|The Myth of Home
There was a beginning and an ending. In the middle, there was a fire.
Fire doesn't kill a god. They thought it would, reached into Phlegethon, formed a sun-sized ball, and sent it up from Tartarus. Fiery payback for betraying them.
It hurt like only hell can. Ares might've died, maybe did die, skin seared to the bone. Only the bone stayed whole, and his skin grew back, hair and strength. It took a thousand years, and when he woke up, an oak had rooted around his hands, and he opened his eyes to a black-earth sky. There were leaves in his mouth. He still felt the fire, a rough marrow burn, and now when Ares breathed the ground shook. Pure, undiluted power, the kind of Chaos and Night, before the inbreeding weakened them all.
Instead of digging up, he dug down, scraping through darkness until he saw the river of fire, the adamant gate with its iron tower. Tisiphone couldn't even lift her scourge, and a pale yellow film covered her eyes. The Twelve were inside, and history had fucked them, too: they were ghosts now, not gods, and when he threw them down with the Titans, no one even screamed. He looked once for Hercules in the Fields of Joy, didn't see him. Figured he was one of the shadowy sleepers on the banks of Lethe, and, smirking, ripped through the layers of ether to the mortal world.
A thousand years had made Earth beautiful: Death walked between concrete, telling stories in blood. Violence was a religion, and finally he heard the screams.
Before a window shattered, he saw his reflection: blood, white and red. Too inhuman even for this place, so he searched for the right father. When he found him, rich and evil, Ares slid into a womb.
The Destroyer was born.
Eleven years later, in the guise of a boy named for an old killer, he watched the sky, and when he wished on a star, it fell. There was a second fire in a field, and it left him scorched again, sleek and elemental. His perfect father hated him for it, and it was beautiful, too, how the human skin absorbed the hatred. It made him even stronger, and Ares fed it while he waited with smaller acts of chaos.
At twenty-one, his father exiled him, and it was time. He rode in a metal machine, fast, faster, so ready to kill everything and everyone that it felt like another fire. Only Ares had forgotten about Fate, that fucking bitch, and she sent him over a bridge, taking a boy with him down into a cold, cold river. Ares died again.
But gods are hard to kill, and when he woke up, nothing had changed. A dark shape over him, like a tree, and the soft, new taste of leaves in his mouth. Except--
Not a tree, or leaves. That boy from the bridge over him, blue-eyed like...Not his brother. Not his brother. Couldn't be. No recognition on the face watching his, just concern and fascination, and--
He knew, could feel it in his skin, his fire-burned bones. Hercules had found his own womb, but didn't keep the memory, like his human core had fused with his new body, like he'd been born in the waters of Lethe.
Mongrel bastard half-god do-gooder fuck, and Hercules wouldn't stop looking, touching, same old guilt, same old fucking goodness thick and warm as a blanket. Ares blamed the water for his own reaction, this sick swell of comfort. When he spat out the river, trying to get clean and pure again, it didn't work, spread through him like a plague.
Nothing changed when Hercules left. That was the worst part, the curse. Every time he saw his brother after that, the same startled warmth infected him. Ares wondered, terrified, if the river had its roots in Lethe, because he forgot rules and plans. Even his father seemed petty and small, pathetic.
There was only one way out: to corrupt his corrupter, so Ares seduced Hercules, fucked him long and hard in a field under an oak, until Hercules said, "Oh, God, Lex, I love you," and it was so real that he puked after, so sick he half-prayed he'd die again.
More water, and he found himself lying beside a stream with Clark's arms around him. When Lex tried to close his eyes one last time, he couldn't.
Afterward, Lex would dream about fires and chaos, but in the morning Clark would be there, holding him, his mouth soft like new leaves, and the dreams faded. He tried to hate, to be his father's son, but his bones betrayed him. In the end, he didn't care.
His last fight was a joke, a soft lie, and he knew it: a lion-sized yawn as Lex stretched on the bed, and he kissed Clark, then told him that home was a four-letter word.