'Mortals caused this.'
Ares watched Apollo lying in his bed, looking so near death, and Zeus' words about why he was like this rang in his ears: "Mortals caused this."
He would never die, never be granted peramnent release from the pain he was suffering, and it was all the fault of the mortals.
And maybe the other gods but mostly the mortals.
A God needed worship to thrive and everything Apollo drew strength from was being supressed now. And that was killing him inside.
"I hope you're happy, Joxer," Ares growled, "You and my daughter and that annoying blond bitch and Jerkules. I hope you're all really happy. A curse on all of you and your descendants."
Ares sighed as he sat on the edge of Apollo's bed, gently stroking his hair and giving him what energy he could. He noticed, when he was totally focused on what he was doing, that his atteniton was helping. Apollo's skin became less grey
'A God needs worship to survive . . .' ran through his mind.
"But what is worship," he asked himself, "But focused attention?"
"Come on, Apollo," Ares whispered, leaning over and kissing him, "Come back to me. I need you."
Ares turned all of his focus on to his blond half brother and he began to reach for him with his own power, looking at Apollo as he never had before. Seeing the man, the beautiful, loving man, and not the cold God he's always imagined Apollo to be.
"Breathe for me, Pol," Ares whispered, "Wake for me."
He started to touch Apollo intimately and he watched as each touch seemed to bring him back from where ever he's sent his mind to escape the pain.
"Open thoe beautiful eyes of your, Pol," Ares whispered as he ran his hands down Apollo's body, lightly touching him everywhere, "Look at me."
"Mmm," Apollo sighed. Ares smiled as he heard that noise. For so long this temple had been silent and cold and yet, with each touch he gave, it got warm.
"Awake and arise with me, Pol," Ares whispered as he kissed him again, "I need your light to guide me. I need your laughter to inspire me, I need you, Apollo. Only you."
"Ares," Aphrodite came in to see him, "Joxer's here. He's come back."
"Send him away," Ares told her, "It's too late for coming back. Too late for 'I'm sorry'. If he can't make his mind up, I'm sorry but I have no place for him. Please, leave me. I think I know how to bring Pol back."
"But Joxie was just following his friends. He never really believed in what they did."
"If his friends jumped off a cliff, would he do it, too?" Ares asked, "He turned away from us, he helped cause this, he eagerly joined them in spreading the tails of a false god who doesn't give a damn about those people. He spread those stories just as much as the others did. And he did it of his own free will. No, Dite, I will not forgive 'that' trespass."
"But he was only dreaming of Peace," Dite began.
"I AM PEACE!" Ares snarled at her, "Or have you forgotten that, too?!"
"Ares, I . . ."
"Get out," he growled, "Just get out. If you want to keep the mortal fine, put a little collar around his neck and make him your faithful dog. Let him follow 'you' around like a lost puppy, I no longer have time for games with mortals."
"He could be made a god if you asked," Dite whispered.
"God of what?" Ares aksed, "Fools and Betrayers? He was born a mortal, Dite. He will never understand all of what a God does any more than Strife could ever understand all about war.
"Arry, stop," a weak voice reached him. Ares turned and stared, seeing Apollo had woken.
"Stop," Apollo whispered again, "Is a mortal. Mortals are like children at times. Especially those who've taken repeated blows to the head. Anything for affection and atteniton, Ar. You know that about the abused. Aren't we divine beings? Aren't we better than this false God Xena and the others are rambling about? We forgive, Arry, because we're better than that."
"I won't turn from you," Ares breathed, seeing the truth of Apollo's words, "Even if I forgive him you are my only. My other half. I get that now."
"All I ask is that you forgive," Pol told him, "That's all."
Ares nodded and kissed Apollo gently.
"I'll tend you first," the War God whispered, "Then we'll see. All right?"
Apollo nodded, feeling so weak, and Ares then shifted so he was lying on top of him.
"Let me give you life," Ares whispered.
"Yes," Apollo said, "Oh, yes."
And then there was only touching and loving, holding and kissing and sharing energy as Ares worshipped the God on the bed beneath him.
"Ares," Apollo chanted softly, "Ares, oh, Ares . . . my God, Ares . . ."
"Your God," Ares told him with a smile as he brought him to completion, "Always your God . . . as you are mine."
"Ares!" Apollo shouted.
And with that scream of his beloved War God's name, the fires in the temple relit, shooting up to the heights they always were.
"Shh," Ares said as he held Apollo, "Shh, just rest now. I'm still here. I'll still be here in the morning. I promise."
"Ares," Apollo mumbled as he curled in to Ares' side, "My Ares."
"Your Ares," Ares confirmed, "Always your Ares. Sleep now. We both need rest."
And they did, the temple's fires would keep them warm and safe so they slept.
Ares' last thought, before he slept, was sentot the mortal sitting in Dite's temple with Cupid and the reborn Strife: "I forgive you, Joxer."