He lounged invisibly atop a low wall, his back propped up against a broken pillar. The market square of Chalcis bustled around him, its people unaware of the war god's presence among them. He was relaxed, his legs stretched out before him, basking in the warmth of the sun. Silently he observed the training of a cohort of guards who marched in formation in the open area of the large square. He had no real reason for being here but he found that occasionally he liked to watch the training of the soldiers who worshipped him. Mortals such as these would never be famous warlords but they were the backbone of any army. There was a simpleness to their requests of him that he found comforting. They didn't ask for riches or fame or glory. Their worship was straightforward and honest; lacking in the overly sweet fawning of those who knew him more personally. The soldiers asked only for courage on the battlefield, strength in arms and legs and the chance to bring honor to themselves and to him. So he sat and watched as he had countless times before in thousands of cities and towns across Greece.
As the practice drilling halted for the afternoon, Ares contemplated his next move. Currently, no battle needed his attention, and he couldn't quite work up the effort to go needle either his sanctimonious half-brother or Xena. Of course, it might be fun to get the red-head riled. After that whole incident with Aphrodite's enchanted scroll he'd felt an abstract attraction there that he had studiously avoiding looking at too closely. He heaved a sigh, the muscles of his chest straining against his leather jerkin with the movement, but that would mean dealing with Xena and at the moment that seemed to be too much effort. Maybe he would just stay here for a little while longer.
Satisfied with that decision he switched his attention back to the group of soldiers that milled around beneath him. He caught one group laughing at a story that one of the soldiers was telling. He was about to turn away when he caught his own name accompanied by even more laughter.
Curiosity getting the better of him he jumped from the ruin of the wall and headed towards the group.
" . . . and then, he said "It's a looove thing." As the young soldier batted his eyes to go with his words the crowd around him broke up with laughter again.
Another soldier wiped tears away, gasped out between fits of laughter. "Hold on, Jax, are you telling me that Ares, God of War Ares, is also Ares, God of Love in this other dimension?"
"That's the story I heard. And not only that, but he wears, get this, white and he tosses rose petals around."
The group broke up in laughter again only to be silenced as the ground beneath their feet shook.
"What in Tartarus?"
Somewhere a woman screamed as the ground continued to shake. The rumble intensified as his anger grew until those in the square fell to the ground, screaming out their fear. How *dare* they laugh at him? At the God of War. He would kill them all. He would burn the town down around their ears in a blast of fire that would make the eruption at Vesuvius seem like a dip into a hot tub.
Gathering his power around him until the rage colored his sight blood-red he called forth a firestorm of power that turned the blue sky as black as his hate. He called forth lightning from the darkness that hovered above him, sending the bolts of energy crashing down around him. He threw back his head savoring the screams of panic around him, waiting for just the right moment to release the maelstrom of destruction he had called.
He felt the tug upon his leg but ignored it. Only when the tug came again did he look down; down into the frightened eyes of a mortal girl-child, her pale blonde curls whipping around her face. He could see clearly the tracks of her tears through the dust that coated her pale face and the arm that hung limply at her side, painted bright red from the blood that flowed freely from the gash on her shoulder.
Looking down he found himself caught in her terrified eyes.
She huddled against his leg and only his godly senses allowed him to hear her cries over the shrieking of the winds.
"It hurts. Please, help me, I can't find my momma. I'm scared. Save me."
Save me. The words, combined with the tight grip of her small hands as she held on to him for safety hit a very old, old wound within him. He was the God of War. Mortals died in his name on the field of battle. But children do not belong on the battlefield. This was not War.
Shaking his head, he felt the rage recede until the red fog in front of his vision faded. Slowly he pulled the swirling storm over the village back into himself. The anger boiled within him, contained once more.
The girl-child looked around her with wide eyes as the fearsome storm abated but her arms still stayed wrapped about one hard leather encased thigh. Turning back to the man she looked up at his face and motioned him down to her.
Ares leaned down to the girl and felt a moment of shock as she threw her good arm around his neck and kissed him gently on the cheek. "Thanks for saving me."
Ares, his dark head nestled next to her bright blonde one, could say nothing. He closed his eyes against the pain this child called forth in him. Then abruptly he stood, the need to get away from here and from her hitting him, almost like panic, almost like fear. She staggered back slightly at his unexpected move.
He used that small distance to back away from her. Turning his back on her puzzled look he stalked through the destruction of the square only to stop when he noticed to bright blood smeared across his hand. Damnation. Growling low in his throat he spun on his heel and went back to the girl who still stood where he had left her.
Going down on one knee he knelt before her like a supplicant, begging for what, he was not sure.
She smiled at him. He scowled. He was faintly surprised when she smiled even wider in return.
Pining her with his gaze, he said simply, "I am Ares." From the widening of her blue eyes he knew that she understood exactly what that meant, but still there was no fear reflected back at him.
Reaching out he grasped her hurt arm, feeling fragile bones grate beneath his fingertips. At her cry of pain he gentled his touch but a quick look back into her eyes said that the trust was still there. Drawing up a small tendril of his power he sent a healing spark up her arm, feeling the bones and muscle and sinews knit back together beneath his command. When he was satisfied he released her and stood once more.
He was already gone before she finished.
He reappeared in his throne room, grabbing for the first heavy object to meet his hand. His lips pulled back from his teeth in a snarl of hate he hurled the small marble urn across the room. With its shattering against the far wall, the tight hold he kept on his temper shattered as well.
"I ran," he thundered, picking up a small glass ball. Pulling back he threw the ball at the far wall, smiling in satisfaction as it exploded into a thousand glittering shards. Then the smile turned to one of contempt. "I ran from the look in a mortal child's eye."
Closing his own eyes he could still see her face; trusting, innocent, scared and looking to him for protection. He laughed, the sound empty and hollow. "Me," he growled. "She asked me to save her."
Whirling around he picked up another vase and hurled it at the wall. Because of her he had not even killed those fools who had dared to mock him. He could live on mortal hate, could bask in their fear, but he would NOT tolerate their laughter.
"God of Love," he sneered in disgust. He would not be compared with that alternate fool. He was no weakling god. He was strong. He was fierce. He needed nothing; not the love of his family and certainly not the love of puny mortals.
Only when there was nothing left to throw did he come to a stand still, his chest heaving, his eyes closed. He stood defiant amidst the wreckage, blood trickling down his chest where jagged-edged flying bits of pottery and marble had flown back and cut him. He had allowed the cuts and the small sharp stings as his sweat mixed with the blood. Head down, gulping air, he welcomed each small hurt, savored it, internalized it. The pain was minor next to the hurt within, but the physical pain dulled the other, if only for a little while.
He had never found anything large enough or strong enough to block out the other, older hurt but for now, it eased, if but slightly.
Raising his head he opened his eyes to the chaos surrounding him. Very slowly his fists clenched, his blunt nails digging into the flesh of his palms. Once again he made his affirmation of his worth. "I am ARES, God of War," he whispered fiercely to the empty room. "I. Am. Ares."
And if Zeus on his throne on high Mt. Olympus did not hear, that was fine. If his fellow gods and goddesses despised him, he did not need them or their approval. If his half-brother did not understand, that was fine as well, for he knew and he understood.
That was enough. It had always been enough.
His wrath, once gone, left him drained and weary, as if his very essence had been consumed in the fires of his rage. Picking his way across the room he stood before his overturned throne. Something he had thrown had knocked it over, splitting the thick black wood of the back. Crouching beside the chair he ran his fingers over the shattered wood, held together now only because of the forged iron that banded it.
He ran one hand, almost gently, over the iron and then hauled the ornate chair upright only to collapsed heavily into it. He stared out at the destruction of his throne room through slitted eyes.
Hades take him. He had once again allowed his temper to escape his control. Leaning his head back he closed his eyes and took a deep shuddering breath, letting it out slowly, willing his body to relax as he exhaled.
The smell of her perfume announce her presence even before he heard her voice.
"Geez, Are. You really need to quit letting Strife do your decorating."
Not bothering to open his eyes he said, "Not now ‘Dite. I'm not in the mood."
Completing ignoring the undercurrents in his voice, she hopped up onto one arm of his throne. When he refused to acknowledge her presence she smiled seductively, ignoring his warning signals; thinking this was just another game. Reaching across his body until her hand was a hairsbreadth above the hollow of his throat she paused and then ever so slowly Aphrodite ran one perfectly manicured fingernail down the middle of his chest. Just when she was about to hit the black leather of his pants, his hand shot up and his eyes snapped open.
She stared into his turbulent eyes, seeing something there that scared her and convinced her that this was no game. Trying not to pull against the tight grip that restrained her, she said quietly, "You're hurting me."
Releasing his grip upon her arm he watched her pull her injured wrist back to her chest with a pout. Closing his eyes with a sigh he once again leaned his head back against the chair. "What do you want Aphrodite?"
She pouted for a second longer and then gave it up when she realized that he wasn't going to open back up his eyes. "Look bro. You're waging a battle in Naxos . . ."
"Let me guess," he said lazily, "you want me to stop it."
Aphrodite looked down at Ares with a frown. He was not acting like he normally did when they had these little conversations. If he had been mortal she would have thought he was sick.
"Well, yeah, I'd like you to stop it. See, there's like this girl, kind of homely I admit but she's got it soooo bad for this boy. She asked me to look after her one true love. I, being the wonderful goddess that I am, went to check with the Fates, and let me tell you, are they ever hard to deal with. Anyway, found out that if the boy ships out he gets spitted with some big long nasty pike thingy. Really, too gruesome." She stopped to see if her little speech had any effect on him. She frowned again at him; for all the reaction she was getting out of him he could have been alone in the room. She was not used to being ignored. "Come on Ar," she tried again, "it's a looooove thing."
Her short scream of surprise was cut off abruptly as Aphrodite, the exquisite and ever perfect Goddess of Love, hit the floor with a less than graceful THUMP. From her sprawled position on the floor she looked up to see Ares fairly crackling with energy. But unlike his fits of temper, which she was well acquainted with and used to defusing, this time he was perfectly calm; an icy calm that kept her on the floor and sent shivers of fear down her spine.
"So, you dare to mock me as well."
She shook her head in confusion. "Ares . ." He stopped her with a look.
Crouching down next to her on the floor, he put his face next to hers. He breathed in the scent of her perfume and of her and he smiled, a slow sensuous curve of his lips that made Aphrodite catch her breath. But the icy glitter was still in his eyes and she made no move towards him.
He chuckled at her sudden new-found caution. He could smell the desire on her mixed with the fear and it enflamed his senses -- the smell of love and war mixed together. And then he knew exactly what he wanted. Reaching up he trailed the back on one knuckle over Aphrodite's smooth cheek, feeling her flinch beneath his soft touch.
"Do you want this war stopped, ‘Dite?"
She was mesmerized by the look in his eyes. "Y-Yes," she stammered.
"Will you do anything I say?" The word ‘anything' purred in a way that made the hair at the nape of neck stand on end.
Then he was backing away, standing tall before her. "Stand up," he commanded.
She stood on shaky legs and found herself in the ruin of a temple.
He stood close behind her, close enough that she could feel the heat of his body through the silks of her dress. Pointing one arm over her shoulder at a cloudless sky. "You will give me your power, there."
"But there's nothing there," she said in confusion.
"There will be," he replied, his voice as cold as his eyes had been.
She shrugged and let her powers flow out of her. Lightning flashed as he joined his power to hers. The winds whipping at her hair obscured her vision so that she missed the opening of the vortex. As the lightning and wind stilled she brushed hair out of her face. The sight of the churning vortex before her eclipsed even the fear that Ares had instilled in her and she breathed out a ragged, "Oh wow!"
And then she screamed as she saw Ares take a running leap and sail through, the vortex closing behind him. He was gone and Aphrodite suddenly more afraid than ever.
He landed on his back in the warm sand. Rolling with the force of his fall he came back up on his feet, sword drawn, alert for any sound or movement. Pivoting slowly he raked his eyes over the buildings around him as he checked for possible enemies. Sensing no other presence but his own he sheathed his sword. He noted with a hint of amusement that this place looked no different than the world he had just left. Even the temple still stood in abandoned ruin around him. But he had no time to gawk for his time here would be limited. Every moment he stayed in this world was one where the others might sense his presence and fighting the divine rulers of this realm was not what he had in mind. He needed to know where the others were and who would prove to be the most dangerous.
Raising his arms to the sky he stretched out his awareness on the winds until he encompassed the land. Carefully, with a delicacy that his own world's Cupid envious, he touched the gods and goddesses of this place, making sure that he kept his own presence hidden. It was always wise to know one's potential opponents. As he mentally touched each in turn he catalogued their strengths and the ways in which they differed from those he knew until only the Gods of War and Love remained.
Cupid was the God of War in this realm and in his mind's eye he could see a bloody battlefield, Cupid, his great wings outstretched, hovering on the winds while soldiers screamed and died beneath him. To Ares' sight the battle was lost. He did not understand why Cupid still sent the soldiers in, their faces contorted with a divinely inspired berserker rage. Reaching further he touched the essence of this Cupid and jerked his senses back as he connected with his counterpart, shocked at the insanity he found there. His Cupid had always been a little flighty but what he had touched here was complete madness. Fools! what kind of idiots would let a mad god be the God of War? Could they not have seen that Cupid would have never been able to control the emotions? That by his very nature he could not have stood unfazed by the carnage? Shaking his head, he pulled back. He would have to be on guard against that one. Cupid would not take kindly to another War God in his territory, he would be out to kill.
Turning from Cupid he made sure that no trace remained of his observation and then sent forth his senses in search of the God of Love. This was his true quarry. It took but a moment to find the Love God within his Temple at Pella. Ares smiled in satisfaction. It was time to pay a visit to his double.
Ares stepped out of the aether into sumptuous luxury. He had always known himself to be a highly tactile person. His own private chambers reflected that appreciation in the soft leathers and furs adorning it, though with him that tendency towards excess had always been tempered by the leanness that was War. But in the God of Love that tactile pleasure had been taken to the extreme of sensuality. Lush foliage grew about the room, hiding the hard angles of corner and floor. The air was sweet with the scent of exotic flowers while an undercurrent of musk rode the gentle breezes that hinted at sex and hidden passion. Somewhere deeper in the Temple Ares could hear the soothing sounds of a fountain that splashed in counterpoint to a soft chorus of singers singing Love's praises, sickening Ares. This was even more cloying that Aphrodite's main temple.
The God of Love knew someone was there, could feel the ripples of power that disturbed the aether. He didn't think he had ever felt such a combination of passion and anger.
Rising from his couch, he turned to the seemingly empty room
"Show yourself, whoever you are. I know you're there."
He spun around in shock when he heard his own voice, but darker somehow,
come from the far corner. "You know nothing!"
The God of Love stared in shock. His double stared back in contempt.
It was like looking in a mirror and seeing the reverse image; dark to light, black to white, hate to his love. He could feel the hate as an almost palatable wave, a physical force that washed against him and stole the breath from his body. And yet, under the hate lay a quiet yearning that called out to him, strong enough to make him take a step forward, even against the danger he saw in those stormy eyes so like his own.
Ares saw the God of Love move shakily towards him and he fought the urge to draw his sword, though he couldn't stop his hand from resting menacing on the handle.
The Love God halted as his counterpart shifted, his hand resting casually atop the hilt of a heavy broadsword strapped to his waist. There was no mistaking that subtle warning and caution won over the silent call of the other's pain. Only then did he really take in the clothing and beard, the callused hands and the sense of violence held in tight control. Remembering then the other Iolaus, he knew who stood before him.
"You are from the other realm," he said softly.
"Yes," the other answered, as he took a step to the right, never breaking eye contact.
Ares turned slightly to keep the other in sight. "I . . . You . . . are their God of War."
"Yeeeesssss," he hissed, taking another step. "I am the God of War."
He felt a chill of fear run down his spine at the other's tone. Turning slowly, he following his circling counterpart, always making sure that he faced him, not wanting to let the other get behind him. "You can't kill me."
Ares smiled a feline grin, all teeth and no mercy. "I know."
"Then why are you here?"
He shrugged and paced faster, tightening his circle bit by slow bit "I wanted to see you. To understand how *I* could possibly have turned into you," he spat. "A sniveling weakling. Look at you. You're a joke!"
He was starting to get dizzy with the turning. He didn't remember Ares being that close a moment ago. Spreading his arms wide he said, "But we are different."
"No." the other ground out. "We are the same. The mind, the emotions, the strengths and weaknesses - the basic elements that make me . . . us . . .who we are, are the same. Only the circumstances are changed."
The stalk was complete. Quick as lightning Ares grabbed the God of Love behind his neck. Pulling him forward, step by slow step, he grinned as he felt the other try to resist the pull. He could not kill him that was true, but he could hurt him.
He felt the hand hard at the back of his neck -- his hand, but not. This hand was callused, rough from centuries of swinging a sword. He felt the fingers tighten and dig into the tender muscles. He couldn't win this fight. He was no match for his counterpart's training or brute strength but this God of War was about to find out that he had his own abilities. So instead of fighting the tight grip on his neck he leaned forward instead and before his adversary could pull back, he captured the others lips with his own and kissed him.
Pain. Hate. Loneliness. Need. Peace. Joy. Acceptance. Desire. He was overwhelmed.
At the first fiery touch of lips to lips, The God of Love felt the God of War's shocked attempt to pull away but it was entirely too late. The hunter had just become the hunted. Tongues met and fought, neither giving way or surrendering -- not the God of Love because this was his domain and not the God of War because it wasn't in his nature to surrender.
Soft hands, deceptive in their strength, moved restlessly, massaging the taunt shoulders in front of him while the War God's impatient fingers slid down his own muscled arms to grasp his wrists. His thumbs caressed the soft skin of the damp palms and then slid up to intertwined fingers to fingers. Then with a sharp jerk, the interlaced fingers pulled the other's hands tight against his lower back forcing his body to bow backwards with a gasp.
Held immobile he waited to see what the other would do and was faintly surprised when he freed one hand and ran a gentle caress up one hip and back up across sweat slick skin. He shivered as rough fingers ran though crisp chest hair, reaching up to manipulate and lightly pinch an already hardened nipple.
Closing his eyes against the pleasure he gave himself up to the caressing hand as it moved back down his broad chest to gently cup his testicles and stroke his rapidly hardening length. Then the hand continued around, massaging and kneading firm buttocks through white leather.
Then with a suddenness that left him reeling, the gentleness vanished and the God of Love gasped against lips turned suddenly hard. He was seized roughly by the shoulder, the grip tight enough to bruise even a god, wanting, he sensed, to bruise even a god. With lips still locked tight, tongues fought suddenly not for pleasure but for control. He groaned in protest as the God of War leaned forward forcing him down until he was driven to his knees.
The smell of the other, of himself, hung in the air, clouding his mind, dulling even the feel of the heavy grip on his shoulder. It was hot and heavy and demanded acknowledgment. Unable to resist that demand he rubbed his smooth cheek against the soft black leather before him. He concentrated and the leather vanished freeing the heavy erection.
As the fingers on his shoulder tightened he ran his tongue around the head of the cock before him, applying pressure to the sensitive ridge of skin beneath the thick head, knowing exactly the right spot and the correct pressure to cause a reaction.
*You have not won,* he thought.
"Close enough," Ares growled tightly.
*Don't bet on it,* was the only warning he got. The God of Love surged to his feet, his sudden movement sending the God of War off balance and forcing him backwards. He saw the fire leap in his double's eyes and he was momentarily stunned, frozen where he stood as he realized just how beautiful the other was as he stood in all his naked glory. But the momentary distraction cost him. Snarling, the God of War backhanded him, knocking him across the room to crash into a large potted fern. Rising shakily to his feet he reached up to touch his cheek, wincing at the fresh pain. He couldn't win, but he refused to back down. With a roar he leaped forward to crash into his dark brother.
Each tore at the other, fighting for supremacy, unable to stop. Spinning violently they tried to gain an advantage over the other. No tactic, fair or unfair was left unused as each clawed and bit and kicked. Panting and grunting they slammed repeatedly into each other, their hands and fists sliding on sweat and blood. The desire to destroy the other--mind and body--drove them on. Neither could be the first to back away. Falling to the ground they rolled, the marble slabs of the floor cold against their hot bodies. Pinning the Love God's legs against a column, the god of War rose up on his arms in triumph over the other. His victory was short lived as he found himself caught in the other's eyes. Brown eyes stared hard into brown eyes and the mental shields each hid behind shattered, draining away the rage.
Each Olympian god had the ability to read the minds of mortals. It was a necessity in order to carry out their roles. However, that ability did not extend to the other gods and goddesses unless the recipient allowed it. Very few ever did and of those few, none ever opened themselves fully, for the gods were not a trusting lot, even of family, or maybe especially of family. But here and now they were one. A bond formed -- like to like -- and yet terrifying in the differences, its intensity staggering -- the intimacy, intoxicating, as each saw with the other's eyes. The God of Love closed his eyes first, unable to bear the pain revealed before him.
//He moved on silent wolf feet, the scent of death hanging heavy in his nostrils. Like a shadow he wove silently in and out of the trees, ignoring the torn bodies that littered the ground to his left and right. Only once in his journey did he stop, standing near a soldier who still cried out his pain to an uncaring sky. At the wolf's approach the cries stopped. And only Celestra saw the gratitude in the dead man's eyes as the wolf closed massive jaws around his neck. Muzzle strained red, he loped through the battlefield, his tracks like spilled blood in the moonlight//
This time the kiss was gentle. There was no bid for mastery, no intent to dominate. And the muted song of need and desire that the God of Love had caught so briefly when Ares first appeared now rang loudly within him. He could not have turned away from that wordless plea even if he had wanted to.
//In the distance he could hear them urging him on, the ones that cried for vengeance, for freedom, for retribution, the cries of those who sought to oppress and those who fought the oppressors and under it all he heard the sound of the war drums, the sound of thousands of marching feet hitting the ground in a relentless beat, driving him forward ahead of them. The wolf loped on and death followed his trail//
Soft fingertips brushed across taunt nipples causing a slight shiver in the body pressed so close to his. He could feel him hot and heavy against his stomach. He dragged his lips across the broad shoulders above him, tasting the salt of sweat and blood, and igniting within himself a hunger for more.
//He was caught up in the sounds and the smells; in the flood of emotions that he couldn't understand as the God of Love, but controlled with iron will as the God of War. And suddenly he knew what had driven their God of War insane. But where Cupid had crumbled, this one, he had survived, but at a cost that broke his heart. He had been shunned, excluded and dismissed as brutal because of slips in control that the others could not even image in their safe, secure Temples.//
He buried his face against the throat of the god above him and with a strangled moan, began to nibble and kiss the sensitive ridge of muscle there. The need was growing, becoming uncontrollable. When he felt strong fingers hook into the waist of his white leather pants he gave a twist of power and they were off the floor and stretched out upon the bed, the leather discarded along the way.
//This was why he was the God of War. None of the others could do what he did. None of the others could control the explosive mix of emotions that war generated and that he harnessed. Where each of the other gods controlled their one tiny slice of mortal life, he encompassed it all in war -- rage, fear, terror, joy, satisfaction, lust, desire, hope, exultation. They were all his and where they would have swamped his fellow god and goddesses he mastered them. But all the others ever saw were those moments when his control slipped and they mastered him. And they despised him for the slips, never knowing that he was the one who stood in the gray twilight between the darkness and the light//
The cushions of the bed were warm against his back in a sensual contrast to the marble floor they had just left. Rolling, the Love God moved to cover the God of War, his fingers and lips sweet torture. Pulling back slightly to a better position he leaned over and ran his tongue across the stomach and chest now beneath him, the warm wet shock of it sending currents of electricity through his counterpart. The God of War whimpered softly as the insistent tongue lapped at a hard nipple, teeth nipping at the tender flesh, making the War god writhe.
//Wars of justice or injustice, battles to oppress or to fight oppression. They never cared to really see the nature of his office. The Olympians all in their own insulated realms. Zeus, who should have known and understood but who only saw the lapses in his control and looked no farther to all the times he kept the power under his command. And Hercules, half god and half-mortal, who should have understood the burden he carried because of the mortal blood within his veins, refused to acknowledge that the shadows, that twilight even existed in the world -- so he was painted with broad strokes as part of the darkness where all monsters belonged//
The God of Love leaned over him, the heat from the other's body almost scalding, the slide of hard flesh against hard flesh unbearable. Hands reached up to grasp the hips above him to pull them closer so that the velvet tip of his cock brushed against his muscled belly. He was surprised by the move and couldn't stop his body's natural desire to thrust against the friction.
//He recognized the gray between the light and dark, having walked the path himself. He knew of the resentment when the others ignored him, secure in their knowledge the he cared only for pleasure and knew nothing of the darker side of mortals. They asked not his counsel and dismissed his ideas as beneath notice. Did they not remember that Love can drive a mortal to do all the very same things that hate could? He knew the uglier sides of love for they were his nature too -- obsession, lust, greed, envy. Love had toppled as many empires as any war.//
Both were wet and slick, each trying to drive the other over the edge. The Love God moved down the body beneath him until he could suck that rock hard shaft into his greedy mouth. He pressed his tongue all along the length from tip to root. There in the candle-light one gave up his pain while another absorbed it. He sucked him as if he could suck all of the other's pain out of him and somehow heal him and make him whole. But he wanted more as well, he wanted to tap into the well of self-pleasure hidden deep within the War God. A well he knew was there because it was within himself and they were the same.
He felt the telltale vibrations speeding through his lover's body and knew that the other's climax was close. He was surprised when he felt a hand tighten on his head and pull him away, holding him still.
He looked up into eyes that mirrored his own, amazed that he would stop him -- amazed at the iron control that would even let him stop him. And then the God of Love watched mesmerized, as his dark lover brought his hand up to his mouth. Sensuous lips smiled in promise as he slowly licked and sucked three of his fingers, coating them until they shone in the candle light. Reaching forward he brought his now glistening fingers to the God of Love's hard cock and slowly rubbed the moisture across the thick head -- the slight friction of that single touch was enough to cause the God of Love's lower body to throb and a surge of pre-cum to coat already dampened fingers. Then one smooth motion he stroked the cock in front of him, hard, and pulled him down between his spread thighs.
He knew the God of War did not give up dominance easily. Memories of past encounters had flowed between them and he knew that even when bound or on the receiving end of sexual games, he had always been in control, if not of the situation, then of his responses. He had never really given up control of himself, until now. It is enough to make even a god tremble.
//Ares remembered: remembered being young and uncertain, of being a child, for even gods were young once in the beginnings of time. He remembered being not yet into his full power. Young, terrified, and uncertain of what was expected of him when they came and clothed him in the armor of War.//
He thrust slowly into the welcoming heat, feeling the other arch up against him at the pleasure/pain of it. Pleasure and pain, such simple words to express both of their natures and here, now, in this place, at this time, they were the same.
//He had been a child and they had thrust the bloody sword into his hand and called the maelstrom down upon his head. And when the pain was gone he had stood, drenched in the blood and death and sorrow and looking to his father he had cried out, "Save me" and Zeus, the Almighty, had looked at the blood that dripped from his hands and listened to the screams of the dead and dying and had turned from him in disgust, ignoring his pleas. And as Zeus turned his back so did the others until he was alone with the sorrow and the suffering.//
Firmly grasping the cock in front of him he stroked it in tandem to his thrusts until the god beneath him was bucking his hips wildly in his effort to quicken the pace. Taking pity he increased the speed and power of his strokes.
Feeling his balls tighten he leaned forward to claim the other's mouth in a searing kiss. That was all it took as they both shuddered with their release.
They lay wrapped in each other's arms, yin and yang. The demons of mind excised and driven off, maybe not forever but for a while.
He awoke to warm comfort with strong arms wrapped firmly around his waist. Everything was quiet, the temple surrounded in tranquillity. A tranquillity reflected within himself for the first time in centuries. But something outside of that peace had awakened him. Carefully stretching his senses out he searched for the disturbance -- Cupid, this world's God of War. The peace shattered.
Instincts honed over centuries of warfare kicked in before he even fully registered Cupid's presence. Rolling over he grabbed the God of Love and shifted them both far away, masking his trail as he went. He knew it would not deter Cupid long, but it would buy him enough time. He hoped. They materialized within the courtyard of the ruined temple, his clothes and weapons once more in place.
The God of Love was not as quick to react. "What's happening?"
That got his attention. "Then you'd better leave quickly."
Wrapping his hand about the hilt of his blade he snarled, "I will NOT run from a fight."
"Cupid doesn't have your control and he won't stop once the fight begins until one of you is dead. Think about it, a fight between a God of War and a God of War could . . ."
"Destroy Olympus," Ares finished for him.
"So you must go."
Ares shook his head. "If I leave, he'll try to hurt you."
"I can handle him."
The God of Love reached up to lay his hand gently against the face before him. "In another time and place, *I* am the God of War. You said it yourself, Love or War, we are the same. Your strength, though I never knew it until now, is a part of me." Stepping back with a grin that made Ares' cock twitch, he added, "He'll never know what hit him."
He stared hard at the God of Love, assessing his strengths and weaknesses, as if he were an enemy he was about to meet in battle. He saw no fear in the eyes looking calmly back at him, only strength and determination. He nodded in satisfaction. If he had found total acceptance, then this, his equal and his opposite, had found that he could stand alone. Cupid was definitely in for a surprise.
Appearing in his throne room, Ares stopped when he detected the presence of another god. He relaxed as his eyes confirmed his other senses. Aphrodite was asleep, curled up in his throne with one hand tucked up under her chin. She was so beautiful. Silently, so as not to wake her, he knelt down before her. Reaching out he rubbed one golden curl between his fingertips. Then he noticed the tear tracks that ran down her cheeks.
Guilt hit him, knowing that he had caused those tears. He treated her so badly sometimes. Very lightly, with just the tip of his finger, he traced the path of a tear. She opened her eyes under that light touch.
"The Goddess of Love should never cry."
At the sound of his voice, she realized that this was no dream. "Ares!"
Flinging herself into his arms she pulled him tight against her. He held her stiffly for a minute and then relaxed into her tight embrace, his face buried in her soft hair.
"'Dite? What are you still doing here?"
He could have been asking about her presence in his throne room but something subtle and elusive in his voice warned her that he wasn't.
"What do you mean?"
"Why do you stay with me?
The Goddess of Love felt a pure surge of hate for Zeus and those other smug bastards who turned their backs on him. But there wasn't anything she could about them. Sinking her nails into the soft leather covering his broad back she told him the truth. "Silly. You need me." She smiled to herself when she felt the last of the tension leave his body. "Come with me, Ar?"
"In a minute, 'Dite. I have a good deed to do first."
Aphrodite puzzled over his comment. It was not something that she would have expected from him but it seemed to be coming from a new place of calm within him. A place that resonated with echoes of her own power. Now that he was back she had all the time in the universe to get her answers. So she simply said, "I'll be waiting."
He reappeared at the top of the hill, his black leather standing out in stark contrast to the lush green of the grass and the blue of the sky. It didn't take long for the children playing on the hillside to notice him. All except one halted in fright. The one who wasn't afraid gave a cry of delight and came running full tilt up the side of the hill, not stopping until she threw herself against his legs and wrapped both arms around him.
"You came back!"
It was a bit disconcerting to hear that note of excitement and welcome in her voice. Mortals rarely ever welcomed him.
Taking hold of one slender shoulder he disentangled her arms from around him. Squatting down so that he was eye level, he turned his most fierce glare on her. "One does not hug the God of War."
As before, the baleful gaze didn't seem to faze her as she grinned at him. "Why not?" she asked in all innocence. "Momma says hugs make people happy. You look like you need a hug."
"I do not."
"Yes, you do." She reached up and touched a small finger to his forehead, right between his eyes. "You're not happy. You always frown." At the word frown she scrunched up her face in a fair imitation of his scowl and crossed her arms across her skinny chest. The sight of her with her arms crossed and legs braced wide with a fearsome scowl on her face was one of the funniest things he'd seen and he started to laugh. She broke her fierce look at his laugher and joined her high pitched giggles to his laughter.
"Well, little mortal, if ever I need someone to impersonate me, I'll certainly call on you."
She had the audacity to stomp one small foot. "My name is Aria, not 'little mortal.'"
"Very well, Aria." She smiled at his use of her name.
"I have something for you."
"Really? Is it candy?"
"No, it is not candy. Hold out your hand, but be warned. It will hurt."
Her eyes were huge in her face. "Will it hurt a lot?"
"It is the nature of my gifts. They don't come without a price."
She drew her brows together, thinking hard before she answered. "That means yes, doesn't it."
He sighed. "No, it won't hurt much."
He turned her wrist until the smooth skin on the back of her hand faced him. Calling up his power he pressed his thumb firmly against her flesh. There was a sizzle and a brief flash of blue light.
He glanced up at her. She had silent tears trickling down her face, and she was biting her lip, but she had made no sound. She hadn't even jerked in his grasp. And the trust was still there.
Removing his own hand he uncovered hers so she could see the glyph that was now imprinted into her skin.
Tipping her chin so she looked directly at him he said, "That is my mark. It means that you are forever and always under my protection. If you desire, you can come to my Temple at Tegea. But you will not do so until your 16th year. Then and only then are you allowed to step foot within my temple walls. Do you understand?"
She nodded her head gravely as she fingered the mark on her hand.
"Good." He stepped back from her to leave.
She motioned him back down to her level. When his face was opposite hers she leaned forward and gently kissed his cheek as she'd done that day in the village. "You said I couldn't hug you."
"You're going to be trouble."
Her grin was his last sight as he faded -- a dimpled mortal grin that help maintain the calm and soothed the jagged edges.