The tavern had no name. A shingle above the door sported a crudely rendered flagon, which inspired the patrons to refer to the hovel as "The Mug" for sake of brevity.
Autolycus always stopped in for a round or two when he passed through. Well, maybe not always, but he certainly did if he was looking for work. He'd found a quite number of jobs in the town over the past few years, so many that he'd developed a sort of code: The lantern that stood in a niche by the door was a particularly ugly accessory. Whoever owned The Mug at least had the sense to display the glowing hunk of metal with its better side facing the room. However, when someone desired the service of the King of Thieves, the lantern was turned so that the side with the pronounced dent could be enjoyed by all.
Once the bottom of his flagon was visible, Autolycus allowed himself to swing around and glance back toward the entryway. It was a tradition with him to finish at least one drink before seeking his signal. He wouldn't want the lantern to think he was too eager, after all.
Autolycus smoothed his mustache unconsciously, a gesture which also served to hide the tiny grin of relief playing at the corner of his mouth. A dent is a beautiful thing to behold.
The King of Thieves ordered another brew and made his way to the clandestine point of contact (otherwise known as the table in the drafty corner where no one else sat anyway). He gleaned a pouch on his way there which held enough Dinars to cover a few more drinks, should his wait prove to be long, then settled in to fantasize about the perfect theft, the one that would leave him set for life.
*Not many of those jobs out here in the sticks, of course,* thought Auto, *though it was challenging that time I had to steal a cow...*
"You always struck me as the type who enjoys a challenge," said a silky, masculine voice from over his shoulder, startling the thief. "That's what I like about you." A huge figure glided around him from behind, completely shrouded in a steel gray hooded cloak. The dancing lantern light played across the raised hood in such a way as to obscure the speaker's face entirely.
*So, this must be the -- hey, did he just read my mind?* Auto shook his head. *Nah, he's just familiar with my illustrious reputation, no doubt.* Autolycus straightened up a bit and puffed out his chest, perhaps unconsciously mirroring the stranger's massive presence. Auto leaned forward and narrowed his eyes conspirationally. "The falcon has landed," he said, testing the waters.
The wide shoulders quivered slightly and a low chuckle emanated from within the thick cowl. "Right..." the velvety voice teased, as a hand emerged from the cloak to pull out the chair across from Autolycus. A perfectly fitted black leather glove abutted a very heavy looking, intricately worked gauntlet.
*It's not _that_ cold out,* Auto thought, before he was distracted by the apparent value of the silver-chased wristwear.
The chair creaked under the weight of Autolycus' prospective client as the broad, cloaked figure settled himself opposite the thief. The other man appraised Auto leisurely, while the thief did his best to seem nonchalant. Several moments later, two massive, leather gloved hands (that moved with a curious grace for limbs their size) snaked out of the cloak and up toward the hood. Autolycus suspected his eyes may have betrayed a sharp flicker of curiosity, but it seemed more important to absorb every nuance of his companion than to affect disinterest.
Slowly, the figure peeled back his hood to reveal a tumble of long, black curls, a pair of flashing brown eyes, a roguish beard trimmed to exacting perfection....
Every head in the bar turned toward the thief. Ares' back was to the other patrons, and his amused smirk told Auto that it pleased the god when the mortal looked foolish.
"...is, ah, one of the twelve on Olympus, of course," Auto finished loudly as he clapped the god on the shoulder. The other patrons rolled their eyes as they returned their gazes to the interiors of their cups.
"What are you doing here?" Auto hissed as he leaned toward the God of War.
Ares' smug grin remained firmly in place. With a cool deliberation, he removed his perfectly fitted black leather gloves and placed them carefully on the worn tabletop. He poised one large, strong hand in the air, and in an eyeblink a chalice appeared, filling his cupped palm. His laughing eyes still trained on the thief, Ares drank deeply. The vessel looked like something one would find in a temple, encrusted with jeweled inlay. As much as the War God's eyes riveted Autolycus' gaze, the jewels pulled that glance downwards, and into the elaborate inlay. There, the precious stones formed themselves into images, figures, pictures of men fighting, and of men fucking.
Autolycus quickly looked back into Ares' eyes. When it seemed as if he wouldn't deign to answer the mortal at all, Ares replied, "Sharing a drink -- with a friend."
*Okay,* Auto thought, *what's he gonna try to trick me into now?*
"No tricks," the god replied.
*Mind reading. Must be a god thing.*
Ares smirked. "You are currently in the job market, aren't you?"
The thief nodded once. It was useless to banter with someone who could read your every thought.
"You see," the god began, "there is a problem, more of an annoyance really, of a certain item which is missing from my temple in Thebes."
Autolycus shook his head vigorously. "I haven't been in Thebes all year..."
"Of course," Ares said tolerantly, cutting off the thief's protests. Auto silenced his protest and returned his attention to the god's narrative. "You've heard of Rukar?"
"Heard of him?" Autolycus barked. "If I knew where he was buried, I'd dance on his grave! Slimy bastard like him gives the profession a bad name!
"Say, being a god and all, maybe you can shed a little light on something I've been wondering about that weenie."
"Try me," Ares murmured through his smirk.
"This Rukar's been an asshole all his life. Not a single friend or ally in the world. The guy's left fledgling footpads to take the rap for him, and he's double dealt on all his double deals. His own mother won't even speak to him. And yet, he dies pushing a nubile teenaged girl out from the path of spooked horse and gets trampled himself for his trouble. Excuse me, but am I the only one who found that a little hard to swallow?"
Ares wriggled his strong, calloused fingers over Autolycus' flagon, and it filled itself to the brim with frothy, dark brew.
"Uh, thanks," Auto said, gingerly sipping, then smacking his lips approvingly.
Ares grunted. "You, and any other thinking man. Guess that doesn't add up to many."
"So, what gives?" Auto prompted.
"Here," Ares said, "I'll show you." With that, he leaned forward and tapped the thief ungently between his eyes.
"Owww! Hey...." Auto whined, then quieted himself once foreign sights and sounds began to impose themselves over the reality of the bar.
"It helps if you close your eyes," Ares said, smirking.
"Incredible," the thief breathed, witnessing the rogue Rukar walking down a dark, cobbled street as easily as if he was there with him. "I have a better idea, though. You could show me Xena getting fitted for that hot little bronze and leather number she always wears."
"Shut up and watch," Ares muttered.
"Come on, I had to at least try..." Auto left off his taunting as the scene before his closed eyes began to unfold.
Rukar was a plain man. In his line of work, his looks were an asset. When running away from an angry pickpocketing victim, he could easily slide into a crowd and slow to a stroll, losing himself amidst the unwashed masses.
Being a thief, Rukar was, necessarily, on the move all the time. He traveled from town to town and slept under the stars if he had to, though sleeping in a warm inn courtesy of a stranger's purse was preferable. During his travels, Rukar had picked up the habit of consulting with the local wisewoman, oracle, seer, or somesuch charlatan each time he entered a new town. He didn't believe what he heard from them, really, though most promised him long life and financial success, which were nice enough to think about as he lay at night in unfamiliar beds at strange inns.
He brushed aside the beaded curtains and entered the dimly lit shop, squinting through the cloying smoke at the withered crone across the table. She was some kind of foreigner, with almond shaped eyes and brown skin, wrinkled as a raisin, with wispy, sparse hair. Something about her gave Rukar the creeps, but the old witch had come highly recommended in the common room of the town's tap.
"Okay," grated the plain man, "what's your pleasure, granny? Cards, palms, tea leaves, what?"
The hag reached a tremulous hand forward, and grasped Rukar by the wrist.
"Palms? Fine, fine, done it a hundred times," he mumbled. As he attempted to turn over his palm for the reader, the old woman dug her sticklike fingers into his wrist, hard. Rukar looked up, mildly curious, and saw that she was staring into his face rather than his hand. "What is it, old woman?" he asked testily.
"Tonight is the night," she said, bobbing her aged head. Rukar stared at her intently. The old woman looked startled, suddenly. "Nooooo," she crooned, releasing his wrist.
Abruptly, she calmed, folded her hands, and placed them in her lap. "It is as it must be," she whispered.
"What the fuck are you ranting about, bitch?" His upper lip glistened with a sheen of sweat. The seer's head continued to bob on her spindly neck as she stared at the worn tabletop silently. Without warning, Rukar leapt to his feet and struck her. The woman's head jerked to the side, then calmly, she sat back up. Blood began to trickle from her nose. "What did you see?" Rukar whispered, low and threatening.
The hag's eyes glittered as she raised them to meet Rukar's. She smirked a bit as she drew in a deep breath, and began. "Your evil is eating you from within, Rukar..."
"How did you know my..."
"Black as coal, black as tar, black like the cat that crosses the path of the luckless man, black like the cock that crows on the morn of your last day in this world."
"Very poetic," he scoffed, though his voice was tight.
"The evil is eating you like the flame eats the candle. You will be as ashes in the wind, young man, ashes in the wind."
Rukar's eyes darted back and forth, then he struck the old woman again, sending her toppling backward in her chair. "That's what I think of your reading, you withered old cunt! Wouldn't fucking kill you to say a good thing or two! And don't expect a payment from me, you lousy bitch! The thief spat in her general direction, then tore violently through the beaded curtain, pulling several strands from their anchors and sending them clattering to the floor.
The old woman lay where she fell, breathing shallowly. Her neck was at an unlikely angle, and blood coursed freely from her nose. "Why was my warning so short?" she whispered raggedly as her eyes glazed over.
"Why are you showing me this?" Autolycus snapped.
Ares shrugged and drank, and peered at the King of Thieves from behind his jeweled goblet. "You asked me what happened, and I'm showing you. That was the pivotal moment."
"If I'd 've known I would've finished him myself," Auto growled, closing his eyes again.
The temple was huge and dim, lit intermittently by fat pillar candles of the purest, whitest wax, scented with ambergris and vervain, favorites of the god. The guards had been neatly dispatched by a sedative tincture in their waterskin, leaving Rukar to pilfer the temple at his leisure.
Like any good thief, Rukar made use of his time to avoid detection. He flitted swiftly among the cases and trunks in the inner sanctum, dropping the sacred altar covers and draperies to the floor and kicking them aside carelessly. The thief rummaged through coffers of jewelry and urns of rare oils, ignoring them disdainfully, while weapons of exquisite workmanship glittered on the wall, untouched.
The thief looked around, his cheeks flushed with anger, obviously searching for something very specific. "Come on, you stupid fucks," he mumbled. "Where do you keep it???" Unable to scream, since that might alert a nearby religious devotee, Rukar settled for stamping his feet like a crabby toddler.
Strangely, that's how he found the secret compartment.
Falling to the floor and rapping with his knuckles, Rukar discovered a hollow sounding spot behind the altar. With his dagger, he pried up a cleverly concealed section of the mosaic floor, revealing a hidden compartment. A velvet wrapped bundle lay within. Almost reverently, Rukar lifted out the cloth and peeled it away, to reveal hidden treasure in the folds of the fabric.
He scowled at the egg-sized, gray chunk of rock suspended from the end of the finely etched gold chain. On its own, the stone looked like a worthless piece of granite, though the fine trappings that adorned it made it obvious that the item was of value. Shrugging, Rukar rubbed the stone up and down the front of his tunic several times, slipped the chain around his neck, and stole out of the temple and into the night.
"Eeeew," Autolycus shuddered. "What the heck was he doing with your, um, artifact?"
"He apparently knew how to activate it," Ares answered dryly.
"So he murders an old woman and desecrates your temple. I can see why you're pissed."
"The woman isn't my concern. The thread that the Fates had given her ended there, and she knew it. There was nothing she could do once she crossed Rukar's path.
"The temple desecration, however, isn't sitting well with me," Ares said, an aura of death in his smile.
Rukar struggled to keep his cloak from wrapping around his head as the wind clutched at the garment fiercely. He climbed a treacherous grotto that was assaulted by gusts of wind that channeled in through the canyon.
He disappeared into a large crevasse, inching along in darkness until the crack opened up into a natural cave. He struck a few sparks from his flint, muttering. An oil-soaked torch flared into life in his hands, illuminating the hollow. Rukar placed the torch in a rusty bracket bolted to the cave wall.
The shrine to Hades contrasted quite a bit with the wealthy temple to Ares that Rukar had visited earlier. He trod on bat guano rather than mosaics, staring apprehensively at the crude, manlike figure that had been carved not from imported Sicilian marble, but from the living rock of the cave itself. The altar was a simple shelf adjacent to the large, distorted man-shape on the wall. Withered flowers and deflated fruits were sparsely distributed on the rough stone outcropping, giving evidence that the shrine was still in use, though not very recently.
The thief approached the altar slowly, adams apple bobbing as he swallowed hard. He knelt awkwardly in the guano. "Lord Hades, um, I never really prayed before, so here goes." He cleared his throat. "I brung this for you. It's real powerful, Lord Hades, real powerful. They call it the Adderstone, and I brung it here for you." Rukar withdrew the strange pendant from within his tunic, removed the golden chain from around his neck, and placed it in the center of the altar. Settling back down to impress upon the god just how *important* his offering was, Rukar spied movement on the altartop. He jumped back, realizing that maggots were squirming about the rotten fruit.
Dabbing his brow on his sleeve and inching backward a bit, the thief took a deep breath and continued. "So, uh, it would only be fair if you could see it clear to make sure that the shit that seer told me didn't happen. You know, all that black stuff, and the ashes in the wind. Uh, yours truly, Rukar."
"That's ridiculous!" Autolycus cried. "Everyone knows that you can only make offerings to Hades to ease the passing of your loved ones. To offer something for yourself to prevent your own death, why it's, it's..."
"Something that only someone like Rukar would do," Ares supplied.
Autolycus finished off his ale, and with a slight gesture, Ares refilled the flagon again. "So where do the spooked horse and the heroics come in?" asked the thief, now thoroughly confused.
Ares sat back in his chair and sighed. He seemed to be one for melodramatic pacing when he wasn't lodging some war or another. "Seldom is Hades swayed by an offering. It usually takes the intervention of Persephone to get a rise out of him, but what with the ruling that she can spend six months a year with Demeter, and another four with Adonis... Once you do the math, it's not very surprising that she wasn't around at the time."
Autolycus nodded for Ares to continue. It wasn't every day he was allowed a god's-eye view of an enemy's demise.
"It must have been the offering itself that swayed the Death God. Before a battle, my warriors would line up at my temple to make their offerings to me. Then, one by one, I would allow them to partake of the power of the Adderstone." Ares' cloak slid open, revealing to Autolycus that he donned full battle armor beneath it.
"Each soldier would grasp the stone before him." Ares thrust the decadent chalice in front of the thief's eyes.
"He would clasp it to his breast like a lover." The chalice met the front of Ares' ornate breastplate with a clang.
"The Adderstone would infuse him," he trailed the chalice down his front, snaking it over the washboard stomach pattern in the metal under the breastplate. Auto suspected that the armor probably mirrored quite accurately the hard, bronzed flesh beneath. "For the duration of the battle, my soldier would be very quick, and very deadly."
Not seeing the point, Auto raised his eyebrows expectantly. Ares filled the chalice anew and drank, staring over the rim into the mortal's eyes. "And the horse?" Autolycus prompted.
"Oh, that. Hades, being what he is, refused to forestall the dolt's impending doom just because he offered him a pretty bauble. He was, however, impressed enough to trade him a noble death for whatever lame demise had been planned for the idiot originally. He answered the letter of his prayer, rather than the real intent, and that way he didn't mess up any of his precious record keeping."
Autolycus drew his eyebrows together and pursed his lips. "Then it wasn't really *Rukar's* death that he died after all. That makes sense, I guess. So, remind me again, what has this got to do with me?"
Ares leaned forward and smiled grimly. "Now that Rukar and Hades are done playing with the stone, I want my toy back."
Autolycus swallowed around a lump that suddenly appeared in his throat. He sensed that it wouldn't be very good for his health if he said no, though it would be out of character if he didn't at least put up a token resistance. "Wouldn't it be easier for you than me to get it?"
Ares scowled at the table. "I don't make it a habit to visit the land of the dead."
"Why don't you get some dead guy to steal it for you, someone that's already there? Heck, maybe you can convince Rukar to steal it back himself."
Ares stared at him.
"I'm sure you have about a million dead warriors down there, ya know, with all the wars throughout the ages and all. I don't see why you couldn't ask one of them."
Ares was not amused.
Autolycus sighed resignedly. "All right, all right, so what's in it for me?"
Ares seemed puzzled by the question, then as an afterthought, slammed the jeweled chalice down on the table under Auto's nose. It was worth a king's ransom, and the new dent it sported from the contact with the god's breastplate would only enhance the value further. "How's that?" Ares asked
Autolycus, sensing that if he pushed any further he would be lucky to be rewarded with his own life, capitulated. "The man-on-man theme isn't quite my style, of course, but I suppose it'll do."
"You sure don't waste any time, do you?" Autolycus said as he surveyed the desolate foothills around him. Ares had whisked them both there straight from the Mug, and the thief felt a bit giddy and disoriented.
Ares shrugged, causing his armor to rise and fall and setting his cloak swaying in the breeze. "I want my rock."
"You didn't bring me out here to kill me, I take it," the thief began sarcastically, briefly wondering if that was, indeed, the case. "So why are we here? Admiring the scenery?"
Ares twitched an eyebrow in amusement. "I could hardly send you in through the traditional channels, now, could I? Then you'd be dead, and I'd be on someone's bad list for knocking you off before your time. And then there's also the matter of you bringing the stone back to me once you get it."
"You've got a point there," Autolycus agreed, smoothing his mustache. "Several, really."
"He always was sharp," piped in a third voice, sending Autolycus half out of his skin with fright. The thief swung around to discover a wiry teenaged boy wearing nothing but a huge grin. The kid flipped his long, tangled, blonde hair out of his eyes and leered at Autolycus, all the while running his hand suggestively up and down a huge, beribboned walking stick that he leaned upon indolently.
Awkwardly, the thief's eyes fell to the ground. *Sandals. He's wearing sandals.* He inspected the youth's footwear, tentatively allowing his gaze to inch up a bit higher and admire the elaborate tattoos of feathers that snaked from the kid's ankles to his calves.
One of the sandals took a step towards him.
Autolycus automatically jumped back, only to find that he had slammed his shoulder blades into a massive breastplate, and the small of his back into a protruding codpiece.
"What are *you* doing here?" the War God queried, with caution, Autolycus noted, though not hostility.
The youth flung his arms wide, presenting his gloriously naked self to the man and the god. "A journey into the underworld, a theft, and Autolycus, all rolled into one yummy adventure? I wouldn't miss it for the world!"
Autolycus looked awkwardly from the tattooed calves to the overly intense face framed with flaxen locks to some meaningless spot over the kid's shoulder.
"He doesn't recognize you," Ares rumbled, still pressed into Auto's back.
The youth scowled, then brightened. "I know, wait." He squeezed his eyelids together, and with a tiny "pop," a bronze helmet appeared in his hands. He stuffed it carelessly atop his wild hair, then struck another pose for Auto, one hand high on his staff, a foot pointed out behind him, eyes goggling absurdly. "C'mon. This is so *easy.* Just like the statues."
Wildly groping for a way to come out of the situation with his dignity in tact, the thief simply shook his head. The breastplate and codpiece vibrated against his back as Ares chuckled.
The blonde pouted and dropped his helmet to the ground. "How about this: Guide of spirits to the underworld, God of Thieves, your patron..."
Autolycus stared back helplessly. He really wished his brain would work. Wait a minute, the God of Thieves he knew. "Hermes?"
The young god grinned happily and bowed to the thief.
"You're my patron?"
Hermes' eyes sparkled. "Well, it sure ain't Hera!"
Autolycus never knew he had a patron. Somehow, that knowledge seemed to change everything. Even if his patron was rather, well, unclad, he was still Auto's *patron.* He had always assumed that patron gods popped in on you every other day and demanded that you go perform all sorts of crazy tasks for them. Yet, here was the God of Thieves, with a big, loopy grin, simply to observe.
"Well, that. But since being the guide to the underworld is my *other* job, I thought I'd see ya there safely."
"But how come you never..."
Hermes waved his hand dismissively. "You've always done me proud. Never had to give you a talking to. And as for tasks, why would I make my followers do something that I could get done faster myself? By the time I would explain what I needed, I could have it finished already! I'm a busy god, you know!"
Auto felt a strange sensation welling up in his chest, kind of warm and fuzzy, and very foreign. "My Patron..." he nearly fell backward as Ares stepped away from him.
"All right," Ares boomed. "Very good. You can give Autolycus the lay of the land. But you're doing this for *him,* not me. I'm not going to owe you any favors."
Hermes grinned and stood there nakedly.
"I take it you know about the tunnel?" Ares asked the younger god.
Hermes winked. "Who do you think diverted the stream a few hundred thousand years ago that carved it out?"
Ares grunted and turned toward a large boulder. Normally it would have taken a crew of men and a couple of oxen to budge the thing, but Ares, being a god, shifted the huge rock without even breaking a sweat. A jagged hole in the ground was revealed.
"That thing leads straight to Tartarus?" Autolycus asked, peering inside and seeing nothing but darkness.
"Not Tartarus," Ares corrected, "the Underworld."
Hermes joined Auto at the edge of the hole. "The fields of Asphodel, to be precise. Though if you'd like to see Tartarus, maybe someday I can run you through, and we can laugh at all the pathetic schmoes laboring at their impossible tasks. The Hades that thinks up all the ridiculous labors, the Creative Hades, is seriously underrated."
Autolycus peeked cautiously over the edge of the hole. "Anything I need to be worried about down there?"
Ares shrugged testily. He seemed eager to send Autolycus on his way, suddenly. Perhaps he felt upstaged by the unplanned arrival of the second god.
Auto put a quick tourniquet on his thoughts. One had to be careful what one thought when gods were around.
"I really couldn't tell you what to expect," growled the War God. "I don't make it a habit to visit."
"Actually," drawled Hermes, "I'd say the biggest danger is from all the deceased soldiers. They wander around in droves, spoiling for fights. It's all fun and games to them, since they're dead and they can't kill one another. But you..." he trailed off, waggling his fair eyebrows at the thief meaningfully.
"Soldiers?!?" Auto cried. He had assumed he'd have to be on the lookout for a multiple-headed monster of some sort, or perhaps a homicidal pomegranate, but a simple soldier?
Hermes leaned toward the thief and whispered in his ear. "Sounds mundane, I know, but when you think of every soldier of every battle throughout the ages, they get a little numerous."
"Wouldja stop doing that?" Autolycus snapped. "This mind reading thing is making me crazy." Hermes looked ever so slightly sheepish. "Ya know, Ares, soldiers are part of your domain, after all..."
The God of War rolled his eyes. "What do you want me to do, put a big sign on you? ‘Don't harass: on mission from Ares!' Fuck, I might as well go down there and take the fucking rock myself!"
Autolycus held his hands up defensively. "Now, now, don't fly off the handle. I'm merely suggesting that there may be some way for you to give me a little protection, but subtly. Something only your followers would notice."
Ares stopped snorting and pawing the ground long enough to consider the thief's request. "Well," he admitted reluctantly, "there is *one* thing."
Auto breathed a sigh of relief and took a step forward. "There, now that wasn't so hard, was it? So just give me the token, and Hermes and I will be on our..."
Fast as a whip, the War God's hand snapped out and grasped the mortal by his head. In the split second that he had to think, Autolycus wondered if his bright idea was to be rewarded with a brand, or a bite, or some other sort of painful disfigurement. With ease, Ares dragged the thief forward, then swung his other arm around to crush Autolycus to his metal clad chest.
Auto's brain screamed at his eyes to close, but the orbs were frozen open in morbid fascination as the god's face descended upon him in all its horrible glory. As divine lips crushed mortal ones, breathing lost its significance. The massive hand at his back grasped and kneaded at the thief's flesh, while the huge, hard, urgent mouth vanquished his own utterly, parting the mortal's lips and clearing the way for the god's tongue. Autolycus' feet forgot how to stand, but no matter, since he was firmly plastered to the War God's armor. When the godly tongue filled the thief's mouth, his world went white and he became naught but a tiny speck on a sea of sensation, rolling in time to his pulse pounding in his throat and his blood roaring in his ears.
It registered, belatedly, that Autolycus was not being maimed by the god, he was being kissed. Some annoying bit of his consciousness was telling him that he should be repulsed, but it sounded suspiciously like the voice that told him not to steal things, and as such, he was quite accustomed to ignoring it.
Joyously, the mortal rode the wave of passion with Ares, and felt his innermost self being opened and caressed, layer by intimate layer...
Then the cold hit him, and the pain. Autolycus heard a strange, raw sound, and realized that it was his own screaming voice. Ares had thrust him away, just a simple, casual gesture, and the mortal felt as if his insides had been ripped out.
"Shhh, it's okay. I'm with you," soothed a honeyed voice at Autolycus' ear. As his self-awareness returned, so did the realization that the other god's intervention was the only thing that kept him from crashing painfully to the rocks at his feet when Ares pushed him away.
The War God loomed over him, impossibly huge and terrible. He wiped at his lips with the back of his hand and sneered as if he'd just found something distasteful. "If you think this means I'm hot for you, don't flatter yourself."
"You're the King of Thieves," Hermes whispered, his gentle hands smoothing tingly trails of warmth over Auto's arms and shoulders. The thief remembered enough of himself to stop whimpering like a newborn pup. "Autolycus..." Hermes murmured, turning the name into a loving caress. The mortal's pride began to return, his mind slowly switching back on.
"Good thing you don't have a hard-on for me," Auto wisecracked exhaustedly. "Whatever you do for an encore would probably kill me." Hermes helped the thief to sit up, then after a brief rest, to stand. Autolycus' body wandered toward the War God like an opium addict anticipating another fix, but he was stayed by an iron grip on his wrist. Auto looked toward the source of his restraint, surprised somehow to see the frail Hermes grasping his arm.
"That's right. I've got you," he murmured, the frivolity in his eyes replaced with concern. Autolycus tugged ineffectively against the god's grip.
"Anything else?" Ares snarled, tapping his foot.
Hermes shook his head. "There should have been another way."
"Subtlety's your forte, not mine," the God of War snorted. "He'll survive."
The youthful god nodded reluctantly, restraining a sweating Autolycus with no apparent effort. "We'll take it from here."
With a succinct nod and a flash of blue light, Ares disappeared.
Autolycus sagged back against Hermes and groaned pitifully. "It hurts, Hermes, it really hurts bad."
"I know, I know," the god whispered, smoothing back Auto's hair, then easing him back down into a sitting position.
Breathing deeply, Autolycus clung to his god as if he was a helpless child and attempted to collect himself. No matter what he did, though, he felt as if he was being turned inside out.
"Isn't there any way you can help me?" he asked in a ragged whisper.
Hermes smiled sadly. "Nope, then you'd have my mark instead of his. I was quite serious about those dead soldiers being dangerous, and they don't give a rat's ass that you're one of mine. We'll have to leave my big, bad brother's mark on you."
Autolycus replied with a wordless groan.
"That's the reason why gods pairing off with men is so rare. Your delicate mortal shells just can't take it." Hermes stared off into the desolate, rocky landscape, eyes unfocused. "That kiss was probably way better than any fuck you ever had, wasn't it?"
Auto moaned in reply, though it seemed a rhetorical question.
"You'll get over that, in time. But just imagine if he had fucked you. Or then again, maybe you shouldn't, hee hee." The young god scowled briefly at his own inappropriate laughter, then cleared his throat and continued. "If he had bedded you, you'd be ruined for the rest of your life, shambling around feeling hollow and incomplete. Half a man, if that. Some of your village idiots were pretty hot in their younger days, if you catch my meaning."
"But what about Alcmene?"
"That's different. Zeus came to her in the form of her dead husband, though she didn't know he was dead at the time, otherwise she might've suspected that something was up. Hee hee. Ahem. But in someone else's form, his godhood was dampened. It was probably still one helluva fuck, but not enough to destroy her."
Autolycus realized that the god's patient chatter was lulling him back into a state of semi-functionality. He felt like he'd just come off a week-long bender, had a couple of broken ribs, and perhaps the flu as well.
Hermes gazed tenderly at the thief in his arms, then delicately peeled the mortal's eyelid back and studied the pupil. "Mmm hm. Yup. You'll be a little better soon."
"You can see that in my eye?"
The fair haired youth tossed his mane absently. "I invented medicine, you know, but it just got to be such a pain to keep up with. I was already doing merchants, gamblers, heralds, travelers and all that, along with the Deadwalking, of course." The god's silly grin resurfaced. "I may have pawned the medical duties off on Asclepius, but I still know my way around a patient."
Autolycus reconsidered his sponsor with some amazement. He knew that gods were eternally young, or old, or however they chose to present themselves, yet Hermes' youthful appearance and relaxed demeanor had somehow managed to make him forget all the things he'd learned as a child about the god.
"I think you're about ready to get your legs under you," the god said gently. "Come on, up we go." He hauled Auto to his feet, giving him a hand down into the water-carved cavern that led to the underworld. "I can see you're still a little woozy. The passage branches here and there, dead ends mostly, but you could get pretty turned around. I'll just mark the way back for you with these pebbles. Pick ‘em up on your way back as you go along, we don't want another zombie epidemic on our hands, hee hee."
Autolycus cowered as the god tapped the huge rock above his head softly with his staff and the boulder slid itself over, sealing the passage. Hermes then thumped the earth, and the staff began to glow with a soft luminescence. "I know you're not claustrophobic, so just relax and enjoy the walk. I'm not one to spend a lot of time among my followers, you'll have noticed, so if you want to ask me anything, now's a good time."
Hermes shrugged. "I am a god, and I pretty much don't have an ulterior motive here. You can't shock me, after all, I know what you think."
"Lidea, my neighbor's cousin, would she have..."
"Nope. You weren't her type."
Autolycus scowled. The god really did mean anything. "Why couldn't I pick that lock in the dungeon in Athens?"
"It was made by a left-handed locksmith."
"Damn!" Auto smacked himself in the forehead. "Stupid, stupid, stupid! So tell me this, who's going to win the Olympics this year?"
"Don't know, hasn't happened yet." Autolycus raised an eyebrow, and Hermes waggled his in return. "Okay, okay." The god leaned forward and brought his lips to Auto's ear. "Sparta's my pick."
Autolycus grinned and did some mental calculations. "Sparta, eh?" Come betting season, he'd be a wealthy man.
"Hey, I know," Hermes exclaimed, "let me tell ya about the time I stole a whole herd of cows."
"A whole herd??"
"Yeah, and I was only a day old. It's a wonder they didn't trample me..."
The thief and his god padded down the natural cavern, talking and reminiscing. It turned out that Hermes had actually been there for most of the important events in Auto's life, though he'd been invisible, and was too busy to stay and chat afterward. That warm fuzzy feeling returned, though it was difficult to feel amidst the gaping hole of raw need that Ares had left in Auto's chest. Though they walked for hours, all too soon it was the end of the line, and time for Hermes to leave him.
"Aren't you going to give me any parting words of advice?" Auto quipped with a spark of his old bravado. "Maybe something along the lines of 'Don't eat half a pomegranate'?"
Hermes shook his head. "That's just a myth. You shouldn't feel hungry or thirsty or tired here, so keep yourself from eating stuff just to be safe. The drinking part, though, is where you gotta be really careful. If you drink from the river Lethe, you forget who you are and everything about your life.
It's very soothing to some of the dead, but I don't need you dipping into that brew just now."
Autolycus tried hard not to focus on the burning pit of need that was crying out for Ares.
"Oh no," said Hermes, flagrantly reading Auto's thoughts, "don't even go there. Look how much better you are now, in just a few hours. A couple of years from now, you'll be able to look at that kiss and laugh. Or maybe even brag. In certain social circles, anyway."
Autolycus stared at his boots.
"Promise me," Hermes prompted, taking Auto by the chin and tilting his head up so he would meet the god's eyes.
"Yes," the thief murmured, and was shocked to realize that he wished, more than anything, that it was Hermes who'd kissed him on that rocky plateau, beautiful, delicate, blonde, naked Hermes, *his* patron.
Of course, once Auto thought it, the god knew his desire immediately. Strangely enough, Autolycus didn't feel embarrassed. The clear gray eyes of the god softened, and he shook his head slightly. "I wouldn't ruin ya like that," he whispered, "but if ya get off thinkin' about it, maybe give me a little one-handed tribute now and again, then go for it. I'm flattered."
Autolycus allowed himself to imagine being drawn up against the smooth, waiflike chest in front of him with those slender, impossibly strong hands. Hermes' eyes twinkled in response. They stood for a moment, Auto imagining that he was worshiping the god with his tongue, running it down that smooth, golden neck, then across the perfect collarbone, Hermes grinning openly in response. Both were caught off guard by the cascade of scrolls that began raining from the air above Hermes, bonking them both on the head and rolling around on the ground.
"Shit!" the god declared. "What the heck is this?? Is there some sort of talking disease going around?" Breaking eye contact with Auto, he bent over and began retrieving the huge armload of scrolls that was scattered on the earth. Scrolls continued to plop out of the air, one or two at a time. Autolycus stopped feeling sorry for himself long enough to gather up some of the stray scrolls and position them securely atop his patron's stack.
"Well, as you can see," Hermes said apologetically, "duty calls. Got to go make some deliveries. Can't remember the last time it was this bad, though I guess I did spend the last couple hours lollygaggin.'"
"But, Hermes, how do I find the stone?"
"You can talk to people, ask around, same as in the world of the living. Just don't drink anything!!" With a jaunty wave and a wink, Hermes turned and began to run. Within a heartbeat, the run sped up to a breathtaking blur, and the god was gone.
Autolycus sighed and looked at his boots again. This would've been a grand adventure, if he hadn't gone and asked for Ares' protection. Now it seemed that all he could do was go through the motions and find the stupid stone, though he wouldn't be truly alive until he was in Ares' presence again. He shuffled his toe in the black, black earth, and belatedly noticed that he was standing in a patch of wild mint. It was giving off a delightful fragrance.
Absently, Autolycus plucked a saw-toothed leaf and directed it toward his mouth. His eyes bulged as he realized what he was doing. "Sheesh! All those warnings, and the first thing I do is nearly eat something!" He thrust the tiny leaf away from him, and it fluttered to the ground.
"May as well walk somewhere," he mumbled to himself, soothed a bit by the sound of a voice, even though it was his own. Noting the location of the cave from which he'd emerged, Autolycus headed off in a random direction, one way being as good as any other, he figured.
Crippled as he was by the absence of the god who'd left traces of his divine essence all over the thief, Autolycus, with his natural curiosity, couldn't help but be stimulated by the alien sights of the underworld. It lacked a sun, but was illuminated instead by a pearly gray light that was easy on the eyes. The absence of wind made the landscape seem strangely still and quiet, but the air was fresh and sweet nonetheless. Trees dotted the landscape, though how their seed was spread without the wind, Autolycus couldn't imagine. Willow and poplar he recognized, though they seemed oddly symmetrical, perhaps from the lack of wind to sculpt them as they grew. Pale, white flowers were sprinkled over the grayish turf, delicate, but foreign, in certain spots giving the impression of a light dusting of snow. Auto leaned over to get a closer look at the tiny bud of the white blossom, when he
noticed a footprint.
Auto scowled. It seemed as if he'd been in the fields of Asphodel for hours, though it was hard to say without the sun to gauge his progress. As of yet, he hadn't seen anyone else. "Perhaps I *should* seek out a denizen." He smoothed his hair back unconsciously as he recalled Hermes' parting words. "They're probably not all -- scary. I'm not in Tartarus, after all." Auto analyzed the print. It was impressed upon earth so rich it was black.
The thief tracked another print, then another, and soon was in pursuit of what seemed to be the only person around, besides himself. He found her eventually, though how long it took him, he couldn't say. The woman wore a pleated linen tunic with a light woolen shawl. She sat on a mat by the side of the river, weaving reeds into baskets.
"Uh, hello there," Autolycus ventured awkwardly.
The woman gazed up at him, unhurried, neither friendly nor hostile. She was about his age, with carefully arranged brown hair and a patrician face.
"Come here often?"
The woman stared at him neutrally. "You live."
"Psh. Yeah, if you can call this living," he muttered.
"What is it you wish to know?"
*Boy, she doesn't waste any time on small talk.* He puffed his chest out a bit, and crossed his arms over it. "If I wanted to see an item that a follower of Hades gave him in tribute, where would I go?"
The woman blinked. "My Lord's palace."
" 'My Lord' being...?"
The woman stared as if Autolycus had two heads, then deigned to reply. "My Lord Hades."
"Ah. My Lord HADES. Yes, of course. Just checking. And, er, in which direction would said palace lie?"
The woman scowled and worked another reed into her basket. "Are you lost?"
"Lost? Why, no, heh heh, of course not." Auto rocked back on his heels and surveyed the strange, still landscape. "I am new here, though."
The woman sighed and looked back up at him. "When I finish these baskets, I will bring them to my Lord. You may come with me."
"I can? Great! I was just thinking that..."
"If you stop talking."
"Oh. Yes, of course." Auto placed his index finger over his lips and backed away. "I'll just be here. Under this tree. Just sitting."
The woman bent to her basket, ignoring the series of sighs, groans and mutterings drifting over from a spot under a nearby willow. Autolycus had to remind himself periodically not to nibble on blades of grass in his boredom. He wished he could sleep and pass the time it took for his guide to ready herself, but he supposed it was for the best that he wasn't able to doze off. The dour woman seemed as if she'd proceed without him if she could.
After an eternity (or a few hours, or a day, or maybe two) the woman stood and nodded to the thief. He carried her handiwork, which was light and easily manageable, and she started walking wordlessly. Landmarks were few and far between, and Autolycus felt glad he'd waited for the woman to show him the way. The eerie, silent, gray fields seemed so vast that one could wander in broad circles forever.
Eventually, the silence palled on Auto, and he longed for some sort of interaction to distract him from replaying Ares' kiss over and over in his mind. "My name's Autolycus. Pleased to meet you."
The woman nodded briefly at him and continued walking.
After an awkward pause, Auto resumed. "And, uh, you are?"
The woman tilted her head. "I don't have a name."
The thief found that very disturbing. "Do people lose their names when the come here?"
"Not all, but many. Those that drink from the river Lethe."
"But why would you do that?"
She shrugged. "I must have been pining for something which I could never have."
*Areslipsonminehishottongueinmymouth...* Autolycus looked away, trying to marshal the strength to keep his promise to Hermes. "Are you -- happy here?"
"I guess that's all one can expect," said Auto, feeling sorry for himself and ruing the moment he had agreed to find Ares' trinket.
The walk seemed fairly short, perhaps an hour, and Autolycus noted a small river or stream to his right that appeared and reappeared periodically. The castle was huge, and could be seen from a great distance. As they neared, Autolycus realized that the black line stretching over the plains, which he'd assumed was a row of trees, was actually a line of people. His guide seemed to be veering toward the back of the line, as did several dots converging from various other directions. "I take it you're getting in that line."
"I am," she replied calmly.
"How fast does it move?"
"Does it matter?"
Autolycus stifled a sigh. "It matters to me." The woman withheld comment. They reached their destination, and Auto stood restlessly behind the woman. "Now what?" he asked.
"I will give this offering to My Lord, and he will give me his Benediction," she replied, actually smiling. Autolycus noted that several of the people in line were carrying sacks and crates. Some had large objects, like carved pieces of furniture. Other had bolts of cloth or huge clay urns. A quick computation of the current value of the loot in the line, multiplied by the fact that the line seemed to be there continually, promised that immeasurable wealth would be found at the castle.
And castles, being what they were, always had more than one way in.
"Well, see ya. It's been fun. Have a nice Benediction," he said, saluting the woman and sprinting off. The woman paid him no heed, staring calmly ahead.
The looming black edifice that was purported to be the home of Hades seemed to grow larger and larger as Autolycus neared it. Its proportions were classic, camouflaging the sheer size of the castle until the thief was almost upon it. *This thing's gonna take me nearly a day to circle!* Auto thought petulantly, then blanched as he realized that "a day" had little meaning in the eternally timeless realm he trod. Once he was well enough away from the front of the building, he allowed himself to flank the black structure more closely. Glossy from a distance, the walls seemed be made of perfect, glassy-slick, opaque, black bricks once the thief closed in and was able to observe them more carefully.
Sidling nearer still, Auto saw that patterns were somehow incorporated into the shiny pieces, striated like marble, yet deliberate enough to form eerie flora and ghostly fauna.
Suppressing a shudder, Autolycus edged away, circumventing the building by enough of a radius that he could no longer see the swirling adornments. Stealthy and agile, he loped along at a pace that was slow enough to maintain for a while, but fast enough to cover a lot of ground. After a time that seemed like a few hours, Auto was grumbling to himself about still being on the same side of the damn castle when he came upon a garden.
Autolycus stared happily at the strange, symmetrical trees and weirdly sculpted shrubbery. "Where there's a garden, there's usually a door," he said aloud, smoothing his black mustache.
Hugging the building more closely, Auto increased his pace and sprinted excitedly toward the garden and its corresponding portal. He was little prepared for the spear which thrust out of the bushes, tripping him neatly.
The wind was knocked out of the thief, who barely had time to tumble before the weight of a body pressed onto his back. Face down, eating turf, Autolycus wondered what good the protection of Ares was to him.
"Hey, you're not Sumerian."
The body straddling Auto pulled its weight up long enough for a strong pair of hands to flip the thief over. Auto's captor resettled himself once the thief was on his back, now straddling him by the waist. The bastard who'd tripped him was obviously some ancient Mycenaean, wearing nothing but an elaborate beaded kilt, beaten gold armband and a predatory grin under a huge pile of elaborately beaded and braided black hair. "A modern Greek?" he laughed, obviously puzzled.
"You seem to speak the language well enough," Auto said, hoping he could talk himself out of whatever he had just gotten into.
"Language?" he laughed. "There are no..." The Mycenaean warrior squinted. "You're alive? How can that be?"
"My situation's kind of special, you see."
The Mycenaean tilted his head to one side, almost as if he was looking inside Autolycus. "You're a favorite of War? How strange. You really don't look the type. For a Greek, that is."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
The Mycenaean grinned and stretched himself up, presenting his sleek, oiled torso to Autolycus' bewildered gaze. "You're lean, like me. So many of you Greek warriors bulk up. Guess you like to know you could withstand a siege."
Autolycus' eyes snapped shut as he felt the beginnings of a familiar stirring (in his groin) for an unfamiliar reason (he was looking at a man). The man straddling him picked up on his discomfort immediately, of course. "Isn't that just like a Greek?" he chuckled. "Don't know if you want to fight, or to fuck." He arched his back, grinning lasciviously, and continued to torture Autolycus with his delicious body and harsh, teasing words. "I've always heard that if anyone knows how to pleasure an asshole, it's a Greek. That true, Living Boy?"
Autolycus was speechless. He noticed that he'd been in that condition a lot lately. It didn't suit him well.
The oiled Mycenaean began to shimmy up Autolycus' torso, while the thief lay there, helpless. "You seem hesitant, Greek. Why is that? You cock is happy to see me, isn't it?" While his demeanor was playful and not very threatening, the Mycenaean was obviously in control. Somehow, that realization made Autolycus harder still.
Sliding his hands beneath Autolycus' vest, the lean warrior quickly located the thief's nipples and began rolling them between his fingers through the supple black calfskin of Auto's shirt. The thief's cock leapt in reply. Dark, liquid eyes framed by thick black lashes bored into Autolycus' stunned face, and the tip of a pink tongue darted out to moisten full, brown lips. The man's dark Mediterranean skin and slightly flattened nose, in combination with his elaborate hair and costume, created a stunningly sensual vision. He continued to pinch and roll the thief's nipples unhurriedly, smiling softly as he elicited a gasp from his captive. "You're very handsome," the Mycenaean said softly. "I love how your skin is so pale against your black hair." Auto gasped again under the patient ministration to his nipples. "I'll bet you look even better without all these clothes on."
"So I've been told," Autolycus managed between gasps. His nipples felt molten, and somehow, tiny trails of arousal seemed to connect them to his groin, causing his cock to thrum in time with the delicious pressure of the Mycenaean's fondling. The women he'd been with were typically not so forceful unless they were prostitutes, and prostitutes, while wonderfully taboo, didn't hold quite the same allure for Auto as a willing volunteer.
"I'd better get some of your clothes off," affirmed the dusky warrior. "You're sweating." He leaned over Autolycus and inhaled languorously, as if the thief was a rose or a fine wine. As he did, a coil of black hair spilled over his shoulder and tickled Auto's cheek. Auto didn't know what the man was doing, but whatever it was, it turned him on even more. He began to squirm anxiously between the man's legs.
The Mycenaean inched back down Autolycus' torso, catching his lower lip in his teeth as he devoured the thief's body with his eyes. Autolycus moaned aloud as the Mycenaean's crotch slid past his, and the warrior grinned broadly in return, flashing perfect white teeth. Once he reached Auto's upper thighs, the Mycenaean settled there and began unlacing the front of the thief's shirt. "Can't believe I'm doing this with you," the warrior murmured as he slid his skilled hands inside the black leather shirt and found the erect, sensitized nipples beneath. Auto moaned again as the strong fingers plucked at his bare flesh, sending shooting sensations of pleasure arcing
down to his engorged cock.
"Can't believe?" Auto panted. "Why not?"
The warrior peeled off Autolycus' green vest, then opened his shirt with quick, decisive movements. "Because you're alive, of course. Why else?" When the thief's shirt caught on his hard leather gauntlets, the Mycenaean shrugged and twisted the garment further, tangling Auto's hands neatly above his head. The warrior surveyed his work and grinned, running his fingers appreciatively down Auto's outstretched torso. "Been down here so long, I've fought everything there is to fight, fucked everyone there is to fuck. Screwed men and women of every shape, color and age. But a living man, well, haven't seen one of you since I died." The warrior traced Auto's ribs and stomach with his fingers and palms, smoothing the trail of black hair under his navel and causing his cock to strain anxiously against his tight black leather pants.
*It's Ares' fault I'm getting this turned on by a man. Him and his stupid kiss, leaving me all worked up like that.* Autolycus frowned as he remembered the War God and the horrible pangs he'd suffered when the God ceased their kiss.
"What's with the long face, Greek? Am I going too fast? Too slow?" The Mycenaean smiled gently as he swirled his questing fingertips through Autolycus' chest hair, brushing against one nipple, then the other.
Autolycus admitted to himself that he wanted this dark stranger very badly. *I'll be damned if I let that bastard Ares ruin this for me. After all I've been through, I deserve a little release.*
"No," Autolycus rasped, "you're perfect." The Mycenaean rewarded him with a dazzling, white grin. "It's just that I've never -- been with a man."
"You're kidding," the warrior barked, laughing with delight. "You invented man-love in Greece." He sighed. "Such a handsome virgin. What did I do to deserve you, hm?" Leaning forward, the Mycenaean took one puckered, solidly erect nipple into his mouth and tongued it expertly.
"Ahhh, dammit, yeah, that's so fucking perfect," Autolycus sighed as he closed his eyes. He felt his lover's long curls brushing his chest and his side, the small gold beads woven within them leaving tiny spots of tantalizing cold on his fevered skin. His cock leapt again as the warrior trailed his tongue across Auto's sternum and took the other nipple in his mouth, alternately sucking and tonguing it to a nearly painful state of arousal. Forgetting about his shirt, Autolycus attempted to wind his fingers through his lover's hair, but ended up tangling his hands together even more tightly.
The Mycenaean chuckled against the thief's chest, the vibration sending yet another intense wave of arousal to his cock. "You let me lead, my virgin."
Autolycus felt his heart pounding. "Touch my cock," he gasped, more of a plea than a command.
"It gets me so hard when you say that," the Mycenaean whispered, his mouth hovering over Autolycus' nipple, sending a puff of cool air over the sensitized, wet nub that made the thief quiver. The warrior's skilled hands began to roam lower, caressing the hard, leather clad thighs beneath them, and he sat up a bit to gaze longingly at that which his hands stroked. "You look so hot in this leather. I can see the shape of your legs, your cock."
"Touch it," Auto whispered, more urgently still.
"Beg me, Greek," the soldier growled playfully. As Auto stared at him, bewildered, the soldier loosened the leather ties at Auto's waistband with one hand, while he removed his beaded kilt with one quick, practiced tug of the other hand. Beneath, he wore a loincloth of twisted linen slung low on his hips. Autolycus gasped as spied the glistening, purple head of the warrior's cock jutting from the top of his loincloth. Breathing hard, heart pounding, he longed to suck that dark head as much as he wanted the Mycenaean to touch him.
"You like, hm?" The Mycenaean purred, touching Autolycus' pelvis with long strokes, in tandem, on either side of his straining cock.
"Gods, that's perfect too," Auto gasped, shocked at himself.
The soldier smiled and slid his fingers down the front of his loincloth, while his other hand settled on the bulge in the front of Auto's leather pants, squeezing gently. "Gods, yes!" the thief hissed, as the Mycenaean exposed more of his exquisite, dark shaft.
"Don't tell the gods," the soldier chided, grinning. "They're so jealous, they might come and crash our party."
"Let me see your cock," Autolycus panted, firmly telling the nagging voice in his head that he didn't care if he *was* a pervert. The Mycenaean wet his lips again and smiled, slowly pushing his loincloth lower, allowing his graceful fingers to play over the head of his own cock a bit. "Come on, show it to me," the thief breathed. Fondling Auto's balls with his other hand, the warrior shoved his loincloth to the base of his cock and stroked the veined shaft a few times with his thumb and forefinger, holding it up for Autolycus' inspection.
"Bring it up here," Auto urged, forgetting once again that his hands were tangled, and knotting them up further attempting to grasp at the other man's cock. He'd have to use his mouth, he realized, shocked to find himself salivating at the prospect. He knew it would turn his lover on if he asked, no, *begged* to do it.
"Stick that purple cock in my mouth, dead boy," he sneered, watching the Mycenaean's pupils dilate with desire. The dusky man continued to stroke himself slowly, entranced by the words of man beneath him. "Come on, feed me that cock of yours. Let me taste you, you greased Mycenaean slut." Autolycus arousal doubled as he watched his lover begin to pant from the force of his words. "Fuck my mouth, you bastard."
Releasing Autolycus' balls to untie his loincloth, the Mycenaean removed the intricately wrapped strip of linen and dropped it in the gray grass. He raised up his torso so that he was kneeling tall over Autolycus' hips, proffering his tawny, oiled body, glinting with bits of gold jewelry. He was the most beautiful man in the world, at that moment.
The spear hit like lightning, the force of the blow knocking the thief's teeth together. The next thing Autolycus knew, his lover toppled off of him. Strangely, the spear protruding from his chest jutted at an angle parallel to his erect cock.
Somehow, survival instincts kicked in, and Autolycus rolled to the side and came up in a low crouch, dagger in his hands. He held them clasped together, as if wielding a two-handed sword, ruing the fact that his shirt was hopelessly tangled around them. He faced his lover's assassin, a swarthy fighter whose face was mostly lost in an overpowering black beard and long, wavy hair. The hairy man reached toward his own scabbard for a knife, and Autolycus launched his dagger, accurate even with his hands tied together. The dagger buried itself in the fighter's throat, collapsing him immediately.
Autolycus stood for a moment, stunned, then began flailing wildly, trying to get loose from his own shirt. He could've just run, if his hands weren't tied together, but with the bound hands, the other guy would've been sure to catch him.
"You fucking asshole!!"
Auto jumped, looking at his Mycenaean lover, startled. The warrior sat up and pulled the spear out of his chest with a horrible sucking sound. He stood up and strode over to the fallen assassin, his thick hard-on bobbing in front of him absurdly. Auto stared as the huge chest wound quickly sealed itself and the blood fell away.
"I was getting laid, you vicious bastard! What the fuck is your problem??" he screamed at the supine bearded form. "Fucking Sumerians." He threw the spear down, hitting the Sumerian in the head.
The downed warrior spasmed, recovering from his 'death,' and began to chortle. It made an ugly sound with Autolycus' dagger in his windpipe. "I got you good," he tittered.
Like the Mycenaean, the Sumerian had no trace of an accent. *Must be a dead thing* Auto mused, willing his stomach to stop wrapping around his heart and go back down where it belonged, while he took some slow, even breaths.
"Who you got there?" the Sumerian asked. "A Celt?"
"No, a Greek," the Mycenaean snarled impatiently. "Now go away."
The Sumerian plucked Auto's dagger from his neck and lobbed it easily toward the thief, burying the blade in the ground at his feet. The blood had somehow spun off as it wheeled through the air, and Auto imagined that his throat had probably already sealed itself up.
"You know what they say about Greeks," the Sumerian leered.
"Go the fuck away," screamed the Mycenaean, "or I'm gonna tell your commander what you just did!"
That threat seemed to be effective for some reason, and the hairy Sumerian turned and ran off among the bushes, sneaking covert glances at Autolycus until he was out of view. The glistening, nude Mycenaean watched him angrily, hands on his hips, relaxing only after the attacker was gone for sure.
"Uh oh, the mood is gone for you, isn't it?" the warrior asked cautiously, eying Autolycus as he freed one arm from his shirt and gauntlets and began working on the other. The Mycenaean's cock had softened a bit, pointing downward, but was still long and full.
"What was -- oh, never mind," Auto said with agitation. "I don't know." His second gauntlet and his shirt fell to the grass at his feet.
The Mycenaean approached him, lithe and fluid, and wrapped his arms around Auto's naked chest. The thief shivered, though it wasn't cold. "That wasn't what you think. I can hardly imagine what I would've felt, if I saw that when I was alive. It must've bothered you a lot." The warrior spoke softly, nuzzling Auto's ear, taking the lobe tentatively between his white teeth. "Think of it as -- a play. And we rehearse it over and over, improvising here and there, because we have nothing better to do." His tongue traced the outer curves of Autolycus' ear, making the thief tremble gently and lean into the warrior's embrace. "It's really bad form to attack someone else while they're obviously doing something -- unrelated." Autolycus shifted as the warrior's tongue grew bolder, darting into his ear, making him shiver. "Forget about that idiot," he whispered, clasping Autolycus tighter. "Don't let him ruin our fun. That was nothing."
While the horrible scene Auto had just witnessed could hardly be called "nothing," the Mycenaean's voice was gentle and soothing, and his embrace felt solid and reassuring. Autolycus sighed softly and carefully put his arms around his lover, shy again, unsure of where exactly to rest his hands. He heard the warrior's lips part in a smile next to his ear.
"You feel wonderful against me, handsome Greek," the warrior whispered, his breath warm in Autolycus' ear. Auto felt a hot tongue circling his ear, sending butterflies to his stomach and a surge of blood to his crotch, then the tongue was dragged slowly downwards along the muscle in Auto's neck.
"That feels nice," the thief whispered, sliding his fingertips tentatively around on the small of the Mycenaean's oiled back.
The warrior pulled back for a moment to look Autolycus up and down, and smiled. He drew the thief close again and began breathing softly in his ear, sending chills down Auto's spine. He seemed to know when to slow down and stop to keep the torment from becoming more of a tickle than an arousal, and the thief enjoyed the tantalizing sensations, feeling a heat steadily develop in his groin again. "Your nipples are red and swollen from me sucking on them," whispered the Mycenaean, and Autolycus moaned as if his cock had just been grasped, though his member was, as of yet, untouched. The warrior's capable hand worked its way up Auto's bare torso in a sleek caress, finding the nipple as if it was made specially for his fingers.
Autolycus grunted as his straining erection returned full force. He grasped the Mycenaean firmly and ground his leather-constrained crotch into the warrior's proud erection, while the warrior tweaked his nipple with one hand and wove his fingers through Auto's hair with the other. The nuzzling at Auto's ear worked its way forward to his cheek, and soon the warrior was nibbling at Auto's mustache with his strong, white teeth. Sighing contentedly, Autolycus tilted his head a bit to allow the Mycenaean warrior to vanquish his mouth in a hungry kiss.
The warrior's full lips sucked and fondled Autolycus' firmly, but not harshly. They kissed slowly, breathing hard through their noses, Autolycus sucking contentedly on the warrior's lower lip. Without warning, his nipple was pinched hard. When Auto's lips parted in a gasp, the warrior's solid tongue was there, probing, exploring eagerly. Again, Auto found the self-assured aggression to be incredibly erotic, and ground his hips against the other man's in a slow circle. His nipple was tingling warmly from the release of the hard pressure of the warrior's fingers as that hand began to stroke Auto's flank lazily.
"I'm hard again," the thief murmured.
"Yes," the Mycenaean replied simply, clasping Auto's hair as he sampled the thief's mouth, sliding his other hand down to cup the leather-clad buttocks.
"You feel so fucking good," Autolycus whispered feverishly, licking the full lips, clashing teeth occasionally, not caring.
"Touch me," breathed the warrior. "Hold my cock. Stroke it. Feel what you do to me."
Auto steeled himself. He'd never touched another man's penis before, but now he wanted to, oh, how he wanted to. One hand snaked up to lose itself in the black, curling hair that hung between the warrior's shoulder blades, while the other slid between the grinding hips, grasping the stiff rod firmly.
"Ahhh...feel how fucking hard I am," gasped the Mycenaean. He broke the kiss, as if the sensation at his crotch was too overwhelming to allow him to do anything else but simply enjoy it, while Autolycus explored the feel of the other cock. It was much thicker than his, rock hard and textured with veins. His palm enveloped the dark tip, feeling the slickness of the warrior's arousal there. He brought his hand to his face and breathed the musky scent of the other man, tasted it with his tongue.
"Shit, you look so fucking sexy," growled the warrior, hips thrust forward, kneading Auto's ass now with both hands, hard, as if those cheeks were the only thing holding him up. "You like that cock, Greek?"
"Yeah," Auto whispered, reaching back down and stroking the hard shaft eagerly. "Oh, yeah." The strong hands fondling his ass felt great; they caused his pants to rub against his balls in a very stimulating manner.
"I love watching you with my cock in your hand. Mmmm, yeah, look how your hand wraps around it." The warrior threw his head back and groaned wordlessly.
Working the other cock with strong, sure strokes, Autolycus quit playing with the Mycenaean's hair and struggled to undo his pants with his other hand. The warrior brought one of his hands around to Autolycus' front, but instead of helping Auto free his cock, he simply squeezed it through the leather again. "I bet your cock hurts, Greek. I feel how hard it is in there. You want me to suck it, don't you? Yeah, I'm gonna taste that hot Greek cock of yours, and suck it good, swallow it in my throat."
Autolycus whimpered in frustration, fumbling, wondering if his pants had been made by Hephaestus. The Mycenaean took pity on him, eventually, bringing his ass-squeezing hand into play and unlacing the front of Auto's pants. Gently, he took the hand Auto was using to caress him into his, and stepped back slightly.
"Let's see," he whispered playfully. "Let's see that pretty Greek cock, huh?"
"Ohyeah....." Auto sighed, as the warrior peeled away his leather pants and his long, stiff cock sprung free of its confinement. His inner thigh was wet with precum. The Mycenaean dove instantly to his knees, burying his face in the thief's groin, inhaling deeply.
"I could cum just from the smell of you," he said, the words blazing a trail of hot breath across Autolycus' balls, making them tighten deliciously.
Auto groaned. "I'm gonna cum just listening to you," he murmured, resting his hand atop the raven curls, stroking them absently. His breath caught in his throat as the warrior circled the base of his cock with his thumb and forefinger, and held it hard. Autolycus stared down at his flushed cock, eyes bulging. He knew that trick, how to squeeze his cock at the base, had learned it from a courtesan who was much in demand for her expertise. It prolonged the experience, and kept the cock so incredibly, impossibly hard that it was almost torturous.
"I see you've done this before," he laughed shakily, as the Mycenaean lapped daintily at his dewy tip. Without reply, the warrior leaned forward and slid the length of the thief's cock into his mouth and down past the back of his throat. Auto screamed raggedly, overwhelmed by the sudden heat of that beautiful, exotic mouth. The other man laughed around the cock in his throat, sending a shiver up and down Auto's spine. He drew back slowly, lubricating the shaft with his saliva, sucking happily, until the red, red tip emerged from between his lips. Autolycus groaned loudly.
"Maybe you'd better lay down, Greek," he said, smiling. "I'm only just starting."
"I'm not gonna last long," Auto replied, panting. "You're so good."
"Oh?" he grinned. "Okay, then I'll go slower."
"Nooo," Auto gasped. "You can't. I'll fall apart." His raging hard-on still raged, even though it was being momentarily neglected, because the tight ring of the Mycenaean's fingers wasn't allowing any of the blood to leave it.
"Come on, lay down," the warrior smiled, guiding Auto down onto the soft grass, not letting go of his rubine prize. "You wanna taste my cock?" he asked, smiling gently at the trembling Greek laying beside him. Auto nodded wordlessly. The other man swung around so that they were both head to crotch and lay on his side, then resumed licking Auto's erection like it was candy.
Autolycus grasped the thick cock in his face firmly, blowing gently on the quivering tip. Slowly, he moved his thumb up the bottom of the fat shaft, and was rewarded with a grunt as the warrior engulfed Auto's cock fully again, contracting his throat muscles maddeningly around the tip. If those fingers weren't around his base, he'd have cum already.
"Shityou'resogoodIcan'ttakeit," Auto yelled.
The Mycenaean withdrew Auto's cock very slowly again, sucking hard, and lingering at the tip for a bit before he spoke. "You're that far along, huh?"
Auto lay on his back and gasped at his lover wordlessly.
The warrior smiled indulgently. "I guess I'll have to give you two incredible orgasms, then: One to take this edge of urgency off, and another to share with me." Raising himself up on his elbows and knees, the warrior swung his cock away from Auto's fumbling, distracted grasp and concentrated solely and pleasuring the thief. His free hand traveled again to the rock hard nipples, causing Auto to arch his back and grunt incoherently. The hand that was damming the blood from Auto's cock remained in place, and the talented mouth was put to work laving the stiff cock with saliva, then executing a rather vigorously paced blow job.
"Oh, oh, ooohhh," Auto howled as the full lips stroked up and down his shaft in a steady rhythm, no longer teasing, driving inexorably, unrelenting, to his goal. His thighs began to quiver uncontrollably, and his nipples were pinched hard and twisted, first one, then the other, each shooting a signal down to the groin: Cum! Cum! The Mycenaean then increased his tempo, Autolycus wailing wordlessly, drenched in his own sweat, hips bucking hard and wild. Just as the thief though he couldn't take any more, the pressure at the base of his cock was released, allowing his jism to spurt forth, hot and thick and raging, as his whole body spasmed in the throes of the most monumental orgasm he'd ever experienced.
Autolycus lay on his back, gasping and spent, staring at the muted, pearly sky. His heart pounded wildly and his ears rang, and he had to force himself to breathe more slowly for fear of hyperventilating. As he slowly regained a sense of himself, Auto glanced over and spied the Mycenaean warrior sitting beside him on the grass, long brown legs tucked beneath him, stocking his thick cock slowly while he watched the thief recover.
"Damn, Sunshine, you always howl like that?"
"Only when someone's rocking my world," Auto gasped, grinning weakly. The other cock being stroked riveted his attention, and he stared at it as if transfixed. "You know, I should be doing that for you."
The Mycenaean grinned. "You never even managed to suck it, just started flailing around and screaming. Not that I'm complaining."
"Maybe we should do something about that," suggested the thief, rolling onto
his side and raising himself up on one elbow.
The Mycenaean was unhurried, gazing at his lover contentedly, stroking his rod slowly up, then down. "You were so sexy when you came." He shook his head, as if in disbelief. "So incredibly hot. Come over here, Greek. Come over here and touch me, and let me touch you."
Autolycus rolled onto his belly and crawled to the dusky warrior on his elbows and knees. The grass that had clung to his sweating body simply fell away, just as the blood had from the warriors' wounds. The Mycenaean smiled softly as Auto straddled his bent knees and climbed up his naked chest, taking a handful of black curls in each fist and kissing him hard. Auto's belly rubbed the other man's cock, as the warrior's hands abandoned it in favor of exploring his new lover's thighs and hips and back. Their lips met eagerly, and the thief began again to feel the stirrings of arousal when he
smelled his own musky scent on the other's face.
The warrior toppled Auto sideways so they both lay on the grass again, grinding his hips playfully against his crotch and planting long caresses down the thief's flanks. Autolycus slid his hand down the Mycenaean's oiled back, coating his palm with the unguent, then slipped it between their writhing bodies to engulf his lover's cock in a warm, slippery grasp.
"Shit, yeah," he hissed into Auto's mouth, panting, grinding his crotch more urgently.
Autolycus broke the kiss, trailing his tongue across the warrior's cheek and into his ear. "Got more oil?" he whispered, between quick, teasing darts of his tongue.
The warrior pushed Autolycus away brusquely. Auto wondered if he'd said something wrong, then realized that the Mycenaean was grinning broadly. The warrior jogged over to the bushes, his thick erection bobbing in front of him, then reached down into the foliage and produced a leather satchel. He rummaged within until he produced a rather hefty flask. "One advantage of wearing oil," he quipped, sprinting back to the thief and pouncing on him carelessly.
"Hey, watch the elbows," Auto whined. "Some of us can't heal ourselves with a thought."
The warrior just laughed at him and flopped onto his back, limbs sprawling. "Come on, Greek, work your magic on me."
Autolycus unstopped the phial and sniffed the contents. The aroma was pleasant, subtle, with a hint of spices. He dribbled a line of oil down the front of the Mycenaean's torso, allowing several extra drops to spatter onto his inner thighs and engorged penis. He set the bottle aside and began massaging the warrior's chest with both of his hands using long, firm, swirling strokes. The oil released its fragrance as it was warmed by the friction between them. "Now every time I smell nutmeg, I'll think of you," Autolycus murmured, wondering belatedly if that was a terribly cheesy thing to say (not that that usually stopped him). The warrior just smiled in return with such warmth in his eyes that Auto stopped second guessing himself.
Not wanting to be considered a tease, Autolycus didn't linger overlong on the hard, developed chest or the graceful, tapering waist beneath his fingers. Within moments, he'd worked his way down to the warrior's thighs and began exploring the creases between them and his crotch, and down further where the rounded globes of his ass began. The Mycenaean sighed, bent his knees and spread his thighs, giving Autolycus a delicious view. He thrust his hips up in a slow gyration and moaned, encouraging the thief to fondle and play. Soon the dark cock and dusky balls glistened with oil, as Autolycus worked each in a different hand, fascinated by the sight of his new lover writhing under his touch, desperately plucking at his own nipples.
The Mycenaean's breathing grew labored, and Autolycus tightened his grasp on the lubricated cock, continuing to stroke it in long, even strokes. "Don't forget about my ass, Greek," the warrior growled, grinning. "That's supposed to be your specialty."
Autolycus' rhythm faltered. "How do I...I mean...I don't want to hurt you."
The prone warrior laughed at him. "Slide that greasy finger in there nice and slow. Go on." He thrust up his hips eagerly. Autolycus worked the fragrant oil into the cleft of his beautiful ass, running his fingertip back and forth over the tight, puckered opening.
The Mycenaean made a strangled noise. "Do it, Greek! You're driving me crazy! Shit, you can't hurt me, come on!"
*True, he recovered from the spear pretty well,* Auto thought. Clenching his jaw tight, Autolycus positioned his middle finger over the warrior's asshole and pushed gently but firmly.
"Ahhh...." the Mycenaean growled, low in his throat, jerking his hips upward. Auto was surprised that the opening seemed eager enough, after the initial bit of resistance. Encouraged by the warrior's response, Auto began to pump his finger gently in and out of the tight ass.
"Yeah, you got it. So sweet. Uhn. Oh yeah..." the Mycenaean grunted a litany of encouragement with each stroke, each pump, his deep olive cheeks growing ruddy. "Okay," he said after several minutes, stilling his hips, "now two."
Autolycus was dubious, though he wasn't going to argue with the pleasure he was apparently giving his new lover. He splashed some more oil onto his fingers and carefully worked a pair of fingers inside the warrior, again pumping them in and out patiently, gently. Before long the Mycenaean was
trembling with pleasure, and his words of encouragement had turned into nonsensical grunts. He tore up tufts of the gray grass in his excitement, rolling his head from side to side in abandon. Then he stopped again.
"Okay, my pretty Greek," he gasped. "Now give me your cock."
Fully aroused by the sight of the other man's pleasure at his hands, the thief's cock leapt visibly at the invitation. Auto dumped the rest of the oil onto his rod, spread it around with a quick swipe, then jumped into position between the muscular brown legs like a man on fire diving into a pool. The Mycenaean tilted his hips up and reached down around his rump to guide the
eager thief in.
Auto's head swam as he tried to enter his lover slowly, though he was so turned on that he wanted to spike the other man to the ground with his raging erection. A small thrust, and the head was in. Autolycus trembled with restraint, closing his eyes and trying to calm himself. He felt one oiled, brown leg wrap around his waist, and then a second, forcing him to brace himself to support the warrior's weight.
His eyes shot open as the warrior thrust up, burying Autolycus deep within his hot, hot ass. Once he stopped seeing flashes of pretty colors, Auto stared down into that exotic Mediterranean face that was grinning wickedly at him.
"Ride me, Greek."
All rational thought dissolved as Autolycus plowed into his warrior lover again and again as if to drive him into the ground. Squirming and flailing, the Mycenaean coordinated himself long enough to grasp one of the thief's hands and plant it on his throbbing, oiled cock. Caught up in his own passion, Autolycus pumped the thick cock roughly in time with his deep, hard thrusts. Within minutes, the Mycenaean was roaring wordlessly, his thick, hot cum shooting between their bodies. As he came, his sphincter pulsed, ripping a second orgasm from Autolycus. The thief screamed and slammed into to the warrior, his balls slapping the tawny, oiled ass beneath him.
Auto collapsed, sucking great gasps of air into his lungs. Stars danced at the edges of his vision and he almost felt as if he was floating. The tips of his fingers and toes were tingling, and lips were numb. Beneath him, the warrior drank air just as greedily, though occasionally pausing for a sigh.
"You need me to, uh, move?"
The warrior smiled, that warm, warm, smile again, and ruffled Auto's hair. "You're okay there. You're not gonna crush me."
Autolycus was relieved, and lay his head on the Mycenaean's shoulder, breathing in the scent of the spiced oil, the cum, and his own sweat. The warrior didn't sweat, Auto noticed, perhaps because he was dead.
Autolycus buried his face in the wavy, black hair and tried to sort out the ugly feeling of loss that was creeping up on him.
*I'm alive, he's dead, and it's not as if I didn't know that going in to this thing,* he told himself. He hoped the dead couldn't read thoughts as easily as the gods did; he didn't want the warrior to think he was some kind of sissy. He couldn't help but imagine them together as a team, plundering the wealth of the world together. The man was strong, and agile, and probably
swung a mean sword.
"Are you asleep?"
"Huh?" Auto asked, embarrassed about the strange, clingy feelings washing over him.
"You still need to sleep, right? I always used to, after a good lay."
"I can't, here."
"You mean outside?"
Auto propped himself up on one elbow so he could look down at the Mycenaean. "No, in the Underworld."
The warrior gazed back at him, those big brown eyes of his so soft and understanding.
"We'd have been good partners, if we'd have known each other," Autolycus said sadly, not caring if he seemed weak.
The warrior seemed to understand. Of course he did. He was Auto's perfect partner, rough where it suited him, soft where it didn't. And he was dead.
"I think the atmosphere's getting to you, Living Boy. We had a real sweet fuck just now. You should be happy."
Autolycus kissed him. "I want more. I'm greedy that way."
The warrior smiled. "Do your best to stay out of Tartarus, then, and I'll meet you here by this door."
Autolycus grinned. "What if I end up in the Elysian fields?"
The Mycenaean laughed. He plucked one of Auto's lockpicks out of the grass, where it had fallen when the thief struggled out of his vest. "Somehow, I doubt it." The warrior held Auto in the strong circle of his arms and placed small kisses along his brow. "Don't feel so bad. I was dead and gone a thousand years by the time you were born. We're lucky to have met like this, each of us in his prime."
"Yeah," Auto said sadly. "Real lucky."
Eventually the warrior released him and got up, winding and wrapping the strip of linen that was his loincloth. "I wouldn't stick around out here if I was you. You can see how rockheaded those Sumerians are. They'd kill you first and figure out you were on a mission for War later."
Autolycus nodded and shrugged into his clothing numbly, wondering what was wrong with himself. He was acting like a virgin maiden who'd just given it up to a transient mercenary, for crying out loud! He did his best to look chipper as he nimbly refastened all his buckles and ties.
"Whatever you're doing here, don't tell me. I don't want to be held responsible," the warrior grinned. He clasped Autolycus' forearm in a warrior's handshake. "But good luck." He must have seen the longing in the thief's eyes, because instead of releasing Auto's arm, he tugged him forward for a final, soft kiss. With that, the ancient Mycenaean turned and melded quietly into the bushes.
Autolycus sighed and turned toward the garden door, shaking his head ruefully. When a job blew out of control it always seemed to get exponentially worse, and this with this assignment he'd hit the motherlode. *Okay, where the heck is the stupid lock?* he thought sullenly, extracting his favorite lockpick from his vest and stroking it between his thumb and forefinger. He stared. Was it hidden? He squinted. Nothing. He ran the sensitive pads of his fingers along the doorframe. Nada. Rolling his eyes in disgust, he turned the doorknob.
The huge black door swung open.
Shrugging listlessly, Autolycus slid in through the door, closing it silently behind him.
The Mycenaean grinned as he watched his lover disappear into the imposing black edifice. He shook his head gently and sighed as he emerged from the bushes, then stood for a moment with his hands on his hips, gazing at the last spot Autolycus had occupied. He stared, a tiny smile playing upon his lips, then shook his head again as he bent down to retrieve his leather satchel. Several scrolls threatened to spill from within, and one errant document had escaped onto the ground. The dusky man snatched up the scroll and tucked it away with the others, slinging the satchel over his shoulder. He spared one final look at the imposing black door, then turned on his heel and began to run.
The inside of Hades' abode was as still as the rest of his domain. Autolycus snuck with his quietest sneak, but eventually determined that his effort was wasted as there was nobody around to circumvent.
"Would it have been better or worse if I had asked his name? Or would I be like a schoolgirl with her first crush, writing our names together over and over with little hearts around them?" Autolycus half realized he was talking aloud, but huge hall that he wandered through was swathed with enough tapestry and fine brocade to absorb his abstracted muttering. "At least I can stop obsessing on the big, bad God of War," he sneered. He paused as he plucked a fine, jeweled sphere from a sideboard and tucked it into his vest for safekeeping. "I *did* stop obsessing about Ares. That's good." He secured a tiny golden figurine in a pouch dangling from his belt. "It seems healthier to be preoccupied with the Mycenaean. At least we did something worth remembering." He fingered a tapestry depicting a swirly, gray landscape, obviously woven by one of the locals. "At least he was just a regular guy like me, once. Not a god. At least he *liked* me."
Autolycus exited the room with all his pockets and pouches stuffed full, only to be dazzled by a new display of treasure within the second room. "Should've brought a cart," he mumbled, running his hands along silk and gold, diamonds and furs. Every space in the room was occupied by a treasure grander than the one next to it, yet the collection of items was harmonious as a group.
The next room stunned the thief's eyes again, sparkling softly in muted blue and green fabrics, with warm silver and pearly, burnished pottery glowing among them. The next room was a vision of carmine and gold, and the next amethyst and ivory. Room after room, each brimming with treasure, each meticulously arranged and maintained, and none with an occupant to enjoy it. Eventually the thief's senses began to overload, and while the scenery didn't exactly pall on him, it did begin to blur together a bit.
Autolycus shuffled forward, eyes glazed, and nearly jumped out of his skin when a throaty cry rang forth from a room to his side. He sank gracefully against the wall, then edged up to the vaulted doorway, peeking his head carefully around the edge.
Within the massive, wealth-filled chamber, a warrior was sprawled on his back atop a huge, carved table. He was muscular and thickly built, bearded, with a mop of dark hair streaming behind him, the front casually caught in a hasty topknot. His chest was bare, save for a pair of bands crisscrossing his bare torso, a throwing dagger housed on the front of each strap. A leather kilt spanned his hips, pushed up around his thighs. Another man was wedged between his legs, head bobbing eagerly. Autolycus probably wouldn't have been particularly shocked, considering his own activities earlier in the garden, except that the two men looked exactly alike.
As Autolycus averted his head, the jeweled egg slid out of his vest, hitting the floor with a terribly loud clatter.
*Why me?* he thought fleetingly, as he turned and ran for his life. Darting through room upon room stuffed with booty, the offerings of ages, Autolycus easily gained distance on the bulkier men. *Now, if I could just find somewhere to hide 'till the heat is off, I'll be in business,* he thought, just as he crashed into a muscular chest.
Auto spun, only to see the chest's twin coming at him from behind.
The thief sighed heavily, and raised his arms above his head. Fighting was useless, as he couldn't hurt the dead, and these two obviously knew the labyrinth of treasure well enough to surround him neatly.
"What the fuck?" one massive warrior asked his mirror image.
The other shrugged. "Stealin'," he said, bewildered.
"Are you crazy?" the first one barked, addressing Auto.
The thief smoothed his mustache and quirked an eyebrow. A convenient alibi failed to spring to mind, but one did have to try. "My good man, why on earth would I be stealing? I certainly couldn't spend the money down here, now could I? Obviously, I was simply rearranging..."
"Fuck, and he's a live one, too!" the second one bellowed.
Autolycus' forearms were grasped roughly by brute #1 and twisted behind him. "Let's put 'im in the dungeon, I guess. Let the inquisitor figure out what to do with 'im." The man holding him began to march, dragging Auto along with him. It apparently mattered little whether the thief chose to walk or not. The other man's lumbering gait and iron grasp drew him along as inexorably as a landslide.
Autolycus was dragged through room upon room upon countless room. He tried lying, cajoling, wheedling a response out of his matched set of captors, but they were as stubborn and dense as they were humongous. An imposing portcullis was reached, one of the twins gaining access with a huge, black key. They passed though the gate and began descending down, down, down a ridiculously long spiral staircase. Autolycus wondered if he was being dragged to the core of the Underworld itself. Then his heart skipped a beat. What if they were throwing him in Tartarus?
"Uh, guys? This wouldn't happen to lead to Tartarus, would it?"
The two huge warriors met eyes over the top of Auto's head and sniggered at his expense. "Do ya think we should set him to fillin' the cup with the hole in the bottom?" the one with the key asked.
"Nah, that's old," replied the one that was crushing Auto's wrists. "Let's make 'im count the grains of sand on a beach," he chuckled.
*Ohmigod. Hermes, help me, Hermes, please...*
The stairway leveled out into a wide, vaulted, imposing looking hall protected by a very evil looking metal gate. Beyond the pointy gate, the walls were of matte, black stone, and ebony torches set in black iron sconces burned with an eerie bluish flame. Another key was produced and a black iron grillwork door was unlocked on one wall. The man holding Autolycus released him suddenly, yanked off his vest, shoved him roughly though the doorway, then slammed the grille shut behind him.
"Guys, guys, come on..." he pleaded.
"Don't worry," the one with the key said as he sealed the door, "you won't starve to death."
"Listen, don't go, I'll make it worth your while. I've got connections..."
The warriors ignored him. Strolling slowly away, one's hand lay on the small of the other's back, their faces bent close, laughing gently.
Autolycus paced the floor of his 10 by 10 by 10 foot cube. It was featureless and black, lit dimly from a blue torch across the hall. It seemed clean, had no smell, and was neither hot nor cold, damp not dry. There was nothing in the cell at all, not so much as a stick of furniture. The thief tried to cram his hand through the filigreed scrollwork on the gate, but the metal was worked too closely. "Fat lot of good the lockpick in my boot'll do me if the lock and the hinges are outside," he muttered angrily.
He explored the cell in excruciating detail for what seemed like hours, though there really wasn't much detail to be found. He rested, annoyed that sleep wasn't going to happen, and racked his brain for ideas. He considered praying, though he wasn't in any immediate danger and he didn't want to pester Hermes unnecessarily.
After an eternity, or at least half of one, a voice rang out from the hall, sending the thief half out of his skin with fright.
"I don't know how you manage to surprise me, but somehow you always do."
That voice! It was familiar, safe. Autolycus ran to the grille, thrusting his fingertips through the scrollwork, staring eagerly between the worked strips of metal. "Iolaus?"
The blonde man before him was unmistakably Hercules' companion, though he looked strikingly different in death. He was dressed to the nines in a sumptuous pewter-colored silk blouse and black snakeskin trousers, platinum jewelry sparkling from his throat, wrists and ear. A long, tapering silver sword dangled loosely from his grasp, so intricate with etching and bright from polishing that it seemed faceted, like a fine jewel. His hair had gotten quite long, spilling rakishly across one eye and down over his shoulder like spun electrum. Somehow, Iolaus seemed more complete, as if it was no longer necessary for him to appear next to his partner to be whole. He seemed taller.
He glared at the thief, his blue-gray eyes like storm clouds, waggling the green leather vest hanging from the tip of his index finger. "I've never, ever heard of anyone with balls enough to steal from Hades."
"Fine, blondie, fine. How 'bout you open up this here door, then you can tell Auto what a bad boy he's been." *Um, am I flirting with Iolaus? What's with me?* He looked the hunter up and down. While his new outfit concealed more of his flesh than his old purple vest / leather pants combo, it seemed to flow more gracefully over his limbs, and accentuated the supple, artful curves and planes of his body very nicely. Something about the way he now held himself was very intriguing as well. It was as if he now carried more authority and respect.
"What were you thinking, Autolycus?" he spat. Autolycus was hurt that Iolaus was so oblivious to his apparent charms. "And how did you get here? Did you bribe someone to get you down here, is that it?? Don't you realize the whole world is gonna be in an uproar if you come running out of the Underworld with an armful of loot???"
Autolycus leaned against the grillwork and presented his most charmingly roguish face to the hunter, head tilted down, eyes open wide, eyebrows raised for effect. "C'mon, Iolaus, I can be discreet," he whispered confidentially, hoping he'd get the double entendre.
"Oh, like the King of Thieves wouldn't want to be known as the one who plundered the Underworld!"
"Please," Auto said, grasping his chest, "you wound me." *That's got a great ring to it. I'll have to keep it in mind. Ohyeah, never did figure out if the dead can read minds or not.*
Iolaus snorted and tapped his foot.
"Okay, you've made your point. So let me out of here already, that's obviously what you came for. No sense in dallying until Sucky and Schmucky come back to keep me company."
"What the?" Iolaus threw his hands in the air and paced in a neat little circle, giving Auto a very nice view of his fine, compact ass. "I-- came here-- to get you out! That's priceless."
Okay, the package looked good but the contents left something to be desired. "If you're not comfortable talking about it, I understand. Just unlock that little mechanism there and not another word need be said."
Iolaus addressed Autolycus as if he'd left his brain elsewhere. "What --are --you --doing --here?"
The thief grew annoyed at the little scamp's perseverance on such a dull subject, not to mention the fact that he was still on the wrong side of a locked door. "Who are you? My father?"
Iolaus looked at him, eyes like steel. "No, your inquisitor."
"Ha! That's rich. Ha ha! A-hee hee hee! Hah. Huh...." Auto's laughter petered out as Iolaus stood stock still and continued to glare at him. "So what are you gonna do, torture me?"
"Physically, no. But solitary confinement should be agonizing enough for a guy like you."
"Oh, and you'd just leave me here to rot?"
Iolaus shook his blonde curls. "You have no bodily needs here. You wouldn't rot. You'd probably just be bored to tears."
"Hmph." The little blonde goody-twoshoes looked like he meant business. Autolycus suddenly recalled that he never did like Iolaus much, and his off-the-cuff sex fantasy was summarily abandoned.
"So if you don't want to tell me now, I can always come back in a year or two..." Iolaus turned and began walking slowly away.
"All right, blondie, come on back," the thief groaned. "Look, all that shit in my pockets, just put it back, okay? I don't know why I took it. Force of habit, I guess."
Iolaus' glaring face softened slightly. "Are you saying you didn't come here specifically to rip Hades off?"
Auto shook his head, though technically he did, he like to think of it more as a retrieval of stolen property.
"What, then?" Iolaus asked quietly.
Autolycus could certainly make up ten different lies without batting an eyelash, but he suspected that none of them would bring him any closer to finding the Adderstone. But blondie, er, "the inquisitor" might be of some assistance.
"Hades has an item that he got by accident, Iolaus. I was sent here to get it back. How was I to know I'd be walking in to a treasure vault? I thought it was all gonna be tombs and dirges down here. Then I saw all the sparklies, got caught up in the moment... You know how it is." There. He'd tried honesty.
Iolaus stood and stared, his weight all on one leg, hips tilted, silk shirt catching the blue torch light just so, looking like he was posing just for Auto's viewing pleasure. He appeared to be buying it...
"Who sent you?"
"Does it matter?" Auto cried.
"Of course it matters!" Iolaus snarled.
"Look, you're not going to approve, but you don't understand the situation."
"So enlighten me."
"This thing I'm looking for belonged to another god. Then this slimy-assed thief stole it, killed an old lady in the process, and offered it to Hades because he didn't want to die."
Iolaus scowled and pursed his lips. "That's pretty gauche. The offering part, I mean."
"If I could just get the item and bring it to its rightful owner, everything would be smooth."
*Blondie's giving this some serious thought. Good, he believes me.*
"Okay, this item," Iolaus asked. "Does it have a name, or can't you tell me that either?"
Auto swallowed hard. He supposed the only way he'd find the thing in the never ending pile of treasure would be to ask. He hated asking. "It's called the Adderstone."
Iolaus shrugged. "Never heard of it."
Autolycus lurched sideways was a sickening rush of vertigo hit him. His ears roared as if a hurricane was raging around him, and goosebumps raised on every inch of his flesh. Behind Iolaus, a majestic figure materialized out of thin air, removing an elaborate black helmet from his head.
"Never mind, Iolaus. I've got it. It's Ares' artifact."
It had to be Hades. Somehow, Auto never imagined he would look so powerful, had always thought that the God of the Dead would be more corpselike. Instead, the god before him was a king. Tall and urbane, Hades glittered from head to toe with jewels. The bloody ruby that clasped the cloak at his white throat was valuable enough to feed a kingdom for a year. A ring glittered off of every finger, and tiny black onyx and crystalline diamonds sparked from the hem of his tunic. His expression was calm, neutral.
Incongruous with the rest of his outfit, the dull Adderstone lay on Hades' chest.
Autolycus wasn't sure exactly when he sunk to the floor, but the sheer weight of the presence of Hades was so palpable that he literally could not remain standing before him. Apparently being dead didn't make one immune to Hades' aura, as Iolaus' sword clattered to the floor and he knelt at the Death God's feet, fervently kissing his rings. Hades hung the black helmet from a platinum ring at his belt, then began to caress Iolaus' hair absently. The hunter's breathing turned ragged at the touch of the god, and the look on his face was sheer bliss.
"Why did Ares not come himself?"
Each word from the god seemed to split open a layer of Autolycus' brain. He couldn't lie if he wanted to. "I don't know," he gasped, "he seemed like he didn't want to."
Hades stared at Autolycus. The thief felt as if he was drowning in the depths of the god's eyes. He feared that soon he wouldn't be able to breathe, and the immortal had not even touched him. At the god's feet, Iolaus was writhing and making a strange keening sound, rapture radiating from his eyes and mouth.
Hades leaned down toward the lock, and whispered something to it lovingly. The lock sprung open immediately, and the door swung gently outward on it
Auto's heart was pounding at his chest like a smith's hammer. If the god touched him, surely he would die from the utter ecstasy. Maybe he wanted to die.
As the god drew nearer, Autolycus sank face-down. He felt as if he was melting completely into the floor, and he could hear his own spittle dripping onto the black stones.
Only with the permission of the god did his body allow him to move. Autolycus struggled painfully onto his back, then stopped breathing, too full of the glory of the sight of the godcock hanging above him. Hades stared down at the thief dispassionately, his tunic hiked up into his belt, hose pulled down a bit to expose his divinity.
Lightheaded, the thief greedily drank air into his screaming lungs. Nothing existed for him except the huge, veined cock dangling above his face. Nothing.
"The worship feels different from a living mortal," Hades said conversationally as he knelt gracefully beside the boneless thief. Iolaus was crawling toward him from the hall outside the cell, gasping. "Come, inquisitor," the god encouraged. "Ready me."
Iolaus eagerly dragged his body the remaining few feet, and with a trembling hand, reached out and touched the cock of Hades. He made a weird gargling sound as his fingertips grazed the divine flesh, and Autolycus wondered distantly if he just came. Mesmerized, he stared as Iolaus worked the strangely pale member in his nervous hands, sobbing with passion as he did so. Yes, the hunter had to be cumming, the way his legs jerked behind him. Autolycus burned with desire to touch the cock himself, but his body was powerless to move unless bid by the dark god.
Hades sighed gently as Iolaus found a steady rhythm, and the sound of the god's pleasure sent a white hot bolt of need down the thief's spine. Iolaus, in physical contact with the god, reacted with a ferocious spasm, teeth ground tight as if to hold in a scream. "Yes, golden one," the god purred. Auto's cock wept at the sound of his voice. "Your touch is exquisite, as always." Iolaus flopped around as if he was cumming uncontrollably, while Hades' cock hardened to its full marblelike glory.
Auto's head spun to the susurration of blood in his ears as he beheld a sight that made his heart leap into his throat: A perfect, opaline drop had formed at the slit of Hades' cock. A raging fire blossomed in Auto's throat that could only be assuaged by that exquisite jewel of fluid. Somehow his body found the impetus to move without the Death God's leave.
Hades seemed amused by the thief's strength, and watched him as a man might watch an ant carrying a burden many times its own size. The god smirked. The thief's trembling hand reached for the god's cock as Autolycus groaned aloud with the effort. He knocked Iolaus' hand away easily, and the hunter rolled onto his side, panting, sated, eyelids fluttering. Lovingly, the thief wrapped his own fingers around the extraordinary godcock before him. He gasped and began to tremble as his blood was turned to fire, and he was gripped in the throes of an extended orgasm that was like none he'd ever experienced. Greedy as always, Autolycus expected that if a touch could satisfy him so, the drop of precum would surely be transcendent.
"Your mouth waters for my essence," purred the God of Death. "Your loins scream for it. Take it, thief, if you can."
Hand over hand, the thief dragged himself forward, climbing the god's body like he was scaling a wall. Hades' utterly black eyes were fixed on him, amusement playing about the corners of his aristocratic lips. He could smell the god now, rich, like the earth, and his mouth was literally watering, begging to be filled by the perfect white pillar he approached.
Then a red sun exploded behind his eyes, and Autolycus felt something very painful, and very wrong. He was on his back. Sharp pain coursed through his head, and his ears wouldn't stop ringing. He forced himself to stop making the pathetic mewling sounds that escaped him unbidden.
Ares, the voice belonged to Ares. After his kiss, Autolycus would forever be tuned in to the God of War. The thief forced his eyes open enough to see that he had been thrown to the back of the cell. Hades knelt in the doorway, his white cock proudly erect. Between Hades and Autolycus stood Ares, his massive hands balled into fists and planted on his hips.
"Why?" the Death God challenged quietly.
"Wasn't it bad enough, the stink you caused by doing that to Persephone?"
"It's but a drop, dear nephew. But one day a year that Autolycus need dwell in my realm."
Ares crouched down so his face was level with that of the elder god. "You've never been able to stop at that first drop," he murmured sweetly. "And the only reason Persephone could handle as much as she did was because she's a goddess." The God of War reached out his long, calloused index finger and caught the pearl of arousal on it, then brought his outstretched finger to Hades' lips.
Autolycus fought to stay conscious as Hades' black tongue snaked out and laved Ares' finger. Ares' breath hissed in raggedly as Hades leaned forward and whispered something to Ares' armor. Like a dying flower shedding its petals, the plates of armor slid off the War God and clattered on the floor around him. "Besides, Hermes has claimed him," Ares said, his voice unsteady. "Best not to anger little Hermes. He's a good ally."
Hades caressed Ares' silken undergarments and they melted away from his body at the elder god's touch. The thief fought to breathe beside the naked glory of the War God, his skin rippling over his tight muscles like molten bronze. "But I've sent a number of messages to Poseidon of late," replied Hades, a cruel smile gracing his lips. "Hermes wouldn't be able to hear his cries from the sea."
Ares grasped the front of Hades' jewel-encrusted tunic in both hands and casually rent the fabric in twain. The jewels made a tinkling sound as they bounced away on the black stone floor.
"Let him be," Ares growled, throwing the rich fabric to the floor as he would a rag. "Hermes serves you well, it would be stupid to cross him over a mortal."
Hades threw his head back, arching his long ivory neck invitingly while the War God began nipping a trail up his chest with sharp, white teeth. A necklace of dark bruises was left in his wake, purple and green as if they'd been inflicted long ago. "Ahhhh," groaned Hades, "but it's not about the mortal."
Ares grunted, clasping the Death God to his ravaging mouth with an iron grip to his back. Hades' eyes rolled back in his head as he lost himself to Ares cruel teeth. All was quiet save for the tiny gasps Hades made with each bite from the War God.
Autolycus reminded himself to blink. His eyes were burning from staring so hard at the spectacle before him as he lay perfectly still, breathing shallowly.
Ares drew back and ran his fingertips over his black and blue handiwork, licking his full lips eagerly. "It's not even about Hermes," Hades managed to gasp, obviously inflamed by Ares' painful attention. Ares shook his head and sunk his fingertips into Hades' chest, drawing his nails down the other god's torso in a long, deep scratch which left four parallel, crimson welts on the Death God's body.
"I know," Ares grumbled, plucking away Hades' black leggings and shredding them as if they were tissue. Ares grasped the other god around the biceps and yanked him off balance easily, and tore off one of Hades' high black boots, then the other. Five bruises in shape of fingerprints remained on Hades' upper arm.
Hades lay on one side, his weight on his hip and one elbow, allowing his eyes to roam over the War God's beautiful form. "Why did you wait so long?" he whispered.
Ares backhanded Hades in reply, sending him sprawling on his back. The side of his face turned the color of a ripe plum. "Dunno." He ran his thumb down the darkening cheek, then along Hades' white clavicle and across the bruised fingerprints below his shoulder. "I forget how good you look sometimes." He parted Hades' thighs roughly, leaving more purple fingerprints between them, then simply knelt there between his legs and gazed at him some more.
"I find it hard to believe that you forget," Hades said, a slight tremor in his voice. He sat up and licked Ares' nipple with a tongue like an orchid petal.
"Whatever," Ares replied, the tightness in his voice belying the carelessness of his words. He breathed hard through his nose while his uncle teased his brown nipples to arousal, then shoved the Death God back, hard. Hades' head made a strange thunk as it hit the stone floor. Ares hovered above him, eyes half lidded, and stared for a moment. Apparently satisfied with what he saw, he then glanced quickly around. Autolycus hoped he wasn't going to get blasted to cinders simply for being there, but the War God's glance skimmed over him as if he was of little significance. Ares' glance lingered a bit on Iolaus' insensate form, sprawled beside him like a rag doll. Abruptly, Ares thrust his hand down the front of the hunter's snakeskin trousers, then withdrew it along with a palmful of the mortal's semen. He slathered the juices onto his rampant cock with one hand, while he slapped the alabaster thighs on either side of him with the other, leaving angry, red marks in his wake.
"Don't you see, it only damages you when you run from your desire," Hades whispered like a snake.
Ares stared back wordlessly, slinging one pale leg over his shoulder, then the other. With no preamble, he shoved his gargantuan cock deep into the Death God's ass, sheathing himself to the base in the first hard stroke.
The God of War pressed his substantial weight down into Hades, folding the elder god in half, forcing him to support Ares' heavily muscled body with his sleek thighs. With his face mere inches from that of his uncle, Ares began to pump his cock in and out.
Autolycus stared dazedly as the muscles in the bronze god's ass bunched and flexed while he pistoned his huge erection into Hades. The slapping of Ares' balls against Hades' white ass seemed to be the loudest sound in the world, punctuated occasionally by a gasp or a grunt.
Beads of perspiration formed on Ares' upper back, giving the impression that his warm, rich skin was glowing. His black hair formed corkscrew ringlets as it dampened, his salt sweat dripping from his curls and plashing onto the face of his lover.
Like the other dead, Hades didn't sweat.
After several minutes of plundering the other god's body with his cock, Ares slowed his strokes, sliding his hand between their bodies to catch Hades' eager cock in his firm grasp. "I love how you fill me," Hades murmured, his breathing going ragged. Ares growled an unintelligible reply and pressed his face downward in a crushing kiss, compressing the pliant body beneath him, hammering his pelvis into his lover faster and faster.
Hades began to struggle suddenly, scrabbling at the black stone floor with his fingernails, writhing ineffectively against the weight that topped him. A whimpering noise escaped through his nose as Ares continued to scour Hades' mouth with his hot, hard tongue, pumping his cock into the Death God faster and harder still. Ares shuddered as he threw his head back and roared like wild animal, fucking the other god with enough force to tear a mortal in half. With spasms that looked almost painful, Ares emptied his seed into Hades, then slumped over his folded body. He gathered his strength, then rolled to the side, pulling a cum-soaked hand from between their bodies, offering it to Hades. The Death god's inky tongue darted from between his split, swollen lips, savoring the evidence of their passion on Ares' palm,
between his fingers.
"You should try it," Hades purred, his silky voice in sharp contrast to his battered, bruised flesh. "I think you would enjoy my taste."
Ares chuckled. "Too much, probably. Before long I'd have to spend all twelve months in the Underworld."
"And would that be so bad?"
In the distance, Autolycus heard the sound of a portcullis clanging against a stone wall. He remained as still as possible while the two naked, sated gods belatedly reacted. Ares reached toward his nearby sword, Hades his helmet.
The sword skittered out into the hall and the helmet clattered against the far wall as a blurred whirlwind burst into the room. Hermes appeared from the blur, hair wild, eyes wilder, his staff raised high above his head. Auto was vaguely satisfied to note that both Hades and Ares cowered, cringing as the staff came down between them with loud clap like thunder.
"WHO TOUCHED HIM??" screamed the young god.
It was obvious that neither Ares nor Hades had ever seen the God of Thieves so upset. Hades stared, the whites of his eyes showing all around, while Ares actually stammered.
"H-Herm. C'mon, everything's fine."
The slender god howled his frustration wordlessly then brought his staff down again, narrowly missing Ares' thigh. Another thunderclap, and the black stone floor crackled as fine fissures spread away from the point of contact.
"Hermes?" Autolycus whispered.
The raging god froze, checking his feral energy, dampening his rage with obvious effort. He pointed the end of his staff at Hades' bruised throat, the weapon shaking visibly. "Auto," he whispered, not taking his eyes off the prone gods before him. "You all right?"
"I just want to go."
Hermes' eyes bored into Hades', though he spoke to Auto. "He didn't make you suck his cock, did he?" The Death God shook his head slightly.
"No," Autolycus answered, not wanting to delve into how close he'd come to doing just that.
Hermes lowered his staff, glaring venomously at the other gods, backing up toward Autolycus. He twirled the staff, and it disappeared in a silvery flash. Hermes bent down on one knee, touching Autolycus' throat at a pulse point, his wild eyes softening. Auto could see that Ares had collected his sword, but his posture suggested that he would use the weapon only in defense. "I will remember this," Hermes said over his shoulder, his voice shaking.
He leaned over Autolycus, kissing him on the forehead, and the headache that had resulted from his acquaintance with the dungeon wall was gone. Auto felt those strong slender arms wrapping around him, lifting him. "Come on, Sunshine," Hermes whispered. "Let's get outta here."