“Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”
Joxer spoke aloud, although there was no one around to hear him. Mental admonishment wasn’t enough, the words needed saying to get the full measure of self-loathing required. He could have kicked himself. Would have, except that this wasn’t a viable option. At least not in his current position, naked, with his arms and legs tightly bound around a smooth stone column, eyes blindfolded by thick cloth.
“Idiot! Fool! Loser!”
He continued his litany of abuse, having long since run out of profanities and been forced to retreat to the hurtful taunts of childhood. He swallowed, wishing he had some water, already slightly dizzy from heat and dehydration. Talking probably didn’t help.
The ropes were tight. Joxer flexed his fingers and toes trying to maintain circulation in his hands and feet. They were already starting to feel cold; it could only be a matter of time before numbness set it. Joxer supposed he should care, but under the circumstances a little more or less discomfort didn’t seem to matter. It was the blindfold that bothered him. He would have liked to see the world he was about to leave.
He rubbed his head from side to side against the column trying to loosen the cloth. It didn’t work. No surprise there. Failure was the story of his life. Why should his death be any different? He pushed the thought away.
Joxer shut his eyes behind the blindfold and allowed his remaining senses to catalogue his surroundings: mid-afternoon sun shone hot on his face and chest; fine grained sand pressed down under his feet and trickled between his toes when he moved them; the air smelt of salt water tinged with eucalyptus, its heavy fragrance carried by the breeze; close by came insistent lap of waves beating against the shore...
Gabrielle had warned him it would be a trap. The Bard had been in turns scathing, sarcastic and officious in her attempts to prevent him from joining Tyrius’ band of warriors.
Joxer had brushed aside her arguments with a lordly wave of his hand. “I know you don’t want me to leave, Gabrielle, but you and Xena have to understand that I’m a warrior and I make my way in the world with my sword.”
She snorted rudely. “You and your sword had better go then, but don’t expect us to come running to the rescue you if do get in trouble.”
He knew that concern had underlain the rudeness and had thrown her a knowing glance as he shouldered his pack, “Not even to say ‘I told you so’?”
Gabrielle met his look with a grin. “Well, maybe for that,” she admitted.
Joxer pressed back against the smooth stone and imagined Gabrielle here now, circling around him and shaking her staff threateningly. He would never see Gabrielle again. He wondered if she would ever hear what happened. He hoped so. At least she would have the satisfaction of being proved right. Perhaps when he was dead he’d be able to visit her as a ghost.
He shook his head to banish the thought. Panic, so far held successfully at bay by the sheer speed of events was starting to set in. He cast around for some new thought to occupy the remaining hours.
This was really a beautiful place to die. A feeble reach at optimism, but he pretended that it somehow made a difference that his last breath would be sea-salt and eucalyptus. He shifted his weight brushing grains of sand over his toes.
Meg had said he had sexy feet. He could hear her voice, rough yet kind, with laughter never far from the surface…
“I want people to look at me and see a warrior.” He spoke despondently.
“I see.” Meg unlaced her bodice, methodically, without any attempt at enticement. “And what do you see when you look at me?”
Joxer was puzzled. “What do you mean? You know what I see.”
“Tell me,” she insisted.
"I see,” he hesitated, not sure what she wanted. She was always direct but never before like this. Candles reflected in her eyes, light and heat. The answer came to him. “I see Meg.”
“Now you’re learning.” She let the garment slip to the ground.
The first trickles of water danced around his feet, covering them, then retreating. Again. And again. Each time the water reached a little higher.
Of course he should have been dead already. There was irony in that. He’d survived a battle only to be sacrificed to the God of these people. And the reason he was considered worthy of sacrifice was that he was the only man to survive a battle. He thought briefly, regretfully, of his fallen comrades. He owed his own survival to chance. When the ambush was sprung he’d tripped over a large stone and been knocked unconscious by the falling body of one of other mercenaries. When he regained his senses it was all over and the victorious army had taken him here as a sacrifice to some unknown deity.
He wondered which god he was appeasing. He could take his choice. How was that for a joke? He started to laugh. He couldn’t stop. Tears ran down his cheek and he gasped for breath. He tried digging his nails in his palms but his hands were numb and refused to move so that he was forced to bite through his lip to stifle the sounds.
If only his death had some meaning.
Water edged around his knees. It must be late afternoon now, the sun had moved so that its rays only touched one shoulder. He turned his face seeking the retreating heat and as he did so a slight wind blew against his cheek.
Cool fresh air.
There was one last thing he could do. His life was his own. He would sacrifice his life to Ares. It was only fitting; he’d lived his life in service to the god. Perhaps the gesture would give his death some meaning and make these last hours easier to bear.
Would it even be that long? How long had he been here already? Joxer tried to calculate but had no idea. He wanted to swallow but had no saliva. Would Ares even notice Joxer’s death?
On the few occasions they’d met Ares had only had eyes for Xena and Gabrielle. It wasn’t that he hadn’t noticed Joxer, worse, he’d looked and immediately gazed beyond the warrior as if there was nothing in him worthy of attention. Joxer was disappointed but not surprised. Not really. What had he to offer a god?
Until now. Now he was offering everything. He felt dizzy with sudden elation.
A wave splashed water against his groin, retreating to thigh height. The tide was definitely coming in faster now. Joxer let his thoughts wander, following strands of imagination he’d never previously dared consider. Desire was a silver thread, irresistible and precious.
He imagined Ares noticing him, really noticing, watching him as he’d watched the three naked Gabrielles so many months ago. No, not like that, more like he watched Xena, a possessive intensity heating his gaze. How would that feel? Like being touched by sight alone, he decided. How would Ares touch? Lightly but not laughingly, the kind of almost-caress that made the hairs on your skin rise up, seeking a greater pressure, and then, just when you thought you would go mad with frustration, his hold would tighten, become possessive, pressing his fingers in deeply enough to leave marks.
Then Ares would say to him…What would Ares say? He would say something like--
“This is certainly different.” Ares was sardonic.
No that was wrong. Ares’ voice should be low and breathy not sounding as if he was holding back laughter.
“Different as in good?” Joxer asked, wanting to pull the fantasy back on track.
Ares considered the question, pressing his lips together thoughtfully. “Different as in different,” he said eventually.
Joxer protested. “That’s not right. You’re not supposed to say that.”
“Well excuse me, I didn’t know I was reading from a script.” replied Ares.
“It’s a fantasy,” explained Joxer. He was beginning to understand why Gabrielle got so impatient with him. His subconscious seemed very slow on the uptake. Perhaps it was fear over treading these forbidden paths. He tried to reassure his mind. “It’s alright. I’m dying I can imaging fucking whoever I want, it’s not going to make a difference. Now, will you get into the spirit of things, it’s not as if I’ve got a whole lot of time to play with.”
“Let me see. You’re dying so I have do whatever you tell me?” asked Ares.
Joxer nodded. “Yes. In return for dedicating my death to you, you’ve come to thank me and reward me?”
“Reward you?” Ares raised a questioning eyebrow, the gesture so theatrical that Joxer was certain he already knew the answer and was simply toying with him.
“Fuck me.” He said bluntly. Time was running out, he could feel the water swirling around his middle, the waves hitting more forcefully now as if eager to claim him.
Ares grinned, showing even white teeth. “If you’re sure that’s what you want.”
Joxer opened his mouth to say something and found his lips covered by the god’s. Ares kissed him, hot sweet open-mouthed kisses. This was more like it. Almost worth dying for. Almost, almost and if Ares was to
“Wish I could really see you,” he said as they parted.
Ares knelt behind Joxer and bit the rope binding his hands rubbing the numb flesh until the circulation returned. Joxer put his hands up and pulled blindfold off.
The night was dark without a moon.
Ares was laughing. He shut his eyes and could once again see clearly. The god watched him, eyes passion-dark, his face intent.
“Fuck me,” Joxer begged.
“Is that what you want?” This time the question sounded genuine. Joxer nodded, not thinking how ridiculous it was to be reassuring a fragment of thought.
They kissed again, more urgently, breaking off to snatch lungfuls of air. Ares broke away, his tongue following the line of Joxer’s jaw and dropping to his shoulder. Down, down, following the curves of his body like water, nipping the tight buds of his nipples, swirling into the hollow of his navel.
Ares’ tongue followed the line of his swollen cock, from the dipping into the slip and working slowly down to his balls. What would it be like to fuck a man? A god? His father had taught him that women were weak because they were penetrated by men, but when he was with Meg it had always seemed more as if she was the powerful one allowing him in, surrounding him with her strength. Would he feel like that with Ares? Weak and strong at the same time, as his ass muscles clenched around rigid flesh. He moaned.
Fingers probed the entrance to his body, followed by a sudden cool rush of liquid. Ares pushed into him slowly. He moved back eager to embrace the intrusion. The god pulled out and thrust in fully. “Was it worth it?” he asked, his voice fierce in Joxer’s mind.
“Yes,” he whispered.
Water was on his face. The taste hot and salty, like musk. He was drowning. He opened his mouth eagerly, taking the liquid deep into his parched throat. A hand circled his cock and he arched into the sensation, rocking back and forth in ecstasy, spilling his life into the sea.
Dying was easy, it was coming back to life that was the hard part. Joxer shivered in reaction, cold despite the heat provided by the campfire and the warmth from Argo’s stable blanket wrapped around his shoulders. Gabrielle and Xena watched him silently. The three of them had sat like this for hours.
“I was a sacrifice to the God,” he said slowly, remembering with difficulty.
Gabrielle essayed a brief smile. She spoke flippantly in an obvious effort to lighten the mood. “Looks like he didn’t accept you then.”
Joxer didn’t reply. He was examining his right wrist. Outlined clearly in the glow of the fire, cutting neatly across the marks the ropes had left on his flesh was the unmistakable imprint of a set of teeth.