Title and Chapter Number: Opposites Attract 1/1
Fandom: Xena/Ares Temple
Disclaimer: Xena, Ares, and other Herc/Xenaverse Characters are owned by their respective creators and they retain all rights. Priestesses own themselves. Fireheart and other OC's are owned by me.
Special Warning: None
Cast: Ares' Temple Priestesses
Spoiler: Not really, since this never happened
Summary: First, I have a few disclaimers: I haven't been able to get a hold of RyanT, so there are obvious problems with continuity of Tiberious' character. I did my best. Also, I wrote most of this before the dream sequence started, so just assume this happened. Then, this is the story of how I came to the temple. I know, it's kind of dark, but all will be revealed in the end, and it's not really as bad as it sounds. I still need volunteers for a quest, but you must be willing to leave Ares and the Temple for at least a couple of months. A truly great sacrifice.
The seamstress' had done a wonderful job. Fireheart admired the green silk gown they'd made for her as she entered her room from the bath. Floor length, spaghetti straps, slit all the way up the thigh, and backless. Just the thing to show off her tattoo.
She sat in front of the mirror and towel dried her hair. She thought she could already hear the party in progress. A heavy sigh escaped her. Even stolen moments with Her Lord Ares were failing to lift her out of her funk. Maybe the guests and festivities - and no small dose of Ped's sparkling white - would help. Only her duties as Ares' High Priestess kept her from sneaking off.
"I should wear my hair up" she thought. "What's the point of a backless dress if I cover it up with my hair?" Fireheart piled it up on top of her head, leaving a few stray ringlets loose to frame her face. Acceptable, she decided. Untying her robe, she reached for her new gown. It settled perfectly over her form. She slipped into the matching slippers and headed for the Great Hall.
Fireheart knew she'd be late, Ares had held her up longer than she'd expected. But what better way to make an entrance? Put on a good face for the Priestesses and guests, and maybe call it an early night. She strode for the Champaign fountain. Deirya was certainly feeling better - she was dancing with every man in the room! Fireheart smiled. The Temple was right again.
Sipping her third glass of bubbly, Fireheart circulated. That clanging dork, Joxer, asked her to dance. Not enough alcohol in her system yet, she declined, begging a bad knee. Too much time on it she thought wryly to herself as Joxer clattered away, returning to serenading Sheena.
Who was that Deirya was dancing with? They'd been introduced, but at the time there'd been more important things on her mind. Like Deirya being arrow shot by that same fool, Xena and Hercules being in her Temple, and keeping Ped from killing that fey strawberry-blonde Xena'd brought with her.
Aaahhh...Tiberius. Yes, that was it. He was no Ares, but he was damn good looking. Maybe she'd claim a dance...he might just prove a worthy distraction.
The hot tub was tempting, but considering the amount of wine she'd drunk, Fireheart was afraid she'd get seasick. Water was not her friend.
Declining the Priestesses invitation, Fireheart decided that a walk in the cool night air would be just the thing to clear her head. A visit to the stables was in order, to see her war-horse, Bowen.
Entering the stable, Fireheart lit a lamp, and was greeted by a soft whicker. "How's my big beautiful boy?" she cooed. Bowen dropped his black velvet muzzle into her hands, snooping for a treat. "I don't have anything for you to eat, you grand pig!" Scratching his jaw with one hand and smoothing his forelock with the other, Fireheart slipped into his stall. She leaned her head against his neck. The world tilted, and she closed her eyes.
Suddenly, Bowen raised his head, blowing through his nose, and stomped his wide hooves, totally aware. Adrenaline cleared her senses. Fireheart listened as hard as her horse. Bowen flared his nostrils, smelling something.
Someone was definitely coming. Bowen's reaction told her that it wasn't someone he knew, and therefore not a Priestess. A lurker? A guest? An intruder? Whoever it was certainly wasn't trying to be quiet.
"Who goes there?" Fireheart called. "Identify yourself!"
"It is only I, Tiberius."
Fireheart was annoyed, but she relaxed. "What are you doing wandering the grounds alone? It's not safe for one such as you."
"I was worried when you left the party. You didn't seem to be enjoying yourself as much as the other priestesses.
"I'm not really the party animal type."
"More the *animal* animal type?" Nodding towards Bowen, "He's magnificent. I've never seen a roan so red."
Turning to her horse, Fireheart said, "Tiberius, this is Bowen. Bowen, this is Tiberius."
Bowing gallantly, "It is my pleasure," Tiberius offered his palm to the warhorse. Bowen tossed his head high, stomped his feet, then lipped Tiberius' fingers, begging a treat.
"Hhuuummm," Fireheart said. "I'd half expected him to rear up and crush your skull."
"Thanks a lot! Letting me near so vicious an animal!"
Exiting the stall, Fireheart explained, "He's just kind of moody, you see. Mostly I take care of him myself. I don't want any *Priestesses* hurt.
"What breed is he?" Tiberius asked. "He has such strange shaped hooves. So wide."
"He's a desert horse. Wide hooves don't sink so easily. Where I'm from, his is the only kind there is, so we don't have a special word for his breed." Giving Bowen a final pat, “I promise I’ll bring you something Love. Maybe some of Sei's ambrosia."
"May I walk with you m'lady?" Bowing, Tiberius offered Fireheart his elbow.
"Could I stop you?" Fireheart took his arm, and they left the stable, choosing the left path, towards the woods.
Giggling suddenly sounded in the still night air. "What the heck was that? It sounds like someone's behind the stables-"
Tugging Tiberius back to the path, Fireheart said, "I don't even want to know."
"Where are you from? What desert? I noticed a small accent..."
The wine, phase of the moon, something decided her to tell him. "Damar. It's quite far from here. Over the Eastern Mountains, across the Groaning Sea, stretches a great desert. That's my home. Damar."
"It sounds as if you miss it very much. How did you come to be here?"
"I do miss it. It's a long story - "
"I've the time -"
Fireheart dropped his arm, turning on Tiberius, her eyes flashing, "Well, perhaps I do not wish to tell it to you. Perhaps I do not wish to tell it at all!" She strode away.
Tiberius was taken aback by her sudden defensiveness, stopping dead. "Well - I - uh - I see how you earned your place as High Priestess - "
Stopping in the middle of the path, Fireheart turned back to Tiberius. "You know nothing of me or my place here! You are my sworn enemy. The only thing that keeps me from killing you is my love and respect for Deirya - savor it - while you can." She stalked off.
Being, by now, quite deep in the garden, Tiberius knew that if he lost her he'd never find his way back in the dark. Setting off after her at a jog, he was caught off guard as he rounded a bend, by a figure jumping at him from the bushes. Crashing to the ground, Tiberius was shocked by the strength of the woman on top of him.
'The wine must have gone to *my* head too.'
"Why are you really following me?"
"My Lady - Fireheart - I'm not your enemy. Please let me up. I've only sworn to fight Ares. I do not wish to fight you."
Not budging, "I am Ares agent. What's the difference?"
"You've done nothing against me or those I've sworn to protect, and you are Deirya's friend. May I please get up?"
"An interesting distinction. But what can you hope to gain by opposing Ares?"
"HA!" Fireheart threw her head back and finally got up.
"There can be no peace without war. War is necessary. What if your land was invaded? Would you fight them? Would you wage war to defend your own? It's not war until you fight back. Until then it's just an invasion. Or what of the people who rise against a cruel king? Or fight an oppressive government to gain their freedom? There must always be war."
"Only as a last resort. Ares just uses people as his pawns in some cosmically stupid game he plays."
They looked intensely at each other. Time passed. Finally Fireheart broke the tension. "We will never agree. But I will admit that Ares does get a bit carried away sometimes, but only if you concede that there must be war."
"Done." Tiberius offered his hand. "Truce?"
Fireheart took it.
"Friends?" Tiberius ventured.
Walking the garden at night had become a lot easier since the installation of the lights lining the paths. Fireheart tried to smooth her gown, but their little roll on the ground had messed her up a tad.
"Here, let me help you." Tiberius picked a stick from Fireheart's hair. She pulled the pins from it and let it fall to her waist. "May I see your back?"
"Um-hum," she said, turning her back to him. Tiberius lifted her hair from her back, placing it over her shoulder. "That's an amazing tattoo. I've been admiring it since we danced."
"Thanks. I designed it myself."
Turning back to face Tiberius, "Of course it did! But it's something my people do."
Tiberius was afraid to ask this time. Fireheart did feel a little guilty for being so short with him. Somewhere along the way, she had crossed the thin line between opinionated and being a bitch. She just wasn't sure where.
"I'm sorry for attacking you. And tackling you. I feel I owe you an explanation."
"Hey, only if you want to."
"I do. I'm from a desert country called Damar. That much you know. And I can never go back."
They stopped by a fountain to sit on a stone bench. "I killed two people. My mate and the woman he betrayed me with. I really don't remember it. My kelar took me."
"As I stood over them, with my staff in hand, shaking off the grip of my kelar, I saw what I'd done. Lord Ares appeared behind me, putting his hand on my shoulder, and taking my staff from me. He told me that he needed me and brought us-me and Bowen-here. Latter, he gifted me with the one I use now. He said I reminded him of someone. My hair. I think the war staff may have been hers. But Ares won't tell me anything else. He broke the rules to bring me here, he says, but no more. It was strange coming here. All the grass, trees, the falls...the temple was empty, a mess. It is only as it is now thru the hard work of all the priestesses. As each new one comes here, she brings something different and wonderful to the temple.
Tiberius was speechless for perhaps the first time in his life. Finally, after a moment of tense silence, "Let me get this strait- you killed two people because your mate cheated on you?"
Turning away, Fireheart whispered, "I blacked out. When the woman attacked me, I snapped, took them both with my war staff."
Tiberius didn't know what to think. "Couldn't you plead self-defense?"
"Maybe for the woman, but my mate was a member of the ruling family, and he hadn't attacked me. I'd have been banished, at the very least."
"I don't mean to be rude, but what in Tartarus is kelar?"
"In this language, lust-rage is the closest translation. It's a power. A gift. A curse. Long ago, it was part of the Royal blood. Now, after generations of Royalty marrying commoners, almost everyone has it to some degree. It's a lot like battle rage in some respects."
"What made you decide to tell me this?"
"I don't know. Phase of the moon?" Tiberius looked at Fireheart as a sly grin crossed her face.
"My turn. Why didn't you fight back when I attacked you?"
"Phase of the moon?" he grinned at her. "Did you want me to?"
Through mutual inspiration, they simultaneously reached for one another. Their lips met. Fireheart's fingers curled in Tiberius' hair, and his hand slid down her bare back.