In Absentia Deo
By Shamenka

"Gooood Morning!" Ares grinned sweetly at his assembled family members as they sat around the great table. He had successfully managed to put each and everyone of them off the food before him. With worry, if with naught else. He was rather pleased at his result. The actions he had always seen as the slights they were, today became welcome friends.

"Erm, Mornin' Arry." 'Dite ventured, she smiled, a little strained but it was a smile none the less.

Ares said no more. He walked around the table until he reached his own chair. The one he normally sat at. It was isolated from the rest by two empty chairs either side of his. The God of War paused to put his bundle of scrolls and miscellaneous objects down. That done, he turned to the table behind him and made his breakfast selection.

Or at least appeared to.

Ares turned back and sat down, still with every eye watching him. He didn't look at a single one of them. Instead he looked at his plate, and the first scroll on his little heap.

Hera watched her son eat. Ambrosia and an apple. It was unlike him. Ares had always preferred mortal food. She cast a quick glance around the table and saw that everyone else was watching Ares. So she went back to watching him too. Then she realised, it was one of her own apples her misbegotten son was eating. He had his sword, his specially selected for him Godhood. Why would he be eating an Hesperidean apple? And ambrosia? As she watched she felt the change she had previously over looked.

When he had entered the room Ares had been mortal. Now he wasn't. He was both a God and immortal in his own right.

"What are you doing, Ares?" She asked him directly.

"Eating breakfast, mother. What in Hades' domain does it look like I'm doing?" He looked up from the first scroll, rolled it up, sealed it and lifted the second one from his little pile of objects.

"It looks like you're eating one of MY apples and ambrosia. What I want to know is why?" Hera was rather angered by Ares' attitude towards her. If she were being truthful she would have to admit that Ares always annoyed her, simply by living.

"Oh, I see." Ares drawled, stretching the word 'see' for all it was worth. "I'm begrudged even this simple fare am I?" He rolled up his second scroll and sealed it. He reached for the smaller of the two leather wrapped bundles he had put on the table and hefted its weight. He smiled again, at the package, not his mother.

Hera made no immediate reply. For some reason she couldn't tell Ares the truth and agree with him, not before the entire upper Pantheon. Or at least a good proportion of it.

Ares finished eating. Not having had much before him in the first place. Just that disputed apple and a bowl of Ambrosia.

"What game are you playing?" Hera demanded. She nudged Zeus' elbow, willing him to take over this conversation. She wanted him to deal with their son so badly she couldn't hide the fact if she tried.

"Game? Me? I'm just starting the first day of the rest of my life." Ares did look at her this time. He stood, gathered his sad looking little collection of bundles and wandered  back around the table towards the door once more. "Anyway, I've a few messages to deliver, so I'll just do that and get on my way." Ares smiled at his mother, a sickly hateful smile.

Ares wandered past most of the Gods and Goddesses, he paused briefly behind Athena and placed one scroll to her right hand. He knew full well she'd not read it. Not while he was present. Maybe not even after he had left. If she didn't it was her loss, not his. He walked on until he reached 'Dite's chair, he put the smaller leather bound bundle down by her side and the walked back towards the door once more. This time he paused behind his father's chair and placed the second scroll to his right hand.

Even as Zeus reached for the scroll, Ares vanished. He took the last item of his pile of things with him.

Ares materialised in a little clearing in a bandit infested forest. He looked around, saw his intended target and strolled over to it. He nudged the heap with a booted foot as he watched his annoying half brother wake up.

"With the living once more? Brain as awake as it ever gets is it?" Ares asked the hero. Hercules looked up at his brother, his eyes losing focus now and again as he adjusted to being awake.

"Ares!" He snarled, so predictably. So much so that Ares smiled, he looked rather pleased, as if he had won a bet with someone. He had, with himself. "What do you want?" Hercules dragged himself upright. His friend Iolaus woke up too, and joined his companion at his side as he always did.

"Me? What do I want?" Ares placed the flat of one hand against his chest and adopted a posture of utter surprise. "Why, I didn't know you cared so much about what I want." He smiled and before Hercules could confirm that he had no desire to know anything about him, Ares continued. "Why, I want my life back. My life, me, Ares - not God of War - but Ares, who I used to be." He held out the last object from his little bundle of mysteries he had carried with him to breakfast. "And to ensure I get it, I'm giving you this. I wish you luck with it. You're going to need it!" With that last comment he laughed uproariously at his brother's expression and vanished.

Hercules unwrapped the thing in his hands, slowly.

"What was that about?" Iolaus asked, staring into the space the God of War had vanished from.

"I've no idea." Hercules admitted that truth easily enough. He had never spent any time trying to understand his half brother, and he'd be damned if he was going to start now. "What the f..." The hero had unwrapped the bundle, it held a scabbard and sword. Without thinking he reached for the sword hilt and drew the blade. It hummed with it's own inner life bathing him in a blue light.

On Olympus Zeus had finally managed to break the seal on the scroll Ares had left for him. He unrolled it, looking at the unfamiliar script on the page. He couldn't recall the last time he had ever seen Ares' writing, if ever.

"Oh fuck!" The King of the Gods re-rolled the scroll and turned to his wife. "Here, read this, tell me it doesn't say what I think it says."

Taking the offending item from her husbands hands, Hera unrolled it, read it and agreed whole heartedly with his assessment of their situation.

"The selfish little shit!" She slammed the scroll down and glared at  Athena.

"Well!" She snarled "What does you scroll say?"

"I've not read it yet, have I? So how would I know? What did father's scroll say?" Athena took the scroll Ares had given her  into her hand and looked at it. She had a strong sense of foreboding as she watched her father and stepmother reach their agreement.

"Ares has quite." Zeus said. He looked around the table and met each and everyone of them in the eyes. "He is tired of living with our disrespect and has left us a new God of War. He said we all know and respect his choice of replacement and hopes we survive the inevitable training period."

"Did he say when he was coming back?" 'Dite asked, she lifted the little bundle and unwrapped it. It was a small toy, an articulated model of a warrior. Of Ares himself. It had a label attached to it, with two little words on it. 'For Bliss' "It's a model of Ares, for Bliss - so he'll know what Ares looked like I suppose." She looked up at Zeus, her eyes showing a hard edge to them. "He's not coming back is he?"

"I don't know." Zeus turned back to Athena. "Your scroll, Athena, read the stupid thing and tell us what it says."

Athena unrolled her scroll, slowly, scanning it as the words revealed themselves. She tried to make sense of them but they remained an enigma.

"I don't choose you." She looked around the table. "That's all it says." She turned the scroll around and showed the rest of the Gods and Goddesses around the table.

"So who got his sword?" Hera didn't care where her son had gone, just where his damned sword had gone.

Zeus finally felt the Godhood of War kicking in and groaned. He could see they were doomed if they couldn't find Ares and make him return to his role as God of War.

"Hercules has it. He's now God of War." Zeus looked around him, quite a few of his other children, even his son's own mother, took this as a relief. He saw that they simply didn't understand, yet. "Hercules hates the office of God of War. He doesn't understand his new duties."

"Nor will he perform them, even if you can explain them in words he can actually understand." 'Dite stood up and moved away from the table. "I'd better go give Bliss his gift, and tell him what has happened to his Grandfather." So saying she vanished from the room.

"Now what?" Hera asked her husband, it was his favoured daughter that answered her though.

"Now we either sit back and enjoy the fun and games or we panic." She too stood up, grabbed her scroll and left the room. As she moved through the ether she felt the scroll tingle in her hand, just as she rather suspected it would. Ares' hidden message would be visible when she was alone.

It was. She read Ares' explanation, such as it was. He wanted that life he had had as a young man. Before he found out he was Ares, born to be God of War for the Greek people. Back when he'd been Ares, foundling of Isis. He helpfully informed her that he wouldn't be going back to Egypt just yet. He also advised her to go on a fact finding mission right away or she would be expected to train Hercules in his job.

Athena saw the wisdom in Ares' advice and left her temple for the mortal world. In the guise of a common foot soldier. A tallish, fair haired soldier that answered to the name Philip. Thus disguised, she joined a small war band and settled in to watch Hercules fail in his new roll. Just as she knew he would.

Ares was walking, one foot in front of the other. He was heading away from that forest and his annoying half brother and his equally annoying side kick. He couldn't see that relationship surviving much longer. Not now Herc was God of War.

As the sun grew ever warmer, Ares began to whistle. He had no plans, no real idea of where he was going, other than away. He had his immortality, his basic God powers if he needed them. So long as he didn't use them anymore the other Gods couldn't find him. That still left a lot of things he could do, places he could go.

He had walked for a good hour when he was hailed from a small thicket of trees to the right of the road.

"Ares!?" The voice sounded incredulous. It also sounded truly deadly familiar.

The former God of War looked hard and saw Joxer hiding in the trees.

"Joxer? Shouldn't you be with Xena and her pet blonde?" Mentally he was damning his luck. He would have to kill the annoying mortal before he prayed to the other Gods and gave them a fix on his location.

"I would be, but I kinda quit. There's only so many times a man'll let a woman hurt him, even if he does lover her." He shrugged and moved out of his cover. "What about you? Why are you walking?"

"I quite too." Ares could not figure out just why he told the skinny, freakish mortal the truth like that. Possibly because he had plans to kill him anyway? Then another thought occurred to him. If he killed Joxer his shade would squeal all to Hades with a vengeance. What option did that leave him? Keeping Joxer close and guarding the man's mouth.

"Oh, I see. Well, I was going to see a friend of mine. Her name's Meg. Xena hates her but I think she's great." Joxer faced the former God. "You wanna come along too? Seeing as you've quit and are on holiday or whatever?" The man's face fell as he thought about Ares and his nature. "I suppose you're gonna kill me, you'll want your secret kept."

Ares was amazed the skinny man could second guess him so easily and so acurately. If even a no-hoper like Joxer could see through him then it was proof positive, if proof were needed, that it was well beyond time for him to quit while he was still ahead.

"Why does Xena hate your friend Meg? Because she's your friend?" Sometimes Xena's arrogance amazed the former God of War, this was just one time out of so very many.

"No, heavens no!" Joxer smiled at his former God. "It's because Meg looks exactly like her and runs a brothel. Xena thinks it's bad for her image." The mortal frowned, deeply, and continued. "It's no one else's business what she does, is it?" He ask for Godly guidance, and got it.

"None what so ever, but that never stops a hero from trying to impose their world view on every one. At least in my experience that is."

"Sounds about right. So, if you're not God of War any more, who is?" The mortal was relaxing in his new God's company, his confidence growing second by second.

"I gave the sword to Hercules. Why d'you ask?" Ares looked at his companion, looking for the disapproval he felt sure would be there.

"Just wondered. So, Hercules, do you hate the mortal world that much you'd sic Hercules on us?" Joxer tripped over nothing in the road and ended flat on his face.

Ares helped the unfortunate mortal back up onto his feet. It always amazed him, this man's capacity to stumble, trip or fall over nothing but his shadow. As he touched him, thinking the thoughts he was, his awareness linked with Joxer. Then he saw it, a slight miss alignment in the man's head. A flaw in those areas that dealt with spatial awareness. A slight tweak, an 'ow' from Joxer and suddenly...

Nothing happened.

Joxer didn't trip over the tree root before him, he didn't stumble over the pebble he kicked out of his way. All that and the mortal didn't notice, or at the very least, he didn't seem to notice. Which was possibly just as well, a fawning, gushing Joxer would be too tempting even for him and would have to die.

Elsewhere, Hercules, God of War was feeling the crushing weight of every angry thought, every aggressive impulse, every desire to knock the head clean off the person annoying the aggrieved party.. everyone in all of Greece in other words.

The cacophony almost drowned him in its clamour to be noticed.

"So, what's it like? Being God of War?" Iolaus asked, totally unaware of Hercules' internal struggle.

"Shut up!" Hercules shouted, anger tearing through him, rage pulsed in his blood totally out of his control. He screamed at those voices he clearly heard all around him. Iolaus heard only his friend shouting at him.

"Come back Ares, all is forgiven!" The shorter man muttered, tided up his bedroll into a neat pack and headed out, away from the God of War and his short temper. Even Ares had never been that rude to him.

It took Hercules most of the morning to even tone down the voices into a dull roar. Enough that he  could hear other thoughts, other voices. Iolaus' voice. He turned to answer him and found himself alone. Standing in the middle of the clearing he and Iolaus had set up camp in the previous evening. Just him and his brother's sword, now his sword.

"Iolaus?" he called out, peering hard between the trees. Then he saw him, twenty odd miles away and getting further by the minute. He didn't know what surprised him more, seeing at that distance or knowing he was seeing at that distance. "Iolaus!?" He squeaked this time, his sudden shock and lapse in concentration causing the flood of voice to swamp him again.

This time it was well after dark before the voices slowly calmed down. For a moment he thought he was gaining some measure of control over the sword and its immense power. Then the ex-hero realised. He was having no affect on the world. The people of Greece were simply falling asleep. They were just not being quite as actively horrible while asleep.

This time when he looked for Iolaus and found him,  he was ensconced in his favourite brothel. Seeking comfort and getting it. The God of War wondered if he should go find out what was bothering his friend. Not that he feared anything Iolaus had to say, but it was the voices, they increased when he was watching them. If he actually went there they'd be louder still and he couldn't shut them out. Not a single one of them.

Even Xena and Gabrielle had noticed something odd. The towns people were saying what they thought, especially of each other.  Minor fights became near blood-baths even as they watched helpless to stop them. It all added up to one thing. Ares wasn't a God anymore. Again! Which meant that they had to find whoever had the sword and return it to its rightful owner. Xena pondered if a chain from Hephaestus might help. Securing the sword to Ares' wrist, where he couldn't lose it.

In Meg's place Joxer was introducing her to her new bouncer. His friend Res was looking for a job and was about as handy in a fight as most heroes might be. A high recommendation from Joxer. In Meg's love struck eyes.

"Okay, he's hired. He can even work a trick or two as a bonus. If he wants." She turned briefly to look at Joxer's friend. She had to admit Res was a fine looking man. She'd hire him herself if Joxie weren't there.

"Tricks? As in hire myself out for sex?" Res was slightly shocked. It wasn't as if he didn't indulge in all manners of informed, consensual sex himself, it was just that he never thought of charging for it. That was more Dite's bag than his.

"Yeah, you keep the clients honest and quiet, you can work the odd trick for pure profit. The house takes nothin' an' if ya' don't ya' don't but I pay a minimum. Bonuses is up to you. Five Dinars a day, and all the bonuses you can handle. Deal?" She held out her hand to the attractive man before her, all her girls held their breaths while he thought her proposition over.

"Sounds fair. Say, a month trial for both of us?" Ares took the offered hand and shook it, gently.

"Good enough with me. Go introduce yourself to Ellen, the red haired girl at the bar. She'll look after you, she'll show you the ropes..." Then Meg paused, thought about something and burst out into the most raucous, if not down right filthy, laugh Ares had ever heard. "Show you the ropes.." She laughed again. "Mind and charge extra for bondage..." She dissolved into hysterical laughter. Joxer did get the joke, he was just not about to laugh until he knew if Ares would fry his ass if he did.

Ares shook his head at her very bad, very old joke. He smiled, slyly and groaned. Leaving the laughing woman behind him, he set off to introduce himself to Ellen. He could see why Meg's love of life would drive Xena up the wall. He had to admit he rather liked Joxer's Meg. She was a genuinely nice woman. Unlike her evil twin!

Iolaus lay stretched out in one of the beds in the back room of Meg's Place. Enjoying the soul soothing ministrations of Airlia, his favourite of all Meg's girls. She knew what he enjoyed most and saw that he got it. Until his money ran out.

Part 2

On Olympus the rest of the Gods, minus Athena, were looking for either Ares or Hercules. The chaos in Greece slowed down their search however. Each God was expected to do more than look in their own temples. Not that they got much chance. Once they arrived in a temple their own followers were there seeking solace from all the violence Ares normally regulated without them knowing.

Quite a few Gods found it immensely embarrassing to have to admit they couldn't help these aggrieved worshipers. That only the God of War could help them. And no, they didn't know who or where he was at the moment. More than a few people got annoyed with their particular God's lack of awareness as regards either Ares or his substitute Hercules' whereabouts. More time, therefor, was spent calming mortals down than searching. Much to Zeus' greater annoyance. He was losing his temper, which had already been on a very short thread anyway.

The King of the Gods had had to resort to looking over the world himself, searching for his missing sons. Given that Hercules hadn't managed to move more than a couple of feet all day, he was fairly easy to spot. Once Zeus thought to look for the sword rather than its holder.

Ares, he simply couldn't find anywhere. And for once he really had looked for him. He'd even over looked four gorgeous women, two handsome youths and Xena and Gabrielle in a compromising position in order to look for Ares. It might have helped if he had had a clear image of him in his head in the first place, but it had been a very long time since he'd actually really looked at Ares.

Even after he had found his ex-Demi-Godly son, he couldn't get a sensible word out of Hercules. The emotions the sword was driving though him swamped him completely. Seeing his favourite son in such distress caused Zeus to swear copiously at his absent son. Then he added his absent daughter too, with out her there was no one who could teach Hercules to wield the Sword of War. No one alive that was.

Which was when he had his own little epiphany! Zeus took Hercules to Hades' palace and waited, less than patiently, for the God of the Dead to return for his allotted search areas.

Elsewhere a troop of mounted men approached Meg's place. They had heard so much about the legendary place. At least their leader had, and he was determined to sample it's glories. He felt it would be a good moral builder before heading for home, a journey which had suddenly been made much worse by the collapse in civic order.

On the summit of the highest hill over looking the town, a troop of foot soldiers made camp. A peaceful place. Even if their newest recruit did have to stand night watch, Philip, who was otherwise called Athena, didn't mind. She, or even he, was watching the town with avid interest. She could feel an echo of her baby brother somewhere below. He/she had also felt the flashing presence of the other Gods over head and even in the town below. Predictably, they had failed to notice either Ares or her entirely.

The troop of mounted men all marched into Meg's Place, their leader firmly flanked by the others. And getting annoyed at their over protective attitude. It was hard enough to fit in to real life situations when everyone deferred to you and muttered 'as Your Majesty' wishes all the time. Now he could envision one of his personal guards and advisors trying out the girls for him first!

That idea did make the King laugh.

"Your Majesty?" The nearest guard enquired, probably as to his King's mentality rather than what amused his King as a man.

"Nothing, now, everyone, back off!" The King pushed forward, taking the lead and causing  his men a flurry of possible heart attacks.

"But..." Another man tried his best to protest.

"Enough. We're here to have fun, not make a state visit!" The King pushed open the door and strode in with a determined air.

The rest of them just sighed and followed him in.

Ares was settling a fight between two men who wanted the same woman. He did this by simply giving the woman to another man and finding two women bigger and stronger than the would be fighters. Once peace settled, as much as it ever did in the brothel, he looked up when he became aware that the door had opened again.

Right into the eyes of the man leading the new group in.

Ares recognised the man right away. Luckily for him the King was not so gifted with a photographic knowledge of every fighter and warrior in Greece, nor their former God. Iphicles did see a very attractive man looking at him however.

In the Underworld, Hades had finally turned up and been made aware of Zeus' latest idea. For the first time in several hundred years he had to agree with Zeus. It was a remarkably good idea, for him.

"Okay, I'll ask him, but as a dead God he has rights that supersede yours." Hades looked past the walls that surrounded them and searched for his quarry. "Strife, a moment of your time, please." He spoke aloud, it focused his summons better while his annoying brother and irritating nephew were around.

There was a flurry of light and sound and the dead former God of Mischief appeared. He stood before his great uncle Hades and tidied his shirt of many colours into some form of neatness. He even removed the string of flowers from around his neck.

"Wha's'up? Gee-Unk?" Strife looked around himself and finally noticed his grandfather and annoying half mortal Uncle. "What eva' it was, wasn't me! I was at one of Great Granddad's weird futuresque parties. It started a month or so back. What is it I didn't do anyway?" Strife eventually wound down to a halt. He saw, quite clearly, that no one was really listening to him. "So, what ya' shout on me for?"

"Ares has quit." Zeus held out a hand and the scroll Ares had left for him appeared. "Here, read it for yourself!" He passed the scroll over.

Strife read it, re-rolled it, passed it back and shrugged.

"So what? It's been coming for long enough. Or didn't you notice?" He looked from his grandfather to his uncle. "What's he doing here then?" He pointed at the still dazed former Demi-God and looked back to Zeus for an explanation.

"Ares gave him his sword." Zeus didn't look at Hercules either. He didn't care for Hercules' lack of ability in the War God field. He was definitely letting him down.

Strife's considered response was to giggle hysterically. The others just had to wait until he stopped laughing.

It took a while.

"And this affects me how exactly?" Strife straightened his shirt again and looked back towards Hades. "See,  Eros an' me have a spot of 'evening sport' planed for just after Gee-gramps' party. An' I'd hate to miss it."

"Zeus wants you to train Hercules for his new roll as God of War." Hades informed the soul of his dead nephew.

"Nah! No way, nyet, non - not doing it." Strife thought about his 'date' and backed off from the spaced out Hero.

"Greece needs you!" Zeus tried pompously.

Strife headed for the door, but got no further. It was locked and wouldn't budge at all.

"Hey, Gee-Unk the door's jammed." He tried the sad, soulful look on Hades, it usually worked like a charm. This time it was met with a stony glance.

"No, Strife, this time it's not going to work. You go back with Zeus and Hercules and train him in what he needs to know." The God of the Dead was rudely interrupted.

"Oh no, I know the rules as well as you do! I am dead, I have the right to stay dead, to stay here. To not be sent back to life and brought back like some kinda' kid's toy on a string. Ya know?" Strife looked at Hercules this time. He noticed, finally, that the hero hadn't moved, hadn't said a word the entire time they had been in Hades' study. He couldn't help it. "Oh for the Gods sakes, focus the emotion into a directable beam of energy you moron!"

Hercules heard the words but didn't understand them, not the instruction, not how to do that.

"What? How?" He managed, right before the undirected energy beam blew out Hades' wall. Startled by the explosion he turned to look at his father. Zeus ducked just in time as another blast of unfocused energy ripped past overhead and blew out another wall.

"Hold the energy inside. Make it part of you. It has to work for you, not you for it." Strife sighed, shrugged and stepped forward. "Fuck!" He shouted out. Angry, livid at his fate being yet again decided by other forces. "If I'm going to be made alive again I want big favours when I get back. You hear me?" He screamed in Hades' face.

He didn't see Zeus nodding his agreement to Strife's demands. Nor the hardened look on Hades' face. He was attracted by the erratic pulsing of the Sword.

"Oh, on the contrary, my dear Strife, if you go back - you go back as a full God and for keeps." Hades so loved the look of horror on Zeus' face. "And if anyone disagrees they can come take your place in my home." As he spoke there was a brief flare of power.

Strife stood there, staring mindlessly, trying to cope with his return to life.

Hercules and Strife both vanished leaving a startled Zeus in their wake.

"Where are they?" He demanded.

"Practising. Somewhere near the Elis-Arcadia border, close to Olympia to be exact." Hades laughed in raw delight at the images before his inner eye.

Zeus ran back to Olympus and cowered in his private chamber, hoping things settled down before all of Greece was flattened.

"Hades?" A light, confused voice called to the King of the Underworld from the otherside of one of the holes in the King's study walls. "Where's Strife? We had a date, and you called him. Is he ready yet?" Eros stuck his beautiful head through one of the holes. "What's wrong?" He asked when Hades groaned. Hades knew he'd forgotten something or someone.

"Sorry, Eros, but Strife is going to have to break your date. But you may come visit with me seeing as how you're here anyway?" He distracted the long overthrown Love God from questioning about Strife's whereabouts too closely. "Oh, the things I do for my family!" He muttered under his breath.

Back in Meg's, most of Iphicles' men were now happily distracted. They were singing their King's praises, this side trip had definitely been one of his better ideas. They had their arms full of pretty girls or pretty boys, if they preferred. Their King had eyes only for the bouncer. So too did a few of the men, much to the annoyance of the girls with them. But, since they were paying, they called the shots. More than one of the girls had eyes only for the new man, Res.

"So, Res, how much for your charms?" Iphicles asked quite bluntly. He rather enjoyed the plain sex talk. It was by far more fun than boring diplomacy any day. "Do you charge by the orgasm or the hour?"

"Oh, you either boast about yourself or hold me in an unnaturally high esteem. By the orgasm in deed! How do I know you can count that high anyway?" Res, or Ares as he was more commonly known, asked the panting for it King.

"If you get either of us beyond forty four thousand three hundred and sixty five, well, we might have to start again, but till that point... I'm confident." Iphicles stroked the man's face, thumbing those full lips. It was almost like seducing a twin. Which just added to the excitement.

Res laughed, a deep full bodied laugh, the tremors of which shot up Iphicles' finger tips.

The King pulled the man in for a deep, powerful kiss. Breaking away slightly, eyes a little defocused, he looked at his prise.

"Damn the expense, I'm the fuckin' King, I can afford this!" And he laughed too, right before he reclaimed his prise. Not that Res objected in any way what so ever.

Joxer watched his former God kissing his sort of friend's older brother and wished he could watch the rest of their action together, they seemed so hot to him. His eyes tracked them as they headed for the room assigned to Res for his 'bonuses' with an almost palpable hunger. Then he saw someone just as familiar entering the main room from one of the other private rooms. Iolaus!

The warrior wannabe felt a shiver of fear dance along his spine. He knew full well that Iolaus would spoil things for Ares if he saw him there. If this was how he could best serve his former God, then so be it! A warrior, no matter what his skill level, had to stand up and be counted  - or even lie down and be fucked, if need be.

"Iolaus? What, no Hercules with you?" The warrior wannabe was grateful he'd discarded his ugly armour in favour of a white Chin silk shirt and ultra tight, black leather pants. "Or are you just having a holiday from all that heroing?" Joxer clasped the other man's shoulder, letting his hand drift up turning it into a caress.

"Joxer?" Iolaus squealed. "What you doing here?"

"Working, what else?" One finger nail traced the outer edge of Iolaus' ear and round again to drift along the line of the man's jawline. "Why? You looking for a job, or just a little diversion?" Joxer's eyes danced with confidence and mirth. This was so obviously familiar territory to him.

"Joxie - I thought we might play a little. What's he got that I don't?" One of Meg's girls pouted into Joxer's face and tried to split the two men apart.

"Well, let's see, muscles, a big cock, if I don't miss my guess on the size, balls, and a sweet spot, waiting to be rubbed." Joxer laughed while making his list of Iolaus' charms.

"Apart from that, what's he got?" She asked again.

"Novelty sweety, I've never had Iolaus." Joxer winked at her, outrageously.

"Bad boys, the pair of you!"  She pouted and wiggled away, looking for some novelty of her own.

Joxer looked at Iolaus and saw the man blush from the roots of his hair to the soles of his feet. He threw an arm around the slightly shorter man and lead him to the bar.

"Let's get a drink." Joxer let the arm on the other guy's shoulders drift south and cupped one of those deliciously pert butt cheeks.

"Joxer!" Iolaus squealed, again. "What's gotten in to you?"

"Nothin' yet, but I live in hope." Joxer teased the blond quite mercilessly. "Or, I could arrange for something to get into you?" He reached for Iolaus' nearest hand and pressed it against his hard cock. "Whatever you prefer.."

In Res' private room Iphicles was lying, already naked, watching his new friend stripping for him. Res sang as he moved, the King heard the sounds, knew they were well sung, but couldn't concentrate on them if his life depended on it. Not when that body was revealing itself to him, piece by glorious piece.

"Hurry up or we'll be at one orgasm before you even get into bed!" Iphicles almost salivated at the sight of that perfect cock coming into view like that. He rolled to the edge of the bed and grabbed Res, pulling him forwards. He all but sucked Res' massive cock into his mouth. He licked and sucked with a fair portion of skill as well as a liberal shot of enthusiasm.

Res wove his fingers into Iphicles' hair, holding that so talented mouth as close as he could, with out suffocating the poor mortal.

And in Arcadia ego was getting in Strife's way. He was so close to blasting his uncle's ass. Hercules was refusing to listen to a single instruction. Strife was not a foolish God, he had lived with Ares for far too long to be truly foolish. If he had been he'd never have survived as long as he did. He knew full well he was going to have to reach the inner show off hidden in his uncle's pompous soul.

"Let's try this naked!" Strife announced, right before he stripped them both of clothes and his uncle of his mortal camouflage. If he wasn't dressed like a mortal maybe he'd not think too much like a mortal? "Now, imagine the energy is light, and it's shining in your hand, just for you, a big bright light." He showed Hercules what he meant. Hercules watched that light, mesmerised. The light began to pulse, to spin, to shimmer and change colours even as the new War God watched. "Hypnotism works too!" The resurrected God muttered.

Back home with the rest of the Gods Hera was trying to make order out of chaos. Not one of the Gods had seen Ares. She knew full well that Hades had returned Strife to the living, which annoyed the immortal life out of her. She knew too that Zeus had him training the moron Hercules. She had no faith that any God could train Hercules. She'd always marvelled that his mother got him potty trained in the first place. Granted he'd been almost five before he fully got to grips with the whole concept. Strife was far less patient than Alcemene had ever been.

Suddenly, the idea of Strife's return as Hercules' personal trainer was looking like a far better idea that she originally thought. Maybe the dear God needed some advice on training practices? She created a scrying mirror, to monitor Hercules' training, honest.

Back in the Elis-Arcadia border region Hercules was throwing fire balls. Not for the first time true, but these were focused. They were also wasting the pent up energy he'd gathered all day. He had to admit, once his brain restarted the thinking process again, that he really loved that phtoom noise they made when zipping off his hands. Strife had had him popping throughout the area firing off at hills and mountains. There were several new tunnels that mortals might find very useful. A few hundred fried sheep which weren't really of any practical use to any one anymore. Strife had promised to show him how to recreate the sheep later.

He'd never realised Strife was so clever!

Strife had never realised he had so much patience.

Hera had never realised either man would look so good stark naked and cover in soot marks from the fire ball blow backs. They were both sporting the inevitable side effects of such intense power usage, she hoped no one would interrupt her before they reached critical mass in the sexual energy stakes.

In Meg's private rooms Iphicles was on his back with his legs wrapped securely around Res. For his part Res was pounding merrily into the beautiful King beneath him. All he could think was 'bugger Olympus, I'm heading for Nirvana' and he pounded harder.

In another room, Iolaus was wondering why he was on his knees begging Joxer, of all people, to fuck him - hard. All the teasing strokes and touches Joxer was bestowing on him was driving him  insane.

"Now, damn it, Jox! Please?" He screamed out his need just as Joxer finally slammed a well oiled cock into his well stretched ass. "Oh, fuck, yes." The hunter hissed through tightly gritted teeth. This was bliss. He'd never known that the warrior wannabe was so damn talented.

In his lonely chamber Zeus wondered what everyone else was doing. He didn't go looking, he was too worried that he'd have to explain Strife's return to the living to Hera. He knew all too painfully what his wife thought about Ares and his entire branch of the family.

Hera thought Strife was a very flexible, versatile young God. What he couldn't do with his cock, a willing ass and full Godly powers had yet to be invented. And according to her findings, Hercules agreed with her. She still couldn't see how Strife could manage the levitation spell required and be pounding Herc's butt with such thorough ferocity. All she did know for sure was that she had overlooked so much in her shunning of Ares' side of her family. That lead inexorably to the realisations that:-

Ares had had even longer to learn even more sexual techniques.

She wished they'd speed up the search for her missing baby.

And who knew Hercules could ejaculate that far anyway?

Perhaps it was time for her to take a more hands on approach to dear Hercules' training. After all, Strife, the poor love, was only just returned to life from a boring exile in his great uncle Hades' domain. It was her duty as a caring grandmother to make sure that the baby of the family didn't overstrain himself, and that Herc didn't over strain him either.

"Grandmother!" Strife squealed at the sight of his grandmother standing before him. "You're naked!" He added, in case she hadn't noticed.

"So are you." Hera pointed out patiently for him in case he had forgotten that delicious fact

Hercules stood by and watched Hear advance on Strife. He couldn't for the life of him think what she wanted from his ever so patient with him teacher. When he did realise he got a little bit annoyed. Three flocks os sheep and an entire mountain later and he finally got to grips with wielding all that power. He had to keep dissipating it, but Hera was proving invaluable at affording him plenty of targets.

The world wasn't calming down much, but Hercules was finally semi-functional.

Part 3

By the time dawn broke Hercules, Strife and even Hera were all sound asleep, exhausted from running around the Elis- Arcadian country side. Amongst other things. Zeus' temple was flattened, so they were all huddled in Hera's big bed in her temple there. All three of them were snoring. And the world still wasn't any calmer.

In Meg's place most of the paying guests had paid up and gone home. Those that remained were waiting for their King to come out of the bouncer's private room. They helped clear away the nights debris and sorted things out for the new days business. Like warriors everywhere they were so controlled as to be peaceful. The civilians out side the brothel, however, couldn't say as much. A full scale riot was brewing and it was not yet ten of the clock.

Up on the hill Philip, who was Athena, was awake and watching the town below with growing interest. Aphrodite had put in an appearance in her temple there. Her son Cupid in attendance. Philip's cohorts sat with the young Hoplite and saw what he saw.

"So, what do you think has happened to Ares this time? Zeus siding with his bastard Hercules again?" One of the more experienced soldiers asked his fellows.

"Last time things got weird Hades stole Ares' sword. Maybe Hades stole it again?" One of the others suggested.

"Or he lost it, put it down while he let Xena or Hercules beat him as usual. Now he can't remember where he put it?" A third said.

"Maybe he's sick of mortals showing him no respect and walked away?" Philip/Athena suggested. "And I heard he loses to Hercules and Xena because Zeus told him he had to! Those two being his bastards and more favoured than Ares."

"I thought Xena was supposed to be Ares' kid?" The first one asked.

"Nah! Have you ever seen Cyrene? She's more like Alcemene than Aphrodite. Not Ares' taste at all." Philip laughed and turned to her fellow warriors. "More bovine than beautiful."

"So why would Ares let Xena think she's his kid then?" The third speaker asked.

"I bet his father demanded it. I wouldn't put it past Zeus to have some way to threaten the other Gods, like to kill them. So he would make Ares take the blame just so that that harridan Hera didn't find out." The first speaker replied.

Philip/Athena turned a shocked face towards the first speaker, somewhat amazed that so much of Zeus' nature and deeds were known so truthfully by any mortals. There was always the brief flash of guilt at leaving Ares to always take the blame and punishments dished out by Hera over all those unclaimed half breads.

"Can you imagine Hercules' face if anyone tells him Xena's his sister?" The second speaker pondered. "Talk about happy families! Wonder if she'd teach him to make that stupid screech she does? Or would he teach her to shut up and not telegraph her movements quite so much?"

The Goddess of War bit her tongue, nothing would be served if she told these warriors Hercules had actually fucked his sister. Although she did reserve the right to tell Hercules he had fucked his sister, which was one sin more than Ares had ever done. Aphrodite was actually their great aunt, not a sibling.  She had to allow that that was a mere technicality, but it didn't change the actual facts. Philip laughed, she couldn't help it.

The others laughed too, and turned their attention back to the chaotic scene below them.

In the market place fists and food were flying thick and fast. Simple little misunderstandings rapidly deteriorated into full scale blood-baths. No one was safe, even the visitors to the town were succumbing to the general madness. Or at least one of them was. The blonde one.  She was having a go at clubbing the brains of one poor defenceless man into the dirt of the market place. Her companion was trying to get the club from her and to restore some semblance of peace.

"Gabrielle, focus. You focused before, the last time this happened, why can't you focus this time?" Xena searched her friends face, looking for even a flicker of self control.

"Well Joxer isn't here is he? Last time I just hit him and kept on hitting him until he finally tried to hit me back. How can I control myself if I don't have someone to hit? I don't suppose you'd let me hit you, would you?" It wasn't so much a question as an accusation.

"You hit Joxer? And he let you?" Xena began to wonder what had lent the warrior such emotional control. She recalled, quite clearly in fact, telling Gabrielle that only battle hardened warriors would be able to control themselves. After all, Gabrielle had been in a lot more fights than Joxer, or so she had thought, and she had failed to control herself at all. How had Joxer managed it? And how had she missed noticing Joxer's calm control? Even when she had asked him to pretend to be scared, he had had to pretend real hard.

In the brothel Joxer was managing to keep his own self control just fine. He had breakfast in his hands and took it to his private room and to the still sleeping Iolaus. He put the tray down on the table and shook his sleeping companion awake.

"Rise and shine Iolaus, breakfast is here!" Joxer was cheerful enough, he was entirely under control. He felt the unmastered anger in the air but put it to one side as he always did. He refused to become as angered a person as his bastard father had been.

Iolaus woke up, he recalled where he was, who he was with and what they had done. He wished he hadn't woken up. Then felt guilty for feeling like that and sat up to look at Joxer. For his part Joxer was still grinning widely, it brought forth an answering grin from Iolaus.

"Breakfast?" He ventured to see if he could speak like a rational human being. With his life going to Hades in a hand basket he wouldn't have been surprised if he had ended up braying like a donkey. As well as funking like an ass!

"Breakfast." Joxer confirmed and moved the tray to the bed between them, he indicated that Iolaus was to help himself. The blond man did. They ate in companionable silence, each thinking their own thoughts. Whereas Iolaus wondered how Joxer was so good at the many techniques he'd demonstrated over the course of the evening; Joxer wondered if he could get the man out of there before he saw, and recognised, Ares. Maybe King Iphicles might take him with him, if the King could be unglued from Ares' body in time.

In Ares' room breakfast was also being eaten. A friendly, if somewhat ribald, discussion on Iphicles' final bill was taking place too.

"So, who much do you want for last night? A flat fee of Thirty Dinars or do we count up the orgasms and say oh, Three Dinar apiece?" Iphicles hadn't felt this free and liberated in so long a time he hardly recognised himself.

"Let's see.." Res pondered their previous night. Counting the short breaks to let the King recover, and for him to do his bouncing duties... that made it... nine orgasms.. "A flat fee of Thirty Dinars is fine." He smiled at the King and stretched out like a happy cat. He even purred! Not something he was overly known to do under any circumstances.

Iphicles counted out the thirty coins and put them on the night stand. He grinned at the man on whose bed he reclined and ate some more food.  He felt the need to build up his reserves of strength again.

"It's been fun, Res, the most fun I've had since I became King in fact." Iphicles rolled over and kissed Res lightly. "I'll have to see if Meg will let you come to the Corinthian Palace for a Royal Command Performance. I could sell tickets and raise money for charity. See how often your King cums for his people!" Iphicles laughed out loud. The idea taking root in his mind.

"But Corinth is so far away from here. How would it all be coordinated? How could we let the people know it was happening?" Res asked.

"You could always write out a letter to the Corinthians and let them know of your coming? Quite a lot of them can read you know?" Iphicles, almost unable to stop himself from laughing at his people's expense, levered himself off the bed, reluctantly. He had a long way to go and had better collect his men and get under way. "I suppose I'd better get going." He smiled at the beautiful man who had shown him such pleasure the night before and sighed. "I'd definitely had better head for home, before I stay here and bankrupt my Kingdom on your talents. Thank you for a very memorable night." He kissed Res one more time and moved to the door.

"Thank you, your Majesty. You were no slouch yourself, you know? You should take more pride in your own worth." Res stroked a hand up Iphicles' butt cheeks. "Have a pleasant journey home."

"Thank you." Iphicles gave Res one last big smile and opened the door. As he closed it he encountered a back with a pair of white fluffy wings attached, and a tan that seemed to go on for ever. "What the f.." He muttered, somewhat surprised.

Cupid heard the door behind him open and close. He heard the mortal voice almost swear directly behind him. He had a strong suspicion he knew who was still behind that door behind him. He recognised the smell right away. How could he tell anyone that he had found his father, working for a mortal, as a fuck toy in a high class brothel no less.

Iphicles stepped around the God, he recognised the blond God, no matter what his brother and mother thought of him he recognised Cupid when he saw him. Not too many Gods had white fluffy wings after all.

"Lord Cupid?" Iphicles started again. "If I was encroaching on your time you should have simply pounded on the door." He sidled around the stunningly attractive God and towards his nervous troops. He couldn't shift the image of Res coupling with Cupid from his mind, even if he tried.

"I'm not here ta' fuck!" Cupid protested. "I'm looking for some one. My father." He whined, he genuinely whined, he heard himself do it and couldn't stop himself. The very idea of fucking his father squicked him somewhat, either that or the frission of  excitement he felt disgusted him. He didn't want to look too closely at that one.

"What would the God of War be doing here?" Iphicles ventured to enquire.

"No, he's not here, honest. I just came to collect Iolaus, he's here. I wanted him to help me search for my father. Is all!" Cupid bit his tongue and tried very hard to say no more. But he did back up until he stood with his back more or less against the door to his father's private room. He'd defy any of them to try and make him move.

"Iolaus is here?" Iphicles screamed out his surprise. The King looked around the rooms occupants and let rip a shout loud enough to wake the dead. "Iolaus?" And then another one, for where there was Iolaus there would be Hercules too. Iphicles so wanted to discover his brother was patron of a brothel. "Hercules?" he shouted even louder this time, making his voice quiver, as if he really needed his brother.

Iolaus arrived, front and centre. He blushed as he realised he'd dragged Joxer with him. Joxer almost panicked when he realised Cupid was there and standing right in front of his father's door.

Next to arrive was Hercules. He flashed into view and was stark naked, as was Strife and Hera both of whom came along with him. Not one of them was quite awake.

Cupid was somewhat amazed to see Strife there. Maybe Iphicles had indeed shouted loud enough to wake the dead?

"Strife?" He whispered at the sight of his long ago lover, unable to spare him much attention before the terrifying vision of their Grandmother naked before a brothel full of gawking military type mortals.

"Hey, Cupid." Strife acknowledged and then realised their grandmother was indeed still naked as were himself and Hercules. With a wave of his hand all three of them were identically dressed in tight black leather garments held together with large silver pins.

"Who's Grandma's good boy then?" Hera asked, patting the side of the younger God's head and yawned.

Then Strife sniffed up too. His head shot around towards Cupid and the door behind him. He looked all around him and realised just where they were.

"We're in a brothel!" He pointed out, in case Hercules hadn't figured it out, which he hadn't, he was bearly awake.

"Iphicles shouted on me." Hercules informed his trainers, then felt all the tensions form the civilians fighting out side the brothel. "Oh, Strife, make them stop!" He clutched his head and groaned.

"Too many mortals out there, fighting." Hera looked at her shocked grandson and wondered why he was standing in front of a bedroom door like that. The turned to the King and his men. "You're King Iphicles aren't you?" She asked the man who reminded her so much of Ares' side of the family.

"Yes ma'am." The King replied. He wondered if his last day of life had finally arrived, and if it had at least he'd fucked till dawn the night before. He'd die happy and with a sore butt, but it was worth it. "What can I do for you?" He enquired of the now strangely clad Queen of the Gods.

"Take your men out there and quiet the towns people down. Curfew them if need be. Massacre them if they won't do that!" She waved the King out of the door and  looked at Strife and Cupid who were still staring at each other. She smiled, thinking it was so nice to see long lost lover's reunited like that. She also fidgeted in the tight leathers as they rubbed at the already rubbed raw spots. But Strife was so well worth missing, so she took pity on poor lonely Cupid. "Strife, your cousin has been guarding that bedroom with a vengeance and no doubt with a purpose very firmly in mind since we got here. Take the poor dear inside and fuck him will you? He's beginning to make some people nervous, all that sniffing and twitching." She shooed them both towards the door then turned back to the task in hand, guiding the new God of War in the direction she thought he really ought to go. Her way.

Cupid reached for Strife and dragged him into the bedroom behind him, only just opening the door wide enough to let both of them through. Once they had slammed the door behind them they both turned to look at the now sleeping again ex-God of War. A smile of pure contentment gracing his dark brooding face. It had long since puzzled Strife, just how Ares could in fact brood while asleep. It was a skill he fervently wished for for himself. He was for ever being told he looked cute while asleep. What kind of rep was that for a wicked War type of God? Cute!

"Dad?" Cupid whispered. Ares slept on.

"Not like that, like this." Strife took an extra deep breath and enjoyed the look of absolute panic that graced Cupid's terrified face. All he did was begin to sing. All about the joys of a good hard fuck and a sweet, blond God to give it to him...

Ares woke immediately, threw a cushion at Strife, realised it was his otherwise dead nephew that was singing gushing love songs about Cupid and grabbed him. Before he could call out his mouth was filled with Strife tongue. His brain was filled with surprise. And his bed was filled with young Gods.

"Why you here?" Ares finally asked, he had also finally got to grips with the idea that Strife wanted him to keep quiet.

"I could ask you the same. You mean here the brothel, here this plain of existence or here your bed?" Strife wriggled as he reacquainted himself with his much missed uncle's body.

"Ooh, all three." Ares groaned, remembering many a pleasant week or two spent in bed with his very talented nephew.

"Well. Far as I figure it, Iphicles shouted on his brother and Hercules woke up, heard him and brought us all with him. I was brought back to train Herc in his new role as GoW and seeing as Iphicles was in the brothel when he shouted here we are. Cupes was already here for some reason. Oh, and we smelled you from out there, so we came in here to find out whatcha' doin' in a brothel?" Strife got sharp looks from both Gods in the bed with him.

"Who is 'us' exactly?" Ares asked. Cupid just growled and muttered about three in a bed romps with them all naked. Ares was intrigued, but not enough to be distracted.

"Us is me and Herc and Hera." Strife tried to prepare for the fall out from that last statement but was unprepared for the complete lack of response Ares presented.

"Wha's up?" Strife asked his favourite uncle.

"You and my mother, naked, in bed with Hercules? What on Earth were you training  him for? The sexual Olympics?" he hissed his question, not wanting his mother to hear him and come in to find him. She'd no doubt try and make him go back to work. Well, he didn't have to, not now Strife was there. He could take care of the God of War duties. Granted the world would come to a burned out crispy mess sooner rather than later, but he'd not be responsible.

"That Goddess has a lot of pent up talent you know? Your dad simply doesn't give her any and then he prohibits the rest of them from giving her any. It's no wonder she's so pissed off all the time. She's hornier than Cupid on marzipan!" Strife smiled at the maligned God and produced a block of the golden treat that drove Cupid so over board. "Though what he gets from almond paste I'll never know."

"Does it matter when he's..." Ares' eye widened and he squirmed over Strife as if the hounds of Hades were after him. "Will you do something about him. Remind him he's my son or something?" he hissed in Strife's ear.

"Cupie, love, Ares is your dad, ok?" He reached for the God and lay back, taking Cupid with him to lie covering him like a blanket. He vanished their clothing and spread his legs wide. "Come with me." He groaned, Cupid groaned even louder.

The blond God began to growl, deep in his throat, he bared his teeth and snarled. Dropping his head onto Strife's exposed neck he bit and sucked at the exposed flesh. He bit hard enough to draw Godly blood.

Seeing the gush of red running down Strife's neck Ares reached over his prone nephew and grabbed Cupid's hair, he pulled him away from his cousin. He shook him for good measure.

"Enough, heal him!" He hissed at his son, using his own reserves of energy to push the God slightly out of his addiction caused lust.

Cupid saw the blood and healed Strife, apologising as he went. He still wanted his cousin, but not to inflict such damage on him.

"Now, gently, son, and together. Let's make a Strife sandwich." Ares rocked against the young God from behind and, to show his contrition, Cupid rubbed him from the front. Touching, stroking, kissing. He threw off the bedding and crawled down to nuzzle Strife's erection. The very epitome of a truly contrite God.

By the time Iphicles had returned from civilian riot control the calm contingent in Meg's place had grown, a little. He walked in to find Hercules arguing volubly with Xena and Gabrielle as to who properly owned the Sword of War. And for once Hercules seemed on the verge of actually not rolling over and going belly up where the damn woman was concerned.

"I see that the peace we have created has picked up Herc's spirits a little?" Iphicles found himself chatting with Hera. Not cowering in fear and terror, but chatting to her, like equals. They both watched Hercules edge ever closer to blasting the women before him into tiny little smoking pieces. Each of them, for their own reasons, widshed he would.

Failing to get her own way, and possession of the sword, Xena stormed out of Meg's Place. Ostensibly she left to check on her horse. The horse which incidentally hadn't moved a hoof out of the stable since it went in there. But it was really to try and think up a new strategy that would wrest the sword from Hercules' hands and leave her free to find Ares again. She did wonder where the Gods had imprisoned him. All this talk of Ares quitting, couldn't be true. Could it?

Part 4

From their hilltop perch the band of warriors watched all the tooing and froing and now had a betting pool going as to what would be the likely out come of events. Now that Xena had turned up the more stupid and outrageous ideas were shortening their odds considerably.

>From his bar-side vantage point Iphicles was wondering why Cupid and Strife had vanished.

"Where did Cupid and the other God you came with go?" He ventured to ask the Queen of the Gods. He took in her figure in the tight black leather. It was not a bad figure at all. In fact it was a rather good one. "You do look good in that leather outfit.." Iphicles wished to die swiftly and painlessly if possible. He blushed several shades of purple and mentally bade farewell to his friends and family.

Hera was not in a killing mood. Quite the opposite in fact. She had worked out a great deal of her tensions over the previous night and felt positively mellow.

"Why, that's a very nice thing to say Iphicles. It's been a long time since anyone made compliments about my attire. And Cupid and Strife went in that empty room. They haven't seen each other is such a long time. Since Strife died in fact, the poor dears. I do believe they're fucking like bunnies in there. Why do you ask?"

"Only, that room wasn't empty. I spent the night in their with a really talented and beautiful young man. He's the bouncer here." Iphicles thought about his night of passion and grinned like a maniac.

Joxer, however, having heard the entire discourse panicked for everyone. He really wasn't keen on the idea of Hera going in to tell her boys to get out of the room as it was occupied and finding her missing son in there. He wasn't keen on having Hera in the brothel, nor Hercules, Cupid or Strife... he rethought about Strife, no, he could stay, it'd been a very long time since he and Strife had gotten together. He had missed him too.

Xena had calmed down enough to try again. She walked in to the brothel and immediately felt the tension in her body. She tried to smile at Hercules. It came out more of a sneer than an entreaty.

"Look, Hercules, think about it. Why would Ares give you his Sword of Power." She put as much emphasis on Sword and Power as she could muster. It didn't work.

"Because he trusts me. Because I never lied to him. Because he doesn't trust you is why." Hercules was slowly learning to work around the power flooding into him in a constant stream. He could see so much more about things with all that power. Little things and big things. Things like Gabrielle loved to abuse Joxer. Things like Xena wasn't his niece, she was his sister...

The fireball that took Xena out through the wall was impressive. Even Athena applauded it, as too did the rest of her group.

Hera was by his side in an instant. Concern for her trainee's well being. He was far too virile.. useful to waste.

"Why did you do that?" She asked, as soothingly as she knew how.

"She claimed, once, to be Ares' daughter. Told the Furies she was to get out of their punishment. But she's not Ares' daughter - she's our sister, not my niece. She lied to Ares, again, and to me. D'you know I fucked my sister?" Hercules' rage was being driven by the powers inherent in the sword. He couldn't stop it if he knew how, which he didn't so he didn't try.

Iphicles sneaked into Res' room to make sure he was fine and not being mistreated by the two Gods in there now. He wasn't the only one to sneak in either. Joxer followed directly behind him.

Ares, or Res as Iphicles knew him was behind Strife fucking the younger God while Cupid was blowing the younger God with a devotional passion many a God would be envious of on Temple days.

"Res, you okay?" The King enquired, softly.

"Damn right I am." Res looked over the sweat soaked shoulder of Strife to see his King, all worried for his safety. He smiled very broadly at him and asked if he'd care to joint them? Then Res noticed Joxer hanging back, just as worried. That was sweat too, and deserved some reward. He invited Joxer to join in too.

Joxer was so tempted.

"Come on, it'll be fun." Iphicles nudged the man's elbow and stripped off in front of him. Reminding him of just what was on offer. Hot sex with three Gods and a King or a fight out there with Hercules and Xena.

"Move over Cupid, make room for a fourth and fifth player here." And Joxer stripped off and almost pinned Cupid's butt right off.

The Love God squirmed and writhed. The more the merrier he always thought. So he increased the size of the bed and more hands and mouths joined in the fun. A very talented mouth currently had a tight suction hold on his cock. And he'd give them an hour to stop that, before he took drastic action.

Strife was being fucked by Ares who was being fucked by Iphicles and they all wanted so bad to be fucked by Cupid and Joxer. But Strife would settle for watching the other two fuck if need be.  He knew full well what talents lay hidden in Joxer's bumbling persona.

Out side the room Hercules was boiling mad. He didn't know what to do with the fury. Hera tried to guide the power into something constructive. Something Godly. Turning Xena into a smouldering pile of ash. Or even their father...

"... maybe it isn't really her fault, or even yours? After all, did you ask you father to fuck your mother disguised as her husband? Did Alcemene? See? I can be rational! I can see what's wrong with this world..." She stood beside Hercules, touching his hand, thinking about all the infidelity Zeus had indulged in. "After all he made a vow of fidelity. What's good for him is good for me, for you, for all of us!" She smiled at Hercules. "We can live by his rules if we want to, can't we?"

"Sure we can." Hercules always managed to focus the energy where sex was concerned. "Where is he anyway?"

"Hiding in his bedroom I do believe. So, shall we get Strife back and go continue your training?" Hera walk towards the now unguarded door, followed by Hercules the ever faithful puppyish GoW substitute.

Iolaus followed after the vague and bemused tight leather clad figures that were his friend and the Queen of the Gods. He had to admit, only to himself though, that Hera did look rather spectacular in skin tight leather. The way it arched over the tops of her legs defining her crotch region so perfectly. Flexing with every movement of her buttocks.

Hercules and  Iolaus were both watching Hera too closely that they didn't notice who was in the bed, not right off. It was Hera's startled squeak that alerted them to something important.

There before them was Ares, the missing God of War. Hercules rushed over to give him back the sword. Iolaus rushed forward to get a closer look. Hera couldn't move if her life depended on it. She had never known, simply never realised, never really looked at her son. He was beautiful. They all were. And having so much fun together too.

Finally Iphicles realised they were not alone. He looked over the writhing group of heaving male bodies and saw his brother, his brother's best friend and to add to the horror of the moment, his brother's stepmother.

"Uh, guys?" He shook Res' shoulder and dragged his head up to look at the new comers. "We got company." Then Iphicles got his biggest shock to date.

"Mother!" Res  squealed in horror. He grabbed for a blanket to cover himself only to reveal Joxer sucking Strife's cock while being fucked by Cupid. "Son, cover yourself!" He used his new, permanent, God powers and created Cupid a blanket. Startling the younger God into looking around him.

"Grandmother.." He squeaked very quietly, shock tended to do that to him.

Joxer all but spat Strife's softening cock out his mouth in a rush to speak.

"I can explain everything.." He offered, grinning, not actually embarrassed.

"Dressed, out there, now." Hera pointed to the door beyond which lay the rest of Meg's brothel. She wasn't too sure who she was cross with or why. Although she did realise that if she could settle things with regards to Ares' quitting as God of War then that would be to her glory. Not Zeus'!

Xena watched the line of half dressed, guilty looking men and Gods stream out of the bedroom door, Hera in the lead. The last figure out of there caused her to choke on her drink. For there was Ares, not being held captive, unless Meg had gone into the slavery/kidnap business to supply her sex toys. She almost didn't notice Joxer between Strife and Cupid. At least all of them were mostly dressed. She turned to comment to Gabrielle and looked at her just in time to see her dash forward and hit Joxer, tweaking his nose into the bargain.

What no one expected, except for Ares who recalled Joxer's previous comments on the subject, was for Joxer to finally hit back. Hard.

As Gabrielle went flying backwards a livid red hand mark on her face Xena yipped into action. Only to be sent flying, further, by Hera.

Up on the hill the troop of warriors watched as the blonde friend of Xena fell out the door rubbing her face. Only to be followed closely by Xena who collided with her and carried them both out onto the road way.

"That was a good one. A two for one deal!" The owner of the second voice previously documented said.

"Do you know a man called Salmoneous?" Philip/Athena asked, curious despite her best efforts to the contrary.

"I have an uncle Salmoneous. He's my mother's brother. Why?"

"A dealer in stuff is he?" Philip asked.

"Yeah, how'd you know?"

"Oh, I didn't, I just suspected is all." They went back to watching the brothel below. It seemed to be the focus of a lot of activity.

Xena picked herself up, looked at Gabrielle and reluctantly helped her to her feet.

"Why did you attack Joxer?" She demanded. Oddly enough her not overly loud voice carried to the watchers on the hill side, somehow.

"Why shouldn't I? I always attack  Joxer. He's pathetic." Gabrielle snarled. Of all the Gods, immortals and general bad boy hunks they'd met, she had to get lumbered with the attentions of Joxer the Mighty.

"Not judging by the way he hit you he isn't." She looked over at the door they had both been thrown through and shrugged. "Come on, we'd better get back inside and see what's going on."

"Do you think Hercules sold Ares to Meg as a sex toy for her brothel then?" Gabrielle looked through the partially open door too, she did wish she'd known Ares had been for sale  the night before. She'd have hurried them there no problem.

"I don't know what to think. But Hercules does have the Sword and refuses point blank to give it to me. And I'm far better versed with it's uses than he is." Xena walked back in. Not turning to make sure her companion followed her, sure that she would.

She was not the only one following Xena. Philip had stood up and glared at the so called Warrior Princess.

"That's it!" He snarled. "This need direct intervention. That lot couldn't sort out shit from sticks." And before their shocked little faces young Philip turned into a tall willowy brunette with cold grey eyes. "Ares needs his big sister, not a squalling half mortal that actually hates him." Like all Gods, she conveniently forgot that she too hated Ares.

"Athena?" The first speaker from before asked.

"What?" Athena questioned.

"But don't you hate your brother too?" He asked. "Only, that's what everybody knows, like.."

"I... I... damn it all to Hades!" She couldn't explain herself, so being a Goddess in her father's glorious fashioning, she simply vanished from their number and reappeared in the brothel. "What is going on here?" She went for volume and filibuster. It usually worked as a substitute for reasoned argument and facts.

"Oh fuck, who sent for her?" Strife really didn't like his aunt  Athena, not that she liked him any more than he her.

"Well, I didn't." The Queen of the Gods told him. She patted her grandson's arm and turned to yet another step daughter. "So, who did send for you? Did anyone pray for Athena to drop by? Any one?" Hera turned from Zeus' favourite bastard daughter to the room at large. A sea of shaken heads met her enquiry. "Seems no one wants you here, so why are you here?"

"Someone has to sort everything out. All you lot have done is knocked a couple of women through a door. That's no help." She saw Ares standing at the rear of the group, trying his best to mind his own business. After all he had quit, and didn't want to be involved in all this hassle. "Ares? What, got nothing to say for yourself? You started all this trouble. You selfish bastard!"

"Oh, but my son isn't a bastard dear, you are. I kinda guess eating one's wife rather constitutes a dissolving of the marriage. And any child born thereafter would be illegitimate. Yourself, for example." Hera's voice dripped venom. She didn't try and deny her boy had started all their troubles, but he was a legitimate child.

"Look, it's all so very simple. I'd think even you lot can understand. I quit. I resign. I do not want to be God of War anymore. Let Hercules do it. He's daddy's very favourite after all. I'd have thought Zeus would have been falling over himself to train his beloved son in such a grand job?" Ares pushed forwards through the crowd. "I have been hated, called a drunkard, a coward all manner of vile names. I have been derided by mortals and Gods alike. And I'm sick of it. The power of the emotions that drive mortals to kill their neighbours is really unimaginable unless you've felt it. It can make the Sword Carrier stagger if it's a sudden rush of energy. Just thinking around it can be hard at times. So I seemed indecisive, does that make me drunk or a coward?" Having said his piece he retreated to the bar and the gaggle of brothel staff that were standing there, Joxer among them. The would be warrior clasped his former God's shoulder and murmured his agreement with him.

"The power is a mad rush. I don't know how you managed to do anything around the noise." Hercules spoke directly to Ares, not Athena, not Hera, just Ares.

"What noise?" Xena asked, beginning to feel unsure of herself. She didn't know what noise Hercules was talking about.

"The noise of everyone's hate and anger." Hercules merely glanced at Xena and turned back to his brother.

"But what's Joxer doing here with Ares of all people." Gabrielle wanted her business dealt with rather than the Godhood of War. As far as she was concerned Joxer was hers to molest no one else's.

"Workin' honey. I can get good shares in his takings, unlike you - I'd have to pay for them ta' fuck you!" Meg supported her favourite man. She'd never been too fond of her lookalikes best friend.

"Joxer sells sex?" Gabrielle squeaked, outrage or indigestion, colouring her voice.

"Well, duh, this is a brothel. Sheesh - talk about thick!" Meg replied and looked longingly at her favourite man and the God he introduced to her as her new bouncer. "As for Ares, he worked hard all night and had the handsome King keep him busy all night." She  lifted a drink from the bar and took a long draft of the wine.

"But my son, my baby, working as a common whore?" Hera looked from her son to Meg. "No offence and all, but he was destined to be God of War not a whore. Although I'd expect him to be a good one, after all he is a very experienced lover. Or so I'm told." She looked on to Iphicles her son's client the night before. "Well, young man, was he good at his new job?"

"Brilliant, cost me Thirty Dinars." Then he blushed realising he'd fucked Ares, former God of War all the previous night.

A Greek chorus of  'Thirty' 'Gods that's a lot' 'Wonder how much I've got saved up' ran through the staff at the bar, none of them phased to discover Res was really Ares.

"Way ta' go pops!" Cupid enthused. "Mom would be so proud..." He shut up when he felt every eye on him.

"Ares, will you take the Sword back, please?" Hercules offered the Sword back to its rightful owner.

"No, I'm sick of it." Ares turned away from all he was, had been, ever would be.

"How about a compromise?" Iolaus piped up. "How about you don't quit and Herc takes the Sword for a couple of weeks a year and you can get away and have yourself a holiday? What ya' say?"

"And who helps Hercules with the duties of War?" Hera asked, although she had her own ideas on that score.

"Strife, of course." Hercules leered at his nephew. Then he turned back to Hera. "And yourself too, naturally."

"Now wait a minute..." Xena tried to make her point clear.

"No, no more minutes. Ares is right, as is Iolaus.. he really does need a break, a nice quiet holiday." Hera grinned at the substitute God of War.

"What? Now?"  Athena was shocked by the idea that Hera would let Ares have a holiday. A holiday for the God of War, of all the stupid ideas...

"Well, everyone else will just have to work harder to help the mortals cope." Hera gestured Strife to her side as she stood beside Hercules. "Ares, you've got twelve days left, make the most of them!" And she and her two charges left the brothel to return to her temple at Olympia. Almost as soon as she left Iphicles rounded up his men and followed suit, they set off for home too.

"But what about Joxer?" Gabrielle whined, she wanted him back gushing over her so she could tweak his nose and hurt him again and again, and ... Cupid looked at her, harshly.

"Enough, mortal. Leave him be, you are a disgrace to the concept of love!" He waved his hand and Gabrielle vanished.

"Where is she?" Xena demanded.

"At a party in Mytilene." Cupid told her.

"Where?" Meg asked, her geography wasn't all that good.

"Lesbos" Ares told her.

Xena dashed for her horse and galloped to her beloved friends rescue. It'd only take her two weeks to get there.

Two weeks in which Ares thoroughly enjoyed his holiday.

He had introduced Cyrene to his mother and left her to have fun with yet another duped lover of Zeus. Not that Hera killed this one, she brought her home as a house guest where the mortal and the Goddess made the King of the Gods life a misery, until he ratified Ares' annual holiday entitlement.

And to celebrate his break from routine he had Hercules, Iphicles, Iolaus, Joxer, Strife and even Cupid all meet up in his Corinthian temple, where he systematically thanked each and every one of them. Repeatedly. Well, he had a lot to show them, all the things he had learned while on holiday. Meg's girls had been very informative.

The End