AresJoxerCupidStrife - Jay


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15

This is a response to the Stud Doubles challenge
Actually I had a weird idea this evening. What if Ares is a
virgin (the fates decreed that he must remain so until hope is
needed.), all of 'his' children are the result of "stud" doubles.
However *the time has come (so say the fates) for Ares'
sacrifice to be taken by one who loves him. And so shall Chaos be
defeated.*
Okay, strange it is but why not.
okay another addendum. What if Ares is actually
only holding the title God of War for his mate, at that time his
true godhood would be revealed. And that will be.... :)
I hope someone takes this idea up and gives it a home.
Toby
I've also decided that Ares' normal behaviour is how his father and
the rest of his family tell him the God of War should act, and he's
really very submissive.

Title: Innocence
Author: Jay
E-mail: Jessica.Robertson@ncl.ac.co.uk
Rating: Hard R
Fandom: Xena/HtLJ
Pairing: Ares/Joxer
Disclaimer: Not mine, they belong to those nice people at
Renaissance Pictures, who I'm sure won't sue me
Warnings: Contains issues of dominance/submission in a relationship.
Summary: Ares isn't the real God of War, he's only standing in until
his destined mate claims his position.

Ares watched his daughter and her pet bard ignoring one of his
most faithful warriors. He occasionally indulged himself in dreams
that a warrior who had caught his attention was his destined mate,
but none of those he had considered before had captivated him the
way Joxer did. By all rights Joxer should be a famed hero, or a
notorious warlord by now, his balance and co-ordination were perfect
when tested in isolation, Apollo had insulated him from the world
and performed all sorts of tests at Ares' request when Joxer became
clumsy at the age of fifteen. Ares had thought there was a curse or
something on Joxer, because prior to that he had been well on course
to fulfil his potential, a greater warlord than Xena at her best, or
a more noble and skilled hero than Hercules. Apollo had demanded
that Ares 'perform' for him - masturbate in front of him - and let
Apollo grope him in exchange, but had been careful not to compromise
his virginity.

The strict requirements for virginity, according to the Fates
were that Ares had never climaxed through another's touch, nor
caused another to climax by his touch. So he was permitted to
masturbate, and Apollo had collected the semen later to fertilise
goddesses who wished to bear a child by the God of War, even if he
was just a placeholder for his destined mate, and those mortal women
the Fates said were required to bear a child of War. Ares didn't
really expect his future husband to be faithful to him - who would
want to be faithful to a consort forced upon them? Especially a
virgin consort, who knew nothing about pleasing his husband.

Ares had never been able to understand why Joxer still
worshipped him, worshipped War, he had been dedicated with his
triplets but Jett had turned to Thanatos and Jace to Aphrodite. Why
had Joxer remained faithful when Ares had been able to do nothing to
help him? Nothing to help him fight at any rate. He had requested
that Joxer go to his daughter to guard her, as a special mission
from him - even going so far as to request that he wear that
ridiculous suit of armour so Xena wouldn't get suspicious. He had
known that in her quest for redemption Xena would immediately start
to protect Joxer when she could, and the armour had been made by
Hephaestus at Ares' request, it protected Joxer despite its
appearance. He hadn't been able to explain why he'd done that,
hadn't really understood it himself, but everyone assumed that Ares
just hoped Joxer would be his future mate, someone not too cruel,
but still a worshipper of War. That was the only thing the Fates had
permitted the rest of the gods to know, that Ares' destined mate
would be a worshipper of War. It was deeper than that, but Ares
wasn't sure how, any more than he knew why Joxer still worshipped
someone who couldn't give him what he needed.

Ares bit his lip and looked around guiltily. He wasn't supposed
to do this, to shapeshift into any form where he might be vulnerable
to rape, but he wanted to speak to his daughter on civil terms for a
change, and to see Joxer. He couldn't do that in any form that might
seem threatening. He changed into a woman, not beautiful. Her hair
was still black but it fell past her shoulders. Her nose was far too
large and strong for her face, the best that could be said of her
was that she was handsome. Ares chose a path that would allow her to
meet with Xena and her companions a few miles ahead, and created a
backpack with everything she needed to travel. The Sword of War she
changed into a small dagger, something any village woman might carry
to protect herself with.

Unfortunately she joined the main road as a group of men were
approaching the junction. There were about a dozen of them and the
leader grabbed Ares by the arm, pulling her to him and beginning to
undress Ares.

"Let go of me!" Ares tried to avoid hurting them too badly, but
she swiftly had to resort to using her dagger. She'd already dropped
her backpack and managed to kill three of them before they wrested
the dagger form her hand and pinned her down.

Then Xena's chakram came flying towards them, killing the man
about to force himself on her. That gave Ares just enough leverage
to roll out from under the men. She grabbed her dagger and killed
another before Xena attacked, then she just stayed out of the way,
watching the fight. Xena killed another four men and Gabrielle
knocked three out. Joxer hadn't managed to kill any, why Ares was so
fascinated by a blood innocent was beyond her.

"Are you all right?" Now she remembered. Joxer had bent down to
help her up, then he picked her backpack up for her as she replied.

"Yes, I think so..." No one had ever tried to force themselves
on Ares like that. This was the first time she'd disobeyed her
father's edict and gone out in the mortal realm in a form that was
at risk of rape. The rest of the gods had always protected him from
anything like that, even to the extent of disguising themselves as
him when he needed to bind someone to the service of War through
sex. So, although Xena was his daughter, she only thought she'd been
his lover. In actual fact it had been Cupid who'd taken her to his
bed. He'd known intellectually that his warriors often raped the
defeated, and Xena had even used a subtle form of rape, requiring
men to buy their lives by pleasuring her, in his presence. But until
now he hadn't understood the risk as it applied to him or the true
horror of rape, the feeling that it was to some extent your own
fault. Ares burst into tears in delayed reaction.

"Hush, it's all right. You're safe now. You can cry yourself
out, no one will think less of you." Joxer gathered her into his
arms and whispered words of comfort and reassurance to Ares, until
she was able to stop crying. "Xena, could we set up camp somewhere
close? She..."

"Call me Aria, please."

"Aria has had quite a shock and she needs to feel safe. You
aren't going to abandon her to be attacked again are you?" Ares
stiffened in Joxer's arms, scared at the thought of being forced
sexually. "I'm sorry Aria, I didn't mean to upset you, but I swear
if I can protect you I will." Joxer, it seemed, had learned how to
manipulate Xena himself, because she agreed, and Ares wondered what
it would be like to belong to a husband who would protect him
because it was the right thing to do, rather than merely because
Ares was his property. He'd been raised knowing he would be nothing
more than the property of his destined mate, all titles that were
his by right of birth would go to the true God of War, and he would
only be granted an independent godhood if his husband gave his
consent to it. Despite that Ares longed with all his soul for his
marriage to take place, so he didn't need to pretend to be something
he wasn't. He was coached on how to act by his father, his
nephew/son, Strife, his sisters, Eris - who was a true War Goddess -
and Athena - who was a different aspect of War, and many other
members of the House of War.

**********



"What were you doing travelling on your own anyway Aria?"
Gabrielle at least had the courtesy to wait until camp was set up
before speaking, but she made her question into a demand and
accusation, she'd been very hostile to Aria, and plainly didn't
trust her. Aria cowered back into Joxer's protective arms before
replying.

"I didn't realise that I was at risk, not really. I've had a
sheltered upbringing, I was never allowed around anyone who might
try something like that, at least not alone."

"That doesn't explain what you're doing so far from anywhere
civilised." Gabrielle wasn't going to drop the subject and she
sneered in contempt at Aria. For once Xena looked disturbed by her
lover's behaviour, and Joxer was certainly displeased.

"I didn't grow up in any town or city." Which was the truth
after all - Olympus wasn't a town or city. "I wanted to meet people
for a change, I'm not supposed to see anyone outside of those
approved by my parents without someone to guard me." Again true,
even when he'd been rendered mortal there was always a god or
goddess checking up on him. He'd only been left alone long enough to
do this because there'd been an emergency with a war in Macedonia,
and Eris had been in too much of a rush to call for a replacement
guardian. Besides it wasn't as if any of these three would try to
force themselves on him.

"You're lying! What sort of parents would be that protective-"

"Enough Gabby! You're scaring and upsetting her. You don't have
any reason to doubt her word. Now let her alone." For once Joxer put
the blonde bard firmly in her place and she shut up purely from
shock.

"If you wish it I could prepare your meal for you? I do know how
to cook, even on an open fire." Aria was nervous about making the
offer, but she wanted to please Joxer, show him that she'd make a
good consort.

"Go ahead, it might be nice to try something new." Xena granted
permission quickly. "What did you intend to cook?"

"Rabbit, if there's any in the traps." She glanced at Joxer
nervously.

"Would you like me to come and help you check them?" He'd picked
up on her fears and acted to alleviate them.

"Please."

There were four rabbits in the traps, Joxer helped Aria gut them
once she'd found the other things she'd need. The first rabbit she
stuffed with a cut up wild onion and some wild thyme, then she built
a ball of claylike mud around it and set it in the fire to cook. The
second rabbit she skinned and quartered, setting it above the fire
to roast, and the last two she made into a stew with some more of
the wild onion, and some wild carrot and other roots.

Aria never had the chance to taste her cooking, Cupid appeared
just as she was dishing out. He grabbed her left arm and pulled her
to her feet.

"What are you doing here? What were you thinking anyway?" His
fury was apparent in his voice, he looked a true son of War.

"I just wanted a chance to meet people, to speak to mortals."
Aria was almost crying, visibly deflated and scared. She didn't look
above Cupid's feet, kept her eyes firmly on the ground.

"How could you be so stupid!" Cupid began shaking her and that's
when Joxer decided to intervene. "You nearly got raped! You know how
important it is that you remain virgin until-"

Cupid screamed and released Aria as Joxer dug his fingers into
Cupid's elbow searching for the nerve junction. He gathered the now
crying woman into his arms. "It's alright, I won't let him hurt you,
you're safe I swear it..." He kept murmuring reassuring words until
she was calm again, then he turned on Cupid.

"You inconsiderate bastard! She was almost raped as you pointed
out yourself - that happens to be a very traumatic experience, not
that I'd expect any of you gods to understand that. Even if you were
scared that she got hurt no one with even an ounce of compassion
would have come in here, grabbed her like that then started
screaming at her! Are you all right Aria? I didn't scare you,
shouting like that did I?" His voice quietened as he addressed the
woman in his arms, smiling down at her.

"No, I feel safe with you, I know you'd never hurt me. No one's
ever stood up for me like that before, not just because it was the
right thing to do." She was all wide-eyed and adoring, until
Gabrielle interrupted.

"I knew she couldn't be trusted! All that nonsense about a
sheltered upbringing and her parents not letting her see anyone they
hadn't approved of. What in Tartarus is a god doing coming to get
her?" Aria just cowered into Joxer's body, Cupid was the one to
explain.

"When Aria was born the fates said she had to remain virgin
until she was married to her destined mate. The definition of virgin
in this case is extreme, not just the physical presence of her
hymen, when she gets married she must never have climaxed by
another's touch, nor caused another to climax by her touch. All the
gods on Olympus know that, so that's the safest place for her - and
she isn't supposed to leave Olympus without one of the House of War,
or the House of Love escorting her."

"You mean you keep her as a prisoner." Joxer didn't approve, you
could hear it in his voice. "Aria must be bored out of her mind. No
one would be willing to talk to her when she's with a god, and only
gods are really comfortable talking with gods, there's too much
difficulty in being able to talk freely to someone who could blast
you out of existence with a thought."

"You don't seem to be having too much difficulty telling me
off." Cupid sounded wryly amused at Joxer's attitude.

"Hey, Aria said it was her parents who never let her go anywhere
without escort." Gabrielle's interruption was well timed for once,
it forced Cupid to answer her, rather than focus on Joxer's attitude.

"If the Fates require it gods have been known to adopt mortals,
they usually make them immortal or gods though. As far as Aria is
concerned Zeus and Hera are her parents. Tell me Joxer, how do you
think we could protect her unless we keep her with us?"

"You're gods, can't you put some sort of spell on her so no one
could touch her without her consent?" Joxer bit his lip, thinking
about how that would work.

"How do you expect us to do that?" Cupid had never heard of any
spell that could do that.

"I've got an idea, but it's hard to put into words, give me a
quill and some parchment, and I'll show you." Cupid blinked, a
little startled at Joxer's casual authority, then obeyed. Joxer took
the parchment and quill, then spent about twenty minutes writing and
drawing diagrams.

"Here, this should work." He rolled the parchment up and handed
the resulting scroll to the love god.

"Thanks, but I still have to take Aria back to Olympus with me."

"Are you alright with that?"

"Yes, just...is Father going to hit me?"

"No, he thinks what almost happened to you is punishment
enough." Cupid wrapped Aria in his arms then flashed them both back
to Olympus. That left Joxer to deal with Xena and Gabrielle's
questions. The problem was he couldn't explain why he'd been able to
come up with the information on how to set that sort of spell. They
eventually came to the conclusion that he'd channelled the sleeping
goddess Gaia, or something similar.

*********



"How did you do that dad?" Cupid questioned his father as soon
as he got them back to his temple. "You can return to your real form
before you answer me."

"I don't understand the question Cupid. How did I do what?" Ares
returned to his own form, wearing the soft red silk tunic and pants
he wore when he didn't have to play God of War, and curled on
Cupid's blue sofa, eyes cast down as was appropriate for him. He
played with a strand of his hair, as long as it had been when he
called himself Aria, in an effort to calm his nerves.

"Stop Joxer panting after that blonde bitch. Mom and I have
tried to pair him with someone, anyone, else for years, but you did
it effortlessly. He was actually standing up to her, for you - he
stood up to me for your sake as well, and he had a definite interest
in you." Cupid sat by his father and unrolled the scroll Joxer had
given him to look it over as he talked.

"I don't know, I was just myself."

"Your sweet submissive self, not the Wargod persona? Perhaps
that's where we went wrong. We thought since he was pursuing
Gabrielle he'd only be interested in dominating women, so that's
what we pushed at him."

"Then is there any chance I might speak to him again, as Aria?"
Ares slid from the couch to kneel at Cupid's feet.

"Did you really enjoy talking to him that much?" Cupid didn't
entirely realise it, but his hand fell to stroke Ares' hair and pet
him.

"It was nice to talk to equals, as an equal." That made Cupid
pay attention, he looked up from the scroll and realised what he was
doing.

"But you have that here on Olympus - don't you?"

"Forgive me, but no. I'm not a real god, I never will be and
everyone knows it. They talk down to me, or disregard me. I don't
mind, it isn't anything I object to, but it was nice not to have
anyone stepping round me like a snake, or talking over me, like a
pet." As soon as Ares had finished speaking he bowed his head to the
floor in wordless apology.

"Get up Ares!"

Instant obedience, Ares stood quietly, eyes cast down, waiting,
for punishment for his presumption. Cupid bit his lip, he knew it
would be a mistake to say what he was thinking.

"Do you have any idea how erotic that is?" But he said it
anyway, and the only reply was a puzzled glance up at his face. "The
automatic submission you display to everyone."

"It will please my husband then?"

"I should imagine so. Considering this, Joxer might actually be
your destined mate, whatever that means in particular. I'll see if I
can talk Zeus into permitting it on occasion. Even if you aren't
allowed to visit him as Aria I could bring Joxer up to Olympus to
talk to you."

"Thank you Cupid."

"Just wait here, relax however you like while I try to get some
support. Zeus does want to see you in an hour's time, but I should
be able to put some sort of pitch together by then." Ares curled up
on the sofa again, creating a brush to tend to his hair while he
waited.

Eris was the first to arrive, she already had scorch-marks on
her black leather outfit and was very angry. she pulled Ares up to
his feet and slapped him across the face once.

"That's for doing something so stupid!" She slapped him again,
on the other cheek this time. "And that's for not just blasting
those idiots who tried to rape you!

"Now, Cupid says there's a chance we can convince Zeus that you
meeting up with Xena and her pets was a good thing. Sit down and
tell me what happened."

Ares returned to his position on the sofa and explained.

"I don't really understand, but Xena saved me from those men -
if they'd got any further I would have used my powers, but...you
know how I feel about that..." He bit his lip to stop tears forming
then continued. "Joxer comforted and reassured me, he defended me
from that bard my daughter's so fond of. Then when Cupid arrived to
bring me back he defended me from him too, and suggested a way you
could let me travel as a mortal without being at risk of rape. I
didn't understand, it's not my place, but he said something about a
spell to prevent people touching me..."

"How?"

"I don't know, he gave Cupid a scroll with the information on
it. Cupid thinks that Joxer might be my destined mate."

"Do you like that idea?"

"Yes, he's everything I've ever dreamed of."

"It feels like true love sweetie." Aphrodite spoke as she
flashed in. "No, just stay where you are Arry, you look so gorgeous,
it's just a pity you're off-limits." Ares kept his eyes cast down,
but he shivered just a little at the predatory tone of her
voice. "Of course once you're married it might be possible to
persuade your husband to share you." Ares remained silent, he didn't
have the right to comment, but the idea of being passed around among
the gods scared him. He didn't understand why so many of them seemed
to fantasise about him.

"Now is not the time. Apollo, do you think it could be
deleterious to Ares' mental health that he's always treated as
either something you avoid, and step carefully about, or a pet that
you can talk over, because obviously a pet wouldn't understand?"

"Very likely, but what can we do about it?"

"Cast this spell on him, then let him visit the mortal realm
as 'Aria', someone he made up when Eris left him alone watching
Xena, Joxer and Gabrielle."

"Joxer came up with this?" Eris sounded shocked at the
idea. "What if it doesn't work?"

"We can test it first, if it doesn't work then we can at least
let Joxer visit Ares, if he's willing." Cupid was determined,
Aphrodite supported him, she particularly liked the fact that Joxer
wasn't possessive, so he was far more likely to let the other gods
borrow his consort if he was the true God of War.

"Let me see that!" Eris snatched the scroll from Cupid, she
wasn't going to let anyone try something she hadn't checked out
personally on her brother. "Pretty good actually, it shows better
understanding of power flows than a lot of the gods have, let alone
mortals. Okay, we can try this, but we don't want to be putting this
on and off all the time, so we better use a trigger to switch it
between functioning and not. Any suggestions?" She looked around at
the assembled gods, then glanced at her twin brother, he was
fidgeting, he had something to say. "Ares, do you have an idea?"

"Perhaps if you set it so it is only active when my hair falls
past my shoulders?"

"Sounds good to me, so let's do this." Eris was the one who cast
the spell, she was after all the eldest of the gods present, and the
House of War, with the exception of their nominal Head had always
been best at manipulating energies. The House of Love was good with
mood altering, which was mostly empathic and the Houses of Healing
and Intellect were the most scientific of the Houses. "It's done, I
think. The scroll assumed a much more precise level of control than
I can usually manage. But it seemed to be helping me out a bit as
well." Eris sounded ready to collapse, but she insisted on testing
it. Not one of the gods and goddesses present could even touch Ares
without his consent; he became insubstantial as soon as they tried.

"What about when he plays the God of War?" Apollo was the one to
point that detail out. "We need to make sure that he can be touched
without offering consent in that form. And we have to know whether
he can withdraw consent." So Ares had to withdraw consent for Apollo
to touch him, it was successful, and change into his usual form
among mortals. In that form it didn't take consent for anyone to
touch him.

With two gods and two goddesses arguing that Ares should be
permitted to visit the mortal realm as Aria, and Apollo claiming the
way Ares was treated by gods, and by mortals when he went among them
as Ares was damaging his mental health they managed to persuade Zeus
to grant permission. The deciding factor was actually the
instructions Joxer had written down for keeping Ares safe. Almost
everyone who read them thought that Joxer would probably be the true
God of War.

**********



It was a month after Zeus had granted permission for Ares to go
among mortals as Aria that the first visit was permitted.

"As Joxer came up with the idea of how you could travel safely
among mortals you can travel with him. Cupid will deliver you to him
and pick you up again in a week's time."

"Thank you father." Ares rose from his knees and changed into
Aria, then she created some money in case it was needed while they
were travelling. She smiled at Cupid as he took her into his arms
and transported her to Delphi where Joxer had met up with Hercules
and Iolaus.

"Joxer, Zeus decided that if Aria travels among mortals you have
to take care of her. He felt it was only fair as you came up with
the idea of how it would be safe to let her leave Olympus, even for
a little while." Cupid thrust Aria at Joxer before continuing. "I'll
come back to pick her up in a week."

"Oh, how did that spell work out then? I don't seem to be having
any trouble touching you, Aria."

"I already gave my consent to your touch, Joxer." Aria spoke
quietly, leaning against him, careful not to look him in the face.

"Eris was very impressed, although you overestimated the level
of precision any god is capable of, well any current god is capable
of, perhaps the first gods could have managed that sort of precision
routinely. But we did manage to put that spell on her."

"I'm glad. Aria, how do you feel about having to travel with me?"

"You make me feel safe." She offered a sweet smile, glancing up
from beneath her lowered lashes.

"Wait a moment. What in Tartarus is going on?" Typically
Hercules demanded an explanation, at least he wasn't making foolish
judgements.

Cupid and Joxer exchanged glances, then Cupid shrugged. "You can
tell them, Joxer, after all if you were willing to read the riot act
to me you're perfectly capable of explaining things to these two."

"This is Aria." Joxer decided to keep things as simple as he
could. "The Fates said she has to remain a virgin until she marries
her destined mate. So Zeus and Hera adopted her and made sure she
would remain virgin. But she get lonely among the gods, so they've
put a spell on her, she can't be touched without her consent. This
keeps her safe from rape, so she can visit us for a while."

"Aria? Were you named for Ares?" She nodded shyly in response to
Iolaus' question. "Why? Is his protection any greater than what Zeus
offers?" Aria shook her head, reluctant to speak to Iolaus.

"Joxer?" It was a plea.

"Go ahead, Joxer, tell Iolaus and Hercules why you think Aria is
protected by the House of War." Cupid wondered just how much strange
understanding Joxer would dislay this time.

"The godhood of War is the single most powerful godhood in
existence. Zeus has more power than the other gods because he is
their King, not because his godhood gives him any particular power.
There are bonds linking all the other gods and goddesses to him
which supply a degree of power to him from them, just as there are
similar bonds from members of each godly House to the Head of that
House." Joxer paused to collect his thoughts before
continuing. "Each House has different strengths and the greatest
strength of the House of War is their ability to manipulate energy
flows with more precision than the other gods. They are also the
most protective of the Houses, and so best suited to defend someone
they have claimed as theirs."

"How do you know this?" Iolaus was curious.

"If it's even true." Hercules on the other hand was doubtful and
enraged by Joxer's quiet analysis of Olympian society.

"It's true all right. I've never heard such a clear analysis of
the power structure on Olympus from another god let alone a mortal.
But Joxer didn't mention created gods, who usually draw power from
either their spouses, if created as a result of marriage - like
Psyche, or parasitically from the nearest pantheon until they are
accepted into a pantheon of their own and assigned a godhood if they
won Ambrosia or something similar - like Callisto and Velasca. How
exactly did you know all of this Joxer?"

"I don't really know. I just know it, it makes sense. I have
strange dreams sometimes, of someone called Erebus and a King who
held us all in thrall until his son castrated him. And sometimes I
wonder why a war isn't having the outcome I expected it to, the
final outcome, not the short-term stuff like victory or the
butcher's bill, but stuff like the alliances I thought would result
don't always occur, or sometimes a war isn't enough to avert a
famine, the way it should."

Cupid blinked once, and then did damage control on what Joxer
had just revealed. He quickly blanked Hercules' and Iolaus' memories
up until they asked how Joxer knew so much, then had them believe
he'd said a godly lover had told him. "Joxer, it's too dangerous for
anyone to know about your dreams. I've made sure Uncle Herc and
Iolaus don't remember that, they think you had a god as a lover who
told you, do you have any preferences who I should let them think it
is?"

"I was screwing Strife for a year, actually, during the Psyche
incident, will that do? After all as one of the House of War he
should be able to tell me about that House's particular abilities,
and would see the connections much better than a member of any other
House."

"You're right, I'll let them know about that - but he's mine
now!" Cupid literaly growled out his warning.

"Of course he is, you turned to him after Psyche cheated on you
when she was pregnant with Bliss, didn't you?"

"Her adultery got me a divorce, but then she ended up fucking
Aether, so I don't have to worry about supplying her with power. She
got to keep her godhood because she did give birth to my child, and
besides, she's already gathered a few worshippers."

"I noticed, not many, but enough to give her the minimum power
to survive as a true god. Strife doesn't have that many more than
her - although he does have all the children in Greece."

"But they don't give him much power to be honest." Cupid wasn't
entirely sure why he was discussing such things with Joxer, of all
people, but the mortal understood how Olympus worked almost
instinctively. And then, from what Joxer had said about Erebus he
remembered being a god, probably God of War, under Uranus. Cupid
would have to report this to Zeus when he got back.

"I know, still as a member of the House of War he knows how to
use the power he has better than a minor god of another House
would." Then Joxer shook his head and changed subjects. "You can't
keep Hercules and Iolaus like that much longer, we'll have to finish
this conversation another time."

"We'll talk when I pick up Aria." Cupid let the two heros think
and remember again.

"You slept with Strife!?" Hercules sounded outraged. Joxer found
that amusing, and judging from the way Aria was burying her laughter
in his shoulder so did she.

"How did Strife make such a clear analysis? No offence but I
didn't think he was that good at analysing power structures." Iolaus
spoke almost simultaneously, and he was at least aware of and
sensitive to Cupid's connection to the God of Mischief.

"Are you implying there's something wrong with sleeping with my
consort?" Cupid growled at Hercules, looking every inch War's son.
But it was Joxer who answered Iolaus' reasonable query.

"First, Strife is a War god, they are all sensitive to power,
and energy flows, so naturally they have the clearest view of the
power structure of Olympus. Secondly, he can cause more mischief
with a single prank played on the right person than with a hundred
pranks played on many other people, but to know who the right person
is you have to understand the power structure. Take an example, a
court where the king is weak and dependent on a particular minister,
to disrupt that court you could make sure the key minister is put
out of action, or you could put a dozen other people out of action.
Strife learned to analyse power structures to make his job easier.
Cupid, remember most people only know the stories spread about
Strife, and no one likes the House of War, because they reflect
things people aren't proud of in themselves. Besides there most
certainly would be something wrong with me sleeping with Strife now
that you're married, wouldn't there?" Joxer managed to make it into
a joke, defusing the situation nicely, leaving Hercules and Iolaus
gaping at him, wondering what had happened to the fool they thought
they knew.

"Yes, and I'll kill anyone who touches him. I have to go, Mom's
shouting for me."

"See you later then." Once Cupid had disappeared Joxer began
prying Aria off him, then looked at Hercules. "Where are we going at
the moment?"

"There's a village about three days from here that's having a
problem with a hydra, but you won't want to put Aria in danger."

"Aria, would you like to travel with Hercules and Iolaus? We can
just stay in the village when they go to kill the hydra. Or there's
a festival starting here in two days, to Apollo. Would you rather
stay for the festival?"

"Whatever you think's best." But Joxer had noticed that Aria was
prepared for travel, and seemed a little disappointed by the idea of
staying in Delphi.

"Then we'll travel with you two."

**********



Hercules complained a little about the fact the Aria trusted
Joxer to touch her, but not him, until Iolaus took him aside and
pointed out that it meant she didn't see Joxer in sexual terms at
all - but she did see Hercules and Iolaus that way. Aria found that
kind of amusing, as she trusted Joxer absolutely, and knew he
wouldn't force himself on her, but she didn't feel the same about
Hercules or Iolaus. They'd never outright raped anyone, but neither
of them saw anything wrong with pursuing an unwilling girl until she
finally agreed. She actually wanted Joxer - a lot, but he'd never
initiate anything because of the Fates' requirements, and she had
been trained from birth to submit, not to make any advances.

"Aria, would you mind cooking for us tonight?" It was nearing
evening when Joxer asked his charge about that.

"Of course I'll cook for you. My pack contains more than it
looks as if it does, enough food for the four of us for a week."

"So we don't need to hunt?" Iolaus was the one who asked that,
as he was usually the one to do the hunting.

"No, but if you've got any fresh meat I could use it up
tonight?" Aria sounded uncertain about making the offer but she knew
that meat went off fast.

"Good idea, but I was going to just hunt something down when we
made camp. Speaking of which..." Iolaus trailed off, looking at
Hercules.

"There's a clearing perhaps a quarter of a candlemark from here.
We can set up camp there."

"Fine."

When they did reach the clearing, and prepared to set up camp
Hercules and Iolaus watched in shock as Aria pulled out a small
metal assemblage which she set up as a stove, lighting tiny tablets
to heat it. Then she pulled a folded piece of cloth out, and touched
two corners together before stepping back and letting it form into a
tent. She didn't realise that they'd been so surprised at her
behaviour until she looked up from getting the food out of her pack
to see the shock on their faces. At that point she looked to Joxer,
pleading wordlessly for help.

"What's wrong guys?"

"How did she get that stuff? What is it anyway?" Iolaus gathered
his wits about him enough to answer for the two of them - Hercules
was still gaping.

"Probably gifts from her family. What's the point of being
adopted by gods if you don't get the benefit of magical things that
make life easier anyway?"

"You use the *gods*?" Iolaus looked at Aria increduluosly and
Hercules glared at her accusingly - he might not have liked the
gods, but he didn't like the idea of anyone using them. She just
pressed up against Joxer, waiting for him to explain for her.

"They are her family, everyone uses their family to some extent.
After all you don't seem to see anything wrong with Hercules taking
advantage of his relationship with Zeus to avoid being killed when
he annoys the gods." Iolaus, and even Hercules couldn't say anything
against that. Aria returned to her cooking. "Besides, I expect they
want to make sure she stays healthy, and that means good living
conditions, even when travelling, and a proper diet. It's in their
own best interests to keep her in perfect condition if where her
virginity is bestowed is so important. Although no one's actually
said why it's so important?"

"My husband will be the true God of War, and our union will
defeat Chaos." Aria barely whispered that fact, she couldn't imagine
anyone willingly taking the godhood of War - she certainly hadn't.
Why would anyone want to be hated and feared by everyone? But Joxer
had a much better understanding of War than any of her family, even
the House of War, perhaps knowing that would help convince him to
pay court to her.

"You mean Ares will be mortal again?" Hercules sounded eager,
excited by the prospect.

"No, but War is one of the key godhoods, it had to be filled as
swiftly as possible, even if only by a substitute who can take up
his true godhood later." She cringed, knowing that this would make
her job that much harder, unless...She bit her lip, then drew a
mirror from her pack, breathing on it, and whispering "Cupid."

"Joxer, I told you to take care of her!" Cupid snarled at the
warrior, ignoring his father and the two heros.

"That should not include preventing your aunt from speaking, I
thought the idea of letting Aria travel among mortals was to give
her some freedom, not just change one form of prison for another!
You obviously have no respect for her, or you would be speaking to
her not me. And you were surprised that she didn't want to spend all
her time on Olympus." Joxer didn't shout, his voice rather dropped
to almost a whisper, and sounded much more dangerous than normal.
Cupid actually flinched.

"Aria, what's wrong? And what do you want me to do about it?"
The winged god made his voice gentle, following Joxer's example when
talking to her.

"They know that my husband will be the true God of War, I was
careless. Can you make sure that they don't remember that little
fact? I know they'll use it against your father."

"You can't do that to me! Father won't let you." Hercules
sounded smugly confident, Iolaus had more sense of caution, he
didn't have Zeus' protection.

"Actually Zeus said that any measures are authorised to make
sure Aria's destiny isn't interfered with. Destroying advance
knowledge of her husband's godhood certainly falls within that area.
Besides he won't want you to know who tells Ares what to do as God
of War."

"Zeus can't really be blamed for the problems with War at the
moment, he doesn't really understand it in its mortal aspect, only
the godly aspect. And the House of War only contains experts in the
lesser aspects of War, not the overall concept. War is a speciallist
skill." Joxer offered a defence of Zeus' failings, without even
thinking of what the reaction would be to his understanding. "By the
way, you should give them a replacement memory of the safety of
Greece depending on correct marriage for Aria." Cupid gaped at him
for a moment, then just wiped that memory as well, obeying Joxer's
suggestion.

"Aria, I can't do this every time you open your mouth to say
something you shouldn't. If you can't be discrete I'll just have to
mute you every time you are among mortals. Do you want me to do that
now, or will you try to be more discrete in future? I can only do
this twice more, then I'll have to mute you every time you visit
Joxer."

"I'd rather you made sure I can't say anything now, perhaps I'll
be more discrete in future." Aria bit her lip, waiting for her son
to do as he had promised. Cupid laid one hand on her throat, and
prevented her vocal cords functioning properly. Then he disappeared.

"I can't believe he did that!" Iolaus and Hercules were both
outraged by Cupid's decision to mute Aria, but Hercules typically
was the more vocal in his contempt for the god.

"What else do you expect form a god. He just maimed an innocent
woman to make his life easier."

"No, he made sure that Greece wasn't at risk from Aria's
carelessness and submissive tendencies. He even gave her the choice
of being muted now, and having a chance to try and remain discrete
later, or keeping her voice for now, and risking never being
permitted to speak in the presence of mortals again. He'll restore
her voice when she returns to Olympus." Joxer made it sound
perfectly reasonable, to him it was. He continued on another
subject. "Why not just talk about how you're going to deal with the
hydra, and what we can be doing while you two are busy with that?"

Hercules and Iolaus were perfectly happy to make plans, as long
as they didn't have to include Joxer or Aria in those plans, and
Joxer was willing to find out what Aria wanted to do, even without
her ability to speak. She did make it pretty clear that she wanted
him to share her tent with her, in the end she got a slate out of
her pack and wrote on it that Joxer was supposed to keep her safe,
and he could do it better if he was in the tent with her, rather
than outside it, listening in. He finally agreed when she seemed too
distressed, but insisted on sleeping on the floor in his bedroll.

**********



"Thank you for agreeing to help us Hercules." The headman of the
village began gushing over the heros as soon as they arrived. "Is
there anything we can do to show our gratitude?"

"Yes, but Joxer can explain it." Hercules and Iolaus had already
found out where the hyda was, and they left to deal with it under
the cover of Joxer's explanation. There was something about him when
he explained the foibles and idiosyncracies of the god's that was
totally fascinating, no one could turn away from him.

"This is Aria, when she was born the Fates declared that she had
to remain virgin until she married her destined mate, and that
marriage will preserve Greece, if it is incorrect Greece will be
destroyed. The gods took her in and raised her on Olympus, but she
wanted to spend some time among mortals, people who didn't talk over
her as if she couldn't understand." Joxer glanced at Aria and smiled
gently. "Have I been acurate so far?" She nodded, the wrote the
word 'war' on her slate, which she'd started carrying around with
her, and he continued. " I forgot to mention that she's under the
protection of the House of War and normally isn't allowed off
Olympus without an escort from either the House of War or the House
of Love. If

we can avoid trouble she might be allowed to visit the mortal realm
agan. Would you mind if we spent some time among the people of your
village, giving Aria a chance to socialise while Hercules and Iolaus
deal with the Hydra? She can't talk at

the moment, Cupid wanted to make sure she didn't reveal any
embarrassing secrets of the gods. zeus decided that I have to serve
as her escort while she travels among mortals, and I agreed, so I
have to go where she does, and if necessary I can read out anything
she writes on her slate."

"Do you think people can't read here?"

"Children can't always read, not when they're young, and Aria
mentioned wanting to spend time with 'children who don't have
wings'. Who do you want to see first Aria? The younger women? The
children? Some of the crafters? The elder women?"

Joxer listed the options, giving Aria a chance to nod at each one,
she wanted to meet with the older women first. "Well, can you tell
us where Aria can spend time with some of the older women of the
village?"

"Yes, yes of course." He led them to the town meeting hall and
fussed around Aria until she was settled, not too disconcerted at
not being able to touch her once Joxer explained it was how the gods
were protecting her, and why she was allowed to travel with just a
mortal as escort. "I'll gather the older women together. How old did
you mean?"

'Old enough to have daughters my apparent age. Hera isn't really
the motherly type, none of the goddesses are.'

"Oh! You want motherly advice then?" Aria nodded, shyly. "I
can't say I blame you for not wanting to go to Hera for that. You're
a brave man Joxer, to be willing to stay in a hall full of women
talking about that sort of thing." And with that the headman made
his exit. It didn't take him too long to round up all the women in
the village who qualified. Most of them brought spinning, or mending
to do while they talked, and there were a few with children that
they were minding for their daughters. When she saw this Aria bent
to get out the embroidery she'd been doing to make a gift for Hera,
her mother always enjoyed it when her children offered her gifts
they'd made the mortal way.

"Hello dear." One of the women came to sit beside Aria and tried
to put an arm around her shoulder. "I'm Helen, young Myron says that
you're in desperate need of some motherly advice." When she
discovered that she couldn't touch Aria she turned an accusing look
on Joxer. He immediately explained.

"The gods put a spell on Aria so that she can't be touched
without her consent. It's to prevent anyone raping her. Aria,

do you consent to Helen touching you?" He was slightly taken aback
when she shook her head. Taking out her slate she wrote an
explanation.

'I was told not to grant consent to too many people, Father
advised just you.'

"Not that I don't appreciate the trust you and Zeus display in
my character, but why just me?"

'The spell was your idea. And you were willing to stand up to
Cupid to protect me. You've actually shouted at him twice over how
he treats me. Could anyone give me advice on how to please a
husband. I don't mean sex, Aphrodite and Cupid have told me more
than I want to know about that.'

"I just bet they have! Do you think Aphrodite and Cupid actually
understand that there's more to making a marriage work than just
great sex?" Joxer laughed for a few seconds, then he shook his
head. "No, I know that they understand there's more to a marriage
than sex. After all Aphrodite and Hephaestus seem to have a happy
marriage, don't they?"

'Yes, but they don't expect faithfullness. They are quite happy
for their partners to have affairs.'

"Well, I can't imagine any mortal man being comfortable with
that. And Strife and Cupid seem to be happy together."

"No man would put up with his wife having affairs, but you can't
really expect your husband to stay faithful to you. Just

be pleased if your husband comes home to you at night and supports
you and your children."

"Always listen to him, and don't force your opinions on him."

"Don't argue with him, if you have to work around what he says,
but don't disobey him."

Joxer found the various pieces of advice the women gave Aria
apalling. He knew that most women didn't have a very good position
in Greece, but he'd spent so much time with the more independent
ones, like Xena, the Amazons, Meg and of course

goddesses that he hadn't realised just how bad it was. "A decent man
would rather you were a companion to him, not just a servant. I know
that I'd rather have a partner who I could talk with and do things
with. Someone who listened to me and would let me help with any
children."

"Then you're a rare find and I envy the woman who marries you."

"Oh yes, she'll be very lucky."

"If I wasn twenty years younger I'd go after you myself."

'All the Fates said was that my destined mate would be linked to
War. Everyone thinks that means a worshipper. But it could refer to
a blood tie, or constant opposition to all wars, no matter what
their cause and regardless of the rights and wrongs of the
situation.'

"So you could end up married to Hercules?" Aria nodded in
response. "How awful for you. Or, there's an even worse thought, did
the Fates specify a husband, or just a destined mate?"

'Just a destined mate.'

"That could include Gabrielle then. You didn't get on too well
with her the last time you met."

The women had been a bit too shocked to object when Joxer first
commented that Aria could end up married to Hercules, then they
argued that marrying Hercules would be a wonderful fate.

"Not when he's already in a relationship and would resent Aria
because it would end as a result, or at least be a lot more
difficult. Aria would be trapped with a husband who either resented
her because he lost his lover as a result, or

cheated on her constantly." That silenced the objections and they
moved to less controversial subjects, chatting happily, and making
an effort to include Aria, until Hercules returned.

**********



Joxer could see that Aria wasn't happy with the idea of setting out again immediately, not that he could blame her, she'd wanted to meet people and that was hard when spending all day on the road. She didn't make any obvious signs of her displeasure, but she was biting her lip, and there was a slight look of disappoinment on her face.

"Would you like to go back to Delphi and catch the rest of the festival?" His voice was gentle so as not to frighten her. She nodded eagerly. "Cupid, get down here now."

"Joxer!" Aria found Hercules and Iolaus' shock at Joxer's casual command amusing, after all they both ordered the gods about when it suited them, although that was mainly Hercules. At least Joxer had waited until they were on the road, so none of the vilagers would be offended by his attitude.

"Is something wrong?" Cupid sounded worried for Aria, but he still ignored her and the two heros in favour of speaking to Joxer. "Why did you call me here?"

"Aria came down here to meet people, and that's hard when we're travelling. I was wondering if you could take us to Delphi so we can catch the rest of the festival?"

"Of course. I'm happy to help. Hercules, Iolaus do you two want to come as well?"

"Yes, we'd like that a lot." Iolaus answered before Hercules could say anything and they gathered together for transportation.

"Just one thing Cupid." Joxer sounded angry and Cupid immediately began visibly wracking his brain to work out what he'd done wrong now. His eyes widened as he realised that he'd ignored Aria, he was so used to disregarding his father among other gods that he hadn't thought about how Joxer would react to it.

"You were the one who issued the summons, why wouldn't I ask you what was going on?"

"Reasonable, but you haven't even spoken to your aunt."

"I was always taught to obey orders first, then to socialise afterwards." Hercules and Iolaus were shocked speechless by the sight of Cupid scrabbling to explain his action to a mortal, one they considered a fool.

"It wasn't an order, it was a request." Joxer spoke slowly, as if explaining things to an idiot, but he did seem to be edging towards forgiving Cupid, then he blinked at a sudden realisation. "Did Zeus order you to do whatever I asked while Aria is with me?"

"Yes, he does't want his daughter upset or hurt, and he thinks you're the best person to ensure that doesn't happen. You'll know when you're out of your depth and call for godly assistance when you need it. But I don't want to take away from the time Aria has to spend among mortals, the entire idea was for her to get away from gods." Joxer nodded, he considered this an entirely reasonable excuse for ignoring Aria, and she didn't seem to mind. But they'd fallen into the habit of talking over her, and Joxer really hated that, so he turned to her.

"Aria, did you want to speak to Cupid about anything?"

'No, I don't really like talking with gods anyway. They treat me like a child and I can't talk back to them the way you do. I've never seen anyone give any of the gods a tongue lashing like you give Cupid, not even the senior gods. Would you do that to Zeus as well?'

"If the situation called for it." Joxer found that amusing, the fact that no one disciplined the gods until him, not even with words. Hercules and Iolaus were staring at him as if they'd never seen him before. Perhaps it would be better to avoid them for a while? "You two don't have to stay with us during the festival, I'm sure you'd rather not have me hanging around and I want to show Aria the city without two heros who would draw so much attention."

'It would be like traveling with a god.' Aria lifted her slate to show Joxer, tugging on his arm to draw his attention first.

"I suppose it would at that. Well Cupid?"

"Of course." Cupid transported them to Delphi immediately, dropping Hercules and Iolaus off in one of the taverns on the outskirts of the city and taking Joxer and Aria to Apollo's temple.

"This is the best place to enjoy the festival from." He hastily justified his choice at Joxer's glare. Joxer grudgingly agreed but he had something else to comment on.

"I think you can restore Aria's voice now. After all, I don't think you'll have any problems wiping the memories of normal people if they find out something they shouldn't know. I expect it's just demi-gods that your powers are limited with. That is if you want to be able to speak again Aria?"

'Please?' Her expression was pleading, and Joxer was right.

"Will you be able to avoid talking about things mortals don't need to know?"

'I'll do my best, I promise. It's hard using a slate for everything, it takes a long time and not many people have the patience to wait.' Joxer couldn't help but remember how Hercules and Iolaus had ignored Aria on the journey, one reason he'd asked Cupid to transport the back here was just to get away from the heros.

"Very well. I didn't like doing that to you Aria, but I couldn't run the risk of you telling Uncle Hercules or Iolaus any more secrets." Cupid restored Aria's speech as he spoke.

"I understand. I did agree if you'll remember, and now I'll value the gift of speech more, and use it more carefully." Aria's voice was soft and quiet, accepting of anything Cupid, or anyone else chose to decide.

"I'm sorry for dragging you along with them Aria. In future I'll make sure I'm alone, or at least without any travelling companions when you visit me, at least I will if I have some advance warning."

"How long?" Cupid actually sounded anxious. "I can probably talk Zeus into giving you a day or two, but not much more than that."

"That will do just fine."

"Joxer, would you mind visiting me on Olympus next time?" Aria really was nervous, she didn't have any idea whether it would be permitted, but she felt the urge to show Joxer where she lived and meet him on home ground where she felt safer.

"If I have permission. Which House are you considered part of?"

"War, so my rooms are in there. Does that bother you?" Cupid looked curious about this question as well, Joxer just laughed.

"No, why would it? Like I said earlier I was sleeping with Strife for a while, so I certainly have no prejudices against the House of War. I don't believe the nonsense Xena and Gabrielle come up with, let alone the trash Hercules spouts."

"I see, well enjoy the festival." With that Cupid left.

Aria and Joxer took his advice and had the best time of their lives until Cupid returned to pick up his father, telling Joxer that he really wanted to speak with him when he visited Olympus about power usage and patterns on Olympus. What he didn't mention was that a lot of the gods wanted to speak with him on that subject.

**********




"What are you doing here Ares?" Xena literally growled the
question at the War God the next time he appeared at their camp. For
once she had a legitimate reason to ask, they hadn't done anything
to interfere with his duties since the last time he'd stopped by to
argue with his daughter.

"My father decided that Aria needs mortal company, and as she
seems fond of Joxer he sent me to get him. Come here Joxer."

Joxer stood and made his way over to Ares, taking his offered
hand. "I take it he did get around to giving me his personal
protection then? Although I'm not entirely sure how much that's
worth."

The mortal's gall surprised a laugh out of Ares, although it
shouldn't have surprised him considering how he defended Aria even
from the gods, *and* knew that Ares himself would be replaced by
Aria's husband. "In this case it's inviolate, as Hera backs it up as
well. Aria's the one thing they both agree on. Now you're expected
on Olympus." and with those words they both flashed to Olympus, the
entry hall of the Temple of War to be exact.

"Stay here, a few of the other gods", the real gods as far as
Ares was concerned, "want the chance to talk to you first." And with
those instructions Ares left, reporting to his father that he'd
brought Joxer to Olympus and praying to the Fates that he didn't get
hurt.

"Hello Joxer. I'm told you wrote a most impressive spell for
Cupid. The one that made it safe to let Aria visit the mortal world.
Can you explain how you knew this spell?" Zeus was the first god who
came and questioned Joxer about his knowledge.

"No, I'm not entirely sure how I knew it myself, it just felt
right. I'm sorry I can't explain it better, there's a lot of things
I just know without knowing how I know." Joxer's voice was firm,
despite the apology, Zeus could tell that the mortal wouldn't say
any more. At least not on that subject. "I did wish to convey my
gratitude that you honoured me with your trust in me, allowing me
freedom to touch your daughter, Aria."

"It would have been cruel to forbid her all contact while she
was among mortals, I love her and I could not do that to her. You
did not have to give Cupid that spell, and you do understand more of
why we do things than even my son Hercules does." That last
admission was reluctant, but something about Joxer made him want to
be honest with the young man.

"It's simply a matter of adjusting to the long term view, rather
than seeing things in the short term - take some of the wars
Hercules stops. The last one, in Macedonia would have averted a
famine in the area, but instead of a few thousand men dying
relatively quickly at least ten times that number of men, women and
*children* wil starve slowly to death."

"You know that?" Zeus let his shock show in his voice, then he
quickly turned to something else. "You told Cupid that you remember,
or dream of the court of the first gods, where Erebus took Hades'
current position, can you tell me anything else about these dreams?"

"The youngest son of our king was strange, he could bear
children in his body and sire them, and he had a spell cast so all
his descendents, male or female, would be able to do both as well.
But that's about the only thing I remember that isn't on the order
of gossip."

"I see." And with those words Zeus left. Most of the other gods
who came to see him had similar questions, although they focused on
different areas, until finally Aria came in, looking nervous.

"Hello Joxer. You don't regret visiting me here do you?"

"Of course not. I told you I was willing to visit you, why would
I have changed my mind? And who would pass up the chance to visit
Olympus?"

"I thought perhaps you were displeased by the number of gods you
had to deal with." Aria lowered her eyes as she spoke, not wanting
to see his reaction to that. "Would you like me to show you Olympus
then?"

"I'm quite capable of telling them to go screw themselves if
they try to ask the wrong questions, or press me too far." Joxer
laughed and put one hand beneath Aria's chin, lifting her face to
meet his eyes. "But yes I would like to see a bit more of Olympus,
and you can tell me what you think of the gods."

"Then if you wish to come with me?" Aria led Joxer out through
the temple. "I live here, in the temple of War, Ares' home, but
Enyo, Ate, Deimos and Phobos all live here as well, Strife used to
until he got married. Those three temples belong to Phonos, Bia and
Eris. They're considered to be part of the House of War compound."
All four temples were black marble, or granite. There was a temple
made of pink marble nearby, and another, fairly small one, made of
obsidian. "The pink temple belongs to Aphrodite, Hephaestus does
have his own temple, but he mainly lives with Aphrodite. She scares
me a bit, she's a sexual predator and her tastes are pretty wide
ranging. The black temple is Hades', he's hardly ever here but I
like him, he's sweet and considerate." Most of the other temples
were white marble, but the temple beside Aphrodite's was a warm
yellow. "That belongs to Cupid and Strife, most of their generation
still have rooms in the Temple of War, because Ares was the one who
ended up raising most of them, he also fathered quite a few of them
as well, just because the mothers wanted a child of War for the
power. Yellow was a compromise colour choice, they changed it from
the pink Cupid had before. He didn't really like the pink, but he
wasn't sure how to explain that to Aphrodite, she designed it for
him, it was the first time she'd shown any real interest in him, and
then Psyche loved it." There were two almost identical temples, with
the main difference being that one had silver decorations and the
other had gold. "Those two temples belong to Artemis and Apollo,
Artemis has the silver decorations and Apollo the gold. Artemis is
nice, she has to stay a virgin permanently so she's always been
understanding about me, and she's incapable of sexual desire so I
don't feel threatened by her the way I do by Aphrodite and Apollo,
who's every bit as much a sexual predator. They've both talked about
asking my husband if they can borrow me when I get married and the
idea scares me. I know I'll have to submit and I don't mind that, I
kind of like it, but I only want to belong to one person, not to be
shared out." Aria shivered slightly and Joxer wrapped her in his
arms.

"I'm sure whoever is lucky enough to be your husband will
treasure you as the prize you are."

"I doubt it, but thank you for trying." There was despair in
Aria's voice and Joxer resolved to make her feel better about
herself.

"Aria, I'm going to teach you to stand up for yourself,
hopefully that will give you a better life with your husband."

"As you wish."

**********



Joxer spent every visit he had from or with Aria building up her self-confidence, asking her opinion and listening to it, discussing what was happening with her in depth and never letting anyone he thought would insult or belittle her near her. He'd made arrangements to have her visit him on the mortal world every three months for a week, and for him to spend a week with her on Olympus every other month. Of course he didn't spend all his time with Aria when he visited her on Olympus, allowing Ares to do at least some of his job as God of War. And the work Joxer was doing with him had an effect, he'd already managed to stand up for his opinions to his sisters a few times.

It was nearly two years after Joxer met Aria that a scroll appeared on the table in front of him. He was with Hercules, Xena, Iolaus and Gabrielle at the time and they all got scrolls of their own. And every scroll said the exact same thing.

"Joxer." Or Hercules, Xena, Iolaus or Gabrielle, depending on who recieved the scroll. "You have been chosen as a candidate to replace the God of War. You will be brought to Olympus to be tested at the appointed time. If you succeed you will become God of War in Ares' stead and take him as your Consort. By decree of the Fates all honours and titles that were Ares' will belong to the new, true God of War. A god will be sent to collect you this night."

"Poor Ares." Joxer was the first to comment, and his response shocked the four heros into rounding on him.

"Poor Ares!"

"Are you crazy?"

"Why waste sympathy on that murdering monster?"

"I refuse to do this!" Hercules sounded outraged at the very idea of becoming War.

"I don't think you'll pass the test anyway. I think you've got more important things to do down here so the Fates won't let you become War." Joxer tried not to say the Hercules wasn't competent to function as the God of War, he was actually wondering if Aria and Ares were the same person. "And Ares is just losing everything he ever had, all titles, all honours all of his power and worshippers and to add insult to injury he's being forced to marry and submit to the person who's taken his place."

"Where does it say he has to submit to his replacement?" Now the heros seemed almost eager, rather than outraged, but Gabrielle was the one who said what they were all thinking.

"Consort is a subordinate term. In a marriage of two gods the Consort is always the less powerful god and obliged to submit to some degree. For instance Hera is Zeus' consort, but they are very nearly equal in power so the only evidence of inequality in their marriage is that Zeus has affairs but Hera cannot. But Hades is much more powerful than Persphone, so she is property more or less shared in common between Demeter and Hades. This notice tells us that on marriage Ares will be stripped of all his power, or almost all, so he'll belong totally to the new God - or Goddess - of War. I've been spending quite a bit of time with Aria and she explained a lot about godly marriages."

"We need to go somewhere more isolated and camp until we're picked up. I'd rather not have everyone scared by a god's arrival." Hercules changed the subject, resenting how much more Joxer knew about Olympian society than he did, although he had no right to considering how he treated his family there. "Does anyone have any idea which god it's likely to be?"

"It will be Ares. He won't pass up a chance to flirt with Xena. Or to taunt Hercules." Gabrielle was probably right in Joxer's opinion, but he wasn't so sure that Ares had ever been serious when he flirted with Xena. "If any of us pass we'll have to sleep with that monster. So, what's he like in bed?"

"Very good, and considerate." Xena kept her reply short and concentrated on finishing her lunch. "If we're going to get away from here by the time we're picked up we should set off soon." They finished their meals in silence and travelled until it got dark before setting up a temporary camp, no more than unsaddling Argo and lighting a fire.

"Hello, little brother." Ares managed to make a simple greeting sound like a death threat, by dint of long practice rather than any talent.

"Ares!" Four voices chorused and four hands went to weapons. Only one person reacted calmly.

"I take it you were the one who got stuck bringing us to Olympus for testing?" Joxer's voice showed his respect, but his words were irreverent, to an equal.

"Yes, Xena was my choice so Zeus decided I could bring the rest of you as well."

Gabrielle couldn't control her curiousity, they'd been speculating about which gods had chosen them. "Then do you know who chose us?"

"And the reasons." Joxer had more interest in why he'd been chosen, he had the feeling it was because of his relationship with Aria, or rather Ares, if he was right, and someone was trying to be kind to Ares if Aira wasn't an act.

"Zeus chose Hercules for the same reason I chose Xena - their conceptions were ordered by the Fates.

"Hades chose Iolaus while Aphrodite was arguing with Eris, Cupid and Apollo over who got to chose you, Joxer, he said it was in the hope of avoiding more paperwork by making sure he doesn't get himself killed and brought back again.

"Cupid won the argument over you on the grounds that you gave him that spell - one of the reasons four gods were arguing over you.

"Apollo grabbed your brother Jace after losing the argument simply because he is your brother.

"Aphrodite was pretty pissed that Hades had chosen Iolaus, because he was her second choice, and I'm not sure who she chose instead, one of her priests I'd assume.

"I do know Strife got your brother Jett, for the same reason Apollo took Jace, because Eris wanted Jett after she realised Cupid had won, and when she couldn't have him she chose Gabrielle, just to annoy the other gods."

Joxer glanced down at his invitation again, he was certain now that Ares and Aria were the same person and he had a few things he needed to find out.

"Could I speak to you privately Ares? Some time before we're tested please."

Ares blinked at the thinly veiled order, then nodded. The four heros looked at him in slight shock, although they had learned to accept his tendency to treat gods as if he stood on an equal footing with them this was the first time they'd seen him treat one as an inferior. "I'm not certain we'll have a chance once we're on Olympus. Come with me." They walked out of view and earshot, but to be sure Ares set up a white noise shield around them. "Well, what is it?"

"Which one's the act? Ares, God of War, or Aria, the sweet, submissive virgin whose marriage has been decreed by the Fates?"

Ares blushed and dropped his eyes, when he next spoke his voice was quiet, subdued. "I behave the way Father thinks I should when I pretend to be the God of War."

"Did you lie to us as Aria?"

"No!" His eyes flew up to meet Joxer's then he returned to studying the ground at his feet before continuing. "My children were all concieved as a result of Apollo's magic. And my family protect me from anything sexual. Cupid's the one who was sleeping with Xena for example. And if I had to make an appearance when my followers were engaged in outright rape Eris, or later Strife, would disguise themselves as me."

"Thank you. That's all I needed to know. I hope your destined mate makes you happy."

"I just hope he doesn't hurt me...or share me with the other gods."

"Is that all it would take to make you happy, or don't you think any of the candidates can make you happy?"

"No, but I'd be safe. I only know about eight candidates, those four, you, your brothers and Autolycus. Those four hate me, Autolycus would share me, and think he was doing me a favour because he's constitutionally incapable of staying faithful. Your brothers might be able to make me happy, but I know they'd keep me safe, Jett because I would be his, and he's possessive and dominant, but also protective and not abusive, and Jayce because he'd ask me if I wanted him to share me. You, you're the first person who ever treated me like a person in my own right, not just a force to fear, or a pet to ignore and overlook." Ares visibly pulled himself together after almost confessing that he'd fallen in love with the mortal and he looked every inch the God of War as they returned to the clearing.

"What was that about Joxer?"

"I wanted to ask after Aria, you do remember her don't you? Pretty little thing, could barely talk without permission?"

"Enough chat, we need to get to Olympus." And Ares opened a portal to forestall any more questions.

**********



All the candidates were gathered in the Hall of the Fates on Olympus, they made quite a crowd, Joxer and the four heros were among the last to arrive and Ares hurried to stand on the dais to the right of his father's throne, opposite the Fates themselves.

"What kept you, Ares?" Zeus spoke quietly to his eldest son, but his anger was plain, he'd almost begun to think Ares had fled his marriage out of fear, he'd become a lot more vocal in his objections since he'd begun spending time with Joxer. He understood why he had to marry whoever the Fates chose for him, but that didn't mean he had any reason to like it.

Before he'd met Joxer Ares would have cringed under his father's displeasure, even with the number of mortal witnesses, and hoped that the others would be able to cover it up. Now he answered calmly and reasonably. "Joxer wanted to talk with me before I brought them here. You told me to obey him yourself."

"Yours isn't the last group here at least, so that's something. I just don't want you to get hurt if you get your hopes up." Everyone on Olympus knew Ares had fallen in love with Joxer, and most of them pitied him for it, common gossip was that Cupid had chosen Joxer as his candidate from pity, nothing more.

Meanwhile Jett and Jace had found Joxer almost immediately, while Hercules had spotted Nebula, Poseidon's choice and was dragging Iolaus over to speak to her. Gabrielle was happy to talk to one of her Amazons, she'd been sulking that Artemis hadn't chosen her, instead of Eris, until Joxer reminded her in a whisper that Apollo would probably have pitched a fit over Artemis choosing one of his bards, even if she was one of his sister's Amazon's as well. Xena was tagging along with Gabrielle in an attempt to avoid the two warlords Deimos and Phobios had selected.

"So little brother, who chose you?" Jett's voice was slightly contemptuous, but Joxer ignored that, after all he had the perfect response.

"Cupid won the argument, that's why Apollo took Jace. But I bet Eris was pissed when she realised that Strife had already grabbed you. Treat him well if you win - and DON'T agree to share him with any of the other gods. He's still a virgin so be gentle, but he's very submissive when you get past the God of War persona so you can easily mould him to satisfy your tastes."

They were too shocked to interrupt the advice Joxer was giving them and the last few gods brought their own candidates in before either of Joxer's brothers recovered their composure.

"You all know why you are here." Zeus began by checking that all the candidates had recieved their notifications. "The new God of War will be the candidate who passes the test of the Kratos Diamond. All candidates will be absorbed into the Diamond when tested and the successful candidate will emerge from the Diamond changed. The candidates will be tested according to the rank of their sponsoring god, however you are free to refuse if you wish to. Hercules, as my candidate you will be tested first. Come forward and place both hands on the Diamond."

As Hercules was being tested Jett questioned Joxer.

"How do *you* know so much about the gods? And what do you mean Ares is a virgin? He's got how many kids?"

"All his children were created by Apollo's magic, the Fates said he had to be virgin when he married his destined mate, the true God of War. He's just been standing in for his destined mate, and he did that by acting the way Zeus and Eris said the God of War should act. He wanted to be treated as a person for a change, so he disguised himself as a woman and I met him as Aria. I've been visiting Aria every other month for the last two years, so that's how I picked up on Olympian gossip. Hercules is emerging now. He doesn't look different." That immediately returned their attention to the dais. Hercules did look pale and stressed, but there had been no major changes. He immediately turned to Ares.

"I'm sorry brother. I never understood what your godhood meant and I judged you without even trying to understand. I couldn't make the choices you have to."

"No one ever taught you to understand, I cannot blame you for that." Ares forgave him swiftly, and Zeus hurried on to Hera's candidate, Jason, once King of Corinth. Jason failed as well, but at least he didn't start apologising to Ares. They started on the candidates suggested by Zeus' siblings, although Aphrodite was counted as a daughter rather than a sibling despite being born from the remnants of their father, and then continued to the offspring of the ruling pair.

Joxer was called first among the candidates sponsored by the grandchildren of zeus and Hera. When he went into the Diamond he remembered his life in full detail, including creating the Diamond to hold his essence until such time as it was needed. That was how Cronos had been able to defeat his father, Kratos, Joxer as he once was had committed suicide when Uranus had become too unstable and he knew the gods he had trained could cope in his stead, they were all loyal to Cronos. He emerged in his own true form, nearly seven feet tall, black hair falling to his shoulders, golden eyes and a much more aquiline face coupled with an ivory complexion. I think I'll keep the name I recieved in this life he mused as he walked up to Ares and knelt, taking his left hand in both of his own.

"Ares, are you willing to be my consort?"

The younger god looked startled.

"Does it matter? I must marry you whatever my feelings are."

"I didn't ask if you would. I asked if you were willing to, I would prefer it that way." Joxer stood and stepped closer to his future consort. Ares swallowed and reminded himself that Joxer wanted a consort with spirit.

"I want children."

"Only the descendents of Cronos can both bear and sire offspring."

"I am descended from Cronos you realise."

"Then I will gladly give you children." Joxer raised a hand to stroke Ares' hair and lengthened it until it fell to the middle of his back. "But I prefer longer hair on my lovers."

"I do like how it feels, but really long hair is inappropriate for the God of War." Ares glanced around the Hall then looked up at Joxer. "Do we need an audience?"

Joxer laughed and looked around him. "Not really, I take we won't be getting married right now?"

"No, there are certain rituals that must be observed in this marriage, but Ares can explain them to you if you'd rather leave now. Are there any guests you want at the ceremony?" Zeus seemed almost scared, Joxer wasn't quite sure why.

"I want my brothers to attend, I'll be giving them godhoods afterwards. And my friends should attend, unless they're realy needed in the mortal realm. Put the wedding together as quickly as possible please." Joxer quickly flashed both himself and Ares to the Temple of War.

"Tell me love, what rituals need to be observed at our marriage?" Joxer stroked Ares' cheek gently.

"Might I return to my prefered form and garb before I answer?" Ares didn't look up from the floor at Joxer's feet.

"Of course. But keep your hair the same length." Ares made his beard disappear and changed his clothes to loose red silks, then put aside his sword to lead Joxer to his bedroom.

"The vows were written out by the Fates when I was born, all we need to do is put your name in them. I have to offer up my sword and godhood to you, again the required words and actions are written down here." Ares pulled a piece of parchment out of a drawer and handed it over to his future husband, his lord and master. "And you have to either have a witness to the consumation of our marriage, which must take place within an hour of the ceremony, or make me bleed enough to stain the sheets, preferably both. I have to be taken, if my destined mate had been female she would have been required to shapeshift or use toys." Ares never looked up once, every move he made conveyed his total submission to Joxer.

"I don't want to make you bleed, is there anyone you'd feel comfortable with watching us?"

"Cupid, he's a love god, he'll have seen it before, but he's devoted to Strife. I know he'd never touch me that way."

"As you prefer. I don't understand how you can be so submissive when your twin sister is almost psychotically dominant."

"Olympian twins are always complete opposites in one aspect of their personalities. For example Apollo is a slut, and Artemis is incapable of sexual desire, neuter in all but form. Eris is, as you said psychotically dominant, and I'm totally submissive."

"I see."

"Don't you like it? Cupid said my husband would like it." Ares sounded desperately scared.

"Yes, I like it, but at the moment I just want to hold you." Joxer was careful not to hurt or scare Ares, just held him until he relaxed in his arms, and then found one of the guest rooms to sleep and read about the wedding rituals in.

**********



The wedding ceremony was scheduled to be held two days after Joxer had proved himself to be the true God of War. Ares spent most of that time gazing at his destined mate in pure worship while Joxer spent it fuming over the conditions and rituals involved in their marriage. He finally decided what to do to at least make the loss of his virginity easier on Ares.

"Ares, I know that no one has ever touched you sexually, but have you ever played with your anus?"

"No, I knew that my husband would take me, and I thought he would prefer it if I was completely untouched in that way. Does this displease you?" Ares looked terrified at the idea that he might have angered his new master so early in their relationship. Joxer had to grab hold of his arm to stop him sliding from the couch he'd curled up on, to his knees on the floor. He'd been shocked the first time Ares automatically sat on the floor rather than on a chair, or the couch and explained that he most emphatically did not want that. When he'd asked his consort why he sat on the floor Ares had only been able to say that it was where he normally sat if there were other gods about, unless he was given orders not to.

"No, but I needed to know how much experience you had. I won't have time to stretch you out properly if we have to complete the consumation within an hour of our marriage. So I thought I could stretch you out beforehand, while I could take my time, and use this", this being a medium sized butt plug, "to make sure you stay that way during the ceremony. But it might hurt a bit."

"If you say it will help, and spare me pain when you take me then I trust your judgement, my lord."

"I appreciate your trust youngling."

"I belong to you now, you wouldn't hurt me without a reason. And you were kind to me before you proved yourself as the true God of War."

"I see your point. It might be a little easier if you wear this for a few hours today, to stretch you out a bit, then put it in before the wedding tomorrow. But it's your choice."

"I don't know how to put it in, could you do it for me?"

"Sure, you'll need to get up - and take your pants off."

"What now Joxer?" Ares smiled up at Joxer, watching him from beneath lowered lashes.

"Spread your legs, and bend over the arm of the couch, that should be the easiest position for you." Ares quickly arranged himself as directed and Joxer cleaned him internally with magic before adding oil internally and using his well oiled fingers to stretch him out. "Right, now I'm going to put this in you. when it starts to hurt tell me and I'll take it out - or you could take it out yourself."

"I will tell you, my lord." Joxer smiled down at Ares' back and carefully slid the butt plug into him, trying to avoid hurting him, rubbing his back with the other hand to reassure him.

"You can get up and get dressed now Ares." He obeyed quickly and curled back up on the couch, tucking his legs beneath his body and picking up his embroidery. "How does it feel?"

"Strange, but it doesn't hurt." Ares smiled up at Joxer, pure worship in his eyes. "I like being full, but I'd prefer it if it was you inside me to be honest."

"We'll have to wait until after the wedding for that. Would you like me to hold you, just hold you?"

"Please my lord." Joxer sat beside Ares and let him lean against his chest, wrapping his arm around him.

"There is one more thing. I have a name, I'd rather you use it than give me a title. We will be married after all."

"I was always told I should address my husband that way Joxer, I thought you would like it. If it displeases you..." Ares sounded crushed, and Joxer quickly reassured him, telling him that he wasn't angry, he just wanted his consort to be comfortable using his name.

"Did I come at a bad time?" the question must have been rhetorical as Cupid just carried on speaking. "I'm under orders to talk to each of you about sex individually. Who should I speak to first?"

"Speak to Ares first, but don't frighten him. I'll be waiting in the garden for you to finish with him. But first I want to know if you're willing to witness our consummation?"

"Yes, I appreciate the honour. And I will try not to be too obtrusive."

"Thank you. I didn't want to hurt him. Ares, just stay where you are." Joxer left to visit the garden while Cupid explained about sex to his father, telling him about tricks to make his lover feel good, and the importance of submitting to Joxer, then moving on to more exotic aspects. Cupid was careful not to mention anything too exotic, but he did talk about some unusual postions and explain that sometimes it felt good to be helpless, and to be controlled by someone you trusted. Ares didn't say anything, but he wondered if that was something Cupid liked, or something Strife liked.

"Joxer, if you hurt my father I swear you'll find yourself in love with a hydra." Cupid started off his conversation with Joxer by threatening him. The God of War just laughed.

"I would never hurt my consort. But I am glad that you care enough about him to protect him. Does Strife share the same protectiveness?"

"Yes. He told me to warn you that if you upset Ares you'd find out exactly how much misery little pranks can bring to your life."

"Sweet of him to threaten me like that. And brave considering that I am the Head of his House." Joxer laughed slightly, but he was impressed by the loyalty that Ares' sons obviously felt for him. He also found it amusing how protective they were of him, normally the FATHER was protective of his children, not the other way around. "Now, what are you supposed to be talking to me about?"

"How to have sex with a man. I can understand Ares needing that lecture, but do you really?" Cupid sounded curious, and was obviously concerned, if his father was to be married to someone with experience then his first time might not hurt as much.

"No, I've had male lovers before." Joxer glanced over towards the room where he'd left Ares. "I'd like to get back to him, I left him with a butt plug inside him, so he'd get used to being stretched and he said he'd rather I took it back out. So I want to be there when he wants it out."

The Love god actually blushed and shook his head quickly. "If you know about toys then I'm sure you know everything you need to know about the mechanics of sex between men. I really didn't want to give this talk to either of you, but Mom's senior so she sent me. It's bad enough telling my own father about sex, but at least I was IV, and he's a virgin, telling someone like you..."

"What does that mean, someone like me?"

"The Fates were a bit more explicit after you took Dad back to the Temple of War. They explained that you're the original God of War reborn. And that's why you were always so clumsy. You do know this don't you?"

"Yes. Even if I don't have my powers I can still feel the currents of War around me, in all of Greece, and without my powers I couldn't respond to them right. My brothers were actually meant as camoflage. They were both much better at fighting than me, so if anyone found out which family I was born into, that's the most any god I've ever heard of, except Gaia could do, they'd assume one of my brothers was the true God of War. They were stalking horses, that's why I have to give them godhoods."

"I see. Well go back to your future consort, just preserve his virginity until after you're married."

"I promise not to compromise his virtue." Joxer was laughing as he returned to find Ares where he'd left him. When Ares eventually wanted the intruder inside him out Joxer removed it with the same care he'd shown in putting it in.

*********


"Are you going to be alright with this?" Ares had restored his beard and dressed in his black leathers for the last time before his wedding, but his hair was still as long and Joxer, dressed identically, was tying it back with a piece of leather.

"Of course I am. I never wanted to be God of War, I hate it, and you have come to free me of the burden." Ares smiled up at Joxer, the gratitude in his face blinding.

"What godhood do you hope for?"

"Redemption, or Mercy. They're both shared between the Houses of War and Love, I'd never be able to act purely as a Wargod so if you want me under your guidance you would still have to share me with someone."

"I hope you get what you want then. When will you find out?"

"A year after we've been married. You have the right to deny me my godhood if you choose so." Ares sounded resigned to that, to the fact that anything he got he got on sufferance and as a gift from his husband and master.

"I'm not sure whether I will or not, but I'll try to consider your wishes." Joxer smiled as a thought occurred to him. "Do you realise that in this lifetime I'm a blood innocent? I wonder how my new worshippers are going to react to a blood innocent on the throne of War."

"How would they feel if they learned they'd been serving a sexual innocent? You are the rightful God of War and I know you can control them. We need to get to Hera's temple." Ares seemed to be listening to a voice no one else could hear, and perhaps he was.

"Of course. Come on." Joxer flashed over to Hera's temple, coming out in the main hall right in front of her and he brought his consort with him. All the gods on Olympus had gathered there and so had the three highest ranking of Ares' priests, and all of Joxer's family - including his father, Jonus, who'd never approved of him.

"We are here to celebrate the marriage of Ares and Joxer, both with claim to the title of God of War, and to determine which will hold that title. Joxer, avow as you must."

"Ares, I, Joxer vow to you, as my consort, my love and protection. If you are harmed let me know and I will avenge your pain, if you need my aid call and I will be there." Joxer laid a light hand along the side of Ares' face, letting the younger god know how much he cared for and treasured him.

"Ares, avow as you must." It was breaking Hera's heart to know that when this wedding was finished her eldest son would be eternally subordinate to a mortal-turned-god, even one chosen by the Fates as she thought Joxer was, but you couldn't tell from her voice.

"Joxer, I, Ares, as your consort, vow to you my love and obedience. If you are angered let me know and I will offer you calm, if you need my touch call and I will be there." Adoration shone from Ares' eyes and it was clear to everyone that Ares was truly happy to belong to Joxer.

Then Zeus stepped forward to take over the ceremony and transfer the Godhood of War to Joxer. "We cannot have two Gods of War, so one of you must surrender your godhood. Joxer was chosen for the position and is so the true God of war. Ares you know what you must do."

"Yes Father." Ares immediately knelt, holding his sword, the Sword of War, in its sheath horizontally above his head, across his body, bowing his head in submission. Then he spoke the words decreed by the Fates. "I offer to you my blade and my godhood. All that I am, all that I have is yours. Those titles which were mine, I offer now to you."

Joxer smiled down at him and pulled the sword from its sheath just enough for him to get a grip on the blade itself, and then pulled it all the way out, cutting his hand open and bonding anew with his sword. His hand healed with a thought and he returned the sword to its sheath, fastening it to his hip before he reached out to lay his healed hand on Ares' bowed head and offered his response. "I accept your blade and godhood as the honours they are, no more will you be burdened by them. And I accept your fealty as the greatest honour of all." He pulled his lover to his feet with a grip on one shoulder, and then against him for a kiss, during which he changed Ares' clothes to red silks and removed his beard. After they broke from the kiss Ares gazed up at him with mindless adoration in his eyes.

"My lord." He barely breathed the words, but somehow Joxer was certain everyone in the hall had heard him.

"I present Joxer, the new God of War, my heir, and Ares his consort." Zeus spoke over the silence that had fallen, then he continued. "The reception will be held in the main hall of my temple in an hours time, one they have consummated their marriage. Joxer, Ares, we've prepared a room for that, Cupid can show you where it is."

"Thank you. Cupid?" Joxer asked his...stepson?, hinting that he should show them where to go immediately, and he complied quickly.

"This way." Cupid led them to a nearby side-chamber just large enough to hold the bed and stool which furnished it. "You know I have to watch?" He asked the question as he settled on the stool.

"Yes. We did invite you for that purpose. But I'd rather not think about that. Just stay quiet and out of our way." Joxer replied with exaggerated patience, and proceeded to kiss Ares until he was dizzy.

"Undress for me Ares." The younger god shivered and obeyed, slowly.

"Now undress me." Again Ares obeyed, wide-eyed and panting slightly from arousal.

"Face down on the bed, please." The final word was almost purred, obviously just a token courtesy, but Ares was only too happy to obey, pressing his painfully hard cock into the sheets.

"You like this, don't you? Being under my control totally, having no choice but to obey me, no recourse if I decide to hurt you." Joxer sounded as if he was thinking out loud, as if he'd forgotten Cupid's presence, and for a second the Love God wanted to intervene, scared for his father, until he realised just how much those dominating words were exciting his father. Joxer snaked a hand beneath his lover's body to fasten a ring around his cock.

"It'll be easier if you're aroused." He petted Ares' ass reassuringly when Ares moaned slightly at his denial. The elder god grabbed a pillow to slide beneath Ares' hips and support him, thrusting his ass out, then he took a grip on Ares' cock to distract him as he pulled the butt plug out after warning him to "Just relax for me. Can you do that?"

He added some more lubrication, then slid himself into his lover easily, surprisingly easily when Ares was a virgin in all ways. He thrust inside his lover, hitting his sweet spot with unerring accuracy on every thrust, stroking Ares' cock at the same time, and releasing him to enjoy orgasm with his husband and master. Joxer rolled them both so they were spooned together on their sides, facing Cupid, although they didn't realise that, as he withdrew from his consort. It was then that the Love God made his presence known.

"Wow! That was hot." Joxer glared at his stepson, while Ares just tried to bury his face in the sheets.

"I presume you *can* vouch for our having consummated our marriage now?"

"Um, yes of course I can."

"Then get to the reception and tell them that while we get cleaned up and dressed." Cupid vanished and the newly-weds tried to make themselves presentable.

**********



"Jett, Jace come here please." Every eye turned to Joxer and his
consort as they arrived in the main hall of Zeus' temple, and a
silence fell over the room just in time for the new God of War to
make his request.

"Yoxie! Ay'm so glad chu won, chu deserve it. I couldn't cope,
and chu're married now too. Does he make chu happy? Will chu have to
be faithful?" Jace wrapped himself around his brother and Joxer just
laughed and held him carefully, then lifted his brother away from
his body.

"Yes, my consort makes me very happy. Technically I don't have
to be faithful, although he does or at least no one can touch him
without my permission, but I won't cheat on him for at least a
hundred years. Or share him with anyone else." Joxer's voice went
hard with that last comment and he looked specifically towards
Aphrodite and Apollo. "You really should be asking him if I make him
happy, after all he's the more vulnerable of us."

"Of course baby brother. So Ares are chu happy with my brother?"

"Oh yes. He found a way for me to meet people without them
knowing who I was supposed to be, or putting me at risk, and he
shouted at Cupid for my sake. No one ever did anything like that for
me. And he hasn't hurt me, and he won't I know, not really anyway."
Ares smiled, gazing at Joxer in pure worship.

"That is sickening." Jett grinned at his brother, in a
peculiarly predatory fashion. "Congratualtions on your elevation
little brother. So, have you been hidng things from us?"

"Not intentionally. When I was reborn it was as part of a
multiple birth, that was what I planned and I had a spell set up so
my brothers would be much better fighters than me - I never could
block the currents of war and I knew being in a mortal body wouldn't
stop that. That's what made me clumsy, that I had no way of
responding to those currents until I regained my powers by melding
with the diamond I stored them in. I didn't remember that
consciously until I regained my powers either, I just knew I was
destined for War despite all appearances."

"You used us to distract attention from you." Jett's voice was
flat and emotionless and that was one of the strongest cues to his
anger at being used that way.

"In part. Also if you were worthy it would be easier to elevate
my brothers to godhood to fill missing gaps. I consulted with Zeus
and he concurs with my decision, and choice of godhoods for you."

"You were serious about that." Jett couldn't quite believe that
he was going to be made a god just for being related to Joxer - and
he hadn't always treated his brother very well at that. "What if we
don't want to be gods?"

"You are free to refuse once you know what godhoods we intend to
offer you, but I hope you won't."

"What have chu got planned for me Yoxie?" Jace's voice was
bubbling with excitement and good cheer. "Ay think Ay'd like to get
a chance to be around all these handsome men."

"It better be good to tempt me from my work." Jett was still a
little angry at the assumption Joxer had made, but he was willing to
listen.

"Jett, I want to make you Justice. It isn't House of War,
actually it's divided between Love and Intellect, but this way you
can continue your real work on Olympus. Jace, you'll be Deception,
again divided between two Houses, War, and Intellect, so you will
get a chance to work with Apollo."

"Oooh! He is a cutie, don't chu theenk so Yoxie?"

"Not my type. Jett, how do you feel about being God of Justice?
We do need one."

"I know. And perhaps this way people won't need to come to me or
people like me for justice."

"I doubt that, human nature thwarts even the best of things. But
we can always try. Zeus, don't you have an announcement to make?"

The King of the Gods glanced up at the softly spoken query, then
answered in a fashion. "Besides celebrating the marriage of my heir
we are also gathered here to witness the creation fo two new gods.
It is my wedding present to Joxer, and I name his brother Jett God
of Justice and his brother Jace God of Deception." The declaration
met with polite applause from the assembled gods and pure shock from
the heros and Joxer's 'parents'. The mortals, except for Gabrielle
had the good sense to stay silent, but the bard didn't even try to
conceal her contempt for Jett's new position.

"An assassin, God of Justice?" She laughed at the idea. "Is this
some sort of joke Joxer?"

"No, it is entirely serious." As Joxer spoke Hera walked forward
to offer Ambrosia to his brothers. "More than half of Jett's
commissions are to exact the sort of justice that can't be obtained
through conventional means. Jett, how many of *those* commissions
can pay your normal fees?"

Jett looked almost embarrassed that his brother was pointing out
his sense of honour, something he kept well hiden to maintain his
reputation, but he answered anyway. "About a third of them. But with
my reputation my usual fees are sky high."

"Yes, but how many of them can't even pay you your costs?" Joxer
was relentless when it came to making a point about his family.

"Only a quarter, and it doesn't really matter, not considering
how much I make normally." Jett's hair and eyes had darkened to pure
black under the influence of the Ambrosia and his skin was the same
colour as Joxer's now, stark and intimidating. Jace by contrast had
changed in the opposite direction, now he had the same golden eyes
as Joxer, paired with copper hair and skin with a healthy golden
glow from being in the sun.

Ares had been biting his lip, but now he looked up and spoke
very quietly, as if unsure that he had the right to. "Joxer, Father,
we've lost Nemesis and Bacchus recently, why didn't you use Jett and
Jace to replace them?"

"Because they aren't entirly fitted for those positions. But we
can find others suitable for those posts, either to be raised to
godhood, or born to take that position." Zeus smiled gently at his
son. "Perhaps even your children." Ares' eyes widened in shock at
that suggestion, but he nodded obediently.

"Actually my love, I considered that, and I want to discuss it
with you. Later." Joxer whispered to his lover and then kissed him
full on the lips demandingly.

"As you wish." Ares gasped out his reply breathlessly as he
melted into his husband's arms.

"I need to introduce you to my parents, you should know who your
in-laws are."

"And you already know who yours are my lord. I would be happy to
meet your relatives, and I am honoured that you consider me worthy."

"How could you not be, my love?" Ares didn't answer, he
recognised a rhetorical question and he was soon standing in front
of a large heavily muscled man, and a woman thin to the point of
emaciation.

"This is my father Jonas, and this is my mother Jocasta. Mother,
Father this is my consort Ares. We're not sure what his true godhood
is, we won't know for a year."

"Greetings Ares. Is it true that you were a virgin until today?"

"Yes." Ares blushed and tried to step back and hide behind his
husband, only to be stopped by his grip around his waist.

"How, I mean I know you have children..." Jonas trailed off,
only just realising that he was asking a sensitive question.
He was not the brightest of men when it came to people, although he
possessed a surprising understanding of tactics.

"Apollo's magic, and a decree from the Fates, none of us risk
defying those. I was never meant to be War, and if it wasn't such an
important godhood I would have taken my true godhood at birth and we
would have waited for it to be filled." Ares refused to look up and
pressed himself against his husband for reassurance.

"Well, I hope you enjoy your new godhood, and I'm sure there's
other people you'd rather be speaking to than us. Please don't feel
any need to keep us amused." Jocasta dismiaaed them quietly, and
Joxer just laiughed and complied. They did enjoy the reception,
although it was intended more to make sure that the other gods got
used to the fact that Ares was no longer War and Joxer had become
War instead. Hercules, Iolaus, Xena and Gabrielle had actually given
them the best wedding present - a vow to pray to Ares every day to
supply him with power until his new godhood was declared. Joxer was
overjoyed by it, and so was his consort.

*********



"My lord husband. What is wrong?" Ares sounded totally mystified
at Joxer's behaviour that night. He'd undressed Ares and put him
into bed, but he hadn't undressed himself and he was pacing around
their bedroom.

"Nothing love." Joxer stopped his pacing the second he saw he
was worrying his consort. He'd come to care for, if not love Ares
over the two years he'd spent teaching Aria to stand up a bit for
herself. And he had a feeling he would grow into a love for Ares,
over time as his mate learned to relax around him and trust
him. "But there is something I need to discuss with you." He came to
sit on the bed beside his lover and ran his fingers through the
younger god's hair. "Zeus suggested that we, as in the Olympians,
breed up new gods of Debauchery and of Retribution. I know how to do
that, but Apollo isn't willing to bear Debauchery, and neither I nor
Jett can bear Retribution."

"I do not understand, Joxer."

"I'm not explaining this very well, am I?" Joxer shook his head
and started from the beginning. "Debauchery can be bred from a
mixture of Music and Wine. That would mean Dionysus, who can't carry
a child, and Apollo who doesn't want to. And Retribution is a mix of
Justice and War." Joxer paused for a moment, he wasn't going to
insult his consort by assuming he needed the simplest things
explaining to him.

"So you're going to get a host mother for the two new gods?"

"Not exactly. You see Jett is my brother, so I'm not sure it
would be healthy for a child to be produced from the two of us. I
asked Gaia to build my pattern into a bunch of mortal families and
that's why Jonas is my father, so there's even closer congruence
than there normally would be. But until you're given a godhood of
your own any children of yours are children of war."

"So you want to lend me to Jett and have him get a child on me?
It is your right to do so." Ares sounded a bit disappointed, but
accepting of his husband's wishes.

"No, I will not share you, even with my family. But you do not
need to lie with my brother to carry my child."

"Oh, of course. You want me to let Apollo use his magic to
impregnate me with Jett's child." Ares had a sunny smile on his face
once he understood what his husband wanted. "I'd rather carry your
child, but if that is your wish, I am more than pleased to comply.
Just...do we get to raise the god of Retribution as our child, or
will your brother take him from me?"

"Ares...you can't carry my child for a year, not until you've
gotten your own godhood. It wouldn't be safe until then as our
energies would still be too similar. I checked with Hera, and you
aren't pregnant from our first time, so as long as I make sure there
isn't a chance you'll get pregnant with my child it should be fine.
Yes, we get to raise Retribution, Jett agreed to sign over all
authority and responsibility for his child to me. But I also wanted
to know if you'd be the host mother for Debauchery, again, if you do
Apollo and Dionysus are willing to give the child to us to raise as
our own."

"I'd have twins?" There was a sense of wonder in Ares' voice and
Joxer smiled down at him.

"Yes, if you are willing."

"Please my lord. If it will not offend you that I carry two
children by other men." Ares wriggled slightly on the bed in
invitation as he spoke.

"Of course it won't." Joxer let his hands wander lower down his
consort's body, then stood and began removing his own clothes. "It's
too dangerous for me to take you while there's a chance you could
conceive, but that doesn't mean we can't do other things, if you
want."

"Whatever pleases you my lord. That is what I want."

"Have you heard of rimming?" Joxer knelt by Ares' head as he
asked the question.

"Yes, Cupid explained it to me before our wedding."

"Would you like to try doing that for me?"

"Yes, if it would please you."

"Very much so." And Joxer knelt over Ares' face in position for
it. Ares kept on using his tongue on his husband's anus and playing
with his balls and prick until Joxer came, catching as much of his
seed in his hand as possible.

"Why did you do that?" Ares couldn't understand his husband's
actions.

"You'll see." As he spoke Joxer twisted to use his seed to
lubricate himself, and his lover. Then he moved to straddle his
consort over his hips, facing him, and lowered himself down to
impale himself on Ares. He lifted up and down slowly at first, but
quickly getting into a rhythm, not ceding any of the control, but
taking pleasure, and giving it to his mate freely.

"Joxer!" Ares screamed his husband's name as he came, and then
lay limp in satiation as Joxer moved to lie beside him, cleaning
them both up with a thought. "Why did you do that my lord? I am here
for your pleasure, but I didn't expect anything like that."

"Did I make your first time less than pleasant?" It was a
rhetorical question, and Ares recognised that. "It was something I
wanted to do with you, and I enjoyed it. Also I can't take you again
until you're at least two weeks pregnant, a month to be safe, but as
I said earlier there's other ways of taking and giving pleasure, and
I want to show you all of them."

"Then that pleased you?" Ares had a puzzled frown on his face as
he asked the question, he'd never expected to be inside his husband,
and he associated being penetrated with submitting - although Joxer
had definitely not been submissive just then.

"Oh yes, very much." Joxer smiled down at him predatorily,
before lifting off and lying down beside his consort. "Now, why
don't you clean me up. Don't use your power, use your mouth and
tongue."

"Yes my lord." Joxer had told Ares to use his name, but he had
never thought it appropriate, and his husband did want a consort
with spirit. So Ares had decided to defy his master in that one
small way, a way that felt more natural than presuming to use his
lord's name casually. He knelt to do his husband's bidding, licking
the semen from his body, starting at the furthest point and working
his way to Joxer's ass, leaving his prick untouched.

"Stop for a moment." Joxer took Ares' hand and guided it to the
base of his prick. "I don't want to come yet. If you think I'm going
to just squeeze here."

"Right." Ares had moved back only long enough to answer, then he
returned his attention to the task at hand. Once he'd finished with
his husband's ass he moved to take his prick in his mouth, pausing
only to ask a question. "Do you want to tell me when to let you
come, or do you just want to finish in my mouth?"

"I want to finish in your mouth, you are a quick study." Ares
basked in the approving smile Joxer gave his consort. Afterwards
Joxer told him to lie back and returned the favour.

*********





"My lord, why did you wish to have Aesclepius perform the spells
for me to concieve Jett's child rather than Apollo?" Ares was
kneeling by Joxer's side as they waited in the god of Medicine's
temple, for Jett, Dionysis and Apollo.

"Because Apollo will need to conceive Dionysis' child at more or
less the same time before it's transfered to your body. He won't have
the concentration to spare to make sure you conceive as desired."
Joxer stroked his consort's hair in an effort to reassure him. Ares
was grateful he'd given up on trying to stop his consort kneeling
around him, he knew his master did not like it, but Ares had been
taught to feel he didn't belong on a level with the other gods.

"Oh, I did not think of that, please forgive my stupidity." Ares
bowed his head further in token of submission.

"There is nothing to forgive." Joxer smiled down at Ares and put
a hand beneath his chin, lifting it so that he had to look into the
elder god's face. "I forgot to explain everything to you, and there
was no way you could have known the limitations of Apollo's powers in
this respect. After all he has never chosen to bear a child himself
at all, let alone one conceived this way."

"No, and I would not even agree to conceive this child if you had
not volunteered your beautiful consort as a broodmare." Apollo smiled
brightly at Joxer as he arrived. "Perhaps once you've got a child
from him you will be willing to share him in other ways. Where are
the others? This is the time we agreed on is it not?"

"As likely as not Dionysis is recovering from a hangover." Jett
appeared out of nowhere, or seemed to. How he managed to sneak up on
gods so easily Ares would never know, although it was not a new
talent by any means, but at least now that he was a god himself it
made a bit more sense.

"I will give him ten more minutes then, if he is not here by that
time we will go and get him brother."

"Sounds like fun." A predatory grin appeared on Jett's face at
the suggestion. "But you don't want to leave your consort
unprotected, do you?"

"He can come with us. He has been passing for the God of War
since he was about ten years old after all, even if he is so very
submissive." Ares esisted the urge to smile as Joxer implied how very
little he trusted Apollo's self-control without ever actually saying
the words out loud, apparently such word games had been a favourite
pastime at Uranus' court.

"You don't need to do that." Dionysis had arrived, unsteady on
his feet. "I'm not late or anything am I?"

"No, even I was a bit early. And Aesclepius isn't here yet so the
point is moot." Jett smiled at the elder god then, a wolfish leer as
he looked up and down his body.

"Like what you see?" Dionysis returned the leer, and stripped
Jett naked with his eyes, Ares was just grateful that Dionysis had
never looked at him like that, he knew he wouldn't be able to react
with the same sort of aplomb. "I certainly like what I see. I must
remember to get you drunk sometime."

"Oh, it's no fun if you have to get someone drunk. They're always
so upset afterwards, as if they weren't doing what they really wanted
anyway." Jett grinned happily. "And it's not as if either of us can
get pregnant anyway, so we don't have to be careful or anything."

"No, we don't. Shall we get together afterwards? All we have to
do for this is contribute our seed."

"You can arrange your social calenders afterwards gentlemen."
Aesclepius sounded coldly professional, with an air of command that
Ares recognised as something many of his husband's warlords would
envy.

"Of course." Joxer smiled at the younger god, pulling Ares to his
feet. "What do you need to do this?"

"Ares and Apollo, you both need to strip and lie face down on the
beds, on top of the covers." Ares flushed, but obeyed after a glance
at Joxer for permission - Apollo had already started stripping off
before his son began talking. "Dionysis, Jett, take these and jerk
off into them." He handed a labelled jar to each of the two
prospective fathers. They grinned at each other, and retreated to a
separate room in the temple, together. It only took ten minutes until
the returned, each handing a jar to Asclepius.

The healing god put one of the jars down by Ares and carried the
other over to his father, pouring the contents down between the
cheeks of his ass, and slipping gloved fingers inside the sun god,
opening him up and guiding the seed into him, all the while expending
his energy in a way Ares didn't understand. Then it was his turn, and
he was horrified to find himself aroused by what Asclepius was doing.

"Oh, I'm sorry." It was as if Asclepius had just realised Joxer,
Dionysis and Jett were still there. "I'm finished with you two.
Joxer, Ares and Apollo have to lie where they are for a few hours
before I can transfer Apollo's child. You can come back then if you
wish." Ares shivered with repressed fear at the prospect, and was
given swift reassurance.

"No, I'll stay here. I don't have anything it is vital for me to
do after all." Ares waited and spoke with his husband to pass the
time. When Asclepius transferred the child it was painless, and then
Joxer took him back home.


*********

tbc


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