Author: Erin
Title: Altared States
Characters: Hades/Strife, Ares/Strife
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Strife's out of the underworld, so now what? Sequel to A Reasonable Demand
This rating is for explicit m/m sex and language.

Don't own 'em, not making money off of 'em, no infringement intended.

General Comments: Ya know, it really sucks when you find out that three years of not writing means that you start blushing at sex scenes again. Took me over a year to conquer that the first time 'round; looks like I'll have to start over again. Hopefully the, um, difficulties don't show up here.

This was another story I found sitting on my hard drive. I was actually perusing an old Hephy/Strife piece when I saw this and thought, "What the hell...?" Turns out it's a sequel to the first Hades/Strife fic I wrote, A Reasonable Demand. It was only half done and it looked interesting so I thought, "Why not? I see where it's going so let's take it there." And so it was. (Yes, it begs for a sequel and yes, I do intend to see what I can do about that. But considering my history regarding sequels....)

The outfit I'm making reference to here is the one Hades wore in "Death in Chains." You can see it here: Kiari's Erik Thomson Collection (And yes, if you look at his shoulders -- and don't pretend that's a hardship or anything ;) -- that lovely red velvet cloak is there.)

Yes, the title is deliberate. (I also just figured out that it's not original. It was used in an ep of Xena. My bad.)

This story contains explicit descriptions of male/male sexual relations and some potentially offensive language.

Comments on this story? Email me at Flames will be sent to slash lists where everyone will laugh at them.

You can find more stories by Erin at her site Erin's House-O-Fanfic.

_____ *** _____

Altared States
by Erin

© March 2000 to March 2003

"Great. Just...fucking great."

Slouched down in Ares' throne, Strife watched the priestesses clearing off the offerings on the altar as they did at the end of each day. They didn't pay much attention to him, just the occasional glance when shifted in his seat. Normally he would've ordered a couple of them to strip and fuck each other while he watched, or just have one of them suck his cock for a while, but he really wasn't in the mood right now.

"Oh yeah, you're a regular genius, ain't you?" he continued to mutter to himself with cruel sarcasm.

Arms full of bloody weapons, priceless trinkets and the occasional scroll, the priestess filed out of the room, leaving the brooding god to himself.

Strife let himself slump even further down in the throne. "I am so fucking cheap!" He said it aloud. With no one around to hear or judge him it didn't matter if he finally admitted the truth.

Three words. He'd waited years in the Underworld to hear them from Ares. He could've left at any time but he'd held out, determined to make his uncle say those words.

Each time Ares came down there he made the same demand and each time Hades had refused him. Always watching, concealed in the shadows, Strife had recognized the growing desperation in his uncle's manner. He knew Ares had to give in soon. At least that's what he'd thought. He didn't count on his own growing impatience.

The Underworld wasn't all that bad really. It was just...boring. Extremely boring. There wasn't anything to do in the way of making trouble and that's what he lived for. Sitting around day after endless day only served to continuously drive home the fact that he wasn't alive; he was very dead.

Only, he didn't have to stay that way. The knowledge that he could leave anytime he wanted to, go back to the living world, take up his purpose for existing again; it weighed on him more and more each day until he could barely convince himself that anything was worth this never ending non-life.

In the end he'd forced the issue. The last time Ares showed up, Strife hadn't stayed hidden. In fact, he'd arranged it so Ares had to go searching for the Lord of the Underworld. Strife had kept Hades...occupied so he wouldn't realize the God of War was in his domain. When Ares finally found them in the bedroom, they were collapsed, utterly exhausted from hours of fucking each other senseless.

That was a scene Strife wasn't ever likely to forget: suddenly yanked off the bed to face a furious -- and very jealous -- God of War. Ares never did like sharing his toys and that included his nephew.

"Dead or alive, you're mine! Got it?" he'd demanded, shaking Strife hard.

Nice, but it wasn't what Strife had been waiting to hear. So he'd risked taking it even further. Jerking free of his uncle's grip, he'd dropped back down on the bed where Hades lay on his side, watching the little drama impassively.

"Give it up, Unc. You don't want me anymore," he'd accused, putting just the right amount of conviction and hurt in his tone. "I mean, if you did then you wouldn't have left me down here all this time."

Normally talking to Ares like that would've gotten him broken into little pieces, but this wasn't normal; it was a challenge. A blatant one in the way he leaned back against Hades, forcing Ares to reclaim him with words instead of actions.

He was actually surprised when Ares did just that. He'd really expected his uncle to walk out in disgust and come back some other time when they didn't have an audience.

"I need you," Ares finally said, sounding like it was dragged out of him.

Three words. Not the three Strife wanted to hear, but certainly more than he'd ever gotten from Ares before. Hades had touched him then, a hand resting on his arm, the warning clear. This wasn't what Strife had been holding out for; it wasn't enough. At least it wasn't supposed to be.

But he'd given in anyway, convinced that it was all he'd get from Ares. He knew what Ares meant when he said those words, the emotion behind them. There wasn't any point in holding out for more.

So he'd shaken off the hand on his arm, dressed himself with a thought and left with Ares -- left without a single backwards glance. He'd been absolutely certain things would change now between him and Ares and he had that to look forward to. He didn't need memories of being dead to drag him down.

He'd been such an idiot.

Things would be different. Riiiight. Maybe in some other reality.

At first it'd gone about like he'd expected. The instant they'd gotten back to the Halls of War Ares had stripped him, bent him over the altar and proceeded to reclaim his property. And that was fine with Strife. He'd been bruised and bleeding by the time Ares was done and he'd loved every moment of it.

But then Ares abruptly dressed himself and told Strife to go help Discord with one of the battles he had going in Thrace. Then he just walked off, turning his attention to other matters, totally dismissing Strife.

Strife had tried not to be put off by that, thinking that maybe later they would have more time together. But within a week he realized the truth: nothing had changed. Now that Ares had him back he was nothing but a useful tool to his uncle, the same as always. Good for annoying Hercules or a quick fuck, but nothing else.

In fact he got even less of Ares' time now. While he'd been dead his incompetent cousin Deimos had taken the opportunity to weasel into Strife's place. Even with Strife alive again, Deimos hadn't given up that place at the God of War's side and Ares wasn't showing any sign of making him.

Maybe it was time Deimos had a little "accident."

A slight smirk settled on Strife's lips, the idea appealing to him. He frowned speculatively as he thought it over. It would certainly be a challenge, making sure it couldn't be traced back to him, but he lived for things like that. He wouldn't be a god if he couldn't cover his tracks when he had to.

He could do this. Of course he wasn't stupid enough to think it would cause any drastic changes in his "relationship" with Ares, but at least he'd have more of his uncle's time. Whether that time was spent fucking or getting beaten into a bloody stain on the floor didn't matter; one way or another he'd have Ares' attention.

"Oh yeah, I'm back," Strife whispered to himself, a plan already forming in his mind.

The muffled pounding of hooves outside the temple barely registered with him. He automatically dismissed the distraction, knowing few would dare enter the temple once it'd been closed for the night.

It would be hard, getting his hands on hind's blood without someone getting suspicious. Of course using it could prove to be an even bigger problem. He had to repress a shudder at the thought of the instantly fatal effects of the stuff. That was something he had much too personal an experience with.

The temple doors crashing open cut in on his musings.

"What the...?" Sitting up straight, his smirk disappeared as he waited to see just who had the balls to force their way into Ares' temple at this hour. The only ones that came to mind were Hercules and Xena, Ares would kill anyone else -- well, he'd kill Hercules too if he could get away with it, but that was another matter--

Strife's thoughts came to an abrupt halt as the tall figure strode into view, stopping just inside the room.

"Hades!" The surprise in his voice probably matched his expression, but he couldn't help it.

Normal gods just appeared and disappeared, traveling from one place to the next in seconds. But the Lord of the Underworld never had been what you could call "normal." Where other gods just transported themselves with a thought, he traveled in his chariot. He used doors too, like a mortal. Strangely though that made him seem all the more intimidating.

And he did look intimidating, more so than Strife had ever seen down in the Underworld. The temple was lit well enough by torches ensconced on the walls, but he seemed to draw the shadows right to him. And those clothes -- he was wearing the formal stuff, what he wore when he went out personally to collect souls. The helmet that brought focus to his dark eyes; that tight, black leather studded with silver that had always driven Strife half out of his mind with lust. Even the blood red cloak Hades wore couldn't hide the way that leather just clung to him, showing off everything. And he certainly had plenty to show off.

In the Underworld the sight of him dressed like that had usually been enough to make Strife drop to his knees and offer himself up for whatever Hades wanted, but now something was different. It didn't just make him look good, it also served to make him appear...dangerous. Not like Ares. He didn't radiate that pure violent sexuality that drew Strife to the God of War. No, this was different, more subtle, but still unmistakably deadly -- and frightening. Even to another god.

Strange how down in the Underworld Strife hadn't noticed any of that. Maybe it had something to do with being alive. He'd never had any contact with Hades before he died. Hades' part in a battle happened once the fighting was over and by then Ares and his underlings were long gone, their interest in the matter ended.

"Strife," Hades acknowledged him -- and that nearly did bring Strife to his knees.

The sound of that voice, the power behind it -- it cut through Strife like a too-sharp blade. The unfamiliar mix of pleasure and fear it brought left him clutching at the throne's armrests, forcing himself to breath slowly, not to tremble. Oh yeah, it definitely had something to do with being alive.

Regaining some control, he stated the first thing that came to mind, "Um...Ares isn't here." Obvious, maybe. However, faced with the sheer presence of the God of the Underworld he felt lucky to have put together a coherent thought at all.

"But you are." Hades' tone betrayed nothing, but his voice still made Strife nearly whimper.

"Well, yeah." He managed to think past the lust and growing unease to come up with an explanation. "I mean, Unc, he uh, told me to hang here for a while, keep an eye on things, you know? He's checking out the Spartan army right now. Some big battle or something." Realizing he was close to babbling, Strife forced himself to shut up.

"I know. It ended this morning. I just came from overseeing the collection of the dead," Hades informed him as he started walking towards the throne.

"Oh." That was about all Strife could come up with. He didn't understand why Hades was here but the closer he came to the throne the more Strife was ready to take off running. Something wasn't right about this. "So...what's up then? Ares' gonna meet you here or something?" He forced out the question although his mind wasn't really on it. His attention was mostly taken up the strange way Hades was watching him, it seemed almost...predatory.

Strife had to stifle a gasp as that little realization stiffened his already hard cock even further, the sensation almost painful in its intensity. As Hades approached he was at a loss for what to do: stay, or bolt like a frightened mortal?

Except, he was scared. There were so few times in his life that Strife had been truly frightened. This was one of them and he didn't know why, or why it turned him on so much.

"No, Ares isn't expecting me." Hades answered him. "We aren't exactly on speaking terms at the moment." He smiled slightly, a sarcastic expression that betrayed the depth of that understatement.

Strife nodded, knowing the exact cause of that little rift. Hades had laid hands on the God of War's property and Ares wouldn't easily forgive that. But then, why was Hades here?

Before Strife could think that through, Hades was standing at the foot of the dais, still watching him.

"So...uh, you wanna leave him a message or something?" Strife guessed for lack of a better idea. "I can, you know, give it to him when he shows up again."

"Actually, that's rather close to what I had in mind." Hades moved onto the lower step of the dais and instantly Strife was on his feet.

It was harder than it should've been, looking away from Hades, but somehow he managed to take the few steps necessary to get him over to the side of the throne, putting some distance between them. It didn't help much though. Even without looking at the dark god, Strife could feel him there, his presence closing around Strife like quicksand. He turned his back to Hades, hoping that by not looking at him he could get his head screwed on straight.

No wonder Persephone always looked so out of it when she came back from her six months in the Underworld. How could she -- fuck, how could anyone, mortal or immortal, keep it together when faced with this?

And that's what finally clued him in.

He had it exactly right, no one could deal with Hades like this; Zeus himself would probably have trouble thinking straight. But Strife knew for a fact that other gods dealt with Hades and had no problems, as did some mortals, Xena for one. Which meant this wasn't how it normally felt to be around him.

"What the fuck are you trying to do?" Strife demanded accusingly, turning to look at him -- and ended up staggering back a few paces when he found Hades barely an arm's length behind him.

"I should think it was obvious." Hades moved closer.

Strife quickly stepped down off the dais, keeping his eyes on Hades but putting plenty of distance between them. If Hades touched him he didn't think he'd be able to resist. Just the memory of what it felt like to have those hands on him, sliding over his naked body--

"No way," Strife said, both to himself and Hades as he continued to back away. He couldn't think about that, any of it. What he had here with Ares was enough. He didn't need more so there was no point in dwelling on the past.

"It's no different here for you, is it?" Hades asked, following him at an unhurried but steady pace.

"What?" Strife frowned, not getting it.

"Ares treats you as he did before, worse even."

That caught him by surprise. "How did you--I mean, you're like, so wrong. Unc is totally cool!" Strife insisted.

"Is that right?" That slight smile again, almost a smirk and so damn knowing.

"Y--Yeah." It sounded ridiculously breathless and Strife would've liked to have slapped some sense into himself, but it was effort enough to keep away from Hades, to keep moving backwards. He didn't need any distractions.

"I do keep an eye on things outside of my realm, Strife. When it interests me. On occasion." That voice; even when the tone was just conversational, Hades' voice was so smooth, compelling and seductive to a point that left Strife speechless. It almost seemed a sin to follow up such dark beauty with his own, admittedly harsh voice.

Then any thought of speaking at all was driven out of his mind when he felt hard marble hit his ass. Strife didn't need to look to know that he'd backed himself into the altar, couldn't have looked anyway. He couldn't tear his eyes from the dark figure approaching him, nor could he make himself think clearly enough to find another way out. Logically he knew he was a god; there were countless ways for him to get away from another god, even one this powerful. But logic shattered under the dark, hungry gaze leveled on him and even the need to escape itself dimmed with the rapid diminishing of the distance between them.

Some small part of his mind, whatever was left that hadn't been consumed by want and need, still recognized that this was all Hades' power he was feeling. Mostly, anyway. Power did things, like making Hades seem so...big. Oh, no doubting he had muscle, but Strife knew he was the taller one here -- only it didn't seem like it right now. He just felt so dwarfed by Hades' very presence, and even knowing why, he couldn't shake it. Then Hades was right in front of him, in his space, and Strife couldn't even breathe.

It seemed like his entire field of vision was taken up by Hades. The smell of death and leather was familiar yet alien in its source, something his traitorous body didn't seem to care anything about, too accustomed to responding to the scent. Or was it just the Lord of the Underworld himself that his body had grown accustomed to? It should have only been Ares who could do this to him, make him ache for even the slightest touch, but instead Strife's world began and ended in the dark eyes that seemed to stare into his very soul.

"W--Why?" From some last reserve of strength Strife hadn't known he possessed, somehow he managed to form the question.

Hades removed his helmet, a slow motion that set Strife to breathing again, but it was more gasping than anything else. Never once taking his eyes from Strife, Hades carefully, almost gently, set his helmet on the altar, so close to Strife, but not touching him.

"Ares takes many things for granted, as you are well aware." That smile again, and Strife's heart threatened to burst from the speed of its beating. "I think it's time my nephew learned what danger that attitude presents, that some things can be taken from him. Perhaps more easily than he thinks."

And there was no way Strife could either protest or deny that. There was no thinking here, nor anymore talking, not when hands gripped his arms firmly and pulled him into a kiss that consumed him utterly.

Everyone always assumed Hades was as cold as his outward demeanor, living so deep in the Underworld as he did, but Strife knew there was truly nothing cold about him. The lips that parted his, the tongue that licked its way into his mouth; it was all so perfectly hot. The hands on him were just as warm as they slowly removed his clothing; the air around him, warmed as it was by the sun shining on the temple, felt practically freezing in comparison.

The heated, wonderful kisses stopped briefly -- only seconds really, but it seemed an eternity -- when Hades paused to pull off his cloak and lay it over the altar, next to his helmet. Then they were kissing again and Strife knew he was whimpering but couldn't bring himself to care.

When he was guided backwards, ever so gently laid back onto the soft, thick cloak, Strife knew on some level, deep inside, exactly what this was. As much as it was simply Hades' way with his lovers, it was also a blatant counterpoint to the violent couplings with Ares on this same altar. A point made, one Strife understood as well as he could before Hades moved over him and what he knew as reality, dissolved.

The leathers were gone and searingly hot skin touched his, making Strife tremble. Those soft  lips were on his throat, kissing, marking, as hands spread his thighs. Instead of the abrupt, harsh entry Strife had come to expect in this place, Hades slid down his body, tongue flicking out to taste and explore along the way. Then his cock was enclosed in such perfect tight, wet heat that Strife couldn't stop the cry that escaped him.

Head thrown back, cushioned from the unforgiving marble by the soft cloak, he instinctively pulled his legs up and draped them over Hades' shoulders. It gave him the leverage he needed to thrust, and Hades allowed it. Seemed to encourage it even; swallowing with each deep thrust until Strife's entire body was shaking as he rushed towards climax. Then it stopped. Strife managed a moan of protest, but it quickly turned to one of renewed pleasure when his balls were gently sucked, one after the other, then released as the attention moved lower.

The wet flick of a tongue over his entrance had Strife clutching at the cloak beneath him. Panting sharply for air, he couldn't seem to make any other sound as he was slowly, gently licked open. Again and again Hades' tongue pushed into him, then left for more of those teasingly light licks. If the cloak hadn't been of divine origin, Strife would've ripped it to pieces in his grasp long before the wonderful torture came to an end.

Strife was little more than a trembling wreck when Hades stopped some long time later. Legs still draped limply over Hades' shoulders, it felt like he was opened even wider when Hades moved back up over him.

And even this was so intensely gentle. A long, slow slide deep into him; no force or pain, just the delicious feel of a thick cock moving inside him. Strife wanted to close his eyes and concentrate on it, but he couldn't look away.

Hades grasped his legs, moving them down around his waist before bracing his arms on the altar to each side of Strife's head. It brought their faces so near, not touching, but those eyes caught Strife's and wouldn't let him go. Each deep, long thrust drew a gasp from him; his hands moved up involuntarily to clutch at Hades' arms, bracing himself the only way he could.

A slight shift in angle, a single brush over his prostate and Strife came with a scream that echoed throughout the temple. And the entire time, body jerking with the force of the release, his gaze remained locked with Hades'.

Only when Strife collapsed, completely limp beneath him, did Hades began to move faster, harder. There was still nothing violent about it, just...urgent. Strife lay there, still caught up in the delightful feel of Hades moving on him, in him; he couldn't help but love it, even if there was no way for him to respond. His arms had fallen to the altar, hands too weak to continue holding on. His legs were still around Hades' waist, only barely, but he did what he could to tighten the hold, to encourage the increasingly powerful thrusting.

Watching Hades, watched in return, Strife's breath caught when he saw the clench of muscle in Hades' jaw. Then he was being kissed -- no, it was far more than that. As Hades pushed deep into him, shuddering on top of him, his mouth covered Strife's in an act that was less a kiss than an attempt to completely consume Strife's very being.

By the time Hades finally drew back, Strife wasn't so sure that it hadn't succeeded.

There wasn't much of anything he was sure of at that right then. He couldn't seem to do much more than lie there when Hades moved off of him. Ares had routinely broken him physically; somehow Hades seemed to have accomplished the same thing, somewhere inside him, without laying a violent hand on him.

A brief, gentle touch of lips to his forehead; the light brush of fingers wiping moisture from his cheek; a flash of light as Hades clothed himself -- Strife closed his eyes.

The sound of heavy boots walking away seemed to echo long after their owner had left the temple. And Strife just lay there, trying to pick up the pieces.


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