Mortals think being a god is easy: you just wave your hand and anything you want happens.
Ares waved his hand, and a goblet of wine appeared. He contemplated the ornate cup for a moment before draining it in one gulp. With another wave, the object disappeared.
Yeah, there was something to the mortal point of view, he supposed. Being a god had its advantages certainly. It also had its disadvantages. One of those disadvantages occupied his mind now.
It had been one of those days. Hera made life difficult for Zeus who took it out on the rest of them. A vicious circle that didn't look as if it was going to change any time soon. Ares retreated to his throne room, called up a window and looked out on the vista it presented.
There wasn't much to see except what he expected to see -- his half brother and that annoying blond fellow wandering about down on earth. Sometimes he thought it would be better being an only child. But only sometimes. That was probably impossible. Being a god meant taking pleasure where you willed -- and gods were a lusty lot.
A sly smile curled his lip. Right now, watching Hercules strip off that vest and walk into the lake below, pleasure consisted of annoying his little brother. He'd kill him, if he could. Killing was a pleasure of its own, and the death of Herc would be ecstasy. Dear old dad had decreed not, though. Didn't mean he couldn't try, and had. But it required more thought and more planning than he was prepared to exert right now.
Besides, annoying Zeus when he was already in a Hera-caused snit wasn't smart. That being the case, he'd just watch Hercules and think.
Clouds obscured his view just then, moving slowly past with no regard for god or mortal. Sure, he could have obliterated them. But it didn't seem worth it right now. He raised an eyebrow. Could it be? Could he be mellowing?
Snorting, the God of War waved his hand once more, and the view changed. Swords clanged, and men screamed and died. Ares felt himself becoming stronger with each act of worship. Every battle, every bit of rage and anger fueled him, made him happy.
Not a word most mortals would ever use in connection with the God of War, but it was true.
He watched for a few heartbeats, just enough to reassure himself that he wasn't going soft, then returned to watching Hercules again. The two men below were building a fire and cooking a large fish.
Why was Hercules so compelling?
Ares knew that most thought it was sibling rivalry. Zeus preferred his half-mortal son, by all the signs, so that was an obvious assumption. As he munched on grapes that suddenly appeared on the grey stone table at his side, he realized that it had certainly started that way. The boy wasn't even a god, turned godhood down, by Hades, and Zeus doted on him. Why couldn't he dote on his other sons?
But that was just the beginning of it. Jealousy had grown slowly, blossomed into something with more body, more heat to it. Anger wasn't it, not exactly, yet there were elements of that as well. It had, in some respects, become an obsession.
Ares closed the view and sprawled into his throne. An obsession very like the one he had for that beautiful, fiery Xena. No, not like that. That was love, even if he rarely admitted it to himself and certainly wouldn't admit it to Xena. It wasn't his fault that she had turned away from him, become a do-gooder.
The brief vision he allowed himself wasn't that of the warrior. It was that of his queen, tall and proud and beautiful, dressed not in leather, but in a lacy night dress. The picture winked out without conscious thought.
Mortals. She was mortal; Hercules was half mortal. For a brief moment, Ares considered that perhaps that was the source of fascination in both cases. Without mortals and their worship, gods might not exist.
This was a prospect he had never examined closely; neither did he want to. The God of War hated being dependent. It made you weak, and he couldn't afford being weak. Gods were all dependent on mortals.
No, that wasn't it. Playing with Herc's life, or Xena's, wasn't being dependent. If they had been immortals, all other things being equal, he probably still would have done it. It just would have taken more time and trouble. He grinned to himself. It took enough damned time as it was. If only Dad would -- But that was a path that led nowhere.
So. He had anger, jealousy, and dependence as elements of his obsession. Love, maybe. What else? Did he really want to know what else?
He looked around the throne room, bare but for his chair and the table with its plate of uneaten fruit. There was something missing here, something that might help boost his spirits, get his mind off this depressing line of reasoning. He thought of summoning Strife or Discord, just because, then discarded the notion. That might depress him even more.
Searching for someone to visit conjured up the word lonely. Loneliness and the God of War in the same sentence? If a mortal -- or anyone else, for that matter -- had suggested this, Ares would have laughed and blown him off. Probably literally. Today he was reflecting, and no one else needed to know about it.
Who could he go visit? He knew that battle was over. All that remained was the pleasure of admiring the blood and the artistry of the wounds.
Standing, Ares moved to the featureless wall again, opened a window to the world below. Must be the next day. Hercules and Iolaus had moved some miles from their former campsite and were now engaged at a travelling food stand. Rather, the blond was engaged there. Herc was looking on benevolently, with an air of "don't say I didn't warn you". Ares could have heard what they were saying but didn't go that far.
Visiting his brother? That had possibilities. He smiled. Definite possibilities.
As he contemplated them, he suddenly realized an aspect of his devotion to the pursuit and death of Hercules he'd never considered before. That gave him definite pleasure and a distinct lift of the spirits.
It was fun.