A Time of Changes
 Even though Xena and Buffy find out about Ares and Spike's feelings for them, and regardless of whether or not they actually know or believe that those feelings are love, the confrontations between the two characters are still very regular. Though a bumpy road at first, Ares and Spike are finally able to come to terms with their feelings by the end of season five and for both of them, Xena and Buffy finally see how much Ares and Spike really do care as well.
 After their meeting in GOD FEARING CHILD, Xena and Ares' relationship starts to change. The gods chase Xena, who has to carry around a little baby. Ares is still willing to help protect her. In ETERNAL BONDS, Xena dreams that Ares comes to her, expressing his love for her and then she and Ares make love. Xena is appalled by the dream, not believing that she can dream up something so absurd. She cannot accept the fact and she hates that she is actually dreaming about being with Ares. It is a true nightmare. This dream is very similar to the dream that Spike has in OUT OF MY MIND - both dreams depict intimate situations between Xena and Ares or Buffy and Spike against the dreamer's willing conscience.
 Ares later appears to Xena, telling her that he will protect her and her daughter from the other gods if she is willing to have a child with him. His proposal - that he will protect her in exchange for a child - just makes Xena abhor him even more and she continues to believe that his only motives are still always for himself. There always has to be a plan or deal behind everything he does.
 Xena declines his offer, more revolted with him than ever before, but when Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and Warfare, lay siege to Amphipolis, in AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE, Xena finds herself agreeing to Ares' offer because she sees it as the only way to stop Athena. She comes to him, to Ares' surprise and suspicion, and she tries seducing him into conforming to the deal. It does not work on him because Ares does not believe that she is actually going to take him up on his offer. It isn't until he finds out that Xena really was going to give herself to him to save her daughter from Gabrielle that Ares is ready and willing and proceeds to seal the deal. They would have gone through with it, or at least it appeared that way, had it not been for an explosion in the side of the temple where they were. Ares later finds out, after Athena lifted the siege, that Xena was just playing him to get him to help her against his sister and that she never actually intended on going through with the deal. Ares is annoyed with her because she tricked him and he cannot believe that she continues to deny her feelings. It is not until he disappears that she admits quietly to herself that she indeed feels something while they are together - whether that something went beyond lust was yet to be seen.
 The Xena and Ares relationship continues to get even more complicated as time progresses. Ares' feelings for Xena grow; peaking when it looks like Xena kills herself with poison in LOOKING DEATH IN THE EYE. He takes her to an ice coffin and expresses his love for her. That is a monumental moment in Ares' life. He realizes that no matter how hard he tries he is unable to give Xena the love that she deserves, which is what Gabrielle gave her. He tells her he loves her, kisses her, and then leaves, thinking that she is gone for good.
 When he sees her again in LIVIA after she'd been allegedly dead for twenty-five years, he immediately blows off the Roman commander Livia - who'd apparently been having a relationship with him - and comes to Xena, expressing how he had mourned her for so many years.
 At that point, he might have been able to start over with Xena. But Ares had had a relationship with Livia - who turned out to be Xena's grown daughter, Eve. And then even after twenty-five years, he still asks for a child from Xena in exchange for keeping the secret that Eve is still alive away from the other gods. His actions do not allow Xena to change her feelings about him.
 Ares cannot take it anymore, by now. In EVE, he forcefully demands Xena give him a child or else he will reveal the secret to the other Olympians. Xena refuses him, claiming that she would rather be in Hell than sleep with him. Her rejection drives him to believe that he hates her and he even tries to have her killed by her own daughter, who at that time, hated her mother.
 Auspiciously, his anger does not last forever. After the gods find out about Eve in MOTHERHOOD, they make plans to do away with her. To do so, however, they have to get Xena away from her, and Ares volunteers to be a distraction.
 During his distraction duties, he tells Xena that he loves her. She is stunned, but does not completely believe him. Later, Ares feels a little regret for distracting Xena - a distraction that causes serious injuries to both Gabrielle and Eve.
 It appeared that Ares could never win Xena's trust and could never have his love reciprocated. When Xena faces off with Athena in their final showdown - one that will determine the life of the remaining gods that Xena had not already killed or the life of Gabrielle, Eve and ultimately, Xena herself - Ares does something that is completely unexpected.
 Xena is about to die by Athena's hand until Xena stabs Athena in the abdomen. When Athena wonders how Ares had healed Eve - who had died just moments before and who was the source of Xena's god-killing powers - Ares says that he'd given up his immortality to save Xena's life because he has a thing for her.
 Ares' sacrifice astonishes Xena and she thanks him kindly and gratefully with a simple "thank you" - something that clearly makes Ares happier than he had ever been before. She finally has a reason to trust him - and she finally does see that he has changed. Their relationship finally turns into something that is not completely filled with hate. In the most powerful moment, Ares finally discovers how much he really does care for Xena. Their relationship changes, and Xena changes with it. Her feelings are still not very defined, but it is clear that what Ares did for her affects her.
 Several episodes past after CRUSH and nothing has really changed between Spike and Buffy. When Spike finds out about a person who could create a robot to look and act just like a real person, he decides to have a robot made to look exactly like Buffy. After she is created, Spike finally has a way to fulfill his kinky fantasies, even if she is not the real Buffy. This situation is much like when Ares switched Xena and Callisto's bodies in INTIMATE STRANGER for the sole purpose of exploiting her.
 Spike's fantasies with the Buffy-bot are short lived, unluckily for him, when the real Buffy finds out about it and takes it away. She is sickened because he has a robot built to look like her just so he can have sex with it because he can't have the real thing.
 His obsession with her is now known to just about everyone that Buffy associates with, and Spike has little chance at ever getting his feelings returned; if, in fact, that's what he wants. Then, an event happens that finally makes Buffy realize that there is truly more to Spike than what is apparent on the surface.
 In INTERVENTION, after Spike is taken hostage by the Hell goddess Glory in order to try and gain information from him to find out who the "key" is - the person who's blood will allow her to open a portal to the dimension of Hell (Dawn, Buffy's sister) - Buffy assumes that Spike will not care what happens and that he will tell Glory it is Dawn, thus putting both Buffy and her sister in danger. When Spike gets away from Glory, battered and beaten, Buffy comes to him, wanting to know if he revealed Dawn's secret. To her surprise, he had not. He is willing to go to the grave with Dawn's secret because he knows that if anything happened to Dawn, it would destroy Buffy. Spike admits to her that he wouldn't be able to live with Buffy in that much pain.
 Buffy is amazed and she pledges not to forget what Spike has done. It is the first real and true thing he'd ever done for anyone, let alone a Slayer. After that, Buffy is a little kinder to Spike than she had been in the past. He is with Buffy quite a bit; helping out after Glory eventually discovers that Dawn is the key and kidnaps her. In THE GIFT, the ritual to open the portal to the dimension of Hell nears and Glory, having Dawn in her custody, is ready to begin.
 Buffy would do anything to rescue her sister and she finally decides to trust Spike enough to ask him to protect Dawn with his life if she fails. He is prepared to do so and in the last moment that they have before going off to rescue Dawn, Spike tells Buffy that he knows she'd never love him, but he appreciates that, though he is a monster, she treats him like a man. He is grateful for that - to finally have Buffy see him as more than just a typical, cold-hearted demon.
 Therefore, Buffy, Spike, Giles, and her friends go to rescue Dawn before the ritual is preformed. Their plan does not work out the way they had hoped, unfortunately, and the portal is opened by Dawn's blood. Buffy defeats Glory, but the portal, now open, can only be closed by killing Dawn. Buffy, instead, chooses to sacrifice her life to save Dawn and ultimately the entire world from being destroyed by the demons being released from Hell.
 All of her friends are distraught by the Slayer's death and perhaps Spike more than the rest. When he sees the woman he loves dead, he nearly breaks down with sobs of sorrow. It is obvious that he is heartbroken and he cannot believe that she is gone. It is the most painful moment of his entire existence - she had been the only woman to really touch his heart with true love and she had changed him, no matter how much he felt about those changes.
Turning From the Hate
 After all that happened in season five, Xena, Ares, Buffy, and Spike, for the first time, seem for once somewhat comfortable with each other. They do not hold the seething hatred that they had held for so long in the past. Xena, Ares, Buffy, and Spike are changing how they feel about one another and, in season six, they finally learn to accept it.
 It is not quite clear how much time passed between the end of season five, MOTHERHOOD and the beginning of season six, COMING HOME. Ares had given up his godhood to save Xena, Gabrielle, and Eve and now, he is left to live as a mortal - for the rest of his life, as far as he can tell. By COMING HOME, Ares had probably been mortal for at least a few months. He calls on Xena for help, and Xena feels that she does owe Ares for saving her life and the lives of those she loves so she answers his message to meet with him.
 No sooner had she arrived than she finds out that Ares is not himself. She deduces that the Furies are driving him mad. The Furies are determined to punish Ares for siding with Xena and thus, allowing his family to be slaughtered by Xena. They want either Ares or Xena or both to die at each other's hands - and the only way to do that is to make Ares crazy so that he kills Xena. Xena knows that she cannot let the Furies destroy him. She has had an experience with the Furies before and she knows that being insane will make him act irrationally.
 Under the influence of the Furies, Ares is slowly driven mad by images of Xena haunting him, teasing him about loving her and finally, after the endless torture, he goes after Xena, determined to kill her. Xena is ready and she has a plan to rid Ares of the Furies. Her next decision is clearly an act of feelings for him - feelings deeper than that of lust. Her plan to get rid of the Furies consists of having her and Ares fight to the death and then have him kill her by drowning her in an icy pond. Once Xena is dead, the Furies release their grip on Ares. He begins to realize what he has done. He has killed Xena, the only woman he has ever loved.
 Filled with grief and pain, Ares dives into the pond to save her. He pulls her out of the freezing water and lays her on the shore, tears of pain in his eyes. She is dead, at that point, and if not for Gabrielle coming along, which was all part of Xena's plan, she would have stayed dead. Gabrielle revives her and Ares is thankful, but no less filled with guilt. Killing her may have been a part of the plan and Ares may have been insane, but the fact that he had killed Xena still weighs heavily on his conscience.
 The entire experience affects them both. While Ares had been insane, he had continually expressed the hurt he felt when Xena could not love him back. Xena saw that and she realized what it was doing to him. She knew he loved her and despite herself, she had feelings for him too, enough feelings to risk her life to save him a life of perpetual madness.
 By the end of COMING HOME, Xena and Ares have reached a truce. Perhaps it is the fact that he is mortal and Xena sees a different side of him because of it. They are able to talk to each other as human beings without the presence of the hate or the lust that had been so common before. Ares admits that he had hoped that being mortal might give him more of a chance with her and with a smile they share, for the first time, a kiss, one that is not filled with passion, but that is gentle and caring - and initiated by Xena, something that had never happened before. Xena admits - to Ares as well as to herself - that he has always gotten to her, but that he has always been and always would be bad for her. Ares wonders if there could ever be a chance for them sometime in the future and Xena says plainly that it was as possible as a one in a billion chance. After that, she leaves him and it is obvious that it is hard for her to leave, but she knows that she has to. It is for the best.
 It will be a little over a year before Xena meets up with Ares again. Living as a mortal has been hard for him. Now a band of warlords who used to serve the God of War want a bounty for his head. In OLD ARES HAD A FARM, Xena runs into Ares and decides that the only way to protect him from the warlords is to disguise him, which she does by having him pretend that he is a farmer. She takes him to an old farm that she had lived on when she was young and there, she prepares him for life of a farmer.
 While on the farm, Xena and Ares get along as two normal people and are playful and teasing at times toward each other. They share light banter and are not unhappy with the situation at hand. When the danger from the warriors after him passes, unfortunately for Ares, Xena leaves again. But she tells him that if he is willing to stick it out on the farm, then she might come back to visit him. Her promises keep his hopes up and he decides to stay at the farm.
 Xena does not see Ares again until THE GOD YOU KNOW, when he has traveled to Rome to help his sister, Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. She is having her godhood sucked dry from her by the power hungry, crazy emperor, Caligula. After loosing her godhood and becoming a mortal just like her brother, an unfortunate thing happens - with both the God of War and the Goddess of Love's powers gone, the world is suffering and love in the world is diminishing.
 So in YOU ARE THERE, Xena sets out to restore both Ares and Aphrodite's powers because she knows that if she doesn't - with love and war no longer balancing each other - love will dwindle and eventually disappear completely. She gains the Golden Apples from the Norse Gods and is able to give godhood back to both Ares and Aphrodite. Ares is thrilled to have the return of his godhood and even tries to tempt Xena to take a bite of the apple. If she did, she'd become an immortal as well. Xena seems tempted, but resists the urge. Even after she refuses to take a bite of the apple, Ares still tells her that he will never give up and she replies by saying that she expects nothing less.
 It is plain to see that Ares will never give up on having her love and she knows it. When he disappears with his sister and she looks on, watching him go, she is teary eyed. She may have thought that now that he was a god again, he would go back to his old tricks. As a mortal he had been a person that she had actually started to like more. However, his mortal experience does not go away after his godhood is returned. He is not the same God of War he had been before MOTHERHOOD.
 With his newly restored powers, he tries to rebuild his power base and gain worshipers. The best way he to do that is to cause a war between the Romans and the Amazons. In PATH OF VENGEANCE, he is able to convince the Amazon leader, Varia that they should get into a war with the Romans. But when Eve gets involved and is going to be put to death by the Amazons for her crimes against them that she'd committed as Livia in her past, Xena and Gabrielle come to save Eve. Ares finds out that his plans are going to be stopped once again.
 Xena comes to Ares, a little hurt, wondering why he is allowing the Amazons to kill her daughter. He confesses that he had not expected her to get involved. He tells her he needs the war for the sake of gaining worshipers and that it is what he does. Though she is angry with him because he has gone back to how he was, at least somewhat, she comes to accept the things that come with his job.
 In the end, she is able to stop the Amazons from going to war and she frees her daughter. His plans crushed once more, Ares is in awe of her ability to wreck his plans. He congratulates her with a few slow claps, and she just smiles saying that it is what she does. At that point, both Xena and Ares finally come to an understanding and in a sense, come full circle. Xena accepts Ares for who he is and he accepts her for who she is no matter how much they may not like, at times, what each of their jobs require of them to do. Xena knows that Ares is the God of War and everything associated with war is just a part of his being. She cannot hold that against him. In addition, Ares knows that Xena will never come back to him and that she will always fight for the Greater Good and he loves her for that. Right before he disappears, he tells her that he would not have her any other way and she smiles, a little wistfully, as he leaves.
 The 147 days after Buffy's death in THE GIFT were the hardest for everyone who had been close to her, but her friends continue to carry out her duties by patrolling for vampires and demons. Spike helps too and becomes a regular part of the gang, fighting and helping alongside Buffy's friends. Then, Willow performs a spell that brings Buffy back from the grave.
 In the third episode of the sixth season, AFTER LIFE, having been gone for a little more than five months, Buffy is disoriented and, though glad to be back, she must deal with the fact that, for a much longer time than five months - from the moment she'd died - she'd been in Heaven or at least, that's what she thinks it to be. Coming back to the living is a hard experience. She feels that it is hard and painful to live again in a world filled with violence and death where every day is a challenge just to get through. Nevertheless, she is reluctant to tell her friends how she feels. They would undoubtedly feel guilty for bringing her back and being the cause of her pain.
 Unusual though it was, it seems that the only person Buffy feels she can go to is Spike. He is astonished to see her alive again. He knew nothing about the spell that Willow had preformed. Spike is the only one Buffy feels she can tell about her experiences after her death, where she had been, and what it is like for her to be back and for some reason, he understands completely. He is the only one who truly understands what she was and is going through.
 Readjusting to life is a long and difficult process for Buffy and she never tells her friends about having been in Heaven. Instead, she just keeps confiding in Spike. The two of them seem to get closer to each other day by day; they talk to each other more often without the presence of the loathing that had, so often, been a common part of their conversations. They are more comfortable being around each other and are able to work together. Even Buffy says in FLOODED that Spike always seems to be around when she is miserable and they are both okay with that.
 In the musical episode ONCE MORE WITH FEELING, where a demon summoned to Buffy's town causes everyone to sing and express their secrets to one another, her friends find out about Buffy having been in Heaven. Spike expresses the fact to Buffy that he is tortured by having Buffy around all the time without her being able to accept her attraction to him and the darkness that he possesses. At the end, with the rising music and the singing, Buffy and Spike come to each other and kiss - an event that is completely unexpected.
 The kiss in ONCE MORE WITH FEELING begins a difficult time between them, at least for Buffy. In TABULA RASA, Spike insists that they talk about what happened - that they had really kissed. Buffy is reluctant to accept what had happened stating that what they did was done and that she will never, ever touch him again. She is mistaken, though, and when she learns that Giles is going back to England, Buffy is so upset that, again, by the end of TABULA RASA, Buffy finds comfort in Spike and they kiss even after she said she'd never do that again.
 Buffy and Spike's relationship just continues to go up and down from this point on. In SMASHED, Spike is determined to get Buffy to accept that they had kissed twice and that it, had no doubt, meant something, but Buffy is disgusted by what she'd done and she just wishes that Spike would let it go. He, of course, is not willing to give up, much like Ares did not give up on Xena. Spike wants to believe that Buffy feels something for him.
 When Spike later finds out that he was able to hit Buffy, that his chip doesn't work on her because she has changed slightly after coming back from the grave, he comes to her and says, quite harshly, that she'd come back wrong. She is furious and they fight.
 In an abandoned building, they go all out on each other, both of them throwing insults; Buffy to Spike about him being a pathetic and worthless vampire, smitten over a Slayer and Spike to Buffy about how she has no one to love, that she always seems to come to him instead of her friends. They continue to throw barbs at each other until, unexpectedly, in the heat of their fight, Buffy shuts Spike up by kissing him even more passionately than before. From then on, the heat between them grows even more; Buffy and Spike violently kiss each other while crashing into the sides of the building, causing it fall apart.
 Against Buffy's better judgment, she and Spike spend all night together. In WRECKED, they wake up naked the next morning, after a night of heated bliss. Buffy is shocked at what she'd done and she knows she has to hurry up and get back to her home. Dawn would be worried about her, having been out all night. She tries to leave, but Spike is persistent that she stay, grabbing her and kissing her again. Buffy has to use a lot of will power to leave him and she is finally able to, but threatens to kill Spike if he ever tells her friends about what happened. She cannot bear to let them know that she has slept with Spike knowing how they would think of her after that.
 Unfortunately for her, she finds herself coming to him again and again in episodes such as GONE, DEAD THINGS and AS YOU WERE. Buffy realizes that being with Spike is a release from her life and that when she is with him it is the only time that she feels anything. She is still determined to keep it a secret from her friends though she accidentally tells one of her friends, Tara.
 By AS YOU WERE, Buffy knows that she cannot continue to come to Spike, that it is wrong and that she is going against everything that she believes by doing so. Buffy comes to him and tells him that she is using him, that she did have feelings for him, but that she cannot continue to see him. He is nearly crushed when she breaks up with him and cannot believe that she, after everything they had shared, can continue not to accept that she loves him. He firmly believed that she does, but that she will not accept it because she is afraid. Their relationship goes downhill from there.
 ENTROPY shows that it might not have been possible for Spike and Buffy ever to get back together. After Xander leaves Anya, the woman he was going to marry, at the altar in HELLS BELLS, Anya is devastated. She wants to get revenge on Xander for what he does. Spike too, is hurt in this episode when Buffy comes to him telling him that he needs to move on, that he needs to get over her. With both of them hurt and after having one too many drinks, Spike makes a huge mistake - he and Anya, drowned in their pain and alcohol, have sex with each other.
 Buffy is truly hurt by what Spike does, after seeing it happen because of a camera that had been placed in the Magic Box where they'd been. Because of the camera and the reaction on Buffy's face as she watches Spike and Anya, her friends finally find out about Spike and Buffy having been involved.
 Buffy does not want to see Spike after that; she is too hurt and Spike, likewise, knows what he did was wrong and that Buffy is angry with him. In SEEING RED, he finds out from Dawn that she is hurting over what he had done with Anya and, finally down to the truth, Dawn asks him if he loves her. He cannot answer and Dawn cannot believe that if he does love Buffy that he could do that to her. Spike is clearly guilty about all that had happened.
 Later, he comes to Buffy's house to talk to her. She does not want to see him and she wants him to leave. Spike tells her, sincerely, that he is sorry. Buffy believes him, against her hurt, but when Spike insists that the reason she hadn't let him die, when Xander was furious with him for being with Anya and threatened to stake him, is because she loved him. Buffy tells him, honestly, that she does not. Desperate and tortured, Spike still believes that Buffy loves him and what happens next is probably the biggest mistake of his entire existence.
 Nearly out of his mind, not realizing his actions, Spike tries to force Buffy to believe that she loves him, that she wants to be with him again - a scene that is a clear example of a harsh, true attempted rape. It takes several tries for Buffy to get up enough strength to push him off her causing him to fly across the room and hit the wall. It is then that he realizes fully what he has done and the line he has crossed with her and he is stunned. Buffy is in tears, telling him to ask her again why she can never love him.
 After that, Spike keeps seeing the image of his actions in his mind and hating himself because of it. He hates the feelings that he has for Buffy. He is convinced that it is the chip in his head that makes him feel the way he does. He cannot be a real monster, he cannot be a real man, and he is nothing. Overwhelmed with the pain of what he did, Spike packs up and leaves Sunnydale, knowing that he has to do something to change the way he feels.
 He travels to Africa, intent on doing something to change him, but it isn't clear as to what exactly he wants to become - if he wants to be a truly evil vampire again or if he wants to be the kind of person that Buffy could love, someone she deserves. In Africa, he comes to a demon that promises to return to him what he wants if he passes several grueling tests. Spike is willing to do anything to make him who he was before so that Buffy can get what she deserves. He has to fight many mighty demons, and is battered and bloodied from the beatings he takes. But Spike is not about to give up and in GRAVE, he finally passes the tests and gets what he came for. The demon returns his soul to him.
What the Future Holds
 After PATH OF VENGEANCE, Xena and Ares are never seen again together in an episode. They might have seen each other since then, but it is never revealed. Several months pass until the two part finale A FRIEND IN NEED has Xena die and unlike other times, she does not come back. Had she not died then or if Ares had appeared in an episode before the end, there could be more interaction and a deeper examination of the newfound understanding between the God of War and the Warrior Princess. They came very far from their first episode, THE RECKONING and there were plenty of missed opportunities to show, even further, the development of their characters after PATH OF VENGEANCE.
 Unfortunately, A FRIEND IN NEED came and went without a last chance to explore the Xena and Ares relationship. Some sources say that, had Ares been in the finale, there would have been a brief appearance with him trying to warn Xena not to go to Jappa because if she did, she would die there. That would have been a nice addition to A FRIEND IN NEED. What might have happened after the finale and Ares finding out about Xena's death is open to speculation. Would he have grieved? Would he have tried to bring her back? The imagination and fan fiction is the only way to really know what could have happened.
 With Spike's soul now returned to him, everything changes. With Season Six not being the last of Buffy, Season Seven could hold many possibilities for Spike and the Spike and Buffy relationship. With all he endured to gain his soul, Buffy may finally see a side of him that she is never seen before. However, his attempted rape of her will weigh heavily on what can happen between them in Season Seven. Spike hurt her, and it will probably take a lot of time and work before Buffy can forgive him - if at all. A level of trust has to be built again, but with a soul, Spike may have a better chance at showing her he's changed and that he isn't just another vampire.
 It is unclear what the future of the Spike and Buffy relationship holds. There are so many possibilities for these two, so many paths that they could go down. What is clear, though, is that Spike went to great lengths to become someone that Buffy could perhaps feel free to love and be able to accept her love for him, if in fact it's true that she does. Hopefully, Buffy will be able to accept that he has a soul and try not to hold everything in his past against them any longer. Spike needs her forgiveness and if he gets that much, then they are just might be hope for them after all.
 Therefore, as seen, the relationships between Xena and Ares and Buffy and Spike are similar in many ways, as a whole. They both continue to draw people in, learning to love everything about the characters and the relationships they share. These four will never be less than interesting to watch and will constantly show different sides to their character, increasing the level of excitement and interest while watching them interact one screen.
A woman of mystery
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