Alone, that's what I am. Forever alone. It's always been like that. Nobody has made me feel otherwise...except... no, don't kid yourself Joxer, no one. To my parents, I was an accident, a disgrace, a son of a warlord who can't even defend himself, thank the gods for Jett and Jace. Jett and Jace, my brothers, who mocked, tortured and made my life Tartarus on Earth. But there's Xena and Gabby, my...friends? Did they really consider me a friend? No, they say so, but when push comes to shove, they never want me around. They barely tolerate me. I'm alone, that's the bottom line. No one... Ares, he said he cared about me. But it's all a lie, I was just a joke to him. Like always. He used me, deceived me...hurt me. I gave him my heart, body and soul, and he squashed them like a cockroach.
So, what do I have left? Hurt, loneliness, besides that, nothing. Nothing to live for, no one to live for. You live, you hurt, you die. Only one left. Easily taken care of.
Joxer woke up screaming. The pain in his chest from his dream still vivid.
Ares was up and holding Joxer close in a heartbeat. "Jox? Calm down, it was just a dream," he said soothingly into his lover's ear as he rubbed the mortal's back. At Joxer's silence, Ares pulled away enough to look into his eyes and asked, "What happened Jox?"
"It was so real. The emotions, the feelings. I was in a cave, but that's all I can remember about the action, the rest, it was emotion, you see? And I was feeling, I don't know, alone? Yeah. That you had... hurt me, somehow. And I felt, like, I didn't want to live, 'cause I was alone..." Joxer bit back a sob, and buried his head on Ares shoulder.
Ares couldn't believe it, wouldn't believe it. He could not possible be remembering what happened that day. But what Joxer was describing...
The god's thoughts were interrupted when Joxer lifted his head up and said, "Ares, I drove my sword into my heart."
"I don't know what to do, Mnemosyne. I thought that after I erased the memories, everything would be fine." The war-god paced around the temple of the young goddess in front of him.
"You shouldn't have interfered with his memories. It's the one thing they truly own, and can't be taken away." Her usually calm voice had a bit of annoyance in it. She took hold of one of Ares' hands and guided him towards her throne, where she materialized a big comfortable chair for him.
"Get off it Mnemo. You're the one to talk. You take away mortal memories all the time," the dark god said as he sat down.
The goddess noticed he didn't drape one leg over the arm of the chair, as he usually did, even during the meetings of the gods. That meant he was truly worried. Considering the implications of that, she answered him, "Yes, but when they give me full consent. Your lover,"
"Joxer," Ares corrected.
"Joxer," Mnemosyne echoed the correction, "didn't tell or ask you to erase those memories. He wanted to deal with the pain himself. The feelings are not gone Ares. He still feels insecure, alone, but now, he knows not why."
"So now what? Do I give him his memories back? Should I?" Ares felt vulnerable, never had he been in a situation he couldn't control, never had he cared enough about someone, a mortal, to go for help to another god, much less a younger goddess.
Mnemosyne felt his turmoil, and his...love? Ares had actually found love? Towards this mortal? "I truly wish it were as simple. You were messy when you removed his memories. You didn't store them anywhere. They are gone. The best you can do now is to tell him, everything."
Ares didn't expect this. He was a god, for Zeus' sake. Surely there must be a way. He couldn't face Joxer and tell him all he had done to him. All the suffering he put him through, all he was going through now, to explain it was all his fault. To think that Joxer could leave him again.
"Ares, get it out in the open, explain it, calmly." Mnemosyne kneeled in front of the turmoil god. "If you love him, let him make his own decision. Let him come to his own conclusions. Let him decide if he can forgive and forget."
"Mnemo, I love him. I don't want to lose him. I could talk to Morpheus, maybe he..."
"He has nothing to do with it. Mortals often have dreams of their own, coming from hidden feelings, suppressed angers, fears. And the more you wait, the worse they'll become. He'll suppress them even more, and the nightmares will be more intense."
Ares eyes widened in fear. Joxer was bad enough already. Barely sleeping for more than two hours, and dozing off everywhere, even when eating. The nights he managed to sleep a bit more, the nightmares came, and he awoke screaming, sweating and disoriented.
"If I tell him, will the dreams go away?"
"If he manages to deal with them, to put them behind him. If he forgives you, yes. If he tries to deny them, ignore them, no."
"Joxer's strong. But if he doesn't deal with them, both of us will end up hurt."
"Do you prefer he spends the rest of his life like that, or worse?"
"Oh, Mnemo..." Ares knew she was right. And Joxer did deserve the truth.
The young goddess knew when Ares decided to come clean with his mortal lover. "Do what you have to do Ares."
Ares left the goddess' temple for his own on Olympus.
Ares cast out his awareness towards Joxer. He left him somewhere near Corinth, where the mortal asked him. 'Ah, there you are,' Ares thought as he found the trace he had imbedded in his heart. But he was with two other people. 'Xena and her little blond sidekick.' Ares changed his clothes with a flick of his hand, when another thought dawned on him. He hadn't told Xena he'd erased Joxer memories.
Ares disappeared in a blue-green flash.
Ares appeared in the middle of the warrior princess' campsite in a flash of blue-green light. Two pairs of eyes locked on him in a heartbeat, but the third, and most important, as far as Ares was concerned, remained looking down at the fire. Ares was now aware that his mortal lover knew the truth. He didn't know whether to be relieved or even more worried. The dark god would get his answer soon enough.
Ares moved towards Joxer, walking around Xena, who had drawn her sword and stood defensively between her friend and the god. He kneeled in front of his love, and ventured, "Jox?"
He got no response from the young man. But when he reached out to touch his shoulder, he did. The young warrior looked up at him, his usually cheerful, loving, warm eyes where darkened with fear, anger and pain. The change in those eyes was enough to make Ares pull back, sitting down on his heels.
"Leave me alone, Ares," Joxer said, his voice heavy. He had been crying, and he was holding to what little self-control he had left to not cry again. Joxer reached for his pack and got up to leave.
"Joxer, please, I have to... I need to talk to you..." Ares voice was breaking, as was his heart. He no longer cared if Xena and that annoying little blond where there. To Tartarus, he wouldn't care if the whole assembly of the gods was there. The only one mortal, god, being that mattered now, and forever was Joxer. The man who had stolen his heart, and was now breaking it in infinite pieces.
At that the young man turned. "You don't get it, do you? It's not about you. For once, it's not about you. You may be a god, Ares. You may have been my lover. But you had NO right to mess with my memories. I don't even know if who I think I am, is truly who I am. You said you loved me, but do you respect me? Because what you did, it says that to you, I'm just another mortal to mess around with." Joxer turned and started walking again towards the woods.
Ares felt like Zeus had thrown one of his thunderbolts directly at his heart. He kept looking after Joxer, hoping he'd stop and turn, or stop, or hesitate, anything that would give him a bit of hope. Nothing. His lover kept on walking, away from him. Long minutes in awkward silence after Joxer was out of sight, the broken god rose to his feet.
Xena finally talked, not wanting the god to go after her friend. "Leave him alone, Ares. Give him time to deal with this. Why'd you do it?"
The god looked down at the fire, which was slowly going out, and with a thought made it stronger. He willed the tears that were forming in his eyes to go away, and looked up at his former warrior. He glanced at the bard opposite Xena for a moment, then back at the warrior. "Ask her, she knows." The abnormally quiet Gabrielle looked at her lover, understanding, remembering.
Ares continued, "The pain of memories gets to hard to bear. I thought I could protect Joxer, do to him what I can't do to myself, make him forget. I have to live with what I did for the rest of eternity. I didn't want that for Joxer."
The amazon finally spoke, "It was his decision to make, not yours, Ares."
"I know that, now."
"Ares," the warrior said as she approached the god, "Joxer loves you, before we said anything, he was telling us how much you had given him. How much you loved him, and how much he loved you. And we're both sorry for what we did, but we don't regret it. He needed to be told the truth. He deserves the truth. Right now, you've got to prove your love to him. Leave him alone, until he says different. Let him deal with it on his own. He needs to be without you."
"I know he needs to be without me. That's not the issue. The issue is if I can be without him." Ares disappeared in his signature blue-green flash and left the two mortal women alone.
Ares was slowly going insane, well, as much as a god could. It had almost been a moon since Joxer had left. And the dark god had kept his promise; he had left Joxer alone. But that didn't mean he didn't check up on him regularly on his reflection mirror on Olympus. The one set back of the mirror is that he couldn't reach the mortal's thoughts. Physically, his lover looked alright, but who knew what was going on in his mind. He wanted to trust Joxer, to leave him alone for real, but every moment knowing he had left him was like another sword driven into his heart. Everyday he controlled himself from going to Joxer and begging his forgiveness on his knees. Everyday the mortal occupied his thoughts. He couldn't work, couldn't sleep, and much less sit in this meeting and listen to his father going on and on about taking souls from Hades domain. At least this time the lecture was aimed at Apollo, whose favorite priestess pulled a disappearing trick in the Fields.
The plea came loud and clear, since he wasn't paying much attention. It had been so long since he had heard that voice, it was music to the war god's ears. Until he replayed it in his head, not having paid attention to the words themselves. As he heard the words, anger built inside him. Joxer's voice played again in his mind, "Ares, please, help me!"
In a heartbeat he traced Joxer's location, and in another, without as much as an 'excuse me' or 'goodbye' to Zeus or any other god, he was gone.
In half a second after arriving the war god took in the events before him. A thug stood to one side admiring the solid white gold, sword-shaped pendant he had given Joxer for his birthday, and as a token of his love. Two other thugs stood next to him holding Joxer up while a fourth beat him. He immediately threw the fourth thief back against a tree, before he could hit Joxer again. The two holding him where displaced in a similar fashion. The first one dropped the pendant and ran away. As the war god rushed to his lover's side he made sense of what had happened. It looked like Joxer had given them his money pouch, but didn't want to give the pendant. As he remembered it, he willed it on Joxer's neck again. But if he fought for the pendant, it meant the mortal still cared some for him.
He looked Joxer over and noticed he needed care, and fast. He transported them both to his room in Olympus and, with a powerful plea of his own, pulled Asclepius from the assembly in his father's temple.
Ares laid on the bed, arms wrapped tightly around his estranged lover when he felt him stir awake. He closed his eyes and pretended sleep, wanting to judge Joxer's reaction. He had promised himself to accept Joxer's decision, no matter what it was. The dark god sent his awareness out, watching the mortal.
"Where am I?" Joxer asked to no one as he looked around, yawing. When his eyes focused he recognized the room he had spent so much time in with... Ares.
He became aware of the arms around him and the chest he was using as a pillow. He hesitated, fleeting thoughts of how to leave Olympus crossed his mind. But then memories of long ago, the ones he'd been trying for a moon to remember came to him. Everything came back: the rape, the cave, his wrists, Gabby, Ares, Ares healing him, Ares begging (begging?) forgiveness, Ares' confession of his love. Everything. The young man looked up and was grateful to see that the god was asleep. Grateful for the time he needed to sort out his memories. But he found he didn't need the time. Another memory came up. The one in which he had forgiven Ares. He had forgiven Ares. He just didn't know it.
Ares felt Joxer remember the events of all those moons ago. He felt Joxer remember he had forgiven him. He felt Joxer's love for him being reborn. He was ecstatic, but in the back of his mind something was bothering him. But right now he had to explain Joxer why he did what he did. He knew words wouldn't come out right. So he chose thoughts.
The mortal pushed himself up on his forearms when he received Ares' thoughts. His reasons for erasing his memory and a 'sorry' for pretending he was asleep. He thought about those reasons he hadn't let the god explain long ago.
He leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on the lips he missed so much. When he pulled back, Ares opened his eyes, the joy in them clear for anyone to see.
Still, well, curiosity killed the cat, and Joxer was itching with curiosity. "How? How did I get my memories back?" he asked.
Ares started stroking the man's back. "When I brought you here, I called Asclepius. He was the one who healed you, he's a better healer than me, and you had pretty nasty bruises. Well, while he checked you he asked me if I, or any other god had erased any of your memories. I said yes, and explained it to him. Well, he started talking about a theory he had, something like, that when gods erased memories, they just damaged the part of the brain where they are. And that if he could heal the brain, the memories could come back. He asked if he could try it. I was reluctant, but he said there would be no damage, at the most you'd remember as far back as your birth."
"It worked, and I don't remember my birth," the young man laughed.
"I can tell, Jox."
Joxer realized how long it had been since anyone called him that, and how much he missed it.
"So," Ares said placing a kiss on his lover's head, "We should tell Asclepius it worked."
Joxer claimed Ares lips in a more urgent and deep kiss. He separated his lips enough to whisper, "Later."
Ares summoned up all the will power he had to sit up. He wanted Joxer so much, but something was bugging him, and it wouldn't go away. He was afraid. Afraid of himself, afraid for Joxer.
"What? What's wrong Ares?" The mortal sat on his heels behind Ares, wrapping his arms around the troubled god.
"Oh, Jox. You don't know how much I want you, to hold you, love you. But I can't. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing here. I don't know if we should be here. . . together."
"You. . . don't. . . want me?" Joxer voice was breaking.
"Love, YES!!! I want you, I need you, but I don't know if I should have you, if we should have each other," the god corrected himself.
"Why? Why are you doing this? Now, of all times."
"Because it has to be now. Now that I realize I don't trust myself with you."
Joxer, moved around Ares and sat cross-legged in front of him, in the 'v' his spread legs formed.
"It's about who I am. I'm War. And war is violent, cruel, blind. . ."
Joxer cut him off, "But you are caring, warm, loving. In the time I've been with you, I've received more love and care than I had my entire life."
"And I also the gave you the greatest pain you ever had."
"That's in the past. I've forgiven you, forgive yourself."
"I can't. It's not about forgiving myself, it's about trusting myself."
"You won't hurt me," Joxer protested.
"Not if I can help it." Ares got off the bed and changed his clothes. "Tell me Joxer. If I came home again one day, violent from a war. Demanding from you what you don't want to give me. Would you be able to stop me?"
The mortal remained silent. Ares was a god. Infinitely more stronger than him. No, he wouldn't be able. "No," Joxer resigned.
"Stay here, please. I got something to do." The dark god headed for the door.
"Stay here? What if someone comes?"
Ares created a barrier around his temple. "No one will bother you. I love you, Jox. Stay here. If I'm going to be long, I'll come back to let you know." The dark god walked over to the bed again and bent down to kiss his lover gently.
"Don't be long, we still have to talk. You promise we'll talk?"
"I promise," Ares said as he left the room and temple.
When he left Joxer, he prayed, to no one in particular, "Please let this work. Let me know I'm going to do the right thing"
Ares hadn't returned yet. He had been gone almost all day. Joxer wasn't alone, though. Strife came to the temple to let Joxer know Ares was going to be late. Or in Strife's words 'a lot late'.
Strife and Joxer had become good friends since the young god came back from the apparent one way trip to Tartarus. Oddly enough, both had a lot in common: the lack of attention as children, the tendency to get in trouble, and their love for Ares.
A century or two ago, Strife would have hated Joxer's guts. But not now. The young god had found his true love, and it wasn't Ares, as he had wanted to believe. But Ares had been more than happy to give Strife up. His nephew deserved happiness, and if Strife had found it with Cupid, it was more than okay.
In fact, it was because of Cupid that Strife was alive today. The love-god had fallen ill when he died. It was mixed with a depression that threatened the future of mankind. Zeus knew only one solution, so he brought Strife back, for mankind's sake. His excuse for breaking his own rule.
Strife had stayed with the mortal after delivering the war god's message. Joxer had, by now, filled him in to everything that had happened.
"Bummer, Unc just left you here."
"Look man, I can't stay any longer. Cupe's waiting for me, and we kind of try to avoid the jealousy bit, ya' know?"
"Oh, the green-eyed thing."
"Bingo. So, ya' need anything or are you cool?"
Joxer found the young god's manner of speech very amusing. "I'm cool."
"You're getting there. Spend a century or two with me, you'll get there."
"Um, Strife." Joxer let the comment go unsaid.
"Oops, my bad. See ya'." He disappeared.
"Bye," Joxer said to the air.
The temple brought out unwanted memories: dark and lonely. The mortal pushed the thoughts out and concentrated of finding an appropriate punishment for Ares; for leaving him alone all night.
It had been a long, tedious day for the war god. He had spent the whole day with Zeus and Hera. And it wasn't over yet. They still to make their decision. Ares went directly to his room in Olympus when he left his father's study.
"I'm not convinced, Hera." The king of the gods sat down across a reflective mirror, which was playing random images of Joxer's life.
It had been two days since their son came to them with a difficult request, and since then the only thing they've been doing was reviewing the mortal's life, and fighting over every little thing.
"You're not convinced of what?!?!" the queen of the gods shouted at her husband.
"Of the mortal's intentions. He could be with Ares just to gain favors. How can we be sure that his love is for real?"
Hera understood her husband's insecurities. Many mortals had played with the gods' feeling to get their way. After a moment of silence, Hera said, "We can call Aphrodite. She should be able to verify and certify this mortals feelings as true or otherwise."
"Superb idea, dear." The king of the gods called out his daughter.
In a shower of glitter and rose petals, the love goddess arrived.
"What's up, Daddy?" she said as she acknowledged Hera with a nod, and surveyed the room. Her eyes came to rest in the mirror still playing. Aphrodite studied the scene playing and recognized Joxer.
"Studmuffin?!?! Is something wrong? Ares didn't hurt him, did he?"
"He's alright. You know about them?" The elder god got up and stood next to his daughter.
"Sure, me and Cupie, we blessed their love. They really are in deep for each other. And Joxer's good for him. He brings out this warm, caring, loving side out of Ares I never had seen."
Zeus hugged his daughter. "Thank you sweetie, you've been a great help."
"I have? Awesome! So can I jet? I've got an orgy in Athens, and I really have to be there."
"Of course. Be safe."
Hera saw Aphrodite disappear in a flash of gold glitter. She'd remained quiet during Zeus' conversation with her. But she now sensed her husband had reached a decision. The one she and her son had hoped for. Her son deserved happiness, and if this was what it took, she was happy to oblige.
Ares laid on his bed, in what had become his favorite position to sleep in. With Joxer's head on his chest and his arms around his lover. It had been three days since Joxer came back. Since he remembered and forgave him. And though he probably was the happiest god on Mount Olympus, he and Joxer hadn't gotten past kissing and holding each other. And despite what would have been common belief, because of the war god. Too many issues running through his mind, too many fears and regrets. He started wondering what would his parents decision would be. If it was a yes, he could let go of his insecurities once and for all. If it was no, he would leave Joxer. He'd made his decision, and he would keep it. It was for Joxer's own good. He just didn't trust himself with a mortal.
"I don't like it when you're awake and quiet. It means you're worried about something." Joxer's sleepy voice was barely hearable.
"I thought you were asleep. I didn't want to wake you. You have a lot of sleeping time to make up."
"You know I sleep like a rock. The temple could be collapsing around us and I would still be asleep." Joxer started kissing his god's chest. Seeking out a nipple from between the dark curls. When he found it he started kissing, biting, lapping, and just plain teasing it.
Ares arched his back and hissed at the sensation. It had been so long since they've gotten this close. He was apprehensive, a thousand thoughts of insecurities filling his head, of hurting Joxer, of getting carried away. Until one stray thought crossed his mind, 'You wouldn't hurt Joxer if he took you.'
Joxer was ecstatic. Ares was finally getting into this. And he wanted his lover so much right now. But he knew Ares wouldn't try to take him. So, he would take Ares. It's not like he hadn't done it before. He moved lower, teasing the god's navel. The man moved so he was in between Ares' legs, and wasted no time in rendering tribute to the erect cock. After minutes of licking and sucking, he deep-throated the cock and swallowed. Ares came in a silent scream, bucking into that delicious mouth.
The war god almost lost consciousness, his thoughts returning in just four words, 'so long, so good'. Joxer slipped up next to the far from tired god. Ares felt the mortal's erection pressed to his side. He pulled Joxer on top of him and with a thought prepared himself.
Joxer knew he was ready, 'The advantages of loving a god,' he thought, 'no messy preparation or clean up.' He kneeled between the god's legs, which wrapped around his waist. He slowly pushed his way inside a gasping god of war. He started pulling out and trusting in slowly, until Ares' legs wrapped even tighter around him. Finding the once again erect cock, the mortal started milking it in time with his trusts. When Joxer hit the god's pleasure spot, Ares came once more, and when his muscles clenched, Joxer came, moaning an 'I love you'.
The man collapsed on Ares' chest, slipping out of him. Ares was about to fall into a deep sleep, not unlike Joxer, when his father's voice resounded throughout the temple with one very short, very simple command, "Ares. My study. Now."
Joxer startled awake and sat back on his heels. Ares didn't like the tone of voice of his father. It sounded like his decision was going to be one of his classic no's.
The voice drifted back again to the temple to add an, "Oh! And bring Joxer too."
The look of horror in Joxer's face made him laugh. It was funny, how the same look of horror in any other mortal's face would have just made him feel superior. Joxer's made him feel like an equal. The mortal expressed right now in his face the feelings Ares felt.
Getting up from the bed and pulling Joxer out, he materialized decent clothes for both out them. Kissing Joxer, he said, trying to calm him, "Don't worry, he doesn't bite, much."
"Hardy har har."
"Don't be like that Joxer. Come on, let's go. The sooner we get there, the sooner we leave," even if it isn't together, Ares added to himself.
When Ares appeared in his father's study with Joxer in tow, Hera was sitting in one of three chairs in front of Zeus' desk. When she saw her son arrive, the elder goddess got up and kissed her son on the cheek. The queen goddess pulled Ares into a chair next to her and by consequence, Joxer into the one next to Ares'.
"It's so good you could join us, son," she said, sitting down in her chair, "and you too Joxer."
Joxer's voice was nowhere to be found. It's not everyday a man meets both of his lover's parents, who also just happen to be the king and queen of the gods. He nodded briefly, worried his first impression was not the best one he'd made.
"I'm happy you called us. So, have you made a decision?"
"Yes, son," Zeus spoke at last. "It was indeed a difficult one to make. It was an unusual request, coming from you, and you've got to understand we thought long and hard about it. Understand that we had to make sure, that we needed proof."
"I understand father." 'Well,' Ares thought, 'hope for the best, expect the worse.'
"We even called Aphrodite. She managed to be of help."
"Oh, shut up already," Hera interrupted her husband. "Don't you see the boy's dying to know?" The queen goddess had been watching her son's face fall more and more at his father's words.
"I was getting to that. Well, son, the answer is yes."
The war god jumped from his chair and repeated, afraid he'd heard wrong, "Yes?!?"
"Yes my boy. Be happy, you deserve it."
Ares hugged his mother close, while Joxer was still trying to make sense of the conversation that he'd been excluded from. Ares crosses over to his father's side, who had gotten up, and asked, "Is it done?"
"It's done, Ares."
At the assertion, Ares pulled his father in for a warm hug. It had been centuries since father and son had hugged like that, like anything. Zeus suppressed the tears that were forming with lighting speed in his eyes.
Ares let the elder god go, so he could go over to Joxer's. The war god took his lover in his arms and took them to his Temple once more.
"Would you please explain what just happened?"
"You're a god!" Ares couldn't help it. He had wanted to sit Joxer down, and calmly explain everything, but he was just too damn happy.
"I'm what?!?!" Joxer squeaked.
"A god. That's what I went to do the other day. Ask mother and father to give you godhood. I was afraid Joxer, of myself. I had two choices, make you a god or leave you. I wanted to know that if we were together you'd be able to care for yourself, to defend yourself against me. I hope I made the right choice. I never, ever want to hurt you again Jox. I just love you so much; I never want to lose you. Now we can be together, forever."
As Joxer processed the words, he became aware that Ares had been hugging, kissing and dancing him around the room. The new god pulled back from his lover and looked into his eyes, knowing Ares wouldn't, couldn't lie to him.
"I am a god? But I haven't eaten ambrosia, have I?"
"No, between Zeus and Hera they can give and take godhoods at will."
"I'm a god," Joxer repeated again, letting the words sink in.
"And we can be together for as long as we like." Ares wanted to give Joxer the freedom to leave him, if he wanted.
"Then you'll never be rid of me." The new god lifted his head to kiss Ares.
"Never," the war god said when they broke the kiss for need of air.
"Never," Joxer echoed.