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Ares arrived at the front of the main hall. He took his place standing next to his father. The low torchlight and candles around the room were giving off a soft, romantic glow.
Joxer began his march up the aisle and there was absolute silence except for a surprised squeak that came somewhere from the general vicinity of Xena. After a few moments, Joxer took his place between Ares and Jett standing directly before Aphrodite.
Aphrodite smiled at the men gathered before her then turned to Zeus and spoke. "This marriage will be a union between two special people. All those assembled will be witness, but you Zeus, I charge with a special responsibility. As you stand with Ares to support him on this special day, I charge you to continue to support him and his relationship with Joxer. Give guidance when it is needed, protect their union from outside influences that might seek to harm them, and be absent from them when it is right to do so." Aphrodite looked seriously at Zeus then continued, "Are you willing to accept the responsibility to support Ares from this day forward?"
"I am." Zeus answered, barely loud enough to hear.
Aphrodite then looked at Jett and said, "Jett, I charge you with the responsibility of supporting Joxer and his relationship with Ares. Give guidance when it is needed, protect their union from outside influences that might seek to harm them, and be absent from them when it is right to do so. Are you willing to accept the responsibility to support Joxer from this day forward?" Jett also said, "I am."
Then Aphrodite turned to look at Joxer and Ares. She held out her hands in invitation for them to do the same. As she laid their hands together, her voice rose to fill the hall, "Ares, son of Zeus, God of War, Head of the Houses of Aggression, do you take Joxer to be your chosen consort, from this day forward?"
"No." Ares said loudly.
A mumble started through the gathered gods and Aphrodite stood gaping, at a loss for what to do next.
Ares waited for a moment then continued, "I do not want Joxer to be my catamite, my concubine, or my consort. I want Joxer to be my husband, my equal, for now and until the end of time."
Aphrodite was still wavering about what to do, so she drew on her instinctive knowledge from her godhood and proceeded. The ceremony began to fill her mind and she asked Ares, "Ares, Son of Zeus and Hera, God of War, Head of the Houses of Aggression, Head of the house of war, defender of Greece and heir to Olympus, why do you wish to make this man your husband for eternity?"
Ares looked at Aphrodite with a determined look and replied, "Because I have given him my heart, and I have received his in return."
Aphrodite then turned to Joxer and said, "Joxer the Mighty, Son of the late Janus and Jocasta, God of Mischief and Divorce, why do you wish to make this man your husband for eternity?"
Joxer fixed his gaze deep into Aphrodite's eyes and responded, "Because all the love of my heart goes to him, and all the love of his heart comes to me."
Aphrodite then lifted her gaze to the assembled guests and said for all to hear. "May the fates witness the truth of these words to verify that Joxer and Ares are of one heart." Then she produced a red ribbon and bound their joined hands.
Behind Aphrodite, facing the assembled host of Olympus, the fates responded in unison, "So witnessed."
Aphrodite hadn't actually been expecting them to show and to be honest it kinda creeped her out. She went back to the ceremony by asking the question. "Ares and Joxer, in taking this vow, you are swearing to each other, those assembled, and the fates that you will be faithful to your partner from now until the end of time. You are avowing your future decisions before they have been made in favor of your husband. Your loyalty, fidelity, and trust will be to your husband before all else. If you are willing to take this vow, say 'I so swear."
Ares and Joxer spoke simultaneously, "I so swear."
Aphrodite wasn't even trying to follow along now, she just let her godhood continue to lead her through the ceremony. The voice that came from her mouth was her own, but she was not the author of the words.
"By swearing this vow, Joxer and Ares are of one mind." And she produced a gold ribbon and bound their hands again. Once again the three fates spoke from behind Aphrodite. "So witnessed."
All the gods present had been to enough weddings to know that something unusual was going on, something old, something powerful.
Aphrodite looked into Joxer's eyes and asked, "Joxer, tell me what song is singing in your soul."
Joxer answered without knowing where the answer came from, knowing only that it was true, "My soul sings with eternal love for Ares."
Aphrodite then turned to Ares and asked, "Ares, tell me what song is singing in your soul."
Ares was also mystified by the answer coming from his own mouth, "My soul sings with eternal love for Joxer."
"By speaking this truth, Joxer and Ares are of one soul." And she produced a blue ribbon and bound their hands again. Once again the three fates spoke from behind Aphrodite. "So witnessed."
Aphrodite then said, "You may kiss."
Ares and Joxer turned their bound hands so they wouldn't get in the way and gave each other a very enthusiastic kiss. While they were kissing Aphrodite began to speak again. "By performing this act, Joxer and Ares are of one Body." When the men finished their kiss, Aphrodite produced a green ribbon and bound their hands yet again. The three fates spoke in unison, "So witnessed." and vanished from the main hall.
Aphrodite took hold of Ares shoulder and guided the joined men until they were facing the assembled guests. She turned herself to face the guests and said, "Any blessings or well wishes may be given at this stage of the ceremony." With that declaration, Aphrodite withdrew to get her husband and try to figure out what just happened.
* * * * *
As each of the guests was walking up to the bound couple, a shaken Aphrodite was sitting by her husband trying to understand the ceremony. While discussing the possibilities, Hera approached saying, "You've enacted the eternal binding. When the ceremony is complete, they will be bound together forever."
Aphrodite gave Hera a 'duh' look, but it was only on half power so not very impressive. Hera continued, "It means that if one of them somehow dies, the other will be drawn to join him. If one falls into the void, so will the other. For eternity. In the future, whatever incarnations it may take, they will be bound together. This ceremony isn't used because it is truly eternal. There is no divorce from this marriage, death is no escape, don't you see how serious this is? The last time I know of this ceremony being used was for Chronos and Rhea!"
Aphrodite saw all too well that Hera's one and only personal experience with marriage was a nightmare worse than anything that Hades had ever concocted in Tartarus. Aphrodite had the feeling that this ceremony was meant to be, the fates actually signed on as witnesses. Hera stood back as Aphrodite stood. "Hephie and I are going to give our blessings now and end this. I think they're going to be a great couple, and I just have to believe that it will all work out."
Hephaistos and Aphrodite walked to the bound couple an proceeded to give their own blessings and well wishes.
* * * * *
Ares and Joxer had been standing, bound for nearly half an hour while guest after guest wished them well and created gifts for them. Ganymede had created a golden statue of a reclining woman with her head thrown back in ecstasy. Then he looked at Joxer, looked at Ares, then looked back at the statue and it changed into a reclining man with his head thrown back. Ares and Joxer had both laughed at that.
Eris and Enyo had seemed too friendly, somehow seeing them getting along was like seeing a boulder perched on the top of a cliff. You know the disaster is going to happen, and when it does, it's going to be big. But what can you do about it? Be aware, and be somewhere else when it happens.
Most of the members of the family had made their way through the line, Athena seemed distant and Apollo seemed distracted, occasionally humming to himself. Xena had actually given her heartfelt congratulations to the couple, surprising them both.
Finally the stream of family seemed to be ending when Hephaistos and Aphrodite walked up. Hephaistos put his hand on Ares and Joxer's bound hands and said, "As King of Olympus, I have the ability to grant many things. Is there one thing that I can do for you both, to improve your lives together?"
Joxer and Ares exchanged a look, then looked at Hephaistos and spoke in unison, "Strife."
Hephaistos was taken aback by the request of Ares and Joxer. He had thought that they would ask for a new temple, or some other luxury to begin their new lives together. Hephaistos had to consider all the possible obstacles to resurrecting Strife. The first one being Strife himself. Strife was dead, and as such he had rights which must be observed. So if Strife didn't agree to it, that was the end of it. The next obstacle was Hades. He wouldn't be too receptive to having someone removed from his realm. He would most likely ask a high price for such a favor. The rest of the pantheon could also be a problem. They were never very accepting of Strife during his life, they would probably be less so this time around. Many of them thought him beneath the rest because of his dubious parentage. Eris had never given a satisfactory explanation of her pregnancy. And her story seemed to change as often as her listener.
"Ares, Joxer, this is not an easy thing to do. I'm not saying no, I'm just saying that it isn't something I can guarantee can be done. We will need to talk with Hades and Strife before we can proceed with this matter. If either of them refuses, then there will be nothing I can do. Hades is king of his own realm, and I will not begin my term as King of Olympus by assuming authority I don't have in Asphodel." Hephaistos said with a grim look on his face.
"Ares and Joxer, whenever you're ready, go to Strife and talk to him. See if he is interested in being resurrected. I'll talk to Hades and see what kind of deal I can make."
After their brief talk with Hephaistos, Aphrodite came forward to give her blessing to the couple. She placed her hand on their bound hands and said, "I Aphrodite, Goddess of Marriage give my blessing to this marriage, let it be known throughout Olympus, Ares and Joxer are now married." The four bonds began to writhe and twist around their hands, then pulse with energy. With a final crackle of power the bonds vanished and became a thin band of colors etched into the skin on Ares' and Joxer's wrists.
* * * * *
There was a party going on, Olympus style. Jace had broken out some vintage wines stored at the house of debauchery. Apollo summoned a group of musicians to provide entertainment, however, the music was impossible to dance to. Eris and Enyo were laughing at their adventure earlier in the day. Cupid was putting up a brave front and tried to look like he was having fun.
Soon after the party started, Joxer and Ares went looking for Hephaistos. They found him with Aphrodite talking in a hushed whisper.
"Hep, we're going to go visit with Strife for a while." Ares said with determination.
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather wait till after your honeymoon?" Hephaistos asked reasonably.
"We won't be able to enjoy our honeymoon until we've done all that we can for Strife." Joxer said quietly but firmly.
Hephaistos nodded and said, "Then while you're visiting Strife, I'll try to get Uncle Hades alone for a chat."
Ares sent a brief message to Anteros, asking him to see that Xena gets home all right. And then moved himself and Joxer to Asphodel to visit Strife.