Author: sidewinder
Story Title: Between Sunsets and Dawn
Characters: Ares/Joxer
Rating: NC-17
Summary: As Ares and Joxer try to get used to their new life together, Ares becomes determined to regain his sword. Second in the Moments of Transition series.
This rating is for explicit m/m sex.

The characters belong to MCA/Universal and were used without permission. No copyright infringement was intended and no money was made.

This story contains explicit descriptions of male/male sex.

Forward & forewarning: The following piece was originally intended to be merely the first chapter of the sequel to Moments of Transition, but it started getting too long all on its own. Also, I figured I ought to appease those people bugging me about "The Sequel" so I can have more time to work on the next part in peace :-). Many, many thanks to "Mimi" for the beta-reading assistance and helping me get this out before the New Year (between her proofing and constant questioning about "when will it be ready, huh?!")

Canon-wise, "Moments" broke from the Xena time line after "King Con", and the Hercules time line after "Armageddon Now", so I'm taking things completely where I want from that point on. Just for the record.

Please send comments to

You can find more stories by sidewinder at sidewinder's page of slash fiction and at The Joxerotica Archives


Between Sunsets and Dawn
By sidewinder

The lone hunter stalked his prey with patience, stealth, and complete concentration. He knew if he was careful enough, calm enough, it would only be a matter of time before his prey was within reach. Then, he would need perfect timing and reflexes like lightning to strike the necessary stunning blow.

He was ready.

Running water roared loudly all around him but he was heedless to the noise. He saw the flash, watched it shimmer and shift closer to him...still closer...and then...


"Ha ha!"

Beaming in triumph, Joxer flung the dazed but squirming fish over toward the stream's edge, where it landed with a satisfying wet thud. The fish flopped about helplessly on the muddy shore next to its slightly larger companion, another trout which Joxer had caught a short time earlier.

"Well, I guess the old reflexes have been improving," Joxer boasted proudly to himself, delighted by the afternoon's success. He had observed Xena's unique method of fishing sans reel or rod on several occasions, and even tried it under her guidance once when she'd been in a particularly tolerant mood. Still, he'd never mastered the fine art of fish-punching until today. Now he had two big and no doubt tasty trout to bring home for dinner tonight. As far as he was concerned, he had every right to feel extremely pleased with himself at the moment.

His one regret was that Ares wasn't with him to join in the fun. To Joxer's mind, there was something quite relaxing--almost meditative--about fishing. And he thought Ares could certainly learn a thing or two about relaxing, especially considering the way he'd been acting lately. The now-deposed god of war had said he would come down to the stream to join Joxer, but apparently had changed his mind. Joxer wasn't surprised, really, but he was disappointed.

Noticing that the water was beginning to feel chilly and that the sun was going down, he decided it was time to quit for the day while his luck was running strong. He made his way over the slick, wet rocks and through the waist-deep water towards the shore, to dry out and warm up a bit before heading back to the cabin. His clothes were neatly laid out on a rock where he'd left them to dry after a thorough washing, along with a few other garments he'd brought along to clean while he was here.

He liked this spot along the stream that ran through the forest, only a short hike away from Ares' cabin. He'd always found something particularly peaceful about this place, ever since Ares had first started bringing him here. Not that the rest of this area was anything but peaceful, completely secluded with no one else around them for miles.

Therefore, it was with much surprise when, as Joxer was finishing up the laces on his boots, he heard an excited cry of "Yoo-hoo, Joxie!" Glancing up, he spotted a shimmering vision of gold and pink descending from the skies, all the while letting out a delighted call of "Incoming!" until she landed with a light bounce and an explosion of flower petals.

"Ooooh, I love doing that." She giggled with delight, then glanced over at Joxer's catch and exclaimed, "Whoa, Joxie! That's quite the impressive pair of pisces you've got there."

"Uh, thanks, Aphrodite. What's up?"

"Not Ares, I gather," she answered, patting her hair lightly to make sure her curls were all in perfect place. "I thought it was past time for me to check in with you guys, see how you were holding out. I got some nasty vibes from up by your little love shack and figured I'd better find you first to see what's the story. I have been worried about you both, but spring is in the air, and that means extra time on the clock for the love goddess. In other words, I've been busy." She shrugged and gave him an apologetic smile. "So what's the deal? The big lug becoming a drag yet?"

"Nah...he's just, you know, Ares. This mortality business makes him cranky sometimes." Joxer shrugged and Aphrodite nodded in understanding. "But things are okay, more or less. I mean, none of this has been easy for him. I think it took a while before it sunk in that this was for real." I know it did for me, Joxer added to himself.

"Ar never did deal with change very well," Aphrodite sympathized. "Truthfully? I'm amazed he went through with it. Not that I didn't know how much you meant to him; I just didn't think he'd realize it himself. What about you, Joxie?" she asked. "You're the one who had to go to Tartarus and back again."

He shrugged again, not particularly caring to dwell on those events or talk about it. "It could've been worse...not by much, but it could have been," Joxer answered, adding after a pause, "I just wish there was some way to repay Ares for giving up everything he did for me."

The goddess moved closer to him, touching his cheek affectionately as she said, "Don't feel bad about what he sacrificed for you, honey. You've already given Ares way more than you can imagine. He owes you for doing what I always thought was impossible-- finding his heart." Stepping back, she shook her and continued, "You know, if Dad and Hades could have just put aside their problems with Ar, and had thought about how maybe a god of war with a sense of compassion might be a good thing, they wouldn't have put you both through all this. When I fought out what happened, that they were the ones responsible? Ooooh, I could have killed someone! But I'm not that type of goddess, unfortunately. Sometimes I wish I had a little more bloodlust in me...instead, all I've got is an overload of plain old fashioned lust." She sighed and gave him a helpless look. "What can I say? I tried to talk some sense into them both, but it was no use. They're set on not taking Ares back into the fam."

"So how much chaos has Strife been causing since becoming the god of war?" Being isolated up here in the middle of nowhere, it was hard to hear any news about what was happening out in the world.

"Pul-ease. The boy is strictly minor league. He might want to cause chaos but with Zeus and Hades pulling his strings, he's been pretty quiet--so far. He knows he owes them big time for giving him this position and isn't about to stir things up. At least not while anyone else might be looking.

"Discord, meanwhile, is even more mega-bitch than usual. I mean, getting passed over for the position because her idiot son cut a deal?" 'Dite frowned. "It's not good, Joxie. There's a lot of bad mojo up on Olympus these days because of all this nonsense. Even the other gods that had their beefs with Ar think Dad went too far, and they certainly don't trust Strife. You know, it's true what Ar used to say: Nobody liked him, nobody wanted to have to deal with him, but nobody else could do the job like he did. No one wanted to. Even I miss him stirring up trouble and keeping everyone on their toes."

Joxer grinned. "Wait'll I tell him you said that."

She wagged a delicate finger in his face. "Hey, no squealing on a goddess, all right? I'll never hear the end of it. I'm just wondering if Ar hasn't started scheming up some way to get his godhood back. Or at least get rid of Strife and get someone else better suited for the position in his place. My hands are tied--as far as doing anything directly goes, you understand?"

"Meaning, you'd be willing to help out...indirectly?"

"If I can. And I'm not the only one. Of course, there are also those who would like nothing better than to see Ares die a slow and miserable death, who think he got off too easy with this mortality sentence. But before you let that worry you too much, I've officially declared you both under my protection. Ares did become mortal for Love, after all. It was my prerogative to grant you guys sanctuary to what degree I could. Zeus didn't like it when I told him, but hey, he did as much for Herc-ola and couldn't really deny me. Just don't tell Ar that either, please? He'd have a cow, I'm sure, over owing me any favors."

"Okay," Joxer said with a smile at the goddess' unending barrage of colorful language and images. "Gee, thanks, Aphrodite."

"Like I said, don't mention it. But keep me up to speed, will ya, Joxie? Call on me if you need me. And give my regards to his royal broodingness."

With that she disappeared with a little less flourish than when she'd arrived, leaving only a trace of perfume and rose lingering behind. Joxer stayed by the stream for a while longer, reflecting on Aphrodite's words and information, before collecting his things and heading back on the path to the cabin. He hoped that perhaps the few hours alone might have allowed Ares to work out whatever had been bothering him, but he was nevertheless prepared in case it hadn't.


It was only a short walk and soon he was near the edge of the clearing that encircled the cottage he and Ares called home. It had, for years longer than Joxer knew- -probably longer than he had been alive--merely served as a rustic getaway for the god of war. A place he'd found to meditate and rest, somewhere far away from Olympus, his temples and responsibilities, and especially the other gods. Now this place was all Ares had been left with since losing his godhood: sanctuary turned permanent shelter. No servants remained to take care of maintaining the property, to prepare food, collect firewood, or heat water for the bath. All of these were nothing but simple chores, things Joxer was used to dealing with from his childhood years. He may have been a warlord's son, but he and his brothers had all been expected to pitch in and do their part around the home.

Ares was less inclined to find such chores so simple, unaccustomed as he was to having to do any menial work during all his thousands of years of existence. He accepted the necessity of it all, but he didn't enjoy it in the least. Only the more physically challenging activities seemed to be less of a bother to the former god.

Joxer found him this late afternoon working outside, chopping logs they had collected the day before for firewood. As Ares had not noticed his approach yet, Joxer waited on the edge of the clearing for a moment, just to watch. Somehow Ares could turn the trivial act of chopping wood into an erotic act and something worth admiring. It was simply the character of his presence, his body--the way he moved it and seemed somehow barely contained by its imposing form. Even mortality could do little to diminish that aspect of his nature. The muscles of his arms and upper body constantly flexed and strained as he worked, driving his axe fiercely through the wood, again and again, almost hypnotically. His long, dark hair hung disarray around his face, thick curls flying about wildly, some plastered to his forehead by sweat. Joxer could practically taste that sweat from where he stood, and he could sense his body reacting with expectation and desire to the sight before him--how could it not? Ares' mere presence was the strongest aphrodisiac the young man had ever known.

With a slight sigh, however, he reminded himself that there would be plenty of time for that later, but right now these fish were starting to get a bit heavy, and his stomach had certain demands for satisfaction as well. He made his approach known by shouting "Hey!" as he started walking over towards Ares. The former god glanced up at the call, his expression not much cheerier than it had been before Joxer had left. "I thought you were going to join me for some fishing."

"Changed my mind." Ares paused to wipe his brow, then went back to concentrating on the wood. "Wasn't in the mood."

Joxer stepped up close enough to kiss him lightly on the cheek. "Too bad, it was beautiful out there today. Look what I caught!" He held up the two trout proudly. "Aren't they beautiful?"

"They're fish," Ares observed flatly, swinging his axe into the thick log on the chopping block with a heavy whack.

"Yeah, but they're beautiful fish. The biggest fish I ever caught."

"You seriously spent too much time around Xena. I never understood the stupid obsession that woman had with fishing. What kind of sport is that for a warrior?"

"It's an acquired taste, I guess."


"Well anyway, Aphrodite popped in when I was at the stream. She says hello."

"Does she now." Whack! Ares started working on a new log, cracking it but not fully splitting it with the first blow.

"Yep. She said she was going to stop by and see you too but sensed you were in a lousy mood." Joxer watched as Ares drove the axe with an unnecessary amount of force through another section of the thick log. What was left of it after the heavy blow tumbled to the ground. "I think you killed it," Joxer observed.

Ares glowered at him for a moment, giving him a look that would've caused most other mortals to shrink back in terror and plead for the lives. But then Ares only picked up another log and started in on it with a similar vengeance as he had shown to the last one. "I find..." Whack! "...that this type of servile, pointless work..." Whack! "...can be quite...satisfying..." Whack! "...if I imagine that it's actually Strife...I'm chopping into tiny little pieces."


"Yeah, well, at this rate we're gonna have enough firewood to last through 'till the next winter solstice," Joxer observed, giving him a light pat on the shoulder. "Dinner? I'm starved."

"So long as you're the one cleaning those...things..." Ares looked at the fish and grimaced. Certain "servile" chores were definitely much less tolerable to the former god than others, and scaling and gutting fish was one of those particularly intolerable ones.

"Fine with me. Just start up some kind of fire with the Strife--I mean, the kindling pieces--so we have something to cook them with, okay?" Joxer asked, dropping the fish and starting off towards the well for some fresh water.


"Hmm?" He stopped and turned around at the call. Ares put down the axe and walked over to him, finally returning his earlier peck on the cheek with a much longer, deliberate kiss.

I could skip dinner and go right for dessert, Joxer thought dreamily.

When Ares eventually released him, his expression had softened and he apologized, "Aphrodite's right. I have been in a foul mood lately and I shouldn't take it out on you. I'm just getting...restless...being up here, so far away from everything else..."

"...And with only me for company?"

Ares shook his head. "Your company never tires me. Irritates me sometimes, yes, but never tires me. No, I think it's time to stop hiding up here. We have other things we should be doing."

"Like getting even with Strife and Hades and Zeus?"

"Yes. And getting my godhood back, damn them and their rules."

Joxer smiled at that. "What?" Ares asked.

"Nothing. I was just wondering how long it would take for you start sounding like your old self again. So was Aphrodite. Do you have a plan?"

"A beginning of one. But let's worry about dinner first."


The trout grilled up perfectly and, served with a modest assortment of vegetables gathered from their small garden, made for a simple but satisfying meal. Sitting at the large, mostly empty table in the cottage's dining room, Joxer couldn't help remembering the way it used to be: always filled end-to-end with exotic foods and delicacies, the never empty glasses of the finest wine or ale. Now, he was grateful that he had managed to learn a few cooking tricks from his mother--and Meg. Ares was rather hopeless at the fine art of preparing a meal, nor was he particularly interested in learning.

They'd been isolated out here, living on their own, for almost two moons. There was a small village a half-day's journey to the south and they had traveled there several times for supplies, but that had been the full extent of their contact with the outside world. The solitude had been perfect at first, exactly what they'd both needed to try to adjust, to reaffirm what they had found in each other in the first place that had made all the difficulties since then worthwhile. But Joxer had known it would only be a matter of time before Ares wouldn't be able to sit around any longer and would start thinking seriously about his revenge. He might have made the sacrifice of his godhood willingly, but that didn't mean he was going to embrace mortality anytime soon, if ever. Joxer had known it would simply be a question of when Ares would feel comfortable enough in this new body and its limitations that he would feel ready to strike back. And apparently, that time had finally arrived.

When Ares was finished eating, he got up to tend to the logs in the fireplace, then settled down onto the floor in front of the flames. It was a warm enough night that they didn't really need to keep a fire going, but it wasn't as if they were short on firewood. And Ares always seemed to have a fondness for fires, said they helped him think, to plan.

Joxer finished his dinner soon after and pushed aside his plate to clean it up later. "So, what's the beginning of this plan of yours?" he asked, as he settled into the other man's arms and made himself comfortable on the soft rug before the fire.

"The beginning? Well, the beginning is to stop hiding up here, where we're not getting a damn thing done."

"We haven't been hiding."

"No? Then what do you call it?"

"Healing. Adjusting. You needed time to get used to being mortal. I needed time remember how to just be alive again. Or did you forget how screwy and confused I was when I first...when you first brought me back?"

"You've always been screwy, Joxer," Ares teased him, fondly tousling his hair. "That's what I like about you."

"You know what I mean."

"Yes. Yes, I know," Ares answered more seriously this time, squeezing Joxer tighter against him as he did. Things had not been easy for either of them during those first few weeks. Coming back from the Underworld--from Tartarus--after a particularly gruesome and violent death had not been an easy thing for Joxer to deal with. After the initial joy at his resurrection had died down, he'd discovered emotional scars from the experience that lingered and did not so quickly fade away.

The nightmares were the worst of it, some so vivid and strong that, when awakened, he had not been easily convinced that was all they had been, instead believing he was still dead and merely imagining Ares' presence beside him. "Are you ready to do this, Joxer?" the former god asked him. "If you're not..."

"No, no, I's getting better now. I was just trying to remind you that you shouldn't feel like we should have gone right out and tried to take on the world or anything. We would've just gotten our asses kicked."

"An ineloquent but probably correct assessment," Ares agreed. "But time will not wait for us forever. The longer we delay, the stronger Strife will become, and the harder it will be to take him out."

"How's that?"

"It's going to take him some time to establish himself as the new god of war. The sword may have changed hands, but the main temple is gone. Warlords everywhere have to know something has happened. While a certain amount of power is inherent in him as a god, and from the possession of the sword, more of it stems from the support and offerings of his followers."

"So a god really does need people praying to him?"

Ares nodded. "To an extent. Praying, fighting, fucking...whatever energies and emotions a god stands for, those same energies strengthen him, are as much a form of sustenance as Ambrosia. Our chances against Strife are best before he can become too established in his position. He should realize his current vulnerability as well. If so, then he might try to act out in some bold--and no doubt stupid--way to boost his position."

Joxer thought about this, then suggested, "You mean, like he might try to start a really huge war or something?"

"Exactly. Knowing him, something with no skill or finesse...just a slaughter. A bloody slaughter that could leave this entire country in ashes."

"Would Zeus let him get away with that?"

"Who's to say? Probably he'd put his foot down if he knew what was being planned, but we can't bet on that. We have to get rid of Strife before he figures out a way around Zeus." Ares sighed. "If there was one thing I taught him, unfortunately, it was ways to try to beat the system."

"But how are we going to stop him, Ares? How can we even get close to him? He'd know if we were trying to get to him. I mean, he's a god. You can't just sneak up on a god." These were the questions that had confronted Joxer every time he tried to consider the problem on his own. "The only way to kill an immortal is Hind's Blood, right? I remember hearing something about that once." Probably from one of Gabby's stories, he thought, but he wasn't certain.

"Well, that's the only way accessible to us as mortals, yes. But there are other ways to weaken a god, render them vulnerable for that final attack. Places where their powers are dulled and senses weakened, due to forces older than Olympus...sites of ancient battles and events that these gods fear tread near today."

"You never told me that," Joxer noted, curious about this revelation.

"The less mortals know about the weaknesses of the gods, the happier the gods are. Why do you think Zeus wanted the Hind dead when he learned of the deadly power of their blood? Such a threat could not be allowed to run...unchecked."

"So...somehow we get Strife to one of these places...but we still need a way to kill where are we gonna get Hind's blood if they're all dead?" Joxer returned to that question.

"Do you see that box over there, on the mantelpiece?"

Joxer looked up. Yes, saw the box--it was beautiful, patterned with inlayed opal and onyx. It had been there as long as he remembered, and it had always looked so precious and fragile that he'd been afraid to touch it, lest he end up breaking it. "Yeah..."

"Get it and bring it here."

Joxer rose and very carefully took the box in his hands. Returning to the floor, he held it out toward Ares but the other insisted, "Open it."

He did. Inside, on a soft, silk pillow, lay a weapon-- a dagger, which looked as if it had seen more than a few battles in its time. "What's this?" he asked, picking it up as he studied it in curiosity.

"Only a weapon that will put fear into the heart of any god. That is Hind's Blood, all along the blade. Strife died under this same knife once; it should do the trick well enough a second time. Hercules, oh, he thought he was clever--after getting this away from Callisto, he 'hid' it by pounding it into the stone outside my temple. A god notices when someone goes desecrating his place of worship like that. But I left it there, undisturbed...until the day I blew the entire temple apart in rage. By luck, the dagger was undamaged. I found it amidst the rubble, brought it back here before going to Zeus and handing in my sword. Figured I ought to hold onto it for safe keeping."

Joxer put the weapon back into the box, his hand trembling slightly as he did, knowing the terrible power of the weapon he was holding. "No one knows...?"

"No, no one knows, except you."

Joxer put the box aside, wanting to settle back into Ares' warm arms as he felt a strange chill lingering after handling the dagger. Wanting to skip over the details involving the use of the weapon, he asked, "So, okay, we have this dagger, we kill Strife. What then? How do we get your godhood back?"

"That is the easy part. Whoever possesses the sword of war--my sword--becomes the god of war. Zeus may have forced me to give it up, but he never said I could not reclaim it. And by one of his own laws, if the seated god of war were ever to be killed, the person who murders him inherits the position as reward. Possession in such a fashion cannot be challenged. Zeus would have to accept my return."

"All these rules and laws." Joxer shook his head. "I get the feeling that being a god is a lot more complicated than most of us could ever imagine."

"It is necessary--or so father always droned on at everyone--to have strict rules to maintain balance among the gods and avoid chaos that could destroy the entire world. 'Great responsibility comes with great power,'" Ares quoted sarcastically. "Still, I do so look forward to throwing his rules back in his face once Strife is dead."

"So, when were you thinking we should go?"



"I said we shouldn't delay."

"Yeah, I know. I's all pretty sudden."

"Yes, but there's no need to delay. I already began putting aside supplies we'll need today while you were gone. We can get the rest of what we'll need in the village once we leave tomorrow."

They both fell silent for a while, Joxer thinking about what lay ahead of them. On one hand, it seemed simple enough, and yet... "We're probably going to need some help, don't you think?" Even Xena, he recalled from Gabby's scrolls, had needed to side with Callisto in order to destroy Velasca when she had become a god. And that time they'd gone after Bacchus had been no small feat, either.

"Unfortunately," Ares admitted, not sounding at all happy about that fact.

"Like, Xena, maybe? 'Cause I know she helped you that other time."

"Mmm...she was my first thought. We may have our...differences...but I think she will understand the danger of having a loose cannon like Strife wielding power he was never meant to control."

"What about Herc--"

"No," Ares declared firmly.

"It was just a thought. I mean..."

"No. Don't even go there."

Joxer sighed. One of these days he was going to have to do something about this silly feud between Ares and his half-brother. "Okay, fine, but who else? Aphrodite, well...she said she'd like to help, but..."

"I know, her hands are tied. But she might be able to come through, in her own way. And I have a few other ideas...but we can talk about that later."

From the way Ares' hands were starting to work their way under Joxer's shirt, moving against his bare skin in a light but definitely sensuous way, Joxer got the impression that talking and planning were finished for the evening. At least until after other activities were given their fair share of attention.

"I should really clean up the dishes..." Joxer complained in mock protest. "It's a real pain to do them once the grease is all stuck and dried to the plates."

"Hush," Ares said. "They can wait. I can't."

Joxer smiled to himself, perfectly happy to accommodate Ares' wishes. When the former god got in the mood, there usually was no slowing him down--and talk of war and battle always seemed to be a surefire way to get him horny.

Joxer let the other man take his time, touching him, leaving a trail of soft kisses down the side of his neck in a most excruciatingly wonderful way.

"I love the way you feel, the way you taste," Ares murmured against his ear, the warmth of his breath enough to cause little shivers to run through Joxer's body. "There's only so long I can be near you before I need you, need to take you..." He lifted the loosened shirt up and over Joxer's head, then began running his hands more insistently against the unclothed skin. Joxer easily lost himself in the pleasure of Ares' attentions, worries and thoughts about tomorrow and what lay ahead put aside. There was no need to ruin these pleasurable moments, especially when, if they were leaving tomorrow, this might be their last night of peace and quiet for some time.

Ares pulled back slightly, urging Joxer to lie down. His own vest quickly tossed aside, he lay down beside Joxer and allowed the other man to get in his own share of touches and caresses. What started slowly and with gentleness quickly began to escalate to a more fevered pitch. As Joxer ran one hand between Ares' thighs, unsurprisingly finding clear evidence of the other's arousal, Ares moaned and rolled over on top of him. Pinned to the floor by the larger man, he could do nothing--nor did he particularly care to--as Ares assaulted him with harsh, probing kisses, kisses that left his head spinning and his body crying for more.

"Joxer..." Ares sighed, his voice rough with desire. "My love. You don't know how you torture me. I used to have some control...over the way you made me feel...the way I needed you." Ares paused for another long kiss, and then several quick ones across Joxer's cheeks. " I can barely stand it sometimes, this terrible need. Do you know what I mean?"

"Yes. Completely."

"How do you stand it?"

"You find a what you have to..."

"Well, what I have to to take you as often as I can. As often as this weak mortal flesh can stand it." Ares tugged at the laces of Joxer's trousers urgently, loosening them until he could remove them and toss them aside. With similar swiftness he dispensed with Joxer's underwear, and without further warning or wait, took him into his mouth. Joxer writhed and moaned incoherently at the overwhelming pleasure of it. He did know exactly what Ares meant about needing this; from the first time he'd ever touched the god of war, he'd known there was no going back. No denying the intensity of the things Ares could make him feel. No chance that another could ever steal his heart away from the one who held it now and for eternity.

He could rarely sustain himself for long when the former god did this to him, too intense was the pleasure of it. "No...not yet..." Ares paused, just before Joxer could reach blissful release. Joxer whimpered in dismay as that mouth that had been doing such a fine job of gratifying him started working its way across the sensitive skin of his inner thighs. It didn't help that he was quite ticklish there, and he knew Ares knew that well enough.

"Ares...s-stop! That--that tickles!"

"I know," Ares teased, not letting up on the assault. "But I love watching you squirm..."

"Ares! C'mon...don't...don't...oooh...!" he gasped out, when the other man finally stopped the ticklish kisses and swallowed him down again, deeply, so deep it was only moments before the climax shuddered through Joxer's body. "Gods...oh Gods!" Joxer groaned, floating somewhere high above Mount Olympus as Ares refused to let go until he was completely spent and soft. " don't play fair."

"True," Ares agreed, sliding up and pulling Joxer tightly against him. "Mmm, but playing fair is never as much fun."

Joxer shook his head and smiled; it didn't matter what the situation was, Ares simply couldn't stand playing by anyone else's rules. Of course, Joxer wouldn't have him any other way. He luxuriated in his lover's strong, heated embrace, waiting for the aftershocks of his climax to fade and sharing lazy kisses of appreciation. He could feel how badly Ares needed his own release, yet the former god did not hurry him.

"Doesn't feel like these could be too comfortable right now," Joxer observed, rubbing his hand against the front of Ares' pants.

"You going to do something about that?" was the nearly growled response.

"I was thinking about it."

"Think harder. Or better yet, stop thinking and just do something, mort--Joxer."

"Hah! Can't call me that any longer, remember? Or else I can use it on you, too." Joxer sat up and straddled him, all energy once more as he smiled down at his beautiful lover. "Stop scowling like that," Joxer scolded, leaning down to kiss him on the tip of the nose. "You've got enough lines and wrinkles already. this better?" he asked as his fingers worked on unlacing Ares' tight pants.

"Mmm..." And a short while later, "Oh, that's much better..."

"And this?" Joxer smiled at Ares' sharp intake of breath. I'll take that as a yes, he thought, going back to tending to his lover's erection, knowing the slow, deliberate laps of his tongue were doing little to soothe Ares' desperate condition. Still, he could never help but take his time, savoring the silky softness of his balls against his lips, then moving up along the firmness of Ares' magnificent cock. It throbbed under his tongue, against his lips as he enveloped it and sucked up the sweet translucent liquid from the tip. He knew from many days and nights' experience just how to give Ares' what he wanted; he knew from his lover's sighs and moans when to tease, when to work him into a frenzy, when to relax and let Ares take control. He loved how easy it came to him, this ability to please the one person who had made him feel so special, so needed.

"Joxer...Joxer lover...oh, yes..." He felt his lover's body tense, then shudder, and Joxer welcomed the sudden warmth that filled his mouth. He relished this reward for his efforts, then eventually found his place once again in Ares' arms, secure and at peace here as he felt nowhere else.

"Better now?"

"Much," Ares murmured, and Joxer couldn't help thinking that in the end, it had all been worthwhile...every moment of pain, dying, feel this way now, to have this.

It felt so good, so perfect, that he felt a tinge of deep regret that they would have to leave tomorrow, to head out and face dangers that could very well separate them again. Were it not for the fact that he knew, deep down, that Ares would never be truly happy until he'd had his revenge on Strife and the others, Joxer would have done everything he could to talk Ares out of going on this mission. While it was not the most exciting life that they led here, it was a life.

By leaving, they risked losing that life--both their lives. What they were proposing to accomplish was a terrible risk. Joxer knew he was not really much of a fighter, not even after Ares instructions, and Ares was still learning the limitations and frustrations of his mortal body. How were the two of them supposed to defeat a god?! Even if they got the help of Xena and whoever else Ares had in mind?

He was startled from his thoughts as Ares finally seemed to be coming back to life. "You unnerve me when you're so quiet. I know you, and I know when your mind is filled with thoughts and ideas, even if I can't touch them now."

"Just thinking about tomorrow, leaving...that sort of stuff."

"Ah yes, 'stuff'. That's very specific."

Damn it if he isn't stubborn. Joxer knew Ares really hated not knowing what he was thinking, yet it had been so much easier--if sometimes rather embarrassing- -when Ares could just read those thoughts, instead of making him put them into words. "Ares, do you ever..." He stopped, not sure if he should really ask. Yet a part of him needed to know before tomorrow, before they left.

"Do I ever what?"

"Do you ever...regret...the choice you made?"

"To give up my godhood for you?"


Ares was silent for a long moment, before answering, "Have I questioned it? Yes. Many times. Every day, I'm certain, at least once or twice. But do I ever regret it? No. Never."


"I wouldn't lie to you about that. I would give my life for yours, Joxer; giving up my godhood was a lesser sacrifice than that."

"But you're determined to get it back..."

"Not out of regret. I simply refuse to allow what happened go unpunished. What happened to you. I's not revenge, but justice. And when I am once more a god, I can make sure nothing can ever come between us again--as I should have done before, had I not been so blind."

"What do you mean?"

"What do you think? I'll make you a god as well. All right, that might take some time--there's some protocol that normally has to be followed to do that-- but I can at least give you immortality."

He said it all so casually, as if it were nothing more momentous an act than getting up in the morning, or cooking a meal. "Are you serious? Me? A god?!"

"Why not? I went through your death once and don't intend to have to do so again. Perhaps you could have Strife's old position as my lieutenant, considering how you have your own 'unique' talent for causing least irritation. 'Joxer, God of Pesky Annoyances'..." Ares laughed. "Oh yes, that will be quite interesting."

Joxer tried picturing himself as a god...and then wondered how Ares could rationally consider such a thing. He had enough trouble as a mortal half the time! Sure, he'd pestered Ares enough about what it was like to have so much power, and wondered what Olympus was like, and all the things he'd seen during his life. But mortals didn't just become gods on any sort of regular basis, so he'd never given the idea serious thought. "Interesting is one way to put it...I think..."

"Well, don't think about it too much right now," Ares said, finishing his remark with a yawn. "We should get some sleep. And as I recall there were some dishes that needed to be cleaned."

Joxer grimaced. "Oh yeah. Kind of forgot about that."

"Then forget about it until tomorrow. They aren't going anywhere."

"Ready for bed, then?"

"Mmm. Especially since right now, I think I'm learning about another inconvenience of mortality."


"Rug burns."


A few minutes later and the two men settled in for the evening, to spend this final night perhaps for some long time in this bed, this house.

Sure going to miss this place, Joxer thought, tired but finding it hard to give in to sleep when he knew tomorrow, everything would be changing. Again. Hopefully, only for a little while. He'd had enough of major life-altering upheavals over the past year to last him a life-time as far as he was concerned.

But putting those thoughts aside, he snuggled down against his lover's side and softly said, "Good night, Ares."

"Good night, Joxer."

Silence fell upon the darkened room, until after a time Joxer felt the need to ask, "'Pesky Annoyance'? Is that the best you can come up with for me?"

Ares sighed. "We'll talk about it some more tomorrow."

Continue on to the sequel Casualties of War

/There are vampires in the park, Mawgojzeta,
/but I only hear the sound of dancing bears.
/They're shooting stars in Warsaw
/Mawgojzeta, Mawgojzeta, do you care?
/Do you believe that anything that I could say
/really would sort your life out?
/What's the difference?
/Could you trust anybody with your heart,
/except yourself?
/What's the difference?
/Between sunsets and dawn, kings, queens and pawns, 
/goldfish and clowns?
/Between what's right and wrong 
/can a love still grow strong,
/What's the difference?
/There are werewolves in these streets, Mawgojzeta,
/but you only hear me howling at the moon.
/There's betrayals in the Tarot, 
/Mawgojzeta, is it me, or is it you?
/Do you believe that everything I say is really true?
/Well, what's the difference?
/Don't you think everything's against us, 
/that there's much too much to lose?
/Well, what's the difference?
/Could you see everything I should have been 
/and everything I could be,
/what's the difference, between sunsets and dawn,
/kings, queens and pawns, goldfish and clowns?
/Between what's right and wrong 
/can a love still grow strong,
/What's the difference?
/What is the difference?
/There are vampires in the park, Mawgojzeta,
/but I only hear the sound of dancing bears.
/They're shooting stars in Warsaw 
/Mawgojzeta, Mawgojzeta, do you care?
/I know you believe that everything will work out 
/What's the difference?
/But is it a love or this a life I need?
/That's the difference.
/Between sunsets and dawn, kings, queens and pawns,
/What's the difference?
/Between goldfish and clowns can a love still be found
/well, what's the difference? What is the difference?
/Between playing away and playing at home
/well, what's the difference? What is the difference?
/What is the difference?
/That's the difference, that's the difference that is 
/Between sunsets and dawn, kings,
/queens and pawns, goldfish and clowns.

(Fish, "Goldfish & Clowns" (c) 1997)

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