Ares sat on Iphicles' bed, feeling the intricate carving of the headboard pressing against his leather clad back, watching Iphicles sitting at the foot of the bed gathering another handful of pork, cheese and apple slices. There were other things he knew should be doing instead of watching Iphicles almost drop his choice morsels in a hasty effort to retrieve the dark fur that had slipped free of his naked shoulders. Ares fingered the similar fur that lay beneath him, his gaze wandering across to the cold shaft of pale winter sun that struggled into the bedchamber from the open shutters opposite. His attention then shifted back to the bed as Iphicles made a great epic out of scrambling to his knees while balancing the fur on his back, the food in his hand, and trying not to upset the bowls of food on the bed.
"Try this." Iphicles moved forwards to wave the large mouthful of food under Ares' nose. "It's good," he added when Ares drew his head back to scowl. "You could at least try it, Ares," Iphicles growled, withdrawing his hand slightly.
"Mortal food never tastes like it's supposed to," Ares grumbled, yet still opened his mouth to receive the offering.
"Well?" Iphicles asked as soon as Ares had closed his mouth. "What do you think?"
Ares chewed, his scowl deepening.
Sitting back on his heels, Iphicles sighed. "What's wrong with it?"
A small flash of light and Ares had materialised a goblet of spiced wine to wash down the mortal fare.
"That's prime pork," Iphicles griped, "specially roasted to a secret recipe that a whole fucking family threw themselves of a cliff to protect." He reached back to retrieve the ball of cleansing dough from behind him. "Have you any idea how much Tromileian cheese costs these days?" He bad temperedly rubbed the grease from his fingers onto the fist-sized piece of dough.
"The apple was alright," Ares allowed, picking the dough out of Iphicles grasp to begin kneading it against his thigh.
"The apple." Iphicles echoed in disgust, grabbing the goblet of wine from Ares' hand before making his clumsy way back to the foot of the bed. "I thought you were leaving anyway." He settled himself back into the furs with an appreciative shiver. "We both know you're not the type for post-fuck malaise."
Iphicles sipped some wine.
Ares continued to knead the dough, feeling its temperature rise with the transference of body heat.
"Ever been to the port at Athens?" Iphicles spoke quietly into the silence.
"Have I ever been to the port of Athens?" Ares paused in his dough ministrations to roll his eyes at the ceiling. "Only about a million times, Iphicles. Did you have any particular era in mind?"
But the king ignored the god's baiting, causing Ares to wonder at the agenda that had so firmly planted itself in Iphicles' stubborn mind.
"A few years ago I was a bodyguard for a very rich, very old merchant trader in Athens. His wife had been coming on to me every spare private second that we had. She was my age and he treated her like an ornament. I don't think the marriage was ever even consummated."
"So you were doing the merchant a favour by deflowering his wife?" Ares watched Iphicles swirl the wine around in the goblet.
"Maybe." Iphicles smirked up at Ares through his long eyelashes. "She wasn't complaining, but she could have picked a better place for it." Iphicles shifted his legs, giving Ares tantalising glimpses of warmed flesh. "We were leaving for Sicily, her husband was talking over our route with the captain when she suddenly decided that we had to do it right there, right then. I don't know, maybe she thought we wouldn't get a chance on the boat but she dragged me under the docks with the strength of ten harpies."
Iphicles paused to sip more wine; Ares retrieved a slice of browning apple and popped it in his mouth.
"I thought she would drag me to a quiet spot, somewhere where the boards weren't constantly showering dirt on you and you weren't being deafened by stamping feet and loading crates. But no, you know where she took me? The shipping office. Right where her husband was making plans with the captain and I swear she came at least sixteen times -- every time her husband said 'pelts'."
"Pelts?" Ares grinned and Iphicles smirked into another sip of wine. "So how was Sicily? Did the pelts go well?" Ares continued to knead the warming dough.
"Very well." Iphicles nodded in return, reaching for a slice of pork that he chewed contemplatively.
"Did you go through the Straits of Messina?"
Iphicles paused mid-chew. "Yes. Why?"
"I finally got Eos out of her chariot and fucked her in the whirlpool there."
"The Charybdis?" Iphicles spat spiced wine across the furs. "You and the Goddess of Dawn in the Charybdis?"
"Oh, yeah." Ares lobbed the ball of warmed dough at Iphicles, who just managed to catch it. "She had a thing for chariot sex." He watched Iphicles clean his fingers and begin to knead the dough. "Apollo's the same way. I don't think there is one nymph in Greece that hasn't seen the 'sun rise' in his chariot."
"Can we count the God of War in with the nymphs?"
Ares raised an eyebrow at Iphicles' goblet smothered sniggering. "The waterfall in the West Gardens of Olympus."
"Sorry?" Iphicles blinked.
"A memorable spot with Apollo," Ares clarified. "This was before the outlying forests and gardens were populated by fucked-up mortals. Shit," Ares hissed "you can't walk outside the Formal Gardens these days without a paranoid god or goddess getting hysterical about you touching that tree because it's Daphne or Cyparissus, or that vine because it's Ampelus, and that swan is Cycnus, and the fucking kingfishers are Ceyx and Alcyone, the Stork is Antigone." Ares broke off into grumbling growls.
Iphicles pulled his fur more tightly around him. "What was so good about this waterfall?"
Ares met Iphicles' curious gaze. "It goes up."
"Yeah." Ares grinned. "I'd guess you'd say it was more of a 'water-up'."
Iphicles let his gaze fall to the empty goblet, chewing his bottom lip as Ares went on.
"The West Gardens were always my favourite." Ares settled more comfortably against the headboard. "It's always dusk there, but there is always dew there too and it sparkles in the half-light in a way that you'd never see in the mortal world. The water's different too, it's--" Ares' hands groped the air as if the words could be captured there. "It's warm, alive, it clings to your skin like the dew to the vines..." His words trailed off with his attention as his gaze was drawn to a droplet of wine, trapped amongst the fine hairs of Iphicles' forearm. He watched the droplet meander between the soft hairs, over the muscles that flexed with each knead of the dough, until it dropped to be lost in the dark fur covering the bed.
"There used to be a small theatre just outside Knidos." Iphicles placed the empty goblet on the bed and picked up a slice of cheese. "It was eventually destroyed by a fire and rebuilt a lot bigger, but before that there was a fire that destroyed just the stage and back area."
Ares leaned forward and took the dough from Iphicles again. "And?" He settled back to kneading the soft warmth against his thigh while Iphicles chewed and swallowed.
"It was the height of summer and erecting stage scaffolding is shitty work at the best of times but I needed the money and the foreman took one look at me and decided he liked the cut of my shoulders."
"Yeah, I've always thought that." Ares grinned up from the mini theatre he had begun to form out of the dough.
A slight answering smirk and Iphicles continued with his story. "Because it was so damned hot we had to get a lot of water breaks just to stop the men from keeling over. Funny," he smiled ruefully, "all that hot flesh, damp and reddened by the sun and it was the water boy that caught my eye. A skinny kid, still shy of twenty who looked like he would have fainted if he had to lift some of the planks we lugged around. He was the one I met under the stage that night. It was a production of Aeschylus' Phrygian Women, and we fucked like rabbits during the last aria... The smell of fresh tar still turns me on."
As Iphicles fell silent, Ares looked up from the finishing touches on his tiered seating.
"Then there was the fountain-house on the Isle of Kos," Iphicles went on around a mouthful of apple.
"Let me guess," Ares sneered. "You helped build that too." And the dough theatre was mashed into a featureless lump once more.
"Jealous?" Iphicles grinned.
"Oh, please," Ares growled, "why would I be jealous of--"
"No, you don't get jealous." Iphicles leaned forward. "You just get even, don't you?"
Ares' eyes narrowed at Iphicles' challenging gaze. "What are you talking about?"
"What?" Ares reached for the empty goblet, which refilled when he brought it to his lips. "What does Adonis have to do with anything?"
"Well, you killed him didn't you? You gored him to death while you were in the shape of a boar, didn't you?" Iphicles settled back into his previously nonchalant position to watch Ares sip his wine. "All because you were jealous of him and Aphrodite."
"Aphrodite?" Ares laughed. "Yeah, that's right, Iph, because Aphrodite is the monogamous kind of goddess." He continued to chuckle as Iphicles idly poked a few slices of pork around the bowl. "Actually, that's quite a funny story."
"You gored a man to death and it's a funny story?"
"Guess you had to be there." Ares giggled into the goblet before taking another drink, only to reveal a scowling Iphicles when he put the goblet down. "Look, contrary to popular myth, I didn't just show up and gore his cock off."
"You gored his cock off?"
Ares nodded. "Yeah, and his balls. Ate 'em too."
Iphicles let the slice of pork in his fingers drop back into the bowl, the colour draining from his face at Ares' cheerful admission.
"If I didn't eat them Adonis would have gotten a goddess to sew them back on." Ares shrugged. "And it's not as if I didn't give him a fair chance, I was just a normal boar and he could have fought me off if he had any real balls. He didn't even have to die because he could have called a goddess to heal him." Ares grinned viciously. "Minus his cock and balls, of course." Iphicles was wriggling uncomfortably beneath his fur. "So, what did Adonis do to deserve that?"
"Ah, Aphrodite has this kick ass statue of me in her temple at Miletos." Ares selected a few slices of apple. "It's probably the only one of me that I really like." He stuffed the apple in his mouth and continued to speak around it. "And that upstart little coward wanted her to replace my statue with his." Ares paused to wipe apple juice from his beard. "Who the fuck did he think he was? I'm the God of War, he was just another goddess-iser."
"Stupid pathetic excuse--"
"--do you want to hear my--"
"--of a soft cocked loser."
"--Kos fountain story or not?" Iphicles finished.
Shrugging, Ares returned to mauling the dough. "Go ahead."
"Okay." Iphicles picked a piece of apple and nudged the bowl of pork to the far corner of the furs. "I was still a trainee with the army when we went on an exercise to the Isle of Kos. Our Captain had heard there was a storm coming to the island and a thought a nice bout of exposure would toughen us up." He growled. "Sick bastard... Anyway, my little group fared better than most. We were halfway up the slope of Mount Oromedon -- our task was to go up one side and down another, believe it or not -- when the storm hit in earnest. We were only out in the worst of it for a few moments while we ran for the fountain-house, but by the time we got there we were soaked to the skin and frozen to the bone."
Ares looked up from his forgotten dough mauling just as the distancing veil of recollection slipped over Iphicles' face.
"The watchman's house was empty and the six of us quickly went to work building the fire and stripping ourselves free of our wet clothes. Fuck, it was freezing." Iphicles shivered at the remembered misery. "Even roaring, the fire couldn't heat us fast enough, not with the rain pelting against the door and the water rushing through the stone slabs below us." A slow smirk wound its way over Iphicles' lush mouth. "One of the recruits suggested that we do a circle jerk to warm ourselves up and since all of us would have fucked our own mothers just to heat up at this point we didn't need much coaxing."
Ares watched a pink flush creep up what little of Iphicles' chest that wasn't covered with the fur and felt his own body heat in response.
"I think it was Cleon and Callicrates that started kissing first. Someone mumbled something about us all being too young or some such crap and then we were all rubbing, kissing and stroking eachother. I don't think anyone actually got fucked that day because we were all too desperate to concentrate on any one person for any length of time. Arms, legs, hair, tongues, all tangling. We were so desperate -- desperate to be warm, desperate for warmth." Iphicles brought his dilated gaze to rest on Ares' face.
Ares turned his attention back to the cooling dough and rolled it around his thigh with no intention kneading it back to its former warmth. "Yeah, things can get hot fast in these situations, and the army is always a good bet for a decent fuckfest," he spoke lightly. "I used to like fucking victorious generals in their victory pyres."
"Used to?" Iphicles echoed thickly.
"A couple of centuries ago," Ares replied offhandedly, watching Iphicles' fingers stroke the dark fur before his gaze traced up to the mortal's glower.
"And these things get boring?"
"What do you want, Iphicles?" Ares suddenly leaned forward. "Do you want me to call you 'General' and fuck you inside a fire?"
Iphicles made no response.
"Well?" Ares snarled.
Iphicles remained motionless.
"Fuck this crap." Ares shook his head jerkily and clambered from the bed, reaching out to the aether as he prepared to leave.
Ares looked down at the hands of mortal flesh and bone wound around his forearm -- tightly, desperately.
"I'll be back," he promised into a warm apple kiss before moving into the aether.