Smoke and Mirrors
By Ghared

It's the smokey incense in his temple.  I go there when I'm lonely.   Those times when Herc has taken himself off on some excuse, because he's had enough of me being irritating, for awhile.

Look, I can't complain.  I mean, I do the same to him, when he's being overbearing and he's lecturing me about, oh, whatever, pick a subject. I love him to death and I know he loves me too, but sometimes ...

Then there's the times, like now, when he pushes me away because he's hurting so bad, he doesn't know what to do with himself.

This time he just walked out.  Made it quite plain to me, Gabrielle, Xena, the whole damn world, that he blames himself for Serena's death and he just wanted to be left alone, thank you very much.  Don't call me, I'll call you, kind of a thing.  I really hate it when he does this, but there's no arguing with him.

So I guess one of the reasons that I come here, is the fact that I want to get him back for pulling this withdrawal crap on me, one more time.

It's not like he'll ever get to find out, at least not from me.  Not only that, but I always come in disguise - this time I'm dressed like a metal smith - so anyone who sees me come here, well, they don't know it's me. Which means they can't tell Hercules if they see him.  Of course, there's always the chance that Ares will tell him: to get revenge for whatever reason, to watch him squirm.  He loves it, you know; the fact that I keep coming here.  Herc's little fuck-bunny, breaking the rules and betraying his best buddy who is normally the thorn in Ares' side.  He keeps trying to bring me over, like he does with Xena.  Hasn't worked yet and it won't either, but I like to keep him hoping.  It's only a small amount of power to have over a god, but it's enough to keep me alive at the end of each encounter.

Anyways, like I was saying; it's the smell of the incense in Ares' temple, that keeps drawing me back.  There's nothing more intoxicating, even Herc's musk.  I can't resist it.

Don't get me wrong.  You'd think because he's the god of War that his incense would smell of blood and burning flesh.  It doesn't.  He's War. He'll use anything that will keep the conflict going.  Secrets, lies, conspiracies, tricks, treachery, betrayal.  If vinegar doesn't do the trick, then he'll use honey. The only reason he craves the outright physical aggression so much, is 'cos it shows he's doing his job right.

So, no, his incense doesn't smell like a battlefield.  Off the top of my head, there's sandlewood, woodsmoke and the rough, bittersweet scent of crushed, red grapes.  It's arousing and exciting, but at the same time it makes you feel so relaxed.

Very relaxed.  Right now, my head's swimming and my whole bundle's hot and heavy.  It's like being drunk at an orgy, but without any of the disadvantages.

Kneeling before the dark altar, it isn't until after I feel the delicious squeeze and slide over my cock, through the leather, that I realised it's my own hand that's doing it.  For a moment there, I thought Ares had started the game early.

Closing my eyes and beginning the prayer of supplication - almost a ritual now - I can't resist a little more stimulation.  Another luxurious squeeze; slow and just this side of pain, that's how I like it.  I slide the side of a finger over the stretching leather, outlining the shape and size of my balls and cock.  Any more sensation and the end's going to be poking out.

I love it; feeling myself up and going to all those places in my mind, that I can't get to any other way.  Besides, I know Ares gets off just watching me do this.

He's here now, I can feel it.  Eyes on me, on the slow thrust against my fingers, on the lust on my face, the heat in my eyes, as my head goes back. I have to open my mouth to breathe now and the thought of him watching me, unable to look away, held in the grip of my show, takes me high, fast. Stroking a finger tip down the edge of my codpiece, sends me up in smoke, gasping for air, as the rough, callused surface of my skin grazes the tip of my cock.

A waft of cold air stops me and I look around to see what idiot with a really bad sense of timing, has left the door open.  One of Ares' priests stands in a doorway which leads off to a pretty impressive armoury.  Again, I know the contents of that room are all for show, but I've never been stupid enough to let Ares know I've sussed that.

"You are too impudent in your worship, peasant," he says, obviously waiting for me to get trashed by his beloved master.  "You are not worthy to present yourself with such boldness."

'You are not worthy to present yourself with such boldness'!?  Where'd this guy learn his job, the Athena Academy of Aspiring Acolytes?

"My boldness is none of your business, pal," I tell him, making sure he can see my hand, keeping my arousal going.  "So up your tunnel, priest. Ares knows I'm here."

Angry enough to want to thump me, he comes towards me.

It's funny.  Sometimes I feel that nothing can touch me.  I know how to handle this guy; I know that I will.  Not only that, but I can start Ares' game with the same move.  Wonder if Ares will give me extra points for that?

"I don't think Ares would want you to do that," meaning the priest taking a piece out of me.

"Ares is the god of War," he yells to the rafters, practically beating his chest.  "I am his priest.  He would cheer me on."

Grinning at him, I drop the other shoe.

"You don't even know he's here, do you?"

The trick to this is that I know Ares will keep me on edge until the last second.  Forewarned is forearmed - or possibly fore*play* if you're Ares - so the priest is a little worried when I don't flinch, as he accuses me of bluffing.  In spite of his pride, he's starting to believe me.

I stay alert so that I can see Ares the moment he appears.  The priest sees me looking around and thinks he's caught me out.  Comes forward again, brandishing a rather pathetic-looking sword.  I wonder?  Well, you know what they say about guys and their swords ...

Hot breath on the back of my neck is the only sign I need, that Ares is actually playing with the guard, rather than with me, right now.  Content to watch, I lean back on my heels, still leisurely pumping my shaft.  The leakage is a libation left at the foot of the altar.

"You're going to love this," comes the intoxicating whisper in my ear.  A hand brushing against the leather, skin-tight over my ass, and my cock tweaks in my hand, over and over again.  Feels wonderful.  He's sent some of his godly energy my way and it's pushing my arousal through the roof. Biting my lip, I try not to cum for the first time that night.

My reaction stops the guard again.  His instinct's telling him that there's someone else there, affecting me, even though he can't see him.  He's even closer to believing what I'd said about Ares, now.

"My ... my lord, Ares?  This supplicant is pleasing to you?"

Listen to this guy talk.  I can't help almost laughing.  He really does sound like a prize dork.

Cold all along my back suddenly, and Ares has left me.  I look up to see him hovering behind the priest.  A hand goes to the back of the guy's neck and he jerks, freezing into the stillness you get when you're terrified.

A gesture from the god of War and something draped in black silk appears before the priest.  It looks like a statue of someone and judging by the lack of melons up top, it's male.  Looking it over more closely, my guess is confirmed.  The statue is definitely male, it's facing me and the silk hugs so close that I think it's probably naked.  What is Ares up to?

The silk hisses to the floor and, yes, it is naked and I guess I'm in shock for a moment, 'cos I hear a gasp, not realising straight off, that it's my voice.  When I do, I start thinking quickly.  The priest had to have heard me.  How do I explain my surprise without giving away the fact that that damned statue is of ME!!?

"What do you think of it ... er ..."

I just about realise that Ares is talking to me and wants to know which name I'm going under this time.  "Er ... it's, I'm ... my name's Alchemisthus, my lord Ares.  It's ... the statue is, um ... well, it's beautiful."

"You'd fuck him, would you?"

Gods, Ares, would you stop!?  Normally I can handle anything he throws at me, but this...  I'm having to concentrate real hard not to blush.  I mean, I've never been backwards in blowing my own horn, but what he's doing is really beginning to shake my tree.  That, plus I can't take my eyes off myself.  Looking anywhere but at the statue, doesn't exactly fit with what I've just said and would be another giveaway to the priest.  Anyway, I've got to admit that the workmanship is flawless.

"Phistulus.  Entertain us."

Ares pushes his priest towards the statue, his meaning obvious.

"My - my Lord?  It's ... a statue ..."

I can see his point.  Hard to get a response from cold metal; but a sly grin from Ares and I know he's not going to let his priest off that easy. He moves forward casually, to demonstrate what he means.  Running a single fingertip down the torso, from the hollow between the collarbones, to the base of the cock, reveals something which makes Phistulus and me jump about six feet in the air.

The statue moves.

With the lithe grace and balance of an acrobat, the statue - *of me!  For the gods' sakes!!* - bends backwards, resting on its knees and elbows and, grasping its ankles with its hands, pulls itself into what my tutor in the East used to call, 'The Perfect Bow'.

"Absolutely Hephaestus' best work to date, wouldn't you agree ... 'Alchemisthus'?"

Oh, gods, Ares, where in tartarus are you going with this!?  All of a sudden the priest is out of the running; if he was ever 'in' the running to start with.  It's definitely me that Ares is playing with, even though he's told Phistulus to entertain both of us.

Ares, really beginning to smoulder now, makes his way over to the altar, and me.  He picks up a few grapes to nibble at, a little pointedly. Before, I had to discipline myself to keep looking at the statue without giving myself away.  Now, as Ares slips behind me, pressing himself up against me, I'm too nervous to look anywhere else.  Phistulus is tentatively testing the statue's responses, and I get one more surprise. As he strokes a finger along the bronze's flaccid cock, not only does it fill and lift to half mast right off, but 'my' voice, giving a breathy gasp, emerges from its opening mouth.

As for me, I don't have the breath to make any kind of sound at all. Suddenly transported out of the main hall of the temple, Ares and I are in his bedroom, sitting on the huge bed, which is swathed in charcoal satin. Under the guild smith's leather apron that I'm wearing as part of my disguise, he has my pants open and he's squeezing my cock and balls through his hot, oil-slicked fingers, like they were ripe figs.  I can't breathe because just about every nerve I've got is sluiced with a liquid fire. I've got curling toes in places I don't have toes, if you know what I mean. Everywhere I look is a smokey haze of that incense - every time I breathe in, I feel pleasure that I can't even begin to describe.  In front of me there's a large mirror, but instead of showing a reflection of the two of us, it reveals, in intimate detail, everything that's happening back in the main hall.

Phistulus is preparing to go down on the bronze and the torchlight reflecting off the shiny 'skin' of the statue, looks like flames licking everywhere.  Across every straining muscle, in every crevice.  'I' look like I'm bathing in fire, reaching, begging, for the ached-for touch.  The priest clenches the rock-solid, firelit butt cheeks and just gently flickers his tongue over the slit in the end of the shaft.  A bubble of pale golden liquid exudes from it, bathing the priest's tongue and somehow I taste it in my own mouth.  Honey, sweet but powerful, like mead.

I don't even see the bronze cock jump to full attention, because I'm already gone.  Screaming breathlessly, rigid and pumping my own juices over Ares' hand, his strong fingers still squeezing, wanting every last drop.

You ever had that thing where you didn't know you'd fallen asleep, until you wake up?  Well, I guess that climax must've knocked me out, 'cos the next thing I know I'm panicking, not knowing where I am, for a second.  I end up hugged back against a hot, strong body and I relax a little.

"Hercules ..."

The grip tightens uncomfortably, enough to bring me fully awake, and seeing the satin, I remember.

"Ares.  Ooops."

A hand in my hair grips and pulls backwards, not quite painfully.  "Iolaus. Dreaming were you?"

He doesn't say it like it hurts him.  He says it like he's being nice. I've just called him Hercules, the one person in this world that he hates more than any other, and Ares is being nice to me.  What's going on?

"Hi ... er, yeah, I guess I must've been.  Sorry."

Woah.  That's a first.  I never, ever apologise to this guy.  I bad-mouth him most of the time.  It's part of the game, he expects it.  The way he's treating me this time is obviously confusing me.

I instinctively try to put some distance between me and the more-than-usually unpredictable god, and lurch forward, out of his embrace, but he's not having any.  Gripping round my neck, just close enough to stop my breath if I struggle, he smooths the other hand down the leather apron.

"Er ... what's this?"

I'm surprised.  By the sound of his voice, he really doesn't know.  I mean, alright he's not the god of smiths, he's not Hephaestus, but as the god of War, he ought to at least know what the guys who make weapons, look like. I can't resist a taunt.

"It's an apron, Ares."

"Well, I can see that, but why're you wearing it?"

"It's part of my disguise, this time.  That's why I called myself 'Alchemisthus'.  Get it?" See this little finger, Ares?  Of course you do, you're already halfway round it ...

"What's that got to do with a leather apron?"

I guess it's really true, what Herc and I have been saying all these years: War really is dumb.

"I'm pretending to be a metal smith, Ares.  You know, metal smithing, alchemy, gold from lead, that whole thing?"

The close grip around my neck suddenly tightens into a choke hold.  It doesn't losen until I'm beginning to black out.


"You really will take any opportunity to get yourself killed, won't you, Iolaus?  I've always wondered about that.  Do you like dying that much?  Is it something you do when you can't get sex?  You know that whole 'dying' thing?  Big death, little death...  You got a death wish, Iolaus?  Or is it just that you crave the big dumb toad's affection and you dying's the only time he's really honest about it, huh?   You like him to snatch you up into his arms and shake and profess his undying love and cry all over you; is that it?"

Sorry.  What was it I just said, back there?  War is dumb?

Gotta admit I didn't see any of that coming.  Walked straight, slap-bang into it, eyes wide shut, oh, very well done there, Iolaus.

Dizzy, I reach out a hand for the satin beneath me, just to confirm which way is up and come into contact with a chair.  When I look around, my heart skips a beat seeing Ares, completely, gloriously naked, now, stretched out against a pale gold bolster in the midst of the charcoal satin, on the bed, several feet away.  It takes me a moment to realise that he's just put me on the spare throne he keeps in his bedroom.  I'm watching him stroke himself lazily, while he, in his own turn, is contemplating me.  Suddenly suspiscious, I glance down at myself, but no, I'm still dressed.  In fact my pants are fastened; I can feel the tightness against my cock.  I can even raise my arms.   He hasn't tied me to the chair, or restrained me in any other way.  My confusion is escalating into a full scale red alert.

"You can watch me from over there, or you can come over here and finish watching the show," he drawls, almost smiling.  "And it's quite a show. Phistulus was well-trained," and he pulls an appreciative face as he looks into the mirror, obviously turned on by something his priest is doing to ... me.

Needing to move, I get up from the chair and begin to pace across the room, avoiding the bed.  Still stroking, he just grins, like he knows something I don't.  Before this, I would have called that a bluff tactic, but now I'm really not sure.  I've just misjudged him, badly; I don't want to do it a second time.

"Why're you doing this, Ares?"

Oh, yeah, Iolaus, like he's going to tell you the answer to that one ...

"You mean this little diversion from our usual ... activities?"

He is going to tell me!?  I haven't felt this scared in a long time.  A reasonable Ares just doesn't make sense.  My heart is pounding because  I think we've just moved to a whole new playing field, the ball seems to be with me, and I haven't the faintest idea what I should do with it.  Because I don't know what he wants me to do with it.  He's stroking faster now, really getting into it.  His head's going back, he's biting his lip, and that growling coming from the back of his throat is having an unfortunate effect on me.  Er ... help ...

"You're trying to mess with my head, Ares."  I'm trying to ignore the show he's putting on, but I'm not doing very well.  Somehow I'm on the bed, unable to keep a wandering hand off him.  Come on, Iolaus, get your mind back on the problem.  Got to figure out what he's up to.  "This is just one more try to get me to agree to join you, and it's getting real old, you know that?  You may as well blast me right now, 'cos it's never going to happen."  There. That's told him.

"You can walk out of here, any time you like, Iolaus ... *oh, Phistie, where'd you learn that?  I gotta try that sometime* ... I'm not holding you here.  But it was you who walked in here in the first place.  Why?  'Cos big brother's not playing nice?"

Shut up, Ares ...

"'Cos he never tucks you in at night or helps you out when you're playing solo? ... *Ooooo, hot damn, Iolaus, you should see this* ... He knows, you know, when you're humping your fist 'cos you're frustrated.  He just pretends that he's asleep.  My dear, strait-laced, holier-than-thou, brother."  Don't ask me how he's managing to say all this around the effect his fist's having.  "He'd rather stick it in a lake of cold water than in you.  Rather, squash it into submission in those chastity pants of his than give you an excuse to get your hands ... or whatever ... around it."

Oh, gods, Ares, don't ...

"Yup, that's ... *ohhhh* ..."  he's getting real close now,  "my darling ... *oh, by my mother* ... baby ... *yeah, Iolaus, oh, yeah, no-one gives head like you* ... brother ... *Iolaussss ... aaahhhh!!*"

His cock is so thick and juicy in my mouth, I can't help moaning and suckling like a whore, taking every last drop.  No surprise that I find myself taking him down, swallowing on the head, and rubbing myself against the bed, my cock rushing into action as it's squeezed and chafed by the leather it's encased in.  He's still coming and his fingers in my hair are the last straw.  Tearing my clothes off, still sucking, still moaning, I push my cock at his face, and he doesn't disappoint me.

 *...He'd look at me, despising me, hurt, anger and loss in those stormy blue eyes of his.  Hercules would never say it, but I can stil hear the word, shouting in his mind, though he would try to deny it ...

'Slut.  Slut, Iolaus.  How could you!?'*

I love Hercules; I mean, he saved me from coming to a sticky end, but ...

... how many times have I come to a sticky end now!?

... and why does he have to be my conscience!!?  How did he get so far inside my head, that he can tell me how to live my life!?

... because I let him.

I let him ...

Wet heat, sliding all up and down my shaft, drags me away from 'mommy demi-god' and I shut down.  Just stop thinking and go with the feelings. So Ares is playing with my head.  I'm letting him, right?  If I can shut Herc up, I can do the same with Ares, any time I want to, right?  Well, right now, I don't want to.  Not just yet ...

Ares is hard again.  In fact, did he ever get soft?  Probably not; he's a god, so it's like, probably a god thing, that he can stay up all night. I'm still suckling and crooning, like a baby after his mom's milk, and he's oh, that raspy tongue and the merest graze with those teeth and he's after my balls again, squeezing and hooeee!!  Was that his little finger in my hole?  I swear he's got energy shooting out of every digit, but that little finger is the greatest ...

I look up and catch a glimpse of what's happening in the mirror.

Oh.  Gods.

Please, no, please, Ares, don't do this to me ...

It's not Phistulus I can see anymore, running a hand over the arched, bronze, sweating, quivering torso; lightly tickling over the join between my right knee and thigh with his other, and deep throating 'my' - *it's* - cock.

It's Hercules.

The simple, overwhelming build up of pleasure I felt only seconds ago, turns itself inside out.  Becomes twisted, tormenting, overwhelming pain, blooming inside me.

I still cum with a howl so loud I can almost feel it against my skin and it's only when I tear myself out of his arms with disgust, that I realise I'm crying.  He doesn't do anything to stop me pulling away from him.  Just sits there, licking and sucking my cum off his fingers.

Fingers?  I thought I was still in his mouth when -

IOLAUS!  Gods, concentrate, willya!  He's taking you apart here, and so far you haven't come up with any way of stopping him.

Because I'm still letting him do it.

What is wrong with me?

"You're in a pretty bad way, aren't you, Iolaus?  Why do you let him treat you like a piece of shit?"

"I don't!!  He doesn't!  You're twisting everything, Ares; trying to make me be the victim."

He shakes his head, unfazed.  "Nah.  You're doing a good enough job of that, by yourself.  I mean, look at you."

Suddenly I'm back with him on the bed, held captive in his arms.  I struggle to free myself, but it's useless.  He need only use a fraction of his strength to keep me almost totally immobile.  The mirror switches its view from the main hall of the temple, to a memory from my past.

Herc, Hephaestus' arrow deep in his side and me trying to keep from having to tug it out of Herc's flesh.  It had to be done, and there was no-one else to do it, but I really didn't want to ...

*'... "Pull. The arrow.  Out." ...' I watched myself, struggling to find the courage to do it.  Finding it. Tugging on the arrow ...  I could feel it; the tearing of my best friend's flesh, as I pulled on the shaft ...*

The agonised yell rang out, filling my ears and making me feel sick.  I couldn't keep from curling in on myself at the feel of a soothing hand on my back.

"You love him so much, don't you?  You'd die for him, wouldn't you?  And you're so willing to take all the shit...  Why do you do it, Iolaus?  It's obvious he doesn't love you the same way."

"I don't care!!  You use the word 'love' and you don't even know what it means, you bastard!"  I'm sobbing now, messily.   I don't need a mirror to know that: eyes, red and puffy, cheeks dirty with tears, snotty nose.

"Love is care and attention, Iolaus.  Care ... and attention."  He sounds smug, satisfied.  He has good reason.  He does know what love is; he's just told me.  Maybe not spang on the nose, but pretty damn close.  Too close. It's just the way he's using what he knows that makes him undeserving of it himself.  Will he ever understand that?

Do I care?  Should I?

"Just go away, Ares; leave me alone."

"Erm ... MY temple.  Sorry."

True.  How could I forget?

Nevertheless, he does as I ask.  A blast of cold air makes me shiver from head to toe.  When I open my eyes, I'm stood on the blasted heath above his temple ... but I can still hear his voice on the wind.

' ... When you decide not to lie to yourself anymore, Iolaus ... you know where I am ...'

I cover my ears, but I can still feel the words vibrating inside me, beating at the walls of my heart.  Ares may be War, and hated, but he tells the truth most of the time.  I can go back to waiting around for Herc to come to his senses and seek me out; Ares won't mess with me again.  Let's face it: after what he's just shown me about myself, he doesn't have to.

Hercules never will love me the same way I love him, nor as much. He'll never give me what I want, what I need from him. He does love me, in a way, but he only really shows me, when I'm dead.

Sorry, Herc, but I don't know how much longer I can live on that.

The End