone, usually a shaman, who helps and teaches a Sentinel how to control their powers."

"How do you know so much about it?" Blair asked.

Methos just smiled his mysterious smile and said, "I've traveled quite a lot over the centuries."  It suddenly hit Blair that all this was real, and that this guy was ancient.


"Well, since this MacLeod isn't here, could you or Richie teach Blair what he needs to know?" Jim asked Methos.

"I can give him some basic instruction, but I've never really been a teacher.  The last person I taught was . . ." Methos closed his eyes, searching for the memory.  "Ah!  That was over three thousand years ago with a young Egyptian lad who later went to Spain and called himself Ramirez.  I'm way out of practice."

"Oh.  Well, then - "  Jim suddenly yawned and blinked his eyes blearily.

"Why don't you and  Blair go find a hotel and get some sleep.  I'd offer to put you both up here but, as you can see, there is no room," Methos said.

The two men from Cascade got up and left, promising to meet Methos and Richie again in the morning.  Richie stared after them.

"Don't even think about it Richie," Methos cautioned.

"Think about what?"

"I saw you watching Blair.  He's quite a handsome man.  But I've also seen him and Jim together.  They only have eyes for each other.""I don't know what you mean."  Richie turned his back on Methos and crossed his arms, staring out the window.

Methos curved his lips in a sensuous, yet cruel, smile.  He stepped over to Richie and ran his hands down the younger mans back.  Richie jumped and started to turn around but Methos put his arms around him and whispered seductively, "I can make you forget about Jim's little anthropologist."  Methos nibbled his ear and Richie sighed an affirmative.

Slowly, Methos smoothed his hands over Richie's hips and then to the enticing bulge in his jeans.  Richie gasped and leaned back into the caress of Death.  The ancient immortal's roving hands finally found the zipper and started to pull it down in tiny increments.  Richie started to pull down his jeans but Methos stopped him by grabbing his arms and swinging them in a painful grip behind the younger man.

Richie yelped and cried angrily, "What are you doing?!"  Methos was silent as he marched Richie over to MacLeod's bed and threw him down.  Richie tried to squirm around and face the taller man.  He saw a cold gleam in his eyes just before Methos brought his sword down and pierced his chest.  Richie drowned in the piercing pain; hearing an evil laugh as he died.


When his heart started to beat again and sensation returned, Richie found that he was tied securely to the bed frame by rough ropes on both wrists and that he was naked.  He felt the presence of another immortal and struggled frantically against his bonds.  Methos appeared in his line of vision, also naked, and Richie felt a renewed stirring in his nether regions.

"What the hell is this for?" Richie demanded hotly.  Methos, still utterly silent, produced his sword and raised it, light gleaming off the razor-sharp edge.  "Hey!" Richie's struggles increased but Methos had had a lot of practice over the millennia in tying up his victims.  Suddenly, the sword slashed down and Richie screamed in pain.  A moment later, he realized that it was a shallow cut and was already healing.

Methos was suddenly straddling him and licking the blood off Richie's muscular chest.  The taller immortal's hands were roving all over his body again and Richie whimpered with the combination of pain and pleasure.  Abruptly, Methos raised his head.  With his blood-stained lips and a dark glimmer in his ageless eyes, Richie thought he looked like a sexy demon.  Methos swooped down and pressed his lips down on Richie's, hard.  He tasted his own blood on the other mans lips as he relaxed and went with the deep mouth fucking.

Richie gasped as Methos pulled away.  "You liked that, did you?" Methos said, breaking his eerie silence.  "Well, you'll like this even more."

Methos lowered his head to Richie's groin while his hands twisted his nipples.  Richie moaned as Methos licked around the head of his hardening cock.  Then he took the entire length into his mouth and started sucking.  By now, Richie was thrashing, his legs coming up around the older man's shoulders.  All thought flew from his mind as he started to come.  Methos swallowed the hot fluid greedily while Richie screamed his name.

Pushing back, Methos produced his sword once again.  "Now that we've taken the edge off, why don't we try something a little more interesting."  Richie had no time to speak before Methos brought his sword down and he was screaming again, this time in pain.  With his wrists already rubbed raw from the ropes tying him to the bed, the pain caused tears to run down his face.

"Oooh, lookie, lookie.  Poor little boy has a boo-boo.  Let me make it all better."  Methos lowered himself on top of Richie and started to lick away the tears while running his hands all over the younger mans bloody chest.  Then, Methos started to rub the blood onto his own thick cock.  He slipped two blood-covered fingers inside Richie's ass and started to loosen the tight muscles there.  Richie moaned and whimpered.

Methos flipped Richie's legs up and slid under him.  He pressed his swollen member in between Richie's tight cheeks and grunted while the blond cried out, using the blood as a lubricant.  Methos pumped in and out while simultaneously milking Richie's cock.  Finally, Methos spasmed and howled, coming with intense pleasure.  A few moments later, Richie exploded in bliss, his hot seed spilling all over Death's chest.

When his breath was calmed, Methos raised himself up and looked down into Richie's hot, half-lidded eyes.  "Do it again," Richie whispered, horse from his screaming.  Methos smiled languorously and reached for his blade.


At a motel a few blocks away, Blair was nestled in Jim's strong arms.  They had made love and Jim had fallen asleep with his body wrapped around Blair, spoon fashion.  But Blair was too keyed up to sleep.  He decided to meditate and carefully extricated himself from his gently snoring lover.  Looking down on his sleeping partner, Blair couldn't help but smile tenderly.

He sank gracefully into lotus position on the dirty carpet and tried to ignore the flashing neon lights coming through the window.  Blair started his deep breathing exercises and let the eternal OM reverberate through his mind.  As he sunk deeper into the trance, Blair started to hear the playing of a thin-sounding, reed flute.  Then his vision of the dragon and the tiger returned.  In between them was a man in a shimmering white robe.  Blair couldn't see his face.

"You are in danger Shaman.  The whole world is in danger," the figure said in a comforting, mellow voice.

"Who are you?"

"Tell the one who was once Death on a horse that the Apocalypse is near.  The murder of War's nephew has had a horrible consequence--just as the Oracle at Delphi told him it would."

"I don't understand!" Blair said desperately to the vision.

"Come to Chinatown.  Ask for Caine.  I will help you."  The shining man then stepped forward and touched Blair's forehead, tracing a burning figure there.  Blair jerked out of lotus position and was startled to see the sun rising through the morning mist outside the window.

'That was some dream!' he thought, remembering it vividly.  He got up, stretched, and went into the bathroom.  Blair turned on the faucet, splashed water on his face and then raised his eyes to the mirror.  There, on his forehead, was the Greek symbol that he instinctively knew was the symbol of Strife.


". . . and--and then he touched my forehead and I woke up with this mark on my forehead.  I don't know how I know it . . . but this is the Greek symbol for Strife," Blair said, touching his forehead.  Richie and Jim just looked puzzled, but Methos was very agitated.  He got up and started to pace, mumbling under his breath in some ancient language.

"Adam, what's wrong?" Richie asked.

Methos stopped, took a deep breath, and stared directly at Blair.  "A long time ago, even before the golden age of Greece, I was Death:  one of the four Horsemen.  We rode across the land and left a bloody swath
behind us.  We were feared by the entire world.  I didn't pay it much mind when the Olympian gods came to power but . . ."

"Hold it," Jim said angrily.  "What are you trying to pull?  The four Horsemen?  Ancient gods?  That's like believing in . . . in . . ."

"In immortals?" Methos asked quietly.  Jim looked flustered.

"I've read translated ancient texts about the Horsemen," Blair said.  "Brutal, undying warriors who murdered, raped, and pillaged across three continents.  You were . . ?"

"I was the Horseman of Death, yes.  I was young."  A wry smile curved Methos' lips.  "I've mellowed over the centuries.  Anyway, while I was still a Horseman, a young Olympian god named Ares came to me.  He begged me to teach him to be a warrior.  He desperately wanted to impress his father, Zeus.  I taught Ares the ways of death, destruction, and war.  He was my greatest disciple.  Several centuries later, long after the Horsemen had disbanded, I was visiting Greece to check out my old stomping ground.  It was the age of heroes and legends.  I was outside of Thrace when I felt the earth tremble.  Later, I found out that the god of War's nephew, Strife, had been killed with a dagger soaked in hind's blood by Callisto, a psychotic mortal woman who had somehow become a god.  I sought out the Oracle at Delphi.  The Oracle had been silent on the issue until I came.  I will never forget what the Blessed One said:  'The death of Strife will bring the Apocalypse unless the Horseman of Death takes the Chosen One to the Dragon and the Tiger.  He will be the Guide to the Guide of the Sentinel.'  At the time, I had no idea what that meant . . . but I think I do now."  Methos stared pointedly at Blair.

"Wha - me?  I'm this Chosen One?!  This sounds like a piece of bad fiction, man!"

Jim looked thoughtful.  "I don't know, chief.  you know what a skeptic I am but that does sound like you.  And there is the mark . . ."

Richie shot up off the couch and, with false joviality, said "Well I guess we're going to Chinatown!  Um, where exactly is Chinatown?"


Jim's senses were going totally wild but he insisted on going with Blair, Richie, and Methos to find this Caine character.  They had finally located Caine by having Methos, the only one of the group who spoke Chinese, ask two girls who were skipping rope about him.  They pointed directly to an old warehouse-type building.  The four men entered it and walked up the stairs.  The whole building was completely open.  They found themselves in a hallway with several openings.  They proceeded cautiously until they came to a wooden floored room.  The room was empty except for a small alter with incense and candles on it.  Sitting in lotus position in front of the alter was a man.  He had brown hair and looked entirely Caucasian but Jim had the feeling that he had some oriental blood in his background.  Jim also noticed that he was well muscled and looked like the kind of guy you would want at your back in a fight.  Before they could say anything, the man flowed smoothly to his feet and turned to face them.  Jim was struck at once by how perfectly calm and serene the man looked, as if he knew exactly what his strengths and weaknesses were and accepted them fully.  He also moved with a lethal grace that Jim recognized from his special forces days as only belonging to men who had honed their bodies into deadly machines.

"Welcome," he said, "I am Peter Caine.  Come, we have much to discuss."  Peter led them to another room that was cluttered with all sorts of plants, dried herbs, powders, and other esoteric items.  They all sat down.

Jim decided to break the uncomfortable silence.  "I'm Jim Ellison.  This is Blair Sandburg, Richie Ryan, and Adam Pierson.  We-"

"You are Death," Peter said looking at Methos.  "Have you brought me the Chosen One?"

Methos nodded at Blair and Peter studied the young man intently.

"Wait a minute," Richie said, "how do we know-?"

Peter extended his arms and Blair gasped.  The insides of his forearms were branded with a Dragon and a Tiger.

"That musta hurt," Richie commented.

Methos breathed out, "Shaolin."

"Yes," Peter nodded.

"A Shaolin priest named Caine.  You wouldn't happen to be related to a certain old west outlaw named Kwai Chang Caine, would you?"

"My great-grandfather.  He spoke well of you, Methos, in his journals."

"You know?" Methos asked, startled.

"That you are an immortal?  Yes.  I can sense that both of you are immortals as well," he looked at Richie and Blair.  "From you, however, Jim Ellison, I sense the wild spirit of a great dark jungle cat.  You are the Blessed Protector of the Chosen One."

"Okay, okay," Richie said, impatiently.  "We've all established our identities.  How do we stop the Apocalypse?"

"We will go back in time and resurrect a god."  The other four stared at Peter incredulously as he calmly sipped his tea.

"You're kidding, right?" Blair looked around, helplessly.

"You're nuts!" Richie exclaimed.

"Explain yourself," Jim demanded.

Methos looked thoughtful for a few moments before he asked, "You have the Chronos Stone?"

"No, but I have something just as good."

"Hold up. Time travel?  We don't need this kind of bull."

For the first time, Peter grinned.  "You're a hotshot cop, aren't you?"

"Yeah, so?" Jim thrust his chin forward aggressively.

Peter chuckled.  "I was a cop before I took over the apothecary gig from my pop.  I know just how you feel.  Believe me, the first time I went to Shambhala or back in time, I freaked.  But how can you deny mysticism
when I know you have experienced visions and other phenomenon that can't be explained away by the rational mind?"  Jim was about to respond when he had another sensory spike and grabbed his head, moaning in pain.  While Blair tried to help them and Methos and Richie looked on in trepidation, Peter swiftly rose and went to his work table.  He came back with an herb that he handed to Blair.  "Have him eat this.  It will lessen the pain to a bearable level."  When Jim was finally better, he said softly, "The world is ripping itself apart because a god was murdered.  That death has reverberated through the centuries to this time, where there is a chance of stopping it.  We have to go back in time and resurrect an ancient Greek god to save the world."  Peter paused and chuckled, shaking his head, "That does sound crazy, doesn't it?"  The others nodded in mute agreement.


"Ya think we'll really need all this stuff?" Richie asked. "And why all the leather?"

Methos grinned, "We'll need to blend."

Richie was wearing brown leather pants and boots and a stiff green shirt studded with metal that hid very little of his otherwise bare chest.  Blair had taken one look and totally balked at the clothes Methos had
gotten for him so he got to keep his jeans and flannel shirt.  Jim had balked as well, so he was wearing his old army camouflage gear.  Peter had submitted to being dressed in black leather pants and boots with a
red vest.  Methos himself wore black linen pants and a tunic with a leather belt under a white hooded cape.  They all had weapons:  Methos and Richie had their swords, Jim had his gun, Peter had a fighting staff, and Blair had the Sword of Kwai Chang.  They gathered in a circle around the mystic sword that Blair held outstretched.

"We must link our chi.  Everybody must touch the sword.  Close your eyes and breath deeply.  Let the mists of Shambhala embrace your soul in grace."  'Guard our passage Ping Hi,' Peter sent the fleeting thought out before he and the others disappeared.

In the next room, the Ancient, Shaolin priest and Shambhala master, gave a little sigh and opened his eyes.  "Good luck, Peter.  Guard yourself and your friends well, grasshopper."


The three immortals, the Sentinel, and the Shaolin priest travelled through the time vortex.  Jim's senses were overloaded in the first second of their journey.  Finally, the vortex reopened and the five men were spilled out onto the ground.  Jim collapsed into unconsciousness from the sensory overload.

"Jim!  Jim, can ya hear me, buddy?" Blair said, lightly slapping the prone man's face while kneeling over his lover.  "Come one, man!"

The other three slowly got to their feet.  They were standing in front of a black marble temple with lovely columns and baas reliefs depicting brutal war scenes.

"Is he dead?" Methos asked.

Blair glared at him and Richie exclaimed, "Methos!"  Peter, his serenity unbroken by their rocky trip, walked over to Blair and Jim and started ministering to the Sentinel.  Jim started moving and groaned.

Suddenly, Richie cocked his head to the side and asked, "Do you guys hear that?"  The others started taking notice of what seemed to be a dull roar in the distance punctuated by odd clangs.

"Jim, honey, we need your help," Blair said in his best Guide voice.

"Oh, my freakin' head.  Did anyone catch the number of that train that hit me?"

Blair grinned, relieved.  If Jim was making jokes then he was okay.  "I think it was the Greece Express.  Can you tell us anything about that noise?  Block out the pain and concentrate."  Jim furrowed his brow in concentration and Blair couldn't help thinking how cute he looked when he was worried.  Blair put both his hands on Jim's chest to ground and reassure him.

"It sounds like--it's an army!  There's fighting going on.  It's two women and two men against an entire army.  the smaller party actually seems to be holding their own but I don't understand the language. They're moving this way."

At that, Methos took charge.  "Everyone! Up the temple stairs!  Let's see if we can get sanctuary inside."  Halfway up the steps, Methos stopped, glanced frantically around, and said, "Oops.  Umm . . . no sanctuary from battle in the War God's temple.  Okay, get ready to defend yourselves."

Methos and Richie brought their swords to the fore, Peter twirled his staff and turned to face the coming warriors, and Jim unsteadily drew his gun.  Blair just looked at the Sword of Kwai Chang, which he was still clutching.  "What about me?  I don't know what to do with this thing!"

"Just look menacing," Methos said.  He looked at the kid and shook his head.  Blair Sandburg looked more like a wiggly puppy than even a slightly dangerous man.  Methos then had no further chance to think because just then, the battle burst through the trees into the clearing in front of the temple.

At first the warriors ignored them in favor the their previous opponents.  There was a tall, dark haired warrior woman wearing dark armor, wielding a bloodied sword, and letting loose with a bloodcurdling scream.  There was a shifty looking dark haired man in green wielding a long knife in each hand.  A shorter man with light, curly hair was using both a sword and its sheath as weapons.  The last person facing off against the armored and helmeted warriors was a small blond woman twirling her staff with the same confidence that Peter had displayed.  When the soldiers noticed the five, a contingent left off harrying the quartet and came for the time travelers.  The battle ensued; nine against an army.  It was more than enough.  The soldiers retreated; some limping from bullet wounded legs, some with sword slashes, and others who had been knocked out by twirling staffs being carried by their comrades.  Finally, only the four warriors faced the five time travelers.

Xena studied the five strange men.  Three of them had swords, although the small cute one with dark curly hair and gorgeous eyes didn't look like he knew what to do with it.  The man who reminded her oddly of Lao Ma carried a staff similar to Gabrielle's and, from the glimpses she had caught during the fight, he knew how to use it.  The tall one who moved like a panther had something of black metal in his hands and Xena assumed it was some sort of weapon unique to him, like her shakrum was to her.  The one in the white cloak looked especially dangerous.

Iolaus shimmied up to her, not taking his eyes off the five men, and asked in an undertone, "Do you know who they are, Xena?"

"No," she said, "but I'm going to find out."  She stepped forward, ignoring Autolycus' muttered assessment of the value of each man's gear, and made a peace sign.  "I am Xena.  I have no quarrel with any of you.  Who are you and what are you doing here?"

Xena watched as the five men conferred briefly in some foreign language that sounded vaguely familiar.  Then the tall, dangerous looking one stepped forward and mirrored her peace gesture.  "We are travelers from on far, come to this land to petition Ares," he said in rusty Greek.  Xena narrowed her eyes.  If these guys were followers of Ares, then they were probably her enemies.

"Xena," Gabrielle whispered, "look at the one with the long hair."  She did so and felt her pulse quicken.  On his forehead was the mark of Strife.  Now Xena knew for sure that they had to be enemies.  They were probably after the Resurrection Diamond as well.

A few days before, she and Gabrielle had come across a man on the side of the road dying from a wolf attack.  His last words, gasped out between coughing up blood, was that they must find Hercules to deliver his message.  He had wheezed something about the world ending because of Strife's death, Ares having a diamond, and a Dragon and a Tiger.  They had tried to find Hercules, but had only found Iolaus instead.  Iolaus had suggested that they draft Autolycus to steal the diamond and prevent the end of the world.  They had all headed in the direction of the temple that Auto had said the gem was in.  It had gone well until they ran into a warlord and his army who was afraid that they had come to stop him.  Now it looked like they would have to fight these five as well.

Before she could make a move, the one with the staff who reminded her of Lao Ma stepped forward and bowed.  "Peace to you and your ancestors, friend," he said directly to Xena in the language of Chin.  He took another few steps forward and Xena was startled to feel herself moving forward as well.  It was as if they were tethered together by an ever constricting line.

"We are the Dragon," he said.

"And we are the Tiger," she agreed, not even realizing that the words were said in a language she did not know.  "All of you," Xena called back over her shoulder to Gabrielle, Iolaus, and Autolycus in Greek again, "stay out of this.  Do not interfere or do anything until we're through."  She vaguely heard the man saying something to the other four strangers over his shoulder, probably similar to what she had said, before all thought fled and instinct took over.

They met with a clash of metal on wood and were both instantly disarmed.  Gabrielle had never seen anything like it.  Xena and the stranger were fighting like wild animals, and, what was even more amazing, was that the stranger was holding his own against her.  Iolaus was just as amazed.  He assessed the stranger and realized that even he and Hercules together would have a tough time taking him down.  As he watched the fight, Blair felt as if he were sinking into wet cotton but her was perfectly calm.  In fact, he had never been so serene in all his life.  At times, it seemed that Blair saw the moves before they even happened.  The whole world held it's breath.  Autolycus, Richie, and Jim were just confused and wondering if they should help.  A slight smile played across Methos' face and he glanced toward the temple.

The fight was winding down.  Both combatants were sweat-drenched and bloodied.  Then, with a sweeping gesture, Peter kicked out and caught Xena across the head.  Xena fell but managed to kick Peter's legs out from under him and take him down with her.  Gabrielle started to rush forward but Iolaus held her back.  The fighters were rolling around on the ground but it took everyone a second before they realized that the two were no longer fighting but kissing each other wildly and tearing each others clothes off.  Richie bit his lip and looked away, embarrassed.  His eyes met Gabrielle's across the clearing and they both felt a jolt.  Gabby started forward.

"Oh, goody," Autolycus said, "are they going to go at it, too?"  Unlike the others, Auto was still watching Peter and Xena, avidly.  Iolaus turned toward Autolycus and glared, trying to ignore the moans and panting coming from the writhing couple in the center of the clearing.

Richie and Gabrielle stopped when they were about a foot apart.  "I'm Richie."  Gabby cocked her head and looked confused.  He slowly pointed to his chest and said clearly "Richie."  Then he pointed at her and put
the question into his eyes.

"Gabrielle," she smiled and he grinned in answer.  They moved closer and Richie tentatively took her arm.  They were both dizzy for a moment and then wandered off together to sit on the steps of the temple and try to communicate, oblivious to the rest of the world.

Methos strode over to Iolaus and Autolycus and introduced himself.  In the meantime, Jim was having problems with Blair.  "Come on, chief, wake up!  Sandburg, can you hear me?!" Jim said frantically, shaking his love slightly.  The Guide seemed to be frozen in some sort of trance, his eyes glazed over and barely breathing.  Jim could hear that his heartbeat was way too fast and feel that his body temperature was too low.  "Speak to me Blair!"  Even shaking him didn't help.  It was like his own zone-outs, except this time it was the Guide doing it and the Sentinel trying to get him out.  Methos, Autolycus, and Iolaus came over to see what the problem was, even though the hunter and the thief didn't understand a word Jim was saying.

"What's wrong?" Methos asked.

"I can't seem to get him to wake up.  It started when those two began to fight," he nodded at Peter and Xena, who both seemed to be coming to climax.

Peter and Xena screamed together as they both came and then lay panting for a bit.  Jim was oblivious to them, his concern for his partner all consuming.  The Sentinel was in full Blessed Protector mode.

"Look," Auto pointed but only Iolaus and Methos turned.  Xena and Peter, both gloriously naked, were slowly crawling toward them.  Their eyes seemed to be glowing and something about them was decidedly feral.  But the oddest thing was the misty, flickering lights that hovered between them.  At times, it seemed to be a dragon and at other times it seemed to be a tiger.  They reached Blair and Jim finally noticed them.  The cop growled.  Methos, Auto, and Iolaus were suddenly slammed backwards by an invisible force.  For a brief moment, it seemed to them that there was a black jaguar protecting a wounded wolf from a dragon and a tiger in the center of the clearing.  When their vision cleared, Jim was cradling Blair, who had collapsed, Xena and Peter each had a hand on Blair's face, Richie and Gabrielle were still absorbed with only each other on the steps of the temple, and the mark of Strife on Sandburg's forehead was glowing.

Suddenly, there was a crash of thunder and lightning and an extremely surprised, very naked, and mightily pissed off God of War appeared.  “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON!!!  WHO IN TARTARUS HAS THE TEMERITY TO SUMMON ME!!!"  His eyes blazing in rage, Ares stepped toward Blair, Jim, Peter, and Xena who were all blinking blearily, just coming out of their trance.  He raised his hand to incinerate them and then Methos unexpectedly spoke up.

"Hello, my little battlepony."

Ares turned, a stunned expression on his face.  He looked like a frightened deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck.  "Me . . . Methos?!"

Iolaus and Autolycus glanced at each other to confirm what they were seeing.  This was an Ares neither of them knew.  The watched, completely flabbergasted, as Methos stalked forward, practically radiating dangerous sexuality.  Methos stopped in front of the War God and ran a single finger down his face.  Ares closed his eyes and shivered.

Leaning forward, Methos whispered huskily, "I have summoned you," which was not technically true since Peter, Xena, and Blair had done all the work.  "I call and you come.  You are MINE, Ares."  Methos glided around the naked god.  He reached his arms around Ares' waist and nibbled his ear.  "Do you still buck and scream, my little stallion?  Do you still like it hard, and deep, and rough?"

Ares whimpered.  "You . . . you promised never to come ba-back to Greece.  I tha-thought you were off slaughtering Celts."

Methos roughly turned Ares to face him and replied, "I am."  He smiled cruelly and bent to lick the battle god's collarbone.  Then he traveled downward and bit a nipple while painfully twisting the other between his fingers.  Ares gasped and trembled.  Auto and Iolaus, expecting to see the immortal fried any second, were amazed when Ares just stood there and took it.

With a final caress, Methos raked his nails across Ares' ass and pulled away.  "Open you temple to us, Ares.  The morning will be soon enough to save the world."


Ares sat on his throne; angry at the world, angry with himself, angry with . . . no he couldn't be angry with Methos.  A thousand years past, right after Zeus had defeated the Titans once and for all, he had gone to Methos.  He had been young then--hell, Greece had been young--but Methos had already been Death for a thousand years.  The immortal warrior had taught Ares everything he knew about war, bloodshed, and terror.  But for his lessons, Methos had extracted a price.  He had conditioned Ares ruthlessly to his will.  Ares was dismayed that the conditioning had held so long.  Methos had done things to him that Ares had never let anyone else do, not even his beloved Iphicles.

With a sigh, Ares stood and wandered aimlessly over to the alter of the temple.  Methos had demanded that Ares give his companions shelter for the night.  He had complied, and had even used his powers to make sure that everyone could understand each other.  Now he waited, as Methos had commanded.

Ares howled with fury and threw a lightning bolt at the wall beside the door just as Methos came in.  The immortal didn't even flinch.  "Temper, temper," Methos wagged his finger at the god, scolding him like a child.

"I am NOT your puppet to dance every time you pull my strings!" Ares yelled.

"But you are."  Methos strode across the room and grabbed the god, bending him backwards across the alter.  "You are MINE to do with as I see fit, Ares.  You knew what the price for my teachings were, my little stallion.  You knew--and you even enjoyed it."

"I - "

"You know you did.  You haven't let anyone else touch you like I did, have you?  No one else can give you what I can give you, Ares."  Methos slowly leaned over the prone god and bit his lower lip, their eyes locked.  He ground his hips against the gods and used his hands to caress his chest through the leather.  "Get rid of the clothes.  I want you naked."  Methos kept his eyes fastened with Ares' until the god nodded almost imperceptibly.  With a thought and a flash, their clothes disappeared.

Methos raked his nails down Ares' chest hard enough to draw blood.  The god moaned and wrapped his legs around the immortal.  Methos suckled the god's tight nipples and then ran his tongue across the well-defined muscles of his chest, tasting the divine blood.

"I - I want - " Ares managed to stutter out.

"Yes.  I know exactly what you want."  Methos flipped the god onto his stomach and climbed up onto the alter.  "You want this."  Methos pumped himself into Ares' ass and the god screamed.  He reached around to trace the veins on Ares' huge, throbbing cock.  They came together, Ares not knowing if he was screaming from pain or pleasure.  Ares collapsed.  "Oh, we're not done yet, warpony.  Not by half."

War and Death had sex throughout the night.  Ares had had many lovers:  ranging from Iphicles' tender love making to Caesar's torturous fucking.  But none of them could ever fulfill him as Methos could.


Xena wandered the halls of Ares' temple in despair.  Gabrielle and that Richie fellow were still talking but it was obvious that they would be getting down to the sex soon.  Autolycus and Iolaus were sucking each bother between arguments.  The pretty Chosen One and his mate were going at it very sweetly in their chamber.  Peter Caine and three of the temple priestesses were having fun in the steaming bathing pool.  And to top it off, Ares and Methos were screaming so loudly in the throes of pleasure that they could probably be heard in India.  Xena whimpered; everyone was getting some but her.  She groaned, frustrated, as she heard Blair yelling "yesyesyesyes!"

'Maybe some of that army is still around.  I need either battle or sex right now,' she thought.  A new sound intruded on her thoughts.  Xena identified the yips as coming from a very happy Iolaus, and very deliberately, started to bang her head against the wall, again and again.

On the other side of Greece, Iphicles was doing the same thing.


The whole gang was in the main room of the temple.  Ares had sent all his priestesses away and brought out the Resurrection Diamond.  It was now sitting on the very alter he and Methos had put to such good use last night.  Everyone, except Xena for some reason, was looking relaxed and ready for the coming ordeal.  Peter had arranged them around the alter.  He was wearing a shimmering white robe and he had convinced Xena to wear another robe that was identical except for being black.  Peter had tried to explain the cosmic balance of the chi as related to the yin and yang as well as the Tiger and the Dragon.  At the blank stares from everyone but Blair, he had trailed off.

Blair, Jim, Xena, and Peter were the only ones who were actually to participate in the ritual.  Blair stood at the alter with both hands resting on the Resurrection Diamond.  Jim stood behind him, bracing his young partner with his hands in the small of his back.  It was, ironically, the position that Blair usually took to ground his Sentinel.  Peter and Xena were on either side of Blair.  Autolycus, Richie, Gabrielle, Iolaus, Methos, and Ares all stood around the edges of the room.

Peter spoke up.  "Okay, we need a knife.  Anybody have one?"  Five knives from five different people plunked down on the alter.  Peter looked up and glared but everyone had expressions of perfect innocence, a look that suited no one in the room.  "Ahem, yes well."  He picked up the one that had been thrown right between his hands and handed it to Blair.  "Now, first you must make an incision on my left hand and Xena's right."

"I don't know man - "

"The act is symbolic of losing your blood innocence."  At Blair's dubious look, Peter grinned.  "Hey, at least you don't really have to do a human sacrifice."

"Oh, that's a relief," Blair said sarcastically.

"Can we get on with this?" Xena said.  She was still pissed about her loveless night.

"Right.  Come on, Blair."

"Man, I don't want to do this."  Blair closed his eyes and took a deep breath.  Xena and Peter offered him their hands.

"You can do it, chief."  Blair spared a brief smile for his partner, let out his breath, and quickly slashed the priest and the warrior princess.  Immediately, the others felt a shifting and tenseness in the air.  The four around the alter suddenly went into a strange trance and the Resurrection Diamond started to glow.  Xena and Peter joined their bloodied hands in front of Blair, their blood dripping onto the Diamond.  It flared and they were surrounded in a luminous mist.

"We anoint the Chosen One with our blood," Peter and Xena said simultaneously.

"In the name of the Dragon," Peter said, raising his hand to Blair's forehead, leaving a red stain over the mark of Strife.

"And the Tiger."  Xena mirrored Peter's movement.

Blair raised the Resurrection Diamond over his head.  The mark of Strife flared.  A beam of light shot from Blair's forehead into the Diamond.  It blazed with brilliance; the watchers had to hide their eyes.

"I CALL UPON STRIFE!  RISE AND CLAIM YOUR GODHOOD!" Blair screamed.  The Resurrection Diamond shattered.  Jim's senses overloaded and he fainted.  The watchers were thrown against the wall.  The earth shuddered.  And Strife, a god of Olympus, nephew of War, was reborn.

"He's baaaaaaack!!  Oh, yeah!!"  The tall, lanky god was clad in black.  He had deathly pale skin, a gaunt face, and wild black hair.  The god gyrated in an enthusiastic victory dance and then jumped off the altar.  "Hello, handsome!  Are you the one who brought me back?"  Before Blair could answer, Strife grabbed him and bent the young immortal backward in a long, passionate kiss.

"Wha - " Blair came up for breath with a dazed smile on his face."STRIFE!!" Ares bellowed at his most menacing.

"Unc!  Did ya miss me?"

"No!"  The god of war threw a lightening bolt that slammed Strife through the wall of the temple.  Nobody noticed that he surreptitiously wiped at his eyes.


"Well, this is goodbye."

"Nice knowing you," Iolaus patted Peter on the back and nodded to Jim and Blair.

"Yeah," Autolycus said.

"Give it back, Auto," Iolaus said threateningly.

"What?" Autolycus tried to look innocent.  It didn't work.  Iolaus grabbed the thief and shook him.  Auto shrugged sheepishly as Iolaus handed Jim back his watch, Blair his earring and loose change, and Peter
his pendant.

"Don't come back again, Methos," Ares declared.

"I won't," Methos replied softly.  He looked up with a devilish gleam in his eyes, "If you ever want to look me up, though . . ."  Ares glanced away while Strife looked on with interest at the effect this stranger had on his uncle.

"I don't want you to leave," Gabrielle whispered to Richie, clinging to his shirt.

He kissed her tenderly.  "I don't want to go."

"I'm sorry," Peter said, coming over to the couple.  "The Sword of Kwai Chang brought five people to the past and it must take that same five back to the future."  Peter put his hand on Richie's shoulder, compassionately.  "Richie, if you don't agree to go back, none of us will be able to go home.

Richie and Gabrielle clutched each other.  Gabrielle started to cry and Richie tried to kiss all the tears away.  Xena started to go to them but Peter motioned her away.

"Let them have this time together.  It is hard, they are soul mates.  Hopefully, Richie can find her again in the future.  She is sure to be reincarnated as someone he can find.  They are tied together as you and she are, but in a different way."

Xena nodded and sighed.  Peter claped his hands, signaling for everyone's attention.  "It is time."  The five timetravelers gathered around the Sword of Kwai Chang--and disappeared.  Gabrielle threw herself, sobbing, into Xena's arms and the warrior princess tried to comfort the bard.

Strife turned to Ares.  "That was interesting."

"Yes.  Just remember that in about three thousand years, you have to make sure they come back here and resurrect you."

"Right," Strife smirked cockily.

"Oh, and Strife?  If you EVER get yourself killed in such a STUPID manner again, I'll make sure you end up being tortured in Tartarus, FOREVER!!"  Ares vanished.

"Ah," Strife exclaimed, "it's good to be home!"



They had been back from the past for a month.  Jim had gone back to his cop work while Blair studied the art of sword fighting.  Methos had departed to parts unknown, as he was wont to do.  Peter had gone back to Chinatown and stopped the assassination of the mayor by the Sing Wah.  Only Richie had not moved on.  Richie lay in bed, totally apathetic.  He couldn't stop thinking of Gabrielle.  He felt like his heart had been ripped out of his chest.

Suddenly, the door to his cheap apartment crashed open.  Before he could speak, or even move, a black-clad form landed on top of him.

"Hello, lover," Gabrielle said, "I've been waiting for you for three thousand years."

"How?" he managed to gasp out past the shock.

"There's more than one kind of immortal, love.  You didn't think time could keep soul mates apart did you?"  Gabrielle smiled, flashing fangs.  Richie just had time to notice that her eyes were a swirling red and yellow before she darted down and bit into his throat.  The vampire drank deeply of the immortal's blood.

The End