The worshippers were gone, the temple was silent. Torchlight shimmered on metal, revealing in its dim glow the offerings that had been left on the stone slab in the center of the room. Swords and daggers, their blades still encrusted with the blood they had spilled. Armor stripped from fallen enemies. An occasional bit of plundered treasure, glittering golden, easily spotted in the midst of duller, harder metals that surrounded it. Gifts for the God of War, left by his faithful followers.
The God himself stood over the altar, looking over the offerings with a glowering expression on his dark, handsome face. He'd never understood the mortals' penchant for piling junk on his altar. Weapons were meant to be used, not dumped unceremoniously in the nearest temple. And blood spilled on the battlefield was the only proper offering to the God of War. The rest was window dressing.Still, every now and then, something did catch his eye... Ares reached out and plucked a small object from the clutter, holding it up to catch what light there was. Yes, this was nice... A pendant in the shape of a sword dangled from a plain silver chain. It was exquisitely made, from some black crystalline stone Ares didn't recognize, with the hilt carved in the shape of a human skull, and a lightning bolt etched along the blade. He wondered which particular supplicant had left it, and what prayer had accompanied the gift. Not that it really mattered. He'd sort it out later, and grant the mortal's petition. Or not. However the mood took him... Ares grinned, and slipped the chain over his head.
He knew as soon as he'd done it that he'd made a mistake. The moment the pendant settled against his chest, he could feel the power waking inside it. It burned against his skin like a spark from Hephaestus' forge. Ares grabbed for the chain, intending to take it off again, and at that moment the power burst from the pendant in a crackling white lightning bolt that arced up to the temple roof and through it, into the night sky.
The backlash sent Ares sprawling to the floor. Stone and plaster rained from the ceiling amidst a cloud of dust. Ares flung one arm up, preparing to raise a shield, but the debris vanished into a swirling darkness that appeared in the air out of nowhere. The darkness grew, blocking out the roof and the walls, creeping along the floor, and Ares found himself falling through it into a black void.
He landed with a bone-jarring impact on hard, cold stone. It was definitely not the floor of his temple. In fact, he realized as he glanced around, it was nowhere he'd ever been before. The place didn't look like much - just a lot of craggy, uneven rock everywhere he looked. The sky was a whirlpool of shifting dark colors that made him dizzy when he looked up. That was wrong. Gods didn't get dizzy."Well, look who decided to drop in," an unpleasantly familiar voice drawled from behind him. Ares turned around and rose to his feet in one smooth motion, to find himself face to face with his least favorite brother.
Except this wasn't Hercules. Hercules wouldn't be caught dead in a studded leather harness. Hercules did not have a beard. And Hercules did not, in Ares' experience, have that slightly off-kilter look in his eyes, a look that suggested that the mind behind the eyes was a couple of monkeys short of a barrel.
Ares smiled tightly. "The Sovereign, I presume?"
"The one and only." The Sovereign's smile, like the eyes, was not quite right. It was unnerving, to see such an expression on Hercules' face. Just one of many unnerving things about the situation.
Ares' left knee still hurt from the landing. Gods did not get bruised knees. Something was very wrong.
God and demigod circled each other warily, like two wolves from rival packs taking each other's measure on neutral ground. Ares forced himself not to limp, or show any traces of his anxiety. He had a sinking feeling that he was mortal in this in-between place, a fact he had no desire to share with the Sovereign.
"And you," the Sovereign muttered speculatively, "are definitely not the God of Love. You are the other Ares, aren't you?"
Ares let his smile grow wider, showing teeth. "I like to think of myself as the one true original.""How did you get here?"
"None of your business."
The Sovereign's face twisted into a mask of pure, white-hot rage. "HOW DID YOU GET HERE?" he bellowed, lowered his head, and charged at Ares like an angry bull.
Ares went for his sword, but he misjudged the speed of his mortal body. The Sovereign slammed into him before the blade was halfway out of its scabbard. The impact sent them both tumbling over onto the rocks. Ares felt the air leave his lungs in a painful rush as his back slammed against the ground. While he struggled for breath, the Sovereign snatched a fist-sized chunk of rock from the ground, and swung. Ares watched the blow come toward him, so fast it was a blur, and then the rock struck the side of his head, and everything went black.
Coming to was a slow, painful process. Ares bit back a moan as he sorted out the various unpleasant sensations assaulting his body. He was lying on his side on cold stone. His head was pounding. There was a strange tightness in his chest, and a dull ache in his shoulders and arms. Ares tried to shrug away the strain, and found that he couldn't move. The cold hand of panic clutched at his chest as he realized that he was bound, strips of some strong, supple material twisted around his arms from wrist to elbow. It was extremely uncomfortable, and impossible to get out of. His feet, too, were restrained. Ares pulled his knees up to his chest, looked down, and saw his own belt wrapped tight around his ankles."Are you ready to talk yet?" The Sovereign asked him in a light voice. "Or do you want to thrash around some more?"
The Sovereign was lounging against a nearby boulder, watching Ares' struggles with an amused expression. He must have used the straps from his harness to bind Ares' arms, because he was no longer wearing it, and it was nowhere in sight. Ares' sword lay on the ground next to him, less than five feet away from Ares' face. It might as well have been five miles.
"You know," the Sovereign went on in the same mild tone that set Ares' teeth on edge, "I never liked the God of Love. Always swishing around with that hearts-and-flowers bullshit. Godhood was wasted on him. Of course, I've always thought it's wasted on the lot of you." He crossed the space between them in one long stride, bent down, and fingered the collar of Ares' vest appraisingly. "You, at least, have better dress sense than most of the others."
"What do you want?" Ares growled, though he was not at all sure he wanted to hear the answer to that. Talking made his head hurt worse. Breathing made his head hurt worse. The pain seemed centered on a spot just above his left eyebrow. Ares could feel a drop of blood oozing sluggishly across his forehead.
The Sovereign grabbed a handful of leather at the front of Ares' vest, and hauled the God to his knees.
"How did you come here?"
"I don't know." There was no way Ares was giving up the pendant. It was his only way of getting back, if he could only figure out how it worked.
The Sovereign grinned nastily, and rapped two knuckles against Ares' left temple, right where it hurt. The world turned red and foggy at the edges, and spun in dizzying circles.
"I swear, I don't know!" Ares could hear the desperation in his own voice, and made no effort to conceal it. It would make him sound more believable, he hoped. He suspected that the Sovereign had had a great deal of experience in beating the truth out of people, and in recognizing lies. So a partial truth was the best way to go. "I didn't come here on purpose, does this look like the sort of place I like to hang out? I think one of the other gods set a trap for me, but I don't know who."
The Sovereign appeared to be considering that answer for a few moments. His grip on Ares' vest loosened slightly. Ares was just beginning to think that he'd pulled it off, when a booted foot smashed into his gut.
Ares doubled over, gasping frantically for air and trying not to retch. He took shallow, rasping breaths until the pain subsided to a bearable level, and he could lift his head again. The Sovereign made no move to help or hinder him, he just stood there and loomed. There was an unsettling glint in his eyes that hadn't been there before. And an even more unsettling bulge in his pants. For the first time since his arrival, Ares paused to really consider his position, both literal and figurative. He was bound and powerless in very unfriendly hands. And he was on his knees, bent over with his head nearly touching the ground. If he was standing in the Sovereign's boots, he'd be turned on, too.
Ares swallowed, closed his eyes, and forced himself to concentrate. He could use this. If he could just get his hands free, catch the Sovereign unaware somehow...
Slowly, Ares began to straighten up. His stomach muscles protested that they wanted to stay curled up for another week or so, but he bit his lip and kept moving until he was kneeling upright. Then he tilted his head back to expose his throat, and looked up into the Sovereign's face with smouldering, half-lidded eyes. More lovers than he could begin to count had succumbed to that look. He had refined it over centuries. Though never from this angle. Ares opened his mouth slightly, and ran his tongue over his lower lip.
"I know you don't want to believe this..." he pitched his voice to a low purr, "but I don't know how I got here, and I don't know how to get back. Which means we're stuck with each other. But it doesn't need to be like this. I'm sure we can... work together."
It was unsettling, and strangely exciting, to be conducting a seduction from such a vulnerable position. A challenge of sorts. The God of War liked a challenge. He rolled his shoulders in a slow, languid motion that let his vest fall open to show off the hard, sculpted planes of his torso.
The bulge at the Sovereign's crotch grew even more pronounced. His nostrils flared. He crouched down so that he and Ares were at the same level, and twined his fingers in the God's hair.
"Oooh, yess," he whispered, warm breath tickling against Ares' cheek. "I'm sure we can work something out. I've been alone here for a looong time..." He thrust his hand between Ares' legs, and squeezed.
A hot, vicious pain stabbed from Ares' groin up into his gut. He opened his mouth to cry out, and the Sovereign stopped his voice with a kiss. Their mouths crushed against each other with bruising force, and Ares tasted blood as his lower lip split against his teeth. The fingers in his hair tightened painfully. The hand at his crotch flexed, massaging him through the soft leather of his trousers, and he felt his cock stir to life under the rough caress. Ares moaned into the kiss. His hips thrust forward of their own accord.
The Sovereign broke the kiss and pulled back slightly to gaze into Ares' eyes. His pupils were dilated, and his breath was ragged. He pressed the palms of his hands against Ares' chest, and moved them in slow circles, stroking the smooth skin and the short, dark hairs. He curled his fingers a bit when he reached the nipples, scraping his nails lightly against the sensitive flesh. Ares gasped and arched his back.
"Yes," he breathed, with a quiver in his voice that was only partially feigned. His skin was slick with sweat. His pants felt way too tight. Control. He had to maintain control. "Don't you think this is a bit one-sided?" he whispered.
The Sovereign flicked his thumbs over Ares' nipples, teasing them to almost painful tightness. "What do you suggest, then?"
"Untie me. Get in on the fun."
"Hmm..." The Sovereign pursed his mouth thoughfully. "It's a thought. But... I don't think so." His face darkened. He pinched each nipple with a sudden, vicious grip, and twisted. Hard.
Ares clenched his jaw against the sudden pain, but couldn't entirely stop the whimper in his throat. He pulled back, but the Sovereign's hands followed, never slackening their hold. The Sovereign leaned forward until his mouth was almost brushing Ares' ear.
"I think I've got all the fun I need, right here," he whispered. "You just keep your lying mouth shut, and forget about any clever ideas you think you have."
And then he was stroking Ares' chest again, while his tongue traced the edge of Ares' ear. His touch was feather-light. One might almost mistake him for a gentle lover -- if one's hands and feet weren't numb from the too-tight bonds, if one's nipples weren't still throbbing painfully from recent mistreatment. Shit. Maybe this wasn't such a great idea. Maybe he shouldn't have tried to plan strategy with a head injury. Maybe...
The Sovereign's mouth traced the line of his jaw, drew a trail of kisses down his throat, nibbled at the skin above his collarbone. The Sovereign's fingers tugged at the laces of Ares' pants, loosening the waistband just enough to slip one hand between skin and leather. Ares' breath caught in his throat as a callused palm pressed against his cock. Maybe this was a good idea...
Ares shuddered and bucked his hips. All the blood in his veins seemed to have turned to liquid fire and rushed to his groin. The Sovereign was moaning softly with each breath. He twined his left hand in Ares' hair again and forced the God's head farther back, lapping at the hollow at the base of his throat. His right hand burrowed lower, and the fingers curled around Ares' balls at the same moment that the Sovereign's teeth bit into his shoulder, breaking skin.
The pain and pleasure together coursed through his body like twin waves, reinforcing each other. Ares closed his eyes and groaned. His cock throbbed in time with his heartbeat. A drop of blood trickled down his chest, and the Sovereign followed its trail with his tongue, pausing to linger over the tight peak of the nipple. Then he pulled away, mouth and hands withdrawing all at once, leaving Ares trembling on the edge.
"I must say..." The Sovereign was making an obvious effort at a light, conversational tone, but his voice was hoarse, and his face was flushed. He looked as breathless and aroused as Ares felt. "This is going to be a big improvement on humping my fist every night. Or whatever passes for night around here."
Ares gave a low growl, deep in his throat. "Are you going to talk, or fuck?"
The Sovereign's eyes narrowed, and Ares saw that he'd just added to his tally of critical mistakes for the day. He saw the backhand slap coming, and managed to roll with it, but the impact still sent him falling. Unable to use his hands to break his fall, the best he could do was to twist as he fell, so that his shoulder hit before his head did.
"I think we're having a bit of a communication problem." The Sovereign straddled Ares' legs, pinning him. "I don't recall giving you permission to speak. " He banged Ares' head against the ground a couple of times, for emphasis. "Did I give you permission to speak? Did I?"
"No," Ares ground out furiously.
"That's a good little god," The Sovereign chuckled, and patted his head as if he was praising a clever puppy. "The really proper response, of course, is 'No, My Lord Sovereign,' but that can wait till you're properly trained. Now, where were we?"
The Sovereign pulled Ares' hips up and back so that Ares was kneeling again, gripped the waistband of Ares' pants, and tore them off with one quick pull, ripping through leather as if it was the flimsiest silk. Ares tried to pull away, to straighten up, but a powerful hand gripped the back of his neck and held him down, pressing his face into the rough stone. Another hand slipped between his legs to stroke and fondle him, teasing his flagging erection back to its earlier hardness.
Ares moaned and pumped his hips, unable to stop himself. This is why he hated being mortal, the total lack of control over his own physical responses. This body cared nothing for his pride or his anger or the dignity of his office, it just wanted release.
Release, however, was not to be had. The Sovereign's hand retreated from his cock, and his weight rocked back slightly. Ares heard the sound of leather sliding against skin, and realized that the Sovereign was finally removing his own pants. He remembered the size of the bulge in those pants, and shuddered.
Hard, muscular thighs straddled him, pressing against his hipbones on either side, holding him motionless. A finger traced the cleft of his ass, stopping when it reached the tight ring of muscle at the centre. It paused there just long enough for him to tense in anticipation, then jabbed its way in. No warning, no preparation, not even a bit of spit to ease its way. Ares cried out at the stab of pain, and at the heat that followed it. His cock twitched against his belly, aching for stimulation, receiving none. The finger wriggled inside him, invasive, insistent, seeking out agony and ecstasy with equal skill, until Ares was no longer sure which was which. He could feel the Sovereign's massive erection pulsing against his buttock, the fingers of the Sovereign's free hand gripping his thigh hard enough to bruise. Ahh, damn, it was too much, too intense, he couldn't think, didn't know what to do, didn't know what he wanted to do...
The finger pulled out, and two hands gripped his ass, spreading him open. Ares felt his stomach clench in expectation as the Sovereign's swollen cock pressed against his anus, and began to enter him with a slow, steady push.
Ares exhaled as the pressure mounted, and tried to relax his protesting muscles, to offer as little resistance as possible, but the circumstances weren't exactly conducive to relaxation. He tried to push back with his hips, to get it over with quickly, but the Sovereign's hands were too strong, and they held him trapped, while the rigid shaft impaled him one agonizing inch at a time. His vision blurred in and out. He couldn't draw in enough breath to scream.
A grunt, a final push, and all movement stopped. The Sovereign's hips pressed hard against Ares' ass, the short, wiry hairs tickling at the sensitive skin. Ares closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing. The cock inside him throbbed, and his own shaft pulsed in response. A few more seconds of stillness, and then the Sovereign was pulling back, and it all began again.
And again. And again. Each thrust came a little faster than the one before, each one seemed to penetrate deeper, until Ares was sure that he was going to split right down the middle. The pain receded somewhat as his body adjusted to the invasion, but the sensations that replaced it were not really an improvement, not when the tension kept building inside him, with no relief in sight. He heard a voice crying out with every thrust, and was vaguely surprised to recognize it as his own.
The Sovereign's movements grew steadily more frantic. He shifted his hands from Ares' buttocks to his waist, digging his nails into the sweat-slicked skin for better purchase. Each time he thrust his hips forward, he pulled back with his arms, grinding their bodies together.
"Yess... bastard... yess..." his voice was a low, animal growl. "Think you're something special 'cause you're a god... I'll show you... bastard... show them all... yess..."
The last "yes" turned into a hoarse scream. The hands at Ares' waist gripped so tight, he was sure his ribs would crack. One hand slid across the God's stomach to capture his cock in a strong, hot grip, and Ares felt every muscle in his body contract at once as the explosion that had been building for so long finally hit. The Sovereign fell forward, a crushing weight pinning Ares' bound arms against his back, and sank his teeth into Ares' left bicep as he climaxed.
For the minute that followed, neither one of them could do anything except lie there and breathe. The Sovereign's chest was still pressed against Ares' back, and Ares thought he could hear both their hearts, beating like drums before battle, to the same wild rhythm. Then the Sovereign gave a low, satisfied chuckle and gave one last squeeze to Ares' spent cock before letting go. "Was it good for you too?" He wiped his hand off in Ares' hair, and rolled off him with a grunt.
It was almost certainly a rhetorical question, so Ares didn't answer it. He collapsed onto his side, grateful to finally be off his knees. Now that all his awareness was not concentrated on his ass and his groin, the rest of his body once again began to complain about its state. It had a nice, long list of new discomforts to catalogue. He was drenched with sweat, sticky with blood and semen, and uncomfortably cold. His arms and shoulders ached, his knees had been scraped raw against the ground, and the bite marks on his arm and shoulder were still seeping blood. He wanted a bath. He wanted a thousand baths.
Next to him, the Sovereign lifted his arms and stretched with a contented sigh. He lifted his hips off the ground to wriggle back into his pants, retied the laces, and turned a languid gaze toward Ares.
"Thanks," he muttered. "I needed that."
"Can I--" Ares began, and broke off. He couldn't think of a non-humiliating way to phrase the request. To Hades with it, he decided. What did he care what the Sovereign thought of him, anyway? "Can I have a hand free to get dressed?"
"Do it yourself then."
"I don't think so."
"You can't keep me like this forever!"
The Sovereign blinked at him with puzzled, sleepy eyes. "Why not?"
Ares could only stare. The Sovereign smirked at him, stretched again, and closed his eyes. His body visibly relaxed, and his breathing became slow and even. Ares realized that he was asleep.
What, no pillow talk? A hysterical laugh threatened to fight its way up Ares throat. He swallowed, fighting for calm. This was not the time to lose it.
Why not? a small voice whispered in the back of his mind. Good question, that. He was battered, bound, trapped in the literal middle of nowhere, and Hercules' evil twin was apparently planning to keep him around as a sex toy. Gibbering insanity seemed like a perfectly reasonable response to the situation. Still, Ares decided to save it for the last resort. Slowly, reluctantly, he heaved himself up to his knees. Putting on that damn pendant opened the gateway that brought him here. If he could get it off, and put it on again... Ares leaned forward, and the chain slid down his neck and hung across his face. It didn't seem inclined to go any further, so he shook his head from side to side, trying to encourage it a bit. This quickly led to a brand-new lesson about mortal bodies -- skull fractures and sudden head movements did not mix well.
It took several very long minutes for the world to stop spinning, and for his stomach to stop heaving. Then he tried again, slower this time. It still hurt like Tartarus, but he could deal with it. The pendant slid down another couple of inches, and stopped again. The fucking chain was caught in his hair. Why did he ever grow it long anyway, he must've been delirious, if he got out of this in one piece he was going to shave his head, and he would never wear another piece of jewelry again, never, ever, for as long as he lived... The chain slipped over his head, and fell to the ground with a soft clink. Ares stared at it blankly, at the flat silver links and the gleaming black crystal, unable to believe that he had actually succeeded. This was only the first step, of course. Now he had to figure out how to get the thing back on. First thing first -- he needed to pick it up, and there was only one way to do it. Ares gripped the pendant with his teeth, lifted his head--
-- And found himself staring at a pair of dusty black boots.
"Well, well, well, isn't that an interesting picture?" The Sovereign bent down and plucked the necklace from Ares' mouth, holding it up so that the pendant dangled before his eyes. "Is this what you've been hiding from me? Your ticket to this lovely paradise?" Ares glared up at him, and said nothing. The Sovereign shrugged, and stepped back a pace . "Let's try it, shall we?"
Ares closed his eyes and bowed his head, feeling suddenly drained. It was over. Whether or not the pendant worked, whether or not he was about to be left here alone, or trapped forever with the Sovereign, it was over. He had lost the last thing he had to lose. A cold, numb indifference crept over him, sapping the last of his strength, and he wondered dully if this was what the mortals called despair.
A furious roar made him start and look up. The Sovereing was standing just a step away, with the pendant dangling around his neck, and an expression of pure fury on his face.
"Nothing's HAPPENING!" He yelled. "Why isn't it WORKING?"
He lifted his hand, and Ares braced himself for a blow. But the Sovereign's anger was apparently directed at the pendant itself. He tore it from his neck, breaking the chain with a single effortless pull, and tossed it aside. If flew gleaming through the air, struck a ridge of stone some twenty feet away, and shattered into a thousand tiny fragments.
A moment later, all Tartarus broke lose.
A glowing mist rose from the ground where the pieces of crystal were scattered. It coalesced into a glowing yellow sphere, with lightning flickering inside it. The sphere burst, and suddenly there was lightning striking in all directions, shattering rocks, splitting the sky. One crackling bolt hit the Sovereign in the chest, and sent him flying. Another just missed Ares' head. Ares threw himself to the ground and rolled, trying to reach the relative shelter of a large boulder nearby.
Something hard and cold dug into his shoulder. His sword, lying abandoned in its scabbard where the Sovereign had left it. Ares' fingers were numb, and didn't want to obey him, but somehow he managed to grasp the hilt.
Another bolt struck just in front of him. Shards of blackened stone flew in all directions. The ground split apart with a deafening noise, and Ares saw darkness swirling in the chasm below. Without thinking, without particularly caring what would happen, Ares threw himself forward, over the edge, and let the darkness take him.
Black marble beneath him. Black sky above. Stars glimmered through the jagged hole in the domed roof. Ares had never seen anything more beautiful in his life. He lay still for a while, revelling in the sight of a sky that didn't look like boiling mud, in the cool smoothness of the marble against his skin. Eventually, it occurred to him that it wouldn't do for somebody to come in and find the God of War lying on his back with his pants down around his knees. Ares concentrated for a moment, and the restraints vanished from his arms and ankles. Another thought healed his injuries, and restored his clothes to their usual immaculate state. A quick wave of his hand fixed the roof. It was good to be a God.
Ares stood up, and strapped his sword back on. He still wanted a bath, but that could wait. There were more important things to take care of first. Someone had left that pendant on his altar. Someone had tried to trap him, and almost succeeded.
Someone was going to pay big-time.