Strife was laying alone in his room, half awake, half asleep, replaying moments from the night before; his date with Cupid.
Strife had been waiting impatiently for Cupid to arrive. His father had told him that Thanatos would be coming along on their date. For just a moment, Strife had felt like telling his father that he was old enough to take care of himself, but one look into Hades' eyes convinced Strife that even though he could take care of himself, his father wanted to. Strife couldn't deny Hades the pleasure of helping him, and it would do Cupid some good to have boundaries. It was nice to know that he didn't have to face everything himself. Hades would help to protect him, would give him advice, but in the end would allow him to make his own decisions.
Then Cupid had arrived. Strife nearly fell off his feet when he saw Cupid dressed in black leather pants. Cupid had his hair done in a different style, it was unruly and wild and Strife loved it. He was also wearing some kind of vest made of chainmail. Strife hadn't been in a position to see how the thing fitted around his wings. But that's all he was wearing as a shirt. Cupid's tanned skin could be seen easily through the chain and the vest was left hanging open to his waist. Thanatos walked to a position between Cupid and Strife, not blocking their view of each other but very much in their field of vision. The only thing on Strife's mind had been how it would feel to peel the leather off of Cupid's sweaty body.
Finally, Cupid had asked if they were ready to leave. Strife had been to a point where he could only nod his head. In a flash, they were in Tanegra. Strife had given Cupid an incredulous look, but Cupid had explained that the party in Arcadia wasn't going to be that much fun, so he decided that Strife might enjoy dinner and some theater.
Strife remembered that he had thought, [Oh no, Cupes is gonna try ta make me sit through some snotty, high-brow play]. Cupid had immediately assured him that it was a comedy, and that's why he chose it. He thought Strife would enjoy it. Strife had wondered to himself if Cupid had been talking to Apollo or the muses to pick out the show, cause Cupid didn't know comedy from cantaloupe. Cupid was wonderful in a lotta ways but he didn't get jokes. He might get the punchline three days later after six people tried to explain it to him, but he still wouldn't think it was funny.
Strife ran through various moments from later in the night. Talking quietly over dinner. Going to the play. When they said something funny on stage, he would look over at Cupid and see that confused look on his face which made him laugh that much harder. But the funniest moment of the night was when Cupid had flashed them back to Hades palace. It was obvious that Cupid wanted to throw him down on the steps of the palace and ravish him right there but Thanatos stood silently as they gave each other a very chaste and proper hug before ending the night. Cupid had looked like he was going to shoot his load just from the hug. Truth be told, Strife hadn't been that far from the brink himself. He wasn't sure exactly why that was funny, but for some reason, that amount of unresolved sexual tension just was.
Strife decided that he would breakfast with his father this morning and discuss some things. //Dad?//
//Yes son?// Hades replied immediately.
//Have you had breakfast yet?// Strife asked casually.
//No, we were just about to start the day, would you like to join us in our private dining room?// Hades asked hopefully.
//Sure, be ready in a minute.// Strife thought happily. And thought himself clean and dressed. In the year that he had lived in Hades' palace, he had never seen the private dining room. He and the other preferred guests were welcomed to use the formal dining room or the kitchen. For some reason, this gesture made him feel more like Hades' family than any of the words that they had spoken. He checked his appearance in the mirror before flashing out to have breakfast with his parents.
* * * * *
Jace was first to awaken. He looked at Lust and Hera curled up together and felt a twinge of something; envy perhaps. They had such closeness, such passion. The night before had been an eye-opening experience for him. These women loved each other. It was evident in their every action.
In the beginning of their night, Hera had watched while he and Lust had been petting and kissing. It only took a few minutes for Jace to realize that while Lust was touching him, she was actually making love to Hera. Every time she touched his body, it was done to inflame Hera's passion. Before very long, Hera began directing their actions. She would tell Jace what to do, as if he were an extension of her, making love to Lust.
The sex had been passionate, but it hadn't been for him. He had heard the term sex-toy used to refer to someone before but had never grasped its meaning. He had been a living, breathing phallus to be used for Hera and Lust's pleasure. No thought had been given to his desires or his needs. He was there to perform a function in their lovemaking. And when they had tired of him, he had been shifted aside while they had tenderly made passionate love to each other.
Quietly Jace made his way out of the bedchamber. He had had numerous lovers in the past, both male and female, and had never felt so dirty after a lovemaking... no, sex. Love had nothing to do with what he had experienced the previous night. And he felt cheap and dirty and used. He had agreed to do this, and had thought it nothing but harmless fun, but there was harm. Deep within him something had withered. He had always felt good about himself before, but now? Now he wanted nothing more than to be away from everyone and everything. Hera and Lust had done something to him that likely would be with him for a long time to come. The women didn't hate him, at least that would have been something. They felt nothing for him... and it hurt.
* * * * *
Ares laid beside Joxer with his eyes closed, reflecting on the night before. He had had many lovers through the centuries but never had he felt so loved and cherished as he had the previous night. Joxer had been so responsive to his every touch, as if each was the first time he had ever felt loved.
Joxer was an incredible and generous lover. From the first kiss of the night, Joxer's every movement was devoted solely to bringing him pleasure. After the love that they had shared, he was ready to marry Joxer all over again.
Slowly Ares opened his eyes. The sight that greeted him took his breath away. Joxer had been gazing off into the distance when he saw Ares awaken. The pure joy in Joxer's eyes when their eyes met burned itself into Ares heart for all time. His past lovers had been happy to see him, his children had been happy to see him, but never before in his long life had anyone shone with absolute joy when they looked in his eyes. Ares was humbled by the love that Joxer held for him. He felt unworthy because he had never loved anyone so intensely before and didn't know that he was capable of such an all consuming love.
"I love you." Ares said, not able to find any other words to say.
"I love you too, Ares." Joxer said with a huge smile. Not the goofy 'mighty' smile but an honest joyful, radiant smile.
"Do you have any idea how beautiful you are to me?" Ares said sincerely.
Joxer became instantly cold, "I'm not beautiful." he said and turned his gaze away.
Ares sat up and took Joxer into his arms. He pressed a gentle kiss to Joxer's cheek and quietly said, "You are beautiful to me, you are beautiful for me. When you look at me, your face lights up with beauty like I've never seen before."
Joxer turned back to look at Ares with a shy glance. Ares smiled and Joxer's face went from solumn to joyful in an instant.
"If that's true, it's all because of you. If beauty comes out in my look, it's because I'm looking at your beauty and reflecting it back to you, I love you so much." Joxer said, trying to hold back tears.
"There is a mineral pool deeper into the cave, let's wash up and come back here. I want to spend the day with you in my arms." Ares said with intensity.
Joxer could only nod in agreement as Ares took his hand and helped him up from the bed.
* * * * *
After some tense moments Jett finally got up the nerve to talk. "Uh... do you remember anything about last night?" he asked timidly.
Zeus gave Jett an appraising glance before answering, "No, last thing I remember was being at a party in Arcadia, one of those formal stuffy things, then I woke up here."
"I was in the house of debauchery, talking with my brother. Then I was here. Doesn't that seem strange?" Jett asked pensively.
"I have an idea about that, but first I must ask. Have you done anything to upset Hera ?" Zeus asked knowingly.
"Yeah, she got really upset when I tried to feel her up yesterday. I mean, I thought she was putting out the signals that she was interested, but when I made a move, she shut me down. I think she was pretty pissed." Jett said, concerned.
"I think Hera somehow got hold of some potions from the house of debauchery. This reminds me too much of some previous happenings to be a coincidence."
"Would that be something that Lust would be familiar with?" Jett asked carefully.
"Yes, they are lust potions, she is the one who makes and uses them, why?" Zeus asked, not sure if he wanted to know the answer.
"From what Jace was telling me, they're together, Hera and Lust, I mean. So if Hera wanted a lust potion, I think Lust would be happy to get it for her." Jett said darkly.
"So SHE did this to us. Just like her. I have to admit that Goddess of Vengeance suits her to a tee. We can't let her get away with this..." Zeus trailed off in thought.
"We can't fight her. Anything we do to her, she'll turn back on us a hundred fold." Jett said with a little fear. Hera was a scary woman on a good day.
"I think I've got an idea of how to get at her in a way that she can't retaliate." Zeus said smugly.
"I don't know if I like the sound of this." Jett said, feeling the urge to flee.
"Just listen, she was trying to get vengeance on us by putting us together in a compromising position. Right?" Zeus said evenly.
"So what if we were to act as if she did us the biggest favor in the three realms by putting us together?" Zeus said with a gleam in his eye.
"How would that bother her?" he asked, confused.
"If she believed that she caused me to have a moment of happiness, it would just tear her up." Zeus said with more enthusiasm.
Jett nodded in understanding.
"And there wouldn't be a thing she could do about it. We could make a point of not obviously taunting her, but since you work with her..." Zeus said evilly.
"...I could let things slip in front of her, and we could be seen together. And she would be ready to explode because you aren't miserable!" Jett said, beginning to feel the enthusiasm himself.
"And if it doesn't work, neither of us is any the worse off, right?" Zeus finished with a smile.
"Right. So what do we do now?" Jett asked with an answering smile.
"We have breakfast. I think it would be a lovely day to have it by the big fountain in the courtyard of the main temple." Zeus said with a conspiratorial smile.
Jett responded with his own smile and they flashed out.
* * * * *
Apollo opened Psyche's door. She was laying on the bed, obviously awake. "Why are you doing this?" she asked without emotion.
Apollo created a chair for himself and sat down. This surprised Psyche, because every other time she said or did anything, he would just leave and lock the door. Only to return an hour later.
"Your godhood is influencing your actions, it has been for over five years. This is the only way that I can break the influence of your godhood so you can take control of your life again." Apollo explained calmly.
"But why have you been coming into my room and then leaving when I said anything?" she asked, confused.
"Because, emotional blackmail is one of the tools of your godhood. If I allow you to influence me in any way, I will reinforce the message that you can control people with your behavior."
She considered that statement for a moment, then asked, "So what do we do now?"
"We spend some time each day like this, talking like civilized beings. We are going to take small steps with this so you will end up as a person who can interact with people without trying to manipulate them." Apollo explained simply.
"When can I see Bliss?" she asked, near tears.
"Not for a while yet, I think. If you like, I can take whatever messages you want to him." Apollo said, standing to leave.
"Why are you leaving?" she asked in a panic as the tears started to fall.
"We've done enough for this time. I'll be back soon, and perhaps we can talk longer. Small steps." Apollo said as he vanished the chair and walked out the door.
Psyche laid on the bed and cried as she heard the door lock.
* * * * *
Jace wandered around Olympus, thinking. So many things had changed. He had been happy, he had liked himself. He had friends who liked him, then he became a god. Now he had lessons to learn and duties to perform and he would have to be around Lust, reminding him of what had happened.
He thought back to his life and tried to remember when he had felt safe and loved. Then he was hit with a flash of inspiration. He formed the destination in his mind and concentrated as Hestia had shown him.
Jace appeared in the street of a town outside Corinth. He walked up to a familiar door and knocked, a little worried that he might be making a mistake. When the door opened, he looked into a familiar face.
"Jace? Oh muffin, what's happened to make you so sad? Come in, come in and tell me all about it."
"Thank you." he said and was led inside.
"Come my little muffin, tell Twanky all about it."