Chapter 1: You are a Total and Complete Idiot!
Strife in my Life
Chapter 1: You are a Total and Complete Idiot! (Strife Takes a Drink)
It was already too late when Ares had arrived. His nephew being the unpredictable, impulsive, and sometimes stupid deity he is could not keep his hands to himself. You would think he was still in diapers crawling around putting anything he could get his grubby paws on into his mouth. Well actually...by gods' standards he was practially a baby. Ares rolled his eyes thinking about his idiot Nephew.
Strife had been summoned to his Uncle's temple to give a progress report on some unrest he had been tasked with starting in a few small villages near Athens. There were three seperate riots and a lynch mob removing the prefect from one of the three select villages. It would force his sister to send out troops and leave her city vulnerable for an attack he'd had planned for months. The troops from Thrace and Sparta had marched across Greece. The woman had to understand her populace was growing faster than the farmland surrounding her city could sustain. If she wouldn't cull the masses then he would have to. That or Demeter would send a famine and force even more people to die, due to over farming of the land.
He'd been called away from his office by two of his more problamatic warlords over a land dispute. Both claimed their respective armies were encroaching. Well he had to straighten out that mess, which involved him smashing some skulls...literally.
When he came back there was Strife holding the forgotten bottle of fertility potion. They had never figured out a way to neutralize the potion and it had become a weight holding his latest scroll open on his desk.
The god of mischief had flashed into the office and waited for his uncle patiently...for about five minutes. Then he started to snoop around the desk holding all those scrolls...one black iron dagger, a set of shears...
"Why does Unc ave Shears?" Strife wondered out loud. He pocketed them giggling like a naughty child. There were some quills, an ink bottle...there was this plum shaped bottle with a plum colored liquid in it...plum juice go figure...well too shimmery to be normal juice. Strife picked up the bottle and the scroll it had been resting on rolled closed slowly. He watched it for a second then went back to the bottle he was holding.
"Wonda what this stuff is," He shook the bottle. The contents swirlled prettily, "Poison maybe?" He uncorked the bottle and inhaled the floral scent. He dipped his finger into the neck of the bottle and tilted it back. Sometimes his uncle had things like poison and weapons just lying around. That was why Cupid hated letting Bliss in his office. He never knew what he would find under the godling's pollow that night after coming home from Granpa Ares'.
Strife rubbed his fingers together and licked them...His tongue didn't tingle in that numb kind of way he enjoyed when he tasted poison...And this wasn't bitter. It tasted kind of like one of those future candies. He smiled. He had never known his uncle to have a sweet tooth.
It didn't taste half bad really. Strife felt a bit weird and he knew he probably was going to regret doing it, but what's eternity if one never took risks. He looked like a kid in the preverbial candy store tipping the bottle back not even having a clue what it was.
Suddenly the bottle was gone and he was slammed into the nearest wall with his uncle's fingers digging into his throat.
"What in tartarus are you doing?!" He snarled and lifted his nephew off the ground, "Spit it out! Spit it out now!"
Strife swallowed on reflex as he always did when he was in trouble with his uncle and about a third of what was left of the potion went down his throat. Though it was already too late anyway, he'd had enough with that first taste to start the change.
"Shit!" Ares tossed the godling across the room. He hit a column, shattering it with the force of Ares' throw.
He groaned and sat up in the rubble, "Well sorry Unc...I didn'a see yah name writtten on it..next time leave yah drinks where I cant find 'em."
"That wasn't a drink moron," Ares fisted his own hair yanking it in frustration, "Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!"
He dropped the bottle on the floor. It clinked but didn't break. He formed a fire ball in his hand and threw it at his nephew who was on his hands and knees trying to get out of the jagged shattered marble. The godling didn't manage to doge the fire ball, getting caught in the side and twisting into the air like a ragdoll. He smashed his head into the ground and just lay there for a minute letting the world stop spinning. Smoke wafted up from his black leathers. He waited for his uncle to cool off before trying to get up. Ares rarely kept hitting him once he was plastered to the ground like this. Strife spit out a tooth and chuckled to himself.
"Neva knew you was so protective of ya junk food," Strife muttered. He finally managed to get to his feet only to feel a sudden wave of dizzieness and nausea. Blackness crept into his vision and he was back on the floor.
"Shit! Strife!" Ares had calmed down...Maybe he had been a little rough, okay a lot rough, with his nephew. He knew Strife was far from the strongest god. He saw the boy laying there after he shot him with the fireball, and a tiny pang tugged at his heart. The guilt never saved Strife from a beating though. Ares might control it better but he was also a bit implusive by nature. Then when he stood back up he looked even paler than usual, if that were possible. His ice blue eyes rolled back in his head and he ended up on the floor again.
"Apollo!" Areas screamed. When he didn't appear immediatly he bellowed again, "Apollo get your golden ass over here!"
"What?!" The god of sun, intelect, and healing appeared in the room looking rather annoyed. He'd been enjoying his consort and barely had time to will himself clothed and over to Ares temple. He looked at the mess, at Strife, then back at Ares.
"What's your sister's spawn done and why did you bother me for this?" Then he noticed the bottle laying at Ares feet and snarled, "Why the fuck do you still have that potion? I thought you were going to destory it!"
"Never mind...Strife drank it!"
Apollo turned back to the passed out godling, he uttered a curse. Strife looked awful Ares had not held back in his rage. His face was slashed from the jagged rubble. Both his nose and mouth were bleeding and if the outward injuries looked bad the internal damage was much worse.
Apollo walked over and leaned down sensing the damage to his body. It was extensive, but nothing for a god to repair himself normally...however normal this was not. Strife was already relatively weak, but now his body was diverting his healing powers toward the job of reorganizing his internal organs. Aparently the potion worked on gods as well as it did on mortals. This was not good...not for the boy nor for their secret.
"You broke his spine in three places, Dude. If he were a mortal he would have been paralized...or dead," Apollo knew it was Ares doing if nothing else the singed flesh on his side gave his abuser away, "Most of his ribs are broken too, one is puncturing his left lung...his kidneys are bruised...His thorat is bruised. He's not healing," Apollo sent some energy into the young god trying to mitigate the damage. Strife groaned and tried to push the god away from him. Apollo was lucky he was weakened and mostly unconscious or he might have gotten a knife stuck in him or maybe those shears he'd swiped off his uncle's desk...There they were at Apollo's throat.
"Don' t-touch me yah prick," Strife's eyes were opened. He pressed the point of the shears into Apollo's juglar. Strife felt his heart in his throat as he opened his eyes to see one of the Big Twelve leaning over him with his hands on his chest. He panicked and pulled out the shears. Apollo sneered at him in his high and mighty way and blasted him in the temple. Then things went black and fuzzy again.
Apollo finished after a few minutes then stood dusting off his robes. He turned scowling at his brother, "You can clean him up and put him to bed, and don't fucking let anyone near him until we can figure something out! I'm gone dude, If you need anything hesitate to call!" Apollo flashed back to his own temple and his mortal who was laying only covered in a thin sheet and a slick coating of olive oil (hey you have your kinks and Apollo has his).
Ares walked over to his prone nephew and gently lifted the godling into his arms. He was light as a feather and thin as a rail. How something so delicate ended up in war boggled Ares mind. Strife was crafty and in his job he was...usually adequate. He was a sight better than his bat shit crazy mother. He carried Strife off to the rooms he still kept for his nephew. Ares deposited the young god on the bed and covered him with a blanket. He brushed back the hair from the younger god's face and sighed. He hoped he didn't lose it with his nephew like he almost had with Joxer that one time. He didn't see anything but a child in the godling. He never told Strife but he was next to a son in his eyes. That was why he was so hard on the lad. He expected a lot of him.
Cupid tapped his fingers. Since Joxer and Autolycus got settled he'd had a back log of petitions and matches to take care of. He was just looking over the last scroll, but he kept thinking of his mischief making cousin. He really did enjoy spending time with the fair skinned deity. Bliss loved him. In fact they could be siblings...in a way Strife was not much older than his son in terms of Godly time. But he wasn't a child where it counted. Cupid would gladly admit his atraction to the other god, if he didn't think it would frighten him off. Strife had major trust issues to work out before he would think of getting in a relationship. Even something casual with no strings attatched was out of the question. It was alright. Cupid had the time and he had patience. As they say, or will one day, 'Good things come to those who wait.'
Strife groaned and slowly sat up. His stomach was cramping, and he felt a warm sticky wetness between his legs. He was still in his singed leathers. He guessed his uncle had had a bit of mercy on him after he passed out from the beating and flashed him into his bed. He smelled blood and a lot of it. Why was he still bleeding? He threw the covers off of himself and looked at his lap. There was blood oozing through his crotch. It fanned out under him on the bed making a dark patch on the silk sheets.
"Fuck," Strife cursed, "Must'a ruptured sommin."
Strife stood and grabbed himself around the middle as another wave of cramps hit him. He felt a stabbing pain in his hips too.
"Broken hips an' internal bleedin?" Strife goraned, "Gotta rememba' not ta touch Unc's plum juice he's real teritorial bout that stuff, ahparrently," Strife chuckled as he limped to the adjoining bathroom to his room he willed his leathers away as he went and sticky clots of blood rolled down his legs leaving a trail and making him shudder. He could have willed the blood away, but he was too distracted by the pain. The prospect of a hot bath sounded so good, he didn't care if he was walking around buck naked and bloody from the butt down.
He saw the bath and willed it full of steaming water. He gingerly climbed over the edge of the tub and sank in slowly. He giggled seeing the pink swirling blood in the water. He felt a bit giddy. Strife reached for some stuff he's snagged from the future. Mr. BubblesTM. It was in a disgustingly pink bottle but it made his bath delightlyfully bubbly. He dumped about half the bottle in and started swishing the water around until it started to foam and churn and before long he had a nice covering of bubbles. He espically liked it because now he didn't have to look at his ugly skinny body.
Strife closed his eyes and dipped under the surface. He came back up wiping the soap from his eyes. His hair was plastered to his head instead of sticking up every which way. He pushed the fringe out of his face and reached for another bottle he'd procured from the furure. Shampoo, he had tried many kinds he'd found that he liked this GarnierTM stuff. It came from Gaul (one day to be called France he though). It smelled really nice and it made his hair feel really soft. Of course he ruined that by putting more future stuff in his hair called hair gel, but sometimes when he was alone he left it off.
Strife ploped a big gob of the shampoo on his head and started scrubbing he hummed and leaned back in the tub. His muscles were relaxing a bit making him feel slightly less crampy. Strife dipped below the bubbles again after a bit and rinsed the shampoo out of his hair. He laid back against the tub and hummed to himself, "Sometimes yah gotta spoil yahself."
Ares came into Strife's rooms expecting to see his nephew sleeping. He was not. The bed was rumpled and the smell of blood permeated the air. Ares eyes easlily caught the large dark stains against the grey silk sheets. There was a trail of blood leading into the bath camber.
"Apollo!" Ares bellowed. Apollo didn't come. Ares opened his mouth to yell when Apollo's son Asclepius appeared.
"Father sent me, Did you need help Uncle Ares?" Asclepius came forward looking concerned. He turned to the bed, seeing the blood he gasped.
Ares cursed his brother. The younger god waited expectantly, his eyes roamed over the evidences of someone needing assistance but being absent. Then a humming came from the bathing chamber and a naked Strife walked in drying his hair, not noticing his guests. Ares stared at his nephew noting the definite change. His hips were sloped his waist slightly narrower. It wasn't an unpleasing change either. Ares' eyes dilated and he became hyperaware of his nephew's sweet scent. He nearly forgot the other god standing there staring as well.
The heavy breathing next to him and then the clearing of a throat saved him from tackling his nephew and rutting him. It also finally alerted the godling that was scrubbing his head with a cloth. Strife's head snapped up and he squeeked. He blushed. It was uncertain weather it was being caught unawares or being seen naked that had alarmed him. He was dressed in a blink and his hands slid over his arms searching for the comforting metal of his blades.
"What'cha want?" Strife grunted and hugged himself closely, uncomfortably.
"I assume that's your blood?" The god of medicine spoke he was blushing noticably also.
"Oh," Strife looked at the blood on the floor leading back to his bed, "Sorry forgot ta clean it up. I'm ok now, don' need nothin." He snapped his fingers and the room was blood free.
"Strife," Ares warned through clenched teeth. He may still feel guilty over the beating he had given earlier, but that didn't mean he wouldn't stoop to threatening his nephew again. Ares had no idea if the blood was related to the potion or if Apollo had been careless in healing the young god, "Lay down and let Asclepius look at you."
"Unc?" Strife whined. He didn't want to get prodded, poked, and scrutinized. Ares glared at him and the godling hopped into his bed.
"If your idiot father is going to be sending you instead of taking responsibility for this mess I might as well let you see for yourself," Ares threw his hands up. He looked at the god of medicine and nodded toward the young god laying on the bed looking like a scaraficial lamb on an alter.
Asclepius slowly aproached, "Lets have a look then. Are you hurting?"
Strife shook his head. He was feeling crampy but it hardly bothered him any longer.
"There's no need to be nervous," Asclepius smiled gently as his hand slowly reached. Strife stilled. He glanced at his uncle wondering how bad an idea it would be to strike out or to transport away. Ares shook his head in warning.
A hand was placed on his stomach. That hand was warm and the energy was tryign to be comforting, but Strife didn't like being touched. He went rigid. There was a pull from his insides as the other god scanned his organs. He stopped and pulled back.
"Is that a womb?" Asclepius turned to Ares. Ares nodded frowning. The other god shook his head, "How? Tell me my father isn't responsible for this?" His eyes begged.
"He wasn't alone," Ares growled.
Asclepius fully turned to the god of war, "This is a violation. How could this have been allowed to happen?"
Ares quirked a brow at the normally placid younger god.
"What in Tartarus ah ya talkin about?" Strife lept up off the bed with a gazell like grace, and Like a gazell he felt like he was being tracked by a predator. Strife did the first thing that came to mind. He ran (well he transported himself). He was gone before either god could stop him.
Chapter 2: You Can Run...
Strife in my Life
Chapter 2: You Can Run...
Strife hugged himself and rocked slowly. He was in a forest somewhere on earth, he didn't know where and he hoped that would be a good thing. If he didn't know where he was maybe nobody would think of looking there for him. He suspected he was going to be in a heap of trouble with his uncle, but Uncle Ares was currently insane. So was Apollo's son.
"Ah always thought Ace had a good head on 'is shouldahs," Strife mumbled, "I guess bein' serious all tha time finally made 'im crack."
Strife heard a limb snap and some distant voices he panicked and flashed away. As he left the stag that a group of hunters had been tracking ran into the clearing but the sparkles flashed and frightened the poor beast right back at the men.
He appeared at a walled village and disguised himself as a pesant. Somethign had drawn him there, but hhs didn't care to guess. It just felt like a good place to hide.
He exchanged his normal safety pinned black leathers for a pair of black leather breeches and a dark grey tunic. His hair was a curly nest on his head, it looked much softer than his normal spikes. He thought he must not look too bad. People were looking his way and some people actually smiled at him.
He worked his way toward a tavern. He sidled up to the bar. A haggared looking old man asked him what he wanted, "I'll 'ave an ale." He materilized a couple of dinars and placed them on the counter. He took his drink and found an empty table. He was alone for all of five minutes before he was noticed. A man in uniform with a sword at his side slid in next to him and pounded the table, "Two more drinks over here!"
Strife sneered at his new companion, "What ya want?"
"You don't sound like you're from around here. I just wanted to get to know the exotic foreigner," A hand came to brush against Strife's thigh and the mortal was only still alive on the god's sufferance. Strife didn't want to give himself away for the time being and surprisingly he did have a sense of tact. He brushed the hand off his leg. Strife got a burst of mischief energy from the man. It wasn't normal for him to get energy from mischief directed at himself, but there was a first time for everything.
Strife turned a gimlet eye on the man. The solider sported a permenantly broken nose. Strife could only wonder if it was this bold egotism that brought about that physical trait. The man was unfazed, used to rejections aparently, "No worries beautiful. I suppose you want to get to know me before we get on to the fun stuff. I bet you'd like an introduction to your future lover. You can call me Lethos. What may I call you, sweet cheeks?"
"Def-nit-ly not sweet cheeks," Strife ground his teeth. He stood in an attempted to remove himself from the table. A broad hand wrapped around his slender bicep and he was jerked back down on his seat. Strife was about to retaliate when a couple other men in the same uniforms came over to the table.
"Lethos!" The larger one was frowning, "Are you bothering this man?"
"Captain Eos!" The man squeeked in surprise and let go of Strife's arm. Strife stood and backed up enough to give himself some breathing room. The man, Lethos, also stood, "We were just getting to know eather other sir."
"This can't keep happening. You have a choice," The captain spoke sternly, "You can stay on as a guard or you can continue this unsavory behavior and end up in prison."
The other man, shorter and wearing an eyepatch turned to Strife and smiled in sympathy, "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, 'M fine," He was ok. He was sure if he had been a mortal his arm would be bruised, but he was no mere mortal.
"I'm sorry about Lethos," The man said, "He gets a bit...amrous. I promise he won't bother you again."
Strife watched as the man was being dragged out by the captain. The other man sat down and offered Strife the other chair. He retook his seat and as the Captain lead lethos out the door. The door suddenly slammed on Lethos leg. He screamed. Strife stole a quick look and grinned.
"Let me buy you a meal?" The other man asked. He was sitting safely across the table from Strife. He was watching the men leave to and winced at the 'accident'. He turned back to Strife, "I'm Sosilus, by the way." He offered a friendly smile.
"M Erin," Strife offered. He rarely went by his given name. He much prefered his title, like his mother Discord.
"What would you like Erin. I'm buying," Sosilus reminded the god, "The meat stew's not bad...though this place used to be better, before Rhoda left. She moved south a few weeks ago. She was a good cook..." He seemed to want to say more as he frowned at the bartender. Strife looked at the disgruntled old man and he got a good reading of the man. He seem full of negative energy, and only the tiniest hint of sadness lay under it. Strife had a feeling his negativity had something to do with this Rhoda leaving.
Strife looked back at the man. His aura was friendly and reletively innocent. He shrugged and figured he could count a free meal as an offering, an unofficial offering at least, "Sha."
Sosilus waved a bar wench over and ordered stew for the both of them and more mead. When she left with their order he turned back to Strife, "So Erin could I ask where you're from? I mean if you don't mind? Your accent is...different," The man blushed at how rude his question sounded.
"Oh I'm from fah north," Strife lied, "Evah hear of Britania?"
"Uh," Sosilus nodded and blushed, "That's pretty far... What brings so far from your home? I know you can't be a sailor too far from the sea here," He was looking at the earrings that decorated the other man's ear. Only sailors and pirates generally had rings like that. Them or savages of the far south. Strife was far too pale to be from the south, He looked exotic but certainly not like a man from Aethiopia.
Strife realized the man was staring at his earrings. He should have willed them away but it was too late now. He brushed his finger over the warm metal in his ear. He loved his peircings they were something that made him unique, but it also might call too much attention to him.
"I wanted ta be a sailah when I was a kid," Strife spun a tale, "...but mah uncle had othah plans fah me. Had ta go into tha family business. Unc raised me but I had ta get outta there. I...ah...kinda got the earrings as a rebellion against 'im."
"Oh, what was your family business?" Sosilus asked in interest. He looked eager for a story. Kind of like a kid listing to tales of sea monsters and mighty heros. Strife got a bit of a charge from him.
"He's a big wahlard," Strife fibbed, "Ah was tha closest thin' to an heir he had. He has othah children but they was...not suited to wah."
Sosilus nodded, encouraging Strife to continue. Though he sized the slender man up. Strife knew he didn't look like much but he was good with blades and what he lacked in mass he more than made up for it with agility.
"Ah know I don' look like much but Ah been trained by tha best," Strife assured him.
Sosilus blushed realizing he'd been caught scrutinizing the man. Strife would have continued but the wench had just brought their food. She set a plank of bread ladened with stew before each man and a mug of mead to each of them; taking Strife's empty one back to be washed.
"This looks pretty good," Strife smiled.
Sosilus nodded, "Best food in the house."
"Thank ya," Strife offered feeling strangly happy. It was nice not being the god of Mischief for a while.
The men dug into their food and ate quietly before they were finished the Captain was back, "Lethos is scrubbing the privy," He announced, mostly to Sosilus. He took a seat next to the other guard. He was sitting really close and Sosilus blushed. Strife hid a smirk.
The captain ordered a platter of stew and a mead. It was brought quickly and the three enjoyed thier food in a comfortable silence.
Strife decided to stay a while. If he kept up the charade he might be able to hide out for a little while in this village. Strife took a room in the tavern and settled in for the night.
Cupid had a bad feeling. He couldn't pinpoint it but he somehow knew Strife lay behind that feeling. The problem lie in his absence. It had been days since he had last visited. Not long in godly time but Cupid had been keeping tabs on his cousin, had put a tracing spell on him in fact, but he hadn't resorted to that in almost a week. He had realized at some point that he was being kind of a creep. So he had stopped watching Strife, mostly. He absolutely didn't go poking around his father's temple. His pops didn't mind his visits so much but his spying on one of the house of war would not go unnoticed, or unpunished. He mostly watched the younger god when he was on earth. He was facinated...addicted. Strife was brimming full of the energy of youth and of course mischief too.
His son loved the other god. He was constantly asking when cousin Strife was coming back to play with him.
"Soon son," He'd promised. He hoped he could keep that promise.
The best part was Strife genuinely liked Bliss and indulged the godling whenever he managed to sneak in a visit. Sneak being the operative word. Ares kept him very busy, and visits always came at short notice and didn't last nearly long enough for either the god of love or the god of joy. Cupid wondered what his dad would have done without Strife...Underapriciated! Zeus! He was down right overlooked. Cupid shook his head. Maybe that's why he was missing. Planning to show his uncle how important he really was. That didn't seem very Strife like though. Strife enjoyed his job...mostly.
He talked passionately about his intrigues and plans, and about his children. No not literally his children, but his worshipers. Children from the time they are able to toddle around and cause mischief were his. Some were his into adulthood, Strife told him stories about the crazier ones. Giving him strange offerings like live serpents and rats in a bag. Of course he only found that offering after the snakes had gorged themeselves on the rats and some of the smaller snakes so that he had three very bloated snakes when he found the offering. He dicided to keep them as pets. He named them Medusa, Euryale, and Stheno. Cupid chuckled. He had this box made of glass. He called it an aquarium, said it was from the future. He could fill it with water and keep fish in it if he liked. He kept the three snakes in it and gave them mice to eat every week. He offered to set one up for Cupid. The god of love declined saying that sounded messy.
Instead he gave Bliss a glass bowl and a little orange fish he called a gold fish, it didn't look very gold but it was shimmery. Bliss called it Sol he said it looked like a little ball of sunshine. There were colorful stones in the bottom and a tiny replica of cupid's temple for Sol to hide in. Bliss adored it. Strife promised Cupid it wouldn't die because he put some of his own energy into it. He handed over a round clynder with holes in the top. He told bliss to give it only a pinch of those colorful flakes each day, and not to eat any of them himself, "That's fish food, good for fishes, but it'll make ya tummy hurt if ya eat any." Bliss was given the responsiblity over his first pet. Strife was teaching his son how to nurture life with his thoughtful gift.
Bliss was with his mother for a couple days. Cupid hated sharing custody, but he would never deny his son the love of his mother. He would grow up knowing both his mother and father loved him. Cupid didn't get to know his father until he was a teen. That was when he was about three-hundred. His godhood was burgening and Ares insisted on giving him some formal combat training. It really irked his mom when she learned he was going to be using a cross bow. She insisted it was too dangerous and too many of her babies had ended up in war. Phobos and Demos ended up with their father and only came to Aphrodite for weekend visits, but it was more than Cupid got until he was old enough to go on his own.
Cupid remembered Strife when he would go visit his pops. The shy slip of a boy hiding behind his father's throne. Strife had been a timid quiet little thing. Scared of his own shadow. That was the reason Eris had foisted the godling onto his uncle. She said he needed toughened up. He was so small. Standing there shaking like a leaf as one of Ares warlords shouted instructions at them. He had delegated their training to some of his favored mortals.
Strife couldn't handle a sword very well but when given a dagger his eyes gleamed in a strange way and he had petted it. He held it out and made a few pratice swipes with it. The man brought his sword up and comanded him to attack. Strife found his confidence and managed to gracefully duck beneath the sword and if he had been using anything but a pratice weapon the mortal would be in tartrus...well by now he was. That was about one hundred and fifty years ago. Strife had been twelve, in actual years, in appearance he was more like eight, but he had aged until he appeared to be in his late teens or young twenties. He settled there, the appearance of rebelous youth.
Cupid decided to be proactive and flashed down to earth. He would find Strife himself. He felt for the god's energies. The signature was weak and hard to pin down if he hadn't put a tracing spell on the other then he wouldn't have been able to find him at all. He was standing in a very familiar village, "What's Strife doing here?"
The god of love desguised himself as a mortal and followed Strife's tracer. Cupid walked nonchalantly. Even as a mortal he was a handsome sight (He pretty much just hid his wings and wore a pair of pants and a tunic). The village women were watching (drooling over) him as he moved through the streets. He ignored them and kept going. He heard loud grunting and the clashing of blades.
There was Strife in a closed off field beside a set of barraks. He was sparing with a tomboyish woman. They were both sweating profusely and Strife lunged at the woman. He as about to shout or stop them when the woman grabbed his arm and turned tossing him over her soulder. Strife rolled to his feet quickly. He clapped his hands together, "Good job Ismene."
She bowed blushing and the group watching all aplauded her.
Strife spoke again and the group quieted, "Rememba when yah apponent is biggah than yah...yah need to use thah weight and momentem against em. I want bigger ones to square up against the smaller ones. Lets see how yah do. Me an' Ismene'll come round an' correct yah where yah need it."
The men all jumped up eagerly, but most of them were busy watching Strife rather than getting into formation. The few women were much more apt and when the fighting started there were several young men on their asses and the women pleased with themselves. Strife went to the closest pair and offered a hand to the young solider on the ground. The guy took the offered hand and got pulled up. Strife was stronger than he looked (being a god and all, but they didn't know that).
"Thanks Erin," The man smiled and blushed red. He didn't let go fo Strife's hand right away and he was leaning in close.
The lust was palpable. Cupid could almost reach out and grab hold of it. It was directed at Strife, and it wasn't just that one man. Cupid's eyes flashed green even through his guise. He growled and it must have been loud enough to get noticed, because Strife, and the guy, and the rest of the people were staring at him. Strife blanched. He saw through Cupid's disguise. He really wasn't ready to go back yet. Playing mortal had been really fun and he and Sosilus had struck up a bit of a friendship.
"Cupe?" Strife whispered. His worry bled into his tone and the man holding his hand stepped in front of Strife to protect him.
Then there were three and then four more standing there with the rest coming over to protect their little Erin from harm.
"This guy a problem Erin?" One of the larger ones cracked his knuckles. Cupid rolled his eyes and stalked forward, but before he could meet the group. Strife pushed them out of the way easily...godly strength...remember...
"Its cool," Strife put his hands up, "This is...Cupe. Everybody Cupe, Cupe everybody." He giggled a bit at the absurdity of the situation.
"What are you doing here St..." Strife threw his hand up and shushed the other god. He begged with his eyes that the other god play along, "Erin...What are you doing? I've been worried about you."
"Erin's in good hands Cupe," The one who cracked his knuckles spoke up harshly. In apearance he might have been intimidating to Cupid, if cupid were a mortal. He insinuated himself in between the love god and the god of mischief. A very stupid and dangerous proposition, but he was a mortal and mortals could to be both dumb and tended to die a lot.
"It's fine Onias," Strife pulled the man back and he stumbled in surprise. Strife was slender and looked fragile but he was still a god, "I can protect maself. 'Sides, Cupes isn't a threat. He don' mean any harm." The men didn't look too convinced but they backed off. Cupid wasn't too convinced either, the men were still far to close to Strife for his liking. He might not kill them but he wouldn't hesitate to hurt them if they kept looking at Strife and if they touched him again, in such a familiar way. It wasn't fair! He couldn't touch Strife like that without him freezing up, or jerking away!
Cupid conceded and backed up. He didn't like it but he would do it for Strife. Cupid offered a smile to Strife and relaxed. Strife gave him a thankful smile and turned back to the group, "Me an' Cupe need ta 'ave a chat. Ismene can you keep things unda control?"
"Sure Erin," She nodded and started herding the over protective men back to the other side of the field.
Strife Started walking and Cupid followed. His eyes slowly raked over the other god's body. Strife seemed a little different...slightly less slender than he had been...in the hips and that butt! It was...just...sinful! That bottom was too perfect for words. Cupid wondered if that was a glamor. He was so tempted to just grab it.
"So how'd ya find me Cupes?" Strife asked looking back.
Cupid blinked and shook his head stupidly, "Oh I...um...Was just in the area...sensed you?"
"Ya a terrible liah," Strife turned and grinned at the other god.
"Ok...I might have put a tracer on you," He mumbled. Strife gave him a disapproving look. Cupid waved his hands in the air, "I'm sorry I know, but its like I hardly ever get to hang with you and I like you Cuz. Bliss loves you. Its been a few days since I invited you to dinner. Bliss misses you. I was hoping to catch you. Pops has you so busy I can hardly keep up with you."
"So Unc didn' send ya?" Strife asked cautiously. Cupid shook his head and Strife relaxed visibly, "Thank tha fates."
"Why what's wrong?" Cupid felt his heart skip a beat. He knew his father was very tough on Strife but for Strife to be this worried about Ares meant something major was going down.
"Nothin...least I don' think its anythin.' Somethin' bout some potion and him and Ace sayin' I have a womb," Strife hugged himself and shivered at the thought, "It's just crazy talk in' it?"
Cupid stared slack jawed. His eyes roamed over his cousin again and this time taking in the changes in his figure. Taking a long deep breath and there it was, faint now it had probably been very strong at first, the smell of desert rose. His eyes flashed briliant green and he grabbed Strife's arm. Strife flinched and tried to pull back but Cupid wasn't having it, "Did he force a potion on you?" Strife felt his arm bruising. Cupid was a god and gods could hurt other gods and he was weaker than Cupid. The anger and jealousy rolling off Cupid made Strife gag.
"Na! No! He...I saw it on 'is desk...thought it was ah drink...it...I took it when he wasn' theah," Strife felt his heart beating against his chest. If he were mortal it would have no doubt burst. The pale godling gulped for air and jerked back.
It was the fear in his eyes that got Cupid to finally let go, "I'm sorry Strife. Are you alright?"
"M fine," Strife rubbed his arm and healed himself quickly. Cupid noticed this and grimaced. He reached out and brushed Strife's arm. The god stilled but didn't pull back. He watched Cupid's face and he was genuine remorse there. Ares sometimes looked like that after beating him but it never saved his ass in the end. Everyone was going to hurt him eventually, but Erin. That was a different matter. Erin was respected and liked.
"Just...I wanna be a mortal fah a while longa," Strife begged.
Cupid nodded he couldn't deny those clear blue eyes, "A few more days...but I'm staying with you."
Strife smiled and patted Cupid on the back, "Yah tha best Cupes!"
Cupid relished the feel of Strife's touch. It wasn't much but it was a start.
Chapter 3: Mortal for a Day...or Two?
Strife in my Life
Chapter 3: Mortal for a Day...or Two?
"Ok I sent word to Psyche that I have an emergency job and asked her to either keep Bliss for a little longer or to take him to Mom's. Psyche won't question it and Mom will understand," Cupid explained the situation to Strife. Strife only nodded and sipped his ale. Cupid kept watching him drinking and it was starting to freak the younger god out.
"So we bettah get back to tha feild. Ah didn' intend ta leave 'em hangin' this long," Strife left money on the table and got up Cupid followed. He hadn't been drinking and the tavern keep was eyeing him evilly. Taking up precious chair space that paying customers could be using. Of course his custom had declined greatly since Rhoda left. She had been a meek presence but she had also been in charge of the cooking and cleaning. He hired on some girls but they weren't the same as her. Lazy and always expecting to get paid for their paultry work. If he didn't know the two women had very big and very possessive husbands he'd back hand the both of them. (So old Alcimos hasn't learned his lesson. Too bad.)
"What exactly are you doing here anyway? I mean I know you're hiding out from Pops but what's with the training," Cupid looked at Strife waiting for an answer the other god moved ahead of him in a bit of a hurry to get back.
"Exactly what it looks like Cuz," Strife didn't look back or he'd have caught Cupid ogling his butt.
"I mean why are you doing it?" Cupid's hands were itching again and he was clenching his fist. When Strife hopped over a pothole his backside jiggled a little. He had to put his hand over his mouth to check for drool.
"Cause they need it...bad," Stride said in a determined voice.
Cupid needed something bad!
"Sides its fun," Strife giggled, "Fah once people ain't runnin scared ah me...and they ain't talking bad 'bout me, or sneerin at me neithah." Strife sounded serene, but what he said really bothered Cupid. Strife was treated badly on Olympus, by his family. From what he remembers even his mother was nasty to him. She used to only refer to him as 'the brat' now she calls him Strife but as far as anybody knows their association is strictly professional.
Cupid and his mom didn't always see eye to eye but there was genuine love there. Aphrodite would do anything for him. Hell she had turned Psyche into a goddess for him, without consulting Zeus first. That was risky, luckily the house of love was in good with the King of the gods. Still that was sticking her neck out very far for them and if she hadn't he wouldn't have gotten Bliss, the light of his life.
Admittedly the marriage was rushed and a disaster. They had nothing in common other than sex which was great for a while but the thrill faded quickly. Then she got pregnant. Bliss was one thing that he could never regret from that fiasco. Then the arguing started and finally it was Psyche who admitted her feelings had faded. She also admitted she was picking fights hoping to get that spark of passion back from the god of love. It turns out that she had been having doubts about their relationship from the beginnning, maybe had even gone along partially out of fear.
That had really hurt Cupid. He thought he felt love and excitment from her. He was the god of burgening love damn it! He still feels guilty. Psyche could have been left unburdened with a godhood and lived a happy natural life span. She was now stuck as a goddess. Thankfully she was a strong woman and was able to take up her responsibilities and succeed in her given profession where she and Cupid had failed in their personal life. In the end it was a mutual breakup and for the sake of Bliss they tried to stay friends (That wasn't always easy with the dissapointment in eachother and themselves).
"...Archery," Strife was talking and he'd missed it. He cleared his head and his throat.
"Sorry I got distracted," Cupid apologized.
"Ya arn't starin at ma butt, are ya?" Strife teased and wiggled his butt. Gods yes he had been. Strife didn't realize. He repeated what Cupid had missed, "Ah said ya could teach these gits ta shoot. Ya know bows, arrahs, tahgets. Maybe play some William Tell."
"What's William Tell?" Cupid asked.
"Oh its a futuah legend, This guy was such ah great shot with 'is bow that tha king ah tha land ordered 'im to shoot an apple offa 'is son's head. Well 'e had ta or tha king woulda had 'em both killed. So Tell pulled out two arrahs. One fah tha apple and one fah tha King. Ya see he wasn't sure he could hit tha apple and if 'is son was hit then he'd be sure that tha king wan't gonna live eithah," Strife gaily recanted the tale from the future, "Anyway people will joke about playin' William tell, most won't actually do it, but yah can bet theah'll be some deaths related to tha 'Apple Shot'."
Cupid thought he would have just shot the king the second he even suggested putting his little baby boy in danger. He was a deadly aim but he would never risk his son. Though most of his arrows wouldn't harm him in a physical manner. They were infused with his godhood and designed to imbue love energies not physically injure, "Let's not play that game Strife. If we're trying to help these people getting half the regiment killed off in a stupid contest of skill isn't a good idea."
"Its temptin though....maybe we could mock up ah pratice dummy ah two and shoot an apple offa its head?" Strife's eyes sparkled from even the thought of mischief. He turned grinning at his cousin.
Cupid's lips turned up into a smile, "Why not...we can see if you have good aim too...Maybe teach them the art of throwing knives?"
"Lets get some apples!" Strife veered off throught the marketplace headed for the fruit stall.
Cupid shook his head but he was grinning inspite of himself.
"I wanna buy alla yah apples!" Strife was jumping in place excitedly. He slapped down a pouch of coins, and just scooped up the entire pile. Strife was dropping apples all over the place and the man at the stall looked distraught. Even as he was counting out the money. Cupid thought up a basket, nobody seemed to notice. He held the basket up and Strife dumped the fruit into it and started picking up the rest. Cupid watched him chase apples down, bending and snatching; and giving the nicest show to his cousin and anyone interested that happened to be in the area and wasn't blind or dead below the waist.
The men and women were waiting back at the feild. The men were much more excitable. They didn't like the idea of Erin going off with that handsome stranger. There was a mutual agreement that the interloper was likely a jealous lover. Competition. Not good prospects for them. Erin was so delicate and yet feisty. Every unatttached man there wanted him and some of the married ones liked to at least get an eyefull of that beautiful behind. They didn't question the atraction they were past that in the first ten minutes of knowing the gregarious man from Britania.
Erin was full of energy and mischief. He loved to tease and tease he did. That body was a such a tantalizing lure. The men wondered how he'd gotton so far south on his own. His was the kind of exotic beauty that would have slavers on his tail. But Erin had proven that he was resourcful and had shown himself to be a confident warrior. Where size and bulk lacked he made up easily and he was strong for someone so slender. Even the biggest warrior there had been bested in single hand to hand combat. It was a marvel. There was talk of him having a bit of the divine in him. It would explain his unearthly charms and strength.
It was really almost funny the contrast in how Cupid and those mortal men saw Strife and how he saw himself. To Strife, he was skinny and pasty. He thought that his eyes looked weird and his hair was an unruly mass of midnight black curls. He looked about as far removed as possible from the ideal of Olympion beauty. Even his dark haired uncle was beautiful and tan. Ares' curls brushed his shoulders gracefully...when he'd worn them long. He had been wearing his hair shorn recently and only looked more devestatingly handsome as a result. And that beard...His beard made him look intimidating.
If Strife thought of growing a beard. It would probably look silly. If he had any stubble to think of. He wondered if perhaps he wasn't fully mature maybe his beard would come in one day...well he could think one up for himself but that wasn't the same, plus it took extra energy to glam up some facial hair.
Strife had Cupid think up a couple dummies and carry them back when they were in the secluded path to the training feild. Strife had his apple basket on one arm and a quiver and bow on the other. Cupid couldn't use his crossbow. That would really get some attention.
"Erin!" Onias came over and took his basket, "Let me get that for you."
"Uh...Thanks," Strife smiled and the large man blushed and grinned.
A shorter gangly looking teenager came over and took the quiver and bow, "I'll take that for you Erin!" If he was a puppy his whole backside would be wagging.
"Thanks...um...Tiro," Strife said to the man but looked a little puzzled.
"He remebers my name," The teen gasped and blushed.
Cupid frowned and looked around. Well I'll just set these up. He grumbled as he moved to the end of the feild. He drove the dummies into the ground by the stakes in their backs the looked like basic scare crows but their heads and torsos were sturdy enough to hold an apple and to stand up to quite a few arrows. He was satisfied they were straight and not going to fall.
Cupid walked over and grabbed an apple from the basket looked at Onias who was about to bite into one of them. He snatched it irately and marched back over to the dummies. He placed an apple on each. He walked over to the teen. Snatched the bow and quiver of arrows. He took the bow in his hand and slung the quiver over his shoulder. He marched to the opposite end of the feild from the dummies. It was a rectangular feild so he set it up for the longest ranged shot possible.
Everybody was watching him by this point. The men were a bit angry and maybe a bit miffed watching the play of strong muscles under fine white linnen. Cupid nocked the arrow drew it back, and lets it loose. The arrow flew across the feild hit the apple dead center; peircing it through the core, and knocking the apple off the dummy. He nocked another arrow and pulled back. He hit the other apple. He took three arrows out lined them up pulled back and hit the left dummy in the center of its face, in its chest where the heart would be, and in its crotch where the family jewels would be. He repeated this feat with the other dummy He reached for another arrow and found he was out.
He almost thought up more arrows but managed to stop himself remembering he was supposed to be a mortal. He had a lot of agression he needed to get out. If he went on a jealous rampage that would not only be bad for him (and letheal for all the men and maybe even the women) it would probably terrify Strife. If he let his jealousy take over he might accidentally hurt his cousin.
Cupid took a few clensing breaths. It had been his ex-wife who had actually suggested that technique. Give your body time wind down, slow down, and then think before you act. He felt a bit better, and much less iritated. He looked at the people who were staring stunned. Strife was grinning. He shouted and whooped, "That's mah cuz! Woo!"
Strife's cheers started something and the group joined in. The women were swooning at the display. The men looked impressed, some jealous and some a bit mortified that he wasn't only handsom but skilled too.
Strife came over and smacked Cupid on the shoulder careful of the other god's wings...they were still there just the mortals couldn't see them, "Yeah! In' he great! Cupe's gonna help us out with archery, and..." Strife took out one of his daggers and flicked it carelessly. It embeded just left of the chest arrow on the right dummy, "I'll show ya how ta throw a knife. 'M a fair hand at it, ah say." The men fawned over him clapping his shoulder and shouting cheers, hooting.
Cupid shrugged and opened his mouth, "Well if you have bows, go get them." He and Strife went to collect the arrows and Strife's dagger.
The rest of the afternoon Cupid showed the women and some of the men how to shoot and Strife attempted to teach his skill with blades. Throwing daggers is a mite harder and less accurate than arrows, but it looks so damn cool!
Everybody got to pratice shooting apples and the leftovers were baked as a treat for the troops, Strife, and Cupid.
Strife invited Cupid to share his room at the tavern. Cupid didn't get his hopes up about them sharing a bed, and as predicted there were seperate beds.
"It was one bed but I figuahed ya want ya own space," Strife explained smiling. He knew if he was Cupid he wouldn't want to sleep next to someone as ugly as him, "I turned it inta two beds. Tha taven ownah won't notice and we can fix it when we leave."
Cupid wanted to push the beds together. He really did, but he didn't want to frighten Strife. Strife was starting to trust him and that was great. He just wasn't ready for anyting as intimate as sharing a bed, even for sleeping.
Cupid turned away and started to undress. He willed away the tunic and changed his leather pants for some linnen ones. He would have slept naked but he didn't want to upset Strife. His wings ruffled a bit as he stretched.
Strife could appriciate beauty like anyone else, just because he was from the house of war didn't mean he didn't like pretty things...er...people. Just some people's attitudes irked him. Strife looked over at his cousin. It sometimes hurt to see something as beautiful as his cousin, and when you got to know him and to know that he wasn't just pretty to look at he was kind and so very different from Strife who was ugly inside out.
He would love to have that...to have love. He wanted someone to hold him, not in lust...well not just in lust. Passion and love would be nice, but most people, gods, beings, that touched him; or wanted to touch him; only wanted to create violence. To take. He didn't want to be touched with hurtful intentions. He knew he was part of war. He wasn't supposed to love. His mother didn't love. His uncle didn't love. War was the other side of the coin from Love, the opposite. Love was beautiful, caring, protective and light. War was repulsive, angry, voilent, and dark. There was lust in both love and war. Love had lust of the body, sharing a beautiful moment of rapture with another, joined together...But war was all blood lust, taking the body, raping it, tearing it apart, and breaking it. He was broken. Strife looked away.
Cupid didn't turn when he felt his cousin watching him. He felt such a well of heart break. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He didn't know what to do. Strife was hurting. He had known about it, always felt it, but it was like taking care of an injured animal. One that had been taught not to trust. Sometimes more effort had to go into teaching the animal that you weren't going to hurt it than into the actual healing process...Or in this case teaching Strife to trust him was part of that process.
He wished he knew more about Strife. He had known of his cousin since the boy was born, but he hadn't taken an interest in him until much later. He knew of Strife but he didn't know Strife. He felt like the last few weeks he had been making progress but this deep sadness that had peeked out was quickly stuffed back into whatever box in Strife's mind it was meant to be kept.
Cupid blinked away his tears and sniffed. He stretched and rubbed his eyes to clear up the evidence, feigning a yawn. Then he turned. Strife was laying facing away from him in the far bed.
"Night Cupe," Strife said.
"Goodnight...Erin," Cupid used Strife's given name. Strife stilled for just a second, then he smiled and relaxed.
"Sleep well Cupid," Strife whispered before snuggling under his blanket.
The morning came quickly. Cupid was awake before dawn. He wanted to watch his cousin sleep. Strife had a gentle smile on his face and he looked peacful. It was a lovely scene, but he needed to see if he could get a better gage on the things he felt last night. No luck. Strife was a light sleeper and the second Cupid attempted to pry he got a face full of boot. Ouch. At least the foot wasn't still inside.
"Nice try cuz, but ya have ta get up earliah than that ta get tha drop on me," Strife wagged his finger and hopped up out of bed, dressed and ready for the day's work, "Lets get some breakfast an get out there. Ah promised Eos Ah'd do mornin patrol, and since yah wit' me then Ah guess ya can tag along."
Cupid was standing there stuttering. Strife collected his precious foot apparel. He slipped it on and ran out the door cackling. Cupid finally came to his senses and willed his clothes on and made the bed whole again in case someone came in to clean the room while they were out. After taking another calming breath he left the room. He didn't want to ring Strife's neck but he might enjoy spanking him throughly. No of course he wouldn't do it...not until the younger god was ready for that kind of play.
Ares was pacing his war room. It was trashed; he had destroyed it, fixed it, and destoryed it again. His nephew was out there with no protection. He cursed himself for not slapping hephaestian chains on the boy while he was out cold. Ares didn't like to show weakness and love was weak in his eyes. However he felt responsible for his nephew. He was barely an adult in the eyes of the gods and he was vulnerable. As a small child he was brought to Ares. The boy was scrawny, he was timid, and shied at every touch. He was also covered in bruises.
His mother said he was hopeless and that his only chance at redemption was if Ares took him under his wing. She was tempted to drop him on earth and leave him, she had said. He didn't doubt it. Eris had not wanted the child but Zeus' law prevented her from exterminating the pregnancy. The bruises he had assumed were from her because there were only two ways a godling could be that injured. Either another god inflicted the injuries or he had been forced to wear hephaestian metal and well Ares did not want to think that Eris would allow any mortals or immortals to harm her child (He dare not even think of a third possiblity, that the injuries were self-inflicted).
Those bruises could have been from overzelous training. That was always what Ares told himself. A lie he told to sooth his conscious (yes the god of war has one of those. Don't tell anyone or the god might visit you one night and skin you alive). He had a sense of right and wrong and a sense of family. Families protect their children. Raise them to be strong and independent. Strife was...well he was weak. Then and he still is. It is sad really. He should be stronger. Ares didn't undertand it. He sould get loads of energy from war, but it never seemed to fit. He never seemed to fit. He was half cocked. As a child he would talk to himself a lot. Still did sometimes. He said it was the children. They talked to him. Told him things. Some of them were funny. Mischief stuff he supposed. Some of them were not funny, they were frightening.
Ares woke one night to the sound of something thwacking against the wall. He got up, dressed and went into the main hall. Strife was there smacking his head into the wall. He was making a sick splating sound and blood was splattering over the wall and dripping down into his rich red carpets. "Go on gal! Touch it. Do it right or ah'll burn yah 'gain! Yeah ya lil slut at's daddy's gal. Ya gonna make a good lil whooah fah daddy. Go on gal, go on gal, go on, go on." Strife turned blindly and stared right through Ares. His head was crushed on one side. He was crying from his unruined eye. He screamed, "GO ON GAL, STROKE DADDY'S COCK!" Strife's one good eye closed and he collapsed against the bloody wall smearing his gore over the black marble.
Ares had screamed for Apollo. His heart was in his throat he had never been so horrified; and he has seen some atrosities, had committed about every vile act on the battlefeild. Had even seen children torn apart and killed, but this was his child. Strife was his from the day Eris had dumped him at his feet.
Apollo was disgusted, had accused him of attacking the boy. Strife was taken from him until a review in the halls of time showed them what had happened. It took weeks of painsteaking work to restore Strife's face and then his mental recovery was even longer. As far as they could figure Strife was living the expirences of a traumatized child. A girl who's father had sexually assulted her and abused her. With a little probing into Strife's mind the mortal was found and killed the child was taken. Her body healed and the memory of her family wiped. She was given to a caring family and lived a long happy life.
During her ordeal she had been so afraid that she latched onto Strife's innocent goodhood and prayed for help. Strife had dreamed her abuse and couldn't handle it. In order to deal with the trauma he had harmed himself. He was restored, those memories were taken away and a supresser had been placed on his mind. He still got prayers but the darker side of his godhood was blocked until he was old enough to handle it. Ares always wondered if that had warped his young mind or salvaged an already damaged psyche.
Strife wasn't properly connected to his dark side when he started to get trained. He seemed to seperate himself from his light side. Then he had trouble pulling back. When he killed he enjoyed it, when he tortured he loved it, but when he saw a child playing in a field he seemed to glow and his crazed smile fell away. Children playing games, and pretend, and innocent pranks were not what war needed so Ares pushed him to his darker side. He saw less and less of the timid frightened boy and more and more of the crazed murderer. Strife hid himself. He still indulged in the innocent side but he tried to hide it from his Uncle and Mother. Ares knew though and he hated himself for it.
Strife was only allowed to be half of his goodhood. He should be stronger. He should be confident in himself and not afraid of his shadow. Afraid to be touched. Ares knew. The boy was terrified. He had learned that lesson well, nobody touched you unless they wanted to take from you. Ares had once gone to the halls of time to review his nephew's life but he stopped at the door. He didn't want to know because, in the recesses of his mind, he already knew. Between he and his sister they had ruined that child.
He didn't want Strife taken away from him. If he knew the truth he wouldn't be able to live with it and he would do something regretable. The house of war hinged on the fate of one tormented broken godling...And now that lost little boy was out there in the world. Vulnerable and alone. He could defend from mortals, and even demi gods, but even a god was not completely invulnerable.
What if Strife took a lover, if he became pregnant? That could not be hidden like Joxer could. A godling or a demi god born of a god would be noticed, questioned and likely punished. Ares wasn't worried about himself, or his siblings, he was worried about Strife. Strife was his child. He had never admitted it to the boy, but he did love him, He did care about his welfare, but he couldn't afford weakness. He couldn't afford the other gods knowing he even gave two shits about the boy, or they would hurt him.
Most of the panthean hated his side of the family. Even thought they snubed Strife and treated him as a lesser being, his treatment was fathoms above what they would do if they realized Ares actually liked his screw up of a nephew. He'd be strung up, raped, humiliated. The baby that would be brought forth would probably be cursed and thrown to earth to die. Strife was cracked but he still had spirit. His inocence was there waiting to be unleashed and heal him, but War couldn't do it. Love could but they wouldn't. In spite of his trysts with Aphrodite and their shared children. The goddess resented him for taking her children. Maybe not out in the open, but the tension was there.
Knowing her she'd spite him by cursing Strife. Even if it was Zeus who assigned their houses and even if he sent their sons to see her whenever they wanted as long as it hadn't interfered in their training. He only got to see Cupid when he had been old enough to transport himself over and he had asked for training. He had to say Ares insisted in order to get the goddess to agree. She accused him of trying to steal another of her babies.
Ares scrubbed his hands through his hair. It was sticking out at odd angles making him look like a buffer and more tanned version of his nephew. He had no idea where to find the boy. He could be anywhere and one thing the boy was good at was hiding. Perhaps it was because his godhood was cracked and he only got a portion of his rightful energies that he could supress and hide himself so well. Strife was unpredictable and might be hiding right under their noses, but enough under the radar to go unnoticed.
He asked Discord if she had seen or sensed her son and she snorted, "Not if I can help it bro. He's your problem now, I washed my hands of the brat a century and a half ago." He hadn't expected less or more from his twin. She was discord. Suffering and being insuferable were her stock in trade.
Ares thought he might ask Cupid. His oldest son had lately been around Strife. He had hoped it meant Strife was finally healing. Bliss talked a lot about Strife actually. His grandson liked Strife and said so often. He would ask if Strife could play, and unfortunatly, he kept his nephew fairly busy causing unrest. The job following that crazed gargarean man had been a rare side job. Him helping watch after Joxer had been as well very out of the ordinary, but Strife actually liked Ares dedicated follower. Said he was a mischief magnet. Ares trusted Strife to handle Joxer like he would a child. Even in the coldest grip of his dark side Ares beleived Strife would never harm a child. It went against the nature of his being. His godhood was made of the dicodimy of mishief. Innocent childish fun and horrible bloodthristy mayhem.
Ares flashed to his son's temple. There was a note sitting on the main alter. He took it up and read.
'If you're looking for me I'm on an important job. Leave me a note on the alter and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.'
Ares crumpled the note and tossed it aside, "Cupid! I need to speak with you it's urgent."
'Did you not read my note Pops?' Cupid spoke directly to Ares' mind and he sounded annoyed.
Ares rolled his eyes, 'I did son and I tossed it on the floor. Did you not hear that I said it was urgent?' Ares gritted his teeth. He formed a fireball in his hand and turned to shoot the note. It was engulfed and charred to ashes in a second.
'Spill Pops,' Cupid demanded. He was none too pleased with his father at the moment. He still beleived Ares forced Strife to drink that potion. He was angry and jealous that his own father would think of taking advantage of Strife.
'Have you seen Strife?' Ares started. He flexed his hands trying to stay calm and not yell at his son. He sensed some hostility from the younger god.
'If I have?' Cupid drawled out in his father's mind.
'Ok son. I need you to shut up and listen,' Ares warned. He felt a burning tingle in his brain as if the love god were about to rip into him. He just knew that Cupid knew where Strife was. Ares hoped he was protecting the weaker godling. Ares bit the inside of his cheek and took a second to clear his head, 'He took that blasted fertility potion.' Ares started. He took a sharp breath when he felt the killing intent rolling off his son's mind in waves. He pushed forward, 'We need to find him before another god discovers what's happened before...'
Cupid had heard enough. Cupid was certain, Ares just wanted to make sure no other god got the chance to bed Strife before him. He growled at his father, 'Before someone else can take advantage of him, so you get your chance first!'
'Cupid? No I don't want to see Strife hurt! For now only you, I, Apollo and Asclepius know. I trust Ace to keep his mouth shut and well Apollo is going to do what's best for Apollo. That means keeping his big mouth shut...' Ares tried to break through again.
'Nobody else is going to find out. I'm going to protect Erin. I'm not letting you or anyone else hurt him again! Cupid closed his mind off from his father.
Ares cursed loudly. It echoed throught the empty temple. He hoped Cupid did know where Strife was and he prayed to the fates that Strife was safe. Ares flashed back to his own temple. He had been putting off his own work to look for Strife for the last few days. He couldn't afford to let it go anylonger, and maybe if he could get close enough to Strife he could feel him. If he could know his nephew was safe...He couldn't afford to go soft now.
Strife had realized after about thirty paces and lots of genial chattering that Cupid wasn't with him anymore. Cupid was standing still glaring at a tree at the base of the distant mountain. Strife tromped back over and poked Cupid in the middle of his chest. That seemed to wake him up. He shook his head and looked through Strife for a second.
"You awright Cupes?" Strife looked concerned.
Cupid smiled at him warmly, "No Cuz. I'm ok...was just thinking."
"Bout what?" Strife was still frowning.
"Nothing much," Cupid said and reached out. He felt the urge to just touch Strife. He put his hand on Strife's shoulder and the other stilled, but he didn't jerk back. Strife gasped quietly.
"It didn' look like nothin," Strife argued softly, "Looked like ya wanted ta burn tha forest down with ya mind."
"Sorry I guess I kind of spaced out there Erin," Cupid rubbed his arm. Strife blushed. Every time Cupid used his name it made him feel all warm and tingly inside.
"We ah, we bettah get a move on, Lots a ground ta covah still," Strife pulled back and turned.
Cupid grabbed his arm and pulled him close. Strife squeeked indignetly, "I promise I won't let anyone hurt you Strife. Never again."
Strife looked into Cupid's eyes they were mostly warm gold flecked with green, and they were so serious that Strife had to look away, "Sha Cuz, anythin ya say," He patted Cupid's arm and tried to remove his arms gently. Cupid pulled him into a full hug and squeezed. It wasn't hard enough to hurt but strong enough that Strife knew he'd have to think up a prybar to loosen those muscular arms. Also it didn't feel too bad. It felt safe and warm. Cupid wasn't going to hurt him and Strife knew that, but he also knew that if the stayed like that too long he would contaminate Cupid's purity.
"Ah that's nice Cuz, but we gotta finish ah rounds fore lunch time," Strife pulled back and looked at Cupid's face.
Cupid was looking into his eyes, "You are beautiful Erin." He leaned in like he was going to kiss Strife. Strife was stunned immobile. Cupid leaned closer and then something over Strife's shoulder caught his attention, "Something's burning."
"Yeah?" Strife uttered. He felt a charge going through him. Cupid turned his head and there was smoke. There were also a bunch of men running from the blaze.
"Bandits...set the damn wall on fire," Cupid growled, "Strife go sound the alarm I'll try to round up the culprits."
Strife nodded and took off for the gate. Cupid went toward the bandits, grabbing his bow and nocking an arrow as he ran.
"Fiah! On tha west wall!" Strife barked at the gate guards and the bell was ringing. He lead a group of men back to the fire. Cupid was standing there with a group of boys tied together and begging to be let go. They were local teens, not one of them had reached his majority yet. The fire was already out. A pile of charred hay lay stamped out and Cupid looked really sour. He had been making real progress with Strife, with Erin. They had ruined a really nice moment.
One of the boys was whining about his father making Cupid pay and he wacked the kid across the head with his bow. The kid started sniveling, "Don't kill me please! It wasn't even my idea! It was Thonin's idea! He put us up to it!"
"Shut your mouth Simo!" The largest boy growled. Cupid wacked that boy too. All the boys had lumps on their head and were whimpering by the time the Captain and Lieutenant had arrived.
"What in tartarus is all this?" Captain Eos demanded.
"Seems you have a few boys with too much time on their hands," Cupid growled and prodded one of the children with his bow. The kid whined. Strife frowned.
"Easy on em Cupe?" Strife stepped up. Cupid sneered at the brats. Strife shook his head and continued, "If ya hurt em too bad they can't muck out tha stables can they?" The boys all turned green at the prospect. Strife couldn't hold back his grin.
"Excelent Idea Erin," The captain clapped his shoulder, "We'll have to talk to their parents and explain why they're going to be working for the next few days. If they have time to endanger the entire village, then they have time to work for the militia."
The children were untied but thankfully they were smart enough to not try to run. Afterall that big blond man had his sharp arrows aimed at them, and he hits really hard too. Strife was walking ahead. Cupid had his attention split between the boys and Strife. He needed to remember his mantra, 'patience, patience, and more patience.' Strife was coming around he just knew it. He just had to give the younger god time.
Chapter 4: The Vacation is Over
Strife in my Life
Chapter 4: The Vacation is Over.
Cupid was shooting at one of the dummies beside the barracks, they looked more like pincushions than dummies by then. Strife and Sosilus were sitting in the soft grass eating dates and watching the love god. Cupid was totally not jealous of the lieutenant, he was not! They were speaking in soft tones. Every once in a while Strife would get that impish smile and say something. Sosilus would either blush, or laugh raucously. Cupid's feathers ruffled. The mortals couldn't see it and Strife was too focused on embarrassing/entertaining his friend to notice how agitated his godly friend was.
'I am not jealous, I am not jealous, I am NOT!' He chanted in his head. He pulled the bow back so hard and fast and that the string snapped and whipped him across the face. Well that got Strife's attention. He and Sosilus rushed over. Strife looked very concerned.
"Ya awright Cupe?" Strife reached a hand toward his face. There was a long red stripe going up the side of his face. It ran just right of his orbital bones, "Zeus! Ya almost got ya eye Cupes." Strife tentatively reached up. He laid his hand on the injury. Cupid hissed making Strife jump but still pressed his hand against it and sent energies into it. He didn't erase the evidence but he did take the pain. It had actually hurt quite a lot. Strife gave him a watery smile, whispering, "That bettah Cupes?"
"Much, thank you," Cupid reached up and took Strife's hand cupping it and nuzzling his palm, "Much, much better." He wasn't talking about his face anymore.
Sosilus watched the intimate scene for a few seconds before he realized he was intruding. He cleared his throat and blushed when it registered that they had forgotten he was there, "I um I'll go get you some salve for that welt."
Cupid looked confused but Strife mumbled to him, "Ah left tha mark. Can't have em thinkin Ah'm a miracle healah or sommin. A'd nevah get peace heah." Cupid nodded.
He kissed Strife's hand, "You are a miracle healer though. I didn't know you could do that."
Strife awkwardly pulled his hand back. He looked wistful, "Ah...ah...taught myself...Oh Ah can't do anythin’ near what Ace, or 'Pollo can...I just theahs sometimes ya gotta know this stuff..." Strife looked far away. He seemed to be somewhere else even though he was standing right there. Cupid slowly slipped his hands around his cousin's waist and pulled him close. Strife fit so perfectly against his chest. He didn't fight it he was pliable, but Cupid could feel the other god's heart beating like a little humming bird was trying to force its way out of his chest. Cupid rubbed small circles in Strife's back. Strife almost forgot himself and allowed the attention then he snapped out of whatever trance he had been in. He pushed away looking alarmed. He'd gotten too comfortable. Cupid didn't need to keep touching him. Strife pulled back and patted Cupid’s shoulder awkwardly.
“Ya good Cuz, right?” Strife smiled again, but it was false. Cupid fought not to wince looking into Strife’s pained eyes. He smiled too and it didn’t quite make it to his eyes either. He stepped back giving space. He had to remember not to move too fast.
Sosilus was back holding a small jar. He brought it over to the two gods incognito. “Here, You can apply that to the mark and it’ll help it heal faster and it sooths the pain some too.”
He dropped it in Cupid’s hand and backed up. He was very aware how jealous Cupe was over Erin. There was something there that neither he nor anyone else could come between. He didn’t want to give the wrong idea to the statuesque blond man. He and Strife were just friends. Eos would probably kill Erin if he thought different or Cupe if he hurt him.
“I…ah…I’m going to go see what the Captain is up to,” He was blushing. Cupid felt a tingle from the man whenever he spoke of his lover. He smiled at the short man and nodded, “Give him our regards. I think we’re going to turn in for the night. Think so Erin?”
“Yah, sha,” Strife mumbled.
He allowed Cupid to lead him off the field, forgetting the broken bow and the arrows. Cupid took Strife’s hand gently and led him to the tavern.
Auto and Joxer sat in a small crowd watching some entertainers. Joxer sighed, rubbing his belly. It was starting to get noticeable, but what was really worrying him was the performer just left of center stage. From all appearances the actor looked like a slender young woman, with a long flowing white dress and a veil. Under the veil a familiar face peeked out coquettishly at a man wearing a leather kilt much like Cupids. He was also wearing a Helmet and a breast plate over his broad chest, and a sword. He grabbed the maiden and ripped the veil off revealing Joxer’s brother, caked in makeup. The one dressed as a solider pulled Jayce to his chest and kissed him hard. There were hoots and hollers from the audience. The soldier’s hands were all over his brother and Jayce pushed off him and slapped him, “Hiero you fiend! You know I am to wed the prince!” Jayce whimpered and backed away.
“I care not for that spoiled boy. I want you, and I’ll have you, Airlia! …Or no man shall!” He stalked forward. The lights went low and there was a piercing scream. Joxer jumped a bit and Auto pulled him closer petting his back.
The lights came back up and Jayce lay on the floor of the stage. His white dress was covered with bright red silk scarves representing blood. Three skinny boys dressed as maidens in grey silks knelt crying over Airlia’s body.
“Dear sister, please!” One boy warbled piteously. Looking up at the audience, “Someone help! Help our beautiful sister!” He was fairly good, but Joxer was watching his brother nervously. Jayce was so still and looked pale as death.
The curtain fell for a minute the sounds of scenery being moved. The orator was speaking, “Fair Airlia, so beautiful and pure. Virginal and unspoiled in life we give you to the gods.”
The curtains were drawn up and Jayce was laid on a raised platform. Groups of actors were walking past crying and laying flowers on the white clad maiden. A regal looking man approached the platform holding a bouquet of white flowers. He gently leaned down and kissed Jayce on the cheek and then the forehead, “My beloved,” He moaned and lay on Jayce’s stuffed bosom weeping. He pushed back, “You will rest in Elysia, Wait for me there my love. I shall join you once I take my revenge.” The man turned and marched off stage.
The curtains fell again more movement behind. The orator spoke again, “The prince hunted the country side looking for the evil Hiero.”
The curtain lifted. The soldier and Prince stood facing one another, “Answer for your crimes fiend!” The prince demanded and drew his sword, “You took my love from me and you will pay!”
“She was never yours, you pompous fool!” The solider cackled, “I felt her charms before I took her life. She is mine for eternity.”
“No! You lie!” The prince launched himself at the solider. They fought across the stage. The swordsmanship looked fancy but Joxer and Auto shared a look. Both those men paled when compared to Xena. The fighting went on for a full minute before the solider managed a hit. The prince stumbled back. A red silk scarf rolled from his chest pocket. The prince looked lost. In the back of the stage barely lit Jayce was kneeling on a platform, “Do not give up my prince. I am waiting for you. Remember your promise to me. Avenge me, my love.” The prince got his second wind. He fought the solider back and finally managed to run him through. The solider stumbled off the stage holding his stomach with vibrant red silk flowing from his hands. The prince stumbled and fell dead center stage. The curtain fell again, and then it rose revealing the he prince and his lover in their tomb. Joxer sniffed and rubbed at his eyes.
“That was so sad,” He whispered to his husband.
Auto leaned over and kissed Joxer’s neck, “Its ok baby.”
The audience erupted into cheers. Joxer sniffed but joined in. Auto stood and tugged Joxer up. They were going to try and catch Jayce before he had a chance to leave. Joxer was feeling a bit ill but he was the one that insisted they come see his brother when they learned his troop was going to be less than a day’s travel from their group. Auto had insisted that they would be fine on their own and he was really enjoying having his lover all to himself for a while. Well until they meet up with Jayce, but Auto could live with that…Unless there turned out to be incestuous tendencies then he might kill the flamboyant man. He would not tolerate anyone touching Joxer like that…nobody.
Joxer was tugging his husband against the flow of the crowd toward the stage. Some of the actors were cleaning up one looked up and smiled then looked confused, “How did you get over there Jayce, and who’s the hunk?”
“Oh,” Joxer blushed, “No, no, I’m Joxer…Jayce’s brother.”
The young man was still looking at Auto then he looked back at Joxer and raked his eyes over him, “Oh, little Joxer. I hear about you from Jayce all the time. I’m Ablerus by the way,” He winked.
“You were one of Airlia’s sisters right? You were really good,” Joxer smiled, “I cried like a baby.”
“Awe thank you sweetie,” Ablerus dusted his hands and slipped off the stage, “Why don’t you two come back behind stage.” The young man reached to take Joxer’s hand but Auto snatched his lover close and growled, “Jealous type. Sexy,” The actor was unfazed and if Joxer wasn’t mistaken the boy was purring. He turned wiggling his butt, looking over his shoulder, he said, “Follow me.” He winked at Auto. Auto frowned. Joxer pulled him along following the young man. He didn’t even once glance at the younger man’s butt. Auto felt a bit better when Joxer pulled his hand up and kissed his palm.
Behind the scenes it was a lot more hectic then Auto expected, but Joxer had been behind the stage with Jayce before. They were following Ablerus trying to avoid the men and boys packing up scenery and costumes. A high pitched scream stopped them, “Baby Brother!”
Joxer was tackled and hoisted away from Auto by his near identicle, except for the curly coifed hair and the more slender hips, brother. Jayce jumped around and squeezed his brother, “Oh my Joxer, you are getting chubby!” He tapped Joxer’s belly, “I’m going to have to put you on a diet young man.” Joxer grimaced as he was patted. Auto broke out in a low growl.
“Who let the dog back here,” The man turned to Auto and started to say something to him. He stopped and looked Auto up and down and hummed in appreciation, “Joxer is this yours?” He chucked Joxer on the shoulder gently.
“I didn’t know you liked men,” Jayce grinned, “But you were such a shy thing when we were kids…If I’d have realized I would have pushed some of my admirers your way.” He looked back at his brother, “But you did just fine for yourself. Oooo!” He shivered and looked Auto over again.
“Is he into twins?” Jayce continued.
“Not a chance!” Joxer was growling this time.
“Oh you know I’m teasing you, besides, Praxie would get angry,” Jayce giggled, and waved someone over. Still dressed as the solider the actor came over and put his arms around Jayce. He looked at Joxer smiling. His eyes roamed over Joxer slowly, and Joxer for once noticed how he was ogled. He almost felt like the man had ripped his clothes off. He edged closer to Auto who pulled Joxer back until his chest was pressing into Joxer’s back.
“Praxis,” Jayce introduced, “This is my little brother Joxer, and his…Lover?”
“Husband,” Joxer offered, “Autolycus.”
“The Autolycus…the king of thieves?! We do a play about you!” Praxis said, impressed, “I play you, robbing the rich and giving to poor orphans.” Praxis nibbled on Jayce’s ear and whispered something that must have been naughty because the other man squealed and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Behave Praxie!” Jayce admonished him. Then he turned to the other couple, “What say we go get some dinner after Praxis and I are changed?” Joxer nodded. Jayce reached over and pinched his cheek. Praxis’ hands slid down Jayce’s back and grabbed hold of his both his cheeks, “Oh Praxie!” He wiggled his ass then turned to a closed off changing area. His tight little backside twitched as he sauntered behind a changing screen.
“Are we going to tell him?” Auto whispered to Joxer.
“If we can get him alone I’d like that. I want the little one to have his uncles in his life,” Joxer rubbed his slight bump.
“You’re planning to tell Jett?” Auto swallowed. He had run across Joxer’s eldest brother. He could imagine the assassin taking vital body parts off him, and that was without knowing he had knocked his baby brother up.
“If we can find him before the baby comes,” Joxer turned in Auto’s arms, “I won’t let him hurt you.” Joxer kissed him and Auto melted against his lover.
Jayce and Praxis were back with them in no time. Jayce took Joxer’s arm and led him ahead. The brothers caught up while the other men followed. Praxis walked next to Auto. He was slightly shorter than Auto but bulkier. He ate up the vision of two hot bodies walking together, “Those brothers, fine bodies, no?”
Auto nodded but didn’t open his mouth he didn’t like Praxis, who unabashedly undressed both brothers with his eyes. He openly leered at Joxer right in front of his lover. They strolled from the small theater toward the marketplace.
“The tavern has the sweetest wine I have ever tasted, it goes so well with the roast meat,” Jayce attempted to entice his brother. Joxer was finally past his fish and greens faze.
He nodded, “A little sweet wine might be ok. Do they have venison? I’m dying for a rare steak.”
“I’m sure they do Sweetie,” Jayce said indulgently.
Joxer leaned in and whispered to his brother, “After dinner I want to have a private chat with you.”
“Of course Sweet,” Jayce half hugged Joxer’s shoulder. Auto bit back a growl. Jayce was Joxer’s brother. His hands stayed wisely above the waist and…Jayce was Joxer’s brother! He had no reason to be ready to rip the other man’s arm off and beat him with it, but he couldn’t help it. He wanted his Joxer!
Cupid lay on his side looking at his cousin seriously. Strife was facing away from him snoring lightly. He traced the elegant curve of his cousin’s spine with his eyes. His back was bare and oh so tempting. Just to feel that silky skin pressed against his bare chest would be a dream come true. Strife snorted and rolled onto his back. Cupid cracked a smile and had to fight off a laugh. Strife was adorable when he slept. Zeus, was he in love!
Strife’s eyes shot open and he stared at the ceiling. Cupid opened his mouth to say something but clapped it shut when the other god bolted upright. Strife flashed his clothes on, not his mortal clothes but his normal get-up, and disappeared in a shower of dark sparkles. Cupid knew something was up, because his younger cousin liked to add a lot more flare to his entrances and exits unless something was wrong. Cupid still had the tracer on him so he willed himself dressed and followed.
By the time he got there it was too late to stop anything. Strife was standing over a mortal violently and repeatedly stabbing him. The man was gulping for air and twitching with one arm flailing. There was a dead woman in the corner and a crying child. Cupid moved between his cousin and the child. Strife was wearing the man’s blood like a suit, growling and stabbing. The man stopped fighting and his arms fell. Strife reached down. Cupid noticed the man was naked. Strife slowly and deliberately started to castrate the man, “Can’t neveah hurt a child again you bastahd not even in Tartarus.”
Strife turned, not looking at Cupid, staring through him. He looked blank, but he willed the blood away. He got down on his knees and held his arms out. The child limped around Cupid. The other god wanted to stop him but something told him that would be even more dangerous than letting his cousin (who just brutally killed a man) hold the boy. The child went to him and threw himself at the god crying.
“S’ok little one,” Strife hugged the boy who was bawling into his chest and hiccupping. Cupid noticed for the first time just how bruised and fragile the little boy looked. His mother was lying with her robe open and her naked body exposed. She looked dirty and diseased.
“She was on hah own raisin’ im,” Strife didn’t look up from the boy and he talked in soft soothing tones, “Since Biton’s fathah run off. She did what she had tah, tah provide fah hah baby. She was ah harlot,” Strife was covering the child’s ears but it was obvious the child had had little sheltering from his mother’s profession. Strife hugged the child and the bruises began to fade and both he and the child slackened. Strife wasn’t built to transfer that much healing energy into another being. Suddenly Ares, Asclepius, and Psyche, of all goddesses, appeared. Strife’s arms slackened and he started falling back the child had fainted and fell with the god. Cupid tried to reach for him but Ares stopped him.
“Psyche, take the child, wipe his memories,” Ace ordered. He settled behind Strife putting his hands at the god’s temples, just as Strife started to convulse.
Ares was restraining his son. Cupid was fighting hard. He flapped his wings bashing them against the wall. It hurt, but he didn’t care.
“What’s wrong with Strife, how did you find us so fast?” Cupid demanded angrily watching the older god working on their cousin as Strife’s body shook violently. Psyche was holding the boy who looked like he was sleeping. She looked at Cupid a bit disapprovingly as he kept pushing against his father and smashing his wings into the wall. Feathers were flying everywhere and one of his wings was flopping uselessly. In his urgency to get to Strife he had broken his wing.
“Strife does this…sometimes. There’s a tracer that alerts us when he has an episode,” Asclepius explained. He had Strife settled down, “He’s stable enough to be transported. Do you have the child handled Psyche?”
“Yes his memories of abuse are locked away. He won’t remember any of the bad things. Should I take him to the orphanage in Athens?”
“Does he have any family?” Asclepius asked.
Psyche shook her head, “I don’t think his mother’s family will take him…He’s never met them…”
“Then yes…the children in Athens are well taken care of,” Ace decided.
“Bring Strife to my temple,” Ares ordered. Cupid opened his mouth to protest and Ares gave him a deadly glare.
Cupid frowned hard, “I’m coming with you…Now would you let me go Dad?”
“Depends,” Ares felt him pushing still, “Can you control yourself?”
“Yes,” Cupid took a deep cleansing breath, “I give you my word.”
Ares let go, “I’m holding you to that Son.” Ares turned and went to his nephew. He bent down and took the godling in his arms gently. Cupid clenched his fists but he managed not to blast his father. Ace, Ares, Cupid and Strife appeared in Ares temple. Ares lay Strife on his bed and covered the young god with silk sheets and a warm blanket. He then took a silver bracelet and snapped it around Strife’s wrist.
“What is that?” Cupid hissed. He didn’t trust Ares.
“It’s hephaestian, it’s just there to keep him confined to my temple, unless he is escorted elsewhere,” Ares explained, “And only those with my express permission can take him from here.”
Cupid glared at his father but then thought up a chair and sat next to Strife’s bed. Someone touched his wings. He bit back a howl of pain. Then he felt the burning tingle of Asclepius’ healing energies. His wings were made whole. He flapped them a few times to test them out, “Thank you Ace.”
“You’re welcome Cupid,” Asclepius moved to next to Strife and brushed his hair out of his eyes and sent more energy into him. He didn’t want to overload the fragile god. It would take a few days for him to recover. Ace rubbed his thumb over Strife’s cheek it was rare to be able to get this close to the jittery godling without a dagger being brandished at you. Strife was so sweet looking when he slept. It didn’t hurt that he had a very attractive slender physique. Still Asclepius was professional.
Psyche flashed in and looked to Asclepius, “Do we have to do this?”
“I’m afraid so, the suppressor gets weakened each time he does this,” Cupid didn’t have a clue what was going on but he didn’t like the sound of it.
“What suppressor?” He asked. He looked at the bracelet then at his ex-wife and the god of healing.
Asclepius looked to Ares as if to question him. Ares noded, “Cupid won’t repeat any of this…if he knows what’s good for him.” Cupid felt a shiver go up his spine as Ares spoke.
“You won’t tell anyone,” Ace looked to Cupid now, “For Strife’s sake, and you won’t say anything to him?”
Cupid shook his head, but he looked very concerned, “What’s wrong with him?”
“Strife has episodes,” Ace looked pained when he spoke, “When he was younger something traumatic happened to him. He can’t handle some aspects of his godhood, as you saw when a child prays to him for help he sometimes goes into a sort of trance. Because of the suppressor we can track him when it happens but sometimes I it takes a while, one time he slaughtered a group of slavers that were selling children. There were twenty-six…Or was it twenty-seven…”
“It was forty-three,” Ares supplied and there was a hint of pride in his voice when he said it.
“He was in the process of healing the children when he collapsed and had a seizure,” Ace continued. He ran his hand down Strife’s arm and turned to look at the other gods, “Psyche…It’s time to do your part.”
She nodded but looked a little ill, “I’ve already told you about my misgivings regarding tampering with the mind in this way. But for Cupid’s benefit I will reiterate my opinion. We are not helping Strife. I could go into his mind while he is awake and consenting, if we remove the suppressor. If we can deal with the problems rather than covering them up he would be happier and healthier. We could come up with a better solution for his episodes.” Psyche looked to Cupid for support. Cupid agreed but he couldn’t open his mouth fast enough.
“We tried that before you were even born Psyche,” Ace patiently explained, “Strife did not take it well. He damaged himself so badly he nearly slipped into oblivion.” Psyche frowned and bit her lip. She leaned over Strife placing her hands on either side of his head. It was her sixth time doing this and he had had it done by Apollo originally. Apollo wasn’t as specialized to the mind as Psyche so he used more power than had been necessary. Psyche felt that they had actually damaged Strife’s developing mind; but, as a lesser goddess, there was nothing she could do about the past and she didn’t have the right to override Ares’ and Apollo’s decisions. Her face was a mask of concentration. Strife twitched and frowned. He started shaking and moaning, but he didn’t move. Cupid wanted to knock her away from him. She was hurting Strife. Ares laid a hand on his son’s shoulder and pushed him down in his chair. Cupid looked at his father. Ares shook his head, “It’s almost over.”
Psyche pulled away looking slightly paler and very tired. Ace produced a chair and guided her to sit. She thanked him and collapsed, “It takes a lot out of me to suppress someone’s personality. I don’t like doing it.” She gave Cupid a helpless look. Cupid clenched his fists. This all seemed very wrong.
“Is he going to be alright now?” Cupid begged.
“He’s going to be a bit weak for a few days but he’ll be awake by tomorrow. This time wasn’t so bad,” Ace explained. He stood and offered Psyche a hand, “I’ll take you home so you can rest.”
“Thank you Asclepius,” She smiled at him, “Goodnight Ares, Cupid…Take care of Strife. She leaned in and brushed some of his curly hair aside, “He’s been through so much pain. I’ve barely touched the surface of it, there’s a lot going on in there.” She pressed her finger to his temple and the worried expression melted away, “I hope that helps I’ve given him a nice memory to replace tonight.”
“What memory did you give him?” Cupid asked.
“You’ll have to talk to Strife about that but he’ll just think he dreamed it anyway,” She said cryptically. Ace took her arm and they flashed out. Cupid sensed something going on there and he had to wonder. They would make a fine match. Ace’s temperament would sooth her, and she was a beautiful goddess. He didn’t feel anything that strong, between them but with a little push…He shook his head, mumbling, “Forget about work, focus on Strife.”
Ares was watching his son. He didn’t know whether to be concerned for his Nephew or Cupid. Cupid was a lot to handle...But Strife could give him a run for his dinars in every conceivable way, and he was only at half his powers. If they ever figured a way for him to handle his full godhood he would be a force to be reckoned with.
“Can you explain what just happened?” Cupid turned to his dad. Ares frowned at his son.
“How much do you care for Strife? For Erin? Strife hasn’t been able to be Erin since he was a toddler, something happened to him. His mother won’t admit to it, she either let something happen or she harmed him herself. She isn’t capable of feeling remorse, but she does recognize there are consequences to her actions.”
“Why don’t you go to the halls of time?” Cupid asked, “If we know what happened we could fix it!”
Ares shushed him and pulled him out of Strife’s rooms. He went to his war room and took a chair. Cupid followed suit. Ares tented his fingers and pressed them to his lips, “This, none of it, can leave this room. Do you swear on the fates?”
Cupid nodded, “I swear.”
Ares sighed, “I’m afraid of what I might do if I go in there and look. If I see what happened to him. If my sister harmed him in some way…I would kill her. I would find the most painful way to destroy her and then I would erase her from existence. Then I would be banished and killed and who would be here to protect Strife then? If the other gods realize that he’s only operating at half capacity and that he’s been responsible for more than ten thousand mortal’s deaths since he was old enough to transport. That’s ten thousand by him alone, in one hundred and five years.
They all deserved what they got but that is a bad precedent. War…well that’s one thing. I’m supposed to be out there directing and involving myself in the killing. Strife…he’s undirected…once he starts there’s no stopping him until every adult is dead. He tortures and mutilates them, especially their genitals, violently. Strife can’t stop until he feels the children are out of danger. He would never harm a child though. He’s never hurt a child, but we have to wipe their memories of Strife; to prevent a repeat performance and also to help the children deal with suddenly being in a new home or an orphanage.”
“He doesn’t remember any of it?” Cupid asks.
“No,” Ares sighs, “He has no idea he has personally killed so many people outside of wars.”
“Why is he being suppressed if he only attacks people who deserve it?” Cupid complained. Whatever they had done was hurting Strife and gods treat mortals like toys; killing even that many, while impressive and disturbing; shouldn’t cause concern for the gods.
“It’s not about that. Strife…if we don’t suppress these events it happens more often, and when Strife was a child he couldn’t go to the child praying to him, he would live their abuse, then he would turn to hurting himself to deal with the emotional trauma,” Ares tone was low and measured. He looked into his son’s eyes and saw fear there. He nodded, “You heard Ace. We did try to remove the suppressor once. Strife hurt himself very badly. It was my fault I was supposed to watch him but I had an emergency on a battlefield near Sparta. I left him with my priests. He was twenty-nine. He looked like an adult but still very much a child in his mind. He carved himself up with his daggers.” Ares looked ill, “When I found him he was cut to ribbons, down to the bones he had removed his scalp. When he couldn’t reach his back he took a sword to himself. He was lying with it embedded in his ribs; in a pool of his own blood…I killed three of my priests that day. Apollo and Ace worked on Strife for weeks to repair the damage. It wasn’t the first time they had to repair his body either. You see we are trying to protect Strife from himself. I’m not going to tell you anymore. Strife doesn’t remember and I would like to keep it that way.”
Cupid had a lot to think about. He nodded to his father and let out a shaky breath, “I’m staying here for a while…Bliss can come visit. Strife and he get along great. It might cheer him up since we can’t go back to the Colyros.”
“That’s fine son,” Ares stood. He looked at Cupid, “I don’t want to see him hurt son. If you intend to do right by him that’s fine but I will not tolerate anyone hurting him, not even you.”
“No problem here Pops. I want what’s best for Strife. I really care about him,” Cupid admitted to his father. Ares nodded.
Joxer was supporting a very drunk Auto and Jayce was tittering on about this and that. Auto was groping Joxer very aggressively. Joxer sighed. He’d have to put his husband to bed before he could talk to his brother. How did he get so drunk on that wine? Joxer had only has a very watered down goblet, it had been sweet and refreshing, but Auto and Praxis had both taken theirs undiluted. Praxis was well somewhat more sober than Auto. Auto squeezed his butt too hard and Joxer winced in pain. He punched Auto in the shoulder, “Stop it Autolycus.”
“Oh he’s using your full name,” Praxis teased in a sing-song voice, “You’re in trouble.”
“Joxer dear why don’t you go put him to bed. We can talk in the morning,” Jayce gave him a sympathetic look, “I’m sorry I should have warned him, Praxie here can drink a camel under the table.”
“What’s a camel?” Joxer asked.
“It’s this big beast that lives in the desert with humps on its back!” Auto stopped walking to explain he made a curving motion with his hands. Then he reached for Joxer’s butt, “Kinda like these sexy humps!” He grabbed the cheeks and gave a hearty squeeze. He giggled and slumped forward onto Joxer. He elbowed Auto hard and pushed him off. Joxer did not like being compared to a big beast.
“Oh baby, M sorry! I didn’t mean it,” Auto was inching toward those butt cheeks again.
Joxer swatted Auto’s hands away. He saw that they were at the inn. He smiled at his brother, “I’ll see you in the morning, or maybe the afternoon.” Auto slumped against him muttering something sounded suspiciously like, “Hail to the king baby.” Then he giggled and burped. Joxer turned a bit green and shoved him off again.
“Good night Joxer dear, Goodnight Auto,” Jayce bid.
“See you around hot stuff,” Praxis winked at Joxer who blushed and backed up. He wished his Husband weren’t sloshed. He didn’t trust his brother’s Lover one bit.
Joxer led his slobbering drunken husband up the stairs to their room. He managed to open the door while fending off his horny mate. Once Auto hit the bed however he was snoring loudly. Joxer sighed and pulled the man’s boots off. He was rather relieved. Auto was being too rough with him and he was pretty sure he was going to have hand shaped bruises on his ass in the morning.
“Night Auto,” Joxer whispered. He covered them with the fur throw that was on the foot of the bed and snuggled in next to his husband. Auto smiled and threw his arm over Joxer dragging him over until he was practically on top of him.
“Love you baby,” Auto slurred and nuzzled his cheek.
“I love you too,” Joxer buried his face into his lover’s chest and drifted off.
Chapter 5: Every Day, Average, Mundane…Right?
Strife in my Life
Chapter 5: Every Day, Average, Mundane…Right?
Joxer was heaving into the washbasin, and Auto had the chamber pot. It was a bonding experience being violently ill with your partner. Auto felt a bit ashamed of himself. He didn’t normally get so drunk. He had woken with a terrible headache. Joxer was vomiting and first instinct was to go help him but his body had other ideas. He threw up all the wine and dinner he hadn’t digested yet.
“Ugg,” Auto dry heaved a few times after his stomach was empty. He found a pitcher full of clear cool water and poured some straight into his mouth spilling it down his front. He swished and spat the content into his chamber pot. He shoved the offending thing away from him. He wobbled over to his lover and avoided looking at the wash basin as he gently rubbed his lover’s back, “You okay baby?”
Joxer cringed a bit but nodded. He wasn’t about to open his mouth to speak until he was certain he was finished emptying his stomach. He gagged a few times and opened his mouth. More bile and last night’s dinner came up. He had tears in his eyes. He hadn’t thrown up this much since he’d started getting sick in the mornings. He wasn’t going to have any more wine…or rare venison for that matter. Just the thought of either had him gagging again.
“I’m really sorry about last night,” Auto had vague recollections of the evening after a certain point it got a bit fuzzy, but he remembered being all over Joxer, “I can’t believe I got so drunk.”
Joxer shook his head. His backside was sore from the rough handling but he was hoping that the marks would fade before his husband discovered them. Auto had actually bruised him. He wasn’t strong as Hercules, but he was stronger than the average man. Joxer was willing to bet Auto could best any normal mortal in a show of strength, but he knew what his love excelled at was speed and agility. He’d seen him rob a man blind in less than a minute. Of course the man was not a very nice person. Auto didn’t target good people, that’s what he told Joxer and why shouldn’t he believe his husband?
Joxer moaned and leaned forward. Auto pushed his shirt up to rub his back. His pants were a bit low and Auto saw an angry red mark on Joxer’s left hip. He tugged on the waist of the loose fitting pants and examined the welt. That was only the beginning there were light bruises over his curved backside. He pressed his hand over the marks his hand easily covered one of them. Joxer gasped from Auto’s clammy hands.
“Oh gods, what happened? You’re covered in bruises!” Auto gently stroked the colorful marks, “Babe I’m so sorry.” His voice was shaking.
“Water, Please?” Joxer whispered. Auto was up and across the room in a flash. He came back with a mug of water handing it to the other man. He tried to ignore his hangover. He had a beast of a headache, but Joxer was the priority. Joxer rinsed his mouth then drank the rest.
“I’m ok…you were just a little…rough last night,” Joxer tried to reassure him. It didn’t have the desired effect.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Auto gasped. Joxer turned to look at his husband. Auto had turned an ashy grey color. Joxer reached for him and Auto flinched. His husband backed away, “How can you even stand looking at me? I must disgust you. I’m a monster.”
Joxer’s head was starting to hurt, “What are you talking about? A little hard groping doesn’t make you a monster, you’re just a horny drunk.”
“A little groping? Joxer?! Forcing you to have sex isn’t just a little groping…” Auto looked more green than grey at this point.
“Gods Auto would you calm down! We did not have sex last night. You groped me hard sure, but you were asleep the second you hit the bed,” Joxer slapped his shoulder.
Auto breathed in deeply, “Thank the gods.” He slowly reached out and pulled Joxer close, “If I ever try anything you don’t want you know you can tell me no. I never want to hurt you.”
“I know love,” Joxer pressed into him and sighed tiredly, “Now we need to get cleaned up. I didn’t get to talk to Jayce yet. He has another show tonight so we need to get going before he gets too busy to talk.”
Cupid sat and watched Strife. He hadn’t slept and when Psyche came over with their son she gave him a worried look. Ares took Bliss to the gardens so he wouldn’t disturb Strife. Cupid was holding his pale hand, stroking the back of it with his thumb and just watching. He sat like that for twelve hours, without moving, eating, sleeping, or drinking.
Strife lay unmoving; if he didn’t feel the warmth on his skin and occasional, almost indiscernible, rise and fall of his chest; he might have though Strife were dead. That was an unpleasant thought. To think of Strife that way sickened him. At some point Bliss had been settled in his lap. Ares had a battle to attend. Bliss watched Strife for a while. He looked to his daddy, “Strife sleepin’?”
“Shh, yes baby,” He shushed Bliss and kissed his head.
“When he’s waked up can we play?” Bliss whispered.
“We’ll see,” Cupid nuzzled his nose into his son’s hair and took comfort from the softness of it.
Father and son watched the ailing god for a while. Eventually Bliss nodded off in his father’s lap. Cupid just held the child with one arm and his cousin’s hand with the other.
Strife felt stiff and sore, even if the bed felt much softer and nicer than the one at the inn. He blinked at the bright light flooding the dark marble room. He felt fingers twined with his and looked to his left. There sat Cupid holding Bliss. They were slumped in a chair both sleeping. He smiled for a second before his brain caught up with him.
He looked around and easily recognized his room in his Uncle’s temple. He started to panic and the instinct to flee hit hard. He tried to transport himself away. Nothing happened. He tried again. He felt a burning tingle in his core.
“Ah’m broke,” He looked at himself he was dressed in his normal clothes. There was bright shiny silver wrapped around his wrist, “Sh…“ He looked at Bliss and mouthed the rest of the curse. He grabbed the bracelet and tried to tug it off. He knew enchanted hephaestian metal when he saw it. That’s one thing he never wanted on his person again. Not since he was a child.
Strife thought of the things that had happened when he had been bound by hephaestian chains, vile things. When the bracelet refused to come off Strife started to claw at his wrist. Nobody knew what had happened to him, thank the fates, not even his mother…oh she suspected…He was sure she had her misgivings about the priest…eventually.
Strife gouged his wrist open and blood poured from the wound. The damn thing wouldn’t budge. Selepos had been her favorite priest, but after the last time it had happened he vanished, and Strife had been dumped at his Uncle’s place. Maybe if he hacked his hand off? Unc didn’t know or he was sure the god of war would have just dumped him on earth. He was ruined anyway. Strife was very pale. He started feeling for his daggers. Damn! They took them!
“Zeus! Strife!” Cupid shouted and startled Strife.
Cupid didn’t know when he fell asleep but when he woke up he was greeted to a horror show. Strife was mutilating his wrist. There was so much blood. Cupid reached for his cousin still holding his son. Bliss was thankfully still asleep, and unaware of the gruesome sight of his cousin trying to remove his hand from his body. He grabbed Strife’s hand and pried it away from his bangled wrist. Blood pumped with the beat of Strife’s heart.
“Ace!” Cupid shouted. Bliss rubbed his eyes and blinked. Cupid felt him moving and pushed his little head into his chest. Bliss I want you to close your eyes. He didn’t want his son to see Strife hurt like that. Strife looked a bit dazed and lifted his injured arm to his face.
“Oh, oops,” Strife giggled, “Sorry Cuz. Didn’ mean ta upset yah like that.”
Asclepius appeared looking around. He spotted Strife holding a blood drenched arm up to his face in fascination. Ace swallowed thickly and rushed over applying his hands to the deep wound. He pumped massive amounts of his energy into Strife, healing the gaping hole closed.
“What happened?” He asked. He had over done things and felt a bit faint. Cupid willed a chair behind him. Ace collapsed into it.
“I’m sorry Ace…I panicked,” Strife said weakly, “Don’t care for the bangle look. Too feminine.” He chuckled at his little joke but nobody joined him.
“Can Strife play now daddy?” Bliss peeked up at his father. Cupid felt the tension leaving his body. He willed Strife clean.
“Sha ya can,” Strife patted the bed. Bliss scrambled down from his daddy’s arms and ran over to the bed and climbed up.
“Ya got any toys Strife?” Bliss asked innocently.
“Sorry kiddo. This da…darn bracelet blocks ma powahs,” Strife complained, “I’d get yah some fun toys from tha futuha but I can’t.”
“Darn brace-it!” Bliss pouted.
“Bracelet, Bliss,” Cupid corrected.
“Darn Bracelet!” Bliss repeated.
Cupid thought up a blank parchment and some of those colorful wax sticks from the future that Strife had given Bliss, “Why don’t you draw a picture for Strife to hang on his wall.”
Bliss nods enthusiastically, “I’mma draw uncle ‘Pollo’s horses.”
“Going to, Bliss,” Cupid automatically corrected his child. Bliss was already busy covering the parchment with light blue wax.
Strife watched the child in rapt silence. Only occasionally did he look at the shiny silver bangle that kept him trapped there.
Cupid took the distraction to talk to Asclepius. He nodded toward the door and both gods went into the hall. The door was left open so they could keep an eye on their unstable cousin, though with Bliss sitting next to him the chance he would do anything drastic or dangerous was extremely low.
“Is that normal? I mean you mentioned him hurting himself. I thought that was why you had the suppressor on him?!” Cupid was whispering yet yelling.
“It’s not normal,” Ace sighed, “But it is a natural fight or flight response. They say that wolves will chew through their own legs to escape a trap. He was apparently trying to remove the bracelet in the only way he could. It is unbreakable and only your father can remove it from Strife’s wrist. Strife was simply trying to remove his wrist and the bracelet with it.”
Cupid groaned and rubbed his temples, “What do we do?”
“Well, I say keep doing what you’re doing. Keep him distracted as much as possible. He likes Bliss and Bliss likes him. Strife’s godhood, his light side, wants to shield children, but his dark side... You have seen it in action. His godhood is like a shattered mirror. The pieces are there but it’s hard to fit things back the way they were. We have things lined up but the broken halves grind against each other. There is possibly a way to make him whole…I agree with Psyche. We could put things back better if Strife were willing to participate and if there were enough of us willing to restrain him during the treatment, but it is very risky. Things could go very badly. Imagine a mirror ground into dust. There would be no putting that back together short of re-forging the glass. Strife could lose himself.”
Cupid nodded. He didn’t want to picture Strife broken apart. If only there were a way to repair his broken godhood without hurting, or damaging Strife, but the risks sounded too great. Cupid watched Strife as he talked to Bliss. Bliss was telling Strife of his visit to Apollo’s stables the day before when Grandma Dite had him. They got to brush their silky manes and feed them carrots. The pair looked so right sharing a moment. Strife was something both he and his son needed in their life. Wanted and needed.
“I need to go,” Ace said reluctantly, “If anything comes up call for me. I’ll come as soon as I can.” Cupid nodded and the older god flashed away.
Cupid slapped on a smile and walked into the room, “So I bet you’re hungry Strife. Why don’t we take a lunch out in the gardens?”
“Yeah!” Bliss clapped. He started to get off the bed then he looked at his picture, “I finish your picture later Strife?”
“Sounds like a plan little man,” Strife got out of the bed and followed His cousins to Ares gardens. Surprisingly Ares had a very serene spot on Olympus. It was a nice big patch of lush greenery with a small fish pond and several shade trees. The garden was populated with tiny wild flowers and hearty shrubs. Even the god of war sometimes needed a peaceful spot to rest when he wasn’t causing havoc and mayhem.
Cupid spread out a few soft furs on the ground and got down on his knees, “Well come on.” He smiled and lay on his side with one knee propped up. Strife blushed at the sensual picture he created. He settled on his butt across form Cupid and Bliss wiggled into his lap and looked up at him, “Hungry?”
“Yah betcha!” Strife hugged the child and smiled at Cupid still blushing. Cupid waved his hand and a feast spread out before them; all kinds of fruits and vegetables, roast lamb, cheeses, honey cakes, goblets of wine for the adults, grape juice for Bliss, and ambrosia for them all.
Cupid reached for the grapes and popped one in his mouth slowly chewing. He watched as Strife handed Bliss a chunk of roast. He selected an apple for himself and crunched into it. A bit of juice rolled down his chin and Cupid watched as he tried to lick it off. The only thing keeping Cupid from tackling Strife and licking him clean was his adorable son sitting in the other god’s lap. He groaned quietly and stuffed some of the lamb in his mouth. It was perfectly cooked and seasoned but he didn’t taste it. His mind was focused on Strife, his eyes tracing his elegant throat as he swallowed another bite of apple.
Strife was avoiding looking at Cupid with his legs spread and his short kilt almost showing off all he had to the world, “Why doncha have some vegetables Bliss?” Strife tossed his apple core behind him and selected a nice kabob with tomatoes, peppers, onions and squash. Strife took a soft cooked tomato off and offered it to Bliss.
“Matos is yucky!”
“Awe common Bliss,” Strife wheedled the stubborn child, “Its good fah Yah. Wanna grow up to be strong like yah Dad?”
“Hmmph!” Bliss crossed his arms and turned his head aside.
“Bliss,” Cupid warned gently.
“Tell ya what,” Strife spoke up, “Ya eat some vegetables Ah’ll take you on a horsy ride all ovah tha garden.”
“Really?” Bliss looked excited.
Strife nodded and held the squishy tomato in front of the little godling, “Fah every veggie yah eat that’s one lap on tha Strife express.”
Bliss took the tomato and popped it in his mouth. He made a face but he still chewed it up and swallowed it.
“That’s one lap little Blissy,” Strife ruffled his head he took a bite out of the cooked squash then offered an onion to bliss. Bliss ate it.
Cupid watched amazed and a bit worried as his son managed to eat quite a lot of his vegetables. Strife was up to twenty two laps when Bliss was finished. Strife was supposed to be taking things easy but he wiped his hands and stood holding bliss. He deposited the little god on his shoulders and whinnied like a horse and started to gallop around the gardens.
“Yay! Strifey Horse!” Bliss screamed in excitement and held onto Strife’s curls, “Giddy up Strifey Horse!”
“Neigh, neigh! Imma horse!” Strife giggled and made another few laps, but soon he was panting and he stumbled. Cupid flashed in front of him. He grabbed him by his shoulders and steadied him. Bliss giggled not realizing that he had almost had a nasty fall.
“I think Strifey horse needs a rest Bliss,” Cupid deposited his son on the soft grass. Strife was still leaning on him. Cupid wished it was because he wanted to be held and not because his eyes fluttered in exhaustion. Cupid felt Strife start to slide down. He scooped the thin god up in his arms, “I think its nap time for Strife.”
“Awe!” Bliss started to whine but it ended in a yawn.
“Make that nap time for both of you,” Cupid corrected. He adjusted Strife so he was leaning against his shoulder with one arm under his legs and he reached down to grab his son’s hand.
“M not tahd,” Strife mumbled.
“Come you need to rest,” Cupid made it to Strife’s rooms as the man started snoring.
Bliss climbed into Strife’s bed and patted it, “We play later, Strife’s very slee-yawn-py.”
“Why don’t you keep Strife company while he sleeps?” Cupid suggested feeling that Bliss would be more apt to rest if he was with their cousin than if he tried to put him in the spare room Ares kept for them. He didn’t really want to leave Strife alone anyway. He tucked Bliss and Strife in to the bed and thought up a comfortable chair for himself. He leaned back and watched two of his favorite beings sleeping.
Joxer watched his brother pacing the floor. They had a nice private…closet…in the back of the theater. Joxer and Auto stood on one side and Jayce kept looking at them and then pacing.
“Jett is going to gut him, slit him from groin to throat and bathe in his blood!” Jayce’s slight accent and feminine effect were dropped and he looked, well not pissed but not happy. Joxer whimpered and hid his face in Auto’s chest.
Jayce looked at his youngest brother and sighed, “Come here Joxie.” He opened his arms and Joxer untangled himself form a reluctant Auto. Joxer threw himself at his brother and sobbed. Jayce petted his hair and hugged him, “I’m sorry. I am not angry with you…This was not your fault, and if that man…” He glared at Auto, “…plans to support and take care of you I can accept this…But’s it’s so unbelievable. I suppose with that many gods involved it can’t be helped. Now if we can keep Jett from slicing Autolycus’ dick off and feeding it to him then we will be fine.” Jayce rubbed Joxer’s tummy and looked in amazement. His grim frown flipped and he was beaming, “I’m gonna be an uncle! I can’t wait to see if you get a boy or a little girl.”
“It’s going to be a boy,” Joxer informed his brother.
“Oh he’ll be such a handsome little thing, won’t he!” Jayce smiled at Auto, “Congratulations are in order I suppose and we can have a nice quiet dinner after tonight’s show, Just no more drinking contests with Praxie.”
“No way,” Auto shook his head, “I’ve learned my lesson.” He grabbed Joxer and pulled him into a tight hug.
A stack of gold coins fell from slender ring covered fingers. Long nails pinched the last coin and he looked into the cold dark eyes of a killer.
“You know what to do,” Thickly accented Greek poured from the man’s mouth. He sneered, “I want his head. I want his head and I want his manhood. He took from me so I want you to take from him. He’s traveling with some heroes. It might be dangerous but I understand you are the best at what you do.”
“You just worry about the rest of my payment when I return, and I’ll get you what you want.” Those dark eyes shined in the dim room, he turned and was gone in a blink of the eye.
“You had better, King of Assassins,” The man hissed.
Chapter 6: Never Mess with my Man
Strife in my Life
Chapter 6: Never Mess with my Man
Joxer and Jayce shared a tear filled goodbye. Jayce’s troop was moving on and it was time for Joxer and Auto to meet back with their friends. They had enjoyed a nice little vacation but Auto still didn’t feel Joxer was completely safe. At least with Hercules, Xena, Iolaus he was well protected…and he supposed even Gabrielle could be useful. Auto had a very strong feeling that this little stint of peace was about to get interrupted and he had learned to trust his gut over the years. Oh he wasn’t about t tell Joxer about his gut feeling, no need to worry him in his delicate state. Besides he was sure his adorable sweet loving husband missed his friends.
“You take care Yoxie!” Was it Auto or did Jayce’s accent suddenly get thicker. Auto looked around and noticed the troop was gathering. “Chu an' Auto come see us again really soon! We’ll have an especial performance for chu and bring chour friends, especially that Hercules. Ohh all those muscles!”
The man took a bow and was swept up into the crowd. Auto looked over at Joxer who was rolling his eyes but smiling, “Jayce is quite the performer.”
“Well he’s good at what he does,” Auto agreed, “…But Joxer, you’re the best at what you do.”
“Really what’s that?” Joxer was grinning and blushing.
“Making me horny,” Auto murmured in his ear and licked his neck. He gently rubbed Joxer’s bottom and started kissing him. Joxer moaned and rubbed against him. Auto had gotten him going and they were about to start their journey to meet with their friends.
“Do we have to go back so soon?” Joxer whined, “I love our friends but they can be a bit overbearing at times, and well…” Joxer thrust into Auto’s thigh and a very prominent bulge brushed against it. Auto chuckled, “We have our room until tomorrow. I suppose we could stay one more night.”
“Great! Let’s go!” Joxer started tugging his lover toward the inn.
Cupid was thinking. He’d been doing a lot of it lately. His mother, understanding as she was, would only put up with his slacking for so long. He was watching as Strife taught Bliss some kind of game with a loop of red string. It was called cat’s cradle or something. Strife’s clever long fingers slid under and over the string and pulled apart. Strife held out his laced up fingers and Bliss clapped. Then strife helped bliss make something called Jacob’s ladder. It must be some more future games he had found. Bliss held up his hands and a mess of tangled string hung between them. Bliss came running, “Daddy! Daddy! Look what I did!”
“Very good baby,” Cupid inspected the mess and it almost resembled some kind of ladder. Strife was holding up an intricate refined version between his hands. Strife had such delicate looking hands. It was hard to reconcile this being with the one stabbing and castrating a mortal only a couple days before. Bliss ran back over and tried to hug Strife while still entangled in the red twine. Strife unwound his hands and hugged him. Then he turned the boy to the corner. There sat a pile of carved wooden blocks, cones, triangles, pyramids and other shapes. He sat next to bliss who hooted in excitement.
“Why don’t ya build yahself a temple Bliss,” Strife suggested. Bliss nodded and plopped on the ground in front of him.
“I build it really big!” Bliss shouted.
Adonis walked in briskly. He had gone looking for his brother at his temple, and then he looked at Aphrodite’s place. She directed him to Ares’ home. Ares temple had never seemed welcoming to him but Cupid was here and he needed his assistance.
He looked to his adopted brother. He didn't acknowledge Strife or Bliss, who was stacking blocks in the far corner. He had a purpose for being there. His eyes discretely drifted over to Strife and caressed his body. The other god tried to pretend he wasn't there and turned back to Bliss to see what the tyke was up to. He still felt the intrusive inspection of his person even with his back to the god of beauty. With his back to him, Adonis got to appreciate one of the most perfect bottoms on Olympus.
Adonis cleared his throat and turned his full attention back to Cupid, "Brother dear I need a tiny favor."
Cupid looked a little irritated. Adonis's favors were rarely ‘tiny’, "What do you want?"
"Well...there's this sculptor. He's really very good...he might even one day be considered a genius...He was working…On a statue of me as a matter of fact. It's…just…that…he started it…and now he's...distracted..." Adonis hesitated.
"If he's distracted why not go to the muses? That's their department,” Cupid suggested and explained, "The only things I am in charge of inspiring are matters of the heart."
"Oh but this distraction is just your specialty. It's a woman. My precious sculptor is in love. He saw this young lady in the marketplace and now all he can think of is winning her heart. The problem is aside from his magnificent talent he has nothing to offer her, and she's the daughter of a warlord...his youngest daughter."
"Which wahlahd is it?" Strife stood up and came over to ask.
"What's it to you?" Adonis turned sneering at Strife but his eyes sparkled as he took advantage of the opportunity to appraise the pale man.
"Well it isn't nothin tah me, but if your precious sculptah goes aftah tha wrong wahlahd's daughtah then yah might be lookin fah a new sculptah, cause yah might be pickin up pieces ah tha guy's body from Athens ta Thrace," Strife folded his arms over his chest feeling the other god's scrutiny and hating it.
"He has a point Adonis," Cupid called his step-brother's attention back to him.
"Let’s…see, he knows her name because she is quite popular in the village, It's Polydamna. Her father is Bardas of Beroea, Near Macedonia," He smiled winningly.
"Bardas…Hmm...Yah might wanna ask Unc fah advice about him," Strife offered, "He's big on family fah a wahlahd."
"I'd want to consult Mom too," Cupid was seriously thinking. He would bring the two together if they were a good match. Weather it was to help his step-brother or not.
"Bliss, want to go see Grandma?" Cupid asked his son.
Bliss jumped up excitedly knocking his tower over and scattering blocks across the floor. He latched onto his father's leg and shouted, "Granma!" Cupid cleaned the blocks up with a thought. He vanished with his son, leaving Strife alone with Adonis.
An unpleasant shiver wracked Strife’s body when Cupid left him alone. He had been avoiding the other for over a decade. He was sure Adonis remembered having his hand pierced, after all ten years isn’t all that long of a time for a god. Strife felt sick when the other got turned fully toward him and stepped forward.
"Strife," Adonis purred. Strife saw the other god’s hand clench and there was an almost indiscernible shiny scar in the middle of his fist. He looked at his own hand, “Like it? I kept the scar to remind me of you.”
"What?" Strife backed up. He glanced at the silver bracelet, the bane of his life at the moment, and cursed under his breath.
“You are looking rather attractive today,” Adonis sauntered up to his cousin. Strife hit a wall and cursed when Adonis took full advantage of the situation. A hand rested on either side of him as the taller more muscular male leaned in smiling. His breath was like cool spring water and mint, but it might as well have been three week old fish as far as Strife was concerned.
“Could yah back off a bit?” Strife tried to sound intimidating but it was hard when the other male was looking down at him and smirking. Not to mention that he didn’t have access to his powers while he wore the silver shackle that kept him grounded. No running, no godly strength, no transporting. He was caught, like a little bunny and a predator was on his scent. He was…sniffing that is. Adonis ran his nose across Strife’s pulse point. Strife fought the urge to gag, weather in fear or disgust he didn’t know.
“You smell divine, I can’t place it but it’s wonderful. You must tell me what bathing oils or powders you are using,” Adonis complimented him and leaned in closer. He brought one of his hands to the back of Strife’s head carding through his un-gelled curls, “Damn your hair is softer than it looks.” Adonis tilted Strife’s head up and smiled down at him in mock benevolence.
“I’ve always admired your looks, you know? With your pale as moonbeams skin, bright as starlight eyes and dark as night hair; you are like the night and I am the glorious day. You compliment my golden beauty so well. I mean you are below me in every way. That isn’t all bad because who can really hope to compare to me, and below me is a position I see you in for a long time to come.”
He grabbed Strife’s arm and lifted it to his face. His hand slid up Strife’s forearm mindful of the studs on his outfit, “We’ll have to work on your fashion sense, my little moonbeam.”
Strife felt his clothing shifting, rearranging and softening. The bastard had changed his outfit for a navy blue silk shift that was very short. His legs and feet were bare. Adonis fingered the silver bangle and his smirk grew cruel, “What is this, my little Strife? Who put a leash on you little one? I hope I’m not too late to claim you.” Adonis pressed his full body to Strife crushing him to the wall. Strife squirmed and pushed back but couldn’t hope to budge the other god while hobbled.
The larger male pressed his lips to Strife’s and was rewarded with a scream. Adonis plundered his mouth letting his tongue dominate the weaker god. He ground his hips into Strife. He pulled back, clamping both hands on Strife’s silk clad arms, “Let’s take this to my place. I can finish up with Cupid later.”
Strife struggled and shouted hoping one of Ares’ priests might hear him and interfere or call his Unc back from the battle field in Athens. His campaign to do his sister’s dirty work was turning out well apparently. Strife would be glad if it didn’t mean he had been left with a horny egomaniac god that wanted to shove…things…inside him.
He screamed as loud as he could when he felt power enveloping him. Adonis pressed his mouth over Strife’s to stifle the screams. Then they vanished, and appeared three feet from where they had been. Adonis looked confused, and angry. Strife tried to knee him in the groin. He knew from experience that that hurt even if you were a god. Adonis blocked his attempt and backhanded him. Strife was dazed, blood dripped from his nose and mouth.
“See what you did, I messed up your pretty face,” Adonis tutted. He produced a silk scarf and began to wipe the blood away. Then he grabbed Strife’s arms, “Since we cannot transport away we can have a pleasant walk to my temple.”
Strife dragged his feet and yanked on his arm, but he might as well have been a reed trying to hold back a charging elephant. There was no hope. Strife went limp and let himself be dragged. He wasn’t going to give the other god the satisfaction of parading him around like a pet. The bonus of the stupid silk shift getting torn and dirty gave him at least an inkling of satisfaction.
Then they stopped just at the entrance of the temple, Strife sitting on his butt with his arm in a firm, bruising, grip. Adonis was tugging his arm but they weren’t budging. Strife felt his shoulder straining, nearly being dislocated.
Strife started to giggle; his Uncle must have spelled the bracelet to keep him inside. Strife had never been so glad to be grounded. Adonis’s face turned red with anger. Strife looked at him and burst out in cackles. Adonis Reached back to slap him again and Strife cringed, closing his eyes.
The strike never came, but Strife felt someone powerful and angry standing over him. He looked up expecting his uncle. It was Cupid above him, holding Adonis’ wrist, crushing it. Adonis screamed as the bones cracked. Cupid’s other hand grabbed his neck and squeezed. Adonis let go of Strife’s arm so his free hand could claw at Cupid’s. He was lifted in the air by Cupid’s one hand and bodily thrown out the door. Suddenly the god of love was every bit his father’s son.
Cupid had had a bad feeling the second he and his son flashed out of the temple. It nagged him in the back of his mind as he and his mother talked about the potential pairing in Beroea, between this Polydamna and the sculptor…that idiot Adonis hadn’t even given him a name…well he was an idiot too because he forgot to ask.
His eagerness to make a potential match had overridden his commonsense, in more than that. He hoped Adonis wouldn’t bother Strife while he was gone. He’d sensed the attraction and as discrete as his step-brother thought he was being he had been ogling Strife. He knew why his mother adopted the moron, but he often wished she had left him with that tree…let the boar eat him, but as she had said he was too beautiful to perish. What if his mother had been turned into a myrrh tree out of spite? Should a babe be punished for his parents’ mistakes? She had said it but Aphrodite was blinded by Adonis’ looks like everyone else. Underneath those golden looks lay a petty selfish jerk.
“Listen mom, Watch bliss for a while and I’ll get back with you about that match in Beroea. ‘Kay?”
“Sure thing Cupie,” Aphrodite smiled holding the godling on her hip and nuzzling his cute little cheek, “Me and Heph will take him on a nice picnic tonight…Want us to take him for the night?” She wagged her eyebrows and grinned, “And how is Strife by the way?” Her tone was suggestive of things he’d rather not discuss with his mother even if she was the goddess in charge of love and lust. You could fool some people about things of this nature but not her.
“Strife’s fine, but I think I need to get back I left him alone with Adonis,” He couldn’t help the edge in his voice and she raised her brow knowingly.
“Well don’t let me keep you! That horn dog’s sniffing at your bone as we speak,” She warned and Cupid flashed back to find Adonis trying to drag Strife out of his father’s temple and even worse about to strike the weaker god. He was seeing red but his eyes were the brightest green anyone would see until mortals started producing artificially created colors.
Adonis was rubbing his throat. He slowly picked himself up off the ground in front of Ares’ temple. The god of beauty’s eyes widened as he watched a ball of fire forming in Cupid’s hand. His eyes were glowing and his skin started scaling over and going green.
“Run!” He said with guttural animalistic snarl. Adonis transported himself to safety. Cupid looked down at the terrified god lying at his feet and his eyes softened. The transformation reversed itself. He knelt down to pick up Strife and carried him inside the Temple.
Cupid’s hand rested on Strife’s cheek and the god flinched. There was a hand print there. Cupid growled while caressing the mark. He took Strife to his rooms and laid him on his bed. He looked at the thin silk shift. It barely covered Strife. Cupid’s vibrant green eyes dilated as he climbed on the bed and straddled his cousin. He leaned over the other god, “Mine, mine, mine-mine-mine-mine, all mine. Not His!” He lay on his smaller cousin and started rooting his nose against Strife’s neck like a big cat. He was purring too.
“Ah Cupes?” Strife squeaked like a little mouse, “Yah wanna get offa me?”
“NO!” He snarled and his eyes were glowing again, “He almost took what’s mine!” Cupid licked his neck and Strife moaned helplessly as his cock stirred to life. Strife’s breath hitched when he felt a bulge rubbing against his stirring erection. Cupid was hard and big!
“Cupes yah need tah stop!” Strife pushed up, “Yah need to stop thinkin’ with yah dick and look at me.”
“I need you Erin,” Cupid bucked again, “I don’t just want you I need you. I love you Erin.”
“Ya can’t love me,” Strife said, “Ah ain’t…Ah’m not Erin. Erin is DEAD, Cupid!”
Cupid stilled. His body slackened, and Strife pushed out from under him. It took some wriggling and tugging to get out, Cupid was heavy.
Cupid looked at Strife for what seemed like the first time. The pale god was shaking and breathing hard. He slid off the bed and hugged himself turning away. The shift slipped off one of his shoulders and Cupid had to bite his cheek to keep his mouth shut.
“Erin was ah stupid little boy, an’ stupid boys get punished. Stupid boys don’t get tah love, and they don’t get tah be happy. They don’t get to be anything, but trash.” Strife was rocking himself. Cupid got out of the bed and reached for him. Strife batted his hand away, “DON’T! Don’t touch me Cupes Ah’m tainted. Yah don’t wanna be near me Ah’m meant fah misery. ‘M mischief, Ah cause problems Ah don’t solve ‘em. ‘M Strife, strife doesn’t love. Can’t be loved…”
“That’s so not true Strife. I do, I love you! I want to be near you and not all mischief causes misery, some mischief leads to happiness,” Cupid slowly tentatively reached for the other god. He rested his hand on Strife’s shoulder. Strife flinched and tried to pull away but Cupid grabbed him and pulled him into a hug, “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere until you understand that I care about you.”
Strife shook in his arms and gasped. He felt a hand pressing into his head and his nose buried into Cupid’s shoulder. He drew in a shaky breath. Cupid slowly walked him back to the bed. He pulled Strife onto his lap. Strife felt so tired that he just melted against Cupid. Strife hid his face in the other god’s neck. If Cupid saw any suspicious dew around his eyes he never mentioned it.
Jett was fast and agile on his own but with that black steed he had ‘borrowed’ he was making excellent time. The horse’s rider didn’t need the fine stallion any longer. Who could picture a headless rider? He chucked to himself. He snapped the reigns and leaned in. Word traveled surprisingly fast across the country and the latest gossip had the famous and infamous band heading toward the southern coast. He could start there and work his way along the shoreline.
He just hoped his little brother wasn’t traveling with them. He did at times. Normally Jett would be glad his brother had managed to get the protection of someone like Xena or Hercules, but right now he would rather not face his brother on the other side of a battle. He didn’t mind the thought of killing the others but not his baby brother.
He’d hurt Joxer enough in their youth. Jett may not have a conscious any longer but he loved his brothers. He had let his father do terrible things to Joxer; in his young mind it was what was best for the weaker sibling. He had to be tough to survive, but then the last time he had seen his father. He had beaten Joxer near to death. He…he hated himself for the disgust he felt toward the boy. Joxer had taken the beating and though there was fear and pain in his eyes there was still such a well of love there.
Jett hadn’t felt love for their father for a long time not since he was just out of diapers. He had respected him, tartarus he worshiped his father at one point, but he didn’t love the man. Worship died off as he grew and realized his father was not so great as he had once seemed. When he bested his father in a fight and the man angrily tried to slap him. He retaliated painfully. Had the man not realized his son had surpassed him?
So the man had taken his frustration out on Joxer who was weaker and rather pathetic. He hid behind the excuse that Joxer wasn’t good enough but it was his own failings that drove the man to lash out at the smallest, weakest and most vulnerable of his children. Yes they were triplets and one might even say identical but Joxer was the runt, and he had paid dearly for the offence of being weak.
Jett cleared his mind. The past was the past, and the future was yet to come. He was in the now. He rode the fine horse south. If he saw Joxer he would deal with it. If Joxer was there he could take dear baby brother with him and keep him safe. Maybe convinced him that it had been for the best. If he was lucky he’d catch the King of Thieves alone instead. He could remove his head and his balls and be back to his employer within a month.
Chapter 7: War’s Nephew
Strife in my Life
Chapter 7: War’s Nephew
Ares came back to a seemingly empty Temple. It was late and there had been a lull in fighting. He let it be for the night. His followers had it handled, and he was worried about his nephew. He walked into Strife’s room and snapped his fingers lighting the wall sconces. Strife was lying on Cupid who was rubbing his back and whispering in his ear.
“You need to have words with your priests,” Cupid said in a low voice, “Strife was attacked and they were cowering in the hall.”
“Who?” Ares asked.
Cupid looked at him and went back to petting Strife’s sleeping head.
“Who am I going to kill?” Ares demanded. His voice was quiet and calm. He flexed his hands and Cupid could see sparks flying off his fingers.
“You’re not going to kill him,” Cupid said, “I took care of it.”
“Are you going to tell me what happened?” Ares hissed.
“Not much to say I stupidly left Strife unsupervised for five minutes and Adonis thought he was going to drag him out of your temple,” Cupid mumbled. Strife whined in his sleep and Cupid kissed his head.
“Adonis?” Ares sounded puzzled, “That bubble headed windbag was trying to kidnap Strife?”
“You’ve blocked his powers! If a mortal somehow wandered up here and decided to take him, he could have done the same. At least he wasn’t able to remove Strife from the temple,” Cupid growled under his breath while thinking of what could have happened if he had been gone longer; if Adonis had been stupid enough to actually try and rape Strife in his father’s temple. He sat up shifting Strife, who whined in his sleep, and pressed into Cupid’s side.
“That restraint is there to keep Strife from hurting himself or running away,” Ares sighed tiredly, “If he wouldn’t do either of those things then we could take it off…By the way what in Tartarus are you doing? You haven’t…” Ares looked at his Son and Nephew apprehensively. Strife was still wearing the shift. Cupid saw his father looking at Strife and he zapped Strife's normal clothes on him and then covered him with a blanket.
“I’m not a rapist Dad,” Cupid said in a droning impatient voice, “Strife…I'll admit I care about him. You must have noticed. The only one who hasn’t noticed was Strife. I told him today, after the attack. It…It didn’t go great but well…Strife is safe and I can deal,” Cupid stroked his cousin’s arm, “I love him dad. I’m IN love with him!”
“Son,” Ares started pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Don’t son me…I know I can’t force anything. Who do you think you’re talking to? …And no I won’t resort to an arrow to get him! All I ask of you is no interference,” Cupid begged.
“You do realize if you…if you and he do get together that you would end up with more children…Twins! ...Run in the family!” Ares warned him.
“I love him I would cherish any children we brought forth, on my godhood,” Cupid swore.
“We'll have to go to Mother,” Ares let out a breath. This must be brought to her, or we'll pay for it later, Strife...will pay for it son! It is time anyhow. We couldn’t neutralize the potion. Pan and his tribe are well beyond Hera’s reach now. It is time for me to in act our plan.”
“What is your plan?” Cupid demanded.
Ares glared warningly but still explained, “Simple really…We shall throw our mercy on her good nature,” Ares cringed at his own words.
“That’s your brilliant plan?” Cupid squeaked and pulled Strife closer.
“I didn’t say it was a good plan, but it is our only resort. Strife needs to be brought to Hera and Zeus’ attention,” Ares said.
“What?! No! They’ll marry him off! He’ll fight it. It’ll destroy him!” Cupid thought of Adonis charming them into giving Strife over. Strife would be in the weaker position and forced to go with him. Cupid remembered stories of his mother being fought over before Zeus married her off to his stepfather. As he understood it she rebelled and hurt the god of fire.
Eventually she accepted him, but before that she had many trysts including ones that resulted in him and several other children. Heph never, ever, took out any anger or hurt on the children. He had been an ideal father figure. He couldn’t have children of his own, so he accepted the children Aphrodite brought into the marriage. Eventually He and Cupid’s mother did find love, common ground in the love of their children. Cupid was grateful for his Step-father’s kindness and influence where he had been denied his birth father. Olympus was one big dysfunctional family, but still there were those who had love. Strife deserved to have that after a life of loneliness and pain. He’d be damned to the deepest bowls of Tartarus if Strife was robbed the chance of a better life.
“Strife deserves to choose his own fate,” Cupid demanded.
“I’m sorry son,” Ares shook his head, “None of us has that right not even Zeus.”
“Then I’ll demand his hand,” Cupid stood firm, “I’ll marry him, but I won’t bed him…not unless he comes to me freely and of his own accord!”
There was a bellow, “I have a summons for Cupid, and Strife.” Hermes easily found them and walked into the room. His brow rose at the sight of Cupid holding a sleeping Strife, “Adonis has made a demand for satisfaction. Cupid interfered in his personal business with Strife. You are hereby requested in Zeus’s court for a hearing.”
“That idiot!” Cupid growled.
“I’ll come with you. I have a few words for that boy,” Ares spoke in a deadly quiet tone of voice. Ares thought for a second and that potion appeared in his hand, “Might as well kill two harpies with one strike.”
“That’s a strange saying…” Cupid said he while gently shaking Strife, “Strife we have to get up.”
Strife stretched and yawned, “Do Ah hafta?”
“Yes you do,” Ares said gruffly. He wouldn’t admit it but Strife was rather adorable when asleep. Nobody in the house of war should ever be considered adorable! Hearing his uncle Strife cracked an eye open. He peeked into Cupid’s eyes and startled just a bit.
“Hey sleepy,” Cupid gently nudged him, “We have to go. Adonis is being an ass and whining just ‘cause I kicked his butt.”
Strife made a pathetic whine and pouted, ok he was really cute. Ares wanted to pinch his cheek, “Get up moron before I kick you out of bed.”
“Dad,” Cupid glared and grabbed Strife hauling him up and putting himself between Strife and his father.
“We better get over there,” Ares ordered in a more gentle tone.
Xena was tending the fire and watching Gabrielle as her quill scratched against the scroll. She looked up tapping her chin with her quill noticing Xena watching her she smiled. Then her eyes brightened and she started writing furiously. Hercules and Iolaus had headed to the nearest village intent on getting more supplies, and trading some hides from Iolaus’ latest hunting excursion. Xena and Gabrielle were maintaining camp waiting for Joxer and Auto to return. They had promised to head that way as soon as their friends returned and were rested.
“Think they’ll be back tonight?” Gabrielle asked without looking up from her scroll.
Xena poked at the fire and shrugged, “Perhaps, but I have a feeling they’re enjoying their time alone. Maybe tomorrow.”
“Ok…so fish for dinner tonight? Or I could make a stew of the last of the dried meat?” Gabrielle supposed.
“What do we have left for vegetables?” Xena asked.
“Oh some carrots and onions,” She replied then yawned.
“Stew sounds fine then,” Xena nodded and leaned back taking her sword and whetstone out. She worked on the edge of the blade honing it to a razor edge.
Gabrielle put aside her scroll, stretched and got up. She grabbed their one pot and headed to the stream to collect water for dinner. Things were blessedly quiet without either Joxer or Iolaus in the camp, and quiet was okay for the time. After a while it got rather boring. Neither woman said it but they both were eager to have their friends back.
For Xena there was also an inkling of a notion that she should be worried. Joxer’s belly was starting to show. He was only going to get more vulnerable and noticeable; a bad combination.
Xena watched as Gabrielle started to set up the cooking pot on the fire and dug through their provisions, “If they show up tonight it’ll be easy to stretch the stew.”
The blonde nodded, “I hope they’re safe.”
“Me too,” Xena agreed.
Jett patted the horse. He made it to the coast and according to the locals he was only a few weeks behind his target. That was fine. They were mostly on foot and his horse was made for covering large distances quickly. The helpful old woman had easily given him their next destination when he said he was looking for help. He was a killer but leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake would draw too much attention in this peaceful area.
Adonis stood before his adopted Grandparents. He had been born of a mortal Myrrha who was cursed and transformed into a Myrrh tree, his mother carried him inside her in her tree form and the tree was gored by a hungry boar that wanted to eat the babe. Aphrodite saw the child and fell in love with his beauty, she rescued him from a grisly death. She adopted him and cemented his place on Olympus.
He had been raised from a baby to think and live as a god and on his majority, and on the behest of Zeus' daughter the young man had been given ambrosia. His beauty was so great it has inspired many cults comprising mostly female worshipers, though he's had male admirers as well.
His beauty also inspired a legendary ego. He was not used to being denied his wants. Strife once denied him. It was a simple need to slake his drunken lust, but he was sobered up very quickly. At first he was insulted and refused to aknowlege Ares' toady, but Strife surprised him. Rather than seeking him out to apologize the lesser god avoided him. For a while Adonis was convinced that the other was fearful of rebuff, or retaliation. After a few years he noticed the young god growing into his own, he rethought things. He still snubbed the god, but he noticed him. He was lanky and pale, but he was also very unique among the gods.
Strife was like that one lily in a garden of roses. Simple, dainty and demure...maybe not demure. Among a riot of colors shapes and sizes of flowers. Roses are hearty flowers, fragrant and so bold. A lily looks pretty next to a rose. The rose can be complimented by the delicate nature of the lily. Strife was the lily to Adonis' rose.
Strife's attitude would have to change, undoubtedly. He would need to be more obedient. That was ok with Adonis. He felt that it might be fun breaking his cousin of his nasty habits. That hephestian bracelet gave him ideas of how to do it. Obviously Ares was having trouble controlling the godling. He'd probably be grateful to Adonis for taking the troublesome youth off his hands. After seeing him today, touching him, smelling him, and tasting him; he had to have the other god. Cupid had interfered in his business and he saw no reason he shouldn't seek recompense.
Cupid, Strife, and Ares appeared together. Cupid was Standing between Adonis and his prize and he was not going to have it. Ares looked calmly at Adonis. A smart person would've been terrified when the god of war looked blankly at them, but Adonis was a god for his looks not his brains. He smirked at the three. He shared popular opinion that Ares barely tolerated his nephew. Even if this were the case, the idiot had attacked one of Ares' in his home. That wouldn't stand even if he had hated Strife.
Strife stood behind Cupid and next to his uncle. He looked over at Adonis and their eyes met. Adonis leered openly at him, and Strife made a gagging gesture toward the other god. Adonis seemed amused. Thinking of how he wouldn't mind making Strife gag on something. It would show him his place.
Zeus cleared his throat. The parties of both sides quieted. Adonis smiled genially at his adopted grandfather. Zeus looked less than impressed but he nodded to the young god, "Why exactly are we here Adonis?"
Ares quirked a brow at this. The stupid fool hadn't even bothered to tell Zeus what his grievance was about.
Adonis cleared his throat and stood straight, the picture of self-importance, "Your grace. I'm here today to settle a dispute. I was courting young Strife, and Cupid had the gall to attack me."
Cupid's eyes turned deep dark forest green, "You attacked him! You were trying to drag him out of my father's temple and you HIT him!" Cupid shouted at Adonis.
Zeus held up his hand, "That's enough Cupid."
Strife looked a little paler than normal. He felt a hand on his shoulder and jumped. He looked at his uncle and Ares squeezed his hand in a comforting gesture. Strife relaxed slightly.
"You crushed my wrist and damaged my throat. I had to go see Uncle Apollo to get healed before I came here!" Adonis pouted and crossed his arms over his chest, "Strife will come around to my way of thinking. He just needs some convincing and incentive."
"Strife doesn't like you and who could blame him!" Cupid shouted back.
"That is enough!" Zeus roared. The three youngest gods in the room all flinched. Strife felt a bit faint. He was still recovering from his episode and the attack on him earlier that day. The king of the gods noticed this and his eyes narrowed, "Why have you blocked Strife's powers Ares? Take that bracelet off him boy."
"It's on there for his protection father," Ares rolled his eyes and Zeus sure didn't miss it.
"Explain," Zeus said in an impatient tone, "Now."
"I'd prefer not to discuss a private matter in front of present company," Ares looked pointedly at Adonis who was looking rather curiously at Strife. Curiosity and lust filled calculation swam in his eyes. The young god gave his lips a salacious lick while staring at his Nephew. Ares frowned.
"That's fine!" Zeus stood from his throne, "Adonis, Cupid, Adjourn from the hall until you're called back." Both young gods looked to their King as if they wanted to argue. He gave them a bored dismissive look that told them he wasn't in the mood. Cupid looked at Strife wistfully and vanished. Adonis gave a haughty nod and glared at Ares before removing himself from the room.
"Can Ah go too?" Strife asked in a rather timid voice. He was feeling a bit ill.
Zeus shook his head and didn't act at all surprised at the humble request. He may not like his grandson very much, but he was still his grandson. One reading of the godling's aura told the God of Thunder that the youngster was not well, "Have a seat Strife." Zeus produced a chair and placed a hand on the young god. He felt the turbulence in his being. There were many things wrong.
"It happened again," Ares explained cryptically.
"How many dead?"
"Two but one wasn't by him," Ares explained. Strife was listening and wondering what in Tartarus his Unc was talking about.
Zeus nodded and placed his hand on Strife's head. He felt something else, "Hera would you come do a reading of young Strife?"
"What's wrong?" She tried to hide behind an icy tone but the way Zeus was behaving she felt a pang of anxiety run through her heart. Strife wasn't her favorite person either.
He was normally so disrespectful and ill-mannered, but he was still one of her children's children. She was the goddess of motherhood it was in her nature to worry about her grandchildren. Hera came over and placed her hands on Strife first on his head and she felt the disturbance in there and pain. She winced and suddenly her other hand flew to his stomach. She pulled back in shock. Her eyes widened, "How?"
Strife squirmed and whined.
"This?" Ares placed in his mother's hand and her eyes lit angrily.
"This...This is...how dare that little goat!" She recognized the Auras attached to the potion. Her hand wrapped around the bottle squeezing with all her godly might. The glass of the bottle was spelled to be unbreakable, so it held up to the pressure, "What did he hope to gain by giving Strife this?"
"He didn't...It was my carelessness and Strife's idiocy," Ares started.
"Hey!" Strife started but Ares cuffed him on the ear. Not hard enough to damage but enough to get the message across.
"Let me explain everything," Ares started. Zeus looked between his wife and his son. He opened his mouth but Ares gave him a pleading look, "I need to tell you everything. It's important that you not interrupt."
Zeus sighed and nodded he went back to his throne and lounged. Hera hovered over her grandson. Strife felt even more sick. He didn't understand what was going on but he had a feeling his future hinged on this conversation.
Cupid flashed into Aphrodite's temple and found Bliss. He snatched him up and hugged him close.
"Daddy?" Bliss felt his anxiety and buried his face in his Daddy's chest sending as many good vibes into him as he could.
"Cupie?" Dite questioned him, "You alright?" She came over and Cupid held out his arm letting his mother join the hug. She felt his pain and fear and she knew it had to involve Strife.
"What did that boy do to you?" She sounded angry.
"It wasn't something he did...well not to me," Cupid sighed when he felt his mother tense.
"I'm going to make him impotent for eternity!" She growled in her own sexy way.
"Don't! Mom! Strife didn't do anything to me. He's he gotten hold of that potion," Cupid whispered.
"What potion?" Dite asked. Her eyes widened in slow horrible realization, "No! How many people did he give it to? Hera's really gonna notice when hundreds of men start having babies all over Greece!" She pulled away and was about to flash to Hera to try to mitigate the damage.
"No! No, mom," Cupid grabbed her arm firmly but not enough to hurt the delicate looking Deity, "Strife drank it. He...um...thought it was a future drink like that fizzy stuff he sometimes brings back in those strange metal cylinders."
"Oh," Aphrodite relaxed a bit, "Where is the little trouble maker then?"
"Pops is talking to Zeus and Hera about it right now," Cupid said.
"Nooooo," Aphrodite hissed. She tried to go again. Cupid gently tugged her back.
"He's gonna get us all eye deep in...it!" She looked at her innocent little grandson and grimaced. Bliss was still preoccupied with trying to make his daddy feel better, but one of his hands was reaching for Granma to. She gave him her hand and let his calming happy vibes wash over her.
"Adonis wants Strife, mom. He wants Strife so bad it's giving me a headache," Cupid whined.
"I can feel the lust," She admitted, "He's caught the scent and its going to be tough. He knows how to get what he wants. I know you think I'm blind to his faults. I'm not. I love him like one of my own and I wanted to raise him to be a good and kind god, but its hard for the general population not to fawn over and spoil him. I love him, but sometimes I don't like him very much."
Cupid pulled back and looked astonished at his mother. She only smiled at him, "You need to fight for him if you really want him, and maybe make me more grandbabies? I miss having babies running around. Heph has forgiven me for the last time and he loves all my children but I don't wanna break his heart again. He wouldn't mind more grandchildren to spoil either."
"You are assuming Hera and Zeus don't do something drastic like strip his godhood and banish him, or marry him off," Cupid worried his lower lip with his teeth.
"Stop that!" She slapped his chest.
Bliss looked up, "You gonna save Strife, Daddy?"
"I hope I can," He rubbed his son's soft blond hair.
"I love Strife, he's nice and he gots good games," Bliss snuggled into his father's chest.
"He has good games Bliss, and yes I love Strife too," Cupid squeezed his son.
Chapter 8: Suitable Suitors
Strife in my Life
Chapter 8: Suitable Suitors
Joxer was so tired. They'd been walking what felt like days. They left that morning, as soon as his stomach had quieted. His sickness was blessedly mild that morning. It had only been two hours since they stared, and Joxer tried to not complain. He sensed that Auto was nervous for some reason, but he couldn't keep up the pace. His back was cramping and his feet hurt badly. Really he was very close to collapse. He bumped into his lover and tripped. He felt arms going around him.
"Are you ok?" Auto whispered.
"I...I'm just a bit tired," Joxer admitted when he looked into his husband's eyes. He couldn't lie to Auto.
"We can stop for lunch and then you can take a nap," Auto looked around suspiciously. He still had that feeling he always got before an attack, but they were alone on the road and it was a very open area no places to hide a large group. They made their way into the grassy field next to the road and laid out their bed rolls to sit on. Auto doled out food and water. Joxer picked at his food, he was too hot and tired to really feel hungry.
Auto saw the way Joxer was avoiding eating and frowned, "Are you sick Baby?"
"Just tired Auto," Joxer admitted.
"Lay down," Auto took his food and packed it away, "You can sleep and I'll watch over you." He rubbed Joxer's back and gently pushed him on his side. Joxer curled up and fell asleep quickly. Auto sat there watching him for an hour or so when a group of travelers approached. His hand slipped to his dagger and he watched them as they passed. Auto was never one to pray but he though if there were ever a need he might call on the gods. Maybe he could call on his father and finally get to meet him.
For now he was marking his feelings up to just that, feelings. He had good instincts but he supposed with Joxer in tow he was being more paranoid. The people on the road waved good-naturedly. He waved back and pretended to dismiss them at that. There was a mix of men and women and they were chattering gaily. He would be happy when they were out of ear shot as Joxer mumbled and tired to roll onto his stomach. He gasped and woke, "I almost squashed the baby."
He was half awake and tears rolled down his cheeks. Auto pulled him into his lap and petted him. He knew the younger man was still mostly asleep. Auto shushed him, "You didn't hurt him Love. He's fine Baby."
Joxer whimpered but slowly went back to full sleep. Auto kept him on his lap until he felt it was time to move. He would have let him sleep all night but they had to get back to the safety of their friends. The sun was moving toward the west, but there was still plenty time to make up some ground.
"We need to get moving babe," Auto shook his lover awake. Joxer yawned and covered it with the back of his hand. Auto loved the man and was amazed at how adorable he was. He couldn't reconcile his image of Joxer before they were together with who he saw now. How could anyone not love this gentle, kind man?
They were back on the road but Autolycus knew they would never get back on time. He just hoped that his friends didn't assume the worst and go on a rampage. He further hoped there would be no further interruptions in their journey.
As angry as both Zeus and Hera were they surprised Ares with how fair they were being. Well fair to him. He wasn't being punished, Strife wasn't going to be punished ( not in their eyes at least.)
"Strife will have to entertain suitors. In his condition he will need someone capable of protecting him, especially if the other pantheaons hear of his predicament. A foreign god might risk war to get hold of him, even if only for the novelty of it," Zeus pronounced.
Ares was stroking his son's, no his nephew, his nephew's hair as he sat curled up in his chair, it was not the first time he had wished somehow that he had fathered the boy. He knew he wasn't Strife's blood father, but he felt like it should have been that way.
Strife was watching the exchange with the mistrustful eyes of a dog that's been beaten one too many times. Ares saw Zeus's fists clench in anger and his eyes cut to the vulnerable godling. He stayed his hand though. Ares didn't know if it was due to the fact that Strife was so weak at the moment or that if he harmed any of the goddesses Hera would find ways to make him pay dearly.
Strife was of a goddess' class in their eyes now. If any God managed to bed the boy he would bring forth another god. New Gods are a very big deal.
"The potion is not reversible?" Zeus was eyeing it with more interest than either god or goddess liked (Strife wasn't really paying attention to that but hearing the lust in his Grandfather's voice made him shrink into a tighter ball).
"Not that we can figure," Ares glared at his father, "We can't neutralize it either. Anything I put into it has dissolved into nothing, the potion is too strong."
Hera looked at it and growled, "Let me." She snatched the bottle off the table it rested on, uncorked it, and drank it down. She made a face, "That is very sweet."
"Mother!" Ares gasped. He didn't like his parents most of the time but he did love his mother, "What have you done? What will that potion do to a women?"
Hera burped quietly and covered her mouth. She had the grace to blush, "Excuse me, and it won't do anything to a woman but make her burp apparently. I already have the equipment and the fidelity. The love...well that is debatable." She glanced at Zeus who looked a bit put out but then he smiled at his wife. He knew she loved him otherwise she wouldn't get Jealous all the time.
Ares wasn't sure he liked how easily this was being taken. He didn't mention Joxer to the two, but if there was difficulty with that pregnancy then Hera would find out. He decided to let go for the time being. His mortal follower seemed healthy. The freaky four and that thief were taking good care of him.
He cleared his throat, "Should we call the idiots back?"
"Them and Hermes. I want an announcement sent out. All eligible gods in the pantheon have a right to know, a right to petition for Strife's hand." Zeus's eyes gleamed. The old goat was looking forward to the mayhem that was about to break loose.
"Can't Ah just stay a virgin or sommin?" Strife whispered pleadingly. He felt the mischief energy rolling off his grandfather in waves and for once the discordant energy didn't comfort him, it scared him.
"Are you a virgin Strife?" Hera asked. She wanted to reach out and touch him to scan him again. He flinched violently and fell off the chair he had been occupying. It was hard to believe that one of war was innocent of carnal pleasure.
"Please don't!" He covered his head, and even though she normally would have blasted the impertinent boy for denying her, she held back. Strife was trembling and crying. Very unlike the crude, brash, irreverent snot of a godling she was used to. Perhaps it was the potion playing with his emotions or perhaps it was deeper.
She held back...for the time being. She would give the child respite, but she had many, many questions. Some for Apollo some for Strife's mother, some for Strife himself when he didn't seem so fragile.
"Get up boy you're making a scene," Zeus commanded and Strife did, unresisting. He swiped at his eyes with shaking hands. He felt so tired and his head hurt. Something felt so off in his head, more off than normal. He'd had this happen before and everybody danced around it. He'd learned to let it go, but with the added stress of being made into a baby machine...well what could be worse than that?
Then Cupid was there standing next to him. Strife felt slightly better. Cupid was a good guy. He wouldn't take advantage of Strife's weakness unlike so many others.
Adonis Appeared and he was standing on his other side and Strife leaned away and bumped shoulders with Cupid. Adonis looked sideways at him and Strife felt his stomach bottom out. Adonis turned his attention to his adopted grandfather. He looked like he wanted to say something to Zeus. The king of the gods held up his hand before he could open his mouth and spew forth more nonsense. He closed his mouth, even an airhead like him wasn't completely stupid.
"A decision has been made and an announcement must go out," Zeus started.
Hermes appeared suddenly, "You called?"
"Huh, yes boy, you'll be sending out an announcement across Olympus. But first I must sort out these young idiots," Zeus grumbled, "Adonis it has come to my attention you're interested in courting my grandson, by your own words. Strife is still part of Ares household so any who wish to court the godling must get his approval. Cupid, you would also wish to court Strife. Do not deny it. I can see it in your eyes."
Strife knew he had said as much but hearing Zeus himself proclaim it made it more real. Strife leaned away from his cousin. He didn't want anyone to do THAT to him not even this kind god.
"As I have said...This is the part I want announced," He looked at Hermes. Then he cleared his throat and continued, "The god Strife is able to bear children, any eligible god may seek his hand, They must go to Ares for permission to pursue the young godling. Strife will not be touched until his wedding night and any who attempt underhanded tricks such as kidnapping him, or physically attacking him will be dealt with severely."
A golden scroll appeared in Hermes hand and he nodded, then he looked at his nephew. His eyes grew far away for a second then he cleared his throat, "Before I go...I was wondering... any god is eligible?"
Zeus nodded but rolled his eyes at his son.
"Awesome, sign me up then!" He leered at Strife. For his part, Strife was very brave and only ducked behind Cupid instead of trying to dive out the high windows. Hermes looked to Ares seriously and nodded, "I'm asking now for your permission to court Strife. You know I'd take good care of him."
"You'll have to get in line fly boy. I was here first," Adonis asserted himself between Strife and the god of messengers.
Cupid was, well, trembling might have been a good word for it. His eyes glowed brightly enough to light a dark room. He was about to boil over into a fit of rage. He felt Strife's hand on his shoulder as he hid from the sight of the other gods. He took in a slow cleansing breath. He looked to his father and Ares nodded. His permission was granted.
"That's enough you three. Hermes take that message around to the gods. Once you have carried out your duty then you can take care of your business with Ares and Strife," Zeus ground out. His patience was growing thin and he had a sexy little dryad bathing in the nude waiting for him to come wash her back.
One "Yes father" and two "Yes Zeus"coursed in unison. Hermes vanished and the announcement was out. Before they could leave Zeus' hall three more gods appeared looking at Ares and Strife.
They had come more out of curiosity than interest. Then the men inhaled the lovely scent coming off the young god and they got a good look at the once skinny but now slight curvy body and the alabaster skin. They were clambering over themselves to beg Ares for a chance with his charge. They started shoving and pulling hair to get to Ares first.
"Cupid get Strife out of here before this turns into a war zone," Ares commanded. His son nodded to him and took them to his mother's place instead of to Ares. He told his father as much with a thought so Ares wouldn't start blasting Olympus thinking someone had actually kidnapped the young god.
"Take this to your temple Ares I have better things to do then play referee to these idiots," Zeus vanished. Ares growled. This was the goat's fault and of course he had to deal with the King's rash decisions.
He transported to his own temple and sat on his throne. There were already Gods waiting there and the ones that had been fighting must have realized he was gone because they appeared in his hall in various states of undress and injury.
"Get in line idiots," Ares growled.
"Where's that beautiful nephew of yours Lord Ares?" One asked...Hesperus? Ares thought. Nobody saw him around much. He was the god of the evening star. He had been one of the first to appear. He had his robes torn and his hair was a mess. Normally he was a placid god. His skin glowed almost incandescent and he was handsome as most greek gods were want. He was looking around for Strife and caught his reflection in a mirror on the wall. He quickly started fixing his robes and hair.
The others he was fighting with were there. Momus, the god of mockery, maybe a good match for Strife...if they were working together. He just worried that they were too similar and also Strife at only half his power and being seen as the weaker partner might be miserable with this god. Zelus, the god of rivalry, Strife would hate him. He was the one that had started the fight in Zeus' hall.
Then the three turned and looked at the long line already formed before Ares' throne, and most of them had some kind of token; weapons, gifts of incense, gold, and there were even a few immortal slaves kneeling at their feet. The three gods quickly thought up something in their hands. Hesperus thought up a little ball of star-dust surrounded by crystal. It was rather beautiful. Momus summoned a jeweled, gold plated dagger.
Zelus thought hard and suddenly a loud neighing caught everyone's attention, He held a lead in his hand. The god of rivalry summoned a very fine black warhorse. He imagined Ares himself couldn't have a nicer beast in his stables. Ares raised one brow when the startled horse lifted its tail and dropped a big load of crap on his polished black marble floor. Zelus blushed and vanished the manure.
"This is going to be fun,"Ares uttered under his breath and glared at the room, He raised his voice and looked at the three, "Get in line morons before I toss you out on your asses."
The three gods looked disgruntled but didn't say anything. They headed to the back of the line; the horse clopping behind Zelus. Ares waved his hand and sent to beast to his stables. Zelus looked put out having his offering taken away. "If anyone else brought me a bribe you can toss them in a pile over there," He pointed to an empty corner next to his throne, "...But that's not going to help you. All I want is your name and for you to get out. I'll send word to those of you who I wish to talk with further...And If I hear of any of you bothering my nephew, you won't have the proper equipment to father a child after I'm through." He waved his hand and a table with a parchment and quill appeared, "Just write your name then get the fuck out of my temple."
The men obeyed signing their names to the parchment then carefully they placed their gifts in the corner. One of them tried to leave his slave, Ares sighed and looked at the frightened woman, a girl really. He waved at her and she was sent to a village of immortals, with a bag of gold and a letter to the village head to find a place for her to stay. He didn't need a skinny sickly looking female underfoot. Two more were left, another woman, a bit more mature and gifted in certain Areas. She would be pleasing if he got bored but he waved her away too. She was sent to the same village with a bag of gold and note, amended that he may call on her special services if he required some stress relief. The other was a strapping lad who couldn't have been more than eighteen physically. Ares looked him over and sent him to a warlord to be trained. Again a letter and a bag of gold were sent with him.
Only a few were left. There had even been some lower members of his own house to come. They knew better than to bring any tributes to Ares for this. They would save them for Strife. His sons, Enyalios and Deimos, were the quietest and most respectful of the throng, not saying much, but both had at one point or another shown an interest in the young godling. Ares knew his own house and he kept them from him until he was mature enough to defend himself. Ares watched as some of the gods attempted to scratch out their predecessor's name but of course all that did was prevent them from writing their own name down. He wasn't stupid.
Hermes made an appearance as promised and bowed before taking the pen and scribbling his name. Then flashed out in a rain of gold sparkles. The one that surprised him most was Apollo's son Asclepius. He came in quietly said hello bowed and signed his name. He left quietly as he came in.
Ares sighed. He would have to be fair about this (especially where Apollo's progeny was concerned, bright boy would throw a fit if he thought his child was overlooked). There were more than a few gods that would make good candidates. Even more that he'd like to boot off Olympus.
Late dusk and still no sign of Joxer and Auto. Xena and Gabrielle turned in. They were worried but they couldn't do anything until daylight. If they headed out searching for their friends in the dark they could potentially pass their camp up. Xena decided they would start out in the morning and try to meet their friends on the road.
Cupid and Strife watched Ares' throne room on a scrying mirror. Part of the young god wanted to be horrified, but his nature couldn't help appreciate the mischief this was causing. Zelus with his horse had him cackling inspite of himself.
Cupid wasn't surprised to see many of them but he had not been ready for Ace to show up. He had to admit that if he couldn't have Strife he would rather him go to someone like Asclepius. At least he would be treated gently and with the kindness he deserved. His brothers signed up too.
Deimos was confusing to Cupid his younger brother looked so much like Strife it might be like looking in the mirror. More than one person pointed out that Strife could have been the third in a set of triplets if he had been born closer in age to Deimos and Phobos.
Having to compete against his brothers worried him. Their father would have a hard time being fair to his own children. Cupid hoped it was left up to Strife to make the final decision.
"My futuah is nothin but ah contest now," Strife snorted loudly and his shoulders shook he was crying and laughing at the same time, "What am I gonna do Cupes? Ah'm nothin but ah prize to em," He rubbed his wet eyes.
"Strife...I...I promise that I'll do my best to help you. I know you don't want me but maybe...maybe if you let me marry you...I'd never hurt you. If you wanted to remain celibate I would honor your decision," Cupid looked at him in earnest. He had the urge to hug Strife but he stayed strong.
Strife didn't know what to stay. Cupid was willing to live in a sexless marriage to keep him safe? He was touched and his heart stirred in his chest. He was still terrified but he saw a ray of light.
Cupid vanished the scrying mirror. Strife had seen enough. He trusted his father to weed out the worst of the candidates. He knew his chances were only as good as the best to sign up and that wasn't good enough for him, but he would try to shield Strife from them.
"Why don't you go lay down? Its late," Cupid put his hand on Strife's. The other god flinched but didn't pull away. Cupid felt his heartbeat quicken. He smiled at his cousin. Cupid took his hands and kissed them.
"Sha," Strife blushed bright red and pulled away. He moved to a disgustingly pink couch and lay down. Cupid covered him in a pink blanket and moved away to go climb into bed with his son. He needed to hug someone. He needed that closeness and love, his little baby gave it in arm loads. Though he wanted to touch Strife and hold him close he wouldn't try to force him into it. He missed his son anyhow and Bliss loved sleeping with his daddy.
Chapter 9: The Ungrounding and a Date
Strife in my Life
Chapter 9: The Ungrounding and a Date
Strife felt a hand on his shoulder and startled awake. He reached for his daggers forgetting they'd been taken from him. In his fright he overturned the couch he'd been sleeping on and rolled into the floor.
Cupid stood watching this display feeling a mix of disappointment and sadness as Strife jumped up, looked around and realized he was safe. The young god blushed prettily and Cupid felt an ache in his heart. To kiss that cheek. To hold him like he had when he was in shock the previous day. Willing, not just because he was too scared to think straight.
"Its ok Strife. Dad told me to bring you to his temple for breakfast," Cupid assured him.
"Daddy!" Bliss's voice echoed through Aphrodite's temple. With a wave of Cupid's hand the couch was righted and the blanket Strife had been using was folded neatly and thrown over the arm. Bliss's naked feet padded against the smooth marble as he ran in and seeing Strife first he plowed into his legs and gave him a hug. Strife took a long slow breath and a look of calm washed over him. He bent down and picked up his little cousin.
"Strife!" Bliss hugged his neck and gave him a sloppy smack on the cheek. Strife looked truly peaceful.
He returned the kiss with his own, "Mornin munchkin!" Strife walked around the couch and pulled Bliss off him gently and held him out to Cupid. Bliss's hands shot out and he latched onto his daddy's neck. He started playing with one of his father's feathers.
Cupid giggled and squeezed his son peppering his face with kisses, "Good morning baby."
Strife watched with a deep felt longing. He wanted that. Pure love of a parent and child. He'd never experienced it from his mother and he would never experience what Cupid had. Cupid looked handsome with his adorable son. Strife couldn't help appraising his cousin. Would it hurt to give in to this need? Would it be fair to Cupid? Would it be fair to him? The short answer was no. Cupid didn't deserve it, and Strife didn't want anybody to touch him for pleasure, to use him again. He could almost see himself loving Cupid and giving himself to him but Strife was dirty and used. He'd never told anyone, not even his mother. Oh he knew she knew. She had that guilty look in her eyes when they were forced to acknowledge each other. She had never been a good mom but she had never meant to give that mortal the opportunity to hurt him, not that way.
Strife shuddered and came back to himself feeling Bliss leaning from his father and touch his cheek. Strife felt Bliss's god powers trying to make him happy. He smiled a false smile at the child hoping to placate him but Bliss had this look. The small godling had the most mature serious expression on his face.
'Please let us help you. We love you Strife. Me and my daddy love you so much,' The voice echoing in his head was a reflection of what the young boy would one day be. Strife felt a real smile tugging at his lips. Bliss was going to be a great god when he came into his own.
"Alright you too," Cupid said. He was clueless of the exchange between the two godlings. He adjusted Bliss and stepped closer to Strife, "Let's go see Pops." Cupid gently took Strife's bicep in his hand and flashed them all to Are's dining hall. The entire house of War was in attendance that morning. A few of the unattached male's were looking rather hungry that morning but their attention wasn't on the banquet before them. Ares cleared his throat and indicated three empty seats to his right.
"Have a seat boys and tuck in. We have a long day ahead of us," Ares smiled. It didn't escape anybody's attention that Strife's favored chair was right next to Ares. His chair that looked like a smaller version of strife's throne in his own temple. Black lacquer wood with a crimson cushion and his spider emblem decorating the back. Ares had a special chair for all his children that was made to reflect their godhoods. It was truly a mis-matched ensemble. Cupid's chair was gold and white with two crossing arrows on the back. The back was low enough on his chair so that his wings comfortably hung over it. Bliss had a high chair similar to his fathers only smaller and taller so the boy could sit with the adults.
Bliss pushed off his father and squealed, "Granpa!" He flew straight over the table and pelted the god of war in the gut with his full weight. Ares made an undignified 'oof' noise.
"Well good morning," Ares gave a strained welcome when Bliss's heel made sharp contact with a very sensitive part of his body.
Strife got a burst of energy from his cousin's over energetic and painful greeting and started giggling. He bounced over to his chair and lounged throwing a leg over one of the arms and grabbing for a golden apple. He bit into the crunchy sweet magical food.
Cupid made his way to his chair stiffly as he looked at his siblings and other members of War. He barred his teeth at them as they watched Strife eating with too much interest. Strife glanced at his mother and then ducked his head as she sneered.
"So how ya doin cuz?" Deimos's eyes were glued to Strife's mouth as he chewed and they traced his slender throat as he swallowed the bite of apple. The god of pain licked his lips as he thought of ways he would love to use that mouth. Strife was too busy avoiding his mother's gaze to notice his cousin's lecherous expression.
Deimos knew people thought he was a bit crazy when they saw how he looked at Strife. They could be twins, well except for his blond hair. He took that from his mom, but Strife and he had minor differences in looks. He had always admired his younger cousin's body. If it weren't for dear old dad protecting him, Deimos would have already had that hot little body under him in a big bed. Chained and bloody and frightened. Oh how he would have savored his Cuz's terror.
Now things were different, not that he wasn't still turned on by sweet little Strify. No, now was even better, he could start his own lineage. Strife and he would bear lots of little spawn to wreak havoc on the world. The pain god grinned and kept watching his poor unsuspecting cousin.
Phobos was looking between his twin and his cousin. He felt pity for Strife. He knew his brother's appetites, he shared in them most of the time, but they rarely turned their sights on any Olympians. Mortals were toys and tools for pleasure but Strife was family (As messed up as theirs was). He didn't think that the young man deserved an eternity of misery at his brother's hands but he wasn't brave enough to say anything. He could handle pain but the anguish his brother could inflict was even more than he could bare sometimes. He kept his silence and turned his attention to his food.
None of the events at the table escaped Ares' notice. The immortal servant touching Strife as he leaned in to pour the god's ambrosia wine. Strife shuddering. Deimos licking his lips and watching Strife. Enyalios didn't take his eyes off Strife the entire meal. He accidentally stabbed himself trying to spear some meat on his knife. Cupid looking jealously at anyone who looked funny at Strife. He was barely eating and hadn't touched his wine. His hands were visibly shaking. Ares was waiting for the eventual tantrum that was about to hit.
Strife tried to stop his hand shaking but the last straw was when that immortal slave had stroked his hand over his shoulder and brushed his nose over Strife's cheek as he poured his wine. He would have retaliated if he had his powers unblocked or even access to one of his blades. Ares had noticed the servant's inappropriate behavior but decided he could wait until after breakfast to deal with the man.
Bliss had been cuddled in Ares arms as they ate breakfast, his high chair left abandoned. Ares was feeding him a honey cake. The godling suddenly launched himself toward his cousin and hugged Strife. Strife was unhappy; he needed hugs and he needed Bliss's happy energy. Strife's shaking settled as Bliss did his thing. He kissed Strife on the cheek and settled in his lap.
Strife looked down and smirked, "Yah little boogah. Yah just stopped ah spectaculah fit. Ah don' suppose Ah can at least throw some food around? Theres a few people that at least deserve ta have wine thrown in theah faces."
Bliss shook his head and cuddled him, "Silly Strife, food's for eatin' not throwin," Bliss smiled and giggled.
"From what Ah understand yah wah once an expert food throwah," Strife tickled Bliss' tummy and the little boy giggled.
Bliss smiled and shook his head he reached behind him snagging a couple grapes. He stuffed one in is mouth and the pushed the other to Strife's lips. Strife took the food and chewed it. Strife's tension was gone and everybody at least pretended to turn their attention to their food.
Nobody noticed how rigid Cupid was he held his chalice to his lips when the immortal was 'serving' Strife his wine. Cupid dented the golden cup in his grip and spilled wine on himself. He was going to make that man suffer for his impertinence.
After breakfast the gods and goddesses of the house of aggression began to flash out to do their daily duties, or take care of any odd jobs they had previously been assigned. Cupid, Strife, Bliss and Ares were left as the immortals cleaned up. It took energy to clean the godly way. Besides, why have servants if they didn't do anything?
"Cupid take Bliss out to the gardens will you? I don't want him to see what I'm about to do," Ares spoke in a calm voice but his son could feel the anger emanating from his father in waves.
"Granpa mad?" Bliss looked to his father then over to his Grandpa, "It ok, Granpa's happy too!"
Hearing his son's statement Cupid grabbed Bliss from Strife and flashed out of the room. If Ares was this angry yet happy then someone was about to get brutally beaten. He had an idea who it was too.
"Tha garden sounds like tha place ta be," Strife started to turn, "Ah'll just go see what tha little tyke is up ta."
Ares took two quick steps and put his hand on his nephew's shoulder. He shook his head. Strife visibly cringed. He had no idea what he had done to anger his uncle, but he knew his lesson was going to be a painful one based on the grin on his face.
"You stay Strife. I want there to be a witness, and who better than the injured party," Ares led him back to his seat. Strife racked his brain for whom had hurt him. No one since Adonis the day before. This was a fresh rage boiling under the god's surface. Ares vanished all the other chairs and tables. He needed the room to work.
Ares called over a serving girl. He whispered in her ear and she ran off. Nearly a minute later, The male servant that had bothered Strife came in. His eyes lingered on the god seated just off from the center of the room. Ares sure as shit didn't miss it. This man was going to suffer, and he was immortal so he would survive what the god dished out.
The man looked at his lord and bowed. By this time the god of war was not only angry, and blood thirsty, he was also very impatient. The servant made to rise and was about to ask what his lord needed when he was belted across the face. Strife cringed a little. He was glad he wasn't on the receiving end this time.
"Olus is your name, Am I right?" Ares growled. The man whimpered and held his face. His mouth and nose were bleeding. Ares hadn't put but a whisper of power behind that blow. The man cowered and looked over at Strife as if to beg for help. Ares slapped his face the other direction.
"Don't you dare look at him. He is above you in every way and you dared to molest him right in front of a room full of gods!" Strife blushed at his uncle's statement. No one had ever taken up for him like this before, not even Ares.
Ares produced a short blade made of jagged metal it would cut flesh but it would be painful and messy. Olus was immortal so the disembowling hadn't killed him but it sure as Tartarus hurt. He screamed until he was hoarse. Strife watched his uncle punish this man on his behalf and couldn't help a thrill of blood lust rise within him. His eyes dilated and his hands flexed. He wished he could have his blades so he could have carried out the torture. In the end he just settled for the satisfaction of seeing the fear of him in the man's eyes. He'd not respected or feared Strife or he would never have dared initiate physical contact.
"Once you've pulled yourself together Olus...You will be taking your things from the servant quarters and moving to the stables with the other beasts," Ares snarled and looked at his bloody knife. He took it and buried it in the man's exposed guts. Olus rasped out a few screams before he finally passed out. Ares was panting and grinning wildly as he wiped the servant's blood from his face.
"Yah musta needed that Unc," Strife said in an awed voice. Ares blinked and looked at his young nephew. He finally sagged. He kept thinking of what would have happened the previous day if Cupid had not interrupted Adonis, or if he kept Strife helpless with that damn bracelet. Olus might have eventually caught Strife alone and attacked him. Ares willed the blood on him away and went over to Strife, who was still seated. His beautiful eyes danced and his face was flushed with excitement, Ares wondered if he shouldn't just take his nephew as his husband. They would surely make strong children to add to War's numbers.
He reached for Strife and the godling flinched and recoiled from him...That was why. Strife couldn't bare anybody's touch except for children and...and his son. Strife amazingly had been getting more comfortable with Cupid over the last few months. Cupid was good for Strife and maybe Strife would be good for Cupid.
"Sorry Unc," Strife covered for his fright with a manic grin, "Ya do good work! Makes me proud ta be onna yahs!" He did look proud and he admired his uncle, but Ares only saw the look of a child toward his father, or the closest he would ever get to a father. Ares was a ruthless god, but he appreciated family and valued it greatly. He couldn't take the one stable familial relationship Strife had and replace it with a sexual one. Then Strife got thoughtful look and glanced at the suffering immortal, "Think yah gonna need ta get Ace involved. He can't pull 'mself together." His eyes flicked away and the memory of that man invading his personal space overlayed with the gore made him shiver.
Strife heard a quiet clink and felt the warm metal slide from his wrist. He looked at his uncle, "You don't need your power blocked now that everything is settled, but you will have to put up with having a tracer on you. You're behind on your work and you will be expected to entertain suitors. Zeus ordered it so neither of us can weasel out of it. I think Hera also expects great-grandchildren."
Strife groaned dramatically, but Ares did detect true distress behind it. He wished there was another way but it was this or eventually an all out war. Then Strife would have no say in who he ended up with or how he would be treated in the coupling. Gods were not against forced marriages or forced sex. Just look at Aphrodite or the many many mortal women Zeus either tricked into sex or just out and out raped. In fact he was surprised Zeus hadn't gone after Strife. Don't get him wrong he thanked the fates profusely for that miracle, but he suspected fear of Hera's wrath may have had something to do with it.
"Ace," Ares said rather quietly but he was heard.
"How can I..." Ace flashed in then saw the immortal on the floor laying in a pile of guts and blood, "Dear Zeus! What have you done to this man?"
"He touched Strife inappropriately," Ares said, still looking at his nephew. He missed the anger and concern wash over Asclepius' face as he looked from the immortal to Strife.
"Strife insisted he get treatment. I was planning on making him heal naturally," Ares said.
"I'm not sure if that is possible without the small intestine," Ace was squatting next to the bloody mess and picked up a peice of the man's internal organs. It fell apart like minced meat, "I can get him to regrow them but it will take time and he will need to be on bed rest until then...It will be a very painful process."
"He'll be sleeping in the stables from now on," Ares commented.
"That's hardly sanitary," Ace retorted, but he didn't look like he was going to argue hard. He kept looking back at Strife. The younger god looked shaken. He wondered if they shouldn't just put the immortal out of his misery. Zeus could remove his immortality. Ace thought seriously. He didn't know what the man did but leaving him alive meant Strife might have to be confronted with him again. Ace was broken out of his thoughts by Strife.
"Yah did say he went ta tha stables aftah he was bettah Unc," Strife reminded him. Both other gods were surprised that Strife was taking up for the man that had insulted him, "Maybe ya could take 'im ovah ta yah place until then?" Strife looked at Ace. He smiled but there was pleading in his eyes. He might want the man healed but he also wanted him gone from his presence.
"That's no problem for me...While I am here though...Strife I was wondering if you would do me the honor of sharing a meal today?" Ace willed away the blood and gore from his person before he approached the young god. He smiled gently trying to be reassuring.
Strife wanted to refuse but he looked at his uncle who was frowning at him, "Sha." His blush grew and it was hard to miss on his pale cheeks.
"You realize there has to be a chaperone and your father does not count," Ares warned, "I'll be keeping an eye on you so if you would like to take your meal here we can accommodate you."
Ace looked only slightly disappointed but then he nodded in understanding. With Strife's special circumstances who could blame Ares for being over-protective, "I would be honored to have dinner here. I look forward to any time I am allowed to spend with you." Ace wanted to reach for Strife's hand in a gesture of affection but he knew how welcome physical contact was. It was something he hoped to work on with the attractive godling. He felt a sense of protectiveness toward Strife. It was why he wanted to court the young man. He was of the same mind as Cupid. He would never coerce Strife into sleeping with him, and he couldn't abide the young entity being someone's broodmare.
Auto sat up suddenly and looked around in fear. Joxer was missing. The sun was high over head warming his skin but he felt a chill none the less. Then he heard wretching. The thief got up and followed the sound. Joxer was emptying his stomach once again. When Auto placed his hand on the other's back and started rubbing he felt the trembling in his lover's form.
"You scared me babe," Auto uttered, "When I woke up alone. Please wake me up when you leave next time."
Joxer turned a humorless eye on him. He gagged and turned to spit bile out of his mouth. Auto turned back to their camp and grabbed the water skin. When he came back Joxer wasn't hunched over but he was visibly shaking. Auto handed over the water skin. Joxer rinsed his mouth and took a long slow draw from the skin. He then patted his hips. He had started keeping mint in his pockets. It seemed to sooth his stomach and it took care of the nasty taste of vomit. Joxer chewed the dry leaves slowly.
Taking a calming breath he turned to his husband, "I didn't mean to scare you but I can't exactly help being sick in the mornings." He was grouchy and now they needed to start moving. If he knew Xena, she and Gabby would be heading toward them by that morning. They were already a day and a half overdue. He thrust the water skin at Auto and groaned, "We need to pack up and get on the road before they pass us by."
"Who?" Auto said in a curious voice.
Joxer looked at him like he was an idiot (hormones). He blew out an exasperated sighed, "Our friends! Were late and Xena doesn't like sitting around doing nothing...It makes her grouchy."
"Ok babe," Auto spoke quietly. He really didn't want his husband to blow up on him or start crying so he let him grump. He threw his arm around Joxer and hugged him. He hugged back and started sniffing.
"I'm sorry," He whimpered, "I didn't mean to snap at you Auto."
"Its alright baby," Auto squeezed his shoulder and turned to kiss his cheek, "You're exhausted and sick. You didn't hurt me."
"I love you Auto," He was sniveling and his shoulders shook. Auto resisted the urge to roll his eyes and kept his voice soft, "I don't know how you put up with me. I'm ugly and clumsy, and-and-and faaaattttt!"
Auto stopped and turned Joxer holding him by his shoulders, "What gave you that idea? You are beautiful, you're sexy, and that stomach of yours turns me on so much. You are not fat. That's our child inside you. If anyone says different they'll have to answer to me!" He kissed Joxer and hugged him his hands slid up and down Joxer's slender back. His slightly curved stomach pressed into Auto's flat stomach and he hummed. Feeling Joxer's pregnant belly made his cock stir, "You make me so horny Joxer."
The theif pulled Joxer into a passionate mint flavored kiss. He explored his lover's mouth. Smirking as he pulled back he had Joxer's mint leaf stuck to his tongue. He took it in his mouth and chewed it moaning. Joxer giggled quietly and brought his hand up to rub the tears from his cheeks. He leaned back in and pecked Auto's lips. Then he turned back to camp. His ass wiggling enticingly.
"That maybe so love but we do need to break camp," Joxer teased.
Auto groaned and adjusted his pants, "Damn mood swings."
Xena and Gabrielle had been on the road since dawn. The warrior princess was eager to get to her friends. Joxer was only going to be more and more vulnerable as they went and before long traveling would become less convenient and more dangerous. Xena's idea was that the pregnant man would go to a safe place and board. Meg's place came to mind. Joxer was well liked there. The girls fawned over him; and Meg, while not the sharpest arrow in the quiver, was reliable and could be trusted with Joxer's secret. In Joxer's condition it would take more than a month to get there, and that was assuming the best conditions. Xena wanted him settled before winter. It was mid-summer, so they had some time but it was best to be cautious.
Around noon a thankful sight met them. Joxer leaning on Auto as the two walked at a leasurly pace. Joxer recognized them first and waved enthusiastically. Auto waved too. Xena could see Auto's uneven gait even from that distance. He was limping for some reason. She felt a small thrill of worry stab her chest and she urged Argo on.
"Hey guys!" Joxer yelled and smiled, "Its good to see you!" His eyes got dewy and he rubbed them.
"What happened to you Auto?" Xena asked.
"I kicked him," Joxer admitted smiling brightly.
Gabrielle caught up in time to hear the confession and see the lack of remorse she frowned, "That's awful Joxer why did you kick Autolycus?"
"He groped my butt. Scared me, so I kicked him," Joxer shrugged, "We made up."
"Yeah," Auto admitted sourly. It was his fault really he was watching Joxer picking up his bedroll and he pinched his butt. Joxer was startled. Then he cried, then he was ok. Auto felt Joxer's arm slide around his waist and he let his lover kiss him, "Joxer kicks really hard. We might just have him kick our opponents to death next time theres a battle." Joxer snorted and started chuckling. Auto joined in. Xena and Gabrielle watched them in mild amusement.
"Well we need to head to the next village and meet back up with Hercules and Iolaus," Xena stated and turned. The group followed her example.
Asclepius was nervous as he returned. Once he had settled the immortal in a bed and started the process to mend and regrow his internal organs. He left them and who was still passed out. His priests were ordered to only do enough to ensure he healed. He could have a sleep draft once his stomach started to close up.
Ace flashed into the main hall of Ares temple. The god was sitting in his throne and Strife was standing to his left side. Strife was wearing a black silk tunic and matching pants. He blushed and fumbled with the shimmery fabric of his sleeve.
"Hey Ace," He greeted.
Asclepius smiled shyly and blushed himself, "Good afternoon Strife, you look amazing." Ace was wearing something slightly reminiscent of his father's typical golden attire. Though his leathers were more of a gold tan and he wore a white shirt under his vest.
"Weah gonna 'ave lunch in tha garden," Strife smiled and turned, "Follah me."
"Thank you," Ace smiled and followed the younger god. He felt his pulse go up when Strife's backside wiggled as he walked. He didn't know whether the younger god was doing it intentionally to tease him or if it was an unconscious movement, but it certainly had him interested. He wasn't just here to protect Strife. The younger god really was attractive to him, and his dealings with him in the past showed Ace that he was more than just his godhood. Yes he was born for trouble but his love for children ran deeper than even his mischievous nature. Asclepius respected that and even found it sexy. He smiled at Strife as he turned to the exterior door to the garden and waited.
"Ah hope ya like wasn't expectin' some fancy to do," Strife blushed, "Its just ah picnic undah tha trees." Strife scratched his head and giggled nervously.
"Oh that sounds wonderful though," He turned to look out in the garden and felt disappointment as he Saw Cupid fussing over Bliss sitting on their picnic blanket. Ace looked at Cupid and Cupid stared right back. He felt a challenge was being made but Cupid was being unfair having his little godling there. Well he should have specified that he wanted some time alone with Strife, well as alone as one could get with the god of war breathing down your neck. He looked over his shoulder and there was Ares smirking at him.
"Shall we?" The big bad war god said.
Ace nodded, "Oh after you of course." He stood aside and Ares shrugged and sauntered over to the large blanket and sat next to his son. Bliss crawled into his lap giggling.
"Gwan 'n have ah seat Ace," Strife said he was blushing but there was a hint of teasing in his voice. Ace didn't miss the small smirk on the other god's face.
'He must be getting such a kick out of this awkward scenario,' Ace thought glumly. Then he bucked up and smiled. He would make the best of this. At least he would get to sit beside Strife.
As if reading his mind Strife went over and plunked down between father and son. The other gods scooted over slightly to abominate him, and Bliss squealed and jumped into his lap. Ace admitted defeat and sat across from Strife.
It did not escape Ace's attention that only female servants were in attendance. They brought the meal out and poured them wine. Then they left quietly. Ace also finally noticed Strife was missing his hephaestian bracelet. He was glad of it; after hearing about an immortal having the gall to touch Strife the way he had, Ace was worried Strife wouldn't be able to protect himself. Ace had been tempted not to heal the man in spite of his promise...And if a mere immortal dared touch Strife what would a full god do? Strife didn't need his powers anymore limited than they already were.
The meal was a quiet one but everyone enjoyed it especially Bliss who crawled from lap to lap, even sitting with Ace for a few minutes. He loved being with so many adults. Everybody doted on him. Cupid watched his son and wished he could give him some siblings. A child shouldn't grow up alone. He at least had a few gods his own age when he was that young.
Everybody ate their fill and had a good time. Ace couldn't complain about his company, but he did feel the heat of Cupid's glare whenever he directly addressed Strife. When it was time to go Cupid picked up his son who had tired himself out and was sleeping in Strife's lap. Ares grabbed his son's elbow and tugged him away. He was pleased at how well the god had taken their intrusion. Next time he would find a way to distract his son, If Strife agreed to a second time with Ace.
"Thanks fah commin," Strife said with a blush, "An' sorry bout the peanut gallery. I..."
"Oh no it was fine. Maybe we could do this again? If you want to come to my temple. You and Uncle Ares, if it makes you more comfortable," Ace blushed and on an impulse he took Strife's hand, noting he only flinched a little. He kissed it quickly. It was a gesture he had picked up from observing future entertainment. It was meant to be romantic but he just felt awkward. He let Strife's hand go looking up to see that his cheeks went bright pink. Ace's tan skin was a deeper pink when he blushed also.
"I guess thah sounds fine," Strife mumble and retreated to his room.
Ace felt a bit disappointed he flashed to his father's temple. He sighed as he dropped into one of his father's over stuffed chairs.
"How'd the date go with that miscreant?" Apollo flashed in next to him.
Ace growled, "Don't speak about him like that! ...And it went as well as could be expected I suppose."
"I can imagine," Apollo shuddered, "I don't know what you see in that boy. Pasty as a bacchae and about as well mannered."
"How's your little mortal," Ace shot back with a snarl. He knew he shouldn't. Phidias was a sensitive subject. Apollo had barely admitted his feelings even after giving into physical attraction.
"He's currently working in my temple at Pireas," Apollo frowned, "There's a run of fevers in the children of that village, as you are well aware. I hate having him so close to Athens while Ares is working there."
Ace felt bad for his jab. It took a lot for Apollo to admit he was worried about a mere mortal. He hadn't been this involved with a mortal since that woman...Ariadne. That had ended badly thanks to Hercules' interference, although he knew his father wasn't treating the woman right. Still it had left him reluctant to show affection of any kind to a mortal since.
"I'm sure he's doing fine...If you like I can go lend a hand. I don't have a temple there, but I can still help," The younger god offered.
"Do what you like," Apollo dismissed him. His eyes shined gratefully even if his face was impassive. He was afraid to show open favoritism to one mortal lest he call attention to that mortal. They met secretly, only his son knew of Phidias. He would keep him in his private chambers and not allow the servants or muses in when he had the sexy olive skinned man in his bed.
"Well I'm going to check in over there. If I can help stem the infection I'll bring him home with me. If you want him,"
"Whatever," The sun god looked away and pretended to be bored.
Ace heard, 'Yes please!' in his affected boredom.
Asclepius looked at his father. He paused in thought then spoke again, "You know he should have dedicated himself to me. He is an excellent healer." Apollo sent him the most withering glare he could muster. Ace only chuckled, "He's an excellent healer, but he is absolutely devoted to you."
He smiled at his dad as he flashed out.
Chapter 10: Brotherly Tolerance
I just realized I had Deimos and Phobos (stupid mistake really) mixed up so I'll fix the story. Basically I got the names wrong. Phobos Never showed up in the show either...I think. Its been a long time since I watched either Hercules or Xena. So, I could be wrong.
Strife in my Life
Chapter 10: Brotherly Tolerance
Strife was watching one of Ares' warlord's camps. He really wasn't feeling the mayhem lately. Don't get him wrong it wasn't just his job it was his passion making idiots suffer their own stupidity, but he was so tired and distressed. He'd entertained a few deities, with Ares watching over them. Cupid would usually end up making an appearance, with or without Bliss. Strife preferred him with Bliss. Things got very ugly when the innocent cherub was not there to quell Cupid's jealous nature.
The mischief god walked amongst the soldiers, invisible. It was mucky and wet from a near constant downpour. The last three days it had been raining, and Strife just knew someone up on Olympus was laughing at him. Demeter didn't like him, but he had a feeling that Apollo had kept those clouds in front of his chariot as it drew the sun across this particular patch of sky. Apollo wasn't his biggest fan either, and the fact that his favorite son took it upon himself to court him didn't do Strife any favors.
He shook his head watching a few men gambling under a muddy tent. He flicked the dice midair, causing them to tumble off the hewn log that acted as a table. He scooted around pressing his foot on the ivory cubes hiding them in the mud. Three of the men turned on the one throwing the dice.
"Idiot! You did that on purpose!" A large and angry man grabbed the thrower's shirt and pulled him up.
"What are you talking about?" The man said with an almost undetectable undercurrent of fear tingeing his voice. He jerked back.
Strife gave a good swift kick to the bigger fellow's shin. The smaller man fell on his ass. The bigger man yelped then snarled, "Why you little piece of shit!" He lunged at the smaller one who was scuttling backward in the mud like a filthy animal.
The other two lunged to grab the big guy. Strife tripped one of them and he went sprawling on the man. The angry solider drew a knife and growled slashing at the other two. Strife pulled the fourth guy back before he could get his throat slit. He was supposed to cause unrest but was instructed to keep the death to a minimum. He supposed he should be thankful for the nasty conditions it would make his job easier, but it was still pretty wretched. Finally they pinned the big guy down and managed to get his knife away. Other men came in shouting.
Strife moved on. He needed to get closer to the main tent. He was going to see how flammable a wet tent could be if he 'accidentally' dumped a bunch of lamp oil over it. It didn't need to be the main tent but one close. On his way he stopped by a tent where men were eating trail bread and dried meat. Strife snapped his fingers and the bread went moldy. The meat got extra salty and the wine turned to vinegar. It was a bit much but he remembered a future saying, 'An army marches on its stomach.'
He chuckled, "Ah army with food poisnin doesn' maach anywheah but ta tha latrine."
Strife noticed something out of the corner of his eye and turned. He was being watched. He knew he hadn't been spotted by any mortals but there was that feeling that another deity was around. Hiding from him.
"Yah can come out, Ah know yah watchin me," He said in an affected blasé tone, though he was actually nervous. There were more gods interested in him than he had realized and a most of them were higher on the totem pole than him. More power and more pull with the big guy. Any pull was better than none, right?
Obnoxious pink and red sparkles hit him in the face as his near mirror image materialized before him grinning like a fool, "Hiya Cuz. You lookin fine today...That wet and muddy style suits ya, but mebby yah wanna jump in a hot bath with me?"
"No," Strife frowned, "Ah'm in tha middle ah workin heah." He pushed past Deimos heading for the center of camp. The god of pain chuckled and followed, keeping his eyes on that leather clad posterior. Strife wore his clothing so tight it was almost as good as seeing him in the buff...almost.
"Whatcha up ta then Cuz? Need me ta throw tha fear of tha gods into these chumps?" Deimos said as he caught up to Strife and threw his arm over his younger cousin's shoulder. Strife tried to shrug it off but Pain was having too much fun with Mischief's discomfort.
Strife's eyes darted around and he saw a good tent he snapped his fingers and a bucket of lamp oil appeared tipping over the canvas. Then he snapped his fingers again and the oil was ablaze. Muted flames crept down the sides pelted and hampered by the rain. The fire seemed to be searching for a shelter so it could grow. Burning oil dripped on the ground and once a decent size hole made its way through the tent the fire curled in and more oil dripped on the floor of the tent. It was unoccupied at the time but as the support poles started to burn it collapsed into the Warlord's tent. Screaming and cursing could be heard. Men scrambled to put out the flames even as accusations of sabotage were thrown around.
Deimos clapped Strife on the back hard enough to bruise, and cackled, "Good one Cuz! They gonna be looking for someone to blame for that'n for a while. Let's take a break from this dump and go have some private time."
"No thank ya,” Strife turned away from his cousin, but Deimos wasn't having it.
He grabbed Strife by the arm and jerked him back snarling, "That wasn't a suggestion Strify." He pulled Strife close and bit his ear. He was getting buzzed off his little cousin's discomfort.
Strife didn't even hear himself screaming, "Unc!" He was pulled away from Deimos by strong hands. He pressed his hand over his ear, healing tender flesh.
"What exactly do you think you're doing, Son?" A deep and irritated voice grated on their ears, "I had to leave a very important strategy meeting with three of my best warlords to come here and break this up."
A miasma of angry energy rolled off Ares as he looked at his son. Suddenly the god of pain regretted bothering his cousin. He flashed out without answering his father, even though he knew he couldn't escape punishment.
Ares looked at his young nephew who was visibly shaken, "Are you hurt?"
Strife angrily shook his head but he didn't trust his voice not to crack if he spoke. Ares looked around at the camp. Men were shouting there were a few fist fights and the warlord's tent was actually burning in the heavy rain. That idiot warlord who decided to march on an unimportant and defenseless village was screaming about traitors and betrayal.
He had prayed to the god about taking the village. The prefect's daughter had caught his eye but she was promised to the village's blacksmith, and soundly rebuffed his entreaty to run off with him. She loved the blacksmith and her father loved her. The man she had chosen was a good upstanding citizen and an excellent tradesman. He could support her and a family more than comfortably, and that was all that mattered to her father.
Ares told him 'no' in no uncertain terms, but the man disobeyed his lord's wishes and decided to wage war on the village to either capture the woman, or kill her. Either way hundreds of men women and children would suffer and die. It was a waste of life and a waste of time. Ares was hoping that Strife could deter them long enough for the men of the village to prepare for a fight, or possibly send the army home. He was going to have to replace the warlord with someone more effective but his second in command would need more training before he would be ready.
After his assessment Ares decided to call Strife off, "You've done good enough Strife, go home and get cleaned up. You have another date tonight anyway." Strife smiled brightly for a second then his face fell. Hearing that he had another grabby, clingy male coming to objectify and harass him was hardly conducive to happiness.
"Sha," Strife managed before flashing out.
'Now to have a talk with Xuthos about his lack of discipline,' Ares walked over to the burning tent. He saw his warlord barking orders while his men beat at the flames of his ruined tent. He was invisible to the man; he leaned in and whispered in his ear. The man grew ashen and wobbled on his feet. His second managed to steady him.
"Pack up,” The second looked around, "Leave the tent. Xuthos is ill and unable to command. This was a pointless march. Everybody grab your things and go home to your families! We will choose a better time and place to wage war. Now is not our time!"
Ares smirked at the young solider. Maybe he would be ready sooner than the god had predicted. Poor Xuthos wouldn't know what hit him.
He watched from the shadows as the four set up camp. He frowned as he watched his target touching his brother. Joxer giggled and pushed him off as they ate their dinner in leisure. Autolycus didn't ease off. He groped Joxer's behind. Jett clutched his knife tight in his hand.
'What do you think you're doing with my brother?' Jett shook his head. That man was going to get his dick cut off. He didn't care if he had to kill the women and tie his brother up. Joxer was letting that fool touch him. Almost like...
"Well fuck me," Jett whispered. Joxer was pulled into Auto's lap and they shared a gentle kiss. This would complicate things.
Joxer kissed Auto and cuddled with him under their blanket. Xena and Gabrielle were on the other side of the fire sharing their own bedroll. He saw that they were happy together and it made him feel happy. He had Auto and he was still amazed at just how right it felt to be with him. Auto was snoring gently. In his sleep he hugged Joxer, pulling him tighter. Joxer pillowed his head against the man's shoulder and sighed.
He almost dismissed the faint crunching sound beside his head. In the dark a figure crouched over him throwing his hand over his mouth and whispered in a husky voice, "Hey Jox."
He recognized his brother's voice and relaxed. Jett had a policy of not hunting his family. Then he tensed. Jett wasn't there for him. He reached up and pushed at his brother hand. He whispered back, "What's going on Jett? Please tell me you’re not here to kill someone."
Jett gave him a look and shrugged. He tilted his head toward the sleeping man hugging him. Joxer misinterpreted it and slowly disentangled himself from his lover. Auto whined and pulled him back in. Joxer sighed and uttered to his husband, "I need to pee Auto love." He looked to where Jett had been standing and he was gone.
"K, babe,” He kissed Joxer's neck and allowed him up.
Joxer quietly crept to the surrounding forest. He found his brother leaning against a tree, "Sup Bro? You fucking the King of Thieves now?"
Joxer blushed but it was dark enough to hide it. He nodded his head, "He and I...we're lovers, yes."
"I'm going to kill him," Jet managed to threaten in the most emotionless voice possible. He leaned forward, "I was paid to, I'm just going to enjoy it more now."
"You might as well kill me too. I'm not going to raise a baby alone,” Joxer hissed, and stepped into Jett's personal space. Jett grabbed Joxer's arm, put it behind him and got him in a choke hold. Joxer struggled.
"I already accepted payment. If I go back on my word how good is my rep!" Jett snarled in his ear.
Joxer panicked and started hyperventilating, "I-I'm pregnant!"
Jett loosened his hold a bit, "Explain."
"Gods, a potion...long story," Joxer panted.
"That bastard got you pregnant, I'm gonna make him scream!" Jett pulled Joxer in close. He moved his arm around Joxer's chest.
"Please don't," Joxer begged, "I love him. Please. Jett?"
The assassin threw his hands up giving a frustrated sigh. Joxer stumbled away from him, but managed to not fall on his face. Jett watched his brother stumble. He didn't believe the pregnancy thing, but looking at Joxer he did notice a few things. His skinny little brother wasn't quite as skinny anymore. He had hips and a butt that made his brother feel a bit inappropriately uncomfortable. If they weren't brothers he could see himself bedding him. Then Joxer turned and Jett saw the curve to his stomach. Jett's mouth hung open and he came closer.
"Gods,” Jett fell on his knees and pressed his hand into the convex stomach. He rubbed it. His eyes wide, "You're not lying to me are you? You're, you are gonna have a baby? I'm an Uncle?"
Joxer just looked down and nodded, "And Auto is the father...err...the other father. Please, you can't kill him!"
"The person who hired me won't just accept it. If I don't kill him I'm going to have to kill a lot of people so word doesn't get around that I go back on my contracts,” He stood and grabbed Joxer by the shoulders hugging him, "Fine. I'm gonna go, I’ll find you after I straighten this mess out. I'm gonna want to see my niece or nephew."
"Oh ok,” Joxer just stood there in his brother's arms, "Thank you Jett."
"Fuck," Jett chuckled, "You know my policy. I don't kill family, and as long as Autolycus is taking care of you I can hold off on killing him. If he does anything to hurt you though..." He let Joxer go and vanished into the shadows leaving the threat hanging.
Joxer turned to go back to camp. He gasped sharply as he bumped into Xena.
"We're not going to have any trouble from your brother are we?" She was holding her chakrum.
The man sagged as the tension fled his body, "No. No, Jett doesn't break promises to me or Jayce. He never has, I would feel sorry for his employer if he wasn't trying to kill my husband."
Jett ran the half mile to his waiting horse. He growled in frustration as they galloped away in the night. That had not gone the way he planned; but he would do anything for his baby brother, including risking his reputation.
Strife washed up quickly, gelled up his hair and went to his room to wait out his punishment...he meant his date. Laid out on his bed was an outfit. He tried to ignore the clothes but when he tried to flash on his normal clothes the outfit attacked him and wrapped around him. Strife looked at himself in the mirror, "What tha Tartarus am I wearin?"
He was wearing a deep navy tunic with little flecks of silver sprinkled over it, looking like the night sky; His pants were soft loose silk that draped his legs like a skirt. He was wearing black silk slippers. Strife frowned and tried to take the shoes off and found them unwilling to be removed. He did mean unwilling. The clothes clung to him like a living thing. Strife raked his hand through his hair and cursed. The hair decided to follow the clothing's example. The gel was gone and his hair lay in loose ringlets. He thought up more gel and styled his air. It fell again.
"Your guest is here,” A priest appeared in the doorway bowing.
"Whateveah,” Strife shrugged angrily and pushed past the immortal. He burst into the main hall, "Shit! Not you!"
"Good to see you too, my little moonbeam," Adonis smirked, "I see you found my gift." Adonis was wearing a complimenting ensemble with gold and tan being his colors.
"Ah shoulda known," Strife griped, "This stupid get-up attacked me!"
"You look beautiful," Adonis ignored his complaint, "I just wish I could take you out and show you off, but Uncle Ares insisted you stay here for the evening." The god of beauty sauntered over to the younger god. He smirked and grabbed Strife's chin gently. Strife tried to jerk away but Adonis just moved his hand to his shoulder and pulled the slender god in for a kiss.
A throat was cleared, saving Strife from the unwanted contact. Strife expected to see his uncle but he looked behind Adonis to see Cupid with his arms folded over his chest standing imposingly. Cupid couldn't help appreciating his cousin's outfit. He had a feeling Adonis was behind it. While his adopted brother was his least favorite person on Olympus, at the moment, he had to admit he had good taste.
"Respect my cousin's personal space. Pops wouldn't hesitate to ruin your pretty face if you did anything to make Strife uncomfortable," Cupid warned. Strife swore his eyes were glowing bright green.
"Oh of course brother dear I wouldn't think of doing anything to bother our lovely cousin,” Adonis spoke without turning around. He pressed his lips to Strife's cheek. Which still repulsed Strife, but at least it wasn't a kiss on the lips this time. He swore he heard growling coming from his winged cousin.
"Dad's going to be a little late. He said something about having a meeting interrupted,” Cupid insinuated himself between Adonis and Strife. If Zeus were at all fair Strife wouldn't have to put up with the pompous ass that would have raped him given half a chance. If the fates were fair Strife wouldn't have drunk that potion. If the fates favored Cupid at all, then he would be to only one getting to court Strife. The fates and Zeus be damned, Cupid was going to be there for every date unless Strife himself told him to go away.
"Well then," Adonis said in an irate tone, "Shall we have some dinner? I thought I would bring some of my best offerings." He waved his hand and there in the main hall a golden banquet table materialized. It was overflowing with food and wine. Adonis waved his hand and four chairs appeared. One Adonis held for Strife. Strife just stood there looking suspicious.
"Theah bettah not be any aphrodisiacs in any of tha food...or tha wine," Strife warned. He produced a dagger from thin air and stabbed it in the perfect surface of the gilded table. He took a seat and let Adonis push him in.
"Of course not," Adonis took the seat next to him. Cupid took one of the other chairs at the other end of the long table and brought it to Strife's other side. He sat there, watching his step-brother like a hawk.
Adonis picked up a platter of oysters, fresh from the ocean sitting on pearly half-shells. He held one before Strife, "You should try one of these they're simply divine." The tall blond god chuckled at his lame joke. Strife shook his head violently. He wasn't about to eat anything out of Adonis’ hand like some pet. Especially since he couldn’t trust the god not to try something stupid like drugging the food.
‘Ah ain’t eatin anythin thah came offa tha table,’ Strife thought toward his cousin, ‘You nevah know he might actually be dumb enough to try somethin.’
Cupid nodded toward Strife.
Adonis was still holding the oyster out; he even gently prodded Strife’s lips with it. Strife moved to bat his hand away and opened his mouth to say something. The oyster was skillfully slipped past his lips and he swallowed it. He choked and coughed, “Damn it! Ah didn’ want it!”
“There’s no need to get crabby about it moonbeam,” Adonis patted his back indulgently.
“Don’ fuckin’ call me that! Makes me sound like a fuckin flower child,” Strife hissed at him.
Adonis rubbed his chin in thought, “I suppose the name doesn’t suit your nature but is does suit your looks. Anyway I wouldn’t think of you as one of Demeter’s children. Imagine…she would have grey hair by now if you were her ward.” Adonis chuckled again misconstruing the future refrence.
Strife just shook his head in disgust. He waited for any strange symptoms. After a few minutes he still felt fine he materalized a goblet of wine for himself and drank it down. Then he produced a future food called a sandwich and started eating. He ignored any entreaties from Adonis to try more of his offerings and finally the god banished the meal and angrily stormed out.
Cupid smirked in triumph as Strife whipped up something for him he called pizza. They shared a feast of future food.
"Why don't you marry me and save yourself the frustration? You know I would respect your wishes not to share a bed," Cupid looked Strife in the eyes.
"Ah, can't do that ta ya," Strife looked away, "It ain't faih ta ya or ta Bliss."
"...But Bliss loves you," Cupid argued, "I love you!"
"Ah, can't give yah what yah need," Strife turned further away.
"What if you're what I need?" Cupid asked putting his hand on Strife's shoulder.
"Yah can have anybody," Strife shrugged his hand off, "Why me?"
"You don't ask the easy questions do you?" Cupid frowned as his hand was shaken off its perch.
"Nah," Strife turned with a hint of a smirk, "When have Ah eveah made anythin easy?"
Cupid smiled and raised his hands in defeat, "I can't argue with you there. It might seem strange to you, but your mischief...It makes me feel alive. I know its cliche. After Psyche and I divorced, I felt like I'd failed, I felt blank, and it was hurting Bliss too. When you started visiting us things changed, but even before that...before I split from my wife I was noticing you. I felt so guilty looking at another while I was married to a woman I thoughht I loved, but our marriage was a shambles long before we cut ties."
Cupid sagged into his chair, "It doesn't matter now I guess...Anyhow, you didn't just touch my life, but Bliss' too. You are good for us, inspite of what you think. You brought brightness back into our home and our lives. We miss you when you aren't there, and Bliss asks about you everyday he doesn't see you. We want you. Me and Bliss. We want you to be happy and safe, and even...Even if you choose someone else we would want to be part of your life still. I'm so afraid that whomever you end up with would try to control you and rule over you. I'd never get to see you again. That terifies me," Cupid started out strong but by the end he was whispering and pleading with his eyes.
Strife had realized a while back that his eyes seemed to change color with his mood. They were dark almost chocolate brown thought there were always flecks of green in his irises. Strife's heart was pounding in his chest, trying to break through his rib cage. He put his hand on his breast bone and rubbed.
"Ah...ah, Ah don't know what ta say Cupes," Strife struggled with his words.
A boom and red sparkles interupted them, "Where's your date? Sorry you had to put up with him. He went over my head to Zeus, but at least you still get a say in who you choose." Ares looked between Cupid and Strife. He knew he had interupted something, "Did I miss something?"
"Ah..." Strife cursed under his breath and looked at his cousin, "Ah'm gonna marry Cupes. He asked an I'm...well fuck it. Yeah Cupid we can get hitched."
Cupid looked stunned. He held up his hand and opened his mouth, nothing came out but a gutteral bark. He felt like he'd been punched. He should feel happy but he knew Strife was only taking him up on his proposal to get out of seeing more suitors. Hadn't he asked for this himself? Yes he had. He was joining the man he loved in a sham marriage.
Cupid forced a smile and nodded. Bliss was going to be happy when he learned Strife would be moving in with them. Cupid felt a real smile grow and replace the forced one. He had asked for this. He promised to respect Strife's desires. He just had to work toward changing those desires. He could win Strife's love, and now he literally had eternity to do it.
Chapter 11: Engagement
Strife in my Life
Being married to him meant that he would have to move in with the love god. Be around him almost all the time. He wasn't giving up much...Well his temple...which he hardly ever visited anyway. It wasn't the nicest or fanciest looking, but it was his. Now he had to give it up!
Cupid's wings flapped in irritation as his mother paced her main temple room. She was shaking her head and yelling, "I know you mean well Cupie, but you are going about this the wrong way! You're rushing into things. Think of your fiasco of a marriage! You should take some time...maybe a century or two before thinking of getting tied down. That bitch broke your heart and left you vulnerable."
Joxer rubbed his back and grunted. It was getting hard traveling. His belly wasn't huge or anything but it was beyond hiding in a baggy tunic. His feet hurt and he felt exhausted, but he was looking forward to their next destination. Their friend Meg had settled into the life of an innkeeper. They were going to visit. He knew his friends intention to drop him off there and go on their way. That part made him sad, but at this point he agreed with them. He was slowing them down and traveling was dangerous for little Virgil.
Xena made good time getting to the village. Unfortunately it was small and only had shrines. She found one for Apollo though. She placed a few dinars in offering and called to him.
Chapter 12: Moving Forward
Strife in my Life
Chapter 12: Moving Forward
News travels fast; especially when Hermes is involved. The whole pantheon knew about the engagement before the two gods had even gone to Zeus with their news. Many of Strife's potential suitors were already at the doors to Zeus' Temple before the message had been delivered. There was an uproar and a call by a majority of the men for Zeus to give them a better chance at obtaining the suddenly very popular godling as their spouse. Strife could not go outside his Uncle's temple unescorted for fear of being abducted or attacked.
The biggest complaint from the rabble was that they hadn't even gotten their turn at courting the young god. Surely Strife would have picked one of them if it weren't for Cupid's interference...and that was their second biggest complaint. Cupid! He was almost always there and Ares was nearly always there during their meetings with Strife, but it was always both or either one. So they were bullied and intimidated into toning down their attempts to win the suddenly very desirable young male.
Yes, very suddenly, very desirable. Most didn't know about the potion, only that Strife was something very rare and very...pretty. Each one of them thought they should be the sole and covetous heir to such a treasure. So when Strife and Cupid were both required to meet with the king of the gods, their grandfather, there was a nice big angry crowd of lovelorn males glaring and hissing at Cupid and calling to Strife to reconsider the foolishness of choosing the love god.
"Strife love!" Zelus shouted over the din, ever trying to outdo the rest. He was holding a bouquet of deep red roses, shaking it anxiously. He forced his way past the crowd that blocked Strife and Cupid's way.
"Strife, hear me out! It’s not too late to change your mind! How can Cupid possibly protect you from the rest of them?" He hiked his thumb behind him to indicate the crowd, "He's just a love god! I'm one of Zeus' enforcers for Gods' sake! I'm perfect for you. Mischief and the spirit of competition! Think of what good strong sons we could make together, think of the fun we would have making those sons. I'm the god of out doing others so you know I'd be the best to please you in bed! Cupid might be a god of love but I'd be the better lover, besides Cupid's no warrior. Who's to say he wouldn't have a tragic accident..." He glanced at the other god, whose eyes were green and whose nostrils flared, but Cupid didn't open his mouth.
Zelus thrust the nearly black roses at Strife, "These are for you darling. They reminded me of your dark beauty."
Cupid was tapping his foot but didn't say anything. Strife looked at his cousin and then back to the primordial god frowning.
"No thank-ya," Strife linked arms with Cupid, surprised how safe it made him feel.
Zelus was not so easily put off though. He gave a false smile and reached for Strife's free arm. When he touched Strife he almost immediately regretted it. Strife had a dagger at his throat, but it was Cupid who was terrifying him. The love god grew pale. Hot air puffed from his nostrils as he picked up Zelus, and tossed him over the other gods. Cupid snarled at the lot of them, taking a menacing step toward the crowd. Strife jumped in front of him and waved his arms, "Calm down cuz!"
Cupid placed a hand (one that Strife swore was more claw like than human) on his cheek and caressed him. The winged god took a calming breath. Strife felt his heart skip, Cupid really wanted him badly enough to take on half the pantheon.
Strife turned resting his fists on his hips, smirking, "I suggest ya move or Cupes is gonna kick all a ya's asses!" The angry crowd parted and the two gods walked up the steps to Zeus' Olympus temple.
Zeus watched from the shadows, a smirk on his face. This was rather entertaining, and he felt rather proud of his grandsons for handling the situation so well. He knew like the rest of Olympus about the young gods' intention so their visit was purely a formality. It was tradition though and proper protocol.
As soon as they were safely inside Cupid witnessed Strife shrinking from his confident pose to something much more timid. Strife scooted closer to his larger cousin. The god of love knew it was only because he was afraid and not because he really wanted the closeness. Cupid was more a security blanket than a romantic interest at this point. It was his only point to work off of to win the younger god over. As casually as he could he put his arm around Strife's shoulders and led him deeper into the temple and to the main hall.
Joxer's face still haunted him every night in his dreams. He lay awake. The old man had gotten him far north before he was well enough to do anything. Far north and out of Greece before he overcame his bonds and wrested the reigns of the horse cart from the man.
Gallus had blood on his hands. He had not intended to kill Lydus. He only wanted to subdue him and escape but that fall from the cart...the sharp rock. It cracked his head open like an egg. There was blood...blood on the ground...on his hands. He tried to stop the bleeding but it was no good.
Lydus was frowning up at him but in his eyes there was no fear...not for himself at least. His eyes held sorrow and pity. Gallus growled and grabbed the bloody rock that had broken his skull. He finished the old healer with a few enraged strikes.
Joxer haunted his dreams, but it was those pitying eyes that always woke him. Lydus was still watching over him. Gallus felt numb, but his need to see Joxer and have him once more stayed strong.
He got up and started his day in spite of the darkness. He doused the embers of his smoldering fire pit and packed up his meager belongings, stolen or bartered for with the old man's pack. He kept some of the medicine...Stuff he recognized as a healing balm and some dried herbs he knew would make a sleeping draught. He kept the herbs in a water tight pouch under his shirt next to his heart. When he found his beloved again he would do the rational thing, and slip he and his group the sleeping potion. He'd then whisk his beautiful Joxer away. Those monsters had undoubtedly tricked his Joxer or bent his will somehow. If he could get him away from them then he could convince his love just whom he belonged with.
Gallus omitted the part he knew...the part about the potion bonding the two. He could take care of that. Kill the thief. Kill the one who stole away his love's heart.
It was still hours before sunrise and Gallus had a long trek south. He planned to head back toward Colyrus and try to pick the trail back up. He hoped he could track them down. It would take time and Joxer might be carrying that bastard's seed (Was carrying it, and he knew it deep down in his heart.) That was okay. Let the little one live. If Joxer couldn't be convinced that he was simply enchanted by the potion, then the child would make good leverage.
He rode south, on the cart. Why waste a good horse cart? When he got far enough south though he would have to give it up for fear that the thing be recognized. He would trade it and the tired horse for a fresh one, and a saddle.
Colyrus had seen its share of trouble since the dagger incident, but times were growing peaceful once more. It was almost too quiet the last few weeks, so when the stranger dressed in black led his equally black horse into the gates people were a little on edge. The dark man was very familiar. His likeness had inspired lust but he inspired fear in the guards.
"Joxer?" A short man with an eye patch approached, "Where are your friends? Where's Xena? I hope everything's alright."
The man turned to him, "You have me mistaken for someone." The man smiled at the shorter. He wasn't bad to look at, even with the missing eye; maybe because of it. Jett was a dangerous man; he liked scars. Scars showed off toughness. He smirked, "Nice eye patch..."
The shorter man gave a false smile, "Oh thanks...I'm Sosilus, and I apologize for the mistake. You look remarkably like a friend of mine."
"Should hope so, shared a womb with 'im," Jett smirked at the brunette and sized him up. Sosilus straightened up hoping he wouldn't have to show this man out of the gates.
"I didn't know he had a brother," The guard scratched his head and smiled awkwardly, "Much less a twin."
"Triplet," Jett leaned in. The other man was sweating, and it was a turn on for the assassin, "Another brother. Our mother had a hell of a time pushing us out."
Sosilus nodded. Jett stepped closer the horse following him. The Lieutenant stepped back again and looked behind himself. People were pretending to not notice the two of them but he did see the odd passer by glance their way. He didn't want a scene.
"Err; well any brother of Joxer is a friend of mine. How about I buy you a meal? The tavern's stew and mead are fairly good, and it’s right across the way," He pointed over Jett's shoulder. He wasn't certain weather to trust this look-alike's words. Thinking to keep him in a public place for a while. His captain was on duty and would be occupied for a few hours. Sosilus though he could handle one man.
Jett smirked at the nervous responses. Sure he thought this man was cute and attractive but he had no intentions of forcing anything. It was just fun to tease. Besides if he really was friends with Joxer he was safe...well unless a really high paying client wanted him dead, but he was learning that it was hard to go against his baby brother's wishes as of late. He wondered how his brother was doing, how the child within him was.
Sosilus held his breath as Jett seemed to grow serious and study him. Then he nodded and turned. Sosilus blinked stupidly for a second before following the new comer.
"Oh I didn't catch your name," The Lieutenant nearly shouted.
"I didn't give it," Jett smirked over his shoulders.
"Oh," Sosilus deflated a bit nervously, "Um..."
The mysterious triplet chuckled darkly, "Name's Jett."
Sosilus smiled and nodded. They entered the tavern. It wasn't the nicest place in Greece but they still had nice stew, and their mead was, as always, sweet and refreshing.
Joxer felt lips pressed to his forehead. He smiled and reached up pulling the owner of those lips down into a gentle kiss, "What a way to wake up."
"Feeling any better?" Auto caressed his cheek.
Joxer nodded, his hand slipped to his stomach and rubbed, "Better." He winced as his stomach tightened with a cramp, "Still having pain but much better."
He sat up and tried to scoot off the horse cart so he could join his friends at the fire. Phidais came over and grabbed his arm. Auto took the other and they helped him up.
"You shouldn't strain yourself," The physician admonished him. Auto grit his teeth. He was still not pleased to have the other man with them. Hercules and Iolaus were one thing, this guy though...he kept touching Joxer and fussing over him…dominating his attention all the time. Sure, he was a doctor and responsible for Joxer's well-being, but Auto just knew he was using that as an excuse to get closer to his husband.
It had been about five months since Joxer had been taken captive by the Gargareans. He was almost five months along, only three months left if the gods were to be believed. Joxer's stomach was becoming noticeable, and little Virgil was starting to make his presence known inside his dam.
Joxer took to wearing the colorful cloak that Auto had given him when they were around strangers, but the problem was, it was summer. Joxer was already overly warm without the added layer of clothing. The group tried to keep him away from strangers. Many men got too interested in him, and everybody else stared at his distended stomach. They were only couple days away from Meg's place, she settled near Corinth. The trip was easier with a horse and cart; it cut their travel time in half.
The pregnant man claimed a seat on a tree stump near the fire pit and rubbed his belly. He grunted in discomfort, "Auto!"
"What is it?" The alarmed thief fell to his knees before his lover. Joxer grabbed his hand and placed it on the side of his belly.
"It's our son...at least I think it is," They could both feel the movement. Something was pushing outward.
"Wow," Auto whispered in fascination as he pressed his cheek against the tiny bump.
"Oh, can I feel?" Gabrielle suddenly crowded them. Auto frowned but leaned back. Knowing Joxer well enough, that he would welcome the attention. Joxer was so proud of their little offspring.
Joxer sighed quietly and smiled. He nodded and let the woman paw at his belly. She cooed and gently rubbed the spot, but the baby fluttered away from the wall of his stomach. She pouted when the faint thump stopped.
"I think he's probably tired Gabby," Joxer comforted her then winced as the child started kicking his bladder. He pushed himself up and walked hurriedly toward the privacy of some bushes.
"You ok love?" Auto followed him.
"Yeah just have to relieve myself," Joxer grunted as the child in him seemed to be punching the same spot in his bladder over and over.
Auto chuckled quietly.
"It's not funny," Joxer pouted. He found a nice bush to stand behind and let his bladder loose.
"Sorry love, you're just too adorable," Auto admitted, smirking all the more.
Joxer was tucking himself away when a dizzy spell hit. He started to wobble, but Auto caught his arm before he could stumble, "Come back and sit baby."
"I can't wait till we reach Meg's," Joxer panted slightly as he was escorted back to the tree stump. He sat and let his lover fuss over him.
"Were just about two days ride from Corinth," Xena spoke up as she poked at the fire. She checked on their dinner of roast rabbits, slowly cooking over the flames.
"That's good," Joxer smiled and leaned on auto who had taken up residence next to him on the stump.
Auto wrapped his arm around Joxer's shoulders and lay his head against his lover's. Part of him was looking forward to the comforts of an inn but part of him knew he would have to leave Joxer there. They were running really low on money. After buying a horse and cart they had barely enough money left for supplies. As nice a Meg was; he doubted they could stay on at her tavern for free, not for three or four months in any case.
Cupid and Strife stood before their Grandparents. Zeus and Hera looked down on them from the dais where Zeus' throne sat.
"You are certain about this? I know you had your marriage to Psyche dissolved, but it is rather soon..." The queen stated in a cool voice.
"I know," Cupid started, looking into his Grandmother's eyes. She was a formidable goddess and the fact that she was the Goddess of marriage made things worse. He continued anyway, "Neither of us was happy in the marriage. We did love each other, and we do love our son, but I was merely infatuated with her. If things had been allowed to take their natural course we wouldn't have married."
Hera looked at her grandson, squinting as she read his heart. She knew his intentions were good but she wasn't certain the outcome would be for the best. Zeus however chuckled and clapped the love god on the shoulder.
"They'll be fine woman," The king of the gods turned to his wife smirking. She shrugged and nodded. She wished she were able to divorce her idiot husband but her godhood and position as the Queen prevented her from that sort of freedom.
"Fine," Hera finally relented, "You will of course be expected to have a proper ceremony this time." The Queen looked down on Cupid accusingly. He blushed and nodded.
"Next week seems like a nice time to hold the ceremony," Zeus added, "We shall have a feast and all the temples will be filed with fare for your worshipers to partake."
"Don't ya think tha's kinda soon?" Strife asked nervousness written on his brow. He rubbed the hilt of the dagger he kept in his sleeve to give him some sort of reassurance.
"Better not put it off, the longer you remain unmarried, and un-mated, the more desperate the other gods are probably going to get," Cupid pointed out as he rubbed the other god's back.
Strife shook him off frowning, "This bites!" Feeling a spark of rebellion in his chest, but he quickly deflated, reminding himself he could be a lot worse off. He turned looking through the window overlooking Zeus' courtyard. The throng had not dissipated, but nobody dare enter the temple at least. The mischief god's shoulders slumped, "I guess it’s tha only way then..." He knew it was but part of him was hoping there was a better way. A way that didn't cheat Cupid or Bliss or force him to perform the duties of a child bearing spouse.
"If we gotta," Strife pressed his forehead into the cool marble. He stood there for a second, still as a marble statue. Then he vanished. Cupid felt panic rising in his throat.
'Pops! Strife took off!' He sent a thought to his father.
'Relax son,' Ares responded, 'He's here. He said he needed some alone time so just give him some space.'
Cupid didn't respond right away.
'Son?' Ares prodded him.
"Yes fine!" He shouted out loud then he vanished to his temple. There were preparations to be made anyhow. Strife was going to need a room and furniture. Sure the god could whip up his own, but the god of love wanted to do something nice for his fiancé.
Strife lay face down on the bed in his uncle's temple with his head under a pillow. He wished he could just smother himself.
"Sometimes it sucks ta be a god," He mumbled to himself using more of that future slang. Ares stood at his door watching the mini melt down and Strife screamed into his blankets and kicked his feet. He didn't want any of this. It wasn't fair! All his life he'd been handed the short end of the stick, if that stick had been dropped in nasty wet manure. He screamed a few more times then he rolled over and sat up.
"Feel better?" Ares failed to suppress his smirk.
Strife shot him a dirty look and Ares gave him a warning frown. Strife made a gesture he picked up from the future that wasn't very nice.
"Want me to chop off that finger?" Ares warned but his tone was more warm than threatening.
Strife put his finger down and deflated, "It ain't faih Unc!"
"Yeah," Ares came into the room and sat on the bed. Strife scooted over to give him room, "Yes it's unfair, but it's how the loom of fate has directed your life. Cupid will treat you right though."
"I ain't worried 'bout that Unc!" Strife snarled, "I know Cupes'll do everythin in is powah to do right by me. I just...I can't...I...I can't give 'im what he needs, Him and little Bliss. It isn't faih ta them!"
Ares quirked a brow, "I don't see how this is unfair to Cupid....last time I checked he was crazy about you."
"I...It’s complicated," Strife hugged himself. He rocked his slender torso, remembering things from long ago. Things that haunted him still, and would for the remainder of eternity. Strife peeked at his Uncle expectantly. Waiting for the god of war, his guardian, to demand a reason; but Ares was just looking at him...into him almost.
He nodded and stood, "Get some rest. You are off duty until after the wedding. If there's a honeymoon then you have that time off too."
Strife's mouth hung open as he watched his uncle leave the room. He clapped it shut, "Fucking Tartarus?"
Chapter 13: Settling Inn
I have been sitting on this chapter for far too long. I Feel it ends too abruptly, but I havent been able to write more in a while. My mom had her last chemo treatment last week and I'm caring for her until she feels better. Were waiting for her CT scan to see if she's in remission. I hope to come back soon and continue the story.
Strife in my Life
Chapter 13: Settling Inn
They were less than a day from their destination. Gabrielle drove the cart so that Auto could stay with Joxer in the back. He held Joxer in his lap. The ride was bumpy, but the thief did his best to cushion his lover who was having back pain. Phidais had been retrieved by Apollo himself only the day before. Joxer was stable and out of danger. He just needed to take it easy. His body was not designed to hold a child. Even modified by the potion as it was, this was still going to be harder on him than a normal pregnancy was on a woman.
Joxer turned in his sleep and nuzzled his nose into the crook of Auto's neck. He supressed a shiver as his cock twitched in interest. Joxer's prominent nose pressed into his pulse point and he had to bite his lip. Damn his libido. His lover was suffering and merely seeking comfort. It was when he felt lips pressing where his nose had been that he lost it.
"Joxer," Auto said as calmly as he could. He knew the man could feel his erection poking him in the hip. He sighed, "How long have you been awake?"
The leaned back looking as innocent as the cat who got the cream. He threw his hand over his mouth and yawned, "I don't know. Just a little while."
"How long have you been set on torturing me?" Auto nudged Joxer away from his throat.
"As long as I've been having cramps. You are at least partially responsible for this situation. You have to be punished," Joxer stated frankly before pressing his lips against his lover's neck once more. This time sucking a nice welt. Auto's hips bucked slightly. Joxer chuckled, "Someone's horny."
"Only because you're teasing me," Auto grabbed Joxer by the cheeks and pulled him into a seering kiss as he bucked against his lover's side. Joxer moaned loudly and turned so he was properly sitting in his husband's lap. He could feel Auto straining against his pants and met him with his own awakening member. Chills ran down his spine. Auto thrust up groaning. Joxer's entrance twitched in anticipation. He could feel it getting wet.
Suddenly a throat was cleared, "Please don't do that where I can hear you." Gabrielle pulled the reigns to slow the cart, "Xena says its just a few more hours until we arrive. Then you two can get a room."
Joxer sagged against Auto, giggling. He whispered, "You better be prepared to fuck me as soon as were alone again." He licked the shell of Auto's ear. He then cuddled up against the thief who looked very put out. His cock still twitching. He couldn't manage to think of something disgusting to will away the erection. It was impossible with the inviting warmth in his lap. It was going to be a long few hours.
The place was crowded. Men shouting, laughing and regaling each other with tales of conquest and battle field heroics. Most of the people at the inn were older men but there were a few youngsters sitting at tables or standing near the bar. There were a few women seated enjoying a meal or drink, or the company of a pleasantly sloshed gentleman.
Meg was wiping the counter and nodding at customers pleasantly. Her clientele were mostly men, and for good reason. Pretty girls were carrying trays laden with frothy mugs of mead or grog. Others lined the walls and the stairs to the right of the front hall. All of her maids wore tight corsets and short skirts. One of her girls came flouncing over with an empty tray. She swiped at her brow, her golden tresses sagged from the heat and humidity.
“Three ales and stew, Meg,” She rested her tray on the polished counter.
“That Brison and his boys…behaving, are they?” The tall brunette leveled her eyes at the woman. Her blonde curls were tussled and dress looked a bit ruffled.
“Oh,” She gave a weak smile, “Just a little friendly groping, Meg. Nothin’ to cause a scene over.”
“You mind the bar Ada,” Meg ordered the young woman as she slowly filled the tray. She wound her way between tables with her head held high and her shoulders thrown back. A few men started to reach for her backside. She turned and fixed them with a glare that would have done Xena proud. Thanks to hours of practice impersonating the warrior woman she had that frosty gaze down pat, and though she was no warrior she had a mean left hook to back up that frown. The men mostly just went back to their drinks. A few nodded to her respectfully, and a few of the more drunk ones still watched as her curvy body glided across the floor with a practiced grace.
Coming to Brison’s table the men were laughing at a story their leader was telling. She stood behind him and the men quieted and straightened up.
“So I was holding my pants in one hand and a sword in the other…” Brison trailed off and looked up to see the stern faced Meg holding their food and drinks over his head, “Oh, hello Meg,” He looked more at her cleavage than her face and smirked.
Meg frowned and moved between him and one of his companions. Brison made a gesture as if to grab her backside as she was doling out their orders. One of his friends, a short broad man with thick oily black hair giggled drunkenly. The man across from the other two rolled his eyes, he discretly leaned back in his chair waiting for the inevitable disaster. Meg having devloped a keen sense of her surroundings from hours of avoiding fumbling drunken attempts on her tush turned swiftly and slammed Brison's grog on the table, "Keep those hands to yourself if you don't want to lose 'em."
He hiccuped and grinned, "Where did my sweet Ada wander off to?" He failed miserably at trying to look innocent.
"She went where I told her to," Meg sighed, "You know you can't grab the girls. Even if you're paying for it, I expect you to treat 'em nice. Ada's just trying to serve drinks and you know very well she's only a bar maid. If you're looking for a good time go talk to Niko or Rhea, they're both free for the night." Meg gestured to two of the women standing on the stair case looking utterly bored. One of them noticed Meg gesturing to them and smiled seductively.
Brison blushed as the woman leaned over, her ample breasts barely restrained by the thin fabric of her top.
"Well...for such a lovely lady...I suppose I could spare a few coin and a few hours of my time?" He stood forgetting his stew. He took up his tankard, gulping down about half. The rest soaking his shirt. He wobbled sideways for a second then he started over to the two pretty ladies.
"You two behave," Meg warned to the other men at the table. She headed back to the bar. Brison and his friends were mostly big talk and sometimes really handsy. There were worse customers. Much worse. She watched as Rhea and Niko both took one of the man's arms and helped him up the stairs and to the private rooms where they could give him his money's worth, or where he could pass out for the evening. Either way she'd get some coin off him.
Meg's eyes wandered to the door. It was getting on in the evening but she had a scroll from Joxer that he and his friends were heading her way. She was a bit excited to see her friends and Joxer, maybe he would finally catch on and settle down with her. He had mentioned a surprise. She didn't get her hopes up. Espically if the blonde was still galivanting around with Xena. The matron of the establishment sighed and looked away from the door. They would get there when they got there; and no matter how much she watched the door, that wasn't going to be any sooner.
Cupid watched Strife from a scrying mirror. He was still giving the other god some space. He could see the younger male was on edge.
Strife was organizing his weapons, laid out on a table in his room. Mostly daggers, but there was a bow and some arrows. Cupid smiled he recognized the bow. It was the one they'd been using at Colyros. Cupid had forgotten about that. It was still broken. Strife picked it up and materialized a new bowstring. He carefully restrung it. Then he picked up an arrow and knocked it. Drawing the bowstring back he shot it and at the last second a target popped into existence, catching the arrow. It wasnt a perfect bullseye, but it was close. Strife drew another arrow and shot again. This time hitting dead center. The godling stroked the polished wood of the bow then rested the weapon on the table.
Cupid felt a hand on his shoulder and turned. Psyche was standing there looking sad, "You never looked at me like that," She paused smiling, "You truly love him don't you? You...I knew something was holding you back from loving me the way you wanted to."
"I'm sorry Psyche," The god looked at his hands. He put the mirror down.
"Well...you called me here," The goddess supressed a sigh. She was at least a little jealous. Not that she would even think of trying to win her former lover back. She knew how Cupid truly felt, and how his mind worked. She did not know if Cupid and Strife were meant to be together, but she just had to grin and bear it. She was a goddess now, not a mortal. She had a beautiful child and eternity to find the happiness she had hoped to nurture with the man she thought she loved. She still did...in a way...love him. She knew that their love had not been true. She had been the one to end the farce after all. If Cupid asked her for help, she knew it must be for Strife. Resolved she squared her shoulders. She had dealt enough with the Godling's mind to know he has suffered. She held no resentment for the other, well maybe a tiny little spark of envy, but she would not let her feelings get in the way of her godhood.
"I want to help him," Cupid looked to his Ex, "You said we could help him get over what's bothering him?"
"I said we could help him deal with this. He can't just 'get over' his problems Cupid. There is some mental trauma there. They have supressed his mind. I have no idea the extent or severity of the damage to his mind. I only know its bad, and I don't know how much damage has been done to his mind over the years. It is dangerous tampering with the mind and suppressing memories the way they have.'
"Mom said she can sense heart break there too, if we could work together..." Cupid looked to his ex-wife hopefully.
Psyche bit her lower lip and frowned, "Its not that I don't want to...I really do, but Asclepius explained things to me and it really sounds dangerous. I would want him on board with this and...we would have to go above Ares."
"Not once he's married to me. He will be under my protection. Pops might still be his superior in work but in all else he is under my house," Cupid's eyes flashed bright green and his nostrils flared. He didn't like thinking of anyone being over Strife in anyway. He knew his father only meant to protect him, but he still felt jealousy rearing its ugly head.
"Ok Cupid, we can try, after you two are married...Maybe this is a good thing, you could lend your strength to him while we work," The goddess nodded and forced a smile.
"Thank you," Cupid took her hand and kissed it. He looked truly grateful. Psyche felt a real smile replacing the forced one. Cupid was happy. That was all she had wanted since their marriage had started falling apart. She just wished she could have what Cupid and Strife had, with someone.
The cart came to a stop and Auto started awake. The moon was high and the stars shone bright. Joxer cuddled against him snoring softly. Auto stretched and yawned, "Why'd we stop."
"Were here," Xena said as she dismounted from Argo.
"Ok," The thief started to shake his lover, "Wake up Jox."
The other man groaned and stretched, "What's it?"
"We've made it to Megs." Auto pressed his lips into Joxer's soft hair.
Joxer opened his eyes. it was dark, well the sky was, but torches blazed and a warm glow emanated from the large building situated by the road. They were close enough to the village that he could make out buildings even in the dark but they had plenty of space surrounding them and lots of trees. Joxer decided he liked the location. It was nice and peaceful. That was until he heard shouting and someone was bodily thrown out the front door. A riot of noise poured from the establishment. Shouting, singing, fighting, arguing and laughter.
Joxer looked through the door and there stood Meg frowning at the man who had just been kicked out. He smiled and waved. She noticed the group and her scowl melted into a grin. She stepped over the drunkard and came out to meet the group, "Joxer! Xena! Um...Gabrielle, and Autolycus! Its good to see you. I got your scroll a few days ago!" She shouted happily, "Well don't just sit there! Come on in...I'm sure your hungry...and thirsty!" She looked back at the group, focusing mostly on Joxer. Joxer scooted to the back of the cart and stood.
Xena and Gabrielle shouldered tehir packs and smiled at the other woman, "It's good to see you too Meg," Xena smiled warmly. Gabrielle nodded in agreement.
Meg's smile was tempered a bit when she saw him struggling and the destended stomach. She noticed how Auto was helping the man and felt a thrill of worry in her chest. She hid her concern and turned back to the tavern, "I got some empty rooms you can use...Well lets get inside," She held the door open and waited for them. Joxer's movements were slow and Auto was helping him.
Meg nudged Xena and nodded toward Joxer, "Is he sick?"
Xena heard worry in her voice and gave a crooked smile, "It's a long story and Joxer isn't sick. We'll tell you when we get somewhere private."
"Ok, you four can get cleaned up and I'll get you a meal," The matron of the establishment let them in her inn.
"This place is crowded," Joxer commented as he and Auto brought up the rear. Meg got a good look at him and noted the healthy glow of his skin and his previously gaunt figure seemed to have filled out. but that stomach didn't look like fat. It looked like a woman with child. They walked in on the festive environment. Men cavorting and singing, drinking and laughing. Women of ill repute joining them with pretty painted faces, barely clothed, and bosoms exposed in some cases. Some of the men took notice of Joxer as he walked past. Auto met hungry looks with a dangerous glare. Meg noticed and didn't like the feeling. The air was charged, like it got before a fight.
She ushered the group away from the bar and toward the promised rooms, "Come on. Rooms are this way."
Auto nodded and pulled Joxer behind him. Xena and Gabrielle followed behind, glancing at would be challengers. The air settled once they were out of the main room and in a darkened hallway. It was on the ground floor and seemed to be in the back of the building.
"The two rooms at the end of the hall," Meg pointed them out, "I'll send some food. You all rest up and we can talk after I close down for the night."
"Thank you," Xena nodded as she and Gabrielle entered the first room. Joxer was pulled into the last room and spun on his heels. Before he could complain he was soundly kissed. He hummed in surprise then melted into his lover's embrace.
"Baby I've been waiting to do that for too long!" Auto pulled away only to be pulled back in. Joxer took his chance to dominate his husband's mouth kissing him hard and hungry. The men were lost in eachother when someone knocked at the door. Joxer pulled away sighing, but then the smell of stew hit his nose and his stomach growled. Auto chuckled and patted his back then he pushed his lover toward a chair next to the lone table in the room.
"I'll get it," Auto smiled and opened the door. A young woman was holding a platter. She smiled and swept into the room. She set the tray on the table before Joxer. Then she looked Autolycus over and blushed. She bowed, "Someone will be back later to collect the tray." She saw herself out.