All the guests in attendance came up to Ares and Joxer to offer their congratulations. As moments passed, more and more gods appeared in the hall. Psyche looked back at the pair with a sour look on her face and flashed out, back to the temple of love.
Aphrodite pushed her way through the well wishers to speak with Ares and Joxer. "So guys, when are you going to have the wedding?" She asked with her characteristic bounce.
Ares pulled Joxer close in his arms and looked into his eyes. With love in his voice he said, "I know that I surprised you with this, but there is nothing more that I want than to marry you. Joxer, take whatever time you need, and when you are ready, we will be married."
Joxer continued to hold Ares gaze and responded, "First you were my friend, then you were my fantasy, then you became my teacher. I don't need to prepare, I would like to marry you as soon as we can." Joxer then leaned close to Ares ear and whispered. "This morning's sex was great but I would like for our first time making love to be as a married couple."
Ares pulled back and gave Joxer a warm smile of agreement, then turned to Aphrodite. "We're ready when you are Dite." Ares said with a smile.
"That's so cool, Ar." Aphrodite squeeked with a bounce. "Give me an hour to get everything set up. You two need to decide who you want to stand with you, and get anyone here that you want to attend."
Ares nodded and started thinking, strategy and thinking under pressure were, after all, his stock in trade.
Joxer mentally called to his brothers to begin his own planning.
* * * * *
After some discussion with his brothers, Joxer decided that he would like to have Xena at his wedding. Although she hadn't treated him as a dear friend, she didn't go out of her way to cause him greif. She was one of the few people that he and Ares had in common all along. Besides all that, she was Ares daughter, and as such, should at least be invited to the wedding.
Joxer made his way through the growing crowd and said timidly, "Ares, I think we should invite Xena to the wedding."
Ares didn't question his reasoning, he just nodded his head and his eyes defocused for a moment, seeing at a distance. Ares let out a little chuckle at the scene before his minds eye. "Remind me not to let Eris and Enyo play together anymore. But the good news is that there isn't any reason that Xena can't come if she wants to." Ares said with a smile.
"What did they do?" Joxer asked with amused curiosity.
"The two armies never made it anywhere near each other. They just started fighting amongst themselves and things escalated. I guess thats what you'd expect letting the gods of discord and destruction loose on a battlefield with free reign." Ares said as he started to laugh again.
Joxer was looking at Ares somewhat puzzled, "But why is that so funny?" Joxer asked seriously.
"That's not it, I was looking at Xena wandering around with this, 'Wha happened?' expression on her face. She was there to try and stop the war, and they never went near each other." Ares finished, still laughing.
Joxer smiled and figured that you just had to be there, then he asked again, "So can we invite Xena to the wedding? It just feels right that she should be here."
"Of course we can invite her, but you don't want her to bring her pet harpy do you?" Ares asked with a furrowed brow.
"No, just Xena. Gabrielle can stay on the battlefield and bitch at the dead for lying around and bleeding on her boots." Joxer answered sincerely.
Ares gave a short nod and mentally called to one of his sons. After a heartbeat, Anteros appeared before Ares and Joxer. "Ter, would you go down to the mortal realm and invite Xena to the wedding?"
Anteros looked at his father with a stunned expression, so Ares continued, "Just let her know that I'm getting married and that as her father, I am inviting her to celebrate my wedding with me. Be diplomatic, either she'll come or she won't. And her ::clears throat:: companion, is NOT welcomed. I'm sure you can find a plesant way to let them know that too. So, will you do it?"
"You're the boss." Anteros said with a shrug.
"I'm not asking as your boss, I'm asking as your father if you want to do this to help me." Ares replied, noticing Anteros' hard feelings.
"Why? Was Cupid too busy to do it?" Anteros spat with disgust.
Ares saw the sibling rivalry for what it was and answered, "I didn't ask Cupid because he's a little highstrung for dealing with Xena. You're more level-headed, although you couldn't prove it right now. So can you do this for me Ter?"
Anteros nodded his head and said somewhat ashamed, "Sure dad, I'm sorry, I've just been feeling wound up lately. I'll go ask her now." And Anteros flashed out of the meeting hall.
* * * * *
Anteros appeared on the battlefield a few paces away from Xena. With a swish of her sword, Xena took up a stance, ready for attack and asked, "Who are you, and what do you want here?"
Anteros looked closely at his half-sister and replied in a soothing voice, "I am Anteros, and I'm here to invite you to Ares wedding."
Gabrielle made her way to Xena's side with her staff in her hands and her 'I just smelled something bad' look on her face.
"Anteros?" was all that Xena could think to say.
Anteros let out a sigh of exaspiration. [She'd sure know Cupid if he was standing here.] "Anteros... God of Love Avenged... " he continued, still seeing no spark of recognition.
Finally he said with a growl, " ...Cupid's brother."
The light seemed to dawn in Xena and Gabrielle's eyes.
"Dad asked me to come here and invite you to his wedding. If you'd like to go, I am to take you to Olympus, if not, I'll be on my way." Anteros said flatly, not impressed with this sister of his.
Xena looked around at the carnage and said, "Yes, I have a few things I would like to discuss with Ares."
Anteros extended his hand for Xena to take when Gabrielle spoke up, "I'm not going anywhere near that murdering bastard."
[You weren't invited.] Anteros thought to himself but just said, "As you like, we need to be going, the ceremony will be starting soon."
Xena took Anteros' hand cautiously and they disappeared, leaving Gabrielle in a disgusted fit of rage.
* * * * *
Ares started searching through the meeting hall for his father. Finally he spotted him against a wall by the door.
Ares walked up to Zeus and began to speak, "Father, would you do me the honor of standing with me at my wedding?"
Zeus just stood disbelieving, waiting for the slap-down that seemed to follow any act of kindness the last few days.
Sensing Zeus' caution, Ares went on to say, "I know we haven't been close the past hundred... thousand... er... well ever. But you ARE my father and I would like it if you would stand with me to support me at my wedding."
Ares waited somewhat patiently as Zeus processed what was being asked of him. One of his children was asking that he take part on a special day. As Zeus looked back, he realized that if Ares had asked him this last week, he would have assumed that Ares wanted some favor or power by envolving him. Zeus was humbled and responded to Ares with a voice filled with emotion, "Yes, my son. It would be an honor and privelage to stand with you at your wedding."
As Ares turned to walk away and prepare other things, he thought he noticed a tear in the corner of Zeus' eye.
* * * * *
When Xena and Anteros appeared, she immediately scanned the room for Ares. Upon seeing her father walking away from Zeus, she forced herself through the crowd of gods to talk to him.
"Ares, how could you? All those men, your warriors, how could you do that to them?" Xena asked with anger and hurt in her voice.
Ares thought for a moment about playing dumb and leading her through the usual verbal maze that they were both so familiar with, but then decided that, just this once, he would actually answer her question... at least a little.
"Thebes has been experiencing drought for the past three growing seasons, there is no longer enough food to support the people of the city. The poorest people in the city are beginning to starve and yet the population is still increasing. How would you fix the problem?" Ares looked away then said quickly, "I'm getting married in a few minutes, excuse me."
Ares walked away leaving a dumbfounded Xena, pondering possibilities that she had never before considered.
* * * * *
Aphrodite made her way to the front of the main hall and called to everyone. "Take your places, the ceremony is about to begin."
After a few moments of shuffling, Aphrodite waved her hand and all the torches in the hall lowered their flames. A hush fell across the crowd as Ares began to walk up the center aisle of the main hall.